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    Ken's Mystery

    by Julian Hawthorne
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    One cool October evening--it was the last day of the month, and
    unusually cool for the time of year--I made up my mind to go and spend
    an hour or two with my friend Keningale. Keningale was an artist (as
    well as a musical amateur and poet), and had a very delightful studio
    built onto his house, in which he was wont to sit of an evening. The
    studio had a cavernous fire-place, designed in imitation of the old-
    fashioned fire-places of Elizabethan manor-houses, and in it, when the
    temperature out-doors warranted, he would build up a cheerful fire of
    dry logs. It would suit me particularly well, I thought, to go and have
    a quiet pipe and chat in front of that fire with my friend.

    I had not had such a chat for a very long time--not, in fact, since
    Keningale (or Ken, as his friends called him) had returned from his
    visit to Europe the year before. He went abroad, as he affirmed at the
    time, "for purposes of study," whereat we all smiled, for Ken, so far
    as we knew him, was more likely to do anything else than to study. He
    was a young fellow of buoyant temperament, lively and social in his
    habits, of a brilliant and versatile mind, and possessing an income of
    twelve or fifteen thousand dollars a year; he could sing, play,
    scribble, and paint very cleverly, and some of his heads and figure-
    pieces were really well done, considering that he never had any regular
    training in art; but he was not a worker. Personally he was fine-
    looking, of good height and figure, active, healthy, and with a
    remarkably fine brow, and clear, full-gazing eye. Nobody was surprised
    at his going to Europe, nobody expected him to do anything there except
    amuse himself, and few anticipated that he would be soon again seen in
    New York. He was one of the sort that find Europe agree with them. Off
    he went, therefore; and in the course of a few months the rumor reached
    us that he was engaged to a handsome and wealthy New York girl whom he
    had met in London. This was nearly all we did hear of him until, not
    very long afterward, he turned up again on Fifth Avenue, to every one's
    astonishment; made no satisfactory answer to those who wanted to know
    how he happened to tire so soon of the Old World; while, as to the
    reported engagement, he cut short all allusion to that in so peremptory
    a manner as to show that it was not a permissible topic of conversation
    with him. It was surmised that the lady had jilted him; but, on the
    other hand, she herself returned home not a great while after, and,
    though she had plenty of opportunities, she has never married to this

    Be the rights of that matter what they may, it was soon remarked that
    Ken was no longer the careless and merry fellow he used to be; on the
    contrary, he appeared grave, moody, averse from general society, and
    habitually taciturn and undemonstrative even in the company of his most
    intimate friends. Evidently something had happened to him, or he had
    done something. What? Had he committed a murder? or joined the
    Nihilists? or was his unsuccessful love affair at the bottom of it?
    Some declared that the cloud was only temporary, and would soon pass
    away. Nevertheless, up to the period of which I am writing, it had not
    passed away, but had rather gathered additional gloom, and threatened
    to become permanent.

    Meanwhile I had met him twice or thrice at the club, at the opera, or
    in the street, but had as yet had no opportunity of regularly renewing
    my acquaintance with him. We had been on a footing of more than common
    intimacy in the old days, and I was not disposed to think that he would
    refuse to renew the former relations now. But what I had heard and
    myself seen of his changed condition imparted a stimulating tinge of
    suspense or curiosity to the pleasure with which I looked forward to
    the prospects of this evening. His house stood at a distance of two or
    three miles beyond the general range of habitations in New York at this
    time, and as I walked briskly along in the clear twilight air I had
    leisure to go over in my mind all that I had known of Ken and had
    divined of his character. After all, had there not always been
    something in his nature--deep down, and held in abeyance by the
    activity of his animal spirits--but something strange and separate, and
    capable of developing under suitable conditions into--into what? As I
    asked myself this question I arrived at his door; and it was with a
    feeling of relief that I felt the next moment the cordial grasp of his
    hand, and his voice bidding me welcome in a tone that indicated
    unaffected gratification at my presence. He drew me at once into the
    studio, relieved me of my hat and cane, and then put his hand on my

    "I am glad to see you," he repeated, with singular earnestness--"glad
    to see you and to feel you; and to-night of all nights in the year."

    "Why to-night especially?"

    "Oh, never mind. It's just as well, too, you didn't let me know
    beforehand you were coming; the unreadiness is all, to paraphrase the
    poet. Now, with you to help me, I can drink a glass of whisky and water
    and take a bit draw of the pipe. This would have been a grim night for
    me if I'd been left to myself."

    "In such a lap of luxury as this, too!" said I, looking round at the
    glowing fire-place, the low, luxurious chairs, and all the rich and
    sumptuous fittings of the room. "I should have thought a condemned
    murderer might make himself comfortable here."

    "Perhaps; but that's not exactly my category at present. But have you
    forgotten what night this is? This is November-eve, when, as tradition
    asserts, the dead arise and walk about, and fairies, goblins, and
    spiritual beings of all kinds have more freedom and power than on any
    other day of the year. One can see you've never been in Ireland."

    "I wasn't aware till now that you had been there, either."

    "Yes, I have been in Ireland. Yes--" He paused, sighed, and fell into a
    reverie, from which, however, he soon roused himself by an effort, and
    went to a cabinet in a corner of the room for the liquor and tobacco.
    While he was thus employed I sauntered about the studio, taking note of
    the various beauties, grotesquenesses, and curiosities that it
    contained. Many things were there to repay study and arouse admiration;
    for Ken was a good collector, having excellent taste as well as means
    to back it. But, upon the whole, nothing interested me more than some
    studies of a female head, roughly done in oils, and, judging from the
    sequestered positions in which I found them, not intended by the artist
    for exhibition or criticism. There were three or four of these studies,
    all of the same face, but in different poses and costumes. In one the
    head was enveloped in a dark hood, overshadowing and partly concealing
    the features; in another she seemed to be peering duskily through a
    latticed casement, lit by a faint moonlight; a third showed her
    splendidly attired in evening costume, with jewels in her hair and
    cars, and sparkling on her snowy bosom. The expressions were as various
    as the poses; now it was demure penetration, now a subtle inviting
    glance, now burning passion, and again a look of elfish and elusive
    mockery. In whatever phase, the countenance possessed a singular and
    poignant fascination, not of beauty merely, though that was very
    striking, but of character and quality likewise.

    "Did you find this model abroad?" I inquired at length. "She has
    evidently inspired yon, and I don't wonder at it."

    Ken, who had been mixing the punch, and had not noticed my movements,
    now looked up, and said: "I didn't mean those to be seen. They don't
    satisfy me, and I am going to destroy them; but I couldn't rest till
    I'd made some attempts to reproduce--What was it you asked? Abroad?
    Yes--or no. They were all painted here within the last six weeks."

    '"Whether they satisfy you or not, they are by far the best things of
    yours I have ever seen."

    '"Well, let them alone, and tell me what you think of this beverage. To
    my thinking, it goes to the right spot. It owes its existence to your
    coming here. I can't drink alone, and those portraits are not company,
    though, for aught I know, she might have come out of the canvas to-
    night and sat down in that chair." Then, seeing my inquiring look, he
    added, with a hasty laugh, "It's November-eve, you know, when anything
    may happen, provided its strange enough. Well, here's to ourselves."

    We each swallowed a deep draught of the smoking and aromatic liquor,
    and set down our glasses with approval. The punch was excellent. Ken
    now opened a box of cigars, and we seated ourselves before the fire-

    "All we need now," I remarked, after a short silence, "is a little
    music. By-the-by, Ken, have you still got the banjo I gave you before
    you went abroad?"

    He paused so long before replying that I supposed he had not heard my
    question. "I have got it," he said, at length, "but it will never make
    any more music."

    "Got broken, eh? Can't it be mended? It was a fine instrument."

    "It's not broken, but it's past mending. You shall see for yourself."

    He arose as he spoke, and going to another part of the studio, opened a
    black oak coffer, and took out of it a long object wrapped up in a
    piece of faded yellow silk. He handed it to me, and when I had
    unwrapped it, there appeared a thing that might once have been a banjo,
    but had little resemblance to one now. It bore every sign of extreme
    age. The wood of the handle was honeycombed with the gnawings of worms,
    and dusty with dry-rot. The parchment head was green with mold, and
    hung in shriveled tatters. The hoop, which was of solid silver, was so
    blackened and tarnished that it looked like dilapidated iron. The
    strings were gone, and most of the tuning-screws had dropped out of
    their decayed sockets. Altogether it had the appearance of having been
    made before the Flood, and been forgotten in the forecastle of Noah's
    Ark ever since.

    "It is a curious relic, certainly," I said. "Where did you come across
    it? I had no idea that the banjo was invented so long ago as this. It
    certainly can't be less than two hundred years old, and may be much
    older than that."

    Ken smiled gloomily. "You are quite right," lie said; "it is at least
    two hundred years old, and yet it is the very same banjo that you gave
    me a year ago."

    "Hardly," I returned, smiling in my turn, "since that was made to my
    order with a view to presenting it to you."

    "I know that; but the two hundred years have passed since then. Yes; it
    is absurd and impossible, I know, but nothing is truer. That banjo,
    which was made last year, existed in the sixteenth century, and has
    been rotting ever since. Stay. Give it to me a moment, and I'll
    convince you. You recollect that your name and mine, with the date,
    were engraved on the silver hoop?"

    "Yes; and there was a private mark of my own there, also."

    "Very well," said Ken, who had been rubbing a place on the hoop with a
    corner of the yellow silk wrapper; "look at that."

    I took the decrepit instrument from him, and examined the spot which he
    had rubbed. It was incredible, sure enough; but there were the names
    and the date precisely as I had caused them to be engraved; and there,
    moreover, was my own private mark, which I had idly made with an old
    etching point not more than eighteen months before. After convincing
    myself that there was no mistake, I laid the banjo across my knees, and
    stared at my friend in bewilderment. He sat smoking with a kind of grim
    composure, his eyes fixed upon the blazing logs.

    "I'm mystified, I confess," said I. "Come; what is the joke? What
    method have you discovered of producing the decay of centuries on this
    unfortunate banjo in a few months? And why did you do it? I have heard
    of an elixir to counteract the effects of time, but your recipe seems
    to work the other way--to make time rush forward at two hundred times
    his usual rate, in one place, while he jogs on at his usual gait
    elsewhere. Unfold your mystery, magician. Seriously, Ken, how on earth
    did the thing happen?"

    "I know no more about it than you do," was his reply. "Either you and I
    and all the rest of the living world are insane, or else there has been
    wrought a miracle as strange as any in tradition. How can I explain it?
    It is a common saying--a common experience, if you will--that we may,
    on certain trying or tremendous occasions, live years in one moment.
    But that's a mental experience, not a physical one, and one that
    applies, at all events, only to human beings, not to senseless things
    of wood and metal. You imagine the thing is some trick or jugglery. If
    it be, I don't know the secret of it. There's no chemical appliance
    that I ever heard of that will get a piece of solid wood into that
    condition in a few months, or a few years. And it wasn't done in a few
    years, or a few months either. A year ago today at this very hour that
    banjo was as sound as when it left the maker's hands, and twenty-four
    hours afterward--I'm telling you the simple truth--it was as you see it

    The gravity and earnestness with which Ken made this astounding
    statement were evidently not assumed, He believed every word that he
    uttered. I knew not what to think. Of course my friend might be insane,
    though he betrayed none of the ordinary symptoms of mania; but, however
    that might be, there was the banjo, a witness whose silent testimony
    there was no gainsaying. The more I meditated on the matter the more
    inconceivable did it appear. Two hundred years--twenty-four hours;
    these were the terms of the proposed equation. Ken and the banjo both
    affirmed that the equation had been made; all worldly knowledge and
    experience affirmed it to be impossible. "What was the explanation?
    What is time? What is life? I felt myself beginning to doubt the
    reality of all things. And so this was the mystery which my friend had
    been brooding over since his return from abroad. No wonder it had
    changed him. More to be wondered at was it that it had not changed him

    "Can you tell me the whole story?" I demanded at length.

    Ken quaffed another draught from his glass of whisky and water and
    rubbed his hand through his thick brown beard. "I have never spoken to
    any one of it heretofore," he said, "and I had never meant to speak of
    it. But I'll try and give you some idea of what it was. You know me
    better than any one else; you'll understand the thing as far as it can
    ever be understood, and perhaps I may be relieved of some of the
    oppression it has caused me. For it is rather a ghastly memory to
    grapple with alone, I can tell you."

    Hereupon, without further preface, Ken related the following tale. He
    was, I may observe in passing, a naturally fine narrator. There were
    deep, lingering tones in his voice, and he could strikingly enhance the
    comic or pathetic effect of a sentence by dwelling here and there upon
    some syllable. His features were equally susceptible of humorous and of
    solemn expressions, and his eyes were in form and hue wonderfully
    adapted to showing great varieties of emotion. Their mournful aspect
    was extremely earnest and affecting; and when Ken was giving utterance
    to some mysterious passage of the tale they had a doubtful, melancholy,
    exploring look which appealed irresistibly to the imagination. But the
    interest of his story was too pressing to allow of noticing these
    incidental embellishments at the time, though they doubtless had their
    influence upon me all the same.

    "I left New York on an Inman Line steamer, you remember," began Ken,
    "and landed at Havre. I went the usual round of sight-seeing on the
    Continent, and got round to London in July, at the height of the
    season. I had good introductions, and met any number of agreeable and
    famous people. Among others was a young lady, a countrywoman of my own
    --you know whom I mean--who interested me very much, and before her
    family left London she and I were engaged. We parted there for the
    time, because she had the Continental trip still to make, while I
    wanted to take the opportunity to visit the north of England and
    Ireland. I landed at Dublin about the 1st of October, and, zigzagging
    about the country, I found myself in County Cork about two weeks later.

    "There is in that region some of the most lovely scenery that human
    eyes ever rested on, and it seems to be less known to tourists than
    many places of infinitely less picturesque value. A lonely region too:
    during my rambles I met not a single stranger like myself, and few
    enough natives. It seems incredible that so beautiful a country should
    be so deserted. After walking a dozen Irish miles you come across a
    group of two or three one-roomed cottages, and, like as not, one or
    more of those will have the roof off and the walls in ruins. The few
    peasants whom one sees, however, are affable and hospitable, especially
    when they hear you are from that terrestrial heaven whither most of
    their friends and relatives have gone before them. They seem simple and
    primitive enough at first sight, and yet they are as strange and
    incomprehensible a race as any in the world. They are as superstitious,
    as credulous of marvels, fairies, magicians, and omens, as the men whom
    St. Patrick preached to, and at the same time they are shrewd,
    skeptical, sensible, and bottomless liars. Upon the whole, I met with
    no nation on my travels whose company I enjoyed so much, or who
    inspired me with so much kindliness, curiosity, and repugnance.

    "At length I got to a place on the sea-coast, which I will not further
    specify than to say that it is not many miles from Ballymacheen, on the
    south shore. I have seen Venice and Naples, I have driven along the
    Cornice Road, I have spent a month at our own Mount Desert, and I say
    that all of them together are not so beautiful as this glowing, deep-
    hued, soft-gleaming, silvery-lighted, ancient harbor and town, with the
    tall hills crowding round it and the black cliffs and headlands
    planting their iron feet in the blue, transparent sea. It is a very old
    place, and has had a history which it has outlived ages since. It may
    once have had two or three thousand inhabitants; it has scarce five or
    six hundred to day. Half the houses are in ruins or have disappeared;
    many of the remainder are standing empty. All the people are poor, most
    of them abjectly so; they saunter about with bare feet and uncovered
    heads, the women in quaint black or dark-blue cloaks, the men in such
    anomalous attire as only an Irishman knows how to get together, the
    children half naked. The only comfortable-looking people are the monks
    and the priests, and the soldiers in the fort. For there is a fort
    there, constructed on the huge ruins of one which may have done duty in
    the reign of Edward the Black Prince, or earlier, in whose mossy
    embrasures are mounted a couple of cannon, which occasionally sent a
    practice-shot or two at the cliff on the other side of the harbor. The
    garrison consists of a dozen men and three or four officers and non-
    commissioned officers. I suppose they are relieved occasionally, but
    those I saw seemed to have become component parts of their

    "I put up at a wonderful little old inn, the only one in the place, and
    took my meals in a dining-saloon fifteen feet by nine, with a portrait
    of George I (a print varnished to preserve it) hanging over the mantel-
    piece. On the second evening after dinner a young gentleman came in--
    the dining-saloon being public property of course--and ordered some
    bread and cheese and a bottle of Dublin stout. We presently fell into
    talk; he turned out to be an officer from the fort, Lieutenant
    O'Connor, and a fine young specimen of the Irish soldier he was. After
    telling me all he knew about the town, the surrounding country, his
    friends, and himself, he intimated a readiness to sympathize with
    whatever tale I might choose to pour into his ear; and I had pleasure
    in trying to rival his own outspokenness. We became excellent friends;
    we had up a half-pint of Kinahan's whisky, and the lieutenant expressed
    himself in terms of high praise of my countrymen, my country, and my
    own particular cigars. When it became time for him to depart I
    accompanied him--for there was a splendid moon abroad--and bade him
    farewell at the fort entrance, having promised to come over the next
    day and make the acquaintance of the other fellows. 'And mind your eye,
    now, going back, my dear boy,' he called out, as I turned my face
    homeward. 'Faith, 'tis a spooky place, that graveyard, and you'll as
    likely meet the black woman there as anywhere else!'

    "The graveyard was a forlorn and barren spot on the hill-side, just the
    hither side of the fort: thirty or forty rough head-stones, few of
    which retained any semblance of the perpendicular, while many were so
    shattered and decayed as to seem nothing more than irregular natural
    projections from the ground. Who the black woman might be I knew not,
    and did not stay to inquire. I had never been subject to ghostly
    apprehensions, and as a matter of fact, though the path I had to follow
    was in places very bad going, not to mention a hap-hazard scramble over
    a ruined bridge that covered a deep-lying brook, I reached my inn
    without any adventure whatever.

    "The next day I kept my appointment at the fort, and found no reason to
    regret it; and my friendly sentiments were abundantly reciprocated,
    thanks more especially, perhaps, to the success of my banjo, which I
    carried with me, and which was as novel as it was popular with those
    who listened to it. The chief personages in the social circle besides
    my friend the lieutenant were Major Molloy, who was in command, a racy
    and juicy old campaigner, with a face like a sunset, and the surgeon,
    Dr. Dudeen, a long, dry, humorous genius, with a wealth of anecdotical
    and traditional lore at his command that I have never seen surpassed.
    We had a jolly time of it, and it was the precursor of many more like
    it. The remains of October slipped away rapidly, and I was obliged to
    remember that I was a traveler in Europe, and not a resident in
    Ireland. The major, the surgeon, and the lieutenant all protested
    cordially against my proposed departure, but, as there was no help for
    it, they arranged a farewell dinner to take place in the fort on All-

    "I wish you could have been at that dinner with me! It was the essence
    of Irish good-fellowship. Dr. Dudeen was in great force; the major was
    better than the best of Lever's novels; the lieutenant was overflowing
    with hearty good-humor, merry chaff, and sentimental rhapsodies anent
    this or the other pretty girl of the neighborhood. For my part I made
    the banjo ring as it had never rung before, and the others joined in
    the chorus with a mellow strength of lungs such as you don't often hear
    outside of Ireland. Among the stories that Dr. Dudeen regaled us with
    was one about the Kern of Querin and his wife, Ethelind Fionguala--
    which being interpreted signifies 'the white-shouldered.' The lady, it
    appears, was originally betrothed to one O'Connor (here the lieutenant
    smacked his lips), but was stolen away on the wedding night by a party
    of vampires, who, it would seem, were at that period a prominent
    feature among the troubles of Ireland. But as they were bearing her
    along--she being unconscious--to that supper where she was not to eat
    but to be eaten, the young Kern of Querin, who happened to be out duck-
    shooting, met the party, and emptied his gun at it. The vampires fled,
    and the Kern carried the fair lady, still in a state of insensibility,
    to his house. 'And by the same token, Mr. Keningale,' observed the
    doctor, knocking the ashes out of his pipe, 'ye're after passing that
    very house on your way here. The one with the dark archway underneath
    it, and the big mullioned window at the corner, ye recollect, hanging
    over the street as I might say--'

    "'Go 'long wid the house, Dr. Dudeen, dear,' interrupted the
    lieutenant; 'sure can't you see we're all dying to know what happened
    to sweet Miss Fionguala, God be good to her, when I was after getting
    her safe up-stairs--'

    "'Faith, then, I can tell ye that myself, Mr. O'Connor,' exclaimed the
    major, imparting a rotary motion to the remnants of whisky in his
    tumbler. ''Tis a question to be solved on general principles, as
    Colonel O'Halloran said that time he was asked what he'd do if he'd
    been the Book o' Wellington, and the Prussians hadn't come up in the
    nick o' time at Waterloo. 'Faith,' says the colonel, 'I'll tell ye--'

    "'Arrah, then, major, why would ye be interruptin' the doctor, and Mr.
    Keningale there lettin' his glass stay empty till he hears--The Lord
    save us! the bottle's empty!'

    "In the excitement consequent upon this discovery, the thread of the
    doctor's story was lost; and before it could be recovered the evening
    had advanced so far that I felt obliged to withdraw. It took some time
    to make my proposition heard and comprehended; and a still longer time
    to put it in execution; so that it was fully midnight before I found
    myself standing in the cool pure air outside the fort, with the
    farewells of my boon companions ringing in my ears.

    "Considering that it had been rather a wet evening in-doors, I was in a
    remarkably good state of preservation, and I therefore ascribed it
    rather to the roughness of the road than to the smoothness of the
    liquor, when, after advancing a few rods, I stumbled and fell. As I
    picked myself up I fancied I had heard a laugh, and supposed that the
    lieutenant, who had accompanied me to the gate, was making merry over
    my mishap; but on looking round I saw that the gate was closed and no
    one was visible. The laugh, moreover, had seemed to be close at hand,
    and to be even pitched in a key that was rather feminine than
    masculine. Of course I must have been deceived; nobody was near me: my
    imagination had played me a trick, or else there was more truth than
    poetry in the tradition that Halloween is the carnival-time of
    disembodied spirits. It did not occur to me at the time that a stumble
    is held by the superstitious Irish to be an evil omen, and had I
    remembered it it would only have been to laugh at it. At all events, I
    was physically none the worse for my fall, and I resumed my way

    "But the path was singularly difficult to find, or rather the path I
    was following did not seem to be the right one. I did not recognize it;
    I could have sworn (except I knew the contrary) that I had never seen
    it before. The moon had risen, though her light was as yet obscured by
    clouds, but neither my immediate surroundings nor the general aspect of
    the region appeared familiar. Dark, silent hill-sides mounted up on
    either hand, and the road, for the most part, plunged downward, as if
    to conduct me into the bowels of the earth. The place was alive with
    strange echoes, so that at times I seemed to be walking through the
    midst of muttering voices and mysterious whispers, and a wild, faint
    sound of laughter seemed ever and anon to reverberate among the passes
    of the hills. Currents of colder air sighing up through narrow defiles
    and dark crevices touched my face as with airy fingers. A certain
    feeling of anxiety and insecurity began to take possession of me,
    though there was no definable cause for it, unless that I might be
    belated in getting home. With the perverse instinct of those who are
    lost I hastened my steps, but was impelled now and then to glance back
    over my shoulder, with a sensation of being pursued. But no living
    creature was in sight. The moon, however, had now risen higher, and the
    clouds that were drifting slowly across the sky flung into the naked
    valley dusky shadows, which occasionally assumed shapes that looked
    like the vague semblance of gigantic human forms.

    "How long I had been hurrying onward I know not, when, with a kind of
    suddenness, I found myself approaching a graveyard. It was situated on
    the spur of a hill, and there was no fence around it, nor anything to
    protect it from the incursions of passers-by. There was something in
    the general appearance of this spot that made me half fancy I had seen
    it before; and I should have taken it to be the same that I had often
    noticed on my way to the fort, but that the latter was only a few
    hundred yards distant therefrom, whereas I must have traversed several
    miles at least. As I drew near, moreover, I observed that the head-
    stones did not appear so ancient and decayed as those of the other. But
    what chiefly attracted my attention was the figure that was leaning or
    half sitting upon one of the largest of the upright slabs near the
    road. It was a female figure draped in black, and a closer inspection--
    for I was soon within a few yards of her--showed that she wore the
    calla, or long hooded cloak, the most common as well as the most
    ancient garment of Irish women, and doubtless of Spanish origin.

    "I was a trifle startled by this apparition, so unexpected as it was,
    and so strange did it seem that any human creature should be at that
    hour of the night in so desolate and sinister a place. Involuntarily I
    paused as I came opposite her, and gazed at her intently. But the
    moonlight fell behind her, and the deep hood of her cloak so completely
    shadowed her face that I was unable to discern anything but the sparkle
    of a pair of eyes, which appeared to be returning my gaze with much

    "'You seem to be at home here,' I said, at length. 'Can you tell me
    where I am?'

    "Hereupon the mysterious personage broke into a light laugh, which,
    though in itself musical and agreeable, was of a timbre and intonation
    that caused my heart to beat rather faster than my late pedestrian
    exertions warranted; for it was the identical laugh (or so my
    imagination persuaded me) that had echoed in my ears as I arose from my
    tumble an hour or two ago. For the rest, it was the laugh of a young
    woman, and presumably of a pretty one; and yet it had a wild, airy,
    mocking quality, that seemed hardly human at all, or not, at any rate,
    characteristic of a being of affections and limitations like unto ours.
    But this impression of mine was fostered, no doubt, by the unusual and
    uncanny circumstances of the occasion.

    "'Sure, sir,' said she, 'you're at the grave of Ethelind Fionguala.'

    "As she spoke she rose to her feet, and pointed to the inscription on
    the stone. I bent forward, and was able, without much difficulty, to
    decipher the name, and a date which indicated that the occupant of the
    grave must have entered the disembodied state between two and three
    centuries ago.

    "'And who are you?' was my next question.

    "'I'm called Elsie,' she replied. 'But where would your honor be going

    "I mentioned my destination, and asked her whether she could direct me

    "'Indeed, then, 'tis there I'm going myself,' Elsie replied; 'and if
    your honor'll follow me, and play me a tune on the pretty instrument,
    'tisn't long we'll be on the road.'

    "She pointed to the banjo which I carried wrapped up under my arm. How
    she knew that it was a musical instrument I could not imagine;
    possibly, I thought, she may have seen me playing on it as I strolled
    about the environs of the town. Be that as it may, I offered no
    opposition to the bargain, and further intimated that I would reward
    her more substantially on our arrival. At that she laughed again, and
    made a peculiar gesture with her hand above her head. I uncovered my
    banjo, swept my fingers across the strings, and struck into a fantastic
    dance-measure, to the music of which we proceeded along the path, Elsie
    slightly in advance, her feet keeping time to the airy measure. In
    fact, she trod so lightly, with an elastic, undulating movement, that
    with a little more it seemed as if she might float onward like a
    spirit. The extreme whiteness of her feet attracted my eye, and I was
    surprised to find that instead of being bare, as I had supposed, these
    were incased in white satin slippers quaintly embroidered with gold

    "'Elsie,' said I, lengthening my steps so as to come up with her,
    'where do you live, and what do you do for a living?'

    "'Sure, I live by myself,' she answered; 'and if you'd be after knowing
    how, you must come and see for yourself.'

    "'Are you in the habit of walking over the hills at night in shoes like

    "'And why would I not?' she asked, in her turn. 'And where did your
    honor get the pretty gold ring on your finger?'

    "The ring, which was of no great intrinsic value, had struck my eye in
    an old curiosity-shop in Cork. It was an antique of very old-fashioned
    design, and might have belonged (as the vender assured me was the case)
    to one of the early kings or queens of Ireland.

    "'Do you like it?' said I.

    "'Will your honor be after making a present of it to Elsie?' she
    returned, with an insinuating tone and turn of the head.

    "'Maybe I will, Elsie, on one condition. I am an artist; I make
    pictures of people. If you will promise to come to my studio and let me
    paint your portrait, I'll give you the ring, and some money besides.'

    "'And will you give me the ring now?' said Elsie.

    "'Yes, if you'll promise.'

    "'And will you play the music to me?' she continued.

    "'As much as you like.'

    "'But maybe I'll not be handsome enough for ye,' said she, with a
    glance of her eyes beneath the dark hood.

    "'I'll take the risk of that,' I answered, laughing, 'though, all the
    same, I don't mind taking a peep beforehand to remember you by.' So
    saying, I put forth a hand to draw back the concealing hood. But Elsie
    eluded me, I scarce know how, and laughed a third time, with the same
    airy, mocking cadence.

    "'Give me the ring first, and then you shall see me,' she said,

    "'Stretch out your hand, then,' returned I, removing the ring from my
    finger. 'When we are better acquainted, Elsie, you won't be so

    "She held out a slender, delicate hand, on the forefinger of which I
    slipped the ring. As I did so, the folds of her cloak fell a little
    apart, affording me a glimpse of a white shoulder and of a dress that
    seemed in that deceptive semi-darkness to be wrought of rich and costly
    material; and I caught, too, or so I fancied, the frosty sparkle of
    precious stones.

    "'Arrah, mind where ye tread!' said Elsie, in a sudden, sharp tone.

    "I looked round, and became aware for the first time that we were
    standing near the middle of a ruined bridge which spanned a rapid
    stream that flowed at a considerable depth below. The parapet of the
    bridge on one side was broken down, and I must have been, in fact, in
    imminent danger of stepping over into empty air. I made my way
    cautiously across the decaying structure; but, when I turned to assist
    Elsie, she was nowhere to be seen.

    "What had become of the girl? I called, but no answer came. I gazed
    about on every side, but no trace of her was visible. Unless she had
    plunged into the narrow abyss at my feet, there was no place where she
    could have concealed herself--none at least that I could discover. She
    had vanished, nevertheless; and since her disappearance must have been
    premeditated, I finally came to the conclusion that it was useless to
    attempt to find her. She would present herself again in her own good
    time, or not at all. She had given me the slip very cleverly, and I
    must make the best of it. The adventure was perhaps worth the ring.

    "On resuming my way, I was not a little relieved to find that I once
    more knew where I was. The bridge that I had just crossed was none
    other than the one I mentioned some time back; I was within a mile of
    the town, and my way lay clear before me. The moon, moreover, had now
    quite dispersed the clouds, and shone down with exquisite brilliance.
    Whatever her other failings, Elsie had been a trustworthy guide; she
    had brought me out of the depth of elf-land into the material world
    again. It had been a singular adventure, certainly; and I mused over it
    with a sense of mysterious pleasure as I sauntered along, humming
    snatches of airs, and accompanying myself on the strings. Hark! what
    light step was that behind me? It sounded like Elsie's; but no, Elsie
    was not there. The same impression or hallucination, however, recurred
    several times before I reached the outskirts of the town--the tread of
    an airy foot behind or beside my own. The fancy did not make me
    nervous; on the contrary, I was pleased with the notion of being thus
    haunted, and gave myself up to a romantic and genial vein of reverie.

    "After passing one or two roofless and moss-grown cottages, I entered
    the narrow and rambling street which leads through the town. This
    street a short distance down widens a little, as if to afford the
    wayfarer space to observe a remarkable old house that stands on the
    northern side. The house was built of stone, and in a noble style of
    architecture; it reminded me somewhat of certain palaces of the old
    Italian nobility that I had seen on the Continent, and it may very
    probably have been built by one of the Italian or Spanish immigrants of
    the sixteenth or seventeenth century. The molding of the projecting
    windows and arched doorway was richly carved, and upon the front of the
    building was an escutcheon wrought in high relief, though I could not
    make out the purport of the device. The moonlight falling upon this
    picturesque pile enhanced all its beauties, and at the same time made
    it seem like a vision that might dissolve away when the light ceased to
    shine. I must often have seen the house before, and yet I retained no
    definite recollection of it; I had never until now examined it with my
    eyes open, so to speak. Leaning against the wall on the opposite side
    of the street, I contemplated it for a long while at my leisure. The
    window at the corner was really a very fine and massive affair. It
    projected over the pavement below, throwing a heavy shadow aslant; the
    frames of the diamond-paned lattices were heavily mullioned. How often
    in past ages had that lattice been pushed open by some fair hand,
    revealing to a lover waiting beneath in the moonlight the charming
    countenance of his high-born mistress! Those were brave days. They had
    passed away long since. The great house had stood empty for who could
    tell how many years; only bats and vermin were its inhabitants. Where
    now were those who had built it? and who were they? Probably the very
    name of them was forgotten.

    "As I continued to stare upward, however, a conjecture presented itself
    to my mind which rapidly ripened into a conviction. Was not this the
    house that Dr. Dudeen had described that very evening as having been
    formerly the abode of the Kern of Querin and his mysterious bride?
    There was the projecting window, the arched doorway. Yes, beyond a
    doubt this was the very house. I emitted a low exclamation of renewed
    interest and pleasure, and my speculations took a still more
    imaginative, but also a more definite turn.

    "What had been the fate of that lovely lady after the Kern had brought
    her home insensible in his arms? Did she recover, and were they married
    and made happy ever after; or had the sequel been a tragic one? I
    remembered to have read that the victims of vampires generally became
    vampires themselves. Then my thoughts went back to that grave on the
    hill-side. Surely that was unconsecrated ground. Why had they buried
    her there? Ethelind of the white shoulder! Ah! why had not I lived in
    those days; or why might not some magic cause them to live again for
    me? Then would I seek this street at midnight, and standing here
    beneath her window, I would lightly touch the strings of my bandore
    until the casement opened cautiously and she looked down. A sweet
    vision indeed! And what prevented my realizing it? Only a matter of a
    couple of centuries or so. And was time, then, at which poets and
    philosophers sneer, so rigid and real a matter that a little faith and
    imagination might not overcome it? At all events, I had my banjo, the
    bandore's legitimate and lineal descendant, and the memory of Fionguala
    should have the love-ditty.

    "Hereupon, having retuned the instrument, I launched forth into an old
    Spanish love-song, which I had met with in some moldy library during my
    travels, and had set to music of my own. I sang low, for the deserted
    street re-echoed the lightest sound, and what I sang must reach only my
    lady's ears. The words were warm with the fire of the ancient Spanish
    chivalry, and I threw into their expression all the passion of the
    lovers of romance. Surely Fionguala, the white-shouldered, would hear,
    and awaken from her sleep of centuries, and come to the latticed
    casement and look down! Hist! see yonder! What light--what shadow is
    that that seems to flit from room to room within the abandoned house,
    and now approaches the mullioned window? Are my eyes dazzled by the
    play of the moonlight, or does the casement move--does it open? Nay,
    this is no delusion; there is no error of the senses here. There is
    simply a woman, young, beautiful, and richly attired, bending forward
    from the window, and silently beckoning me to approach.

    "Too much amazed to be conscious of amazement, I advanced until I stood
    directly beneath the casement, and the lady's face, as she stooped
    toward me, was not more than twice a man's height from my own. She
    smiled and kissed her finger-tips; something white fluttered in her
    hand, then fell through the air to the ground at my feet. The next
    moment she had withdrawn, and I heard the lattice close. I picked up
    what she had let fall; it was a delicate lace handkerchief,
    tied to the handle of an elaborately wrought bronze key. It was
    evidently the key of the house, and invited me to enter. I loosened it
    from the handkerchief, which bore a faint, delicious perfume, like the
    aroma of flowers in an ancient garden, and turned to the arched
    doorway. I felt no misgiving, and scarcely any sense of strangeness.
    All was as I had wished it to be, and as it should be; the mediaeval
    age was alive once more, and as for myself, I almost felt the velvet
    cloak hanging from my shoulder and the long rapier dangling at my belt.
    Standing in front of the door I thrust the key into the lock, turned
    it, and felt the bolt yield. The next instant the door was opened,
    apparently from within; I stepped across the threshold, the door closed
    again, and I was alone in the house, and in darkness.

    "Not alone, however! As I extended my hand to grope my way it was met
    by another hand, soft, slender, and cold, which insinuated itself
    gently into mine and drew me forward. Forward I went, nothing loath;
    the darkness was impenetrable, but I could hear the light rustle of a
    dress close to me, and the same delicious perfume that had emanated
    from the handkerchief enriched the air that I breathed, while the
    little hand that clasped and was clasped by my own alternately
    tightened and half relaxed the hold of its soft cold fingers. In this
    manner, and treading lightly, we traversed what I presumed to be a
    long, irregular passageway, and ascended a staircase. Then another
    corridor, until finally we paused, a door opened, emitting a flood of
    soft light, into which we entered, still hand in hand. The darkness and
    the doubt were at an end.

    "The room was of imposing dimensions, and was furnished and decorated
    in a style of antique splendor. The walls were draped with mellow hues
    of tapestry; clusters of candles burned in polished silver sconces, and
    were reflected and multiplied in tall mirrors placed in the four
    corners of the room. The heavy beams of the dark oaken ceiling crossed
    each other in squares, and were laboriously carved; the curtains and
    the drapery of the chairs were of heavy-figured damask. At one end of
    the room was a broad ottoman, and in front of it a table, on which was
    set forth, in massive silver dishes, a sumptuous repast, with wines in
    crystal beakers. At the side was a vast and deep fire-place, with space
    enough on the broad hearth to burn whole trunks of trees. No fire,
    however, was there, but only a great heap of dead embers; and the room,
    for all its magnificence, was cold--cold as a tomb, or as my lady's
    hand--and it sent a subtle chill creeping to my heart.

    "But my lady! how fair she was! I gave but a passing glance at the
    room; my eyes and my thoughts were all for her. She was dressed in
    white, like a bride; diamonds sparkled in her dark hair and on her
    snowy bosom; her lovely face and slender lips were pale, and all the
    paler for the dusky glow of her eyes. She gazed at me with a strange,
    elusive smile; and yet there was, in her aspect and bearing, something
    familiar in the midst of strangeness, like the burden of a song heard
    long ago and recalled among other conditions and surroundings. It
    seemed to me that something in me recognized her and knew her, had
    known her always. She was the woman of whom I had dreamed, whom I had
    beheld in visions, whose voice and face had haunted me from boyhood up.
    Whether we had ever met before, as human beings meet, I knew not;
    perhaps I had been blindly seeking her all over the world, and she had
    been awaiting me in this splendid room, sitting by those dead embers
    until all the warmth had gone out of her blood, only to be restored by
    the heat with which my love might supply her.

    "'I thought you had forgotten me,' she said, nodding as if in answer to
    my thought. 'The night was so late--our one night of the year! How my
    heart rejoiced when I heard your dear voice singing the song I know so
    well! Kiss me--my lips are cold!'

    "Cold indeed they were--cold as the lips of death. But the warmth of my
    own seemed to revive them. They were now tinged with a faint color, and
    in her cheeks also appeared a delicate shade of pink. She drew fuller
    breath, as one who recovers from a long lethargy. Was it my life that
    was feeding her? I was ready to give her all. She drew me to the table
    and pointed to the viands and the wine.

    "'Eat and drink,' she said. 'You have traveled far, and you need food.'

    "'Will you eat and drink with me?' said I, pouring out the wine.

    "'You are the only nourishment I want,' was her answer.' This wine is
    thin and cold. Give me wine as red as your blood and as warm, and I
    will drain a goblet to the dregs.'

    "At these words, I know not why, a slight shiver passed through me. She
    seemed to gain vitality and strength at every instant, but the chill of
    the great room struck into me more and more.

    "She broke into a fantastic flow of spirits, clapping her hands, and
    dancing about me like a child. Who was she? And was I myself, or was
    she mocking mo when she implied that we had belonged to each other of
    old? At length she stood still before me, crossing her hands over her
    breast. I saw upon the forefinger of her right hand the gleam of an
    antique ring.

    "'Where did you get that ring?' I demanded.

    "She shook her head and laughed. 'Have you been faithful?' she asked.
    'It is my ring; it is the ring that unites us; it is the ring you gave
    me when you loved me first. It is the ring of the Kern--the fairy ring,
    and I am your Ethelind--Ethelind Fionguala.'

    "'So be it,' I said, casting aside all doubt and fear, and yielding
    myself wholly to the spell of her inscrutable eyes and wooing lips.
    'You are mine, and I am yours, and let us be happy while the hours

    "'You are mine, and I am yours,' she repeated, nodding her head with an
    elfish smile. 'Come and sit beside me, and sing that sweet song again
    that you sang to me so long ago. Ah, now I shall live a hundred years.'

    "We seated ourselves on the ottoman, and while she nestled luxuriously
    among the cushions, I took my banjo and sang to her. The song and the
    music resounded through the lofty room, and came back in throbbing
    echoes. And before me as I sang I saw the face and form of Ethelind
    Fionguala, in her jeweled bridal dress, gazing at me with burning eyes.
    She was pale no longer, but ruddy and warm, and life was like a flame
    within her. It was I who had become cold and bloodless, yet with the
    last life that was in me I would have sung to her of love that can
    never die. But at length my eyes grew dim, the room seemed to darken,
    the form of Ethelind alternately brightened and waxed indistinct, like
    the last flickerings of a fire; I swayed toward her, and felt myself
    lapsing into unconsciousness, with my head resting on her white

    Here Keningale paused a few moments in his story, flung a fresh log
    upon the fire, and then continued:

    "I awoke, I know not how long afterward. I was in a vast, empty room in
    a ruined building. Rotten shreds of drapery depended from the walls,
    and heavy festoons of spiders' webs gray with dust covered the windows,
    which were destitute of glass or sash; they had been boarded up with
    rough planks which had themselves become rotten with age, and admitted
    through their holes and crevices pallid rays of light and chilly
    draughts of air. A bat, disturbed by these rays or by my own movement,
    detached himself from his hold on a remnant of moldy tapestry near me,
    and after circling dizzily around my head, wheeled the flickering
    noiselessness of his flight into a darker corner. As I arose unsteadily
    from the heap of miscellaneous rubbish on which I had been lying,
    something which had been resting across my knees fell to the floor with
    a rattle. I picked it up, and found it to be my banjo--as you see it

    "Well, that is all I have to tell. My health was seriously impaired;
    all the blood seemed to have been drawn out of my veins; I was pale and
    haggard, and the chill--Ah, that chill," murmured Keningale, drawing
    nearer to the fire, and spreading out his hands to catch the warmth--"
    I shall never get over it; I shall carry it to my grave."
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