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   Chapter 4 No.4

Paul Patoff By F. Marion Crawford Characters: 39119

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

Three days later Paul descended from the train which runs twice a day from Pforzheim to Constance, at a station in the heart of the Swabian Black Forest. The name painted in black Gothic letters over the neat, cottage-like building before which the train stopped was Teinach. Paul had never heard of the place until his mother had telegraphed that she was there, and he looked about him with curiosity, while a dark youth, in leather breeches, rough stockings, and a blouse, possessed himself of the traveler's slender luggage, and began to lead the way to the hotel.

It was late in the afternoon, and the sinking sun had almost touched the top of the hill. On all sides but one the pines and firs presented a black, absorbing surface to the light, while at the upper end of the valley the ancient and ruined castle of Zavelstein caught the sun's rays, and stood clearly out against the dark background. It is impossible to imagine anything more monotonous in color than this boundless forest of greenish-black trees, and it is perhaps for this reason that the ruins of the many old fortresses, which once commanded every eminence from Weissenstein to the Boden-See, are seen to such singular advantage. The sober gray or brown masonry, which anywhere else would offer but a neutral tint in the landscape, here constitutes high lights as compared with the impenetrable shadows of the woods; and even the sky above, generally seen through the thick masses of evergreen, seems to be of a more sombre blue. In the deep gorges the black water of the Nagold foams and tumbles among the hollow rocks, or glides smoothly over the long and shallow races by which the jointed timber rafts are shot down to the Neckar, and thence to the Rhine and the ocean, many hundreds of miles away. For the chief wealth of Swabia and of the kingdom of Würtemberg lies in the splendid timber of the forest, which is carefully preserved, and in which no tree is felled without the order of the royal foresters. Indeed, Nature herself does most of the felling, for in winter fierce wind-storms gather and spread themselves in the winding valleys, tearing down acres of trees upon the hill-sides in broad, straight bands, and leaving them there, uprooted and fallen over each other in every direction, like a box of wooden matches carelessly emptied upon a dark green table. Then come the wood-cutters in the spring, and lop off the branches, and roll the great logs down to the torrent below, and float them away in long flexible rafts, which spin down the smooth water-ways at a giddy speed, or float silently along the broad, still reaches of the widening river, or dash over the dangerous rapids, skillfully guided by the wild raftsmen, bare-legged and armed with long poles, whose practiced feet support them as safely on the slippery, rolling timber as ours would carry us on the smoothest pavement.

At Teinach the valley is wider than in other places, and a huge establishment, built over the wonderful iron springs, rears above the tops of the trees its walls of mingled stone, wood and stucco, gayly painted and ornamented with balconies and pavilions, in startling and unpleasant contrast with the sober darkness of the surroundings. The broad post-road runs past the hotels and bath-houses, and a great garden, or rather an esplanade with a few scattered beds of flowers, has been cleared and smoothed for the benefit of the visitors, who take their gentle exercise in the wide walks, or sip their weak German coffee, to the accompaniment of a small band, at the wooden tables set up under the few remaining trees. The place is little known, either to tourists or invalids, beyond the limits of the kingdom of Würtemberg, but its waters are full of healing properties, and the seclusion of the little village amidst the wild scenery of the Black Forest is refreshing to soul and body.

Paul followed his guide along the winding path which leads from the railway station to the hotel, smelling with delight the aromatic odor of the pines, and enjoying the coolness of the evening air. The fatigues of the last month and of the rapid journey from Varna had told upon his strength, as the fearful anxiety he had endured had wearied his brain. He felt, as he walked, how delicious it would be to forget all the past, to shoulder a broad axe, and to plunge forever into the silent forest; to lead the life of one of those rude woodmen, without a thought at night save of the trees to be felled to-morrow; to rise in the morning with no care save to accomplish the daily task before night; to sleep in summer on the carpet of sweet pine needles, and to watch the stars peep through the lofty branches of the ancient trees; in winter to lie by the warm fire of some mountain hut, with no disturbing dreams or nervous wakings, master of himself, his axe, and his freedom.

But the thought of such peace only made the present moment more painful, and Paul bent his head as though to shut out all pleasant thoughts, till presently he reached the wide porch of the hotel, and, summoning his courage, asked for Madame Patoff.

"Number seventeen," said the Swiss clerk, laconically, to the waiter who stood at hand, by way of intimating that he should conduct the gentleman to the number he had mentioned. As Paul turned to follow the functionary in the white tie and the shabby dress-coat, he was stopped by a thick-set, broad-shouldered man, with gold-rimmed spectacles and a bushy beard, who addressed him in English:-

"I beg your pardon, I heard you ask for Madame Patoff. Have I the honor of addressing her son?"

"Yes," said Paul, bowing stiffly, for the man was evidently a gentleman. "May I ask to whom"--

"I am Dr. Cutter," replied the other, interrupting him. "Madame Patoff is ill, and I am taking care of her."

The average doctor would have said, "I am attending her," and Paul, whose English mother had brought him up to speak English as fluently and correctly as Russian, noticed the shade in the expression. But he was startled by the news of his mother's illness, and did not stop to think of such a trifle.

"What is the matter with her?" he asked briefly, turning from the desk of the hotel office, and walking across the vestibule by Dr. Cutter's side.

"I don't know," replied the doctor, quietly.

"You are a strange physician, sir," said Paul sternly. "You tell me that you are attending my mother, and yet you do not know what is the matter with her."

The doctor was not in the least offended by Paul's sharp answer. He smiled a little, but instantly became grave again, as he answered,-

"I am not a practicing physician. I am a specialist, and I devote my life to the study of mental complaints. Your mother is ill in mind, not in body."

"Mad!" exclaimed Paul, turning very pale. His life seemed to be nothing but a series of misfortunes.

"Certainly not hopelessly insane," replied Dr. Cutter, in a musing tone. "She has suffered a terrible shock, as you may imagine."

"Yes," said Paul, "of course. That is the reason why I have come all the way from Constantinople to see her. I could not go to my new post without telling her the whole story myself."

"Her manner is very strange," returned the other. "That is the reason why I waited for you here. I could not have allowed you to see her without being warned. She has a strange delusion, and you ought to know it."

"What is it?" asked Paul, in a thick voice.

"It is a very delicate matter. Come out into the garden, and I will tell you what I know."

The two men went out together, and walked slowly along the open path towards the woods. In the distance a few invalids moved painfully about the garden, or rested on the benches beneath the trees. Far off a party of children were playing and laughing merrily at their games.

"It is a delicate matter," repeated Dr. Cutter. "In the first place, I must explain my own position here. I am an Englishman, devoted to scientific pursuits. Originally a physician, subsequently professor in one of our universities, I have given up both practice and professorship in order to be at liberty to follow my studies. I am often abroad, and I generally spend the summer in Switzerland or somewhere in South Germany. I was at Rugby with Madame Patoff's brother-in-law, John Carvel, whom I dare say you know, and I met Madame Patoff two years ago at Wiesbaden. I met her there again, last year, and this summer, as I was coming to the South, I found her in the same place,-little more than a month ago. In both the former years your brother Alexander came to visit her, on leave from St. Petersburg. I knew him, therefore, and was aware of her deep affection for him. This time I found her very much depressed in spirits because he had resolved to join you in Constantinople. Excuse me if I pain you by referring to him. It is unavoidable. One morning she told me that she had made up her mind to go to Turkey, traveling by easy stages through Switzerland to Italy, and thence by steamer to the East. She dreaded the long railway journey through Austria, and preferred the sea. She was in bad health, and seemed very melancholy, and I proposed to accompany her as far as the Italian frontier. We went to Lucerne, and thence to Como, where I intended to leave her. She chose to wait there a few days, in order to have her letters sent on to her before going to the East. Among those which came was a long letter from you, in which you told in detail the story of your brother's disappearance. Your mother was alone in her sitting-room when she received it, but the effect of the news was such that her maid found her lying insensible in her chair some time afterwards, and thought it best to call me. I easily revived her from the fit of fainting, and when she came to herself she thrust your letter into my hand, and insisted that I should read it. She was very hysterical, and I judged that I should comply with her request. The scene which followed was very painful."

"Well?" asked Paul, who was visibly agitated. "What then?" he inquired rather sharply, seeing that Dr. Cutter was silent.

"To be short about it," said the professor, "it has been evident to me from that moment that her mind is deranged. No argument can affect the distorted view she takes."

"But what is the view? What does she think?" inquired Paul, trembling with excitement.

"She thinks that you were the cause of your brother's death," answered Cutter shortly.

"That I murdered him?" cried Paul, feeling that his worst fears were realized.

"Poor lady!" exclaimed the professor, fixing his gray eyes on Paul's face. "It is of no use to go over the story. That is what she thinks."

Paul turned from his companion, and leaned against a tree for support. He was utterly overcome, and unmanned for the moment. Cutter stood beside him, fearing lest he might fall, for he could see that he was wasted with anxiety and weak with fatigue. But he possessed great strength of will and that command of himself which is acquired by living much among strangers. After a few seconds he stood erect, and, making a great effort, continued to walk upon the road, steadying himself with his stick.

"Go on, please," he said. "How did you come here?"

"You will understand that I could not leave Madame Patoff at such a time," continued the professor, inwardly admiring the strength of his new acquaintance. "She insisted upon returning northwards, saying that she would go to her relations in England. Fearing lest her mind should become more deranged, I suggested traveling slowly by an unfrequented route. I intended to take her to England by short stages, endeavoring to avoid all places where she might, at this season, have met any of her numerous acquaintances. I chose to cross the Splügen Pass to the Lake of Constance. Thence we came here by the Nagold railway. I propose to take her to the Rhine, where we will take the Rhine boat to Rotterdam. Nobody travels by the Rhine nowadays. You got my telegram at Vienna? Yes. Yours went to Wiesbaden, was telegraphed to Como, and thence here. I had just time to send an answer directed to you at Vienna, as a passenger by the Oriental Express, giving you the name of this place. I signed it with your mother's name."

"She does not know I have left Constantinople, then?"

"No. I feared that the news would have a bad effect. She receives her letters, of course, but telegrams often do harm to people in her state,-so I naturally opened yours."

"Is she perfectly sane in all other respects?" asked Paul, speaking with an effort.


"Then she is not insane at all," said Paul, in a tone of conviction.

"I do not understand you," answered the professor, staring at him in some surprise.

"If you knew how she loved my poor brother, and how little she loves me, you would understand better. Without being insane, she might well believe that I had let him lose himself in Stamboul, or even that I had killed him. You read my letter,-you can remember how strange a story it was. There is nothing but the evidence of a Turkish soldier to show that I did not contribute to Alexander's disappearance."

"It was certainly a very queer story," said the professor gravely. "Nevertheless, I am of opinion that Madame Patoff is under the influence of a delusion. I cannot think that if she were in her right mind she would insist as she does, and with such violence, that you are guilty of making away with your brother."

"I must see her," said Paul firmly. "I have come from Constantinople to see her, and I cannot go back disappointed."

"I think it would be a great mistake for you to seek an interview," answered the professor, no less decidedly. "It might bring on a fit of anger."

"Which might be fatal?" inquired Paul.

"No, but which might affect her brain."

"I do not think so. Pardon my contradicting you, professor, but I have a very strong impression that my mother is not in the least insane, and that I may succeed in bringing her to look at this dreadful business in its true light."

"I fear not," answered Dr. Cutter sadly.

"But you do not know," insisted Paul. "Unless you are perfectly sure that my mother is really mad, you can have no right to prevent my seeing her. I may possibly persuade her. I am the only one left," he added bitterly, "and I must be a son to her in fact as well as in relation. I cannot, for my own sake, let her go to our English relatives, with this story to tell, without at least contradicting it."

"It is of no use to contradict it to her."

"Of no use!" exclaimed Paul, impatiently. "Do you think that if the slightest suspicion, however unfounded, had rested on me, my chief would have allowed me to leave Constantinople without clearing it up? I should think that anybody in his senses would see that!"

"Yes,-anybody in his or her senses," answered the professor coldly.

Paul stopped in his walk, and faced the strong man with the gold spectacles and the intelligent features who had thus obstinately thrust himself in his path.

"Sir," he said, "I know you very slightly, and I do not want to insult you. But if you continue to oppose me, I shall begin to think that you have some other object in view besides a concern for my mother's health." His drawn and haggard features wore an expression of desperate determination as he spoke, and his cold blue eyes began to brighten dangerously.

"I have nothing more to say," replied the scientist, meeting his look with perfect steadiness. "I admit the justice of your argument. I can only implore you to take my advice, and to reflect on what you are doing. I have no moral right to oppose you."

"No," said Paul, "and you must not prevent this meeting. I wish to see her only once. Then I will go. I need not tell you that I am deeply indebted to you for the assistance you have rendered to my mother in this affair. If she does not believe my story, she will certainly not tolerate my presence, and I venture to hope that you will see her safely to England. If possible, I should like to meet her to-night."

"You shall," replied the professor. "But if any harm comes of it, remember that I protested against the meeting. That is all I ask."

"I will remember," answered Paul quietly. Both men turned in their walk, and went back towards the hotel.

"You must give me time to warn her of your presence," said Cutter, as they reached the steps.

Paul nodded, and they both went in. Cutter disappeared up-stairs, and Patoff was shown to his room by a servant.

"I shall probably leave to-morrow morning," he remarked, as the man deposited his effects in the corner, and looked round, waiting for orders. Paul threw himself on the bed, closing his eyes, and trying to collect his courage and his senses for this meeting, which had turned out so much more difficult than he had expected. Nevertheless, he was glad that Cutter had met him, and had warned him of the state of his mother's mind. He did not in the least believe her insane,-he almost wished that he could. Lying there on his bed, he remembered his youth, and the time when he had longed for some little portion of the affection lavished on his elder brother. He remembered how often he had in vain looked to his mother for a smile of approbation, and how he had ever been disappointed. He had grown up feeling that, by some fault not his own, he was disliked and despised, a victim to one of those unreasoning antipathies which parents sometimes feel for one of their children. He remembered how he had choked down his anger, swallowed his tears, and affected indifference to censure, until his child's heart had grown case-hardened and steely; asking nothing, doing his tasks for his own satisfaction, and finally taking a sad pleasure in that silence which was so frequently imposed upon him. Then he had grown up, and the sullen determination to outdo his brother in everything had got possession of his strong nature. He remembered how, coming home from school, he had presented his mother with the report which spoke of his final examinations as brilliant compared with Alexander's; how his mother had said a cold word of praise; and how he himself had turned silently away, able already, in his young self-dependence, to rejoice secretly over his victory, without demanding the least approbation from those who should have loved him best. He remembered, when his brother was an ensign in the guards, spoiled and reckless, making debts and getting into all kinds of trouble, how he himself had labored at the dry work assigned to him in the foreign office, without amusements, without pleasure, and without pocket money, toiling day and night to win by force that position which Alexander had got for nothing; never relaxing in his exertions, and scrupulous in the performance of his duties. Even in the present moment of anxiety he thought with satisfaction of his well-earned advancement, and of the promotion which could not now be far distant. He remembered himself a big, bony youth of twenty, and he reflected that he had made himself what he now was, the accomplished man of the world, the rising diplomatist among those of his years, steadily moving on to success. But he saw that he was the same to-day as he had been then; if he had not gained affection in his life, he had gained strength and hardness and indifference to opposition.

Then this blow had come upon him. This brother, whom he had striven to surpass in everything, had been suddenly

and mysteriously taken from his very side; and not that only, but the mother who had borne them both had put the crowning touch to her life-long injustice, and had accused him of being his brother's murderer,-accused him to a stranger, or to one who was little nearer than a stranger,-refusing to hear him in his own defense.

He wished that she might be indeed mad. He hoped that she was beside herself with grief, even wholly insane, rather than that he should be forced to believe that she could be so unjust. What construction the world would put upon the catastrophe he knew from Count Ananoff; but surely he might expect his mother to be more merciful. A mother should hope against hope for her child's innocence, even when every one else has forsaken him; how was it possible that this mother of his could so harden her heart as to be first to suspect him of such a crime, and to be of all people the one to refuse to hear his defense! He hoped she was mad, as he lay there on his bed, in the little room of the hotel, in the gathering gloom.

At last some one knocked at the door, and Professor Cutter entered, admitting a stream of light from the corridor outside. Paul sprang to his feet, pale and haggard.

"You are in the dark," said the professor quietly, as he shut the door behind him. Then he struck a match, and lit the two candles which stood on each side of the mirror on the bare dressing-table.

"Can I go now?" asked Paul. The scientist eyed him deliberately.

"Pardon me," he said. "You have not thought of your appearance. You have traveled for three or four days, and look rather disheveled."

Paul understood. The professor did not want him to be seen as he was. He was wild and excited, and his clothes were in disorder. Silently he unlocked his dressing-case and bag, and proceeded to dress himself. Cutter sat quietly watching him, as though still studying his character; for he was a student of men, and prided himself on his ability to detect people's peculiarities from their unconscious movements. Paul dressed rapidly, with the neatness of a man accustomed to wait upon himself. In twenty minutes his toilet was completed, during which time neither of the two spoke a word. At last Paul turned to the professor. "Did you have difficulty in arranging it?" he asked coldly.

"Yes. But you may see her, if you go at once," answered the other.

"I am ready," said Paul. "Let us go." They left the room, and went down the corridor together. The quiet and solitude of his room had strengthened Paul's nerves, and he walked more erect and with a firmer step than before. Presently the professor stopped before one of the doors.

"Go in," he said. "This is a little passage room. Knock at the door opposite. She is there, and will receive you."

Paul followed the professor's instructions, and knocked at the door within. A voice which he hardly recognized as his mother's bid him enter, and he was in the presence of Madame Patoff.

A bright lamp, unshaded and filling the little sitting-room with a broad yellow light, stood upon the table. The details of the apartment were insignificant, and seemed to throw the figure of the seated woman into strong relief. She had been beautiful, and was beautiful still, though now in her fifty-second year. Her features were high and noble, and her rich dark hair was only lightly streaked with gray. Her eyes were brown, but of that brown which easily looks black when not exposed directly to the light. Her face was now very pale, but there was a slight flush upon her cheeks, which for a moment brought back a reflection of her former brilliant beauty. She was dressed entirely in black, and her thin white hands lay folded on the dark material of her gown; she wore no ring save the plain band of gold upon the third finger of her left hand.

Paul entered, and closed the door behind him without taking his eyes from his mother. She rose from her seat as he came forward, as though to draw back. He came nearer, and bending low would have taken her hand, but she stepped backwards and withdrew it, while the flush darkened on her cheek.

"Mother, will you not give me your hand?" he asked, in a low and broken voice.

"No," she answered sternly. "Why have you come here?"

"To tell you my brother's story," said Paul, drawing himself up and facing her. When he entered the room he had felt sorrow and pity for her, in spite of Cutter's account, and he would willingly have kneeled and kissed her hand. But her rough refusal brought vividly to his mind the situation.

"You have told me already, by your letter," she replied. "Have you found him, that you come here? Do you think I want to see you-you?" she repeated, with rising emphasis.

"I might think it natural that you should," said Paul, very coldly. "Be calm. I am going to-morrow. Had I supposed that you would meet me as you have, I should have spared myself the trouble of coming here."

"Indeed you might!" she exclaimed scornfully. "Have you come here to tell me how you did it?" Her voice trembled hysterically.

"Did what?" asked Paul, in the same cold tone. "Do you mean to accuse me to my face of my brother's death, as your doctor says you do behind my back? And if you dare to do so, do you think I will permit it without defending myself?"

His mother looked at him for one moment; then, clasping her hands to her forehead, she staggered across the room, and hid her face in the cushions of the sofa, moaning and crying aloud.

"Alexis, Alexis!" she sobbed. "Ah-my beloved son-if only I could have seen your dear face once more-to close your eyes-and kiss you-those sweet eyes-oh, my boy, my boy! Where are you-my own child?"

She was beside herself with grief, and ceased to notice Paul's presence for some minutes, moaning, and tossing herself upon the sofa, and wringing her hands as the tears streamed down. Paul could not look unmoved on such a sight. He came near and touched her shoulder.

"You must not give up all hope, mother," he said softly. "He may yet come back." He did not know what else to say, to comfort her.

"Come back?" she cried hysterically, suddenly sitting up and facing him. "Come back, when you are standing there with his blood on your hands! You murderer! You monster! Go-for God's sake, go! Don't touch me! Don't look at me!"

Paul was horrified at her violence, and could not believe that she was in her senses. But he had heard the words she had spoken, and the wound had entered into his soul. His look was colder than ever as he answered.

"You are evidently insane," he said

"Go-go, I tell you! Let me never see you again!" cried the frantic woman, rising to her feet, and staring at him with wide and blood-shot eyes.

Paul went up to her, and quickly seizing her hands held them in his firm grip, without pressure, but so that she could not withdraw them.

"Mother," he said, in low and distinct tones, "I believe you are mad. If you are not, God forgive you, and grant that you may forget what you have said. I am as innocent of Alexander's death-if indeed he is dead-as you are yourself."

She seemed awed by his manner, and spoke more quietly.

"Where is he, then? Paul, where is your brother?"

"I cannot tell where he is. He left me and never returned, as the man who was with me can testify. I came here to tell you the story with my own lips. If you do not care to hear it, I will go, and you shall have your wish, for you need never see me again." He released her hands, and turned from her as though to leave the room.

Madame Patoff's mood changed. Though Alexander was more like her, she possessed, too, some of the inexorable coldness which Paul had inherited so abundantly. She now drew herself up, and retired to the other side of the room. Paul's hand was on the door. Then she turned once more, and he saw that her face was as pale as death.

"Go," she said, for the last time. "And above all, do not come back. Unless you can bring Alexis with you, and show him to me alive, I will always believe that you killed him, like the heartless, cruel monster you have been from a child."

"Is that your last word, mother?" asked Paul, controlling his voice by a great effort.

"My very last word, to you," she answered, pointing to the door.

Paul went out, and left her alone. In the corridor he found Professor Cutter, calmly walking up and down. The scientist stopped, and looked at Paul's pale face.

"Was I right?" he asked.

"Too right."

"I thought so," said the professor. "Do you mean to leave to-morrow?"

"Yes," answered Paul quietly. "I must eat something. I am exhausted."

He staggered against Dr. Cutter's strong arm, and caught himself by it. The professor held him firmly on his feet, and looked at him curiously.

"You are worn out," he said. "Come with me."

He led him through the corridor to the restaurant of the hotel, and poured out a glass of wine from a bottle which stood on a table set ready for dinner. Paul drank it slowly, stopping twice to look at his companion, who watched him with the eye of a physician.

"Have you ever had any trouble with your heart?" asked the latter.

"No," said Paul. "I have never been ill."

"Then you must have been half starved on your journey," replied the professor, philosophically. "Let us dine here."

They sat down, and ordered dinner. Paul was conscious that his manner must seem strange to his new acquaintance, and indeed what he felt was strange to himself. He was conscious that since he had left his mother his ideas had undergone a change. He was calmer than he had been before, and he could not account for it on the ground of his having begun to eat something. He was indeed exhausted, for he had hardly thought of taking any nourishment during his long journey, and the dinner revived him. But the odd consciousness that he was not exactly the same man he had been before had come upon him as he closed the door of his mother's room. Up to the time he had entered her presence he had been in a state of the wildest anxiety and excitement. The moment the interview was over his mind worked normally and easily, and he felt himself completely master of his own actions.

Indeed, a change had taken place. He had gone to his mother feeling that he was accountable to her for his brother's disappearance, and prepared to tell his story with every detail he could recall, yet knowing that he was wholly innocent of the catastrophe, and that he had done everything in his power to find the lost man. But in that moment he was unconscious of two things: first, of the extreme hardness of his own nature; and secondly, that he had not in reality the slightest real love either for his mother or for Alexander. The moral sufferings of his childhood had killed the natural affections in him, and there had remained nothing in their stead but a strong sense of duty to his nearest relations. It was this sense which had prompted him to receive Alexander kindly, and to take the utmost care of him during his visit; and it was the same feeling which had impelled him to come to his mother, in order to give the best account he could of the terrible catastrophe. But the frightful accusation she had put upon him, and her stubborn determination to abide by it, had destroyed even that lingering sense of duty which he had so long obeyed. He knew now that he experienced no more pain at Alexander's loss than he would naturally have felt at the death of an ordinary acquaintance, and that his mother had absolved him by her crowning injustice from the last tie which bound him to his family. In the first month at Buyukdere, after Alexander had disappeared, he had been overcome by the horror of the situation, and by the knowledge that he must tell his mother of the loss of her favorite son. He had mistaken these two incentives to the search for a feeling of love for the missing man. A quarter of an hour with his mother had shown him how little love there had ever been between them, and her frantic behavior, which he felt was not insanity, had disgusted him, and had shown him that he was henceforth free from all responsibility towards her.

The love of a child for his mother may be instinctive in the first instance, but as the child grows to manhood he becomes subject to reason; and that which reason first rejects is injustice, because injustice is the most destructive form of lie imaginable. Paul had borne much, had cherished to the last his feeling of duty and his outward rendering of respect, but his mother had gone too far. He felt that she was not mad, and that in accusing him she was only treating him as she had always done since he was a boy; giving way to her unaccountable dislike, and suffering her antipathy to get the better of all sense of truth.

As Paul sat at table with Professor Cutter, he felt that the yoke had suddenly been taken from his neck, and that he was henceforth free to follow his own career and his own interests, without further thought for her who had cast him off. He was not a boy, to grow sulky at an unkind word, or to resent a fancied insult. He was a grown man, more than thirty years of age, and he fully realized his position, without exaggeration and without any superfluous exhibition of feeling. All at once he felt like a man who has done his day's work, and has a right to think no more about it.

"I am glad to see that you have a good appetite," observed the professor.

"I am conscious of not having eaten for a long time," answered Paul. "I suppose I was too much excited to be hungry before."

"You are not excited any longer?" inquired Dr. Cutter, with a smile.

"No. I believe I am perfectly calm. I have accomplished the journey, I have seen my mother, I have heard her last word, and I shall go to Persia to-morrow."

"Your programme is a simple one," answered his companion. "However, I am sure you can be of no use here. Your mother is quite safe under my care."

"It is my belief that she would be quite safe alone," said Paul, "though your presence is a help to her. You are a friend of her family, you knew my poor brother, you are intimate with my uncle by marriage, Mr. John Carvel. I am sure that, since you are good enough to accompany my mother, she cannot fail to appreciate your kindness and to enjoy your society. But I do not think she really stands in need of assistance."

"That is a matter of opinion," replied the professor, sipping his wine.

"Yes; but shall I be frank with you, Dr. Cutter? I fancy that, as a scientist and a student of diseases of the mind, you are over-ready to suspect insanity where my mother's conduct can be explained by ordinary causes."

"My dear sir," said the professor, "if I am a scientist, I am not one for nothing. I know how very little science knows, and in due time I shall be quite ready to own myself mistaken, if your mother turns out to be perfectly sane."

"You are very honest," returned Patoff. "All I want to express is that, although I am grateful to you for taking her home, I think she is quite able to take care of herself. I should be very sorry to think that you felt yourself bound not to leave her. She is fifty-two years old, I believe, but she is very strong, though she used to fancy herself in bad health, for some reason or other; she has a maid, a courier, and plenty of money. You yourself admit that she has no delusion except about this sad business. I think that under the circumstances she could safely travel alone."

"Possibly. But the case is an interesting one. I am a free man, and your mother's age and my position procure me the advantage of studying the state of her mind by traveling with her without causing any scandal. I am not disposed to abandon my patient."

"I can assure you," said Paul, "that if I thought she would tolerate my presence I should go with her myself, and I repeat that I am sincerely obliged to you. Only, I do not believe she is mad. I hope you will write to me, however, and tell me how she is."

"Of course. And I hope you will tell me whether you have changed your mind about her. I confess that you seem to me to be the calmest person I ever met."

"I?" exclaimed Paul. "Yes, I am calm now, but I have not had a moment's rest during the last month."

"I can understand that. You know the worst now, and you have nothing more to anticipate. I have no right to inquire into your personal feelings, but I should say that you cared very little for your mother, and less for your brother, and that hitherto you had been animated by a sort of fictitious sense of responsibility. That has ceased, and you feel like a man released from prison."

The professor fixed his keen gray eyes on Paul's face as he spoke. His speech was rather incisive, considering how little he had seen of Paul. Perhaps he intended that it should be, for he watched the effect of his words with interest.

"You are not a bad judge of human nature," answered Patoff, coolly. But he did not vouchsafe any further answer.

"It is my business," said the professor. "If, as a friend of Madame Patoff's family, I take the liberty of being plain, and of telling you what I think, you may believe that I have not wholly misjudged your mother, since I have hit the mark in judging you."

"I am not sure that you have hit the mark," replied Paul. "Perhaps you have. Time will show. Meanwhile, I am going to Teheran to reflect upon it. It is impossible to choose a more secluded spot," he added, with a smile.

"Why do you not return to Constantinople?" asked the inquisitive professor.

"Because it has pleased the Minister for Foreign Affairs to send me to Persia. I am a government servant, and must go whither I am sent. I dare say I shall not be there very long. The climate is not very pleasant, and the society is limited. But it will be an agreeable change for me."

"I suppose that efforts will still be made to find your brother?"

"Yes. The search will never be given up while there is the least hope."

"I wonder what the effect would be upon Madame Patoff, if Alexander were found after six months?"

"I have not the least idea," answered Paul. "I suppose we should all return to our former relations with each other. Perhaps the shock might drive her mad in earnest,-I cannot tell. You are a psychologist; it is a case for you."

"A puzzle without an answer. I am afraid it can never be tried."

"No, I am afraid not," said Paul quietly.

The two men finished their dinner, and went out. Paul meant to leave early the next morning, and was anxious to go to bed. He felt that at last he could sleep, and he took his leave of Professor Cutter.

"Good-by," he said, with more feeling than he had shown since he had left his mother's room. "I am glad we have met. Believe me, I am really grateful to you for your kindness, and I hope you will let me know that you have reached England safely. If my mother refers to me, please tell her that after what she said to me I thought it best to leave here at once. Good-by, and thank you again."

"Good-by," said the professor, shaking Paul's hand warmly. "The world is a little place, and I dare say we shall meet again somewhere."

"I hope so," answered Paul.

And so these two parted, to go to the opposite ends of the earth, not satisfied with each other, and yet each feeling that he should like to meet his new acquaintance again. But Persia and England, in the present imperfect state of civilization, are tolerably far apart.

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