Arthurian and Grail Plays
The Fortunate Island
By Max Adeler
Chapter I. The Island
When the good ship "Morning Star," bound to Liverpool from New York, foundered at sea, the officers, the
crew, and all of the passengers but two, escaped in the boats. Professor E. L. Baffin and his daughter, Matilda Baffin,
preferred to intrust themselves to a patent india-rubber life-raft, which the Professor was carrying with him to Europe,
with the hope that he should sell certain patent rights in the contrivance.
There was time enough, before the ship sank, to inflate the raft and to place upon it all of the trunks and bundles
belonging to the Professor and Matilda. These were lashed firmly to the rubber cylinders, and thus Professor Baffin
was encouraged to believe that he might save from destruction all of the scientific implements and apparatus which
he had brought with him from the Wingohocking University to illustrate the course of lectures which he had engaged
to give in England and Scotland.
Having made the luggage fast, the Professor handed Matilda down from the ship's
side, and when he had tied her to one of the trunks and secured himself to another, he cut the raft adrift, and, with the
occupants of the boats, sorrowfully watched the brave old "Morning Star" settle down deeper and deeper into
the water; until at last, with a final plunge, she dipped beneath the surface and disappeared.
The prospect was a cheerless one for all of the party. The
sea was not dangerously rough; but the captain estimated that the nearest land was at least eight hundred miles distant; and, although there were in the boats and upon the raft provisions and water enough for several days, the chance was small that a port could be made before the supplies should be exhausted. There was, moreover, almost a certainty that the boats would be swamped if they should encounter a severe storm.
The Professor, for his part, felt confident that the raft would outlive any storm; but his shipmates regarded his confidence in it as an indication of partial insanity.
The captain rested his expectations of getting ashore chiefly upon the fact that they were in the line of greatest travel across the Atlantic, so that they might reasonably look to meet, within a day or two, with a vessel of some kind which would rescue them.
As the night came on, it was agreed that the boats and the raft should keep together, and the captain had provided a lantern, which was swung, lighted, aloft upon an oar, so that the position of his boat could be determined. The Professor, with his raft under sail, steered along in the wake of the boats for several hours, Matilda, meanwhile, sleeping calmly, after the exciting and exhausting labors of the day, upon a couple of trunks.
As the night wore on, a brisk wind sprang up, and shortly afterward the light upon the captain's boat for some reason disappeared. The Professor was somewhat perplexed when he missed it, but he concluded that the safest plan would be to steer about upon the course he had hitherto held, and then to communicate with the boats if they should be within sight in the morning.
The wind increased in force about midnight, and the raft rolled and pitched in such a manner that the Professor's faith in it really lost some of its force. Several times huge waves swept over it, drenching the Professor and his daughter, and filling them with grave apprehensions of the result if the storm should become more violent.
Even amid the peril, however, Professor Baffin could not but admire the heroic courage and composure of Matilda, who sat upon her trunk, wet and shivering with cold, without showing a sign of fear, but trying to encourage her father with words of hope and cheer.
When the dawn came, dim and gray, the gale abated its force, and although the sea continued rough, the raft rode the waves more buoyantly and easily. Producing some matches from his waterproof box, the Professor lighted the kerosene-lamp in the tiny stove which was in one of the boxes; and then Matilda, with water from the barrel, began to try to make some coffee. The attempt seemed to promise to be successful, and while the process was going on, the Professor looked about for the boats. They could not be seen. The Professor took out his glass and swept the horizon. In vain; the boats had disappeared completely; but the Professor saw something else that attracted his attention, and made his heart for a moment stop beating.
Right ahead, not distinctly outlined, but visible in a misty sort of way, he thought he discerned land!
At first he could not believe the evidence of his sight. The captain, an expert navigator, had assured him that they were eight hundred miles from any shore. But this certainly looked to the Professor very much like land. He examined it through his glass. Even then the view was not
clear enough to remove all doubts, but it strengthened his conviction; and when Matilda looked she said she knew it was land. She could trace the outline of a range of hills.
"Tilly," said the Professor, "we are saved! It
is the land, and the raft is drifting us directly towards it. We cannot be sufficiently thankful, my child, for this great mercy! Who would have expected it? Taken altogether, it is the most extraordinary circumstance within my recollection."
"Captain Duffer must have made a miscalculation," said Tilly. "The ship must have been off of her course when she sprang a leak."
"It is incomprehensible how so old a sailor could have made such a blunder," replied the Professor. "But there the land is; I can see it now distinctly. It looks to me like a very large island."
"Are you going ashore at once, pa?"
"Certainly, dear; that is, if we can make a landing through the breakers."
"Suppose there are cannibals on it, pa? It would be horrid to have them eat us!"
"They would have to fatten us first, darling; and that would give us an opportunity to study their habits. It would be extremely interesting!"
"But the study would be of no use if they should eat us!"
"All knowledge is useful, Tilly: I could write out the results of our observations, and probably set them adrift in a bottle!"
"It is such a dreadful death!"
"Try to look at it philosophically! There is really nothing more unpleasant about the idea of being digested than there is about the thought of being buried."
"No, my child! It is merely a sentiment. If I shall be eaten, and we have volition after death, I am determined to know how I agreed with the man who had me for dinner!
Tilly, I have a notion that you would eat tender!"
"Pa, you are simply awful!"
"To me, indeed, there is something inspiring in the thought that my physical substance, when I have done with it, should nourish the vitality of another being. I don't like to think that I may be wasted."
"You seem as if you rather hoped we should find savage cannibals upon the island!"
"No, Tilly; I hope we shall not. I believe we shall not. Man-eaters are rarely found in this latitude My impression is that the island is not inhabited at all. Probably it is of recent volcanic origin. If so, we may have a chance to examine a newly-formed crater. I have longed to do so for years."
"We might as well be eaten as to be blown up and burned up by a volcano," said Matilda.
"It would be a grand thing, though, to be permitted to observe, without interruption, the operation of one of the mightiest forces of nature! I could make a magnificent report to the Philosophical Society about it; that is, if we should ever get home again."
"For my part," said Matilda, "I hope it contains neither cannibals nor volcanoes; I hope it is simply a charming island without a man or beast upon it."
"Something like Robinson Crusoe's, for example! I have often thought I should like to undergo his experiences. It must be, to an inquiring mind, exceedingly instructive to
observe in what manner a civilized man, thrown absolutely upon his own resources, contrives to conduct his existence. I could probably enrich my lecture upon Sociology if we should be compelled to remain upon the island for a year or two."
"But we should starve to death in that time!"
"So we should; unless, indeed, the island produces fruits of some kind from its soil. I think it does. It seems to be covered with trees,
Tilly, doesn't it?"
"Yes," said Matilda, looking through the glass. "It is a mass of verdure. It is perfectly beautiful. I believe I see something that looks like a building, too."
"Impossible! you see a peculiar rock formation, no doubt; I shan't be surprised if there is enough in the geological formation of the island to engage my attention so long as we remain."
"But what am I to do, meantime?"
"You? Oh, you can label my specimens and keep the journal; and maybe you might hunt around for fossils a little yourself."
The raft rapidly moved toward the shore, and the eyes of both of the voyagers were turned toward it inquiringly and eagerly. Who could tell how long the island might be their home, and what strange adventures might befall them there?
"The wind is blowing right on shore, Tilly," said the Professor. "I will steer straight ahead, and I shouldn't wonder if we could shoot the breakers safely. Isn't that a sand-beach right in front there?" inquired the Professor, elevating his nose a little, to get his spectacles in focus. "It looks like one."
"Yes, it is," replied Matilda, looking through her glass.
"First-rate! Couldn't have been better. There, we will drive right in.
Tilly, hoist my umbrella, so as to give her more sail!"
The raft fairly danced across the waves under the increased pressure, and in a moment or two it was rolling in the swell just outside of the line of white breakers. Before the Professor had time to think what he should do to avoid the shock, a huge wave uplifted the raft and ran it high upon the beach with such violence as to compel the Professor to turn a somersault over a trunk. He recovered himself at once, and replacing his spectacles he proceeded, with the assistance of Matilda, to pull the raft up beyond the reach of the waves.
Then, wet and draggled, with sand on his coat, and his hat knocked completely out of shape, he stood rubbing his chin with his hand, and thoughtfully observing the breakers.
"Extraordinary force, Tilly, that of the ocean surf,--clear waste, too, apparently. If we stay here long enough, I must try to find out the secret of its motion."
"Hadn't we better put on some dry clothing first?" suggested Miss Baffin, "and examine the surf afterwards? For my part I have had enough of it."
"Certainly! Have you the keys of the trunks? Everything soaking wet, most likely."
When the trunks were unfastened, the Professor was delighted to find that the contents were perfectly dry. Selecting some clothing for himself, he went behind a huge rock and proceeded to dress. Matilda, after looking carefully about, retreated to a group of trees, and beneath their shelter made her toilette.
"Isn't this a magnificent place?" said the Professor, when Matilda, nicely dressed, came out to where he was standing by the raft.
"Noble trees, rich grass, millions of wild flowers, birds twittering above us, a matchless sky, a bracing air, and--why,
halloa! there's a stream of running water! We must have drink of that, the very first thing. Delicious, isn't it?" asked the Professor, when Miss Baffin, after drinking, returned the cup to him.
"It is nectar."
"I tell you what, Tilly, I am not sure that it wouldn't be a good thing to be compelled to live here for two or three years. The vegetation shows that we are in a temperate latitude, and I know I can find or raise enough to eat in such a place as this."
"Why, pa, look there!"
"Over there. Don't you see that castle?"
"Castle? No! What! Why, yes, it is! Bless my soul,
Tilly, the place is inhabited!"
"Who would have thought of finding a building like that on an island in mid-ocean?"
"It is the most extraordinary circumstance, taking it altogether, that ever came under my observation," said the Professor, looking towards the distant edifice. "So far as I can make out, it is a castle of an early period."
"Well, not later than the seventh or eighth century, at the farthest.
Tilly, I feel as if something remarkable was going to happen."
"Pa, you frighten me!"
"No, I mean something that will be extraordinarily interesting. I know it. The voice of instinct tells me so. Have you your journal with you?"
"It is in the trunk."
"Get it and your lead-pencils. We will drag the baggage further up from the water, and then we will push towards the castle. I am going to know the date of that structure before I sleep to-night."
"There can hardly be any danger, I suppose?" suggested Miss Baffin, rather timidly.
"Oh, no, of course not; I have my revolver with me. Let me see; where is it? Ah, here. And the cartridges are waterproof. I think I will put a few things in a valise, also. We might find the castle empty, and have to depend upon ourselves for supper."
The Professor then let the air out of the raft, and folded the flattened cylinders together.
When the valise was ready, the Professor grasped it, shouldered his umbrella, and said, "Now, come, darling, and we will find out what all this means."
The pair started along a broad path which ran by the side of the stream, following the course of the brook, and winding in and out among trees of huge girth and gigantic height. Birds of familiar species flitted from branch to branch before them, as if to lead them on their way; now and then a brown rabbit, after eyeing them for a moment with quivering nostrils, beat a quick tattoo upon the ground with his hind legs, then threw up his tail and whisked into the shrubbery. Gray squirrels scrambled around the trunks of the trees to look at them, and now
and then a screaming, blue-crested kingfisher ceased his complaining while he plunged into one of the pools of the rivulet, and emerged with a trout in his talons.
It was an enchanting scene; and Miss Baffin enjoyed it thoroughly as she stepped blithely by the side of her father, who seemed to find especial pleasure in discovering that the herbage, the trees, the rocks, and all the other natural objects, were precisely like those with which he had been familiar at home.
After following the path for some time, the pair came to a place where the brook widened into a great pool, through which the water went sluggishly, bearing upon its surface bubbles and froth, which told how it had been tossed and broken by rapid descents over the rocks in some narrow channel above. Here the Professor stopped to observe an uncommonly large and green bullfrog, which sat upon a slimy stone a few yards away, looking solemnly at him.
During the pause, they were startled to hear a voice saying to them,--
"Good morrow, gentle friends."
Matilda uttered a partly-suppressed scream, and even the Professor jumped backward a foot or two, in astonishment.
Looking toward the place from which the voice came, they saw an old man with gray hair and beard lifting a large stone pitcher, which he had been filling from the pool. He was dressed in a long and rather loose robe, which reached from his shoulders to his feet, and which was gathered about his waist with a knotted cord. This was his entire costume, for his feet were bare, and he wore no hat to hide the rich masses of hair which fell to his shoulders. As he offered his salutation, he raised his pitcher until he stood up
right, and then he looked at the Professor and Miss Baffin with a pleasant smile, in which there were traces of curiosity.
"Good afternoon," returned the Professor, after a moment's hesitation; "how are you?"
"Are you not strangers in this land?" asked the old man.
"Well, yes," said the Professor, briskly, with a manifest purpose to be sociable; "we have just come ashore down here on the beach. Shipwrecked, in fact. This is my daughter. Let me introduce you. My child, allow me to make you acquainted with--with--beg pardon, but I think you did not mention your name."
"I am known as Father Anselm."
"Ah, indeed! Matilda, this is Father Anselm. A clergyman, I suppose?"
"I am a hermit; my cell is close at hand. You will be welcome there if you will visit it."
"A hermit! Living in a cell! Well, this
is surprising! We shall be only too happy to visit you, if you will permit us. Delightful, isn't it, dear? We will obtain some valuable information from the old gentleman."
The Hermit, with the pitcher poised upon his shoulder, led the way, and he was closely followed by the Professor and by Matilda, who regarded the proceeding rather with nervous apprehension. The Hermit's cell was a huge cave, excavated from the side of a hill. The floor was covered with sprigs of fragrant evergreens. A small table stood upon one side of the apartment; beside it was a rough bench, which was the only seat in the room. A crucifix, a candle, a skull, an hour-glass, and a few simple utensils were the only other articles to be seen.
The Hermit brought forward the bench for his visitors to sit upon, and then, procuring a cup, he offered each a drink of water.
The Professor, hugging one knee with interlocked fingers, seemed anxious to open a conversation.
"Pardon me, sir, but do I understand that you are a clergyman; that is to say, some sort of a teacher of religion?"
"I belong to a religious order. I am a recluse."
"Roman Catholic, I presume?" said the Professor, glancing at the crucifix.
"Your meaning is not wholly clear to me," replied the Hermit.
"What are your views? Do you lean to Calvinism, or do you think the
Arminians, upon the whole, have the best of the argument?"
"The gentleman does not understand you, pa," said Miss Baffin.
"Never mind, then; we will not press it. But I should like very much if you would tell us something about this place; this country around here," said the Professor, waving his hand towards the door.
"Let me ask first of the misadventure which cast you unwillingly upon our shores?" said the Hermit.
"Well, you see, I sailed from New York on the twenty-third of last month, with my daughter here, to fulfill an engagement to deliver a course of lectures in England."
"In England!" exclaimed the Hermit, with an appearance of eager interest.
"Yes, in England. I am a professor, you know, in an American university. When we were about half way across, the ship sprang a leak, from some cause now unknown. My
daughter and I got off with our baggage upon a life-raft, which I most fortunately had with me. The rest of the passengers and the crew escaped in the boats. I became separated from them, and drifted here. That is the whole story."
"I comprehend only a part of what you say," replied the Hermit. "But it is enough that you have suffered; I give you hearty welcome."
"Thank you. And now tell me where I am."
"You spoke of England a moment ago," said the Hermit. "Let me begin with it. Hundreds of years ago, in the time of King Arthur, of noble fame, it happened, by some means even yet not revealed to us, that a vast portion of that island separated from the rest, and drifted far out upon the ocean. It carried with it hundreds of people--noble, and gentle, and humble. This is that country."
"In-deed!" exclaimed the Professor. "This? This island that we are on? Amazing!"
"It is true," responded the Hermit.
"Why, Tilly, do you hear that? This is the lost Atlantis! We have been driven ashore on the far-famed Fortunate Island! Wonderful, isn't it? Taking every thing into consideration, I must say this certainly is the most extraordinary circumstance I ever encountered!"
"Nobody among us has ever heard anything from England or of it, excepting through tradition. No ship comes to our shores, and those of us who have builded boats and gone away in search of adventure have never come back. Sometimes I think the island has not ended its wanderings, but is still floating about; but we cannot tell."
"But, my dear sir," said the Professor, "you can take your latitude and longitude at any time, can't you?"
"Your latitude and longitude! Find out exactly in what part of the world you are?"
"I never heard that such a thing was done. None of our people have that kind of learning."
"Well, but you have schools and colleges, and you acquire knowledge, don't you?"
"We have a few schools; but only the low-born children attend them, and they are taught only what their fathers learned. We do not try to know more. We reverence the past. It is a matter of pride among us to preserve the habits, the manners, the ideas, the social state which our forefathers had when they were sundered from their nation."
"You live here pretty much as King Arthur and his subjects lived?"
"Yes. We have our chivalry; our knight errants; our tournaments; our castles--everything just as it was in the old time."
"My dear," said the Professor to Miss Baffin, "the wildest imagination could have conceived nothing like this. We shall be afforded an opportunity to study the middle ages on the spot."
"Sometimes," said the Hermit, gravely, "I have secret doubts whether our way is the best, whether in England and the rest of the world men may not have learned while we have remained ignorant; but I cannot tell. And no one would be willing to change if we could know the truth."
"My friend," said the Professor, with a look of compassion, "the world has gone far, far ahead of King Arthur's time! It has almost forgotten that there ever was such a time. You would hardly believe me, at any rate you would not under
stand me, if I should tell you of the present state of things in the world. But if I stay here I will try to enlighten you gradually. I feel as I had been sent here as a missionary for that very purpose."
"Do you come from England?"
"Oh, no! I was going thither. I came from the United States. You never heard of them, of course. They are a land right across the ocean from England, about three thousand miles."
"Discovered by a man named Columbus," said Miss Baffin.
"Your dress is an odd one," continued the Hermit. "Are you a fighting man?"
"A fighting man! Oh, no, of course not. I'm a Professor."
"Then this is not a weapon that you carry."
"Bless my soul, my dear sir ! Why, this is an umbrella!
Tilly, we have to deal with a very
primitive condition of things here. It is both entertaining and instructive."
"What is it for?"
"I will show you. Suppose it begins to rain, I untie this string, and open the umbrella,
so! Now don't be alarmed! It is perfectly harmless, I assure you!"
The holy man had retreated suddenly into the furthest recess of the cell.
"While it rains I hold it in this manner. When it clears, I shut it up, thus,
and put it under my arm."
"Wonderful! wonderful!" exclaimed the Hermit. "I thought it was an implement of war. The world beyond us evidently has surpassed us."
"This is nothing to the things I will show you," said the Professor. "I see you have an hour-glass here. Is this the
only way you have of recording time?"
"We have the sun."
"No clocks or watches? "
"I do not know what they are."
"Tilly, show him your watch. This is the machine with which we tell time."
"Alive, is it?" asked the Hermit.
The Professor explained the mechanism to him in detail.
"You are indeed a learned man," said the recluse. "But I have forgotten a part of my duty. Will you not take some food? "
"Well," said the Professor, "if you have anything about in the form of a lunch, I think I could dispose of it."
"I am awfully hungry," said Miss Baffin.
The Hermit produced a piece of meat, and hanging it upon a turnspit he gathered a few sticks and placed them beneath it. The Professor watched him closely; and when the holy man took in his hands a flint and steel with which to ignite the wood, the Professor exclaimed,--
"One moment! Let me start that fire for you?"
Taking from his pocket an old newspaper, he put it beneath the sticks; then from his matchbox he took a match, and striking it there was a blaze in a moment.
The Hermit crossed himself and muttered a prayer at this performance.
"No cause for alarm, I assure you," said the Professor.
"You must be a wizard," said the Hermit.
"No; I did that with what we call a match; like this one. There is stuff on the end which catches fire when you rub it," and the Professor again ignited a match.
"I never could have dreamed that such a thing could be," exclaimed the recluse. "You will be regarded by our people as the most marvellous magician that ever lived."
The Professor laughed.
"Oh," said he, "I will let them know it is not magic. We must clear all that nonsense away.
Tilly, I feel that duty points me clearly to the task of delivering a course of lectures upon this island."
During the repast, the Hermit, looking timidly at Professor Baffin, said,--
"Would it seem discourteous if I should ask you another question? "
"Certainly not. I shall be glad to give you any information you may want."
"What, then," inquired the Hermit, "is the reason why you protect your eyes with glass windows?"
"These," said the Professor, removing his spectacles, "are intended to improve the sight. I
cannot see well without them. With them I have perfect vision.
Tilly, make a memorandum in the journal that my first lecture shall be upon Optics."
"Pa, I wish we could learn something about the castle we saw," observed Miss Baffin.
"Oh, yes; by the way, Father Anselm," said the Professor, "we observed an old-fashioned castle over yonder, as we came here. Can you tell me anything about it?"
"The castle," replied the Hermit, "is the home and the stronghold of Sir
Bors, Baron of Lonazep. He is a great and powerful noble, much feared in this country."
"Any family?" inquired the Professor.
"He has a gallant son, Sir
Dinadan, as brave a knight as ever levelled lance, and a beautiful daughter,
Ysolt. Both are unmarried; but the fair Ysolt fondly loves Sir Bleoberis, to whom, however, the Baron will not suffer her to be wedded, because Sir
Bleoberis, though bold and skillful, has little wealth."
"Human nature, you observe, my child, is the same everywhere. We have heard of something like this at home," remarked the Professor to his daughter.
"Ysolt is loved also by another knight, Sir Dagonet. He has great riches, and is very powerful; but he is a bad and dangerous man, and the Baron will not consent to give him Ysolt to wife. These matters cause much strife and much unhappiness."
"It's the same way with us," observed the Professor; "I have known lots of such cases."
"I hope we shall stay here long enough to see how it all turns out," said Miss Baffin.
"Of course," replied the Professor. "You hated the island when you thought it might promote the interests of science. But some lovers' nonsense would keep you here willingly for life. Just like a woman."
"The King," said the Hermit, "has espoused the cause of Sir
Bleoberis, and we hope he may win the lady for the knight whom she loves."
"The King, eh? Then you have a monarchical government?"
"We have eleven kings upon this island."
"How many people are there in the whole island? "
"No one knows, exactly. One hundred thousand, possibly."
"Not ten thousand men apiece for the kings! Humph! In my country we have a million men in one town, and no
body but a common man to rule them."
"And what is the name of your particular king,--the one who is lord of this part of the country?"
"King Brandegore; a wise, and good, and valiant monarch."
"Tilly," said the Professor, "you might as well jot that down. Eleven kings on the island, and King Brandegore running this part of the government. I must get acquainted with him."
When the meal was finished the Professor said to the recluse,--
"Do you allow smoking?"
"Pray excuse me! I forgot. If you will permit me, I will introduce you to another of the practices
of modern civilization."
Then the Professor lighted a cigar, and, sitting on the bench in a comfortable position, with his back against the wall of the cave, he began to puff out whiffs of smoke.
The Hermit, with a look of alarm, was about to ask for an explanation of the performance, when loud cries were heard outside of the cave mingled with frightened exclamations from a woman.
The occupants of the cavern started to their feet, just as a beautiful girl, dressed in a quaint but charming costume, ran into the doorway in such haste that she dashed plump up against the Professor, who caught her in his arms.
For a moment she was startled at seeing two strangers in a place where she had thought to encounter none but the Hermit; but her dread of her pursuer overcame her diffidence, and, clinging to the Professor, she exclaimed,--
"Oh, save me! save me!"
"Certainly I will," said the Professor, soothingly, as his arm tightened its clasp about her waist. "What's the matter? Don't be afraid, my child. Who is pursuing you?"
The Professor was not displeased at the situation in which he found himself. The damsel was fair to see, and the head which rested, in what seemed to him sweet confidence, upon his shoulder, was crowned with golden hair of matchless beauty. Even amid the intense excitement of the moment the reflection flashed through the Professor's mind that he was a widower, and that Matilda had always expressed a willingness to try to love a stepmother.
"My father! The Baron! He threatens to kill me," sobbed the maiden, and then, tearing herself away from the Professor in a manner which struck him as being, to say the least, inconsiderate, she flew to Father Anselm and said, "You, holy father, will save me."
"I will try, my daughter; I will try," replied the Hermit. And then, turning to the Professor he said, "It is
"Ah!" said the Professor, "the Baron's daughter. May I ask you, miss, what the old gentleman is so excited about? It is not one of the customs here for indignant parents to chase their children around the country, is it?"
"I had gone from the castle," said the damsel, partly to the Hermit and partly to Professor Baffin, "to meet Sir Bleoberis at the trysting-place. My father was watching me, and as I neared the spot he rushed toward me with a drawn sword, threatening to kill me."
"It is an outrageous shame!" exclaimed the Professor, sympathetically.
"I eluded him," continued the sobbing girl, "and flew towards this place. When he saw me at last he gave chase. I am afraid he will slay me when he comes."
"I think, perhaps, I may be able to reason with this person when he arrives," said the Professor, rubbing his chin and looking at the hermit over the top of his spectacles. "The Baron ought to be ashamed of himself to go on in this manner!
Tilly, wipe the poor creature's eyes with your handkerchief. There now, dear, cheer up."
Just then the Baron rushed into the cell, with his eyes flaming, and his breath coming short and fast.
He was a large man, with a handsome face, thick covered with beard. He was dressed in doublet, trunks and hose, and over one shoulder a mantle hung gracefully. His sword was in its sheath, and it was manifest that he had repented of his murderous purpose.
"Where is that faithless girl?" he demanded in a voice of thunder.
Ysolt had hidden behind Matilda Baffin.
"Say, priest, where have you secreted her?"
"One moment!" said the Professor, stepping forward. "May I, without appearing impertinent, offer a suggestion?"
"Out, varlet!" exclaimed the Baron, pushing him aside. "Tell me, Hermit, where is
The Professor was actually pale with indignation. Pushing himself in front of the Baron, and brandishing his umbrella in a determined way he said:
"Old man, I want you to understand that you have to deal with a free and independent American citizen! What do you mean by 'varlet?' I hurl the opprobrious word back into your teeth, sir! I am not going to put up with such conduct, I'd like you to know!"
The Baron for the first time perceived what manner of man the Professor was, and he paused for a moment amid his rage to eye the stranger with astonishment.
"Why do you want to hurt the young woman? Is this any way for an affectionate father to behave to his own offspring? Allow me to say, sir, that I'll be hanged if I think it is ! If you don't want her to marry Sir What's-his-name, don't let her; but it strikes me that charging around the country after her, and threatening to kill her, is an evidence that you don't understand the first principles of domestic discipline!"
"What do you mean? Who are you? What are you doing here?" demanded the Baron, fiercely, recovering his self-possession.
"I am Professor E. L. Baffin, of Wingohocking University; and I mean to try to persuade you to treat your daughter more gently," said the Professor, cooling as he remembered that the Baron had a father's authority.
"You have a weapon. I will fight you," said the Baron, drawing his sword.
The Professor put his cigar in his mouth, and opened his umbrella suddenly in the Baron's face.
The Baron retreated a distance of twenty feet and looked scared.
"Come," said the Professor, closing his umbrella and smiling, " I am not a fighting man. We will not quarrel. Let us talk the matter over calmly."
But the Baron, mortified because of the alarm that he had manifested, rushed savagely at the Professor, and would have felled him to the earth had not Matilda sprung forward and placed herself, shrieking, between the Baron and
At this precise juncture, also, a young man entered the cell, and, seeing the Baron apparently about to strike a woman, seized his sword-arm and held it. The Baron turned sharply about. Recognizing the youth as his son, he simply looked at him angrily, and then, while Miss Baffin clung to the Professor, the Baron seized Ysolt by the arm and led her weeping away.
The Professor, after freeing himself from Miss Baffin's embrace, extended his hand to the youth, and said,--
"I have not the honor of knowing you, sir, but you have behaved handsomely. Permit me to inquire your name?"
"Sir Dinadan; the son of the Baron," said the youth, taking hold of the Professor's hand, as if he were somewhat uncertain what he had better do with it.
"No last name?" asked the Professor.
"That is all. And you are?--"
"I am Everett L. Baffin, a Professor in the Wingohocking University. I was cast ashore down here with my daughter.
Tilly, let me introduce to you Sir Dinadan."
Sir Dinadan colored, and dropping upon his knee he seized Miss Baffin's hand and kissed it. Rising, he said:
"What, Sir Baffin, is the name of the sweet lady?"
"How lovely!" exclaimed Sir Dinadan.
"It is abbreviated sometimes to
Tilly, by her friends."
"It is too beautiful," said the youth, gazing at Miss Baffin with unconcealed admiration. "I trust, Sir Baffin, I may be able to serve in some manner you and the Lady
"Professor Baffin, my dear sir; not Sir Baffin. Permit me to offer you my card."
Sir Dinadan took the card, and seemed perplexed as to its meaning. He turned it over and over in a despairing sort of way in his fingers.
"If you will read it," said the Professor, "you will find my name upon it."
"But, Sir Baffin, I cannot read."
"Can't read!" exclaimed the Professor, in amazement. "You don't mean to say that you have never learned to read!"
"High-born people," replied Sir Dinadan, with an air of indifference, "care nothing for learning. We leave that to the monks."
"This," said the Professor to Miss Baffin, "is one of the most extraordinary circumstances that has yet come under my observation.
Tilly, mention in your journal that the members of the upper classes are wholly illiterate."
"As the Lady Tilly is a stranger here," said Sir Dinadan, "I would be glad to have her walk with me to the brow of the hill. I will show her our beautiful park."
"That would be splendid!" said Miss Baffin. "May I go, pa?"
"Well, I don't know," said the Professor, with hesitation, and looking inquiringly at the Hermit. As that individual appeared to regard the proposition with no such feeling of alarm as would indicate a breach of ordinary social custom, the Professor continued, "Yes, dear, but be sure not to go beyond ear-shot."
Sir Dinadan, smiling, led Miss Baffin away, and the Professor sat down to finish his cigar and to
have some further conversation with the Hermit. Before he had time to begin, two other visitors arrived. Both were young men, gaily dressed in rich costume. One of them, whom the recluse greeted as Sir
Bleoberis, had a tall slender figure and an exceedingly handsome countenance, which was adorned with a moustache and pointed beard. His companion, Sir
Agravaine, was smaller, less comely, and if his face was an index of his mind, by no means so intelligent.
After being presented to the Professor, whom they regarded with not a little curiosity, Sir Bleoberis said:
"Holy father, the fair Ysolt was here and was taken away by the Baron, was she not?"
"Alas!" said the Knight, "I see no hope. Whilst I am poor, the Baron will never relent."
"Never!" chimed in Sir Agravaine.
"Is your poverty the only objection he has to you?" asked the Professor.
"Well," replied the Professor, "I can understand a father's feelings in such a case. It seems hard upon a young man, but naturally he wants his daughter to be comfortable. Is there nothing you can turn your hand to to improve your fortunes?"
"We might rob somebody," said Sir Agravaine, with a reflective air.
"Rob somebody!" exclaimed the Professor, "That is simply atrocious! Can't you go to work; go into business, start a factory, speculate in stocks, or something of that kind? "
"Persons of my degree never work," said Sir Bleoberis.
The Professor sighed, "Ah! I forgot. We must think of something else. Let me see; young man, I think I can help you a little, perhaps. You agree to accept some information from me and I believe I can make your fortune."
"Do you propose," asked Sir Agravaine, "to drug the Baron, or to enchant him so that he will change his mind? I have often tried love-philters with ladies whose hands I sought, but they always failed."
"Nonsense!" exclaimed the Professor. "I don't operate with such trumpery as that. You agree to help me, and we'll give this island such a stirring up as will revolutionize it."
The Professor then proceeded to explain in detail the nature and operation of some of the scientific apparatus which he had with him in his trunk; and the Knight and the Hermit listened with open-eyed amazement while he told them of the telegraph, the telephone, the phonograph, the photograph, and other modern inventions.
Whilst the Professor waxed eloquent, Sir Dinadan and Miss Baffin strolled slowly back towards the cave.
Sir Dinadan had improved the opportunity to offer Miss Baffin his hand, rather abruptly.
"But you can try to love me," he pleaded, as she, with much embarrassment but with gentleness, resisted his importunity.
"I can try, Sir Dinadan," she said, blushing, "but really I have known you only a few moments. It is impossible for me now to have any affection for you."
"Will to-morrow be time enough?"
"No, no! I must have a much longer time than that."
"I will fight for you. We will get up a tournament and you will see how I can unhorse the bravest knights. If I knock over ten, will that make any difference in your feelings?
"Not the slightest!"
"You do not understand. It is not the custom in our country to press a suit upon a lady by poking people off of a horse."
"Perhaps I ought to fight your father? Will Sir Baffin break a lance with me to decide if I shall have you?"
"My father does not fight."
"Does not fight! Certainly you don't mean that?"
"He is the Vice-President of the Universal Peace Society."
"The WHAT?" asked Sir Dinadan, in amazement.
"Of the Peace Society; a society which opposes fighting of every kind, under any circumstances."
It was a moment or two before Sir Dinadan could get his breath. Then he said--
"But--but then, Lady Tilly, what--what do men in your country do with themselves?"
Miss Baffin laughed and endeavored to explain to him the modern methods of existence.
"I never could have believed such a thing from other lips," said Sir
Dinadan. "It is marvellous. But tell me, how do lovers woo in your land? "
"Really, Sir Dinadan," replied Miss Baffin, blushing, "I have had no experience worth speaking of in such matters. I suppose, perhaps, they show a lady that they love her, and then wait until she can make up her mind."
"I will wait, then, as long as you wish."
"But," said Miss Baffin, shyly, although plainly she was beginning to feel a genuine interest in the proceeding, "your father and your mother may not think as you do; and then, I shall not want to stay upon this island if I can get away."
"My mother always consents to anything I wish, and the Baron never dares to oppose what she wants. And if you go back to your own country, I will go with you, whether you accept me or not."
Miss Baffin smiled. Sir Dinadan was in earnest, at any rate. She could not help thinking of the sensation that would be created in Wingohocking if she should walk up the fashionable street of the town some afternoon with Sir Dinadan in his particolored dress of doublet and stockings, and jaunty feathered cap, and sword, while his long yellow hair dangled about his shoulders.
While Sir Dinadan was protesting that he should love her for ever and for ever, they came back again to the Hermit's cell, and then Sir
Dinadan, greeting Sir Bleoberis and Sir Agravaine, presented Miss Baffin to them.
Sir Bleoberis was courteous but somewhat indifferent; Sir Agravaine, upon the contrary, appeared to be deeply impressed with Miss Baffin's beauty. After gazing at her steadily for a few moments, he approached her, and while the other members of the company engaged in conversation, he said,--
"Fair lady, you are not married?"
"No, sir," replied Miss Baffin, with some indignation.
"Permit me, then, to offer you my hand."
"What!" exclaimed Miss Baffin, becoming angry.
"I love you. Will you be mine?" said Sir Agravaine, falling upon one knee and trying to take her hand.
Miss Baffin boxed his ear with a degree of violence.
Rising with a rueful countenance, he said,--
"Am I to understand, then, that you decline the offer?"
Miss Baffin, without replying, walked away from him and joined her father.
Sir Dinadan was asking the Hermit for a few simples with which to relieve the suffering of his noble mother.
"I judge, from what you say," remarked the Professor, "that the Baroness is afflicted with lumbago.
The Hermit's remedies, I fear, will be ineffectual. Permit me to recommend you to iron her noble back, and to apply a porous plaster."
Sir Dinadan wished to have the process more clearly explained. The Professor unfolded the matter in detail, and said,--
"I have some plasters in my trunk, down there upon the beach."
"Then you are a leech?" asked Sir Dinadan.
"Matilda, my child," remarked the Professor, observe that word 'leech' used by Sir
Dinadan! How very interesting it is! Not exactly a leech, Sir Dinadan; but it is my habit to try to know a little of everything."
"Can you cast a lover's horoscope?" asked Sir Agravaine, looking at Matilda.
"Young man," said the Professor, sternly, "there is no such foolery as a horoscope; and as for love, you had better let it alone until you have more wit and a heavier purse."
"I wish you and the Lady Tilly to come with me to the castle," remarked Sir
Dinadan. "My father will welcome you heartily if you can medicine the sickness of my mother; and she will be eager to receive your fair daughter."
"I will go, of course," replied the Professor; "you are very kind.
Tilly, we had better accept, I
Miss Baffin was willing to leave the matter wholly in the hands of her father.
After requesting Sir Dinadan to have his luggage brought up from the beach, the Professor bade adieu to the Hermit, and then turning to Sir
Bleoberis, who stood with a disconsolate air by the fire, he said:
"I will see you again about your affair; and meantime you may depend upon my using my influence with the Baron to remove his prejudices. I will dance at your wedding yet; that is, figuratively speaking, of course; for, as a precise matter of fact, I do not know how to dance."
As the Professor and Sir Dinadan and Miss Baffin left the cell, Sir Agravaine approached the lady and whispered:
"Did I understand you to say you don't love me?"
Miss Baffin twitched the skirt of her gown to one side in a scornful way, and passed on without replying.
"Women," sighed Sir Agravaine, as he looked mournfully after her, "are
so incomprehensible. I wish I knew what she meant."