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 a 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 upright, 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 fulfil 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."
!" 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 understand 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 if 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 nobody 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 Ysolt."
"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 Ysolt."
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 her father.
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 Tilly."
"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 parti-colored 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 think?"
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."
THE CASTLE OF BARON BORS.
As Sir Dinadan led the Professor and Miss Baffin along the lovely path which went winding through the woods toward the castle, the Professor lighted another cigar, and in response to Sir Dinadan, he entered upon an explanation of the nature of tobacco, the methods and extent of its use, and its effect upon the human system.
"The Lady Tilly, of course she smokes sometimes, also?" asked Sir Dinadan.
"Oh, no," replied Miss Baffin, "ladies in my country never do."
"Of course not," added the Professor.
"And yet, if it so pleasing and so beneficial as you say," responded the youth, "why should not the ladies attempt it?"
The Professor really could not say; Sir Dinadan was pressing him almost too closely. He compromised further discussion by yielding promptly, although with a melancholy reflection that his store of cigars was small, to a request to teach Sir Dinadan, at the earliest opportunity, to smoke.
As they neared the castle, the Professor's attention was absorbed in observing the details of the structure. It was a massive edifice of stone, having severe outlines and no ornamentation worthy of the name, but presenting, from the very grandeur of its proportions, an impressive and not unpleasing appearance. It was surrounded by a wide fosse filled with water; and the Professor was delighted to observe, as they drew near, that the entrance was protected with a portcullis and a drawbridge. The bridge was drawn up, and the iron portcullis, made of bars of huge size, was closed.
"Magnificent, isn't it, Tilly?" exclaimed the Professor, gleefully. "It is probably the most perfect specimen of early English architecture now upon earth. Most fortunately I have in my trunks a photographic apparatus with which to obtain a picture of it."
Sir Dinadan seized a curved horn which hung upon the branch of a tree, and blew a blast loud and long upon it.
The Professor regarded the performance with intense interest and not a little enthusiasm.
The warder of the castle appeared at the grating, and, perceiving Sir Dinadan, saluted him; then lowering the drawbridge and lifting the portcullis, which ascended with many hideous creaks and groans from the rusty iron, Sir Dinadan and his companions entered.
Leaving the Professor and Miss Baffin comfortably seated in a great hall, the walls of which were adorned with curious tapestries dark with age, with swords and axes and trophies of the chase, Sir Dinadan went in search of the Baron.
"Little did we think, Tilly," said the Professor, looking around, "when we left New York four weeks ago--it seems more like four years--that we should find ourselves, within a month, in such a place as this."
"I can hardly believe it yet," responded Miss Baffin.
"It does seem like a dream. And yet we are certainly wide awake, and we are in the hall of a real castle, waiting for real people to come to us."
"Sir Dinadan seems very real, too," said Miss Baffin, timidly.
"Very! There can be no doubt about it."
"And he behaves like a real young man, too," continued Miss Baffin. "He proposed to me this morning."
"What! Proposed to you! Incredible! Why, the boy has not known you more than an hour or two."
"He is a man, pa; not a boy," said Miss Baffin, a little hurt. "It was
rather sudden; but, then, genuine affection sometimes manifests itself in that way."
The Professor smiled; he perceived the exact situation of things. Then he looked very serious again. This was a contingency of which he had not taken account.
"Well, Tilly," he said, "I hardly know what to say about the matter. It is so completely unexpected. You didn't accept him?"
"No; not exactly, but--"
"Very well, then. We will leave the situation as it is for the present. When we have been here longer we can better determine what we should do."
Sir Dinadan entered with the Baron. The Baron greeted his guests with warmth, making no allusion to the occurrences in the Hermit's cell, and appearing, indeed, to have forgotten them.
"It is enough, sir, and fair damsel, that misfortune has thrown you upon our shores. You shall make this your home while you live."
"A thousand thanks," responded the Professor.
"I cherish the belief that I can be of service to you. By the way, may I ask how is the noble Lady Bors?"
"Suffering greatly. My son tells me that you are a wise leech, and can give her release from her pain."
"I hope I can. If you will permit my daughter, here, to see the lady and to follow my directions, we may be able to help her."
"There," said the Baron, waving his hand, "are your apartments. When you have made ready we will summon you to our banquet."
"Your property, which was upon the beach, will be placed before you very soon," said Sir Dinadan.
The Professor and Miss Baffin entered the rooms, and the Baron withdrew with his son.
When the trunks came and were opened, the guests arrayed themselves in their finest costumes, and Miss Baffin contrived to give her beauty a bewildering effect by an artistic arrangement of frippery, which received its consummation when she placed some lovely artificial flowers in her hair.
Then the Professor, giving her certain plasters and a soothing drug or two, requested a servant, who stood outside the door, to announce to Lady Bors that Miss Baffin was ready to give her treatment.
Sir Dinadan came forward and gallantly escorted Miss Baffin to his mother's room; where, after presenting her, he left her and returned to the Professor.
The young man led the Professor about the castle, showing him its apartments, its furniture and decorations, with an earnest purpose to try to find favor in the eyes of the father of the woman he loved. The Professor, for his part, was charmed with his companion, and his interest in the castle and its appurtenances increased every moment.
"This," said Sir Dinadan, pausing before a large oaken door, barred with iron, "is the portal to the upper room of the south tower. In this chamber the Baron has confined Ysolt, my sister, until she consents to think no more of Sir Bleoberis."
"Locked her up, has he? That seems hard."
"Cruel, is it not?"
"You favor the suit of the Knight, do you?" inquired the Professor.
"I would let Ysolt choose for herself. He is a worthy man; but he has poverty."
"We must try to help him," said the Professor.
"You would act differently in such a case; would you not?" asked Sir Dinadan, rather eagerly.
"Why, yes, of course; that is, I mean," said the Professor, suddenly recollecting himself, and what Miss Baffin had told him, "I mean, I would think about it. I would give the matter thoughtful consideration."
Sir Dinadan sighed, and asked the Professor if he would come with him to the dining-hall.
It was a noble room. As the Professor entered it with Sir Dinadan, as he looked at the vast fireplace filled with burning logs, because of the air of the castle was chilly even in summer time, at the rudely carved beams that traversed the ceiling, at the quaint curtains and curious ornaments upon the walls, at the long table which stretched across the floor and bore upon its polished surface a multitude of vessels of strange and often fantastic shapes, he could hardly believe his senses. These things, this method of existence, he had read about myriads of times, but they had never seemed very real to him until he encountered them here face to face.
These people among whom he had come by such strange mischance actually lived and moved here, amid these scenes, and as they were as common and as prosy to them as the scenes in his own home in the little enclosure hard by the walls of the university building at Wingohocking.
It was that home and its equipment that seemed strange and incongruous to him now. As he thought about it, he felt that he would experience an actual nervous shock if he should suddenly be plumped down in his own library. Very oddly, as his mind reverted to the subject, his memory recalled with peculiarly vivid distinctness an old and faded dressing-gown in which he used to come to breakfast; and a blue cream-jug with a broken handle, which used to be placed before him at the meal.
It seemed to him that the dressing-gown and the defective jug were as far back in the misty past as such a social condition as that with which he had now been brought into contact would have seemed if he had thought of it a month ago.
As the servants entered, bearing the viands upon large dishes, the Baron made his appearance at the upper end of the room, and a moment later Lady Bors walked slowly in, leaning upon the arm of Miss Baffin.
"Your sweet daughter," she said, when the Professor had been presented to her, "has eased my pain already. I think she must be an angel sent to me by Heaven."
an angel," said Sir Dinadan, emphatically, so that his mother looked at him curiously. Miss Baffin blushed.
"Angels, my lady, do not come with porous plasters," said the Professor, smiling.
"I love her already, whether she is angel or woman," replied Lady Bors, patting Miss Baffin's arm.
"So do--," Sir Dinadan did not complete the sentence. It occurred to him that he might perhaps be getting a little too demonstrative.
"The Lady Tilly," said the Baroness, "has told me something of the adventure which brought you here. Will you be so courteous as to tell us more, and to inform us of that strange and wonderful land from which you have come?"
"Willingly, madam," replied the Professor. And so, while the meal was in progress, the Professor,--not neglecting the food, for he was really hungry,--tried, in the plainest language he could command, to convey to the minds of his hearers some notion of the marvels of modern civilization. The Baron, Lady Bors, and Sir Dinadan asked many questions, and they more than once expressed the greatest astonishment at the revelations made in the Professor's narrative.
"I will show you some of these wonders," said Professor Baffin. "Most happily I have with me in my trunks quite a number of instruments, such as those I have told you of."
"In your trunks!" exclaimed the Baron. "You do not wear trunks, as we do."
The professor at once explained the misapprehension. When he had done, there was heard in the room the twanging of the strings of a rude musical instrument.
"It is the minstrel," said Sir Dinadan, as the Professor and Miss Baffin looked around.
The Professor was delighted.
"He is going to sing," said the Baron.
The bard, after a few preliminary thrums upon an imbecile harp, burst into song. He occupied several moments in reciting a ballad of chivalry, and although his manner was dramatic, his voice was sadly cracked and out of tune.
"Tilly," said the Professor, "remember to note in your journal that the musical system here is constructed from a defective minor scale, with incorrect intervals. I observed precisely the same characteristics in the song that our Irish nurse, Mary, used to put you to sleep when you were a baby. I stood outside the chamber door one night, and wrote the strain down as she sang it. This proves that it is very ancient."
"You like the song, then?" asked the Baron.
"It is very interesting, indeed--very!" replied the Professor. "I think we shall obtain a great deal of valuable information here. No, Tilly, you had better refuse it," said the Professor, observing that Sir Dinadan, who appeared to be animated by a resolute purpose to stuff Miss Baffin, was pressing another dish upon her, "you will spoil your night's rest."
"Do you sing, Sir Baffin?" inquired Lady Bors.
"Never in company, my lady," replied the Professor; "my vocalization would excite too much alarm."
The Baron and his wife manifestly did not comprehend the pleasantry.
"My daughter sings very nicely; but you can hear her sing without her lips being opened. Excuse me for a moment."
The Professor went to his apartment, and presently returned, bringing with him a phonograph. Placing it upon the table, he turned the crank. From the funnel at once issued a lovely soprano voice, singing, with exquisite enunciation and inflection, a song, every word of which was heard by the listeners.
Lady Bors looked scared, Sir Dinadan crossed himself, the Baron eyed the Professor doubtfully, the minstrel over in the corner laid down his harp, and relieved his overcharged feelings by bursting into tears, which he wiped away with the sleeve of his tunic.
"It must be magic," said the Baron, at last; "no mere man could hide an angelic spirit in such a place, and compel it to sing."
"Allow me to explain," said the Professor; and then he unfolded the mechanism, and showed the method of its operation. "My daughter sang up several songs for me before we left home. They were stored away here for future use. Tilly, my love, sing something, so that our friends can perceive that is the same voice."
Miss Baffin, after some hesitation, began "The Last Rose of Summer." While she sang, Sir Dinadan looked at her with rapture depicted on his countenance. When she had done he reflected for an instant, and then, rising and walking over to the place where the minstrel sat, he seized by the ear that unfortunate operator with defective minor scales, and, leading him to the door, he kicked him into the hall.
This appeared to relieve Sir Dinadan's feelings.
When he returned, the Professor persuaded him to have his voice recorded by the phonograph; and by the time the Baron and Lady Bors had also tried the experiment, the faith of the family in the powers of Professor Baffin had risen to such a pitch that the Baron would have been almost ready to lay wagers in favor of his omnipotence.
The Professor that evening accepted for himself and his daughter a very urgent invitation to make the castle their home, at least until Fate and the future should determine if they were to remain permanently upon the island. The chance that they would ever escape seemed indeed, exceedingly slender; and the Professor resolved to accept the promise with philosophical resignation.
He employed much of his time during the first weeks that he was the Baron's guest in making the Baron familiar with some of the wonders of modern discovery and invention. The Baron also was deeply interested in an exhibition given by the Professor of the powers of his patent india-rubber life-raft, which the Professor brought up from the beach folded into a small bundle. After inflating it, to the amazement of the spectators, he put it into the fosse that surrounded the castle and paddled about upon it. The raft was allowed to remain in the ditch ready for use.
The Professor often went outside the castle walls to talk with Sir Bleoberis, and to comfort him. The Professor explained the telegraph and the locomotive to the Knight; and when the Knight assured him that the armorers of the island could make the machinery that would be required, if they should receive suitable instructions, the Professor arranged to build a short railroad line and a telegraph line in partnership with Sir Bleoberis, if the latter would obtain the necessary concession from King Brandegore. Professor Baffin was of the opinion that the Knight, by such means, might ultimately acquire great wealth.
Meantime Sir Dagonet had been seen several times of late in the vicinity of the castle, and once he had made again a formal demand upon the Baron for Ysolt's hand. This the Baron refused, whereupon Sir Dagonet returned an insolent reply that he would have her in spite of her father's objection. The Professor sincerely pitied both Ysolt and Sir Bleoberis, but as the Baron always became violently angry when the suffering of the lovers was alluded to, the Professor disliked to plead their cause.
It occurred to him, however, one day that there could be no possible harm in arranging to permit the forlorn creatures to converse with each other; and so, with the help of Miss Baffin, who was allowed to enter the captive's room, he fixed up a telephone, the machinery of which he had in one of his trunks, with a wire running from Ysolt's window to a point some distance beyond the castle wall.
The battery with which the instruments were supplied was placed in an iron box furnished by Sir Bleoberis, and hidden behind a huge oak tree.
The lovers were delighted with the telephone and its performances; but the Professor's ingenious kindness caused him a great deal of serious trouble.
It seems that Miss Baffin one morning had been showing her father's umbrella to Ysolt, and making her acquainted with its peculiarities and uses.
When Miss Baffin had withdrawn, Sir Bleoberis began to breathe through the telephone protestations of his undying love, and finally he appealed to Ysolt to fly with him. Of course he expected nothing to come of his appeal, for he had not the slightest conception of any method by which Ysolt could escape from her prison. He merely threw it in, in a general sort of way, as an expression of the intensity of his affection.
But it suggested to the mind of Ysolt an ingenious thought; and she responded through the telephone that if Sir Bleoberis would keep out of sight and have his gallant steed ready, she would join him in a few moments. The Knight's heart beat so fiercely at this news that it fairly made his armor vibrate.
Obeying the orders of Ysolt, he went behind the oak and sat upon the iron box containing the Professor's battery and electrical apparatus.
Ysolt's window was but twenty feet from the surface of the water in the fosse. Directly beneath it, by a most fortunate chance, floated the life-raft of Professor Baffin. The brave girl, climbing upon the stone sill of the window, hoisted the umbrella, and sailing swiftly downward through the air, she alighted safely upon the raft. A single push upon the wall sent it to the further side of the ditch, whereupon Ysolt leaped ashore, unperceived by the warder or by any one in the castle.
A moment more; and seated upon the steed of her cavalier, with his strong arm around her, she would be flying to peace and happiness and love's sweet fulfilment, far, far beyond the reach of the angry Baron's power.
But, alas, human life is so full of mischances! As Ysolt neared the great oak behind which her lover sat, Sir Dagonet came riding carelessly across the lawn. Seeing her he spurred his horse forward, and, right before the eyes of Sir Bleoberis, he grasped her by the arm, tossed her to his saddle and dashed away across the country.
But why did not Sir Bleoberis leap to the rescue?
Sir Bleoberis tried with all his might to do so; but he had on a full suit of armor, and the Professor's battery, by some means even yet unexplained, so charged the cover of the box with magnetism that it held the Knight close down. He could not move a muscle of his legs. He writhed and twisted and expressed his fury in language that was vehement and scandalous; but the Professor's infamous machine held him fast; and he was compelled to sit by, imbecile and raging, while the wind bore to his ears the heart-rending screams of his sweetheart as she cried to him to come and save her from an awful fate.
The shrieks of the unhappy Ysolt penetrated to the castle, and at once the Baron ran out, followed by Sir Dinadan, Professor Baffin, and a host of the Baron's retainers, all of them armed and ready for war. The first act of the Professor was to capture his expanded umbrella, which was being blown about wildly by the wind. Furling it, he proceeded to the place where Sir Bleoberis sat, trying to explain to the infuriated Baron what had happened.
"There!" said Sir Bleoberis, savagely, pointing to the Professor, "is the vile wretch that did it all! Seize him! He, he alone is to blame."
The Professor was amazed.
"Yes," exclaimed Sir Bleoberis, "it was he who persuaded the fair Ysolt to leap from the window; it was he who notified Sir Dagonet, and it is his wicked enchantment that held me here so that I could not fly to her succor. I cannot even get up now."
"The man," said the Professor to the Baron, "appears to be suffering from intellectual aberration. I can't imagine what he means. Why don't you rise?"
"You, foul wizard, know that I am held here by your infernal power!"
"Try to be calm," said the Professor soothingly. "Your expressions are too strong. Let me see--. Why, bless my soul, the electrical current has magnetized the box. There, now," said the Professor as he snipped a couple of the wires, "try it again."
Sir Bleoberis arose without effort. Baron Bors stepped forward and said sternly:
"What, you, Sir Bleoberis, were doing here I do not know. I suspect you of evil purposes. But it is clear you had nothing to do with the seizure of my daughter, if, indeed, she has been carried off by Sir Dagonet. You may go. But as for you," shouted the Baron, turning to the Professor, "I perceive that your devilish arts have been used against me and my family while you have been eating my bread. The world shall no longer be burdened by such a monster. Away with him to the scaffold!"
"This," said the Professor, as the perspiration stood in beads upon his pallid face, "is painful; very painful. Allow me to explain. The fact is I--"
"Away!" said the Baron, with an impatient gesture. "Off with his head as quickly as possible!"
"But, my dear sir," contended the Professor, as the Baron's retainers seized him, "this is simply awful! No court, no jury, no trial, no chance to tell my story! It is not just. It is not fair play. Permit me, for one moment, to--"
"To the block with him!" screamed the Baron. "Have no more parley about it!"
Sir Bleoberis came forward.
"Sir Bors," he said, "this, in a measure, is my quarrel. It falls to me by right to punish this wretch. Will you permit me?" and then Sir Bleoberis struck the Professor in the face with his mailed gauntlet.
Professor Bafin would have assailed him upon the spot, but for the fact that he was a captive.
"He means that you shall fight him," said Sir Dinadan, who retained his faith in the Professor, remembering his own affection for Miss Baffin.
"Certainly I will," said the Professor. "Where, and when, and how? I would like to have it out right here on the spot."
It is melancholy to think what would have been the sorrow of the members of the Universal Peace Society, of which the Professor was the first vice-president, if they could have observed the eagerness with which that good man seemed to long for the fray, and the fiery rage which beamed from his eyes until the sparks almost appeared to fly from his spectacles.
Miss Baffin at this moment rushed upon the scene, and in wild affright flung her arms about her father.
"The contest shall be made," said the Baron, sternly. "Unhand him!"
The Professor hurriedly explained the matter to Matilda, who sobbed piteously.
"You shall have my armor, my horse, and my lance," said Sir Dinadan in a kindly voice to the Professor. "Go and get them," he continued, speaking to some of the servants.
"Thank you," said the Professor. "I am much obliged. You are a fine young man."
"But, pa," said Miss Baffin through her tears, "surely you are not going to fight?"
"Yes, my love."
"And you a member of the Peace Society, too."
"I can't help it, my child. You may omit to note this extraordinary occurrence in your journal. The Society may as well remain in ignorance of it. But I must conform to the customs of the place."
"How can you ever do anything upon a horse, with armor and a lance? It is dreadful!"
"No, my child, it may perhaps be regarded as fortunate. For many years I have longed to observe the practices of ancient chivalry more closely; that opportunity has now come. I am about to have actual practical experience with them."
Miss Baffin wiped her eyes as Sir Dinadan came to her side and tried to comfort her. Sir Agravaine, who had ridden up during the excitment, dismounted when he saw Miss Baffin, and pulling Sir Dinadan by the sleeve, he whispered:
"You are acquainted with that lady?"
"Would you mind ascertaining for me if I am to understand her remarkable conduct to me as tantamount to a refusal? I don't want to trouble you, but--"
Sir Dinadan turned abruptly away, leaving Sir Agravaine still involved in doubt.
When the armor came, Sir Dinadan helped the Professor to put it on. It was a size or two too large for him, and the Professor had a considerable amount of difficulty in adjusting the pieces properly, but, with the help of Sir Dinadan, he at last succeeded.
"Bring me my lance!" he exclaimed, with a firm voice, as he stepped forward.
"It is here," said Sir Dinadan.
"Farewell, my child," said the Professor to Miss Baffin, making a futile attempt to bend his elbows so that he could embrace her. "Farewell!" and the Professor tried to kiss her, but he merely succeeded in injuring her nose with the visor of his helmet.
"O pa!" said Miss Baffin, weeping, "if you should be killed."
"No danger of that love, none at all. I am perfectly safe. I feel exactly as if I were a cooking-stove, to be sure; but you may depend upon my giving a good account of myself. And now, dear, adieu! Ho, there!" exclaimed the Professor, with faint reminiscences of the tragic stage coming into his mind. "Bring me my steed!"
The determined efforts of four muscular men were required to mount the Professor upon his horse. And when he was fairly astride, with his lance in his hand, he felt as if he weighed at least three thousand pounds, and the weapon seemed quite as large as the jib-boom of the "Morning Star."
The warrior did his best to sit his horse gracefully; but the miserable beast pranced and curveted in such a very unreasonable manner that his spectacles were continually shaking loose, and in his efforts to fix them, and at the same time to hold his horse, he lost control of his lance, and came near impaling two or three of the spectators.
Sir Dinadan's own groom then took the bridle rein, and leading the horse quietly to the jousting-ground put him in place directly opposite to Sir Bleoberis, whose lance was in rest, and who evidently intended to spit the Professor through and through at the first encounter.
The Professor really felt uncomfortably at a disadvantage in his iron-clad condition, and he began to think that the sports and combats of the olden time were perhaps not so interesting after all, when brought within the range of practical experience.
Suddenly the herald's trumpet sounded a blast. The Professor had not the least notion of the meaning of the sound, but Sir Bleoberis started promptly towards him, and the Professor's horse, trained at jousting, also started. The Professor was not quite ready, and he pulled the rein hard while trying to fix his lance in its rest. This caused the horse to swerve sharply around, whereupon the warrior's spectacles came off, and the horse dashed at full speed to the side of the jousting-ground, bringing the half-blinded Professor's lance up against a tree, into which the point stuck fast. The Professor was hurled with some violence to the ground, and the horse ran away.
When they picked him up and unlatched his helmet, he was bleeding at the nose.
"It is of no consequence, Matilda, of not consequence, I assure you," he said. "I am shaken up a little, but not hurt. I think, perhaps, I need practice at this kind of thing."
The Professor, while speaking, felt about him in a bewildered way for the pocket in which he was used to keep his handkerchief. But as the armor baffled his efforts to find it, Miss Baffin offered him her kerchief with which to stanch the blood.
"The ancients, Matilda," said the Professor, as he pressed the handkerchief to his nose, "must have possessed great physical strength, and they could not have been near sighted. By the way, where are my glasses?"
Sir Dinadan handed them to him.
"You will not attempt to get on that horrid horse, again, pa, will you?" said Miss Baffin, entreatingly.
"I think not, my child, unless I am forced to do so. Jousting is interesting to read about; but as a matter of fact it is brutal. I think, Sir Dinadan, I should be more comfortable if I could get this cast iron overcoat off, so I could move my elbows without creaking."
Sir Dinadan helped him to remove his armor, and said:
"My noble mother has insisted that Sir Bleoberis shall not fight with you, and the Baron has yielded to her wish."
"How can I thank you?" exclaimed Miss Baffin.
Sir Dinadan looked at her as if he would like to tell her how, if he dared venture. But he only said:
"I deserve no thanks. My mother is upon your side and that of your father. She asks me to bring him to her."
The Baron was with his wife, and Sir Bleoberis stood before them.
"Sir Bamn," said the Baron, "Lady Bors insists that you are innocent of any wrong-doing; and Sir Bleoberis, seeing that you are unskilled, has resolved not to have a combat with you. I am willling to pardon you upon one condition: that you find my daughter and bring her back to me."
"That I should be willing to try to do under any circumstances," said the Professor. "I regret her loss very deeply. But, you see, I know nothing of the country. I am afraid I should not discover her if I should go alone."
"I will go with you," said Sir Bleoberis.
"That is first-rate," said the Professor. "Give me your hand."
"We will keep your daughter in the castle as a hostage," said the Baron. "When you return with Ysolt you shall have the Lady Tilly, and Sir Bleoberis shall have Ysolt."
"I am profoundly grateful," replied Sir Bleoberis, bowing.
"My dear," said the Professor to Miss Baffin, "does the arrangement suit you?"
"It suits me," muttered Sir Dinadan.
"I must stay whether I wish to or not," replied Miss Baffin. "But I shall worry about you every moment while you are gone."
"Sir Dinadan may be able to soothe her," said Sir Bleoberis, with a smile.
"I think I could, if I were allowed to try," insinuated Sir Agravaine.
"I charge Sir Dinadan and his noble parents with the task," said the Professor.
The entire party, with the exception of Sir Agravaine, then returned to the castle, so that the Professor could make ready for the journey.
Professor Baffin politely declined to wear the armor of Sir Dinadan upon the journey. He packed a few things in a satchel, and putting his revolver in his pocket, he bade adieu to his daughter and the members of the Baron's family. Mounting his horse by the side of Sir Bleoberis, who rode in full armor, the two trotted briskly out through the woods to the roadway, which ran by not far from the castle.
"Where shall we go to look for the lady?" asked the Professor, as the Knight started down the road at a rapid pace.
"The villain, no doubt, has carried her captive to his castle. We shall seek her there."
"How are we going to get her out? I have had very little experience, personally, in storming castles."
"We shall have to devise some plan when we get there," replied the Knight. "The castle, unhappily, is upon an island in the middle of the lake."
"And I can't swim," said the Professor.
"Perhaps the King will give us help. It is close to the place where he holds his court."
The Professor began to think that the case looked exceedingly unpromising. He lapsed into silence, thinking over the probable results of the failure of his mission; and as the Knight appeared to be absorbed in his own reflections, the pair rode forward without engaging in further conversation.
Professor Bafin did not fail to notice the extreme loveliness of the country through which they were passing. It presented all the characteristics of a perfect English landscape; but he observed that it was not fully cultivated, and that the agricultural methods employed were of a very primitive kind.
After an hour's ride, the two horsemen entered a wood. Hardly had they done so before they heard, near to them, the voice of a woman crying loudly for help. Sir Bleoberis at once spurred his horse forward, and the Professor followed close behind him.
Presently they perceived a Knight in armor endeavoring to hold upon the horse in front of him a young woman of handsome appearance, who screamed loudly as she attempted to release herself from his grasp.
"Drop her!" exclaimed the Professor in an excited manner, and drawing his revolver, "put her down; let her go at once!"
The Knight turned, and seeing the intruders he released the maiden, and levelling his lance, made straight for Sir Bleoberis at full gallop.
The lady, white with terror, flew to the Professor, and reposed her head upon his bosom.
Professor Baffin was embarrassed. He had no idea what he had better do or say. He could not repulse the poor creature; and as the situation, upon the whole, was not positively disagreeable, he permitted her to remain, sobbing upon his bosom, while he watched the fight and dried her eyes, in a fatherly way, with his handkerchief.
The two Knights came together with a terrible shock which made the sparks fly; but neither was unhorsed or injured, and the lances of both glanced aside. They turned, and made at each other again. This time the lance of each pierced the armor of the other, so that neither lance could be withdrawn. It really seemed as if the two knights would have to undress and to walk off, leaving their armor pinioned together. A moment later the strange Knight fell to the ground, and lay perfectly still. The Professor went up to him and taking his lance from his hand, so that Sir Bleoberis could move, unlaced the knight's helmet.
He was dead.
The Professor was inexpressibly shocked. "Why," he exclaimed, "the man is dead! Most horrible, isn't it?"
"Oh, no," said Sir Bleoberis, coolly. "I tried to kill him."
"You wanted to murder him?"
"Oh, yes, of course."
"I am so glad you did," exclaimed the damsel with a sweet smile. "How can I thank you? And you, my dear preserver."
"Bless my soul, madam," exclaimed the Professor, "I had nothing to do with it. I consider it perfectly horrible."
Turning to Sir Bleoberis, the maiden said, "It was you who fought, but it was this brave and wise man who brought you here, was it not?"
"Yes," said Sir Bleoberis, smiling.
"I knew it," exclaimed the lady, flinging her arms around the Professor's neck. "I can never repay you--never, never, excepting a life of devotion."
The Professor began to feel warm. Disengaging himself as speedily as possible he said--
"Of course madam, I am very glad you have been rescued--very. But I deeply regret that the Knight over there was slain. What," asked the Professor of Sir Bleoberis, "will you do with him?"
"Let him lie. He is of no further use."
"I never heard of anything so shocking," said Professor Baffin. "And how are we to dispose of this lady?"
"I will go with you," exclaimed the damsel, looking eagerly at the Professor. "Let me tell you my story. My name is Bragwaine. I am the daughter of the Prince Sagramor. That dead Knight found me, a few hours ago, walking in the park by my father's castle. Sir Lamorak, he was called. Riding up swiftly to me, he seized me, and carried me away. He brought me, despite my screams and struggles, to this place, where you found us both. I should now be a captive in his castle but for you."
Bragwaine seemed about to fall upon the Professor's neck again, but he pretended to stumble, and retreated to a safe distance.
"Is there much of this kind of thing going on,--this business of galloping off with marriageable girls?" asked the Professor.
"Oh yes," said Sir Bleoberis.
"I thought so," said the Professor; "this is the second case I have encountered to-day. We shall most likely have quite a collection of rescued damsels on our hands by the time we get back home. It is interesting, but embarrassing."
"I know Prince Sagramor," said Sir Bleoberis to Bragwaine. "We are going to the court, and will take you to your father."
will take me, Sir--Sir--"
"Sir Baffin," explained Sir Bleoberis.
"Sir Baffin, will you not?"
"You can have my horse. I will walk."
"I will ride upon your horse with you, and you shall hold me on," said Bragwaine.
"That is the custom," said Bleoberis.
"But," exclaimed the Professor with an air of distress, "I am not used to riding double. I doubt if I can manage the horse and hold you on at the same time."
"You need not hold me," said Bragwaine laughingly; "I will hold fast to you. I shall not fall."
go with you," said Bragwaine almost tearfully. "You won me from the hands of that villain, Lamorak, and I am not so ungrateful as to leave you to cling to another person."
"Well, I declare!" exclaimed the Professor, "this certainly is a very curious situation for a man like me to find himself in. However, I will do the best I can."
Professor Baffin mounted his steed, and then Sir Bleoberis swung the fair Bragwaine up to a place on the saddle in front of the Professor. Bragwaine clutched his coat-sleeve tightly; and although the Professor felt that there was no real necessity that she should attempt to preserve her equipoise by pressing his shoulder strongly with her head, he regarded the arrangement without very intense indignation.
He found that he could ride very comfortably with two in the saddle, but he felt that his attention could be given more effectively to the management of the horse if Bragwaine would stop turning her eyes up to his in that distracting manner so frequently.
They rode in silence for awhile. Suddenly Bragwaine said:
"Are you married?"
Professor Bafin hardly knew what answer he had better give. After hesistating for a moment, he said:
"I have been."
"Then your wife is dead?"
The Professor could not lie. He had to say "Yes!"
"I am so glad," murmured Bragwaine. "Not that she is dead, but that you are free."
Professor Baffin was afraid to ask why. He felt that matters were becoming serious.
"And the reason is," continued Bragwaine, "that I have learned to love you better that I love any other one on earth!"
She said this calmly, very modestly, and quite as if were a matter of course.
The Professor in astonishment looked at Sir Bleoberis, who had heard Bragwaine's words. The Knight nodded to him pleasantly, and said, "I expected this."
Evidently it was not an unusual thing for ladies so to express their feelings.
The somewhat bewildered Sir Baffin then said, "Well, my dear child, it is very kind indeed for you to regard me in that manner. I have done nothing to deserve it."
"You are my rescuer, my benefactor, my heart's idol!"
"Persons at my time of life," said the Professor, blushing, "have to be extremely careful. I will be a father to you, of course! Oh, certainly, you may count upon me being a father to you, right along."
"I do not mean that I love you as a daughter. You must marry me; you dear Sir Baffin." Then she actually patted his cheek.
Professor Baffin could feel the cold perspiration trickling down his back.
"I think," he said to Sir Bleoberis, "that this is, everything considered, altogether the
most stupendous combination of circumstances that ever came within the range of my observation. It is positively distressing."
"You will break my heart if you will not love me," said Bragwaine, as if she were going to cry.
"Well, well," replied the bewildered Professor, "we can consider the subject at some other time. Your father, you know, might have other views, and,--"
"The Prince, my father, will overwhelm you with gratitude for saving me. I know he will approve of our marriage. I will persuade him to have you knighted, and to secure for you some high place at court."
"That," said the Professor, "would probably make me acutely miserable for life."
Within an hour or two after the fight with Sir Lamorak, the Professor and his companions drew near to Callion, the town in which King Brandegore held his court.
Just before entering it they encountered Prince Sagramor coming out with a retinue of knights in pursuit of Sir Lamorak and his daughter. Naturally he was filled with joy at finding that she had been rescued and brought back to him.
After embracing her, he greeted Sir Bleoberis and the Professor warmly, thanking them for the service they had done to him. Bragwaine insisted upon the Professor's especial title to gratitude, and when she had told with eloquence of his wisdom and his valor, and she had added to her story Sir Bleoberis' explanation of the Professor's adventures, the Prince saluted the latter, and said:
"There is only one way in which I can honor you, Sir Baffin. I perceive that already you have won the heart of this damsel. I intended her for another. But she is fairly yours. Take her, gallant sir, and with her a loving father's blessing!"
Bragwaine wept for happiness.
"But, your highness, if I might be permitted to explain--" stammered the Professor.
"I know!" replied the Prince. "You will perhaps say you are poor. It is nothing. I will make you rich. It is enough for me that she loves you, and that you return it."
"I cannot sufficiently thank you for your kindness," said the Professor, "but really there is a--"
"If you are not noble, the King will cure that. He wants such brave men as you are in his service," said the Prince.
"I am a free-born American citizen, and the equal of any man on earth," said the Professor proudly, "but to tell you the honest truth, I--"
"You are not already married?" inquired the Prince, somewhat suspiciously.
"I have been married; my wife is dead, and--"
"Then, of course you can marry Bragwaine. Sir Colgrevance," said the Prince to one of his attendants, "ride over and tell the abbot that Bragwaine will wish to be married to-morrow!"
"To-morrow!" shrieked the Professor. "I really must protest; you are much to sudden. I have an important mission to fulfil, and I must attend to that first, and at once."
Sir Bleoberis explained to the Prince the nature of their errand, and told him the Professor's daughter was held as a hostage until he should bring Ysolt back to Baron Bors.
"We will delay the wedding, then," said the Prince. "And now, let us ride homeward."
If it had not been for the heart-rending manner in which everybody regarded him as the future husband of Bragwaine, and for the extreme tenderness of that lady's behavior toward him, the Professor would have enjoyed hugely his sojourn at the court. King Brandegore regarded him from the first with high favor, and the sovereign's conduct of course sufficed to recommend the Professor to everybody else. The Professor found the King to be a man of rather large mind, and it was a continual source of pleasure to the learned man to unfold to the King, who listened with amazement and admiration, the wonders of modern invention, science, and discovery.
With what instruments the Professor's ingenuity could construct from the rude materials at hand; he showed a number of experiments, chiefly electrical, which so affected the King that he ordered the regular court magician to be executed as a perfectly hopeless humbug; but Professor Baffin's energetic protest saved the unhappy conjurer from so sad a fate.
An extemporized telegraph line, a few hundred yards in length, impressed the King more strongly than any other thing, and not only did he make to Sir Bleoberis and the Professor exclusive concessions of the right to build lines within his dominions, but he promised to organize, at an early day, a raid upon a neighboring sovereign, for the purpose of obtaining plunder enough to give to the enterprise a handsome subsidy.
Sir Dagonet did not come to court during the Professor's stay. But there, in full view of the palace, a mile away in the lake, was his castle, and in that castle was the lovely Ysolt.
The Professor examined the building frequently through his field-glasses, which, by the way, the King regarded with unspeakable admiration; and more than once he thought he could distinguish Ysolt sitting by the window of one of the towers overlooking the lake.
The King several times sent to Sir Dagonet messages commanding Sir Dagonet to bring the damsel to him, but as Sir Dagonet invariably responded by trying to brain the messenger or to sink his boat, the King was forced to give it up as a hopeless case. Storming the castle was out of the question. None of the available boats were large enough to carry more than half a dozen men, and Sir Dagonet had many boats of great size which he could man, so as to assail any hostile fleet before it came beneath the castle wall.
But the Professor had a plan of his own, which he was working out in secret, while he waited. Sir Bleoberis had procured several skilful armorers, and under the directions of the Professor they undertook to construct, in rather a crude fashion, a small steam engine. This, when the parts were completed, was fitted into a boat with a propeller screw, and when the craft was launched upon the lake, the Professor was delighted to find that it worked very nicely. The trial-trip was made at night, so that the secret of the existence of such a vessel might be kept from any of the friends of Sir Dagonet who might be loitering about.
It devolved upon Sir Bleoberis, by bribing a servant of Sir Dagonet's who came ashore, to send a message to Ysolt. She was ordered to watch at a given hour upon a certain night for a signal which should be given from a boat, beneath her window, and then to leap fearlessly into the water.
The night chosen was to be the eve of the Professor's wedding-day. The more Prince Sagramor saw of Professor Baffin and his feats, the more strongly did he admire him; and in order to make provision against any accident which should deprive his daughter of marriage with so remarkable a man, the Prince commanded the wedding-day to be fixed positively, despite the remonstrances which the Professor offered somewhat timidly, in view of the extreme delicacy of the matter.
Upon the night in question, the Professor, at the request of the King, who was very curious to have an opportunity to learn from practical experience the nature of the thing which the Professor called "a lecture," undertook to deliver in the dining-room of the palace the lecture upon Sociology, which he had prepared for his course in England.
The room was packed, and the interest and curiosity at first manifested were intense; but the Professor spoke for an hour and three-quarters, losing his place several times because of the wretched character of the lights, and when he had concluded, he was surprised to discover that his entire audience was sound asleep.
At first he felt rather annoyed, but in an instant he perceived that chance had arranged matters in an extremely favorable manner.
It was within precisely half an hour of the time when he was to be in the boat under the window of Ysolt.
Stepping softly from the platform, he went upon tiptoe from the room. Not a sleeper awoke. Hurrying from the palace to the shore, he found Sir Bleoberis sitting in the boat, and awaiting him with impatience.
The Professor entered the craft, and applying a lighted match to the wood beneath the boiler, he pushed the boat away from the shore, and waited until he could get steam enough to move with.
A few moments sufficed for this, and then, opening the throttle-valve gently, the tiny steamer sailed swiftly over the bosom of the lake, through the intense darkness, until the wall of the castle, dark and gloomy, loomed up directly ahead.
A light was faintly burning in Ysolt's chamber in the tower, and the casement was open.
As the prow of the boat lightly touched the stones of the wall and rested, Sir Bleoberis softly whistled.
"I have always been uncertain," said the Professor to himself, "if the ancients knew how to whistle. This seems to indicate that they did know how. It is extremely interesting. I must remember to tell Tilly to note it in her journal."
In response to the signal, a head appeared at the casement, and a soft, sweet voice said:
"Is that you, darling?"
"Yes, yes, it is I," replied Sir Bleoberis. "Oh, my love! my Ysolt!" he exclaimed, in an ecstasy.
"Is Sir Baffin there, too?"
"Yes. We are both here; and we have a swift boat. Come to me at once, dear love, that we may fly with you homeward."
"I am not quite ready, love," replied Ysolt. "Will you not wait for a moment?"
"It is important," said the Professor, "that we should act quickly."
"But I must
fix up my hair," returned Ysolt. "I will hurry as much as I can."
"Women," said the Professor to his companion, "are all alike. She would rather remain in prison for life than come out with her hair mussed."
The occupants of the boat waited very impatiently for fifteen or twenty minutes. Then Ysolt, coming again to the window, said:
"Are you there, dearest?"
"Yes," replied Sir Bleoberis, eagerly. "We are all ready."
"And there's no time to lose," added Professor Baffin.
"Is your hair fixed?" asked the Knight.
"Oh, yes," said Ysolt.
"Then come right down."
"Would ten minutes more make any difference?" asked Ysolt.
"It might ruin us," replied the Professor.
"We can wait no longer, darling," said Sir Bleoberis, firmly.
"Then you will have to go without me," said Ysolt, with a tinge of bitterness. "It is simply impossible for me to come till I get my bundle packed."
"We will wait, then," returned Sir Bleoberis, gloomily. Then he said to the Professor: "She had no bundle with her when she was captured."
The Professor, in silent desperation, banked his fires, threw open the furnace-door, and began to wonder what kind of chance he would have in the event of a boiler explosion. Blowing off steam, under the existing circumstances, was simply out of the question.
After a delay of considerable duration, Ysolt's voice was heard again:
"What, love?" asked Sir Bleoberis.
"I am all ready now," said Ysolt.
"So are we."
"How must I get down?"
"Climb through the window and jump. You will fall into the water, but I shall catch you and place you in the boat."
"But I shall get horridly wet!"
"Of course; but, darling, that can make no great difference, so that you escape."
"And spoil my clothes, too!"
"Yes, Ysolt, I know; but--"
"I cannot do it; I am afraid." And Ysolt began to cry.
Wild despair filled the heart of Sir Bleoberis.
"I have a rope here," said the Professor; "but how are we to get it up to her?"
"Ysolt," said Bleoberis, "if I throw you the end of a rope, do you think you can catch it?"
"I will try."
Sir Bleoberis threw it. He threw it again. He threw it thirteen times, and then Ysolt contrived to catch it.
"What shall I do with it now?" she asked.
"Tie it fast to something; to the bed, or anything," replied the Knight.
"Now what shall I do?" asked the maiden, when she had made the rope secure.
"Slide right down into the boat," said the Professor.
"It would ruin my hands," said Ysolt, mournfully.
"Make the attempt, and hold on tightly," said Sir Bleoberis.
"We shall be caught if we stay here much longer," observed the Professor, with anxious thoughts of the boiler.
"Good-bye then! I am lost. Go without me! Save yourselves! Oh, this is terrible!" Ysolt began again to cry.
"I will help her," said Sir Bleoberis, seizing the rope and clambering up the wall until he reached the window.
Day began to dawn as he disappeared in the room. The Professor started his fire afresh and shut the furnace-door. Sir Bleoberis, he knew, would bring down Ysolt without delay.
A moment later, the Knight seated himself upon the stone sill of the window and caught the rope with his feet and one of his hands. Then he placed his arm about Ysolt, lifted her out and began to descend.
Professor Baffin, even in his condition of intense anxiety, could not fail to admire the splendid physical strength of the Knight. When the pair were about half-way down, the rope broke, and Ysolt and Sir Bleoberis were plunged into the lake.
The Professor, excited as he was by the accident, remembered the boiler, and determined that he would have to blow off steam and take the consequences; so he threw open the valve, and instantly the castle walls sent the fierce sound out over the waters.
Sir Bleoberis, with Ysolt upon his arm, managed to swim to the side of the boat, and the Professor after a severe effort lifted her in. Then he gave his hand to the Knight, and as Sir Bleoberis's foot touched the side the Professor shut off steam, opened his throttle-valve, backed the boat away from the wall, and started for the shore.
It was now daylight. As the boat turned the corner of the wall, it almost came into collision with a boat in which, with ten oarsmen, sat Sir Dagonet. The inmates of the castle had been alarmed by the performances of the Professor's escape-pipe; and Sir Dagonet had come out to ascertain the cause of the extraordinary noise.
The Professor's presence of mind was perfect. Turning his boat quickly to the right, he gave the engine a full head of steam and shot away before Sir Dagonet's boat could stop its headway.
Sir Dagonet had perceived Ysolt, and recognized Sir Bleoberis. With rage he screamed to them to stop, and he hurled at them terrible threats of vengeance if he should overtake them. As no heed was given to him he urged his rowers to put forth their mightiest efforts, and soon his boat was in hot pursuit of that in which the maiden, the Knight, and the Professor fled away from him.
By some means the people of the town of Callion had had their attention drawn to the proceedings at the castle, and now the shore was lined with spectators who watched with eager interest the race between Sir Dagonet's boat and the wonderful craft which had neither oars nor sails, and which sent a long streamer of smoke from out its chimney.
Professor Baffin, positively determined not to wed the daughter of Prince Sagramor, had prepared a stratagem. He had sent three horses to the side of the lake opposite to the town, and three or four miles distant from it, with the intention of landing there, and hurrying with Ysolt and Sir Bleoberis to the home of Baron Bors, without the knowledge of the Prince.
The daylight interfered, to some extent, with the promise of the plan, but Professor Baffin resolved to carry it out at any rate, taking what he considered to be the tolerably good chances of success. He turned the prow of his boat directly toward the town, making as if he would go thither. The pursuers followed fast, and as the Professor perceived that he could easily outstrip them, he slowed his engine somewhat, permitting Sir Dagonet to gain upon him.
When he was within a few hundred yards of the shore, close enough indeed, for him to perceive that the King, Prince Sagramor, Bragwaine, and all the attendants of the court were among those who watched the race with excited interest, the Professor suddenly turned his boat half around, and putting the engine at its highest speed, ploughed swiftly toward the opposite shore.
A mighty shout went up from the onlookers. Manifestly the fugitives had the sympathy of the crowd.
The oarsmen of Sir Dagonet worked right valiantly to win the chase, but the steamer gained constantly upon them; and when her keel grated upon the sand, close by where the horses stood, the pursuers were at least of a third mile behind.
Sir Bleoberis sprang from the boat, and helped Ysolt to alight. The Professor stopped to make the fire in the furnace more brisk, and to tie down the safety valve; then hurrying after Sir Bleoberis and Ysolt, the three mounted their horses and galloped away.
In a few moments they reached the top of a hill which commanded a view of the lake. They stopped and looked back. Sir Dagonet had just touched the shore, but, as he had no horse, further pursuit was useless. So, shaking his fist at the distant party, he turned away with an affectation of contempt, and entered the Professor's boat to satisfy his curiosity respecting it.
"Let him be careful how he meddles with that," said the Professor.
As he spoke, the boat was torn to fragments. Sir Dagonet, and two of his men were seen to fall, and a second afterwards the dull, heavy detonation of an explosion reached the ears of the Professor and his friends.
"It is dreadful," said the Professor with a sigh, "but self-preservation is the first law of nature, and then he had no right to run away with Ysolt, at any rate."
HOW THE PROFESSOR WENT HOME.
The three friends turned their horses' heads away from the lake, and pressed swiftly along the road.
"It is necessary," said Professor Baffin, "that we should make good speed, for Prince Sagramor saw us come to this side of the lake, and if he shall suspect our design no doubt he will at once pursue us, in behalf of that abominable girl, his daughter."
The journey was made in silence during most of the time, for the hard riding rendered conversation exceedingly difficult, but whenever the party reached the crest of a hill which commanded a view of the road in the rear, the Professor looked anxiously behind him to ascertain if anybody was giving chase. When within a mile or two of Lonazep, he did at last perceive what appeared to be a group of horsemen at some distance behind him, and although he felt by no means certain that the Prince was among them, he nervously urged his companions forward, spurring, meantime, his own horse furiously, in the hope that he might reach the castle of Baron Bors ere he should be overtaken.
As the party came within sight of the castle, they could hear the hoofs of the horses of the pursuers, and soon their ears were assailed by cries, demanding that they should stop. It was, indeed, Prince Sagramor and his knights, who were following fast. The Professor galloped more furiously than ever when he ascertained the truth, and Sir Bleoberis and Ysolt kept pace with him.
Just as they reached the drawbridge, however, they were overtaken; and, as it was raised, they were compelled to stop and meet the Prince face to face. The Professor hurriedly called to the warder to lower the bridge, so that Ysolt could take refuge in the castle. Then he turned, and determined to make the best of the situation. The Prince was disposed to be conciliatory.
"We came," he said, "to escort you back again. We have a guard of honor here fitting for any bridegroom."
"You are uncommonly kind," replied the Professor, "but the parade is rather unnecessary. I am not going back just at present."
"I promised Bragwaine that you would return with us," said the Prince, sternly.
"Well, you ought not to make rash promises," replied the Professor, with firmness.
"You will go, of course?"
"Of course I will not go."
"Bragwaine is waiting for you."
"That," said the Professor, "is a matter of perfect indifference to me."
"I will not be trifled with, sir," said the Prince, angrily.
"Nor will I," exclaimed the Professor. "Let us understand one another. I do not wish to marry any one. I did not ask your daughter to marry me, and I have never consented to the union. I tell you now that I positively and absolutely refuse to be forced to marry her or any other woman. I will do as I please about it; not as you please."
"Seize him," shrieked the Prince to his attendants.
"Stand off," said the Professor, presenting his revolver. "I'll kill the man who approaches me. I shall put up with this foolishness no longer."
One of the knights rode toward him. The Professor fired, and the cavalier's horse rolled in the dust. The Prince and his people were stupefied with astonishment.
At this juncture, Baron Bors, Sir Dinadan, Sir Agravaine, Sir Bleoberis, and Miss Baffin emerged from the castle. Miss Baffin flew to her father, and flung her arms about him. The Professor kissed her tenderly, and as he did so, his eye caught sight of the wire of the telephone which he had arranged for Ysolt and Sir Bleoberis. A happy thought struck him. Advancing, he said to the Prince:
"It is useless for us to quarrel over this matter. Baron Bors has here an oracle. Let us consult that."
Then the Professor whispered something to Miss Baffin, who withdrew unobserved and went into the castle.
The Prince was at first indisposed to condescend to accept the offer, but his curiosity finally overcame his pride.
"Step this way," said the Professor. "Ask your questions through this," handing him the mouthpiece, "and put this to your ear for the answer."
"What shall I say?" inquired the Prince.
"Ask if it is right that I should marry your daughter."
The Prince put the question, and the answer came.
"What does the oracle say?" asked the Professor.
"It says you shall not," replied the Prince, looking a good deal scared.
"Are you satisfied?" said the Professor.
The Prince did not answer, but he looked as if he suspected a trick of some kind, and would like to impale Professor Baffin with his lance, if he dared.
He was about to turn away in disgust, when Sir Agravaine, who stood beside him, in a few half-whispered words explained to him the method by which the Professor had imposed upon him.
In a raging fury, the Prince rode up to the Professor, and would have assailed him; but Baron Bors advanced and said:
"This gentleman is unarmed, and unused to our methods of combat. He is my guest, and he has saved my daughter. I will fight his battles."
The Prince threw his glove at the Baron's feet. Baron Bors called for his armor and his horse, and when he was ready he took his place opposite to his antagonist, and waited the signal for the contest.
"This," said the Professor, "is probably the most asinine proceeding upon record. Because I won't marry Sagramor's daughter, Sagramor is going to fight with a man who never saw his daughter."
The combat was not a long one. At the first shock both knights were unhorsed; but, drawing their swords, they rushed together and hacked at each other until the sparks flew in showers from their armor.
The Baron fought well, but presently the Prince's sword struck his shoulder with a blow which carried the blade down through the steel plate, and caused the blood to spurt forth. The Baron fell to the earth; and Prince Sagramor, remembering the small number of his attendants, and the probability that he might be assailed by the Baron's people, mounted his horse and slowly trotted away without deigning to look at Professor Baffin. They carried the Baron tenderly into the castle, and put him to bed. The wound was a terrible one, and the Professor perceived that the chances of his recovery, under the rude medical treatment that could be obtained, were not very favorable. After doing what he could to help the sufferer, he withdrew from the room, and left the Baron with Lady Bors and the medical practitioner who was ordinarily employed by the family.
Miss Baffin, with Sir Dinadan, awaited her father in the hall. This was the first opportunity he had had to greet her. After some preliminary conversation, and after the Professor had expressed to Sir Dinadan his regret that the Baron should have been injured, the Professor said:
"And now, Tilly, my love, how have you been employing yourself during my absence?"
Miss Baffin blushed.
"Have you kept the journal regularly?" asked the Professor.
"Not so very
regularly," replied Miss Baffin.
"I have a number of interesting and extraordinary things for you to record," said the Professor.
"Has nothing of a remarkable character happened here during my absence?"
"Oh yes," said Miss Baffin.
"I have learned to smoke," said Sir Dinadan.
"Indeed," said the Professor with a slight pang. "And how many cigars have you smoked?"
"Only one," replied the Knight. "It made me ill for two days. I think, perhaps, I shall give up smoking."
"I would advise you to. It is a bad habit," said the Professor, "and expensive. And then, you know, cigars are so dreadfully scarce, too."
"The Lady Tilly was very kind to me while I was ill. I believe I was delirious once or twice; and I was so touched by her sweet patience that I again proposed to her."
"While you were delirious?" asked the Professor.
"Oh, no; when I had recovered."
"What did you say to that, Tilly?" asked Professor Baffin.
"I referred him to you," replied Miss Baffin.
"But what will the Baron say?" asked the Professor.
"He and my mother have given their consent," said Sir Dinadan. "They declared that I could not have pleased them better than by making such a choice."
"Well, I don't know," said the Professor, reflectively. "I like you first-rate, and if I felt certain we were going to stay here--"
"I will go with you if you leave the island," said Sir Dinadan, eagerly.
"And then you know, Din," continued the Professor familiarly, "Tilly is highly educated, while you-- Well, you know you must learn to read, and write, and cipher, the very first thing."
"I have been giving him lessons while you were away," said Miss Baffin.
"How does he get along?"
"Quite well. He can do short division with a little help, and he has learned as far as the eighth line in the multiplication table."
"Eight eights are sixty-four, eight nines are seventy-two, eight tens are eighty," said Sir Dinadan, triumphantly.
"Well," said the Professor, "if Tilly loves you, and you love Tilly, I shall make no objection."
"Oh, thank you," exclaimed both of the lovers.
"But I tell you what, Din, you are getting a good bargain. There is no finer girl, or a smarter one, either, on the globe. You people here cannot half appreciate her."
For more than a week, Baron Bors failed to show any signs of improvement, and the Professor though he perceived clearly that his case was fast getting beyond hope. He deemed it prudent, however, to keep his opinion from the members of the Baron's family. But the Baron himself soon reached the same conclusion, and one day Lady Bors came out of his room to summon Sir Dinadan, Ysolt, Sir Bleoberis, who was now formally betrothed to Ysolt, and the Professor, to the Baron's bedside.
The Baron said to them, in a feeble voice, that he felt his end approaching, and that he desired to give some instructions, and to say farewell to his family. Then he addressed himself first to Sir Dinadan, and next to Ysolt. When he had finished speaking to them he said to Lady Bors,--
"And now, Ettard, a final word to you. I am going away, and you will need another friend, protector, companion, husband. Have you ever thought of any one whom you should like, other than me?"
"Never, never, never," said Lady Bors, sobbing.
"Let me advise you, then. Who would be more likely to fill my place in your heart acceptably than our good and wise and wonderful friend Sir Baffin?"
"Good gracious!" exclaimed the Professor with a start.
"Your son is to marry his daughter; and she will be happy to be here with him in the castle. Promise me that you will try to love him."
"Yes, I will try," said Lady Bors, wiping her eyes and seeming, upon the whole, rather more cheerful.
"That," said the Baron, "does not altogether satisfy me. I place upon you my command that you shall marry him. Will you consent to obey?"
"I shall consent to anything, so that your last hour may be happier," said Lady Bors with an air of resignation. She was supported during the trial, perhaps, by the reflection that in dealing with lumbago Professor Baffin had no superior in the kingdom.
Father Anselm was announced. "Withdraw, now," said the Baron to all of his family but Lady Bors. "I must speak with the Hermit."
Professor Baffin encountered the Hermit at the door. The holy man stopped long enough to say that a huge ship had come near to the shore upon which the Professor had landed, and that it was anchored there. From its mast, Father Anselm said, fluttered a banner of red and white stripes with a starry field of blue.
The Professor's heart beat fast. For a moment he could hardly control his emotion. He resolved to go at once to the shore and to take his daughter with him. Withdrawing her from her companions the two strolled slowly out from the castle into the park. Then, hastening their steps, they passed towards the shore. In a few moments they reached it, and there, sure enough, they saw a barque at anchor, while from her mast-head floated the American flag.
A boat belonging to the barque had come to the shore to obtain water from the stream. Professor Baffin entered into conversation with the officer who commanded the boat. The vessel proved to be the Mary L. Simpson
, of Martha's Vineyard, bound from the Azores to New York. When the Professor had explained to the officer that he and his daughter were Americans, the mate invited them to come aboard so that he could introduce them to the captain.
"Shall we go, my child?" asked the Professor.
"If we can return in a very few moments, we might go," said Miss Baffin.
They entered the boat, and when they reached the vessel, they were warmly greeted by Captain Magruder.
While they were talking with him in his cabin the air suddenly darkened, and the captain rushed out upon deck. Almost before he reached it a terrific gale struck the barque, and she began to drag her anchors. Fortunately the wind blew off shore, and the captain, weighing anchor, let the barque drive right out to sea. The Professor was about to remark to Miss Baffin that he feared there was small chance of his ever seeing the island again, when a lurch of the vessel threw him over. His head struck the sharp corner of the captain's chest, and he became unconscious.
When Professor Baffin regained his senses, he found that he was lying in a berth in a ship's cabin. Some one was sitting beside him,--
"Is that you, Tilly?" he asked, in a faint voice.
"Yes, pa; I am glad you are conscious again. Can I give you anything?"
"Have I been long unconscious, Tilly?"
"You have been very ill for several days; delirious sometimes."
"Is the captain going back to the island?"
"Going back to the what
"To the Island. It must have seemed dreadfully heartless for us to leave the castle while the Baron was dying."
"While the Baron was dying! What to you mean?"
"Why, Baron Bors could not have lived much longer. I am afraid Sir Dinadan will think hard of us."
"I haven't the least idea what you are talking about. Poor pa! your mind is beginning to wander again. Turn over, and try to go to sleep."
Professor Baffin was silent for a moment. Then he said,--
"Tilly, do you mean to say you never heard of Baron Bors?"
"And that you were never engaged to Sir Dinadan?"
"Pa, how absurd! Who are these people?"
"Were you not upon the island with me, at the castle?"
"How could we have gone upon an island, pa, when we were taken from the raft by the ship?"
"Tilly, my child, when I get perfectly well I shall have to tell you of the most extraordinary series of circumstances that has come under my observation during the whole course of my existence!"
Then Professor Baffin closed his eyes and fell into a doze, and Miss Baffin went up to tell the surgeon of the ship Undine
, from Philadelphia to Glasgow, that her father seemed to be getting better.