The Mountain of Fears/Two Savages
WE must really turn over a new leaf, Doctor," said my shipmate, Dr. Leyden, the collector of natural rarities. "Our tales have been growing more and more gruesome each night, until mere murder has quite lost its pungency! To-night I will tell you a different sort of story—a love story, from the view-point of the primitive; a funny story as well—although it would be hard to say whether the humor belong to the Stone Age or some age still to come.
"I was telling you last night about the expedition into Borneo for the heads; this was immediately after. When we reached the sea I was in a very bad way—running a steady, low fever, with diurnal rises, when I would become quite delirious, and the region about my spleen was so tender that it pained me to breathe. My companion and his charge departed immediately by a vessel which was sailing for Sarawak, but I waited for a few days and then sailed by a schooner for Sulu, as this was a shorter voyage, and I wanted medical attendance as soon as I could get it.
"This was before your war, Doctor, when nine out of ten Americans would have told you that if Sulu was not in South Africa it must be somewhere in the West Indies. You know Jolo, the pretty little toy city, with its mediæval walls, where the sleepy Spanish sentries drowsed on the ramparts and gaped down into the immured market-place, ogling the pretty Mestiza girls, when they should have been keeping watch to see that none of the Moro gentry went jementado and proceeded to reduce the Christian census. It is the freshest place in the archipelago and the coolest, although so near the equator, for the trades sweep right across the little island and blow the most of the time.
"You remember the Englishmen who were doing so well with the pearls? A temporary manager of theirs proved to be an old acquaintance of mine—a harum-scarum sort of chap, undoubtedly well-born, unquestionably badly behaved, handsome, vicious, kind-hearted when the notion took him, at other times as rough as a Liverpool navvy. I always suspected his escutcheon of bearing the baton sinister.
"Stewart was his name. I had known him in the Marquesas, where he had been the agent of an Australian firm. He asked me to his house, and I was glad to accept, for I liked the scamp, in spite of his wickedness, and, be sides, I was in no condition to be left to the tender mercies of native inn-keepers.
"Stewart used to swear like a trooper when one of my chills would shake the whole of the little basket-house and disturb his siesta; then up he would get, clad only in the lower half of his pajamas, and rough the servants about and work over me as if he loved me. Ach! how it seems like yesterday that I have seen him, naked to the waist, leaning over me, with his hands full of hot-water bottles, and his mouth full of blasphemies when one of them burned his fingers, the great muscles rippling the fresh skin of his arms as he moved me in the bed and his fierce, handsome face, with its deep lines of hard living, puckered in doubt—one could see the two natures fighting it out within him.
"The officers of the little garrison gave him a wide berth; they were afraid of him. In fact, about everybody in the place was afraid of him, from the Governor-General down to his own native women, of whom he had an interesting collection. He was a sort of blond devil. I am sure that I do not know why he so befriended me, unless it was because it was pleasant to find some one who was not afraid of him.
"I had begun to get about a little, but was still an invalid, when there arrived in the port the auxiliary yacht of the Count Asquin. I was admiring the vessel from our little balcony, when Stewart came up and suggested that we go out aboard her. At first I declined, as the people were not known to us, nor we to them.
"'What's the odds!' said he. 'Perfectly good form in a hole like this. They've come purposely to see the place and people. They're our guests, by Gad!'
"There was something in this, so I agreed and we put off. I am rather diffident, Doctor, but I knew that Stewart would carry the thing off with his usual blunt, reckless, high-bred ease; there was so much style to the fellow, and he looked so fresh and well-groomed and aristocratic, and altogether the gentleman, which in so very many ways he was not. There was a strong ranginess about him which suggested the university athlete; the curly, crisp, yellow hair, the close-cropped mustache and the fresh but weather-beaten skin, all marked him for a thoroughbred. If he had got drunk every night of the week and slept in all his clothes he could have got up in the morning and given himself a shake and looked the same. The secret lay in good blood somewhere—the close set of his small, well-shaped ears and the poise of his small head on his broad shoulders. Ach! If his behavior had only been as fine as his appearance——
"As we pulled alongside we saw a lady and a gentleman under the after awning, but they did not rise. There was a burly Breton quartermaster at the gangway, and he saluted and called a natty steward to take our cards. A moment later the owner came to greet us, and we observed that he was a man past middle age, gray, sallow, delicate, but distinguished in face and carriage. He regarded us for a moment in polite inquiry; then, divining that the call was purely social, courteously invited us aboard.
"'Hope we 're not intruding,' said Stewart, as he stepped on the deck, 'but we exiles are so keen for news from the outer world; besides, it's no end of a treat to see new faces, and if you're going to stop any length of time perhaps we may be of service. I'm Stewart; this is Dr. Leyden.'
"Our host bowed his acknowledgment. 'I am the Count Asquin,' he said. I had already observed that the schooner was under the French flag. Stewart was staring at the woman under the awning; the Count was scrutinizing Stewart. I murmured acknowledgments and took a mental photograph of the Count. 'A French nobleman,' I thought. 'An invalid who does best at sea; asthma possibly; a student, erudite, polished—a philosopher, and withal a man of heart.' Physically he seemed a wreck, but one saw at a glance that a high vitality had been consumed in his body and conserved in his brain. His eyes were very large, very lustrous, of the reddish-brown which told of sentiment, of mind—the eyes of a poet. There was kind ness in the large nose and the full-lipped mouth was sensual, but neither weak nor selfish; pleasure-loving, but wishful to share with others. He wore a grizzled mustache and imperial, which gave a bizarre mask of the martial to a face which clearly could not have countenanced the killing of a mouse. It was a pleasant face—the face of a man with more friends than admirers.
"Stewart was still staring at the woman under the awning with that bold, British stare which would be insulting were it not so primitive—the stare of a savage, inquiring only, and utterly lacking in the volume of suggestion which makes the stare of the Latin so insupportable.
"The Count, satisfied with his scrutiny, invited us aft, and as he glanced from Stewart to me I thought that I caught a flicker of amusement in his lustrous eyes. I also had obtained a glance at the lady. She was evidently young and more than evidently lovely; quite young enough for a daughter and far too lovely for the wife of this burned-out elderly invalid.
"'Will you come aft, messieurs?' said the Count. 'Doctor, it is evident that you have been ill; permit me to offer you a chaise-longue here in the breeze.' He led the way, and as we drew near the lady I saw that I had done her injustice. She was more than lovely; she was positively radiant with a beauty of the most alluring type in a land where every one is weary and relaxed; glowing with youth and health and high vitality, she was as fresh in that sodden clime as a clear wind from the north—and yet, there was something beside, something less clear, more earthy, a lavishness of charm and form and feature; her type suggested a creature bred for the slave mart. It was evident that she was an American; the women of no other race possess that peculiar blending of subtlety, ignorance and audacity. 'A Californian,' thought I; 'a survival of the fittest New England stock transplanted from a climate where only the very fit do survive to a country whose finest crop is babies.'
"I glanced at the Count, the lax, yellow tissues of whom suggested a squeezed orange, and when he introduced us to her as his wife I almost laughed. His wife! The conceit of the term, Doctor; he in whose eyes one could see the after-glow of extinguished flames. And yet—her fate might be far worse. One saw with what care he fostered the orchids hanging from the awning ridge-rope; beautiful, interesting, a care, a treat for the eye, costly epiphytes requiring support. Ah, Doctor, youth cannot appreciate the higher motives which inspire age with its craving for beauty.
"The Countess murmured a few words, and I judged her neither well-born nor clever. You know, Doctor, there are in nature certain freaks of superabundant beauty just as there are freaks of deformity, and she was one of these. There was not much else; planted with powerful instincts to take the place of mind, as in the lower animals; fairly well educated in a machine-made, American way—'advanced,' very possibly, but as savage as if she roamed the Carpathian scarp clad only in her abundant hair, which no doubt she would have very much enjoyed.
"She offered us her hand after the manner of 'the Slope,' and as Stewart took it in his I saw the blood surge up beneath his yellow, tropic tan; his pale eyes shone like those of a gull, and one could see the deep chest swell suddenly as he caught his breath. Consider the nature of the man, Doctor—more animal than a well-bred dog, who, after all, has many elevated traits, whereas Stewart's were mostly low—and the fact that he had not seen a fair woman for months.
"The deep blue eyes of the Countess were fixed upon Stewart with a sort of startled wonder; no doubt the contrasts of the man's crushing masculinity with the colorless shell of her husband's sex may have struck her as a positive shock. There was almost a physical weight in the impulse which he projected toward her. One saw that she took it with a little shudder—as an hereditary drunkard might gulp his first glass of spirits.
He stood holding her hand and saying what was necessary, and while he was saying it his light, wicked eyes were devouring her. The thing was so outrageous that I could not help glancing at the Count, and at the same moment his soft, dark eyes met mine, and, to my amazement, he actually smiled! He saw the thing as I saw it; no one could have seen it differently; in fact, there was a sort of mutual understanding in his smile, but nothing unkindly.
"The Countess was quick to recover her poise; not through breeding nor modesty, but from sheer combativeness. She seemed suddenly to realize—and I have no doubt that it struck her as quite a new idea—that a man could be too familiar with his eyes alone. There was plenty of fight in her, as one could see from the flash of her dark blue eyes and the rounded squareness of her jaw. She promptly assumed so great an air of chilly condescension that Stewart stared again and then began to grin. He was a good talker, however, in his rough, staccato way, and soon I saw that she was beginning to forget about herself and think about him.
"'You have been ill, Doctor?' said the Count to me. 'Myself, I am also in feeble health—asthma, with a uric acid diathesis and a bad leak in the mitral valve. Hence the sea, the tropics, a sedentary life. By nature I am active, and I find it less difficult to remain quiet where there is abundant passive motion, as aboard a vessel.'
"I explained to him the nature of my own illness and my reason for coming to Sulu.
" 'I came to rest in smooth waters,' he replied. 'It is a charming island.' We talked of other things and soon discovered many mutual friends. When at last we left, at my insistence, the Countess, at the suggestion of her husband, invited us to dine the following night.
"Stewart was silent on the way in—moody, taciturn, tugging at his crisp mustache. As we entered the house he burst out:
"'Did you ever see a more beautiful woman, Leyden? Jove, what hair! what a figure!'
" 'I find the husband more interesting,' said I. 'Any white woman would be beautiful if one stood her up against the shadow of the equator.'
"He grunted like a peccary. 'Her husband?—her proprietor!— it's gross flattery to speak of that wreck as her husband. What right has a cadaver like that to a wife? A widow would be a jolly lot more becoming. What's he got to hold her with!'
" 'A yacht, a title, a good mind and a wedding ring, ' said I.
" 'Might hold some women,' he growled; 'can't hold that one,' and he took himself off to bed.
"We went aboard the yacht the following night, and I do not think that I have ever spent a more disagreeable social evening. The Countess was glorious in the most daring of black décolleté gowns. Her great blue eyes were gleaming like sapphires, and her hair put one in mind of the burnished copper one sees when the schooner heels to the trade-wind. Fancy, Doctor, one of those profuse Californians, abundant as a cluster of Tokay grapes, thrust close against a yellow-haired atavism of the Neolithic age like my poor acquaintance Stewart. Ach! he was drunk before he had finished his sherry; at every sip he tasted the subtle perfume of her, and the cup she held to him was filled with wine as old as the race and as deep as the blue of her sapphire eyes. She was receiving, I fancy, as well as giving. Ach! it was very primitive! Instead of the yacht and the sparkle of the yellow lamp-light on the plate and glass there should have been a forest and the pale moonlight filtering through the boughs of giant hemlocks. . . .
"I looked at the Count, and upon my word, Doctor, I saw that he was relishing the thing!—more than that, he was enjoying it! haps it was the interest of the student; perhaps he was absorbing the warmth of fires which no longer kindled on his own hearth. At any rate, he was eagerly receptive of this spectacle, repellant to me in its unfitness, and was drinking it with parted lips, a tinge of color in his hollow cheeks, a deep glow in his red-brown eyes. There was nothing malicious in his regard; rather, it was the acme of benevolence. He caught my eye and smiled as he had done the day before.
"The dinner, which was elaborate, completed, we adjourned to the quarter-deck, where the Count skilfully drew me into a discussion regarding racial and tribal peculiarities, and I soon found him savant. Soon, and to-day I know that it was by express design, I became oblivious to our milieu and harked back to the era when my science was in its infancy, for although myself but a mere collector of those rare things in which science properly interests herself, I hold the greatest respect for the founders of my craft, who were themselves both scientists and collectors. We discussed the early labors of these masters, until soon I was soaring in heights of professional exaltation which made me quite oblivious to the other discussion being carried on in the shadow by these two savages, whose vigorous young bodies, with their attendant embryonic psychic impulses, were at a phase so many thousands of years ahead, or perhaps behind, our own epoch of mental autocracy. Here was this woman with the beauty, temperament, and principles, no doubt, of Helen of Troy, and mind enough to go after what she wanted; Stewart an avatar of Jove himself, the sire of all profligates, but with mind enough to smirch his classic duality; myself, all cerebrum, ultra mental and analytic, perhaps because my blood was just ridding itself of millions of sporulating plasmodia; the Count, who had at some time, I fancy, swung in the orbits of the lot of us. He certainly had the mind, and he had had the body before he gave it to his mind to squander, and it seemed to me, as I pulled up suddenly from some peroration and caught the expression of his eye as he turned his face to mine in the yellow lamp-light, that he was listening to the echoes of an early anthem and found them sweet—even at the cost of his so-called honor!
"I was glad when the time came for us to leave, for I could see that between the wine and the woman Stewart was fast shedding his restraint. There was a cut to his voice, a fierce, deviltry in the ring of his laughter, and I have seen men shot for less than the expression of his eyes. At first it appeared that the Countess had an eye for her husband; then, seeing nothing but indulgence in his aristocratic face, she had yielded gradually to the fascinations of the hour, until one could see that she had quite lost the focus of her conventional perspective. You see, Doctor, she was not a high-bred woman, so that she was quite untrammeled by the instincts which come of long generations of culture. The only thing which held her in check was the fear of jeopardizing her official position as the wife of an invalid millionaire nobleman, but, seeing that he found only diversion in her coquetries, she gradually yielded to the potent attractions beside her, until I do not believe that she realized how ridiculously naked her emotions had become. It was evident that Stewart was holding her hand beneath the table, and he was sitting so close that their knees touched. It was very primordial!—and all of the while the Count was talking easily and with an expression which seemed to say: 'Dear, innocent children—what a pleasing spectacle is youth and ardor!'
"I was glad when the time came for us to leave, as I am a simple old bushman, Doctor, and I found the spectacle embarrassing.
"The following day Stewart had the Count and Countess to luncheon, and after a very well-ordered repast asked if they would enjoy a drive into the country.
"'You would enjoy it,' said the Count to his wife. 'Myself, I dread the dust and the heat. Go with Mr. Stewart, if you wish'—his smile was nothing short of angelic as he said this—'and I will remain and talk with Dr. Leyden, if he will permit me.'
"The dark blue eyes of the Countess swept upward, and as they met the cold gleam in Stewart's she turned her face from us, but I could see the crimson creeping to the tip of her ear, partly hid by the mass of her hair. Stewart nodded indifferently and ordered his pony and chaise.
"When they had gone the Count turned to me. His fine face was serene, but there was a wistfulness in his lustrous eyes.
"'What a delightful thing it is to be young, Doctor!' he remarked. Then, in the same voice: 'You were telling me last night about the Dyaks . . .'
"It was almost dark when they returned. The Countess was very pale and seemed nervous and irritable, while Stewart was in a state of suppressed and concentrated fury. I fancy that he had taken too much for granted and got himself well snubbed. At any rate, his manners were those of a sulky coal-trimmer, and I was much embarrassed.
"This sort of thing went on for over a week; we visited back and forth. Stewart's presence put rather a taboo on the yacht as far as the garrison was concerned. The Count and I became intimate. Stewart pursued the Countess with a sort of cold and reckless fury, and while she was certainly swayed by his dominant force, it was quite evident that he was not progressing. I guessed that his roughness, while it fascinated her, at the same time aroused her antagonism. After all, Doctor, I am not sure but that passion provides its anti-toxine in a temper. I have no doubt they fought like cats; at any rate the strain began to tell upon the Countess. One could see that she was growing haggard. Then one fine day they disappeared!
"I was breakfasting alone when Count Asquin rushed into the room, weeping and wringing his hands, quite beside himself with grief and shock.
"'They have gone!' he cried. 'M. Stewart and my wife! They have fled in one of the pearling yawls!'
" 'I am very sorry for you,' said I, 'but I cannot say that I am surprised.'
"He did not seem to hear me; he wrung his hands and the tears ran down his sallow cheeks.
"'I am desolated!' he wailed. 'Was there ever such ingratitude? But think of my indulgence! my consideration! the unselfishness of my behavior!'
" 'My dear fellow,' said I, 'you are quite incomprehensible! As a man of the world, could you not see that Stewart was madly in love with the Countess——'
" 'And she with him!' he cried. 'What could have been more evident? But why this flight? Did she not have everything heart could desire? Has her single wish been unfulfilled? Only yesterday I bought her a pearl of Stewart for twenty thousand francs. How could she so deceive me!' Upon my word, Doctor, he yelped like a coyote!
"'And have you lived all of this time,' I interrupted, quite out of patience with the old fool, 'and not discovered that yachts and pearls and kindness do not count for everything with a beautiful woman like the Countess when——'
" 'But you do me injustice!' he protested. 'Of course, I saw that she desired M. Stewart for her lover'—he mopped his eyes—'it was most natural that she should! One does not retain his youth forever, Doctor'—his voice was deprecating. 'Stewart is a charming fellow—handsome, dashing, libertin. Few women could resist him. But since she so much desired him, why in heaven's name did she not take him, instead of growing pale and maigre and finally bolting off on a stinking oyster boat! I ask you, my friend, was not my attitude most obviously that of mari complaisant?'
"Doctor, I got up without a word and lit my big china pipe, and as I struck the head of the match against the wall I felt tempted to strike my own head after it. I felt like a fool. The whole thing became so obvious—should have been so obvious from the very start—and yet, here these two young savages had run away because it seemed the only thing to do, when they might just as well have remained and cheered the soul of the poor old Count, to say nothing of enjoying his hospitality! Here again was I myself blaming the Count for an infatuated old cuckold—and he, the only really logical and sensible person in the whole affair, wailing beside his empty cage!
"Then the humor of the thing struck me and I almost laughed outright. It was so ridiculous, and such a joke on the runaways, who were cooped up in a little fifty-foot pearling yawl or stowed away in a Nipa hut in some little island, when they might have been so comfortable!
"'Did you ever explain your sentiments regarding this affair to the Countess?' I inquired.
" 'Doctor!' he protested, 'one cannot be indelicate! Certainly not! Could she not have inferred it from my behavior?'
" 'I am afraid,' said I, 'that her inferences were less flattering. Mine were—permit me to apologize.'
"He began to yelp again. 'She was so beautiful!—so interesting—such a typical American woman—a frank and ignorant young savage! It was a joy to be with her, Doctor; a joy to watch the primitive workings of her mind—and her little efforts at deception I found adorable. She was transparent as a naughty child——' He began to blubber.
" 'She appears to have possessed certain rudiments of guile,' I replied. 'You have taken too much for granted. A Parisienne would have understood; the ethical situation was too delicate for an American; she was too narrow-minded to combine adultery and domestic tranquillity.'
"'They are so crude, these Americans!' he wailed. 'So crude!'
"An extraordinary situation, Doctor, and yet reasonable when one pauses to consider. The Count was highly esthetic; his wife charmed him in really a very elevated way; he enjoyed her beauty, her society, her bonhomie, no doubt her care and strength, for she was kind-hearted where her passions were not concerned; he may have leaned upon her vigorous young vitality. She and the tomb could not be pictured in the same frame. He appreciated her; wanted her to be happy; was thoroughly good to her, and did not mean that because she was tied to a broken invalid she should be deprived of the fulness of life. An archaic and rather pathetic casuistry, was it not?
"I pondered. 'They are in a small sail-boat,' thought I, and glanced at the map of the archipelago hanging from the wall. 'They will, of course, make for Zamboanga, but on the way they are apt to stop at Port Isabella.' You know the place, Doctor—in Basilan; a beautiful spot: the little village, the hot slope of open country rolling gradually upward to meet the cool forests on the heights; the late sun painting it all golden and shining back from the towering boles that form the ramparts of the primeval woods? They were most apt to be in Basilan.
"'I think we can find them,' said I. 'There should be no great difficulty in coaxing back two naughty children with the sweets you have to offer.'
"He kissed me on both cheeks; then nothing would do but I must go with him; a cruise de luxe would set me on my feet, clinch the nail of my convalescence. He began to plan a touching reconciliation, the little dinner which would attend this fête d' amour, the wines, the touching speech which he would make, all of which so overcame him that he wept upon my shoulder.
"Of course, I promised to go with him; one could scarcely do otherwise; and, indeed, Doctor, I had a real esteem for the poor fellow, who in many ways had the heart of a child. But the excitement of the whole affair proved too much for his organically diseased heart, and that night he nearly died.
"His steward came in to tell me that he feared his master was moribund, so I got a Spanish surgeon and we worked over him throughout the night. It was several days before he was out of immediate danger, and then there came a typhoon, and his captain wished to put to sea to ride it out. The yacht took the gale like a gull, but altogether it was two weeks before the Count was fit to proceed on the quest of his errant wife.
"We left Jolo early in the morning, and when I awoke the next day we were lying off Port Isabella. I took the gig and went ashore, leaving the Count taking digitalis and almost in a syncope. I was firm in refusing to allow him to land, and, to tell the truth, I did not much expect to find the couple. Having found the local padre, a Mestizo, I asked after the fugitives.
"'Yes,' he said, 'they were here, but they have gone, blessed be the name of the Virgin! A pair of devils—with apologies to the Señor if he should be so unfortunate as to be a friend. Myself, I believe them to be quite mad. First they would quarrel, then they would kiss—then they would quarrel again. Never have I seen so many quarrels—nor so much kissing,' he added, thoughtfully.
" 'When did they leave?' I asked.
" 'But three days ago; St. Christopher grant that they do not return! He was a devil—a white devil, this man—they were both devils.' He shuddered. 'The kissings were growing less and the quarrels more. The night before they left she came flying to the convent and begged for an asylum. I was tempted, Señor, for she was very beautiful, like the women of Paris, where I was educated, and a poor priest grows weary of nothing but native women—but I thought of this purple-eyed devil and refused her sanctuary. It was fortunate, for as we were discussing it he came up and ordered her to return to the house which they were occupying. I do not know by what powers she cursed him, but it must have been very terrible, for he seized her by the shoulder and thrashed her with a bamboo until she howled like a beaten bitch.
"'I have no doubt it did her a world of good,' I answered. In fact, Doctor, this was the most cheering intelligence which I had received. I began to believe that the Providence which had ordered these things was not unwise.
" 'The Señor is correct,' replied the priest, gravely, 'for when I passed the house on the way to mass they were on the verandah, and she was crouching at his feet, with her head upon his knee. There is nothing like a bamboo shoot for a bad-tempered woman, no matter how beautiful,' he added, thoughtfully.
"I returned to the schooner and told the Count I thought that we would find them in Zamboanga; I told him also of the discipline which his wife was under. He looked pensive.
"'Perhaps it will do her no harm,' said he. 'She is strong as a young donkey, and it may be well for her to lick the paint off her toy.'
"You see, Doctor, he did not love this woman in any sense, conjugal or paternal. He was grieved at her loss, as one might be at the loss of a pretty and interesting pet—a Persian cat—and he was determined to get her back, no matter how large the reward he was compelled to offer. When he got her he might confine, but not punish her. Stewart really was far the more practical of the two.
"Early the following morning we reached Zamboanga, and hardly had the anchor splashed when a boat from the shore shot alongside, and, to my utter amazement whom should I see in the stern but Stewart himself.
" 'The Count, who was below, sent word asking him to descend, which he did, with a curt salutation to me. He was a blackguard of direct methods, was Stewart, employing the weight of his vitality to project his purpose and driving it to the mark with sheer physical force; with him logic filled the place of imagination.
"He entered that cabin and confronted the outraged husband precisely as if their relative situations had been reversed—certainly a cool hand, utterly fearless and indifferent to possible redress.
"The Count regarded him mildly. I was amazed at his composure.
"'I suppose you are looking for your wife,' said Stewart, bluntly.
" 'Monsieur is correct,' replied the Count, politely, but I saw a shadow cross his face. It was evident that his sensitive nature found the other's manner offensive.
" 'Then I'll fetch her back,' said Stewart. 'She won't come without.'
"'I am. pained,' murmured the Count, gently, but I could see the pupils of his reddish-brown eyes dilate. One could not conceive of the man in a rage; yet he looked quietly dangerous. 'Is it that the Countess fears my anger—my reproaches?' His grizzled eyebrows were lifted in concern.
"Stewart gave a laugh of such coarse brutality that one longed to kick him.
"'No,' he said, contemptuously, 'hardly! I fancy she's taken a bit of a liking to me.' There was no braggadocio mixed with his brutality, Doctor; in fact, he colored as he said this and seemed embarrassed. I believe that he was telling the truth.
" 'In that case,' replied the Count, thoughtfully, and his face resumed its former expression of indulgence, 'why do you not return with her?' He leaned back in his chair, brought the tips of his fingers together, rested his chin on the indices and looked cordially at Stewart, who was staring at him in angry bewilderment. 'You have been acting under a misconception, Mr. Stewart. I find you agreeable; you have done much to relieve my ennui; besides this, you appear to be necessary to the contentment of Madame the Countess.' He was putting Stewart with the servants, you see, Doctor, or lower. 'Go fetch the Countess,' he continued, briskly, 'and we will forget this folly; we will take our dear friend Dr. Leyden to Singapore. If it is that you cannot afford to lose the time from your affairs, I will make you my secretary at a salary of your own choosing.'
"Stewart for the moment was stricken dumb, too utterly amazed to speak; then the blood came pouring into his florid face and his eyes narrowed to mere slits—and then I grieve to say that all of his blackguardism came ripping out. He cursed the Count, the Countess, the schooner, himself; in fact, he gave such an exhibition of savage and unbridled rage as I have never seen before but once. You see, Doctor, the man was sufficiently intelligent to appreciate that he was several very undesirable things—a scoundrel, an ass, and an object, as it appeared to him, of such utter contempt to this French nobleman as to be quite beneath his resentment and he felt that when a man's behavior crawled beneath the contempt of a Frenchman he was quite a way down! As Stewart read it, and I wonder to this day if he was right, he represented a toy to be purchased for the amusement of a pet—a sort of sub-plaything.
"As all of this struck Stewart in a sort of final, knockout insult he leaped up so suddenly as to capsize his chair and rushed from the cabin, a stream of curses standing out behind him like the tail of a comet.
"I glanced at the Count to see how he had stood the shock of the interview, and, would you believe it, Doctor, his face wore the flush of actual health and there was an entirely new glow in the depths of his lustrous eyes. His valet was standing at his elbow, and he leaned back and said a quick word, which I did not catch. The man slipped into the pantry and I heard him skipping up the ladder to the deck.
"The Count looked at me. 'The canaille!' he said. 'I knew that he was theoretically a scoundrel, but I did not suspect that he was the low-bred pig which he has proved himself. He once told me that his father was a lord; if so, his mother must have been a fishwife! . . . Ah!'
"I sprang to my feet, for there came from above the sounds of a most terrific struggle, the impact of wicked blows, hoarse bellows of rage; then there was a crash, followed by silence, save for labored breathings.
"'Sit down, Doctor, I beg of you!' exclaimed the Count, and there was a note of apology in his voice. 'It has seemed best to me to detain this fellow until we are able to obtain custody of the Countess. A deplorable state of affairs'—he spread both hands palm downward in front of him—'but what is one to do? Have I not offered this young man every courtesy—every hospitality? Yet you have heard his insults. Evidently he came aboard because he was anxious to be rid of the Countess.' (It is my private belief, Doctor, that the scoundrel had some design of selling her back to her husband.) 'He has taxed my forbearance excessively——'
"'What shall you do with him?' I inquired.
"He shrugged his shoulders and made a wave of the hand. 'I do not know—that is immaterial; the important thing is to secure my wife. Is it too much to ask you to go in and look for her, my dear Doctor!'
"I went in, of course, but in the meantime she had learned that Stewart had gone off to the schooner, and, fearing violence for him at the hands of her husband, she had gone out herself. When I returned the situation was interesting. Madame was confined to her room in a state of frantic and screaming defiance; Stewart was double-ironed in the lazarette, and, although I did not see him again, I learned afterwards that he had not been over gently handled by the sailors, and the Count was sipping absinthe in the saloon and listening to the ravings of his wife with an expression of amused indulgence.
"'But listen to her, Doctor,' he observed, gently stroking his gray imperial. 'Primitive woman howling for her mate; Eve, haled back from outer darkness, screaming to Adam, whose admittance is denied. My faith! she is more beautiful than ever—although,' and his brow clouded, 'bearing the marks of ill usage.' He arose and began to slowly pace the beam of the saloon; his scholarly face seamed in thought, the lustre gone from his eyes. It was evident that he was thinking deeply. From the other side of the after bulkhead came the short, angry sobs of the Countess. He listened for an instant, and at the sound of a sudden little snarl of rage he slowly shook his head and smiled.
"'Interesting, Doctor, is it not? It would be beautiful in a way, primevally beautiful—an idyll of the callow world when the rocks were jagged like molten lead thrown into water, the vegetation chiefly fungoid, and it was necessary to clip the wings of one's horned cattle. But for the man—he is a late, mongrel, low-grade production, with merely a few primitive impulses. ' He paused to ponder. Madame's sobs continued rhythmically, broken now and then by a little 'gr'r'r' —pure rage—the sounds which babies make when too angry to scream.
"'Oh, these children—it is hard to know what course to take.' The Count turned to me in his perplexity. 'As far as this man is concerned, I suppose that the best thing would be to give him a good flogging and let him go—eh, Doctor?'
" 'A flogging!' I echoed, with a sort of horror.
" 'Why not? He is not a gentleman. He has endangered my life, which I forgive; he has seduced my wife, for which I make due allowance; he has insulted me to my face, for which I do not bear malice; but—he is canaille, which makes it impossible for him to do all of these things which one might forgive in a gentleman. He uses the wrong sort of profanity; he chastises his mistress with his fists instead of his wit ; he forgets his dignity before my servants; when disarmed he disgorged a knife—and he an Englishman! Br'r'rgh! he is a nauseous animal. Let him have a few lashes and be set ashore.'
"Perhaps I was wrong, Doctor, but I could not forget the rascal's care of me when I was ill. I told the Count flatly that I would not permit it, and when he proved obstinate told him outright that to flog Stewart he would first have to use violence towards me. He broke down and wept at the bare suggestion of this, commemorated my treatment and care of him when he was ill, and then embraced me and swore that he loved me like a brother, and in the same breath gave orders that Stewart be immediately set ashore, with no further ill-treatment.
"Stewart was accordingly landed and went his way in peace. The Countess got over her fit of temper in about an hour, ate a hearty dinner, drank several glasses of champagne, cheered up, and when I retired she was sitting on the arm of her husband's chair and, assured of his unqualified forgiveness, was relating her adventure, while he chuckled to himself like a mischievous schoolboy.
"The savage was back on the reservation; glad to be there; fed, forgiven, petted and quite content to be good—until the next time."