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Full text of "A Book of Bargains (1896) - Vincent James O'Sullivan"

A Book of Bargains 








VINCENT 0' SULLIVAN 



A BOOK OF BARGAINS 




[p. Q2, 



A BOOK OF 

BARGAINS 



BY 



VINCENT O'SULLIVAN 



WITH A FRONTISPIECE BY 

AUBREY BEARDSLEY 




LEONARD SMITHERS 
ROYAL ARCADE: OLD BOND STREET 

LONDON W 
1S96 



CONTENTS 



THE FIRST BARGAIN 

PAGE 

The Bargain of Rupert Orange ..... i 



THE SECOND BARGAIN 

My Enemy and Myself . . . -59 

THE THIRD BARGAIN 
The Business of Madame jahn .... 75 

THE FOURTH BARGAIN 

A Study in Murder 97 

THE FIFTH BARGAIN 



Original Sin 1 



*6 



II 



THE SIXTH BARGAIN 
When I was Dead 127 

THE SEVENTH BARGAIN 
Hugo Raven's Hand 141 



THE 
BARGAIN OF RUPERT ORANGE 



B 



THE 
BARGAIN OF RUPERT ORANGE 

I 

The marvel is, that the memory of Rupert 
Orange, whose name was a signal for chatter 
amongst people both in Europe and America 
not many years ago, has now almost died out. 
Even in New York where he was born, and 
where the facts of his secret and mysterious 
life were most discussed, he is quite forgotten. 
At times, indeed, some old lady will whisper 
to you at dinner, that a certain young man 
reminds her of Rupert Orange, only he is not 
so handsome ; but she is one of those who 
keep the mere incidents of their past much 



4 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

more brightly polished than the important 
things of their present. The men who wor- 
shipped him, who copied his clothes, his walk, 
his mode of pronouncing words, and his 
manner of saying things, stare vaguely when 
he is mentioned. And the other day at a 
well-known club I was having some general 
talk with a man whose black hair is shot with 
white, when he exclaimed somewhat suddenly : 
*' How little one hears about Rupert Orange 
now ! " and then added : " I wonder what became 
of him ? " As to the first part of this speech I 
kept my mouth resolutely shut ; for how could I 
deny his saying, since I had lately seen a weed- 
covered grave with the early moss growing 
into the letters on the headstone ? As to the 
second part, it is now my business to set 
forth the answer to that : and I think when 
the fire begins to blaze it will lighten certain 
recollections which have become dark. Of 



THE BARGAIN OF RUPERT ORANGE. 5 

course, there are numberless people who never 
heard the story of Rupert Orange ; but there 
are also crowds of men and women who 
followed his brilliant life with intense interest, 
while his shameful death will be in many a 
one's remembrance* 

The knowledge of this case I got over a year 
ago ; and I would have written then, had my 
hands been free. But there has recently died 
at Vienna the Countess de Volnay, whose 
notorious connection with Orange was at one 
time the subject of every man's bruit. Her I 
met two years since in Paris, where she was 
living like a work-woman, I learned that she 
had sold her house, and her goods she had 
given to the poor. She was still a remarkable 
woman, though her great beauty had faded, 
and despite a restless, terrified manner, which 
gave one the monstrous idea that she always 
felt the devil looking over her shoulder. Her 



6 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

hair was white as paper, and yet she was far 
from the age when women cease to grin in 
ball-rooms. A great fear seemed to have 
sprung to her face and been paralyzed there : 
a fear which could be detected in her shaking 
voice. It was from her that I learned 
certain primary facts of this narration ; and 
she cried to me not to publish them till I 
heard of her death — as a man on the gallows 
sometimes asks the hangman not to adjust 
the noose too tight round his neck. I am 
altogether sure that what Orange himself told 
her, he never told any one else. I wish I had 
her running tongue instead of my slow pen, 
and then I would not be writing slovenly 
and clumsily, doubtless, for the relation ; 
vainly, I am afraid, for the moral. 

Now Rupert Orange lived with his aunt in 
New York till he was twenty-four years old, 
and when she died, leaving her entire estate 



THE BARGAIN OF RUPERT ORANGE. J 

to him, a furious contest arose over the will. 
Principal in the contest was Mrs. Annice, 
the wife of a discarded nephew ; and she 
prosecuted the cause with the pertinacity and 
virulence which we often find in women of 
thirty. So good a pursuivant did she prove, 
that she and her husband leaped suddenly 
from indigence to great wealth : for the Court 
declared that the old lady had died lunatic ; 
that she had been unduly influenced ; and, 
that consequently her testament was void. 
But this decision, which raised them up, 
brought Rupert to the ground. There is no 
worse fall than the fall of a man from 
opulence to poverty; and Rupert, after his 
luxurious rearing, had to undergo this fall. 
Yet he had the vigour and confidence of the 
young. His little verses and sonnets had 
been praised when he was an amateur ; now 
he undertook to make his pen a bread- 



8 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

winner — with the direst results. At first, 
nothing would do him but the great 
magazines ; and from these, week after week, 
he received back his really clever articles, 
accompanied by cold refusals. Then for 
months he hung about the offices of every 
outcast paper, waiting for the editor. When 
at length the editor did come, he generally 
told Rupert that he had promised all his 
outlying work to some bar-room acquaintance. 
So push by push he was brought to his 
knees ; and finally he dared not walk out till 
nightfall, for fear some of those who knew him 
in prosperity might witness his destitution. 

One night early in December, about six 
o'clock, he left the mean flat-house on the 
west side of the city in which he occupied 
one room, and started (as they say in New 
York) " up town." The snow had frozen in 
lumps, and the gas lamps gleamed warmly 



THE BARGAIN OF RUPERT ORANGE. 9 

on it for the man who had not seen a fire 
in months. When he reached Fifty-ninth 
Street, he turned east and skirted Central 
Park till he came to the Fifth Avenue. And 
here a sudden fancy seized him to walk this 
street, which shame and pride had kept him 
off since his downfall. He had not proceeded 

far, when he was stopped by an old man. 
" Can you tell me, sir," says the old man, 

politely, li if this street runs on further than 

Central Park?" 

"Oh, yes/' answered Rupert, scraping at 

his throat ; for he had not spoken to a soul 

for five days, and the phlegm had gathered. 

" It goes up a considerable distance from 

here." 

" You'll forgive me asking you," went on 

the ancient. " I am only passing through the 

city, and I want to find out all I can/' 
" You're quite welcome," said Orange. 



10 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

"That," he added, pointing, "is St. Luke's 
Hospital." 

They spoke a few more sentences, then as 
the stranger turned "down town," Rupert fell 
in with his walk. He did this partly because 
he was craving for fellowship; partly, too, from 
that feeling which certain men have — men 
who have never done anything for themselves 
in this world, and never will do anything— 
that distant relations, and even total strangers, 
are apt at any moment to fling fortunes into 
their hands. As they proceeded along the 
avenue, Orange turned to survey his companion. 
A shrewd wind was blowing, and it tossed 
the old gentleman's long beard over his 
shoulder, and ruffled the white hair under his 
soft hat. His clothes were plain, even shabby; 
and he had an odd trick of planting his feet 
on the ground without bending his knees, as 
though his legs were broomsticks. Orange 



THE BARGAIN OF RUPERT ORANGE. II 

thought, bitterly enough ! how short a time 
had passed since the days when he would 
have taken poison as an alternative to walking 
down the Fifth Avenue with such an asso- 
ciate. Now they were equal : or indeed the 
old man was the better off of the two : for 
if he wore impossible broad- toed boots, Orange 
had to stamp his feet to keep the cold from 
striking through his worn-out shoes. What 
cared he for the criticism of the smart, well- 
fed " Society " now, when numbers of that far 
greater society, of which he was one, were 
starving in garrets ! As he thought these 
things, a late afternoon reception began to 
pour out its crowds, and a young man and 
a girl, who had known Rupert in the days 
of his prosperity, came forth and glared with 
contempt at the two mean passengers. Not 
a muscle in Rupert's face quivered : he even 
afforded those two the tribute of a sneer. 



12 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

When the pair of walkers reached Thirty- 
fourth Street they switched into Broadway. 
A silence had fallen between them, and it 
was in silence they paraded the thoroughfare. 
Here all was garish light and glare ; carriages 
darted to and fro, restaurants were thronged, 
theatres ablaze, women smiling : everything 
told of a great city starting a night of 
pleasure. Besides the love of pleasure which 
was his main characteristic, Orange was 
distinctly gregarious ; and the sight of all this 
joy, which he had once revelled in himself, 
struck like a knife into his hungry, lonely 
heart. At that moment he thought he would 
give his very soul to get some money, 

" All these people seem happy," says the old 
man, suddenly. 

"Yes," replied Orange. "They are happy 
enough ! '* 

The old man caught the reply, and noticed 



THE BARGAIN OF RUPERT ORANGE. 13 

the sour twang in it. He looked up quickly 
and saw that Rupert's eyes watered. 

"Why, man," he exclaimed, " I believe you're 
crying ! or perhaps you're cold I Come in here, 
come right in to the Hoffman House ! " he 
went on, tugging at Rupert's coat, 

Rupert hesitated. The sensitiveness of one 
who had never taken a favour which he could 
not repay, held him back. But the desire for 
warmth and sympathy prevailed, so he entered. 
The usual crowd of loafers was about the bar, 
and those who composed it looked scoffingly at 
Orange's shiny overcoat and time-eaten trousers. 
Believe me, the man in rags is not half so 
pitiable as the poor creature who tries to 
maintain the appearance of a gentleman : the 
man who inks seams by night which grow all 
white by day; who keeps his fingers close 
pressed to his palm lest the rents in his 
glove be seen ; who walks with his arm across 



14 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

his breast for fear his coat should fly open 
and proclaim its lack of buttons. Even the 
waiters looked disparagingly at Orange ; and 
a waiter's jibes, or any flunkey's, are, perhaps, 
the sorest of all. But the old man, without 
noticing, sat down at a table and ordered 
a bottle of champagne. When the wine was 
brought, the two sat together some time in 
a muse. Then, of a sudden, the graybeard 
broke out. 

"Wealth!" he cried, staring into Rupert's 
eyes, " wealth is the only thing worth striving 
for in this world ! Your tub-philosophers may 
laugh at it, but they only laugh to keep away 
from themselves a cankering envy and desire 
which would be more bitter than their present 
lack. Let any man whom you call a genius 
arrive at this hotel to-night, and let a millionaire 
arrive at the same moment, and I'll bet you 
the millionaire gets the attention every time ! 



THE BARGAIN OF RUPERT ORANGE. 15 

A millionaire travels round the earth, and 
he gets respect everywhere he goes — why ? 
Because he buys it. That's the way to get 
respect in the nineteenth century — buy it ! Do 
the fine works of art which are sold each 
year go to the pauper student who worships 
them? No, sir, they go to the man who has 
the money, and who shells out the biggest 
price. I repeat, my young friend, that what's 
there " (and he slapped his pocket) " is what 
counts in the struggle of life." 

'* I agree with you," answered Orange, " that 
money counts for a great deal." 

" A great deal ! " repeated the other, scornfully, 
being now, perhaps, somewhat warmed with 
wine. " A great deal ! what have you to offer 
instead ? Religion ? Ministers are the parasites 
of rich men. Art ? Go into the studio of any 
friend of yours to-morrow, and see whom he'll 
speak to first — you, or the man with a cheque 



l6 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

in his hand. Why, if a poor man had the 
brains of Shakespeare, or our Emerson, and 
was mud-splashed by the carriage wheels of 
a wealthy woman, the only answer to his 
protests would be a policeman's ' move on ! ' " 

"I know it! I know it!" cried Orange, in 
anguish. " I know it fifty times better than 
you do ! I tell you I would sell my whole 
life now, for one year's perfect enjoyment of 
riches." 

"Not one year," said the graybeard, leaning 
over the table and speaking so intensely that 
Rupert could hardly follow him. His old face 
had become ghastly and looked livid in 
contrast to the white hair. " Not one year, my 
boy, but five years ! Think, only think, of the 
gloriousness of it all ! This evening a despised 
pauper, to-morrow a rich man ! Take courage, 
make up your mind to yield your life at the 
end of five years, and in return I will promise 



THE BARGAIN OF RUPERT ORANGE. 17 

you, pledge you, that to-morrow morning you 
shall be in as sound a financial position as 
any man in New York." 

Now it is strange that this outrageous 
proposal, made in the bar-room of an hotel 
situate in one of the most prosaic cities in 
the world, did not strike Rupert Orange as at 
all preposterous. Probably on account of his 
mystical, dreaming mind, he never took thought 
to doubt the speaker's sincereness, but at once 
fell to balancing the advantages and drawbacks 
of the scheme. 

Five years ! Before his young eyes they 
stretched out like fifty years. It did not occur 
to him (it rarely occurs to any young man) 
to hark back to the five preceding years and 
note how few and swift were the strides 
which brought him over them to this very day 
he was living. Five years ! They lay before 
him all silver with sunshine, as he looked 



l8 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

out from his present want and darkness. 
This was his point of view; and let us 
never forget this point of view when we are 
passing judgment on him. No doubt, if the 
matter had been placed before a man of wealth, 
he would have denied it even momentary 
consideration : but the smell of cooking is only 
disgusting to one who has dined ; it is the 
vagrant who sniffs eagerly the air of the kitchen 
through the iron grating on the street. For 
Rupert, at this moment, money meant all the 
world. He was a man who hated to face the 
bitter things of life : and money included release 
from insolent creditors, from snubs and flouts, 
from a small, cold, dark room, and, chief of 
all ! release from that horror which he saw 
drawing nearer and nearer : the gaol. 

" There is one more word to be said," observed 
the old man, smoothly. ''Leaving aside the 
contingency of your starving to death — which, 



THE BARGAIN OF RUPERT ORANGE. ig 

by the way, I think very likely — there is a 
chance of your being run over by a cart when 
you leave this hotel. There is an even chance 
of your contracting some disease during the 
winter. How would you like to die in a 
pauper hospital, where the nurses sing as they 
close a dead man's eyes ? Now, what I 
propose is, that you shall be free from any 
physical pain for five years." 

" If I should accept," said Orange, swirling 
the wine round in his glass till it creamed and 
foamed, " I'd desire some slight ills to take 
the very sweetness out of life." Probably he 
meant, for fear that when his time came he 
should hate to die. 

He thought again. He was like to a man 
who arrives suddenly at a mountain village 
on the feast of the Blessed Sacrament, and 
loitering in the street with his eyes enchaunted 
by the tawdry decorations and festoons of 



20 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

the houses, forgets to look beyond at the 
aweful mountain standing against the sky, 
with menacing thunder clouds about its 
breast. Before Orange's mind a gay and 
tempting pageant denied. He thought of the 
travels he would be able to make, of luxurious 
palaces, of exquisite banquets, of priceless 
wines, of laughing, rapturous women. He 
thought, too, for he was far from being a 
merely sensuous man, of the first editions 
he could buy, of the rare gems, of dainty 
bindings. Sweetest of all were the thoughts, 
that he would be at his ease to do the best 
work that it was in him to do, and that he 
would be powerful enough to wreak his 
vengeance on his enemies very slowly, inch by 
inch. With that, like the crack of a rifle 
shot, came the thought of Mrs. Annice. 

He sprang to his feet. " Listen ! " he cried, 
in such a voice that the idlers at the bar 



THE BARGAIN OF RUPERT ORANGE, 21 

turned round for a moment ; but observing that 
no row was in progress to divert them, they 
fell once more to their drinking. " Listen ! " 
cried Rupert Orange again, gripping the 
side of the table with one hand and pointing 
a shaking ringer at the old man. "There is 
one woman alive in this city to-night who 
has brought me to the degradation which 
you witness now. She flung me to the 
ground, she covered me with dust, she crushed 
me beneath her merciless heel ! Give her to me 
that I may lower her pride ! let me see her as 
abject and despised as the poorest trull that 
walks the streets, and I swear by God Most 
High to make the bargain ! " 

The old man grasped Rupert's cold hand, 
and pressed it between his own feverishly hot 
palms. " It is an unusual taste," he murmured, 
glancing into Rupert's eyes, and smiling 
faintly. 



22 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 



II 

Orange started " up town " with a song in his 
heart. Curiously enough, he had not the 
slightest doubt about the genuineness of the 
contract, nor had he the least sorrow for 
what he had done. It mattered little about 
snubs and side looks to-night: to-morrow men 
and women would joyfully begin pawing him 
and fawning. So happy was he, his blood 
danced through his veins so merrily, that he 
ran for three or four blocks; and once he 
laughed a loud laugh, which caused a police- 
man to menace him with a club. But this 
only brought him more merriment ; to-morrow, 
if he liked, he could laugh from Central 
Park to Madison Square without molestation. 

When he reached the mean flat-house on the 
west side, there was, as usual, no light in the 



THE BARGAIN OF RUPERT ORANGE. 23 

entrance, and he saw a postman groping 
among the bells. 

" Say, young feller ! " began the postman, 
" do you know if any one by the name of 
Orange is kickin' around this blamed house ? ' 

" I am he," said Rupert Grange, and held 
out his hand for the letter. 

" Yes, you are ! " answered the postman, 
derisively. " Now then, come off the roof and 
shew us the bell.*' 

Rupert indicated the place, and, as soon as 
the postman had dropped the letter, he whipped 
out his key, and to the postman's surprise 
unlocked the box and put the letter in his 
pocket. 

"Well! you see my business is to deliver 
Utters, not to give them away/' said the 
postman, making an official distinction. " When 
you said you was the man, how was I to know 
you wasn't givin' me a steer ? " 



24 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

"Oh, that's all right!" replied Rupert. 
" Good night, my friend." 

He went upstairs to his freezing little room, 
and sat down to think. He would not open 
the letter yet : his mind was too crowded to 
admit any new emotion. So for two hours 
he remained dreaming brilliant and fantastic 
dreams, Then he tore open the envelope. He 
was so poor that the gas had been turned off 
from his room, but by the light of a match 
he read a communication from Messrs. Daroll 
and Kettel, the lawyers, setting forth that a 
distant relative of his had recently died in a 
town in one of the Southern States, and had 
left him a fortune of nearly a million dollars 
But Rupert knew that this million dollars was 
only nominal, that money would remain with 
him as long as he could call life his own. 

The char- woman who came into his room 
next morning, found him asleep in the chair, 



THE BARGAIN OF RUPERT ORANGE. 25 

with the letter open on his knee, and a smile 
lighting his face. But he was only a pauper, 
in arrears for his rent, so she struck him smartly 
between the shoulders with her broom, 

" I believe I've been asleep/' said Rupert, 
starting and rubbing his eyes. The woman 
looked at him sourly, thinking that he 
would have to take his next sleep in one 
of the parks. She began to sweep the dust 
in his direction till he coughed violently. 

M You have been very good to me since I've 
been here, Mrs. Spill," Rupert continued; and, 
I think, without irony: he had not much idea 
of irony. He took from his pocket the last 
five-dollar bill he had in the world and gave 
it to her. " Please take that for your trouble." 

The woman stared at him, as she would have 
stared had he cut his throat before her eyes. 
But Orange clapped on his hat and rushed out. 
He had not even the five cents necessary to 



26 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

travel down town in a horse-car, so he walked 
the distance to the office of Messrs. Daroll and 
Kettel, in Pine Street. He approached a fat 
clerk (who, decked as he was with doubtful 
jewellery, looked as if he were honouring the 
office by being in it at all), and asked if Mr. 
Kettel was within. Now it is something worthy 
of note, that I have often called on men occupied 
with difficult texts; or painting pictures; or 
writing novels; and each one had been able to 
let go his work at once : while, on the other 
hand, it is your part to await the pleasure of a 
clerk, till he has finished his enthralling occupa- 
tion. True to his breed, the fat man kept 
Rupert standing before him for about three 
minutes, till he had elaborately finished a 
copy of a bill of details; and then looking 
up, and seeing only a shabby fellow, he asked 

sharply : — 

"Eh? What do you say?" 



THE BARGAIN OF RUPERT ORANGE. 27 

Rupert repeated his question. 

" Yes, I guess he's in, but this is his busy 
day. You just sit right down there, young 
man, and he'll see you when he gets good 
and ready." 

The hard knocks which Rupert had received 
in his contest with the world had taken out of 
him the self-assertion that goes with wealth : 
so he sat for half an hour, knowing well, mean- 
while, that his clothes were a cause for laughter 
to the underbred and badly trained clerks. At 
length he somewhat timidly went over to the 
desk again. 

" Perhaps if you would be kind enough to 
take my name in to Mr. Kettel — " 

11 Oh, look here, you make me tired ! " 
exclaimed the fat clerk, irritably. "Didn't I 
tell you that he was busy? Now, I don't 
want to see you monkeying round this desk 
any more ! If you don't want to wait, why 



28 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

the walking's pretty good ! ■ This young 

man says he wants to see you," he added, as 
Mr, Kettel came out of his private room. 

" Well, sir, what do you want to-day ? " asked 
Mr. Kettel, with that most offensive tone and 
air which some misguided men imagine will 
impress the spectator as a manner for the man 
of great affairs. c( You had better call round 
some other time; we're not able to attend—" 
he was going on, when he happened to look 
narrowly into Rupert's face, and his manner 
changed in a second. "Why, my dear boy, 
how are you ! it's so long since I've seen you, 
that I didn't know you at first. And, how 
you've changed ! " he went on, and could not 
help a glance at Rupert's shabby dress ; for 
he was quite ignoble. Then this remark 
seeming of questionable taste even to him, he 
cried heartily ; "But come into my private 
room, and we can have a good long chat!' 



THE BARGAIN OF RUPERT ORANGE. 20. 

And in he went, with Rupert at his heels, 
leaving the fat clerk at gaze. 

In a week Rupert was once more dawdling 
about clubs, and attending those social functions 
which go to make up what is called "a Season." 
Above all, he was listening to an appalling 
variety of apologetic lies. To the average 
man who said : " We didn't know when on 
earth you were coming back from Europe, 
my dear fellow ; how did you like it over 
there ? " he could answer with a grave face ; 
but the women were different. One particular 
afternoon he was at a reception, when he 
heard a lady near him remark in clear accents 
to her friend : " You can't think how we 
missed that dear Mr. Orange while he was 
away in Africa ! " and this struck Rupert as 
so grotesque that he apparently laughed. Amid 
this social intercourse, however, he avoided 
sedulously a meeting with Mrs. Annice; he had 



30 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

decided not to see her for a while. Indeed, it 

was not till an evening late in February, after 

dinner, that he took a cab to her house near 

Washington Square. Fie found her at home, 

and had not waited a minute before she came 

into the room. She was a tall woman, and 

wonderfully handsome by gaslight ; but she 

had that tiresome habit, which many women 

have, of talking intensely — in italics, as it were : 

a habit found generally in women ill brought 

up— women without control of their feelings, or 

command of the expression of them. 

" My dear, dear Rupert, how glad I am to 

see you," she exclaimed, throwing a white fluffy 
cloak off her bare shoulders, and holding out 
both hands as she glided towards him. " It is 
so long, that I really thought we were never 
going to see you again. But I am so glad. And 
how very fortunate that legacy was for you — 
just when I suppose you were working fearfully 



THE BARGAIN OF RUPERT ORANGE, 31 

hard. I was quite delighted when I heard of 
it, and my husband too. He would have been 
so pleased to have seen you, but he is dining 
out to-night." 

There was a tone of too much hypocrisy about 
all this, and Rupert made full allowance for it. 
He chatted in his easy way about his good 
fortune, and recited some details. 

" I suppose there is not the slightest possibility 
of a flaw in the will ? " says Mrs. Ann ice, 
regarding him keenly. The lines round her 
mouth had become hard, but she kept on 
smiling : she had some traits like Macbeth's 
wife. 

Orange laughed his bright, merry laugh which 

so few could resist. (< Oh no, I think it's all 
right this time ! " he said, and looked at her 
steadfastly with his fine eyes. 

Mrs. Annice suddenly flushed, and then 
shuddered. Her heart began to throb, her 



32 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

head to whirl. What was the matter with 
her ? What was this cursed sensation 
which was mastering her ? She, with 
her self-poise, her deliberateness, her cal- 
culation, was, in the flash of an eye, 
brought to feel towards this man, whom 
but a moment ago she had hated more than 
any one in the world, as she had never felt 
towards man before. It was not love, this 
wretched thraldom, it was not even admiration ; 
it was a wild desire to abnegate herself, 
annihilate herself, in this man's personality ; 
to become his bond-woman, the slave of his 
controlling will. She drove the nails into her 
palms, and crushed her lips between her teeth, 
as she rose to her feet and made one desperate 
try for victory. 

" I was just going to the opera when you 
came in, Rupert/' she said ; " won't you come 
in my box ? " — and her voice had so changed, 



THE BARGAIN OF RUPERT ORANGE. 33 

there was such a note of tenderness and 
desire in it, that it seemed as if she had 
exposed her soul. But even in her dis- 
organized state she was conscious that there 
would be a certain distinction in appearing 
at the opera with the re-edified Rupert 
Orange. 

Rupert murmured something about the opera 
being such a bore, and at that moment the 
footman announced the carriage. 

" Won't you come ? " asked Mrs. Annice, 
standing with her white hand resting on the 
back of a chair. 

il I think not/' answered Rupert, with a 
smile. 

She dismissed the carriage. As soon as the 
servant had gone she tried to make some 
trivial remark, and, half turning, looked at 
Orange, who rose. For an instant those two 
stood gazing into each other's eyes with God 



34 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

knows what hell in their hearts, and then, 
with a little cry, that was half a sob, she 
flung her arms about his neck, and pressed 
her kisses on his lips. 



THE BARGAIN OF RUPERT ORANGE. 35 



III 

Yesterday afternoon I took from amongst 
my books a novel of Rupert Orange, and as 
I turned over the leaves, I fell to pondering 
how difficult it is to obtain any of his works 
to-day, while but a few years ago all the 
world was reading them ; and to lose myself 
in amaze at our former rapturous and enthu- 
siastic admiration of his literary art, his wit, 
his pathos. For in truth his art is a very 
tawdry art to my present liking ; his wit is 
rather stale, his pathos a little vulgar. And 
the charm has likewise gone out of his 
poetry : even his ** Chaunt of the Storm- 
Witch," which we were used to think so 
melodious and sonorous, now fails to please. 
To explain the precise effect which his poetry 
has upon me now, I am forced to resort to 



36 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

a somewhat unhappy figure ; I am forced to 
say that his poetry has an effect on me like 
sifted ashes I I cannot in the least explain 
this figure ; and if it fail to convey any idea 
to the reader, I am afraid the failure must 
be set down to my clumsy writing. And yet 
what praise we all bestowed on these works 
of Rupert Orange ! How eagerly we watched 
for them to appear ; how we prized them ; 
with what zeal we studied the newspapers for 
details of his interesting and successful life ! 

A particular account of that brilliant and 
successful life it would ill become me to 
chronicle, even if I were so minded : it was 
with no purpose of relating his social and 
literary triumphs, his continual victories during 
five years in the two fields he had chosen to 
conquer, that I started to write. But in 
dwelling on his life, we must not forget to 
take account of these triumphs. They were 



THE BARGAIN OF RUPERT ORANGE. 37 

very rare, very proud, very precious triumphs, 
both in Europe and in the United States ; 
triumphs that few men ever enjoy ; triumphs 
which were potent enough to deaden the pallid 
thought of the curious limits of his life, except 
on three sombre occasions. 

It was on the first night of a new opera at 
Covent Garden. Orange was in a box with a 
notable company, and was on the point of 
leaning over to whisper something amusing to 
the beautiful Countess of Heston, when of a 
sudden he shot white, and the smile left his 
face as if he had received a blow. On the 
stage a chorus had commenced in a very low 
tone of passionate entreaty ; by degrees it 
swelled louder and louder, till it burst forth 
into a tremendous agonized prayer for pity 
and pardon. As Orange listened, such a 
dreary sense of the littleness of life, such an 
aweful fear of death, sang through his brain, 



38 A BOOK OF BARGAINS, 

that he grew sick, and shivered in a cold 
sweat. 

"Why, I'm afraid Mr. Orange is ill!" 
exclaimed the Countess. 

" No, no ! " muttered Orange, groping for 
his hat. " Only a little faint ; want some 
air ! — I tell you I want some air ! " he broke 
out in a voice that was like a frightened 
cry, as he fumbled with the door of the box. 

A certain man with a kind heart followed 
him into the foyer. 

** Can I do anything for you, old chap ? " 

" Yes ; in the name of God leave me alone !" 
replied Orange ; and he said it in such a 
tone, and with a face so frightfully contorted, 
that those standing about fell back feeling 
queer, and the questioner returned to the box 
very gravely, and thought on his soul for the 
rest of the evening. 

But Orange rushed out, and he hailed a 



THE BARGAIN OF RUPERT ORANGE. 39 

hansom, and he drove till the cabman refused 
to drive any more ; and then he walked ; and 
it was not till he found himself on Putney 
Heath in his evening dress, at half-past 
twelve the next day, that the devil left him. 
About two years after this occurrence he 
was wandering one Sunday evening in Chelsea, 
and hearing a church bell ring for the usual 
service, he decided to enter. As he sat 
waiting, a little girl of four or five, with her 
mother, came in and sat by him : and Rupert 
talked to the child in his quaint, winning 
way, and so won her, that when the service 
began she continued to cling to his hand. 
After a while the sermon commenced, and the 
preacher, taking for his text the words; "And 
he died" from the fifth chapter of Genesis, 
tried to set forth the suddenness and unwel- 
comeness of death, even to the long-lived 
patriarchs, and its increased suddenness and 



40 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

unwelcomeness to most of us. The sermon 
I suppose, was dull and commonplace enough, 
but if the speaker had verily seen into the 
mind of one of his listeners, the effect could 
not have been more disastrous. Orange watted 
till the torture became unbearable, till he 
could actually feel the horrid, stifling weight 
of earth pressing him down in his coffin, and 
keeping him there for ages and ages : then 
with a heavy groan he started up, and rushed 
forth with such vehemence, that he knocked 
down and trampled on the little girl, in his 
haste to get out of sight of the white faces 
of people scared at his face, and the child's 
sad cry was borne to him out in the dark street. 
The third occasion on which this sense of 
despair and loss oppressed him, was at a 
time when he was near a rugged coast. One 
stormy day he rode to a certain promontory, 
and came suddenly in sight of the great sea. 



THE BARGAIN OF RUPERT ORANGE. 41 

As he stood watching a lonely gull, that 
strained, and swooped, and dipped in the 
surge, while the rain drizzled, and the wind 
whined through the long grass, the futility of 
his life stung him, and he hid his face in his 
horse's mane and wept. 

But sorest of all was the thought that he 
might really have won a certain fame, an easy 
fortune, without taking on his back the 
fardel which, as the months went by, became 
so heavy. He knew that he had done some 
work which would have surely gained him 
distinction, had he but waited. Why did 
you not have patience ? his outraged spirit 
and maimed life seemed to moan ; a little 
more patience ! 

I must not let you think, however, that 
he was unhappy. In every detail the promise 
of the old man was punctiliously carried out. 
The very maladies which Orange had desired, 



42 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

were twisted to his advantage. Thus, when 
he was laid up with a sprained ankle at an 
hotel at Aix-les-Bains, he formed his notorious 
connection with Gabrielle de Volnay. It was 
when he was kept for a day in the house 
by a cold that he wrote his little comedy, 
Her Ladyship's Dinner — a comedy which, at 
one time, we were all so forward to praise. 
And on the night upon which his cab was 
overturned in the Sixth Avenue, New York, 

and he was badly cut about the head, did he 
not recognize in the drunken prostitute who 
cursed him, the erewhile brilliant Mrs. Annice ? 
Did he not forget his pain in the exquisite know- 
ledge that her curses were of no avail, and 
flout her jeeringly, brutally ? Nay ! when an 
epidemic disease broke out in a certain part 
of the Riviera, and the foreign population 
presently fled, he used his immunity from 
death to hold his ground and tend the sick, 



THE BARGAIN OF RUPERT ORANGE. 43 

and so gave cause to the newspapers to 
proclaim the courage and devotion of Mr. 
Orange. And all these fortunate incidents 
were suddenly brought to completeness by 
one singular event. 

It was on a winter morning, about three 
o'clock, that he found himself in the district of 
Kilburn, and noticed a crimson stain on the sky. 
More from indolence than from anything else he 
went towards the fire ; but when he came in 
sight of it, he was startled by a somewhat 
strange thing. For there at a window high up 
in the blazing house, stood a woman with a 
baby in her arms, who had clearly been left to 
a hideous fate on account of the fierceness of 
the flames. With an abrupt gesture Orange 
flung off his cloak, 

"Where can I find the chief?" he asked 
a man standing near, "because I'm going 
up!" 



44 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

The fellow turned, and seeing Rupert in his 
evening suit, laughed derisively. 

" I say, Bill ! " he sings out to his mate, " this 
'ere bloke sa)-s as 'ow he's goin' up ! " and the 
other's scoffing reply struck Rupert's ears as he 
pushed through the crowd. 

By a letter which he carried with him, or some 
such authority, Orange gained his request ; and 
the next thing that the people saw was a ladder 
rigged, and the figure of a man ascending through 
clouds of smoke. Higher and higher he went, 
while the flames licked and sizzled around him 
and seared his flesh : higher and higher till he 
had almost reached the window, and a wild 
cheer burst from the crowd for such a deed of 
heroism. But at that moment a long tongue of 
flame leaped into the sky, the building tottered 
and then crashed down, and Orange was safely 
caught by some strong arms, while the woman 
and child met death within the ruins. Of course 



THE BARGAIN OF RUPERT ORANGE, 45 

this affair was noised abroad the next day ; and 
for some weeks Orange, with his hand in a 
sling, was a picturesque figure in several 
London drawing-rooms. 

Now, which one of us shall say that Orange, 
with the tested knowledge of his exemption 
from death, and strong in that knowledge, 
deliberately did this heroic act to improve his 
fame, to exalt his honour ? I have stated before 
that we must be cautious in passing judgment 
on him, and I must again insist on this caution. 
As for myself, I should be sorry to think that 
there is no beautiful, merciful, Spirit to note 
an unselfish impulse, which took no thought 
of glory or advertisement, and count it to the 
man for honesty. 

But the time ran, and the years sped, until was 
come the last month of that fifth year, which 
meant the end of years for Orange. When in 
the days of his happiness and strength, he 



46 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

had dwelt on this time at all, he had planned 
to seek out, on the last day of the year, some 
mountain crag in Switzerland, and there meet 
death, coming in the train of the rising sun, 
with calm and steady eyes. Alas ! now to his 
anguish he felt a desire, which was stronger 
than his will, tearing at his heart to visit once 
more the scene of his hardships, to look again 
on the place where his bargain was concluded. 
I make certain, from a letter of his which I 
have seen, that in taking passage for New 
York, Rupert had no idea of turning aside his 
doom. The Cambria, on which he sailed, was 
due to arrive at New York a full week before 
the end of the year; but she encountered 
baffling winds and seas, and it was not till the 
evening of the thirty-first of December that 
she sighted the light on Fire Island. 

As the steamer went at speed towards Sandy 
Hook, Orange stood alone on the deck, watching 



THE BARGAIN OF RUPERT ORANGE. 47 

the smoke from her funnel rolling seaward: of 
a sudden he saw rise out of the cloud, the 
presentment, grim and menacing, of God the 
Father, 



48 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 



IV 

As the Cambria moved up towards the city, on 
the morning of New Year's day, a certain frenzy 
which was half insane, and a fierce loathing of 
familiar sights — Castle Garden, the spire of 
Trinity Church — took hold of Orange. He 
passionately cursed himself for not staying in 
Europe; he cursed the hour he was born; he 
cursed, above all ! the hour in which he 
had made that fatal bargain. As soon as the 
vessel was made fast to the dock, he hastened 
ashore ; and leaving his servant to look after 
his luggage, he sprang into a hack, and directed 
the driver to go "up town." 

" Where to, boss ? " inquired the man, looking 
at him curiously. 

"The Hoffman House," replied Orange, before 



THE BARGAIN OF RUPERT ORANGE. 49 

he thought. Then he cursed himself again, but 
he did not change the order. 

I have said that the driver looked at Orange 
curiously ; and in truth he was a strange sight. 
All the dignity of his demeanour was gone : his 
eyes were bloodshot, and his complexion a dirty 
yellow : he was unshorn, his tie was loose, and 
his collar open. His terror grew as he passed 
along the well-known streets : he screamed out 
hateful, obscene things, rolling about in the 
vehicle, while foam came from his mouth ; and as 
he arrived at the hotel, in his distraction he 
drove his hand through the window glass, which 
cut him into the bone. 

"An accident," he panted hoarsely to the 
porter who opened the door : " a slight accident ! 
God damn you ! " he yelled, "can't you see it was 
an accident ? " and he went up the hall to the 
office, leaving behind him a trail of blood. The 
clerk at the desk, seeing his disorder, was on the 



50 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

point of refusing him a room ; but when Orange 
wrote his name in the visitor's book, he smirked, 
and ordered the best set of apartments in the 
house to be made ready. To these apartments 
Orange retired, and sat all day in a sort of dull 
horror. For a sudden death he had in a measure 
prepared himself: he had made his bargain, he 
had bought his freedom from the cares which 
are the burthen of all men, and he knew that he 
must pay the debt : but for some uncertain, 
treacherous calamity he had not prepared. He 
was not fool enough to dream that the one to 
whom the debt was owed would relent ; but 
before his creditor's method of exacting payment 
he was at a stand. He thought and thought, 
rubbing his face in his hands, till his head 
was near bursting : in a sudden spasm he fell 
off the chair to the floor ; and that night he 
was lying stricken by typhoid fever. 

And for weeks he la}' with a fiery forehead and 



THE BARGAIN OF RUPERT ORANGE. 51 

blazing eyes, finding the lightest covering too 
heavy and ice too hot. Even when the known 
disease seemed to have been subdued; certain 
strange complications arose which puzzled the 
physicians : amongst these a painful vomiting 
which racked the man's frame and left an 
exhaustion akin to death, and a curious loathlv 
decay of the flesh. This last was so venomous 
an evil, that one of the nurses having touched 
the sick man in her ministrations, and neglected 
to immediately purify herself, within a few hours 
incontinently deceased. After a while, to assist 
these enemies of Orange, there came pneumonia. 
It would seem as though he were experiencing 
all the maladies from which he had been free 
during the past five years ; for besides his 
corporal ills he had become lunatic, and he was 
raving. Those who tended him, used as they 
were to outrageous scenes, shuddered and held 
each other's hands when they heard him shriek 



52 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

his curses, and realized his abject fear of death. 
At times, too, they would hear him weeping softly, 
and whispering the broken little prayers he had 
learned in childhood : praying God to save him 
in this dark hour from the wiles of the devil. 

At length, one evening towards the end of 
March, the mental clearness of Orange some- 
what revived, and he felt himself compelled to 
get up and put on his clothes. The nurse, 
thinking that the patient was resting quietly, 
and fearing the shine of the lamp might 
distress him, had turned it low and gone away 
for a little : so it was without interruption, 
although reeling from giddiness, and scorched 
with fever, that Rupert groped about till he 
found some garments, and his evening suit. 
Clad in these, and throwing a cloak over his 
shoulders, he went downstairs. Those whom 
he met, that recognised him, looked at him 
wonderingly and with a vague dread ; but he 



THE BARGAIN OF RUPERT ORANGE. 53 

appeared to have his understanding as well 
as they, and so he passed through the hall 
without being stopped ; and going into the 
bar, he called for brandy. The bar-tender, to 
whom he was known, exclaimed in astonish- 
ment ; but he got no reply from Orange, who, 
pouring himself out a large quantity of the 
fiery liquor, found it colder than the coldest 
iced water in his burning frame. When he 
had taken the brand} 7 , he went into the street. 
It was a bleak seasonable night, and a bitter 
frost-rain was falling : but Orange went through 
it, as if the bitter weather was a not unwelcome 
coolness, although he shuddered in an ague-fit. 
As he stood on the corner of Twenty-third 
Street, his cloak thrown open, the sleet sowing 
down on his shirt, and the slush which 
covered his ankles soaking through his thin 
shoes, a member of his ciub came by and 
spoke to him. 



54 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

" Why, good God ! Orange, you don't mean 
to say you're out on a night like this! You 
must be much better — eh ? " he broke off, for 
Orange had given him a gray look, with eyes 
in which there was no speculation ; and the 
man hurried away scared and rather aghast. 
"These poet chaps are always queer fishes," 
he muttered uneasily, as he turned into the 
Fifth Avenue Hotel. 

Of the events of terror and horror which 
happened on that aweful night, when a human 
soul was paying the price of an astounding viola- 
tion of the order of the universe, no man 
shall ever tell. Blurred, hideous, and enormous 
visions of dives, of hells where the worst scum 
of the town consorted, of a man who spat on 
him, of a woman who struck him across the face 
with her umbrella, calling him the foulest of 
names — visions such as these, and more hateful 
than these, presented themselves to Orange, 



THE BARGAIN OF RUPERT ORANGE. 55 

when he found himself, at three o'clock in the 
morning, standing under a lamp-post in that 
strange district of New York called " The 
Village," 

The rain had given way to a steady fall of 
snow : and as he stood there, a squalid harlot, 
an outcast amongst outcasts, approached, and 
solicited him in the usual manner. 

" Come along — do ! ' she said, shivering : 
4< We can get a drink at my place." 

Receiving no answer, she peered into his 
face, and gave a cry of loathing and fear. 

(< Oh, look here ! " she said, roughly, coughing 
down her disgust : " You've been drinking 
too much, and you've got a load. Come 
ahead with me and you can have a good 
sleep." 

At that word Orange turned, and gazed at 
her with a vacant, dreary, silly smile. He 
raised his hand, and when she shrank away — 



56 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

" Are you afraid of me?" he said, not coarsely, 
but quietly, even gently, like a man talking in 
his sleep. Then they went on together, till 
they came to a dilapidated house close by the 
river. They entered, and turned into a dirty 
room lit by a flaring jet of gas. 

" Now, dear ; let's have some money," says 
the woman, "and I'll get you a nice drink." 

Still no answer from Orange : only that 
same vacant smile, which was beginning to be 
horrible. 

"Give me some money: do you hear!" cried 
the woman, stridently. Then she seized him, 
and went through his pockets in an accustomed 
style, and found three cents. 

" What the hell do you mean by coming here 
with only this ! " bellowed the woman, holding 
out the mean coins to Orange. She struck him ; 
but she was very frightened, and went to the 
stairs. 



THE BARGAIN OF RUPERT ORANGE. 57 

"Say! Tom — Tommy," she called; "you'd 
better come down and put this loafer out ! " 

A great hulking man came down the stairs, 
and gazed for an instant at Rupert — standing 
under the gas-jet, with the woman plucking the 
studs from his shirt. For an instant the man 
stood, feeling sick and in a sweat; and then, 
by a great effort, he approached Orange, and 
seized him by the collar. 

" Here, out you go ! " he said. " We don't 
want none of your sort around here ! " The 
man dragged Orange to the street door, and 
gave the wretch such a powerful shove, that he 
fell on the pavement, and rolled into the gutter. 

And later in the morning, one who passed by 
the way found him there : dead before the squalid 
harlot's door. 



MY ENEMY AND MYSELF 



MY ENEMY AND MYSELF 

In the garden, when I was a child, I used to 
stare for hours at the white roses. In these 
there was for me a certain strangeness, which 
was yet quite human ; for I know that I was 
full of sorrow if I found the petals strewn over 
the hushed grass. I had a terror of great 
waters, wild and lonely ; I saw an austere 
dignity in the moon shining on a flat sea; 
things, cordage and broken spars, cast ashore 
by the ocean, told me wonderful, sad tales. 
And because my head was thick with thoughts, 
I had little speech; and for this I was laughed 
at and called stupid : " He was always a dull 
child," murmured my mother, bending over me, 



62 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

when I, in the crisis of a fever, was on the 
point of embarking for a vague land. As I 
grew older, 1 still dwelt within my soul, a 
satisfied prisoner : the complaint of huge trees 
in a storm ; the lash and surge of breakers on 
an iron coast; the sound of certain words; the 
sight of dim colours which blend sometimes in 
gray sunsets ; the heavy scent of some exquisite 
poisonous flower; a contemplation of youthful 
forms engaged in an unruly game ; — ah ! in 
these things also I found perfect sensation and 
ecstacy. Still, my tongue held to its old 
stubbornness : I was ever delayed by a habit of 
commonplace speech, a shame at exposing my 
thoughts. In time I won a cloud of easy 
acquaintance ; but my awkwardness in conversa- 
tion, my tendency to be maladroit, — call it 
what you like ! always stepped between when 
I was about to make a friend. Then, at last, 
came Jacquette. 



MY ENEMY AND MYSELF. 63 

I remember that she was playing a com- 
position by Chopin, a curious black-coloured 
thing, when I first came into her company ; and 
now, even as I write, when our love is over, I 
hear that sombre music again. But the impor- 
tant matter is, that here was the person I had 
been seeking so long; here was the mind to 
meet with my mind; with her I could, at 
length, get out of myself (as we now say); 
become free. All the dear thoughts which had 
for years dwelt with me in close privateness, I 
gave to her j all my desires, all my mean hopes. 
Ah ! the merry airs we had then : her bright 
laughter which, as wind, drove glumness, as 
foam, before it ! I think I tired her of my 
enthusiasms and decisions; but it was so sweet 
to have some one to listen and understand, and 
she never would admit that she was tired. 
Nay! one morning in the apple-orchard, 
when the wind was turning her hair to the 



64 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

sunshine, she kissed me very prettily on the 
mouth. 

After that, I forget how long it was till 
I came in one night and found my enemy 
sitting with her at the fireside. He was not 
my enemy then, mind you : indeed, I thought 
him a nice, pleasant creature, with a mighty 
handsome face. We became familiar : he 
seemed to like me, and I was sure I had 
gained another friend. The months glided by, 
and we three came to sitting together late of 
nights : he and Jacquette, the wise people, 
silent, gazing at each other ; I, the fool, in 
the middle, talking in a youthful, impassioned 
way. Once I paused suddenly, and looked up, 
and caught a somewhat contemptuous smile 
peeping from the corners of Jacquette's mouth 
and dancing in her eyes ; while he, for an 
answer, fell a-Iaughing into her face. Of 
course, I must have wearied them both, bored 



MY ENEMY AND MYSELF. 65 

them (as we say) to desperation ; but I was 
a very young man, with all the warmth and 
admiration of the young ; and in the time of 
youth, a woman is always older than a man. 
Besides, I loved her so much, and I had such 
strange pleasure in loving her, that I think it 
was rather cruel of her to laugh. 

" Why did you laugh at me?" I asked, 
when I was twisting a garland of wild roses 
for her hair. 

" Oh, I didn't laugh ! " she exclaimed. " Or 
if I did," she added, looking down with a 
tooth on her lip, " it must have been because 
I was so pleased to hear you saying beautiful 
words to us — poor ignorant things ! " 

The next day I had an affair of great 
importance in the town where I lived, so I 
told Jacquette that on account of this affair 
I could not go down, as my custom was, to 
her cottage by the sea, that night. But as 



66 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

the day waned, and the night closed in, 
I became the thrall of a longing to hear her 
singing voice, to play fantastic music with her 
delightfully. Thus it came about that it was 
nearly eleven o'clock when I reached the 
shore, and hearkened to the calling sea. 
There was a note of melancholy, almost a 
sob, in the noise of it to-night : and that, 
taken with a monstrous depression, filled me 
strangely with a desire to die — to give up 
life at this point ! I saw a light in Jacquette's 
bedroom, but the rest of the little house was 
dark ; and I was turning away, when my hand 
chanced to strike the door-handle, which I 
pushed, and found the door not locked. Let 
me go in ! (thinks I) : I shall sit awhile and 
dream of Jacquette, and a few chords touched 
softly on the piano will tell my love I am 
dreaming of her. Here (perhaps you will say ! ) 
I was wrong : but I was ready to welcome a 



MY ENEMY AND MYSELF. 67 

servant's company, or, in spite of his growing 
offensiveness, my enemy's, should I find him 
there, rather than be alone with my saddening 
thoughts. The room I chose to sit in, because 
there was a dying fire in it, was just under 
Jacquette's bedroom ; and ere I had sat a 
minute, I became conscious of voices in the 
room above. As soon as I made out the man's 
voice, a thousand serpents seemed literally to 
eat their way into my brain, turning my vision 
red ; and I lay for an hour, may-be, on the 
carpet, fainting, and stricken, and dazed. Now, 
at last, after an hour I was myself, or rather 
more than myself, with every nerve tight as 
a fiddle-string, still seeing red, as I unclasped 
the long jack-knife, which the Greek sailor had 
given me, and laid it in the hollow of my 
hand. 

I knew that it would dawn by three 
o'clock, so I stood quite still, only moving my 



68 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

tongue over my dry lips, and shaking my head 
to keep a sweat from running into my eyes. 
A cat cried in the road, and the breakers 
thundered against the rocks. 

A little before dawn, while it was yet dark, 
I heard a murmur of lovv voices — her voice 
and my enemy's ; and then the man came 
down the stairs. 

" Good night, my sweet love ! " said Jacquctte. 

(< O my darling, good night ! " came from 
my enemy, and so he banged the door behind 
him. 

One moment I paused to peer through the 
window, and make sure of my man. Then I 
fetched a run, and was on him like a panther, 
holding him close, with his hot breath 
scorching my face. Coming on him from 
behind, as I did, the middle finger of my left 
hand struck his eye, and now, as I pressed, 
the eye bulged out. 



MY ENEMY AND MYSELF. 69 

" My friend," he groaned, "for Christ's sake, 
have pity ! " 

" To hell with your friendship ! ' I said. 
" Much pity you had for my honour ! " says 
I, and with that I let him have the knife in 
his throat, and the blood spurted over my 
hands hot and sticky. As soon as I could get 
free of his clutch, I looked up at Jacquette's 
bedroom window, and there she was, sure 
enough ! in her nightdress, with the blind in 
her hand, gazing out. Straight up to her 
room I went, and flung open the door. She 
turned to me gray and whingeing. 

" My little love ," she began. 

I put my hands on my hips and spat hard 
into her face. Then I tramped down stairs and 
out of the lonely cottage. 

I had not the least fear of detection : the 
servants slept in an out-house, and the place 
was too desolate for any chance passenger. 



70 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

I stood triumphing by the corpse of my 
enemy; but even as I looked the moon shewed 
from a rift of cloud, lighting the blood, and 
the hue left by violent death in the features, 
and I ran for my life from that hideous one- 
eyed thing. 

I came to the town, and to a house where 
I lay constantly, about four o'clock, in a 
curious trembling fit. I bathed my head and 
hands, however, in a heavy perfume, and 
then became strangely calm, and fell to 
thinking of the Tightness of the deed. Just 
there was the consoling thought : certainly I 
had done a murder, but in doing it I had 
delivered punishment to a traitress and her 
paramour. Now that the thing was over, it 
was clearly my duty to forget all about it as 
soon as possible ; and this I set myself to 
do, aided by a cigarette and a novel of the 
ingenious Miss Jane Austen. I had succeeded 



MY ENEMY AND MYSELF. 7 1 

in my aim, I was clear-minded and very 
serene, when of a sudden something heavy 
fell against the door of my room. 

" At this hour ? " I murmured in surprise, 
and went to the door. 

A body that nearly knocked me down, the 
dead body of a man, fell into the room, and 
lay, face downward, on the carpet. Then I 
did the one act I shall never cease to regret : 
From a movement of kindness, pity, curiosity, 
what you will ! I bent down and turned 
over the corpse. Slowly the thing got to its 
feet ; and my enemy, with a dry gaping 
wound in his throat, and his eye hanging 
from its socket by a bit of skin, stood before 
me, face to face. 

" O God, have mercy ! " I screamed, and 
beat on the wall with my hands ; and again 
and again : — " God, have mercy ! " 



72 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

" You do well to ask God for mercy," says 
my enemy ; " for you will not get much from 
men." He stood by the fire-place. 

" I beg of you/' I said, in a low, passionate 
voice, " I beg of you, by all you find dear, for 
the sake of our old friendship, to leave this 
place, to let me go free," 

He shook his head. " For Jacquette's 
sake ? " He laughed harshly. 

" My friend," I said to my enemy, " for 
Christ's sake, have pity ! " 

" Pity you ? " says he, in a jeer. " You ! '" 

As I looked at him, I was stung into strong 
fury. My eyes clung to the wound in his 
throat, and my fingers ached to close in it — 
to misuse it, to maul it. 

But as I sprang at him, he gave a shriek 
that woke the town ; a shriek of fear too, let 
me think it at this last, like to that of a lost 



MY ENEMY AND MYSELF. 73 

soul when the gates of hell have closed behind 
for ever : and when the people of the house 
rushed in, they found mc kneeling by his dead 
body, with my knife in my enemy's throat, 
and his new blood, bright and wet, on my 
hands. 

•> j, j- j^ a* 

r|, JH Kt, Sp. -fl 

They will hang me because I loved Jacquette, 



THE 
BUSINESS OF MADAME JAHN 



THE 
BUSINESS OF MADAME JAHN 

How we all stared, how frightened we all were, 
how we passed opinions, on that morning 
when Gustave Herbout was found swinging by 
the neck from the ceiling of his bedroom! 
The whole Faubourg, even the ancient folk 
who had not felt a street under them for years, 
turned out and stood gaping at the house with 
amazement and loud conjecture. For why 
should Gustave Herbout, of all men, take to 
the rope ? Only last week he had inherited all 
the money of his aunt, Madame Jahn, together 
with her house and the shop with the five 
assistants, and life looked fair enough for him. 



78 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

No ; clearly it was not wise of Gustave to 
hang himself! 

Besides, his aunt's death had happened at a 
time when Gustave was in sore straits for 
money. To be sure, he had his salary from 
the bank in which he worked ; but what is a 
mere salary to one who (like Gustave) threw 
off the clerkly habit when working hours were 
over, to assume the dress and lounge of the 
accustomed bonlevardier : while he would relate 
to obsequious friends vague but satisfactory 
stories of a Russian Prince who was his uncle, 
and of an extremely rich English lady to whose 
death he looked forward with hope. Alas ! 
with a clerk's salary one cannot make much of 
a figure in Paris. It took all of that, and 
more, to maintain the renown he had gained 
amongst his acquaintance of having to his own 
a certain little lady with yellow hair, who 
danced divinely. So he was forced to depend 



THE BUSINESS OF MADAME JAHN. 79 

on the presents which Madame Jahn gave him 
from to time to time; and for those presents 
he had to pay his aunt a most sedulous and 
irksome attention. At times, when he was 
almost sick from his craving for the boulevard, 
the cafe, the theatre, he would have to repair, 
as the day grew to an end, to our Faubourg, 
and the house behind the shop, where he 
would sit to an old-fashioned supper with his 
aunt, and listen with a sort of dull impatience 
while she asked him when he had last been at 
Confession, and told him long, dreary stories 
of his dead father and mother. Punctually at 
nine o'clock the deaf servant, who was the 
only person besides Madame Jahn that lived in 
the house, would let in the fat old priest, who 
came for his game of dominoes, and betake 
herself to bed. Then the dominoes would 
begin, and with them the old man's prattle, 
which Gustave knew so well : about his daily 



80 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

work, about the uselessness of all things here 
on earth, and the happiness and glory of the 
Kingdom of Heaven : and, of course, our 
boulevardiev noticed, with the usual cheap sneer 
of the modern, that whilst the priest talked of 
the Kingdom of Heaven, he yet shewed the 
greatest anxiety if he had symptoms of a cold, 
or any other petty malady. However, Gustave 
would sit there, with a hypocrite's grin and 
inwardly raging, till the clock chimed eleven. 
At that hour Madame Jahn would rise, and, if 
she was pleased with her nephew, would go 
over to her writing-desk and give him, with a 
rather pretty air of concealment from the priest, 
perhaps fifty or a hundred francs. Whereupon 
Gustave would bid her a manifestly affectionate 
good-night ! and depart in the company of the 
priest. As soon as he could get rid of the 
priest, he would hasten to his favourite cafes, to 
discover that all the people worth seeing had 



THE BUSINESS OF MADAME JAHN. 8l 

long since grown tired of waiting, and had 
departed on their own affairs. The money, 
indeed, was a kind of consolation ; but then 
there were nights when he did not get a sou. 
Ah ! they amuse themselves in Paris, but not 
in this way — this is not amusing. 

One cannot live a proper life upon a salary, 
and an occasional gift of fifty or a hundred 
francs. And it is not entertaining to tell 
men that your uncle, the Prince at Moscow, is 
in sorry case, and even now lies a-dying, or 
that the rich English lady is in the grip of a 
vile consumption and is momently expected to 
succumb, if these men only shove up their 
shoulders, wink at one another, and continue 
to present their bills. Further, the little 
Mademoiselle, with yellow hair, had lately 
shewn signs of a very pretty temper, because 
her usual flowers and bon-bons were not 
apparent. So, since things were come to this 



82 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

dismal pass, Gustave fell to attending the race- 
meetings at Chantilly, During the first week 
Gustave won largel}% for that is sometimes 
the way with ignorant men : during that week, 
too, the little Mademoiselle was charming, for 
she had her bouquets and boxes of bon-bons. 
But the next week Gustave lost heavily, for 
that is also very often the way with ignorant 
men : and he was thrown into the blackest 
despair, when one night at a place where he 
was used to sup, Mademoiselle took the arm 
of a great fellow, whom he much suspected to 
be a German, and tossed him a little scornful 

nod, as she went off. 

On the evening after this had happened, he 

was standing, between five and six o'clock, in 
the Place de la Madeleine , blowing on his 
fingers and trying to plan his next move, when 
he heard his name called by a familiar voice, 
and turned to face his aunt's adviser, the priest. 



THE BUSINESS OF MADAME JAHN. 83 

" Ah ! Gustave, my friend, I have just been 
to see a colleague of mine here ! " cried the 
old man, pointing to the great church. " And 
are you going to your good aunt to-night ? " 
he added, with a look at Gustave's neat 
dress. 

Gustave was in a flame that the priest 
should have detected him in his gay clothes, 
for he always made a point of appearing at 
Madame Jahn's clad staidly in black ; but he 
answered pleasantly enough. 

"No, my Father, I'm afraid I can't to-night. 
You see I'm a little behind with my office- 
work, and I have to stay at home and catch 
up. 

" Well ! well ! " said the priest, with half a 
sigh, " I suppose young men will always be 
the same, I myself can only be with her till 
nine o'clock to-night, because I must see a 
sick parishioner. But let me give you one bit 



84 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

of advice, my friend," he went on, taking hold 
of a button on Gustave's coat : " don't neglect 
your aunt; for, mark my words, one day 
everything of Madame Jahn's will be yours ! " 
And the omnibus he was waiting for happen- 
ing to swing by at that moment, he departed 
without another word. 

Gustave strolled along the Boulevard des 
Capucines in a study. Yes ; it was certain that 
the house, and the shop with the five assist- 
ants, would one day be his; for the priest 
knew all his aunt's affairs. But how soon 
would they be his ? Madame Jahn was now 
hardly sixty ; her mother had lived to be 
ninety ; when she was ninety he would be — . 
And meanwhile, what about the numerous 
bills ; what (above all !) about the little lady 
with yellow hair ? He paused and struck his 
heel on the pavement with such force, that 
two men passing nudged one another and 



THE BUSINESS OF MADAME JAHN. 85 

smiled. Then he made certain purchases, and 
set about wasting time till nine o'clock. 

It is curious to consider, that although when 
he started out at nine o'clock, Gustave was 
perfectly clear as to what he meant to do, 
yet he was chiefly troubled by the fear that 
the priest had told his aunt about his fine 
clothes. But when he had passed through 
the deserted Faubourg, and had come to the 
house behind the shop, he found his aunt only 
very pleased to see him, and a little surprised. 
So he sat with her, and listened to her gentle, 
homely stories, and told lies about himself and 
his manner of life, till the clock struck eleven. 
Then he rose, and Madame Jahn rose too, and 
went to her writing-desk and opened a small 
drawer. 

" You have been very kind to a lonely old 

woman to-night, my Gustave," said Madame 
Jahn, smiling. 



86 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

" How sweet of you to say that, dearest 
aunt ! " replied Gustave. He went over and 
passed his arm caressingly across her shoulders, 
and stabbed her in the heart. 

For a full five minutes after the murder he 
stood still ; as men often do in a great crisis 
when they know that any movement means 
decisive action. Then he started, laid hold of 
his hat, and made for the door. But there 
the stinging knowledge of his crime came to 
him for the first time ; and he turned back into 
the room. Madame Jahn's bedroom candle was 
on a table : he lit it, and passed through a 
door which led from the house into the shop. 
Crouching below the counters covered with 
white sheets, lest a streak of light on the 
windows might attract the observation of some 
passenger, he proceeded to a side entrance to 
the shop, unbarred and unlocked the door, and 
put the key in his pocket. Then, in the same 



THE BUSINESS OF MADAME JAHN. 87 

crouching way, he returned to the room, and 
started to ransack the small drawer. The 
notes he scattered about the floor j but two 
small bags of coin went into his coat. Then he 
took the candle and dropped some wax on the 
face and hands and dress of the corpse ; he spilt 
wax, too, over the carpet, and then he broke the 
candle and ground it under his foot. He even 
tore with long nervous fingers at the dead 
woman's bodice till her breasts lay exposed ; and 
plucked out a handful of her hair and threw it on 
the floor to stick to the wax. When all these 
things had been accomplished, he went to the 
house door and listened. The Faubourg is 
always very quiet about twelve o'clock, and a 
single footstep falls on the night with a great 
sound. He could not hear the least noise : so he 
darted out and ran lightly till he came to a 
turning. There he fell into a sauntering walk, 
lit a cigarette, and hailing a passing fiacre. 



88 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

directed the man to drive to the Pont Saint- 
Michel. At the bridge he alighted, and noting 
that he was not eyed, he threw the key of 
the shop into the river. Then assuming the 
swagger and assurance of a half-drunken man, 
he marched up the Boulevard and entered the 
Cafe d'Harcourt. 

The place was filled with the usual crowd of 
men and women of the Quartier Latin. Gustave 
looked round, and observing a young student 
with a flushed face who was talking eagerly 
about the rights of man, he sat down by him. It 
was his part to act quickly : so before the 
student had quite finished a sentence for his ear, 
the murderer gave him the lie. The student, 
however, was not so ready for a fight as Gustave 
had supposed ; and when he began to argue 
again, Gustave seized a glass full of brandy and 
water and threw the stuff in his face. Then 
indeed there was a row, till the gendarmes 



THE BUSINESS OF MADAME JAHN. 89 

interfered, and haled Gustave to the station. 
At the police-station he bitterly lamented his 
misdeed, which he attributed to an extra glass 
of absinthe, and he begged the authorities to 
carry word of his plight to his good aunt, 
Madame Jahn, in our Faubourg. So to the 
house behind the shop they went, and there 
they found her — sitting with her breasts hanging 
out, her poor head clotted with blood, and a 
knife in her heart. 

The next morning, Gustave was set free. A 
man and a woman, two of the five assistants in 
the shop, had been charged with the murder. 
The woman had been severely reprimanded by 
Madame jahn on the day before, and the man 
was known to be the girl's paramour. It was 
the duty of the man to close at night all the 
entrances into the shop, save the main entrance, 
which was closed by Madame Jahn and her deaf 
servant : and the police had formed a theory 



go A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

{worked out with the amazing zeal and skill 
which cause the Paris police so often to over- 
reach themselves ! ) that the man had failed to 
bolt one of the side doors, and had, by subtilty, 
got possession of the key, whereby he and his 
accomplice re-entered the place about midnight. 
Working on this theory, the police had woven 
a web round the two unfortunates with threads 
of steel; and there was little doubt, that both 
of them would stretch their necks under the 
guillotine, with full consent of press and public. 
At least, this was Gustave's opinion ; and 
Gustave's opinion now went for a great deal in 
the Faubourg. Of course there were a few who 
murmured, that it was a good thing poor 
Madame Jahn had not lived to see her nephew 
arrested for a drunken brawler ; but with full 
remembrance of who owned the house and shop, 
we were most of us inclined to say, after the 
priest : That if the brave Gustave had been with 



THE BUSINESS OF MADAME JAHN. gi 

his aunt, the shocking affair could never have 
occurred. And, indeed, what had we more 
inspiring than the inconsolable grief he shewed ? 
Why ! on the day of the funeral, when he heard 
the earth clatter down on the coffin-lid in Pcre 
la Chaise, he even swooned to the ground, and 
had to be carried out of the midst of the 
mourners. " Oh, yes," (quoth the gossips), 
" Gustave Herbout loved his aunt passing 
well ! " 

On the night after the funeral, Gustave was 
sitting alone before the fire in Madame Jahn's 
room, smoking and making his plans. He 
thought, that when all this wretched mock grief 
and pretence of decorum was over, he would 
again visit the cafes which he greatly savoured, 
and the little Mademoiselle with yellow hair 
would once more smile on him delicious smiles, 
with a gleaming regard. Thus he was thinking 
when the clock on the mantel-piece tinkled 



92 A BOOK OF BARGAINS, 

eleven ; and at that moment a very singular 
thing happened. The door was suddenly 
opened : a girl came in, walked straight over to 
the writing-desk, pulled out the small drawer, 
and then sat staring at the man by the fire. 
She was distinctly beautiful ; although there was 
a certain old-fashionedness in her peculiar silken 
dress, and the manner of wearing her hair. Not 
once did it occur to Gustave, as he gazed in 
terror, that he was gazing on a mortal woman : 
the doors were too well bolted to allow any one 
from outside to enter, and besides, there was a 
strange baffling familiarity in the face and mien 
of the intruder. It might have been an hour 
that he sat there ; and then, the silence 
becoming too horrible, by a supreme effort of 
his wonderful courage he rushed out of the room 
and up-stairs to get his hat. There in his 
murdered aunt's bedroom, —there, smiling at 
him from the wall — was a vivid presentment of 



THE BUSINESS OF MADAME JAHN. 93 

the dread vision that sat below : a portrait 
of Madame Jahn as a young girl. He fled 
into the street, and walked, perhaps two miles, 
before he thought at all. But when he did 
think, he found that he was drawn against 
his will back to the house to see if // was 
still there : just as the police here believe a 
murderer is drawn to the Morgue to view the 
body of his victim. Yes; the girl was there 
still, with her great reproachless eyes; and 
throughout that solemn night Gustave, haggard 
and mute, sat glaring at her. Towards dawn 
he fell into an uneasy doze ; and when he 
awoke with a scream, he found that the girl 
was gone. 

At noon the next day, Gustave, heartened by 
several glasses of brandy, and cheered by the 
sunshine in the Champs-Elysecs, endeavoured to 
make light of the affair. He would gladly have 
arranged not to go back to the house : but then 



94 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

people would talk so much, and he could not 
afford to lose any custom out of the shop. 
Moreover, the whole matter was only an 
hallucination— the effect of jaded nerves. He 
dined well, and went to see a musical comedy ; 
and so contrived, that he did not return to the 
house till after two o'clock. There was some 
one waiting for him, sitting at the desk with 
the small drawer open : not the girl of last 
night, but a somewhat older woman — and the 
same reproachless eyes. So great was the 
fascination of those eyes, that, although he left 
the house at once, with an iron resolution not 
to go back, he found himself drawn under them 
again, and he sat through that night as he 
had sat through the night before, sobbing and 
stupidly glaring. And all day long he crouched 
by the fire shuddering; and all the night till 
eleven o'clock ; and then a figure of his aunt 
came to him again, but always a little older 



THE BUSINESS OF MADAME JAHN. 95 

and more withered. And this went on for five 
days ; the figure that sat with him becoming 
older and older as the days ran, till on the 
sixth night he gazed through the hours at his 
aunt as she was on the night he killed her. 
On these nights he was used sometimes to start 
up and make for the street, swearing never to 
return ; but always he would be dragged back 
to the eyes. The policemen came to know 
him from these night walks, and people began 
to notice his bad looks : these could not spring 
from grief, folk said, and so they thought he 

was leading a wild life. 

On the seventh night there was a delay of 

about five minutes after the clock had rung 
eleven, before the door opened. And then — 
then, merciful God ! the body of a woman in 
grave-clothes came into the room, as if borne 
by unseen men, and lay in the air across the 
writing-desk, while the small drawer flew open 



96 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

of its own accord. Yes ; there was the shroud 
of the brown scapular, the prim white cap, 
the hands folded on the shrunken breast. 
Gray from slimy horror, Gustave raised him- 
self up, and went over to look for the eyes. 
When he saw them pressed down with pennies, 
he reeled back and vomited into the grate. 
And blind, and sick, and loathing, he stumbled 
up-stairs. 

But as he passed by Madame Jahn's bed- 
room the corpse came out to meet him, with 
the eyes closed and the pennies pressing them 
down. Then, at last, reeking and dabbled with 
sweat, with his tongue lolling out, and the 
spittle running down his beard, Gustave 
breathed : — 

" Are you alive ? " 

"No, no ! " wailed the thing, with a burst 
of aweful weeping ; " I have been dead many 
days." 



A STUDY IN MURDER 



A STUDY IN MURDER 

As I got out of a cab at Piccadilly Circus, I 
was hailed by Gladwin. 

" Just the man I was looking for ! " he 
cried. " Let us go somewhere and have a 
drink." 

At that moment a glass of brandy happened 
to be the thing I wanted ; so I followed Gladwin 
to the Criterion readily enough. Besides, he 
was excited : and people are always interesting 
when they are excited. 

" A man feels strange," said Gladwin, sitting 
down by a table, " when he looks around this 
place and thinks that everybody in it will 
outlive him." 



100 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

" Do you feel like that, by any chance ? " I 

asked, lighting a cigarette, 

" Yes, I do, Let me tell you this, my friend/' 

he went on, in his earnest, impulsive way, which 

was wont to become a little wearisome : " You 

know that I'm not much better than a pauper. 

Well ! I'm sick of slaving away for a wretched 

paltry salary, and I'm going to end it all, 

I've thought about it for a long time, and 

something that happened to-day has quite 

settled it. — By the way, do you think Vm 

mad ? " 

" Oh Lord, no ! " says I. 

{C Because I'm not. Now, you know as well 

as I do, that all this time, since luck has 

taken to using me as a football, I've been 

kept together by the thought of Margaret. 

I thought, that somehow or other, if I only 

pegged on, I might — Well ! I have seen her 

to-dav. She was kind enough to state that 



A STUDY IN MURDER, 101 

she could never marry me, and that her father 
didn't want her to see me again. She was 
also so good as to mention that it would be 
insane, considering my position, for her to 
marry against her father's wishes. Then she 
spoke of you. — Hullo ! you've upset your glass ! 
Waiter, another soda and brandy here ! — As I 
was saying, she spoke of you. She said that 
her father was most anxious to have her 
married to you, and was doing his utmost to 
bring about the match. I suppose you 
never did have any feeling in that way for 
Margaret ? " 

" My dear fellow ! " 

"I thought not; and I told her so. Besides, 
I said that you were too good a friend of mine 
to try to step into my shoes. But she only 
shook her head, and went out of the room 
weeping. And so to-night I'm going to end it 
all ! In your company I'm going to do every- 



102 A BOOK OF BARGAINS, 

thing that makes a man's life bright and merry ; 
and then I'm going to blow the soul out of my 
body somewhere by the river. — You'll come 
with me?" 

" Yes — of course ! " I said, with a slight 
hesitation, " But what are these things that 
make a man's life bright and merry ? Only the 
usual stupidities — dining, a theatre or music 
hall, and all that ! " 

" But it is these very banalities that I want! " 
exclaimed Gladwin. " I have done them so often 
when I was fairly happy, that I am anxious to 
learn what they seem like on the night when 
I'm going to die. Meet me for dinner at the 
Berkeley at half-past seven." 

As I drove home to dress, I took this letter 
from my pocket and read it again : — 

"I write to you because I know that you are 
such a true friend to us both, and have so 
much influence with my father. I need not protest 



A STUDY IN MURDER. 103 

that I love Mr. Gladwin with all my heart; 
but how can I tell him so, when my father will 
not even speak to him ! Please, please try to do 
us good, to make our lives content. Perhaps 
you will think it a fine and great thing, to 
serve two creatures who can never repay yon. — 
Margaret." 

" How odd it is," says Gladwin, as we strolled 
towards the Empire, " that all this stir and 
bustle which I am in the midst of to-night, will 
be going on just the same to-morrow night, as 
though I had never existed." 

"Yes," I replied; "how proud you must feel 
as you move amongst this commonplace throng ! 
Dr. Johnson said, that when a man has resolved 
to kill himself, he may go and take the king of 
Prussia by the nose, at the head of his army. 
It is a fair question whether a man has not 
a right to take leave of life when it ceases to 
charm — to be beautiful." 



104 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

" If you are so much in love with suicide," 
says Gladwin, rather irritably for him, " why 
on earth don't you do it yourself?" 

" Oh ! I have a great many reasons. The chief 
of them is, that so many people depend on my life. 
Take my valet, for instance. That young man 
supports his mother and three sisters. Now if 
I were to die, I should be a cause of misfortune 
to all of them. No; I cannot commit suicide, 
because of my valet." 

" Of course you are right," said Gladwin, 
as we turned into the theatre ; " and I am 
a fool ! " 

M Are you under sentence of death ? " a 
woman asked Gladwin in the promenade, as it 
is called, of the Empire. 

She laughed, and disappeared in the crowd. 
1 turned to inspect Gladwin : and indeed 
he had a low look. His face was pale and 
wet : there was nervousness, fatigue, even fear, 



A STUDY IN MURDER, 1 05 

in his demeanour. Seeing these things, I led 
the wa}' to the bar. 

"My friend, when I look around this place, 
with all its light and joy, it almost tempts me 
to give up the game," said Gladwin, with a 
glass of brandy in his shaking hand. 

" How few people there are in the world 
who have the courage to give life the slip f " 
I murmured, as if in a study. " Men talk glibly 
about death being preferable to the smallest 
evils of our lot : but it is when people come 
face to face with death that they wave the 
white feather in a vehement and degrading 
fashion. There are but two sets of heroes in 
the world — the Anarchists and the Suicides ! " 

(t You don't mean to say I'm a coward ? " 
Gladwin rapped out with a flush, 

" Really, I was hardly thinking of you. I 
have concluded that you intend to go back to 
your drudgery; to see Margaret " 



I06 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

" You think wrong," interrupted Gladwin. 
" Let us get out of this damned hole — it 
stifles me ! " 

"When Margaret wept to-day," remarked 
Gladwin, as we sat to supper in the Hotel 
Continental, "do you know I — that is, it 
just occurred to me, that she might love me 
after all ! " 

" One is usually deceived in these cases," 
I said, drawing on the table-cloth with a fork. 
"You wish her to love you, and naturally twist 
every unmeaning thing to your advantage." 

" You know best," answered Gladwin, filling 
his glass. " If she loved me, you would be 
Brst to notice it. Margaret has a beautiful 
mind," he added after a bit, " I hope she may 
never be unhappy." And with that he put his 
hands to his face — to hide his tears, I think ; 
because he laughed so loud the next moment. 
Notwithstanding this merriment, I thought it 



A STUDY IN MURDER. 107 

wise to purchase a small flask of brandy as 
we left the hotel. 

"If I think of the time when I was a lad, it 
just takes the heart out of me ! " declared 
Gladwin, as we walked, through quiet streets, 
arm-in-arm to the river. " My people were 
always so good to me; and the dear old place — " 

He choked. "Try a little of this stuff," I 
said, offering my flask. 

He took a long drink; and then we went 
on for a while in silence. 

"I know I wasn't born to end like this!' 
he broke out suddenly. "I'm not clever, and 
I'm not much good any way; but I've never 
lied, I*ve never cheated, and I don't think I've 
ever spoken a bad word of any one. By God, 
I haven't! And now nobody cares for me, 
and I'm being paid out like a hanged dog!' 

We had come to the Embankment by this 
time, so I turned on him with great indignation. 



108 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

" And do you think I would stand idly by and 
watch this performance," I exclaimed, "save 
that I am sure you can never continue your 
mean life! I am sure, too, that you could 
never bear the thought of Margaret in another 
man's arms ; but from what I've heard " 

11 Please don't add the last straw," he screamed 
out in a sort of agony; "let me die without 
knowing that ! — You are the best friend I have 
ever had," he said, taking my hand, " the best 
friend that any fellow ever had," 

I pressed his hand, with real feeling. Then 
I looked around, and noting that we were 
free from observation, I said : — 

" I think I will stop here, while you go 
on to the bridge. Never fear, old chap, I shall 
see the last of you, — 'tis all I can do t " 

" Good-bye," said Gladwin ; *' God bless you, 
my friend ! " 

He went forward a little; then, much to my 



A STUDY IN MURDER, log 

annoyance (for I dreaded lest some should find 
us in company), he came back again, shewing 
a ghastly, twitching face. 

" If I thought that Margaret loved me " 

he mumbled in his throat. 

" She shall hear of your death," I murmured, 
" and she will be sorry for you ! " 

He nodded his head twice, as if satisfied, and 
went to the bridge. There he climbed upon the 
parapet, exploded a pistol at his face, and fell 
forward into the water. 

"Did you see that suicide?" says I to the 
policeman who came running up. 

"Yes, sir/' answered the man, fumbling for 
his whistle. 

" I had nothing to do with it, had I ? " 

He stopped short and looked at me narrowly. 
I fell to examining my cigarette to see if it was 
burning well. He was a young man, new to 
the police service, I should think. Doubtless 



110 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

I impressed him— in my favour, I mean: I do 
so impress people sometimes. 

'You, sir!" he exclaimed, and shook his 
head. " Oh dear no, sir ! " 
"That's all right," I said. 
And then I laughed. 



ORIGINAL SIN 



ORIGINAL SIN 

"Sans cesse a mes cotes s'agite le Demon, 
II nage autour de moi comme un air impalpable ; 
Je l'avale, et le sens qui brule mon poumon 
Et Templit d'un desir eternel et coupable." 

— Les Flairs du Mai. 

When Alphonse D'Aubert had laid down his 

book for the fifth time, having taken it up five 

times in his wrestle with his thoughts, he 

decided that even VEnmmi des Lois could not 

distract him, and so, at four o'clock in the 

morning, he went into the streets. As he 

crossed the deserted Boulevard, a little boy 

drew near with a plaintive cry: " Ckarite, 

Monsieur I " and Alphonse, who was almost 

morbidly good-natured, gave him an alms, 



114 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

and paused for a few minutes of pleasant talk. 
When he fell to his walk again, he began to 
consider, with a sort of sick wonder, why 
the child who lived in his rnind to such fell 
purpose, could not become to him as this 
child he had just left : as all other children, — 
exquisite, helpless, piteous things, craving 
for love and protection. Thus it was always 
with him : after his blackest nights he was 
ever in the morning at his penitentials : 
and when the dawn was creeping over the 
roofs of the houses, he forgot how feverishly 
he had yearned in the darkness to press 
his long fingers on the soft throat of a 
child. 

Whether Alphonse was in love with Madame 
Dantonel or not, it may be said that she was 
the creature he cared most for on earth. 
Certainly, on her side, she looked for nothing 
more tender than a friendship with this some- 



ORIGINAL SIN. 115 

what strange young man, whom, in a way of 
motherly tenderness, she regarded, with his 
bizarveries, his exclusiveness, his superior 
silences, as a rather terrible child, spoilt by 
his excellent fortune in the world. At her 
house in the Champs-Ely sees he found himself 
most readily at his ease : and this fact led 
him by the hand to the opinion, that he was 
never in the least happy when he was not 
there. She was the widow of a man who had 
been engaged with politics : Alphonse never 
troubled to inquire how engaged ; only 
recognised the death of the political person as 
a relief, and as a period to the slight embarrass- 
ment with which he was wont to listen to the 
patriotics — an embarrassment which all forms 
of activity brought to his contemplative and 
somewhat melancholy spirit. And after that, 
he was never so serene, so nearly joyous, as 
when he was in the company of Madame 



Il6 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

Dantonel and the little Clotilde, her only 
child, who was now four years old. 

It was on a day when he was most delightful, 

when he was taking life gaily, that, looking at 
the little girl as she played on the floor, the 
stunning desire came to him to take her by 
the throat and squeeze out her life. He took 
his leave in manifest disturbance ; and fled into 
the street. He was shaking with horror : of a 
truth he loved this child, next to its mother, 
supremely ; and yet, amid his disgust, he could 
not stifle a lust to murder her, — a thrilling 
satisfaction, as he thought of the life ebbing 
from her face while he crushed her soft round 
throat with his fingers. That was the first 
bad night of the many bad nights to come. 
On the following afternoon he went to the 
house again, to try himself — to see how he 
would " get on " ; but within five minutes he 
departed, grinding his teeth and biting at his 



ORIGINAL SIN. 117 

nails to keep down his passion, which was 
driving him to rush back to the house and 
slay the child before its mother's face. But 
after a ghastly night of torture, and sweat, 
and weeping, he found himself, in the morning, 
suddenly recovered ! All his old affection for 
the child once more lived in his heart : the 
devil, it seemed, had been worsted : and it was 
in this glad condition that he lived for a few 
weeks. He had given Clotilde many presents 
before ; but now he spent hours in the toy- 
shops, finding a certain piety in thus eagerly 
buying, as though he were making good a 
case with his conscience. Ah, those few 
excellent days ! How brilliant he was ; how 
he dealt with the sunshine ; how airily he 
tossed a salute to the passengers in the 
street ! 

But it was on a dreary afternoon, when the 
rain was whipping through the court-yard, as 



Il8 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

Alphonse stood talking lightly to Madame 
Dantonel and the child, that he suddenly 
knew himself to be the slave of his old passion. 
Oh, to crush that satin throat! He made 
one tremendous, straining effort, and so beat 
himself; but the effort was too much for 
his physical strength, and he fell on the floor 

as if dead. 

When he began to get his senses, he found 

Madame Dantonel bending over him with a 
look of sharp anxiety. 

" Ah, my poor friend ! " she exclaimed, " but 
you have been very ill ! " 

" I have been ill, but now I am well," says 
Alphonse, in a thick voice. "I am going away 
— far away from Paris." 

" Going away I " And when she got over her 
surprise : "But why? " 

" Because I do no good here," he said, getting 
on his feet. " Because I find my life too narrow. 



ORIGINAL SIN. 119 

I go to the cafe, I chat, I smoke cigarettes. 
Good. I dine, I go to the opera, to a soiree. 
My God!' he cries out, "do you call that a 
life? Please, my dearest friend, do not prevent 
me. I am going away." 

She took his hand very kindly. " Go, if you 
wish it," she said; " but remember that you have 
always two friends here. Is it not so, Clotilde ? " 

Alphonse was taken with a hard shudder as 
he went out. 

He decided to go to England ; with an ultimate 
thought, perhaps, of America. He crossed the 
channel in wintry and boisterous weather, and 
when he came to Dover he was well content to 
lie there : postponing, gratefully enough, his 
arrival at London till the next day. Tired with 
his tossing journey, he took to his bed early ; and 
at once fell into the profound sleep of fatigue, 
from which he awoke, about two o'clock, hot 
and trembling. The figure of the child was 



120 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

before him in the darkness of the room ; 
the full throat, above all 1 was apparent and 
particular. He rolled on the bed, and tore 
and bit the pillows : not before had he 
longed with this violent frenzy to see the 
child stretched at his feet, looking solidly 
white and dead. Damp and shaking, he 
put on his clothes and went down to talk 
with the night-porter — a desperate chance 
under the best conditions ; for a foreigner, 
hopeless ! as he found. So he returned to 
his room, and opened his windows to the 
raining night. A strong salt wind was 
singing up channel ; and Alphonse let it get 
into his hair and eyes, finding respite in 
this way, and a certain peace. Thus he 
spent the night, till the dawn came to shew 
the gray, uneasy sea, and the gray sky. He 
departed, when morning had come, on board 



ORIGINAL SIN. 121 

the earliest packet-boat, and that evening he 
found himself again in Paris. 

Things having come to this point, you 
may ask fairly : Why did he not turn to 
the obvious remedy — self-destruction ? Yes ! 
But upon reflection it does not seem so 
likely. Indeed, upon reflection it would 
appear, that when a man has a desire, a 
fierce lust to satisfy, he prefers, however 
the powers of his soul may rebel, to live for 
the gratification of that desire, that fierce 
lust. Be that as it will, the man I am 
writing about did not contemplate suicide ; 
did not, for a moment, glance along that 
road of escape. But he gave a dainty 
supper, to which he invited some of his male 
acquaintance, and a few ladies of generous 
virtue. There sat by him a superb creature, 
with gleaming shoulders and snapping black 



122 A BOOK OF BARGAINS, 

eyes ; and as the mirth grew more disordered, 
he laid his hand on her swelling throat and 
tried to tempt himself to kill her in the sight 
of the revellers. Any one rather than the 
child ! But even as he thought it, the child 
floated before his eyes; the remembrance of 
the strange satiety he would feel when he 
had choked out her life, which he would not 
feel at all were he to kill this woman, caused 
his hand to fall listlessly to his side; and 
pleading a sudden dizziness, he left the merry- 
makers to themselves. 

So on the next afternoon, we find him 
once more repairing to the Champs-Elysees and 
the house of Madame DantoneL He was 
feeling easier to-day ; and he discovered at 
Madame Dantonel's, one visitor who helped 
to soothe his irritated nerves. This was an 
old military officer : and Alphonse found his 



ORIGINAL SIN. 123 

cheerfulness and honest geniality of character 
very pleasant. He had sat for about twenty 
minutes, when Madame Dantonel exclaimed : — 

"My poor little Clotilde ! She has a cold, 
a slight sore throat, and this is the time 
when the bonne goes down-stairs, so she will 
be quite alone. Forgive me if I go to her." 

The time had come. " Permit me I " said 
Alphonse, on his feet in an instant. It was 
as though a stranger were talking: he comd 
no more help the words than he could help 
breathing. " Pray do not deprive Monsieur 
of your company. I will go to Clotilde; it 
will delight me to see her, and I know the 
room quite well." 

He hardly waited for the murmured pleasure, 
but ran, trembling with eagerness, up the 
stairs. The little girl was in bed playing 
with her doll, and she greeted him with a 



124 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

smile and a glad cry. He clenched his teeth, 
and squeezed and crushed her throat till the 
pretty tiny face became black and swollen, 
and the poor little frame, after a shake and 
a quiver, lay quite still. 

As he came down, he heard Madame 
Dantonel say good-bye to the visitor, and 
the hush of her dress as she passed through 
the hall. 

" Mon Dieu! how pale you look!" she 
cried, raising both hands. u Is anything 
the matter with Clotilde ? " 

" Clotilde is very well," says Alphonse. 
" But I think the room was too hot for me, 
and I am going away now." 

" Really ! so soon ? " she said, genuinely 
sorry. And she held out her hand. 

" No t please don't shake hands with me, 
I am not worthy ! " cries Alphonse, with a 



ORIGINAL SIN. 125 

wan smile, passing the matter off as a jest. 
" You will find Clotilde very well/' he said 
again. 

The door closed behind him. As the 
mother went upstairs to her child, he took 
his way to a chymist's shop which he knew 
of in the neighbourhood. 



WHEN I WAS DEAD 



WHEN I WAS DEAD 

"And yet my heart 
Will not confess he owes the malady 
That doth my life besiege." 

— AU*s Well thai Ends Well. 

That was the worst of Ravenel Hall. The 
passages were long and gloomy, the rooms 
were musty and dull, even the pictures 
were sombre and their subjects dire. On an 
autumn evening, when the wind soughed 
and wailed through the trees in the park, 
and the dead leaves whistled and chattered, 
while the rain clamoured at the windows, 
small wonder that folk with gentle nerves 
went a-straying in their wits! An acute 



130 A BOOK OF BARGAINS, 

nervous system is a grievous burthen on the 
deck of a yacht under sunlit skies : at 
Ravenel the chain of nerves was prone to 
clash and jangle a funeral march. Nerves 
must be pampered in a tea-drinking com- 
munity ; and the ghost that your grandfather, 
with a skinful of port, could face and never 
tremble, sets you, in your sobriety, sweating 
and shivering ; or, becoming scared (poor 
ghost ! ) of your bulged eyes and dropped 
jaw, he quenches expectation by not appear- 
ing at all. So I am left to conclude that it 
was tea which made my acquaintance afraid 
to stay at Ravenel. Even Wilvern gave 
over; and as he is in the Guards, and a 
polo player, his nerves ought to be strong 
enough. On the night before he went I 
was explaining to him my theory, that if 
you place some drops of human blood near 



WHEN I WAS DEAD. 131 

you, and then concentrate your thoughts, 
you will after a while see before you a man 
or a woman who will stay with you during 
long hours of the night, and even meet you 
at unexpected places during the day, I was 
explaining this theory, I repeat, when he 
interrupted me with words, senseless enough, 
which sent me fencing and parrying strangers, 
— on my guard, 

" I say, Alistair, my dear chap ! " he began, 
"you ought to get out of this place, and go 
up to town and knock about a bit — you really 
ought, you know." 

" Yes," I replied, "and get poisoned at the 
hotels by bad food, and at the clubs by bad 
talk, I suppose. No, thank you: and let me 
say that your care for my health enervates me." 

" Well, you can do as you like," says he, 
rapping with his feet on the floor ; '* I'm hanged 



132 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

if I stay here after to-morrow — I'll be staring 
mad if I do ! " 

He was my last visitor. Some weeks after his 
departure I was sitting in the library with my 
drops of blood by me. I had got my theory 
nearly perfect by this time; but there was one 
difficulty. 

The figure which I had ever before me, 
was a figure of an old woman with her hair 
divided in the middle ; and her hair fell to her 
shoulders, white on one side and black on the 
other. She was a very complete old woman; 
but, alas 1 she was eyeless, and when I tried to 
construct the eyes she would shrivel and rot in 
my sight. But to-night I was thinking, thinking, 
as I had never thought before, and the eyes 
were just creeping into the head, when I heard 
a terrible crash outside as if some heavy 
substance had fallen. Of a sudden the door 



WHEN I WAS DEAD. I33 

was flung open, and two maid-servants entered. 
They glanced at the rug under my chair, and at 
that they turned a sick white, cried on God, 
and huddled out. 

" How dare you enter the library in this 
manner?" I demanded, sternly. No answer 
came back from them, so I started in pursuit. 
I found all the servants of the house gathered 
in a knot at the end of the passage. 

" Mrs. Pebble," I said smartly, to the house- 
keeper, " I want those two women discharged 
to-morrow. It's an outrage ! You ought to be 
more careful." 

But she was not attending to me. Her face 
was distorted with terror. 

"Ah dear, ah dear!" she went, "We had 
better all go to the library together," says she 
to the others. 

" Am I still master of my own house, Mrs. 



134 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

Pebble ? " I inquired, bringing my knuckles 
down with a bang on a table. 

None of them seemed to see me or hear me : 
I might as well have been shrieking in a desert. 
I followed them down the passage, and forbade 
them with strong words to enter the library. 
But they trooped past me, and stood with a 
clutter round the hearth-rug. Then three or 
four of them began dragging and lifting, as if 
they were lifting a helpless body, and stumbled 
with their imaginary burthen over to a sofa. 
Old Soames, the butler, stood near. 

" Poor young gentleman ! " he said, with a 
sob; "I've knowed him since he was a baby. 
And to think of him being dead like this — and 
so young too ! " 

I crossed the room. " What's all this, 
Soames ? " I cried, shaking him roughly by the 
shoulders. " I'm not dead, I'm here — here ! " 



WHEN I WAS DEAD. 135 

As he did not stir, I got a little scared. 
" Soames, old friend/' I called, " don't you 
know me ? Don't you know the little boy you 
used to play with ? Say I'm not dead, Soames, 
please, Soames ! " 

He stooped down and kissed the sofa. " I 
think one of the men ought to ride over to 
the village for the doctor, Mr. Soames," says 
Mrs. Pebble, and he shuffled out to give the 
order. 

Now, this doctor was an ignorant dog, whom 
I had been forced to exclude from the house, 
because he went about proclaiming his belief 
in a saving God, at the same time that he 
proclaimed himself a man of science. He, I 
was resolved, should never cross my threshold, 
and I followed Mrs. Pebble through the house, 
screaming out prohibition. But I did not 
catch even a groan from her, not a nod of 



136 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

the head nor cast of the eye, to shew that she 
had heard. 

I met the doctor at the door of the library. 
"Well!' 1 I sneered, throwing my hand in his 
face, "have you come to teach me some new 
prayers ? " 

He brushed by me as if he had not felt the 
blow, and knelt down by the sofa. 

" Rupture of a vessel on the brain, I think, 1 * 
he says to Soames and Mrs. Pebble after a 
moment. " He has been dead some hours. 
Poor fellow ! You had better telegraph for his 
sister, and I will send up the undertaker to 
arrange the body." 

"You liar!" I yelled, "You whining liar! 
How have you the insolence to tell my servants 
that I am dead, when you see me here face to 
face ? " 

He was far in the passage, with Soames 



WHEN I WAS DEAD. 137 

and Mrs. Pebble at his heels, ere I had ended, 
and not one of the three turned round, 

All that night I sat in the library. Strangely 
enough, I had no wish to sleep, nor, during the 
time that followed, had I any craving to eat. 
In the morning the men came, and although 
I ordered them out, they proceeded to minister 
about something I could not see. So all day 
I stayed in the library or wandered about the 
house, and at night the men came again, bring- 
ing with them a coffin. Then, in my humour, 
thinking it shame that so fine a coffin should be 
empty, I lay the night in it, and slept a soft, 
dreamless sleep— the softest sleep I have ever 
slept. And when the men came the next day, 
I rested still, and the undertaker shaved me. 
A strange valet ! 

On the evening after that, I was coming 
down-stairs, when I noted some luggage in the 



I38 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

hall, and so learned that my sister had arrived. 
I had not seen this woman since her marriage, 
and I loathed her more than I loathed any 
creature in this ill-organized world. She was 
very beautiful I think — tall, and dark, and 
straight as a ram-rod — and she had an unruly 
passion for scandal and dress. I suppose the 
reason I disliked her so intensely was, that she 
had a habit of making one aware of her 
presence when she was several yards off. At 
half-past nine o'clock my sister came down to 
the library in a very charming wrap, and I 
soon found that she was as insensible to my 
presence as the others. I trembled with rage 
to see her kneel down by the coffin — my coffin ; 
but when she bent over to kiss the pillow 
I threw away control. 

A knife which had been used to cut string 
was lying on a table : I seized it and drove 



WHEN I WAS DEAD. I39 

it into her neck. She fled from the room 
screaming. 

" Come, come ! " she cried, her voice quivering 
with anguish, " the corpse is bleeding from 
the nose." 

Then I cursed her. 

On the morning of the third day there was 
a heavy fall of snow. About eleven o'clock I 
observed that the house was filled with blacks, 
and mutes, and folk of the county, who came 
for the obsequies. I went into the library 
and sat still, and waited. Soon came the 
men, and they closed the lid of the coffin and 
bore it out on their shoulders. And yet I sat, 
feeling rather sadly that something of mine 
had been taken away : I could not quite 
think what. For half an hour perhaps — dream- 
ing — dreaming: and then I glided to the hall 
door. There was no trace left of the funeral • 



140 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

but after a while I sighted a black thread 
winding slowly across the white plain. 

" I'm not dead/' I moaned, and rubbed my 
face in the pure snow and tossed it on my 
neck and hair, " Sweet God, I am not dead." 



HUGO RAVEN'S HAND 



HUGO RAVEN'S HAND 



The girl had always been an annoyance to 
Hugo Raven. Even when their relations had 
been most intimate, he had found her petulant, 
wayward, at times a little morose ; and now, 
although he had not seen her for nearly a 
year, the recollection of her vaguely troubled 
him. She had letters of his, for instance— 
eager, passionate letters, written in warm and 
unwary moments — which he regretted ; and 
these letters, exposed just at this point of 
his career, might prove disastrous. " What 
a bother she is, that Grace Casket," he said 
to himself. 



144 A BOOK OF BARGAINS, 

He sat to breakfast, one Sunday morning in 
summer, in his chambers in the Temple. The 
rooms were light and charming : a drowsy 
peace had settled on everything. Through the 
open windows the breath of the lime trees in 
King's Bench Walk floated in, and a humming 
bee would now and then hover above a bowl 
of wet, amber-coloured roses. He had the 
Morning Post of yesterday propped up before 
him, so ordered, that he could with ease 
read this advertisement : — 

" A marriage has been arranged, and will 
shortly take place between Hugo Raven, Esq., 
of the Inner Temple, barrister-at-law, and 
Hilda, only daughter of Sir Matthew Chancel, 
Bart., of 12, Walpolc Street, Mayfair, and The 
Priory, Little Maddon, Dorset." 

He read this advertisement so often, that he 
noted how one of the letters in his name was 



HUGO RAVEN S HAND. 145 

a little out of place — printed higher than the 
others, and he was irritated. But he thought 
that the advertisement, on the whole, ran very 
well. He leaned back in his chair, stroking 
his beard with his large, powerful hand, on 
which he wore two rings, and stared at the 
ceiling. Yes ! certainly he had done well for 
himself in the world ; had now, in his thirty- 
fifth year, reached the "home-stretch," as 
people say. He had been only an ordinary 
passman at Oxford ; but when he came to 
town he discovered in the law, which has the 
reputation of being so dry, matter which for 
him was not dry at all. Well ! just this 
interest of his in his subject, taken with his 
somewhat arrogant, overbearing (could it have 
been what is called browbeating ?) manner, 
was found most valuable in his practice at the 
Bar. After a while he became accustomed, 



146 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

and began to be talked about ; he was said 
to be a safe man to have on your side. Then 
he went a great deal into London society, 
with the purpose of discovering some woman 
who had money enough to be his wife. This 
girl, Hilda Chancel, he had now found. He 
was rather a favourite with people. Some- 
times he engaged a little with the fine arts. 
He painted tiny pictures of fields, and farm- 
houses, and sunsets, in water-colours. He 
said he adored music ; and in a box, at an 
opera of Wagner, would pass a pleasant hour 
in conversation. When there was nobody to 
talk to, he yawned and looked horribly 
" bored," then he told you, afterwards, how 
the music had charmed him. He despised 
men of letters, whom he called "writing 
chaps," and had the illusion (like many 
another !) that if he could only spare an hour 



HUGO RAVENS HAND, I47 

» 

or two a week for trifling, he could produce 
great books. Indeed, he used to write sugary 
little verses for the albums of ladies — verses 
about "flowers" and " showers," "heart" 
and "part," " kiss " and "bliss." He would 
read these verses to his friends, and he called 
them his "poems." He had met Grace 
Casket, who was an assistant in a milliner's 
shop in Regent Street, by accident, and he 
had made her —a girl of this class — his 
mistress on principle; his principle being, that 
an adventure which is bought is not worth 
having. 

Hugo put his hands in his pockets, and 
sauntered lazily to the window. The sun 
gleamed on the buildings of the Temple ; and 
all about was the stillness which makes Sunday 
a festival in that quiet neighbourhood. Below 
the window, on the gravel, some pigeons gurgled 



I48 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

and coo'd — that strange sound of pigeons ! which 
reminds one, in some subtile fashion, of the soft 
feel of warm milk. Hugo watched one of them 
that had gone apart from the others, strutting 
and pruning itself, with idle concentration ; 
then, quite naturally, his eyes fell on Crown 
Office Row, and the form of a woman at the 
far end. He started wildly ; a sick feeling 
came all about his heart, as if a hand had 
grasped him and tightened there. Then he 
fell to reasoning with himself. The figure in 
the distance had, certainly, a look of Grace 
Casket ; but in our lives people did not appear 
in that way, just when you were thinking of 
them, as they did in silly novels and stories. 
He was one of those men who, having never 
had a taste of the marvellous, their use is, not 
to stand in doubt, but to deny strenuously that 
marvels happen. He watched the woman as 



HUGO RAVEN'S HAND. I49 

she came slowly along, swinging her parasol, 
and stopping now and then to look over the 
gardens towards the river. An old gate-keeper, 
in his coat with brass buttons, hobbled by : 
she spoke to him, and he seemed to be indi- 
cating this very house. After that she came 
straight for the entrance. 

" How absurd ! " thought Hugo. " There 
are other men on the staircase besides myself." 

He heard her slow, rather heavy step on the 
wooden stairs, and the hush of her dress. 
She knocked at his doon It was Grace Casket, 
sure enough. What a misfortune 1 

He thought of resting still, so that she might 
conclude he was out. She knocked again. Ah, 
curse her ! She was sure to go to Whitcomb's 
rooms opposite, and ask about him. He walked 
with quick, hard steps, and unlocked the 
door. 



150 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

"Oh, Hugo!" 

11 Come in, come in ! somebody may see 
you," 

When she entered the room, the first thing 
she did was to cross over and bury her face 
in the cool roses. Hugo thought that was 
rather pretty of her. She was tall and fair- 
formed ; of the English type of prettiness — of 
beauty, if you will ! — with her scarlet lips, her 
cheeks cream and red, and her waving, bronze- 
coloured hair. Her hands were large and 
covered with black gloves ; when she sat down 
she let her hands fall together in her lap, 
and Hugo perceived that there was a hole 
in the finger of a glove. There was a note of 
the provinces in her speech : it came like the 
odour of fields in a dusty street on a hot day. 
Sometimes she neglected to give the letter h 
its full value ; and when she observed that she 



HUGO RAVEN'S HAND. 151 

had done so, she became confused, and added 
the letter to the next word in her mouth 
which began with a vowel. This habit lent 
a quaint effect to her talk, and it greatly 
annoyed Hugo Raven. "How different she is 
from Hilda Chancel," he thought. 

She sat looking at Hugo, who was standing. 
"Won't you talk to me, Hugo?" asked the 
girl at last, a little plaintively. 

"Oh, yes, of course I'll talk to you. I 
suppose you came here to talk," he answered, 
roughly. " Why did you come here ? Will 
you be good enough to tell me that ? " 

" Hugo, dear, please don't be angry with 
me— I can't stand your anger ! " She stood 
up and stretched out her arms, then drew 
them in and clasped her hands on her breast — 
a graceful, unconscious action. " I read in 
the paper yesterday that you are engaged to 



152 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

be married. I didn't know where to find 
you before. Oh, you can't think what I've 
suffered this last year ! For six weeks I was 
so ill that I couldn't work, and I had no one 
to turn to* Then this morning I came here. 
I met an old man outside — I think he belongs 
here — and he shewed me the house. He 
seemed to know you." 

" Very likely ! " Hugo answered abruptly. 
"Now then, what do you want?" 

" What do I want? Oh, Hugo dearest, don't 
talk to me like that — you kill me ! Why I want 
you, dear — you — you — you 1 You are everything 
in the world to me ! Don't marry this other 
girl ! No matter how nice she is, she can't 
love you as I do. Don't marry her — marry 
me!" 

u Marry you ? Marry a girl out of a bonnet 
shop ? You must be mad ! " he exclaimed 



HUGO RAVEN S HAND. 153 

brutally. " Great heavens ! that would be a 
fine ending of my career. Upon my word, 
I congratulate you on your inspiration ! " 

Possibly, to endure his brutality had become 
a habit with her; for she went on as though 
he had not spoken. 

" Or don't marry me, if you don't like. Only 
let me be near you always, never go away from 
you, I will be so quiet and good, and I'll try 
hard to improve, indeed I will. Oh, my God, 
how much I love you ! " she cried, and began 
to sob. 

There fell a silence* A warm air glided softly 
into the room and stirred the curtains. The 
flutter of the pigeons sounded far off* Stealthily, 
the sun had crept to the bowl of roses, and was 
drying them. In a sharp, hard tone, a clock 
struck the quarter. 

"I suppose you are thinking," she said, 



154 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

wearily, "that it would be as well if I was 
dead," 

As a matter of fact, he had been thinking 
of nothing whatever. He started now, and 
looked up. 

" You know I have always liked you, Grade," 
he murmured, taking a pen from the table and 
playing with it. 

She heard him call her " Gracie," and her 

eves cleared. 

«■ 

" Oh, Hugo, let us forget all that has hap- 
pened. Let us forget this dreadfwl last year. 
Let us go on as we used to, and have our 
own love, I've got all your letters, and I 
read them sometimes and think how sweet 
you were. Do you remember ? " 

" Yes ; I remember." 

" Let us begin again all the dear old things — 
our long nights together, our walks." 



hugo raven's hand. 155 

" I was going to propose a walk somewhere," 
Hugo said. " You know Acton Green where 
we used to walk ; we shall go there. Can 
you come to-morrow ? " 

" Ah ! not to-morrow. But Tuesday — " 

" Very well ! on Tuesday. I will meet you 
there about five o'clock; I can't get away 
before, but the days are long, you know. 
And now," he added, looking at his watch, 
"I'm afraid I must ask you to leave me. I 
have two or three people coming to see me 
about some business matter, and I should not 
like them to find you here." 

11 Kiss me before I go, Hugo dear," she said. 
11 You have not kissed me for so long ! " He 
kissed her, tenderly enough. " You do love 
me, don't you ? " she cried, clinging to him. 

" You know I love you," he answered 
slowly. 



I56 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

He watched her as she went down the stairs. 
At the end of the first flight, she paused as 
if taking thought. 

" On Tuesday, remember, you will be sure 
to come ? " she called. 

" On Tuesday ; have I not said Tuesday ? " 
said Hugo, with an impatient laugh, and 
banged his door. 



II 

It had become a custom with Hugo, since 
his engagement, to dine at Sir Matthew 
Chancel's house on Sunday evenings. On 
this Sunday, after his interview with Grace 
Casket, he talked a great deal. Hilda Chancel 
thought he was brilliant and wonderful. 

Just at that time, the evening papers were 
packed with details of an atrocious murder. 
In the drawing-room, after dinner, they talked 
of murders. Miss Chancel loved them. She 
would like to know a murderer ; she said 
murderers were adorable creatures. 

" Hilda ! " cried her mother. 

Hilda Chancel was tall and thin, of a remark- 
able appearance. She had an easy temperament, 
a temperament which inclined her towards 
letting things go loosely by. She made rash 



158 A BOOK OF BARGAINS, 

little speeches, either because she thought 
they were clever, or because she did not 
think at all. 

Now she laughed. " Oh, Hugo, you must 
help me! ,: she exclaimed. ''Don't you simply 
worship murderers ? " 

"Ah ! I am afraid I can't help you in this," 
he said gravely. "A murderer sins deeply 
against his fellow- men. I wonder how he can 
live after the act, how he can endure the 
remorse. If I were to commit a murder, I 
should see only one way out of the misery, and 
that way would be suicide." 

Everybody thought that this was extremely 
well said. Hilda, svho took her morals from 
him, let the topic fall. Shortly after Hugo 
went away. 

As he was walking rapidly to his club, he 
was hailed in a thick and jovial voice. 



HUGO RAVENS HAND. 159 

" Why, Raven t old chap, I haven't seen you 
for an age ! How d'ye do, old bird ? You're 

not so great that you can't notice a fellow." 

Hugo knew who had stopped him. " How 
are you, Scarford ? *' he said frigidly, and was 
for going on. 

This Scarford was a doctor ; a man of parts, 
yet a hopeless failure. He had taken a good 
degree in science with half of his strength, and 
had been, at one time, an enthusiastic scholar. 
Of a sudden he had become gross, and slovenly, 
a railer at decorum ; and now he went through 
life unshorn and sodden-eyed. He frequented 
the houses of call in the Strand, consorting with 
second-rate actors ; and knew a bar-maid at 
ever}- inn between Trafalgar Square and Ludgate 
Circus. He and Raven had been at Harrow 
together, where he had often done Raven's 
Latin for him. During the past five years, 



l6o A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

whenever Raven sighted him in the distance, 
he thought it his duty to cross the street to 
avoid a meeting with him. 

" I am in a hurry, Scarford," he said now, 
trying to brush past. 

But the other was too quick for him, and 
grasped his arm. " Let us have a drink 
together," he stammered. 

A thought shot through Hugo's head. 
"Where are you living now?" he asked. 

" Oh, somewhere in the forest of South 
Kensington — you know it is a forest," says 
Scarford, with a loud laugh. 

Hugo just smiled. " Have you a surgery 
there, and drugs, and all that ? " he went on, 
to make sure that he would not be wasting his 
time with a sot. 

" Oh yes, I suppose they are all there, unless 
somebody has run away with them. I say, old 



HUGO raven's hand. 161 

chap, you're much too sober, and so am I. Let 
us go and have a drink." 

For a full hour, Hugo sat on a high stool, 
before a bar, drinking whisky; and was 
introduced to people whom he devoutly wished 
never to meet with again. There was a girl 
behind the bar, with a look remote from 
innocence, in whom Scarford was interested. 
Could it be the curious chymistry of her hair ? 
Hugo wondered. 

When, at last, they came into the open air, 
the doctor turned very drunk. Hugo proposed 

to drive home with him, and they went off in 

a hansom. 

At his house Scarford produced more 

whisky; and they sat in the " surgery " 

drinking, and talking together. Hugo spoke 

of poisons. He had been reading some cases 

of strange, subtile poisonings lately; and he 



l6a A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

remembered one affair, in particular, which 
had come under his notice when he was 
last on circuit. He contradicted the doctor 
on some points, and the latter grew 
angry. 

"You shall see for yourself!' he cried. He 
got up, and fetched three jars. "I've got 
some stuff here that will kill a horse in less 
than five minutes." 

" How very interesting ! " says Hugo, smelling 
at the jars. " Dear me ! I had no idea. May 
I take a little of this ? I — you see, I am a 
little of a chymist myself, and I should like to 

analyze this at my leisure." 

"You may take the whole blooming lot if 
you like I " said Scarford, slapping his legs and 
laughing. " Only don't ask me to pay the 
undertaker. I'll go as chief mourner. To see 
me as chief mourner at old Raven's funeral ! " — 



HUGO RAVEN'S HAND. 163 

and he roared, and hiccoughed, brushing the 
tears from his face. 

Hugo went back to his chambers very gaily; 
and all the next day he carried a light heart. 
On Tuesday he was busy ; and it was after six 
o'clock when he arrived at Acton Green. Grace 
Casket was waiting for him. 

" How late you are ! " 

" How could I get here before ? " he asked 
crossly. 

Then he subdued the irritation which this 

girl always caused him, and went on quietly : 
11 I came as soon as I could. I was engaged 
all day." 

'Yes, I know, dear. I was stupid to say 
that ! " 

' Have you been here long ? " he asked, not 
because he cared, but because he could think 
of nothing else to make conversation. 



164 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

" Since four o'clock. I know you said five, 
bat I had an idea that I might miss you, 
and I have something important to say," She 
looked as if she had been crying. 
"Well! won't you say it now?" 
"Not yet, pleasel I would rather wait awhile." 
They walked on through the strange, pretty 
village — strange, because it is like a toy, or 
model, village, set down in the midst of one 
of the ugliest parts of London — till they came 
to a stile, on the other side of which was a 
path which led over the fields to Willesden, 
It was very still. Overhead, the leaves of the 
trees intermingling looked like patterns of 
Brussels lace. The sun having hung in the 
sky for some time, like a plate of red-hot metal, 
suddenly dropped down ; and night was there. 
"Tell me your important thing, Grade." 
" Not yet ! not yet !— oh, I can't yet t " 



HUGO RAVEN'S HAND. 165 

She was only playing on him in her old silly 
way, he thought. It was her troublesome, 
tortuous method again, and it maddened 
him. 

They climbed the stile, and walked some 
yards till they came to a clump of bushes. 
Hugo looked all around. 

" Why won't you tell me ? " 

" Hugo dearest, you did not kiss me when 
we met ; and I feel so tired. You have not 
kissed me to-day." 

"No, by God! but I'll kiss you now!" and 
with that he drove a knife into her neck, behind 
the ear. 

She gave a deep groan, and Hugo put his 
hand over her mouth to stifle her. She caught 
his hand between her teeth and bit it. Then 
they fell on the ground together, and Hugo 
saw her eyes staring up at him full of hate 



l66 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

or love— he could not tell which ; only recog- 
nised a great longing for the power of speech — 
to say one word — in them. She dug her 
fingers into the earth, and stretched out 
straight — stiff and straight. She was dead. 

He bound his bleeding hand with his hand- 
kerchief, and fled from the corpse, leaving the 
knife — a common one, not easily to be 
recognised — in the neck. As he sped over 
the field he had but one thought. " She is 
dead ! I shall not have to marry her. No 
exposure! She is dead. Marry a girl like that, 
who could hardly spell ! and her rough hands ! 
No! a thousand times, no!" He ran, 
and this thought ran in his company, till he 
came face to face with a man whom he 
took to be a tramp. By one of those 
uncontrollable impulses, which impel us at 
times to do just what we would not, he was 



HUGO RAVEN'S HAND. 167 

moved to accost the man and ask the way to 
Willesden. The man told him civilly enough ; 
and then begged. Hugo gave him two shillings, 
and started off again. How mad of him to 
speak to the tramp. The man must have 
noted, even in the dusk, his disturbed air. 
And to give him two shillings— a ridiculously 
large sum ! It was like hush-money. So he 
came to Willesden, 

Little jets of gas were springing up in the 

streets. Before a flaring public-house he 
paused, and then went in. Inside there 
were a number of rough-looking men, who 
kept their eyes fixed on Hugo. He asked 
for the best brandy, and remained, drinking 
deeply, for half an hour. He was not the 
philosophic murderer, careless and indurated : 
he was appalled, and his heart was oppressed 
by the horrible deed he had done ; and he 



l68 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

drank because he wanted to forget that 
white thing lying away there among the 
bushes. 

After awhile he began to talk to the 
men, and treated some of them. They grew 
familiar. 

i( Give every man in the place a drink at 
my expense ! " cried Hugo, and started to 
sing a catch. 

" I don't know so much about that ! " 
says the barman, truculently — putting his 

thumbs in his waist-coat; " I think you've 
had about enough. What's the matter 
with that there hand o' yours ? " 

The blood had soaked through the hand- 
kerchief, and a red stain shewed. Hugo 
explained that he had fallen on the steps of 
the Underground R a ilway . 

" I think after this one you'd better get 



HUGO RAVEN'S HAND. 169 

home," the man said, when he had served 
the drinks. " Soon you won't know where you 
are. You've got a tidy lot inside you already." 

" My good friend," exclaimed Hugo, " my 
dear and good friend — I knew you were my 
friend the moment I saw you — as you say, 
and as I say, home is the place. Now, 
I'll go home — if you can get me a cab." 

" Cab, sir ? I'll get you a cab," said 
a thin, red-haired fellow by the door. He 
darted out, and returned in a few minutes 
with a cabman at his heels. 

11 'Ere's a four-wheeler, sin I got 'im 
for you, sir," 

" Is that what you w r ant me to drive?" 
cried the cabman in great disgust. " I 
thought as you said a toph. 'Ere, you 
Jimmy ! Do you want me to drive 'im ? 
That ain't no toph. Why, look at 'is 



170 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

eyes ! He's a-trying to laugh, and he's 
just green afraid o' somethin' ! " 

" Come now, don't give us any of that ! " 
said the man behind the bar, who was 
anxious to be rid of Hugo. " If you don't 
want to drive the gentleman, somebody else 
will. He's stood drinks to every man in 
the place, and he'll give you one, too, if 
you want it* What'll ye have ? " 

" Why, if 'e's got the money, then that's 

all right," answered the cabman, on whom 

this speech had taken effect. " If 'e pays 

my fare, it's no business o' mine ; and I 

asks his parding if I've said what's a bit 

off. I ain't perticler who I drive, nor 
nobody ever said it o' me neither." 

He took his drink ; and, going outside, 

held the cab door open while Hugo stumbled 

into the cab. Then he climbed on the box, 
and the cab rattled away. 



HUGO RAVENS HAND. 171 

In the cab the thought of the murdered 
girl came once more to Hugo. He saw her 
face, her dress, the hands he had despised 
so much ; in especial, he saw that last 
lingering look in the eyes, ere the life died 
out of them for ever. He beat his hands 
and rubbed his face — the thought was still 
present. He put his head out of the 
window ; the dead face grinned at him in 
the darkness. 

As the cab jolted along the quiet roads, 
he heard a hoarse voice singing a ditty which 
was popular at the time : — 

" But all the same, it is a shame 
To leave a pretty maidie, 
When every little gentleman 
Walks home with a little lady." 

It was the cabman, who was thus 
endeavouring to make the hour go lightly. 



172 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

Hugo knew the song, and bawled out the 
next stanza : — 

14 At four a.m. we cuddle them, 

As through the streets we're going ; 
'Tis ten to one wc see the sun, 

And hear the cocks a-crowing ! 
That drunken loon, the bare-faced moon, 

Leaves useful corners shady, — 
When every little gentleman 

Walks home with a little lady." 

The cab began to go slower, and then it 
stopped. The cabman got off the box and 
shoved his red, pimpled face through the 
open window. 

" Look 'ere, guv'nor ! " he said, " just drop 
it, will you ? I don't know who you are, 
nor where you come from ; and I don't 
want to. But I sing this 'ere song on 
Sundays to my missus and the kids, and 
I don't want to think when I'm singin' it, 
maybe next Sunday, that you've been a- 



HUGO RAVEN S HAND. 1 73 

singin' of it too. You may be balmy, or 
you may 'ave taken an extra drop — but, 
any'ow, I don't like you, that's all ! If 
you don't take what I say, I'll set you 
down 'ere — it's all one to me ! " 

Hugo smiled grayly* " Very well I very- 
well ! " says he. " I'll do an)-thing you 
want. Only get on 1 For the love of 
God," he cried, the terror which was in 
his soul leaping to his eyes for a moment, 
" get on ! get on ! Drive away from this 
cursed place. Here, I know you are a 
good chap — shake hands ! " and he held 
out his hand wrapped in the stained hand* 
kerchief. 

" No ; I don't want any of yer blood," 
replied the cabman roughly : " but I suppose 
I'll drive you." He climbed on his box, and 
the cab rumbled on again. 



III. 

Early on Thursday afternoon, Hugo Raven 
sat in his chambers in the Temple. He was 
very serene. The long, choking agony which 
had come on the heels of the murder, had 
given place to a sense of relief : and now he 
only thought what a benefit it was to have 
no more of the girl. He had eagerly scanned 
the papers to see if the body had been 
discovered : but the matter was not mentioned 
by any of them. It was very hot. Not a 
leaf stirred on the trees outside his windows, 
and the hum and murmur of the busy crowd 
beneath lulled and soothed him. How fortunate 
he was ! He was waiting for Lady Chancel and 
her daughter, who had gone to see some one 
or other in the city, and were to pick him up 
on their way back. He was going to take 



HUGO RAVEN S HAND, 175 

them to a " private view/' in Bond Street, 
of the works of a painter. He dozed. Yes : 
how fortunate he was ! 

There was a knock at the door, and Hilda 
and her mother entered, Hugo was 
immediately alert and attentive, pushing up 
comfortable chairs, and offering iced drinks. 
Hilda looked deliciously fresh and cool in a 
dress of some white, clinging stuff, and a 
large hat with drooping flowers. She drew 
off one of her gloves, and her thin hand 
reminded him of the women in Rossetti's 
pictures : not that he liked Rossetti's pictures ; 
but he liked hands of that kind. They were 
so different from— well, no matter ! 

" We have just come from that horrid 
city," said Miss Chancel ; " and it is so nice 
of you to give us something with ice in it, 
Hugo ! I wonder there is any smoke left in 



176 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

the other parts of London : the people in the 
citv look as if thev absorbed it all." 

" They are black, poor dears ! " murmured 
Lady Chancel ; " and they seem in such a 
hurry." 

(i On a day like this/' the girl went on, 
11 one ought to sit on a rock without clothes, 
like the people we shall probably see in the 
pictures in a few minutes, sucking cold drinks 
through a straw." 

" My dearest Hilda ! " exclaimed her mother, 
whose life had, by this time, become one long 
protest against her daughter's talk, and one 
long submission to her daughter's will. 

" But the pictures do not suggest the whole 
truth," said Hugo smiling, and bending 
forward. t( You see, there might come a time 
of storm." 



HUGO RAVEN'S HAND. 177 

" Yes ! " sighed the girl ; (t I suppose one 
would have to keep one's clothes to provide 
against a storm. I don't like storms." 

There came a rap at the door. " What a 
bother 1 " cried Hugo. " Pardon me a moment 
till I see who it is." 

Two men stood in the passage. " Mr. Hugo 
Raven ? " says one. 

" Yes." 

" Thank you, sir. I come from Scotland 
Yard. We want to see } r ou about a girl named 
Grace Casket, who was found murdered on 
Wednesday morning in the fields near Acton." 

Before Hugo could stop them, they had 
shoved past him into the room. 

One was a tali man with an authoritative 
manner ; the other was low-sized, with sandy 
hair and beard, and stupid, fish-like eyes. 

(f Good afternoon, ladies/' said the big 
man. 



178 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

Hugo followed them, a little pale, but 
perfectly tranquil. He put his right hand, 
which was almost healed, into the pocket of 
his trousers. 

" This is Lady Chancel and her daughter," 
he explained ; " I am engaged with them. 
Can't you come some other time?" 

" Or we can go, it you have business, 
Hugo," said Hilda, rising. 

" I think I like the ladies to remain," says 
the little man. 

" Yes ! " added the other ; "the ladies 
might remain. I think you said you knew 
this Grace Casket ? " he went on, turning 
sharp on Hugo. 

" I said nothing of the kind." 

" Did you know her ? " 

Hugo got rather confused : the presence of 
Hilda and her mother was against him. " I 
did not," he answered. 



HUGO RAVEN'S HAND. IJQ 

" That's very odd ! " said the little man ; 
" because there was a letter found on her 
addressed to you ! " 

" Let us go, mother ! " cried Hilda, rising 
again decisively. 

" If you will please to stay, madam/' said 
one of the men. " You sha'n't be kept 
long." 

" This is monstrous ! " Hugo broke out ; 
" perfectly monstrous to keep the ladies here 
against their will I " He did not say more, 
however, lest he should have the appearance of 
being guilty. 

" Suppose you read that letter for the gentle- 
man, William," observed the big man. 

So the little man read it, slowly, haltingly, 
in his squeaky voice. 

" My own Hugo, 

"If I have not the courage to say 



180 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

what I want to to-night, I am going to send 
yon this letter. Somehow t I don't think 1 shall 
speak to you before we pari to-night. Oh, it 
is so hard to say I But I thought you were a 
little cold to me when I saw you on Sunday* 
But it may be my imagination, Hugo, darling, 
I don't know how to say it right, but if you 
really love this other girl more than me, take 
her, dear, and I shall never see you or trouble 
you again. I will send back all your letters if 
you want them, but I should like to keep 
them. They will be all I have of you. My own 
Hugo, I hope you will be always happy. Think 
of me sometimes. My heart is breaking. 

" With all my love. 

"Gracie." 

Hugo sat by the table, shading his face 
with his left hand. Then this was the impor- 



HUGO raven's hand. i8i 

tant thing she had wanted to say ! She had 
made her great renunciation, she had yielded 
of her own accord, and the murder was use- 
less, after all I He felt a spasm of pity for the 
poor dead face ; was it already beginning to 
rot and grow shapeless ? He turned his eyes. 
Hilda was very white, and Lady Chancel 
looked old, and wrinkled, and yellow. 

" Of course you did know this girl, Mr. 

Raven," said the detective. 

" She was my mistress for three years. I 

had not seen her for a year. She came here 
on Sunday and made a scene, and to pacify 
her, I promised to meet her on Tuesday. I 
did not keep that appointment." 

"Well now, that's strange!" remarked 
the big man. "A gentleman answering to 
your description spent about an hour in the 
Stag of Ten public at Willesden on Tuesday 
night." 



l82 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

" I was not the man," Hugo said, low and 
doggedly. 

"Not? Then this gentleman, whoever he 
was, took a four-wheeler as far as the Marble 
Arch. There he discharged the four-wheeler, 
and took a hansom. The driver of the four- 
wheeler didn't like the looks of his fare, so 
he took the number of the hansom. The 
driver of the hansom has been found, and 
remembers perfectly driving a gentleman to 
the Temple from the Marble Arch, on Tues- 
day night. He says the gentleman was drunk. 
He says, too, that he heard the gate-porter 
say: f Good night, Mr. Raven,' as you — that 
is, as the gentleman went in." 

All this time the little man was edging over 
to the table, on the right side of Hugo. Now 
he knocked over, as if by chance, a valuable 
porcelain vase. Instinctively, Hugo plucked 



HUGO raven's hand. i8j 

his hand from his pocket to save it. The 
little man grasped him by the wrist. 

" How dare you seize my hand ! you 
scoundrel ! " yelled Hugo, losing all control. 
" Let go my hand." 

But the little man held him with a grip like 
steel. " Look at the wound on this hand, 
ladies, please ! " he called ; " I want you to 
see this hand before it heals. The dead woman 
had blood in her mouth. She bit the man that 
murdered her." 

There was a close silence. Then Hugo 
rose. 

" Of course if you want to make evidence 
out of this bruise on my hand," he said, 
calmly, " I am naturally powerless. There is 
one thing, however, which will throw great 
light on this matter. It is in my bedroom. 
Let me go there: I shall return at once." 



184 A BOOK OF BARGAINS. 

The detectives, knowing that he could not 
escape, agreed. 

What followed passed so quickly, that no 
one had time to interfere, Hugo Raven came 
back into the room, laid his hand on the table, 
and then, drawing a small axe from under his 
coat, he sent it through his wrist. It fell 
with a dull thud. 

" If you think my hand is such a valuable 
piece of evidence, gentlemen, there it is for 
you ! " and he tossed it into the empty 
grate. 

He gave a groan, and staggered over to the 
mantel-piece. " Scarford knows something, after 
all! " he muttered. 

" He has poisoned himself," said the little 
man, who had been in the bedroom, "he did 
it well, too ! He can't live more than a 
minute." 



HUGO RAVEN'S HAND. 185 

His eyes grew larger and larger ; they 
seemed to start from the sockets. His tongue 
shot out, all black and furred. Still, he did 
not fall. The blood from the stump fell — 
drip — drip — drip — on the carpet. 



MILLER, SON, AND COMPY.. LIMITED, 

publishers' PRINTERS, 

18, ELDON STREET, LONDON, EX.