Houdania! Yes, he had found Houdania. Philip Poynter had told him of the monastery months before. Philip liked to seek and find the picturesque. Thus had he come into Andorra in the Pyrenees and Wisby in the Baltic. And he—Carl—had found Houdania. But what of it? Ah, yes, the burning candlestick—the paper—the paper! And again a gust of laughter drowned the fitful crackle of the fire. There was gold at his hand—great, tempting quantities of it!
“When the test comes, you’ll ring true,” came the crackle of Philip’s voice from the fire. “Mark that, old man, you’ll ring true. I tell you, I know.” Well, Philip Poynter was his only friend. But Philip was off somewhere, gone out of his life this many a day in a characteristic burst of quixotism.
Carl laughed and shuddered, for a mad instant he held the tempting yellow paper above the fire—and drew it back, stared at the charred candlestick and laughed again—but there was nothing of laughter in his eyes. They were darkly ironic and triumphant. There was blood in the fire—and gold—and Diane had mocked his mother. With a groan Carl flung his arms out passionately upon the table, torn by a conflict of the strangely warring forces within him. And with his head drooping heavily forward upon his hands he lay there until the melancholy dawn grayed the room into shadowy distinctness, his angle of vision twisted and maimed by the demon of the bottle. The candlestick loomed strangely forth from the still grayness; the bottle took form; the yellowed paper glimmered on the table. Carl stirred and a spasm of mirthless laughter shook him.
“So,” he said, “Philip Poynter loses—and I—I write to Houdania!”
So from the bottle rose a phantom of glittering gold and temptation to grow in time to a wraith of gigantic proportions. In the bottle to-night had lain tears and jest and love unending, romance and passion, treachery and irony—blood and the shadow of Death.
Lilac and wistaria flowered royally. Carpenter, wheelwright and painter departed. The trim green wagon, picked out gayly in white, windowed and curtained and splendidly equipped for the fortunes of the road, creaked briskly away upon its pilgrimage, behind a pair of big-boned piebald horses from the Westfall stables, with Johnny at the reins. On the seat beside him Diane radiantly waved adieu to her aunt, who promptly collapsed in a chair on the porch and dabbed violently at her eyes.
“I shall never get over it,” sniffed Aunt Agatha tragically. “Carl may say what he will, I never shall. But now that I’ve come up here to see her off, I’ve done my duty, I have indeed. And I do hope Carl hasn’t any wild ideas for the summer—I couldn’t stand it. Allan, as long as Miss Diane is camping within reasonable distance of the farm, you’d better take the run-about each night and find her and see if she’s all right—and brush the snakes and bugs and things out of camp. If everything wild in the forest collected around the camp fire, like as not she wouldn’t see them until they bit her.”