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Full text of "Under lock and key; a story"

LIBRARY OF THE 

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS 

AT URBANA-CHAMPAICN 

82S 
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UNDER LOCK AND KEY 



VOL. n. 



Digitized by tine Internet Arciiive 

in 2010 witii funding from 

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 



http://www.archive.org/details/underlockkeystor02spei 



UNDER LOCK AND KEY. 



% Storj. 



BY 



T. W. SPEIGHT, 



AUTHOR OF "BROUGHT TO LIGHT, "FOOLISH MARGARET, 
ETC. 



IN THREE VOLUMES. 
VOL. 11. 



LONDON: 

TINSLEY BROTHERS, 18, CATHERINE STREET, STRAND. 
1869. 

[_All rights of Translation and Reproduction are reierved,"] 



LONDOK: 

SATILL EDWAEDS AND CO., PHINTEES, CHAITDOS STBEET, 

COVENT GABDEIf. 



So 3 (^ >u^ 



CONTENTS 



or 



THE SECOND VOLUME. 



CHAP. FAGS 

I. JANET IN A NEW CHARACTER .... 1 

II. THE DAWN OF LOVE 13 

III. THE NARRATIVE OF SERGEANT NICHOLAS 23 

IV. COUNSEL TAKEN WITH MR. MADGIN . . 46 

V. MR. MADGIN AT THE HELM .... 62 

VI. MR. MADGIN^S SECRET JOURNEY ... 81 

VII. ENTER MADGIN, JUNIOR 92 

VIII. MADGIN junior's FIRST REPORT . . .113 

IX. LOST AS SOON AS FOUND 129 

X. THE CONFESSION 146 



VI CONTENTS. 

CHAP. PAGB 

XI. THE CONFESSION CONTINUED .... 163 

XII. MADGIN JUNIOR^S SECOND REPORT . . 182 

XIII. ROOM NUMBER FOUR IN THE CORRIDOR . 201 

XIV. AT THE CURTAINED DOOR 218 

XV. THE LITTLE PACKET FROM LONDON . . 229 



UNDER LOCK AND KEY 



CHAPTER I. 

JANET IN A NEW CHARACTER. 

On entering Lady Pollexfen^s room for the 
second time, Janet found tliat tlie mistress of 
Dupley Walls had completed her toilette in the 
interim, and was now sitting robed in stiff rust- 
ling silk, with an Indian fan in one hand and 
a curiously-chased vinaigrette in the other. She 
motioned with her fan to Janet. '^ Be seated/^ 
she said, in the iciest of tones, and Janet sat 
down on a chair a yard or two removed from her 
ladyship. 

" Since you were here last. Miss Holme,^^ she 
began, " I have seen Sister Agnes, who informs 
me that she has already given you an outline of 
the duties I shall require you to perform should 

VOL. II. 1 



2 JAKET IN A NEW CHARACTER. 

you agree to accept the situation which ill health 
obliges her to vacate. At the same time, I wish 
you clearly to understand that I do not consider 
you in any way bound by what I may have done 
for you in time gone by, neither would I have 
you in this matter run counter to your inclina- 
tions in the slightest degree. If you would 
prefer that a situation as governess should be 
obtained for you, say so without hesitation, and 
any small influence I may have shall be used un- 
grudgingly in your behalf. Should you agree to 
remain at Dupley Walls your salary will be 
thirty guineas a year. If you wish it, you can 
take a day for consideration, and let me have 
your decision in the morning." 

Lady Pollexfen^s mention of a fixed salary 
stung Janet to the quick ; it was so entirely un- 
expected. It stung her, but only for a moment ; 
the next she saw and gratefully recognised the 
fact that she should no longer be a pensioner on 
the bounty of Lady Pollexfen. A dependent she 
might be — a servant even, if you like; but at 
least she would be earning her living by the 
labour of her own hands, and even about the 



JANET IN A NEW CHARACTER. o 

very thought of such a thing there was a sweet 
sense of independence that flushed her warmly 
through and through. 

Her hesitation lasted but a moment^ then she 
spoke. ^' Your ladyship is yery kind_, but I re- 
quire no time for consideration/'' she said. ^^ I 
haye already made up my mind to take the posi- 
tion which you haye so generously offered me^ 
and if my ability to please you only prove equal 
to my inclination_, your ladyship will not haye 
much cause to complain .^^ 

A faint smile of something like satisfaction 
flitted across Lady Pollexfen^s face. '^'^Very 
goodj Miss Holme/^ she said_, in a more gracious 
tone than she had yet used. " I am pleased 
to find that you haye taken so sensible a yiew 
of the matter^ and that you understand so 
thoroughly your position under my roof. How 
soon shall you be prepared to begin your new 
duties ?' 

" I am ready at this moment.''^ 

" Come to me an hour hence and I wiU then 
instruct you.^^ 

In this second interview^ brief though it was^ 

\—% 



4 JANET IN A NEW CHARACTER. 

Janet could not avoid being struck by Lady 
Pollexfen^s stately dignity of manner. Her tone 
and style were those of a high-bred gentle- 
woman. It seemed scarcely possible that she 
and the querulous shrivelled-up old woman in the 
cashmere dressing-robe could be one individual. 

Unhappily^ as Janet to her cost was not long 
in finding out^ her ladyship's querulous moods 
were much more frequent than her moods of 
quiet dignity. At such times she was very diffi- 
cult to please ; sometimes, indeed,, it was utterly 
impossible to please her : not even an angel 
could have done it. Then, indeed, Janet 
felt her duty weigh very hardly upon her. By 
nature her temper was quick and passionate — her 
impulses high and generous ; but when Lady 
Pollexfen was in her worse moods she had to 
curb the former as with an iron chain, while the 
latter were outraged continually by Lady Pol- 
lexfen's mean and miserly mode of life, and by a 
certain low and sordid tone of thought which at 
such times pervaded all she said and did. And 
yet, strange to say, she had rare fits of generosity 
and goodwill — times when her soul seemed to sit 



JANET IX A NEW CHARACTER. D 

in sackcloth and ashes, as if in repentance for 
those other occasions when the " dark fit" was 
on her and the things of this world claimed her 
too entirely as their own. 

After her second intervdew with Lady Pollex- 
fen, Janet at once hurried off to Sister Agnes 
to tell her the news. " On one point only^ so 
far as I see at present, shall I require any spe- 
cial information/' she said. " I shall require to 
know exactly the mode of procedure necessary 
to be observed when I pay my midnight \'isits 
to Sir John Pollexfen.'^ 

" It is not my intention that you should visit 
Sir John/' said Sister Agnes. " That portion 
of my old duties will continue to be performed 
by me.'' 

" Not till you are stronger — not till your 
health is better than it is now/' said Janet ear- 
nestly. " I am young and strong ; it is merely 
a part of what I have undertaken to do, and you 
must please let me do it. I have outgrown my 
childish fears and could visit the Black Room 
now without the quiver of a nerve." 

^' You think so, by daylight, but wait till the 



b JANET IN A NEW CHARACTER. 

house is dark and silent^ and then say the same 
conscientiously — if you can/^ 

But Janet was determined not to yield the 
pointy nor could Sister Agnes move her from 
her decision. Ultimately a compromise was 
entered into by which it was agreed that for 
one evening at least they should "vdsit the Black 
Room together^ and that the settlement of 
the question should be left till the following 
day. 

Precisely as midnight struck they set out 
together up the wide old-fashioned staircase, 
past the door of Janet^s old room, up the 
narrower staircase beyond, till the streak of 
light came into view and the grim nail-studded 
door itself was reached. Janet was secretly 
glad that she was not there alone, so much 
she acknowledged to herself as they halted 
for a moment while Sister Agnes unlocked 
the door. But when the latter asked her if 
she were not afraid, if she would not much 
rather be snug in bed, Janet only said : " Give 
me the key, tell me what I have to do inside the 
room, and then leave me.^' 



JANET IN A NEW CHARACTER. 7 

But Sister Agnes would not consent to that, 
and they entered the room together. Instead 
of seven years, it seemed to Janet only seven 
hours since she had been there last, so vividly 
was the recollection of her first visit still im- 
pressed upon her mind. Everything was un- 
changed in that chamber of the dead, except, 
perhaps, the sprawling cupids on the ceiling, 
which looked a shade dingier than of old, and 
more in need of soap and water than ever. But 
the black draperies on the walls, the huge can- 
dles in the silver tripods, the pall-covered coffin 
in the middle of the room, were all as Janet had 
seen them last. There, too, was the oaken py'ie- 
dieu a yard or two away from the head of the 
coffin. Sister Agnes knelt on it for a few 
moments, and bent her head in silent prayer. 

'^My visit to this room every midnight/' 
said Sister Agnes, " is made for the simple 
purpose of renewing the candles, and of seeing 
that everything is as it should be. That the 
visit should be made at midnight, and at no 
other time, is one of Lady Pollexfen's whims — 
a whim that by process of time has crystallized 



8 JANET IN A NEW CHARACTER. 

into a law. The room is never entered by 
day." 

^^Was it whim or madness that caused Sir 
John Pollexfen to leave orders that his body 
should be kept above ground for twenty years ?^^ 

^^Who shall tell by what motive he was 
influenced when he had that particular clause 
inserted in his will ? Dupley Walls itself hangs 
on the proper fulfilment of the clause. If Lady 
Pollexfen were to cause her husband^s remains 
to be interred in the family vault before the 
expiry of the twenty years_, the very day she 
did so the estate would pass from her to the 
present baronet^ a distant cousin^ between whom 
and her ladyship there has been a bitter feud 
of many years' standing. Although Dupley 
Walls has been in the family for a hundred and 
fifty years, it has never been entailed. The 
entailed estate is in Yorkshire, and there Sir 
Mark, the present baronet, resides. Lady Pol- 
lexfen has the power of bequeathing Dupley 
Walls to whomsoever she may please, providing 
she carry out strictly the instructions contained 
in her husband\s will. It is possible that in a 



JANET IN A NEW CHAKACTER. \) 

court of law the will miglit have been set aside 
ou the ground of insanity, or the whole matter 
might have been thrown into Chancery. But 
Lady Pollexfen did not choose to submit to 
such an ordeal. All the courts of law in the 
kingdom could have given her no more than 
she possessed already — they could merely have 
given her permission to bury her husband^s 
body, and it did not seem to her that such a 
permission could compensate for the turning 
into public gossip of a private chapter of family 
history. So here Sir John Pollexfen has re- 
mained since his death,, and here he will stay 
till the last of the twenty years has become a 
thing of the past. Two or three times every 
year Mr. Winter, Sir Mark^'s lawyer, comes over 
to Dupley Walls to satisfy himself by ocular 
proof that Sir John^s instructions are being duly 
carried out. This he has a legal right to do 
in the interests of his client. Sometimes he is 
conducted to this room by Lady Pollexfen, 
sometimes by me ; but even in his case her 
ladyship will not relax her rule of not having 
the room visited by day.^^ 



10 JANET IN A NEW CHxVRACTER. 

Sister Agnes then showed Janet that behind 
the black draperies there was a cupboard in the 
wall^ which on being opened proved to contain 
a quantity of large candles. One by one Sister 
Agnes took out of the silver tripod what re- 
mained of the candles of the previous day_, and 
filled up their places with fresh ones. Janet 
looked on attentively. Then, for the second 
time, Sister Agnes knelt on the prie-dieu for a 
few moments, and then she and Janet left the 
room. 

Next day Sister Agnes was so ill, and Janet 
pressed so earnestly to be allowed to attend to 
the Black Room in j)lace of her, and alone, that 
she was obliged to give a reluctant consent. 

It was not without an inward tremor that 
Janet heard the clock strike twelve. Sister 
Agnes had insisted on accompanying her part 
of the way upstairs, and w^ould, in fact, have 
gone the whole distance with her, had not Janet 
insisted on going forward alone. In a single 
breath, as it seemed to her, she ran up the 
remaining stairs, unlocked the door, and entered 
the room. Her nerves were not sufficiently 



JANET IN A NEW CHARACTER. 11 

composed to allow of lier making use of the 
prie-dieu. All she cared for just then was to 
get through her duty as quickly as possible, and 
get back in safety to the world of living beings 
downstairs. She set her teeth^ and by a 
supreme effort of will went through the small 
duty that was required of her steadily but 
swiftly. Her face was never turned away from 
the coffin the whole time; and when she had 
finished her task she walked backwards to the 
door, opened it, walked backwards out, and in 
another breath was downstairs, and safe in the 
protecting arms of Sister Agnes. 

Next night she insisted upon going entirely 
alone, and made so light of the matter that 
Sister Agnes no longer opposed her wish to 
make the midnight visit to the Black Room a 
part of her ordinary duty. But inwardly Janet 
could never quite overcome her secret awe of 
the room and its silent occupant. She always 
dreaded the coming of the hour that took her 
there, and when her task was over, she never 
closed the door without a feeling of relief. In 
this case, custom with her never bred familiarity. 



12 JANET IN A NEW CHARACTER. 

To the last occasion of her going there she went 
the prey of hidden fears — fears of she knew not 
what, which she derided to herself even while 
they made her their victim. There was a 
morbid thread running through the tissue of 
her nerves, which by intense force of will might 
be kept from growing and spreading, but which 
no eJBPort of hers could quite pluck out or 
eradicate. 



CHAPTER IT. 

THE DAWN OF LOVE. 

Major Strickland did not forget his promise 
to Janet. On the eighth morning after his re- 
turn from London he walked over from Tydsbury 
to Dupley Walls^ saw Lady Pollexfen^ and ob- 
tained leave of absence for Miss Holme for the 
day. Then he paid a flying visit to Sister 
Agnes^ for whom he had a great reverence and 
admiration^ and ended by carrying off Janet in 
triumph. 

The park of Dupley Walls extends almost to 
the suburbs of Tydsbury, a town of eight thousand 
inhabitants, but of such small commercial im- 
portance that the nearest railway station is three 
miles away across country, and nearly five miles 
from Dupley Walls. 

Major Strickland no longer resided at Rose 
Cottage^ but at a pretty little villa just outside 



14 THE DAWN OF LOVE. 

Tydsbury. Some small accession of fortune had 
come to him by the death of a relative ; and an 
addition to his family in the person of Aunt 
Felicite, a lady old and nearly blind^ the widow 
of a kinsman of the major. Besides its tiny lawn 
and flower-beds in fronts the Lindens had a long 
stretch of garden ground behind, otherwise the 
major would scarcely have been happy in his 
new home. He was secretary to the Tyds- 
bury Horticultural Society^ and his fame as a 
grower of prize roses and prize geraniums was 
in these latter days far sweeter to him than any 
fame that had ever accrued to him as a soldier. 

Janet found Aunt Fe licit e a most quaint and 
charming old lady^ as cheerful and full of vivacity 
as many a girl of seventeen. She kissed Janet 
on both cheeks when the major introduced her; 
asked whether she was fiancee ; complimented 
her on her French; declaimed a passage from 
Racine; put her poodle through a variety of 
amusing tricks; and pressed Janet to assist at 
her luncheon of cream cheese, French roll, straw- 
berries, and white wine. 

A slight sense of disappointment swept across 



THE DAWN OF LOVE. 15 

Jauet^s miud; like the shadow of a cloud across 
a sunny field. She had been two hours at the 
Lindens without having seen Captain George. 
In vain she told herself that she had come to 
spend the day with Major Strickland_, and to be 
introduced to Aunt Felicite, and that nothing 
more was wanting to her complete contentment. 
That something more was needed she knew quite 
well; but she would not acknowledge it even to 
herself. He knew of her coming, he had been 
with Aunt Felicite only half an hour before — 
so much she learned within five minutes of her 
arrival ; yet now, at the end of two hours, he 
had not condescended even to come and speak 
to her. She roused herself from the sense of 
despondency that was creeping over her, and put 
on a gaiety that she was fa^; from feeling. A 
very bitter sense of self-contempt was just then 
at work in her heart : she felt that never before 
had she despised herself so utterly. She took 
her hat in her hand, and put her arm within the 
major^s, and walked with him round his little 
demesne. It was a walk that took up an hour 
or more, for there was much to see and learn, 



16 THE DAWN OF LOVE. 

and Janet was bent this morning on having a 
long lesson in botany^ and the old soldier was 
only too happy to have secured a listener so 
enthusiastic and appreciative to whom he could 
dilate on his favourite hobby. 

But all this time Janet^s eyes and ears were 
on the alert in a double sense of which the 
major knew nothing. He was busy with a de- 
scription of the last spring flower-show, and how 
the Duke of Cheltenham's auriculas were by no 
means equal to those of Major Strickland, when 
Janet gave a little start as though a gnat had 
stung her, and bent to smell a sweet blush-rose, 
whose tints were rivalled by the sudden delicate 
glow that flushed her cheek. 

'^ Yes, yes !" she said, hurriedly, as the major 
paused for a moment ; " and so the duke's gar- 
dener was jealous because you carried away the 
prize ?" 

'^1 never saw a man more put out in my 
life,'' said the major. " He shook his fist at my 
flowers, and said before everybody, ' Let the old 
major only wait till autumn, and then see if my 
dahlias don't .' But yonder comes Geordie. 



THE DAWN OF LOVE. 17 

Bless my heart ! what has he been doing at 
Tydsbury all this time V 

Janet^s instinct had not deceived her : she had 
heard and recognised his footstep a full minute 
before the major knew that he was near. She 
gave one quick^ shy glance round as he opened 
the gate^ and then she wandered a yard or tAvo 
further down the path. 

'' Good morning, uncle/'' said Captain George, 
as he came up. " You set out for Dupley Walls 
so early this morning that I did not see you 
before you started. I am glad to find that Vou 
did not come back alone/^ 

Janet had turned as he began to speak, but 
did not come back to the major^s side. Captain 
George advanced a few steps and lifted his hat. 
*^ Good morning, Miss Holme/^ he said, with 
outstretched hand. " I need hardly say how 
pleased I am to see you at the Lindens. My 
uncle has succeeded so well on his first embassy 
that we must send him again and often on the 
same errand.^^ 

Janet murmured a few words in reply — what, 
she could not afterward have told; but as her 

VOL. II. 2 



18 THE DAWN OF LOVE. 

eyes met liis for a moment, she read in them 
something that made her forgive him on the 
spot, even while she declared to herself that 
she had nothing to forgive, and that brought to 
her cheek a second blush more vivid than the 
first. 

" All very well, young gentleman,^' said the 
major, " but you have not yet explained your 
four honrs^ absence. We shall order you under 
arrest unless you have some reasonable excuse to 
submit." 

" The best of all excuses — that of urgent busi- 
ness,^" said the captain. 

" You ! business V said the laughing major ; 
" why, it was only last night that you were be- 
wailing your lot as being one of those unhapiw 
mortals who have no work to do."' 

" To those they love, the gods lend patient 
hearing. I forget the Latin, but that does not 
matter just now. "What I wish to convey is this 
— that I need no longer be idle unless I choose. 
I have got some work to do. Lend me your 
eais, both of you. About an hour after you. 
sir, had started for Dupley Walls I received 



THE DAWN OF LOVE. 19 

a note from the editor of the Tydshury 
Courier, in which he requested me to give him 
an early call. My curiosity prompted me to 
look in upon him as soon as breakfast was over. 
I found that he was brother to the editor of one 
of the London magazines, a gentleman whom I 
met one evening at a party in town. The Lon- 
don editor remembered me_, and had written to 
the Tydsbury editor to make arrangements with 
me for writing a series of magazine articles on India 
and my experiences there during the late mutiny, 
I need not bore you with details ; it is sufficient 
to say that my objections were talked down one 
by one, and I left the office committed to a 
sixteen-page article by the sixth of next 
month /^ 

^' You an author \" exclaimed the major. '•^ I 
should as soon have thought of your enlisting in 
the marines." 

" It will only be for a few months, uncle, — 
only till my limited stock of experiences shall be 
exhausted. After that I shall be relegated to 
my natiu'al obscurity, doubtless never to emerge 



20 THE DAWN OF LOVE. 

" Hem/^ said the major^ nervously. '' Geordie, 
my boy, I liave by me one or two little poems 
which I wrote when I was about nineteen — 
trifles flung ofi" on the inspiration of the moment. 
Perhaps, when you come to know your friend 
the editor better than you do now, you might 
induce him to bring them out — to find an 
odd corner for them in his magazine. I 
wouldn't want paying for them, you know. 
You might just mention that fact ; and I assure 
you that I have seen many worse things than 
they are in print. ^^ 

" What, imcle, you an author ! Oh, fie ! I 
should as soon have thought of your wishing to 
dance on the tight-rope as to appear in print. 
But we must look over these little efiusions, eh, 
Miss Holme? We must unearth this genius, 
and be the first to give his lucubrations to the 
world.^^ 

'' If you were younger, sir, or I not quite so 
old, I would box your ears,^' said the major, 
who seemed hardly to know whether to laugh 
or be angry. Finally he laughed, George and 
Janet chimed in, and all three went back indoors. 



THE DAWN OF LOVE. 21 

After an early dinner the major took rod and 
line and set oflp to capture a few trout for supper. 
Aunt Felicite took her post-prandial nap dis- 
creetly, in an easy-chair, and Captain George 
and Miss Holme were left to their own devices. 
In Love''s sweet Castle of Indolence the hours 
that make up a summer afternoon pass like so 
many minutes. They two had blown the magic 
horn and had gone in. The gates of brass had 
closed behind them, shutting them up from the 
common outer world. Over all things was a 
glamour as of witchcraft. Soft music filled the 
air ; soft breezes came to them as from fields of 
amaranth and asphodel. They walked ever in a 
magic circle, that widened before them as they 
went. Eros in passing had touched them with 
his golden dart. Each of them hid the sweet 
sting from the other, yet neither of them would 
have been whole again for anything the world 
could have offered. What need to tell the old 
old story over again — the story of the dawn of 
love in two young hearts that had never loved 
before ? 

Janet went home that night in a flutter of 



22 THE DAWN OF LOVE. 

happiness — a happiness so sweet and strange and 
yet so vague that she could not have analysed it 
even had she been casuist enough to try to do 
so. But she was content to accept the fact as a 
fact ; beyond that she cared nothing. No 
syllable of love had been spoken between her 
and George : they had passed what to an out- 
sider would have seemed a very commonplace 
afternoon. They had talked together — not senti- 
ment^ but every- day topics of the world around 
them ; they had read together — poetry, but 
nothing more passionate than '' Aurora Leigh ;" 
they had walked together — rather a silent and 
stupid walk, our friendly outsider would have 
urged ; but if they were content, no one else had 
any right to complain. And so the day had 
worn itself away, — a red-letter day for ever in 
the calendar of their young lives. 



CHAPTER III. 

THE NARRATIVE OF SERGEANT NICHOLAS. 

One morning wlien Janet had been about three 
weeks at Dupley "Walls^ she was summoned to 
the door by one of the servants, and found there 
a tall, thin, middle-aged man, dressed in plain 
clothes, and having all the appearance of a dis- 
charged soldier. 

" I have come a long way, miss,^^ he said to 
Janet, carrying a finger to his forehead, " in 
order to see Lady Pollexfen and have a little 
private talk with her/^ 

" I am afraid that her ladyship will scarcely 
see you, unless you can give her some idea of 
the business that you have called upon/^ 

^' My name, miss, is Sergeant John Nicholas. 
I served formerly in India, where I was body- 
servant to her ladyship^s son. Captain Charles 



24 NARRATIVE OF SERGEANT NICHOLAS. 

Pollexfen^ who died there of cholera nearly 
twenty years ago^ and I have something of im- 
portance to communicate/^ 

Janet made the old soldier come in and sit 
down in the hall while she took his message to 
Lady Pollexfen. Her ladyship was not yet up^ but 
was taking her chocolate in bed, with a faded 
Indian shawl thrown round her shoulders. She 
began to tremble violently the moment Janet 
delivered the old soldier^s message, and could 
scarcely set down her cup and saucer. Then she 
began to cry, and to kiss the hem of the lodian 
shawl. Janet went softly out of the room and 
waited. She had never even heard of this 
Captain Charles Pollexfen, and yet no mere 
empty name could have thus affected the stern 
mistress of Dupley Walls. Those few tears 
opened up quite a new view of Lady PoUexfen^s 
character. Janet began to see that there might 
be elements of tragedy in the old woman^s life 
of which she knew nothing : that many of the 
moods which seemed to her so strange and inex- 
plicable might be so merely for want of the key 
by which alone they could be rightly read. 



NARRATIVE OF SERGEANT NICHOLAS. 25 

Presently her ladyship^s gong sounded. Janet 
went back into the room^ and found her still 
sitting up in bed^ sipping her chocolate with a 
steady hand. All traces of tears had vanished : 
she looked even more stern and repressed than 
usual. 

'^ Request the person of whom you spoke to 
me a while ago to wait/^ she said. " I will see 
him at eleven in my private sitting-room."'^ 

So Sergeant Nicholas was sent to get his 
breakfast in the servants^ room, and wait till 
Lady Pollexfen was ready to receive him. 

At eleven precisely he was summoned to her 
ladyship^s presence. She received him with 
stately graciousness, and waved him to a chair 
a yard or two away. She was dressed for the 
day in one of her stiff brocaded silks, and sat as 
upright as a dart, manipulating a small fan. 
Miss Holme stood close at the back of her chair. 

" So, my good man, I understand that you 
were acquainted ^ith my son, the late Captain 
Pollexfen, who died in India twenty years ago ?' 

" I was his body-servant for two years pre- 
vious to his death. ^^ 



26 NAREATIVE OF SERGEANT NICHOLAS. 

^' Were you -with him when he died ?" 

" I was^ your ladyship. These fingers closed 
his eyes/^ 

The hand that held the fan began to tremble 
again. She remained silent for a few moments^ 
and by a strong cfifort overmastered her agi- 
tation. 

" You haye some communication which you 
wish to make to me respecting my dead son?^^ 

" I haye^ your ladyship. A communication 
of a yery singular kind.''^ 

" Why has it not been made before now T' 

" That your ladyship will learn in the course 
of what I haye to say. But perhaps you will 
kindly allow me to tell my story my own way.''"' 

" By all means. Pray begin : I am all 
attention.^^ 

The sergeant touched his forelock, gaye a 
preliminary cough, fixed his clear grey eye on 
Lady PoUexfen, and began his narrative as 
under : — 

" Your ladyship and miss ; I, John Nicholas, 
a Staffordshire man born and bred, went out to 
India twenty-three years ago as lance-corporal 



NARRATIVE OF SERGEANT NICHOLAS. 27 

in the hundred and first regiment of foot. After 
I had been in India a few months,, I got drunk 
and misbehaved myself^ and was reduced to the 
ranks. Well^ ma^am, CajDtain Pollexfen took a 
fancy to me, thought I was not such a bad. dog 
after all, and got me appointed as his servant. 
And a better master no man need ever wish 
to have — kind, generous, and a perfect gen- 
tleman from top to toe. I loved him, and 
would have gone through fire and water to serve 
him.^^ 

Her ladyship^s fan was trembling again. 
" Oblige me with my salts, Miss Holme," she 
said. She pressed them to her nose, and mo- 
tioned to the sergeant to proceed. 

" When I had been with the captaiu a few 
months," resumed the old soldier, "he got leave 
of absence for several weeks, and everybody 
knew that it was his intention to spend his holi- 
day in a shooting excursion among the hills. I 
was to go with him, of course, and the usual 
troop of native servants; but besides himself 
there was only one European gentleman in the 
party, and he was not an Englishman. He was 



28 NARRATIVE OF SERGEANT NICHOLAS. 

a Russian^, and his name was Platzoff. He was 
a gentleman of fortune, and was travelling in 
India at the time, and had come to my master 
with letters of introduction. Well, Captain 
PoUexfen just took wonderfully to him, and the 
two were almost inseparable. Perhaps it hardly 
"becomes one like me to offer an opinion on such 
a point ; but, knowing what afterwards happened, 
I must say that I never either liked or trusted that 
Russian from the day I first set eyes on him. 
He seemed to me too double-faced and cunning 
for an honest English gentleman to have much 
to do with. But he had travelled a great deal, 
and was very good company, which was perhaps 
the reason why Captain Pollexfen took so kindly 
to him. Be that as it may, however, it was 
decided that they should go on the hunting ex- 
cursion together — not that the Russian was 
much of a shot, or cared a great deal about 
hunting, but because, as I heard him say, he 
liked to see all kinds of life, and tiger- stalking 
was something quite fresh to him. 

^' He was a curious-looking gentleman, too, 
that Russian — ^just the sort of face that you. 



NARRATIVE OF SERGEANT NICHOLAS. 29 

woiild never forget after once seeing it, with 
skin that was dried and yellow like parchment ; 
black hair that was trained into a heavy curl on 
the top of his forehead, and a big hooked nose. 

" Well, your ladyship and miss, away we went 
with our elephants and train of servants, and very 
pleasantly we spent our two months^ leave of 
absence. The captain he shot tigers, and the 
Russian he did his best at j)ig-sticking. Our 
last week had come, and in three more days 
we were to set off on our return, when that 
terrible misfortune happened which deprived me 
of the best of masters, and your ladyship of the 
best of sons. 

" Early one morning I was roused by Rung 
Budruck, the captive^s favourite sycee or groom. 
' Get up at once,^ he said, shaking me by the 
shoulder. ' The sahib captain is very ill. The 
black devil has seized him. He must have opium 
or he will die.'' I ran at once to the captain's 
tent, and as soon as I set eyes on him I saw that 
he had been seized with cholera. I went off 
at once and fetched M. Platzoff. We had 
nothing in the way of medicine with us except 



30 NARRATIVE OF SERGEANT NICHOLAS. 

brandy and opium. Under the Russian^s direc- 
tions these were given to my poor master in 
large quantities, but he grew gradually worse. 
Rung and I in everything obeyed M. Platzoff, 
who seemed to know quite well what ought to 
be done in such cases ; and to tell the truths 
your ladyship, he seemed as much put about as 
if the captain had been his own brother. Well, 
the captain grew weaker as the day went on, 
and towards evening it grew quite clear that he 
could not last much longer. The pain had left 
him by this time, but he was so frightfully 
reduced that we could not bring him round. He 
was lying in every respect like one already dead, 
except for his faint breathing, when the Russian 
left the tent for a moment, and I took his place 
at the head of the bed. Rung was standing 
with folded arms a yard or two away. None of 
the other native servants could be persuaded to 
enter the tent, so frightened were they of catching 
the complaint. Suddenly my poor master opened 
his eyes, and his lips moved. I put my ear to 
his mouth. ^ The diamond,'' he whispered . ^ Take 
it — mother — give my love.^ Not a word more 



NARRATIVE OF SERGEANT NICHOLAS. 31 

on earthy your ladyship. His limbs stiffened; 
his head fell back; be gave a great sigb and 
died. I gently closed the eyes tliat could see 
no more^ and left the tent crying. 

" Your ladyship^ we buried Captain Pollexfen 
by torchlight four hours later. We dug his 
grave deep in a corner of the jungle, and there 
■we left him to his last sleep. Over his grave we 
piled a heap of stones, as I have read that they 
used to do in the old times over the grave of a 
chief. It was all we could do. 

" About an hour later M. Platzoff came to 
me. ' I shall start before daybreak for China- 
pore/ he said, ' with one elephant and a couple 
of men. I will take with me the news of my 
poor friend^s untimely fate, and you can come on 
with the luggage and other effects in the ordinary 
way. You will find me at Chinapore when you 
reach there. ^ Next morning I found that he was 
gone. 

" What my deai* master had said with his 
last breath about a diamond puzzled me. I 
could only conclude that amongst his effects 
there must be some valuable stone of which he 



32 NARRATIVE OF SERGEANT NICHOLAS. 

wished special care to be taken, and which he 
desired to be sent home to you_, madam, in Eng- 
land. I knew nothing of any such stone, and I 
considered it beyond my position to search for it 
among his luggage. I decided that when I got 
to Chinapore I would give his message to the 
Colonel, and leave that gentleman to take such 
steps in the matter as he might think best. 

" I had hardly settled all this in my mind 
when Rung Budruck came to me. ' The Russian 
sahib has gone : I have something to tell you/ 
he said, only he spoke in broken English. 
^Yesterday, just after the sahib captain was 
dead, the Russian came back. You had left the 
tent, and I was sitting on the ground behind 
the captain^s big trunk, the lid of which was 
open. I was sitting with my chin in my hand, 
very sad at heart, when the Russian came in. He 
looked carefully round the tent. Me he could 
not see, but I could see him through the open- 
ing between the hinges of the box. What did 
he do ? He unfastened the bosom of the sahib 
captain^s shirt, and then he drew over the cap- 
taints head the steel chain with the little gold 



NARRATIVE OF SERGEANT NICHOLAS. 33 

box liaDging- to it that lie always wore. He 
opened the box^ and saw there was that in it 
which he expected to find there. Then he hid 
away both chain and box in one of his pockets, 
rebuttoned the dead man^s shirt, and left the 
tent.' ' But you haye not told me what there 
was in the box/ I said. He put the tips of his 
fingers together and smiled : ^ In that box was 
the Great Mogul Diamond!^ 

"' Your ladyship, I Avas so startled when Rung- 
said this that the wind of a bullet would have 
knocked me down. A new light was all at once 
thrown on the captain^s dying words. ' But how 
do you know, Rung, that the box contained a 
diamond?^ I asked when I had partly got over 
my surprise. He smiled again, with that strange 
slow smile which those fellows haye. ^ It 
matters not how, but Rung knew that the 
diamond was there. He had seen the captain 
open the box, and take it out and look at it 
many a time when the captain thought no one 
could see him. He could haye stolen it from 
him almost any night when he was asleep, but 
that was left for his friend to do/ ' AVas the 

VOL. II. 3 



34 NARRATIVE OF SERGEANT NICHOLAS. 

diamond you speak of a very valuable one ?^ I 
asked. ' It was a green diamond of immense 
value/ answered Eung ; ' it was called The Great 
Mogul because it was first worn by the terrible 
Aureng-Zebe himself^ who had it set in the haft 
of his scimetar/ ' But by what means did Cap- 
tain Pollexfen become possessed of so valuable a 
stone V Said he^ ' Two years ago^ at the risk 
of his own life^, he rescued the eldest son of the 
Rajah of Gondulpootra from a tiger who had 
carried away the child into the jungle. The 
.rajah is one of the richest men in India, and he 
showed his gratitude by secretly presenting the 
Great Mogul Diamond to the man who had 
saved the life of his child. ^ ^ But why should 
Captain Pollexfen carry so valuable a stone 
about his person ?^ I asked. ' Would it not have 
been wiser to deposit it in the bank at Bombay 
tiU such time as the captain could take it with 
him to England T Said Bung, ^ The stone is a 
charmed stone, and it was the rajah^s particular 
wish that the Sahib Pollexfen should always wear 
it about his person. So long as he did so he 
could not come to his death by fire, by water, or 



NARRATIVE OF SERGEANT NICHOLAS. 35 

hj sword thrust/ Said I, ' But how did the 
Eussian know that Captain PoUexfen carried the 
diamond about his person ?' Said Rung, ^ One 
night when the captain had had too much wine 
he showed the diamond to his friend/ Said I^ 
* But how does it happen, Rung, that you know 
this?' Said Rung, smiling and putting his 
finger tips together, ^ How does it happen that I 
know so much about you ?' And then he told 
me a lot of things about myself that I thought 
no soul in India knew. It was just wonderful 
how he did it. '^ So it is : let that be sufficient,' 
he finished by saying. Said I, ' Why did you 
not tell me till after the Russian had gone away 
that you saw him steal the diamond? If you 
had told me at the time I could have charged 
him with it." Said Rung, ' You are ignorant ; 
you are little more than a child. The Russian 
sahib had the evil eye. Had I crossed his pur- 
poses before his face he would have cursed me 
while he looked at mc, and I should have 
fdthered away and died. He has got the 
diamond, and only by magic can it ever be re- 
covered from him.' 

3—2 



3G NARRATIVE OF SERGEANT NICHOLAS. 

" Your ladyship and miss, — I hope I am not 
tedious nor Tvandering from the point. It will 
be sufficient to say that when I got down to 
Chinapore I found that M. Platzoff had indeed 
been there, but only just long enough to see the 
colonel and give him an account of Captain 
Pollexfen^s death, after which he had at once 
engaged a palanquin and bearers and set out 
with all speed for Bombay. It was now my 
turn to see the colonel, and after I had given 
over into his hands all my dead master^s pro- 
perty that I had brought with me from the 
Hills, I told him the story of the diamond as 
Rung had told it to me. He was much struck 
by it, and ordered me to take Rung to him the 
next morning. But that very night Rung dis- 
appeared, and was never seen in the camp again. 
Whether he was frightened at what he called the 
Russian^s evil eye — frightened that Platzoff could 
blight him even from a distance, I have no 
means of knowing. In any case, gone he was ; 
and from that day to this I have never set eyes 
on him. Well, the colonel said he would take a 
note of what I had told him about the diamond, 



NARRATIVE OF SERGEANT NICHOLAS. 37 

aud that I must leave the matter enth-ely in his 
hands. 

'' Your ladyshij)^ a fortnight after that the 
colonel shot himself. 

" To make short a long story — 'we got a fresh 
colonel^ and were removed to another pan of the 
country; and there, a few weehs later, I was 
knocked down by fever, and was a long time 
before I thoroughly recovered my strength. A 
year or two later our regiment was ordered back 
to England, but a day or two before we should 
have sailed I had a letter telling me that my old 
sweetheart was dead. This news seemed to take 
all care for life out of me, and on the spur of 
the moment I volunteered into a regiment bound 
for China, in which country war was just break- 
ing out. Tliere, and at other places abroad, I 
stopped till just four months ago, when I was 
finally discharged, with my pension, and a bullet 
in my pocket that had been taken out of my 
skull. I only landed in England nine days ago, 
and as soon as it was possible for me to do so, 
I came to see your ladyship. And I think that 
is all.^^ The sergeant^s forefinger went to his 



38 NARRATIVE OF SERGEANT NICHOLAS. 

forehead again as he brought his narrative to an 
end. 

Lady Pollexfen kept on fanning herself in 
silence for a little while after the old soldier had 
done speaking. Her features wore the proud, 
impassive look that they generally put on when 
before strangers : in the present case they were 
no index to the feelings at work underneath. 
At length she spoke. 

"^ After the suicide of your colonel did you 
mention the supposed robbery of the diamond to 
any one else?" 

"To no one else_, your ladyship. For several 
reasons. I was unaware what steps he might 
have taken between the time of my telling him 
and the time of his death to prove or disprove 
the truth of the story. In the second place, 
Kung had disappeared. I could only tell the 
story at secondhand. It had been told me by 
an eyewitness, but that witness was a native, and 
the word of a native does not go for much in 
those parts. In the third place, the Russian had 
also disappeared, and had left no trace behind- 
What could I do ? Had I told the story to my 



NARRATIVE OF SERGEANT NICHOLAS. 39 

new colonel^ I should mayliap only have been 
scouted as a liar or a madman. Besides^ we 
were every day expecting to be ordered home, 
and I had made up my mind that I would at 
once come and see your ladyship. At that time 
I had no intention of going to China, and when 
once I got there it was too late to speak out. 
Eut through all the years I have been away my 
poor dear master^s last words have lived in my 
memory. Many a thousand times have I thought 
of them both day and night, and prayed that I 
might live to get back to Old England, if it was 
only to give yoiu' ladyship the message with 
which I had been charged. ^'' 

" But why could you not write to me V asked 
Lady Pollexfen. 

" Your ladyship, I am no scholar/"* answered 
the old soldier, with a vivid blush. " What I 
have told you to-day in half an hour would have 
taken me years to set down — in fact, I could 
never have done it.^^ 

'' So be it,'' said Lady Pollexfen. "My obliga- 
tion to you is all the greater for bearing in mind 
for so many years my poor boy's last message, and 



40 NAREATIVE OF SERGEANT NICHOLAS. 

for being at so much trouble to deliver it/'' She 
sighed deeply and rose from her chair. The 
sergeant rose too^ thinking that his interview 
was at an end^ but at her ladyship^'s request he 
reseated himself. 

Rejecting Janet^s proffered arm, which she was 
in the habit of leaning on in her perambulations 
about the house and grounds, Lady Pollexfen 
walked slowly and painfully out of the room. 
Presently she returned, carrying an open letter 
in her hand. Both the ink and the paper on 
which it was written were faded and yellow with 
age. 

" This is the last letter I ever received from 
"my son/-' said her ladyship. " I have preserved it 
religiously, and it bears out very singularly what 
you, sergeant, have just told me respecting the 
message which my darling sent me with his 
dying breath. In a few lines at the end he makes 
mention of a something of gi'cat value which he 
is going to bring home with him ; but he writes 
about it in such guarded terms that I never 
could satisfy myself as to the precise meaning of 
what he intended to convey. You, Miss Holme, 



NARRATIVE OF SERGEANT NICHOLAS. 41 

will peril aps be good enough to read the lines 
in question aloud. They are contained in a 
postscript.^'' 

Janet took the letter with reverent tenderness. 
Lady Pollexfen^s trembling finger pointed out 
the lines she was to read. Janet read as 
under : — 

^' P.S. — I have reserved my most important 
bit of news till the last^ as lady correspondents 
are said to do. Observe^ I write ' are said to 
do/ because in this matter I have very little 
personal experience of my own to go upon. 
You, dear mum, are my solitary lady correspon- 
dent, and postscripts are a luxury in which you 
rarely indulge. But to proceed, as the novelists 
say. Some two years ago it was my good 
fortune to rescue a little yellow- skinned prince- 
kin from the clutches of a very fine young tiger 
(my feet are on his hide at this present writing), 
who was carrying him off as a tit-bit for his supper. 
He was terribly mauled, you may be sure, but 
his people followed my advice in their mode of 
doctoring him, and he gradually got round 



42 NARRATIVE OF SERGEANT NICHOLAS. 

again. The lad^s father is a rajah^ immensely 
rich^ and a direct descendent of that ancient 
Mogul dynasty -svhich once ruled this country 
with a rod of iron. The rajah has daughters 
innumerable^ but only this one son. His grati- 
tude for what I had done was unbounded. A 
few weeks ago he gave me a most astounding 
proof of it. By a secret and trusty messenger 

he sent me . But no^ dear mum^ I will 

not tell you what the rajah sent me. This letter 
might chance to fall into other hands than yours 
(Indian letters do sometimes miscarry),, and the 
secret is one which had better be kept in the 
family — at least for the present. So^ mother 
mine^ your curiosity must rest unsatisfied for a 
little while to come. I hope to be with you 
before many months are over, and then you 
shall know everything. 

^' The value of the rajaFs present is something 
immense. I shall sell it when I get to England, 

and out of the proceeds I shall well, I don^t 

exactly know what I shall do. Purchase my 
next step for one thing, but that will cost a 
mere trifle. Then, perhaps, buy a comfortable 



NARRATIVE OF SERGEANT NICHOLAS. 43 

estate in tlie country, or a house in Park-lane. 
Your six weeks eveiy season in London lodgings 
was always inexplicable to me. 

" Or shall I not sell the rajah^s present, but 
oflPer myself in marriage to some fair princess, 
with my heart in one hand and the G.M.D. in 
the other? Madder things than that are re- 
corded in histor}^ In any case, don''t forget to 
pray for the safe arrival of your son, and (if 
such a petition is allowable) that he may not 
fail to bring with him the G.M.D. 

'' C. P." 

" I never could understand before to-day what 
the letters G.M.D. were meant for,^^ said Lady 
Pollexfen, as Janet gave her back the letter. 
" It is now quite evident that they were intended 
for Great Mogul Diamond ; all of which, as I said 
before, is confirmatory of the story you have 
just told me. Of course, after the lapse of so 
many years, there is not the remotest possibility 
of recovering the diamond; but my obligation 
to you. Sergeant Nicholas, is in no wise lessened 
by that fact. What are your engagements ? 



44 NARRATIVE OF SERGEANT NICHOLAS. 

Are you obliged to leave here immediate] y^ or 
can you remain a sliort time in the neigh- 
bourhood ?" 

" I can give your ladyship a week^ or even a 
fortnight_, if you wish it/^ 

^^ I am greatly obliged to you, I do wish 
it — I wish to talk to you respecting my sou, 
and you are the only one now living who can 
tell me about him. You shall find that I am 
not ungrateful for what you have done for me. 
In the meantime, you will stop at the King^s 
Arms, in Tydsbury. Miss Holme will give you 
a note to the landlord. Come up here to- 
morrow at eleven. And now I must say good 
naorning. I am not very strong, and your news 
has shaken me a little. Will you do me the 
honour of shaking hands with me ? It was your 
hands that closed my poor boy^'s eyes — that 
touched him last on earth ; let those hands now 
be touched by his mother.'''' 

Lady PoUexfen stood up and extended both 

* her withered hands. The old soldier came 

forward with a blush and took them respectfully, 

tenderlv. He bent his head and touched each 



NARRATIVE OF SERGEANT NICHOLAS. 45 

of them in turn witli his lips. Tears stood in 
his eyes. 

" God bless you, Sergeant Nicholas ! You 
are a good man, and a true gentleman/^ said 
Lady PoUexfen. Then she turned and slowly 
left the room. 



CHAPTER IV. 

COUNSEL TAKEN WITH MR. MADGIN. 

After her interview with Sergeant Nicliolas, 
Lady PoUexfen dismissed Janet for the day_, 
and retired to her own rooms, nor was she seen 
out of them till the following morning. No 
one was admitted to see her save Dance. Janet, 
after sitting with Sister Agnes all the afternoon, 
went down at dusk to the housekeeper's room. 

" Whatever did you do to her ladyship this 
morning ?'' asked Dance as soon as she entered. 
" She has tasted neither bit nor sup since break- 
fast, but ever since that old shabby-looking 
fellow went away she has lain on the sofa, 
staring at the wall as if there was some writing 
on it she was trying to read but didn't know 
how. I thought she was ill, and asked her if 
I should send for the doctor. She laughed at 
me without taking her eyes off the wall, and 



COUNSEL TAKEN WITH MR. MADGIN. 47 

bade me begone for an old fool. If there's 
not a change by mornings I shall just send for 
the doctor without asking her leave. Surely 
you and that old fellow have bewitched her 
ladyship between you.'' 

Janet in reply told Dance all that had passed 
at the morning^s interview, feeling quite sure 
that in doing so she was violating no confidence, 
and that Lady Pollexfen herself would be the 
first to tell everything to her faithful old ser- 
vant as soon as she should be sufiiciently com- 
posed to do so. As a matter of course Dance 
was full of wonder. 

^''Did you know Captain Pollexfen?" asked 
Janet, as soon as the old dame's surprise had in 
some measure toned itself down. 

" Did I know curly -pated, black-eyed Master 
Charley?" asked the old woman. ^'^Ay — who 
better? These arms, withered and yellow now, 
then plump and strong, held him before he had 
been an hour in the world. The day he left Eng- 
land I went vrith her ladyship to see him aboard 
ship. As he shook me by the hand for the last 
time he said, ' You will never leave my mother. 



48 COUNSEL TAKEN WITH MR. MADGIN. 

will you^ Dance T And I said^ ' Never,, while I 
live, dear Master Charles/ and Fve kept my 
word/^ 

^' Her ladyship has never been like the same 
woman since she heard the news of his death," 
resumed Dance after a pause. " It seemed to 
sour her and harden her, and make her altogether 
diflPerent. There had been a great deal of un- 
happiness at home for some years before he went 
away. He and his father, Sir John — he that 
now lies so quiet upstairs — had a terrible 
quarrel just after Master Charles went into the 
army, and it was a quarrel that was never made 
up in this world. He was an awful man — Sir 
John — a wicked man : pray that such a one 
may never cross your path. The only happiness 
he seemed to have on earth was in making those 
over whom he had any power, miserable. It 
was impossible for my lady to love him, but she 
tried to do her duty by him till he and Master 
Charles fell out. What the quarrel was about 
I never rightly understood, but my lady would 
have it that Master Charles was in the right and 
her husband in the wrong. One result was that 



COUNSEL TxVKEX AVITH ^m. MADGIX. 40 

Sir John stopped the income that he had always 
allowed his son^ and took a frightful oath that if 
]M aster Charles were dying of starvation before 
his eyes, he would not give him as much as a 
penny to buy bread with. But her ladyship, 
who had money in her own right, said that 
^Master Charleses income should go on as usual. 
Then she and Sir John quarrelled ; and she left 
him and came to live at Dupley Walls, leaving 
him at Dene Folly ; and here she stayed till Sir 
John was taken with his last illness and sent for 
lier. He sent for her, not to make up the 
tjuarrel, but to jibe and sneer at her, and to 
make her wait on him day and night, as if she 
were a paid nurse from a hospital. While this 
was going on, and after Sir John had been quite 
given up by the doctors, new^s came from India 
of blaster Charleses death. Well, her ladyship 
went nigh distracted; but as for the baronet, it 
was said, though I wont vouch for the truth of 
it, that he only laughed when the news was told 
him, and said that if he was plagued as much 
with corns in the next world as he had been in this, 
he should find Master Charleses arm very useful 

VOL. II. 4 



50 COUNSEL TAKEN WITH MR. MADGIN. 

to lean upon. Two days later he died, and the 
title, and Dene Folly with it, went to a- far-away 
cousin, whom neither Sir John nor his wife had 
ever seen. Then it was found how the baronet 
had contrived that his spite should outlive him — 
for only out of spite and mean cruelty could he 
have made such a will as he did make : that 
Dupley Walls should not become her ladyship^'s 
absolute property till the end of twenty years, 
during the whole of which time liis body was to 
remain unburied, and to be kept under the same 
roof with his widow, wherever she might live. 
The mean, paltry scoundrel ! Perhaps her lady- 
ship might have had the will set aside, but she 
would not go to law about it. Thank Heaven 1 
the twenty years are nearly at an end. Dupley 
Walls has been a haunted house ever since that 
midnight when Sir John was borne in on the 
shoulders of six strong men. And now tell me 
whether her ladyship is not a woman to be 
pitied." 

At a quarter before eleven next morning Mr. 
Solomon Madgin, Lady Pollcxfen's agent and 



COUNSEL TAKEN WITH ME. MADGIN. 51 

general man-of-business^ arrived by appointment 
at Dupley Walls. Mr. Madgin was indispen- 
sable to her ladyship, who had a considerable 
quantity of house property in and around Tyds- 
bury, consisting chiefly of small tenements, the 
rents of which had to be collected weekly. Then 
Mr. Madgin was bailiff for the Dupley Walls 
estate, in connexion with which were several 
small farms or " holdings^' which required to be 
well looked after in many ways. Besides all this, 
her ladyship, having a few spare thousands, had 
taken of late years to dabbling in scrip and shares 
in a small way, and under the skilful pilotage of 
Mr. Madgin had hitherto contrived to steer clear 
of those rocks and shoals of speculation on which 
so many gallant argosies are wrecked. In short, 
everything except the law-business of the estate 
filtered through Mr. Madgin''s hands, and as he 
did his work cheaply and well, and put up with 
her ladyship^s ill temper without a murmur, the 
mistress of Dupley Walls could hardly have found 
any one who would have suited her better. 

Mr. Solomon Madgin was a little dried-up man, 
about sixty years old. Jlis tail-coat and vest of 

4—2 

uNivERsimr Of iuittan 



52 COUNSEL TAKEN WITH MR. MADGIN. 

rusty black were of the fashion of twenty years 
ago. He wore drab trowsers, and shoes tied 
with bows of black ribbon. His head^ bald on 
the crown^ had an ample fringe of white hair at 
the back and sides^, and was covered^, when he 
went abroad;, with a beaver hat^ very fluffy and 
much too tall for him_, and which^ once upon a 
time_, had probably been nearly as white as his 
liair_, but was now time-worn and weather-stained 
to one uniform and consistent drab. Round his 
neck he always wore a voluminous cravat of un- 
starched muslin fastened in front with an old- 
fashioned pearl brooch^ above Avhich protruded 
the two spiked points of a very stiff and pug- 
nacious-looking collar. A strong alpaca um- 
brella^ unfashionably corpulent_, was his constant 
companion. Mr. Madgin^s whiskers were shaved 
off in an exact line with the end of his nose. 
His eyebrows were very white and bushy, and 
could serve on occasion as a screen to the 
greenish crafty-looking eyes below them, which 
never liked to be peered into too closely. The 
ordinary expression of his thin dried-up face was 
one of hard worldly shrewdness ; but there was a 



lurking bonhommie in his smile whicli seemed to 
imply that^ away from business^ lie miglit 
possibly mellow into a boon companion. 

Mr. Madgin bad to wait a few minutes this 
morning before Lady Pollexfen could receive him. 
When he was ushered into her sitting-room he 
was surprised to find that she and Miss Holme 
were not alone ; that a plainly-dressed man, who 
looked almost as old as Mr. Madgin himself, was 
seated at the table. After one suspicious glance 
at the stranger, ]\Ir. Madgin made his bow to 
the ladies and walked up to the table with his 
bag of papers. 

" You can put all those things away for the 
day, Mr. Madgin/^ said her ladyship. ^' A far 
more important matter claims our attention just 
now. In the first place, I must introduce to you 
Sergeant Nicholas, many years ago servant to 
my son. Captain Pollexfen, who died in India. 
(Sergeant, this is Mr. Madgin, my man of 
business.) The sergeant, who has only just re- 
turned to England, told me yesterday a very 
curious story which I am desirous that he should 
repeat in your presence to-day. The story re- 



54 COUNSEL TAKEN WITH MR. MADGIN. 

lates to a diamond of great value,, said to have 
been stolen from the body of my son immediately 
after deaths and I shall require you to give me 
your opinion as to the feasibility of its recovery. 
You will take such notes of the narrative as 
you may think necessary, and the sergeant will 
afterwards answer, to the best of his ability, 
any questions you may choose to put to him/'' 
Then turning to the old soldier, she added : 
" You will be good enough, sergeant, to repeat 
to Mr. Madgin such parts of your narrative of 
yesterday as have any reference to the diamond. 
Begin with my son^s dying message. Repeat 
word for word, as closely as you can remember, 
all that was told you by the sycee Rung. 
Describe as minutely as possible the personal 
appearance of M. Platzoff; and detail any other 
points that bear on the loss of the diamond.^' 

So the sergeant began, but the repetition of 
a long narrative not learnt by heart is by no 
means an easy matter, especially when they to 
whom it was first told hear it for the second 
time, but rather as critics than as ordinary 
listeners. Besides, the taking of notes was a 



COUNSEL TAKEN WITH MR. MADGIN. 55 

process that smacked of a court-martial and 
tended to flurry tlie narrator, making him feel 
as if he were upon his oath and liable to be 
browbeat by the counsel for the other side. He 
was heartily glad when he got to the end of 
what he had to tell. The postscript to Captain 
Pollexfen^s letter was then read by Miss Holme. 

Mr. Madgin took copious notes as the sergeant 
went on, and afterwards put a few questions to 
him on different points which he thought not 
sufficiently clear. Then he laid down his pen, 
rubbed his hands, and ran his fingers through 
his scanty hair. Lady Pollexfen rang for her 
butler, and gave the sergeant into his keeping, 
knowing that he could not be in better hands. 
Then she said : — " I will leave you, Mr. Madgin, 
for half an hour. Go carefully through your 
notes, and let me have your opinion when I 
come back as to whether, after so long a time, 
you think it worth while to institute any pro- 
ceedings for the recovery of the diamond."^ 

So Mr. Madgin was left alone with what he 
called his " considering cap." As soon as the 
door was closed behind her ladyship, he tilted 



56 COUNSEL TAKEN WITH MR. MADGIN. 

back liis cliair^ stuck his feet on the table^ buried 
his hands deep in his pockets_, and shut his eyes, 
and so remained for full five-and-twenty minutes. 
He was busy consulting his notes when Lady 
Pollexfen re-entered the room. Mr. Madgin 
began at once. 

" I must confess/" he said^ " that the case 
which your ladyship has submitted to me seems, 
Irom what I can see of it at present, to be sur- 
rounded with difficulties. Stilly I am far from 
counselling your ladyship to despair entirely. 
The few points which, at the first glance, present 
themselves as requiring for solution are these : — 
Who was the M. Platzoflf who is said to have stolen 
the diamond ? and what position in life did he 
really occupy ? Is he alive or dead T If alive, 
where is he now living ? If he did really steal the 
diamond, are not the chances as a hundi'cd to 
one that he disposed of it long ago ? But even 
granting tliat we were in a position to answer all 
these questions ; suppose even that this M. 
Platzoff were living in Tydsbury at the present 
moment, and that fact were known to us, how 
much nearer should we be to the recoverv of the 



COUNSEL TAKEN WITH MK. MADGIN. 57 

diamond than we are now ? Your ladyship 
must please to bear in mind that as the case is 
now we have not an inch of legal ground to 
stand upon. We have no evidence that would 
be worth a rush in a court of law that M. 
Platzoff really purloined the diamond. We have 
no trustworthy evidence that the diamond itself 
ever had an existence/^ 

'' Surely^ Mr. Madgin,, my son^s letter is 
sufficient to prove that fact.''^ 

" Sufficient_, perhaps, in conjunction with the 
other evidence, to prove it in a moral sense, but 
certainly not in a legal one,^'' said Mr. Madgin, 
quietly, but decisively. ^'' Your ladyship must 
please to bear in mind that Captain Pollexfen in 
his letter makes no absolute mention of the 
diamond by name ; he merely writes of it vaguely 
under certain initials, and, if called upon, how 
could you prove that he intended those initials 
to stand for the words Great Mogul Diamond, 
and not for something altogether different ? If 
M. Platzoff were your ladyship's next-door 
neighbour, and you knew for certain that he had 
the diamond still in his possession, you could 



58 COUNSEL TAKEN WITH MR. MADGIN. 

only get it from him as he himself got it from 
your son — by subterfuge and artifice. Your 
ladyship will please to observe that I have put 
forward no opinion in the case. I have merely 
offered a statement of plain facts as they show 
themselves on the sm'face. With those facts 
before you it rests with your ladyship to decide 
what further steps you wish taken in the matter/' 
" My good Madgiuj do you know what it is 
to hate T' demanded Lady PoUexfen. " To hate 
with a hatred that dwarfs all other passions of 
the soul, and makes them pigmies by compari- 
son? If you know this, you know the feeling 
with which I regard AI. Platzoff". If you want 
the key to the feeling, you have it in the fact 
that his accursed hands robbed my dead son : 
even then you must have a mother's heart to 
feel all that I feel." She paused for a moment 
as if to recover breath ; then she resumed. 
" See you, Mr. Solomon Madgin, I have a con- 
viction, an intuition, call it what you will, that 
this Russian scoundrel is still alive. That is the 
first fact you have got to find out. The next is, 
where he is now residing. Then you will have 



COUNSEL TAKEN WITH MR. MADGXN. 59 

to ascertain whether lie has the diamond still in 
his possession,, and if so, by what means it can 
be recovered. Only recover it for me — I ask 
not how or by what means — only put into my 
hands the diamond that was stolen off my son^s 
breast as he lay dead ; and the day you do that, 
my good Madgin, I will present you with a 
cheque for five thousand pounds !" 

Mr. Madgin sat like one astounded; the 
power of reply seemed taken from him. " Go 
now/^ said Lady PoUexfen, after a few moments. 
"Ordinary business is out of the question to- 
day. Go home and carefully digest what I 
have just said to you. That you are a man of 
resources, I know well; had you not been so, 
I would not have employed you in this matter. 
Come to me to-morrow, next day, next week — 
when you like ; only donH come barren of ideas ; 
don^'t come without a plan, likely or unlikely, 
of some sort of a campaign.^^ 

Mr. Madgin rose and swept his papers me- 
chanically into his bag. "Your ladyship said 
five thousand pounds, if I mistake not?'^ he stam- 
mered out. 



60 COUNSEL TAKEN WITH MR. MADGIN. 

'^A cheque for five thousand pounds shall be 
yours on the day you bring me the diamond. 
Is not my word sufficient,, or do you wish to 
have it imder bond and seal?^^ she asked with 
some hauteur. 

" Your ladyship^s word is an all-sufficient 
bond/^ answered Mr. Madgin, with sweet hu- 
mility. He paused Avith the handle of the door 
in his hand. '' Supposing I were to see my 
way to carry out your ladyship^s wishes in this 
respect/^ he said deferentially^ ^' or even to carry 
out a portion of them only^ still it could not 
be done without expense — not without conside- 
rable expense^ maybe.^^ 

" I give you carte-blanche as regards ex- 
penses/^ said her ladyship with decision. 

Then Mr. Madgin gave a farewell duck of 
the headj and went. He took his way home- 
ward through the park^ like a man walking m 
his sleep. With wide-open eyes, and hat well 
set on the back of his head, with his blue bag 
in one hand, and his umbrella under his arm, 
he trudged onward, even after he got into the 
busy streets of the little town, without seeing 



COUNSEL TAKEN WITH MR. MADGIN. 61 

anything or anybody. What he saw, he saw 
introspectively. On the one hand glittered the 
tempting bait held out by Lady Pollexfen ; on 
the other loomed the dark problem that had to 
be solved before he conld call the golden apple 
liis. 

" The most arrant wild-goose chase that ever 
I heard of in all my life/^ he muttered to him- 
self, as he halted at his own door. " Not a 
single ray of light anywhere — not one.^^ 

" Popsey/" he called out to his daughter^ 
when he got inside, " bring the decanter of gin, 
some cold water, an ounce of bird^s-eye, and a 
clean churchwarden, into the office ; and donH 
let me be disturbed by any one for four hours.^^ 



CHAPTER V. 

MR. MADGIN AT THE HELM. 

Mr. Madgin^s house stood somewhat back from 
the main street of Tydsbury. It was an old- 
fashioned house,, of modest exterior^ and had an 
air of being elbowed into the background by 
the smarter and more modern domiciles on each 
side of it. Its steep overhanging roof, and 
porched doorway, gave it a sleepy, reposeful 
look, as though it were watching the on-goings 
of the little town through half-closed lids, and 
taking small cognizance thereof. 

Entering from the street through a little 
wooden gateway of a bright green colour, a 
narrow pathway, paved with round pebbles that 
were very trying to people with tender feet, 
conducted you to the front door, on which shone 
a brass plate of surpassing brightness, whereon 
was inscribed : — 



MR. MADGIN AT THE HELM. 63 



Mr. Solomon Madgin_, 
General Agent, 
Valuer, ^c. 



The house was a double-fronted one. On one 
side of the passage as you went in was the office^ 
on the other side was the family sitting-room. 
Not that Mr. Madgin's family was a large one. 
It consisted merely of himself, his daughter 
Mirpah^ and one strong servant girl with an 
unlimited capacity for hard work. Mirpah 
Madgin deserves some notice at our hands. 

She was a tall^ superb-looking young woman 
of two-and-twenty^ and bore not the slightest 
resemblance in person^ whatever she might do 
in mind or disposition^ to that sly old fox her 
father. Mirpah^s mother had been of Jewish 
extraction^ and in MirpaFs face you read the 
immistakable signs of that gi-and style of beauty 
which is everywhere associated with the down- 
trodden race. She moved about the little house 
in her inexpensive prints and muslins like a dis- 



64 MR. MADGIN AT THE HELM. 

crowned queen. That she had reached the age 
of two-and-twenty without having been in love 
was no source of surprise to those who knew her, 
for Mirpah Madgin hardly looked like a girl who 
would marry a poor clerk or a petty tradesman, 
or w^ho could ever sink into the common-place 
drudge of a hand-to-mouth household. She 
looked like a girl w^ho w^ould some day be claimed 
by a veritable hero of romance — by some Ivanhoe 
of modern life, well endow^ed with this world's 
goods — who would wed her, and ride away wdth 
her to the fairy realms of Tyburnia and Rotten 
E/Ow. 

And yet, truth to tell, the thi'ead of romance 
inwoven with the composition of Mirpah Madgin 
was a very slender one. In so far she belied 
her own beauty. For a young woman she was 
strangely practical, and that in a curiously un- 
feminine way. She Avas her father's managing 
clerk and alter ego. The housewifely acts of 
sewing and cooking she held in utter distaste. 
For domestic management in any of its forms 
she had no faculty, unless it were for that por- 
tion of it which necessitated a watchful eye upon 



MR. MADGIX AT THE HELM. 65 

the purse-strings. Such an eye she had been 
trained to use since she was quite a gii-l^ and 
Mirpah the superb could on occasion haggle over 
a penny as keenly as the most ancient fishwife 
in Tydsbur}^ market. 

At five minutes past nine precisely, six morn- 
ings out of every seven, Mirpah Madgin sat 
down in her father^s office and proceeded to 
open the letters. Mr. Madgin^s business was a 
multifarious one. Not only was he Lady Pol- 
jexfen^s general agent and man of business, 
although that was his most onerous and lucrative 
appointment, and the one that engaged most of 
his time and thoughts, but he was also agent 
for several lesser concerns, always contriving to 
have a number of small irons in the fire at one 
time- Much of !Mr. Madgin''s time was spent 
in the collection of rents and in out-door work 
generally, so that nearly the whole of the office 
duties devolved upon Mirpah, and by no clerk 
could they have been more efficiently performed. 
She made up and balanced the numerous ac- 
counts with which Mr. Madgin had to deal in 
one shape or another. Three-fourths of the letters 

VOL. II. ' 5 



66 MR. MADGIN AT THE HELM. 

that emanated from Mr. Maclgin''s office were 
written by her. From long practice she had 
Icarned to write so like her father that only an 
expert could have detected the difference be- 
tween the two hands ; and she invariably signed 
herself " Yours truly, Solomon Madgin.^^ In- 
deed, so accustomed was she to writing her 
father^s name that in her correspondence with 
her brother, who was an actor in London, she 
more frequently than not signed it in place of 
her own; so that Madgin junior had to look 
whether the letter was addressed to him as a son 
or as a brother before he could tell by whom it 
had been written. 

As her father^s assistant Mirpah was happy 
after a quiet, staid sort of fashion. The energies 
of her nature found their vent in the busy life in 
which she took so much delight. She was not 
at all sentimental : she was not the least bit ro- 
mantic. She was thoroughly practical, and was 
as keen in money-making as her father himself. 
Yet with all this Mirpah Madgin could be cha- 
ritable on occasion, and was by no means de- 
ficient of high and generous impulses — only she 



MR. MADGIN AT THE HELM. 67 

never allowed her impulses to interfere with 
" business/^ 

Mr. Madgin never took any important step 
without first consulting his daughter. Herein 
he acted wisely, for MirpaVs clear good sense, 
and feminine quickness at penetrating motives 
where he himself was sometimes at fault, had 
often proved invaluable to him in difficult trans- 
actions. In a matter of so much moment as 
that of the Great Mogul Diamond it was not 
likely that he would be long contented without 
taking her into his confidence. He had scarcely 
finished his first pipe when he heard her opening 
the door with her latch-key, and his face bright- 
ened at the sound. She had been on one of 
those holy pilgrimages in which all who are thus 
privileged take so much delight : she had been 
to the bank to increase the little store which lay 
there already in her father's name. She came 
into the room tii'ed but smiling. A white straw 
bonnet, a black silk mantle, and a muslin dress 
small in pattern, formed the chief items of 
her quiet attire. She was carefully gloved and 
booted ; but to whatever she wore Mirpah im- 

5—2 



68 MR. MADGIN AT THE HELM. 

parted an air of distinctiou that put it at once 
beyond a suggestion of improvement. 

^' Smoking at this time of day, papa V ex- 
claimed Mirpah. ^' And the gin-bottle out_, too ! 
Are we about to retire on our fortunes, or what 
does it all mean ?" 

" It means, girl, that I have got one of the 
hardest nuts to crack that was ever put before 
me. If I crack it, I get five thousand pounds 
for the kernel. If I don^t crack it — but that^s a 
possibility I can^t bear to think about .^"^ 

" Five thousand pounds ! That would indeed 
be a kernel worth having. My teeth are younger 
than yours, and perhaps I may be able to help 
you.^^ 

Mr. Madgin smoked in silence for a little 
while, while Mirpah toyed patiently with her 
bonnet strings. " The nut is simply this,^' said 
the old man at last : " In India, twenty years 
ago, a diamond was stolen from a dying man. I 
am now told to find the thief, to obtain from 
him the diamond either by fair means or foul — 
supposing always that he is still alive and has 
the diamond still in his possession — and on the 



MR. MADGIN AT THE HELM. 69 

day I give tlie stone to its rightful owner the 
aforementioned five thousand pounds become 
mine.''^ 

" A. grand prize^ and one worth striding for V 

" Even so ; but how can I strive,, when I have 
nothing to strive against ? I am like a man put 
into a dark room to fight a duel. I cannot find 
my antagonist. I grope about, not knowing 
whether he is on the right hand of me or the 
left, before me or behind me. In fact, I am 
utterly at sea ; and the more I think about the 
matter the more hopelessly bewildered I seem to 
become."^ 

" Two heads are better than one, papa. Let 
me try to help you. Tell me the case from 
beginning to end, with all the details as they are 
known to you.^"* 

Mr. Madgin willingly compHed, and related 
in exienso all that he had heard that morning at 
Dupley Walls. The little man had a high opinion 
of his daughter's sagacity. That such an opinion 
was in nowise lessened by the residt of the pre- 
sent case will be best seen by the following ex- 
cerpts from Mr.Madgin^s diary, which, as ha^ang a 



70 MR. MADGIN AT THE HELM. 

particular bearing on the case of the Great 
Mogul Diamond, we proceed at once to lay 
before the reader : — 

" Excerpts from the Diary of Mr. Solomon 
Madgin. 

^^ July 9thj Evening. — After the wonderful re- 
velation made to me by Lady Pollexfen this morn- 
ing, I came home/ and got behind a church- 
warden, and set my wits to work to think 
the matter out. I shut my eyes and puffed 
away for an hour and a half, but at the end of 
that time I was as much in a fog as when I 
first sat down. Nowhere could I discern a 
single ray of light. Then in came Mirpah, and 
when she begged of me to tell her the story, I 
was glad to do so, remembering how often she 
had helped me through a puzzle in days gone 
by — but none of them of such magnitude as this 
one. So I told her everything as far as it was 
known to myself. After that we discussed the 
whole case carefully step by step. The imme- 
diate result of this discussion was, that as soon 
as tea was over, I went as far as the White 



MR. MADGIN AT THE HELM. 71 

Hart tavern in searcli of Sergeant Nicholas. I 
found him on the bowling-green watching the 
players. I called for a quart of old ale and 
some tobacco, and before long we were as cosy 
as two old cronies who have known each other 
for twenty years. The morning had shown me 
that the Sergeant was a man of some intelligence 
and of much worldly experience ; and when I had 
lowered myself imperceptibly to the level of his 
intellect, so as to put him more completely at 
his ease, I had no difficulty in inducing him to 
talk freely and fully on that one subject which, 
for the last few hours, has had for me an inte- 
rest paramount to that of any other. My 
primary object was to induce him to retail to 
me every scrap of information that he could 
call to mind respecting the Russian, Platzoff, 
who is said to have stolen the diamond. It was 
Mirpah^s opinion and mine, that he must be in 
possession of many bits of special knowledge, 
such as might seem of no consequence to him, 
but which might be invaluable to us in our 
search, and such as he would naturally leave out 
of the narrative he told Lady Pollexfen. The 



72 MR. MADGIN AT THE HELM. 

result proved that our opinion was well founded. 
I did not leave tlie sergeant till I had pumped 
him thoroughly dry. (Mem. : an excellent tap 
of old ale at the White Hart. Must try some 
of it at home.) 

" I found Mirpah watering her geranimns in 
the back garden. She was all impatience to 
learn the result of my interview. I am thank- 
ful that increasing years have not impaired 
my memory. I repeated to Mirpah every word 
bearing on the case in point that the sergeant 
had confided to me. Then I waited in silence 
for her opinion. I was anxious to know whether 
it coincided in any way with my own. I am 
happy to think that it did coincide. Father and 
daughter were agreed. 

" ' I think that you have done a very good 
afternoon's work^ papa/ said Mirpah_, after a 
few moments given to silent thought. ' After 
a lapse of twenty years, it is not likely that 
Sergeant Nicholas should have a very clear re- 
collection of any conversation that he may have 
overheard between Captain Pollexfen and M. 
PlatzofF. Indeed, had he pretended to repeat 



MR. MADGIN AT THE HELM. 73 

any such conversation^ I should have felt strongly 
inclined to doubt the truth of his entire narra- 
tive. Happily he disclaims any such abnormal 
powers of memory. He can remember nothing 
but a chance phrase or two which some secon- 
dary circumstance fixed indelibly on his mind. 
But he can remember a great number of little 
facts bearing on the relations between his master 
and the Russian. These facts, considered singly, 
may seem of little or no importance, but taken 
in the aggregate, and regarded as so many bits 
of mosaic work forming part of a complicated 
whole, they assume an aspect of far greater 
importance. In any case, they put us on a 
trail, which may turn out to be the right one 
or the wi'ong one, but which at present cer- 
tainly seems to me worth following up. Finally, 
they all tend to deepen our first suspicion that 
M. Platzoff was neither more nor less than a 
political refugee. The next point is to ascertain 
whether he is still alive.^ 

" Here again the clear logical intellect of 
Mirpah (so like my own) came to my assistance. 
Before parting for the night we were agreed as 



74 MR. MADGIN AT THE HELM. 

to what our mode of procedure ought to be on 
the morrow. This most extraordinary case en- 
gages all my thoughts. I am afraid that I shall 
not be able to sleep much to-night. 

'^ July 10th. — I owe it to Mirpah to say that 
it was entirely in consequence of a hint from her 
that I went at an early hour this morning to the 
office of the Tydsbury Courier there to consult a 
a file of that newspaper. Six months ago the 
daughter of Sir John Pennythorne was married 
to a rich London gentleman. Mirpah had read 
the account of the festivities consequent on that 
event, and seemed to remember that among 
other friends of the bridegroom invited down to 
Finch Hall was some foreign gentleman who was 
stated in the newspaper to belong to the Russian 
Legation in London. Acting on Mirpah's hint, 
I went back through the files of the Courier till 
I lighted on the account of the wedding. True 
enough, among other guests on that occasion, I 
found catalogued the name of a certain Monsieur 

H of the Russian Embassy. I had got all 

I wanted from the Tydsbury Courier, 

" My next proceeding was to hasten up to 



MR. MADGIN AT THE HELM. 75 

Dupley Walls^ to obtain au interview with Lady 
Pollexfen^ and to induce lier ladyship to write to 
Sir John Penny thorne asking him to write to the 

aforesaid M. H , and inquire whether,, among 

the archives (I think that is the correct word) 
of the Embassy^ they had any record of a political 
refugee by name Paul Platzoff, who^ twenty years 
ago^ was in India^ &c. I had considerable diffi- 
culty in persuading her ladyship to write^ but at 
last the letter was sent. I await the result 
anxiously. The chances seem to me something 
like a thousand to one against our inquiry being- 
productive of any tangible result. What I dread 
more than all is that M. Platzoff is no longer 
among the living. 

'- July 20th. — Nine days without a word fi'om 
Sir John Pennythorne, except to say that he had 

written his friend Monsieur H as requested 

by Lady Pollexfen. I began to despair. Each 
morning I inquired of her ladyship whether she 
had received any reply from Sir John, and each 
morning her ladyship said : ' I have had no 
reply, Mr. Madgin, beyond the one you have 
already seen.' 



76 MR. MAD GIN AT THE HELM. 

" Certain matters connected with a lease took 
me up to Dupley Walls this afternoon for the 
second time to-day. The afternoon post came 
in while I was there. Among other letters was 
one from Sir John Pennythorne, which^ when 
she had read it^ her ladyship tossed over to me. 

It enclosed one from M. H to Sir John. 

It was on the latter that I pounced. It was 
written in French^ but even at the first hasty 
reading I could make it out sufficiently to know 
that it was of far greater importance than 
even in my wildest dreams I had dared to 
imagine. 

" I never saw Lady PoUexfen so excited as 
she was during the few moments which I took 
up in reading the letter. During the nine days 
that had elapsed since the writing of her letter 
to Sir John she had treated me somewhat 
slightingly ; there was, or so I fancied,, a spice of 
contempt in her manner towards me. The step 
I had induced her to take in writing to Sir John 
had met with no approbation at her hands; it 
had seemed to her an utterly futile and ridicu- 
lous thing to do; therefore was I now propor- 



MR. MADGIN AT THE HELM. 77 

tionately well pleased to find that my Tvild idea 
had been productive of such excellent fruit. 

'^ ' I must certainly compliment you,, Mr. 
Madgin, on the success of your first step/ said 
her ladyship. ^ It was like one of the fine in- 
tuitions of genius to imagine that you saw a way 
to reach M. Platzofi" through the Russian Em- 
bassy. You have been fully justified by the re- 
sult. Madgin, the man yet lives ! — the man 
whose sacrilegious hands robbed my dead son 
of that which he had left as a sacred gift to 
his mother. May the curse of a widowed 
mother attend him through life ! Let me hear 
the letter again^ Madgin ; or stay^ I "v^-ill read it 
myself : your French is execrable. Ha^ ha ! 
Monsieur Paul Platzofi", we shall have our re- 
venge out of you yet.^ 

" She read the letter through for the second 
time with a sort of deliberate eagerness which 
showed me how deeply interested her heart was 
in the afi'air. She dropped her eye-glass and 
gave a great sigh when she came to the end of 
it. '^And what do you propose to do next, Mr. 
Madgin T she asked. ^ Your conduct so far 



78 ME. MADGIN AT THE HELM. 

satisfies me that I cannot do better than leave 
the case entirely in your hands/ 

'^ ' With all dne deference to your ladyship/ I 
replied, ' I think that my next step ought to be 
to reconnoitre the enemy^s camp/ 

"'Exactly my own thought/ said her lady- 
ship. ' When can you start for Windermere V 

" ' To-morrow morning, at nine.^ 

" After a little more conversation I left her 
ladyship. She seemed in better spirits than I 
had seen her for a long time. 

"I need not attempt to describe dear Mir- 
pah^s delight when I read over to her the con- 
tents of Monsieur H.^s note. She put her arms 
round me and kissed me. ' The five thousand 
pounds shall yet be yours, papa/ she said. 
Stranger things than that have come to pass be- 
fore now. But I am working only for her and 
James. Should I ever be so fortunate as to 
touch the five thousand pounds, one-half of it 
will go to form a dowry for my Mirpah. Below 
is a free translation of the business part of 
M. H.'s letter, which was simply an extract 
from some secret ledger kept at the Embassy : — 



MR. MADGIN AT THE HELM. 79 

" ' Platzoff^ Paul. A Russian by birth and a 
conspirator by choice. Born in Moscow in 1802, 
his father being a rich leather-merchant of that 
city. Implicated at the age of nineteen in 
sundry insurrectionary movements ; tried, and 
sentenced to three years^ imprisonment in a 
militai'y fortress. After his release, left Russia 
without permission, having first secretly trans- 
ferred his property into foreign securities. 
Went to Paris. Issued a scurrilous pamphlet 
directed against his Majesty the Emperor. Spent 
several years in travel, — now in Europe, now in 
the East, striving wherever he went to promul- 
gate his revolutionary ideas. More than sus- 
pected of being a member of several secret 
political societies. Has resided for the last few 
years at Bon Repos, on the banks of Winder- 
mere, from which place he communicates con- 
stantly with other characters as desperate as 
himself. Russia has no more bitter and deter- 
mined enemy than Paul Platzoff. He is at once 
clever and unscrupulous. While he lives he will 
not cease to conspire.^ 

" After this followed a description of Platzoff 's 



so MR. MADGIN AT THE HELM. 

personal appearance^ which it is needless to 
transcribe here. 

" I start for Windermere by the first train to- 
morrow.^^ 



CHAPTER VI. 

MR. MADGIX^S SECRET JOURNEY. 

Mr. Madgin left home by an early train on 
the morning of the day following that on which 
Lady Pollexfen had received a reply from Sir 
John Pennythorne. His first intention had 
been to make the best of his way to Windermere^ 
and there ascertain the exact locality of Bon 
Repos. But a fresh view of the case presented 
itself to his mind as he lay thinking in bed. 
Instead of taking the train for tlie norths he 
took one for the south, and found himself at 
Euston as the London clocks were striking 
twelve. After an early dinner, and a careful 
consultation of the Post Office Directory, INIr. 
Madgin ordered a hansom, and was driven to 
Hatton-garden, in and about which unfragrant 
locality the diamond merchants most do con- 
gregate. After due inquiries made and an- 

VOL. II. • 6 



8Z :.IK. MADGIN S SECRET JOURNEY. 

swered, Mr. Madgin was driven eastward for 
another mile or more. Here a similar set of 
inquiries elicited a similar set of answers. Mr. 
Madgin went back to his hotel well pleased with 
his day^s work. 

His inquiries had satisfied him that no green 
diamond of the size and value attributed to the 
Great Mogul had either been seen or heard of 
in the London market during the last twenty 
years. It still remained to test the foreign 
markets in the same way. ]\rr. IMadgin^s idea 
was that this work could be done better by 
some trustworthy agent well acquainted with the 
trade than by himself. He accordingly left 
instructions with an eminent diamond merchant 
to have all needful inquiries made at Paris, 
Amsterdam, and St. Petersburgh, as to whether 
such a stone as the Great Mogul had come 
under the cognizance of the trade any time 
during the last twenty years. The result of the 
inquiry was to be communicated to Mr. Madgin 
by letter. 

Next day Mr. Madgin journeyed down to 
Windermere. Arrived at Bowness, he found no 



MR. MADGIN's secret JOURNEY. 83 

difficulty in ascertaining the exact locality of 
Bon RepoSj the house and its owner being 
known by sight or repute to almost every in- 
habitant of the little town. Mr. Madgin 
stopped all night at Bowncss. Next morning 
he hired a small boat, and was pulled across 
the lake to a point about half a mile below Bon 
Repos, and there he landed. 

Mr. Madgin was travelling incog. The name 
upon his portmanteau was " Jared Deedes, Esq.^' 
He was dressed in a suit of glossy black, with 
a white neckcloth, and gold-rimmed spectacles. 
He had quite an episcopal air. He did not call 
himself a clergyman, but people were at liberty 
to accept him as one if they chose. 

Assisted by the most unimpeachable of ma- 
laccas, Mr. Madgin took the high-road that 
wound round the grounds of Bon Bepos. But 
so completely was the house hidden in its nest 
of greenery that the chimney-pots were all of 
it that was visible from the road. But under a 
spur of the hill by which the house was shut 
in at the back Mr. Madgin found a tiny hamlet 
of a dozen houses, by far the most imposing 



84 MR. madgin's secret journey. 

of whicli was the village inn — liotel^ it called 
itself, and showed to the world the sign of The 
Jolly Fishers. Into this humble hostelry Mr. 
Madgin marched without hesitation, and called 
for some refreshment. So impressed was the 
landlord with the clerical appearance of his 
guest, that he whipped off his apron, ushered 
him into the state parlour, and made haste to 
wait upon him himself. He, the guest, had 
actually called for a bottle of the best dry 
sherry, and when the landlord took it in he 
invited him to fetch another glass, and come 
and join him over it. Mr. Jared Deedes was a 
tourist — well-to-do, without doubt ; the landlord 
could see as much as that — and having never 
visited Lakeland before, he was naturally de- 
lighted with the freshness and novelty of every- 
thing that he saw. The change from London 
life was so thorough, so complete in every 
respect, that he could hardly believe he had left 
the great Babel no longer ago than yesterday. 
It seemed years since he had been there. He 
had thought Bowness a charming spot, but this 
little nook surpassed Bowness, inasmuch as it 



MR. MADGIN's secret JOURNEY. 85 

was still farther removed and shut out from the 
frivolities and follies of the great world. Here 
one was almost alone with Nature and her won- 
drous works. Then Mr. Deedes filled up his 
own glass and that of the landlord. 

" Perhaps, sir, you would like to stay here for 
a night or two/^ suggested the host timidly ; 
" we have a couple of spare beds.^^ 

" Nothing would please me better/^ answered 
Mr. Deedes, with solemn alacrity. " I feel that 
the healthful air of these hills is doing me an 
immensity of good. Kindly send to the Crown 
at Bowness for my portmanteau, and ascertain 
what you have in the house for dinner.^^ 

After a while came dinner, and a little later 
on, Mr. Deedes having expressed a desire to see 
something of the lake, the landlord sent to 
borrow a boat, and then took his guest for an 
hour's row on Windermere. From the water 
they had a capital view of the low white front 
of Bon Repos. There were two gentlemen 
smoking on the terrace. The lesser of the two, 
said the landlord, was M. Platzoff. The taller 
man was Captain Ducie, at present a guest at 



86 MR. madgin's secret journey. 

Bon Repos. Then the landlord wandered off 
into a long rambling account of Bon Bepos and 
its owner. Mr. Deedes was much interested in 
hearing about the eccentric habits and strange 
mode of life of M. Platzoff, with the details of 
which the landlord was as thoroughly acquainted 
as though he had formed one of the household. 
Their row on the lake was prolonged for a couple 
of hours^ and Mr. Deedes went back to the hotel 
much edified. 

In the dusk of evening he encountered Cleon, 
M. PlatzofF^s valet^ as he was lounging slowly 
down the village street on his way to the Jolly 
Fishers. Mr. Deedes scrutinized the dark- 
skinned servant narrowly in passing. " The 
face of a cunning unscrupulous rascal, if ever I 
saw one/^ he muttered to himself. " Neverthe- 
less,, I must make his acquaintance.'''' 

And he did make his acquaintance. As Cleon 
and the landlord sat hob-nobbing together in the 
little snuggery behind the bar^ Mr. Deedes put 
in his head to ask a question of the latter. 
Thereupon the landlord begged permission to 
introduce his friend Mr. Cleon to the notice of 



MR. MADGIn's secret JOURNEY. 87 

his guest, Mr. Deedes. The two men bowed, 
Mr. Cleon rather sulkily; but ]Mr, Deedes was 
all affability and smiling bonhommie. He had 
several questions to ask, and he sat down on the 
only vacant chair in the little room. He wanted 
to know the distance to Keswick; how much 
higher Helvellyn was than Fairfield ; whether it 
was possible to get any potted char for break- 
fast ; and so on ; on all which questions both 
Cleon and the landlord had something to say. 
But talking being dry work, as Mr. Deedes 
smilingly observed, brought naturally to mind 
the fact that the landlord had some excellent 
dry sherry, and that one could not do better 
this warm evening than have another bottle 
fetched up out of the cool depths of the cellar. 
Mr. Cleon, being pressed, was nothing loth to 
join Mr. Deedes over this bottle. Mr. Deedes, 
without condescending into familiarity, made 
himself very agreeable, but did not sit long. 
After imbibing a couple of glasses, he bade the 
landlord and the valet an affable good-night, and 
went off decorously to bed. 

Mr. Deedes was up betimes next morning, and 



88 MR. madgin's secret journey. 

took a three miles^ trudge over the hills before 
breakfast. He spent a quiet day mooning about 
the neighbourhood, and really enjoying himself 
after his own fashion, although his mind was 
busily engaged all the time in trying to solve the 
mystery of the Great Diamond. In the evening 
he took care to have a few pleasant words with 
Cleon, and then early to bed. Two more days 
passed away after a similar quiet fashion, and 
then Mr. Deedes began to chafe inwardly at the 
small progress he was making. 

Although he had been so successful in tracing 
out M. Platzoff, and in working the case up to 
its present point in a remarkably short space of 
time, he acknowledged to himself that he was 
completely baffled when he came to consider what 
his next step ought to be. He could not, indeed, 
see his way to a single step beyond his present 
stand-point. Much as he seemed to have gained 
at a single leap, was he in reality one hair^s- 
breadth nearer the. secret object of his quest than 
on that day when the name of the Great Mogul 
Diamond first made music in his ears ? He 
doubted it greatly. 



MR. MADGIn's secret JOURNEY. 89 

When he first decided on coming down to Bon 
Repos he trusted that the chapter of accidents 
and the good fortune which had so far attended 
him woTild somehow put it in his power to scrape 
an acquaintance with M.Platzoff himself, and such 
an acquaintance once made, it would be his own 
fault if, in one way or another, he did not make 
it subservient to the ambitious end he had in 
^-iew. But in M. Platzoff he found a recluse : 
a man who made no fresh acquaintanceships ; 
who held the whole tourist tribe in horror, and 
who even kept himself aloof from such of the 
neighbouring families as might be considered his 
equals in social position. It was quite evident 
to Mr. Deedes that he might reside close to Bon 
Repos for twenty years, and at the end of that 
time not have succeeded in addressing half a 
dozen woi'ds to its owner. 

Then again he had succeeded little better with 
regard to Cleon than with regard to Cleon^s 
master. All his advances, ma'de with a mixture 
of affability and bonhommie which !Mr. Deedes 
flattered himself was irresistible with most people, 
were productive of little or no effect upon the 



90 MR. madgin's secret journey. 

mulatto. He received them, not with suspicion, 
for he had nothing of which to suspect harmless 
Mr. Deedes, but with a sort of sulky indifference, 
as though he considered them rather a nuisance 
than otherwise, and would have preferred their 
being offered to anyone else. Did Mr. Deedes, 
in conversation with him and the landlord, 
venture to bring the talk round to Bon Repos 
and M. Platzoff; did he hazard the remark that 
since his arrival in Lakeland several people had 
spoken to him of the strange character and 
eccentric mode of life of ]Mr. Cleon^'s employer — 
he was met with a stony silence, which told 
him as plainly as any words could have done 
that M. Platzoff and his affairs were matters that 
in no wise concerned him. It was quite evident 
that neither the Russian nor his dark-skinned 
valet was of any avail for the furtherance of that 
scheme which had brought Mr. Deedes all the 
way to the wilds of Westmoreland. 

He began to despair, and was on the point of 
writing to Mirpah, thinking that her shrewd 
woman^s wit might be able to suggest some 
stratagem or mode of attack other than that 



MR. MADGIN S SECRET JOURNEY. 91 

made use of by him^ when suddenly a prospect 
opened before Mm such as in his wildest dreams 
of success he dared not have bodied forth. He 
was not slow to avail himself of it. 



CHAPTEE VII. 

ENTER MADGINj JUNIOR. 

" Beg your pardon^, sir/^ said the landlord of tlie 
Jolly Fishers one morning to his guest^Mr. Deedes, 
"but I think I have more than once heard you 
say that you came from London ?^^ 

'^ I do come from London/^ answered Mr. 
Deedes ; " I am a Cockney born and bred. I 
came direct from London to Windermere. But 
why do you ask?" 

^' Simply, sir, because they are in want of a 
footman at Bon Bepos, to fill up the place of 
one who has gone away to get married. Mossoo 
Platzoff don^t like advertising for servants, and 
Mr. Cleon is at a loss where to find a fellow that 
can wait at table and has some manners about him. 
You see, sir, the country louts about here are 
neither useful nor ornamental in a gentleman^s 
house. Now, sir, it struck mc that among your 



ENTER MADGIN, JUNIOR. 9^ 

friends you miglit perhaps know some gentleman 
who would be glad to recommend a respectable 
man for such a place. Must have a good 
character from his last situation, and be able 
to wait at table ; and I hope, sii', you will 
pardon the liberty V\e taken in mentioning it to 
you.^^ 

Mr. Deedes was holding up a glass of wine to 
the light as the landlord brought his little speech 
to a close. He sipped the wine slowly, with his 
eyes bent on the floor ; then he put down the 
glass and rubbed his hands softly one within the 
other. Then he spoke. 

" It happens, singularly enough,''^ he said, 
^' that a particular friend of mine — Mr. Madgin, 
a gentleman, I daresay, whose name you have 
never heard — spoke to me only three weeks ago 
about one of his people for whom he was desirous 
of obtaining another situation, he himself being 
about to break up his establishment and go to 
reside on the Continent. I will write Mr. 
Madgin to-night, and if the young man has not 
engaged himself I will ask my friend to send 
him down here. He will have a first-class testi- 



94 ENTER MADGIN, JUNIOR. 



monial, and I have uo doubt he would suit 
M. PlatzoiF admirably. I am obliged to you, 
landlord^ for mentioning this matter to me." 

Mr. Deedes went off at once to his room, 
and wrote and despatched the following letter : — 

" My dear Boy, — I saw by an advertisement 
in last week^s Era that you are still out of an en- 
gagement. I have an opening for you down here 
in a drama of real life. It will be greatly to your 
advantage to accept it, so do not hesitate for a 
moment. Come without delay. Book yourself 
from Euston-square to Windermere. Take 
steamer from the latter place to Newby-bridge. 
There, at the hotel, await my arrival. Bear in mind 
that down here my name is Mr. Jared Deedes, 
and that yours is James Jasmin, a footman, at 
present out of a situation. To a person of your 
intelligence I need not say more. 

" Your affectionate father, 

" S. M. 

" N.B. — This communication is secret and 
confidential. All expenses paid. Do not on 



95 



any account fail to come. I will be at the 
Newby-bridge Hotel on Thursday morning at 
eleven.''^ 

This letter he addressed^ " Mr. James Madgin_, 
Royal Tabard Theatre^ Southwark, London.^' 
Having posted it with his own hands, he went 
for a long solitary ramble among the hills. He 
wanted to think out and elaborate the great 
scheme that had unfolded itself before his 
dazzled eyes while the landlord was talking to 
him. He had seen the whole compass of it at a 
glance ; he wanted now to consider it in detail. 
There was an elation in his eye and an elasticity 
in his tread that made him seem ten years 
younger than on the previous day. 

He had requested the landlord to tell Mr. 
Cleon what steps he was about to take with the 
view of supplying ]\I. PlatzofF with a new foot- 
man. In these proceedings the mulatto ac- 
quiesced ungraciously. Truth to tell, he was 
bored by Mr. Deedes and his friendly oflScious- 
ness, and although secretly glad that the trouble 
of hunting out a new servant had been taken off 



96 ENTER MADGIN, JUNIOR. 

his hands^ lie was not a man willingly to acknow- 
ledge his obligations to another. 

Mr. Deedes set out immediately after break- 
fast on Thursday morning, and having walked to 
the Ferry Hotels he took the steamer from that 
place to Newhy -bridge. Mr. James Jasmin 
was at the landing-stage awaiting his arrival. 
After shaking hands heartily, and inquii'ing as 
to each other^s health, the two wandered off 
arm in arm down one of the quiet country 
roads. Then Mr. Deedes explained to Mr. 
Jasmin his reasons for sending for him from 
London, and with what view he was desirous of 
introducing him into Bon Repos. The younger 
man listened attentively. When the elder one 
had done, he said : — 

" Father, this is a very pretty scheme of yours, 
but it seems to me that I am to be nothing 
more than a catspaw in the affair. You have 
only given me half your confidence. You must 
give me the whole of it before I can agree to 
act as you wish. I want to hear the whole 
history of the case, and how you came to be 
mixed up in it. Further — I want to know how 



ENTER MADGIN, JUNIOR. 97 

much Lady Pollexfen intends to give you 
in case you succeed in getting back the 
Diamond, and what my share of the recompense 
is to be T'' 

" Dear ! dear ! what a headstrong boy you 
are!" moaned Mr. Deedes. "AVhy can^t you 
be content with what I tell you, and leave the 
rest to me ?" 

The younger man made no reply in words, 
but turned abruptly on his heel and began to 
walk back. 

^' James ! James V cried the old man, catch- 
ing his son by the coat tails, '^ do not go off in 
that way. It shall be as you wish. I will 
tell you everything. You headstrong boy ! 
Do you want to break your poor father''s 
heart ?" 

" Break your fiddlestick V said Mr. Jasmin, 
irreverently. " Let us sit down on this green 
bank, and you shall tell me all about the Dia- 
mond while I try the quality of these cigars. I 
am all attention.^'' 

Thus adjured, Mr. Deedes sighed deeply, wiped 
his forehead with his handkerchief, looked medi- 

1?0L. II. 7 



98 

tatively into his hat for a few seconds^ and theis 
began. 

Beginning with the narrative of Sergeant 
Nicholas^ Mr. Deedes went on from that point 
to detail by what means he had discovered that 
M. Platzoff was still alive and where he was 
now living. Then he told of his coming down 
to Bon Repos and all that had happened to him 
since that time. He had already told his son 
with what view he had sent for him from Lon- 
don — that not being able to make any further 
headway in the case himself^ he was desirous of 
introducing his dear James_, in the guise of a 
servant^ into Bon Bepos_, as an agent on whose 
integrity and cleverness he could alike depend. 

" But you have not yet told your dear James 
the amount of the honorarium you will be en- 
titled to receive in case you recover the stolen 
Diamond.^'' 

" What do you say to five thousand pounds ?^ 
asked Mr. Deedes^ in a solemn whisper. 

The younger man opened his eyes. '^ Hum I 
A very pretty little amount/^ he said, " but I 
have yet to learn what proportion of that simi 



99 

will percolate into the pockets of this child. In 
other words, what is to be my share of the 
plunder ?" 

'' Plunder,, my dear boy, is a strange word to 
make use of. Pray be more particular in your 
choice of terms. The mercenary ^dew you take 
of the case is very distressing to my feelings. 
A proper recompense for your time and trouble 
it was my intention to make you ; but as regards 
the five thousand pounds, I hoped to be able to 
fund it in toto, to add it to my little capital, and 
to leave it intact for those who will come after 
me. And you know very well, James, that there 
will only be you and Mii-pah to divide whatever 
the old man may die possessed of.^^ 

" But, my dear dad, you are not going to die 
for these five-and-twenty years. My present 
necessities are imperative : like the daughters of 
the horse-leech, they are continually asking for 
more.^^ 

" James ! James ! how changed you are from 
the dear unselfish boy of ten years ago V 

" And very proper too. But do let us .be 
business-like, if you please. The role of the 

7 — 2 



100 ENTER MADGIN, JUNIOR. 

^ heavy father ' doesn^t suit you at all. Keep 
sentiment out of the case, and then we shall do 
very well. Listen to my ultimatum. The day 
I place the Great Mogul Diamond in your hands 
you must give me a cheque for hfteen hundred 
pounds.^^ 

" Fifteen hundred pounds !" gasped the old 
man. ^' James ! James ! do you wish to see me 
die in a w^orkhouse V 

" Fifteen hundred pounds. Xot one penny 
less/' reiterated Madgin, junior. '' What do you 
mean by a workhouse ? You will then have 
three thousand five hundred pounds to the good, 
and will have got the job done very cheaply. 
But there is another side to the question. Both 
you and I have been counting our chickens 
before they are hatched. Suppose I don^t suc- 
ceed in laying hold of the Diamond — what then ? 
And, mind you, I don^t think I shall succeed. 
To begin with — I don't half believe in the exis- 
tence of your big Diamond. It looks to me very 
much like a hoax from beginning to end. But 
granting the existence of the stone, and that it 
was stolen by your Russian friend, are not the 



ENTER MADGIN, JUNIOR. 101 

chances a thousand to one either that he has 
disposed of it long ago, or elset hat he has 
hidden it away in some place so safe that the 
cleverest burglar in London would be puzzled to 
get at it. Suppose J for instance^ that it is de- 
posited by him at his banker^s : in that case, 
what are your expectations worth ? Not a brass 
farthing. No, my dear dad, the risk of failure 
is too great, outweighing, as it does, the chances 
of success a thousandfold, for me to have the 
remotest hope of ever fingering the fifteen hun- 
dred pounds. I have, therefore, to appraise my 
time and services as the hero of a losing cause. 
I say the hero ; for I certainly consider that I 
am about to play the leading part in the forth- 
coming drama — that I am the bright particular 
^ star^ round which the lesser lights will all 
revolve. Such being the case, I do not consider 
that I am rating my services too highly when I 
name two hundred guineas as the lowest sum for 
which I am willing to play the part of James 
Jasmin, footman, spy, and amateur detective.^'' 

Again Mr. Deedes gasped for breath. He 
opened his mouth, but words refused to come. 



102 ENTER MADGIN, JUNIOR. 

He shook his head with a fine tragic air^ and 
wiped his eyes. 

" Take an hour or two to consider of it/'' said 
the son^ indulgently. ^' If you agree to my 
proposition^ I shall want it put down in black 
and white,, and properly signed. If you do not 
agree to it^ I start back for town by this nighf s 
mail.^^ 

" James^ James, you are one too many for me V 
said the old man, pathetically. '' Let us go and 
dine.'' 

The first thing Madgin junior did after they 
got back to the hotel was to place before his 
father a sheet of note paper, an inkstand, and a 
pen. " Write/' he said ; and the old man wrote 
to his dictation : — 

" I, Solomon Madgin, on the part of Lady 
Pollexfen, of Dupley Walls, do hereby promise 
and bind myself to pay over into the hands of 
my son, James Madgin, the sum of fifteen hun- 
dred pounds (1500/.) on the day that the afore- 
said James Madgin places safely in my hands 
the stone known as the Great Mogul Diamond. 



ENTER MADGIN, JUNIOR. 103 

" Should the aforesaid James Madgin, from 
causes beyond his own control^ find himself 
unable to obtain possession of the said Diamond,, 
1^ Solomon Madgin, bind myself to reimburse 
him in the sum of two hundred guineas (210Z.) 
as payment in full for the time and labour 
expended by him in his search for the Great 
Mogul Diamond. 

(Signed) " Solomon Madgin. 
"jTily21st, 18— ." 

Mr. Madgin threw down the pen when he 
had signed his name, and chuckled quietly to 
himself. " You don't think, dear boy, that a 
foolish paper like that would be worth anything 
in a coui't of law V he said, interrogatively. 

" As a legal document it would probably be 
laughed at/' said Madgin junior. "But in 
another point of view I have no doubt that it 
would carry with it a certain moral weight. For 
instance, suppose the claim embodied in this 
paper were disputed, and I Avere compelled to 
resort to ulterior measures, the written promise 
given by you might not be found legally binding. 



104 ENTER MADGIN, JUNIOR. 

but, on the other hand, neither Lady Pollexfen 
nor you would like to see that document copied 
i7i extenso into all the London papers, nor the 
whole of your remarkable scheme for the re- 
covery of the Great Mogul Diamond detailed by 
the plaintiff in open court, to be talked over 
next morning through the length and breadth of 
England. ' Extraordinary Case between a Lady 
of Rank and an Actor/ How would that read, 
eh?^^ 

" My dear James, let me shake hands with 
you," exclaimed the old man with emotion, 
" You are a most extraordinary young man. I 
am proud of you, my dear boy, I am indeed. 
What a pity that you adopted the stage as your 
profession ! You ought to have entered the law. 
In the law you would have risen, — nothing 
could have kept you down."*^ 

" That is as it may be," returned James. " If 
I am satisfied with my profession you have no 
cause to grumble. But here comes dinner." 

Mr. James Madgin was first low comedian at 
one of the transpontine theatres. The height of 
his ambition was to have the offer of an engage- 



ENTER MADGIX, JUNIOR. 105 

ment from one of the West-end managers. Only 
give him the opportunity, and he felt sure that 
he could work his way with a cultivated 
audience. When a lad of sixteen he had run 
away from home with a company of strolling 
players, and from that time he had been a de- 
voted follower of Thespis. He had roughed it 
patiently in the provinces for years, his only 
consolation during a long season of poverty and 
neglect arising from the conviction that he was 
slowly but surely improving himself in the diffi- 
cult art he had chosen as his mode of earning 
his daily bread. When the manager of the 
Royal Tabard, then on a provincial tour, picked 
him out from all his brother actors, and offered 
him a metropolitan engagement, James Madgin 
thought himself on the high road to fame and 
fortune. Time had served to show him the 
fallacy of his expectations. He had been four 
years at the Royal Tabard, during the whole of 
which time he had been in receipt of a tolerable 
salary for his position — that of first low come- 
dian ; but fame and fortune seemed still as far 
from his grasp as ever. With opportunity given 



106 ENTER .MADGIN, JUNIOK. 

him, he had hoped one day to electrify the 
town. But that hope was now buried very deep 
down in his heart,, and if ever brought out, like 
an " old property/^ to be looked at and turned 
about, its only greeting was a quiet sneer, after 
which it was relegated to the limbo whence it 
had been disinterred. James Madgin had given 
up the expectation of ever shining in the thea- 
trical system as a " gi^eat star -,'' he w^as trying 
to content himself w ith the thought of living and 
dying a respectable mediocrity, — useful, orna- 
mental even, in his proper sphere, but certainly 
never destined to set the Thames on fire. The 
manager of the Tabard had recently died, and at 
present James Madgin was in want of an engage- 
ment. 

As father and son sat together at table, you 
might, knowing their relationship to each other, 
have readily detected a certain likeness between 
them ; but it was a likeness of expression rather 
than of features, and would scarcely have been 
noticed by any casual observer. Madgin 
junior was a fresh-complexioned, sprightly young 
fellow of six or seven-and-twenty, with dark. 



ENTER MADGIN, JUNIOE. 107 

frank-looking eyes^ a prominent nose^ and thin 
mobile lips. He Lad dark-brown hair,, closely 
cropped; and^ as became one of liis profession^ 
be was guiltless of either beard or moustache. 
Like Mirpah_, he inherited his eyes and nose 
from his mother,, but in no other feature could 
he be said to resemble his beautiful sister. 

Father and son were very merry over dinner, 
and did not spare the wine afterwards. The old 
man could not sufficiently admire the shrewd 
business-like aptitude shown by his son in their 
recent conference. The latter^s extraction of a 
written promise from his own father was an 
action that the elder man could fully appreciate ; 
it was a stroke of business that touched him to 
the heart, and made him feel proud of his '' dear 
James.^^ 

" But how will you manage about waiting at 
table V asked Solomon of his son as they strolled 
out together to smoke their cigars on the little 
bridge by the hotel. '' I am afi-aid that you will 
betray your ignorance, and break down when you 
come to be put to the test.^^ 

" Never fear ; I shall pull through somehow/'' 



108 ENTER MADGIN, JUNIOR. 

answered James. " I am not so ignorant on 
sncli matters as you may suppose. Geary used 
to say that I did the flunkey business better 
than any man he ever had at the Tabard : I 
have always been celebrated for my footmen. 
Of course I am quite aware that the real article 
is very different from its stage counterfeit,, but I 
have actually been at some pains to study the 
genus in its different varieties^ and to arrive at 
some knowledge of the special duties it has to 
perform. One of our supers had been footman 
in the family of a well-known marquis^ and from 
him I picked up a good deal of useful informa- 
tion. Then^ whenever I have been out to a 
swell dinner of any kind^ I have always kept my 
eye on the fellows who waited at table. So^ 
what with one thing and what with another, I 
don^t think I shall make any very terrible 
blunders.''^ 

" I hope not, or else Mr. Cleon will give you 
your conge, and that will spoil everything. 
Further, as regards the mulatto, I have a word 
or two to say to you. It is quite evident to me 
that he is the presiding genius at Bon Repos. 



ENTER MADGIN, JUNIOR. 109 

If you wisli to retain your situation you must 
pay court to him far more than to ^I. Platzoff, 
with whom^ indeed^ it is doubtful whether you 
will ever come into personal contact. You must 
therefore^ my dear boy^ swallow your pride for 
the time being, and take care to let the mulatto 
see that you regard him as a patron to whose 
kindness you hold yourself deeply indebted." 

^' All that I can do, and more, to serve my 
own ends," answered the son. " Your words are 
words of wisdom, and shall live in my memory." 

Mr. Madgin stopped with his son till sum- 
moned by the whistle of the last steamer. The 
two bade each other an affectionate farewell. 
When next they met it would be as strangers. 

Mr. Cleon and the landlord were enjoying the 
cool of the evening and their cigars outside the 
house as Mr. Deedes walked up to the Jolly 
Fishers. He stopped for a moment to speak to 
them. 

" I had a note this morning from my friend 
Mr. Madgin of Dupley Walls," he said, "in 
which that gentleman informs me that the young 
man, James Jasmin, will be mth you in the 



110 ENTER MADGIN, JUNIOR. 

course of the day after to-morrow at tlie latest. 
He hopes that Jasmin will suit you^ and he is 
evidently much pleased that a position has been 
offered him in an establishment in every way so 
unexceptionable as that of Bon Repos/" 

The mulatto^s white teeth glistened in the 
twilight. Evidently he was pleased. He muttered 
a few words in reply. Mr. Deedes bowed courte- 
ously, wished him and the landlord a very good 
night, and withdrew. 

Late in the afternoon of the day but one 
following that of his visit to Newby-bridge, as 
Mr. Deedes was busy with a London newspaper 
three or four days old, the landlord ushered a 
young man into his room, who, with a bow and 
a carrying of the forefinger to his forehead, 
announced himself as James Jasmin from Dupley 
Walls. 

^' Don^t you go, laiidlord,^^ said Mr. Deedes ; 
^' I may want you.^^ Then he deliberately put 
on his gold-rimmed glasses, and proceeded to 
take a leisurely survey of the new comer, who 
was dressed in a neat (but not new) suit of 
black, and was standing in a respectful attitude, 



ENTER MADGIX, JUNIOR. Ill 

and slowly brushing his hat Tvith one sleeve of 
his coat. 

" So you arc James Jasmin from Dupley 
Walls, are you ?" asked Mr. Deedes, looking him 
slowly down from bead to feet. 

" Yes, sir, — I am the party, sir,^^ answered 
James. 

" Well, Jasmin, and how did you leave my 
friend Mr. Madgin ? and what is the latest news 
from Dupley Walls ?" 

" Master and family all pretty well, sir, thank 
you. Master has got a tenant for the old 
house, and the family will all start for the conti- 
nong next week.^' 

" Well, Jasmin, I hope you will contrive to 
suit your new employer as well as you appear to 
have suited my friend. Landlord, let him have 
some dinner, and he had better perhaps wait here 
till Mr. Cleon comes down this evening." 

When Mr. Cleon arrived a couple of hours 
later Jasmin was duly presented to him. The 
mulatto scrutinized him keenly and seemed 
pleased with his appearance, which was decidedly 
superior to that of the ordinary run of Jeameses. 



112 



He finished by asking liim for his testimo- 
nials. 

" I have none with me^ sir/^ answered Jasmin^ 
discreetly emphasizing the sir. " I can only 
refer you to my late master_, Mr. Madgin of 
Dupley Walls, who will gladly speak as to my 
qualifications and integrity/'' 

" That being the case I will take you for the 
present on the recommendation of Mr. Deedes, 
and will write Mr. Madgin in the course of a 
post or two. You can go up to Bon Eepos at 
once, and I will induct you into your new duties 
to-morrow.^^ 

Jasmin thanked Mr. Cleon respectfully and 
withdrew. Ten minutes later, with his modest 
valise in his hand, he set out for his new home. 
He and Mr. Deedes did not see each other again. 
Next day Mr. Deedes announced that he was 
summoned home by important letters. He bade 
the landlord and Cleon a friendly farewell, and 
left early on the following morning in time to 
catch the first train from Windermere going 
south. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

MADGIN JUNIOR^S FIRST REPORT. 

Mr. Madgix^ senior;, lost no time after his 
arrival at liome before hastening up to Dupley 
Walls to see Lady Pollexfeu. He had a brief 
conference with ^lirpah while discussing his 
modest chop and glass of bitter ale ; and he 
found time to read a' letter which had arrived 
for him some days previously from the London 
diamond merchant whom he had employed to 
make inquiries as to whether any such gem 
as the Great ISIogul had been offered for sale at 
any of the great European marts during the past 
twenty years. The letter was an assurance that 
no such stone had been in the market^ nor was 
any such known to be in the hands of any 
private individual. 

Mr. Madgin took the letter with him to Dup- 
ley Walls. In her grim way Lady PoUexfen seemed 

VOL. II. • 8 



114 MADGIN junior's FIHST REPORT. 

greatly pleased to see him. She was all im- 
patience to hear what news he had to tell her. 
But Mr. Madgin had his reservations; he did 
not deem it advisable to detail to her ladyship, 
step by step, all that he had done. Her sense 
of honour might revolt at certain things he had 
found it necessary to do in furtherance of the 
great object he had in view. He told her of his 
inquiries among the London diamond merchants, 
and read to her the letter he had received from 
one of them. Then he went on to describe Bon 
Repos and its owner from the glimpses he had 
had of both. For all such details her ladyship 
betrayed a curiosity that seemed as if it would 
never be satisfied. He next went on to inform 
her that he had succeeded in placing his son as 
footman at Bon Bepos, and that everything now 
depended on the discoveries James might succeed 
in making. But nothing was said as to the 
false pretences and the changed name under 
which Madgin junior had entered M. Platzoff^s 
household. Those were details which Mr. 
Madgin kept judiciously to himself. Her lady- 
ship was perfectly satisfied with his report; she 



MADGIN junior's FIRST REPORT. 115 

was more than satisfied — she was pleased. She 
was very sanguine as to the existence of the 
diamond^ and also as to its retention by M. 
Platzoff; far more so^ in fact^ than Mr. Madgin 
himself was. But the latter was too shrewd a 
man of business to parade his doubts of success 
before a client who paid so liberally, so long as 
her hobby was ridden after her own fashion. 
Mr. ]\Iadgin^s chief aim in life was to ride other 
people^s hobbies,, and be well paid for his jockey- 
ship. 

"I am highly gratified, Mr. Madgin/^ said 
her ladyship, " by the style, pleine de finesse, in 
which you have so far conducted this dehcate 
investigation. I will not ask you what your 
next step is to be. You know far better than 
I can tell you what ought to be done. I leave 
the matter with confidence in your hands."*^ 

" Your ladyship is very kind,^^ observed Mr.. 
Madgin, deferentially. '^ I will do my best to 
deserve a continuance of your good opinion .''' 

" As week after week goes by, ^Ir. Madgin,"*^ 
resumed Lady Pollexfen, '^the conviction seems 
to take deeper root within me that that man — 



116 MADGIN junior's FIRST REPORT. 

that villain — M. Platzoff, has my son^s diamond 
still in his possession. I have a sort of spiritual 
consciousness that such is the case. My waking 
intuitions,, my dreams by nighty all point to the 
same end. You^ with your cold worldly sense, 
may laugh at such things; we women, with 
our finer organization, know how often the truth 
comes to us on mystic wings. The diamond 
will yet be mine V 

"What nonsense women sometimes talk/' 
said Mr. Madgin contemptuously to himself, as 
he walked back through the park. " Who would 
believe that my lady, so sensible on most things, 
could talk such utter rubbish. But women have 
a way of leaping to results, and ignoring pro- 
cesses, that is simply astounding to men of 
common sense. The diamond hers, indeed ! 
Althoiigh I have been so successful so far, there 
is as much diflference between what I have done 
and what has yet to be done as there is between 
the simple alphabet and a mathematical theorem. 
To-morrow^s post ought to bring me a letter 
fi^om Bon Bepos.^'' 

The morrow^s post did bring Mr. IMadgin a 



MADGIN junior's FIRST REPORT. 117 

letter from Bon Repos. The writer of it was 
not his son, but Cleon. It was addressed, as a 
matter of course, to Dupley Walls, of which 
place the mulatto had been led to believe Mr. 
Madgin was the proprietor. The note, which 
was couched in tolerable English, was simply a 
request to be furnished with a testimonial as to 
the character and abilities of James Jasmin, late 
footman at Dupley Walls. Mr. Madgin replied 
by return of post as under : — 

" Dupley WaUs, 
" July 27th. 

" Sir, — In reply to your favour of the 25th 
inst., inquiring as to the character and respecta- 
bility of James Jasmin, late a footman in my 
employ, I beg to say that I can strongly recom- 
mend him, and have much pleasure in so doing, 
for any similar employment under you. Jasmin 
was with me for several years; during the whole 
time I found him to be trustworthy, sober, and 
intelligent in an eminent degree. Had I not 
been reducing my establishment previous to a 
lengthened residence in the south of Europe, I 
should certainlv have retained Jasmin in the 



118 MADGIN junior's FIRST REPORT. 

position Tvhicli he has occupied for so long a 
time with credit to himself and with satisfaction 
to me. 

" I have the honour,, Sir^ to remain, 

" Your obedient servant, 

" Solomon Madgin. 

'•' — Cleox, Esq., 
Bon Eepos, 
Windermere.'' 

After writing and despatching the above 
epistle, over the composition of which he 
chuckled to himself several times, IMr. Madgin 
was obliged to wait, with what contentment was 
possible to him, the receipt of a communication 
from his son. But one day passed after another 
without bringing any news from Bon Repos, till 
Mr. ]\Iadgin grew fearful that some disaster had 
befallen both James and his scheme. At length 
he made up his mind to wait two days longer, 
and should no letter come within that time, to 
start at once for Windermere. Fortunately his 
anxiety was relieved and the journey rendered 
unnecessary by the receipt, next day, of a long 
letter from his son. It was Mirpah who took 



MADGIN JUNIORS FIRST REPORT. 119 

it from the postman's liancl^ and Mirpali took it 
to her father in high glee. She knew the 
writing and deciphered the post-mark. For 
once in his life Mr. Madgin was too agitated to 
read. He put his hand to his side, and motioned 
Mirpah to open the letter. 

" Read it/"* he said in a hnsky voice, as she 
was about to hand it to him. So Mirpah sat 
down near her father and read what follows : — 

"Bon Eepos, 
July, some date, but I'll be 
hanged if I know what. 

" My dear Dad, — In some rustic nook re- 
clining, Silken tresses softly twining. Far-off bells 
so faintly ringing, While we list the blackbird 
singing, Merrily his roundelay. There ! I com- 
posed those lines this morning during the pro- 
cess of shaving. I don't think they are very 
bad. I put them at the beginning of my letter 
so as to make sure that you will read them, a 
process of which I might reasonably be doubtful 
had I left them for the fag end of my communi- 
cation. Learn, sir, that you have a son who is 
a born poet ! ! ! 



120 



'' But now to business. 

'' Don^t hurry over my letter^ dear dad ; don"*! 
run away with the idea that I have any grand 
discovery to lay before you. My epistle will be 
merely a record of trifles and commonplaces, 
and that simply from the fact that I have nothing 
better to write about. To me, at least, they 
seem nothing but trifles. For you they may 
possess an occult significance of which I know 
nothing. 

'' In the first place. On the day following 
that of your departure from Windermere, I was 
duly inducted by Cleon into my new duties. 
They are few in number, and by no means diffi- 
cult. So far I have contrived to get through 
them without any desperate blunder. Another 
thing I have done of which you will be pleased 
to hear : I have contrived to ingratiate myself 
with the mulatto, and am in high favour with 
him. You were right in your remarks ; he is 
worth cultivation, in so far that he is all-powerful 
in our little establishment. M. Platzofi" never 
interferes in the management of Bon Bepos. 
Everything is left to Cleon ; and whatever the 



MADGIN JUNIORS FIRST REPORT. 121 

mulatto may be in other respects^ so far as I 
can judge lie is quite worthy of the trust reposed 
in him. I believe him to be thoroughly attached 
to his master. 

" Of M. Platzoff I have very little to tell you. 
Even in his own house and among his own 
people he is a recluse. He has his own special 
rooms, and three-fourths of his time is spent in 
them. Above all things he dislikes to see 
strange faces about him^, and I have been in- 
structed by Cleon to keep out of his way as much 
as possible. Even the old servants, people who 
have been under his roof for years, let themselves 
be seen by him as seldom as need be. In per- 
son he is a little withered-up yellow- skinned 
man, as dry as a last year's pippin, but very 
keen, bright, and vivacious. He speaks such 
excellent English that he must have lived in this 
country for many years. One thing I have dis- 
covered about him, that he is a great smoker. 
He has a room set specially apart for the prac- 
tice of the sacred rite to which he retires every 
day as soon as dinner is over, and from which 
he seldom emerges again till it is time to retire 



122 MADGIN junior's FIRST REPORT. 

for the night. Cleon alone is privileged to enter 
this room. I have never yet been inside it. 
Equally forbidden ground is M. Platzoff^s bed- 
room^ and a small study beyond^ all en suite. 

"Those who keep servants keep spies under 
their roof It has been part of my purpose to 
make myself agreeable to the older domestics at 
Bon Repos_, and from them I have picked up 
several little facts which all Mr. Cleon^s shrewd- 
ness has not been able entirely to conceal. In this 
way I have learned that M. Platzoff is a confirmed 
opium-smoker. That once^ or sometimes twice, 
a week he shuts himself up in his room and 
smokes himself into a sort of trance, in which 
he remains unconscious for hours. That at such 
times Cleon has to look after him as though he 
were a child ; and that it depends entirely on the 
mulatto as to whether he ever emerges from his 
state of coma, or stops in it till he dies. The 
accuracy of this latter statement, however, I must 
beg leave to doubt. 

" Further gossip has informed me, whether 
truly or falsely I am not in a position to judge^ 
that M. Platzoflf is a refugee from his own country. 



123 

That were lie to set foot on the soil of Russia, 
a life-long banishment to Siberia would be the 
mildest fate that he could expect ; and that 
neither in France nor in Austria would he be 
safe from arrest. The people who come as guests 
to Bon Repos are, so I am informed, in nearly 
every instance foreigners, and, as a natural con- 
sequence, they are all set down by the servants'* 
gossip as red-hot republicans, thirsting for the 
blood of kings and aristocrats, and willing to put 
a firebrand under every throne in Europe. In 
fact, there cannot be a popular outbreak against 
bad government in any part of Europe without 
M. Platzoff and his friends being credited with 
ha-sdng at least a finger in the pie. 

'^All these statements and suppositions you 
will of course accept cum grano salis. They may 
have their value as serving to give you a rude 
and exaggerated idea as to what manner of man 
is the owner of Bon Bepos; and it is quite pos- 
sible that some elements of truth may be hidden 
in them. To me, M. Platzoff seems nothing more 
than a mild old gentleman ; a little eccentric, it 
may be, as diffei'ing from our English notions 



124 MADGIN junior's FIRST REPORT. 

in many things. Not a smiling fiend in patent 
boots and white cravat^ whose secret soul is bent 
on murder and rapine ; but a shy valetudinarian, 
whose only firebrand is a harmless fusee where- 
with to light a pipe of fragrant Cavendish. 

" One permanent guest Ave have at Bon E-epos 
— a guest who was here before my arrival, and 
of whose departure no signs are yet visible. That 
is why I call him permanent. His name is 
Ducie, and he is an ex-captain in the English 
army. He is a tall, handsome man- of four or 
five-and-forty, and is a thorough gentleman both 
in manners and appearance. I like him much, 
and he has taken quite a fancy to me. One 
thing I can see quite plainly : that he and Cleon 
are quietly at daggers drawn. Why they should 
be so I cannot tell, unless it is that Cleon is 
jealous of Captain Ducie^s influence over Platzoff, 
although the difference in social position of the 
two men ought to preclude any feeling of that 
kind. Captain Ducie might be M. Platzoff^'s very 
good friend without infringing in the slightest 
degree on the privileges of Cleon as his master^s 
favourite servant. On one point I am certain : 



MADGIN junior's FIRST REPORT. 125 

that the mulatto suspects Ducie of some purpose 
or covert scheme in making so long a stay at 
Bon Repos. He has asked me to act as a sort 
of spy on the captain''s movements ; to watch his 
comings and goings, his hours of getting up and 
going to bed, and to report to him, Cleon, any- 
thing that I may see in the slightest degree out 
of the common way. 

" It was not without a certain inward qualm 
that I accepted the position thrust upon me by 
Cleon. In accepting it I flatter myself that I 
took a common-sense view of the case. In the 
petite drama of real life in which I am now act- 
ing an uneventful part, I look upon myself as a 
^ general utility^ man, bound to enact any and 
every character which my manager may think 
proper to entrust into my hands. Now, you 
are my manager, and if it seem to me conducive 
to your interests (you being absent) that, in 
addition to my present character, I should be 
' cast ' for that of spy or amateur detective, I see 
no good reason why I should refuse it. So far, 
however, all my Fouche-like devices have resulted 
in nothing. The captain^s comings and goings — 



126 MAD GIN junior's FIRST REPORT. 

in fact, all his movements — are of a most com- 
monplace and uninteresting kind. But I have 
this advantage, that the character I have under- 
taken enables me to assume, with Cleon^s con- 
sent, certain privileges such as, under other cir- 
cumstances, would never have been granted me. 
Further, should I succeed in discovering anything 
of importance, it by no means follows that I 
should consider myself bound to reveal the same 
to Cleon. It might be greatly more to my 
interest to retain any such facts for my own use. 
^Meanwhile, I wait and watch. 

'^ Thus you will perceive, my dear dad, that 
an element of interest — a di'amatic element — is 
being slowly evolved out of the commonplace 
duties of my present position. This nucleus of 
interest may grow and develope into something 
startling; or it may die slowly out and expire 
for lack of material to feed itself upon. In any 
case, dear dad, you may expect a frequent 
feuilleton from 

" Your affectionate son, 

^' J. M., otherwise 
" James Jasmin. 



MADGIN junior's FIRST REPORT. 127 

" P.S. — I should not like to be a real flunkey 
all my life. Such a position is not ^vithout its 
advantages to men of a lazy tui'n^ but it is 
terribly soul- subduing. Not a sign yet of the 

" There is nothing much in all this to tell her 
ladyshij)/^ said Mr. Madgin^ as he took off his 
spectacles and refolded the letter. " Stilly I do 
not think it by any means a discouraging report. 
If James's patience only equal his shrewdness 
and audacity,, and if there be really anything to 
worm out, he will be sure to make himself 
master of it in the course of time. Ah ! if he 
had only my patience, now — the patience of an 
old man who has won half his battles by playing 
a waiting game.^' 

^' Is it not possible that Lady Pollexfen may 
want you to read the letter ?'' 

" It is quite possible. But James's iiTcverent 
style is hardly suited in parts for her ladyship's 
ears. You, dear child, must make an improved 
copy of the letter. Your own good taste will 
teU you which sentences require to be altered or 



128 MADGIN junior's FIRST REPORT. 

expunged. Here and there you may work in a 
neat compliment to your father ; as coming 
direct from James her ladyship will not deem it 
out of place — it will not sound fulsome in her 
ears^ and will serve to remind her of what she too 
often forgets — that in Solomon Madgin she has a 
faithful steward^ who ought to be better rewarded 
than he is. Write out the copy at once^ my 
child^ and I will take it up to Dupley Walls the 
first thing to-morrow morning.^^ 



CHAPTER IX. 



LOST AS SOON AS FOUND. 



Janet^s life at tliis time was a very quiet one ; 
but the long years she had spent in France had 
been so tame and colourless, so wanting in home 
pleasures and endearments_, that, by contrast, 
her days at Dupley Walls were full of variety 
and of that sweet charm which springs from a 
knowledge that you are at once appreciated and 
loved. 

Janet's love for Captain George was as yet 
a timid callow fledgling that could do nothing 
but flutter in the nest where it was born. Very 
pretty to look at, but not to be looked at too 
often, for fear lest its hiding-place should be 
found out and some rude hand should take it 
unawares. Her love for Sister Agnes was of 
a different texture, and made up the real quiet 
happiness of her life. She felt like a plant that 

VOL. II. 9 



130 LOST AS SOON AS FOUND. 

has been lifted out of the cold corner in which it 
has found the elements of a stunted growth and 
set to bask in a flood of gracious sunshine. In 
vsuch cases the result is not difficult to foretell. 
The plant grows more and more beautiful under 
the sweet influence that has been brought to 
bear upon it^ and repays the sunshine with its 
most fragrant blossoms. In such like was 
Janet^s young life nourished and enriched by the 
love that existed between her and Sister Agnes. 
Her inner life developed itself unconsciously ; 
her heart grew in wisdom^ and all the finer 
qualities of her nature began to unfold them- 
selves one by one as delicate leaves unfold them- 
iselves in the sun. 

Janet was kept very closely to her duties by 
Lady Pollexfen. Still, each day brought its 
little interregnums — odd hours,, or even half- 
hours, when she was not wanted by her task- 
mistress — when her ladyship was sleeping, or 
lunching, or discussing private matters with Mr. 
Madgin, or wdiat not. By far the greater part 
of these stolen moments were spent with Sister 
Agnes. More would have been so spent had 



LOST AS SOON AS FOUND. 131 

not the invalid given strict injunctions tliat a 
certain portion of each day should be set apart 
by Janet for out-door exercise. Sister Agnes 
was far too weak to accompany her. As the 
summer days went on she gathered not strength 
but weakness^ and more and more clearly she 
began to discern the end that was coming so surely 
upon her. But as yet this was a solemn secret 
known only to herself and to her doctor. By 
no one else within Dupley Walls was it even 
suspected. Outwardly there was no change in 
her from, day to day^ or one so slight that those 
who were in the habit of seeing her every few 
hours never perceived it. 

Her window had a pleasant outlook across the 
park. Her couch was wheeled close up to it, 
and there she lay from early in the forenoon till 
late in the afternoon, a pale spiritual-eyed lady, 
slowly dying, although neither by word nor look 
was there any betrayal of that fact to those 
about her. Janet, we may be sure, had no sus- 
picion of it. Never a morning came but her first 
inquiry was as to whether Sister Agnes felt any 
better. 

9 — a 



132 LOST AS SOON AS FOUND. 

" A little better this morning, I think, dear/' 
Sister Agnes would smilingly say. " Or if not 
stronger, at least no weaker than I was yester- 
day/" And for the time being she would feel 
that her statement was true. Later on in the 
day some small portion of vitality would seem to 
fade out of her which the freshness and strength 
of the following morning could not wholly re- 
place. But Janet hoped with the hopefulness 
of youth that when the hot languorous days of 
summer should give place to the chastened heats 
of autumn health and strength would come back 
to Sister Agnes ; hoped it devoutly, although she 
knew that should such be the case she herself 
would no longer be needed by Lady PoUexfen, 
but that she should have to go out into the 
world and fight for her daily bread with such 
small skill as there might be in her. Mean- 
while she waited on Sister Agnes, and ministered 
to her simple needs as much as lay in her power 
to do so. To gather a fresh bouquet every 
morning for the room of her she loved so 
dearly was one of Janet^s pleasantest occupations. 
Then there was always some new and interesting 



LOST AS SOON AS FOUND. 133 

book to read aloud, with frequent interludes of 
music and conversation. Now and tlien an odd 
liour or two would be devoted to the science of 
the needle. Happy days ! — days such as Janet_, 
if she were to live to be a hundred years old, 
could never forget. 

Now that she had become more accustomed 
to Lady Pollexfen and her peculiar ways, the 
duties of her position ceased to press so hea\aly 
upon Janet. She found, to her surprise, that 
Lady Pollexfen^s often positively cruel speeches 
no longer wounded her feelings so deeply as they 
did at first. The dislike and fear with which 
she had formerly regarded the strange old woman 
began to give place to a gentler feeling — to one 
of profound pity, and in this very pity she found 
an armour of proof against all the slights and 
contumely with which she was treated. One 
thing must be said in favoiu' of Lady Pollexfen. 
However capricious she might be in her own 
treatment of Janet, the servants were given to 
understand that in all things Miss Holme was to 
be regarded as a young gentlewoman, and not 
as one of themselves. Sometimes her ladyship 



134 LOST AS SOON AS FOUND. 

would be overcome by a fit of graciousness, 
which, however, never lasted more than a day or 
two at a time ; but while it did last Janet felt 
that her life was a very pleasant one. Such 
occasions were exceptional. Lady Pollexfen's 
normal mood was one of mingled harshness and 
suspicion, just rubbed over with a sort of cynical 
laissez faire-hm. that to a girl of Janefs dispo- 
sition was peculiarly distasteful. Janet never 
# answered her taunts and bitter speeches, but now 
and then a flasli of scorn from her beautiful eyes, 
or a sudden rush of colour to her cheek, showed 
that the barbed words had struck home. Janet's 
icy meekness had often the effect of irritating her 
ladyship far more than any angry retort would 
have done. At the latter she would merely have 
laughed, but Janet^s demeanour seemed suggestive 
of a fine though hidden contempt, and betrayed 
an indifference to her taunts that robbed her of 
half her pleasure in the utterance of them. As 
a consequence, there being no real faults to lay 
hold of, she sometimes accused Janet of those 
faults from which she was most free. 

'' Who and what are you. Miss Holme,^^ she 



LOST AS SOON AS FOUND. 135 

one day asked, in her scornfnl ^vay, ^'^that you 
should give yourself tlie airs of a grande dame 
when in my presence ? Judging from your de- 
meanour, you and not I might be the mistress of 
Dupley Walls. Pride ill becomes a dependent 
like you — a mere nobody — a person who has 
eaten the bread of charity from the day of her 
birth. If you had even the excuse of good looks ! 
But that is quite out of the question. If you 
are in any way remarkable, it is for an incurable 
gaucherie, and for a stolidity of intellect that 
would not discredit a ploughboy.^^ 

It was only the teaching and example of Sister 
Agnes that kept Janet on such occasions from 
breaking into open rebellion, and bidding fare- 
well for ever to Dupley Walls. But the gentle 
counsels of the sick woman prevailed, and by 
degrees these bitter speeches lost much of their 
sting. 

Sometimes, when her mood was more than 
ordinarily spiteful, her ladyship would touch 
Janet^s feelings in a different way. It was part 
of Janet's duties to assist Lady PoUexfen with 
the use of her arm as the latter walked from 



]36 LOST AS SOON AS FOUND. 

room to room^ or on the terrace outside. As the 
two were walking staidly along, the old lady 
would sometimes pinch Janet^s arm viciously 
between her thumb and finger. The first time 
this happened, Janet started and gave utterance 
to a little shriek. 

'' What is the matter, child ?" said her lady- 
ship, stopping suddenly in her walk. ^'' Have 
you seen a mouse, or what has frightened you ? 
Pray try to keep your nerves under better 
control. ^^ 

After that first time, Janet bore the infliction 
in stoical silence, but her arm was seldom with- 
out two or three blue and black finger marks as 
evidences of the petty torture she had undergone. 
To Sister Agnes she made no mention of this 
fresh mode of annoyance. The knowledge of it 
would only have jarred the sick woman^s feelings 
still more, and would not have spared Janet the 
infliction. 

Once every forenoon, between the hours of 
ten and twelve. Lady Pollexfen marched in her 
slow and stately fashion, and leaning on Jauet-'s 
arm, from her own rooms on one side of the 



LOST AS SOON AS FOUND. 137 

Louse to those of Sister Agnes on the opposite 
side, there to make formal inquiry as to the 
state of the latter^s health. She never stayed 
longer than three or four minutes at each ^dsit^ 
and she never sat down. She seemed to regard 
these daily visits as a matter of duty, and as 
such she conscientiously included them in each 
day^s programme of things to be done ; but she 
spent no more time over them than was abso- 
lutely necessary. Sometimes Janet, on returning 
alone to the sick woman^s room, soon after one 
of these visits, would find Sister Agnes in tears. 
Those were the only occasions on which her 
habitual serenity seemed to be seriously disturbed. 
But at sight of Janet^s loving face her tears 
soon ceased to flow. 

About this time Father Spiridion began to be 
seen more frequently at Dupley Walls. His 
visits were to Sister Agnes. Janet had contracted 
quite a liking for the kindly old man. He 
was a strange mixture of shrewdness and be- 
nignity, of prejudice and out-of-the-way know- 
ledge. He never met Janet without a smile and 
a few words of pleasant greeting. She was too 



138 LOST AS SOON AS FOUND. 

old now to have sweetmeats given her, so he 
gave her his blessing instead. Now^ as of old, 
one of her greatest treats was to hear him play 
the grand old organ in the gallery. 

Slowly and almost imperceptibly Sister Agnes 
faded from day to day, and those most about her 
suspected nothing. But at daybreak one morn- 
ing there was a ringing of bells, and Dr. Graile 
was sent for in hot haste, and by-and-by it was 
reported through the house that Sister Agnes 
had become suddenly worse, and that her life 
was in danger. Janet was like one distracted. 
She was forbidden the room, and three whole 
days and nights passed away before she saw- 
again the face of her she so dearly loved. She 
besieged the doctor and the nui'se with ques- 
tions, but from neither of those functionaries 
could anything beyond a grave shake of the 
head be elicited. How she got through her 
routine of duties with Lady Pollexfen she could 
never afterwards remember. Happily during 
those few days her ladyship was less exacting 
than common — more silent and subdued, and 
given to long fits of absorbing self-communion. 



LOST AS SOON AS FOUND. 131^ 

On the fourtli morning a message came to 
Janet that she was wanted in Sister Agnes^s 
room. She went tremblingly. As she put her 
hand on the door it was opened from the inside, 
and Lady Pollexfen came out. Janet had never 
seen such an expression on her face before. It 
was set and colourless^ and full of a deep frown- 
ing trouble. The trouble sprang from her heart : 
the frown was a visible sign of her intense will 
— of her unsparing determination to trample 
that trouble under foot and put it away from 
her for ever. Her eyes were fixed straight be- 
fore her, but seemed to see nothing. Her tall 
thin figure looked as upright and rigid as if cast 
in bronze. She swept slowly past Janet without 
appearing to have seen her. 

Janet passed forward into the little sitting- 
room. She saw with an aching heart that this 
morning the sofa was without its occupant. 
After a word of warning from the nurse^ she was 
allowed to enter the bedroom : then the door 
was closed behind her, and she and Sister Agnes 
were left alone. 

Janet could not repress the low cry that 



140 LOST AS SOON AS FOUND. 

sprang to her lips at the first glimpse of the 
changed face before her. On it there now 
rested the unmistakeable seal of death. Janet 
flung herself on her knees by the side of the 
bed in an agony of grief, and pressed to her lips 
the worn white hand that was extended to greet 
her. 

" My poor darling — my poor Janet \" was all 
that Sister Agnes could murmur. There were 
no tears in her eyes_, but on her lips a smile of 
heavenly contentment. 

Mindful of the caution that had been given 
her, Janet, after a few minutes, contrived to sub- 
due in some measure the outward signs of the 
grief that was rending her heart. 

" Come nearer/^ whispered Sister Agnes ; 
" let me clasp you in my arms ; let me feel for a 
little while that you are all my own. I have 
something to tell you, and not much time to tell 
it in. Kiss me, darling, and then listen to what 
I have to say without interrupting me." 

When Janet had nestled to the side of the 
sick woman, and they had kissed each other 
fondly, Sister Agnes spoke again. Her words 



LOST AS SOON AS FOUND. 141 

Tvere low but clear ; every syllable fell distinctly 
on her listener's ears. Occasionally she bad to 
pause for breathy but Janet never spoke a word 
till she had done. 

" It is a strange confession_, dear Janet, that 
I am about to make/' she began. " What I 
have now to tell you I bound myself by a solemn 
oath many years ago never to reveal till my 
dying day. That day has come at last. A few 
short hours will now end all. I have taken 
counsel with Father Spiridion, from whom I 
have no secrets. He has given me leave to 
speak. To-day is my last day on earth, and my 
oath is no longer binding. I could not have 
died happy had I carried my secret with me to 
the grave. But before I go any further, you 
must give me your sacred word never to reveal 
to Lady PoUexfen, nor indeed to any one else, 
what I am about to tell you, without having 
first obtained the sanction of Father Spiridion 
and Major Strickland to your taking such a step. 
Later on you will understand fully my reasons 
for asking for such a promise.'' 

Sister Agnes paused, as if waiting for a reply. 



142 LOST AS SOON AS FOUND. 

But Janet could not speak. A long, lingering 
pressure of the arms was her only answer. But 
it was an answer that satisfied the dying woman. 
She pressed her lips fondly to the tear-stained, 
face that was nestling on her shoulder, and then 
went on with her narration. 

" Dearest, the time has now come for me to 
lift from oif your life the weight of that mystery 
which has lain upon it ever since you were little 
more than a lisping child, — since you first began 
to feel, think, and understand, and to wonder 
why you were unlike other children in having 
no mother nor home of your own. The secret 
of your birth shall be to you a secret no longer. 
All these years, darling, you have not been with- 
out a mother's love, though you yourself might 
know it not. Janet, my darling ! my daughter ! 
it is your mother whose arms are round you 
now. Hush, sweet one ! do not speak. My 
little strength will hardly serve to carry me to 
the end. Yes, dear one, I am your mother, and 
Lady PoUexfen is your grandmother; I am her 
ladyship's youngest and only living child. "Why 
all these things have been kept from you for so 



LOST AS SOON AS FOUND. 143 

long a time, Avhy you have lived unacknowledged 
under the roof that should have held you as its 
greatest treasure, will be duly revealed to you 
after my death. Attached to this silver chain 
is a tiny key that will open a box which will be 
given to you by Father Spiridion. Inside that 
box you will find a paper written by me, which 
will tell you everything relating to your birth 
and history that it is needful for you to know. 
The good father and INIajor Strickland will be 
your counsellors ; put yourself and your cause 
implicitly into theii' hands^ and leave the rest to 
a Higher Power. Sweet one, I have now told 
you all that it is needful for you to know while 
I am still with you — all that my strength will 
allow me to say. We can be together but a 
brief while longer; let us during that time 
forget eveiy thing save that we are mother and 
child.^^ 

" Oh, mamma, mamma \" sobbed Janet, " are 
we brought together after all these years only to 
part again in so short a time ?'^ 

" Even so, dearest. And why should we 
grieve that such is the case? Our parting is 



144 LOST AS SOON AS FOUND. 

only for a time. No conviction was ever more 
deeply impressed upon me than that is. As I 
stand noT\'_, earthly troubles and sorrows have no 
power to touch me. Even the knowledge that 
I am about to separate from my Janet cannot 
quench the solemn joy that fills my soul. I am 
so close to eternity that a few years seem to me 
but as one day. And when that brief, troubled 
day shall be at an end^ I pray that my daughter 
and I may meet again in that heavenly rest into 
which all those shall enter who have guided their 
footsteps aright. ^^ 

But Janet could not be consoled. 

Later on in the day Sister Agnes sent for 
her agaiu; and mother and daughter spent more 
than an hour together in sacred communion. 
In the dusk of evening Lady Pollexfen went 
again to her sick daughter's room. What passed 
at that last interview was known to themselves 
alone. Lady Pollexfen never again saw her 
daughter alive. Then Father Spiridion adminis- 
tered the last offices of his church to the dying 
woman. About nine o'clock the doctor drove 
up in his gig. But the time when he could be 



LOST AS SOON AS FOUND. 145 

of service was gone by. At last mother and 
daughter were left alone together, and alone 
they remained all through the dark hours. At 
daybreak Father Spiridion glided into the room. 
The fast-sinking woman opened her eyes and 
smiled. 

"Play the Jubilate for me/"* she whispered, 
" and open wide the casement.^'' 

The deep voice of the organ, exultant, yearn- 
ing, solemn, tlmlled through the room; and on 
its wings, through the faint grey of the autumn 
morning, the soul of Sister Agnes was borne 
away. 

"Forget not that we shall meet again," were 
her last words. 



VOL. ir. 10 



CHAPTER X. 



THE CONFESSION. 



Miss Holme^ Fatlier Spiridion^ and Major 
Strickland were seated together in tlie littk 
parlour of the latter on a certain morning a 
few weeks after the death of Sister Agnes. The 
major had been over to Dupley Walls to beg a 
holiday for Janet_, and had brought her back 
with him. This was the day appointed for the 
opening of the box that had been left in the 
fat her ^s charge. 

Janet in her black dress looked pale and 
worn_, but very lovely. She had been obliged in 
some measure to conceal the outward tokens of 
her grief for fear of exciting the susj)icions of 
Lady Pollexfen^ and the effort had lent a touch 
of sternness to her face such as it had never 
worn before. The wound in her heart was as 
deep as ever it had been^ but she had learned 



THE CONFESSION. 147 

already to control her emotions^ and her de- 
meanour this morning was marked by a gravity 
and self-restraint that made her seem older than 
her years. 

When they were all seated at table Father 
Spiridion produced the box^ a very small affair^ 
made of cedar and hooped with silver. Janet 
handed him the key and he proceeded to open 
it. 

" Before making an examination of the con- 
tents/^ he said;, turning to Janet^ " it is requisite 
that I should enlighten you on one or two points. 
At the request of Sister Agnes I have informed 
om* friend^ Major Strickland^ of the relationship 
that existed between you and her ; I have told 
him also that you are the granddaughter of Lady 
Poilexfen — two facts with which he was pre- 
\dously unacquainted and which are a source of 
great surprise to him. I have further informed 
him as to the particular request of Sister Agnes 
that he should act with me in this case as 
trustee or executor for the furtherance of your 
interests in whatsoever direction those interests 
may seem to lie. Of the contents of this box I 

10—2 



\ 



148 THE CONFESSION. 

have only a general knowledge. I believe the 
chief article in it will be found to be a state- 
mentj written out by Sister Agnes_, in which will 
be given such details of her early life as she has 
deemed needful for the complete elucidation of 
the facts that she was desirous of submitting for 
our consideration. Of those details I myself 
have no knowledge^ but with her relations 
towards you and Lady Pollexfen I was made 
acquainted several years ago under the seal of 
confession. With your permission we will now 
proceed to an examination of the contents of the 
box.^^ 

Father Spiiidion opened the box slowly and 
reverently as though he could not forget that it 
had been last closed by the fingers of the dead. 
Of the contending emotions by which Janet was 
agitated it would be vain to attempt any analysis. 
She sat with one hand clasped rigidly in the 
other, her large luminous eyes fixed steadfastly 
on Father Spiridion, her bosom rising and falling 
rather faster than common, but looking in other 
respects as cold and statuesque as though she had 
been cut out of some beautiful stone. 



THE CONFESSION. 149 

The first article produced hy Father Spiridion 
from the box was a miniature painted on ivory 
of an exceedingly handsome young man^, with 
initials in filigree silver at the back. The next 
article was a large old-fashioned gold locket 
containing hair of two different colours worked 
into the form of a true-lover's knot. Then camp 
a worn wedding-ring. Then a marriage-certifi- 
cate the writing of which was faded and yellow 
with age. Next two or three love-letters signed 
with the same initials^ E.F._, as were on the back 
of the miniature. Last of all came several sheets 
of paper stitched together^ and folded across^ and 
endorsed : 

" A Confession. 
To be read by my daughter^ Janet Holme ; 
by my old and faithful friend^ Major Strickland ,; 
and by my father- confessor^ Father Spiridion; 
by them and by no one CISC'' 

Each article as it was produced from the box 
was^ after a cursory examination,, handed over to 
Janet. She gazed at the portrait and the locket 
with no other sign of outward emotion than a 



150 THE CONFESSION. 

closer knitting of her brows. The wedding- 
ring she kissed passionately. The certificate 
she read carefully twice over,, and her face 
flushed as she read. Then she refolded it 
and put it calmly down in its place on the 
table. The love-letters were merely glanced at, 
and were then left for future consideration. 
The Confession itself Janet took into her hands 
for a moment. She recognised the writing at 
once. With a deep sigh she gave it back to 
the priest. 

" Read it aloud, dear Father Spiridion, if you 
please/'' she said. 

The old man rubbed his spectacles slowly and 
solemnly, as befitted the occasion, placed them 
carefully astride his nose, and after a pre- 
liminary cough, took up the paper and read what 
follows • — 

" My darling Janet, — It is not intended that 
these lines shall meet your eye till the hand that 
writes them is mingled with the dust from which 
it came. I have been driven to wTite what is 
here set down bv some inward influence — by 



THE CONFESSION. 151 

some occult power working througli me^ and 
giving me no rest till I j)romisecl myself that it 
should be done. For myself^ I have done with 
the world and its active duties long ago. I have 
BO longer any interest in it except in so far as I 
may be permitted to watch over your fortunes^ 
to love you with the secret love of a mother who 
dare not aclaiowledge her child, and to perform 
such small works of charity among the sick and 
poor as my humble means may allow of. But as 
regards you, the case is altogether different. You 
are on the verge of womanhood, and life, with 
all its struggles and temptations, is still before 
you. To lift up and clear away the mystery that 
has enveloped your childhood and youth, to inform 
you what your real position is in that great 
world into which you are about to enter, is there- 
fore an act of the simplest justice, and one 
which ought no longer to be delayed. Unfor- 
tunately the revelation is one which I am for- 
bidden to make while I am alive, but I am 
advised that in the form of a written confession 
it may be received by you after my death. 
Tliese remarks will be better understood bv vou 



152 THE CONFESSION. 

when you shall have read the whole of what I 
am now about to set down. 

" I was born at Dupley Walls^ the youngest 
of three children. My brother Charles,, who died 
in India at the age of twent}^^ was two years 
older^ and my sister Eudoxia^ who died when she 
was fourteen^ was six years older than me. 
When I was three years old I was sent for by 
my father's half-sister^, a rich maiden lady who 
lived at Beckley in Cumberland. It was under- 
stood that I was to be regarded as her adopted 
child, and that some day the great bulk of her 
fortune would come to me. Of my father I re- 
member next to nothing. I never saw him 
again after going to live at Beckley. I have 
been told, and I have reason to believe it true, 
that he disliked me, and was glad to be rid of 
me for ever. In this respect my sister fared 
worse than I did. My father disliked her almost 
as much as he disliked me, but poor Eudoxia 
had no rich aunt to release her from a tyranny 
that was driving her slowly into the grave. 

" My father, Sir John Pollexfen, was a man of 
strong passions ; cruel and unbending to a degree 



THE CONFESSION. 153 

where he could be so with impunity. He and 
my mother were ill-matched. Knowing as you 
do, what Lady Pollexfen is now, how proud, 
stern, and unyielding, with yet occasional 
capricious fits of kindness and generous feeling, 
you will readily understand how her married life 
was one of perpetual discord and soul-fretting 
unhappiness. At length she and my father 
separated in consequence of a disagreement re- 
specting my brother, and they never saw each 
other again till my father lay dying. He carried 
his dislike of my mother beyond the grave, in 
ordering that his body should be kept unburied 
for twenty years ; that it should remain under 
whatever roof my mother might choose to make 
her permanent residence during that time ; and 
that my mother should visit it in person at least 
once a week during the whole period of twenty 
years, should her life be spared for so long a time. 
^^In the seclusion of Beckley the items of 
news that reached us from Dupley Walls were 
few and far between. I had never been en- 
couraged to write to cither of my parents, and 
neither of them ever thought of writing to me. A 



154 THE CONFESSION. 

coldly-Tvorded letter once every six montlis from 
my aunt to her brother, and an equally cold 
reply a month or two afterwards, were the sole 
links that bound me to those I would fain have 
loved but could not. At the age of seventeen 
I knew or remembered little more of my parents 
than I should have done had they died on the 
day I left Dupley Walls. Had they really been 
dead I should have cherished their memory, and 
thought tenderly of them; but since they were 
alive, their cold neglect chilled me to the heart, 
and withered every flower of love that ought to 
have flourished there. 

'^ But I was not unhappy. Although my life 
at Beckley was one of almost conventual seclu- 
sion, and although my aunt was a woman 
of unsympathetic nature and ascetic disposition, 
the springs of youth were fresh within me, 
and who could tell what happiness the future 
might not have in store? The situation of the 
house was a very lonely one, and there being so 
little that was attractive to me within doors, it 
cannot be wondered at that nearly the whole of 
my spare time was spent among the glorious 



THE CONFESSION. 155 

moors and fells by whicli we were shut in on 
every side. My aunt never made any objection 
to my long solitary rambles : solitude was con- 
genial to herself, she loved best to be alone^ and 
to her it seemed only natural and proper that 
my disposition in such things should bear some 
resemblance to her own. 

" It was on the occasion of one of these lonely 
rambles that I first encountered Mr. Fairfax. 
He had been out fishing, and was crossing the 
moor a little way behind me on his road to the 
nearest village, when a sudden thunderstorm came 
on. In three minutes I should have been drenched 
to the skin. Mr. Fairfax saw the emergency;, hur- 
ried up, apologized, introduced himself, and in- 
sisted on my acceptance of his waterproof till 
the rain should have ceased. I loved him from 
that first time of seeing him. We met again and 
again. If a man's oaths may ever be trusted, he 
loved me in return. I listened and believed. 
He asked me to elope with him, and I told him 
that if he would make me his wife I would fol- 
low him to the end of the world. He said : 
' It will be my dearest happiness to make you 



156 THE CONFESSION. 

my wife^ only you must give me your solemn 
promise never to reveal your marriage without 
having first obtained my permission to do so. 
Family reasons compel me to ask this sacrifice.' 
To make such a promise implied no sacrifice on 
my part ; it was not his family but him that I 
was about to marry, and to my mind there was 
something very delicious in the thought of being 
a participant in so important a secret. 

" But why go into details ? — although I could 
linger over this part of my story for years. It 
is sufficient to say that we eloped, and that we 
were married the same day at Whitehaven, a few 
miles away. A friend of Mr. Fairfax, named 
Captain Lant, gave me away. The only other 
witness to our marriage was the old pew-opener. 
Immediately after the marriage we bade farewell 
to Captain Lant, and went northward into Scot- 
land. After a happy month spent in the 
Highlands we came south. I would fain have 
stopped to see the wonders of London, of which 
I had heard so much at difierent times, but Mr. 
Fairfax would only agree to pass one night 
there, after which we at once set out for the 



THE CONFESSION. 157 

Continent. Avoiding Paris and all tlie large 
towns^ but lingering here and there in some 
sweet country nook_, we came at length to the 
borders of the Lake of Lucerne. Half a mile 
inland, but overlooking the lake^ and out of the 
ordinary track of tourists, we found a tiny villa 
that was in want of a tenant. Mr. Fairfax took 
it for a term of six months, and there we settled 
down. 

^^ Before leaving Scotland my husband had 
allowed me to write to my father and also to my 
aunt, informing them of my marriage, but men- 
tioning neither my husband^s name nor the place 
where we were then li^dng. If any answers were 
sent, they were to be addressed to me under my 
maiden name at one of the London district post- 
offices. When we reached town my husband sent 
to the office in question. There was only one 
letter for me. It was from my father, and con- 
tained, as enclosures, my letters to himself and 
to my aunt. His reply was a cruel one. In it 
he told me that he had disowned me for ever. 
That to him and to my mother I was as though 
I had never lived; or rather, as though I had 



158 THE CONTESSION. 

died on my wedding morn. That they had put 
on mourning for me, and looked upon me in all 
respects as one dead. Finally, he forbade me 
ever to communicate with him again either by 
letter or in any other way. 

" This letter cut me to the quick. In what 
way it affected my husband I was unable to judge. 
He read it through in silence, and then tossed 
it contemptuously on one side ; nor did he ever 
allude to it in any way again. 

'' I had been so accustomed from childhood 
upward to exist on such a very small modicum 
of love that the sting implanted by my father's 
letter would have made no enduring wound had 
the great compensation of a husband^s enduring 
love been granted me in place of that which 1 
had lost. It is true that I was married, and that 
I had a husband who loved me; but his love 
was not of that kind on which my heart could 
rest as on a rock against which all the storms of 
life would beat in vain. Mr. Fairfax, when he 
married me, meant that his love should be of the 
strong and enduring kind; but by what magic 
at our command shall wc change freestone into 



THE CONFESSION. 159 

granite^, or chalk into marble? How could I 
blame Mr. Fairfax for the non-possession of a 
quality which Nature had utterly denied him? 
Constancy was a virtue that he might dimly 
comprehend^ but which he altogether failed to 
reduce into the practice of his daily life. 

" The pretty castle I had built on my wedding- 
day proved to be of the veriest mushroom growth. 
The enchanted prince who was to have dwelt 
happily in it his whole life long, refused to be 
confined within such narrow limits,, and razed its 
golden walls to the ground with a sneer. 

'' However much I might repine in secret for 
the loss of that which could never be mine 
again, I made no complaint in words. I bore all 
in proud silence : my husband never heard a 
single murmur from my lips. The decay of his 
love was not a matter of a day or a week. It 
was slow, gradual, sure. I sometimes found 
myself morbidly trjdng to calculate how long a 
time would elapse before its last grains would 
vanish as the million that had gone before had 
vanished, leaving nothing but cold indiffe- 
rence behind. There was some slight touch of 



160 THE CONFESSION. 

comfort in after days in knowing that those few 
last grains were still mine on that morning when 
I saw him for the last time. 

" We had lived nearly twelve months on the 
banks of Lucerne. During that time my hus- 
band had made two journeys to London,, on both 
occasions going alone, and on both occasions 
being away from me exactly fourteen days. He 
never said a word to me as to the nature of the 
business which called him away, and I was too 
proud to ask him. Although his wife, I knew 
absolutely nothing respecting his antecedents, his 
actual position in society, or what relatives he 
had and who they were. I had married him 
without asking to be enlightened on such matters, 
and he took care afterwards that my ignorance 
should remain undisturbed. I knew that there 
was some mystery in the case. He had told me 
as much as that when asking me to swear not to 
reveal the fact of our marriage to any one with- 
out his express sanction. More than that I did 
not seek to know. AYhat did it matter to me 
who or what this man^s relations were, when the 
love with which he had bound me to himself was 



THE CONFESSION. 161 

slowly breaking link by link ? But wbat I did 
secretly resent was the fact that all letters ad- 
dressed to him were fetched by himself personally 
from the nearest post-office ; and that all letters 
written by him were written furtively, as it were, 
so that not a line of their contents should be seen 
by me^ and were likewise posted by himself so 
that no second pair of eyes should see how they 
were addressed. 

" At length there came a day when Mr. 
Fairfax received a letter which seemed to trouble 
him more than any he had ever received before 
during the brief time I had been his wife. I 
had no means of judging by whom it was 
written. He read it over at least twenty times, 
and each time its perusal seemed to leave him 
more puzzled than he had been before. Then 
he put it away, and I did not see it again. But 
during the two days that followed before he 
answered it there was something in his manner 
which told me how deeply that letter was 
centred in his thoughts. Two or three days 
still later he announced to me that he was going 
on a sketching expedition, and that he might be 

VOL. II. , 11 



162 THE CONFESSION. 

away for a couple of weeks. It was not the 
first time he had made a similar excuse for 
leaving me^ but he had never before been away 
for so long a time. Whenever Mr. Fairfax was 
absent^ a certain Siguora Trachini, the widow of 
a poor Italian gentleman^ came and kept me 
company at the villa till his return. This time 
also she came with her needles_, and her immense 
iDalls of cotton^ and her well-thumbed breviary. 
Then my husband^ having packed up all things 
requisite for his expedition^ bade me a more 
than ordinarily affectionate farewell, and left 
me. I watched him down the winding road 
that leads to the lake, a peasant trudging behind 
with his luggage. At the corner where the 
large orange tree grows, he turned and waved 
his hand. And that was the last that I ever 
saw of Edmund Fairfax.''^ 



CHAPTER XL 

THE CONFESSION CONTINUED. 

" My husband had been about three days gone 
when bad weather set in. For several hours the 
lake was lashed by a wild storm of wind and 
rain. Then the rain ceased^ and fitful gleams 
of sunshine lighted up the landscape, but the 
wind still blew in fierce troubled gusts, and so 
continued for several days. On the sixth day 
after my husband^s departure I was surprised by 
a visit from Captain Lant, whom I had not seen 
since my wedding-day. He was very grave, but 
there was nothing in his looks from which I 
could augur that he was the bearer of ill news. 
He was not a man whom I could ever have 
liked, but I bade him welcome for my husband^s 
sake. His first words told me that I had lost 
that husband for ever. Mr. Fairfax had been 
drowned during the storm three days before, 

11—2 



164 THE CONFESSION CONTINUED. 

while out sketching in a small boat on the Lake 
of Zurich. His body had been recovered ; had 
been recognised by Captain Lant, in whose 
company my husband was making the excursion, 
but who had not been on the lake ; and had 
been buried the following morning in the church- 
yard nearest the scene of the accident. In 
corroboration of his story, Captain Lant brought 
me my husband^s vest, his purse, his ring, his 
watch, his pencil-case, and a small pocket-book, 
the whole of which articles had the appearance 
of having been in the water for several hours. 
I could not doubt the truth of his tale. 

" Captain Lant stayed with me, and did all that 
could be done to facilitate my arrangements for 
leaving the villa and returning to England. 
Among the luggage which my husband had not 
taken with him, was found a pocket-book con- 
taining bank-notes to the value of two hundred 
pounds. The notes were sealed up in an enve- 
lope that was endorsed with my name, and had 
these words written below : ^ In case of any 
accident happening to myself "* This proof of 
my husband^s affectionate forethought touched 



THE CONFESSION CONTINUED. 165 

me to the quick. He might have had a presenti- 
ment of the terrible ending that was so soon to 
befall him. 

" Before Captain Lant and I parted we had a 
long conversation together. I told him that I 
knew nothing whatever of my late husband's 
social position,, nor whether he had a single rela- 
tive in the world. On these two points I was 
desirous that Captain Lant should afford me some 
information^ but he professed to be as ignorant 
in the matter as I was. Although Mr. Fairfax 
and he had been very good friends, their friend- 
ship was only a thing of three years' growth, and 
of my husband's antecedents he could say nothing 
with certainty. He himself believed him to have 
been the son of a small farmer in the south of 
England, and that his money had come to him 
from a rich uncle. Further than that he pro- 
fessed to know nothing, and with this scanty 
information I was obliged to rest satisfied. 
Captain Lant and I parted at the diligence office. 
He was going forward to Rome, while all my 
desire was to get back to England. 

'^ On feeling for my notes a few minutes after 



166 THE CONFESSION CONTINUED. 

landing from the steamer, I found that they had 
been stolen. I had omitted to take the numbers 
of them^ and the police could do nothing to assist 
me. Four sovereigns and some loose silver -was 
all the money I had in the world. After a 
couple of days spent at a quiet boarding-house 
in London_, I set out for Dupley Walls. It was 
late in autumn, and the weather was excessively 
cold. There was no railway in those days, and 
the coach by which I had to travel was full in- 
side. I travelled outside, and had to be lifted 
down at Tydsbury, so benumbed was I with the 
intense cold. No news from home had reached 
me during the time of my sojourn on the conti- 
nent, and now, at the Tydsbury hotel, I heard 
for the first time that my father was dead. I 
heard it to all outward seeming as a stranger 
might have heard it ; none there knew who I 
was. 

'' I parted with my last half-crown at the 
hotel, and then I set out to walk the three miles 
to Dupley Walls. You must bear in mind that 
I had not been at the hall since I was four years 
old, and that, consequently, the way was entirely 



THE CONFESSION CONTINUED. 167 

strange to me. I did not leave the little town 
till dusk, and the snow was falling fast by the 
time I got fairly out into the country lanes. I 
inquired at one or two cottages by the way, but 
I must have wandered far out of the dii'ect road^ 
for when I at length reached Dupley Walls, wet 
through and half dead with cold and fatigue, 
the turret clock was just striking twelve. The 
house loomed vast and dark before me, with no- 
where a single ray of light to bid me welcome. 
My heart grew faint within me. I lay down 
under the portico and prayed that I might die. 
How long I had lain thus I cannot tell, when I 
was roused to partial consciousness by hearing a 
sound as if some metallic substance had fallen 
on to the flagged floor of the hall inside. Then 
I heard faint sounds as if some one were movdng 
about in the darkness, and presently a dim thread 
of light shone from under the door. As I after- 
wards learned, my mother had been to pay her 
customary visit to the Black Room upstairs, and 
in returning across the hall had dropped her 
lamp to the ground. On seeing the thread of 
light I staggered to my feet, and beat with both 



1G8 THE CONFESSION CONTINUED. 

my hands against the door. Then a voice cried 
out, ' Who are you ? and what do you want V 

" ^ My name is Helen Fairfax/ I replied, ^ and 
I want to see Lady Pollexfen/ 

" There was a dead silence for full two minutes, 
then I heard the rustle of a silk dress, and pre- 
sently the great bolts were drawn one by one, 
and then the door of my lost home was flung 
wide open, but not for me to enter. On the 
threshold stood a tall figure, dark and threat- 
ening, dark except for the white hands, gemmed 
with rings, one of which held on high a small 
antique lamp, and the white face full of wrath 
and menace. 

" ^ I am Lady Pollexfen,^ said this phantom, in 
a cold, passionless voice. ^ Once more I ask. 
Who are you?^ 

" ^ Your daughter, madam. Helena, your 
unhappy child.^ 

" ' My daughter Helena died and was buried 
long ago. You may be her ghost for aught I 
know or care. In any case, this is no place for 
you : within this door you can never enter : 
under this roof you can never come. Go ! I 



THE CONFESSION CONTINUED. 16S 

have no daughter. I am childless and a 
widow.^ 

" ' But, madam — mother_, hear me ! I am 
your daughter — I ' 

" ^ I tell you that I have no daughter/ she 
interrupted, in her cold, imperative way. ^My 
daughter fell into shame, and then to me she 
became as utterly dead as if the ocean were 
rolling over her bones : dead in heart and 
dead in memory. You are an impostor. 
QoV 

" '^ Oh ! mother, listen to me. I am not an 
impostor. I am your own daughter Helena. 
No shame clings to my name. My husband is 
dead, and this is the only place in the wide world 
where I can ask for shelter or a crust of 
bread.^ 

" ' Not so much as a crust of bread shall you 
ever have from me. You know my will. Go at 
once and never darken this door again. "VMien 
you die, may you die uncared for and unknown ! 
May your eyes be closed by the hands of 
strangers, and may the hands of strangers lay 
you in your grave ! Go V 



170 THE CONFESSION CONTINUED. 

^' Speaking thus^ Lady Pollexfen faded back 
into the darkness. Slowly and resistlessly tlie 
door was closed : slowly and deliberately the 
great bolts were pushed into their sockets : the 
silk dress rustled ; the ribbon of light shone for 
a moment under the door ; then all was darkness 
and silence^, and I was alone. 

" I crept away from the cruel door into the 
less cruel night. The night and the snow 
seemed like friends that would wrap me round, 
and tend me, and hush me into a sleep that 
should know no waking in this bitter world. I 
was like one on whose soul sits some awful 
nightmare which makes him seem, even in his 
own eyes, something other than himself, 
knew that the woman who had smitten me with 
those cruel words was my mother, but I was 
past wondering at that, or at anything else. 
All that had befallen me was only in the common 
course of events, and it was quite right and 
proper that I should be walking there alone at 
that hour, with my back turned to the roof that 
should have sheltered me, and with no spot in 
all the wide world on which I could claim to lay 



THE CONFESSION CONTINUED. 171 

my head. In my heart there was no bitterness ; 
only a dull^ vague longing for peace and rest and 
a deep winding-sheet of snow. There was some- 
thing within me that would allow me neither 
pause nor rest till I had left the park of Dupley 
Walls behind. I had shunned the ordinarj^ 
lodge-entrance, and had gained access to the 
grounds through a stile in a bye-lane, connected 
with which is a right of footpath across one 
corner of the estate. I went back by the same 
road, and at length recognised in a bewildered 
sort of way that I was out of the park and had 
all the world before me where to choose. A 
light snow was still falling, but the wind had 
died down, and with it had gone that intensity of 
cold from which 1 had suffered before. I dragged 
myself slowly onward, but more by a sort of in- 
stinct than by any exertion of will. But beyond 
this point I have no clear recollection of any- 
thing. I only know that when I woke up I 
found myself in the Home of the Sisterhood of 
Good Works, to which place I had been con- 
veyed by a charitable carrier who had found me 
lying insensible in the snow. 



172 THE CONFESSION CONTINUED. 

'^ There I lay very ill for a long tinie. During 
one part of my illness my mind wandered,, and 
from certain words I let drop at that time^, the 
Sisterhood were induced to write to Lady Pollex- 
fen. She — my mother — came. She saw me 
when I was unconscious of her presence^ and she 
saw me afterwards when I was slowly coming 
back to life and health. Then was the unwritten 
compact entered into by which it was agreed 
that when sufficiently recovered I should go and 
live at Dupley Walls^ not as the daughter of its 
mistress^ but^ under the assumed name of Sister 
Agnes^ as Lady Pollexfen^s paid companion and 
very humble friend. 

" In the meantime you^ my darling Janet^ had 
been born. I nursed you myself till you were 
six months old. Then Lady Pollexfen insisted 
on your being put out^ and on my going to live 
at Dupley Walls. But previously to doing this 
her ladyship extorted from me a double promise. 
Firsts never by word^ look^ or deed to reveal to 
any one the fact of the relationship between her- 
self and me. Secondly, never till my dying day 
to reveal either to vou or to anv one else the fact 



THE CONFESSION CONTINUED. 173 

that you and I were mother and daughter. This 
double promise was not made by me without first 
consulting those whose opinions I was bound to 
revere. At that time I looked upon the promise 
as a penalty in part for the errors of my life. 
Since that time I have often felt inclined to 
doubt the wisdom of having made it. The pe- 
nalty has been a far heavier one than I thought 
it would be. To see you^ my daughter,, the one 
sweet flower that has blossomed out of my 
vrithered life, to see you and know you as my 
OAvn, and yet not to dare to claim you as such, 
surely that was too great a penance for one weak 
mortal to bear ! 

" My narrative is nearly at a close. By the 
time you have read thus far you will understand 
why you were brought up at Miss Chinfeather''s 
academy, and why you were sent from that place 
to Dupley Walls. Lady PoUexfen^s strange treat- 
ment will also in part be understood by you. 
You were a disturbing element in that fossilized 
life to which she had become accustomed. Still, 
if I have read her character aright, you, her 
granddaughter, are far more precious in her sight 



174 THE CONFESSION CONTINUED. 

than 1, her daughter, ever was. I am very very 
happy to think that such is the case ; and I have 
sometimes ventured to hope that after I shall be 
gone, you and she may be drawn still more 
closely together. That the withered ashes of her 
affections may yet derive some \ital heat from 
the generous impulses of your heart. That her 
pride may give way sufficiently to induce her to 
place you in your proper position in the world, 
and to allow your hands, as being those of the 
one nearest and dearest to her, to tend her 
lovingly on that downward path which she and I 
are alike treading; and of which the end can be 
no great distance away. 

'^ I have necessarily left one of the most im- 
portant points of my narrative till the last. 

"When Captain Lant told me that he knew 
nothing positive as to the antecedents of your 
father, but that he believed him to have been the 
son of a small farmer in the south of England, and 
that his money had been left him by a rich uncle, 
I believed him implicitly. But during the long 
solitary years by which my life has been marked 
since that time I have gone back in thought a 



THE CONFESSION CONTINUED. 175 

thousand times to those fevi brief wedded months, 
aud have brooded over all the circumstances by 
which they were surrounded. One result of this 
perpetual brooding has been that I have learned 
in my own mind to distrust the statement made 
by Captain Lant. I cannot believe that Mr. 
Fairfax was the son of a small farmer. He was 
a gentleman, and had about him all the signs of 
one who had been brought up among gentlefolks. 
From hints and odd words dropped by him at 
different times and afterwards recalled by me in 
memory, I gathered that he had travelled exten- 
sively, that he had been at college, that he was a 
member of one or two West-end clubs, that he 
had at one time kept his own hunters, and that 
he was personally known to several people of 
rank. In all this there was nothing that be- 
trayed the farmer^s son. 

" From this con\action — not arrived at in a 
day or a month — of Captain Lant^s untruthful- 
ness, a suspicion has gradually forced itself upon 
me — and at the present moment it is nothing 
more than a suspicion — that the entire story of 
Mr. Fairfax's sudden death was neither more nor 



176 THE CONFESSION CONTINUED. 

less tlian a clever fabrication to get rid of a 
woman for whom he no longer cared. It may- 
seem cruel to you^ my dear Janet, even to hint 
at such a thing in connexion with a man whose 
memory you ought to revere, especially as T have 
not the slightest atom of positive proof on which 
to base such a suspicion. But now, if ever, the 
whole truth must be told you. About all Captain 
Lant^s statements there was an air of unreality 
which did not strike me so forcibly at the time 
as it did afterwards, when I went back in recol- 
lection over the events of that terrible time. 
Sometimes the suspicion that I was nothing more 
than the victim of a clever lie would deepen in 
my mind till it almost assumed the proportions 
of a certainty. At other times it would wither 
and lose all its vivid colouring, and seem nothing 
more than the dream of a distempered brain. It 
might have been nothing more than such a dream 
for any action I have taken in it to prove either 
its truth or its falsity. My love for Mr. Fairfax 
died out long ago, and nothing could revivify the 
cold ashes. If he were not really dead, but 
merely wished to cast me off, he had attained 



THE CONFESSION CONTINUED. 177 

his end^ and so enough. Had it been possible to 
lure him back to my side^ the wish to do so had 
long passed away. I coveted neither riches nor 
position : my life had aims that were directed 
otherwhere. 

" But with yoTi^ my daughter,, the case is 
entirely different. You hold your position at 
Dupley Walls by a precarious tenure. Lady 
Pollexfen is a woman of capricious temper and 
inflexible will. She might choose to turn you 
adrift to-morrow : to cast you on the world, 
helpless and alone. On the other hand, she may 
have made adequate provision for you in the case 
of anything happening to herself. But this is a 
matter respecting which I am entirely ignorant, 
and were I to speak to her ladyship respecting 
it I should only be scouted for my pains. It is 
true that you are nearer to her in blood than 
any one now li\-ing (I am writing of myself as 
though I were already dead), but a woman of 
Lady Pollexfen''s peculiar disposition is just as 
likely as not to repudiate any claim which might 
have its origin in that fact ; and it must be borne 
in mind that the absolute disposal of Dupley 

VOL. II. , 12 



178 THE CONFESSION CONTINUED. 

Walls^ and any other property she may be 
possessed of, is vested entirely in her own 
hands. 

" Under these 'perplexing circumstances^ and 
with a future on which your foothold is so in- 
secure, it has sometimes seemed to me that the 
wisest plan with regard to your interests would 
be to endeavoui' to unravel the mystery by which 
the antecedents and social position of your 
father are surrounded. Behind the cloud with 
which Mr. Fairfax chose to enshroud his life 
previously to our marriage^ friends^ relatives, for- 
tunCj happiness, may all await you, his child. 
So at least my dreams have run at times ; and 
dreams at times come true. 

" The terms of my oath to Lady PoUexfeii 
forbade me from making any such inquiry on my 
own account, but in this matter you are 
entirely unfettered. If, therefore, your friends 
and counsellors. Major Strickland and Father 
Spiridion, think it desirable that such an investi- 
gation should be made in your interests, place 
the matter unreservedly into their hands, and 
leave them to deal with it in whatever way thej 



THE CONFESSION CONTINUED. 179 

may think best. That its issue may prove to be 
for your welfare and happiness is your dying 
mother^s fervent prayer. 

" Further^ should my vague suspicion that Mr. 
Fairfax did not meet his death at the time and 
imder the circumstances as told me by Captain 
Lant, prove to have some foundation in fact^ and 
should the story turn out to have been merely an 
invention to get rid of a wife who had become 
burdensome to him_, in such a case your father is 
probably still among the living. Should such 
prove to be the fact it is by no means unlikely 
that the daughter of his discarded wife might be 
cherished and welcomed by him as even the child 
of a happier marriage might not be. Should the 
futui'e give you a father — one who will welcome 
you with open hand and open heart — go to him 
and be to him as a daughter. Forget your 
mother^s wrongs : on this point I solemnly charge 
you : let the dead past bury its dead. Be dutiful 
and loving as a daughter ought to be, and leave 
it for a Higher Power to set straight that which 
is crooked, and to weigh the human heart 
aright. 

U—z 



180 THE CONFESSION CONTINUED. 

" You have been known all these years as 
Janet Holme, but your real name, the one by 
which you were baptized, is Janet Fairfax. 
"When you were sent away to Miss Chinfeather's 
seminary it was necessary that your name should 
be enrolled in the books of that establishment. 
My mother would not allow you to go either by 
the name of Miss Fairfax or Miss Pollexfen. 
My own name being Helena Holme Pollexfen, 
my mother chose that you should be designated 
and known as Janet Holme, and in this, as in 
every other matter, her wishes were acceded to. 

" I need hardly tell you that the miniature 
contained in the box in which I shall deposit this 
paper is that of your father, nor that the 
wedding-ring which you will find near it is the 
one he placed on my finger the day he took me 
for his wife. The relics brought me by Captain 
Lant as proofs of your father^s death I was un 
fortunate enough to lose during my journey back 
to England. 

'^ And now, dear Janet, my story is told.''^ 






[The few remaining pages of Sister Agnes's 



THE CONFESSION CONTINUED. 181 

confession are omitted as having no bearing on 
the history of the Great Mogul Diamond. They 
consisted of tender confidences and loving advice, 
and as such are sacred to the eyes of her for 
whom they were written.] 



CHAPTER XII. 

MADGIN junior's SECOND REPORT. 

" My dear Dad^ — Your letter in reply to my 
first report reached my hands a week ago. It 
had been lying three days at the post-office be- 
fore I had an opportunity of fetching it. I am 
glad to find that you approve of my proceedings^ 
and think, aU things considered, that I have not 
made bad use of my time. That you are 
sanguine as to the ultimate result of my mission 
here shows a buoyancy of disposition on your 
part that would not discredit any dashing young 
blade of twenty. I hope that your opinion will 
be still further confirmed when you shall have 
read that which I have now to put down. 

" I may just remind you that I have now 
been at Bon Repos a month all but two days, 
and but for a fortunate accident the object 
for which I was sent here would still be as far 



MADGIN junior's SECOND REPORT. 183 

from its accomplishment as on the day of my 
arrival. Even now it will rest with you to 
decide whether what I have to communicate is of 
any real value, or advances even by a single step 
the great end we have in view. Privately, I 
may tell you that I think the same great end 
all fudge. My faith is very lukewarm indeed as 
to the existence of the diamond. But even 
granting its existence, the present possessor, 
whoever he may be, were he aware of our petty 
machinations, would laugh them utterly to 
scorn. 

" Your reply to this would probably be that 
since the unknown possessor of the diamond is not 
cognizant of om' machinations, we have an incalcu- 
lable advantage on our side. To which I venture 
to observe that we are tilting at shadows — that 
both the diamond and its owner are myths, and 
have no foundation in fact. And now that I 
have made my protest, and so eased my mind, 
1 will proceed with my narration of what has 
happened at Bon Repos since the date of my last 
report. 

" The fortunate accident of which I made 



184 MADGIN junior's SECOND REPORT. 

mention a few lines above is neither more nor 
less than the serions illness of Cleon. As a con- 
sequence of this event I have been brought into 
closer relations with M. PlatzolF. Before enter- 
ing into particulars J I may just add that the 
stranger^ Captain Ducie^ is still here; but his 
visit, so Cleon informs me, is now drawing to a 
close. As I informed you before, Cleon, for 
some reason best known to himself, has con- 
tracted an intense dislike for the captain, and 
before I had been a week at Bon Bepos he had 
set me to act as a spy on his actions. I have 
watched him as far as it has been possible to do 
so with safety. What little I have discovered is 
not worth setting down here ; in fact, I may say 
that I have discovered nothing more singular in 
the captain^s mode of life than would appear 
upon the sui'face of any ordinary life that was 
closely watched by some one who lacked the 
key to the motives with which its purposes were 
animated. I have, then, made no actual dis- 
covery of facts as regards Captain Ducie. But 
for all that, a dim suspicion has grown up in my 
mind, having birth I cannot tell how or when. 



MADGIN junior's SECOND REPORT. 185 

that the captain is not without certain private 
designs of his own on M. Piatzoff, although of 
■what those designs may consist I have not the 
remotest idea. Gentlemanly man as the captain 
is, there is about him a certain faint soupcon of 
the adventurer, and my first suspicion of some 
design on Platzoff may have had its rise in that 
fact. At all events, I have no better based facts 
to go upon, — nothing that I can set down in 
black and white. For my own sake more than 
for Cleon^s, I have determined to still retain 
my watch on the captain. Time only can tell 
whether or no my doing so will in any way 
advance our interests. 

" Cleon had been ailing for some days, but 
kept gomg about his duties as usual. One 
morning, however, he sent for me, and told me 
that he was too ill to rise, and that such portion 
of his duties for the day as could not be post- 
poned must be gone through by me in his stead. 
Such duties would chiefly be those arising from 
personal attendance on M. Platzoff. I could see 
that he was terribly put about. 

" ' My master is such a particular man,^ he 



186 MADGIN junior's SECOND KEPORT. 

said. ' I have never missed waiting on him a 
single day these twenty years. How he will 
like a stranger to go through the little indis- 
pensable offices of the toilet for him is more than 
I dare think of. However^ in the present case 
there is no help for it^ and you may take it as a 
proof of the confidence I have in you that I have 
selected you^ a comparative stranger _, to act as 
my deputy for the time being.'' 

He then gave me a silver pass-key^ which he 
told me would open the whole suite of private 
rooms occuj)ied by M. Platzofi". He then im- 
pressed certain instructions on my mind^ a minute 
observance of wbich^ he said^ would go some way 
towards reconciling M. Platzoff to the temporary 
loss of his, Cleon^s,. services. ' The private apart- 
ments/ he finished up by saying, ' consist of 
four rooms en suite. The first of them is the 
smoking-room ; the second the dressing and 
bath room ; the third the bedroom ; lastly 
comes a small private library or sanctum, the 
walls lined with books, which there will be no 
need for you to enter. Take the pass-key and 
open the doors of the smoking and dressing- 



MADGIN junior's SECOND REPORT. 187 

rooms. When you reach the bedroom give 
three separate taps at the door with the handle 
of the key. M. Platzoff will then bid you enter. 
But before going in you must speak to him, and 
tell him that I am ill, and that I have deputed 
you, with his permission, to act in my stead. 
Even then do not go in till he bids you enter. 
Were you to enter unannounced you might come 
to grief. M. Platzoff always keeps a loaded 
revolver close by his pillow. In the sudden ex- 
citement of seeing a strange face near him, he 
might unfortunately make use of it. If he bid 
you not to enter, come back to me, and I will 
consider what further must be done. On second 
thoughts, I will write a line of explanation for 
you to take with you. It may serve to allay 
any doubts M. Platzoff might feel as to the ac- 
ceptance of your services.^ 

'^ I gave him pen and ink. Not without diffi- 
culty he wrote the following words, which he 
read to me after they were written : — 

•* ^ I am too ill this morning to rise from my 
bed. Unless this were really the case, you may 



188 MADGIN JUNIORS SECOND REPORT. 

be sure that my customary services would not be 
foregone. I am obliged to send you a stranger — 
that is_, a person who is a stranger to you. You 
may place implicit confidence in him. I hope 
to be with you again to-morrow. 

" The style seemed to me a strangely fami- 
liar one in which to address his employer. But 
Cleon was not a man to do anything without a 
motive. In the present case he doubtless knew 
thoroughly what he was about. 

" I took the pass-key, opened and went 
through the first and second rooms, and knocked 
at the door of the third. ' Enter/ said the voice 
of M. Platzoff from within. Then in the most 
respectful tone I could summon for the occasion 
I repeated the formula composed for me by Cleon. 
There was complete silence for full two minntes. 
Then M. Platzofi" spoke. ^ Come in/ he said, 
' and let me see who you are.^ I unlocked and 
opened the door, and then stood for a few mo- 
ments on the threshold. The room was nearly 
in total darkness. The Venetians were down 



MADGIN junior's SECOND REPORT. 189 

and thick curtains drawn in front of them. A 
faint sickly odour came through the doorway 
like that of some strongly aromatic drug. ' Come 
forward and open the blinds/ said a peremptory 
voice from the bed. I obeyed,, and let in the 
cheerful daylight. ' I have a line from Mr. Cleon 
for you^ sir/ I said^ ' if you will kindly read it.^ 
' Give it me here/ he said. ' Cleon ill ! The 
world must be coming to an end. I thought 
that fellow was made of cast-iron and could never 
get out of order.^ 

" I gave him the note. He opened it and 
read it with the assistance of his eyeglass. I 
seized the opportunity for a quiet glance round. 
If I were an upholsterer, my dear dad, which, 
thank goodness, I am not, I would draw you up 
a brief inventory of the contents of M. Platzoff^s 
bedroom. As circumstances are, I can only say 
that it was by far the most elegantly-fitted 
sleeping room which it had ever been my fortune 
to enter. In parenthesis I may remark, that in 
passing through the smoke-room I had been 
much struck with the richness and elegance of 
its decorations. It is fitted up in a semi- 



190 MADGIN junior's SECOND REPORT. 

Oriental fashion,, and except that evei ything in it 
is real and of the best quality:, it looks more like 
a theatrical apartment fitted u.]) for stage pur- 
poses than a real room in a country gentleman^s 
house. Since that time I have become familiar- 
ized with the enth'e suite, and have picked up 
one or two ideas for interiors which may prove 
of service to my friend Davis of the Tabard. 

'^With an impatient 'Pish!' M. Platzoff' 
tossed the note from him as soon as he had 
mastered its contents. He cut quite a comical 
figure as he lay there, his yellow skin looking 
yellower than ordinary in contrast with the 
white bed-furniture. His wizened face puckered 
into a scowl of perplexity. His blue- black chin- 
tuft rough and out of shape, and his cheeks and 
upper lip grimy for want of a razor. A conical 
nightcap like an extinguisher on his head, and 
his robe-de-nuit fal-laVd vrith lace, as though he 
were some dainty bride of twenty. I could have 
laughed outright, but I took care to do nothing 
of the kind. 

" ' What is your name, sir ? and how long 
have YOU been at Bon Repos?' he demanded. 



MADGIN junior's SECOND REPORT, 191 

with a sort of contemptuous anger in his 
voice. 

^' ' My name is James Jasmin_, sir^ at your 
service ; and I have been here just one month/ 

*' ^ One month ! one month !' he shrieked. 
^ Then what, in the fiend^s name^, does Cleon 
mean by writing that he has implicit confidence 
in you ? Who are you ? and where do you 
come from ? How can one have implicit confi- 
dence in a man whom one has only known 
for four weeks ? Cleon must take me for a 
fool/ 

" ^ My name I have already told you^ sir. 
Before coming here^ I was in ser\dce with Mr. 
Madgin_, of Dupley Walls/ 

" M. Platzoff's face turned from yellow to 
green as I uttered these words. ' From Dupley 
Walls, did you say T he gasped ; ' from Dupley 
Walls in Midlandshire V 

" ' That is the place, sir.^ He evidently knew 
something about Dupley Walls, but how much 
or how little, was the question. I felt myself 
on the brink of an abyss. Was I about to be 
kicked out of Bon Repos as an impostor ? 



192 MADGIN JUNIOK's SECOND EEPORT. 

'' ' But — but I have always understood tliat a 
certain Lady PoUexfen was the owner of Dupley 
Walls ?^ 

^^ ' Lady Pollexfen is the owner^ sir, but she 
does not live at the hail^ but at a cottage in the 
park ; the house has been let for several years 
back to Mr. Madgin/ 

" ^ And how long have you been in the employ 
of this Mr. Madgin ?' 

" ' Since I was quite a boy, sir.'' 

" * Then why have you left him V 

" ' Because he is about to reside on the Con- 
tinent, and is about to break up his English 
establishment.'' 

" ' Then you are acquainted with Lady Pol- 
lexfen V 

^' ^ Only from seeing her frequently, sir. I 
have never spoken to her. She is very old now, 
and lives a very secluded life.' 

'^ ' Has she any of her children living with 
her?' 

^' ^ I am not aware that her ladyship has any 
children. I have heard speak of one son who 
died in India many years ago/ 



MADGIN junior's SECOND REPORT. 193 

"^Ah!' Then after a pause, ^ Well, Mr. 
James Jasrain, I will accept your services for 
the present, but I hope to goodness that Cleon 
is not going to be laid up for any length of 
time. Ring the bell for my shaving-water, and 
reach me that dressing-gown.^ 

'^ Congratulate me, my dear dad, on the 
dexterity with which I extricated myself from a 
difficulty that in more awkward hands might 
readily have proved fatal. 

" It is not requisite that I should enter into 
any details of the minor duties I had to perform 
for M. Platzoff. They were the ordinary duties 
of a body servant, and it is sufficient to say that 
I got through them without making any very 
egregious blunder. That I am still engaged in 
the same capacity is a tolerable proof that M. 
Platzoff is not dissatisfied with my services, 
for Cleon has not yet recovered, and although 
somewhat better, is still confined to his bed. 
Platzoff is not a difficult man to serve under. 
He does not treat his people like dogs, as I 
have heard of many so-called gentlemen doing. 
Only attend well to his minor comforts, and do 

VOL. II. ♦ 13 



194 MADGIN junior's SECOND REPORT. 

not keep him waiting for any tiling, and you will 
never hear a wrong word from him. 

"Midnight is, with certain exceptions, M. 
PlatzofF^s fixed hour for going to bed. My in- 
structions are to go every night at twelve pre- 
cisely ; to give a low treble knock on the door 
of the smoke-room, and then with the aid of the 
pass-key to go in. I then relieve M. Platzoff of 
his pipe, generally a large Turkish hookah ; ac- 
company him to his dressing-room, and take his 
instructions for the morning. After that I put 
out the lights, and then my duties for the day 
are over. 

" But once, sometimes twice a week, M. 
Platzoff is in the habit of smoking opium, or 
some drug so much like it that I cannot tell the 
difference. Whatever it may be, he smokes it 
till he falls into a sort of trance in which he is 
unconscious of everything going on around him. 
My instructions are that when, on entering the 
smoke-room at midnight, I find him in such a 
trance, not to disturb him, but to watch by him 
till I see certain signs that the trance is abating. 
As soon as these signs show themselves, I lift 



MADGIN junior's SECOND KEPORT. 195 

M. PlatzofF bodily up and carry him to bed^ and 
so leave bim till morning. One of Cleon^s most 
important duties was the charging of M. Plat- 
zoff^s pipe when the latter was going to have one 
of his opium seances; but that is too nice an 
operation to be entrusted to my unskilled hands^ 
and in the absence of Cleon is^ I presume^ gone 
through by the Russian himself. 

" My bedroom adjoins that of Cleon^ and on 
two or three occasions it has happened that I 
have been summoned by him in the middle of 
the night to answer M. Platzoff^s private bell 
which rings in his room. On answering this 
bell as Cleon^s deputy, I have found that M. 
Platzoff, not being able to sleep, has summoned 
me to read to him, or to assist him on with his 
dressing-gown, and to light his pipe for him. 

^' ^ But,^ you will perhaps observ^e, ' what has 
all this rigmarole to do with the question of the 
Great Mogul Diamond V 

" I reply that, in all probability, it has nothing 
whatever to do with it. But I think it requisite 
that you should know the details of my life at 
Bon Repos. Secondly, you must let me say 

13—2 



196 MADGIN junior's SECOND REPORT. 

what I have to say after my own fashion. And 
thirdly^ the curious incident I have now to record 
would hardly be comprehensible to you without 
the preliminary details here given. 

" Last nighty or rather about two o^clock this 
mornings came one of those untimely summonses 
of which I have made mention above. I was 
aroused by Cleon^s tapping on the wall that di- 
vides our bedrooms. I shuffled into a few 
clothes, anathematizing M. Platzoff and the whole 
business as I did so, and then hurried into 
Cieon^s room. As I expected, M. Platzoff^s bell 
had just rung, and it was requisite that I should 
go and ascertain what was wanted. I took my 
pass-key and went. I passed first through the 
smoking-room, next through the dressing-room, 
and so into the bedroom, which, to my intense 
astonishment, I found lighted up with a pair of 
wax candles, although I had left it in utter 
darkness barely a couple of hours before. What 
added to my surprise was the fact that the door 
between the bedroom and the library was open, 
and that the latter apartment was also lighted 
up. Having noted these things with a first in- 



MADGIN junior's SECOND REPORT. 197 

tnitive glance rounds my second glance went to 
the bed in search of M. Platzoff. He was not 
on it. On passing round the foot of the bed, 
I found him lying with his face on the floor. I 
lifted him up and saw at once that he was in 
some sort of a fit. I was frightened, but did 
not lose my presence of mind. I had several 
times carried him out of the smoking-room when 
he was in one of his opium trances, and I had 
no difficulty now in lifting him up, and laying 
him on the bed. As I turned round with the 
body in my arms I saw something reflected in a 
large mirror opposite that nearly caused me to 
drop M. Platzofi* to the ground. What I saw 
was the reflection from the lighted-up library of 
an oblong opening like a doorway in the book- 
shelves with which its walls were lined — an 
opening which, had it been there, I should hardly 
have missed noticing before, although I had not 
been above three or four times in the room. As 
soon as I had laid the unconscious Russian on 
his bed, I stole on tip- toe into the library. I 
had not been mistaken. There ivas an opening 
in the wall formed by the sinking into a deep 



198 MADGIN junior's SECOND REPORT. 

recess of a portion of the bookcase. In the 
recess thns formed was an iron door, now shut. 
As I looked, this question, without any con- 
sciousness on my own part, was put to me : 
Can this be the entrance to some secret room in 
which the Diamond is hidden ? 

" I had no time to consider the probability or 
otherwise of this question. Certain sounds from 
the other room drew me back at once to the side 
of M. Platzoff. Signs of returning conscious- 
ness were visible. I propped him up with the 
pillows, and sprinkled water on his face, and 
chafed his hands. Slowly he came back to life. 
^ Better — better — all right now,^ were his first 
words ; then turning his lack-lustre eyes on me, 
^ Who are you ?" he said. ' Ah, I remember — 
Jasmin," he continued before I could reply. 
Then all of a sudden a frightened look came 
into his face, and he began to fumble nervously 
in the pocket of his velvet di-essing-gown. 
' What have you lost, sir ? Is it anything I can 
find for you ?' I asked. ' No, no/ he replied 
excitedly ; ^ only my key — only my key. Ah ! 
here it is/ he cried a moment later, as he 



MADGIN junior's SECOND EEPORT. 199 

brought into view from one of liis pockets a 
curiously- shaped key, the like of which I had 
never seen before. With a great sigh of relief 
he sank back on his pillows. 

" ' Go and wake up Wrigley, and tell him to 
give you some cognac/ he said next minute. ' A 
little brandy is all I need at present.^ 

" I left the room to carry out his request, and 
was not away more than five minutes. As I 
handed him the cognac I glanced stealthily at 
the mirror. The opening in the library wall 
was no longer visible. The mirror reflected an 
unbroken array of shelves closely packed with 
books. M. Platzofi" had evidently felt himself 
strong enough to get out of bed and fasten the 
secret door during my absence. 

" He drank a little of the brandy and then 
told me that I might go back to bed. I prof- 
fered to sit up in the next room dui'ing the re- 
mainder of the night. But he would not hear 
of it : only, he said, he would have the lights 
kept burning. I had got my hand on the 
door when he called me back. ' Look here. 
Jasmin,^ he said. ^ It is my particular wish that 



200 MADGIN JUNIORS SECOND REPORT. 

not to any one shall you say a single word re- 
specting what has happened to-night. Not even 
to Cleon must you mention it. Obey me in 
this, and you will find that I shall not forget 
you. Disobey me, and I shall be sure to hear 
of it. What say you ?' 

'' Of course I promised all he asked, and he 
seemed tolerably easy in his mind when I left 
him. I satisfied Cleon^'s curiosity with a passable 
excuse, and then went back to bed. 

" M. Platzofi" is lying later than usual this 
morning. Consequently I have an hour or two 
to myself, which I now employ in finishing this 
report. Write to me as soon as possible after 
receipt of it, and let me have your opinion as 
to what my next step ought to be. Cleon will 
be able to resume his duties in two or three 
days, and when that event takes place I shall be 
relegated to my old position, and shall have little 
or no personal communication with M. Platzoff. 
'' Your affectionate Son, 

-'^ J. M.^^ 



CHAPTER XIII. 

ROOM NUMBER FOUR IN THE CORRIDOR. 

It has now become requisite to return to Captain 
Ducie, Tvhose proceedings have been neglected 
for some time past. 

TVTien we left him last he had just found on 
the floor of his host^s private library one of the 
tiny paper pellets which he had dropped pur- 
posely from his pocket when blindfolded the 
previous night. The finding of this pellet he 
looked on as proof-positive that the entrance to 
the hiding-place of the Diamond must be in that 
room. His discovery was an important one. 
It was his first step towards that goal whither 
all his hopes and wishes now tended. It placed 
him at once on a certain vantage ground. Still 
he was puzzled by the consideration of what his 
second step ought to be. For some time he 
could not see his way at all. 



202 ROOM NUMBER FOUR 

On the pretence of wanting some particular 
volume from its shelves he contrived once and 
again to visit the private library while Platzoff 
was engaged elsewhere. But he could not visit 
it without first asking permission, owing to the 
simple fact of its door being always kept locked. 
The required permission was grudgingly granted 
by Platzoff — he could see that, also that it would 
not be wise to court the privilege too often. 
Indeed, it was a privilege that proved of little or 
no service, either Cleon or Jasmin being sent 
with him to unlock and relock the door, and 
evidently having secret instructions not to leave 
the library so long as he was in it. While 
looking for the requii'ed volume he could merely 
take a few careless glances around, and such 
glances merely served to show him that the line 
of book-shelves was unbroken except by the two 
doorways and the fireplace. He had not, in- 
deed, been sanguine enough to expect that such 
a casual examination would reveal to him the 
secret entrance that led to the cavern. But he 
had half hoped that by some faint sign, by some 
insignificant token, which to those not in the 



IN THE CORRIDOR. 203 

secret would seem utterly meaningless^ he might 
be able to seize on the first hint of the wished- 
for clue. But in so far he was doomed to dis- 
appointment. No sign nor token of the 
faintest kind was ^dsible to his quick-searching 
eyes. 

So day after day came and went till but two 
days remained before the time fixed for his de- 
par ture, and it seemed to him that he might just 
as well have never heard of the existence of the 
Great Mogul Diamond, much less have been 
favoured with the sight of it, for any use that he 
could make of his knowledge. Turn the subject 
in his mind which way he would, in this light 
and in that, there seemed no egress from the 
diflBculty in which he now found himself. But 
however much Captain Ducie might be inwardly 
chagrined he betrayed no traces of it on the 
surface. On the contrary, he had never striven 
more assiduously to make himself agreeable to 
his host than he did during this period of his 
deepest mortification. In every way that he 
could possibly think of he tried to make himself 
indispensable to Platzofi" — or, if not indispensable. 



204 ROOM NUMBER FOUR 

sucli a pleasant element^ sucli a piquant season- 
ing to the course of everyday life at Bon 
Eepos, that the Russian should part from him 
with regret^ and nothing be wanting to secure 
another invitation to the same roof in time 
to come. These exertions were not without 
their reward — a more immediate reward than he 
had ventured to hope for. On the morning of 
the day but one before that of his departure, as 
he and Platzoff were sitting together in a summer- 
house that overlooked the lake, said the captain, 
after a pause in the conversation : — " Three days 
hence, instead of having this pleasant scene to 
gaze upon at will, I shall have nothing but 
London^s dusty streets with which to solace my 
eyes. But, in any case, I shall have a store of 
pleasant recollections to take back with me/^ 

" Is the time of your leaving me so near ?^^ 
said the Russian. " In the pleasure of your 
society I had almost forgotten that such a time 
must necessarily come. But why go, cher ami ? 
Why not extend your visit till — till you are tired 
of us and our quiet life, if, indeed, you are not 
that already T' 



IK THE CORRIDOR. 205 

Captain Ducie shook his head. "^ My sojourn 
at Bon Repos has been a very pleasant one/^ he 
said, " and I am by no means tired of it. But 
other engagements claim my attention, and I am 
afraid that I dare not make any longer stay 
here.^^ 

^^ See, then. You can do this to oblige an old 
man/^ said Platzoflf. '^ Of late I have not been 
Trell — in fact, I have never quite got over that 
accident on the railway. My doctor down here 
does not seem to understand what ails me, and 
I have had some thought of going up to London 
for the sake of better ad^dce. I cannot, however, 
go for three weeks : there are certain matters 
that must be attended to before I can leave Bon 
Repos even for a few days. See, now. You 
shall put off your journey for three weeks, and 
then we will go up to town together. Que dites 
vous ?'' 

Of course Captain Ducie could do nothing but 
accede as gracefully as possible to his host's 
request. He was, in truth, very well pleased to 
accede to it, even although the three weeks in 
question might do nothing towards the accom- 



206 EOOM NUMBER FOUR 

plishment of his secret hopes. Bon Repos was 
decidedly preferable to two stuffy rooms in a 
London back street^ especially at a season of 
the year when the hegira of the fashionable world 
was just setting in. He w^ould stay where he was 
as long as it was possible to do so. 

There had been no conversation between Ducie 
and Platzoff respecting the Diamond since the 
night they two had visited the cavern together. 
Ducie had tried to broach the subject once or 
twice,, but Platzoff had fought so shy of it that 
the captain had not ventured to proceed^ but had 
tui'ned the conversation into other channels. It 
seemed to Ducie as if PlatzoflP half repented 
having taken him so fully into his confidence. 
It was evidently not his intention to enlighten 
him any further in the matter. 

The first week of the three had come to an 
end. According to custom^ Ducie and Platzoft' 
were sitting together on a certain evening in the 
smoke-room. It was one of the Russian^s 
drashkil nights. He had been smoking hard 
and fast^ and was already in a state of coma, 
lost to all outward influences. Ducie looked at 



IN THE CORRIDOR. 207 

liis T\atcli^ debating- ^yitlli^ himself Arliether it 
would not be wiser on liis part to go off to bed 
than to sit there any longer with his unconscious 
host. And yet it was only half-past ten — rather 
early for bed. He sat staring at his host^ and 
toying absently with his watch-guard^ when^ 
clear and vivid as a shaft of lightning,, there 
flashed across his brain a thought that struck 
him breathless for one moment^ and the next 
startled him into the most intense life. He rose 
noiselessly to his feet^ and stood for a fall minute 
with his fingers pressed to his eyes^ thinking, so 
it seemed to him, as he had never thought 
before. 

That one minute sufficed to elaborate the 
scheme that had come to him as suddenly 
and as startlingly as a veritable inspiration of 
genius. Had his thoughts clothed themselves 
in words, they would have expressed themselves 
somewhat after this fashion : — 

" It is only half-past ten o'clock, and Platzoff 
has smoked himself into a state of unconscious- 
ness. On no account is he ever disturbed by 
his valet till the clock strikes twelve : ergo, I 



208 EOOM NUMBER FOUR 

have an hour and a half before me safe from 
interruption. Platzoff always carries about with 
him a silver pass-key that will open every door 
in the house^ unless it be those of the bedrooms 
of his guests and his servants. Suppose I pos- 
sess myself of that j)ass-key for the time being, 
and penetrate by its assistance into the library. 
Once in the library with a clear hour and a half 
to call my own_, it will be strange if I cannot 
succeed in making some discovery that will 
prove of service to me.^' 

The first thing to be done was to satisfy him- 
self that PlatzofiP was really and truly uncon- 
scious. Taking him by the arm, he shook him, 
gently at first, and then with greater violence. 
But the Russian only uttered a low, inarticulate 
moan of protest. Then Ducie ventured to lift 
up one of his eyelids. The glazed, fishy look of 
the eye below it was sufficient to convince him 
that from Platzoff himself he had nothing to 
fear. Then with a light-fingered dexterity that 
would not have discredited a professional pick- 
pocket he began to search for the silver key. 
He was not long in finding it. There it was. 



IN THE CORRIDOR. 209 

in a small inner pocket of Platzoff^s vest. He 
drew it out with a heart that beat a little faster 
than common. So far all was well. He stood 
for a few moments with the key in his fingers^ 
listening intently. Not a sound of any kind 
inside the house or out. As he stood thus^ he 
bethought himself of a little brass bolt on the 
inside of the door that opened into the corridor. 
By means of this bolt Platzoff could at will 
secure himself even against the intrusion of 
Cleon. This bolt Ducie now shot noiselessly 
into its socket. If Cleon — or rather Jasmin, 
now that Cleon was ill — were inadvertently to 
come before his proper hour, he would have to 
wait till the door was opened for him from within. 
Ha\'ing thus secured himself against any possible 
interruption, Ducie, after taking a last glance at 
his host, walked boldly across the room, and ap- 
plying the key, opened the inner door and passed 
forward into the dressing-room. From the dress- 
ing-room he gained access to the bedroom, and 
from thence into the library. The latter room 
being in entire darkness, he had to go back into 
the bedroom for a candle, two of which were 
VOL. II. . 14 



210 ROOM NUMBER FOUR 

always lighted there at dusk and kept burning 
till M. Platzoff went to bed. 

As already stated^, the library liad two 
doors opening into it^ one that gave from the 
bedroom_, and another that faced you as you 
went in. A brown curtain fixed by means 
of rings on a brass rod hung before this second 
door. Ducie never remembered having seen 
this curtain more than three parts drawn^ 
leaving visible a small portion of the door. In 
fact, it appeared to him, considering the matter^ 
as though the curtain were never touched, its 
exact position seemed so unaltered from time to 
time. His first idea on his first visit to the 
library after his sight of the Diamond, had been 
that through this second door lay the secret 
entrance to the cavern. But it was an idea that 
found no resting place in his mind. The Russian 
was not the sort of man to adopt such a palpable 
expedient as an ordinary door to mark the 
entrance to the secret staircase. Ducie had felt 
convinced at the time that behind those ponderous 
bookshelves lay the hidden entrance, and he was 
equally convinced of it to-night. Therefore, in- 



IN THE CORRIDOR. 211 

stead of taking any notice of the second door, 
he at once proceeded^ candle in hand, to make 
an examination of the shelves. 

They were made of mahogany, substantial and 
old-fashioned,with elaborate flutings between each 
compartment, and were crowned with carved 
bosses of fruit and flowers intermixed. Every 
shelf was completely filled with books, none of 
which were dummies, as Captain Ducie took care 
to verify. Beginning at the right-hand corner, 
he went completely roimd the room. The fire- 
place, too, came in for an amount of critical 
examination such as had probably never been 
bestowed on it before. The window that gave 
light to the library was in the outer wall of the 
house, and looked on to the lawn. Like all the 
windows in M, Platzoff^s private suite it was 
crossed and recrossed by some half-dozen iron 
bars artfully let into the woodwork so as not ta 
be visible from without. The outside walls of 
Bon Repos were of an antique thickness, as- 
though they had been built to last a thousand 
years. They were, in fact, quite thick enough 
to allow of a narrow staircase being hollowed out 

n—2 



212 ROOM NUMBER FOUR 

of their substance. It seemed, therefore, to 
Ducie just as necessary to examine carefully that 
side of the room as it did to examine the inner 
side. 

He examined both the sides and the ends, 
carefully, thoroughly ; but the result of his ex- 
amination was that he was exactly as wise when 
he left off as when he began. Not a crevice, 
not a cranny, not a discoloration of the wood, 
not the faintest trace of a secret spring was any- 
where to be found. He tapped each panel and 
compartment separately with his knuckles, but 
he was unable to trace any difference in the dull 
dead sound given out by each and all. Then he 
went down on his knees to examine the carpet. 
It was a sombre velvet pile, and was nailed down 
at the edges with a number of small tin-tacks 
driven through it into the floor. The corners of 
the carpet had not been carefuUy swept, and the 
tiny indentations in it where it was pressed down 
by the heads of the tacks were fall of dust. 
^^ Now,^^ argued Captain Ducie with himself, ^^ if 
the entrance to the cavern where the Diamond is 
hidden is through an opening in the floor of this 



IN THE CORRIDOR. 213 

room,, then, in order to reach that opening this 
carpet or a portion of it must be taken up. Is it 
likely that M. Platzoff, who by his own account 
visits his Diamond at least once a week, would 
take up and nail down his carpet every time he 
wishes to look on his wonderful gem ? Further : 
if the carpet had been lately taken up, the in- 
dentations caused by the heads of the nails would 
not be full of dust as they are now. The nails 
now in have not been touched for a month at 
the least.'' 

Captain Ducie rose from his unwonted position, 
and put down his candle on the table with a 
muttered oath. He was baffled at every turn. 
He felt ready to knock his head against the wall, 
so eaten up was he with inward rage and morti- 
fication. But it was the cunning of the serpent 
and not the rage of the lion that was needed in 
his case. He flung himself into a chair, and in 
a few minutes had cooled down sufficiently to 
consider what his next step ought to be. Was 
any other step possible to him ? he asked himself. 

And then he answered himself with a lugu- 
brious shake of the head. Only one thing 



214 BOOM NUMBER FOUR 

remained to be tried,, and that was the second 
door. It might be just as well to ascertain, if it 
were possible to do sO;, on what part of the house 
it opened. He had no recollection of having 
seen such a door in his perambulations about the 
interior of Bon Repos. 

The brown curtain that hung before the second 
door was only half drawn. Captain Ducie drew 
it impatiently on one side and inserted his pass- 
key into the lock. It turned without difficulty, 
but on trying to push open the door, he found that 
it stuck and did not readily give way. This fact, 
shght as it seemed, proved to the captain that 
the road to the hiding-place of the Diamond did 
not lie through that door. The door when 
opened revealed a narrow and gloomy corridor 
thickly carpeted with dust. One side of this 
corridor was formed by a bare unbroken wall. 
On the opposite side, at intervals of a few feet, 
were four doors, all now locked. There was yet 
another door at the end of the corridor opposite 
to that by which Ducie had entered. This last 
door was not merely locked but was further 
secured by some half-dozen large screws drawn 



IN THE CORRIDOR. 215 

tliroiigh the inner side and wormed deep into the 
massive posts. 

When he had so far completed his examination,, 
Captain Ducie turned to the four side doors. In 
the case of these also he found his pass-key 
available. Still carrying the light in his hand, 
he opened the first door and found himself in a 
gloomy and shuttered bedi'oom which had evi- 
dently not been occupied for a very long time. 
From this an inside door opened into a dressing- 
room, also shuttered and thick with dust. The 
second door in the corridor led also into this 
dressing-room. The third door in the corridor 
opened into another bedroom, and tiie fourth 
into its adjoining dressing-room. These two 
latter rooms, like the first two, had apparently 
not been entered for years. 

To Captain Ducie it seemed plain enough why 
these rooms were kept untenanted, and the door 
at the extreme end of the corridor nailed up. 
^I. Platzoff evidently did not choose that any 
one should come into too close proximity to the 
room within which lay the secret of the hidden 
door. For that the hidden door was in the . 



216 ROOM NUMBER FOUR 

library everything lie had. discovered that night 
went indisputably to prove. He reiocked the 
four rooms, and went back to the library musing 
upon all he had seen. He was just about to 
shut and fasten the curtained door when a sudden 
thought struck him and caused him to pause. 
He stood musing for a few moments, his face 
gradually brightening the while, and then taking 
up his candle, he retraced his way to the fourth 
room in the corridor. He went in, put down 
his light, and succeeded after some difficulty in 
unfastening the shutters, which were strongly 
barred with iron. This done, he slmt up his 
candle for a while in an empty wardrobe, and 
then proceeded to fold back the shutters. The 
night was a fine one, and the stars afibrded him 
sufficient light for what he wanted to do next. 
Between the shutters and the window was a 
faded green blind, at present drawn up about three 
parts of the way to the top. From this blind 
depended a green cord that ended in a tassel. 
In this cord Captain Ducie tied a simple slip knot. 
When this was done, he unhasped the window, 
and tried whether the lower sash would work up 



IN THE CORRIDOR. 217 

and down readily and ^dthout too mucli noise. 
Finding that the window worked satisfactorily, 
he left it unfastened, and then proceeded to put 
back the shutters,, which also he left unbolted. 
Then he took his candle out of its hiding-place 
and went back to the library, closing behind 
him both the door that led into the corridor and 
the curtained door, but leaving them both un- 
locked. 

Midnight was now close at hand, and it was 
necessary that he should get back to the smoke- 
room. But even with more time at his com- 
mand, he could have done nothing more to-night. 
When he got back to the smoke-room, he found 
Platzoff to all appearance precisely as he had left 
him. He put back the pass-key into the pocket 
from which he had taken it, and unbolted the 
outer door. Ten minutes later Jasmin, the new 
valet, acting temporarily in place of Cleon, com- 
ing into the room, found Captain Ducie quietly 
smoking beside the comatose body of his master. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

AT THE CURTAINED DOOR. 

At an early hour next morning, in fact long 
before M. Platzoff was out of bed. Captain 
Ducie, cigar in band, took a ramble round the 
exterior of Bon Repos. While exploring the 
four rooms on the preceding evening he was 
struck with the recollection of having on one 
occasion seen their shuttered windows from the 
outside. A day or two after his arrival at Bon 
Repos he had gone on an exploring expedition 
about the grounds, and it was on that occasion 
that he had seen them. He had taken them as 
ordinary unused chambers, and had had no 
further curiosity respecting them. He remem- 
bered now that they looked — or would have 
looked if their shutters had been open — into a 
very thick bit of shrubbery, so dense, in fact, as 



AT THE CURTAINED DOOR. 219 

to be all but impenetrable,, and looking as if it 
had not been pruned for years. And yet this 
very bit of shrubbery was within a few feet of 
the delicious little flower-studded lawn on to 
which the windows of PlatzofF^s private rooms 
opened; indeed, the four shut-up rooms were 
merely a continuation of the same wing in which 
the private rooms were situate. It was evident 
that since the four rooms had been disused the 
shrubbery outside them had been allowed to grow 
as thick and wild as it chose, as though it were 
PlatzoflF^s wish to screen them as much as possible 
from observation. 

Captain Ducie having pierced this shrubbery, 
found himself within sight of the four windows, 
and saw that he had not been mistaken as to 
their position. Through the dusty panes of the 
last window of the four he could just make out 
the knotted cord as he had left it over night. 
He took a few quiet observations, unseen by 
any one, and then went back indoors. 

That night, as usual. Captain Ducie accom- 
panied his host to the smoke-room. Drashkil 
was not introduced, and the two friends passed 



220 AT THE CURTAINED DOOR. 

a pleasant evenings smoking and conversing. As 
midnight struck^ Jasmin entered. Ducie rose, 
shook hands with Platzoff, bade him good night, 
and retired. Having reached his own room, he 
locked the door. Then he proceeded to dress 
himself in a snit of dark gray tweed. On his 
feet he put a pair of Indian mocassins. His next 
proceeding was to produce a coil of strong rope 
from one of his trunks, one end of which he 
tied firmly to the top bar of the firegrate. This 
done, he blew out the candle, drew up the blind, 
and opened the window. The night was fiine,^ 
but overcast, and rather cold for the time of year. 
Having waited till he heard the clock strike one, 
he lowered the other end of the rope out of 
the open window. After listening intently for 
full two minutes he let himself quietly down, 
sailor fashion, and landed safely on the turf 
below. Then he paused again to listen. That 
part of the grounds in which he now found 
himself was very quiet and secluded even by day, 
but neither there nor in any other part of the 
little demesne was there any likelihood that his 
proceedings would be observed at that uncanny 



AT THE CURTAINED DOOR. 221 

lioiir. The rule at Bon Repos was that all the 
servants, except Cleon, should go to bed, and the 
house be finally closed, at half-past eleven, and 
the time was now ten minutes past one. Still, 
Captain Ducie Avas not a man to neglect any 
precaution that presented itself to his mind. 
Keeping well under the deeper shadow of the 
trees, and walking lightly on the soft turf, he was 
not long before he found himself close under the 
window with the knotted cord. He had scanned 
Platzoflf^s windows anxiously in passing, but they 
were so closely shuttered and curtained that it 
was impossible to tell whether or no the Russian 
had yet retired to rest. 

As previously stated, the whole of Platzoff^s 
private rooms were on the ground floor : equally 
as a matter of course, the four rooms that opened 
out of the corridor were on the same level. A 
slight spring sufficed to place Captain Ducie on 
the window-sill of the room he wished to enter. 
Despite all his care, he could not prevent the 
creaking of the window as he pushed up the sash ; 
but he trusted to the remoteness of Platzoff's 
bedroom not to be overheard. Then he pushed 



222 AT THE CURTAINED DOOR. 

open the shutters and stepped lightly down into 
the dark room. He had noted the position of 
the furniture when there the previous nighty and 
he knew that there was a clear coui'se to the door. 
Another pause^ to listen ; then noiselessly across 
the floor ; out by way of the door left unlocked 
last nighty and so into the corridor; then for- 
ward^ silent as a shadow,, to the curtained door 
that opened into Platzoff^s room. 

Captain Ducie was far from being a nervous 
man, yet it is quite certain that his pulses beat 
by no means so equably as on ordinary occasions 
as he stood in the dark corridor^ all his senses on 
the alertj his fingers on the handle of the door; 
dreading to take the next step^ which must yet 
be taken or all that he had hitherto done be 
rendered nugatory; and stubbornly determined 
in his inmost heart that it should be taken^ hap- 
pen what might. An indr awing of the breath, 
a moment^s pause, a turn of the handle, and 
almost before he knew that he was there he found 
himself standing behind the curtain and on the 
threshold of M. Platzoff^s private rooms. 

Not the faintest sound of anv kind. Ducie 



AT THE CURTAINED DOOR. 223 

stretched forth a hand^, and little by little drew 
back the curtain sufficiently to enable him to 
peer into the room. It was dark and empty ; 
but he could see that a faint light was burning 
in the bedroom beyond. Now that the curtain 
was partly drawn aside he could hear the low, 
regular breathing of M. Platzoff as that gentle- 
man lay asleep in bed. Ducie knew what a light 
sleeper Platzoff was when not under the influence 
of his favourite drug, and he durst not venture 
a step beyond the spot where he was now stand- 
ing. Indeed, there was no reason why he should 
so venture. There was nothing whatever to be 
gained by such a rash proceeding. It was Plat- 
zoff's habit (so the Russian himself had given 
Ducie to understand) to -visit the Diamond once, 
sometimes twice a week. These visits generally 
took place during the small hours of the morning 
when Platzoff awoke, restless and uneasy, from 
his first sleep. All, therefore, that Ducie had 
now to do was to wait quietly for one of these 
occasions, and take advantage of it when it should 
come, in such a way as might seem advisable to 
him at the time. 



224 AT THE CURTAINED DOOR. 

This was the reason -why Captain Ducie did 
not stir from his hiding-place behind the curtain. 
This was the reason why he stood there for two 
fall hours to-night as patiently as if he had been 
cast in bronze. But on this occasion his waiting • 
was in vain. When he had been there about an 
hour and a half, M. Platzoff woke up, took a 
pinch of snuflP, sneezed, spoke a few words aloud 
in some language which Ducie did not under- 
stand, and then addressed himself to sleep again. 
Ducie waited a full half-hour longer without stir- 
ring. Then he went quietly back by the way he 
had come, shutting behind him the two doors, the 
shutters, and the window, but leaving them all 
unfastened — indeed, he had no means of fastening 
them, even had he been so minded. He got 
back unseen to his own room. 

The same hour next night saw Captain Ducie 
behind the curtained door. He knew that several 
nights might elapse before PlatzoflP should visit 
the Diamond, and he was quite prepared to wait 
there night after night till his perseverance should 
be crowned with success. It was just as well, 
perhaps, that he had made wp his mind to play a 



AT THE CURTAINED DOOR. 225 

waiting game^ seeing that five nights passed one 
after another,, on no one of which did he f;iil 
in his watch at the curtained door^ before Platzoff, 
taking counsel with himself, made up his mind 
to again visit the cavern. 

It was on a certain night — or rather morning, 
being about three a.m. — after one of his drashkil 
debauches, that the Russian so made up his mind. 
Ducie was in patient waiting. From his hiding- 
place behind the curtain he heard Platzoff get 
out of bed. When he saw him put on his 
dressing-gown and light a small lamp — the 
same that the Russian had made use of on tlie 
night that Ducie accompanied him — then the 
latter knew that his patience was about to be 
rewarded. 

As Platzoff advanced into the library, Ducie 
shrank back, and noiselessly closed the door that 
led into the corridor. He thought it just possible 
that Platzoff' might lift the curtain to make sure 
that there was no one in hiding. Standing with 
his hand on the door, and listening intently, Ducie 
could hear Platzoff moving about the library. 
Then he heard the click of a spring or bolt, and 

VOL. II. • 15 



226 AT THE CURTAINED DOOR. 

a sound like the rolling back of a door or panel. 
Then all was still. 

After waiting for a couple of minutes^ during 
which the silence remained unbroken_, Ducie 
slowly opened the door^, and moved forward till 
his face nearly touched the curtain. He could 
hear nothing save the beating of his own heart. 
Drawing the curtain an inch or two on one side, 
he peeped. The library was empty, and the secret 
door was open. 

For a few seconds he felt like a man in a dream; 
he could hardly believe in the reality of what he 
saw before him. But the thought that in ten or 
twelve minutes at the farthest M.Platzoff would be 
back again, and that now or never was his oppor- 
tunity, quickened him into action. His object to- 
night was to take such accurate note of the posi- 
tion of the secret door, and the means by which 
it was opened and shut, as would enable him 
in time to come to find it again without much 
difficulty. Platzoff was in the cavern below, 
and till the sound of his returning footsteps 
could be heard Ducie knew that he was 
safe. 



AT THE CURTAINED DOOR. 227 

Moving noiselessly forward into the room^ lie 
went down on one knee, and proceeded to make 
a careful examination of the secret door. Then he 
took a measuring-tape out of his pocket, and pro- 
ceeded to measiu'c the exact distance of the opening 
from the upper end of the room. Then he took 
his penknife and cut away a couple of threads 
out of the carpet close to the book-case, at those 
points precisely where the secret door fitted into 
it when shut. Not less carefully did he examine 
the spring, and the mode by which it was acted 
on when the door was closed. There was nothing 
very complicated about it now that its mechanism 
was laid bare. A very slight examination suf- 
ficed to show Ducie its method of working, 
and where and how it was opened from with- 
out. 

A faint noise from below warned him that his 
time was up. He glided back as noiselessly 
as he had come, and disappeared behind the cur- 
tain just as M. Platzoff" began to ascend the steps 
that led from the cavern. 

Captain Ducie stood with his hand on the door 
of the corridor for a full hour before he ventured 

15 — 2 



22b AT THE CURTAINED DOOR. 

to take another step in retreat. Then judging 
that PlatzoflP, who had gone to bed again, could 
not fail to be asleep, he went quietly back by the 
way he had come. 



CHAPTER XV. 

THE LITTLE PACKET FROM LONDOX. 

Next morning, immediately after breakfast. Cap- 
tain Ducie slnit himself up in liis own room on 
the plea of having several important letters to 
write. The letters resolved themselves into one 
note, of no great length, addi-essed to a friend in 
London — to the same friend, in fact, to whom he 
had applied for a translation of the stolen crypto- 
gram. Although the note did not contain more 
than a dozen lines. Captain Ducie was unusually 
particular as to its composition. He corrected 
and re-wrote it several times before he was satis- 
fied. Then he sealed and directed it, and went 
down into the village and posted it himself. 
Then he set himself to wait patiently for a 
reply. 

A reply came on the fifth day by post, in the 



230 THE LITTLE PACKET FROM LONDON. 

shape of a tiny square packet. Captain Ducie re- 
ceived the packet from Jasmin with apparent in- 
diflPerence^ but he did not open it till he was alone. 
The contents consisted of a brief note from his 
friend^ inside which was a small square box made 
of very thin wood^ which proved to be filled with 
some dark^ fatty-looking substance,, from which 
exhaled a faint, sickly odour that was far from 
pleasant. The following is a copy of the note : — 

'' My dear Ducie, — I send you a small quan- 
tity of the drug you ask for. I daresay there will 
be enough to serve your purpose. It is an ex- 
ceedingly powerful narcotic, and very little of it 
must be used at one time. I greatly question 
the advisability of using it at all in the case of 
neuralgic pains such as you describe, but I 
presume you are acting under advice. 

" Glad to hear that you are enjoying yourself 
so thoroughly. Town is anything but pleasant at 
this time of the year, and to be strolling on the 
banks of Windermere would suit much better the 
idiosyncrasy of 

" Your perspiring but devoted friend, 

'^Geo. Bexell.'' 



THE LITTLE PACKET FROM LONDON. 231 

Captain Ducie, after taking one whifF at the 
contents of the box, put it carefully away under 
lock and key. Nothing further could be done 
till the next evening that his host might devote 
to drashkil- smoking. For that occasion he had 
not long to wait. 

Ducie was now so far familiar with the process 
of drashkil-smcking and its results_, that from the 
first evening of Cleon^s absence he had taken 
upon himself the ofiSce of preparing M. Platzoff^s 
pipe. This he did in that easy good-natured way 
which sat so gracefully on him, and made his 
simplest acts seem better than gi'cater things done 
by another. On the first " big smoke night '^ 
after his receipt of the tiny packet from London, 
Ducie did not fail to profier his services as usual, 
and Platzoff" was glad to accept them. This 
evening as he charged the pipe out of the little 
silver box in which the preparation was always 
kept, he turned his back on the Russian, who 
was lazily reclining on the low cushioned seat 
that ran round the room, and seemed longer than 
usual in filling it to his mind. Platzoff" was not 
heeding him at all, but was gazing with half-shut 



232 THE LITTLE PACKET FROM LONDON. 

eyes on the lamp^ of Oriental workmanship^ by 
which the room was lighted. 

" What strange patterns or wea\dngs of lite we 
often get/^ he said, speaking more to himself 
than to Ducie, " when we are asleep, or in a fever, 
or in any other state in which the vagaries of 
the brain are no longer controlled by the force of 
reason, or no longer restrained by what you 
would call the trammels of common sense. It 
is like looking at life through a kaleidoscope — a 
strange jumble of many-coloured differently 
shaped fragments, which yet shake themselves 
into curious and unlooked for patterns that have 
oftentimes a beauty and coherence of their own 
such as we seldom see in real life. Singular, too, 
that behind many of these brain-weavings which 
at first sight seem so purposeless and absurd there 
lurks an idea, sometimes a very subtle one, and 
wholly dissociated from any waking thought 
that we can remember. It is as if such an idea 
had found its way by chance into one^s brain, and 
was determined to make its presence known by 
scratching a few quaint characters on the walls of 
its new domicile.^^ 



THE LITTLE PACKET FROM LONDON. 233 

" You fly too liigli for me to follow you/^ 
said Ducie^ with a laugh. '' It is time you were 
ballasted with a pipe of youi* favourite drug. 
You have a lot of cobweb fancies in your brain 
that want clearing away. To-morrow you will 
be as practical and business-like as any English- 
man of us all.^^ 

" I hope not. That is a level to which I do 
not aspire/^ answered Platzoff. " There is 
not sufficient far niente in the character of 
you English. You lack repose^ and the grace 
of inaction. You are the world^s plough- 
horses. It is your place to do the hard work of 
the universe. Beyond that you are good for 
little. Mais donnez-moi ma pipe, monsiem% s'il 
vous plait. Voila ma consolation pour tous les 
defauts du mondeJ' 

He took the amber mouthpiece between his 
lipSj and Ducie applied an allumette to the bowl. 
Spirals of thick white smoke^ emitted from the 
Russian^s mouthy began to ascend slowly in lan- 
guid viperous wreaths towards the roof. Soon a 
dull drowsy film began to thicken in his eyes and 
to quench their light. Soon the muscles of his 



234 THE LITTLE PACKET FKOM LONDON. 

face began to relax_, and all expression save one 
of vacuous self- enjoyment^ to fade out of his fea- 
tures as daylight dies slowly out of a landscape 
at set of sun. Ducie had filled for himself a 
pipe of cavendish^ and now sat down a yard or 
two removed from his host. 

" J)uc\Q,mon petit," said Platzoff, speaking al- 
ready in tones that were strangely unlike his 
own^ "there is a peculiar flavour about my 
pipe to-night, such as I never remember to 
have experienced before. I cannot understand 
it.^^ 

" Is it a flavour that you like, or one that you 
dislike T' 

"1 don^t altogether dislike it/"* answered 
Platzoft*. " But why is it there at all ?' 

" Can't say, I am sure/"* replied Ducie in his 
quiet way. " I filled your pipe this evening out 
of a fresh lot of drashkil that Cleon mixed for 
you this morning. Perhaps your taste is out of 
order.'" 

" Perhaps so. Anyway, the pipe is delicious, 
but terribly strong. I can talk no more. Bon 
soir, ami J and pleasant dreams."' 



THE LITTLE PACKET FKOM LONDON. 235 

" In another ten minutes he will be as firm as 
a rock/'' murmured Dncie to himself. He looked 
at his watch. It was just eleven o'clock. 

Ducie sat smoking his cavendish and watching 
his host stealthily from under his thick eyebrows. 
He had put a very small portion of the contents of 
the little packet from London into PlatzoflP^s pipe, 
and he was curious to see how it would act. 
His intention was simply to send Platzoff into a 
sounder sleep than usual_, and so make sure that 
he would not be disturbed by the unexpected 
waking' of the Russian later in the night. For 
he had made up his mind that this night of all 
others he would steal the Great Mogul Diamond. 
In his own thoughts he did not use such an ugly 
word as steal in connexion with the afi'air. He 
merely remarked as it were casually to himself, 
that to-night he must appropriate the Diamond. 
He would retire at twelve o^ clock as usual. Later 
on, when the last sitter-up could hardly fail to be 
asleep, he would come back as he had come so 
many times of late, letting himself down by 
means of the rope from his own window ; and 
so, by way of No. 4 room and the corridor, reach 



236 THE LITTLE PACKET FllOM LONDON. 

M. Platzoff''s private rooms. Once there^ lie 
could easily deprive the unconscious Russian of 
liis pass-key, and now that he knew the secret of 
the hidden door, he w^ould have no difficulty in 
making his way direct into the cavern ; after 
which, to appropriate the Diamond would be the 
most natural thing in the world. Retm^ning by 
the way he had come, he would carefully re-lock 
the cavern doors and shut the secret door. He 
would replace the pass-key in Platzoff''s pocket, and 
retire unseen to his own room. Not improbably 
days would elapse before Platzoff again went to 
look at his Diamond, and when he should find 
that it was gone — what then ? Why should he, 
Ducie, be suspected of stealing it any more than 
any one else who might happen to be in the house ? 
And even granting the worst — that Platzoff sus- 
pected him of stealing the Diamond, even charged 
him with stealing it ? For the suspicion he did 
not care one groat, and the charge was one that 
could not be proved. The only result would be 
a quarrel between himself and M. Platzoff', and a 
premature departure from Bon Repos. All this 
would not be difficult to bear. The fact of the 



THE LITTLE TACKET FROM LONDON. 237 

Diamond being his at last would act as a salve for 
all the minor ills of life. 

So ran Captain Ducie^s thoughts as he sat 
smoking and watching M. Platzoff^s faculties fade 
gradually out^ like those of a very old man who 
has outlived his proper age. To-night the pro- 
cess was swifter than usual^ thanks to the narcotic 
which he had put unseen into the Russian^s pipe. 
He looked on with a complacent smile^ caressing 
his moustache now and again. 

Platzoff passed quickly from stage to stage of the 
process, till, in no long time, complete coma su- 
pervened, and he lived no longer save in the 
opium-smoker^s fantastic world. The light in 
his pipe died out, the amber mouthpiece slipped 
from between his lips, his fingers relaxed their 
hold on the stem, his head drooped, his jaw fell 
slightly, a thin dark line marked the space be- 
tween his imperfectly closed eyelids. He sighed 
gently twice, and was gone. 

To all these signs Captain Ducie was now well 
accustomed, and he regarded them entirely as a 
matter of course. He refilled his pipe, and lay 
back, with his hands clasped under his head. 



238 THE LITTLE PACKET FROM LONDON. 

gazing up at the gaudy ceiling, and building 
pleasant castles in the air. As the clock struck 
twelve,, Cleon or Jasmin would enter, and he 
himself would go to roost for a couple of 
hours. Then would come the time for his great 
enterprise. 

He had been thus quietly engaged with his 
second pipe, for a space of five or six minutes, 
when, finding that it did not draw to his mind, 
he sat up with the view of ascertaining what was 
the matter with it. In the act of opening his 
knife, he turned his eyes unthinkingly on M. 
Platzoff". In the face of the silent man sitting 
opposite to him there was something that caused 
his own face to blanch in a moment, as though 
he had seen some unmentionable horror. He 
rose to his feet as though moved by some invisible 
agency. Great beads of sweat burst out on his 
brow ; his lips turned blue ; in his eyes was a 
terror unspeakable. He staggered forward with 
a groan, and lifted the cold hand that would 
never grasp his again. 

'' My God ! I have killed him V 

He sank on his knees, and buried his face m 



THE LITTLE PACKET FROM LONDON. 239 

his hands. He knew as ^yell as if twenty doc- 
tors had told him so^ that M. Panl Platzoff^ of 
Bon Repos, was dead. On his forehead was 
stamped the Great AngeFs ineffaceable seal. 
Death had whispered in his ears^ and he was 
deaf for ever. 

That one minute which Ducie S23ent on his 
knees was^ perhaps^ the bitterest of his life. 
What his feelings were he himself could not have 
told. "As heaven is my witness^ I did not 
intend to do this thing !" he exclaimed aloud^ as 
he rose to his feet. 

Then^ in spite of the certainty which possessed 
him that Platzoff was beyond all earthly aid, he 
bared one of the Russian^s arms, and pricked a 
vein with his penknife. But no blood followed, 
and with another groan Ducie let go the fingers 
that were already growing cold and stiff. 

His next impulse was to ring for assistance. 
But in the very act of pulling the belh'ope he 
paused. For a minute or two the very existence 
of such a bauble as the Great Mogul Diamond 
had passed entirely out of his thoughts. But as 
his fingers touched the rope, there came a whisper 



240 THE LITTLE PACKET FROM LONDON. 

in his ear^ ^' Now or never the Diamond must 
become yours V He paused^ and sat down for 
a moment to think. 

Platzoff was gone past recovery. Of all men 
living he^ Ducie^ was probably the only one to 
whom the existence of the Diamond was known ; 
or^ at least, the place where it was hidden. Dead 
men tell no tales. If he were to make the 
Diamond his^ — and had he not a right to do so, 
having paid such a tremendous price for it — who 
in all the wide world would be one bit the wiser ? 
If, on the contrary, he were to leave it untouched, 
it might remain undiscovered in its dark home 
for centuries,, perhaps even till the end of time. 
Or if Platzoff^s friend, Signor Lampini, were 
sufficiently instructed where to find it_, of what 
use would it be to him except as a means for the 
propagation of red-hot revolutionary ideas^ among 
which, for aught he knew to the contrary, 
assassination might be looked upon as a cardinal 
virtue? He would be Avorse than a fool not to 
seize the last chance that would ever be offered 
him of making the precious gem his own for 
ever. 



THE LITTLE PACKET FROM LONDON. 241 

Once more lie looked at his -watcli. It -^auted 
exactly a quarter to twelve. He had fifteen clear 
minutes that he could call his OAvn^ and not one 
minute more. Xo suspicion Tvould attach to him 
with regard to the death of Platzoff ; he felt no 
uneasiness on that score. But after that event 
should he discovered^ the pass-key would be 
claimed by Cleon,'' and all access to the rooms 
denied him. Xow or never was his time. 

He hesitated no longer. AVith a shudder he 
put his hand into the dead man^s pocket, and 
drew forth the silver key. It was the work of a 
moment to light the little hand-lamp, and pass 
forward into the library. Then he went down 
on his knees to look for the marks he had made 
on the carpet which were to point out to him 
the exact position of the secret door. Having 
found them, together with an almost invisible 
scratch which he had made on a particular part 
of the polished panelling of the bookcase, he 
was guided at once to the spring by which the 
secret door was acted upon, and in another mo- 
ment the narrow stone staircase opened darkly at 
his feet. Down the staii's he went without pause 

VOL. II. 16 



242 THE LITTLE PACKET FROM LONDON. 

or hesitation^ carrying the lighted lamp in one 
hand and the pass-key in the other. The door 
nt the bottom of the staircase opened without 
difiSculty, and he found himself in the low vaulted 
chamber at the further end of which was the 
door that opened into the rock. The second 
door was passed as readily as the first, and 
before him appeared the narrow passage that 
led to the cavern. To-night the cold moist at- 
mosphere of the place struck upon him with a chill 
that made him shudder. He had trodden that pas- 
sage but once before^ and then it was in company 
with the man who now lay cold and dead in the 
room above. He gave a backward glance over 
his shoulder half expecting to see the shade of 
Platzoff following silently in his footsteps. But 
there was nothing save his own distorted shadow 
dogging him like some monster at once ugly and 
grotesque. With a sneer at his own timidity he 
entered the passage in the rock. In three minutes 
more the great prize w^ould be his. 

Slowly and cautiously he threaded the 
tortuous pathway that led to the heart of the 
hill. He reached the end of it in safety^ and 



THE LITTLE PACKET EROM LONDON. 243 

the cavern loomed dim aud vast before him. 
He paused for a moment, and held the lamp 
high above his head. There, fixed in the middle 
of the sandy floor he could just make out the 
vague outlines of the Indian idol. The great 
gem that flashed in its forehead caught a ray 
from the feeble lamp held by Ducie, and 
flung it back intensified a thousandfold. Ducie 
saw the flash, and his breath came thick and 
fast. 

He advanced one step — a second. Then, before 
he knew what had happened, he found himself 
stretched on the floor of the cave and in utter 
darkness. He had stumbled over some inequality 
in the floor, and had dropped his lamp in falling. 
Bruised and bleeding, and with a curse on his 
lips, he rose to his feet. 

The predicament in which he now found him-^ 
self was anything but a pleasant one. That he 
could find the idol even in the dark, and make 
himself master of the Diamond, he did not doubt. 
But the question was, whether if he wandered so- 
far away from the narrow passage by which access 
was had to the cavern, he could find it again, 

16—2 



244 THE LITTLE PACKET FROM LONDON. 

and so get back to tlie library before the clock 
struck twelve. If that could be done all might 
yet be well. If it could not be done — but he 
would not stop to argue the point. He would 
make a bold dash for the Diamond. He would 
risk everything in one final throw^ and trust that 
the good fortune which had so far befriended his 
enterprise would not desert him in this great crisis 
of his fate. 

A feAv seconds sufficed for him to weave these 
thoughts in his brain^ and almost before he had 
decided on what he would do he was advancing 
deeper into the cavern ; advancing slowly _, step 
by step, with outstretched arms, in the direction 
of the idol. By the light of his lamp he had 
noted its position, and now that he was in 
the dark he went to it nearly in a straight 
line. Suddenly it seemed as though the idol 
had risen noiselessly from the ground. The 
palm of his left hand smote its flat cold fore- 
head. He lost not an instant in feeling for the 
Diamond. The moment his fingers touched it 
he thrilled from head to foot. 

The Diamond was held in its place in the fore- 



THE LITTLE PACKET FROM LONDON. 245 

head of the idol by a small gold clasp which 
worked in the hollow of the skull. It occupied 
Ducie some three or four minutes,, first to find 
the clasp^ and afterwards to unfasten it. At 
length he succeeded in opening it^ and the 
Diamond dropped into his palm. His own at 
last ! 

With a great sigh of relief and thankfulness 
he drew back his arm^ and having first kissed the 
gem, he put it carefully away into a safe pocket, 
and then turned to retrace his steps. Taking 
the nose of the idol as his starting-point, he cal- 
culated that a straight line from it to the wall of 
the cavern would not land him very wide of the 
entrance. But the difficulty was to keep a 
straight line in the dark, and the darkness of 
the cavern was something that might almost 
be felt. But there was no time for hesitation. 
If midnight had not struck already it must be 
close on the point of doing so. The delay of a 
single minute might be the cause of his discovery 
either by Cleon or Jasmin. What the result 
would be in such a case he did not pause to ask 
himself. Instead, he set himself with his back 



246 THE LITTLE PACKET FROM LONDON. 

to the face of the idol and stepped out slow and 
steady for the side of the cave. 

He had got about half way across the inter- 
vening space when a sound fell on his ear that 
brought him on the instant to a dead stand. It 
was the noise made by some one descending the 
stone stairs that led into the vaulted room. All 
had been discovered, then ! The death of Platzoff, 
the secret door standing wide open^ and his, 
Ducie's^ disappearance. The intruder must be 
.either Cleon or Jasmin. Was either of them 
aware of the existence of the Diamond, and that 
it had been hidden in the cave? If not, then 
his presence there could be easily excused on the 
score of simple curiosity to see so strange a place. 
If they knew of the existence of the Diamond, 
they would suspect at once that he had taken it, 
and would doubtless try to dispossess him of it 
by force. Well : they should not take it from 
him without taking his life also : on that point 
he was fully determined. Presently a thin ray 
of light which cut the darkness like a sword, 
shone through the narrow entrance to the cave. 
It broadened and brightened quickly. As it 



THE LITTLE PACKET FROM LONDOIST. 24? 

drew nearer^ Captain Diicie advanced to meet it. 
His face was pale^ but very set and determined. 
His eyes shone from under his heavy brows with 
a light that boded no good to the intruder who- 
ever he might be. He was not left long in 
doubt. xVnother half-minute brought into view 
the gaunt figure of Cleon^ newly-risen from his 
sick bed. With haggard face and bloodshot eyes^ 
and with a snarl of the lips that showed his long 
narrow teeth^, tlie mulatto advanced slowly and 
warily. In one hand he carried a lamp, held 
high above his head ; in the other a gleaming 
dagger. Ducie advanced towards him haughtily;, 
with folded arms. As Cleon emerged from the 
entrance into the cave his eyes fell on the captain^s 
taU figure. He smiled a ghastly smile, and slowly 
nodded his head twice. 

" Thief and villain ! I have found you at 
last/^ he said. '^'^Your hearths blood shall dye 
the floor of this cave.^^ 

He set down his lamp on a projection of the 
rock, and deliberately turned back the cuffs of 
his coat. Captain Ducie said never a word 
in reply, but kept his eyes fixed unswervingly on 



248 THE LITTLE PACKET FROM LONDON. 

Cleon^ as lie would liave done on a tiger or other 
beast of prey. He was without a defensive 
weapon of any kind_, and was obliged to trust to 
the quickness of his eye and the strength of his 
muscles for safety in the coming attack. 

Cleon''s onslaught was exactly like that of a 
wild beast. It was a yell and a spring, and it 
would in all probabilit}' have been fatal to Ducie 
had not the latter been fully prepared for some- 
thing of the kind. But the very instant Cleon 
sj)rang at his throat_, out went Ducie's right arm, 
straight and true, like a sledge hammer, full in 
the mulatto^s face. Cleon di'opped before it as 
though he had been shot through the brain. But 
next instant he was on his feet again, his face 
streaked with blood, and now looking more 
ghastly than before. He said something Ducie 
could not understand, but if murder ever lurked 
in a man^s eyes, it peeped out of the mulatto''s at 
that moment. He was not at all daunted by his 
mishap : only rendered more wary. He made 
several feints and false moves before he ventured on 
a second dash at the captain. At last he thought he 
saw his chance, and in the twinkling of an eye he 



THE LITTLE PACKET FROM LONDON. 249 

had struck his dagger into the captain^s shoulder. 
He had aimed at the heart, but his enemy had 
23roved too quick for him. His dagger pricked 
into Ducie''s shoulder, and Ducie^s arms went 
round him like a vice. The mulatto was active 
and sinewy, but in a close struggle he was no 
match for the great strength of his opponent. 
His arms were pinned to his sides, but his head 
was at liberty, and with his long sharp teeth he 
fastened on Ducie^s cheek and bit it through. 
This roused Dncie^s blood as half a dozen pricks 
with the dagger could not have done. Lifting 
Cleon bodily up, he swung him once round, 
and then dashed him with all his might 
against the side of the cave. The mulatto re- 
bounded from the rock, and came to the floor 
with a dull heavy thud. He groaned twice, and 
then all w^as still except the heavy beating of 
Ducie^s heart. 

Ducie bent over the body for a moment. " His 
fate be on his own head V he muttered. Then, 
having made sure that the Diamond was still 
safe in his possession, he took up the lamp and 
passed out of the cave. He shut and locked the 



250 THE LITTLE PACKET FROM LONDON. 

two cloors behind him, and when he got back to 
the library he also closed the secret door through 
the bookcase. As he passed through the smoke- 
room he gave one hasty shuddering glance at the 
dead body of Platzoff. The half-open eyes seemed 
to fix him with a look of terrible reproach. He 
fancied that he saw the pallid lips move. " In- 
grate V^ they seemed to say, '^ was it for this I 
took thee to my bosom and called thee friend?^' 

Ducie put his hand to his eyes and strode on. 
He found the door that led into the corridor 
half open as it had probably been left by Cleon 
in the horror of the sudden discovery he had made 
on entering the smoke-room. Ducie closed it 
carefully behind him. That door locked up a 
double secret, and it behoved him to get clear 
away from Bon Repos before it could be brought 
to light. He carried his treasure with him, and 
that would compensate for everything. 

The moment he turned into the corridor to 
go towards his own rooms he began to feel faint 
from loss of blood. The first great excitement 
was over, and now his wounds began to make 
themselves felt. Great heavens ! if he were to 



- THE LITTLE PACKET FROM LONDON. 251 

lose his senses at such a critical moment and be 
found by the servants ! They would perceive 
that he was wounded, and would probably strip 
him, and then how would it fare with the 
Diamond ? Just as this thought was in his 
mind Jasmin came suddenly round a corner and 
started back in alarm at sight of his pale face 
all streaked with blood. 

" Sir — Captain Ducie — what is the matter ? 
Are you wounded T' he cried. 

^'A slight accident — a mere scratch/^ gasped 
the captain. " Lend me your arm as far as my 
room_, and — and don^t leave me yet awhile. ^^ 

The first message sent by the telegraph clerk 
at Oxenholme station when he went on duty 
next morning_, was as under : ^' From J. M., 
Windermere, to Solomon Madgin, Tydslniry, 
Midlandshire. 

^' Address no more letters to B. R. till 
you hear from me again. A grand fracas. The 
Captain and I are on our way to town. Unless 
I am greatly mistaken, we carry the G. M. D. 
with us.^^ 



CHAPTER XVI. 

MADGIN JUNIOR^S THIRD REPORT. 

" Button's Hotel, 

" St. Helier, Jersey. 

" My dear Dad^ — ]\Iy telegrain from Oxenholme^ 
followed by my brief note from London^ will 
have prepared you in part for the strange events 
that have happened since the date of my last 
report. I now purpose giving you^ as succinctly 
as possible, a narrative of those events from the 
point where my last report broke off. You will 
then understand how it happens that my present 
communication is dated from this pleasant little 
isle. 

" After the conclusion of Report No. 2 nothing 
of consequence happened for a few days — nothing 
that would allow me to imagine that the dis- 
covery of the secret door in the library would 



MADGIN junior's THIRD REPORT. 253 

further our views in any way. M. Platzoff was 
confined to his bed for a couple of days after 
the fit in which I found him. After that time 
he got up as usual^ and everything at Bon Repos 
went on as before. Captain Ducie was still 
with us. I understood from Cleon that he had 
been invited by M. Platzoft' to extend his visit. 
The health of Cleon kept improving from day 
to day_, and about a week after M. Platzoff^s 
sudden attack he announced to me that from 
that date he would resume those personal duties 
about his master which during his illness had 
been delegated to me. Then farewell to my 
last chance of ever seeing the Great Diamond, 
I said to myself when he told me. 

^' And truly;, at that moment I despaired ut- 
terly of ever advancing one step nearer the object 
that had brought me to Bon Repos. I was on the 
point of giving notice there and then of my in- 
tention to leave, and of writing you by the next 
post to inform you of what I had done. Besides, 
I was getting tired of my occupation — tired of 
Bon Repos and all in it. I began to hanker after 
my old way of life, in wliich a fictitious character 



254: MADGIN junior's THIRD REPORT. 

is never assumed for more tlian four hours at a 
stretch. I had been acting the part of valet for 
more weeks than I cared to count_, and I was 
heartily tired of the assumption. However,, on 
second thoughts^ I determined to delay giving 
notice for another week. I would wait seven 
more days^ and if nothing turned up during that 
time to further our views^ I decided that I would 
throw up the situation without farther delay and 
go back to town. Never had the hunt after the 
Great Mogul Diamond seemed to me a more 
wildgoose affair than it did at that moment. 

" It was in the afternoon that Cleon spoke to 
me. The evening was to be devoted by M. 
Platzoff to drashkil- smoking — Cleon had been 
preparing a fresh supply of the drug that very 
morning — and Cleon^s resumption of his duties 
was to commence at midnight^ at which hour M. 
Platzoff would doubtless require carrying to bed, 
and the mulatto decided that that duty should 
be performed by himself. 

" Cleon had not yet felt himself well enough to 
resume his custom, interrupted by illness, of 
going out every evening to smoke a pipe with 



MADGIN junior's THIRD REPORT. 255 

the landlord of the village inn. (Both the house 
and the landlord T\-ill be well remembered by 
you.) This evening he had invited me into his 
little sitting-room to smoke a cigar and join him 
over a glass of grog — a most unusual condescen- 
sion on his part. We were still sitting over 
our tumblers when the timepiece chimed twelve. 
Cleon rose at once. ' Had you not better let 
me go to-night Y I said. ' You are far from 
strong yet^ and !M. Platzoff" will most probably 
want carrying to bed.' 

" ^ No no/' he said, ' I will go myself. I feel 
quite equal to the task. Await my return here^ 
and we will have one more weed before parting 
for the night.' 

" He went, and I lighted a fresh cigar. I think 
he must have been gone about ten minutes when 
he came back all in a hurry. His face was li^dd_, 
but whether from fear or some other emotion I 
could not tell. I started to my feet and was 
about to question him, but he motioned me back. 
' Ask no questions/ he said, ^ and do not stir 
from this place till I come back — unless,' he 
added as a second thought, ' unless vou hear M. 



256 MADGIN junior's THIRD REPORT. 

PlatzofF's bell. lu that case come without a 
moment's delay/ 

" I saw he was in no mood to be questioned^ so 
I sat down quietly and resumed my cigar. From 
a number of weapons that hung on the wall 
over his mantelpiece he selected a long and 
ugly-looking ^lalay creese. He felt its point 
with a grim smile^ whispering something to 
himself as he did so_, and then he hurriedly left 
the room. 

" Now^ it was all very well for Master Cleon to 
tell me to sit still and await his return. I had 
no intention of doing anything of the kind. I 
had a deeper interest in all that happened under 
that roof than he suspected. 

" When he had been gone about a minute and a 
half^ I laid down my cigar and quietly followed him 
down the long corridor leading to M. Platzoff's 
rooms. I had on the thin slippers which I usually 
wore in the house. M. Platzoff liked all the 
arrangements at Bon Repos to be as noiseless as 
possible. 

" The corridor ends in a landing : on this land- 
ing are several doors that open into different 



MADGIN junior's THIRD REPORT. 257 

rooms, one of them being the door that gives 
access to M. Platzoff's private suite. The cor- 
ridor and the landing were both in darkness. 

Much to my astonishment,, on approaching M. 
Platzoff 's door I saw by the stream of light that 
poured from it that it was only partially closed. 
I drew near on tiptoe and listened, ready at the 
slightest sound of an approaching footstep to vanish 
into one of the empty rooms on the opposite side 
of the landing. But no sound of any kind broke 
the death-like silence. I listened till I was tired 
of listening, and then I ventured to push open 
the door a few inches further, and look in. The 
room was lighted as usual, and was filled with the 
faint, sickly odour of drashkil, to which by this 
time I had become accustomed. But Cleon was 
not there. There, however, was M. Platzofi*, not 
half sitting, half reclining, on the divan as was 
his custom when in one of his opium sleeps, but 
stretched out at full length on the cushions. 

He lay with his eyes half open, and at the 
first glance it seemed to me that he was watching 
me in that quiet, cynical way that I knew 
so well, and I started like one suddenly detected 

VOL. IT. 17 



258 MADGIN junior's THIRD REPORT. 

in the commission of some great offence. A 
second glance showed me that in those half-open 
eyes there was no light nor knowledge of earthly- 
things. I thought that he had been taken with 
another fit, and without further hesitation I 
pushed open the door and went in. 

I took the inanimate body up in my arms, and 
was about to carry it to bed, when something in 
the fall of the limbs and the expression of the 
face struck a sudden chill to my heart, and I laid 
it gently down again. I sought for the pulse, but 
could not find it ; I laid my hand on the hearty 
but it was still. 

M. Platzoff was stone-dead ! 

How or by what means his fate had come thus 
suddenly upon him I had no means of judging. 
Poor Platzoff ! At that moment I could not help 
feeling sorry for him. But presently came the 
thought — where is Cleon ? and for what purpose 
did he fetch that dagger from his room ? There 
were no tokens of murder about the dead man : 
he seemed to have died as calmly as an infant 
might have done. 

I pressed forward into the bedroom^ which, as 



MADGIN junior's THIRD REPORT. 259 

usual, was lighted up by a pair of wax candles. 
I took one of these and went onward into the 
library. I could scarcely believe my eyes 
when I saw the secret door in the book-case 
standing wide open. It opened on to a steep 
and narrow staircase, at the bottom of which was 
another door, also open. Further than that the 
faint light of my candle would not penetrate. 

" Does this staircase lead to the hiding-place 
of the Diamond?^' was the question that flashed 
across my mind. Now or never was the time to 
answer it. But to venture down that dismal 
staircase into the unknown depths beyond was a 
task I did not care for. Suppose that, while I 
were down there, someone were to come and lock 
me up. I might scream and call for help till I 
died, yet never be heard by living man. Besides, 
after all, the Diamond might not be hidden there. 
The game was not worth the candle. 

I turned to go back, but at that moment the 
silence was shivered by a yell so utterly fiendish 
and unlike anything I had ever heard before, 
that my blood chilled at the sound, and all the 
stories that I had ever heard or read of Indian 

17—2 



260 MADGIN junior's THIRD REPORT. 

cimning and ferocity came rushing into my 
mind. 

I stood motionless^ with the candle still in my 
hand, listening for a repetition of the terrible 
cry. But none came. Instead, in a little while 
I heard the noise of approaching footsteps. Then 
indeed I fled. Anxious as I was to know the 
meaning of what I had seen and heard, I had no 
desire to risk my life for the sake of gratifying 
my curiosity. 

Leaying my candle where I had found it, I 
passed quickly through the suite of rooms, and 
did not halt till I reached the dark corridor out- 
side. Here I waited and listened till I heard 
the footsteps coming through the rooms. Then 
I turned up the corridor, waited behind the first 
angle, and watched to see who should come out 
of the smoke-room. I expected to see none other 
than Cleon. Instead, I saw Ducie come stag- 
gering out, carrying a small lighted lamp in his 
hand, and haying his face all smeared with blood. 
Some weird tragedy had just been enacted, and 
I should not haye been my father's son if I had 
not wanted to get to the bottom of it. 



MADGIN junior's THIRD REPORT. 261 

I retired a few paces, and then, calculating my 
time, I stepped briskly forward as Ducie came 
np the corridor. We met face to face at the 
corner, and we both started back in mutual sur- 
prise. There was a wildness in the captain's 
eyes, and he looked as if he were about to faint. 

" Sir ! Captain Ducie \" 1 exclaimed, " what 
is the matter ? Are you wounded ?'' 

" A slight accident, that's all : a mere scratch," 
he gasped out. " Lend me your arm as far as 
my room." 

I assisted him to his dressing-room, and once 
there, he sank down on the sofa with a deep 
sigh. 

" Get me some brandy," he whispered. '' Be- 
fore you go, let me tell you," he added, " that 
should I faint you must on no account summon 
any further assistance, neither must you remove 
any of my clothes. Bear those two points in 
mind, and also that you are not to leave me, nor 
let anyone else approach me till I come round. 
Now go, and get back as quickly as possible." 

I had only to go as far as Cleon's room for 
what I wanted. I found the room just as I had 



262 MADGIN junior's THIRD REPORT. 

left it. Cleon had not yet returned. " Would 
he ever return V was the question I now asked 
myself. Had there not been some terrible en- 
counter between him and Ducie, and had not the 
mulatto had the worst of it ? Yet why should 
there be any encounter between the two^ if it 
were not to determine which of them should ob- 
tain possession of the Diamond ? 

That the death of M. PlatzofF was known to 
both of them could not be doubted. Supposing, 
then^ that the existence of the Diamond, and the 
place where it was hidden, were equally well 
known, what more likely than that there should 
be a struggle between the two, ending fatally for 
one of them, for possession of the Diamond? 
Supposing Captain Ducie to have been the victor 
in such an encounter, was it at all unlikely that 
the Diamond was now about his person ? Such a 
supposition would account reasonably enough for 
the curious injunctions he laid upon me just 
before I quitted his room. 

Full of this great thought, I hurried back with 
the brandy. True enough, the captain had fainted. 
He lay at full length on the sofa, with not an 



MADGIN junior's THIRD REPORT. 26^ 

atom of sense left in him. But the singularity 
of the thing lay in the fact that Captain Ducie's 
right hand was deeply buried inside his vest, and 
there grasped some small substance — I could not 
tell what — with a tenacity that could not have 
been surpassed had his hand not been opened for 
twenty years. So much I discovered before I 
proceeded to apply any of the remedies usual on 
such occasions. After a few minutes he came to 
his senses sufficiently to know where he was and 
what I was about. But before his mind had 
become quite clear on all points, he withdrew his 
clenched hand from his waistcoat, stared at it 
wonderingly for a second or two, but without 
opening it ; then like a flash it seemed to come 
across his mind what was hidden there, and with 
a deep '^ Ha \" he thrust back his hand, only to 
withdraw it, open and empty, half a minute later. 
" He has hidden away the Diamond in some 
inner pocket,^' I said to myself. From that mo- 
ment I never doubted that the wondrous gem 
was in his possession, and I could not help ad- 
miring the cool patience and the indomitable 
pluck he must have displayed before he could 



264 MADGIN junior's THIRD REPORT. 

call it his own. All the same,, I determined to 
try all I knew to cause it to change hands once 
more. 

The brandy revived Captain Ducie_, and in a 
few minutes he was able to sit up and tell me 
what he wanted. He told me that he had been 
wounded accidentally in the shoulder, and bade 
me assist him off with his coat and vest. The 
coat he flung carelessly aside. The vest he 
doubled up, laid it on the sofa and sat down on 
it. Then I cut open his shirt and laid bare the 
wound on his shoulder. It was not very deep^ 
but there had been a good deal of hemorrhage. 
With the coolness and knowledge of an old cam- 
paigner the captain instriicted me how to bathe 
the wound and dress it with some salve which he 
produced fi'om his dressing-case. Then he put 
on some clean linen, washed the smears from his 
face, hid the ugly gash in his cheek with a strip 
of court-plaster, and dressed. All this was done 
with a silence and celerity that astonished me. 

" So far, so good,'' said Captain Ducie. '^ I 
want you next to pack my small portmanteau. 
Put into it my dressing-case and all my papers. 



MADGIN junior's THIRD REPORT. 265 

and as many of my clothes as it will hold. Then 
go and pack up a few things of your own. I want 
you to go with me^, and in ten minutes I shall 
expect you to be ready to start/' 

I made some faint objections on the score of 
leaving M. PlatzofFin such an unceremonious way. 

" I will take the entire responsibility on my 
own shoulders/' he said. " Your excuses to M. 
Platzoff shall be made by me. You have nothing 
to fear on that score. As my shoulder is now, 
it is quite impossible for me to go up to town 
alone. You need only be away forty-eight hours, 
and I shall not forget to remunerate you for 
your trouble." 

In ten minutes I was ready to start. " If 
Captain Ducie has got the Diamond about him, 
as I fully believe he has/' I said to myself, 
" then is my occupation at Bon Repos gone, and 
I care not if I never see the place again. My 
duty is evidently to accompany the gallant 
captain." 

When I had packed my own little valise, I 
stole quietly into Cleon's room. It was still 
empty : the mulatto had not returned. Then I 



266 MAD GIN junior's THIRD REPORT. 

went softly down the corridor, pushed open the 
door of the smoke-room and looked in. No hand 
had touched the body of M. PlatzoflP since I left 
it last. I whispered "Farewell/' covered up 
the white face, and left the room. I had one 
thing more to do. Taking a lighted candle in 
my hand I went into the little gallery that opens 
out of the drawing-room. In this gallery were 
several cases containing old coins, old china, rare 
fossils, and various other curiosities natural and 
artificial. It was one of these curiosities that I 
was in quest of. I knew where the key was kept 
that opened the cases. I got it and opened the 
case in which lay the object I was in search of. 
This object, to all appearance, was nothing more 
than a bit of green glass, except that its shape 
was rather uncommon. There was a small label 
near it, and this label I had one day been at the 
trouble of deciphering. The writing was so 
minute as almost to require a magnifying glass 
to read it by. After much difficulty I had 
succeeded in making out these words : 

" Model in paste of the G. M. D. by Bertolini 
of Paris.'' 



MADGIN junior's THIRD REPORT. 267 

M. Platzoffwas dead; Cleon^ for aught I knew 
to the contrary,, was dead too. I was about to 
leave Bon Repos for ever — to leave it with the 
man who had stolen the genuine Diamond from 
the man who had stolen it from its rightful 
owner. Why should not I take possession of 
the paste Diamond? As a simple curiosity it 
might be a gratification to Lady P. to possess it. 
More than that : it seemed to me not impossible 
that certain eventualities might arise in which the 
possession of an exact model of the Diamond 
might be of service to us. Anyhow^ I dropped 
it quietly into my pocket. 



END OF VOL. II. 



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