I went into his room, next day. His sick-headache, or whatever it was, had come on again, and he was lying on his bed. Rutherford's strange old book on the Second Sight lay open before him. "Look there," he said; and I read the motto of a chapter:-- "In sunlight one, In shadow none, In moonlight two, In thunder two, Then comes Death."
I threw the book indignantly from me, and began to invent doggerel, parodying this precious incantation. But Severance did not seem to enjoy the joke, and it grows tiresome to enact one's own farce and do one's own applauding.
For several days after he was laid up in earnest; but instead of getting any mental rest from this, he lay poring over that preposterous book, and it really seemed as if his brain were a little disturbed. Meanwhile I watched the great house, day and night, sought for footsteps, and, by some odd fancy, took frequent observations on the gardener and his wife. Failing to get any clew, I waited one day for Paul's absence, and made a call upon the wife, under pretence of hunting up a missing handkerchief,--for she had been my laundress. I found the handsome, swarthy creature, with her six bronzed children around her, training up the Madeira vine that made a bower of the whole side of her little, black, gambrel-roofed cottage. On learning my errand, she became full of sympathy, and was soon emptying her bureau-drawers in pursuit of the lost handkerchief. As she opened the lowest drawer, I saw within it something which sent all the blood to my face for a moment. It was a black cloth cloak, with a stiff hood two feet long, of precisely the pattern worn by the unaccountable visitant at the window. I turned almost fiercely upon her; but she looked so innocent as she stood there, caressing and dusting with her fingers what was evidently a pet garment, that it was really impossible to denounce her.
"Is that a Bavarian cloak?" said I, trying to be cool and judicial.
Here broke in the eldest boy, named John, aged ten, a native American, and a sailor already, whom I had twice fished up from a capsized punt. "Mother ain't a Bavarian," quoth the young salt. "Father's a Bavarian; mother's a Portegee. Portegees wear them hoods."
"I am a Portuguese, sir, from Fayal," said the woman, prolonging with sweet intonation the soft name of her birthplace. "This is my capote, she added, taking up with pride the uncouth costume, while the children gathered round, as if its vast folds came rarely into sight.
"It has not been unfolded for a year," she said. As she spoke, she dropped it with a cry, and a little mouse sprang from the skirts, and whisked away into some corner. We found that the little animal had made its abode in the heavy woollen, of which three or four thicknesses had been eaten through, and then matted together into the softest of nests. This contained, moreover, a small family of mouselets, who certainly had not taken part in any midnight masquerade. The secret seemed more remote than ever, for I knew that there was no other Portuguese family in the town, and there was no confounding this peculiar local costume with any other.
Returning to Severance's chamber, I said nothing of all this. He was, by an odd coincidence, looking over a portfolio of Fayal sketches made by himself during his late voyage. Among them were a dozen studies of just such capotes as I had seen,--some in profile, completely screening the wearer, others disclosing women's faces, old or young. He seemed to wish to put them away, however, when I came in. Really, the plot seemed to thicken; and it was a little provoking to understand it no better, when all the materials seemed close to one's hands.
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