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Full text of "The moving finger"

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The moving finger 



Uppenheim 




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HARVARD 
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LIBRARY 



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I 

THE MOVING FINGER 



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' Sit still," he whispered. " Don't say anything. There 
is someone coming." 

[Frontispiecb. See p. i66 



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THE MOVING 
FINGER 



BY 

E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM 

AUTHOK or " TBI IXMT AMBAMAOOB," " THX IIimTBIOrf 



With Ittualratiotu by 
J. V. McFALL 



BOSTON 

LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY 

1911 



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CopyrtgU, 1910, 1911, 
Bt Little^ BmowK, akd CoMPAirr* 

AU rights r$$§rved. 
Published, May, 1911. 



Brinted by 
THE COLONIAL PRESS 
C,H,8imondBJkCo,,BostontU,S,A, j ^ 



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**The Moving Finger writes ; and having writ. 
Moves on : nor all your Piety nor Wit 
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, 
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.'* 



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CONTENTS 



Pbologue — The Dreamer .... 1 

I. A Letter Proves Useful .... 11 

n. Old Acquaintances 17 

m. " Who is Mr. Saton? " 23 

IV. A Question of Obliqation .... 82 

V. A Morning Walk 46 

VI. Pauline Marrabel 54 

Vn. An Unwelcome Visitor 61 

Vin. An Instance of Occultism .... 67 

IX. A Sentimental Talk 74 

X. The Scene Changes 80 

XI. A Busy Evening 86 

XII. A Call on Lady Marrabel .... 97 

Xni. Lady Mary's Dileboia l05 

XIV. Petty Worries 114 

XV. Rochester is Indignant ..... 124 

XVI. Plain Speaking 133 

XVn. The Great Naudhbim 141 



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viii 


CONTENTS 




CHAFTBB 




PMB 


xvm. 


RoCHESTEB's Ul/miATDM . . . 


. 150 


XIX. 


Tbotxblxs Bbewing 


. 158 


XX. 


FntsT Blood 


. 165 


XXI. 


Afraid! 


, 172 


XXTT. 


Saxon Rbassgbts Himself . . . 


178 


xxm. 


An Unpleasant Encotjntee . . 


186 


XXIV. 


Lois is Obedient 


194 


XXV. 


A Last Warning 


202 


XXVI. 


The Duchess's Dinner Pabtt . , 


209 


XXVII. 


The Answer to a Riddle . . . , 


215 


xxvni. 


Spoken from the Heabt . . . 


224 


XXIX. 


The Couba^oe of Desperation . 


232 


XXX. 


A StiBPRisiNa Request .... 


239 


XXXI. 


Between Love and Dutt . . . 


. 248 


XXXII. 


At the FiDQE of the Precipice . 


. 255 


xxxm. 


" You Do Not Believe in Me! " 


, 261 


XXXIV. 


A Woman's Tongue 


. 269 


XXXV. 


On Lois' Bibthdat 


. 278 


XXXVI. 


The Charlatan Unmasked . . 


. 284 




Epiloqub — The Man .... 


. 294 



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ILLUSTRATIONS 

" Sit still," he whispered. " Don't say anything. 

There is someone coming "... Frontispiece 
He came to a standstill by the side of the boy P<ige % 
" Some water quick, and brandy," Rochester 

cried "73 

She swayed for a moment, and fell over on 

her side " 22« 



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THE MOVING FINGER 

PROLOGUE 

THE DREAMER 

THE boy sat with his back to a rock, his knees 
drawn up and clasped within fingers nervously 
interlocked. His eyes were fixed upon the great 
stretch of landscape below, shadowy now, and indistinct, 
like a rolling plain of patchwork woven by mysterious 
fingers. Gray mists were floating over the meadows and 
low-lying lands. Away in the distance they marked the 
circuitous course of the river, which only an hour ago 
had shone like a belt of silver in the light of the setting 
sun. Twilight had fallen with unexpected swiftness. Here 
and there a light flashed from the isolated farmhouses. 
On the darkening horizon, a warm glow was reflected in 
the clouds from the distant town. 

The boy, when he had settled down to his vigil, had 
been alone. From over the brow of the hill, however, had 
come a few minutes ago a man, dressed in loose shooting 
clothes, and with a gun under his arm. He came to a 
standstill by the side of the boy, and stood there watching 
him for several moments, with a certain faintly amused 
curiosity shining out of his somewhat supercilious gray 
eyes. The newcomer was obviously a person of breeding 
and culture — the sort of person who assumes without 
question the title of " Gentleman.'* The boy wore ready- 



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2 THE MOVING FINGER 

made clothes and hobnailed boots. They remained within 
a few feet of one another for several moments, without 
speech. 

" My young friend/* the newcomer said at last, ** you 
will be late for your tea, or whatever name is given to 
your evening meal. Did you not hear the bell? It rang 
nearly half-an-hour ago.'' 

The boy moved his head slightly, but made no attempt 
to rise. 

" It does not matter. I am not hungry.'' 

The newcomer lecmed his gun against the rock, and 
drawing a pipe from the pocket of his shooting'<K>at, 
commenced leisurely to fill it. Every now and then he 
glanced at the boy, who seemed once more to have be- 
come unconscious of his presence. He struck a match and 
lit the tobacco, stooping down for a moment to escape 
the slight evening breeze. Then he threw the match 
away, and lounged against the lichen-covered fragment 
of stone. 

** I wonder," he remarked, " why, when you have the 
whole day in which to come and look at this magnificent 
view, you should choose to come just at the hour when it 
has practically been swallowed up." 

The boy lifted his head for the first time. His face 
was a little long, his features irregular but not displeas- 
ing, his deep-set eyes seemed unnaturally bright. His 
cheeks were sunken, his forehead unusually prominent. 
The whole effect of his personality was a little curious. If 
he had no claims to be considered good-looking, his face 
was at least a striking one. 



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He came to a standstill by the side of the boy. 

[Page 2 



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% 

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PROLOGUE — THE DREAMER 3 

** I come at this hour,*' he said slowly, " because the 
view does not attract me so much at any. other time. It is 
only when the twilight falls that one can see — prop- 
erly/' 

The newcomer took his pipe from his mouth. 

"You must have marvelous eyesight, my young 
friend,'' he remarked. ^ To me everything seems blurred 
and uncertain." 

"You don't understand!" said the boy impatiently. 
" I do not come here to see the things that anyone can 
see at any hour of the day. There is nothing satisfying 
in that. I come here to look down and see the things 
which do not really exist. It is easy enough when one is 
alone," he added, a little pointedly. 

The newcomer laughed softly — there was more ban- 
ter than hiunor in his mirth. 

** So my company displeases you," he remarked. " Do 
you know that I have the right to tell you to get up, and 
never to pass through that gate again? " 

The boy shrugged his shoulders. 

^^ One place is as good as another," he said. 

The man smoked in silence for several moments. Then 
he withdrew the pipe from his teeth and sighed gently. 

** These are indeed democratic days," he said. " You 
do not know, my young friend, that I am Henry Prest- 
gate Rochester, Esquire, if you please. High Sheriff of 
this county. Magistrate and Member of Parliament, 
owner, by the bye, of that rock against which you are 
leaning, and of most of that country below, which you 
can or cannot see." 



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4 THE MOVING FINGER 

" Really ! '* the boy answered slowly. " My name i 
Bertrand Saton, and I am staying at the Convalescen 
Home down there, a luxury which is costing me exactl; 
eight shillings a week." 

" So I concluded/' his companion remarked. " May ' 
ask what your occupation is, when in health? '* 

" It's of no consequence,*' the boy answered, a littL? 
impatiently. ** Perhaps I haven't one at all. Whatever i 
is, as you may imagine, it has not brought me any grea 
success. If you wish me to go ^" 

" Not at all," Rochester interrupted, with a little pro 
testing gesture. 

" I do not wish to remain here on sufferance," the bo\ 
continued. " I understood that we were allowed to spen* 
our time upon the hills here." 

" That is quite true, I believe," Rochester admittec 
^^ My bailiff sees to those things, and if it amuses you t^ 
sit here all night, you are perfectly welcome." 

** I shall probably do so." 

Rochester watched him curiously for a few seconds. 

" Look here," he said, " I will make a bargain wit 
you. You shall have the free run of all my lands for e 
long as you like, and in return you shall just answer n 
one question." 

The boy turned his head slightly. 

" The question? " he asked. 

"You shall tell me the things which you see dow 
there," Rochester declared, holding his hand straight oi 
in front of him, pointing downward toward the hab 
hidden panorama. 



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PROLOGUE — THE DREAMER 5 

The boj shook his head. 

" For other people they would not count,'* he said. 
" They are for myself only. What I see would be invis- 
ible to you/' 

" A matter of eyesight? '* Rochester asked, with raised 
eyebrows. 

" Of imagination,'* the boy answered. " There is no 
necessity for you to look outside your own immediate 
surroundings to see beautiful things, unless you choose 
deliberately to make your life an ugly thing. With us it 
is different — with us who work for a living, who dwell 
in the cities, and who have no power to push back the 
wheels of life. If we are presumptuous enough to wish 
to take into our lives anything of the beautiful, anything 
to help us fight our daily battle against the common- 
place, we have to create it for ourselves. That is why I 
am here just now, and why I was regretting, when I 
heard your footstep, that one finds it so hard to be 
alone.*' 

" So I am to be ordered off ? " Rochester remarked, 
smiling. 

The boy did not answer. The man did not move. The 
minutes went by, and the silence remained unbroken. Be- 
low, the twilight seemed to be passing into night with 
unusual rapidity. It was a shapeless world now, a world 
of black and gray. More lights flashed out every few 
seconds. 

It was the boy who broke the silence at last, ite 
seemed, in some awkward way, to be trying to atone for 
his former unsociability. 



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6 THE MOVING FINGER 

" This is my last night at the Convalescent Home," he 
said, a little abruptly. " I am cured. To-morrow I am go- 
ing back to my work in Mechesten For many days I shall 
see nothing except actual things. I shall know nothing 
of life except its dreary and material side. That is why 
I came here with the twilight. That is why I am going; 
to sit here till the night comes — perhaps, even, I shall 
wait until the dawn. I want one last long rest. I want to 
carry away with me some absolute impression of life as 
I would have it. Down there,*' he added, moving his 
head slowly, " down there I can see the things I want — • 
the things which, if I could, I would take into my life. 
I am going to look at them, and think of them, and long 
for them, until they seem real. I am going to create a 
concrete memory, apd take it away with me.'* 

Rochester looked more than a little puzzled. The boy's 
speech seemed in no way in keeping with his attire, and 
the fact of his presence in a charitable home. 

"Might one inquire once more," he asked, "what 
your occupation in Mechester is? " 

" It is of no consequence," the boy answered shortly. 
** It is an occupation that does not count. It does not 
make for anything in life. One must do something to 
earn one's daily bread." 

" You find my questioning rather a nuisance, I am 
afraid," Rochester remarked, politely. 

** I will not deny it," the boy answered. " I will ad- 
mit that I wish to be alone. I am hoping that very soon 
you will be going." 

" On the contrary," Rochester replied, smiling, " I am 



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PROLOGUE — THE DREAMER 7 

much too interested in your amiable conversation. You 
see/' he added, knocking the ashes from his pipe, and 
leaning carelessly back against the rock, "I live in a 
world, every member of which is more or less satisfied. I 
will be frank with you, and I will admit that I find satisn 
faction in either man or woman a most reprehensible 
state. I find a certain relief, therefore, in talking to a per- 
son who wants something he hasn't got, or who wants to 
be something that he isn't." 

" Then you can find aD the satisfaction you want in 
talking to me," the boy declared, gloomily. " I am at 
the opposite pole of life, you see, to those friends of 
yours. I want ever3rthing I haven't got. I am content 
with nothing that I have." 

" For instance? " Rochester asked, suggestively. 

" I want freedom from the life of a slave," the boy 
said. " I want money, the money that gives power. I 
want the right to shape my own life in my own way, and 
to my own ends, instead of being forced to remain a 
miserable, ineffective part of a useless scheme of exist- 
ence." 

**Your desires are perfectly reasonable," Rochester 
remarked, calmly. " Imagine, if you please — you seem 
to have plenty of imaginative force — that I am a fairy 
godfather. I may not look the part, but at least I can 
live up to it. I will provide the key for your escape. I 
will set you down in the world you are thirsting to enter. 
You shall take your place with the others, and run your 
race." 

The boy suddenly abandoned his huddled-up position^ 



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8 THE MOVING FINGER 

and rose to his feet. Against the background of empty 
air, and in the gathering darkness, he seemed thinner 
than ever, and smaller. 

" I am going,'* he said shortly, " It may seem amus- 
ing to you to make fun of me, I will not stay ^* 

" Don't be a fool ! " Rochester interrupted. " Haven't 
you heard that I am more than half a madman? I am 
going to justify my character for eccentricity. You see 
my house down there — Beauleys, they call it? At 
twelve o'clock to-morrow, if you come to me, I will give 
you a sum of money sufficient to keep you for several 
years, I do not specify the amount at this moment, I 
shall think it over before you come." 

The boy had no words. He simply stared at his chance 
companion in blank astonishment. 

"My offer seems to surprise you," Rochester re- 
marked, pleasantly. " It need not. You can go and tell 
the whole world of it, if you like, although, as a repu- 
tation for sanity is quite a valuable asset, nowadays, I 
should suggest that you keep your mouth closed. Still, if 
you do speak of it, no one will be in the least surprised. 
My friends — I haven't many — call me the most ec- 
centric man in Christendom. My enemies wonder how it 
is that I keep out of the asylum. Personally, I consider 
myself a perfectly reasonable mortal. I have whims, and 
I am not afraid to indulge them. I give you this money 
on one — or perhaps we had better say two conditions. 
The first is that you make a bond fide use of it. When 
I say that, I mean that you leave immediately your pres- 
ent employment, whatever it may be, and go out into the 



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PROLOGUE — THE DREAMER 9 

world with the steadfast purpose of finding for yourself 
the things which you saw a few minutes ago down in the 
valley there. You may not find them, but still I pledge 
you to the search. The second condition is that some day 
or other you find your way back into this part of the 
country, and tell me how my experiment has f ared,*' 

The boy realized with a little gasp. 

" Am I to thank you? '' he asked. 

" It would be usual but foolish,'* Rochester answered. 
*^ I need no thanks, I deserve none. I yield to a whim, 
nothing else. I do this thing for my own pleasure. The 
sum of money which I propose to put into your hands 
will probably represent to me what a five-shilling piece 
might to you. This may sound vulgar, but it is true. I 
think that I need not warn you never to come to me for 
more. You need not look so horrified. I am quite sure 
that you would not do that. And there is one thing fur- 
ther.'' 

" Yes? '* the boy asked. " Another condition? " 

Rochester shook his head. 

** No ! " he said. ** It is not a condition. It is just a 
little advice. The way through life hasn't been made 
clear for everyone. You may find yourself brought up 
in the thorny paths. Take my advice. Don't be content 
with anything less than success. If you fail, strip off 
your clothes, and swim out to sea on a sunny day,* swim 
out until your strength fails and you must sink. It is 
the pleasantest form of oblivion I know of. Don't live 
on. You are only a nuisance to yourself, and a bad in- 
fluence to the rest of the world. Succeed, or make your 



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10 THE MOVING FINGER 

little bow, my young friend. It is the best advice I can 
give you. Remember that the men who have failed, and 
who live on, are creatures of the gutter.'' 

" You are right ! *' the boy muttered. " I have read 
that somewhere, and it comes home to me. Failure is the 
one unforgivable sin. If I have to commit every other 
crime in the decalogue, I will at least avoid that one ! " 

Rochester shouldered his gun, and prepared to stroll 
off. 

** At twelve o'clock to-morrow, then," he said. " I 
wouldn't hurry away now, if I were you. Sit down in 
your old place, and see if there isn't a thread of gold 
down there in the valley." 

The boy obeyed almost mechanically. His heart was 
beating fast. His back was pressed against the cold 
rock. The fingers of both hands were nervously buried 
in the soft turf. Once more his eyes were riveted upon 
this land of shifting shadows. The whole panorama of 
life seemed suddenly unveiled before his eyes. More real, 
more brilliant now were the things upon which he looked* 
The thread of gold was indeed there ! 



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CHAPTER I 

A LETTEB PROVES VBUFTTL 

BERTRAND SATON leaned against the stone 
coping of the bridge, and looked downwards, as 
though watching the seagulls circling round and 
round, waiting for their usual feast of scraps. The gulls, 
however, were only his excuse. He stood there, looking 
hard at the gray, muddy water beneath, trying to make 
up his mind to this final and inevitable act of despair. 
He had walked the last hundred yards almost eagerly. 
He had told himself that he was absolutely and entirely 
prepared for death. Yet the first sight of that gray, 
cold-looking river, had chilled him. He felt a new and 
unaccountable reluctance to quit the world which cer- 
tainly seemed to have made up its mind that it had no 
need of him. His thoughts rushed backwards. ^ Swim 
out to sea on a sunny day,'' he repeated to himself 
slowly. Yes, but this ! It was a different thing, this ! The 
longer he looked below, the more he shrank from such a 
death! 

He stood upright with a little shiver, and began — it 
was not for the first time that day — a searching inves- 
tigation into the contents of his pocket. The result was 
uninspiring. There was not an article there which would 
have fetched the price of a dose of poison. Then his fin- 



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12 THE MOVING FINGER 

gers strayed into a breast-pocket which he seldom used, 
and brought out a letter, unopened, all grimy, and show- 
ing signs of having been there for some considerable 
time. He held it between his fingers, doubtful at first 
from where it had come. Then suddenly he remembered. 
He remembered the runaway horses in the Bois, and the 
strange-looking old woman who had sat in the carriage 
with grim, drawn lips and pallid face. He remembered 
the dash into the roadway, the brief, maddening race by 
the side of the horses, his clutch at the reins, the sense of 
being dragged along the dusty road. It was, perhaps, 
the one physically courageous action of his life. The 
horses were stopped, and the woman's life was saved. 
He looked at the letter in his hand. 

" Why not? '' he asked himself softly. 

He hesitated, and glanced downward once more toward 
the river. The sight seemed to decide him. He turned his 
weary footsteps again westward. 

Walking with visible effort, and resting whenever he 
had a chance, he reached at last the Oxford Street end 
of Bond Street. Holding the letter in his hand, he made 
his way, slowly and more painfully than ever, down the 
right-hand side. People stared at him a little curiously. 
He was a strange figure, passing through the crowds of 
well-dressed, sauntering men and women. He was unnat- 
urally thin — the pallor of his cheeks and the gleam in 
his eyes spoke of starvation. His clothes had been well- 
cut, but they were almost in rags. His cap had cost him 
a few pence at a second-hand store. 

He made his way toward his destination, looking nei- 



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A LETTER PROVES USEFUL 23 

ther to the right nor to the left. The days had gone 
when he found it interesting to study the faces of the 
passers-by, looking out always for adventures, amus- 
ing himself with shrewd speculations as to the character 
and occupation of those who seemed worthy of notice. 
This was his last quest now — - the quest of life or death* 

He stopped in front of a certain number, and compar- 
ing it with the tattered envelope which he held in his 
hand, finally entered. The lift-boy, who was lounging in 
the little hall, looked at him in surprise. 

^^ I want to find Madame Helga,'' the young man said 
shortly. "This is number 88, isn't it?*' 

The boy looked at him doubtfully, and led the way to 
the lift. 

'' Third floor,'* he said. " Til take you up." 

The lift stopped, and Bertrand Saton found in front 
of him a door upon which was a small brass plate, en- 
graved simply with the name of Helga. He knocked 
twice, and received no answer. Then, turning the handle, 
he entered, and stood looking about him with some curi- 
osity. 

It was a small room, luxuriously but sombrely fur- 
nished. Heavy curtains were drawn more than half-way 
across the windows, and the room was so dark that at 
first he was not sure whether it was indeed empty. On a 
small black oak table in the middle of the rich green 
carpet, stood a crystal ball. There was nothing else un- 
usual about the apartment, except the absence of any 
pictures upon the walls, and a faint aromatic odor, as 
though somewhere dried weeds were being burned. 



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24 THE MOVING FINGER 

Some curtains opposite him were suddenly thrust 
aside. A woman stood there looking at him. She was of 
middle height, fair, with a complexion which even in 
that indistinct light he could see owed little of its smooth- 
ness to nature. She wore a loose gown which seemed to 
hang from her shoulders, of some soft green material, 
drawn around her waist with a girdle. Her eyes were 
deep-set and penetrating. 

** You wish to see me? " she asked. 

He held out the note. 

" If you are Madame Helga," he answered. 

She came a little further into the room, looking at 
him with a slight frown contracting her pencilled eye- 
brows. He had no appearance of being a client. 

** You have brought a letter, then? '' she asked. 

" My name is Bertrand Saton,'' he explained. ** This 
letter was given to me in Paris more than a year ago, by 
an elderly lady. I have carried it with me all that time. 
At first it did not seem likely that I should ever need 
to use it. Unfortunately,'* he added, a little bitterly, 
** things have changed." 

She took the letter, and tore open the envelope. Its 
contents consisted only of a few lines, which she read 
with some appearance of surprise. Then she turned once 
more to the young man. 

" You are the Mr. Bertrand Saton of whom the 
writer of this letter speaks? " she asked. 

He nodded. 

** I am,'' he answered. 

She looked him over from head to foot. There was 



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A LETTER PROVES USEFUL 15 

scarcely an inch of his person which did not speak of 
poverty and starvation. 

^ You have had trouble,'* she remarked. 

** I have," he admitted. 

•* The lady who wrote that letter," she said, " is at 
present in Spain." 

He turned to go. 

^^ I am not surprised," he answered. ^^ My star is not 
exactly in the ascendant just now." 

** Don't be too sure," she said. " And whatever you 
do, don't go away. Sit down if you are tired. You don't 
seem strong." 

**I am not," he admitted. "Would you like," he 
added, ** to know what is the matter with me? " 

" It is nothing serious, I hope? " 

** I am starving," he declared, simply. " I have eaten 
nothing for twenty-four hours." 

She looked at him for a moment as though doubting 
his words. Then she moved rapidly to a desk which stood 
in a comer of the room. 

" You are a very foolish person," she said, " to allow 
yourself to get into such a state, when all the time you 
had this letter in your pocket. But I forgot," she added, 
unlocking the desk. "You had not read it. You had 
better have some money to buy yourself food and clothes, 
and come here again." 

"Food and clothes!" he repeated, vaguely. "I do 
not understand." 

She touched the letter with her forefinger. 

" You have a very powerful friend here," she said. " I 



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i6 THE MOVING FINGER 

am told to give you whatever you may be in need of, 
and to telegraph to her, in whatever part of the world 
she may be, if ever you should present this letter.'* 

Saton began to laugh softly. 

** It is the turn of the wheel,'* he said. ** I am too 
weak to hear any more. Give me some money, and I will 
come back. I miist eat or I shall faint." 

She gave him some notes, and watched him curiously 
as he staggered out of the room. He forgot the lift, and 
descended by the stairs, unsteadily, like a drunken per- 
son, reeling from the banisters to the wall, and back 
again. Out in the street, people looked at him curiously 
as he turned northward toward Oxford Street. His eyes 
searched the shop-windows. He hurried along like a man 
feverishly anxious to make use of his last stint of 
strength. He was in search of food ! 



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CHAPTER n 

OIJ> ACQTJAINTANCB8 

ROCHESTER was walking slowly along the 
country, lane which led from the main road to 
Beauleys, when the hoot of a motor overtaking 
him caused him to slacken his pace and draw in close 
to the hedge-side. The great car swung by, with a cov- 
ered top ui>on which was luggage, a chauffeur, immacu- 
late in dark green livery, and inside, two people. Roches- 
ter caught a glimpse of them as they passed by — the 
woman, heavily muffled up notwithstanding the warm 
afternoon, old and withered ; the man, young, with dark, 
sallow complexion, and thoughtful eyes. They were gone 
like a flash. Yet Rochester stood for a moment in the 
road looking after them, before he turned into a field 
to escape the cloud of dust. The man's face was peculiar, 
and strangely enough it was familiar. He racked his 
brains in vain for some clue to its identity — searched 
every comer of his m^nory without success. Finally, 
with a little shrug of his shoulders, he dismissed* the sub- 
ject. 

He was soon to be reminded of it, though, for when 
he reached home, he was told at once that a gentleman 
was waiting to see him in the study. Then Rochester, 
with a little gasp of surprise, recalled that likeness which 



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z8 THE MOVING FINGER 

had puzzled him so much. He knew who his visitor was ! 
He walked toward the study, filled with a curious — 
perhaps, even, an ominous sense of excitement ! . • • 

They were face to face in a few seconds. The man was 
unchanged. The boy alone was altered. Rochester's hair 
was a little grayer, perhaps, but his face was still smooth. 
His out-of-door life and that wonderful mouth of his, 
with its half humorous, half cynical curve, still kept his 
face young. To the boy had come a change much more 
marked and evident. He was a boy no longer — not even 
a youth. He carried himself with the assured bearing of 
a man of the world. His thick black hair was carefully 
parted. His clothes bore the stamp of Saville Row. His 
face was puzzling. His eyes were still the eyes of a 
dreamer, the eyes of a man who is content to be rather 
than to do. Yet the rest of his face seemed somehow to 
have suffered. His cheeks had filled out. His mouth and 
expression were no longer easy to read. There were 
things in his face which would have puzzled a physiog- 
nomist. 

Rochester had entered the library and closed the door 
behind him. He nodded toward the man who rose slowly 
to greet him, but ignored his outstretched hand. 

** I am sure that I cannot be mistaken,'* he said. " It 
is my young friend of the hillside." 

** It is he," Saton answered. ** I scarcely expected to 
be remembered." 

** One sees so few fresh faces," Rochester murmured. 
**You have kept the condition, then? I must confess 
that I am glad to see you. I shall hope that you will have 



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OLD ACQUAINTANCES 29 

a great deal that is interesting to tell me. At any rate, 
it is a good sign that you have kept the condition/' 

" I have kept the condition/' Saton answered. " I was 
never likely to break it. I have wandered up and down 
the world a good deal during the past five years, and I 
have met many strange sorts of people, but I have never 
yet met with philanthropy on such a unique scale as 
yours.'* 

**Not philanthropy, my young friend," Rochester 
murmured. ^ I had but one motive in making you that 
little gift — curiosity pure and simple." 

"Forgive me," Saton remarked. "We will call it a 
loan, if you do not mind. I am not going to offer you 
any interest. The five hundred pounds are here." 

He handed a little packet across to Rochester, who 
slipped it carelessly into his pocket. 

" This is romance indeed I " he declared, with some- 
thing of the old banter in his tone. " You are worse than 
the industrious apprentice. Have I, by chance, the pleas- 
ure of speaking to one of the world's masters — a mil- 
lionaire? " 

The young man laughed. His laugh, at any rate, was 
not unpleasant. 

" No ! " he said. " I don't suppose that I am even 
wealthy, as the world reckons wealth. I have succeeded 
to a certain extent, although I came very, very near to 
disaster. I have made a little money, and I can make 
more when it is necessary." 

"Your commercial instincts," Rochester remarked, 
** have not been thoroughly aroused, then? " 



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20 THE MOVING FINGER 

The young man smiled. 

" Do I need to tell you," he asked, ** that great wealth 
was not among the things I saw that night? " 

" That was a marvelous motor-car in which you 
passed me," remarked the other. 

" It belongs to the lady," Saton said, " who brought 
me down from London." 

Rochester nodded. 

" It will be interesting to me," he remarked, " later 
on, to hear something of your adventures. To judge by. 
your appearance, and your repayment of that small 
amount of money, you have prospered." 

" One hates the word," Saton murmured, with a sud- 
den frown upon his forehead. ** I suppose I must admit 
that I have been fortunate to some extent. I axn able to 
repay my debt to you." 

"That," Rochester interrupted, "is a trifle. It was 
not worth considering. In fact I am rather disappointed 
that you have paid me back." 

" I was forced to do it," Saton answered. " One can- 
not accept alms." 

Rochester eyed his visitor a little thoughtfully. 

** A platitude merely," he said. ** One accepts alms 
every day, every moment of the day. One goes about the 
world giving and receiving. It is a small point of view 
which reckons gold as the only means of exchange." 

The young man bowed. 

" I am corrected," he said. " Yet you must admit that 
there is something different in the obligation which is 
created by money." 



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OLD ACQUAINTANCES az 

" Mine, I fear,'* Rochester answered, " is not an ana- 
lytic mind. A blunt regard to truth has always been 
one of my characteristics. Therefore, at the risk of in- 
delicacy, I am going on to ask you a question. I found 
you on the hillside, a discontented, miserable youth, and 
I did for you something which very few sane people 
would have been inclined even to consider. Years after- 
wards — it must be nearly seven, isn't it? — you return 
me my money, and we exchange a few polite platitudes. 
I notice — or is it that I only seem to notice — on your 
jMirt an entire lack of gratitude for that eccentric action 
of mine. The discontented boy has become, presumably, 
a prosperous citizen of the world. The two are so far 
apart, perhaps — — '* 

Saton threw out his hands. For the first time, there 
flashed into his face something of the boy, some trace of 
that more primitive, more passionate hold upon life. He 
abandoned his measured tones^ his calm, almost studied 
bearing. 

" Gratitude ! '* he interrupted. ** I am not sure that I 
feel any ! In those days I had at least dreams. I am not 
sure that it was not a devilish experiment of yours to 
send me out to grope my way amongst the mirages. You 
were a man of the world then. You knew and understood. 
You knew how bitter a thing life is, how for one who 
climbs, a thousand must fall. X am not sure,'' he re- 
peated, with a little catch in his throat, " that I feel any 
gratitude." 

Rochester nodded thoughtfully. He was not in the 
least annoyed. 



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M THE MOVING FINGER 

" You interest me,** he murmured. " From what you 
say, I gather that your material prosperity has been 
somewhat dearly bought." 

" There isn't much to be wrung from life," Saton an- 
swered bitterly, " that one doesn't pay for." 

** A little later on," Rochester said, ** it will give me 
Tery much pleasure to hear something of your adven- 
tures. At present, I fear that I must deny myself that 
pleasure. My wife has done me the honor to make me 
one of her somewhat rare visits, and my house is conse- 
quently full of guests." 

**I will not intrude," the young man answered, ris- 
ing. ^ I shall stay in the village for a few days. We may 
perhaps meet again." 

Rochester hesitated for a moment. Then the corners 
of his mouth twitched. There was humor in this situa- 
tion, after all, and in the thing which he proposed to 
himself. 

" You must not hurry way," he said. " Come and be 
introduced to some of my friends." 

If Rochester expected any hesitation on the part of 
his visitor, he was disappointed. The young man seemed 
to accept the suggestion as the most natural in the world. 

** I shall be very glad," he said calmly. " I shall be in- 
terested, too, to meet your wife. At the time when I had 
the pleasure of seeing you before, you were, I believe, 
immarried." 

Rochester opened the door, and led the way out into 
the hall without a word. 



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R' 



CHAPTER in 

**WHO IS MB. BATON?** 

C C "f^ EALLY, Henry,*' Lady Mary Rochester said 
to her husband, a few minutes before the 
dinner-gong sounded, ** for once you have 
been positively useful. A new young man is such a 
godsend, and Charlie Peyton threw us over most abom- 
inably. So mean of him, too, after the number of times 
I had him to dine in Grosvenor Square.** 

"He's gone to Ostend, I suppose.** 

Lady Mary nodded. 

** So foolish ! ** she declared. " He hasn*t a shilling in 
the world, and he never wins anything. He might just 
as well have come down here and made himself agreeable 
to Lois.** 

^^Matchmaking again?" Rochester asked. 

She shook her head. 

"What nonsense! Charlie is one of my favorite 
young men. I am not at all sure that I could spare him, 
even to Lois. But the poor boy must marry someone! 
I don't see how else he is to live. By the bye, who is your 
prot^g^? ** 

Rochester, who was lounging in a low chair in his 
wife's dressing-room, looked thoughtfully at the tip of 
his patent shoe. 



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94 THE MOVING FINGER 

" I haven't the faintest idea/' he declared. 

His wife frowned, a little impatiently. 

" You are so extreme," she protested. " Of course 
you know something about him. What am I to tell peo- 
ple? They will be sure to ask.'* 

" Make them all happy," Rochester suggested. " Tell 
Lady Blanche that he is a millionaire from New York, 
and Lois that he is the latest thing in Spring poets. 
They probably won't compare notes imtil to-morrow, so 
it really doesn't matter." 

" I wish you could be serious for five minutes," Lady 
Mary said. ** You really are a trial, Henry. You seem to 
see everything from some quaint point of view of your 
own, and to forget all the time that there are a few other 
people in the world whose eyesight is not so distorted. 
Sometimes I can't help recdizing how fortunate it is that 
we see so little of one another." 

** I can scarcely be expected to agree with you," 
Rochester answered, with an ironical bow. " I must try 
and mend my ways, however. To return to the actual 
subject under discussion, then, I can really tell you very 
little about this young man." 

" You can tell me where he comes from, at any rate," 
Lady Mary remarked. 

Rochester shook his head. 

" He comes from the land of mysteries," he declared. 
^* I really am ashamed to be so disappointing, but I only 
met him once before in my life." 

Lady Mary sighed gently. 

** It is almost a relief," she said, " to hear you admit 



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"WHO IS MR. SATON?'* as 

that you have seen him before at all. Please tell me 
where it was that you met," she added, studying the ef- 
fect of a tiara upon her splendidly coiffured hair. 

" I met him,*' Rochester answered, ** sitting with his 
back to a rock on the top of one of my hills/' 

"What, you mean here at Beauleys?*' Lady Mary 
asked. 

" On Beacon Hill," her husband assented. ** It was 
seven years ago, and as you can gather from his present 
appearance, he was little more than a boy. He sat there 
in the twilight, seeing things down in the valley which 
did not and never had existed — seeing things that never 
were bom, you know* — things for which you stretch 
out your arms, only to find them float away. He was 
quite young, of course." 

Lady Mary turned around. 

** Henry ! " she exclaimed. 

" My dear? " 

^^ You are absolutely the most irritating person I ever 
attempted to live with ! " 

" And I have tried so hard to make myself agreeable," 
he sighed: 

**You are one of those uncomfortable people," she 
declared, " who loathe what they call the obvious, and 
adore riddles. You would commit any sort of mental 
gymnastic rather than answer a plain question in a 
straightforward manner." 

** It is perfectly true," he admitted. " You have such 
insight, my dear Mary." 

"I am to take it, then," she continued, "that you 



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36 THE MOVING FINGER 

know absolutely nothing about your prot6g6? You 
know nothing, for instance, about his family, or his 
means?'' 

** Absolutely nothing,'* he admitted ** He has an un- 
common name, but I believe that I gathered from him 
once that his parentage was not particularly exalted." 

** At least," she said, with a little sigh, ** he is quite 
presentable. I call him, in fact, remarkably good-look- 
ing, and his manners leave nothing to be desired. He has 
lived abroad, I should think." 

** He may have lived anywhere," Rochester admitted. 

** Well, m have him next me at dinner," she declared. 
^^ I daresay I shall find out all about him pretty soon. 
Come, Henry, I am quite sure that everyone is down. 
You and I play host and hostess so seldom that we have 
forgotten our manners." 

They descended to the drawing-room, and Lady Mary 
murmured her apologies. Everyone, however, seemed too 
absorbed to hear them. They were listening to Saton, who 
was standing, the centre of a little group, telling stories. 

** It was in Buenos Ayres," Rochester heard him con- 
clude, amidst a ripple of laughter. " I can assure you 
that I saw the incident with my own eyes." 

Lois Champneyes — an heiress, pretty, and Roches- 
ter's ward — came floating across the room to them. 
She wore a plain muslin gown, of simpler cut than was 
usually seen at Lady Mary's house-parties, and her com- 
plexion showed no signs whatever of town life. Her hair 
— it was bright chestnut color, merging in places to 
golden — was twisted simply in one large coil on the top 



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**WHO IS MR. SATON?'* 27 

of her head. She wore no jewebry, and she had very 
much the appearance of a child just escaped from the 
schoohroonu 

^^ Mary," she exclaimed, drawing her hostess on one 
side, " you must send me in with Mr. Saton ! He is per- 
fectly charming, and isn't it a lovely name? Do tell me 
who he is, and whether I may fall in love with him.** 

Lady Mary nodded. 

" My dear child,*' she said, ** I shall do nothing of the 
sort. You are not nearly old enough to take care of 
yourself, and we know nothing about this young man at 
all. Besides, I want him for myself." 

** You are the most selfish hostess I ever stayed with,** 
Lois declared, turning away with a little pout. ** Never 
mind ! I'll make him talk to me after dinner." 

"Is your friend in the diplomatic service?" Lord 
Penarvon asked Rochester. ** He is a most amusing fel- 
low." 

" Not at present, at any rate," Rochester answered. 
** I really forget what he used to do when I met him first. 
As a matter of fact, I have seen very little of him lately." 

A servant announced dinner, and they all trooped across 
the hall a little informally. It was only a small party, 
and Lady Mary was a hostess whose ideas were distinctly 
modem. Conversation at first was nearly altogether gen- 
eral. Saton, without in any way asserting himself, bore 
at lefiust his part in it. He spoke modestly enough, and 
yet everything he said seemed to tell. From the first, the 
dinner was a success. 

Rochester found himself listening with a curiosity for 



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28 THE MOVING FINGER 

which he could not wholly account, to this young man, 
seated only a few feet away. His presence was so decid- 
edly piquant. It appealed immensely to his sense of 
humor. Baton's appearance was in every respect irre- 
proachable. His tie was perfectly tied, his collar of the 
latest shape. His general appearance was that of an ex- 
ceedingly smart young man about town. The only sign 
of eccentricity which he displayed was an unobtrusive 
eyeglass, suspended from his neck by a narrow black 
ribbon, and which he had only used to study the menu. 

Rochester looked at him across the white tablecloth, 
with its glittering load of silver and glass, its perf vuned 
banks of pink blossoms, and told himself that one at least 
of his somewhat eccentric experiments had borne strange 
fruit. He thought of that night upon the hillside, the 
boy's passionate words, his almost wild desire to realize, 
to turn into actual life, the fantasies which were then 
only the creation of his fancy. How far had he realized 
them, he wondered? What did this alteration in his ex- 
terior denote? From a few casual and half-forgotten 
inquiries, Rochester knew that he was the son, or rather 
the orphan of working-people in the neighboring town. 
There was nothing in his blood to make him in any way 
the social equal of these men and women amongst whom 
he now sat with such perfect self-possession. Rochester 
found himself watching for some traces of inferior 
breeding, some lapse of speech, some signs of an innate 
lack of refinement. The absence of any of these things 
puzzled him. Saton was assured, without being over-con- 
fident. He spoke of himself only seldom. It was marvel- 



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••WHO IS MR. SATON?*' ag 

ous how often he seemed to avoid the use of the first 
person. He seemed, too, modestly unconscious of the 
fact that his conversation was in any way more interest- 
ing than the speech of those by whom he was surrounded. 

^ You seem to have lived,*' his hostess said to him once, 
•• in so many countries, Mr. Saton. Are you really only 
as old as you look? " 

** How can I answer that,'* he asked, smiling, ** except 
by telling you that I am twenty-five," 

*• You must have commenced to live in your peram- 
bulator,'* she declared. 

" I have lived nowhere," he answered. " I have visited 
many places, and travelled through many lands, but life 
with me has been a search." 

** A search? " she murmured, dropping her voice a lit- 
tle, and intimating by the slight movement of her head 
towards him, that their conversation was to become a 
tete-d-tete. " Well," she continued, " I suppose that life 
is that with all of us, only you see with us poor frivolous 
people, a search means nearly always the same thing — 
a search for amusement or distraction, whichever you 
choose to call it." 

Saton shrugged his shoulders slightly. 

"Different things amuse different people," he re- 
marked. " My search, I will admit, was of a different 
order." 

•• It is finished? " she asked. 

•* It will never be finished," he answered. " The man 
who finds what he seeks," he added, raising his dark eyes 
to hers, •• as a rule has fixed his ambitions too low." 



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30 THE MOVING FINGER 

** Speaking of ambitions, Mr. Saton,'' Lord Penarron 
asked across the table, ** are you interested in politics? " 

" Not in the least," Saton answered frankly. " There 
seem to me to be so many other things in life better worth 
doing than making fugitive laws for a dissatisfied coun- 
try." 

" Tell me,'' his hostess asked, " what do you yoursdf 
consider the things better worth doing? '' 

Saton hesitated. For the fiist time, he seemed scarcely 
at his ease. He glanced across at Rochester, and down at 
his plate. 

" The sciences," he answered, quietly. ** There are 
many torches lit which need strong hands to carry them 
forward." 

Lois leaned across the table. As yet she had scarcely 
spoken, but she had listened intently to his every word. 

" Which of the sciences, Mr. Saton? " she asked, a lit- 
tle breathlessly. 

He smiled at her, and hesitated a moment before an- 
swering. 

"There are so many," he said, "which are equally 
fascinating, but I think that it is always the least known 
which is the most attractive. When I spoke, I was really 
thinking of one which many people would scarcely 
reckon amongst the orthodox list. I mean occultism." 

There was a little murmur of interest. Saton himself, 
however, deliberately turned the conversation. He re- 
verted to a diplomatic incident which had come to his 
notice when in Brazil, and asked Lord Penarvon's opin- 
ion concerning it. 



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"WHO IS MR. SATON?*' 31 

** By the bye,'* the latter asked, as their conversation 
drew toward a close, " how long did you say that you 
had been in England, Mr. Saton? " 

" A very short time,'* Saton answered, with a faint 
smile. ** I have been something of a wanderer for years." 

^^ And you came from? " Rochester asked, leaning a 
little forward. 

Saton smiled as his eyes met his host's. He hesitated 
perceptibly. 

^^ I came from the land where the impossible sometimes 
happens," he answered, lightly, **the land where one 
dreams in the evening, and is never sure when one wakes 
in the morning that one's dreams have not become solid 
things." 

Lady Mary sighed. 

^ Can one get a Cook's ticket? " she asked. 

** Can one get there by motor-car, or even flying- 
machine? " Lois demanded. ^^ I would risk my bones to 
find my way there." 

Saton laughed. 

** Unfortunately," he said, " there is a different path 
for every one of us, and there are no signposts." 

Lady Mary sighed as she rose to her feet. She nodded 
a friendly little farewell to her interesting neighbor. 

** Then we may as well go and have some really good 
bridge," she said, "until you men take it into your 
heads to come and disturb us." 



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CHAPTER IV 

A QUESTION OF 0BLI6ATI0K 

AFTERNOON tea was being served in the hall 
at Beauleys on the day after Saton's arrival. 
Saton himself was sitting with Lois Champ- 
neyes in a retired comer. 

^^ I was going to ask you," he remarked, as he handed 
bar some cakes, ^^ about Mr. Rochester's marriage. He 
was a bachelor when I — first met him." 

^ Were you very intimate in those days? " she asked. 

** Not in the least," he answered, with a faint reminis- 
cent smile. 

**Then you never heard about the romance of his 
life? " she asked. 

Saton shook his head. 

** Never," he declared. ** Nor should I ever have asso- 
ciated the word with Mr. Rochester." 

She sighed gently. 

" I daresay he was very different in those days,*' she 
said. " Before the Beauleys property came to him, he 
was quite poor, and he was very much in love with the 
dearest woman — Pauline Hambledon. It was impossible 
for them to marry — her people wouldn't hear of it — 
so he went abroad, and she married Sir Walter Marrabel ! 
Such a pig ! Everyone hated him. Then old Mr. Stephen 



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A QUESTION OF OBLIGATION 33 

Rochester died suddenly, without a will, and all this 
property came to Henry ! '* 

** And then he married, I suppose? *' Saton remarked. 

^* I was going to tell you about that,'' Lois continued. 
^^ Mary was a niece of Stephen Rochester, and a daugh- 
ter of the Marquis of Haselton, who was absolutely 
bankrupt when he died. Stephen Rochester adopted her, 
and then died without leaving her a farthing ! So there 
she was, poor dear, penniless, and Henry had every- 
thing. Of course, he had to marry her.'* 

" Why not? *' Saton remarked. " She is quite charm- 
ing.'' 

^' Yes ! But this is the tantalizing part of it," Lois 
continued. ** They hadn't been married a year when Sir 
Walter Marrabel died.^ Pauline is a widow now. She is 
coming here in a few days. I do hope you will meet her." 

** This is quite interesting," Saton murmured. " How 
do Lady Mary and her husband get on? " 

Lois made a little grimace. 

** They go different ways most of the time," she an- 
swered. ** I suppose they're only what people call mod- 
em. Isn't that a motor horn? " she cried out, springing 
to her feet. " I wonder if it's Guerdie ! " 

**For a man who has been a great lawyer," Lord 
Penarvon declared, ^^ Guerdon is the most uncertain and 
unpunctual of men. One never knows when to expect 
him." 

** He was to have arrived yesterday," Lady Mary re- 
marked. " We sent to the station twice." 

** I suppose," Rochester said, " that even to gratify 



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34 THE MOVING FINGER 

the impatience of an expectant house-party, it is not 
possible to quicken the slow process of the law. If you 
look at the morning papers, you will see that he was at 
the Central Criminal Court, trying some case or other, 
all day yesterday. The man who pleads * Not Guilty,' 
and who pays for his defence, expects to be heard out to 
the bitter end. It is really only natural." 

Saton, who had been left alone in his comer, rose sud- 
denly to his feet and came into the circle. He handed 
his cup to his hostess, and turned toward Rochester. 

"You were speaking of judges?'* he remarked. 

Rochester nodded. 

" In a few moments,'* he said, ** you will probably 
meet the cleverest one we have upon the English bench. 
Without his robe and wig, some people find him insig^ 
nificant. Personally, I must confess that I never feel his 
eyes upon me without a shiver. They say that he never 
loses sight of a fact or forgets a face." 

" And what is the name of this wonderful person? " 
Saton asked. 

** Lord Guerdon," Rochester answered. '' Even though 
you have spent so little time in England of late years, 
you must have heard of him." 

The curtains wefe suddenly thrown aside, and a foot- 
man entered announcing the newly-arrived guest. From 
the hall beyond came the sound of a departing motor, 
and the clatter of luggage being brought in. The foot- 
man stood on one side. 

" Lord Guerdon ! " he announced. 

Lady Mary held out her hands across the tea-tray. 



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A QUESTION OF OBLIGATION 35 

Rochester came a few steps forward. Everyone ceased 
their conversation to look at the small, spare figure of 
the man who, clad in a suit of travelling clothes of gray 
tweed, and cut after a somewhat ancient pattern, in- 
significant-looking in figure and even in bearing, yet car- 
ried something in his clean-shaven, wrinkled face at once 
impressive and commanding. Everyone seemed to lean 
forward with a little air of interest, prepared to ex- 
change greetings with him as soon as he had spoken to 
his host and hostess. Only Saton stood quite still, still 
as a figure turned suddenly into stone. No one ap- 
peared to notice him, to notice the twitching of his fin- 
gers, the almost ashen gray of his cheeks — no one ex- 
cept the girl with whom he had been talking, and whose 
eyes had scarcely left his. He recovered himself quickly. 
Whoi Rochester turned towards him, a moment or so 
later, he was almost at his ease. 

** You find us fidl old friends. Guerdon,'' he said, " ex- 
cept that I have to present to you my friend Mr. Saton. 
Saton, this is Lord Guerdon, whose caricature you have 
doubtless admired in many papers, comic and otherwise, 
and who I am happy to assure you is not nearly so ter- 
rible a person as he might seem from behind that om- 
inous iron bar.'' 

Saton held out his hand, but almost immediately with- 
drawing it, contented himself with a murmured word, 
and a somewhat low bow. For a second the judge's eye- 
brows were upraised, his keen eyes seemed to narrow. 
He made no movement to shake hands. 

** I am very glad to meet Mr. Saton," he said slowly. 



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36 THE MOVING FINGER .^ 

" By the bye,'' he continued, after a second's pause, " is 
this our first meeting? I seem to have an idea — your % ' 
face is somehow familiar to me." ^■ 

There were few men who could have faced the piercing • > 
gaze of those bright brown eyes, set deep in the withered . * ■ 
face, without any sign of embarrassment. Yet Saton ^ 
smiled back pleasantly enough. He was completely at his 
ease. His face showed only a reasonable amount of 
pleasure at this encounter with the famous man. 

" I am afraid, Lord Guerdon," he said, " that I can- 
not claim the privilege of any previous acquaintance. 
Although I am an Englishman, my own country has seen 
little of me during the last few years." 

" Come and have some tea at once," Lady Mary in- 
sisted, looking up at the judge. ** I want to hear all 
about this wonderful Clancorry case. Oh, I know you're 
not supposed to talk about it, but that really doesn't 
matter down here. You shall have a comfortable chair 
by my side, and some hot muffins." 

Saton went back to his seat by the side of Lois Champa 
neyes, carrying his refilled teacup in his hand. She /.• 
looked at him a little curiously. •. f- 

** Tell me," she said, " have you really never met Lord 
Guerdon before?" 

" Never in my life," he answere2^ 

" Did he remind you of anyone? " she asked. 

" It is curious that you should ask that," Saton re- 
marked. *' In a way he did." 

" I thought so," she declared, with a little breath of 
relief. " That was it, of course. Do you know how you 



i 



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A QUESTION OF OBLIGATION 37 

IcH^ed when you first heard his name —* when he came 
into the room? ^ 

** I have no idea,'* he answered. ** I only know that 
when I saw him enter, it gave me ahnost a shock. He re- 
minded me most strangely of a man who has been dead 
for many years. I could scarcely take my eyes off him 
at first.'* 

" I will tell you,^ she said, ** what your look reminded 
me of. Many years before I was out — in my mother's 
time — there was a man named Mallory who was tried 
for murder, the murder of a friend, who everyone knew 
was his rival. Well, he got off, but only after a long 
trial, and only by a little weakness in the chain of evi- 
dence, which even his friends at the time thought provi- 
dential. He went abroad for a long time. Then he came 
into a title and returned to England. He was obliged 
to take up his position, and people were willing enough 
to forget the past. He opened his London house, and 
accepted every invitation which came. At the very first 
party he went to, he came face to face with the judge 
who had tried him. My mother was there. I remember 
she told me how he looked. It was foolish of me, but I 
thought of it when I saw you just then." 

Saton smiled sympathetically. 

" And the end in the story? " he asked. 

" The man had such a shock," she continued, ** that he 
shut up his house, gave up all his schemes for re-entering 
life, left England, and never set foot in the country 
again." 

Saton rose to his feet. 



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38 THE MOVING FINGER 

" I see that my host i« beckoning me," he said. ** Will 
you excuse me for a moment? '* 

Rochester passed his arm through the younger man's. 

** Come into the gun-room for a few minutes,'' he said. 
^ I want to show you the salmon flies I was speaking of.'' 

Saton smiled a little curiously, and followed his host 
across the hall and down the long stone passage which 
led to the back quarters of the house. The gun-room was 
deserted and empty. Rochester closed the door. 

" My young friend," he said, " if you do not object, 
I shoidd like to have a few minutes of plain speaking 
with you." 

^ I should be delighted," Saton answered, seating him- 
self deliberately in a battered old «asy-chair. 

** Seven years ago," Rochester continued, leaning his 
elbow against the mantelpiece, '^we made a bargain. I 
sent you out into the world, an egotistical Don Quixote, 
and I provided you with the means with which you were 
to turn the windmills into castles. I made one condition 
— two, in fact. One that you came back. Well, you have 
kept that. The other was that you told me what it was 
like to build the castloi of bricks and mortar, which in 
the days when I knew you, you built in fancy only." 

^^ Aren't you a little allegorical? " Saton asked, 
calmly. 

•* I admit it," Rochester answered. ** I was very nearly, 
in fact, out of my depth. Tell me, in plain words, 
what have you done with yourself these seven years? " 

** You want me," Saton remarked, " to give an ac- 
count of my stewardship." 



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A QUESTION OP OBLIGATION 39 

"Put it any way you please,'^ Rochester answered 
" The fact remains that though you are a guest in my 
house, you are a ccHnplete stranger to me." 

Satcm smikd. 

" You might have thought of that," he said, " before 
you a^ed me here«" 

Rochester shrugged his shoulders. 

** Perhaps," he said, "I preferred to keep up my 
re{Hitation as an eccentric person. At any rate, you 
must remeidtmr that it was open to me at any moment 
to ask you the question I have asked you now." 

Saton sat perfectly still in his chair, his eyes ap- 
parently fixed upon the ground. All the time Rochester 
was watching him. Was it seven years ago, seven years 
only, since he had stood by the side of that boy, whose 
longing eyes had been fixed with almost passionate in- 
tensity upon that world of shadows and unseen things? 
This was a different person. With the swiftness of in- 
spiration itself, he recognised something of the change 
which had taken place. Saton had fought his battle 
twice over. He might esteem himself a winner. He might 
even say that lb had proved it. Yet there was another 
side. This ycmng man with the lined face, and the al- 
most unnatural restraint of manner, might well have 
takai up the thread of life which the boy had laid down. 
But there was a differ^ice. The thread might be the 
same, but it was no longer of gold. 

Then Saton raised his eyes, and Rochester, who was. 
watching him intensely, realized with a sudden con- 
vincing thrill something which he had felt from the mo- 



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40 THE MOVING FINGER 

ment when he had stepped into the library and welcomed 
this unexpected visitor. There was nothing left of grati- 
tude or even kindly feeling in the heart of this young 
man. There was something else which looked out from 
his eyes, something else which he did not even trouble 
to conceal. Rochester knew, from that moment, that he 
had an enemy. 

" There are just two things,'* Saton said quietly, ** of 
which I should like to remind you. The first is that from 
the day I left this house with five hundred pounds in 
bank-notes buttoned up in my pocket, I regarded that 
sum as a loan. I have always regarded it as a loan, and 
I have repaid it.'* 

** I do not consider your obligation to me lessened,'' 
Rochester remarked coldly. ^^ If it was a loan, it was a 
loan such as no sane man would have made. You had 
not a penny in the world, and I did not even know your 
name. The chances were fifty to one against my ever see- 
ing a penny of my money again." 

** I admit that," Saton answered. " Yet I will remind 
you of your own words — • five hundred pounds were no 
more to you than a crown piece to me. You gave me the 
money. You gave me little else. You gave me no en- 
couragement, no word of kindly advice. Gro back that 
seven years, and remember what you said to me when 
you stood by my side, toying with your gun, and looking 
at me superciliously, as though I were some sort of 
curiosity which it amused you to turn inside out. — The 
one unforgivable thing in life, you said, was failure. Do 
you remember telling me that if I failed I was to swim 



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A QUESTION OF OBLIGATION 41 

out on a sunny day — to swim and swim until the end 
came? Do you remember telling me that death was 
sometimes a pleasant thing, but that life after failure 
was Hell itself? '' 

Rochester nodded. 

*' I always had such a clear insight into life," he mur- 
mured. " I was perfectly right." 

*' From your point of view you doubtless were," Saton 
answered. *^ You were a cynic and a pessimist, and I find 
you now unchanged. I went away with your words ring- 
ing in my brain. It was the first poisonous thought 
which had ever entered there, and I never lost it. I said 
to myself that whatever price I paid for success, success 
of some sort I would gain. When things went against 
me, I seemed to hear always those bitter, supercilious 
words. I could even see the curl of your lips as you 
looked down upon me, and figured to yourself the only 
possible result of trusting me, an unfledged, imaginative 
boy, with the means to carve his way a little further into 
the world. Failure ! I wrote the word out of the diction- 
ary of my life. Sin, crime, ill-doing of any sort if they 
became necessary, — I kept them there. But failure — 
no ! And this was your doing. Now you come to ask me 
questions. You want to know if I am a fit and proper 
person to receive in your house. Perhaps I have sinned. 
Perhaps I have robbed. Perhaps I have proved myself 
a master in every form of ill-doing. But I have not 
failed ! I have paid you back your five hundred pounds.'* 

** The question of ethics," Rochester remarked, ** in- 
terests me very little if at all. The only point is that 



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42 THE MOVING FINGER 

whereas on the hillside you were simply a stray unk of 
homanity, and the things whidi we said to one another 
concerned ourselves only, here matters are a little differ- 
ent. In a thoughtless moment, I asked you to become a 
guest under my roof. It was, I frankly admit, a mis- 
take. I trust that I need not say more.** 

** If you will have my tilings removed to the Inn,*' 
Saton said slowly — 

** No sudi extreme measures are necttsary,** Rochester 
answered. ** You will stay with us until to-morrow morn- 
ing. After luncheon you will probably find it convcniwit 
to tenninate your visit as soon as possible.** 

" I shall be gone,** Saton answered, ** before any of 
your guests are up. In case I do not see you again 
alone, let me ask you a questicm, or rather a favor." 

Rochester bowed slightly. 

** There is a house below the Convalescent Home — 
Blackbird's Nest, they call it," Saton said. " It is empty 
now — too large for your keepers, too small for a coun- 
try seat. Win you let it to me? " 

Rochester looked at him with uplifted eydbrows. 

** Let it to you? " he repeated. " Do you mean to say 
that after an adventurous career such as I imagine you 
have had, you think of settling down, at your age, in a 
neighborhood like this? " 

" Scarcely that," Saton answered. *' I shall be here 
only for a few dayis at a time, at different periods in the 
year. The one taste which I share in common with the 
boy whom you knew, is a love for the country, especially 
this part of it." 



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A QUESTION OF OBLIGATION 43 

^ You wi^ to lire there alcme? " Rodiester asked. 

^ Tl^re is one — other person," Saton answered with 
some hesitation. 

Rochester sighed gently. 

'^ Alas ! " he said. ^* Ii^tmct tells me that that person 
will turn out to be of the other sex. If only you knew, 
my young friend, what the morals of this neighbor- 
hood are, you would understand how fatal your pro- 
posal is." 

Something that was almost malign gleamed for a mo- 
ment in Saton's eyes. 

^ It k true," he said, ^ that the person I spoke of is 
a woman, but as she is at least sixty years (dd, and can 
only walk with the help of a stidc, I do not think that 
she would be apt to disturb the m(Hral prejudices of 
your friends." 

^* What has she to do with you? " Rodiester asked, a 
little shortly. ^^Have you found relatives out in the 
world, or are you married? " 

Saton smiled. 

** I am not married," he answered, " and as the lady 
in question is a foreigner, there is no question of any 
relationship between us. X am, aa a matter of fact, her 
adof^ed son." 

"You can go and see my agent," Rod^ster an- 
swered. " Personally, I shall not interfere. I am to take . 
it for granted, then, I presume, that you have nothing 
more to tell me concerning yourself? *' 

" At present, nothing," Saton answered. " Some day, 
perhaps," he added, rising, " I may tell you eyerything.C 



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44 THE MOVING FINGER 

You see,*' he added, ** I feel that my life, such as it is, 
is in some respects dedicated to you, and that you there- 
fore have a certain right to know something of it. But 
that time has not come yet.'* 

Once more there was a short and somewhat inexpli- 
cable pause, and once more Rochester knew that he was in 
the presence of an enemy. He shrugged his shoulders 
and turned toward the door. 

**Well,'' he said, "we had better be getting off. 
Guerdon is a decent fellow, but he always needs looking 
after. If he is bored for five minutes, he gets sulky. If 
he is bored for a quarter of an hour, he goes home. You 
never met Lord Guerdon before, I suppose? " he asked, 
as he threw open the door. 

They were men of nerve, both of them. Neither 
flinched. Rochester's question had been asked in an ab- 
solutely matter-of-fact tone, and Baton's reply was en- 
tirely casual. Yet he knew very well that it was only 
since the coming of the great judge that Rochester had 
suddenly realized that amongst the guests staying in his 
house, there was one who might have been any sort of 
criminal. 

" I have seen him in court," Saton remarked, with a 
slight smile, " and of course I have seen pictures 'of him 
everywhere. Do not let me keep you, please. I have some 
letters to write in my room." 

Rochester went back to his guests. His brows were 
knitted. He was unusually thoughtful. His wife, who 
was watching him, called him across to the bridge table, 
where she was dummy. 



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A QUESTION OF OBLIGATION 45 

" WeU?'' she asked. **What is it?'' 

Rochester looked down at her. The comers of his 
mouth slowly unbent. 

** Have you ever heard," he whispered in her ear, ** of 
the legend of the Frankenstein? '' 



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CHAPTER V 



A MOSKIKG WAI.K 



M' 



((']^ ^Y dear Henry," Lady Mary said, a few 
days later, swinging round in her chair 
from the writing-table, *' whatever in this 
world induced you to encourage that extraordinary per- 
son Bertrand Saton to settle down in this part of the 
world?" 

Rochester continued for a moment to gaze out of the 
window across the Park, with expressionless face. 

" My dear Mary," he said, ** I did not encourage him 
to do anything of the sort." 

" You let him Blackbird's Nest," she reminded him. 

" I had scarcely a reasonable excuse for refusing to 
let it," Rochester answered. " I did not suggest that he 
should take it. I merely referred him to my agents. He 
went to see old Bland the very next morning, and the 
thing was arranged." 

** I think," Lady Mary said deliberately, " that it is 
one of those cases where you should have exercised a 
little more discrimination. This is a small neighbor- 
hood, and I find it irritating to be continually running 
up against people whom I dislike." 

" You dislike Saton? " Rochester remarked, noncha- 
lantly. 



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A MORNING WALK 47 

^ Dislike is periiaps a sixaiig word," fait wife an- 
swered. ^^ I distrust him. I disbelieve in hinu And I dis- 
like exceedingly the friendship between him and Lois." 

Bodiesta- shrugged his dioulders. 

^ Does it amount to a friendship? " he asked. 

"What else?" his wife answered. **It was obvious 
that she was interested in him when he was staying here, 
and twice since I haTe met them walking together. I hate 
mysterious peo;^. They tell me that he has made Black- 
bird's Nest lode like a museum inside, and there is the 
most awful okl woman, with white hair and Uadc eyes, 
who never leaves his side, they say, when he is at home." 

" She is," Rochester remarked, " I presume^ of an age 
to disarm scandal? " 

" She looks as old as Methuselah," his wife answered, 
^^ but what does the man want with sudi a creature at 
all?" 

" She may be an elderly relative," Rochester sug- 
gested. 

" Relative? Why, she calls herself the Comtesse some- 
body ! " Lady Mary declared. ** I do wish you would 
tell me, Henry, exactly what you know and what you do 
not know about this young man." 

"What I do know is simple enough," he answered. 
" What I do not know would, I begin to believe, fill a 
volume." 

" Then you had better go and see him, and readjust 
matters," she declared, a little sharply. " I want Lois to 
marry well, and she mustn't have her head turned by this 
young man." 



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48 THE MOVING FINGER 

Rochester strolled through the open French-window 
into the flower-garden. He pulled a low basket chair out 
into the sun, close to a bed of pink and white hyacinths. 
A man-servant, seeing him, brought out the morning pa- 
pers, which had just arrived, but Rochester waved them 
away. 

"Fancy reading the newspapers on a morning like 
this ! '* he murmured, half to himself. *' The person who 
would welcome the intrusion of a world of vulgar facts 
into an aesthetically perfect half -hour, deserves — well, 
deserves to be the sort of person he must be. Take the 
papers away. Groves," he added, as the man stood by, a 
little embarrassed. " Take them to Lord Penarvon or 
Mr. Hinckley." 

The man bowed and withdrew. Rochester half closed 
his eyes, but opened them again almost immediately. A 
white clad figure was passing down the path on the other 
side of the lawn. He rotised himself to a sitting posture. 

" Lois ! " he called out. " Lois ! " 

She waved her hand, but did not stop. He rose to his 
feet and called again. She paused with a reluctance wHch 
was indifferently concealed. 

" I am going down to the village," she said. 

He crossed the lawn towards her. 

" I will be a model host," he said, " and come with 
you. It is always the function of the model host, is it 
not, to neglect the whole of the rest of the guests, and 
attach himself to the one most charming? " 

She shook her head at him. ^ 

" I dare not risk being so unpopular," she declared. 



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A MORNING WALK 49 

** Really, don't bother to come. It is such a very short 
distance." 

"That decides me/' he answered, falling into step 
with her. " A short walk is exactly what I want. For the 
last few days I have been oppressed with a horrible fear. 
I am afraid of growing fat ! '* 

She looked at his long slim figure, and laughed de- 
risively. 

" You will have to find another reason for this sud- 
den desire for exercise," she remarked. 

" Do I need to find one? " he answered, laughing down 
into her pretty face. 

She shook her head. 

** This is all very well," she said, ** but I quite under- 
stand that it is my last morning. I know what will hap- 
pen this afternoon, and I really do not think that I shall 
allow you to come past that gate." 

** Why not? " he asked earnestly. 

**You know very well that Pauline is coming," she 
answered. 

The change in his face was too slight for her to notice 
it, but there was a change. His lips moved as though 
he were repeating the name to himself. 

** And why should Pauline's coming affect the situa- 
tion?" he asked. 

She shook her head. 

** You say nice things to me," she declared, looking at 
him reproachfully, "but only when Pauline isn't here. 
We all know that directly she comes we are no longer any 
of us human beings. I wish I were intelligent." 



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50 THE MOVING FINGER 

'* Don't ! " he begged. " Don't wish anything so fool- 
ish. Intelligence is the greatest curse of the day. Few 
people possess it, it is true, but those few spend most 
of their time wishing they were fools." 

" Am I a fool? " she asked. 

*' Of course," he answered, ** All pretty and diarm- 
ing peoj^ are fools." 

" And Pauline? " she asked. 

" Pauline, unfortunately, is amongst the cursed," he 
answered. 

^' That, I suppose," she remarked, ^' is what Imngs 
you so close together." 

" It is a bond of common suffering," he declared. 
** By the bye, who is this ferocHnis-looking i)erson?" 

It was Saton who had suddenly turned the comer, and 
whose expressicm had certainly darkened for a moment 
as he came face to face with the two. He wa*s correctly 
enough dressed in gray tweeds and thick walking boots, 
but somehow or other his sallow face and dai^, plentiful 
hair, seemed to go oddly with his country clothes. 

Rochester glanced at his companion, and he distinctly 
saw a little grimace. Saton would have passed cm, for 
Rochester's nod was of the slightest, but Lois insisted 
upon stopping. 

'* Mr. Saton," she said, " I have been hearing all sorts 
of wonderful things about your house. Whai are you 
going to ask us all to tea to see your curiositks? " 

Saton looked into Rochester's immovable face. 

** Whenever you choose to come," he answered calmly. 
" I am nearly always at home in the afternoon, or rather 



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A MORNING WALK 51 

I shall be after next ThurMky,'' he added, as axi after- 
thought. " I am going to town this evening." 

*' Going away ? '* she asked, a little blankly. 

^ I have to go up to London," he answered, ^* but it 
is only for two days." 

There was a idiort, uneasy mlence. Rochester pur- 
posdy avoided speech. He understood the situation ex- 
actly. They had something to say to one another, and 
wkhed him away. 

*' You won't be able to send me that book, then? " she 
asked. 

^ I will leave it at the house this afternoon, if I may," 
he answered, half looking toward Rochester. 

B^xheaker made no sign. Saton rai^d his cap and 
passed on. 

^^ Wonderful S3rTinga bosh, that," Rochester remarked, 
pointing with his stidc. 

*' Wonderful ! " Lois answered. 

^^ Quite an ideal village, mine," he continued. ^^ You 
see there are crocuses growing out «ven in the roadway." 

^ Very pretty ! " she answered. 

^ You are not by any diance annoyed with me? " 

*' I did not think you were very civil to that poor 
young man." 

*' Naturally," he answered. ^ I didnt mean to be civil. 
I am one of those simple folk who are always annoyed by 
the incomprdbensible. I do not understand Mr. Bertrand 
Saton. I do not quite und^stand, either, why you should 
find him an interesting companion for your morning 
walks." 



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59 THE MOVING FINGER 

^^ You are a hateful person ! '' she declared, as he hdd 
open the gate which led back to the Park. 

'^ I intend to remain so," he answered drily. 

The sound of footsteps coming along the path which 
thej had just quitted, attracted his attention mo- 
mentarily. He turned round. Lois, too, hesitated. 

** I beg your pardon, sir,*' the newcomer said, ** but 
can you tell me whereabouts in this neighborhood I can 
find a house called Blackbird's Nest? A Mr. Bertrand 
Saton lives there, I believe." 

Rochester hesitated for a few seconds. He looked 
at the woman, summing her up with swift comprehension. 
Lois, by his side, stared at her in surprise. She was in- 
clined to be stout, and her face was flushed with walking, 
notwithstanding an obviously recent use of the powder- 
puff. A mass of copper-colored hair was untidily ar- 
ranged underneath a large black hat. Her clothes were 
fashionable in cut, but cheap in quality. She wore open- 
work stockings and high-heeled shoes, which had already 
suffered from walking along the dusty roads. While she 
waited for an answer to her question, she drew a hand- 
kerchief from her pocket, and the perfume of the violet 
scented hedge by the side of which they stood, was no 
longer a thing apparent. 

Rochester, whose hatred of perfumes was one of his 
few weaknesses, drew back a step involuntarily. 

" If you pass through the village," he said, " Black- 
bird's Nest is the second house upon the right-hand side. 
It lies a little way back from the road, but you cannot 
miss it." 



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A MORNING WALK 53 

^^ I am sure I am very much obliged/' the lady an- 
swered. " If I had known it was as far as this, Pd have 
waited till I could have found a carriage. The porter 
at the station told me that it was just a step.'' 

Rochester raised his cap and turned away. Lois walked 
soberly by his side for several moments. 

** I wonder," she said softly, " what a person like that 
could want with Mr. Saton." 

Rochester shrugged his shoulders. 

*' We know nothing of Saton or his life," he answered. 
" He has wandered up and down the world, and I dare- 
say he has made some queer acquaintances." 

*' But his taste," Lois persisted, ** is so perfect. I 
cannot imderstand his permitting a creature like that to 
even come near him." 

Rochester smiled. 

** One does strange things under compulsion," he re- 
marked. " I see that they have been rolling the putting 
greens. Shall we go and challenge Penarvon and Mrs.. 
Hinckley to a round at golf? " 

She glanced once more over her shoulder toward the 
village — perhaps beyond. 

** If you like," she answered, resignedly* 



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CHAPTER VI 



PAUUNE MAEEABEL 



THE words which passed between Pauline Mar- 
rabel and her host at the railway station 
were words which the whole world might have 
heard and remained unedified. The first part of their 
drive homeward, even, passed in complete silence. Yet if 
their faces told the story, Rochester was with the woman 
he loved. He had driven a small pony-cart to the sta- 
tion. There was no room, even, for a groom behind. 
They sat side by side, jogging on through the green 
country lanes, until they came to the long hill which led 
to the higher country. The luggage cart and the om- 
nibus, with her maid and the groom who had driven 
down with Rochester, passed them soon after they had 
left the station. They were alone in the country lane, 
alone behind a fat pony, who had ideas of his own as to 
what was the proper pace to travel on a warm spring 
afternoon. 

More than once he looked at her. Her oval face was 
almost devoid of color. There were rings underneath 
her large soft eyes. Her dark hair was brushed simply 
back from her forehead. Her travelling clothes were of 
the plainest. Yet she was always beautiful — more so 
than ever just now, perhaps, when the slight hardness 



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PAULINE MASRABEL 55 

had g«me from her mouth, and the stram had pasaed 
from her features. 

Bocheater, too, was curiously altered by the change in 
the curve of his lips. There was a new smik thare, a new 
l^ht in his eyes as they jogged cm between the honey- 
sudde-wreathed hedges. Their siknee was even curiously 
protracted, but imdemeath the holland apron his left 
hand was dasj^ng hers« 

'^ How are tlungs with you? ^ she asked softly. 

^ About the same/' he answered. ^ We make the best 
tif it, you know. Mary amuses herself easily enough. 
She has what she wanted — a home, and I have someoae 
to entertain my guests. I believe that we are considered 
quite a model couple.'* 

PauHne sighed. 

^^ Hairy," she said, ** it is beautiful to be hare, to be 
here with y<m. The days will not seem long enough." 

Rochester^ so apt of speech, seemed curiously tongue- 
tied. His fingers pressed hers. He made no answer. She 
leaned a little forward and looked into his face. 

** Wonderful person ! " she declared. " Never a line or 
a wrinkle!" 

He smiled. 

** I live qui^ly," he said. ^ I am out of doors all 
day. Excitement of any sort has not touched my life 
for many years. Sometkoes I feel that this perfect health 
is a torture. Sometimes I am afraid of never growing 
old." 

She laughed very softly — a dear, familiar sound it 
was to him. He turned his head to watch the curve of 



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56 THE MOVING FINGER 

the lips that he loved, the f amt contraction of her eye* 
brows as the smile spread. 

" You dear man ! '* she murmured. " To look at you 
makes me feel quite passSe.^^ 

** The Daily Telegraph should reassure you/' he an- 
swered. ^^I read this morning that the most beautiful 
woman at the Opera last night was Lady Marrabel." 

" The DaUy Telegraph man is such a delightful crea- 
ture/' she answered. "I do not like reporters, but I 
fancy that I must once have been civil to this one by 
mistake. Henry, you have had the road shortened. I am 
perfectly certain of it. We cannot be there.'' 

" I am afraid it is the sad truth," he answered. ** You 
see they are all having tea upon the lawn." 

He touched the pony with his whip, and turning oflF 
the main avenue, drew up at the bottom of one of the 
lawns, before a sunk fence. A servant came hurrying 
down to the pony's head, and together Pauline and he 
made their way across the short green turf to where 
Lady Mary was dispensing tea. Rochester's face sud- 
denly darkened. Seated next to his wife, with Lois on 
the other side of him, was Saton ! 

Lady Mary rose to welcome her guest, and Rochester 
exchanged greetings with some callers who had just 
arrived. To Saton he merely nodded, but when a little 
later Lois rose, and announced that she was going to 
show Mr. Saton the orchid houses, he intervened lazily. 

" We will all go," he said. " Lady Penarvon is inter- 
ested in orchids, and I am sure that Pauline would like 
to see the houses." 



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PAULINE MARRABEL 57 

^^ I am interested in everything belonging to this de- 
lightful place," she declared, rising. 

Lois frowned slightly. Saton's face remained inscru- 
table. In the general exodus Rochester found himself for 
a moment behind with his wife. 

^^ Did you encourage that young man to stay to tea? '* 
he asked. ^' I thought you disliked him so much." 

Lady Mary sighed. She was a gentle, fluffy little 
creature, who had a new whim every few minutes. 

^ I am so changeable," she declared. ^^ I detested him 
yesterday. He wore such an ugly tie, and he would 
monopolize Lois. This afternoon I found him most inter- 
esting. I believe he knows all about the future, if one 
could only get him to tell us things." 

** Really ! " Rochester remarked politely. 

'^ He has been talking in a most interesting fashion," 
continued Lady Mary. 

" Has he been telling you all your fortunes? " 

** You put it so crudely, my dear Henry," his wife de- 
clared. " Of course he doesn't tell fortunes ! Only he's 
the sort of person that if one really wanted to know any- 
thing, I believe his advice would be better than most peo- 
ples'. Perhaps he will talk to us about it after dinner." 

** What, is he dining here? " Rochester asked. 

" I have asked him to," Lady Mary answered, com- 
placently. ** We are short of young men, as you know, 
and really this afternoon he quite fascinated us all. The 
dear Duchess is so difficult and heavy to entertain, but 
she quite woke up when he began to talk. Lady Penar- 
von just told me that she thought he was wonderful." 



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5S THE MOVING FINGER 

^ He seems to have the knack of interesting women,'^ 
Rochester remarked. 

** And therefore^ I suppose,'' Ladj Mary said, ** you 
men will all hate him. Never mind, I have dianged my 
opinion entirely. I think iiiat he » going to be an ac* 
quisition to the neighborhood, and I am going to study 
occultism." 

Rochester turned away with a barely concealed gri- 
mace. He went up to Lois, cahnly usurpmg S«ton*s 
place. 

** My dear Lois," he said, as they fell behmd a few 
paces, ^ so your latest young man has been dmrmin^^ 
everybody." 

^^ He is nice, isn't he? " Ae answered, turning to him 
a little impulsively. 

•* Marvelously ! " Rochester answered. ** Hatefully 
so ! Has he told you anything, by the bye, about him- 
self? " 

She shook her head. 

** Nothing that I can remember," she answered. ** He 
is so clever," she added^ enthusiastically, ** and he has ex- 
plained all sorts of wonderful things to me. If one had 
only brains," she continued, with a little sigh, " there 
is so much to learn." 

Rochester picked a great red rose and handed it to 
her. 

" My dear child," he said, ** there is nothing in knowl- 
edge so beautiful as that flower. By the bye," he added, 
raising his voice to Saton, who was just ahead, **I 
thought you were going to London to-day." 



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PAULINE MAHRABEL 59 

** I have put off my viait until to-morrow," Saton an- 
swered. ^^ Your wife has been kind enough to ask me to 
dine." 

Rochester nodded. He carefully avoided endorsing the 
invitation. 

" By the bye," he remarked, ** we had the pleasure of 
if irecting a lady in distress to your house this morning." 

Saton paused for a moment before he answered. 

*' I am very mudi obliged to you," he said. 

He offered no explanation. Bochester, with a little 
shrug of the shoulders, rejoined Pauline. Lady Mary 
was called away to receive some visitors, and for the first 
time Lois and Saton were alone. 

^^ Mr. Rochester has taken a dislike to me," he said 
^pittxiy. 

Lois was distressed. 

" I wonder why," she said. " As a rule he is so indif- 
ferent to people." 

Saton shook his head a little saidly. 

** I cannot tell," he answered. " Certainly I cannot 
think of anything I have done to offend him. But I am 
nearly always unfortunate. The people whom I would 
like to have care about me, as a rule don't." 

" There are exceptions," she murmured. 

She met his eyes, and looked away. He smiled softly to 
himself. Women had looked away from him before like 
that! 

** Fortimately," he continued, " Lady Mary seems to 
be a little more gracious. It was very kind of her to ask 
me to dine to-night." 



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6o THE MOVING FINGER 

** She is always so interested/' Lois said, ** in things 
which she does not understand. You talked so well this 
afternoon, Mr. Saton. I am afraid I could not follow 
you, but it sounded very brilliant and very wonderful." 

" One speaks convincingly," he said, ** when one really 
feels. Some day, remember," he continued, " we are go- 
ing to have a long, long talk. We are going to begin at 
the beginning, and you are going to let me help you 
to imderstand how many wonderful things there are 
in life which scarcely any of us ever even think about. 
I wonder ^" 

** Well? " she asked, looking up at- him. 

** Will they let me take you down to dinner? " 

She shook her head doubtfully. 

** I am afraid not," she said. " I am almost certain 
to go m with Captain Vandermere." 

He sighed. 

^^ After all," he said, ^* perhaps I had better have 
taken that train to town." 



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CHAPTER Vn 

AN UNWELCOHX VISITOE 

SATON was only a few minutes being whirled 
down the avenue of Beauleys and up along the 
narrow country lane, wreathed with honeysuckle 
and wild roses, to Blackbird's Nest. He leaned back in 
the great car, his unseeing eyes travelling over the quiet 
landscape. There was something out of keeping, a little 
uncanny, even, in the flight of the motor-car with its 
solitary passenger along the country lane, past the hay 
carts, and the villagers resting after their long day's 
toil. The man who leaned back amongst the cushions, 
with his pale, drawn face, and dark, melancholy eyes, 
seemed to them like a creature from another world, even 
as the vehicle in which he travelled, so swift and luxu- 
rious, filled them with wonder. Saton heard nothing of 
their respectful good-nights. He saw nothing of their 
doffed hats and curious, wondering glances. He was 
thinking with a considerable amount of uneasiness of the 
interview which probably lay before him. 

The car turned in at the rude gates, and climbed the 
rough road which led to Saton's temporary abode. A 
servant met him at the door as he descended, a gray- 
haired, elderly man, irreproachably attired, whose man- 
ner denoted at once the well-trained servant. 



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63 THE MOVING FINGER 

" There is a lady here, sir," he said — ^^ she arrived 
some hours ago — who has been waiting to see you. You 
will find her in the morning-room." 

Saton took off his hat, and moved slowly down the 
Uttle hall. 

^^ I trust that I did not make a mistake, sir, in allowing 
her to wait? " the man asked. ** She assured me that she 
was intimately known to you." 

"You were quite right. Parkins," Saton answered. 
" I think I know who she is, but I was scarcely expecting 
her to-day." 

He opened the door of the morning-room and closed it 
quickly. The woman rose up from the couch, where she 
had apparently been asleep, and looked at him. 

" At last ! " she exclaimed. " Bertrand, do you know 
that I have been here since the morning? " 

" How was I to know? " he answered. " You sent no 
word that you were ooming. I certainly did not expect 
you." 

" Are you glad? " she asked, a little abruptly. 

" I am always glad to see you, Violet," he said, put- 
ting his arm around her waist and kissing her. " All the 
same, I am not sure that your coming here is altogether 
wise." 

" I waited as long as I could," she answered. ^^ You 
didn't come to me. You scarcely even answered my let- 
ters. I couldn't bear it any longer. I had to come and 
see you. Bertrand, you haven't forgotten? Tell me that 
you haven't forgotten." 

He sat down by her side. She was a young woman. 



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AN UNWELCOME VISITOR 63 

and though her face was a little hardoied bj the con- 
stant use of cosmetics, she was still well enough looking. 

** My. dear Violet,^ he said, " of course I have not for- 
gotten. Only <kynt you see how unwise it is of you to 
come down here? If she were to know ^* 

** She will not know,** the giri interrupted. ** She is 
safe in London, and will be there for a week." 

^ The servants here might tell her that you have been," 
he suggested. 

^ You will have to see to it tiiat they don't," she said. 
'^Bertrand, I am so unhappy. When are you coming 
back?" 

** Very soon," he answered. 

* We can spend the evening together, can't we? " she 
adced, looking at him anxiously. ^^ My train doesn't go 
back imtil nine." 

** That is just what we cannot do," he answered. 
** You <fid not tell me that you were coming, and I have 
to go out to dinner to-night." 

" To dinner? Here? " she repeated. " You have soon 
made friends." And her face darkened. 

" I stayed here when I was a boy," he answered. 
** There is someone living here who knew me then." 

" Can't you put it off, Bertrand? " she begged. " It 
is five weeks since I have seen you. Every day I have 
hoped that you would run up, if it was only for an hour. 
Bertrand dear, don't go to this dinner. Can't we have 
something here, and go for a walk in the country before 
my train goes, or sit in your study and talk? There are 
so many things I want to ask you about our future." 



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64 THE MOVING FINGER 

He took her hand and leaned towards her. 

" My dear Violet,*' he said, " you must be reasonable. 
I dare not offend these people with whom I have prom- 
ised to dine, and apart from that, I think it is very un- 
wise that I should spend any time at all here with you. 
You know what sort of a person it is whom we both 
have to consider. She would turn us both into the street 
and treat it all as a jest, if it pleased her. I tell you 
frankly, Violet, I have been too near starvation once to 
care about facing it again. I am going to send you back 
to the station in the car now. You can catch a train to 
London almost at once." 

Her face grew suddenly hard. She looked older. The 
light which had flashed into her face at his coming, was 
gone. One saw now the irregularities of her complexion, 
the over-red lips. 

" You dismiss me," she said, in a low tone. ** I have 
come all this way, have waited all this time, and you 
throw me a kiss out of pity, and you tell me to go home 
as fast as I can. Bertrand, you did not talk like this a 
few months ago. You did not talk like this when you 
asked me to marry you ! " 

"Nor shall I talk like it," he answered, **when we 
meet once more in London, and have another of our cosy 
little dinners. But frankly, you are doing an absolutely 
unwise thing in staying here. These people are not my 
servants. They are hers. They are beyond my bribing. 
Violet," he added, dropping his voice a little, and draw- 
ing her into his arms, " donH be foolish, dear. DonH run 
the risk of bringing disaster upon both of us. You 



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AN UNWELCOME VISITOR 65 

wouldn't care to have to do without her now. Nor should 
I. It was a little thoughtless of you to come, dear. Do 
follow my advice now, and I will try and make it up 
to you very soon. I shall certainly be in London next 
week." 

She rested in his arms for a moment with half closed 
eyes, as though content with his words and his embrace. 
Yet, as she dis^igaged herself, she sighed a little. She 
was willing to deceive herself — she was anxious to do 
so — but always the doubt remained ! 

** Very well, Bertrand,'* she said, " I will go.'* 

^^ You will just catch a fast train to London," he said, 
more cheerfully. ^^You will change at Mechester, and 
you will find a dining-car there. Have you plenty of 
money? " 

** Plenty, thank you," she answered. 

He walked with her out into the hall. 

^^ Madame will be so sorry," he said, ^^ to have missed 
you. The telegram must have been a complete misun- 
derstanding. Till next week, then." 

He handed her into the car, and raising her fingers 
to his lips, kissed them gallantly. 

** To the station, William," he ordered the chauffeur, 
*' and then get back for me as quickly as you can." 

The car swung off. Saton stood watching it with 
darkening face. There was some pity in his heart for 
this somewhat pasaSe yoimg person, who had been kind 
to him during those first few weeks of his re-entering 
into life. He recognised the fact that his swift progress 
was unfortunate for her. He even sat for a moment or 



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66 THE MOVING FINGER 

two smoking a cigarette in fais Tery, luxurious dressing- 
room, fingering the gold-topped bottles of his dressing- 
case, and wondering what would be the most effectual and 
least painful means of coming to an understanding with 
her! 



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CHAPTER Vm 

AN INSTANCE OF OCCULTISM 

THE guests at Beaulqrs were all grouped to- 
gether in the hall after dinner, the men, and 
some of tile women, smoking cigarettes. Cof- 
fee and liqueurs were being served from the great oak 
sideboard. Lord Guerdon and his host had drawn a lit- 
tle apart from the others, at the former's instigation. 

*'Your friend Saton — extraordinary name, by the 
bye — seems to have struck upon an interesting theme 
of conversation,** the judge remarked, a little drily, 
glancing across to where Saton stood, surrounded by 
most of the other guests. 

^ He has trayelled a great deal," Rodiester said, ^ and 
he seems to be one of that extravagant sort of persons 
who imbibe more or less the ideas of every country. 
Chiefly froth, I should imagine, but it gives him plenty 
to talk about.'* 

The judge nodded thoughtfully. 

** His face,'* he declared, " still puzzles me a little. 
Sometimes I am sure that I have seen it before. At 
others, I find it quite unfamiliar.** 

Rochester, who was watching Pauline, shrugged his 
shoulders. 

**We may as well hear what the fellow is talking 



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68 THE MOVING FINGER 

about/' he remarked. "Let us join the adoring 
throng.'* . . • 

" I will tell you one thing which I have realized in the 
course of my travels/' Saton was saying as they drew 
near. " Amongst all the nations of the world, we Eng- 
lish are at once the most ignorant, and the slowest to 
receive a new thing. In the exact sciences, we are per- 
haps just able to hold our own, but when it comes to the 
great imexplored fields, the average English person turns 
away with a shrug of the shoulders. * I do not believe ! ' 
he says stolidly, and that is sufficient. He does not be- 
lieve! Since the birth of Time there has been no more 
pitiful cry than that." 

" One might easily be convinced that the fellow is in 
earnest," Rochester whispered. 

The judge laid his hand upon his host's shoulder. 
There was a curious gleam in those deep-set eyes. 

" Let him go on," he said. ** This is interesting. I be- 
gin to remember." 

" We all have a hobby, I suppose," Saton continued. 
" Mine has always been the study of the least under- 
stood of the sciences — I mean occultism. I, too, was 
prejudiced at first. I saw wonderful things in India, and 
my British instincts rose up like a wall. I did not be- 
lieve. I refused to believe my eyes. In Egypt, and on 
the west coast of Africa, I had the chance of learning 
new things, and again I refused. But there came a time 
when even I was impressed. Then I began to study. I 
began to see that some of those things which we accept 
as being wonderful, and from which we turn away with 



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AN INSTANCE OF OCCULTISM 69 

a shrug of the shoulders, are capable of explanation — 
are submissive, in fact, to natural laws. There is not a 
doubt that in the generations to come, people will smile 
upon us, and pity us for our colossal stupidity/' 

" No wise person, my dear Mr. Saton," Mrs. Hinck- 
ley remarked, " would deny that there is yet a great deal 
to learn in life. But tell us exactly to what you refer? '* 

Saton raised his dark eyes and looked steadfastly at 
her. 

"I mean, madam," he said, "the apprehension of 
things happening in the present in other parts, the ap- 
prehension of things about to happen in the future.. 
Our brain we realize, and our muscles, but there is a 
subtler part of ourselves, of which we are as ignorant 
to-day as our forefathers were of electricity.'* 

Lady Mary drew a little sigh. 

** This is so fascinating,*' she said. ** Do you really 
believe, then, that it is possible to foretell the future? "' 

** Why not? " Saton answered quietly. ** The world ia 
governed by laws just as inevitable as the physical laws 
which govern the seasons. It is only a matter of appre- 
hension, a deliberate schooling of ourselves into the 
necessary temperament." 

** Then all these people in Bond Street — these crys- 
tal gazers and fortune-tellers — *^ Lois began eagerly. 

" They are charlatans, and stand in the way of prog- 
ress," Saton declared, fiercely. "They have not the 
faintest glimmering of the truth, and they turn what 
should be the greatest of the sciences into buffoonery. 
To the real student it is never possible to answer ques- 



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70 THE MOVING FINGER 

tions to foretell specific things. On the other hand, it is 
as sure as the coming of night itself that there are times 
when a person who has studied these matters even so 
slightly as I myself, can feel the coming of events*" 

" Give us an instance," Lady Mary begged. " Tell us 
of something that is going to happen." 

Saton moved a little back. His face was unnaturally 
pale. 

"No!" he answered. ** Don't ask me that. Remem- 
ber, this is not a game. It might even happen that I 
should tell you something terrifying. I am sorry that 
I've talked like this," he went on, a little wildly. " I am 
sorry that I came here to-night. Before I came I felt it 
coming. If you will excuse me, Lady Mary ■-■■■ " 

She held out her hands and refused to accept his 
adieux. 

*^ You shall not go ! " she declared. ** There is some- 
thing in your mind. You could tell us something if you 
would." 

Saton looked around, as one genuinely anxious to e9* 
cape. On the outskirts of the circle he saw Rochester, 
smiling faintly, half amused, half contemptuous, and by 
his side the parchment-like face of Lord Guerdon, whose 
eyes seemed riveted upon his. 

" My dear Saton," Rochester said, ** pray don't dis* 
appoint us of our thrill, after all this most effective pre- 
liminary. You believe that you possess a gift which we 
none of us share. Give us a proof of it. No one here is 
afraid to hear the truth. Is it one specific thing you 
could tell? " 



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AN INSTANCE OF OCCULTISM 71 

** One specific thing/' Saton answered quickly, " about 
to happen to one person, and one person only.** 

" Is it a man or a woman? '* Rochester asked. 

" A man ! '* was the quick reply. 

Rochester glanced carelessly around the little circle. 

" Come,'' he said, ** the women can have their thrill. 
There is nothing to fear. Penarvon here has all the pluck 
in the world. Hinckley is a V.C. Captain Vandermere is 
a soldier, and I will answer for it that he has no nerves. 
Guerdon and I, I am sure, are safe. Let us hear your 
gruesome prophecy, my dear Saton, and if it comes true, 
we will form a little society, and you shall be our apostle. 
We will study occultism in place of bridge. We will be 
the founders of a new cult." 

Saton pushed them away from him. His face was al* 
most ghastly. 

" It is not fair, this," he cried. " You do not know 
what you are asking. Can't you feel it, any of you others, 
as I do? " he exclaimed, looking a little wildly around. 
^ There is something else in the room, something else be- 
sides you warm and living people. Be still, all of you.'* 

There was a moment's breathless silence. Some papers 
on the table rustled. A picture on the wall shook. Lady 
Mary sat down in a chair. Lois gave a little scream. 

^^ There is a slight draught," Rochester remarked, 
calmly. 

** It is no draught," Saton answered. ** You want the 
truth and you shall have it. See, there are five men pres- 
ent."--- He counted rapidly with his forefinger. " One 
of them will be dead before we leave this room." 



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^2 THE MOVING FINGER 

Rochester strolled over to the sideboard, and helped 
himself to a cigarette. 

" Come," he said, " this is going a little too far ! 
Look at the cheeks of these ladies, Saton. A little melo- 
drama is all very well, but you are too good an actor. 
Hinckley, and all of you," he said, looking around, " I 
propose that we end the strain. Let us go into the bil- 
liard-room and have a pool. I presume that the spell will 
then be broken," 

Lady Mary shrieked. 

" Don't move, any of you ! " she cried. " I am 
afraid!" 

Rochester laughed softly, and crossed the floor with 
Arm footsteps. He stood on the threshold of the door 
leading to the billiard-room. 

" Come," he said, " I am indeed between life and death, 
for I have one foot in one room and one in the other. 
Come, you others, and seek safety too." 

The women also rose. There was a rush for the door, 
a swish of draperies, a little "sob from Lois, who was 
terrified. Saton remained standing alone. He had not 
moved. His eyes were fixed upon the figure of the judge, 
who also lingered. They two wcire left in the centre of 
the hall. 

" Come, Guerdon," Rochester cried. " You and I will 
take the lot on." 

Guerdon did not move. He motioned to Saton slightly. 

" Young man," he said, " we have met before. I said 
so when you first came in. My memory is improving." 

Saton leaned forward. 



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Some water, quick, and brandy," Rochester cried. 

[Pag^e 73 



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AN INSTANCE OF OCCULTISM 73 

** Be careful, judge,** he said. 

" Be careful be d — d ! " the judge answered. ** Roches* 
ter, come here. God in Heaven ! " 

His left hand went suddenly to his throat. He almost 
tore away the collar and primly arranged tie. Rochester 
was by his side in a second, and saved him from falling. 
His face was white to the lips. A shriek from the women 
rang through the hall, and came echoing back again 
from the black rafters. 

" Some water quick, and brandy," Rochester cried, 
tearing open the shirt from the man he was supporting. 
" Send for a doctor, someone. Penarvon, you see to that. 
Let them take the motor. Keep those d — d women 
quiet!'* 

The judge opened his eyes. 

" I remember him,'* he faltered. 

"Drink some of this, old fellow,** Rochester said» 
" You'll be better in a moment." 

The judge's eyes were closed again. He had suddenly 
become a dead weight on Rochester's arm. Vandermere, 
who had done amateur doctoring at the war, brought a 
pillow for his head. They cut off more of his clothes. 
They tried by every means to keep a flicker of life in 
him until the doctor came. Only Rochester knew it was 
useless. He had seen the shadow of death pass across the 
gray, stricken face. 



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CHAPTER IX 

A SSNTIMBNTAL TAXK 

LOIS Opened the gate and stole into the lane witli 
the air of a guilty child. She gave a little gasp 
as she came face to face with Saton, and pick-^ 
ing up her skirts, seemed for a mom^t about to fly. He 
stood quite still — his face was sad -^almost reproach- 
ful. She dropped her skirt and came slowly, doubtfully 
towards him. 

" I have come,'* she said. ** I was forced to come. 
Oh, Mr. Saton! How could you? ** 

His features were wan. There were lines under his 
dark eyes. He was looking thin and nervous. His voice, 
too, had lost some of its pleasant qualities. 

**My dear young lady," he said, "my dear Lois, 
what do you mean? You don't suppose — you can't — 
that it was through me in any way that— -that thing 
happened? " 

"Oh, I don't know!" she faltered, with white lips. 
** It was all so horrible. You pointed to him, and your 
eyes when you looked at him seemed to shine as though 
they were on fire. I saw him shrink away, and the color 
leave his cheeks. It was horrible ! " 

" But, Lois," he protested, " you cannot imagine that 
by looking at a man I could help to kill him? I can't ex- 



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A SENTIMENTAL TALK 75 

plain what happened. As yet there are things in the 
world which no one can explain. This is one of them. I 
know a little more than most people. It is partly tem- 
perament, perhaps — partly study, but it is surely true 
that I can sometimes feel things coming. From the first 
moment I looked into Guerdon's face at dinner-time, I 
knew what was going to happen. Out there in the hall 
I felt it. Once before in South America, I saw a man 
shoot himself. I tell you that I was certain of what he 
was going to do before I knew that he had even a re- 
volver in his pocket. It comes to me, the knowledge of 
these things. I cannot be blamed for it. Some day J shall 
write the first text-book that has ever been written of 
a new science. I shall evolve the first few rudimentary 
laws, and after that the thing will go easily. Every gen- 
eration will add to them. But, Lois, because I am the 
first, because I have seen a little further into the world 
than others, you are not going to look at me as though 
I were a murderer ! '* 

She drew a little breath, a breath of relief. Her hand 
fell upon his arm. 

" No ! *' she said. *' I have been foolish. It is absurd 
to imagine that you could have brought that about by 
just wishing for it.'* 

" Why, even, should I have wished for it? " he asked. 
** Lord Guerdon was a stranger to me. As an acquain- 
tance I found him pleasant enough. I had no grudge 
against him." 

She drew him a little way on down the lane. 

** I must only stay for a few minutes," she said. " If 



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76 THE MOVING FINGER 

we walk down here we shall meet nobody. Do you know 
what Mr. Rochester has suggested? " 

" No ! " Saton answered. " What? " 

" He says that Lord Guerdon had always been un- 
easily conscious of having seen you somewhere before. 
He says that at the very moment when he was stricken 
down, he seemed to remember! '* 

" That does not seem to me to be important," Saton 
remarked. 

" Can't you understand? ** she continued. ** Mr. 
Rochester seems to think that Lord Guerdon had seen 
you somewhere under disgraceful circumstances. There ! 
I've got it out now," she added, with a wan little smile. 
** That is why he feels sure that somehow or other you 
did your best to help him toward death." 

" And the others? " Saton asked. 

"Oh, it hasn't been talked about!" she answered. 
** Everyone has left the house, you know. I only knew 
this through Mary." 

Saton smiled scornfully. 

" My dear girl," he said, " I know for a fact that 
Lord Guerdon was suffering from acute heart disease. 
He went about always with a letter in his pocket giving 
directions as to what should become of him if he were 
to die suddenly." 

" Is that really true? " she asked. " Oh, I am glad! 
Lord Penarvon said so, but no one else seemed sure." 

" There is no need, even for an inquest," Saton con- 
tinued. " I went to see the doctor this morning, and he 
told me so. I am very, very sorry," he went on, taking 



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A SENTIMENTAL TALK 77 

her hand in his, ^^ that such a thing should happen to 
spoil the memory of these few days. They have been 
wonderful days, Lois.^ 

She drew her hand quietly away. 

** Yes ! ^ she admitted. " They have been wonderful in 
many ways." 

" For you,** he continued, walking a little more slowly, 
and with his hands clasped behind him, ^^ they have been, 
perhaps, just a tiny little leaf out of the book of your 
life. To me I fancy they have been something different. 
You see I have been a wanderer all my days. I have had 
no home, and I have had few friends. All the time I 
have had to fight, and there seems to have been no time 
for the gentler things, for the things that really make 
for happiness. Perhaps," he continued, reflectively, 
^^ that is why I find it sometimes a little diiBcult to talk 
to you. You are so young and fresh and wonderful. 
Your feet are scarcely yet upon the threshold of the Ufe 
whose scars I am bearing." 

" I am not so very young," Lois said, " nor are you 
so very old." 

" And yet," he answered, looking into her face, " there 
is a great gulf between us, a gulf, perhaps, of more than 
years. Miss Lois, I am not going to ask you too much, 
but I would like to ask you one thing. Have these days 
meant just a little to you also? " 

She raised her eyes and looked him frankly in the face. 
They were honest brown eyes, a little clouded just now 
with some reflection of the vague trouble which was stir- 
ring in her heart. 



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78 THE MOVING FINGER 

"I will answer you frankly,'* she said. **Y«^ they 
hare meant something to me ! And yet, list^i. I am go^ 
ing to say something unkind There is something «*— I 
don't know what it is -— betweeu us, which troubles me. 
Oh, I know that you are much cleverer than other men, 
and I would not have you different ! Yet there is some- 
thing else. Would you be very angry, I wonder, if I told 
the truth?'* 

** No ! " he assured her. " Go on, please." 

^^ I feel sometimes," she continued, ^^ as though I could 
not trust you. There, don't be angry," she went on, lay- 
ing her fingers on his arm. "I know how honrid it 
sounds, but it is there in my heart, and it is because I 
would like to believe, it is because I want there to be 
nothing between us of distrust, that I have told you." 

They walked slowly on, side by side. His face was 
turned a little from hers. She was bending forward, as 
though anxious to catch a glimpse of his expression. 
Through the case hardening of years, her voice for a 
moment seemed to have found its way back into the heart 
of the boy, to have brought him at least a momentary 
twinge as he realized, with a passing regret, the abstract 
beauty of the more simple ways in life. Those few min- 
utes were effective enough. They helped his pose. The 
regret passed. A shadow of pain took its place. He 
came to a standstill and took her hands in his. 

** Dear little girl," he said, ^* perhaps you are right. 
I am not altogether honest. I am not in the least like the 
sort of man who ought to look at you and feel towards 
you as I have looked and felt during these wonderful 



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A SENTIMENTAL TALK 79 

days. But all of us have our weak spots, you know. I 
think that you found mine. Good-bye, little girl ! " 

She would have called him back, but he had no idea 
of lending himself to anything so inartistic. With head 
thrown back, he left the footpath and climbed the hill 
round which they had been walking. Not once did he 
look behind. Not once did he turn his head till he stood 
on the top of the rock-strewn eminence, his figure clearly 
outlined against the blue sky. Then he straightened him* 
self and turned round, thinking all the time how won* 
derf uUy effective his profile must seem in that deep, soft 
light, if she should have the sense to look. 

She did look. She was standing very nearly where he 
had left her. She was waving her handkerchief, beckon- 
ing him to come down. He raised his hand above his head 
as though in farewell, and turned slowly away. As soon 
as he was quite sure that he was out of sight, he took his 
cigarette case from his pocket and began to smoke! 



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CHAPTER X 

THE SCENE QHAN6ES 

SATON left the country on the following after- 
noon, arrived at St, Pancras soon after five, and 
drove at once to a large, roomy house on the north 
side of Regent's Park, He was admitted by a trim par- 
lormaid — Parkins had been left behind to superin- 
tend the removal from Blackbird's Nest — and he found 
himself asking his first question with a certain amount 
of temerity. 

" Madame is in? ^* he inquired. 

" Madame is in the drawing-room," the maid answered. 

"Alone?** Saton asked. 

" Quite alone, sir.'' 

Saton ascended the stairs and entered the drawing- 
room, which was on the first floor, unannounced. At the 
further end of the apartment a woman was sitting, her 
hands .folded in front of her, her eyes fixed upon the 
wall. Saton advanced with outstretched hands. 

" At last ! " he exclaimed. 

The woman made no reply. Her silence while he 
crossed a considerable space of carpet, would have been 
embarrassing to a less accomplished poseur. She was tall, 
dressed in a gown of plain black silk, and her brown, 
withered face seemed one of those which defy alike time 



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^ THE SCENE CHANGES 8i 

and its reckoning. Her white hair was drawn back from 
her forehead, and tied in a loose knot at the back of her 
head. Her mouth was cruel. Her eyes were hard and 
brilliant. There was not an atom of softness, or of hu- 
man weakness of any sort, to be traced in any one of 
her features. Around her neck she wore a scarf of bril- 
liant red, the ends of which were fastened with a great 
topaz. 

Saton bent over her affectionately. He kissed her upon 
the forehead, and remained with his arm resting upon 
her shoulder. She did not return his embrace in any 
way. 

^^ So you've come back," she said, speaking with a 
sharpness which would have been unpleasant but for the 
slight foreign accent. 

" As you see," he answered. " I left this afternoon, 
and came straight here." 

" That woman Helga has been down there. What did 
she want? " she demanded. 

Saton shrugged his shoulders slightly, and turning 
away, fetched a chair, which he brought close to her side. 

" I am afraid," he said bluntly, " that she came to see 
me." 

The woman's eyes flashed. 

« Ah! " she exclaimed. " Go on." 

Saton took her hand, and held it between his. It 
was dry and withered, but the nails were exquisitely mani- 
cured, and the fingers were aflame with jewels. 

" Dear Rachael," he said, " you must remember that 
when I was alone in London waiting to hear from you, 



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82 THE MOVING FINGER 

I naturally saw a good deal of Helga. She was kind to 
me, and she was the means by which your letters and 
messages reached me. I am afraid," he continued, 
thoughtfully, " that I was so happy, in those days, to 
have found anyone who was kind and talked decently to 
me, that I may have misled her. There has been a little 
trouble once or twice since. I have tried to be pleasant 
and friendly with her. She seems — forgive me if it 
sounds conceited — she seems to want more." 

** Hussy ! " the old lady declared. *♦ She shaU go." 

"Don't send her away," he begged, replacing her 
hand gently on her lap. " I daresay it was entirely my 
fault." 

The woman looked at him, and a cruel smile parted her 
lips. 

"I have no doubt it was," she said. "You are like 
that, you know, Bertrand. Still, one must have disci* 
pline. She asked for a day's holiday to go into the 
country to see her relatives, and I find her going to see 
you behind my back. It cannot be permitted." 

" It will not happen again," he assured her. " I feel 
myself so much to blame." 

" I have no doubt," she said, " that you are entirely to 
blame, but that is not the question. Unfortunately, there 
are other things to be considered, or she would have been 
sent packing before now. Tell me, Bertrand, what kept 
you down in the country these last few days? " 

** I wanted a rest," he answered. " I have to read my 
paper to-night, you know, and I was tired." 

" You have been spending your time alone? " 



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THE SCENE CHANGES 8$ 

** No I '* he answered^ with scarcely a second's hesita* 
tion. " I have been once or twice to Beauleys.'* 

" To see your friend Henry Rochester, I suppose? ** 
she asked. 

Baton's face darkened. 

" No ! " he answered. " I would not move a step to 
see him. I hate him, and I think he knows it." 

" Who were the ladies of the party ? " the woman 
asked. ^^ Their nam^ one by one, mind. Begin with the 
eldest." 

** Lady Penarvon." 

** I know. Go on," she said 

" Mrs. Hinckley." 

'' Go on." 

** Miss Lois Champneyes/' 

** Young P " the woman asked. 

^*Yes!" 

^* Pretty?" 

**Ye8!" 

"A victim?" 

Saton frowned* 

^^ There was also," he oontinued, ^^ my hi>stets^ Lady 
Mary Rochester." 

^^ A silly, fluffy little Woman," Madame . declared^ 
"Did she flirt?" 

** Not with me, at any rate," Saton answered. 

** Too experienced," Madame remarked. " Perhaps 
too good a judge of your sex. Who else? " 

" Lady Marr&bel." 

** A very beautiful woman, I have heard," Madame re* 



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84 THE MOVING FINGER 

marked. "Also young, I believe. Also, I presume, a 
victim.*' 

"It is not kind of you," Saton protested. "These 
women were staying in the house. One has to make one- 
self agreeable to them." 

" Someone else was staying in the house," Madame 
continued, fixing her brilliant eyes upon his face. 
" Someone else, I see, died there." 

" You mean Lord Guerdon? " Saton muttered, softly. 

" He died there," she said, nodding. " Bertrand, did 
he — did he recognise you? " 

"He would have done," Saton said slowly, "if he 
had not died. He was just beginning to remember." 

She looked at him curiously for several minutes. 

" Well," she said, " I ask no questions. Perhaps it is 
wiser not. But remember this, Bertrand, I know some- 
thing of the world, and the men and women who live in 
it. You are a bom deceiver of women. It is the role 
which nature meant you to play. You can turn them, 
if you will, inside out. Perhaps you think you do the 
same with me. Let that go. And remember this. Have 
as little to do with men as possible. Your very strength 
with women would be your very weakness with men. Re- 
member, I have warned you." 

" You don't flatter me," he said, a little unpleasantly. 

" Bah ! " she answered. " Why should you and I play 
with words? We know one another for what we are. 
Give me your hands." 

He held them out. She took them suddenly in hers and 
drew him towards her. 



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THE SCENE CHANGES 85 

** Kiss me ! " she commandecL 

He obeyed at once. Then she thrust him away. 

" I go with you to this conversazione to-night,'* she 
said. ^ It is well that we should sometimes be seen to- 
gether. I shall let it be known that you are my adopted 
son.** 

" That is as you will,'* he said, with secret satisfac- 
tion. 

" Why not? " she declared. " I never had a son, but 
I'm foolish enough to care for you quite as much as I 
could for any child of my own. 60 and get ready. We 
dine at seven. — No ! come back." 

She placed her long, clawlike fingers upon his shoul- 
ders, and kissed him on both cheeks. She held him tightly 
by the arms, as though there was something else she 
would have said — her lips a little parted, her eyes bril- 
liant. 

** Go and get ready," she said abruptly. ** Look yoiur 
prettiest. You have a chance to make friends to-night." 



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CHAPTER XI 

A BUST EYENINO 

THE conversazione was, in its way, a brilliant 
gathering. There were present scientists, men 
of letters, artists, with a very fair sprinkling 
of society people, always anxious to absorb any new sen- 
sation. One saw there amongst the white-haired men, 
passing backwards and forwards, or talking together 
in little knots, professors whose names were famous 
throughout Europe. 

A very great man indeed brought Saton up to Paul- 
ine with a little word of explanation. 

** I am sure," he said to her — she was one of his old- 
est friends — ^^ that you will be glad to meet the gentle- 
man whose brilliant paper has interested us all 00 much. 
This is Lady Marrabel, Saton, whose father was pro- 
fessor at Oxford before your day.'* 

The great man passed on. Pauline's first impulse had 
been to hold out her hand, but she had immediately with- 
drawn it. Saton contented himself with a grave bow. 

"I am afraid. Lady Marrabel," he said, "that you 
are prejudiced against me." 

" I think not," she cmswered. " Naturally, seeing you 
so suddenly brought into my mind the terrible occurrence 
of only a few days ago." 

" An occurrence," he declared, " which no one could 



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A BUSY EVENING 87 

regret so greatly as myself. But apart from that. Lady 
Marrabel, I am afraid that you are not prepared to do 
me justice. You look at me through Rochester's eyes, 
and I am quite sure that all his days Rochester will be- 
lieve that I am more or less of a charlatan.'* 

" Your paper was very wonderful, Mr. Saton," she 
said slowly. " I am convinced that Mr. Rochester would 
have admitted that himself if he had been here." 

** He might," Saton said. " He might have admitted 
that much, with a supercilious smile and a little shrug of 
the shoulders. Rochester is a clever man, I believe, but 
he is absolutely insular. There is a belt of prejudice 
around him, to the hardening of which centuries have 
come and gone. You are not, you cannot be like that," 
he continued with conviction. " There is truth in these 
things. I am not an ignorant mountebank, posing as a 
Messiah of science. Look at the men and women who 
are here to-night. They know a little. They understand 
a little. They are only eager to see a little further 
through the shadows. I do not ask you to become a con- 
vert. I ask you only to believe that I speak of the things 
in which I have faith." 

** I am quite sure that you do," she answered, with a 
marked access of cordiality in her tone. ** Believe me, it 
was not from any distrust of that sort that I perhaps 
looked strangely at you when you came up. You must 
remember that it is a very short time since our last meet- 
ing. One does not often come face to face with a tragedy 
like that." 

** You are right," he answered. " It was awful. Yet 



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88 THE MOVING FINGER 

you saw how they drove me on. I spoke what I felt and 
knew. It is not often that those things come to one, but 
that there was death in the room that night I knew as 
surely as I am sitting with you here now. They goaded 
me on to speak of it. I could not help it." 

" It was very terrible and very wonderful," she said, 
looking at him with troubled eyes. ^^ They say that Lady 
Mary is still suffering from the shock." 

"It might have happened at any moment," he re- 
minded her. " The man had heart disease. He had had 
his warning. He knew very well that the end might come 
at any moment." 

" That 10 true, I suppose,*' she admitted. " The med- 
ical examination seemed to account easily enough for his 
death. Yet there was something uncanny about it." 

" The party broke up the next day, I suppose," he 
continued. ** I have been down in the country, but I have 
heard nothing." 

" We left before the funeral, of course," she answered. 

" Fortunately for me," he remarked, " I had im- 
portant things to think of. I had to prepare this paper. 
The invitation to read it came quite unexpectedly. I 
have been in London f o]r so short a time, indeed, that I 
scarcely expected the honor of being asked to take any 
share in a meeting so important as this." 

" I do not see why you should be surprised," she said. 
** You certainly seem to have gone as far in the study of 
occultism as any of those others." 

He looked at her thoughtfully. 

"You yourself should read a little about these 



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A BUSY EVENING 89 

things,'* he said — ^** read a little and think a little. You 
would find very much to interest you.'* 

" I am sure of it,'* she answered, almost humhly. 
** Will you come and see me one day, and talk about it? 
I live at Number 17, Cadogan Street." 

" I will come with pleasiure," he answered, rising. 
** Will you forgive me if I leave you now? There is a 
man just leaving with whom I must speak." 

He passed away, and left the room with a little thrill 
of satisfaction. He had contrived to impress the one 
woman whom he was anxious to impress! Children like 
little Lois Champneyes and those others, were easy. This 
woman he knew at once was something different. Besides, 
she was a friend of Rochester's, and that meant some- 
thing to him. 

He walked along Regent Street to the end, and cross- 
ing the road, entered a large caf6. Here he sat before 
one of the marble-topped tables, and ordered some cof- 
fee. In a few minutes he was joined by another man, 
who handed his coat and hat to the waiter, and sat down 
with the air of one who was expected. Baton nodded, a 
little curtly. 

"Will you take anything?" he asked. 

" A bottle of beer and a cigar," the newcomer or- 
dered. " A shilling cigar, I think, to-night. It will run 
to it." 

" Anything special? " Baton asked. 

^^ Things in general are about the same as usual," his 
companion answered " They did a little better in Ox- 
ford Street and Regent Street, but Violet had a dull 



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90 THE MOVING FINGER 

day in Bond Street, I have closed up the Egyptian 
place in the Arcade — * Ayesha * we called it. The police 
are always suspicious of a woman's name, and I had a 
hint from a detective I know.'* 

Saton nodded. 

" You have something dse to tdl me, haven't you? " 
he asked. 

"Yes!" the other answered. "We had a very im- 
portant diait in Bond Street this afternoon, one of 
those whose names you gave me." 

Saton leaned across the table. 

" Who was it? " he asked. 

" Lady Mary Rochester of Beauleys," the oth^ an- 
swered — *^ got a town house, and a big country place 
down in Mechestershire." 

Something flashed for a moment in Saton's eyes, but 
he said nothing. His companion commenced to draw 
leisurely a sheet of paper from his breast coat pocket. 
He was fair and middle-aged, respectably dressed, and 
with the air of a prosperous city merchant. His eyes 
were a little small, and his cheeks inclined to be fat, or 
he would have been reasonably good-looking. 

" Lady Mary called without giving her name," he con- 
tinued, " but we knew her, of course, by our picture gal- 
lery. She called professedly to amuse herself. She was 
told the usual sorts of things, with a few additions 
thrown in from our knowledge of her. She seemed very 
much impressed, and in the end she came to a specific 
inquiry." 

"Go on," said Saton. 



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A BUST EVENING 91 

" The specific ioqairy was brkfly this," the man con- 
tinued. ^^ She gave herself away the moment she opened 
her mouth. She bdiaved, in fact, hke a farmer's daugh- 
ter asking questions of a gil>sy girL She ^owed us the 
photograph of a man, whom we also recognised, and 
wanted to know the usual sort of rubbish — whether he 
was really fond of her, whether he would be true to her 
if she married him.'* 

** Married him? " Saton repeated. 

" She posed as a widow," the other man reminded him. 

** What was the reply ? " 

** Violet was clever," the man remarked, with a* slow 
smile. ^^ She saw at once that this was a case where some- 
thing might be done. She asked for three days, and for a 
letter from the man. She said that it was a case in which 
a sight of his handwriting, and a close study of it, would 
help them to give an absolutely truthful answer." 

" She agreed? " Saton asked. 

The other nodded, and produced a letter from his 
pocket. 

"She handed one over at once," he said. "It isnt 
particularly compromising, perhaps, but it's full of the 
usual sort of rot. She's coming for it on Tuesday." 

Saton smiled as he thrust it into his pocketbook. 

** I will put this into Dorrington's hands at once," he 
said. " This has been very well managed, Huntley. I will 
have a liqueur, and you shall have some more beer." 

" Don't mind if I do," Mr. Huntley assented cheer- 
fully. " It's thirsty weather." 

They sxunmoned a waiter, and Saton lit a cigarette. 



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92 THE MOVING FINGER 

** You've been amongst the big pots to-night," Hunt- 
ley remarked, looking at him. 

Saton nodded. 

** I have been keeping our end up,*' he said, " in the 
legitimate branch of our profession. You needn't grin 
like that," he added, a little irritably. " There is a legiti- 
mate side, and a very wonderful side, only a brain like 
yours is not capable of assimilating it. You should have 
heard my paper to-night upon self -directed mesmeric 
waves." 

The man shook his head, and laughed complacently. 

** It's not in my way," he answered. " Our business is 
good enough as it is." 

" You are a fool," Saton said, a little contemptuously. 
^* You can't see that but for the legitimate side thertf 
would be no business at all. Unless there was a glimmer 
of truth at the bottom of the well, unless there existed 
somewhere a prototype, Madame Hdga, and Omega, and 
Naomi might sit in their empty temples from morning 
till night. People know, or are beginning to know, that 
there are forces abroad beyond the control of the ordi- 
nary commonplace mortal. They are willing to take it 
for granted that those who declare themselves able to do 
so, are able to govern them." 

He broke off a little abruptly. Huntley's unsympa- 
thetic face, with the big cigar in the comer of his mouth, 
choked the flow of his words. 

" Never mind," he said. ** This isn't interesting to 
you, of course. As you say, the business side is the more 
important. I will see you at the hotel to-morrow night. 



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A BUSY EVENING 93 

Considering where I hare been this eyening, it is scarcely 
wise for us to be seen together,'* 

Huntley took the hint, finished his drink, and departed. 
Saton sat for a few more minutes alone. Then he too 
went out into the street, and walked slowly homewards. 
He let himself into the house in Regent's Park with his 
latchkey, and went thoughtfully upstairs. The room was 
still brilliantly illuminated, and the woman who was sit* 
ting over the fire, turned round to greet him. 

"Well? "she asked. 

Saton divested himself of his hat and coat. Madame's 
black eyes were still fixed upon him. He came slowly 
across towards her. 

"Well?" she repeated. 

" You were there," he reminded her. " I saw you sit- 
ting almost in the front row. What did you think of 
it?" 

She shrugged her shoulders. 

"What does it matter what I think of it? Tell me 
about the others." 

** My paper was pronounced everywhere to be a great 
success," he declared. "Many of the cleverest men in 
London were there. They listened to every syllable." 

Madame nodded. 

"Why trouble to teach them?" she asked, a little 
scornfully. "What of Huntley? Have you seen him? 
How have they done to-day? " 

" It goes well," he answered. " It always goes well." 

She moved her head slowly. 

*' Yet to-night you are not thinking of it," she said. 



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94 THE MOVING FINGER 

^ For many nights you have not counted your eammgs. 
You are thinking of other things/' she declared harshly. 
** Don't look away from me. Look into my eyes.'* 

" It is true," he answered. ^ To-night I have been 
with clever men. I have measured my wits against theirs. 
I have pushed into their consciousness things which they 
were im willing to believe. I have made them believe. There 
were many people there who felt, I believe, for the first 
time, that they were ignorant.'* 

The woman looked at him scornfully. There was no 
softening in her face, and yet she had taken his hand in 
hers and held it. 

" What do we gain by that? " die asked harshly. 
" What we want is gold, gold all the time. You ought to 
know that, you, who have been so near to starvation. Are 
you a fool that you don't realize it? " 

" I am not a fool," Saton answered calmly, " but there 
is another side to the whole matter. A meeting such as 
to-night's gives an immense fillip on the part of society 
to what they are pleased to call the supernatural. It is 
only the fear of ridicule which keeps half the people in 
the world from flooding our branches, every one of them 
eager to have their fortunes told. A night like to-night 
. is a great help. Clever men, men who are believed in, have 
accepted the principle that there are laws which govern 
the future so surely as the past in its turn has been gov- 
erned. One needs only to apprehend those laws, to reduce 
them to intelligible formulae. It is an exact study, an ex- 
act science. This is the doctrine which I have preached. 
When people once believe it, what is to keep them from 



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A BUSY EVENING 95 

coming in their thousands to those who know more than 
they do?'' 

The woman shook her head derisively. 

** No need to wait for those days," she answered. 
** The world is packed full of fools now. No need to 
wrestle with nature, to wear oneself inside out to give 
them truth. Give them any rubbisH. Give them what they 
seem to want. It is enough so long as they bring the 
^Id. How much was taken to-day altogether? '' 

Saton passed on to her the papers which the man 
Huntley had given him in the caf6. 

" There is the account,'* he said. *' You see it grows 
larger every day." 

** What becomes of the mcmey ? " she asked. 

'^It is paid into the bank, and the banker's receipt 
comes to me each morning. There is no chance for fraud. 
I must make some more investments soon. Our balance 
grows and grows." 

The woman's eyes glittered. 

*' Bring me some money to-morrow," she begged, 
grasping his other hand. " I like to have it here in my 
hands. Money and you, Bertrand, my son — they are all 
I care for. Banks and investments are well enough. I 
like money. Kiss me, Bertrand." 

He laughed tolerantly, and kissed her cheek. 

" My dear Rachael," he said, *' you have already bags- 
f ul of gold about the place." 

*^ They are safe," she assured him, " absolutely safe. 
They never leave my person. I feel them as I sit. I sleep 
with them at night. I am going to bed now. Bertrand ! " 



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96 THE MOVING FINGER 

"Well? ''he asked. 

She pointed to hun with long forefinger, a forefinger 
aflame with jewels, 

" Look ! We play with no fortune-telling here. What 
is there in your face? What is there in your life you are ; 
not telling me of? Is it a woman? '* 

*' There are many women in my life," he answered. 
" You know that.'' 

** I do," she answered. ** Poor fools ! Play with them 
all you will, but remember — the one whom you choose 
must have gold ! " 

He nodded. 

** I am not likely to forget," he said. 

She left the room with a farewell caress. There was 
something almost tigress-like about the way in which her 
arms wound themselves around him — some gleam of the 
terrified victim in his eyes, as he felt her touch. Then she 
left the room. Saton sank back into an easy-chair, and 
gazed steadfastly into the fire through half -closed eyes. 



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CHAPTER Xn 

A CAIiL OK LADT MABBABEL 

SATON, after the reading of his paper before the 
members of the London Psychical Society, estab- 
lished a certain vogue of which he was not slow to 
avail himself. His picture appeared in several illustrated 
papers. His name was freely mentioned as being one of 
the most brilliant apostles of the younger school of oc- 
cultism. He subscribed to a newspaper cutting agency, 
and he read every word that was written about himself. 
Whenever he got a chance, he made friends with the 
press. Everything that he could possibly do to obtain a 
certain position in a certain place, he sedulously at- 
tempted. He was always carefully dressed, and he was 
quite conscious of the fact that his clothes were of cor- 
rect pattern and cut. His ties were properly subdued in 
tone. His gloves and hat were immaculate. 

Yet all the time he lacked confidence in himself. The 
word charlatan clung to him like a pestilential memory. 
His hair was cropped close to his head. He had shaved 
off his moustache. He imitated almost slavishly the at- 
tire and bearing of those young men of fashion with 
whom he was brought into contact. Yet he was somehow 
conscious of a difference. The women seemed never to 
notice it — the men always. Was it jealousy, he won- 



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98 THE MOVING FINGER 

dered, which made them, even the most unintelligent, 
treat him with a certain tolerance, as though he were 
a person not quite of themselves, whom they scarcely 
understood, but were willing to make the best of? 

With women it was different always. His encounter 
with Pauline Marrabel at the conversazione had given 
him the keenest pleasure. He had at once fixed a day 
sometime ahead upon which he would take to her the 
books he had spoken of. The day had arrived at last, 
but he had first another engagement. Early in the after- 
noon he turned into Kensington Gardens, and walked up 
and down the broad jiatb, glancing every now and then 
toward one of the entrances. He saw at last the person 
for whom he was waiting. 

Lois, in a plain white muslin gown, and a big hat gay 
with flowers, came blithely towards him, a little Pome- 
ranian under one arm, and a parasol in the other hand* 

" I do hope I'm not too dreadfully late ! '' she ex- 
claimed, setting the dog down, and taking his hand a lit- 
tle shyly. ^^ It seems such an age since I saw you last. 
Where can we go and talk? *' 

" You are not frightened at me any more, then? ** 

" Of course not,*' she answered. " We spoke about 
that at Beauleys. I do not want to think any more of 
that evening. It is over and done with. What a clever 
person you are becoming ! '* she went on. " I saw your 
name one day last week in the Morning Post. You read 
a paper before no end of clever men. And do you know 
that your photograph is in two or three of the illus- 
trated papers this week? " 



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A CALL ON LADY MARRABEL 99 

His chedcs flushed with pleasuie. He was unreason- 
ably glad that she appreciated these things. His yanity, 
which had been a trifle ruffled by some incident earlier in 
the day, was effectually soothed* 

" These things," he said, " are absolutely valueless to 
me except so far as they testify to the importance of 
my work. Before long," he wait on, ** I think that there 
will be many other people like you, Miss Lois. They will 
belieye that there is a little more in life than their dull 
eyes can see. You were one of those idio understood 
from the first. But there are not many." 

She sighed. 

^^ I don't think I am a bit clever," she admitted. 

^* Cleverness," he answered, ** is not a matter of erudi- 
tion. It is a matter of instinct, of capacity for grasping 
new truths. You have that capacity, dear Lois, and I 
am glad that you are here. It is good to be with you 
again." 

^^ You really are the most wonderful person," she de- 
clared, poking at her little dog with the aid of her fluffy 
parasdL ^* You make me feel as though I were something 
quite important, and you know I am really a very un- 
formed, very unintelligent young person. That is what 
my last governess said." 

^^ Cat J " he answered laughing. ^^ I can see her now. 
She wore a pmee-^nez and a bicycling skirt. I am sure of 
it. Come and sit down here, and I will prove to you how 
much cleverer I am than that ancient relic." . • • 

They parted at the gates, an hour or so later. Baton 
resented a little her evident desire to leave him there, and 



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xoo THE MOVING FINGER 

her half frightened refusal of his invitation to lunch, 
but he consoled himself by taking his mid-day meal alone 
at Pfince*s, where seyeral people pointed him out to oth- 
ers, and he was aware that he was the object of a good 
deal of resi>ectf ul interest. 

Later in the day, with several books under his arm, he 
rang the bell at 17, Cadogan Street. He was committed 
now to the enterprise, which had never been out of his 
thoughts since the night of the conversazione. 

Pauline kept him waiting for nearly a quarter of an 
hour. When at la^t she entered, he found himself lost in 
admiration of the marvelous simplicity of her muslin 
gown and her perfect figure. There was about her some 
sort of exquisite perfection, a delicacy of outline and de- 
tail almost cameolike, and impossible of reproduction. 

She welcomed him kindly, but without any enthusiasm. 
He felt from the first that )ie still had prejudices to con- 
quer. He sat down by her side and commenced his task. 
Very wisely, he ieliminated altogether the personal note 
K from his talk. He showed her the books which he; had 
brought, and he talked of them fluently and weU. She 
became more and more interested. It was scarcely pos- 
sible that she could refrain from showing it, for he spoke 
of the things which he knew, and things which the citi- 
zens of the world in every age have found fascinating. 
He seemed to her to have gone a little further into the 
great mysterious shadowland than anyone else — to have 
come a little nearer reading the great riddle. She was a 
good listener, and she interrupted him only once. 

" But tell me this,'* she asked, towards the close of one 



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A CALL ON LADY MARRABEL zoi 

of his arguments. ** This apprehension which you say 
one must cultiyate, to be able — how is it you put it? — 
to throw out feelers for the things which our ordinary 
senses cannot grasp — isn't it a matter largely of tem- 
]>erament? '* 

. ^* One finds it difficult or easy to acquire," he answered, 
** according to one's temperament. A nervous, magnetic 
person, who is not afraid of solitude, of solitary thought, 
of taking the truth to his heart and wrestling with it — 
that person is, of course, always nearer the truth than 
the i>erson of phlegmatic temperament, who has to strug^ 
gle ever so hard to be conscious of anything not actually 
within the sphere of his physicdi appr^ension. These 
things in our generation will have a great effect. In cen- 
turies to come, they will become less and less apparent. 
We move rapidly," he went on, •• and I am still a young 
man. Before I die, it is my ambition to leave behind me 
the first text-book on this new science, the first real and 
logical attempt to enunciate absolute laws." 

** It is all very Wonderful," she said, sighing gently. 
** Do you think that I shall understand any more about 
it when I have read these books? " 

•* I am sure that you will," he answered. •• You have 
intelligence. You have sensibility. You are not afraid 
to believe I — that is the trouble with most people." 

^^ Answer me one question," she begged. *^ All these 
fortune-telling people who have sprung up round Bond 
Street — I mean the palmists and crystal-gazers, and 
]>eople like that — do they proceed upon any knowledge 
whatever, or are they all absolute humbugs? " 



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102 THE MOVING FINGER 

** To the best of my belief ,** he answered fervently, 
" every one of them. Personally, I haven't very much in- 
formation, but it has not come under my notice that 
there is a single one of these people who even attempts to 
probe the future scientifically or even inteUigently, ac- 
cording to the demands made upon them* They impose 
as much as they can upon the credulity of their clients. 
I consider that their existence is absolutely the worst 
possible thing for us who are endeavouring to gain a 
foothold in the scientific world. Your friend Mr. Roches- 
ter, you know, called me a charlatan.'* 

" Mr. Rochester is never unjust," she answered 
quietly. ^^ Some day, perhaps, he will take that word 
back.'* 

He tried to give their conversation a more personal 
note, but he found her elusive. She accepted an invita- 
tion, however, to be present at a lecture which he was 
giving before another learned society during the follow- 
ing week. With that he felt that he ought to be con- 
tent. Nevertheless, he left her a little dissatisfied. He 
was perfectly well aware that the magnetism which he 
was usually able to exert over her sex had so far availed 
him nothing with her. Her eyes met his freely, but with- 
out any response to the things which he was striving to 
express. She had seemed interested all the time, but she 
had dismissed him without regret. He walked homewards 
a little thoughtfully. If only she were a little like Lois ! 

As he passed the entrance to the Park, an electric 
brougham was suddenly pulled up, and a lady leaned 
forward towards him. He stepped up to her side, hat in 



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A CALL ON LADY MARRABEL 103 

hand. It was Lady Mary Rochester. She was exquisitely 
gowned and hatted, with a great white veil which floated 
gracefully around her picture-hat, and she welcomed him 
with a brilliant smile. 

" My dear Mr. Saton," she exclaimed, ** what a fortu- 
nate meeting ! Only a few minutes ago I was thinking of 
you." 

" I am Tery much flattered," he answered. 

" I mean it," she declared. " I wonder whether you 
could spare me a few minutes. I don't mean here," she 
added. ** One can scarcely talk, driving; Come in after 
dinner, if you have nothing to do, just for half-an-hour. 
My husband is down in the country, and I am not going 
out until eleven." 

^ I shall be very pleased,'* he answered, a little me- 
chanically, for he found the situation not altogether an 
easy one to grasp. 

" Don't forget," she said. ** Number 10, Berkeley 
Square," with a look of relief. 

The electric brougham rolled on, and Saton crossed 
the road thoughtfully. Then a sudden smile lightened 
his features. He realized all at once what it was that 
Lady Mary wanted from him. 

Rachael was waiting for him when he returned. She 
was seated before the table, her head resting upon her 
hands, her eyes fixed upon the little piles of gold and 
notes which she had arranged in front of her. She 
watched him come in and take off his hat and coat, in 
silence. 



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104 THE MOVING FINGER 

" Well? ^ she asked. « How do things go to-day? *' 

" I have not the reports yet,'* he answered. " It is too 
early. I shall have them later.** 

" What have you been doing? ** she asked. 

" I walked with a girl, Lois Champneyes, in Kensing- 
ton Gardens most of the morning, and I called upon a 
woman — Lady Marrabel — this afternoon,** he an- 
swered. 

Rachael nodded. 

" Safe companions for you,** she muttered. " Remem- 
ber what I always teU you. You are of the breed that can 
make fools of women. A man might find you out.** 

He turned an angry face upon her. 

" What is there to find out? ** he demanded. " I am 
not an impostor. I am a man of science. I have proved 
it. Your fortune-telling temples are all very well, and 
the money they bring is welcome enough. But neverthe- 
less, I am not the vulgar adventurer that you sometimes 
suggest.** 

The woman laughed, laughed silently and yet heart- 
ily, but she never spoke. She looked away from him pres- 
ently, and drawing the pile of gold and notes nearer to 
her, began to recount them with her left hand. Her right 
she held but to him, slowly drawing him towards her. 



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CHAPTER Xni 

LADT MAKT's dilemma 

LADY MARY'S boudoir was certainly the most 
luxurious apartment of its sort into which 
Saton had ever been admitted. There were great 
bowls of red roses upon the small ormolu table and on 
the mantelpiece. Several exquisite etchings hung upon 
the lavender walls. The furniture was all French. Every 
available space seemed occupied with costly knick-knacks 
and curios. Photographs of beautiful women, men in 
court dress and uniform, nearly all of them signed, were 
scattered about on every available inch of space, and 
there was also that subtle air of femininity about the 
apartment, to which he was unaccustomed, and which 
went to his head like wine. It was evident that only priv- 
ileged visitors were received there, for apart from the air 
of intimacy which seemed somehow to pervade the place, 
there were several articles of apparel, and a pair of slip- 
pers lying upon the hearthrug. 

Lady Mary herself came rustling in to him a few min- 
utes after his arrival, gorgeous in a wonderful shimmer- 
i^g go^^f which seemed to hang straight from her shoul- 
ders — the very latest creation in the way of tea-gowns. 

** I know you will forgive my receiving you like this,'* 
she said, holding out her hand. " To tell you the truth. 



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zo6 THE MOVING FINGER 

I dined here absolutely alone, and I thought that I would 
not dress till afterwards. I am going on to the ball at 
Huntingf ord House, and it is always less trouble to go 
straight from one's maid. You have had coffee? Yes? 
Then sit down at the end of this couch, please, and tell 
me whether you think you can help me.*' 

Saton was not altogether at his ease. The brilliancy 
of his surroundings, the easy charm of the woman, were 
a little disconcerting. And she was Rochester's wife, the 
wife of the man whom he hated I That in itself was a 
thing to be always kept in mind. Never before had she 
seemed so desirable. 

^* If you will tell me in what way I can be of service, 
Lady Mary," he began 

She turned towards him pathetically. 

"Really," she said, "I scarcely know why I asked 
for your help, except that you seem to me so much clev- 
erer than most of the men I know." 

" I am afraid you Qver-rate my abilities," he said, 
with a slight deprecatin^mile. " But at any rate, please 
be sure of one thing. You could not have asked the ad- 
vice of anyone more anxious to serve you." 

** How kind you are I" she murmured. " I am going 
to make a confession, and you will see, after all, that 
the trouble I am in has something to do with you. You 
remember that night at Beauleys? " 

" Yes ! " he answered. 

" We won't talk about it," she continued. " We 
mustn't talk about it. Only it gave me foolish thoughts. 
From being utterly incredulous or indifferent, I went to 



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LADY MARY'S DILEMMA X07 

the other extreme. I became, I suppose, absolutely fool- 
ish. I went to one of those stupid women in Bond 
Street." 

" You went to have your fortune told? " he asked. 

She nodded. 

" Oh, I suppose so ! *' she said. " I asked her a lot of 
things, and she looked into a crystal globe and told me 
what she saw. It was quite interesting, but unfortu- 
nately I went a little further than I meant to. I asked 
her some ridiculous questions about — a friend of 
mine.*' 

He smiled sympathetically. 

" Well," he said, " this all seems rather like a waste of 
time, but I scarcely see how it would be likely to land you 
in a difficulty." 

" But it has," she answered. ** That is what I want to 
explain to you. The woman insisted upon haying a letter 
in the handwriting of the person I asked questions about, 
and I foolishly gave her one that was in my pocket. 
When I asked for it back again, the day afterwards, she 
said she had mislaid it." 

" But was the letter of any importance? " he asked. 

" There wasn't much in it, of course," she answered, 
** but it was a private letter." 

" It is infamous ! " he declared. " I should give infor- 
mation to the police at once." 

She held out her hands — tiny little white hands, ring- 
less and soft. 

** My dear man," she exclaimed, " how can I? Give in- 
formation to the police, indeed ! What, go and admit be- 



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zo8 . THE MOVING FINGER 

fore a magistrate that I had been to a fortune-teller, 
especially,'' she added, looking down, ** on such an er- 
rand?'' 

He drew a little nearer to her. 

" I beg your pardon," he answered. " I was thought- 
less. That, of course, is not possible. Tell me the name 
and the address of the jierson to whom you went." 

" The woman's name was Helga," she answered, " and 
it wias in the upper end of Bond Street. Daisy Knowles 
told me about the place. Heaps of people I know haye 
been." 

" And the letter? " he asked. " Tell me, if you can, 
what is its precise significance? " 

" It was a letter from Charlie Peyton," she answered 
— ^** Major Peyton, in the Guards, you know. There 
wasn't anything in it that mattered really, but I shall 
not have a moment's peace until it is returned to me." 

" Have you told me everything? " he asked. 

"No! "she admitted. 

** Perhaps it would be as well," he murmured. 

She produced a letter from the bosom of her gown. 

" I received this last night," she said. 

He glanced it rapidly through. The form of it was 
well-known to him. 
" Dear Madam, 

" A letter addressed to you, and in the handwriting 
of a certain Major Charles Peyton, has come into our 
hands within the last few hours. It is dated from the 
Army and Navy Club, and its postmark is June 1st. The 
contents are probably well-known to you. 



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LADY MARY'S DILEMMA X09 

** It is our wish to return same into your hands at once, 
but we may say that it was handed to us in trust by a 
gentleman who is indebted to us for a considerable sum 
of money 9 and he spoke of this document, which we did 
not inspect at the time, as being a probable form of 
security. 

** Perhaps your ladyship can suggest some means by 
which we might be able to hand over the letter to you 
reithout breaking faith with our friend. 
" Sincerely yours, 

" Jacobson Sf Co. — Agents. 

" 17, Charing Cross Road.'' 

" A distinct attempt at blackmail ! " Saton exclaimed, 
indignantly. 

" Isn't it wicked? '* Lady Mary replied, looking at 
him appealingly. " But how am I to deal with it? What 
am I to do? I don't wish to correspond with these peo- 
ple, and I daren't tell Henry a thing about it." 

** Naturally," he answered. "My dear Lady Mary, 
there are two courses open to you. First, you can take 
this letter to the police, when you will get your own let- 
ter back without paying a penny, and these rascals will 
be prosecuted. The only disadvantage attached to this 
course is that your name will appear in the papers, and 
the letter will be made public." 

** You must see," she declared, ** that that is an abso- 
lute impossibility. My husband would be furious with 
me, and so would Major Pe3rton. Please suggest some- 
thing else." 

** Then, on the other hand," he continued, " the only 



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xxo THE MOVING FINGER 

altemative course is to make the best bargain you can 
with the scoundrels who are responsible for this." 

^ But how can I? *• she asked plaintively. " I cannot 
go to see these people, nor can I have them come here. 
I don't know how much money ihej want. You know I 
haven't a penny of my own, and although my, husband 
is generous enough, he likes to know what I want money 
for. I have spent my allowance for the whole of the year 
already. I believe I am even in debt." 
« Saton hesitated for several moments. Lady Mary 
watched him all the time anxiously. 

" If you will allow me," he said, ** I will take this let- 
ter away with me, and see these people on your behalf. 
I have no doubt that I can make much better terms with 
them than you could." 

She drew a little sigh of relief. 

** That is just what I was hoping you would pro- 
pose," she declared, handing it over to him. ^ It is so 
good of you, Mr. Saton. I feel there are so few people 
I could trust in a matter like this. You will be very care- 
ful, won't you?" 

** I will be very careful,'* he answered. 

** And 'when you have the letter," she continued, ** you 
will bring it straight back to me? " 

" Of course," he promised, " only first I must find out 
what their terms arm. They will probably begin by sug- 
gesting an extravagant simi. Tell me how far you are 
prepared to go?" 

** You think I shall have to pay a great deal of money, 
then?" she asked, anxiously. 



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^ LADY MARY'S DILEMMA xxx 

" That depends entirely,'* he answered, ** upon what 
jou call a great deal of money." 

^^ I might manage two hundred pounds/' she said, 
doubtfully. 

He smiled. 

*^I am afraid," he said, ^that Messrs. Jacobson & 
Co., or whatever their name is, will expect more than 
that." 

" It is so unlucky," she murmured. ** I have just paid 
a huge dressmaker's bill, and I have lost at bridge every 
night for a week. Do the best you can for me, dear Mr. 
Saton." 

He leaned towards her, but he was too great an artist 
not to realize that her feeling for him was one of pure 
indifference. He was to be made use of, if possible — to 
be dazzled a little, perhaps, but nothing more. 

^ I will do the best I can," he said, rising, as he 
saw her eyes travel towards the clock, *^ but I am afraid 
— I don't want to frighten you — but I am afraid that 
you will have to find at least five hundred pounds." 

*^ If I must, I must," she answered, with a sigh. ^ I 
shall have to owe money everywhere, or else teU Hairy 
that I have lost it at bridge. This is so good of you, 
Mr. Saton." 

" If I can serve you," he concluded, holding her hand 
for a moment in his, *^ it will be a pleasure, even though 
the circumstances are so unfortunate." 

^^ I shall, esteem the service none the less," she an- 
swered, smiling at him. ^^ Come and see me directly you 
know anything. I shall be so anxious." 



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112 THE MOVING FINGER 

Saton made his way to the caf£ at the end of Regent 
Street. This time he had to wait a little longer, but in 
the end the man who had met him there before appeared 
He came in smoking a huge cigar, and with his silk hat 
a little on one side. 

" A splendid day ! '* he declared. " Nearly double yes- 
terday's receipts. The papers are all here." 

Saton nodded, taking them up and glancing them 
rapidly through. 

"Do you know where I can find Dorrington? '* he 
said. "I want that letter — the Peyton letter, you 
know.'* 

Huntley nodded. 

** I've got it in my pocket,'' he said. " I was keeping 
it until to-morrow." 

Saton held out his hand. 

** I'll take it," he said. " I can arrange terms for this 
matter myself." 

Huntley looked at him in surprise. 

** It isn't often," he remarked, " that you care to in- 
terfere with this side of the game. Sure you're not run- 
ning any risk? We can't do without our professor, you 
know." ^' 

Saton shivered a little. 

" No ! I am running no risk," he said. ^^ It happens 
that I have a chance of settling this fairly well." 

He had a few more instructions to give. Afterwards 
he left the place. The night outside was close, and he 
was conscious of a certain breathlessness, a certain im- 
patient desire for air. He turned down toward the Em- 



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LADY MARY'S DILEMMA 113 

bankment, and sat on one of the seats, looking out at 
the sky signs and colored advertisements on the other 
side of the river, and down lowor, where the tall black 
buildings lost their outline in the growing dusk. 

His thoughts travelled backwards. It seemed to him 
that once more he sat upon the hillside and built for 
himself dream houses, saw himself fighting a splendid 
battle, gathering into his life all the great joys, the 
mysterious emotions which one may wrest from fate. 
Once more he thrilled with the subtle pleasure of imag- 
ined triumphs. Then the note of reality had come. 
Rochester's voice sounded in his ears. His dreams were 
to become true. The sword was to be put into his hand. 
The strength was to be given him. The treasure-houses 
of the world were to fly, open at his touch. And then 
once more he seemed to hear Rochester's voice, cold and 
penetrating. ** Anything hut faUuret If you fatly srvim 
out on a mrmy day, and wait until the waves creep over 
your neck, over your head, and you sinkl The men who 
fail are the creatures of the gutter! ** 

Saton gripped the sides of his seat. He felt himself 
suddenly choking. He rose and turned away. 

" It would have been better ! It would have been bet- 
ter ! " he muttered to himself. 



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CHAPTER XIV 

PETTT WOBBIES 

SATON threw down the letter which he had been 
reading, with a little exclamation of impatience. 
It was from a man whom, on the strength of an 
acquaintance which had certainly bordered upon friend- 
ship, he had asked to propose him at a certain well- 
known club, 

" My dear Mr. Saton,** it ran^ ** I was sent for to-day 
hy the Committee here upon the question of your can- 
didature for the club. They asked me a good many 
questions, xchich I answered to the best of my ahUity, 
hut you know they are a very old-fashioned lot, and I 
think it would perhaps he wisest if I were to withdraw 
your name for the present. This I propose to do unles9 
I hear from you to the contrary. 

" Sincerely yours, 

" Gordon Chambers." 
Saton felt his cheeks flush as he thrust the letter to 
the bottom of the little pile which stood in front of him. 
It was one more of the little annoyances to which some- 
how or other he seemed at regular intervcds to be sub- 
jected. Latterly, things had begun to expand with him. 
He had persuaded Madame to give up the old-fashioned 
house in Regent's Park, and they had moved into a 



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PETTY WORRIES 1x5 

maisonette in Mayfair — a little white-fronted house, 
with boxes full of scarlet geraniums, a second man-serv- 
ant to open the door, and an electric brougham in place 
of the somewhat antiquated carriage, which the Countess 
had brought with her from abroad. His banking account 
was entirely satisfactory. There were many men and 
women who were only too pleased to welcome him at their 
houses. And yet he was at all times subject to such an 
occurrence as this. 

His lips were twisted in an unpleasant smile as he 
frowned down upon the tablecloth. 

" It is always like it ! " he muttered. " One climbs a 
little, and then the stings come." 

Madame entered the room, and took her place at the 
other end of the breakfast table. She leaned upon her 
stick as she walked, and her face seemed more than ever 
lined in the early morning sunlight. She wore a dress of 
some soft black material, unrelieved by any patch of 
color, against which her cheeks were almost ghastly in 
their pallor. 

" The stings, Bertrand? What are they? " she asked, 
pouring herself out some coffee. 

Saton shrugged his shoulders. 

" Nothing that you would understand," he answered 
coldly. ^^ I mean that you would not understand its ailg- 
nificance. Nothing, perhaps, that I ought not to be pre- 
I>ared for." 

She looked across the table at him with cold expres- 
sionless eyes. To see these two together in their moments 
of intimacy, no one would ever imagine that her love for 



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xx6 THE MOVING FINGER 

this boy — he was nothing more when chance had thrown 
him in her way — had been the only real passion of her 
later days. 

** You do not know," she said, ** what I understand or 
what I do not understand. Tell me what it is that worries 
you in that letter.*' 

He pushed it away from him impatiently. 

^I asked a friend — a man named Chambers — to 
put me up for a club I wanted to join," he said. ^^ He 
promised to do his best. I have just received a lett^ ad- 
vising me to withdraw. The committee would not elect 
me." 

"What dub is it?" she asked. 

** The * Wanderers '," he answered. " The social qual- 
ification is not very stringent. I imagined that they 
would elect me." 

The woman looked at him as one seeking to under- 
stand some creature of an alien world. 

" You attach importance," she asked, " to such an in- 
cident as this? You? " 

" Not real importance, perhaps," he answered, ** only 
you must remember that these are the small things that 
annoy. They amount to nothing really. I know that. 
And yet they sting ! " 

" Do not dwell upon the small things, then," she said 
coldly. ^ It is well, for all our sakes, that you should oc- 
cupy some position in the social world, but it is also well 
that you should remember that your position there is not 
worth a snap of the fingers as against the great things 
which you and I know of. What do these people matter. 



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PETTY WORRIES X17 

with their strange ideas of birth and position, their little 
social distinctions, which remind one of nothing so much 
as Swift's famous satire? You are losing your sense of 
proportion, my dear Bertrand. Go into your study for 
an hour this morning, and think. Listen to the voices of 
the greater life. Remember that all these small happen- 
ings are of less account than the flight of a bird on a 
summer^s day." 

"You are right," he answered, with a little sigh, 
** and yet you must remember that you and I can scarcely 
look at things from the same standpoint. They do not 
affect you in the slightest. They cannot fail to remind 
me that I am after all an outcast, rescued from ship- 
wreck by one strange turn in the wheel of chance." 

She looked at him with penetrating eyes. 

" Something is happening to you, Bertrand," she said. 
^* It may be that it is your sense of proportion which is 
at fault. It may be that your head is a little turned by 
the greatness of the task which it has fallen to your lot 
to carry out. It is true that you are a young man, and 
that I am an old woman. And yet, remember! We are 
both of us little live atoms in the great world. The only 
things which can appeal to us in a different manner are 
the everyday things which should not count, which 
should not count for a single moment," she added, with a 
sudden tremor in her tone. 

** You are right, of course," he answered, " and yet, 
Rachael, you must remember this. You have finished 
with the world. I am compelled to live in it." 

" If you are," she rejoined, " is that any reason. 



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iiS THE MOVING FINGER 

Bertnuidy wkf joa should pause to listen to tl^ yokes 
whose cry » mcaxunj^css? Think I Remember the blind 
f olbf of it aU. A decade, a cycle of years, and the m«a 
who pass yott in Fall Mall, and the women who nnile at 
you from their carnages, will be dead and gone. You — 
yo«s nuiy become the Emperor of Time itself. Remember 
that!" 

" And in the meantime, one has to live." 

** Keep your head m the douds,'* she said. " Make use 
ef tiicse peoplcy but always remember that in the Ughb of 
what may comey they arc only the dirt beneath your feet. 
Remember that you may be the first of all the ages to 
solve tiie gr^it secret — the secret of carrying your con- 
sciousness beycHid the grave." 

" Life is short," be said, ** and the task is great." 

^ Too great for cowards," she answered. " Yet look 
at me. Do I despair? I am seventy-one years old. I have 
BO fear of death. I have learnt enough at least to help 
me into tiie grape. That will do, Bertrand. Gro on with 
your breakfast^ and bum that letter." 

He tore it in half, and went to the sideboard to help 
hiondf from one of the dishes. When he returned, Ma- 
dame waa dnHiHiifiig thoughtfully upon the tablecloth 
wi& her long fingers. 

''Bertnmd,'»slK8aid. 

He looked toward her curiously. There was a new 
Mite, a new cxpiession in the way she had prcmounced his 



" The girl, the little fair f od. of a girl with money — 
GhampiKyes you called her — where is she?" 



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PETTY WORRIES 119 

" She is in London," he answered. 

« With the Rochesters? " 

"Yes!" 

Rachael frowned. 

'^ You find it difficult to see her, tl^n? " she remarked, 
thoughtfully. 

** I can see her whenever I choose to,** he answered. 

" You must marry her,'* Raclmel said. ** Tlie girl will 
aerve your purpose as well as another. She is rich, and 
^e is a fooL" 

" She is not of age,** Saton said drily, ** and Mr. 
Rochester is her guardian.** 

** She will be of age very soon,** Rachael answered, 
** and the money is sure.** 

**Do we need it?** he asked, a little impatiently. 
" We are making now far more than we can speikl.** 

**We need money all the time,** she answered. '^At 
present, things prosper. Yet a dbange might come — a 
change in the laws, a campaign in the press — anything. 
Even the truth might leak out.** 

Saton rose from his place, and going once more to the 
sideboard, took up and lit a long Russian cigarette. He 
returned with the box, and laid it before Rachael. 

** If the truth should leak out,** he said, " that would 
be the end of us in this country. We have had one es- 
cape. I do not mean to find myself in the prisoner's dock 
a second time.** 

** There is no fear of that,** she answered. ** The whole 
business is so arranged that neither you nor I would be 
connected with it. Besides, we have rearranged things. 



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*»o THE MOVING FINGER 

We are within the pale of the law now. To return to 
what I was saying about this girl." 

** There is no hurry ,'• he said. " Marriage does not 
interest me." 

** Marriage for its own sake, perhaps, no," she an- 
swered, "and yet money you must have. No man has 
ever succeeded in any great work without it. If a pauper 
proclaims a theory, he is laughed to scorn. He is called 
a charlatan and an impostor. If a rich man speaks of the 
same thing, his words are listened to as one who stirs the 
world. There is a change in you, Bertrand," she con- 
tinued. "You have avoided this girl lately. You have 
avoided, even, your work. What is it? " 

" Who knows? " he answered, lightly. " The weather, 
perhaps — the moon — one's humor, t will walk this 
morning in Kensington Gardens. Perhaps I shall see 
lois." 

He left the house half-an-hour later, after dictating 
some letters to a newly installed secretary. He accepted 
a carefully brushed hat from a well-trained and perfectly 
respectful servant, who placed also in his hands his stick 
and gloves. He descended a few immaculate steps and 
turned westward, frowning thoughtfully. The matter 
with him ! He knew well enough. He had taken his fate 
into his hands, played his cards boldly enough, but Fate 
was beginning to get her own back. 

He turned not toward Kensington Gardens, but to- 
wards Cadogan Street. He rang the bell at one of the 
most pretentious houses, and asked for Lady Marrabel. 
The butler was doubtful whether she would be inclined 



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PETTY WORRIES xm 

to receive anyone at that hour. He was shown into a 
morning-room and kept waiting for some time. Then she 
came in, serene as usual, with a faint note of inquiry in 
her upraised eyebrows and the tone of her voice as she 
welcomed him. 

" I m>ist apologize," he began, a little nervously. *' I 
have no right to come at such an hour. I heard this 
morning that Max Naudheim will be in London before 
the end of the week, and I wondered whether you would 
care to meet him." 

" Of course I should," she answered, " only I hope 
that he is more comprehensible than his book." 

" I have never met him myself," Saton answered, " but 
I know that he has a letter to me. He will come to my 
house, I believe, and if he follows out his usual custom,, 
he will scarcely leave it while he stays in England. I 
shall ask a few people to talk one night. I cannot at* 
tempt anything conventional. It does not seem to me to 
be an occasion for anything of the sort. If you will 
come, I will let you know the night and the time." 

She hesitated for a moment. 

"And if you should come," he continued, "even 
though it be the evening, please wear an old dress and 
hat. Naudheim himself seldom appears in a collar. Any 
social gathering of any sort is loathsome to him. He 
will talk only amongst those whom he believes are his 
• friends." 

" I will come, of course," Pauline answered. " It is 
good of you to think of me." 

** He may speak to you," Saton continued. " He takes 



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122 THE MOVING FINGER 

curious fancies sometinieA to address a perfect stranger, 
and taSk to them intimately. Remember that though he 
Kves in Switaerland, and has a German name, he is really 
an Englishman* Nothing annoys him more than to be 
spoken to in any other language." 

^ I will ranendber," Pauline said. 

There was a mom^it's silence. Saton felt that he was 
expected to go. Yet there was something' in her manner 
which he could not altogether understand, some nervous- 
ness, which seemed absolutely foreign to her usual de- 
meanour. He took up his hat reluctantly. 

^^ You are busy to-day? '' he asked.. 

^ I am always husy^^ she answered. ^^ Perhaps it is 
because I am so lazy. I never da anything, so there is al- 
ways so much to do.'' 

He made the plunge^ speaking without any of his 
umal confidence — hurriedOy, almost indistinctly. 

<^ Won't you come and have some luncheon with me 
ait the Berkeley, or anywhere you please ? I fed like talk- 
ing to-day. I feel that I am a little nearer the first law. 
I want to speak of it to someone." 

She hesitated, and he saw her fingers twitch. 

" Thank you," she said, ** I am afraid I can't. If you 
lik^ you can come and have luncheon here. I have one 
or two people coming in.." 

** Thank you," he said. " I shall be glad to come. 
About half -past one, I suppose? " 

" From that to two," she answered. " My friends drop 
in at any time." 

He passed out into the street, not altogether satMed 



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PETTY WORRIES 123 

with his visit, and yet not dissatisfiecL He had an in- 
stinctive feeling that in some degree her demeanour to- 
wards him was changed. What it meant he could not 
wholly tell. She no longer met his eyes with that look of 
careless, slightly contemptuous interest. Yet when he 
tried to find encouragement from the fact, he felt that he 
lacked all fats usual confidoice. He vealiaed with a little 
unpube of annoyance that in the presence of this waoMOi, 
whom he was more anxious to impress than anyone eke 
in' the world, he was subject to sudden lapses of self- 
confidence, to a certain BeU^depiredation, whidi irritated 
him. Was it, he wondered, because he was always fancy- 
ing that she looked at hhn out of Rodiester's eyes? 

A cab drove past him, and stopped before the house 
whidi he had just left. He looked behind, with a sudden 
feeling of almost passionate jealousy. It was Rochester, 
who had driven by him imseen, and who was now mount- 
ing the steps to her house. 



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CHAPTER XV 

KOCHE8TEE 18 INDIGNANT 

ROCHESTER accepted his wife*» offer of a lift 
in her victoria after the luncheon party in 
Cadogan Street. 

^ Maiy," he said, as soon as the horses had started, 
**I cannot imagine why you were so civil to that in- 
sufferable bounder Baton." 

She looked at him thoughtfully. 

^^ Is he an insufferable bounder? " she asked. 

**I find him so," Rochester answered, deliberately. 
^ He dresses like other men, he walks and moves like 
other men, he speaks like other men, and all the time I 
know that he is acting. He plays the game well, but it 
is a game. The man is a bounder, and you will all of you 
find it out some day." 

" Don't you think, perhaps," his wife remarked, " that 
you are prejudiced because you have some knowledge of 
his antecedents?" 

" Not in the least," Rochester answered. " The fetish 
of birth has never appealed to me. I find as many 
gentlefolk amongst my tenants and servants, as at the 
parties to which I have the honor of escorting you. It 
isn't that at all. It's a matter of insight. Some day 
you will all of you find it out." 



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ROCHESTER IS INDIGNANT 125 

" All of us, I presume," Lady Mary said, f* includes 
Pauline." 

Rochester nodded. 

** Pauline has disappointed me," he said. " Never be- 
fore have I known her instinct at fault. She must know 
— in her heart she must know that there is something 
wrong about the fellow. And yet she receives him at her 
house, and treats him with a consideration which, 
frankly, shall we say, annoys me? " 

" One might remind you," Lady Mary remarked, 
** that it is you who are responsible for this young man's 
introduction amongst our friends." 

"It is true," Rochester answered. "I regret it bit- 
terly. I regret it more than ever to-day." 

** Because of Pauline? " Lady Mary asked. 

"Because of Pauline, and for one other reason," 
Rochester answered, lowering his voice, and turning a 
little in his seat towards his wife. ** Mary, I was unfor- 
tunate enough to hear a sentence which passed between 
you and this person in the hall. I would have shut my 
ears if I could, but it was not possible. Am I to under- 
stand that you have made use of him in some way? " 

Lady Mary gasped. This was a thunderbolt to descend 
at her feet without a second's warning ! 

" As a matter of fact," she said slowly, " he has done 
me a service." 

Rochester's face darkened. 

" I should be interested," he said, " to know the cir- 
cumstances." 

Lady Mary was not a coward, and she realized that 



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xa6 THE MOVING FINGER 

there was nothing for it but the afaeolute tmtli. Her 
husband's eyes were fixed upon her, filled with mn ex- 
pression which she very seldom saw in them. After all, 
she had little enougb to fear. Their illations were 
scarcely such that he could assume the position of a 
jealous husband. 

" I suppose that you will laugh at me, Henry ,'• she 
said. ** Perhaps you will be angry. However, one must 
amuse oneself. Frankly, I think that all this talk that is 
going on about occultism, and being able to read the fu- 
ture, and to find new laws for the government of the 
will, has perhaps turned my brain a little. Anyhow, I 
went to one of those Bond Street people, and asked them 
a few questions.'* 

" You mean to one of these crystal-gazers or fortune- 
tellers? " he asked. 

" Precisely," she answered. ** No doubt you think that 
I am mad, but if you had any idea of the women in our 
own set who have done the same thing, I think you would 
be astonished. Well, whilst I was there I chanced to 
drop, or leaye behind — it scarcely concerns you to 
know which — a letter written to me by a very dear 
friend. One of my perfectly harmless love affairs, you 
know, Henry, but men do make such idiots of themselves 
when they have pen and paper to do it with." 

Rochester moved a little uneasily in his place. 

" May I inquire " he began. 

" No, I shouldn't ! " she interrupted. " You know very 
well, my dear Henry, the exact terms upon which we 
have both found married life endurable. If I choose to 



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ROCHESTER IS INDIGNANT 127 

Teceive foolish letters from foolish men, it concerns you 
no more than your silent adoration of Pauline Marrabel 
-does me. You understand? " 

" I understand," he answered quietly. ** Gro on." 

** Well," she continued, " a few days afterwards I had 
Just about as terrifying a specimen of a blackmailing 
letter as you can possibly imagine." 

** From these people? '* Rochester asked. 

** No ! From a firm who called themselves agents, and 
iBaid that the letter had come into their possession, had 
been deposited with them, in fact, by someone who owed 
ihem some money," Lady Mary answered. " Of course, 
I was frightened to death. I don't know what made me 
think of Bertrand Saton as the best person to consult, 
but anyhow I did. He took the matter up for me, paid 
over some money on my accoimt, and recovered the 
letter." 

" The sum of money being? " 

** Five hundred poimds," Lady Mary answered, with 
a sigh. " It was a great deal, but the letter — well, the 
letter was certainly very foolish.*' 

Rochester was silent for several moments. 

** Do you know," he asked at length, ** what the 
natural inference to me seems — the inference, I mean, 
of what you have just told me? " 

** You are not going to say anything disagreeable? " 
she asked, looking at him through the lace fringe of 
her parasol. 

" Not in the least," he answered. " I was not think- 
ing of the personal side of the affair — so far as you and 



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za8 THE MOVING FINGER 

I are concerned, I have accepted your declaration. I 
claim no jurisdiction over your correspondence. I mean 
as regards Saton.'* 

"No! What?" she asked. 

" It seems to me highly possible," he declared, " that 
Saton was in league with these blackmailers, whoever 
they may have been. Any ordinary man whom you had 
consulted would have settled the matter in a very differ- 
ent way." 

" I was quite satisfied," Lady Mary answered. " I 
thought it was really very kind of him to take the 
trouble." 

" Indeed ! " Rochester remarked drily. " I must say, 
Mary, that I gave you credit for greater perspicuity. 
The man is an intriguer. Naturally, he was only too 
anxious to be of service to so charming a lady." 

Lady Mary raised her eyebrows, but did not answer. 

" I might add," Rochester continued, " that however 
satisfactory our present relations may seem to you, I 
still claim the privilege of being able to assist my wife 
in any difficulty in which she may find herself." 

" You are very kind," she murmured. 

" Further," Rochester said, " I resent the interference 
of any third party in such a matter. You will remember 
this?" 

" I will remember it," Lady Mary said. " Still, the 
circumstances being as they are, you can scarcely blame 
me for having been civil to him to-day. Besides, you 
must admit that he is clever." 

" Clever ! Oh ! IVe no doubt that he is clever enough," 



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ROCHESTER IS INDIGNANT zag 

Rochester answered, impatiently. ** Nowadays, all you 
women seem as thougU you can only be attracted by 
something freakish — brains, or peculiar gifts of some 
sort." 

Lady Mary laughed lightly. 

** My dear Henry," she said, ** you are not exactly a 
fool yourself, are you? And then you must remember 
this. Bertrand Saton's cleverness is the sort of clever- 
ness which appeals to women. We can't help our natures, 
I suppose, and we are always attracted by the mys- 
terious. We are always wanting to know something 
which other people don't know, something of what lies 
behind the curtain." 

** It is a very dangerous curiosity," Rochester said. 
** You are liable to become the prey of any adventurer 
with a plausible manner, who has learned to talk glibly 
about the things which he doesn't understand. I'll get 
out here, if I may," he added, ** and take a short cut 
across the Park to my club. Mary, if you want to oblige 
me, for Heaven's sake don't run this fellow ! He gets on 
my nerves. I hate the sight of him." 

Lady Mary turned towards her husband with a faint, 
curious smile as the carriage drew up. 

** You had better talk to Paulme," she said. ** He is 
more in her line than mine." 

Rochester walked across the Park a little gloomily. 
His wife's last words were ringing in his ears. For the 
Srst time since he could remember, a little cloud had 
loomed over his few short hours with Pauline. She had 
resented some contemptuous speech of his, and as though 



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ISO THE MOVING FINGER 

to mark her sense of his lack of generosity, she had en- 
couraged Saton to talk, encouraged him to talk until the- 
other conversation had died away, and the whole room 
had listened to this exponent of what he declared to be 
a new science. The fellow was a poseur and an impostor,. 
Rochester told himself vigorously. He knew, he was ab- 
solutely convinced that he was not honest. 

He sat down on a seat for a few minutes, and his 
thoughts somehow wandered back to that night when he 
had strolled over the hills and found a lonely boy gazing^ 
downward through the tree tops to the fading land- 
scape. He remembered his own whimsical generosity, the 
feelings with which he had made his offer. He remem- 
bered, too, the conditions which he had made. With a 
sudden swift anger, he realized that those conditions had 
not been kept. Saton had told him little or nothing oF 
his doings out in the world, of his struggles and his^ 
failures, of the growth of this new enthusiasm, if indeed 
it was an enthusiasm. He had hinted at strange adven- 
tures, but he had spoken of nothing d^nite. He had not- 
kept his word. 

Rochester rose to his feet with a little exclamation. 

** He shall tell me ! *' he muttered to himself, " or I 
will expose him, if I have to turn detective and follow 
him round the world.'* 

He swung round again across the Park toward May- 
fair, and rang the bell at Saton's new house. Mr. Saton 
was not at home, he was informed, but was expected 
back at any moment. Rochester accepted an invitation 
to wait, and was shown into a room which at first he 



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ROCHESTER IS INDIGNANT 131 

thougbt empty. Then someone rose from an okl-faabr 
ioned easy-chair, set back amongst the shadows. Rachael 
peered forward, leaning upon her stick, and shading her 
eyes as thou^ from^ the sun. 

" Who is that? '' she asked. " Who are you? " 

Rochester bowed, and introduced himself. As yet he 
could see very little of the person who had spoken. The 
blinds, and even the curtains of the room, were close 
drawn. It was one of RachaePs strange fancies on cer- 
tain days to sit in the darkness. Suddenly, however, she 
leaned forward and touched the knob of the electric 
light. 

" My name is Rochester," he said. " I called to see 
Mr. Saton for a few minutes. They asked me to wait." 

"I am the Comtesse de Vestignes," Rachael said 
slowly, ^^ and Bertrand Saton is my adopted son. He 
will be back in a few moments. Draw your chair up close 
to me. I should like to talk, if you do not mind this 
light. I have been resting, and my eyes are tired." 

Rochester obeyed, and seated himself by her side with 
a curious little thrill of interest. It seemed to him that 
she was like the mummy of some ancient goddess, the 
shadowy presentment of days long past. She had the 
withered appearance of great age, and yet the dignity 
which refuses to yield to time. 

** Come nearer," she said. " I am no longer a young 
woman, and I am a little deaf." 

" You must tell me if you do not hear me," Rochester 
said. " My voice is generally thought to be a clear one. 
I am very much interested in this young man. Suppose, 



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132 THE MOVING FINGER 

while we wait, you tell me a few things about him. You 
have no objection? " 

Rachael laughed softly. 

** I wonder," she said, '^ what it is that you expect to 
hear from me/' 



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CHAPTER XVI 



PLAIN 8PEAKINO 



FIOM the depths of her chair, Rachael for several 
moments sat and subjected her visitor to a close 
and merciless scrutiny. 

** So you," she said at last, " were the fairy god- 
father. You were the man who trusted a nameless boy 
with five hundred pounds, because his vaporings amused 
you. You pushed him out into the world, you bade him 
go and seek his fortime." 

" I was that infernal fool ! '* Rochester muttered. 

The woman nodded. 

*' Yes, a fool ! " she said. " No one but a fool would 
do such a thing. And yet great things have come of it." 

Rochester shrugged his shoulders. He was not pre- 
pared to admit that Bertrand Saton was in any sense 
great. 

" My adopted son," she continued, " is very wonder- 
ful. Egypt had its soothsayers thousands of years ago. 
This century, too, may have its prophet. Bertrand gains 
power every day. He is beginning to understand." 

" You, too," Rochester asked politely, " are perhaps 
a student of the occult? " 

"Whatever I am," she answered scornfully, "I am 
not one of those who because their two feet are planted 



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134 THE MOVING FINGER 

upon the earth, and their head reaches six feet towards 
the sky, are prepared to declare that there is no universe 
save the earth upon which they stand, no sky save the 
sky toward which they look — nothing in life which 
their eyes will not show them, or which their hands may 
not touch." 

Rochester smiled faintly, 

"Materialism is an easy faith and a safe one," he 
said. ** Imagination is very distorting." 

" For you who feel like that," she answered, ** the way 
through life is simple enough. We others can only pity." 

" Comtesse," Rochester said, " such an attitude is per- 
fectly reasonable. It is only when you attempt to con- 
vert that we are obliged to fall back upon our readiest 
weapons." 

"You are one of those," she said, looking at him 
keenly, " who do not wish to imderstand more than you 
understand at present, who have no desire to gain the 
knowledge of hidden things." 

" You are right, Comtesse," Rochester answered, with 
a smile. " I am one of those pig-headed individuals." 

** It is the Saxon race," she muttered, " who have kept 
back the progress of the world for centuries." 

" We have kept it backward, perhaps," he answered, 
^* but wholesome." 

" You think always of your bodies," she said. 

" They were entrusted to us, madam, to look after," 
he answered. 

She smiled grimly. 

" You are not such a fool," she said, " as my adopted 



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PLAIN SPEAKING xss 

son would have me believe. You have spared me at least 
that hideous Latin quotation which has done so muck 
harm to your race.** 

" Out of respect to you,'* he declared, " I avoided it.. 
It was really a little too obvious.** 

** Come," she said, ** you are a type of man I have 
not met with for years. You are strong and vigorous, 
and healthy. You have 'color upon your cheeks, and 
strength in your tone and movements. In any show of 
your kind, you should certainly be entitled to a prize." 

Rochester laughed, at first softly, and then heartily. 

** My dear lady," he said, " forgive me. I can assure 
you that although my inclinations do not prompt me to 
sit at your son's feet and accept his mythical sayings as 
the words of a god, I am really not a fool. I will 
even go so far as this. I will even admit the possibility 
that a serious and religious study of occultism might re- 
sult in benefit to all of us. The chief point where you 
and I differ is with regard to your adopted son. You 
believe in him, apparently. I don't ! " 

•^ Then why are you hste? " she asked. " What do 
you want with him? Do you come as an enemy? " 

Rochester was spared the necessity of making any an- 
swer. He heard the door open, and the woman's eyes 
glittered as they turned toward it. 

" Bertrand is here himself," she said. '* You can set- 
tle your business with Inro." 

Rochester rose to his feet. Saton had just entered^ 
closing the door behind him. Prepared for Rochester's 
presence by the servants, he greeted him calmly enough.. 



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136 THE MOVING FINGER 

" This is an unexpected honor,*' he said, bowing. " I 
did not imagine that we should meet again so soon.'' 

" Nor I," Rochester answered. " Where can we talk? " 

" Here as well as anywhere," Saton answered, going 
up to Rachael, and lifting her hand for a moment to his 
lips. ^^FrcHn this lady, whose acquaintance I presume 
you have made, I have no secrets." 

Rochester glanced from one to the other — the woman, 
sitting erect and severe in her chair, the young man 
bending affectionately over her. Yes, he was right! 
There was something about the two hard to explain, yet 
apparent to him as he sat there, which seemed in some 
way to remove them out of direct kinship with the or- 
dinary people of the world. Was it, he wondered, with 
a sudden swift intuition, a touch of insularity, a sign of 
narrowness, that he should find himself so utterly re- 
pelled by this foreign note in their temperaments? Was 
his disapproval, after all, but a mark of snobbishness, 
the snobbishness which, to use a mundane parallel, takes 
objection to the shape of an unfashionable collar, or the 
cut of a country-made coat? There were other races 
upon the world beside the race of aristocrats. There was 
an aristocracy of brains, of genius, of character. Yet he 
reasoned against his inspiration. Nothing could make 
him believe that the boy who had held out his hands so 
eagerly toward the fire of life, had not ended by gather- 
ing to himself experiences and a cult of living from 
which any ordinary mortal would have shrunk. 

" I am quite content," Rochester said, " to say what 
I have to say before this lady, especially if she knows 



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PLAIN SPEAKING 137 

your history. I have come here to tell you this. I have 
been your sponsor, perhaps your unwilling sponsor, into 
the society and to the friends amongst whom you spend 
your time. I am not satisfied with my sponsorship. That 
you came of humble parentage, although you never al- 
lude to the fact, goes for nothing. That you may be for- 
given. But there are seven years of your past the knowl- 
edge of which is a pledge to me. I have come to insist 
upon your fulfilment of it. For seven years you disap- 
peared. Where were you? How did you blossom into 
prosperity? How is it that you, the professor of a new 
cult, whose first work is as yet unpublished, find yourself 
enabled to live in luxury like this? You had no god- 
mother then. Who is this lady? Why do you call her 
your jgodmother? She is nothing of the sort. You and 
I know that — you and I and she. There are things 
about you, Saton, which I find it hard to understand. I 
want to understand them for the sake of my friends.*' 

" And if you do not? " Saton asked calmly. 

" Well, it must be open war,*' Rochester declared. 

" I should say that it amounted to that now,'* Saton 
answered. 

** Scarcely," Rochester declared, ** for if it had been 
open war I should have asked you before now to tell me 
where it was that you and Lord Guerdon had met. Re- 
member I heard the words trembling upon his lips, and 
I saw your face ! '* 

Saton did not move, nor did he speak for a moment. 
His cheeks were a little pale, but he gave no sign of 
being moved. The woman's face was like the face of a 



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13« THE MOVING FINGER 

sphinx, withered and emotionless. Her eyes were fixed 
upon Saton's. 

^You have spoken to me before somewhat in this 
strain, sir," Saton said. ^ What I said to you then, I re- 
peat. The account between us is ruled out. You leit or 
^ave me a sum of money, and I returned it. As to grati- 
tude," he went on, " that I may or may not f eeL I leave 
you to judge. You can ask yourself, if you will, wheth^ 
that action of yours came from an impulse of generosity, 
or was merely the gratification of a cynical whim." 

** My motives are beside the question," Rochester an- 
swered. ^ Do I understand that you decUne to give me 
any account of yourself? " 

** I see no reason," Saton said coldly, ** why I should 
gratify your curiosity." 

" There is no reason," Rochester admitted. ** It is 
simply a matter of policy. Frankly, I mistrust you. 
There arc points about your behaviour, ever since in a 
foolish moment I asked you to stay at Beauleys, which 
I do not understand. I do not understand Lord Guer- 
don's sudden recognition of you, and even suddener 
death. I do not understand why it has amused you to 
fill the head of my young ward, Lois Champneyes, with 
foolish thoughts. I do not understand why y(Hi should 
stand between my wife and the writers of a blackmailing 
letter. I do not ask you for any explanation. I simply 
tell you that these things present themselves as enigmas 
to me. You have declared your position. I declare mine. 
What you will not tell me I shall make it my business 
to discover^" 



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s, 



PLAIN SPEAKING 139 

The Comtesse leaned a little forward. Her face was 
still unchanged, her tone scornful. 

** It is I who will answer you," she said. ** My adopted 
son — for he is my adopted son if I choose to make him 
so — will explain nothing. He has, in fact, nothing 
man to say to you. You and he are quits so far as re* 
gards obligations. Your paths in life li^ apart. You 
are one of the self-centred, sedentary loiterers by the 
way. For him," she added, throwing out suddenly her 
brown, withered hand, aflame with jewels, ** there lie dif- 
ferent things. Something he knows; something he has 
learned ; much there is yet for him to learn. He will go 
on his way, undisturbed by you or any friends of yours. 
As for his means, your question is an impertinence. Ask 
at Rothschilds concerning the Comtesse de Vestignes^ 
and remember that what belongs to me belongs to him. 
Measure your wits against his, to-day, to-morrow, or 
any time you choose, and the end is certain. Show your 
patron out, Bertrand. He has amused me for a little 
time, but I am tired,^ 

Rochester rose to his feet. 

** Madam," he said, ** I am sorry to have fatigued you. 
For the rest," he added, with a note of irony in his tone, 
** I suppose J must accept your challenge. I feel that I 
am measuring myself and my poor powers against all 
sorts of nameless gifts. And yet," he added, as he fol- 
lowed Saton towards the door, " the world goes round, 
and th^ things which happened yesterday repeat them- 
selves to-morrow. Your new science should teach you, 
at least, not to gamble against certainties." 



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Z40 THE MOVING FINGER 

He passed out of the roomy and Saton returned slowly 
to where Rachael was sitting. Her eyes sought his in- 
quiringly. They read the anguish in his face, 

" You are afraid," she muttered. 

" I am afraid," he admitted. " Given an inversion of 
their relative positions, I feel like Faust befriended by 
Mephistopheles. I felt it when he stood by my side on 
the hilltop, seven years ago. I felt it when he thrust that 
money into my hand, and bade me go and see what I 
could make of life, bade me go, without a word of kind- 
ness, without a touch of his fingers, without a sentence of 
encouragement, with no admonitory words save that one 
single diatribe against failure. You know what he told 
me? * Go out,' he said, * and try your luck. Go out along 
the road which your eyes have watched fading into the 
mists. But remember this. For men there is no such thing 
as failure. One may swim too far out to sea on a sunny 
day. One may trifle with a loaded revolver, or drink in 
one's sleep the draught from which one does not awake. 
But for men, there is no failure.' " 

The woman nodded. 

" Well," she said harshly, " you remembered that. 
You did not fail. Who dares to say that you have 
failed!" 

Saton threw himself into the easy-chair drawn apart 
from hers. His head fell forward into his hands. The 
woman rested her head upon her fingers, and watched 
him through the shadows. 



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CHAPTER XVn 



THE 6BEAT NAUDHEIM 



NAUDHEEVI had finished his address, and stood 
talking with his host. 
" Do you mind," Saton asked, " if I intro- 
duce some of these people to you? You know many of 
them by name." 

Naudheim shook his head. He was a tall man, with 
gray, unkempt hair, and long, wizened face. He wore 
a black suit of clothes, of ancient cut, and a stock which 
had literally belonged to his grandfather. 

** No ! " he said vigorously. ** I will be introduced to 
no one. Why should I? I have spoken to them of the 
things which make life for us. I have told them my 
thoughts. What need is there of introduction? I shake 
hands with no one. I leave that, and silly speeches, and 
banquets, to my enemies, the professors. These are not 
my ways." 

** It shall be as you wish, of course," Saton replied. 
**You are very fortunate to be able to live and work 
alone. Here we have to adapt ourself in some way to the 
customs of the people with whom we are forced to come 
into daily contact." 

Naudheim suddenly abandoned that far-away look of 
his, his habit of seeing through the person with whom 



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142 THE MOVING FINGER 

he was talking. He looked into Saton's face steadily, al- 
most fiercely. 

" Young man,'* he said, ** you talk like a f ooL Now 
listen to me. These are my parting words ! There is stuff 
in you. You know a little. You could be taught much 
more. And above all, you have the temperament. Tem- 
peramrat is a wonderful thing," he added. ^ And jet, 
with all these gifts, you make me feel as though I would 
like to take you by the collar and lift you up in my 
arms — yes, I am strong though I am thin — and throw 
you out of that window, and see you lie there, because 
you art a fool ! " 

*^ Go on," Saton said, his face growing a little pale. 

** Oh, you know it ! " Naudheim declared. " You feel 
it in your blood. You know it in your heart. You truckle 
to these people, you play at living their life, and you for- 
get, if ever you knew, that our great mistress has never 
yet opened her arms save to those who have sought her 
single-hearted and with a single purpose. You are a 
dallier, philanderer. You will end your days wearing 
your fashionable clothes. They may make you a profes- 
sor here. You will talk learnedly. You will write a book. 
And when you die, people will say a great man has 
gone. Listen ! You listen to me now with only half your 
ears, but listen once more. The time may come. The 
light may bum in your heart, the truth may fill your 
soul. Then come to me. Come to me, young man, and I 
will make bone and sinew of your flabby limbs. I will 
take you in my hands and I will teach you the way to 
the stars." 



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THE GREAT NAUDHEIM 143 

Silently, and without a glance on either side of him, 
Naudbeim left the room, amidst a silence which was al- 
most an instinctive thing *— the realization, perhaps, of 
the strange nature of this man, who from a stem sense 
of duty had left his hermit's life for a few days, to speak 
with his fellow-workers. 

It had been in some req>ects a very curious function, 
this. It was neither meeting nor reception. There was 
neither host nor hostess, except that Saton had shaken 
hands with a few, and from his place by the side of 
Naudheim had indicated the turn of those who wished 
to speak. Their visitor's peculiarities were well-known 
to all of them. He had left them abruptly, not from 
any sense of discourtesy, but because he had not the 
slightest idea of, or sympathy with, the manners of civil- 
ized people. He had given them something to think 
about. He had no desire to hear their criticisms* After 
he had gone, the doors were held open. There was no one 
to bid them stay, and so they went, in little groups of 
twos and threes, a curious, heterogeneous crowd, with 
the stamp upon their features or clothes or bearing, 
which somehow or other is always found upon those who 
are seekers for new things. Sallow, dissatisfied-looking 
men ; women whose faces spoke, many of them, of a joy- 
less life ; people of overtrained minds ; and here and there 
a strong, zealous, brilliant student of the last of the 
sciences left for solution. 

Pauline would have gone with the others, but Saton 
touched her hand. Half unwillingly she lingered behind 
until they were alone in the darkened room. He went to 



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X44 THE MOVING FINGER 

the window and threw it wide open. The scent of the 
flowers in the window-boxes and a little wave of the soft 
west wind came stealing in. She threw her head back 
with an exclamation of relief. 

"Ah!" she said. "This is good." ' 

" You found the room close? " he asked. 

Pauline sank into the window-seat. She rested her 
delicate oval face upon her fingers, and looked away to- 
ward the deep green foliage of the trees outside. 

" I did not notice it," she said, " and yet, somehow or 
other the whole atmosphere seemed stifling. Naudheim 
is great," she went on. " Oh, he is a great man, of 
course. He said wonderful things in a convincing way. 
He made one gasp." 

" This afternoon," Saton declared slowly, " marks an 
epoch. What Naudheim said was remarkable because of 
what he left unsaid. Couldn't you feel that? Didn't you 
understand? If that man had ambitions, he. could startle 
even this matter-of-fact world of ours. He could shake 
it to its very base." 

She shivered a little. Her fingers were idly tapping 
the window-sill. Her thoughtful eyes were clouded with 
trouble. He stood over her, absorbed in the charm of her 
presence, the sensuous charm of watching her slim, ex- 
quisite figure, the poise of her head, the delicate color- 
ing of her cheeks, the tremulous human lips, which seemed 
somehow to humanize the spirituality of her expression. 
They had talked so much that day of a new science. 
Saton felt his heart sink as he realized that he was the 
victim of a greater thing than science could teach. It 



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THE GREAT NAUDHEIM 145 

was madness! — sheer, irredeemable madness! But it was 
in his blood. It was there to be reckoned with. 

"It is all very wonderful," she continued thought- 
fully. ** And yet, can you understand what I mean when 
I say that it makes me feel a trifle hysterical? It is as 
though something had been poured into one which was 
too great, too much for our capacity. It is all true, I 
believe, but I don't want it to come." 

" Why not? " he asked. 

** Oh ! It seems somehow," she answered, ** as though 
the whole balance of life would be disturbed. Of course, 
I know that it is feasible enough. For thousands of 
years men and women lived upon the earth, and never 
dreamed that all around them existed a great force which 
only needed a little humoring, a little understanding, to 
do the work of all the world. Oh, it is easy to under- 
stand that we too carry with us some psychical force cor- 
responding to this! One feels it so often. Premonitions 
come and go. We can't tell why, but they are there, and 
they are true. One feels that sense at work at strange 
times. Experiments have already shown us that it exists. 
But I wonder what sort of a place the world will be 
when once it has yielded itself to law." 

** There has never been a time," Saton said thought- 
fully, " when knowledge has not been for the good of 
man." 

She shook her head. 

" I wonder," she said, " whether we realize what is for 
our good. Knowledge, development, culture, may reach 
their zenith and pass beyond. We may become debauched 



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246 THE MOVING PINOER 

with the surfeit of these tilings. The end ainl aim of life 
is happiness.'* 

** The end and aim of life,** he contradfcted her, ** is 
knowledge." 

She laughed. 

^^ I am a woman^ you see,** she said thou^tfuUy. 

" And am I not a man? ^ he whispered. 

She turned her head and locked at him. The trouble 
in her eyes deepened. She felt the color coming and 
going in her chedcs. His eyes seemed to stir things in 
h^ against which her wh<^ physical self r^elled. She 
rose abruptly to her feet. 

" I must go,'* she said. " I have a thousand things to 
do this evening.'* 

"To play at, you mean," he corrected her. *'You 
dont really do very much, do you? The women don't in 
your world." 

" You are polite," she answered lightly. ** Please to 
show me the way out.** 

" In a moment," he said. 

She was inclined to rebel. They had moved a little 
f rowi the window, and were standing in a darker part of 
the room. She felt his fingers upon her wrist. She would 
have given the world to have been abk to wrench it away, 
but she cotikl not. She rtood there submissively, h&c 
breath coming quickly, her eyes compelled to meet his. 

" Stay for a moment longer," be begged. ** I want 
to talk to yott for a little while about this." 

" There is no time now," she said hurriedly. " It is an 
ines^ustible subject.** 



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THE GREAT NAUDHEIM 147 

^* Inexhaustible indeed," he answered, with an enigr 
matic laugh. 

She read his thcHights« She knew very well what was 
in his mind, what was almost on his lips, and she strug- 
gled to be free of him. 

** Mr. Saton," she said, " I am sorry — but you must 
really let me go." 

He did not move. 

" It is very hard to let you go," he murmured. " Can't 
you — don't you realize a little that it is always hard 
for me to see you go — to see you leave the world where 
we have at least interests in common, to go back to a life 
€if which I know so little, a life in which I have so small 
a part, a life which is scarcely worthy of you, Pauline? '* 

Again she felt a sort of physical impotence. She 
struggled desperately against the loss of nerve power 
which kept her there. She would have given anything in 
the workl to have left him, to have run out of the ro<Hii 
with a little shriek, out into the streets and squares she 
knew so well, to breathe the air she had known all her 
life, to escape from thda unknown emotion. She told her- 
adf that she hated the man whose will kept her there. 
She was sure of it. And yet — ! 

^ I do not understand you," she said, ^ £md I must, 
I really must go. Can't you see that just now, at any 
rate, I don't want to understand? " she added, fighting 
all the time for her words. ^* I want to go. Please do 
not keep me here against my will. Do you understand? 
Let me go, and I will be grateful to you." 

Somehow the strain seemed suddenly lightened. He 



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148 THE MOVING FINGER 

was only a very ordinary, rather doubtful sort of person 
— a harmless but necessary part of interesting things. 
He had moved toward the door, which he was holding 
open for her to pass through. 

** Thank you so much," she said, with genuine relief 
in her tone. ^*I have stayed an unconscionable time, 
and I found your Master delightful." 

** You will come again? " he said softly. ** I want to 
explain a little further what Naudheim was saying. I 
can take you a little further, even, than he did to-day.'' 

** You must come and see me," she answered lightly. 
** Remember that after all the world has conventions." 

He stepped back on to the doorstep after he had 
handed her into her carriage. She threw herself back 
amongst the cushions with something that was like a sob 
of relief. She had sensations which she could not an- 
alyze — a curious feeling of having escaped, and yet 
coupled with it a sense of something new and strange in 
her life, something of which she was a little afraid, and 
yet from which she would not willingly have parted. 
She told herself that she detested the house which she 
had left, detested the thought of that darkened room. 
Nevertheless, she was forced to look back. He was 
standing in the open doorway, from which the butler 
had discreetly retired, and meeting her eyes he bowed 
once more. She tried to smile unconcernedly, but failed. 
She looked away with scarcely a return of his greeting. 

** Home ! " she told the man. " Drive quickly." 

Almost before her own door she met Rochester. The 
sight of him was somehow or other an immense relief 



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THE GREAT NAUDHEIM 149 

to her. She fell back again in the world which she knew. 
She stopped the carriage and called to him. 

** Come and drive with me a little way," she begged. 
** I am stifled. I want some fresh air. I want to talk to 
jou. Oh, come, please ! ** 

Rochester took the vacant seat by her side at once. 

"What is it?" he asked gravely. "Tell me. You 
have had bad news? " 

She shook her head. 

" No ! " she said. " I am afraid — that is all! " 



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CHAPTER XVm 



THE Park into which they turned was almost 
deserted. Pauline stopped the carriage and 
got out. 

" Come and walk with me a little way,'* she said to 
Rochester. " We will go and sit amongst that wilderness 
of empty chairs. I want to talk. I must talk to some- 
one. We shall be quite alone there." 

Rochester walked by her side, puzzled. He had never 
seen her like this. 

" I suppose I am hysterical," she said, clutching at his 
arm for a moment as they passed along the walk. 
** There, even that does me good. It's good to feel — 
oh, I don't know what I'm talking about!" she ex- 
claimed. 

** Where have you been this afternoon?" he asked 
gravely. 

" To hear that awful man Naudheim," she answered. 
" Henry, I wish I'd never been. I wish to Heaven you'd 
never asked Bertrand Saton to Beauleys." 

Rochester's face grew darker. 

** I wish I'd wrung the fellow's neck the first day I 
saw him," he declared, bitterly. ** But after all, Pauline, 
you don't take this sort of person seriously? " 



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ROCHESTER'S ULTIMATUM 151 

^ I wish I didn't/' she answered 

^'He's an infernal charlatan^" Rochester declared 
^ I'm convinced of it, and I mean to expose him." 

She shook her head. 

"You can call him what you like," she said, **but 
there is Naudheim behind him. There is no one in 
Europe who would dare to call Naudheim a charlatan." 

" He is a wonderful man, but he is mad," Rochester 
said. 

'^ No, he is not mad," she said " It is we who are 
mad, to listen a little, to think a littk, to play a little 
with the thoughts he gives us." 

** I know of Naudheim only by reputation," Rochester 
said. " And so far as regards Saton, nothing will con- 
vince me that he is not an impostor." 

She sighed. 

"Hiere may be something of the charlatan in his 
methods," she said, " but there is something else. Henry, 
why can't we be content with the things that we know 
and see and feel? " 

He smiled bitterly. 

" I am," he answered " I thank God that I have none 
of that insane desire for probing and dissecting nature 
to discover things which we are not fit yet to under- 
stand, if, even, they do exist. If s a sort of spiritual 
vivisection, Pauline, and it can bring nothing but dis- 
quiet and unhappiness. Grant for a moment that Naud- 
heim, and that even this bounder Saton, are honest, what 
possible good can it do you or me to hang upon their 
lips, to become their disciples? " 



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153 THE MOVING FINGER 

•* Oh, I don't know ! '' she answered. " Yet it's hid- 
eously fascinating, Henry — hideously ! And the man 
himself — Bertrand Saton. I can't tell what there ia 
about him. I only know " 

She broke off in the middle of her sentence. Rochester 
caught her by the wrist. 

" Pauline," he said, ** for God's sake, don't tell me 
that that fellow has dared to make love to you." 

" I don't know," she answered. " Sometimes I hate 
the very sight of him. Sometimes I feel almost as you 
do. And at others, well, I can't explain it. It isn't any 
use trying." 

" Pauline," he said, ** you see for yourself the state 
to which you have been reduced this afternoon. Tell me, 
is there happiness in being associated with any science 
or any form of knowledge the study of which upsets 
you so completely? There are better things in life. 
Forget this wretched little man, and his melodramatic 
talk." 

** If only I could f " she murmured. 

They sat side by side in silence. Strong man though 
he was, Rochester was struggling fiercely with the wave 
of passionate anger which had swept in upon him. For 
years he had treated this woman as his dearest friend. 
The love which was a part of his life lay deep down in 
his heart, a thing with the seal of silence set upon it, 
zealously treasured, in its very voicelessness a splendid 
oblation to the man's chivalry. And now this unmen- 
tionable creature, this Frankenstein of his own creation, 
the boy whom he had pitchforked into life, had dared to 



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ROCHESTER'S ULTIMATUM 153 

be guilty of this unspeakable sacrilege. It was hard, 
indeed, for Rochester to maintain his self-controL 

^ Pauline," he said, ^* I cannot stand by and see your 
life wrecked. You are too sane, too reasonable a woman 
to become the prey of such a pitiful adventurer. Won't 
you listen to me for a moment? '' 

^ Indeed I am listening," she faltered. 

" Give yourself a chance," he begged. ** Leave Eng- 
land this week — to-morrow, if you can. Go right away 
from here. You have friends in Rome. I heard your 
cousin ask you not long ago to pay her a visit at her 
villa on the Adriatic. Start to-morrow, and I promise 
that you will come back a sane woman. You will be able 
to laugh at Saton, to see through the fellow, and to 
realise what a tissue of shams he's built of. You will 
be able to feel a reasonable interest in anything Naud- 
heim has to say. Just now you are unnerved, these men 
have frightened you. Believe me that your greatest and 
most effectual safety lies in flight." 

A sudden hope lit up her face. She turned towards 
him eagerly. She was going to consent — he felt it, he 
was almost conscious of the words trembling upon her 
lips. Already his own personal regrets at her absence 
were beginning to cloud his joy. Then her whole ex- 
pression changed. Something of the look settled upon 
her features which he had seen when first she had 
stopped the carriage. Her lips were parted, her eyes 
distended. She looked nervously around as though she 
were afraid that some one was following them. 

** I cannot do that, Henry," she said. ** In a way it 



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Z54 THB MOVING FINGER 

would be a relief, but it is impossible* I cannot, in- 
deed." 

She led the way to the carriage. They walked in ab- 
solute silence for nearly a minute. He felt that he had 
lost a great part of his influ^ice over her and he was 
bitter. 

^^ Tell me why you almost consented,'' he asked, ab- 
ruptly, ^^ and then changed your mind? In your heart 
you must know that it is for your good." 

^^ I only know," die answered, slowly, ^ that at first 
I longed to say yes, and now, when I come to think of 
it, I see that it is impossible." 

^ You are going to allow yourself, then, to be the 
prey of these morbid fancies? You are going to treat 
this creature as a human being of your own order? 
You are going to let him work upon your imagina- 
tion?" 

** It is no use," she said wearily. ** For the present, I 
cannot talk any more about it. I do not understand my- 
self at alL" 

They stood for a moment by the carriage. 

** We shall meet to-night," he reminded her. 

She gave him a doubtful little smile. 

"You are really coming to the Wintertons?** sEe 
asked. 

** I have promised," he answered. " Caroline has 
bribed me. I am going to take you in to dinner." 

** Will you drive home with me now? " she asked. 

He shook his head. 

** I have another call to make," he said, a little grimly. 



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ROCHESTER'S ULTIMATUM 155 

Saton was still in the half darkened library, sitting 
with his back turned to the light, and his eyes fixed with 
a curious stare into vacancy, when the door opened, and 
Rochester entered unannounced. Saton rose at once to 
his feet, but the interrogative words died away upon his 
lips. Rochester's fair, sunburnt face was grim with 
angry purpose. He had the air of a man stirred to the 
very depths. He came only a little way into the room, 
and he took up his position with his back to the door. 

*' My young friend,'* he said, ** it is not many hours 
since you and I came to an understanding of a sort. I 
am here to add a few words to it." 

Saton said nothing. He stood immovable, waiting. 

** Whatever your game in life may be," Rochester con- 
tinued, ** you can play it, for all I care, to the end. But 
there is one thing which I forbid. I have come here so 
that you shall understand that I forbid it. You can 
make fools of the whole world, you can have them kneel- 
ing at your feet to listen to your infernal nonsense — 
the whole world save one woman. I am ashamed to men- 
tion her name in your presence, but you know whom I 
mean." 

Saton's hps seemed to move for a moment, but he still 
remained sil^t. 

" Very well," Rochester said. " There shall be no ex- 
cuse, no misunderstanding. The woman with whom I for- 
bid you to have anything whatever to do, whom I order 
you to treat from this time forward as a stranger, is 
Pauline Marrabel." 

Saton was still in no hurry to speak. He leaned a lit- 



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X56 THE MOVING FINGER 

tie forward. His eyes seemed to bum as though touched 
with some mward fire. 

** By what right," he asked, " do you come here and 
dictate to me? You are not my father or my guardian. 
I do not recognize your right to speak to me as one 
having authority." 

" It was I who turned you loose upon the world," 
Rochester answered. ** I deserve hanging for it." 

** I diould be sorry," Saton said coldly, " to deprive 
you of your deserts.** 

**You have learned many things since those days,'* 
Rochester declared. *^You have acquired the knack of 
glib speech. You have become a past master in the arts 
which go to the ensnaring of over-imaginative women. 
You have mixed with quack spiritualists and self-styled 
professors of what they term occultism. Go and practise 
your arts where you will, but remember what I have told 
you. Remember the person's name which I have men- 
tioned. Remember it, obey what I have said, and you 
may fool the whole world. Forget it, and I am your 
enemy. Understand that." 

"And you," Saton answered with darkening face, 
*^ understand this from me, Rochester. I do not for a 
moment admit your right to speak to me in this fashion. 
I admit no obligation to you. We are simply man and 
man in the world together, and the words which you 
have spoken have no weight with me whatever." 

** You defy me? " Rochester asked calmly. 

" If you call that defiance, I do," Saton answered. 

Rochester came a step further into the room. 



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ROCHESTER'S ULTIMATUM 157 

** Listen, my young friend,*' he said. ** You belong to 
the modem condition of things, to the world which has 
become just a little over-civilized. You may call me a 
boor, if you like, but I want you to understand this. If 
I fail to unmask you by any other means, I shall revert 
to the primeval way of deciding such differences as lie 
between you and me, the differences which make for hate. 
I can wield a horse-whip with the strongest man living, 
and I am in deadly earnest.'* 

^* The lady whose name you have mentioned," Saton 
said softly — ^**is she also your ward? You are re- 
lated to her, perhaps? " 

** She is the woman I love," Rochester answered. " Our 
ways through life may lie apart, or fate may bring them 
together. That is not your business or your concern. 
When I tell you that she is the woman I love, I mean 
you to understand that she is the woman whom I will 
protect against all manner of evil, now and always. Re- 
member that if you disregard my warning, in the spirit 
or in the letter, so surely as we two live you will repent 
it." 

Saton crossed the room with noiseless footsteps. He 
leaned toward the wall and touched an electric bell. 

** Very well," he scud. ** You have come to deliver an 
ultimatum, and I have received It. I understand perfectly 
what you will accept as an act of war. There is nothing 
more to be said, I think? '* 

" Nothing," Rochester answered, turning to follow the 
servant whom Saton's summons had brought to the door. 



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CHAPTER XIX 

TEOITBLi: BEBWING 

SATON turned out of Bond Street, and climbed 
the stairs of a little tea-shop with the depressed 
feeling of a man who is expiating an offence 
whidi he bitterly repents* Violet was waiting for him 
at one of the tables shut off from the main room by a 
sort of Japanese matting hanging from the cdling. He 
resigned his stick and hat with a sigh to one of the trim 
waitresses, and sat down opposite her. 

" My dear Violet,'* he said, ** this is an unexpected 
pleasure. I thought that Wednesday was quite one of 
your busiest days.'* 

" It is generally," she answered. " To tell you the 
truth," she added, leaning across the table, ^^ I was jolly 
glad to get away. I have a kind of fear, Bertrand, that 
we are going to be a little too busy." 

" What do you mean? " he asked sharply. 

She nodded her head mysteriously. 

" There have been one or two people in, in the last few 
days, asking questions which I don't understand," she 
told him. " One of them, I am pretty sure, was a de- 
tective. He didn't get much change out of me," she 
added, in a self-satisfied tone, ^^ but there's someone got 
their knife into us. You remember the trouble down in 
the Marylebone Road, when you " 



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TROUBLE BREWING 159 

"Don't!'' he interrupted. "I hate to think of that 
time." 

" Well, I tell you I bdieve there is something of the 
sort brewing again," the woman said " I'll tell you more 
about it later on." 

Hie waitress brought their tea, which Violet carefully 
prepared. 

** Two pieces of sugar)" she said, " and no cream. 
You see I hayai't forgotten, although it is not often we 
have tea together now, Bertrand. You are becoming too 
fashionable, I suppose," she added with a little frown. 

" You know it isn't that," he Miswered hastily. ** It's 
my work, nothing but my work. Gro on with what you 
were telling me, Violet." 

'^You needn't look so scared," she said, glancing 
round to be sure that they were not overheard. ** The 
only thing is that Madame must be told at once, and we 
shall all have to be careful for a little time. I shut up 
shop for the day as soon as I tumbled to the thing." 

** I wonder if this is Rochester's doings," he muttered. 

** The husband of the lady? " Violet enquired. 

Saton nodded. 

** He is my enemy," he said. ** Nothing would make 
him happier than to have the power to strike a bldw like 
this, and to identify us with the place in any way." 

" I don't see how they could do that," she said med- 
itatively. " I should be the poor sufferer, I suppose, and 
you may be sure I shouldn't be like that other girl, who 
gave you away. You are not afraid of that, are you, 
Bertrand? Things are different between us. We are en- 



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z6o THE MOVING FINGER 

gaged to be marriecL You do not forget that, Ber- 
trand?'' 

** Of course I do not,'* he answered. 

**Well," she said, **we won't talk about the jwwt. 
You are safe so far as I am concerned — for the pres- 
ent, at any rate. But Madame must know, and your 
friends in Charing Cross Road.'' 

" We will close the office to-morrow for a little time," 
Saton declared. ^^ It's no use running risks like this." 

" The old lady must have made a tidy pile out of it," 
Violet declared, flourishing an over-scented handkerchief. 
'* If she takes my advice, she will go quiet for a little 
time. I can feel trouble when it's about, and I have felt 
it the last few days." 

" It is very good of you, Violet, to have sent for me 
at once," he said. ** I know you won't mind if I hurry 
away. It is very important that I see Madame." 

** Of course," she agreed. " But when will you take me 
out to dinner? To-night or to-morrow night? " 

** To-morrow night," he promised, eager to escape. 
** If anything happens that I can't, I'll let you know." 

She laid her hand upon his arm as they descended the 
stairs. 

" Bertrand," she said, ** if I were you, Vd make it to- 
morrow night. . . ." 

He called a taximeter cab, and drove rapidly to Berke- 
ley Square. In the room where she usually sat he found 
Rachael, looking through a pile of foreign newspapers. 

" Well? " she said, peering into his face. ** You have 
bad news. I can see that. What is it? " 



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TROUBLE BREWING x6i 

" Helga has just sent for me,*' he answered. " She 
says that she has had one or two mysterious visitors to- 
day and yesterday. One of them she feels sure was a de- 
tective.** 

"Huntley has just telephoned up,** Rachael said 
calmly. " Something of the same sort of thing happened 
at the office in the Charing Cross Road. Huntley acted 
like a man of sense. He closed it up at once, destroyed 
all papers, and sent Dorrington over to Paris by the 
morning train.** 

Saton sat down, and buried his face in his hands. 

^* Rachael,*' he said, ** this must stop. I cannot bear 
the anxiety of it. Xt is terrible to feel to-day that one is 
stretching out toward the great things, and to-morrow 
that one is finding the money to live by fooling people, 
by charlatanism, by roguery. Think if we were ever 
connected with these places, if even a suspicion of it got 
about! Think how narrow our escape was before! Re- 
member that I have even stood in the prisoner's dock, 
and escaped only through your cleverness, and an acci- 
dent. It might happai again, Rachael ! '* 

*' It shall not,** she answered. *' I would go there my- 
self first. It is well for you to talk, Bertrand, but you 
and I are neither of us fond of simple things. We must 
live. We must have money.** 

** We live extravagantly,** he said. 

**A11 my life I have lived extravagantly,** she an- 
swered. "Why should I change now? I have but a 
few years to live. I cannot bear small rooms, or cheap 
servants, or bad cooking.** 



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i6a THE MOVING FINGER 

** We have some money left," he said. " Come with me 
into the country. We can Kve there for very little. Soon 
my book will be ready. Then the lectures will begin. 
There will be money enough when people begin to under- 
stand." 

**No!" she said. ^ There is only one way. I have 
spoken of it to you before. You must marry, that foolish 
girl Lois Champneyes." 

** What do you know about her? " he asked, looking 
up, startled. 

" I have made inquiries," Rachael answered. ** It is 
the usual thing in the countries I know of. She will be 
of age in a short time, and she will have one hundred and 
seventy thousand pounds. Upon that you C€in live until 
our time comes, and you can afford to keep this house 
going." 

" I do not want to marry," he said. 

Her hand shot out towards him — an accusing hand ; 
her eyes flashed Are as she leaned forward, gripping the 
arm of the chair with her other fingers. 

" Listen," she said, ** I took you from the gutter. I 
saved you from starvation. I showed you the way to 
ease and luxury. I taught you things which have set 
your brain working, which shall fashion for you, if you 
dare to follow it, the way to greatness. I saved your 
life. I planted your feet upon the earth. Your life is 
mine. Your future is mine. What is this sacrifice that 
I demand? Nothing! Don't refuse me. I warn you, 
Bertrand, don't refuse me! There are limits to my pa- 
tience as there are limits to my generosity and my affec- 



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TROUBLE BREWING 163 

tion. If you refuse, it can be but for one reason, and 
that reason you will not dare to tell me. Do you refuse? 
Answer me, now, I will have no more evasions." 

** She would not marry me,*' he said. " I have not seen 
her for days.'* 

"Where is she?'* Rachael demanded. 

" In the country, at Beauleys," he answered. " The 
Rochesters have all left town yesterday or to-day, and 
she went with them." 

** Then into the country we go,'* she declared. " It is 
an opportune time, too. We shall be out of the way if 
troubles come from these interfering people. I do not 
ask you again, Bertrand, whether you will or will not 
marry this girL For the first time I exercise my rights 
over you. I demand that you marry her. Be as faith- 
less as you like. You are as fickle as a man can be, and 
as shallow. Make love to her for a year, and treat her as 
these Englishmen treat their housekeepers, if you will. 
But marry her you must! It is the money we need — 
the money ! What is that? '* 

The bell was ringing from a telephone instrument 
upon the table. Saton lifted it to his ear. 

" There is a trunk call for you," a voice said. " Please 
hold the line." 

Saton waited. Soon a familiar voice came. 

"Who is that?" it asked. 

" Bertrand Saton," Saton answered. 

** Listen," the voice said. ** I am Huntley. I speak 
from Folkestone. I am crossing to-night to Paris. Dor- 
rington is already on ahead. Someone has been employ- 



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i64 THE MOVING FINGER 

ing detectives to track us down. It commenced with that 
letter — the one for which you settled terms yourself. 
You hear? *' 

**I hear,** Saton answered. '*Was it necessary for 
you, too, to go?*' 

" I cannot tell,** Huntley answered. " All I know is 
that I have done pretty well the last two years, and I am 
not inclined to figure in the police courts. If the thing 
blows over, 1*11 be back in a few weeks. Every paper of 
importance has been destroyed. I believe that you and 
Madame are perfectly safe. At the same time, take my 
tip. Go slow ! I*m off. I*ve only a minute for the boat.** 

Saton laid down the receiver on the instrument. 

*^ If it must be,** he said, turning to Rachael, ^' I will 
go down to Blackbird*8 Nest to-morrow.** 



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CHAPTER XX 

FIEST BLOOD 

LOIS came walking down the green path that led 
^ to the wood, her head a little tilted back to watch 
the delicate tracery of the green leaves against 
the sky, her thoughts apparently far away. Suddenly 
she came to a standstill, the color rushed into her 
cheeks, her eyes danced with pleasure. Saton had come 
suddenly round the comer, and was already within a few 
feet of her. 

** You? *' she exclaimed. ** Really you? I had no idea 
that you had left London.'' 

He smiled as he took her hands. 

^^ London was a desert," he said. '^ I have finished my 
work for a few days, and I have brought my writing 
down here.'* 

** When did you come? ^ she asked. 

" Last night,*' he answered. '* I was just wondering 
how I could send a note up to you. Fortunately, I re- 
membered your favorite walk." 

" Did you really come to see me? " she murmured. 

He laughed softly, and bent towards her. All her 
hesitation and mistrust seemed to pass away. She lay 
quietly in his arms, with her face upturned to his. He 
kissed her on the lips. All the time his eyes were watch- 
ing the path along which he had come. 



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x66 THE MOVING FINGER 

" Let us sit down," she said at last, gently disengag- 
ing herself from him. " There are so many things I 
want to ask you.*' 

" And I too," he answered. ** I have something to say 
— something I cannot keep to myself any longer." 

He led the way to a fallen tree, a little removed from 
the footpath. They were scarcely seated, however, be- 
fore he turned his head sharply in the direction from 
which he had come. His whole frame seemed to have be- 
come suddenly rigid with an intense effort of listening. 
He raised his finger with a warning gesture. 

" Sit still," he whispered. ** Don't say anything. 
There is someone coming." 

Her hand fell upon his. They sat side by side in an 
almost breathless silence, safely screened from observa- 
tion unless the passers-by, whoever they might be, 
should be unusually curious. 

It was Pauline and Rochester who came — Pauline in 
a tailor-made goftrn of dark green cloth — Pauline, slim, 
tall and elegant. Rochester was bending toward her, 
talking earnestly. He wore a tweed shooting suit, and 
carried a gun under either arm. 

" You see who it is?*' Lois whispered. 

Saton nodded. His face had darkened, his cheeks were 
almost livid. His eyes followed the two with an ex- 
pression which terrified the girl who sat by his side. 

"Bertrand," she whispered, "why do you look like 
that?" 

" Like what? " he asked, without moving his eyes from 
the spot where those two figures had disappeared. 



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FIRST BLOOD 167 

She shivered a littk. 

^^ You looked as though you hated Mr. Rochester* 
You looked angry — more than angry. You f rigfat^ied 
me." 

*' I do hate him^" Saton an^rered slowly. *^ I hate him 
as he hates me. We are enemies." 

^ Yet you were not looking at him all the time," she 
persisted. ^' You looked at Pauline, too. You d(m't hate 
her, do you?" 

He drew a little breath between his clenched teeth. If 
only this child would hold her peace ! 

"No!" he said. " I do not hate Lady MarrabeL" 

^' Is it because he has interfered between us," she asked 
timidly, " that you dislike Mr. Rochester so much? Re* 
member that very soon I shall be of age." 

" He has no right to interfere in my concerns at all," 
Saton answered, evasively. ** Hush ! " 

The two had halted at a little wooden gate which led 
into the strip of field dividing the ^wo plantations. 
Rochester was looking back along the footpath by which 
they had come. They could hear his voice distinctly. 

" Johnson must have got lost," he remarked, a little 
impatiently. " I will leave my second gun here for him. 
It is quite time I took up my place. The beaters will be 
in the wood directly." 

He leaned one of the guns against the stone wall, and 
with the other under his arm, opened the gate for Pau- 
line to pass through. They crossed the field diagonally, 
and came to a standstill at a spot marked by a tiny flag. 

All the time Saton watched than with fascinated eyes» 



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z68 THE MOVING FINGER 

The thoughts were rushing through his brain. He turned 
to Lois. 

" Dear/' he said, " I think that you had better run 
along home. I will come up to the shrubbery after din- 
ner, if you think that you can get out.*' 

" But there is no hurry,'* she whispered. *' Can't we 
sit here and talk for a little time, or go further back 
into the wood? I know a most delightful little hiding- 
place just at the top of the slate pit — an old keeper's 
shelter." 

Saton shook his head. He avoided looking at her. 

** The beaters are in the other part of the wood al- 
ready," he said. ** Very likely they will come this way, 
too. If they see us together, they will tell Mr. Rochester. 
I don't want him to know that I am here just yet." 

She rose reluctantly. 

" Dear me," she said, sighing, " and I thought that 
we were going to have such a nice long talk ! " 

**We will have it very soon," he whispered, a little 
unsteadily. ** We must, dear. Remember that I have only 
come down here so that we may see a little more of one 
another. I will arrange it somehow. Only just now I 
think that you had better run away home." 

He kissed her, and she turned reluctantly away. She 
stole through the undergrowth back into the green path. 
Saton watched her with fixed eyes until she had turned 
the comer and disappeared. Then he seemed at once to 
forget her existence. He too rose to his feet, and stole 
gently forward, moving very slowly, and stooping a 
little so as to remain out of sight. All the time his eyes 



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FIRST BLOOD 269 

were fixed upon the gun, whose barrel was shining in the 
sunlight. 

From the other side of the wood there commenced an 
intermittent f usilade. The shots were drawing nearer and 
nearer. Rochester stood waiting, his gun held ready. 
Pauline had retreated round the corner of the further 
wood, beyond any possible line of fire. 

Saton had reached the gate now, and was within reach 
of the gun and the bag of cartridges, which were hang- 
ing by a leather belt from the gate-post. He turned his 
head, and looked stealthily along the path by which 
Rochester had come. There was no one in sight, no 
sound except the twittering of birds overhead, and the 
rustling of the leaves. He sank on one knee, and his 
hand closed upon the gun. The blood surged to his head. 
There was a singing in his ears. He felt his heart thump- 
ing as though he were suddenly seized with some illness. 
Rochester's figure, tall, graceful, debonair, notwithstand- 
ing the looseness of his shooting clothes, and his some- 
what rigid attitude, seemed suddenly to loom large and 
hateful before his eyes. He saw nothing else. He 
thought of nothing else. It was the man he hated. It 
was the man who understood what he was, the worst 
side of him — the man whom his instincts recognised as 
his ruthless and dangerous enemy. 

The rush of a rabbit through the undergrowth, 
startled him so that he very nearly screamed. He looked 
around, pallid, terrified. There was no one in sight, no 
sign of any life save animal and insect life in the wood 
behind. 



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270 THE MOVING FINGER 

The stock of the gan came to his shoulder. His &i- 
gers sought the trigger. Cautiously he thrust it through 
tiie bars of the gate. Bending down, he took a long and 
deliberate aim. The fates seemed to be on his side. 
Rodiester suddenly stiiFened into attention, his gun 
came to his shoulder, as with a loud whir a pheasant 
flew out of the wood before him. The two reports rang 
out almost simultaneously. The pheasant dropped to 
the ground like a stone. Rochester's arms went up to the 
dcies. He gave a little cry and fell over, a huddled heap, 
upon the grass. 

Saton, with fingers that trembled, tore out the ex- 
ploded cartridge, seized another from the bag, thrust 
it in, and replaced the gun against the wall. His breath 
was coming in little sobs. Trees and sky danced before his 
eyes. Once he dared to look — only once — at the spot 
where Rochester was lying. His hands were outstretched. 
Once he half raised himself, and then fell back. From 
round the comer of the wood came Pauline. Saton heard 
her cry — a cry of agony it seemed to him. He bent 
low, and made his way back into the plantation, plung- 
ing through ihe undergrowth imtil he reached a narrow 
and little frequented footpath. He was deaf to all 
sounds, for the thumping in his ears had become now 
like a sledge-hammer beating upon an anvil. He was not 
sure that he saw anything. His feet fled over the ground 
mechanically. Only when he reached the borders of the 
wood, and crossed the meadow leading to the main road, 
he drew himself a little more upright. He must remem- 
ber, he told himself fiercely. He must remember ! 



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FIRST BLOOD 171 

He paused in the middle of the field, and looked back* 
He was out of sight now of the scene of the tragedy. 
Nothing was to be seen or heard but the low, musical 
sounds of the late summer afternoon — the beat of a 
reaping-machine, the humming of insects, the distant call 
of a pigeon, the far-away bark of a farmhouse dog. The 
shooting had ceased. By this time they must all know, he 
reflected. He lit a cigarette, and inhaled the smoke with- 
out the slightest apprehension of what he was doing. He 
took a book from his pocket, held it before him, and 
glanced at the misty page of verse. Thai he made his 
way out on to the highroad, sauntering like a man anx- 
ious to make the most of the brilliant sunshine, the clear 
air. 

There was no one in sight anywhere along the white, 
dusty way. He crossed the road, and opened another 
gate. A few minutes' climb, a sharp descent, and he was 
safe within the gate of his own abode. He looked behind. 
Still not a human being in sight — no soimd, no note of 
alarm in the soft, sunlit air. He set his teeth and drew a 
long breath. Then he closed the gate behind him, and 
choosing the back way, entered the house without obser- 
vation. 



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CHAPTER XXI 



AFEAID! 



SATON wondered afterwards many times at fhe 
extraordinary nonchalance with which he faced 
the remainder of that terrible day. He wrote sev- 
eral letters, and was aware that he wrote them carefully, 
and well. He had his usual evening bath and changed his 
clothes, making perhaps a little more careful toilet even 
than usual. 

Rachael, who was waiting for him when he descended 
to dinner, even remarked upon the lightness of his «tep« 

" The country suits you, Bertrand,'* she said. *f It 
suits you better than it does nxe. You w^ lik^ |t boy, 
and there is color in your cheeks.** t 

" The sun,'* he muttered. " I always tan quickly.'* 

"Where have you been to?'* she askedi * 

'* I have been walking with Miss Champntyes,** he an- 
swered. ^ 

Rachael nodded. ' 

"And your friend at Beauleys?** she asked, with a 
little sneer. "What if he had seen you, eh? You are 
very brave, Bertrand, for he is a big man, and you are 
small. I do not think that he loves you, eh? But what 
about the girl? ** 

A servant entered the room, and Saton with relief 



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• 



AFRAID! 273 

abandoned the conversation. She returned to it, how- 
ever, the moment they were alone. 

" See here, my son,'* she said, " remember what I have 
always told you. One can do without anything in this 
world except money. We have plenty for the moment, it 
is true, but a stroke of ill-fortune, and our income might 
well vanish. Now listen, Bertrand. Make sure of this 
girl's money. She is of age, and she will marry you." 

'* Her guardian would never give his consent," Saton 
said. 

'* It is not necessary," bis companion answered. " I 
have been to Somerset House. I have seen the will. One 
hundred thousand pounds she has, in her own right, un- 
alienable. For the rest, let her guardian do what he will 
with it. With a hundred thousand pounds you can rest 
£car ^ while. We might even give up ^" 

'^Uton struck the tablej^ith his clenched fist. 

*f Bji^careftfl," he sai^'" I hate to hear these things 
mentioned. The windows are open, and the walls are 
thin. Theisp might be listeneA anywhere." 

Her withered lips drew back into a smile.' ,She was not 
pleasant just then to look upon. 

" I forgot," she muttered. " We are devotees of sci- 
ence now in earnest. You are right. We must run no 
risks. Only remember, however careful we are, you are 
' always liable to — to the same thing that happened be- 
fore. It took a thousand pounds to get you off then." 

Saton rose from his seat impatiently. He walked rest- 
lessly across the room. 

** Don't ! " he exclaimed. " Can't we live without men- 



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174 THE MOVING FINGER 

tioning those things? I am nervous to-night. Hideoiislj 
nervous ! " he added, under his breath. 

He stood before the open window, his face set, his 
eyes riveted upon a spot in the distance, where the great 
white front of Beauleys flashed out from amongst the 
trees* Its windows had caught the dying sunlight, and a 
flood of fire seemed to be burning along its front. The 
flag floated from the chimneys. There was no ugn of 
any disturbance. The quiet stilhiess of evening which 
rested upon the landscape, seemed everywhere undia* 
turbed. Yet Saton, as he lo<^ed, shivered. 

Down in the lane a motor-car rushed by. His eyes fol- 
lowed it, fascinated. It was one of the Beauleys cars, 
and inside was seated a tall, spare man, white-faced and 
serious, on whose knees rested a black case. Saton knew 
in a moment that it was one of the doctors who had been 
summoned to Beauleys, by telephone and telegraph, from 
all parts. 

"You are watching the house of your patron," she 
said, drily. 

"Patron no longer!" Saton exclaimed, rolling him- 
self another cigarette. "We are enemies, declared ene- 
mies — So far as he is concerned, at any rate." 

" You are a fool ! " the woman said. " He might still 
have been useful. You quarrel with people as though it 
were worth the trouble. To speak angry words is the 
most foolish thing I know." 

Saton glanced at the dock upon the mantelpiece. 

" I am going out for an hour," he said. 

^' To Beauleys? " she asked, mockingly. 



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AFRAID f 275 

^^Scmiewhere near there,'* he answered. "Good 
night!'' 

He strolled out, hatkss, and with no coyering over his 
thm Uack dinner-coat« He crossed the meadow, and 
dimbed the little range of broken, rocky hills, from 
which one could see down ey«n into the flower-gardens of 
Beauleys. He could see there no sign of (fisturbance, 
saTe that there were two motor-cars before the door. 
Sfewly he made his way to the lodge gates, and passing 
through approached the house. There were many li^ts 
burning. A certain repressed air of excitement was cer- 
tainly visible. Saton longed, yet dared not, to ask for 
news from the people at the lodge. At any rate, the 
blinds were still up, and the doctors there. Probably the 
man was alive. Perhaps, even, he might recovar! 

He strudc off from the drive, and follow^ a narrow 
path, which led at first between two great banks of 
rhododendrons, and finally wound a circuitous way 
through an old and magnifiooit shrubbery. He reached 
a path whence he could command a view of the house, 
and where he was himself unseat. He looked at his 
watch. He was five minutes late, but as yet there was no 
sign of Lois. He composed hhnself to wait, watching 
the birds come home to roost, and the insects, whom the 
heat had brought out of the earth, crawl away into 
oblivion. The air was sweet with the smell of flowers. 
From a little further afield came the more pungent odor 
of a fire of weeds. The great front of the house, ablaze 
though it was with li^ts, seemed almost deserted. No 
one entered or issued from the hall door. 



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176 THE MOVING FINGER 

Half an hour pauecL There was no sign of Lois. 
Then he saw her come, very slowly — walking, as it 
seemed to him, like one afraid of the ground upon which 
she trod. As she came nearer, he saw that her face was 
ghastly pale. Her eyes, which wandered restlessly to the 
right and to the left, were frightened, dilated. The thing 
had been a shock to her, of course. 

He stepped a little way out from the shrubs, showing 
himself cautiously. She stopped short at the sight of 
him. 

** Lois I** he cafled softly. 

She looked at him, and a sudden wave of terror passed 
across her face. She made no movement towards him. 
He himself was wordless, struck dumb by her appear- 
ance. She gave a little cry. What the word was that she 
uttered, he could not tell. Then suddenly turning round, 
she fled away. 

He watched her with fascinated eyes, watched her 
feet fly over the lawns, watched her, without a single 
backward glance, vanish at last through the small side 
door from which she had first issued. He wiped the 
moisture from his forehead, and a little sob broke from 
his throat. The vision of her face was still before him. 
He knew for a certainty what it was that had terrified 
her. She had started to keep her engagement, but she 
was afraid. She was afraid of him. Something that he, 
had done had betrayed him. She knew! His liberty — 
perhaps his life — was in this girPs hands ! 

He crept out of the shrubbery and staggered down 
the drive, making his way homeward across the hills as 



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AFRAID f 177 

swiftly as his uncertain footsteps would take him. It 
was dusk now, and he met no one. Yet his heart beat at 
every sound — the clanking of a chain, attached to the 
fetlock of a wandering horse, the stiU, mournful cry of 
an owl which floated out from the plantation, the clatter 
of the small stones which his own feet dislodged as he 
feverishly climbed the rocks. Above him, on the other 
side of the road, towered the hill where he had sat and 
dreamed as a boy, where Rochester had come and en- 
couraged him to prate of his ambitions. 

He looked away from its dark outline with a little 
groan. Up on the hillside flashed the lights of Black- 
bird's Nest. He stretched out his hands and groped on- 
wards* 



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CHAPTER XXn 

SATOK REASSERTS HIMSELF 

ROCHESTER asked only one question during 
those few days when he lay between life and 
death* He opened his eyes suddenly, and mo- 
tioned to the doctor to stoop down. 

" Who shot me? *' he asked. 

^^ It was an accident," the doctor assured him, sooth- 
ingly. 

Rochester said no more, but his lips seemed to curl for 
a moment into the old disbelieving smile. Then the strug- 
gle began. In a week it was over. A magnificent con- 
stitution, and an unshattered nerve, triumphed. The 
doctors one by one took their departure. Their task 
was over. Rochester would recover. 

" Who shot mef " 

The doctor had seen no reason to keep silence, and this 
question of Rochester's had created something like a 
sensation as it travelled backwards and forwards. 
Rochester had been shot in the left side, in the middle of 
a field, where no accident of his own causing seemed pos- 
sible. One barrel only of his gun had been fired, and to 
account for that a cock pheasant lay dead within a few 
feet of him. The shooting-party were all old and expe- 
rienced sportsmen. The gun which Rochester had left 



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SATON REASSERTS HIMSELF 179 

leaning against the gate was discovered exactly as he had 
left it there, loaded in both barrels. There was not the 
ghost of a clue. 

Only Lois kept to her room for three days, until she 
could bear it no longer. Then she walked out a little way 
toward the woods, and met Saton. He recognised her 
with a shock. He himself, especially now it was known 
that Rochester would live, had rapidly recovered from 
the fit of horrors which had seized him on that night. It 
was not so with Lois. Her cheeks were ghastly pale, and 
her eyes beringed. She walked like one recovering from a 
long illness, and when she saw Saton she screamed. 

He held out his hand, and noticed with swift compre- 
hension her first instinctive withdrawal. 

*♦ Bertrand 1 " she cried. " Oh, Bertrand 1 " 

" What do you mean ? ** he asked, hoarsely. 

** You know what I mean,** she answered. ** I don't 
want to touch you, but I must or I shall fall. Let me 
take your arm. We will go and sit down." 

They sat side by side on the trunk of a fallen tree. A 
small stream rippled by at their feet. The meadow which 
it divided was dotted everywhere with little clumps of 
large yellow buttercups. She sat at a little distance from 
him, and she kept her eyes averted. 

^Bertrand," she murmured, ^what does it mean? 
Tell me what I saw that afternoon. You took up ihe 
gun. Was it an accident? But no,'' she added, *4t is ab- 
surd to ask tliat ! " 

** You saw me ? " he exclaimed quickly. *♦ You believe 
that you saw me touch that gun? " 



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28o THE MOVING FINGER 

She nodded. 

** I hated to go and leave you there,*' she said^ " I 
waited about behind those thick blackthorn trees, hop- 
ing that you might come my way. I saw you creep up 
to the gun. I saw you raise it to your shoulder. Even 
then I had no idea what you were going to do. After- 
wards I saw the smoke and the flash. I heard the report, 
and Mr. Rochester's cry as he fell. I saw you slip a fresh 
cartridge into the gun, and go stealing away. Bertrand, 
I have not slept since. Tell me, was it a nightmare? ^ 

^^It was no nightmare,'' he answered. ^'I shot him, 
and I wish that he had died ! " 

She looked at him with horror. 

** Bertrand," she faltered, " you can't mean it ! " 

** Little Lois," he answered, " I do. You do not under- 
stand what hatred is. You do not understand all that it 
may mean — all that it may cause. He is my enemy, that 
man, and I am his. It is a dud between us, a duel to the 
death. The first blow has been mine, and I have failed. 
You will see that it will not be long before he strikes 
back." 

^^ But this is horrible! " she muttered. 

** Horrible to you, of course ! " he exclaimed. ** Hatred 
is a thing of which you can know nothing. And yet there 
it is. People might think that he was my benefactor. He 
gave me money to go out and find my level in the world, 
gave it to me with the bitter, cynical advice — advice 
that was almast a stipulation — that if I failed, I ceased 
to live. I did fail in every honest thing I touched," he 
continued, bitterly. " Then I tried a bold experiment. It 



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I 



SATON REASSERTS HIMSELF x8z 

was the last thing offered, the last wonderful chance. I 
took it, and I won. Then I returned. I paid him back the 
money which he had lent me — I did my best to seem 
grateful. It was of no use. He mistrusted me from the 
first. In his own h^use I was the butt for his scornful 
speeches. I was even bidden to leave. I ventured to speak 
to the woman with whom he is slavishly in love, and 
he came to me like a fury. If I had been a hairdresser 
posing as a duke, he could not have been more violent. 
He wanted me to promise never to speak to her again — 
her or you. I refused. Then he declared war, and, Lois, 
there are weak joints in my armor. You see, I admit 
it to you — never to him. When he finds his way there, 
he will thrust. That is why I struck first.** 

She shook her head sadly. 

"Ah, but I do not understand!** she said. "He is 
very stem and very quiet, but he is a just man. I have 
never known him to find fault where there was none." 

** There are faults enough in my life,** Saton aiir 
swered. " I have never denied it. But I have had to fight 
with my back to the wall. I shall win. I am not afraid 
of a thousand Mr. Rochesters. I am gathering to my 
hands — no, I will not talk to you about thcd: ! Lois, I 
am more anxious about you than Mr. Rochester. I am 
afraid that you will hate me for always now.** 

"No!** she said. "I cannot do that, I cannot hate 
you. But I do not wish to see you any more. As long 
as I live, I shall see you kneeling there, with your finger 
upon the trigger of that gun. I shall see the fiash, I shall 
see him throw up his hands and fall. It was hideous ! '* 



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i89 THE MOVING FINGER 

Saton passed his hand across his forehead. Her words 
h*d touched his keen imagination. The horror of the 
scene was upon him, too, once more. 

•* Don't I " he begged — " don't ! Lois ! '' 

«Well?'' she asked. 

** You will not speak of this to anj<me? '* 

^^ No ! " she answered, sadly, leaning a little forward, 
with her head resting upon her clasped hands. *^ I don't 
suppose that I shalL If he had died, it would have been 
diiFerent. Now that he is going to get well, I suppose I 
shall try to forget.'* 

^ To forget," he munomred, trying to take her hand. 

She drew it away with a shiver. 

** No ! " she said. ** That is finished. I had to see you. 
I had to talk to you. Gk> away, please. I cannot bear to 
see you any more. It is too terrible — too terrible ! *' 

A bom cajoler of women, he forced into play all h» 
powers. He whispered a flood of words in her ear. His 
own Toice shook, his eyes were soft. He pleaded as one 
beside himself. Lois — Lois whom he had found so seDr- 
sitive, so easily moved, so gently affectionate — remained 
like a stone. At the end of all hb pleai£ngs she simply 
looked away. 

^Do ycm mmd," she asked, ^^ leaving me? Please! 
Please!*' 

He gc^ up and went. Drfemt was apparent enough, 
although it was unexpected* Lois stole bac^ to Hie house 
— stole back to her room and locked the door. 

Saton walked home across the hiUs, with white face and 
set eyes. He looked neith^ to the right nor to the lef t. 



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SATON REASSERTS HIMSELF iSq 

and wken he amyed at Blackhird^i Nest, he walked 
straight into the long, old-fashioned room on the ground 
floor, which he caUed his Hbrary, and M^here Rachael gen- 
erally, sat. 

She was there, crouching ovor tl» fire, when he en- 
t^ed, and looked around with frowning face. 

''Bertrax^" she said, ''I hate tUs country life. Even 
the sunshine mocks. Thane is no warmth in it, and the 
winds are cold. I must have warmth. I shall stay here no 
longer.'* 

He threw a log on to the fire^ and turned around. 

** listen," he said. " The jpri Lois Champneyes — I 
hare lost my hold of her. She knows someihing about 
the accident to Rodiester." 

^'Bungler!'* the woman muttered^ ^*6o on. Tell me 
how you lost your power.** 

^^ I cannot tdU** he answered. ^^ I was in an unsettled 
mood. I think thai I was a little afraid. She spoke of 
that afternoon. It all came back to me. I am sure that I 
^ was afraid^*' he added, passing has haad across his fore- 
head. 

She leaned toward him and her eyes glittered, hard 
and bright, from their pardunent-iyce setting. 

" Bertrand,'* dbe said, ** you talk hke a coward. What 
are you going to do? ** 

** To bring her here,** he answered hoarsdy. " She has 
gone back to Beauleys. She is passing up through the 
plantation, on her way to the house^ perhaps, at this 
very moment. She wwe whiter and she carried her hat in 
her hand. There were rims under her eyes. She walks 



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x84 THE MOVING FINGER 

slowly. She is afraid — a little hysterical. You see 
her? '» 

He pointed out of the window. The woman nodded. 

" Sit down,^ she muttered. ** We shall see." 

He sank into a low chair, with his face turned toward 
the window. No further words passed between them. 
They sat there till the sun sank behind the hills, and the 
dusk began to cast shadows over the land. 

A servant came and said something about dinner. 
Rachael waved her away. 

^^ In an hour, or an hour and a half," she said. 

The shadows grew deeper. Rachad's face seemed un- 
changed, but Saton had grown so pale that his fixed 
eyes seemed to have become unnaturally large. Some- 
times his lips moved, though the sounds which he ut- 
tered never resolved themselves into speech. At last 
Rachael rose to her feet. She pointed out of the window. 
Saton gave a little gasp. 

^^ She is there? " he asked, breathlessly. 

^ She OHnes,^ Rachael answered. ^ See that you do not 
lose your i>ower again. I am exhausted. I am going to 
rest." 

She passed out of the room. Saton went and stood 
before the low window. Slowly, and with hesitating foot- 
steps, Lois came up the path, lifted the latch of the lit- 
tle gate, and stood in the garden, close to a tall group of 
hollyhocks. 

Saton went out to her. 

" You have come to tell me that you are sorry? " he 
said. 



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SATON REASSERTS HIMSELF 185 

" Yes ! " she answered. 

" You did not mean what you said? " 

"No!'' 

** Come in," he whispered. 

He laid his fingers upon her hand, and she followed 
him into the room. She was very pale, and she was 
breathing as though she had been runnings He passed 
his arm around her waist. 

** You are not angry with me any longer? " he whis- 
pered in her ear. ** You wiU kiss me ? " 

** If you wish,*' she answered. 

He looked into her eyes for a moment. Then he took 
her into his arms. 

** Dear Lois," he whispered, " you must never be so 
unkind to me again." 



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CHAPTER XXm 

AN UKFI2ASAVT SVCOUNTXE 

ROCHESTER and Pauline were driving through 
the country lanes in a small, old-fashioned pony 
carriage. Westward, the clouds were still stained 
by a briUiant sunset. The air was clear and brisk, chill 
with the invigorating freshness of the autumn evening. 
Already the stillness had come, the stillness which is the 
herald of night. The laborers had deserted the fields, 
the wind had dropped, a pleasant smell of burning weeds 
from a bonfire by the side of the road crept into the air. 
The silence was broken for a moment by the cry of a 
lonely bird, drifting homewards on wings that seemed 
almost motionless. 

Rochester was quite convalescent now, and with the aid 
of a stick was able to walk almost as far as he chose. 
Pauline had remained at Beauleys, and her presence had 
divested those last few weeks of all their irksbmeness. 
He stole a glance at her as she leaned back in the car- 
riage. She was a little pale, perhaps, and her eyes were 
thoughtful, but the lines of her mouth were soft. There 
was no shadow of unhappiness in her face, none of that 
look which in London had driven him almost to madness. 

His fingers closed upon hers. They were walking up- 
hill, and the pony took little guiding. 



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AN UNPLEASANT ENCOUNTER 187 

** Yoii are sure, Pamline," lie asked, " that you are not 
bored yet with the country? '* 

*^ I am quite sure," she answ^ed. 

Something in her tone puxiled him. He looked at her 
agaiQt long and fixedly. Her eyes met his, they answered 
his unspoken question. 

^ I suppose," she said, ^ that I should look happier. 
I have be«i content. I am content stiU. I suppose it is all 
one ought to expect from life." 

** There are other things," he answered, ** but not for 
us, Pauline — not yet." 

" Life is a yery perplexing matter," she declared. 

He shook his head. 

" There is no perplexity about it," he declared. ** Its 
riddle is easily enough solved. The trouble is that the 
fetters which bind u» are sometimes beyond our power to 
break." 

** If we were free," she murmured, *• you and I know 
very well whither we should turn. And yet, Henry, are 
you sure, are you quite, quite sure that there is nothing 
in life greater ev^i than love? " 

" If there is," he answered, " we will go in search of 
it, hand in hand, you and I together." 

" Yes," she echoed simply, " we will go in search of it. 
But first of all we must find someone to light our torch." 

He diook the rdns a little impatiently, but they were 
not yet at the top of the hill, and the pony crawled on, 
undisturbed. 

^ Dear Pauline," he said, ^' sometimes lately I fancied 
that you have seemed a little morbid. I have lived longer 



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288 THE MOVING FINGER 

tiian you. I have lired long enough to be sure of one 
thing,'' 

*« And that is? " she asked. 

" That all real happiness,** he said, ** eren the every- 
day forms of content, is to be found amongst the sim- 
ple truths of life. Lore is the greatest of them. Look at 
me, Pauline. Don't you think that even though we live 
our lives apart, don't you think that to me the world is 
a different place when you are near? " 

She looked into his face a little wistfully. Then she 
let her hand rest on his. 

" You are so steadfast," she said — ^ so strong, and 
so certain of yourself. Forgive me if I seem a little rest- 
less. One loses one's balance sometimes, thinking and 
thinking and wondering." 

They were at the top of the hill, and the pony paused. 
Rochester stepped out. 

" Come," he said, " I will take you for a little walk. 
We will leave Peter here." 

He unlocked a gate with a key which he took from his 
pocket, and hand in hand they ascended a steep path 
which led between a grove of pine trees. Out once more 
into the open, they crossed a patch of green turf and 
came to another gate, set in a stone wall. This also 
Rochester opened. A few more yards, and they climbed 
up to the masses of tumbled rock which lay about on the 
summit of the hiU. 

** Turn round," he said. " You have seen this view 
many a time in the daylight. You can see it now fading 
away into nothingness." 



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AN UNPLEASANT ENCOUNTER 189 

Thej stood hand in hand, looking downwards. Mists 
rose from along the side of the river, and stood about in 
the vallejs. The lights began to twinkle here and there. 
Afar off, like some nursery toy, they saw a train, with its 
line of white smoke, go stealing across the shadowy land- 
scape. 

Rochester's face darkened with a sudden reminiscence. 

** It was here," he said, " that I first saw your friend 
the charlatan." 

" My friend? " she murmured. 

" More yours than mine, at any rate," he answered. 
^He sat with his back against that rock, and if ever 
hunger was written into a boy's face, it was there in his 
pale cheeks, burning in his eyes." 

" He was very poor, then? " she asked. 

"He was very poor," Rochester answered, "but it 
was not hunger for food, it was hunger for life that one 
saw there. He had been down at the Convalescent Home, 
recovering from some illness, and the next day he was 
going back to his work — -work which he hated, which 
made him part of a machine. You know how many mil- 
lions there are who live and die like that — who must 
always live and die like that. They are part of the great 
system of the world, and nine-tenths of them are con- 
tent." 

" You set him free," she murmured. 

" I did," Rochester answered. " It was a mistake." 
^ " You cannot tell," she said. " I know that you mis- 
trust him. You are very, very English, dear Henry, and 
you have so little sympathy with those things which you 



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190 THE MOVING FINGER 

do not underhand — whkh do com^ perhaps, a UtUe 
near what jou call dMurlataniBgu Still, though joo may 
deny it as mudi as you like^ there are many, many things 
in the world — things, even, in connection witii our daily 
fires, which are absolutdy, wonderfi:dly mysterious. 
There are new things to be learned, Henry. Bertrand 
Saton may be a sdf-decdTar. He may even deserve all 
the hard things you can say of him, but there are clev- 
erer people than you and I who do not think so.'' 

" Dear," Rochester answered, " I did not bring you 
here to talk of Bertrand Saton. To tell you the truth," 
he added, ^*I eTen hate to hear his name upon your 
fips." 

There was no time for her to answer. From the 
shadow of the rock against which they leemed, he rose 
with a subtle alertness which seemed somdK)w a little un- 
canny — as though, indeed, he had risen from under the 
ground upon which they stood. 

" I heard my name," he said. " Forgive me if I am 
interrupting you. I had no wish to play the eaves* 
dropper." 

Paufine took a quick step backwards. Even in that 
tense moment of surprise, Rodiester found himself able 
to notice tl^ color fading from her cheeks. He tnmftd 
upon the newcomer, and there was something like fury 
in his tone. 

"What the devil are you doing here, Saton?" he 
asked. 

Baton's tone was almost apologetic. 

** I did not know," he said, " that I was f orbiddai to 



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AN UNPLEASANT ENCOUNTER 191 

mSk upon your lands. I am often here, and this k my 
favorite hoiur.** 

Rochester laughed, a little harsUy. 

• You like to come back,** he said ** You like to sit 
here, perhaps, and think. Wdl, I do not envy you. You 
sat here and thought, year» ago. You built a house of 
dreams here, unless you lied. You come here now, per- 
haps, to ccnnpare it with the house of gewgaws which 
you have built, and in which you dwelL" 

Saton did not for a moment shrink. In his heart he 
felt that it was one of his inspired moments. There was 
confidence alike in his bearing and in his gentle reply. 

** Why not? '* he asked. ** Why idiould you take it for 
granted that there is so much aihiss in my Hf e, that I 
have fallen so far away from those dreams? It may not 
be so," he continued. ^Remember that the man who 
Kves, and comes a little nearer toward knowledge, has 
nothing to be ashamed of. It is the man who Uves, and 
eats and drinks and sleeps, and knows no more when his 
head presses the pillow at ni^t than when the sun woke 
him in the morning, it is that man who is ignoble. You 
have spokoi of the past,** he added, turning face to face 
with Rochester. ** Once more I will remind you of your 
own words. * The aidy crime m life ii failure. If the 
crash comes, and the pieces lie arotmd yoUj swim out to 
sea too far, and sink heneaih the we/oes forever I * Wasn't 
thai your advice? Not your exact words, perhaps, but 
wasn't that what you told the boy who sat here and 
dreamed?** 

Rochester shrugged his shoulders slightly. 



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zga THE MOVING FINGER 

"Youth,'* he said, "may be forgiven much. Man- 
hood must accept its own responsibilities." 

Saton smiled griml j. 

" Always the same,'' he said* •* All the time you play 
with the truth, Rochester, as though it were a glass ball 
committed into your keeping, and yours alone. Don't 
you know that the one inspired period of life is youth 
— youth before it is sullied with experience, youth which 
knows everything, fears nothing — youth which has the 
eyes of the clairvoyant? " 

Rochester frowned. 

**Your tongue goes glibly to-night," he remarked. 
" Talk to the shadows, my friend. Lady Marrabel and 
I are going." 

" I did not bid you come," Saton answered. " This is 
my spot, and my hour. It was you who intruded." 

" The fact that this is my property ^" Rochester 

began, gently. 

" Is of no consequence," Saton answered. " You may 
buy the earth upon which we stand, but you cannot buy 
the person whose feet shall press it, or the thoughts that 
rise up from it, or the words that are breathed from it, 
or the hopes and passions which go trembling from it to 
the skies. Gk> away and jog homeward behind your fat 
pony, but ^ 

" Well, sir? " Rochester asked, turning suddenly. 

Saton's eyes did not meet his. They were fixed upon 
Pauline's, and Pauline was as white as death. 

"Take her, too, if you will," Saton said slowly. 
" Take her, too, if she will go." 



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AN UNPLEASANT ENCOUNTER 193 

** I am going this instant," Pauline cried, with a sud- 
den nervous passion in her tone. " Come, Henry, come 
away. I hate this place. Come away quickly.'* 

Rochester caught her hand. It was cold as a stone. 
She was pale, and she commenced to tremble. 

" Take her,'* Saton said, " if she will go. Take her, 
because you are strong and she is weak. Lead her by 
the arm, guide her as you will, only be sure that you 
leave nothing with me." 

He sat down upon the rock, and with folded arms 
looked away from them — even as though they had not 
existed — across to the world of shadows and vague 
places. Rochester passed his arm through Pauline's, and 
led her down the hill. Her hands were cold. She seemed 
to lift her feet as though they had been of lead. She did 
not look at him. Always she looked ahead. She moved 
slowly and heavily. When he spoke, her lips answered 
him languidly. Rochester felt an intense and passionate 
anger burning in his veins. The vague disquiet of an 
hour ago had settled down into something definite. She 
was his no longer! Something had come between them! 
Even though he might take her into his arms, might hold 
her there, and dare anyone in the world to take her from 
him, it was her body only, the shadow of herself. Some- 
thing — some part of her seemed to have flitted away. 
He asked himself with a sudden cold horror, whether in- 
deed it had remained by the side of that silent figure, 
blotted out now from sight, who sat upon the rocks 
while the darkness fell about him ! 



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CHAPTER XXIV 

XOia 18 OBSOISNT 

LOIS and her companion stopped on the sununit 
of the hill to look at the rolling background of 
woods, brilliant still with their autumn color- 
ing. The west wind had blown her hair into disorder, but 
it had blown also the color back into her cheeks. H^ 
eyes were bright, and her laughter infectious. Her c<mi- 
panion stooped down and passed his arm through hers, 
looking into her face admiringly. 

" Lois,** he said, " this is the first day I have seen you 
like your old self. I can't tell you how glad I am." 

She smiled. 

** I wasn't aware, Maurice," she scud, " that I have 
been very different. I have had headaches now and then, 
lately. Fancy having a headache an afternoon like 
this ! " she added, throwing back her head once more, 
and breathing in the fresh, invigorating air. 

*^ You ought to have seen a doctor," her companion 
declared. " I told Lady Mary so the other day." 

" Rubbish ! " Lois exclaimed, lightly. 

" Nothing of the sort," Captain Vandermere replied. 
^^ I was beginning to worry about you. I almost fan- 
cied ^" 

"Well?" 



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LOIS IS OBEDIENT 195 

** It almost seemed,*' he continued, a little awkwardly, 
** as though you had something on your mind. You 
seemed so queer every now and then, little girl,'' he 
added, ^ I do hope that if there was anything bothering 
you, you'd tell me all about it. We're old pals, you 
know." 

She laughed — not quite naturally. 

** My dear Maurice," she said, " of course there has 
been nothing of that sort the matter with me! What 
could I have on my mind? " 

^ No love affairs, eh? " he asked, stroking his fair 
DMrnstache. 

She shook her head thoughtfully. 

** No ! " she said. ** No love affairs." 

He tightened his grasp upon her arm. He had an idea 
that he was being very diplomatic indeed. And Lady 
Mary had begged him to find out whatever was the mat- 
ter with poor dear Lois ! 

•* WeU," he said, "I wn j^ad to hear it. To teU you 
flie truth, I have been very jealous lately." 

^ You jecdous ! " she exclaimed, mockin^^y. 

*• Fact, I assure you," he answered. 

••Captain Maurice Vandermere jealous!" she re- 
peated, looking up at hira witii dancing eyes — ** abso- 
lutely the most popular bachelor in London ! And jeal- 
ous of me, too ! " 

**Is that so very wonderful, Lois?" he asked. "We 
iave been pretty good friends, you know." 

She felt his hand upon her arm, and she looked away. 

**Yes," she said, **we have been friends, only we 



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196 THE MOVING FINGER 

haven't seen much of one another the last month or bo, 
have we? ^ 

•*It hasn't been my fault,'* he declared "I really 
couldn't get leave before, although I tried hard. I 
shouldn't have been here now, to tell you the truth, 
Lois," he went on, " but Lady Mary's been frightening 
me a bit." 

^* About me? " Lois asked. 

" About you," he assented. 

" What has she been saying? " 

"Well, nothing definite," Captain Vandermere an- 
swered, " but of course you know she's an awful good pal 
of mine, and she did write me a line or two about you. It 
seems there's some young fellow been about down here 
whom she isn't very stuck on, and she seemed to be 
afraid ^" 

" Well, go on," Lois said calmly. 

" Well, that he was making the running with you a 
bit," Captain Vandermere declared, feeling that he was 
getting into rather deeper waters. •* Of course, I don't 
know anything about him, and I don't want to say any- 
thing against anybody who is a friend of yours, but 
from all that I have heard he didn't seem to me to be the 
sort of man I fancied for my little friend Lois to get 
— well, fond of." 

** So you decided to come down yourself," Lois con- 
tinued. 

" I decided to come down and say something which I 
ought to have said some time ago," Captain Vandermere 
continued, " only you see you are really only a child» 



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LOIS IS OBEDIENT 197 

and you've got a lot more money than I have, and you 
are not of age yet, so I thought Vd let it be for a bit. 
But you know I'm fond of you, Lois," 

" Are you? " she asked, artlessly. 

^<You must know that," he continued, bending over 
her. " I wonder ^* 

" Are you aware that we are standing on the top of a 
hill," Lois said, ^* and that everybody for a good many 
miles round has a perfectly clear view of us? " 

" I don't care where we are," he declared. " I have got 
to go on now. Lois, will you marry me? " 

" Is this a proposal? " She laughed nervously. 

*^ Sounds like it," he admitted. 

She was silent for several moments. Into her eyes there 
had come something of that look which had sent Lady 
Mary into her room to write to Captain Vandermere, and 
bid him come without delay. The color had gone. She 
seemed suddenly older — tired. 

" Oh, I don't know ! " she said. '' I think I should like 
to, but I can't ! — no, I can't ! " 

They began to descend the hill. He kept his arm in 
hers. 

** Why not? " he asked. " Don't you care for me? '* 

"I — I don't know," she answered. " I don't know 
whether I care for anybody. Wait, please. Don't speak 
to me for several moments." 

Their path skirted the side of a ploughed field, and 
then through a little gate they passed into a long, strag- 
gling plantation. Directly she was under the shelter of 
the trees, she burst into tears. 



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198 THE MOVING FINGER 

^* Don't come near me," she begged. ^^ Leave me alone 
for a moment. I shall be better directly." 

He disregarded her bidding to the extent of placing 
his arm around her waist. He made no attempt, however, 
to draw her hands away from her face, or stop her tears. 

" Little girl," he said, ** I knew that there was some 
trouble. It is there in your dear, innocent little face for 
anyone to see who cares enough about you to look. 
When you have dried those eyes, you must tell me all 
about it. Remember that even if you won't have me for 
a husband, we are old enough friends for you to look 
upon me as an elder brother." 

She dried her eyes, and looked up at him with a hope- 
less little smile. 

" You are a dear," she said, ** and I am very fond of 
you. I don't know what's happened to me — at least I 
do know, but I can't tell anyone." 

" Is it," he asked gravdy, " that you care about this 
person? " 

" Oh, I don't know ! " she answered. ** I hope not. I 
don't know, I'm sure. Sometimes I feel that I do, and 
sometimes, when I am sane, when I am in my right mind, 
I know that I do not. Maurice," she begged, ^^ help me. 
Please help me." 

His face cleared. 

" I'll help you right enough, little girl," he answered 
^* Just listen to me. Tm not going to see you throw 
yourself away upon an outsider. Jiust remember that. 
On the other hand, I'm not going to bother you to death. 
Here I am by your side, and here I mean to stay. If that 



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LOIS IS OBEDIENT 299 

•—no, I wonH call him names! '' he said, stopping short 
in his sentence — ^** but if anyone tries to make you un- 
happy, well,' I shall have something to say. Come along^ 
let's finish our walk. We'll talk about something else if 
you like." 

She drew a little sigh of relief. 

** You are a dear, Maurice," she repeated. " Come 
along, we'll go down the lane and over the hills home. 
I do feel safe, somehow, with you," she added, impul- 
sively. " You are not going away just yet, are you? '* 

" Not for a fortnight, at any rate," he answered. 

**And you wont leave me alone?" she begged — 
^ not even if I ask to be left alone? You see — I cant 
make you understand — - but I don't even trust myself.** 

He laughed reassuringly. 

" I'll look after you, never fear," he answered. ** I'H 
be better than a watchdog. Tell me, what's your handi- 
cap at golf now? We must have a game to-morrow." 

They walked down the lane, talking — in a somewhat 
subdued manner, perhaps, but easily enough — upon 
lighter subjects. And then at the comer, just as they had 
passed the entrance to Blackbird's Nest, they came face 
to face with Saton. Vandermere felt her suddenly creep 
closer to him, as though for protection, and from his six 
feet odd of height, he frowned angrily at the young man 
with his hat in his hand preparing to accost them. Never 
was dislike more instinctive and hearty. Vandermere, an 
ordinarily intelligent but unimaginative Englishman, of 
the normally healthy type, a sportsman, a good fellow, 
and a man of breeding — and Saton, this strange prod- 



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aoo THE MOVING FINGER 

uct of strange circumstances, externally passable 
enough, but with something about him which seemed, 
even in that clear November sunshine, to suggest the 
footlights. 

"You are quite a stranger, Miss Champneyes," 
Saton said, taking her unresisting hand in his. *^ I hope 
that you are going in to see the Comtesse. Only this 
morning she told me that she was finding it appallingly 
lonely.'* 

"I — I wasn't calling anywhere this afternoon," Lois 
said timidly. ** Captain Vandermere has come down to 
stay with us for a few days, and I was showing him the 
country. This is Mr. Saton -^ Captain Vandermere. I 
don't know whether you remember him." 

The two men exchanged the briefest of greetings. 
Saton's was civil enough. Vandermere's was morose, al- 
most discourteous. 

^* Let me persuade you to change your mind," Saton 
said, speaking slowly, and with his eyes fixed upon Lois. 
**The Comtesse would be so disappointed if she knew 
that you had passed this way and had not entered." 

Vandermere was conscious that in some way the girl 
by his side was changed. She drew a little away from 
him. 

** Very well," she said, ** I shall be pleased to go in 
and see her. You do not mind, Maurice? " 

" Not at all," he answered. " If I may be allowed, I 
will come with you." 

There was a moment's silence. Then Saton spoke — 
quietly, regretfully. 



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LOIS IS OBEDIENT 201 

" I am so sorry/' he said, ** but the Comtesse de Ves- 
tinges — my adopted mother,'* he explained, with a lit- 
tle bow — ^^ receives no one. She is old, and her health is 
not of the best. A visit from Miss Champneyes always 
does her good." 

Lois looked up at her companion. 

" Perhaps," she said, ** you will have a cigarette in the 
lane." 

** I am sorry, to seem inhospitable," Saton said 
smoothly. ** If Captain Vandermere will come up to the 
house, my study is at his service, and I can give him some 
cigarettes which I think he would find passable." 

" Thank you," Vandermere answered, a little gruffly, 
** I'll wait out here. Remember, Lois," he added, turn- 
ing towards her, " that we are expected home to play 
bridge directly after tea." 

" I will not be long," she answered. 

She moved off with Saton, turning round with a little 
farewell nod to Vandermere as they passed through the 
gate. He took a quick step towards her. Was it his 
fancy, or was there indeed appeal in the quick glance 
which she had thrown him? Then directly afterwards, 
while he hesitated, he heard her laugh. Reluctantly he 
gave up the idea of following them, and swinging him- 
self onto a gate, sat watching the two figures climbing 
the field toward the house. 



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CHAPTER XXV 

A LAST WAENING 

THE laugh which checked Vandennere m his first 
intention of following Lois and Saton up the 
field, was scarcely a mirthful effort. Saton had 
bent toward his companion, and his tone had been almost 
tlireatening. 

^* You must not look at anyone like that while I mn 
with you,'* he said. ** You must not look as though you 
were frightened of me. You must se«n amused. You 
must laugfa.*^ 

She obeyed. It was a poor effort, but it sounded 
natural enough in the distance. 

*• Come,** Saton continued, ** you are not Tery kind 
to me, Lois. You are not very kind to the man whom 3^011 
are going to marry, whom you have said that you love. 
It has been very lonely these last few days, Lois. You 
have not come to me. I have watched for you often.'* 

** I could not come," she answered. " Lady Mary haft 
been with me all the time. I think that she suspects." 

•* Surely you are clever enough," he answered, ** to 
outwit a little simpleton like that. Has Rochester been 
interfering? " 

" If he knew that I even spoke to you," ehe answered, 
** I think that he would send me away." 



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A LAST WARNING aos 

" It is not kind of them,'* he said, ** to be so bitter 
against me." 

She shrank from him. 

" If they knew ! " she said, ** If they only knew that 
I even thought of marrying you,, or — or — ^* 

Saton shrugged his shoulders. 

**Ah, well,** he said, "they know as much as it is 
well for them to know ! After all, you see, no harm has 
happened to your guardian. I saw him to-day, on his 
way home from hunting. He looked strong and well 
enough. Tell me, Lois,'' he continued, " has he had any 
visitors from London the last few days? I don't mean 
guests — I mean people to see him on business? " 

" Not that I know of," she answered. " Why? " 

Saton's face darkened. 

" It is he, I am sure," he said, ** who is interfering in 
my concerns. Never mind, Lois, we will not talk about 
that, dear. Give me your hand. We are engaged, you 
know. You should be glad to have these few minutes 
with me." 

Her fingers which he clasped were like ice. He was 
puzzled at her attitude. 

" A month ago," he said softly, " you did not find it 
such a hardship to spend a little time alone with me." 

" A month ago," she answered, ^^ I had not seen you 
on your knees with a gun, seen your white face, heard 
the report, and seen Mr. Rochester f alL I had not seen 
you steal aw^ through the bracken. Oh, it was terrible ! 
You looked like a murderer! I shall never, never for- 
get it.^ 



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^04 THE MOVING FINGER 

He laughed softly. 

^ These things are fancies," he said — ** dreams. You 
Krill forget them, my dear Lois. You will forget them 
Tery soon.** 

They entered the house, and in the hall he drew her 
into his arms. She wrenched herself free, and crouched 
back in the comer, with her hands stretched out in front 
of her face. 

" Don't ! '» she cried. " Don't ! If you kiss me, I shaU 
go mad. Can't you see that I don't want to come with 
you, that I don't want to be with you? You shall let me 
go ! You must let me go ! " 

He stood frowning a few feet away. To tell the truth, 
, he was honestly puzzled at her attitude. At last, with a 
little shrug of the shoulders, he threw open the door of 
the sitting-room. 

** Rachael," he said, ** Lois has come to see you for a 
few minutes." 

Lois went timidly into the room. Rachael, with a 
shawl around her shoulders, was sitting in front of a 
huge fire. She turned her head and held out her long 
withered hand, as usual covered with rings. 

" Sit opposite me, child. Let me look at you." 

Lois sat down, gazing with fascinated eyes at the 
woman whose presence she found almost as terrifying as 
the presence of Saton himself. 

" My son — I call Bertrand my son," she said, " be- 
cause I have adopted him, and because everything I have, 
even my name if he will have it — will be his — my son, 
then, tells me that he has not seen you for several days." 



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A LAST WARNING d05 

" It is very difficult," Lois said, trembling. 

" Why? " Rachael asked. 

"My guardian, Mr. Rochester, does not allow Ber- 
trand to come to the house," Lois said, hesitatingly, 
** and Lady Mary tries not to let me come out alone." 

Rachael nodded her head slowly, her eyes glittered in 
the firelight. Wrapped in her black shawl, she looked 
like some quaint effigy — something scarcely human. 

" Your guardian and his wife," she said, " are foolish, 
ignorant people. They do not understand such men as 
Bertrand. You will understand him, child. You will 
know him better when he is your husband, knpw him 
better, and be proud of him. Is it not so? " 

** I — I suppose so," Lois said. 

^^ I am glad that you came this afternoon," Rachael 
continued. " Bertrand and I have been talking. We 
think it well that you should be married very soon." 

** I am not of age," Lois said, breathlessly. 

** It does not matter," Rachael declared. " Your 
guardian can keep back your money, but that is of no 
consequence. It will come to you in time, and Bertrand 
has plenty himself. I am afraid that they might try and 
tempt you to be faithless to my son. You are very 
young and impressionable, and though I do not doubt 
but that you are fond of him, it is not easy to be faith- 
ful when you are alone, and with such people as Mr. 
Rochester and Lady Mary. I am going to London in a 
few days. I think it would be well if you went with me. 
Bertrand could get a special license, and you could be 
married at once." 



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ao6 THE MOVING FINGER 

"No!" she Arieked. **Na! No!** 

Rachael said nothing. H^ lips moved, but no sound 
<!ame. Only her eyes flashed unutterable things. 

Upon the somewhat hysterical silence came the sound 
of Saton's voice •— cold, decisive. 

** Lois," he said, " what my mother has advised would 
make me very happy. Will you remember that I wish it? 
Will you remember that? " 

"Yes! "she faltered. 

" I shall make you a good husband," he added, com* 
ing a little nearer to her, sinking on one knee by her 
side, and taking her cold, unresisting hands into his. ^^ I 
shall make you a good husband, and I think that you will 
be happy. We cannot go on like this. I only see you now 
by stealth. It must come to an end." 

"Yes! "she faltered. 

" Next time we meet," he continued, " I will tell you 
what plans we have made." 

She turned her head slowly, and looked at him witii 
frightened, wide-open eyes. 

" Why? " she asked. " Why do you want me to marry 
you? You do not care for me. You do not care for me 
at all. Is it because I am rich? But you — you are rich 
yourselves. I would offer you my money, but you can- 
not want that.'* 

He smiled enigmatically. 

"No!" he said. "Money is a good thing, but we 
have money ourselves. Don't you believe, Lois," he 
added, bending towards her, " that I am fond of you? ** 

** Oh ! yes," she answered, " if you say so ! ** 



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A LAST WARNING 207 

** Of course I say so ! " he declared. " I am very fond 
of you indeed, or I should not want to marry you. 
Come, I think that you had better say good-bye to my 
mother now. Your friend outside will be tired of wait- 
ing.'' 

She rose to her feet, and he led her from the room. 
They walked down the field side by side, and Lois felt 
her knees trembling. She was white as a sheet, and once 
she was obliged to clutch his arm for support. As they 
neared the gate, they saw that Vandermere was talking 
to someone on horseback. Saton's face darkened as he 
recognised the tall figure. His first impulse was to stop, 
but with Lois by his side he saw at once that it was im- 
possible. With the courage that waits upon the in- 
evitable, he opened the gate and passed out into the 
lane. 

*^ Good afternoon, Miss Champneyesl " he said, hold- 
ing out his hand. " It was very good of you to come 
in and visit the Comtesse. She k always so glad indeed 
to see you." 

The girl's fingers lay for a moment Icy cold within 
his. Then die turned with a little breath of relief to 
Vandermere. They walked off together. 

Rochester dgnalled with his whip to Saton to wait for 
a moment. As soon as the other two were out of ear- 
shot, he leaned down from his saddle. 

" My young friend," he said, " it seems to me that you 
are wilfully disregarding my warning." 

" I was not aware," Saton answered, " that Miss 
Champneyes was a prisoner in your house, nor do I see 



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ao8 THE MOVING FINGER 

how I am to be held responsible for her call upon the 
Comtesse." 

** We will not bandy words/' Rochester said. " I have 
no wish to quarrel with you, but I want you always to 
remember the things which I have said. Lois Champneyes 
is very nearly of age, it is true, but she remains a child 
by disposition and temperament. As her guardian, I 
want you to understand that I forbid you to continue 
your friendship or even your acquaintance with her ! " 

The quiet contempt of Rochester's words stung Saton 
into a moment of fury. 

" What sort of a creature am I, then," he exclaimed, 
** that you should think me unworthy even to speak to 
your ward, or to the women of your household? You 
treat me as though I were a criminal, or worse ! " 

Rochester tapped his riding boot with the end of his 
whip. Saton watched him with fascinated eyes. There 
seemed something a little ominous in the action, in the 
sight of that gently moving whip, held so firmly in the 
long, sinewy fingers. 

" What you are,'* Rochester said, leaning a little 
down from his horse, " you know and I know. Let that 
be enough. Only remember that there comes a time when 
threats cease, and actions commence. And as sure as you 
and I are met here together this evening, Saton, I tell 
you that if you offend again in this matter, I shall 
punish you. You understand? " 

Rochester swung his horse round and cantered down 
the lane. Saton stood looking after him with white, 
angry face and clenched hands. 



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CHAPTER XXVI 



THE Duchess welcomed the little party from 
Beauleys in person, and with more than or- 
dinary warmth. 

** I am glad to see you all, of course,*' she said, " but 
I am really delighted to see you about again, Henry. Do 
tell me, now. I have heard so many contradictory re- 
ports. Did you shoot yourself, or was it one of your 
guests who did it? I donH know how it is, but poor 
Ronald always says that the men one asks to shoot, 
nowadays, hit everything except the birds." 

*' My dear Duchess,*' Rochester answered, " I certainly 
did not shoot myself. I have every confidence in my 
^ests, and so far as we have been able to ascertain, 
there wasn't another soul in the neighborhood. Shall 
we say that I was shot by the act of God? There really 
doesn't seem to be any other explanation." 

The Duchess was not altogether satisfied. 

** To-night I am going to offer you a great privilege," 
she said. ^^ I am going to give you a chance of finding 
out the answer to your riddle." 

Rochester looked perplexed, and Lady Mary blandly 
curious. Pauline alone seemed as though by instinct to 
realize what lay beneath their hostess's words. Her face 



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310 THE MOVING FINGER 

seemed suddenly to grow tense. She shrank back — a 
slight, involuntary movement, but significant enough 
under the circumstances. 

"An answer to my riddle," Rochester remarked, 
smiling. "Really, I did not know that I had pro- 
pounded one.'* 

"Only a moment ago," the Duchess reminded him, 
" you spoke of being shot by the act of God. That, of 
course, ^as a form of speech. You meant tiiat you did 
not know who did it. Perhaps we shall be able to solve 
that little mystery for you.** 

Rochester looked at his hostess as though for a mo- 
ment he doubted her sanity. Tall and slim in his im- 
maculate clothes, standing before the great wood fire 
which burned in the open grate, he leaned a little for- 
ward upon his stick, with knitted brows. Then his eyes 
caught Pauline's, and something which he was about to 
say seemed to die away upon his lips. 

"Of course, you are unbelievers, all of you," the 
Duchess said, calmly, **but some day — perhaps even 
to-night — you may become converts. Did I tell you, 
Mary," she continued, turning away from Rochester, 
** that I met that extraordinary man Naudheim in Lon- 
don? He told me so many interesting things, and since 
then I have been reading. He introduced me to — to one 
of his most brilliant pupils — a young man, he assured 
me, whose insight was more highly developed, even, than 
his own. Of course, you understand that in these mat- 
ters, insight and perception take the place almost of 
brains." 



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THE DUCHESS'S DINNER PARTY an 

"My dear Dudiesa,'* Roeb^er interrupted, "what 
are you talking about? " 

" The new science,^' tibe Duchesa answered^ with a note 
of triumph in her tone. "You will learn all about it 
some day, and you cannot begin too soon. The young 
man whom Professor Naudheim spoke so highly of is 
dining here to-night. Curiously enough, I found that 
he was almost a neighbor of both of ours." 

There was an instant's silence. Pauline, who was pre- 
pared, was now perhaps the calmest of the trio. Roches- 
ter's face was dark with anger. 

** You refer, Duchess, I suppose," he said — • 

The Duchess left him unceremoniously. She took a 
step or two forward with outstretched hands. The but- 
ler was announcing -— 

"Mr. Saton!" 

The dinner was as successful as the Duchess's country 
dinners always were. She herself, a hostess of renown, 
led the conversation at her end of the table. like all 
women with a new craze, she conscientiously did her best 
to keep it in the background, and completely failed. 
Before the third course had been removed, she was dis- 
cussing occultism with the bishop of the diocese. 
Rodiester, from har other side, listened with a thin smile. 
She turned upon him suddenly. 

** Oh, I know that you're an unbeliever ! " she said. 
•* You're one of those people who go through life doubt- 
ing everything. You shan't have him for an ally. 
Bishop," she said, " because your points of view are en- 



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did THE MOVING FINGER 

tirely. different. Henry here doubts everything^ from his 
own existence to the vintage of my champagne. You, on 
the other hand," she added, turning toward her other 
companion, ^^are forced to disbelieve, because you feel 
that any new power or gift that may be granted to us, 
and which we discover for ourselves, is opposed, of 
course, to your creed.'* 

" It depends,'' the bishop remarked, " upon the nature 
of that power." 

^^Even in its elementary stages," the Duchess said» 
** there is no 'doubt that it is a power which can do a 
great deal for us towards solving the mysteries of exist-* 
ence. Personally, I consider it absolutely and entirely 
inimical to any form of religious belief." 

" Why? " Rochester asked quietly. 

^^ Because," the Duchess answered, ^^ all the faith that 
has been lavished upon religion since the making of the 
world, has been a misapplied force. If it had been ap^ 
plied toward developing this new part of ourselves, 
there is no doubt that so many thousands of years could 
never have passed without our entering the last and 
greatest chamber in the treasure-house of knowledge." 

The bishop, being a privileged guest, and a cousin 
of his hostess, deliberately turned his back upon her and 
escaped from the conversation. The Duchess looked past 
him towards Saton, who was sitting a few places down 
the table. 

" There ! " she exclaimed. " I have been braver than 
even you could have been." 

Saton smiled. 



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THE DUCHESS'S DINNER PARTY 213 

" That sort of courage,'* he remarked, ** is the pre- 
rogative of your sex." 

" You have heard what I said,'* she continued. " Don't 
you agree with me? '* 

** Of course," he answered. 

He hesitated for a moment, but the Duchess was look- 
ing at him. She evidently expected him to continue the 
subject. 

" We are told," he said slowly, " that there is no such 
thing as waste in the physical world — that matter 
simply changes its form. I suppose that is true enough. 
And yet a change of form can be for the better or for 
the worse, according to our caprices. Strictly speaking, 
it is a waste when matter is changed for the worse. It is 
very much like this, I think, with regard to the sub- 
ject which you were just then discussing. Faith, from 
our point of view, is a very real and psychical force. 
The faith which has been spent upon religion through 
all these ages, seems to us very much like the tragedy 
of an unharnessed Niagara." 

The Duchess looked around her triumphantly. She 
was chilled a little, however, by Rochester's curling lip. 

** Dear hostess," he whispered in her ear, ** this sort of 
conversation is scarcely respectful to the bishop, even 
though he be a relative. You can let your young- 
prot^g^ expound his marvelous views after dinner." 

The Duchess shrugged her ample shoulders. 

** I wonder how it is," she declared, a little peevishly,. 
** that directly one sets foot in the country, one seems 
to come face to face with the trafe Briton. What hypo- 



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214 THE MOVING FINGER 

crites we all are! We are broad enough to discuss any 
subject under the sun, in town, but we seem to shrink 
into something between the FhiUstine and the agricul- 
tural pedagogue, as soon as we sniff the air of the 
ploughed fields." 

She rose a little pettishly, and motioned to Rochester 
to take her place. 

" Five minutes only," she said. " You will find us all 
over the place. The cigarettes and cigars are in the hall. 
You can finish your wine here, and come out." 

" Is there anything particular," Rochester asked 
grimly, " that we are permitted to talk about? " 

" With this crowd," she whispered, " if I forbid poli- 
tics and agriculture, I don't think you'll last the five 
minutes." 



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CHAPTER XXVII 



THE ANSWEB TO A BIDDIiE 



A FEW of the Duchess's guests left early — 
those who had to driye a long distance, and 
who had not yet discarded their carriage 
horses for motor-cars. Afterwards the party seemed to 
draw into a little circle, and it was then that the Duchess, 
rising to her feet, went over and talked earnestly for a 
few minutes with Saton. 

** Some slight thing ! ** she begged. ** Anything to set 
these people wondering! Look at that old stick Henry 
Rochester, for instance. He believes nothing — doesn't 
want to believe anything. Give him a shock, do ! ** 

^ Can't you understand. Duchess," Saton said, ** how 
much harm we do to ourselves by any exhibition of the 
sort you suggest? People are at once inclined to look 
upon the whole thing as a clever trick, and go about 
asking one another how it is done.'* 

The Duchess w€is disappointed, and inclined to be 
pettish. Saton realized it, and after a moment's hesita- 
tion prepared to temporize. 

" If it would amuse you," he said, " and I can find 
anyone here to help me, I daresay we could manage some 
thought transference. All London seems to be going to 
see those two people at the Alhambra — or is it the Em- 
pire? You can see the same thing here, if you like.'* 



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ax6 THE MOVING FINGER 

The Duchess beamed. 

" That would be delightful,^ she said. ** Whom would 
you like to help you? " 

** Leave me alone for a minute or two," Saton said. 
^^ I will look around and choose somebody." 

The Duchess stepped back into the circle of her guests. 

" Mr. Saton is going to entertain us in a very won- 
derful manner," she announced. 

Rochester, who had been on his way to the billiard 
room, came back. 

^^ Let us stay and see the tricks," he remarked to the 
bishop, who had been his companion. 

The Duchess frowned. Saton shot a sudden glance 
at Rochester. A dull, angry color burned in his cheeks. 

" Stay, by all means, Mr. Rochester," he said. " We 
may possibly be able to interest you." 

There was almost a challenge in his words. Rochester, 
ignoring them save for his slightly uplifted eyebrows, 
sat down by the side of Pauline. 

** The fellow's cheek is consummate ! " he muttered. 

" I need," Saton remarked quietly, ** what I suppose 
Mr. Rochester would call a confederate. I can only see 
one whom I think would be temperamently suitable. 
Will you help me? " he asked, turning suddenly toward 
Pauline. 

" No ! " Rochester answered sternly. " Lady Marrabel 
will have nothing to do with your performance." 

Rochester bit his lip the moment he had spoken. He 
felt that he had made a mistake. One or two of the 
guests looked at him curiously. The Duchess was liter- 



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THE ANSWER TO A RIDDLE aiy 

ally open-mouthed. Saton was smiling in a peculiar 
manner. 

" In that case/' he remarked quietly, " if Mr. Roches- 
ter has spoken with authority, I fear that I can do noth- 
ing." 

The Duchess was very nearly angry. 

"Don't be such an idiot, Henry!" she said. "Of 
course Pauline will help. What is it you want her to do, 
Mr. Saton? " 

" Nothing at all," he answered, " except to sit in a 
comer of the room, as far from me as possible, and an- 
swer the questions which I shall ask her, if she be able. 
You will do that? " turning suddenly towards her. 

" Of course she will ! " the Duchess declared. " Be 
quiet, Henry. You are a stupid, prejudiced person, and 
I won't have you interfere." 

Pauline rose to her feet. 

" I am afraid," she said, ** that I can scarcely be of 
much use, but of course I don't mind trying." 

Saton was standing a little away, with his elbow lean- 
ing upon the mantelpiece. 

" If two of you," h^ said, helping himself to a cig- 
arette, and deliberately lighting it, "will take Lady 
Marrabel over — say to that oak chair underneath the 
banisters — blindfold her, and then leave her. Really 
I ought to apologize for what I am going to do. 
Everything is so very obvious. Still, if it amuses you ! " 

Pauline sat by herself. The others were all gathered 
together in the far comer of the great hall. Saton 
turned to the bishop. 



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2X8 THE MOVING FINGER 

" This is only a repetition of the sort of thing which 
you have doubtless seen," he said, " Have you anything 
in your podket whidi you are quite sure that Lady Mar- 
rabel knows nothing of? " 

Silently the bishop produced a small and worn Greek 
Testament. Saton opened it at random. Then he turned 
suddenly toward the figure of the woman sitting alone 
in the distance. Some change had taken place in his man- 
ner and in his bearing. Those who watched him closely 
were at once aware of it. His te^ seemed to have come 
together, the lines of his face to have become tense. He 
leaned a little forward toward Pauline. 

^^ I have something in my hands,^ he said. ^ I wonder 
if you can tell me what it is." 

There was no answer. They listened and watched. 
Pauline never spoke. Alrea^ a smile was parting 
Rochester's lips. 

^^ I think, Lady Marrabel»" Saton said slowly, ^ that 
you can tell me, if you wilL I think that you will tell 
me. I think that you must ! ** 

Something that sounded almost like a half-stifled sob 
came to them from across the hall — and then Pauline's 
voice. 

" It is a small book,'* she said — ^ a Testament.** 

** Go on,'* Saton said. 

"A Greek Testament!" Pauline continued. "It is 
open at — at the sixth chapter of St. Mark." 

Saton passed it round. The Duchess beamed with de- 
light upon everybody. Saton seemed only modestly sur- 
prised at the interest which everyone displayed. 



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THE ANSWER TO A RIDDLE 219 

*^ We are only doing something now," he said, " which 
has already been done, and proved easy. The only 
trouble is, of course, that Lady Marrabel being a 
stranger to me, the effort is a little greater. If you will 
be content with one more test of this sort, I will try, if 
you like, something different — something, at any rate, 
which has not been done in a music-hall.'* 

A gold purse was passed to him, with a small mono- 
gram inscribed. Again Pauline slowly, and even as 
though against her wijl, described correctly the purse 
and its contents. 

Saton brushed away the little murmurs of surprise 
and delight. 

" Come," he said, " this is all nothing. It really — as 
you will all of you know in a few years time — can be 
done by any one of you who chooses seriously to de- 
velop the neglected part of his or her personality. I 
should like to try something else which would be more 
interesting to you." 

The Duchess turned towards him with clasped hands. 

^ Can't you," she said, " make her say how Mr. 
Rochester met with his accident? " 

There was a little thrill amongst everyone. Saton 
stood as though absorbed in thought. 

*« Why not? " he said softly to himself. 

Rochester laughed hardly. 

" Come," he said, " we are getting practical at last. 
Let one thing be understood, though. If our young 
friend here is really able to solve this little mystery, he 
win not object to my making use of his discovery.*' 



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aao THE MOVING FINGER 

" By no means/' Saton answered. " But I warn you 
that if the person is one unknown to Lady Marrabel or 
myself, I cannot tell you who it was. All that I can do 
is perhaps to show you something of how the thing was 
done.*' 

^^ It will be most interesting ! " Rochester declared. 

There was a subdued murmur of thrilled voices. One 
or two looked at each other uneasily. Even the Duchess 
began to feel a little uncomfortable. Saton was suddenly 
facing Pauline. He was standing a little nearer, with the 
fingers of his right hand resting upon the round oak 
table which stood in the centre of the hall. His figure 
had become absolutely rigid, and the color had left his 
cheeks. His voice seemed to them to come from some 
other person. 

"Listen," he said, bending even a little further to- 
ward the woman, who was leaning forward now from her 
chair, as though eager or compelled to hear what was 
being said to her. ** A month — six weeks — some time 
ago^ you were with Henry Rochester, a few minutes after 
his accident. He was shot — or he shot himself. He was 
shot by design or by misadventure. You were the first 
to find him. You came round the comer of the wood, 
and you saw him there, lying upon the grass. You heard 
a shot just before — two shots. You came round the 
comer of the wood, and you saw nothing except the body 
of Henry Rochester lying upon the ground." 

" Nothing ! " she murmured. " Nothing ! " 

There was an intense silence. The little group of peo- 
ple were all leaning forward with eyes riveted upon 



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THE ANSWER TO A RIDDLE aaz 

Pauline Marrabel. Even Rochester's expression had be- 
come a little tense. 

"Think again," Saton said. "There was only a 
comer of the wood between you and that field when the 
shot was fired. You are walking there now, now, as the 
shots are fired. Bend forward. You can see through 
those trees if you try. I think that you do see through 
them." 

Again he paused. Again there were a few seconds' 
silence — silence save for the quick breathing of the 
Duchess, who was crumpling her lace handkerchief into 
a little ball in her hands. 

Then Pauline's voice came to them. 

" There is a gun laid against a gate which leads into 
the field," she said — *^ a gun, and by its side a bag of 
cartridges. Someone has been hiding behind the wall. 
He has the gun in his hands. He looks along the path. 
There is no one coming." 

A woman from the little group of people commenced 
to sob softly. Pauline's voice ceased. Someone put a 
hand over the mouth of the frightened woman. 

" Go on," Saton said. 

" The man has the gun in his hand. He goes down on 
his knees," Pauline continued. " The gun is pointed to- 
wards Mr. Rochester. There is a puff of smoke, a report, 
Mr. Rochester has fallen down. He is up again. Then 
befalls! — yes, he falls!" 

Saton passed his hand across his forehead. 

" Go on," he said. 

** The man is taking the cartridge from the gun," 



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daa THE MOVING FINGER 

Pauline said. ^He dips in another from the bag. He 
has leaned the gun against the gate. He is stealing 
away." 

Saton leaned towards her till he seemed even about to 
spring. 

" You could not see his face? '* he said. 

There was no answer. Two of the women behind were 
sobbing now. A third was lying back, half unconscious. 
Rochester had risen to his feet. The faces of all of them 
seemed suddenly to reflect a new and nameless terror. 

Saton moved slowly towards Pauline. He moved un- 
steadily. The perspiration now was standing in thick 
beads upon his forehead. He suddenly realized his 
risk. 

"You could not see his face?^' he repeated. "Yoa 
do not know who it was that fired that gun? " 

" I could not see his face," she re{>eated. " But I — 
I can see it now." 

"You do not recognise it?** he said, and his voice 
seemed to come tearing from his throat, diarged with 
some new and compelling quality. " You cannot recog- 
nise it? You do not know whether you have ever seen 
it before? " 

Pauline rose suddenly to her feet. Her bosom was 
heaving, her face was like a white mask. Her hands were 
suddenly thrown high above her bead. 

" It is horrible ! " she shrieked. " It was you who fired 
the gun! — You!" 

She swayed for a moment, and fell over on her side 
like a decul woman — her arms ilirown out, her limbs 



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She swayed for a moment, and fell over on her side. 

{Page 223 



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THE ANSWER TO A RIDDLE 223 

inert, as though indeed it were death which had stricken 
her. 

Rochester, with a shout of anger, sprang towards her, 
sending Saton reeling against the table. He fell on his 
knees by her side. 

^^ Bring water, some of you idiots i*^ he cried out. 
^^ Ring the belli And don't kt that cursed charlatan es- 
cape! *• 



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CHAPTER XXVra 

SPOKEN FKOM THS HEAKT 

FlULINE took the card from the hand of her 
servant, and glanced at it at first with the idlest 
of curiosity — afterwards with a fixed and stead- 
fast attention, as though she saw in those copperplate 
letters, elegantly traced upon a card of superfine quality, 
something symbolical, something of far greater sig- 
nificance than the unexpected name which confronted her. 

" I told you, Martin,'* she said, " that I was at home 
to nobody except those upon the special list." 

" I know it, your ladyship,'* the man answered, ** but 
this gentleman has called every day for a week, and I 
have refused even to bring his name in. To-day he was 
so very persistent that I thought perhaps it would be 
better to bring his card." 

Pauline was lying upon a couch. She had been un- 
well for the last two or three weeks. Nothing serious — 
nerves, she called it. A doctor would probably have pre- 
scribed for her with a smile. Pauline knew better than 
to send for one. She knew very well what was the matter. 
She was afraid ! Fear had come upon her like a disease. 
The memory of that one night racked her still — the 
memory of that, and other things. 

Meanwhile, the servant stood before her in an attitude 
of respectful attention. 



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SPOKEN FROM THE HEART aas 

" I will see Mr. Saton," she decided at last. ** You can 
show him in here, and remember that until he has gone, 
no one else is to be allowed to enter. Come yourself 
only if I ring the bell, or when you serve tea.'' 

The man bowed, and went back to where Saton was 
waiting in the haU. 

" Her ladyship is at home, sir,'* he announced. " Will 
you come this way? " 

A certain drawn expression seemed suddenly to vanish 
from the young man's face. He followed the servant 
almost blithely. In a few seconds he was alone with her 
in the firelit drawing-room. The door was closed behind 
him. 

Pauline was sitting up on the couch. For a moment 
they neither of them spoke. She, too, had been suffering, 
then, he thought, recognising the signs of ill-health in 
her colorless cheeks and languid pose. 

He came slowly across the room and held out his hand. 
She hesitated, and shook her head. 

**No!" she said. "I do not think that I wish to 
shake hands with you, Mr. Saton. I do not understand 
why you have come here. I thought it best to see you, 
and hear what you have to say, once and for all." 

" Once and for all? " he repeated. 

*^ Certainly," she answered. " It does not interest me 
to fence with words. Between us I think that it is not 
necessary. What do you want with me? " 

** You know," he answered calmly. 

She paused for a moment or two. She told herself that 
this was the most transcendental of follies. Yet it seemed 



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aa6 THE MOVING FINGER 

as though there were something electrical in the atmos- 
phere, as though something had come into the room im- 
accountable, stimulating, terrifying. All the languor of 
the last few days was gone. 

^ Am I to understand, then? ^' she said at last, speak- 
ing in a low tone, and with her face ayerted from him, 
^* that you have come to offer me some explanation of 
the events of that night? '* 

** No ! •* he answered. 

The seconds tidied on. She found his taciturnity mad- 
dening. 

^' Your Tisit had some purpose? '' she asked. 

" I came to see you," he answered. 

^ I am not well,'' she said, hurriedly. ^ I am not fit 
to see people or to talk at all. I thought that you must 
have some special purpose in coming, or I should not 
have received you." 

^ You wish to talk tl^n, about that night? " he asked. 

"No!" she answered — ^and yet, yes!" 

She sat upright. She looked him in the eyes. 

" I have not dared to ask even myself this," she said, 
** but since you are here, since you have forced it upon 
me, I shall ask you and you will tell me. That night I 
had — what shall I call it? — a visicm. I saw you shoot 
Henry Rochester. Now you are here you shall tell me if 
what I saw was the truth? " 

" It was," he answered. 

She drew back, shuddering. 

" But why ? " she asked. " He has never done you any 
harm." 



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SPOKEN PROM THE HEART aay 

** On the contrary," Saton answered, " he is my enemy. 
With all my heart and soul I wish him dead ! " 

** It is terrible ! " she murmured. 

** It is the truth,'' he answered. " The truth sometimes 
is terrible. That is why people so often evade it. Listen. 
I was only a boy, a sentimental boy, when I first knew 
Rochester. Perhaps he has posed to you as my benefac- 
tor. Certainly he lent me money. I tell you now, though, 
that upon every penny of that money was a curse. 
Whatever I did went wrong. However hard I fought, I 
was worsted. If I gambled, I lost. If I played for safety, 
something — even though it might be as unexpected as 
an earthquake — came to wreck my plans. It was like 
playing cards with the Devil himself. One by one I lost 
the tricks. When I was penniless, I had nothing left to 
think of but the only piece of advice your friend Henry 
Rochester gave me when he sent me out into the world. 
The sting of his voice was like a lash. Creatures of the 
gutter he called those who had failed, and who dared 
to live on. I tdl you that until the time came when I 
looked down into the Thames, and hesitated whether or 
no I should take his cynical advice and make an end of 
myself, every action, every endeavor, and every effort 
I had made, had been honest. It was his words, and his 
words entirely, which drove me into the other paths." 

** You admit, then — ^ she began. 

" I admit nothing," he answered. " Yet I will tell you 
this. There are things in my life which I loathe, and 
they are there because of Rochester's words. Yet bad 
though I am," he continued, bitterly ,^ " that man's con- 



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MS THE MOVING FINGER 

tempt is like a whip to me whenever I see him. What, in 
God's name, is he? Because he has ancestors behind him, 
good blood in his veins, the tricks of a man of breeding, 
the carriage and voice of a gentleman, why, in Heaven's 
name for these things should he look upon me as some- 
thing crawling upon the face of the earth — something 
to be spumed aside whenever it should cross his path? I 
have lived and spoken falsehoods. The .greatest men in 
the world have lived and spoken falsehoods. But I am 
not a charlatan. I have mastered the rudiments of a 
great and mighty new science. I am not a trickster. I 
have a claim to live, as he has. There is a place in the 
world for me, too, as well as for him. You know what 
he has told me? You know with what he has threatened 
me? He has told me that if he even sees you and me 
together, that if I even dare to find my way into your 
presence, that he will horsewhip me. This because he has 
muscles and I have none. Yet you ask me why I desire 
to kill him! I have had only one desire in my life 
stronger than that, one thing in my life more intense 
than my hatred of this man.*' 

" You are both in the wrong,'* she said. ** Henry 
Rochester is a straight-living. God-fearing man, a little 
narrow in his views, and a little violent in his prejudices* 
You are a person such as he would not understand, such 
as he never could understand. You and he could never 
possibly come into sympathy. He is wrong when he ut- 
ters such threats. Yet you must remember that there is 
Lois. He has the right there to say what he wilL" 

" There is Lois, yes ! " Saton repeated. 



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SPOKEN FROM THE HEART 229 

•* You wish to marry her, don't you? ** she asked. 

The question seemed to madden him. Suddenly he threw 
aside the ahnost unnatural restraint with which he had 
spoken and acted since his entrance into the room. He 
rose to his feet. He stood before her couch with clenched 
hands, with features working spasmodically as the words 
poured from his lips. 

** Listen," he said. ** I have no money. I have lived 
partly upon the woman who adopted me, and partly by 
nefarious means. Science is great, it is fascinating, it is 
the joy of my life, but one must live. I have tasted 
luxury. I cannot live as a workingman. The woman 
who adopted me is all the time at my elbow, telling me 
that I must marry Lois because of her money. The child 
is willing. I have been willing.'^ 

"To marry her for her money — for her money 
only!'* Pauline exclaimed, with scorn trembling in her 
tone. 

** Absolutely for her money only ! ** Saton answered. 
" Now you know how poor a thing I am. Yet I tell you 
that all men have a bad spot in them. I tell you that 
I am dependent upon that woman for every penny I 
spend, and for the clothes I wear. When I tell her that 
I will not marry Lois Champneyes, she will very likely 
throw me into the street. What is there left for me to 
do? I have tried everything, and failed. I have no 
strength, I have a cursed taste for the easy ways of life. 
Yet this has come to me. I will not marry Lois Champ- 
neyes. I will break with this woman, notwithstanding all 
I owe to her, and I will go away and work once more. 



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230 THE MOVING FINGES 

wherever I can earn enough to keep me. And I wiH tell 
you why. I haven't a good quality that I know of. I 
am as selfish as a man can be. I am a murderer at heart, 
an actor most of the time, but in one thing I am honest. I 
love you, Pauline Marrabd! I can't help it. It is the 
curse of my Kfe, if you will, but it is the joy of it. 
Rochester knows it, and he hates me« I know that 
Rochester loves you, and I hate him» Listen. There is a 
man who believes in me — a great mcui. I'll go to him. 
I'll work, I'll study, I'll write. I'D Bve the thoughts I 
want to live. I'll shape my life along the firm straight 
lines. I'll make a better thing of myself, if you'll wait. 
Mind, I don't ask you to touch me now. If you offered 
me your hands, I wouldn't take them. I'm not fit. But 
there is just this one thing in me. I know myself and I 
know you. Give me the chance to dimb! " 

Time seemed to stand rtill while Ahe looked at him. 
Yes, he had been honest! She saw him stripped of all 
the glamour of his unusual learning. She saw him as he 
was — small, fake, a poor creature, who having failed 
on the mountains, had been content to crawl through tb« 
marshes^ He seemed in those few moments to be stripped 
bare to her. He wi» not earen a gentleman. He wore his 
manners as he wore hia dothea. He bdonged to her 
world no more than the serraoit who had announced hki. 
She clenched her fingers. It waa ignoble that her heart 
diould be beating, that, the breatk should come aobbing 
through her parted lips. He was a creature to be de- 
spised! 

Sloe raised her head and told him so, fighting all the 



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SPOKEN FROM THE HEART 231 

while with something greater and stronger which seemed 
to be tearing at her heart strings. 

** If that is what you came here to say,'' she said^ 
** ple£ise go/* 

He rose at once. She saw the anxious light with which 
his eyes had been filled, fade away. He turned almost 
humbly toward the door. 

" You are qiiite right," he said. " I should not have 
come. I do not often have impulses. It is a mistake ^o 
listen to them. Yet I came because it was the one hanert. 
desire which I have had since I looked down into the 
water and turned away.'* 

He walked toward the door. She stood with her finger 
pressing the bell. He seemed somehow to have lost what 
httle presence he had ever possessed. His head Wft» 
bowed ; he walked as one feeling for his way in the dark. 
Never once did he look roimd. As he stood before the 
door, her lips were suddenly parted. A great wave of 
pity rose up from amongst those other things in her 
heart. She would have called out to him, but her butler 
was aheady there. The door had been opened. 

She clenched her teeth, and resumed her place upon the 
sofa. She heard the front door closed, and she found 
herself watching him through the blind. She saw him 
cross the road very much as he had crossed the room — 
unseeing, stricken. She watched him until he crossed the 
comer of the square. Her eyes were misty with tears ! 



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CHAPTER XXIX 

THE COUBAOE OF DESPERATION 

CAPTAIN VANDERMERE had a friend from 
the country, and was giving him supper at the 
Savoy. He was also pointing out the different 
people who were worthy of note, 

" That,** he said, pointing to an adjoining table, " is 
really one of the most interesting men in London.'* 

^ He looks like an actor,** his friend remarked. 

" So he may be,** Vandermere answered grimly, " but 
his is not the Thespian stage. He is a lecturer and writer 
on occultism, and in his way, I suppose, he is amazingly 
clever.** -h 

<<Do you mean Bertrand Saton?** his friend asked, 
with interest. 

Vandermere nodded. 

**You have heard the fellow's name, of course,** he 
said. ^^ For the last month or so one seems to meet him 
everywhere, and in all sorts of society. The illustrated 
papers, and even the magazines, have been full of the 
fellow*s photograph. Women especially seem to regard 
him as something supernatural. Look at the way they 
are hanging upon his words now. That is the old Duch- 
ess of Ampthill on his left, and the others are all decent 
enough people of a sort.** 



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THE COURAGE OF DESPERATION 233 

" I gather from your tone,** his friend remarked, 
** that the young man is not a favorite of yours." 

" He is not,** Vandermere answered. " I don't under- 
stand the breed, and that*s a fact. Apart from that, he 
has had the confounded impertinence to make love to 
— to a very charming young lady of my acquaintance.** 

** He isn*t particularly good-looking,** the friend re- 
marked — ^** striking I suppose people would say.** 

"He has a sort of unwholesome way of attracting 
women,** Vandermere remarked. **Look how they all 
manoeuvre to walk out with him.** 

Saton was exercising his rights as lion of the jmrty, 
and leaving early. The Duchess whispered something in 
his ear, at which he only laughed. Half-a-dozen invita- 
tions were showered upon him, which he accepted con- 
ditionally. 

" I never accept invitations,** he said, " except with a 
proviso. As a matter of fact, I never can tell exactly 
when I shall want to work, and when the feeling for 
work comes, everything else must go. It is not always 
that one is in the right mood.** 

** How interesting ! '* one of the women sighed. 

"Must be like writing poetry, only far more ex- 
citing,** another murmured. 

" Tell me,** a girl asked him, as he stooped over her 
fingers to say good night, " is it really true, Mr. Saton, 
that if you liked you could make me do things even 
against my will — that you could put ideas into my 
head which I should be forced to carry out? ** 

" Certainly.** 



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934^ THE MOVING FINGER 

'^And yoa never make: use of your power?" 

" Very aeUom^" he answereiL '* That is the chicanery^ 
of seience^ It is because people: when they have discov- 
€sed a little are so anxious to ^iploit their knowlec^^ 
that they iKerer go any further. It is very easy indeed 
to dominate the will of certain indiyiduals, but what we 
really want to imderstand before we use our power, is 
the law that governs it. Grood night, once more ! ^* 

^^ A wonderful maa! '' thqr sighed one to another as 
lie passed out 

*^ I am one of the f ew,.'^ the Duchess remarked com* 
placently,. ^^ who has seem a real manif ertattion of his 
powers^ It is true,;'' ^e added, with a lifctle shudder, 
*^ there was a mistake toMrajBd. the emt The experiment 
wasn't wholly sncccsttful,, but it was wondfudTul, all the 
same — wonderful ! *' 

Swton lieft the restaurant, aad enteied the small dectrie 
broug^tom which was waiting for him. He IBt a. cigarette 
and leaned back amongst the cuduoos, musing^ over the 
events of the evening with a complacent smile* The last 
few weeks seemed to have wrought some soibUe change 
in the man. His face was at once stronger and weaker, 
more determined, and yet in a sense less trustworthy. His> 
manner had gained in assertion, his bearing in confidence. 
There was an air of resolve about him, as thou^ he 
knew exactly where he was going — how far, and in 
what direction. And with it all he had aged. There were 
lines under his eyes, and his face was worn — at times 
almost haggard. 



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THE COUIIAGE OP DE5PESATION 335 

He kt fairaself into ijbe tittle iiome in Beikeky Square 
with his latchkey, 1^ turned at imee into iUcbael's room. 
She was sitting over tbe &*e in a brilliant red dr^sing- 
gown, her head elabomtely coifFured, her fingers and 
neck brilliant with jewels. Yet when she turned her liead 
one saw a change. Age had laid its grip upon her at last. 
Her voice had lost its decision. Her liands trembled in 
her lap. 

" You are late, Bertrand," she said — ^^ very late.*' 

" Not BO very,** he aiKwered. ** I have been supping 
at the Savoy with the Duchess of Ampthill and son^ 
friends.** 

She looked at him seaichingly, looked at him from 
head to foot, noted the trim exactness of his evening 
attire, and his enamel links axid waktcoat buttons, the 
air of confidence with which lie crossed the room to mix 
himself a whiskey and soda. It wius she who had been 
like that a few months ago, and he the timid one. They, 
seemed to have changed places. 

** Bertrand,** she jsaid, " you frighten me. You go so 
far, nowadays.** 

" Why not? '* he answered. 

" Huntley has been here to-nig^t,** she went on. ** He 
tells me that you have opened even another place, and 
that all iiie old ones axe going. He tdls me that the of- 
fices are hard at work, too.** 

^ Business is good,'* remarked Saton, drily. 

" I thought that we were going quietly for a time,**" 
she said. ^ It was you who were so terrified at the risk. 
Do you imagine that the danger is over-f* ** 



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236 THE MOVING FINGER 

*^ My dear Radiael,'' he answered, coming over to her, 
^ I have come to the conclusion that I was over-timid. 
There is no success in life to be won without daring. 
Money we must have, and these places are like a gold 
mine to us. If things go wrong, we must take our 
chance. I am content. In the meantime, for all our sakes, 
it suits me to be in evidence everywhere. The papers 
publish my portrait, the Society journals record my 
name, people point me out at the theatres and at the 
restaurants. This is not vanity — this is business. I am 
giving a lecture the week after next, and every seat is 
already taken. I am going to say some daring things. 
Afterwards, I am going to Naudheim for a month. 
When I come back, I shall give another lecture. After 
that, perhaps these places will not be necessary any 
more. But who can tell? Money we must have, money 
all the time. Science is great, but men and women must 
live." 

She looked at him with a grim smile. 

** You amuse me,*' she said. ** Are you really the half- 
starved boy who flung himself at my horses' heads in 
the Bois?" 

" I am what the Fates have made of that boy." 

She shook her head. 

" You are going too fast," she said. " You terrify 
me. What about Lois? " 

** Lois is of age in six weeks," he replied. " On 
the day she is of age, I shall go to Rochester and de- 
mand her hand. He will refuse, of course. I shall marry 
her at once." 



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THE COURAGE OF DESPERATION a37 

** Why not now? *' Rachael asked. ** Why wait a day? 
The money will come later.** 

"I will tell you why/' Saton answered. ^^ Because I 
have ambitions, and because it would do them harm if 
people believed that I had exercised any sort of influ- 
ence to make that girl marry me against her guardian's 
wishes. I do use my influence as it is, although/' he 
added, frowning, **I find it harder every day. She 
walked with me in the Park this morning; she came to 
tea with me the day before." 

** What do you mean when you say that you find it 
harder? " Rachael asked. 

** I mean that I have lost some of my hold over her," 
he answered. " It is the sort of thing which is likely to 
happen at any time. She has very weak receptive cur- 
rents. It is like trying to drive water with a sieve." 

** You must not fail," she muttered. " I am nervous 
these days. I would rather you were married to Lois, 
and her money was in the bank, and that these places were 
closed. I start when the bell rings. Huntley himself said 
that you were rash." 

** Huntley is a fool," Saton answered. ** Let me help 
you upstairs, Rachael." 

He passed his arm around her affectionately, and 
kissed her when they parted for the night. Then he came 
down to his little room, and sat for a time at his desk, 
piled with books and works of reference. He brooded 
gloomily for several moments over what Rachael had 
been saying. A knock at the door made him start. It was 
only a servant, come to see to the fire, but his hand had 



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0S6 THE MOVING FINGER 

darted out toward a certain drawer of bis desk. When 
the servant had retired, he opened it for a minute and 
looked in. A small shining revcdver lay there, and a box 
of cartridges. 

"Your idea, my friend Rochester!" he mutta^ed to 
lumself. 



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CHAPTER XXX 

A SXI&FBISINa BBOUEST 

TIE Duchess of Ampthill was giving a great 
dinneir^arty at her house in Grosvenor Square. 
S3ie had found several new prodigies, and one 
of ihem was performing in a most satisfactory manner. 
He sat at her left hand, and though, unlike Saton, he had 
al fia:st heen shy, the continual encouragement of his 
hostess had eventually produced the desired result. His 
name was Chalmers, and he was the nephew of a bishop. 
Ha had taken a double first at Oxford, and now an- 
nounced hia intention of embracing literature as a pro- 
fession. He wore glasses, and he was still very young. 
^^ There is no doubt at all,'' he said, in answer to a re- 
mark from the Duchess, ^^ that London has reached just 
that stage, in. her development as a city of human beings, 
whick was so fatal to some of her predecessors in pre- 
eminence,, some of those ancient cities of which there ex- 
ists to-day only the name. The blood in her arteries is no 
longer robust. Already the signs of decay are plentiful." 
** I wonder," Rochester mquired, " what you consider 
your evidences are for such a statement. To a poor out- 
sider like myself, for instance, London seems to have all 
the outward signs of an amazingly prosperous — one 
might almost say a splendidly progressive city." 



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240 THE MOVING FINGER 

Chalmers smiled. It was a smile he had cultivated 
when contradicted at the Union, and he knew its weight. 

** From a similar point of view,'* he said, ** as yours, 
Mr. Rochester, Rome and Athens,. Ninev^, and those 
more ancient cities, presented the s€une appearance of 
prosperity. Yet if you ask for signs, there are surely 
many to be seen. I am anxious,'' he continued, gazing 
around him with an air of bland enjoyment, " to avoid 
anything in the nature of an epigram. There is nothing 
so unconvincing, so stultifying to one's statements, as 
to express them epigrammatically. People at once give 
you credit for an attempt at intellectual gymnastics 
which takes no regard to the truth. I will not, therefore, 
weary you with a diatribe upon the condition of that 
heterogeneous mass which is known to-day as Society. 
I will simply point out to you one of the portents which 
has inevitably heralded disaster. I mean the restless 
searching everywhere for new things and new emotions. 
Our friend opposite," he said, bowing to Saton, *' will 
forgive me if I instance the almost passionate interest in 
this new science which he is making brave efforts to give 
to the world. A lecture to-day from Mr. Bertrand Saton 
would fill any hall in London. And why? Simply be- 
cause the people know that he will speak to them of new 
things. Look at this man Father Cresswell. There is no 
building in this great city which would hold the crowds 
who flock to his meetings. And why? Simply because he 
has adopted a new tone — because in place of the old 
methods, he stands in his pulpit with a lash, and wields 
it like a Russian executioner." 



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A SURPRISING REQUEST 341 

Lady Mary interrupted him suddenly from her place 
a little way down the table. 

" Oh, I don't agree with you ! '* she said. " Indeed, I 
think you are wrong. The reason why people go to hear 
Father Cresswell is not because he has anything new to 
say, or any new way of saying iL The real reason is be- 
cause he has the gift of showing them the truth. You 
can be told things very often, and receive a great many 
warnings, but you take no notice. There is something 
wrong about the method of delivering them. It is not the 
lash which Father Cresswell uses, but it is his extraor- 
dinary gift of impressing one with the truth of what he 
says, that has had such an effect upon everyone." 

Rochester looked across at his wife curiously. It was 
almost the first time that he had ever heard her speak 
upon a serious subject. Now he came to think of it, he 
remembered that she had been spending much of her time 
lately listening to this wonderful enthusiast. Was he 
really great enough to have influenced so light a crea- 
ture, he wondered? Certainly there was something 
changed in her. He had noticed it during the last few 
days — an odd sort of nervousness, a greater kindness of 
speech, an unaccustomed gravity. Her remark set him 
thinking. 

Chalmers leaned forward and bowed to Lady Mary. 
Again the shadow of a tolerant smile rested upon his lips. 

" Very well. Lady Mary," he said, " I will accept the 

truth of what you say. Yet a few decades ago, who 

cared about religion, or hearing the truth? It is simply 

* because the men and women of Society have exhausted 



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043 THE MOVING FINGER 

every means of self-gratification, that in a sort of un- 
wholesome reaction they turn towards the things as far 
as possible removed from those with which they are sur- 
feited. But I will leave Father Cresswell alone. I will ask 
you whether it is not the bizarre, the grotesque in art, 
which to-day wins most favor. I will turn to the making 
of books — I avoid the term literature — and I will ask 
you whether it is not the extravagant, the impossible, the 
deformed, in style and matter, which is most eageriy read. 
The simplest things in life should convince one. The 
novelist's hero is no longer the fine, handsome young fel- 
low of twenty years ago. He is something between forty 
and fifty, if not deformed, at least decrepit witii dissipa- 
tions, and with the gift of fascination, whatever that may 
mean, in place of the simpler attributes of a few decades 
ago. And the heroine ! — There is no more book-muslin 
and innocence. She has, as a rule, green eyes ; she is mid- 
dle-aged, and if she has not been married before, she has 
had her affairs. Everything obvious in life, from poli- 
tics to mutton-chops, is absolutely barred by anyone with 
any pretensions to intellect to-day.'* 

**C)ne wonders,'' Rochester murmured, "how in the 
course of your long life, Mr. Chalmers, you have been 
able to see so far and truthfully into the heart of 
things ! " 

Chalmers bowed. 

" Mr. Rochester," he said, " it is the newcomw in life, 
as in many other things, who sees most of the game." 

The conversation drifted away. Rochester was re- 
minded of it only when driving home that night with his 



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A SURPRISING REQUEST 24^ 

wife. Again, sm they took their places in the electric 
brougham^ he was conscious of something changed^ not 
only in tiie woman herself^ but in her doneanor towards 
him. 

<^Do jou mind," he asked, soon after they started, 
** just dropping me at the club? It is scarcely out of 
your way, and I feel tiiak I need a whiskey and soda, and 
a game of billiards, to take the taste of that young man's 
talk out of my mouth. What a sickly brood of chickens 
the Duchess does encourage, to be sure ! " 

" I wonder if you'd mind not going to the club to- 
night, Henry? " Lady Mary asked quietly. 

He turned toward her in surprise. 

•* Why, certainly not,'* he answered. ^ Have we to go 
on anywhere? '* 

She shook her head. 

•* No ! '^ she said. " Only I fed I'd Uke to talk to you 
for a little time, if you don't mind. It's nothing very 
much,^ she continued, nervously twisting her handker* 
diief between her fingers.. 

^ I'll come home with pleasure,'^ Rochester intevrupted. 
^ Don't look so scared,** he added, patting the back of 
her hand gently. ** You know very well, if there is any 
little trouble, I shall be delighted to hdp you out«"^ 

She did not remove her hand, but she looked out of the 
window. What she wanted to say seaned harder than 
ever. And after all, was it worth while? It would mean 
giving up a very agreeable side to life. It would mean 
— Her Noughts suddenly changed their course. Once 
more she was sitting upon that very uncomfortable 



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244 THE MOVING FINGER 

bench in the great city hall. Once more she felt that curi- 
ous new sensation, some answering vibration in her heart 
to the wonderful, passionate words which were bringing 
tears to the eyes not only of the women, but of the men, 
by whom she was surrounded. No, it was not an art, this 
— a trick ! No acting was great enough to have touched 
the hearts of all this time and sin-hardened multitude. It 
was the truth — simply the truth. 

**It isn't exactly a little thing, Henry. Pll tell you 
about it when we get home.'* 

No, it was no little thing, Rochester thought to him- 
self, as he stood upon the hearthrug of her boudoir, and 
listened to the woman who sat on the end of the sofa a 
few feet away as she talked to him. Sometimes her eyes 
were raised to his — eyes whose color seemed more beau- 
tiful because of the tears in them. Sometimes her head 
was almost buried in her hands. But she talked all the 
time — an odd, disconnected sort of monologue, half 
confession, half appeal. There was little in it which 
seemed of any great moment, and yet to Rochester it was 
as though he were face to face with a tragedy* TIub 
woman was asking him much ! 

^^ I know so well," she said, *^ what a useless, frivolous^^ 
miserable sort of life mine has been, and I know so ^ell 
that I haven't made the least attempt, Henry, to be a 
good wife to you. That wasn't altogether my fault, was 
it?" she asked pleadingly. "Do tell me that." 

" It was not your fault at all," he answered gravely* 
" It was part of our arrangement." 



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A SURPRISING REQUEST 345 

** I am afraid/* she said, " that it was a very unholy, 
a very wicked arrangement, only you see I was badly 
brought up, and it seemed to me so natural, such an ex- 
cellent way of providing a good time for myself, to 
marry you, and to owe you nothing except one thing. 
Henry, you will believe this, I know. I have flirted very 
badly, and I have had many of those little love-affairs 
which every woman I know indulges in — silly little af- 
fairs just to pass away the time, and to make one believe 
that one is living. But I have never really cared for any- 
body, and these little follies, although I suppose they are 
such a waste of emotion and truthfulness and real feel- 
ing, haven't amounted to very much, Henry. You know 
what I mean. It is so difficult to say. But you believe 
that?'' 

" I believe it from my soul," he answered. 

" You see," she went on, ** it seemed to me all right, be- 
cause there was no one to point out how foolish and silly 
it was to play one's way through life as though it were a 
nursery, and we children, and to forget that we were 
grown-up, and that we were getting older with the years. 
You have been quite content without me, Henry?" she 
asked, looking up at him wistfully. 

" Yes, I have been content ! " he admitted, looking 
away from her, looking out of the room. ** I have been 
content, after a fashion." 

** Ours was such a marriage of convenience," she went 
on, " and you were so very plain-spoken about it, Henry. 
I feel somehow as though I were breaking a compact 
when I turn round and ask you whether it is not possible 



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246 THE MOVING FINGER 

that we might be, perhape, some day, a little more to (me 
another. You know why I am almost afraid to say this. 
It has not been with you as it has been witii me. I have 
always felt that she has been there — Pauline.'* 

She was tearing little bits from the lace of her hand- 
kerchief. Her eyes sought his fearfully. 

** Don't think, when I say that," she continued, " that 
I say it with any idea of blaming you. You told me that 
you loved Pauline when we were engaged, and of course 
she was married then, and one did not expect — it never 
seemed likely that she might be free. And now she is 
free," Lady Mary went on, with a little break in her 
voice, " and I am here, your wife, and I am afraid that 
you love her still so much that what I am saying to you 
must sound very, very unwelcome. Tell me, Henry. la 
that so?" 

Rochester was touched. It was impossible not to feel 
the sincerity of her woTds. He sank on one knee, and 
took her hands in hia. 

^^ Mary," he said, *^ this is all so surprising. I did not 
expect it. We have lived so long and gone our own ways, 
and you have seemed until just lately so utterly content, 
that I quite forgot that anywhere in this butterfly little 
body there might be such a thing as a soul. Will you 
give me time, dear? '* 

"All the time you ask for," she answered. **0h! I 
know that I am asking a great deal, but you see I am not 
a very strong person, and if I give up everything eke, I 
do want some<me to lean on just a little. You are very 
strong, Heary," she added, softly. 



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A SURPRISING REQUEST 247 

He took her face between his hands, and he kissed her, 

without passion, yet kindly, even tenderly. 

" My dear," he said, " I must think this thing out. 

At any rate, we might start by seeing a little more of one 

another? " 

** Yes ! " she answered shyly. ** I should like that." 
" I will drive you down to Randagh to-monrow," he 

said, ^^ alone, and we will have lunch there." 

** I shall love it," she answered. " Good night ! ^ 
She kissed him timidly, and flitted away into her room 

with a little backwaid glance and a wave of the hand. 

Rochester stood where she had left him, watching the 

place where she had disappeared, with the lode in his eyes 

of a man who sees a ghost. 



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CHAPTER XXXI 

BETWEEN LOVE AND DUTY 

ROCHESTER'S hansom set him down in Cado- 
gan Street just as a new and very handsome 
motor-car moved slowly away from the door. 
His face darkened as he recognised Baton leaning back 
inside^ and he ignored the other's somewhat exaggerated 
and half ironical greeting. 

" Lady Marrabel is * at home '? " he asked the butler, 
who knew him well. 

The man hesitated. 

** She will see you, no doubt, sir," he remarked. ** We 
had our orders that she was not * at home ' this after- 
noon." 

" The gentleman who has just left — ^" Rochester be- 
gan. 

" Mr. Saton," the butler interrupted. " He has been 
with Lady Marrabel for some time." 

Rochester found himself face to face with Pauline, but 
it was a somewhat grim smile with which he welcomed her. 

** Still fascinated, I see, by the new science, my dear 
Pauline," he said. **I met your professor outside. He 
has a fine new motor-car. I imagine that after all he has 
discovered the way to extract money from science." 

Pauline shrugged her shoulders. 



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BETWEEN LOVE AND DUTY 249 

** Those are matters which do not concern me,'* she said 
— " I might add, do not interest me. You are the only- 
man I know who disputes Mr. Baton's position, and you 
are wrong. He is wonderfully, marvelously gifted." 

Rochester bowed slightly. 

" Perhaps," he said, " I judge the man, and not his 
attainments." 

" You are very provincial," she declared. " But come, 
don't let us quarrel. You did not come here to talk about 
Mr. Saton." 

" No ! " Rochester answered. " I had something else 
to say to you." 

His tone excited her curiosity. She looked at him more 
closely, and realized that he had indeed come upon some 
mission. 

"Well," she said, "what has happened? Is it ^" 

She broke off in her sentence. Rochester stood quite 
still, as though passionately anxious to understand the 
meaning of that interrupted thought. 

" It is about Mary," he said. 

*' Yes? " Pauline whispered. " Go on. Go on, please." 

" It is something quite unexpected," Rochester said 
slowly — ^** something which I can assure you that her 
conduct has never at any time in any way suggested." 

" She wants to leave you? " Pauline asked, breath- 
lessly. 

" On the contrary," Rochester said, " she wants what I 
she has never asked for or expected — something, in 
fact, which was not in our marriage bond. She has been 
going to this man Father Cresswell's meetings. She is 



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950 THE MOVING FINGER 

talking about our duty, about making the best of one 
another." 

Pauline was amazed. Certainly no thought of this 
kind had ever entered into her head. 

** Do you mean," she said, " that Mary wants to give 
up her silly little flirtations, and turn serious? " 

"That is exactly what she says,'* Rochester an- 
swered. "I don't believe she has the least idea that 
what she proposes comes so near to tragedy." 

" What have you answered? " Pauline asked. 

" We have established a probationary period," he said. 
** We have agreed to see a little more of one another. I 
drove her down to Ranelagh yesterday afternoon, and we 
are going to dine tc^ether to-night. What am I to do» 
Pauline? I have come to ask you. We must decide it to- 
gether, you and I»" 

She leaned a little forward in her chair. Her hands 
were clasped together. Her eyes were fixed on vacancy. 

" It is a thunderbolt," she murmured. 

" It is amazing." 

" You must go back to her." 

Rochester drew a little breath between his teeth. 

** Do you know what this means? " he asked. 

" Yes, I know I " she answered. " And yet it is inevita- 
ble. What have you and I to look forward to? Some- 
times I think that it is weakness to see so much of one 
another." 

" I am afraid," Rochester said slowly, " that I would 
sooner have you for my dear friend, than be married 
to any woman who ever lived." 



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BETWEEN LOVE AND DUTY asx 

** I wonder," she said softly. ** I wonder. You your- 
self," she continued, " have always held that there is a 
certain vulgarity, a certain loss of fine feeling in the 
consummation of any attachment. The very barrier be- 
tween us makes our intercourse seem sweeter and more 
desirable." 

*' And yet," he declared, leaning a little toward her, 
" there are times when nature will be heard — when one 
realizes the great call/' 

" You are right," she answered softly. " That is the 
terrible part of it all. You and I may never listen to it. 
We have to close our ears, to beat our hands and hide, 
when the time comes." 

" And is it worth while, I wonder? " he asked. ** What 
do we gain ^ 

She held out her hand. 

** Don't, Henry," she said — •"•dont,. especially now. 
Be thankful, rather, that there has been nothing in our 
great friendship which need keep you from your duty." 

" You mean that? " he asked hoarsely. 

"You know that I mean it,*^ she answered. "You 
know that it must be." 

He rose to his feet and walked to the window. He re- 
mained there standing alone, for several minutes. When 
he came back, something had gone from his face. He 
moved heavily. He had the air of an older man. 

" Pauline," he said, " you send me away easily. Let me 
tell you one of the hard thoughts I have in my mind — 
one of the things that has tortured me. I have fancied 
— I may be wrong — but I have fancied that during 



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2S2 THE MOVING FINGER 

the last few months you have been slipping away from 
me. I have felt it, somehow. There has been nothing 
tangible, and yet I have felt it. Answer me, honestly. 
Is this true? Is what I have told you, after all, some- 
thmg of a relief? '' 

She answered him volubly, almost hysterically. Her 
manner was absolutely foreign. He listened to her prot- 
estations almost in bewilderment. 

" It is not true, Henry. You cannot mean what you 
are saying. I have always been the same. I am the same 
now. What could alter me? You don't belieye that any- 
thing could alter me? '* 

" Or any person? '* he asked. 

" Or any person,** she repeated, hastily. " Go through 
the list of our acquaintances, if you will. Have I ever 
shown any partiality for anyone? You cannot honestly 
believe that I have not been faithful to our tmwritten 
compact? •* 

" Sometimes,'* he said slowly, ** I have had a horrible 
fear. Pauline, I want you to be kind to me. This has 
been a blow. I cannot easily get over it. Let me tell you 
this. One of the reascms — the great reason — why I 
fear and dread this coming change, is because it may, 
leave you more susceptible to the in^^ence of that per- 
son.** 

" You mean Mr, Saton? ** she said. 

" I do,** Rochester answered. " Perhaps I ought not 
to have mentioned his name. Perhaps I ought not to 
have said anything about it. But there the whole thing 
is. If I thought that any part of your interest in the 



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BETWEEN LOVE AND DUTY 253 

man's scientific attainments had become diverted to the 
man himself, I should feel inclined to take him by the 
neck and throw him into the Serpentine.*' 

She said nothing. Her face had become very still, al- 
most expressionless. Rochester felt his heart turn cold. 

" Pauline," he said, " before I go you will have to tell 
me that what I fear could not come to pass. Perhaps you 
think that I insult you in suggesting it. This young 
man may be clever, but he is not of our world — yours 
and mine. He is a poseur with borrowed manners, •flam" 
hoyanty a quack medicine man of the market place. He 
isn't a gentleman, or anything like one. I am not really 
afraid, Pauline, and yet I need reassurance." 

**You have nothing to fear," she answered quietly. 
**I am sorry, Henry, but I cannot discuss Mr. Saton 
with you. Yet don't think I am blind. I know that there 
is truth in all you say. Sometimes little things about him 
set my very teeth on edge." 

Rochester drew a sigh of relief. 

** So long as you realize this," he said, " so long as 
you understand, I have no fear." 

Pauline looked away, with a queer little smile upon her 
lips. How little a man understood even the woman whom 
he cared for! 

** Henry," she said, " I can only do this. I can give 
you my hands, and I can wish you happiness. Go on 
with your experiment — I gather that for the moment it 
is only an experiment? " 

" That is all," he answered. 

*' When it is decided one way or the other," she con- 



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354 THE MOVING FINGER 

tinued, "you must come and tell me. Please go away 
now. I want to be alone." 

Rochester kissed her hands, and passed out into the 
street. He had a curious and depressing conviction that 
he was about to commence a new chapter of his life. 



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CHAPTER XXXn 

AT THE EDGE OF THE PEECIPICE 

NAUDHEIM'S disapproval was very marked 
and evident. He scoffed at the great bowl of 
pink roses which stood upon the writing-table. 
He pushed scornfully on one side the elegantly shaped 
inkstand, with its burden of pens ; the blotting-pad, with 
its silver edges; the piles of cream-laid foolscap. Most 
of all he looked with scornful disapprobation at his 
joung host. 

Saton was attired for his morning walk in the Park. 
During the last few weeks — or months, perhaps — a 
touch of foppishness had crept into his dress — a fond- 
ness for gray silk ties, a flower in his buttonhole, white 
linen gaiters drawn carefully over his patent boots. Cer- 
i»inly the contrast between this scrupulously dressed 
young man and Naudheim, bordered upon the absurd. 
[Naudheim was shabby, unbrushed, unkempt. His collar 
w^as frayed, he wore no tie. The seams of his long black 
i'rock-coat had been parted and inked over and parted 
^gain. He wore carpet slippers and untidy socks. There 
ivere stains upon his waistcoat. 

From underneath his shaggy gray eyebrows he shot a 
-contemptuous glance at his host. 

** My young friend," he said, ** you are growing too 
jfine. I cannot work here.'* 



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as6 THE MOVING FINGER 

" Nonsense ! " Saton answered, a little uneasily. " You 
can sweep all those things oiF the writing-table, if they 
seem too elaborate for you, and pitch the flowers out of 
the window if you like/' 

" Bah! *' Naudheim answered. " It is the atmosphere. 
I smell it everywhere. This is not the house for thoughts. 
This is not the house wherein one can build. My young 
friend, you have fallen away. You are like all the others. 
You listen to the tin music.'* 

" I think," Saton answered, " that the work which I 
have done should be my answer to you. We are not all 
made alike. If I find it easier to breathe in an atmos- 
phere such as this, then that is the atmosphere which I 
should choose. We do our best work amidst congenial sur- 
roundings. You in your den, and I in my library, can 
give of our best.'* ^ 

Naudheim shook his head. 

" You are a fool,** he said. " As for your work, it is 
clever, fatally clever. When I read what you sent me 
last month, and saw how clever it was, I knew that you 
were falling away. That is why I came. Now I have 
come, I understand. Listen! The secrets of science are 
won only by those who seek them, like children who in 
the time of trouble flee to their mother's arms. Never a 
mistress in the world's history has asked more from man 
than she has asked or has had more to give. She asks 
your life, your thoughts, your passions — every breath 
of your body must be a breath of desire for her and her 
alone. You think that you can strut about the world, a 
talking doll, pay court to women, listen to the voices 



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THE EDGE OF THE PRECIPICE 257 

that praise you, smirk your way through the days, and 
all the time climb. My young friend, no ! I tell you no 1 
Don't interrupt me. I am going to speak my say and 
go/' 

"Go?*' Satpn repeated. *' Impossible ! I am willing 
to work. I will work now. I simply thought that as the 
morning was so fine we might walk for a little time in the 
sunshine. But that is nothing." 

Naudheim shook his head. 

" Not one word do I speak of those things that are 
precious to me, in this house," he declared. " I tell you 
that its atmosphere would choke the life out of every 
thought that was ever* conceived. You may blind others, 
even yourself, young man," he went on, " but I know. 
You are a renegade. You would serve two mistresses. I 
am going." 

"You shall not," Saton declared. "This is absurd. 
Come," he added, trying to draw his arm through his 
visitor's, " we will go into another room if this one an- 
noys you." 

Naudheim stepped back. He thrust Saton away con- 
temptuously. He was the taller of the two by some 
inches, and his eyes flashed with scorn as he turned to- 
ward the door. 

*' I leave this house at once," he said. ** I was a fool 
to come, but I am not such a fool as you, Bertrand 
Saton. Don't write or come near me again until your 
sham house and your sham life are in ruins, and you 
yourself in the wilderness. I may take you to my heart 
again then. I cannot tell. But to-day I loathe you. You 



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258 THE MOVING FINGER 

are a creature of no account — a foolish, dazzled moth* 
Don't dare to ring your bells. I need no flunkeys to shov 
me the way to the door/' 

Naudheim strode out, as a prophet of sterner day» 
might have cast the dust of a pagan dancing hall from 
his feet. Saton for a moment was staggered. His com- 
posure left him. He walked aimlessly up and down the 
room, swinging his gloves in his hand, and muttering ta 
himself. 

Then Rachael came in. She walked with the help of 
two sticks. She seemed gaunter and thinner than ever,, 
yet her eyes had lost little of their fire, although they 
seemed set deeper in the caverns of her face. 

"Naudheim has gone,** she said. "What is wrong,. 
Bertrand? " 

" Naudheim is impossible,'* Saton answered. " He 
came in here to work this morning, looked around the 
room, and began to storm. He objected to the flowers, to 
the writing-table, to me. He has shaken the dust of us 
off his feet, and gone back to his wretched cabin in 
Switzerland.'' 

She leaned on her sticks and looked at him. 

" On the face of the earth," she said, " there does not 
breathe a fool like you." 

Saton's expression hardened. 

" You, too ! " he exclaimed. " Well, go on." 

" Can't you understand," the woman exclaimed, her 
voice shaking, " that we are on the verge of a precipice? 
Do you read the papers? There were questions asked 
last night in the House about what they called these f or- 



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THE EDGE OF THE PRECIPICE 259 

ttme-telling establisfamenta. Yet everything goes on with- 
out a change — by your orders, I am told. Oh, you fool I 
Huntley knows that he is being spied upon. In Bond 
Street, yesterday alone, three detectives called at differ- 
ent times. The thing can't go on. The money that we 
should save ready to escape at the aid, you spend, living 
Kke this. And the girl Lois — you are letting her slip 
out of your fingers." 

" My dear Rachael," he answered, ** in the first place, 
there is not a thread of evidence to connect you or me 
with any one of these places, or with Huntley's office. 
In the second place, I am not letting Lois slip out of my 
fingers. She will be of age in three weeks' time, and on 
her birthday I am going to take her away from Roches- 
ter, whatever means I have to use, and I am going to 
marry her at once. You think that I am reckless. Well, 
one must live. Remember that I am young and you are 
old. I have no place in the world except the place I make 
for myself. I cannot live in a p^-sty amongst the snows 
like Naudheim. I cannot find the whole elixir of life in 
thoughts and solitude as he does. There are other things 
— other things for men of my agfc" 

^ You sail too near tiie wind. You are reckless*'* 

** Perhaps I am," he answered. •^Life in ten years' 
time may very well become & stranger place to those who 
are alive and who have been taught the truth. But life, 
even as we know it to-day, is strange enough. Rachael, 
have you ever loved anyone? " 

The woman seemed to become nerveless. She sank into 
a chair. 



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ate THE MOVING FINGER 

^ Of the part I do not speak," she said — ^^ I choose 
never to speak." 

He took up his hat. 

"No!" he remarked. "One sees easily enough that 
there are things in jour past, RachaeL Sometimes the 
memory may bum. You see, I am living through those 
days now. The fire has hold of me, and not all the knowl- 
edge I have won, not all the dim coming secrets, from 
before the face of which some day I will tear aside the 
veil, not all the experiences through which I and I alone 
have passed, can help me to-day. So perhaps," he added, 
turning toward the door, " I am a little reckless." 

Rachael let him depart without uttering a word. She 
turned in her chair to watch him cross the square. He 
was drawing on his light kid gloves. His silk hat was a 
mirror of elegance. His gold-headed rtick was thrust at 
exactly the right angle under his arm. He swaggered a 
little — a new accomplishment, and he had the air of one 
who is well aware that he graces the groiind he treads 
upon. 

The woman looked away from him, and with a slow, 
painful movement her head drooped a little until it 
reached her hands. A slight shiver seemed to pass 
through her body. Then she was still, very still indeed. 
It seemed to her that she could see the end ! 



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CHAPTER XXXin 

" YOU DO NOT BELIEVE IN ME ! " 

SATON deliberately turned into the Park, and saun- 
tered along under the trees in the wake of a 
throng of fashionable promenaders. He ex- 
changed greetings with many acquaintances, and here 
and there he stopped to say a few words. He noted, as 
usual, and with a recurrence of his constant discontent, 
the extraordinary difference in the demeanor of the 
women and the men of his acquaintance. The former, 
gracious and smiling, accepted him without reservation. 
Their murmured words and smiles were even more than 
gracious. On the other hand, there was scarcely a man 
whose manner did not denote a certain tolerance, not un- 
mixed with contempt, as though, indeed, they were will- 
ing to accept the fact that he was of their acquaintance, 
but desired at the same time to emphasize the fact that 
he was outside the freemasonry of their class — a freak, 
whom they acknowledged on sufferance, as they might 
have done a wonderful lion-tamer, or a music-hall singer, 
or a steeplejack. He knew very well that there was not 
one of them who accepted his qualifications, notwith- 
standing the approval of their womankind, and the 
knowledge stung him bitterly. 

Presently he came face to face with Lois, walking with 



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96a THE MOVING FINGER 

Vandermere. His face darkened for a moment. He had 
expressed his desire that she should see as little of this 
young man as possible, and here they were, not only 
walking together, but laughing and talking with all the 
easy naturalness of old acquaintanceship. 

Saton drew a little breath of anger through his teeth 
as he paused and waited for them. He recognised the 
terms of intimacy upon which they were. He recognised 
that between them there was something which had never 
existed between Lois and himself, something which made 
their friendship a natural and significant thing. It was 
the freemasonry of class again, the magic ring against 
which he had torn his fingers in vain. 

They saw him. The whole expression of the girPs face 
changed. All the animation seamed to leave her mann^. 
For a moment she clung instinctively to h^ companion. 
Afterwards she looked at him no more. She came to 
Saton at once, and held out her hand without any show 
of reluctance, yet wholly without spontaneity. It was 
as though she was obeying orders from a superior. 

•*Only this morning,*' he said, "the Comtesse was 
speaking of you, Lois. She was so sorry that you had 
not been to see her latdy.'* 

^^ I will come this afternoon," Lois said quietly. 

Vandermere, who had frowned heavily at the sound of 
her Christian name upon Saton's lips, could scarcely con- 
ceal his anger at her promise. 

** I have never had the pleasure," he said, *' of meeting 
the Comtesse. Perhaps I might be permitted to accom- 
pany Miss Oiampneyes? " 



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•*YOU DO NOT BELIEVE IN ME I*' a6a 

** You are very kind,*' Saton answered. ** I am sorry, 
but the Comtesse is beginning to feel her age, and she 
receives scarcely anyone* I am afraid that the days are 
past when she would care to make new acquaintances.'^ 

'* In any case,'* Vandermere said, turning to his com- 
panion, " weren't we going to Hurlingfaam this after- 
noon? " 

" We were," she said doubtf uHy , ^^ but I think '' 

She looked towards Saton, His face was inexpressive, 
but she seemed to read there something which prompted 
her words. 

^ I think that we must put off Hurlingfaam, if you 
do not mind," she said to Vandermere. ^^ I ought to go 
and see the Comtesse." 

" It is very kind of you," Saton said slowly. ** She 
will, I am sure, be glad to see you." 

Vandermere turned aside for a moment to exchange 
greetings with some acquaintances. 

" Lois," Saton sctid in a low tone, ** you know I have 
told you that I do not like to see you so much with Cap- 
tain Vandermere." 

'* I cannot help it," she answered. ** He is always at 
the house. He is a great friend of Mr. Rochester's. Be- 
sides," she added, raising her eyes to his, " I like being 
with him." 

" You must consider also my likes and dislikes," Saton 
said. " Think how hard it is for me to see you so very 
little." 

" Oh, you don't care ! " Lois exclaimed tremulously. 
" You know very well that you don't care. It is all pre- 



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a64 THE MOVING FINGER 

tence, thia. Why do you do it? Why do you make me so 
unhappy?'* 

" No, Lois,'* he answered, ** it is not pretence. I do 
care for you, and in a very few weeks I am coming to 
fetch you away to make you my wife. You will be glad, 
then,'* he went on. ** You will be quite happy." 

Vandermere turned back towards them. He had heard 
nothing of their conversation, but he saw that Lois was 
white, and he had hard work to speak calmly. 

** Come,'* he said to Lois, '* I think we had better go 
on. Good morning, Mr. Saton ! *' 

Saton stood aside to let them pass. He knew very well 
that Lois would have stayed with him, had he bidden it, 
but he made no attempt to induce her to do so. 

" Till this afternoon,'* he said, taking off his hat with 
a little flourish. 

" Hang that fellow ! " Vandermere muttered, as he 
looked at Lois, and saw the change in her. "Why do 
you let him talk to you, dear? You don't like him. I am 
sure that you do not. Why do you allow him to worry 
you?" 

" I think," Lois answered, ** that I do like him. Oh, 
I must like him, Maurice ! " 

" Yes? " he answered. 

" Don't let us talk about him. He has gone away now. 
Come with me to the other end of the Park. Let us 
hurry. . • ." 

Saton walked on until he saw a certain mauve parasol 
raised a little over one of the seats. A moment after- 
wards, hat in hand, he was standing before Pauline. 



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**YOU DO NOT BELIEVE IN ME I'' 265 

" Has he come? " she asked, as he bent over her 
fingers. 

Saton's face clouded. 

" Yes ! '* he answered. " He came last night. To tell 
you the truth, he has just gone away in a temper. I do 
not know whether he will return to the house or not." 

" Why? " she asked quickly. 

Saton laughed to cover his annoyance. 

" He does not approve of the luxury of my surround- 
ings," he answered. " He declined to write at my desk, 
or to sit in my room." 

" I don't wonder at it," she answered. " You know 
how he worships simplicity." 

" Simplicity ! " Saton exclaimed. " You should see the 
place where he writes himself. There is no carpet upon 
the floor, a block of wood for a writing-table, a penny 
bottle of ink, and a gnawed and bitten penholder only an 
inch or two long." 

Pauline nodded. 

" I can understand it," she said. " I can understand, 
too, how your rooms would affect him. You should have 
thought of that. If he has gone away altogether, how 
will you be able to finish your work? " 

" I must do without him," Saton answered. 

Pauline looked at him critically, dispassionately. 

" I do not believe that you can do without him," she 
said. "You are losing your hold upon your work. I 
have noticed it for weeks. Don't you think that you are 
frittering away a great deal of your time and thoughts? 
Don't you think that the very small things of life, things 



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•66 THE MOVING FINGER 

tliat are not worth countuig, have absorbed a good deal 
of your attention lately? *' 

He was annoyed, and yet flattered that she should 
speak to him so intimately. 

"It may be so," he admitted "And yet, do you 
know why I have chosen to mix a little more with my 
fellows?'' 

" No ! '* she answered* " I do not know why.'* 

" It is because I must," he saidj lowering lus tone. 
" It is because I must see something of you." 

The lace of her parasol drooped a little. Her face was 
hidden now, and her voice seemed to come from a long 
way off. 

" That is very foolish," she said. " In the first place, 
if my opinion of you is worth anything, I tell you 
frankly that I would rather see yott with ink>stained fin- 
gers and worn clothes, climbing your way up towcu'd the 
truth, working and thinking in an atmosphere which was 
not befouled with all the small and petty things of life. 
It seems to me that since it amused you to play the young 
man of fashion, you have lost your touch — some por- 
tion of it, at any rate — upon the greater things." 

Saton was very angry now. He W€is only indifferently 
successful in his attempt to conceal the fact. 

" You, too," he muttered. " Well, we shall see. Naud- 
heim has brains, and he has worked for many years. He 
had woik^d, indeed, for many years when the glimmer- 
ings of this thing first came to me. He could help me if 
he would, but if he will not, I can do it alone." 

" I wonder." 



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€t 



YOU DO NOT BELIEVE IN ME I** 267 

" You do not believe in me,'* he declared* 

" No/' she answered, ** I do not believe in you — not 
altogether!" 

Rochester and his wife drove down the Park. Saton 
followed her eyes, noticing her slight start, and gazed 
after them with brooding face. 

"Rochester is becoming quite a devoted husband," 
he remarked, with a sneer. 

" Quite," she answered. ** They spend most of their 
time together now." 

*' And Lady Mary, I understand," he went on, " has 
reformed. Yesterday she was opening the new wing of 
a hospital, and the day before she was speaking at a 
Girls' Friendly Society meeting. It's an odd little place, 
the world, or rather this one particular comer of it." 

She rose, with a little shrug of the shoulders, and held 
out her hand. 

" I must go," she said. " I am lunching early." 

" May I walk a little way with you? " he begged. 

She hesitated. After all, perhaps, it was a -phase of 
snobbery to dislike being seen with him — something of 
that same feeling which she had never failed to remark 
in him. 

" If you please," she answered. *^ I am going to take 
a taximeter at the Park gates." 

" I will walk with you as far as there," he said. 

He tried to talk to her on ordinary topicS: but he 
felt at once a disadvantage. He knew so little of the peo- 
ple, the little round of life in which she lived. Before 
they reached the gates they had relapsed into silence. 



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268 THE MOVING FINGER 

" It 18 foolish of me/' he said, as he called a taximeter, 
'* to come here simply in the hope of seeing you, to beg 
for a few words, and to go away more miserable than 
ever.'* 

She shrugged her shoulders. 

" It is certainly very foolish,*' she admitted. 

" I don't see why," he protested, " you should disap- 
prove of me so utterly .'^ 

" I do not disapprove,'* she told him, ** I have not the 
right. I have not the desire to have the right. Only, 
since you will have me tell you, I am interested in your 
work. I like to talk about it, to hear you talk when you 
are enthusiastic. It does not amuse me to see you come 
down to the level of these others, who while their morn- 
ing away doing nothing. You are not at home amongst 
them. You have no place there. When you come to me 
as a young man in Society, you bore me." 

She stepped into the taximeter and drove away, with 
a farewell nod, abrupt although not altogether unkindly. 
Yet as she looked behind, a few seconds later, her face 
was very much softer — her eyes were almost regretful. 

" It may hurt him," she said to herself, " but it is very 
good that he should hear the truth." 



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CHAPTER XXXIV 



THE man was harmless enough, to all appear- 
ance — something less than middle-aged, pale, 
and with stubbly brown moustache. He was 
dressed in blue serge clothes, and a bowler hat a little 
ancient at the brim. Neither his appearance nor his man- 
ner was remarkable for any particular intelligence. Yet 
the girl who looked him over was at once suspicious. 

" What can I do for you? '* she asked a little curtly. 

He pointed to the crystal upon the table, and held out 
his hand. 

" I want my fortune told,*' he said. 

Violet shook her head. 

** I do not attempt to read fortunes,*' she said, ** and 
I do not, in any case, see gentlemen here at alL I do not 
understand how the boy could have shown you up.*' 

" It wasn't the boy's fault," the visitor answered. " I 
was very keen on coming, and I gave him the slip. Do 
make an exception for once, won't you?" he went on. 
^* I know my hand is very easy to read. I had it read 
once, and nearly everything came true." 

Again she shook her head. 

** I cannot do anything for you, sir," she said. 

The man protested. 



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270 fTHE MOVING FINGER 

"But you call yourself a professional palmist,'* he 
said, " and you add crystal gazing to your announce- 
ment. I have seeu it being carried along on Regent 
Street.'' 

" It is quite true," Violet said, " that I sometimes try 
to amuse ladies, but I make no serious attempt to tell 
fortunes. And as I said before, I do not even receive 
gentlemen here at cdL I am sorry that you have had 
your visit for nothing.'* 

He rose to his feet with a shrug of the shoulders. 
There was nothing to be done but to accept defeat. And 
then, at the moment of defeat, something happened 
which more than reconciled him to his wasted visit. The 
door was opened abruptly, and Saton entered. 

He realized the situation, or its possibilities, in an in> 
stant. His bow to Violet was the bow of a stranger. 

" You are engaged," he said. " I will come again. I 
am sorry that your boy did not tell me." 

"This gentleman came under a misapprehension," 
Violet answered. " I am sorry, but the same thing ap- 
plies to you. I do not receive gentlemen here." 

Saton bowed. 

" I am sorry," he said. 

The page-boy for whom Violet had rung, opened the 
door. The first comer passed out, with obvious reluctance. 
The moment that the door was closed, Violet turned to- 
wards Saton with a little exclamation. 

"Well," she said, "of all the idiots I ever knew. 
Haven't I told you time after time that this place is in- 
fested with detectives? We get them here every day or 



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A WOMAN'S TONGUE ayi 

wo, trying td trap us, women hs well as mea^ And yet 
you walk in as though the place belonged to you. The 
one thing they are so anxious to find out is who is run- 
ning this show.'' 

" I was a fool to come, Violet," Saton admitted, " and 
I am going at once. You think, the&, that he was a de- 
tective? •' 

" I am sure of it," ihe answered. " I was sure of it, 
from the moment he came in." 

" I will go," Saton said. 

*' Did you come to see me? " she asked, with a mo- 
mentary softening in her tone. 

Saton nodded. 

" It must be another time," he said. ** I will not stop 
now, or that man below will susped^" 

**Whcn will our next evening b^ Bertrand?" she 
begged, following him to the door. 

** I'll send you a telegram/' he answered * — *^ perhaps, 
to-morrow." 

Saton descen^d the stairs quickly. On the threshold 
of the door he paused, with the apparent object of light- 
ing a cigarette. His eyes travelled up and down the 
street. Looking into a shop-window a few yards away, 
was the man whom he had found with Violets 

He strolled slowly along the pav^nent and accosted 
him. 

" I beg your pardon," he daid* " Please don't think 
me impertinent, but I am really curious to know whether 
that young woman was honest or not. She refused to 
read my hand or look into the crystal for me> simply be- 



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aya THE MOVING FINGER 

cause I was a man. Did she treat you in just the same 
way?" 

The detective smiled. 

" Yes ! " he said. " She was very much on her guard 
indeed. Declined to have anything to do with me." 

" Well," said Saton, " I only went in for a joke. I'll 
try one of the others. There's a wonderful lady in Ox- 
ford Street somewhere, they tell me, with the biggest 
black eyes in London. Good day, sir! " 

Saton walked off, and entered a neighboring tea- 
shop. From there he telephoned to Violet, who a few 
minutes later appeared. 

" Sit down and have some tea," he said. " I want to 
talk to you." 

" It's almost time, isn't it? " she asked, reproachfully. . 

" Never mind about that just now," he said. " You 
can guess a little how things are. Those questions in the 
House upset the Home Secretary, and I am quite con- 
vinced that they have made up their minds at Scotland 
Yard to go for us. You are sure that you have been 
careful?" 

"Absolutely," she answered. "I have not once, to 
man or woman, pretended to tell their fortune. I tell 
them that the whole thing is a joke ; that I will look into 
the crystal for them if they wish it, or read their hands, 
but I do not profess to tell their fortunes. What I see I 
will tell them. It may interest them or it may not. If it 
does, I ask them to give me something as a present. Of 
course, I see that they always do that. But you are quite 
right, Bertrand. Every one of our shows is bein^f 



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A WOMAN'S TONGUE 273 

watched. Besides that fellow this afternoon I had two 
detectives yesterday, and a woman whom I am doubtful 
about, who keeps on coming.'* 

" Three weeks longer," Saton remarked, half to him- 
self. " Perhaps it isn't worth while. Perhaps it would 
be better to close up now.'* 

'* Only three weeks? " Violet asked eagerly, '* Ber- 
trand, what are you going to do then.'^ What is going to 
become of me?" 

Saton patted her on the hand. 

" I will tell you a little later on," he said. " Every- 
thing will be arranged all right. The only thing I am 
wondering about is whether it wouldn't be better to close 
up at once," 

" They've got a big piece of business on at the office," 
she remarked, 

Saton frowned. 

" I know it," he answered. " It's a dangerous piece of 
business, too. It's blackmail, pure and simple. I wonder 
Huntley dare tackle it. It might mean five years' penal 
servitude for him." 

" He'd give you away before he went to penal servi- 
tude," Violet remarked, " You may make yourself jolly 
sure of that." 

Saton passed his hand across his forehead. 

" Phew ! " he said. " How stuffy this place is ! Violet, 
I wish you'd go round to Huntley, and talk to him. Of 
course, he gets a big percentage on the returns, and that 
makes him anxious to squeeze everyone. But I don't want 
any risks. We're nearly out of the wood. I don't want to 



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974 THE MOVING FINGER 

be trapped now. And I've an enemy, Violet — a pretty 
dangerous enemy, too. I fancy that most of this activity 
at Scotland Yard and thereabouts lately, is due to him.** 

** I'll go,'* she said, drawing on her gloves. " Shall I 
telephone to you? *' 

He nodded. 

" Telephone me at home,'* he said. " Tell Dorrington, 
or Huntley -—T whichever you see — that the affair must 
be closed up — either dropped or settled. The risk is too 
great. *My other work is becoming more and more im- 
portant every day. I ought not to be mixed up with this 
sort of thing at all, Violet/' 

"Why are you?*' she asked. 

** Money,'* he answered. " One must have money. One 
can do nothing without money. It isn't that you or any 
of the other places make such an amazing lot. It's from 
Dorrington, of course, that the biggest draws come. 
Still, on the whole it's a good income." 

" And you're going to give it all up? " she remarked. 

He nodded. 

" I daren't go on," he said. " We've reached about 
the limit." 

" How are you going to live, then? " she asked curi- 
ously. " You're not the sort of man to go back to 
poverty." 

Saton considered for a moment. After all, perhaps it 
would pay him best to be straightforward with this girl. 
He would tell her the truth. If she were disagreeable 
about it, he could always swear that he had been joking. 

" Violet," he said, " I will tell you what I am going to 



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A WOMAN'S TONGUE ajs 

do. It does not sound very praiseworthy, but you must 
remember that my work, my real hard work, means a 
great deal to me, and for its sake I am willing to put up 
with a good deal of misunderstanding. I am going to 
ask you to break off our engagement. I am going to 
marry a young lady who has a great deal of money.*' 

Violet sat perfectly still in her chair. For several 
SQponds she did not utter a syllable. Her lips were a little 
parted. The color seemed suddenly drawn from her 
face, and her eyes narrowed. One realized then the per- 
nicious effect of cosmetics. Her blackened eyebrows were 
painfully apparent. The little patch of rouge was easily 
discernible against the pallor of her powdered skin. She 
was suddenly ugly. Saton, looking at her, was amazed 
that he could ever have brought himself to touch her 
lips. 

"Ah!»' she remarked. "I hadn't thought of that. 
You want to marry some one else, eh? " 

Saton nodded. 

" It isn't that I want to," he declared, ** only, as you 
know, I must have money. I can't marry you without it, 
can I, Violet? We should only be miserable. You under- 
stand that?" 

" Yes, I understand ! " she answered. 

She was turning one of her rings round, looking down 
at her hands with downcast head. 

** You're upset, Violet," he said, soothingly. " I'm 
sorry. You see I can't help myself, don't you? " 

"Oh, I suppose so!" she answered. "Who is the 
young lady? " 



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376 THE MOVING FINGER 

^ A Miss Lois CSiampneyes," Saton said. ^^ She is a 
ward of a Mr. Henry Rochester, who has been my enemy 
all along. It is he, I believe, who has stirred up these 
detectives to keep watching us." 

** Henry Rochester,*' she repeated. ** Yes, I remember 
the name! He lives at the great house near Blackbird's 
Nest.'' 

Saton nodded. 

" He showed you the way to my cottage once there," 
he reminded her. " Well, I'm glad I've told you, Violet. 
I hope you understand exactly how much it means. It's 
Rachael's doings, of course, and I daren't go against 
her." 

** No, I suppose not ! " she answered. 

They parted in the street. Saton called a taximeter 
and drove off. Violet walked slowly down Bond Street. 
As she passed the comer of Piccadilly, she was suddenly 
aware that the man who had visited her that afternoon 
was watching her from the other side of the street. She 
hesitated for a moment, and then, standing still, de- 
liberately beckoned him over. 

" You are a detective, are you not? " she asked, as he 
approached, hat in hand. 

He smiled. 

" You are a very clever young lady," he remarked. 

" I don't want any compliments," she answered. ** Did 
you come to my show this afternoon hoping just to 
catch me tripping, or are you engaged in a larger quest 
altogether? " 

" In a larger quest," he answered. " I want some in- 



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A WOMAN'S TONGUE 277 

f ormation, and if you can give it me, I can promise that 
you will be remarkably well paid.'* 

** And the information? '* she asked. 

** I want/' he said slowly, " to be able to connect the 
young man who came in and pretended to be a stranger, 
and who has just been having tea with you — I mean 
Mr. Bertrand Saton — I want to connect him with your 
establishment, and also with a little office where some 
very strange business has been transacted during the last 
few months. You know where I mean. What do you say ? 
Shall we have a talk? ** 

She walked by his side along Piccadilly. 

" We may as well,'* she said. " We'll go into the Caf 6 
Royal and sit down.'* 



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L 



CHAPTER XXXV 



^C^ OIS is late this morning/' Vandennere re- 
marked, looking up at the clock. 

' And on her birthday, too ! '* Lady Mary 
declared. "Young people, nowadays, are so blasS. 
Look at all those presents on the table for her, and here 
the breakfast gong has rung twice, and there is no sign 
of her." 

Vandennere turned to his host. 

**You haven't heard anything about that fellow 
Saton?'' he asked. "You don't know whether he is in 
the neighborhood or not? '' 

" I have not heard," Rochester answered. " To tell 
you the truth, if he has as much sense as I believe he 
has, he is probably on his way to the Continent by now." 

" I have an idea, somehow," Vandennere continued, 
" that Lois is afraid he'll turn up to-day." 

" If Lois is afraid," Rochester remarked, " let me tell 
you in confidence, Vandermere, that I don't think you 
need be." 

** My dear girl ! " Lady Mary exclaimed, looking to- 
ward the staircase. " We were just going in to break- 
fast without you, and on your birthday, too ! " 

Lois came slowly down the broad stairs into the hall. 



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ON LOIS' BIRTHDAY 279 

It was impossible to ignore the fact that she was pale, 
and that she walked as one in fear. Her eyes were sunken, 
cmd spoke of a sleepless night. Her manner was almost 
furtive. She scarcely glanced, even, at the little pile of 
packages which stood upon the table. 

" How nice of you all to wait ! *' she said. " Good 
morning, everybody ! '' 

" Grood morning, €uid many happy returns to you ! *' 
Lady Mary called out " Will you look at your pres- 
ents now or after breakfast? '* 

" I think after breakfast,'* she said. ** Are there €uiy 
letters? " 

** They are on the table,'* Rochester said. 

She glanced them through eagerly. When she had 
come to the last one, she drew a little breath of relief. 
A tinge of color came into her cheeks. 

** You dear people ! '* she exclaimed, impulsively. ** I 
know I am going to have ever such nice things to thank 
you for. May I be a child, and put off looking at them 
until after breakfast? Do you mind, all of you? '* 

** Of course not,'' Vandermere answered. ** We want 
you to tell us how you would like to spend the day." 

** I would like to ride — a long way away," she de- 
clared, breathlessly. " Or the motor-car — I shouldn't 
mind that. I should like to go as far away as ever we 
can, and stay away until it is dark. Could we start di- 
rectly after breakfast? " 

Rochester smiled. 

" You can have the car so far as I am concerned," he 
said. " I have to go over to Melton to sit on the Bench, 



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aSo THE MOVING FINGER 

and jour aunt and I are lunching with the Delameres 
afterwards. But if you can put up with Vandermere as 
an escort!** 

"Fll try,** she answered. "Dear Maurice, do order 
the car for half-an-hour's time, will you? ** 

He laughed 

** Why this wild rush? ** he inquired. 

•* I don't know,** she answered. ** It is just a feding, 
perhaps. I want to get away, a long way off, very 
soon. I can*t explain. Don't ask me to explain, any of 
you. You are sure those are all the letters? ** 

"Certain,** Rochester answered. "And, Lois,** he 
added, looking up, " remember this. You speak and look 
this morning like one who has fears. I repeat it, you 
have absolutely nothing to fear. I am your guardian 
still, although you are of age, and I promise you that 
nothing harmful, nothing threatening, shall come near 
you.** 

She drew a little sigh. She did not make him any an- 
swer at all, and yet in a sense it was clear that his words 
had brought her some comfort. 

" Don't expect us back till dinner-time,*' she declared. 
^^ I am going to sit behind with Afaurice and be bored 
to death, but I am going to be out of doors till it is 
dark. I wish you did not bore me so, Maurice,** she 
added, smiling up at him. 

" I won't to-day, anyhow,** he answered, " because if 
I talk at all I am going to talk about yourself." 

As the day wore on, Lois seemed to lose the depression 
which had come over her during the early morning. By 



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ON LOIS* BIRTHDAY 281 

luncheon she was laughing and chattering, talking over 
her presents. Soon, when thej, were speeding on the road 
again, she felt her hand suddenly held, 

^^ Lois," her companion said, ^^ this is your birthday, 
and you are a free woman, free to give yourself to whom 
you will. It should be the happiest day of your life. 
Won't you make it the happiest day of mine? '* 

" Oh, if only I could ! ** she answered, with a sudden 
return of her old nervousness. ** Maurice, if only I 
dared r» 

He laughed scornfully. 

*^ Dear Lois,'' he said, ^^ you are impressionable, and 
you have let yourself become the victim of some very 
foolish fancies. You are a free agent. I tell you this 
now, cmd I tell you the truth. You are a free agent, free 
to give your love where you will, free to give yourself 
to whom you choose. And I come to you first on your 
birthday, Lois. You know that I love you. Give yourself 
to me, little girl, and never anything harmful shall come 
neap you. I swear it, on my honor, Lois." 

She drew a little sigh of content, and her arm stole 
shyly up to his shoulder. In a moment she was in his 
arms. 

" Don't be angry with me, Maurice," she sobbed, " if 
I am a little strange just at first. I am afraid — I can't 
tell you what of — but I am afraid." 

He talked to her reassuringly, holding her hands — 
most of the time, in fact, for the country was a sparsely 
populated one, with his arm around her waist. And 
then suddenly she seemed to lose her new-found content. 



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282 THE MOVING FINGER 

Her cheeks were suddenly white. She looked everjrwhere 
restlessly about. 

" What is the matter, dear? *' he asked anxiously. 

*^ I thought that I heard something ! " she exclaimed. 
"What 18 the time? ^ 

" Four o'clock,'' he answered, looking at his watch. 

*^ Please tell the man to go back, straight back home," 
she said. " I am tired. I must get back. Please, Maurice ! " 

He gave the chauffeur instructions through the speak- 
ing-tube. The car swung round, and they sped on their 
way through the quiet lanes. 

" Dear Lois," he said, " something has come over you. 
Your hands are cold, and you have drawn yourself away. 
Now please be honest and tell me all about it. If you 
have fears, all I can say is that you may dismiss them. 
You are safe now that you have given yourself to 
me, as safe as anyone in the world could be." 

" Oh ! If I could believe it ! " she whispered, but she 
did not turn her head. Her eyes sought his no longer. 
They were fixed steadfastly on the road in front. 

" You must believe it," he declared, laughing. ** I can 
assure you that I am strong enough to hold you, now 
that I have the right. If any troubles or worries come, 
they are mine to deal with ! See, we will not mince words. 
If that little reptile dares to crawl near you, I'll set my 
foot upon his neck. By God, I will ! " 

She took no notice of his speech, except to slowly 
shake her head. It seemed as though she had not heard 
him. By-and-by he left off talking. There was nothing 
he could say to bring back the color to her 



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ON LOIS' BIRTHDAY 283 

dieeks, or the light to her eyes, or the confidence to her 
tone. Something had happened — he could not tell what 
— but for the moment she was gone from him. The little 
hands which his still clasped were as cold as ice. It 
seemed to him that they, were unwilling prisoners. Once, 
when he would have passed his arm around her waist, 
she even shuddered and drew away. 

The car rushed on its way, turned into the great 
avenue, and drew up in front of Beauleys. Lois stepped 
out quickly, and went on ahead. In the hall several peo- 
ple were standing, €uid amongst them Bertrand Saton! 

Vandermere's face was dark as a thundercloud when 
his eyes fell upon the young man — carefully, almost 
foppishly dressed, standing upon the hearthrug in front 
of the open fire. Rochester was there with Pauline, and 
Lady Mary was seated behind the tea-tray. There was 
a little chorus as the two entered. Lois went straight to 
Saton, who held out his hands. 

" Dear Lois,'* he said softly, " I could not keep awaj 
to-day. I have been waiting for you, waiting for nearly 
an hour.'' 

^^ I know," she answered. ^^ I came as soon as I knew.'^ 



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CHAPTER XXXVI 

THE CHABLATAK UNMASKED 

TIERE seemed for the next few minutes to be a 
somewhat singular abstention from any desire 
to interfere with the two people who stood in 
the centre of the little group, hand-in-hand Saton, af t^ 
his iSrst speech, and after Lois had given him her hands, 
had turned a little defiantly toward Rochester, #ho re- 
mained, however, unmoved; his elbow resting upon the 
broad mantelpiece, his face almost expressionless. Van- 
dermere, too, stood on one side and held his peace, though 
the effort with which he did so was a visible one. Lady 
Mary looked anxiously towards them. Pauline had 
shrunk back, as though something in the situation ter- 
rified her. 

Even Saton himself felt that it was the silence before 
the storm. The courage which he had summoned up to 
meet a storm of disapproval, began to ebb slowly away 
in the face of this unnatural silence. It was dear that 
the onus of further speech was to rest with him. 

Still retaining Lois' hand, he turned toward Rochester. 

" You have forbidden me to enter your house, or to 
hold any communication with your ward until she was of 
age, Mr. Rochester,'* he said. " One of your conditions 
I have obeyed. With regard to the other, I have done as 



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THE CHARLATAN UNMASKED 285 

I thought fit. However, tonlay she is her own mistress. 
She has consented to be my wife. I do not need to ask 
for your consent or approval. If you are not willing 
that she should be married from your roof, I can take 
her at once to the Comtesse, who is prepared to receive 
her.'* 

*^ A very pleasant little arrangement," Rochester said, 
speaking for the first time. ^* I am afraid, however, that 
you will have to alter your plans.'* 

•*I do not admit your right to interfere in them,** 
Baton answered. ^^ If you continue your opposition to 
my marriage with your ward, I shall take her away with 
me this afternoon." 

Rochester shook his head. 

•* 1 think not," he answered. 

•*Then we shall see," Saton declared. "Lois, come 
with me. It does not matter about your hat. Your things 
can be sent on afterwards. Come ! " 

She would have followed him towards the door, but 
Rochester, leaning over, touched the bell, and almost at 
once two men stepped into the hall. One, Saton remem- 
bered in an instant. It was the man whom he had found 
with Violet — the man who was there to have his for- 
tune told. The other was a stranger,. but there was some- 
thing in his demeanor, in the very cut of his clothes, 
which seemed to denote his profession. 

Saton was suddenly pale. He realized in a moment 
that it was not intended that he should leave the room. 
*He looked toward Rochester as though for an explana- 
tion. 



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a86 THE MOVING FINGER 

** My young friend,'* Rochester said, ** when you leave 
this place, you will leave it, unless I change my mind, in 
the company of those friends of mine whom you see 
there. I don't want to terrify you unnecessarily. These 
gentlemen are detectives, but they are in my employ. 
They have nothing to do with Scotland Yard. I can 
assure you, however, that there need not be ten minutes' 
delay in the issuing of a warrant for your arrest." 

** My arrest? " Saton gasped. " What do you mean? " 

Rochester sighed. 

** Ah ! " he said. " Why should you force me for ex- 
planations? Ask yourself. Once before you have stood 
in the dock, on the charge of being connected with cer- 
tain enterprises designed to wheedle their pocket-money 
from over-credulous ladies. You got off by a fluke, but 
you did not learn your lesson. This time, getting off will 
not be quite so easy, for you seem to have added to 
your former profession one which an English jury sel- 
dom lets pass unpunished. I am in a position to prove, 
Bertrand Saton, that the offices in Charing Cross Road, 
conducted under the name of Jacobson & Company, and 
which are nothing more nor less than the headquarters 
of an iniquitous blackmailing system, are inspired and 
conducted by you, cmd that the profits are the means by 
which you live. A more despicable profession the world 
has never known. There are a sheaf of cases against 
you. I will remind you of one. My wife — Lady Mary 
here — left a private letter in the rooms of a Madame 
Helga. The letter was passed on at once to the black- 
mailing branch of your extremely interesting business. 



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THE CHARLATAN UNMASKED 287 

mid the sum of, I think, five hundred pounds, was paid 
for its recovery. You yourself were personally respon- 
sible for this little arrangement. And there are many 
others. If all the poor women whom you have robbed,'* 
Rochester continued, ^^ had had the common sense of my 
wife, and brought the matter to their husbands, you 
would probably have been a guest of His Majesty some 
time ago.'* 

Such fecu* as had at first drawn the color from 
Saton's cheeks, and filled his eyes with terror, passed 
quickly away. He stood upright, his head thrown back, 
a faint smile upon his lips. He had some appearance, 
even, of manhood. 

** Mr. Rochester," he said, ** I deny your charges. I 
have no connection with the fortune-telling establish- 
ments to which you have alluded. I know nothing of the 
blackmailing transactions you speak of. You have been 
my enemy, my hopeless and unforgiving enemy. I am 
not afraid of you. If this is your great blow, strike. 
Let me be arrested. I will answer everything. After- 
wardis, you and I will have our reckoning. Lois,'' he 
added, turning to her, " you do not believe — say that 
you do not believe these things." 

** I — do — not — believe — • them — Bertrand," she 
answered slowly. 

** You will come with me? " 

"I — will — come — with — you," she echoed. 

"By God, sir, she shan't!" cried Vandermere. 
" Take your hands off her, sir, or you shall learn how 
mountebanks like yourself should be treated." 



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288 THE MOVING FINGER 

Saton struck him full in the face, sa that losing for 
a moment his balance upon the slippery floor, Yander^ 
mere nearly fell. In a moment he recovered himself, how- 
ever. There was a struggle which did not last half-a- 
dozen seconds. He lifted Saton off his feet and shook 
him, till it seemed as though his limbs were cracking. 
Then he threw him away. 

Rochester stepped forward to interfere. 

" Enough of this, Vandermere,** he said sternly. " Re- 
member that the fellow's career is over. He may try to 
bluff it out, but he is done for. I have proofs enough 
to send him to prison a dozen times over.'' 

Saton rose slowly to his feet. Unconsciously his fingers 
straightened his tie. He knew very well that life — or 
rather the things which life meant for him — was over. 
He had only one desire — the desire of the bom poseur 
— to extricate himself from his present position with 
something which might, at any rate, seem like dignity. 

"Do I understand," he asked Rochester, "that my 
departure from this house is forbidden? " 

Rochester shook his head. 

" No ! " he answered. " For what you are, for the ig- 
noble creature that you have become, I accept a certain 
amount of responsibility. For that reason, I bid you go. 
Go where you will, so long as your name or your pres- 
ence never trouble us again. Let this be the last time that 
any one of us hears the name of Bertrand Saton. I give 
you that chance. Find for yourself an honest place in 
the world, if you can, wherever you will, so that it be 
not in this country. Gro ! " 



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THE CHARLATAN UNMASKED 289 

Saton turned toward the door with a little shrug of 
the shoulders. 

•* You need have no fear,** he said, " The country into 
which I go is one in which you will never be over-anxious 
to travel.'* 

He passed out, amidst a silence which seemed a little 
curious when one considered the emotions which he left 
behind. Lois* pale face seemed all aglow with a sort of 
desperate thankfulness. Already she was in Vandermere's 
arms. And then the silence was broken by a woman's 
sobbing. They all turned towards her. It was Pauline 
who had suddenly broken down, her face buried in her 
hands, her whole frame shaking with passion. 

Rochester moved towards her, but she thrust him aside. 

** You are a brute ! ** she declared- — ^^ a brute ! ** 

She staggered across the room towards the door by 
which Saton had departed. Before she could reach it, 
however, they heard the crunching of wheels as his car 
swept by the front on its way down the avenue. 

Rochester pushed open the black gate which led from 
the road into the plantation at the back of the hill, and 
they passed through and commenced the last short climb. 
No word passed between them. The silence of the even- 
ing was broken only by the faint sobbing of the wind in 
the treetops, and the breaking of dried twigs under their 
feet. They were both listening intently — they scarcely 
knew for what. The far-away rumble of a train, the 
barking of a dog, the scurrying of a rabbit across the 
path — these sounds came and passed — nothing else. 



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290 THE MOVING FINGER 

They neared the edge of the plantation. There was 
only a short climb now, and a gray stone wall. Rochester 
passed his arm through his companion's. Her breath was 
coming in little sobs. 

" We shall be there in a moment, Pauline,^ he said. 
" It is only a fancy of mine. Perhaps he is not here after 
all, but at any rate we shall know." 

She said nothing. She seemed to be bracing herself 
for that last effort. Now they could see the bare rocky 
outline of the summit of the hiU. A few steps more, and 
they would pass through the gate. And then the sound 
came, the sound which somehow they had dreaded. Sharp 
and crisp through the twilight air came the report of a 
revolver. They even fancied that they heard a little moan 
come travelling down the hillside. 

Rochester stopped short. 

" We are too late,'* he said. ** Pauline, you had better 
stay here. I will go on and find him.'' 

She shook her head. 

" I am coming,*' she said. " It is my fault ! — it is my 
fault!" 

He held out his hand. 

" Pauline," he said, " it may not be a fit sight for you. 
Sit here. If you can do any good, I will call to you." 

She brushed him aside and began to run. With her 
slight start she outdistanced him, and when he scrambled 
up to the top, she was already on her knees, kneeling 
down over the crouching form. 

" He is not dead," she cried. " Quick ! Tell me where 
the wound is." 



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THE CHARLATAN UNMASKED 291 

Rochester stooped down on the other side, and Saton 
opened his eyes slowly. 

^^ I €un a bungler, as usual ! '' he said. 

Rochester opened his coat carefully. 

^^He has shot himself in the shoulder," he said to 
Pauline. " It is not serious." 

Saton pointed to the rock. 

** Lift me up a little," he said. ** I want to sit there, 
with my back to it. Carefully ! " 

Rochester did as he was bid. Then he took his hand- 
kerchief and tried to staunch the blood. 

" I don't know why you came," Saton faltered — ^^ you 
especially," he added to Rochester. " Haven't you had 
all the triumph you wanted? Couldn't you have left me 
alone to spend this last hour my own way? I wanted to 
learn how to die without fear or any regret. Here I can 
do it, because it is easier here to realize that failure such 
as mine is death." 

"We came to try and save you," said Rochester 
quietly. 

"To save you!" Pauline sobbed. "Oh! Bertrand, I 
am sorry — I am very, very sorry ! " 

He looked at her in slow surprise. 

** That is kind of you," he said. " It is kind of you 
to care. You know now what sort of a creature I am. 
You know that he was right — this man, I mean — when 
he warned you against me, when he told you that I was 
something rotten, something not worth your notice. 
Give me the revolver again." 

Rochester thrust it in his pocket, shaking his head. 



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aga THE MOVING FINGER 

*^ My young friend, I think not," he said. ^^ List^. 
I have no more to say about the past. I am prepared 
to accept my share of the responsibility of it. You are 
still young. There is still time for you to weave fresh 
dreams, to live a new life. Make another start. No! 
Don't be afraid that I'm going to offer you my help. 
There was a curse upon that. But nevertheless, make 
your start. It isn't I who wish it. It is — Pauline." 

Saton looked at her wonderingly. 

" She doesn't care," he said. " She knows now that I 
am really a charlatan. And I needn't have been," he 
added, with a sudden fury. **It was only that cursed 
taste for luxury which seemed somehow or other to creep 
into my blood, which made me so dependent upon money. 
Naudheim was right! Naudheim was right! If only I 
had stayed with him ! If only I had believed in him ! " 

" It is not too late," she whispered, stooping low over 
him. " Be a man, Bertrand. Take up your work where 
you left it, and have done with the other things. This 
slipping away over the edge, slipping into Eternity, is 
the trick of cowards. For my sake, Bertrand ! " 

He half closed his eyes. Rochester was busy still with 
his shoulder, and the pain made him faint. 

" Go back to Naudheim," she whispered. ** Start life 
from the very bottom rung, if he will have it so. Don't 
be afraid of failure. Keep your hands tight upon the 
ladder, and your eyes turned toward Heaven. Oh ! You 
can climb if you will, Bertrand. You can climb, I am 
sure. Don't look down. Don't pause. Be satisfied with 
nothing less than the great things. For my sake, Ber- 



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THE CHARLATAN UNMASKED 293 

trand! My thoughts will follow you. My heart will be 
with you. Promise ! " 

** I promise,*' he murmured. 

His head sank back. He was half unconscious. 

" We will stay with him for a moment,*' Rochester 
whispered. **As soon as he comes to, I will carry him 
down to the car." 

In a moment or two he opened his eyes. His lips 
moved, but he was half delirious. 

" Anything but failure ! '' he muttered to himself, with 
a little groan. " Death, if you will — a touch of the 
finger, a stroke too far to seaward. Oh! death is easy 
enough ! Death is easy, and failure is hard ! " 

Her lips touched his forehead. 

" Don't believe it, dear," she whispered. " There is no 
real failure if only the spirit is brave. The dead things 
are there to help you climb. They are rungs in the lad- 
der, boulders for your feet." 

He leaned a little forward. It seemed as though he 
recognised something familiar amongst the treetops, or 
down in the mist-clad valleys. 

" Naudheim ! " he cried hoarsely. " I shall go to 
Naudheim ! " 



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EPILOGUE 

THS ICAK 

ABOUT half-way up, where the sleighs stopped, 
Lady Mary gave in. Pauline and Rochester 
went forward on foot, and with a guide in 
front. Below them was a wonderful unseen world, un- 
seen except when the snow for a moment ceased to fall, 
and they caught vague, awe-inspiring glimpses of ra- 
vines and precipices, tree-clad gorges, reaching down a 
dizzy height to the valley below. Above them was a 
plateau, black with pine trees. Higher still, the invisible 
mountain tops. 

** It is only a few hundred yards further,*' Rochester 
said, holding his companion by the arm. ** What a coun- 
try, though ! I wonder if it ever stops snowing." 
** It is wonderful ! " she murmured. " Wonderful ! '* 
And then, as though in some strange relation to his 
words, the storm of whirling snow-flakes suddenly ceased. 
The thin veil passed»away from overhead like gossamer. 
They saw a clear sky. They saw, even, the gleam of re- 
flected sunshine, and as the mist lifted, the country above 
and beyond unrolled itself in one grand and splendid 
transformation scene: woods above woods; snow-clad 
peaks, all glittering with their burden of icicles and 
snow ; and above, a white chaos, where the mountain-peak 
struck the clouds. 



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EPILOGUE — THE MAN 295 

They paused for a moment, breathless. 

** It IS like Naudheim himself,'* she declared. ** This is 
the land he spoke of. This is the place to which he 
climbed. It is wonderful!*' 

" Come,'^ Rochester said. ** We must be up before 
the darkness." 

Slowly they made their way along the mountain road, 
which their guide in front was doing all he could to make 
smooth for them. And then at the comer they found a 
log hut, to which their guide pointed triumphantly. 

** It is there f he exclaimed — ^^ there where they live, 
the two madmen. Beyond, you see, is tiie village of the 
woodhewers.'* 

Rochester nodded. They struggled a few steps up- 
wards, and then paused to look with wonder at the Jcene 
below. The one log cabin before which they were now 
standing, had been built alone. Barely a hundred yards 
away, across the ravine, were twenty or thirty similar 
ones, from the roofs of which the smoke went curling 
upwards. It seemed for a moment as though they had 
climbed above the world of noises — climbed into the 
land of eternal silence. Before they had had time, how- 
ever, to frame the thought, they heard the crashing of 
timber across the ravine, and a great tree fell inwards. 
A sound like distant thunder rose and swelled at every] 
moment. 

** It is the machinery,'* their guide told them. " The 
trees fall and are stripped of their boughs. Then they 
go down the ravine there, and along the slide all the way 
to the river. See them all the way, like a great worm. 



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ag6 THE MOVING FINGER 

Day and night, month by month — there is never a min- 
ute when a tree does not fall." 

Again they heard the crashing, and another tree fell. 
They heard the rumble of the slide in the forest. The 
peculiar scent of fresh sap seemed like a perfume in the 
air. Then suddenly the snow began to fall again. They 
could not see across the ravine. 

The guide knocked at the door and opened it. Roches- 
ter and Pauline passed in. • • • 

There was something almost familiar about the little 
scene. It was, in many respects, so entirely as she had 
always imagined it. Naudheim, coatless, collarless, with 
open waistcoat, twisted braces, and unkempt hair, was 
striding up and down the room, banging his hands 
against his side, dictating to the younger man who sat 
before the rude pine table. 

** So we arrive,** they heard his harsh, eager tones, 
^^80 we arrive at the evolution of that consciousness 
which may justly be termed eternal — the consciousness 
which has become subject to these primary and irresistible 
laws, the luiderstanding of which has baffled for so many 
ages the students of every country. So we come ^^ 

Naudheim broke off in the middle of his sentence. A 
rush of cold air had swept into the room. He thrust 
forward an angry, inquiring countenance toward the 
visitors. The young man sprang to his feet. 

" Pauline ! ** he exclaimed. 

He recognised Rochester, and stepped back with a mo- 
mentary touch of his old passionate repugnance, not un- 
mixed with fear. He recovered himself, however, almost 



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EPILOGUE — THE MAN 297 

immediately. Rochester gazed at him in amazement. It 
would have been hard, indeed, to have recognised the 
Bertrand Saton of the old days, in the robust and 
bearded man who stood there now with his eyes fixed 
upon Pauline. His cheeks were weather-beaten but brown 
with health. He wore a short, unkempt beard, a flannel 
shirt with collar but no tie, tweed clothes, which might 
indeed have come, at one time or another, from Saville 
Row, but were now spent with age, and worn out of all 
shape. 

Pauline's heart leaped with joy. Her eyes were wet. 
It had been worth while, then. He had found salvation. 

" We hadn't the least right to come, of course,*' she 
began, recognising that speech alone could dissolve that 
strange silence and discomposure which seemed to have 
fallen upon all of them. *' Mr. Rochester and Lady Mary 
and I are going to St. Moritz, and I persuaded them to 
stay over here and see whether we couldn't rout you out. 
What a wonderful place!" she exclaimed. 

" It is a wonderful place, madam ! " Naudheim ex- 
claimed glowering at them with darkening face. *^ It is 
wonderful because we are many thousands of feet up 
from that rotten, stinking little life, that cauldron of 
souls, into which my young friend here had very nearly 
pitched his own little offering." 

** It was we who sent him to you," Pauline said gently. 

" So long as you have not come to fetch him away," 
Naudheim muttered. 

Pauline shook her head. 

** We have come," she said, " because we care for him. 



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398 THE MOVING FINGER 

because we were anxious to know whether he had come 
to his own. We will go away the moment you send us." 

'* You will have some tea," Naudheim growled, a little 
more graciously. ^^ Saton, man, be hospitable. It is 
goat's milk, and none too sweet at that, and I won't an- 
swer for the butter." 

Saton spoke little. Pauline was content to watch him. 
They drank tea out of thidc china cups, but over tiieir 
conversation there was always a certain reserve. Naud- 
heim listened and watched, like a mother jealous of 
strangers who might rob her of her young. After tea, 
however, he disappeared from the room for a few mo- 
ments, and Rochester walked toward the window. 

** It is very good of you to come, Pauline," Saton said. 
^^I shall work all the better for this little glimpse of 
you." 

** Will the work," she asked softly, "never be done? " 

He shook his head. 

"Why should it? One passes from field to field, and 
our lives are not long enough, nor our brains great 
enough, to reach the place where we may call halt." 

** Do you mean," she asked, " that you will live here all 
your days?" 

"Why not?" he answered. "I have tried other 
things, and you know what they made of me. If I live 
here till I am as old as Naudheim, I shall only be suffer- 
ing a just penance." 

"But you are young," she murmured. "There are 
things in the world worth having. There is^a life there 
worth living. Solitude such as this is the greatest pan- 



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EPILOGUE— THE MAN 299 

acea the world could offer for all you have been through. 
But it IS not meant to last. We want you back again, 
Bertrand." 

His eyes were suddbily on fire. He shrank .a little 
away from her. 

" Don't ! " he begged. " Don't, Pauline. I am living 
my punishment here, and I have borne it without once 
looking back. Don't make it harder." 

" I do not wish to make it harder," she declared, *' and 
yet I meant what I said. It is not right that you should 
spend all your days here. It is not right for your own 
sake, it is not right " 

She held out her hands to him suddenly. 

** It is not right for mine," she whispered. 

Rochester stepped outside. Again the snow had ceased. 
In the forest he could hear the whirl of machinery and 
the crashing of the falling timber. He stood for a mo- 
ment with clenched hands, with unseeing eyes, with ears 
in which was ringing still the memory of that low, pas- 
sionate cry. And then the fit passed. He looked down 
to the little half-way house where he had left his wife. 
He fancied he could see someone waving a white hand- 
kerchief from the platform of pine logs. It was all so 
right, after all, so right and natural. He began to de- 
scend alone. 

Saton brought her down about an hour later. Their 
faces told all that there was to say. 

** Bertrand is going to stay here for another year," 
Pauline said, answering Lady Mary's unspoken ques- 
tion. " The first part of his work with Naudheim will be 



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300 THE MOVING FINGER 

finished then, and we think he will have earned a vaca- 
tion.»' 

Saton held out his hands to Rochester. 

" Mr. Rochester,'^ he said, " I have never asked you 
to forgive me for all the hard things I have said and 
thought of you, for my ingratitude, and — for other 
things.'* 

" Don't speak of them,*' Rochester interrupted. 

" I won't," Saton continued quickly. " I can't. That 
chapter of my life is buried. I cannot bear to think of 
it even now. I cannot bear to come in contact with any- 
thing which reminds me of it." 

Rochester took his hand and grasped it heartily. 

" Don't be morbid about it," he said. ** Every man 
should have at least two chances in life. You had your 
first, and it was a rank failure, 'f hat was because you had 
unnatural help, and bad advice. The second time, I am 
glad to see that you have succeeded. You have done this 
on your own. You have proved that the real man is the 
present man." 

Saton drew Pauline towards him with a gesture which 
was almost reverent. 

" I think that Pauline knows," he said. " I hope so." 

Early in the morning their sleigh rattled off. Saton 
stood outside the cottage, waving his hand. Naudheim 
was by his side, his arm resting gently upon the young 
man's shoulder. A fine snow was falling around them. 
The air was clean and pure — the air of Heaven. There 
was no sound to break the deep stillness but the tinkle of 



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EPILOGUE — THE MAN 301 

the sleigh-bells, and behind, the rhythmic humming of 
the machinery, and^the crashing of the falling trees. 

^^ Naudheim is a great master," Rochester said. 

Pauline smiled through her tears. 

** Bertrand isn't such a very bad pupil.*' 



THE END 



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E. Phillips Oppenheim's Novels 



He possesses the magic art of narratiom 

—New York Herald. 

Mr. Oppenheim never fails to entertain us. 

^Boston Transcript 

The author has acquired an admirable technique of 
fhe sort demanded by the novel of intrigue and 
mystery.— TA^ Dial, Chicago. 

Mr. Ojppenheim is a past master of the art of con- 
structing ingenious plots and weaving them around 
attractive characters.— Loiwfon Morning Post 

By an odds the most successful among the writers of 
that class of fiction which, for want of a better term, 
maybe called "mystery stones.*'— Ainslee's Magazine* 

E. Phillips Ojppenheim has a very admirable gift of 
telling good stories, thoroughly matured, brilliantly 
constructed, and convincingly tol6i— London Times: 

Readers of Mr. Oppenheim's novels may always 
coimt on a [story of absorbing^intarest, turning on a 
complicated plot, wodced out with dexterous crafts- 
manship.— liferao' Digest, New York. 

We do not stop to inquire into the measure of his 
art, any more than we inquire into that of Alexandre 
Dumas, we only realize that here is a bene&u:tor of 
tired men and womai seddng r^axation. 

— The Independent New York. 



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£• Phillips Oppenheim's Novels 



The Moving Finger. 

A myitifying wtoary dealing with iiiieq>ected results of a weahfay 
M.P/S experiment with a poor young man. 

Berenice. 

Oppenheim in a new vein— the stnry of the love of a novdist 
of high ideals for an actress. 

The Lost AmtMssador. 

A straii^tforward myBtay tale of Paris and London, in whicha 
rascally maitre d' hotel plays an important part 

A Daus^ter of the Marionis. 

A melodramatic romance of Palermo and En^^and, deaHng with 
a rejected Italian lover's attempted revenge. 

Mystery of Mr. Bernard Brown. 

A murder-mjrsteiy story rich in sensational incidents. 

The niugtrious Prince. 

A narrative of mjrsteiy and Japanese political intrigue. 

Jeanne of the Marshes. 

Strange doings at an Engjish house party are here set forth* 

The Governors. 

Aromance of the intrigues of American finance. 

The Missioner. 

Strongly dq;ncts the love of an earnest missioner and a worldly 
hercMne. 



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£• Phillips Oppenheim's Novels 

A Prince of Sinners. 

An engrossiiig story of EnsJiah social and pditical life. 

A Millionaire of Yesterday. 

A gripping story of a wealthy West African miner. 

The Man and His Kingdom. 

A dramatic tale of adventure in South America. 

Anna the Adventuress. 

A suprising tale of a bdd deception. 

Mysterious Mr. Sabin. 

An ingenious story of a worid-startling international intrigue. 

The Yellow Crayon. 

Containing the exciting experiences of Mr. Sabin with a power* 
ful secret society. 

TheBetrairaL 

A thrilling story of treachery in high diplomatic drdest 
A Sleeping Memory. 

A remarkable story of an unhappy girl who was deprived of 
her memcnry. 

The Afoster Mummer. 

The strange romance of beautiful laobel de Sorrens. 



Little, Brown, & Go.» Publishers, Boston 



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E. Phillips Oppenheim's Novels 



The Long Ann of Mannister. 

A disdoctiy differcnt .Btoiy that deids'witii a wiuugnl man's 
ingenious revenge. 

As a Mboi Lives. 

Discloses Hie mys t e iy surrounding tbtt fair oc CT gant of a ydlovr 



The Avenger. 

Unravels an intricate tam^ of ixilitical intrigue and private 
revenge* 

The Great Secret 

Unfolds a stupendous intematioDal Gooqiiracy. 

A Los' Leader. 

A realistic romance woven around a striking peraoaality. 
A Maker of History. 

''E]q>lains" the Russian Baltic fleet's attack on tlie North Sea 
fishing fleet 

Enoch Strone: A Master of Men. 

The story of a self •made man who made a fodish eariy marriage. 

The Malefactor. 

An amazing story of a man who suffered imprisonment for a 
crime he did not commit 

The Traitors. 

A capital romance of love^ adventure and Russian intrigue. 



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