The green god, p.1
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The Green God

  Produced by Suzanne Shell, Sharon Verougstraete and theOnline Distributed Proofreading Team at





  Frederic Arnold Kummer

  Illustrations by R. F. Schabelitz



  _Published September_





















  The dull October afternoon was rapidly drawing to a close as I passedthrough the village of Pinhoe, and set my steps rather wearily towardExeter. I had conceived the idea, some time before, of walking fromLondon to Torquay, partly because I felt the need of the exercise andfresh air, and partly because I wanted to do some sketching in thesouthwest counties. Perhaps had I realized, when I started out, whatmanner of adventure would befall me in the neighborhood of the town ofExeter, I should have given that place a wide berth. As matters nowstood, my chief concern at the moment was to decide whether or not Icould reach there before the impending storm broke. For a time I hadthought of spending the night at the inn at Pinhoe, but, after a carefulexamination of the wind-swept sky and the masses of dun colored cloudsrolling up from the southwest, I decided that I could cover theintervening five miles and reach the Half Moon Hotel in High streetbefore the coming of the storm. I had left Pinhoe perhaps half a mile tothe rear, when the strong southwest gale whipped into my face some dropsof cold, stinging rain which gave me warning that my calculations as tothe proximity of the storm had been anything but correct. I hesitated,uncertain whether to go forward in the face of the gale, or to beat ahasty retreat to the village, when I heard behind me the sound of anapproaching automobile.

  The car was proceeding at a moderate speed, and as I stepped to the sideof the road to allow it to pass, it slowed up, and I heard a gruff, butnot unpleasant, voice asking me whether I could point out the way toMajor Temple's place. I glanced up, and saw a tall, heavily built man,of perhaps some forty years of age, leaning from the rear seat of themotor. He was bronzed and rugged with the mark of the traveler upon him,and although his face at first impressed me unpleasantly, the impressionwas dispelled in part at least by his peculiarly attractive smile. Iinformed him that I could not direct him to the place in question, sinceI was myself a comparative stranger to that part of England. He thenasked me if I was going toward Exeter. Upon my informing him not onlythat I was, but that I was particularly desirous of reaching it beforethe coming of the rain, he at once invited me to get into the car, withthe remark that he could at least carry me the major part of the way.

  I hesitated a moment, but, seeing no reason to refuse the offer, Ithanked him and got into the car, and we proceeded toward the town at afairly rapid rate. My companion seemed disinclined to talk, and puffednervously at a long cheroot. I lighted my pipe, with some difficulty onaccount of the wind, and fell to studying the face of the man beside me.He was a good-looking fellow, of a sort, with a somewhat sensuous face,and I felt certain that his short, stubby black mustache concealed arather cruel mouth. Evidently a man to gain his ends, I thought, withoutbeing over nice as to the means he employed. Presently he turned to me."I understand," he said, "that Major Temple's place is upon the mainroad, about half a mile this side of Exeter. There is a gray-stonegateway, with a lodge. I shall try the first entrance answering thatdescription. The Major only leased the place recently, so I imagine heis not at all well known hereabouts." He leaned forward and spoke tohis chauffeur.

  I explained my presence upon the Exeter road, and suggested that I wouldleave the car as soon as we reached the gateway in question, andcontinue upon foot the balance of my way. My companion nodded, and wesmoked in silence for a few moments. Suddenly, with a great swirl ofdead leaves, and a squall of cold rain, the storm broke upon us. Theforce of the gale was terrific, and although the car was provided with aleather top, the wind-swept rain poured in and threatened to drench usto the skin. My companion drew the heavy lap-robe close about his chin,and motioned to me to do likewise, and a moment later we turned quicklyinto a handsome, gray-stone gateway and up a long, straight gravel road,bordered on each side by a row of beautiful oaks. I glanced up at my newacquaintance in some surprise, but he only smiled and nodded, so I saidno more, realizing that he could hardly set me down in the face of sucha storm.

  We swirled over the wet gravel for perhaps a quarter of a mile, througha fine park, and with a swift turn at the end brought up under theporte-cochere of a large, gray-stone house of a peculiar and to mesomewhat gloomy and unattractive appearance. The rain, however, was nowcoming down so heavily, and the wind swept with such furious strengththrough the moaning trees in the park, that I saw it would be useless toattempt to proceed against it, either on foot or in the motor, so Ifollowed my companion as he stepped from the machine and rang the bell.After a short wait, the door was thrown open by a servant and wehurriedly entered, my acquaintance calling to the chauffeur as we did soto proceed at once to the stables and wait until the rain had moderatedbefore setting out upon his return journey.

  We found ourselves in a large, dimly lighted hallway. I inspected theman who had admitted us with considerable curiosity as he closed thedoor behind us, not only because of his Oriental appearance--he was aChinaman of the better sort--but also because he was dressed in hisnative garb, his richly embroidered jacket reflecting the faint light ofthe hall with subdued, yet brilliant, effect. He upon his part showednot the slightest interest in our coming, as he inspected us with hischildlike, sleepy eyes. "Tell Major Temple," said my friend to the man,as he handed him his dripping coat and hat, "that Mr. Robert Ashton ishere, and--" He turned to me with a questioning glance. "Owen Morgan," Ireplied, wondering if he would know me by name. If he did, he showed nosign. "Just so--Mr. Owen Morgan," he continued, then strode toward a logfire which crackled and sputtered cheerily upon the hearth of a hugestone fireplace. I gave the man my cap and stick,--I was walking in aheavy Norfolk jacket, my portmanteau having been sent ahead by train toExeter--and joined Mr. Ashton before the fire.

  "I'm afraid I'm rather presuming upon the situation," I suggested, "tomake myself so much at home here; but perhaps the storm will slacken uppresently."

  "Major Temple will be glad to see you, I'm sure," rejoined Mr. Ashton,unconcernedly. "You can't possibly go on, you know--listen!" He wavedhis hand toward the leaded windows against which the storm was nowdriving with furious force.

  "I'm afraid not," I answered, a bit ungraciously. I have a deep-rooteddislike to imposing myself upon strangers, and I felt that myunceremonious arrival at the house of Major Temple might be lessappreciated by that gentleman
than my companion seemed to think likely.

  "The Major is a queer old character," Mr. Ashton remarked, "greattraveler and collector. I'm here on a matter of business myself--partlyat least. He'll be glad to meet you. I fancy he's a bit lonely withnobody to keep him company but his daughter. Here he comes now." Heturned toward a tall, spare man with gray hair and drooping graymustache, who entered the hall. His face, like Ashton's, had the dull,burnt-in tone of brown which is acquired only by long exposure to thesun, and which usually marks its possessor as a traveler in the hotcountries. "Ah, Ashton," exclaimed the Major, dropping his monocle,"delighted to see you. You arrived yesterday?"--He extended his hand,which Ashton grasped warmly.

  "Late yesterday. You see I lost no time in coming to report the resultof my quest."

  "And you were successful?" demanded the older man, excitedly.

  "Entirely so," replied Ashton with a smile of satisfaction.

  "Good--good!" The Major rubbed his hands and smiled, then apparentlyobserving me for the first time, glanced at Mr. Ashton with a slightfrown and an interrogative expression.

  "Mr. Owen Morgan," said Ashton, lightly, "on his way to Exeter with me.I took the liberty of bringing him in, on account of the storm."

  "I am ready to go on at once," I interjected stiffly, "as soon as therain lets up a bit."

  "Nonsense--nonsense!" The Major's voice was somewhat testy. "You can'tpossibly proceed on a night like this. Make yourself at home, Sir. Anyfriend of Mr. Ashton's is welcome here." He waved aside my protestationsand turned to one of the servants, who had entered the room to turn onthe lights. "Show Mr. Ashton and Mr. Morgan to their rooms, Gibson.You'll be wanting to fix up a bit before dinner," he announced.

  "I'm afraid I can't dress," I said ruefully; "my things have all goneon to Exeter by train."

  The Major favored me with a sympathetic smile. "I quite understand," hesaid; "traveler's luck. I've been a bit of a traveler myself, in my day,Mr. Morgan. My daughter will understand perfectly."

  "Which rooms, Sir, shall I show the gentlemen to?" asked the man, atrifle uneasily, I thought.

  The Major looked at Ashton, and laughed. "Ashton," he said, "you know Ionly took this place a short time ago on my return from my last trip tothe East, and as we do not have many visitors, it's a bit musty and outof shape. Queer old house, I fancy. Been closed, until I let it, foryears. Supposed to be haunted or something of the sort--tales ofwandering spirits and all that. I imagine it won't worry you much." Heglanced from Ashton to myself with a quick smile of interrogation.

  "Hardly," replied my companion, lighting a cigarette. "I've outgrownghosts. Lead on to the haunted chamber."

  The Major turned to the servant. "Show the gentlemen to the two rooms inthe west wing, Gibson. The green room will suit Mr. Ashton, I fancy, andperhaps Mr. Morgan will find the white and gold room across the hallcomfortable for the night."

  "Very good, Sir." The man turned toward the staircase and we followedhim.

  I found my room a large and fairly comfortable one, containing a greatmaple bed, a chest of drawers and other furniture of an old-fashionedsort. The place seemed stuffy with the peculiar dead atmosphere of roomslong closed, but I soon dispelled this by throwing open one of thewindows upon that side of the room away from the force of the storm, andbusied myself in making such preparations for dinner as I could with thefew requisites which my small knapsack contained. I heard Ashton acrossthe hall, whistling merrily as he got into evening kit, and rathergrumbled at myself for having been drawn into my present position as anunbidden and unprepared guest in the house of persons who were totalstrangers to me.

  After a considerable time, I heard the musical notes of a Chinese gongwhich I took to be the signal for dinner, so making my way to thestaircase with, I fear, a somewhat sheepish expression, I saw Ashtonahead of me, just joining at the end of the hallway a strikinglybeautiful and distinguished-looking girl, of perhaps twenty-two orthree, dressed in an evening gown of white, the very simplicity of whichonly served to accentuate the splendid lines of her figure. Her face waspale with that healthy pallor which is in some women so beautiful--asort of warm ivory tint--and with her splendid eyes and wide brow,crowded with a mass of bronze-colored hair, I felt that even my criticalartistic taste could with difficulty find a flaw. It was evident thatshe and Mr. Ashton knew each other well, yet it seemed to me that MissTemple, for so I supposed the young lady to be, did not respond withmuch cordiality to the effusive greeting which Mr. Ashton bestowed uponher. I descended the steps some distance behind them, and observed MajorTemple standing in the center of the main hall, smiling with muchapparent satisfaction at the couple ahead of me as they advanced towardhim. As I joined them, Major Temple presented me to his daughter as afriend of Mr. Ashton's, which, it appeared to me, did not predisposethat young lady particularly in my favor, judging by the coldness withwhich she received me, and then we all proceeded to the dining-room.

  The dinner was excellently cooked, and was served by the samealmond-eyed Chinaman who had admitted us upon our arrival. I learnedafterwards that the Major was an enthusiastic student of Oriental art,and that his collection of porcelains and carved ivory and jewels wasone of the finest in England. He had, it appeared, spent a great portionof his life in the East and had only just returned from a stay of over ayear in China, during which he had penetrated far into the interior,into that portion of the country lying toward Thibet, where Europeans donot usually go.

  During dinner, Major Temple and Mr. Ashton talked continually of China,and referred frequently to "it," and to "the stone," although at thetime I did not grasp the meaning of their references. I attemptedwithout much success to carry on a conversation with Miss Temple, butshe seemed laboring under intense excitement and unable to give myefforts any real attention, so I gradually found myself listening to thetalk between Major Temple and Mr. Ashton. As near as I could gather, thelatter had set out from Hong Kong some months before, on a search for acertain stone or jewel which Major Temple desired for his collection,and after an adventurous trip during which he had been forced at therisk of his life to remain disguised as a coolie for some weeks, hadfinally escaped and returned to England. There was also some talk of areward, though of what nature I did not understand, but it seemed togive Mr. Ashton great satisfaction, and to cause Major Temple muchuneasiness every time it was mentioned, and I saw him glance frequently,covertly, at the blanched face of his daughter. As Mr. Ashton broughthis thrilling story to a conclusion, he drew from his waistcoat pocket asmall, green leather case, evidently of Chinese workmanship, and,opening it, turned out upon the white cloth what I at first thought tobe a small figure of green glass, which on closer inspection proved tobe a miniature representation of the god Buddha, standing somewhat abovean inch and a half in height, and wonderfully cut from a singleflawless emerald. I looked up at Ashton in amazement as he allowed thegas light to play upon its marvelous beauty of color and the delicateworkmanship of its face and figure, then rolled it across the tabletoward Miss Temple. It represented the well-known figure of the god,sitting with arms extended upon its knees, its face so exquisitelychiseled that the calm, beneficent smile was as perfect, the features asexact, as though the figure had been of life size. As the wonderfulsparkling gem flashed across the white cloth in the direction of MissTemple, the latter started back in dismay and an expression of intensehorror passed over her face as she looked up and caught the burning eyesof Mr. Ashton fixed upon hers. She returned his gaze defiantly for amoment, then lowered her eyes and composed her features behind the coldand impassive mask she had worn throughout the evening.

  Ashton flushed a sullen red, then picked up the jewel and set itcarelessly upon the top of a cut-glass salt cellar, turning it this wayand that to catch the light. As he did so, I observed the Chineseservant enter the doorway opposite me with cigars, cigarettes and analcohol lamp upon a tray, and I was startled to see his wooden,impassive face light up with a glare of sudden anger and alarm as hecaught sight of the jewel. Major Templ
e, observing him at the samemoment, quickly covered the figure with his hand, and the Chinaman,resuming almost instantly his customary look of childlike unconcern,proceeded to offer us the contents of the tray as Miss Temple rose andleft the table. I instinctively felt that Mr. Ashton and his hostdesired to be alone, so, after lighting my cigar, I excused myself andstrolled into the great hall where I stood with my back to the welcomefire, listening to the howling of the storm without.

  I had been standing there for perhaps fifteen minutes or more, whensuddenly I observed Miss Temple come quickly into the hall from a dooron the opposite side of the stairway. She looked about cautiously for amoment, then approached me with an eager, nervous smile. I could nothelp observing, as she drew near, how the beauty of her delicate, mobileface was marred by her evident suffering. Her large dark eyes wereswollen and heavy as from much weeping and loss of sleep.

  "You are a friend of Mr. Ashton's," she asked earnestly as she came upto me. "Have you known him long?"

  "Miss Temple, I am afraid I can hardly claim to be a friend of Mr.Ashton's at all. As a matter of fact I never met him before thisafternoon."

  She seemed vastly surprised. "But I thought you came with him," shesaid.

  I explained my presence, and mentioned my work, and my purpose in makinga walking tour along the southwest coast.

  "Then you are Owen Morgan, the illustrator," she cried, with abrilliant smile. "I know your work very well, and I am delighted to meetyou. I was afraid you, too, were in the conspiracy." Her face darkened,and again the expression of suffering fell athwart it like the shadow ofa cloud.

  "The conspiracy?" I asked, much mystified. "What conspiracy?"

  Miss Temple looked apprehensively toward the door leading to thedining-room, then her eyes sought mine and she gave me a searching look."I am all alone here, Mr. Morgan," she said at last, "and I need afriend very badly. I wonder if I can depend upon you--trust you."

  It is needless to say that I was surprised at her words, as well as theimpressive manner in which she spoke them. I assured her that I would beonly too happy to serve her in any way in my power. "But what is it thatyou fear?" I inquired, soothingly, wondering if after all I was notdealing with a somewhat excitable child. Her next words, however,showed me that this was far from being the case.

  "My father," she said, hurriedly, lowering her voice, "is a madman onthe subject of jewels. He has spent his whole life in collecting them.He would give anything--anything!--to possess some curio upon which hehad set his desires. Last year, in China, he saw by accident the emeraldyou have just seen. It was the sacred relic of a Buddhist temple in PingYang, and is said to have come from the holy city of Lhasa in Thibet.His offers to purchase it were laughed at, and when he persisted inthem, he was threatened with violence as being a foreign devil and wasforced to leave the city to avoid trouble. He has never since ceased tocovet this jewel, and upon his arrival in Hong Kong, and before settingout for England, he made the acquaintance of this man Ashton, who is asort of agent and collector for several of the curio dealers in London.We remained in Hong Kong for several weeks before setting sail forEngland, and during this time, Mr. Ashton persecuted me with hisattentions, and made me an offer of marriage, which, in spite of myrefusal, he repeated several times. Imagine my amazement, then, when myfather, on our arrival in England, told me that he had commissioned Mr.Ashton to obtain the emerald Buddha for him, and had agreed, in theevent of his success, to give him my hand in marriage. My prayers, myappeals, were all equally useless. He informed me that Mr. Ashton was agentleman, that he had given him his word, and could not break it. I wasforced into a semi-acquiescence to the arrangement, believing that Mr.Ashton could never succeed in his mad attempt, and had almost forgottenthe matter when suddenly my father received word from Mr. Ashton that hehad arrived at Southampton yesterday and would reach here this evening.I went to my father and asked him to assure me that he would not insistupon carrying out his inhuman promise, in the event of Mr. Ashton'ssuccess, but he only put me off, bidding me wait until the result of histrip was known. I learned it at dinner to-night, and realize from Mr.Ashton's manner that he intends to assert his claim upon me to thefullest extent. Whatever happens, Mr. Morgan, I shall never marry RobertAshton--never! I would do anything before I would consent to that. I donot know what my father will ask of me, but if he asks that, I shallleave this house to-morrow, and I beg that you will take me with you,until I can find some occupation that will enable me to support myself."

  Her story filled me with the deepest astonishment. I thrust out my handand grasped hers, carried away by the fervor and impetuosity of herwords, as well as by her beauty and evident suffering. "You can dependupon me absolutely," I exclaimed. "My mother is at Torquay, to whichplace I am bound. She will be glad to welcome you, Miss Temple."

  "Thank you--thank you!" she cried in her deep, earnest voice. "Do notleave in the morning until I have seen you. Good-night." She hastenedtoward the stairway and as she ascended it, threw back at me a smile ofsuch sweet gratitude and relief that I felt repaid for all that I hadpromised.

  I stood for a while, smoking and thinking over this queer situation,when suddenly my attention was attracted by the sound of loud voicescoming from the direction of the dining-room, as though Major Temple andhis guest were engaged in a violent quarrel. I could not make out whatthey were saying, nor indeed did I attempt to do so, when suddenly I wasstartled by the sound of a loud crash and the jingling of glassware, andMr. Ashton burst into the hall, evidently in a state of violent anger,followed by Major Temple, equally excited and angry. "I hold you toyour contract," the former shouted. "By God, you'll live up to it, orI'll know the reason why." "I'll pay, damn it, I'll pay," cried MajorTemple, angrily, "but not a penny to boot." Ashton turned and faced him.They neither of them saw me, and in their excitement failed to hear thecough with which I attempted to apprise them of my presence. "Don't yourealize that that emerald is worth a hundred thousand pounds?" criedAshton in a rage. "You promised me your daughter, if I got it for you,but you've got to pay me for the stone in addition."

  "Not a penny," cried Major Temple.

  "Then I'll take it to London and let Crothers have it."

  "You wouldn't dare."

  "Try me and see."

  "Come, now, Ashton." The Major's voice was wheedling, persuasive. "Whatdid the stone cost you--merely the cost of the trip, wasn't it? I'llpay that, if you like."

  "And I risked my life a dozen times, to get you the jewel! You must bemad."

  "How much do you want?"

  "Fifty thousand pounds, and not a penny less."

  "I'll not pay it."

  "Then you don't get the stone."

  "It's mine--I told you of it. Without my help you could have donenothing. I demand it. It is my property. You were acting only as myagent. Give it to me." Major Temple was beside himself with excitement.

  "I'll see you damned first," cried Ashton, now thoroughly angry.

  The Major glared at him, pale with fury. "I'll never let you leave thehouse with it," he cried.

  By this time my repeated coughing and shuffling of my feet had attractedtheir attention, and they both hastened to conceal their anger. I felthowever that I had heard too much as it was, so, bidding them a hastygood-night, I repaired as quickly as possible to my room and at onceturned in.

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