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I. The Man about Town . . . i 


III. The Wedding Ring .... 69 

IV. A Humorist ..... 77 


VI. Their Reasons . . . . • tiT 

VII. The Kit-Bag laj 

VIII. The Parson, the Soldier, and the Child 153 

IX. A Victim to Art .... 198 

X. When Greek joined Greer. . 2if 

XI. The Beginning of a Romance— and the 

End of It . • .348 

xn. The Babies ..... J69 

XIII. A Little Conjuring .... 968 


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"T SEE you!" 

Lord Datchet threw his cards down on the 
table, faces uppermost. 


Mr Tudor glanced at the exposed cards, then 
threw his hand from him on to the floor. 

"Kings! How much does that make?" 

The Earl of Datchet swept the pool over to him- 
self Its principal contents were little slips of paper, 
on which some hieroglyphics were inscribed. He 
sorted these out carefully, adding them to another 
heap which was at his side. Then he made some 
calculations in his note-book. 

"Thirteen thousand six hundred and fifty from 
you, and four hundred and ninety from Baines." 
He handed the note-book across the table. Mr 
Tudor merely glanced at the open page. " I should 
think we've about made a record at poker. Properly 
played, it seems that it can be made even hotter than 

Mr Tudor rose from his seat He took up a 


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position with his back to the fire, his hands in his 

"Looks like it," he said, a curious smile flitting 
across his countenance. "But I promised myself 
that I would never again play baccarat" 

Silence followed his words. The earl, looking 
down at his heap of I.O.U.s, drummed with the 
fingers of his right hand upon the table. Mr Ailing- 
ton looked in front of him, as though a straight flush 
were staring him out of countenance in the vacant air. 
Mr Baines seemed sad. It was he who broke the 
silence. When he rose to his feet it was seen that 
his sadness was accompanied by an imperfect com- 
mand of his legs. 

"I'm off' to bed." He drew out his watch with a 
hand which trembled. " Half-past eleven, b — West if 
it ain't I And Fm engaged to lunch at one. I feel 
like lunch, I — I do." Putting his watch back into 
bis pocket as he did it was an operation of a com- 
plicated kind. "Datchet, Fll let you have your 
money when I get home. I don't owe anyone else 
anything, do I ? " 

No one answered him. The earl, in h|s turn, rose 
from his chair : he was sober. 

"I'll come with you, Baines, if you wait hal^a- 
second; you go my way. Tudor, when will it be 
convenient to balance ? I wouldn't worry you, but I 
have my Newmarket settling." 

"You don't suppose I can draw a cheque for 
thirteen thousand six hundred and fifty pounds at 
a moment's notice, do you?" 

" Just so. I can wait until to-morrow." 


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Mr Tudor stared, saying nothing. The earl and 
Mr Baines left the room together, the peer assisting 
the commoner with the loan of his arm. Mr Ailing- 
ton was left alone with his host A considerable 
silence followed, broken by Mr Allington. 


" 111 ! " Mr Tudor turned and kicked the fire with 
the toe of his polished boot. "Damned ill! What 
do I owe you?" 

Mr Allington took a small heap of I.O.U.s off the 
table and advanced with them towards the fireplace. 

" Nothing." 

He was about to throw them into the fire. 
Mr Tudor caught his wrist. 

" Allington ! What do you mean ? " 

" Do you think Tm going to rob you ? " 

"Rob me? Cheat me, do you mean? You 
flatter yourself — or your companions." 

" Raymond, you've behaved like an utter fool I " 

" Have you no item of news a little better up to 

"Anything like your play I never saw! Never! 
You might never have touched a card before in your 

" It amounts to the same thing, perhaps. I shall 
never touch a card again." 

" Until next time ! " 

" There will be no next time — this time — for me. 
I'm a wrong *un." 


" Geoffrey ! You might as well have thrown those 
things into the fire. Give them to me." Mr Ailing- 


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ton, tearing up the I.O.U.s \Vith an angry gesture, 
threw them into the flames. Again using the toe of 
his boot Mr Tudor pressed them into the heart of the 
fire, remarking as he did so : " Datchet might as well 
follow your example for all the good which he is 
likely to get out of any paper which bears my 

" What do you mean ? " 

" Pm stone broke. Tm a defaulter. If you like to 
wait till Monday you will hear the news at the comer." 

There was silence. Mr Allington, going to the 
table, poured some brandy out into a glass, but he 
did not drink it. He stood toying with the glass, 
as though forgetting that the spirit was in it. 

"And what about your ambitions? — your dreams 

" My dreams of art ? Shall I show you ? " 
Mr Tudor went to an easel which stood in a comer 
of the spacious room. On the easel was a picture, 
which was veiled by a curtain. Drawing the curtain 
aside he pointed to the picture. "There are my 
dreams of art," he said. 

It was a portrait of a woman, painted in oils, and 
still unframed. Mr Allington, still with the glass 
of brandy in his hand, turned to look at it He 
went closer, so that he might examine it to more 

" It is a beautiful face — a clever face — I think it is 
a good one. Of course it's from the life ? " 
" Oh yes ; it's from the life." 

" It's the best thing you've ever done. If it is, as 
you say, a smash, and you can always paint like 


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that, you might still retrieve your fortunes with the 

*• Never 1 never!" Mr Tudor uttered the words 
with a deliberate emphasisi as though he felt a 
cynical pleasure in adopting a pessimistic point of 
view. "I've come a mucker, both the horse and 
his rider." 

Mr Allington continued to gaze at the picture. 

"What about Miss Scott?" he asked after more 
than a momentary pause. 

"What about her?" 

" Your mother tells me you are engaged to her." 


Turning, Mr Allington replaced the glass upon the 
table, the contents still untouched. 

" Raymond, I love her." Mr Tudor shrugged his 
shoulders. " You don't." Again Mr Tudor shrugged 
his shoulders. " Remember that in the days which 
are to come." 

Soon afterwards Mr Allington went. -His friend 
was left alone to gaze at the picture. It seemed as 
though he could not gaze at it enough. The work of 
his own hands appeared to have for him a singular 
attraction. He even went so far, at last, as to address 
it audibly, as though the woman pictured there were 
a living thing. 

"My darling! I wish you were here to comfort 
me. I think life might be worth living still for you." 

While he continued to gaze there came a tapping 
at the door. Hastily drawing the curtain before the 
portrait he resumed his position before the fireplace. 
His servant entered. 


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" Mrs Tudor, sir, is below." 

" My mother ! The deuce I Put the room in Order 
and show her in here. Say Til be with her in a 
minute." ^ 

When Mr Tudor, having made a "quick change" 
from evening dress to morning costume, returned 
into the room he found his mother examining the 
portrait on the easel. She was holding the curtain 
in one hand and her pince-nez in the other. The 
lights had been extinguished, the blinds and curtains 
had vanished, the windows were open, the midday 
sun was streaming into the room. There had been 
a scene-shifter's change from the dead of the night 
to the glory of the noon. Directly she saw him 
Mrs Tudor dropped the curtain, so that it fell again 
before the picture, and advanced to meet her son 
with outstretched hands. 

"Raymond I How long youVe been I" Some- 
thing in his face caused her to pause. "Are you 
not well?" 

Mr Tudor turned his back on his mother and 
stared at the flames. It was the end of May, and 
the second Newmarket Spring had been run, but 
up to that day the weather had been cold enough 
for luxurious people to have a fire. 

" Well ? Mother, Tm always well." 

" Raymond, what is the matter? What fresh folly 
have you been guilty of? What have you been 

" Doing ? I've been playing poker." 

" Playing poker I " 

" Playing poker, mother. We have bad a pleasant 


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all-night's sitting. We hiMi just finished before you 

" How much have you lost?** 

" Your maternal instinct tells you I was bound to 
lose. I have lost thirteen thousand six hundred and 
fifty pounds, besides a heap of LO.U.3 which Geoffrey 
Allington threw into the fire— excusing me, you see." 

"Raymond!" Mrs Tudor seemed to have some 
difficulty with her breath. Sinking into a chair, she 
pressed her hand to her side. " Say it's not true I " 

"I will say anything to please you, but it won't 
alter the fact" 

" To whom have you lost it ? " 


" To him ! He will have it out of you to the 
uttermost farthing." Mr Tudor merely shrugged his 
shoulders. " You've been a bad son to me." 

" I have. They're all bad sons nowadays. It's in 
the air." 

** The Lord help us I How long do you think this 
can go on ? " 

" It can't go on : if s stopped. I've stopped too. 
I'm ruined, mother, — ruined in a sense I should prefer 
you to hear from other lips than mine." 

Rising, she advanced to him with eager, trembling 

" Say it's not true ! Say if s not true I " 

" I will say it if you insist, but it is." 

She turned away. Clutching the top of a chair 
with what seemed almost a convulsive clasp, she 
remained standing with her back to him. 

"You must marry Mabel." He laughed — ^not 


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pleasantly. "She loves you. God foi^ive me for 
betraying her to you, but it is true." She turned 
on him with sudden passion. " Why are we women 
such fools as to love such things as you?" He 
looked at her in silence, a little smile distorting his 
lips. His calmness seemed to react on her. She 
spoke more quietly. "Raymond, you must marry 

" Why ? Because she loves me ? " 

'* Because of her father's millions." 

The mother spoke with a spice of that self-scorn 
which seemed to be characteristic of the son's speech. 

" You are very kind, — both to her and to me." 

" Raymond, you must do it now." She went and 
touched him on the arm. " Something in your face, 
and something in my heart, tells me that there is no 
time to lose. Let the engagement be announced 

He turned away from her. 

" You march quickly." 

'' She has but gone to the dressmaker's — I dropped 
her there — she will be here directly." 

"Could you find it in your heart to forsake the 
dressmaker for me ? " 

"Please do not sneer at your mother, Raymond. 
It is not good form. Preserve some fragment of 
good manners if your honour's gone." 

There was a pause. He tapped the floor with the 
sole of his boot. 

"Thank you, mother." 

There was a further pause. A loud knocking was 
heard at the hall door. 


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"There she is!" cried Mrs Tudor. '*Ra)rmond» 
speak to her now! I will go; you shall have a 
quarter of an hour alone with her. For God's sake, 
when I come back, let me hear that it is settled." 

"Mother!" He moved to arrest her departure, 
but she was already gone. Returning into the room 
he reoccupied what appeared to be his favourite 
position before the fireplace. "Which is the lesser 
villainy?" he asked himself, and laughed. 

A girl entered the room. She paused on the 
threshold when she perceived that Mr Tudor was 
its only occupant 

"Raymond! Alone! I thought that aunt was 

"She was here — she will be back directly." 

With singular forgetfulness of his mother's admoni- 
tion to him to preserve some fragment of good 
manners, he turned his back on the newcomer. She 
noted the action with kindling eyes, 

"Is this the way in which you greet me, sir? 
What is the matter with you, Raymond ? " 

" Nothing is the matter with me, my dear 

" If I am unwelcome pray forgive me. Have you 
no other room in which I can await my aunt's 
return?" Suddenly she advanced farther into the 
room. Her tone was changed. It was pleading, 
almost pathetic. "Raymond, why are you so 
different ? What has come to you ? Why are you 
so unlike what you used to be?" 

" My dear Mabel, you have a sensitive imagination. 
You imagine differences which are non-existent." 


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He had turned. She went forward and looked 
him in the face. 

" Are you in trouble ? " 

"Why do you ask?" 

" Because, if you are, I should like to help you.*' 

"You arc very good." He stood, searching her 
face with his eyes. She, in return, endeavoured to 
read his. " I am a sort of article you do not 

" What sort of article is that ? " 

"A bad lot" 

" I do not suppose you are altogether good, but 
I am quite sure you are not altogether bad. We 
none of us are, I any more than you." 

" My dear cousin, you speak, I will not say as a 
fool, but as a child." 

" Vou are very kind to me 1 " 

" I am better than kind, I am candid." 

** Do you wish me to quarrel with you? " 

" As I live, I think it is better that you Aould." 


" Because I " With a smile he turned his back on 
her again. The action was even more eloquent than 
his words. 

"Thank you." She paused. "I think I under- 
stand." She paused again. " With your permission, 
I will go and find my aunt" 

" Permit me to accompany you." 

" I am obliged to you, but I can go alone." 

In spite of her words he went with her. He was 
gone some time. During his absence a fresh arrival 
appeared upon the scene. This was a little, stout, 


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elderly man, who had so overdressed the part of 
gentleman that even uncritical eyes would have re- 
garded him shyly. He was ushered into the room 
by Freeman, Mr Tudor*s valet When he had shown 
him in the servant, instead of retiring, closed the 
door behind him and looked at his master's visitor — 
looked at him with an air which was not exactly 
deferential. The visitor's demeanour suggested a 
certain uneasiness. 

'^ You needn't wait," he said. 

"No? Perhaps not I" 

The servant's manner was about as cool as cool 
could be, and as impertinent. The gentleman ad- 
dressed not exactly glared at him, but endeavoured 
to glare. 

" Do you hear what I say, sir ? You needn't wait." 

Instead of going, the man slipped his hands into 
his trouser-pockets. 

"Captain Glover, there's a little matter between 
you and me — a little matter of a five-pound note." 

This remark of the valet's seemed to make the 
visitor exceedingly uncomfortable. 

" What — ^what the deuce, sir, do you mean ? " 

" You know very well what I mean. Last time I 
saw you you borrowed a fiver. You promised to 
let me have a tenner for it in a week, but I haven't 
seen the colour of a penny of it up to now." 

Captain Glover looked around the room uneasily, 
as though he were afraid that walls had ears. 

"My — my dear Freeman, my — my dear fellow, 
you — ^you shall have the money in the morning." 

"In the morning? Shall I? I shouldn't be sur- 


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prised? Not at all! And where will you be in the 
morning, I should like to know ? " 

Captain Glover sat down in an arm-chair. He 
leaned back. He spread out his arms on either side 
of him like semaphores, his hat in one hand, his stick 
in the other. 

" My good Freeman, I shall be here. I've come to 

"Have you? I ain't got no doubt you have. 
Until the governor drops you through the window." 

Captain Glover sprang up in a passion which was 
almost comical in its intensity and suddenness. 

" What the deuce do you mean by going on like 
this, sir? Do you know who you're talking to?" 
He darted his head forward into the valet's face. 
"You — ^youl" He was about to use an objection- 
able expression, but checked himself in time. "If 
you think I'm the sort of man to bully you never 
made a greater mistake in your life. I tell you I am 
going to stay here, and you shall have your money 
in the morning. That's enough for you. Now, hook 

Mr Freeman did not seem at all impressed by the 
captain's violence. After a considerable pause he 
turned leisurely upon his heels and opened the door. 

" This time I don't mind if I do. But, mark me, 
my noble captain, if I don't get my money out of 
you before you leave this house it won't be for want 
of trying. The governor won't sack me for trying 
to get out of you money which you borrowed — 
not quite, he won't. I fancy he thinks about as 
much of you as I do-*and that's nothing at all" 


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So saying, Mr Freeman snapped his fingers to- 
wards the " noble captain/' with a gesture which was 
certainly not respectful, and disappeared. Left alone, 
Captain Glover took out his pocket-handkerchief and 
wiped his heated brow. • 

" I shall have to pay the beast I can't have htm 
cheeking me every time he catches sight of me." 
He looked round the room. As he did so he drew 
what seemed to be a long breath of admiration. 
" My crikey ! what a room ! I wonder how long it 
is since I was in a room like this. Not since before 
the flood. It won't be my fault if I don't have one 
like it for my very own." He went prowling about 
the apartment, examining everything which caught 
his eye. He drew out the drawer of a table which 
stood against the wall. It contained several packs 
of cards. He took out one and fingered it. " I've 
done with you — for a living. I shouldn't be surprised 
if I am able to afford to play on the square." 

The idea seemed to tickle him, for he chuckled. 
He was still engaged in chuckling when the door 
opened, and Mr Tudor entered. His entrance was 
un'perceived. He stood and watched his visitor. 
At last he spoke to him. 

"Captain Glover, to what do I owe the honour of 
your presence here ? " 

The captain dropped the pack of cards and hastily 
shut the drawer. 

He advanced towards Mr Tudor with outstretched 
hand. Mr Tudor put his hand behind his back a 
little ostentatiously. 

" Raymond I How are you, my dear boy ? " 


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"I asked you to what do I owe the honour of 
your presence here?" 

" What a question I — from you to me ! " 

The captain endeavoured to appear at his ease, 
but the endeavour was not so successful as it might 
have been ; he seemed to be uneasy beneath the 
scrutiny of Mr Tudor's eyes. 

"Where is Rachel?" Mr Tudor asked, when the 
silence was becoming painful — to Captain Glover. 

"Where should she be?" 

It seemed that Mr Tudor did not find the answer 
satisfactory. He brought his hand from behind his 
back and laid it on the captain's shoulder. 

" Captain Glover, look at me." The captain looked, 
or tried to look, but, unfortunately, his pair of eyes 
were of a kind which found it impossible to meet 
another pair of eyes for any length of time. "If 
my face is capable of portraying the condition of my 
mind you will perceive that my mood is dangerous. 
Tell me where Rachel is, this instant, or I will throw 
you through that window." 

The captain started, possibly because the words re- 
called to his mind Mr Freeman's prophetic utterance. 

"Til tell you; take your hand away from my 
shoulder and I will tell you. Surely you don't want 
to bully me, my boy ! " 

"Where is Rachel?" 

" Well, the fact is, Raymond, St Servan's a hole— 
a hole ! And especially for a young and lively girl, 
my boy." 

"And also, and more especially, for her scampish 


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The captain laughed — ^not merrily. 

" That's not nice of you — not nice of you ! But 
never mind! Never mind! And, after all, she's 
your wife, my boy." 

** Pray, sir, who has said she is not my wife ? " 

" No one ! At least, not in my hearing ! They'd 
better not, or Jack Glover would g^ve them beans — 
beans, my boy ! And, Rasrmond, when I gave my 
sanction to my child's marriage, and passed my 
sacred word, my promise, to conceal it from the 
world, that promise I regarded as finite — finite, my 
boy ! I didn't suppose you would expect the world 
to regatd my girl as a spinster till the crack of doom, 
my boy ! " 

"What are you driving at. Captain Glover?" 

"I — I wish my child to assume her proper posi- 
tion in the world — ^her position as your wife, my 

" If you wish it I will announce that she is my 
wife within the hour." 

"You mean it?" 

"I do." 

" And you won't pitch into me if I tell you where 
she is?" 

" I will pitch into you if you don't." 

" She's round the comer ! " 

" Round the comer ! What do you mean ? " 

"What I say! She's waiting for me to tip her 
the wink before she dare venture into the house— 
into her own husband's house, my boy ! " 

" Go and bring her here." 

The captain went. When he was gone Mr Tudor 


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remained standing jn the centre of the room. He 
seemed in a sort of rapture. 

" My darling ! " he cried. There was more passion, 
in his voice than one might have supposed it capable 
of. Then he went, and, leaning his elbows on the 
mantelshelf, buried his face in his hands. It was 
not an attitude suggestive of love's ecstasy. But 
presently he lifted his head, and cried again : " My 

Suddenly there was a sound of someone coming 
up the stairs. He strained his ears to listen. Rapid 
steps were heard mounting from stair to stair. The 
door was thrown open and a girl came running into 
the room. He ran towards her with a cry. 

" My own, own love ! " he cried. 

In an instant he had her in his arms, and she 
was weeping on his breast. Out of her tears she 
cried to him: 

"Raymond! Raymond! I thought you had for- 
gotten me!" 

" Forgotten you ! Why, Rachel, I've had you 
with me night and day!" 

" I wish you had ! " 

" But I have ! See here ! " 

Still with his arm about her, he led her to the 
easel. Drawing aside the curtain he pointed to the 
portrait. It was the pictured image of her whose 
waist he circled with his arm. She laughed, and 
threw her arms about his neck. 

** Doosed good picture ! Does you credit, my boy." 

The approbation came from the captain, who was 
standing at their back. 


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"Well, Freeman, I was right I said I'd come to 
stay, and here I am, you see." 

The table was laid for breakfast Captain Glover 
was whiling away the time as best he could, waiting 
for the appearance of the c^ers to commence the 
meal Mr Freeman had just brought in the morning's 
letters. A night had passed since Captain Glover's 
appearance on the scene. 

"And Where's that five-pound note?" asked Mr 

" It's coming— comii^^ ! Patience, my boy." 

" And where do you think if s coming from ? " 

"Ah,— where I" 

Mr Freeman laid the letters on the table. He 
looked at Captain Glover. 

" I think you've made a little mistake," he said 

"Think so? Well, perhaps I have. I've made 
mistakes before to-day." 

"But not so big a one as you have now." Mr 
Freem»i came a step nearer. "Do you think 
you're going to get that five-pound note out of the 
governor? Why, he hasn't got a five- pound note 

"What do you mean?" The captain's tone was 
a little sharp. 

"Mean I" Mr Freeman sniggered. "Yes, what 
do I mean? I mean that he's burst up — and such 
a burst I There's someone been after him this 
morning I didn't at all like the look of. He said 


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he*d call again; we all know what that means! 
He hasn't gone off neither ; look here ! " 

Taking Captain Glover by the arm Mr Freeman 
drew him towards the window. A man stood on the 
other side of the street — a doubtful-looking man — 
who, directly he caught sight of them, moved off. 
When he had gone about a dozen yards he crossed 
the road, and, turning, returned upon that side. 

** He's coming here! No, he ain't!" The man 
passed by. *" Never mind, he'll come back soon 
enough. And I happen to know there'll be one, 
if not two executions in before the day is out 
But executions! What's executions? This will 
be a burst up, this will, — you mark my words and 
seel And I tell you what it is. Captain Glover, if 
I've got to depend for my money on your getting 
it out of Mr Tudor it's my belief tihat I'm no 
nearer my five-pound note than ever I was." 

Mr Freeman slipped out of the room. Captain 
Glover, left alone, turned pasty white. He was 
positively trembling. 

'' If it's true I " he gasped. He sank into a chair. 
The flesh on his bloated cheeks was quivering. "If 
it's true I " He sprang to his feet " If it is true — 
if he's done me ! But it can^t be true. I know he 
had it, and he can't have spun it all — already ! It's 
•—it's that brute's sauciness." 

He moved to the table. He glanced at the letters 
Mr Freeman had just brought in. He started as he 
did so. There was a large collection of uninviting- 
looking envelopes, envelopes whose mere exterior, 
to his discerning eye, were fraught with eloquence. 


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Two or three documentary - looking epistles there 
were which had not been even enveloped. They 
had been folded, and the folds slipped into one 
another. One of these he opened. In the comer 
were printed the words, "The Bankruptcy Act" 
The body of the communication was half printed, 
half written. It was to the purport that a pro- 
missory note of Mr Raymond Tudor's for the 
sum of £6000 had been duly presented and dis^* 
honoured. With a trembling hand Captain Glover 
opened another of these communications. By it 
Mr Tudor was informed that judgment had been 
obtained against him yesterday in the High Court 
of Justice for the sum of ;f433, which sum Mr 
Tudor was requested to pay within four and twenty 
hours. While the captain was still r^arding this 
comfortable information the door opened and his 
daughter entered. 

" Father," she cried, " what are you doing ? " 

Advancing to the table she saw what he was 
doing. She looked down at him, for she was the 
taller of the two, with scorn in her eyes. He 
looked up at her with an odd combination of 
confusion, rage, and terror. 

" So ! You are at your tricks already I It is wdl 
Raymond did not catch you instead of me. It is, 
however, fortunate that I have caught you, and 
alone. Father, you must return this morning to 
St Servan." 

"I must, must I?" 

" So long as you remain abroad I will see that an 
allowance is paid you weekly. On your returning to 


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England that allowance will cease. Any applications 
you may make to Raymond I will see are disre- 
garded." She drew herself up with a passionate 
gesture. " I will cut myself free from the past, with 
its load of sin and shame, and it shall not be my 
fault if the future is not clear." 

" You--<lutiful— daughter ! " Captain Glover hissed 
the words out with a sort of stage-like ferocity. 
"Look at that! And that!" 

He plumped the communications he had opened 
down before her on the table. 

** How dare you tempt me to spy into my husband's 

She snatched them up with an imperious gesture. 
And, indeed, as she did so, she was altogether an 
example of an imperial woman. Her figure was 
superb, her pose magnificent. Her head was poised 
grandly on her shoulders. Her face, which was not 
only beautiful, but strong, was all ablaze with scorn. 
It was difficult to believe that the gentleman who 
cowered before her was, by one of nature's ironies, 
her sire. 

As father and daughter formed, perhaps unwittingly 
to themselves, so striking a contrast, a voice addressed 
them from behind. 

"Excuse me. I wish to see Mr Tudor." 

They turned. It was the Earl of Datchet When 
he saw who it was Captain Glov^ slunk back with a 
gesture which curiously recalled a beaten hound, 
and even something of his daughter's imperial bear- 
ing vanished. She shrunk a little back from the 
new-comer. His presence was evidently, to father 


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and daughter, a surprise which was not replete with 
pleasure. The earl's amazement at the company in 
which he found himself was equally unmistakable, 
but it took a different form. 

''Rachel I" He laughed. Then he looked round 
the room with an air which, as displayed towards a 
woman, was the sublimated essence of impertinence. 
" Here 1 — Mr Tudw is a fortunate man." 

" I think you are In error. I am Mrs Tudor. Do 
you wish to see my husband ? ** 

" Your ? " He stared at her with an astonish* 

ment whose very genuineness was a hideous insult 
"You— don't mean it?" 

" Lord Datchet ! " All her majesty was back again. 
She passed out of the room with a dignity whidi 
queens might envy. She paused upon the threshold. 
" I will tell my husband you are here." 

When she was gone the earl looked at Captain 
Glover. Captain Glover looked everywhere but at 
the earl. His restless eyes wandered from floor to 
ceiling, from ceiling to floor, round and round the 
room, as though seeking a resting-place and finding 
none. The earl watched his confusion with an ap« 
pearance of pleasure which was almost cruel. He 
stood, his arms behind him, hat in one hand, cane in 
the oth^, as though he derived real gratification from 
observation of the man's distress. And when he spoke 
his tone of the intensest courtesy seemed to cut the 
other like a whip. 

'* This is a pleasure, Captain Glover, which I find a 
little unexpected." The captain moistened his lips. 
He tried to speak, but his tongue was parched. '' Do 


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you carry in your memory, Captain Glover, any 
recollections of our last encounter?" The captain 
stooped. He actually raised his arms as if to ward 
off a blow. His tormentor smiled. '* I see. Possibly 
3rou carry on your person something more tangible 
than recollections. I have heard of people being 
whipped to death. I suppose that result can only be 
obtained with the aid of instruments of precision. 
On no other supposition can I account, in your case, 
for my unfortunate failure. Captain Glover, leave the 
room ! " 

Bringing his cane from behind his back Lord 
Datchet pointed to the door. 

" My lord ! " So far the captain's tongue obeyed 
the propulsion of his will Then it faltered. 

" Captain Glover, leave the room ! " 

The man's terror was shameful. It was the terror 
of the abject cur, which in its abasement dare not 
even whine as it <^Wers beneath the uplifted whip 
Yet he managed to give utterance to his prayer. 

"My lord, don't tell him!" 

It was a cry of agony. All the creature's soul was 
in the words. The peer said nothing, but he ad- 
vanced a step, and the captain staggered across the 
room in mortal fear. As he reached the door it was 
opened from without Without pausing to see who 
it was that entered he stumbled across the threshold. 
Mr Tudor came through the open door. He stood 
for a moment with the handle in his hand. He was 
not yet completely dressed. He had his smok- 
ing-jacket on, and had the air of one whose toilet 
has been hurried. There was something in his face 


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v«4iich seemed to suggest that his temper was not just 
then to be relied upon. Th^ did not greet each 
other; but the earl said, speaking with peculiar 
deliberation : 

" I don't know if you are aware, Mr Tudor, that 
the man who has just left the room, the man Glover, 
is notoriously, by profession, a blackleg, a swindler, 
a pandor, a coward, a bully, and a thief. I would 
si^;gest that you should not permit the presence of 
such a person in the house in which you are ac- 
customed to receive your friends." 

Mr Tudor, closing the door, came right into the 
room, taking up his position before the fireplace, in 
which, on that morning, there was no fire. He looked 
his visitor shrewdly in the face. 

"Am I indebted for the honour of your very 
matutinal call to your desire to favour me with un- 
solicited suggestions ? " 

" You are not But finding one of the best known 
European blackguards taking his ease in your rooms, 
I deem it no less than my duty to acquaint you with 
his character." 

** And having performed your duty ? " 

"This: I should be obliged by your paying me 
the amount which you lost to me yesterday at cards." 

"I see. You have come to offer suggestions for 
my benefit, and to dun me for your own." 

" I would remind you, Mr Tudor, that if I have to 
dun you it is not my fault but yours. On other 
occasions when I have played with you I have always 
handed you the amount of my losses, which, as you 
are aware, have been more than once considerate. 


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when I rose. Am I to understand that you only 
play for ready money when you win ? '* Facmg 
round towards the fireplace Mr Tudor turned his 
back towards the peer. " What am I to understand 
by your silence, Mr Tudor ? " 

" You can understand what you please." 

" I trust that you are unaware of the only con- 
struction which can be placed upon your words and 

Mr Tudor sprang round, ii^iite-hot with rage. 

" Damn you, you devil ! " 

"Mr Tudor I" The peer was as cold as the 
commoner was hot "Is it your habit when you 
have lost money to a man and he speaks to you of 
payment to insult him ? " 

Mr Tudor faced towards the fireplace again. He 
was silent The iron was entering into his soul. He 
had been dunned before by tradesmen and by 
people of the baser sort He had been guilty of 
actions of which common folks would be ashamed, 
but this was the first time he had lost money at cards 
which he could not pay — ^his first experience of what 
it meant to be dunned by such a creditor as the Earl 
of Datchet — and his heart was hot within him. Nor 
did his creditor's air of contemptuous coolness tend 
to calm the beating of his pulses. 

" Mr Tudor, I shall publish your behaviour towards 
me in every company in which I find myself." 

And with this saying his lordship left the room. 

It was some time befcM-e the gentleman who knew 
himself to have fallen from among the gods turned 
his face from the fireplace towards the vacant room. 


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And as he did 80 one could see from its expression 
that already he was changed. There had come into 
it, though perhaps only for the moment, something 
of that look which we may suppose was on the face 
of Ishmael when first he learned that his hand was 
to be against all men and all men's hands were to 
be against him. And in perfect consonance with 
that expression there came from his lips a short, 
pregnant curse directed against the man whom, 
according to the code of honour current among 
gentlemen, he so shamefully had wronged. 

"Damn him I" he said. 

And as he said it, and one noted the depth of 
meaning with which he said it, cme could not but 
suspect that there had been a strain of bad blood 
in this man all through, that there was in him 
a natural bent towards what simple minds call evil. 
Nor was this suspicion lessened when his attention 
was caught by the correspondence which awaited him 
upon the table. He at once perceived the com- 
munications which Captain Glover had examined. 
There they were, crumpled, as they had fallen from 
his wife's indignant hand. He smoothed them out, 
and as he perceived their purport he cursed again. 
He tore open the envelopes and glanced at their 
contents. Almost each one was the occasion for 
his speech to have a brimstone flavour. But at 
last he chanced on one which contained an enclosure 
on which his eyes were riveted. As he stared at 
it his face changed colour, and on it there came 
a look of ashen fear. When, after a prolonged 
examination, he arrived at a complete comprehen- 


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sion of its contents his hands dropped to his sides. 
He stood motionless. His face became set and 
rigid A hunted look came into his eyes. He 
glanced again at the letters which he was still hold- 
ing in his hands. 

" A warrant ? Before noon ? '* His lips were dis- 
torted by a mirthless smile. ^ They haven't left me 
much time to make a bolt of it" 

He moved to the window. He was about to throw 
it open, possibly with some notion of seeking a breath 
of fresh air witii which to cool the fever in his brain, 
when he saw a man standing on the other side of 
the road, the man who had been previously observed 
by Captain Glover and Mr Freeman. He started 
back as though he had received a blow. Again his 
lips were distorted by the mirthless smile. 

"" So Tm not to have the chance of making a bolt 
for it at all?'' 

As he stood there silent his wife came into the 


Mr Tudor was not immediately aware that his wife 
had joined him. His back was turned to h^, and it 
was perhaps something in his attitude which caused 
her to pause before she announced her presence. She 
even drew back a little and put her hand up to her 
breast. And when she spoke there seemed to be a 
little catching in her breath. 
" Raymond." At the sound of her voice he sprang 


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round with a start of such obvious surprise that it 
was not strange if she, in her turn, was startled too. 
" Is there anything wrong? " 

It really seemed as though her presence was so 
unexpected as to have bereft her husband for a time 
of the faculty of speech. He stared at her as though 
she were an apparition, and as he stared at her she 
shrunk from him. At last the expression of surprise 
passed from him, and there came into its place 
something which was very like bravado. 

" Wrong ! " He laughed — not pleasantly. ** I'm 

« Ruined!" 

" Did you marry me because you thought that I 
was rich? If so you made a mess of it" 

"Ifs— it's not true?" 

''Does that imply that I'm a liar? Do you think 
that I am such a fool as to make a jest of such a 
thing? I'm not only ruined, wife, but I'm 'wanted ' 
by the police as well." 

" But I — I thought you were so rich ? " 

He said nothing for a moment, but looked at her 
with keen, inquiring eyes. Then he went forward 
and took her by the arm. 

"Rachel, you're not a fool, you're a clever girl. 
You won't allow yourself to be tied in a knot 
because it's a case of Queer Street It's a case of 
Queer Street now. Just listen to me. I want to 
clear out of this before twelve o'clock to-day." 

"You must be patient with me, Raymond. It is 
all a little sudden. Tell me why." 

" With pleasure. Because of that" 


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He gave her the letter which he still was holding 
in his hand. She read it When she had read it to 
the end she looked at him. 

" But— I don't understand" 

'* And yet the thing is simple. I wanted the coin 
in a hurry. They made a fuss. So I told them 
I was engaged to my cousin. They said if I made 
a statutory declaration to that effect they'd let 
me have it So I made it I suppose they've 
found out it was all a lie. So the fat's in the 

The woman's face was very white. It was turned 
a little from him. But still she stood erect, with a 
more than queenly grandeur. 

"But — ^why did you say — ^you were engaged to 
your cousin?" 

"Why? Because she has an income of over a 
hundred thousand pounds a year. That's why!" 

" Over a hundred thousand pounds a year f I see. 
And if it hadn't been for me you might have married 

Mr Tudor turned away. 

" If it hadn't been for you," he said. 

" Why don't you marry her now ? " 

A third party asked the question. Husband and 
wife looked round, and there was Captain Glover. 
He was in a state of curious agitation. His face 
glistened with perspiration. He trembled so that 
he could scarcely stand. 

"I've been listening at the door," he explained, 
with a beautiful candour. "I've heard It all." He 
sat down and wiped the perspiration from his brow. 


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"There's no reason why you shouldn't marry your 
cousin now, my boy." 

" Only one," observed hfa daughter. 

Mr Tudor, laughing, turned upon his heel. 

"Who are you?" inquired the father. "You're 
nothing, and never have been. You think you 
are, but you ain't" In his excessive agitation the 
captain's speech became a little vulgar. He ad- 
dressed himself to Mr Tudor. "No one knows of 
that little affair over the water, and no one need 
ever know. If I were you I'd marry your cousin 
at once, my boy." 

Mr Tudor looked at his wife with a sort of cynical 

" Rachel, you are nothing, you understand." 

Going to him she took his hand in hers. 

" Raymond, why did I marry you ? " He shrugged 
his shoulders. " Oh yes, you do know. Ours was 
a love match. I married you because I loved you." 

"No tall talk," put in her father; "there's a man 
in the street" 

But she went on ; and in her voice there was a 
music which the pen cannot write down. 

"You know, Raymond, that I loved you. I love 
you stilL" Bending forward she touched his lips 
with hors. He remained quiescent " The meaning 
of such a life as I have lived, you, and such as you, 
can never understand. Ever since I was a toddling 
child I have been company for him." By the pro- 
noun she alluded to her father. "The common 
conversation of the world can scarcely grasp the 
full significance of sudi com{Mmionship with such 


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a father. Surely, to such a case, simple standards 
of morality cannot justly be applied ? But I always 
knew that there was light somewhere in the world, 
and with you it came into my life. Husband, 
what you did for me when you made me your 
wife I have no tongue to tell, and you will never 
guess." She paused. Both men waited for her to 
go on. " But I do not wish to work you ill, so you 
must marry your cousin, for I am nothing, you 

She moved away from him. At that moment 
she was, more than ever, in her bearing the imperial 

"I suppose if you married your cousin your 
affairs could be arranged?" 

He tapped on the floor with his foot 

"There can be no doubt of that," he murmured, 
half beneath his breath. 

Captain Glover, rising from his chair, laid an 
affectionate hand on Mr Tudor's arm. 

"Marry her at once, my boy; marry her at 

Springing round, with one quick blow Mr Tudor 
struck his father-in-law to the ground. 

" Don't you touch me," he said. 

He took up his favourite position before the fire- 
place. Captain Glover lay where he had fallen. 
He seemed to be surprised to find himself, at such 
short notice, lying where he was. His daughter 
did not seem in any way distressed at seeing the 
hand of violence laid upon her father. She stood 
by the table, her hand resting lightly on its edge. 


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Mr Tudor addressed himself to his wife, with some 
appearance of hesitation in his speech. 

''I suppose — ^you wouldn't care — ^for something 
of the nature of an establishment?" 

She looked at him. He averted his glance from her. 

" Do you mean would I like the world to regard 
me as your friend ? " 

He turned towards the grate. 

" Something of the kind." 

There was silence, of which Captain Glover, 
still retaining his recumbent posture, availed himself 
to shake his fist at his son-in-law's back view. The 
wife replied : 

** It is very kind of you, Raymond, to think of 
me like this. I own I should like to live with you," 
she faltered, ''even on those terms. But it would 
not be well for you — in your married life." 

" What, then, will become of you ? " 

"Of me? — oh, I shall vanish into air" There 
was a pause. Then she went on : '* See, Raymond, 
it shall be like this : I suppose — when you have 
married your cousin — ^there will be something left — 
after you have paid your debts ? " 

** Compared to my cousin's fortune my debts are 
but a drop in the ocean." 

"Then, in that case, you will be able to spare a 
little for me. No ; do not interrupt me, please. 
Perhaps you will be able to buy me an annuity of, 
say, five hundred a year." 

Her father rose — at last — ^to a perpendicular 

*• Five hundred a year ! " he cried. 


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She advanced towards him with an air which 
was not so much affectionate as threatening. The 
father cowered before his child. 

"Father! My father f" The scorn which was 
in her voice and in her bearing cast a new and 
lurid light on the relations which may exist between 
a parent and a child She turned to Mr Tudor. 
"Do you know why he proposes that you should 
marry again? He thought tiiat he would have a 
rich son-in-law to prey upon. But now that he 
finds that you are poor he would urge you on to 
crime so that he mig^t batten on blackmail, but 
this time he shall not traffic in my shame." 

"Not this time," rejoined her father, "but I've 
done it before." 

"OhyesI Thatistruel" 

"True!" The fashion of the man's face was 
changed. Facing Mr Tudor he pointed to his child. 
"Look at her I She carries it off,— doesn't she 
now? She plays the heroine down to the ground I 
She wants you to think that she is the virtuous 
woman who would sacrifice everything, even honour, 
for love of you I Bah ! " 

There was a little scene. With an execration 
Mr Tudor sprang at this model father's throat 
The captain avoided him. Shrinking back he 
whi(^>ed a revolver from his pistol pocket Mr 
Tudor pulled up with the muzzle within twelve 
inches of his face. 

"Stow that I" the captein cried "You don't 
think you're going to leave me altogether at the 
post? You don't think you're going to settle this 


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deal between you and leave me out on the score 
of my bad character? Why, what's my character 
compared to hers? She's gone shares in all my 
swindles. I've fleeced fools in my way, and she 
in hers, and she's got more out of them than 
ever I have done." 

There was another little scene. While this model 
father continued speaking Mr Tudor looked at him 
with white face and stony eyes. When he ceased 
he looked at his wife. His wife looked at him. 
On her face was an expression of agony. It seemed 
as though she looked at her husband with an in- 
tensity of yearning, asking for but one kindly word. 
None came. 

« Deny it!" he said. 

It seemed as though she struggled to speak — 
struggled, and failed. She swayed to and fro; fell 
to the ^ound. Her sire bent over her. 

"She's gone off!" he said. Glancing up he met 
his son-in-law's eyes. " I was right to tell you. As 
things are, it's better you should know. Marry that 
other girl. You'd be a fool to let her stand in the 
way. Of course, you'll have to square with mei 
but you won't. find me hard to manage. All I ask 
you to do is to let me live. I'll see that she's kept 

Mr Tudor said nothing. He turned away. So 
the captain spoke again. 

" I'll bring her to in the other room. She's no slight 
weight to lift Lend me a hand to carry her." 

Mr Tudor did as he was bid. Between them they 
bore her from the room. Mr Tudor returned alone. 


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When lie came in he found that the captain had left 
his revolver behind him on the table. Taking it up 
he perceived that all its chambers were loaded. He 
toyed with the trigger. Then he filled a tumbler with 
brandy neat and drank it at a draught. The spirit 
seemed to travel through his veins, and to give light 
to his eyes. Again he trifled with the revolver. He 
seemed unable to decide what to do with it At last 
he placed it on the mantelshelf. As he did so he 
stared for a moment at his face in the glass, stared 
as though it were the face of a stranger. Then he 
took a penknife from his pocket, and, going to the 
picture on the easel, drawing aside the curtain, he 
deliberately cut away from its frame the portrait of 
his wife. He stood with the extended canvas in his 
hand. As he looked at it, without any preliminary 
announcement of his presence, Mr Allington came 
hurrying into the room. 

'* Tudor I What is this I hear ? " 

Mr Tudor seemed to have arrived at a state in 
which nothing could surprise him — ^not even the 
unexpected arrival, at such a moment, of his friend. 
He began to roll up the canvas slowly, replying 
to the inquiry in a voice which betokened the 
completest unconcern. 

" How am I able to tell what you hear ? " 

" Datchet says that you are married." 

At that Mr Tudor did start a little. He hurriedly 
completed the rolling up of the canvas. He turned 
his back on his friend. 

** Indeed ? Is that all that Datchet says?" 

'' But, Raymond, you might have told me ! " 


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Mr Tudor faced round again. In that brief moment 
he had formed a sudden resolution. 

" I might have told you, — what ? " 

" You might have told me you were married ! " 

" You are jesting, I presume." 

" Jesting ! Datchet says he saw your wife ! " 

" Datchet was mistaken." 

" Raymond ! What do you mean ? " 

"My dear Geoffrey, when I am married I hope 
to have you for my best man." 

Mr Allington put his hand to his head. He 
seemed bewildered. 

" But — ^he says he saw her I " 

" Did he indeed ? How very kind of him." 

Despite the calmness of his outward bearing a 
spasm of rage suddenly transfixing Mr Tudor's 
countenance seemed to suggest that bitter words 
were trembling on his tongue, but before they 
could be uttered again the door was opened and 
a second person came unushered into the room. 
This time it was Miss Scott She seemed di»» 
comfited at finding that her cousin was not alone. 

" Raymond, I — I hope I am not interrupting you. 
Freeman did not say you were engaged." 

Mr Tudor advanced to her, a strange light dancing 
in his eyesw 

"My dearest cousin I You are welcome as the 
flowers in Mayl What do you think? Allington 
has come to tell me I am married." 

She shrunk from him. She even shivered a little. 

" I suppose you are jesting ? " 

" That is what I said to Allington." 


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She turned to Mr Aliington, fleeting him with 
outstretched hand. 

"How are you, Mr Allington? I suppose it is 
a little jest of yours." 

iTaking her hand Mr Allington bowed over it in 
silence. Mr Tudor regarded them with mocking 
eyes. It was with something of mockery he spoke. 

"I have with me the two best friends I have in 
the world. It is well that you are here, for I 
am in need of friends." 

Miss Scott turned towards him with a hasty 

" Raymond, say that it's not true ! " 

" That what's not true ? " 

"That — that you are ruined! O Raymond, say 
that it's not true ! " 

" Where did you learn it ? " 

" Learn it ! Raymond ! Is it true ? " 

"Too true. I am ruined, stock and stone, root 
and branch — so ruined that, in my struggles to 
escape my ruin, I have brought myself within 
reach of the law." 

" Within reach of the law ! What do you mean ? " 

He took her to the window. He pointed to the 
man on the other side of the street. 

"You see that man. He is put there to watch 
and see that I don't escape. It is the intention of 
his employers, unless I perform impossibilities, to 
put me into prison on the stroke of noon." 

Mr Allington turned towards him with an ex- 

"Tudor! You don't mcim it!" 


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But Miss Scott, ashen white, clung to his arm. 

" Raymond ! " she cried. 

Mr Tudor, looking down at the white face at his 
side, circled the girl's waist with his arm. 

"Mabel! "he said. 

Mr Allington looked on. He began pacing up 
and down the room. 

"Raymond — excuse me. Miss Scott — but, Tudor, 
tell me that Datchet's tale was false." 

" What tale was his lordship pleased to tell ? " 

" Just now, in the smoking-room at the Euthanasian, 
he said, before a roomful of men, that he had just 
come from your house, this house, and that he there 
had met your wife." 

" Mabel, you hear what Mr Allington says. Need 
I contradict him ? " 

The girl drew herself away from Mr Tudor's arm. 
She turned on Mr Allington with sudden passion. 

"Mr Allington, how dare you in my pretence 
repeat such tales ? " 

"Miss Scott!" 

" I thought you were my friend — our friend. In the 
presence of trouble does your friendship disappear?" 

Again Mr Allington put his hand to his head, his 
bewilderment seeming to increase. 

"Miss Scott, I — I but asked a question." 

"You but asked a question? I understand 
Raymond, perhaps you had better answer Mr 
Allington his question." 

"With pleasure, Mr Allington. If Lord Datchet 
states that he has met my wife, he is in error, I 
have no wife." 


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The words were coldly and clearly spoken, but 
Mr Allington seemed searching for some meaning 
which was between the lines. He looked as though 
he could have spoken if he would. If that were so, 
Miss Scott cut short his opportunity. 

"You have your answer. Now may I ask you 
to leave us? I have some business with my 

He went— dismissed. Directly he was gone Miss 
Scott turned on Mr Tudor. 

"Raymond, I do not wish to appear curious, but 
I think I have a right to ask, on my own account, if 
that story is true. Are you married ? " 

"Mabel! You ask me that!" Mr Tudor still 
had in his hand the rolled-up portrait of his wife. 
Unlocking a drawer in a bureau he hid it out of 
sight "This," he said, as he was depositing the 
canvas in the drawer, " is the bitterest blow of all." 

Miss Scott was troubled. 

" I did not wish to hurt you, but you have done 
some strange things, Raymond, and I — I think I had 
a right to ask you that." 

" Oh yes ; you had a right ! Everyone has a right 
to insult me now ! — now that I stand within measur- 
able distance of the felon's dock ! " 

" Raymond ! don't talk like that ! What is it you 
have done ? " 

"What is it I have done!" He was all at once 
white-hot with rage. "God forgive me for it, 
because you never will ! " 

"What is it? You— you don't know how much I 
could forgive you." 


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'M told them that you and I were engaged to bt 

She started. Just now so white, she suddenly 
became bright red. Her face was all on fire. 

"You — told them — that we were engaged to ■ ■■■ 
But — Raymond ! that's no crime ! " 

^ Under certain circumstances it is. For a poor 
man to lead people to suppose that he is actually 
engaged to marry a rich woman has, under certain 
conditions, which your imagination may easily 
supply, an ugly appearance in the eyes of the law. 
But now that it is over, and my course is run, I'll 
have it out with you, and ease my mind and heart. 
— ^what there is left of it — just once for all. Mabel, 
all my life I've loved you. I loved you as a boy; 
as a man I love you now. Once I dreamt that 
you might be my wife. But even then, althou^ 
I was not poor, your wealth was so much more 
than mine that I felt that the world would look 
askance upon my wooing, and that I could not 
bear. I became poorer fast; you increased in 
wealth. And it is only now that I am a pauper, 
self-confessed — and, worse than that — that I dare 
to tell you that I ever dreamed!" 

He was silent, and for a moment she was 
silent too, but her cheeks were rosy red, and in 
her eyes were tears. 

** Raymond ! And you said you were a wicked 

He turned his back on her. 

"So I am "he said 

She went and touched him gently, on the arm. 


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There was a strange, new beauty on her face. She 
whispered, so that the words just reached his ears : 

** My hero, and my king ! " 

Turning, he examined her face, searching it with 
eager eyes. 

"Mabel!" he cried. 

" My own ! " she said. 

He had her in his arms. 

"God forgive met" he exclaimed as he pressed 
her to his breast; but she took his sense awry. 

" For what must He forgive you ? " 

" I have no right to love you I " 

" No right to love me when I love you ? " 

A minute later she whispered in his ear, 

" Now they will not be able to charge you with crime 
for saying that we are engaged to be married.'' 

He answered, with a somewhat moody air : 

" Perhaps not ; but — Mabel, I ought to have ten 
thousand pounds by noon." 

" Ten thousand pounds I Why, goose, what's 
that? You have no idea of the heaps and heaps 
of money I have lying idle at the bank — ^those 
people get all the benefit of it, and I get none. I'll 
fly and get you ten thousand pounds — or twenty! 
Promise you'll await me here." 

" I do not like to take your money." 

" What are your likings, sir, to me ? I say you must, 
and shall. Besides, my money as you call it, sir, will 
soon be yours — we go together — it and I. Now, Ray- 
mond, be good, and promise to await me here. It is the 
first request I've made since we have been engaged." 
. He promised, and she went When she was gone 


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he again filled the tumbler with brandy neat and 
drained it at a draught Perhaps it was the spirit 
which induced in him a tendency to moralise. 

" Facilis est descensus Avemi I And how easy to go 
deeper and deeper still! How easy to become — a 
rogue ! " 

While he was engaged in such like reflections, 
which have occurred to other honest gentlemen 
before, there came into the room — ^his wife. She 
was still the imperial woman, but with a difference. 
That one was proud and happy, she bore her head 
aloft — this one was ashamed. But her shame was 
not all shame — ^something else was mingled with it 

" Raymond, was that — she ? " 

Mr Tudor looked at his wife. Her glorious hair 
had broken from its bonds and was all in disarray. 
She was not, just then, at all the band-box sort of 
woman some men love to look upon. 

" Do you wish to complete my ruin ? " he inquired. 

She caught her breath, as though she were choking 
back a sob. 

"^ Don't speak to me unkindly. Anything but that ! 
Oh, from you, Raymond, anything but that ! " 

She approached him. A whole world of agony 
was in her eyes. He drew himself frigidly away. 

"If you will excuse me, I would rather not speak 
to you at all." 

" Raymond ! God knows how I have loved you ! " 

** Yes ; me — among how many men ? " 

She clutched at her breast with both her hands. 
She looked as though her heart was near to bursting. 


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As he beheld the exquisite agony of her distress-^ 
and the woman was so beautiful ! — a sudden impulse 
mastered him. He moved to her. In an instant he 
had her in his arms, and she was weeping wildly on 
his breast. With his right hand he smoothed her 
glossy hair. 

" I did love you," he said. 

"Thank God for that!" 

She raised her head and pressed her lips to his. 
They were still. Then he murmured, half in self- 
scorn, half in scorn of her, the one word : 


They were too engrossed, each with the other, to 
observe that Miss Scott had re-entered the room : 
but it was so. And what she saw on her re-entry 
washer cousin, the man who had just won her pro- 
mise to be his wife, with a woman in his arms. She 
had come back, possibly for some feminine trifle 
which she had left behind, possibly for one last word, 
and she found that she had, unwittingly, returned just 
in the nick of time. But the shock was sudden. A 
moment back this man had been whispering his vows 
into her ear, and, already, here was another clasped 
in the arms which had held her fast. The thing was 
so astounding that for the instant it bereft her of the 
power of speech. She could but stand and watch. 

"Husband!" said the woman, looking up into 
Mr Tudor's face, and in her voice was no scorn of 
any sort, only a great abandonment of love. 

" Of an hour ! Is there not some old comedy with 
some such name ? " 

The woman hid h^r face upon his breast Stooping, 


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he caressed with his lips the dishevelled glory of her 
hair. Miss Scott could stand no more. She came a 
step or two into the room. 

" Raymond, is this your wife? " 

Mr Tudor turned and saw her. He said nothing. 
But there came into his face such a look, as we might 
imagine upon the face of a man who has heard him- 
self suddenly, unexpectedly, condemned to death. 
Miss Scott addressed herself to the woman whose 
head was still pillowed on his breast. 

•* Are — are you my cousin's wife ? " 

Startled, the woman raised her head. She looked 
at the woman who asked the question then at the 
man who had her still in his embrace. On the in- 
stant she read the situation right. Drawing herself 
away from Mr Tudor she looked Miss Scott boldly 
m the face. 

" No," she said ; " I am not his wife." 

Miss Scott's eyes searched her through and 

" Indeed ? " she queried. " Of course, it is no affair 
of mine." 

She moved towards the door, and would in a 
moment have been gone, but Mr Tudor stopped 
her. He had taken up his favourite position before 
the fireplace. He faced his cousin. There was a 
curious smile about his lips. 

" She is my wife," he said. 

Captain Glover's daughter gave him the lie. 

"I am not his wife!" she cried. "I am not his 

Miss Scott lightly shrugged her shoulders. 


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'* As I said, it is no affair of mine." 

She left the room. Husband and wife were left 
alone together. 

The wife stared at her husband. 

" Why did you say I was your wife ? " 

« Ah— why?" 

Mr Tudor still had that curious smile about his 
lips. He turned his back on her. She stared at 
him. Suddenly she ran towards him. He had taken 
a revolver from the mantelshelf — ^her father's — and 
she ran to snatch it from his hand. But she was too 
late. There was a flash, a report, he fell to the 
ground. With a scream she flung herself beside 
him. He was dead. He had resolved the situation 
in his own way. 

People came hurrying through both doors of the 
room. The first to enter was Miss Scott. She 
seemed much disturbed. 

" What was that noise ? " she asked. 

"You have killed him!" shrieked the woman 
crouching on the floor. 

"Killed him!" she ran towards the prostrate 
figure. She knelt beside it, face to face with the 
dead man's wife. "My love!" she said. 


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AXT'HEN the war began nothing would please 
Charlie but that he should go and fight All 
sorts of young men were going ; from our own imme- 
diate neighbourhood there were young Woods of 
Elmhurst and Philip Goddard of the Grange, besides 
two young fellows from the village. It did not follow, 
Charlie said, that because he was not a professional 
soldier he should not be allowed to fight his country's 
battles. All my people had been soldiers. It was 
not his fault that he Was not one. So, although he 
was my eldest son, I said that he could go. And 
he went. He joined Paget's Horse. 

But if I had supposed that it would have gone on, 
and on, and on, and showed no signs of stopping, in 
spite of all his protestations I do not think that I 
should have consented. From so many of the homes 
one knew the boys had gone for ever. And those 
who were not dead were wounded, or down with 
enteric, or missing — ^vanished, it would seem, off the 
face of the earth. It was dreadful to have to meet 
one's oldest friends ; they nearly all seemed to have 
at least one vacant chair. I was more fortunate than 
most I had a letter from Charlie by nearly every 
mail, and from what he said he seemed to be person- 
ally no worse for his adventures. 

Then there came a very trying time. The letters 



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ceased. I read, and reread, and reread again, every 
word of the despatches ; searched, over and over, those 
terrible lists of casualties. Nowhere was Charlie 
mentioned. Not from any quarter was news of him 
obtainable. As I have said, all my people have been 
soldiers. My brother, General Buckell, who is seventy- 
six, lives with us. He exerted all his official influence 
in the direction of inquiries. If anyone was in a posi- 
tion t6 obtain information through channels which 
were not generally accessible it was I. Yet for five 
months I heard nothing. I myself am over sixty, 
and not very strong. It may be imagined what 
those five months of silence meant to me. But I 
could only hope and pray. And then, as hope was 
dying, I heard. What a day that was on which 
Charlie's letter came I The sight of it positively 
frightened me. The words which he had sent across 
the sea were as a voice speaking from the grave. 

He had suffered all kinds of calamities. He had 
been wounded twice. First, he had been tumbled out 
of his saddle by a bullet in his shoulder. Then, be- 
fore he could gain a place of safety, he had been 
captured by the Boers. While they were taking him 
to the rear a shot, fired by one of our own men, had 
gone right through him. But he still lived, and was 
free again, and hoped shortly to be discharged from 
hospital. His whole letter rang with the praises of 
one man — " O'Rourke of the Saucy Sixth " he called 
him — though which regiment he referred to as the 
"Saucy Sixth" neither the general nor I could 
understand. According to Charlie, Mr O'Rourke 
was not only the possessor of all the virtues, but 


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he had also performed prodigies of valour. When 
my boy had been knocked from his horse Mr 
O'Rourke stayed behind to render him assistance, 
in which act alone, Charlie declared, he had shown 
sufficient courage to merit the Victoria Cross. In 
consequence he had had to share Charlie's capture. 
During the dreadful illness which resulted from the 
shot which had gone right through my son Mr 
O'Rourke tended him day and night Had it not 
been for his unremitting devotion Charlie would 
certainly have died. And he not only owed him 
his life, but his liberty. So soon as, owing to his 
comrade's unceasing care, he had attained to a state 
of convalescence Mr O'Rourke had assisted him to 
escape. He had actually carried him, at dead of 
night, for miles in his arms across the veldt. When 
I came to that part of Charlie's letter I cried so that 
I could scarcely read what was written. In short, 
Mr O'Rourke, Charlie protested, was the truest, 
noblest, bravest fellow in the world — the finest 
soldier in the army. It was probable that he was 
shortly coming home, in which case Charlie had 
asked him to look me up. If he did Charlie hoped 
that I would give him a good time and be as nice 
to him as I could. 

There was no need to ask me to he "as nice as 
I could " to the man who had done all those things 
for my son. If Mr O'Rourke ever came to see me 
I would show him what was the extent and the 
meaning of a mother's gratitude. His name became, 
di^iceforth, a sacred thing to me. At the mere 
thought of it my heart would come into my mouth. 


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One evening, nine days after I had received 
Charlie's letter, just as I was pointing out to the 
general that it was time that he should dress for 
dinner, the maid brought me in a telegram. I sup- 
posed it was from Bob, my other boy. He was 
spending a few days with some friends, and when 
he is away from home he seldom writes a letter when 
a telegram can be made to take its place. But I 
was wrong. The words on the pink slip of paper 
were : " O'Rourke has arrived ; coming down." The 
information was so unexpected, and was conveyed 
in such a singular fashion, that I dare say my face 
betrayed the Surprise I not unnaturally felt. 

"What's wrong?" asked the general. I handed 
him the tel^^am. He was at least as much sur- 
prised as I was. ** Hum ! our gentleman has his own 
fashion of doing things. And a pretty free-and-easy 
way — or a pretty cock-a-doodle way, whichever you 
like — it is. *0'Rourke has arrived'; it's very good 
of him to acquaint us with the fact — in three words 
at a halfpenny each. ' Coming down,' is he ; it's an 
added kindness on his part to prepare our minds at 
the cost of another penny. Mary, who the deuce 
is this thing from?" 

" I suppose it's from Mr O'Rourke." 

Foolishly enough, I was actually trembling. The 
sight of his name had brought back the memory of 
all that I owed him. And he had seen my boy 
quite recently. 

" Then, if it is from Mr O'Rourke, it's a pity he 
couldn't say so. It might have meant another half- 
penny to have attached his name, but I should say 


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that the information would have been worth the 
money. If he had included his address it might 
have given us an opportunity .to let him know 
whether we were or were not in a condition to receive 

" Geoi^e ! How can you talk like that when you 
know very well that I shall always be only too de- 
lighted to receive him, anywhere, and at any 

"For all he knows, tte whole house might be 
down with the smallpox, in which case it would be 
kinder on your part not to receive him, though how 
you'd advise him of the state of things in the absence 
of his address I don't quite see." 

"George!" • 

"It seems that this non-communicative telegram 
was handed in at Charing Cross Station at 6.42, so, 
as he can't get here before the 8.20, are we to take 
it that he's coming by that ? As dinner's at eight, 
what do you propose to do?" 

"Wait for him, of course. It will give cook an 
opportunity to add another dish or two. Mr O'Rourke, 
perhaps, won't care for what suits you and me. And 
I will send a telegram to Bob to ask him to come 
back the first thing in the morning ; he will be able 
to entertain Mr O'Rourke better than we shall. 
Stevens can despatch it when he takes the brougham 
down to meet the train." 

" As the 8.20 is never by any chance punctual, the 
prospect is pleasing to a nian of my age who has 
been recommended to observe strict regularity in 
the matter of his meals." 


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" You need not wait, Greorge. You can have your 
dinner at the usual time. I will wait" 

But, of course, he did wait. The general's manner 
is at times a little rough. Military men of his rank 
and of his years have an aptitude in that direction ; 
but I believe that his heart is softer than mine. 
When it comes to the point, to him anything that 
even approached discourtesy would be impossible* 
He is getting a trifle weak upon his l^s — at seventy- 
six one does — ^and sometimes has to be wheeled from 
room to room ; but in other respects he is hale and 
sound, and neVer forgets he is a general in His 
Majesty's service, one of a long line of soldiers, and 
that he has seen active service in eleven different 
wars. • " 

Mr O'Rourke was very late. In one way it was 
just as well, because at the beginning I was in such 
a condition of fluster that I required plenty of time 
to enable me to get back into a state of mind in 
which I could properly receive my guest But after 
a while his tardiness became an additional cause of 
worry. When one is strung up to such a pitch of 
nervous tension as I was then — and as any mother 
in my position would have been — ^such a very littlie 
is needed ta make the strain seem more than one 
can bear. And I fancy that the general was almost 
as much put out as I was, though no doubt the 
expression of his feelings took a different form. 

It is nearly twenty minutes' drive from our house 
to the station if one drives steadily, as, when I am 
with him, I always insist on Stevens doing, as he 
is perfectly well aware. So I took care that he was 


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off at ten minutes to eight, in order that he might 
have plenty of time. AUowii^f ten minutes for the 
train's being late, and twenty-five minutes to return, 
and then a quarter of an hour for Mr O'Rourke to 
dress, I calculated that dinner might be ready to be 
served at a quarter past nine. And that was what 
I arranged with cook. I felt that that was an uncon- 
sionable time to expect the general to wait, and 
that he ought to have at least a cupful of consontmi 
to keep him going. But he had all at once got into 
one of his obstinate moods, and nothing would 
induce him to have even so much as half of a Bath 

A quarter past nine came, and no brougham; 
the half-hour, and even the hour — actually ten 
p'clock^-and still no signs of either Mr O'Rourke 
or Stevens. Even if Mr O'Rourke had not come 
by the 3.20 Stevens ought to have returned to let 
us know. His not having done so was unpardon- 
able behaviour on his part. I have seldom felt so 
concerned; and the general's temper was beyond 
everything. Poor man ! he had my sincerest sym- 
pathy, especially when, as the clock was striking 
ten, cook sent in to say that it was no use our 
waiting any longer for dinner, as there was no 
dinner to wait for, since everything was utterly 
spoilt It was not a pleasant message to receive, 
especially as the general's obstinacy was equal to 
his temper; and that is saying something. 

" You wished me to wait dinner for Mr O'Rourke," 
he declared, " and wait dinner I will, even if I have 
to sit up starving all night to do it The fellow 


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ought to be a field-marshal at the least by Uie 
way that he*s behaving." 

I was half out of my wits. The general would 
not touch so much as a crumb, and I knew he was 
famished. He was quite equal to carrying out his 
threat. If he did the consequences would be too 
frightful for contemplation. Fancy his sitting up 
all night, at his time of life, without a morsel of 
food ! I was beginning to wonder if anyone could 
have been so foolish and cruel as to have made us 
the victims of what I supposed they would call a 
practical joke when Jane, the parlour-maid, came 
rushing in, exclaiming: 

"The carriage is coming up the drive, ma'am." 

"Let us hope that Field-Marshal O'Rourke is 
coming in it," growled the general, " and that he is 
bringing his dinner with him in his pocket." 

I was about to leave the room when the general 
stopped me. 

" Mary, where are you going ? " 

" To meet Mr O'Rourke, Geoi^e." 

" You'll do nothing of the kind — field-marshal 
or no field-marshal. You'll keep your seat and 
receive Mr O'Rourke in here." 

I should have preferred to have welcomed my 
boy's preserver on my doorstep, but I knew that 
in the general's present mood if I opposed myself 
to his wishes there might be a scene, so I waited 
where I was. The general sat in his chair and 
glared ; I did hope that he would not glare quite 
so much when Mr O'Rourke actually appeared. 

I heard the front door open, and, apparently, 


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somebody entered. Then ensued an unaccountable 
silence. No message was brought, and no one 

"What can have happened?" I murmured. "I 
do hope that there is nothing wrong." 

"Cook's sent to say there is no dinner, so Mr 
O'Rourke has taken the hint and made up his mind 
to go back straight to town. I don't blame him." 

"Greorge, I wish you wouldn't talk like that 
Here he comes." 

Someone was coming. Footsteps were audibly 
approaching the drawing-room door — heavy steps; 
very heavy steps indeed, with soix^ething curious 
in their quality. Presently the door was thrown 
right back upon its hinges, and there stood on the 
threshold a huge man, certainly over six feet high, 
in the uniform of a private soldier. He wore his 
forage cap very much on one side of his head, a 
cane in one hand, and a pair of r^ulation white 
gloves in the other. I had expected something so 
entirely different, and was so taken aback by the 
apparition, that for a moment or two I could do 
nothing else but stare. 

"Mr O'Rourke?" I managed at last to mention. 

He said nothing in reply. Indeed, he took no 
notice of me at all, but went lurching across the 
room, stumbling over everything he encountered, 
until he reached the haven of an arm-chair, into 
which he dropped with a gasp, muttering what 
sounded like: 

"Very funny weather for time of year — mos' 
'stromary — don't agree with me at all" 


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Having delivered himself of which most appropriate 
observation, his head dropped back among the pillows, 
and in less than two seconds he was apparently fast 

The man was hopelessly intoxicated. 

What were the general's feelings I can dimly 
divine. My own I am wholly unable to describe. 
Foolishly, perhaps, I had taken it for granted that 
" O'Rourke of the Saucy Sixth " must be a gentle- 
man — a man of breeding. It had never for a 
moment entered my mind that he could be a 
person of this description. I was so bewildered as 
to be speechless. The sound of someone laugh- 
ing practically recalled me to myself. Turning, 
there was Jane actually giggling in the open door- 

"If you please, ma'am, Stevens, he's had too 
much to drink as well. The two of them came on 
the box together ; and Stevens, he's dropped off 
it. It's a marvel how he ever brought the carriage 
home at all." 

Stevens had had too much to drink! Stevens I 
the most abstemious of men ! — who had been in 
my service over twenty years and had never in- 
dulged in excess of any kind! — whose digestion 
was indeed so bad that only by rigid attention to 
the strictest dietary was he able to keep himself 
going at all! Led away by this — this individual! 
I myself had to seek refuge in a chair, being 
almost afraid that I might be going to be attacked 
by some form of paralysis. 

I will not dwell on the scene which immediately 


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followed, particularly as some of the general's re- 
marks were better imagined than reported. I had 
the gardener brought in, and Sergeant O'Rourke 
•^-the chevron on his coat sleeve showed that he 
was a sergeant — conveyed to bed, I need not 
say that I did not remain to witness the distressing 
scene. I had originally designed the best guest- 
room for my boy's preserver ; and though things 
had turned out so wholly different from my ex- 
pectations I still felt that it was Charlie I should 
think of first of all, and that, as his mother, I 
should do honour to the man of whom he had 
recorded such noble things. So to the best guest- 
room Sergeant O'Rourke was conveyed. 

When, the next morning, I got up earlier than 
usual to learn what had happened during the 
night, I met cook with a tray in her hand. 

" Well, cook, is everything all right ? " 

Cook smiled. As she is a woman who I had 
always felt looked rather upon the serious side c^ 
life, and whose temper is distinctly not to be relied 
upon, her levity at that hour of the morning oc- 
casioned me surprise. I may add, also, that the 
observations which she made revealed an aspect of 
her character whose existence until then I had not 

*'The sei^eant's got a bit of a headache, ma'am^ 
but I shouldn't think it's any more than he expected. 
When I took him in a cup of tea he jumped up 
in bed as if he thought the Boers was upon him. 
'Where am I? and who are you?' he cried. I 
said, • You're wtere you don't deserve to be, You're 


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in Mrs Warrinder's house. And Vm the cook.' 
You should have seen the way he stared at every- 
thing — at the curtains on his bed, at the pictures 
on the wall, and at me — like as if he thought that 
he was in a dream. 'What/ he said, *my friend 
Charlie Warrinder's mother! Is it a palace that 
she lives in?' From what he went on to remark, 
ma'am, I should say that it's very little Master 
Charlie has ever told him about his family, because, 
It seems, he thought that Master Charlie was just 
a soldier like himself and that Master Charlie's 
people were like his own people, which is one 
explanation of the way in which he came down 
last night. 
" Then the sergeant is not — not a gentleman ? " 
"Well, ma'am" — in cook's words and manner as 
she replied there was something which made me 
ashamed of myself — " he may not be a gentleman 
in one sense, but I daresay he's not so far off one 
in another. That he's a real good sort I'm certain 
sure. I'm as good a judge of character as here 
and there one; I can tell a proper man when I 
see one ; and he is a proper man. ' Can I have 
a pot of beer ? ' he asked when he had got himself 
together a little. * No ; that you certainly cannot,' 
I answered. *This is a respectable house, this is,' 
and no one drinks beer in it at this hour of the 
morning. Here's a cup of tea for you ; it will do 
you more good than all your beer.' He looked 
so frightened when I spoke to him like that that 
I couldn't hardly help bwt laugh, for he's no coward 
in a general way, I know; it's writ in his eye. 


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But he took the cup of tea and drank it as meek 
and mild as anything, and he's coming down to 
have breakfast with us in the kitchen." 

"Breakfast with you in the kitchen! Don't 
you think it would be more fitting — wouldn't he 
prefer " 

'' No, ma'am ; that I am sure he would not. If 
he has breakfast with you and the general in the 
dining-room he'll be like a fish out of water." 

"I doubt if the general will not prefer to have 
breakfast in his own room." 

*' Then if he has to have breakfast with you alone 
it'll be worse than ever. He'll be afraid out of his 
life of you." 

" Afraid out of his life of me ? Cook 1 " 

"That, ma'am, I'm sure he will be. He won't 
dare to eat a morsel for fear of forgetting his 
manners. You let him have his breakfast com- 
fortable with us ; I'll see he has a good one. And 
you leave him alone till he's had it A square 
meal will do him all the good in the world; I 
understand his sort. Then you do all the talking 
to him you please. He'll be more like his proper 
self by that time." 

There was what I cannot but describe as an 
autocratic air about cook for which I was not pre- 
pared — a something almost dictatorial. I am not 
accustomed to receive hints on etiquette from my 
servants. Still, I let her have her own way. The 
position was so wholly unexpected, and so unusual, 
that I hardly knew what to do. It had certainly 
never entered into my calculations that the preserver 


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of my boy's life, the bdng who had been so constantly 
in my prayers of late, would, while under my roof, 
breakfast with the servants in tht kitchen. That, 
emphatically, had not been the kind of honour I had 
meant to pay him. It had been far from my inten- 
tion that my gratitude should run upon those 

Still, the picture presented to tiie imagination by 
cook's words, that the man would be afraid of his life 
of me if I constrained him to breakfast witii me alone, 
was not an agreeable one. I fancied him sitting on 
one side of the table in a state of doddering timidity, 
while I, his hostess, sat glowering at him on the 
other. I did not wish to reduce '* the finest soldier 
in the army " — my son's saviour — to that condition. 
Nor did I desire to keep him from eating a sufficient 
meal. If I could only be " nice " to him by permitting 
him to be *' comfortable " with the servants in the 
kitchen then it would have to be. 

On going in to see how the general was I found, 
as I foresaw, that he was not in his most reasonable 
humour. He wanted to know if the ** Field- Marshal *' 
had murdered anyone in the ni^^t. When I told 
him that he had not he proceeded to inquire if he 
had risen with the lark and made off with the plate. 
I pointed out tiiat these gibes were scarcely in the 
best of taste. But the effect of my doing so was 
somewhat discounted by my admission that the guest 
for whom I had proposed to kill the fatted calf was 
about to have his breakfast with the maids in the 
kitchen. The general's comments were of such a 
character that we nearly quarrelled, 


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The general had his breakfast in his own apart- 
ment ; I had mine in the dining-room ; the sergeant 
had his in the kitchen. I feel convinced that the 
sergeant was the most "comfortable" of the three. 
I base that opinion on the laughter which proceeded 
from the direction in which he was. The sound of it 
filled the house. As a rule, my maids are as quiet 
as anyone's. It is not necessary for me to tell them 
that I could not tolerate any noise in their quarters. 
On that occasion, however, the circumstances were so 
peculiar that I hardly knew whether I ought or ought 
not to be shocked. Peal after peal of laughter liter- 
ally rang through the establishment. It was fairly 
obvious that the sergeant was not strictly confining 
himself to the business of break&st, and that, also, 
he was not being entertained by the maids only. 
Masculine voices were audible which were not the 
sergeant's. I distinctly recognised the gardener's, the 
under-gardener's, and the odd boy's — and, actually, 
Stevens'. That Stevens, after his glaring misconduct 
of the previous night, should so soon venture again to 
trespass against my inflexible rules — for he was well 
aware that I never allowed the men under any cir- 
cumstances to enter the kitchen — I confess did 
astonish me. As the positive uproar grew worse 
and worse I found myself confronted by the possi- 
bility of my domestic arrangements being turned 
topsy-turvy by my son's preserver. 

" He may have saved Charlie's life," I told myself, 
" and for that I hope, I believe, I am duly grateful ; 
but I do trust that he is not going to upset my house- 
hold, and, after all the trouble I have taken ivith 


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them, demoralise my servants. I should find myself 
placed in a position of extreme difficulty." 

When Jane came in to see if there were anything 
else I wanted I asked her what was the cause of the 
sounds I heard. 

"If you please, ma'am, the sergeant, he's so funny; 
He's been telling us how he was nearly blown to 
pieces by a Boer shell." 

Apparently at the recollection of the sergeant's 
"funniness" Jane actually started giggling again 
before my face. 

" Nearly blown to pieces by a Boer shell, Jane I 
There can be nothing humorous about such a fright- 
ful catastrophe." 

Jane was quite pert. 

" If you were to hear him talk about it you would 
see what I mean, ma'am. The sergeant, he's all 
covered with wounds, and he's made a joke about 
every one of them." 

" What an extraordinary man ! " 

When I went up to see the general, whom I was 
accustomed to assist in the finishing touches of his 
toilet, I explained, in some degree, the disturbance, 
of which he had also been conscious, by telling him 
of what Jane had said. He took a view of the matter 
for which I was unprepared. 

" Covered with wounds, is he ? Was nearly blown to 
pieces by a Boer shell, and sets the house in a roar in 
consequence ? That's the sort of man the army wants. 
It wants the soldier who, when fighting for king and 
country, can look death in the face with a twinkle in 
his eye and keep laughing all the time, and who, 


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when telling of his battles, turns them into food for 
laughter. We've too much of the high-falutin', big 
bow-wow sort of thing. A drop of beer won't do any 
harm to a man like that Maybe Charlie isn't such 
a fool as I thought he was ; perhaps there's some- 
thing in your Field-Marshal after all. I'll have a 
talk with him when I get down." 

He had a talk. It was one of the most curious 
interviews at which I had ever assisted — a mere 
affair of questions and answers, curt, peremptory, 
and to the point, altogether different from what 
I had imagined would take place when I should 
meet my boy's preserver. Men — especially mili- 
tary men — have their own way of doing things. 
Women's methods are, I fancy, beyond their com- 
prehension. During the progress of the sort of 
conversation in which they indulged I found it 
impossible to give adequate expression to a mother's 

The interview took place in the drawing-room. 
The general's rheumatism was rather troublesome 
that morning ; he found it difficult to raise himself 
out of the chair in which I had made him comfort- 
able. I suppose that they had told the sergeant all 
about the general in the kitchen, because when he 
appeared he stood just inside the doorway, as stiff* 
and straight as a poker, with his hand at the salute. 
He looked so excessively military and so very ram- 
roddy that I did not dare to go forward and offer him 
my hand. With cook's words before my mind I 
felt that if I attempted to treat him with ordinary 
civility I might overwhelm him, if not with fear, at 


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least with confusion, though I did not like to see 
him standing in my drawing-room as if he were on 

The general, I suspect, had, as usual, his own point 
of view. I daresay the sergeant's attitude met with 
his approval. He looked him up and down, as if he 
were measuring the sergeant^s inches, which were 
many; then, after an interval of silence, which I 
found painful, he b^an, as it seemed to me, to put 
him through his facings. 

" Sergeant O'Rourke ? " 

" The same, sir." 

" Back from the front ? " 

" Back three days, sir." 

" Why have you returned ? " 

" To instruct recruits in new drill, sir." 


" Edinburgh, sir." 

" When are you due at Edinburgh ? " 

" Was due yesterday, sir." 

"You were due yesterday? Then do I under- 
stand you have outstayed your leave?" 

" Yes, sir. Had too much to drink, sir. Promised 
to see Charlie Warrinder's — b^ pardon, sir — Mr 
Warrinder's mother." 

" I am Charlie Warrinder's mother." 

I ventured to make the observation with a degree 
of meekness of which — in my own drawing-room — 
I had not supposed myself to be capable. The 
sergeant, glancing in my direction, saluted me as 
if I were another general, but beyond that paid no 
attention to me whatever. 


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" It's a very seriou3 thing to outstay your leave, 
sergeant." , 

'* Yes» sir. My first bl^ick mark, sir. Lot of drink 
flying about just now. Promised Charlie — Mr 
Warrinder — I'd see his mother as soon as I landed." 

It was the second reference he had made to me. 
I could not permit myself to be ignored any longer. 
I spoke. 

" I am very pleased to see you, Mr O'Rourke. My 
son has told me how much he owes to you." 
, " Very good of him, my lady." 

He called me ** my lady," Uiough I am only plain 
Mrs Warrind^, and brought his hand again to the 
salute; then turned again to the general. But dur- 
ing the half-dozen seconds his glance had been fixed 
on me I had a good view of his eyes and understood 
what Jane had meant by calling him a "funny" 
man. The general, however, showed no signs of 
having made the same discovery. 

"Yours is a very poor excuse, seigeant. Indeed, 
it is worse than none at all. A man in your position 
ought to have a clearer perception of his duty. It 
is to such men as you that the army looks for an 
example. I suppose you have seen some service?" 

" Seen some, sir." 

Seen somel I had had enough of having my 
drawing-room regarded as if it were a barrack-room, 
and my son's preserver, and my guest, treated as if 
he Were a criminal. When I madf: this plain we 
b^an to understand what the sergeant's ideas of 
"some service" were. The man had faced death 
in a hundred different forms; be had been all that 


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Charlie painted him. They had given him the V.C, 
and even offered him a commission. This latter, as 
he himself put it, he had " begged leave to be allowed 
to decline," because he had no manners and no means, 
and because he had certain habits which an officer was 
better without When he said this the general looked 
grave, and I tried to, but when I observed the twinkle 
in the sergeant's eye it was difficult. He had been in 
those dreadful days on the Tugela ; he had been on 
Spion Kop ; at the relief of Ladysmith, and, afterwards, 
all through those weary months of fighting on the 
open veldt To listen to him reminded one of Othello's 
wooing of Desdemona. It warmed one's heart and 
made one feel what it was to be a man and a bom 
fighter. Not that he dealt in "purple patches" or 
bragged. In the kitchen they had judged him right ; 
he was a humorist For instance, he told us, with odd 
little touches, about that long night on Spion Kop, 
and of what happened in the grey of the morning, so 
that he brou^t it all before us, and got us into the 
very atmosphere and made us realise the horror and 
the terror and the madness of it all, and yet all the 
time he kept us on the very veiige of laughter, as 
if it had been the most delightful and amusing of 

I am but an old woman, but I come of a soldiers* 
stock, and as I looked at him and listened I knew 
that this was the man to lead his fellows with a light 
heart, a strong arm, a quick eye, and a clear head, 
or to get them out of a tight place with honour if 
necessity required. 

It was only comparatively recently that he had met 


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Charlie. Then accident had thrown them so much 
together, and they had shared so many adventures, 
that each had b^n brought to an understanding of 
the other. The sergeant made light of what he had 
done; but I had my boy's own words. It did me 
good to hear him speak in his shrewd, brusque way 
of my son, counting as little what seemed to me to 
be much, for he made it plain that in Charlie there 
was something of a soldier too. 

Clearly, from the sergeant's own admissions, for 
him the tug-of-war commenced when the fighting was 
over ; and indeed, relatively, already far behind him. 
To me it was amazing to hear this huge, strong, 
seasoned warrior confess, with almost bewildering 
frankness, that beer had for him what seemed to me 
to be a really incomprehensible fascination. I had 
heard and read about the requests which had been 
made to the public not to offer returning soldiers 
drink, but their true inwardness I had not grasped 
till then. So far as I could gather, during the three 
days in which he had been in his native land the 
sergeant had done literally npthing else but drink 
beer. One of the causes why he had refused that 
commission needed no further demonstration. He 
had not drunk it at his own cost, but at the expense 
of perfect strangers who, in a wholly mistaken spirit 
of generosity, had pressed it on him. Where beer was 
concerned he was evidently as weak as water. On 
landing at Southampton he had meant to come 
straight to me, but beer had stopped him. His own 
recollection of his adventures was most confused. 
After, apparently, divers adventures with the police, 



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who, it seemed, had been instructed to deal leniently 
with returning soldiers, the preceding evening he had 
got as far on his journey to me as Charing Cross 
Station. There, I fancy, the officials had found him 
a difficult nut to crack. Some gentleman had paid 
for and'despatched the telegram which had reached 
us ; bought the sergeant, who was penniless, his 
railway ticket, and presented him with half-a-crown. 
On reaching his journey's end, with his half-crown he 
regaled Stevens. That, in their condition, the two 
should have come safely home with the carriage was 
little short of miraculous. 

It was a most distressing story, shedding such a 
singular light at once upon the weakness and the 
strength of poor, fallible human nature. When Bob 
appeared, having hastened home in response to my 
summons, the sergeant was committed to his chaise. 
He was instructed to give him a day's sight-seeing 
in town — in such mattery the sergeant was like a 
child — and then to ^ee bitn into the night mail for 
Edinburgh with a ticket in his pocket He was 
particularly warned to keep the sergeant at arm's- 
length from anything in the shape of beer. 

I have never learned the full details of that day's 
happenings, but I fear, from what I have heard, that 
Bob had not an easy time ; and I am haunted by 
a doubt that it was at least in part owing to the 
fact of my having slipped two sovereigns into the 
sergeant's hand as he was leaving ; it was painful 
to think that I could do so little for the man who 
had done so much for me. One extraordinary thing 
I was told about, that during the day the sergeant 


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could only be induced to eat one meal, and that that 
consisted of three plates of fried potatoes and a jar 
of pickles. Bob offered him his choice of all the 
restaurants in town, but the sergeant preferred a 
humble coffee-shop in some side street and that 
astonishing repast. If that was his idea of what 
was a satisfactory meal for a full-g^own man, then 
it certainly was as well that he had not breakfasted 
with me ; though one could not but feel that a 
finer foundation for an unquenchable thirst than a 
whole bottle of pickles could scarcely be ima- 

Bob saw him off by the train. The general wrote 
to the commanding officer at Edinburgh, who was 
an old friend of his own, setting forth the full par- 
ticulars of the sergeant's proceedings, and begging 
him to visit his tardy appearance on the scene with 
as light an admonition as he could. In due course 
the commanding officer replied to the effect that the 
sergeant had arrived — after all — in such a state of 
beer and pugilism, that he had been compelled to 
do something to mark his sense of his misconduct, 
and that he had therefore sentenced him to two days* 
confinement to barracks. But, he added, in general, 
Sergeant O'Rourke was not only one of the best 
fellows, but also one of the finest soldiers in the 
world, absolutely reliable in the field, as one who 
never, under the most trying circumstances, lost his 
influence over his men or his own head. He had 
had a splendid record in South Africa. It was pro- 
bably only owing to the excitement of his return 
that he had acted as he had done ; for, as a matter 


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of fact, the occasions were few and far between on 
which he was beaten by beer. 

I was very glad indeed to hear this. I hoped that 
the occasions would become fewer and further be- 
tween, until they entirely ceased to recur. I should 
like to think that the man to whom I owed so much 
was not only one of the finest soldiers but one of the 
finest men as well. To God all things are possible ; 
and the sergeant will be always in my prayers. 


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C ATURDAY night in the North End Road Nice, 
^^ fine drizzle just beginning to fall. Crowd in the 
middle of the street. Gentleman in centre of crowd, 
whose countenance is suggestive of recent "four- 
'arf/' and who wears his hat at the back of his 
head, addresses the select circle of his friends and 
acquaintances, whom he has now met for the first 
time in life, and who, indiscriminately, answer him 
back again. 

" Lorst somefing — that's what I done." 


" Yuss I lorst a weddin' ring — ^that's what I done." 

"Gar on!" 

" Tell yer I 'avc ! Only just bought it too." 

" Gawd's trewth?" 

"Yuss, I tell yer! I'm goin' to be married in 
the momin' — Sunday momin' — that's to-morrer, 
ain't it? s'elp me Bob I am! So me and my 
donah we goes into Johnsin's, at the comer, and 
we buys the ring— not five minutes agone — was it, 

The inquiry is addressed to a young lady, ap- 
parently about fifteen, whose principal garment is 
a hat 


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" I shouldn't think it was five minutes — I do know 
it weren't six." 

"That it weren't Eight-and-six I gives for it — 
didn't I, Pollie?" 

" Course you did — three half-crowns and a shillin' 
— to the young man you gives it — I seed you give 
it him. You says, larfin' like, * What'U you give 
us for luck?' 'E says, a-kiddin' of yer, *Come 
round some time about the middle o' next week, 
and I'll let yer know,' didn't 'e?" 

"Course 'e did! So as we was a-crossin' the 
street, Pollie she says to me, * Let's have a look 
at it, Jim,' she says. * I shouldn't wonder but what 
you'd better let me take care of it,' she says, * it'll 
be safer long of me.' So I takes the ring out o' 
my weskit pocket, and I takes a squint at it, and 
just as I was a-goin' to give it to 'er, a bloke 'e 
comes pushin' along at the back o' me, and 'e gives 
me a shove, and, me not expectin' it, I gives a sort 
of a stumble, and blimey if the blimey ring didn't 
fall out of my blimey 'and into the blimey mud, 
and blimey, it ain't there now." 

Jim puts his fist up to his forehead, as if the 
situation is a little beyond his depth. 

" Ain't you looked for it ? " 

" Course I looked for it. What do you think ? 
Ain't I burnt 'arf a box of matches, let alone the 
tops off my fingers, a-lookin' for it? Looked for 
it! 1 should think I have! A bit too much." 

" Holler, boys ! 'ere's a game : bloke's been and 
lorst 'is weddih' ring!" 

This from a youth on the outskirts of the crowd 


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Friends in his immediate neighbourhood commence 
hustling. A gentleman resents such conduct. 

" Who are you shovin* ? *• 

" Ain't a-shovin' ! " 

" Tell yer yer are ! " 

« Tell yer I ain't ! " 

"I seed yer!" 

" That you never did ! " 

"S'elp me if that don't beat anything! I tell 
yer I seed yer a-shovin' me!" 

" Then I tell yer yer never did ! It was a 
bloke be'ind what was a-shovm' me. If I gets 
shoved, I 'as to shove — ain't I? You're a bit too 

In the middle of the crowd several gentlemen are 
stooping down, searching for the ring in the liquid 
mud, two of them holding lighted lucifer matches 
One of these speaks to the other : 

" What sort of ring was it ? " 

" Weddin' ring— don't yer 'ear what 'e says ? " 

" Yuss, I know that ; but I mean, was it gold ? " 

" Course it was gold — think 'e'd give eight and a 
tanner for it if it wasn't gold ? " 

" 'Ow are we to know 'c give eight and a 
tanner ? " 

"'E says 'e did — I don't know nothink abart it 
'cept what 'e says — 'ow d'ye think I'm going to 
know? I never seed the bloke afore in all my 

" All right, chummie ! keep yer teeth from droppin' 
art; I was only a-makin' the remark." His match 
flickers, and goes out Rising, he addresses Jim. 


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"Say, blokey, what are yer goin' to give us if we 
finds yer ring ? " 

Jim, who has his hands deep in his trouser-pockets, 
and who stands with his legs well apart, appears to 
be the least interested person present, an appearance 
which is not belied by his reply to his friend's 

" I don't want no blimey ring." 

"Hollo, Pollie, is that you? What's up?" This 
question is put to Jim's lady-love by a feminine 
acquaintance, who, being some distance off, has to 
speak at the top of her voice — a hoarse one. 

"Jim's lost the weddin' ring — only just bought it, 

" No ! You don't say so, Pollie ! Lost the weddin' 
ring, 'ave yer? That's what I do call 'ard cheese! 
Carn't yer find it nohow? Le' me come and 'ave a look." 

" It ain't no good a-lookin' — no ! If 'e don't mind 
a-losin' it, it don't make no odds to me — I don't care 
about no weddin' ring, nor yet no weddin* neither. 
Silly sorft ! 'e gives me the bloomin' 'ump — fair ! '' 

" Who gives you the 'ump ? " 

"Why you!" 

"'Ow do I give you the 'qmp?" 

" What d'yer want to go losin' a thing like that for ? " 

"It weren't my fault I losed it — were it? — ^you 
answer me! Wasn't a bloke a-comin' be'ind me, 
and didn't 'e give me a shove in the back, and didn't 
I almost go right on my nose, and didn't the ring 
fall out of my 'and ? " 

" You shouldn't 'a' let it fall ! What d'yer want to 
let it fall for? that's what I wants to know ! " 


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•* What do I want to let it fall for ? Gawd's trewth ! 
what d'yet Ihink I was a-goin' to do then ? Turn a 
bloomin' somersault? I ain't no hacrobat!" 

" No ; youVe too silly," 

" Ham I ? That's your opinion ! P'r'aps you don't 
know so much about it as you think ! " 

"All right! don't 'urt yerself! P'r'aps yer ain't 
foi^ettin' to remember as I guv' yer five bob of that 
eight and a tanner? " 

" Who says you didn't ? " 

" No one : no one ain't so silly ! " 

" Who wants yer five bob ? " 

" I do ! So now you've got it ! straight ! " 

" Thqn you won't 'ave it ! " 

"Oh, that's the time o' day, is it? So now we 
know where we are. Look 'ere, Jim Baxter, if you 
goes talkin' to me like that I'll walk straight away 
and I'll never speak to yer again ! " 

" Go on — go on ! walk away ! " 

"Very well, you wait 'arf a minute, and then you'll 

" All right, let's see ! let's see you walk away ! " 

" So I will ; then you'll be sorry ! " 

"Don't you mind nothink o' that — I ain't of a 
sorrowin' sort" 

" I don't want to marry yer— and never did ! " 

" All I can say is, I ain't done none of the wantin'. 
Didn't you ask me to marry yer ? " 

"Me! — me arsk yer to marry me! Why" — 
PoUie's voice rises to a shriek — "only last week, as 
we was a-comin' along the Wandsworth Road, didn't 
you say to me — like I'm a-sayin' it to you ! — * Pollie 


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Stevens/ you says, * if you don't take and marry me 
I shall go off my bloomin' chump ! ' — ^you deny it if 
you dare ! " 

"Who's denyin' it? It was onJy a manner of 
speakin'. I tell yer what it is : you ain't my wife yet, 
so don't you come givin' me none of your lip as 
though you were!" 

" And you ain't my 'usband, and you never won't 
be, neither ! " 

" Very good ; I'm willin' ! You dn't the only gal 
there is abart ! — don't think it ! — there's 'eaps 
more ! " 

" Go and find 'em, then 1 " 

" So I will — sharp, too !— don't you go frightenin' 
yourself acause of me ! " 

" Have yer dirty weddin' all along by )^rself— you 
won't get me in it. I'm orf ! " 

" Very well then, very well ; no one's wantin' yer ! " 

**You listen to me, Jim Baxter, and I'll tell yer 
what I think of yer. You're a spotty-faced, putty- 
nosed, squint-eyed, red-headed, 'ump-backed monkey! 
That's what I think of yer, so now yer know." 

Lady friend intervenes. 

" Now then, PoUie, don't lef s 'avc no more of that 
—don't be so silly!" 

Pollie shows signs of fight 

" You let me get at him ! I'll mark his ugly fiice I 
I'll learn him to say there's other gals aside mel 
Why, it ain't a quarter of an hour ago since I gave 
'im a dollar!" 

Lady friend turns to Jim. 

" Now, Jim Baxter, ain't you a pretty sort of a 


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crack-pot? What do want to go aggravating the 
gal for?" 

"I ain't a-aggravatin' 'er! Ain't she aggravatin' 

" Well, then, you shouldn't *a' losed the ring." 

" I never losed the ring ! Don't I tell yer a bloke 
came pushin' be'ind me, and give me a shove in the 
back, and I nearly went oh my nose, and the blimey 
ring failed out o' my blimey 'and ! " 

" It's the same thing, ain't it ; what are yer sayin' ? 
No gal likes to *ave her weddin' ring losed the day 
afore she's going to get spliced — 'taint likely." 

" Well, then, it's losed, and that's all I know abart 
it — least said, soonest mended." 

A gentleman advances to Mr Baxter : 

"Egscuse me, guv'nor, but I ain't so sure as 'ow 
that is all abart it ; p'raps this is the ring as you're 
talking abart, and, likewise, p'r'aps it isn't. You just 
take and 'ave a squint at it." 

Mr Baxter takes the ring the gentleman holds out 
to him. 

" Thank yer, matey ; I'm much obliged to yer, I'm 
sure. That's the tit as safe as 'ouses. Now then, 
PoUie, p'r'aps you're satisfied." 

He gives the ring to PoUie. 

" I ain't a-sayin* as 'ow I ain't. Of course, when 
a lady gets 'er ring found for 'er it's a different thing." 

"You're quite right, Pollie; there's no denyin' of 
it ; I say so, straight, I wouldn't 'ave 'ad that ring 
losed on no account — ^'tisn't likely. If the gentle- 
man as found it'll come along o' us I'll take pleasure 
in puttin' my sentiments inside a pot o' beer." 


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" That's it, guv*nor ; there ain't no ill feelin', as I 
knows on." 

" Certainly not ; is there, PoUie ? " 

Pollie and Jim prove that there is no ill-feeling by 
going off with an arm about each other's waist. The 
lady friend who intervened and the gentleman who 
found the ring bring up the rear. The ring is on 
PoUie's finger, where she esteems it safest. 


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Chapter I 


/^NE could not but be struck by his appearance. 
^^^ He was such a little man. There was some- 
thing so odd about his small, wrinkled, clean-shaven 
face that it exercised at anyrate a fascination upon 
me. I felt, as he sat crumpled up in a corner of the 
railway carriage, that I was staring at him more 
than was consistent with the rules of ordinary civility. 
And yet I could not help but stare. He was evi- 
dently conscious of my scrutiny, and though he did 
not outwardly resent it, it made him, or so it seemed 
to me, uneasy. I felt I was a brute. On a sudden 
he turned right round, and looking me full in the 
face he gave me glance for glance. Odd eyes his 
were ; I knew not if they were full of laughter or of 

Thus challenged, I broke the silence which had 
hitherto prevailed. 

" Going through ? " He said he was. Indeed, my 
question was an idiotic one, for I knew that the train 
did not stop until it reached the famous coast town 
where its journey ended. " Going to enjoy the fresh 
sea-breezes ? " 


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" I am journeying on business." 

I was not seeking to inquire into the purport of 
his journey. I was simply making conversation. I 
merely nodded, and repeated his last word after him : 
" Business ! " 

He wriggled in his corner, as it appeared to me, 
with positive discomfort. He put his head on one 
side, as certain birds have a trick of doing, and he 
said, with a seeming effort : 

"I'm an entertainer." I had suspected from the 
first that he had some connection with the theatre. 
The average histrion announces his profession, when 
it is necessary to announce it, with something of an 
air of pride. The little man in the corner owned to 
his, not only without a trace of pride, but as it 
seemed with actual pain, as though hq were confessing 
to a thing which brings shame upon a man. " I am 
going to give an entertainment there. My name is 

Belindus ! I had heard something of the name of 
late as being that of a man who had suddenly come 
forward with quite an extraordinsMy degree of suc- 
cess, in what, according to the reports, was a novel 
line of his own. I expressed the pleasure I experi- 
enced in meeting Mr Belindus. 

"Pleastu-e?" Again he wriggled in his comer, as 
if my idea of pleasure were certainly not his. " All 
right Call it pleasure.*' 

I laughed. We talked during the remainder of the 
journey, though I am bound to own that the con- 
versation was principally kept alive by me. He 
confined himself, as a rule, to monosyllables, and 


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seemed to find his chief occupation in hunting for 
a double meaning in every word I uttered. It was 
either owing to the mood he was in, or else it was 
the fault of some constitutional peculiarity. He ap- 
peared to be incapable of realising that a man could 
mean, exactly and simply, what he said, and absol- 
utely nothing more. That a man's speech, in fact, 
even the speech of a perfect stranger, could be void 
of any ulterior injurious intent. When we parted at 
tiie railway station he left the impression upon my 
mind that he was, at the very least, an original. 

I soon found out all about the entertainment which 
Mr Belindus was to give. There were the announce- 
ments of it on every side. In the evening I formed 
one of his audience. The hall was full. Certainly 
it was not for nothing the people had come. I never 
enjoyed anything more, of its kind. And yet the 
idea of the thing in itself was commonplace enough. 
It was the personality of the man and his whim- 
sical treatment of an old idea which lent to her 
performance an air of freshness, and even positive 

I was one of the last of the audience to leave the 
building. When I got into the street I encountered 
Mr Belindus. I addressed him then and there : 

"Mr Belindus, I have to thank you for a very 
pleasant performance." 

He recognised me at once, and when I spoke to 
him he stopped. 

" Oh, you call it a pleasant performance, do you ? " 

" I do. A pleasant and an excellent performance. 
I enjoyed it immensely. I am sure tiiat all your 


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audience enjoyed it too. I do not see how they 
could have have helped it" 

" Oh, you think that they enjoyed it> do you ? A 
nice world this is, a nice world I Come on to the 

We went on to the front. He had thrown a long 
overcoat over his evening dress. It was buttoned 
up to his chin. A shooting-cap was dra>^n over his 
eyes. In the uncertain light all that I could see of 
his face was his nose and his mouth. But it seemed 
plain that his whimsical mood of the afternoon was 
with him still. 

" Oh, you call it a pleasant performance, do you ; 
and you think that the people enjoyed themselves ? 
This is a nice state of things, upon my word ! " 

"But surely, my dear sir, it is something for a 
man in your profession to know that he has given ~ 
his audience unmixed pleasure." 

" There was one person present who didn't enjoy 
himself. That was me. Did the people laugh ? " 

" Did they laugh ! Didn't you hear them ? " 

" I thought I did. But I wasn't sure that it wasn't 
all a nightmare." 

" A nightmare ! What do you mean ? " 

" I mean that my whole life long has been a night- 
mare. O good Lord, I must have it out with some- 
body, or I shall go mad. Let's go on to the pier. 
The gates are shut, but we can climb over them, and 
we shall have it all to ourselves. It will be just the 
place for a lunatic to lay bare his own insanity." 

I could not but feel that he tnight, really and truly, 
be a little bit insane. Still, I humoured him. He 


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was probably, at anyrate, quite harmless. We 
climbed over the gates of the pier. I do not know 
what the authorities would have said if they had 
caught us in the act. But apparently no one in 
authority observed us. The lights were out, the 
pier was all in darkness, and as we moved seawards 
.one became conscious that the wind was rising. I 
could not but feel that both the place and the hour 
were not ill suited to the display, say, of a little 

When we were perhaps half-way down the pier 
Mr Belindas suddenly stopped short He turned 
to me. 

"Do you know that I was born a poet, and a 
tragic poet ? " 

I smiled. I was aware that there has been more 
than one instance of a comedian who has fancied 
that nature intended him for a tragedian. 

"I believe that it is not an uncommon thing for 
a comic actor to have a personal fondness for the 
tragic muse." 

"Oh, thafs what you believe, is it? And that 
doesn't strike you as being in itself a tragedy, does 
it? Do you know what I have been cursed with? 
I have b€«n cursed with a sense of humour." 

Again I smiled. Mr Belindus' manner was almost 

" I have always been under the impression that a 
sense of humour was a thing rather to be desired." 

"Not such a sense of humour as mine. Not a 
sense of humour which prevents your taking your- 
self seriously, which prevents your taking life seriously, 


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or anything, or anyone. No ! Look at me now ! I'm 
making a clown of myself when I want to be tragic ! " 
Taking off his cap he actually wiped his brow, though, 
in all conscience, out there the night was cool enough. 
'* Laughter always comes to me when the tears are 
in my eyes. When I was a boy it made my life a 
misery. I wrote poems — epics — tragedies. When 
the tragic parts were coming I saw the comic side. 
Of course, the whole thing was spoilt. I daresay 
you're laughing at me now." As a matter of fact, I 
could not help but smile. '' Laugh on ! Tm such a 
funny fellow that no one seems able to suspect that 
the tragedy of it all is driving me stark mad." 

We continued down the pier. I said nothing. He 
went on. 

"As a youngster I used to lay awake dreaming 
poems one half the night, and the other half the night 
I used to spend in crying at their absurdity. I longed 
to be a poet, with a wild ecstasy of longing. In me 
there are the makings of a poet But the idea of me, 
or of anyone, being a poet has always struck me as 
being too preposterous for words. I never read a 
great poem — and I shall always love to read great 
poetry until the scene has closed — without the comic 
side rising up in front of me. I never read a tale of 
pathos without being constrained to insane merri- 
ment But in a funny tale my sense of humour 
reveals to me the tragedy. Tragedy and farce are 
twins. My eyes, mental and physical, are constitu- 
tionally unable to behold them separate. When the 
clown applies the hot poker to the pantaloon, and 
the people laugh, I cry. Poor burnt devil of a 


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pantaloon! But when a woman dies of starvation 
in her attic I laugh. I see the mountains of wasted 
food which surrounded her on every side. A sense 
of humour is a thing to be desired ? God help the 
man who has a sense of humour such as mine, — 
it makes of his whole life a screaming farce." 

We had reached the end of the pier, and stood 
looking out upon the night-black sea. I still was 
silent. Ludicrous though it may sound, I was begin- 
ning to realise what manner of man this was, and to 
extend to him my sympathy. 

" I am married." 

It was such an unexpected remark with which to 
break the silence that I was a little taken aback. 
He paused, as if expecting me to speak. What I 
did say was sufficiently awkward. 

" Indeed ! I believe that the married state is the 
state in which men and women find their truest 
happiness, so you have my congratulations, Mr 

He was silent Perhaps he was reflecting on the 
abject imbecility of what I had said. At last he 

" I will tell you the story of my marriage. Then 
you will understand what a funny fellow I really am, 
and how greatly a man is to be envied the chiefest 
of whose possessions is an unbounded and uncon- 
trollable sense of humour." 

He paused. He seemed to be hesitating as to the 
exact words which he should use. 

" I met her on an omnibus — an omnibus." 

As he repeated his own words he looked round at 


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me with a quick, sharp glance, as if he were daring 
me to smile. Whatever my feelings might have been 
I took care that my face should be as expressionless 
as a mask. 

" On an omnibus ? I see." 

"In the Strand. On a penny 'bus-— one of those 
with garden seats upon the top. It was a dirty after- 
noon. The 'bus was full. I shared a seat upon the 
roof with a woman." 

Again he paused, as if he were in doubt how best 
to tell his tale. 

"She was a large woman. I, as you may observe, 
am small. She occupied rather more than three- 
quarters of the seat. And I — I had what was left 
It was not much. But what I had I had to have. 
She was not only a large woman, she was also a 
dirty woman." 

" A dirty woman I " 

" She was. I have what amounts to a passion for 
personal cleanliness. It struck me as being very 
funny that a large and a dirty woman should deprive 
me of my fair share of the omnibus. I don't know 
why it struck me as being funny. But it did. I 
never know why things do strike me as being funny. 
But they do. It comes of my having a sense of 
humour. Mind, I am not suggesting that the woman 
was unclean in any superlative degree. I am suggest- 
ing that there was something about her which im- 
pressed one with the belief that, if cleanliness is next 
to godliness, then she did not take much count of 
godliness. When the conductor came round for the 
fares it was discovered that she was penniless. She 


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had had a penny when she started. She was sure of 
it. But it appeared she had not got one now. While 
she dived into various recesses of her clothing in 
search of the penny she had had she more than once 
almost knocked me from the top of the omnibus on 
to the street. The penny was not to be found. I, 
therefore, to save her from being ignominiously 
ejected from the omnibus on the street, paid her fare. 
So I married her." 


"It was not only because I wished to secure an 
equivalent for the penny which I had paid for her 
fare. No; it was not only that. Nor was it only 
because she was large, and unattached to the Order 
of the Bath. I was actuated by, I will not say a 
judicious combination, but a combination of all three 
considerations. Nor do I wish to convey the im- 
pression that I quitted the omnibus with her then 
and there and married her upon the spot. No ; the 
fact of my having paid her fare served as a sort of 
introduction. We began to converse together. And 
it was only as I began to perceive more and more 
clearly that we had nothing whatever in common 
that the comic side of the situation appealed to me 
with its wonted force. By the time we had reached 
our journey's end it had occurred to me, with the 
strength of a temptation straight from — Plutus, what 
a funny thing it would be for me to marry her." 

He paused again. I, for my part, was silent. To 
tell the truth, I hardly knew what to make of him. 
I began to suspect not only that he was afflicted with 
a sense of humour but with actual insanity. With 


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a degree of perception which was, even, curiously 
quick, he seemed to read what was in my mind. 

" You think I am insane. You are in error. I am 
probably saner than you. From what I have seen of 
you I should say that you are a man who is capable 
of seeing only one side of a question. I, on the other 
hand, see all sides of it at once — the incongruous with 
especial predominance. In that respect, perhaps, I 
am insane. But not, unless I am mistaken, sufficiently 
insane ever to bring me within the scope of a legal 

" To proceed with my tale of love. Her name was 
Parkes, Eliza Parkes. She was a barmaid out of a 
situation. She was not only a barmaid out of a 
situation, but she was a barmaid out ofpence, and 
out of everything. Never was there a courtship such 
as ours. Not even in the books. It was the idea 
of living a farce that urged me on. I had often 
wondered if the things could happen which happen 
in the farces. I thought that I would try. I did try. 
I found they could. Only what on the mimic stage 
seemed farce on the real stage proved tragedy. I 
met her in all sorts of places at all sorts of hours. 
Once I gave her an appointment on the top of the 
monument. It's a fact. She had no sense of humour. 
She waited for me there. We met on the summit of 
that lofty pinnacle, high above the tumult and the 
turmoil of the city. I have sat with her in Hyde 
Park, under a tree, and made love to her for three 
hours in a pouring rain. A policeman came and 
turned us out when, at midnight, the park was closed. 
I played Arry to her Arriet. I took her to Appy 


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*Ampton on a Bank 'Oliday. You should have seen 
us. It was immense. The tragedy! the tragedy! 
And, at last " — again he took off his cap and wiped 
his brow ; this time, although the night had grown 
by no means warmer, the act occasioned me no 
surprise — "at last I married her!" 

The tide was coming in ; the wind was rising still. 
It was an ungenial wind. As we looked across the 
waste of angry waters the crests of the tumultuous 
waves seemed to be straining to reach us where we 
stood. What could I say? What could any man 
have said in such a situation ? Was it my fault if 
I descended into bathos? 

** I can only hope, Mr Belindus, although circum- 
stances did not seem to be altogether propitious 
at the commencement of your married life, that 
the performance proved to be better than the 

"Well— she drinks." 


" Drinks — neat gin." 

"Mr Belindus!" 

" Not Mr but Mrs Belindus. Mr Belindus is, to all 
intents and purposes, a teetotaller. Mrs Belindus, 
by her contributions to the revenue, makes up for 
his backsliding." 

" How long have you been married ? " 

"Six years." 

" Six years ! Good heavens ! " 

" Yes ; six years of— not heaven, you may take my 
word for it Mrs Belindus is not only a drunkard, 
she's a thief." 


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" A thief I Mr BcHndus, you shock me I " 

"For the first time? If a woman is not a thief 
who steals everything of her husband's she can lay 
her hand upon and turns it into drink I should like 
to know who is. I've deserted her three times." 

" You've deserted her three times ? " 

"They arrested me last week. Perhaps you saw 
the case reported in the papers. The magistrate 
made an order that I should pay her three pounds 
a week. The order was an infamy ! " 

Again there was another of those, what I could 
not but feel were awkward pauses. Dreadful though 
it seemed, I could not make up my mind whether 
Mr Belindus' case belonged more properly to 
tragedy or to farce. I hazarded another question. 

" Then you are not living with her ! " 

" Living with her ! " I saw he shuddered. " Living 
with her! To live with her means death in life. 
She haunts me. She follows me wherever she 
knows I am performing. I hardly dare appear in 
the same place two nights running lest she should 
get among the audience and cause a scandal. Words 
fail to convey to the imagination what it means 
to be the husband of Mrs Belindus. Awful ! awful I " 

Leaning over the railing which ran round the head 
of the pier the little man covered his face with his 
hands. In the presence of his emotion I was dumb. 
He struck me as being the most extraordinary case 
I had ever encountered in the whole of my experience. 
Suddenly he turned his queer, wrinkled little face up 
towards mine, and said, as it seemed with a sob 
in his voice : 


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"And it all comes of my being blessed with a 
sense of humour — that blessing so much to be 

"I can scarely concede, Mr Belindus, that it is 
to that you owe your misfortunes. You appear 
to me to be the victim — if you will forgive my 
speaking plainly — not so much of a sense of humour 
as of mental aberration." 

"You think so, do you? What will you think 
when I tell you that, when I was courting and when 
I married Mrs Belindus, I was all the time engaged 
to another woman?" 

" You are joking ! " 

"Exactly! I am joking. I am always joking. 
My life's a lifelong joke. That is what makes me 
such a funny man« I am always laughing, as I told 
you, when the tears are in my eyes." 

The little man drew himself straight up. He held 
out his hands in front of him. He seemed to tremble 
with excitement 

"When I met, when I courted, when I married 
Eliza Parker, I was formally, notoriously — I use the 
word advisedly — engaged to a woman whom — I am 
not descending to what is one of the lowest depths to 
which a man can descend — to the use of exaggerated 
language — when I say that I was engaged to a woman 
whom I not only loved but whom I adored. Her 
name was Margaret Not the * rare, pale Margaret * 
of poetry, but the living, blooming Margaret of life. 
It was again a question of my sense of humour. 
I had loved her for so many years. I had looked 
forward so long to happiness with the woman of my 


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love, dreamed so fondly of the ecstasy which would 
be mine, when at last I should exercise the right of a 
husband, and encircle her with rapturous arms, that 
it occurred to me how funny it would be if, after all, 
I didn't marry her ; if, of my own free will, I let her 
go; if, of my own choice, I dashed away the cup 
of happiness just as it already touched my yearning, 
my eager lips. All this, I say, occurred to me so 
forcibly, that I — well, I yielded, willy-nilly, to my 
sense of humour. Experience has taught me that 
at spasmodic but recurring intervals my sense of 
humour places me upon the horns of a dilemma. 
Whichever horn I choose my choice to me means 
misery. I might have married Margaret If I had 
I should have been tortured ever afterwards by the 
reflection of what a splendid opportunity I wantonly 
had lost of being funny. The ordinary man would 
regard such a reflection with complete indifference. 
But with me — why, when I do think of some of the 
opportunities which I have lost I feel that my life 
has been worse than wasted." 

Putting my hand upon Mr Belindus' shoulder 
I wheeled him round so that I might see as much 
of his face as the imperfect light would allow. " Did 
this young lady love you ? " 

" Did she love me ? Within six months after she 
knew that I had thrown her over she was dead." 

" Do you wish me to infer that she died from love 
of you?" 

Mr Belindus laughed, a laugh which grated on 
my nerves. I was beginning to feel that it was 
within the range of possibility that shortly I should 


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be tempted to kick this little man. Or, better still, 
to pick him up by the scrufT of his neck and to drop 
him into the sea 

" Even my sense of humour does not lead me to 
go so far as that. How can I tell you of what she 
died? It was all so funny! I have been given to 
understand that she had just been reading my last 
letter, breathing ardent affection, when she was in- 
formed of the fact that, about an hour before, I 
had been married." 

" Do you mean to tell me that you carried on 
the farce of pretending to love her up to the very 
hour of your marriage with — the woman of the 
omnibus ? " 

"You have hit upon the very word It was a 
farce that I was straining every nerve to play. 
You may rest assured that I did my best to carry 
the thing well through." 

** Mr Belindus, you speak of a sense of humour. 
But to me your story smacks of scoundrel." 

"Such was the verdict of the world at large. 
Are you too dull to realise how that very fact 
made the thing still funnier? When her brother 
broke his cane across my back and beat me in 
the street, that made the whole affair a screaming 

"If her brother only beat you in the street it 
seems to me, Mr Belindus, that you escaped too 

The little man thrust his hands deep into the 
pockets of his coat He observed me with close 
attention. When he spoke there was something in 


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his voice which I was at a loss to understand. 
I knew not whether it was tears or laughter. 

" You are an entire stranger to me. I never saw 
you in all my life until to-day. Does it not occur 
to you as funny that, here, at the end of this deserted 
pier, at this hour of the night, I should volunteer 
my story, and then should suffer you to lecture me, 
as though you had been my friend these hundred 

"As you say, to you I am a stranger. I fancy, 
all things considered, that I prefer to remain a 
stranger. I have the pleasure, Mr Belindus, of 
wishing you good-night" 

I turned to go. 

" Stop ! " He caught me by the arm. Again 
he seemed to tremble with excitement. "At least, 
before you go, consider what a tragedy that farce has 
been to me. Consider how, for the sake of a joke, 
my love lies dead in Margaret's tomb — ^slain by my 
sense of humour ! Consider how, for the sake of a 
joke, I am joined for life to, as you yourself phrased 
her, the woman of the omnibus. How I am haunted 
by her, hunted, harried, almost into frenzy. In all 
this is there no tragedy, for me — for me? One 
other thing there is which, before we part, I would 
wish to say to you." 

"You must excuse me, Mr Belindus, but I must 
decline to listen. Our points of view are so divergent 
that, I fear, under no circumstances could I extend 
to you that sympathy to which you seem to think 
yourself entitled." 

" But you must listen ! Did I not tell you at the 


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first that, if I did not have it out with somebody, I 
should go mad! I shall! If your veins have not 
run dry — if you yourself still are human — I entreat 
you — listen ! " 

The man's emotion mastered me. I stayed to 
listen — I had nearly written — not only against my 
will, but against the teaching of my common-sense. 

"When I married the woman of the omnibus — 
when I slew my Margaret — I was in a position of 
comparative affluence. But, being desirous of play- 
ing the farce well through, of making the joke com- 
plete, I deliberately threw away all that I had. Was 
that not excellent ? " 

" After what you have told me already, Mr Belindus, 
I am prepared for anything." 

" So, after a short acquaintance, most of my friends 
inform me. But Mrs Belindus was not prepared for 
anything, believe me. She thought that marriage 
with me meant a life of ease and luxury for her. 
When she learnt that, still yielding to my sense of 
humour, I had turned myself into a beggar, then the 
farce became indeed a tragedy for me." 

"And for her?" 

He shrugged his shoulders. 

" She always was devoid of sense of humour ; every- 
thing was tragedy to her. But it became even tragedy 
to me when, in less than a fortnight after marriage, 
bride and bridegroom were begging in the street." 

"Mr Belindus I" 

" Funny, was it not? Yet simple fact. I thought 
what a huge joke it would be if, when I married, I 
left myself with no prospects, a five-pound note, and 


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the clothes that I stood up in. We expended the 
five pounds in riotous living, and, having spent it, 
nothing remained to us, as you will perceive, but 

It was clear to me that the man was mad. I re- 
solved, let him urge as he would, to listen no longer 
to his ravings. I looked at my watch. I was my- 
self surprised to find how late it was. 

" It is nearly one. We will continue our interesting 
conversation on some future occasion, Mr Belindus. 
I am frozen to the bone. I presume that even your 
sense of humour is scarely strong enough to induce 
you to suggest that we should spend the whole of the 
night upon this wind-blown pier." 

He laughed — that laugh of his which so grated on 
my nerves. 

" Come, let us go." 

We went at a good round pace down the whole 
length of the pier. Until we reached the end not a 
word was spoken. When we had scrambled over the 
gate he held out his hand. 

"Good-night When you see the name Belindus 
billed on a wall in letters six feet high think some- 
times of what I have said to you to-night Some- 
times, even when you are sitting among my audience, 
think what manner of man he really is who makes 
you laugh, of how his sense of humour has made his 
life an endless tragedy." 

I promised that I would, and so we parted. 


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Chapter II 


In the morning, after breakfast, I strolled down to 
listen to the band which was playing on the pier. 
The weather was beautifully fine. The pier was 
crowded. Among the crowd I perceived two ladies, 
a mother and her daughter, who had sat next to me 
at breakfast, and with whom I had fallen into casual 
converse. As they were so good as to accord me 
the honour of a recognition I fell in by their side, 
and together we strolled about and listened to the 

I could not but feel under what different circum- 
stances I had last stood upon that pier. I ventured 
to remark on this. 

" When I last was where we three are now it was 
one o'clock in the morning." 

The younger lady glanced at me. She seemed 

''One o'clock in the morning? I thought that 
long before that time the pier was closed. Were you 

" The pier was closed, and yet I stood on it I 
was, in fact, a trespasser, nor in my trespass was I 
alone. My companion was a man of note — Mr 


The name was echoed by both the ladies' lips at 
once. It seemed to me that, at least, the younger 
lady started. 


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" Mr Belindus, the entertainer. What a clever 
performance that is of his. Last night, after he had 
finished, we came on to the pier and, I suppose, in a 
moment of impulse, he made of me his confidant 
What an extraordinary story his is." 

" It is, indeed ! " 

The younger lady's prompt acquiescence rather 
took me by surprise. 

"You know it?" 

"Oh yes." 

" Then I shall be guilty of no breach of confidence 
if I speak of it May I ask if you are acquainted 
with the circumstance under which he met his wife." 

Both the ladies stared at me. The younger, in 
particular, seemed all amazed. 

"His wife!" she cried. "But Mr Belindus is not 
married ? " 

"I see. I can easily understand why be should 
prefer that such a story as his should not be public 
property. Believe me, I should not have spoken of 
it had I not supposed, from what you said, that you 
knew it all already." 

The younger lady looked at me as if she could not 
make me out The cause of her sudden agitation 
I was at a loss to understand. But that she was 
agitated seemed to me quite plain. Her mother 

"Excuse me, but what authority have you for 
stating that Mr Belindus is married?" 

" What authority ? His own I " 

"His own?" 

"His own. With hi$ own lips he told me to. 


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Last night, or this morning rather, we stood, he and 
I, just where we are standing now — — " 

Before I had an opportunity of drawing my re- 
marks to the conclusion I intended I was interrupted 
Turning, I found that Mr Belindus himself stood at 
my side. In one hand he held his hat The other 
he extended to the younger lady. She ignored it 
with frigid ostentation. The tone in which she 
spoke to him quite startled me. The colour seemed 
suddenly to have left her chedcs. 

" Mr Belindus, may I ask if your wife enjoyed good 
health when last you heard from her? Dear mother, 
please let us go.*' 

She went, slipping her hand through her mother's 
arm before Mr Belindus had a chance of speaking. I 
have been seldom so taken aback. As for Mr Belindus, 
he seemed utterly bewildered He made no attempt 
to pursue them. But, having followed the retreating 
ladies with his eyes till they were out of sight, he 
turned to me. He spoke in a voice of preternatural 

" This is what it is to have a sense of humour. 
Young man, instinct tells me that this I owe to you. 
What is it you have done? " 

"I desire to inform you, sir, that I have done 
nothing. I was simply mentioning to those ladies 
that last night you had told me the story of how 
you had just become acquainted with your wife ^" 

^My wife I My prophetic soul, it is my uncle! 
Dear, dear, what a world it is ! Oh, what a world it 
is 1 " He held out his hands in front of him as if he 
were apostrophising the world at large. "Young 



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man/' — I may mention that I am at least twenty 
years his senior ; but that is perhaps a detail — " are 
you aware that three days ago I asked that young 
lady to be my wife, and she was good enough to tell 
me that she would." 

" Mr Belindus I Are you meditating bigamy ? " 

" No ; not bigamy, nor trigamy. One wife, I think, 
will be almost enough for me. I am a humorist, dear 
sir, a humorist" 

"You have told me that you are a humorist too 
often, sir, already." 

''And yet you do not realise what a humorist I 
am. When I sat opposite you in that railway 
carriage yesterday I perceived so clearly what sort 
of man you were — how British ! — ^that it was borne 
in on me that even a surgical operation would still 
leave you incapable of detecting the flavour of a joke. 
Then when I encountered you outside the hall I was 
seized with a wild and a desperate temptation. I 
dragged you on to the pier. I laid it on to you, 
not with a trowel, nor with a spade, but with a shoot, 
in tons and tons. You bore up beneath it all. I, for 
my part, nearly died." 

An inkling of the rascal's real meaning began by 
degrees to dawn upon my iM^in. 

''Is it possible, Mr Belindus, that what you told 
me last night was not the plain, unvarnished truth ? " 

" No ; it was not the plain, unvarnished truth. It 
was not the truth at alL It was an example, quite 
extempore, of pure invention ; an illustration, a pain- 
ful illustration of what I call my sense of humour. 
Dear, dear, what a world it is ! Oh, what a world ! " 


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" Your sense of humour, sir ! I've half a mind " 

I did not tell him what I had half a mind to do. 
Although I was in a red-hot passion I still retained 
sufficient control over myself not to wish to make a 
scene in public there upon the pier. I strolled away 
and left him. But as I reflected that that impudent 
mountebank had actually dragged me, as he himself 
expressed it, out upon the pier at that hour of the 
night and kept me there to freeze at my time of life 
while he used me as a target in which to flesh the 
arrows of what he was pleased to call his wit, I say 
that when I reflected upon this my just and natural 
indignation caused what was really a dangerous 
rush of blood to my head. I made up my mind 
never again to honour the fellow with my notice. 

Nor should I have done so had I not met him on 
the front that same afternoon, with the young lady 
on one side of him and her mother on the other. 
At sight of me the young lady stopped. She held 
out her hand. I saw that the colour had returned 
to her cheeks and the light to her eyes. She looked 
as if she never could be frigid. 

"I must apologise," she said, "for Mr Belindus. 
You know he is a humorist " 

I did not wait for her to conclude. I fell in with 
her mother in the rear. 

" I seems to me," observed that excellent dame, 
" that one can have too strong a sense of humour." 

They were my own sentiments. I could not have 
given them more exact expression. 


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CHE was not bad looking — whiter than Mrs 
Meaden had expected — ^rather grey than black. 
Though short and slight, her figure had a grace 
which was, in a peculiar sense, her own. Her 
bearing suggested a curious suppleness. As she 
had entered the room her movements had reminded 
Mrs Meaden of a cheetah which she had once seen 
used in hunting. They were so lithe and free, so 
cat-like, yet, in their way, so beautiful. It was the 
animal, rather than the human, side of her which 
was so obvious. She recalled, after a fashion which 
was indescribable, the agile, cruel, sleek, graceful 
beast of prey. It was this as much as anything 
which filled Mrs Meaden with such an uncon- 
trollable feeling of repulsion. A feeling which, 
after having braced herself to the sticking point, 
she had never imagined would be hers. 

" You understand you will be called Mary." 

" Oh yes, madam, I understand." 

Her voice was soft and gentle. She spoke with 
a faint accent, which was just sufficient to cause 
one to glance at her. And as she spoke she 
smiled, and her smile revealed exquisite teeth. In 
some subtle way her smile seemed feline. 



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'' I am glad that you speak English." 

''Oh yes, madam, I speak English ever since I 
remember. I have lived with English people a 
great deal." 

Mrs Meaden shuddered. 

" With English people,— what for ? " 

''For the same purpose for which, madam, I am 
come to you." 

Again that smile, which might have been so pretty, 
but which was not Mrs Meaden paled beneath her 
dusky skin ; she was at least as dark complexioned as 
the girl who stood in front of her. 

" How old are you ? " 

" I am soon seventeen." 

" Only seventeen ? " Mrs Meaden scanned the 
girl's countenance; she was compelled to own to 
herself that she looked scarcely even that. " How 
long have you been at this — trade?" 

"Since ever they began to use me when I was 
a baby." 

" I suppose I am not going to be tricked. That 
you do possess the power which you claim, or 
which is claimed for you." 

"Oh yes, indeed." 

It was odd the contrast there was between the 
girl's soft tones and Mrs Meaden's hard ones. And 
yet, strangely enough, the girl's would have affected a 
listener the more unpleasantly of the two. 

"It has cost me a large ^ sum of money to bring 
you here from India — ^an extortionate sum. And I 
am under contract to pay still mor^ Be so good 
as to tell me exactly in what way your power is 


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exercised. It is impossible to make head or tail of 
the letters which I have received." 

Mrs Meaden glanced down at an open letter she 
was holding in her hand. 

" That is intended, madam. You will perceive Aat 
it is better so. One never knows what may become 
of letters. But I will tell madam all she may desire 
to know. I exercise my power in more than a 
hundred ways. One of them I will show you. 
Watch me well. See here." 

The girl was attired in a long white garment, 
which was a sort of compromise between the garb of 
a native Indian woman and the dresses which are 
worn in England. The garment in question became 
her very well. It opened in front Thrusting her 
small brown hand inside it she took from a large 
inner pocket which, apparently, was in the skirt, a 
puppy. She placed it on the table in front of Mrs 

" You see it is alive." 

There was no doubt about its being alive. It was 
a small, mongrel t:reature, which proved its loneliness 
by indulging in puppyish antics. The girl raised it 
from the table, placing her two extended palms to- 
gether so as to form for it a kind of platform. 

" Now observe." 

The girl advanced the puppy towards her face, 
gracefully, daintily, balancing it on its insecure stand- 
ing place, smiling all the time. Mr Meaden watched 
her with so intense a fascination that it seemed to 
make her heart stand still. The puppy was drawn 
nearer to the girl's face, and nearer. Pouting her 


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lips she seemed to invite the animal to kiss her. 
Puppy like, it responded to the suggestion. Stretch- 
ing out its small red tongue it licked the girl's in- 
viting lips. Just once, and for an instant Then a 
perceptible tremor passed over its little frame; it 
collapsed upon the girl's extended palms, and lay 
quite still. 

Her strange smile imparted a sudden animalism 
to her entire physiognomy. 

" You see it is dead— quite dead." 

She held the puppy out towards Mrs Meaden. 
Mrs Meaden shrunk away. She shivered. The 
pitch of her voice was lowered. 

"How did you do it?" 

" It was because it kissed me. That is one of the 
ways in which I exercise what madam has called 
my power. Yoti will understand, madam, that it is 
most often by ladies that my services are retained. 
It is generally when they have a difference with a 
man. So soon as a man kisses me he is dead — ^that 
second — like this puppy here. Madam will believe 
that I do not find it difficult to induce a man to 
kiss me." 

Mrs Meaden got up from her chair. Going to the 
fireplace she stood with her back turned towards 
the girl There was a silence, broken by the girl 
asking a question. 

''For whom has madam engaged me? Madam 
will understand that it is very necessary that there 
should be no mistake." 

As she replied Mrs Meaden raised her voice. 

" For no one. At present, so far as you are con- 


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.cemed, for no one. You are merely here to satisfy 
a whim of mine. I am full of whim3, strange whims I 
You understand me, girl ? " 

"Oh yes, very well." The girFs eyes were bent 
upon the ground. "Onfyj madam, remember that 
ior every day I am detained there is a further fee." 

" I am quite aware of it You will be paid. You 
need not fear. You will stop in my dressing-room — 
in there." Mrs Meaden pointed to a door leading 
into an inner room. *' You will have nothing to do 
with any of the servants. Nor will you speak to 

" If it is necessary, I understand no English." 

" It is necessary. You can go." The girl moved. 
Mrs Meaden checked her. 

" By the way, in what manner does your power act 
upon your— subjects ? " 

" It ruptures a blood vessel of the heart Aneurism 
of the heart, I think, is what they call it English 
doctors always say it is a case of death from natural 
causes. Unless you knew it, although I killed a 
whole town, no one would guess it was I. Besides, 
it is not my fault I invite no one to touch me. And 
it is the master who has made me what I am — not I 

"What do you eat?" 

"Madam, I eat anything. I drink only water. 
Madam will understand that all the time I eat some- 
thing of my own. It is that which preserves for me 
my power." 


The girl went As §bc moved across the room 


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there recurred to Mrs Meaden's mind the picture of 
the cheetah stealing on its prey. 


That he could ever have written to her like that! 
It seemed difficult of credence now. A heap of 
letters was lying on the table in front of hen Some 
of them were written on half-sheets of paper in a 
big, clumsy, sprawling hand. They were marked by 
coarseness of diction, of idea, of expression, not a 
few of them by actual coarseness of language. But 
Mrs Meaden was no critic^ It was sufficient for her 
that they all contained words which were meant to 
be kind, and something more than kind — terms 
of endearment, protestations of affection. They 
were her love letters. What a gulf divided then 
from now. More than once, as she thought of it, 
the woman put her hands before her face and 
shuddered. Rising from her seat she moved 
feverishly about the room, glancing now and again 
at the door which led into the inner chamber — 
the closed door. She clasped her hands in front 
of her, seeming to writhe as she moved, like a 
creature in pain. 

"Lies! Lies! Lies! Nothing but lies!" She 
held her clasped hands out in front of her, panting, 
sobbing, though she shed no tears. "O my God, 
why all my life have you let me know nothing but 

There was the sound of a vehicle in the street 


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without ; the rumble of a hansom cab. She listened 
eagerly. It stopped in front of the house. She 
glanc^ at the clock. Past two. The cab drove 
off again. It had set down a passenger. How 
still it was. She could hear someone mounting the 
steps ; the insertion of a latch-key in the door. She 
seemed to be seized with a tremor of sudden nervous- 
ness. She looked about her, as if startled; b^^n 
to move hurriedly towards the door of the inner 
room, paused, stared at it fixedly; then, hastening 
back to the table, she swept the letters from off 
it into a drawer. She snatched up a large crucifix 
made of ivory and ebony which lay upon the table, 
and with a curious passion she pressed it to her lips. 

"My God! my God!" The words came from 
her in gasps. "Guide me! guide me!" 

She still clung to the crucifix when, without any 
preliminary announcement or any sort of ceremony, 
the door was thrown wide open. A man came into 
the room. 

" What the devil's the meaning of this ? " 

She did not answer. Indeed, she was trembling 
so that, not improbably, at the moment she was 
incapable of answering. Although she put the 
crucifix down she still touched it with her hand, 
as if to gain from it comfort, or perhaps strength. 

" Damn you, do you hear me speak to you ? What 
the devil's the meaning of this ? " 

She turned towards the man and looked at him. 
His voice was raucous, rasping : he became his voice. 
He was tall and broad and corpulent Possibly 
once he had had the strength of a Hercules; now 


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the gross d^eneration of his body was so con- 
spicuous that bis strength was of small account 
Plainly he had lived with the swine, like the swine, 
until he had become like unto the swine. He was 
one of those men who, in a more lexical state of 
society, would hardly be allowed to continue to 
cumber the ground ; a princely patron of every 
shady sort of so-called "sport" His attire was in 
the height of fashion. A long frock-coat; white 
waistcoat, which seemed to accentuate his grossness ; 
slender gold chain passing from pocket to pocket; 
diamond pin in his neckcloth; kid-gloved hands; 
silver handle to his cane; glossy silk hat, just a 
trifle on the side of his head ; and he had drunk 
enough to be his natural self. The thing that had 
come from the thing that was. 

''Don't stand there staring at me like a stuck 
black pig ; answer when I speak to you.'' This 
time, the woman's silence was of malice propense. 
" Haven't I ordered you not to sit up to this time 
of night and spy on me ? " 

" Spy on you ! " The woman's lips curled. 

Her scorn roused the man to anger. He poured 
on her a flood of lang^uage of the sort which may not 
be hinted at He shook his stick at her. 

" For a penn'orth of pins I'd murder you." Replac- 
ing the point of his stick upon the ground, leaning 
on the handle, he stood and glared at her. " I shall 
murder you one of these fine days. The very first 
time I ever saw you I wanted to wring your neck." 

"Is that the truth?" 

"The truth? By , it's the truth. I've had some 


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fine sprees in my time, but when I do start killing 
you that'll be the finest spree I ever had." 

As she confronted him the woman's attitude was 
statuesque. The lines of her mouth were hard and 
set But, in spite of their hardness, there was yearn- 
ing in her big black eyes. 

** Do you mean that ? " 

" You bet I mean it My fingers itch every time 
I come near you. You blackamoor ! There's one 
thing, I have come to you from something white. 
Look at that." 

He tossed a photograph on to the table. It repre- 
sented a man and a woman, and the man was himself. 

The smouldering fire of his wife's indignation burst 
into a blaze. 

" You coward ! You unutterable thing ! " 

Tearing the photograph into pieces she threw the 
pieces into the fire. Again he threatened her with 
his stick. 

"What do you mean by tearing up my portrait, 
eh?" She was silent She merely looked at him. 
He brandished his stick as close to her face as he 
very well could do without its touching her, and 
laughed. "There are more where that came from, 

He planted himself on the hearthrug. She turned 
slowly round to him. 

" You will admit that it is not often I do sit up. 
But I did so this time because there is something 
which I wish to say to you." 

" Then don't you say it, — take my tip, and don't 
you say it" 


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** I shall say it. For one thing, that woman who 
calls herself Mrs Clovelly was here again to-day. 
She made a scene. She will make a still greater 
scene when she finds herself within reach of you." 
Again he laughed. 

" Will she ? ril spoil her beauty if she does. Tm 
not the sort of man to allow myself to be bullied." 

" The thing I wish to say to you is this. What I 
have had to endure from you you know, and yoo 

''That's where you make a mistake. There are 
two or three others who know as well I've kept 
them posted up." 

The woman's face grew harder. 

" It is impossible that the present state of things 
can continue." 

"Is it? What are you going to do? Get a 
divorce ? show me up in court, eh ? I'd like to see 
you try it I'd give you a sound dressing down, my 
beauty, if you did." 

" It is not fear of you which prevents me. I am 
prevented by my faith." 

"Your faith? — damn your faith! Hollo, whafs 
this?" He caught sight of the crucifix. "Haven't 
I forbidden you to have this sort of trash about the 
place?'* He snatched it up. Snapping it into two 
pieces he threw it into the fire. "Thafs because 
you burnt my photograph, my girl — tit for 

The woman's dark skin went a dusky yellow. She 
looked at him with eyes which would have liked to 
have scorched him. 


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"I accept the omen. By that act you have put 
yourself beyond the pale even of God's mercy." 

" What do you mean by that ? " 

*' You will soon see. You have often taunted me 
with having the blood of a Hindoo mother in my 
veins. You have yet to learn that Hindoo women 
have a knowledge of things of which white women 
know nothing. There are more ways of obtaining 
a divorce than one." 

" Is that meant for a threat ? " 

He faced her with clenched fists. 

"If it is?" 

" If it is? By , if you threaten me, 111 knock 

you into a jelly. Take my advice, don't you try me 
too much. If s all I can do to keep my hands off 
you as it is." 

He turned away from her again. All this time he 
had kept his hat on. Pushing it on the back of his 
head, leaning his stick against a chair on his right, 
thrusting his hands into his trouser-pockets, he looked 
at her, with an evil grin, out of the comers of his 

" I've not come home to fool about with you. I've 
come home because, like you, I've got something 
which I want to say — only, perhaps, mine is a little 
more to the point than yours. When your devil of 
a &ther got me under his thumb and made me 
marry his blackamoor girl there was one consolation, 
you had got the pieces. And though he locked 
them up on you as tight as he knew how — the thief I 
— I knew I'd get them out of you no matter how 
tight he tied 'em. And so I have." 


by Google 


" Yes ; you have." 

The cold, measured scorn with which the woman 
spoke and regarded him seemed to gall her lord and 

" Yes ; I have. Don't look at me in that way, you 
nasty, vicious cat ! Td like to knock out those ugly 
tyes of yours. Tve been with some expensive lady 
friends of mine, and IVe been losing money at cards, 
and I've been making things hum all round, and I'm 
stony, and I've come back to you, my dear, because 
I want a thousand." 

" A thousand pounds ! " 

*' Yes ; a thousand pounds. You don't suppose I 
want a thousand farthings? That'll do next time, 
my love, or the time after. Just you sit down and 
write me an open cheque to bearer for a thousand 
pounds, straight off." 

« Not I." 

" No ? Perhaps you've got the money about you 
in gold or notes. Some of you women are devils for 
keeping a pile in your stockings. It'll do me as well 
as your cheque if you have. Hand over." 

" You won't get a penny piece out of me though 
you tear me limb from limb. 

"Won't I?" 

He faced round to her. 


"Won't I?" 

He came a foot or so nearer. 


" Wont I ? Just you think it well over, my beauty, 
before it comes.'' 


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There was no mistaking the meaning of his words. 
He stood close in front of her, towering over her — 
she was almost as short for a woman as he was tall 
for a man — ^his fists clenched, mischief in his eyes. 
She never flinched. She looked up at him with 
hard, set face eloquent with scorn. 

** You will not get a penny from me." 

"Won't!? Won't!? Won't!?" 

Down they came, a rain of blows, pelting on to her 
head and face and shoulders. She uttered no sound. 
She went down beneath them like a 1<^. When 
she was down, with wanton savagery, he struck her 
across the face with his open palm. 

" !s that enough? or would you like some more?" 

She looked up at him, her face bruised and 

" ! do not fear you." 

" Don't you ? By , you shall before I've done 

with you." 

He knelt beside her on the floor, assailing her as 
if he had been a wild beast rather than a human 
being. She endured in silence. Tiring, he rose to 
hb feet 

" Get up ! Now will you give me the money ? " 

She got up, presenting a pitiful spectacle as she 
did so. She had to lean against the table to enable 
her to stand. But she was not subdued. 

"I will not!" 

" Will you write that cheque for me ? " 


Down she went again, crashing against the table 
as she fell I{e did not trouble to see if, fortunately 


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6d. Monthly 6d. 


Digitized by CjOOQIC 

Some Opinions of the Press 

•• The series indudes excellent fiction."— ^/A^i^wi/w. 

" The stories are of high quality." — Aberdeen youmcU, 

•* A marvel of cheapness and excellence in book production." 

—Notts Weekly Guardian^ 
•* From a literary point of view an excellent series," — Glasgow Weekly Herald, 


mESSRS. METHUEN are issuing under the above general 
title a Monthly Series of Complete yWorks of Fiction 
by popular authors at the price of Sixpence. Hitherto na 
absolutely new novels have been issued at sixpence, but in 
THE NOVELIST have been published not only reprints of 
well-known books, but new books, which have never before 
been issued in book form. 

These books are by authors who have already made their 
mark in fiction, and they are in most cases as long as the average 
six shilling novel. They are admirably printed in bold legible 
type on good paper, and are strongly bound in very attractive 
covers. They appeal to a large class of readers who are some- 
what weary of the average magazine, who cannot buy a six 
shilling novel or subscribe to a library, and who enjoy a healthy 
story full of incident or pathos or humour. 

The Noveust appears in the middle of each month. It is 
practically a monthly magazine, and its permanent value is 


Messrs. Methuen have recently enlarged their scheme, and 
have commenced the publication of another series of Sixpenny 
Books. This series contains not only novels by authors of the 
present day, but also the great and popular books of past years* 
Thus in the Sixpenny Library have appeared General Lew 
Wallace^s "Ben-Hur" and "The Fair God,'' Mrs. GaskeU's 
"'Cranford," George Eliot's "The Mill on the Floss," Captain 
Marryat's " Peter Simple,'' &c., &c. 


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E. W. Ho&NUNa 

Robert Barr. 

Ernest Glanville. 

W. Pett Ridge. 

S. Baring-Gould. 

C. Glbig. 

Arthur Moore. 

A. B. Weekbs. 
Mrs. W. K. Clifford. 

Major E. S. Valentine. 


W. Clark Russell. 

Gilbert Parker. 

Anthony Hope. 

Lucas Malet. 

Mrs. Oliphant. 

Edna Lyall. 

Robert Barr. 


E. F. Benson. 
S. Baring-Gould. 
Gilbert Parker. 
Eden Phillpotts. 
Anthony Hops* 
Andrew Balfour. 
S. Baring-Gould. 


S. Baring-Gould» 

George Gissing. 

Mrs. L. B. Walford. 

Anthony Hope. 

Ernest Glanville. 

B. M. Croker. 
Lucas Malet. 

Mrs. L. B. Walford. 

Robert Barr. 

Mrs. L. T. Meade. 

Adeline Sergeant. 

A. E. W. Mason. 

F. F. Montr^or. 

S. Baring-Gould. 

HAlen Mathers. 

Max Pemberton. 

A. Conan Doyle [August. 

W. Pett Ridge [Sept. 

Richard Marsh [Oct, 

Dorothea Gerard [licv. 

Bertram Mitford [Dec 



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« DAHI8H 8WBETHB1RT. W. Clark Russell. 

M T» ROAR OP THB BBA. S. Baring-Gould. 

PM« OP THB B1RT0M8. ^' ^' Croker. 


Ti» 8T0LBN B10ILLU8. 




















A BOOK OP PAIRT TALE8. {liiustraUd.) 




HAMDLEY CROSS. (Illustrated,) 







H. G. Wells. 

Dorothea Gerard. 

Sara Jeannbtte Duncan. 

Robert Barr. 

General Lew Wallace. 

Mrs. pupHANT. 

General Lew Wallace. 


Mrs. Gaskell. 
S. Baring-Gould* 


J, Bloundelle-Burton* 

George Eliot.. 

Captain Marryat* 

Mr3. Gaskell. 

Jane Austen., 

Mr3. Gaskell. 

Captain Marryat.. 

Charlotte Brontb. 

S. Baring-Gquld. 

E. Lynn Linton. 

B. VL Croker.. 

Helen Mathers.. 

r. s. surtees.. 

Mrs. Caffyn (Iota). 

B. Marriott Watson. 


Edited by Paget Toynbee, LUt.D^ M. A. 
Mi E* Mann. 
E. Phiixips Oppbwhbim. 
Gilbert Barker. 
THOti mZi«Wu£ iMBWCOS. 9fc»A Jft*m.KT. D»ncan> 

SrSSSs'S'SPOBTlHOTOUK. .lUus^.e^, ^^-l^^^^^-^i 



S. Baring-Gould [Ready^ 


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perhaps for her, the blows had knocked her senseless. 
In his blind fury he b^an to tear the clothes from 
off her, twisting and turning her in all directions as 
he did so. But he himself was in such a condition 
of body as to render him incapable of continuing to 
attack, with impunity, even an unresisting woman. 
Suddenly he staggered to his feet He was panting 
and gasping for breath. His face was purple; the 
great veins on his forehead stood out like whipcord ; 
his eyes were bloodshot. He stumbled so that to 
steady himself he had to clutch at the mantelpiece. 
He stared with lustreless stare at the woman lying 
on the floor. His voice when he spoke was tremu- 
lous and hoarse. 

"Get up." 

There was silence for a moment The woman on 
the floor lay still. 

" Get up," he repeated. 

The woman moved. A quiver seemed to pass all 
over her. She raised her head and looked at him. 

" Do you hear what I say? Get up." 

The woman strove to obey him, slowly, painfully. 
When she had raised herself to her knees she reeled, 
and fell again. 

" None of that humbug with me. If you don't get 
up sharp TU lug you by your hair." 

He was saved the trouble. This time her efforts 
to gain her feet were more successful. By clinging 
to the table she managed to retain something like 
an upright position. A dreadful object she was. 

" Now will you write the cheque ? " 



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. "You— cat! Tve half a mind to strip you stark 
naked and lay into you with my riding-whip and 
chuck you into the street" 


The monosyllable was accompanied by a ghastly 
attempt at a smile. 

" Yes ; it is * oh M In the morning I'll finish you 1 
Tm not feeling up-to-Dick or Td do it now. Any- 
how, I've spoilt your beauty for the time, and if you 
haven't come to your senses in the morning I'll put 
the finishing touches to the job. You mark my 
words, my girl." 

He staggered towards the door of the inner room. 
He threw it wide open, looked in, then uttered an 

" By ^ here's a dandy article ! Why, my little 

love, have you been in here all the time IVe been 
administering physic to my good lady? Just think 
of that now I You come and look at her. I haven't 
left much on her, and what I have left don't seem 
to suit her. I say, Leila, if you'd told me someone 
was listening, I'd have laid it on a little thicker. 
What's your name, my pet?" 

The girl's soft liquid tones were heard within. 

" My name is Mary, sir." 

"Mary? — and a pretty Mary you are, my dear." 
There came from within the room the sound of 
curiously sweet laughter. " You're the sort of goods 
I like, upon my honour. Don't you worry about us, 
Leila! Good-night, my dear." 

Entering the room he shut the door behind him. 
His wife heard him locking it Again the sound 


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of that curious, sweet laughter. Then the man 

" Now, Mary, you come and give me a kiss — a kiss 
that is a kiss — my sweet" 

A moment's silence. Mrs Meaden, clinging for 
support with both hands to the table, glanced at the 
closed door as if her aching eyes would start from 
her bruised and battered head. Then the man again : 

** Come, my love, be pretty." 

Silence. A sound as of some heavy body striking 
agaunst the floor. Silence again. The door of the 
inner room was opened. The girl looked out She 

" It is done. Was it not soon finished ? " 

Mrs Meaden lurched over the table. She seemed 
to gasp for breath. 

" What do you mean ? " 

" O madam, he is dead — quite dead. He lies in 
a heap like a stuck pig upon the floor. Would 
madam like to come and look at him? He kissed 
me — that was enough." 

" Are you sure he is dead ? " 

" O madam, there is not a doubt of it — he is quite 
dead. No man kissed me as he kissed me and lived ; it 
is impossible. Will madam come and see for herself? " 

Mrs Meaden relinquished the hold of the table. 
She moved towards the girl. As she moved she 
swayed from side to side. 

" Kiss me ! kiss me ! Do you hear, girl ? — kiss me ! " 

The girl shrank back, smiling. 

''It is not to be thought of. It is madam who 
engaged me." 


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"I will give you what you like if you . will 
kiss me ! " 

Still the girl smilingly drew back. 

**It cannot be. The master would be angry. I 
can but do what he bids me. It is not in my 

Mrs Meaden stretched out her arms, clutching at 
the vacant air. Perhaps she thought she was clutch- 
ing at the girl. 

"Kiss me!" 

The words seemed to die in her throat She sank 
on to the floor, rolled over, and lay still. 

The girl came and looked down at her, her hands 
crossed upon her breast. She smiled. 

"She has swooned. With women, when I have 
done what they engaged me to do, it is often so." 


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Two Hitherto Unreported Conversations 

I.— HER reasons 

A/T RS MASON. Now, my dear, tell me— truly !— 
what's made you accept him ? 

Miss Dupont. Really, I haven't the least idea 
At least, I have an idea — but you know what I 
mean! It's so hard to explain. What made you 
accept Mr Mason ? 

Mrs M. Well, you see, he asked me. 

Miss D. Well, and Jack asked me. 

Mrs M. Of course. There's that to be con- 
sidered. When you are asked — nicely — you are 
tempted, aren't you — in a kind of a way ? But you 
meant having him all along, didn't you ? I know I did. 

Miss D. No ; I don't think I did — somehow. It's 
so hard to explain these things, you know, but I don't 
think I seemed to think of him like that at all. He 
was always about, and — we got on together — and, 
when two people get on together, it seems, after a 
time, as if they have to get onner, I think it's rather 
a pity sometimes ; don't you ? Then, of course, other 
girls get married, and one has to marry, and — he's 
nice, and — there's nothing against him, and — well, 
you know what I mean. 


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Mrs M. Of course you love him. 

Miss D. Of course. Then, you see, he loves me. 

Mrs M. Does he ? 

Miss D. Rather! Love me I My dear {she 
sighs), that's it If he had not been so much in love 
with me I — ^well — there — I might have thought of it 
a little longer. But the poor fellow was so— desperate, 
that — it's my belief that he had kissed me, and taken 
it all for granted before I had had a chance of saying 
either yes or no. 

Mrs M. When they love you it is — bewildering, 
isn't it? I know I found it so. 

Miss D. Bewildering! My dear, that isn't the 
word for it He b^an — well— quite rationally, you 
know, though I knew what was coming directly his 
lips were opened, and I felt, well — I felt— quite silly. 
But he hadn't got even a little way before — well — ^he 
b^an to talk in such a style — ^well, if I were to tell 
you now, in cold blood, you'd say he must have been 
stark mad. It was just like they do in the books^ 
you know. 

Mrs M. And did he — worry you ? 

Miss D. Worry me? You've no idea! It was 
at that picnic up at Medmenham, you know. I had 
on a brand new dress. When we went back to the 
people it seemed to me that Jack's behaviour must 
have been written large on every square inch of it- 
it must have been. My dear, he squeezed me, and 
the dress — ^there ! When one reads in the love tales 
that " he pressed her to his manly breast " one thmks 
that it must have been rather nice, upon the whole. 
But when one has on a brand new dress and a properly 


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fitting pair of corsets, and when one has just had 
luncheon, and the manly arms are strcmg — there, never 
mind, I say nothing ! Thank goodness, it's all over. 

Mrs M. Then, wasn't it rather nice, upon the 

Miss D. Of course, that is not a fair question. I 
simply decline to answer it 

Mrs M. {Pensively^ One becomes reconciled to 
the pressure of the manly arms — ^so long as there is 
not too much of it 

Miss D. My dear, I must ask you to remember 
that I am not yet married. Change the subject, if 
you please. 

Mrs M. What are you thinking of having for the 

Miss D. Ah, now you are beginning to talk of 
something which is really interesting. My idea 

{The remainder of the conversation is published 
separately in three Volumes^ large quarto,) 


Mr Mason. Well, Jack — ^what made you ask her ? 

Jack. Hanged if I know, old man ! — hanged if I 
do! — though, mind you, I don't say I'm sorry now 
I've done it 

Mr M. I see. The hour for repentance still is 
looming. I wonder how many men do know why 
tiiey asked her. I know I don't ; not to this day. 

Jack. It's the lobster salad, my dear boy. 

Mr. M. Was it — with you ? 


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Jack. Well, of course, we had had luncheon; 
though, mind you, I don't say that it was altc^ether 

Mr M. Hadn't you meant to do it all along ? 

Jack. Well, you see, it's so jolly hard to explain 
this kind of thing. I really don't know if I had or if 
I hadn't. Somehow, I don't think I ever thought of 
her in that way at all. I always seemed to be meet- 
ing her, and we got on together, and — the fact is, it 
seems to me that if a man and a woman get on 
together up to a certain point they're — well, they're 
bound to go it somehow, and sometimes before they 
know it It's the solid truth, old man. 

Mr M. But, of course, you love her ? 

Jack. Ye-es — of course. Then, you see, she's 
fond of me. 

Mr M. Is she ? 

Jack. My dear fellow, she thinks that I'm — well, 
what she thinks of me I should be ashamed to tell 
you. I believe she thinks that I'm the finest thing 
in man that ever was. When a girl is fond of you 
it's half the battle. 

Mr M. Sometimes it's all the battle. Lots of us 
have found out that 

Jack. When — when — when you find out that 
she's fond of you ^ 

Mr M. I know. It comes with the force of a 

Jack. It does, doesn't it ? And there you are ! It 
was at that picnic down at Medmenham. She looked 
simply stunning. You know how she can look when 
she likes. 


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Mr M. I know. It's wicked. 

Jack. It is. Well, she looked all that, and more. 
When we'd had lunch we got away under a tree; 
you know the kind of thing. 

Mr M. I do! It's worse, my boy, than 

Jack. - Then, somehow, when I began to talk to her 
— you know what I mean. 'Pon my word, I don't 
know what made me begin like that — it was either 
the place or the lobster salad — I'll swear it was one 
of them ! When I saw the look which came into her 
eyes — in an instant I went right off my head. I did, 
upon my honour — stark mad, old man! I'd have 
charged a whole regiment of soldiers to get at 
her. I'd have done it single-handed — by George, 
I would! 

MrM. And she? 

Jack. Poor little thing ! I do believe that I was 
kissing — and, you know — before she had had a chance 
of saying whether she would like me to or not. The 
fact is, I had read the truth in her eyes — in letters 
six feet high. 

Mr M. It's odd how a fellow does do that sort of 
thing, isn't it ? 

Jack. Odd isn't the word for it, old man — it's 
deuced funny! 

Mr M. When you got home were you sorry — 
there'd been lobster salad? 

Jack. No, no ; you see — a fellow's got to marry 
— and it seems to me most girls are like each other ; 
and so long as she's nice, and all right, and that sort 
of thing ; and so long as she's fond of you — it doesn't 


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seem to me to make much odds either way, and that* s 
the truth of it, old man. 

{There is a pome) 
Mr M. What are you doing for the Leger? 

( The remainder of this conversation is also published 
separately^ in another three volumes.) 


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AXT'HENEVER I see a kit-bag a curious feeling 
comes all over me. 

I was in the Metropolitan Police Force over thirty 
years. I have now retired on a sergeant's pension. 
During the whole time I was a policeman I only 
once came into personal contact with anything very 
remarkable. I mean out of the ordinary run of 
** drunks," assaults, felonies, burglaries, and that kind 
of thing. On that occasion a kit-bag played a pretty 
conspicuous part. So to this hour, whenever I see 
one, I look at it out of the comer of my eye, as it 
were, and I ask myself a question. 

I had then joined six years. I was attached to 
the Hampstead division. At that time I was on 
night duty. The particular night on which it hap- 
pened was that of the sixth of September. A 
Tuesday it was. I am never likely to forget it It 
was nasty weather. There had been a deal of wet 
during the day ; and though when I left home it was 
not actually raining, there was a touch of fog about, 
and it was colder than one likes to have it at that 
time of the year, especially when one has to be out 
and about in it all night. I had had home worries. 
I left home, in consequence, a little later than I cared 
to do, for it was a good step from my place to the 
station-house. I was not sure my watch was quite 
right Fearing that it might be later than I supposed, 



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as I passed I looked in at St John's Wood railway 
station to compare their clock with mine. The last 
train must have just come in. They seemed to be 
on the point of closing the premises. The booking- 
office was empty, with the exception of one thing, 
a kit-bag. It stood against the wall close to the 
glass doors which led into the refreshment room. To 
the best of my belief that was the first time I had 
eyer seen a thing of the kind — that is, to notice it 
I fa,ncy they must have been novelties in those days. 
And I Ve never seen a larger one than that was since. 
It looked brand new. I don't know how it was, but, 
as I said to my wife afterwards, directly I saw it I 
felt uncomfortable. I can't explain it. I am not 
trying tg. But there the feeling was. 

I left the bag still in sole possession of the booking- 
office and hurried off to the station-house, for, as it 
turned out, my watch was a trifle slow. I went out 
with the rest of the chaps who were on the night 

Part of my beat lay past a row of houses which 
was called Quarnlty Terrace. Decent-sized houses 
tiiey were, standing back from the road. A strip of 
ground was in front of each, shut off from the public 
by a low stuccoed wall, surmounted by stuccoed 
pilasters. This was backed — at least in most cases 
— by a tree or two, some shrubs and that kind of 
thing, the whole forming an effectual screen. 

I had been married just over a year, and my wife 
was expecting her first l^by. She had been ill all 
day, and when I came away was worse than ever. If 
I had not known that it would mean trouble I should 


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have stayed with her. Altogether, I was in a pretty 
state of mind Because, after all, though some 
people do not seem to think so, a policeman is a 
man. I had arranged with them at home that I 
should be at certain points at a certain time. If 
anything happened they were to bring me news at 
once. One of these points was the corner of Quam* 
ley Terrace. I was hanging about there, all of a 
tremor of anxiety, when I saw, hurrying up Acacia 
Road, a girl. It was Lizzie, my wife's sister. In 
another half minute she was at my side, all out of 

" It's all right— it's a boy," she said. 

" A boy ! " I gasped, for the news sort of caught 
me in the wind. " And how's Mary ? " 

" She's all right. They're both of them all right- 
doing famously. Couldn't be better, the doctor says. 
But I can't stop ; I only ran out to let you know." 

She did not stop — not longer than to exchange 
another dozen words. Presently she was scurrying 
back again, and I was marching along past Quarnley 

You feel queer the first tinie you are a father. I 
daresay when you have had a dozen or so the 
addition of one or two more does not much matter. 
But the first time you know that a baby has just 
been bom to you it is different At least it was 
with me. You feel, all at once, that you have a 
new outlook on to the world. I know I did. What 
with thinking of the baby, and what I should call 
him, and whether I should make a policeman of 
him when his time came, and wondering how Mary 


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was, and what she would say to me in the morning, 
and what I should say to her, — I can tell you that 
I was in a nice sort of a fluster. My thoughts were 
not much occupied with the preservation of law and 
order. I daresay that I should have walked on and 
on all through the night, thinking of Mary and the 
baby, and the baby and Mary, if, suddenly, I had not 
heard a sound. 

It was only a little one, so slight a sound that 
the wonder was that, in my then mental state, I 
heard it at all. But I did, and, what was more, 
I recognised it, too. It was the click of a catch, 
a window-catch. It came from the house which 
I was passing. I glanced round. There, on the 
newly-painted pillar, visible even in the darkness, 
was the number — 2a In an instant I was through 
the gate and was flashing my bull's-eye on to the 

I had not been mistaken. There, on the ^ill of 
the bow window on the first floor, was a man. 

"What are you doing there?" I asked, though 
the question was unnecessary, since it was plain 
enough what he was doing — ^he was trying to gain 
entrance into the house by means of the window. 
He had an open clasp-knife in his hand, with whose 
aid he had just shot back the catch of the window, 
which was liie sound I had heard. Although I had 
probably taken him entirely by surprise, so far as 
I could see he did not make die slightest attempt 
at concealment, nor did he seem to be in any way 
disconcerted Indeed, he confronted me with what 
looked uncommonly like a smile. 


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He certainly did not present the type of figure 
which one generally associates with burglary. He 
was a very big man. Even in the crouching attitude 
which be necessarily assumed upon the window-sill, 
I guessed him at over six feet He seemed to be 
well dressed. At that time of night he wore a 
top hat and kid gloves. He looked like a gentleman. 
I was presently to learn that he spoke like one. 

" I'm burgling my own house," he answered. 

" Burgling your own house ? What do you mean ? 
Do you live here ? " 

" I do. My name is Walter Parsons, and I am 
the occupier of these premises." 

The name conveyed nothing to me. I had only 
been on the beat a week or two, and knew nothing 
of the inhabitants. I was ignorant of their names, 
their appearance, their occupations, everything. But 
the speaker could hardly be aware of that. For all 
he could tell I might have the history of the locality 
at my finger ends and a portrait of every one of its 
inhabitants in my mind's eye. He spoke with an 
easy assurance, which seemed to take it for granted 
that, as a prominent resident upon my beat, he must 
be a familiar figure to me, and that I knew all about 
him. But, in spite of that — I have been laughed at 
for saying it before, because I had nothing to go on 
then ; but I say it again — there was something about 
my gentleman up there on the window-sill which made 
me doubtful. 

" If you live there, why dcm't you go into your own 
house by the proper way — through the front door?" 

"Because I can't My wife and family are at 


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Hastings. The place is supposed to be in charge of 
a caretaker, but it seems that her idea of caretaking 
does not include sleeping on the premises at night Tve 
been knocking and ringing for the last ten minutes," 

" I didn't hear any knocking," 

"Didn't you? Perhaps your attention was en- 
gaged elsewhere." 

As a matter of fact that had been the case. Still, 
as I had heard the click of the window-catch, it 
seemed to me that I ought to have heard the banging 
of a knocker, especially if he had been at it any«* 
thing like as long as he said he had. I told him so. 
His reply was ironical. 

" My good Mr G^nstable, if you would like to try 
your hand at hammering you can — till all's blue, and 
all the neighbourhood showers blessings on your 
head. Or if you wi§h to arrest me for entering my 
own house anyhow I like— down the chimney, if 
I choose — ^you may. In the meantime, Tve got the 
window open." He pushed it up as he spoke. " Fm 
going in. Til come and open the front door for you, 
and then I'll ^ive you every possible proof that 
I'm merely an inoffensive householder who's been 
duped by a rascally caretaker." 

He went in. I did not see how I could stop him, 
even if I had felt disposed to try, which I am not 
sure I was. A pretty figure I should have cut if 
I had attempted to use force to prevent him from 
entering his own house — as he put it himself — in any 
way he liked. One of my mates had had a wigging 
only a day or two before for what looked like over- 
anxiety to g^t up a case. I. didn't want any of^ that 


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sort of thing at my address. The man's manner was 
plausibility itself; for tte matter of that so was his 
tale. Caretakers do not always take care; and 
gentlemen do sometimes have to get into their own 
houses 1^ the front window. I decided to give him 
a chance to do as he said— -open the front door and 
show his right to behave as he had been doing. But 
if that front door were not open in double quick time 
then — why, then there would be trouble. 

In he got Down came the window — I had rather 
it had not — particularly as I distmctly heard him 
latch it. But there, again, I dkl not see how I could 
object to a man shutting his own front window. 
Then I waited — ^longer than I cared for — so long 
that I began to fidget I started wondering what 
would happen if I really had been done; A nice scurt 
ci character I should have been made tb look. I had 
come to the end of my patience, and was just about 
to begin a little assault and battery upon that door, 
which would have roused the neighbourhood, when it 
opened. There stood my gentleman, with a light 
shining out into the hall from a room somewhere 
at the back. 

" Sorry to keep you waiting, officer. I had to get 
a lif^t Couldn't introduce yoa to pitdh darkness. 
Come in " 

I hesitated. Our instructions were — ^never to efiter 
a private house when on duty except for what seemed 
very sufficient reasons. On the whole, I concluded 
that those reasons were present then. I entered 
Shutting the door behind me he led the way into 
a room behind — ^the room in v^ich the light was. 


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It seemed to be a sort of sitting-room ; but it was in 
such a condition of disorder that it was not easy 
to telL The furniture wks covered with newspapers 
and dust-cloths, and that kind of thing. So far 
appearances bore out his statement that the family 
was at the seaside. He offered a sort of apology. 

" You see how things are. Nice place for a man to 
come home to, isn't it? This is what happens when 
one's household transfers itself to the sea." 

" How come you not to have a key ? " I asked. 

"Thafs it When I left Hastings this morning 
I meant to return this evening ; instead of ii^ch, 
I missed the train, so I vnred to my wife and de- 
cided to come on here. When I got here, found the 
caretaker had taken French leave, and it was then, 
and only then, that I found I had come away without 
a key. As I didn't propose to be kept out of rtiy 
own house, I tried the window. That caretaker is— 
a beauty." 

" Some of them are not so reliable as they might be." 

"This is one of them. Well, constable, I hope 
you're satisfied. Hallo ! there's something here." 

Going to the fireplace he took a photograph 
off the mantel and handed it to me. 

"There you are — my portrait — Walter Parsons, 
Esquire — at your service. I hope that's proof enough 
even for you." 

It was his portrait — and an uncommonly good like- 
ness, too. As he put it, it did seem proof enough. 

" It seems all right I'm sorry if I've annoyed you, 
but when we see anyone trying to get through a 
window at this hour of the night we're bound to say 


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something. I should sack that caretaker if I were 

" I shall. Of course, I understand that you only 
did your duty. Have a little whisky before you go." 

•* Thank you, sir. I don't touch spirits as a rule," 

" Then make this an exception." 

There was a bottle and some glasses on the table. 
He poured something out of the bottle into one of 
the glasses. Adding what seemed water from a jug 
he handed it to me. I doubt if, at that time, I had 
drunk whisky half-a-dozen times in my life ; but 
I thought I would have a taste just then, if only to 
do honour to a toast which I kept to myself— the 
health of a certain young gentleman, not to speak of 
his mother. But hardly had I touched the stuff 
with my lips when I put the glass back again upon 
the table. It was that bitter I had never tasted any- 
thing like it. 

" What's wrong ? " he asked. 

" I don't know what's wrong, but it doesn't seem 

He took up the glass and sniffed at it. 

" It doesn't. That caretaker again. Some pretty 
tricks the dear creature seems to have been playing. 
I'm afraid I've no other refreshment to offer you. 
Here's five shillings." 

He held out two half-crowns. 

"I'm obliged to you, sir, but I'd rather not take 
it, if you don't mind." 

" I don't mind, if you don't You're the first man 
in blue I've met who refused a tip. You appear to 
be a model officer, an all-round credit to the force." 


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Whether or not h« meant it I did not know and 
did not care. I went along the ball. He showed 
me out 

Directly I was in the street i^ain all my doubts 
returned. That there was something wrong I felt 
a kind of persuasion. Whether it was something 
that called for my interference was another question. 
I decidedly had nothing to go on up to then. But 
whether my gentleman was or not Mr Walter 
Parsons, and whether he was or was not the rightful 
tenant of No. 20 Quamley Terrace, on one point I 
was clear, and that was that he had something on 
his mind. Something unpleasant, too. There had 
been two or three things which I could not help but 
notice. One thing was that, in spite of the coolness 
of the night, he was in a muck of perspiration, a 
fact of which he seemed himself to be unconscious. 
When he removed his hat it stood in beads upon bis 
forehead, and his hair was clammy with it Yet, 
while he sweated, there was an odd pallor on his 
face, and that though I felt sure that ordinarily he 
was florid. He gave me the impression of a man 
who had recently had a trem^idous shock. While 
he spoke with such an ^pearancc of calm assurance, 
when he took hold of the bottle his hand shook so 
that it was a wonder he did not spill the contents on 
the table. I had observed, too, the curious keenness 
with which he had watched me take up the glass 
and how queerly he had started when I put it down. 

''But it's no good my fancying things,'' I told 
myself, '' like some old woman. The gentleman may 
have plenty of worries which have nothing to dp with 


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anyone but himself, and least of all with me. What 
I've got to do is to keep an eye upon the house — a 
particular eye — and if anything further happens 
make sure that I am the first to know of it While 
I am about it I may as well make a note of what 
has happened up to now." 

I took out my pocket-book and made a note. 
When I had finished, and was putting back the book 
again, all at once I felt as if the ground were slipping 
away from underneath my feet My head seemed 
to swim; everything about me seemed to be in 
sudden movement ; I felt as if I had no l^s left to 
stand upon. If it had not been that I reeled back 
against the wall, and that that was there to support 
me, I believe that I should have gone with a cracker 
on to the ground. The sensation continued for some 
seconds, and while it lasted I remained propped up 
against the wall. If the sergeant had come along 
just then he would have said I had been drinking. 
And so I had. About the tenth part of a small 
teaspoonful of whisky-and-water. What would have 
happened if I had taken more was what I was be- 
ginning to wonder. When the feeling as if the end 
of the world had come began to fade away there 
came into my mouth instead a nauseous bitterness, 
and my head started throbbing as if it were going 
to burst. 

" I couldn't feel worse if Td been on the drink for 
a fortnight" 

My pocket-book had fallen on to the pavement 
As I stooped forward to pick it up another wave of 
giddiness swept over me. Before I could recover 


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myself, forward I went right on to my face. By the 
time I was back upon my feet I was in a nice state 
of mud and dirt, and in a nice rage, too. I turned 
and shook my fist towards No. 20. 

" You — angel ! So the whisky was hocussed, was 
it ? Don't talk to me about a caretaker 1 You did 
it yourself! All right, Mr Walter Parsons, that may 
be one to you — though it's not so big a one as you 
intended. But before I have done with you the 
laugh will be all upon the other side." 

I suppose, looking back, the stuff in the whisky ; 
the feeling I had been done ; the tumble I had had ; 
the dirt which I had picked up from the pavement — 
all these things together had got into my head and 
caused me to make a bit of an ass of myself. It is 
not part of a policeman's duty to stand in the middle 
of the pavement and shake his fist at people's houses, 
no matter what provocation he may have received. 
The various little items enumerated above had com- 
bined to upset my mental as well as my physical 
equilibrium. When I surveyed my uniform — ^what 
I could see of it — ^and recognised that it was plastered 
with slime, and felt the dirt upon my face, I do think 
that made me worse than anything. In those days I 
prided myself on being as neat as a new pin. No 
one had seen a speck of unnecessary dirt upon my 
uniform ever since I joined the force. It did make 
me mad to think that I had got myself into that 
state through my gentleman at No. 20. I fancy that 
it was that almost before anything else which made 
me determined to be even with him somehow. What 
I should say to the sergeant when he came along 


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and saw the mess I was in was more than I could 
tell. He would want some explanation before he 
could be brought to understand why or how I had 
laid myself flat on my face on the filthy pavement. 

I had half a mind to go straight back and charge 
him then and there with an attempt to hocus. But 
a moment's reflection showed me that I had not the 
slightest evidence to go upon. The contents of the 
bottle and glass had probably already been emptied 
down the sink. Or, if not, I should still have to prove 
that he was responsible for their condition, which 
would be very far from easy. There might be a care- 
taker in the matter after all. 

" Caretaker ! " I grumbled to myself — " there's 
a lot of caretaker about it, I've iio doubt I'd like 
to caretaker him." 

Quarnky Terrace was situate in what was called 
The Grove. The Grove was perhaps half-a-mile in 
length. The whole of it was in my beat I was 
reluctant to go too far away from No, 20, though 
I doubt if I should have been able to give a really 
satisfactory reason ; while, on the other hand, I was 
conscious that if I were not careful it might — and 
probably would — be worse for me. I looked at my 
watch. The odds were that in less than sixty seconds 
the sergeant would reach the point right at the other 
end of the road and expect to find me there awaiting 
him. If he did not find me, and I could furnish no 
adequate reason for my absence — and under such 
circumstances a sergeant has his own idea of what 
an adequate reason is — ^there would be a nice how- 
d'ye-do. Ofl* I started, walking at the rate of six 


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miles an hmr^ when -^ as bef(»« *^ I heard a 

It should be understood that everything was very 
still. There was no wind. It was one of those 
n^ts wh^i the slightest unusual noise attracts one's 
attention even when it is at a considerable distance. 
I suppose that was how I came to hear that sound 
then, because it was not a loud one, and it proceeded 
from some way behind me. It was like the falling 
of some solid body — as if, for instance, someone had 
thrown something out of a window and it had come 
with a thud on to the ground. Stopping on the 
instant I stood with every ^siculty of hearing on the 

Stillness. Then— something else. A swishing 
noise, as if a heavy body were being drawn along 
the pavement I did not require to be told from 
whence it came. I said to myself that it came from 
No. 20. 

Oblivious of the point at the end of the road, 
without a moment's hesitation I turned and doubled 
back upon my tracks. As I went I heard some- 
thing else distinctly — the closing of a door. That 
finished it If Mr Walter Parsons had been so 
anxious to get into his house that he had had to 
effect an entry through the window, why, at that 
hour of the nig^t, was he already leaving it s^ain ? 
I tore along at the top of my speed, expecting every 
moment to see his figure emerge into the roadway. 
If it had done so there would have been a chase. 
But he did not When I reached No. 20 I paused 
in my impetuous career. I thought it quite possible 


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tiiat Mr Parsons was hiding behind a plUar, or a 
shrub, or something, and might jump out and give 
me one before I was prepared. A man who would 
hocus a drink would be game for anything. But 
though I stood still for a moment or two, to give 
him a chance, nothing happened. Then, flattering 
myself ^at I was prepared for anything, I began 
to move through the gate into the pitch-black 
garden. Still nothing. I listened. If my gentle- 
man Mrere hiding among the shrubs, then he kept 
very still. It would be madness for me to search 
for him in that darkness, so I turned the shutter 
of my lantern and flashed the light about the little 
slip of gard^L And, behold 1 there was nothing. 

Stop I There was ( 

As the circle of li^^t moved round it passed ov^ 
a flower-bed. There I let it rest At one place the 
flowers were all broken and crushed, as though some 
heavy object which had been on them had pressed 
tiiem flat against die earth. The flowers in the 
rest of the bed were right enough. The damage 
had been confined to that one part Just in front 
of where the mischief was— on the front-door side 
— ^there was a mark ^n the edge of the bed and on 
the bit of grass, which looked as if it had been caused 
by something which had been dragged alcmg the 

I closed my lantern and stood again to list^i. 
All was silent The house was in darkness, not 
a glimmer of light at any of the windows — ^nothing 
to show that anyone had noticed my presence or 
that there was anything alive within. Under the 


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circumstances I felt that I should be justified in 
pointing out to whomever might be within, that 
the front door had recently been opened and shut, 
and that something— queer or otherwise — ^had been 
playing the mischief with that front garden. 
Ascending the steps I knocked smartly. No one 

"Come, Mr Walter Parsons, you can't be asleep 
already, so it's no good pretending that you are. 
And you must have heard that knock, so you 
may as well take the trouble to come and see 
who's here. But if you won't m try again." 

I tried again. I brought the knocker down against 
the door three or four times — good, hearty blows. 
Still there was no sign to show that the noise I 
made had been audible within. I went down the 
steps, intending to run over the front of the house 
once more with my bull's-eye to see if anyone 
were peeping at me through a window, or anything 
of that sort As I did so someone spoke to me 
from behmd. 

" Why aren't you on your point ? Is there anything 
wrong here ? " 

It was my sergeant's voice. I could not have said, 
just at the moment, if I were glad to hear it or sorry. 

" That's what I'm trying to find out Do you know 
if anyone lives here of the name of Parsons — Walter 

"Why do you ask?" 

"Is he a tall, big-made man, with a heavy 
moustache ? " 

"There is a gentleman lives here named Walter 


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Parsons, but he's not in the least like your description. 
I know him well by sight He's a very little man, 
with a brown beard ; I don't suppose he's over five 
feet high." 

''Then there is something wrong. I thought as 

"What do you mean? Look alive! What's 
happened ? " 

I told him what had happened, trying to look as 
much alive as I could manage, and to cram as much 
of the story as possible into the space which, so to 
speak, was at my command. He listened until, I 
suppose, he thought he had heard enough. Then he 
cut me short. 

"That'll do. I'll have the rest later. The man 
you let go through the window is no more Mr Parsons 
than I am. It strikes me you've done a pretty nipe 
thing, my lad. What we've got to do now is to find 
out who your friend is, and where he is." 

Mounting the steps in his turn the sergeant played 
a lively tune upon the knocker. While we were 
waiting for the answer which did not come he kept 
shooting questions at me, commenting on my answers 
in a way which made me turn hot and cold at once. 
Sergeant Ives was a smart officer — he got nearly to 
the top of the tree in the force before he died — ^but, 
when he chose, he had a tongue which rasped like 
a file. 

Seeing that not the slightest apparent notioe was 
taken of the din which he had made, he asked me 
still another question, the clincher. 

" I suppose you haven't been dreaming, and that 


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you are sure the man you describe did go through 
the window?" 

Had I been dreaming? Was I sure? My manner 
when I replied ought to have dispelled any fragment 
of doubt he might have had on that point, unless he 
took me for a first-class liar, or an A i idiot, or the 
pair of them. 

"Tm as sure that I've told you exactly what 
took place as I am that you and I are standing 

" All right ! Keep your temper ! You'll want all 
youVe got, by the look of things, a little later on ! 
Then, if you are sure, we've got to get into this house 

Smash 1 smash! smash 1 smash! He went again 
at the knocker. The wonder was he did not burst 
the door right in. I will lay odds he shook it. One 
would have thought the clatter he made would have 
roused the whole neighbourhood. As a matter of 
fact, hardly had he stooped bang-banging, than a 
window went up above our heads, and a Voice called 
out to us : 

"Who's that making that noise down there?" 

My heart went up into my mouth. I imagined 
that we had roused my gentleman at last, and that 
he would hardly shout at us in that cock-a-doodle 
tone of voice if he had not some sort of right to be 
where he was, and that, in consequence, I should 
certainly not be out of the wood. But I was mis- 
taken, as a momentary upward glance proved. The 
window had not been opened at No. 20 at all but at 
Na 19, next door, and the individual who was leaning 


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half out of it was iK>t my gentieman but somebody 
else entirely. 

The sergeant spoke to him. 

<< Do you know the people who live in this house?" 


" Is the name Parsons ? ** 

"It is." 

"Do you know if Mr Parsons has come home 

"I know that he hasn't He is staying with his 
family at Hastings. I bad a letter from him this 
morning to say that they are returning on Saturday. 
If it had been his intention to return to-night he 
would certainly have let me know." 

" Someone who calls himself Walter Parsons, and 
who says that the caretaker has gone out, and that he 
left his key behind, not long ago got into the house 
through the window." 

" Caretaker I key 1 There is no caretaker, and the 
key's in my charge. Some member of my family 
goes into the house each day to see that everything's 
aU right" 

" Then, if you have the key, it strikes me that you'd 
better come down and let us in to see iwdio that 
party is and what he's up to." 

" I'll be with you in half a minute." 

The speaker's head and shoulders were withdrawn. 
The window through which he had thrust them was 
closed. We awaited his reappearance down below. 
And while we waited the sergeant improved the 
fleeting moments by firing off in my direction some 
observations of an agreeable nature. 


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^It occurs to me, my lad, that you've perhaps 
managed to set yourself up for the rest of your life. 
You mayn't be aware of it, but it's not generally 
supposed to be part of a policeman's duty to g^ve a 
burglar a leg up through the window of the crib he's 
engaged in cracking, though the members of the force 
might be more popular in certain quarters if it were." 

I let him talk. I knew better than to put in my 
oar. It was understood that if you let Sei^eant Ives 
have his say all to himself, and talk himself right out, 
then that was about all there was to it But if you 
tried talking back, why, then you must look out for 
ructions. Yet, when he spoke to me in that strain, 
it was only the thought of Mary and of that new son 
of mine which helped me to keep my tongue back 
between my teeth. I endeavoured to console myself 
by resolving that what the sergeant was giving me 
I would add to the balance I owed ''Mr Walter 
Parsons," and make it even — and a trifle over — ^with 
him. I was not proposing to let any man get me 
treated as if I were a half-baked sawney for nothing 
at all. There are those, maybe^ who let people jump 
on them, and ask for more. But I am not one. 

By the time the gentleman from next door put in 
an appearance on the scene I was as nearly bursting 
with rage as I ever was in the whole course of my 
life. In another second or two I should have had 
to open a safety-value to let something off. 

"Got the key ? " asked the sei^eant 

"Yes; I have the key. And I also have a bad 
cold. I don't want to make it worse. I hope you're 
not bringing me out of my warm bed, at this time 


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of night, and in this sort of weather, for nothing at 

" Then I hope we are. And for your friend's sake 
you ought to hope so, too. You don't want to have 
his house entered and robbed while it is in your 
charge. What's this?" 

" Thaf s the key. I think, under the circumstances, 
that perhaps you had better open the door." 

The sergeant looked at him. So did I. He was 
tall and thin, and wore glasses, and was about as un- 
athletic looking a party as he well could have been. 
I do not fancy he had much stomach for the kind of 
adventure which the situation suggested. Ives took 
the key, put it in the door, tried to turn it — in vain. 

^*Is there anything patent about it? What's the 

"There is no trick. It turns quite easily — from 
right to left." 

"Then perhaps you'll come and turn it There's 
something in being used to a key 1 " 

The party from No. 19 displayed evident reluctance. 
He was standing at the bottom of the steps, and 
seemed to prefer to stay there. 

" It only wants a sharp twist ! " 

" Then come and give it the sharp twist it wants.^ 

The spectacled gentleman ascended the steps, it 
struck me a little gingerly, as if he half expected 
that something would fly out of the house and spring 
at him. He tackled the key. But It declined to turn 
for him any more than for the sergeant 

" It won't move. That's strange. My wife and I 
went over tiie house together only this evening ; I 


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opened the door myself. It opened quite easily then. 
Now there seems something wrong/' 

'Tm afraid there i& Is that the only key yon 

'* The latch-key is the only one that's wanted. The 
big lock is caught back." 

*' It waa I expect the chap who is inside has let 
it go, and trapped the latch to make things surer. 
He doesn't want anyone else to get in too easily 
while he's there." Ives turned to me. '* You'll have 
to follow him the way he went — through the window." 

In und^ half-a*minute I was on the sill«»the one 
on which I had first caught sight of ''Mr Walter 
Parsona" I had my clasp-knife open and had slipped 
the catch of the window inside a minute. Extra- 
ordinary how insecurely windows are fastened t There 
is not one in a huiKked which would present any 
difficulty to a boy who has just been breeched. Up 
went the sash. 

''Look out for anyone going for you before you 
get into the room." I was looking out, but there 
were no signs that anyone was consdoua (^ my pro- 
ceedings. The sergeant issued further instructions. 
''Directly you're in come straq^ht round and open 
the door for us." 

Thrusting the blind aside I shone my lantern 
round the room* There was no one in it I stq^)ed 
on to the floor. As had been the case in the apart^ 
ment into which " Mr Walter Parscms " had conducted 
me here also practically everything which the place 
contained was shroiKled from sight Thae was no- 
thing to suggest that it had been recently occupmi 


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"Where'er we tread, 'tis haunted, 
holy ground." 












I a 


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Pott 8v©, cloth^ 3/. ; leather^ 3/. 6d, net. 

*' Delightfully handy and pleasant in appearance."— 

• . '* Conspicuous for their neatness, their readableness and their 

*' practical utility."'— (P/t?^. 

p '* The best mementoes of visits."— ^«i;rA£ 

^ XAESSRS METHUEN are publishing a 

ti ^^^ small series of books under the general 

title of The Little Guides. The main 
^. features of these books are (i^ a haody and 

p charming form, (2) artistic illustrations by 

* E. H. New and others, (3) good plans and 

tr maps, (4) an adequate but compact presentation 

01 of everything that is interesting in the natural 

Ja features, history, archaeology, and architecture 

of the town or district treated. 

In those volumes which treat of counties, 

there is first a general description of the 

country — ^its situation, physical features, flora 

and fauna, climate, inhabitants, industries, 

history and archaeology. Then follows an 

account of the chief towns and places of 

CC interest in alphabetical order. 

**! The books are not guides in the ordinary 

^ sense of the word. They do not give the 

usual routes for expeditions, information about 

hotels, etc., but they contain information which 

^' may be sufficient for the ordinary tourist of 

cm literary tastes, and they form not only practical 

QIC handbooks, but delightful gift books. 



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Oxford and its Colleges. By J. Wells, M.A. !• 

Ulustratcd by E. H. New. Fourth Edition. *^ 

Cambridge and its Colleges. By A. Hamilton br. 

Thompson. Illustrated by E. H. New. ^ 

Shakespeare's Country. By B. C. A. Windlb, 

F.R.S., M.A Illustrated by E. H. New. Second . j 

Edition. »« 

Westminster Abbey. By G. E. Troutbbck. t 

Illustrated by F. D. Bedford. * 

Sussex. By F. G. Brabant, M.A. Illustrated by as 

E. H. New. ' r^ 

The Malvern Country. By B. C. A. Windlb, nt 

D.Sc, F.R.S. illustrated by E. H. New. ^^ 

Norfolk. By W. A. Dutt. Illustrated by B. C. O* 

Boulter. ^m 

Brittany. By S. Baring-Gould. Illustrated by 

J. Wylie. 

Surrey. By F. A. H. Lambert. Illustrated by 

E. H. New. or 

Kent By G. Clinch. Illustrated by F. D. 

Bedford."" ny 

The English Lakes. By F. G. Brabant. ^^ 

Illustrated by E. H. New Cloth, 4s.; leather, 4s. 6d. net. 

Hertfordshire. By H. W. Tompkins. Illustrated I 

by E. H. New. 
Derbyshire. By C. J. Cox, LL.D. Illustrated by 

J. C. Wall. ^ 

The Isle of Wight By G. Clinch. Illustrated * 

Suffolk. By W. A. Dutt. Illustrated by J. ^ 


TAs following are in preparation, 
ComwalL By A. L. Salmon. Illustrated by T'll 

B. C. Boulter. 

Buckinghamshire. By £. S. Roscob. Illustrated 

by F. D. Bedford. 

Rome. By C. G. Ellaby. Illustrated by B. C. 


Shropshire. By J. A. Nicklin. 

Enehsh Architecture. By T. D. Atkinson. in 

Illustrated by the Author. 

St Paul's Cathedral. By G. H. Birch. Illustrated DOT 

by G. B. Alcock. |. 

Berkshire. By F. G. Brabant. ^"^ 

Hampshire. By C. T. Cox, LL.D. lad 

The North Riding of Yorkshire. By J. E. Morris. p, 

[1 a 



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or that there had been any unauthorised interference 
with its contents. But that something curious was 
taking place somewhere about the premises I recog- 
nised immediately upon my entrance. 

So soon as I had my feet upon the floor, and had 
let the blind fall back into its place behind me, I 
perceived a peculiar smell ; and--^what was it ? Was 
it the sound of someone calling? Were they the 
cries of a person in pain? Was it some sort of 
animal? Or — what? There was an odd noise 
coming from somewhere. 

I moved quickly across the room, to find the door 
shut and locked upon the other side. Since my 
gentleman must have gone through it when he came 
in, it was tolerably clear he must have locked it I 
returned to announce my discovery. 

''Something funny's going on in here; there's a 
queer smell and a queerer sound. But I can't get 
out of this room, the door's locked on the outside" 

The sergeant's reply came short and sharp. 

" Break it open. If you can't do it by yourself I'll 
come in and help you." 

** I think I can manage to do it" 

And I did manage. I am six feet two and a half 
inches high, and I was not a light weight even in 
those days. I took a little run, and gave that door 
my shoulder once — twice — and the third time went 
clean through. It was a trifle unexpected. I had 
thought it would have offered more resistance. The 
consequence was that I found myself a bit mixed up 
with the splinters. Anyhow, I was in the hall in a 
brace of shakes. When I g6t there the smell or 



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something seemed ta kit me in the face. The sounds 
n^ch I h^d heard were more audible than even 
They set my nerves ail of a twitter. If someone or 
something were not half mad with pain or terror, or 
both, then I was a Dutchman. And the someone 
or something was quite close at hand. 

I rushed to the hall door. The sergeant shouted 
to me from without : 

'* Is that you, Coleman ? " 

" Yes, sir. There's something very wrong indeed 
inside here, but God knows what it is. I'm going 
to open the door. . . v I can't l" 

•* Why can't you?" 

" The big lock's locked, and the trap of the upper 
one seems jammed. I expect that chap's taken 
away the key." 

'' All right I'll come in through the window. Do 
nothing till I come." 

By the time I wad back in the front room the 
sergeant was in it, too. The moment he was he gave 
an exclamation. 

" Why, the place is on fire ! " 

On fire? Of course. What an idiot I had been 
not to understand at once! That explained the 
suffocating odour — ^the acrid something which was 
stealing up our nostrils. ** Then it's in the room at 
the back." 

That was the room to which I had already been 
introduced, in which I had been offered the hocussed 
whisky. We both of us hurried out into the hall to 
the back-room door, standing for an instant to listen. 

" It's in there right enough. Can't you hear it ? " 


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I could. The noise of what sounded like flames 
was unmistakable. As we stood there came another 
sound — a yell which seemed to go right through 

"That's not fire." 

" Someone must be burning." 

" Then if s the chap himself." 

" The chap himself? What do you mean ? How 
do you know ? Open the door ! " 

I stood next to it I turned the handle. 

" It's locked. He's locked himself in ! " I struck 
the panel with my hand. " Inside there ! Who's in 

No answer. All was still; there was only the 
roar of the flames. 

" The man must be burning to death ! You'll have 
to burst the door. Only look out for yourself as you 
do it" 

I burst it that time — as I only had to drive the lock 
back — at the first try. The room within was on the 
high road to become a flaming furnace. There was 
a horrible stench of what seemed to be some sort of 
burning spirit. The heat rushed out at us. It was 
all I could do to stand my ground while I looked 
for the man from whom that yell had come. He 
could not have been consumed to ashes while we had 
been standing without the door. It was incredible, 
impossible. Yet there was no one to be seen — no 
sign of anything that had ever been endowed with life. 

But I did catch sight of something that made me 
stare. Almost everything that was in the room — 
tables, sideboard, chairs, all kinds of odds and ends — 


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had been gathered into a higgledy-piggledy sort of 
heap in the middle of the floor. They were already 
blazing merrily away, bidding fair to form a sufii- 
ciently expensive bonfire. On the top, in the centre, 
so that the flames were rising about it on every side, 
was a kit-bag — if I could credit the evidence of my 
own senses, the identical one which I had last seen in 
solitary possession of the booking-office at St John's 
Wood Station, either that one or its twin brother. 
It stood in danger of immediate destruction. Not 
only was it in the midst of the blaze, but already the 
sides of the bag were giving forth an ominous smoke. 
As I watched one of them broke into flame. I do 
not know what prompted me — because it was only 
a bag after all — but when I saw that I ran into the 

"What are you doing? "cried the sergeant "Is 
there anyone there ? " 

I did not stop to answer. The smoke was blinding 
and suffocating me both at once. I felt as if the 
floor were giving way beneath my feet, as if the skin 
were cracking on my face. I rushed at the blazing 
heap, grabbed at the handle of the bag. It was 
heavier than I expected, but I managed to get a good 
hold of it, and went staggering with it to the door. 

"What's the matter with you?" asked Ives. 
"What is it you've got there?" 

" I don't know." 

I did not At that time I did not even know what 
the thing was called. I hauled it into the front 
room. Although it was no longer actually flaming 
it was smoking enough to choke you. And the heat 


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must have tried its constitution, because no sooner 
had I got it into the other room than one of the sides 
came clean away, and, with it, the contents dropped 
on to the floor. 

" Whaf s that fallen out of it ? " asked Ives. 

I was leaning over, staring with something more 
than amazement 

" I believe — ^ifs a man I " 

" A man ! " Down went Ives upon his knees. The 
flames were beginning to come out of the next room 
into the passage, so that we could see quite plainly. 
" My God ! It's Mr Parsons ! He can't have been 
inside that bag." 

" He was." 

"Is this the man who got through the window?" 

" He's not in the least bit like him." 

" Then there's been a nice game on somewhere." 

"He's not dead." 

As I lifted his head from the floor I felt him 

"Thank goodness for that I We shall have to 
take him through the window and get him out 
of this." 

"I'll see to that" 

I did. As the sergeant had said, he was such a 
little chap I bore him in my arms as if he were a 
baby. With a little help from Ives I got him out 
into the garden, and then into the house next door — 
No. 19. 

Thaf s my story. And the explanation is not the 
least strange part of it 

The party whom I saw get through the window 


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was a gentleman of the name of Turndall — Philip 
Tumdall. He was Parsons* partner — which explained 
how his portrait stood so handy on the mantelpiece. 
Messrs Parsons & Tumdall were solicitors, a firm 
of good old family lawyers, with tin cases stuffed 
full of their clients' title-deeds and bonds and shares, 
and that kind of thing. Mr Tumdall, who was a 
person of lofty notions in the money-spending line, 
took it into his head to treat the contents of those 
tin cases as if they were his own property. He 
raised money on them right and left, without thinking 
it necessary to mention what he was doing to Mr 
Parsons. At last discovery stared him in the face. 
Somebody wanted something which ought to have 
been in one of those cases, but happened to be else- 
where. Mr Turndall concocted an ingenious scheme 
to account for its absence. 

He brought his partner up to London on pretence 
of business. Towards evening, when the clerks had 
gone home, and Parsons was about to retum to 
Hastings, he produced a bottle of champagne and 
suggested that the other should have a share of it to 
help him on his journey. Parsons consented. He 
had a glass. He remembered so much, and no more. 
Beyond doubt the champagne was flavoured with 
the same stuff as that whisky was. Probably Parsons 
was unconscious almost as soon as he had swallowed 
it. Turndall knew that he would continue uncon- 
scious for a considerable time. He was too nice- 
minded to commit murder by actual violence. So 
he picked up his partner off the floor and packed 
him into a brand new kit-bag which he might have 

Digitized by CjOOQIC 



bought for that special purpose. Parsons was small ; 
the bag was large. Neatly folded up into a compact 
parcel by Tumdall's vigorous hands, room was found 
for him, though probably no live man was ever con- 
fined in closer quarters. Some time after the shades 
of night had fallen, with the kit-bag in one hand and 
something containing methylated spirit in the other, 
Mr Turndall went across London to his friend's 
residence at No. 20 Quamley Terrace. 

His idea was to enter unobserved, and then, with 
the aid of that methylated spirit, to burn the house, 
With Mr Parsons in it, still unconscious. When, 
perhaps, the next day he heard of the fire he would 
have been shocked. And he would have been still 
more shocked on discovering that someone had been 
making free with the contents of those tin cases. 
The dreadful fact would have been revealed that 
Parsons was a thief The whole shameful story 
would have been made too plain. The man had fled 
to escape the hands of justice, having first set fire to 
his house to conceal the evidences of his guilt And 
Mr Philip Turndall would have been regarded as an 
injured innocent. 

Unfortunately, his game was spoiled by my hap- 
pening to hear the click of the window-catch. It 
must have been an awkward moment for him when 
I flashed my bulFs-eye upon him as he crouched 
upon the window-sill. No wonder he perspired ; the 
marvel was that he should have kept so c6ol. The 
kit-bag must have been in the garden all the time. 
It was surprising how I came to overlook it After 
I went he came out and fetched it in. That was the 


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noise I heard When I returned and started ham* 
mering at the door he must have recognised that the 
game was completely up. While Sergeant Ives was 
trying to get in at the front he got out at the back. 
He must have gone straight off to his own rooms^ 
and during the rest of the night he must have had 
a pretty bad time. He spent part of it in writing a 
nice little confession on a nice little sheet of paper. 
In the morning the confession was found on the table, 
and he was a corpse on the bed — a case of ^^ de se. 

That drugged champagne was, in a sense, possibly 
Mr Parsons' salvation. Considering his prolonged 
incarceration in that dreadful prison, how he had 
been dragged round London, and dumped down at 
St John's Wood Station while his partner refreshed 
himself, it was marvellous how he should have suffered 
no after ill effects. When I saw him a day or two 
later you could not have told that anything out of 
the way had ever happened to him. 

No. 20 was damaged, but not destroyed; Mr 
Tumdall had been interrupted. Mr Parsons man- 
aged to drag things out of the quicksands amidst which 
his partner had got them. I understand that his firm 
has a high reputation in London to-day. He never 
took another partner. And every year since he has 
sent me something in recognition of the festive season. 

My boy — ^he was my last-born as well as my first- 
bom, for we have never had another child — is now 
a policeman, like his father was. 

So now you understand how it is that to this hour, 
whenever I see a kit-bag, a curious feeling goes all 
over me. 


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pHRISTMAS DAY was on the Thursday. As 
^^ the town was presenting) with all possible 
form and ceremony, a sword of honour to Colonel 
Lingham, that hero of the popular imagination, as 
the inaugurator and commander of Lingham's Ir- 
regular Horse, on the Wednesday, on which occa- 
sion not only had the rector consented to speak, 
but every able-bodied man, woman, and child in the 
neighbourhood hoped to be present, it was felt that 
the usual Christmas decorations of the church should 
be brought as nearly as possible to a state of com- 
pletion on the Tuesday. So it happened that late 
on that Tuesday afternoon, long after the gas was 
lighted, the parish church was still alive with quite 
a band of busy workers. 

The rector's wife had made the ornamentation of 
the altar her own special chai^. She had chosen 
as her chief assistant the person who was esteemed 
by all the town to be her dearest friend. May Ogilvie* 
A more striking physical contrast than that which 
existed between the pair could hardly be imagined. 
Miss Ogilvie was tall, slight, dark, filled with a 
curious vitality which seemed to prevent her body 
ever being wholly at rest : she was the most restless 


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of creatures. Ethel Mason, on the contrary, was 
restfulness itself. Superficial observers supposed 
her to be lethargic — ^but that was merely because 
they were superficial. She was of good height, of 
generous proportions; she had vivid red hair, a 
clear white skin, a wide, open brow, a dainty acqui- 
line nose, a square, dimpled chin, and a pair of blue 
eyes, which were not only capable of a bewildering 
variety of expressions, but which had a trick of 
fixing you with a steady, quiet gaze, which was apt 
at times to be a little disconcerting. There was 
dignity in all her movements : grace, charm, a sug- 
gestion of sweetness which was infinitely refreshing. 
And when she spoke you loved her — if for her voice 

She was probably the happiest woman in Rib- 
chester. She had been a wife not yet a year, having 
married her husband on his appointment to the 
parish. The height and depth of her love for him 
she herself had not yet fathomed. Never, she told 
herself, was there a man more worthy of a woman's 
love. With his intellectual and physical attainments 
the world was acquainted; how he had, with a 
double first at Oxford, headed the list; how his 
Latin and English verses had been alike remarkable 
for their excellence ; how, because of their pride in 
him, his college had presented him with the first 
living in their gift The fame of his eloquence had 
already travelled abroad. As an athlete — he was 
still only thirty-two— he had not only won his 
"blue" both in cricket and football, but had attained 
to a high standard of excellence in nearly all branches 


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of sport A handsomer man one could scarcely wish 
to see, or one with a simpler bearing or a more 
pleasant, winning manner. 

But his wife said to herself that all these qualities, 
desirable though they undoubtedly were, were as 
nothing compared to the beauty of his nature. He 
was her ideal Christian-^her knight, stainless and 
without reproach, incapable of falsehood, deceit, 
treachery, selfishness, or any of those tortuous 
methods by which sometimes men win to their 
desired ends. So conscious was she of her great 
happiness that she caught herself gazing, almost in 
a state of exultation, at the cross in the centre of 
the altar, which she had just glorified with arum 

" Why," whispered May, observing her, " when you 
look like that I almost expect to see you trans- 

Mrs Mason's reply was rather an odd one: 

" I feel as if I were being transfigured — as if I were 
looking through heaven's portals." 

May eyed her a little quizzically. She had a 
shrewd wit and a caustic tongue ; as the rector 
suddenly appeared through the vestry door she 
gave them both an airing. 

"Here's the cause of your transfiguration," she 

Ethel Mason, apparently oblivious of any mis- 
chievous intention in the other's words, turned to 
her husband with outstretched hands. 

"Geoffrey, do you think it would seem silly if I 
were to kneel down here, on the altar steps, with 


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you at my side, and thank God for all the blessings 
He has showered on me this year?" 

He shook his head, smiling. 

**I don't think it could ever seem silly to kneel 
at His altar, to thank God for anything." 

There and then they knelt together, with bowed 
heads, upon the altar steps. May observed them 
for a moment with a queer little grimace. Then 
she knelt too. And, presently, all the other workers, 
perceiving what was happening, ceased for a few 
moments from their labours to join with the rector 
and his wife in silent prayer, so that all the church 
was very still. 

Then, a little later, Mr and Mrs Mason were pass- 
ing homewards, for the Rectory was at some little 
distance from the church, threading their way through 
the busy High Street Someone touched Mr Mason 
on the arm. Supposing it to be one of the numerous 
parishioners with whom he was on terms of almost 
intimate acquaintance, he turned with a smile, which 
seemed to change into a singularly unpleasant grin 
as he perceived who the person who had touched him 
really was. 

It was a man whose excessive thinness served to 
accentuate the fact that he was somewhat above the 
average height He was dressed from head to foot 
in rusty black, which made him look like an old- 
fashioned undertaker's mute; on his face there was 
something which hinted at those alcoholic tastes 
with which mutes were credited. He held out a 
hand, encased in an ancient black glove, with what 
was evidently intended to be an ingratiating smile; 


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" Mr Mason, I am very glad to sec you, sir." 

The gladness of which he spoke was certainly not 
reciprocated by the expression which was on the 
rector's face, 

" You ! " he exclaimed. 

He made no attempt to take the hand which the 
other was still offering. His tone was curt and stem. 
The other, however, seemed wholly unabashed. 

" Yes ; Mr Mason, me, and also, Mr Geoffrey 
Mason, late of New College, Oxford, you. I fancy, 
Mr Mason, that this encounter is a little unexpected, 

"Wholly unexpected." The rector seemed to 
hesitate for a moment, then to arrive at a sudden 
resolution. " Good evening." 

He turned as if to go, but the stranger caught 
him by the arm. 

" It is not good evening, Mr Mason, if you please, 
just yet, as, before we part, I have something which 
I particularly wish to say to you." 

"What is it? I cannot conceive that there can 
be anything which you can have to say to me." 

"Can't you? Now that's very odd, and very 
characteristic, Mr Mason. You were always a little 
dull when you desired to be. However, if you will 
think, I daresay you will guess what it. is, because, 
I assure you, there is something, Mr Mason." 

" Whatever it is, I can't stop to listen to you here." 

" Quite right ! quite right I — now, that's the part of 
wisdom ! — ^because what I have to say is not the sort 
of thing one cares to talk about in the public street 
Now, where shall it be, Mr Mason ? and when ? " 


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The rector looked as if he would have liked to 
postpone the suggested conversation to an indefinite 
place and period, and as if he had only arrived at a 
contrary decision very much against the grain. 

''Come to the Rectory in about an hour and a 

" Thank you, Mr Mason ; in response to your very 
kind invitation I will come to the Rectory in about 
an hour and a half." 

Without waiting for his response the rector had 
gone striding off after his wife, the stranger following 
him with eyes which were distinctly the reverse of 
friendly, muttering to himself as he did so : 

"You can bet your last tanner TU come to the 
Rectory, Mr Geoffrey Mason, with or without your 
invitation. Grown bigger than ever, haven't you? 
And so respectable! Got a wife, too, a regular 
beauty. It's just possible, Mr Geoffrey Mason, 
that 1*11 give you a surprise before very long, and, 
if you don't mind your p's and q's, your wife too." 

He turned into the first public-house to which 
he came, drawing the back of his gloves across his 
lips with a suggestive action. 

When the rector rejoined his wife she put to 
him the question for which he was probably pre- 

"Who was that very unpleasant-looking person, 

As a rule his manner when he answered her 
questions was tenderness itself. It was, therefore, 
with surprise that she caught in his tone something 
like a note of irritation. 


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" An individual with whom I had some acquaint- 
ance many years ago, and whom I supposed was 

"Dead! Why did you suppose he was dead? 
He doesn't look very old." 

" No ; he's not old." 

There was that in his voice which more than 
hinted at a desire not to carry the conversation 
further, which, however, after a slight interval, d|d 
not prevent her from putting another question. 

"What is his name?" 

"His name?" The rector hesitated; for a 
moment it seemed possible that he might decline 
to inform her as to the stranger's name. If such 
were his intention he changed his mind. " His name 
is Dodd. By the Mray, did I tell you that at the 
presentation to Colonel Lingham to-morrow the 
mayor wishes me to speak immediately after him, 
and at greater length than I originally intended." 

If the intention not to pursue the theme of which 
the stranger was the subject was a little transparent 
the wife dutifully allowed her mood to fall in with 
her husband's. 

" I think it's very sensible of the mayor. Every- 
body knows what a bad speaker he is — there will 
be no one there who can speak anything like you 
can — and it's just one of those occasions on which 
I know — and everybody knows — ^you'll be magnifi- 
cent I think Colonel Lingham's such a splendidly 
inspiring person, don't you ? Such a soldier among 
soldiers — such a hero among heroes." 

"No doubt he's done his duty." 


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**His duty!" In her tone was an accent of 
surprise. ^He's done much more than that He 
was not calledi upon to fight at all ; he's not a pro- 
fessional fighting man. And yet, because he knew 
his country needed him, he gave up the pursuit of 
wealth and gathered together— principally at his 
own charges — a body of kindred spirits, with whom 
he's done — ^why, just simply wonders! His duty! 
You're laughing at me, Geoff, when you talk so 
lightly, because you know — as I know! — ^that it's 
by such men that the glorious, invulnerable structure 
of empire's builded." 

Whatever he had done before, Mr Mason laughed 
then softly beneath his breath, slipping his arm 
through hers, and drawing her to him as he did sa 

"Why, Ethel, it's you who should speak to- 
morrow. The root of the matter's in you : out of the 
fulness of your heart your mouth should breathe 
forth eloquence." 

**1 do believe that the man who fights for his 
country fights also for his country's God, and that, 
therefore, there is none whom his fellows should 
more delight to honour." She paused, and smiled. 
'<And I'm not sure that I couldn't tell them that 
almost as well as you could." 

He pressed her arm still closer to his side, looking 
into her eyes with pride in his. 

"I've no doubt at all upon that point Why^ 
madam, some day, when the occasion calls, as an 
orator you'll leave me nowhere. It is the enthusiast 
who is the great orator — a more wonderful enthusiast 
than you I have never known." 


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"Enthusiasm involves faith. What should I be 
without my faith ? Look, for instance, at my faith 
in you." 

She glanced at him with a saucy smile. 


At the Rectory dinner was finished, and Mr Mason 
had already been some minutes alone in his study 
when a knock at the door announced a visitor. 

" Mr Dodd," said the servant, " wishes to see you, 

He nodded to signify that Mr Dodd should be 
shown in. He had been, nominally, looking through 
a pile of papers, but, actually, he had been sitting 
back in his chair with an expression on his face 
which suggested that his troubled thoughts were far 
away. Now he resumed his examination of the 
papers, glancing up from them as the visitor entered, 
as if moments were precious and he could not afford 
to allow one of them to be wasted. 

" I understood, Mr Dodd, that you wished to speak 
to me." 

"Oh, you understand that much, do you? Well, 
that's something. If a man b^ns by understand- 
ing something the chances are that he'll understand 
a little more before he's done. I hold that nothing 
oils the works like understanding." 

Mr Mason rtgs^rdtd the speaker more attentively. 
There was a quality in his voice, a touch of assurance, 
even insolence, in his manner, which had not been 



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noticeable in the street. Undoubtedly the man had 
been drinking. The rector compressed his lips; 
his eyes grew stern. 

" Make your meaning plain, Mr Dodd." 

" rU do that — I promise you Til do that — but before 
I do anything else, with your permission, I'll take 
a chair." 

The man looked about him, in search of the 
required article of furniture, with a swaying move- 
ment which would have been grotesque if it had not 
been painful. The rector watched him select his own 
special arm-chair, and arrange himself in it, with 
a brow which grew darker and darker. 

"Now, Mr Dodd, be as brief as you can. My 
time is valuable." 

" So's mine, so's mine — at least, I hope it will 
be before I've done. There's nothing like setting 
a proper value on your time, Mr Mason." 

" I regret to see that you have not yet got the 
better of at least one of your failings." 

"To which one of them in particular might you 
be alluding?" 

" To your love of drink, sir. I make it a rule that 
no intoxicated person shall be admitted to this room 
When they trespass upon my privacy, as they 
occasionally do, I decline to allow them to penetrate 
any farther than my outer hall. I am sorry to 
observe that you certainly come \yithin the range 
of such a definition. The servant ought to have told 
me you were drunk." 

Stretching out his hands Mr Dodd looked up 
to the ceiling with an air of injury. 


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'♦Well, of all the unpleasant remarks for one 
gentleman to address to another!" The rector 
smiled. Obviously the speaker could never either 
have been, or looked like, a gentleman ; anyone who 
sounded, or appeared, less like a gentleman than 
he did then one could hardly have imagined. Mr 
Dodd saw the smile, and resented it. 

"Jeering, are you? I suppose you think your- 
self a gentleman and me the dirt under your 

"Is that the kind of remark you are here to 
address to me?" 

" No ; it's not the kind of remark I'm here to ad- 
dress to you, Mr Parson Mason — at least it's not the 
only kind. I'm here to ask for information, and for 
something else as well. I want to know how long 
you expect me to maintain your child — that's what 
I want to know. And I hope that's brief enough, 
even for you, especially considering that I'm supposed 
to be drunk." 

" What do you mean ? " 

The rector had suddenly gone white to the lips. 

*• I mean what I say, and if you don't understand 
what that is I'll say it again. I want to know how 
long you expect me to maintain — that is," — he 
ticked the points off on his fingers — "clothe, feed, 
lodge, and educate — ^your child." 

"You are more drunk even than I supposed or 
you would hardly venture to talk to me like this." 

" Hardly venture to talk to you like this ? How 
do you think I'd talk to you? You ruined my 


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The rector sprang up from his scat in sudden 

" How dare you say that, John Dodd ? " 

" How dare I say it, Geoffrey Mason ? Because 
it's truel I say you ruined my sister " 

" It's an infamous falsehood — and you know it ! ** 

" So that's the kind of thing you are. And you're 
a parson, and preach to others to tell the truth, and 
you can stand there and tell me a rotten lie like that, 
knowing that I know it's a rotten lie." 

" Be careful wh^t you say, man ! " 

"Oh, you're a stronger man than I am, and can 
take me by the throat and kill me as you killed her." 

" What madness are you talking ? " 

''She was only a shop assistant, and you were a 
fine young gentleman. You pretended to make love 
to her." 


"Of course it's a lie— it's all a lie — I see that 
that's your cue^ — that's the kind you are. All the 
same, ifs true. You amused yourself by making love 
until you had done with her, and by that time she 
was done for. When your child was born you never 
said a word or made a sign ; you never so much as 
moved a finger to relieve her of her burden until the 
day she died " 

" Is your sister dead ? " 

"She is; these three years and more. She kept 
your child by the sweat of her brow until she died ; 
what she went through to do it no words of mine can 
tell. Now she stands before the judgment-seat to 
plead that she bore the burden of your sin." 


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" Hush man, hush ! Don't suffer sacred words and 
thoughts to be mocked by such lips as yours." 

"Rather, I suppose, let them be mocked by yours. 
However, there it h ; since she died I've kept the 
child. What I want to know is, what are you going 
to do?" 

" How do you mean — what I'm going to do ? " 

" I'm poor, you're rich. I can't afford T:o keep other 
people's children — it's as much as I can do to keep 
myself, sometimes more. How much are you going 
to give me for what I've laid out in the past, and, 
much more ! for what I shall have to lay out in the 
future ? That's what I've come for, now you've got 
it in a nutshell." 

" So your object is blackmail ! I might have guessed 

"Blackmail you call it, do you? I never heard 
asking a father for money to keep his child with 
called blackmail before ; but, as I've said already, it 
seems that that's the kind of man you are. So we'll 
let that go. The point is, how much are you going 
to give me ? " 

"Not one farthing." 

" Do you mean that ? * 

" I do — emphatically." 

"You'd better think again, because you'll find it* 
awkward if you do mean it" 

" After what you have been saying, Mr Dodd, I 
decline to give you a farthing for any purpose 
whatever. That's a matter which requires no re- 

" Very good. Then that's cooked your goose. I've 


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not come here to talk only, as you'll very soon see. 
Perhaps in about half-a-minute you'll change your 
tone. What do you think of this, Geoffrey Mason ? " 

Staggering to the door he threw it open with a 
flourish, disclosing to the rector's astonished eyes 
a little girl, who stood without in an attitude of 
expectant attention. Mr Dodd addressed her with 
what he doubtless intended to be an impressive air. 

"Come in, my dear, come in. Enter into your 
father's halls." 

The little girl came in. She was a small child, 
perhaps nine or ten years old. A pretty child, 
delicately fashioned, with about her an air of re- 
finement which accorded ill with her supposed re- 
lationship to Mr Dodd. To look at her one would 
scarcely have imagined that she was any blood 
connection of his. She wore an air of gravity 
altogether beyond her years, seeming neither alarmed 
nor surprised, but r^arding the rector with a 
steady, fearless gaze, as if he were some object which 
required careful scrutiny. 

Mr Dodd went through what he apparently meant 
for a ceremony of introduction. 

" Lizzie, my dear niece, you have often spoken to 
me of your father. You have asked me who he was, 
what he was, where he was, and all about him. For 
reasons which you are yet too young to understand I 
have hitherto given those questions, as it were, the 
go-by. The time, however, has now come to be 
frank, to be plain, to be candid. You see your 
father standing before you in the flesh — ^your only 
remaining parent Embrace him, my dear niece, as 


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nature has given you a right to do. Leap into his 
arms and pillow your tender cheek against your 
father's breast" 

Mr Dodd smeared the back of his left-hand glove 
across his right eye, with the seeming intention of 
wiping away a wholly imaginary tear. 

The rector and the child remained unmoved. 
They were observing each other in what, under the 
circumstances, seemed to be a singular silence. The 
little girl spoke first, in a clear, sweet, soft voice — the 
voice, one would have said, of the daughter of 

" Are you indeed my father ? " 

" No, little one ; I indeed am not." 

" I don't think you are my father ; you don't look 
as if you were my father ; you don't feel as if you 
were my father. What is your name ? " 

** I am Geoffrey Mason." 

" Then if you are Geoffrey Mason you are not my 
father. My father's name is not Geoffrey Mason." 

Mr Dodd interposed. 

" What nonsense are you talking ? How can you 
tell what your father's name is ? Don't wound your 
uncle's heart by talking drivel." 

The child remained unmoved. The rector placed 
his hand upon her shoulder. 

" Are you my old friend Lizzie Dodd's little girl?" 

The child shook her head, a picture of gravity 

" My mamma's name was not Dodd." 

Mr Dodd threw up his hands with a gesture of 


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''Your mother's name was not Dodd! Gracious 
sakes alive, what next ? You've denied your father, 
now youVe denying your mother — you'll end by 
denying me I" 

Even the contemplation of that dreadful prospect 
did not cause the child to lose her composure^ She 
only repeated her asseveration in her quaint, grave 
fashion, with, as it were, explanatory additions. 

" I know they called her Mrs Dodd. But that was 
not her real name, really. My name's not Dodd 

" That's right enough ; your name's Lizzie Mason." 

*' No ; my name's not Lizzie Mason. 

" I tell you it is. I never knew such a contradictory 
child. It's a wonder I'm alive, considering what I've 
had to bear from you. But don't you think, Geoffrey 
Mason, that I'm going to be fooled by a child. I've 
got proof of what I say. This is your daughter, 
don't let there be any mistake about that And 
what I want to know is, are you going to make a 
proper provision, and place that provision in my 
hands now, or is she going to remain underneath 
your roof-tree this night, henceforth, and for ever ? " 

" Don't talk more absurdly than you can help, Mr 

"You call that talking absurdly, do you? But 
that's the kind of man you are, as I've said already. 
Very good. Turn your child out of the house, chuck 
her into the streets, and I'll stand on the pavement 
and proclaim to the whole world what it is you've 
done. And if a policeman comes and locks me up — 
I won't go away until he does lock me up — he shall 


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lock your child up too. We'll pass the night togcAer 
in jail, and in the morning the magistrates shall 
learn how the parson — at night— cast his offspring 
into the streets to starve. For she is your child, and 
you know it, and if you have anything of humanity 
you'll extend to her a father's hand." 

While Mr Dodd had been delivering himself of his 
impassioned phrases, and Mr Mason had been listen- 
ing with an air which was partly amusement, partly 
contempt, and partly something else, the door had 
been quietly opened, and his wife had entered. 

" Geoffrey," she asked, " who is this person ? and 
who is this little girl?" 

Mr Dodd took upon himself to answer. 

" This little girl, madam, is my sister's child, and 
your husband's daughter." 

Mrs Mason eyed him for a second or two, very 
much as the child had eyed the rector — as if he were 
an object which needed careful study. Then she 
turned to her husband, inquiring of him, with a smile : 

"Is this true?" 

And he replied to her also, with a smile : 

" Untrue altogether." 

Whereupon Mr Dodd broke out again. 

"And I say it's solemn fact I am John Dodd, 
at one time scout to Geoffrey Mason of New College, 
Oxford. My sister was an assistant at a pastrycook's 
in the High — as pretty and as good a girl as ever 
lived, although I say it Geoffrey Mason made love 
to her." 

" That is incorrect 

"He says it's incorrect, but he'd say anything. 


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He took her on the river, to Abingdon, and to 
Eynsham ; he drove her to Blenheim, and all over 
the place. Why did he do these things if he were 
not making love to her ? Then he left her to her 
shame. She's dead, and I've supported his child 
ever since. And what I say is, if a proper sum of 
money is handed over 1*11 continue to support her ; 
I'll do all for her that a father should. But, if not, 
then I shall leave her where she is, to be supported 
by the individual whose duty it is to do it in the 
ordinary course of nature." 

All the time he had been speaking Mrs Mason 
bad kept her eyes fixed upon his face. Now she 
asked him, very quietly: 

'* Do I understand you to say, Mr Dodd, that, if 
money is not given you, you will leave this child here ? " 

" You do, madam ; you understand that down to 
the ground. And what I say I mean." 

Ethel signalled to her husband, who answered in 
similar fashion, yes. So she put her arm about the 
small girl's shoulder and drew her towards her. 

" Very well ; the child will remain. Good-evening, 
Mr Dodd." 

While the man stared at her, as if what she said 
was beyond his comprehension, the rector opened 
the door. 

" Yes, Mr Dodd ; good-evening. This Is the way 
out, if you please." 

Mr Dodd looked from one to the other, as if this 
new phase in the situation had taken him by surprise. 
It was with an obvious effort that he resumed his 
appearance of ease. 


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" So that's the style, is it ? All right That's the 
gratitude Vm to receive? Very good! You think 
you're besting me, but you're mistaken. I have the 
honour to wish you both good-night" 

Clapping his dilapidated hat upon his head he 
strode out of the room with an air which would have 
been more effective if he had been quite master of 
his legs. When he had gone Ethel Mason, kneeling 
on the floor, put her arm about the child and, taking 
off her old straw hat, brushed back her pretty hair 
with her hand and looked into her eyes. 

" What is your name, my dear ? " 

The child was a second or two before she answered ; 
she seemed searching the smiling blue eyes which 
were in front of her. 

" They call me Lizzie Dodd." 

*' Then, Lizzie, wouldn't you like to come upstairs 
with me?" 

The child nodded in her serious, old-fashioned 
way. Then she turned to Mr Mason. 

'* Good-night I think I almost wish that you had 
been my papa. I'm sure that I shall like you." 

The rector, laughing, stooped to kiss her. 

" It's a pretty compliment you pay me, little lady." 

When, presently, his wife returned alone she found 
her husband leaning against the mantelshelf, looking 
down into the blazing coals. His face brightened at 
sight of her. She went close to his side. 

" Geoffrey," she whispered, " she's such a dear little 
thing ; don't you know her father's name ? " 

He answered her a little more loudly, but still half 
beneath his breath. 


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" I haven't the faintest notion — I never had. The 
girl — ^the child's mother — was a pretty, simple, and, 
Tm afraid, rather foolish young woman, of whom the 
men on my staircase, knowing her to be Dodd's 
sister — Dodd was a decent enough fellow then — used 
to make rather a fuss. Tm sure that none of us 
meant her harm, or worked her any. If we were 
only light - hearted, careless youngsters, we were 
gentlemen. When it happened it came as a shock to 
us all. My own conviction is that she was as in- 
nocent and pure-minded as a child, and that he who 
led her into sin was to blame for it all. His identity 
has always been a mystery. I only know that it was 
none of us at New." He paused, then sighed, then 
said: "Ethel, how greatly God has blessed me In 
giving me a good wife." 

She met his troubled glances with radiant eyes. 

'' God has blessed me also in giving me a husband 
I can trust" 

They stayed there, silent, before the fire, hand in 


The town hall was crowded. Neither in the body 
of the hall nor in the galleries was there standing 
room. The chief residents of the town and neigh- 
bourhood packed the platform. Without, a large 
concourse of people awaited the arrival of the popular 
hero. Colonel Lingham was, at least for the time, 
in sole possession of everyone's thoughts ; his name 


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was on everyone's tongue. During the recent war 
his exploits had been the theme of universal admira- 
tion. Whoever lost, he always seemed to score; 
whoever blundered, he never did. It became known 
that he had purchased a property within a few miles 
of the town. So soon as the news was bruited 
abroad Ribchester resolved, with one accord, to bid 
him welcome by presenting him with a sword of 
honour. He had been staying for a few days at 
Ellerton Hall with General Sir Harry Salmon, with 
whom it had been arranged that he should drive 
oyer to Ribchester town hall on that Wednesday in 
Christmas week. 

Now the whole countryside was eagerly awaiting 
his arrival. 

The town hall was filled with the buzz of torses, 
with occasional variations in the way of popular and 
patriotic songs and cheers for this person and for 
that On the platform the rector and his wife were 
seated a little to the right of the chairman's table. 
The mayor and corporation were in the ^nte-room, 
waiting to receive their distinguished guest. Ex* 
pectation was on tiptoe. It was understood that Sir 
Harry Salmon's carriage had already entered the 
town borders. Soon an increasing roar of voices in 
the street outside made it plain that the colonel was 
rapidly nearing the town hall. Presently a tumult of 
shouts announced that, having reached his journey's 
end, he was descending from the carriage. In an- 
other minute the municipal authorities began to make 
their appearance, the mayor coming last. Sir Harry 
Salmon on his left, the guest of honour on his right. 


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The building shook with the din as the tall, slight, 
soldierly figure, clad in khaki uniform, instantly be- 
came conspicuous. Colonel Lingham stepped, for 
a moment, to the edge of the platform, scanning the 
shouting people, saluting gravely in acknowledgment 
of their welcome — a well-set, handsome, alert-looking 
man, still in the prime of life, his skin tanned to the 
colour of brick dust. There was something even in 
his personal appearance which caught the popular 
imagination, so that the more they saw of him the 
more they shouted. 

There was probably only one person in the build- 
ing who did not join in the applause, and that was 
the rector. He had clapped loudly enough until 
he actually saw him, but so soon as he saw him 
his hands fell, limp and nerveless, to his sides. 
The same cause — ^his magnetic personality — which 
had stirred the public adulation to the pitch of 
frenzy seemed to have stricken him with sudden 

Silent, motionless, he stood staring at the man in 
front of the platform as if he had been some dreadful 

And when the first burst of applause b^an to die 
away, and the colonel was free to take his seat at 
the chairman's side, it was only when his wife touched 
him on the arm that the rector seemed to wake 
out of the fit of preoccupation which had sudd^ly 
seized him. 

He sat doMm, with a sigh which only the general 
excitement prevented from becoming noticeaUe. In 
•ome queer occult fashion he. felt as if all these thingi 


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were happening in a dream ; as if he himself were 
the dreamer, all these people creatures of his dream, 
especially the man in khaki. 

Could that man be Colonel Lingham? Whom 
his wife had spoken of as " a soldier among soldiers, 
a hero among heroes ? " Of whose gallant deeds the 
papers had been telling through all those weary 
months? Whom the world delighted to honour? 

The thing could not be — it was impossible — there 
must be some mistake, some wild, grotesque mis- 
apprehension, He must be dreaming. He pressed 
the finger nails into the palms of his hands in his 
desire to rouse himself out of this curious hallucina- 
tion. But the awakening would not come. The 
people stayed where they were. The man in khaki, 
who sat beside the mayor, caressing his moustache 
with the fingers of his left hand, remained where he 
was. It all continued as before. 

However that might be, one thing was certain — 
this man was an impostor. He had no right even 
to the name under which he flaunted himself in the 
public gaze. His name was not Lingham — nothit^ 
like it By what right was he masquerading under 
$uch an alias? 

This fellow had been his — Geoffrey Mason's— con- 
temporary at the university — the black sheep of his 
time. A fellow of whom all sorts of wild, dis- 
reputable tales had been told, too many of which, 
unfortunately, had been shown to be true. Nothing 
had been known to his credit during the whole of 
his sojourn in the classic city. Not a decent creature 
would have anything to do with him long before 


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the end. His association with persons who had 
scant pretensions to respectability were among the 
scandals of the time. He vanished at last in a blaze 
of ignominy. Not waiting to be expelled, he fled, 
for sufficient reasons, before the actual edict could 
be promulgated. The clamour of his creditors was 
the sweetest recollection of his presence he had left 
behind him. 

And now he sat there in the seat of honour 
as Colonel LinghamI Posed as the idol of the 
populace I as one of his country's heroes I He who, 
if he had been capable of shame, should rather 
have hidden himself in some remote spot on the 
globe's surface where decent people never pene- 

But he — Geoflrey Mason — must be mistaking one 
man for another — ^he assured himself that it must 
be so. No one with such a record would have the 
effrontery to place himself in such a glare of publicity. 
Hundreds of persons must be still alive who would 
be able to unmask the impostiu^ in an instant. 
And yet, the more he looked — and how he did 
look — the more assured he grew. Beyond the 
slightest shadow of a doubt, this was the man. 
Although he had changed, he was still the same. 
His own acquaintance with him had been of the 
slightest kind — it could hardly have been otherwise. 
But he had been brought into immediate contact 
with him on at least one occasion — an occasion which 
had burnt itself upon his brain. His calmness, his 
presence of mind, his colossal insolence, the easy air 
with whkh be had carried off an almost impossible 


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situation. He had never seen anything like it before, 
or since, till now. 

By degrees he caught himself wondering what kind 
of person this really was. He must be conscious of 
the risk he was running ; must be aware that at' any 
moment scornful fingers might be pointed at him, 
hostile eyes look his way, exposure be staring him in 
the face. And yet he sat there as imperturbable, as 
indifferent, as much at his ease, as if he had a con- 
science void of offence, a past free from stain. The 
more the rector watched the more he became con- 
vinced that this was the natural creature, that this 
was no pose, but that here really was a man who 
was ready for any fate. Who, caring neither for 
death nor judgment, preferred the desperate hazards, 
being quick to take advantage of the one chance in 
the million, which would enable him to win the most 
hopeless of forlorn hopes. Probably he was most 
himself, most at home, when the odds against him 
were greatest 

Thus, in an odd fashion, he began to admire the 
man; to perceive how, unconsciously, his wife had 
been right, how he was indeed a soldier among 
soldiers — ^just the man to do what he had done. The 
typical steel-nerved dare-devil by whom, in truth, the 
structure of empire is builded. 

Presently the rector began to return to a clearer 
consciousness of his immediate surroundings ; to come 
back out of dream ; to realise with what halting, 
stammering words the mayor was speaking on behalf 
of Ribchester. Then the mayor sat down. His turn 
had come. This soldier of peace was to sound a 


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paean of praise in honour of the man of war. He 
stood up, the conviction strong upon him that he was 
in the most difficult situation in which he was ever 
likely to find himself. 

He had thought out, as was his wont, the lines on 
which his words should run. But it was out of the 
question that he should follow those lines now. He 
could not say of this man what he had meant to say 
of the sort of man he had imagined that Colonel 
Lingham was ; that would be to sink, from his point 
of view, to an even lower moral depth than his 

While he hesitated the man in khaki turned 
slightly in his chair and, for the first time, looked his 
way. Their eyes met What the onlookers under- 
stood it was impossible to say. The rector knew 
that he had been recognised ; that there had never 
been a second's doubt in the other's mind as to who 
he was; that there had been instant perception of 
the peril which threatened. But the other's face gave 
no sign that anything had happened to cause him 
the least disturbuce-^the keen, searching eyes neither 
flinched nor flickered. He remained completely at 
his ease. 

It was the rector who suffered. He went red, then 
white, his knees trembled, for once in his life he 
found himself speechless in front of a popular as- 
semblage. His silence continued. The waiting 
people stared, whispered to each other, b^an to 
wonder. He realised that he must say something, 
though what he said he himself did not know till he 
read the report in the columns of the local paper. 


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with the exception of one thing. At least orie 
qualjty, he declared, went to the making of a soldier 
—•that was, a capacity to remain unmoved in face of 
any stress of circumstance. That capacity, he had 
reason to know, the soldier before them possessed in 
a superlative degree. 

When he sat down the applause was faint. His 
speech had failed. It had not fulfilled the public 
expectation ; he had said none of those things which 
his audience had desired to hear. So soon as he had 
resumed his seat he said to his wife : 

" Come, let us go." 

" Go ! " She looked at him in amazement *' But 
the sword has not yet been presented." 

"I know — I don't want to wait — I'm not feeling 

Which was true enough, he was very far from 
feeling himself. Her tone became one of sympathy. 

" Geoffrey I I am so sorry. Come, let us get away 
at once, before the speeches recommence." 

There was a slight stir on the platform as the 
rector and his wife quitted their seats. In the ante- 
room she questioned him. 

" What is the matter with you, Geoffrey ? I thought 
when you were speaking you seemed strange. I 
have never heard you speak like that before. Was 
it the atmosphere of the hall. It seemed very close." 

" Something seems to have happened to my head." 
He put his hand up to his brow. "It will be all 
right soon. I want to get home and be quiet." He 
added to himself. " And think." 


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L^TE in the day the rector was still alone in hi^ 
study, thinking, when the servant came in with a 
card on which was engraved the name of the hero of 
the hour — "* Colonel Linghant" In one corner was 
scribbled in pencil the words : *" Don't refuse me an 
interview." Seemingly, the rector had no such in- 
tention ; without the slightest show of hesitation he 
requested the girl to show the visitor in. Then the 
colonel entered. 

For the space of a least a minute neither spoke. 
No greetings were exchanged. Each seemed to be 
endeavouring to sum the other up. 

Although the hour was well advanced the visitor 
was still in his khaki uniform. Throughout the day 
he had been feasted and ffud; the recipient of many 
hospitalities — ^he had had no time to change. As he 
observed him the rector could not but feel that in 
appearance he was an ideal soldier, a bom leader of 
men. He had even the candour to acknowledge 
that if he himself had to confront the enemy in a 
tight place he woukl like to have such a leaUler over 
him. Unhappily, certain qualities which might be of 
capital importcuice on the field of battle were much 
less desirable in ordinary daily life. 

The visitor spoke first 

^* 1 fancy that, this morning, you did not expect 
to see me." 

" I did not" 

The reply was curt to the verge of incivility. The 


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other laughed, a quiet, easy, careless laugh, which 
so reminded the rector of a time which was past that 
he actually winced. 

''Experience has taught me that there is some 
truth in the truism that it is the unexpected which 
generally happens. I fancy my experience has been 
wider than yours." 

" So I should imagine." 

"I see you haven't changed; you have only 

" I trust that you have." 

The other laughed again. 

"That is so like you that I seem to hear you speaking. 
How many years is that ago ? You were inclined to 
be clerical then ; you are much more of a cleric now." 

" I sincerely hope so." 

"I don't know that you have any cause to con- 
gratulate yourself. The clerical is not the highest 
type of character. It is not good for a man's health 
that he should consider himself to be a pattern for 
imitation. Give me a man who has made a fool of 
himself, and knows it, and is resolved to make a fool 
of himself on those particular lines no more. I'm 
that sort of man myself" 

"You did something more than make a fool of 
yourself, if my memory serves me right. Even now 
you are passing yourself off under a name which is 
not your own." 

The other regarded him in silence with those in- 
scrutable eyes of his. When he spoke his tone was 
flavoured with contempt 

^ Why, Mason, what an ass you . are ! " The rector 


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drew himself upright He was not used to being 
addr^sed in such a fashion. His visitor, noting the 
gesture, commented on it " You are ; although you 
may not relish the knowledge, it will do you good 
to have it In England men think nothing of a 
pseudonym. Over there " — he moved his hand vaguely 
through the air — "no one cares what a man calls 
himself so long as he's a man. It's the man that 
counts, not his name." 

" A pseudonym is one thing ; an alias assumed for 
purposes of disguise is another." 

" Purposes of disguise ? Bosh ! So that was what 
was troubling you this morning, was it? I wish you'd 
said so then. It would have given me a chance to 
speak my mind. When I found that all men wore 
speaking well of you I thought it might be worth 
our while that we should understand each other. But 
you're altogether a poorer creature than I supposed. 
I needn't have troubled." 

"What is there you wish me to understand? If 
you have any statement to make you had better 
make it." 

" Man, you speak as if you were a pedagogue and 
I some offending pupil. Who, and what, are you? 
You have a comfortable living, have always had a 
comfortable time, have never been troubled by an 
uncomfortable thought But, in spite of your uni- 
versity honours, you are as ignorant of all essential 
things as you easily could be. You stand there and 
presume to judge me because I came a mucker at 
Oxford— you I " 

"The word yoa u^ hardly describes what you did." 


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"It describes it exactly. I came a mucker — ^to 
grief; wholly, utterly — in a fortunate hour. Painting 
Oxford red was one of the best things I ever did." 

" I am sorry to hear you say so." 

" You would be, since you are made of one sort of 
clay and I of another. You were in a congenial 
atmosphere ; I was in one I hated. You are a book- 
man bom ; I loathed all books. They tried to drive 
me over a road along which nothing could have 
forced me. When they would persist I bolted — one 
delightful day. I went in search of an atmosphere 
where I could breathe. I found it in Africa, on the 
open veldt I'm a bom pioneer — a lineal descendant 
of those vaulting spirits who have made half the 
world England — and they tried to make of me a dry- 
as-dust scholar. It was absurd. On the veldt I was 
at home at last ; nothing came amiss to me there ; I 
had made my fortune before I knew it. Then came 
the war I" 

He paused to smooth the plume which was in the 
band of his slouch felt hat. 

'*I did not want it. I am not sure that it ever 
need have come at all. But, since it had come, there 
was only one thing possible — to fight for England. 
I am not of that breed of patriots who put their 
country in the dock and sit in judgment on her. I 
prefer to fight for her, right or wrong. She's my 
country. I believe she's the best in the world. It's 
a simple sort of faith, but I'm ready to stand up in 
support of it anywhere, at any cost, at any time. So I 
got together that troop of horse, and — ^well, you know 
the rest I've been fighting with them ever since. 


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" It's been a long job, but I had some knowledge 
of the men we were fighting, and I knew it would be. 
They're like us — they don't know when they're 
beaten. We've blundered, all the lot of us, but we've 
won through at last I'm told that the nations here 
have been laughing at us. Let them laugh. There's 
not one of them who could have taken on the job at 
all We've done what no nation has ever done before, 
and don't you mistake it In about a century, when 
real history comes to be written, they'll allow that, 
in ploughing that long row right to the end, we've 
shown just those qualities — at their best — ^which have 
made England of half the world. 

** Now the Americans, and the Germans, and the 
French, and the Dutch, will come and gobble up 
some of the plums which w^'ve snatched out of the 
fire, and I shouldn't be surprised if they keep on 
laughing all the while at the way in which we did it 

" Well, it's all over, and the ping of the Mauser is 
beginning to fade in my ears. And I've come back 
home to try to straighten up some of the things which 
I left crooked, and start all over again, if God wills, 
with a slate as clean as He'll allow me to make it 
Then I meet men like you. I'm sorry to have 
troubled you, Mr Mason." 

" Stop ! One moment, if you please." 

The visitor had made a movement towards the 
door. As the rector spoke he turned, swinging his 
slouch hat carelessly in his left hand. 

'* It is possible that I am mistaken. You see, the 
past is with me all the time, but it occurs to me that 
I may have misunderstood your attitude in the past" 


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*' If I were sent back to Oxford to*morrow I might 
paint it even redder than before— don't allow your- 
self to be mistaken on that point" 

" But I may have had an unfortunate incapacity to 
understand that although a man may behave at the 
university as you did he may still have the elements 
of greatness in him after all." 

" University 1 What's a university but school writ 
large ? No one thinks the worse of a boy for bunging 
an ink-pot at his master's head, or even two. The 
trouble with you, Mason, is that you're a prig ; I'm 
not that" 

" I hope I'm not a prig." 

" Twelve months in my troop would have done you 
good ; you'd have come out a man." 

" I'm beginning to suspect that it might have done 
me no harm." He moved towards the other. " If I 
have wronged you I beg your pardon. Will you 
give me your hand ? " 

" Why, certainly. I never refused to give my hand 
to a man yet, and I'm not going to begin to refuse 
with you just because you shone where I didn't 
I'm glad to come to grips with you." 

While the two men still were. hand in hand Mrs 
Mason came into the room. When she perceived the 
position they were in her face was lighted by a half- 
puzzled, half-quizzical smile. 

" Ethel," exclaimed her husband, " here is Colonel 

The tall, bronzed figure turned to her with an easy, 
quiet laugh. 

" Excuse me, Mrs Mason, but I'm the person who's 


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known as Colonel Lingham. As a matter of fact, 
my name is different altogether, and I'm one of 
Oxford's bad eggs, one of the very worst eggs that 
respectable old fowl ever addled And there is no 
good in me." 

She answered him in the same spirit of lightness. 

"I know better than that. There must be good 
in the man who has done what you have. He can 
ride and shoot straight if he can do nothing else — 
and those are both good things." 

'* If you really are of opinion that they are good 
things then my case is not wholly hopeless, because 
I can do a bit of both. But I was expelled from 

^ That was a pity ; but it does not seem to have 

*' Mrs Mason t In your husband's presence." 

'^I had rather you bad not been expelled from 
anywhere — it isn't to your credit But you have 
since shown that there is no reason whatever why 
you should be expelled from the company of true 

" I thank you, Mrs Mason, for the saying, for that, 
at least, is something." 

''It is a good deal. I am very pleased to meet 
you. Colonel Lingham, and I trust to be honoured by 
your friendship." 

The soldier inclined his head with a grave courtesy, 
which had in it something of pathos, for one half 
suspected that he desired to veil his eyes. 


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Before either of the trio spoke again the door 
was opened for the second time, and on the threshold 
stood Miss Lizzie Dodd. The shabby, ill-fitting 
garments in which she had been introduced to the 
Rectory had vanished. She was dressed instead in a 
little, simple, loose white frock, which served to bring 
her delicately-shaped head and features into striking 
relief. Her beauty was as remarkable as the signs 
which she showed of high breeding. She held her- 
self very erect yet very daintily. . There was about 
her a small air of unconscious self-possession which 
became her very well. 

" I beg your pardon," she said, in her clear, sweet 
voice, "if I am interrupting you, but do you know 
that I have only just remembered that this is Christ- 
mas Eve?" 

The child's words tvere as a discovery to all of 
them; they all at once remembered that it was 
Christmas Eve. A fact which—- at least for the 
moment — each of the three had overlooked. As 
they suddenly realised all that the announcement 
meant, especially to the speaker, they looked at the 
child with startled faces. 

On the soldier the child's appearance and her 
words had a truly singular effect He stared at her 
with a curious intensity, and then exclaimed : 

"Is it a ghost?" 

As he spoke the child hesitated for a moment, 
then, coming towards him with a bearing of easy 


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assurance, looked up at him with a happy smile 
which seemed to glorify her face. 

" I think you are my papa — I feel you are my papa. 
Isn't your name Roland Scott ? " 

As he looked down at her the man of steel was 
actually trembling. 

•* It— it was Roland Scott— once." 

•^Then if it were Roland Scott once, it must be 
noWi It is only women who change their names; 
men never do. I am your little daughter." 

" My daughter I You are my little daughter ? I 
6on*t understand." 

" But it is quite simple. They call me Lizzie Dodd, 
but my name is really Lizzie Scott. Mamma told 
me that it was. And they called her Mrs Dodd. But 
her name was really Mrs Roland Scott So, you see, 
if you are Roland Scott, I am your little daughter." 

" Mason, is this your doing ? What does it mean ? 
Is my wife here?" 

"Your wife? It is rather for me to ask you what 
it means. Was Lizzie Dodd your wife ? " 

" Was ! She is my wife. What do you suppose ? 
Where is she? Is she in the house? Tell me, man 
—quick! Don't play with mel If you only knew 
how her face followed me across the seas; how 
it has been with me through the years out there on 
the veldt ; how every pulse in my body is throbbing 
to get within sight of her, you wouldn't — ^you wouldn't 
play with me, man. Tell me — is she in the house ? " 

•*If this child's mother was your wifis, she is 

The soldier dropped into a chair as if he had 


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received a mortal wounds and sat staring about him 
as if he could not make out where he was. 

''Dead! dead! She can't be dead ; she^ — she w^ 
so young." 

" It is not only the old who die." 

The soldier closed his eyes, and for a space was 
still. Then he sighed. 

" So this was what it meant Dear God^ they say 
that no man goes unpunished ; and You have puh- 
bhed me. So my wife is dead." 

" If she was your wffe." 

'* If she was my wife? Man ! what do you mean? 
What kind of a scoundrel do you take me for? OT 
course she was my wife. Has anyone ever ventured 
to hint she wasn't?" 

" I don't think that anyone has even guessed that 
ishe was your wife until this moment. 

" Not even guessed it ! Mason ! What awful 
thing are you su^esting ? She was as innocent as 
a child." 

" So I have always thought and believed." 

"I married her six weeks before I left Oxford; 
then I had to go— in a hurry. I wrote to her as soon 
as I was o«t of England." 

Tte child interrupted : 

*' Mamma told me that she had had a letter from 
you once--<me dear letter. She burnt it because she 
was afraid that it might get into other people's hands 
and do you harm." 

" Burnt it because she Was afraid it might get into 
people's hands and do me harm? Good heavens! 
what thing have I been doing? She answered that 


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letter, I have her atiswec still ; it is about all I have 
of her. Theii, later, I wrote again. My letter was 
returned through the De^ Letter Office She was 
not to be found. I wrote again, and again, and again. 
Each time my letter was returned to me in the same 
way. Then I instructed certain persons to discover 
where she was. They discovered nothing. I told 
myself that when I came home Td soon find her. 
And now-— now she's dead." 

'' She died about three years ago." 

''If I hadn't stayed to fight Td have found her 
living, and she might be living now; but — ^well, I 
stayed to fight And they've given me a sword of 
honour because I did." 

He covered his face with his hands. The child 
went and laid her little hand upon his arm. 

''I was with mamma when she died, papa, and 
it was then she told me all about it She said 
that marrying her had ruined you." 

" Good heavens ! " 

** And that you had told her to let no one know 
that she was your wife." 

"I only meant it to apply to the moment" . 

"So she told me that I was never to let anyone 
know either, or that I was your little daughter. I 
was not to say that her name was Mrs Roland Scott, 
and my name Lizzie Scott, till I saw you, and then 
you'd understand." 

" I'd understand I I understand, too late, that she 
was an angel, and what a blackguard I really was." 

"She told me to tell you that she loved you very, 
very, very dearly, and she was sorry she couldn't 


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stop to see you ; but she was so, sq tired, and she'd 
be sure to see you in heaven." 

" In heaven ! Good God I God grant it ! Mason, 
I'm all the things you thought I was, and worse/' 

"On the contrary, I'm inclined to think that you 
are none of them. * God moves in a mysterious way ' ; 
and it begins to look as if — as He is wont to do- 
He has been using His own methods to make of 
you indeed a man." 

" Don't mock at me. Mason ; don't mock 1 " 

"I'm not mocking. I'm speaking what I believe 
to be the truth. Soon, I think, you'll see as I see." 

The child said, in &at queer, old-fashioned way 
in which some children do speak, her every word 
seeming to cut the man like the lash of a whip : 

" I see, papa, you are a soldier. I aim so glad. 
I do love soldiers. If I were a boy I'd be a soldier 
when I grew up; it must be splendid. There's a 
great soldier come to Ribchester to-day, his name 
is Colonel Lingham. He's wonderful. He's one 
of the greatest soldiers that ever lived, everybody 
says so. You're a soldier too; I expect you've 
heard of him." 

There was silence. The husband and wife looked 
at each other. And the soldier looked at the child. 
He laid his lean brown hand upon her head and 
softly smoothed her hair. 

" It's very like your mother's, lassie, it's very like 
your mother's. It's good to know that you're your 
mother's daughter, and mine." 

The child, with a child's persistence, stuck to her 


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'^'They say that Colonel Linghl^m's po-fecaly 

•* Do they? Who's they?" 

« Oh— everybody. He's a hero." 


"A hero? Why, a person who's never afraid of 

''I should have said an hour ago that yours 
wasn't a bad definition. Now I'm doubtful. I 
think, sweethelut, that a hero's a person who is 
afraid of one thing only — he's afraid of doing 

" Of course, we all ought to be afraid of doing 
wrong, oughtn't we? Are you a hero?" 

"No, sweetheart, I'm not; I never was afraid 
of doing wrong." 

" Weren't you ? That is odd. Do you know, I'm 
afraid of doing wrong. I believe mamma was too." 


" Papa, have you ever seen Colonel Lingham ? " 

" Mason, tell her ! I can't" 

Mrs Mason knelt besi(fo the child as she stood 
at her father's knee and put her arm about her as 
she had done the night before. 

'' Lizzie, papa is Colonel Lingham." 

"Papa is Colonel Lingham? How can that be? 
Papa is Roland Scott." 

"Yes; papa is Colonel Lingham and Roland 
Scott Men sometimes do change their names, 
and once papa changed his. So, you see, you 
have two papas, yet e^ch of tiiem is the same papa." 

" That will be rather nice. When I want him to 


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be a soldier he'll be Colonel Lingham, and when I 
want him to be papa he'll be Roland Scott. How 
funny! But" — a sudden thought seemed to strike 
her and make her hesitate-* "Colonel Lingham is 
a hero." 

Ethel Mason answered : ** Yes ; he is a hero, 
because now he's afraid of doing wrong." 

"Mrs Mason," cried the soldier, "you also are 
an angel I Do all the good women try their best 
to let the men down easy?" 

She looked at him with a queer smile. 

" I think they do." 


There was a tap at the door. A servant entered, 
with rather a doubtful visage. 

" If you please, sir, there's that Mr Dodd wishes 
to see you again, and I'm afraid he's be^ drinking." 

The soldier, springing up from his chair, held 
himself erect 

« Mr Dodd I What Dodd is that ? " 

The rector rubbed his chin. 

" Show Mr Dodd in here." 

Mr Dodd was shown 10. It needed but a momen- 
tary glance to perceive that the servant's iear was 
justified — he had been drinking. So deeply th^t, for 
a moment or two» he was s^parently oblivipus of 
the fact that the rector was not the only perspn 
present in the room. 

"Mr Mason," he began, making an ineffectual 



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effort to keep himself steady on his legs, '* Vm sorry 
to intrude — ^it's not my habit to intrude — I'm not 
an intrusive kind of man — but at the same time 
you must permit me to say " 

The soldier permitted him to say no more. Strid- 
ing forward, he took him by both shoulders in a grip 
of steel. 

" Jack Dodd I " he exclaimed. " Still drunk I " 

Either the voice, or the accusation, or the grip, 
had the effect of sobering Mr Dodd to an astonishing 
degree. He looked up at the man who held him, 
first with dim, bewildered eyes, then with a stare 
of blank amazement. 

"Mr Scott!" he gasped. "Good lor* a'mighty! 
I thought you were dead and buried." 

"I daresay you did; but Tm not. So my wife 
u dead?" 

" Your wife ? What wife ? " 

" Your sister, man ! " 

"My sister I" 

" Has drink so soddened your brain that you've 
actually forgotten that your sister was my wife!" 

"My sister your wife? It's the first I've heard 
of it" 

" Why, you tippling fool, didn't I entrust you with 
a thousand pounds to give to her? " 

"You gave me the money, but you didn't tell 
me she was your wife, she didn't tell me— nobody 
told me. How was I to guess that the likes of you 
would marry the likes of her?" 

"You — you beauty! But you gave htr the 


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"Well, in — in a manner of speaking — I — I laid 
it out for her." 

"Didn't you give it her into her own hands?" 

" In — in time I did — most of it" 

"You unspeakable creature." The soldier hurled 
Mr Dodd across the room with so much force 
that, broi^ht in sudden violent contact with the 
wall, he collapsed in a helpless heap on to the flo<nr. 
" What an unspeakable mess IVe made of things I 
Mason, when the time came that I had to leave 
Oxford rd managed to get hold of eleven hundred 
pounds ; by rights it was the property of my creditors, 
but that didn't trouble me then. I rushed round to 
my wife. She wasn't in. I couldn't wait I was in 
pressing haste. I handed a thousand pounds to this 
— this gentleman, telling him to give it to his sist^ 
the moment she returned, thinking that he would 
understand, and that, if he didn't, she would explain. 
And it seems that he never gave it to her I " 

There came a murmur from the figure on &e floor. 

"Paid for everything, I did; she could'n't have 
lived without me." 

"Couldn't have lived without you I My wife!" 

The rector spoke. 

"At least, Mr Dodd, when, last ni^t, you were 
making that accusation you were aware at the time 
that it was a false one ; that you had not a vestige 
of foundation for the charges you were bringing." 

"In a manner of speaking, as it were. You're 
all of you very hard upon a fellow, very hard. It 
was like this. I was stony— dead stony. I saw 
you in the street, so I thought there might be a 


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chance of getting a pound or two. Anyone else 
would have done the same. You didn't want the 
child to starve." 

"Didn't want the child to starve?" This was 
the soldier. " Look here, Jack Dodd, pick yourself 
up from the floor and take yourself out into the 
hall, and wait there until I come. You and I shall 
go away together, and I'll take you somewhere 
where we can have the sort of talk that brothers- 
in-law ought to have." 

When, in obedience to these instructions, Mr Dodd 
had retired the soldier lifted the child up into his 
arms as if she had been a baby. 

'^So, sweetheart, you've been living with that 
gentleman all this time. Has he been kind to 

"Oh yes; he's been kind^— at least, I think he's 
meant to be kind. Do you know, it seems strange, 
but I believe he's afraid of me." 

" He's had the grace to be that ? " 

"And he has such queer ideas about Christmas." 

"How queer?" 

" He says at Christmas you ought to be jolly." 

" That's true enough." 

"Yes; but he has such queer ideas about being 
jolly. He thinks you're never jolly unless you're 
tipsy, so he keeps Christmas all the year round. 
But now we shall have a different Christmas, sha'n't 
we, papa?" 

" I hope so." 

" I know we shalL See what a beautiful Christmas 
present I've had already." 


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"What's that?" 

"Why, you! Don't you sec; haven't I had you? 
O papa, if you only knew how very, very much 
I've wanted you, you'd understand." 

"I think, sweetheart, that I do understand. I've 
had a Christmas present too." 

" Yes, I know ; you've had me." 

The child put her arms about the soldier's neck 
and kissed him on the lips. 


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Chapter I 


T CONSIDER that the poverty which afflicts this 
^ great country is due to the fact that wealth is in 
the wrong hands, and when I say the poverty I 
mean the poverty which afflicts me. For instance, if 
Jones's, Brown's, and Robinson's wealth were in my 
hands then I should cease to be poor. And there- 
fore I ask, and I want an answer to my inquiry: 
Why don't I cease to be poor? 

Several of us joined ourselves together into an 
association whose avowed purpose was to inquire 
into the present working of the so-called economic 
laws. Our motto was "Social Progress," by which, 
of course, we meant our progress. There was not one 
of the members who could lend me half-a-crown, so 
I knew that we were in earnest. Then Tom Ferguson 
had a fortune left him by an uncle in Australia, and 
he resigned his membership of the association ; and 
George Somers sold a book or two, and he resigned ; 
and Phil Moray pulled off a pot on the Liverpool 
Cup, and went in for bookmaking on a large scale, 
and he resigned ; and similar things happened to all 
the rest of them, and they all resigned ; and nothing 
happened to me, so I hung on, and I still am hanging 



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oa I am the only member left of that association. 
Our motto, " Social Progress," is unchanged. I am 
pursuing with, I may truthfully affirm^ undiminished 
ardour my inquiry into the present working of the 
so-called economic laws. And what I want to know 
is this : 

I am an artist by profession, and because I paint 
shocking bad pictures, is that any reason why I 
should be unable to sell them ? That is one thing I 
want to know. The other day I took nine or ten of 
my works to a pawnbroker, and the fellow behind the 
counter, after he had asked which was the right way 
up, and which was the back, and which was the front, 
suggested that, in his opinion, a recourse on my part 
to house-painting, door-staining, whitewashing, and 
that sort of thing, might bring about a change in my 
prospects for the better. The fellow not only insulted 
me, and meant to insult me, but he also meant to 
trample on a fellow-creature. He attempted nothing 
short of a violation of the liberty of the subject. I 
have no taste for house-painting — I have still less 
for door-staining — and as for whitewashing, the idea 
is simply absurd. He added, that pawnbroker's 
assistant, that if I scraped the paint off he might 
possibly see his way to lend me twopence upon each 
canvas. I need scarcely observe that I declined his 
offer. I brought the pictures back with me, and 
there they are, at this moment of writing, all in a 
row in front of me. And I wonder who is going to 
bay them? — that is another thing I should like to 

It might be suspected, by those who do not know 


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me, that I am intending a joke by a repetition of my 
former inquiry : Why, because I paint bad pictures, 
should I be unable to sell them ? I consider that a 
most rational question to ask. And if you consider 
it for a moment you will perceive where the point 
which I am aiming at comes in. 

Sir John Everett Millais sold his pictures. You 
say that's because he painted good pictures. I say 
that's just the reason why he shouldn't sell his pic- 
tures. You dont suppose that I paint bad pictures 
because I want to paint bad pictures ? You are very 
much mistaken if you do. Whenever I look at that 
row of pictures which is in front of me, and at the 
Other works of art which litter my establishment, 
I almost have an attack of jaundice. It is quite 
impossible that I should not know whereabouts in 
art they rank. I am not prepared to admit that 
they are as bad as everybody ssys they are, else I 
were less, or more, than human. But that pawn- 
broker's assistant is not by any means the only 
person who has given me his unbiassed opinion of 
their merits. I was once engaged to the dearest 
girl in the world. I believe she loved me, until I 
took her, upon one occasion, to my studio to show 
her the products of my brain and eye and hand* 
The next day she returned my letters. I have never 
spoken to her since ; she has certainly never spoken 
to me. There was no necessity for her to give any 
reasons. I understood. I have lost heaps of friends 
by taking them to see my studio. They said that 
they did not mind me so much, but they could not 
endure even the remote possibility of being required 


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to spend, by way of a sacrifice on friendship's sacred 
altar, another quarter of an hour in that diamber 
of horrors. 

And yet I say, without fear of contradiction, that 
Sir John Everett Millais was not fonder of painting 
than I am. He did not sacrifice, for the love of 
painting, what I have sacrificed, and what I still 
am sacrificing day by day. And he could paint 
I wish I could : I would ask no more. I am almost 
positive that if I could paint I should be content 
with painting without expecting to sell the things 
I painted. It seems to me that the gift of painting 
IS, and ought to be, enough for any man. What is 
main that he should ask for more? 

No man can realise, except from experience — ^and 
then may angels and ministers of grace defend him, 
he will need them all!— what it means to have a 
painter's passion without a painter's power. We 
have all read about men languishing for an unattain- 
able woman, and of their lives being withered and 
wasted by unrequited passion. I believe that we 
only read about these men. But, if you know 
where to look for them, you can meet any day 
with men, and plenty of them, whose lives have 
been withered and wasted by an unrequited passion 
for art I am not speaking of unrecognised and 
unrewarded geniuses — Michael Angelos — who go 
down to the grave unbought and unhung. I do 
not believe in them much more then I believe in 
the men in the love tales. I am speaking of the 
men who cannot paint, who never will paint, but 
who do paint, and who will go on painting to the 


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day they die. I am speaking, in fact, of men 
like me. 

A well-known dramatist, who is dead now, and 
who was a friend of mine till I took him to my 
studio, once told me a story of a man who wanted 
to be a playwright — a dramatist, like the dramatist 
who told the tale. He was a very funny man, that 
dramatist, and he told a story very well. That par- 
ticular story to which I am alluding — I sha'n't forget 
how I roared with laughter as he told it ; you won't 
laugh when I tell it ; nobody ever does laugh when 
I tell a story except when it approaches the pathetic 
— ^was about a man who was always writing plays. 
He began writing plays when he was quite a child. 
No one could keep him from play writing, not even 
his fath^, or his mother, or anyone. As a boy he 
would lie awake at night conceiving plots. When he 
fell asleep he would dream of them for a change. 
Long before he was out of his teens he had, over 
and over again, submitted plays to every manager in 
London. He had a system of his own about the 
thing. He would start a play at the St James', then 
send it right along the Strand until it reached the 
end of the line. Then he would send it north, then 
south, of the line. Then to such theatres as the 
Britannia and the Surrey. Then he would send it 
to the actors, giving a critic now and then a chance. 
Then he would send it to the dramatists whose plays 
were acted, and suggest collaboration. He had even 
been known to submit his plays to amateurs. It was 
his ruling passion. That dramatist declared — in his 
very funniest way — that if you had torn that young 


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man limb from limb each separate limb would have 
started off then and there, upon its own account, to 
write a play. 

One would suppose that a young man who was so 
very much in earnest, who had so set his heart on 
doing a certain thing, would at least have some rudi- 
mentary notions of how the thing ought to be done. 
But that was where all the point of the joke came in. 
You may not see it, but I know I did when I was 
told the story. That dramatist assured me that the 
things which the young man produced were as much 
like plays as some people's attempts in the artistic 
line — ^here he looked very straight at me, and I have 
always suspected him of some latent meaning — are 
like pictures. The young man, in other words, had 
as much capacity for writing an actable play as he 
had for swallowing the moon. One could not but 
think that that young man — I was told that he was 
an honest, conscientious, and, in his way, a shrewd 
little fellow — ^would have come in course of time to 
suspect the true state of the case himself; and I was 
informed by the narrator that there was reason to be- 
lieve that this was so. That there were grounds for 
the conviction that he not only suspected, but that he 
knew, not only that he was not able to write a decent 
actable play, but that he never would be able to 
write an actable play, not though he lived to the age 
of Methuselah. But — and here was where another 
point of the joke came in ; probably you won't be 
able to see it any clearer than you saw the other; 
I saw it, though, with most uncommon clearness — 
long after that knowledge was borne in upon him he 


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continued to produce plays, knowing all the time 
that they were worthless plays, at an average rate of 
one a month. His MSS. were battering at the play- 
house doors to the hour of his death. His last words 
were an instruction to forward his latest three-act 
farce to Drury Lane. 

How I did laugh at that story ! It must have been 
the funny way in which that funny fellow told it, 
because when I had got away from him and thought 
ft over it seemed to me that it was a sort of story at 
which it would have been quite appropriate to cry. 
The idea of a man devoting his whole life to the 
attainment of an object for which he was naturally 
altogether unfitted does not seem to me to be in 
itself a funny idea. To me there is something about 
it which smacks of a wasted life. There must have 
been something which that fellow was able to do. 
As that pawnbroker's assistant suggested to me, he 
might have been a dab at whitewashing. Then why 
didn't he whitewash ? I don't know. 

That there is a lot of fellows about like that 
fellow in the story I have no doubt I am more 
than half persuaded that the man who told it meant 
that I was just such another myself And I am not 
by any means certain that he was wrong. I am sure 
that, if you saw me sometimes starting a picture, you 
would think that something was going to happen. 
I put my whole soul into my work. I doubt if any 
one could work more carefully. I paint and erase, 
and repaint and re-erase. Why, I have spent weeks 
and weeks oh less than a single inch of canvas! 
Talk about Meisonnier I I doubt if Meisonnier was 


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an)rthing like as conscientious as I am sometimes. 
Do not run away with the impression that it is just 
because I take too much care that I don't succeed. 
I have tried all sorts of methods. I have tried the 
Impressionist method — two splashes, a smudge, and 
a smear, and that kind of thing. I don't know what 
other men make of it ; I never could make anything 
at all — not a little bit And when anyone was 
looking at an Impressionist picture of mine, and 
observed that it might have been better if I had 
taken more trouble with it^ I felt that in what he 
said there was perhaps a grain of truth. And some- 
how I did not see how a man could conscientiously 
expect to paint a picture, say nine feet by six, in 
in less than twenty minutes. To listen to some men 
you would think that, as regards the amount of wall 
space they can cover, whitewashers aren't in it. 

So, when I gave up Impressionist methods, I took 
to taking pains. That seems to be about all I have 
taken to as yet. I once painted a picture of an 
interior; I called it "The Cottager's Hearthstone," 
I spent ne^y nine months upon that hearthstone. 
One day, after I had given the thing the finishing 
touches, I showed it to a friend. 

** What do you call it ? ". he asked. 

I told him : " The Cottag^-'s Hearthstone." 


He looked dubious. I have often seen people look 
that way when they have been looking at pictures 
of mine. 

" Where's the hearthstone ? " 

I could have shown him where it was if I had had 


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heart enough to do it When a man has made a 
hearthstone the feature of his picture, and has spent 
nine months on it in order to make it as unmistak- 
able as possible, to be asked to point out the part 
of the picture in which it is supposed to be, that 
is a discouraging request from the point of view of 
the earnest struggler in the toils of art 

Chapter II 


Do not run away with the impression that I have 
never received the least encouragement or that I 
have never sold a picture. I have. I was once in 
Cornwall, before the Newl)m School was ever dreamt 
of— -and that is not so very long ago. I was staying 
at a little place between St Ives and Gurnard's 
Head, a sort of place at which people did sometimes 
go and stay. When I had been there about six 
months there came to the same place a man and 
a woman. He was a pretty middle-aged man and 
•he was a pretty middle-aged young woman. And 
that's the truth, although they were on their honey- 
moon. They both of them rather took to me. I 
think that was because there was nothing else to 
take to. Poor creatures, they must have been 
fearfully bored. It was a fine country, but it was 
uncommonly bad weather, and, at their time of 
life, they liked to keep out of the rain. I fancy 
they had been engaged somewhere in the neighbour- 
hood of thirty years. It seemed hard that they 


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should be rained on after all. But life is funny — 
if you like to laugh, as I do, when the tears are in 
your eyes. 

They used to ask me questions about my work ; 
and they looked at my pictures ; and, so far as my 
experience goes, they made themselves peculiarly 
s^eeable. And one day — it was th^ day before 
they went — Crockett came to me and said — his 
name was Crockett, 

"Do you want to sell any of your pictures, Mr 

My name's Keddie. I assure you that when he 
asked that question a lump came into my throat; 
but I passed it off. 

"Well, Mr Crockett, I'm not an amateur. I'm 
a professional artist, you see." 

" Oh I " He looked at me in what seemed rather 
a curious manner. "You are a professional artist 
I see. Now what is the price you ask for your 
pictures ? " 

I smiled a superior smile. 

" It depends. I do not price all my canvases 
alike. To which of my works were you particularly 
referring ? " 

I used for a painting-room a loft which was over 
a stable. It was roomy, if the light was not some- 
times all that might have been desired. But I never 
have been able to make a point of a good north 
light; circumstances have been against me. When 
I asked Crockett to point out the work to which 
he was particularly referring there came over him, 
as he glanced at the line of canvases which was 


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hung on the wall, an unmistakable shudder. The 
door was wide open — I had to have it open for the 
sake of the light, and, I fancy, it was a trifle chilly. 
He hesitated. Then, with what seemed a trembling 
hand, he pointed to a canvas which hung in the 
darkness near the end of the line. How he could 
make it out from where we stood was more than 
I could understand. I couldn't. 

" That," I observed, " is not quite finished." 

It was a fine work, though rather a study than 
a picture. I called it "A Pitch-Black Night at 
Sea.'' Even regarded as a mere study in Impres- 
sionism, it was a bit unfinished* In the state ^t 
was I should not have quite cared to see it hang- 
ing in a gallery with my signature attached. He 
gave what seemed to me a sigh of relief when I 
remarked that it still needed some finishing touches. 

"I'm sorry for that The — ^the one next to it — 
the one beyond, I mean." 

" I fancy, Mr Crockett, that where you stand the 
light is bad. The canvas beyond is blank." 

** So it is: the lig^t is puzzling. It's the canvas 
this side I meant" 

That canvas was the failure of my life. I called 
it "A Fishy Harvest" It was a fishy picture — 
uncommonly. I had intended it to represent a 
hea^p of pilchards. They were as much like pilchards 
as they were like crocodiles. I never could paint fish. 

" That canvas," I remarked a little stiffly, " is not 
for sale." 

I imagine that he perceived that there was some- 
thing in my voicd because he left off choosing. 


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" Now which canvas, in confidence, Mr Keddie, 
would you particularly recommend to my notice?" 

"The question, Mr Crockett, is a somewhat in- 
vidious one. I had supposed, from what you said, 
that you had already fixed upon a work in your 
mind's eye. However, here is a work which, re- 
garded — ^what shall I say ? — as a tour de force^ is, I 
think, not unworthy serious attention. I may be 
wrong, but, speaking as an artist, such is frankly 
my opinion." 

I pointed to a picture which I had finished the day 
before. I called it "A Seasoned Craft." It was a 
study of an old fisherman's face. The picture was all 
face. Rembrandt all over. Rembrandt treated in a 
novel — that is, in an original^^that is, in my way. 

Mr Crockett looked at it, it struck me, a little 

"A very remarkable work, Mr Keddie, very- 
very remarkable." The more he looked the more 
dubious he seemed to grow. " Now what — what, for 
instance, is the subject? " 

" The subject, Mr Crockett, speaks for itself." 

"It — it certainly does. Just so. Very — very 
remarkable." I never saw a man look more fuddled. 
" What are you asking for the work, Mr Keddie? " 

I rattled my keys. I did not want to ask too 
much ; at the same time I emphatically did not want 
to ask too little. The mischief was that, until that 
moment, I never had been asked what I wanted for 
one of my pictures. 

"What are you prepared to offer, Mr Crockett ? " 

" Would twenty poimds be near the figure ? " 


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Twenty pounds ! Geewhilikins { 

"Well " 

I don't know what he thought I was going to say, 
because, while I was wondering what to say, he 
sprung another fiver. 

" Would twenty-five be nearer the mark ? I doubt 
if my position would justify me in offering more than 
twenty-five. You know I am not a rich man, 
Mr Keddie/' 

" Nor am I a mercenary man, Mr Crockett It is 
yours for twenty-five." 

It was. He handed me the five fivers there and 
then, and he went off with the canvas under his arm. 
It was, in simple truth, the happiest itioment of my 
life. Such was my extreme felicity that, in the 
happy excitement of the moment, I omitted the 
common courtesy of seeing him safe off the premises. 
The ladder which led from my painting-room was 
a steep one. A slight drizzle was falling, the rungs 
were slippery; suddenly there was the sound of a 
stumble. Mr Crockett had come to grief. Before, 
however, I reached the door he was on his feet again. 
The picture was in his hand. 

"Anything wrong?" I asked. 

" Thanks, no ; I merely stumbled slightly." 

"Picture hurt?" 

« No, not— not at all." 

He hurried off, with a very natural desire to get 
out of the rain. As for me, I danced a breakdown 
round the loft I reckoned up my prospects after 
the manner of the gentlemen who draw up the 
prospectuses of hew companies. Twenty-five pounds 


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for a picture. Even if I only sold one picture a 
month— and the demand might reasonably be ex- 
pected to be greater — that would be three hundred 
pounds a year. I felt, with Dr Pangloss, that one 
could live on three hundred pounds a year. I saw 
quite plainly that I had turned the comer — until 
I went to wash my hands for dinner. 

My bedroom adjoined that which was occupied 
by Mr and Mrs Crockett. It was a very small room. 
It had, probably, originally been intended for a 
dressing-room. The two rooms were connected by a 
door, which, of course, was always kept hermetically 
sealed — that is, locked — but on that particular 
occasion a maid, probably, had passed through that 
door from room to room, and had forgotten to close 
it Anyhow, when I reached my room the Crocketts 
were in their room, and this is the conversation 
which floated towards me through the open 

It was a moment or two before 1 realised who it 
was speaking. It was another moment or two before 
I realised that the door was open and that it was 
through the open door that the voices came. By 
that time I was too prostrated to be able to draw 
attention to the fact, and I was still less capable of 
owning that I was playing^ the part of eavesdropper. 
I had to listen whether I wanted to or not, that's the 

" What was the subject ? " 

" I assure you, my dear, that I have not the faintest 

" But didn't you ask him ? " 


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<a did. He said it spoke for itself. If it did» it 
spoke to a man who was deaf." 

" However came you to put both your feet through 

''As I was coming down the ladder I had the 
wretched thing under my arm. It slipped. In trying 
to save it I lost my footing. I jumped, as it were, 
with both my feet right on to it As it had fallen on 
its back, both my feet went through. 

" Didn't he see what you had done ? " 

" Fortunately he did not, or he might have insisted 
upon my taking another in its place. He asked me 
if the picture were hurt. I said no. In saying so I 
hold that I was justified. Nothing could hurt such a 
picture as that was — nothing. Even a hole in it 
large enough to thrust one's head and shoulders 

" And you gave him five and twenty pounds for it ? " 

" I did. My dear, our honeymoon has been sancti- 
fied by an act of kindness. When the landlord told 
me that this unfortunate man's payments were so 
much in arrear, and that yet he had not the heart 
to turn him out, I understood exactly what it was he 
meant The poor creature is not actually insane ; in 
some respects he is as sane as I am. But in one 
direction, like Mr Dick in * David Copperfield,' he is 
distinctly wanting. Yet, in his fatuous simplicity, he 
is a lovable creature. The thought of him in his 
dirty, ill-lighted, ill-ventilated loft, disfiguring can- 
vases, for which he can ill afford to pay, with what 
he calls his paintings, touched me to the heart. I 
could not proffer him a loan, and so " 


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I waited to hear no more ; I stole out of the room 
on tiptoe. I went back to my painting-room, and 
I have a sort of dim impression that I cried. It was 
so funny. 

Chapter III 


That was the only picture I ever sold, but that was 
not the only encouragement IVe received. One day 
there came to my studio at Walham Green — I always 
called it" Fulham " in my letters — a man who looked 
to me as if he were something a little superior in 
the old-clothes line. He introduced himself as he 
came in. 

" Tm Gibbs," he said. 

"Oh," I remarked; then I waited. I rather ex- 
pected that he was going to ask me if I had any- 
thing to dispose of in the way of old bottles or 
kitchen stuff. He stood in the middle of the room 
looking about him at the works of art. I flatter 
myself that they made a pretty tolerable show. 
They were numerous enough at anyrate. 

He had, I fancy, an unconscious habit of talking 
to himself out loud, because, all at once, he began 
to make very audible remarks. 

" He has got it bad. Never saw anybody who had 
it worse. Why they don't shut some of 'em up I 
can't think. The chap must buy his colours from 
the oil shops by the ton. Never saw anything like 
them. Never." Then he turned to me and said, as 


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tf he were under the impression that he was for the 
first time making an audible remark : " Til give you 
half price for the lot of 'em." 

He waved his arms with a comprehensive gesture 
which took in all my works of art I was a little 
startled. If he were in earnest then he was certainly 
a buyer on a wholesale scale. 

" Half price ? What do you mean ? " 

" Mean ? Why, what I say. Til take the lot, and 
ni give you half the price of the canvases — ^that's 
what I mean. Old canvases always do come handy 
to me ; they're pretty well as good as new ones." 

It dawned upon me what the unwashed scoundrel 
meant He was actually offering to purchase the 
wh(de of my unrivalled collection — the fruits of a 
life of earnest labour!— and to pay for them half the 
price which I had originally paid for the canvases 
when unpainted on. The enormity of the offer 
staggered me. But he continued, apparently wholly 
unconscious that he had given the slightest cause 
for offence : 

" And I tell you what, TU give you r^ular em- 
ployment — eighteenpence an hour and your beer." 

By degrees I began to get my breath. 

^' I am afraid I do not understand you, sir. May 
I ask to whom I have the pleasure of speaking? " 


"Indeed, sir. WhatGibbs?" 

"The Gibbs— what has the factory." 

" Factory ? What factory ? " 

He appeared to be genuinely surprised. 

" Well, I've seen plenty of 'em who laid it on with 


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a trowel, but I never saw one of them who'd never 
heard of the factory. Why, my lad, at my shop I 
turn out pictures by the acre. I supply all the 
markets of the wprld. You come and do my skies 
and I'll give you regular work-— eighteenpence an 
hour and your beer. It's wet and dry with me. 
The chap who's been doing my skies has got him- 
sfelf locked up again, and I've had enough of him, 
a-nd that's the fact You ain't, perhaps, quite up to 
our style, but you'll soon get into that And, what's 
more, I'll give you half price for all the canvases 
you've got They'll want a lot of scraping, some 
of them will, but I don't mind." 

I gathered, ultimately, that the fellow was the 
proprietor of a notorious "picture factory" — a place 
in which they put blank canvases on shelves running 
round the walls. Then a man comes along and 
paints in the sky on canvas No. i, then passes on 
and paints in the sky on canvas No. 2, and so on 
all round the room. Then another man comes and 
paints in a sandy shore; then another, and paints 
in a tree ; then another, and paints in the sea ; then 
another, and paints in a ship upon the sea. Then 
those pictures, which are as like each other as two 
pins, are, by a beautiful division of labour, finished, 
so to speak, in less time than no time. And they 
call the first, "On a Smiling Shore"; the second, 
"Where the Wavelets kiss the Sands"; the third, 
"The Ship that Sailed." They give each picture 
a different title. I believe they keep a man whose 
sole business it is to find the titles. He must be 
the most ingenious, not to say imaginative, man in 


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2i6 GARNEREt) 

the place. The whole affair is a beautiful exposi- 
tion of the applicability to commercial purposes of 
the fine arts. 

Mr Gibbs wanted me to be the man to set ''the 
pot a-biling." He wanted me to "do the skies." 
At eighteenpence an hour and my beer ! He seemed 
unable to realise that I was in earnest when I de- 
clined his offer. He seemed to think that I was 
bidding for a rise, so he actually increased his 
terms a penny an hour. Nineteenpence an hour I 
was to have, and my beer. That was the most 
genuine encouragement I ever received. When I 
still persisted in declining he showed a tendency 
to become abusive — insolent, from my point of 
view, he had been all through. But I held out to 
the end. I heard him swear at me when he got 
outside the door. 

No, I may not be able to paint. I am beginning 
to more than suspect I can't. I am even beginning 
to suspect that, strive and struggle as I may, I 
never shall paint well. But though that is so I 
will not, knowingly, number myself among the 
prostitutes. I will aim high, though all my arrows 
may miss the mark. Not even for the guerdon of 
nineteenpence an hour and my beer will I make 
it my business to aim low. I love my art I will 
not seek to degrade her ; not though, throughout the 
years, to the end of my days, she lets me woo in vain. 

And therefore I say, why, because my pictures 
happen to be bad, should I be unable to sell them ? 
If you reflect you will perceive that the answer is 
not so obvious as might at first appear. 


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Chapter I 


"*T^HIS visit, Miss Taunton, is not merely a visit 
of courtesy, though in that respect I trust it 
is not wanting," and Mr Milhurst bowed over the 
top of his high shirt collar, "but it is made princi- 
pally — I think I may say chiefly — with a view of 
conferring with you on a peculiarly delicate subject" 

Miss Taunton placed the last number of Fart 
Clavigera on the little table which stood by the 
side of her chair. 

'^ I thought we were agreed, you and I, that there 
are no such things as delicate subjects. The old 
delusion that there are subjects which are taboo, 
as between a man and a woman, is altogether 

Mr Milhurst was standing before the empty 
fireplace. He drew his long legs up and down 

" Eh — ^you— quite so I I don't think I quite follow 

Miss Taunton smiled. 

" What is the delicate subject?" 

'' The subject is this. Perhaps you will allow me 
to preface it." Miss Taunton nodded. "Tradition, 


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I may say custom, has sanctioned the interference 
of parents with the marriages of their children." 

Miss Taunton smiled and nodded again. 

" Time has its revenges. And not seldom revenge 
takes the form of topsy^turvydom— I may say of 
reversing the process. Therefore I suggest the 
proposition: Why, in the course of the whirligig 
of time, should not children interfere in the marriages 
of their parents ? " 

" I am afraid, Mr Milhurst, that now it is I who 
do not follow you." 

"You have a father." Miss Taunton signified 
her acquiescence — she undoubtedly had. "He is 
a man of advanced, I may say of ripened, years. 
He has a daughter." The lady merely smiled. 
Perhaps she deemed the fiEict sufficiently obvious. 
" You are his daughter. As such I submit that you 
are entitled to take an interest in his proceedings — 
I may say in his career. Now, Miss Taunton, I 
have a mother, her years are fifty-five. I am her 
son. I am not a child. I assert that as such I am 
justified in considering, in a certain sense, her actions 
mine. Now, Miss Taunton, has it ever occurred 
to you that your father displays what I cannot but 
call an extraordinary inclination for the society of 
my mother?" 

Miss Taunton laughed. 

"You don't mean to infer that my father wishes 
to marry Mrs Milhurst?" 

" I do. And I mean to infer more than that I 
mean to infer that my mother wishes to marry Mr 
Taunton. I have a basis for the inference." 


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"But the thing is ridiculous." 

" Preposterous 1 Al^surd ! " 

The lady reflected She spoke as though she 
were choosing her words. There was a little smile 
at the corners of her lips. 

•*I confess that the idea comes to me with the 
force of a surprise, but it appears to me to be, on 
the face of it, altogether out of the question." 

" Altogether ! — altogether 1 And therefore I sug- 
gest that, if you will speak to your father, laying 
your views before him, I will speak to my mother, 
and, if I may say so, we will see what we can 

" I will certainly speak to my father." 

" And I, on • my part, will equally certainly speak 
so my mother. 

" Just so — ^just so.*' 

On Mr Milhurst's departure Miss Taunton had 
not time to resume her perusal of Mr Ruskin's 
latest before her father entered. He appeared to 
have met, if he had not **sped," the "parting 

" That's a nice young man," he observed, " a very 
nice young man ! " 

He rubbed his hands together, as if the action 
assisted him in expressing his conviction of the young 
man's peculiar nicety. Miss Taunton again post- 
poned her examination of Fors Clavigera. 

" Father," she said, " I wish to speak to you." 

The father eyed his daughter, then, turning his 
back on her — not too civilly — h^ murmured, ap- 
parently addressing the fireplace: 


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"That's a nice young woman too.** Wheeling 
round again, he faced his daughter. "Well, my 
dear, what is it?" 

"It is with reference to Mrs Milhurst" 


He fixed his eyeglass in his eye and stared at his 

"I say that it is with reference to Mrs Milhurst 
You have a bad habit of requiring me to repeat my 
words when you have already understood them." 

Mr Taunton, putting his hand up to his chin, 
smiled, or endeavoured to smile. Miss Taunton had 
a bad habit of addressing her father in a manner 
which made him feel that he would have been recon- 
ciled with his position had Providence destined him 
to remain childless. 

"You are sixty-two." 

Mr Taunton started. 


"And you look it— quite." 

" Upon my soul ! What — what the deuce do you 
mean by going on like this ? " 

"To attempt to conceal the fact is not only un- 
philosophical — it is vain. There are few things so 
ridiculous as the sight of age pretending to youth. 
The better part is to look truth in the face and 
accept it quietly. He only who does that will be 
honoured among men." 

"Wait," said her father, with an exasperation 
which he nobly restrained, " till you are sixty-two." 

His daughter inclined her head. 

" I will. It is incumbent on us all to wait ; but do 


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not think that I wish, wantonly, to exacerbate your 
feelings. I merely wish to point out to you that you 
are sixty-two, and that at such an age it is foolish to 
think of marriage." 

"Of what!" 

" I say that at such an age it is foolish to think of 

"The girl's gone mad." 

" Possibly. No person can, at any given moment, 
be certain of his or her perfect sanity. But that 
does not disprove the thesis that it is foolish at your 
age to think of marrying Mrs Milhurst" 

"Marrying Mrs Milhurst!" 

" I am imformed, on reliable authority, that such is 
your intention. Let your intention remain an in- 
tention only. Drop it ! " 

Rising from her chair, with the copy of the latest 
issue of Fors Clavigera in her hand, Miss Taunton 
left the room, smiling all the time, and when she had 
gone her father snapped his fingers in the air and 
slapped his legs with the palms of his hands. 

" George ! Tve half a mind to do it I It's the very 
thing ! If I thought she'd have me Td ask her this 
very day. I wonder who put the idea into the girl's 
head ? I wonder, too, I never thought of it before. 
If Mrs M. and I together couldn't sit upon the 
pleasing example of the modern young woman whom 
Providence has bestowed on me as a child — I believe 
'she was changed at nurse — I — I'll eat my hat! 
Where is my hat ? I'll go this very minute and call 
on Mrs Milhurst ! There's nothing like striking the 
iron while it's hot" 


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As Mr Taimton approached The Chestnuts, where 
Mrs Milhurst and her son resided, he became con- 
scious that the object of his errand required, to say 
the least of it, judicious handling. He was sixty- 
two; there was no doubt of that And he had a 
daughter. There was, if possiUe, unfortunately, still 
less doubt about that fact than the others. Miss 
Taunton had her attractions for another father, but 
the father she actually had would have preferred that 
her attractions should have been of some other kind 
He was what would have been called an " old buck " 
in the bad old days ; she had been high up among 
the wranglers at Girton Collie. The pair did not 
''assimilate." It is to be feared that she r^arded 
her father as, intellectually, a fool, while he considered 
her as, socially, something worse than an idiot 

Mr Taunton felt that, as a step-daughter, she would 
not be viewed with favour by any woman. And, 
moreover, the idea of marriage had never occurred to 
him before. It is doubtful if, unaided, it would ever 
have occurred to him at all. He had never regarded 
himself as a marrying man. One experiment had 
been almost too much for him. Still, Mrs Milhurst 
was certainly a kindred spirit We are not aware 
what, from the point of view of the grammarian, is the 
feminine equivalent of an "old buck," but Mrs Mil- 
hurst was certainly a jovial soul. And she, too, was 
trampled on, not by a daughter, but by a son. Of 
all the prigs who ever walked this prig-ridden earth 
Mr Taunton told himself that son of hers was the 
prig of the purest water. His spirit rose in arms. 
He pulled up his shirt collar and " shot " his cuffs. 


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** Hang it ! If I have Hester she has Horace." 

The reflection seemed to comfort him ; now and 
then we do find comfort in the afflictions of our 
neighbours. He advanced with more determined 

Going up the chestnut-bordered avenue which led 
to the house he heard among the trees on his right 
a sound. He paused ; he listened ; it came again. 
It was the sound of tears. He looked to see whence 
the sound might come. There was a rustic seat 
placed beneath the shadow of a leafy giant, and on 
this seat there was a figure. It was the figure of a 
woman. Her back was turned towards Mr Taunton, 
but he knew even the back view well. It was Mrs 

" By George ! She's crying ! ** 

She was, and with considerable vigour. She was 
a lady of a plenteous presence ; he could see her fat 
shoulders shaking from where he stood. She was 
holding a white cambric handkerchief to her eyes 
with both her h^mds, but even this seemed in- 
suflicient to stem the flood-tide of her grief Mr 
Taunton advanced to her across the grass. 

"Mrs Milhurst, what is wrong?" 

His action was perhaps a little precipitate and 
his arrival unexpected, but that was insufficient to 
warrant the peculiar behaviour of the lady. Spring- 
ing up from the seat she gave vent to a series of 
exclamations which quite amounted to screams. 

"Oh! Oh!! Oh!!!" 

And having thus delivered herself she sank back 
on the seat in a condition which bore a strong re- 


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semblance to hysterics. Mr Taunton was a man of 
much experience — if not with Girton graduates, then 
with feminine graduates of another school. He was 
not at all dismayed by the lady's proceedings. 
Seizing one of her hands he commenced, and 
continued, to slap it with considerable vigour. 

" Good God, my dear lady, don't go on like this ! 
You'll have a crowd collected." 

Possibly she was not so far gone as to be wholly 
deaf to the voice of the charmer, for in due and 
reasonable course her state became much modified. 

By this time Mr Taunton not only still retained 
her hand in his — doubtless for purposes of slapping 
— ^but he was seated by her side upon the seat, so 
that the lady leaned, not all, but a considerable 
portion, of her weight s^ainst his shoulder. 

"Tell me, my good creature, what is wrong?" 

« Oh ! " gasped the lady. " Horace ! " 

" What's he been doing now ? " 

The question was asked with a certain dryness. 
According to Mr Taunton, that young gentleman — 
atat thirty-one — always was doing something char- 
acteristically agreeable. 

" He has been behaving to his mother like a brute! " 

"Surely there is no novelty in that; you don't let 
that distress you ? " 

"O Mr Taunton!" 

Raising her handkerchief in her disengaged hand 
the lady again began venting her griefs in not par- 
ticularly silent tears. Instead of slapping the hand 
he held Mr Taunton soothed it, by way, no doubt, 
of varying the treatment 


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" Come, come ! tell me all about it. What has he 
been saying now ? " 

" I can't tell you ! I can't ! If s quite impossible ! " 

While the lady continued to cry, and he to soothe 
her hand, which was large and white and plump 
and pleasant to the touch, Mr Taunton put two and 
two tc^ether, a process of which he was quite as 
capable as, to say the least of it, the average man. 
He put a question by way of a feeler. 

^ Do you know that your son has been to see my 

The lady started. Her tears redoubled. Mr 
Taunton felt that he was on the right track. 

'*My daughter has been misbehaving herself a^ 
well as your son. Do you know what she has done, 
Mrs Milhurst ? She has been reversing the positions 
and lecturing me as though she were the parent 
instead of the child." 

" That's what my son has been doing too." 

The lady got out the words between her sobs. 
Mr Taunton chuckled. 

" I thought so. Would you mind, my dear lady, 
sitting up just for half a moment? " 

The lady sat up— that is, she drew herself away 
from the immediate neighbourhood of the gentleman's 
protecting shoulder — and as she did so she blushed, 
not unnaturally, at the thought that she should have 
appeared to require a hint on such a subject And 
as she sat there, drying her eyes and blushing, she 
was really not a bad-looking woman for fifty- 

*" Shall I tell you, Mrs Milhurst, what your son has 


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been doing? He has been warning you against a 
second marriage." 

The lady was overcome by her confusion. 

** O Mr Taunton I How can you possibly have 
guessed ? " 

" Easily. My daughter has been warning me." 

** Mr Taunton!" 

" Mrs Milhurst ! Odd, isn't it ? Things were 
managed difTerently when we were— eh — younger. 
Nous avons changi tout cela I Nowadays, as a rule, 
parents belong to the younger generation. They are 
destined to be sat upon instead of to sit But, madam, 
I propose that we make an effort to keep in the 
fashion, and abreast of the times, and strike." 


*' Yes, madam, strike ! When my daughter ordo-s 
me about as if I were her child instead of she being 
mine I think it is time to strike — ^by gad, I do!" 
The lady drew a long breath, as though she found 
this point of view alarming. " Why shouldn't we 
marry if we choose ? " The lady drew a still longer 
breath, as though she found this second point of view 
even more alarming than the first had been. Mr 
Taunton resumed possession of the hand which he 
had scarcely a moment before relinquished. '* I ask 
you again, why not ? I love you. I make so bold 
as to say that you love me." 

There was silence — one of those intervals of 
silence which, we are told, are sometimes more 
eloquent than speech. The gentleman looked at 
the lady. The lady looked at the ground. At 
last she spoke : 


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"To be quite candid with you, Mr Taunton, I 

" Daren't what ? Daren't love me ? " 

The lady looked at him a little slily out of the 
corners of her eyes. 

'* I don't know that that is a question of daring. 
One is not altc^ether to be held accountable for the 
bestowal of one's love. It goes where it listeth. But 
I daren't mwcry you, I mean." 

"Pray, why not? Good heavens, madam, you 
don't mean to allow your son to ride over you rough- 
shod ! " 

The lady sighed. 

" You don't know Horace." 

"Ohyes, Ido." 

" But no, you don't." 

" But, my dear — if you will allow me, I will say 

The lady looked down. 

" I think you had better not." 

"I think otherwise." Mr Taunton drew himself 
up with the air of a man who knows his mind. " May 
I ask — not that it makes the slightest difference from 
my point of view — but may I ask what objections 
your son presumes to offer to your marrying me ? " 

"He thinks I am too old." 

" Too old ! Why, you're younger than I am I " 

" But he thinks you are too old too." 

" Confound his impudence ! I'll stake my life that, 
to all intents and purposes, I am half his age." 

"But I thought your daughter had objections 


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** My daughter has objections — pooh ! " He waved 
his hand in the air, as though any objections which 
his daughter mig^t have were altogether immaterial. 
''I tell you frankly, Mrs Milhurst — I should say Lx>uisa 
— that were there no other reasons why I should wi^ 
to unite my path in life with yours, the fact that my 
daughter has objections would in itself be a strong 

The lady smiled, and drew imaginary figures on 
the turf with the toe of her boot 

'* There is only one way in which it could possibly 
be done." 

"What way's that?" 

" You must believe me when I say that I should 
not dare to tell Horace point Uank that I was about 
to be married." 

'^ There is something in that I myself should 
have no wish to keep Hester posted up in my inten- 
tions on that particular point After her bdiaviour 
to me she's no right to expect it" 

" The engagement must be kept a secret" 

Mr Taunton rubbed his hands together. 

" Certainly ; if only to do the pair of them." 

'*Hushl You mustn't talk like that, or I shall 
b^n to fear that Horace was right in saying that a 
marriage with you would be unwise.** Mr Taunton 
smiled. '*I am afraid," — pausing, the l^y again 
looked at the gentleman a little slily wt of the 
comers of her eyes — *' I am afraid that an elopement 
is the only way." 

Mr Taunton chuckled loudly. 

"By George! the very thing I We'll make a boh 


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of it I Louisa, I always did think you were a trump, 
and now I'll swear to it" 

With one hand he caught the lady's not unwilling 
palm, and with the other it is not improbable he was 
about to encircle at least a part of her ample waist, 
when a voice fell on his ear — ^the voice of a new- 

" How do you do, Mr Taunton, for the second 
time this morning? I had no idea — I think I may 
say that I had no notion — that you were witii my 

Stringing to his feet with an alacrity which did 
more than justice to his years Mr Taunton greeted 
Mr Milhurst with a degree of effusion which seemed 
to suggest that he was a little embarrassed. 

Chapter II 


"Miss Taunton, the object of my call on this 
occasion is to recall to your mind the subject which 
I mentioned yesterday." 

'^I was wondering, Mr Milhurst, to what I was in- 
debted for the pleasure of a visit from you on two 
consecutive days." 

" It is our parents — our parents ! Your father and 
my mother." 

" I spoke to my father as you suggested." 

" Did you, indeed ! And I spoke to my mother. 


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But, for all the good that has come from it so far, I 
might as well have spoken to the wind. I fear, I 
greatly fear, that my mother is destined to give me 
a great deal of anxiety yet" Mr Milhurst appeared 
slightly depressed. He shook his head with an air 
of gloom. "Would you believe it. Miss Taunton? 
I spoke to my mother fully, clearly, and to the point 
I expressed myselt without reserve. I gave her to 
understand to what goal it was her actions tended. 
And I added frankly that her proceedings were the 
occasion of grave scandal to me. She wept. Miss 
Taunton — ^wept profusely. She even abused me. 
And when I ventured to comment on my responsi- 
bilities as her son, and the respect which was due to 
my position, she ran away. I confess that my first 
feeling was that I had been, perhaps, unduly severe, 
that I had, possibly, attributed to her notions which 
were not hers, she seemed so deeply touched by the 
words which I had used. Imagine my emotions then, 
when, after only a very short interval of time had 
elapsed, I encountered her being almost, if not quite, 
embraced by your father in the open air." 

" Impossible ! " Although Miss Taunton expressed 
surprise, she smiled. 

"I wish it were so, but it wasn't And — and, 
Miss Taunton, from words which I happened to 
overhear, and from what has since transpired between 
my mother and myself, I have reason to fear that we 
may look forward to the worst" 

"The worst?" 

" The worst— the very worst I " 

" I don't quite catch your meaning." 


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" Why, they mean to be married. There's not a 
doubt but what they do — not any doubt whatever." 

" But It seems so ridiculous." 

" Ridiculous I That's not the word. In fact, there 
is no word — I may say there is no collection of words — 
which would adequately describe such conduct on 
the part of— of persons of their age and character." 

" But I don't see what we can do to stop it" 

"That is exactly one of tfie points which has 
brought me here again to-day. I don't know if you 
are aware of it, Miss Taunton, but I have a cousin — a 
cousin who is at the bar — a barrister, in fact He 
is not a person of whom I altogether approve ; still, 
there he is. He happens to be staying in this neigh- 
bourhood just now, and yesterday I encountered him 
while I was still smarting from the scene I had 
witnessed between my mother and your father. So 
great was my sense of irritation that, in my desire 
for a confidant and adviser, at sight of him«-*althougb 
I repeat he is not a person of whom I altogether 
approve — I blurted out the truth. I described to 
him the painful situation I was in — that we were 
both in, indeed ; you and I — and— eh — the result was 
that he threw out a suggestion." 

" What was the suggestion ? " 

" That I should marry you." 

While the gentleman had been speaking — prosing, 
perhapsj would be the better word — the lady had 
been looking at the pages of a manuscript book 
which she was holding in her hand. It chanced that 
on the page at which she held the volume open there 
was no writing, but, instead, the whole sheet was 


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occupied by a pencil drawing. It was a drawing of 
a man's head— of the head of a man who had certainly 
not passed middle-age. And, moreover, so far as 
exteriors were concerned, it was a bead which was 
quite worth reproducing. In the comer of the page 
was written, also in pencil, ** Llanrwst, 1900." She 
was studying this head when Mr Milhurst mentioned 
his cousin's suggestion. 

''Mr Milhurst 1" she cried, and closed the book 
with a bang. 

'^ I see that the suggesti<Mi startles you. It startled 
me at first." 

" Your cousin must be a singular person ? " 

" I can only repeat again that he is not a person of 
whom I altogether approve. He is too flippant and 
too — too volatile. But, at the same time, on this 
occasion his question was not devoid of reason. The 
way in which he looked at it was this : if we married 
they couldn't" 

" But I don't understand." 

" No ? Allow me to explain. There is, first of all, 
the point of view of consanguinity. You see, if we 
married, and they wanted to, it would be a case of 
your father marrying your husband's mother. My 
cousin did not go so far as to say the thing would be 
actually illegal." 

" It would certainly not be ill^al." 

"No, perhaps not; but in the face of our united 
opposition, as son and daughter to both the parties, 
it would be a social scandal, land couldn't be ; in fact, 
I may safely say it shouldn't" 

** I see." There was a pause. The lady pcmdered. 


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Either by accident or design she reopened the manu- 
script volume at the identical page on which was the 
pencil drawing. When she saw what she had done 
she smiled, and spoke. '* There is one objection to 
your cousin's scheme." 

« What is the objection ? " 


" What form does your objection take ? " 

" This. If you were to honour me by the offer of 
your hand, which you have not done yet" 

" But which I will do now. I was only waiting for 
an opportunity, Miss Taunton. I should be delighted, 
I think I may say that it seems to me that it would 
be in all respects a most suitable thing, and that 
altogether apart from the evil which we should in all 
probability be enabled to avert." 

"Not even the probability of being enabled to 
avert the evil to which you refer would justify me 
in acceding to your proposition." 

" Why not ? I venture to hope that you have no 
objection to me personally ? " 

The lady had risen. The manuscript volume she 
allowed to rest on a little table which was at her 
side. Her manner was distinctly chilly. 

"Do not let us discuss the matter, Mr Milhurst 
Your cousin's scheme — for suggesting which I have to 
thank him — is one to which I cannot possibly assent." 

Mr Milhurst stood in silence before the empty 
grate. From his tone, when he spoke again, it did 
not appear that he had taken her refusal much to 

" I confess that I foresaw the possibility of this — 


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the possibility, that is, of your negativing his sugges- 
tion. And, foreseeing it, an alternative was presented 
to my mind." 

"" Indeed I What was the alternative ? " 

'* That we should allow your father and my mother 
to suppose that we were engaged, without being 
actually so. I have reason to know that if my 
mother even suspected that you and I had any 
intention of marriage, so far as your father was 
concerned the thing would be off at once." 

*' I have not much more relish for your suggestion 
than for your cousin's. To speak of nothing else, it 
would place us in a false position." 

''Miss Taunton, the danger is imminent — im- 
minent I You may take my word for it that, unless 
something is done, they'll be married in a week. 
And, rather than suffer such a catastrophe, I — I — I'd 
do almost anything." 

The lady looked down for a moment Then, rais- 
ing her head, she looked the gentleman steadily in 
the face. 

" I don't like the idea, but " 

She spoke carelessly, contemptuously even. 

Mr Milhurst took her incompleted sentence to 
infer consent 

"My dear Miss Taunton, you may rely on my 
discretion. All I wish to do is to avert this dreadful 
danger which threatens us both, and which is already 
at our doors." 

She smiled. Apparently she did not realise the 
dreadful nature of the danger so clearly as he did> 

•* Now," she said, "perhaps you will excuse me." 


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He bowed. Moving across the room he opened 
the door to let her out As she did so her father 
entered through the open French window. With 
him was a gentleman, who paused upon the step. 
Miss Taunton was unconscious of his presence, but 
he just caught a glimpse of her as she was disap- 
pearing through the door. When she had vanished 
he sprang into the room with a bound. 

" Mr Taunton ! Who— who wa^ that lady ? " 

•* That lady ? " Mr Taunton grinned. " That* s my 

"Your daughter!" 

Mr Taunton nK)ved away, but the gentleman re^ 
mained standing where he was, as though he had 
received a sudden blow. 

The master of the house advanced towards Mr 
Milhurst with a smile, the sweetness of which, so to 
speak, was slightly mixed with vin^ar. 

"Hallo, Milhurst! Here again! Odd, isn't it? 
I'm alwiEtys at your house, and you're always at mine. 
I go to see your mother." Mr Milhurst said nothing. 
He drew his long neck up through his high shirt 
collar, as though the stiffened linen chafed his skin. 
•* I've br<>ught your cousin, Mr Austin. Met him at 
your place — ^mother introduced us. Quite a dog! 
No idea you had such a cousin." 

Mr Taunton dug his elbow into Mr Milhurst's ribs, 
a familiarity which that gentleman at all times re- 
sented bitterly. He drew himself away. He tried 
to smile. 

" Mr Taunton, I — I have a communication which 
I Mrish to make to you." 


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** No i Never I Austin, your cousin's got a com- 
munication which he wants to make to me. Seen a 
pair of pretty ankles, Milhurst— eh ? " 

''The communication which I have to make to 
you has for me, I may say, no slight import- 

''I shouldn't have thought that, in your eyes, 
anything was important You're not heavy enough 
You're such a lively card." 

Judging from the look with which Mr Milhurst 
r^;arded his book, it almost seemed that he would 
not have been disinclined to make a meal off Mr 
Taunton, even at the risk of such a ionne bouche 
impairing his digestion. Mr Taunton's badinage was 
not of the champagne character — flight, clear, and 
sparkling — ^but such as it was it always seemed to 
madden Mr Milhurst, a (act of which the old 
gentieman was possibly aware. He had thrown 
himself into an arm-chair, and, with his thumbs stuck 
in his waistcoat arm-holes, and his legs sprawled out 
full length in front of him, did not present a picture 
of sexagenarian decorum. Curiously enough, while 
he showed such entire unconcern, Mr Austin stood 
awaiting his cousin's promised communication with 
an air of almost strained attention. It was he who 
broke the silence. 

"Am I in the way?" 

His voice, too, seemed a littie strained. Mr Mil- 
hurst's reply was affable — for him. 

" No, no ; not at all This is a family affair, and 
you are one of the family, although you are so seldom 
seen. I was just about to observe to Mr Taunton 


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that I had done myself the honour of asking his 
daughter for her hand." 


As he leaped out of his arm-chair, as though he had 
been the unexpected recipient of an electric shock, 
Mr Taunton's air of unconcern was entirely gone. 
Even Mr Austin started, and one might have been 
forgiven for supposing that it was a stifled execration 
which had escaped his lips. Mr Milhurst appeared 
to be beatifleally unconscious of the impression he 
had made. 

** Yes ; and if all goes well, and you have nothing 
serious to urge against my situation and my character, 
I trust, Mr Taunton, soon to stand towards you in 
the position of a near relation." 

Mr Taunton's attitude was expressive of the most 
profound amazement 

" Near relation ! " he gasped. 

Mr Milhurst moved across the room. 

^ Congratulate me, Austin." Then, his back being 
turned to Mr Taunton, he whispered, as an aside to 
his cousin: "You see I lost no time in acting on 
your suggestion, and I may say that I am indebted 
to you for making it." 

Mr Austin was speediless. He looked a trifle stem, 
and his face was drawn and white. Mr Milhurst 
went towards the door. 

" Good-bye — good-bye," he said. 

He waved his hand affably, and without any more 
ceremonious leave-taking he made his exit His de- 
parture Was followed by silence. Oddly enough, each 
of the gentlemen left behind seemed equally moved by 


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what Mr Milhurst had said, but Mr Taunton was the 
first to give expression to his feelings in speech. 

"There's a puppy! There's a prig! There's a 
trousered idiot! Did you ever see such impudence 
in all your days? Without a 'with your leave' or 
< by your leave/ he treats me as though I were nothing 
and no one at all ! I— I won't stand it, by gad I I 
won't stand it I" 

He was pacing up and down the room in a state 
of much excitement Mr Austin watched him for 
some moments silently, and then he observed : 

'' My cousin does not appear to be a favourite of 

"A favourite of mine! Great heavens! Whose 
favourite is he?" Mr Austin was silent "Do you 
know why he's done this ? " 

"Done what?" 

"Why he asked my girl to marry him?" Mr 
Austin looked down. An onlooker might have sup- 
posed that his face grew even a trifle sterner than 
before. " He's done it to spite me ! Austin, you 
seem a decent sort of fellow, and I'll tell you exactly 
how it is, then you'll be able to view this fellow's 
conduct in its proper light The fact is, I — I'll make 
a dean breast of it — it's my intention to marry his 
mother, and, if you please, this popinjay thinks proper 
to object, and no doubt he thinks tihat by marrying 
my daughter he'll put a spoke in my wheel and spoil 
my game ; and, as a matter of fact, I think it's quite 
possible that if he tells his mother that he's going to 
marry my daughter she'll insist on breaking off her 
engagement with me." 


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"You think so?" 

" I do ; and that although she has oifered to elope 
with me already." 

"She has?" 

"She has." 

"Then forestall him." 

" How do you mean ? " 

"Go to his mother before he has a chance of 
getting at her and induce her to bring oif the elope- 
ment now." 

Mr Taunton snatched up his hat 

"By gad," he cried, "I Willi" 

And he was oif through the window like the wind. 

Chapter HI 


Mr Austin, thus unceremoniously left behind, fol- 
lowed him with his eyes as he tore across the grass. 

" Good luck go with you ! " he said. Then he 
turned into the room. " I suppose I have performed 
what may be called a complete volte-faa — gone back 
upon my pal, one of my felonious clients would call 
it Pal ! What a pal is Horace ! " 

His face was one of those clear-cut, clean-shaven 
ones which suggest that the owner has a will of his 
own. And as he stood there, his hands behind his 
back, his brows knit, his lips compressed, the lower 
one a little protruding, the suggestion was in his case 
almost unduly emphasised. 


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** And if he marries her — ^through me — acting on 
my suggestion — what an end to my day-dreaming! 
When he told me of his mother's folly I took it 
for granted that, in the daughter of such a father 
as he described, he would find a woman with whom 
he might himself be fitly mated. How was I to 
recognise in her from his description the Maiden 
of Llanrwst! It is now nearly three years since 
I used to see, beside the waters, the only woman 
who ever yet had charms for me ; the only woman 
who, to intellect and beauty, united the indefinable 
something which makes the perfect woman nobly 
planned. I never knew her name. I only saw 
her half-a-dozen times. She was only a summer's 
dream, but a dream which was to last my whole 
life long. And I have lost her ! Of my own deed I 
And to such a libel on a man! Well, it is very 
certain that if she can give herself oflhand to such 
a man — and to spite her father — my dream was 
nothing but a dream, and it is well that after three 
years of slumber the cold chills of dawn should 
have brought me this awakening!" 

He was standing by the little table on which 
Miss Taunton had placed her book of manuscript 
Apparendy she had forgotten it when leaving Mr 
Milhurst, for it still was resting there. Half un- 
conscious of what it was that he was doing, Mr 
Austin picked the volume up, and certainly in 
ignorance of the fact that he was intruding into 
what was possibly a lady's private memoranda, he 
opened^ it at hazard. 

On the page at which the volume chanced to 


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open there was a pencil drawing. This he gazed 
at steadily; at first, in his abstraction, seemingly 
unaware that he gazed at anything. But at last 
something caught his eye; the fashion of his face 
was changed ; he looked at the drawing with eager, 
flashing eyes. Suddenly he cried, with that dis- 
r^ard to grammatical accuracy which is so common 
as almost to make correctness seem pedantic : 

"It's me!" 

He lowered the book, looking into space with 
a glow of wonder on his face ind in his eyes. 
Then, raising it, he renewed his exammation of the 

" It's me ! " he cried again. 

Then he read the pencil writing in the comer of 
the page. 

" ' Llanrwst, 1900.' My God ! " 

He put his hand to his head almost in the fashion 
of the tragic heroes on the stage. 

"She has my portrait, drawn by her own hand, 
among her private memoranda, my perfect image, 

While he was still engaged in endeavouring to 
solve the riddle which the discovery of this fact pre- 
sented to his mind, the door was opened and Miss 
Taunton entered the room. He was too absorbed 
in unriddling the riddle to observe her entry, but 
she, of course, saw him at once. 

"You!" she cried. 

Then he turned and saw her. 

"Yes; I," he said. 

There was silence. She turned white and red, 


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and seemed so discomposed by his unexpected 
presence as to be scarcely able to stand. Some 
disconnected words came from her lips. 

"But I don't understand. How have you come 
here? Have you fallen from the skies?" 

" No, I have not fallen from the skies — at least not 
in the sense you mean. Your father brought me here." 

" My father ! " she repeated. 

Her mind seemed in a maze. 

"Your father." He paused. His next words 
were intended to convey a certain significance. "I 
am Horace Milhurst's cousiii." 

" You are Horace Milhurst's cousin 1 " She paused 
in her turn. The words did convey a certain signifi- 
cance to her brain, but by no means the significance 
which he intended " It's a lie ! " 

"A lie! Miss Taunton 1 " 

She endeavoured to collect herself, an endeavour 
which was not entirely successful. 

" I — I beg your pardon. I didn't mean it But 
say that it's not true — ^you are not his cousin." 

"lam. Why not?" 

" Not the one of whom he spoke to me." 

" I am honoured if h^ mentioned my existence." 

" Not the one who su^^ested I should marry him ! " 

The words burst from her in her excitement 
Directly they were spoken she knew what she had 
done. She sank on a chair, burying her face in 
her hands. He turned away, and again the ex- 
pression of his countenance became unpleasantly 
stern. He was the first, however, to r^ain his 
composure. He turned to her again. 


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" I am afraid, Miss Taunton, that my ut^xpected 
presence here partakes of the nature of a disagree- 
able surprise. Yet the thing is very simple. As I 
said, I am Horace Milhurst's cousin. At his mother's 
house I met your father. He, on hospitable thoughts 
intent, induced me to accompany him home, ignorant 
that you and I had met before ; a fact of which, until 
I saw you, I myself was ignorant too." 

The lady looked up quickly. Her cheeks were 
fiery red. 

"Then you didn't know who I was when yoxi 
suggested he should marry me." 

The gentleman was again guilty of the rudeness 
of turning his back upon the lady. 


His tone was cold and stem. Miss Taunton rose 
She drew a long breath. 

" I see," she said. 

When he spoke again, still retaining his uncivil 
posture, his tone was not only cold but cynical^ 

"I did not think that I should be able, on the 
occasion of our meeting again, to congratulate you 
on your engagement." 

" My engagement ! What do you mean ? " 

" Surely you know what I mean. My cousin is a 
very happy man." 

" Has he dared to say I am engaged to him ? " 

It was Mr Austin's turn to be amazed. 

" Are you not ? " he cried. 

Miss Taunton turned away. Her tone became 
stem and cold, even cynical. 

" The matter must be one of indifference to you ; 


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but I am not And that although, acting on your 
sugg^tion, he honoured me by the oifer of his hand 
— an oifer which, in spite of the interest which you 
had kindly taken in my affairs, I felt myself com- 
pelled to decline." 

** Miss Taunton ! " 

''Sirl Don't you think the situation is an odd 
one ? In a social sense we still are perfect strangers, 
since I am not even acquainted with your name.'' 

** Strangers, Miss Taunton ! Then what is this ? " 

He had the manuscript volume still in his hand, 
and held it out in front of her. She looked at it 
And when she saw that it was open at the page on 
which there was the pencil drawing her colour be- 
came rose-red. She put out her hand to take it 
But he drew back. 

** How — how did you get that ? " 

Instead of replying to her question he retorted 
with another : 

" Can you say that we are strangers ? " 

"Will you give me my book? I do not know 
how it came into your possession. But then your 
whole presence here is still a mystery to me. As 
for the drawing, there is nothing strange in that I 
sometimes have a sketching fit, and then any subject 
serves to while away an idle hour." 

* I do not believe it" The lady started. " I say 
that I do not believe it" She drew herself up with 
an indignant gesture. "Miss Taunton, have you 
still some memories of Llanrwst? Do you re- 
member that last day I saw you, when — forgive 
my recalling it to your recollection — we were over- 


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taken by the storm? Do you remember how we 
parted?" The lady turned away. "The next day 
I looked for you, but you never came. Again the 
next day, and the next, and still you never came. 
The Maiden of Llanrwst seemed to have vanished 
into air, and I did not even know her name. And 
I went back to town, and — forgive me. Miss Taunton, 
for telling you what is but simple truth — ^you were 
with me night and day — ^you were with me all the 
time. And I looked forward, dreaming that some 
day I should look upon your face — ^your very (ace, 
not the spirit-face that was with me in my dreams— 
again, and you say that we are strangers I " 

" Only in a sense, I mean. As you say yourself, 
I do not even know your name." 

"I am Walter Austin. Do you know me now? 
But though I am a stranger yet, and all the social 
canons are outraged, I have loved you through all 
the weary months as I never thought it was in my 
nature to love anyone — Maiden of Llanrwst I " 

The gentleman advanced a step, and the lady 
turned away. 

Chapter IV 


It might have been an hour, or perlu^ two hours, 
afterwards— on certain occasions one need not keep 
too accurate an account of time — ^that Mr Austin 
chanced to encounter Mr Milhurst at some little 


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distance from Mr Taunton's house. Mr Milhurst was 
going towards the house, Mr Austin was going from 
it Nor was this the only difference between the two, 
for, while Mr Austin was advancing with a jaunty 
step, his head erect, and something like the light 
of happy laughter in his eyes, Mr Milhurst was 
hastening, not only at an unseemly rate of speed, 
but in a state of obvious exasperation. At sight of 
Mr Austin he stopped. 

*• Austin I They're gone I " 

••Who have gone?" 

''Old Taunton and my mother. I've just come 
from the station. They went up t(^ther by the 
express to town." 

''Indeed I So Mr Taunton has acted on my 

"Your advice!" 

" I advised him to forestall you. He told me that 
your mother had agreed to an elopement, so I urged 
him to go to her before you could have a chance of 
seeing her and induce her to bring off the elopement 
on the spot" 

" You — ^you — ^you 1 " 

"What? And, Mr Milhurst, there is another 
thing. I am not sure that I ought not to inflict on 
you some personal chastisement, but, under the cir- 
cumstances, I think it possible that you have already 
received punishment enough. How dare you say— or 
infer — ^that Miss Taunton had promised to become 
your wife?" 

Mr Austin's attitude was so distinctiy threatening 
that Mr Milhurst prudentiy retreated. 


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'' It is true that I suggested the offer of your hand| 
but the suggestion was made under an entire mis- 
apprehension. She refused you, as I have good 
reason for knowing." 

^ What reason have you for knowing ? " 

''What reason ? This, sir — that she is engaged to 

Mr Austin gazed for a moment sternly at Mr 
Milhurst's astounded features, then he passed on, 
leaving Mr Milhurst standing in the middle of the 


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Chapter I 


AXT^E were at Shankltn— Daish's Hotel. A pretty 
place Shanklin ; and a nice hotel Daish's. 
It was a Thursday morning. David and I were 
sitting at a tite^i-tite breakfast discussing matters 
just then of paramount interest. The fact is, we had, 
quite in a casual way — one does do those sort of things 
at seaside places quite in a casual way — made the 
acquaintance of, to put it plainly, two young and 
decidedly good-looking ladies. The one he, David, 
had picked up — I am unable to word it otherwise — 
was a young, a very young — widow. I doubt if she 
could have been more than two or three and twenty. 
The one I — ah — ^had encountered, was a Miss Day, 
a Miss Alice Day. She seemed to be all alone in 
the world; and was so pretty, so helpless, and so 
)roung, that no one with a heart in his bosom could 
have known her and not — eh — been conscious of a 
sympathetic interest The acquaintance had only 
endured a week, but when one man is young, and the 
other man still younger, under certain circumstances 
a week is a considerable space of time. 


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We were talking about them — I may mention that 
David was eating, and I was looking on. 

** I don't care for widows/' I observed. 

David's appetite — ^he was always eating, it seemed 
to me — ^was a marvel 

** Widows I " Although his mouth was full of ham 
and egg he endeavoured to smile. ** Tastes differ. 
Personally, I have no partiality for the young person 
of fifteen." 

I made no answer. The idea of suggesting a 
possibility of comparison between a sprig of childlike 
innocence like Alice Day, and Mrs Clifford, a woman 
who had had a husband and lost him, was too absurd. 
We had had our little differences upon this matter 
before; there is no harm in observing that on this 
subject, and others, our points of view did not assimi- 
late. When he had finished his meal — such a meal I 
— David rose and buttoned his coat 

" I am going," he remarked. 

" Indeed ! To the old place, I suppose? I should 
think they must know you in the neighbourhood of 
Palmerston Road." 

Mrs Clifford lodged in Palmerston Road, and^ 
sooner than have hung about the comer for hours, 

as he did, I would But no matter ! Had it been 

in town it is my firm belief that they would have 
arrested him under the Vagrant Act 

^Mr Lewis," said David, in that absurdly stilted 
way of his, "I have enjoyed the pleasure of your 
acquaintance for some years. If you wish that ac- 
quaintance to continue you will confine your insinua- 
tions to yourself." 


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Then he strode out, shaking the floor Kke a second 
Chang. Sooner than be a monstrosity, an unwieldy 

object seven feet high, I woukl rather But there 

Is no necessity to discuss the subject, as I am thank- 
ful to say that I am even under the average height of 
man — about five feet one. 

When Summers was gone I sighed. I do not 
suppose many men in this age of utilitarianism have 
a heart like mine, and Alice Day — "Sweet Alice 
Day!" I called her in the privacy of my own bosom 
— occupied all my thoughts. Hitherto David's 
appetite had been too much for me ; it had, so to 
speak, killed mine. Now I ordered some fish, and 
some chops, and an tgg or two, and made a scanty 
meal What can a man eat when he is, in the spring 
time of his days, in love ? 

It was after breakfast, and I was going down the 
Chine Road, looking forward to a meeting with the 
one I held dearest — I cannot condescend to loaf about 
by-streets, as some people do, and when we did meet 
it was by accident upon the shore — ^when I came 
upon a man walking along with his head in the air 
and holding a great stick in his hand. He was quite 
six feet high, and one of the roughest-looking in- 
dividuals I have seen. To my surprise he stopped 
right in front of me, looking at me with — well, a very 
violent expression of countenance. 

'* Mr Summers, I believe ? Mr David Summers ? " 

Of course, I was not Mr Summers — I was ex- 
tremely thankful I was not — but really hb manner 
was so abrupt, and his tone so pronounced, that for 
a moment I lost my presence of mind. 


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" Yes ; that is to say " I began, and was about to 

explain that I was not Mr Summers, but that I was 
acquainted with him, when he said in a tone of voice 
which I should distinctly call threatening. 

** No shufifling with me, sir I My name is Freeman 
— Edward Freeman." 

" Excuse me " I began again, but he cut me 

short in a way that was most surprising. 

" I thought that was the sort of man you were. 
You sec that stick?" He held up a stick, which 
must almost have made itself perceptible to a man 
bom blind. " On this occasion you see it only. On 
the next, take care you don't feel it too." 

And then, without giving me a chance to reply, he 
strode away. I was amazed. Who Edward Freeman 
was I had not the faintest notion. That he should 
have mistaken me for Summers quite bewildered me. 
A little upsets one of a delicate constitution, and it 
was positively with a shaking hand that I settled my 
spectacles upon my nose. 

When I got down upon the sands, there among the 
loungers was Alice Day. She was alone — ^she always 
was alone-HJressed in a dark blue serge, with the 
sweetest hat upon her head, and a novel in her hand. 
I went up to her and bowed. She smiled— one of 
those charming smiles of hers. 

"Is it not a lovely morning?" I observed. "One 
of those mornings when one can fancy Venus — eh — 
strolling along the sands." 

I do not suppose there are many men — I say it 
modestly — who can equal me in the suggestion of a 


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** Don't you think,'' replied Miss Day, and her eyes 
looked softly down — ah, those eyes ! — ^ it would look 
rather curious to see Venus strolling along the 

**Not at all," I replied "Is she— di — ^not seen 
here every morning?" 

She laugl^*^ rosy burst of laughter. We sat 
down under the shadow of an old boat — or rather 
she was seated there, I stood up beside her. 

^' Are you going?" she remarked, holding out her 

" Not exactly," I replied, and sat down too. ** Is 
it likely I can leave these glades ? " 

''I came out," she said, ''to read It is a most 
interesting book." 

She opened it, and plui^ed into its pages. I sat 
still, drinking in the silent beauties of her face. As 
I watched her sweet attention, "What an honour," 
I said, " for a book to be read by you 1 " 

** I b^ your pardon ? " 

"I remarked"— a little louder; it is trying to be 
compelled to repeat speeches of that kind — ** what an 
honour for a book to be read by you." 

She just glanced up, hardly giving herself time to 
look at me. 

" Yes," she said, "just so." 

I must say she was not quite so talkative as I could 
have wished I do not like a woman who is talking 
always, but when a young lady, in spite of your 
occasional remarks, persists in reading right under 
your nose, then, I say, we must draw the line. I 
looked out upon the sea. The little ships were 


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passing to and fix>, the waves were dancing in the 
sun, all was life and laughter. 

" The more one sees of the ocean," I observed, " the 
more one thinks of the extent of space." 

She still continued reading, but I was in my poetic 
mood» and went on : 

"How true are the poet's words: *The sea, the 
sea, the open sea ! ' Yes ; open, boundless, wide, and 

She still went on reading. I even doubt if she 
heard what I was saying. 

"Miss Day!" I said. 

No answer. She read on. 

" Excuse me — Miss Day ! " 

To my amazement she closed the book with quite 
a bang and stood up in front of me. 

" Really, this is too much ! I come here for a quiet 
hour, and you follow and pester me wherever I go 1 " 

I was shocked — ^astounded ! If I had had the least 

"Excuse me!" I said with a certain haughtiness. 
" You will be on the cliff this evening ? " 

"On Uie cliff? Oh, I daresay! Good morning!" 

She went, and I was left behind. 

It was not the first time she had treated me so. 
It had often happened so before. But in my bosom 
I fcnnied a stem resolve that to-night should see an 
end of it I would tell her my intentions, and when 

she was mine But I need not enlai^e. Who 

cannot understand my feelings at such a crisis ? 

The day passed on ; the feelings in my breast were 
beyond the power of my pen to describe. The first 


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shades of evening found me upon th6 cliff. There 
IS a certain portion of the Shanklin cliff which is 
used as a promenade. Here it was I sought for 
Alice Day. There were ladies young and old in 
unusual numbers^ for it was a glorious evening, but 
she was absent Time passed on, and still she did 
not come. 

It is, unfortunately, a weakness of mine to be 
short-sighted. To recognise a person I have to 
look closely. Now, in my anxiety to find Miss 
Day I looked at everyone, and in the uncertain 
light I was compelled to look both near and long. 
This, however, did not please some of those in- 
spected, and indeed on two occasions only my 
presence of mind prevented an unseemly riot 
When, on a public promenade, one man threatens 
to knock you down, and another to throw you over 
the cliff, it is about time for dignity. 

But at last she came — when the people were 
going home. The promenade was becoming thinned 
and quiet, and the moon flooded the sea with her 
yellow glory. 

"I have been waiting for you," I began, "the 
whole night long." 

She laughed. No doubt she felt flattered. She 
looked very happy. 

" Have you ? I suppose I ought to feel honoured." 

" No. Pray don't mention it" 

I did not wish to impress her with the sense of 
any obligation. She looked at me and laughed 
again. We wandered up the whole length of the 
promenade, and I do not suppose we exchanged 


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two words. But I broke the silence when we reached 
the end. 

" This is the kind of evening '' I was going to 

turn a very neat compliment — I had been thinking 
about it the whole way up; my compliments are 
more carefully prepared than might at first appear ; 
about women and nature being in harmony — both 
lovely — when she gave a sudden start. One might 
have thought, had I not been there, that she had 
been asleep. 

" I b^ your pardon, I quite forgot I " 

"Forgot what?" 

^Oh!** looking at me and laughing again — it 
seemed to me very purposeless laughter — ** nothing ! ** 

This was frivolity. I was in no mood for it. I 
had weighty business upon hand. 

" Madam " — I can be as stilted as Summers when 
I please — " where can we retire to be in privacy ? " 

She stood still, staring at me. 

" Mr Lewis ! I do not understand you ! " 

"You may not, but you will, you will! I have 
something to say to you which must be said 

"Mr Lewis! — I — I Really, what have you 

to say?" 

Then she laughed. 

" Step here, and I will tell you." 

At one end of the promenade is a flight of steps 
leading down to the shore below. On the top of 
these is a landing with a stone seat There it was 
that we retired. As I stood there, my bosom pal- 
pitating, we looked out upon the pathless ocean. 


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the star-lit sky, the moon's pale glories ; I was alone 
with the object of my afTection. 

^Well," she said, after about five minutes' 
silence. I am fcmd of these pauses. Who has 
observed that silence is more eloquent than speech ? 
" What do yovt want to say ? " 

** This ! That I love you ; that my affections are 
centred upon you; that in your bosom lies my 
heart — rent out from mine! That your eyes are 
to me sun, moon, and stars! That, with you at 
my side, upon some distant desert isle — eh " 

I had arranged these remarks some time before, 
but at this point my memory broke down. But 
had not my words gone home? 

''Mr Lewis! What nonsense are you talk- 

"Nonsense?" I cried, clasping her hand. "On 
this hand I press my lips -" 

" Leave me alone ! How dare you ! If you don't 
take care I will tell my husband ! " 

" Your — ^your — what ? " I said. 

"My husband, sir!" 

" But " I gasped — ^who would not have been 

agitated at such a moment? " You ain't married ! " 

"You insolent fellow! How dare you say I am 
not married ! " 

" But— I understand '* 

" You understand ? I will tell you what I under- 
stand ! I understand that you are one of that class 
of persons who are the curse of seaside places — who 
make it their business to pester every unprotected 
woman they encounter ! If I did my duty I should 


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give you in charge. But you will find I am not so 
unprotected as you think ! " 

She swept away. I sank upon the stone seat, 
wiping the perspiration from my brow. The thought 
that I, a man of principle — I defy you to find a 
man of higher — ^had made love to a married woman 
was too horrible to bear. 

I went back to the hotel. I found Summers await- 
ing me, smoking his pipe, striding up and down the 
room and grinning like a madman. He rushed at 
me directly I entered. 

"Lewis, I have something to tell you." 

"I have not the slightest desire to hear." 

I tried to wriggle myself away, but his great hand 
upon my shoulder held me like an iron vice. 

" I've proposed to Ada, and she's accepted me." 

" Indeed ? I also have proposed." 

"Oh I Did she take you?" 

"That" — settling my spectacles — "that is my 
affair, not yours." 

He dropped into a chair, and burst into a roar 
of laughter. 

"I say, Lewis, old fellow, I won't laugh at you, 
but— did she box your ears?" 

I detest vulgarity, and as Mr Summers is par- 
ticularly fond of what he denominates chaff, I left 
him and went upstairs. 


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Chapter II 


The occurrences of the following day are engraved 
upon my memory with a red-hot iron. I would not 
go through them again — no, not for fifty pounds. I 
write these lines with my hand trembling like an 
aspen leaf, in the firm persuasion that my nerves 
will never recover from the shock. 

I went to bed. I slq>t— what a night! — ^and the 
next morning I rose, worn and haggard. I had 
an intuition of evil in the air. If some sibyl of 
pagan days had stepped into my room and foretold 
disaster I should only have smiled a sickly smile. 
For I felt, I knew, something was wrong. 

I dressed. I went down to breakfast It was 
about ten o'clock ; mark the hour ! The breakfast- 
room was empty, and the first thing I saw was a 
letter lying on my plate. With forebodings of evil 

I took it up. It was addressed " Lewis, Esq." — 

evidently from a stranger; to my friends I was 
always Edgar. I hesitated. I tore it open. This 
is what I read: 

•* Sir, — My wife tells me that during my unavoid- 
able absence in town you have subjected her to a 
series of impertinences which to-night has culminated 
in proposals of an outrageous nature. I write to 
point out that a convenient train leaves this town 
at 10.30 A.M. I shall call at your hotel at 11. 


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Should I find you still in it the consequences, 90 
far as you are concerned, will be unpleasant. — I am, 
Sir, your obedient servant, JOHN Day." 

I dropped the letter from my palsied hand. 10.30 ! 
It was already ten minutes after the hour, and I 
was in my slippers. I was standing over an abyss. 
For all I knew, this man John Day was a ruffian 
who would break bones as readily as his wife 
chopped mincemeat. To explain was out of the 
question ; my nerves were in such a state I should 
have made things worse than before. One alterna- 
tive, two alternatives, presented themselves — the 
police, and David Summers. Where was David 
Summers? I rang the bell In tones which must 
have conveyed to the waiter some idea of my 
condition, I asked him where was David Summers. 
" Mr Summers, sir? In the drawing-room, sir." 
** In the drawing-room ! " I turned and fled. 
Snatching up the letter, leaving my untasted 
breakfast, I rushed in the direction of the drawing- 
room. I reached the door. I paused. I listened. 
I heard two voices — David's and a woman's. 
" Good gracious ! What can this mean ? " 
I turned the handle. I peeped inside. Shall I 
ever forget the sight I saw? In spite of the early 
hour, in spite of the great French window looking 
out on to the road, in spite of propriety, in spite 
of everything, there was David Summers holding 
Mrs Clifford so closely in his arms that you could 
not have passed a sheet of paper between him and 
her. I was amaxedl I was horrified! Was not 


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one woman upon our hands enough without a 

^Ada," he was saying, ''Ada, my own pet love, 
do you think that I could lose you?'' 

And then, so far as I could see, he squeezed her 
tighter. How any woman, with any sense of dignity 
— not to mention the painfulness of the process-^- 
could allow him to go on like that was more than 
I could understand 

"O my David!" — ^the woman had hardly known 
him a week, and she called him her David ! — she was 
so amazingly pretty, that was the strangest part of 
it — "I could not let you go." 

To describe what followed as kissing would be not 
to describe it at all. Anything more objectionable 
I never saw. He kissed every quarter inch of her 
countenance — some of it twice over — and so far as I 
could discover she never made the slightest protest 
I could have sunk into the ground with shame. But 
the clock behind me striking the quarter brought me 
to my senses. 

"David!" I cried. "David!" 

He turned He saw me. But he never blushed, 
he never even gave one sign of shame. 

" Lewis ! The very fellow I wanted to see ! " 

Was I ? Indeed I He took her by the hand and 
brought her to me. 

"Allow me to introduce you to the future Mrs 

She blushed — I was glad to see she had the 
decency to blush — but he burst into a hullaballoo of 
laughter. I bowed — pretty stifSy I flatter myself. 


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"What's the time?" he exclaimed, looking at 
his watch. '* Quarter past ten ! Hang it, we must 
be off I" 
•• Off I " I cried aghast " Off ! " 
Not before I had had a word with him in private. 
Bu^ness before pleasure. 

"Oh!" he exclaimed, "there's a pretty pickle! 
No end of a rumpus! Here's Ada's father down 
on us like a cartload of bricks. He says if we make 
a match of it, why, bless me, there'll be murder I 
So, as we don't want to have anything unpleasant, 
we're going to run up by the laso and get a special 
licence — regular elopement Edgar, my boy, pack 
up my luggage and bring it when you come. I've 
paid the bill Come along, my love. Good-bye ! " 
He wa^ going. He was actually going i 

"Do I understand " I b^an, and I expect I 

was the colour of this sheet of paper. 
" You do, exactly I I'll write to you from town I " 

" One word, one word ! Are you aware " 

« Perfectly I I wish you luck with Alice ! " 
He was gone. I saw him pass down the path 
with Mrs Clifford on his arm. My impression is, I 
fainted. The first thing I saw when I came to was 
the waiter staring. I am inclined to bdieve that — 
at that hour of the morning ! — ^he thought I was drunk. 
"Waiter!" I gasped. "Stop him?" 
"Yes, sir! Directly, sir I Who, sir?" 
" Mr Summers ! " 

"Mr Summers, sir? Gone to the station, sir! 
Paid his bill, sir!" 
I do not know if he thought that I was afraid he 


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had left me to pay it for him. I got up. Something 
must be done. 

** Waiter, where is the nearest magistrate ? " 

The waiter stared. "Magistrate, sir? Yes, sir I 
I'll go and see, sir I" 

"You'll do nothing of the kind I" I stormed. 
" Don't you be an idiot Look here, waiter, if you 

give me any more of your insults " I stopped 

petrifying him with my eye. "You can go. Stop! 
No 1 Stay ! " I looked at my watch. It was half- 
past ten. " But no matter ! If you hear a man call 
' Murder ! ' you will come at once." 

I waved him away. I have been in the theatre 
in my time, and I know how to do it I returned 
to the breakfast-room and sat down to a lonely meal. 

But my nerves were shattered, I could eat nothing. 
I rose and paced up and down. I was gradually 
becoming conscious that the blood of the Lewises 
was up in arms. I was resolved that, come what 
might, if that man came and dared to suggest the 
possibility of laying a hand in violence on me I 
would show him that there were rights, and that, 
as an Englishman, and one who could show him, 
which I should not hesitate to do, that there was a 
line, which, if he should cross, — ^but no matter! 
Why should I reveal the dark secrets of my breast ? 
only circumstances prevented my — eh— committing 
murder, or some crime of almost similar atrocity. 

It was a quarter to eleven — a quarter to eleven 
by my watch. I noted the time almost every five 
seconds — I had good reason to— when the waiter 
put his head inside the room. 


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''If you please, sir, a gentleman to see Mr 

I was about to suggest that the gentleman would 
have to go to town to find him when someone put 
his hand upon the waiter's collar and hauled him out 
of the room. The next moment the door was flung 
wide open, and the gentleman who had informed me 
that my name was Summers and his was Freeman 
stood glaring at me across the portal. 

"You may go" said Mr Freeman to the waiter, 
** as soon as you like" 

The waiter was off like a flash of lightning. 

Then Mr Freeman came into the room and shut the 
door. I observed that he still had his stick of yesterday 
and that he grasped it very firmly towards the end. 

" So, you scoundrel," he b^^n, by way of opening 
proceedings, " you have taken her." 

" I — I beg your pardon ! " 

I had not the faintest idea what he alluded to, 
and his manner was positively insulting. 

" Don't you beg my pardon, you counter-jumping, 
ribbon-selling ragamufHn. Where is she ? " 

If I had followed the impulse of the moment I 
should have turned him out of the room. There 
was no doubt he was insulting me. But I suspected 
that the man was mad. 

** Sir, I fail to understand you." 

"You brazen-faced, impudent blackguard 1" He 
came forward a step and brought his stick down on 
the floor with sufficient force to send it through. 
"If you don't produce her in two seconds I'll break 
every bone in your body." 


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I began to be alarmed 

" But, my dear sir, I have not the faintest notion 
what you mean." 

"Do you mean to say that she never told you 
Uiat I would sooner see her in her gra v e " 

A light began to dawn upon me. 

" I don't know if you take me for Mr Summers,'' 
I interposed. 

He stared at me, as if wondering at my audacity. 
Then he rushed forward, striking at me with his 
stick. I dodged down, tripped over a footstool, and 
fell. The next thing I saw was his knocking a vase 
from the mantelshelf on to the floor. I got under 
the tablie. In another instant he would have had it 
over, breakfast things and all. 

"Help!" I cried. "Murder! Thieves I" 

In came the landlord with half-a-dozen waiters 
and a chambermaid or twa He made a dash to 
save his property. 

" Really, gentlemen, what is this ? " 

"Why," I said, looking cmt from underneath the 
table, " that man " 

" Man ! " cried Mr Freeman, clutching his stick. 

"That gentleman!" 

" This," observed Mr Freeman loftily " is a private 
matter between Mr Summers and myself." 

" Mr Summers ? Mr Summers went to town this 

" Yes," I said ; " I wanted to tell him that, only 
he wouldn't let me get a word in edgeways." 

"Why," cried Mr Freeman, gasping as he realised the 
situation, "you told me you were Summers yourself." 


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" I did not ! At least I was just going to tell yon 
that I wasn't, but only his friend, when you tore off 
as if for life/' I came from under the table. I shook 
myself. I was a little disarranged. *' Mr Summers 
is gone with Mrs Clifford up to London. He is to 
get a special licence, and they are to be married in 

"And I,*' cried Mr Frewnan, "am Mrs Clifford's 

He sank into a chain I waved my hand gracefully 
to the landlord. 

"I think if you were to leave Mr Freeman and 
myself alone " 

The landlord went The instant he had gone, 
before I had had time to open my mouth, the door 
reopened, and an individual appeared. I say indi- 
vidual because I wish to use no more opprobrious 
word. He was about twenty-six or twenty-seven, 
not particularly tall, but squarely built, and with a 
preposterously large moustache. In his hand he 
had what appeared to me to be a riding-whip. The 
clock struck eleven. Instinct told me who he was. 

"Mr Lewis, I believe?" I said nothing. I was 
not in a mood for words. " My name is Day — ^John 
Day." And he drew what was undoubtedly a 
riding- whip through his fingers. "I was in hopes 
you would have spared me the necessity of this 

"Sir!" I said. "Mr Day I" And I moved to- 
wards the bell. My blood was up again. " I have 
been assaulted once, and if you think you are going 
to hit me with that whip I will call the police. I 


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would hare left this confounded place an hour ago if 
a chain of circumstances over which I had no control 
had not prevented me." 

** Do I understand you/' said Mr Day, tucking his 
whip under his arm, " to say that you would have left 
the place?" 

^ Sir 1 Do you insinuate that I am a liar ? " 

" That being the case, perhaps you will go now." 

He pointed his whip in my direction with what 
some people would have call^ significance. It was 
quite lost on me. 

"CerUinly! With pleasure I Only too glad!" 
And I made for the door. 

" Perhaps," he said, " you will allow me to superin- 
tend your packing." 

There was no question of allowing ; he would have 
come up whether I had allowed him or not We went 
up the staircase side by side. I flatter myself there was 
some dignity in my movements. The blood of the 
Lewises was up in arms ; I could have knocked him 

'* I will not intrude," he said, " into any gentleman's 
bedroom." I should have liked to have seen him try 
it '' I will take a seat outside." 

He took a chair and sat outskle the door. I was 
inside. Presently I heard a disturbance. Mr Free- 
man was arguing the question. 

" Do you think," he said, " I am going to let him 
go and not know where he's going to ? " 

" I have not the least desire," replied Mr Day, " to 
know every scamp's address." 

"You have not a daughter who's been run away with." 


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** I am thankful to say that I have not" 

They continued the discussion till, as far as I could 
make out» they nearly came to blows. Then Mr 
Freeman banged at the door. 

** Young man ! " he shouted, " I want to speak to 
to you." 

Young man 1 

''Then," I answered, and my tone was crushing, 
"you must wait till I come out" 

They waited, both of them — making a pretty noise 
about it Directly I showed my nose outside Mr 
Freeman was at me. 

" Tell me," he exclaimed, seizing me by the throat, 
•* where that villain lives." 

" What villain ? " I inquired, nearly chokii^. 

•* That villain Summers ! " 

" I shall have great pleasure," I remarked, as soon 
as I could breathe, "in giving you Mr Summers' 
address. I have no hesitation in saying that, in my 
opinion, Mr Summers has not behaved like a gentle- 
man. And I b^ to say, publicly, that, so far as I 
am concerned, the consequences of his actions must 
be entirely upon his own head. And Til be hanged," 
I added, " if I take his luggage I " 

I felt it my duty to make these few remarks, and 
I flatter myself they told. 

I paid my bill, and then I walked down to the railway 
station — or, rather, we walked down — for Mr Freeman 
and Mr Day were kind enough to accompany me. 
Indeed, they never left me till I was in the carriage. 
In my affable way I held out my hand to say good-bye, 
but, to my surprise, Mr Day held out his riding-whip. 


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** Mr Lewis," he said, quite loud enough for every* 
one to hear him, "you have got ofF easily this once, 
but if I ever catch you within five miles of Shanklin 
rU horsewhip you within an inch of your life." 

Now, I put it to anybody, was it agreeable to have 
such a remark addressed to one in public in the 
presence of strangers? It made the journey from 
Shanklin to Ryde quite unpleasant My fellow- 
passengers would keep staring so. 

When he fouiid that I had not brought his luggage 
David Summers quarrelled with me. Not that I 
cared. I am above such things. I understand that 
he has married Mrs QiflTord, and is beginning a 
family. I have never been to Shanklin since. I 
never mean to go. As for women, I despise them. 


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IF the law can give me satisfaction then it shall. 
I will spare neither time nor money in my efforts 
to bring to justice the author, or authors, of such an 
outrage. I doubt if an inoffensive, respected, and 
respectable Englishman was ever so treated before. 
It is a blot on the institutions of our country if such 
conduct is to be allowed to go unchecked. 

It was a Monday morning. As I had an engage- 
ment in the city I had arranged to have breakfast 
earlier than usual. I had had a bad night ; and as 
I do not like to be dragged out of bed to suit the 
unreasonable exigencies of what are called men of 
business, I was not feeling in the best of health. 
Matters were not improved by my discovering that 
there was no fish for l^-eakfast Mrs Kiddall is per- 
fectly aware that I like, at least, a sole ; and I decline 
to be told that they are difficult to get fresh on 
Monday mornings. 

I was just sitting down to a meal for which I felt 
I had no stomach when there was a knock at the 
door, and presently Mary came into the room. 

** If you please, sir, there's a woman wishes to see 

*• A woman I What woman ? I know no women." 

I am a bachelor, I may say^ of some standing, and 
am glad to think that my acquaintance with the 


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opposite sex is of a very limited kind. I was cer- 
tainly not acquainted with any member of it who 
was likely to pay me a call at that hour at the day. 

'' She says she's come about die baby." 

"The what?" 

"The baby, sir." 

I all at once became conscious that there was an 
expression on Mary's face which might at any 
moment degenerate into a grin. Indeed, it would 
have required very little imagination to have sup- 
posed her to be trembling on the brink of an actual 
guffaw. My tone gave her to understand what I 
thought of her demeanour. 

"What nonsense are you talking? Show the 
person in at once." 

I turned my attention to what Mrs Kiddall called 
breakfiaist, and was wondering if she thought that 
was the Christian way of serving bacon when the 
person entered. Directly I saw her I doubted if I 
should not have been wiser if I had interviewed her 
amidst the draughts of the hall. 

She was young ; although she wore a ridiculously 
thick veil which practically concealed her counten- 
ance I perceived so much. Evidently she belonged 
to the lower classes, for even if she was neatly she 
was poorly clad. And she carried in her arms a 
bundle which, remembering the expression on Mary's 
face, I instantly regarded with suspicion 

" Well, my good woman, what is it you want with 

" I've come about the baby, sir." 

"What's that?" 


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" I've brought a baby, sir. He's my own — a boy, 
sir — a fine little fellow — and that healthy. Though 
he's only five months old he's hardly a mite of 
trouble. I'm sure no one could help liking him, he's 
so good." 

She spoke with rather a pleasant voice, though in 
it there was what sounded uncommonly like a sob. 
I had not the faintest notion what she was talking 
about, and told her so. 

" My good woman, will you tell me what it is you 
want with me ? " 

To my amazement she advanced to where I was 
sitting. Removing a clean white handkerchief which 
partially covered the bundle she was carrying she 
disclosed the face of what was apparently a real live 

''Look at him." I was looking. I couldn't help 
it ''The darling I he's fast asleep." She stooped 
and kissed it Unless I was mistaken a tear dropped 
on his face. " I — I hope you'll be good to him." She 
hoped I would be good to him ! — with that catching 
in her voice. " He's very heavy ; I've done all I 
could for him. He's wonderfully large for his age. 
Would you like to feel how heavy he is?" 

She actually held the infant out to me. I almost 
knocked the chair over in the haste with which I rose. 

" Feel it ! — I ! Woman, what do you mean by your 
extraordinary behaviour ? " 

I became conscious that through the thickness of 
her veil she was regarding me with doubt, with, 
even, something approximating to alarm. 

" Have you got a baby?" 


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''A babyl — ^what (Hi earth do you mean? I-^rm 
anmarried 1 '* 

"Oh!" She drew a long breath. "Perhaps 
someone came in front of me. I thought if I 
came early it would be all right The advertise- 
ment didn't mention any particular time." She 
scanned my countenance as if she were seeking for 
a key to what I have no doubt was the peculiarity 
of my expression. ** Perhaps it was a girl you 
wanted. The advertisement didn't say. If so I'm 
sorry Greorge is a boy. George is his name, sir. 
He's been properly christened. I hope that you 
won't mind." 

"Mind!— I mind!" 

" If you're not very set upon a girl I'm sure you'll 
soon get fond of George. He's — he's such a good 
child." It seemed as if the bewilderment with 
which I was r^arding her induced her to flounder 
on. "It's like this, sir. I've done my best for 
him, and I — I'm very fond of him, but I've come 
to an end of all I have, and — and I don't know 
what will become of us both if I don't take care. 
So I thought that if he could be happy with you 
it would be a weight off my mind, and — and I 
might be able to make better use of the few wits 
I have. All I want is that he should be happy." 

The woman spoke with such evident sincerity 
that I was more and more at a loss to guess whBt 
it was that she might be driving at 

"Listwi to me, if — when you've finished — you 
can find it convenient What's your name?" 

« Mary Dench, sir." 


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" Then, Mary Dench, perhaps you will be so good 
as to tell me, in as few words as possible, what you 
mean by bringing that infant here." 

" I thought that you might like to have him, sir. 
He's— he's a good child." 

" Like to have him ! A good child ! Are you — 
are you stark, staring mad? What — what can have 
put such a monstrous notion into your head ? You're 
an entire stranger to me." 

" Yes, sir ; I know I am." 

"Then — then, what do you mean by it? A 
baby ! Why Td — I'd sooner have ten thousand 

"I am sorry that I troubled you, sir. I suppose 
there's some mistake. Though I — I don't see 
where. I hope my comii^ hasn't put you to any 

Replacing the handkerchief over the face of the 
sleeping child she turned to go. Something in her 
voice, her attitude, her manner — something about 
her altogether — touched me somewhere, somehow. 

" Stay a moment ! If it's money you want, here's 

" Thank you, sir. It is not money I want I — I 
tiK>ught you might have cared to have George." 

This extraordinary young woman went out of the 
room, carrying herself— with her head bowed over 
the child — a3 if I had struck her a blow. I said 
not a word to stop her, though the consciousness 
that she was crying made me feel as if I had 
behaved in some way like a brute. I had not a 
notion how ! The fact is, I was in two minds as 


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to whether I had not been in the presence of some 
new kind of lunatic. The idea that I could wish 
to have anything to do with a child — and especially 
that worst form of child, an infant in arms — was 
monstrous beyond conception. My sentiments on 
the subject are known to all my acquaintances. I' 
make no secret of them. 

I r^ard the way in which children — of all ages — 
are thrust under our noses — in the very streets ! — ^as 
one of the worst signs of the age. I suffer physical 
discomfort whenever I am brought into contact with 
a child. I don't know what to say to it, nor do 
with it, nor even how to escape from it I am 
unable to remain in the same room for five consecu- 
tive minutes even with my own sister's brats. And 
the notion of allowing myself to be associated in 
any way whatever with a stranger's! 

I caught myself wiping my brow with a table 
napkin. I became conscious that the breakfast was 
getting cold. I abominate cold bacon. Yet I must 
have something to eat I could not go all the 
morning on an empty stomach. 

What was that ? Who on earth ? 

Something like an argument was taking place out- 
side my sitting-room. Voices — feminine voices- 
were raised in apparent argument Suddenly the 
door was thrown open, and a woman entered. A 
short, fat woman, with a very red face and a cast 
of countenance to which I instinctively objected. A 
flaring, though ancient, bonnet was a good deal on 
the back of her head. And, if I could believe the 
evidence of my own eyes, she carried an infant-^ 


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a positive infant — on either arm. I stared at her 
in amazement Favouring me with a casual glance, 
plumping down upon a chair, balancing her two 
burdens upon her capacious lap, ^e b^an to arrange 
her disordered headgear. Her mere presence made 
me conscious of a loss of dignity. 

"What," I asked, with more than sufficient limp- 
ness, " is the meaning of this? ** 

" It's about that there baby. But I daresay you 
know that much without my telling you." 

She had- her mouth full of what I perceived were 
hairpins. As she spoke she kept removing them and 
thrusting them into what seemed to be her head. I 
assumed an air of severity. 

" Will you be so good as to explain. I am not in 
the habit of having people enter my rooms uninvited 
when I am at meals." 

"All right, guv*nor, don't you worry. But when 
you're carrying two babies you do get flustered, and 
you ain't able to do nothing, not even if you do know 
your bonnet's a-crawling down your back." She 
assumed an air of business-like familiarity. "Now 
about that there baby. Here's two of 'em— boy 
and gal. There wasn't no mention in the advertise- 
ment about which was wanted, so I thought I'd 
be on the safe side and bring 'em both. You can 
have either of 'em, or you can have the piir. There 
ain't nothing the matter with either of 'em, except 
that the boy's beginning to cut his teeth, which 
makes him a little fretful." She possibly said this 
to account for the fact that one of the children was 
banning to make an objectionable noise. "All 


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that's asked is that they should have a happy home 
and be well looked after. And as I ain't no doubt 
but in this case that'll be right, the parents is willing 
to accept the fifty pounds as mentioned for to soothe 
their natural feelings." 

While I listened I vras b^inning to wonder if any 
appreciable portion of the world had all at once gone 
mad, and, in consequence, was gravitating in my 
direction. But even supposing that was the case, 
I did not propose — if I could help it — to allow a 
display of insanity to take place in my apartments. 

*^ Be so good as to leave this room at once." 

The woman stared, as if, in her turn, she was 

" Leave the room — whatever for ? " 

" Because the room happens to belong to me and 
because I ask you to leave it I will do you the 
kindness to suppose that there is a mistake some- 
where ; but as I do not propose to enter into details 
a$ to how it has arisen I will simply ask you again 
to leave this room at once." 

In reply her manner was distinctly impudent 

" Highty-tighty ! — well I never ! Ain't we 'aughty ! 
I don't see how there can be a mistake, seeing as 
how I've brought the baby as requested — in par- 
ticular, as I've brought one of either kind just to 
make sure. There ain't nothing the matter with 
'em, not as I knows on. You won't find finer 
children, not if you was to search all London." 

Seeing that I had rung the bell without having 
produced any apparent effect downstairs I crossed 
the room with the intention of showing the woman 


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out of the house myself. Just as I reached the door 
it was thrown open almost in my face. There 
entered— without announcement of any sort or kind 
— a second female, whom I should not have been 
astonished to learn was a twin sister of the one who 
was in already. That she knew her prototype was 
evident She addressed herself, in the first place, 
to her, and only afterwards to me. 

"O Maria, so there you are. So you have got 
here first. Daresay you think you're clever. Perhaps 
you ain't so clever as you think." Turning, she 
showed — to my increasing bewilderment — that she 
also bore a child on either arm. "If it's a baby 
you're wanting, sir, I've got here two of the loveliest 
children that ever was seen in this wicked world. A 
'ansome boy, and a regular fairy of a little gal, with 
eyes like violets and a temper of gold. Them there 
children what she's a been a-offering you, they ain't 
hers to offer. They're nuss children, that's what they 
are. If you was to have 'em both, you'd have their 
mothers coming and fetching 'em away next week. 
Straight, you would — I know." 

The first comer rose to the occasion. 

" Perhaps you'll go so far as to say that them two 
you have there is your own; perhaps you'll go 
so far as to say that they're your flesh and 

" So they are my flesh and blood, sir. Leastways 
the boy's my own sister's, and the girl's my niece's, 
and if that ain't being my own flesh and blood I don't 
know what is." 

"And perhaps their own mothers won't come 


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asking of 'em back next week! — Oh dear, no! 
Why, sir, you can take my word for it that she won't 
hardly have turned her back before you have 'em on 
to you*" 

" Don't you go telling lies about me now ! " 

"Who's telling lies? Besides, who started it? 
Who came here, pretending she was a friend, inter- 
fering with me? If you'd left me alone you know 
I'd have made it all right with you." 

The two viragoes began to abuse each other like a 
pair of fishwives. 

I had been conscious that something unusual was 
taking place in my hall ; and while I was becoming 
disposed to wonder if Pandemonium had broken 
loose there came through the doorway a tall, thin, 
anxious-looking man clad in a long rusty-black 
frock-coat. In spite of the fact that he carried in 
one hand a dilapidated top hat he dandled in both 
arms the apparently ubiquitous baby. He plunged 
into his business without giving me an opportunity 
to ask who he was or what he meant by his intrusion. 
A feeling was creeping over me that these must be 
the happenings of a nightmare. 

" Will you allow me, sir, to address you as a gentle- 
man like yourself and solicit your sympathy for 
an unfortunate of your own class ? Nine weeks ago 
to-morrow my wife quitted her husband's roof with 
an individual with whose name only I am acquainted 
She took with her the slender contents of my purse, 
together with such plate as I possessed, and left 
behind her this darling child. It's a girl, sir, a fair 
young ^irl. Situated as I am, with the rent in 


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arrears, and no employment suited to my station, 
I am unable to make for her that provision which 
I desire. She has twined herself about her father's 
heart But necessity knows no law. And in the 
exigences of the dreadful position in which I find 
myself — I have actually been without food, sir, for 
close upon three days! — she is yours, sir, she is 
yours. Pay no heed to the clamour of the vulgar 
crowd, to the traffickers in human flesh and blood. 
Take to your heart the offspring of your own class. 
My daughter, sir, my daughter! lx)ok upon her 
as if she were your own." 

He thrust the infant he was carrying on me with 
so much eagerness that it was all I could do to 
prevent his forcing her into my arms. The im- 
minence of the danger lent me spurs, so that I 
retreated from him with a show of agility for which 
he was unprepared. My impression is that the child 
all but fell to the floor. 

"How dare you, sir! How dare you try to — 
to cumber me with your — your progeny ! I demand 
an explanation of your presence here ! I insist upon 
being at once informed why any one of you is here 
at all — ^you and — and your brats ! " 

A voice replied from the neighbourhood of the 
door ; a voice of still another stranger. Seemingly 
they were arriving in throngs. Why, was a mystery. 
So far as I could determine in the midst of my 
agitation the new speaker was a big, raw-boned 
woman, a mass of jet-black hair showing untidily 
from under a large straw hat. She, also, bore a baby. 

" Brats ! " she cried. " I hope that's not the way 


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you intend to speak of a chitd of mine. When I 
come here at your own invitation I don't mean to 
have you call my child a brat, and so Til let you 

Crossing to me the woman actually flourished her 
infant in my face. She seemed to be six feet high, 
and vigorous almost out of proportion. 

" My invitation ! You've come at my invitation ! " 

^That's what I said, and that's what I mean. 
When you advertise for people to bring a baby, and 
they bring a baby, I call that an invitation, neither 
more nor less." 

Murmurs of agreement arose about me. People 
were pressing forward. It seemed as if the door 
would not close because of the crush. Amid the 
throng I dimly recognised my landlady's face. She 
seemed tremulous with agitation. 

" Advertise for a baby 1 — I advertise for a baby ! " 

" Yes, — you ! you ! Oh, don't start shivering and 
shaking — ^we're not to be put off like that ! " I dare- 
say I did make an effort to withdraw myself from 
the excitable person's too near neighbourhood ; but 
as for "shivering and shaking" — ^the idea was 
ridiculous. " Are you the Augustus Short spoken 
of there, or are you not ? " 

She thrust a slip of paper underneath my nose. I 
became conscious that others were producing similar 
slips. I took the one she proffered. It seemed to 
have been cut out of some kind of newspaper— one 
with which I was personally not familiar. Ap- 
parently it was an extract from one of the advertise- 
ment columns. On it I read : 


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* A gentleman wishes to adopt a baby. Must be 
healthy. A happy home assured. A solatium of 
jCso will be given. — Apply on Monday, bringing 
baby, to Augustus Short, 253 Belgrave Road, S.W." 

Positively my brain seemed to reel as 1 read. 
Not that I grasped what the thing actually was. 
As yet my mental organisation was not prepared 
to realise the enormity of the outrage with which I 
was confronted. 

" What— what on earth is this ? " 

"You know very well what that is, so what's the 
use of your asking? That advertisement was in 
Browffs Weekly News yesterday." 

A man in the distance was waving What seemed 
to be a newspaper over his head. 

" This is the paper what's got it in. My wife and 
me's brought three children in reply to it. Two 
twins, five months old, and a girl, eighteen months. 
My wife's got 'em outside in the p'rambulator. 
There's such a crowd that it didn't seem as if we 
could get 'em in, but I do hope, sir, that you won't 
decide nothing till you've had a look at 'em." 

My landlady's voice was raised in audible lament. 

"O Mr Short, I never thought you would have 
done it!" 

I nearly danced in my rage. That the woman 
could have thought me capable of such conduct 
after all the years she had known me ! 

" Do you imagine, Mrs Kiddall, — can you for an 
instant suppose that I — I'm responsible for this — 
this scandalous advertisement ! " 

The six-foot female took it upon herself to answer. 


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** I don't see where the scandalous comes in. And 
as for being responsible, this is 253 Belgrave Road, 
and aren't you Augustus Short?" 

" But — but, my good woman " 

" Don't you call me your good woman ! I ain't 
no good woman of yours, and so I'd have you 

" But, my dear madam, it's an outrage, — a hoax I 
A shameful and a wicked hoax has been practised 
both upon you and upon me." 

"A hoax?" 

" Nothing less 1 I know no more about that ad- 
vertisement than the man in the moon. Until this 
moment I was not aware that such a — a horror was 
in existence." 

"That's a nice thing to be told after traipsing 
right across London with two children in your arms, 
and coming without your breakfast on purpose to get 
here early." 

This was one of the earlier comers. Her friend 
chimed in. 

" It's worse with me. I borrowed the fare to bring 
me here, and lost a day's work into the bargain." 

" Do you mean to say," demanded the six-footer, 
" that you don't want no baby, and never advertised 
for one?" 

" I do ; I mean to say it, most emphatically." 

" But this is 253 Belgrave Road, and you're 
Augustus Short." 

" Allowing that to be the case, I must beg you to 
understand most distinctly that this — this abominable 
advertisement emanates neither from Augustus Short 


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nor from 255 Belgrave Road. It's the work of some 
— some creature who's a disgrace to our common 

" It's all very well talking like that after having 
brought us from goodness alone knows where." 

" I haven't brought you ! " 

" Then if you haven't who has — who has ? " 

She flourished in my face the infant she was 
carrying, as if threatening actual violence. Others 
set up a kind of chorus. 

" It isn't as if we were the sort that can afford to 
go dancing about with babies anjrwhere and anyhow." 

"We've got our bread to earn, we have, and 
precious hard we find it to earn." 

" It's the heartlessness of which I'm thinking." 

"And me" — this was the anxious-looking man 
whose wife had left his roof nine weeks before — " and 
me without having tasted food for three whole days," 
He smelt of spirits even at that hour of the morning. 
" And this beautiful infant — the offspring of one of 
your own class — my own son, sir" — I am prepared 
to take my affidavit that it had been his daughter ten 
minutes before — ^** wailing for a mother's arms." As 
if to illustrate his words the child did begin to cry at 
that very moment, though whether it was because he 
pinched it I could not say. " I, sir, I can starve — a 
father can. I ask you but to furnish me with the 
means with which to provide my child^-my darling 
child — with a feeding-bottle and a tin of Binks' Food 
for Babes, lest peradventure, as I bear it hence, it 
may perish by the way." 

I was about to return a peremptory refusal, feeling 


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that if I did not promptly put my foot down on 
suggestions of that kind I should be mulcted on every 
side, when an individual pushed his way across the 
room and caught me by the arm. He was a little 
man. He wore a white straw hat, a black beard, and 
a bright red necktie. Before I could release myself 
he had plunged headlong into a torrent of speech. 

" I'm an inventor, that's what I am. And I ask 
your attention for one moment to an article which 
I have recently invented which has every claim to 
popularity in an assembly such as this. That article's 
a crib — a baby's crib. One which fulfils all the re- 
quirements in which cribs have hitherto been lacking. 
You place the baby in it ; set it in motion, it rocks 
the child to sleep, and continues rocking as long 
as required. Attached to the crib is an ingenious 
arrangement by means of which the baby's bottle 
can be kept warm all through the night if de- 
sired. Within the crib itself is another ingenious 
arrangement which prevents the child from depriving 
itself of the protection of bedclothes and so exposing 
its tender frame to the chills of the winter. I do not 
hesitate to say that a more desirable article has never 
been offered to the parents of England, and that it 
should be found in every nursery and by every 
mother's bed. The price at which it can be put on 
the market will place it within reach of everyone. 
And it is therefore with confidence I assert that it is 
rightly named The Baby's Vade Mecum." 

By the time the fellow had come to the end of his 
rodomontade I was gasping for breath — as nearly as 
possible inarticulate with rage. 


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"What — what on earth do you mean by talking 
such nonsense to me? Do— do you think I want a 
baby's crib?" 

The man made himself as tall as his diminutive 
size permitted. He waved his arm. 

" I should think if there is anyone in this world 
in want of such an article it is you, sir— with all 
these babies in the house." 

I tore myself away from him ; forced my way 
across the room. Someone else caught me by the 
arm. He began to pour his nonsense into my ear. 

" If I might trespass for one moment, sir, on your 
valuable time. I represent a firm which is bringing 
out an entirely new variety of infants* food " 

I waited to hear no more. I hurled the miscreant 
from me, charged through the door, shouted to Mrs 
Kiddall and to Mary, who stood like a couple of 
gaping idiots in the middle of the crowd. 

" Send for a policeman ! Send for a policeman ! 
rU see how long I am to be subjected to such an 

There was no necessity to find one. A repre- 
sentative of the force had arrived already. Attracted, 
as was natural, by the unusual character of the 
assemblage which besi^ed — literally besieged ! — my 

" Policeman ! " I exclaimed, " Tm the victim of a 
hoax — of an outrageous criminal hoax. Some 
scoundrel has put an advertisement into a newspaper 
announcing that I want a baby. I know nothing 
about the advertisement — it is the work of some 
impudent ruffian, whom I only hope I may succeed in 


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tracing — and I want no baby. Will you be so good 
as to explain as mudi to this extraordinary collection 
of people, who appear to be bringing babies from all 
the four quarters of the globe ? *' 

It took me ten minutes to make that thick-headed 
constable understand what it was I meant. People 
were all talking tc^ether, to me, to each other, to the 
constable. Babies were crying — under the circum- 
stances, to my mind, that was not surprising. The 
whole scene was one of indescribable confusion. But 
when he did understand he made short work of 
clearing at least my rooms of the presence of those 
traffickers in infants. 

I myself had to leave the house — to keep that 
appointment in the city — by the back way. The 
policeman surmised that I might have a dis^reeable 
reception if I showed myself among the throng of 
babies and their proprietors in the front. So a pair 
of steps was placed against the wall which divided 
me from my neighbour in the adjacent street, and 
through his premises I made my way. 

A dignified exit to have to make t 

I remained away from home all through that day 
and night — to that extent was I victimised. I 
learned afterwards that people continued to come 
with babies throughout the day. Scores of them 
were eager to be adopted in consideration of a happy 
home and a solatium of £$o. How far the applica- 
tions were genuine I Am not in a position to say. 
There were the applicants. Whispers got about of 
what was taking place. In consequence, ribald 
loafers gathered together to see the fun. The affair 


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even got into the papers. I became the laughing- 
stock of all my friends. I ! — a, man whose sense of 
dignity is his strongest point. 

So far I have been unable to bring the outrage 
home to the actual perpetrator. Brown's Weekly 
people have been of no assistance whatever. They 
merely say that the advertisement reached them in 
the ordinary course, with the necessary sum required 
for its insertion, and that is all they know about it 
It seems to me that, considering the extraordinary 
nature of the advertisement, they ought to know a 
great deal more. When I do find myself in posses- 
sion of the necessary evidence, then let the miscreant 

In the meantime, if anybody wants samples of 
babies' clothes, babies' " pacifiers," babies' foods, 
babies' soaps, babies' medicines, or babies' rubbish 
generally, together with a mass of printed matter 
having reference thereto, then let them look in my 
dust-hole for what they require. During the next 
few days my letter-box was bombarded by advertisers 
who cater for the requirements — ^real or imaginary — 
of our infant population. 


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Chapter I 


pROFESSOR PIRILLA looked at me with an 
eye which suggested not so much impatience as 

" I am afraid, Mr Anderson, that it will be some 
time before you will be able to conjure." 

The professor had been showing me how to do a 
little trick with an egg. You swallowed it, then you 
brought it out at the back of yopr head, and out of 
your boots, and from all sorts of funny places. Of 
course, you never really swallowed it You palmed 
it and slipped it up your sleeve, an<;l then the rest of 
the trick was supposed to be easy. Unfortunately, 
in attempting to palm it I had dropped it, and it had 
smashed, and had made a mess on the floor, and smelt 
quite strong. The worst of it was that I had not 
quite succeeded in doing any of the tricks. When 
the professor did them they seemed to be simplicity 
itself, and so effective; but when I did them they 
did not seem to be the same thing at all. I felt that 
in what Professor Pirilla said there was at least a 
substratum of truth, and that it might be some time 
before I should be able to conjure. 

"I understood you to say, Mr Anderson, that the 



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little entertainment which you are proposing to give 
is to take place on the 29th : and this is the 22nd. 
I hardly think that you can be completely equipped 
to appear as a prestidigitator between this and then." 

"The fact is, professor, the occasion is that of a 
lady's birthday — the birthday, indeed, of the lady to 
whom I am engaged. As I told you, I have been in 
the habit of doing little tricks — quite simple little 
trick? — ^with three corks and a hat, and that kind of 

"Quite so. I understand." 

"But, as this was rather a special occasion, I 
thought that I would come out a little strong." 

"It would be very funny, would it not?" 

" Funny ? How do you mean ? Of course, I should 
try to give the affair a humorous turn, as all con- 
jurors do." 

" In your efforts to give the affair a humorous 
turn I feel sure that you would be successful — entirely," 

What was the man suggesting ? There was some- 
thing in his eyes and about his manner which I did 
not altogether relish» especially considering that I 
had paid him ten guineas in advance to show me 
how the things were done. 

" An idea, Mr Anderson. Supposing you were to 
make the affair a burlesque intentionally." 

" Explain yourself, professor." 

" Supposing you were to draw up a little programme 
of tricks which could not possibly be done and make 
of them a little humorous entertainment, as it were." 

" I am afraid that I must be rather dense, professor. 
Still I do not understand." 


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'No? I will try to make what I mean quite 

He did. He made it perfectly plain. It was quite 
clear to Professor Pirilla that I should never conjure 
•^never. That seemed to me to be rather good, 
bearing in mind that I had paid him ten guineas to 
coach me up in a few simple but effective tricks, by 
means of which I was to amuse and astonish the 
people who were to be assembled together on the 
occasion of Marion's birthday. But the professor 
declared that I was not of the stuff of which con- 
jurors are made. I reminded him of his contract 
Very good, he said, he would continue to give me 
lessons until one or other of us died, if I chose, but to 
the very end I should still smash eggs instead of 
palming them. There was not in me, he repeated, 
the stuff of which conjurors are made. However, in 
spite of that, I might provide my friends — and 
Marion's — ^with a little entertainment which might be 
made quite as amusing as an exhibition of bona fide 

" Suppose you announce in your programme, let us 
say, that you will turn a girl into a boy or a lady 
into a gentleman." 

I stared at him. I asked him if he thought that 
sort of thing was easier than palming eggs. 

" Not at all. That is the very point of my idea. 
Of course, you will not do it You will make a great 
fuss and a great to-do, and then you will say that the 
machinery will not work, and make the people laugh. 
You might fill your programme with the announce- 
ment of all sorts of impossible tricks, and make it 


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very amusing — ^that is, of course, if you have a little 
gift that way." 

I perceived that there was something in the pro- 
fessor's notion, though it certainly was not for that 
kind of thing that I had disbursed ten guineas. Still, 
since, as I myself was conscious, it would be some 
time before I should be able to palm eggs to my own 
satisfaction, or to anybody else's, I felt that, under 
the circumstances, I might as well make capital out 
of my own incapacity. In other words, that I might 
as well make an intentional idiot of myself instead of 
an unintentional one. 

I realised that my chief difficulty would be with 
Marion. She had such a high opinion of my quali- 
fications for a conjuror, as, indeed, I myself had had 
until I had begun to palm eggs and to take lessons 
from the professor, that I feared that any intimation 
to the effect that I had mistaken my vocation might 
be considered by my sweet Marion to be almost in 
the nature of a blow. However, by exercising a 
little diplomacy I managed to a great extent to 
spare my darling's feelings. 

''The professor thinks that an entertainment on 
the lines which I am contemplating would be such an 
entire novelty." 

That was how I put it when explaining to her that 
I had changed my plans. 

"But wouldn't an amateur conjuror be a 

I felt, though I did not say so, that in my case he 
probably would — a surprising novelty. 

'' The professor appears to be of the exactly opposite 


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opinion. He seems to think that that sort of thing 
has been overdone." 

•* Then the professor very rapidly changes his mmd. 
When you first went to him you said that he thought 
the idea a capital one. But you will show me that 
trick which he taught you and which you told me 
that you could do so well — that one in which you 
swallow an eg^ and bring it out at the back of your 
head. If I fetch you an egg you will show it me 
now, won't you, John ? " 

I coughed — I had to. 

''But, my dear Marion, it's such a commonplace 
trick, and not in the least amusing." I had never 
found it in the least amusing. I can swear to it 
" Never mind that now. See here, look at this pro- 
gramme which I have drawn up. I think it will 
startle the people." 

It did! 

The party was held at Marion's house — ^that is, at 
her mother^s house, Mrs Burwood's. Mrs Burwood 
had every confidence in me. The whole management 
of the affair was practically left in my hands, so, 
of course, I took care that my entertainment should 
be the feature of the evening. There was a little 
music, and then there was me. I had had the back 
drawing-room fitted up as a littlie stage, with a r^;ular 
conjuror's table, and a wand, and a quantity of 
paraphernalia, quite in the usual way. 

The professor had given me a hint that it would 
be just as well if my manner were quite serious. He 
seemed to think that the more in earnest I appeared 
the more the people would be amused. So when 


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the time arrived for me to begin, and the curtain 
drew up» I came on to the stage as grave as a judge, 
with not the ghost of a smile about me, just as 
though I meant to do ail that was down on the 
programme, and more. 

" Ladies and gentlemen," I began, as conjurors do 
begin, " I propose to give you, as I believe you are 
aware, an entertainment consisting of feats of magic and 
mystery. I propose to show you wonders, the like of 
which, I feel convinced, you never have seen before. 
And, by way of suitable commencement, I propose 
to show you how great is the force of a magician's will, 
how, even by inanimate objects, he must be obeyed. 
Ladies and gentlemen, you perceive that mirror." 

I pointed to a mirror which stood against a wall, 
and which reached from the floor to the ceiling. The 
people turned to look at it 

" When I raise this wand — ^you see that it is nothing 
but a wand — and point it at the mirror, and say, 
* Shiver ! * it will shiver, from the top to the bottom. 
Watch me closely, in order that you may see how 
it is done." 

I struck an attitude. I raised the wand. I pointed 
it at the mirror. I said, " Shiver I " 

Of course, it was nothing but a burlesque. Any* 
body with the slightest sense of perception could see 
that The idea was the professor's, not mine. And 
it is absurd, on the face of it, to suppose that a man 
can point a little ebony stick at a mirror and say, 
*• Shiver ! " and be in earnest So when Mrs Burwood 
says that I broke her looking-glass I utterly deny it 
I assert, as I have asserted over and over again, 


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and I am not a man whose word may be doubted, 
that I simply struck an attitude and held (mi 
a little piece of stick, and said " Shiver ! " It was 
only a joke. I had not the faintest notion that any- 
thing would happen, and was just going to say, in 
that humorous spirit in which I intended to conduct 
the whole performance, that, although the mirror was 
not obedient this time, I would teach it obedience 
before I again appeared upon that stage, when there 
was a curious sound, like the cracking of glass. The 
people all stood up, and someone exclaimed : '' He's 
cracked it rig^t in two ! " 

I had not the least idea what was meant, though I 
must allow that I was conscious of a vague sense of 
discomfort as I perceived that what seemed to be a 
crack, and a good wide crack at that, di^ run from 
top to bottom of the mirror. So I said, not knowing 
what else to say : 

** We will now pass on to the second item on the 

The. audience seemed to be slightly surprised, as 
though under the impression that the trick had only 
been b^^n, and, so to speak, not finished. This 
applied, in particular, to Mrs Burwood. She had an 
outside chair in the third row. When that cracking 
sound was heard she had stood up and turned h^* back 
to me, and seemed to be staring at something with 
might and main. On my making that remark about 
passing on to the second item on the programme 
she wheeled round, and said out loud, and quite 
sharply : 

" John 1 Aren't you going to mend it ? " 


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I was so taken aback at being addressed in sueh 
an extremely unceremonious manner by one, who 
although doubtless the hostess and the owner of the 
mirror, was, after all, only a looker-on, that at the 
moment I could only answer question with question. 

"Mend what, Mrs Burwood?" 

"You've broken the mirror I" 

I had broken the mirror 1 Mrs Burwood, my 
Marion's own mother, actually made that assertion, 
in really strident tones, in the presence of a number 
of people, many of whom were perfect strangers 
to me. It is absolutely unnecessary that I should 
repeat the already reiterated assertion that the whole 
affair, so far as I was concerned, was, in inception 
and in execution, the purest joke. But the truth is 
that I was so unnerved at finding myself accused, in 
such a manner, and of such an action, that, for the 
moment I lost my mental balance and said what, I 
frankly concede, I never ought to have said, and 
what I never should have said, if I had been allowed 
even only an instant for reflection. 

"Mrs Burwood, you really must not interrupt 
the due sequence of the programme. That portion 
of the entertainment in which I mend the mirror 
is to come later on." 

It must be obvious, even to persons of the meanest 
capacity, that these words of mine were merely 
intended as a little humorous sally. They never 
would have borne the interpretation which Mrs 
Burwood, not to speak of other persons, chose to 
put upon them ; and to imagine that I proposed to 
repair an article which I had not injured, or that, 


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in default, I could be called upon to forfeit a pre- 
posterous sum by way of damages, was to imagine 
an absurdity. Still, as the words left my lips, even 
then I was conscious that my little joke might 
miscarry. There was something in Mrs Burwood's 
face and about her bearing which caused a pre- 
monitory shiver to pass all over me. 

It will be perceived that my little entertainment 
had not commenced in the most propitious manner, 
and it was not with my usual ease of mind and 
lightness of heart that I persisted in my endeavour 
to amuse a number of individuals who, after all, 
were neither guests nor friends of mine. 

** To enable me, ladies and gentlemen, to perform 
my next feat," I remarked, in that facetious way 
of mine, "I have to request the loan of a lady's 

There was the usual delay which always does 
take place whenever a conjuror asks his audience 
to lend him anything; and then Miss Adelaide 
Mixer, a young lady of whom I never have been 
particularly fond — especially since certain episodes 
in our acquaintance took place^ on which I need 
not dwell — volunteered to lend me hers. The 
handkerchief was passed from hand to hand until it 
came to me. 

"May I ask the lady to whose kindness I am 
indebted for the loan of this pocket-handkerchief 
if she values it?" 

" I value it very much," observed Miss Mixer. 

"Then, in that case, I must ask you, with great 
reluctance, to look upon it for the last time. Regard 


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it fondly ! Say to it a last farewell — ^you will never 
look on it again." 

I held the handkerchief up by its two corners. 
It was a little lace affair — ^the sort of thing that 
can be bought at any shop for eighteenpence. To 
say that it was worth five guineas is perfect 

"Watch me closely! I fold it once, I fold it 
twice, I fold it once again. I crush it in my hand 
I close my fist on it. I touch my fist with my 
magic wand. I say, ' Hi diddle diddle ! presto ! ' — it 
is gone!" 

I cannot too frequently repeat that the whole 
affair was intended as a little joke — a burlesque — 
a take-off of the stereotyped conjuror's entertainment 
I had not the faintest intention that the handkerchief 
should disappear. It stands to reason — how could 
I have ? My intention was to keep on knocking my 
fist with the wand and saying "Hi diddle diddle!" 
and so on, and then to open my hand, and to make 
the people laugh by showing them that the hand- 
kerchief had not gone. 

But it did go. It sounds incredible. I have been 
able, up to the present, to make no one believe it — 
even those who, at that time, were my nearest and 
my dearest. But the plain truth is that, no sooner 
did I touch my fist with my wand and say " Presto ! " 
than I felt the handkerchief go. You can take 
my word for it that I was startled. How it went, 
or where, is more than I can say. I only wish I 
could say . I should instantly institute proceedings 
against certain persons for defamation of character. 


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It was just as though it had vanished into air. One 
moment it was in my hand, the next — I can only 
say that the next it wasn't Unclenching my fist, 
I stared with amazement at the empty palm. 

" By George ! " I exclaimed, " it's gone ! " 

The people seemed to think that my action and 
exclamation were part of the trick. There was 
laughter and applause. I presume they laughed 
because they thought that in my face and attitude 
there was something funny. If there was, then I 
may safely affirm that the fun was quite uncon- 

" Where can it have gone ? " I looked about me 
in all directions. I stared again at my empty 
hand. "It has gone! I never heard of anything 
so strange." I stared at the audience. "I don't 
know if anyone is playing a trick with me." 

There was more laughter and applause. The 
people seemed to think that it was still part of the 
performance. I was b^inning to feel a trifle wild. 
When a man is endeavouring, gratuitously, to amuse 
a number of perfect strangers he does not expect 
to be treated in that kind of way. He expects, at 
the very least, to be treated with common courtesy. 
Taking out my handkerchief I wiped my brow: it 
was damp with perspiration. 

"I think, ladies and gentlemen, that, with your 
permission, I will now pass on to the next item on 
the programme." 

" Where is Miss Mixer's handkerchief? " 

The question came from Bulstead. Bulstead is a 
man to whom I have the strongest possible objection. 


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I am convinced in my own mind that, if it had not 
been for Bulstead, Miss Adelaide Mixer would never 
have treated me so badly as, on a certain occasion, 
she notoriously did do. It is understood that she 
is going to marry him. If that is so, I can declare, 
with all sincerity, I pity her. I did not intend to 
allow a man like Bulstead to put on airs with me. 
I let him see it 

" I think it possible, Mr Bulstead, that you know 
where Miss Mixer's handkerchief is better than I do." 

" I know ? What do you mean ? " 

" If you do not know what I mean, Mr Bulstead, 
then I am afraid I don't All I can say, of my 
own knowledge, is that Miss Mixer's handkerchief 
has disappeared." 

I fancy that my words made a slight sensation. 
I meant them to. I was getting roused. 

"Do you really mean, Mr Anderson, that you 
don't know where Adelaide's handkerchief is ? " 

It was Miss Adelaide's mother, Mrs Mixer, who 
this time took it upon herself to question me. 

" Unless, Mrs Mixer, it is in Mr Bulstead's pocket" 

"Stand up, Bulstead, and turn out your pockets. 
A conjuror of Mr Anderson's ability is capable of 
any feat of magic." 

I don't know who made this remark. It was a 
most objectionable person whoever it was. Of 
course, I knew that the handkerchief was not in 
Bulstead's pockets. It couldn't be. I had never 
for a moment supposed that it could. In fact, as 
he proved by turning his pockets inside out, it 


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•* Perhaps," said Bulstead, ** Mr Anderson will now 
turn his pockets inside out and show us that Miss 
Mixer's handkerchief is not in one of them." 

Bulstead's proposition was a highly offensive one. 
It was tantamount to suggesting that the conjuror 
intended to appropriate, and, indeed, had appropriated, 
the articles which he has induced his audience to 
lend him for the purposes of his entertainment. But 
in such an emergency I was not a man to stand 
upon my dignity. Then and there, by exhibiting 
the contents of my pockets, I proved conclusively 
that they contained nothing but my own handker- 
chief, a card case, a pencil case, three sovereigns, 
and my watch and chain. That silenced even 
Bulstead. Mrs Mixer still persisted. ** Really, Mr 
Anderson, I do not know even now if you are in 
earnest in saying that you do not know what has 
become of Adelaide's handkerchief." 

I remembered the sex of my interlocutor. I kept 
my temper. 

** I am not aware, Mrs Mixer, that I am a person 
who says the thing which is not" 

" But conjurors do say such queer things. And the 
handkerchief is not only intrinsically valuable, but it 
was a present to Adelaide from one who is now dead." 

** I can only assure you, Mrs Mixer, that I know 
no more what has become of Miss Adelaide Mixer's 
handkerchief than the man in the moon." 

There was silence. I am inclined to think that the 
audience did not quite understand what the position 
was. I protest that I didn't. Then someone spoke, 
an idiot of the name of Gage. 


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"Anderson, why don't you finish your tricks? 
You begin them very well, and then you don't go 
on. First of all, you crack a mirror " 

** I crack a mirror ? I don't understand you, Mr 

"Well, you said * Shiver!' to the mirror, and it 

"I hope that you are not seriously suggesting, 
Mr Gage, that I have been the cause of actual 
damage now, or at any other time, to a mirror." 

Mrs Burwood stood up. She was all of a fluster. 

"You don't mean, John, that you didn't crack 
my looking-glass." 

" I ! I crack your looking-glass ! Mrs Burwood, 
is it possible that you could think me capable of 
such a wanton act of mischief? " 

Mr G^gG put his eyeglass in his eye. Conceited 

"Perhaps the looking-glass has been and got 
Itself mysteriously mended." He turned to see. 
"No; the crack, which is a crack, still is visible — 
at anyrate to the eyeglassed eye." 

" Jcdin, I do hope " Mrs Burwood, a lady for 

whom, up to that time, I had entertained feelings 
of the sincerest respect, seemed to be in a state of 
actually ludicrous agitation. " John," she said, " I 
do hope that you are only jesting, and that you 
do mean to mend the looking-glass." 

"And I earnestly trust, Mr Anderson, that you 
will immediately return Adelaide's handkerchief." 

This, of course, was Mrs Mixer. I doubt if an 
amateur, a simple amateur, was ever before treated 


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in such a fashion at a private party in a respectable 
house. Marion came to my rescue. 

" Mrs Mixer ! Mamma ! I am quite sure it will 
be all right if you will only let John go on, John, 
please continue ! " 

I was grateful to Marion for her interposition. 
At the same time I felt that I owed it to myself 
to make an effort at self-assertion. 

" Perhaps/' I murmured, wiping away the moisture 
which bedewed my brow, "it would be as well if, 
under the circumstances, I were to leave unfinished 
the programme which I have arranged." 

There broke out a chorus of " No, no ! go on ! " 
That ass, Gage, called out: "Don't rob us of a 
treat I Finish your programme. If you go on as 
you have begun you'll do first rate." 

Under other conditions I should have annihilated 
Gage. I saw him smile! Marion, with love's dis- 
cerning eye, perceived what was passing in my mind. 
She crushed Gage. 

" Possibly, Mr Gage, Mr Anderson may prove 
almost as successful in amusing us, as you would 

Gage, crushed, endeavoured to scramble out of a 
false position. 

" I do not doubt it, Miss Burwood, for a moment 
Indeed, I assure you, that was the impression I 
intended to convey." 

Marion treated Mr Gage's shufHing attempt at 
an apology with glacial indifference. She addressed 
herself to me. 

" John, please go on— do I " 


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Chapter II 


After such an appeal as that as a matter of course 
I went on. But before I did go on I thought that 
it might be as well if I tendered a few remarks 
somewhat in the nature of an explanation. 

"Ladies and gentlemen, in view of the seeming 
mishaps which have marred the perfect harmony of 
the evening — for I do not know what has become 
of Miss Mixer's pocket-handkerchief, and who cracked 
the mirror I know still less — I say that, in view of 
the seeming mishaps which have marred the perfect 
harmony of the evening, I deem it advisable that 
you should clearly comprehend what it is that I 
propose to do by way of providing you with a little 
amusement. My entertainment is a burlesque — -—" 

I distinctly heard Gage murmur : " A burlesque? — 
I see ! " as though he had made a sudden discovery. 
He might not have thought that other people heard 
him — but they did. 

"I have not the ability to perform the various 

" Hear, hear ! " that was Bulstead. I had not my 
eye on him at the moment, but I knew his voice. 

" I say that I do not pretend to have the ability 
which would enable me to perform the various 
tricks." I paused. I eyed him steadily. This time 
the man was still. " I shall attempt only, as it were, 
to take them off. You have all of you at some 
time or other been present at a conjuror's perform- 


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ance. My modest ambition is but to present you with 
a sort of burlesque imitation of the kind of thing which 
at such a performance you must have witnessed." 

There was quite a storm of applause. People 
stamped their feet, clapped their hands, and cried 
•• Bravo ! " I hoped that now they would understand 
what it was that I was driving at and that the rest 
of the entertainment would be allowed to run on the 
lines on which I had laid it down. 

" The next item on my programme I call * The 
Arabian Nights Revivified; or, The Transformed 
Lady.' I propose, with your permission, before your 
eyes, in the presence of you all, to turn a lady into 
a gentleman. I do not claim that the feat in itself 
is difficult Indeed, I concede its complete simplicity. 
But I do assert that I will perform it in a manner 
quite different to anything of the kind which you 
may have seen before. May I ask any lady who 
wishes to be turned into a gentleman to step upon 
the stage." 

There was the usual silence. Appeals of that sort 
never are acceded to at once. "Time is passing! 
Such a chance may not occur again! I imagine 
that all ladies will be only too glad to avail them- 
selves of an opportunity of being turned into 
gentlemen ! " 

There were feminine murmurs of ** Oh ! oh ! " and 
masculine cries of ** Hear ! hear ! " I perceived that 
at last all was going swimmingly. 

"Wide although my powers are, I cannot create 
a lady for the purpose of this experiment Will 
no one volunteer ? Is the prospect of being turned 


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into a creature of the viler sex too horrible a 
one for contemplation?" 

More dissentient cries, and more applause. Marion 
stood up. 

"* If you like, John, you can turn me into a 

Directly she made her offer something struck me 
in the small of the back, for all the world as if a 
piece of ice had been laid against my naked skin. 
Odd though the sensation undoubtedly was, I paid 
it no attention. 

** I shall be delighted, my dear Marion, to turn you 
into a gentleman within two twinklings. May I ask 
you to step this way ? " 

She came through the folding door into the back 
drawing-room, which I was using as a stage. As 
she did so I saw she shivered. I did not, and I 
do not, know why. So far as mere temperature was 
concenied, it was even oppressively warm. 

" May I ask into what sort of gentleman you would 
prefer to be turned ? " 

"Oh, I don't care — any sort" 

I did not notice it at the time, but when I came 
td think things over afterwards I remembered that 
there was something peculiar about the way in which 
she said this-^spmething constrained. 

" I perceive that your own tastes are catholic. Is 
there any member of the audience who would prefer 
that the lady should be turned into any particular 
kind of gentleman?" Apparently not No one 
spoke. I pointed to Marion with my wand. "* I sup-* 
pose that no one doubts that this is a lady ? " 


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" A perfect lady," murmured Gage. 

There was a storm of applause. Marion turned 
a fiery red She favoured that imbecile, Gage, with 
a little curtsey. I went on. 

'* I would call the attention of the audience to this 
chair, on which I am about to ask the lady to sit 
down. There is no false bottom about it or any 
thing of that kind. It is a plain, simple, but hand- 
some drawing-room chair. Would any member of 
the audience like to examine this chair ? " Appar- 
ently no one would. " I would also call the attention 
of the audience to the floor. It is the usual kind 
of floor— perfectly solid." I stamped on it with my . 
foot " There is no removable piece of carpet and 
no trap door. Would any member of the audience 
like to come and see if he can find a trap door ? " 
Again no answer. I turned to Marion. "As a 
preliminary to turning you into a gentleman, I have 
now, my dear Marion, to ask you to be so good as 
to sit down upon this chair.*' 

Marion leaned towards me, and in what, consider- 
ing all the circumstances, I could not but feel was 
rather an unsatisfactory fashion, whispered in my 
ear (one should never whisper to a conjuror; it 
suggests collision): 

"John! You won't hurt me, John?" 

" My dear Marion I Hurt you ! What an idea ! " 

*' I know it's silly of me, but I do feel ao funny 
all of a sudden." 

As she seated herself upon the chair she certainly 
did look, I will not say funny, but a little strange. 
She had turned quite white; I could see that she 


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was trembling. My impression was that she was 
going to be ill. I myself was conscious of a curious 
sensation, which I am unable to describe. But as 
I did not want my little entertainment to be a 
complete fiasco I could only hope that she would 
control her feelings^ for her own sake as well as for 

mine, and Well, I proceeded with my little 

piece of harmless drollery. 

"This, ladies and gentlemen, is what I call my 
Patent Transforming Extinguisher. I shall place 
it over the lady whom you now see seated on the 
chair. I shall utter a certain brief but all-powerful 
magic formula. I shall raise the Patent Transform- 
ing Extinguisher, and in less than a second, in less 
than a flash of lightning, in less than a twinkling 
of an eye, you will find that the lady will have dis- 
appeared, and that, seated on the chair, will be an 
individual of the opposite sex. In other words, by 
means of forces which I am unable to describe, and 
which, in any case, you would be unable to under- 
stand, the lady will have been transformed into a 

I had in my hand a sort of magnified skirt stand, 
a Brobdingnagian edition of one of those wicker- 
work constructions which women use to drape their 
dresses. I had had it covered with American cloth 
and made large enough to completely cover and 
conceal a person seated on a chair. 

*'I must ask you, ladies and gentlemen, to take 
a final glance at the lady you now see, because, 
when you next behold her, she will be a gentle- 


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I held the wicker-work construction aloft with both 
my hands prior to temporarily extinguishing with 
it my Marion, so that the joke might be carried 
properly through. To my unbounded amazement 
Marion stretched out her arms, and even forcibly re- 
monstrated against my intention of extinguishing her. 

"John! Oh doQ't, John!" 

*' My dear Marion, it is the merest form ! " In my 
frolicsome fashion I laughed away her sudden and, 
indeed, childish timidity. ''I am only going to 
extinguish you. Before you know it you will have 

I covered her with the wicker-work construction. 
To enable me to do so I had actually to use an 
appreciable amount of force. When I had covered 
her, and, if I may say so, kept her covered, with my 
disengaged hand I waved my wand in the air two 
or three times, and I said: 

" Wangdy — wangdy — w^ngdy — wang ! That, 
ladies and gentlemen, is the magic formula. When 
I lift the Patent Transforming Extinguisher you 
will find that the lady has been transformed into 
a gentleman." 

I did not lift the Patent Transforming Extinguisher. 
I never had the chance. The thing is notorious. 
I really had not ceased repeating when that pre- 
posterous caricature of a dress stand began to wobble 
in the most extraordinary manner. Before I could 
move, it fell right over. The most awful language 
desecrated the air. There, in plain sight of every- 
body, was a pair of trousered l^s struggling inside 
the American cloth, t was paralysed with astonish- 


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ment, and still more so when the struggler suc- 
ceeded in emerging from the Patent Transforming 
Extinguisher, and in front, not only of me, but of 
the entire audience, stood Professor Pirilla. 

I never sa\^ a man who seemed to have so entirely 
lost control of his temper. He was in evening dress. 
But his attire was in a state of the most shocking 
disorder. He seemed to be sopping wet A stream 
of water was issuing from each of the sleeves of his 
coat So far as I could make out he was covered with 
little pieces of glass, and several goldfish were actu- 
ally sticking out between his shirt front and the top 
of his waistcoat He was in anything but a fit and 
proper condition to appear in a respectable drawing- 
room— especially without any sort of invitation. 

But, so far from appearing conscious of this, the 
professor seemed to be conscious of nothing at all. 
He glared about him as if he were insane. He glared 
at the ceiling. He glared at the floor. He glared at 
the audience, and then, at last, he glared at me. And 
when he did glare at me, and saw who I was, he 
literally shook with passion. Stretching out his arm 
he pointed at me in a manner wholly unbecoming a 
person of good breeding. For a moment he con- 
tinued, as it seemed, speechless with rage. He pre- 
sented a spectacle which was really shocking. Then 
he began, shrieking rather than speaking : 

" So it is you, you " 


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Chapter III 


I WILL not sully my pages by even hinting at the 
description of language which the miserable mounte- 
bank allowed himself to use. It sounds incredible, 
but he wound up by throwing a wet, flabby, and live 
goldfish right in my face. 

^ I will kill you I " he screamed. 

Nor will I affront the delicate susceptibilities of 
people of good breeding by more thsm a distant 
reference to the manner in which the reptile ruffian 
allowed himself to assault me. It is my firm con- 
viction that if certain masculine individuals of the 
audience, including the idiot Gage, and the libeller 
Bulstead, had not interfered he would have killed 
me. It seemed to me at the time that he had 
broken every bone in my body; and of what 
offence I had been guilty I was, and am, at a loss 
to understand. The idea of the whole affair, from 
first to last, was his, not mine. He had said to me : 
** Suppose you announce in your programme that you 
will turn a lady into a gentleman." I had acted on 
his suggestion. I had made the announcement in 
my prc^^ramme. It was pure buriesque, nothing 
more. And although I, naturally, regret that Mrs 
Burwood should have been compelled to start ofi*, 
then and there, in search of Marion, and to bring her 
home in a state of collapse in a cab, I cannot, for 
the life of me, conceive how I was to blame for 


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It seems that the wretched charlatan, who calls 
himself Professor Pirilla, was giving his puerile enter- 
tainment at a private party in the house of a man 
named Macbean, some three or four streets off. He 
was performing the goldfish trick, and had a glass 
vessel full of water and of goldfish poised on the 
fingers of either hand when, such is the statement, 
he disappeared. As he disappeared he threw one 
glass vessel— fish, water, and all — among Macbean's 
guests. The other he brought with him to Mrs 
Burwood's. When Macbean's guests recovered from 
their not unreasonable astonishment they perceived 
in front of them, not Pirilla, but a young woman in 
a condition of violent hysterics. Macbean, who, 
certainly, was no gentleman, appears to have thought 
that Pirilla had prematurely performed a trick which 
had been insufficiently rehearsed. He commenced to 
abuse Marion — for the hysterical young woman was 
my Marion — as if she were a pickpocket That was 
more than Marion could endure. She swooned be- 
fore Macbean had time to call to mind that he had 
some pretensions to respectability. 

For my part, I have broken with the whole set 
I have not spoken to Marion Burwood since the 
moment I covered her with the Patent Transforming 
Extinguisher. When Mrs Burwood induced a petti- 
fogging solicitor to send me an abusive letter claim- 
ing damages for a mirror which I had not broken, 
damages for injuries to her own feelings, for injuries 
to her daughter's feelings, and for injuries to her 
guests' feelings, that was enough for me. The Mixer 
girl served me with a county-court summons for what 


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she called the "value" of her pocket-handkerchief. 
I had to pay that — a most extortionate sum. The 
man, Pirilla, fleeced me to a frightful extent for in- 
juries to his person and to what he was pleased to 
term his "reputation." Macbean, a total stranger, 
a fellow whom I have never seen, actually wanted me 
to supply some of his guests with articles of wearing 
apparel in place of others which he said I had spoiled 
— ^with fragments of glass, and with fish, and with 

Explanation? Those who desire an explanation 
must apply to the professor. He may be able to 
explain. I think it highly probable. It would be 
useless, and, on the face of it, would be adding insult 
to injury, to apply to me. 

Thi Hivtrside Pr$ss LimUedt Edinhtrgk 


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methubn's standako library, 





















churchman's LIBRARY, 













FICTION, 29-37 



THE NOVELIST, .... 38 


JULY 1903 


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Messrs. Methuen's 


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THE SI7PRBMB CRIUB. Cr. 8sv. 6r. 
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*Tbe lore atotT whlck ft enshrines is a 
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;n the 


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X. VJ " ~ raaL 

XI. Tl 



XV. T 

XVI. T t. 

XVII L U »rt 



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THB FAIR God. By General Lew Wallace. 
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