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Title: Sunrise
Author: Black, William, 1841-1898
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Sunrise" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



     SUNRISE.


       BY


  WILLIAM BLACK.

_Author of "Shandon Bells," "Yolande," "Strange Adventures of a
Phaeton," "Madcap Violet" etc., etc._


  NEW YORK:
  JOHN B. ALDEN, PUBLISHER,
  1883.



CONTENTS.

  CHAPTER                                           PAGE

        I.  A FIRST INTERVIEW.                         1
       II.  PLEADINGS.                                 8
      III.  IN A HOUSE IN CURZON STREET.              14
       IV.  A STRANGER.                               23
        V.  PIONEERS.                                 29
       VI.  BON VOYAGE!                               37
      VII.  IN SOLITUDE.                              44
     VIII.  A DISCOVERY.                              51
       IX.  A NIGHT IN VENICE.                        58
        X.  VACILLATION.                              64
       XI.  A COMMISSION.                             72
      XII.  JACTA EST ALEA.                           79
     XIII.  SOUTHWARD.                                86
      XIV.  A RUSSIAN EPISODE.                        94
       XV.  NEW FRIENDS.                             101
      XVI.  A LETTER.                                108
     XVII.  CALABRESSA.                              115
    XVIII.  HER ANSWER.                              123
      XIX.  AT THE CULTURVEREIN.                     129
       XX.  FIDELIO.                                 137
      XXI.  FATHER AND DAUGHTER.                     144
     XXII.  EVASIONS.                                151
    XXIII.  A TALISMAN.                              158
     XXIV.  AN ALTERNATIVE.                          165
      XXV.  A FRIEND'S ADVICE.                       172
     XXVI.  A PROMISE.                               179
    XXVII.  KIRSKI.                                  186
   XXVIII.  A CLIMAX.                                193
     XXIX.  A GOOD-NIGHT MESSAGE.                    201
      XXX.  SOME TREASURES.                          208
     XXXI.  IN A GARDEN AT POSILIPO.                 215
    XXXII.  FRIEND AND SWEETHEART.                   223
   XXXIII.  INTERVENTION.                            230
    XXXIV.  AN ENCOUNTER.                            237
     XXXV.  THE MOTHER.                              245
    XXXVI.  THE VELVET GLOVE.                        252
   XXXVII.  SANTA CLAUS.                             259
  XXXVIII.  A SUMMONS.                               266
    XXXIX.  A NEW HOME.                              274
       XL.  A CONCLAVE.                              280
      XLI.  IN THE DEEPS.                            288
     XLII.  A COMMUNICATION.                         295
    XLIII.  A QUARREL.                               302
     XLIV.  A TWICE-TOLD TALE.                       308
      XLV.  SOUTHWARD.                               316
     XLVI.  THE BEECHES.                             321
    XLVII.  AT PORTICI.                              329
   XLVIII.  AN APPEAL.                               337
     XLIX.  AN EMISSARY.                             345
        L.  A WEAK BROTHER.                          352
       LI.  THE CONJURER.                            359
      LII.  FIAT JUSTITIA.                           366
     LIII.  THE TRIAL.                               373
      LIV.  PUT TO THE PROOF.                        380
       LV.  CONGRATULATIONS.                         387
      LVI.  A COMMISSION.                            394
     LVII.  FAREWELL!                                401
    LVIII.  A SACRIFICE.                             409
      LIX.  NATALIE SPEAKS.                          416
       LX.  NEW SHORES.                              424



CHAPTER I.

A FIRST INTERVIEW.


One chilly afternoon in February, while as yet the London season had not
quite begun, though the streets were busy enough, an open barouche was
being rapidly driven along Piccadilly in the direction of Coventry
Street; and its two occupants, despite the dull roar of vehicles around
them, seemed to be engaged in eager conversation. One of these two was a
tall, handsome, muscular-looking man of about thirty, with a sun-tanned
face, piercing gray eyes, and a reddish-brown beard cropped in the
foreign fashion; the other, half hidden among the voluminous furs of the
carriage, was a pale, humpbacked lad, with a fine, expressive,
intellectual face, and large, animated, almost woman-like eyes. The
former was George Brand, of Brand Beeches, Bucks, a bachelor unattached,
and a person of no particular occupation, except that he had tumbled
about the world a good deal, surveying mankind with more or less of
interest or indifference. His companion and friend, the bright-eyed,
beautiful-faced, humpbacked lad, was Ernest Francis D'Agincourt,
thirteenth Baron Evelyn.

The discussion was warm, though the elder of the two friends spoke
deprecatingly, at times even scornfully.

"I know what is behind all that," he said. "They are making a dupe of
you, Evelyn. A parcel of miserable Leicester Square conspirators,
plundering the working-man of all countries of his small savings, and
humbugging him with promises of twopenny-halfpenny revolutions! That is
not the sort of thing for you to mix in. It is not English, all that
dagger and dark-lantern business, even if it were real; but when it is
only theatrical--when they are only stage daggers--when the wretched
creatures who mouth about assassination and revolution are only
swaggering for half-pence--bah! What part do you propose to play?"

"I tell you it has nothing to do with daggers and dark lanterns," said
the other with even greater warmth. "Why will you run your head against
a windmill? Why must you see farther into a mile-stone than anybody
else? I wonder, with all your travelling, you have not got rid of some
of that detestable English prejudice and suspicion. I tell you that when
I am allowed, even as an outsider, to see something of this vast
organization for the defence of the oppressed, for the protection of the
weak, the vindication of the injured, in every country throughout the
globe--when I see the splendid possibilities before it--when I find that
even a useless fellow like myself may do some little thing to lessen the
mighty mass of injustice and wrong in the world--well, I am not going to
stop to see that every one of my associates is of pure English birth,
with a brother-in-law on the Bench, and an uncle in the House of Lords.
I am glad enough to have something to do that is worth doing; something
to believe in; something to hope for. You--what do you believe in? What
is there in heaven or earth that you believe in?"

"Suppose I say that I believe in you, Evelyn?" said his friend, quite
good-naturedly; "and some day, when you can convince me that your newly
discovered faith is all right, you may find me becoming your meek
disciple, and even your apostle. But I shall want something more than
Union speeches, you know."

By this time the carriage had passed along Coventry Street, turned into
Prince's Street, and been pulled up opposite a commonplace-looking house
in that distinctly dingy thoroughfare, Lisle Street, Soho.

"Not quite Leicester Square, but near enough to serve," said Brand, with
a contemptuous laugh, as he got out of the barouche, and then, with the
greatest of care and gentleness, assisted his companion to alight.

They crossed the pavement and rang a bell. Almost instantly the door was
opened by a stout, yellow-haired, blear-eyed old man, who wore a huge
overcoat adorned with masses of shabby fur, and who carried a small lamp
in his hand, for the afternoon had grown to dusk. The two visitors were
evidently expected. Having given the younger of them a deeply respectful
greeting in German, the fur-coated old gentleman shut the door after
them, and proceeded to show the way up a flight of narrow and not
particularly clean wooden stairs.

"Conspiracy doesn't seem to pay," remarked George Brand, half to
himself.

On the landing they were confronted by a number of doors, one of which
the old German threw open. They entered a large, plainly furnished,
well-lit room, looking pretty much like a merchant's office, though the
walls were mostly hung with maps and plans of foreign cities. Brand
looked round with a supercilious air. All his pleasant and friendly
manner had gone. He was evidently determined to make himself as
desperately disagreeable as an Englishman can make himself when
introduced to a foreigner whom he suspects. But even he would have had
to confess that there was no suggestion of trap-doors or sliding panels
in this ordinary, business-like room; and not a trace of a dagger or a
dark lantern anywhere.

Presently, from a door opposite, an elderly man of middle height and
spare and sinewy frame walked briskly in, shook hands with Lord Evelyn,
was introduced to the tall, red-bearded Englishman (who still stood, hat
in hand, and with a portentous stiffness in his demeanor), begged his
two guests to be seated, and himself sat down at an open bureau, which
was plentifully littered with papers.

"I am pleased to meet you, Mr. Brand," he said, speaking carefully, and
with a considerable foreign accent. "Lord Evelyn has several times
promised me the honor of making your acquaintance."

Mr. Brand merely bowed: he was intent on making out what manner of man
this suspected foreigner might be; and he was puzzled. At first sight
Ferdinand Lind appeared to be about fifty or fifty-five years of age;
his closely cropped hair was gray; and his face, in repose, somewhat
care-worn. But then when he spoke there was an almost youthful vivacity
in his look; his dark eyes were keen, quick, sympathetic; and there was
even a certain careless ease about his dress--about the turned-down
collar and French-looking neck-tie, for example--that had more of the
air of the student than of the pedant about it. All this at the first
glance. It was only afterward you came to perceive what was denoted by
those heavy, seamed brows, the firm, strong mouth, and the square line
of the jaw. These told you of the presence of an indomitable and
inflexible will. Here was a man born to think, and control, and command.

"With that prospect before me," he continued, apparently taking no
notice of the Englishman's close scrutiny, "I must ask you, Mr.
Brand--well, you know, it is merely a matter of form--but I must ask
you to be so very kind as to give me your word of honor that you will
not disclose anything you may see or learn here. Have you any
objection?"

Brand stared, then said, coldly,

"Oh dear, no. I will give you that pledge, if you wish it."

"It is so easy to deal with Englishmen," said Mr. Lind, politely. "A
word, and it is done. But I suppose Lord Evelyn has told you that we
have no very desperate secrets. Secrecy, you know, one must use
sometimes; it is an inducement to many--most people are fond of a little
mystery; and it is harmless."

Brand said nothing; Lord Evelyn thought he might have been at least
civil. But when an Englishman is determined on being stiff, his
stiffness is gigantic.

"If I were to show you some of the tricks of this very room," said this
grizzled old foreigner with the boyish neck-tie, "you might call me a
charlatan; but would that be fair? We have to make use of various means
for what we consider a good end, a noble end; and there are many people
who love mystery and secrecy. With you English it is different--you must
have everything above-board."

The pale, fine face of the sensitive lad sitting there became clouded
over with disappointment. He had brought this old friend of his with
some vague hope that he might become a convert, or at least be
sufficiently interested to make inquiries; but Brand sat silent, with a
cold indifference that was only the outward sign of an inward suspicion.

"Sometimes, it is true," continued Mr. Lind, in nowise disconcerted, "we
stumble on the secrets of others. Our association has innumerable
feelers: and we make it our business to know what we can of everything
that is going on. For example, I could tell you of an odd little
incident that occurred last year in Constantinople. A party of four
gentlemen were playing cards there in a private room."

Brand started. The man who was speaking took no notice.

"There were two Austrian officers, a Roumanian count, and an
Englishman," he continued, in the most matter-of-fact way. "It was in a
private room, as I said. The Englishman was, after a time, convinced
that the Roumanian was cheating; he caught his wrist--showed the false
cards; then he managed to ward off the blow of a dagger which the
Roumanian aimed at him, and by main force carried him to the door and
threw him down-stairs. It was cleverly done, but the Englishman was
very big and strong. Afterward the two Austrian officers, who knew the
Verdt family, begged the Englishman never to reveal what had occurred;
and the three promised secrecy. Was not that so?"

The man looked up carelessly. The Englishman's apathy was no longer
visible.

"Y-yes," he stammered.

"Would you like to know what became of Count Verdt?" he asked, with an
air of indifference.

"Yes, certainly," said the other.

"Ah! Of course you know the Castel' del Ovo?"

"At Naples? Yes."

"You remember that out at the point, beside the way that leads from the
shore to the fortress, there are many big rocks, and the waves roll
about there. Three weeks after you caught Count Verdt cheating at cards,
his dead body was found floating there."

"Gracious heavens!" Brand exclaimed, with his face grown pale. And then
he added, breathlessly, "Suicide?"

Mr. Lind smiled.

"No. Reassure yourself. When they picked out the body from the water,
they found the mouth gagged, and the hands tied behind the back."

Brand stared at this man.

"Then you--?" He dared not complete the question.

"I? Oh, I had nothing to do with it, any more than yourself. It was a
Camorra affair."

He had been speaking quite indifferently; but now a singular change came
over his manner.

"And if I _had_ had something to do with it?" he said, vehemently; and
the dark eyes were burning with a quick anger under the heavy brows.
Then he spoke more slowly, but with a firm emphasis in his speech. "I
will tell you a little story; it will not detain you, sir. Suppose that
you have a prison so overstocked with political prisoners that you must
keep sixty or seventy in the open yard adjoining the outer wall. You
have little to fear; they are harmless, poor wretches; there are several
old men--two women. Ah! but what are the poor devils to do in those long
nights that are so dark and so cold? However they may huddle together,
they freeze; if they keep not moving, they die; you find them dead in
the morning. If you are a Czar you are glad of that, for your prisons
are choked; it is very convenient. And, then suppose you have a clever
fellow who finds out a narrow passage between the implement-house and
the wall; and he says, 'There, you can work all night at digging a
passage out; and who in the morning will suspect?' Is not that a fine
discovery, when one must keep moving in the dark to prevent one's self
stiffening into a corpse? Oh yes; then you find the poor devils, in
their madness, begin to tear the ground up; what tools have they but
their fingers, when the implement-house is locked? The poor devils!--old
men, too, and women; and how they take their turn at the slow work, hour
after hour, week after week, all through the long, still nights! Inch by
inch it is; and the poor devils become like rabbits, burrowing for a
hole to reach the outer air; and do you know that, after a time, the
first wounds heal, and your fingers become like stumps of iron--"

He held out his two hands; the ends of the fingers were seamed and
corrugated, as if they had been violently scalded. But he could not hold
them steady--they were trembling with the suppressed passion that made
his whole frame tremble.

"Relay after relay, night after night, week after week, month after
month, until those poor devils of rabbits had actually burrowed a
passage out into the freedom of God's world again. And some said the
Czar himself had heard of it, and would not interfere, for the prisons
were choked; and some said the wife of the governor was Polish, and had
a kind heart; but what did it matter when the time was drawing near? And
always this clever fellow--do you know, sir, his name was Verdt
too?--encouraging, helping, goading these poor people on. Then the last
night--how the miserable rabbits of creatures kept huddled together,
shivering in the dark, till the hour arrived! and then the death-like
stillness they found outside; and the wild wonder and fear of it; and
the old men and the women crying like children to find themselves in the
free air again. Marie Falevitch--that was my sister-in-law--she kissed
me, and was laughing when she whispered, '_Eljen a haza_!' I think she
was a little off her head with the long, sleepless nights."

He stopped for a second; his throat seemed choked.

"Did I tell you they had all got out?--the poor devils all wondering
there, and scarcely knowing where to go. And now suppose, sir--ah! you
don't know anything about these things, you happy English
people--suppose you found the black night around you all at once turned
to a blaze of fire--red hell opened on all sides of you, and the bullets
plowing your comrades down; the old men crying for mercy, the young ones
falling only with a groan; the women--my God! Did you ever hear a woman
shriek when she was struck through the heart with a bullet? Marie
Falevitch fell at my feet, but I could not raise her--I was struck down
too. It was a week after that I came to my senses. I was in the prison,
but the prison was not quite so full. Czars and governors have a fine
way of thinning prisons when they get too crowded."

These last words were spoken in a calm, contemptuous way; the man was
evidently trying hard to control the fierce passion that these memories
had stirred up. He had clinched one hand, and put it firmly on the desk
before him, so that it should not tremble.

"Well, now, Mr. Brand," he continued, slowly, "let us suppose that when
you come to yourself again, you hear the rumors that are about: you
hear, for example, that Count Verdt--that exceedingly clever man--has
been graciously pardoned by the Czar for revealing the villanous
conspiracy of his fellow-prisoners; and that he has gone off to the
South with a bag of money. Do you not think that you would remember the
name of that clever person? Do you not think you would say to yourself,
'Well, it may not be to-day, or to-morrow, or the next day: _but some
day_?'"

Again the dark eyes glowed; but he had a wonderful self-control.

"You would remember the name, would you not, if you had your
sister-in-law, and your only brother, and six or seven of your old
friends and comrades all shot on the one night?"

"This was the same Count Verdt?" Brand asked, eagerly.

"Yes," said the other, after a considerable pause. Then he added, with
an involuntary sigh, "I had been following his movements for some time;
but the Camorra stepped in. They are foolish people, those
Camorristi--foolish and ignorant. They punish for very trifling
offences, and they do not make sufficient warning of their punishments.
Then they are quite imbecile in the way they attempt to regulate labor."

He was now talking in quite a matter-of-fact way. The clinched hand was
relaxed.

"Besides," continued Ferdinand Lind, with the cool air of a critic,
"their conduct is too scandalous. The outer world believes they are
nothing but an association of thieves and cut-throats; that is because
they do not discountenance vulgar and useless crime; because there is
not enough authority, nor any proper selection of members. In the
affairs of the world, one has sometimes to make use of queer
agents--that is admitted; and you cannot have any large body of people
without finding a few scoundrels among them. I suppose one might even
say that about your very respectable Church of England. But you only
bring a society into disrepute--you rob it of much usefulness--you put
the law and society against it--when you make it the refuge of common
murderers and thieves."

"I should hope so," remarked George Brand. If this suspected foreigner
had resumed his ordinary manner, so had he; he was again the haughty,
suspicious, almost supercilious Englishman.

Poor Lord Evelyn! The lad looked quite distressed. These two men were so
obviously antipathetic that it seemed altogether hopeless to think of
their ever coming together.

"Well," said Mr. Lind, in his ordinary polished and easy manner, "I must
not seek to detain you; for it is a cold night to keep horses waiting.
But, Mr. Brand, Lord Evelyn dines with us to-morrow evening; if you have
nothing better to do, will you join our little party? My daughter, I am
sure, will be most pleased to make your acquaintance."

"Do, Brand, there's a good fellow;" struck in his friend. "I haven't
seen anything of you for such a long time."

"I shall be very happy indeed," said the tall Englishman, wondering
whether he was likely to meet a goodly assemblage of sedition-mongers at
this foreign persons table.

"We dine at a quarter to eight. The address is No. ---- Curzon Street; but
perhaps you had better take this card."

So they left, and were conducted down the staircase by the stout old
German; and scrambled up into the furs of the barouche.

"So he has a daughter?" said Brand, as the two friends together drove
down to Buckingham Street, where they were to dine at his rooms.

"Oh, yes; his daughter Natalie," said Lord Evelyn, eagerly. "I am so
glad you will see him to-morrow night!"

"And they live on Curzon Street," said the other, reflectively. "H'm!
Conspiracy _does_ pay, then!"



CHAPTER II.

PLEADINGS.


"Brother Senior Warden, your place in the lodge?" said Mr. Brand,
looking at the small dinner-table.

"You forget," his companion said. "I am only in the nursery as yet--an
Illuminatus Minor, as it were. However, I don't think I can do better
than sit where Waters has put me; I can have a glimpse of the lights on
the river. But what an extraordinary place for you to come to for
rooms!"

They had driven down through the glare of the great city to this silent
and dark little thoroughfare, dismissed the carriage at the foot,
climbed up an old-fashioned oak staircase, and found themselves at last
received by an elderly person, who looked a good deal more like a
bronzed old veteran than an ordinary English butler.

"Halloo, Waters!" said Lord Evelyn. "How are you? I don't think I have
seen you since you threatened to murder the landlord at Cairo."

"No, my lord," said Mr. Waters, who seemed vastly pleased by this
reminiscence, and who instantly disappeared to summon dinner for the two
young men.

"Extraordinary?" said Brand, when they had got seated at table. "Oh no;
my constant craving is for air, space, light and quiet. Here I have all
these. Beneath are the Embankment gardens; beyond that, you see, the
river--those lights are the steamers at anchor. As for quiet, the lower
floors are occupied by a charitable society; so I fancied there would
not be much traffic on the stairs."

The jibe passed unheeded; Lord Evelyn had long ago become familiar with
his friend's way of speaking about men and things.

"And so, Evelyn, you have become a pupil of the revolutionaries," George
Brand continued, when Waters had put some things before them and
retired--"a student of the fine art of stabbing people unawares? What an
astute fellow that Lind must be--I will swear it never occurred to one
of the lot before--to get an English milord into their ranks! A stroke
of genius! It could only have been projected by a great mind. And then
look at the effect throughout Europe if an English milord were to be
found with a parcel of Orsini bombs in his possession! every ragamuffin
from Naples to St. Petersburg would rejoice; the army of cutthroats
would march with a new swagger."

His companion said nothing; but there was a vexed and impatient look on
his face.

"And our little daughter--is she pretty? Does she coax the young men to
play with daggers?--the innocent little thing! And when you start with
your dynamite to break open a jail, she blows you a kiss?--the charming
little fairy! What is it she has embroidered on the ribbons round her
neck?--'_Mort aux rois_?' '_Sic semper tyrannis_?' No; I saw a much
prettier one somewhere the other day: '_Ne si pasce di fresche ruggiade,
ma di sangue di membra di re_.' Isn't it charming? It sounds quite
idyllic, even in English: '_Not for you the nourishment of freshening
dews, but the blood of the limbs of kings_!' The pretty little
stabber--is she fierce?"

"Brand, you are too bad!" said the other, throwing down his knife and
fork, and getting up from the table. "You believe in neither man, woman,
God, nor devil!"

"Would you mind handing over that claret jug?"

"Why," he said, turning passionately toward him, "it is men like you,
who have neither faith, nor hope, nor regret, who are wandering
aimlessly in a nightmare of apathy and indolence and indifference, who
ought to be the first to welcome the new light breaking in the sky. What
is life worth to you? You have nothing to hope for--nothing to look
forward to--nothing you can kill the aimless with. Why should you desire
to-morrow? To-morrow will bring you nothing different from yesterday;
you will do as you did yesterday and the day before yesterday. It is the
life of a horse or an ox--not the life of a human being, with the
sympathies and needs and aspirations of a man. What is the object of
living at all?"

"I really don't know," said the other, simply.

But this pale hump-backed lad, with the fine nostrils, the sensitive
mouth, the large forehead, and the beautiful eyes, was terribly in
earnest. He forgot about his place at table. He kept walking up and
down, occasionally addressing his friend directly, at other times
glancing out at the dark river and the golden lines of the lamps.
And he was an eloquent speaker, too. Debarred from most forms of
physical exercise, he had been brought up in a world of ideas.
When he went to Oxford, it was with some vague notion of subsequently
entering the Church; but at Oxford he became speedily convinced that
there was no Church left for him to enter. Then he fell back on
æstheticism--worshipped Carpaccio, adored Chopin, and turned his rooms
at Merton into a museum of old tapestry, Roman brass-work, and
Venetian glass. Then he dabbled a little in Comtism; but very soon he
threw aside that gigantic make-believe at believing. Nevertheless,
whatever was his whim of the moment, it was for him no whim at all,
but a burning reality. And in this enthusiasm of his there was no room
left for shyness. In fact, these two companions had been accustomed to
talk frankly; they had long ago abandoned that self-consciousness
which ordinarily restricts the conversation of young Englishmen to
monosyllables. Brand was a good listener and his friend an eager,
impetuous, enthusiastic speaker. The one could even recite verses to
the other: what greater proof of confidence?

And on this occasion all this prayer of his was earnest and pathetic
enough. He begged this old chum of his to throw aside his insular
prejudices and judge for himself. What object had he in living at all,
if life were merely a routine of food and sleep? In this selfish
isolation, his living was only a process of going to the grave--only
that each day would become more tedious and burdensome as he grew older.
Why should he not examine, and inquire, and believe--if that was
possible? The world was perishing for want of a new faith: the new faith
was here.

At this phrase George Brand quickly raised his head. He was accustomed
to these enthusiasms of his friend; but he had not yet seen him in the
character of on apostle.

"You know it as well as I, Brand; the last great wave of religion has
spent itself; and I suppose Matthew Arnold would have us wait for the
mysterious East, the mother of religions, to send us another. Do you
remember 'Obermann?'--

    "'In his cool hall, with haggard eyes,
        The Roman noble lay;
      He drove abroad, in furious guise,
        Along the Appian Way;

    "'He made a feast, drank fierce and fast,
        And crowned his head with flowers--
      No easier nor no quicker passed
        The impracticable hours.

    "'The brooding East with awe beheld
        Her impious younger world.
      The Roman tempest swelled and swelled,
        And on her head was hurled.

    "'The East bowed low before the blast,
        In patience, deep disdain;
      She let the legions thunder past,
        And plunged in thought again.'"

The lad had a sympathetic voice; and there was a curious, pathetic
thrill in the tones of it as he went on to describe the result of that
awful musing--the new-born joy awakening in the East--the victorious
West veiling her eagles and snapping her sword before this strange new
worship of the Child--

    "And centuries came, and ran their course,
       And, unspent all that time,
     Still, still went forth that Child's dear force,
       And still was at its prime."

But now--in these later days around us!--

    "Now he is dead! Far hence He lies
       In the lorn Syrian town;
     And on his grave, with shining eyes,
       The Syrian stars look down."

The great divine wave had spent itself. But were we to sit supinely
by--this was what he asked, though not precisely in these consecutive
words, for sometimes he walked to and fro in his eagerness, and
sometimes he ate a bit of bread, or sat down opposite his friend for the
purpose of better confronting him--to wait for that distant and
mysterious East to send us another revelation? Not so. Let the
proud-spirited and courageous West, that had learned the teachings of
Christianity but never yet applied them--let the powerful West establish
a faith of her own: a faith in the future of humanity itself--a faith in
future of recompense and atonement to the vast multitudes of mankind who
had toiled so long and so grievously--a faith demanding instant action
and endeavor and self-sacrifice from those who would be its first
apostles.

    "The complaining millions of men
     Darken in labor and pain."

And why should not this Christianity, that had so long been used to gild
the thrones of kings and glorify the ceremonies of priests--that had so
long been monopolized by the rich and the great and the strong, whom its
Founder despised and denounced--why should it not at length come to the
help of those myriads of the poor and the weak and the suffering whose
cry for help had been for so many centuries disregarded? Here was work
for the idle, hope for the hopeless, a faith for them who were perishing
for want of a faith.

"You say all this is vague--a vision--a sentiment?" he said, talking in
the same eager way. "Then that is my fault. I cannot explain it all to
you in a few words. But do not run away with the notion that it is mere
words--a St. Simonian dream of perfectibility, or anything like that. It
is practical; it exists; it is within reach of you. It is a definite
and immense organization; it may be young as yet, but it has courage and
splendid aims; and now, with a great work before it, it is eager for
aid. You yourself, when you see a child run over, or a woman starving of
hunger, or a blind man wanting to cross a street, are you not ready with
your help--the help of your hands or of your purse? Multiply these by
millions, and think of the cry for help that comes from all parts of the
world. If you but knew, you could not resist. I as yet know little--I
only hear the echo of the cry; but my veins are burning; I shall have
the gladness of answering 'Yes,' however little I can do. And after all,
is not that something? For a man to live only for himself is death."

"But you know, Evelyn," said his friend, though he did not quite know
what to answer to all this outburst, "you must be more cautious. Those
benevolent schemes are very noble and very captivating; but sometimes
they are in the hands of rather queer people. And besides, do you quite
know the limits of this big society? I thought you said something about
vindicating the oppressed. Does it include politics?"

"I do not question; I am content to obey," said Lord Evelyn.

"That is not English; unreasoning and blind obedience is mere folly."

"Perhaps so," said the other, somewhat absently; "but I suppose a man
accepts whatever satisfies the craving of his own heart. And--and I
should not like to go alone on this new thing, Brand. Will you not come
some little way with me? If you think I am mistaken, you may turn back;
as for me--well, if it were only a dream, I think I would rather go with
the pilgrims on their hopeless quest than stay with the people who come
out to wonder at them as they go by. You remember--

    "'Who is your lady of love, oh ye that pass
      Singing? And is it for sorrow of that which was
        That ye sing sadly, or dream of what shall be?
          For gladly at once and sadly it seems ye sing.
      --Our lady of love by you is unbeholden;
      For hands she hath none, nor eyes, nor lips, nor golden
        Treasure of hair, nor face nor form; but we
          That love, we know her more fair than anything.'"

Yes; he had certainly a pathetic thrill in his voice; but now there was
something else--something strange--in the slow and monotonous cadence
that caught the acute ear of his friend. And again he went on, but
absently, almost as if he were himself listening--

    "--Is she a queen, having great gifts to give?
     --Yea, these; that whoso hath seen her shall not live
       Except he serve her sorrowing, with strange pain,
         Travail and bloodshedding and bitterest tears;
     And when she bids die he shall surely die.
     And he shall leave all things under the sky,
       And go forth naked under sun and rain,
         And work and wait and watch out all his years."

"Evelyn," said George Brand, suddenly, fixing his keen eyes on his
friend's face, "where have you heard that? Who has taught you? You are
not speaking with your own voice."

"With whose, then?" and a smile came over the pale, calm, beautiful
face, as if he had awakened out of a dream.

"That," said Brand, still regarding him, "was the voice of Natalie
Lind."



CHAPTER III.

IN A HOUSE IN CURZON STREET.


Armed with a defiant scepticism, and yet conscious of an unusual
interest and expectation, George Brand drove up to Curzon Street on the
following evening. As he jumped out of his hansom, he inadvertently
glanced at the house.

"Conspiracy has not quite built us a palace as yet," he said to himself.

The door was opened by a little German maid-servant, as neat and round
and rosy as a Dresden china shepherdess, who conducted him up-stairs and
announced him at the drawing-room. It was not a large room; but there
was more of color and gilding in it than accords with the severity of
modern English taste; and it was lit irregularly with a number of
candles, each with a little green or rose-red shade. Mr. Lind met him at
the door. As they shook hands, Brand caught a glimpse of another figure
in the room--apparently that of a tall woman dressed all in cream-white,
with a bunch of scarlet geraniums in her bosom, and another in her
raven-black hair.

"Not the gay little adventuress, then?" was his instant and internal
comment. "Better contrived still. The inspired prophetess. Obviously
not the daughter of this man at all. Hired."

But when Natalie Lind came forward to receive him, he was more than
surprised; he was almost abashed. During a second or two of wonder and
involuntary admiration, he was startled out of his critical attitude
altogether. For this tall and striking figure was in reality that of a
young girl of eighteen or nineteen, who had the beautifully formed bust,
the slender waist, and the noble carriage that even young Hungarian
girls frequently have. Perhaps the face, with its intellectual forehead
and the proud and firmly cut mouth, was a trifle too calm and
self-reliant for a young girl: but all the softness of expression that
was wanted, all the gentle and gracious timidity that we associate with
maidenhood, lay in the large, and dark, and lustrous eyes. When, by
accident, she turned aside, and he saw the outline of that clear,
olive-complexioned face, only broken by the outward curve of the long
black lashes, he had to confess to himself that, adventuress or no
adventuress, prophetess or no prophetess, Natalie Lind was possessed of
about the most beautiful profile he had ever beheld, while she had the
air and the bearing of a queen.

Her father and he talked of the various trifling things of the moment;
but what he was chiefly thinking of was the singular calm and
self-possession of this young girl. When she spoke, her dark, soft eyes
regarded him without fear. Her manner was simple and natural to the last
degree; perhaps with the least touch added of maidenly reserve. He was
forced even to admire the simplicity of her dress--cream or canary white
it was, with a bit of white fur round the neck and round the tight
wrists. The only strong color was that of the scarlet geraniums which
she wore in her bosom, and in the splendid masses of her hair; and the
vertical sharp line of scarlet of her closed fan.

Once only, during this interval of waiting, did he find that calm
serenity of hers disturbed. He happened to observe the photograph of a
very handsome woman near him on the table. She told him she had had a
parcel of photographs of friends of hers just sent over from Vienna:
some of them very pretty. She went to another table, and brought over a
handful. He glanced at them only a second or two.

"I see they are mostly from Vienna: are they Austrian ladies?" he asked.

"They live in Austria, but they are not Austrians," she answered. And
then she added, with a touch of scorn about the beautiful mouth, "Our
friends and we don't belong to the women-floggers!"

"Natalie!" her father said; but he smiled all the same.

"I will tell you one of my earliest recollections," she said: "I
remember it very well. Kossuth was carrying me round the room on his
shoulder. I suppose I had been listening to the talk of the gentlemen;
for I said to him, 'When they burned my papa in effigy at Pesth, why was
I not allowed to go and see?' And he said--I remember the sound of his
voice even now--'Little child, you were not born then. But if you had
been able to go, do you know what they would have done to you? They
would have flogged you. Do you not know that the Austrians flog women?
When you grow up, little child, your papa will tell you the story of
Madame von Maderspach.'" Then she added, "That is one of my valued
recollections, that when I was a child I was carried on Kossuth's
shoulders."

"You have no similar reminiscence of Gorgey, I suppose?" Brand said,
with a smile.

He had spoken quite inadvertently, without the slightest thought in the
world of wounding her feelings. But he was surprised and shocked by the
extraordinary effect which this chance remark produced on the tall and
beautiful girl standing there; for an instant she paused, as if not
knowing what to say. Then she said proudly, and she turned away as she
did so,

"Perhaps you are not aware that there are some names you should not
mention in the presence of a Hungarian woman."

What was there in the tone of the voice that made him rapidly glance at
her eyes, as she turned away, pretending to carry back the photographs?
He was not deceived. Those large dark eyes were full of sudden,
indignant tears; she had not turned quite quickly enough to conceal
them.

Of course, he instantly and amply apologized for his ignorance and
stupidity; but what he said to himself was, "That child is not acting.
She may be Lind's daughter, after all. Poor thing! she is too beautiful,
and generous, and noble to be made the decoy of a revolutionary
adventurer."

At this moment Lord Evelyn arrived, throwing a quick glance of inquiry
toward his friend, to see what impression, so far, had been produced.
But the tall, red-bearded Englishman maintained, as the diplomatists
say, an attitude of the strictest reserve. The keen gray eyes were
respectful attentive, courteous--especially when they were turned to
Miss Lind; beyond that, nothing.

Now they had not been seated at the dinner-table more than a few minutes
before George Brand began to ask himself whether it was really Curzon
Street he was dining in. The oddly furnished room was adorned with
curiosities to which every capital in Europe would seem to have
contributed. The servants, exclusively women, were foreign; the table
glass and decorations were all foreign; the unostentatious little
banquet was distinctly foreign. Why, the very bell that had summoned
them down--what was there in the soft sound of it that had reminded him
of something far away? It was a haunting sound, and he kept puzzling
over the vague association it seemed to call up. At last he frankly
mentioned the matter to Miss Lind, who seemed greatly pleased.

"Ah, did you like the sound?" she said, in that low and harmonious voice
of hers. "The bell was an invention of my own; shall I show it to you?"

The Dresden shepherdess, by name Anneli, being despatched into the hall,
presently returned with an object somewhat resembling in shape a
Cheshire cheese, but round at the top, formed of roughly filed metal of
a lustrous yellow-gray. Round the rude square handle surmounting it was
carelessly twisted a bit of old orange silk; other decoration there was
none.

"Do you see what it is now?" she said. "Only one of the great bells the
people use for the cattle on the Campagna. Where did I get it? Oh, you
know the Piazza Montenara, in Rome, of course? There is a place there
where they sell such things to the country people. You could get one
without difficulty, if you are not afraid of being laughed at as a mad
Englishman. That bit of embroidered ribbon, though, I got in an old shop
in Florence."

Indeed, what struck him further was, not only the foreign look of the
little room and its belongings, but also the extraordinary familiarity
with foreign cities shown by both Lind and his daughter. As the rambling
conversation went on (the sonorous cattle-bell had been removed by the
rosy-cheeked Anneli), they appeared to be just as much at home in
Madrid, in Munich, in Turin, or Genoa as in London. And it was no vague
and general tourist's knowledge that these two cosmopolitans showed; it
was rather the knowledge of a resident--an intimate acquaintance with
persons, streets, shops, and houses. George Brand was a bit of a
globe-trotter himself, and was entirely interested in this talk about
places and things that he knew. He got to be quite at home with those
people, whose own home seemed to be Europe. Reminiscences, anecdotes
flowed freely on; the dinner passed with unconscious rapidity. Lord
Evelyn was delighted and pleased beyond measure to observe the more than
courteous attention that his friend paid to Natalie Lind.

But all this while what mention was there of the great and wonderful
organization--a mere far-off glimpse of which had so captured Lord
Evelyn's fervent imagination? Not a word. The sceptic who had come among
them could find nothing either to justify or allay his suspicions. But
it might safely be said that, for the moment at least, his suspicions as
regarded one of those two were dormant. It was difficult to associate
trickery, and conspiracy, and cowardly stabbing, with this beautiful
young Hungarian girl, whose calm, dark eyes were so fearless. It is true
that she appeared very proud-spirited, and generous, and enthusiastic;
and you could cause her cheek to pale whenever you spoke of injury done
to the weak, or the suffering, or the poor. But that was different from
the secret sharpening of poniards.

Once only was reference made to the various secret associations that are
slowly but eagerly working under the apparent social and political
surface of Europe. Some one mentioned the Nihilists. Thereupon Ferdinand
Lind, in a quiet and matter-of-fact way, without appearing to know
anything of the _personnel_ of the society, and certainly without
expressing any approval of its aims, took occasion to speak of the
extraordinary devotion of those people.

"There has been nothing like it," said he, "in all the history of what
men have done for a political cause. You may say they are fanatics,
madmen, murderers; that they only provoke further tyranny and
oppression; that their efforts are wholly and solely mischievous. It may
be so; but I speak of the individual and what he is ready to do. The
sacrifice of their own life is taken almost as a matter of course. Each
man knows that for him the end will almost certainly be Siberia or a
public execution; and he accepts it. You will find young men, well-born,
well-educated, who go away from their friends and their native place,
who go into a remote village, and offer to work at the commonest trade,
at apprentices' wages. They settle there; they marry; they preach
nothing but the value of honest work, and extreme sobriety, and respect
for superiors. Then, after some years, when they are regarded as beyond
all suspicion, they begin, cautiously and slowly, to spread abroad
their propaganda--to teach respect rather for human liberty, for
justice, for self-sacrifice, for those passions that prompt a nation to
adventure everything for its freedom. Well, you know the end. The man
may be found out--banished or executed; but the association remains. The
Russians at this moment have no notion how wide-spread and powerful it
is."

"The head-quarters, are they in Russia itself?" asked Brand, on the
watch for any admission.

"Who knows?" said the other, absently. "Perhaps there are none."

"None? Surely there must be some power to say what is to be done, to
enforce obedience?"

"What if each man finds that in himself?" said Lind, with something of
the air of a dreamer coming over the firm and thoughtful and rugged
face. "It may be a brotherhood. All associations do not need to be
controlled by kings and priests and standing armies."

"And the end of all this devotion, you say is Siberia or death?"

"For the man, perhaps; for his work, not. It is not personal gain or
personal safety that a man must have in view if he goes to do battle
against the oppression that has crushed the world for centuries and
centuries. Do you not remember the answer given to the Czar by Michael
Bestoujif when he was condemned? It was only the saying of a peasant;
but it is one of the noblest ever heard in the world. 'I have the power
to pardon you,' said the Czar to him, 'and I would do so if I thought
you would become a faithful subject.' What was the answer? 'Sire,' said
Michael Bestoujif, 'that is our great misfortune, that the Emperor can
do everything, and that there is no law.'"

"Ah, the brave man!" said Natalie Lind, quickly and passionately, with a
flash of pride in her eyes. "The brave man! If I had a brother, I would
ask him, 'When will you show the courage of Michael Bestoujif?'"

Lord Evelyn glanced at her with a strange, admiring, proud look. "If she
had a brother!" What else, even with all his admiration and affection
for her, could he hope to be?

Presently they wandered back into other and lighter subjects; and Brand,
at least, did not notice how the time was flying. When Natalie Lind
rose, and asked her father whether he would have coffee sent into the
smoking-room, or have tea in the drawing-room, Brand was quite
astonished and disappointed to find it so late. He proposed they should
at once go up to the drawing-room; and this was done.

They had been speaking of musical instruments at dinner; and their host
now brought them some venerable lutes to examine--curiosities only, for
most of the metal strings were broken. Beautiful objects, however, they
were, in inlaid ivory or tortoise-shell and ebony; made, as the various
inscriptions revealed, at Bologna, or Padua, or Venice; and dating, some
of them, as far back as 1474. But in the midst of all this, Brand espied
another instrument on one of the small tables.

"Miss Lind," said he, with some surprise, "do you play the zither?"

"Oh yes, Natalie will play you something," her father said, carelessly;
and forthwith the girl sat down to the small table.

George Brand retired into a corner of the room. He was passionately fond
of zither music. He thought no more about that examination of the lutes.

"_Do you know one who can play the zither well?_" says the proverb. "_If
so, rejoice, for there are not two in the world._" However that might
be, Natalie Lind could play the zither, as one eager listener soon
discovered. He, in that far corner, could only see the profile of the
girl (just touched with a faint red from the shade of the nearest
candle, as she leaned over the instrument), and the shapely wrists and
fingers as they moved on the metallic strings. But was that what he
really did see when the first low tremulous notes struck the prelude to
one of the old pathetic _Volkslieder_ that many a time he had heard in
the morning, when the fresh wind blew in from the pines; that many a
time he had heard in the evening, when the little blue-eyed Kathchen and
her mother sung together as they sat and knitted on the bench in front
of the inn? Suddenly the air changes. What is this louder tramp? Is it
not the joyous chorus of the home-returning huntsmen; the lads with the
slain roedeer slung round their necks; that stalwart Bavarian keeper
hauling at his mighty black hound; old father Keinitz, with his three
beagles and his ancient breech-loader, hurrying forward to get the first
cool, vast, splendid bath of the clear, white wine? How the young
fellows come swinging along through the dust, their faces ablaze against
the sunset! Listen to the far, hoarse chorus!--

       "Dann kehr ich von der Haide,
        Zur hauslich stillen Freude,
        Ein frommer Jagersmann!
        Ein frommer Jagersmann!
    Halli, hallo! halli, hallo!
        Ein frommer Jagersmann!"

White wine now, and likewise the richer red!--for there is a great
hand-shaking because of the Mr. Englishman's good fortune in having shot
three bucks: and the little Kathchen's eyes grow full, because they have
brought home a gentle-faced hind, likewise cruelly slain. And Kathchen's
mother has whisked inside, and here are the tall schoppen on the table;
and speedily the long, low room is filled with the tobacco-smoke. What!
another song, you thirsty old Keinitz, with the quavering voice? But
there is a lusty chorus to that too; and a great clinking of glasses;
and the Englishman laughs and does his part too, and he has called for
six more schoppen of red.... But hush, now! Have we come out from the
din and the smoke to the cool evening air? What is that one hears afar
in the garden? Surely it is the little Kathchen and her mother singing
together, in beautiful harmony, the old, familiar, tender _Lorelei_! The
zither is a strange instrument--it speaks. And when Natalie Lind, coming
to this air, sung in a low contralto voice an only half-suggested
second, it seemed to those in the room that two women were singing--the
one with a voice low and rich and penetrating, the other voice clear and
sweet like the singing of a young girl. "_Die Luft ist kuhl und es
dunkelt, und ruhig fliesset der Rhein._" Was it, indeed, Kathchen and
her mother? Were they far away in the beautiful pine-land, with the
quiet evening shining red over the green woods, and darkness coming over
the pale streams in the hollows? When Natalie Lind ceased, the elder of
the two guests murmured to himself, "Wonderful! wonderful!" The other
did not speak at all.

She rested her hands for a moment on the table.

"Natalushka," said her father, "is that all?"

"I will not be called Natalushka, papa," said she; but again she bent
her hands over the silver strings.

And these brighter and gayer airs now--surely they are from the laughing
and light-hearted South? Have we not heard them under the cool shade of
the olive-trees, with the hot sun blazing on the garden-paths of the
Villa Reale; and the children playing; and the band busy with its
dancing _canzoni_, the gay notes drowning the murmur and plash of the
fountains near? Look now!--far beneath the gray shadow of the
olive-trees--the deep blue band of the sea; and there the double-sailed
barca, like a yellow butterfly hovering on the water; and there the
large martingallo, bound for the cloud-like island on the horizon. Are
they singing, then, as they speed over the glancing waves?... "_O dolce
Napoli! O suol beato!_" ... for what can they sing at all, as they leave
us, if they do not sing the pretty, tender, tinkling "Santa Lucia?"

    "Venite all' agile
     Barchetta mia!
     Santa Lucia!
     Santa Lucia!"

... The notes grow fainter and fainter. Are the tall maidens of Capri
already looking out for the swarthy sailors, that these turn no longer
to the shores they are leaving?... "_O dolce Napoli! O suol beato!_" ...
Fainter and fainter grow the notes on the trembling string, so that you
can scarcely tell them from the cool plashing of the fountains ...
"_Santa Lucia!... Santa Lucia!_"....

"Natalushka," said her father, laughing, "you must take us to Venice
now."

The young Hungarian girl rose, and put the zither aside.

"It is an amusement for the children," she said.

She went to the piano, which was open, and took down a piece of
music--it was Kucken's "Maid of Judah." Now, hitherto, George Brand had
only heard her murmur a low, harmonious second to one or other of the
airs she had been playing; and he was quite unprepared for the passion
and fervor which her rich, deep, resonant, contralto voice threw into
this wail of indignation and despair. This was the voice of a woman, not
of a girl; and it was with the proud passion of a woman that she seemed
to send this cry to Heaven for reparation, and justice, and revenge. And
surely it was not only of the sorrows of the land of Judah she was
thinking!--it was a wider cry--the cry of the oppressed, and the
suffering, and the heart-broken in every clime--

    "O blest native land! O fatherland mine!
     How long for thy refuge in vain shall I pine?"

He could have believed there were tears in her eyes just then; but there
were none, he knew, when she came to the fierce piteous appeal that
followed--

    "Where, where are thy proud sons, so lordly in might?
     All mown down and fallen in blood-welling fight!
     Thy cities are ruin, thy valleys lie waste,
     Their summer enchantment the foe hath erased.
       O blest native land! how long shalt decline?
     When, when will the Lord cry, 'Revenge, it is Mine!'"

The zither speaks; but there is a speech beyond that of the zither. The
penetrating vibration of this rich and pathetic voice was a thing not
easily to be forgotten. When the two friends left the house, they found
themselves in the chill darkness of an English night in February. Surely
it must have seemed to them that they had been dwelling for a period in
warmer climes, with gay colors, and warmth, and sweet sounds around
them. They walked for some time in silence.

"Well," said Lord Evelyn, at last, "what do you think of them?"

"I don't know," said the other, after a pause. "I am puzzled. How did
you come to know them?"

"I came to know Lind through a newspaper reporter called O'Halloran. I
should like to introduce you to him too."

George Brand soon afterward parted from his friend, and walked away down
to his silent rooms over the river. The streets were dark and deserted,
and the air was still; yet there seemed somehow to be a tremulous,
passionate, distant sound in the night. It was no tinkling "Santa Lucia"
dying away over the blue seas in the south. It was no dull, sonorous
bell, suggesting memories of the far Campagna. Was it not rather the
quick, responsive echo that had involuntarily arisen in his own heart,
when he heard Natalie Lind's thrilling voice pour forth that proud and
indignant appeal,

    "When, when will the Lord cry, 'Revenge, it is Mine!'"



CHAPTER IV.

A STRANGER.


Ferdinand Lind was in his study, busy with his morning letters. It was a
nondescript little den, which he also used as library and smoking-room;
its chief feature being a collection of portraits--a most heterogeneous
assortment of engravings, photographs, woodcuts, and terra-cotta busts.
Wherever the book-shelves ceased, these began; and as there were a
great number of them, and as the room was small, Mr. Lind's friends or
historical heroes sometimes came into odd juxtaposition. In any case,
they formed a strange assemblage--Arndt and Korner; Stein; Silvio
Pellico and Karl Sand cheek by jowl; Pestal, Comte, Cromwell, Garibaldi,
Marx, Mazzini, Bem, Kossuth, Lassalle, and many another writer and
fighter. A fine engraving of Napoleon as First Consul was hung over the
mantel-piece, a pipe-rack intervening between it and a fac-simile of the
warrant for the execution of Charles I.

Something in his correspondence had obviously annoyed the occupant of
this little study. His brows were bent down, and he kept his foot
nervously and impatiently tapping on the floor. When some one knocked,
he said, "Come in!" almost angrily, though he must have known who was
his visitor.

"Good-morning, papa!" said the tall Hungarian girl, coming into the room
with a light step and a smile of welcome on her face.

"Good-morning, Natalie!" said he, without looking up. "I am busy this
morning."

"Oh, but, papa," said she, going over, and stooping down and kissing
him, "you must let me come and thank you for the flowers. They are more
beautiful than ever this time."

"What flowers?" said he, impatiently.

"Why," she said, with a look of astonishment, "have you forgotten
already? The flowers you always send for my birthday morning."

But instantly she changed her tone.

"Ah! I see. Good little children must not ask where the fairy gifts come
from. There, I will not disturb you, papa."

She touched his shoulder caressingly as she passed.

"But thank you again, papa Santa Claus."

At breakfast, Ferdinand Lind seemed to have entirely recovered his
good-humor.

"I had forgotten for the moment it was your birthday, Natalie," said he.
"You are quite a grown woman now."

Nothing, however, was said about the flowers, though the beautiful
basket stood on a side-table, filling the room with its perfume. After
breakfast, Mr. Lind left for his office, his daughter setting about her
domestic duties.

At twelve o'clock she was ready to go out for her accustomed morning
walk. The pretty little Anneli, her companion on these excursions, was
also ready; and together they set forth. They chatted frankly together
in German--the ordinary relations between mistress and servant never
having been properly established in this case. For one thing, they had
been left to depend on each other's society during many a long evening
in foreign towns, when Mr. Lind was away on his own business. For
another, Natalie Lind had, somehow or other, and quite unaided, arrived
at the daring conclusion that servants were human beings; and she had
been taught to regard human beings as her brothers and sisters, some
more fortunate than others, no doubt, but the least fortunate having the
greatest claim on her.

"Fraulein," said the little Saxon maid, "it was I myself who took in the
beautiful flowers that came for you this morning."

"Yes?"

"Yes, indeed; and I thought it was very strange for a lady to be out so
early in the morning."

"A lady!" said Natalie Lind, with a quick surprise. "Not dressed all in
black?"

"Yes, indeed, she was dressed all in black."

The girl was silent for a second or two. Then she said, with a smile,

"It is not right for my father to send me a black messenger on my
birthday--it is not a good omen. And it was the same last year when we
were in Paris; the _concierge_ told me. Birthday gifts should come with
a white fairy, you know, Anneli--all silver and bells."

"Fraulein," said the little German girl, gravely, "I do not think the
lady who came this morning would bring you any ill fortune, for she
spoke with such gentleness when she asked about you."

"When she asked about me? What was she like, then, this black
messenger?"

"How could I see, Fraulein?--her veil was so thick. But her hair was
gray; I could see that. And she had a beautiful figure--not quite as
tall as you, Fraulein; I watched her as she went away."

"I am not sure that it is safe, Anneli, to watch the people whom Santa
Claus sends," the young mistress said, lightly. "However, you have not
told me what the strange lady said to you."

"That will I now tell you, Fraulein," said the other, with an air of
importance. "Well, when I heard the knock at the door, I went instantly;
I thought it was strange to hear a knock so early, instead of the bell.
Then there was the lady; and she did not ask who lived there, but she
said, 'Miss Lind is not up yet? But then, Fraulein, you must
understand, she did not speak like that, for it was in English, and she
spoke very slowly, as if it was with difficulty. I would have said,
'Will the _gnadige Frau_ be pleased to speak German?' but I was afraid
it might be impertinent for a maid-servant to address a lady so.
Besides, Fraulein, she might have been a French lady, and not able to
understand our German."

"Quite so, Anneli. Well?"

"Then I told her I believed you were still in your room. Then she said,
still speaking very slowly, as if it was all learned, 'Will you be so
kind as to put those flowers just outside her room, so that she will get
them when she comes out?' And I said I would do that. Then she said, 'I
hope Miss Lind is very well;' and I said, 'Oh yes.' She stood for a
moment just then, Fraulein, as if not knowing whether to go away or not;
and then she asked again if you were quite well and strong and cheerful,
and again I said, 'Oh yes;' and no sooner had I said that than she put
something into my hand and went away. Would you believe it, Fraulein? it
was a sovereign--an English golden sovereign. And so I ran after her and
said, 'Lady, this is a mistake,' and I offered her the sovereign. That
was right, was it not, Fraulein?"

"Certainly."

"Well, she did not speak to me at all this time. I think the poor lady
has less English even than I myself; but she closed my hand over the
sovereign, and then patted me on the arm, and went away. It was then
that I looked after her. I said to myself, 'Well, there is only one lady
that I know who has a more beautiful figure than that--that is my
mistress.' But she was not so tall as you, Fraulein."

Natalie Lind paid no attention to this adroit piece of flattery on the
part of her little Saxon maid.

"It is very extraordinary, Anneli," she said, after awhile; then she
added, "I hope the piece of gold you have will not turn to dust and
ashes."

"Look at it, Fraulein," said Anneli, taking out her purse and producing
a sound and solid English coin, about which there appeared to be no
demonology or witchcraft whatsoever.

They had by this time got into Park Lane; and here the young mistress's
speculations about the mysterious messenger of Santa Claus were suddenly
cut short by something more immediate and more practical. There was a
small boy of about ten engaged in pulling a wheelbarrow which was
heavily laden with large baskets--probably containing washing; and he
was toiling manfully with a somewhat hopeless task. How he had got so
far it was impossible to say; but now that his strength was exhausted,
he was trying all sorts of ineffectual dodges--even tilting up the
barrow and endeavoring to haul it by the legs--to get the thing along.

"If I were a man," said Natalie Lind, "I would help that boy."

Then she stepped from the pavement.

"Little boy," she said, "where are you taking that barrow?"

The London _gamin_, always on the watch for sarcasm, stopped and stared
at her. Then he took off his cap and wiped his forehead; it was warm
work, though this was a chill February morning. Finally he said,

"Well, I'm agoin' to Warrington Crescent, Maida Vale. But if it's when I
am likely to git there--bust me if I know."

She looked about. There was a good, sturdy specimen of the London loafer
over at the park railings, with both hands up at his mouth, trying to
light his pipe. She went across to him.

"I will give you half a crown if you will pull that barrow to Warrington
Crescent, Maida Vale." There was no hesitation in her manner; she looked
the loafer fair in the face.

He instantly took the pipe from his mouth, and made some slouching
attempt at touching his cap.

"Thank ye, miss. Thank ye kindly"--and away the barrow went, with the
small boy manfully pushing behind.

The tall, black-eyed Hungarian girl and her rosy-cheeked attendant now
turned into the Park. There were a good many people riding by--fathers
with their daughters, elderly gentlemen very correctly dressed, smart
young men with a little tawny mustache, clear blue eyes, and square
shoulders.

"Many of those Englishmen are very handsome," said the young mistress,
by chance.

"Not like the Austrians, Fraulein," said Anneli.

"The Austrians? What do you know about the Austrians?" said the other,
sharply.

"When my uncle was ill at Prague, Fraulein," the girl said, "my mother
took me there to see him. We used to go out to the river, and go
half-way over the tall bridge, and then down to the 'Sofien-Insel.' Ah,
the beautiful place!--with the music, and the walks under the trees; and
there we used to see the Austrian officers. These _were_ handsome, with
there beautiful uniforms, and waists like a girl; and the beautiful
gloves they wore, too!--even when they were smoking cigarettes."

Natalie Lind was apparently thinking of other things. She neither
rebuked nor approved Anneli's speech; though it was hard that the little
Saxon maid should have preferred to the sturdy, white-haired,
fair-skinned warriors of her native land the elegant young gentlemen of
Francis Joseph's army.

"They are handsome, those Englishmen," Natalie Lind was saying, almost
to herself, "and very rich and brave; but they have no sympathy. All
their fighting for their liberty is over and gone; they cannot believe
there is any oppression now anywhere; and they think that those who wish
to help the sufferers of the world are only discontented and fanatic--a
trouble--an annoyance. And they are hard with the poor people and the
weak; they think it is wrong--that you have done wrong--if you are not
well off and strong like themselves. I wonder if that was really an
English lady who wrote the 'Cry of the Children.'"

"I beg your pardon, Fraulein."

"Nothing, Anneli. I was wondering why so rich a nation as the English
should have so many poor people among them--and such miserable poor
people; there is nothing like it in the world."

They were walking along the broad road leading to the Marble Arch,
between the leafless trees. Suddenly the little Saxon girl exclaimed, in
an excited whisper,

"Fraulein! Fraulein!"

"What is it, Anneli?"

"The lady--the lady who came with the flowers--she is behind us. Yes; I
am sure."

The girl's mistress glanced quickly round. Some distance behind them
there was certainly a lady dressed altogether in black, who, the moment
she perceived that these two were regarding her, turned aside, and
pretended to pick up something from the grass.

"Fraulein, Fraulein," said Anneli, eagerly; "let us sit down on this
seat. Do not look at her. She will pass."

The sudden presence of this stranger, about whom she had been thinking
so much, had somewhat unnerved her; she obeyed this suggestion almost
mechanically; and waited with her heart throbbing. For an instant or two
it seemed as if that dark figure along by the trees were inclined to
turn and leave; but presently Natalie Lind knew rather than saw that
this slender and graceful woman with the black dress and the deep veil
was approaching her. She came nearer; for a second she came closer; some
little white thing was dropped into the girl's lap, and the stranger
passed quickly on.

"Anneli, Anneli," the young mistress said, "the lady has dropped her
locket! Run with it--quick!"

"No, Fraulein," said the other, quite as breathlessly, "she meant it for
you. Oh, look, Fraulein!--look at the poor lady--she is crying."

The sharp eyes of the younger girl were right. Surely that slender
figure was being shaken with sobs as it hurried away and was lost among
the groups coming through the Marble Arch! Natalie Lind sat there as one
stupefied--breathless, silent, trembling. She had not looked at the
locket at all.

"Anneli," she said, in a low voice, "was that the same lady? Are you
sure?"

"Certain, Fraulein," said her companion, eagerly.

"She must be very unhappy," said the girl. "I think, too, she was
crying."

Then she looked at the trinket that the stranger had dropped into her
lap. It was an old-fashioned silver locket formed in the shape of a
heart, and ornamented with the most delicate filagree work; in the
centre of it was the letter N in old German text. When Natalie Lind
opened it, she found inside only a small piece of paper, on which was
written, in foreign-looking characters, "_From Natalie to Natalushka_."

"Anneli, she knows my name!" the girl exclaimed.

"Would you not like to speak to the poor lady, Fraulein?" said the
little German maid, who was very much excited, too. "And do you not
think she is sure to come this way again--to morrow, next day, some
other day? Perhaps she is ill or suffering, or she may have lost some
one whom you resemble--how can one tell?"



CHAPTER V.

PIONEERS.


Before sitting down to breakfast, on this dim and dreary morning in
February, George Brand went to one of the windows of his sitting-room
and looked abroad on the busy world without. Busy indeed it seemed to
be--the steamers hurrying up and down the river, hansoms whirling along
the Embankment, heavily laden omnibuses chasing each other across
Waterloo Bridge, the underground railway from time to time rumbling
beneath those wintry-looking gardens, and always and everywhere the
ceaseless murmur of a great city. In the midst of all this eager
activity, he was only a spectator. Busy enough the world around him
seemed to be; he alone was idle.

Well, what had he to look forward to on this dull day, when once he had
finished his breakfast and his newspapers? It had already begun to
drizzle; there was to be no saunter up to the park. He would stroll
along to his club, and say "Good morning" to one or two acquaintances.
Perhaps he would glance at some more newspapers. Perhaps, tired of
reading news that did not interest, and forming opinions never to be
translated into action, he would take refuge in the library. Somehow,
anyhow, he would desperately tide over the morning till lunch-time.

Luncheon would be a break; but after--? He had not been long enough in
England to become familiar with the whist-set; similarly, he had been
too long abroad to be proficient in English billiards, even if he had
been willing to make either whist or pool the pursuit of his life. As
for afternoon calls and tea-drinking, that may be an interesting
occupation for young gentlemen in search of a wife, but it is too
ghastly a business for one who has no such views. What then? More
newspapers? More tedious lounging in the hushed library? Or how were the
"impracticable hours" to be disposed of before came night and sleep?

George Brand did not stay to consider that, when a man in the prime of
health and vigor, possessed of an ample fortune, unfettered by anybody's
will but his own, and burdened by neither remorse nor regret,
nevertheless begins to find life a thing too tedious to be borne, there
must be a cause for it. On the contrary, instead of asking himself any
questions, he set about getting through the daily programme with an
Englishman's determination to be prepared for the worst. He walked up to
his club, the Waldegrave, in Pall Mall. In the morning-room there were
only two or three old gentlemen, seated in easy-chairs near the fire,
and grumbling in a loud voice--for apparently one or two were rather
deaf--about the weather. Brand glanced at a few more newspapers. Then a
happy idea occurred to him; he would go up to the smoking-room and smoke
a cigarette.

In this vast hall of a place there were only two persons--one standing
with his back to the fire, the other lying back in an easy-chair. The
one was a florid, elderly gentleman, who was first cousin to a junior
Lord of the Treasury, and therefore claimed to be a profound authority
on politics, home and foreign. He was a harmless poor devil enough, from
whom a merciful Providence had concealed the fact that his brain-power
was of the smallest. His companion, reclining in the easy-chair, was a
youthful Fine Art Professor; a gelatinous creature, a bundle of languid
affectations, with the added and fluttering self-consciousness of a
school-miss. He was absently assenting to the propositions of the florid
gentleman; but it is probable that his soul was elsewhere.

These propositions were to the effect that leading articles in a
newspaper were a mere impertinence; that he himself never read such
things; that the business of a newspaper was to supply news; and that an
intelligent Englishman was better capable of forming a judgment on
public affairs than the hacks of a newspaper-office. The intelligent
Englishman then proceeded to deliver his own judgment on the question of
the day, which turned out to be--to Mr. Brand's great surprise--nothing
more nor less than a blundering and inaccurate _resume_ of the opinions
expressed in a leading article in that morning's _Times_. At length this
one-sided conversation between a jackanapes and a jackass became too
intolerable for Brand, who threw away his cigarette, and descended once
more into the hall.

"A gentleman wishes to see you, sir," said a boy; and at the same moment
he caught sight of Lord Evelyn.

"Thank God!" he exclaimed, hurrying forward to shake his friend by the
hand. "Come, Evelyn, what are you up to? I can't stand England any
longer; will you take a run with me?--Algiers, Egypt, anywhere you like.
Let us drop down to Dover in the afternoon, and settle it there. Or what
do you say to the Riviera? we should be sure to run against some people
at one or other of the towns. Upon my life, if you had not turned up, I
think I should have cut my throat before lunch-time."

"I have got something better for you to do than that," said the other;
"I want you to see O'Halloran. Come along; I have a hansom here. We
shall just catch him at Atkinson's, the book-shop, you know."

"Very well; all right," Brand said, briskly: this seemed to be rather a
more cheerful business than cutting one's throat.

"He's at his telegraph-wire all night," Lord Evelyn said, in the hansom.
"Then he lies down for a few hours' sleep on a sofa. Then he goes along
to his rooms in Pimlico for breakfast; but at Atkinson's he generally
stops for awhile on his way, to have his morning drink."

"Oh, is that the sort of person?"

"Don't make any mistake. O'Halloran may be eccentric in his ways of
living, but he is one of the most remarkable men I have ever run
against. His knowledge, his reading--politics, philosophy, everything,
in short--the brilliancy of his talking when he gets excited, even the
extraordinary variety of his personal acquaintance--why, there is
nothing going on that he does not know about."

"But why has this Hibernian genius done nothing at all?"

"Why? You might as well try to kindle a fire with a flash of lightning.
He has more political knowledge and more power of brilliant writing than
half the editors in London put together; but he would ruin any paper in
twenty-four hours. His first object would probably be to frighten his
readers out of their wits by some monstrous paradox; his next to show
them what fools they had been. I don't know how he has been kept on so
long where he is, unless it be that he deals with news only. I believe
he had to be withdrawn from the gallery of the House; he was very
impatient over the prosy members and his remarks about them began to
reach the Speaker's ear too frequently."

"I gather, then, that he is merely a clever, idle, Irish vagabond, who
drinks."

"He does not drink. And as for his Irish name I suppose he must be Irish
either by descent or birth; but he is continually abusing Ireland and
the Irish. Probably, however, he would not let anybody else do so."

Mr. Atkinson's book-shop in the Strand was a somewhat dingy-looking
place, filled with publications mostly of an exceedingly advanced
character. Mr. Atkinson himself claimed to be a bit of a reformer; and
had indeed brought himself, on one or two occasions, within reach of the
law by issuing pamphlets of a somewhat too fearless aim. On this
occasion he was not in the shop; so the two friends passed through,
ascended a dark little stair, and entered a room which smelled strongly
of tobacco-smoke.

The solitary occupant of this chamber, to whom Brand was immediately
introduced, was a man of about fifty, carelessly if not even shabbily
dressed, with large masses of unkempt hair, and eyes, dark gray,
deep-set, that had very markedly the look of the eyes of a lion. The
face was worn and pallid, but when lit up with excitement it was capable
of much expression; and Mr. O'Halloran, when he did become excited, got
very much excited indeed. He had laid aside his pipe, and was just
finishing his gin and soda-water, taken from Mr. Atkinson's private
store.

However, the lion so seldom roars when it is expected to roar. Instead
of the extraordinary creature whom Lord Evelyn had been describing,
Brand found merely an Irish newspaper-reporter, who was either tired, or
indifferent, or sleepy. They talked about some current topic of the hour
for a few minutes; and then Mr. O'Halloran, with a yawn, rose and said
he must go home for breakfast.

"Stay a bit, O'Halloran," Lord Evelyn said, in despair; "I--I
wanted--the fact is, Mr. Brand has been asking me about Ferdinand
Lind--"

"Oh," said the bushy-headed man, with a quick glance of scrutiny at the
tall Englishman. "No, no," he added, with a smile, addressing himself
directly to Brand, "it is no use your touching anything of that kind.
You would want to know too much. You would want to have the earth dug
away from over the catacombs before you went below to follow a solitary
guide with a bit of candle. You could never be brought to understand
that the cardinal principle of all secret societies has been that
obedience is an end and aim in itself, and faith the chiefest of all the
virtues. You wouldn't take anything on trust; you have the pure English
temperament."

Brand laughed, and said nothing. But O'Halloran sat down again, and
began to talk in an idle, hap-hazard sort of fashion of the various
secret societies, religious, social, political that had become known to
the world; and of their aims, and their working, and how they had so
often fallen away into the mere preservation of mummeries, or declared
themselves only by the commission of useless deeds of revenge.

"Ah," said Brand, eagerly, "that is precisely what I have been urging on
Lord Evelyn. How can you know, in joining such an association, that you
are not becoming the accomplices of men who are merely planning
assassination? And what good can come of that? How are you likely to
gain anything by the dagger? The great social and political changes of
the world come in tides; you can neither retard them nor help them by
sticking pins in the sand."

"I am not so sure," said the other, doubtfully. "A little wholesome
terrorism has sometimes played its part. The 1868 amnesty to the Poles
in Siberia was not so long after--not more than a year after, I
think--that little business of Berezowski. Faith, what a chance that man
had!"

"Who?"

"Berezowski," said he, with an air of contemplation. "The two biggest
scoundrels in the world in one carriage; and he had two shots at them.
Well, well, Orsini succeeded better."

"Succeeded?" said George Brand. "Do you call that success? He had the
reward that he richly merited, at all events."

"You do not think he was successful?" he said, calmly. "Then you do not
know how the kingdom of Italy came by its liberty. Who do you think was
the founder of that kingdom of Italy?--which God preserve till it become
something better than a kingdom! Not Cavour, with all his wiliness; not
your Galantuomo, the warrior who wrote up Aspromonte in the face of all
the world as the synonyme for the gratitude of kings; not Garibaldi,
who, in spite of Aspromonte, has become now merely the _concierge_ to
the House of Savoy. The founder of the kingdom of Italy was Felix
Orsini--and whether heaven or hell contains him, I drink his health!"

He suited the action to the word. Brand looked on, not much impressed.

"That is all nonsense, O'Halloran!" Lord Evelyn said, bluntly.

"I tell you," O'Halloran said, with some vehemence, "that the 14th of
January, 1858, kept Louis Napoleon in such a state of tremor, that he
would have done a good deal more than lend his army to Sardinia to sweep
the Austrians out rather than abandon himself to the fate that Cavour
plainly and distinctly indicated. But for the threat of another dose of
Orsini pills, do you think you would ever have heard of Magenta and
Solferino?"

He seemed to rouse himself a bit now.

"No," he said, "I do not approve of assassination as a political weapon.
It seldom answers. But it has always been the policy of absolute
governments, and of their allies the priests and the police, to
attribute any murders that might occur to the secret societies, and so
to terrify stupid people. It is one of the commonest slanders in
history. Why, everybody knows how Fouche humbugged the First Napoleon,
and got up vague plots to prove that he, and he alone, knew what was
going on. When Karl Sand killed Kotzebue--oh, of course, that was a fine
excuse for the German kings and princes to have another raid against
free speech, though Sand declared he had nothing in the world to do with
either the Tugendbund or any such society. Who now believes that Young
Italy killed Count Rossi? Rossi was murdered by the agents of the
clericals; it was distinctly proved. But any stick is good enough to
beat a dog with. No matter what the slander is, so long as you can get
up a charge, either for the imprisoning of a dangerous enemy or for
terrifying the public mind. You yourself, Mr. Brand--I can see that your
only notion of the innumerable secret societies now in Europe is that
they will probably assassinate people. That's what they said about the
Carbonari too. The objects of the Carbonari were plain as plain could
be; but no sooner had General Pepe kicked out Ferdinand and put in a
constitutional monarch, than Austria must needs attribute every murder
that was committed, to those detestable Carbonari, so that she should
call upon Prussia and Russia to join her in strangling the infant
liberties of Europe. You see, we can't get at those Royal slanderers. We
can get at a man like Sir James Graham, when we force him to apologize
in the House of Commons for having said that Mazzini instigated the
assassination of the spies Emiliani and Lazzareschi."'

"But, good heavens!" exclaimed Brand, "does anybody doubt that that was
a political double murder?"

O'Halloran shrugged his shoulders, and smiled.

"You may call it murder if you like; others might call it a fitting
punishment. But all I was asking you to do was to remove from your mind
that bugbear that the autocratic governments of Europe have created for
their own uses. No secret society--if you except those Nihilists, who
appear to have gone mad altogether--I say, no secret society of the
present day recognizes political assassination as a normal or desirable
weapon; though it may have to be resorted to in extreme cases. You, as
an individual, might, in certain circumstances, lawfully kill a man; but
that is neither the custom, nor the object, nor the chief thought of
your life."

"And are there many of these societies?" Brand asked.

O'Halloran had carelessly lit himself another pipe.

"Europe is honey-combed with them. They are growing in secret as rapidly
as some kindred societies are growing in the open. Look at the German
socialists--in 1871 they polled only 120,000 votes; in 1874 they polled
340,000: I imagine that Herr Furst von Bismarck will find some
difficulty in suppressing that Frankenstein monster he coquetted so long
with. Then the Knights of Labor in America: you will hear something of
them by-and-by, or I am mistaken. In secret and in the open alike there
is a vast power growing and growing, increasing in volume and bulk from
hour to hour, from year to year, God only knows in what fashion it will
reveal itself. But you may depend on it that when the spark does spring
out of the cloud--when the clearance of the atmosphere is due--people
will look back on 1688, and 1798, and 1848 as mere playthings. The Great
Revolution is still to come; it may be nearer than some imagine."

He had grown more earnest, both in his manner and his speech.

"Well," George Brand said, "timid people may reassure themselves. Where
there are so many societiets, there will be as many different aims.
Some, like the wilder German socialists, will want a general
participation of property; others a demolition of the churches and
crucifixion of the priests; others the establishment of a Universal
Republic. There may be a great deal of powder stored up, but it will all
go off in different directions, in little fireworks."

A quick light gleamed in those deep-set, lion-like eyes.

"Very well said!" was the scornful comment. "The Czar himself could not
have expressed his belief, or at least his hope, more neatly. But let me
tell you, sir, that the masses of mankind are not such hopeless idiots
as are some of the feather-headed orators and writers who speak for
them; and that you will appeal to them in vain if you do not appeal to
their sense of justice, and their belief in right, and in the eternal
laws of God. You may have a particular crowd go mad, or a particular
city go mad; but the heart of the people beats true, and if you desire a
great political change, you must appeal to their love of fair and honest
dealing as between man and man. And even if the aims of these societies
are diverse, what then? What would you think, now, if it were possible
to construct a common platform, where certain aims at least could be
accepted by all, and become bonds to unite those who are hoping for
better things all over the earth? That did not occur to you as a
possible thing, perhaps? You have only studied the ways of kings and
governments--each one for itself. 'Come over my boundary, and I will
cleave your head; or, rather, I will send my common people to do it, for
a little blood-letting from time to time is good for that vile and
ignorant body.' But the vile and ignorant body may begin to tire of that
recurrent blood-letting, and might perhaps even say, 'Brother across the
boundary, I have no quarrel with you. You are poor and ignorant like
myself; the travail of the earth lies hard on you; I would rather give
you my hand. If I have any quarrel, surely it is with the tyrants of the
earth, who have kept both you and me enslaved; who have taken away our
children from us; who have left us scarcely bread. How long, O Lord, how
long? We are tired of the reign of Cæsar; we are beaten down with it;
who will help us now to establish the reign of Christ?"

He rose. Despite the unkempt hair, this man looked quite handsome now,
while this serious look was in his face. Brand began to perceive whence
his friend Evelyn had derived at least some of his inspiration.

"Meanwhile," O'Halloran said, with a light, scornful laugh,
"Christianity has been of excellent service to Cæsar; it has been the
big policeman of Europe. Do you think these poor wretches would have
been so patient if they had not believed there was some compensation
reserved for them beyond the grave? They would have had Cæsar by the
throat by this time."

"Then that scheme of co-operation you mentioned," Brand said, somewhat
hastily--for he saw that O'Halloran was about to leave--"that is what
Ferdinand Lind is working at?"

The other started.

"I cannot give you any information on that point," said O'Halloran,
gravely. "And I do not think you are likely to get much anywhere if you
are only moved by curiosity, however sympathetic and well-wishing."

He took up his hat and stick.

"Good-bye, Mr. Brand," said he; and he looked at him with a kindly look.
"As far as I can judge, you are now in the position of a man at a partly
opened door, half afraid to enter, and too curious to draw back. Well,
my advice to you is--Draw back. Or at least remember this: that before
you enter that room you must be without doubt--_and without fear_."



CHAPTER VI.

BON VOYAGE!


Fear he had none. His life was not so valuable to him that he would have
hesitated about throwing himself into any forlorn-hope, provided that he
was satisfied of the justice of the cause. He had dabbled a little in
philosophy, and not only believed that the ordinary altruistic instincts
of mankind could be traced to a purely utilitarian origin, but also
that, on the same theory, the highest form of personal gratification
might be found in the severest form, of self-sacrifice. He did not pity
a martyr; he envied him. But before the martyr's joy must come the
martyr's faith. Without that enthusiastic belief in the necessity and
nobleness and value of the sacrifice, what could there be but physical
pain and the despair of a useless death?

But, if he had no fear, he had a superabundance of doubt. He had not all
the pliable, receptive, imaginative nature of his friend, Lord Evelyn.
He had more than the ordinary Englishman's distrust of secrecy. He was
not to be won over by the visions of a St. Simon, the eloquence of a
Fourier, the epigrams of a Proudhon: these were to him but intellectual
playthings, of no practical value. It was, doubtless, a novelty for a
young man brought up as Lord Evelyn had been to associate with a
gin-drinking Irish reporter, and to regard him as the mysterious apostle
of a new creed; Brand only saw in O'Halloran a light-headed,
imaginative, talkative person, as safe to trust to for guidance as a
will-o'-the-wisp. It is true that for the time being he had been
thrilled by the passionate fervor of Natalie Lind's singing; and many a
time since he could have fancied that he heard in the stillness of the
night that pathetic and vibrating appeal--

    "When, when will the Lord cry, 'Revenge, it is mine?'"

But he dissociated her from her father's schemes altogether. No doubt
she was moved by the generous enthusiasm of a young girl. She had a
warm, human, sympathetic heart; the cry of the poor and the suffering
appealed to her; and she was confident in the success of projects of
which she had been prudently kept ignorant. This was George Brand's
reading. He would not have Natalie Lind associated with Leicester Square
and a lot of garlic-eating revolutionaries.

"But who is this man Lind?" he asked, impatiently, of Lord Evelyn. He
had driven up to his friend's house in Clarges Street, had had luncheon
with him, and they were now smoking a cigarette in the library.

"You mean his nationality?" said his friend, laughing. "That has puzzled
me, too. He seems, at all events, to have had his finger in a good many
pies. He escaped into Turkey with Bem, I know: and he has been
imprisoned in Russia; and once or twice I have heard him refer to the
amnesty that was proclaimed when Louis Napoleon was presented with an
heir. But whether he is Pole, or Jew, or Slav, there is no doubt about
his daughter being a thorough Hungarian."

"Not the least," said Brand, with decision. "I have seen lots of women
of that type in Pesth, and in Vienna, too: if you are walking in the
Prater you can always tell the Hungarian women as they drive past. But
you rarely see one as beautiful as she is."

After awhile Lord Evelyn said,

"This is Natalie's birthday. By-and-by I am going along to Bond Street
to buy some little thing for her."

"Then she allows you to make her presents?" Brand said, somewhat coldly.

"She and I are like brother and sister now," said the pale, deformed
lad, without hesitation. "If I were ill, I think she would be glad to
come and look after me."

"You have already plenty of sisters who would do that.'"

"By-the-way, they are coming to town next week with my mother. You must
come and dine with us some night, if you are not afraid to face the
chatter of such a lot of girls."

"Have they seen Miss Lind?"

"No, not yet."

"And how will you explain your latest craze to them, Evelyn? They are
very nice girls indeed, you know; but--but--when they set full cry on
you--I suppose some day I shall have to send them a copy of a newspaper
from abroad, with this kind of thing in it: '_Compeared yesterday before
the Correctional Tribunal, Earnest Francis D'Agincourt, Baron Evelyn,
charged with having in his possession two canisters of an explosive
compound and fourteen empty missiles. Further, among the correspondence
of the accused was found--_'"

"'_A letter from an Englishman named Brand_,'" continued Lord Evelyn, as
he rose and went to the window, "'_apparently written under the
influence of nightmare._' Come, Brand, I see the carriage is below. Will
you drive with me to the jeweller's?"

"Certainly," said his friend; and at this moment the carriage was
announced. "I suppose it wouldn't do for me to buy the thing? You know I
have more money to spend on trinkets than you have."

They were very intimate friends indeed. Lord Evelyn only said, with a
smile,

"I am afraid Natalie wouldn't like it."

But this choosing of a birthday present was a terrible business. The
jeweller was as other jewellers: his designs were mostly limited to the
representation of two objects--a butterfly for a woman, and a horseshoe
for a man. At last Brand, who had been walking about from time to time,
espied, in a distant case, an object which instantly attracted his
attention. It was a flat piece of wood or board, covered with blue
velvet; and on this had been twined an unknown number of yards of the
beautiful thread-like gold chain common to the jewellers' shop-windows
in Venice.

"Here you are, Evelyn," Brand said at once. "Why not buy a lot of this
thin chain, and let her make it into any sort of decoration that she
chooses?"

"It is an ignominious way out of the difficulty," said the other: but he
consented; and yard after yard of the thread-like chain was unrolled.
When allowed to drop together, it seemed to go into no compass at all.

They went outside.

"What are you going to do now, Brand?"

The other was looking cheerless enough.

"I?" he said, with the slightest possible shrug. "I suppose I must go
down to the club, and yawn away the time till dinner."

"Then why not come with me? I have a commission or two from my
sisters--one as far out as Notting Hill; but after that we can drive
back through the Park and call on the Linds. I dare say Lind will be
home by that time."

Lord Evelyn's friend was more than delighted. As they drove from place
to place he was a good deal more talkative than was his wont; and, among
other things, confessed his belief that Ferdinand Lind seemed much too
hard-headed a man to be engaged in mere visionary enterprises. But
somehow the conversation generally came round to Mr. Lind's daughter;
and Brand seemed very anxious to find out to what degree she was
cognizant of her father's schemes. On this point Lord Evelyn knew
nothing.

At last they arrived at the house in Curzon Street, and found Mr. Lind
just on the point of entering. He stayed to receive them; went up-stairs
with them to the drawing-room, and then begged them to excuse him for a
few minutes. Presently Natalie Lind appeared.

How this man envied his friend Evelyn the frank, sister-like way in
which she took the little present, and thanked him, for that and his
kind wishes!

"Ah, do you know," she said, "what a strange birthday gift I had given
me this morning? See!"

She brought over the old-fashioned silver locket, and told them the
whole story.

"Is it not strange?" she said. "'_From Natalie to Natalushka_:' that is,
from myself to myself. What can it mean?"

"Have you not asked your father, then, about his mysterious messenger?"
Brand said. He was always glad to ask this girl a question, for she
looked him so straight in the face with her soft, dark eyes, as she
answered,

"He has only now come home. I will directly."

"But why does your father call you Natalushka, Natalie?" asked Lord
Evelyn.

There was the slightest blush on the pale, clear face.

"It was a nickname they gave me, I am told, when I was child. They used
to make me angry."

"And now, if one were to call you Natalushka?"

"My anger would be too terrible," she said, with a smile. "Papa alone
dares to do that."

Presently her father came into the room.

"Oh, papa," said she, "I have discovered who the lady is whom you got to
bring me the flowers. And see! she has given me this strange little
locket. Look at the inscription--'_From Natalie to Natalushka_.'"

Lind only glanced at the locket. His eyes were fixed on the girl.

"Where did you see the--the lady?" he asked, coldly.

"In the Park. But she did not stay a moment, or speak; she hurried on,
and Anneli thought she was crying. I almost think so too. Who was it,
papa? May I speak to her, if I see her again?"

Mr. Lind turned aside for a moment. Brand, who was narrowly watching
him, was convinced that the man was in a passion of rage. But when he
turned again he was outwardly calm.

"You will do nothing of the kind, Natalie," he said in measured tones.
"I have warned you before against making indiscriminate acquaintances;
and Anneli, if she is constantly getting such stupidities into her head,
must be sent about her business. I do not wish to hear anything more
about it. Will you ring and ask why tea has not been sent up?"

The girl silently obeyed. Her father had never spoken to her in this
cold, austere tone before. She sat down at a small table, apart.

Mr. Lind talked for a minute or two with his guests; then he said,

"Natalie, you have the zither there; why do you not play us something?"

She turned to the small instrument, and, after a second or two, played a
few notes: that was all. She rose and said, "I don't think I can play
this afternoon, papa;" and then she left the room.

Mr. Lind pretended to converse with his guests as before; and tea came
in; but presently he begged to be excused for a moment, and left the
room. George Brand rose, and took a turn or two up and down.

"It would take very little," he muttered--for his teeth were set--"to
make me throw that fellow out of the window!"

"What do you mean?" Lord Evelyn said, in great surprise.

"Didn't you see? She left the room to keep from crying. That miserable
Polish cutthroat--I should like to kick him down-stairs!"

But at this moment the door opened, and father and daughter entered,
arm-in-arm. Natalie's face was a little bit flushed, but she was very
gentle and affectionate; they had made up that brief misunderstanding,
obviously. And she had brought in her hand a mob-cap of black satin:
would Lord Evelyn allow her to try the effect of twisting those
beautiful golden threads through it?

"Natalushka," said her father, with great good-humor, "it is your
birthday. Do you think you could persuade Lord Evelyn and Mr. Brand to
come to your dinner-party?"

It was then explained to the two gentlemen that on this great
anniversary it was the custom of Mr. Lind, when in London, to take his
daughter to dine at some French or Italian restaurant in Regent Street
or thereabouts. In fact, she liked to play at being abroad for an hour
or two; to see around her foreign faces, and hear foreign tongues.

"I am afraid you will say that it is very easy to remind yourself of the
Continent," said Mr. Lind, smiling--"that you have only to go to a place
where they give you oily food and bad wine."

"On the contrary," said Brand, "I should thing it very difficult in
London to imagine yourself in a foreign town; for London is drained.
However, I accept the invitation with pleasure."

"And I," said Lord Evelyn. "Now, must we be off to dress?"

"Not at all," said Natalie. "Do you not understand that you are abroad,
and walking into a restaurant to dine? And now I will play you a little
invitation--not to dinner; for you must suppose you have dined--and you
come out on the stairs of the hotel, and step into the black gondola."

She went along to the small table, and sat down to the zither. There
were a few notes of prelude; and then they heard the beautiful low voice
added to the soft tinkling sounds. What did they vaguely make out from
that melodious murmur of Italian?

     Behold the beautiful night--the wind sleeps drowsily--the silent
     shores slumber in the dark:

    "Sul placido elemento
     Vien meco a navigar!"

     The soft wind moves--as it stirs among the leaves--it moves and
     dies--among the murmur of the water:

    "Lascia l'amico tetto
     Vien meco a navigar!"

     Now on the spacious mantle--of the already darkening heavens--see,
     oh, the shining wonder--how the white stars tremble:

    "Ai raggi della luna
     Vien meco a navigar!"

Where were they? Surely they have passed out from the darkness of the
narrow canal, and are away on the broad bosom of the lagoon. The Place
of St. Mark is all aglow with its golden points of fire; the yellow
radiance spreads out into the night. And that other wandering mass of
gold--the gondola hung round with lamps, and followed by a dark
procession through the silence of the waters--does not the music come
from thence? Listen, now:

    "Sul l'onde addormentate
     Vien meco a navigar!"

Can they hear the distant chorus, in there at the shore where the people
are walking about in the golden glare of the lamps?

    "Vien meco a navigar!
     Vien meco a navigar!"

Or can some faint echo be carried away out to yonder island, where the
pale blue-white radiance of the moonlight is beginning to touch the tall
dome of San Giorgio?

    "--a navigar!
     --a navigar!"

"It seems to me," said Lord Evelyn, when the girl rose, with a smile on
her face, "that you do not need to go into Regent Street when you want
to imagine yourself abroad."

Natalie looked at her watch.

"If you will excuse me, I will go and get ready now."

Well, they went to the big foreign restaurant; and had a small table all
to themselves, in the midst of the glare, and the heat, and the
indiscriminate Babel of tongues. And, under the guidance of Mr. Brand,
they adventured upon numerous articles of food which were more varied in
there names than in their flavor; and they tasted some of the compounds,
reeking of iris-root, that the Neapolitans call wine, until they fell
back on a flask of Chianti, and were content; and they regarded their
neighbors, and were regarded in turn. In the midst of it all, Mr. Lind,
who had been somewhat preoccupied, said suddenly.

"Natalie, can you start with me for Leipsic to-morrow afternoon?"

She was as prompt as a soldier.

"Yes, papa. Shall I take Anneli or not?"

"You may if you like."

After that George Brand seemed to take very little interest in this
heterogeneous banquet: he stared absently at the foreign-looking people,
at the hurrying waiters, at the stout lady behind the bar. Even when Mr.
Lind told his daughter that her black satin mob-cap, with its wonderful
intertwistings of Venetian chain, looked very striking in a mirror
opposite, and when Lord Evelyn eagerly gave his friend the credit of
having selected that birthday gift, he did not seem to pay much heed.
When, after all was over, and he had wished Natalie "_Bon voyage_" at
the door of the brougham, Lord Evelyn said to him,

"Come along to Clarges Street now and smoke a cigar."

"No, thanks!" he said. "I think I will stroll down to my rooms now."

"What is the matter with you, Brand? You have been looking very glum."

"Well, I have been thinking that London is a depressing sort of a place
for a man to live in who does not know many people. It is very big, and
very empty. I don't think I shall be able to stand it much longer."



CHAPTER VII.

IN SOLITUDE.


A blustering, cold morning in March; the skies lowering, the wind
increasing, and heavy showers being driven up from time to time from the
black and threatening south-west. This was strange weather to make a man
think of going to the seaside; and of all places at the seaside to
Dover, and of all places in Dover to the Lord Warden Hotel, which was
sure to be filled with fear-stricken foreigners, waiting for the sea to
calm. Waters, as he packed the small portmanteau, could not at all
understand this freak on the part of his master.

"If Lord Evelyn calls, sir," he said at the station, "when shall I say
you will be back?"

"In a few days, perhaps. I don't know."

He had a compartment to himself; and away the train went through the wet
and dismal and foggy country, with the rain pouring down the panes of
the carriage. The dismal prospect outside, however, did not matter much
to this solitary traveller. He turned his back to the window, and read
all the way down.

At Dover the outlook was still more dismal. A dirty, yellow-brown sea
was rolling heavily in, springing white along the Admiralty Pier; gusts
of rain were sweeping along the thoroughfare between the station and the
hotel; in the hotel itself the rooms were occupied by a miscellaneous
collection of dissatisfied folk, who aimlessly read the advertisements
in Bradshaw, or stared through the dripping windows at the yellow waves
outside. This was the condition of affairs when George Brand took up his
residence there. He was quite alone; but he had a sufficiency of books
with him; and so deeply engaged was he with these, that he let the
ordinary coffee-room discussions about the weather pass absolutely
unheeded.

On the second morning a number of the travellers plucked up heart of
grace and embarked, though the weather was still squally. George Brand
was not in the least interested as to the speculations of those who
remained about the responsibilities of the passage. He drew his chair
toward the fire, and relapsed into his reading.

This day, however, was varied by his making the acquaintance of a little
old French lady, which he did by means of her two granddaughters,
Josephine, and Veronique. Veronique, having been pushed by Josephine,
stumbled against Mr. Brand's knee, and would inevitably have fallen into
the fireplace had he not caught her. Thereupon the little old lady,
hurrying across the room, and looking very much inclined to box the ears
of both Josephine and Veronique, most profusely apologized, in French,
to monsieur. Monsieur replying in that tongue, said it was of no
consequence whatever. Then madame greatly delighted at finding some one,
not a waiter, to whom she could speak in her own language, continued
the conversation, and very speedily made monsieur the confident of all
her hopes and fears about that terrible business the Channel passage. No
doubt monsieur was also waiting for this dreadful storm to abate?

Monsieur quickly perceived that so long as this voluble little old
lady--who was as yellow as a frog, and had beady black eyes, but whose
manner was exceedingly charming--chose to attach herself to him, his
pursuit of knowledge was not likely to be attended with much success, so
he shut the book on his finger, and pleasantly said to her,

"Oh no, madame; I am only waiting here for some friends."

Madame was greatly alarmed: surely they would not cross in such
frightful weather? Monsieur ventured to think it was not so very bad.
Then the little French lady glanced out at the window, and threw up her
hands, and said with a shudder,

"Frightful! Truly frightful. What should I do with those two little ones
ill, and myself ill? The sea might sweep them away!"

Mr. Brand, having observed something of the manners of Josephine and
Veronique, was inwardly of opinion that the sea might be worse employed:
but what he said was--

"You could take a deck-cabin, madame."

Madame again shuddered.

"Your friends are English, no doubt, monsieur; the English are not so
much afraid of storms."

"No, madame, they are not English; but I do not think they would let
such a day as this, for example, hinder them. They are not likely,
however, to be on their way back for a day or two. To-morrow I may run
over to Calais, just on the chance of crossing with them again."

Here was a mad Englishman, to be sure! When people, driven by dire
necessity, had their heart in their mouth at the very notion of
encountering that rough sea, here was a person who thought of crossing
and returning for no reason on earth--a trifling compliment to his
friends--a pleasure excursion--a break in the monotony of the day!

"And I shall be pleased to look after the little ones, madame," said he,
politely, "if you are going over."

Madame thanked him very profusely; but assured him that so long as the
weather looked so stormy she could not think of intrusting Josephine and
Veronique to the mercy of the waves.

Now, if George Brand had little hope of meeting his friends that day,
he acted pretty much as if he were expecting some one. First of all, he
had secured a saloon-carriage in the afternoon mail-train to London--an
unnecessary luxury for a bachelor well accustomed to the hardships of
travel. Then he had managed to procure a handsome bouquet of freshly-cut
flowers. Finally, there was some mysterious arrangement by which fruit,
cakes, tea, and wine were to be ready at a moment's notice in the event
of that saloon-carriage being required.

Then, as soon as the rumor went through the hotel that the vessel was in
sight, away he went down the pier, with his coat-collar tightly
buttoned, and his hat jammed down. What a toy-looking thing the steamer
was, away out there in the mists or the rain, with the brown line of
smoke stretching back to the horizon! She was tossing and rolling a good
deal among the brown waves: he almost hoped his friends were not on
board. And he wished that all the more when he at length saw the people
clamber up the gangway--a miserable procession of half-drowned folk,
some of them scarcely able to walk. No; his friends were not there. He
returned to the hotel, and to his books.

But the attentions of Josephine and Veronique had become too pressing;
so he retired from the reading-room, and took refuge in his own room
up-stairs. It fronted the sea. He could hear the long, monotonous,
continuous wash of the waves: from time to time the windows rattled with
the wind.

He took from his portmanteau another volume from that he had been
reading, and sat down by the window. But he had only read a line or two
when he turned and looked absently out on the sea. Was he trying to
recall, amidst all that confused and murmuring noise, some other sound
that seemed to haunt him?

    "Who is your lady of love, oh ye that pass
     Singing?"

Was he trying to recall that pathetic thrill in his friend Evelyn's
voice which he knew was but the echo of another voice? He had never
heard Natalie Lind read: but he knew that that was how she had read,
when Evelyn's sensitive nature had heard and been permeated by the
strange tremor. And now, as he opened the book again, whose voice was it
he seemed to hear, in the silence of the small room, amidst the low and
constant murmur of the waves?

    "--And ye shall die before your thrones be won.
     --Yea, and the changed world and the liberal sun
       Shall move and shine with out us, and we lie
         Dead; but if she too move on earth and live--
     But if the old world, with all the old irons rent,
     Laugh and give thanks, shall we be not content?
       Nay, we shall rather live, we shall not die,
         Life being so little, and death so good to give.

          *       *       *       *       *       *       *

    "--But ye that might be clothed with all things pleasant,
     Ye are foolish that put off the fair soft present,
       That clothe yourselves with the cold future air;
         When mother and father, and tender sister and brother,
     And the old live love that was shall be as ye,
     Dust, and no fruit of loving life shall be.
       --She shall be yet who is more than all these were,
         Than sister or wife or father unto us or mother."

He turned again to the window, to the driven yellow sea, and the gusts
of rain. Surely there was no voice to be heard from other and farther
shores?

    "--Is this worth life, is this to win for wages?
     Lo, the dead mouths of the awful gray-grown ages,
       The venerable, in the past that is their prison,
         In the outer darkness, in the unopening grave,
     Laugh, knowing how many as ye now say have said--
     How many, and all are fallen, are fallen and dead:
       Shall ye dead rise, and these dead have not risen?
         --Not we but she, who is tender and swift to save.

    "--Are ye not weary, and faint not by the way,
     Seeing night by night devoured of day by day,
       Seeing hour by hour consumed in sleepless fire?
         Sleepless: and ye too, when shall ye too sleep?
     --We are weary in heart and head, in hands and feet,
     And surely more than all things sleep were sweet,
       Than all things save the inexorable desire
         Which whoso knoweth shall neither faint nor weep."

He rose, and walked up and down for a time. What would one not give for
a faith like that?

    "--Is this so sweet that one were fain to follow?
     Is this so sure where all men's hopes are hollow,
       Even this your dream, that by much tribulation
         Ye shall make whole flawed hearts, and bowed necks straight?
     --Nay, though our life were blind, our death were fruitless,
     Not therefore were the whole world's high hope rootless;
       But man to man, nation would turn to nation,
         And the old life live, and the old great world be great."

With such a faith--with that "inexorable desire" burning in the heart
and the brain--surely one could find the answer easy enough to the last
question of the poor creatures who wonder at the way-worn pilgrims,

    "--Pass on then, and pass by us and let us be,
     For what light think ye after life to see?
       And if the world fare better will ye know?
         And if man triumph who shall seek you and say?"

That he could answer for himself, at any rate. He was not one to put
much store by the fair soft present; and if he were to enter upon any
undertaking such as that he had had but a glimpse of, neither personal
reward nor hope of any immediate success would be the lure. He would be
satisfied to know that his labor or his life had been well spent. But
whence was to come that belief? whence the torch to kindle the sacred
fire?

The more he read, during these days of waiting, of the books and
pamphlets he had brought with him, the less clear seemed the way before
him. He was struck with admiration when he read of those who had
forfeited life or liberty in this or the other cause; and too often with
despair when he came to analyze their aims. Once or twice, indeed, he
was so moved by the passionate eloquence of some socialist writer that
he was ready to say, "Well, the poor devils have toiled long enough;
give them their turn, let the revolution cost what it may!" And then
immediately afterward: "What! Stir up the unhappy wretches to throw
themselves on the bayonets of the standing armies of Europe? There is no
emancipation for them that way."

But when he turned from the declamation and the impracticable designs of
this impassioned literature to the vast scheme of co-operation that had
been suggested rather than described to him, there seemed more hope. If
all these various forces that were at work could be directed into one
channel, what might they not accomplish? Weed out the visionary, the
impracticable, the anarchical from their aims; and then what might not
be done by this convergence of all these eager social movements? Lind,
he argued with himself, was not at all a man likely to devote himself to
optimistic dreams. Further than that--and here he was answering a
suspicion that again and again recurred to him--what if, in such a great
social movement, men were to be found who were only playing for their
own hand? That was the case in every such combination. But false or
self-seeking agents neither destroyed the nobleness of the work nor
could defeat it in the end if it were worthy to live. They might try to
make for themselves what use they could of the current, but they too
were swept onward to the sea.

So he argued, and communed, and doubted, and tried to believe. And all
through it--whether he paced up and down by the sea in the blustering
weather, or strolled away through the town and up the face of the tall
white cliff, or lay awake in the dark night, listening to the rush and
moan of the waves--all through these doubts and questions there was
another and sweeter and clearer sound, that seemed to come from afar--

    "She shall be yet who is more than all these were,
     Than sister or wife or father unto us or mother."

However loud the sea was at night, that was the sound he heard, clear
and sweet--the sound of a girl's voice, that had joy in it, and faith in
the future, and that spoke to him of what was to be.

Well, the days passed; and still his friends did not come. He had many
trips across, to while away the time: and had become great friends with
the stout, black-haired French captain. He had conveyed Josephine and
Veronique and their little grandmother safely over, and had made them as
comfortable as was possible under trying circumstances. And always and
every day there were freshly-cut flowers and renewed fruit, and a
re-engaged saloon-carriage waiting for those strangers who did not come;
until both hotel people and railway people began to think Mr. Brand as
mad as the little French lady assured herself he was, when he said he
meant to cross the Channel twice for nothing.

At last--at last! He had strolled up to the Calais station, and was
standing on the platform when the train came in. But there was no need
for him to glance eagerly up and down at the now opening doors; for who
was this calmly regarding him--or rather regarding him with a smile of
surprise? Despite the big furred cloak and the hood, he knew at once; he
darted forward, lifted the lower latch and opened the door, and gave her
his hand.

"Oh, how do you do, Mr. Brand?" said she, with a pleasant look of
welcome. "Who could have expected to meet you here?"

He was confused, embarrassed, bewildered. This voice so strangely
recalled those sounds that had been haunting him for days. He could only
stammer out,

"I--I happened to be at Dover, and thought I would run over here for a
little bit. How lucky you are--it is such a beautiful day for crossing."

"That is good news; I must tell papa," said Natalie, cheerfully, as she
turned again to the open door.



CHAPTER VIII.

A DISCOVERY.


"And you are going over too? And to London also? Oh, that will be very
nice."

It seemed so strange to hear this voice, that had for days sounded to
him as if it were far away, now quite close, and talking in this
friendly and familiar fashion. Then she had brought the first of the
spring with her. The air had grown quite mild: the day was clear and
shining; even the little harbor there seemed bright and picturesque in
the sun. He had never before considered Calais a very beautiful place.

And as for her; well, she appeared pleased to have met with this
unexpected companion; and she was very cheerful and talkative as they
went down to the quay, these two together. And whether it was that she
was glad to be relieved from the cramped position of the carriage, or
whether it was that his being taller than she gave countenance to her
height, or whether it was merely that she rejoiced in the sweet air and
the exhilaration of the sunlight, she seemed to walk with even more than
her usual proudness of gait. This circumstance did not escape the eye of
her father, who was immediately behind.

"Natalie," said he, peevishly, "you are walking as if you wore a sword
by your side."

She did not seem sorely hurt.

"'Du Schwert an meiner Linken!'" she said, with a laugh. "It is my
military cloak that makes you think so, papa."

Why, even this cockle-shell of a steamer looked quite inviting on so
pleasant a morning. And there before them stretched the blue expanse of
the sea, with every wave, and every ripple on every wave, flashing a
line of silver in the sunlight. No sooner were they out of the
yellow-green waters of the harbor than Mr. Brand had his companions
conducted on to the bridge between the paddle-boxes; and the little
crop-haired French boy brought them camp-stools, and their faces were
turned toward England.

"Ah!" said Natalie, "many a poor wretch has breathed more freely when
at last he found himself looking out for the English shore. Do you
remember old Anton Pepczinski and his solemn toast, papa?"

She turned to George Brand.

"He was an old Polish gentleman, who used to come to our house in the
evening, he and a few others of his countrymen, to smoke and play chess.
But always, some time during the evening, he would say, 'Gentlemen, a
Pole is never ungrateful. I call on you to drink this toast: _To the
white chalk-line beyond the sea_!'" And then she added, quickly, "If I
were English, how proud I should be of England!"

"But why?" he said.

"Because she has kept liberty alive in Europe," said the girl, proudly;
"because she offers an exile to the oppressed, no matter from whence
they come; because she says to the tyrant, 'No, you cannot follow.' Why,
when even your beer-men your dray-men know how to treat a Haynau, what
must the spirit of the country be? If only those fine fellows could have
caught Windischgratz too!"

Her father laughed at her vehemence; Brand did not. That strange
vibration in the girl's voice penetrated him to the heart.

"But then," said he, after a second or two, "I have been amusing myself
for some days back by reading a good deal of political writing, mostly
by foreigners; and if I were to believe what they say, I should take it
that England was the most superstitious, corrupt, enslaved nation on the
face of the earth! What with its reverence for rank, its worship of the
priesthood--oh, I cannot tell you what a frightful country it is!"

"Who were the writers?" Mr. Lind asked.

Brand named two or three, and instantly the attention of the others
seemed arrested.

"Oh, that is the sort of literature you have been reading?" he said,
with a quick glance.

"I have had some days' idleness."

"Excuse me," said the other, with a smile; "but I think you might have
spent it better. That kind of literature only leads to disorder and
anarchy. It may have been useful at one time; it is useful no longer.
Enough of ploughing has been done: we want sowing done now--we want
writers who will build up instead of pulling down. Those Nihilists," he
added, almost with a sigh, "are becoming more and more impracticable.
They aim at scarcely anything beyond destruction."

Here Natalie changed the conversation. This was too bright and
beautiful a day to admit of despondency.

"I suppose you love the sea, Mr. Brand?" she said. "All Englishmen do.
And yachting--I suppose you go yachting?"

"I have tried it; but it is too tedious for me," said Brand. "The sort
of yachting I like is in a vessel of five thousand tons, going three
hundred and eighty miles a day. With half a gale of wind in your teeth
in the 'rolling Forties,' then there is some fun."

"I must go over to the States very soon," Mr. Lind said.

"Papa!"

"The worst of it is," her father said, without heeding that exclamation
of protest, "that I have so much to do that can only be done by word of
mouth."

"I wish I could take the message for you," Brand said, lightly. "When
the weather looks decent, I very often take a run across to New York,
put up for a few days at the Brevoort House, and take the next ship
home. It is very enjoyable, especially if you know the officers. Then
the bagman--I have acquired a positive love for the bagman."

"The what?" said Natalie.

"The bagman. The 'commy' his friends call him. The commercial traveller,
don't you know? He is a most capital fellow--full of life and fun,
desperately facetious, delighting in practical jokes: altogether a
wonderful creature. You begin to think you are in another
generation--before England became melancholy--the generation, for
example, that roared over the adventures of Tom and Jerry."

Natalie did not know who Tom and Jerry were; but that was of little
consequence; for at this moment they began to descry "the white
chalk-line beyond the sea"--the white line of the English coast. And
they went on chatting cheerfully; and the sunlight flashed its diamonds
on the blue waters around them, and the white chalk cliffs became more
distinct.

"And yet it seems so heartless for one to be going back to idleness,"
Natalie Lind said, absently. "Papa works as hard in England as anywhere
else; but what can I do? To think of one going back to peaceful days,
and comfort, and pleasant friends, when others have to go through such
misery, and to fight against such persecution! When Vjera Sassulitch
offered me her hand--"

She stopped abruptly, with a quick, frightened look, first at George
Brand, then at her father.

"You need not hesitate, Natalie," her father said, calmly. "Mr. Brand
has given me his word of honor he will reveal nothing he may hear from
us."

"I do not think you need be afraid," said Brand; but all the same he was
conscious of a keen pang of mortification. He, too, had noticed that
quick look of fright and distrust. What did it mean, then? "_You are
beside us, you are near to us; but you are not of us, you are not with
us._"

He was silent, and she was silent too. She seemed ashamed of her
indiscretion, and would say nothing further about Vjera Sassulitch.

"Don't imagine, Mr. Brand," said her father, to break this awkward
silence, "that what Natalie says is true. She is not going to be so idle
as all that. No; she has plenty of hard work before her--at least, I
think it hard work--translating from the German into Polish."

"I wish I could help," Brand said, in a low voice. "I do not know a word
of Polish."

"You help?" she said, regarding him with the beautiful dark eyes, that
had a sudden wonder in them. "Would you, if you knew Polish?"

He met that straight, fearless glance without flinching; and he said
"Yes," while they still looked at each other. Then her eyes fell; and
perhaps there was the slightest flush of embarrassment, or pleasure, on
the pale, handsome face.

But how quickly her spirits rose! There was no more talk of politics as
they neared England. He described the successive ships to her; he called
her attention to the strings of wild-duck flying up Channel; he named
the various headlands to her. Then, as they got nearer and nearer, the
little Anneli had to be sought out, and the various travelling
impedimenta got together. It did not occur to Mr. Lind or his daughter
as strange that George Brand should be travelling without any luggage
whatever.

But surely it must have occurred to them as remarkable that a bachelor
should have had a saloon-carriage reserved for himself--unless, indeed,
they reflected that a rich Englishman was capable of any whimsical
extravagance. Then, no sooner had Miss Lind entered this carriage, than
it seemed as though everything she could think of was being brought for
her. Such flowers did not grow in railway-stations--especially in the
month of March. Had the fruit dropped from the telegraph-poles? Cakes,
wine, tea, magazines and newspapers appeared to come without being asked
for.

"Mr. Brand," said Natalie, "you must be an English Monte Cristo: do you
clap your hands, and the things appear?"

But a Monte Cristo should never explain. The conjuror who reveals his
mechanism is no longer a conjuror. George Brand only laughed, and said
he hoped Miss Lind would always find people ready to welcome her when
she reached English shores.

As they rattled along through those shining valleys--the woods and
fields and homesteads all glowing in the afternoon sun--she had put
aside her travelling-cloak and hood, for the air was quite mild. Was it
the drawing off of the hood, or the stir of wind on board the steamer,
that had somewhat disarranged her hair?--at all events, here and there
about her small ear or the shapely neck there was an escaped curl of
raven-black. She had taken off her gloves, too: her hands, somewhat
large, were of a beautiful shape, and transparently white. The magazines
and newspapers received not much attention--except from Mr. Lind, who
said that at last he should see some news neither a week old nor
fictitious. As for these other two, they seemed to find a wonderful lot
to talk about, and all of a profoundly interesting character. With a
sudden shock of disappointment George Brand found that they were almost
into London.

His hand-bag was at once passed by the custom-house people; and he had
nothing to do but say good-bye. His face was not over-cheerful.

"Well, it was a lucky meeting," Mr. Lind said. "Natalie ought to thank
you for being so kind to her."

"Yes; but not here," said the girl, and she turned to him. "Mr. Brand,
people who have travelled so far together should not part so quickly: it
is miserable. Will you not come and spend the evening with us?"

"Natalie will give us something in the way of an early dinner," said Mr.
Lind, "and then you can make her play the zither for you."

Well, there was not much hesitation about his accepting. That
drawing-room, with its rose-and-green-shaded candles, was not as other
drawing-rooms in the evening. In that room you could hear the fountains
plashing in the Villa Reale, and the Capri fishermen singing afar, and
the cattle-bells chiming on the Campagna, and the gondolas sending their
soft chorus across the lagoon. When Brand left his bag in the cloak-room
at the station he gave the porter half a crown for carrying thither,
which was unnecessary. Nor was there any hopeless apathy on his face as
he drove away with these two friends through the darkening afternoon,
in the little hired brougham. When they arrived in Curzon Street, he was
even good enough to assist the timid little Anneli to descend from the
box; but this was in order that he might slip a tip into the hand of the
coachman. The coachman scarcely said "Thank you." It was not until
afterward that he discovered he had put half a sovereign into his
breeches-pocket as if it were an ordinary sixpence.

Natalie Lind came down to dinner in a dress of black velvet, with a
mob-cap of rose-red silk. Round her neck she wore a band of Venetian
silver-work, from the centre of which was suspended the little
old-fashioned locket she had received in Hyde Park. George Brand
remembered the story, and perhaps was a trifle surprised that she should
wear so conspicuously the gift of a stranger.

She was very friendly, and very cheerful. She did not seem at all
fatigued with her travelling; on the contrary, it was probably the
sea-air and the sunlight that had lent to her cheek a faint flush of
color. But at the end of dinner her father said.

"Natalushka, if we go into the drawing-room, and listen to music, after
so long a day, we shall all go to sleep. You must come into the
smoking-room with us."

"Very well, papa."

"But, Miss Lind," the other gentleman remonstrated, "a velvet
dress--tobacco-smoke--"

"My dresses must take their chance," said Miss Lind. "I wear them to
please my friends, not to please chance acquaintances who may call
during the day."

And so they retired to the little den at the end of the passage; and
Natalie handed Mr. Brand a box of cigars to choose from, and got down
from the rack her father's long-stemmed, red-bowled pipe. Then she took
a seat in the corner by the fire, and listened.

The talk was all about that anarchical literature that Brand had been
devouring down at Dover; and he was surprised to find how little
sympathy Lind had with writing of that kind, though he had to confess
that certain of the writers were personal friends of his own. Natalie
sat silent, listening intently, and staring into the fire.

At last Brand said,

"Of course, I had other books. For example, one I see on your shelves
there." He rose, and took down the "Songs before Sunrise." "Miss Lind,"
he said, "I am afraid you will laugh at me; but I have been haunted with
the notion that you have been teaching Lord Evelyn how to read poetry,
or that he has been unconsciously imitating you. I heard him repeat some
passages from 'The Pilgrims,' and I was convinced he was reproducing
something he had heard from you. Well--I am almost ashamed to ask you--"

A touch of embarrassment appeared on the girl's face, and she glanced at
her father.

"Yes, certainly, Natalie; why not?"

"Well," she said, lightly, "I cannot read if I am stared at. You must
remain as you are."

She took the book from him, and passed to the other side of the room, so
that she was behind them both. There was silence for an instant or two
as she turned over the leaves.

Then the silence was broken; and if Brand was instantly assured that his
surmise was correct, he also knew that here was a more pathetic
cadence--a prouder ring--than any that Lord Evelyn had thrown into the
lines. She read at random--a passage here, a passage there--but always
it seemed to him that the voice was the voice of a herald proclaiming
the new awakening of the world--the evil terrors of the night
departing--the sunlight of liberty and right and justice beginning to
shine over the sea. And these appeals to England!

    "Oh thou, clothed round with raiment of white waves,
       Thy brave brows lightening through the gray wet air,
     Thou, lulled with sea-sounds of a thousand caves,
       And lit with sea-shine to thy inland lair,
     Whose freedom clothed the naked souls of slaves
       And stripped the muffled souls of tyrants bare,
     Oh, by the centuries of thy glorious graves,
       By the live light of the earth that was thy care,
         Live, thou must not be dead,
         Live; let thy armed head
       Lift itself up to sunward and the fair
         Daylight of time and man,
         Thine head republican,
         With the same splendor on thine helmless hair
       That in his eyes kept up a light
     Who on thy glory gazed away their sacred sight."

The cry there was in this voice! Surely his heart answered,

    "Oh Milton's land, what ails thee to be dead!"

Was it in this very room, he wondered, that the old Polish refugee was
used to lift up his trembling hand and bid his compatriots drink to "the
white chalk-line beyond the sea?" How could he forget, as he and she
sat together that morning, and gazed across the blue waters to the far
and sunlit line of coast, the light that shone on her face as she said,
"If I were English, how proud I should be of England!" And this England
of her veneration and her love--did it not contain some, at least, who
would answer to her appeal?

Presently Natalie Lind shut the book and gently laid it down, and stole
out of the room. She was gone only for a few seconds. When she returned,
she had in her hand a volume of sketches, of which she had been speaking
during dinner.

He did not open this volume at once. On the contrary, he was silent for
a little while; and then he looked up, and addressed Natalie, with a
strange grave smile on his face.

"I was about to tell your father, Miss Lind, when you came in, that if I
could not translate for you, or carry a message across the Atlantic for
him, he might at least find something else that I can do. At all events,
may I say that I am willing to join you, if I can be of any help at
all?"

Ferdinand Lind regarded him for a second, and said, quite calmly,

"It is unnecessary. You have already joined us."



CHAPTER IX.

A NIGHT IN VENICE.


The solitary occupant of this railway-carriage was apparently reading;
but all the same he looked oftener at his watch than at his book. At
length he definitely shut the volume and placed it in his
travelling-bag. Then he let down the carriage-window, and looked out
into the night.

The heavens were clear and calm; the newly-risen moon was but a thin
crescent of silver; in the south a large planet was shining. All around
him, as it seemed, stretched a vast plain of water, as dark and silent
and serene as the overarching sky. Then, far ahead, he could catch a
glimpse of a pale line stretching across the watery plain--a curve of
the many-arched viaduct along which the train was thundering; and beyond
that again, and low down at the horizon, two or three minute and dusky
points of orange. These lights were the lights of Venice.

This traveller was not much hampered with luggage. When finally the
train was driven into the glare of the station, and the usual roar and
confusion began, he took his small bag in his hand and rapidly made his
way through the crowd; then out and down the broad stone steps, and into
a gondola. In a couple of minutes he was completely away from all that
glare and bustle and noise; nothing around him but darkness and an
absolute silence.

The city seemed as the City of the Dead. The tall and sombre buildings
on each side of the water-highway were masses of black--blackest of all
where they showed against the stars. The ear sought in vain for any
sound of human life; there was nothing but the lapping of the water
along the side of the boat, and the slow, monotonous plash of the oar.

Father and farther into the silence and the darkness; and now here and
there a window, close down to the water, and heavily barred with
rectangular bars of iron, shows a dull red light; but there is no sound,
nor any passing shadow within. The man who is standing by the
hearse-like cabin of the gondola observes and thinks. These black
buildings; the narrow and secret canals; the stillness of the night: are
they not suggestive enough--of revenge, a quick blow, and the silence of
the grave? And now, as the gondola still glides on, there is heard a
slow and distant tolling of bells. The Deed is done, then?--no longer
will the piteous hands be thrust out of the barred window--no longer
will the wild cry for help startle the passer-by in the night-time. And
now again, as the gondola goes on its way, another sound--still more
muffled and indistinct--the sound of a church organ, with the solemn
chanting of voices. Are they praying for the soul of the dead? The sound
becomes more and more distant; the gondola goes on its way.

The new-comer has no further time for these idle fancies. At the Rialto
bridge he stops the gondola, pays the man, and goes ashore. Then,
rapidly ascending the steps, he crosses the bridge, descends the other
side, and again jumps into a gondola. All this the work of a few
seconds.

But it was obvious he had been expected. He gave no instructions to the
two men in this second gondola. They instantly went to work, and with a
rapid and powerful stroke sent the boat along--with an occasional
warning cry as they swept by the entrance to one or other of the smaller
canals. Finally, they abruptly left the Grand Canal, close by the Corte
d'Appello, and shot into a narrow opening that seemed little more than a
slit between the buildings.

Here they had to go more cautiously; the orange light of their lamp
shining as they passed on the empty archways, and on the iron-barred
windows, and slimy steps. And always this strange silence in the dead or
sleeping city, and the monotonous plash of the oars, and the deep low
cry of "Sia premi!" or "Sia stali!" to give warning of their approach.
But, indeed, that warning was unnecessary; they were absolutely alone in
this labyrinth of gloomy water-ways.

At length they shot beneath a low bridge, and stopped at some steps
immediately beyond. Here one of the men, getting out, proceeded to act
as guide to the stranger. They had not far to go. They passed first of
all into a long, low, and foul-smelling archway, in the middle of which
was a narrow aperture protected by an iron gate. The man lit a candle,
opened the gate, and preceded his companion along a passage and up a
stone staircase. The atmosphere of the place was damp and sickly; the
staircase was not more than three feet in width; the feeble glimmer of
the candle did but little to dispel the darkness. Even that was
withdrawn; for the guide, having knocked thrice at a door, blew out the
candle, and retreated down-stairs.

"_The night is dark, brother._"

"_The dawn is near._"

Instantly the door was thrown open; the dark figure of a man was seen
against the light; he said, "Come in! come in!" and his hand was
outstretched. The stranger seemed greatly surprised.

"What, you, Calabressa!" he exclaimed. "Your time has not yet expired!"

"What, no? My faith, I have made it expire!" said the other, airily, and
introducing a rather badly pronounced French word or two into his
Italian. "But come in, come in; take a seat. You are early; you may have
to wait."

He was an odd-looking person, this tall, thin, elderly man, with the
flowing yellow-white hair and the albino eyes. There was a semi-military
look about his braided coat; but, on the other hand, he wore the cap of
a German student--of purple velvet, with a narrow leather peak. He
seemed to be proud of his appearance. He had a gay manner.

"Yes, I am escaped. Ah, how fine it is! You walk about all day as you
please; you smoke cigarettes; you have your coffee; you go to look at
the young English ladies who come to feed the pigeons in the place."

He raised two fingers to his lips, and blew a kiss to all the world.

"Such complexions! A wild rose in every cheek! But listen, now; this is
not about an English young lady. I go up to the Church of St.
Mark--besides the bronze horses. I am enjoying the air, when I hear a
sound; I turn; over there I see open windows; ah! the figure in the
white dressing-gown! It is the _diva_ herself. They play the _Barbiere_
to-night, and she is practicing as she dusts her room. _Una voce poco
fa_--it thrills all through the square. She puts the ornaments on the
mantel-piece straight. _Lo giurai, la vincero!_--she goes to the mirror
and makes the most beautiful attitude. Ah, what a spectacle--the black
hair all down--the white dressing-gown--_In sono docile_"--and again he
kissed his two fingers. Then he said,

"But now, you. You do not look one day older. And how is Natalie?"

"Natalie is well, I believe," said the other, gravely.

"You are a strange man. You have not a soft heart for the pretty
creatures of the world; you are implacable. The little Natalushka, then;
how is she?"

"The little Natalushka is grown big now; she is quite a woman."

"A woman! She will marry an Englishman, and become very rich: is not
that so?"

"Natalie--I mean, Natalushka will not marry," said the other coldly.
"She knows she is very useful to me. She knows I have no other."

"_Maintenant_: the business--how goes that?"

"Elsewhere, well; in England, not quite so well," said Ferdinand Lind.
"But what can you expect? The English think they have no need of
co-operation, except to get their groceries cheap. Why, everything is
done in the open air there. If a scoundrel gets a lash too many in
prison, you have it before Parliament next week. If a school-boy is
kicked by his master, you have all the newspapers in the country ablaze.
The newspapers govern England. A penny journal has more power than the
commander-in-chief."

"Then why do you remain in England?"

"It is the safest for me, personally. Then there is most to be done
there. Again, it is the head-quarters of money. Do you see, Calabressa?
One must have money, or one cannot work."

The albino-looking man lit a cigarette.

"You despair, then, of England? No, you never despair."

"There is a prospect. The Southern Englishman is apathetic; he is
interested only, as I have said, in getting his tea and sugar cheap.
But the Northern Englishman is vigorous. The trades' associations in the
North are vast, powerful, wealthy; but they are suspicious of anything
foreign. Members join us; the associations will not. But what do you
think of this, Calabressa: if one were to have the assistance of an
Englishman whose father was one of the great iron-masters; whose name is
well known in the north; who has a large fortune, and a strong will?"

"You have got such a man?"

"Not yet. He is only a Friend. But if I do not misjudge him, he will be
a Companion soon. He is a man after my own heart; once with us, all the
powers of the earth will not turn him back."

"And his fortune?"

"He will help us with that also, no doubt."

"But how did it occur to Providence to furnish you with an assistant so
admirably equipped?"

"Do you mean how did I chance to find him? Through a young English
lord--an amiable youth, who is a great friend of Natalie's--of
Natalushka's. Why, he has joined us, too--"

"An English milord!"

"Yes; but it is merely from poetical sympathy. He is pleasant and
warm-hearted, but to us not valuable; and he is poor."

At this moment a bell rung, apparently in the adjoining apartment.
Calabressa jumped from his chair, and hastened to a door on his left,
which he opened. A _portiere_ prevented anything being seen in the
chamber beyond.

"Has the summons been answered?" a voice asked, from the other side.

"Yes, sir," said Calabressa. "Brother Lind is here."

"That is well."

The door was again shut, and Calabressa resumed his seat.

"Brother Lind," said he, in a low voice, though he leaned back in his
chair, and still preserved that gay manner, "I suppose you do not know
why you have been summoned?"

"Not I."

"_Bien._ But suppose one were to guess? Suppose there is a gentleman
somewhere about who has been carrying his outraging of one's common
notions of decency just a little too far? Suppose it is necessary to
make an example? You may be noble, and have great wealth, and honor, and
smiles from beautiful women; but if some night you find a little bit of
steel getting into your heart, or if some morning you find your coffee
as you drink it burn all the way down until you can feel it burn no
more--what then? You must bid good-bye to your mistresses, and to your
gold plates and feasts, and your fountains spouting perfumes, and all
your titles; is not that so?"

"But who is it?" said Lind, suddenly bending forward.

The other regarded him for a moment, playfully.

"What if I were to mention the '_Starving Cardinal_?'"

"Zaccatelli!" exclaimed Lind, with a ghastly pallor appearing for a
moment in the powerful iron-gray face.

Calabressa only laughed.

"Oh yes, it is beautiful to have all these fine things. And the unhappy
devils who are forced to pawn their last sticks of furniture at the
Monte di Pieta, rather than have their children starve when bread is
dear; how it must gratify them to think of his Eminence seizing the
funds of that flourishing institution to buy up the whole of the grain
in the Papal States! What an admirable speculation! How kind to the
poor, on the part of the Secretary to the Vicar of Christ! What!--do you
think because I am a cardinal I am not to make a profit in corn? I tell
you those people have no business to be miserable--they have no business
to go and pawn their things; if I am allowed to speculate with the
funds, why not? _Allons donc!_--It is a devilish fine world, merry
gentlemen!"

"But--but why have they summoned me?" Lind said, in the same low voice.

"Who knows?" said the other, lightly. "I do not. Come, tell me more
about the little Natalushka. Ah, do I not remember the little minx, when
she came in, after dinner, among all those men, with her '_Eljen a
haza_!' What has she grown to? what has she become?"

"Natalie is a good girl," said her father; but he was thinking of other
things.

"Beautiful?"

"Some would say so."

"But not like the English young ladies?"

"Not at all."

"I thought not. I remember the black-eyed little one--with her pride in
Batthyany, and her hatred in Gorgey, and all the rest of it. The little
Empress!--with her proud eyes, and her black eyelashes. Do you remember
at Dunkirk, when old Anton Pepczinski met her for the first time?
'_Little Natalushka, if I wait for you, will you marry me when you grow
up?_" Then the quick answer, "_I am not to be called any longer by my
nursery name; but if you will fight for my country, I will marry you
when I grow up._'"

Light-hearted as this man Calabressa was, having escaped from prison,
and eagerly inclined for chatter, after so long a spell of enforced
silence, he could not fail to perceive that his companion was hardly
listening to him.

"Mais, mon frere, a quoi bon le regarder?" he said, peevishly. "If it
must come, it will come. Or is it the poor cardinal you pity? That was a
good name they invented for him, anyway--_il cardinale affamatore_."

Again the bell rung, and Ferdinand Lind started. When he turned to the
door, it was with a look on his face of some anxiety and apprehension--a
look but rarely seen there. Then the _portiere_ was drawn aside to let
some one come through: at the same moment Lind caught a brief glimpse of
a number of men sitting round a small table.

The person who now appeared, and whom Lind saluted with great respect,
was a little, sallow-complexioned man, with an intensely black beard and
mustache, and a worn expression of face. He returned Lind's salutation
gravely, and said,

"Brother, the Council thank you for your prompt answer to the summons.
Meanwhile, nothing is decided. You will attend here to-morrow night."

"At what hour, Brother Granaglia?"

"Ten. You will now be conveyed back to the Rialto steps; from thence you
can get to your hotel."

Lind bowed acquiescence; and the stranger passed again through the
_portiere_ and disappeared.



CHAPTER X.

VACILLATION.


"Evelyn, I distrust that man Lind."

The speaker was George Brand, who kept impatiently pacing up and down
those rooms of his, while his friend, with a dreamy look on the pale and
fine face, lay back in an easy-chair, and gazed out of the clear panes
before him. It was night; the blinds had not been drawn; and the row of
windows, framed by their scarlet curtains, seemed a series of dark-blue
pictures, all throbbing with points of golden fire.

"Is there any one you do not distrust?" said Lord Evelyn, absently.

"I hope so. But with regard to Lind: I had distinctly to let him know
he must not assume that I am mixed up in any of his schemes until I
definitely say so. When, in answer to my vague proposal, he told me I
had already pledged myself, I confess I was startled for a moment. Of
course it was all very well for him afterward to speak of my declared
sympathy, and of my promise to reveal nothing, as being quite enough, at
least for the earlier stage. If that is so, you may easily acquire
adherents. But either I join with a definite pledge, or not at all."

"I am inclined to think you had better not join," said Lord Evelyn,
calmly.

After that there was silence; and Brand's companion lay and looked on
the picture outside, that was so dark and solemn and still. In the midst
of all that blaze of various and trembling lights was the unseen
river--unseen but for the myriad reflections that showed the ripples of
the water; then the far-reaching rows of golden stars, spanning the
bridges, and marking out the long Embankment sweep beyond St. Thomas's
Hospital. On the other side black masses of houses--all their
commonplace detail lost in the mysterious shadow; and over them the
silver crescent of the moon just strong enough to give an edge of white
to a tall shot-tower. Then far away in the east, in the clear dark sky,
the dim gray ghost of a dome; scarcely visible, and yet revealing its
presence; the great dome of St. Paul's.

This beautiful, still scene--the silence was so intense that the
footfall of a cab-horse crossing Waterloo Bridge could be faintly heard,
as the eye followed the light slowly moving between the two rows of
golden stars--seemed to possess but little interest for the owner of
these rooms. For the moment he had lost altogether his habitual air of
proud reserve.

"Evelyn," he said, abruptly, "was it not in these very rooms you
insisted that, if the work was good, one need not be too scrupulous
about one's associates?"

"I believe so," said the other, indifferently: he had almost lost hope
of ever overcoming his friend's inveterate suspicion.

"Well," Brand said, "there is something in that. I believe in the work
that Lind is engaged in, if I am doubtful about him. And if it pleases
you or him to say that I have joined you merely because I express
sympathy, and promise to say nothing, well and good. But you: you are
more than that?"

The question somewhat startled Lord Evelyn; and his pale face flushed a
little.

"Oh yes," he said; "of course. I--I cannot precisely explain to you."

"I understand. But, if I did really join, I should at least have you for
a companion."

Lord Evelyn turned and regarded him.

"If you were to join, it might be that you and I should never see each
other again in this world. Have I not told you?--Your first pledge is
that of absolute obedience; you have no longer a right to your own life;
you become a slave, that others may be free."

"And you would have me place myself in the power of a man like Lind?"
Brand exclaimed.

"If it were necessary," said Lord Evelyn, "I should hold myself
absolutely at the bidding of Lind; for I am convinced he is an honest
man, as he is a man of great ability and unconquerable energy and will.
But you would no more put yourself in Lind's power than in mine. Lind is
a servant, like the rest of us. It is true he has in some ways a sort of
quasi-independent position, which I don't quite understand; but as
regards the Society that I have joined, and that you would join, he is a
servant, as you would be a servant. But what is the use of talking? Your
temperament isn't fitted for this kind of work."

"I want to see my way clear," Brand said, almost to himself.

"Ah, that is just it; whereas, you must go blindfold."

Thereafter again silence. The moon had risen higher now; and the paths
in the Embankment gardens just below them had grown gray in the clearer
light. Lord Evelyn lay and watched the light of a hansom that was
rattling along by the side of the river.

"Do you remember," said Brand, with a smile, "your repeating some verses
here one night; and my suspecting you had borrowed the inspiration
somewhere? My boy, I have found you out. What I guessed was true. I made
bold to ask Miss Lind to read, that evening I came up with them from
Dover."

"I know it," said Lord Evelyn, quietly.

"You have seen her, then?" was the quick question.

"No; she wrote to me."

"Oh, she writes to you?" the other said.

"Well, you see, I did not know her father had gone abroad, and I called.
As a rule, she sees no one while her father is away; on the other hand,
she will not say she is not at home if she is at home. So she wrote me a
note of apology for refusing to see me; and in it she told me you had
been very kind to them, and how she had tried to read, and had read very
badly, because she feared your criticism--"

"I never heard anything like it!" Brand said; and then he corrected
himself. "Well, yes, I have; I have heard you, Evelyn. You have been an
admirable pupil."

"Now when I think of it," said his friend, putting his hand in his
breast-pocket, "this letter is mostly about you, Brand. Let me see if
there is anything in it you may not see. No; it is all very nice and
friendly."

He was about to hand over the letter, when he stopped.

"I do believe," he said, looking at Brand, "that you are capable of
thinking Natalie wrote this letter on purpose you should see it."

"Then you do me a great injustice," Brand said, without anger. "And you
do her a great injustice. I do not think it needs any profound judge of
character to see what that girl is."

"For that is one thing I could never forgive you, Brand."

"What?"

"If you were to suspect Natalie Lind."

This was no private and confidential communication that passed into
Brand's hand, but a frank, gossiping, sisterly note, stretching out
beyond its initial purpose. And there was no doubt at all that it was
mostly about Brand himself; and the reader grew red as he went on. He
had been so kind to them at Dover; and so interested in her papa's work;
and so anxious to be of service and in sympathy with them. And then she
spoke as if he were definitely pledged to them; and how proud she was to
have another added to the list of her friends. George Brand's face was
as red as his beard when he folded up the letter. He did not immediately
return it.

"What a wonderful woman that is!" said he, after a time. "I did not
think it would be left for a foreigner to teach me to believe in
England."

Lord Evelyn looked up.

"Oh," Brand said, instantly, "I know what you would ask: 'What is my
belief worth?' 'How much do I sympathize?' Well, I can give you a plain
answer: a shilling in the pound income-tax. If England is this
stronghold of the liberties of Europe--if it is her business to be the
lamp-bearer of freedom--if she must keep her shores inviolate as the
refuge of those who are oppressed and persecuted, well, then, I would
pay a shilling income-tax, or double that, treble that, to give her a
navy that would sweep the seas. For a big army there is neither
population, nor sustenance, nor room; but I would give her such a navy
as would let her put the world to defiance."

"I wish Natalie would teach you to believe in a few other things while
she is about it," said his friend, with a slight and rather sad smile.

"For example?"

"In human nature a little bit, for example. In the possibility of a
woman being something else than a drawing-room peacock, or worse. Do you
think she could make you believe that it is possible for a woman to be
noble-minded, unselfish, truth-speaking, modest, and loyal-hearted?"

"I presume you are describing Natalie Lind herself."

"Oh," said his friend, with a quick surprise, "then you admit there may
be an exception, after all? You do not condemn the whole race of them
now, as being incapable of even understanding what frank dealing is, or
honor, or justice, or anything beyond their own vain and selfish
caprices?"

George Brand went to the window.

"Perhaps," said he, "my experience of women has been unfortunate,
unusual. I have not had much chance, especially of late years, of
studying them in their quiet domestic spheres. But otherwise I suppose
my experience is not unusual. Every man begins his life, in his salad
days, by believing the world to be a very fine thing, and women
particularly to be very wonderful creatures--angels, in short, of
goodness, and mercy, and truth, and all the rest of it. Then, judging by
what I have seen and heard, I should say that about nineteen men out of
twenty get a regular facer--just at the most sensitive period of their
life; and then they suddenly believe that women are devils, and the
world a delusion. It is bad logic; but they are not in a mood for
reason. By-and-by the process of recovery begins: with some short, with
others long. But the spring-time of belief, and hope, and rejoicing--I
doubt whether that ever comes back."

He spoke without any bitterness. If the facts of the world were so, they
had to be accepted.

"I swallowed my dose of experience a good many years ago," he continued,
"but I haven't got it out of my blood yet. However, I will admit to you
the possibility of there being a few women like Natalie Lind."

"Well, this is better, at all events," Lord Evelyn said, cheerfully.

"Beauty, of course, is a dazzling and dangerous thing," Brand said; "for
a man always wants to believe that fine eyes and a sweet voice have a
sweet soul behind them. And very often he finds behind them something in
the shape of a soul that a dog or a cat would be ashamed to own. But as
for Natalie Lind, I don't think one can be deceived. She shows too much.
She vibrates too quickly--too inadvertently--to little chance touches. I
did suspect her, I will confess. I thought she was hired to play the
part of decoy. But I had not seen her for ten minutes before I was
convinced she was playing no part at all."

"But goodness gracious, Brand, what are we coming to?" Lord Evelyn said,
with a laugh. "What! We already believe in England, and patriotism, and
the love of freedom? And we are prepared to admit that there is one
woman--positively, in the world, one woman--who is not a cheat and a
selfish coquette? Why, where are we to end?"

"I don't think I said only one woman," Brand replied, quite
good-naturedly; and then he added, with a smile, "You ask where we are
to end. Suppose I were to accept your new religion, Evelyn? Would that
please you? And would it please her, too?"

"Ah!" said his companion, looking up with a quick glance of pleasure.
But he would argue no more.

"Perhaps I have been too suspicious. It is a habit; I have had to look
after myself pretty much through the world; and I don't overvalue the
honesty of people I don't know. But when I once set my hand to the work,
I am not likely to draw back."

"You could be of so much more value to them than I can," said Lord
Evelyn, wistfully. "I don't suppose you spend more than half of your
income."

"Oh, as to that," said Brand, at once, "that is a very different matter.
If they like to take myself and what I can do, well and good; money is a
very different thing."

His companion raised himself in his chair; and there was surprise on his
face.

"How can you help them so well as with your money?" he cried. "Why, it
is the very thing they want most."

"Oh, indeed!" said Brand, coldly. "You see, Evelyn, my father was a
business man; and I may have inherited a commercial way of looking at
things. If I were to give away a lot of money to unknown people, for
unknown purposes, I should say that I was being duped, and that they
were putting the money in their own pocket."

"My dear fellow!" Lord Evelyn protested; "the need of money is most
urgent. There are printing-presses to be kept going; agents to be paid;
police-spies to be bribed--there is an enormous work to be done, and
money must be spent."

"All the same," said Brand, who was invariably most resolved when he was
most quiet in his manner, "I shall prefer not running the chance of
being duped in that direction. Besides, I am bound in honor not to do
anything of the kind. I can fling myself away--this is my own lookout;
and my life, or the way I spend it, is not of great consequence to me.
But my father's property, if anything happens to me, ought to go intact
to my sister's boys, to whom, indeed, I have left it by will. I will say
to Lind, 'Is it myself or my money that is wanted: you must choose.'"

"The question would be an insult."

"Oh, do you think so? Very well; I will not ask it. But that is the
understanding." Then he added, more lightly, "Why, would you have the
Pilgrim start with his pocket full of sovereigns? His staff and his
wallet are all he is entitled to. And when one is going to make a big
plunge, shouldn't one strip?"

There was no answer; for Lord Evelyn's quick ear had caught the sound of
wheels in the adjacent street.

"There is my trap," he said, looking at his watch as he rose.

Waters brought the young man his coat, and then went out to light him
down-stairs.

"Good-night, Brand. Glad to see you are getting into a wholesomer frame
of mind. I shall tell Natalie you are now prepared to admit that there
is in the world at least one woman who is not a cheat."

"I hope you will not utter a word to Miss Lind of any of the nonsense we
have been talking," said Brand, hastily, and with his face grown red.

"All right. By-the-way, when are you coming up to see the girls?"

"To-morrow afternoon: will that do?"

"Very well; I shall wait in."

"Let me see if I remember the order aright," said Brand, holding up his
fingers and counting. "Rosalys, Blanche, Ermentrude, Agnes, Jane,
Frances, Geraldine: correct?"

"Quite. I think their mother must forget at times. Well, good-night."

"Good-night--good-night!"

Brand returned to the empty room, and threw wide open one of the
windows. The air was singularly mild for a night in March; but he had
been careful of his friend. Then he dropped into an easy-chair, and
opened a letter.

It was the letter from Natalie Lind, which he had held in his hand ever
since, eagerly hoping that Evelyn would forget it--as, in fact, he had
done. And now with what a strange interest he read and re-read it; and
weighed all its phrases; and tried to picture her as she wrote these
lines; and studied even the peculiarities of the handwriting. There was
a quaint, foreign look here and there--the capital B, for example, was
written in German fashion; and that letter occurred a good many times.
It was Mr. Brand, and Mr. Brand, over and over again--in this friendly
and frank gossip, which had all the brightness of a chat over a new
acquaintance who interests one. He turned to the signature. "_Your
friend, Natalie._"

Then he walked up and down, slowly and thoughtfully; but ever and again
he would turn to the letter to see that he had quite accurately
remembered what she had said about the delight of the sail from Calais,
and the beautiful flowers at Dover and her gladness at the prospect of
their having this new associate and friend. Then the handwriting again.
The second stroke of the N in her name had a little notch at the
top--German fashion. It looked a pretty name, as she wrote it.

Then he went to the window, and leaned on the brass bar, and looked out
on the dark and sleeping world, with its countless golden points of
fire. He remained there a long time, thinking--of the past, in which he
had fancied his life was buried; of the present, with its bewildering
uncertainties; of the future, with its fascinating dreams. There might
be a future for him, then, after all; and hope; and the joy of
companionship? Surely that letter meant at least so much.

But then the boundlessness, the eager impatience, of human wishes!
Farther and farther, as he leaned and looked out, without seeing much of
the wonderful spectacle before him, went his thoughts and eager hopes
and desires. Companionship; but with whom? And might not the spring-time
of life come back again, as it was now coming back to the world in the
sweet new air that had begun to blow from the South? And what message
did the soft night-wind bring him but the name of Natalie? And Natalie
was written in the clear and shining heavens, in letters of fire and
joy; and the river spoke of Natalie; and the darkness murmured Natalie.

But his heart, whispering to him--there, in the silence of the night, in
the time when dreams abound, and visions of what may be--his heart,
whispering to him, said--"Natalushka!"



CHAPTER XI.

A COMMISSION.


When Ferdinand Lind looked out the next day from the window of his
hotel, it was not at all the Venice of chromolithography that lay before
him. The morning was wild, gray, and gloomy, with a blustering wind
blowing down from the north; the broad expanse of green water ruffled
and lashed by continual squalls; the sea-gulls wheeling and dipping over
the driven waves; the dingy masses of shipping huddled along the wet and
deserted quays; the long spur of the Lido a thin black line between the
green sea and purple sky; and the domed churches over there, and the
rows of tall and narrow and grumbling palaces overlooking the canals
nearer at hand, all alike dismal and bedraggled and dark.

When he went outside he shivered; but at all events these cold, damp
odors of the sea and the rainy wind were more grateful than the
mustiness of the hotel. But the deserted look of the place! The
gondolas, with their hearse-like coverings on, lay empty and untended by
the steps, as if waiting for a funeral procession. The men had taken
shelter below the archways, where they formed groups, silent,
uncomfortable, sulky. The few passers-by on the wet quays hurried along
with their voluminous black cloaks wrapped round their shoulders, and
hiding most of the mahogany-colored faces. Even the plague of beggars
had been dispersed; they had slunk away shivering into the foul-smelling
nooks and crannies. There was not a soul to give a handful of maize to
the pigeons in the Place of St. Mark.

But when Lind had got round into the Place, what was his surprise to
find Calabressa having his breakfast in the open air at a small table in
front of a _cafe_. He was quite alone there; but he seemed much content.
In fact, he was laughing heartily, all to himself, at something he had
been reading in the newspaper open before him.

"Well," said Lind, when they had exchanged salutations, "this is a
pleasant sort of a morning for one to have one's breakfast outside!"

"My faith," said Calabressa, "if you had taken as many breakfasts as I
have shut up in a hole, you would be glad to get the chance of a
mouthful of fresh air. Sit down, my friend."

Lind glanced round, and then sat down.

"My good friend Calabressa," he said presently, "for one connected as
you are with certain persons, do you not think now that your costume is
a little conspicuous? And then your sitting out here in broad
daylight--"

"My friend Lind," said he, with a laugh, "I am as safe here as if I were
in Naples, which I believe to be the safest place in the world for one
not in good odor with the authorities. And if there was a risk, would I
not run it to hear my little nightingale over there when she opens the
casements? Ah! she is the most charming Rosina in the world."

"Yes, yes," said Lind. "I am not speaking of you. But--the others. The
police must guess you are not here for nothing."

"Oh, the others? Rest assured. The police might as well try to put their
fingers on a globule of quicksilver. It is but three days since they
left the Piazza del Popolo, Torre del Greco. To-morrow, if their
business is finished to-night, they will vanish again; and I shall be
dismissed."

"If their business is finished?" repeated Lind, absently. "Yes; but I
should like to know why they have summoned me all the way from England.
They cannot mean--"

"My dear friend Lind," said Calabressa, "you must not look so grave.
Nothing that is going to happen is worth one's troubling one's self
about. It is the present moment that is of consequence; and at the
present moment I have a joke for you. You know Armfeldt, who is now at
Berne: they had tried him only four times in Berlin; and there was only
a little matter of nine years' sentence against him. Listen."

He took up the _Osservatore_, and read out a paragraph, stating that Dr.
Julius Armfeldt had again been tried _in contumaciam_, and sentenced to
a further term of two years' imprisonment, for seditious writing.
Further, the publisher of his latest pamphlet, a citizen of Berne, had
likewise been sentenced in his absence to twelve months' imprisonment.

"Do they think Armfeldt will live to be a centenarian, that they keep
heaping up those sentences against him? Or is it as another inducement
for him to go back to his native country and give himself up? It is a
great joke, this childish proceeding; but a Government should not
declare itself impotent. It is like the Austrians when they hanged you
and the others in effigy. Now I remember, the little Natalushka was
grieved that she was not born then; for she wished to see the spectacle,
and to have killed the people who insulted her father."

"I am afraid it is no joke at all," Lind said, gloomily. "Those Swiss
people are craven. What can you expect from a nation of hotel-waiters?
They cringe before every bully in Europe; you will find that, if
Bismarck insists, the Federal Council will expel Armfeldt from
Switzerland directly. No; the only safe refuge nowadays for the
reformers, the Protestants the pioneers of Europe, is England; and the
English do not know it; they do not think of it. They are so accustomed
to freedom that they believe that is the only possible condition, and
that other nations must necessarily enjoy it. When you talk to them of
tyranny, of political persecution, they laugh. They cannot understand
such a thing existing. They fancy it ceased when Bomba's dungeons were
opened."

"For my part," said Calabressa, lighting a cigarette, and calling for a
small glass of cognac, "I am content with Naples."

"And the protection of pickpockets?"

"My friend," said the other, coolly, "if you refer to the most honorable
the association of the Camorristi, I would advise you not to speak too
loud."

Calabressa rose, having settled his score with the waiter.

"Allons!" said he. "What are you going to do to day?"

"I don't know," said Lind, discontentedly. "May the devil fly away with
this town of Venice! I never come here but it is either freezing or
suffocating."

"You are in an evil humor to-day, friend Lind; you have caught the
English spleen. Come, I have a little business to do over at Murano; the
breeze will do you good. And I will tell you the story of my escape."

The time had to be passed somehow. Lind walked with his companion along
to the steps, descended, and jumped into a gondola, and presently they
were shooting out into the turbulent green water that the wind drove
against the side of the boat in a succession of sharp shocks. Seated in
the little funereal compartment, they could talk without much fear of
being heard by either of the men; and Calabressa began his tale. It was
not romantic. It was simply a case of bribery; the money to effect which
had certainly not come out of Calabressa's shallow pockets. In the
midst of the story--or, at least, before the end of it--Lind said, in a
low voice,

"Calabressa, have you any sure grounds for what you said about
Zaccatelli?"

His companion glanced quickly outside.

"It is you are now indiscreet," he said, in an equally low voice. "But
yes; I think that is the business. However," he added, in a gayer tone,
"what matter? To-day is not to-morrow; to-morrow will shift for itself."
And therewith he continued his story, though his listener seemed
singularly preoccupied and thoughtful.

They arrived at the island, got out, and walked into the court-yard of
one of the smaller glass-works. There were one or two of the workmen
passing; and here something occurred that seemed to arrest Lind's
attention.

"What, here also?" said he, in a low voice.

"Every one; the master included. It is with him I have to do this little
piece of business. Now you will be so good as to wait for a short time,
will you not?--and it is warm in there; I will be with you soon."

Lind walked into the large workshop, where there were a number of people
at work, all round the large, circular, covered caldron, the various
apertures into which sent out fierce rays of light and heat. He walked
about, seemingly at his ease; looking at the apprentices experimenting;
chatting to the workmen. And at last he asked one of these to make for
him a little vase in opalescent glass, that he could take to his
daughter in England; and could he put the letter N on it somewhere? It
was at least some occupation, watching the quick and dexterous handling
under which the little vase grew into form, and had its decoration
cleverly pinched out, and its tiny bits of color added. The letter N was
not very successful; but then Natalie would know that her father had
been thinking of her at Venice.

This excursion at all events tided over the forenoon; and when the two
companions returned to the wet and disconsolate city, Calabressa was
easily persuaded to join his friend in some sort of mid-day meal. After
that, the long-haired albino-looking person took his leave, having
arranged how Lind was to keep the assignation for that evening.

The afternoon cleared up somewhat; but Ferdinand Lind seemed to find it
dull enough. He went out for an aimless stroll through some of the
narrow back streets, slowly making his way among the crowd that poured
along these various ways. Then he returned to his hotel, and wrote some
letters. Then he dined early; but still the time did not seem to pass.
He resolved on getting through an hour or so at the theatre.

A gondola swiftly took him away through the labyrinth of small and
gloomy canals, until at length the wan orange glare shining out into the
night showed him that he was drawing near one of the entrances to the
Fenice. If he had been less preoccupied--less eager to think of nothing
but how to get the slow hours over--he might have noticed the
strangeness of the scene before him: the successive gondolas stealing
silently up through the gloom to the palely lit stone steps; the black
coffins appearing to open; and then figures in white and scarlet
opera-cloaks getting out into the dim light, to ascend into the
brilliant glare of the theatre staircase. He, too, followed, and got
into the place assigned to him. But this spectacular display failed to
interest him. He turned to the bill, to remind him what he had to see.
The blaze of color on the stage--the various combinations of
movement--the resounding music--all seemed part of a dream; and it
annoyed him somehow. He rose and left.

The intervening time he spent chiefly in a _cafe_ close by the theatre,
where he smoked cigarettes and appeared to read the newspapers. Then he
wandered away to the spot appointed for him to meet a particular
gondola, and arrived there half an hour too soon. But the gondola was
there also. He jumped in and was carried away through the silence of the
night.

When he arrived at the door, which was opened to him by Calabressa, he
contrived to throw off, by a strong effort of will, any appearance of
anxiety. He entered and sat down, saying only,

"Well!--what news?"

Calabressa laughed slightly; and went to a cupboard, and brought forth a
bottle and two small glasses.

"If you were Zaccatelli," he said, "I would say to you, 'My Lord,' or
'Your Excellency,' or whatever they call those flamingoes with the
bullet heads, 'I would advise you to take a little drop of this very
excellent cognac, for you are about to hear something, and you will need
steady nerves.' Meanwhile, Brother Lind, it is not forbidden to you and
me to have a glass. The Council provide excellent liquor."

"Thank you, I have no need of it," said Lind, coldly. "What do you mean
about Zaccatelli?"

"This," said the other, filling himself out a glass of the brandy, and
then proceeding to prepare a cigarette. "If the moral scene of the
country, too long outraged, should determine to punish the Starving
Cardinal, I believe he will get a good year's notice to prepare for his
doom. You perceive? What harm does sudden death to a man? It is nothing.
A moment of pain; and you have all the happiness of sleep, indifference,
forgetfulness. That is no punishment at all: do you perceive?"

Calabressa continued, airily--

"People are proud when they say they do not fear death. The fools! What
has any one to fear in death? To the poor it means no more hunger, no
more imprisonment, no more cold and sickness, no more watching of your
children when they are suffering and you cannot help; to the rich it
means no more triumph of rivals, and envy, and jealousy; no more
sleepless nights and ennui of days; no more gout, and gravel, and the
despair of growing old. Death! It is the great emancipation. And people
talk of the punishment of death!"

He gave a long whistle of contempt.

"But," said he, with a smile, "it is a little bit different if you have
to look forward to your death on a certain fixed day. Then you begin to
overvalue things--a single hour of life becomes something."

He added, in a tone of affected condolence--

"Then one wouldn't wish to cause any poor creature to say his last
adieux without some preparation. And in the case of a cardinal, is a
year too little for repentance? Oh, he will put it to excellent use."

"Very well, very well," said Ferdinand Lind, with an impatient frown
gathering over the shaggy eyebrows. "But I want to know what I have to
do with all this?"

"Brother Lind," said the other, mildly, "if the Secretary Granaglia,
knowing that I am a friend of yours, is so kind as to give me some hints
of what is under discussion, I listen, but I ask no questions. And
you--I presume you are here not to protest, but to obey."

"Understand me, Calabressa: it was only to you as a friend that I
spoke," said Lind, gravely. And then he added, "The Council will not
find, at all events, that I am recusant."

A few minutes afterward the bell rung, and Calabressa jumped to his
feet; while Lind, in spite of himself, started. Presently the _portiere_
was drawn aside, and the little sallow-complexioned man whom he had seen
on the previous evening entered the room. On this occasion, however,
Calabressa was motioned to withdraw, and immediately did so. Lind and
the stranger were left together.

"I need scarcely inform you, Brother Lind," said he, in a slow and
matter-of-fact way, "that I am the authorized spokesman of the Council."

As he said this, for a moment he rested his hand on the table. There was
on the forefinger a large ring, with a red stone in it, engraved. Lind
bowed acquiescence.

"Calabressa has no doubt informed you of the matter before the Council.
That is now decided; the decree has been signed. Zaccatelli dies within
a year from this day. The motives which have led to this decision may
hereafter be explained to you, even if they have not already occurred to
you; they are motives of policy, as regards ourselves and the progress
of our work, as well as of justice."

Ferdinand Lind listened, without response.

"It has further been decided that the blow be struck from England."

"England!" was the involuntary exclamation.

"Yes," said the other, calmly. "To give full effect to such a warning it
must be clear to the world that it has nothing to do with any private
revenge or low intrigue. Assassination has been too frequent in Italy of
late. The doubting throughout the world must be convinced that we have
agents everywhere; and that we are no mere local society for the
revenging of private wrongs."

Lind again bowed assent.

"Further," said the other, regarding him, "the Council charge you with
the execution of the decree."

Lind had almost expected this: he did not flinch.

"After twelve months' grace granted, you will be prepared with a sure
and competent agent who will give effect to the decree of the Council;
failing such a one, the duty will devolve on your own shoulders."

"On mine!" he was forced to exclaim. "Surely--"

"Do you forget," said the other, calmly, "that sixteen years ago your
life was forfeited, and given back to you by the Council?"

"So I understood," said Lind. "But it was not my life that was given me
then!--only the lease of it till the Council should claim it again.
However!"

He drew himself up, and the powerful face was full of decision.

"It is well," said he. "I do not complain. If I exact obedience from
others, I, too, obey. The Council shall be served."

"Further instructions shall be given you. Meanwhile, the Council once
more thank you for your attendance. Farewell, brother!"

"Farewell, brother!"

When he had gone, and the bell again rung, Calabressa reappeared. Lind
was too proud a man to betray any concern.

"It is as you told me, Calabressa," said he, carelessly, as his friend
proceeded to light him down the narrow staircase. "And I am charged with
the execution of their vengeance. Well; I wish I had been present at
their deliberations, that is all. This deed may answer so far as the
continental countries are concerned; but, so far as England is
concerned, it will undo the work of years."

"What!--England!" exclaimed Calabressa, lightly--"where they blow up a
man's house with gunpowder, or dash vitriol in his face, if he works for
a shilling a day less wages?--where they shoot landlords from behind
hedges if the rent is raised?--where they murder policemen in the open
street, to release political prisoners? No, no, friend Lind; I cannot
believe that."

"However, that is not my business, Calabressa. The Council shall be
obeyed. I am glad to know you are again at liberty; when you come to
England you will see how your little friend Natalie has grown."

"Give a kiss from me to the little Natalushka," said he, cheerfully; and
then the two parted.



CHAPTER XII.

JACTA EST ALEA.


"Natalie," said her father, entering the breakfast-room, "I have news
for you to-day. This evening Mr. Brand is to be initiated."

The beautiful, calm face betrayed no surprise.

"That is always the way," she answered, almost absently. "One after the
other they go in; and I only am left out, alone."

"What," he said, patting her shoulder as he passed, "are you still
dreaming of reviving the _Giardiniere_? Well, it was a pretty idea to
call each sister in the lodge by the name of a flower. But nowadays, and
in England especially, if women intermeddled in such things, do you know
what they would be called? _Petroleuses!_"

"Names do not hurt," said the girl, proudly.

"No, no. Rest content, Natalie. You are initiated far enough. You know
all that needs to be known; and you can work with us, and associate with
us like the rest. But about Brand; are you not pleased?"

"I am indeed pleased, papa."

"And I am more than pleased," said Lind, thoughtfully. "He will be the
most important accession we have had for many a day. Ah, you women have
sharp eyes; but there are some things you cannot see--there are some men
whose character you cannot read."

Natalie glanced up quickly; and her father noticed that surprised look.

"Well," said he, with a smile, "what now is your opinion of Mr. Brand?"

Instantly the soft eyes were cast down again, and a faint tinge of color
appeared in her face.

"Oh, my opinion, papa?" said she, as if to gain time to choose her
words. "Well, I should call him manly, straightforward--and--and very
kind--and--and very English--"

"I understand you perfectly, Natalie," her father said, with a laugh.
"You and Lord Evelyn are quite in accord. Yes, and you are both
thoroughly mistaken. You mean, by his being so English, that he is
cold, critical, unsympathetic: is it not so? You resent his being
cautious about joining us. You think he will be but a lukewarm
associate--suspecting everything--fearful about going too far--a
half-and-half ally. My dear Natalie, that is because neither Lord
Evelyn nor you know anything at all about that man."

The faint color in the girl's cheeks had deepened; and she remained
silent, with her face downcast.

"The pliable ones," her father continued, "the people who are moved by
fine talking, who are full of amiable sentiments, and who take to work
like ours as an additional sentiment--you may initiate a thousand of
them, and not gain an atom of strength. It is a hard head that I want,
and a strong will; a man determined to have no illusions at the outset;
a man who, once pledged, will not despair or give up in the face of
failure, difficulty, or disappointment, or anything else. Brand is such
a man. If I were to be disabled to-morrow, I would rather leave my work
in his hands than in the hands of any man I have seen in this country."

Was it to hide the deepening color in her face that the girl went round
to her father, and stood rather behind him, and put her hand on his
shoulder, and stooped down to his ear.

"Papa," said she, "I--I hope you don't think I have been saying anything
against Mr. Brand. Oh no. How could I do that--when he has been so kind
to us--and--and just now especially, when he is about to become one of
us? You must forget what I said about his being English, papa; after
all, it is not for us to say that being English is anything else than
being kind, and generous, and hospitable. And I am exceedingly pleased
that you have got another associate, and that we have got another good
friend, in England."

"Alors, as Calabressa would say, you can show that you are pleased,
Natalie," her father said, lightly, "by going and writing a pretty
little note, asking your new friend, Mr. Brand, to dine with us
to-night, after the initiation is over, and I will ask Evelyn, if I see
him."

But this proposal in no wise seemed to lessen the girl's embarrassment.
She still clung about the back of her father's chair.

"I would rather not do that, papa," said she, after a second.

"Why? why?" said he.

"Would it not look less formal for you to ask him, papa? You see, it is
once or twice that we have asked him to dine with us without giving him
proper notice--"

"Oh, that is nothing--nothing at all. A bachelor with an evening
disengaged is glad enough to fill it up anyhow. Well, if you would
rather not write, Natalie, I will ask him myself."

"Thank you, papa," said she, apparently much relieved, and therewith she
went back to her seat, and her father turned to his newspaper.

The day passed, and the evening came. As six o'clock was striking,
George Brand presented himself at the little door in Lisle street, Soho,
and was admitted. Lind had already assured him that, as far as England
was concerned, no idle mummeries were associated with the ceremony of
initiation; to which Brand had calmly replied, that if mummeries were
considered necessary, he was as ready as any one to do his part of the
business. Only he added that he thought the unknown powers had acted
wisely--so far as England was concerned--in discarding such things.

When he entered the room, his first glance round was reassuring. There
were six persons present besides Lind, and they did not at all suggest
the typical Leicester Square foreigner. On the contrary, he guessed that
four out of the six were either English or Irish; and two of them he
recognized, though they were unknown to him personally. The one was a
Home Rule M.P., ferocious enough in the House of Commons, but celebrated
as the most brilliant, and amiable, and fascinating of diners-out; the
other was an Oxford don, of large fortune and wildly Radical views, who
wrote a good deal in the papers. There was a murmur of conversation
going on, which ceased as Lind briefly introduced the new-comer.

The ceremony, if ceremony it could be called, was simple enough. The
candidate for admission was required to sign a printed document,
solemnly pledging himself to devote his life, and the labor of his hands
and brain, to the work of the association; to implicitly obey any
command reaching him from the Council, or communicated through an
officer of the first degree; and to preserve inviolable secrecy. Brand
read this paper through twice, and signed it. It was then signed by the
seven witnesses. He was further required to inscribe his signature in a
large volume, which contained a list of members of a particular section.
That done, the six strangers present shook him by the hand, and left.

He looked round surprised. Had he been dreaming during these brief five
minutes? Yet he could hear the noise of their going down-stairs.

"Well," said Mr. Lind, with a smile, "it is not a very terrible
ceremony, is it? Did you expect prostrations at the altar; and blindfold
gropings, and the blessing of the dagger? When you come to know a little
more of our organization, of its extent and its power, you will
understand how we can afford to dispense with all those theatrical ways
of frightening people into obedience and secrecy."

"I expected to find Evelyn here," said George Brand. He was in truth,
just a little bit bewildered as yet. He had been assured that there
would be no foolish mummeries or fantastic rites of initiation; but all
the same he had been much occupied with this step he was about to take;
he had been thinking of it much; he had been looking forward to
something unknown; and he had been nerving himself to encounter whatever
might come before him. But that five minutes of silence; the quick
reading and signing of a paper; the sudden dispersion of the small
assemblage: he could scarcely believe it was all real.

"No," Lind said, "Lord Evelyn is not yet an officer. He is only a
Companion in the third degree, like yourself."

"A what?"

"A Companion in the third degree. Surely you read the document that you
signed?"

It was still lying on the table before him. He took it up; yes, he
certainly was so designated there. Yet he could not remember seeing the
phrase, though he had, before signing, read every word twice over.

"And now, Mr. Brand," his companion said, seating himself at the other
side of the table, "when you have got over your surprise that there
should be no ceremony, it will become my duty to give you some
idea--some rough idea--of the mechanism and aims of our association, and
to show you in what measure we are allied with other societies. The
details you will become acquainted with by-and-by; that will be a labor
of time. And you know, of course, or you have guessed, that there are no
mysteries to be revealed to you, no profound religious truths to be
communicated, no dogmas to be accepted. I am afraid we are very
degenerate descendants of the Mystics, and the Illuminati, and all the
rest of them; we have become prosaic; our wants are sadly material. And
yet we have our dreams and aspirations, too; and the virtues that we
exact--obedience, temperance, faith, self-sacrifice--are not ignoble.
Meanwhile, to begin. I think you may prepare yourself to be astonished."

But astonishment was no word for the emotion experienced by the newly
admitted member when Ferdinand Lind proceeded to give him, with careful
facts and sober computations, some rough outline of the extent and power
of this intricate and far-reaching organization. Hitherto the word
"International" had with him been associated with the ridiculous fiasco
at Geneva; but here was something, not calling itself international,
which aimed at nothing less than knitting together the multitudes of the
nations, not only in Europe, but in the English and French and German
speaking territories beyond the seas, in a solemn league--a league for
self-protection and mutual understanding, for the preservation of
international peace, the spread of knowledge, the outbraving of tyranny,
the defiance of religious intolerance, the relief of the oppressed, the
help of the poor, and the sick, and the weak. This was no cutthroat
conspiracy or wild scheme of confiscation and plunder; but a design for
the establishment of wide and beneficent law--a law which should
protect, not the ambition of kings, not the pride of armies, not the
revenues of priests, but the rights and the liberties of those who were
"darkening in labor and pain." And this message, that could go forth
alike to the Camorristi and the Nihilists; to the Free Masons and the
Good Templars; to the Trades-unionists and the Knights of Labor--to all
those masses of men moved by the spirit of co-operation--"See, brothers,
what we have to show you. Some of you are aiming at chaos and perdition;
others putting wages as their god and sovereign; others content with a
vague philanthropy almost barren of results. This is all the help we
want of you--to pledge yourselves to associate with us, to accept our
modest programme of actual needs, to give help to those who are in want
or trouble, to promise that you will stand by us in the time to come.
And when the time does come; when we are combined; when knowledge is
abroad, and mutual trust, who will say 'yes' if the voice of the people
in every nation murmurs 'No?' What priest will reimpose the Inquisition
on us; what king drive us to shed blood that his robes may have the
richer dye; what policeman in high places endeavor to stamp out our
God-given right of free speech? It is so little for you to grant; it is
so much for you, and for us, to gain!"

These were not the words he uttered--for Lind spoke English slowly and
carefully--but they were the spirit of his words. And as he went on
describing to this new member what had already been done, what was being
done, and the great possibilities of the future, Brand began to wonder
whether all this gigantic scheme, with its simple, bold, and practical
outlines, were the work of this one man. He ventured by-and-by to hint
at some such question.

"Mine?" Lind said, frankly, "Ah no! not the inspiration of it. I am only
the mechanic putting brick and brick together; the design is not mine,
nor that of any one man. It is an aggregate project--a speculation
occupying many a long hour of imprisonment--a scheme to be handed from
one to the other, with alterations and suggestions."

"But even your share of it--how can one man control so much?" Brand
said; for he easily perceived what a mass of detail had to pass through
this man's hands.

"I will tell you," said the other. "Because every stone added to the
building is placed there for good. There is no looking back. There are
no pacifications of revolt. No questions; but absolute obedience. You
see, we exact so little: why should any one rebel? However, you will
learn more and more as you go on; and soon your work will be appointed
you. Meanwhile, I thank you, brother."

Lind rose and shook his hand.

"Now," said he, "that is enough of business. It occurred to me this
morning that, if you had nothing else to do this evening, you might come
and dine with us, and give Natalie the chance of meeting you in your new
character."

"I shall be most pleased," said Brand; and his face flushed.

"I telegraphed to Evelyn. If he is in town, perhaps he will join us.
Shall we walk home?"

"If you like."

So they went out together into the glare and clamor of the streets.
George Brand's heart was very full with various emotions; but, not to
lose altogether his English character, he preserved a somewhat critical
tone as he talked.

"Well, Mr. Lind," he said, "so far as I can see and hear, your scheme
has been framed not only with great ability, but also with a studied
moderation and wisdom. The only point I would urge is this--that, in
England, as little as possible should be said about kings and priests. A
great deal of what you said would scarcely be understood here. You see,
in England it is not the Crown nowadays which instigate or insists on
war; it is Parliament and the people. Dynastic ambitions do not trouble
us. There is no reason whatever why we here should hate kings when they
are harmless."

"You are right; the case is different," Lind admitted. "But that makes
adhesion to our programme all the easier."

"I was only speaking of the police of mentioning things which might
alarm timid people. Then as for the priests; it may be the interest of
the priests in Ireland to keep the peasantry ignorant; but it is
certainly not so in England. The Church of England fosters education--"

"Are not your clergymen the bitterest enemies of the School Board
schools?"

"Well, they may dislike seeing education dissociated from religion--that
is natural, considering what they believe; but they are not necessary
enemies of education. Perhaps I am a very young member to think of
making such a suggestion. But the truth is, that when an ordinary
Englishman hears anything said against kings and priests, he merely
thinks of kings and priests as he knows them--and as being mostly
harmless creatures nowadays--and concludes that you are a Communist
wanting to overturn society altogether."

"Precisely so. I told Natalie this morning that if she were to be
allowed to join our association her English friends would imagine her to
be _petroleuse_."

"Miss Lind is not in the association?" Brand said, quickly.

"As yet no women have been admitted. It is a difficulty; for in some
societies with which we are partly in alliance women are members. Ah,
such noble creatures many of them are, too! However, the question may
come forward by-and-by. In the mean time, Natalie, without being made
aware of what we are actually doing--that, of course, is
forbidden--knows something of what our work must be, and is warm in her
sympathy. She is a good help, too: she is the quickest translator we
have got."

"Do you think," Brand said, somewhat timidly, but with a frown on his
face, "that it is fair to put such tedious labor on the shoulders of a
young girl? Surely there are enough of men to do the work?"

"You shall propose that to her yourself," Lind said laughing.

Well, they arrived at the house in Curzon Street, and, when they went
up-stairs to the drawing-room, they found Lord Evelyn there. Natalie
Lind came forward--with less than usual of her graciously self-possessed
manner--and shook hands with him briefly, and said, with averted look,

"I am glad to see you, Mr. Brand."

Now, as her eyes were cast down, it was impossible that she could have
noticed the quick expression of disappointment that crossed his face.
Was it that she herself was instantly conscious of the coldness of her
greeting, and anxious to atone for that? Was it that she plucked up
heart of grace? At all events, she suddenly offered him both her hands
with a frank courage; she looked him in the face with the soft, tender,
serious eyes; and then, before she turned away, the low voice said,

"Brother, I welcome you!"



CHAPTER XIII.

SOUTHWARD.


After a late, cold, and gloomy spring, a glimpse of early summer shone
over the land; and after a long period of anxious and oftentimes
irritating and disappointing travail--in wet and dismal towns, in
comfortless inns, with associates not always to his liking--George Brand
was hurrying to the South. Ah, the thought of it, as the train whirled
along on this sunlit morning! After the darkness, the light; after
fighting, peace; after the task-work, a smile of reward! No more than
that was his hope; but it was a hope that kept his heart afire and glad
on many a lonely night.

At length his companion, who had slept steadily on ever since they had
entered the train at Carlisle, at about one in the morning, awoke,
rubbed his eyes, and glanced at the window.

"We are going to have a fine day at last, Humphreys," said Brand.

"They have been having better weather in the South, sir."

The man looked like a well-dressed mechanic. He had an intelligent face,
keen and hard. He spoke with the Newcastle burr.

"I wish you would not call me 'sir,'" Brand said, impatiently.

"It comes natural, somehow, sir," said the other, with great simplicity.
"There is not a man in any part of the country, but would say 'sir' to
one of the Brands of Darlington. When Mr. Lind telegraphed to me you
were coming down, I telegraphed back, 'Is he one of the Brands of
Darlington?' and when I got his answer I said to myself, 'Here is the
man to go to the Political Committee of the Trades-union Congress: they
won't fight shy of him.'"

"Well, we have no great cause to grumble at what has been done in that
direction; but that infernal _Internationale_ is doing a deal of
mischief. There is not a trades-unionist in the country who does not
know what is going on in France. A handful of irresponsible madmen
trying to tack themselves on to the workmen's association--well, surely
the men will have more sense than to listen. The _congres ouvrier_ to
change its name, and to become the _congres revolutionnaire_! When I
first went to Jackson, Molyneux, and the others, I found they had a sort
of suspicion that we wanted to make Communists of them and tear society
to pieces."

"You have done more in a couple of months, sir, than we all have done in
the last ten years," his companion said.

"That is impossible. Look at--"

He named some names, certain of them well known enough.

The other shook his head.

"Where we have been they don't believe in London professors, and
speech-makers, and chaps like that. They know that the North is the
backbone and the brain of England, and in the North they want to be
spoken to by a North-countryman."

"I am a Buckinghamshire man."

"That may be where you live, sir: but you are one of the Brands of
Darlington," said the other, doggedly.

By-and-by they entered the huge, resounding station.

"What are you going to do to-night, Humphreys? Come and have some dinner
with me, and we will look in afterward at the Century."

Humphreys looked embarrassed for a moment.

"I was thinking of going to the Coger's Hall, sir," said he, hitting
upon an excuse. "I have heard some good speaking there."

"Mostly bunkum, isn't it?"

"No, sir."

"All right. Then I shall see you to-morrow morning in Lisle Street.
Good-bye."

He jumped into a hansom, and was presently rattling away through the
busy streets. How sweet and fresh was the air, even here in the midst of
the misty and golden city! The early summer was abroad; there was a
flush of green on the trees in the squares. When he got down to the
Embankment, he was quite surprised by the beauty of the gardens; there
were not many gardens in the towns he had chiefly been living in.

He dashed up the narrow wooden stairs.

"Look alive now, Waters: get my bath ready."

"It is ready, sir."

"And breakfast!"

"Whenever you please, sir."

He took off his dust-smothered travelling-coat, and was about to fling
it on the couch, when he saw lying there two pieces of some brilliant
stuff that were strange to him.

"What are these things?"

"They were left, sir, by Mr. ----, of Bond Street, on approval. He will
call this afternoon."

"Tell him to go to the devil!" said Brand, briefly, as he walked off
into his bedroom.

Presently he came back.

"Stay a bit," said he; and he took up the two long strips of
silk-embroidered stuff--Florentine work, probably, of about the end of
the sixteenth century. The ground was a delicate yellowish-gray, with an
initial letter worked in various colors over it. Mr. ----, of Bond
Street, knew that Brand had often amused his idle hours abroad in
picking up things like this, chiefly as presents to lady friends, and
no doubt thought they would be welcome enough, even for bachelors'
rooms.

"Tell him I will take them."

"But the price, sir?"

"Ask him his price; beat him down; and keep the difference."

After bath and breakfast there was an enormous pile of correspondence
awaiting him; for not a single letter referring to his own affairs had
been forwarded to him for over two months. He had thrown his entire time
and care into his work in the North. And now that these arrears had to
be cleared off, he attacked the business with an obvious impatience.
Formerly he had been used to dawdle over his letters, getting through a
good portion of the forenoon with them and conversations with Waters
about Buckinghamshire news. Now, even with that omniscient factotum by
his side, his progress was slow, simply because he was hurried. He made
dives here and there, without system, without settlement. At last,
looking at his watch, he jumped up; it was half-past eleven.

"Some other time, Waters--some other time; the man must wait," he said
to the astonished but patient person beside him. "If Lord Evelyn calls,
tell him I shall look in at the Century to-night."

"Yes, sir."

Some half-hour thereafter he was standing in Park Lane, his heart
beating somewhat quickly, his eyes fixed eagerly on two figures that
were crossing the thoroughfare lower down to one of the gates leading
into Hyde Park. These were Natalie Lind and the little Anneli. He had
known that he would see her thus; he had imagined the scene a thousand
times; he had pictured to himself every detail--the trees, the tall
railings, the spring flowers in the plots, and the little rosy-cheeked
German girl walking by her mistress's side; and yet, now that this
familiar thing had come true, he trembled to behold it; he breathed
quickly; he could not go forward to her and hold out his hand. Slowly,
for they were walking slowly, he went along to the gate and entered
after them; cautiously, lest she should turn suddenly and confront him
with her eyes; drawn, and yet fearing to follow. She was talking with
some animation to her companion; though even in this profound silence he
could not hear the sound of her voice. But he could see the beautiful
oval of her face! and sometimes, when she turned with a laugh to the
little Anneli, he caught a glimpse of the black eyes and eyelashes, the
smiling lips and brilliant teeth; and once or twice she put out the
palm of her right hand with a little gesture which, despite her English
dress, would have told a stranger that she was of foreign ways. But the
look of welcome, the smile of reward that he had been looking forward
to?

Well, Mr. Lind was in America; and during his absence his daughter saw
but few visitors. There was no particular reason why, supposing that
George Brand met Natalie in the street, he should not go up and shake
hands with her; and many a time, in these mental pictures of his of her
morning walk with the rosy-cheeked Anneli, he imagined himself
confronting her under the shadow of the trees, and perhaps walking some
way with her, to listen once more to the clear, low vibrations of her
musical voice. But no sooner had he seen her come into Park Lane--the
vision became real--than he felt he could not go up and speak to her. If
he had met her by accident, perhaps he might; but to watch her, to
entrap her, to break in on her wished-for isolation under false
pretences--all that he suddenly felt to be impossible. He could follow
her with his heart; but the sound of her voice, the touch of her hand,
the smile of her calm, beautiful, dark eyes, were as remote for him as
if she, too, were beyond the broad Atlantic.

He was not much given to introspection and analysis; daring the past two
months more especially he had been far too busy to be perpetually asking
"Why? why?"--the vice of indolence. It was enough that, in the cold and
the wet, there was a fire in his heart that kept him glad with thinking
of the fair days to come; and that, in the foggy afternoons or the
lonely nights when he was alone, and perhaps despondent or impatient
over the stupidity or the contumacy he had had to encounter, there came
to him the soft murmur of a voice from far away--proud, sad, and yet
full of consolation and hope:

    "--But ye that might be clothed with all things pleasant,
     Ye are foolish that put off the fair soft present,
       That clothe yourself with the cold future air;
         When mother and father, and tender sister and brother,
     And the old live love that was shall be as ye,
     Dust and no fruit of loving life shall be.
      --She shall be yet who is more than all these were,
         Than sister or wife or father unto us, or mother."

He could hear her voice: he could see the beautiful face grow pale with
its proud fervor; he could feel the soft touch of her hand when she
came forward and said, "Brother, I welcome you!"

And now that she was there before him, the gladness in his heart at the
mere sight of her was troubled with a trembling fear and pain. She was
but a stone's-throw in front of him; but she seemed far away. The world
was young around her; and she belonged to the time of youth and of
hope; life, that he had been ready to give up as a useless and aimless
thing, was only opening out before her, full of a thousand beauties, and
wonders, and possibilities. If only he could have taken her hand, and
looked into her eyes, and claimed that smile of welcome, he would have
been nearer to her. Surely, in one thing at least they were in sympathy.
There was a bond between them. If the past had divided them, the future
would bring them more together. Did not the Pilgrims go by in bands,
until death struck down its victims here and there?

Natalie knew nothing of all this vague longing, and doubt, and pain in
the breast of one who was so near her. She was in a gay mood. The
morning was beautiful; the soft wind after the rain brought whiffs of
scent from the distant rose-red hawthorn. Though she was here under
shadow of the trees, the sun beyond shone on the fresh and moist grass;
and at the end of the glades there were glimpses of brilliant color in
the foliage--the glow of the laburnum, the lilac blaze of the
rhododendron bushes. And how still the place was! Far off there was a
dull roar of carriages in Piccadilly; but here there was nothing but the
bleating of the sheep, the chirp of the young birds, the stir of the
wind among the elms. Sometimes he could now catch the sound of her
voice.

She was in a gay humor. When she got to the Serpentine--the north bank
was her favorite promenade; she could see on the other side, just below
the line of leaves, the people passing and repassing on horseback; but
she was not of them--she found a number of urchins wading. They had no
boat; but they had the bung of a barrel, which served, and that they
were pushing through the water with twigs and sticks; their shapeless
boots they had left on the bank. Now, as it seemed to Brand, who was
watching from a distance, she planned a scheme. Anneli was seen to go
ahead of the boys, and speak to them. Their attention being thus
distracted, the young mistress stepped rapidly down to the tattered
boots, and dropped something in each. Then she withdrew, and was
rejoined by her maid; they walked away without waiting to see the result
of their machinations. But George Brand, following by-and-by, heard one
of the urchins call out with wonder that he had found a penny in his
shoe; and this extraordinary piece of news brought back his comrades,
who rather mechanically began to examine their footgear too. And then
the amazement!--and the looks around!--and the examination of the pence,
lest that treasure should vanish away! Brand went up to them.

"Look hear you young stupids; don't you see that tall lady away along
there by the boat-house--why don't you go and thank her?"

But they were either too shy or too incredulous; so he left them. He did
not forget the incident.

Perhaps it was that the heavens had grown dark in the southwest,
threatening a shower; but, at all events, Natalie soon returned and set
out on her homeward way, giving this unknown spy some trouble to escape
observation. But when she had passed, he again followed, now with even
greater unrest and pain at his heart. For would not she soon disappear,
and the outer world grow empty, and the dull hours have to be faced? He
had come to London with such hope and gladness; now the very sunlight
was to be taken out of his life by the shutting of a door in Curzon
Street.

Fate, however, was kinder to him than he had dared to hope. As Natalie
was returning home, he ventured to draw a little nearer to her, but
still with the greatest caution, for he would have been overcome with
shame if she had detected him dogging her footsteps in this aimless, if
innocent manner. And now that she had got close to her own door, he had
drawn nearer still--on the other side of the street; he so longed to
catch one more glimpse of the dark eyes smiling, and the mobile, proud
mouth. But just as the door was being opened from within, a man who had
evidently been watching his chance thrust himself before the two women,
barring their way, and proceeded to address Natalie in a vehement,
gesticulating fashion, with much clinching of his fists and throwing out
of his arms. Anneli had shrunk back a step, for the man was uncouth and
unkempt; but the young mistress stood erect and firm, confronting the
beggar, or madman, or whoever he was, without the slightest sign of
fear.

This was enough for George Brand. He was not thrusting himself unfairly
on her seclusion if he interposed to protect her from menace. Instantly
he crossed the road.

"Who are you? What do you want?" This was what he said; but what he did
was to drive the man back a couple of yards.

A hand was laid on his arm quickly.

"He is in trouble," Natalie said, calmly. "He wants to see papa; he has
come a long way; he does not understand that papa is in America. If you
could only convince him--But you do not talk Russian."

"I can talk English," said Brand, regarding the maniac-looking person
before him with angry brows. "Will you go indoors, Miss Lind, and leave
him to me. I will talk an English to him that he will understand."

"Is that the way you answer an appeal for help?" said she, with gentle
reproof. "The man is in trouble. If I persuade him to go with you, will
you take him to papa's chambers? Either Beratinsky or Heinrich Reitzei
will be there."

"Reitzei is there."

"He will hear what this man has to say. Will you be so kind?"

"I will do anything to rid you of this fellow, who looks more like a
madman than a beggar."

She stepped forward and spoke to the man again--her voice sounded gentle
and persuasive to Brand, in this tongue which he could not understand.
When she had finished, the uncouth person in the tattered garments
dropped on both knees on the pavement, and took her hand in his, and
kissed it in passionate gratitude. Then he rose, and stood with his cap
in his hand.

"He will go with you. I am so sorry to trouble you, Mr. Brand; and I
have not even said, 'How do you do?'"

To hear this beautiful voice after so long a silence--to find those
calm, dark, friendly eyes regarding him--bewildered him, or gave him
courage, he knew not which. He said to her, with a quick flush on his
forehead,

"May I come back to tell you how I succeed?"

She only hesitated for a second.

"If you have time. If you care to take the trouble."

He carried away with him the look of her face--that filled his heart
with sunlight. In the hansom, into which he bundled his unkempt
companion, if only he had known enough Russian, he would have expressed
gratitude to him. Beggar or maniac, or whatever he was, had he not been
the means of procuring for George Brand that long-coveted,
long-dreamed-of smile of welcome?



CHAPTER XIV.

A RUSSIAN EPISODE.


"Is that the way you answer an appeal for help?" With that gentle
protest still lingering in his ear, he was not inclined to be hard on
this unfortunate wretch who was in the cab with him; and yet at the same
time he was resolved to prevent any repetition of the scene he had just
witnessed. At the last he discovered that the man had picked up in his
wanderings a little German. His own German was not first-rate; it was
fluent, forcible, and accurate enough, so far as hotels and
railway-stations were concerned; elsewhere it had a tendency to halt,
blunder, and double back on itself. But, at all events, he managed to
convey to his companion the distinct intimation that any further
troubling of that young lady would only procure for him broken head.

The dull, stupid, savage-looking face betrayed no sign of intelligence.
He repeated the warning again and again; and at last, at the phrase
"that young lady," the dazed small eyes lit up somewhat, and the man
clasped his hands.

"Ein Engel!" he said, apparently to himself. "Ein Engel--ein Engel! Ach
Gott--wie schon--wie gemuthlich!"

"Yes, yes, yes," Brand said, "that is all very well; but one is not
permitted to annoy angels--to trouble them in the street. Do you
understand that that means punishment--one must be punished--if one
returns to the house of that young lady? Do you understand?"

The man regarded him with the small, deep-set eyes again sunk into
apathy.

"Ihr Diener, Herr," said he, submissively.

"You understand you are not to go back to the house of the young lady?"

"Ihr Diener, Herr."

There was nothing to be got out of him, or into him; so Brand waited
until he should get help of Heinrich Reitzei, Lind's _locum tenens_.

Reitzei was in the chambers--at Lind's table, in fact. He was a man of
about twenty-eight or thirty, slim and dark, with a perfectly pallid
face, a small black mustache carefully waxed, and an affectedly
courteous smile. He wore a _pince-nez_; was fond of slang, to show his
familiarity with English; and aimed at an English manner, too. He seemed
bored. He regarded this man whom Brand introduced to him without
surprise, with indifference.

"Hear what this fellow has to say," Brand said, "will you? and give him
distinctly to understand that if he tries again to see Miss Lind, I will
break his head for him. What idiot could have given him Lind's private
address?"

The man was standing near the door, stolid apparently, but with his
small eyes keenly watching. Reitzei said a word or two to him. Instantly
he went--he almost sprung--forward; and this movement was so unexpected
that the equanimity of the pallid young man received a visible shock,
and he hastily drew out a drawer a few inches. Brand caught sight of the
handle of a revolver.

But the man was only eager to tell his story, and presently Reitzei had
resumed his air of indifference. As he proceeded to translate for
Brand's benefit, in interjectional phrases, what this man with the
trembling hands and the burning eyes was saying, it was strange to mark
the contrast between the two men.

"His name Kirski," the younger man was saying, as he eyed, with a cool
and critical air, the wild look in the other's face. "A carver in wood,
but cannot work now, for his hands tremble, through hunger and
fatigue--through drink, I should say--native of a small village in
Kiev--had his share of the Communal land--but got permission from the
Commune to spend part of the year in Kiev itself--sent back all his
taxes duly, and money too, because--oh, this is it?--daughter of village
Elder--young, beautiful, of course--left an orphan, with three
brothers--and their share of the land too much for them. Ah, this is the
story, then, my friend? Married, too--young, beautiful, good--yes, yes,
we know all that--"

There were tears running down the face of the other man. But these he
shook away; and a wilder light than ever came into his eyes.

"He goes to Kiev as usual, foolish fellow; now I see what all the row is
about. When he returns, three months after, he goes to his house. Empty.
The neighbors will not speak. At last one says something about Pavel
Michaieloff, the great proprietor, whose house and farm are some versts
away--my good fellow, you have got the palsy, or is it drink?--he goes
and seeks out the house of Pavel--yes, yes, the story is not new--Pavel
is at the open window, smoking--he goes up to the window--there is a
woman inside--when she sees him she utters a loud scream, and rushes
for protection to the man Michaieloff--then all the fat is in the fire
naturally--"

The Russian choked and gasped; drops of perspiration stood on his
forehead; he looked wildly around.

"Water?" said Reitzei. "Poor devil, you need some water to cool down
your excitement. You are making as much fuss as if that kind of thing
had never happened in the world before."

But he rose and got him some water, which the man drained eagerly; then
he continued his story with the same fierce and angry vehemence.

"Well, yes, he had something to complain of, certainly," Reitzei said,
translating all that incoherent passion into cool little phrases. "Not a
fair fight. Pavel summons his men from the court-yard--men with
whips--dogs, too--he is lashed and driven along the roads, and the dogs
tear at him! Oh yes, my good friend, you have been badly used; but you
have come a long way to tell your story. I must ask him how the mischief
he got here at all."

But here Reitzei paused and stared. Something the man said--in an eager,
low voice, with his sunken small eyes all afire--startled him out of his
critical air.

"Oh, that is it, is it?" he said, eyeing him. "He will do any thing for
us--he will commit a murder--ten murders--if only we give him money, a
knife, and help to kill the man Michaieloff. Well, he is a lively sort
of person to let loose on society."

"The man is clearly mad," Brand said.

"The man was madder who sent him to us," Reitzei answered. "I should not
like to be in his shoes if Lind hears that this maniac was allowed to
see his daughter."

The wretched creature standing there glanced eagerly from one to the
other, with the eyes of a wild animal, seeking to gather something from
their looks; then he went forward to the table, and stooped down and
spoke to Reitzei still further, in the same low, fierce voice, his whole
frame meanwhile shaking with his excitement. Reitzei said something to
him in reply, and motioned him back. He retired a step or two, and then
kept watching the faces of the two men.

"What are you going to do with him?" Brand said.

Reitzei shrugged his shoulders.

"I know what I should like to do with him if I dared," he said, with a
graceful smile. "There is a friend of mine not a hundred miles away from
that very Kiev who wants a little admonition. Her name is Petrovna, she
is the jail-matron of a female penitentiary; she is just a little too
fierce at times. Murderers, thieves, prostitutes: oh yes, she can be
civil enough to them; but let a political prisoner come near her--one of
her own sex, mind--and she becomes a devil, a tigress, a vampire. Ah,
Madame Petrovna and I may have a little reckoning some day. I have asked
Lind again and again to petition for a decree against her; but no, he
will not move; he is becoming Anglicized, effeminate."

"A decree?" Brand said.

The other smiled, with an affectation of calm superiority.

"You will learn by-and-by. Meanwhile, if I dared, what I should like to
do would be to give our friend here plenty of money, and not one but two
knives, saying to him. 'My good friend, here is one knife for
Michaieloff, if you like; but first of all here is this knife for that
angel in disguise, Madame Petrovna, of the Female Penitentiary in
Novolevsk. Strike sure and hard!'"

For one instant his affectation forsook him, and there was a gleam in
his eyes. This was but a momentary relapse from his professed
indifference.

"Well, Mr. Brand, I suppose I must take over this madman from you. You
may tell Miss Lind she need not be frightened."

"I should not think Miss Lind was in the habit of being frightened,"
said Brand, coldly.

"Ah, no; doubtless not. Well, I shall see that this fellow does not
trouble her again. What fine tidings we had of your work in the North!
You have been a power; you have moved mountains."

"I have moved John Molyneux," said Brand, with a laugh, "and in these
days that is a more difficult business."

"Fine news from Spain, too," said Reitzei, glancing at some letters.
"From Valladolid, Barcelona, Ferrol, Saragossa--all the same story:
coalition, coalition. Salmero will be in London next week."

"But you have not told me what you are going to do with this man yet;
you must stow the combustible piece of goods somewhere. Poor devil, his
sufferings have made a pitiable object of him."

"My dear friend," said Reitzei, "You don't suppose that a Russian
peasant would feel so deeply a beating with whips, or the worrying of
dogs, or even the loss of his wife? Of course, all together, it was
something of a hard grind. He must have been constitutionally insane,
and that woke the whole thing up."

"Then he should be confined. He is a lunatic at large."

"I don't think he would harm anybody," Reitzei said, regarding the man
as if he were a strange animal. "I would not shut up a dog in a lunatic
asylum; I would rather put a bullet through his head. And this
fellow--if we could humbug him a little, and get him to his work
again--I know a man in Wardour Street who would do that for me--and see
what effect the amassing of a little English money might have on him.
Better a miser than a wild beast. And he seems a submissive sort of
creature. Leave him to me, Mr. Brand."

Brand began to think a little better of Reitzei, whom hitherto he had
rather disliked. He handed him five pounds, to get some clothes and
tools for the man, who, when he was told of this generosity, turned to
Brand and said something to him in Russian which set Reitzei laughing.

"What is it he says?"

"He said, 'Little Father, you are worthy to become the husband of the
angel: may the day come soon!' I suppose the angel is Miss Lind; she
must have been very kind to the man."

"She only spoke to him; but her voice can be kind," said Brand, rather
absently, and then he left.

Away went the hansom back to Curzon Street. He said to himself that it
was not for nothing that this unfortunate wretch Kirski had wandered all
the way from the Dnieper to the Thames. He would look after this man. He
would do something for him. Five pounds only? And he had been the means
of securing this interview, if only for three of four minutes; after the
long period of labor and hope and waiting he might have gone without a
word at all but for this over-troubled poor devil.

And now--now he might even see her alone for a couple of minutes in the
hushed little drawing-room; and she might say if she had heard about
what had been done in the North, and about his eagerness to return to
the work. One look of thanks; that was enough. Sometimes, by himself up
there in the solitary inns, the old fit had come over him; and he had
laughed at himself, and wondered at this new fire of occupation and
interest that was blazing through his life, and asked himself, as of
old, to what end--to what end? But when he heard Natalie Lind's voice,
there was a quick good-bye to all questioning. One look at the calm,
earnest eyes, and he drank deep of faith, courage, devotion. And surely
this story of the man Kirski--what he could tell her of it--would be
sufficient to fill up five minutes, eight minutes, ten minute, while
all the time he should be able to dwell on her eyes, whether they were
downcast, or turned to his with their frank, soft glance. He should be
in the perfume of the small drawing-room. He would see the Roman
necklace Mazzini had given her gleam on her bosom as she breathed.

He did not know what Natalie Lind had been about during his absence.

"Anneli, Anneli--hither, child!" she called in German. "Run up to Madame
Potecki, and ask her to come and spend the afternoon with me. She must
come at once, to lunch with me; I will wait."

"Yes, Fraulein. What music, Fraulein?"

"None; never mind any music. But she must come at once."

"Schon, Fraulein," said the little Anneli, about to depart.

Her young mistress called her back, and paused, with a little
hesitation.

"You may tell Elizabeth," said she, with an indifferent air, "that it is
possible--it is quite possible--it is at least possible--I may have two
friends to lunch with me; and she must send at once if she wants
anything more. And you could bring me back some fresh flowers, Anneli?"

"Why not, Fraulein?"

"Go quick, then, Anneli--fly like a roe--_durch Wald und auf der
Haide_!"

And so it came about that when George Brand was ushered into the scented
little drawing-room--so anxious to make the most of the invaluable
minutes--he found himself introduced first of all to Madame Potecki, a
voluble, energetic little Polish gentlewoman, whose husband had been
killed in the Warsaw disturbances of '61, and who now supported herself
in London by teaching music. She was eager to know all about the man
Kirski, and hoped that he was not wholly a maniac, and trusted that Mr.
Brand would see that her dear child--her adopted daughter, she might
say--was not terrified again by the madman.

"My dear madame," said Brand, "you must not imagine that it was from
terror that Miss Lind handed over the man to me--it was from kindness.
That is more natural to her than terror."

"Ah, I know the dear child has the courage of an army," said the little
old lady, tapping her adopted daughter on the shoulder with the fan.
"But she must take care of herself while her papa is away in America."

Natalie rose; and of course Brand rose also, with a sudden qualm of
disappointment, for he took that as the signal of his dismissal; and he
had scarcely spoken a word to her.

"Mr. Brand," said she, with some little trifle of embarrassment, "I know
I must have deprived you of your luncheon. It was so kind of you to go
at once with the poor man. Would it save you time--if you are not going
anywhere--I thought perhaps you might come and have something with
madame and myself. You must be dying of hunger."

He did not refuse the invitation. And behold! when he went down-stairs,
the table was already laid for three; had he been expected, he asked
himself? Those flowers there, too: he knew it was no maid-servant's
fingers that had arranged and distributed them so skilfully.

How he blessed this little Polish lady, and her volubility, and her
extravagant, subtle, honest flattery of her dear adopted daughter! It
gave him liberty to steep himself in the rich consciousness of Natalie's
presence; he could listen in silence for the sound of her voice--he
could covertly watch the beauty of her shapely hands--without being
considered preoccupied or morose. All he had to do was to say, "Yes,
madame," or "Indeed, madame," the while he knew that Natalie Lind was
breathing the same air with him--that at any moment the large, lustrous
dark eyes might look up and meet his. And she spoke little, too; and had
scarcely her usual frank self-confidence: perhaps a chance reference of
Madame Potecki to the fact that her adopted daughter had been brought up
without a mother had somewhat saddened her.

The room was shaded in a measure, for the French silk blinds were down;
but there was a soft golden glow prevailing all the same. For many a day
George Brand remembered that little luncheon-party; the dull, bronze
glow of the room; the flowers; the soft, downcast eyes opposite him; the
bright, pleasant garrulity of the little Polish lady; and always--ah,
the delight of it!--that strange, trembling, sweet consciousness that
Natalie Lind was listening as he listened--that almost he could have
heard the beating of her heart.

And a hundred and a hundred times he swore that, whoever throughout the
laboring and suffering world might regret that day, the man Kirski
should not.



CHAPTER XV.

NEW FRIENDS.


It was a Sunday afternoon in Hyde Park, in this pleasantly opening
summer; and there was a fair show of "the quality" come out for their
accustomed promenade, despite the few thunder-showers that had swept
across from the South. These, in fact, had but served to lay the dust,
and to bring out the scent of the hawthorns and lilacs, so that the air
was sweet with perfume; while the massive clouds, banking up in the
North, formed a purple background to show up the young green foliage of
the trees, all wet with rain, and shimmering tremulously in the
sunlight.

George Brand and his friend Evelyn sat in the back row of chairs,
watching the people pass and repass. It was a sombre procession, but
that here and there appeared a young English girl in her pale spring
costume--paler than the fresh glow of youth and health on her face, and
that here and there the sunlight, wandering down through the branches,
touched a scarlet sunshade--just then coming into fashion--until that
shone like a beautiful spacious flower among the mass of green.

When they had been silently watching the people for some little time,
Brand said, almost to himself,

"How very unlike those women she is!"

"Who? Oh, Natalie Lind," said the other, who had been speaking of her
some minutes before. "Well, that is natural and I don't say it to their
disadvantage. I believe most girls are well-intended enough; but, of
course, they grow up in a particular social atmosphere, and it depends
on that what they become. If it is rather fast, the girl sees nothing
objectionable in being fast too. If it is religious, the god of her
idolatry is a bishop. If it is sporting, she thinks mostly about horses.
Natalie is exceptional, because she has been brought up in exceptional
circumstances. For one thing, she has been a good deal alone; and she
has formed all sorts of beautiful idealisms and aspirations--"

The conversation dropped here; for at the moment Lord Evelyn espied two
of his sisters coming along in the slow procession.

"Here come two of the girls," he said to his friend. "How precious
demure they look!"

Brand at once rose, and went out from the shadow of the trees, to pay
his respects to the two young ladies.

"How do you do, Miss D'Agincourt? How do you do, Miss Frances?"

Certainly no one would have suspected these two very graceful and
pleasant-looking girls of being madcap creatures at home. The elder was
a tall and slightly-built blonde, with large gray eyes set wide apart;
the younger a gentle little thing, with brownish eyes, freckles, and a
pretty mouth.

"Mamma?" said the eldest daughter, in answer to his inquires. "Oh, she
is behind, bringing up the rear, as it were. We have to go in
detachment, or else the police would come and read the riot act against
us. Francie and I are the vanguard; and she feels such a good little
girl, marching along two and two, just as if she were back at Brighton."

The clear gray eyes--quite demure--glanced in toward the shadows of the
trees.

"I see you have got Evelyn there, Mr. Brand. Who is the extraordinary
person he is always talking about now--the Maid of Saragossa, or Joan of
Arc, or something like that? Do you know her?"

"I suppose you mean Miss Lind."

"I know he has persuaded mamma to go and call on her, and get her to
dine with us, if she will come. Now, I call that kind."

"If she accepts, you mean?"

"No, I mean nothing of the sort. Good-bye. If we stay another minute, we
shall have the middle detachments overlapping the vanguard. En avant,
Francie! Vorwarts!"

She bowed to him, and passed on in her grave and stately manner: more
calmly observant, demurer eyes were not in the Park.

He ran the gauntlet of the whole family, and at last encountered the
mamma, who brought up the rear with the youngest of her daughters. Lady
Evelyn was a tall, somewhat good-looking, elderly lady, who wore her
silver-white hair in old-fashioned curls. She was an amiable but
strictly matter-of-fact person, who beheld her daughters' mad humors
with surprise as well as alarm. What were they forever laughing at?
Besides, it was indecorous. She had not conducted herself in that manner
when she lived in her father's home.

Lady Evelyn, who was vaguely aware that Brand knew the Linds, repeated
her daughter's information about the proposed visit, and said that if
Miss Lind would come and spend the evening with them, she hoped Mr.
Brand would come too.

"These girls do tease dreadfully, I know," said their mamma; "but
perhaps they will behave a little better before a stranger."

Mr. Brand replied that he hoped Miss Lind would accept the
invitation--for during her father's absence she must be somewhat
dull--but that even without the protection of her presence he was not
afraid to face those formidable young ladies. Whereupon Miss
Geraldine--who was generally called the baby, though she was turned
thirteen--glanced at him with a look which said, "Won't you catch it for
that!" and the mamma then bade him good-bye, saying that Rosalys would
write to him as soon as the evening was arranged.

He had not long to wait for that expected note. The very next night he
received it. Miss Lind was coming on Thursday; would that suit him? A
quarter to eight.

He was there punctual to the moment. The presence of the whole rabble of
girls in the drawing-room told him that this was to be a quite private
and domestic dinner-party; on other occasions only two or three of the
phalanx--as Miss D'Agincourt described herself and her sisters--were
chosen to appear. And, on this especial occasion, there was a fine
hubbub of questions and raillery going on--which Brand vainly endeavored
to meet all at once--when he was suddenly rescued. The door was opened,
and Miss Lind was announced. The clamor ceased.

She was dressed in black, with a red camellia in her bosom, and another
in the magnificent black hair. Brand thought he had never seen her look
so beautiful, and at once so graciously proud and gentle. Lady Evelyn
went forward to meet her, and greeted her very kindly indeed. She was
introduced to one or two of the girls. She shook hands with Mr. Brand,
and gave him a pleasant smile of greeting. Lady Evelyn had to apologize
for her son's absence; he had only gone to write a note.

The tall, beautiful Hungarian girl seemed not in the least embarrassed
by all these curious eyes, that occasionally and covertly regarded her
while pretending not to do so. Two of the young ladies there were older
than she was, yet she seemed more of a woman than any of them. Her
self-possession was perfect. She sat down by Lady Evelyn, and submitted
to be questioned. The girls afterward told their brother they believed
she was an actress, because of the clever manner in which she managed
her train.

But at this moment Lord Evelyn made his appearance in great excitement,
and with profuse apologies.

"But the fact is," said he, producing an evening paper, "the fact
is--just listen to this, Natalie: it is the report of a police case."

At his thus addressing her by her Christian name the mother started
somewhat, and the demure eyes of the girls were turned to the floor,
lest they should meet any conscious glance.

"Here is a fellow brought before the Hammersmith magistrate for
indulging in a new form of amusement. Oh, very pretty! very nice! He had
only got hold of a small dog and he was taking it by the two forelegs,
and trying how far he could heave it. Very well; he is brought before
the magistrates. He had only heaved the dog two or three times; nothing
at all, you know. You think he will get off with a forty shillings fine,
or something like that. Not altogether! Two months' hard labor--_two
solid months' hard labor_; and if I had my will of the brute," he
continued, savagely, "I would give ten years' hard labor, and bury him
alive when he came out. However, two months' hard labor is something. I
glory in that magistrate; I have just been up-stairs writing a note
asking him to dine with me. I believe I was introduced to him once."

"Evelyn quite goes beside himself," his mother said to her guest, with
half an air of apology, "when he reads about cruelty like that."

"Surely it is better than being callous," said Natalie, speaking very
gently.

They went in to dinner; and the young ladies were very well behaved
indeed. They did not at all resent the fashion in which the whole
attention of the dinner-table was given to the stranger.

"And so you like living in England?" said Lady Evelyn to her.

"I cannot breathe elsewhere," was the simple answer.

"Why," said the matter-of-fact, silver-haired lady, "if this country is
notorious for anything, it is for its foggy atmosphere!"

"I think it is famous for something more than that," said the girl, with
just a touch of color in the beautiful face; for she was not accustomed
to speak before so many people. "Is it not more famous for its freedom?
It is that that makes the air so sweet to breathe."

"Well, at all events, you don't find it very picturesque as compared
with other countries. Evelyn tells me you have travelled a great deal."

"Perhaps I am not very fond of picturesqueness," Natalie said,
modestly. "When I am travelling through a country I would rather see
plenty of small farms, thriving and prosperous, than splendid ruins that
tell only of oppression and extravagance, and the fierceness of war."

No one spoke; so she made bold to continue--but she addressed Lady
Evelyn only.

"No doubt it is very picturesque, as you go up the Rhine, or across the
See Kreis, or through the Lombard plains, to see every height crowned
with its castle. Yes, one cannot help admiring. They are like beautiful
flowers that have blossomed up from the valleys and the plains below.
But who tilled the land, that these should grow there on every height?
Are you not forced to think of the toiling wretches who labored and
labored to carry stone by stone up the crest of the hill? They did not
get much enjoyment out of the grandeur and picturesqueness of the
castles."

"But they gave that labor for their own protection," Lady Evelyn said,
with a smile. "The great lords and barons were their protectors."

"The great lords and barons said so, at least," said the girl, without
any smile at all, "and I suppose the peasantry believed them; and were
quite willing to leave their vineyards and go and shed their blood
whenever the great lords and barons quarrelled among themselves."

"Well said! well said!" Brand exclaimed, quickly; though, indeed, this
calm, gentle-eyed, self-possessed girl was in no need of any champion.

"I am afraid you are a great Radical, Miss Lind," said Lady Evelyn.

"Perhaps it is your English air, Lady Evelyn," said the girl, with a
smile.

Lord Evelyn's mother, notwithstanding her impassive, unimaginative
nature, soon began to betray a decided interest in this new guest, and
even something more. She was attracted, to begin with, by the singular
beauty of the young Hungarian lady, which was foreign-looking, unusual,
picturesque. She was struck by her perfect self-possession, and by the
ease and grace of her manner, which was rather that of a mature
woman than of a girl of nineteen. But most of all she was interested in
her odd talk and opinions, which she expressed with such absolute
simplicity and frankness. Was it, Lady Evelyn asked herself, that the
girl had been brought up so much in the society of men--that she had
neither mother nor sisters--that she spoke of politics and such matters
as if it the most natural thing in the world for women, of whatever
age, to consider them as of first importance?

But one chance remark that Natalie made, on the impulse of the moment,
did for the briefest possible time break down that charming
self-confidence of hers, and show her--to the wonderment of the English
girls--the prey of an alarmed embarrassment. George Brand had been
talking of patriotism, and of the scorn that must naturally be felt for
the man who would say of his country, "Well, it will last my time. Let
me enjoy myself when I can. What do I care about the future of other
people?" And then he went on to talk of the larger patriotism that
concerned itself not merely with one's fellow-countrymen but with one's
fellow-mortals; and how the stimulus and enthusiasm of that wider
patriotism should be proportionately stronger; and how it might seek to
break down artificial barriers of political systems and religious
creeds. Patriotism was a beautiful flame--a star; but here was a sun.
Ordinary, to tell the truth, Brand was but an indifferent speaker--he
had all an Englishman's self-consciousness; but now he spoke for Natalie
alone, and minded the others but little. Presently Lady Evelyn said,
with a smile,

"You, too, Miss Lind, are a reformer, are you not? Evelyn is very
mysterious, and I can't quite make out what he means; but at all events
it is very kind of you to spare us an evening when you must be so deeply
engaged."

"I?" said Natalie. "Oh no, it is very little that I can do. The work is
too difficult and arduous for women, perhaps. But there is one thing
that women can do--they can love and honor those who are working for
them."

It was spoken impulsively--probably the girl was thinking only of her
father. But at the moment she happened to look up, and there were
Rosalys D'Agincourt's calmly observant eyes fixed on her. Then some
vague echo of what she had said rushed in upon her; she was bewildered
by the possible interpretation others might put on the words; and the
quick, sensitive blood mounted to her forehead. But fortunately Lady
Evelyn, who had missed the whole thing, happened at this very instant to
begin talking of orchids, and Natalie struck in with great relief. So
that little episode went by.

And, as dinner went on, Brand became more and more convinced that this
family was the most delightful family in England. Just so much restraint
had left their manner as to render those madcap girls exceedingly frank
and good-natured in the courtesy they showed to their guest, and to
admit her as a confidante into their ways of bantering each other. And
one would herself come round to shift the fire-screen behind Miss Lind
to precisely the proper place; and another said that Miss Lind drank
water because Evelyn had been so monstrously stupid as not to have any
Hungarian wine for her; and another asked if she might call on Miss Lind
the following afternoon, to take her to some place where some marvellous
Japanese curiosities were on view. Then, when they left for the
drawing-room, the eldest Miss D'Agincourt put her arm within the arm of
their guest, and said,

"Now, dear Miss Lind, please understand that, if there was any stranger
here at all, we should not dream of asking you to sing. Ermentrude and I
take all that on our shoulders; we squawk for the whole of the family.
But Evelyn has told us so much about your singing--"

"Oh, I will sing for you if you wish it," said Natalie, without
hesitation.

Some little time thereafter Brand was walking up and down the room
below, slowly and thoughtfully: he was not much of a wine-drinker.

"Evelyn," he said, suddenly, "I shall soon be able to tell you whether I
owe you a life-long gratitude. I owe you much already. Through you I
have got some work to do in the world; I am busy, and content. But there
is a greater prize."

"I think I can guess what you mean," his companion said, calmly.

"You do?" said the other, with a quick look. "And you do not think I am
mad?--to go and ask her to be my wife before she has given me a single
word of hope?"

"She has spoken to others about you: I know what she thinks of you,"
said Lord Evelyn. Then the fine, pale face was slightly flushed. "To
tell you the truth, Brand, I thought of this before you ever saw her."

"Thought of what?" said the other, with a stare of surprise.

"That you would be the right sort of man to make a husband for her: she
might be left alone in the world at any moment, without a single
relation, and scarcely a friend."

"Women don't marry for these reasons," said the other, somewhat
absently. "And yet, if she were to think of it, it would not be as if I
were withdrawing her from everything she takes an interest in. We should
be together. I am eager to go forward, even by myself; but with her for
a companion--think of that!"

"I have thought of it," said Lord Evelyn, with something of a sad smile.
"Often. And there is no man in England more heartily wishes you success
than I do. Come, let us go up to the drawing-room."

They went out into the hall. Some one was playing a noisy piece
up-stairs; it was safe to speak. And then he said,

"Shall I tell you something, Brand?--something that will keep you awake
all this night, and not with the saddest of thinking? If I am not
mistaken, I fancy you have already 'stole bonny Glenlyon away.'"



CHAPTER XVI.

A LETTER.


Black night lay over the city, and silence; the river flowed unseen
through the darkness; but a thousand golden points of fire mapped out
the lines of the Embankment and the long curves of the distant bridges.
The infrequent sounds that could be heard were strangely distinct, even
when they were faint and remote. There was a slight rustling of wind in
the trees below the window.

But the night and the silence brought him neither repose nor counsel. A
multitude of bewildering, audacious hopes and distracting fears strove
for mastery in his mind, upsetting altogether the calm and cool judgment
on which he prided himself. His was not a nature to harbor illusions; he
had a hard way of looking at things; and yet--and yet--might not this
chance speech of Lord Evelyn have been something more than a bit of
good-humored raillery? Lord Evelyn was Natalie's intimate friend; he
knew all her surroundings; he was a quick observer; he was likely to
know if this thing was possible. But, on the other hand, how was it
possible that so beautiful a creature, in the perfect flower of her
youth, should be without a lover? He forced himself to remember that she
and her father seemed to see no society at all. Perhaps she was too
useful to him, and he would not have her entangle herself with many
friends. Perhaps they had led too nomadic a life. But even in hotels
abroad, how could she have avoided the admiration she was sure to evoke?
And in Florence, mayhap, or Mentone, or Madrid; and here he began to
conjure up a host of possible rivals, all foreigners, of course, and all
equally detestable, and to draw pictures for him of _tables d'hote_,
with always the one beautiful figure there, unconscious, gentle, silent,
but drawing to her all men's eyes.

There was but the one way of putting an end to this maddening
uncertainty. He dared not claim an interview with her; she might be
afraid of implying too much by granting it; various considerations might
dictate a refusal. But he could write; and, in point of fact,
writing-materials were on the table. Again and again he had sat down and
taken the pen in his hand, only to get up as often and go and stare out
into the yellow glare of the night. For an instant his shadow would fall
on the foliage of the trees below, and then pass away again like a
ghost.

At two-and-twenty love is reckless, and glib of speech; it takes little
heed of the future; the light straw-flame, for however short a period,
leaps up merrily enough. But at two-and-thirty it is more alive to
consequences; it is not the present moment, but the duration of life,
that it regards; it seeks to proceed with a sure foot. And at this
crisis, in the midst of all this irresolution, that was unspeakably
vexatious to a man of his firm nature, Brand demanded of himself his
utmost power of self-control. He would not imperil the happiness of his
life by a hasty, importunate appeal. When at length he sat down,
determined not to rise until he had sent her this message, he forced
himself to write--at the beginning, at least--in a roundabout and
indifferent fashion, so that she should not be alarmed. He began by
excusing his writing to her, saying he had scarcely ever had a chance of
talking to her, and that he wished to tell her something of what had
happened to him since the memorable evening on which he had first met
her at her father's house. And he went on to speak to her of a friend of
his, who used to amuse himself with the notion that he would like to
enter himself at a public school and go through his school life all over
again. There he had spent the happiest of his days; why should he not
repeat them? If only the boys would agree to treat him as one of
themselves, why should he not be hail-fellow-well-met with them, and
once more enjoy the fun of uproarious pillow-battles and have smuggled
tarts and lemonade at night, and tame rabbits where no rabbits should
be, and a profound hero-worship for the captain of the school Eleven,
and excursions out of bounds, when his excess of pocket-money would
enable him to stand treat all round? "Why not?" this friend of his used
to say. "Was it so very impossible for one to get back the cares and
interests, the ambitions, the amusements, the high spirits of one's
boyhood?" And if he now were to tell her that a far greater miracle had
happened to himself? That at an age when he had fancied he had done and
seen most things worth doing and seeing, when the past seemed to
contain everything worth having, and there was nothing left but to try
how the tedious hours could be got over; when a listless _ennui_ was
eating his very heart out--that he should be presented, as it were, with
a new lease of life, with stirring hopes and interests, with a new and
beautiful faith, with a work that was a joy in itself, whether any
reward was to be or no? And surely he could not fail to express to Lord
Evelyn and to herself his gratitude for this strange thing.

These are but the harsh outlines of what, so far, he wrote; but there
was a feeling in it--a touch of gladness and of pathos here and
there--that had never before been in any of his writing, and of which he
was himself unconscious.

But at this point he paused, and his breathing grew quick. It was so
difficult to write in these measured terms. When he resumed, he wrote
more rapidly.

What wonder, he made bold to ask her, if amidst all this bewildering
change some still stranger dream of what might be possible in the future
should have taken possession of him? She and he were leagued in sympathy
as regarded the chief object of their lives; it was her voice that had
inspired him; might he not hope that they should go forward together, in
close friendship at least, if there could be nothing more? And as to
that something more, was there no hope? He could give himself no grounds
for any such hope; and yet--so much had happened to him, and mostly
through her, that he could set no limit to the possibilities of
happiness that lay in her generous hands. When he saw her among others,
he despaired; when he thought of her alone, and of the gentleness of her
heart, he dared to hope. And if this declaration of his was distressing
to her, how easy it was for her to dismiss and forget it. If he had
dared too much, he had himself to blame. In any case, she need not fear
that her refusal should have the effect of dissociating them in those
wider interests and sympathies to which he had pledged himself. He was
not one to draw back. And if he had alarmed or offended her, he appealed
to her charity--to that great kindness which she seemed eager to extend
to all living creatures. How could such a vision of possible happiness
have arisen in his mind without his making one effort, however
desperate, to realize it? At the worst, she would forgive.

This was, in brief, the substance of what he wrote; but when, after many
an anxious re-reading, he put the letter in an envelope, he was
miserably conscious how little it conveyed of all the hope and desire
that had hold of his heart. But then, he argued with himself, if she
inclined her ear so far, surely he would have other and better
opportunities of pleading with her; whereas, if he had been dreaming of
impossibilities, then he and she would meet the more easily in the
future that he had not given too vehement an expression to all the love
and admiration he felt for her. He could not sacrifice her friendship
also--her society--the chances of listening from time to time to the
musical low, soft voice.

Carrying this fateful letter in his hand, he went down stairs and out
into the cool night air. And now he was haunted by a hundred fears.
Again and again he was on the point of turning back to add something, to
alter something, to find some phrase that would appeal more closely to
her heart. And then all of a sudden he convinced himself that he should
not have written at all. Why not have gone to see her, at any risk, to
plead with herself? But then he would have had to write to beg for a
_tete-a-tete_ interview; and would not that be more distinctly alarming
than this roundabout epistle, which was meant to convey so much
indirectly? Finally, he arrived at the pillar letter-box: and this
indisputable fact brought an end to his cogitations. If he had gone
walking onward he would have wasted the night in fruitless counsel. He
would have repeated again and again the sentences he had used; striven
to picture her as she read; wondered if he ought not still to go back
and strengthen his prayer. But now it was to be yes or no. Well, he
posted the letter; and then he breathed more freely. The die was cast,
for good or ill.

And, indeed, no sooner was the thing done than his spirits rose
considerably, and he walked on with a lighter heart. This solitary
London, all lamp-lit and silent, was a beautiful city. "_Schlaf selig
und suss_," the soft stirring of the night-wind seemed to say: let her
not dread the message the morning would bring! He thought of the other
cities she must have visited; and if--ah, the dream of it!--if he and
she were to go away together to behold the glories of the moonlight on
the lagoon, and the wonders of the sunrise among the hills! He had been
in Rome, he remembered, a wonderful coronet of rubies: would not that do
for the beautiful black masses of hair? Or pearls? She did not appear to
have much jewellery. Or rather--seeing that such things are possible
between husband and wife--would she not accept the value, and far more
than the value, of any jewellery she could desire, to be given away in
acts of kindness? That would be more like Natalie.

He walked on, his heart full of an audacious joy; for now this was the
picture before him; a Buckinghamshire hill; a red and white house among
the beeches; and a spacious lawn looking out on the far and wooded
plain, with its villages, and spires, and tiny curls of smoke. And this
foreign young lady become an English house-mistress; proud of her
nectarines and pineapples; proud of her Hungarian horses; proud of the
quiet and comfort of the home she can offer to her friends, when they
come for a space to rest from their labors.... "_Schlaf selig und
suss!_" the night-wind seemed to say: "The white morning is bringing
with it a message!"

To him the morning brought an end to all those golden dreams of the
night. There action had set in. His old misgivings returned with
redoubled force. For one thing, there was a letter from Reitzei, saying
that the man Kirski had at length consented to begin to work at his
trade, and that Miss Lind need fear no further annoyance; and somehow he
did not like to see her name written in this foreign way of writing. She
belonged to these foreigners; her cares and interests were not those of
one who would feel at home in that Buckhamshire home; she was remote.
And, of course, in her manifold wanderings--in those hotels in which she
had to pass the day, when her father was absent at his secret
interviews--how could she avoid making acquaintances? Even among those
numerous friends of her father's there must have been some one here or
there to accompany her in her drives in the Prater, in her evenings at
La Scala, in her morning walk along the Chiaja. He remembered how seldom
he had seen her; she might have many more friends in London than he had
dreamed of. Who could see her, and remain blind to her beauty? Who could
know her, and remain insensible to the fascination of her enthusiasm,
her faith in the right, her courage, her hope, her frank friendship with
those who would help?

He was impatient with the veteran Waters this morning; and Waters was
himself fractious, and inclined to resent sarcasm. He had just heard
from Buckinghamshire that his substitute had, for some reason or other,
intrusted the keys of the wine-cellar to one of the house-maids; and
that that industrious person had seized the opportunity to tilt up all
the port-wine she could lay her hands on in order to polish the bottles
with a duster.

"Well," said his master, "I suppose she collected the cobwebs and sold
them to a wine-merchant: they would be invaluable."

Waters said nothing, but resolved to have a word with the young woman
when he went down.

The morning was fine; in any case, Brand could not have borne the
distress of waiting in all day, on the chance of her reply coming. He
had to be moving. He walked up to Lisle Street, and saw Reitzei, on the
pretext of talking about Kirski.

"Lind will be back in a week," said the pallid-faced smart young man.
"He writes with great satisfaction, which always means something in his
case. I should not wonder if he and his daughter went to live in the
States."

"Oh, indeed," said Brand, coldly; but the words made his heart tremble.

"Yes. And if you would only go through the remaining degrees, you might
take his place--who knows?"

"Who knows, indeed?" said Brand. "But I don't covet the honor."

There was something in his tone which made the other look up.

"I mean the responsibility," he said, quickly.

"You see," observed Reitzei, leaning back in his chair, "one must admit
you are having rather hard lines. Your work is invaluable to us--Lind is
most proud of it--but it is tedious and difficult, eh? Now if they were
to give you something like the Syrian business--"

"What is that?"

"Oh, only one of the many duties the Society has undertaken," said
Reitzei, carelessly. "Not that I approve because the people are
Christians; it is because they are numerically weak; and the Mahommedans
treat them shamefully. There is no one knows about it; no one to make a
row about it; and the Government won't let the poor wretches import arms
to defend themselves. Very well: very well, messieurs! But your
Government allow the importation of guns for sport. Ha! and then, if one
can find money, and an ingenious English firm to make rifle-barrels to
fit into the sporting-gun stock can you conceive any greater fun than
smuggling these barrels into the country? My dear fellow, it is
glorious: we could have five hundred volunteers! But at the same time I
say your work is more valuable to us. No one but an Englishman could do
it. Every one knows of your success."

Brand thanked Reitzei for his good opinion, and rather absently took up
his hat and left. Instinctively he made his way westward. He was sure to
see her, at a distance, taking this morning stroll of hers: might he not
guess something from her face as to what her reply would be? She could
not have written so soon; she would take time to consider; even a
refusal would, he knew, be gently worded.

In any case, he would see her; and if her answer gave no hope, it would
be the last time on which he would follow that graceful figure from afar
with his eyes, and wonder to himself what the low and musical voice was
saying to Anneli. And as he walked on, he grew more and more
downhearted. It was a certainty that, out of all those friends of her
father's some one must have dreamed of possessing this beautiful prize
for his own.

When, after not much waiting, he saw Natalie and Anneli cross into the
Park, he had so reasoned himself into despair that he was not
surprised--at least he tried to convince himself that he was not
surprised--to perceive that the former was accompanied by a stranger,
the little German maid-servant walking not quite with them, and yet not
altogether behind them. He could almost have expected this; and yet his
eyes seemed hot, and he had some difficulty in trying to make out who
this might be. And at this great distance he could only gather that he
was foreign in appearance, and that he wore a peaked cap in place of a
hat.

He dared not follow them now; and he was about to turn away when he saw
Natalie's new companion motion to her to sit down on one of the seats.
He sat down, too; and he took her hand, and held it in his. What then?

This man looking on from a distance, with a bitter heart, had no thought
against her. Was it not natural for so beautiful a girl to have a lover?
But that this fellow--this foreigner--should degrade her by treating her
as if she were a nursery-maid flirting with one of the soldiers from the
barracks down there, this filled him with bitterness and hatred. He
turned and walked away with a firm step. He had no ill thoughts of her,
whatever message she might send him. At the worst, she had been generous
to him; she had filled his life with love and hope; she had given him a
future. If this dream were shattered, at least he could turn elsewhere,
and say, "Labor, be thou my good."

Meanwhile, of this stranger? He had indeed taken Natalie Lind's hand in
his, and Natalie let it remain there without hesitation.

"My little daughter," said he to her in Italian, "I could have
recognized you by your hands. You have the hands of your mother: no one
in the world had more beautiful hands than she had. And now I will tell
you about her, if you promise not to cry any more."

It was Calabressa who spoke.



CHAPTER XVII.

CALABRESSA.


When Calabressa called at the house in Curzon Street he was at once
admitted; Natalie recognizing the name as that of one of her father's
old friends. Calabressa had got himself up very smartly, to produce an
impression on the little Natalushka whom he expected to see. His
military-looking coat was tightly buttoned; he had burnished up the gold
braid of his cap; and as he now ascended the stairs he gathered the ends
of his mustache out of his yellow-white beard and curled them round and
round his fingers and pulled them out straight. He had already assumed a
pleasant smile.

But when he entered the shaded drawing-room, and beheld this figure
before him, all the dancing-master's manner instantly fled from him. He
seemed thunderstruck; he shrunk back a little; his cap fell to the
floor; he could not utter a word.

"Excuse me--excuse me, mademoiselle," he gasped out at length, in his
odd French. "Ah, it is like a ghost--like other years come back--"

He stared at her.

"I am very pleased to see you, sir," said she to him, gently, in
Italian.

"Her voice also--her voice also!" he exclaimed, almost to himself, in
the same tongue. "Signorina, you will forgive me--but--when one sees an
old friend--you are so like--ah, so like--"

"You are speaking of my mother?" the girl said, with her eyes cast down.
"I have been told that I was like her. You knew her, signore?"

Calabressa pulled himself together somewhat. He picked up his cap; he
assumed a more business-like air.

"Oh yes, signorina, I knew her," he said, with an apparent carelessness,
but he was regarding her all the same. "Yes, I knew her well. We were
friends long before she married. What, are you surprised that I am so
old? Do you know that I can remember you when you were a very little
thing--at Dunkirk it was--and what a valiant young lady you were, and
you would go to fight the Russians all by yourself! And you--you do not
remember your mother?"

"I cannot tell," she said, sadly. "They say it is impossible, and yet I
seem to remember one who loved me, and my grief when I asked for her and
found she would never come back--or else that is only my recollection of
what I was told by others. But what of that? I know where she is now:
she is my constant companion. I know she loved me; I know she is always
regarding me; I talk to her, so that I am never quite alone; at night I
pray to her, as if she were a saint--"

She turned aside somewhat; her eyes were full of tears. Calabressa said
quickly,

"Ah, signorina, why recall what is so sad? It is so useless. _Allons
donc!_ shall I tell you of my surprise when I saw you first? A
ghost--that is nothing! It is true, your father warned me. He said, 'The
little Natalushka is a woman now.' But how could one believe it?"

She had recovered her composure; she begged him to be seated.

"_Bien!_ One forgets. Then my old mother--my dear young lady, even I,
old as I am, have a mother--what does she do but draw a prize in the
Austro-Hungarian lottery--a huge prize--enough to demoralize one for
life--five thousand florins. More remarkable still, the money is paid.
Not so remarkable, my good mother declares she will give half of it to
an undutiful son, who has never done very well with money in this world.
We come to the _denouement_ quickly. 'What,' said I, 'shall I do with my
new-found liberty and my new-found money? To the devil with banks! I
will be off and away to the land of fogs to see my little friend
Natalushka, and ask her what she thinks of the Russians now.' And the
result? My little daughter, you have given me such a fright that I can
feel my hands still trembling."

"I am very sorry," said she, with a smile. This gay manner of his had
driven away her sad memories. It seemed quite natural to her that he
should address her as "My little daughter."

"But where are the fogs? It is a paradise that I have reached--the air
clear and soft, the gardens beautiful. This morning I said to myself, 'I
will go early. Perhaps the little Natalushka will be going out for a
walk; perhaps we will go together.' No, signorina," said he, with a
mock-heroic bow, "it was not with the intention of buying you toys. But
was I not right? Do I not perceive by your costume that you were about
to go out?"

"That is nothing, signore," said she. "It would be very strange if I
could not give up my morning walk for an old friend of my father's."

"_An contraire_, you shall not give up your walk," said he, with great
courtesy. "We will go together; and then you will tell me about your
father."

She accepted this invitation without the slightest scruple. It did not
occur to her--as it would naturally have occurred, to most English
girls--that she would rather not go walking in Hyde Park with a person
who looked remarkably like the leader of a German band.

But Calabressa had known her mother.

"Ah, signore," said she, when they had got into the outer air, "I shall
be so grateful to you if you will tell me about my mother. My father
will not speak of her; I dare not awaken his grief again; he must have
suffered much. You will tell me about her."

"My little daughter, your father is wise. Why awaken old sorrows? You
must not spoil your eyes with more crying."

And then he went on to speak of all sorts of things, in his rapid,
interjectional fashion--of his escape from prison mostly--until he
perceived that she was rather silent and sad.

"Come then," said he, "we will sit down on this seat. Give me your
hand."

She placed her hand in his without hesitation; and he patted it gently,
and said how like it was to the hand of her mother.

"You are a little taller than she was," said he; "a little--not much.
Ah, how beautiful she was! She had many sweethearts."

He was silent for a minute or two.

"Some of them richer, some of them of nobler birth than your father; and
one of them her own cousin, whom all her family wanted her to marry. But
you know, little daughter, your father is a very determined man--"

"But she loved him the best?" said the girl, quickly.

"Ah, no doubt, no doubt," said Calabressa. "He is very kind to you, is
he not?"

"Oh yes. Who could be kinder? But about my mother, signore?"

Calabressa seemed somewhat embarrassed.

"To say the truth, little daughter, how am I to tell you? I scarcely
ever saw her after she married. Before then, you must imagine yourself
as you are to think of her picture: and she was very much beloved--and
very fond of horses. Is not that enough to tell? Ah, yes, another thing:
she was very brave when there was any danger; and you know all the
family were strong patriots; and one or two got into sad trouble. When
her father--that is your grandfather, little daughter--when he failed to
escape into Turkey after the assassination--"

Here Calabressa stopped, and then gave a slight wave of his hand.

"These are matters not interesting to you. But when her father had to
seek a hiding-place she went with him in despite of everybody. I do not
suppose he would be alive now but for her devotion."

"Is my mother's father alive?" the girl said, with eyes wide open.

"I believe so; but the less said about it the better, little daughter."

"Why has my father never told me?" she asked, with the same almost
incredulous stare.

"Have I not hinted? The less said the better. There are some things no
government will amnesty. Your grandfather was a good patriot, little
daughter."

Thereafter for some minutes silence. Slight as was the information
Calabressa had given her, it was of intensest interest to her. There was
much for her to think over. Her mother, whom she had been accustomed to
regard as a beautiful saint, placed far above the common ways of earth,
was suddenly presented to her in a new light. She thought of her young,
handsome, surrounded with lovers, proud-spirited and patriotic--a
devoted daughter, a brave woman.

"You also loved her?" she said to Calabressa.

The man started. She had spoken quite innocently--almost absently: she
was thinking that he, too, must have loved the brave young Hungarian
girl as all the world loved her.

"I?" said Calabressa. "Oh yes, I was a friend of hers for many years. I
taught her Italian; she corrected my Magyar. Once her horse ran way; I
was walking, and saw her coming; there was a wagon and oxen, and I
shouted to the man; he drew the oxen right across the road, and barred
the way. Ah, how angry she used to be--she pretended to be--when they
told her I had saved her life! She was a bold rider."

Presently Calabressa said, with a lighter air,

"Come, let us talk of something else--of you, _par exemple_. How do you
like the English? You have many sweethearts among them, of course."

"No, signore, I have no sweethearts," said Natalie, without any trace of
embarrassment.

"What! Is is possible? When I saw your father in Venice, and he told me
the little Natalushka had grown to be a woman. I said to him, 'Then she
will marry an Englishman.'"

"And what did he say?" the girl asked, with a startled look on her face.

"Oh, little, very little. If there was no possibility, why should he say
much?"

"I have no sweethearts," said Natalie, simply; "but I have a friend--who
wishes to be more than a friend. And it is now, when I have to answer
him, it is now that I know what a sad thing it is to have no mother."

The pathetic vibration that Brand had noticed was in her voice; her eyes
were downcast, her hands clasped. For a second or two Calabressa was
silent.

"I am not idly curious, my little daughter," he said at length, and very
gently; "but if you knew how long your mother and I were friends, you
would understand the interest I feel in you, and why I came all this way
to see the little Natalushka. So, one question, dear little one. Does
your father approve?"

"Ah, how can I tell?"

He took her hand, and his face was grave.

"Listen now," said he; "I am going to give you advice. If your mother
could speak to you, this is what she would say: Whatever
happens--whatever happens--do not thwart your father's wishes."

She wished to withdraw her hand, but he still held it.

"I do not understand you," she said. "Papa's wishes will always be for
my happiness; why should I think of thwarting them?"

"Why, indeed? And again, why? It is my advice to you, my little
daughter, whether you think your father's wishes are for your happiness
or not--because, you know, sometimes fathers and daughters have
different ideas--do not go against his will."

The hot blood mounted to Natalie's forehead--for the first time during
this interview.

"Are you predicting strife, signore? I owe obedience to my father, I
know it; but I am not a child. I am a woman, and have my own wishes. My
papa would not think of thwarting them."

"Natalushka, you must not be angry with me."

"I am not angry, signore; but you must not suppose that I am quite a
child."

"Pardieu, non!" said Calabressa. "I expected to find Natalushka; I find
Natalie--ah, Heaven! that is the wonder and the sadness of it to me! I
think I am talking to your mother: these are her hands. I listen to her
voice: it seems twenty years ago. And you have a proud spirit, as she
had: again I say--do not thwart your father's wishes, Natalie--rather,
Natalushka!"

He spoke with such an obvious kindness and earnestness that she could
not feel offended.

"And if you want any one to help you at any time, my little
daughter--for who knows the ways of the world, and what may happen?--if
your father is sent away, and you are alone, and you want some one to do
something for you, then this is what you will say to yourself: 'There is
that old fool Calabressa, who has nothing in the world to do but smoke
cigarettes and twirl his mustache--I will send for Calabressa.' And this
I promise, little one, that Calabressa will very soon be at your feet."

"I thank you signore."

"It is true, I may be away on duty, as your father might be; but I have
friends at head-quarters; I have done some service. And if I were to
say, 'Calabressa wishes to be relieved from duty; it is the daughter of
Natalie Berezolyi who demands his presence,' I know the answer:
'Calabressa will proceed at once to obey the commands of the daughter of
Natalie Berezolyi.'"

"But who--"

"No, my little daughter, you must not ask that. I will tell you only
that they are all-powerful; that they will protect you--with Calabressa
as their agent; and before I leave this city I will give you my address,
or rather I will give you an address where you will find some one who
will guide you to me. May Heaven grant that there be no need. Why should
harm come to one who is so beautiful and so gentle?"

"My mother--was she happy?" she said quickly.

"Little daughter," said he, sharply, and he threw away her hand, "if you
ask me any more questions about your mother you will make my heart
bleed. Do you not understand so simple a thing as that, you who claim
to be a woman? You have been stabbing me. Come, come: _allons!_--let us
talk of something else--of your friend who wishes to be more than a
friend--you wicked little one, who have no sweetheart! And what are
those fools of English about? What? But tell me--is he one of us?"

"Oh yes, signore," said she; and instead of showing any shamefacedness,
she turned toward him and regarded him with the fearless, soft dark
eyes. "How could you think otherwise? And he is so brave and noble: he
is not afraid of sacrificing those things that the English put such
store by--"

"English?" said Calabressa.

"Yes," said Natalie; and now she looked down.

"And what does your heart say?"

She spoke very gently in reply.

"Signor, I have not answered him yet; you cannot expect me to answer
you."

"A la bonne heure! Little traitress, to say she has no sweethearts!
Happy Englishman! What, then, do I distress you? It is not so simple! It
is an embarrassment, this proposal that he has made to you! But I will
not trouble you further with my questions, little daughter: how can an
old jail-bird like myself understand a young linnet-thing that has
always been flying and fluttering about in happiness and the free air?
Enfin, let us go! I perceive your little maid is tired of standing and
staring; perhaps it is time for you to go back."

She rose, and the three of them slowly proceeded along the gravelled
path.

"Your father does not return until next week: must I wait a whole week
in this desert of a town before seeing you again, petite?"

"Oh no," said Natalie, smiling; "that is not necessary. If my papa were
here now he would certainly ask you to dine with us to-night; may I do
so in his place? You will not find much amusement; but Madame
Potecki--you knew her husband, perhaps?"

"Potecki the Pole, who was killed?"

"Yes. She will play a little music for you. But there are so many
amusements in London, perhaps you would rather not spend your evening
with two poor solitary creatures like us."

"My little daughter, to hear you speak, that is all I want; it takes
twenty years away from my life; I do not know whether to laugh or to
cry. But _courage_! we will put a good face on our little griefs. This
evening--this evening I will pretend to myself something--I am going to
live my old life over again--for an hour; I will blow a horn as soon as
I have crossed the Erlau, and they will hear it up at the big house
among the pines, where the lights are shining through the dark, and they
will send a servant down to open the gates; and you will appear at the
hall-door, and say, 'Signor Calabressa, why do you make such a noise to
awaken the dogs?' And I will say, 'Dear Miss Berezolyi, the pine-woods
are frightfully dark; may I not scare away the ghosts?"

"It was my mother who received you," the girl said, in a low voice.

"It was Natalie then; to-night it will be Natalushka."

He spoke lightly, so as not to make these reminiscences too serious. But
the conjunction of the two names seemed suddenly to startle the girl.
She stopped, and looked him in the face.

"It was you, then," she said, "who sent me the locket?"

"What locket?" he said, with surprise.

"The locket the lady dropped into my lap--'_From Natalie to
Natalushka_.'"

"I declare to you, little daughter, I never heard of it."

The girl looked bewildered.

"Ah, how stupid I am!" she exclaimed. "I could not understand. But if
they always called her Natalie, and me Natalushka--"

She paused for a moment to collect her thoughts.

"Signor Calabressa, what does it mean?" she said, almost wildly. "If one
sends me a locket--'_From Natalie to Natalushka_'--was it my mother's?
Did she intend it for me? Did she leave it for me with some one, long
ago? How could it come into the hands of a stranger?"

Calabressa himself seemed rather bewildered--almost alarmed.

"My little daughter, you have no doubt guessed right," he said,
soothingly. "Your mother may have meant it for you--and--and perhaps it
was lost--and just recovered--"

"Signor Calabressa," said she--and he could have fancied it was her
mother who was speaking in that low, earnest, almost sad voice--"you
said you would do me an act of friendship if I asked you. I cannot ask
my father; he seems too grieved to speak of my mother at any time; but
do you think you could find out who the lady was who brought that locket
to me? That would be kind of you, if you could do that."



CHAPTER XVIII.

HER ANSWER.


Humphreys, the delegate from the North, and O'Halloran, the Irish
reporter, had been invited by George Brand to dine with him on this
evening--Humphreys having to start for Wolverhampton next day--and the
three were just sitting down when Lord Evelyn called in, uninvited, and
asked if he might have a plate placed for him. Humphreys was anxious
that their host should set out with him for the North in the morning;
but Brand would not promise. He was obviously thinking of other things.
He was at once restless, preoccupied, and silent.

"I hope, my lord, you have come to put our friend here in better
spirits," said Humphreys, blushing a little as he ventured to call one
of the Brands of Darlington his friend.

"What is the matter?"

At this moment Waters appeared at the door with a letter in his hand.
Brand instantly rose, went forward to him and took the letter, and
retired into an adjoining room. Without looking, he know from whom it
had come.

His hand was shaking as he opened the envelope; but the words that met
his eyes were calm.

"My dear friend,--Your letter has given me joy and pain. Joy that you
still adhere to your noble resolve; that you have found gladness in your
life; that you will work on to the end, whatever the fruit of the work
may be. But this other thought of yours--that only distresses me; it
clouds the future with uncertainty and doubt, where there should only be
clear faith. My dear friend, I must ask you to put away that thought.
Let the _feu sacre_ of the regenerator, the liberator, have full
possession of you. How I should blame myself if I were to distract you
from the aims to which you have devoted your life. I have no one to
advise me; but this I know is _right_. You will, I think, not
misunderstand me--you will not think it unmaidenly of me--if I confess
to you that I have written these words with some pain, some touch of
regret that all is not possible to you that you may desire. But for one
soul on devotion. Do I express myself clearly?--you know English is not
my native tongue. If we may not go through life together, in the sense
that you mean, we need not be far apart; and you will know, as you go
forward in the path of a noble duty, that there is not any one who
regards you and the work you will do with a greater pride and affection
than your friend,

  NATALIE."

What could it all mean? he asked himself. This was not the letter of a
woman who loved another man; she would have been more explicit; she
would have given sufficient reason for her refusal. He read again, with
a beating heart, with a wild hope, that veiled and subtle expression of
regret. Was it not that she was prepared to sacrifice forever those
dreams of a secure and happy and loving life, that come naturally to a
young girl, lest they should interfere with what she regarded as the
higher duty, the more imperative devotion? In that case, it was for a
firmer nature than her own to take this matter in hand. She was but a
child; knowing nothing of the sorrows of the world, of the necessity of
protection, of the chances the years might bring. Scarcely conscious of
what he did--so eagerly was his mind engaged--he opened a drawer and
locked the letter in. Then he went hastily into the other room.

"Evelyn," said he, "will you take my place, like a good fellow? I shall
be back as soon as I can. Waters will get you everything you want."

"But about Wolverhampton, Mr. Brand?" shouted Humphreys after him.

There was no answer; he was half-way down the stairs.

When the hansom arrived in Curzon Street a hurried glance showed him
that the dining-room was lit up. She was at home, then: that was enough.
For the rest, he was not going to trouble himself with formalities when
so beautiful a prize might still be within his reach.

He knocked at the door; the little Anneli appeared.

"Anneli," said he, "I want to see Miss Lind for a moment--say I shall
not detain her, if there is any one with her--"

"They are in the dining-room, sir; Madame Potecki, and a strange
gentleman--"

"Ask your mistress to let me see her for one moment; don't you
understand?"

"They are just finishing dinner, sir: if you will step up to the
drawing-room they will be there in a minute or two."

But at last he got the little German maid to understand that he wished
to see Miss Lind alone for the briefest possible time; and that she was
to carry this message in an undertone to her mistress. By himself he
made his way up-stairs to the drawing-room; the lamps were lit.

He lifted books, photographs, and what not, with trembling fingers, and
put them down again without knowing it. He was thinking, not looking.
And he was trying to force himself into a masterful mood. She was only a
child, he kept repeating to himself--only a child, who wanted guidance,
instruction, a protecting hand. It was not her fancies, however generous
and noble, that should shape the destinies of two lives. A beautiful
child, ignorant of the world and its evil: full of dreams of impossible
and unnecessary self-sacrifice, she was not one to ordain; surely her
way in life was to be led, and cherished, and loved, trusting to the
stronger hand for guidance and safety.

There was a slight rustle outside, and presently Natalie entered the
room. She was pale--perhaps she looked all the paler that she wore the
long, sweeping black dress she had worn at Lady Evelyn's. In silence she
gave him her hand; he took it in both his.

"Natalie!"

It was a cry of entreaty, almost of pain; for this fond vision of his of
her being only a child, to be mastered and guided, had fled the moment
he caught sight of this tall and beautiful woman, whose self-command,
despite that paleness and a certain apprehension in the dark eyes, was
far greater than his own.

"Natalie, you must give me a clearer answer."

He tried to read the answer in her eyes; but she lowered them as she
spoke.

"Was not my answer clear?" she said, gently. "I wished not to give you
pain."

"But was all your answer there?" he said quickly. "Were there no other
reasons? Natalie! don't you know that, if you regretted your decision
ever so little--if you thought twice about it--if even now you can give
me leave to hope that one day you will be my wife--there were no reasons
at all in your letter for your refusing--none at all? If you love me
even so little that you regret--"

"I must not listen to you," she said hurriedly. "No, no. My answer was
best for us both. I am sorry if it pains you; but you have other things
to think of; we have our separate duties in the world--duties that are
of first importance. My dear friend," she continued, with an air of
appeal, "don't you see how I am situated? I have no one to advise
me--not even my father, though I can guess what he would say. I know
what he would say; and my heart tells me that I have done right."

"One word," said he. "This you must answer me frankly. Is there no
other reason for your refusal? Is your heart free to choose?"

She looked up and met his eyes for a moment: only for a moment.

"I understand you," she said, with some slight color mounting to the
pale clear olive of her brow. "No, there is not any reason like that."

A quick, proud light leaped into his eyes.

"Then," said he, "I refuse to accept your refusal. Natalie, you will be
my wife!"

"Oh, do not say that--do not think of it. I have done wrong even to
listen, to let you speak--"

"But what I say is true. I claim you, as surely as I now hold your
hand--"

"Hush!"

There were two people coming into the room; he did not care if there
were a regiment. He relinquished her hand, it is true; but there was a
proud and grateful look on his face; he did not even turn to regard the
new-comers.

These were Madame Potecki and Calabressa. The little Polish lady had
misconstrued Natalie's parting words to mean that some visitors had
arrived, and that she and Calabressa were to follow when they pleased.
Now that they had appeared in the drawing-room, they could not fail to
perceive how matters stood, and, in fact, the little gentlewoman was on
the point of retiring. But Natalie was quite mistress of the situation.
She reminded Madame Potecki that she had met Mr. Brand before. She
introduced Calabressa to the stranger, saying that he was a friend of
her father's.

"It is opportune--it is a felicitous circumstance," said Calabressa, in
his nasal French. "Mademoiselle, behold the truth. If I do not have a
cigarette after my food, I die--veritably I die! Now your friend, the
friend of the house, surely he will take compassion on me; and we will
have a cigarette together in some apartment."

Here he touched Brand's elbow, having sidled up to him. On any other
occasion Brand would have resented the touch, the invitation, the mere
presence of this theatrical-looking albino. But he was not in a captious
mood. How could he refuse when he heard Natalie say, in her soft, low
voice,

"Will you be so kind, Mr. Brand? Anneli will light up papa's little
smoking-room."

Directly afterward he found himself in the small study, alone with this
odd-looking person, whom he easily recognized as the stranger who had
been walking in the Park with Natalie in the morning. Closer inspection
rendered him less afraid of this rival.

Calabressa rolled a cigarette between his fingers, and lit it.

"I ask your pardon, monsieur. I ask your pardon beforehand. I am about
to be impertinent; it is necessary. If you will tell me some things, I
will tell you some things which it may be better for you to know. First,
then, I assume that you wish to marry that dear child, that beautiful
young lady up-stairs."

"My good friend, you are a little bit too outrageous," said Brand.

"Ah! Then I must begin. You know, perhaps, that the mother of this young
lady is alive?"

"Alive!"

"I perceive you do not know," said Calabressa, coolly. "I thought you
would know--I thought you would guess. A child might guess. She told me
you had seen the locket--_Natalie to Natalushka_--was not that enough?"

"If Miss Lind herself did not guess that her mother was alive, how
should I?"

"If you have been brought up for sixteen or eighteen years to mourn one
as dead, you do not quickly imagine that he or she is not dead: you
perceive?"

"Well, it is extraordinary enough," said Brand, thoughtfully. "With such
a daughter, if she has the heart of a mother at all, how could she
remain away from her for sixteen years?"

A thought struck him, and his forehead colored quickly.

"There was no disgrace?"

At this word Calabressa started, and the small eyes flashed fire.

"I tell you, monsieur, that it is not in my presence that any one must
mention the word disgrace and also the name of Natalie Berezolyi. No; I
will answer--I myself--I will answer for the good name of Natalie
Berezolyi, by the bounty of Heaven!"

He shrugged his shoulders.

"You are ignorant--you made a mistake. And I--well, you perceive,
monsieur, that I am not ashamed to confess--I loved her; she was the
radiant light, the star of my life!"

"La lumiere rayonnante, l'etoile de ma vie!"--the phrases sounded
ridiculous enough when uttered by this histrionic person; but even his
self-conscious gesticulation did not offend Brand. This man, at all
events, had loved the mother of Natalie.

"Then it was some very powerful motive that kept mother and daughter
apart?" said he.

"Yes; I cannot explain it all to you, if I quite know it all. But every
year the mother comes with a birthday present of flowers for the child,
and watches to see her once or twice; and then away back she goes to the
retreat of her father. Ah, the devotion of that beautiful saint! If
there is a heaven at all, Natalie Berezolyi will be among the angels."

"Then you have come to tell Natalie that her mother is alive. I envy
you. How grateful the girl will be to you!"

"I? What, I? No, truly, I dare not. And that is why I wish to speak to
you: I thought perhaps you would guess, or find out: then I say, do not
utter a word! Why do I give you this secret? Why have I sought to speak
with you, monsieur? Well, if you will not speak, I will. Something the
little Natalushka said--to me she must always be the little Natalushka
in name, though she is so handsome a woman now--something she said to me
revealed a little secret. Then I said, 'Perhaps Natalushka will have a
happier life than Natalie has had, only her husband must be discreet.'
Now, monsieur, listen to me. What I said to Natalushka I say to you: do
not thwart her father's wishes. He is a determined man, and angry when
he is opposed."

"My good sir, other people may have an ounce or two of determination
also. You mean that I must never let Natalie know that her mother is
alive, for fear of Lind? Is that what you mean? Come, then!"

He strode to the door, and had his hand on the handle, when Calabressa
jumped up and caught him, and interposed.

"For Heaven's sake--for Heaven's sake, monsieur, why be so
inconsiderate, so rash?"

"Has the dread of this man frightened you out of your wits?"

"He is invulnerable--and implacable," said Calabressa. "But he is a good
friend when he has his own way. Why not be friends? You will have to ask
him for his daughter. Consider, monsieur, that is something."

"Well, there is reason in that," Brand said, reflectively. "And I am
inclined to be friendly with every one to-night, Signor Calabressa. It
may be that Lind has his reasons; and he is the natural guardian of his
daughter--at present. But she might have another guardian, Signor
Calabressa?"

"The wicked one!--she has promised herself to you? And she told me she
had no sweethearts, the rogue!"

"No, she has not promised. But what may not one dare to hope for, when
one sees her so generous and kind? She is like her mother, is she not?
Now I am going to slip away, Signor Calabressa; when you have had
another cigarette, will you go up-stairs and explain to the two ladies
that I have three friends who are now dining at my house, and I must get
back to them?"

Calabressa rose, and took the taller man's hand in his.

"I think our little Natalushka is right in trusting herself to you; I
think you will be kind to her; I know you will be brave enough to
protect her. All very well. But you English are so headstrong. Why not a
little caution, a little prudence, to smooth the way through life?"

Brand laughed: but he had taken a liking to this odd-looking man.

"Now, good-night, Signor Calabressa. You have done me a great service.
And if Natalie's mother wishes to see her daughter--well, I think the
opportunity will come. In the mean time, I will be quite cautious and
prudent, and compromise nobody; even if I cannot wholly promise to
tremble at the name of the Invulnerable and the Implacable."

"Ah, monsieur," said Calabressa, with a sigh, his gay gesticulation
having quite left him, "I hope I have done no mischief. It was all for
the little Natalushka. It will be so much better for you and for her to
be on good terms with Ferdinand Lind."

"We will see," Brand said, lightly. "The people in this part of the
world generally do as they're done by."



CHAPTER XIX.

AT THE CULTURVEREIN.


On calm reflection, Calabressa gave himself the benefit of his own
approval; and, on the whole, was rather proud of his diplomacy. He had
revealed enough, and not too much; he had given the headstrong
Englishman prudent warnings and judicious counsel; he had done what he
could for the future of the little Natalushka, who was the daughter of
Natalie Berezolyi. But there was something more.

He went up-stairs.

"My dear little one," he said, in his queer French, "behold me--I come
alone. Your English friend sends a thousand apologies--he has to return
to his guests: is it an English custom to leave guests in such a manner?
Ah, Madame Potecki, there is a time in one's life when one does strange
things, is there not? When a farewell before strangers is
hateful--impossible; when you rather go away silently than come before
strangers and shake hands, and all the rest. What, wicked little one,
you look alarmed! Is it a secret, then? Does not madame guess anything?"

"I entreat you, Signor Calabressa, not to speak in riddles," said
Natalie, hastily. "See, here is a telegram from papa. He will be back in
London on Monday next week. You can stay to see him, can you not?"'

"Mademoiselle, do you not understand that I am not my own master for two
moments in succession? For this present moment I am; the next I may be
under orders. But if my freedom, my holiday, lasts--yes, I shall be glad
to see your father, and I will wait. In the mean time, I must use up my
present moment. Can you give me the address of Vincent Beratinsky?"

She wrote it down for him; it was a number in Oxford Street.

"Now I will add my excuses to those of the tall Englishman," said he,
rising. "Good-night, madame. Good-night, mademoiselle--truly, it is a
folly to call you the little Natalushka, who are taller than your
beautiful mother. But it was the little Natalushka I was thinking about
for many a year. Good-night, wicked little one, with your secrets!"

He kissed her hand, bowed once more to the little Polish lady, and left.

When, after considerable difficulty--for he was exceedingly
near-sighted--he made out the number in Oxford Street, he found another
caller just leaving. This stranger glanced at him, and instantly said,
in a low voice,

"The night is dark, brother."

Calabressa started; but the other gave one or two signs that reassured
him.

"I knew you were in London, signore, and I recognized you; we have your
photograph in Lisle Street. My name is Reitzei--"

"Ah!" Calabressa exclaimed, with a new interest, as he looked at the
pallid-faced young man.

"And if you wish to see Beratinsky, I will take you to him. I find he
is at the Culturverein: I was going there myself." So Calabressa
suffered himself to be led away.

At this time the Culturverein used to meet in a large hall in a narrow
lane off Oxford Street. It was an association of persons, mostly
Germans, connected in some way or other with art, music, or letters--a
merry-hearted, free-and-easy little band of people, who met every
evening to laugh and talk and joke and generally forget the world and
all its cares. The evening usually began with Bavarian beer, sonatas,
and comic lectures; then Rhine wines began to appear, and of course
these brought with them songs of love, and friendship, and patriotism;
occasionally, when the older and wiser folk had gone, sweet champagne
and a wild frolic prevailed until daylight came to drive the revellers
out. Beratinsky belonged to the Verein by reason of his having at one
time betaken himself to water-color drawing, in order to keep himself
alive.

When Calabressa entered the large, long hall, the walls of which were
plentifully hung with sketches in color and cartoons in black and white,
the _fertig_!--_los_! period had not arrived. On the contrary, the
meeting was exceedingly demure, almost dull; for a German music
professor, seated at the piano on the platform, was playing one of his
own compositions, which, however beautiful, was of considerable length;
and his audience had relapsed into half-hushed conversation over their
light cigars and tall glasses of Bairisch.

Beratinsky had to come along to the entrance-hall to enter the names of
his visitors in a book. He was a little man, somewhat corpulent, with
bushy black eyebrows, intensely black eyes, and black closely-cropped
beard. The head was rather handsome; the figure not.

"Ah, Calabressa, you have come alive again!" he said, speaking in pretty
fair Italian. "We heard you were in London. What is it?"

The last phrase was uttered in a low voice, though there was no
by-stander. But Calabressa, with a lofty gesture, replied,

"My friend, we are not always on commissions. Sometimes we have a little
liberty--a little money--a notion in our head. And if one cannot exactly
travel _en prince_, _n'importe!_ we have our little excursion. And if
one has one's sweetheart to see? Do you know, friend Beratinsky, that I
have been dining with Natalie--the little Natalushka, as, she used to be
called?"

Beratinsky glanced quickly at him with the black, piercing eyes.

"Ah, the beautiful child! the beautiful child!" Calabressa exclaimed,
as if he was addressing some one not present. "The mouth sweet,
pathetic, like that in Titian's Assumption: you have seen the picture in
the Venice Academy? But she is darker than Titian's Virgin; she is of
the black, handsome Magyar breed, like her mother. You never saw her
mother, Beratinsky?"

"No," said the other, rather surlily. "Come, sit down and have a cigar."

"A cigarette--a cigarette and a little cognac, if you please," said
Calabressa, when the three companions had gone along to the middle of
the hall and taken their seats. "Ah, it was such a surprise to me: the
sight of her grown to be a woman, and the perfect, beautiful image of
her mother--the very voice too--I could have thought it was a dream."

"Did you come here to talk of nothing but Lind's daughter?" said
Beratinsky, with scant courtesy.

"Precisely," remarked Calabressa, in absolute good-humor. "But before
that a word."

He glanced round this assemblage of foreign-looking persons, no doubt
guessing at the various nationalities indicated by physique and
complexion--Prussian, Pole, Rhinelander, Swiss, and what not. If the
company, in English eyes, might have looked Bohemian--that is to say,
unconventional in manner and costume--the Bohemianism, at all events,
was of a well-to-do, cheerful, good-humored character. There was a good
deal of talking besides the music.

"These gentlemen," said Calabressa, in a low voice, "are they
friends--are they with us?"

"Only one or two," said Beratinsky.

"You do not come here to proselytize, then?"

"One must amuse one's self sometimes," said the little, fat,
black-haired Pole, somewhat gruffly.

"Then one must take care what one says!"

"I presume that is generally the case, friend Calabressa."

But Calabressa was not offended. He was interested in what was going on.

"Par exemple," he said, in his airy way, "que vient faire la le drole?"

The music had come to an end, and the spectacled professor had retired
amidst a thunder of applause. His successor, who had attracted
Calabressa's attention, was a gentleman who had mounted on a high easel
an immense portfolio of cartoons roughly executed in crayon; and as he
exhibited them one by one, he pointed out their characteristics with a
long stick, after the manner of a showman. His demeanor was serious; his
face was grave; his tone was simple and business-like. But as he
unfolded these rude drawings, Calabressa, who understood but little
German, was more and more astonished to find the guttural laughter
around him increase and increase until the whole place resounded with
roars, while some of the old Herren held their sides in pain, as the
tears of the gigantic mirth streamed down their cheeks. Those who were
able hammered loud applause on the table before them; others rolled in
their chairs; many could only lie back and send their merriment up to
the reverberating roof in shrill shrieks and yells.

"In the name of Heaven, what is it all about?" said Calabressa. "Have
the people gone mad?"

"Illustrations of German proverbs," said Beratinsky, who, despite his
surly manner, was himself forced to smile.

Well, Calabressa had indeed come here to talk about Lind's daughter; but
it was impossible, amidst this wild surging to and fro of Olympian
laughter. At last, however, the showman came to an end of his cartoons,
and solemnly made his bow, and amidst tumultuous cheering resumed his
place among his companions.

There was a pause, given over to chatter and joking, and Calabressa
quickly embraced this opportunity.

"You are a friend of the little Natalushka--of the beautiful Natalie, I
should say, perhaps?"

"Lind's daughter does not choose to have many friends," said Beratinsky,
curtly.

This was not promising; and, indeed, the corpulent little Pole showed
great disinclination to talk about the young lady who had so laid hold
of Calabressa's heart. But Calabressa was not to be denied, when it was
the welfare of the daughter of Natalie Berezolyi that was concerned.

"Yes, yes, friend Beratinsky, of course she is very much alone. It is
rather a sad thing for a young girl to be so much alone."

"And if she chooses to be alone?" said Beratinsky, with a sharpness that
resembled the snarl of a terrier.

Perhaps it was to get rid of the topic that Beratinsky here joined in a
clamorous call for "Nageli! Nageli!" Presently a fresh-colored young
Switzer, laughing and blushing tremendously, went up to the platform and
took his seat at the piano, and struck a few noisy chords. It was a
Tyrolese song he sung, with a jodel refrain of his own invention:

    "Hat einer ein Schatzerl,
     So bleibt er dabei,
     Er nimmt sie zum Weiberl,
     Und liebt sie recht treu.
     Dann fangt man die Wirthschaft
     Gemeinschaftlich an,
     Und liebt sich, und herzt sich
     So sehr als man kann!"

Great cheering followed the skilfully executed jodel. In the midst of
it, one of the members rose and said, in German,

"Meine Herren! You know our good friend Nageli is going to leave us;
perhaps we shall not see him again for many years. I challenge you to
drink this toast: 'Nageli, and his quick return!' I say to him what some
of the shopkeepers in our Father-land say to their customers, 'Kommen
Sie bald wieder!'"

Here there was a great shouting of "Nageli! Nageli!" until one started
the chorus, which was immediately and sonorously sung by the whole
assemblage,

    "Hoch soll er leben!
     Hoch soll er leben!
           Dreimal hoch!"

Another pause, chiefly devoted to the ordering of Hochheimer and the
lighting of fresh cigars. The souls of the sons of the Father-land were
beginning to warm.

"Friend Beratinsky," said the anxious-hearted albino, "perhaps you know
that many years ago I knew the mother of Natalie Lind; she was a
neighbor--a companion--of mine: and I am interested in the little one. A
young girl sometimes has need of friends. Now, you are in a position--"

"Friend Calabressa, you may save your breath," said the other, coldly.
"The young lady might have had my friendship if she had chosen. She did
not choose. I suppose she is old enough--and proud enough--to choose her
own friends. Yes, yes, friend Calabressa, I have heard. But we will say
nothing more: now listen to this comical fellow."

Calabressa was not thinking of the young Englishman who now sat down at
the piano; a strange suspicion was beginning to fill his mind. Was it
possible, he began inwardly to ask, that Vincent Beratinsky had himself
aspired to marry the beautiful Hungarian girl?

This good-looking young English fellow, with a gravity equal to that of
the sham showman, explained to his audience that he was composing an
operetta, of which he would give them a few passages. He was a skilful
pianist. He explained, as his fingers ran up and down the keys, that the
scene was in Ratcliffe Highway. A tavern: a hornpipe. Jack ashore.
Unseemly squabbles: here there were harsh discords and shrill screams.
Drunkenness: the music getting very helpless. Then the daylight
comes--the chirping of sparrows--Jack wanders out--the breath of the
morning stirs his memories--he thinks of other days. Then comes in
Jack's song, which neither Calabressa nor any one else present could say
was meant to be comic, or pathetic, or a demoniac mixture of both. The
accompaniment which the handsome young English fellow played was at once
rhythmical, and low and sad, like the wash of waves:

    "Oh, the days were long,
       And the summers were long,
     When Jane and I went courtin';
       The hills were blue beyond the sky;
       The heather was soft where we did lie;
       We kissed our fill, did Jane and I,
     When Jane and I went courtin'.

    "When Jane and I went courtin',
       Oh, the days were long,
       And the summers were long!
       We walked by night beyond the quay;
       Above, the stars; below, the sea;
       And I kissed Jane, and Jane kissed me,
     When Jane and I went courtin'.

    "But Jane she married the sodger-chap;
       An end to me and my courtin'.
       And I took ship, and here I am;
       And where I go, I care not a damn--
       Rio, Jamaica, Seringapatam--
     Good-bye to Jane and the courtin'."

This second professor of gravity was abundantly cheered too when he rose
from the piano; for the music was quaint and original with a sort of
unholy, grotesque pathos running through it. Calabressa resumed:

"My good Beratinsky, what is it that you have heard?"

"No matter. Natalie Lind has no need of your good offices, Calabressa.
She can make friends for herself, and quickly enough, too."

Calabressa's eyes were not keen, but his ears were; he detected easily
the personal rancor in the man's tone.

"You are speaking of some one: the Englishman?"

Beratinsky burst out laughing.

"Listen, Reitzei! Even my good friend Calabressa perceives. He, too,
has encountered the Englishman. Oh yes, we must all give way to him,
else he will stamp on our toes with his thick English boots. You,
Reitzei: how long is he to allow you to retain your office?"

"Better for him if he does not interfere with me," said the younger man.
"I was always against the English being allowed to become officers. They
are too arrogant; they want everything under their direction. Take their
money, but keep them outside: that would have been my rule."

"And this Englishman," said Beratinsky, with a smile, though there was
the light of malice in his eye, "this Englishman is not content with
wanting to have the mastery of poor devils like you and me; he also
wishes to marry the beautiful Natalie--the beautiful Natalie, who has
hitherto been as proud as the Princess Brunhilda. Now, now, friend
Calabressa, do not protest. Every one has ears, has eyes. And when papa
Lind comes home--when he finds that this Englishman has been making a
fool of him, and professing great zeal when he was only trying to steal
away the daughter--what then, friend Calabressa?"

"A girl must marry," said Calabressa.

"I thought she was too proud to think of such things," said the other,
scornfully. "However, I entreat you to say no more. What concern have I
with Natalie Lind? I tell you, let her make more new friends."

Calabressa sat silent, his heart as heavy as lead. He had come with some
notion that he would secure one other--powerful, and in all of Lind's
secrets--on whom Natalie could rely, should any emergency occur in which
she needed help. But these jealous and envious taunts, these malignant
prophecies, only too clearly showed him in what relation Vincent
Beratinsky stood with regard to the daughter of Natalie Berezolyi and
the Englishman, her lover.

Calabressa sat silent. When some one began to play the zither, he was
thinking not of the Culturverein in London, but of the dark pine woods
above the Erlau, and of the house there, and of Natalie Berezolyi as she
played in the evening. He would ask Natalushka if she, too, played the
zither.



CHAPTER XX.

FIDELIO.


George Brand walked away from the house in Curzon Street in a sort of
bewilderment of hope and happiness and gratitude. He would even try to
accept Calabressa's well-meant counsel: why should he not be friends
with everybody? The world had grown very beautiful; there was to be no
more quarrelling in it, or envy, or malice.

In the dark he almost ran against a ragged little child who was selling
flowers.

"Will you buy a rose-bud, sir?" said she.

"What?" he said, severely, "selling flowers at this time of night? Get
away home with you and get your supper, and go to bed;" but he spoiled
the effect of his sharp admonition by giving the girl all the silver he
had in his pocket.

He found the little dinner-party in a most loquacious mood. O'Halloran
in especial was in full swing. The internal economy of England was to be
readjusted. The capital must be transferred to the centre of the real
wealth and brain-power of the country--that is to say, somewhere about
Leeds or Manchester. This proposition greatly pleased Humphreys, the man
from the North, who was quite willing to let the Royal Academy, the
South Kensington and National Galleries, and the British Museum remain
in London, so long as the seat of government was transferred to
Huddersfield or thereabouts. But O'Halloran drew such a harrowing
picture of the effect produced on the South of England intellect by its
notorious and intense devotion to the arts, that Humphreys was almost
convicted of cruelty.

However, if these graceless people thought to humbug the hard-headed man
from the North, he succeeded on one occasion in completely silencing his
chief enemy, O'Halloran. That lover of paradox and idle speculation was
tracing the decline of superstition to the introduction of the use of
steam, and was showing how, wherever railways went in India, ghosts
disappeared; whereupon the Darlington man calmly retorted that, as far
as he could see, the railways in this country were engaged in making as
many ghosts as they could possibly disperse in India. This flank attack
completely surprised and silenced the light skirmisher, who sought
safety in lighting another cigar.

More serious matters, however, were also talked about, and Humphreys
was eager that Brand should go down to Wolverhampton with him next
morning. Brand pleaded but for one day's delay. Humphreys reminded him
that certain members of the Political Committee of the Trades-union
Congress would be at Wolverhampton, and that he had promised to see
them. After that, silence.

At last, as Humphreys and O'Halloran were leaving, Brand said, with an
effort,

"No, it is no use, Humphreys. I _must_ remain in London one more day.
You go down to-morrow; I shall come by the first train next morning.
Molyneux and the others won't be leaving for some days."

"Very well, sir; good-night, sir."

Brand returned into the room, and threw himself into an easy-chair; his
only companion now was his old friend Evelyn.

The younger man regarded him.

"I can tell the whole story, Brand; I have been reading it in your face.
You were troubled and perplexed before you got that letter. It gave some
hope. Off you went to see Natalie; you came back with something in your
manner that told me you had seen her and had been received favorably.
Now it is only one more day of happiness you hunger for, before going up
to the hard work of the North. Well, I don't wonder. But, at the same
time, you look a little too restless and anxious for a man who has just
won such a beautiful sweetheart."

"I am not so lucky as that, Evelyn," said he, absently.

"What, you did not see her?"

"Oh yes, I saw her; and I hope. But of course one craves for some full
assurance when such a prize is within reach; and--and I suppose one's
nerves are a little excited, so that you imagine possibilities and
dangers--"

He rose, and took a turn up and down the room.

"It is the old story, Evelyn. I distrust Lind."

"What has that to do with it?"

"As you say, what has that to do with it? If I had Natalie's full
promise, I should care for nothing. She is a woman; she is not a school
girl, to be frightened. If I had only that, I should start off for the
North with a light heart."

"Why not secure it, then?"

"Perhaps it is scarcely fair to force myself on her at present until her
father returns. Then she will be more her own mistress. But the doubt--I
don't know when I may be back from the North--" At last he stopped
short. "Yes, I will see her to-morrow at all hazards."

By-and-by he began to tell his friend of the gay-hearted old albino he
had encountered at Lind's house; though in the mean time he reserved to
himself the secret of Natalie's mother being alive.

"Lind must have an extraordinary faculty," he said at length, "of
inspiring fear, and of getting people to obey him."

"He does not look a ferocious person," Lord Evelyn said, with a smile.
"I have always found him very courteous and pleasant--frank, amiable,
and all the rest of it."

"And yet here is this man Calabressa, an old friend of his; and he talks
of Lind with a sort of mysterious awe. He is not a man whom you must
think of thwarting. He is the Invulnerable, the Implacable. The fact is,
I was inclined to laugh at my good friend Calabressa; but all the same,
it was quite apparent that the effect Lind had produced on his mind was
real enough."

"Well, you know," said Lord Evelyn, "Lind has a great organization to
control, and he must be a strict disciplinarian. It is the object of his
life; everything else is of minor importance. Even you confess that you
admire his tremendous power of work."

"Yes, I do. I admire his administrative capacity; it is wonderful. But I
don't believe for a moment that it was his mind that projected this big
scheme. That must have been the work of an idealist, perhaps of a dozen
of them, all adding and helping. I think he almost said as much to me
one night. His business is to keep the machinery in working order, and
he does it to perfection."

"There is one thing about him: he never forgets, and he never forgives.
You remember the story of Count Verdt?"

"I have cause to remember it. I thought for a moment the wretch had
committed suicide because I caught him cheating."

"I have been told that Lind played with that fellow like a cat with a
mouse. Verdt got hints from time to time that his punishment as a
traitor was overtaking him; and yet he was allowed to live on in
constant fear. And it was the Camorra, and not Lind, or any of Lind's
friends, who finished him after all."

"Well, that was implacable enough, to be sure; to have death dogging the
poor wretch's heels, and yet refusing to strike."

"For myself, I don't pity him much," said Lord Evelyn, as he rose and
buttoned his coat. "He was a fool to think he could play such a trick
and escape the consequences. Now, Brand, how am I to hear from you
to-morrow? You know I am in a measure responsible."

"However it ends, I am grateful to you, Evelyn; you may be sure of that.
I will write to you from Wolverhampton, and let you know the worst, or
the best."

"The best, then: we will have no worsts."

He said good-bye, and went whistling cheerfully down the narrow oak
staircase. He at least was not very apprehensive about the results of
the next day's interview.

But how brief was this one day, with its rapidly passing opportunities;
and then the stern necessity for departure and absence. He spent half
the night in devising how best he could get speech of her, in a
roundabout fashion, without the dread of the interference of friends.
And at last he hit upon a plan which might not answer; but he could
think of nothing else.

He went in the morning and secured a box at Covent Garden for that
evening. Then he called at Lisle Street, and got Calabressa's address.
He found Calabressa in his lodgings, shivering and miserable, for the
day was wet, misty, and cold.

"You can escape from the gloom of our climate, Signor Calabressa," said
he. "What do you say to going to the opera to-night?"

"Your opera?" said he, with a gesture indicative of still deeper
despair. "You forget I come from the home, the nursery of opera."

"Yes," said Brand, good-naturedly. "Great singers train in your country,
but they sing here: that is the difference. Do not be afraid; you will
not be disappointed. See, I have brought you a box; and if you want
companions, why not ask Miss Lind and Madame Potecki to go with you and
show you the ways of our English opera-houses?"

"Ah, the little Natalushka!" said Calabressa, eagerly. "Will she go? Do
you think she will go? _Ma foi_, it is not often I have the chance of
taking such a beautiful creature to the opera, if she will go! What must
I do?"

"You will have to go and beg her to be kind to you. Say you have the
box--you need not mention how: ask if she will escort you, she and
Madame Potecki. Say it is a kindness: she cannot help doing a kindness."

"There you are right, monsieur: do not I see it in her eyes? can I not
hear it in her voice?"

"Well, that you must do at once, before she goes out for her walk at
noon."

"To go out walking on a day like this?"

"She will go out, nevertheless; and you must go and intercept her, and
pray her to do you this kindness."

"_Apres?_"

"You must come to me again, and we will get an English evening costume
for you somehow. Then, two bouquets; I will get those for you, and send
them to them to the box to await you."

"But you yourself, monsieur; will you not be of the party?"

"Perhaps you had better say nothing about me, signore; for one is so
busy nowadays. But if I come into the stalls; if I see you and the
ladies in the box, then I shall permit myself to call upon you; do you
understand?"

"Parfaitement," said Calabressa, gravely. Then he laughed slightly. "Ah,
monsieur, you English are not good diplomatists. I perceive that you
wish to say more; that you are afraid to say more; that you are anxious
and a little bit demure, like a girl. What you wish is this, is it not:
if I say to Madame Potecki, 'Madame, I am a stranger; will you show me
the promenade, that I may behold the costumes of the beautiful English
ladies?' madame answers, 'Willingly.' We go to see the costumes of the
beautiful English ladies. Why should you come? You would not leave the
young lady all alone in the box?"

"Calabressa," he said, frankly, "I am going away to-morrow morning: do
you understand that?"

Calabressa bowed gravely.

"To comprehend that is easy. Allons, let us play out the little plot for
the amusement of that rogue of a Natalushka. And if she does not thank
me--eh bien! perhaps her papa will: who knows?"

Before the overture began that evening, Brand was in his seat in the
stalls; and he had scarcely sat down when he knew, rather than saw, that
certain figures were coming into the box which he had been covertly
watching. The opera was _Fidelio_--that beautiful story of a wife's
devotion and courage, and reward. As he sat and listened, he knew she
was listening too; and he could almost have believed it was her own
voice that was pleading so eloquently with the jailer to let the poor
prisoner see the light of day for a few minutes in the garden. Would not
that have been her prayer, too, in similar circumstances? Then Leonora,
disguised as a youth, is forced to assist in the digging of her own
husband's grave, Pizarro enters; the unhappy prisoners are driven back
to their cells and chains, and Leonora can only call down the vengeance
of Heaven on the head of the tyrant.

At the end of the act Brand went up to the box and tapped outside. It
was opened from within, and he entered. Natalie turned to receive him;
she was a little pale, he thought; he took a seat immediately behind
her; and there was some general talk until the opening of the second act
restored silence.

For him it was a strange silence, that the music outside did not
disturb. Sitting behind her, he could study the beautiful profile and
the outward curve of her dark eyelashes; he could see where here and
there a delicate curl of the raven-black hair, escaping from the mob-cap
of rose-red silk, lay about the small ear or wandered down to the
shapely white neck; he could almost, despite the music, fancy he heard
her breathe, as the black gossamer and scarlet flowers of an Indian
shawl stirred over the shining satin dress. Her fan and handkerchief
were perfumed with white-rose.

And to-morrow he would be in Wolverhampton, amidst grimy streets and
dirty houses, in a leaden-hued atmosphere laden with damp and the fumes
of chimneys, practically alone, with days of monotonous work before him,
and solitary evenings to be spent in cheerless inns. What wonder if this
seemed some brief vision of paradise--the golden light and glowing
color, the soft strains of music, the scent of white-rose?

Doubtless Natalie had seen this opera of Fidelio many a time before; but
she was always intently interested in music; and she had more than once
expressed in Brand's hearing her opinion of the conduct of the ladies
and gentlemen who make an opera, or a concert, or a play a mere adjunct
to their own foolish laughter and tittle-tattle. She recognized the
serious aims of a great artist; she listened with deep attention and
respect; she could talk idly elsewhere and at other times. And so there
was scarcely a word said--except of involuntary admiration--as the opera
proceeded. But in the scene where the disguised wife discovers her
husband in the prison--where, as Pizarro is about to stab him, she
flings herself between them to protect him--Brand could see that Natalie
Lind was fast losing her manner of calm and critical attention, and
yielding to a profounder emotion. When Leonora reveals herself to her
husband, and swears that she will save him, even such a juncture, from
his vindictive enemy--

    "Si, si, mio dolce amico,
     La tua Eleonora ti salvera;
     Affronto il suo furor!"

the girl gave a slight convulsive sob, and her hands were involuntarily
clasped. Then, as every one knows, Leonora draws a pistol from her bosom
and confronts the tyrant; a trumpet is heard in the distance; relief is
near; and the act winds up with the joyful duet between the released
husband and the courageous wife--"_Destin, destin ormai felice!_"

Here it was that Calabressa proposed he should escort Madame Potecki to
the cooler air of the large saloon; and madame, who had been young
herself, and guessed that the lovers might like to be alone for a few
minutes, instantly and graciously acquiesced. But Natalie rose also, a
little quickly, and said that Madame Potecki and herself would be glad
to have some coffee; and could that be got in the saloon?

Madame Potecki and her companion led the way; but then Brand put his
hand on the arm of Natalie and detained her.

"Natalie!" he said, in a low and hurried voice, "I am going away
to-morrow. I don't know when I shall see you again. Surely you will give
me some assurance--some promise, something I can repeat to myself.
Natalie, I know the value of what I am asking; you will give yourself to
me?"

She stood by the half-shut door, pale, irresolute, and yet outwardly
calm. Her eyes were cast down; she held her fan firmly with both hands.

"Natalie, are you afraid to answer?"

Then the young Hungarian girl raised her eyes, and bravely regarded him,
though her face was still pale and apprehensive.

"No," she said, in a low voice. "But how can I answer you more than
this--that if I am not to give myself to you I will give myself to no
other? I will be your wife, or the wife of no one. Dear friend, I can
say no more."

"It is enough."

She went quickly to the front of the box; in both bouquets there were
forget-me-nots. She hurriedly selected some, and returned and gave them
to him.

"Whatever happens, you will remember that there was one who at least
wished to be worthy of your love."

Then they followed their friends into the saloon, and sat down at a
small table, though Natalie's hands were trembling so that she could
scarcely undo her gloves. And George Brand said nothing; but once or
twice he looked into his wife's eyes.



CHAPTER XXI.

FATHER AND DAUGHTER.


When Ferdinand Lind told Calabressa that Natalie had grown to be a
woman, he no doubt meant what he said; but he himself had not the least
notion what the phrase implied. He could see, of course, that she had
now a woman's years, stature, self-possession; but, for all that, she
was still to him only a child--only the dark-eyed, gentle, obedient
little Natalushka, who used to be so proud when she was praised for her
music, and whose only show of resolution was when she set to work on the
grammar of a new language. Indeed, it is the commonest thing in the
world for a son, or a daughter, or a friend to grow in years without
those nearest them being aware of the fact, until some chance
circumstance, some crisis, causes a revelation, and we are astounded at
the change that time has insidiously made.

Such a discovery was now about to confront Ferdinand Lind. He was to
learn not only that his daughter had left the days of her childhood
behind her, but also that the womanhood to which she had attained was of
a fine and firm character, a womanhood that rung true when tried. And
this is how the discovery was forced on him:

On his arrival in London, Mr. Lind drove first to Lisle Street, to pick
up letters on his way home. Beratinsky had little news about business
matters to impart; but, instead, he began--as Lind was looking at some
of the envelopes--to drop hints about Brand. It was easy to see now, he
said, why the rich Englishman was so eager to join them, and give up his
life in that way. It was not for nothing. Mr. Lind would doubtless hear
more at home; and so forth.

Mr. Lind was thinking of other things; but when he came to understand
what these innuendoes meant, he was neither angry nor impatient. He had
much toleration for human weakness, and he took it that Beratinsky was
only a little off his head with jealousy. He was aware that it had been
Beratinsky's ambition to become his son-in-law: a project that swiftly
came to an end through the perfect unanimity of father and daughter on
that point.

"You are a fool, Beratinsky," he said, as he tied the bundle of letters
together. "At your time of life you should not imagine that every one's
head is full of philandering nonsense. Mr. Brand has something else to
think of; besides, he has been in the midland counties all this time."

"Has he? Who, then, was taking your daughter to dinner-parties, to
theatres--I don't know what?"

Lind dealt gently with this madness.

"Who told you?"

"I have eyes and ears."

"Put them to a better use, Beratinsky."

Then he left, and the hansom carried him along to Curzon Street. Natalie
herself flew to the door when she heard the cab drive up: there she was
to receive him, smiling a welcome, and so like her mother that he was
almost startled. She caught his face in her two hands and kissed him.

"Ah, why did you not let me come to meet you at Liverpool?"

"There were too many with me, Natalie. I was busy. Now get Anneli to
open my portmanteau, and you can find out for yourself all the things I
have brought for you."

"I do not care for them, papa; I like to have you yourself back."

"I suppose you were rather dull, Natalushka, being all by yourself?"

"Sometimes. But I will tell you all that has happened when you are
having breakfast."

"I have had breakfast, child. Now I shall get through my letters, and
you can tell me all that has happened afterward."

This was equivalent to a dismissal; so Natalie went up-stairs, leaving
her father to go into the small study, where lay another bundle of
letters for him.

Almost the first that he opened was from George Brand; and to his
amazement he found, not details about progress in the North, but a
simple, straightforward, respectful demand to be permitted to claim the
hand of Natalie in marriage. He did not conceal the fact that this
proposal had already been made to Natalie herself; he ventured to hope
that it was not distasteful to her; he would also hope that her father
had no objections to urge. It was surely better that the future of a
young girl in her position should be provided for. As regarded by
himself, Mr. Lind's acquaintance with him was no doubt but recent and
comparatively slight; but if he wished any further and natural inquiry
into the character of the man to whom he was asked to intrust his
daughter, Lord Evelyn might be consulted as his closest friend. And a
speedy answer was requested.

This letter was, on the whole, rather a calm and business-like
performance. Brand could appeal to Natalie, and that earnestly and
honestly enough; he felt he could not bring himself to make any such
appeal to her father. Indeed, any third person reading this letter would
have taken it to be more of the nature of a formal demand, or something
required by the conventionalities; a request the answer to which was not
of tremendous importance, seeing that the two persons most interested
had already come to an understanding.

But Mr. Lind did not look at it in that light at all. He was at first
surprised; then vexed and impatient, rather than angry; then determined
to put an end to this nonsense at once. If he had deemed the matter more
serious, he would have sat down and considered it with his customary
fore thought; but he was merely irritated.

"Beratinsky was not so mad as I took him to be, after all," he said to
himself. "Fortunately, the affair has not gone too far."

He carried the open letter up-stairs, and found Natalie in the
drawing-room, dusting some pieces of Venetian glass.

"Natalie," he said, with an abruptness that startled her, and in a tone
of anger which was just a little bit affected--"Natalie, what is the
meaning of this folly?"

She turned and regarded him. He held the open letter in his hand. She
said, calmly,

"I do not understand you."

This only vexed him the more.

"I ask you what you have been doing in my absence?" he said, angrily.
"What have you been doing to entitle any man to write me such a letter
as this? His affection! your future!--has he not something else to think
of? And you--you seem not to have been quite so dull when I was away,
after all! Well, it is time to have an end of it. Whatever nonsense may
have been going on, I hope you have both of you come to your senses. Let
me hear no more of it!"

Now she saw clearly what the letter must contain--what had stirred her
father to such an unusual exhibition of wrath. She was a little pale,
but not afraid. There was no tremor in her voice as she spoke.

"I am sorry, papa, you should speak to me like that. I think you forget
that I am no longer a child. I have done nothing that I am ashamed of;
and if Mr. Brand has written to you, I am willing to share the
responsibility of anything he says. You must remember, papa, that I am a
woman, and that I ought to have a voice in anything that concerns my own
happiness."

He looked at her almost with wonder, as if he did not quite recognize
her. Was this the gentle-natured little Natalushka, whose eyes would
fill with tears if she was scolded even in fun?--this tall,
self-possessed girl with the pale face, and the firm and even tones?

"Do you mean to tell me, Natalie, that it is with your consent Brand has
written to me?" her father asked, with frowning brows.

"I did not know he would write. I expected he would."

"Perhaps," said he, with an ironical smile, "perhaps you have taken time
by the forelock, and already promised to be his wife?"

The answer was given with the same proud composure.

"I have not. But I have promised, if I am not his wife, never to be the
wife of any other man."

It was now that Lind began to perceive how serious this matter was. This
was no school-girl, to be frightened out of a passing fancy. He must
appeal to the reason of a woman; and the truth is, that if he had known
he had this to undertake, he would not so hastily have gone into that
drawing-room with the open letter in his hand.

"Sit down Natalie," he said, quite gently. "I want to talk to you. I
spoke hastily; I was surprised and angry. Now let us see calmly how
matters stand; I dare say no great harm has been done yet."

She took a seat opposite him; there was not the least sign of any
girlish breaking down, even when he spoke to her in this kind way.

"I have no doubt you acted quite rightly and prudently when I was away;
and as for Mr. Brand, well, any one can see that you have grown to be a
good-looking young woman, and of course he would like to have a
good-looking young wife to show off among the country people, and to go
riding to hounds with him. Let us see what is involved in your becoming
his wife, supposing that were ever seriously to be thought of. You give
up all your old sympathies and friends, your interest in the work we
have on hand, and you get transferred to a Buckinghamshire country-house
to take the place of the old house-keeper. If you do not hear anything
of what is going on--of our struggles--of your friends all over
Europe--what of that? You will have the kitchen-garden to look after,
and poultry to feed; and your neighbors will talk to you at dinner about
foxes and dogs and horses and the clergyman's charities. It will be a
healthy life, Natalie: perhaps you will get stout and rosy, like an
English matron. But your old friends--you will have forgotten them."

"Never!--never!" she said, vehemently; and, despite herself, her eyes
filled with tears.

"Then we will take Mr. Brand. The Buckinghamshire house is open again.
An Englishman's house is his castle; there is a great deal of work in
superintending it, its entertainments, its dependents. Perhaps he has a
pack of foxhounds; no doubt he is a justice of the peace, and the terror
of poachers. But in the midst of all this hunting, and giving of
dinner-parties, and shooting of pheasants, do you think he has much time
or thought for the future of the millions of poor wretches all over
Europe who once claimed his care? Not much! That was in his days of
irresponsible bachelorhood. Now he is settled down--he is a country
gentleman. The world can set itself right without him. He is anxious
about the price of wheat."

"Ah, how you mistake him, papa!" said she, proudly. And there was a
proud light on her face too as she rose and quickly went to a small
escritoire close by. A few seconds sufficed her to write a short note,
which she brought back to her father.

"There," said she, "I will abide by that test. If he says 'yes,' I will
never see him again--never speak one word to him again."

Her father took the note and read it. It was as follows:

"My Dear Friend,--I am anxious about the future for both of us. If you
will promise me, now and at once, to give up the work you are engaged
in, I will be your wife, when and where you will.

  NATALIE."

"Send it!" she said, proudly. "I am not afraid. If he says 'yes,' I will
never see him again."

The challenge was not accepted. He tore the note in two and flung it
into the grate.

"It is time to put an end to this folly," he said impatiently. "I have
shown you what persistence in it would bring on yourself. You would be
estranged from everything and every one you have hitherto been
interested in; you would have to begin a new life, for which you are not
fitted; you would be the means of doing our cause an irreparable injury.
Yes, I say so frankly. The withdrawal of this man Brand, which would
certainly follow, sooner or later, on his marriage, would be a great
blow to us. We have need of his work; we have still more need of his
money. And it is you, you of all people in the world, who would be the
means of taking him away from us!"

"But it is not so, papa," she said in great distress. "Surely you do not
think that I am begging to be allowed to become his wife? That is for
him to decide; I will follow his wishes as far as I can--as far as you
will allow me, papa. But this I know, that, so far from interfering with
the work he has undertaken, it would only spur him on. Should I have
thought of it otherwise? Ah, surely you know--you have said so to me
yourself--he is not one to go back."

"He is an Englishman; you do not understand Englishmen," her father
said; and then he added, firmly, "You are not to be deterred by what may
happen to yourself. Well, consider what may happen to him. I tell you I
will not have this risk run. George Brand is too valuable to us. If you
or he persist in this folly, it will be necessary to provide against all
contingencies by procuring his banishment."

"Banishment!" she exclaimed, with a quick and frightened look.

"That may not sound much to you," said her father, calmly, "for you have
scarcely what may be called a native country. You have lived anywhere,
everywhere. It is different with an Englishman, who has his birthplace,
his family estate, his friends in England."

"What do you mean, papa?" said she, in a low voice. She had not been
frightened by the fancy picture he had drawn of her own future, but this
ominous threat about her lover seemed full of menace.

"I say that, at all hazards," Lind continued, looking at her from under
the bushy eyebrows, "this folly must be brought to an end. It is not
expedient that a marriage between you and Mr. Brand should even be
thought of. You have both got other duties, inexorable duties. It is my
business to see that nothing comes in the way of their fulfilment. Do
you understand?"

She sat dumb now, with a vague fear about the future of her lover; for
herself she had no fear.

"Some one must be sent to Philadelphia, to remain there probably for his
lifetime. Do not drive me to send George Brand."

"Papa!" It was a cry of appeal; but he paid no heed. This matter he was
determined to settle at once.

"Understand, this idle notion must be dropped; otherwise George Brand
goes to the States forthwith, and remains there. Fortunately, I don't
suppose the matter has gone far enough to cause either of you any deep
misery. This is not what one would call a madly impassioned letter."

She scarcely perceived the sneer; some great calamity had befallen her,
of which she as yet scarcely knew the extent; she sat mute and
bewildered--too bewildered to ask why all this thing should be.

"That may not seem much to you," he said, in the same cold, implacable
way. "But banishment for life from his native country, his home, his
friends, is something to an Englishman. And if we are likely to lose his
work in this country through a piece of sentimental folly, we shall take
care not to lose it in America."

She rose.

"Is that all, papa?"

She seemed too stunned to say any more.

He rose also, and took her hand.

"It is better to have a clear understanding, Natalie. Some might say
that I object to your marrying because you are a help to me, and your
going away would leave the house empty. Perhaps you may have some kind
friend put that notion into your head. But that is not the reason why I
speak firmly to you, why I show you you must dismiss this fancy of the
moment--if you have entertained it as well as he--as impossible. I have
larger interests at stake; I am bound to sacrifice every personal
feeling to my duty. And I have shown you what would be the certain
result of such a marriage; therefore, I say, such a marriage is not to
be thought of. Come, now, Natalie, you claim to be a woman: be a woman!
Something higher is wanted from you. What would all our friends think of
you if you were to sink into a position like that--the house-keeper of a
country squire?"

She said nothing; but she went away to her own room and sat down, her
face pale, her heart like lead. And all her thought was of this possible
doom hanging over him if he persisted; and she guessed, knowing
something of him, whether he was likely to be dissuaded by a threat.

Then, for a second or so, a wild despairing fancy crossed her mind, and
her fingers tightened, and the proud mouth grew firm. If it was through
her that this penalty of banishment overtook him, why should she not do
as others had done?

But no--that was impossible. She had not the courage to make such an
offer. She could only sit and think; and the picture before her
imagination was that of her lover sailing away from his native land.
She saw the ship getting farther and farther away from English shores,
until it disappeared altogether in a mist of rain--and tears.



CHAPTER XXII.

EVASIONS.


It was in Manchester, whither he had gone to meet the famous John
Molyneux, that George Brand awoke on this dull and drizzly morning. The
hotel was almost full. He had been sent to the top floor; and now the
outlook from the window was dismal enough--some slated roofs, a red
chimney or two, and farther off the higher floors of a lofty warehouse,
in which the first signs of life were becoming visible. Early as it was,
there was a dull roar of traffic in the distance; occasionally there was
the scream of a railway whistle.

Neither the morning nor the prospect was conducive to a cheerful view of
life; and perhaps that was why, when he took in his boots and found in
one of them a letter, deposited there by the chamber-maid, which he at
once saw was in Ferdinand Lind's handwriting, that he instantly assumed,
mentally, an attitude of defiance. He did not open the letter just then.
He took time to let his opposition harden. He knew there would be
something or somebody to fight. It was too much to expect that
everything should go smoothly. If there was such a thing as a law of
compensation, that beautiful dream-like evening at the opera--the light,
the color, the softened music; the scent of white-rose; the dark, soft
eyes, and the last pressure of the hand; the forget-me-nots he carried
away with him--would have to be paid for somehow. And he had always
distrusted Ferdinand Lind. His instinct assured him that this letter,
which he had been looking for and yet dreading, contained a distinct
refusal.

His instinct was completely at fault. The letter was exceedingly kind
and suave. Mr. Lind might try to arouse his daughter from this idle
day-dream by sharp words and an ominous threat; he knew that it was
otherwise he must deal with Mr. George Brand.

       *       *       *       *       *

"My dear Mr. Brand," he wrote, "as you may imagine, your letter has
surprised me not a little, and pleased me too for a father naturally is
proud to see his daughter thought well of; and your proposal is very
flattering; especially, I may add, as you have seen so little of
Natalie. You are very kind--and bold, and unlike English nature--to take
her and family on trust as it were; for are not your countrymen very
particular as to the relatives of those they would marry with? and of
Natalie's relatives and friends how many have you seen? Excuse me if I
do not quite explain myself; for writing in English is not as familiar
to me as to Natalie, who is quite an Englishwoman now. Very well; I
think it is kind of you to think so highly of my daughter as to offer
her to make her your wife, you knowing so little of her. But there you
do not mistake; she is worthy to be the wife of any one. If she ever
marries, I hope she will be as good a wife as she has been a daughter."

"If she ever marries!" This phrase sounded somewhat ominous; and yet, if
he meant to say "No," why not say it at once? Brand hastily glanced over
the letter, to find something definite; but he found that would not do.
He began again, and read with deliberation. The letter had obviously
been written with care.

"I have also to thank you, besides, for the very flattering proposal,
for your care to put this matter before me at an early time. Regarding
how little Natalie and you have seen each other, it is impossible that
either her or your affection can be so serious that it is not fair to
look on your proposal with some views as to expediency; and at an early
time one can easily control one's wishes. I can answer for my daughter
that she has always acted as I thought best for her happiness; and I am
sure that now, or at any time, in whatever emergency, she would far
prefer to have the decision rest with me, rather than take the
responsibility on herself."

When George Brand came to this passage he read it over again; and his
comment was, "My good friend, don't be too sure of that. It is possible
that you have lived nineteen years with your daughter to very little
purpose, so far as your knowledge of her character is concerned."

"Well, then, my dear sir," the letter proceeded, "all this being in such
a way, might I ask you to reflect again over your proposal, and examine
it from the view of expediency? You and I are not free agents, just to
please ourselves when we like. Perhaps I was wrong in my first objection
to your very flattering proposal; I believed you might, in marrying her,
withdraw from the work we are all engaged in; I feared this as a great
calamity--an injury done to many to gratify the fancy of one. But
Natalie, I will confess, scorned me for that doubt; and, indeed, was so
foolish as to propose a little hoax, to prove to me that, even if she
promised to marry you as a reward, she could not get you to abandon our
cause. 'No, no,' she said; 'that is not to be feared. He is not one to
go back.'"

When George Brand read these words his breath came and went a little
quickly. She should not find her faith in him misplaced.

"That is very well, very satisfactory, I said to her. We cannot afford
to lose you, whatever happens. To return; there are more questions of
expediency. For example, how can one tell what may be demanded of one?
Would it be wise for you to be hampered with a wife when you know not
where you may have to go? Again, would not the cares of a household
seriously interfere with your true devotion to your labors? You are so
happily placed! You are free from responsibilities: why increase them?
At present Natalie is in a natural and comfortable position; she has
grown accustomed to it; she is proud to know that she can be of
assistance to us; her life is not an unhappy one. But consider--a young
wife, separated from her husband perhaps by the Atlantic: in a new home,
with new duties; anxious, terrified with apprehensions: surely that is
not the change you would wish to see?"

For a second Brand was almost frightened by this picture, and a pang of
remorse flashed through his heart. But then his common-sense reasserted
itself. Why the Atlantic? Why should they be separated? Why should she
be terrified with apprehensions?

"As regards her future," her father continued, "I am not an old man; and
if anything were to happen to me, she has friends. Nor will I say to you
a word about myself, or my claim on her society and help; for parents
have not the right to sacrifice the happiness of their children to their
own convenience; it is so fortunate when they find, however, that there
is no dispositions on the part of the young to break those ties that
have been formed by the companionship of many years. It is this, my dear
friend and colleague, that makes me thank you for having spoken so
early; that I ask you to reconsider, and that I can advise my daughter,
without the fear that I am acting in a tyrannical manner or thwarting
any serious affection on her part. You will perceive I do not dictate. I
ask you to think over whether it is wise for your own happiness--whether
it would improve Natalie's probabilities of happiness--whether it would
interfere in some measure with the work you have undertaken--if you
continue to cherish this fancy, and let it grow on you. Surely it is
better, for a man to have but one purpose in life. Nevertheless, I am
open to conviction.

"That reminds me that there is another matter on which I should like to
say a few words to you when there is the chance. If there is a break in
the current of your present negotiations, shall you have time to run up
to London? Only this: you will, I trust, not seek to see Natalie, or to
write to her, until we have come to an understanding. Again I thank you
for having spoken to me so early, before any mischief can have been
done. Think over what I have said, my dear friend; and remember, above
all things, where your chief duty lies.

  "Yours sincerely,       Ferdinand Lind."

       *       *       *       *       *

He read this letter over two or three times, and the more he read it the
more he was impressed with the vexatious conviction that it would be an
uncommonly difficult thing to answer it. It was so reasonable, so
sensible, so plausible. Then his old suspicions returned. Why was this
man Lind so plausible? If he objected, why did he not say so outright?
All these specious arguments: how was one to turn and twist, evading
some, meeting others; and all the time taking it for granted that the
happiness of two people's lives was to be dependent on such
logic-chopping as could be put down on a sheet of paper?

Then he grew impatient. He would not answer the letter at all. Lind did
not understand. The matter had got far ahead of this clever
argumentation; he would appeal to Natalie herself; it was her "Yes" or
"No" that would be final; not any contest and balancing of words. There
were others he could recall, of more importance to him. He could almost
hear them now in the trembling, low voice: "_I will be your wife, or the
wife of no one. Dear friend, I can say no more._" And again, when she
gave him the forget-me-nots, "_Whatever happens, you will remember that
there was one who at least wished to be worthy of your love._" He could
remember the proud, brave look; again he felt the trembling of the hand
that timidly sought his for an instant; he could almost scent the
white-rose again, and hear the murmur of the people in the corridor. And
this was the woman, into whose eyes he had looked as if they were the
eyes of his wife, who was to be taken away from him by means of a couple
of sheets of note-paper all covered over with little specious
suggestions.

He thrust the letter into a pocket, and hurriedly proceeded with his
dressing, for he had a breakfast appointment. Indeed, before he was
ready, the porter came up and said that a gentleman had called for him,
and was waiting for him in the coffee-room.

"Ask him what he will have for breakfast, and let him go on. I shall be
down presently."

When Brand did at length go down, he found that his visitor had frankly
accepted this permission, and had before him a large plate of
corned-beef, with a goodly tankard of beer. Mr. John Molyneux, although
he was a great authority among English workmen generally, and especially
among the trades-unionists of the North, had little about him of the
appearance of the sleek-haired demagogue as that person is usually
represented to us. He was a stout, yeoman-looking man, with a frosty-red
face and short silver-white whiskers; he had keen, shrewd blue eyes, and
a hand that gave a firm grip. The fact is, that Molyneux had in early
life been a farmer, and a well-to-do-farmer. But he had got smitten with
the writings of Cobbett, and he began to write too. Then he took to
lecturing--on the land laws, on Robert Owenism, on the Church of
England, but more especially on co-operation. Finding, however, that all
this pamphleteering and lecturing was playing ducks and drakes with his
farming, and being in many respects a shrewd and sensible person, he
resolved on selling out of his farm and investing the proceeds in the
government stock of America, the country of his deepest admiration. In
the end he found that he had about one hundred and fifty pounds a year,
on which he could live very comfortably, while giving up all his time
and attention to his energetic propagandism. This was the person who now
gave Brand a hearty greeting, and then took a long draught at the
tankard of ale.

"You see, Mr. Brand," said he, looking cautiously around, and then
giving a sly wink. "I thought we might have a chat by ourselves in this
corner."

Brand nodded; there was no one near them.

"Now I have been considering about what you told me; and last night I
called on Professor ----, of Owens College, ye know, and I had some
further talk with him. Well, sir, it's a grand scheme--splendid; and I
don't wonder you've made such progress as I hear of. And when all the
lads are going in for it, what would they say if old John Molyneux kept
out, eh?"

"Why, they would say he had lost some of his old pluck; that's about
what they would say, isn't it?" said Brand; though the fact was that he
was thinking a good deal more about the letter in his pocket.

"There was one point, though, Mr. Brand, that I did not put before
either Professor ---- or yourself, and it is important. The point is,
dibs."

"I beg your pardon," said Brand, absently; he was, in truth, recalling
the various phrases and sentences in that letter of Ferdinand Lind.

"Dibs, sir--dibs," said the farmer-agitator, energetically. "You know
what makes the mare go. And you know these are not the best of times;
and some of the lads will be thinking they pay enough into their own
Union. That's what I want to know, Mr. Brand, before I can advise any
one. You need money; how do you get it? What's the damage on joining,
and after?"

Brand pulled himself together.

"Oh, money?" said he. "That need not trouble you. We exact nothing. How
could we ask people to buy a pig in a poke? There's not a working-man in
the country but would put us down as having invented an ingenious scheme
for living on other people's earnings. It is not money we want; it is
men."

"Yes, yes," said Molyneux, looking rather puzzled. "But when you've got
the machine, you want oil, eh? The basis of everything, sir, is dibs:
what can ye do without it?"

"We want money, certainly," Brand said. "But we do not touch a farthing
that is not volunteered. There are no compulsory subscriptions. We take
it that the more a man sees of what we are doing, and of what has to be
done, the more he will be willing to give according to his means; and so
far there has been no disappointment."

"H'm!" said Molyneux, doubtfully. "I reckon you won't get much from our
chaps."

"You don't know. It is wonderful what a touch of enthusiasm will do--and
emulation between the local centers. Besides, we are always having
accessions of richer folk, and these are expected to make up all
deficiencies."

"Ah!" said the other. "I see more daylight that way. Now you, Mr. Brand,
must have been a good fat prize for them, eh?"

The shrewd inquiring glance that accompanied this remark set George
Brand laughing.

"I see, Mr. Molyneux, you want to get at the 'dibs' of everything.
Well, I can't enlighten you any further until you join us: you have not
said whether you will or not."

"I will!" said the other, bringing his fist down on the table, though he
still spoke in a loud whisper. "I'm your man! In for a penny, in for a
pound!"

"I beg your pardon," said Brand, politely, "but you are in for neither,
unless you like. You may be in for a good deal of work, though. You must
bring us men, and you will be let off both the penny and the pound. Now,
could you run up with me to London to-night, and be admitted to-morrow,
and get to know something of what we are doing?"

"Is it necessary?"

"In your case, yes. We want to make you a person of importance."

So at last Molyneux agreed, and they started for London in the evening;
the big, shrew, farmer-looking man being as pleased as a child to have
certain signs and passwords confided to him. Brand made light of these
things--and, in fact, they were only such as were used among the
outsiders; but Molyneux was keenly interested, and already pictured
himself going through Europe and holding this subtle conversation with
all the unknown companions whom chance might throw in his way.

But long ere he reached London the motion of the train had sent him to
sleep; and George Brand had plenty of time to think over that letter,
and to guess at what possible intention might lie under its plausible
phrases. He had leisure to think of other things, too. The question of
money, for example--about which Molyneux had been so curious with regard
to this association--was one on which he himself was but slightly
informed, the treasury department being altogether outside his sphere.
He did not even know whether Lind had private means, or was enabled to
live as he did by the association, for its own ends. He knew that the
Society had numerous paid agents; no doubt, he himself could have
claimed a salary, had it been worth his while. But the truth is that
"dibs" concerned him very little. He had never been extravagant; he had
always lived well within his income; and his chief satisfaction in being
possessed of a liberal fortune lay in the fact that he had not to bother
his head about money. There was one worry the less in life.

But then George Brand had been a good deal about the world, and had seen
something of human life, and knew very well the power the possession of
money gives. Why, this very indifference, this happy carelessness about
pecuniary details, was but the consequence of his having a large fund
in the background that he could draw on at will. If he did not overvalue
his fortune, on the other hand he did not undervalue it; and he was
about the last man in the world who could reasonably have been expected
to part with it.



CHAPTER XXIII.

A TALISMAN.


Natalie Lind was busy writing at the window of the drawing-room in
Curzon Street when Calabressa entered, unannounced. He had outstripped
the little Anneli; perhaps he was afraid of being refused. He was much
excited.

"Forgive me, signorina, if I startle you," he said, rapidly, in his
native tongue; "forgive me, little daughter. We go away to-night, I and
the man Kirski, whom you saved from madness: we are ordered away; it is
possible I may never see you again. Now listen."

He took a seat beside her; in his hurry and eagerness he had for the
moment abandoned his airy manner.

"When I came here I expected to see you a school-girl--some one in
safe-keeping--with no troubles to think of. You are a woman; you may
have trouble; and it is I, Calabressa, who would then cut off my right
hand to help you. I said I would leave you my address; I cannot. I dare
not tell any one even where I am going. What of that? Look well at this
card."

He placed before her a small bit of pasteboard, with some lines marked
on it.

"Now we will imagine that some day you are in great trouble; you know
not what to do; and you suddenly, bethink yourself, 'Now it is
Calabressa, and the friends of Calabressa, who must help me--'"

"Pardon me, signore," said Natalie, gently. "To whom should I go but to
my father, if I were in trouble? And why should one anticipate trouble?
If it were to come, perhaps one might be able to brave it."

"My little daughter, you vex me. You must listen. If no trouble comes,
well! If it does, are you any the worse for knowing that there are many
on whom you can rely? Very well; look! This is the Via Roma in Naples."

"I know it," said Natalie: why should she not humor the good-natured
old albino, who had been a friend of her mother's?

"You go along it until you come to this little lane; it is the Vico
Carlo; you ascend the lane--here is the first turning--you go round, and
behold! the entrance to a court. The court is dark, but there is a lamp
burning all day; go farther in, there are wine-vaults. You enter the
wine-vaults, and say, 'Bartolotti.' You do not say, 'Is Signor
Bartolotti at home?' or, 'Can I see the illustrious Signor Bartolotti,'
but 'Bartolotti,' clear and short. You understand?"

"You give yourself too much trouble, signore."

"I hope so, little daughter. I hope you will never have to search for
these wine-vaults; but who knows? _Alors_, one comes to you, and says,
'What is your pleasure, signorina?' Then you ask, 'Where is Calabressa?'
The answer to that? It may be, 'We do not know;' or it may be,
'Calabressa is in prison again,' or it may be,'Calabressa is dead.'
Never mind. When Calabressa dies, no one will care less than Calabressa
himself."

"Some one would care, signore; you have a mother."

He took her hand.

"And a daughter, too," he said, lightly; "if the wicked little minx
would only listen. Then you know what you must say to the man whom you
will see at the wine-vaults; you must say this, 'Brother, I come with a
message from Calabressa; it is the daughter of Natalie Berezolyi who
demands your help.' Then do you know what will happen? From the next
morning you will be under the protection of the greatest power in
Europe; a power unknown but invincible; a power that no one dares to
disobey. Ah, little one, you will find out what the friends of
Calabressa can do for you when you appeal to them!"

He smiled proudly.

"_Allons!_ Put this card away in a secret place. Do not show it to any
one; let no one know the name I confided to you. Can you remember it,
little daughter?"

"Bartolotti."

"Good! Now that is one point settled; here is the next. You do not seem
to have any portrait of your mother, my little one?"

"Ah, no!" she exclaimed, quickly; for she was more interested now. "I
suppose my father could not bear to be reminded of his loss: if there is
any portrait, I have not seen it; and how could I ask him?"

He regarded her for a moment, and then he spoke more slowly than
hitherto:

"Little Natalushka, I told you I am going away; and who knows what may
happen to me? I have no money or land to leave to any one; if I had a
wife and children, the only name I could leave them would be the name of
a jailbird. If I were to leave a will behind me, it would read, 'My
heart to my beloved Italia; my curse to Austria; and my--'Ah, yes, after
all I have something to leave to the little Natalushka."

He put his hand, which trembled somewhat, into the breast of his coat,
and brought out a small leather case.

"I am about to give you my greatest treasure, little one; my only
treasure. I think you will value it."

He opened the case and handed it to her; inside there was a miniature,
painted on ivory; it might have been a portrait of Natalie herself. For
some time the girl did not say a word, but her eyes slowly filled with
tears.

"She was very beautiful signore," she murmured.

"Ah little daughter," he said, cheerfully, "I am glad to see the
portrait in safe-keeping at last. Many a risk I have run with it; many a
time I have had to hide it. And you must hide it too; let no one see it
but yourself. But now you will give me one of your own in exchange, my
little one; and so the bargain is complete."

She went to the small table adjoining to hunt among the photographs.

"And lastly, one more point, Signorina Natalushka," said Calabressa,
with the air of one who had got through some difficult work. "You asked
me once to find out for you who was the lady from whom you received the
little silver locket. Well, you see, that is now out of my power. I am
going away. If you are still curious, you must ask some one else; but is
it not natural to suppose that the locket may have been stolen a great
many years ago, and at last the thief resolves to restore it? No matter;
it is only a locket."

She returned with a few photographs for him to chose from. He picked out
two.

"There is one for me; there is one for my old mother. I will say to her,
'Do you remember the young Hungarian lady who came to see you at Spezia?
Put on your spectacles now, and see whether that is not the same young
lady. Ah, good old mother; can you see no better than that?--that is not
Natalie Berezolyi at all; that is her daughter, who lives in England.
But she has not got the English way; she is not content when she herself
is comfortable; she thinks of others; she has an ear for voices afar
off.' That is what I shall say to the old mother."

He put the photographs in his pocket.

"In the mean time, my little daughter," said he, "now that our pressing
business is over, one may speak at leisure: and what of you, now? My
sight is not very good; but even my eyes can see that you are not
looking cheerful enough. You are troubled, Natalushka, or you would not
have forgotten to thank me for giving you the only treasure I have in
the world."

The girl's pale face flushed, and she said, quickly,

"There are some things that are not to be expressed in words, Signor
Calabressa. I cannot tell you what I think of your kindness to me."

"Silence! do you not understand my joking? _Eh, bien_; let us understand
each other. Your father has spoken to me--a little, not much. He would
rather have an end to the love affair, _n'est ce pas_?"

"There are some other things that are not to be spoken of," the girl
said, in a low voice, but somewhat proudly.

"Natalushka, I will not have you answer me like that. It is not right.
If you knew all my history, perhaps you would understand why I ask you
questions--why I interfere--why you think me impertinent--"

"Oh no, signore; how can I think that?"

She had her mother's portrait in her hand; she was gazing into the face
that was so strangely like her own.

"Then why not answer me?"

She looked up with a quick, almost despairing look.

"Because I try not to think about it," she said, hurriedly. "Because I
try to think only of my work. And now, Signor Calabressa, you have given
me something else to think about; something to be my companion when I am
alone; and from my heart I thank you."

"But you speak as if you were in great grief, my little one. It is not
all over between you and your lover?"

"How can I tell? What can I say?" she exclaimed; and for a moment her
eyes looked up with the appealing look of a child. "He does not write to
me. I may not write to him. I must not see him."

"But then there may be reasons for delay and consideration, little
Natalushka; your father may have reasons. And your father did not speak
to me as if it were altogether impossible. What he said was, in effect,
'We will see--we will see.' However, let us return to the important
point: it is my advice to you--you cannot have forgotten it--that
whatever happens, whatever you may think, do not, little one, seek to go
against your father's wishes. You will promise me that?"

"I have not forgotten, signore; but do you not remember my answer? I am
no longer a child. If I am to obey, I must have reasons for obeying."

"What?" said he smiling. "And you know that one of our chief principles
is that obedience is a virtue in itself?"

"I do not belong to your association, Signor Calabressa."

"The little rebel!"

"No, no, signore; do not drive me into a false position. I cannot
understand my father, who has always been so kind to me; it is better
not to speak of it: some day, when you come back, Signore Calabressa,
you will find it all a forgotten story. Some people forget so readily;
do they not?"

The trace of pathetic bitterness in her speech did not escape him.

"My child," said he, "you are suffering; I perceive it. But it may soon
be over, and your joy will be all the greater. If not, if the future has
trouble for you, remember what I have told you. _Allons donc!_ Keep up a
brave heart; but I need not say that to the child of the Berezolyis."

He rose, and at the same moment a bell was heard below.

"You are not going, Signore Calabressa? That must be my father."

"Your father!" he exclaimed; and he seemed confused. Then he added,
quickly, "Ah, very well. I will see him as I go down. Our business,
little one, is finished; is it not? Now repeat to me the name I
mentioned to you."

"Bartolotti?"

"Excellent, excellent! And you will keep the portrait from every one's
eyes but your own. Now, farewell!"

He took her two hands in his.

"My beautiful child," said he, in rather a trembling voice, "may Heaven
keep you as true and brave as your mother was, and send you more
happiness. I may not see England again--no, it is not likely; but in
after-years you may sometimes think of old Calabressa, and remember that
he loved you almost as he once loved another of your name."

Surely she must have understood. He hurriedly kissed her on the
forehead, and said, "Adieu, little daughter!" and left. And when he had
gone she sunk into the chair again, and clasped both her hands round her
mother's portrait and burst into tears.

Calabressa made his way down-stairs, and, at the foot, ran against
Ferdinand Lind.

"Ah, amico mio," said he, in his gay manner. "See now, we have been
bidding our adieux to the little Natalushka--the rogue, to pretend to me
she had no sweetheart! Shall we have a glass of wine, _mon capitaine_,
before we imbark?"

"Yes, yes," said Lind, though without any great cordiality. "Come into
my little room."

He led him into the small study, and presently there was wine upon the
table. Calabressa was exceedingly vivacious, and a little difficult to
follow, especially in his French. But Lind allowed him to rattle on,
until by accident he referred to some meeting that was shortly to take
place at Posilipo.

"Well, now, Calabressa," said Lind, with apparent carelessness, as he
broke off a bit of biscuit and poured out a glass of wine for himself,
"I suppose you know more about the opinions of the Council now than any
one not absolutely within itself."

"I am a humble servant only, friend Lind," he remarked, as he thrust his
fingers into the breast of his military-looking coat--"a humble servant
of my most noble masters. But sometimes one hears--one guesses--_mais a
quel propos cette question, monsieur mon camarade_?"

Lind regarded him; and said, slowly,

"You know, Calabressa, that some seventeen years ago I was on the point
of being elected a member of the Council."

"I know it," said the other, with a little embarrassment.

"You know why--though you do not know the right or the wrong of it--all
that became impossible."

Calabressa nodded. It was delicate ground, and he was afraid to speak.

"Well," said Lind, "I ask you boldly--do you not think I have done
enough in these sixteen or seventeen years to reinstate myself? Who else
has done a tithe of the work I have done?"

"Friend Lind, I think that is well understood at head-quarters."

"Very well, then, Calabressa, what do you think? Consider what I have
done; consider what I have now to do--what I may yet do. There is this
Zaccatelli business. I do not approve of it myself. I think it is a
mistake, as far as England is concerned. The English will not hear of
assassination, even though it is such a criminal as the _cardinale
affamatore_ who is to be punished. But though I do not approve, I obey.
Some one from the English section will fulfil that duty: it is something
to be considered. Then money; think of the money I have contributed.
Without English money what would have been done? when there is any new
levy wanted, it is to England--to me--they apply first; and at the
present moment their cry for money is more urgent than ever. Very well,
then, my Calabressa; what do you think of all this?"

Calabressa seemed somewhat embarrassed.

"Friend Lind, I am not so far into their secrets as that. Being in
prison so long, one loses terms of familiarity with many of one's old
associates, you perceive. But your claims are undoubted, my friend; yes,
yes, undoubted."

"But what do you think, Calabressa?" he said; and that affectation of
carelessness had now gone: there was an eager look in the deep-set eyes
under the bushy eyebrows. "What do you yourself think of my chance? It
ought to be no chance; it ought to be a certainty. It is my due. I claim
it as the reward of my sixteen years' work, to say nothing of what went
before."

"_Ah, naturellement, sans doute, tu as raison, mon camarade,_" said the
politic Calabressa, endeavoring to get out of the difficulty with a
shrug of his shoulders. "But--but--the more one knows of the Council the
more one fears prying into its secrets. No, no; I do what I am told; for
the rest my ears are closed."

"If I were on the Council, Calabressa," said Lind, slowly, "you would be
treated with more consideration. You have earned as much."

"A thousand thanks, friend Lind," said the other; "but I have no more
ambitions now. The time for that is past. Let them make what they can
out of old Calabressa--a stick to beat a dog with; as long as I have my
liberty and a cigarette, I am content."

"Ah, well," said Lind, resuming his careless air, "you must not imagine
I am seriously troubled because the Council have not as yet seen fit to
think of what I have done for them. I am their obedient servant, like
yourself. Some day, perhaps, I may be summoned."

"_A la bonne heure!_" said Calabressa, rising. "No, no more wine. Your
port-wine here is glorious--it is a wine for the gods; but a very little
is enough for a man. So, farewell, my good friend Lind. Be kind to the
beautiful Natalushka, if that other thing that I spoke of is
impossible. If the bounty of Heaven had only given me such a daughter!"

"Kirski will meet you at the station," said Lind. "Charing Cross, you
remember; eight sharp. The train is 8.25."

"I will be there."

They shook hands and parted; the door was shut. Then, in the street
outside, Calabressa glanced up at the drawing-room windows just for a
second.

"Ah, little daughter," he said to himself as he turned away, "you do not
know the power of the talisman I have given you. But you will not use
it. You will be happy; you will marry the Englishman; you will have
little children round your knee; and you will lead so busy and glad a
life, year after year, that you will never have a minute to sit down and
think of old Calabressa, or of the stupid little map of Naples he left
with you."



CHAPTER XXIV.

AN ALTERNATIVE.


Once again the same great city held these two. When George Brand looked
out in the morning on the broad river, and the bridges, and the hurrying
cabs and trains and steamers, he knew that this flood of dusky sunshine
was falling also on the quieter ways of Hyde Park and semi-silent
thoroughfares adjoining. They were in the same city, but they were far
apart. An invisible barrier separated them. It was not to Curzon Street
that he directed his steps when he went out into the still, close air
and the misty sunlight.

It was to Lisle Street that he walked; and all the way he was persuading
himself to follow Calabressa's advice. He would betray no impatience,
however specious Lind might be. He would shut down that distrust of
Natalie's father that was continually springing up in his mind. He would
be considerate to the difficulties of his position, ready to admit the
reasonableness of his arguments, mindful of the higher duties demanded
of himself. But then--but then--he bethought him of that evening at the
theatre; he remembered what she had said; how she had looked. He was not
going to give up his beautiful, proud-natured sweetheart as a mere
matter of expediency, as the conclusion of a clever bit of argument.

When he entered Mr. Lind's room he found Heinrich Reitzei its sole
occupant. Lind had not yet arrived: the pallid-faced young man with the
_pince-nez_ was in possession of his chair. And no sooner had George
Brand made his appearance than Reitzei rose, and, with a significant
smile, motioned the new-comer to take the vacant seat he had just
quitted.

"What do you mean?" Brand said, naturally taking another chair, which
was much nearer him.

"Will you not soon be occupying this seat _en permanence_?" Reitzei
said, with affected nonchalance.

"Lind has abdicated, then, I presume," said Brand, coldly: this young
man's manner had never been very grateful to him.

Reitzei sunk into the seat again, and twirled at his little black waxed
mustache.

"Abdicated? No; not yet," he said with an air of indifference. "But if
one were to be translated to a higher sphere?--there is a vacancy in the
Council."

"Then he would have to live abroad," said Brand, quickly.

The younger man did not fail to observe his eagerness, and no doubt
attributed it to a wrong cause. It was no sudden hope of succeeding to
Lind's position that prompted the exclamation; it was the possibility of
Natalie being carried away from England.

"He would have to live in the place called nowhere," said Reitzei, with
a calm smile. "He would have to live in the dark--in the middle of the
night--everywhere and nowhere at the same moment."

Brand was on the point of asking what would then become of Natalie, but
he forbore. He changed the subject altogether.

"How is that mad Russian fellow getting on--Kirski? Still working?"

"Yes; at another kind of work. Calabressa has undertaken to turn his
vehemence into a proper channel--to let off the steam, as it were, in
another direction."

"Calabressa?"

"Kirski has become the humble disciple of Calabressa, and has gone to
Genoa with him."

"What folly is this!" Brand said. "Have you admitted that maniac?"

"Certainly; such force was not to be wasted."

"A pretty disciple! How much Russian does Calabressa know?"

"Gathorne Edwards is with them; it is some special business. Both
Calabressa and Kirski will be capital linguists before it is over."

"But how has Edwards got leave again from the British Museum?"

Reitzei shrugged his shoulders.

"I believe Lind wants to buy him over altogether. We could pay him more
than the British Museum."

At this moment there was a sound outside of some one ascending the
stair, and directly afterward Mr. Lind entered the room. As he came in
Reitzei left.

"How do you do, Mr. Brand?" Lind said, shaking his visitor's hand with
great warmth. "Very glad to see you looking so well; hard work does not
hurt you, clearly. I hope I have not incommoded you in asking you to run
up to London?"

"Not at all," Brand said. "Molyneux came up with me last night."

"Ah! You have gained him over?"

"Quite."

"Again I congratulate you. Well, now, since we have begun upon business,
let us continue upon business."

He settled himself in his chair, as if for some serious talk. Brand
could not help being struck by the brisk, vivacious, energetic look of
this man; and on this morning he was even more than usually smartly
dressed. Was it his daughter who had put that flower in his button-hole?

"I will speak frankly to you, and as clear as I can in my poor English.
You must let me say, without flattery, that we are all very indebted to
you--very proud of you; we are glad to have you with us. And now that
you see farther and farther about our work, I trust you are not
disappointed. You understand at the outset you must take so much on
trust."

"I am not in the least disappointed; quite the reverse," Brand said; and
he remembered Calabressa, and spoke in as friendly a way as possible.
"Indeed, many a time I am sorry one cannot explain more fully to those
who are only inquiring. If they could only see at once all that is going
on, they would have no more doubt. And it is slow work with some of
them."

"Yes, certainly; no doubt. Well, to return, if you please: it is a
satisfaction you are not disappointed; that you believe we are doing a
good work; that you go with us. Very well. You have advanced grade by
grade; you see nothing to repent of; why not take the final step?"

"I don't quite understand you," he said, doubtfully.

"I will explain. You have given yourself to us--your time, your labor,
your future; but the final step of self-sacrifice--is it so very
difficult? In many cases it is merely a challenge: we say, 'Show that
you can trust us even for your very livelihood. Become absolutely
dependent on us, even for your food, your drink, your clothes.' In your
case, I admit, it is something more: it is an invitation to a very
considerable self-sacrifice. All the more proof that you are not
afraid."

"I do not think I am afraid," said Brand, slowly; "but--"

"One moment. The affair is simple. The officers of our society--those
who govern--those from whom are chosen the members of the Council--that
Council that is more powerful than any government in Europe--those
officers, I say, are required first of all to surrender every farthing
of personal property, so that they shall become absolutely dependent on
the Society itself--"

Brand looked a trifle bewildered: more than that, resentful and
indignant, as if his common-sense had received a shock.

"It is a necessary condition," Lind continued, without eagerness--rather
as if he were merely enunciating a theory. "It insures absolute
equality; it is a proof of faith. And you may perceive that, as I am
alive, they do not allow one to starve."

The slight smile that accompanied this remark was meant to be
reassuring. Certainly, Mr. Lind did not starve; if the society of which
he was a member enabled him to live as he did in Curzon Street, he had
little to complain of.

"You mean," said George Brand, "that before I enter this highest grade,
next to the Council, I must absolutely surrender my entire fortune to
you?"

"To the common fund of the Society--yes," was the reply; uttered as a
matter of course.

"But there is no compulsion?"

"Certainly not. On this point every one is free. You may remain in your
present grade if you please."

"Then I confess to you I don't see why I should change," Brand said,
frankly. "Cannot I work as well for you just as I am?"

"Perhaps; perhaps not," said the other, easily. "But you perceive,
further, that the fact of our not exacting subscriptions from the poorer
members of our association makes it all the more necessary that we
should have voluntary gifts from the richer. And as regards a surplus of
wealth, of what use is that to any one? Am I not granted as much money
as one need reasonably want? And just now there is more than ever a
need of money for the general purposes of the Society: Lord Evelyn gave
us a thousand pounds last week."

Brand flushed red.

"I wish you had told me," he said; "I would rather have given you five
thousand. You know he cannot afford it."

"The greater the merit of the sacrifice," said his companion calmly.

This proposal was so audacious that George Brand was still a little
bewildered; but the fact was that, while listening very respectfully to
Mr. Lind, he had been thinking more about Natalie; and it was the most
natural thing in the world that some thought of her should now
intervene.

"Another thing, Mr. Lind," said he, though he was rather embarrassed.
"Even if I were to make such a sacrifice, as far as I am concerned; if I
were to run the risk for myself alone, that might all be very well; but
supposing I were to marry, do you think I should like my wife to run
such a risk--do you think I should be justified in allowing her? And
surely _you_ ought not to ask _me_. It is your own daughter--"

"Excuse me, Mr. Brand," said the other, blandly but firmly. "We will
restrict ourselves to business at the present moment, if you will be so
kind. I wrote to you all that occurred to me when I had to consider your
very flattering proposal with regard to my daughter; I may now add that,
if any thought of her interfered with your decision in this matter, I
should still further regret that you had ever met."

"You do not take the view a father would naturally take about the future
of his own daughter," said Brand, bluntly.

Lind was not in the least moved by this taunt.

"I should allow neither the interests of my daughter nor my own
interests to interfere with my sense of duty," said he. "Do you know me
so little? Do you know her so little? Ah, then you have much to learn of
her!"

Lind looked at him for a second or two, and added, with a slight smile,

"If you decide to say no, be sure I will not say a word of it to her.
No; I will still leave the child her hero in her imagination. For when I
said to her, 'Natalie, an Englishman will do a good deal for the good of
the people--he will give you his sympathy, his advice, his time, his
labor--but he will not put his hand in his pocket;' then she said, 'Ah,
but you do not understand Mr. Brand yet, papa; he is with us; he is not
one to go back.'"

"But this abandonment of one's property is so disproportionate in
different cases--"

"The greater the sacrifice, the greater the merit," returned the other:
then he immediately added, "But do not imagine I am seeking to persuade
you. I place before you the condition on which you may go forward and
attain the highest rank, ultimately perhaps the greatest power, in this
organization. Ah, you do not understand what that is as yet. If you
knew, you would not hesitate very long, I think."

"But--but suppose I have no great ambition," Brand remonstrated.
"Suppose I am quite content to go on doing what I can in my present
sphere?"

"You have already sworn to do your utmost in every direction. On this
one point of money, however, the various Councils have never departed
from the principle that there must be no compulsion. On any other point
the Council orders; you obey. On this point the voluntary sacrifice has,
as I say, all the more merit; and it is not forgotten. For what are you
doing? You are yielding up a superabundance that you cannot use, so that
thousands and thousands of the poor throughout the world may not be
called on to contribute their pence. You are giving the final proof of
your devotion. You are taking the vow of poverty and dependence, which
many of the noblest brotherhoods the world has seen have exacted from
their members at the very outset; but in your case with the difference
that you can absolutely trust to the resources of an immense
association--"

"Yes, as far as I am concerned," Brand said, quickly. "But I ask you
whether I should be justified in throwing away this power to protect
others. May I appeal to Natalie herself? May I ask her?"

"I am afraid, Mr. Brand," said the other, with the same mild firmness,
"I must request you in the meantime to leave Natalie out of
consideration altogether. This is a question of duty, of principle; it
must regulate our future relations with each other; pray let it stand by
itself."

Brand sat silent for a time. There were many things to think over. He
recalled, for example, though vaguely, a conversation he had once had
with Lord Evelyn, in which this very question of money was discussed,
and in which he had said that he would above all things make sure he was
not being duped. Moreover, he had intended that his property, in the
event of his dying unmarried, should go to his nephews. But it was not
his sister's boys who were now uppermost in his mind.

He rose.

"You cannot expect me to give you a definite answer at once," he said,
almost absently.

"No; before you go, let me add this," said the other, regarding his
companion with a watchful look: "the Council are not only in urgent need
of liberal funds just now, but also, in several directions, of diligent
and exceptional service. The money contribution which they demand from
England I shall be able to meet somehow, no doubt; hitherto I have not
failed them. The claim for service shall not find us wanting, either, I
hope; and it has been represented to me that perhaps you ought to be
transferred to Philadelphia, where there is much to be done at the
present moment."

This suggestion effectually awoke Brand from his day-dream.

"Philadelphia!" he exclaimed.

"Yes," said the other, speaking very slowly, as if anxious that every
word should have weight. "My visit, short as it was, enabled me to see
how well one might employ one's whole lifetime there--with such results
as would astonish our good friends at head-quarters, I am sure of that.
True, the parting from one's country might be a little painful at first;
but that is not the greatest of the sacrifices that one should be
prepared to submit to. However," he added, rather more lightly, "this is
still to be decided on; meanwhile I hope, and I am sure you hope too,
Mr. Brand, that I shall be able to satisfy the Council that the English
section does not draw back when called on for its services."

"No doubt--no doubt," Brand said; but the pointed way in which his
companion had spoken did not escape him, and promised to afford him
still further food for reflection.

But if this was a threat, he would show no fear.

"Molyneux wishes to get back North as soon as possible," he said, in a
matter-of-fact way, just as if talking of commonplace affairs the whole
time. "I suppose his initiation could take place to-morrow night?"

"Certainly," said Mr. Lind, following his visitor to the door. "And you
must certainly allow me to thank you once more, my dear Mr. Brand, for
your service in securing to us such an ally. I should like to have
talked with you about your experiences in the North; but you agree with
me that the suggestion I have made demands your serious consideration
first--is it not so?"

Brand nodded.

"I will let you know to-morrow," said he. "Good-morning!"

"Good-morning!" said Mr. Lind, pleasantly; and then the door was shut.

He was attended down-stairs by the stout old German, who, on reaching
the front-door, drew forth a letter from his pocket and handed it to him
with much pretence of mystery. He was thinking of other things, to tell
the truth; and as he walked along he regarded the outside of the
envelope with but little curiosity. It was addressed, "_All' Egregio
Sigmore, Il Signor G. Brand._"

"No doubt a begging letter from some Leicester Square fellow," he
thought.

Presently, however, he opened the letter, and read the following
message, which was also in Italian:

"The beautiful caged little bird sighs and weeps, because she thinks she
is forgotten. A word of remembrance would be kind, if her friend is
discreet and secret. Above all, no open strife. This from one who
departs. Farewell!"



CHAPTER XXV.

A FRIEND'S ADVICE.


This must be said for George Brand, that while he was hard and
unsympathetic in the presence of those whom he disliked or distrusted,
in the society of those whom he did like and did trust he was docile and
acquiescent as a child, easily led and easily persuaded. When he went
from Lind's chamber, which had been to him full of an atmosphere of
impatience and antagonism, to Lord Evelyn's study, and found his friend
sitting reading there, his whole attitude changed; and his first duty
was to utter a series of remonstrances about the thousand pounds.

"You can't afford it, Evelyn. Why didn't you come to me? I would have
given it to you a dozen times over rather than you should have paid it."

"No doubt you would," said the pale lad. "That is why I did not come to
you."

"I wish you could get it back."

"I would not take it back. It is little enough I can do; why not let me
give such help as I can? If only those girls would begin to marry off, I
might do more. But there is such a band of them that men are afraid to
come near them."

"I think it would be a pity to spoil the group," said Brand. "The
country should subscribe to keep them as they are--the perfect picture
of an English family. However, to return: you must promise me not to
commit any of these extravagances again. If any appeal is made to you,
come to me."

But here a thought seemed to strike him;

"Ah," he said, "I have something to tell you. Lind is trying to get me
to enter the same grade of officership with himself. And do you know
what the first qualification is?--that you give up every penny you
possess in the world."

"Well?"

"Well!"

The two friends stared at each other--the one calmly inquisitive, the
other astounded.

"I thought you would have burst out laughing!" Brand exclaimed.

"Why?" said the other. "You have already done more for them--for
us--than that: why should you not do all in your power? Why should you
not do all that you can, and while you can? Look!"

They were standing at the window. On the other side of the street far
below them were some funeral carriages; at this precise moment the
coffin was being carried across the pavement.

"That is the end of it. I say, why shouldn't you do all that you can,
and while you can?"

"Do you want reasons? Well, one has occurred to me since I came into
this room. A minute ago I said to you that you must not repeat that
extravagance; and I said if you were appealed to again you could come to
me. But what if I had already surrendered every penny in the world? I
wish to retain in my own hands at least the power to help my friends."

"That is only another form of selfishness," said Lord Evelyn, laughing.
"I fear you are as yet of weak faith, Brand."

He turned from the light, and went and sunk into the shadow of a great
arm-chair.

"Now I know what you are going to do, Evelyn," said his friend. "You are
going to talk me out of my common-sense; and I will not have it. I want
to show you why it is impossible I should agree to this demand."

"If you feel it to be impossible, it is impossible."

"My dear fellow, is it reasonable?"

"I dislike things that are reasonable."

"There is but one way of getting at you. Have you thought of Natalie?"

"Ah!" said the other, quickly raising himself into an expectant
attitude.

"You will listen now, I suppose, to reason, to common-sense. Do you
think it likely that, with the possibility of her becoming my wife, I am
going to throw away this certainty and leave her to all chances of the
world? Lind says that the Society amply provides for its officers. Very
well; that is quite probable. I tell him that I am not afraid for
myself; if I had to think of myself alone, there is no saying what I
might not do, even if I were to laugh at myself for doing it. But how
about Natalie? Lind might die. I might be sent away to the ends of the
earth. Do you think I am going to leave her at the mercy of a lot of
people whom she never saw?"

Lord Evelyn was silent.

"Besides, there is more than that," his friend continued, warmly. "You
may call it selfishness, if you like, but if you love a woman and she
gives her life into your hands--well, she has the first claim on you. I
will put it to you: do you think I am going to sell the
Beeches--when--when she might live there?"

Lord Evelyn did not answer.

"Of course I am willing to subscribe largely," his friend continued;
"and Natalie herself would say yes to that. But I am not ambitious. I
don't want to enter that grade. I don't want to sit in Lind's chair when
he gets elected to the Council, as has been suggested to me. I am not
qualified for it; I don't care about it; I can best do my own work in my
own way."

At last Lord Evelyn spoke; but it was in a meditative fashion, and not
very much to the point. He lay back in his easy-chair, his hands clasped
behind his head, and talked; and his talk was not at all about the
selling of Hill Beeches in Buckinghamshire, but of much more abstract
matters. He spoke of the divine wrath of the reformer--what a curious
thing it was, that fiery impatience with what was wrong in the world;
how it cropped up here and there from time to time; and how one abuse
after another had been burnt up by it and swept away forever. Give the
man possessed of this holy rage all the beauty and wealth and ease in
the world, and he is not satisfied; there is something within him that
vibrates to the call of humanity without; others can pass by what does
not affect themselves with a laugh or a shrug of indifference; he only
must stay and labor till the wrong thing is put right. And how often
had he been jeered at by the vulgar of his time; how Common-Sense had
pointed the finger of scorn at him; how Respectability had called him
crazed! John Brown at Harper's Ferry is only a ridiculous old fool; his
effort is absurd; even gentlemen in the North feel an "intellectual
satisfaction" that he is hanged, because of his "preposterous
miscalculation of possibilities." Yes, no doubt; you hang him, and there
is an end; but "his soul goes marching on," and the slaves are freed!
You want to abolish the Corn-laws?--all good society shrieks at you at
first: you are a Radical, a regicide, a Judas Iscariot; but in time the
nation listens, and the poor have cheap bread. "Mazzini is mad!" the
world cries: "why this useless bloodshed? It is only political murder."
Mazzini is mad, no doubt: but in time the beautiful dream of Italy--of
"Italia, the world's wonder, the world's care"--comes true. And what
matter to the reformer, the agitator, the dreamer, though you stone him
to death, or throw him to the lions, or clap him into a
nineteenth-century prison and shut his mouth that way? He has handed on
the sacred fire. Others will bear the torch; and he who is unencumbered
will outstrip his fellows. The wrong must be put right.

And so forth, and so forth. Brand sat and listened, recognizing here and
there a proud, pathetic phrase of Natalie's, and knowing well whence the
inspiration came; and as he listened he almost felt as though that
beautiful old place in Buckinghamshire was slipping through his fingers.
The sacrifice seemed to be becoming less and less of a sacrifice; it
took more and more the form of a duty; would Natalie's eyes smile
approval?

Brand jumped up, and took a rapid turn or two up and down the room.

"I won't listen to you, Evelyn. You don't know anything about
money-matters. You care for nothing but ideas. Now, I come of a
commercial stock, and I want to know what guarantee I have that this
money, if I were to give it up, would be properly applied. Lind's
assurances are all very well--"

"Oh yes, of course; you have got back to Lind," said Lord Evelyn, waking
up from his reveries. "Do you know, my dear fellow, that your distrust
of Lind is rapidly developing into a sharp and profound hatred?"

"I take men as I find them. Perhaps you can explain to me how Lind
should care so little for the future of his daughter as to propose--with
the possibility of our marrying--that she should be left penniless?"

"I can explain it to myself, but not to you; you are too thorough an
Englishman."

"Are you a foreigner?"

"I try to understand those who are not English. Now, an Englishman's
theory is that he himself, and his wife and children--his domestic
circle, in fact--are the centre of creation; and that the fate of
empires, as he finds that going one way or the other in the telegrams of
the morning paper, is a very small matter compared with the necessity of
Tom's going to Eton, or Dick's marrying and settling down as the bailiff
of the Worcestershire farm. That is all very well; but other people may
be of a different habit of mind. Lind's heart and soul are in his
present work; he would sacrifice himself, his daughter, you, or anybody
else to it, and consider himself amply justified. He does not care about
money, or horses, or the luxury of a big establishment; I suppose he has
had to live on simple fare many a time, whether he liked it or not, and
can put up with whatever happens. If you imagine that you may be cheated
by a portion of your money--supposing you were to adopt his
proposal--going into his pocket as commission, you do him a wrong."

"No, I don't think that," Brand said, rather unwillingly. "I don't take
him to be a common and vulgar swindler. And I can very well believe that
he does not care very much for money or luxury or that kind of thing, so
far as he himself is concerned. Still, you would think that the ordinary
instinct of a father would prevent his doing an injury to the future of
his daughter--"

"Would he consider it an injury. Would she?"'

"Well," Brand said, "she is very enthusiastic, and noble, and generous,
and does not know what dependence or poverty means. But he is a man of
the world, and you would think he would look after his own kith and
kin."

"Yes, that is a wholesome conservative English sentiment, but it does
not rule the actions of everybody."

"But common sense--"

"Oh, bother common sense! Common-sense is only a grocer that hasn't got
an idea beyond ham-and-eggs."

"Well, if I am only a grocer," Brand said, quite submissively, "don't
you think the grocer, if he were asked to pay off the National Debt,
ought to say, 'Gentlemen, that is a praiseworthy object; but in the
meantime wouldn't it be advisable for me to make sure that my wife
mayn't have to go on the parish?"

Thereafter there was silence for a time, and when Brand next spoke it
was in a certain, precise, hard fashion, as if he wished to make his
meaning very clear.

"Suppose, Evelyn," he said, "I were to tell you what has occurred to me
as the probable explanation of Lind's indifference about the future of
his daughter, would you be surprised?"

"I expect it will be wrong, for you cannot do justice to that man; but I
should like to hear it."

"I must tell you he wrote me a letter, a shilly-shallying sort of
letter, filled with arguments to prove that a marriage between Natalie
and myself would not be expedient, and all the rest of it: not
absolutely refusing his consent, you understand, but postponing the
matter, and hoping that on further reflection, et cætera, et cætera.
Well, do you know what my conclusion is?--that he is definitely resolved
I shall not marry his daughter; and that he is playing with me,
humbugging me with the possibility of marrying her, until he induces me
to hand him over my fortune for the use of the Society. Stare away as
you like; that is what I believe to be true."

He rose and walked to the window, and looked out.

"Well, Evelyn, whatever happens, I have to thank you for many things. It
has been all like my boyhood come back again, but much more wonderful
and beautiful. If I have to go to America, I shall take with me at least
the memory of one night at Covent Garden. She was there--and Madame
Potecki--and old Calabressa. It was _Fidelio_ they were playing. She
gave me some forget-me-nots."

"What do you mean by going to America?" Lord Evelyn said.

Brand remained at the window for a minute or two, silent, and then he
returned to his chair.

"You will say I am unjust again. But unless I am incapable of
understanding English--such English as he speaks--this is his ultimatum:
that unless I give my property, every cent of it, over to the Society, I
am to go to America. It is a distinct and positive threat."

"How can you say so!" the other remonstrated. "He has just been to
America himself, without any compulsion whatever."

"He has been to America for a certain number of weeks. I am to go for
life--and, as he imagines, alone."

His face had been growing darker and darker, the brows lowering
ominously over the eyes.

"Now, Brand," his friend said, "you are letting your distrust of this
man Lind become a madness. What if he were to say to-morrow that you
might marry Natalie the day after?"

The other looked up almost bewildered.

"I would say he was serving some purpose of his own. But he will not say
that. He means to keep his daughter to himself, and he means to have my
money."

"Why, you admitted, a minute ago, that even you could not suspect him of
that!"

"Not for himself--no. Probably he does not care for money. But he cares
for ambition--for power; and there is a vacancy in the Council. Don't
you see? This would be a tremendous large sum in the eyes of a lot of
foreigners: they would be grateful, would they not? And Natalie once
transferred to Italy, I could console myself with the honor and dignity
of Lind's chair in Lisle Street. Don't you perceive?"

"I perceive this--that you misjudge Lind altogether. I am sure of it. I
have seen it from the beginning--from the moment you set your foot in
his house. And you tried to blind yourself to the fact because of
Natalie. Now that you imagine that he means to take Natalie from you,
all your pent-up antagonism breaks loose. Meanwhile, what does Natalie
herself say?"

"What does she say?" he repeated, mechanically. He also was lying back
in his chair, his eyes gazing aimlessly at the window. But whenever
anyone spoke of Natalie, or whenever he himself had to speak of her, a
quite new expression came into his face; the brows lifted, the eyes were
gentle. "What does she say? Why, nothing. Lind requested me neither to
see her nor write to her; and I thought that reasonable until I should
have heard what he had to say to me. There is a message I got half an
hour ago--not from her."

He handed to Lord Evelyn the anonymous scroll that he had received from
the old German.

"Poor old Calabressa!" he said. "Those Italians are always very fond of
little mysteries. But how he must have loved that woman?"

"Natalie's mother?"

"Yes," said the other, absently. "I wonder he has never gone to see his
sweetheart of former years."

"What do you mean?"

Brand started. It was not necessary that Lord Evelyn should in the mean
time be intrusted with that secret.

"He told me that when he saw Natalie it was to him like a vision from
the dead; she was so like her mother. But I must be off, Evelyn; I have
to meet Molyneux at two. So that is your advice," he said, as he went to
the door--"that I should comply with Lind's demand; or--to put it
another way--succumb to his threat?"

"It is not my advice at all--quite the contrary. I say, if you have any
doubt or distrust--if you cannot make the sacrifice without perfect
faith and satisfaction to yourself--do not think of it."

"And go to America?"

"I cannot believe that any such compulsory alternative exists. But about
Natalie, surely you will send her a message; Lind cannot object to
that?"

"I will send her no message; I will go to her," the other said, firmly.
"I believe Lind wishes me not to see her. Within the duties demanded of
me by the Society, his wishes are to me commands; elsewhere and
otherwise neither his wishes nor his commands do I value more than a
lucifer-match. Is that plain enough, Evelyn?"

And so he went away, forgetting all the sage counsel Calabressa had
given him; thinking rather of the kindly, thoughtful, mysterious little
message the old man had left behind him, and of the beautiful caged bird
that sighed and wept because she thought she was forgotten. She should
not think that long!



CHAPTER XXVI.

A PROMISE.


This was a dark time indeed for Natalie Lind--left entirely by herself,
ignorant of what was happening around her, and haunted by vague alarms.
But the girl was too proud to show to any one how much she suffered. On
the contrary, she reasoned and remonstrated with herself; and forced
herself to assume an attitude of something more than resignation, of
resolution. If it was necessary that her father should be obeyed, that
her lover should maintain this cruel silence, even that he and she
should have the wide Atlantic separate them forever, she would not
repine. It was not for her who had so often appealed to others to shrink
from sacrifice herself. And if this strange new hope that had filled her
heart for a time had to be finally abandoned, what of that? What
mattered a single life? She had the larger hope; there was another and
greater future for her to think about; and she could cherish the thought
that she at least had done nothing to imperil or diminish the work to
which so many of her friends had given their lives.

But silence is hard to bear. Ever since the scene with her father, a
certain undeclared estrangement had prevailed between these two; and no
reference whatsoever had been made to George Brand. Her lover had sent
her no message--no word of encouragement, of assurance, or sympathy.
Even Calabressa had gone. There remained to her only the portrait that
Calabressa had given her; and in the solitude of her own room many a
time she sat and gazed at the beautiful face with some dim, wondering
belief that she was looking at her other self, and that she could read
in the features some portion of her own experiences, her own joys and
sorrows. For surely those soft, dark, liquid eyes must have loved and
been beloved? And had they too filled with gladness when a certain step
had been heard coming near? and they looked up with trust and pride and
tenderness, and filled with tears again in absence, when only the memory
of loving words remained? She recalled many a time what Calabressa had
said to her--"My child, may Heaven keep you as true and brave as your
mother was, and send you more happiness." Her mother, then, had not been
happy? But she was brave, Calabressa had said: when she loved a man,
would she not show herself worthy of her love?

This was all very well; but in spite of her reasoning and her forced
courage, and her self-possession in the presence of others, Natalie had
got into the habit of crying in the quietude of her own room, to the
great distress of the little Anneli, who had surprised her once or
twice. And the rosy-cheeked German maid guessed pretty accurately what
had happened; and wondered very much at the conduct of English lovers,
who allowed their sweethearts to pine and fret in solitude without
sending them letters or coming to see them. But on this particular
afternoon Anneli opened the door, in answer to a summons, and found
outside a club commissionaire whom she had seen once or twice before;
and when he gave her a letter, addressed in a handwriting which she
recognized, and ask for an answer, she was as much agitated as if it had
come from her own sweetheart in Gorlitz. She snatched it from the man,
as if she feared he would take it back. She flew with it up-stairs,
breathless. She forgot to knock at the door.

"Oh, Fraulein, it is a letter!" said she, in great excitement, "and
there is to be an answer--"

Then she hesitated. But the good-sense of the child told her she ought
to go.

"I will wait outside, Fraulein. Will you ring when you have written the
answer?"

When Natalie opened the letter she was outwardly quite calm--a little
pale, perhaps; but as she read it her heart beat fast. And it was her
heart that instantly dictated the answer to this brief and simple
appeal:

"My Natalie,--It is your father's wish that I should not see you. Is it
your wish also? There is something I would like to say to you."

It was her heart that answered. She rose directly. She never thought
twice, or even once, about any wish, or menace, or possible consequence.
She went straight to her desk, and with a shaking hand wrote these
lines:

"My Own,--Come to me now, at any time--when you please. Am I not yours?

  Natalie."

Despite herself, she had to pause, to steady her hand--and because her
heart was beating so fast that she felt choked--before she could
properly address the envelope. Then she carried the letter to Anneli,
who she knew was waiting outside. That done, she shut herself in again,
to give herself time to think, though in truth she could scarcely think
at all. For all sorts of emotions were struggling for the mastery of
her--joy and a proud resolve distinctly predominant. It was done, and
she would abide by it. She was not given to fear.

But she tried hard to think. At last her lover was coming to her; he
would ask her what she was prepared to do: what would she answer?

Then, again, the joy of the thought that she was about to see him drove
every other consideration out of her mind. How soon might he be here?
Hurriedly she went to a jar of flowers on the table, chose some scarlet
geraniums, and turned to a mirror. Her haste did not avail much, for her
fingers were still trembling: but that was the color he had said, on one
occasion, suited her best. She had not been wearing flowers in her hair
of late.

From time to time, for a second or so, some thought of her father
intervened. But then her father had only enjoined her to dismiss forever
the hope of her marrying the man to whom she had given her heart and
her life: that could not prevent her loving him, and seeing him, and
telling him that her love was his. She wished the geraniums were less
rose-red and more scarlet in hue. It was the scarlet he had approved
of--that evening that he and she the little Polish lady had dined
together.

She had not long to wait. With a quick, intense consciousness she heard
the hansom drive up, and the rapid knock that followed; her heart
throbbed through the seconds of silence; then she knew that he was
ascending the stair; then it seemed to her as if the life would go out
of her altogether. But when he flung the door open and came toward her;
when he caught her two hands in his--one hand in each hand--and held
them tight; when, in a silence that neither cared to break, he gazed
into her rapidly moistening eyes--then the full tide of joy and courage
returned to her heart, and she was proud that she had sent him that
answer. For some seconds--to be remembered during a life time--they
regarded each other in silence; then he released her hands, and began to
put back the hair from her forehead as if he would see more clearly into
the troubled deeps of her eyes; and then, somehow--perhaps to hide her
crying--she buried her face in his breast, and his arms were around her,
and she was sobbing out all the story of her waiting and her despair.

"What!" said he, cheerfully, to calm and reassure her, "the brave
Natalie to be frightened like that!"

"I was alone," she murmured. "I had no one to speak to; and I could not
understand. Oh, my love, my love, you do not know what you are to me!"

He kissed her; her cheeks were wet.

"Natalie," said he in a low voice, "don't forget this: we may be
separated--that is possible--I don't know; but if we live fifty years
apart from each other--if you never hear one word more from me or of
me--be sure of this, that I am thinking of you always, and loving you,
as I do at this moment when my arms are around you. Will you remember
that? Will you believe that--always?"

"I could not think otherwise," she answered. "But now that you are with
me--that I can hear you speak to me--" And at this point her voice
failed her altogether; and he could only draw her closer to him, and
soothe and caress her, and stroke the raven-black hair that had never
before thrilled his fingers with its soft, strange touch.

"Perhaps," she said at last, in a broken and hesitating voice, "you will
blame me for having said what I have said. I have had no
girl-companions; scarcely any woman to tell me what I should do and say.
But--but I thought you were going to America--I thought I should never
see you again--I was lonely and miserable; and when I saw you again, how
could I help saying I was glad? How could I help saying that, and
more?--for I never knew it till now. Oh, my love, do you know that you
have become the whole world to me? When you are away from me, I would
rather die than live!"

"Natalie--my life!"

"I must say that to you--once--that you may understand--if we should
never see each other again. And now--"

She gently released herself from his embrace, and went and sat down by
the table. He took a chair near her and held her hand. She would not
look up, for her eyes were still wet with tears.

"And now," she said, making a great effort to regain her self-control,
"you must tell me about yourself. A woman may have her feelings and
fancies, and cry over them when she is afraid or alone; that is nothing;
it is the way of the world. It is a man's fate that is of importance."

"You must not talk like that, Natalie," said he gravely. "Our fate is
one. Without you, I don't value my life more than this bit of
geranium-leaf; with you, life would be worth having."

"And you must not talk like that either," she said. "Your life is
valuable to others. Ah, my dear friend, that is what I have been trying
to console myself with of late. I said, 'Well, if he goes away and does
not see me again, will he not be freer? He has a great work to do; he
may have to go away from England for many years; why should he be
encumbered with a wife?"

"It was your father, I presume, who made those suggestions to you?" said
Brand, regarding her.

"Yes; papa said something like that," she answered, quite innocently.
"That is what would naturally occur to him; his work has always the
first place in his thoughts. And with you, too; is it not so?"

"No."

She looked up quickly.

"I will be quite frank with you, Natalie. You have the first place in my
thoughts; I hope you ever will have, while I am a living man. But cannot
I give the Society all the work that is in me equally well, whether I
love you or whether I don't, whether you become my wife or whether you
do not? I have no doubt your father has been talking to you as he has
been talking to me."

She placed her disengaged hand on the top of his, and said, gently,

"My father perhaps does not quite understand you; perhaps he is too
anxious. I, for one, am not anxious--about _that_. Do you know how I
trust you, my dearest of friends? Sometimes I have said to myself, 'I
will ask him for a pledge. I will say to him that he must promise, that
he must swear to me, that whatever happens as between him and me,
nothing, nothing, nothing in all the world will induce him to give up
what he has undertaken;' but then again I have said to myself, 'No, I
can trust him for that.'"

"I think you may, Natalie," said he, rather absently. "And yet what
could have led me to join such a movement but your own noble spirit--the
glamour of your voice--the thanks of your eyes? You put madness into my
blood with your singing."

"Do you call it madness?" she said, with a faint flush in the pale olive
face. "Is it not rather kindness--is it not justice to others--the
desire to help--something that the angels in heaven must feel when they
look down and see what a great misery there is in the world?"

"I think you are an angel yourself, Natalie," said he, quite simply,
"and that you have come down and got among a lot of people who don't
treat you too well. However, we must come to the present moment. You
spoke of America; now what do you know about that?"

The abrupt question startled her. She had been so overjoyed to see
him--her whole soul was so buoyant and radiant with happiness--that she
had quite forgotten or dismissed the vague fears that had been of late
besetting her. But she proceeded to tell him, with a little hesitation
here and there, and with a considerable smoothing down of phrases, what
her father had said to her. She tried to make it appear quite
reasonable. And all she prayed for was that, if he were sent to America,
if they had to part for many years, or forever, she should be permitted
to say good-bye to him.

"We are not parted yet," said Brand, briefly.

The fact was, he had just got a new key to the situation. So that threat
about America could serve a double purpose? He was now more than ever
convinced that Ferdinand Lind was merely playing off and on with him
until this money question should be settled; and that he had been
resolved all the time that his daughter should not marry. He was
beginning to understand.

"Natalie," said he, slowly, "I told you I had something to say to you.
You know your father wrote to me in the North, asking me neither to see
you nor write to you until some matter between him and me was settled.
Well, I respected his wish until I should know what the thing was. Now
that I do know, it seems to me that you are as much concerned as any
one; and that it is not reasonable, it is not possible, I should refrain
from seeing you and consulting you."

"No one shall prevent your seeing me, when it is your wish," said the
girl, in a low voice.

"This, then, is the point: you know enough about the Society to
understand, and there is no particular secret. Your father wishes me to
enter the higher grade of officers, under the Council; and the first
condition is that one surrenders up every farthing of one's property."

"Yes?"

He stared at her. Her "Yes?"--with its affectionate interest and its
absolute absence of surprise--was almost the exact equivalent of Lord
Evelyn's "Well?"

"Perhaps you would advise me to consent?" he said, almost in the way of
a challenge.

"Ah, no," she said, with a smile. "It is not for me to advise on such
things. What you decide for yourself, that will be right."

"But you don't understand, my darling. Supposing I were ambitious of
getting higher office, which I am not; supposing I were myself willing
to sell my property to swell the funds of the Society--and I don't think
I should be willing in any case--do you think I would part with what
ought to belong to my wife--to you, Natalie? Do you think I would have
you marry a beggar--one dependent on the indulgence of people unknown to
him?"

And now there was a look of real alarm on the girl's face.

"Ah!" she said, quickly. "Is not that what my father feared? You are
thinking of me when you should think of others. Already I--I--interfere
with your duty; I tempt you--"

"My darling, be calm, be reasonable. There is no duty in the matter;
your father acknowledges that himself. It is a proposal I am free to
accept or reject, as I please; and now I promise you that, as you won't
give me any advice, I shall decide without thinking of you at all. Will
that satisfy you?"

She remained silent for a second or two, and then she said
thoughtfully,

"Perhaps you could decide just as if there were no possibility of my
ever being your wife?"

"To please you, I will assume that too."

Then she said, after a bit,

"One word more, dearest; you must grant me this--that I may always be
able to think of it when I am alone and far from you, and be able to
reassure myself: it is the promise I thought I could do so well without.
Now you will give it me?"

"What promise?"

"That whatever happens to you or to me, whatever my father demands of
me, and wherever you may have to go, you will never withdraw from what
you have undertaken."

He met the earnest, pleading look of those beautiful eyes without
flinching. His heart was light enough, so far as such a promise was
concerned. Heavier oaths than that lay on him.

"That is simple enough, Natalie," said he. "I promise you distinctly
that nothing shall cause me to swerve from my allegiance to the Society;
I will give absolute and implicit obedience, and the best of such work
as I can do. But they must not ask me to forget my Natalie."

She rose, still holding his hand, and stood by him, so that he could not
quite see her face. Then she said, in a very low voice indeed,

"Dearest, may I give you a ring?--you do not wear one at all--"

"But surely, Natalie, it is for me to choose a ring for you?"

"Ah, it is not that I mean," she said, quickly, and with her face
flushing. "It is a ring that will remind you of the promise you have
given me to-day--when we may not be able to see each other."



CHAPTER XXVII.

KIRSKI.


To this pale student from the Reading-room of the British Museum, as he
stands on a bridge crossing one of the smaller canals, surely the scene
around him must seem one fitted to gladden the heart; for it is Venice
at mid-day, in glowing sunlight: the warm cream-white fronts of the
marble palaces and casemented houses, the tall campanili with their
golden tips, the vast and glittering domes of the churches, all rising
fair and dream-like into the intense dark-blue of a cloudless sky. How
the hot sunlight brings out all the beautiful color of the place--the
richly laden fruit-stalls in the Riva dei Schiavoni; the russet and
saffron sails of the vessels; the canal-boats coming in to the steps
with huge open tuns of purple wine to be ladled out with copper buckets;
and then all around the shining, twinkling plain of the green-hued sea,
catching here and there a reflection from the softly red walls of San
Giorgio and the steel-gray gleaming domes of Santa Maria della Salute.

Then the passers-by: these are not like the dusky ghosts that wander
through the pale-blue mists of Bloomsbury. Here comes a buxom
water-carrier, in her orange petticoat and sage-green shawl, who has the
two copper cans at the end of the long piece of wood poised on her
shoulders, pretty nearly filled to the brim. Then a couple of the gayer
gondoliers in white and blue, with fancy waist-belts, and rings in their
ears. A procession of black-garbed monks wends slowly along; they have
come from the silence of the Armenian convent over there at the horizon.
Some wandering minstrels shoot their gondola into the mouth of the
canal, and strike up a gay waltz, while they watch the shaded balconies
above. Here is a Lascar ashore from the big steamer that is to start for
Alexandria on the morrow. A company of soldiers, with blue coats, canvas
trousers, and white gaiters, half march and half trot along to the
quick, crackling music of the buglers. A swarthy-visaged maiden, with
the calm brow of a Madonna, appears in the twilight of a balcony, with a
packet of maize in her hand, and in a minute or two she is surrounded
with a cloud of pigeons. Then this beggar--a child of eight or
ten--red-haired and blue-eyed: surely she has stepped out of one of
Titian's pictures? She whines and whimpers her prayers to him; but there
is something in her look that he has seen elsewhere. It belongs to
another century.

From these reveries Mr. Gathorne Edwards was aroused by some one tapping
him on the shoulder. It was Calabressa.

"My dear Monsieur Edouarts," said he, in a low voice--for the red-haired
little beggar was still standing there expectant--"he has gone over to
the shipping-place. We must follow later on. Meanwhile, regard this
letter that has just been forwarded to me. Ah, you English do not forget
your promises!"

Edwards threw a piece of money to the child, who passed on. Then he
took the letter and read it. It was in French.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Dear Calabressa,--I want you to tell me what you have done with Yakov
Kirski. They seem unwilling to say here, and I do not choose to inquire
further. But I undertook to look after him, and I understood he was
getting on very well, and now you have carried him off. I hope it is
with no intention of allowing him to go back to Russia, where he will
simply make an attempt at murder, and fall into the hands of the police.
Do not let the poor devil go and make a fool of himself. If you want
money to send him back to England, show this letter, or forward it to
Messrs. ----, who will give you what you want.

  "Your friend,       George Brand.

"P.S.--I have seen your beautiful caged little bird. I can say no more
at present, but that she shall not suffer through any neglect of mine."

       *       *       *       *       *

"What is that about the caged bird?" said Edwards.

"Ah, the caged bird?" said Calabressa. "The caged bird?--do you see,
that is a metaphor. It is nothing; one makes one's little joke. But I
was saying, my dear friend, that you English do not promise, and then
forget. No; he says, 'I will befriend this poor devil of a Kirski;' and
here he comes inquiring after him. Now I must answer the letter; you
will accompany me, Monsieur Edouarts? Ten minutes in my little room, and
it is done."

So the two walked away together. This Edwards who now accompanied
Calabressa was a man of about thirty, who looked younger; tall, fair,
with a slight stoop, a large forehead, and blue eyes that stared
near-sightedly through spectacles. The ordinary expression of his face
was grave even to melancholy, but his occasional smile was humorous, and
when he laughed the laugh was soft and light like that of a child. His
knowledge of modern languages was considered to be almost unrivalled,
though he had travelled but little.

When, in this little room, Calabressa had at length finished his letter
and dusted it over with sand, he was not at all loath to show it to this
master of modern speech. Calabressa was proud of his French; and if he
would himself have acknowledged that it was perhaps here and there of
doubtful idiom and of phonetic spelling, would he not have claimed for
it that it was fluent, incisive, and ornate?

"My valued friend, it is not permitted me to answer your questions in
precise terms; but he to whom you have had the goodness to extend your
bountiful protection is well and safe, and under my own care. No; he
goes not back to Russia. His thoughts are different; his madness travels
in other directions; it is no longer revenge, it is adoration and
gratitude that his heart holds. And you, can you not guess who has
worked the miracle? Think of this: you have a poor wretch who is
distracted by injuries and suffering; he goes away alone into Europe; he
is buffeted about with the winds of hunger and thirst and cold: he
cannot speak; he is like a dog--a wild beast that people drive away from
their door. And all at once some one addresses him in gentle tones: it
is the voice of an angel to him! You plough and harrow the poor wretch's
heart with suffering and contempt and hopelessness, until it is a
desert, a wilderness; but some one, by accident, one day drops a seed of
kindness into it, and behold! the beautiful flower of love springing up,
and all the man's life going into it! Can you understand--you who ought
to understand? Were you not present when the bewildered, starved, hunted
creature heard that gentle voice of pity, like an angel speaking from
heaven? And if the beautiful girl, who will be the idol of my thoughts
through my remaining years, if she does not know that she has rescued a
human soul from despair, you will tell her--tell her from me, from
Calabressa. What would not Kirski do for her? you might well ask. The
patient regards the physician who has cured him with gratitude: this is
more that gratitude, it is worship. What she has preserved she owns; he
would give his life to her, to you, to any one whom she regards with
affection. For myself, I do not say such things; but she may count on me
also, while one has yet life.

  "I am yours, and hers,    Calabressa."

       *       *       *       *       *

The letter was handed to Gathorne Edwards with a proud air; and he read
it, and handed it back.

"This man Kirski is not so much of a savage as you imagine," he said.
"He learns quickly, and forgets nothing. He can repeat all the articles
of membership; but it is No. 5 that he is particularly fond of. You have
not heard him go over it, Calabressa?"

"I? No. He does not waste my time that way."

"His pronunciation," continued the younger man, with a smile, "is rather
like the cracking of dry twigs. 'Article 5. Whatever punishment may be
decreed against any Officer, Companion, or Friend of the Society may be
vicariously borne by any other Officer, Companion, or Friend who of his
own full and free consent acts as substitute; the original offender
becoming thereby redeemed, acquitted, and released.' And then he
invariably adds: 'Why not make me of some use? To myself my life is
nothing.'"

At this moment there was a tapping at the door.

"It is himself," said Edwards.

"Enter!" Calabressa called out.

The man who now came into the room was a very different looking person
from the wild, unkempt creature who had confronted Natalie Lind in
Curzon Street. The voluminous red beard and mustache had been cropped;
he wore the clothes of a decent workman, with a foreign touch here and
there; he was submissive and docile in look.

"Well, where have you been, my friend?" Calabressa said to him in
Italian.

Kirski glanced at Gathorne Edwards, and began to speak to him in
Russian.

"Will you explain for me, little father? I have been to many churches."

"The police will not suspect him if he goes there," said Calabressa,
laughing.

"And to the shops in the Piazza San Marco, where the pictures are of the
saints."

"Well?"

"Little father, I can find no one of the saints so beautiful as that one
in England that the Master Calabressa knows."

Calabressa laughed again.

"Allons, mon grand enfant! Tell him that if it is only a likeness he is
hunting for, I can show him one."

With that he took out from his breast-pocket a small pocket book, opened
it, found a certain photograph, and put it on the table, shoving it over
toward Kirski. The dim-eyed Russian did not dare to touch it; but he
stooped over it, and he put one trembling hand on each side of it, as if
he would concentrate the light, and gazed at this portrait of Natalie
Lind until he could see nothing at all for the tears that came into his
eyes. Then he rose abruptly, and said something rapidly to Edwards.

"He says, 'Take it away, or you will make me a thief. It is worth more
than all the diamonds in the world.'"

Calabressa did not laugh this time. He regarded the man with a look in
which there was as much pity as curiosity.

"The poor devil!" he said. "Tell him I will ask the beautiful saint whom
he worships so to send him a portrait of herself with her own hands. I
will. She will do as much as that for her friend Calabressa."

This had scarcely been translated to Kirski when, in his sudden
gratitude, he caught Calabressa's hand and kissed it.

"Tell him, also," Calabressa said, good-naturedly, "that if he is hungry
before dinner-time there is sausage and bread and beer in the cupboard.
But he must not stir out till we come back. Allons, mon bon camarade!"

Calabressa lit another cigarette, and the two companions sallied forth.
They stepped into a gondola, and presently they were being borne swiftly
over the plain of light-green water. By-and-by they plunged into a
varied and picturesque mass of shipping, and touched land again in front
of a series of stores. The gondola was ordered to await their return.

Calabressa passed without question through the lower floor of this
particular building, where the people were busy with barrels of flour,
and led the way up-stairs until he stopped at a certain door. He knocked
thrice and entered. There was a small, dark man seated at a table,
apparently engaged with some bills of lading.

"You are punctual, Brother Calabressa."

"Your time is valuable, Brother Granaglia. Let me present to you my
comrade Signor Edouarts, of whom I wrote to you."

The sallow-faced little man with the tired look bowed courteously,
begged his guests to be seated, and pushed toward them a box of
cigarettes.

"Now, my Calabressa," said he, "to the point. As you guess, I am pressed
for time. Seven days hence will find me in Moscow."

"In Moscow!" exclaimed Calabressa. "You dare not!"

Granaglia waved his hand a couple of inches.

"Do not protest. It may be your turn to-morrow. And my good friend
Calabressa would find Moscow just about as dangerous for him as for me."

"Monsieur le Secretaire, I have no wish to try. But to the point, as you
say. May one ask how it stands with Zaccatelli?"

Granaglia glanced at the Englishman.

"Of course he knows everything," Calabressa explained instantly. "How
otherwise should I have brought him with me?"

"Well, Zaccatelli has received his warning."

"Who carried it?"

"I."

"You! You are the devil! You thrust your head into the lion's den!"

The black-eyed, worn-faced little man seemed pleased. An odd, dry smile
appeared about the thin lips.

"It needed no courage at all, friend Calabressa. His Eminence knows who
we are, no one better. The courage was his. It is not a pleasant thing
when you are told that within a certain given time you will be a dead
man; but Zaccatelli did not blanch; no, he was very polite to me. He
paid us compliments. We were not like the others, Calabressa. We were
good citizens and Christians; even his Holiness might be induced to lend
an ear; why should not the Church and we be friends?"

Calabressa burst out laughing.

"Surely evil days have fallen on the Pope, Brother Granaglia, when one
of his own Cardinals proposes that he should at last countenance a
secret society. But his Eminence was mad with fear--was it not so? He
wanted to win you over with promises, eh? Idle words, and no more. He
feeds you on wind, and sends you away, and returns to his mistresses and
his wines and his fountains of perfume?"

"Not quite so," said the other, with the same dry smile, "His Eminence,
as I say to you, knows as well as any one in Europe who and what we are,
and what is our power. The day after I called on him with my little
message, what does he do--of his own free-will, mind you--but send back
the daughter of old De Bedros to her home, with a pledge to her father
that she shall have a dowry of ten thousand lire when she marries. The
father is pleased, the daughter is not. She sits and cries. She talks of
herself getting at him with a stiletto."

He took a cigarette, and accepted a light from Calabressa.

"Further," he continued, "his Eminence is so kind as to propose to give
the Council an annual subsidy from his own purse of thirty thousand
lire."

"Thirty thousand lire!" Calabressa exclaimed.

But at this point even Granaglia began to laugh.

"Yes, yes, my friend," he said, apparently apostrophizing the absent
Cardinal. "You know, then, who we are, and you do not wish to give up
all pleasures. No; we are to become the good boy among secret societies;
we are to have the blessing of the Pope; we are to fight Prince Bismarck
for you. Prince Bismarck has all his knights and his castles on the
board; but what are they against an angelic host of bishops and some
millions of common pawns? Prince Bismarck wishes to plunge Europe again
into war. The church with this tremendous engine within reach, says, No.
Do you wish to find eight men--eight men, at the least--out of every
company of every regiment in all your _corps d'armee_ throw down their
rifles at the first onset of battle? You will shoot them for mutiny? My
dear fellow, you cannot, the enemy is upon you. With eight men out of
each company throwing down their weapons, and determined either to
desert or die, how on earth can you fight at all? Well, then, good
Bismarck, you had better make your peace with the Church, and rescind
those Falk laws. What do you think of that scheme, Calabressa? It was
ingenious, was it not, to have come into the head of a man under
sentence of death?"

"But the thirty thousand lire, Brother Granaglia. It is a tremendous
bribe."

"The Council does not accept bribes, Brother Calabressa," said the
other, coldly,

"It is decided, then, that the decree remains to be executed?"

"I know nothing to the contrary. But if you wish to know for certain,
you must seek the Council. They are at Naples."

He pulled an ink-bottle before him, and made a motion with his
forefinger.

"You understand?"

"Yes, yes," Calabressa answered. "And I will go on to Naples, Brother
Granaglia; for I have with me one who I think will carry out the wishes
of the Council effectively, so far as his Eminence the Cardinal is
concerned."

"Who is he?" said the other, but with no great interest.

"Yakov Kirski. He is a Russian."



CHAPTER XXVIII.

A CLIMAX.


It was a momentous decision that George Brand had to arrive at; and yet
he scarcely seemed to be aware of it. The man had changed so much during
these past six months.

"Do you know, Evelyn," he was saying to his friend, on the very evening
on which his answer was to be given to Ferdinand Lind, "I am beginning
to look on that notion of my going to America with anything but dislike.
Rather the opposite, indeed. I should like to get rid of a lot of old
associations, and start in a new and wider field. With another life to
lead, don't you want another sort of world to live it in?"

Lord Evelyn regarded him. No one had observed with a closer interest the
gradual change that had come over this old friend of his. And he was
proud of it, too; for had it not been partly of his doing?

"One does not breathe free air here," Brand continued, rather
absently--as if his mental vision was fixed on the greater spaces beyond
the seas. "With a new sort of life beginning, wouldn't it be better to
start it under new conditions--feeling yourself unhampered--with nothing
around to disturb even the foolishness of your dreams and hopes? Then
you could work away at your best, leaving the result to time."

"I know perfectly what all that means," Lord Evelyn said. "You are
anxious to get away from Lind. You believe in your work, but you don't
like to be associated with him."

"Perhaps I know a little more than you, Evelyn," said Brand, gently, "of
Lind's relation to the society. He does not represent it to me at all.
He is only one of its servants, like ourselves. But don't let us talk
about him."

"You _must_ talk about him," Lord Evelyn said, as he pulled out his
watch. "It is now seven. At eight you go to the initiation of Molyneux,
and you have promised to give Lind his answer to-night. Well?"

Brand was playing idly with a pocket-pencil. After a minute or two, he
said,

"I promised Natalie to consider this thing without any reference to her
whatever--that I would decide just as if there was no possibility of her
becoming my wife. I promised that; but it is hard to do, Evelyn. I have
tried to imagine my never having seen her, and that I had been led into
this affair solely through you. Then I do think that if you had come to
me and said that my giving up every penny I possess would forward a good
work--would do indirect benefit to a large number of people, and so
forth--I do think I could have said, 'All right, Evelyn; take it.' I
never cared much for money; I fancy I could get on pretty well on a
sovereign a week. I say that if you had come to me with this request--"

"Precisely," Lord Evelyn said, quickly. "You would have said yes, if I
had come to you. But because it is Lind, whom you distrust, you fall
away from the height of self-sacrifice, and regard the proposal from the
point of view of the Waldegrave Club. Mind you, I am not counselling you
one way or the other. I am only pointing out to you that it is your
dislike of Lind that prevents your doing what you otherwise would have
done."

"Very well," said the other, boldly. "Have I not reason to distrust him?
How can I explain his conduct and his implied threats except on the
supposition that he has been merely playing with me, as far as his
daughter is concerned; and that as soon as I had handed over this
property I should find it out? Oh, it is a very pretty scheme
altogether! This heap of English money transferred to the treasury; Lind
at length achieving his ambition of being put on the Council; Natalie
carried off to Italy; and myself granted the honor of stepping into
Lind's shoes in Lisle Street. On the other hand: 'Refuse, and we pack
you off to America.' Now, you know, Evelyn, one does not like to be
threatened into anything!"

"Then you have decided to say, No?"

He did not answer for a second or two; when he did, his manner was quite
changed.

"I rather think I know what both you and Natalie would have me do,
although you won't say so explicitly. And if you and she had come to me
with this proposal, do you think there would have been any difficulty? I
should have been satisfied if she had put her hand in mine, and said,
'Thank you.' Then I should have reminded her that she was sacrificing
something too."

He relapsed into silence again; Lord Evelyn was vaguely conscious that
the minutes were passing by, and that his friend seemed as far off as
ever from any decision.

"You remember the old-fashioned rose-garden, Evelyn?"

"At the beeches? Yes."

"Don't you think Natalie would like the view from that side of the
house? And if she chose that side, I was thinking of having a
conservatory built all the length of the rooms, with steps opening out
into the rose-garden. She could go out there for a stroll of a morning."

So these had been his dreams.

"If I go to America," he said presently, "I should expect you to look
after the old place a little bit. You might take your sisters there
occasionally, and turn them loose; it wants a woman's hand here and
there. Mrs. Alleyne would put you all right; and of course I should send
Waters down, and give up those rooms in Buckingham Street."

"But I cannot imagine your going to America, somehow," Lord Evelyn
said. "Surely there is plenty for you to do here."

"I will say this of Lind, that he is not an idle talker. What he says he
means. Besides, Molyneux can take up my work in the North; he is the
very man."

Again silence. It was now half-past seven.

"I wish, though, it had been something more exciting," Brand said. "I
should not have minded having a turn at the Syrian business; I am not
much afraid of risking my neck. There is not much danger in
Philadelphia."

"But look here, Brand," said Lord Evelyn, regarding him attentively.
"You are speaking with great equanimity about your going to America;
possibly you might like the change well enough; but do I understand you
that you are prepared to go alone?"

Brand looked up; he understood what was meant.

"If I am ordered--yes."

He held out his right hand; on the third finger there was a massive gold
ring--a plain hoop, without motto or design whatever.

"There," said he, "is the first ring I ever wore. It was given to me
this afternoon, to remind me of a promise; and that promise is to me
more binding than a hundred oaths."

He rose with a sigh.

"Ah, well, Evelyn, whatever happens we will not complain. There have
been compensations."

"But you have not told me what answer you mean to give to Lind."

"Suppose I wait until I see him before deciding?"

"Then you will say, No. You have allowed your distrust of him to become
a sort of mania, and the moment you see him the mere sight of him will
drive you into antagonism."

"I tell you what I wish I could do, Evelyn," said the other, laughing:
"I wish I could turn over everything I have got to you, and escape
scot-free to America and start my own life free and unencumbered."

"And alone?"

His face grew grave again.

"There is nothing possible else!" said he.

It was nearly eight o'clock when he left. As he walked along Piccadilly,
a clear and golden twilight was shining over the trees in the Green
Park. All around him was the roar of the London streets; but it was not
that that he heard. Was it not rather the sound of a soft, low voice,
and the silvery notes of the zither? His memory acted as a sea-shell,
and brought him an echo from other days and other climes.

     "Behold the beautiful night--the wind sleeps drowsily--the silent
     shores slumber in the dark:

    "Sul placido elemento
     Vien meco a navigar!

     "The soft wind moves--as it stirs among the leaves--it moves and
     dies--among the murmur of the water:

    "Lascia l'amico tetto,
     Vien meco a navigar!

     "Now on the spacious mantle--of the already darkening heavens--see,
     oh the shining wonder--how the white stars tremble:

    "Sul l'onde addormentate
     Vien meco a navigar!"

This was the voice that he heard amidst the roar of the London streets.
Would he hear it far away on the wide Atlantic, with the shores of
England hidden behind the mists of rain? To-night was to decide what the
future of his life was to be.

If Natalie had appeared at this moment, and said to him, "Dearest, let
it be as my father wishes;" or if Lord Evelyn had frankly declared to
him that it was his duty to surrender his possessions to this Society to
which he had devoted his life, there would have been not a moment's
hesitation. But now he was going to see a man whom he suspected and was
inclined to hate, and his nature began to harden. It would be a question
between one man of the world and another. Sentiment would be put aside.
He would no longer be played with. A man should be master of his own
affairs.

This was what he said to himself. But he had quite forgotten his
determination to consider this matter as if no Natalie existed; and his
resolve to exclude sentiment altogether did not interfere with the fact
that always, if unconsciously, there remained in his mind a certain
picture he had been dreaming a good deal about of late. It was a picture
of an old-fashioned rose-garden in the light of an English summer
morning, with a young wife walking there, herself taller and fairer than
any flower. Would she sing, in her gladness, the songs of other lands,
to charm the sweet English air? There was that one about _O dolce
Napoli!--o suol beato!_--

When he got to Lisle Street, every one had arrived except Molyneux
himself. Mr. Lind was gravely polite to him. Of course no mention could
then be made about private affairs; the talk going on was all about the
East, and how certain populations were faring.

Presently the pink-faced farmer-agitator was ushered in, looking a
little bit alarmed. But this frightened look speedily disappeared, and
gave place to one of mild astonishment, as he appeared to recognize the
faces of one or two of those in the room. The business of the evening,
so far as the brief formalities were concerned, was speedily got over,
and five of the members of the small assembly immediately left.

"Now, Mr. Molyneux," said Ferdinand Lind, pleasantly, "Mr. Brand and I
have some small private matters to talk over: will you excuse us if we
leave you for a few minutes? Here are some articles of our association
which you may look over in the mean time. May I trouble you to follow
me, Mr. Brand?"

Brand followed him into an inner and smaller room, and sat down.

"You said you would have your mind made up to-day with regard to the
proposal I put before you," Mr. Lind observed, with a matter-of-fact
air, as he drew in his chair to the small table.

Brand simply nodded, and said "Yes." He was measuring his man. He
thought his manner was a good deal too suave.

"But allow me to say, my dear Mr. Brand, that, as far I am concerned,
there is no hurry. Have you given yourself time? It is a matter of
moment; one should consider."

"I have considered."

His tone was firm: one would have thought he had never had any
hesitation at all. But his decision had not been definitely arrived at
until, some quarter of an hour before, he had met Ferdinand Lind face to
face.

"I may say at once that I prefer to remain in my present grade."

He was watching Lind as he spoke. There was a slight, scarcely
perceptible, movement of the eyebrows; that was all. The quiet courtesy
of his manner remained undisturbed.

"That is your decision, then?" he said, just as if some trifling matter
had been arranged.

"Perhaps I need not bother you with my reasons," Brand continued,
speaking slowly and with precision, "but there are several."

"I have no doubt you have given the subject serious consideration,"
said Mr. Lind, without expressing any further interest or curiosity.

Now this was not at all what George Brand wanted. He wanted to have his
suspicions allayed or confirmed. He wanted to let this man know how he
read the situation.

"One reason I may as well name to you, Mr. Lind," said he, being forced
to speak more plainly. "If I were to marry, I should like to give my
wife a proper home. I should not like her to marry a pauper--one
dependent on the complaisance of other people. And really it has seemed
to me strange that you, with your daughter's future, your daughter's
interests to think of, should have made this proposal--"

Lind interrupted him with a slight deprecatory motion of the hand.

"Pardon me," said he. "Let us confine ourselves to business, if you
please."

"I presume it is a man's business to provide for the future of his
wife," said Brand, somewhat hotly, his pride beginning to kick against
this patronizing graciousness of manner.

"I must beg of you, my dear sir," said Mr. Lind, with the same calm
courtesy, "to keep private interests and projects entirely outside of
this matter, which relates to the Society alone, and your duty, and the
wishes of those with whom you are associated. You have decided?--very
well. I am sorry; but you are within your right."

"How can you talk like that?" said Brand, bluntly. "Sorry that your
daughter is not to marry a beggar?"

"I must decline to have Natalie introduced into this subject in any way
whatever," said Mr. Lind.

"Let us drop the subject, then," said Brand, in a friendly way, for he
was determined to have some further enlightenment. "Now about Natalie.
May I ask you plainly if you have any objection to a marriage between
her and myself?"

The answer was prompt and emphatic.

"I have every objection. I have said before that it would be inexpedient
in many ways. It is not to be thought of."

Brand was not surprised by this refusal; he had expected it; he had put
the question as a matter of form.

"Now one other question, Mr. Lind, and I shall be satisfied," said he,
watching the face of the man opposite him with a keen scrutiny. "Was it
ever your intention, at any time, to give your consent to our marriage,
in any circumstances whatever?"

Ferdinand Lind was an admirable actor.

"Is it worth while discussing imaginary things--possibilities only?" he
said, carelessly.

"Because, you see," continued Brand, who was not to be driven from his
point, "any plain and ordinary person, looking from the outside at the
whole affair, might imagine that you had been merely temporizing with
me, neither giving nor refusing your consent, until I had handed over
this money; and that, as you had never intended to let your daughter
marry, that was the reason why you did not care whether I retained a
penny of my own property or not."

Lind did not flinch for an instant; nor was there the slightest trace of
surprise, or annoyance, or resentment in his look. He rose and pushed
back his chair.

"Suppose we let outsiders think what they please, Mr. Brand," said he,
with absolute composure. "We have more serious matters to attend to."

Brand rose also. He guessed what was coming, and he had nerved himself
to face it. The whole course of this man's action was now as clear to
him as noonday.

"I have been considering further the suggestion I mentioned to you the
other day, that you should go over to some of the big American cities,"
said Mr. Lind, almost with an indifferent air as he turned over some
papers. "We are strong there; you will find plenty of friends; but what
is wanted is cohesion, arrangement, co-operation. Now you say yourself
this Mr. Molyneux would be an admirable successor to you in the North?"

"None better," said Brand. This sentence of banishment had been
foreseen; he knew how to encounter it when it came.

"I think, on the whole, it would be advisable then. When could you go?"

"I could start to-night," he said. But then, despite himself, a blush of
embarrassment mounted to his forehead, and he added quickly, "No; not
to-night. The day after to-morrow."

"There is no need for any such great hurry," said Mr. Lind, with his
complaisant smile. "You will want much direction, many letters. Come,
shall we join your friend in the other room?"

The two men, apparently on the best of terms, went back to Molyneux, and
the talk became general. George Brand, as he sat there, kept his right
hand shut tight, that so he could press the ring that Natalie had given
him; and when he thought of America, it was almost with a sense of
relief. She would approve; he would not betray his promise to her But
if only that one moment were over in which he should have to bid her
farewell!



CHAPTER XXIX.

A GOOD-NIGHT MESSAGE.


Brand had nerved himself for that interview; he had determined to betray
neither surprise nor concern; he was prepared for the worst. When it was
intimated to him that hence-forth his life was to be lived out beyond
the seas, he had appeared to take it as a matter of course. Face to face
with his enemy, he would utter no protest. Then, had he not solemnly
promised to Natalie that nothing in the world should tempt him from his
allegiance? Why should he shrink from going to America, or prefer London
to Philadelphia? He had entered into a service that took no heed of such
things.

But when he had parted from Lind and Molyneux, and got out into the
sombre glare of the night-world of London, and when there was no further
need for that forced composure, he began more clearly to recognize his
position, and his heart grew heavy. This, then, was the end of those
visions of loving companionship and constant and sustaining sympathy
with which he had dared to fill the future. He had thought little of
anything that might be demanded from him so long as he could anticipate
Natalie's approval, and be rewarded with a single glance of gratitude
from the proud, dark, beautiful eyes. What mattered it to him what
became of himself, what circumstances surrounded them, so long as he and
she were together? But now a more terrible sacrifice than any he had
dreamed of had to be made. The lady of love whom the Pilgrims had sworn
to serve was proving herself inexorable indeed:

    "--Is she a queen, having great gifts to give?
     --Yea, these; that whoso hath seen her shall not live
       Except to serve her sorrowing, with strange pain,
         Travail and bloodshedding and bitterer tears;
     And when she bids die he shall surely die.
     And he shall leave all things under the sky,
       And go forth naked under sun and rain,
         And work and wait and watch out all his years."

When Lord Evelyn had asked him whether he was prepared to go to America
_alone_, he had clasped the ring that Natalie had given him, and
answered "Yes." But that was as a matter of theory. It was what he might
do, in certain possible circumstances. Now that he had to face the
reality, and bethink him of the necessity of taking Natalie's hand for
the last time, his heart sank within him.

He walked on blindly through the busy streets, seeing nothing around
him. His memory was going over the most trivial incidents connected with
Natalie, as if every look of hers, every word she had uttered, was now
become something inexpressibly precious. Were there not many things he
could carry away with him to the land beyond the seas? No distance or
time could rob him of the remembrance of that night at the opera--the
scent of white rose--her look as she gave him the forget-me-nots. Then
the beautiful shining day as they drew near to Dover, and her pride
about England, and the loosened curls of hair that blew about her neck.
On the very first evening on which he had seen her--she sitting at the
table and bending over the zither--her profile touched by the
rose-tinted light from the shade of the candle--the low, rich voice,
only half heard, singing the old, familiar, tender _Lorelei_. He felt
the very touch of her fingers on his arm when she turned to him with
reproving eyes: "_Is that the way you answer an appeal for help?_" That
poor devil of a Kirski--what had become of him? He would find out from
Reitzei; and, before leaving England, would take care that something
should be done for the luckless outcast. He should have cause to
remember all his life-long that Natalie Lind had interfered in his
behalf.

Without knowing well how he got there, Brand found himself in Curzon
Street. He walked on, perhaps with some vague notion that he might meet
Natalie herself, until he arrived at the house. It was quite dark; there
was no light in any of the windows; Anneli had not even lit the gas-jet
in the narrow hall. He turned away from the door that he felt was now
barred against him forever, and walked back to Clarges Street.

Lord Evelyn was out; the man did not know when he would be home again.
So Brand turned away from that door also, and resumed his aimless
wanderings, busy with those pictures of the past. At length he got down
to Buckingham Street, and almost mechanically made his way toward his
own rooms.

He had reached his door, however, when he heard some one speaking
within.

"I might have known," he said to himself. "That is so like Evelyn."

It was indeed Lord Evelyn, who was chatting familiarly with old Waters.
But the moment Brand entered he ceased, and a look of anxiety, and even
alarm, appeared instantly on the fine, sensitive, expressive face.

"What is the matter, Brand? Are you ill?"

"No," said the other, dropping into a chair; "only tired--and worried,
perhaps. Waters, get me a biscuit and a glass of sherry. Now, when I
think of it, I ought to feel tired--I have eaten nothing since eight
o'clock this morning."

Lord Evelyn jumped to his feet.

"Come off at once, Brand. We will go up to the Strand and get you
something to eat. Gracious goodness, it is nearly ten o'clock!"

"No, no, never mind. I have something to talk to you about, Evelyn."

"But why on earth had Waters no dinner waiting for you?"

"I did not tell him--I forgot. Never mind; I will have some supper
by-and-by. I called on you, Evelyn, about half an hour ago; I might have
known you would be here."

Lord Evelyn paused for a second or two, while Waters came in and went
out again. Then he said,

"I can tell by your face, Brand, that something has happened."

"Nothing that I had not foreseen."

"Did you consent or refuse?"

"I refused."

"Well?"

"Then, as I knew he would, he suggested that I might as well get ready
to start for America as soon as possible."

Brand was speaking in a light and scornful way; but his face was
careworn, and his eyes kept turning to the windows and the dark night
outside, as if they were looking at something far away.

"About Natalie?" Lord Evelyn asked.

"Oh, he was frank enough. He dropped all those roundabout phrases about
the great honor, and so forth. He was quite plain. 'Not to be thought
of.'"

Lord Evelyn remained silent for some time.

"I am very sorry, Brand," he said at length; and then he continued with
some hesitation--"Do you know--I have been thinking that--that though
it's a very extreme thing for a man to give up his fortune--a very
extreme thing--I can quite understand how the proposal looked to you
very monstrous at first--still, if you put that in the balance as
against a man's giving up his native country and the woman whom he is in
love with--don't you see--the happiness of people of so much more
importance than a sum of money, however large--"

"My dear fellow," said Brand, interrupting him, "there is no such
alternative--there never was any such alternative. Do you not think I
would rather give up twenty fortunes than have to go and bid good-bye to
Natalie? It is not a question of money. I suspected before--I know
now--that Lind never meant to let his daughter marry. He would not
definitely say no to me while he thought I could be persuaded about this
money business; as soon as I refused that, he was frank and explicit
enough. I see the whole thing clearly enough now. Well, he has not
altogether succeeded."

His eye happened to light on the ring on his finger, and the frown on
his face lifted somewhat.

"If I could only forget Lind; if I could forget why it was that I had to
go to America, I should think far less of the pain of separation. If I
could go to Natalie, and say, 'Look at what we must do, for the sake of
something greater than our own wishes and dreams,' then I think I could
bid her good-bye without much faltering; but when you know that it is
unnecessary--that you are being made the victim of a piece of personal
revenge--how can you look forward with any great enthusiasm to the new
life that lies before you? That is what troubles me, Evelyn."

"I cannot argue the matter with you," his friend said, looking down, and
evidently much troubled himself. "I cannot help remembering that it was
I let you in for all this--"

"Don't say that, Evelyn," Brand broke in, quickly. "Do you think I would
have it otherwise? Once in America, I shall no doubt forget how I came
to go there. I shall have something to do."

"I--I was going to say that--that perhaps you are not quite fair to
Lind. You impute motives that may not exist."

Lord Evelyn flushed a little; it was almost as if he were excusing or
defending one he had no particular wish to defend; but all the same,
with some hesitation, he continued,

"Consider Lind's position. Mind, your reading of his conduct is only
pure assumption. It is quite possible that he would be really and
extremely surprised if he knew that you fancied he had been allowing
personal feelings to sway his decision. But suppose this--suppose he is
honestly convinced that you would be of great service in America. He has
seen what you can do in the way of patient persuading of people. I know
he has plenty around him who can do the risky business--men who have
been adventurous all their lives--who would like nothing better than to
be commissioned to set up a secret printing-press next door to the
Commissary of Police in St. Petersburg. I say he has plenty of people
like that; but very few who have persistence and patience enough to do
what you have been doing in the north of England. He told me so himself.
Very well. Suppose he thinks that what you have been doing this man
Molyneux can carry on? Suppose, in short, that, if he had no daughter at
all, he would be anxious to send you to the States?"

Brand nodded. There was no harm in letting his friend have his theory.

"Very well. Now suppose that, having this daughter, he would rather not
have her marry. He says she is of great service to him; and his wish to
have her with him always would probably exaggerate that service,
unconsciously to himself, if it were proposed to take her away. That is
only natural."

Brand again assented.

"Very well. He discovers that you and she are attached to each other.
Probably he does not consider it a very serious affair, so far; but he
knows that if you remain in London it would probably become so. Now,
Natalie is a girl of firm character; she is very gentle, but she is not
a fool. If you remained in London she would probably marry you, whether
her father liked it or not, if she thought it was right. He knows that;
he knows that the girl is capable of acting on her own judgment. Now put
the two things together. Here is this opportune service on which you can
be sent. That, according to his view, will be a good thing of itself; it
will also effectually prevent a marriage which he thinks would be
inexpedient. Don't you see that there may be no personal revenge or
malice in the whole affair? He may consider he is acting quite rightly,
with regard to the best interests of everybody concerned."

"I am sick of him, Evelyn--of hearing of him--of thinking of him," Brand
said, impatiently. "Come, let us talk of something else. I wish the
whole business of starting for America were over, and I had only the
future to think about."

"That is not likely," said Lord Evelyn, gently. "You cannot cut
yourself away from everything like that. There will be _some_ memories."

Waters here appeared with a tray, and speedily placed on the table a
lobster, some oysters, and a bottle of Chablis.

"There you are, Evelyn; have some supper."

"Not unless you have some."

"By-and-by--"

"No, now."

So the two friends drew in their chairs.

"I have been thinking," said Lord Evelyn--with a slight flush, for he
was telling a lie--"I have been thinking for some time back I should
like to go to America for a year or two. There are some political phases
I should like to study."

Brand looked at him.

"You never thought of it before to-night. But it is like you to think of
it now."

"Oh, I assure you," said the other, hastily, "there are points of great
interest in the political life of America that one could only properly
study on the spot--hearing the various opinions, don't you know--and
seeing how the things practically work. I should have gone long before
now, but that I dreaded the passage across. When do you go?"

"It is not settled yet."

"What line shall you go by?"

"I don't know."

Lord Evelyn paused for a moment; then he said,

"I'll go with you, Brand."

Well, he had not the heart even to protest; for he thoroughly understood
the generous friendship that had prompted such an offer. He might
remonstrate afterward; now he would not. On the contrary, he began to
speak of his experience of the various lines; of the delight of the
voyage to any one not abnormally sensitive to sea-sickness; of the
humors of the bagmen; of the occupations and amusements on board; of
dolphins, fog-horns, icebergs, rope-quoits, grass-widows, and the
chances of poker. It was all a holiday excursion, then? The two friends
lit their cigars and went back to their arm-chairs. The tired and
haggard look on George Brand's face had for the moment been banished.

But by-and-by he said, rather absently,

"I suppose, hereafter, Natalie and you will have many a talk over what
has happened. And you will go there just as usual, and spend the
evening, and hear her read, or listen to her singing with the zither. It
seems strange. Perhaps she will be able to forget altogether--to cut
this unhappy episode out of her life, as it were." Then he added, as if
speaking to himself, "No, she is not likely to forget."

Lord Evelyn looked up.

"In the mean time, does she know about your going?"

"I presume not--not yet. But I must see her and tell her unless, indeed,
Lind should try to prevent that too. He might lay injunctions on her
that she was not to see me again."

"That is true," his friend said. "He might command. But the question is
whether she would obey. I have known Natalie Lind longer than you have.
She is capable of thinking and acting for herself."

Nothing further was said on this point; they proceeded to talk of other
matters. It was perhaps a quarter of an hour afterward--close on eleven
o'clock--that Waters knocked at the door and then came into the room.

"A letter for you, sir."

A quick glance at the envelope startled him.

"How did you get it?" he said instantly.

"A girl brought it, sir, in a cab. She is gone again. There was no
answer, she said."

Waters withdrew. Brand hastily opened the letter, and read the following
lines, written in pencil, apparently with a trembling hand:

"Dearest,--I spent this evening with Madame Potecki. My father came for
me, and on the way home has told me something of what has occurred. It
was for the purpose of telling me that you and I must not meet
again--never, never. My own, I cannot allow you to pass a single night,
or a single hour, thinking such a thing possible. Have I not promised to
you? When it is your wish to see me, come to me: I am yours. Good-night,
and Heaven guard you!

  "NATALIE."

George Brand turned to his friend.

"This," said he; but his lip trembled, and he stopped for a second. Then
he continued: "This is a message from her, Evelyn. And I know what poor
old Calabressa would say of it, if he were here. He would say: 'This is
what might have been expected from the daughter of Natalie Berezolyi!'"

"She knows, then?"

"Yes," said he, still looking at the hastily written lines in pencil,
"and it is as you imagined. Her father has told her we must not see
each other again, and she has refused to be bound by any such
injunction. I rather fancy she thinks he must have conveyed the same
intimation to me; at all events, she has written at once to assure me
that she will not break her promise to me. It was kindly meant; was it
not? I wish Anneli had waited for a second."

He folded up the letter and put it in his pocket-book: it was one more
treasure he should carry with him to America. But when, later on, Evelyn
had left, he took it out again, and re-read again and again the
irregular, hurried, pencilled lines, and thought of the proud, quick,
generous spirit that had prompted them. And was she still awake and
thinking? And could her heart hear, through the silence of the night,
the message of love and gratitude that he sent her? "_Good-night, and
Heaven guard you!_" It had been a troubled and harassing day for him;
but this tender good-night message came in at the close of it like a
strain of sweet music that he would carry with him into the land of
dreams.



CHAPTER XXX.

SOME TREASURES.


The next morning Natalie was sitting alone in the little dining-room,
dressed ready to go out. Perhaps she had been crying a little by
herself; but at all events, when she heard the sound of some one being
admitted at the front-door and coming into the passage, she rose, with a
flush of pleasure and relief appearing on her pale and saddened face. It
was Madame Potecki.

"Ah, it is so good of you to come early," said Natalie to her friend,
with a kind of forced cheerfulness. "Shall we start at once? I have been
thinking and thinking myself into a state of misery; and what is the use
of that?"

"Let me look at you," said the prompt little music mistress, taking both
her hands, and regarding her with her clear, shrewd blue eyes. "No; you
are not looking well. The walk will do you good, my dear. Come away,
then."

But Natalie paused in the passage, with some appearance of
embarrassment. Anneli was standing by the door.

"Remember this, Anneli; if any one calls and wishes to see me--and
particularly wishes to see me--you will not say, 'My mistress is gone
out;' you will say, 'My mistress is gone to the South Kensington Museum
with Madame Potecki.' Do you understand that, Anneli?"

"Yes, Fraulein; certainly."

Then they left, going by way of the Park. And the morning was fresh and
bright; the energetic little Polish lady was more talkative and cheerful
than ever; the girl with her had only to listen, with as much appearance
of interest as was possible, considering that her thoughts were so apt
to wonder away elsewhither.

"My dear, what a lovely morning for us to go and look at my treasures!
The other day I was saying to myself, 'There is my adopted daughter
Natalie, and I have not a farthing to leave her. What is the use of
adopting a child if you have nothing to leave her? Then I said to
myself, 'Never mind; I will teach her my theory of living; that will
make her richer than a hundred legacies will do.' Dear, dear! that was
all the legacy my poor husband left to me."

She passed her hand over her eyes.

"Don't you ever marry a man who has anything to do with politics, my
child. Many a time my poor Potecki used to say to me, 'My angel,
cultivate contentment; you may have to live on it some day.'"

"And you have taken his advice, madame; you are very content."

"Why? Because I have my theory. They think that I am poor. It is poor
Madame Potecki, who earns her solitary supper by 'One, two, three, four;
one, two, three, four;' who has not a treasure in the world--except a
young Hungarian lady, who is almost a daughter to her. Well, well; but
you know my way of thinking, my dear, you laugh at it; I know you do.
You say, 'That mad little Madame Potecki.' But some day I will convince
you."

"I am willing to be taught now, madame--seriously. Is it not wise to be
content?"

"I am more than content, my dear; I am proud, I am vain. When I think of
all the treasures that belong to the public, and to me as one of the
public--the Turner landscapes in the National Gallery; the books and
statues in the British Museum; the bronzes and china and jewellery at
South Kensington--do you not think, my dear, that I am thankful I have
no paltry little collection in my own house that I should be ashamed of?
Then look at the care that is taken of them. I have no risk. I am not
disheartened for a day because a servant has broken my best piece of
Nankin blue. I have no trouble and no thought; it is only when I have a
little holiday that I say to myself, 'Well, shall I go and see my
Rembrandts? Or shall I look over my cases of Etruscan rings? Or shall I
go and feast my eyes on the _bleu de roi_ of a piece of jewelled
Sevres?' Oh, my love!"

She clasped her hands in ecstasy. Her volubility had outrun itself and
got choked.

"I will show you three vases," said she, presently, in almost a solemn
way--"I will show you three vases, in white and brown crackle, and put
all the color in the whole of my collection to shame. My dear, I have
never seen in the world anything so lovely--the soft cream-white ground,
the rich brown decoration--the beautiful, bold, graceful shape; and they
only cost sixty pounds!--sixty pounds for three, and they are worth a
kingdom! Why--But really, my dear Natalie, you walk too fast. I feel as
if I were being marched off to prison!"

"Oh, I beg your pardon!" said the girl, laughing. "I am always
forgetting; and papa scolds me often enough for it."

"Have you heard what I told you about those priceless vases in the South
Kensington?"

"I am most anxious to see them, I assure you."

"My blue-and-white," Madame Potecki continued, seriously, "I am afraid
is not always of the best. There are plenty of good pieces, it is true;
but they are not the finest feature of the collection. Oh! the Benares
brocades--I had forgotten them. Ah, my dear, these will make you open
your eyes!"

"But don't you get bewildered, madame, with having to think of so many
possessions?" said Natalie, respectfully.

"No," said the other, in a matter-of-fact way; "I take them one by one.
I pay a morning call here, a morning call there, when I have no
appointments, just to see that everything is going on well."

Presently she said,

"Ah, well, my dear, we are poor weak creatures. Here and there, in my
wanderings I have met things that I almost coveted; but see what an
impossible, monstrous collection they would make! Let me think, now. The
Raphael at Dresden; two Titian portraits in the Louvre; the Venus of
Milo--not the Medici one at all; I would not take it; I swear I would
not accept it, that trivial little creature with the yellow skin!"

"My dear friend, the heavens will fall on you!" her companion exclaimed.

"Wait a moment," said the little music-mistress, reflectively. "I have
not completed my collection. There is a Holy Family of Botticelli's--I
forget where I saw it. And the bust of the Empress Messalina in the
Uffizi: did you ever notice it, Natalie?"

"No."

"Do not forget it when you are in Florence again. You won't believe any
of the stories about her when you see the beautiful refined face; only
don't forget to remark how flat the top of her head is. Well, where are
we, my dear? The bronze head of the goddess in the Castellani
collection: I would have that; and the fighting Temeraire. Will these
do? But then, my dear, even if one had all these things, see what a
monstrous collection they would make. What should I do with them in my
lodgings, even if I had room? No; I must be content with what I have."

By this time they had got down into South Kensington and were drawing
near one of Madame Potecki's great treasure houses.

"Then, you see, my dear Natalie," she continued, "my ownership of these
beautiful things we are going to see is not selfish. It can be
multiplied indefinitely. You may have it too; any one may have it, and
all without the least anxiety!"

"That is very pleasant also," said the girl, who was paying less heed
now. The forced cheerfulness that had marked her manner at starting had
in great measure left her. Her look was absent; she blindly followed her
guide through the little wicket, and into the hushed large hall.

The silence was grateful to her; there was scarcely any one in the
place. While Madame Potecki busied herself with some catalogue or other,
the girl turned aside into a recess, to look at a cast of the effigy on
the tomb of Queen Eleanor of Castile. A tombstone stills the air around
it. Even this gilt plaster figure was impressive; it had the repose of
the dead.

But she had not been standing there for a couple of seconds when she
heard a well-known voice behind her.

"Natalie!"

She knew. There was neither surprise nor shamefacedness in her look when
she turned and saw George Brand before her. Her eyes were as fearless as
ever when they met his; and they were glad, too, with a sudden joy; and
she said, quickly,

"Ah, I thought you would come. I told Anneli."

"It was kind of you--and brave--to let me come to see you."

"Kind?" she said. "How could I do otherwise?"

"But you are looking tired, Natalie."

"I did not sleep much last night. I was thinking."

The tears started to her eyes; she impatiently brushed them aside.

"I know what you were thinking. That is why I came so early to see you.
You were blaming yourself for what has happened. That is not right. You
are not to blame at all. Do you think I gave you that promise for
nothing?"

"You were always like that," she said in a low voice. "Very generous and
unselfish. Yes, I--I--was miserable; I thought if you had never known
me--"

"If I had never known you! You think that would be a desirable thing for
me!--"

But at this moment the hurried, anxious, half-whispered conversation had
to cease, for Madame Potecki came up. Nor was she surprised to find Mr.
Brand there. On the contrary, she said that her time was limited, and
that she could not expect other people to care for old porcelain as much
as she did; and if Mr. Brand would take her dear daughter Natalie to see
some pictures in the rooms up-stairs, she would come and find her out
by-and-by.

"Not at all, dear madame," said Natalie, with some slight flush. "No. We
will go with you to see the three wonderful vases."

So they went, and saw the three crackle vases, and many another piece of
porcelain and enamel and bronze; but always the clever little Polish
woman took care that she should be at some other case, so that she could
not overhear what these two had to say to each other. And they had
plenty to say.

"Why, Natalie, where is your courage? What is the going to America? It
cannot be for ever and ever."

"But even then," she said, in a low, hesitating voice. "If you were
never to see me again, you would blame me for it all. You would regret."

"How can I regret that my life was made beautiful to me, if only for a
time? It was worth nothing to me before. And you are forgetting all
about the ring, and my promise to you."

This light way of talking did not at all deceive her. What had been
torturing her all the night long was the fancy, the suspicion, that her
father was sending her lover to America, not solely with a view to the
work he should have to undertake there, but to insure a permanent
separation between herself and him. That was the cruel bit of it. And
she more than ever admired the manliness of this man, because he would
make no complaint to her. He had uttered no word of protest, for fear of
wounding her. He did not mention her father to her at all; but merely
treated this project of going to America as if it were a part of his
duty that had to be cheerfully accepted.

"After I have once said good-bye to you Natalie" said he, "it will not
be so bad for me. I shall have my work."

"When do you go?" she asked, with rather a white face.

"I don't know yet. It may be a matter of days. You will let me see you
again, my darling--soon?"

"I shall be here every morning, if you wish it" she answered.

"To-morrow, then?"

"To-morrow, at eleven. Anneli will come with me. I should have waited in
on the hope of seeing you this morning; but it was an old engagement
with Madame Potecki. Ah, how good she is! Do you see how she pretends to
be interested in those things?"

"I will send her a present of some old china before I leave England,"
said Brand.

"No, no," said Natalie, with a faint smile appearing on the sad face.
"It would destroy her theory. She does not care for anything at home so
long as she possesses these public treasures. She is very content.
Indeed, she earns enough to be charitable. She has many poor
dependents."

By-and-by Madame Potecki, with great evident reluctance, confessed that
she had to return, as one of her pupils would be at her house by
half-past twelve. But would not Mr. Brand take her dear adopted child to
see some of the pictures? It was a pity that she should be dragged away,
and so forth.

But Natalie promptly put an end to these suggestions by saying that she
would prefer to return with Madame Potecki; and, it being now past
twelve, as soon as they got outside she engaged a cab. George Brand saw
them off, and then returned into the building. He wished to look again
at the objects she had looked at, to recollect every word she had
uttered; to recall the very tones in which she had spoken. And this
place was so hushed and quiet.

Meanwhile, as the occupants of the cab were journeying northward,
Natalie took occasion to say to her companion, with something of a
heightened color,

"You must not imagine, dear madame, that I expected to see Mr. Brand at
the Museum when I promised to go with you."

"But what if you had expected, my child?" said the good-natured
music-mistress. "What harm is there?"

"But this morning I did expect him to come, and that is why I left the
message with Anneli," continued the girl. "Because, do you know, madame,
he is going to America; and when he goes I may not see him for many
years."

"My child!" the demonstrative little woman exclaimed, catching hold of
the girl's hand.

But Natalie was not inclined to be sympathetic at this moment.

"Now I wish you, dear Madame Potecki," she continued in a firm voice,
"to do me a favor. I would rather not speak to my father about Mr.
Brand. I wish you to tell him for me that so long as Mr. Brand remains
in England I shall continue to see him; and that as I do not choose he
should come to my father's house, I shall see him as I saw him this
morning."

"My love, my love, what a frightful duty! Is it necessary?"

"It is necessary that my father should know, certainly."

"But what responsibility!"

"You have no responsibility whatever. Anneli will go with me. All that I
ask of you, dear Madame Potecki, is to take the message to my father.
You will; will you not?"

"More than that I will do for you," said the little woman, boldly. "I
see there is unhappiness; you are suffering, my child. Well, I will
plunge into it; I will see your father: this cannot be allowed. It is a
dangerous thing to interfere--who knows better than I? But to sit near
you is to be inspired; to touch your hand is to gain the courage of a
giant. Yes, I will speak to your father; all shall be put right."

The girl scarcely heard her.

"There is another thing I would ask of you," she said, slowly and
wistfully, "but not here. May I come to you when the lesson is over?"

"At two: yes."

So it was that Natalie called on her friend shortly after two o'clock
and was shown into the little parlor. She was rather pale. She sat down
at one side of the table.

"I wished to ask your advice, dear Madame Potecki," she said, in a low
voice, and with her eyes down. "Now you must suppose a case. You must
suppose that--that two people love each other--better--better than
anything else in the world, and that they are ready to sacrifice a
great deal for each other. Well, the man is ordered away! it is a
banishment from his own country, perhaps forever; and he is very brave
about it, and will not complain. Now you must suppose that the girl is
very miserable about his going away, and blames herself; and
perhaps--perhaps wishes--to do something to show she understands his
nobleness--his devotion; and she would do anything in the world, Madame
Potecki--to prove her love to him--"

"But, child, child, why do you tremble so?"

"I wish you to tell me, Madame Potecki--I wish you to tell
me--whether--you would consider it unwomanly--unmaidenly--for her to go
and say to him, 'You are too brave and unselfish to ask me to go with
you. Now I offer myself to you. If you must go, why not I--your wife?"

Madame Potecki started up in great alarm.

"Natalie, what do you mean?"

"I only--wished to--to ask--what you would think."

She was very pale, and her lips were tremulous; but she did not break
down. Madame Potecki was apparently far more agitated than she was.

"My child, my child, I am afraid you are on the brink of some wild
thing!"

"Is that that I have repeated to you what a girl ought to do?" Natalie
said, almost calmly. "Do you think it is what my mother would have done,
Madame Potecki? They have told me she was a brave woman."



CHAPTER XXXI.

IN A GARDEN AT POSILIPO.


    "--Prends mon coeur, me dit-elle,
     Oui, mais a la chapelle,
       Sois mon petit....
        --Plait-il
         Ton petit?
     --Sois mon petit mari!"

--It was Calabressa who was gayly humming to himself; and it was well
that he could amuse himself with his _chansons_ and his cigarettes, for
his friend Edwards was proving anything but an attentive companion. The
tall, near-sighted, blond-faced man from the British Museum was far too
much engrossed by the scene around him. They were walking along the
quays at Naples; and it so happened that at this moment all the
picturesque squalor and lazy life of the place were lit up by the glare
reflected from a wild and stormy sunset. The tall, pink-fronted houses;
the mules and oxen with their brazen yokes and tinkling bells; the
fruit-sellers, and fish-sellers, and water-carriers, in costumes of many
hues; the mendicant friars with their cloak and hood of russet-brown;
the priests black and clean-shaven; the groups of women, swarthy of
face, with head-dresses of red or yellow, clustered round the stalls;
the children, in rags of brown, and scarlet, and olive-green, lying
about the pavement as if artists had posed them there--all these formed
a picture which was almost bewildering in its richness of color, and was
no doubt rendered all the more brilliant because of the powerful
contrast with the dark and driven sea. For the waters out there were
racing in before a stiff breeze, and springing high on the fortresses
and rocks; and the clouds overhead were seething and twisting, with many
a sudden flash of orange; and then, far away beyond all this color and
motion and change, rose the vast and gloomy bulk of Vesuvius,
overshadowed and thunderous, as if the mountain were charged with a
coming storm.

Calabressa grew impatient, despite his careless song.

    "--Me seras tu fidele....
     --Comme une tourterelle.
       --Eh bieu, ca va....
       Ca va!
       --Ca me va!
     --Comme ca, ca me va!

--_Diable_, Monsieur Edouarts! You are very silent. You do not know
where we are going, perhaps?"

Edwards started, as if he were waking from a reverie.

"Oh yes, Signor Calabressa," said he, "I am not likely to forget that.
Perhaps I think more seriously about it than you. To you it is nothing.
But I cannot forget, you see, that you and I are practically conniving
at a murder."

"Hush, hush, my dear friend!" said Calabressa, glancing round. "Be
discreet! And what a foolish phrase, too! You--you whose business is
merely to translate; to preach; to educate a poor devil of a
Russian--what have you to do with it? And to speak of murder! Bah! You
do not understand the difference, then, between killing a man as an act
of private anger and revenge, and executing a man for crimes against
society? My good friend Edouarts, you have lived all your life among
books, but you have not learned any logic--no!"

Edwards was not inclined to go into any abstract argument

"I will do what I have been appointed to do," he said, curtly; "but that
cannot prevent my wishing that it had not to be done at all."

"And who knows?" said Calabressa, lightly. "Perhaps, if you are so
fearful about your small share, your very little share--it is no more
than that of the garcon who helps one on with his coat: is he accessary,
too, if a rogue has to be punished?--is he responsible for the sentence,
also, if he brushes the boots of the judge?--or the servant of the court
who sweeps out the room, is he guilty if there is a miscarriage of
justice? No, no; my dear friend Edouarts, do not alarm yourself. Then, I
was saying, perhaps it may not be necessary, after all. You perceived,
my friend, that when the proposal of his eminence the Cardinal was
mentioned, the Secretary Granaglia smiled, and I, thoughtless, laughed.
You perceived it, did you not?"

By this time they were in the Chiaja, beyond the Villa Reale; and there
were fewer people about. Calabressa stopped and confronted his
companion. For the purposes of greater emphasis, he rested his right
elbow in the palm of his left hand, while his forefinger was at the
point of his nose.

"What?" said he, in this striking attitude, "what if we were both
fools--ha? The Secretary Granaglia and myself--what if we were both
fools?"

Calabressa abandoned his pose, linked his arm within that of his
companion, and walked on with him.

"Come, I will implant something in your mind. I will throw out a fancy;
it may take root and flourish; if not, who is the worse? Now, if the
Council were really to entertain that proposal of Zaccatelli?"

He regarded his friend Edouarts.

"You observed, I say, that Granaglia smiled: to him it was ludicrous. I
laughed: to me it was farcical--the chatter of a _bavard_. The Pope
become the patron of a secret society! The priests become our friends
and allies! Very well, my friend; but listen. The little minds see what
is absurd; the great minds are serious. Granaglia is a little devil of
courage; but he is narrow; he is practical; he has no imagination. I:
what am I?--careless, useless, also a _bavard_, if you will. But it
occurred to me, after all, when I began to think--what a great man, a
great mind, might say to this proposal. Take a man like Lind: see what
he could make of it! 'Do not laugh at it any more, Calabressa,' said I
to myself, 'until you hear the opinion of wiser men than yourself.'"

He gripped Edwards's arm tight.

"Listen. To become the allies of the priests it is not necessary to
believe everything the priests say. On the other hand, they need not
approve all that we are doing, if only they withdraw their opposition.
Do you perceive the possibility now? Do you think of the force of that
combination? The multitudes of the Catholics encouraged to join!--the
Vatican the friend and ally of the Council of the Seven Stars!"

He spoke the last words in a low voice, but he were a proud look.

"And if this proposal were entertained," said Edwards, meditatively, "of
course, they would abandon this other business."

"My good friend," said Calabressa, confidentially, "I know that Lind,
who sees things with a large vision, is against it. He consents--as you
consent to do your little outside part--against his own opinion. More;
if he had been on the Council the decree would never have been granted,
though De Bedros and a dozen of his daughters had demanded it.
'Calabressa,' he said to me, 'it will do great mischief in England if it
is known that we are connected with it.' Well, you see, all this would
be avoided if they closed with the Cardinal's offer."

"You are sanguine, Signor Calabressa," said the other.

"Besides, the thirty thousand lire!"' said Calabressa, eagerly. "Do you
know what that is? Ah, you English have always too much money!"

"No doubt," said Edwards, with a smile. "We are all up to the neck in
gold."

"Thirty thousand lire a year, and the favor of the Vatican; what fools
Granaglia and I were to laugh! But perhaps we will find that the Council
were wiser."

They had now got out to Posilipo, and the stormy sunset had waned,
leaving the sky overclouded and dusk. Calabressa, having first looked up
and down the road, stopped by the side of a high wall, over which
projected a number of the broken, gray-green, spiny leaves of the
cactus--a hedge at the foot of the terrace above.

"_Peste!_" said he. "How the devil is one to find it out in the dark?"

"Find what out?"

"My good friend," said he, in a whisper, "you are not able by chance to
see a bit of thread--a bit of red thread--tied round one of those big
leaves?"

Edwards glanced up.

"Not I."

"Ah, well, we must run the risk. Perhaps by accident there may be a
meeting."

They walked on for some time, Calabressa becoming more and more
watchful. They paused to let a man driving a wagon and a pair of oxen go
by; and then Calabressa, enjoining his companion to remain where he was,
went on alone.

The changing sky had opened somewhat overhead, and there was a wan
twilight shining through the parted clouds. Edwards, looking after
Calabressa, could have fancied that the dark figure had disappeared like
a ghost; but the old albino had merely crossed the road, opened the one
half of a huge gate, and entered a garden.

It was precisely like the gardens of the other villas along the
highway--cut in terraces along the steep side of the hill, with winding
pathways, and marble lions here and there, and little groves of orange
and olive and fig trees; while on one side the sheer descent was guarded
by an enormous cactus hedge. The ground was very unequal: on one small
plateau a fountain was playing--the trickling of the water the only
sound audible in the silence.

Calabressa took out his pocket-book, and tore a leaf from it.

"The devil!" he muttered to himself. "How is one to write in the dark?"

But he managed to scrawl the word "Barsanti;" then he wrapped the paper
round a small pebble and approached the fountain. By putting one foot on
the edge of the stone basin beneath he could reach over to the curved
top, and there he managed to drop the missive into some aperture
concealed under the lip. He stepped back, dried his hand with his
handkerchief, and then went down one of the pathways to a lower level of
the garden.

Here he easily found the entrance to an ordinary sort of grotto--a
narrow cave winding inward and ending in a piece of fancy rockwork down
which the water was heard to trickle. But he did not go to the end--he
stopped about half-way and listened. There was no sound whatever in the
dark, except the plash of the tiny water-fall.

Then there was a heavy grating noise, and in the black wall before him
appeared a vertical line of orange light. This sudden gleam was so
bewildering to the eyes that Calabressa could not see who it was that
come out to him; he only knew that the stranger waited for him to pass
on into the outer air.

"It is cooler here. To your business, friend Calabressa."

The moment Calabressa recognized this tall, military-looking man, with
the closely cropped bullet-head and long silver-white mustache, he
whipped off his cap, and said, anxiously,

"A thousand pardons, Excellency! a thousand pardons! Do I interrupt? May
not I see Fossati?"

"It is unnecessary. There is much business to-night. One must breathe
the air sometimes."

Calabressa for once had completely lost his _sang-froid_. He could not
speak for stammering.

"I assure you, your Excellency, it is death to me to think that I
interrupt you."

"But why did you come, then, my friend? To the point."

"Zaccatelli," the other managed to get out.

"Well?"

"There was a proposal. Some days ago I saw Granaglia."

"Well?"

"Pardon me, Excellency. If I had known, not for worlds would I have
called you--"

"Come, come my Calabressa," said the other, good-naturedly. "No more
apologies. What is it you have to say?--the proposal made by the
Cardinal? Yes; we know about that."

"And it has not been accepted?--the decree remains?"

"You waste your breath, my friend. The decree remains, certainly. We are
not children; we do not play. What more, my Calabressa?"

But Calabressa had to collect his thoughts. Then he said, slowly,

"It occurred to me when I was in England--there was a poor devil there
who would have thrown away his life in a useless act of revenge--well--"

"Well, you brought him over here," said the other, interrupting him.
"Your object? Ah, Lind and you being old comrades; and Lind appearing to
you to be in a difficulty. But did Lind approve?"

"Not quite," said Calabressa, still hesitating. "He allowed us to try.
He was doubtful himself."

"I should have thought so," said the other, ironically. "No, good
Calabressa; we cannot accept the services of a maniac. The night has got
dark; I cannot see whether you are surprised. How do we know? The man
Kirski has been twice examined--once in Venice, once this morning, when
you went down to the _Luisa_; the reports the same. What! To have a
maniac blundering about the gates, attracting every one's notice by his
gibberish; then he is arrested with a pistol or a knife in his hand; he
talks nonsense about some Madonna; he is frightened into a confession,
and we become the laughing-stock of Europe! Impossible, impossible, my
Calabressa: where were your wits? No wonder Lind was doubtful--"

"The man is capable of being taught," said Calabressa, humbly.

"We need not waste more breath, my friend. To-night Lind will be
reminded why it was necessary that the execution of this decree was
intrusted to the English section: he must not send any Russian madman to
compromise us."

"Then I must take him back, your Excellency!"

"No; send him back--with the English scholar. You will remain in Naples,
Calabressa. There is something stirring that will interest you."

"I am at your service, Excellency."

"Good-night, dear friend."

The figure beside him had disappeared almost before he had time to
return the salutation, and he was left to find his way down to the gate,
taking care not to run unawares on one of the long cactus spines. He
discovered Edwards precisely where he had left him.

"Ah, Monsieur Edouarts, now you may clap your hands--now you may shout
an English 'hurrah!' For you, at all events, there is good news."

"That project has been abandoned, then?" said Edwards, eagerly.

"No, no, no!" said Calabressa, loftily; as if he had never entertained
such a possibility. "Do you think the Council is to be played with--is
to be bribed by so many and so many lire? No, no. Its decree is
inviolable."

"Well, then?"

"Well, then, some stupidities of our Russian friend have saved you: they
know everything, these wonderful people: they say, 'No; we will not
trust the affair to a madman.' Do you perceive? What you have to do now
is to take Kirski back to England."

"And I am not wanted any longer?" said the other, with the same
eagerness.

"I presume not. I am. I remain in Naples. For you, you are free. Away
to England! I give you my blessing; and to-night--to-night you will give
me a bottle of wine."

But presently he added, as they still walked on,

"Friend Edouarts, do you think I should be humiliated because my little
plan has been refused? No: it was born of idleness. My freedom was new
to me; over in England I had nothing to do. And when Lind objected, I
talked him over. _Peste_, if those fellows of Society had not got at the
Russian, all might have been well."

"You will forgive my pointing out," said Edwards, in quite a facetious
way, "that all would not have been so well with me, for one. I am very
glad to be able to wash my hands of it. You shall have not only one but
two bottles of wine with supper, if you please."

"Well, friend Edouarts. I bring you the good news, but I am not the
author of it. No; I must confess, I would rather have had my plan
carried out. But what matter? One does one's best from time to time--the
hours go by--at the end comes sleep, and no one can torment you more."

They walked on for a time in silence. And now before them lay the
wonderful sight of Naples ablaze with a dusky yellow radiance in the
dark; and far away beyond the most distant golden points, high up in the
black deeps of the sky, the constant, motionless, crimson glow of
Vesuvius told them where the peaks of the mountain, themselves unseen
towered above the sea.

By-and-by they plunged into the great murmuring city.

"You are going back to England, Monsieur Edouarts. You will take Kirski
to Mr. Brand, he will be reinstated in his work; Englishmen do not
forget their promises. Then I have another little commission for you."

He went into one of the small jeweller's shops, and, after a great deal
of haggling--for his purse was not heavy, and he knew the ways of his
countrymen--he bought a necklace of pink coral. It was carefully wrapped
in wool and put into a box. Then they went outside again.

"You will give this little present, my good friend Edouarts--you will
take it, with my compliments, to my beautiful, noble child Natalie; and
you will tell her that it did not cost much, but it is only a
message--to show her that Calabressa still thinks of her, and loves, her
always."



CHAPTER XXXII.

FRIEND AND SWEETHEART.


Madame Potecki was a useful enough adviser in the small and ordinary
affairs of every-day life, but face to face with a great emergency she
became terrified and helpless.

"My dear, my dear," she kept repeating, in a flurried sort of way, "you
must not do anything rash--you must not do anything wild. Oh, my dear,
take care! it is so wicked for children to disobey their parents!"

"I am no longer a child, Madame Potecki; I am a woman: I know what seems
to me just and unjust; and I only wish to do right." She was now quite
calm. She had mastered that involuntary tremulousness of the lips. It
was the little Polish lady who was agitated.

"My dear Natalie, I will go to your father. I said I would go--even with
your message--though it is a frightful task. But how can I tell him that
you have this other project in your mind? Oh, my dear, be cautious!
don't do anything you will have to repent of in after-years!"

"You need not tell him, dear Madame Potecki, if you are alarmed," said
the girl. "I will tell him myself, when I have come to a decision. So
you cannot say what one ought to do in such circumstances? You cannot
tell me what my mother, for example, would have done in such a case?"

"Oh, I can; I can, my dear," said the other, eagerly. "At least I can
tell you what is best and safest. Is it not for a girl to go by her
father's advice--her father's wishes? Then she is safe. Anything else is
wild, dangerous. My dear, you are far too impulsive. You do not think of
consequences. It is all the affair of the moment with you, and how you
can do some one you love a kindness at the instant. Your heart is warm,
and you are quick to act. All the more reason, I say, that you should go
by some one else's judgment; and who can guide you better than your own
father?"

"I know already what my father wishes," said Natalie.

"Then why not go by that, my dear? Be sure it is the safest. Do you
think I would take it on me to say otherwise? Ah, my clear child,
romance is very beautiful at your age; but one may sacrifice too much
for it."

"It is not a question of romance at all," said Natalie, looking down.
"It is a question of what it is right that a girl should do, in
faithfulness to one whom she loves. But perhaps it is better not to
argue it, for one sees so differently at different ages. And I am very
grateful to you, dear Madame Potecki, for agreeing to take that message
to my father; but I will tell him myself."

She rose. The little woman came instantly and caught her by both hands.

"Is my child going to quarrel with me because I am old and
unsympathetic?"

"Oh no; do not think that!" said Natalie, quickly.

"What you say is quite true, my dear; different ages see differently.
When I was at your age, perhaps I was as liable as anyone to let my
heart get the better of my head. And do I regret it?" The little woman
sighed. "Many a time they warned me against marrying one who did not
stand well with the authorities. But I--I had my opinions, too; I was a
patriot, like the rest. We were all mad with enthusiasm. Ah, the secret
meetings in Warsaw!--the pride of them!--we girls would not marry one
who was not a patriot. But that is all over now; and here am I an old
woman, with nothing left but my old masters, and my china, and my 'One,
two, three, four; one, two, three, four.'"

Here a knock outside warned Natalie that she must leave, another pupil,
no doubt, having arrived; and so she bade good-bye to her friend, not
much enlightened or comforted by her counsel.

That evening Mr. Lind brought Beratinsky home with him to dinner--an
unusual circumstance, for at one time Beratinsky had wished to become a
suitor for Natalie's hand, and had had that project very promptly
knocked on the head by Lind himself. Thereafter he had come but seldom
to the house, and never without a distinct invitation. On this evening
the two men talked almost exclusively between themselves, and Natalie
was not sorry to be allowed to remain an inattentive listener. She was
thinking of other things.

When Beratinsky had gone, Lind turned to his daughter, and said to her
pleasantly,

"Well, Natalie, what have you been about to-day?"

"First of all," said she, regarding him with those fearless eyes of
hers, "I went to South Kensington Museum with Madame Potecki. Mr. Brand
was there."

His manner changed instantly.

"By appointment?" he said, sharply.

"No," she answered. "I thought he would call here, and I told Anneli
where we had gone."

Lind betrayed no expression of annoyance. He only said, coldly,

"Last night I told you it was my wish that he and you should have no
further communication with each other."

"Yes; but is it reasonable, is it fair, is it possible, papa?" she said,
forgetting for a moment her forced composure. "Do you think I can forget
why he is going away?"

"Apparently you do not know why he is going away," her father said. "He
is going to America because his duty commands that he should; because he
has work to do there of more importance than sentimental entanglements
in this country. He understands himself the necessity of his going."

The girl's cheeks burnt red, and she sat silent. How could she accuse
her own father of prevarication? But the crisis was a momentous one.

"You forget, papa," she said at length, in a low voice, "that when you
returned from abroad and got Mr. Brand's letter, you came to me. You
said that if there was any further question of a--a marriage--between
Mr. Brand and myself, you would have to send him to America. I was to be
the cause of his banishment."

"I spoke hastily--in anger," her father said, with some impatience.
"Quite apart from any such question, Mr. Brand knows that it is of great
importance some one like himself should go to Philadelphia; and at the
moment I don't see any one who could do as well. Have you anything
further to say?"

"No, papa--except good night." She kissed him on the forehead and went
away to her own room.

That was a night of wild unrest for Natalie Lind. It was her father
himself who had represented to her all that banishment from his native
country meant to an Englishman; and in her heart of hearts she believed
that it was through her this doom had befallen George Brand. She knew he
would not complain. He professed to her that it was only in the
discharge of an ordinary duty he was leaving England: others had
suffered more for less reason; it was nothing; why should she blame
herself? But all the same, through this long, restless, agonizing night
she accused herself of having driven him from his country and his
friends, of having made an exile of him. And again and again she put
before herself the case she had submitted to Madame Potecki; and again
and again she asked herself what her own mother would have done, with
her lover going away to a strange land.

In the morning, long before it was light, and while as yet she had not
slept for a second, she rose, threw a dressing-gown round her, lit the
gas, and went to the little escritoire that stood by the window. Her
hand was trembling when she sat down to write, but it was not with the
cold. There was a proud look on her face. This was what she wrote:

"My lover and husband,--You are going away from your own country,
perhaps forever; and I think it is partly through me that all this has
happened. What can I do? Only this; that I offer to go with you, if you
will take me. I am your wife; why should you go alone?"'

There was no signature. She folded the paper, and placed it in an
envelope, and carefully locked it up. Then she put out the light and
went back to bed again, and fell into a sound, happy, contented
sleep--the untroubled sleep of a child.

Then in the morning how bright and light-hearted she was!

Anneli could not understand this change that had suddenly come over her
young mistress. She said little, but there was a happy light on her
face; she sung "Du Schwert an meiner Linken" in snatches, as she was
dressing her hair; and she presented Anneli with a necklace of Turkish
silver coins.

She was down at South Kensington Museum considerably before eleven
o'clock. She idly walked Anneli through the various rooms, pointing out
to her this and that; and as the little Dresden maid had not been in the
Museum before, her eyes were wide open at the sight of such beautiful
things. She was shown masses of rich tapestry and cases of Japanese
lacquer-work; she was shown collections of ancient jewellery and glass;
she went by sunny English landscapes, and was told the story of solemn
cartoons. In the midst of it all George Brand appeared; and the little
German girl, of her own accord, and quite as deftly as Madame Potecki,
devoted herself to the study of some screens of water-colors, just as if
she were one of the Royal Academy pupils.

"We have been looking over Madame Potecki's treasures once more," said
Natalie. He was struck by the happy brightness of her face.

"Ah, indeed!" said he; and he went and brought a couple of chairs, that
together they might regard, if they were so minded, one of those vast
cartoons. "Well, I have good news, Natalie. I do not start until a clear
week hence. So we shall have six mornings here--six mornings all to
ourselves. Do you know what that means to me?"

She took the chair he offered her. She did not look appalled by this
intelligence of his early departure.

"It means six more days of happiness: and do you not think I shall look
back on them with gratitude? And there is not to be a word said about my
going. No; it is understood that we cut off the past and the future for
these six days. We are here; we can speak to each other; that is
enough."'

"But how can one help thinking of the future?" said she, with a mock
mournfulness. "You are going away alone."

"No, not quite alone."

She looked up quickly.

"Why, you know what Evelyn is--the best-hearted of friends," he said to
her. "He insists on going over to America with me, and even talks of
remaining a year or two. He pretends to be anxious to study American
politics."

He could not understand why she laughed--though it was a short, quick,
hysterical laugh, very near to tears.

"You remind me of one of Mr. Browning's poems," she said, half in
apology. "It is about a man who has a friend and a sweetheart. You don't
remember it, perhaps?"

He thought for a moment.

"The fact is," he said, "that when I think of Browning's poems, all
along the line of them, there are some of them seem to burn like fire,
and I cannot see the others."

"This is a very modest little one," said she. "It is a poor poet
starving in a garret; and he tells you he has a friend beyond the sea;
and he knows that if he were to fall ill, and to wake up out of his
sickness, he would find his friend there, tending him like the gentlest
of nurses, even though he got nothing but grumblings about his noisy
boots. And the--the poor fellow--"

She paused for a second.

"He goes on to tell about his sweetheart--who has ruined him--to whom he
has sacrificed his life and his peace and fame--and what would she do?
He says,

                       "'She
    --I'll tell you--calmly would decree
    That I should roast at a slow fire,
    If that would compass her desire
    And make her one whom they invite
    To the famous ball to-morrow night.'

That is--the difference--between a friend and a sweetheart--"

He did not notice that she spoke rather uncertainly, and that her eyes
were wet.

"What do you mean, Natalie?"

"That it is a good thing for you that you have a friend. There is one,
at all events--who will--who will not let you go away alone."

"My darling!" he said, "what new notion is this you have got into your
head? You do not blame yourself for that too? Why, you see, it is a very
simple thing for Lord Evelyn, who is an idle man, and has no particular
ties binding him, to spend a few months in the States; and when he once
finds out that the voyage across is one of the pleasantest holidays a
man can take, I have no doubt I shall see him often enough. Now, don't
let us talk any more about that--except this one point. Have you
promised your father that you will not write to me?"

"Oh no; how could I?"

"And may I write to you?"

"I shall live from week to week expecting your letters," she said
simply.

"Then we shall not say another word about it," said he, lightly. "We
have six days to be together: no one can rob us of them. Come, shall we
go and have a look at the English porcelain that is on this floor? We
have whole heaps of old Chelsea and Crown Derby and that kind of thing
at the Beeches: I think I must try and run down there before I go, and
send you some. What use is it to me?"

"Oh no, I hope you won't do that," she said quickly, as she rose.

"You don't care about it, perhaps?"

She seemed embarrassed for a moment.

"For old china?" she said, after a moment. "Oh yes, I do. But--but--I
think you may find something happen that would make it unnecessary--I
mean it is very kind of you--but I hope you will not think of sending me
any."

"What do you mean? What is about to happen?"

"It is all a mystery and a secret as yet," she said, with a smile. She
seemed so much more light-hearted than she had been the day before.

Then, as they walked by those cases, and admired this or that, she would
recur to this forth-coming departure of his, despite of him. And she was
not at all sad about it. She was curious; that was all. Was there any
difficulty in getting a cabin at short notice? It was from Liverpool
the big steamers sailed, was it not? And it was a very different thing,
she understood, travelling in one of those huge vessels, and crossing
the Channel in a little cockle-shell. He would no doubt make many
friends on board. Did single ladies ever make the voyage? Could a single
lady and her maid get a cabin to themselves? It would not be so very
tedious, if one could get plenty of books. And so forth, and so forth.
She did not study the Chelsea shepherdesses very closely.

"I'll tell you what I wish you would do, Natalie," said he.

"I will do it," she answered.

"When Lord Evelyn comes back--some day I wish you would take Anneli with
you for a holiday--and Evelyn would take you down to have a look over
the Beeches. You could be back the same night. I should like you to see
my mother's portrait."

She did not answer.

"Will you do that?"

"You will know before long," she said, in a low voice, "why I need not
promise that to you. But that, or anything else I am willing to do, if
you wish it."

The precious moments sped quickly. And as they walked through the almost
empty rooms--how silent these were, with the occasional foot-falls on
the tiled floors, and once or twice the distant sounding of a bell
outside!--again and again he protested against her saying another word
about his going away. What did it matter? Once the pain of parting was
over, what then? He had a glad work before him. She must not for a
moment think she had anything to do with it. And he could not regret
that he had ever met her, when he would have these six mornings of happy
intercommunion to think over, when the wide seas separated them?

"Natalie," said he, reproachfully, "do you forget the night you and I
heard _Fidelio_ together? And you think I shall regret ever having seen
you."

She smiled to herself. Her hand clasped a certain envelope that he could
not see.

Then the time came for their seeking out Anneli. But as they were going
through the twilight of a corridor she stopped him, and her usually
frank eyes were downcast. She took out that envelope.

"Dearest," she said, almost inaudibly, "this is something I wish you to
read after Anneli and I am gone. I think you will--you will not
misunderstand me. If you think--it is--it is too bold, you will remember
that I have--no mother to advise me; and--and you will be kind, and not
answer. Then I shall know."

Ten minutes thereafter he was standing alone, in the broad daylight
outside, reading the lines she had written early that morning, and in
every one of them he read the firm and noble character of the woman he
loved. He was almost bewildered by the proud-spirited frankness of her
message to him; and involuntarily he thought of the poor devil of a poet
in the garret who spoke of his faithful friend and his worthless
mistress.

"One is fortunate indeed to have a friend like Evelyn," he said to
himself. "But when and has, besides that, the love of a woman like
this--then the earth holds something worth living for."

He looked at the brief, proud, pathetic message again--"_I am your wife:
why should you go alone?_" It was Natalie herself speaking in every
word.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

INTERVENTION.


The more that Madame Potecki thought over the communication made to her
by Natalie, the more alarmed she became. Her pupils received but a very
mechanical sort of guidance that afternoon. All through the "One, two,
three, four; one, two, three, four" she was haunted by an uneasy
consciousness that her protest had not been nearly strong enough. The
girl had not seemed in the least impressed by her counsel. And suppose
this wild project were indeed carried out, might not she, that is,
Madame Potecki, be regarded as an accomplice if she remained silent and
did not intervene?

On the other hand, although she and Ferdinand Lind were friends of many
years standing, she had never quite got over a certain fear of him. She
guessed pretty well what underlay that pleasant, plausible exterior of
his. And she was not at all sure that, if she went to Mr. Lind and told
him that in such and such circumstances his daughter meant to go to
America as the wife of George Brand, the first outburst of his anger
might not fall on herself. She was an intermeddler. What concern of hers
was it? He might even accuse her of having connived at the whole affair,
especially during his absence in Philadelphia.

But after all, the little Polish lady was exceedingly fond of this
girl; and she resolved to go at all hazards and see whether something
could not be done to put matters straight. She would call at the
chambers in Lisle Street, and make sure of seeing Mr. Lind alone. She
would venture to remind him that his daughter was grown up--a woman, not
to be treated as a child. As she had been altogether on the father's
side in arguing with Natalie, so she would be altogether on the
daughter's side in making these representations to Mr. Lind. Perhaps
some happy compromise would result.

She was, however, exceedingly nervous when, on the following afternoon,
she called at Lisle Street, and was preceded up-stairs by the stout old
German. In the room into which she was shown Reitzei was seated. Reitzei
received her very graciously; they were old friends. But although Madame
Potecki on ordinary occasions was fond of listening to the sound of her
own voice, she seemed now quite incapable of saying anything. Reitzei
had been fortunate enough to hear the new barytone sing at a private
house on the previous evening; she did not even ask what impression had
been produced.

Then Mr. Lind came into the room, and Reitzei left.

"How do you do, Madame Potecki?" said he, somewhat curtly.

She took it that he was offended because she had come on merely private
affairs to his place of business; and this did not tend to lessen her
embarrassment. However, she made a brave plunge.

"You are surprised," she said, "to find me calling upon you here, are
you not? Yes; but I will explain. You see, my dear friend, I wished to
see you alone--"

"Yes, yes, Madame Potecki; I understand. What is your news?"

"It is--about Natalie," she managed to say, and then all the methods of
beginning that she had studied went clean out of her mind; and she was
reduced to an absolute silence.

He did not seem in the least impatient.

"Yes; about Natalie?" he repeated, taking up a paper-knife, and
beginning to write imaginary letters on the leather of the desk before
him.

"You will say to me, 'Why do you interfere?'" the little woman managed
to say at last. "Meddlers do harm; they are not thanked. But then, my
dear friend, Natalie is like my own child to me; for her what would I
not do?"

Mr. Lind could not fail to see that his visitor was very nervous and
agitated: perhaps it was to give her time to compose herself that he
said, leisurely,

"Yes, Madame Potecki; I know that you and she are great friends; and it
is a good thing that the child should have some one to keep her company;
perhaps she is a little too much alone. Well, what do you wish to say
about her? You run no risk with me. You will not be misunderstood. I
know you are not likely to say anything unkind about Natalie."

"Unkind!" she exclaimed; and now she had recovered herself somewhat.
"Who could do that? Oh no, my dear friend; oh no!"

Here was another awkward pause.

"My dear Madame Potecki," said Mr. Lind, with a smile, "shall I speak
for you? You do not like to say what you have come to say. Shall I speak
for you? This is it, is it not? You have become aware of that
entanglement that Natalie has got into. Very well. Perhaps she has told
you. Perhaps she has told you also that I have forbidden her to have any
communication with--well, let us speak frankly--Mr. Brand. Very well.
You go with her to the South Kensington Museum; you meet Mr. Brand
there. Naturally you think if that comes to my ears I shall suspect you
of having planned the meeting; and you would rather come and assure me
that you had nothing to do with it. Is it so?"

"My dear friend," said Madame Potecki, quickly, "I did not come to you
about myself at all! What am I? What matters what happens to an old
woman like me? It is not about myself, it is about Natalie that I have
come to you. Ah, the dear, beautiful child!--how can one see her
unhappy, and not try to do something? Why should she be unhappy? She is
young, beautiful, loving; my dear friend, do you wonder that she has a
sweetheart?--and one who is so worthy of her, too: one who is not
selfish, who has courage, who will be kind to her. Then I said to
myself, 'Ah, what a pity to have father and daughter opposed to each
other!' Why might not one step in and say, 'Come, and be friends. You
love each other: do not have this coldness that makes a young heart so
miserable!'"

She had talked quickly and eagerly at last; she was trembling with
excitement, she had her eyes fixed on his face to catch the first
symptom of acquiescence.

But, on the contrary, Mr. Lind remained quite impassive, and he said,
coldly,

"This is a different matter altogether, Madame Potecki. I do not blame
you for interfering; but I must tell you at once that your interference
is not likely to be of much use. You see, there are reasons which I
cannot explain to you, but which are very serious, why any proposal of
marriage between Mr. Brand and Natalie is not to be entertained for a
moment. The thing is quite impossible. Very well. She knows this; she
knows that I wish all communication between them to cease; nevertheless,
she says she will see him every day until he goes. How can you wonder
that she is unhappy? Is it not her own doing?"

"If she was in reality my child, that is not the way I would speak,"
said the little woman, boldly.

"Unfortunately, my dear Madame Potecki," said Mr. Lind, blandly, "I
cannot, as I say, explain to you the reasons which make such a marriage
impossible, or you yourself would say it was impossible. Very well,
then. If you wish to do a service to your friend Natalie--if you wish to
see her less unhappy, you know what advice to give her. A girl who
perseveres in wilful disobedience is not likely to be very contented in
her mind."

Madame Potecki sat silent and perplexed. This man seemed so firm, so
reasonable, so assured, it was apparently hopeless to expect any
concession from him. And yet what was the use of her going away merely
to repeat the advice she had already given?

"And in any case," he continued, lightly, "it is not an affair for you
to be deeply troubled about, my dear Madame Potecki; on the contrary, it
is a circumstance of little moment. If Natalie chooses to indulge this
sentiment--well, the fate of empires does not hang on it, and in a
little while it will be all right. Youth soon recovers from small
disappointments; the girl is not morbid or melancholy. Moreover, she has
plenty to occupy her mind with: do not fear that she will be permanently
unhappy."

All this gave Natalie's friend but scant consolation. She knew something
of the girl, she knew it was not a light matter that had made her
resolve to share banishment with her lover rather than that he should
depart alone.

"Yes, she is acting contrary to my wishes," continued Mr. Lind, who saw
that his visitor was anxious and chagrined. "But why should you vex
yourself with that, my dear madame?--why, indeed? It is only for a few
days. When Mr. Brand leaves for America, then she will settle down to
her old ways. This episode of sentiment will soon be forgotten. Do not
fear for your friend Natalie; she has a healthy constitution; she is
not likely to sigh away her life."

"But you do not understand, Mr. Lind!" Madame Potecki exclaimed
suddenly. "You do not understand. When he leaves for America, there is
to be an end? No! You are not aware, then, that if he goes to America,
Natalie will go also?"

She had spoken quickly, breathlessly, not taking much notice of her
words, but she was appalled by the effect they produced. Lind started,
as if he had been struck; and for a second, as he regarded her, the eyes
set under the heavy brows burnt like coals, and she noticed a curious
paleness in his face, especially in the lips. But this lasted only for
an instant. When he spoke, he was quite calm, and was apparently
considering each word.

"Are you authorized to bring me this message?" he said, slowly.

"Oh no; oh no!" the little woman exclaimed. "I assure you, my dear
friend, I came to you because I thought something was about to
happen--something that might be prevented. Ah, you don't know how I love
that darling child; and to see her unhappy, and resolved, perhaps, to
make some great mistake in her life, how could I help interfering?"

"So," continued Lind, apparently weighing every word, "this is what she
is bent on! If Brand goes to America, she will go with him?"

"I--I--am afraid so," stammered Madame Potecki. "That is what I gathered
from her--though it was only an imaginary case she spoke of. But she was
pale, and trembling, and how could I stand by and not do something?"

He did not answer; his lips were firm set. Unconsciously he was pressing
the point of the paper-knife into the leather; it snapped in two. He
threw the pieces aside, and said, with a sudden lightness of manner,

"Ah, well, my dear madame, you know young people are sometimes very
headstrong, and difficult to manage. We must see what can be done in
this case. You have not told Natalie you were coming to me?"

"No. She asked me at first; then she said she would tell you herself."

He regarded her for a second.

"There is no reason why you should say you have been here?"

"Perhaps not, perhaps not," Madame Potecki said, doubtfully. "No; there
is no necessity. But if one were sure that the dear child were to be
made any happier--"

She did not complete the sentence.

"I think you may leave the whole affair in my hands, my dear Madame
Potecki," said Lind, in his usual courteous fashion. He spoke, indeed,
as if it were a matter of the most trifling importance. "I think I can
promise you that Natalie shall not be allowed to imperil the happiness
of her life by taking any rash steps. In the mean time, I am your debtor
that you have come and told me. It was considerate of you, Madame
Potecki; I am obliged to you."

The little woman was practically dismissed. She rose, still doubtful,
and hesitated. But what more could she say?

"I am not to tell her, then?" she said.

"If you please, not."

When he had graciously bowed her out, he returned to his seat at the
desk; and then the forced courtesy of his manner was abandoned. His
brows gathered down; his lips were again firm set; he bent one of the
pieces of the paper-knife until that snapped too; and when some one
knocked at the door, he answered sharply in German.

It was Gathorne Edwards who entered.

"Well, you have got back?" he said, with but scant civility. "Where is
Calabressa?"

The tall, pale, stooping man looked round with some caution.

"There is no one--no one but Reitzei," said Lind, impatiently.

"Calabressa is detained in Naples--the General's orders," said the
other, in rather a low voice. "I did not write--I thought it was not
safe to put anything on paper; more especially as we discovered that
Kirski was being watched."

"No wonder," said Lind, scornfully. "A fool of a madman being taken
about by a fool of a mountebank!"

Edwards stared at him. Surely this man, who was usually the most
composed, and impenetrable, and suave of men, must have been
considerably annoyed thus to give way to a petulant temper.

"But the result, Edwards: well?"

"Refused!"

Lind laughed sardonically.

"Who could have doubted? Of course the council do not think that I
approved of that mad scheme?"

"At all events, sir," said Edwards, submissively, "you permitted it."

"Permitted it! Yes; to please old Calabressa, who imagines himself a
diplomatist. But who could have doubted what the end would be? Well,
what further?"

"I understand that a message is on its way to you from the council,"
said the other, speaking in still lower tones, "giving further
instructions. They consider it of great importance that--it--should be
done by one of the English section; so that no one may imagine it arises
from a private revenge."

Lind was toying with one of the pieces of the broken paper-knife.

"Zaccatelli has had the warning," Edwards continued. "Granaglia took it.
The Cardinal is mad with fright--will do anything."

Lind seemed to rouse himself with an effort.

"I beg your pardon, friend Edwards. I did not hear. What were you
saying?"

"I was saying that the Cardinal had had the decree announced to him, and
is mad with fear, and he will do anything. He offers thirty thousand
lire a year; not only that, but he will try to get his Holiness to give
his countenance to the Society. Fancy, as Calabressa says, what the
world would say to an alliance between the Vatican and the SOCIETY OF
THE SEVEN STARS!"

Lind seemed incapable of paying attention to this new visitor, so
absorbed was he in his own thoughts. He had again to rouse himself
forcibly.

"Yes," he said, "you were saying, friend Edwards, that the Starving
Cardinal had become aware of the decree. Yes; well, then?"

"Did you not hear, sir? He thinks there should be an alliance between
the Vatican and the Society."

"His Eminence is jocular, considering how near he is to the end of his
life," said Lind, absently.

"Further," Edwards continued, "he has sent back the daughter of old De
Bedros, who, it seems, first claimed the decree against him; and he is
to give her a dowry of ten thousand lire when she marries. But all these
promises and proposals do not seem to have weighed much with the
council."

Here Edwards stopped. He perceived plainly that Lind--who sat with his
brows drawn down, and a sombre look on his face--was not listening to
him at all. Presently Lind rose, and said,

"My good Edwards, I have some business of serious importance to attend
to at once. Now you will give me the report of your journey some other
time. To-night--at nine o'clock?"

"Yes, sir; if that will suit you."

"Can you come to my house in Curzon Street at nine?"

"Yes, certainly."

"Very well. I am your debtor. But stay a moment. Of course, I understand
from you that nothing that has happened interferes with the decree
against our excellent friend the Cardinal?"

"So it appears."

"The Council are not to be bought over by idle promises?"

"Apparently not."

"Very well. Then you will come to-night at nine; in my little study
there will be no interruption; you can give me all the details of your
holiday. Ha, my friend Edwards," he added more pleasantly, as he opened
the door for his visitor, "would it not be better for you to give up
that Museum altogether, and come over to us? Then you would have many a
pleasant little trip."

"I suspect the Museum is most likely to give me up," said Edwards, with
a laugh, as he descended the narrow twilight stairs.

Then Lind returned to his desk, and sat down. A quarter of an hour
afterward, when Reitzei came into the room, he found him still sitting
there, without any papers whatsoever before him. The angry glance that
Lind directed to him as he entered told him that the master did not wish
to be disturbed; so he picked up a book of reference by way of excuse,
and retreated into the farther room, leaving Lind once more alone.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

AN ENCOUNTER.


This was an October morning, in the waning of the year; and yet so
bright and clear and fresh was it, even in the middle of London, that
one could have imagined the spring had returned. The world was full of a
soft diffused light, from the pale clouds sailing across the blue to the
sheets of silver widening out on the broad bosom of the Thames; but here
and there the sun caught some shining surface--the lip of a marble
fountain, the glass of a lamp on the Embankment, or the harness of some
merchant-prince's horses prancing into town--and these were sharp
jewel-like gleams amidst the vague general radiance. The air was sweet
and clear; the white steam blown from the engines on Hungerford Bridge
showed that the wind was westerly. Two lovers walked below, in the
Embankment gardens, probably listening but little to the murmur of the
great city around them. Surely the spring had come again, and youth and
love and hope! The solitary occupant of this chamber that overlooked the
gardens and the shining river did not stay to ask why his heart should
be so full of gladness, why this beautiful morning should yield him so
much delight. He was thinking chiefly that on such a morning Natalie
would be abroad soon; she loved the sunlight and the sweet air.

It was far too fine a morning, indeed, to spend in a museum, even with
all Madame Potecki's treasures spread out before one. So, instead of
going to South Kensington, he went straight up to Curzon Street. Early
as he was, he was not too early, for he was leisurely walking along the
pavement when, ahead of him, he saw Natalie and her little maid come
forth and set out westward. He allowed them to reach the park gates;
then he overtook them. Anneli fell a little way behind.

Now, whether it was the brightness of the morning had raised her
spirits, or that she had been reasoning herself into a more courageous
frame of mind, it was soon very clear that Natalie was not at all so
anxious and embarrassed as she had shown herself the day before when
they parted.

"There was no letter from you this morning," she said, with a smile,
though she did not look up into his face. "Then I have offered myself to
you, and am refused?"

"How could I write?" he said. "I tried once or twice, and then I saw I
must wait until I could tell you face to face all that I think of your
bravery and your goodness. And now that I see you Natalie, it is not a
bit better: I can't tell you; I am so happy to be near you, to be beside
you, and hear your voice, that I don't think I can say anything at all."

"I am refused, then?" said she, shyly.

"Refused!" he exclaimed. "There are some things one cannot refuse--like
the sunshine. But do you know what a terrible sacrifice you are making?"

"It is you, then, who are making no sacrifice at all," she said,
reproachfully. "What do I sacrifice more than every girl must sacrifice
when she marries? England is not my home as it is your home; we have
lived everywhere; I have no childhood's friends to leave, as many a girl
has."

"Your father--"

"After a little while my father will scarcely miss me; he is too busy."

But presently she added,

"If you had remained in England I should never have been your wife."

"Why?" he said with some surprise.

"I should never have married against my father's wishes," she said,
thoughtfully. "No. My promise to you was that I would be your wife, or
the wife of no one. I would have kept that promise. But as long as we
could have seen each other, and been with each other from time to time,
I don't think I could have married against my father's wish. Now it is
quite different. Your going to America has changed it all. Ah, my dear
friend, you don't know what I suffered one or two nights before I could
decide what was right for me to do!"

"I can guess," he said, in a low voice, in answer to that brief sigh of
hers.

Then she grew more cheerful in manner.

"But that is all over; and now, am I accepted? I think you are like
Naomi: it was only when she saw that Ruth was very determined to go with
her that she left off protesting. And I am to consider America as my
future home? Well, at all events, one will be able to breathe freely
there. It is not a country weighed down with standing armies and
conscriptions and fortifications. How could one live in a town like
Coblentz, or Metz, or Brest? The poor wretches marching this way and
marching that--you watch them from your hotel window--the young men and
the middle-aged men--and you know that they would rather be away at
their farms, or in their factories, or saw-pits, or engine-houses,
working for their wives and children--"

"Natalie," said he, "you are only half a woman: you don't care about
military glory."

"It is the most mean, the most cruel and contemptible thing under the
sun!" she said, passionately. "What is the quality that makes a great
hero--a great general--nowadays? Courage? Not a bit. It is
callousness!--an absolute indifference to the slaughtering of human
lives! You sit in your tent--you sit on horseback--miles away from the
fighting; and if the poor wretches are being destroyed here or there in
too great quantities, if they are ridden down by the horses and torn to
pieces by the mitrailleuses, 'Oh, clap on another thousand or two: the
place must be taken at all risks.' Yes, indeed; but not much risk to
you! For if you fail--if all the thousands of men have been hurled
against the stone and lead only to be thrown back crushed and
murdered--why, you have fought with great courage--_you_, the great
general, sitting in your saddle miles away; it is _you_ who have shown
extraordinary courage!--but numbers were against you: and if you win,
you have shown still greater courage; and the audacity of the movement
was so and so; and your dogged persistence was so and so; and you get
another star for your breast; and all the world sings your praises. And
who is to court-martial a great hero for reckless waste of human life?
Who is to tell him that he is a cruel-hearted coward? Who is to take him
to the fields he has saturated with blood, and compel him to count the
corpses; or to take him to the homesteads he has ruined throughout the
land, and ask the women and sons and the daughters what they think of
this marvellous courage? Oh no; he is away back in the capital--there is
a triumphal procession; all we want now is another war-tax--for the
peasant must pay with his money as well as with his blood--and another
levy of the young men to be taken and killed!"

This was always a sore point with Natalie; and he did not seek to check
her enthusiasm with any commonplace and obvious criticisms. When she got
into one of these moods of proud indignation, which was not seldom, he
loved her all the more. There was something in the ring of her voice
that touched him to the heart. Such noble, quick, generous sympathy
seemed to him far too beautiful and rare a thing to be met by argument
and analysis. When he heard that pathetic tremulousness in her voice, he
was ready to believe anything. When he looked at the proud lips and the
moistened eyes, what cause that had won such eloquent advocacy would he
not have espoused?

"Ah, well, Natalie," said he, "some day the mass of the people of the
earth will be brought to see that all that can be put a stop to, if they
so choose. They have the power: _Zahlen regieren die Welt_; and how can
one be better employed than in spreading abroad knowledge, and showing
the poorer people of the earth how the world might be governed if they
would only ally themselves together? It would be more easy to persuade
them if we had all of us your voice and your enthusiasm."

"Mine?" she said. "A woman's talking is not likely to be of much use.
But," she added, rather hesitatingly, "at least--she can give her
sympathy--and her love--to those who are doing the real work."

"And I am going to earn yours, Natalie," said he, cheerfully, "to such a
degree as you have never dreamed of, when you and I together are away in
the new world. And that reminds me now you must not be frightened; but
there is a little difficulty. Of course you thought of nothing, when you
wrote those lines, but of doing a kindness; that was like you; your
heart speaks quickly. Well--"

He himself seemed somewhat embarrassed.

"You see, Natalie, there would be no difficulty at all if you and I
could get married within the next few days."

Her eyes were cast down, and she was silent.

"You don't think it possible you could get your father to consent?" he
said, but without much hope.

"Oh no, I think not; I fear not," she said, in a low voice.

"Then you see, Natalie," he continued--and he spoke quite lightly, as if
it was merely an affair of a moment--"there would be this little
awkwardness: you are not of age; unless you get your father's consent,
you cannot marry until you are twenty-one. It is not a long time--"

"I did not think of it," she said, very hurriedly, and even
breathlessly. "I only thought it--it seemed hard you should go away
alone--and I considered myself already your wife--and I said, 'What
ought I to do?' And now--now you will tell me what to do. I do not
know--I have no one to ask."

"Do you think," said he, after a pause, "that you would forget me, if
you were to remain two years in England while I was in America?"

She regarded him for a moment with those large, true eyes of hers; and
she did not answer in words.

"There is another way; but--it is asking too much," he said.

"What is it?" she said, calmly.

"I was thinking," he said, with some hesitation, "that if I could bribe
Madame Potecki to leave her music-lessons--and take charge of you--and
bring you to America--and you and she might live there until you are
twenty-one--but I see it is impossible. It is too selfish. I should not
have thought of it. What are two years, Natalie?"

The girl answered nothing; she was thinking deeply. When she next spoke,
it was about Lord Evelyn, and of the probability of his crossing to the
States, and remaining there for a year or two; and she wanted to know
more about the great country beyond the seas, and what was Philadelphia
like.

Well, it was not to be expected that these two, so busy with their own
affairs, were likely to notice much that was passing around them, as the
forenoon sped rapidly away, and Natalie had to think of getting home
again. But the little German maid servant was not so engrossed. She was
letting her clear, observant blue eyes stray from the pretty young
ladies riding in the Row to the people walking under the trees, and from
them again to the banks of the Serpentine, where the dogs were barking
at the ducks. In doing so she happened to look a little bit behind her;
then suddenly she started, and said to herself, '_Herr Je!_' But the
little maid had her wits about her. She pretended to have seen nothing.
Gradually, however, she lessened the distance between herself and her
young mistress; then, when she was quite up to her, and walking abreast
with her, she said, in a low, quick voice.

"Fraulein! Fraulein!"

"What is it, Anneli?"

George Brand was listening too. He wondered that the girl seemed so
excited, and yet spoke low, and kept her eyes fixed on the ground.

"Ah, do not look round, Fraulein!" said she, in the same hurried way.
"Do not look round! But it is the lady who gave you the locket. She is
walking by the lake. She is watching you."

Natalie did not look round. She turned to her companion, and said,
without any agitation whatever,

"Do you remember, dearest? I showed you the locket, and told you about
my mysterious visitor. Now Anneli says she is walking by the side of the
lake. I may go and speak to her, may I not? Because it was so wicked of
Calabressa to say some one had stolen the locket, and wished to restore
it after many years. I never had any such locket."

She was talking quite carelessly; it was Brand himself who was most
perturbed. He knew well who that stranger must be, if Anneli's sharp
eyes had not deceived her.

"No, Natalie," he said, quickly, "you must not go and speak to her; and
do not look round, either. Perhaps she does not wish to be seen: perhaps
she would go away. Leave it to me, my darling; I will find out all about
her for you."

"But it is very strange," said the girl. "I shall begin to be afraid of
this emissary of Santa Claus if she continues to be so mysterious; and I
do not like mystery: I think, dearest, I must go and speak to her. She
can not mean me any harm. She has brought me flowers again and again on
my birthday, if it is the same. She gave me the little locket I showed
you. Why may not I stop and speak to her?"

"Not now, my darling," he said, putting his hand on her arm. "Let me
find out about her first."

"And how are you going to do that? In a few minutes, perhaps, she goes
away; and when will you see her again? It is many months since Anneli
saw her last; and Anneli sees everything and everybody."

"We will cross the bridge," said he, in a low voice, for he knew not how
near the stranger might be, "and walk on to Park Lane. Anneli must tell
us how far she follows. If she turns aside anywhere I will bid you
good-bye and see where she goes. Do you understand, Natalie?"

She certainly did not understand why he should speak so seriously about
it.

"And I am to be marched like a prisoner? I may not turn my head?"

She began to be amused. He scarcely knew what to say to her. At last he
said, earnestly,

"Natalie, it is of great importance to you that I should see this
lady--that I should try to see her. Do as I bid you, my dearest."

"Then you know who she is?" said Natalie, promptly.

"I have a suspicion, at all events; and--and--something may happen--that
you will be glad of."

"What, more mysterious presents?" the girl said, lightly; "more messages
from Santa Claus?"

He could not answer her. The consciousness that this might be indeed
Natalie's mother who was so near to them; the fear of the possible
consequences of any sudden disclosure; the thought that this opportunity
might escape him, and he leaving in a few days for America: all these
things whirled through his brain in rapid and painful succession. But
there was soon to be an end of them. Natalie, still obediently following
his instructions, and yet inclined to make light of the whole thing, and
himself arrived at the gates of the park; Anneli, as formerly, being
somewhat behind. Receiving no intimation from her, they crossed the road
to the corner of Great Stanhope Street. But they had not proceeded far
when Anneli said,

"Ah, Fraulein, the lady is gone! You may look after her now. See!"

That was enough for George Brand. He had no difficulty in making out
the dark figure that Anneli indicated; and he was in no great hurry, for
he feared the stranger might discover that she was being followed. But
he breathed more freely when he had bidden good-bye to Natalie, and seen
her set out for home.

He leisurely walked up Park Lane, keeping an eye from time to time on
the figure in black, but not paying too strict attention, lest she
should turn suddenly and observe him. In this way he followed her up to
Oxford Street; and there, in the more crowded thoroughfare, he lessened
the distance between them considerably. He also watched more closely
now, and with a strange interest. From the graceful carriage, the
beautiful figure, he was almost convinced that that, indeed, was
Natalie's mother; and he began to wonder what he would say to her--how
he would justify his interference.

The stranger stopped at a door next a shop in the Edgware Road; knocked,
waited, and was admitted. Then the door was shut again.

It was obviously a private lodging-house. He took a half-crown in his
hand to bribe the maid-servant, and walked boldly up to the door and
knocked. It was not a maid-servant who answered, however; it was a man
who looked something like an English butler, and yet there was a foreign
touch about his dress--probably, Brand thought, the landlord. Brand
pulled out a card-case, and pretended to have some difficulty in getting
a card from it.

"The lady who came in just now--" he said, still looking at the cards.

"Madame Berezolyi? Yes, sir."

His heart jumped. But he calmly took out a pencil, and wrote on one of
the cards, in French, "_One who knows your daughter would like to see
you_."

"Will you be so kind as to take up that card to Madame Berezolyi? I
think she will see me. I will wait here till you come down."

The man returned in a couple of minutes.

"Madame Berezolyi will be pleased to see you, sir; will you step this
way?"



CHAPTER XXXV.

THE MOTHER.


This beautiful, pale, trembling mother: she stood there, dark against
the light of the window; but even in the shadow how singularly like she
was to Natalie, in the tall, slender, elegant figure, the proud set of
the head, the calm, intellectual brows, and the large, tender, dark
eyes, as soft and pathetic as those of a doe--only this woman's face was
worn and sad, and her hair was silver-gray.

She was greatly agitated, and for a second or two incapable of speech.
But when he began in French to apologize for his intrusion, she eagerly
interrupted him.

"Ah, no, no!" she said, in the same tongue. "Do not waste words in
apology. You have come to tell me about my child, my Natalie: Heaven
bless you for it; it is a great kindness. To-day I saw you walking with
her--listening to her voice--ah, how I envied you!--and once or twice I
thought of going to her and taking her hand, and saying only one
word--'Natalushka!'"

"That would have been a great imprudence," said he gravely. "If you wish
to speak to your daughter--"

"If I wish to speak to her!--if I wish to speak to her!" she exclaimed;
and there were tears in her voice, if there were none in the sad eyes.

"You forget, madame, that your daughter has been brought up in the
belief that you died when she was a mere infant. Consider the effect of
any sudden disclosure."

"But has she never suspected? I have passed her; she has seen me. I gave
her a locket: what did she think?"

"She was puzzled, yes; but how would it occur to the girl that any one
could be so cruel as to conceal from her all those years the fact that
her mother was alive?"

"Then you yourself, monsieur--"

"I knew it from Calabressa."

"Ah, my old friend Calabressa! And he was here, in London, and he saw my
Natalie. Perhaps--"

She paused for a second.

"Perhaps it was he who sent the message. I heard--it was only a word or
two--that my daughter had found a lover."

She regarded him. She had the same calm fearlessness of look that dwelt
in Natalie's eyes.

"You will pardon me, monsieur. Do I guess right? It is to you that my
child has given her love?"

"That is my happiness," said he. "I wish I were better worthy of it."

She still regarded him very earnestly, and in silence.

"When I heard," she said, at length, in a low voice, "that my Natalie
had given her love to a stranger, my heart sunk. I said, 'More than ever
is she away from me now;' and I wondered what the stranger might be
like, and whether he would be kind to her. Now that I see you, I am not
so sad. There is something in your voice, in your look, that tells me to
have confidence in you: you will be kind to Natalie."

She seemed to be thinking aloud: and yet he was not embarrassed by this
confession, nor yet by her earnest look; he perceived how all her
thoughts were really concentrated on her daughter.

"Her father approves?" said this sad-faced, gray-haired woman.

"Oh no; quite the contrary."

"But he is kind to her?" she said, quickly, and anxiously.

"Oh yes," he answered. "No doubt he is kind to her. Who could be
otherwise?"

She had been so agitated at the beginning of this interview that she had
allowed her visitor to remain standing. She now asked him to be seated,
and took a chair opposite to him. Her nervousness had in a measure
disappeared; though at times she clasped the fingers of both hands
together, as if to force herself to be composed.

"You will tell me all about it, monsieur; that I may know what to say
when I speak to my child at last. Ah, heavens, if you could understand
how full my heart is: sixteen years of silence! Think what a mother has
to say to her only child after that time! It was cruel--cruel--cruel!"

A little convulsive sob was the only sign of her emotion, and the
lingers were clasped together.

"Pardon me, madame," said he, with some hesitation; "but, you see, I do
not know the circumstances--"

"You do not know why I dared not speak to my own daughter?" she said,
looking up in surprise. "Calabressa did not tell you?"

"No. There were some hints I did not understand."

"Nor of the reasons that forced me to comply with such an inhuman
demand? Alas! these reasons exist no longer. I have done my duty to one
whose life was sacred to me; now his death has released me from fear; I
come to my daughter now. Ah, when I fold her to my heart, what shall I
say to her--what but this?--'Natalushka, if your mother has remained
away from you all these years, it was not because she did not love
you.'"

He drew his chair nearer, and took her hand.

"I perceive that you have suffered, and deeply. But your daughter will
make amends to you. She loves you now; you are a saint to her; your
portrait is her dearest possession--"

"My portrait?" she said, looking rather bewildered. "Her father has not
forbidden her that, then?"

"It was Calabressa who gave it to her quite recently."

She gently withdrew her hand, and glanced at the table, on which two
books lay, and sighed.

"The English tongue is so difficult," she said. "And I have so much--so
much--to say! I have written out many things that I wish to tell her;
and have repeated them, and repeated them; but the sound is not
right--the sound is not like what my heart wishes to say to her."

"Reassure yourself, madame, on that point," said he, cheerfully: "I
should imagine there is scarcely any language in Europe that your
daughter does not know something of. You will not have to speak English
to her at all."

She looked up with bright eagerness in her eyes.

"But not Magyar?"

"I do not know for certain," he said, "for I don't know Magyar myself;
but I am almost convinced she must know it. She has told me so much
about her countrymen that used to come about the house; yes, surely they
would speak Magyar."

A strange happy light came into the woman's face; she was communing with
herself--perhaps going over mentally some tender phrases, full of the
soft vowel sounds of the Magyar tongue.

"That," said she, presently, and in a low voice, "would be my crowning
joy. I have thought of what I should say to her in many languages; but
always 'My daughter, I love you,' did not have the right sound. In our
own tongue it goes to the heart. I am no longer afraid: my girl will
understand me."

"I should think," said he, "you will not have to speak much to assure
her of your love."

She seemed to become a great deal more cheerful; this matter had
evidently been weighing on her mind.

"Meanwhile," she said, "you promised to tell me all about Natalie and
yourself. Her father does not approve of your marrying. Well, his
reasons?"

"If he has any, he is careful to keep them to himself," he said. "But I
can guess at some of them. No doubt he would rather not have Natalie
marry; it would deprive him of an excellent house-keeper. Then
again--and this is the only reason he does give--he seems to consider it
would be inexpedient as regards the work we are all engaged in--"

"You!" she said, with a sudden start. "Are you in the Society also?"

"Certainly, madame."

"What grade?"

He told her.

"Then you are helpless if he forbids your marriage."

"On the contrary, madame, my marriage or non-marriage has nothing
whatever to do with my obedience to the Society."

"He has control over Natalie--"

"Until she is twenty-one," he answered promptly.

"But," she said, regarding him with some apprehension in her eyes, "you
do not say--you do not suggest--that the child is opposed to her
father--that she thinks of marrying you, when she may legally do so,
against his wish?"

"My dear madame," said he, "it will be difficult for you to understand
how all this affair rests until you get to know something more about
Natalie herself. She is not like other girls. She has courage; she has
opinions of her own: when she thinks that such and such a thing is
right, she is not afraid to do it, whatever it may be. Now, she believes
her father's opposition to be unjust; and--and perhaps there is
something else that has influenced her: well, the fact is, I am ordered
off to America, and--and the girl has a quick and generous nature, and
she at once offered to share what she calls my banishment."

"To leave her father's house!" said the mother, with increasing alarm.

Brand looked at her. He could not understand this expression of anxious
concern. If, as he was beginning to assure himself, Lind was the cause
of that long and cruel separation between mother and daughter, why
should this woman be aghast at the notion of Natalie leaving such a
guardian? Or was it merely a superstitious fear of him, similar to that
which seemed to possess Calabressa?

"In dealing with your daughter, madame," he continued, "one has to be
careful not to take advantage of her forgetfulness of herself. She is
too willing to sacrifice herself for others. Now to-day we were
talking--as she is not free to marry until she is twenty-one--about her
perhaps going over to America under the guardianship of Madame
Potecki--"

"Madame Potecki."

"She is a friend of your daughter's--almost a mother to her; and I am
not sure but that Natalie would willingly do that--more especially under
your guardianship, in preference to that of Madame Potecki--"

"Oh no, no!" she exclaimed, instantly. "She must not dare her father
like that. Oh, it would be terrible! I hope you will not allow her."

"It is not a question of daring; the girl has courage enough for
anything," he said coolly. "The thing is that it would involve too great
a sacrifice on her part; and I was exceedingly selfish to think of it
for a moment. No; let her remain in her father's house until she is free
to act as her own mistress; then, if she will come to me, I shall take
care that a proper home is provided for her. She must not be a wanderer
and a stranger."

"But even then, when she is free to act, you will not ask her to disobey
her father? Oh, it will be too terrible!"

Again he regarded her with amazement.

"What do you mean, madame? What is terrible? Or is it that you are
afraid of him? Calabressa spoke like that."

"You do not know of what he is capable," she said, with a sigh.

"All the more reason," he said, directly, "why she should be removed
from his guardianship. But permit me to say, madame, that I do not quite
share your apprehensions. I have seen nothing of the bogey kind about
your husband. Of course, he is a man of strong will, and he does not
like to be thwarted: without that strength of character he could not
have done what he has done. But he also knows that his daughter is no
longer a child, and when the proper time comes you will find that his
common sense will lead him to withdraw an opposition which would
otherwise be futile. Do I explain myself clearly? My dear madame, have
no anxiety about the future of your daughter. When you see herself, when
you speak to her, you will find that she is one who is not given to
fear."

For a moment the apprehensive look left her face. She remained silent, a
happier light coming into her eyes.

"She is not sad and sorrowful, then?" she said, presently.

"Oh no; she is too brave."

"What beautiful hair she has!" said this worn-faced woman with the sad
eyes. "Ah, many a time I have said to myself that when I take her to my
heart I will feel the beautiful soft hair; I will stroke it; her head
will lie on my bosom, and I will gather courage from her eyes: when she
laughs my heart will rejoice! I have lived many years in solitude--in
secret, with many apprehensions; perhaps I have grown timid and fearful;
once I was not so. But I have been troubling myself with fears; I have
said, 'Ah, if she looks coldly on me, if she turns away from me, then my
heart will break!'"

"I do not think you have much to fear," said he, regarding the
beautiful, sad face.

"I have tried to catch the sound of her voice," she continued, absently,
and her eyes were filled with tears, "but I could not do that. But I
have watched her, and wondered. She does not seem proud and cold."

"She will not be proud or cold to you," he said, "when she is kindness
and gentleness to all the world."

"And--and when shall you see her again?" she asked, timidly.

"Now," he said. "If you will permit me, I will go to her at once. I will
bring her to you."

"Oh no!" she exclaimed hastily drying her eyes. "Oh no! She must not
find a sad mother, who has been crying. She will be repelled. She will
think, 'I have enough of sadness.' Oh no, you must let me collect
myself: I must be very brave and cheerful when my Natalie comes to me. I
must make her laugh, not cry."

"Madame," said he, gravely, "I may have but a few days longer in
England: do you think it is wise to put off the opportunity? You see,
she must be prepared; it would be a terrible shock if she were to know
suddenly. And how can one tell what may happen to-morrow or next day? At
the present moment I know she is at home; I could bring her to you
directly."

"Just now?" she said; and she began to tremble again. She rose and went
to a mirror.

"She could not recognize herself in me. She would not believe me. And I
should frighten her with my mourning and my sadness."

"I do not think you need fear, madame."

She turned to him eagerly.

"Perhaps you would explain to her? Ah, would you be so kind! Tell her I
have seen much trouble of late. My father has just died, after years of
illness; and we were kept in perpetual terror. You will tell her why I
dared not go to her before: oh no! not that--not that!"

"You forget, madame, that I myself do not know."

"It is better she should not know--better she should not know!" she
said, rapidly. "No, let the girl have confidence in her father while she
remains in his house. Perhaps some time she may know; perhaps some one
who is a fairer judge than I will tell her the story and make excuses:
it must be that there is some excuse."

"She will not want to know; she will only want to come to you."

"But half an hour, give me half an hour," she said, and she glanced
round the room. "It is so poor a chamber."

"She will not think of the chamber."

"And the little girl with her--she will remain down-stairs, will she
not? I wish to be alone, quite alone, with my child." Her breath came
and went quickly, and she clasped her fingers tight. "Oh, monsieur, my
heart will break if my child is cold to me!"

"That is the last thing you have to fear," said he, and he rose. "Now
calm yourself, madame. Recollect, you must not frighten your daughter.
And it will be more than half an hour before I bring her to you; it will
take more than that for me to break it to her."

She rose also; but she was obviously so excited that she did not know
well what she was doing. All her thoughts were about the forth-coming
interview.

"You are sure she understands the Magyar?" she said again.

"No, I do not know. But why not speak in French to her?"

"It does not sound the same--it does not sound the same: and a
mother--can only--talk to her child--"

"You must calm yourself, dear madame. Do you know that your daughter
believes you to have been a miracle of courage and self-reliance? What
Calabressa used to say to her was this: 'Natalushka, when you are in
trouble you will be brave; you will show yourself the daughter of
Natalie Berezolyi.'"

"Yes, yes," she said, quickly, as she again dried her eyes, and drew
herself up. "I beg you to pardon me. I have thought so much of this
meeting, through all these years, that my hearts beats too quickly now.
But I will have no fear. She will come to me; I am not afraid: she will
not turn away from me. And how am I to thank you for your great
kindness?" she added, as he moved to the door.

"By being kind to Natalie when I am away in America," said he. "You
will not find it a difficult task."



CHAPTER XXXVI.

THE VELVET GLOVE.


Ferdinand Lind sat alone, after Gathorne Edwards had gone, apparently
deep buried in thought. He leaned forward over his desk, his head
resting on his left hand, while in his right hand he held a pencil, with
which he was mechanically printing letters on a sheet of blotting-paper
before him. These letters, again and again repeated, formed but one
phrase: THE VELVET GLOVE. It was as if he were perpetually reminding
himself, during the turnings and twistings of his sombre speculations,
of the necessity of being prudent and courteous and suave. It was as if
he were determined to imprint the caution on his brain--drilling it into
himself--so that in no possible emergency could it be forgotten. But as
his thoughts went farther afield, he began to play with the letters, as
a child might. They began to assume decorations. THE VELVET GLOVE
appeared surrounded with stars; again furnished with duplicate lines;
again breaking out into rays. At length he rose, tore up the sheet of
blotting-paper, and rung a hand-bell twice.

Reitzei appeared.

"Where will Beratinsky be this evening?"

"At the Culturverein: he sups there."

"You and he must be here at ten. There is business of importance."

He walked across the room, and took up his hat and stick. Perhaps at
this moment the caution he had been drilling into himself suggested some
further word. He turned to Reitzei, who had advanced to take his place
at the desk.

"I mean if that is quite convenient to you both," he said, courteously.
"Eleven o'clock, if you please, or twelve?"

"Ten will be quite convenient," Reitzei said.

"The business will not take long."

"Then we can return to the Culturverein: it is an exhibition night: one
would not like to be altogether absent."

These sombre musings had consumed some time. When Lind went out he found
it had grown dark; the lamps were lit; the stream of life was flowing
westward. But he seemed in no great hurry. He chose unfrequented
streets; he walked slowly; there was less of the customary spring and
jauntiness of his gait. In about half an hour he had reached the door of
Madame Potecki's house.

He stood for some seconds there without ringing. Then, as some one
approached, he seemed waken out of a trance. He rung sharply, and the
summons was almost immediately answered.

Madame Potecki was at home, he learned, but she was dining.

"Never mind," said he, abruptly: "she will see me. Go and ask her."

A couple of minutes thereafter he was shown into a small parlor, where
Madame Potecki had just risen to receive him; and by this time a
singular change had come over his manner.

"I beg your pardon--I beg a thousand pardons, my dear Madame Potecki,"
said he, in the kindest way, "for having interrupted you. Pray continue.
I shall make sure you forgive me only if you continue. Ah, that is well.
Now I will take a chair also."

Madame Potecki had again seated herself, certainly; but she was far too
much agitated by this unexpected visit to be able to go on with her
repast. She was alarmed about Natalie.

"You are surprised, no doubt, at my coming to see you," said he,
cheerfully and carelessly, "so soon after you were kind enough to call
on me. But it is only about a trifle; I assure you, my dear Madame
Potecki, it is only about a trifle, and I must therefore insist on your
not allowing your dinner to get cold."

"But if it is about Natalie--"

"My dear madame, Natalie is very well. There is nothing to alarm you.
Now you will go on with your dinner, and I will go on with my talking."

Thus constrained, madame again addressed herself to the small banquet
spread before her, which consisted of a couple of sausages, some pickled
endive, a piece of Camembert cheese, and a tiny bottle of Erlauer. Mr.
Lind turned his chair to the fire, put his feet on the fender, and lay
back. He was rather smartly dressed this evening, and he was pleasant in
manner.

"Natalie ought to be grateful to you, madame," said he lightly, "for
your solicitude about her. It is not often one finds that in one who is
not related by blood."

"I have no one now left in the world to love but herself," said madame;
"and then you see, my dear friend Lind, her position appeals to one: it
is sad that she has no mother."

"Yes, yes," said Lind, with a trifle of impatience. "Now you were good
enough to come and tell me this afternoon, madame, about that foolish
little romance that Natalie has got into her head. It was kind of you;
it was well-intentioned. And after all, although that wish of hers to go
to America can scarcely be serious, it is but natural that romantic
ideas should get into the head of a younger girl--"

"Did not I say that to her?" exclaimed Madame Potecki, eagerly; "and
almost in these words too. And did not I say to her, 'Ah, my child, you
must take care; you must take care!'"

"That also was good advice," said Lind, courteously; "and no doubt
Natalie laid it to her heart. No, I am not afraid of her doing anything
very wild or reckless. She is sensible; she thinks; she has not been
brought up in an atmosphere of sentiment. One may say this or that on
the spur of the moment, when one is excited; but when it comes to
action, one reasons, one sees what one's duty is. Natalie may have said
something to you, madame, about going to America, but not with any
serious intention, believe me."

"Perhaps not," said Madame Potecki, with considerable hesitation.

"Very well, then," said Mr. Lind, as he rose, and stood before the
chimney-piece mirror, and arranged the ends of his gracefully tied
neckerchief. "We come to another point. It was very kind of you, my dear
madame, to bring me the news--to tell me something of that sort had been
said; but you know what ill-natured people will remark. You get no
appreciation. They call you tale-bearer!"

Madame colored slightly.

"It is ungenerous; it is not a fair requital of kindness; but that is
what is said," he continued. "Now, I should not like any friend of
Natalie's to incur such a charge on her account, do you perceive,
madame? And, in these circumstances, do you not think that it would be
better for both you and me to consider that you did not visit me this
afternoon; that I know nothing of what idle foolishness Natalie has been
talking? Would not that be better? As for me, I am dumb."

"Oh, very well, my dear friend," said madame, quickly. "I would not for
the world have Natalie or any one think that I was a mischief-maker--oh
no! And did I not promise to you that I should say nothing of my having
called on you to-day? It is already a promise."

He turned round and regarded her.

"Precisely so," he said. "You did promise; it was kind of you; and for
myself, you may rely on my discretion. Your calling on me--what you
repeated to me--all that is obliterated: you understand?"

Madame Potecki understood that very well: but she could not quite make
out why he should have come to her this evening, apparently with no
object beyond that of reminding her of her promise to say nothing of her
visit to Lisle Street.

He lifted his hat from an adjacent chair.

"Now I will leave you to finish your dinner in quiet. You forgive me for
interrupting you, do you not? And you will remember, I am sure, not to
mention to any one about your having called on me to-day? As for me, it
is all wiped out: I know nothing. Adieu, and thanks."

He shook hands with her in a very friendly manner, and then left, saying
he could open the outer door for himself.

He got home in time for dinner: he and Natalie dined together, and he
was particularly kind to her; he talked in Magyar, which was his custom
when he wished to be friendly and affectionate; he made no reference to
George Brand whatsoever.

"Natalie," said he, casually, "it was not fair that you were deprived of
a holiday this year. You know the reason--there were too many important
things going forward. But it is not yet too late. You must think about
it--think where you would like to go for two or three weeks."

She did not answer. It was on that morning that she had placed her
written offer in her lover's hands; so far there had been no reply from
him.

"And Madame Potecki," her father continued; "she is not very rich; she
has but little change. Why not take her with you instead of Anneli?"

"I should like to take her away for a time," said the girl, in a low
voice. "She lives a monotonous life; but she has always her pupils."

"Some arrangement could be made with them, surely," her father said,
lightly; and then he added, "Paris is always the safest place to go to
when one is in doubt. There you are independent of the weather; there
are so many things to see and to do if it rains. Will you think of it,
Natalushka?"

"Yes, papa," she said, though she felt rather guilty. But she was so
grateful to have her father talk to her in this friendly way again,
after the days of estrangement that had passed, that she could not but
pretend to fall in with his schemes.

"And I will tell you another thing," said Mr. Lind. "I intend to buy you
some furs, Natalie, for the winter. These we will get in Paris."

"I am too much of an expense to you already, papa."

"You forget," said he, with mock gravity, "that you give me your
invaluable services as house-keeper, and that so far you have received
no salary."

There was a knock at the outer door.

"Is it nine o'clock already?" he said, in an altered tone.

"Whom do you expect, papa?"

"Gathorne Edwards."

"Then I will send you in coffee to the study."

But presently Anneli came into the room.

"Pardon, Fraulein, but the gentleman wishes to see you for one minute."

"Let him come in here, then."

Edwards came in, and shook hands with Natalie in an embarrassed manner.
Then he produced a little packet.

"I have a commission, Miss Lind. It is from Signor Calabressa. He sends
you this necklace, and says I am to tell you that he thinks of you
always."

The message had been in reality that Calabressa "thought of her and
loved her always." But Edwards was a shy person, and did not like to
pronounce the word "love" to this beautiful girl, who regarded him with
such proud, frank eyes.

"He has not returned with you, then?"

"No."

"But you can send him a message?"

"I will when I hear of his address."

"Then you will tell him--will you be so kind?--that the little
Natalushka--that is myself," she said, smiling; "you will tell him that
the little Natalushka thanks him, and is not likely to forget him."

The interview between the new visitor and Mr. Lind was speedily got
over. Lind excused himself for giving Edwards the trouble of this second
appointment by saying he had been much engrossed with serious business
during the day. There was, indeed, little new to be communicated about
the Kirski and Calabressa escapade, though Edwards repeated the details
as minutely as possible. He accepted a cigar, and left.

Then Lind got his overcoat and hat and went out of the house. A hansom
took him along to Lisle Street: he arrived there just as ten was
striking.

There were two men at the door; they were Beratinsky and Reitzei. All
three entered and went up the narrow stair in the dark, for the old
German had gone. There was some fumbling for matches on the landing;
then a light was procured, and the gas lit in the central room. Mr. Lind
sat down at his desk; the other two drew in chairs. The whole house was
intently silent.

"I am sorry to take you away from your amusements," said he, civilly
enough; "but you will soon be able to return to them. The matter is of
importance. Edwards has returned."

Both men nodded; Reitzei had, in fact, informed his companion.

"As I anticipated, Calabressa's absurd proposal has been rejected, if
not even scoffed at. Now, this affair must not be played with any
longer. The Council has charged us, the English section, with a certain
duty; we must set about having it performed at once."

"There is a year's grace," Beratinsky observed, but Lind interrupted him
curtly.

"There may be a year's grace or less allowed to the infamous priest;
there is none allowed to us. We must have our agent ready. Why, man, do
you think a thing like that can be done off-hand, without long and
elaborate planning?"

Beratinsky was silenced.

"Are we to have the Council think that we are playing with them? And
that was not the only thing in connection with the Calabressa scheme
which you, Reitzei, were the first to advocate. Every additional person
whom you let into the secret is a possible weak point in the carrying
out of the design; do you perceive that? And you had to let this man
Edwards into it."

"But he is safe."

Lind laughed.

"Safe? Yes; because he knows his own life would not be worth a
half-franc piece if he betrayed a Council secret. However, that is over:
no more about it. We must show the Council that we can act and
promptly."

There was silence for a second or two.

"I have no need to wait for the further instructions of the Council,"
Lind resumed. "I know what they intend. They intend to make it clear to
all Europe that this is not a Camorra act of vengeance. The Starving
Cardinal has thousands of enemies; the people curse and groan at him; if
he were stabbed by an Italian, 'Oh, another of those Camorristi
wretches!' would be the cry. The agent must come from England, and, if
he is taken red-handed, then let him say if he likes that he is
connected with an association which knows how to reach evil-doers who
are beyond the ordinary reach of the law; but let him make it clear that
it is no Camorra affair: you understand?"

"Yes, yes," said both men.

"Now you know what the Council have ordained," continued Lind, calmly,
"that no agent shall be appointed to undertake any service involving
immediate peril to life without a ballot among at least four persons. It
was absurd of Calabressa to imagine that they would abrogate their own
decree, merely because that Russian madman was ready for anything. Well,
it is not expedient that this secret should be confided to many. It is
known to four persons in this country. We are three of the four."

The two men started.

"Yes," he said boldly, and he regarded each of them in turn. "That is my
proposal: that we ourselves form three of the ballot of four. The fourth
must be an Englishman."

"Edwards?" said Beratinsky. Reitzei was thinking too much of his own
position to speak.

"No," said Lind, calmly playing with his pencil, "Edwards is a man of
books, not of action. I have been thinking that the fourth ought to
be--George Brand."

He watched them both. Reitzei was still preoccupied; but the small black
eyes of Beratinsky twinkled eagerly.

"Yes, yes, yes! Very good! There we have our four. For myself, I am not
afraid; not I!"

"And you, Reitzei; are you satisfied?" said Lind merely as a matter of
form.

The younger man started.

"Oh yes, the Council must be obeyed," said he, absently.

"Gentlemen," said Lind, rising, "the business is concluded. Now you may
return to your Culturverein."

But when the others had risen, he said, in a laughing way, "There is
only one thing I will add: you may think about it at your leisure. The
chances are three to one, and we all run the same risk; but I confess I
should not be sorry to see the Englishman chosen; for, you perceive,
that would make the matter clear enough. They would not accuse an
Englishman of complicity with the Camorra--would they, Reitzei? If the
lot fell to the Englishman, I should not be disappointed--would you,
Beratinsky?"

Beratinsky, who was about to leave, turned sharply and the coal-black
eyes were fixed intently on Lind's face.

"I?" he said. "Not I! We will talk again about it, Brother Lind."

Reitzei opened the door, Lind screwed out the gas, and then the three
men descended the wooden staircase, their footsteps sounding through the
silent house.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

SANTA CLAUS.


To save time Brand jumped into a hansom and drove down to Curzon Street.
He was too much preoccupied to remember that Natalie had wished him not
to come to the house. Anneli admitted him, and showed him up-stairs into
the drawing-room. In a couple of seconds or so Natalie herself appeared.

"Well," said she lightly, "you have come to tell me about Santa Claus?
You have discovered the mysterious messenger?"

She shut the door and went forward to him.

"What is the matter?" she said, quickly: there was something in his look
that alarmed her.

He caught both her hands in his, and held them tight.

"Nothing to frighten you, at all events," said he: "no, Natalie I have
good news for you. Only--only--you must be brave."

It was he who was afraid; he did not know how to begin.

"That locket there," said he, regarding the little silver trinket. "Have
you ever thought about it?--why do you wear it?"

"Why do I wear it?" she said, simply. "Because one day that Calabressa
was talking to me it occurred to me that the locket might have belonged
to my mother, and that some one had wished to give it to me. He did not
say it was impossible. It was his talk of Natalie and Natalushka that
put it in my head; perhaps it was a stupid fancy."

"Natalie, the locket did belong to your mother."

"Ah, you know, then?" she said, quickly, but with nothing beyond a
bright and eager interest. "You have seen that lady? Well, what does she
say?--was she angry that you followed her? Did you thank her for me for
all those presents of flowers?"

"Natalie," said he almost in despair, "have you never thought about
it--about the locket? Have you never thought of what might be possible?"

"I do not understand you," she said, with a bewildered air. "What is it?
why do you not speak?"

"Because I am afraid. See, I hold your hands tight because I am afraid.
And yet it is good news: your heart will be filled with joy; your life
will be quite different from to-day ever after. Natalie, cannot you
imagine for yourself--something beautiful happening to you--something
you may have dreamed of--"

She became a little pale, but she maintained her calmness.

"Dearest," said she, "why are you afraid to tell me. You hold my hands:
do they tremble?"

"But, Natalie, think!" he said. "Think of the locket; it was given you
by one who loved you--who has loved you all these years--and been kept
away from you--and now she is waiting for you."

He studied her face intently: there was nothing there but a vague
bewilderment. He grew more and more to fear the effect of the shock.

"Yes, yes. Can you not think, now, if it were possible that one whom you
have always thought to be dead--whom you have loved all through your
life--if it were she herself--"

She withdrew her hands from his, and caught the back of a chair. She was
ghastly pale; for a second she did not speak.

"You will kill me--if it is not true," she said, in a low voice, and
still staring at him with frightened, bewildered eyes.

"Natalie, it is true," said he, stepping forward to catch her by the
arm, for he thought she was going to fall.

She sunk into a chair, and covered her face with her hands--not to cry,
but to think. She had to reverse the belief of a lifetime in a second.

But suddenly she started up, her face still white, her lips firm.

"Take me to her; I must see her; I will go at once."

"You shall not," he said, promptly; but he himself was beginning to
breathe more freely. "I will not allow you to see her until you are
perfectly calm."

He put his hand on her arm gently.

"Natalie," said he, "you must calm yourself--for her sake. She has been
suffering; she is weak; any wild scene would do her harm. You must calm
yourself, my darling; you must be the braver of the two; you must show
yourself very strong--for her sake."

"I am quite calm," she said, with pale lips. She put her left hand over
her heart. "It is only my heart that beats so."

"Well, in a little while--"

"Now--now!" she pleaded, almost wildly. "I must see her. When I try to
think of it, it is like to drive me mad; I cannot think at all. Let us
go!"

"You must think," he said firmly; "you must think of what you are going
to say; and your dress, too. Natalie, you must take that piece of
scarlet ribbon away; one who is nearly related to you has just died."

She tore it off instantly.

"And you know Magyar, don't you, Natalie?"

"Oh yes, yes."

"Because your mother has been learning English in order to be able to
speak to you."

Again she placed her hand over her heart, and there was a look of pain
on her face.

"My dearest, let us go! I can bear no more: my heart will break! See, am
I not calm enough? Do I tremble?"

"No, you are very courageous," he said, looking at her doubtfully.

"Let us go!--let us go!"

Her entreaties overcame his scruples. The things she had thrown aside on
coming in from her morning walk still lay there; she hastily put them
on; and she herself led the way down-stairs. He put her into the hansom,
and followed; the man drove off. She held her lover's hand tight, as a
sign of her gratitude.

"Mind, I depend on you, Natalie," he said.

"Oh, do not fear," she said, rather wildly; "why should one fear? It
seems to me all a strange sort of dream; and I shall waken out of it
by-and-by, and go back to the house. Why should I be surprised to see
her, when she is my constant companion? And do you think I shall not
know what to say?--I have talked to her all my life."

But when they had reached the house, and were admitted, this
half-hysterical courage had fled.

"One moment, dearest; give me one moment," she said, at the foot of the
stairs, as if her breath failed her, and she put her hand on his arm.

"Now, Natalie," he whispered, "you must think of your mother as an
invalid--not to be excited, you understand; there is to be no scene."

"Yes, yes," she said, but she scarcely heard him.

"Now go," he said, "and I will wait here."

"No, I wish you to come," she said.

"You ought to be alone with her."

"I wish you to come," she repeated; and she took his hand.

They went up-stairs; the door was wide open; a figure stood in the
middle of the room. Natalie entered first; she was very white, that was
all. It was the other woman who was trembling--trembling with anxious
fears, and forgetful of every one of the English phrases she had
learned.

The girl at the door hesitated but for a moment. Breathless, wondering,
she beheld this vision--worn as the face was, she recognized in it the
features she had learned to love; and there were the dark and tender
eyes she had so often held commune with when she was alone. It was only
because she was so startled that she thus hesitated; the next instant
she was in her mother's arms held tight there, her head against her
bosom.

Then the mother began, in her despair,

"My--my daughter--you--do--know me?"

But the girl, not looking up, murmured some few words in a language
Brand did not understand; and at the sound of them the mother uttered a
wild cry of joy, and drew her daughter closer to her, and laid her
streaming, worn, sad face on the beautiful hair. They spoke together in
that tongue; the sounds were soft and tender to the ear; perhaps it was
the yearning of love that made them so.

Then Natalie remembered her promise. She gently released herself; she
led her mother to a sofa, and made her sit down; she threw herself on
her knees beside her, and kissed her hand; then she buried her head in
her mother's lap. She sobbed once or twice; she was determined not to
give way to tears. And the mother stroked the soft hair of the girl,
which she could hardly see, for her eyes were full; and from time to
time she spoke to her in those gentle, trembling tones, bending over her
and speaking close to her ear. The girl was silent; perhaps afraid to
awake from a dream.

"Natalie," said George Brand.

She sprung to her feet.

"Oh, I beg your pardon--I beg your pardon!" she said, hurriedly. "I had
forgotten--"

"No, you have not forgotten," he said, with a smile. "You have
remembered; you have behaved well. Now that I have seen you through it,
I am going; you ought to be by yourselves."

"Oh no!" she said, in a bewildered way. "Without you I am useless: I
cannot think. I should go on talking and talking to my mother all day,
all night--because--because my heart is full. But--but one must do
something. Why is she here? She will come home with me--now!"

"Natalie," said he, gravely, "you must not even mention such a thing to
her: it would pain her. Can you not see that there are sufficient
reasons why she should not go, when she has not been under your father's
roof for sixteen years?"

"And why has my father never told me?" the girl said, breathlessly.

"I cannot say."

She thought for a moment; but she was too excited to follow out any
train of thinking.

"Ah," she said, "what matter? I have found a great treasure. And you,
you shall not go: it will be we three together now. Come!"

She took his hand; she turned to her mother; her face flushed with
shyness. She said something, her eyes turned to the ground, in that soft
musical language he did not understand.

"I know, my child," the mother answered in French, and she laughed
lightly despite her wet eyes. "Do you think one cannot see?--and I have
been following you like a spy!"

"Ah, then," said the girl, in the same tongue, "do you see what lies
they tell? They say when the mother comes near her child, the heart of
the child knows and recognizes her. It is not true! it is not true!--or
perhaps one has a colder heart than the others. You have been near to
me, mother; I have watched, as you went away crying, and all I said was,
'Ah, the poor lady, I am sorry for her!' I had no more pity for you than
Anneli had. Anneli used to say, 'Perhaps, fraulein, she has lost some
one who resembles you.'"

"I had lost you--I had lost you," the mother said, drawing the girl
toward her again. "But now I have found you again, Natalushka. I thank
God for his goodness to me. I said to myself, 'If my child turns away
from me, I will die!' and I thought that if you had any portrait of me,
it would be taken when I was young, and you would not care for an old
woman grown haggard and plain--"

"Oh, do you think it is for smooth portraits that I care?" the girl
said, impetuously. She drew out from some concealed pocket a small case,
and opened it. "Do you think it is for smooth faces one cares? There--I
will never look at it again!"

She threw it on to the table with a proud gesture.

"But you had it next your heart, Natalushka," said her mother, smiling.

"But I have you in my heart, mother: what do I want with a portrait?"
said the girl.

She drew her daughter down to her again, and put her arm once more round
her neck.

"I once had hair like yours, Natalushka, but not so beautiful as yours,
I think. And you wore the locket, too? Did not that make you guess? Had
you no suspicion?"

"How could I--how could I?" she asked. "Even when I showed it to
Calabressa--"

Here she stopped suddenly.

"Did he know, mother?"

"Oh yes."

"Then why did he not tell me? Oh, it was cruel!" she said, indignantly.

"He told me, Natalie," George Brand said.

"You knew?" the girl said, turning to him with wide eyes.

"Yes; and Calabressa, when he told me, implored me never to tell you.
Well, perhaps he thought it would give you needless pain. But I was
thinking, within the last few days, that I ought to tell you before I
left for America."

"Do you hear, mother?" the girl said, in a low voice. "He is going away
to America--and alone. I wished to go; he refuses."

"Now I am going away much more contented, Natalie, since you will have a
constant companion with you. I presume, madame, you will remain in
England?"

The elder woman looked up with rather a frightened air.

"Alas, monsieur, I do not know! When at last I found myself free--when I
knew I could come and speak to my child--that was all I thought of."

"But you wish to remain in England: is it not so?"

"What have I in the world now but this beautiful child--whose heart is
not cold, though her mother comes so late to claim her?"

"Then be satisfied, madame. It is simple. No one can interfere with you.
But I will provide you, if you will allow me, with better lodgings than
these. I have a few days' idleness still before me."

"That is his way, mother," Natalie said, in a still lower voice. "It is
always about others he is thinking--how to do one a kindness."

"I presume," he said, in quite a matter-of-fact way, "that you do not
wish your being in London to become known?"

She looked up timidly, but in truth she could hardly take her attention
away from this newly-found daughter of hers for a single second. She
still continued stroking the soft hair and rounded cheek as she said,

"If that is possible."

"It would not be long possible in an open thoroughfare like this," he
said; "But I think I could find you a small old-fashioned house down
about Brompton, with a garden and a high wall. I have passed such places
occasionally. There Natalie could come to see you, and walk with you.
There is another thing," he said, in a matter-of-fact way, taking out
his watch. "It is now nearly two o'clock. Now, dear madame, Natalie is
in the habit of having luncheon at one. You would not like to see your
child starve before your eyes?"

The elder woman rose instantly; then she colored somewhat.

"No doubt you did not expect visitors," George Brand said, quickly.
"Well, what do you say to this? Let us get into a four-wheeled cab, and
drive down to my chambers. I have an indefatigable fellow, who could get
something for us in the desert of Saharra."

"What do you say, child?"

Natalie had risen too: she was regarding her mother with earnest eyes,
and not thinking much about luncheon.

"I will do whatever you wish," she was saying: but suddenly she cried,
"Oh, I am indeed so happy!" and flung her arms round her mother's neck,
and burst into a flood of tears for the first time. She had struggled
long; but she had broken down at last.

"Natalie," said George Brand, pretending to be very anxious about the
time, "could you get your mother's things for her? I think we shall be
down there by a quarter past two."

She turned to him with her streaming eyes.

"Yes, we will go with you. Do not let us be separated."

"Then look sharp," said he, severely.

Natalie took her mother into the adjoining room. Brand, standing at the
window, succeeded in catching the eye of a cab-man, whom he signaled to
come to the door below. Presently the two women appeared.

"Now," he said, "Miss Natalie, there is to be no more crying."

"Oh no!" she said, smiling quite radiantly. "And I am so anxious to see
the rooms--I have heard so much of them from Lord Evelyn."

She said nothing further then, for she was passing before him on her way
out. In doing so, she managed, unseen, to pick up the miniature she had
thrown on the table. She had made believe to despise that portrait very
much; but all the same, as they went down the dark staircase, she
conveyed it back to the secret little pocket she had made for it--next
her heart.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

A SUMMONS.


"Mother," said the girl, in the soft-sounding Magyar, as these two were
together going down-stairs, "give me your hand; let me hold it tight, to
make sure. All the way here I kept terrifying myself by thinking it must
be a dream; that I should wake, and find the world empty without you,
just as before. But now--now with your hand in mine, I am sure."

"Natalushka, you can hear me speak also. Ghosts do not speak like this,
do they?"

Brand had preceded them to open the door. As Natalie was passing him she
paused for a second, and regarded him with the beautiful, tender, dark
eyes.

"I am not likely to forget what I owe to you," she said in English.

He followed them into the cab.

"What you owe to me?" he said, lightly. "You owe me nothing at all. But
if you wish to do me a good turn, you may pretend to be pleased with
whatever old Waters can get together for you. The poor old fellow will
be in a dreadful state. To entertain two ladies, and not a moment of
warning! However, we will show you the river, and the boats and things,
and give him a few minutes' grace."

Indeed, it was entirely as a sort of harmless frolic that he chose to
regard this present excursion of theirs. He was afraid of the effect of
excessive emotion on this worn woman, and he was anxious that she should
see her daughter cheerful and happy. He would not have them think of any
future; above all, he would have nothing said about himself or America;
it was all an affair of the moment--the joyous re-union of mother and
daughter--a pleasant morning with London all busy and astir--the only
serious thing in the whole world the possible anxieties and struggles of
the venerable major-domo in Buckingham Street.

He had not much difficulty in entertaining these two guests of his on
their way down. They professed to be greatly interested in the history
and antiquities of the old-fashioned little thoroughfare over the river;
arrived there, they regarded with much apparent curiosity the houses
pointed out to them as having been the abode of illustrious personages:
they examined the old water gate; and, in ascending the oak staircase,
they heard of painted ceilings and what not with a deep and respectful
attention. But always these two had each other's hand clasped tight, and
occasionally Natalie murmured a little snatch of Magyar. It was only to
make sure, she explained.

Before they reached the topmost story they heard a considerable noise
overhead. It was a one-sided altercation; broken and piteous on the one
hand, voluble and angry on the other.

"It sounds as if Waters were having a row with the man in possession,"
Brand said.

They drew nearer.

"Why, Natalie, it is your friend Kirski!"

Brand was following his two guests up-stairs; and so could not interfere
between the two combatants before they arrived. But the moment that
Natalie appeared on the landing there was a dead silence. Kirski shrunk
back with a slight exclamation, and stood looking from one to the other
with a frightened air. She advanced to him and asked him what was the
matter, in his native tongue. He shrunk farther back. The man could not
or would not speak. He murmured something to himself, and stared at her
as if she were a spectre.

"He has got a letter for you, sir," Waters said; "I have seen the
address; and he will neither leave it nor take it. And as for what he
has been trying to say, Lord A'mighty knows what it is--I don't."

"Very well--all right," Brand said. "You leave him to us. Cut away and
get some luncheon--whatever you can find--at once."

But Natalie had gone nearer to the Russian, and was talking to him in
that fearless, gentle way of hers. By-and-by he spoke, in an uncertain,
almost gasping voice. Then he showed her a letter; and, in obedience to
something she said, went timidly forward and placed it in Brand's hand.

  "_A Monsieur,
     M. George Brand, Esq.,
        Londres._"

This was the superscription; and Brand recognized the handwriting easily
enough.

"The letter is from Calabressa," he said obviously. "Tell him not to be
alarmed. We shall not eat him, however hungry we may be."

Kirski had recovered himself somewhat, and was speaking eagerly to her,
in a timid, anxious, imploring fashion. She listened in silence; but she
was clearly somewhat embarrassed, and when she turned to her lover there
was some flush of color on her face.

"He talks some wild things," she said, "and some foolish things; but he
means no harm. I am sorry for the poor man. He is afraid you are angry
with him; he says he promised never to try to see me; that he would not
have come if he had known. I have told him you are not angry; that it is
not his fault; that you will show that you are not angry."

But first of all Brand ushered his guests into the long, low-roofed
chamber, and drew the portieres across the middle, so that Waters might
have an apartment for his luncheon preparations. Then he opened the
letter. Kirski remained at the door, with his cap in his hand.

       *       *       *       *       *

"My much-esteemed friend,"--Calabressa wrote, in his ornate,
ungrammatical, and phonetic French--"the poor devil who is the bearer of
this letter is known to you, and yet not altogether known to you. You
know something of his conversion from a wild beast into a man--from the
tiger into a devotee; but you do not, my friend, perhaps entirely know
how his life has become absorbed in one worship, one aspiration, one
desire. The means of the conversion, the instrument, you know, have I
not myself before described it to you? The harassed and bleeding heart,
crushed with scorn and filled with despair--how can a man live with that
in his bosom? He wishes to die. The world has been too cruel to him. But
all at once an angel appears; into the ruins of the wasted life a seed
of kindness is dropped, and then behold the beautiful flower of love
springing up--love that becomes a worship, a religion! Yes, I have said
so much before to you; now I say more; now I entreat you not to check
this beautiful worship--it is sacred. This man goes round the churches;
he stands before the pictures of the saints; he wanders on unsatisfied:
he says there is no saint like the beautiful one in England, who healed
him with her soft words when he was sick to death. But now, my dear
Monsieur Brand, I hear you say to yourself, 'What is my friend
Calabressa after now? Has he taken to the writings of pious sermons? Is
he about to shave his head and put a rope round his waist? My faith,
that is not like that fellow Calabressa!' You are right, my friend. I
describe the creation of the devotee; it is a piece of poetry, as one
might say. But your devotee must have his amulet; is it not so? This is
the meaning and prayer of my letter to you. The bearer of it was willing
to do us a great service; perhaps--if one must confess it--he believed
it was on behalf of the beautiful Natalushka and her father that he was
to undertake the duty that now devolves on some other. One must practice
a little _finesse_ sometimes; what harm is there? Very well. Do you know
what he seeks by way of reward--what he considers the most valuable
thing in the world? It is a portrait of his saint, you understand? That
is the amulet the devotee would have. And I do not further wish to write
to her; no, because she would say, 'What, that is a little matter to do
for my friend Calabressa.' No; I write to you--I write to one who has
knowledge of affairs--and I say to myself, 'If he considers it prudent,
then he will ask the beautiful child to give her portrait to this one
who will worship it.' I have declared to him that I will make the
request; I make it. Do not consider it a trifling matter; it is not to
him; it is the crown of his existence. And if he says, 'Do you see, this
is what I am ready to do for her--I will give my life if she or her
friends wish it;' then I say--I, Calabressa--that a portrait at one
shilling, two shillings, ten shillings, is not so very much in return.
Now, my dear friend, you will consider the prudence of granting his
request and mine. I believe in his faithfulness. If you say to him, 'The
beautiful lady who was kind to you wishes you to do this or do that; or
wishes you never to part with this portrait; or wishes you to keep
silence on this or on that,' you may depend on him. I say so. Adieu! Say
to the little one that there is some one who does not forget her.
Perhaps you will never hear from Calabressa again: remember him not as a
madcap, but as one who wishes you well. To-morrow I start for
Cyprus--then farther--with a light heart. Adieu!

  "Calabressa."

       *       *       *       *       *

He handed the letter to Natalie's mother. The elder woman read the
letter carefully. She laughed quietly; but there were tears in her eyes.

"It is like my old friend Calabressa," she said. "Natalushka, they want
you to give your portrait to this poor creature who adores you. Why not?
Calabressa says he will do whatever you tell him. Tell him, then, not to
part with it; not to show it to any one, and not to say to any one he
has seen either you or me here. Is not that simple? Tell him to come
here to-morrow or next day; you can send the photograph to Mr. Brand."

The girl went to the door, and said a few words to Kirski. He said
nothing in reply, but sunk on his knees, as he had done in Curzon
Street, and took her hand and kissed it; then he rose, and bowed
respectfully to the others, and left.

Presently Waters came in and announced that luncheon was on the table;
the portieres were drawn aside; they passed into the farther end of the
apartment, and sat down. The banquet was not a sumptuous one, and there
were no flowers on the table; but it was everything that any human being
could have done in fifteen minutes; and these were bachelors' rooms.
Natalie took care to make a pretty speech in the hearing of Mr. Waters.

"Yes, but you eat nothing," the host said. "Do you think your mother
will have anything if she sees you indifferent?"

Presently the mother, who seemed to be much amused with something or
other, said in French,

"Ah, my friend, I did not think my child would be so deceitful. I did
not think she would deceive you."

The girl stared with wide eyes.

"She pretended to tell you what this poor man said to her," said the
mother, with a quiet smile. "She forgot that some one else than herself
might know Russian."

Natalie flushed red.

"Mother!" she remonstrated. "I said he had spoken a lot of foolish
things."

"After all," said the mother, "he said no more than what Calabressa says
in the letter. You have been kind to him; he regards you as an angel; he
will give you his life; you, or any one whom you love. The poor man! Did
you see how he trembled?"

Natalie turned to George Brand.

"He said something more than that," said she. "He said he had undertaken
some duty, some service, that was expected to have cost him his life. He
did not know what it was: do you?"

"I do not," said he, answering frankly the honest look of her eyes. "I
can scarcely believe any one was foolish enough to think of intrusting
any serious duty to a man like that. But still Calabressa hints as much;
and I know he left England with Calabressa."

"Natalushka," the mother said, cautiously, and yet with an anxious
scrutiny, "I have often wondered--whether you knew much--much about the
Society."

"Oh no, mother! I am allowed to translate, and sometimes I hear that
help is to be given here or there; but I am in no secrets at all. That
is my misfortune."

The mother seemed much relieved.

"It is not a misfortune, child. You are happier as you are, I think.
Then," she added, with a quick glance, "you have never heard of
one--Bartolotti?"

"No," she answered; but directly afterwards she exclaimed, "Oh yes, yes!
Bartolotti, that is the name Calabressa gave me. He said if ever I was
in very serious trouble, I was to go to Naples; and that was the
password. But I thought to myself, 'If I am in trouble, why should I not
go to my own father?'"

The mother rose and went to the girl, and put her arm round her
daughter's neck, and stooped down.

"Natalushka," said she, earnestly, "you are wiser than Calabressa. If
you are in trouble, do not seek any help that way. Go to your father."

"And to you, mother," said she, drawing down the worn, beautiful face
and kissing it. "Why not to you also? Why not to you both?"

The mother smiled, and patted the girl's head, and then returned to the
other side of the table. Waters brought in some fruit, fresh from Covent
Garden.

He also brought in a letter, which he put beside his master's plate.
Brand did not even look at it; he pushed it aside, to give him more
room. But in pushing it aside he turned it somewhat and Natalie's eye
happening to fall on the address, she perceived at once that it was in
the handwriting of her father.

"Dearest," said she, in a low voice, and rather breathlessly, "the
letter is from papa."

"From your father?" said he, without any great concern. Then he turned
to Natalie's mother. "Will you excuse me? My friends are determined to
remind me of their existence to-day."

But this letter was much shorter than Calabressa's, though it was
friendly enough.

"My Dear Mr. Brand," it ran,--"I am glad to hear that you acted with so
much promptitude that your preparations for departure are nearly
complete. You are soldier-like. I have less scruples, therefore, in
asking you to be so kind as to give me up to-morrow evening from
half-past nine onward, for the consideration of a very serious order
that has been transmitted to us from the Council. You will perceive that
this claims precedence over any of our local arrangements; and as it may
even involve the abandonment of your voyage to America, it will be
advisable to give it immediate consideration. I trust the hour of
half-past nine will not interfere with any engagement.

  "Your colleague and friend,      Ferdinand Lind."

This was all that an ordinary reader would have seen in the letter; but
Brand observed also, down at the left-hand corner, a small mark in green
color. That tiny arrow, with the two dots--the whole almost
invisible--changed the letter from an invitation into a command. It
signified "On business of the Council."

He laid down the letter, and said lightly to Natalie,

"Now I have some news for you. I may not have to go to America after
all."

"You are not going to America?" she said, in a bewildered way. "Oh, if
it were possible--if it were possible!" she murmured, "I would say I was
too happy. God is too good to me--to have them both given back to me in
one day--both of them in one day--"

"Natalie," said he, gently, "it is only a possibility, you know."

"But it is possible!" she said; and there was a quick, strange, happy
light in her face. "It _is_ possible, is it not?"

Then she glanced at her mother; and her face, that had been somewhat
pale, was pale no longer; the blood mounted to her forehead; her eyes
were downcast.

"It would please you, would it not?" she said, somewhat formally and in
a low and timid voice. The mother, unobserved, smiled.

"Oh yes," he said, cheerfully. "But even if I go to America, expect
your mother and you to be arriving at Sandy Hook; and what then? In a
couple of years--it is not a long time--I should have a small steamer
there to meet you, and we could sail up the bay together."

Luncheon over, they went to the window, and greatly admired the view of
the gardens below and the wide river beyond; and they went round the
room examining the water-colors, and bits of embroidery, and knickknacks
brought from many lands, and they were much interested in one or two
portraits. Altogether they were charmed with the place, though the elder
lady said, in her pretty, careful French, that it was clear no woman's
hand was about, otherwise there would have been white curtains at the
windows besides those heavy straight folds of red. Brand said he
preferred to have plenty of light in the room; and, in fact, at this
moment the sunlight was painting squares of beautiful color on the faded
old Turkey-carpet. All this time Natalie had shown much reserve.

When the mother and daughter were in the cab together going to Edgware
Road--George Brand was off by himself to Brompton--the mother said,

"Natalushka, why was your manner so changed to Mr. Brand, after you
heard he might not be going to America?"

The girl hesitated for a moment, and her eyes were lowered.

"You see, mother," she said, with some embarrassment, "when one is in
great trouble and difficulty--and when you wish to show sympathy--then,
perhaps, you speak too plainly. You do not think of choosing very
prudent words; your heart speaks for you; and one may say things that a
girl should not be too ready to confess. That is when there is great
trouble, and you are grieved for some one. But--but--when the trouble
goes away--when it is all likely to come right--one remembers--"

The explanation was rather stammering and confused.

"But at least, mother," she added, with her eyes still downcast, "at
least I can be frank with you. There is no harm in my telling you that I
love you."

The mother pressed the hand that she held in hers.

"And if you tell me often enough, Natalushka, perhaps I shall begin to
believe you."



CHAPTER XXXIX.

A NEW HOME.


George Brand set out house-hunting with two exceptional circumstances in
his favor: he knew precisely what he wanted, and he was prepared to pay
for it. Moreover, he undertook the task willingly and cheerfully. It was
something to do. It would fill in a portion of that period of suspense.
It would prevent his harassing himself with speculations as to his own
future--speculations which were obviously useless until he should learn
what was required of him by the Council.

But none the less was he doomed to the house-hunter's inevitable
disappointment. He found, in the course of his devious wanderings
through all sorts of out-of-the way thoroughfares within a certain
radius from Brompton Church, that the houses which came nearest to his
ideal cottage in a walled garden were either too far away from Hyde
Park, or they were not to be let, or they were to be let unfurnished.
So, like a prudent person, he moderated his desires, and began to cast
about for any furnished house of fairly cheerful aspect, with a garden
behind. But here again he found that the large furnished houses were out
of the question, because they were unnecessarily expensive, and that the
smaller ones were mostly to be found in slummy streets; while in both
cases there was a difficulty about servants. The end of it was that he
took the first floor of an old-fashioned house in Hans Place, being
induced to do so partly because the landlady was a bright,
pleasant-looking little Frenchwoman, and partly because the rooms were
furnished and decorated in a fashion not common to lodging-houses.

Then came the question of terms, references, and what not; and on all of
these points Mr. Brand showed himself remarkably complaisant. But when
all this was done he sat down, and said,

"Now I wish you to understand me clearly, madame. This lady I have told
you about has come through much trouble; you are to be kind to her, and
I will see you do not lose by it. Her daughter will come to see her
frequently, perhaps every day; I suppose the young lady's maid can
remain down-stairs somewhere."

"Oh yes, sir."

"Very well. Now if you will be so good as to get me pen and ink I will
give you a check for fifty-two pounds--that is, a pound a week for a
year. You see, there are a number of little kindnesses you could show
this poor lady that would be all the more appreciated if they were not
put down in a book and charged for: you understand? You could find out,
perhaps, from time to time some little delicacy she is fond of. Then
flowers: there is a good florist's shop in Sloane Street is there not?"

"Oh yes, sir."

She brought the ink, and he drew out the check.

"Then when the young lady comes to see her mother you will be very
attentive and kind to her too. You must not wait for them to ask for
this or that; you must come up to the door and say 'Will not the young
lady have a cup of chocolate?' or whatever you can suggest--fruit,
biscuits, wine, or what not. And as these little extras will cost you
something, I cannot allow you to be out of pocket; so here is a fund for
you to draw from; and, of course, not a word to either of the ladies. I
think you understand?"

"Perfectly, sir," said madame.

"Then, if I hear that you have been very kind and obliging, I suppose
one might be allowed from time to time to send you a little
present--something to beautify your house with? You have pretty rooms;
you have shown great taste in decorating them."

"Oh, not I, sir," said the little Frenchwoman; "I took the house as it
stands from Mr. ----."

"The architect," said Brand. "Ah, that explains. But I am surprised he
should have used gas."

"That _was_ my doing," said the landlady, with some pride. "It is a
great improvement. It is so convenient, is it not?"

"My dear madame," said Brand, seriously, "it cannot be convenient to
have one's lungs poisoned with the smoke of London gas. You must on no
account allow this lady who is coming to your house to sit through the
long evenings with gas blazing over her head all the time; why, she
would have continual headache. No, no, you must get a couple of
lamps--one for the piano there, and a smaller reading-one fox this
little table by the fire. Then these sconces, you will get candles for
them, of course; red ones look pretty--not pink, but red."

The French landlady seemed rather dismayed. She had been all smiles and
courtesy so far; but now the bargain did not promise to be so profitable
if this was the way she was to begin. But Brand pulled out his watch.

"If you will allow me," said he, "I will go and get a few things to
make the room look homely. You see this lady must be made as comfortable
as possible, for she will see no one but her daughter, and all the
evenings she will be alone. Now will you be so good as to have the fire
lit? And these little things I am about to get for you, of course they
will become your property; only you need not say who presented them to
you, you perceive?"

The little woman's face grew happy again, and she assured him fervently
and repeatedly that he might trust her to do her best for this lady
about whom he seemed so anxious.

It was almost dusk when he went out; most of the shops in Sloane Street
had their windows lit. He set about this further task of his with an
eager delight. For although it was ostensibly for Natalie's mother that
he was buying this and buying that, there was an underlying
consciousness that Natalie herself would be pleased--that many and many
a time she would occupy that pretty little sitting-room, that perhaps
she might guess who it was who had been so thoughtful about her mother
and herself. Fortunately Sloane Street is an excellent shopping
thoroughfare; he got everything he wanted--even wax candles of the
proper tint of red. He first of all went to the florist's and got fruit
and flowers enough to decorate a hall. Then from shop to shop he
wandered, buying books here, a couple of lamps there, a low,
softly-cushioned easy-chair, a fire-screen, pastils, tins of sweet
biscuits, a dozen or two of Hungarian wine, a tea-making apparatus, a
box of various games, some white rose scent, and he was very near adding
a sewing-machine, but thought he would wait to see whether she
understood the use of that instrument. All these and many other articles
were purchased on the explicit condition that they were to be delivered
in Hans Place within the following half-hour.

Then he went back to the lodging-house, carrying in his hand the red
candles. These he placed himself in the sconces, and lit them; the
effect was good, now that the fire was blazing cheerfully. One by one
the things arrived; and gradually the lodging-house sitting-room grew
more and more like a home. He put the flowers here and there about the
place, the little Frenchwoman having brought him such, small jars and
vases as were in her possession--these fortunately including a couple of
bits of modern Venetian glass. The reading-lamp was lit and put on the
small table; the newly imported easy-chair was drawn to the fire; some
books and the evening papers scattered about. He lit one of the
pastils, put the fire-screen in its place, and had a last look round.

Then he got into a hansom and drove up to the house in the Edgware Road.
He was immediately admitted and shown up-stairs. Natalie's mother rose
to receive him; he fancied she had been crying.

"I am come to take you to your new rooms," he said, cheerfully. "They
are better than these."

"Ah, that is kind of you," she said, also speaking in French; "but in
truth what do I care where I am? My heart is full of joy. It is enough
for me to sit quiet and say to myself, 'My child loves me. She has not
turned away from me. She is more beautiful even than I had believed; and
she has a good heart. I have no longer any fear.'"

"Yes, madame," said he, "but you must not sit quiet and think like that,
or you will become ill, and then how are you to go out walking with
Natalie? You have many things to do, and many things to decide on. For
example, you will have to explain to her how it is you may not go to her
father's house. At this moment what other thing than that do you imagine
she is thinking about? She will ask you."

"I would rather not tell her," said the mother, absently; "it is better
she should not know."

He hesitated for a second or two.

"Then it is impossible that a reconciliation between your husband and
yourself--"

"Oh no, no!" she said, somewhat sadly; "that is impossible, now."

"And you are anxious he should not know that you and your daughter see
each other."

"I am not so anxious," she said. "I have faith in Natalushka: I can
perceive her courage. But perhaps it would be better."

"Very well. Then come to these other rooms I have got for you; they are
in a more secluded neighborhood."

"Very well, monsieur. I have but few things with me. I will be ready
soon."

In less than half an hour after that the French landlady was receiving
her new guest; and so eager was she to show to the English gentleman her
gratitude for his substantial presents, that her officious kindness was
almost burdensome.

"I thank you," said the new-comer, with a smile, as the landlady brought
her a cushion for her back the moment she sat down in the easy chair,
"but I am not yet an invalid."

Then would madame have some tea? Or perhaps madame had not dined? There
was little in the house; but something could be prepared at once; from
to-morrow morning madame's instructions would be fulfilled to the
letter. To get rid of her, Brand informed her that madame had not dined,
and would be glad to have anything that happened to be in the house.
Then she left, and he was about to leave also.

"No," said the beautiful mother to him, with a smile on the pale face.
"Sit down; I have something to say to you."

He sat down, his hat still in his hand.

"I have not thanked you," she said. "I see who has done all this: do you
think a stranger would know to have the white-rose scent for me that
Natalie uses? She was right: you are kind--you think of others."

"It is nothing--it is nothing," he said, hastily, and with all an
Englishman's embarrassment.

"My dear friend," said his companion, with a grave kindness in her tone,
and a look of affectionate interest in her eyes, "I am going to prove my
gratitude to you. I am going to prevent--what do you call it?--a lover's
quarrel."

He started.

"Yesterday," she continued, still regarding him in that kindly way,
"before we left your rooms, Natalushka was very reserved toward you; was
it not so? I perceived it; and you?"

"I--I thought she was tired," he stammered.

"To-morrow you are to fetch her here; and what if you find her still
more reserved--even cold toward you? You will be pained, perhaps
alarmed. Ah, my dear friend, life is made very bitter sometimes by
mistakes; so it is that I must tell you the reason. The child loves you;
be sure of that. Yes; but she thinks that she has been too frank in
saying so--in time of trouble and anxiety; and now--now that you are
perhaps not going to America--now that perhaps all the trouble is
over--now she is beginning to think she ought to be a little more
discreet, as other young ladies are. The child means no harm, but you
and she must not quarrel."

He took her hand to bid her good-bye.

"Natalie and I are not likely to quarrel," said he, cheerfully. "Now I
am going away. If I stayed, you would do nothing but talk about her,
whereas it is necessary that you should have some dinner, then read one
of these books for an hour or so, then go to bed and have a long, sound
night's rest. You must be looking your brightest when she comes to see
you to-morrow."

And indeed, as it turned out subsequently, this warning; of the
mother's was not wholly unnecessary. Next day at eleven o'clock, as had
previously been arranged, Brand met Natalie at the corner of Great
Stanhope Street to escort her to the house to which her mother had
removed. He had not even got into the park with her when he perceived
that her manner was distinctly reserved. Anneli was with her, and she
kept talking from time to time to the little maid, who was thus obliged,
greatly against her will, to walk close to her mistress. At last Brand
said,

"Natalie, have I offended you?"

"Oh no!" she said, in a hurried, low voice.

"Natalie," said he, very gently, "I once heard of a wicked creature who
was determined to play the hypocrite, and might have done a great deal
of mischief, only she had a most amiable mother, who stepped in and gave
somebody else a warning. Did you ever hear of such a wicked person?"

The blood mounted to her face. By this time Anneli had taken leave to
fall behind.

"Then," said the girl, with some hesitation, and yet with firmness, "you
will not misunderstand me. If all the circumstances are to be altered,
then--then you must forget what I have said to you in moments of
trouble. I have a right to ask it. You must forget the past altogether."

"But it is impossible!"

"It is necessary."

For some minutes they walked on in silence. Then he felt a timid touch
on his arm; her hand had been laid there, deprecatingly, for a moment.

"Are you angry with me?"

"No, I am not," said he, frankly, "for the very reason that what you ask
is impossible, unnecessary, absurd. You might as well ask me to forget
that I am alive. In any case, isn't it rather too soon? Are you so sure
that all the trouble is past? Wait till the storm is well over, and we
are going into port, then we will put on our Sunday manners to go
ashore."

"I am afraid you are angry with me," she said again, timidly.

"You could not make me, if you tried," he said, simply; "but I am proud
of you, Natalie--proud of the courage and clearness and frankness of
your character, and I don't like to see you fall away from that, and
begin to consider what a school-mistress would think of you."

"It is not what any one may think of me that I consider; it is what I
think of myself," she answered, in the same low voice.

They reached Hans Place. The mother was at the door of the room to
welcome them. She took her daughter by the hand and led her in.

"Look round, Natalushka," she said. "Can you guess who has arranged all
this for me--for me and for you?"

The girl almost instantly turned--her eyes cast down--and took her
lover's hand, and kissed it in silence. That was all.

Then said he, lightly, as he shoved the low easy-chair nearer the fire,

"Come, madame, and sit down here; and you, Natalushka, here is a stool
for you, that you will be able to lean your head on your mother's knee.
There; it is a very pretty group: do you know why I make you into a
picture? Well, you see, these are troubled times; and one has one's work
to do; and who can tell what may happen? But don't you see that,
whatever may happen, I can carry away with me this picture; and always,
wherever I may be, I can say to myself that Natalie and her mother are
together in the quiet little room, and that they are happy. Now I must
bid you good-bye; I have a great deal of business to-day with my
solicitor. And the landlady, madame: how does she serve you?"

"She overwhelms me with kindness."

"That is excellent," said he, as he shook hands with them and, against
both their protests, took his leave.

He carried away that picture in his mind. He had left these two
together, and they were happy. What mattered it to him what became of
himself?

It was on the evening of that day that he had to obey the summons of the
Council.



CHAPTER XL.

A CONCLAVE.


Punctual to the moment George Brand arrived in Lisle Street. He was
shown into an inner room, where he found Lind seated at a desk, and
Reitzei and Beratinsky standing by the fireplace. On an adjacent table
where four cups of black coffee, four small glasses, a bottle of brandy,
and a box of cigarettes.

Lind rose to receive him, and was very courteous indeed--apologizing
for having had to break in on his preparations for leaving, and offering
him coffee, cigarettes, and what not. When the new-comer had declined
these, Lind resumed his place and begged the others to be seated.

"We will proceed to business at once, gentlemen," said he, speaking in
quite an ordinary and matter-of-fact way, "although, I will confess to
you, it is not business entirely to my liking. Perhaps I should not say
so. This paper, you see, contains my authorization from the Council to
summon you and to explain the service they demand: perhaps I should
merely obey, and say nothing. But we are friends; we can speak in
confidence."

Here Reitzei, who was even more pallid than usual, and whose fingers
seemed somewhat shaky, filled one of the small glasses of brandy, and
drank it off.

"I do not say that I hesitate," continued Lind--"that I am reluctant,
because the service that is required from us--from one of us four--is
dangerous--is exceedingly dangerous. No," he said, with a brief smile,
"as far as I am myself concerned, I have carried my life in my hands too
often to think much about that. And you, gentlemen, considering the
obligations you have accepted, I take it that the question of possible
harm to yourselves is not likely to interfere with your obedience to the
commands of the Council."

"As for me," said Reitzei, eagerly and nervously, "I tell you this, I
should like to have something exciting now--I do not care what. I am
tired of this work in London; it is slow, regular, like the ticking of a
clock. I am for something to stir the blood a little. I say that I am
ready for anything."

"As for me," said Beratinsky, curtly, "no one has ever yet called me a
coward."

Brand said nothing; but he perceived that this was something unusually
serious, and almost unconsciously he closed his right hand that he might
feel the clasp of Natalie's ring. There was no need to appeal to his
oaths of allegiance.

Lind proceeded, in a graver fashion,

"Yes, I confess that personally I am for avoiding violence, for
proceeding according to law. But then the Council would say, perhaps,
'Are there not injuries for which the law gives no redress? Are there
not those who are beyond the power of the law? And we, who have given
our lives to the redressing of wrongs, to the protection of the poor, to
the establishment of the right, are we to stand by and see the moral
sense of the community outraged by those in high places, and say no
word, and lift no hand?'"

He took up a book that was lying on the table, and opened it at a marked
page.

"Yes," he said, "there are occasions on which a man may justly take the
law into his own hands; may break the law, and go beyond it, and punish
those whom the law has failed to punish; and the moral sense of the
world will say, 'Well done!' Did you ever happen to read, Mr. Brand, the
letter written by Madame von Maderspach?"

Brand started at the mention of the name: it recalled the first evening
on which he had seen Natalie. What strange things had happened since
then! He answered that he did not know of Madame von Maderspach's
letter.

"By chance I came across it to-day," said Lind, looking at the book.
"Listen: 'I was torn from the arms of my husband, from the circle of my
children, from the hallowed sanctuary of my home, charged with no
offence, allowed no hearing, arraigned before no judge. I, a woman,
wife, and mother, was in my own native town, before the people
accustomed to treat me with respect, dragged into a square of soldiers,
and there scourged with rods. Look, I can write this without dropping
dead! But my husband killed himself. Robbed of all other weapons, he
shot himself with a pocket-pistol. The people rose, and would have
killed those who instigated these horrors, but their lives were saved by
the interference of the military.' Very well. Von Maderspach took his
own way; he shot himself. But if, instead of doing that, he had taken
the law into his own hands, and killed the author of such an outrage, do
you think there is a human being in the world who would have blamed
him?"

He appealed directly to Brand. Brand answered calmly, but with his face
grown rather white, "I think if such a thing were done to--to my wife, I
would have a shot at somebody."

Perhaps Lind thought that it was the recital of the wrongs of Madame von
Maderspach that had made this man's face grow white, and given him that
look about the mouth; but at all events he continued, "Exactly so. I was
only seeking to show you that there are occasions on which a man might
justly take the law into his own hands. Well, then, some would argue--I
don't say so myself, but some would say--that what a man may do justly
an association may do justly. What would the quick-spreading
civilization of America have done but for the Lynch tribunals? The
respectable people said to themselves, 'it is question of life or
death. We have to attack those scoundrels at once, or society will be
destroyed. We cannot wait for the law: it is powerless.' And so when the
president had given his decision, out they went and caught the
scoundrels, and strung them up to the nearest tree. You do not call them
murderers. John Lynch ought to have a statue in every Western State in
America."

"Certainly, certainly!" exclaimed Reitzei, reaching over and filling out
another glass of brandy with an unsteady hand. He was usually an
exceedingly temperate person. "We are all agreed. Justice must be done,
whether the law allows or not; I say the quicker the better."

Lind paid no heed to him, but proceeded quietly, "Now I will come more
directly to what is required of us by the Council; I have been trying to
guess at their view of the question; perhaps I am altogether wrong; but
no matter. And I will ask you to imagine yourselves not here in this
free country of England, where the law is strong--and not only that, but
you have a public opinion that is stronger still--and where it is not
possible that a great Churchman should be a man living in open iniquity,
and an oppressor and a scoundrel--I will ask you to imagine yourselves
living in Italy, let one say in the Papal Territory itself, where the
reign of Christ should be, and where the poor should be cared for, if
there is Christianity still on the earth. And you are poor, let us say;
hardly knowing how to scrape together a handful of food sometimes; and
your children ragged and hungry; and you forced from time to time to go
to the Monte di Pieta to pawn your small belongings, or else you will
die, or you will see your children die before your eyes."

"Ah, yes, yes!" exclaimed Reitzei. "That is the worst of it--to see
one's children die! That is worse than one's own hunger."

"And you," continued Lind, quietly, but still with a little more
distinctness of emphasis, "you, you poor devils, you see a great
dignitary of the Church, a great prince among priests, living in
shameless luxury, in violation of every law, human and divine, with the
children of his mistresses set up in palaces, himself living on the fat
of the land. What law does he not break, this libertine, this usurer?
What makes the corn dear, so that you cannot get it for your starving
children?--what but this plunderer, this robber, seizing the funds that
extremity has dragged from the poor in order to buy up the grain of the
States? A pretty speculation! No wonder that you murmur and complain;
that you curse him under your breath, that you call him _il cardinale
affamatore_. And no wonder, if you happen to belong to a great
association that has promised to see justice done, no wonder you come to
that association and say, 'Masters, why cannot justice be done now? It
is too long to wait for the Millennium. Remove this oppressor from the
face of the earth: down with the Starving Cardinal!'"

"Yes, yes, yes!" cried Reitzei, excitedly. Beratinsky sat silent and
sullen. Brand, with some strange foreboding of what was coming, still
sat with his hand tight closed on Natalie's ring.

"More," continued Lind--and now, if he was acting, it was a rare piece
of acting, for wrath and indignation gathered on his brow, and increased
the emphasis of his voice--"it is not only your purses, it is not only
your poor starved homesteadings that are attacked, it is the honor of
your women. Whose sister or daughter is safe? Mr. Brand, one of your
English poets has made the poor cry to the rich,

    "'Our sons are your slaves by day,
      Our daughters your slaves by night.'

But what if some day a poor man--I will tell you his name--his name is
De Bedros; he is not a peasant, but a helpless, poor old man--what if
this man comes to the great association that I have mentioned and says,
wringing his hands, 'My Brothers and Companions, you have sworn to
protect the weak and avenge the injured: what is your oath worth if you
do not help me now? My daughter, my only daughter, has been taken from
me, she has been stolen from my side, shrieking with fear, and I thrown
bleeding into the ditch. By whom? By one who is beyond the law; who
laughs at the law; who is the law! But you--you will be the avengers.
Too long has this monster outraged the name of Christ and insulted the
forbearance of his fellow creatures: my Brothers, this is what I demand
from your hands--I demand from the SOCIETY OF THE SEVEN STARS--I demand
from you, the Council--I demand, my Brothers and Companions, a decree of
death against the monster Zaccatelli!'"

"Yes, yes, yes, the decree!" shouted Reitzei, all trembling. "Who could
refuse it? Or I myself--"

"Gentlemen," said Lind, calmly, "the decree has been granted. Here is my
authority; read it."

He held out the paper first of all to Brand, who took it in both his
hands, and forced himself to go over it. But he could not read it very
carefully; his heart was beating quickly; he was thinking of a great
many things all at once--of Lord Evelyn, of Natalie, of his oaths to the
Society, even of his Berkshire home and the beech-woods. He handed on
the paper to Reitzei, who was far too much excited to read it at all.
Beratinsky merely glanced at it carelessly, and put it back on the
table.

"Gentlemen," Lind continued, returning to his unemotional manner,
"personally, I consider it just that this man, whom the law cannot or
does not choose to reach, should be punished for his long career of
cruelty, oppression, and crime, and punished with death! but, as I
confessed to you before, I could have wished that that punishment had
not been delivered by our hands. We have made great progress in England;
and we have been preaching nothing but peace and good-will, and the use
of lawful means of amelioration. If this deed is traced to our Society,
as it almost certainly will be, it will do us a vast amount of injury
here; for the English people will not be able to understand that such a
state of affairs as I have described can exist, or that this is the only
remedy. As I said to you before, it is with great reluctance that I
summoned you here to-night--"

"Why so, Brother Lind?" Reitzei broke in, and again he reached over for
the bottle. "We are not cowards, then?"

Beratinsky took the bottle from him and put it back on the table.

Reitzei did not resent this interference; he only tried to roll up a
cigarette, and did not succeed very well with his trembling fingers.

"You will have seen," said Lind, continuing as if there had been no
interruption, "why the Council have demanded this duty of the English
section. The lesson would be thrown away altogether--a valuable life
belonging to the Society would be lost--if it were supposed that this
was an act of private revenge. No; the death of Cardinal Zaccatelli will
be a warning that Europe will take to heart. At least," he added,
thoughtfully, "I hope it will prove to be so, and I hope it will be
unnecessary to repeat the warning."

"You are exceedingly tender-hearted, Brother Lind," said Reitzei. "Do
you pity this man, then? Do you think he should flourish his crimes in
the face of the world for another twenty, thirty years?"

"It is unnecessary to say what I think," observed Lind, in the same
quiet fashion. "It is enough for us that we know our duty. The Council
have commanded; we obey."

"Yes; but let us come to the point, Brother Lind," said Beratinsky, in
a somewhat surly fashion. "I do not much care what happens to me; yet
one wishes to know."

"Gentlemen," said Lind, composedly, "you know that among the ordinances
of the Society is one to the effect that no member shall be sent on any
duty involving peril to his life without a ballot among at least four
persons. As this particular service is one demanding great secrecy and
circumspection, I have considered it right to limit the ballot to
four--to ourselves, in fact."

There was not a word said.

"That the duty involves peril to life is obvious; it will be a miracle
if he who undertakes this affair should escape. As for myself, you will
perceive by the paper you have read that I am commissioned by the
Council to form the ballot, but not instructed to include myself. I
could avoid doing so if I chose, but when I ask my friends to run a
risk, I am willing to take the same risk. For the rest, I have been in
as dangerous enterprises before."

He leaned over and pulled toward him a sheet of paper. Then he took a
pair of scissors and cut the sheet into four pieces; these he proceeded
to fold up until they were about the size of a shilling, and identically
alike. All the time he was talking.

"Yes, it will be a dangerous business," he said, slowly, "and one
requiring great forethought and caution. Then I do not say it is
altogether impossible one might escape; though then the warning, the
lesson of this act of punishment might not be so effective: they might
mistake it for a Camorra affair, though the Cardinal himself already
knows otherwise."

He opened a bottle of red ink that stood by.

"The simplest means are sufficient," said he. "This is how we used to
settle affairs in '48."

He opened one of the pieces of paper, and put a cross in red on it,
which he dried on the blotting-paper. Then he folded it up again, threw
the four pieces into a pasteboard box, put down the lid, and shook the
box lightly.

"Whoever draws the red cross," he said, almost indifferently, "carries
out the command of the Council. Have you anything to say, gentlemen--to
suggest?"

"Yes," said Reitzei, boldly.

Lind regarded him.

"What is the use of the ballot?" said the pallid-faced young man. "What
if one volunteers? I should myself like to settle the business of the
scoundrelly Cardinal."

Lind shook his head.

"Impossible. Calabressa thought of a volunteer; he was mad! There must
be a ballot. Come; shall we proceed?"

He opened the box and put it before Beratinsky. Beratinsky took out one
of the papers, opened it, glanced at it, crumpled it up, and threw it
into the fire.

"It isn't I, at all events," he said.

It was Reitzei next. When he glanced at the paper he had drawn, he
crushed it together with an oath, and dashed it on the floor.

"Of course, of course," he exclaimed, "just when I was eager for a bit
of active service. So it is you, Brother Lind, or our friend Brand who
is to settle the business of the Starving Cardinal."

Calmly, almost as a matter of course, Lind handed the box to George
Brand; and he, being a proud man, and in the presence of foreigners, was
resolved to show no sign of emotion whatever. When he took out the paper
and opened it, and saw his fate there in the red cross, he laid it on
the table before him without a word. Then he shut his hand on Natalie's
ring.

"Well," said Lind, rather sadly, as he took out the remaining paper
without looking at it, and threw aside the box, "I almost regret it, as
between you and me. I have less of life to look forward to."

"I would like to ask one question," said Brand, rising: he was perfectly
firm.

"Yes?"

"The orders of the Council must be obeyed. I only wish to know
whether--when--when this thing comes to be done--I must declare my own
name?"

"Not at all--not at all!" Lind said, quickly. "You may use any name you
like."

"I am glad of that," he said. Then, with the same proud, impassive
firmness, he made an appointment for the next day, got his hat and coat,
bade his companions good-night, and went down-stairs into the cold night
air. He could not realize as yet all that had happened, but his first
quick, instinctive thought had been,

"Ah, not that--not the name that my mother bore!"



CHAPTER XLI.

IN THE DEEPS.


The sudden shock of the cold night air was a relief to his burning
brain; and so also as he passed into the crowded streets, was the low
continuous thunder all around him. The theatres were coming out; cabs,
omnibuses, carriages added to the muffled roar; the pavements were
thronged with people talking, laughing, jostling, calling out one to the
other. He was glad to lose himself in this seething multitude; he was
glad to be hidden by the darkness; he would try to think.

But his thoughts were too rapid and terrible to be very clear. He only
vaguely knew--it was a consciousness that seemed to possess both heart
and brain like a consuming fire--that the beautiful dreams he had been
dreaming of a future beyond the wide Atlantic, with Natalie living and
working by his side, her proud spirit cheering him on, and refusing to
be daunted--these dreams had been suddenly snatched away from him; and
in their stead, right before him, stood this pitiless, inexorable fate.
He could not quite tell how it had all occurred, but there at least was
the horrible certainty, staring him right in the face. He could not
avoid it; he could not shut his eyes to it, or draw back from it; there
was no escape. Then some wild desire to have the thing done at once
possessed him. At once--at once--and then the grave would cover over his
remorse and despair. Natalie would forget; she had her mother now to
console her. Evelyn would say, "Poor devil, he was not the first who got
into mischief by meddling in schemes without knowing how far he might
have to go." Then amidst all this confused din of the London streets,
what was the phrase that kept ringing in his ears?--"_And when she bids
die he shall surely die!_" But he no longer heard the pathetic vibration
of Natalie Lind's voice; the words seemed to him solemn, and distant,
and hopeless, like a knell. But only if it were over--that was again his
wild desire. In the grave was forgetfulness and peace.

Presently a curious fancy seized him. At the corner of Windmill Street a
ragged youth was bawling out the name of a French journal. Brand bought
a copy of the journal, passed on, and walked into an adjacent cafe, and
took a seat at one of the small tables. A waiter came to him, and he
mechanically ordered coffee. He began to search this newspaper for the
array of paragraphs usually headed _Tribunaux_.

At last, in the corner of the newspaper, he found that heading, though
under it there was nothing of any importance or interest. But it was the
heading itself that had a strange fascination for him. He kept his eyes
fixed on it. Then he began to see detached phrases and sentences--or,
perhaps, it was only in his brain that he saw them: "The Assassination
of Count Zaccatelli! The accused, an Englishman, who refuses to declare
his name, admits that he had no personal enmity--commanded to execute
this horrible crime--a punishment decreed by a society which he will not
name--confesses his guilt--is anxious to be sentenced at once, and to
die as soon as the law permits.... This morning the assassin of Cardinal
Zaccatelli, who has declared his name to be Edward Bernard, was
executed."

He hurriedly folded up the paper, just as if he were afraid of some one
overlooking and reading these words, and glanced around. No one was
regarding him. The cafe was nearly full, and there was plenty of
laughing and talking amidst the glare of the gas. He slunk out of the
place, leaving the coffee untasted. But when he had got outside he
straightened himself up, and his face assumed a firmer expression. He
walked quickly along to Clarges Street. The Evelyns' house was dark from
top to bottom; apparently the family had retired for the night. "Perhaps
he is at the Century," Brand said to himself, as he started off again.
But just as he got to the corner of the street a hansom drove up, and
the driver taking the corner too quickly, sent the wheel on to the curb.

"Why don't you look where you're going to?" a voice called out from the
inside of the cab.

"Is that you, Evelyn?" Brand cried.

"Yes, it is," was the reply; and the hansom was stopped, and Lord Evelyn
descended. "I am happy to say that I can still answer for myself. I
thought we were in for a smash."

"Can you spare me five minutes?"

"Five hours if you like."

The man was paid; the two friends walked along the pavement together.

"I am glad to have found you after all, Evelyn," Brand said. "The fact
is, my nerves have had a bad shake."

"I never knew you had any. I always fancied you could drive a
fire-brigade engine full gallop along the Strand on a wet night, with
the theatres coming out."

"A few minutes' talk with you will help me to pull myself together
again. Need we go into the house?"

"We sha'n't wake anybody."

They noiselessly went into the house, and passed along the hall until
they reached a small room behind the dining-room. The gas was lit,
burning low. There were biscuits, seltzer-water, and spirits on the
table.

Lord Evelyn was in the act of turning the gas higher, when he happened
to catch sight of his friend. He uttered a quick exclamation. Brand, who
sat down in a chair, was crying, with his hands over his face, like a
woman.

"Great heavens, what is it, Brand?"

That confession of weakness did not last long. Brand rose to his feet
impatiently, and took a turn or two up and down the small room.

"What is it? Well, I have received my sentence to-night, Evelyn. But it
isn't that--it is the thought of those I shall leave behind--Natalie,
and those boys of my sister's--if people were to find out after all that
they were related to me!"

He was looking at the things that presented themselves to his own mind;
he forgot that Evelyn could not understand; he almost forgot that he was
speaking aloud. But by-and-by he got himself better under control. He
sat down again. He forced himself to speak calmly: the only sign of
emotion was that his face was rather pale, and his eyes looked tired and
harassed.

"Yes, I told you my nervous system had got a shock, Evelyn; but I think
I have got over it. It won't do for me in my position to abandon one's
self to sentiment."'

"I wish you would tell me what you mean."

Brand regarded him.

"I cannot tell you the whole thing, but this will be enough. The Council
have decreed the death of a certain person, and I am appointed his
executioner."

"You are raving mad!"

"Perhaps it would be better if I were," he said, with a sigh. "However,
such is the fact. The ballot was taken to-night; the lot fell to me. I
have no one to blame except myself."

Lord Evelyn was too horrified to speak. The calm manner of his companion
ought to have carried conviction with it; and yet--and yet--how could
such a thing be possible?

"Yes, I blame myself," Brand said, "for not having made certain
reservations when pledging myself to the Society. But how was one to
think of such things? When Lind used to denounce the outrages of the
Nihilists, and talk with indignation of the useless crimes of the
Camorra, how could one have thought it possible that assassination
should be demanded of you as a duty?"

"But Lind," Lord Evelyn exclaimed--"surely Lind does not approve of such
a thing?"

"No, he does not," Brand answered. "He says it will prove a
misfortune--"

"Then why does he not protest?"

"Protest against a decree of the Council!" the other exclaimed. "You
don't know as much as I do, Evelyn, about that Council. No, I have sworn
obedience, and I will obey."

He had recovered his firmness; he seemed resigned--even resolved. It was
his friend who was excited.

"I tell you all the oaths in the world cannot compel a man to commit
murder," Evelyn said, hotly.

"Oh, they don't call it murder," Brand replied, without any bitterness
whatever; "they call it a punishment, a warning to the evil-doers of
Europe. And no doubt this man is a great scoundrel, and cannot be
reached by the law; and then, besides, one of the members of the
Society, who is poor and old, and who has suffered grievous wrong from
this man, has appealed to the Council to avenge him. No; I can see their
positions. I have no doubt they believe they are acting justly."

"But you yourself do not think so."

"My dear fellow, it is not for the private soldier to ask whether his
sovereign has gone to war justly or unjustly. It is his business to obey
commands--to kill, if need be--according to his oath."

"Why, you are taking the thing as a matter of course," Lord Evelyn
cried, indignantly. "I cannot believe if possible yet! And--and if it
were possible--consider how I should upbraid myself: it was I who led
you into this affair, Brand."

"Oh no," said the other, absently.

He was staring into the smouldering fire; and for a second or two he sat
in silence. Then he said, slowly and thoughtfully,

"I am afraid I have led a very selfish life. Natalie would not say so;
she is generous. But it is true. Well, this will make some atonement.
She will know that I kept my word to her. She gave me that ring,
Evelyn."

He held out his hand for a moment

"It was a pledge that I should never draw back from my allegiance to the
Society. Well, neither she nor I then fancied this thing could happen;
but now I am not going to turn coward. You saw me show the white
feather, Evelyn, for a minute or two: I don't think it was about myself;
it was about her--and--and one or two others. You see our talking
together has sent off all that nervous excitement; now we can speak
about business--"

"I will not--I will not!" Evelyn said, still greatly moved. "I will go
to Lind himself. I will tell him that no duty of this kind was ever
contemplated by any one joining here. It may be all very well for Naples
or Sicily; it won't do for the people on this side the Channel: it will
ruin his work: he must appeal--I will drive him to it!"

"My dear fellow," Brand said, quietly, "I told you Lind has accepted the
execution of this affair with reluctance. He knows it will do our
work--well, my share in it will be soon over--no good. But in this
business there in no appeal. You are only a companion; you don't know
what stringent vows you have to undertake when you get into the other
grades. Moreover, I must tell you this thing to his credit. He is not
bound to take the risk of the ballot himself, but he did to-night. It is
all over and settled, Evelyn. What is one man's life, more or less?
People go to throw away hundreds of thousands of lives 'with a light
heart.' And even if this affair should give a slight shock to some of
our friends here, the effect will not be permanent. The organization is
too big, too strong, too eager, to be really injured by such a trifle. I
want to talk about business matters now."

"I won't hear you--I will not allow this," Lord Evelyn protested,
trembling with excitement.

"You must hear me; the time is short," Brand said, with decision. "When
this thing has to be done I don't know; I shall probably hear to-morrow;
but I must at once take steps to prevent shame falling on the few
relatives I have. I shall pretend to set out on some hunting-expedition
or other--Africa is a good big place for one to lose one's self in--and
if I do not return, what then? I shall leave you my executor, Evelyn;
or, rather, it will be safer to do the whole thing by deed of gift. I
shall give my eldest sister's son the Buckinghamshire place; then I must
leave the other one something. Five hundred pounds at four per cent,
would pay that poor devil Kirski's rent for him, and help him on a bit.
Then I am going to make you a present, Evelyn; so you see you shall
benefit too. Then as for Natalie--or rather, her mother--"

"Her mother!" Evelyn stared at him.

"Natalie's mother is in London: you will learn her story from herself,"
Brand continued, briefly. "In the mean time, do not tell Lind until she
permits you. I have taken rooms for her in Hans Place, and Natalie will
no doubt go to see her each day; but I am afraid the poor lady is not
very well off, for the family has always been in political troubles.
Well, you see, Evelyn, I could leave you a certain sum, the interest of
which you could manage to convey to her in some roundabout and delicate
way that would not hurt her pride. You could do this, of course."

"But you are talking as if your death was certain!" Lord Evelyn
exclaimed, rather wildly. "Even if it is all true, you might escape."

Brand turned away his head as he spoke.

"Do you think, then," he said, slowly, "that, even if that were
possible, I should care to live red-handed? The Council cannot demand
that of me too. If there is one bullet for him, the next one will be for
myself; and if I miss the first shot I shall make sure about the second.
There will be no examination of the prisoner, as far as I am concerned.
I shall leave a paper stating the object and cause of my attempt; but I
shall go into it nameless, and the happiest thing I can hope for is that
forgetfulness will gather round it and me as speedily as may be."

Lord Evelyn was deeply distressed. He could no longer refuse to believe;
and inadvertently he bethought himself of the time when he had besought
and entreated this old friend of his to join the great movement that was
to regenerate Europe. Was this the end, then--a vulgar crime?--the
strong, manly, generous life to be thrown away, and Natalie left
broken-hearted?

"What about her?" he asked, timidly.

"About Natalie, do you mean?" said Brand, starting somewhat. "Curiously
enough, I was thinking about her also. I was wondering whether it could
be concealed from her--whether it would not be better to let her imagine
with the others that I had got drowned or killed somewhere. But I could
not do that. The uncertainty would hang over her for years. Better the
sharp pain, at once--of parting; then her mother must take charge of her
and console her, and be kind to her. What I fear most is that she may
blame herself--she may fancy that she is some how responsible--"

"It is I, surely, who must take, that blame on myself," said Lord
Evelyn, sadly. "But for me, how could you have been led into joining the
Society?"

"Neither she nor you have anything to reproach yourselves with. What
was my life worth to me when I joined? Then for a time I saw a vision of
what may yet be in the world--of what will be, please God; and what does
it matter if one here or one there falls out of the ranks?--the great
army is moving on: and for a time there were others visions. Poor
Natalie!--I am glad her mother has come to her at last."

He rose.

"I wish I could offer you a bed here," Lord Evelyn said.

"I have a great many things to arrange to-night," he answered, simply.
"Perhaps I may not be able to get to bed at all."

Lord Evelyn hesitated.

"When can I see you to-morrow?" he said at length. "You know I am going
to Lind the first thing in the morning."

Brand stopped abruptly.

"I must absolutely forbid your doing anything of the kind," said he,
firmly. "This is a matter of the greatest secrecy; there is to be no
talking about it; I have given you some hint, and the same I shall give
to Natalie, and there an end." He added, "Your interference would be
quite useless, Evelyn. The matter is not in Lind's hands."

He bade his friend good-night.

"Thank you for letting me bore you so long. You see, I expected talking
over the thing would drive off that first shock of nervousness. Now I am
going to play the part of Karl Sand with indifference. When you hear of
me, you will think I must have been brought up by the Tugendbund or the
Carbonari, or some of those societies."

This cheerfulness did not quite deceive Lord Evelyn. He bade his friend
good-night with some sadness; his mind was not at ease about the share
he attributed to himself in this calamity.

When Brand reached his chambers in Buckingham Street there was a small
parcel awaiting him. He opened it, and found a box with, inside, a tiny
nosegay of sweet-smelling flowers. These were not half as splendid as
those he had got the previous afternoon for the rooms in Hans Place, but
there was something accompanying them that gave them sufficient value.
It was a strip of paper, and on it was written--"From Natalie and from
Natalushka, with more than thanks."

"I will carry them with me," he thought to himself, "until the day of my
death. Perhaps they may not have quite withered by then."



CHAPTER XLII.

A COMMUNICATION.


Now, he said to himself, he would think no more; he would act. The long
talk with Lord Evelyn had enabled him to pull himself together; there
would be no repetition of that half-hysterical collapse. More than one
of his officer-friends had confessed to him that they had spent the
night before their first battle in abject terror, but that that had all
gone off as soon as they were called into action. And as for himself, he
had many things to arrange before starting on this hunting-expedition,
which was to serve as a cloak for another enterprise. He would have to
write at once, for example, to his sister--an invalid widow, who passed
her life alternately on the Riviera and in Switzerland--informing her of
his intended travels. He would have to see that a sufficient sum was
left for Natalie's mother, and put into discreet hands. The money for
the man Kirski would have to be properly tied up, lest it should prove a
temptation. Why, those two pieces of Italian embroidery lying there, he
had bought them months ago, intending to present them to Natalie, but
from time to time the opportunity had been missed. And so forth, and so
forth.

But despite all this fortitude, and these commonplace and practical
considerations, his eyes would wander to that little handful of flowers
lying on the table, and his thoughts would wander farther still. As he
pictured to himself his going to the young Hungarian girl, and taking
her hand, and telling her that now it was no longer a parting for a
couple of years, but a parting forever, his heart grew cold and sick. He
thought of her terrified eyes, of her self-reproaches, of her
entreaties, perhaps.

"I wish Evelyn would tell her," he murmured aloud, and he went to the
window. "Surely it would be better if I were never to see her again."

It was a long and agonizing night, despite all his resolutions. The gray
morning, appearing palely over the river and the bridges, found him
still pacing up and down there, with nothing settled at all, no letter
written, no memoranda made. All that the night had done was to increase
a hundred-fold his dread of meeting Natalie. And now the daylight only
told him that that interview was coming nearer. It had become a question
of hours.

At last, worn out with fatigue and despair, he threw himself on a couch
hard by, and presently sunk into a broken and troubled sleep. For now
the mind, emancipated from the control of the will, ran riot; and the
quick-changing pictures that were presented to him were full of fearful
things that shook his very life with terror. Awake he could force
himself to think of this or that; asleep, he was at the mercy of this
lurid imagination that seemed to dye each successive scene in the hue of
blood. First of all, he was in a great cathedral, sombre and vast, and
by the dim light of the candles he saw that some solemn ceremony was
going forward. Priests, mitred and robed, sat in a semicircle in front
of the altar; on the altar-steps were three figures; behind the altar a
space of gloom, from whence issued the soft, clear singing of the
choristers. Then, suddenly, into that clear sweet singing broke a loud
blare of trumpets; a man bounded on to the altar-steps; there was the
flash of a blade--a shriek--a fall; then the roar of a crowd, sullen,
and distant, and awful. It is the cry of a great city; and this poor
crouching fugitive, who hides behind the fountain in the Place, is
watching for his chance to dart away into some place of safety. But the
crowd have let him pass; they are merciful; they are glad of the death
of their enemy; it is only the police he has to fear. What lane is dark
enough? What ruins must he haunt, like a dog, in the night-time? But the
night is full of fire, and the stars overhead are red, and everywhere
there is a roar and a murmur--_the assassination of the Cardinal_!

Well, it is quieter in this dungeon; and soon there will be an end, and
peace. But for the letters of fire that burns one's brain the place
would be as black as night; and it is still as night; one can sit and
listen. And now that dull throbbing sound--and a strain of music--is it
the young wife who, all unknowing, is digging her husband's grave? How
sad she is! She pities the poor prisoner, whoever he may be. She would
not dig this grave if she knew: she calls herself _Fidelio_; she is
faithful to her love. But now--but now--though this hole is black as
night, and silent, and the waters are lapping outside, cannot one know
what is passing there? There are some who are born to be happy. Ah, look
at the faithful wife now, as she strikes off her husband's
fetters--listen to the glad music, _destin ormai felice!_--they take
each other's hand--they go away proudly into the glad daylight--husband
and wife together for evermore. This poor prisoner listens, though his
heart will break. The happy music grows more and more faint--the husband
and wife are together now--the beautiful white day is around them--the
poor prisoner is left alone: there is no one even coming to bid him
farewell.

The sleeper moaned in his sleep, and stretched out his hand as if to
seek some other hand.

"No one--not even a word of good-bye!" he murmured.

But then the dream changed. And now it was a wild and windy day in the
blowing month of March, and the streams in this Buckinghamshire valley
were swollen, and the woods were bare. Who are these two who come into
the small and bleak church-yard? They are a mother and daughter; they
are all in black; and the face of the daughter is pale, and her eyes
filled with tears. Her face is white, and the flowers she carries are
white, and that is the white tombstone there in the corner--apart from
the others. See how she kneels down at the foot of the grave, and puts
the flowers lightly on the grass, and clasps her trembling hands, and
prays.

"_Natalie--my wife!_" he calls in his sleep.

And behold! the white tombstone has letters of fire written on it, and
the white flowers are changed to drops of blood, and the two black
figures have hurried away and disappeared. How the wind tears down this
wide valley, in which there is no sign of life. It is so sad to be left
alone.

Well, it was about eight o'clock when he was awakened by the entrance of
Waters. He jumped up, and looked around, haggard and bewildered. Then
his first thought was,

"A few more nights like this, and Zaccatelli will have little to fear."

He had his bath and breakfast; all the time he was forcing himself into
an indignant self-contempt. He held out his hand before him, expecting
to see it tremble: but no. This reassured him somewhat.

A little before eleven he was at the house in Hans Place. He was
immediately shown up-stairs. Natalie's mother was there to receive him,
she did not notice he looked tired.

"Natalie is coming to you this morning?" he said.

"Oh yes; why not? It gives her pleasure, it gives me joy. But I will not
keep the child always in the house; no, she must have her walk.
Yesterday, after you had left, we went to a very secluded place--a
church not far from here, and a cemetery behind."

"Oh, yes; I know," he said. "But you might have chosen a more cheerful
place for your walk."

"Any place is cheerful enough for me when my daughter is with me," said
she, simply; "and it is quiet."

George Brand sat with his hands clinched. Every moment he thought he
should hear Natalie knock at the door below.

"Madame," he said, with some little hesitation, "something has happened
of serious importance--I mean, of a little importance. When Natalie
comes I must tell her--"

"And you wish to see her alone, perhaps?" said the mother, lightly. "Why
not? And listen--it is she herself, I believe!"

A minute afterward the door was opened, and Natalie entered, radiant,
happy, with glad eyes. Then she started when she saw George Brand there,
but there was no fear in her look. On the contrary, she embraced her
mother; then she went to him, and said, with a pleased flush in her
face,

"I had no message this morning. You did not care, then, for our little
bunch of flowers?"

He took her hand, and held it for a second.

"I thought I should see you to-day, Natalie; I have something to tell
you."

Her face grew graver.

"Is it something serious?"

"Well," said he, to gain time, for the mother was still in the room, "it
is serious or not serious, as you like to take it. It does not involve
the fate of a nation, for example."

"It is mysterious, at all events."

At this moment the elder woman took occasion to slip noiselessly from
the room.

"Natalie," said he, "sit down here by me."

She put the footstool on which she was accustomed to sit at her mother's
side close to his chair, and seated herself. He took her hand and held
it tight.

"Natalie," said he, in a low voice--and he was himself rather pale--"I
am going to tell you something that may perhaps startle you, and even
grieve you; but you must keep command over yourself, or you will alarm
your mother--"

"You are not in danger?" she cried, quickly, but in a low voice: there
was something in his tone that alarmed her.

"The thing is simple enough," he said, with a forced composure. "You
know that when one has joined a certain Society, and especially when one
has accepted the responsibilities I have, there is nothing that may not
be demanded. Look at this ring, Natalie."

"Yes, yes," she said, breathlessly.

"That is a sufficient pledge, even if there were no others. I have sworn
allegiance to the Society at all hazards; I cannot retreat now."

"But is it so very terrible?" she said, hurriedly. "Dearest, I will
come over to you in America. I have told my mother; she will take me to
you--"

"I am not going to America, Natalie."

She looked up bewildered.

"I have been commissioned to perform another duty, more immediate, more
definite. And I must tell you now, Natalie, all that I dare tell you:
you must be prepared; it is a duty which will cost me my life!"

"Your life?" she repeated, in a bewildered, wild way, and she hastily
drew her hand away from his. "Your life?"

"Hush, Natalie!"

"You are to die!" she exclaimed, and she gazed with terror-stricken eyes
into his face. She forgot all about his allegiance to the Society; she
forgot all about her theories of self-sacrifice; she only heard that the
man she loved was doomed, and she said, in a low, hoarse voice, "And it
is I, then, who have murdered you!"

"Natalie!" he cried, and he would have taken her hand again, but she
withdrew from him, shuddering. She clasped her hands over her face.

"Oh, do not touch me," she said, "do not come near me. I have murdered
you: it is I who have murdered you!"

"For Heaven's sake, Natalie, be calm!" he said to her, in a low, earnest
voice. "Think of your mother: do not alarm her. You knew we might be
parted for years--well, this parting is a little worse to bear, that is
all--and you, who gave me this ring, you are not going to say a word of
regret. No, no, Natalushka, many thousands and thousands of people in
the world have gone through what stands before us now, and wives have
parted from their husbands without a single tear, so proud were they."

She looked up quickly; her face was white.

"I have no tears," she said, "none! But some wives have gone with their
husbands into the danger, and have died too--ah, how happy that were for
any one!--and I, why may not I go? I am not afraid to die."

He laid his hand gently on the dark hair.

"My child, it is impossible," he said; and then he added, rather sadly,
"It is not an enterprise that any one is likely to gain any honor by--it
is far from that; but it has to be undertaken--that is enough. As for
you--you have your mother to care for now; will not that fill your life
with gladness?"

"How soon--do--you go away?" she asked, in a low voice.

"Almost immediately," he said, watching her. She had not shed a
single tear, but there was a strange look on her face. "Nothing
is to be said about it. I shall be supposed to have started on a
travelling-expedition, that is all."

"And you go--forever?"

"Yes."

She rose.

"We shall see you yet before you go?"

"Natalie," he said, in despair, "I had come to try to say good-bye to
you; but I cannot, my darling, I cannot! I must see you again."

"I do not understand why you should wish to see again one like me," she
said, slowly, and the voice did not sound like her own voice. "I have
given you over to death: and, more than that, to a death that is not
honorable; and, yet I cannot even tell you that I am grieved. But there
is pain here." She put her hand over her heart; she staggered back a
little bit; he caught her.

"Natalie--Natalie!"

"It is a pain that kills," she said, wildly.

"Natalie, where is your courage? I give my life without question; you
must bear your part too."

She still held her hand over her bosom.

"Yet," she said, as if she had not heard him, "that is what they say; it
kills, this pain in the heart. Why not--if one does not wish to live?"

At this moment the door was opened, and the mother came into the room.

"Madame," said Brand, quickly, "come and speak to your daughter. I have
had to tell her something that has upset her, perhaps, for a moment; but
you will console her; she is brave."

"Child, how you tremble, and how cold your hands are!" the mother cried.

"It does not matter, mother. From every pain there is a release, is
there not?"

"I do not understand you, Natalushka?"

"And I--and I, mother--"

She was on the point of breaking down, but she held firm. Then she
released herself from her mother's hold, and went forward and took her
lover's hand, and regarded him with the sad, fearless, beautiful eyes.

"I have been selfish," she said; "I have been thinking of myself, when
that is needless. For me there will be a release--quickly enough: I
shall pray for it. Now tell me what I must do: I will obey you."

"First, then," said he, speaking in a low voice, and in English, so that
her mother should not understand, "you must make light of this affair,
or you will distress your mother greatly, and she is not able to bear
distress. Some day, if you think it right, you may tell her; you know
nothing that could put the enterprise in peril; she will be as discreet
and silent as yourself, Natalie. Then you must put it out of your mind,
my darling, that you have any share in what has occurred. What have I to
regret? My life was worthless to me; you made it beautiful for a time;
perhaps, who knows, it may after all turn out to have been of some
service, and then there can be no regret at all. They think so, and it
is not for me to question."

"May I not tell my mother now?" she said, imploringly. "Dearest, how can
I speak to her, and be thinking of you far away?"

"As you please, Natalie. The little I have told you or Evelyn can do no
harm, so long as you keep it among yourselves."

"But I shall see again?" It was her heart that cried to him.

"Oh yes, Natalie," he said, gravely. "I may not have to leave England
for a week or two. I will see you as often as I can until I go, my
darling, though it may only be torture to you."

"Torture?" she said, sadly. "That will come after--until there is an end
of the pain."

"Hush, you must not talk like that. You have now one with you whom it is
your duty to support and console. She has not had a very happy life
either, Natalie."

He was glad now that he was able to leave this terror-stricken girl in
such tender hands. And as for himself, he found, when he had left, that
somehow the strengthening of another had strengthened himself. He had
less dread of the future; his face was firm; the time for vain regrets
was over.



CHAPTER XLIII.

A QUARREL.


Meanwhile, almost immediately after George Brand had left the house in
Lisle Street, Reitzei and Beratinsky left also. On shutting the
street-door behind them, Beratinsky bade a curt good-night to his
companion, and turned to go; but Reitzei, who seemed to be in very high
spirits, stayed him.

"No, no, friend Beratinsky; after such a fine night's work I say we must
have a glass of wine together. We will walk up to the Culturverein."

"It is late," said the other, somewhat ungraciously.

"Never mind. An hour, three-quarters of an hour, half an hour, what
matter? Come," said he, laying hold of his arm and taking him away
unwillingly, "it is not polite of you to force me to invite myself. I do
not suppose it is the cost of the wine you are thinking of. Mark my
words: when I am elected a member, I shall not be stingy."

Beratinsky suffered himself to be led away, and together the two walked
up toward Oxford Street. Beratinsky was silent, and even surly: Reitzei
garrulous and self-satisfied.

"Yes, I repeat it; a good night's work. For the thing had to be done;
there were the Council's orders; and who so appropriate as the
Englishman? Had it been you or I, Beratinsky, or Lind, how could any one
of us have been spared? No doubt the Englishman would have been glad to
have Lind's place, and Lind's daughter, too: however, that is all
settled now, and very well done. I say it was very well done on the part
of Lind. And what did you think of my part, friend Beratinsky?"

"I think you made a fool of yourself, friend Reitzei," said the other,
abruptly.

Reitzei was a vain young man, and he had been fishing for praise.

"I don't know what you mean," he said, angrily.

"What I mean I say," replied the other, with something very like cool
contempt. "I say you made a fool of yourself. When a man is drunk, he
does his best to appear sober; you, being sober, tried to appear drunk,
and made a fool of yourself."

"My friend Beratinsky," said the younger man, hotly, "you have a right
to your own opinion--every man has that; but you should take care not
to make an ass of yourself by expressing it. Do not speak of things you
know nothing about--that is my advice to you."

Beratinsky did not answer; and the two walked on in silence until they
reached the _Verein_, and entered the long, resounding hall, which was
nearly empty. But the few members who remained were making up for their
paucity of numbers by their mirth and noise. As Beratinsky and his
companion took their seats at the upper end of the table the chairman
struck his hammer violently, and commanded silence.

"Silentium, meine Herren!" he thundered out. "I have a secret to
communicate. A great honor has been done one of our members, and even
his overwhelming modesty permits it to be known at last. Our good friend
Josef Hempel has been appointed Hof-maler to the Grand-duke of ----. I
call in you to drink his health and the Grand-duke's too!"

Then there was a quick filling of glasses; a general uprising; cries of
"Hempel! Hempel!" "The Duke!" followed by a resounding chorus--

    "Hoch sollen sie leben!
     Hoch sollen sie leben!
           Dreimal hoch!"--

that echoed away down the empty hall. Then the tumult subsided; and the
president, rising, said gravely,

"I now call on our good friend Hempel to reply to the toast, and to give
us a few remarks on the condition of art in the Grand Duchy of ----, with
some observations and reflections on the altered position of the Duchy
since the unification of our Fatherland."

In answer to this summons there rose to his feet a short old gentleman,
with a remarkably fresh complexion, silvery-white hair, and merry blue
eyes that peered through gold-rimmed spectacles. He was all smiles and
blushes; and the longer they cheered the more did he smile and blush.

"Gentlemen," he said; and this was the signal for further cheering;
"Gentlemen," said the blushing orator, at length, "our friend is at his
old tricks. I cannot make a speech to you--except this: I ask you to
drink a glass of champagne with me. Kellner--Champagner!"

And he incontinently dropped into his seat again, having forgotten
altogether to acknowledge the compliment paid to himself and the
Grand-duke.

However, this was like the letting in of water; for no sooner had the
two or three bottles ordered by Herr Hempel been exhausted than one
after another of his companions seemed to consider it was their turn
now, and loud-shouted orders were continually being administered to the
busy waiter. Wine flowed and sparkled; cigars were freely exchanged; the
volume of conversation rose in tone, for all were speaking at once; the
din became fast and furious.

In the midst of all this Reitzei alone sat apart and silent. Ever since
coming into the room the attention of Beratinsky had been monopolized by
his neighbor, who had just come back from a great artistic _fête_ in
some German town, and who, dressed as the Emperor Barbarossa, and
followed by his knights, had ridden up the big staircase into the
Town-hall. The festivities had lasted for a fortnight; the
Staatsweinkeller had furnished liberal supplies; the Princess Adelheid
had been present at the crowning ceremony. Then he had brought with him
sketches of the various costumes, and so forth. Perhaps it was
inadvertently that Beratinsky so grossly neglected his guest.

The susceptible vanity of Reitzei had been deeply wounded before he
entered, but now the cup of his wrath was filled to overflowing. The
more champagne he drank--and there was plenty coming and going--the more
sullen he became. For the rest, he had forgotten the circumstance that
he had already drunk two glasses of brandy before his arrival, and that
he had eaten nothing since mid-day.

At length Beratinsky turned to him.

"Will you have a cigar, Reitzei?"

Reitzei's first impulse was to refuse to speak; but his wrongs forced
him. He said, coldly,

"No, thanks; I have already been offered a cigar by the gentleman next
me. Perhaps you will kindly tell me how one, being sober, had any need
to pretend to be sober?"

Beratinsky stared at him.

"Oh, you are thinking about that yet, are you?" he said, indifferently;
and at this moment, as his neighbor called his attention to some further
sketches, he again turned away.

But now the souls of the sons of the Fatherland, warmed with wine, began
to think of home and love and patriotism, and longed for some more
melodious utterances than this continuous guttural clatter. Silence was
commanded. A handsome young fellow, slim and dark, clearly a Jew,
ascended the platform, and sat down at the piano; the bashful Hempel,
still blushing and laughing, was induced to follow; together they sung,
amidst comparative silence, a duet of Mendelssohn's, set for tenor and
barytone, and sung it very well indeed. There was great applause, but
Hempel insisted on retiring. Left to himself, the young man with the
handsome profile and the finely-set head played a few bars of prelude,
and then, in a remarkably clear and resonant voice, sung Braga's
mystical and tender serenade, the "_Legende Valaque_," amidst a silence
now quite secured. But what was this one voice or that to all the
passion of music demanding utterance? Soon there was a call to the young
gentleman to play an accompaniment; and a huge black-a-vised Hessian,
still sitting at the table, held up his brimming glass, and began, in a
voice like a hundred kettle-drums,

    "Ich nehm' mein Glaschen in die Hand:"

then came the universal shout of the chorus, ringing to the roof,

    "Vive la Compagneia!"

Again the raucous voice bawled aloud,

    "Und fahr' damit in's Unterland:"

and again the thunder of the chorus, this time prolonged, with much
beating of time on the table, and jangling of wine-glasses,

    "Vive la Compagneia!
     Vive la, vive la, vive la, va! vive la, vive la, hopsasa!
     Vive la Compagneia!"

And so on to the end, the chorus becoming stormier and more thunderous
than ever; then, when peace had been restored, there was a general
rising, though here and there a final glass was drunk with "stosst an!
setzt an! fertig! los!" and its attendant ceremonies. The meeting had
broken up by common consent; there was a shuffling of footsteps, and
some disjointed talking and calling down the empty hall, were the lights
were already being put out.

Reitzei had set silent during all this chorus-singing, though
ordinarily, being an excitable person, and indeed rather proud of his
voice, he was ready to roar with any one; and in silence, too, he walked
away with Beratinsky, who either was or appeared to be quite unconscious
of his companion's state of mind. At length Reitzei stopped
short--Oxford Street at this time of the morning was perfectly
silent--and said,

"Beratinsky, I have a word to say to you."

"Very well," said the other, though he seemed surprised.

"I may tell you your manners are none of the best."

Beratinsky looked at him.

"Nor your temper," said he, "one would think. Do you still go back to
what I said about your piece of acting? You are a child, Reitzei."

"I do not care about that," said Reitzei, contemptuously, though he was
not speaking the truth: his self-satisfaction had been grievously hurt.
"You put too great a value on your opinion, Beratinsky; it is not
everything that you know about: we will let that pass. But when one goes
into a society as a guest, one expects to be treated as a guest. No
matter; I was among my own countrymen: I was well enough entertained."

"It appears so," said Beratinsky, with a sneer: "I should say too well.
My dear friend Reitzei, I am afraid you have been having a little too
much champagne."

"It was none that you paid for, at all events," was the quick retort.
"No matter; I was among my own countrymen: they are civil; they are not
niggardly."

"They can afford to spend," said the other, laughing sardonically, "out
of the plunder they take from others."

"They have fought for what they have," the other said, hotly. "Your
countrymen--what have they ever done? Have they fought? No; they have
conspired, and then run away."

But Beratinsky was much too cool-blooded a man to get into a quarrel of
this kind; besides, he noticed that Reitzei's speech was occasionally a
little thick.

"I would advise you to go home and get to bed, friend Reitzei," said he.

"Not until I have said something to you, Mr. Beratinsky," said the other
with mock politeness. "I have this to say, that your ways of late have
been a little too uncivil; you have been just rather too insolent, my
good friend. Now I tell you frankly it does not do for one in your
position to be uncivil and to make enemies."

"For one in my position!" Beratinsky repeated, in a tone of raillery.

"You think it is a joke, then, what happened to-night?"

"Oh, that is what you mean; but if that is my position, what other is
yours, friend Reitzei?"

"You pretend not to know. I will tell you: that was got up between you
and Lind; I had nothing to do with it."

"Ho! ho!"

"You may laugh; but take care you do not laugh the other way," said the
younger man, who had worked himself into a fury, and was all the madder
on account of the cynical indifference of his antagonist. "I tell you I
had nothing to do with it; it was your scheme and Lind's; I did as I was
bid. I tell you I could make this very plain if--"

He hesitated.

"Well--if what?" Beratinsky said, calmly.

"You know very well. I say you are not in a position to insult people
and make enemies. You are a very clever man in your own estimation, my
friend Beratinsky; but I would give you the advice to be a little more
civil."

Beratinsky regarded him for a second in silence.

"I scarcely know whether it is worth while to point out certain things
to you, friend Reitzei, or whether to leave you to go home and sleep off
your anger."

"My anger, as you call it, is not a thing of the moment. Oh, I assure
you it has nothing to do with the champagne I have just drunk, and which
was not paid for by you, thank God! No; my anger--my wish to have you
alter your manner a little--has been growing for some time; but it is of
late, my dear Beratinsky, that you have become more unbearable than
ever."

"Don't make a fool of yourself, Reitzei; I at least am not going to
stand in the streets talking nonsense at two in the morning.
Good-night!"

He stepped from the pavement on to the street, to cross.

"Stop!" said Reitzei, seizing his arm with both hands.

Beratinsky shook him off violently, and turned. There might have been a
blow; but Reitzei, who was a coward, shrunk back.

Beratinsky advanced.

"Look here, Reitzei," he said, in a low voice, "I think you are sober
enough to understand this. You were throwing out vague threats about
what you might do or might not do; that means that you think you could
go and tell something about the proceedings of to-night: you are a
fool!"

"Very well--very well."

"Perhaps you do not remember, for example, Clause I., the very first
clause in the Obligations binding on Officers of the Second Degree; you
do not remember that, perhaps?" He was now talking in a quietly
contemptuous way; the little spasm of anger that had disturbed him when
Reitzei put his hands on his arm had immediately passed away. "The
punishment for any one revealing, for any reason or purpose whatever,
what has been done, or is about to be done by orders of the Council, or
by any one acting under these orders--you remember the rest, my
friend?--the punishment is death! My good Reitzei, do not deprive me of
the pleasure of your companionship; and do not imagine that you can
force people to be polite to you by threats; that is not the way at all.
Go home and sleep away your anger; and do not imagine that you have any
advantage in your position, or that you are less responsible for what
has been done than any one."

"I am not so sure about that," said Reitzei, sullenly.

"In the morning you will be sure," said the other, compassionately, as
if he were talking to a child.

He held out his hand.

"Come, friend Reitzei," said he, with a sort of pitying kindness, "you
will find in the morning it will be all right. What happened to-night
was well arranged, and well executed; everybody must be satisfied. And
if you were a little too exuberant in your protestations, a little too
anxious to accept the work yourself, and rather too demonstrative with
your tremblings and your professions of courage and your clutching at
the bottle: what then? Every one is not a born actor. Every one must
make a mistake sometimes. But you won't take my hand?"

"Oh, Mr. Beratinsky," said the other, with profound sarcasm, "how could
you expect it? Take the hand of one so wise as you, so great as you,
such a logician as you are? It would be too much honor; but if you will
allow me I will bid you good-night."

He turned abruptly and left. Beratinsky stood for a moment or so looking
after him; then he burst into a fit of laughter that sounded along the
empty street. Reitzei heard the laughing behind him.



CHAPTER XLIV.

TWICE-TOLD TALE.


When the door had closed on George Brand, Natalie stood for a second or
two uncertain, to collect her bewildered thoughts. She heard his
footsteps growing fainter and fainter: the world seemed to sway around
her; life itself to be slipping away. Then suddenly she turned, and
seized her mother by both her hands.

"Child, child, what is the matter?" the mother cried, terrified by the
piteous eyes and white lips.

"Ah, you could not have guessed," the girl said, wildly, "you could not
have guessed from his manner what he has told me, could you? He is not
one to say much; he is not one to complain. But he is about to lose his
life, mother--to lose his life! and it is I who have led him to this; it
is I who have killed him!"

"Natalie," the mother exclaimed, turning rather pale, "you don't know
what you are saying."

"But it is true; do not you understand, mother?" the girl said,
despairingly. "The Society has given him some duty to do--now, at
once--and it will cost him his life. Oh, do you think he complains?--no,
he is not one to complain. He says it is nothing; he has pledged
himself; he will obey; and what is the value of his one single life?
That is the way he talks, mother. And the parting between him and
me--that is so near, so near now--what is that, when there are thousands
and thousands of such every time that war is declared? I am to make
light of it, mother; I am to think it is nothing at all--that he should
be going away to die!"

She had been talking quite wildly, almost incoherently; she had not
observed that her mother had grown paler than ever; nor had she heard
the half-murmured exclamation of the elder woman,

"No, no--not the story twice told; he could not do that!"

Then, with an unusual firmness and decision, she led her daughter to the
easy-chair, and made her sit down.

"Natalie," she said, in earnest and grave tones, without any excitement
whatever, "you have told me your father was very much against you
marrying Mr. Brand."

There was no answer. The girl sitting there could only think of that
terrible thing facing her in the immediate future.

"Natalie," said her mother, firmly, "I wish you to listen. You said your
father was opposed to your marriage--that he would not hear of it; and
you remember telling me how Mr. Brand had refused to hand over his
property to the Society; and you talked of going to America if Mr. Brand
were sent? Natalie, this is your father's doing!"

She looked up quickly, not understanding. The elder woman flushed
slightly, but continued in clear and even tones.

"Perhaps I am wrong, Natalushka; perhaps I should not teach you to
suspect your father. But that is how I see it--this is what I
believe--that Mr. Brand, if what you say is true, is to be sacrificed,
not in the interests of the Society, but because your father is
determined to get him out of the way."

"Oh, mother, it is impossible! How could any one be so cruel?"

"It would be strange if the story were to be twice told," the mother
said, absently. Then she took a stool beside her daughter, and sat down
beside her, and took one of her hands in both hers. It was a reversal of
their ordinary position.

"Listen, Natalie; I am going to tell you a story," she said, with a
curious resignation and sadness in her voice. "I had thought it might be
unnecessary to tell it to you; when Mr. Brand spoke of it, I said no.
But you will judge for yourself, and it will distract your mind for a
little. You must think of a young girl something like yourself,
Natalushka; not so handsome as you are, but a little pretty, and with
many friends. Oh yes, many friends, for at that time the family were in
very brilliant society and had large estates: alas! the estates were
soon all lost in politics, and all that remained to the family was their
name and some tales of what they had done. Well, this young lady, among
all her friends, had one or two sweethearts, as was natural--for there
were a great coming and going then, before the troubles broke out, and
many visitors at the house--only every one thought she ought to marry
her cousin Konrad, for they had been brought up together, and this
cousin Konrad was a good-looking young man, and amiable, and her parents
would have approved. Are you sure you are listening to my story,
Natalushka?"

"Oh yes, mother," she said, in a low voice; "I think I understand."

"Well," continued the mother, with rather a sad smile, "you know a girl
does not always choose the one whom her friends choose for her. Among
the two or three sweethearts--that is, those who wished to be
sweethearts, do you understand, Natalushka?--there was one who was more
audacious, perhaps, more persistent than the others; and then he was a
man of great ambition, and of strong political views; and the young lady
I was telling you about, Natalushka, had been brought up to the
political atmosphere, and had opinions also. She believed this man was
capable of doing great things; and her friends not objecting, she, after
a few years of waiting, owing to the troubles of political matters,
married him."

She was silent for a moment or two.

"Yes, they were married," she continued, with a sigh, "and for a time
every thing was happy, though the political affairs were so untoward,
and cost much suffering and danger. The young wife only admired her
husband's determined will, his audacity, his ambition after leadership
and power. But in the midst of all this, as time went on, he began to
grow jealous of the cousin Konrad; and Konrad, though he was a
light-hearted young fellow, and meaning no harm whatever, resented being
forbidden to see his cousin. He refused to cease visiting the house,
though the young wife begged him to do so. He was very proud and
self-willed, you must know, Natalushka. Well, the husband did not say
much, but he was morose, and once or twice he said to his wife, 'It is
not your fault that your cousin is impertinent; but let him take care.'
Then one day an old friend of his wife's father came to her, and said,
'Do you know what has happened? You are not likely to see your cousin
Konrad again. The Russian General ----, whom we bribed with twenty-four
thousand rubles to give us ten passports for crossing the frontier, now
refuses to give them, and Konrad has been sent to kill him, as a warning
to the others; he will be taken, and hanged.' I forgot to tell you,
Natalushka, that the girl I am speaking of was in all the secrets of the
association which had been started. You are more fortunate; you know
nothing."

The interest of the listener had now been thoroughly aroused. She had
turned toward her mother, and had put her remaining hand over hers.

"Well, this friend hinted something more; he hinted that it was the
husband of this young wife who had sent Konrad on this mission, and that
the means employed had not been quite fair."

"Mother, what do you mean?" Natalie said, breathlessly.

"I am telling you a story that really happened, Natalushka," said the
mother, calmly, and with the same pathetic touch in her voice. "Then the
young wife, without consideration--so anxious was she to save the life
of her cousin--went straight to the highest authorities of the
association, and appealed to them. The influence of her family aided
her. She was listened to; there was an examination; what the friend had
hinted was found to be true; the commission was annulled; Konrad was
given his liberty!"

"Yes, yes!" said Natalie, eagerly.

"But listen, Natalushka; I said I would tell you the whole story; it has
been kept from you for many a year. When it was found that the husband
had made use of the machinery of the association for his own
ends--which, it appears, was a great crime in their eyes--he was
degraded, and forbidden all hope of joining the Council, the ruling
body. He was in a terrible rage, for he was mad with ambition. He drove
the wife from his house--rather, he left the house himself--and he took
away with him their only child, a little girl scarcely two years old;
and he threatened the mother with the most terrible penalties if ever
again she should speak to her own child! Natalushka, do you understand
me? Do you wonder that my face is worn with grief? For sixteen years
that mother, who loved her daughter better than anything in the world,
was not permitted to speak to her, could only regard her from a
distance, and not tell her how she loved her."

The girl uttered a cry of compassion, and wound her arms round her
mother's neck.

"Oh, the cruelty of it!--the cruelty of it, mother! But why did you not
come to me? Do you think I would not have left everything to go with
you--you, alone and suffering?"

For a time the mother could not answer, so deep were her sobs.

"Natalushka," she said at length, in a broken voice, "no fear of any
danger threatening myself would have kept me from you; be sure of that.
But there was something else. My father had become compromised--the
Austrians said it was assassination; it was not!" For a second some hot
blood mounted to her cheeks. "I say it was a fair duel, and your
grandfather himself was nearly killed; but he escaped, and got into
hiding among some faithful friends--poor people, who had known our
family in better times. The Government did what they could to arrest
him; he was expressly exempted from the amnesty, this old man, who was
wounded, who was incapable of movement almost, whom every one expected
to die from day to day, and a word would have betrayed him and destroyed
him. Can you wonder, Natalushka, with that threat hanging over me--that
menace that the moment I spoke to you meant that my father would be
delivered to his enemies--that I said 'No, not yet will I speak to my
little daughter; I cannot sacrifice my father's life even to the
affection of a mother! But soon, when I have given him such care and
solace as he has the right to demand from me, then I will set out to see
my beautiful child--not with baskets of flowers, haunting the
door-steps--not with a little trinket, to drop in her lap, and perhaps
set her mind thinking--no, but with open arms and open heart, to see if
she is not afraid to call me mother.'"

"Poor mother, how you must have suffered," the girl murmured, holding
her close to her bosom. "But with your powerful friends--those to whom
you appealed to before--why did you not go to them, and get safety from
the terrible threat hanging over you? Could they not protect him, my
grandfather, as they saved your cousin Konrad?"

"Alas, child, your grandfather never belonged to the association! Of
what use was he to them--a sufferer expecting each day to be his last,
and not daring to move beyond the door of the peasant's cottage that
sheltered him? many a time he used to say to me, 'Natalie, go to your
child. I am already dead; what matters it whether they take me or not?
You have watched the old tree fade leaf by leaf; it is only the stump
that cumbers the ground. Go to your child; if they try to drag me from
here, the first mile will be the end; and what better can one wish for?'
But no; I could not do that."

Natalie had been thinking deeply; she raised her head, and regarded her
mother with a calm, strange look.

"Mother," she said, slowly, "I do not think I will ever enter my
father's house again."

The elder woman heard this declaration without either surprise or joy.
She said, simply,

"Do not judge rashly or harshly, Natalushka. Why have I refrained until
now from telling you the story but that I thought it better--I thought
you would be happier if you continued to respect and love your father.
Then consider what excuses may be made for him--"

"None!" the girl said, vehemently. "To keep you suffering for sixteen
years away from your only child, and with the knowledge that at any
moment a word on his part might lead out your father to a cruel
death--oh, mother mother, you may ask me to forgive, but not to excuse!"

"Ambition--the desire for influence and leadership--is his very life,"
the mother said, calmly. "He cares more for that than anything in the
world--wife, child, anything, he would sacrifice to it. But now, child,"
she said, with a concerned look, "can you understand why I have told you
the story?"

Natalie looked up bewildered. For a time the interest of this story,
intense as it had been to her, had distracted her mind from her own
troubles; though all through she been conscious of some impending gloom
that seemed to darken the life around her.

"It was not merely to tell you of my sufferings, Natalushka," the mother
said at once, gently and anxiously; "they are over. I am happy to be
beside you; if you are happy. But when a little time ago you told me of
Mr. Brand being ordered away to this duty, and of the fate likely to
befall him, I said to myself, 'Ah, no; surely it cannot be the story
told twice over. He would not dare to do that again.'"

The girl turned deadly pale.

"My child, that is why I asked you. Mr. Brand disappointed your father,
I can see, about the money affair. Then, when he might have been got out
of the way by being sent to America, you make matters worse than ever by
threatening to go with him."

The girl did not speak, but her eyes were terrified.

"Natalie," the mother said gently, "have I done wrong to put these
suspicions into your mind? Have I done wrong to put you into antagonism
with your father? My child I cannot see you suffer without revealing to
you what I imagine may be the cause--even if it were impossible to fight
against it--even if one can only shudder at the cruelty of which some
are capable: we can pray God to give us resignation."

Natalie Lind was not listening at all; her face was white, her lips
firm, her eyes fixed.

"Mother," she said at length, in a low voice, and speaking as if she
were weighing each word, "if you think the story is being told again,
why should it not be carried out? You appealed, to save the life of one
who loved you. And I--why may not I also?"

"Oh, child, child!" the mother cried in terror, laying hold of her arm.
"Do not think of it: anything but that! You do not know how terrible
your father is when his anger is aroused: look at what I have suffered.
Natalushka, I will not have you lead the life that I have led; you must
not, you dare not, interfere!"

The girl put her hand aside, and sprung to her feet. No longer was she
white of face. The blood of the Berezolyis was in her cheeks; her eyes
were dilated; her voice was proud and indignant.

"And I," she said, "if this is true--if this is possible--Oh, do you
think I am going to see a brave man sent to his death, shamelessly,
cruelly, and not do what I can to save him? It is not for you, mother,
it is not for one who bears the name that you bear to tell me to be
afraid. What I did fear was to live, with him dead. Now--"

The mother had risen quickly to her feet also, and sought to hold her
daughter's hands.

"For the sake of Heaven, Natalushka!" she pleaded. "You are running into
a terrible danger--"

"Do I care, mother? Do I look as if I cared?" she said, proudly.

"And for no purpose, Natalushka; you will only bring down on yourself
the fury of your father, and he will make your life as miserable as he
has made mine. And what can you do, child? what can you do but bring
ruin on yourself? You are powerless: you have no influence with those in
authority as I at one time had. You do not know them: how can you reach
them?"

"You forget, mother," the girl said, triumphantly; "was it not you
yourself who asked me if I had ever heard of one Bartolotti?"

The mother uttered a slight cry of alarm.

"No, no, Natalushka, I beg of you--"

The girl took her mother in her arms and kissed her. There was a strange
joy in her face; the eyes were no longer haggard, but full of light and
hope.

"You dear mother," she said, as she gently compelled her to be seated
again, "that is the place for you. You will remain here, quiet,
undisturbed by any fears; no one shall molest you; and when you have
quite recovered from all your sufferings, and when your courage has
returned to you, then I will come back and tell you my story. It is
story for story, is it not?"'

She rung the bell.

"Pardon me, dear mother; there is no time to be lost. For once I return
to my father's house--yes, there is a card there that I must have--"

"But afterward, child, where do you go?" the mother said, though she
could scarcely find utterance.

"Why, to Naples, mother; I am an experienced traveller; I shall need no
courier."

The blood had mounted into both cheek and forehead; her eyes were full
of life and pride; even at such a moment the anxious, frightened mother
was forced to think she had never seen her daughter look so beautiful.

The door opened.

"Madame, be so good as to tell Anneli that I am ready."

She turned to her mother.

"Now, mother, it is good-bye for I do not know how long."

"Oh no, it is not, child," said the other, trembling, and yet smiling in
spite of all her fears. "If you are going to travel, you must have a
courier. I will be your courier, Natalushka."

"Will you come with me, mother?" she cried, with a happy light leaping
to her eyes. "Come, then--we will give courage to each other, you and I,
shall we not? Ah, dear mother, you have told me your story only in time;
but we will go quickly now--you and I together!"



CHAPTER XLV.

SOUTHWARD.


After so much violent emotion the rapid and eager preparations for
travel proved a useful distraction. There was no time to lose; and
Natalie very speedily found that it was she herself who must undertake
the duties of a courier, her mother being far too anxious and alarmed.
Once or twice, indeed, the girl, regarding the worn, sad face, almost
repented of having accepted that impulsive offer, and would have
proposed to start alone. But she knew that, left in solitude, the poor
distressed mother would only torture herself with imaginary fears. As
for herself, she had no fear; her heart was too full to have any room
for fear. And yet her hand trembled a little as she sat down to write
these two messages of farewell. The first ran thus:

"My Father,--To-day, for the first time, I have heard my mother's story
from herself. I have looked into her eyes; I know she speaks the truth.
You will not wonder then that I leave your house--that I go with her;
there must be some one to try to console her for all she has suffered,
and I am her daughter. I thank you for many years of kindness, and pray
God to bless you.

  Natalie."

The next was easier to write.

"Dearest,--My mother and I leave England to-night. Do not ask why we go,
or why I have not sent for you to come and say good-bye. We shall be
away perhaps only a few days; in any case you must not go until we
return. Do not forget that I must see you again."

  Natalie."

She felt happier when she had written these two notes. She rose from the
table and went over to her mother.

"Now, mother, tell me how much money you have," she said, with a highly
practical air. "What, have I startled you, poor little mother? I believe
your head is full of all kinds of strange forebodings; and yet they used
to say that the Berezolyis were all of them very courageous."

"Natalushka, you do not know what danger you are rushing into," the
mother said, absently.

"I again ask you, mother, a simple question: how much money have you?"

"I? I have thirty pounds or thereabout, Natalie; that is my capital, as
it were; but next month my cousins will send me--"

"Never mind about next month, mother dear. You must let me rob you of
all your thirty pounds; and, just to make sure, I will go and borrow ten
pounds more from Madame Potecki. Madame is not so very poor; she has
savings; she would give me every farthing if I asked her. And do you
think, little mother, if we come back successful--do you think there
will be a great difficulty about paying back the loan to Madame
Potecki?"

She was quite gay, to give her mother courage; and she refused to leave
her alone, a prey to these gloomy forebodings. She carried her off with
her in the cab to Curzon Street, and left her in the cab while she
entered the house with Anneli. Anneli cried a little when she was
receiving her mistress's last instructions.

"Am I never to see you again, Fraulein?" she sobbed. "Are you never
coming back to the house any more?"

"Of course you will see me again, you foolish girl, even if I do not
come back here. Now you will be careful, Anneli, to have the wine a
little warmed before dinner, and see that your master's slippers are in
the study by the fire; and the coffee--you must make the coffee
yourself, Anneli--"

"Oh yes, indeed, Fraulein, I will make the coffee," said Anneli, with a
fresh flowing of tears. "But--but may not I go with you, Fraulein?--if
you are not coming back here any more, why may I not go with you? I am
not anxious for wages, Fraulein--I do not want any wages at all; but if
you will take me with you--"

"Now, do not be foolish, Anneli. Have you not a whole house to look
after? There, take these keys; you will have to show that you can be a
good house-mistress, and sensible, and not childish."

At the door she shook hands with the sobbing maid, and bade her a
cheerful good-bye. Then she got into the cab and drove away to Madame
Potecki's lodgings. Finally, by dexterous management, she succeeded in
getting her mother and herself to Charing Cross Station in time to catch
the afternoon express to Dover.

It is probable that, now the first excitement of setting out was over,
and the two women-folk left to themselves in the solitude of a
compartment, Natalie might have begun to reflect with some tremor of the
heart on the very vagueness of the task she had undertaken. But she was
not permitted to do so. The necessity of driving away her mother's
forebodings prevented her indulging in any of her own. She was forced to
be careless, cheerful, matter-of-fact.

"Natalushka," the mother said, holding her daughter's hand, "you have
been brought up in ignorance. You know only the romantic, the beautiful
side of what is going on; you do not know what these men are ready to
do--what has been done--to secure the success of their schemes. And for
you, a girl, to interfere, it is madness, Natalushka. They will laugh at
you, perhaps; perhaps it may be worse; they may resent your
interference, and ask who has betrayed their secrets."

"Are they so very terrible, then?" said the girl, with a smile, "when
Lord Evelyn--ah, you do not know him yet, mother; but he is as gentle as
a woman--when he is their friend; and when Mr. Brand is full of
admiration for what they are doing; and when Calabressa--Now, mother, is
Calabressa likely to harm any one? And it was Calabressa himself who
said to me, 'Little daughter, if ever you are in great trouble, go to
Naples. You will find friends there.' No, mother, it is no use your
trying to frighten me. No; let us talk about something sensible; for
example, which way is the wind?"

"How can I tell, Natalushka?"

The girl laughed--rather a forced laugh, perhaps; she could not
altogether shake off the consciousness of the peril that surrounded her
lover.

"Why, mother, you are a pretty courier! You are about to cross the
Channel, and you do not know which way the wind is, or whether the sea
is rough, or anything. Now I will tell you; it is I who am the courier.
The wind is northeast; the sea was quite smooth yesterday evening; I
think we shall have a comfortable passage. And do you know why I have
brought you away by this train? Don't you know that I shall get you down
to Dover in time to give you something nice for dinner; then, if the sea
is quite smooth, we go on board before the people come; then we cross
over to Calais and go to a hotel there; then you get a good, long, sound
sleep, you little mother, and the next day--that is to-morrow--about
noon, I think, we go easily on to Paris. What do you think of that,
now?"

"Whatever you do will be right, Natalushka; you know I have never before
had a daughter to look after me."

Natalie's programme was fulfilled to the letter, and with good fortune.
They dined in the hotel, had some tea, and then went down through the
dark clear night to the packet. The sea was like a mill-pond; there was
just sufficient motion of the water to make the reflections of the stars
quiver in the dark. The two women sat together on deck; and as the
steamer gradually took them away from the lights of the English coast,
Natalie sung to her mother, in a low voice, some verses of an old Magyar
song, which were scarcely audible amidst the rush of water and the
throbbing of the paddles.

Next day the long and tedious railway journey began; and here again
Natalie acted as the most indefatigable and accomplished of couriers.

"How do you manage it, Natalushka?" said the mother, as she got into the
_coupe_, to this tall and handsome young lady who was standing outside,
and on whom everybody seemed to wait. "You get everything you want, and
without trouble."

"It is only practice, with a little patience," she said, simply, as she
opened her flask of white-rose scent and handed it up to her mother.

Necessarily, it was rail all the way for these two travellers. Not for
them the joyous assembling on the Mediterranean shore, where Nice lies
basking in the sun like a pink surf thrown up by the waves. Not for them
the packing of the great carriage, and the swinging away of the four
horses with their jingling bells, and the slow climbing of the Cornice,
the road twisting up the face of the gray mountains, through perpetual
lemon-groves, with far below the ribbed blue sea. Not for them the
leisurely trotting all day long through the luxuriant beauty of the
Riviera--the sun hot on the ruddy cliffs of granite, and on the terraces
of figs and vines and spreading palms; nor the rattling through the
narrow streets of the old walled towns, with the scarlet-capped men and
swarthy-visaged women shrinking into the door-ways as the horses clatter
by; nor the quiet evenings in the hotel garden, with the moon rising
over the murmuring sea, and the air sweet with the perfumes of the
south. No. They climbed a mountain, it is true, but it was behind an
engine; they beheld the Mont Cenis snows, but it was from the window of
a railway-carriage. Then they passed through the black, resounding
tunnel, with, after a time, its sudden glares of light; finally the
world seemed to open around them; they looked down upon Italy.

"Many a one has died for you, and been glad," said the girl, almost to
herself, as she gazed abroad on the great valleys, with here and there a
peak crowned with a castle or a convent, with the vine-terraced hills
showing now and again a few white dots of houses, and beyond and above
all these the far blue mountains, with their sharp line of snow.

Then they descended, and passed through the luxuriant yellow plains--the
sunset blazing on the rows of willows and on the square farm-houses with
their gaudy picture over the arched gateway; while always in the
background rose the dark masses of the mountains, solemn and distant,
beyond the golden glow of the fields. They reached Turin at dusk, both
of them very tired.

So far scarcely anything had been said about the object of their
journey, though they could have talked in safety even in
railway-carriages, as they spoke to each other in Magyar. But Natalie
refused to listen to any dissuading counsel; when her mother began, she
would say, "Dear little mother, will you have some white rose for your
forehead and your fingers?"

From Turin they had to start again early in the morning. They had by
this time grown quite accustomed to the plod, plodding of the train; it
seemed almost one of the normal and necessary conditions of life. They
went down by Genoa, Spezia, Pisa, Sienna, and Rome, making the shortest
possible pauses.

One night the windows of a sitting-room in a hotel at the western end of
Naples were opened, and a young girl stepped out on to the high balcony,
a light shawl thrown over her head and shoulders. It was a beautiful
night; the air sweet and still; the moonlight shining over the scarcely
stirring waters of the bay. Before her rose the vast bulk of the
Castello dell' Ovo, a huge mass of black shadow against the silvery sea
and the lambent sky: then far away throbbed the dull orange lights of
the city; and beyond these, again, Vesuvius towered into the clear
darkness, with a line of sharp, intense crimson marking its summit.
Through the perfect silence she could hear the sound of the oars of a
boat, itself unseen; and over the whispering waters came some faint and
distant refrain, "_Addio! addio!_" At length even these sounds ceased,
and she was alone in the still, murmuring beautiful night.

She looked across to the great city. Who were her unknown friends there?
What mighty power was she about to invoke on the morrow? There was no
need for her to consult the card that Calabressa had given her; again
and again, in the night-time, when her mother lay asleep, she had
studied it, and wondered whether it would prove the talisman the giver
had called it. She looked at this great city beside the sea, and only
knew that it was beautiful in the moonlight; she had no fear of anything
that it contained. And then she thought of another city, far away in the
colder north, and she wondered if a certain window were open there,
overlooking the river and the gas-lamp and the bridges, and whether
there was one there thinking of her. Could not the night-wind carry the
speech and desire of her heart?--"Good-night, good-night.... Love knows
no fear.... Not yet is our life forever broken for us."



CHAPTER XLVI.

THE BEECHES.


On the same night Lord Evelyn was in Brand's rooms, arguing,
expostulating, entreating, all to no purpose. He was astounded at the
calmness with which this man appeared to accept the terrible task
imposed on him, and at the stoical indifference with which he looked
forward to the almost certain sacrifice of his own life.

"You have become a fanatic of fanatics!" he exclaimed, indignantly.

George Brand was staring out of the windows into the dark night,
somewhat absently.

"I suppose," he answered, "all the great things that have been done in
the world have been founded in fanaticism. All that I can hope for now
is that this particular act of the Council may have the good effect
they hope from it. They ought to know. They see the sort of people with
whom they have to deal. I should have thought, with Lind, that it was
unwise--that it would shock, or even terrify; but my opinion is neither
here nor there. Further talking is of no use, Evelyn; the thing is
settled; what I have to consider now, as regards myself, is how I can
best benefit a few people whom I am interested in, and you can help me
in that."

"But I appeal to yourself--to your conscience!" Lord Evelyn cried,
almost in despair. "You cannot shift the responsibility to them. You are
answerable for your own actions. I say you are sacrificing your
conscience to your pride. You are saying to yourself, 'Do these
foreigners think that I am afraid?'"

"I am not thinking of myself at all," said Brand, simply; "that is all
over. When I swore to give myself to this Society--to obey the commands
of the Council--then my responsibility ceased. What I have to do is to
be faithful to my oath, and to the promise I have made." Almost
unconsciously he glanced at the ring that Natalie had given him. "You
would not have me skulk back like a coward? You would not have me 'play
and not pay?' What I have undertaken to do I will do."

Presently he added,

"There is something you could do, Evelyn. Don't let us talk further of
myself: I said before, if a single man drops out of the ranks, what
matter?--the army marches on. And what has been concerning me of late is
the effect that this act of the Council may have on our thousands of
friends throughout this country. Now, Evelyn, when--when the affair
comes off, I think you would do a great deal of good by pointing out in
the papers what a scoundrel this man Zaccatelli was; how he had merited
his punishment, and how it might seem justifiable to the people over
there that one should take the law into one's own hands in such an
exceptional case. You might do that, Evelyn, for the sake of the
Society. The people over here don't know what a ruffian he is, and how
he is beyond the ordinary reach of the law, or how the poor people have
groaned under his iniquities. Don't seek to justify me; I shall be
beyond the reach of excuse or execration by that time; but you might
break the shock, don't you see?--you might explain a little--you might
intimate to our friends who have joined us here that they had not joined
any kind of Camorra association. That troubles me more than anything. I
confess to you that I have got quite reconciled to the affair, as far
as any sacrifice on my own part is concerned. That bitterness is over; I
can even think of Natalie."

The last words were spoken slowly, and in a low voice; his eyes were
fixed on the night-world outside. What could his friend say? They talked
late into the night; but all his remonstrances and prayers were of no
avail as against this clear resolve.

"What is the use of discussion?" was the placid answer. "What would you
have me do?--break my oaths--put aside my sacred promise made to
Natalie, and give up the Society altogether? My good fellow, let us talk
of something less impossible."

And indeed, though he deprecated discussion on this point, he was
anxious to talk. The fact was that of late he had come to fear sleep, as
the look of his eyes testified. In the daytime, or as long as he could
sit up with a companion, he could force himself to think only of the
immediate and practical demands of the hour; vain regrets over what
might have been--and even occasional uneasy searchings of conscience--he
could by an effort of will ignore. He had accepted his fate; he had
schooled himself to look forward to it without fear; henceforth there
was to be no indecision, no murmur of complaint. But in the
night-time--in dreams--the natural craving for life asserted itself; it
seemed so sad to bid good-bye forever to those whom he had known and
loved; and mostly always it was Natalie herself who stood there,
regarding him with streaming eyes, and wringing her hands, and sobbing
to him farewell. The morning light, or the first calls in the
thoroughfare below, or the shrieking of some railway-whistle on
Hungerford Bridge brought an inexpressible relief by banishing these
agonizing visions. No matter how soon Waters was astir, he found his
master up before him--dressed, and walking up and down the room, or
reading some evening newspaper of the previous day. Sometimes Brand
occupied himself in getting ready his own breakfast, but he had to
explain to Waters that this was not meant as a rebuke--it was merely
that, being awake early, he wished for some occupation.

Early on the morning after this last despairing protest on the part of
Lord Evelyn, Brand drove up to Paddington Station, on his way to pay a
hurried visit to his Buckinghamshire home. Nearly all his affairs had
been settled in town; there remained some arrangements to be made in the
country. Lord Evelyn was to have joined him in this excursion, but at
the last moment had not put in an appearance; so Brand jumped in just
as the train was starting, and found himself alone in the carriage.

The bundle of newspapers he had with him did not seem to interest him
much. He was more than ever puzzled to account for the continued silence
of Natalie. Each morning he had been confidently expecting to hear from
her--to have some explanation of her sudden departure--but as the days
went by, and no message of any sort arrived, his wonder became merged in
anxiety. It seemed so strange that she should thus absent herself, when
she had been counting on each day on which she might see him as if it
were some gracious gift from Heaven.

All that he was certain of in the matter was that Lind knew no more than
himself as to where Natalie had gone. One afternoon, going out from his
rooms into Buckingham Street, he caught sight of Beratinsky loitering
about farther up the little thoroughfare, about the corner of John
Street. Beratinsky's back was turned to him, and so he took advantage of
the moment to open the gate, for which he had a private key, leading
down to the old York Gate; from thence he made his way round by Villiers
Street, whence he could get a better view of the little black-a-vised
Pole's proceedings.

He speedily convinced himself that Beratinsky, though occasionally he
walked along in the direction of Adam Street, and though sometimes he
would leisurely stroll up to the Strand, was in reality keeping an eye
on Buckingham Street and he had not the least doubt that he himself was
the object of this surveillance. He laughed to himself. Had these wise
people in Lisle Street, then, discovering that Natalie's mother was in
London, arrived at the conclusion that she and her daughter had taken
refuge in so very open a place of shelter? When Beratinsky was least
expecting any such encounter, Brand went up and tapped him on the
shoulder.

"How do you do, Mr. Beratinsky?" said he, when the other wheeled round.
"This is not the most agreeable place for a stroll. Why do you not go
down to the Embankment Gardens?"

Beratinsky was angry and confused, but did not quite lose his
self-command.

"I am waiting for some one," he said, curtly.

"Or to find out about some one? Well, I will save you some trouble. Lind
wishes to know where his wife and daughter are, I imagine."

"Is that unnatural?"

"I suppose not. I heard he had been down to Hans Place, where Madame
Lind was staying."

"You knew, then?" the other said, quickly.

"Oh yes, I knew. Now, if you will be frank with me, I may be of some
assistance to you. Lind does not know where his wife and daughter are?"

"You know he does not."

"And you--perhaps you fancied that one or other might be sending a
message to me--might call, perhaps--or even that I might have got them
rooms for the time being?"

The Englishman's penetrating gray eyes were difficult to avoid.

"You appear to know a good deal, Mr. Brand," Beratinsky said, somewhat
sulkily. "Perhaps you can tell me where they are now?"

"I can tell you where they are not, and that is in London."

The other looked surprised, then suspicious.

"Oh, believe me or not, as you please: I only wish to save you trouble.
I tell you that, to the best of my belief, Miss Lind and her mother are
not in London, nor in this country even."

"How do you know?"

"Pardon me; you are going too far. I only tell you what I believe. In
return, as I have saved you some trouble, I shall expect you to let me
know if you hear anything about them. Is that too much to ask?"

"Then you really don't know where they are?" Beratinsky said, with a
quick glance.

"I do not; but they have left London--that I know."

"I am very much obliged to you," said the other, more humbly. "I wish
you good evening, Mr. Brand."

"Stay a moment. Can you tell me what Yacov Kirski's address is? I have
something to arrange with him before I leave England."

He took out his note-book, and put down the address that Beratinsky gave
him. Then the latter moved away, taking off his hat politely, but not
shaking hands.

Brand was amused rather than surprised at this little adventure; but
when day after day passed, and no tidings came from Natalie, he grew
alarmed. Each morning he was certain there would be a letter; each
morning the postman rung the bell below, and Waters would tumble down
the stairs at breakneck speed, but not a word from Natalie or her
mother.

At the little Buckinghamshire station at which he stopped he found a
dog-cart waiting to convey him to Hill Beeches; and speedily he was
driving away through the country he knew so well, now somewhat desolate
in the faded tints of the waning of the year; and perhaps, as he drew
near to the red and white house on the hill, he began to reproach
himself that he had not made the place more his home. Though the grounds
and shrubberies were neat and trim enough, there was a neglected look
about the house itself. When he entered, his footsteps rung hollow on
the uncarpeted floors. Chintz covered the furniture; muslin smothered
the chandeliers; everything seemed to be locked up and put away. And
this comely woman of sixty or so who came forward to meet him--a
smiling, gracious dame, with silvery-white hair, and peach-like cheeks,
and the most winning little laugh--was not her first word some hint to
the young master that he had been a long time away, and how the
neighbors were many a time asking her when a young mistress was coming
to the Beeches, to keep the place as it used to be kept in the olden
days?

"Ah well, sir, you know how the people do talk," she said, with an
apologetic smile. "And there was Mrs. Diggles, sir, that is at the
Checkers, sir, and she was speaking only the other day, as it might be,
about the old oak cupboard, that you remember, sir, and she was saying,
'Well, I wouldn't give that cupboard to Mahster Brand, though he offered
me twenty pound for it years ago--twenty pound, not a farthing less. My
vather he gave me that cupboard when I was married, and ten shillings
was what he paid for it: and then there was twenty-five shillings paid
for putting that cupboard to rights. And then the wet day that Mahster
Brand was out shooting, and the Checkers that crowded that I had to ask
him and the other gentleman to go into my own room, and what does he say
but, "Mrs. Diggles, I will give you twenty pound for that cupboard of
yourn, once you knock off the feet and the curly bit on the top." Law,
how the gentle-folk do know about sech things: that was exactly what my
vather he paid the twenty-five shillings for. But how could I give him
my cupboard for twenty pound when I had promised it to my nephew? When
I'm taken, that cupboard my nephew shall have.' Well, sir, the people do
say that Mrs. Diggles and her nephew have had a quarrel; and this was
what she was saying to me--begging your pardon, sir--only the other day,
as it might be; says she, 'Mrs. Alleyne, this is what I will do: when
your young mahster brings home a wife to the Beeches, I will make his
lady a wedding-present of that cupboard of mine--that I will, if so be
as she is not too proud to accept it from one in my 'umble station. It
will be a wedding-present, and the sooner the better,' says she--begging
of your pardon, sir."

"It is very kind of her, Mrs. Alleyne. Now let me have the keys, if you
please; I have one or two things to see to, and I will not detain you
now."

She handed him the keys and accepted her dismissal gratefully, for she
was anxious to get off and see about luncheon. Then Brand proceeded to
stroll quietly, and perhaps even sadly, through the empty and resounding
rooms that had for him many memories.

It was a rambling, old-fashioned, oddly-built house, that had been added
on to by successive generations, according to their needs, without much
reference to the original design. It had come into the possession of the
Brands of Darlington by marriage: George Brand's grandfather having
married a certain Lady Mary Heaton, the last representative of an old
and famous family. And these lonely rooms that he now walked
through--remarking here and there what prominence had been given by his
mother to the many trophies of the chase that he himself had sent home
from various parts of the world--were hung chiefly with portraits, whose
costumes ranged from the stiff frill and peaked waist of Elizabeth to
the low neck and ringleted hair of Victoria. But there was in an inner
room which he entered another collection of portraits that seemed to
have a peculiar fascination for him--a series of miniatures of various
members of the Heaton and Brand families, reaching down even to himself,
for the last that was added had been taken when he was a lad, to send to
his mother, then lying dangerously ill at Cannes. There was her own
portrait, too--that of a delicate-looking woman with large, lustrous,
soft eyes and wan cheeks, who had that peculiar tenderness and sweetness
of expression that frequently accompanies consumption. He sat looking at
these various portraits a long time, wondering now and again what this
or that one may have suffered or rejoiced in; but more than all he
lingered over the last, as if to bid those beautiful tender eyes a final
farewell.

He was startled by the sound of some vehicle rattling over the gravel
outside; then he heard some one come walking through the echoing rooms.
Instantly, he scarcely knew why he shut down the lid of the case in
front of him.

"Missed the train by just a second," Lord Evelyn said, coming into the
room; "I am awfully sorry."

"It doesn't matter," Brand answered; "but I am glad you have come. I
have everything squared up in London, I think; there only remains to
settle a few things down here."

He spoke in quite a matter-of-fact way--so much so that his friend
forgot to utter any further and unavailing protest.

"You know I am supposed to be going away abroad for a long time," he
continued. "You must take my place, Evelyn, in a sort of way, and I will
introduce you to-day to the people you must look after. There is a
grandson of my mother's nurse, for example: I promised to do something
for him when he completed his apprenticeship; and two old ladies who
have seen better days--they are not supposed to accept any help, but you
can make wonderful discoveries about the value of their old china, and
carry it off to Bond Street. I will leave you plenty of funds; before my
nephew comes into the place there will be sufficient for him and to
spare. But as for yourself, Evelyn, I want you to take some little
souvenir--how about this?"

He went and fetched a curious old silver drinking-cup, set round the lip
and down the handle with uncut rubies and sapphires.

"I don't like the notion of the thing at all," Lord Evelyn said, rather
gloomily; but it was not the cup that he was refusing thus ungraciously.

"After a time people will give me up for lost; and I have left you ample
power to give any one you can think of some little present, don't you
know, as a memento--whatever strikes your own fancy. I want Natalie to
have that Louis XV. table over there--people rather admire the inlaid
work on it, and the devices inside are endless. However, we will make
out a list of these things afterward. Will you drive me down to the
village now? I want you to see my pensioners."

"All right--if you like," Lord Evelyn said; though his heart was not in
the work.

He walked out of this little room and made his way to the front-door,
fancying that Brand would immediately follow. But Brand returned to that
room, and opened the case of miniatures. Then he took from his pocket a
little parcel, and unrolled it: it was a portrait of Natalie--a
photograph on porcelain, most delicately colored, and surrounded with an
antique silver frame. He gazed for a minute or two at the beautiful
face, and somehow the eyes seemed sad to him. Then he placed the little
portrait--which itself looked like a miniature--next the miniature of
his mother, and shut the case and locked it.

"I beg your pardon, Evelyn, for keeping you waiting," he said, at the
front-door. "Will you particularly remember this--that none of the
portraits here are to be disturbed on any account whatever?"



CHAPTER XLVII.

AT PORTICI.


Natalie slept far from soundly the first night after her arrival in
Naples; she was glad when the slow, anxious hours, with all their
bewildering uncertainties and forebodings, were over. She rose early,
and dressed quickly; she threw open the tall French windows to let in
the soft silken air from the sea; then she stepped out on the balcony to
marvel once more--she who knew Naples well enough--at the shining beauty
around her.

It was a morning to give courage to any one; the air was fresh and
sweet; she drank deep of the abundant gladness and brightness of the
world. The great plain of waters before her shimmered and sparkled in
millions of diamonds; with here and there long splashes of sunny green,
and here and there long splashes of purple where the sea-weed showed
through. The waves sprung white on the projecting walls of the Castello
dell' Ovo, and washed in on the shore with a soft continuous murmur; the
brown-sailed fishing-boats went by, showing black or red as they
happened to be in sunshine or shadow. Then far away beyond the shining
sea the island of Capri lay like a blue cloud on the horizon; and far
away beyond the now awakening city near her rose Vesuvius, the twin
peaks dark under some swathes of cloud, the sunlight touching the lower
slopes into a yellowish green, and shining on the pink fringe of villas
along the shore. On so fair and bright a morning hope came as natural to
her as singing to a bird. The fears of the night were over; she could
not be afraid of what such a day should bring forth.

And yet--and yet--from time to time--and just for a second or so--her
heart seemed to stand still. And she was so silent and preoccupied at
breakfast, that her mother remarked it; and Natalie had to excuse
herself by saying that she was a little tired with the travelling. After
breakfast she led her mother into the reading-room, and said, in rather
an excited way,

"Now, mother, here is a treat for you; you will get all the English
papers here, and all the news."

"You forget, Natalie," said her mother, smiling, "that English papers
are not of much use to me."

"Ah, well, the foreign papers," she said, quickly. "You see, mother, I
want to go along to a chemist's to get some white rose."

"You should not throw it about the railway carriages so much,
Natalushka," the unsuspecting mother said, reprovingly. "You are
extravagant."

She did not heed.

"Perhaps they will have it in Naples. Wait until I come back, mother; I
shall not be long."

But it was not white-rose scent that was in her mind as she went rapidly
away and got ready to go out; and it was not in search of any chemist's
shop that she made her way to the Via Roma. Why, she had asked herself
that morning, as she stood on the balcony, and drank in the sunlight and
the sweet air, should she take the poor tired mother with her on this
adventure? If there was danger, she would brave it by herself. She
walked quickly--perhaps anxious to make the first plunge.

She had no difficulty in finding the Vico Carlo, though it was one of
the narrowest and steepest of the small, narrow, and steep lanes leading
off the main thoroughfare into the masses of tall and closely-built
houses on the side of the hill. But when she looked up and recognized
the little plate bearing the name at the corner, she turned a little
pale; something, she knew not what, was now so near.

And as she turned into this narrow and squalid little alley, it seemed
as if her eyes, through some excitement or other, observed the objects
around her with a strange intensity. She could remember each and every
one of them afterward--the fruit-sellers bawling, and the sellers of
acidulated drinks out-roaring them; the shoemakers already at work at
their open stalls; mules laden with vegetables; a negro monk, with his
black woolly head above the brown hood; a venerable letter-writer at a
small table, spectacles on nose and pen in hand, with two women
whispering to him what he was to write for them. She made her way up the
steep lane, through the busy, motley, malodorous crowd, until she
reached the corner pointed out to her by Calabressa.

But he had not told her which way to turn, and for a second or two she
stood in the middle of the crossing, uncertain and bewildered. A
brawny-looking fellow, apparently a butcher, addressed her; she
murmured some thanks, and hastily turned away, taking to the right. She
had not gone but a few yards when she saw the entrance to a court which,
at least, was certainly as dark as that described by Calabressa. She was
half afraid that the man who had spoken to her was following her; and
so, without further hesitation, she plunged into this gloomy court-yard,
which was apparently quite deserted.

She was alone, and she looked around. A second convinced her that she
had hit upon the place, as it were by accident. Over her head swung an
oil-lamp, that threw but the scantiest orange light into the vague
shadows of the place; and in front of her were the open windows of what
was apparently a wine-shop. She did not stay to reflect. Perhaps with
some little tightening of the mouth--unknown to herself--she walked
forward and entered the vaults.

Here, again, no one was visible; there were rows of tuns, certainly, and
a musty odor in the place, but no sign of any trade or business being
carried on. Suddenly out of the darkness appeared a figure--so suddenly
indeed as to startle her. Had this man been seen in ordinary daylight,
he would no doubt have looked nothing worse than a familiar type of the
fat black-a-vised Italian--not a very comely person, it is true, but not
in any way horrible--but now these dusky shadows lent something
ghoulish-looking to his bushy head and greasy face and sparkling black
eyes.

"What is the pleasure of the young lady?" he said, curtly.

Natalie had been startled.

"I wished to inquire--I wished to mention," she stammered, "one
Bartolotti."

But at the same time she was conscious of a strange sinking of the
heart. Was this the sort of creature who was expected to save the life
of her lover?--this the sort of man to pit against Ferdinand Lind? Poor
old Calabressa--she thought he meant well, but he boasted, he was
foolish.

This heavy-faced and heavy-bodied man in the dusk did not reply at once.
He turned aside, saying,

"Excuse me, signorina, it is dark here; they have neglected to light the
lamps as yet."

Then, with much composure, he got a lamp, struck a match, and lit it.
The light was not great, but he placed it deliberately so that it shone
on Natalie, and then he calmly investigated her appearance.

"Yes, signorina, you mentioned one Bartolotti," he remarked, in a more
respectful tone.

Natalie hesitated. According to Calabressa's account, the mere mention
of the name was to act as a talisman which would work wonders for her.
This obese person merely stood there, awaiting what she should say.

"Perhaps," she said, in great embarrassment, "you know one Calabressa?"

"Ah, Calabressa!" he said, and the dull face lighted up with a little
more intelligence. "Yes, of course, one knows Calabressa."

"He is a friend of mine," she said. "Perhaps, if I could see him, he
would explain to you--"

"But Calabressa is not here; he is not even in this country, perhaps."

Then silence. A sort of terror seized her. Was this the end of all her
hopes? Was she to go away thus? Then came a sudden cry, wrung from her
despair.

"Oh, sir, you must tell me if there is no one who can help me! I have
come to save one who is in trouble, in danger. Calabressa said to me,
'Go to Naples; go to such and such a place; the mere word Bartolotti
will give you powerful friends; count on them; they will not fail one
who belongs to the Berezolyis.' And now--"

"Your pardon, signorina: have the complaisance to repeat the name."

"Berezolyi," she answered, quickly; "he said it would be known."

"I for my part do not know it; but that is of no consequence," said the
man. "I begin to perceive what it is that you demand. It is serious. I
hope my friend Calabressa is justified. I have but to do my duty."

Then he glanced at the young lady--or, rather, at her costume.

"The assistance you demand for some one, signorina: is it a sum of
money--is it a reasonable, ordinary sum of money that would be in the
question, perhaps?"

"Oh no, signore; not at all!"

"Very well. Then have the kindness to write your name and your address
for me: I will convey your appeal."

He brought her writing materials; after a moment's consideration she
wrote--"_Natalie Lind, the daughter of Natalie Berezolyi. Hotel ----._"
She handed him the paper.

"A thousand thanks, signorina. To-day, perhaps to-morrow, you will hear
from the friends of Calabressa. You will be ready to go where they ask
you to go?"

"Oh yes, yes, sir!" she exclaimed. "How can I thank you?"

"It is unnecessary," he said, taking the lamp to show her the way more
clearly. "I have the honor to wish you good-morning, signorina." And
again he bowed respectfully. "Your most humble servant, signorina."

She returned to the hotel, and found that her mother had gone up-stairs
to her own room.

"Natalushka, you have been away trying to find some one?"

"Yes, mother," the girl said, rather sadly.

"Why did you go alone?"

"I thought I would not tire you, dear mother."

Then she described all the circumstances of her morning's visit.

"But why should you be so sad, Natalushka?" the mother said, taking her
daughter's hand; "don't you know that fine palaces may have rusty keys?
Oh, I can reassure you on that point. You will not have to deal with
persons like your friend the wine-merchant--not at all. I know at least
as much as that, child. But you see, they have to guard themselves."

Natalie would not leave the hotel for a moment. She pretended to read;
but every person who came into the reading-room caused her to look up
with a start of apprehensive inquiry. At last there came a note for her.
She broke open the envelope hurriedly, and found a plain white card,
with these words written on it:

"_Be at the Villa Odelschalchi, Portici, at four this afternoon._"

Joy leaped to her face again.

"Mother, look!" she cried, eagerly. "After all, we may hope."

"This time you shall not go alone, Natalushka."

"Why not, mother? I am not afraid."

"I may be of use to you, child. There may be friends of mine there--who
knows? I am going with you."

In course of time they hired a carriage, and drove away through the
crowded and gayly-colored city in the glow of the afternoon. But they
had sufficient prudence, before reaching Portici, to descend from the
carriage and proceed on foot. They walked quietly along, apparently not
much interested in what was around them. Presently Natalie pressed her
mother's arm, they were opposite the Villa Odelschalchi--there was the
name on the flat pillars by the gate.

This great plain building, which might have been called a palazzo rather
than a villa, seemed, on the side fronting the street, to be entirely
closed--all the casements of the windows being shut. But when they
crossed to the gate, and pulled the big iron handle that set a bell
ringing, a porter appeared--a big, indolent-looking man, who regarded
them calmly, to see which would speak first.

Natalie simply produced the card that had been sent to her.

"This is the Villa Odelschalchi, I perceive," she said.

"Oh, it is you, then, signorina?" the porter said, with great respect.
"Yes, there was one lady to come here at four o'clock--"

"But the signora is my mother," said Natalie, perhaps with a trifle of
impatience.

The man hesitated for a moment, but by this time Natalie, accompanied by
her mother, had passed through the cool gray archway into the spacious
tessellated court, from which rose on each hand a wide marble staircase.

"Will the signorina and the signora her mother condescend to follow me?"
the porter said, leading the way up one of the staircases, the big iron
keys still in his hand.

They were shown into an antechamber, but scantily furnished, and the
porter disappeared. In a minute or two there came into the room a small,
sallow-complexioned man, who was no other than the Secretary Granaglia.
He bowed, and, as he did so, glanced from the one to the other of the
visitors with scrutiny.

"It is no doubt correct, signorina," said he, addressing himself to
Natalie, "that you have brought the signora your mother with you. We had
thought you were alone, from the message we received. No matter;
only"--and here he turned to Natalie's mother--"only, signora, you will
renew your acquaintance with one who wishes to be known by the name of
Von Zoesch. I have no doubt the signora understands."

"Oh, perfectly, perfectly!" said the elder woman: she had been familiar
with these prudent changes of name all her life.

The Secretary Granaglia bowed and retired.

"It is some one who knows you, mother?" Natalie said, breathlessly.

"Oh, I hope so!" the other answered. She was a little pale, and her
fingers were tightly clasped.

Then a heavier step was heard in the empty corridors outside. The door
was opened; there appeared a tall and soldierly-looking man, about six
feet three in height and perfectly erect, with closely-cropped white
hair, a long white mustache, a reddish face, and clear, piercing,
light-blue eyes. The moment the elder woman saw him she uttered a slight
cry--of joy, it seemed, and surprise--and sprung to her feet.

"Stefan!"

"Natalie!" he exclaimed, in turn with an almost boyish laugh of
pleasure, and he came forward to her with both hands outstretched, and
took hers. "Why, what good wind has brought you to this country? But I
beg a thousand pardons--"

He turned and glanced at Natalie.

"My child," she said, "let me present you to my old friend, General--"

"Von Zoesch," he interrupted, and he took Natalie's hand at the same
time. "What, you are the young lady, then, who bearded the lion in his
den this morning?--and you were not afraid? No, I can see you are a
Berezolyi; if you were a man you would be forever getting yourself and
your friends into scrapes, and risking your neck to get them out again.
A Berezolyi, truly! 'The more beautiful daughter of a beautiful mother!'
But the little scamp knew his insulting iambics were only fit to be
thrown into the fire when he made that unjust comparison. Ah, you young
people have fresh complexions and bright eyes on your side, but we old
people prefer our old friends."

"I hope so, sir," said Natalie, with her eyes bent down.

"And had your father no other messenger that he must employ you?" said
this erect, white-haired giant, who regarded her in a kindly way; "or is
it that feather-brained fellow Calabressa who has got you to intercede
for him? Rest assured. Calabressa will soon be in imminent peril of
being laid by the heels, and he is therefore supremely happy."

Before the girl could speak he had turned to the mother.

"Come, my old friend, shall we go out into the garden? I am sorry the
reception-rooms in the villa are all dismantled; in truth, we are only
temporary lodgers. And I have a great many questions to ask you about
old friends, particularly your father."

"Stefan, can you not understand why I have permitted myself to leave
Hungary?"

He glanced at her deep mourning.

"Ah, is that so? Well, no one ever lived a braver life. And how he kept
up the old Hungarian traditions!--the house a hotel from month's end to
month's end: no questions asked but 'Are you a stranger? then my house
is yours.'"

He led the way down the stairs, chatting to this old friend of his; and
though Natalie was burning with impatience, she forced herself to be
silent. Was it not all in her favor that this member of the mysterious
Council should recur to these former days, and remind himself of his
intimacy with her family? She followed them in silence: he seemed to
have forgotten her existence.

They passed through the court-yard, and down some broad steps. The true
front of the building was on this seaward side--a huge mass of pink,
with green casements. From the broad stone steps a series of terraces,
prettily laid out, descended to a lawn; but, instead of passing down
that way, the tall, soldierly-looking man led his companion by a
side-flight of steps, which enabled them to enter an _allee_ cut through
a mass of olives and orange and lemon trees. There were fig-trees along
the wall by the side of this path; a fountain plashed coolly out there
on the lawn, and beyond the opening showed the deep blue of the sea,
with the clear waves breaking whitely on the shores.

They sat down on a garden-seat; and Natalie, sitting next her mother,
waited patiently and breathlessly, scarcely hearing all this talk about
old companions and friends.

At last the general said,

"Now about the business that brought you here: is it serious?"

"Oh yes, very," the mother said, with some color of excitement appearing
in her worn face; "it is a friend of ours in England: he has been
charged by the Society with some duty that will cost him his life; we
have come to intercede for him--to ask you to save him. For the sake of
old times, Stefan--"

"Wait a moment," said the other, looking grave. "Do you mean the
Englishman?"

"Yes, yes; the same."

"And who has told you what it is purposed to have done?" he asked, with
quite a change in his manner.

"No one," she answered, eagerly; "we guess that it is something of great
danger."

"And if that is so, are you unfamiliar with persons having to incur
danger? Why not an Englishman as well as another? This is an
extraordinary freak of yours, Natalie; I cannot understand it. And to
have come so far when any one in England--any one of us, I mean--could
have told you it was useless."

"But why useless, if you are inclined to interfere?" she said, boldly,
"and I think my father's family have some title to consideration."

"My old friend," said he, in a kindly way, "what is there in the world I
would not do for you if it were within my power? But this is not. What
you ask is, to put the matter shortly, impossible--impossible!"

In the brief silence that followed the mother heard a slight sigh: she
turned instantly, and saw her daughter, as white as death, about to
fall. She caught her in her arms with a slight cry of alarm.

"Here, Stefan, take my handkerchief--dip it in the water--quick!"

The huge, bullet-headed man strode across the lawn to the fountain. As
he returned, and saw before him the white-lipped, unconscious girl, who
was supported in her mother's arms, he said to himself, "Now I
understand."



CHAPTER XLVIII.

AN APPEAL.


This sudden and involuntary confession of alarm and despair no doubt
told her story more clearly than anything else could have done. General
von Zoesch as he chose to call himself, was excessively concerned; he
held her hand till he saw the life returning to the pale, beautiful
face: he was profuse and earnest in his apologies.

"My dear young lady I beg a thousand pardons!--I had no idea of alarming
you; I had no idea you were so deeply interested; come, take my arm, and
we will walk down into the open, where the sea-air is cool. I beg a
thousand pardons."

She had pulled herself together with a desperate effort of will.

"You spoke abruptly, signore; you used the word _impossible_! I had
imagined it was unknown to you."

Her lips were rather pale; but there was a flush of color returning to
her face, and her voice had something of the old proud and pathetic ring
in it.

"Yes," she continued, standing-before him, with her eyes downcast, "I
was told that when great trouble came upon me or mine I was to come
here--to Naples--and I should find myself under the protection of the
greatest power in Europe. My name--my mother's name--was to be enough.
And this is the result, that a brave man, who is our friend and dear to
us, is threatened with a dishonorable death, and the very power that
imposed it on him--the power that was said to be invincible, and wise,
and generous--is unable or unwilling to stir hand or foot!"

"A dishonorable death, signorina?"

"Oh, signore," she said, with a proud indignation, "do not speak to me
as if I were a child. Cannot one see what is behind all this secrecy?
Cannot one see that you know well what has been done in England by your
friends and colleagues? You put this man, who is too proud, too noble,
to withdraw from his word, on a service that involves the certain
sacrifice of his life! and there is no honor attached to this
sacrifice--so he himself has admitted. What does that mean?--what can it
mean--but assassination?"

He drew back his head a little bit, as if startled, and stared at her.

"My dear young lady--"

But her courage had not returned to her for nothing. She raised the
beautiful, dark, pathetic eyes, and regarded him with an indignant
fearlessness.

"That is what any one might guess," she said. "But there is more.
Signore, you and your friends meditate the assassination of the King of
Italy! and you call on an Englishman--an Englishman who has no love of
secret and blood-stained ways--"

"Stefan!" the mother cried, quickly, and she placed her hand on the
general's arm; "do not be angry. Do not heed her--she is a child--she is
quick to speak. Believe me, there are other reasons for our coming to
you."

"Yes, yes, my friend Natalie; all in good time. But I am most anxious to
put myself right with the signorina your daughter first of all. Now, my
dear young lady," he said, taking her hand, and putting it on his arm,
and gently compelling her to walk with him toward the opener space where
the sea-air was cool, "I again apologize to you for having spoken
unwittingly--"

"Oh, signore, do not trouble about that! It is no matter of courtesy or
politeness that is in the question: it is the life of one of one's
dearest friends. There are other times for politeness."

"Stefan," the mother interposed, anxiously, "do not heed her--she is
agitated."

"My dear Natalie," said the general, smiling, "I admire a brave woman
as I admire a brave man. Do not I recognize another of you Berezolyis?
The moment you think one of your friends is being wronged, fire and
water won't prevent you from speaking out. No, no, my dear young lady,"
he said, turning to the daughter, "you cannot offend me by being loyal
and outspoken."

He patted her hand, just as Calabressa had done.

"But I must ask you to listen for a moment, to remove one or two
misconceptions. It is true I know something of the service which your
English friend has undertaken to perform. Believe me, it has nothing to
do with the assassination of the King of Italy--nothing in the world."

She lifted her dark eyes for a second, and regarded him steadily.

"I perceive," said he, "that you pay me the compliment of asking me if I
lie. I do not. Reassure yourself: there are no people in this country
more loyal to the present dynasty than my friends and myself. We have no
time for wild Republican projects."

She looked somewhat bewildered. This speculation as to the possible
nature of the service demanded of George Brand had been the outcome of
many a night's anxious self-communing; and she had indulged in the wild
hope that this man, when abruptly challenged, might have been startled
into some avowal. For then, would not her course have been clear enough?
But now she was thrown back on her former perplexity, with only the one
certainty present to her mind--the certainty of the danger that
confronted her lover.

"My dear young lady," he said, "it is useless for you to ask what that
service is, for I shall refuse to answer you. But I assure you that you
have my deepest sympathy, and I have seen a good deal of suffering from
similar causes. I do not seek to break into your confidence, but I think
I understand your position; you will believe me that it is with no light
heart that I must repeat the word _impossible_. Need I reason with you?
Need I point out to you that there is scarcely any one in the world whom
we might select for a dangerous duty who would not have some one who
would suffer on his account? Who is without some tie of affection that
must be cut asunder--no matter with what pain--when the necessity for
the sacrifice arises? You are one of the unhappy ones; you must be
brave; you must try to forget your sufferings, as thousands of wives and
sweethearts and daughters have had to forget, in thinking that their
relatives and friends died in a good cause."

Her heart was proud and indignant no longer; it had grown numbed. The
air from the sea felt cold.

"I am helpless, signore," she murmured; "I do not know what the cause
is. I do not know what justification you have for taking this man's
life."

He did not answer that. He said,

"Perhaps, indeed, it is not those who are called on to sacrifice their
life for the general good who suffer most. They can console themselves
with thinking of the result. It is their friends--those dearest to
them--who suffer, and who many a time would no doubt be glad to become
their substitutes. It is true that we--that is, that many
associations--recognize the principle of the vicarious performance of
duties and punishments; but not any one yet has permitted a woman to
become substitute for a man."

"What made you think of that, signore?" she asked, regarding him.

"I have known some cases," he said, evasively, "where such an offer, I
think, would have been made."

"It could not be accepted?"

"Oh no."

"Not even by the power that is the greatest in Europe?" she said,
bitterly--"that is invincible and all-generous? Oh, signore, you are too
modest in your pretensions! And the Berezolyis--they have done nothing,
then, in former days to entitle them to consideration; they are but as
anybody in the crowd who might come forward and intercede for a friend;
they have no old associates, then, and companions in this Society, that
they cannot have this one thing granted them--that they cannot get this
one man's life spared to him! Signore, your representatives mistake your
powers; more than that, they mistake the strength of your memory, and
your friendship!"

The red face of the bullet-headed general grew redder still, but not
with anger.

"Signorina," he said, evidently greatly embarrassed, "you humiliate me.
You--you do not know what you ask--"

He had led her back to the garden-seat; they had both sat down; he did
not notice how her bosom was struggling with emotion.

"You ask me to interfere--to commit an act of injustice--"

"Oh, signore, signore, this is what I ask!" she cried, quite overcome;
and she fell at his feet, and put her clasped hands on his knees, and
broke into a wild fit of crying; "this is what I ask of you,
signore--this is what I beg from you on my knees--I ask you to give me
the life of--of my betrothed!"

She buried her face in her hands; her frame was shaken with her sobs.

"Little daughter," said he, greatly agitated, "rise; come, remain here
for a few moments; I wish to speak to your mother--alone. Natalie!"

The elder woman accompanied him a short distance across the lawn; they
stood by the fountain.

"By Heaven, I would do anything for the child!" he said, rapidly; "but
you see, dear friend, how it is impossible. Look at the injustice of it.
If we transferred this duty to another person, what possible excuse
could we make to him whom we might choose?"

He was looking back at the girl.

"It will kill her, Stefan," the mother said.

"Others have suffered also."

The elder woman seemed to collect herself a little.

"But I told you we had not said everything to you. The poor child is in
despair; she has not thought of all the reasons that induced us to come
to you. Stefan, you remember my cousin Konrad?"

"Oh yes, I remember Konrad well enough," said the general, absently, for
he was still regarding the younger Natalie, who sat on the bench, her
hands clasped, her head bent down. "Poor fellow, he came to a sad end at
last; but he always carried his life in his hands, and with a gay heart
too."

"But you remember, do you not, something before that?" the mother said,
with some color coming into her face. "You remember how my husband had
him chosen--and I myself appealed--and you, Stefan, you were among the
first to say that the Society must inquire--"

"Ah, but that was different, Natalie. You know why it was that that
commission had to be reversed."

"Do I know? Yes. What else have I had to think about these sixteen or
seventeen years since my child was separated from me?" she said, sadly.
"And perhaps I have grown suspicious; perhaps I have grown mad to think
that what has happened once might happen again."

"What?" he said, turning his clear blue eyes suddenly on her.

She did not flinch.

"Consider the circumstances, Stefan, and say whether one has no reason
to suspect. The Englishman, this Mr. Brand, loves Natalie; she loves him
in return; my husband refuses his consent to the marriage; and yet they
meet in opposition to his wishes. Then there is another thing that I
cannot so well explain, but it is something about a request on my
husband's part that Mr. Brand, who is a man of wealth, should accept a
certain offer, and give over his property to the funds of the Society."

"I understand perfectly," her companion said, calmly. "Well?"

"Well, Mr. Brand, thinking of Natalie's future, refuses. But consider
this, Stefan, that it had been hinted to him before that in case of his
refusal, he might be sent to America to remain there for life."

"I perceive, my old friend, that you are reading in your own
interpretations into an ordinary matter of business. However--"

"But his refusal was immediately followed by that arrangement. He was
ordered to go to America. My husband, no doubt considered that that
would effectually separate him and Natalie--"

"Again you are putting in your own interpretation."

"One moment, Stefan. My child is brave; she thought an injustice was
being done; she thought it was for her sake that her lover was being
sent away, and then she spoke frankly; she said she would go with him."

"Yes?" He was now listening with more interest.

"You perceive then, my dear friend, my husband was thwarted in every
way. Then it was, and quite suddenly, that he reversed this arrangement
about America, and there fell on Mr. Brand this terrible thing. Knowing
what I know, do you not think I had fair cause for suspicion? And when
Natalie said, 'Oh, there are those abroad who will remove this great
trouble from us,' then I said to myself, 'At all events, the Society
does not countenance injustice; it will see that right has been done.'"

The face of the man had grown grave, and for some time he did not speak.

"I see what you suggest, Natalie," he said at length. "It is a serious
matter. I should have said your suspicions were idle--that the thing was
impossible--but for the fact that it has occurred before. Strange, now,
if old ----, whose wisdom and foresight the world is beginning to
recognize now, should be proved to be wise on this point too, as on so
many others. He used always to say to us: 'When once you find a man
unfaithful, never trust him after. When once a man has allowed himself
to put his personal advantage before his duty to such a society as
yours, it shows that somewhere or other there is in him the leaven of a
self-seeker, which is fatal to all societies. Impose the heaviest
penalties on such an offence; cast him out when you have the
opportunity.' It would be strange, indeed; it would be like fate; it
would appear as though the thing were in the blood, and must come out,
no matter what warning the man may have had before. You know, Natalie,
what your husband had to endure for his former lapse?"

She nodded her head.

For some time he was again silent, and there was a deeper air of
reflection on his face than almost seemed natural to it, for he looked
more of a soldier than a thinker.

"If there were any formality," he said, almost to himself, "in the
proceedings, one might have just cause to intervene. But your husband,
my Natalie," he continued, addressing her directly, "is well trusted by
us. He has done us long and faithful service. We should be slow to put
any slight upon him, especially that of suspicion."

"That, Stefan," said Natalie's mother, with courage, "is a small matter,
surely, compared with the possibility of your letting this man go to his
death unjustly. You would countenance, then, an act of private revenge?
That is the use you would let the powers of your Society be put to? That
is not what Janecki, what Rausch, what Falevitch looked forward to."

The taunt was quite lost on him; he was calmly regarding Natalie. She
had not stirred. After that one outburst of despairing appeal there was
no more for her to say or to do. She could wait, mutely, and hear what
the fate of her lover was to be.

"Unfortunately," said the general, turning and looking up at the vast
pink frontage of the villa, "There are no papers here that one can
appeal to. I only secured the temporary use of the villa, as being a
more fitting place than some to receive the signorina your daughter. But
it is possible the Secretary may remember something; he has a good
memory. Will you excuse me, Natalie, for a few moments?"

He strode away toward the house. The mother went over to her daughter,
and put a hand on her shoulder.

"Courage, Natalushka! You must not despair yet. Ah, my old friend Stefan
has a kind heart; there were tears in his eyes when he turned away from
your appeal to him. He does not forget old associates."

Von Zoesch almost immediately returned, still looking preoccupied. He
drew Natalie's mother aside a few steps, and said,

"This much I may tell you, Natalie: in the proceedings four were
concerned--your husband, Mr. Brand, Beratinsky, Reitzei. What do you
know of these last two?"

"I? Alas, Stefan, I know nothing of them!"

"And we here little. They are your husband's appointment. I may also
tell you, Natalie, that the Secretary is also of my opinion, that it is
very unlikely your husband would be so audacious as to repeat his
offence of former years, by conspiring to fix this duty on this man to
serve his own interests. It would be too audacious, unless his temper
had outrun his reason altogether."

"But you must remember, Stefan," she said, eagerly, "that there was no
one in England who knew that former story. He could not imagine that I
was to be, unhappily, set free to go to my daughter--that I should be at
her side when this trouble fell on her--"

"Nevertheless," said he, gently interrupting her, "you have appealed to
us: we will inquire. It will be a delicate affair. If there has been any
complicity, any unfairness, to summon these men hither would be to make
firmer confederates of them than ever. If one could get at them
separately, individually--"

He kept pressing his white mustache into his teeth with his forefinger.

"If Calabressa were not such a talker," he said, absently. "But he has
ingenuity, the feather-brained devil."

"Stefan, I could trust everything to Calabressa," she said.

"In the mean time," he said, "I will not detain you. If you remain at
the same hotel we shall be able to communicate with you. I presume your
carriage is outside?"

"It is waiting for us a little way off."

He accompanied them into the tessellated court-yard, but not to the
gate. He bade good-bye to his elder friend; then he took the younger
lady's hand and held it, and regarded her.

"Figliuola mia," he said, with a kindly glance, "I pity you if you have
to suffer. We will hope for better things: if it is impossible, you have
a brave heart."

When they had left he went up the marble staircase and along the empty
corridor until he reached a certain room.

"Granaglia, can you tell me where our friend Calabressa may happen to be
at this precise moment?"

"At Brindisi, I believe, Excellenza."

"At Brindisi still. The devil of a fellow is not so impatient as I had
expected. Ah, well. Have the goodness to send for him, friend Granaglia,
and bid him come with speed."

"Most willingly, Excellenza."



CHAPTER XLIX.

AN EMISSARY.


One warm, still afternoon Calabressa was walking quickly along the
crowded quays of Naples, when he was beset by a more than usually
importunate beggar--a youth of about twelve, almost naked.

"Something for bread, signore--for the love of God--my father taken to
heaven, my mother starving--bread, signore--"

"To the devil with you!" said Calabressa.

"May you burst!" replied the polite youth, and he tried to kick
Calabressa's legs and make off at the same time.

This feat he failed in, so that, as he was departing, Calabressa hit him
a cuff on the side of the head which sent him rolling. Then there was a
howl, and presently there was a universal tumult of women, calling out,
"Ah, the German! ah, the foreigner!" and so forth, and drawing
threateningly near. Calabressa sought in his pockets for a handful of
small copper coins, turned, threw them high in the air, and did not stay
to watch the effect of the shower on the heads of the women, but walked
quietly away.

However, in thus suddenly turning, he had caught sight--even with his
near-sighted eyes--of an unwholesome-looking young man, pale,
clean-shaven, with bushy black hair, whom he recognized. He appeared to
pay no attention, but walked quickly on. Taking one or two unnecessary
turnings, he became convinced that the young man, as he had suspected,
was following him: then, without more ado, and even without looking
behind him, he set out for his destination, which was Posilipo.

In due course of time he began to ascend the wooded hill with its villas
and walls and cactus-hedges. At a certain turning, where he could not be
observed by any one behind him, he turned sharp off to the left, and
stood behind a wooden gate; a couple of minutes afterward the young man
came along, more rapidly now, for he no doubt fancied that Calabressa
had disappeared ahead.

Calabressa stepped out from his hiding-place, went after him, and tapped
him on the shoulder. He turned, stared, and endeavored to appear angry
and astonished.

"Oh yes, to be sure," said Calabressa, with calm sarcasm, "at your
disposition, signore. So we were not satisfied with selling photographs
and pebbles to the English on board the steamer; we want to get a little
Judas money; we sell ourselves to the weasels, the worms, the vermin--"

"Oh, I assure you, signore--" the shaven-faced youth exclaimed, much
more humbly.

"Oh, I assure you too, signore," Calabressa continued, facetiously. "And
you, you poor innocent, you have not been with the weasels six weeks
when you think you will try your nose in tracking me. Body of Bacchus,
it is too insolent!"

"I assure you, signore--"

"Now, behold this, my friend: we must give children like you a warning.
If you had been a little older, and not quite so foolish, I should have
had you put on the Black List of my friends the Camorristi--you
understand? But you--we will cure you otherwise. You know the
Englishman's yacht that has come into the Great Harbor--"

"Signore, I beg of you--"

"Beg of the devil!" said Calabressa, calmly. "Between the Englishman's
yacht and the Little Mole you will find a schooner moored--her name. _La
Svezia_; do not forget--_La Svezia_. To-morrow you will go on board of
her, ask for the captain, go down below, and beg him to be so kind as to
give you twelve stripes--"

"Signore--"

"Another word, _mouchard_, and I make it twenty. He will give you a
receipt, which you will sign, and bring to me; otherwise, down goes your
name on the list. Which do you prefer? Oh, we will teach some of you
young weasels a lesson! I have the honor to wish you a good morning."

Calabressa touched his hat politely, and walked on, leaving the young
man petrified with rage and fear.

By-and-by he began to walk more leisurely and with more circumspection,
keeping a sharp lookout, as well as his near-sighted eyes allowed, on
any passer-by or vehicle he happened to meet. At length, and with the
same precautions he had used on a former occasion, he entered the
grounds of the villa he had sought out in the company of Gathorne
Edwards, and made his way up to the fountain on the little plateau. But
now his message had been previously prepared; he dropped it into the
receptacle concealed beneath the lip of the fountain, and then descended
the steep little terraces until he got round to the entrance of the
grotto.

Instead of passing in by this cleft in the rockwork, however, he found
awaiting him there the person who had summoned him--the so-called
General Von Zoesch. Calabressa was somewhat startled, but he said, "Your
humble servant, Excellenza," and removed his cap.

"Keep your hat on your head, friend Calabressa," said the other,
good-naturedly; "you are as old as I am."

He seated himself on a projecting ledge of the rockwork, and motioned to
Calabressa to do likewise on the other side of the entrance. They were
completely screened from observation by a mass of olive and fig trees,
to say nothing of the far-stretching orange shrubbery beyond.

"The Council have paid you a high compliment, my Calabressa," the
general said, plunging at once into the matter. "They have resolved to
intrust you with a very difficult mission."

"It is a great honor."

"You won't have to risk your neck, which will no doubt disappoint you,
but you will have to show us whether there is the stuff of a diplomatist
in you."

"Oh, as for that, Excellenza," Calabressa said confidently, "one can be
a _bavard_ at times, for amusement, for nonsense; and one can at times
be silent when there is necessity."

"You know of the affair of Zaccatelli. The agent has been found, as we
desired in England. I understand you know him; his name is Brand."

Calabressa uttered an exclamation.

"Excellenza, do you know what you have said? You pierce my heart. Why he
of all those in England? He is the betrothed of Natalie's daughter--the
Natalie Berezolyi, Excellenza, who married Ferdinand Lind--"

"I know it," said the other, calmly. "I have seen the young lady. She is
a beautiful child."

"She is more than that--she is a beautiful-souled child!" said
Calabressa, in great agitation, "and she has a tender heart. I tell you
it will kill her, Excellenza! Oh, it is infamous! it is not to be
thought of!" He jumped to his feet and spoke in a rapid, excited way. "I
say it is not to be thought of. I appeal--I, Calabressa--to the
honorable the members of the Council: I say that I am ready to be his
substitute--they cannot deny me--I appeal to the laws of the
Society--"'

"Calm yourself--calm yourself," said the general; but Calabressa would
not be calm.

"I will not have my beautiful child have this grief put upon her!--you,
Excellenza, will help my appeal to the Council--they cannot refuse
me--what use am I to anybody or myself? I say that the daughter of my
old friend Natalie shall not have her lover taken from her; it is I,
Calabressa, who claim to be his substitute!"

"Friend Calabressa, I desire you to sit down and listen. The story is
brief that I have to tell you. This man Brand is chosen by the usual
ballot. The young lady does not know for what duty, of course, but
believes it will cost him his life. She is in trouble; she recollects
your giving her some instructions; what does she do but start off at
once for Naples, to put her head right into the den of the black bear
Tommaso!"

"Ah, the brave little one! She did not forget Calabressa and the little
map, then?"

"I have seen her and her mother."

"Her mother, also? Here, in Naples, now?"

"Yes."

"Great Heaven! What a fool I was to come through Naples and not to
know--but I was thinking of that little viper."

"You will now be good enough to listen, my Calabressa."

"I beg your Excellency's pardon a thousand times."

"It appears that both mother and daughter are beset with the suspicion
that this duty has been put upon their English friend by unfair means.
At first I said to myself these suspicions were foolish; they now appear
to me more reasonable. You, at all events, are acquainted with the old
story against Ferdinand Lind; you know how he forfeited his life to the
Society; how it was given back to him. You would think it impossible he
would risk such another adventure. Well, perhaps I wrong him; but there
is a possibility; there are powerful reasons, I can gather, why he
should wish to get rid of this Englishman."

Calabressa said nothing now, but he was greatly excited.

"We had been urging him about money, Calabressa mio--that I will explain
to you. It has been coming in slowest of all from England, the richest
of the countries, and just when we had so much need. Then, again, there
is a vacancy in the Council, and Lind has a wish that way. What happens?
He tries to induce the Englishman to take an officership and give us
his fortune; the Englishman refuses; he says then, 'Part from my
daughter, and go to America.' The daughter says, 'If he goes, I follow.'
You perceive, my friend, that if this story is true, and it is
consecutive and minute as I received it, there was a reason for our
colleague Lind to be angry, and to be desirous of making it certain that
this Englishman who had opposed him should not have his daughter."

"I perceive it well, Excellenza. Meanwhile?"

"Meanwhile, that is all. Only, when an old friend--when one who has such
claims on our Society as a Berezolyi naturally has--comes and tells you
such a story, you listen with attention and respect. You may believe, or
you may not believe; one prefers not to believe when the matter touches
upon the faith of a colleague who has been trustworthy for many years.
But at the same time, if the Council, being appealed to, and being
anxious above all things that no wrong should be done, were to find an
agent--prudent, silent, cautious--who might be armed with plenary powers
of pardon, for example, supposing there were an accomplice to be
bribed--if the Council were to commission such a one as you, my
Calabressa, to institute inquiries, and perhaps to satisfy those two
appellants that no injustice has been done, you would undertake the task
with diligence, with a sense of responsibility, would you not?"

"With joy--with a full heart, Excellenza!" Calabressa exclaimed.

"Oh no, not at all--with prudence and disinterestedness; with calmness
and no prejudice; and, above all, with a resolution to conceal from our
friend and colleague Lind that any slight of suspicion is being put upon
him."

"Oh, you can trust me, Excellenza!" Calabressa said, eagerly.

"Let me do this for the sake of the sweetheart of my old age--that is
that beautiful-souled little one; and if I cannot bring her peace and
security one way--mind, I go without prejudice--I swear to you I go
without bias--I will harm no one even in intention--but this I say, that
if I fail that way there is another."

"You have seen the two men, Beratinsky and Reitzei, who were of the
ballot along with Lind and the Englishman. To me they are but names.
Describe them to me."

"Beratinsky," said Calabressa, promptly, "a bear--surly, pig-headed;
Reitzei, a fop--sinuous, petted."

"Which would be the more easily started, for example?" the tall man
said, with a smile.

"Oh, your Excellency, leave that to me," Calabressa answered. "Give me
no definite instructions: am I not a volunteer?--can I not do as I
please, always with the risk that one may knock me over the head if I am
impertinent?"

"Well, then, if you leave it to your discretion, friend Calabressa, to
your ingenuity, and your desire to have justice without bias, have you
money?"

"Not at all, Excellenza."

"The Secretary Granaglia will communicate with you this evening. You can
start at once?"

"By the direct train to-morrow morning at seven. Excellenza." Then he
added, "Oh, the devil!"

"What now?"

"There was a young fellow, Excellenza, committed the imprudence of
dogging my footsteps this afternoon. I know him. I stopped him and
referred him to the captain of the schooner _La Svezia_: he was to bring
me the receipt to morrow."

"Never mind," said the general, laughing; "we will look after him when
he goes on board. Now do you understand, friend Calabressa, the great
delicacy of the mission the Council have intrusted to you? You must be
patient, sure, unbiassed; and if, as I imagine, Lind and you were not
the best of friends at one time in your life, you must forget all that.
You are not going as the avenger of his daughter; you are going as the
minister of justice--only you have power behind you; that you can allow
to be known indirectly. Do you understand?"

"It is as clear as the noonday skies. Confide in me, Excellenza." The
other rose.

"Use speed, my Calabressa. Farewell!"

"One word, Excellenza. If it is not too great a favor, the hotel where
my beautiful Natalushka and her mother are staying?"

The other gave him the name of the hotel; and Calabressa, saluting him
respectfully, departed, making his way down through the terraces of
fruit-trees under the clear twilight skies.

Calabressa walked back to Naples, and to the hotel indicated, which was
near the Castello dell' Ovo. No sooner had the hotel porter opened for
him the big swinging doors than he recollected that he did not know for
whom he ought to ask; but at this moment Natalie came along the
corridor, dressed and ready to go out.

"My little daughter!" he exclaimed, taking her by both hands, "did not
I say you would soon find me when there was need?"

"Will you come up-stairs and see my mother, Signor Calabressa?" said
she. "You know why she and I are together now?--my grandfather is dead."

"Yes, I will go and see your mother," said he, after a second: she did
not notice the strange expression of his face during that brief
hesitation.

There was a small sitting-room between the two bedrooms; Natalie
conducted him into it, and went into the adjoining chamber for her
mother. A minute after these two friends and companions of former days
met. They held each other's hand in silence for a brief time.

"My hair was not so gray when you last saw me," the worn-faced woman
said, at length, with a smile.

Calabressa could not speak at all.

"Mother," the girl said, to break in on this painful embarrassment, "you
have not seen Signor Calabressa for so long a time. Will he not stay and
dine with us? the _table-d'hote_, is at half-past six."

"Not the _table-d'hote_, my little daughter," Calabressa said. "But if
one were permitted to remain here, for example--"

"Oh yes, certainly."

"There are many things I wish to speak about; and so little time.
To-morrow morning I start for England."

"For England?"

"Most certainly, little daughter. And you have a message, perhaps, for
me to carry? Oh, you may let it be cheerful," he said, with his usual
gay optimism. "I tell you--I myself, and I do not boast--let it be
cheerful! What did I say to you? You are in trouble; I said to you,
count upon having friends!"

Calabressa did stay; and they had a kind of meal in this room; and there
was a great deal to talk over between the two old friends. But on all
matters referring to the moment he preserved a resolute silence. He was
not going to talk at the very outset. He was going to England--that was
all.

But as he was bidding good-bye to Natalie, he drew her a step or two
into the passage.

"Little child," said he, in a low voice, "your mother is suffering
because of your sorrow. It is needless. I assure you all will be well:
have I spoken in vain before? It is not for one bearing the name that
you have to despair."

"Good-bye, then, Signor Calabressa."

"_Au revoir_, child: is not that better?"



CHAPTER L.

A WEAK BROTHER.


George Brand was sitting alone in these rooms of his, the lamps lit, the
table near him covered with papers. He had just parted with two
visitors--Molyneux and a certain learned gentleman attached to Owens
College--who had come to receive his final plans and hints as to what
still lay before them in the north. On leaving, the fresh-colored,
brisk-voiced Molyneux had said to him,

"Well, Mr. Brand, seeing you so eager about what has to be done up
there, one might wonder at your leaving us and going off pleasuring. But
no matter; a man must have his holiday; so I wish you a pleasant
journey, and we'll do our best till you come back."

So that also was settled. In fact, he had brought all his affairs up to
a point that would enable him to start at any moment. But about Natalie?
He had not heard from her through any channel whatever. He had not the
least idea whither she had gone. Moreover, he gathered from Reitzei that
her father--who, in Reitzei's opinion, could at once have discovered
where she was--refused to trouble himself in the matter, and, indeed,
would not permit her name to be mentioned in his presence.

He leaned back in his chair with a sigh. Of what value to him now were
these carefully calculated suggestions about districts, centres,
conveners, and what not? And yet he had appeared deeply interested while
his two visitors were present. For the time being the old eagerness had
stirred him; the pride he had taken in his own work. But now that was
passed from him; he had relinquished his stewardship; and as he absently
gazed out into the black night before him, his thoughts drifted far
away. He was startled from his reverie by some one knocking at the door.
Immediately after Gathorne Edwards entered.

"Waters said I should find you alone," said the tall, pale, blue-eyed
student. "I have come to you about Kirski."

"Sit down. Well?"

"It's a bad business," he said, taking a chair, and looking rather
gloomy and uncomfortable. "He has taken to drink badly. I have been to
him, talked to him, but I have no influence over him, apparently. I
thought perhaps you might do something with him."

"Why, I cannot even speak to him!"

"Oh, he is accustomed to make much out of a few words; and I would go
with you."

"But what is the occasion of all this? How can he have taken to drink in
so short a time?"

"A man can drink himself into a pretty queer state in a very short time
when he sets his mind to it," Edwards said. "He has given up his work
altogether, and is steadily boozing away the little savings he had made.
He has gone back to his blood and kill, too; wants some one to go with
him to murder that fellow out in Russia who first of all took his wife,
and then beat him and set dogs on him. The fact is, Calabressa's cure
has gone all to bits."

"It is a pity. The unfortunate wretch has had enough trouble. But what
is the cause of it?"

"It is rather difficult to explain," said Edwards with some
embarrassment. "One can only guess, for his brain is muddled, and he
maunders. You know Calabressa's flowery, poetical interpretation. It was
Miss Lind, in fact, who had worked a miracle. Well, there was something
in it. She was kind to him, after he had been cuffed about Europe, and a
sort of passion of gratitude took possession of him. Then he was led to
believe at that time that--that he might be of service to her or her
friends, and he gave up his projects of revenge altogether--he was ready
for any sacrifice--and, in fact, there was a project--" Edwards glanced
at his companion; but Brand happened at that moment to be looking out of
the window.

"Well, you see, all that fell through; and he had to come back to
England disappointed; then there was no Calabressa to keep him up to his
resolutions: besides that, he found out--how, I do not know--that Miss
Lind had left London."

"Oh, he found that out?"

"Apparently. And he says he is of no further use to anybody; and all he
wants is to kill the man Michaieloff, and then make an end of himself."

Brand rose at once.

"We must go and see the unfortunate devil, Edwards. His brain never was
steady, you know, and I suppose even two or three days' hard drinking
has made him wild again. And just as I had prepared a little surprise
for him!"

"What?" Edwards asked, as he opened the door.

"I have made him a little bequest that would have produced him about
twenty pounds a year, to pay his rent. It will be no kindness to give it
to him until we see him straight again."

But Edwards pushed the door to again, and said in a low voice,

"Of course, Mr. Brand, you must know of the Zaccatelli affair?"

Brand regarded him, and said, calmly,

"I do. There are five men in England who know of it; you and I are two
of them."

"Well," said Edwards, eagerly, "if such a thing were determined on,
wouldn't it have been better to let this poor wretch do it? He would
have gloried in it; he had the enthusiasm of the martyr just then; he
thought he was to be allowed to do something that would make Miss Lind
and her friends forever grateful to him."

"And who put it into his head that Miss Lind knew anything about
it?--Calabressa, I suppose."

Edwards colored slightly.

"Well, yes--"

"And it was Calabressa who intrusted such a secret as that to a
maniac--"

"Pardon me, Kirski never knew specifically what lay before him; but he
was ready for anything. For my own part, I was heartily glad when they
sent him back to England. I did not wish to have any hand in such a
business, however indirectly; and, indeed, I hope they have abandoned
the whole project by this time."

"It might be wiser, certainly," said Brand, with an indifferent air.

"If they go on with it, it will make a fearful noise in Europe," said
Edwards, contemplatively. "The assassination of a cardinal! Well, his
life has been scandalous enough--but still, his death, in such a way--"

"It will horrify people, will it not?" Brand said, calmly; "and his
murderer will be execrated and howled at throughout Europe, no doubt!"

"Well, yes; you see, who is to know the motives?"

"There won't be a single person to say a single word for him," said
Brand, absently. "It is an enviable fate, isn't it, for some wretched
mortal? No matter, Edwards; we will go and look up this fellow Kirski
now."

They went out into the night--it was cold and drizzling--and made their
way up into Soho. They knocked at the door of a shabby-looking house;
and Kirski's landlady made her appearance. She was very angry when his
name was mentioned; of course he was not at home; they would find him in
some public-house or other--the animal!

"But he pays his rent, doesn't he?" Brand remonstrated.

Oh yes, he paid his rent. But she didn't like a wild beast in the house.
It was decent lodgings she kept; not a Wombwell's Menagerie.

"I am sure he gives you no trouble, ma'am," said Edwards, who had seen
something of the meek and submissive way the Russian conducted himself
in his lodgings.

This she admitted, but promptly asked how she was to know she mightn't
have her throat cut some night? And what was the use of her talking to
him, when he didn't know two words of a Christian language?

They gathered from this that the good woman had been lecturing her
docile lodger, and had been seriously hurt because of his inattention.
However, she at last consented to give them the name of the particular
public-house in which he was likely to be found, and they again set off
in quest of him.

They found him easily. He was seated in a corner of the crowded and
reeking bar-room by himself, nursing a glass of gin-and-water with his
two trembling hands. When they entered, he looked up and regarded them
with bleared, sunken eyes, evidently recognized them, and then turned
away sullenly.

"Tell him I am not come to bully him," said Brand quickly. "Tell him I
am come about some work. I want a cabinet made by a first-class workman
like himself."

Edwards went forward and put his hand on the man's shoulder and spoke to
him for some time; then he turned to Brand.

"He says, 'No use; no use.' He cannot work any more. They won't give him
help to kill Pavel Michaieloff. He wishes to die."

"Ask him, then, what the young lady who gave him her portrait will think
of him if she hears he is in this condition. Ask him how he has dared to
bring her portrait into a place like this."

When this was conveyed to Kirski, he seemed to arouse himself somewhat;
he even talked eagerly for a few seconds; then he turned away again, as
if he did not wish to be seen.

"He says," Edwards continued, "that he has not, that he would not bring
that portrait into any such place. He was afraid it might be found--it
might be taken from him. He made a small casket of oak, carved by his
own hands, and lined it with zinc; he put the photograph in it, and hid
himself in the trees of St. James's Park--at least, I imagine that St.
James's Park is what he means--at night. Then he buried it there. He
knows the place. When he has killed Michaieloff he will come back and
dig it up."

"The poor devil--his brain is certainly going, drink or no drink. What
is to be done with him, Edwards?"

"He says the young lady has gone away. He cares for nothing. He is of no
use. He despairs of getting enough money to take him back to Russia."

After a great deal of persuasion, however, they got him to leave the
public-house with them and return to his lodgings. They got him some tea
and some bread-and-butter, and made him swallow both. Then Edwards,
under his friend's instructions, proceeded to impress on Kirski that the
young lady was only away from London for a short time: that she would be
greatly distressed if she were to hear he had been misconducting
himself; that, if he returned to his work on the following morning, he
would find that his master would overlook his absence; and that finally,
he was to abandon his foolish notions about going to Russia, for he
would find no one to assist him; whereas, on the other hand, if he went
about proclaiming that he was about to commit a crime, he would be taken
by the police and shut up. All this, and a great deal more, they tried
to impress on him; and Edwards promised to call the next evening and see
how he was getting on.

It was late when Brand and Edwards again issued out into the wet night;
and Edwards, having promised to post a line to Kirski's employers, so
that they should get it in the morning, said good-bye, and went off to
his own lodgings. Brand walked slowly home through the muddy streets. He
preferred the glare and the noise to the solitude of his own rooms. He
even stood aimlessly to watch a theatre come out; the people seemed so
careless and joyous--calling to each other--making feeble jokes--passing
away under their umbrellas into the wet and shining darkness.

But at length, without any definite intention, he found himself at the
foot of the little thoroughfare in which he lived; and he was about to
open the door with his latch-key when out of the dusk beyond there
stepped forth a tall figure. He was startled, it is true, by the
apparition of this tall, white-haired man in the voluminous blue cloak,
the upturned hood of which half concealed his face, and he turned with a
sort of instinct of anger to face him.

"Monsieur mon frere, you have arrived at last!" said the stranger, and
instantly he recognized in the pronunciation of the French the voice of
Calabressa.

"What!" he said; "Calabressa?"

The other put a finger on his arm.

"Hush!" he said. "It is a great secret, my being here; I confide in
you. I would not wait in your rooms--my faith no! for I said to myself,
'What if he brings home friends who will know me, who will ask what the
devil Calabressa is doing in this country.'"

Brand had withdrawn his hand from the lock.

"Calabressa," he said, quickly, "you, if anybody knows, must know where
Natalie and her mother are. Tell me!"

"I will directly; but may I point out to you, my dear Monsieur Brand,
that it rains--that we might go inside? Oh yes, certainly, I will tell
you when we can say a word in secret, in comfort. But this devil of a
climate! What should I have done if I had not bought myself this cloak
in Paris? In Paris it was cold and wet enough; but one had nothing like
what you have here. Sapristi! my fingers are frozen."

Brand hurried him up-stairs, put him into an easy-chair, and stirred up
the fire.

"Now," said he, impatiently--"now, my dear Calabressa, your news!"

Calabressa pulled out a letter.

"The news--voila!"

Brand tore open the envelope; these were the contents:

       *       *       *       *       *

"Dearest,--This is to adjure you not to leave England for the
present--not till you hear from me--or until we return. Have patience,
and hope. You are not forgotten. My mother sends you her blessing.

  Your Betrothed."

       *       *       *       *       *

"But there is no address!" he exclaimed. "Where are they?"

"Where are they? It is no secret, do you see? They are in Naples."

"In Naples!"

"Oh, I assure you, my dear friend, it is a noble heart, a brave heart,
that loves you. Many a day ago I said to her, 'Little child, when you
are in trouble, go to friends who will welcome you; say you are the
daughter of Natalie Berezolyi; say to them that Calabressa sent you.'
And you thought she was in no trouble! Ah, did she not tell me of the
pretty home you had got for the poor mother who is my old friend? did
she not tell me how you thought they were to be comfortable there, and
take no heed of anything else? But you were mistaken. You did not know
her. She said,'My betrothed is in danger: I will take Calabressa at his
word: before any one can hinder me, or interfere, I will go and appeal,
in the name of my family, in the name of myself!' Ah, the brave child!"

"But appeal to whom?" said Brand, breathlessly.

"To the Council, my friend!" said Calabressa with exultation.

"But gracious heavens!" Brand cried, with his hand nervously clutching
the arm of his chair, "is the secret betrayed, then? Do they think I
will shelter myself behind a woman?"

"She could betray no secret," Calabressa said, triumphantly, "she
herself not knowing it, do you not perceive? But she could speak
bravely!"

"And the result?"

"Who knows what that may be? In the mean time, this is the result--I am
here!"

At another moment this assumption of dignity would have been
ludicrous; but Brand took no heed of the manner of his companion;
his heart was beating wildly. And even when his reason forced him to
see how little he could expect from this intervention--when he
remembered what a decree of the Council was, and how irrevocable the
doom he had himself accepted--still the thought uppermost in his
mind was not of his own safety or danger, but rather of her love and
devotion, her resolve to rescue him, her quick and generous impulse
that knew nothing of fear. He pictured her to himself in Naples,
calling upon this nameless and secret power, that every man around
him dreaded, to reverse its decision! And then the audacity of her
bidding him hope! He could not hope; he knew more than she did. But
his heart was full of love and of gratitude as he thought of her.

"My dear friend," said Calabressa, lowering his voice, "my errand is one
of great secrecy. I have a commission which I cannot altogether explain
to you. But in the mean time you will be so good as to give me--_in
extense_, with every particular--the little history of how you were
appointed to--to undertake a certain duty."

"Unfortunately, I cannot," Brand said, calmly; "these are things one is
not permitted to talk about."

"But I must insist on it, my dear friend."

"Then I must insist on refusing you."

"You are trustworthy. No matter: here is something which I think will
remove your suspicions, my good friend--or shall we not rather say your
scruples?"

He took from his pocket-book a card, and placed it somewhat
ostentatiously on the table. Brand examined it, and then stared at
Calabressa in surprise.

"You come with the authority of the Council?"

"By the goodness of Heaven," Calabressa exclaimed with a laugh, "you
have arrived at the truth this time!"



CHAPTER LI.

THE CONJURER.


There was no mistaking the fact that Calabressa had come armed with
ample authority from the Council, and yet it was with a strange
reluctance that Brand forced himself to answer the questions that
Calabressa proceeded to put to him. He had already accepted his doom.
The bitterness of it was over. He would rather have let the past be
forgotten altogether, and himself go forward blindly to the appointed
end. Why those needless explanations and admissions?

Moreover, Calabressa's questions, which had been thought over during
long railway journeys, were exceedingly crafty. They touched here and
there on certain small points, as if he were building up for himself a
story. But at last Brand said, by way of protest,

"Look here, Calabressa. I see you are empowered to ask me any questions
you like--and I am quite willing to answer--about the business of the
Council. But really, don't you see, I would rather not speak of private
matters. What can the Council want to know about Natalie Lind? Leave her
out of it, like a good fellow."

"Oh yes, my dear Monsieur Brand," said Calabressa, with a smile, "leave
her out of it, truly, when she has gone to the Council; when the Council
have said, 'Child, you have not appealed to us for nothing;' when it is
through her that I have travelled all through the cold and wet, and am
now sitting here. Remember this, my friend, that the beautiful
Natalushka is now a--what do you call it?--a _ward_" (Calabressa put
this word in English into the midst of his odd French), "and a _ward_ of
a sufficiently powerful court, I can assure you, monsieur! Therefore, I
say, I cannot leave the beautiful child out. She is of importance to me;
why am I here otherwise? Be considerate, my friend; it is not
impertinence; it is not curiosity."

Then he proceeded with his task; getting, in a roundabout, cunning,
shrewd way, at a pretty fair version of what had occurred. And he was
exceedingly circumspect. He endeavored, by all sorts of circumlocutions,
to hide from Brand the real drift of his inquiry. He would betray
suspicion of no one. His manner was calm, patient, almost indifferent.
All this time Brand's thoughts were far away. He was speaking to
Calabressa, but he was thinking of Naples.

But when they came to Brand's brief description of what took place in
Lisle Street on the night of the casting of the lot, Calabressa became
greatly excited, though he strove to appear perfectly calm.

"You are sure," he said, quickly, "that was precisely what happened?"

"As far as I know," said Brand, carelessly. "But why go into it? If I do
not complain, why should any one else?"

"Did I say that any one complained?" observed the astute Calabressa.

"Then why should any one wish to interfere? I am satisfied. You do not
mean to say, Calabressa, that any one over there thinks that I am
anxious to back out of what I have undertaken--that I am going down on
my knees and begging to be let off? Well, at all events, Natalie does
not think that," he added, as if it did not matter much what any other
thought.

Calabressa was silent; but his eyes were eager and bright, and he was
quickly tapping the palm of his left hand with the forefinger of the
right. Then he regarded Brand with a sharp, inquisitive look. Then he
jumped to his feet.

"Good-night, my friend," he said, hurriedly.

But Brand rose also, and sought to detain him.

"No, no, my good Calabressa, you are not going yet; you have kept me
talking for your amusement; now it is your turn. You have not yet told
me about Natalie and her mother."

"They are well--they are indeed well, I assure you," said Calabressa,
uneasily. He was clearly anxious to get away. By this time he had got
hold of his cloak and swung it round his shoulders.

"Calabressa, sit down, and tell me something about Natalie. What made
her undertake such a journey? Is she troubled? Is she sad? I thought her
life was full of interest now, her mother being with her."

Calabressa had got his cap, and had opened the door.

"Another time, dear Monsieur Brand, I will sit down and tell you all
about the beautiful, brave child, and my old friend her mother. Yes,
yes--another time--to-morrow--next day. At present one is overwhelmed
with affairs, do you see?"

So saying, he forced Brand to shake hands with him, and went out,
shutting the door behind him.

But no sooner had he got into the street than the eager, talkative,
impulsive nature of the man, so long confined, broke loose. He took no
heed that it was raining hard. He walked fast; he talked aloud to
himself in his native tongue, in broken interjectional phrases;
occasionally he made use of violent gestures, which were not lessened in
their effect by the swaying cape of his cloak.

"Ah, those English--those English!" he was excitedly saying--"such
children!--blue, clear eyes that see nothing--the devil! why should they
meddle in such affairs? To play at such a game!--fool's mate; scholar's
mate; asses and idiots' mate--they have scarcely got a pawn out, and
they are wondering what they will do, when whizz! along comes the queen,
and she and the bishop have finished all the fine combinations before
they were ever begun! And you, you others, imps of hell, to play that
old foolish game again! But take care, my friends, take care; there is
one watching you, one waiting for you, who does not speak, but who
strikes! Ah, it is a pretty game; you, you sullen brute; you, you fop
and dandy; but when you are sitting silent round the board, behold a
dagger flashes down and quivers into the wood! No wonder your eyes burn!
you do not know whence it has come? But the steel-blade quivers; is it a
warning?"

He laughed aloud, but there were still omnibuses and cabs in the street;
so he was not heard. Indeed, the people who were on the pavement were
hurrying past to get out of the rain, and took no notice of the old
albino in the voluminous cloak.

"Natalushka," said he, quite as if he were addressing some one before
him, "do you know that I am trudging through the mud of this infernal
city all for you? And you, little sybarite, are among the fine ladies of
the reading-room at the hotel, and listening to music, and the air all
scented around you. Never mind; if only I had a little bird that could
fly to you with a message--ah, would you not have pleasant dreams
to-night? Did I not tell you to rely on Calabressa? He chatters to you;
he tries to amuse you; but he is not always Policinella. No, not always
Policinella: sometimes he is silent and cunning; sometimes--what do you
think?--he is a conjurer. Oh yes, you are not seen, you are not heard;
but when you have them round the board, whirr! comes the gleaming blade
and quivers in the wood! You look round; the guilty one shakes with the
palsy; his wits go; his startled tongue confesses. Then you laugh; you
say, 'That is well done;' you say, 'Were they wrong in giving this
affair to Calabressa?'"

Now, whether it was that his rapid walking helped to relieve him of this
over-excitement, or whether it was that the soaking rain began to make
him uncomfortable, he was much more staid in demeanor when he got up to
the little lane in Oxford Street where the Culturverein held its
meetings. Of course, he did not knock and demand admission. He stopped
some way down the street, on the other side, where he found shelter from
the rain in a door-way, and whence he could readily observe any one
coming out from the hall of the Verein. Then he succeeded in lighting a
cigarette.

It was a miserable business, this waiting in the cold, damp night air;
but sometimes he kept thinking of how he would approach Reitzei in the
expected interview; and sometimes he thought of Natalie; and again, with
his chilled and dripping fingers he would manage to light a cigarette.
Again and again the door of the hall was opened, and this or the other
figure came out from the glare of the gas into the dark street; but so
far no Reitzei. It was now nearly one in the morning.

Finally, about a quarter past one, the last batch of boon companions
came out, and the lights within were extinguished. Calabressa followed
this gay company, who were laughing and joking despite the rain, for a
short way; but it was clear that neither Beratinsky nor Reitzei was
among them. Then he turned, and made his way to his own lodgings, where
he arrived tired, soaked through, but not apparently disheartened.

Next morning he was up betimes, and at a fairly early hour walked along
to Coventry Street, where he took up his station at the east corner of
Rupert Street, so that he could see any one going westward, himself
unseen. Here he was more successful. He had not been there ten minutes
when Reitzei passed. Calabressa hastened after him, overtook him, and
tapped him on the shoulder.

"Ah, Calabressa!" said Reitzei, surprised, but in noway disconcerted.

"I wish to speak with you," said Calabressa, himself a little agitated,
though he did not show it.

"Certainly; come along. Mr. Lind will arrive soon."

"No, alone. I wish to speak to you alone."

Calabressa looked around. The only place of shelter he saw was a rather
shabby restaurant, chiefly used as a supper-room, and at this moment
having the appearance of not being yet woke up. Reitzei was in a
compliant mood. He suffered himself to be conducted into this place, to
the astonishment of one or two unwashed-looking waiters, who were seated
and reading the previous evening's papers. Calabressa and Reitzei sat
down at one of the small tables; the former ordered some coffee, the
latter a bottle of soda-water.

By this time Calabressa had collected himself for the part he was about
to play.

"Well, my friend," said he, cheerfully, "what news? When is Europe to
hear the fate of the Cardinal?"

"I don't know; I know very little about it," said Reitzei, glancing at
him rather suspiciously.

"It is a terrible business," said Calabressa, reflectively, "a decree of
the Council. You would think that one so powerful, so well protected,
would be able to escape, would you not? But he himself knows better. He
knows he is as powerless as you might be, for example, or myself."

"Oh, as for that," said Reitzei, boldly, "he knows he has deserved it:
what more? He has had his little fling, now comes the settlement of the
score."

"And I hear that our friend Brand is to be the instrument of justice:
how strange! He has not been so long with us."

"That is Mr. Lind's affair: it has nothing to do with me," said Reitzei,
shortly.

"Well," said Calabressa, toying with his coffee-cup. "I hope I shall
never be tempted to do anything that might lead the Council to condemn
me. Fancy such a life; every moment expecting some one to step up behind
you with a knife or a pistol, and the end sure! I would take Provana's
plan. The poor devil; as soon as he heard he had been condemned he could
not bear living. He never thought of escape: a few big stones in the
pockets of his coat, and over he slips into the Arno. And Mesentskoff:
you remember him? His only notion of escape was to give himself up to
the police--twenty-five years in the mines. I think Provana's plan was
better."

Reitzei became a little uneasy, or perhaps only impatient.

"Well, Calabressa," he said, "one must be getting along to one's
affairs--"

"Oh yes, yes, truly," Calabressa said. "I only wished to know a little
more about the Cardinal. You see he cannot give himself up like
Mesentskoff, though he might confess to a hundred worse things than the
Russian ever did. Provana--well, you know the Society has always been
inexorable with regard to its own officers: and rightly, too, Reitzei,
is it not so? If one finds malversation of justice among those in a high
grade, should not the punishment be exemplary? The higher the power, the
higher the responsibility. You, for example, are much too shrewd a man
to risk your life by taking any advantage of your position as one of the
officers--"

"I don't understand you, Calabressa," the other said, somewhat hotly.

"I only meant to say," Calabressa observed, carelessly, "that the
punishment for malversation of justice on the part of an officer is so
terrible, so swift, and so sure, that no one but a madman would think of
running the risk--"

"Yes, but what has that to do with me?" Reitzei said, angrily.

"Nothing, my dear friend, nothing," said Calabressa, soothingly. "But
now, about this selection of Mr. Brand--"

Reitzei turned rather pale for a second; but said instantly, and with
apparent anger,

"I tell you that is none of my business. That is Mr. Lind's business.
What have I to do with it?"

"Do not be so impatient, my friend," said Calabressa, looking at his
coffee. "We will say that, as usual, there was a ballot. All quite fair.
No man wishes to avoid his duty. It is the simplest thing in the world
to mark one of your pieces of paper with a red mark: whoever receives
the marked paper undertakes the commission. All is quite fair, I say.
Only you know, I dare say, the common, the pitiful trick of the conjurer
who throws a pack of cards on the table, backs up. You take one, look at
it privately, return it, and the cards are shuffled. Without lifting the
cards at all he tells you that the one you selected was the eight of
diamonds: why? It is no miracle: all the cards are eight of diamonds;
though you, you poor innocent, do not know that. It is a wretched
trick," added Calabressa, coolly.

Reitzei drank off the remainder of his soda-water at a gulp. He stared
at Calabressa in silence, afraid to speak.

"My dear friend Reitzei," said Calabressa, at length raising his eyes
and fixing them on his companion, "you could not be so insane as to play
any trick like that?--having four pieces of paper, for example, all
marked red, the marks under the paper? You would not enter into any such
conspiracy, for you know, friend Reitzei, that the punishment
is--death!"

The man had turned a ghastly gray-green color. He was apparently choking
with thirst, though he had just finished the soda-water. He could not
speak.

Calabressa calmly waited for him; but in his heart he was saying
exultingly, "_Ha! the dagger quivers in the board: his eyes are starting
from his head; is it Calabressa or Cagliostro that has paralyzed him?_"

At length the wretched creature opposite him gasped out,

"Beratinsky--"

But he could say no more. He motioned to a waiter to bring him some
soda-water.

"Yes, Beratinsky?" said Calabressa, calmly regarding the livid face.

"--has betrayed us!" he said, with trembling lips. In fact, there was no
fight in him at all, no angry repudiation; he was helpless with this
sudden bewilderment of fear.

"Not quite," said Calabressa; and he now spoke in a low, eager voice.
"It is for you to save yourself by forestalling him. It is your one
chance; otherwise the decree; and good-bye to this world for you!
See--look at this card--I say it is your only chance, friend
Reitzei--for I am empowered by the Council to promise you, or
Beratinsky, or any one, a free pardon on confession. Oh, I assure you
the truth is clear: has not one eyes? You, poor devil, you cannot speak:
shall I go to Beratinsky and see whether he can speak?"

"What must I do--what must I do?" the other gasped, in abject terror.
Calabressa, regarding this exhibition of cowardice, could not help
wondering how Lind had allowed such a creature to associate with him.

Then Calabressa, sure of victory, began to breathe more freely. He
assumed a lofty air.

"Trust in me, friend Reitzei. I will instruct you. If you can persuade
the Council of the truth of your story, I promise you they will absolve
you from the operations of a certain Clause which you know of. Meanwhile
you will come to my lodgings and write a line to Lind, excusing yourself
for the day; then this evening I dare say it will be convenient for you
to start for Naples. Oh, I assure you, you owe me thanks: you did not
know the danger you were in; hereafter you will say, 'Well, it was no
other than Calabressa who pulled me out of that quagmire.'"

A few minutes thereafter Calabressa was in a telegraph-office, and this
was the message he despatched:

       *       *       *       *       *

"Colonna, London: to Bartolotti, Vicolo Isotta, No. 15, Naples. Ridotto
will arrive immediately, colors down. Send orders for Luigi and Bassano
to follow."

       *       *       *       *       *

"It is a bold stroke," he was saying to himself, as he left the office,
"but I have run some risks in my time. What is one more or less?"



CHAPTER LII.

FIAT JUSTITIA.


This scheme of Calabressa's had been so rapidly conceived and put in
execution, that he had had no time to think of its possible or certain
consequences, in the event of his being successful. His immediate and
sole anxiety was to make sure of his captive. There was always the
chance that a frightened and feeble creature like Reitzei might double
back; he might fly to Lind and Beratinsky, and seek security in a new
compact; for who could prove any thing if the three were to maintain
their innocence? However, as Calabressa shrewdly perceived, Reitzei was
in the dark as to how much the Council knew already. Moreover, he had
his suspicions of Beratinsky. If there was to be a betrayal, he was
clearly resolved to have the benefit of it. Nevertheless, Calabressa did
not lose sight of him for a moment. He took him to his, Calabressa's
lodgings; kept assuring him that he ought to be very grateful for being
thus allowed to escape; got him to write and despatch a note to Lind,
excusing himself for that day and the next, and then proceeded to give
him instructions as to what he should do in Naples. These instructions,
by-the-way, were entirely unnecessary; it is no part of Calabressa's
plan to allow Reitzei to arrive in Naples alone.

After a mid-day meal, Calabressa and Reitzei walked up to the lodgings
of the latter, where he got a few travelling things put together.
By-and-by they went to the railway station, Calabressa suggesting that
it was better for Reitzei to get away from London as soon as possible.
The old albino saw his companion take his seat in the train for Dover,
and then turned away and re-entered the busy world of the London
streets.

The day was fine after the rain; the pavements were white and dry; he
kept in the sunlight for the sake of the warmth; but he had not much
attention for the sights and sounds around him. Now that this sudden
scheme promised to be entirely successful, he could consider the
probable consequences of that success; and, as usual, his first thought
was about Natalie.

"Poor child--poor child!" he said to himself, rather sadly. "How could
she tell how this would end? If she saves the life of her lover, it is
at the cost of the life of her father. The poor child!--must misfortune
meet her whichever way she turns?"

And then, too, some touch of compunction or even remorse entered into
his own bosom. He had been so eager in the pursuit? he had been so
anxious to acquit himself to the satisfaction of the Council, that he
had scarcely remembered that his success would almost certainly involve
the sacrifice of one who was at least an old colleague. Ferdinand Lind
and Calabressa had never been the very best of friends; during one
period, indeed, they had been rivals; but that had been forgotten in the
course of years, and what Calabressa now remembered was that Lind and he
had at least been companions in the old days.

"Seventeen years ago," he was thinking, "he forfeited his life to the
Society, and they gave it back to him. They will not pardon him this
time. And who is to take the news to Natalie and the beautiful brave
child? Ah, what will she say? My God, is there no happiness for any one
in this world?"

He was greatly distressed; but in his distress he became desperate. He
would not look that way at all. He boldly justified himself for what he
had done, and strove to regard it with satisfaction. What if both Lind
and Beratinsky were to suffer; had they not merited any punishment that
might befall them? Had they not compassed the destruction of an innocent
man? Would it have been better, then, that George Brand should have
become the victim of an infamous conspiracy? _Fiat justitia!_--no matter
at what cost. Natalie must face the truth. Better that the guilty should
suffer than the innocent. And he, Calabressa, for one, was not going to
shirk any responsibility for what might happen. He had obeyed the orders
of the Council. He had done his duty: that was enough.

He forced himself not to think of Natalie, and of the dismay and horror
with which she would learn of one of the consequences of her appeal.
This was a matter between men--to be settled by men: if the consciences
of women were tender, it could not be helped. Calabressa walked faster
and faster, as it he were trying to get away from something that
followed and annoyed him. He pretended to himself that he was deeply
interested in a shop-window here or there; occasionally he whistled; he
sung "Vado a Napoli in barchetta" with forced gayety; he twisted his
long white moustache, and then he made his way down to Brand's rooms.

Here he was also very gay.

"Now, my dear Monsieur Brand, to-day I have idleness; to-day I will talk
to you; yesterday I could not."

"Unfortunately," said Brand, "our positions are reversed now, for here
is a letter from Lind wanting me to go up to Lisle Street. It seems
Reitzei has had to go off into the country, leaving a lot of
correspondence--"

"You are, then, on good terms with Lind?" Calabressa interposed,
quickly.

"Yes; why not?" said Brand, with a stare.

"I, also--I say, why not? It is excellent. Then you have no time for my
chatter?" said Calabressa, carelessly regarding the open letter.

"At least you can tell me something about Natalie and her mother. Are
they well? What hotel are they at?"

Calabressa laughed.

"Yes, yes, my friend Monsieur Brand, you say, 'Are they well?' What you
mean is, 'What has taken them to Naples?' _Bien_, you are right to
wonder; you will not have to wonder long. A little patience; you will
hear something; do not be surprised. And you have no message, for
example, by way of reply to the letter I brought you?"

"You are returning to Naples, then?"

"To-night. I will take a message for you: if you have no time now, send
it to me at Charing Cross. Meanwhile, I take my leave."

Calabressa rose, but was persuaded to resume his seat.

"I see," said he, again laughing, "that you have a little time to hear
about the two wanderers. Oh, they are in a good hotel, I assure you;
pretty rooms; you look over to Capri; quite near you the Castello dell'
Ovo; and underneath your windows the waves--a charming view! And the
little Natalushka, she has not lost her spirits: she says to me, 'Dear
Mr. Calabressa, will you have the goodness to become my champion?' I say
to her, 'Against all the world!' 'Oh no,' she answers, 'not quite so
much as that. It is a man who sells agates and pebbles, and such things;
and no matter when I go out, he will follow me, and thrust himself
before me. Dear Mr. Calabressa, I do not want agates and pebbles, and he
is more importunate than all the others put together; and the servants
of the hotel can do nothing with him.' Oh, I assure you, it would have
made you laugh--her pretence of gravity! I said nothing--not I; what is
the use of making serious promises over trifles? But when I went out I
encountered the gentleman with the agates and pebbles. 'Friend,' said I,
'a word with you. Skip, dance, be off with you to the steps of some
other hotel; your presence is not agreeable here.' 'Who are you?' said
he, naturally. 'No matter,' said I; 'but do you wish to be presented
with two dozen of the school-master's sweetmeats?' 'Who are you?' said
he again. Then I took him by the ear and whispered something to him. By
the blood of Saint Peter, Monsieur Brand, you should have heard the
quick snap of his box, and seen the heels of him as he darted off like
an antelope! I tell you the grave-faced minx, that mocking Natalushka,
who makes fun of old people like me--well, she shall not any more be
troubled with agates and pebbles!"

"Then she is quite cheerful and happy?" said Brand, somewhat wondering.

"Sometimes," Calabressa said, more gravely. "One cannot always be
anxious; one has glimpses of hope; then the spirit rises; the eyes
laugh. You, for example, you do not seem much cast down?"

Brand avoided his inquisitive look, and merely said,

"One must take things as one finds them. There is no use repining over
what happens."

Calabressa now rose and took his cap; then he laid it down on the table
again.

"One moment before I go, my dear Monsieur Brand. I told you to expect
news; perhaps you will not understand. Shall I show you something to
help? Regard this: it is only a little trick; but it may help you to
understand when the news comes to you."

He took from his pocket a piece of white paper, square, and with
apparently nothing on it. He laid it on the table, and produced a red
pencil.

"May I trouble you for a small pair of scissors, my dear friend?"

Brand stepped aside to a writing-desk, and brought him the scissors; he
was scarcely thinking of Calabressa, at all; he was thinking of the
message he would send to Naples.

Calabressa slowly and carefully cut the piece of paper into four
squares, and proceeded to fold these up. Brand looked on, it is true,
but with little interest; and he certainly did not perceive that his
companion had folded three of these pieces with the under side inward,
the fourth with the upper side inward, while this had the rough edges
turned in a different direction from the other three.

"Now, Mr. Brand," said Calabressa, calmly, "if one were drawing lots,
for example, what more simple than this? I take one of these pieces--you
see there is nothing on it--I print a red cross with my pencil; there,
it is folded again, and they all go into my cap."

"Enough, Calabressa," Brand said, impatiently; "you show me that you
have questioned me closely enough. There is enough said about it."

"I ask your pardon, my dear friend, there is not," said Calabressa,
politely; "for this is what I have to say now: draw one of the pieces of
paper."

Brand turned away.

"It is not a thing to be gone over again, I tell you; I have had enough
of it; let it rest."

"It must not rest. I beg of you--my friend, I insist--"

He pressed the cap on him. Brand, to get rid of him, drew one of the
papers and tossed it on to the table. Calabressa took it up, opened it,
and showed him the red cross.

"Yes, you are again unfortunate, my dear Monsieur Brand. Fate pursues
you, does it not? But wait one moment. Will you open the other three
papers?"

As Brand seemed impatient, Calabressa himself took them out and opened
them singly before him. On each and all was the same red mark.

But now Brand was indifferent no longer

"What do you mean, Calabressa?" he said, quickly.

"I mean," said Calabressa, regarding him, "that one might prepare a
trick by which you would not have much chance of escape."

Brand caught him by the arm.

"Do you mean that these others--" He could not complete the sentence;
his brain was in a whirl; was this why Natalie had sent him that strange
message of hope?

Calabressa released himself, and took his cap, and said,

"I can tell you nothing, my dear friend--nothing. My lips are sealed for
the present. But surely one is permitted to show you a common little
trick with bits of paper!"

"But you _must_ tell me what you mean," said Brand, breathlessly, and
with his face still somewhat pale. "You suggest there has been a trick.
That is why you have come from Naples? What do you know? What is about
to happen? For God's sake, Calabressa, don't have any mystification
about it: what is it that you know--that you suspect--that you have
heard?"

"My dear friend," said Calabressa, with some anxiety, "perhaps I have
been indiscreet. I know nothing: what can I know? But I show you a
trick--if only to prepare you for any news--and you think it is very
serious. Oh no; do not be too hopeful--do not think it is serious--think
it was a foolish trick--"

And so, notwithstanding all that Brand could do to force some definite
explanation from him, Calabressa succeeded in getting away, promising to
carry to Natalie any message Brand might send in the evening; and as for
Brand himself, it was now time for him to go up to Lisle Street, so that
he had something else to think of than idle mystifications.

For this was how he took it in the end: Calabressa was whimsical,
fantastic, mysterious; he had been playing with the notion that Brand
had been entrapped into this service; he had succeeded in showing
himself how it might have been done. The worst of it was--had he been
putting vain hopes into the mind of Natalie? Was this the cause of her
message? In the midst of all this bewildering uncertainty, Brand set
himself to the work left unfinished by Reitzei, and found Ferdinand Lind
as pleasant and friendly a colleague as ever.

But a few days after he was startled by being summoned back to Lisle
Street, after he had gone home in the afternoon. He found Ferdinand Lind
as calm and collected as usual, though he spoke in a hard, dry voice. He
was then informed that Lind himself and Beratinsky were about to leave
London for a time; that the Council wished Brand to conduct the business
at Lisle Street as best he could in their absence; and that he was to
summon to his aid such of the officers of the Society as he chose. He
asked no explanations, and Lind vouchsafed none. There was something
unusual in the expression of the man's face.

Well, Brand installed himself in Lisle Street, and got along as best he
could with the assistance of Gathorne Edwards and one or two others. But
not one of them, any more than himself, knew what had happened or was
happening. No word or message of any kind came from Calabressa, or Lind,
or the Society, or any one. Day after day Brand get through his work
with patience, but without interest; only for the time being, these
necessities of the hour beguiled him from thinking of the hideous,
inevitable thing that lay ahead in his life.

When news did come, it was sudden and terrible. One night he and Edwards
were alone in the rooms in Lisle Street, when a letter, sent through a
roundabout channel, was put into his hands. He opened it carelessly,
glanced at the beginning of it, then he uttered an exclamation; then, as
he read on, Edwards noticed that his companion's face was ghastly pale,
even to his lips.

"Gracious heavens!--Edwards, read it!" he said, quite breathlessly. He
dropped the letter on the table. There was no wild joy at his own
deliverance in this man's face, there was terror rather; it was not of
himself at all he was thinking, but of the death-agony of Natalie Lind
when she should hear of her father's doom.

"Why, this is very good news, Brand," Edwards cried, wondering. "You are
released from that affair--"

But then he read farther, and he, too, became agitated.

"What--what does it mean? Lind, Beratinsky, Reitzei accused of
conspiracy--misusing the powers intrusted to them as officers of the
Society--Reitzei acquitted on giving evidence--Lind and Beratinsky
condemned!"

Edwards looked at his companion, aghast, and said,

"You know what the penalty is, Brand?"

The other nodded. Edwards returned to the letter, reading aloud, in
detached scraps, his voice giving evidence of his astonishment and
dismay.

"Beratinsky, allowed the option of undertaking the duty from which you
are released, accepts--it is his only chance, I suppose--poor devil!
what chance is it, after all?" He put the letter back on the table.
"What is all this that has happened, Brand?"

Brand did not answer. He had risen to his feet; he stood like one bound
with chains; there was suffering and an infinite pity in the haggard
face.

"Why is not Natalie here?" he said; and it was strange that two men so
different from each other as Brand and Calabressa should in such a
crisis have had the same instinctive thought. The lives and fates of men
were nothing; it was the heart of a girl that concerned them. "They will
tell her--some of them over there--they will tell her suddenly that her
father is condemned to die! Why is she--among--among strangers?"

He pulled out his watch hastily, but long ago the night-mail had left
for Dover. At this moment the bell rung below, and he started; it was
unusual for them to have a visitor at such an hour.

"It is only that drunken fool Kirski," Edwards said. "I asked him to
come here to-night."



CHAPTER LIII.

THE TRIAL.


It was a dark, wet, and cold night when Calabressa felt his way down the
gangway leading from the Admiralty Pier into the small Channel steamer
that lay slightly rolling at her moorings. Most of the passengers who
were already on board had got to leeward of the deck-cabins, and sat
huddled up there, undistinguishable bundles of rugs. For a time he
almost despaired of finding out Reitzei, but at last he was successful;
and he had to explain to this particular bundle of rugs that he had
changed his mind, and would himself travel with him to Naples.

It was a dirty night in crossing, and both suffered considerably; the
difference being that, as soon as they got into the smooth waters of
Calais harbor, Calabressa recovered himself directly, whereas Reitzei
remained an almost inanimate heap of wrappings, and had to be assisted
or shoved up the steep gangway into the glare of the officials' lamps.
Then, as soon as he had got into a compartment of the railway-carriage,
he rolled himself up in a corner, and sought to forget his sufferings in
sleep.

Calabressa was walking up and down on the platform. At length the bell
rung, and he was about to step into the compartment, when he found
himself preceded by a lady.

"I beg your pardon, madame," said he, politely, "but it is a carriage
for smokers."

"And if one wishes to smoke, one is permitted--is it not so?" said the
stranger, cheerfully.

Calabressa at once held open the door for her, and then followed. These
three had the compartment to themselves.

She was a young lady, good-looking, tall, bright-complexioned, with
brown eyes that had plenty of fire in them, and a pleasant smile that
showed brilliant teeth. Calabressa, sitting opposite her, judged that
she was an Austrian, from the number of bags and knickknacks she had,
all in red Russia leather, and from the number of trinkets she wore,
mostly of polished steel or silver. She opened a little tortoise-shell
cigarette-case, took out a cigarette, and gracefully accepted the light
that Calabressa offered her. By this time the train had started, and was
thundering through the night.

The young lady was very frank and affable; she talked to her companion
opposite--Reitzei being fast asleep--about a great many things; she lit
cigarette after cigarette. She spoke of her husband moreover; and
complained that he should have to go and fight in some one else's
quarrel. Why could not ladies who went to the tables at Monte Carlo keep
their temper, that a perfectly neutral third person should be summoned
to fight a duel on behalf of one of them?

"You are going to rejoin him, then, madame?" said Calabressa.

"Not at all," she said, laughing. "I have my own affairs."

After some time, she said, with quite a humorous smile,

"My dear sir, I hope I do not keep you from sleeping. But you are
puzzled about me; you think you have seen me before, but cannot tell
where."

"There you are perfectly right, madame."

"Think of the day before yesterday. You were crossing in the steamer.
You were so good as to suggest to a lady on board that nearer the centre
vessel would be safer for her--"

He stared at her again. Could this be the same lady who, on the day that
he crossed, was seated right at the stern of the steamer her brown hair
flying about with the wind, her white teeth flashing as she laughed and
joked with the sailors, her eyes full of life and merriment as she
pitched up and down? Calabressa, before the paroxysms of his woe
overtook him, had had the bravery to go and remonstrate with this young
lady, and to tell her she would be more comfortable nearer the middle of
the boat; but she had laughingly told him she was a sailor's daughter,
and was not afraid of the sea. Well, this handsome young lady opposite
certainly laughed like that other, but still--

"Oh," she said, "do I puzzle you with such a simple thing? My hair was
brown the day before yesterday, it is black to-day; is that a sufficient
disguise? _Pardieu_, when I went to a music-hall in London that same
night to see some stupid nonsense--bah! such stupid nonsense I have
never seen in the world--I went dressed as a man. Only for exercise, you
perceive: one does not need disguises in London."

Calabressa was becoming more and more mystified, and she saw it, and her
amusement increased.

"Come, my friend," she said, "you cannot deny that you also are
political?"

"I, madame?" said Calabressa, with great innocence.

"Oh yes. And you are not on the side of the big battalions, eh?"

"I declare to you, madame--"

She glanced at Reitzei.

"Your friend sleeps sound. Come, shall I tell you something? You did not
say a word, for example, when you stepped on shore, to a gentleman in a
big cloak who had a lantern--"

"Madame, I beg of you!" he exclaimed, in a low voice, also glancing at
Reitzei.

"What!" she said, laughing. "Then you have the honor of the acquaintance
of my old friend Biard? The rogue, to take a post like that! Oh, I think
my husband could speak more frankly with you; I can only guess."

"You are somewhat indiscreet, madame," said Calabressa, coldly.

"I indiscreet?" she said, flickering off the ash of her cigarette
with a finger of the small gloved hand. Then she said, with mock
seriousness, "How can one be indiscreet with a friend of the good man
Biard? Come, I will give you a lesson in sincerity. My husband is gone
to fight a duel, I told you; yes, but his enemy is a St. Petersburg
general who belonged to the Third Section. They should not let Russians
play at Monte Carlo; it is so easy to pick a quarrel with them. And now
about myself; you want to know what I am--what I am about. Ah, I
perceive it, monsieur. Well, this time, on the other hand, I shall be
discreet. But if you hear of something within a few weeks--if the whole
of the world begins to chatter about it--and you say, 'Well, that woman
had pluck'--then you can think of our little conversation during the
night. We must be getting near Amiens, is it not so?"

She took from her traveling-bag a small apparatus for showering
eau-de-cologne in spray, and with this sprinkled her forehead; afterward
removing the drops with a soft sponge, and smoothing her rebellious
black hair. Then she took out a tiny flask and cup of silver.

"Permit me, monsieur, to give you a little cognac, after so many
cigarettes. I fear you have only been smoking to keep me company--"

"A thousand thanks, madame!" said Calabressa, who certainly did not
refuse. She took none herself; indeed, she had just time to put her
bags in order again when the train slowed into Amiens station; and she,
bidding her bewildered and bewitched companion a most courteous
farewell, got out and departed.

Calabressa himself soon fell asleep, and did not wake until they were
near Paris. By this time the bundle of rugs in the corner had begun to
show signs of animation.

"Well, friend Reitzei you have had a good sleep," said Calabressa,
yawning, and stretching his arms.

"I have slept a little."

"You have slept all night--what more? What do you know, for example, of
the young lady who was in the carriage?"

"I saw her come in," Reitzei said, indifferently, "and I heard you
talking once or twice. What was she?"

"There you ask me a pretty question. My belief is that she was either
one of those Nihilist madwomen, or else the devil himself in a new
shape. At any rate, she had some good cognac."

"I should like some coffee now, Signor Calabressa; and you?"

"I would not refuse it."

Indeed, during all this journey to Naples, Calabressa and his companion
talked much more of the commonplace incidents and wants of travel than
of the graver matters that lay before them. Calabressa was especially
resolute in doing so. He did not like to look ahead. He kept reminding
himself that he was simply the agent of the Council; he was carrying out
their behests; the consequences were for others to deal with. He had
fulfilled his commission; he had procured sufficient proof of the
suspected conspiracy; if evil-doers were to be punished, was he
responsible? _Fiat justitia!_ he kept repeating to himself. He was
answerable to the Council alone. He had done his duty.

But from time to time--and especially when they were travelling at
night, and he was awake--a haunting dread possessed him. How should he
appear before these two women in Naples? His old friend Natalie
Berezolyi had been grievously wronged; she had suffered through long
years; but a wife forgets much when her husband is about to die. And a
daughter? Lind had been an affectionate father enough to this girl;
these two had been companions all her lifetime; recent incidents would
surely be forgotten in her terror over the fact that it was her own
appeal to the Council that had wrought her father's death. And then he,
Calabressa, what could he say? It was through him she had invoked these
unknown powers; it was his counsel that had taken her to Naples; and he
was the immediate instrument that would produce this tragic end.

He would not think of it. At the various places where they stopped he
worried about food and drink, and angrily haggled about hotel-bills: he
read innumerable stupid little newspapers from morning till night; he
smoked Reitzei nearly blind. At last they reached Naples.

Within an hour after their arrival Calabressa, alone, was in Tommaso's
wine-vaults talking to the ghoul-like occupant. A bell rung, faint and
muffled, in the distance; he passed to the back of the vaults, and lit a
candle that Tommaso handed him; then he followed what seemed, from the
rumble overhead, some kind of subterranean corridor. But at the end of
this long sub-way he began to ascend; then he reached some steps;
finally, he was on an ordinary staircase, with daylight around him, and
above him a landing with two doors, both shut.

Opening one of these doors, after having knocked thrice, he entered a
large, bare chamber which was occupied by three men, all seated at a
table which was covered with papers. One of them, Von Zoesch, rose.

"That is good; that is very well settled," he said to the other two. "It
is a good piece of work. Now here is this English business, and the
report of our wily friend, Calabressa. What is it, Calabressa? We had
your telegram; we have sent for Lind and Beratinsky; what more?"

"Excellency, I have fulfilled your commission, I hope with judgment,"
Calabressa said, his cap in his hand. "I believe it is clear that the
Englishman had that duty put upon him by fraudulent means."

"It is a pity if it be so; it will cost us some further trouble, and we
have other things to think about at present." Then he added, lightly,
"but it will please your young lady friend, Calabressa. Well?"

"Excellency, you forget it may not quite so well please her if it is
found that her father was in the conspiracy," said Calabressa,
submissively.

"Why not?" answered the bluff, tall soldier. "However, to the point,
Calabressa. What have you discovered? and your proofs."

"I have none, your Excellency; but I have brought with me one of the
four in the ballot who is willing to confess. Why is he willing to
confess?" said Calabressa, with a little triumphant smile; "because he
thinks the gentlemen of the Council know already."

"And you have frightened the poor devil, no doubt," said Von Zoesch,
laughing.

"I have on the contrary, assured him of pardon," said Calabressa,
gravely. It is within the powers you gave me, Excellency. I have pledged
my honor--"

"Oh yes, yes; very well. But do you mean to tell us, my good
Calabressa," said this tall man, speaking more seriously, "that you have
proof of these three--Lind, Beratinsky, Reitzei--having combined to
impose on the Englishman? Not Lind, surely? Perhaps the other two--"

"Your Excellency, it is for you to investigate further and determine. I
will tell you how I proceeded. I went to the Englishman, and got minute
particulars of what occurred. I formed my own little story, my guess, my
theory. I got hold of Reitzei, and hinted that it was all known. On my
faith, he never thought of denying anything, he was so frightened! But
regard this, Excellency; I know nothing. I can give you the Englishman's
account; then, if you get that of Reitzei, and the two correspond, it is
a good proof that Reitzei is not lying in his confession. It is for you
to examine him, Excellency."'

"No, it is not for me," the ruddy-faced soldier-looking man said, and
then he turned to his two companions. The one was the Secretary
Granaglia: the other was a broad-shouldered, elderly man, with
strikingly handsome features of the modern Greek type, a pallid,
wax-like complexion, and thoughtful, impenetrable eyes. "Brother
Conventzi, I withdraw from this affair. I leave it in hands of the
Council; one of the accused was in former days my friend; it is not
right that I should interfere."

"And I also, Excellency," said Calabressa, eagerly. "I have fulfilled my
commission; may not I retire now also?"

"Brother Granaglia will take down your report in writing; then you are
free, my Calabressa. But you will take the summons of the Council to
your friend Reitzei; I suppose he will have to be examined before the
others arrive."

And so it came about that neither the General von Zoesch nor Calabressa
was present when the trial, if trial it could be called, took place.
There were no formalities. In this same big bare room seven members of
the Council sat at the table, Brother Conventz presiding, the Secretary
Granaglia at the foot, with writing-materials before him. Ferdinand Lind
and Beratinsky stood between them and the side-wall apparently
impassive. Reitzei was nearer the window, pallid, uneasy, his eyes
wandering about the room, but avoiding the place where his former
colleagues stood.

The President briefly stated the accusation against them, and read
Reitzei's account of his share in what had taken place. He asked if they
had anything to deny or to explain.

Beratinsky was the first to speak.

"Illustrious Brethren of the Council," he began, as if with some set
speech; but his color suddenly forsook him, and he halted and looked
helplessly round. Then he said, wildly, "I declare that I am innocent--I
say that I am innocent! I never should have thought of it, gentlemen. It
was Lind's suggestion; he wished to get rid of the man; I declare I had
nothing to gain. Gentlemen, judge for yourselves: what had I to gain?"

He looked from one to the other; the grave faces were mostly regarding
Granaglia, who was slowly and carefully putting the words down.

Then Lind spoke, clearly and coldly:

"I have nothing to deny. What I did was done in the interests of the
Society. My reward for my long services is that I am haled here like a
pickpocket. It is the second time; it will be the last. I have done,
now, with the labor of my life. You can reap the fruits of it. Do with
me what you please."

The President rose.

"The gentlemen may now retire; the decision of the Council will be
communicated to them hereafter."

A bell rung; Tommaso appeared; Lind and Beratinsky were conducted down
the stairs and through the dark corridor. In a few seconds Tommaso
returned, and performed a like office for Reitzei.

The deliberation of the Council were but of short duration. The guilt of
the accused was clear; and clear and positive was the penalty prescribed
by the articles of the Society. But, in consideration of the fact that
Beratinsky had been led into this affair by Lind, it was resolved to
offer him the alternative of his taking over the service from which
Brand was released. This afforded but a poor chance of escape, but
Beratinsky was in a desperate position. That same evening he accepted;
and the Secretary Granaglia was forthwith ordered to report the result
of these proceedings to England, and give certain instructions as to the
further conduct of business there.

The Secretary Granaglia performed this task with his usual equanimity.
He was merely a machine registering the decrees of the Council; it was
no affair of his to be concerned about the fate of Ferdinand Lind; he
had even forgotten the existence of the two women who had been patiently
waiting day after day at that hotel, alternately hoping and fearing to
learn what had occurred.



CHAPTER LIV.

PUT TO THE PROOF.


It was not at all likely that, at such a crisis, George Brand should pay
much attention to the man Kirski, who was now ushered into the room. He
left Edwards to deal with him. In any case he could not have understood
a word they were saying, except through the interpretation of Edwards,
and that was a tedious process. He had other things to think of.

Edwards was in a somewhat nervous and excited condition after hearing
this strange news, and he grew both impatient and angry when he saw that
Kirski was again half dazed with drink.

"Yes, I thought so!" he exclaimed, looking as fierce as the mild
student-face permitted. "This is why you are not at the shop when I
called to-day. What do you mean by it? What has become of your
promises?"

"Little father, I have great trouble," said the man, humbly.

"You! You in trouble!" said Edwards, angrily. "You do not know what
trouble is. You have everything in the world you could wish for. You
have good friends, as much employment as you can want, fair wages, and a
comfortable home. If your wife ran away from you, isn't it a good
riddance? And then, instead of setting about your work like a good
citizen, you think of nothing but murdering a man who is as far away
from you as the man in the moon, and then you take to drinking, and
become a nuisance to every one."

"Little father, I have many troubles, and I wish to forget."

"Your troubles!" said Edwards, though his anger was a little bit
assumed: he wished to frighten the man into better ways. "What are your
troubles? Think of that beautiful lady you are always talking about, who
interested herself in you--the bigger fool she!--think of her trouble
when she knows that her father is to die; and for what? Because he was
not obedient to the laws of the Society. And he is punished with death;
and you, have you been obedient? What has become of your promises to
me?"

The man before him seemed at this moment to arouse himself. He answered
nothing to the reproaches hurled at him; but said, with a glance of
eager interest in the sunken eyes,

"Is she in great trouble, little father?"

This gleam of intelligence rather startled Edwards. He had been merely
scolding a half-drunken poor devil, and had been incautious as to what
he said. He continued, with greater discretion,

"Would she have her troubles made any the less if she knew how you were
behaving? She was interested in you; many a time she asked about you--"

"Yes, yes," the man said, slowly; and he was twisting about the cap that
he held in his hand.

"And she gave you her portrait. Well, I am glad you knew you were not
fit to retain such a gift. A young lady like that does not give her
portrait to be taken into public-houses--"

"No more--do not say any more, little father," Kirski said, though in
the same humble way. "It is useless."

"Useless?"

"I will not go back to any public-house--never."

"So you said to me four days ago," Edwards answered.

"This time it is true," he said, though he did not lift his bleared
eyes. "To-morrow I will take back the portrait, little father; it shall
remain with me, in my room. I do not go back to any public-house, I
shall be no more trouble." Then he said, timidly raising his eyes, "Does
she weep--that beautiful one?"

"Yes, no doubt," said Edwards, hastily, and in some confusion. "Is it
not natural? But you must not say a word about it; it is a secret. Think
of it, and what one has to suffer in this world, and then ask yourself
if you will add to the trouble of one who has been so kind to you. Now
do I understand you aright? Is it a definite promise this time?"

"This time, yes, little father. You will have no more need to complain
of me, I will not add to any one's trouble. To-morrow--no, to-night I
take back the portrait; it is sacred; I will not add to any one's
trouble."

There was something strange about the man's manner, but Edwards put it
down to the effects of drink, and was chiefly concerned in impressing
on the dazed intelligence before him the responsibility of the promises
he had given.

"To-morrow, then, at nine you are at the shop."

"Assuredly, if you wish it, little father."

"Remember, it is the last chance your master will give you. He is very
kind to give you this chance. To-morrow you begin a new course of
conduct; and when the young lady comes back I will tell her of it."

"I will not add to her troubles, little father; you may be sure of it
this time."

When he had gone, Brand turned to his companion. He still held that
letter in his hands. His face, that had grown somewhat haggard of late,
was even paler than usual.

"I suppose I ought to feel very glad, Edwards," he said. "This is a
reprieve, don't you see, so far as I am concerned. And yet I can't
realize it; I don't seem to care about it; all the bitterness was
over--"

"You are too bewildered yet, Brand--no wonder."

"If only the girl and her mother were over here!" he said; and then he
added, with a quick instinct of fear, "What will she say to me? When she
appealed to the Council, surely she could not have imagined that the
result would be her father's death. But now that she finds it so--when
she finds that, in order to rescue me, she has sacrificed him--"

He could not complete the sentence.

"But he has richly deserved it," said Edwards.

"That is not what she will look to," he said. "Edwards," he added,
presently, "I am going home now. This place stifles me. I hate the look
of it. That table is where they played their little sleight-of-hand
business; and oh! the bravery of the one and the indifference of the
other, and Lind's solemn exposition of duty and obedience, and all the
rest of it! Well, what will be the result when this pretty story becomes
known? Rascality among the very foremost officers of the Society! what
are all those people who have recently joined us, who are thinking of
joining us, likely to say? Are these your high-priests? Are these the
apostles of self-sacrifice, and all the virtues?"

"It is bad enough, but not irreparable," said Edwards, calmly. "If a
member here or there falls out, the association remains; if one of its
high officers betrays his trust, you see how swift and terrible the
punishment is."

"I do not," said Brand. "I see that the paper decree is swift enough,
but what about the execution of it? Have the Council a body of
executioners?"

"I don't know about that," said Edwards, simply; "but I know that when
I was in Naples with Calabressa, I heard of the fate of several against
whom decrees had been pronounced; and I know that in every instance they
anticipated their own fate; the horror of being continually on the watch
was too much for them. You may depend on it, that is what Lind will do.
He is a proud man. He will not go slinking about, afraid at every
street-corner of the knife of the Little Chaffinch, or some other of
those Camorra fellows--"

"Edwards," said Brand, hastily, "there is a taint of blood--of
treachery--about this whole affair that sickens me. It terrifies me when
I think of what lies ahead. I--I think I have already tasted death, and
the taste is still bitter in the mouth. I must get into the fresh air."

Edwards got his coat and hat, and followed. He saw that his companion
was strangely excited.

"If all this work--if all we have been looking forward to--were to turn
out to be a delusion," Brand said, hurriedly, when they had got into the
dark clear night outside, "that would be worse than the suicide of
Ferdinand Lind or the disappearance of Beratinsky. If this is to be the
end--if these are our companions--"

"But how can you suggest such a thing?" Edwards protested. "Your
imagination is filled with blackness, Brand. You are disturbed, shocked,
afraid. Why, who are your colleagues? What do you think of--" Here he
mentioned a whole string of names, some of them those of well-known
Englishmen. "Do you accuse them of treachery? Have you not perfect
confidence in them? Have they not perfect confidence in the work we are
all pledged to?"

But he could not shake off this horrible feeling. He wished to be alone,
to fight with it; he did not even think of going to Lord Evelyn; perhaps
it was now too late. Shortly afterward he bade Edwards good-night, and
made his way to his rooms at the foot of Buckingham Street.

Waters had left the lights low; he did not turn them up. Outside lay the
black night-world of London, hushed and silent, with its thousand golden
points of fire. He was glad to be alone.

And yet an unknown feeling of dread was upon him. It seemed as if now
for the first time he realized what a terrible destiny had nearly been
his; and that his escape, so far from rendering him joyful, had left him
still trembling and horrified. Hitherto his pride had conquered. Even as
he had undertaking that duty, it was his pride that had kept him
outwardly calm and indifferent. He would not show fear, he would not
even show repugnance, before these men. And it was pride, too, that had
taught him at length and successfully to crush down certain vague
rebellions of conscience. He would not go back from his oath. He would
not go back from the promise to which Natalie's ring bound him. He would
go through with this thing, and bid farewell to life; further than that
no one could have demands on him.

But the sudden release from this dire pressure of will left his nerves
somewhat unstrung. For the mere sake of companionship he would like to
have taken Natalie's hand, to have heard her voice: that would have
assured him, and given him courage. He knew not what dangers encompassed
her, what agony she might not be suffering. And the night did not answer
these sudden, wavering, confused questionings; the darkness outside was
as silent as the grave.

Then a deeper gloom, almost touching despair, fell upon him. He saw in
all those companions of his only so many dupes; the great hope of his
life left him, the future became blank. He began to persuade himself
that he had only toyed with that new-found faith; that it was the
desperation of _ennui_, not a true hope, that had drawn him into this
work; that henceforth he would have no right to call upon others to join
in a vain undertaking. If such things as had just occurred were possible
in this organization, with all its lofty aims and professions--if there
was to be a background of assassination and conspiracy--why, this dream
must go as others had done. Then what remained to him in life? He almost
wished he had been allowed to go forward to this climax unknowing; to
have gone with his heart still filled with faith; to be assured until
the last moment that Natalie would remember how he had fulfilled his
promise to her.

It was a dark night for him, within and without. But as he sat there at
the window, or walked up and down, wrestling with these demons of doubt
and despair, a dull blue light gradually filled the sky outside; the
orange stars on the bridges grew less intense; the broad river became
visible in the dusk. Then by-and-by the dull blue cleared into a pale
steel-gray, and the forms of the boats could be made out, anchored in
the stream there: these were the first indications of the coming dawn.

Somehow or other he ceased these restless pacings of his, and was
attracted to the window, though he gazed but absently on the slow change
taking place outside--the world-old wonder of the new day rising in the
east. Up into that steely-gray glides a soft and luminous
saffron-brown; it spreads and widens; against it the far dome of St.
Paul's becomes a beautiful velvet-purple. A planet, that had been golden
when it was in the dusk near the horizon, has now sailed up into the
higher heaven, and shines a clear silver point. And now, listen! the
hushed and muffled sounds in the silence; the great city is awakening
from its sleep--there is the bark of a dog--the rumble of a cart is
heard. And still that saffron glow spreads and kindles in the east, and
the dome of St. Paul's is richer in hue than ever; the river between the
black-gray bridges, shines now with a cold light, and the gas-lamps have
grown pale. And then the final flood of glory wells up in the eastern
skies, and all around him the higher buildings catch here and there a
swift golden gleam: the sunrise is declared; there is a new day born for
the sons and daughters of men.

The night had fled, and with it the hideous phantoms of the night. It
seemed to him that he had escaped from the grave, and that he was only
now shaking off the horror of it. Look at the beautiful, clear colors
without; listen to the hum of the city awakening to all its cheerful
activities; the new day has brought with it new desires, new hopes. He
threw open the windows. The morning air was cold and sweet--the sparrows
were beginning to chirp in the garden-plots below. Surely that black
night was over and gone.

If only he could see Natalie for one moment, to assure her that he had
succumbed but once, and for the last time, to despair. It was a
confession he was bound to make; it would not lessen her trust in him.
For now all through his soul a sweet, clear voice was ringing: it was
the song the sunrise had brought him; it was the voice of Natalie
herself, with all its proud pathos and fervor, as he had heard it in the
olden days:

    "A little time we gain from time
     To set our seasons in some chime,
       For harsh or sweet, or loud or low,
       With seasons played out long ago--
     And souls that in their time and prime
       Took part with summer or with snow,
     Lived abject lives out or sublime,
       And had there chance of seed to sow
     For service or disservice done
     To those days dead and this their son.

    "A little time that we may fill
     Or with such good works or such ill
       As loose the bonds or make them strong,
       Wherein all manhood suffers wrong.
     By rose-hung river and light-foot rill
       There are who rest not; who think long
     Till they discern, as from a hill,
       At the sun's hour of morning song,
     Known of souls only, and those souls free,
     The sacred spaces of the sea."

Surely it was still for him and her together to stand on some such
height, hand-in-hand, and watch the sunrise come over the sea and
awakening world. They would forget the phantoms of the night, and the
traitors gone down to Erubus; perhaps, for this new life together, they
might seek a new clime. There was work for them still; and faith, and
hope, and the constant assurance of love: the future might perchance be
all the more beautiful because of these dark perils of the past.

As he lay thus communing with himself, the light shining in on his
haggard face, Waters came into the room, and was greatly concerned to
find that not only had his master not been to bed, but that the supper
left out for him the night before had not been touched. Brand rose,
without betraying any impatience over his attendant's pertinacious
inquiries and remonstrances. He went and got writing materials, and
wrote as follows:

"Dear Evelyn,--If you could go over to Naples for me--at once--I would
take it as a great favor. I cannot go myself. Whether or not, come to
see me at Lisle Street to-day, by twelve.

  "Yours,         G.B."

"Take this to Lord Evelyn, Waters; and if he is up get an answer."

"But your breakfast, sir. God bless me--"

"Never mind breakfast. I am going to lie down for an hour or two now: I
have had some business to think over. Let me have some breakfast about
eleven--when I ring."

"Very well, sir."

That was his phrase--he had had some business to think over. But it
seemed to him, as he went into the adjacent room, that that night he had
passed through worse than the bitterness of death.



CHAPTER LV.

CONGRATULATIONS.


The Secretary Granaglia, the business of the Council being over, carried
the news to Von Zoesch. It was almost dark when he made his way up the
steep little terraces in the garden of the villa at Posilipo. He found
the tall general seated at the entrance to the grotto-like retreat,
smoking a cigar in the dusk.

"You are late, Granaglia," he said.

"I had some difficulty in coming here," said the little man with the
sallow face and the tired eyes. "The police are busy, or pretending to
be. The Commendatore tells me that Zaccatelli has been stirring them
up."

"Zaccatelli!" said Von Zoesch, with a laugh. "It will soon be time now
for Zaccatelli to come down from his perch. Well, now, what is the
result?"

Granaglia briefly recounted what had occurred: the other manifested no
surprise.

"So this is the end of the Lind episode," he said, thoughtfully. "It is
a pity that so able a man should be thrown away. He has worked well; I
know of no one who will fill his place; but that must be seen to at
once, Granaglia. How long have they given him?"

"A month, your Excellency. He wishes to go back to England to put his
affairs in order. He has a firm nerve."

"He was a good-looking man when he was young," said Von Zoesch,
apparently to himself. Then he added: "This Beratinsky, to whom the
Zaccatelli affair has been transferred--what do you think of him? There
must be no bungling, Granaglia. What do you think of him--is he to be
trusted?"

"Your Excellency, if I were to give you my own impression, I should say
not in the least. He accepts this service--why? Because he is
otherwise lost for certain, and here is a chance: it is perhaps better
than nothing. But he does not go forward with any conviction of duty:
what is he thinking but of his chance of running away?"

"And perhaps running away beforehand, for example?"

"Oh no, your Excellency; at least, that has been provided for. Caprone
and the brother of Caprone will wait upon him until the thing is over;
and what is more, he will receive a hint that these two humble
attendants of his are keeping an eye on him."

"Caprone dare not go to Rome."

"He is ready to go anywhere. They might as well try to lay hands on a
ghost."

Von Zoesch rose, and stretched his huge frame, and yawned.

"So this is the end of the episode Lind," he said, idly. "It is a pity.
But if a man plays a risky game and loses, he must pay. Perhaps the
warning will be wholesome, Granaglia. Our friends must understand that
our laws are not laid down for nothing, and that we are not afraid to
punish offenders, even if these be among ourselves. I suppose there is
nothing further to be done to-night?"

"I would ask your Excellency to remain here for a little time yet," said
the Secretary.

"Are they coming so near? We must get Calabressa to procure some of them
a dozen or two on board the schooner. However--"

He sat down again, and lit another cigar.

"We must pay Calabressa a compliment, Granaglia; it was well done--very
clever; it has all turned out just as he imagined; it is not the first
time he has done us good service, with all his volubility. Oh yes; the
rascal knows when to hold his tongue. At this moment, for example, he
refuses to open his lips.

"Pardon, your Excellency; but I do not understand you."

The general laughed a little, and continued talking--it was one way of
passing the time.

"It is a good joke enough. The wily old Calabressa saw pretty clearly
what the decision of the Council would be, and so he comes to me and
entreats me to be the bearer of the news to Madame Lind and her
daughter. Oh yes; it is good news, this deliverance of the Englishman;
Madame Lind is an old friend of mine; she and her daughter will be
grateful. But you perceive, Granaglia, that what the cunning old dog was
determined to avoid was the reporting to Madame Lind that her husband
had been sentenced. That was no part of the original programme. And now
Calabressa holds his mouth shut; he keeps out of the way; it is left for
me to go and inform the mother and daughter."

His voice became more serious.

"The devil take it, it is no pleasant task at all! One is never sure how
the brain of a woman will work; you start the engine, but it may plunge
back the wrong way and strike you. Calabressa is afraid. The fox is
hiding in some hole until it is all over."

"Cannot I be of some service, your Excellency?" the Secretary said.

"No, no; but I thank you, friend Granaglia. It is a delicate matter; it
must be approached with circumspection; and I as an old acquaintance of
Madame Lind, ought not to shirk the duty."

Apparently, it was not Calabressa only who had some dread of the
difficulties of news-bearer.

"It is impossible for your Excellency to go near the hotel at present,"
said the Secretary, promptly.

But his chief refused to accept this offered means of escape.

"That is true, but it is not a difficulty. To-night, friend Granaglia,
you will send a message to the hotel, bidding them be at the Villa
Odelschalchi to-morrow morning at eleven--you understand?"

"Certainly, your Excellency."

"Then I will meet them, and take the risk. Everything must be settled
off at once: we have wasted too much time over this affair, Granaglia.
When does the Genoa Council meet?"

"On the Seventh."

"To-morrow you must issue the summonses. Come, Granaglia, let us be
stirring; it is cold. Where does Brother Conventz sleep to-night?"

"On board the schooner, your Excellency."

"I also. To-morrow, at eleven, you will be at Portici; to-night you will
send the message to the ladies at the hotel; and also, if you can, find
out where that rogue Calabressa is hiding."

That was the last of their talking. There was some locking up inside;
then they passed down through the dark garden and out into the road.
There was no one visible. They walked on in silence.

Punctually at eleven the next morning Natalie and her mother appeared at
the iron gates of the Villa Odelschalchi and rang the bell. The porter
appeared, admitted them, and then turned to the great white staircase,
which Granaglia was at that moment seen to be descending.

"Will the ladies have the goodness to step into the garden?" said the
Secretary, with grave courtesy. "General von Zoesch will be with them
directly."

He accompanied them as far as the top of the terrace, and then bowed and
withdrew.

If Natalie Lind was agitated now, it was not with fear. There was a
fresh animation of color in her cheek; her eyes were brilliant and
excited; she spoke in low, eager whispers.

"Oh, I know what he is coming to tell us, mother--you need not be
afraid: I shall see it in his face before he comes near--I think I shall
be able to hear it in the sound of his steps. Have courage, mother! why
do you tremble so? Remember what Calabressa said. They are so powerful
they can do everything; and you and the General von Zoesch old friends,
too. Look at this, mother: do you see what I have brought with me?"

She opened her purse--her fingers were certainly a little nervous--and
showed her mother a folded-up telegraph form.

"I am going to telegraph to him, mother: surely it is from me he should
hear the news first. And then he might come here, mother, to go back
with us: you will rest a few days after so much anxiety."

"I hope, my darling, it will all turn out well," said the mother,
turning quickly as she heard footsteps.

The next second Von Zoesch appeared, his face red with embarrassment;
but still Natalie with her first swift glance saw that his eyes were
smiling and friendly, and her heart leaped up with a bound.

"My dear young lady," said he, taking her hand, "forgive me for making
such a peremptory appointment--"

"But you bring good news'?" she said, breathlessly. "Oh, sir, I can see
that you have succeeded--yes, yes--the danger is removed--you have saved
him!"

"My dear young lady," said he smiling, but still greatly embarrassed,
"it is my good fortune to be able to congratulate you. Ah, I thought
that would bring some brightness to your eyes--"

She raised his hand, and kissed it twice passionately.

"Mother," she said, in a wild, joyful way, "will you not thank him for
me? I do not know what I am saying--and then--"

The general had turned to her mother. Natalie quickly took out the
telegraph-form, unfolded it, knelt down and put it on the garden-seat,
and with trembling fingers wrote her message: "_You are saved! Come to
us at once; my mother and I wait here for you;_" that was the substance
of it. Then she rose, and for a second or two stood irresolute, silent,
and shamefaced. Happily no one had noticed her. These two had gone
forward, and were talking together in a low voice. She did not join
them; she could not have spoken then, her heart was throbbing so
violently with its newly-found joy.

"Stefan," said the mother--and there was a pleasant light in her sad
eyes too--"I shall never forget the gratitude we owe you. I have nothing
else to regard now but my child's happiness. You have saved her life to
her."

"Yes, yes," he said, in stammering haste, "I am glad the child is happy.
It would be a pity, at her time of life, and such a beautiful, brave
young lady--yes, it would be a pity if she were to suffer: I am very
glad. But there is another side to the question, Natalie; it refers to
you. I have not such good news for you--that is, it depends on how you
take it; but it is not good news--it will trouble you--only, it was
inevitable--"

"What do you mean?" she said, calmly.

"Your husband," he said, regarding her somewhat anxiously.

"Yes," she said, without betraying any emotion.

"Well, you understand, we had not the power to release your English
friend unless there had been injustice--or worse--in his being
appointed. There was. More than that, it was very nearly a repetition of
the old story. Your husband was again implicated."

She merely looked at him, waiting for him to continue.

"And the Council," he said, more embarrassed than ever, "had to try him
for his complicity. He was tried and--condemned."

"To what?" she said, quite calmly.

"You must know, Natalie. He loses his life!"

She turned very pale.

"It was not so before," she managed to say, though her breath came and
went quickly.

"It was; but then he was pardoned. This time there is no hope."

She stood silent for a second or two; then she said, regarding him with
a sad look,

"You think me heartless, Stefan. You think I ought to be overwhelmed
with grief. But--but I have been kept from my child for seventeen years.
I have lived with the threat of the betrayal of my father hanging over
me. The affection of a wife cannot endure everything. Still, I
am--sorry--"

Her eyes were cast down, and they slowly filled with tears. Von Zoesch
breathed more freely. He was eagerly explaining to her how this result
had become inevitable--how he himself had had no participation in it,
and so forth--when Natalie Lind stepped quickly up to them, looking from
the one to the other. She saw something was wrong.

"Mother, what is it?" she said, in vague fear. She turned to Von Zoesch.
"Oh, sir, if there is something you have not told me--if there is
trouble--why was it not to me that you spoke?"

She took hold of her mother's hand.

"Mother, what is it?"

"My dear young lady," said Von Zoesch, interposing, "you know that life
is made up of both bitter and sweet--"

"I wish to know, signore," she said, proudly, "what it is you have told
my mother. If there is trouble, it is for her daughter to share it."

"Well, then, dear young lady, I will tell you," he said, "though it will
grieve you also. I must explain to you. You cannot suppose that the
happy news I deliver to you was the result of the will of any one man,
or number of men. No. It was the result of the application of law and
justice. Your--sweetheart, shall I call him?--was intrusted with a grave
duty, which would most probably have cost him his life. In the ordinary
way, no one could have released him from it, however much certain
friends of yours here might have been interested in you, and grieved to
see you unhappy. But there was this possibility--it was even a
probability--that he had been selected for this service unfairly. Then,
no doubt, if that could be proved, he ought to be released."

"Yes, yes," she said, impatiently.

"That was proved. Unfortunately, I have to tell you that among those
convicted of this conspiracy was your father. Well, the laws of our
association are strict--they are even terrible where a delinquent is in
a position of high responsibility. My dear young lady, I must tell you
the truth: your father has been adjudged guilty--and--and the punishment
is--death!"

She uttered a quick, short cry of alarm, and turned with frightened eyes
to her mother.

"Mother, is it true? is it true?"

The mother did not answer; she had clasped her trembling hands. Then the
girl turned; there was a proud passion in her voice.

"Oh, sir, what tiger is there among you that is so athirst for blood?
You save one man's life--after intercession and prayer you save one
man's life--only to seize on that of another. And it is to me--it is to
me, his daughter--that you come with congratulations! I am only a child;
I am to be pleased: you speak of a sweetheart; but you do not tell me
that you are about to murder my father! You give me my lover; in
exchange you take my father's life. Is there a woman in all the world
so despicable as to accept her happiness at such a cost?"

Involuntarily she crushed up the telegram she held in her hand and threw
it away from her.

"It is not I, at all events," she exclaimed. "Oh, signore, you should
not have mocked me with your congratulations. That is not the happiness
you should offer to a daughter. But you have not killed him yet--there
is time; let things be as they were; that is what my sweetheart, as you
call him, will say; he and I are not afraid to suffer. Surely, rather
that, than that he should marry a girl so heartless and cowardly as to
purchase her happiness at the cost of her father's life?"

"My dear young lady," he said, with a great pity and concern in his
face, "I can assure you what you think of is impossible. What is done
cannot be undone."

Her proud indignation now gave way to terror.

"Oh no, signore, you cannot mean that! I cannot believe it! You have
saved one man--oh, signore, for the love of Heaven, this other also!
Have pity! How can I live, if I know that I have killed my father?"

He took both her hands in his, and strove to soothe down her wild terror
and dismay. He declared to her she had nothing to do with it, no more
than himself; that her father had been tried by his colleagues; that if
he had not been, a fearful act of treachery would have been committed.
She listened, or appeared to listen; but her lips were pale; her eyes
had a strange look in them; she was breathless.

"Calabressa said they were all-powerful," she interrupted suddenly. "But
are they all-powerful to slay only? Oh no, I cannot believe it! I will
go to them; it cannot be too late; I will say to them that I would
rather have died than appealed to them if I had known that this was to
be the terrible result. And Calabressa--why did he not warn me? Or is he
one of the blood-thirsty ones also--one of the tigers that crouch in the
dark? Oh, signore, if they are all-powerful, they are all-powerful to
pardon. May I not go to themselves?"

"It would be useless, my dear signorina," said Von Zoesch, with deep
compassion in his voice. "I am sorry to grieve you, but justice has been
done, and the decision is past recall. And do not blame poor old
Calabressa--"

At this moment the bell of the outer gate rang, echoing through the
empty house, and he started somewhat.

"Come, child," said her mother. "We have taken up too much of your time,
Stefan. I wish there had been no drawback to your good news."

"At the present moment," he said, glancing somewhat anxiously toward
the building, "I cannot ask you to stay, Natalie; but on some other
occasion, and as soon as you please, I will give you any information you
may wish. Remember, you have good friends here."

Natalie suffered herself to be led away. She seemed too horror-stricken
to be able to speak. Von Zoesch accompanied them only to the terrace,
and there bade them good-bye. Granaglia was waiting to show them to the
gate. A few moments afterward they were in their carriage, returning to
Naples.

They sat silent for some time, the mother regarding her daughter
anxiously.

"Natalushka, what are you thinking of?"

The girl started: her eyes were filled with a haunting fear, as if she
had just seen some terrible thing. And yet she spoke slowly and sadly
and wistfully.

"I was thinking, mother, that perhaps it was not so hard to be condemned
to die; for then there would come an end to one's suffering. And I was
wondering whether there had been many women in the world who had to
accuse themselves of taking a part in bringing about their own father's
death. Oh, I hope not--I hope not!"

A second afterward she added, with more than the bitterness of tears in
her trembling voice, "And--and I was thinking of General von Zoesch's
congratulations, mother."



CHAPTER LVI.

A COMMISSION.


Lord Evelyn obeyed his friend's summons in considerable anxiety, if not
even alarm; for he made no doubt that it had some connection with that
mysterious undertaking to which Brand was pledged; but when he reached
Lisle Street, and was shown into the larger room, no very serious
business seemed going forward. Two or three of the best-known to him
among the English members of the Society were present, grouped round a
certain Irish M.P., who, with twinkling eyes but otherwise grave face,
was describing the makeshifts of some provincial manager or other who
could not pay his company their weekly salary. To the further surprise
of the new-comer, also, Mr. Lind was absent; his chair was occupied by
Gathorne Edwards.

He was asked to go into an inner room; and there he found Brand, looking
much more like himself than he had done for some time back.

"It is awfully kind of you, Evelyn, to come at once. I heard you had
returned to town yesterday. Well, what of the old people down in
Wiltshire?"

Lord Evelyn was quite thrown off his guard by this frank cheerfulness.
He forgot the uneasy forebodings with which he had left his house.

"Oh, capital old people!" he said, putting his hat and umbrella on the
table--"excellent. But you see, Brand, it becomes a serious question if
I have to bury myself in the country, and drink port-wine after dinner,
and listen to full-blown, full-fed glorious old Tories, every time a
sister of mine gets engaged to be married. And now that Rosalys has
begun it, they'll all take to it, one after the other, like sheep
jumping a ditch."

"They say Milbanke is a very nice young fellow," said Brand.

"Petted, a little. But then, an only son, and heaps of money: perhaps
its natural. I know he is a ghastly hypocrite," added Lord Evelyn, who
seemed to have some little grudge against his brother-in-law in
prospect. "It was too bad of him to go egging on those old megatheria to
talk politics until they were red in the face, denouncing Free-trade,
and abusing the Ballot, and foretelling the ruin of the former as soon
as the Education Act began to work. Then he pretended to be on their
side--"

"What did you do?"

"I sat quiet. I was afraid I might be eaten. I relapsed into
contemplation; and began to compose a volume on 'Tory Types: Some
Survivals in English Politics. For the Information of Town Readers.'"

"Well, now you have done your duty, and cemented the alliance between
the two families--by drinking port-wine, I suppose--what do you say to a
little pleasure-trip?"

"Oh, is that all?" he said, looking up quickly. "Is that what your note
meant?"

"The fact is, Evelyn," he said, with a trifle of embarrassment, "Natalie
and her mother are in Naples, and I don't know precisely in what
circumstances. I am a little anxious about them--I should like to know
more of their surroundings: why, for one thing, I don't know whether
they have any money, even. I would go over myself, Evelyn, but the
truth is I cannot--not very well. At least I ought not to go; and I
thought, if you had time--being an old friend of Natalie's--you would
like to see that she was all right.

"Where is Lind?" said Lord Evelyn, suddenly.

"Lind is in Italy also," said Brand, evasively.

"Not with them?"

"Oh no."

There was an awkward silence. At length Brand said,

"Something very serious has happened, Evelyn: and the question is
whether, in the interests of the Society, it should not be kept a
secret, if it is possible."

"I do not wish to know any secret," Lord Evelyn said, simply. "I am
willing to go over to Naples at once, if I can be of any service."

"It is very kind of you; I thought you would say as much," Brand said,
still hesitating. "But then I doubt whether you could be of much service
unless you understood the whole situation of affairs. At present only
two over here know what has occurred--Edwards and myself. Yes, I think
you must know also. Read this letter; it came only last night."

He unlocked a drawer, took out a letter, and gave it to Lord Evelyn, who
read it slowly. When he had finished, he put it on the table without a
word.

"You understand?" Brand said, calmly. "That means that Lind is to be
punished with death for treachery. Don't think about me; I've had a
narrow escape, but I have escaped--thanks to Natalie's courage and
decision. What I am concerned about is the effect that such a disclosure
might have on the fortunes of the Society. Would it not provoke a
widespread feeling of disgust? Wouldn't there always be a suspicion?"

"But you yourself, Brand!" Evelyn exclaimed, in amazement. "Why, you--I
thought you would be the first to resign, after such an escape."

"I have fought all through that, Evelyn," he said, absently. "It was my
first impulse--I confess it. The thought of being associated with such
men sickened me; I despaired; I wished they had never been found out,
and that I had been let blindly go on to the end. Well, I got over the
fit--with a struggle. It was not reasonable, after all. Surely one's
belief in the future of the Society ought to be all the firmer that
these black sheep have been thrust out? As for myself, at all events, I
ought to have more hope, not less. I never did trust Lind, as you know;
I believed in his work, in the usefulness of it, and the prospects of
its success; but I never was at ease in his presence; I was glad to get
away to my own work in the north. And now, with the way clearer, why
should one think of giving up? To tell you the truth, Evelyn, I would
give anything to be in America at the present moment, if only Natalie
and her mother were in safety. There is a chance for us there bigger
than anything Lind ever dreamed about. You know the Granges, the
associations of the 'Patrons of Husbandry,' that were founded by the
Scotchman Saunders? It is an immense social organization; the success of
it has been quite unprecedented; they have an immense power in their
hands. And it isn't only agriculture they deal with; they touch on
politics here and there; they control elections; and the men they choose
are invariably men of integrity. Well, now, don't you see this splendid
instrument ready-made? From what I hear from Philadelphia--"

Lord Evelyn's thoughts were elsewhere than in Philadelphia.

"You must tell me about yourself, Brand!" he exclaimed. "Your life is no
longer in danger, then? How has it happened?"

"Oh," said Brand, somewhat carelessly, "I don't know all the particulars
as yet. What I do know is that Natalie and her mother disappeared from
London; I had no idea whither they had gone. Then Calabressa turned up;
and I heard that Natalie had appealed to the Council. Fancy, she, a
young girl, had had the courage to go and appeal to the Council! Then
Calabressa suspected something, I saw by his questions; then Lind,
Beratinsky, and Reitzei appear to have been summoned to Naples. The
result is in that letter; that is about all I know."

"And these others in there?" said Lord Evelyn, glancing to the door.

"They know nothing at all. That is what I am uncertain about: whether to
leave the disappearance of Lind unaccounted for--merely saying he had
been summoned away by the Council--or to let everybody who may hear of
it understand that, powerful as he was, he had to succumb to the laws of
the Society, and accept the penalty for his error. I am quite uncertain;
I have no instructions. You might find out for me in Naples, Evelyn, if
you went over there--you might find out what they consider advisable."

"You are in Lind's place, then?"

"Not at all," said he, quickly, and with a slight flush. "Edwards and I
are merely keeping the thing going until matters are settled. Did you
notice whether Molyneux was in the next room when you came through?"

"Yes he was."

"Then excuse me for a minute or two. I want to speak to you further
about Naples."

Brand was gone some time, and Lord Evelyn was left to ponder over these
strange tidings. To him they were very joyful tidings; for ever since
that communication was made to him of the danger that threatened his
friend's life, he had been haunted by the recollection that, but for
him, Brand would in all probability have never heard of this
association. It was with an infinite sense of personal relief that he
now knew this danger was past. Already he saw himself on his way to
Naples, to find out the noble girl who had taken so bold a step to save
her lover. Not yet had darkness fallen over these two lives.

Brand returned, carefully shut the door after him, and seated himself on
a corner of the table.

"You see, Evelyn," he said, quite in his old matter-of-fact way, "I
can't pretend to have very much regret over what has happened to Lind.
He tried to do me an ill turn, and he has got the worst of it; that is
all. On the other hand, I bear him no malice: you don't want to hurt a
man when he is down. I can guess that it isn't the death-penalty that he
is thinking most of now. I can even make some excuse for him, now that I
see the story plain. The temptation was great; always on the
understanding that he was against my marrying his daughter; and that I
had been sure of it for some time. To punish me for not giving up my
property, to keep Natalie to himself, and to get this difficult duty
securely undertaken all at once--it was worth while trying for. But his
way of going about it was shabby. It was a mean trick. Well, there is
nothing more to be said on that point: he has played--played a foul
game--and lost."

He added, directly afterward,

"So you think you can go to Naples?"

"Certainly," said Evelyn, with promptness. "You don't know how glad I am
about this, Brand. If you had come to grief over your relations with
this Society, it would have been like a mill-stone hanging on my
conscience all my life. And I shall be delighted to go to Italy for you.
I should like to see the look on Natalie's face."

"You will probably find her in great trouble," Brand said, gravely.

"In trouble?"

"Naturally. Don't you see, Evelyn, she could not have foreseen that the
result of her appeal would involve the destruction of her father. It is
impossible to believe that she could have foreseen that. I know her; she
would not have stirred hand or foot. And now that this has been
discovered, it is not her father's guilt she will be thinking of; it is
his fate, brought about indirectly by herself. You may be sure, Evelyn,
she will not be overjoyed at the present moment. All the more reason why
one who knows her should be near her. I have no idea what sort of people
are about her; I should be more satisfied if I knew you were there."

"I am ready to go; I am ready to start this afternoon, as I say," Evelyn
repeated; but then he added, with some hesitation: "But I am not going
to play the part of a hypocrite, Brand. I could not pretend to
sympathize with her, if that is the cause of her trouble; I should tell
her it served her father right."

"You could not be so brutal if you tried, Evelyn," Brand said; "you
might think so: you could not tell her so. But I have no fear: you will
be discreet enough, and delicate enough, when you see her."

"And what am I to say from you?"

"From me?" he said. "Oh, you can say I thank her for having saved my
life. That will be enough, I think; she will understand the rest."

"I mean, what do you advise her to do? Ought they to return to England?"

"I think so, certainly. Most likely she will be waiting there, trying to
get the Council to reverse the sentence. Having been successful in the
one case, the poor child may think she ought to succeed in the other. I
fear that is too much to expect. However, if she is anxious, she may
try. I should like to know there was somebody near her she could rely
on--don't you understand, Evelyn?--to see that she is situated and
treated as you would like one of your own sisters to be."

"I see what it is, Brand," Lord Evelyn said, laughing, "you are jealous
of the foreigners. You think they will be using tooth-picks in her
presence, and that kind of thing."

"I wish to know that she and her mother are in a good hotel," said
Brand, simply, "with proper rooms, and attendance, and--and a carriage:
women can't go walking through these beastly streets of Naples. The long
and short of it is, Evelyn," he added, with some embarrassment, as he
took out from his pocket-book two blank checks, and sat down at the
table and signed them, "I want you to play the part of big brother to
them, don't you know? And you will have to exercise skill as well as
force. Don't you see, Calabressa is the best of fellows; but he would
think nothing of taking them to stay in some vile restaurant, if the
proprietor were politically inclined--"

"Yes, yes; I see: garlic; cigarettes during breakfast, right opposite
the ladies; wine-glasses used as finger-glasses: well, you are a
thorough Englishman, Brand!"

"I suppose, when your sisters go abroad, you see that they are directed
to a proper hotel?" said Brand, somewhat angrily.

"I know this," said Evelyn, laughing, "that my sisters, and you, and
Calabressa, and myself, all boiled together, wouldn't make half as good
a traveller as Natalie Lind is. Don't you believe she has been led away
into any slummy place, for the sake of politics or anything else. I will
bet she knows the best hotels in Naples as well as you do the Waldegrave
Club."

"At any rate, you've got to play the big brother, Evelyn; and it is my
affair, of course: I will not allow you to be out of pocket by it. Here
are two checks; you can fill them in over there when you see how matters
stand: ----, at Rome, will cash them."

"Do you mean to say I have to pay their hotel-bills?"

"If they have plenty of money, certainly not; but you must find out. You
must take the bull by the horns. It is far more likely that they have so
little money that they may be becoming anxious. Then you must use a firm
hand--I mean with Natalie. Her mother will acquiesce. And you can tell
Natalie that if she would buy something--some dress, or something--for
the mother of old Calabressa, who is still living--at Spezia, I
think--she would make the old chap glad. And that would be a mark of my
gratitude also; you see, I have never had even the chance of thanking
him as yet."

Lord Evelyn rose.

"Very well," said he, "I will send you a report of my mission. How am I
to find them?"

"You must find them through Calabressa," he said, "for I have not got
their address. So you can start this evening?"

"Yes, certainly."

"Then I will telegraph at once to Calabressa to let them know you are
coming. Mind you, I am very grateful to you, Evelyn; though I wish I was
going in your stead."

Lord Evelyn got some further instructions as to how he was to discover
Calabressa on his arrival in Naples; and that evening he began his
journey to the south. He set out, indeed, with a light heart. He knew
that Natalie would be glad to have a message from England.

At Genoa he had to break the journey for a day, having some commission
to perform on behalf of the Society: this was a parting bequest from
Gathorne Edwards. Then on again; and in due time he entered Naples.

He scarcely noticed, as he entered the vehicle and drove away to his
hotel, what bare-footed lads outside the station were bawling as they
offered the afternoon papers to the newly-arrived passengers. What
interest had he in Zaccatelli?

But what the news-venders were calling aloud was this:

"_The death of the Cardinal Zaccatelli! Death of Zaccatelli! The death
of the Cardinal Zaccatelli!_"



CHAPTER LVII.

FAREWELL!


"Natalushka," said the tender and anxious mother, laying her hand on the
girl's head, "you must bestir yourself. If you let grief eat into your
heart like that, you will become ill; and what shall we do then, in a
strange hotel? You must bestir yourself; and put away those sad thoughts
of yours. I can only tell you again and again that it was none of your
doing. It was the act of the Council: how could you help it? And how can
you help it now? My old friend Stefan says it is beyond recall. Come,
Natalushka, you must not blame yourself; it is the Council, not you, who
have done this; and no doubt they think they acted justly."

Natalie did not answer. She sighed slightly. Her eyes were turned toward
the blue waters beyond the Castello dell' Ovo.

"Child," the mother continued, "we must leave Naples."

"Leave Naples!" the girl cried, with a sudden look of alarm; "having
done nothing--having tried nothing?" Then she added, in a lower voice,
"Well, yes, mother, I suppose it is true what they say, that one can do
nothing by remaining. Perhaps--perhaps we ought to go; and yet it is
terrible."

She shivered slightly as she spoke.

"You see, Natalushka," her mother said, determined to distract her
attention somehow, "this is an expensive hotel; we must be thinking of
what money we have left to take us back. We have been here some time;
and it is a costly journey, all the way to England."

"Oh, but not to England--not to England, mother!" Natalie exclaimed,
quickly.

"Why not to England, then?"

"Anywhere else, mother," the daughter pleaded. If you wish it, we will
go away: no doubt General von Zoesch knows best; there is no hope. We
will go away from Naples, mother; and--and you know I shall not be much
of a tax on you. We will live cheaply somewhere; and perhaps I could
help a little by teaching music, as Madame Potecki does. Whenever you
wish it, I am ready to go."

"But why not to England?"

"I cannot tell you, mother."

She rose quickly, and passed into her own room and shut the door.

There she stood for a second or two, irresolute and breathless, like one
who had just escaped into a place of refuge. Then her eyes fell on her
writing desk, which was on a side-table, and open. Slowly, and with a
strange, pained expression about her mouth, she went and sat down, and
took out some writing materials, and absently and mechanically arranged
them before her. Her eyes were tearless, but once or twice she sighed
deeply. After a time she began to write with an unsteady hand:

"My Dearest,--You must let me send you a few lines of farewell; for it
would be hard if, in saying good-bye, one were not permitted to say a
kind word or two that could be remembered afterward. And your heart will
have already told you why it is not for you and me now to look forward
to the happiness that once seemed to lie before us. You know what a
terrible result has followed from my rashness; but then you are
free--that is something; for the rest, perhaps it is less misery to die,
than to live and know that you have caused another's death. You
remember, the night they played _Fidelio_, I told you I should always
try to remain worthy of your love; and how could I keep that promise if
I permitted myself to think of enjoying a happiness that was made
possible at the cost of my father's life? You could not marry a woman so
unnatural, so horrible: a marriage purchased at such a price would be
foredoomed; there would be a guilty consciousness, a life-long remorse.
But why do I speak? Your heart tells you the same thing. There only
remains for us to say good-bye, and to thank God for the gleam of
happiness that shone on us for a little time.

"And you, my dearest of friends, you will send me also a little message,
that I can treasure as a remembrance of bygone days. And you must tell
me also whether what has occurred has deterred you from going farther,
or whether you still remain hoping for better things in the world, and
resolved to do what you can to bring them about. That would be a great
consolation to me, to know that your life still had a noble object. Then
the world would not be quite blank, either for you or for me; you with
your work, I with this poor, kind mother of mine, who needs all the
affection I can give her. Then I hope to hear of you from time to time;
but my mother and myself do not return to England.

"And now what am I to say, being so far away from you, that will sound
pleasant to you, and that you will remember after with kindness? I look
back now over the time since I have known you, and it appears a
beautiful dream--anxious sometimes, and troubled, but always with a
golden future before it that almost bewildered the eyes. And what am I
to say of your goodness, so unvarying and constant; and your
thoughtfulness; and your great unselfishness and outspokenness? When was
there the least misunderstanding between us? I could read your heart
like my own. Only once, you remember, was there a chance of a shadow
coming between us--through my own folly; and yet perhaps it was only
natural for a girl, fancying that everything was going to be smooth and
happy in her life, to look back on what she had said in times of
trouble, and to be afraid of having spoken with too little reserve. But
then you refused to have even the slightest lovers' quarrel; you laughed
away my folly. Do you wonder if I was more than ever glad that I had
given my life into your wise and generous guidance? And it is not now,
when I am speaking to you for the last time, that I can regret having
let you know what my feelings were toward you. Oh, my darling! you must
not imagine, because these words that I am writing are cold and formal,
that my heart beats any the less quickly when I think of you and the
days we were together. I said to you that I loved you; I say to you now
that I love you with my whole heart, and I have no feeling of shame. If
you were here, I would look into your face and repeat it--I think
without a blush; I would kiss you; I would tell you that I honor you;
that I had looked forward to giving you all the trust and affection and
devotion of a wife. That is because I have faith in you; my soul is open
and clear to you; read, and if you can find there anything but
admiration for your nobleness of heart, and earnest hopes for your
happiness, and gratitude to you for all your kindness, then, and not
otherwise, shall I have cause for shame.

"Now I have to send you my last word of good-bye--"

[She had borne up so far; but now she put the pen aside, and bent her
head down on to her hands, and her frame was shaken with her sobbing.
When she resumed, she could scarcely see for the bitter tears that kept
welling her eyes.]

"--and you think, looking at these cold words on the paper, that it was
easy for me to do so. It has not been so easy. I pray God to bless you,
and keep you brave and true and unselfish, and give you happiness in the
success of your work. And I ask a line from you in reply--not sad, but
something that I may look at from time to time, and that will make me
believe you have plenty of interests and hopes in the world, and that
you do not altogether regret that you and I met, and were friends, for a
time.

  NATALIE."

This was a strange thing: she took another sheet of paper, and slowly
and with a trembling hand wrote on it these words, "_Your Wife._" That
was all. No doubt it was the signature she had hoped one day to use. She
regarded it long, and earnestly, and sadly, until, indeed, she could not
see it for the tears that rose afresh into her eyes. Then she tore up
the piece of paper hastily, folded her letter and addressed it, without
sealing the envelope, and carried it into the other room.

"Read it mother," she said; and she turned to the window to conceal her
tear-stained face.

The mother opened the letter and glanced at it.

"You forget, child," she said. "I know so little English. Tell me what
it is you have written."

So she was forced to turn; and apparently, as she spoke, she was quite
calm; but there was a darkness underneath her eyes, and there was in her
look something of the worn, sad expression of her mother's face. Briefly
and simply she repeated the substance of the letter, giving no reasons
or justifications. She seemed to take it for granted that her decision
was unavoidable, and would be seen to be so by every one.

"Natalushka," the mother said, looking anxiously at the troubled face,
"do you know what you are about to do? It is an act of expiation for
something you have not committed."

"Could I do otherwise?" she said. "You, mother: would you have me think
of a marriage procured through my father's death? It is too horrible!"

The mother went to her, and took her two hands.

"My poor child, are you to have no happier life than I have had, after
all? When I used to see you, I used to say to myself, 'Ah, my little
Natalushka will never know what has befallen me--she will have a happy
life!' I could see you laughing as you walked in the gardens there. You
looked so pleased, so content, so bright and cheerful. And now you also
are to have a life of disappointment and sad memories--"

"Oh, you must not talk like that, mother," the girl said, hastily, in a
low voice. "Have I not you with me? We shall always be together, shall
we not? And you know we shall not have time for brooding over what is
past; we shall have much to do; we must make a pleasant small home
somewhere. Oh, there are many, many people far worse off in the world
than we are. So you must think of getting away from Naples, mother; and
think of where you would like to live, and where I should be most likely
to be able to earn a little. The years will teach us to
forget--and--and--And now you know why I do not wish to go back to
England."

Her eyes were cast down, but she was forcing herself to speak quite
cheerfully.

"You see, mother, my knowing English is a great advantage. If we were to
go to one of the towns on the Riviera, like Nice or Mentone, where so
many English families are, one might get pupils who would want to learn
English songs as well as Italian and German--"

"Yes, yes, Natalushka; but I am not going to have you slave for me. The
little allowance that my cousins send me will do very well for us two,
though you will not get so fine dresses. Then, you see, Natalushka,
Mentone or Nice would be a dear place to live in."

"Very well, mother," said the girl, with the same apparent cheerfulness,
"I will go down and post my letter, and at the same time get the loan of
a guide book. Then we shall study the maps, and pick out a nice, quiet,
remote little place, where we can live--and forget."

The last two words were uttered to herself as she opened the door and
went out. She sighed a little as she went down the staircase--that was
all; she was thinking of things very far away. She passed into the hall,
and went to the bureau for some postage-stamps. As she stood there, some
one, unperceived, came up to her: it was Calabressa.

"Little daughter," said he, in a trembling voice.

She uttered a slight cry, and shrunk back.

"Little daughter," said he, holding out his hand.

But some strange instinct possessed her. She could not avoid touching
his hand--or the tips of his fingers, rather--for one brief second; then
she turned away from him with an involuntary shudder, and went back
through the hall, her head bent down. Calabressa stood looking after her
for a moment or two, then he turned and left the hotel.

He walked quickly: there were tears running down his face. He looked
neither to the right nor to the left; he was talking in a broken voice
to himself; he repeated again and again, "No, she shall not turn away
from me. She will be sorry for that soon. She will say she should not
have crushed the heart of her old friend Calabressa."

He walked out to Posilipo. Near the villa where he had formerly sought
the representatives of the Council he passed an old woman who was
selling fruit by the roadside. She glanced up at him, and said,

"The door is closed, signore."

"The door must be opened, good mother," said he, scarcely regarding her
as he hurried on.

Arrived in the garden of the villa, his summons brought out to the
entrance of the grotto the Secretary Granaglia, who somewhat impatiently
told him that it was quite impossible that any member of the Council
should see him.

"And no doubt it is about that Lind affair?"

"Indirectly only," Calabressa said. "No, it concerns myself mostly."

"Quite enough time, the Council think, has been given to the Lind
affair. I can tell you, my friend, there are more important matters
stirring. Now, farewell; I am wanted within."

However, by dint of much persuasion, Calabressa got Granaglia to take in
a message to Von Zoesch. And, sure enough, his anticipations were
correct; the good-natured, bluff old soldier made his appearance, and
seemed glad to get a breath of fresh air for a minute or two.

"Well, well, Calabressa, what is it now? Are you not all satisfied? the
young lady with her sweetheart, and all that? You rogue! you guessed
pretty rightly; to tell them the news was no light matter; but by-and-by
she will become reconciled. Her lover is to be envied; she is a
beautiful child, and she has courage. Well, are they not satisfied?"

"I crave your pardon, Excellency, for intruding upon you," Calabressa
said, in a sort of constrained voice. "It is my own affair that brings
me here. I shall not waste your time. Your Excellency, I claim to be
substitute for Ferdinand Lind."

The tall soldier burst out laughing.

"What the devil is the matter with you, Calabressa; have you gone mad?"

For a second Calabressa stood silent; his eyes downcast; his fingers
working nervously with the cap he held in his hands.

"Your Excellency," he said, as if struggling to repress some emotion,
"it is a simple matter. I have been to see the beautiful child you speak
of; I addressed her, in the hall of the hotel; she turned away from me,
shuddering, as if I were a murderer--from me, who loves her more than I
love life. Oh, your Excellency, do not smile at it; it is not a girlish
caprice; she has a noble heart; it is not a little thing that would make
her cruel. I know what she thinks--that I have been the means of
procuring her father's death. Be it so. I will give her father his life
again. Take mine--what do I care?"

"Nonsense, nonsense, my Calabressa. The girl has bewitched you. One must
talk to her. Take your life in exchange for that of Lind? Pooh! We
cannot send good men after bad; you are too valuable to us; whereas he,
if he were released, could be of no more use at all. It is a generous
notion on your part, friend Calabressa, but it is quixotic; moreover,
impossible."

"You forget, Excellency, that I can claim it," said Calabressa, firmly.
"Under Article V. I can claim to be the substitute of Ferdinand Lind.
Your Excellency yourself has not the power to refuse me. I call upon you
to release Lind from the death-penalty: to-morrow I will take his place;
then you can send a message to--to Natalie Berezolyi's daughter, that,
if I have wronged her, I have made amends."

Von Zoesch grew more serious; he eyed Calabressa curiously. The elder
man stood there trembling a little with nervous excitement, but with a
firm look on his face: there was no doubt about his resolve.

"Friend Calabressa," said Von Zoesch, in a kindly way, "it seems as if
you had transferred your old love for Natalie Berezolyi to Natalie's
daughter, only with double intensity; but, you see, we must not allow
you to sacrifice yourself merely because a girl turns her heel on you.
It is not to be thought of. We cannot afford to lose you; besides, it is
monstrous that the innocent should suffer, and the guilty go free--"

"The articles of the Society, your Excellency--"

"That particular article, my Calabressa, was framed with a view to
encourage self-sacrifice and generosity, no doubt, but not with a view,
surely, to any such extreme madness as this. No. The fact is, I had no
time to explain the circumstances of the case to the young lady, or I
could easily have shown her how you were no more involved than herself
in procuring the decree against her father. To-day I cannot; to-morrow I
cannot; the day after to-morrow, I solemnly assure you, I will see her,
and reason with her, and convince her that you have acted throughout as
her best friend only could have done. You are too sensitive, my
Calabressa: ah, is it not the old romance recalled that is making you
so? But this I promise you, that she shall beg your pardon for having
turned away from you."

"Then," said Calabressa, with a little touch of indignant pride, "then
your Excellency imagines that it is my vanity that has been wounded?"

"No; it is your heart. And she will be sorry for having pained a true
friend: is not that as it should be? Why, your proposal, if she agreed
to it, what would be the result? You would stab her with remorse. For
this momentary slight you would say, 'See, I have killed myself. Learn
now that Calabressa loved you.' But that would be very like revenge, my
Calabressa; and you ought not to think of taking revenge on the daughter
of Natalie Berezolyi."

"Your Excellency--"

Calabressa was about to protest: but he was stopped.

"Leave it to me, my friend. The day after to-morrow we shall have more
leisure. Meanwhile, no more thoughts of quixotism. _Addio!_"



CHAPTER LVIII.

A SACRIFICE.


It would be difficult to say whether Calabressa was altogether sincere
in claiming to become the substitute for Ferdinand Lind, or whether he
was not practising a little self-deception, and pacifying his wounded
pride and affection by this outburst of generosity, while secretly
conscious that his offer would not be accepted. However, what Calabressa
had declared himself ready to do, in a fit of wild sentimentalism,
another had already done, in terrible earnest. A useless life had
suddenly become ennobled by a tragic and self-sacrificing death.

Two days after Lord Evelyn left for Naples, Brand and Gathorne Edwards
were as usual in the chambers in Lisle Street, and, the business of the
morning being mostly over, they were chatting together. There was a
brighter look on George Brand's face than there had been there for many
a day.

"What an indefatigable fellow that Molyneux is!" Edwards was saying.

"It is a good thing some one can do something," Brand answered. "As for
me, I can't settle down to anything. I feel as if I had been living on
laughing-gas these last two days. I feel as if I had come alive again
into another world, and was a little bit bewildered just as yet.
However, I suppose we shall get shaken into our new positions by-and-by;
and the sooner they let us know their final arrangements the better."

"As for me," said Edwards, carelessly, "now that I have left the Museum
I don't care where I may have to go."

At this moment a note was brought in by the old German, and handed to
Edwards. He glanced at the straggling, almost illegible, address in
pencil on the dirty envelope.

"Well, this is too bad," he said, impatiently.

"What is it?"

"That fellow Kirski. He is off again. I can see by his writing. He never
was very good at it; but this is the handwriting of delirium tremens."

He opened the letter, and glanced at the first page.

"Oh yes," he said, in disgust, "he's off again, clearly."

"What does he say?"

"The usual rigmarole--only not quite so legible. The beautiful angel
who was so kind to him--he has taken her portrait from its
hiding-place--it is sacred now--no more public house--well, it looks
rather as if he had been to several."

At this point, however, Edwards's pale, high forehead flushed a little.

"I wish I had not told him; but he speaks of Miss Lind being in
trouble--and he says God never meant one so beautiful and kind as she to
be in trouble--and if her father--"

His face grew grave.

"What is this?"

He turned the leaf suddenly, and glanced at the remainder of the letter.

"Good God! what does the man mean? What has he done?" he exclaimed.

His face was quite pale. The letter dropped from his hands. Then he
jumped to his feet.

"Come, Brand--quick--quick!" he said, hurriedly. "You must come with
me--"

"But what is the matter?" Brand said, following him in amazement.

"I don't know," said Edwards, almost incoherently. "He may be raving--it
may only be drunkenness--but he says he is about to kill himself in
place of Lind: the young lady shall not be troubled--she was kind to
him, and he is grateful. I am to send her a message."

By this time the two friends were hurrying to the dingy little
thoroughfare in which Kirski had his lodgings.

"Don't alarm yourself, Edwards," said Brand; "he has broken out again,
that is all."

"I am not so sure. He was at his work yesterday, and sober enough."

"His brain may have given way, then; it was never very strong. But these
continual ravings about murder or suicide are dangerous; they will
develop into homicidal mania, most likely; and if he cannot get at his
enemy Michaieloff he may do a mischief to somebody else."

"I hope he has not done a mischief to himself already," said Edwards,
who had had more opportunities than his companion of studying the
workings of Kirski's disordered brain.

They reached the house and knocked at the door. The landlady made her
appearance.

"Is Kirski in the house?" Edwards asked, eagerly.

"No, he ain't," she said, with but scant courtesy.

"Thank God!" he exclaimed, in great relief. "You are sure? He went out
to his work as usual?"

"How should I know?" said the woman, who was evidently not on good terms
with her lodger.

"He had his breakfast as usual?"

"His breakfast!" she said scornfully. "No, he hadn't. He may pick up his
breakfast about the streets, like a cat; but he don't have any 'ere. And
a cat he is, sneaking up and down the stairs: how do I know whether he
is in the house or whether he ain't?"

At this Edwards turned pale again with a sudden fear. Brand interposed.

"You don't know? Then show us his room; we will see for ourselves."

He passed the woman, leaving her to shut the door, and went into the
small dark passage, waiting for her at the foot of the stairs. Grumbling
to herself, she came along to show them the way. It did not pay her to
waste her time like this, she said, for a lodger who took no food in the
house, and spent his earnings in the gin-shop. She should not be
surprised if they were to find him asleep at that time of the day. He
had ways like a cat.

The landing they reached was as dark as the staircase; so that when she
turned a handle and flung a door open there was a sudden glare of light.
At the same moment she uttered a shrill scream, and retreated backward.
She had caught a glimpse of some horrible thing--she hardly knew what.
It was the body of the man Kirski lying prone upon the uncarpeted floor,
his hands clinched. There was a dark pool of blood beside him.

Edwards sunk shuddering into a chair, sick and faint. He could neither
move nor speak; he dared hardly look at the object lying there in the
wan light. But Brand went quickly forward, and took hold of one of these
clinched hands. It was quite cold. He tried to turn over the body, but
relinquished that effort. The cause of death was obvious enough. Kirski
had stabbed himself with one of the tools used in his trade; either he
had deliberately lain down on the floor to make sure of driving the
weapon home, or he had accidentally fallen so after dealing himself the
fatal blow. Apparently he had been dead for some hours.

Brand rose. The landlady at the door was alternately screaming and
sobbing; declaring that she was ruined; that not another lodger would
come to her house.

"Be quiet, woman, and send to the police-station at once," Brand said.
"Wait a moment: when did you last see this man?"

"This morning, sir--early this morning, sir," said she, in a profusion
of tears over her prospective loss. "He came down-stairs with a letter
in his hand, and there was twopence for my little boy to take it when he
came home from school. How should I know he had gone back, sir, to make
away with himself like that, and ruin a poor widow woman, sir?"

"Have you a servant in the house?"

"No sir; no one but myself--and me dependent--"

"Then go at once to the police-station, and tell the inspector on duty
what has happened. You can do that, can't you? You will do no good by
standing crying there, or getting the neighbors in. I will stop here
till you come back."

She went away, leaving Brand and his paralyzed companion with this
ghastly object lying prone on the floor.

"Poor devil!" Brand said; "his troubles are at an end now. I wonder
whether I should lift him on to the bed, or wait until they come."

Then another thought struck him: and he turned quickly to his companion,
who sat there horrified and helpless.

"Edwards," said he, "you must pull yourself together. The police will
ask you what you know about this affair. Then you will have to give
evidence before the coroner's inquest. There is nothing material for you
to conceal; but still, no mention must be made of Lisle Street, do you
understand?"

Edwards nodded. His face was of a ghastly white. Then he rose and said,

"Let us go somewhere else, Brand."

His companion took him down-stairs into the landlady's parlor, and got
him a glass of water. Apparently there was not a human being in the
house but themselves.

"Do you understand, Edwards? Give your private address--not Lisle
Street. Then you can tell the story simply enough: that unfortunate
fellow came all the way from Russia--virtually a maniac--you can tell
them his story if you like; or shall I?"

"Yes, yes. It has been too much for me, Brand. You see, I had no
business to tell him about Lind--"

"The poor wretch would have ended his days miserably anyhow, no doubt in
a mad-house, and probably after killing some quite innocent person.
By-the-way, they will ask you how you came to suspect. Where is that
letter?"

Edwards took it from his pocket.

"Tear it up."

He did so; but Brand took the fragments and put them in his own pocket.

"You can tell them he wrote to you, and from the madness of the letter
you thought something was wrong. You destroyed the letter. But where is
Natalie's portrait?--that must not fall into their hands."

He instantly went up-stairs again, leaving his companion alone. There
was something strange in his entering this room where the corpse lay; it
seemed necessary for him to walk on tiptoe: he uncovered his head. A
glance round the almost empty room speedily showed him what he wanted;
there was a small wooden casket in a dusky corner by the window, and
that, he made no doubt, was the box the unhappy Kirski had made to
contain Natalie's portrait, and that he had quite recently dug out from
its place of concealment. Brand was surprised, however, to find the
casket empty. Then he glanced at the fireplace; there was a little dust
there, as of burnt card-board. Then he made sure that Kirski himself had
taken steps to prevent the portrait falling into alien hands.

Beside the box, however, lay a piece of paper, written over in pencil.
He took it up and made out it was chiefly ill-spelled Italian:
"_Whatever punishment may be decreed against any Officer, Companion, or
Friend of the Society, may be vicariously borne by any other Officer,
Companion, or Friend, who, of his own full and free consent, acts as
substitute--the original offender becoming thereby redeemed, acquitted,
and released._" Then followed some words which he could not make out at
all.

He carried the paper down-stairs.

"He appears to have burnt the photograph, Edwards; but he has left
this--see."

Edwards glanced at the trembling scrawl with a slight shiver; the
handwriting was the same as that he had received half an hour before.

"It is only Article V.," he said. "The poor fellow used to keep
repeating that, after Calabressa and I taught him in Venice."

"But what is written below?"

Edwards forced himself to take the paper in his hands, and to scan more
carefully its contents.

"It is Russian," he said, "but so badly written. '_My life is not
endurable longer, but I shall die happy in being of service to the
beautiful angel who was kind to me. Tell her she need not be in trouble
any more. I forgive Pavel Michaieloff, as my masters desire. I do not
wish my wife or my neighbors to know what I have done._'"

"This we have no right to meddle with," Brand said, thoughtfully. "I
will put it back where I got it. But you see, Edwards, you will have to
admit that you were aware this poor wretch was in communication with
some secret society or other. Further than that you need say nothing.
The cause of his suicide is clear enough; the man was mad when he came
to England with that wild craving for revenge in his brain."

Brand carried the paper up-stairs again, and placed it where he had
found it. At the same moment there was a sound of footsteps below; and
presently the police-officers, accompanied by the landlady and by
Gathorne Edwards, who had somewhat recovered his composure, entered to
hold their preliminary investigation. The notes that the inspector took
down in his pocket-book were brief enough, and were mostly answers to
questions addressed to Brand, regarding what he knew of the deceased
man's circumstances. The police-surgeon had meanwhile had the body
placed on the bed; he also was of opinion that the man had been dead
some hours. Edwards translated for the inspector the writing on the
paper found lying there, and said he believed Kirski had some connection
with a secret society, but that it was obvious he had destroyed himself
from despair; and that, indeed, the unhappy man had never been properly
right in his mind since ever he had known him, though they had hoped, by
getting him to do steady work and sure wages, to wean him away from
brooding over the wrongs that had driven him from his native country.
Edwards gave the officer his address, Brand saying that he had to leave
England that same night, and would not be available for any further
inquiry, but that his friend knew precisely as much about the case as
himself. Then he and his companion left.

Edwards breathed more freely when he got out of the house, even into the
murky atmosphere of Soho.

"It is a tragic end," he said, "but perhaps it is the best that could
have befallen him. I called yesterday at the shop, and found he was
there, and sober, though I did not see him. I was surprised to find he
had gone back."

"I thought he had solemnly promised you not to drink any more," Brand
said.

"He had made the same promises before. He took to drink merely to
forget--to drown this thing that was working in his brain. If he had
lived, it would have been the old story over again. He would have buried
the portrait in St. James's Park, as he did before, gone back to the
gin-shop, and in course of time drank himself to death. This end is
terrible enough, but there is a touch of something fine about it--it
redeems much. What a worship the poor fellow had for Miss Lind, to be
sure; because she was kind to him when he was half mad with his wrongs.
I remember he used to go about the churches in Venice to see if any of
the saints in the pictures were like her, but none satisfied him. You
will send her a message of what he has done to repay her at last?"

"I will take it myself," said Brand, hastily. "I must go, Edwards. You
must get ---- or ---- to come to these chambers--any one you may think of.
I must go myself, and at once."

"To-night, then?"

"Yes, to-night. It is a pity I troubled Evelyn to go."

"He would stay a day, perhaps two days, in Genoa. It is just possible
you might overtake him by going straight through."

"Yes," said Brand, with a strange smile on his face, as if he were
looking at something far away, and it was scarcely to his companion that
he spoke, "I think I will go straight through. I should not like any one
but myself to take Natalie this news."

They walked back to the chambers, and Brand began to put things in order
for his going.

"It is rather a shame," he said, during this business, "for one to be
glad that this poor wretch has come to such an end; but what better
could have happened to him, as you say? You will see about a decent
funeral, Edwards; and I will leave you something to stop the mouth of
that caterwauling landlady. You can tell them at the inquest that he has
no relations in this country."

By-and-by he said,

"If there are any debts, I will pay them; and if no one has any
objection I should like to have that casket, to show to--to Miss Lind.
Did you see the carving on it?"

"I looked at it."

"He must have spent many a night working at that. Poor wretch, I wish I
had looked after him more, and done more for him. One always feels that
when people are dead, and it is too late."

"I don't see how you could have done more for him," Edwards said,
honestly enough: though indeed it was he himself who had been Kirski's
chief protector of late.

Before evening came Brand had put affairs in proper trim for his
departure, and he left London with a lighter heart than had been his for
a long time. But ever and anon, as he journeyed to the south, with a
wonderful picture of joy and happiness before him, his mind would wander
away back to the little room in Soho, and he could see the unhappy
Russian lying dead, with the message left behind for the beautiful angel
who had been kind to him; and he could not but think that Kirski would
have died happier if he had known that Natalie herself would come some
day and put flowers, tenderly and perhaps even with tears, on his grave.
Who that knew her could doubt but that that would be her first act on
returning to England? At least, Brand thought so.



CHAPTER LIX.

NATALIE SPEAKS.


It was about five in the morning, and as yet dark, when George Brand
arrived in Naples. He wrote a note asking Calabressa to call on him, and
left it to be despatched by the porter of the hotel; then he lay down
for an hour or two, without undressing, for he was somewhat fatigued
with his continuous travelling.

On going down to breakfast he got Calabressa's answer, saying he was
very sorry he could not obey the commands of his dear friend Monsieur
Brand, because he was on duty; but that he could be found, if Monsieur
Brand would have the goodness to seek out the wine-vaults of one
Tommaso, in the Vicolo Isotta. There, also, Monsieur Brand would see
some others.

Accordingly, after breakfast Brand set out, leisurely and observantly,
for he did not think there was any great hurry. It was a beautiful,
brisk, breezy morning, though occasionally a squall of rain swept across
the roughened sea, blotting out Capri altogether. There were crisp
gleams of white on the far plain, and there was a dazzling mist of
sunlight and sea-foam where the waves sprung high on the rocks of the
citadel; and even here in the busy streets there was a fresh sea-odor as
the gusts of the damp wind blew along. Naples was alive and busy, but
Brand regarded this swarming population with but little interest. He
knew that none of his friends would be out and abroad so early.

In due time he found out the gloomy little court and the wine-vaults.
Moreover, he had no trouble with the ghoul-like Tommaso, who had
apparently received his instructions. No sooner had Brand inquired for
Calabressa than he was invited to follow his guide, who waddled along,
candle in hand, like some over-grown orang-outang. At length they
reached the staircase, where there was a little more light, and here he
found Calabressa waiting to receive him. Calabressa seemed overjoyed.

"Yes, yes, my dear Monsieur Brand, you have arrived opportunely. You
also will remonstrate with that beautiful child for having fallen out
with her old friend Calabressa. Think of it! one who would wear his
knees out to serve her; and when I go to the hotel--"

"One word, Calabressa," said Brand, as he followed him into a small
empty room. "Tell me, is Lind in Naples?"

"Assuredly. He has petitioned for a year's grace: he wishes to join the
Montenegrins."

"He will have more than a year's grace," said Brand, gravely. "Something
has happened. You remember the man Kirski? Well, he has killed himself
to release Lind."

"Just Heaven!" Calabressa exclaimed; but the exclamation was one of
astonishment, not in the least of regret. On the contrary, he began to
speak in tones of exultation.

"Ah, let us hear now what the beautiful child will say! For who was it
that reclaimed that savage animal, and taught him the beautifulness of
self-sacrifice, and showed him how the most useless life could be made
serviceable and noble? Who but I? He was my pupil: I first watched the
light of virtue beginning to radiate through his savage nature. That is
what I will ask the beautiful Natalushka when I see her. Perhaps she
will not again turn away from an old friend--"

"You seem to forget, Calabressa, that your teaching has brought this man
to his death," Brand said.

"Why not?" said Calabressa, with a perfectly honest stare. "Why not? Was
it not well done? Was it not a fitting end? Why I, even I, who watched
him long, did not expect to see that: his savagery falling away from him
bit by bit; himself rising to this grand height, that he should give his
life to save another: I tell you it is a beautiful thing; he has
understood what I taught him; he has seen clear."

Calabressa was much excited, and very proud. It seemed to him that he
had saved a soul as he remarked in his ornate French.

"Perhaps it has all happened for the best," Brand said; "perhaps it was
the best that could have befallen that poor devil, too. But you are
mistaken, Calabressa, about his reasons for giving up his life like
that. It was not for the sake of a theory at all, admirable as your
teachings may have been; it was for the sake of Natalie Lind. He heard
she was in trouble, and he learned the cause of it. It was gratitude to
her--it was love for her--that made him do this."

Calabressa changed his ground in an instant.

"Assuredly--assuredly, my dear friend: do you think I fail to understand
that--I, who perceived that he worshipped that beautiful child as if she
were a saint, and more than all the saints--do you think I cannot mark
that--the sentiment of love, the fervor of worship, growing brighter and
purer day by day until it burst into the beautiful flame of
self-sacrifice? My faith! this must be told at once. Remain here a few
moments, my dear Mr. Brand. This is news indeed."

"Wait a bit, Calabressa. I came to you to get the name of Natalie's
hotel: and where is Lord Evelyn?"

"One moment--one moment," said the old albino, as he went out and shut
the door behind him.

When Calabressa ceased to talk in French, he ceased to use roundabout
literary sentimental metaphors; and his report, delivered in the next
room, would appear to have been brief enough; for almost immediately he
returned, accompanied by Von Zoesch, to whom Brand was introduced.

"I am honored in making your acquaintance," the tall soldier said, in a
pleasant way. "I have heard much of you; you are a good worker; likewise
you do not flinch when a duty is demanded of you. Perhaps, if you would
only condescend to re-enforce the treasury sometimes, the Council would
be still further grateful to you. However, we are not to become beggars
at a first interview--and that a short one, necessarily--for to-day we
start for Genoa."

"I am sorry for that," Brand said, simply. "There were some
representations I wished to lay before the Council--some very serious
representations."

"Perhaps some other time, then. In the meanwhile, our hands are full.
And that reminds me that the news you bring makes one of my tasks to-day
a pleasant one. Yes, I remember something of that maniac-fellow babbling
about a saint and an angel--I heard of it. So it was your beautiful Miss
Lind who was the saint and the angel? Well, do you know that I was
about to give that young lady a very good scolding to-day?"

Brand flushed quickly. The authority of the Council had no terrors for
him where Natalie was concerned.

"I beg to remind you," he said, respectfully but firmly, "that the fact
of Miss Lind's father being connected with the Society gives no one the
right to intermeddle in her private affairs--"

"Oh, but, my dear sir," said Von Zoesch laughing. "I have ample right.
Her mother Natalie and I are very old friends indeed. You have not seen
the charming young lady, then, since your arrival?"

"No."

"Excellent--excellent! You shall come and hear the scolding I have to
give her. Oh, I assure you it will not harm her much. Calabressa will
bring you along to the Villa Odelschalchi, eleven sharp. We must not
keep a lady--two ladies, indeed--waiting, after making an appointment."

He rose from the plain wooden chair on which he had been sitting; and
his visitor had to rise also. But Brand stood reluctant to go, and his
brows were drawn down.

"I beg your pardon," said he, "but if you are so busy, why not depute
some friend of the young lady to carry her a message? A girl is easily
frightened."

"No, no, my dear sir; having made an appointment, must we not keep it?
Come, I shall expect you to make one of the party; it will be a pleasant
little comedy before we go to more serious matters. _Au revoir!_" He
bowed slightly, and withdrew.

Some little time afterward Brand, Evelyn, and Calabressa were driving
along the rough streets in an open carriage. The presence of Lord Evelyn
had been a last concession obtained from General von Zoesch by
Calabressa.

"Why not?" Von Zoesch had said, good-naturedly; "he is one of us.
Besides, there is nothing of importance at Portici. It is a little
family party; it is a little comedy before we go to Genoa."

As they rattled along, Lord Evelyn was very talkative and joyous. He had
seen Natalie the evening before, within an hour after his arrival. He
was laughing at Brand for fearing she might have been induced to go to
some wretched inn.

"I myself, did I not say to you it was a beautiful hotel?" said
Calabressa, with a hurt air. "The most beautiful view in Naples."

"I think, after what she will hear to-day," said Evelyn, "she ought to
ask us to dine there. That would be an English way of finishing up all
her trials and troubles." But he turned to Calabressa with a graver
look. "What about Lind? Will they reinstate him now? Will they send him
back to England?"

"Reinstate him in office?" said Calabressa, with a scornful smile. "My
faith, no! Neither him nor Beratinsky. They will give them letters to
Montenegro: isn't it enough?"

"Well, I think so. And Reitzei?"

"Reitzei has been stationed at Brindisi--one of our moral police; and
lucky for him also."

When they arrived at the Villa Odelschalchi they were shown into a
little anteroom where they found Granaglia, and he was introduced to the
two strangers.

"Who have come?" Calabressa said, in a low voice.

The little sallow-faced Secretary smiled.

"Several Brothers of the Council," he said. "They wish to see this young
lady who has turned so many heads. You, for example, my Calabressa, are
mad with regard to her. Well, they pay her a compliment. It is the first
time any woman has been in the presence of the Council."

At this moment Von Zoesch came in, and hastily threw aside his
travelling-cloak.

"Come, my friends," said he, and he took them with him, leaving
Granaglia to receive the ladies when they should arrive.

The lofty and spacious apartment they now entered, on the other side of
the corridor, was apparently one of a suite of rooms facing the sea. Its
walls were decorated in Pompeian fashion, with simulated trellis-work,
and plenty of birds, beasts, and fishes about; but the massive curtains
and spreading chandeliers were all covered over as if the house had not
been inhabited for some time. All that was displayed of the furniture of
the chambers were some chairs of blue satin, with white and gold backs
and legs; and these looked strange enough, seeing that they were placed
irregularly round an oblong, rough deal table, which looked as if it had
just come from the workshop of some neighboring carpenter. At or near
this table several men, nearly all elderly, were sitting, talking
carelessly to each other; one of them, indeed, at the farthermost
corner, was a venerable patriarch, who wore a large soft wide-awake over
his snow-white hair. At the head of the table sat the handsome,
pale-faced, Greek-looking man who has been mentioned as one Conventz. He
was writing a letter, but stopped when Brand and Evelyn were introduced
to him. Then Calabressa drew in some more of the gilt and blue chairs,
and they sat down close by.

Brand kept anxiously looking toward the door. He had not long to wait.
When it opened, Granaglia appeared, conducting into the room two figures
dressed in black. These dark figures looked impressive in the great,
white, empty room.

For a second Natalie stood bewildered and irresolute, seeing all these
faces turned to her; and when her eyes fell on her lover, she turned
deadly pale. But she went forward, along with her mother, to the two
chairs brought for them by Granaglia, and they sat down. The mother was
veiled. Natalie glanced at her lover again; there was a strange look in
his face, but not of pain or fear.

"My dear young lady," said Von Zoesch, in his pleasantest way, "we have
nothing but good news to communicate to you, so you must not be alarmed.
You are among friends. We are going away to-day; we all wish to say
good-bye to you, and wish you a happy journey back to England; that is
all. But I will tell you that my first object in asking you to come here
was to give you a good rating; when you and I should have been alone
together I would have asked you if you had no consideration for old
friends, that you should have turned away from my colleague, Calabressa,
and wounded him grievously. I would have reminded you that it was not
he, but you yourself, who put the machinery in motion which secured your
father's righteous conviction."

"I ask you to spare me, signore," the girl said, in a low and trembling
voice.

"Oh, I am not now going to scold you, my dear young lady. I intended to
have done so. I intended to have shown you that you were wrong, and
exceedingly ungrateful, and that you ought to ask pardon of my friend
Calabressa. However, it is all changed. You need not fear him any more;
you need not turn away from him. Your father is pardoned, and free!"

She looked up, uncertain, as if she had not heard aright.

"I repeat: your father is pardoned, and free. You shall learn how and
why afterward. Meanwhile you have nothing before you, as I take it, but
to reap the reward of your bravery."

She did not hear this last sentence. She had turned quickly to her
mother.

"Mother, do you hear?" she said in a whisper.

"Yes, yes, child: thank God!"

"Now, you see, my dear young lady," Von Zoesch continued, "it is not a
scolding, but good news I have given you; and nothing remains but that
you should bid us good-bye, and say you are not sorry you appealed to us
when you were in trouble, according to the advice of your good friend
Calabressa. See, I have brought here with me a gentleman whom you know,
and who will see you safe back to Naples, and to England; and another,
his companion, who is also, I understand, an old friend of yours: you
will have a pleasant party. Your father will be sent to join in a good
cause, where he may retrieve his name if he chooses; you and your
friends go back to England. So I may say that all your wishes are
gratified at last, and we have nothing now but to say good-bye!"

The girl had been glancing timidly and nervously at the figures grouped
round the table, and her breast was heaving. She rose; perhaps it was to
enable herself to speak more freely; perhaps it was only out of
deference to those seated there.

"No," she said, in a low voice, but it was heard clearly enough in the
silence. "I--I would say a word to you--whom I may not see again. Yes, I
thank you--from my heart; you have taken a great trouble away from my
life. I--I thank you; but there is something I would say."

She paused for a second. She was very pale. She seemed to be nerving
herself for some effort; and, strangely enough, her mother's hand,
unseen, was stretched up to her, and she clasped it and held it tight.
It gave her courage.

"It is true, I am only a girl; you are my elders, and you are men; but I
have known good and brave men who were not ashamed to listen to what a
woman thought was right; and it is as a woman that I speak to you," she
said; and her voice, low and timid as it was, had a strange, pathetic
vibration in it, that went to the heart. "I have suffered much of late.
I hope no other woman will ever suffer in the same way."

Again she hesitated, but for the last time.

"Oh, gentlemen, you who are so powerful, you who profess to seek only
mercy and justice and peace, why should you, also, follow the old, bad,
cruel ways, and stain yourselves with blood? Surely it is not for you,
the friends of the poor, the champions of the weak, the teachers of the
people, to rely on the weapon of the assassin! When you go to the world,
and seek for help and labor, surely you should go with clean hands--so
that the wives and the sisters and the daughters of those who may join
you may not have their lives made terrible to them. It is not a reign
of terror you would establish on the earth! For the sake of those who
have already joined you--for the sake of the far greater numbers who may
yet be your associates--I implore you to abandon these secret and
dreadful means. Surely, gentlemen, the blessing of Heaven is more likely
to follow you and crown your work if you can say to every man whom you
ask to join you, 'You have women-folk around you. They have tender
consciences, perhaps; but we will ask of you nothing that your sister or
your wife or your daughter would not approve.' Then good men will not be
afraid of you; then brave men will not have to stifle their conscience
in serving you; and whether you succeed or do not succeed, you will have
walked in clear ways."

Her mother felt that she was trembling; but her voice did not
tremble--beyond that pathetic thrill in it which was always there when
she was deeply moved.

"I have to beg your pardon, sir," she said, addressing herself more
particularly to Von Zoesch, but scarcely daring to lift her eyes.
"But--but do not think that, when you have made everything smooth for a
woman's happiness, she can then think only of herself. She also may
think a little about others; and even with those who are nearest and
dearest to her, how can she bear to know that perhaps they may be
engaged in something dark and hidden, something terrible--not because it
involves danger but because it involves shame? Gentlemen, if you choose,
you can do this. I appeal to you. I implore you. If you do not seek the
co-operation of women--well, that is a light matter; you have our
sympathy and love and gratitude--at least you can pursue ways and means
of which women can approve; ways and means of which no one, man or
woman, needs be ashamed. How otherwise are you what you profess to
be--the lovers of what is just and true and merciful?"

She sat down, still all trembling. She held her mother's hand. There was
a murmur of sympathy and admiration.

Brand turned to Von Zoesch, and said, in a low voice,

"You hear, sir? These are the representations I had wished to lay before
the Council. I have not a word to add."

"We will consider by-and-by," said Von Zoesch, rising. "It is not a
great matter. Come to me in Genoa as you pass through."

But the tall old gentleman with the long white hair had already risen
and gone round to where the girl sat, and put his hand on her shoulder.

"My noble child, you have spoken well," said he, in a quavering, feeble
voice, "Forgive me that I come so near; my eyes are very weak now; and
you--you do not recognize me any more?"

"Anton!" said the mother.

"Child," said he, still addressing Natalie, "it is old Anton Pepczinski
who is speaking to you. But you are disturbed; and I have greatly
changed, no doubt. No matter. I have travelled a long way to bring you
my blessing, and I give it to you now: I shall not see you again in this
world. You were always brave and good; be that to the end; God has given
you a noble soul."

She looked up, and something in her face told him that she had
recognized him, despite the changes time had made.

"Yes, yes," he said, in great delight; "you remember now that you used
to bring me tobacco for my pipe, and ask if I would fight for your
country; I can see it in your eyes, my child: you remember, then, the
old Anton Pepczinski who used to bring you sweet things? Now come and
take me to the English gentleman; I wish to speak to him. Tell me, does
he love you--does he understand you?"

She was silent, and embarrassed.

"No! you will not speak?" the old man said, laughing; "you cast your
eyes down again. See, now, how one changes! for in former days you made
love openly enough--oh yes!--to me, to me myself--oh, my dear, I can
remember. I can remember very well. I am not so old that I cannot
remember."

Brand rose when he saw them coming. She regarded him earnestly for a
brief second or two, and said something to him in English in an
undertone, not understood by those standing round.



CHAPTER LX.

NEW SHORES.


The moonlight lay on the moving Atlantic, and filled the hollow world
with a radiance soft and gray and vague; but it struck sharp and white
on the polished rails and spars of this great steamer, and shone on the
long and shapely decks, and on the broad track of foam that went away
back and back and back until it was lost in the horizon. It was late;
and nearly all the passengers had gone below. In the silence there was
only heard the monotonous sound of the engines, and the continuous rush
and seething of the waters as the huge vessel clove its way onward.

Out there by the rail, in the white light, Natalie Lind lay back in her
chair, all wrapped up in furs, and her lover was by her side, on a rug
on the deck, his hand placed over her hand.

"To-morrow, then, Natalie," he was saying, "you will get your first
glimpse of America."

"So you see I have procured your banishment after all," she said, with a
smile.

"Not you," was the answer. "I had thought of it often. For a new life, a
new world; and it is a new life you and I are beginning together."

Here the bell in the steering-room struck the half-hour; it was repeated
by the lookout forward. The sound was strange, in the silence.

"Do you know," he said, after a while, "after we have done a fair share
of work, we might think ourselves entitled to rest; and what better
could we do than go back to England for a time, and go down to the old
place in Buckinghamshire? Then Mrs. Alleyne would be satisfied at last.
How proud the old dame was when she recognized you from your portrait!
She thought all her dreams had come true, and that there was nothing
left but to the Checkers and carry off that old cabinet as a wedding
present."

"Natalie," he said, presently, "how is it that you always manage to do
the right thing at the right time? When Mrs. Alleyne took your mother
and you in to the Checkers, and old Mrs. Diggles led you into her parlor
and dusted the table with her apron, what made you think of asking her
for a piece of cake and a cup of tea?"

"My dearest, I saw the cake in the bar!" she exclaimed.

"I believe the old woman was ready to faint with delight when you
praised her currant-wine, and asked how she made it. You have a
wonderful way of getting round people--whether by fair means or
otherwise I don't know. Do you think if it had been anybody else but you
who went to Von Zoesch in Genoa, he would have let Calabressa come with
us to America?"

"Poor old Calabressa!" she said, laughing; "he is very brave now about
the sea; but he was terribly frightened that bad night we had after
leaving Queenstown."

Here some one appeared in the dusky recess at the top of the
companion-stairs, and stepped out into the open.

"Are you people never coming below at all?" he said. "I have to inform
you, Miss Natalie, with your mamma's compliments, that she can't get on
with her English verbs because of that fat girl playing Strauss; and
that she is going to her cabin, and wants to know when you are coming."

"Now, at once," said Natalie, getting up out of her chair. "But wait a
moment, Evelyn: I cannot go without bidding good-night to Calabressa.
Where is Calabressa?"

"Calabressa! Oh, in the smoking-room, betting like mad, and going in for
all the mock-auctions. I expect some of them will sit up all night to
get their first sight of the land. The pilot expects that will be
shortly after daybreak."

"You will be in time for that, Natalie, won't you?" Brand asked.

"Oh yes. Good-night, Evelyn!" and she gave him her hand.

Brand went with her down the companion-stairs, carrying her rugs and
shawls. In the corridor she turned to bid him good-night also.

"Dearest," she said, in a low voice, "do you know what I have been
trying all day--to get you to say one word, the smallest word, of
regret?"

"But if I have no regret whatever, how can I express any?"

"Sure?"

He laughed, and kissed her.

"Good-night, my darling!"

"Good-night; God bless you!"

Then he made his way along the gloomy corridor again and up the broad
zinc steps, and out into the moonlight. Evelyn was there, leaning with
his arms on the hand-rail, and idly watching, far below, the gleams of
light on the gray-black waves.

"It is too fine a night to go below," he said. "What do you say,
Brand--shall we wait up for the daylight and the first glimpse of
America?"

"If you like," said Brand, taking out his cigar-case, and hauling along
the chair in which Natalie had been sitting.

They had the whole of this upper deck to themselves, except when one or
other of the officers passed on his rounds. They could talk without risk
of being overheard: and they had plenty to talk about--of all that had
happened of late, of all that might happen to them in this new country
they were nearing.

"Well," he said, "Evelyn, that settlement in Genoa clinched everything,
as far as I am concerned. I have no longer any doubt, any hesitation:
there is nothing to be concealed now--nothing to be withheld, even from
those who are content to remain merely as our friends. One might have
gone on as before; for, after all, these death-penalties only attached
to the officers; and the great mass of the members, not being touched by
them, need have known nothing about them. But it is better now."

"It was Natalie's appeal that settled that," Lord Evelyn said, as he
still watched the shining waves.

"The influence of that girl is extraordinary. One could imagine that
some magnetism radiated from her; or perhaps it is her voice, and her
clear faith, and her enthusiasm. When she said something to old Anton
Pepczinski, on bidding him good-bye--not about herself, or about him,
but about what some of us were hoping for--he was crying like a child!
In other times she might have done great things: she might have led
armies."

By-and-by he said,

"As for those decrees, what use were they? From all I could learn, only
ten have been issued since the Society was in existence; and eight of
those were for the punishment of officers, who ought merely to have been
expelled. Of course you will get people like Calabressa, with a touch of
theatrical-mindedness, who have a love for the terrorism such a thing
can produce. But what use is it? It is not by striking down an
individual here or there that you can help on any wide movement; and
this great organization, that I can see in the future will have other
things to do than take heed of personal delinquencies--except in so far
as to purge out from itself unworthy members--its action will affect
continents, not persons."

"You can see that--you believe that, Brand?" Lord Evelyn, said, turning
and regarding him.

"Yes, I think so," he answered, without enthusiasm, but with simple
sincerity. Presently he said, "You remember, Evelyn, the morning we
turned out of the little inn on the top of the Niessen, to see the sun
rise over the Bernese Alps?"

"I remember it was precious cold," said Lord Evelyn, almost with a
shiver.

"You remember, when we got to the highest point, we looked down into the
great valleys, where the lakes and the villages were, and there it was
still night under the heavy clouds. But before us, where the peaks of
the Jungfrau, and the Wetterhorn, and the rest of them rose into the
clear sky, there was a curious faint light that showed the day was
coming. And we waited and watched, and the light grew stronger, and all
sorts of colors began to show along the peaks. That was the sunrise. But
down in the valleys everything was misty and dark and cold--everything
asleep; the people there could see nothing of the new day we were
looking at. And so I suppose it is with us now. We are looking ahead. We
see, or fancy we see, the light before the others; but, sooner or later,
they will see it also, for the sunrise is bound to come."

They continued talking, and they paced up and down the decks, while the
half-hours and hours were struck by the bells. The moon was declining to
the horizon. Long ago the last of the revellers had left the
smoking-room, and there was nothing to interrupt the stillness but the
surge of the waters.

Then again--

"Have you noticed Natalie's mother of late? It is a pleasure to watch
the poor woman's face; she seems to drink in happiness by merely looking
at her daughter; every time that Natalie laughs you can see her mother's
eyes brighten."

"I have noticed a great change in Natalie herself," Evelyn said. "She is
looking younger; she has lost that strange, half-apprehensive expression
of the eyes; and she seems to be in excellent spirits. Calabressa is
more devotedly her slave than ever."

"You should have seen him when Von Zoesch told him to pack up and be off
to America."

By-and-by he said,

"You know, Evelyn, if you can't stay in America with us altogether--and
that would be too much to expect--don't say anything as yet to Natalie
about your going back. She has the notion that our little colony is to
be founded as a permanency."

"Oh, I am in no hurry," said Evelyn, carelessly. "Things will get along
at home well enough without me. Didn't I tell you that, once those girls
began to go, they would go, like lightning? It is rough on Blanche,
though, that Truda should come next. By-the-way, in any case, Brand, I
must remain in America for your wedding."

"Oh, you will, will you?" said Brand. "Then that settles one point--you
won't be going back very soon."

"Why?"

"Of course, Natalie and I won't marry until she is of age; that is a
good year and a half yet. Did you hear of Calabressa's mad proposal that
he should extort from Lind his consent to our marriage as the price of
the good news that he, Calabressa, had to reveal? Like him, wasn't it?
an ingenious scheme."

"What did you say?"

"Why, what could I say? I would not be put under any obligation to Lind
on any account whatever. We can wait; it is not a long time."

The moonlight waned, and there was another light slowly declaring itself
in the east. The two friends continued talking, and did not notice how
that the cold blue light beyond the sea was gradually yielding to a
silver-gray. The pilot and first mate, who were on the bridge, had just
been joined by the captain.

The silver-gray in its turn gave place to a clear yellow, and high up
one or two flakes of cloud became of a saffron-red. Then the burning
edge of the sun appeared over the waves; the world lightened; the masts
and funnels of the steamer caught the glory streaming over from the
east. The ship seemed to waken also; one or two stragglers came tumbling
up from below, rubbing their eyes, and staring strangely around them;
but as yet no land was in sight.

The sunrise now flooded the sky and the sea; the number of those on deck
increased; and at last there was an eager passing round of binoculars,
and a murmur of eager interest. Those with sharp eyes enough could make
out, right ahead, in the midst of the pale glow of the morning, a thin
blue line of coast.

The great steamer surged on through the sunlit waters. And now even
those who were without glasses could distinguish, here and there along
that line of pale-blue land, a touch of yellowish-white; and they
guessed that the new world there was already shining with the light of
the new day. Brand felt a timid, small hand glide into his. Natalie was
standing beside him, her beautiful black hair a trifle dishevelled,
perhaps, and her eyes still bearing traces of her having been in the
realm of dreams; but those eyes were full of tenderness, nevertheless,
as she met his look. He asked her if she could make out that strip of
coast beyond the shining waters.

"Can you see, Natalie? It is our future home!"

"Oh yes, I can see it," she said; "and the sunrise is there before us:
it is a happy sign."

       *       *       *       *       *

There remains to be added only this--that about the last thing Natalie
Lind did before leaving England was to go and plant some flowers,
carefully and tenderly, on Kirski's grave; and that about the first
thing she did on landing in America was to write to Madame Potecki,
asking her to look after the little Anneli, and sending many loving
messages: for this girl--or, rather, this beautiful child, as Calabressa
would persist in calling her--had a large heart, that could hold many
affections and many memories, and that was not capable of forgetting any
one who had been kind to her.


  THE END.


[Transcriber's Note: obvious printer's errors / misspellings have been
corrected, please see the HTML version for detail.]





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