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Chapter vi
 Chapter vi
At two o’clock that afternoon, at Barris’ suggestion, we gave up the search for the fountain in the glade and cut across the forest to the spinney where David and Howlett were waiting with our guns and the three dogs.
Pierpont guyed me unmercifully about the “dream-lady” as he called her, and, but for the significant coincidence of Ysonde’s and Barris’ questions concerning the white scar on my forehead, I should long ago have been perfectly persuaded that I had dreamed the whole thing.
As it was, I had no explanation to offer. We had not been able to find the glade although fifty times I came to landmarks which convinced me that we were just about to enter it. Barris was quiet, scarcely uttering a word to either of us during the entire search. I had never before seen him depressed in spirits. However, when we came in sight of the spinney where a cold bit of grouse and a bottle of Burgundy awaited each, Barris seemed to recover his habitual good humor.
“Here’s to the dream-lady!” said Pierpont, raising his glass and standing up.
I did not like in. Even if she was only a dream, it irritated me to hear Pierpont’s mocking voice.
Perhaps Barris understood — I don’t know, but he bade Pierpont drink his wine without further noise, and that young man obeyed with a childlike confidence which almost made Barris smile.
“What about the snipe, David,” I asked; “the meadows should be in good condition.”
“There is not a snipe on the meadows, sir,” said David solemnly.
“Impossible,” exclaimed Barris, “they can’t have left.”
“They have, sir,” said David in a sepulchral voice which I hardly recognized. We all three looked at the old man curiously, waiting for his explanation of this disappointing but sensational report.
David looked at Howlett and Howlett examined the sky . . . “I was going,” began the old man, with his eyes fastened on Howlett, “I was going along by the spinney with the dogs when I heard a noise in the covert and I seen Howlett come walkin’ very fast toward me. In fact,” continued David, “I may say he was runnin’. Was you runnin’, Howlett?”
Howlett said “Yes,” with a decorous cough.
“I beg pardon,” said David, “but I’d rather Howlett told the rest. He saw things which I did not.”
“Go on, Howlett,” commanded Pierpont, much interested.
Howlett coughed again behind his large red hand.
“What David says is true, sir,” he began; “I h’observed the dogs at a distance ‘ow they was a workin’, sir, and David stood a lightin’ of ‘s pipe be’ind the spotted beech when I see a ‘ead pop up in the covert ‘oldin a stick like ‘e was h’aimin’ at the dogs, sir”——“A head holding a stick?” said Pierpont severely.
“The ‘ead ‘ad ‘ands, sir,” explained Howlett, “‘ands that ‘eld a painted stick — like that, sir. ‘Owlett, thinks I to meself this ’ere’s queer, so I jumps it an’ runs, but the beggar ‘e seen me an’ w’en I comes alongside of David, ‘e was gone. “‘Ello, ‘Owlett,’ sez David, ‘what the ‘ell — I beg pardon, sir ——“ow did you come ’ere,’ sez ‘e very loud. ‘Run!’ sez I, ‘the Chinaman is harmin’ the dawgs!’ ‘For Gawd’s sake wot Chinaman?’ sez David, h’aimin’ ‘is gun at every bush. Then I thinks I see ’im an’ we run an’ run, the dawgs a boundin’ close to heel, sir, but we don’t see no Chinaman.”
“I’ll tell the rest,” said David, as Howlett coughed and stepped in a modest corner behind the dogs.
“Go on,” said Barris in a strange voice.
“Well sir, when Howlett and I stopped chasin’, we was on the cliff overlooking the south meadow. I noticed that there was hundreds of birds there, mostly yellow-legs and plover, and Howlett seen them too. Then before I could say a word to Howlett, something out in the lake gave a splash — a splash as if the whole cliff had fallen into the water. I was that scared that I jumped straight into the bush and Howlett he sat down quick, and all those snipe wheeled up —— there was hundreds — all a squeelin’ with fright, and the wood-duck came bowlin’ over the meadows as if the old Nick was behind.”
David paused and glanced meditatively at the dogs.
“Go on,” said Barris in the same strained voice.
“Nothing more, sir. The snipe did not come back.”
“But that splash in the lake?”
“I don’t know what it was, sir.”
“A salmon? A salmon couldn’t have frightened the duck and the snipe that way?”
“No — oh no, sir. If fifty salmon had jumped they couldn’t have made that splash. Couldn’t they, Howlett?”
“No ‘ow,” said Howlett.
“Roy,” said Barris at length, “what David tells us settles the snipe shooting for to-day. I am going to take Pierpont up to the house. Howlett and David will follow with the dogs — I have something to say to them. If you care to come, come along; if not, go and shoot a brace of grouse for dinner and be back by eight if you want to see what Pierpont and I discovered last night.”
David whistled Gamin and Mioche to heel and followed Howlett and his hamper toward the house. I called Voyou to my side, picked up my gun and turned to Barris . . . “I will be back by eight,” I said; “you are expecting to catch one of the gold-makers, are you not?”
“Yes,” said Barris listlessly.
Pierpont began to speak about the Chinaman but Barris motioned him to follow, and, nodding to me, took the path that Howlett and David had followed toward the house. When they disappeared I tucked my gun under my arm and turned sharply into the forest, Voyou trotting close to my heels.
In spite of myself the continued apparition of the Chinaman made me nervous. If he troubled me again I had fully decided to get the drop on him and find out what he was doing in the Cardinal Woods. If he could give no satisfactory account of himself I would march him in to Barris as a gold-making suspect — I would march him in anyway, I thought, and rid the forest of his ugly face. I wondered what it was that David had heard in the lake. It must have been a big fish, a salmon, I thought; probably David’s and Howlett’s nerves were overwrought after their Celestial chase.
A whine from the dog broke the thread of my meditation and I raised my head. Then I stopped short in my tracks.
The lost glade lay straight before me.
Already the dog had bounded into it, across the velvet turf to the carved stone where a slim figure sat. I saw my dog lay his silky head lovingly against her silken kirtle; I saw her face bend above him, and I caught my breath and slowly entered the sun-lit glade.
Half timidly she held out one white hand.
“Now that you have come,” she said, “I can show you more of my work. I told you that I could do other things besides these dragon-flies and moths carved here in stone. Why do you stare at me so? Are you ill?”
“Ysonde,” I stammered.
“Yes,” she said, with a faint color under her eyes.
“I— I never expected to see you again,” I blurted out, “— you — I— I— thought I had dreamed ——”
“Dreamed, of me? Perhaps you did, is that strange?”
“Strange? N— no — but — where did you go when — when we were leaning over the fountain together? I saw your face — your face reflected beside mine and then — then suddenly I saw the blue sky and only a star twinkling.”
“It was because you fell asleep,” she said, “was it not?”
“I— asleep?”
“You slept — I thought you were very tired and I went back —”
“Back? — where?”
“Back to my home where I carve my beautiful images; see, here is one I brought to show you to-day.”
I took the sculptured creature that she held toward me, a massive golden lizard with frail claw-spread wings of gold so thin that the sunlight burned through and fell on the ground in flaming gilded patches.
“Good Heavens!” I exclaimed, “this is astounding! Where did you learn to do such work? Ysonde, such a thing is beyond price!”
“Oh, I hope so,” she said earnestly, “I can’t bear to sell my work, but my step-father takes it and sends it away. This is the second thing I have done and yesterday he said I must give it to him. I suppose he is poor.”
“I don’t see how he can be poor if he gives you gold to model in,” I said, astonished.
“Gold!” she exclaimed, “gold! He has a room full of gold! He makes it.” I sat down on the turf at her feet completely unnerved.
“Why do you look at me so?” she asked, a little troubled.
“Where does your step-father live?” I said at last.
“Here.”
“Here!”
“In the woods near the lake. You could never find our house.”
“A house!”
“Of course. Did you think I lived in a tree? How silly. I live with my step-father in a beautiful house — a small house, but very beautiful. He makes his gold there but the men who carry it away never come to the house, for they don’t know where it is and if they did they could not get in. My step-father carries the gold in lumps to a canvas satchel. When the satchel is full he takes it out into the woods where the men live and I don’t know what they do with it. I wish he could sell the gold and become rich for then I could go back to Yian where all the gardens are sweet and the river flows under the thousand bridges.”
“Where is this city?” I asked faintly.
“Yian? I don’t know. It is sweet with perfume and the sound of silver bells all day long. Yesterday I carried a blossom of dried lotus buds from Yian, in my breast, and all the woods were fragrant. Did you smell it?”
“Yes.”
“I wondered, last night, whether you did. How beautiful your dog is; I love him. Yesterday I thought most about your dog but last night —”
“Last night,” I repeated below my breath.
“I thought of you. Why do you wear the dragon-claw?”
I raised my hand impulsively to my forehead, covering the scar.
“What do you know of the dragon-claw?” I muttered.
“In is the symbol of Yue–Laou, and Yue–Laou rules the Kuen–Yuin, my step-father says. My step-father tells me everything that I know. We lived in Yian until I was sixteen years old. I am eighteen now; that is two years we have lived in the forest. Look! — see those scarlet birds! What are they? There are birds of the same color in Yian.”
“Where is Yian, Ysonde?” I asked with deadly calmness.
“Yian? I don’t know.”
“But you have lived there?”
“Yes, a very long time.”
“Is it across the ocean, Ysonde?”
“It is across seven oceans and the great river which is longer than from the earth to the moon.”
“Who told you that?”
“Who? My step-father; he tells me everything.”
“Will you tell me his name, Ysonde?”
“I don’t know it, he is my step-father, that is all.”
“And what is your name?”
“You know it, Ysonde.”
“Yes, but what other name?”
“That is all, Ysonde. Have you two names? Why do you look at me so impatiently?”
“Does your step-father make gold? Have you seen him make it?”
“Oh yes. He made it also in Yian and I loved to watch the sparks at night whirling like golden bees. Yian is lovely — if it is all like our garden and the gardens around. I can see the thousand bridges from my garden and the white mountain beyond —”
“And the people — tell me of the people, Ysonde,” I urged gently.
“The people of Yian? I could see them in swarms like ants — oh! many, many millions crossing and recrossing the thousand bridges.”
“But how did they look? Did they dress as I do?”
“I don’t know. They were very far away, moving specks on the thousand bridges. For sixteen years I saw them every day from my garden but I never went out of my garden into the streets of Yian, for my step-father forbade me.”
“You never saw a living creature near by in Yian?” I asked in despair.
“My birds, oh such tall, wise-looking birds, all over grey and rose color.”
She leaned over the gleaming water and drew her polished hand across the surface.
“Why do you ask me these questions,” she murmured; “are you displeased?”
“Tell me about your step-father,” I insisted. “Does he look as I do? Does he dress, does he speak as I do? Is he American?”
“American? I don’t know. He does not dress as you do and he does not look as you do. He is old, very, very old. He speaks sometimes as you do, sometimes as they do in Yian. I speak also in both manners.”
“Then speak as they do in Yian,” I urged impatiently, “speak as — why, Ysonde! why are you crying? Have I hurt you? — I did not intend — I did not dream of your caring! There, Ysonde, forgive me — see, I beg you on my knees here at your feet.”
I stopped, my eyes fastened on a small golden ball which hung from her waist by a golden chain. I saw it trembling against her thigh, I saw it change color, now crimson, now purple, now flaming scarlet. It was the symbol of the Kuen–Yuin.
She bent over me and laid her fingers gently on my arm.
“Why do you ask me such things?” she said, while the tears glistened on her lashes. “In hurts me here — ” she pressed her hand to her breast ——“it pains. — I don’t know why. Ah, now your eyes are hard and cold again; you are looking at the golden globe which hangs from my waist. Do you wish to know also what that is?”
“Yes,” I muttered, my eyes fixed on the infernal color flames which subsided as I spoke, leaving the ball a pale gilt again.
“It is the symbol of the Kuen–Yuin,” she said in a trembling voice; “why do you ask?”
“Is it yours?”
“Y— yes.”
“Where did you get it?” I cried harshly.
“My — my step-fa —”
Then she pushed me away from her with all the strength of her slender wrists and covered her face.
If I slipped my arm about her and drew her to me — if I kissed away the tears that fell slowly between her fingers — if I told her how I loved her — how it cut me to the heart to see her unhappy — after all that is my own business. When she smiled through her tears, the pure love and sweetness in her eyes lifted my soul higher than the high moon vaguely glimmering through the sun-lit blue above. My happiness was so sudden, so fierce and overwhelming that I only knelt there, her fingers clasped in mine, my eyes raised to the blue vault and the glimmering moon. Then something in the long grass beside me moved close to my knees and a damp acrid odor filled my nostrils.
“Ysonde!” I cried, but the touch of her hand was already gone and my two clenched fists were cold and damp with dew.
“Ysonde!” I called again, my tongue stiff with fright; — but I called as one awaking from a dream — a horrid dream, for my nostrils quivered with the damp acrid odor and I felt the crab-reptile clinging to my knee. Why had the night fallen so swiftly — and where was I— where? — stiff, chilled, torn, and bleeding, lying flung like a corpse over my own threshold with Voyou licking my face and Barris stooping above me in the light of a lamp that flared and smoked in the night breeze like a torch. Faugh! the choking stench of the lamp aroused me and I cried out:
“Ysonde!”
“What the devil’s the matter with him?” muttered Pierpont, lifting me in his arms like a child, “has he been stabbed, Barris?”


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