THE FAIRY PRINCESS

Notwithstanding his fantastical babble to Macandrew, Gerald was a
shrewd young man. He prosecuted his search for the unknown sender of
the message, less to find a wife than to see the end of the adventure.
At the enjoyable age of thirty, he was not particularly keen on
getting married, although his friends persistently advised him to do
so. But, as Haskins pertinently observed, it was absurd to marry
merely for marrying’s sake. “When I meet THE woman,” said Gerald
wisely, “I shall ask her to be my wife. Otherwise—-” And a shrug
would complete the unfinished sentence.

Tod was quite ready to leave the conclusion of the fishing adventure
to his friend. Being in love with a particular girl, he thought of her
only, and had no wish to search for another girl, even though she were
an illiterate princess, who fluted like a nightingale. What with
earning his living, and fighting Lady Euphemia, and wooing Charity
Bird, and tricking Mrs. Pelham Odin, who was strongly opposed to that
wooing, Macandrew’s hands were quite full. Within two days he betook
himself to London, keen upon seeing _The Moon Fay_ ballet, in which
Charity was dancing. But before his departure he unwittingly did
Gerald a service by learning something about the Pixy’s House, and
that same something was less romantic than unpleasant.

According to Tod the thing came about by accident; but Haskins, who
believed that everything was designed, even to the winking of an eye,
insisted that Macandrew had been purposely lured into conversation
with the laborer, who had mentioned Leegarth, and the Pixy’s House. At
a nine o’clock breakfast, on the very day of his departure, Tod
mentioned to his friend that he had been taking a morning walk. “I had
a beastly wakeful night last night,” grumbled Tod, while Geary brought
in a dish of trout and some hot rolls, “it made me sick tumbling and
tossing, so I dressed and strolled out at six o’clock.”

“Why didn’t you waken me?” asked Haskins. “I would have come also.”

“Not you. I’d have been cursed for an hour. Every one knows what an
infernal sleepy-head you are, Jerry. However, I walked up the hill on
to the moors, and had a glorious view of the surrounding country. I
saw the stream where we fished, in the hollow two miles away–trees,
and occasional glimpses of the water, you know. And ever so far away,
there was a square-towered church with a cluster of red-roofed
houses.”

“Quite poetical, my Toddy,” murmured Gerald, helping himself to eggs
and ham, and rather bored by this geographical description.

“The morning made me poetical!” said Macandrew simply, “it was
uncommonly ripping, you know. There was a laboring Johnny coming
along, and I asked him the name of the church. He said it was Leegarth
church, and Leegarth village.”

“H’m! That’s where Rebb’s wealthy relative lives?”

Todd nodded. “As it was early I had a mind to walk over and look
about, but I first asked the man if there was anything of interest to
see. He grinned, and told me that I might call at the Pixy’s House.”

Gerald looked up and was about to speak eagerly when Geary appeared
again with a fresh supply of rolls. “Oh, the Pixy’s House,” said
Haskins carelessly, “what’s that?”

“Why, you know—-” began Tod foolishly, when he caught sight of a
warning scowl on Haskins’ face, and a look of interest on that of
Geary’s, “you know,” went on Tod artfully, “that I can’t talk if you
interrupt.”

“But it’s all so dull,” objected Haskins, with a shrug.

“Not what I am about to tell. This laborer said that a lunatic lived
in the Pixy’s House, looked after by another lunatic.”

“The blind leading the blind. Go on.”

“The first lunatic is a girl, and the second an old woman. The girl
never comes out, and no one has ever seen her, but the old woman does
shopping and all the rest of it. That’s all.”

“What infernal rubbish!” said Haskins crossly. He did not like his
unknown princess to dwindle to a commonplace lunatic. And yet, when
he remembered the spoken message, it did seem a trifle mad. “Well, and
did you call at the Pixy’s House?”

“Not me. I walked in another direction, and came back to breakfast. I
have no use for crazy people.”

“Wid all respect, jemplem,” remarked Mr. Geary unexpectedly, “de story
ob dat man is all twisty-turney.”

“Oh!” said Haskins, apparently careless, but really with anxiety, “so
you know of this queer business, Geary?”

“Berry lil’–oh, berry lil’, sah. Dat Pixy House ver’ ole, an’ ver’
tumbledown in heaps. Only one mad pusson dere, jemplem.”

“Which one–the old woman or the young one?” asked Tod abruptly.

“Oh, dey boff dere, jemplem, but de young lady is de mad pusson. She
bin dere afore I come–years an’ years an’ years–oh, ebber so long
‘go. Dis pou’ lady, she want to kill peoples wid knives, and de ole
womans, she watch her dat she no get out to kill. De ole woman’s not a
mad pusson, jemplem; oh no, dat all wrong. She watch de odder. You no
go near dat Pixy House, jemplem,” ended the landlord earnestly, “or
dat young lady, she kill you boff, dead as coffin-lids.”

Haskins felt disgusted. He desired to find Fairyland, and it seemed as
though his search would end in discovering a lunatic asylum. “What is
the lunatic’s name?” he asked.

“Mavis Durham, I tink, an’ de ole womans, she called Bellaria!”

“Funny names,” mused Tod, “and rather pretty. Mavis means a thrush, I
fancy. But Bellaria?”

Gerald recalled a charming book of Italian folklore, which he had read
some months before. “Bellaria was the Etruscan dawn goddess, or the
goddess of flowers, I forget which,” he remarked; “strange that any
one in a secluded Devonshire village should be called so. H’m! Is this
old woman an Italian, Geary?”

“I do not know, sah,” replied the man promptly. “I no go to dat
Leegarth, no, never, never. And you no go too, jemplem. Dat Mavis lady
hab de knife in you if you go dere.”

“Homicidal mania,” said Tod learnedly and cheerfully.

Haskins shuddered; it seemed terrible to think that the owner of that
silvery voice, who had sent so delightfully quaint a message, should
be a dangerous lunatic not responsible for her actions. When the
landlord took his departure he made an observation, rather to himself
than to his friend. “The message was sane enough,” he said, thereby
contradicting his first impression, when Geary spoke of the lunacy.

“Well, I don’t know,” answered Macandrew doubtfully, “all that fairy
business and talk of not being able to read or write seems queer. I
suppose you’ll chuck the adventure, now that you know this?”

“Probably!” said Haskins evasively, so that Tod should not worry him.
But in his heart he had a longing to probe the matter deeper.

Later in the day Gerald escorted Tod to Selbury, and saw him off to
London. Macandrew left with the impression that Gerald would carry out
his prearranged programme and travel to St. Ives on the ensuing day.
But when Haskins walked back to Denleigh he was far from having made
up his mind to such a course. It seemed incredible that the sender of
the message should have homicidal tendencies. All the same, if she had
not, the law would certainly have prevented her incarceration in the
old Leegarth mansion known as the Pixy’s House. That she could not
read or write was quite possible, since she had used the phonograph,
and yet, in this age of education, it appeared improbable that anyone
could be so ignorant. The wording of the message was that of an
imaginative, but not of a weak, brain; and the spirit of poetry it
breathed appealed to the young man, himself a poet of no mean order.
“On the whole,” decided Gerald, “I shall go to Exeter to-morrow and
get that canoe.”

On that same evening, when Geary went for his usual walk, Haskins
again slipped the record into the machine, and again drank in the
music of that perfect voice. Then, for the sake of hiding his secret,
since the landlord unexpectedly returned, he set the phonograph to
grind out the godly hymns which were Geary’s delight. These were
dismal enough in words and tunes, but all through them sounded in
Gerald’s charmed ears the silvery lilt of the Fairy Princess’ tones.
The owner of such a voice could not possibly be crazy.

Haskins rather regretted that he had not asked Major Rebb about the
Pixy’s House and its occupant. Rebb doubtless knew the village of
Leegarth excellently well, since he came down occasionally to see his
elderly relative. For the moment Haskins was tempted to write and ask
questions, but on second thoughts he made up his mind to explore for
himself. He was even glad that Tod had departed, for now the secret
was entirely his own, and he wished to share it with no one. He
therefore abstained from talking to Geary on the subject, for he had
learned all that was possible from that source. And what he had
learned was so decidedly unpleasant that he did not wish to hear more.
As it afterward turned out his reticence was wise.

The next day Haskins informed Geary of his intention to remain in
Denleigh for another week, and the negro expressed his delight at the
decision. Adonis was a cheerful soul, who had traveled widely, in the
humble capacity of a steward on board various liners. He therefore
approached more intellectual society than he could obtain in lethargic
Denleigh. Haskins, with an eye to copy, after the fashion of the
literary man, found Geary’s experiences both entertaining and useful.
As for the landlady, she was a nonentity, who worked like a horse,
and was as dumb as one. She seemed to be somewhat afraid of her
ever-smiling husband, and Gerald thought that there might be some
cause for such dread. With all his suave manners, Geary’s one eye
hinted at sinister doings. But, as yet, Haskins, knowing him only on
the surface, had no fault to find with his personality.

There was some difficulty in finding a precisely suitable canoe
in Exeter, but having made up his mind–a singularly obstinate
one–Gerald never rested until he had attained his object. In a couple
of days he returned to the Devon Maid with a light birchwood affair,
which he had purchased from a returned Canadian emigrant. This the
young man temporarily bestowed in an outside shed, and informed his
landlord, casually, that he intended to explore the waters of the
Ruddle, as the stream was called. The name evidently came from the
streaky red banks between which it flowed. Geary advised his guest to
travel downstream toward Silbury, as the canoe would there be impeded
by fewer stones. Needless to say, as Leegarth was in precisely the
opposite direction, Haskins had no intention of taking this well-meant
advice. And, indeed, because of the very difficulty in navigating the
upper reaches of the Ruddle, he had purchased the canoe, for he could
carry so light a craft along the banks when stones and weeds blocked
up the waterway.

When Gerald took his Indian coracle down to the river, next afternoon,
he saw how wise he had been in not buying a heavier boat. As the
little stream wound its devious way through the dense woods it grew
yet more narrow, and, on the whole, somewhat shallow. Here and there
deep pools were to be found, inshore, but as a rule the current flowed
lightly over a shingly bed, foaming round gigantic stones or bubbling
over the trunks of fallen trees. The distance to Leegarth, as the crow
flies, could not have been more than three miles; but the stream
twisted so oddly, and the difficulties of navigation were so great,
that Gerald sometimes doubted if he would reach his journey’s end.
Several times he was forced to climb the steep banks and drag his
canoe through thickly growing saplings: but, on the whole, the tiny
shallop behaved with the dexterity of an eel in slipping through
dangerous places. Nevertheless his traveling was more like the
exploration of unknown lands than like a civilized river trip in
mapped-out England.

Late in the day–about six o’clock–and when the western sky was
beginning to glow with the hues of a soapbubble, the adventurer found
himself in a less toilsome position. After the choked stream, where
the trees met overhead, it was a relief to float into an immense pool,
fenced in by precipitous red cliffs draped with vividly green
vegetation. Gerald emerged into this haven with a feeling of
thankfulness, and laid down his paddle, both to rest his weary muscles
and to examine his romantic surroundings. The pool was nearly
circular, and, as the narrow Ruddle flowed in at one end, and out at
the other, the whole resembled a bead on a string. On the placid
waters, brimming like those of a mill-dam, the canoe floated idly
until it touched the left bank. Haskins therefore saw, on the right
hand, a tall cliff of ruddy earth, overgrown with bushes, and
surmounted by a fringe of trees. Between these, he espied a ruinous
gray stone wall, clothed thickly with ivy. As there were two or three
small windows in this wall, Gerald guessed that it formed the side of
a dwelling-place–and guessed moreover that from one of those same
windows the sealed message had been thrown into the pool. It was, of,
course, merely a surmise that the Pixy’s House was built on the top of
this inland cliff, but, bearing in mind the cylinder with its attached
bladder, Haskins felt certain that he was correct. The imprisoned
Mavis Durham could only have launched her message from the cliff top.

Gerald had now practically arrived at his journey’s end, as he had
discovered the palace of the Sleeping Beauty, shut in by Enchanted
Woods. He therefore paddled swiftly under the cliff itself, to see how
he could storm the castle. Tod would have called it a lunatic asylum,
in his coarse way, but Gerald the poet preferred the more romantic
appellation. Also, after hearing that wonderful voice, he made up his
rash mind that he would not believe in the alleged insanity of Mavis
Durham until he had seen her, and had spoken with her. If she were
really a homicidal maniac he could return with some regrets to the
workaday world; but if she was all that he hoped she would be,–well!
Gerald drew a long breath as he thought thus. If she were as beautiful
as her voice, as poetic as her message, he did not know what would
happen. Yet, as a young man, dizzy with the wine of life, he should
have known. But such things, for good or for evil, were yet on the
knees of the most high gods.

At the upper end of the pool the adventurer found a stone landing
stage, with an iron ring, to which he fastened the canoe. He leaped
lightly on to the rugged platform, and climbed up a rude stair, to
find himself facing an arched opening hewn in the face of the cliff.
It was masked, more or less, by neglected bushes, and evidently had
not been made use of many years. Still, it undoubtedly led upward to
the battlements of the Enchanted Castle. So Haskins pushed his way
through the trees, and clambered up a ruinous and twisting stair, in
complete darkness. Here, indeed, was an adventure not often to be met
with in this unromantic age, and the young man’s body thrilled as he
experienced hitherto unknown emotions. He was Sir Galahad searching
for the Grail; Columbus staring at a newly discovered world; a
Calender from the Arabian Nights stumbling upon the magical Beauty of
the World, a jinn’s daughter, lovely and unapproachable.

Up and up went the stair, twisting and turning like an eel, until
Haskins, losing count of time, thought that he was mounting to the
North Star. Finally the steps ceased to wind, and the explorer
clambered up a straight flight which terminated in a small opening,
out of which he emerged on to the top of the cliff, and immediately
below the ivy-draped wall. The house stood about twenty yards from the
verge of the cliff, and the space between was filled with long grass,
with stunted bushes, and with tolerably tall trees, all in full summer
foliage. On looking up Gerald saw pointed roofs of weatherworn red
tiles, twisted stacks of chimneys, and gray stone turrets, the whole
so overgrown with greenery that it looked as though the mansion were a
portion of the earth itself. There was no door in the wall visible. If
there had been one (as was probable to reach the landing stage) it had
been blocked up, or was hidden by the darkly green ivy.

“Faint heart never won fair lady,” thought Gerald unoriginally, and
began to swarm up the natural ladder afforded by the tough roots of
the creeper. Out of breath he gained the top of the wall, and,
flinging his leg over, sat astride to view this Jack-and-the-Beanstalk
Country. Then he beheld–Charity Bird!

Seated on the wall, like Humpty-Dumpty, Gerald gasped, for two
excellent reasons. Firstly, he was a trifle breathed with the arduous
climb, and, secondly, the sight of the girl whom he believed to be
Miss Bird amazed him out of all common-sense. She stood under the
wall, arrayed in a plain white dress, without frills or trimmings or
ornaments, and looked more like a Vestal of Rome than a young lady of
the twentieth century. And to add to Haskins’ astonishment she did not
appear to be the least startled, or even surprised.

“So you have come at last?” she said softly, and the voice had in it
the same melody that Gerald had noted when the phonograph delivered
its fantastical message.

“Charity! Miss Bird!” He could hardly get his tongue to move.

The girl looked puzzled. “My name is Mavis Durham,” she said simply.

Haskins knew that he was awake, for he had grazed his knee while
climbing and the pain assured him of material existence. Otherwise, he
would certainly have believed that the whole thing was a delicious
dream. But on looking downward more intently he saw that, although the
image of Charity in physical appearance, this girl who declared
herself to be Mavis Durham had a more spiritual look on her face. Her
eyes were turquoise-blue like the dancer’s: she possessed the same
wonderful hair, the color of ripe corn, about which Miss Bird’s
admirers raved, and her features were cast in the same classic mold;
but she had a mystical, etherial, evanescent look about her, which
hinted at more spirituality than was apparent in Charity’s
pronouncedly material charms. It might have been the dying light of
the evening, or the exalted state of mind consequent on emotion, that
raised Gerald to a high plane, but the girl looked as though she would
vanish like a wreath of mist under the influence of the newly risen
sun.

The resemblance between Mavis and Charity was certainly marvelous, and
Haskins could not account for the similarity; but after a long and
searching look he became certain that the girls were two different
flesh and blood human beings, and not one, as he had momentarily
supposed. On acquiring this assurance in his innermost being the young
man drew a breath of relief, since Charity was more or less engaged to
Tod, and he did not wish to poach on Tod’s preserves. The question of
the resemblance he determined swiftly to leave to a later date for
answer, and meanwhile surrendered himself entirely to the incredible
romance of the adventure. Surely no more poetic happening had taken
place since King Cophetua had gone a-wooing his Beggar Maid.

But by the time his reflections had reached this point the Princess of
Fairyland–for that she certainly was–betrayed excitement and
uneasiness, waving her hands to intimate that he should hide behind
the ruddy leaves of a copper beech, which over topped the wall and
leaned against it. “Bellaria will catch you,” called up Mavis softly,
“and then I’ll never see you again. Get behind the beech. I’ll return
soon.”

She sped lightly away, while Haskins, still trying to assure himself
that he was not dreaming, shuffled along the wall until he gained the
covert of the spreading branches. Here he was safe from any espial,
and while Mavis was absent he gently parted the leaves to view her
enchanted palace, whither she had called him. A phonograph and
Fairyland! it was an odd mixture of poetry and science. A page with a
silken-bound parchment; a dragon-chariot to waft a mortal prince to a
spellbound queen; these were natural in the circumstances. But to be
summoned by a phonograph! Why, it linked the age of motor cars with
that of King Arthur.

Haskins saw below him a moderately sized quadrangle, smoothly turfed
in the center and bordered with beds of flowers stretching to
moldering walls. To the right, and straight in front–somewhat after
the shape of the letter “L”–were two ranges of a gray stone mansion
clothed–as was the wall–with thickly growing ivy. There were two
stories, and the architecture was Tudor, picturesque, and graceful.
Along the lower story of the front wing were elaborate oriel windows,
filled in with lattice-work and, as Gerald shrewdly suspected, with
stained glass. An archway pierced this wing, and apparently led to
another part of the grounds. The range of buildings on the right was
less elaborate, as the windows above and below were square and modern
in their looks. To the left were ruinous stables, and outhouses more
or less tumbledown, and, of course, the fourth side of the quadrangle
was closed in by the wall upon which the young man was seated. What
with the gray wall, the beautifully shaped oriels, the peaked roofs of
mellow red tiles, and the mantle of greenery which overspread all, the
place looked like a picture from the Christmas Number of _The
Graphic_.

Yet if the house was neglected, the garden and lawn certainly were
not. The turf was as smooth as a billiard-table, and the beds of
flowers were carefully tended, as he could see from the absence of
weeds and the efflorescence of blossoms. These were chiefly those of
humble cottage flowers. Tall hollyhocks, golden snapdragon,
sweet-william, pansies, marigolds, ragged robin, and musk carnations:
all these grew in artistic profusion and confusion, making the
quadrangle a world of beauty and color and perfume. In the center of
the lawn rose an antique sundial, supported by three battered female
figures, and over all this dreamy, old-world haven of rest arched the
shadowy sky, blending night and day in vapory blue and rosy flushings.
Haskins felt that a new planet had “swam into his ken”–all that he
had dreamed of, as too fair for earth, was here transmuted from the
ideal into the real. “I must certainly be in Dreamland,” thought the
young man, “or in Paradise, or in Prospero’s Enchanted Island, or in
the Vale of Avilion, where it doth neither rain nor snow.”

But his poetic musings were cut short by a rustle among the coppery
leaves of the beech. He looked down from his wall and saw a vision of
loveliness rising from the foliage like Undine from the well. “I went
to see what Bellaria was doing,” explained Mavis breathlessly, and
perched on a sloping bough, so near to the wall that the young man
could have embraced her without difficulty. He felt very much inclined
to do so, for he was rapidly falling fathoms deep in love. But a
feeling of respect for the unprotected girl restrained him, and he
listened spellbound to the music of her voice. “Bellaria was cooking
the supper, you know,” went on the girl prosaically, “so there is no
chance of her coming to call me for half-an-hour.”

“And what then?” asked Gerald soberly.

“You must go away. Bellaria would be very angry if she knew that my
fairy prince had come.”

“Am I the fairy prince?” asked Haskins softly.

Mavis raised her brows with a trill of heavenly laughter. “Of course
you are, since you came over the wall. I have been watching here for
months to see you arrive. You would not have come had you not got my
message.”

“No,” acknowledged Haskins sensibly; “that is very certain. No one
would look for a fairy princess in this tangle of woods. But,” he
hesitated and smiled, “you are not sleeping.”

“Yes, I am! Not with my eyes closed, of course; but I am sleeping
through life. All my days I have lived in this dull old place, and my
guardian will not let me go out and see the world.”

“Who is your guardian?” asked Gerald, and received a shock.

“Major Rebb!”

“Good Lord! Major Rebb! Huh!” So this was the elderly relative whom
the man had come to see. Haskins congratulated himself that he had not
questioned the Major. Had he done so there would have been a speedy
end to romance. The word “elderly” had apparently been used by Rebb
to conceal the existence of this lovely girl from too inquiring youth.
No young man would search for anything elderly. Haskins felt like
Saul–as though he had gone to seek his father’s asses and had found a
kingdom.

“Do you know my guardian?” asked Mavis, quickly noting his surprise.

“Well, yes! I have met him in London.”

“Oh, London! London!” The girl clapped her hands in a childish way.
“How I wish to see London. My guardian says that he will take me there
some day, and then–oh, and then, and then, and then—-”

“What then?”

“I shall live. Just fancy,” she continued, swinging on the bough. “I
am twenty years of age, and I have lived shut up here with Bellaria
ever since I can remember. My guardian comes and sees me sometimes,
and give me all kinds of presents. He is always very kind, but he will
not let me leave the Pixy’s House. I’m not shut up, of course,” she
added, contradicting herself, “the grounds are very large. There’s a
big garden of fruit and flowers beyond that archway, and a park of
trees with undergrowth just like a fairy wood. I have heaps and heaps
to do, looking after my flowers, and embroidering, and cooking, and
playing games, and listening to Bellaria’s stories. I am quite
happy–and now,” she leaned forward until her face nearly touched that
of Gerald, “I am happier than ever, because you are here.”

“Are you?” inquired Haskins, stupidly and thickly. He did not dare to
move, or to follow his impulse, lest he should alarm her. She was as
trusting as a tame bird, but a chance word or a too eloquent look
might teach her that fear existed.

“Yes, of course I am. How silly you are. In Bellaria’s stories the
prince always comes to the princess, in the end. Mine would not come,
so I sent that message. And now—-” She stretched a hand to caress
his face: “Oh my prince! my prince!”

“I may not be your prince after all,” said Gerald weakly. He certainly
felt unworthy of being so.

“But you are–you are!” cried Mavis, with conviction, “you would not
have found my message otherwise. I flung it from one of the windows
into the pool below. And you picked it up, so I know that you are my
prince. And then,” she added, naively, “you are so very handsome.”

Haskins was pretty well hardened to admiration, since he knew more
about women than was good for him. All the same the outspoken speech
made him blush. “Who is Bellaria?” he asked abruptly, changing a too
embarrassing subject.

“My nurse, who has looked after me all my life. I call her the Ogress,
and my guardian the Ogre. Not but what they are both very kind. I have
all I want, save liberty.”

“And why cannot you get that?”

“It is not the custom of the country.”

Haskins looked puzzled. “What do you mean, Mavis?”

She raised her clear truthful eyes. “Why, you know, don’t you? Major
Rebb told me that all girls were brought up in seclusion until they
reached the age of twenty-one, and then they were taken out to see the
world. I wish ten months were past,” sighed imprisoned beauty, “for
then I shall be one and twenty, and able to leave the Pixy’s House.
Bellaria says that I won’t like the world; but I shall, I shall, I
shall.”

It was both cunning and clever of Major Rebb to suggest such a reason
for her seclusion to the girl herself, as it prevented her feeling
that she was being detained against her will. But she was apparently
unaware that he ascribed a more terrible reason to the world beyond
the gates, and that she was looked upon as a homicidal maniac. Of
course this was wholly and entirely absurd. No one with such steady
eyes, and who spoke so artlessly, could be tainted in that way. She
was limited from sheer ignorance, and innocent beyond belief of evil:
a child of nature, as unsophisticated as Undine herself. Gerald
doubted if she would know the meaning of the word “murder!”

“What is Bellaria’s other name?” he asked, after a pause.

“Dondi–Bellaria Dondi, who came from Florence, in Italy,” said Miss
Durham easily. “She is ugly, and old, and very cross; but I love her
all the same, for she loves me and means well. And, oh! she tells such
lovely, lovely stories, and can repeat poetry by Dante and Ariosto and
Leopardi, for ever so long. I can repeat poetry also,” she added
hastily, with the complacency of a child. “I know lots of Homer, and
of Shakespeare, and of Keats, and—-”

“Stop! stop!” interrupted Gerald hastily. “How can you when–according
to your message–you are unable to read?”

“Oh! Schaibar taught me.”

“Schaibar?”

Mavis nodded with bright eyes. “You know–the Peri Banou’s brother in
‘The Arabian Nights.’ His real name is Arnold–Mr. Arnold: but I call
him Schaibar because he is a dwarf, with a long beard and a short
temper. He used to recite poetry, and I learned to recite also. But
Schaibar has gone away,” she said, with a falling cadence. “Months ago
he went to Australia, and promised to write, but he did not.”

“You could not read what he wrote, Mavis?”

“I could hear it! Schaibar should send me a record, in the same way as
I sent you my message. But he has not done so, and yet he was so fond
of me. I cannot understand it!” And Mavis sighed.

“From your mention of Australia, it seems that you know geography
also.”

“Oh yes, of course I do! Schaibar drew the maps, and told me where
cities, and mountains, and lakes, and rivers were. I carry it all in
my head.”

“And you cannot read or write?” asked Gerald, with a passing
recollection of “The Golden Butterfly” heroine.

“No; the Ogre said that my brain was not strong enough to learn!”

“The Ogre!” said Haskins, forgetting.

“My guardian–Major Rebb. He says that lots and lots of girls never
learn to read or write.”

“Liar!” thought Haskins: but he suppressed the opprobrious name, and
merely remarked anxiously: “But you don’t feel your brain weak?”

“Oh no! oh no! I could learn anything, I think. I have never had a
day’s illness in my life.”

“Do you ever feel dizzy?”

“No! Why should I?”

“Do you ever get into a rage and want to strike Bellaria?”

Mavis laughed wonderingly. “I should be foolish to do that! Poor
Bellaria doesn’t mean to be cross, and, if she cannot keep her temper,
I must. I wouldn’t strike her or anyone, even if I were in a rage. Do
you strike people when you are angry?”

Gerald coughed. He had a vivid recollection of schoolfights, and of
horsewhipping a scandal-monger, much later in life. “It is necessary
sometimes, Mavis,” he remarked: “the world is not inhabited entirely
by agreeable people.”

“Oh, I know that!” she said quickly, “the old gardener, Matthew, who
came to help me from Leegarth, is very disagreeable, and he seems to
be a little afraid of me. I don’t know why, and I am very sorry. I
want everyone to love me.”

“Doesn’t Major Rebb?”

“Yes! in a way. But he is cold. He never kisses me. If you like a
person don’t you kiss her?”

“If she’s a very nice person I do,” said Haskins, bubbling over with
laughter, “now you—-” His eyes completed the sentence.

“You love me?”

“Yes, Mavis!” he answered unhesitatingly. Gerald scorned a lie.

“Then of course—-” She bent forward, and, in spite of Gerald’s
virtuous resolutions, their lips would have met, but that a deep
contralto voice boomed from the quadrangle calling on Mavis angrily.

“Oh!” the girl flung back her head, “there is Bellaria calling me to
supper. I must go or she may find you. But come again, and I’ll kiss
you–you—- Oh! what is your name?”

“Gerald!” he replied softly.

“Prince Gerald!” she said, smiling, and slipped down the tree rapidly,
as Bellaria called again. Haskins, parting the leaves, saw her cross
the lawn, and enter the house in the company of a tall, lean woman.
But it was too dark to see Bellaria’s looks at that distance.

The adventurer slipped from the wall, and descended to “Mother Carey’s
Peace Pool,” as he named the place. Paddling to the opposite side, he
found a sloping bank and dragged his canoe into the undergrowth. Then,
in the rosy twilight, he scrambled through the bushes to find some
path or road leading to Denleigh.

How Haskins reached the Devon Maid that evening he could not tell, for
his memory was occupied in recalling every word of that delightful
conversation. But in some way he managed to strike a narrow path
which led on to the high moors, and thence gained the highway,
descending into Denleigh valley. It was rather late when he entered
his sitting-room, and the rosy hues of the sunset had given place to
the shadowy stillness of a summer night. Supper was waiting for him,
and almost immediately the negro appeared with a hot dish.

“I thought you were lost, sah,” said Geary, looking closely at
Gerald’s flannels, which were somewhat torn by brambles, and smeared
with mud.

“Oh no,” answered the young man, ready with an explanation, since he
wished to satisfy the negro’s curiosity without enlightening him. “I
have been down the river and up the river in my canoe. But I got mixed
up with stones and cross-currents, and blundered in the darkness. I
therefore hid my canoe in the bushes, and came back.”

“And you like the river, sah?” asked Geary, lingering.

Haskins supped his soup and nodded. “A most charming river,” he said
in a careless voice, “very quiet, very lonely. I shall explore it
again to-morrow afternoon.”

The negro withdrew quietly, and Haskins reflected on the persistent
way in which the man questioned him. More than ever did he mistrust
Adonis, and now with stronger reason, for he felt certain that the
negro was connected in some way with Major Rebb, who in his turn was
assuredly connected with the Pixy’s House and its inmates. If Geary
discovered that Gerald had met with the Enchanted Princess, he might
officiously inform Rebb, when there would be trouble. Without doubt
the Major was behaving illegally in shutting up a perfectly sane
girl, and therefore would not create a public scandal. Nevertheless,
if he knew that Haskins had penetrated his secret, he might remove
Mavis to another hiding-place. Gerald could not risk that, until he
knew more, and again had met the girl. He looked upon himself as the
knight-errant of distressed beauty, and it behooved him to be wary in
his dealings with a very difficult and somewhat dangerous matter.

After supper Haskins lighted his pipe and seated himself by the open
window to think over matters. Mrs. Geary entered and removed the
remnants of the meal in her dumb way. After placing a cup of coffee on
a small table at her guest’s elbow she withdrew, and he was left to
his reflections. These began with a consideration of Mavis’ beauty of
person and charm of conversation. It can thus be guessed that Haskins
was in love–genuinely in love, and for the first time in his life.

As Bulwer Lytton says: “There are many counterfeits, but only one
Eros!” This was Haskins’ experience. He had loved in an earthly way
many times in his time, and several times had mistaken the false for
the true. A fastidious mind had saved him from the commercial passion
of the ordinary man, and he had usually approached women in the belief
that they were goddesses. This was hard on the sex, as the attitude
exacts too much perfection in a world of temptation. Consequently
Gerald had been deceived several times, and therefore had guarded
himself carefully against the tender passion. Then he met with Charity
Bird, and,–in common with many another man–fell in love with her
physical charms. But in spite of her beauty, which he grew to admire
as he would that of a picture, Haskins failed to find in her the wife
and helpmate his exacting nature demanded. Outwardly Charity was all
that he could desire, but inwardly she was less attractive, being
matter-of-fact when she was not silly. She might suit Tod, but she did
not match with Gerald, so he withdrew with little regret, and for some
months, he had been heart-whole and fancy-free.

Now, in an unexpected and extraordinary way, the young man had met
with another Charity Bird, more perfect than the original. Mavis was
as beautiful in looks, and yet was higher in mind. From the strange
upbringing to which she had subjected she looked at life–what little
she knew of it–in a poetical way. Yet judging by her remarks on
cooking and embroidering and gardening, she had a fund of common
knowledge, directed by common-sense. It was too early as yet to
pronounce authoritatively on her capabilities and trend of thought:
but the spiritual power manifested in her personality appealed
strongly to the lover who had loved her counterfeit. Here indeed was
the true Eros; a deity, who could be worshiped without disappointment.
Gerald, with less reflection than he usually gave to his decisions,
determined to be a faithful attendant at the shrine of this divinity.

Having thus settled his attitude towards the girl, with the
impetuosity of a young man and a true lover, Haskins began to think
over Miss Durham’s position. In spite of the hideous rumor, reported
by Geary, he believed, from personal observation, that the girl was
quite sane. Rebb, who was her acknowledged guardian, had apparently
set such gossip afloat so that no one might comment upon the seclusion
of the girl. Guarded in this way by public fear, which had been
erected by a lying tale. Mavis might continue to dwell for the rest of
her life amidst the ruins of the Pixy’s House, closely watched by the
Florentine and spied upon, in a less degree–as Gerald shrewdly
suspected–by Geary, who was probably a creature of Major Rebb’s.

Now, the question was this: Why did Rebb shut up so pretty and
unsophisticated a creature in conventual solitude? She had committed
no crime, and, from what little Haskins had seen of her, she had no
instinct which would make her commit one. There must be some other
reason and a strong one for the odd behavior of Rebb. This reason
Haskins determined to learn, howsoever much Geary and his employer
might desire to conceal it.

Also there were other questions to which the young man desired
answers. Why was Mavis so similar to Charity in looks? Why had she not
been taught to read and write? Why was Geary–as Haskins verily
believed,–posted at the Devon Maid to keep his one sinister eye on
her? Gerald could not have sworn in a court of law that the negro was
connected in any way with the Pixy’s House secret; but he had an
intuitive feeling, from the man’s behavior towards Major Rebb, and by
his eager statement of a false rumor, that in some manner the landlord
had to do with the matter. Haskins, therefore, placed himself on his
guard and by a careless demeanor, and apparent frankness he succeeded
in lulling Geary’s suspicions as to his true reasons for postponing
his journey to St. Ives. It was Geary who could answer, at least, some
of the questions which vexed Gerald’s soul, and he lingered to hear
them. Unfortunately he did not know how to inquire without betraying
his secret visit to the Pixy’s House.

Two or three days went by, and Haskins regularly took his way to the
river, to seek the fairy palace. After that first attempt to navigate
so stubborn a stream as the Ruddle he used the canoe very little. It
was easier and more expeditious to take the highway to the moors and
then strike into the secret path which led to Mother Carey’s Peace
Pool. This Haskins did, and then would paddle across to the landing
place, whence he could gain the summit of the cliff. Here he would
climb the wall to hide behind the beech-tree, and hither Mavis would
come to chatter to her “Fairy Prince,” as she still continued to call
him. But owing to the presence of Bellaria the young man did not dare
to descend into the grounds. Any moment might have brought about
discovery had he risked so much, for, according to Mavis, the
Florentine was a keen and restless dragon.

“She’s afraid of something,” said Mavis, one day, when Gerald
questioned her about the woman. “I don’t know what it is; but she is
afraid.”

“Why do you think that?”

“Because she is always looking over her shoulder with a scared
expression, and she never sleeps in the same bedroom.”

“Has she more than one then, Mavis?”

“Oh yes. There are many many bedrooms in the house, and Bellaria goes
to a different one nightly. She’s afraid of the darkness, too, and
remains always in the house after sundown. When she goes shopping in
Leegarth she returns quite pale and nervous. I am quite sure that she
is afraid of something, but she always gets angry with me, when I ask
what is the matter.”

“Curious,” murmured Haskins, “here is another mystery!” then he asked
aloud: “How often does your guardian come to you?”

“Not very often. Sometimes he is away for months and then will come
twice in a week. He really is very kind, for he always brings me
presents. I call him Santa Claus when he does that. But, oh! there is
Bellaria. Stay here, Gerald; I’ll see what she wants.”

As it was early in the afternoon Haskins had an excellent view of the
Florentine, who stalked across the lawn almost to the foot of the
beech, drawn thither by her nursling’s answering cry. “You are always
sitting on the high branches of that tree,” said the Italian crossly,
and in most excellent English. “Why do you do that?”

“I can see the river and the pool,” said Mavis quickly. “Oh! Bellaria,
I wish I was a nymph, that I could plunge into the cool water.”

“You can do that without being a nymph, _cara mia_. But not in the
pool below–not outside the grounds. Your guardian would be angry. No
English young lady leaves her home until she is twenty-one.”

Haskins smiled when he heard this frightful falsehood. Bellaria had
been well trained by her master, and such was the simplicity of Mavis
that she accepted the limitation of her liberty in all good faith.
“But I shall be so glad when I am twenty-one,” she complained with a
sigh.

“Si! si! si!” Bellaria placed her hands on her hips and nodded three
times emphatically. “But you will not like the world. No, ah, Dio mio!
the world is a dangerous and evil place.” And she looked in a scared
manner over her shoulder, shivering in the warm air.

The Florentine had been a handsome woman, tall and dark, and of a
commanding appearance. She was still remarkably straight at the age of
fifty-six, and carried herself with a defiant air when forgetful of
the danger that threatened her, whatsoever that might be. Then she
would cringe and wince, as Gerald had just seen her do. Her eyes were
large and black, but the pupils were dilated, and she looked like a
terrified rabbit. Apparently the woman had cause to fear some enemy or
some punishment, for not only were her eyes scared-looking, but her
plentiful hair was absolutely snow-white. This might have been age,
but fifty-six is not a very great age, and the hair might easily have
been an iron-grey. There was certainly some shadow on her life which
threatened disaster, and only when she forgot the danger, in
conversation with Mavis, did Bellaria appear defiant and stately and
tolerably young. But the very slightest reminder of that past–and the
past apparently contained the danger referred to–and her form
dwindled, her body bent, her eyes grew timid, and she aged to seventy,
as though by enchantment. All this might have been fancy on Haskins’
part, for he was extremely imaginative, but he believed that he had
read the woman rightly. Whatever might be the reason, Bellaria Dondi
had been frightened into this lonely house; there to hide from some
appalling danger.

It appeared that the fit of terror tormented her now, and that she had
sought Mavis’ company from sheer dread of solitude. Quite ignorant of
the man up the tree–or rather the lover who was seated on the
wall–Bellaria sat near the trunk, talking to Mavis. Both the lovers
were afraid lest their secret should be discovered, but Bellaria kept
up so loud a conversation–and it seemed as though she spoke loudly to
reassure herself–that the occasional movements of Haskins passed
unheeded. Mavis proved herself to be a capable actress, despite her
simplicity, for nothing could have been more artless than her
demeanor. “Geary is coming to see me to-night,” said Bellaria, after a
pause, and the observation startled the listener. “He sent a message
by Matthew”–this was the aged, cross gardener, of whom Mavis had
spoken.

“Why is he coming?” questioned Mavis.

“Major Rebb told him to come and see that the young man who is
stopping at the Devon Maid has not been lurking about here.”

“What young man?” asked Mavis coolly.

“I have told you. A friend of the Major’s, who is stopping at Geary’s
inn. He has taken to rowing on the river, and might find this place.”

“I wish he would,” said the girl, truthfully. “I should like to see a
really young man.”

“You will some day,” Bellaria assured her, “and then you will be
sorry, _cara mia_. Young men are all liars and villains. Geary wrote
to Major Rebb in London telling about this Mr. Haskins–that is the
name, I believe–so the Major says that Geary has to come over
to-night to look round the place and ask me questions. So absurd,”
Bellaria shrugged her thin shoulders! “As if anyone could come here
unless I knew.”

“Why shouldn’t this Mr. Haskins come, Bellaria?”

“Because you may fall in love, and if you do you may want to marry
this man. Major Rebb does not wish you to marry until you have seen
the world, my dear.”

“But I have to wait for another ten months,” pouted Mavis.

“What is that? I–yes I, who speak, Bellaria Dondi–shall never never
see the world again. Here I am shut up for ever and ever.”

“Why, Nanny? I have often asked, but you never will tell?”

“I tell no one the reason why I stop here,” said the woman sombrely.
“I am dead to the world and to its people. For twenty years I have
been dead, and it is as well that I should be thought to be dead. If
they knew–if they guessed–ugh!” She looked round and shivered.

“If who knew?”

“No matter! no matter.” Bellaria leaped to her feet. “All is done with
and over. I was famous once, _cara mia_. Yes–behold in me a great
singer. But you know, you know. Often have I talked to you of my
greatness. And it was blotted out in a night by—- Hush! hush.” She
cast a scared glance over her shoulder and darted into the middle of
the lawn.

“Bellaria! Bellaria!” called out Mavis, “I’ll climb the beech again.”
But the woman did not reply. She burst out into the Shadow Song from
_Dinorah_, and Haskins realized at once what a magnificent voice she
must have had. Even now many of the notes were true, though
occasionally a high one was cracked and wheezy. Spreading her black
skirts, she bowed and becked and swept and danced to her shadow in the
strong sunlight, while her voice fluted high and birdlike through the
air. Thus singing and dancing, she re-entered the house, her dark hour
over for the time being. Haskins wondered what could be her secret.
Here, indeed, was a woman with a past.

But by this time Mavis had climbed the tree again, and was hurriedly
persuading him to go. “Bellaria suspects nothing,” she said eagerly,
“and after Geary comes to-night he won’t come again. But you must be
careful.”

“How can I be more careful than I am?” asked Gerald taking her hand.

“Come at night,” she urged, “come to-morrow night when the moon is
high and the fairies come out to dance. I am often in the garden on
these summer nights, for Bellaria will not come out, and I hate to be
mewed up in stuffy rooms. She will not think that I am meeting anyone,
and then we can talk without fear of discovery. I shall lead you into
the other garden through the arch.”

“But if Bellaria sees me from a window?”

“Her bedroom is on the other side of the house, looking down on to the
woods. She will not see us, and she will never suspect that anyone is
with me. She knows that I love the moonlight, and, besides, she will
not dare to come out because of her fear.”

“I wonder what that fear is,” said Gerald meditatively.

“I do not know. But go now, dear Prince, and come again to-morrow night
at ten o’clock. To-night you must not come lest Geary see you.”

“And if he did?”

“Oh!” Mavis shivered. “I don’t know what he would do. He is a terrible
black man, and has a horrid knife with a yellow handle–a big knife,
oh! so dangerous. He brought it from Jamaica: he told Bellaria so. He
would kill you, if he found you.”

“I quite believe that,” said Gerald grimly, and resolved to arm
himself with a revolver when he next came to the Pixy’s House. He was
resolved not to die without a fight. “But don’t worry, darling. I’ll
be all right. Goodbye. To-morrow night, then.”

He dropped from the wall and departed, while Mavis wailed that he had
not kissed her.