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Title: The Dictator
Author: McCarthy, Justin, 1830-1912
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 "The Dictator" ***

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THE DICTATOR

by

JUSTIN McCARTHY, M.P.

Author of 'Dear Lady Disdain' 'Donna Quixote' Etc.

A New Edition



London
Chatto & Windus, Piccadilly
1895

Printed by
Spottiswoode and Co., New-Street Square
London



CONTENTS


       I. AN EXILE IN LONDON

      II. A GENTLEMAN-ADVENTURER

     III. AT THE GARDEN GATE

      IV. THE LANGLEYS

       V. 'MY GREAT DEED WAS TOO GREAT'

      VI. 'HERE IS MY THRONE--BID KINGS COME BOW TO IT'

     VII. THE PRINCE AND CLAUDIO

    VIII. 'I WONDER WHY?'

      IX. THE PRIVATE SECRETARY

       X. A SOLDIER OF FORTUNE

      XI. HELENA

     XII. DOLORES

    XIII. DOLORES ON THE LOOK-OUT

     XIV. A SICILIAN KNIFE

      XV. 'IF I WERE TO ASK YOU?'

     XVI. THE CHILDREN OF GRIEVANCE

    XVII. MISS PAULO'S OBSERVATION

   XVIII. HELENA KNOWS HERSELF, BUT NOT THE OTHER

     XIX. TYPICAL AMERICANS--NO DOUBT

      XX. THE DEAREST GIRL IN THE WORLD

     XXI. MORGIANA

    XXII. THE EXPEDITION

   XXIII. THE PANGS OF THE SUPPRESSED MESSAGE

    XXIV. THE EXPLOSION

     XXV. SOME VICTIMS

    XXVI. 'WHEN ROGUES----'

   XXVII. 'SINCE IT IS SO!'



THE DICTATOR



CHAPTER I

AN EXILE IN LONDON


The May sunlight streamed in through the window, making curious patterns
of the curtains upon the carpet. Outside, the tide of life was flowing
fast; the green leaves of the Park were already offering agreeable shade
to early strollers; the noise of cabs and omnibuses had set in steadily
for the day. Outside, Knightsbridge was awake and active; inside, sleep
reigned with quiet. The room was one of the best bedrooms in Paulo's
Hotel; it was really tastefully furnished, soberly decorated, in the
style of the fifteenth French Louis. A very good copy of Watteau was
over the mantel-piece, the only picture in the room. There had been a
fire in the hearth overnight, for a grey ash lay there. Outside on the
ample balcony stood a laurel in a big blue pot, an emblematic tribute on
Paulo's part to honourable defeat which might yet turn to victory.

There were books about the room: a volume of Napoleon's maxims, a French
novel, a little volume of Sophocles in its original Greek. A
uniform-case and a sword-case stood in a corner. A map of South America
lay partially unrolled upon a chair. The dainty gilt clock over the
mantel-piece, a genuine heritage from the age of Louis Quinze, struck
eight briskly. The Dictator stirred in his sleep.

Presently there was a tapping at the door to the left of the bed, a door
communicating with the Dictator's private sitting-room. Still the
Dictator slept, undisturbed by the slight sound. The sound was not
repeated, but the door was softly opened, and a young man put his head
into the room and looked at the slumbering Dictator. The young man was
dark, smooth-shaven, with a look of quiet alertness in his face. He
seemed to be about thirty years of age. His dark eyes watched the
sleeping figure affectionately for a few seconds. 'It seems a pity to
wake him,' he muttered; and he was about to draw his head back and close
the door, when the Dictator stirred again, and suddenly waking swung
himself round in the bed and faced his visitor. The visitor smiled
pleasantly. 'Buenos dias, Escelencia,' he said.

The Dictator propped himself up on his left arm and looked at him.

'Good morning, Hamilton,' he answered. 'What's the good of talking
Spanish here? Better fall back upon simple Saxon until we can see the
sun rise again in Gloria. And as for the Excellency, don't you think we
had better drop that too?'

'Until we see the sun rise in Gloria,' said Hamilton. He had pushed the
door open now, and entered the room, leaning carelessly against the
door-post. 'Yes; that may not be so far off, please Heaven; and, in the
meantime, I think we had better stick to the title and all forms,
Excellency.'

The Dictator laughed again. 'Very well, as you please. The world is
governed by form and title, and I suppose such dignities lend a decency
even to exile in men's eyes. Is it late? I was tired, and slept like a
dog.'

'Oh no; it's not late,' Hamilton answered. 'Only just struck eight. You
wished to be called, or I shouldn't have disturbed you.'

'Yes, yes; one must get into no bad habits in London. All right; I'll
get up now, and be with you in twenty minutes.'

'Very well, Excellency.' Hamilton bowed as he spoke in his most official
manner, and withdrew. The Dictator looked after him, laughing softly to
himself.

'L'excellence malgré lui,' he thought. 'An excellency in spite of
myself. Well, I dare say Hamilton is right; it may serve to fill my
sails when I have any sails to fill. In the meantime let us get up and
salute London. Thank goodness it isn't raining, at all events.'

He did his dressing unaided. 'The best master is his own man' was an
axiom with him. In the most splendid days of Gloria he had always
valeted himself; and in Gloria, where assassination was always a
possibility, it was certainly safer. His body-servant filled his bath
and brought him his brushed clothes; for the rest he waited upon
himself.

He did not take long in dressing. All his movements were quick, clean,
and decisive; the movements of a man to whom moments are precious, of a
man who has learnt by long experience how to do everything as shortly
and as well as possible. As soon as he was finished he stood for an
instant before the long looking-glass and surveyed himself. A man of
rather more than medium height, strongly built, of soldierly carriage,
wearing his dark frock-coat like a uniform. His left hand seemed to miss
its familiar sword-hilt. The face was bronzed by Southern suns; the
brown eyes were large, and bright, and keen; the hair was a fair brown,
faintly touched here and there with grey. His full moustache and beard
were trimmed to a point, almost in the Elizabethan fashion. Any serious
student of humanity would at once have been attracted by the face.
Habitually it wore an expression of gentle gravity, and it could smile
very sweetly, but it was the face of a strong man, nevertheless, of a
stubborn man, of a man ambitious, a man with clear resolve, personal or
otherwise, and prompt to back his resolve with all he had in life, and
with life itself.

He put into his buttonhole the green-and-yellow button which represented
the order of the Sword and Myrtle, the great Order of La Gloria, which
in Gloria was invested with all the splendour of the Golden Fleece; the
order which could only be worn by those who had actually ruled in the
republic. That, according to satirists, did not greatly limit the number
of persons who had the right to wear it. Then he formally saluted
himself in the looking-glass. 'Excellency,' he said again, and laughed
again. Then he opened his double windows and stepped out upon the
balcony.

London was looking at its best just then, and his spirits stirred in
grateful response to the sunlight. How dismal everything would have
seemed, he was thinking, if the streets had been soaking under a leaden
sky, if the trees had been dripping dismally, if his glance directed to
the street below had rested only upon distended umbrellas glistening
like the backs of gigantic crabs! Now everything was bright, and London
looked as it can look sometimes, positively beautiful. Paulo's Hotel
stands, as everybody knows, in the pleasantest part of Knightsbridge,
facing Kensington Gardens. The sky was brilliantly blue, the trees were
deliciously green; Knightsbridge below him lay steeped in a pure gold of
sunlight. The animation of the scene cheered him sensibly. May is seldom
summery in England, but this might have been a royal day of June.

Opposite to him he could see the green-grey roofs of Kensington Palace.
At his left he could see a public-house which bore the name and stood
upon the site of the hostelry where the Pretender's friends gathered on
the morning when they expected to see Queen Anne succeeded by the heir
to the House of Stuart. Looking from the one place to the other, he
reflected upon the events of that morning when those gentlemen waited in
vain for the expected tidings, when Bolingbroke, seated in the council
chamber at yonder palace, was so harshly interrupted. It pleased the
stranger for a moment to trace a resemblance between the fallen fortunes
of the Stuart Prince and his own fallen fortunes, as dethroned Dictator
of the South American Republic of Gloria. 'London is my St. Germain's,'
he said to himself with a laugh, and he drummed the national hymn of
Gloria upon the balcony-rail with his fingers.

His gaze, wandering over the green bravery of the Park, lost itself in
the blue sky. He had forgotten London; his thoughts were with another
place under a sky of stronger blue, in the White House of a white square
in a white town. He seemed to hear the rattle of rifle shots, shrill
trumpet calls, angry party cries, the clatter of desperate charges
across the open space, the angry despair of repulses, the piteous
pageant of civil war. Knightsbridge knew nothing of all that. Danes may
have fought there, the chivalry of the White Rose or the Red Rose ridden
there, gallant Cavaliers have spurred along it to fight for their king.
All that was past; no troops moved there now in hostility to brethren of
their blood. But to that one Englishman standing there, moody in spite
of the sunlight, the scene which his eyes saw was not the tranquil
London street, but the Plaza Nacional of Gloria, red with blood, and
'cut up,' in the painter's sense, with corpses.

'Shall I ever get back? Shall I ever get back?' that was the burden to
which his thoughts were dancing. His spirit began to rage within him to
think that he was here, in London, helpless, almost alone, when he ought
to be out there, sword in hand, dictating terms to rebels repentant or
impotent. He gave a groan at the contrast, and then he laughed a little
bitterly and called himself a fool. 'Things might be worse,' he said.
'They might have shot me. Better for them if they had, and worse for
Gloria. Yes, I am sure of it--worse for Gloria!'

His mind was back in London now, back in the leafy Park, back in
Knightsbridge. He looked down into the street, and noted that a man was
loitering on the opposite side. The man in the street saw that the
Dictator noted him. He looked up at the Dictator, looked up above the
Dictator, and, raising his hat, pointed as if towards the sky. The
Dictator, following the direction of the gesture, turned slightly and
looked upwards, and received a sudden thrill of pleasure, for just above
him, high in the air, he could see the flutter of a mass of green and
yellow, the colours of the national flag of Gloria. Mr. Paulo, mindful
of what was due even to exiled sovereignty, had flown the Gloria flag in
honour of the illustrious guest beneath his roof. When that guest looked
down again the man in the street had disappeared.

'That is a good omen. I accept it,' said the Dictator. 'I wonder who my
friend was?' He turned to go back into his room, and in doing so noticed
the laurel.

'Another good omen,' he said. 'My fortunes feel more summerlike already.
The old flag still flying over me, an unknown friend to cheer me, and a
laurel to prophesy victory--what more could an exile wish? His
breakfast, I think,' and on this reflection he went back into his
bedroom, and, opening the door through which Hamilton had talked to him,
entered the sitting-room.



CHAPTER II

A GENTLEMAN ADVENTURER


The room which the Dictator entered was an attractive room, bright with
flowers, which Miss Paulo had been pleased to arrange herself--bright
with the persevering sunshine. It was decorated, like his bedroom, with
the restrained richness of the mid-eighteenth century. With discretion,
Paulo had slightly adapted the accessories of the room to please by
suggestion the susceptibilities of its occupant. A marble bust of Cæsar
stood upon the dwarf bookcase. A copy of a famous portrait of Napoleon
was on one of the walls; on another an engraving of Dr. Francia still
more delicately associated great leaders with South America. At a table
in one corner of the room--a table honeycombed with drawers and
pigeon-holes, and covered with papers, letters, documents of all
kinds--Hamilton sat writing rapidly. Another table nearer the window,
set apart for the Dictator's own use, had everything ready for
business--had, moreover, in a graceful bowl of tinted glass, a large
yellow carnation, his favourite flower, the flower which had come to be
the badge of those of his inclining. This, again, was a touch of Miss
Paulo's sympathetic handiwork.

The Dictator, whose mood had brightened, smiled again at this little
proof of personal interest in his welfare. As he entered, Hamilton
dropped his pen, sprang to his feet, and advanced respectfully to greet
him. The Dictator pointed to the yellow carnation.

'The way of the exiled autocrat is made smooth for him here, at least,'
he said.

Hamilton inclined his head gravely. 'Mr. Paulo knows what is due,' he
answered, 'to John Ericson, to the victor of San Felipe and the Dictator
of Gloria. He knows how to entertain one who is by right, if not in
fact, a reigning sovereign.'

'He hangs out our banner on the outer wall,' said Ericson, with an
assumed gravity as great as Hamilton's own. Then he burst into a laugh
and said, 'My dear Hamilton, it's all very well to talk of the victor of
San Felipe and the Dictator of Gloria. But the victor of San Felipe is
the victim of the Plaza Nacional, and the Dictator of Gloria is at
present but one inconsiderable item added to the exile world of London,
one more of the many refugees who hide their heads here, and are unnoted
and unknown.'

His voice had fallen a little as his sentences succeeded each other, and
the mirth in his voice had a bitter ring in it when he ended. His eye
ranged from the bust to the picture, and from the picture to the
engraving contemplatively.

Something in the contemplation appeared to cheer him, for his look was
brighter, and his voice had the old joyous ring in it when he spoke
again. It was after a few minutes' silence deferentially observed by
Hamilton, who seemed to follow and to respect the course of his leader's
thoughts.

'Well,' he said, 'how is the old world getting on? Does she roll with
unabated energy in her familiar orbit, indifferent to the fall of states
and the fate of rulers? Stands Gloria where she did?'

Hamilton laughed. 'The world has certainly not grown honest, but there
are honest men in her. Here is a telegram from Gloria which came this
morning. It was sent, of course, as usual, to our City friends, who sent
it on here immediately.' He handed the despatch to his chief, who seized
it and read it eagerly. It seemed a commonplace message enough--the
communication of one commercial gentleman in Gloria with another
commercial gentleman in Farringdon Street. But to the eyes of Hamilton
and of Ericson it meant a great deal. It was a secret communication from
one of the most influential of the Dictator's adherents in Gloria. It
was full of hope, strenuously encouraging. The Dictator's face
lightened.

'Anything else?' he asked.

'These letters,' Hamilton answered, taking up a bundle from the desk at
which he had been sitting. 'Five are from money-lenders offering to
finance your next attempt. There are thirty-three requests for
autographs, twenty-two requests for interviews, one very pressing from
"The Catapult," another from "The Moon"--Society papers, I believe; ten
invitations to dinner, six to luncheon; an offer from a well-known
lecturing agency to run you in the United States; an application from a
publisher for a series of articles entitled "How I Governed Gloria," on
your own terms; a letter from a certain Oisin Stewart Sarrasin, who
calls himself Captain, and signs himself a soldier of fortune.'

'What does _he_ want?' asked Ericson. 'His seems to be the most
interesting thing in the lot.'

'He offers to lend you his well-worn sword for the re-establishment of
your rule. He hints that he has an infallible plan of victory, that in a
word he is your very man.'

The Dictator smiled a little grimly. 'I thought I could do my own
fighting,' he said. 'But I suppose everybody will be wanting to help me
now, every adventurer in Europe who thinks that I can no longer help
myself. I don't think we need trouble Captain Stewart. Is that his
name?'

'Stewart Sarrasin.'

'Sarrasin--all right. Is that all?'

'Practically all,' Hamilton answered. 'A few other letters of no
importance. Stay; no, I forgot. These cards were left this morning, a
little after nine o'clock, by a young lady who rode up attended by her
groom.'

'A young lady,' said Ericson, in some surprise, as he extended his hand
for the cards.

'Yes, and a very pretty young lady too,' Hamilton answered, 'for I
happened to be in the hall at the time, and saw her.'

Ericson took the cards and looked at them. They were two in number; one
was a man's card, one a woman's. The man's card bore the legend 'Sir
Rupert Langley,' the woman's was merely inscribed 'Helena Langley.' The
address was a house at Prince's Gate.

The Dictator looked up surprised. 'Sir Rupert Langley, the Foreign
Secretary?'

'I suppose it must be,' Hamilton said, 'there can't be two men of the
same name. I have a dim idea of reading something about his daughter in
the papers some time ago, just before our revolution, but I can't
remember what it was.'

'Very good of them to honour fallen greatness, in any case,' Ericson
said. 'I seem to have more friends than I dreamed of. In the meantime
let us have breakfast.'

Hamilton rang the bell, and a man brought in the coffee and rolls which
constituted the Dictator's simple breakfast. While he was eating it he
glanced over the letters that had come. 'Better refuse all these
invitations, Hamilton.'

Hamilton expostulated. He was Ericson's intimate and adviser, as well as
secretary.

'Do you think that is the best thing to do?' he suggested. 'Isn't it
better to show yourself as much as possible, to make as many friends as
you can? There's a good deal to be done in that way, and nothing much
else to do for the present. Really I think it would be better to accept
some of them. Several are from influential political men.'

'Do you think these influential political men would help me?' the
Dictator asked, good-humouredly cynical. 'Did they help Kossuth? Did
they help Garibaldi? What I want are war-ships, soldiers, a big loan,
not the agreeable conversation of amiable politicians.'

'Nevertheless----' Hamilton began to protest.

His chief cut him short. 'Do as you please in the matter, my dear boy,'
he said. 'It can't do any harm, anyhow. Accept all you think it best to
accept; decline the others. I leave myself confidently in your hands.'

'What are you going to do this morning?' Hamilton inquired. 'There are
one or two people we ought to think of seeing at once. We mustn't let
the grass grow under our feet for one moment.'

'My dear boy,' said Ericson good-humouredly, 'the grass shall grow under
my feet to-day, so far as all that is concerned. I haven't been in
London for ten years, and I have something to do before I do anything
else. To-morrow you may do as you please with me. But if you insist upon
devoting this day to the cause----'

'Of course I do,' said Hamilton.

'Then I graciously permit you to work at it all day, while I go off and
amuse myself in a way of my own. You might, if you can spare the time,
make a call at the Foreign Office and say I should be glad to wait on
Sir Rupert Langley there, any day and hour that suit him--we must smooth
down the dignity of these Foreign Secretaries, I suppose?'

'Oh, of course,' Hamilton said, peremptorily. Hamilton took most things
gravely; the Dictator usually did not. Hamilton seemed a little put out
because his chief should have even indirectly suggested the possibility
of his not waiting on Sir Rupert Langley at the Foreign Office.

'All right, boy; it shall be done. And look here, Hamilton, as we are
going to do the right thing, why should you not leave cards for me and
for yourself at Sir Rupert Langley's house? You might see the daughter.'

'Oh, she never heard of me,' Hamilton said hastily.

'The daughter of a Foreign Secretary?'

'Anyhow, of course I'll call if you wish it, Excellency.'

'Good boy! And do you know I have taken a fancy that I should like to
see this soldier of fortune, Captain----'

'Sarrasin?'

'Sarrasin--yes. Will you drop him a line and suggest an
interview--pretty soon? You know all about my times and engagements.'

'Certainly, your Excellency,' Hamilton replied, with almost military
formality and precision; and the Dictator departed.



CHAPTER III

AT THE GARDEN GATE


Londoners are so habituated to hear London abused as an ugly city that
they are disposed too often to accept the accusation humbly. Yet the
accusation is singularly unjust. If much of London is extremely
unlovely, much might fairly be called beautiful. The new Chelsea that
has arisen on the ashes of the old might well arouse the admiration even
of the most exasperated foreigner. There are recently created regions in
that great tract of the earth's surface known as South Kensington which
in their quaintness of architectural form and braveness of red brick can
defy the gloom of a civic March or November. Old London is disappearing
day by day, but bits of it remain, bits dear to those familiar with
them, bits worth the enterprise of the adventurous, which call for frank
admiration and frank praise even of people who hated London as fully as
Heinrich Heine did. But of all parts of the great capital none perhaps
deserve so fully the title to be called beautiful as some portions of
Hampstead Heath.

Some such reflections floated lightly through the mind of a man who
stood, on this May afternoon, on a high point of Hampstead Hill. He had
climbed thither from a certain point just beyond the Regent's Park, to
which he had driven from Knightsbridge. From that point out the way was
a familiar way to him, and he enjoyed walking along it and noting old
spots and the changes that time had wrought. Now, having reached the
highest point of the ascent, he paused, standing on the grass of the
heath, and turning round, with his back to the country, looked down upon
the town.

There is no better place from which to survey London. To impress a
stranger with any sense of the charm of London as a whole, let him be
taken to that vantage-ground and bidden to gaze. The great city seemed
to lie below and around him as in a hollow, tinged and glorified by the
luminous haze of the May day. The countless spires which pointed to
heaven in all directions gave the vast agglomeration of buildings
something of an Italian air; it reminded the beholder agreeably of
Florence. To right and to left the gigantic city spread, its grey wreath
of eternal smoke resting lightly upon its fretted head, the faint roar
of its endless activity coming up distinctly there in the clear windless
air. The beholder surveyed it and sighed slightly, as he traced
meaningless symbols on the turf with the point of his stick.

'What did Cæsar say?' he murmured. 'Better be the first man in a village
than the second man in Rome! Well, there never was any chance of my
being the second man in Rome; but, at least, I have been the first man
in my village, and that is something. I suppose I reckon as about the
last man there now. Well, we shall see.'

He shrugged his shoulders, nodded a farewell to the city below him, and,
turning round, proceeded to walk leisurely across the Heath. The grass
was soft and springy, the earth seemed to answer with agreeable
elasticity to his tread, the air was exquisitely clear, keen, and
exhilarating. He began to move more briskly, feeling quite boyish again.
The years seemed to roll away from him as rifts of sea fog roll away
before a wind.

Even Gloria seemed as if it had never been--aye, and things before
Gloria was, events when he was still really quite a young man.

He cut at the tufted grasses with his stick, swinging it in dexterous
circles as if it had been his sword. He found himself humming a tune
almost unconsciously, but when he paused to consider what the tune was
he found it was the national march of Gloria. Then he stopped humming,
and went on for a while silently and less joyously. But the gladness of
the fine morning, of the clear air, of the familiar place, took
possession of him again. His face once more unclouded and his spirits
mounted.

'The place hasn't changed much,' he said to himself, looking around him
while he walked. Then he corrected himself, for it had changed a good
deal. There were many more red brick houses dotting the landscape than
there had been when he last looked upon it some seven years earlier.

In all directions these red houses were springing up, quaintly gabled,
much verandahed, pointed, fantastic, brilliant. They made the whole
neighbourhood of the Heath look like the Merrie England of a comic
opera. Yet they were pretty in their way; many were designed by able
architects, and pleased with a balanced sense of proportion and an
impression of beauty and fitness. Many, of course, lacked this, were but
cheap and clumsy imitations of a prevailing mode, but, taken all
together, the effect was agreeable, the effect of the varied reds,
russet, and scarlet and warm crimson against the fresh green of the
grass and trees and the pale faint blue of the May sky.

To the observer they seemed to suit very well the place, the climate,
the conditions of life. They were infinitely better than suburban and
rural cottages people used to build when he was a boy. His mind drifted
away to the kind of houses he had been more familiar with of late years,
houses half Spanish, half tropical; with their wide courtyards and gaily
striped awnings and white walls glaring under a glaring sun.

'Yes, all this is very restful,' he thought--'restful, peaceful,
wholesome.' He found himself repeating softly the lines of Browning,
beginning, 'Oh to be in England now that April's here,' and the
transitions of thought carried him to that other poem beginning, 'It was
roses, roses, all the way,' with its satire on fallen ambition. Thinking
of it, he first frowned and then laughed.

He walked a little way, cresting the rising ground, till he came to an
open space with an unbroken view over the level country to Barnet. Here,
the last of the houses that could claim to belong to the great London
army stood alone in its own considerable space of ground. It was a very
old-fashioned house; it had been half farmhouse, half hall, in the
latter days of the last century, and the dull red brick of its walls,
and the dull red tiles of its roof showed warm and attractive through
the green of the encircling trees. There was a small garden in front,
planted with pine trees, through which a winding path led up to the low
porch of the dwelling. Behind the house a very large garden extended, a
great garden which he knew so well, with its lengths of undulating
russet orchard wall, and its divisions into flower garden and fruit
garden and vegetable garden, and the field beyond, where successive
generations of ponies fed, and where he had loved to play in boyhood.

He rested his hand on the upper rim of the garden gate, and looked with
curious affection at the inscription in faded gold letters that ran
along it. The inscription read, 'Blarulfsgarth,' and he remembered ever
so far back asking what that inscription meant, and being told that it
was Icelandic, and that it meant the Garth, or Farm, of the Blue Wolf.
And he remembered, too, being told the tale from which the name came, a
tale that was related of an ancestor of his, real or imaginary, who had
lived and died centuries ago in a grey northern land. It was curious
that, as he stood there, so many recollections of his childhood should
come back to him. He was a man, and not a very young man, when he last
laid his hand upon that gate, and yet it seemed to him now as if he had
left it when he was quite a little child, and was returning now for the
first time with the feelings of a man to the place where he had passed
his infancy.

His hand slipped down to the latch, but he did not yet lift it. He still
lingered while he turned for a moment and looked over the wide extent of
level smiling country that stretched out and away before him. The last
time he had looked on that sweep of earth he was going off to seek
adventure in a far land, in a new world. He had thought himself a broken
man; he was sick of England; his thoughts in their desperation had
turned to the country which was only a name to him, the country where he
was born. Now the day came vividly back to him on which he had said
good-bye to that place, and looked with a melancholy disdain upon the
soft English fields. It was an earlier season of the year, a day towards
the end of March, when the skies were still but faintly blue, and there
was little green abroad. Ten years ago: how many things had passed in
those ten years, what struggles and successes, what struggles again, all
ending in that three days' fight and the last stand in the Plaza
Nacional of Valdorado! He turned away from the scene and pressed his
hand upon the latch.

As he touched the latch someone appeared in the porch. It was an old
lady dressed in black. She had soft grey hair, and on that grey hair she
wore an old-fashioned cap that was almost coquettish by very reason of
its old fashion. She had a very sweet, kind face, all cockled with
wrinkles like a sheet of crumpled tissue paper, but very beautiful in
its age. It was a face that a modern French painter would have loved to
paint--a face that a sculptor of the Renaissance would have delighted to
reproduce in faithful, faultless bronze or marble.

At sight of the sweet old lady the Dictator's heart gave a great leap,
and he pressed down the latch hurriedly and swung the gate wide open.
The sound of the clicking latch and the swinging gate slightly grinding
on the path aroused the old lady's attention. She saw the Dictator, and,
with a little cry of joy, running with an almost girlish activity to
meet the bearded man who was coming rapidly along the pathway, in
another moment she had caught him in her arms and was clasping him and
kissing him enthusiastically. The Dictator returned her caresses warmly.
He was smiling, but there were tears in his eyes. It was so odd being
welcomed back like this in the old place after all that had passed.

'I knew you would come to-day, my dear,' the old lady said half sobbing,
half laughing. 'You said you would, and I knew you would. You would come
to your old aunt first of all.'

'Why, of course, of course I would, my dear,' the Dictator answered,
softly touching the grey hair on the forehead below the frilled cap.

'But I didn't expect you so early,' the old lady went on. 'I didn't
think you would get up so soon on your first morning. You must be so
tired, my dear, so very tired.'

She was holding his left hand in her right now, and they were walking
slowly side by side up by the little path through the fir trees to the
house.

'Oh, I'm not so very tired as all that comes to,' he said with a laugh.
'A long voyage is a restful thing, and I had time to get over the
fatigue of the----' he seemed to pause an instant for a word; then he
went on, 'the trouble, while I was on board the "Almirante Cochrane." Do
you know they were quite kind to me on board the "Almirante Cochrane"?'

The old lady's delicate face flushed angrily. 'The wretches, the wicked
wretches!' she said quite fiercely, and the thin fingers closed tightly
upon his and shook, agitating the lace ruffles at her wrists.

The Dictator laughed again. It seemed too strange to have all those wild
adventures quietly discussed in a Hampstead garden with a silver-haired
elderly lady in a cap.

'Oh, come,' he said, 'they weren't so bad; they weren't half bad,
really. Why, you know, they might have shot me out of hand. I think if I
had been in their place I should have shot out of hand, do you know,
aunt?'

'Oh, surely they would never have dared--you an Englishman?'

'I am a citizen of Gloria, aunt.'

'You who were so good to them.'

'Well, as to my being good to them, there are two to tell that tale. The
gentlemen of the Congress don't put a high price upon my goodness, I
fancy.' He laughed a little bitterly. 'I certainly meant to do them some
good, and I even thought I had succeeded. My dear aunt, people don't
always like being done good to. I remember that myself when I was a
small boy. I used to fret and fume at the things which were done for my
good; that was because I was a child. The crowd is always a child.'

They had come to the porch by this time, and had stopped short at the
threshold. The little porch was draped in flowers and foliage, and
looked very pretty.

'You were always a good child,' said the old lady affectionately.

Ericson looked down at her rather wistfully.

'Do you think I was?' he asked, and there was a tender irony in his
voice which made the playful question almost pathetic. 'If I had been a
good child I should have been content and had no roving disposition, and
have found my home and my world at Hampstead, instead of straying off
into another hemisphere, only to be sent back at last like a bad penny.'

'So you would,' said the old lady, very softly, more as if she were
speaking to herself than to him. 'So you would if----'

She did not finish her sentence. But her nephew, who knew and
understood, repeated the last word.

'If,' he said, and he, too, sighed.

The old lady caught the sound, and with a pretty little air of
determination she called up a smile to her face.

'Shall we go into the house, or shall we sit awhile in the garden? It is
almost too fine a day to be indoors.'

'Oh, let us sit out, please,' said Ericson. He had driven the sorrow
from his voice, and its tones were almost joyous. 'Is the old
garden-seat still there?'

'Why, of course it is. I sit there always in fine weather.'

They wandered round to the back by a path that skirted the house, a path
all broidered with rose-bushes. At the back, the garden was very large,
beginning with a spacious stretch of lawn that ran right up to the wide
French windows. There were several noble old trees which stood sentinel
over this part of the garden, and beneath one of these trees, a very
ancient elm, was the sturdy garden-seat which the Dictator remembered so
well.

'How many pleasant fairy tales you have told me under this tree, aunt,'
said the Dictator, as soon as they had sat down. 'I should like to lie
on the grass again and listen to your voice, and dream of Njal, and
Grettir, and Sigurd, as I used to do.'

'It is your turn to tell me stories now,' said the old lady. 'Not fairy
stories, but true ones.'

The Dictator laughed. 'You know all that there is to tell,' he said.
'What my letters didn't say you must have found from the newspapers.'

'But I want to know more than you wrote, more than the newspapers
gave--everything.'

'In fact, you want a full, true, and particular account of the late
remarkable revolution in Gloria, which ended in the deposition and exile
of the alien tyrant. My dear aunt, it would take a couple of weeks at
the least computation to do the theme justice.'

'I am sure that I shouldn't tire of listening,' said Miss Ericson, and
there were tears in her bright old eyes and a tremor in her brave old
voice as she said so.

The Dictator laughed, but he stooped and kissed the old lady again very
affectionately.

'Why, you would be as bad as I used to be,' he said. 'I never was tired
of your _sagas_, and when one came to an end I wanted a new one at once,
or at least the old one over again.'

He looked away from her and all around the garden as he spoke. The winds
and rains and suns of all those years had altered it but little.

'We talk of the shortness of life,' he said; 'but sometimes life seems
quite long. Think of the years and years since I was a little fellow,
and sat here where I sit now, then, as now, by your side, and cried at
the deeds of my forbears and sighed for the gods of the North. Do you
remember?'

'Oh, yes; oh, yes. How could I forget? You, my dear, in your bustling
life might forget; but I, day after day in this great old garden, may be
forgiven for an old woman's fancy that time has stood still, and that
you are still the little boy I love so well.'

She held out her hand to him, and he clasped it tenderly, full of an
affectionate emotion that did not call for speech.

There were somewhat similar thoughts in both their minds. He was asking
himself if, after all, it would not have been just as well to remain in
that tranquil nook, so sheltered from the storms of life, so consecrated
by tender affection. What had he done that was worth rising up to cross
the street for, after all? He had dreamed a dream, and had been harshly
awakened. What was the good of it all? A melancholy seemed to settle
upon him in that place, so filled with the memories of his childhood. As
for his companion, she was asking herself if it would not have been
better for him to stay at home and live a quiet English life, and be her
help and solace.

Both looked up from their reverie, met each other's melancholy glances,
and smiled.

'Why,' said Miss Ericson, 'what nonsense this is! Here are we who have
not met for ages, and we can find nothing better to do than to sit and
brood! We ought to be ashamed of ourselves.'

'We ought,' said the Dictator, 'and for my poor part I am. So you want
to hear my adventures?'

Miss Ericson nodded, but the narrative was interrupted. The wide French
windows at the back of the house opened and a man entered the garden.
His smooth voice was heard explaining to the maid that he would join
Miss Ericson in the garden.

The new-comer made his way along the garden, with extended hand, and
blinking amiably. The Dictator, turning at his approach, surveyed him
with some surprise. He was a large, loosely made man, with a large white
face, and his somewhat ungainly body was clothed in loose light material
that was almost white in hue. His large and slightly surprised eyes were
of a kindly blue; his hair was a vague yellow; his large mouth was weak;
his pointed chin was undecided. He dimly suggested some association to
the Dictator; after a few seconds he found that the association was with
the Knave of Hearts in an ordinary pack of playing-cards.

'This is a friend of mine, a neighbour who often pays me a visit,' said
the old lady hurriedly, as the white figure loomed along towards them.
'He is a most agreeable man, very companionable indeed, and learned,
too--extremely learned.'

This was all that she had time to say before the white gentleman came
too close to them to permit of further conversation concerning his
merits or defects.

The new-comer raised his hat, a huge, white, loose, shapeless felt, in
keeping with his ill-defined attire, and made an awkward bow which at
once included the old lady and the Dictator, on whom the blue eyes
beamed for a moment in good-natured wonder.

'Good morning, Miss Ericson,' said the new-comer. He spoke to Miss
Ericson; but it was evident that his thoughts were distracted. His vague
blue eyes were fixed in benign bewilderment upon the Dictator's face.

Miss Ericson rose; so did her nephew. Miss Ericson spoke.

'Good morning, Mr. Sarrasin. Let me present you to my nephew, of whom
you have heard so much. Nephew, this is Mr. Gilbert Sarrasin.'

The new-comer extended both hands; they were very large hands, and very
soft and very white. He enfolded the Dictator's extended right hand in
one of his, and beamed upon him in unaffected joy.

'Not your nephew, Miss Ericson--not the hero of the hour? Is it
possible; is it possible? My dear sir, my very dear and honoured sir, I
cannot tell you how rejoiced I am, how proud I am, to have the privilege
of meeting you.'

The Dictator returned his friendly clasp with a warm pressure. He was
somewhat amused by this unexpected enthusiasm.

'You are very good indeed, Mr. Sarrasin.' Then, repeating the name to
himself, he added, 'Your name seems to be familiar to me.'

The white gentleman shook his head with something like playful
repudiation.

'Not my name, I think; no, not my name, I feel sure.' He accentuated the
possessive pronoun strongly, and then proceeded to explain the
accentuation, smiling more and more amiably as he did so. 'No, not my
name; my brother's--my brother's, I fancy.'

'Your brother's?' the Dictator said inquiringly. There was some
association in his mind with the name of Sarrasin, but he could not
reduce it to precise knowledge.

'Yes, my brother,' said the white gentleman. 'My brother, Oisin Stewart
Sarrasin, whose name, I am proud to think, is familiar in many parts of
the world.'

The recollection he was seeking came to the Dictator. It was the name
that Hamilton had given to him that morning, the name of the man who had
written to him, and who had signed himself 'a soldier of fortune.' He
smiled back at the white gentleman.

'Yes,' he said truthfully, 'I have heard your brother's name. It is a
striking name.'

The white gentleman was delighted. He rubbed his large white hands
together, and almost seemed as if he might purr in the excess of his
gratification. He glanced enthusiastically at Miss Ericson.

'Ah!' he went on. 'My brother is a remarkable man. I may even say so in
your illustrious presence; he is a remarkable man. There are degrees, of
course,' and he bowed apologetically to the Dictator; 'but he is
remarkable.'

'I have not the least doubt of that,' said the Dictator politely.

The white gentleman seemed much pleased. At a sign from Miss Ericson he
sat down upon a garden-chair, still slowly and contentedly rubbing his
white hands together. Miss Ericson and her nephew resumed their seats.

'Captain Sarrasin is a great traveller,' Miss Ericson said explanatorily
to the Dictator. The Dictator bowed his head. He did not quite know what
to say, and so, for the moment, said nothing. The white gentleman took
advantage of the pause.

'Yes,' he said, 'yes, my brother is a great traveller. A wonderful man,
sir; all parts of the wide world are as familiar as home to him. The
deserts of the nomad Arabs, the Prairies of the great West, the Steppes
of the frozen North, the Pampas of South America; why, he knows them all
better than most people know Piccadilly.'

'South America?' questioned the Dictator; 'your brother is acquainted
with South America?'

'Intimately acquainted,' replied Mr. Sarrasin. 'I hope you will meet
him. You and he might have much to talk about. He knew Gloria in the old
days.'

The Dictator expressed courteously his desire to have the pleasure of
meeting Captain Sarrasin. 'And you, are you a traveller as well?' he
asked.

Mr. Sarrasin shook his head, and when he spoke there was a certain
accent of plaintiveness in his reply.

'No,' he said, 'not at all, not at all. My brother and I resemble each
other very slightly. He has the wanderer's spirit; I am a confirmed
stay-at-home. While he thinks nothing of starting off at any moment for
the other ends of the earth, I have never been outside our island, have
never been much away from London.'

'Isn't that curious?' asked Miss Ericson, who evidently took much
pleasure in the conversation of the white gentleman. The Dictator
assented. It was very curious.

'Yet I am fond of travel, too, in my way,' Mr. Sarrasin went on,
delighted to have found an appreciative audience. 'I read about it
largely. I read all the old books of travel, and all the new ones, too,
for the matter of that. I have quite a little library of voyages,
travels, and explorations in my little home. I should like you to see it
some time if you should so far honour me.'

The Dictator declared that he should be delighted. Mr. Sarrasin, much
encouraged, went on again.

'There is nothing I like better than to sit by my fire of a winter's
evening, or in my garden of a summer afternoon, and read of the
adventures of great travellers. It makes me feel as if I had travelled
myself.'

'And Mr. Sarrasin tells me what he has read, and makes me, too, feel
travelled,' said Miss Ericson.

'Perhaps you get all the pleasure in that way with none of the fatigue,'
the Dictator suggested.

Mr. Sarrasin nodded. 'Very likely we do. I think it was à Kempis who
protested against the vanity of wandering. But I fear it was not à
Kempis's reasons that deterred me; but an invincible laziness and
unconquerable desire to be doing nothing.'

'Travelling is generally uncomfortable,' the Dictator admitted. He was
beginning to feel an interest in his curious, whimsical interlocutor.

'Yes,' Mr. Sarrasin went on dreamily. 'But there are times when I regret
the absence of experience. I have tramped in fancy through tropical
forests with Stanley or Cameron, dwelt in the desert with Burton,
battled in Nicaragua with Walker, but all only as it were in dreams.'

'We are such stuff as dreams are made of,' the Dictator observed
sententiously.

'And our little lives are rounded by a sleep,' Miss Ericson said softly,
completing the quotation.

'Yes, yes,' said Mr. Sarrasin; 'but mine are dreams within a dream.' He
was beginning to grow quite communicative as he sat there with his big
stick between his knees, and his amorphous felt hat pushed back from his
broad white forehead.

'Sometimes my travels seem very real to me. If I have been reading Ford
or Kinglake, or Warburton or Lane, I have but to lay the volume down and
close my eyes, and all that I have been reading about seems to take
shape and sound, and colour and life. I hear the tinkling of the
mule-bells and the guttural cries of the muleteers, and I see the
Spanish market-place, with its arcades and its ancient cathedral; or the
delicate pillars of the Parthenon, yellow in the clear Athenian air; or
Stamboul, where the East and West join hands; or Egypt and the desert,
and the Nile and the pyramids; or the Holy Land and the walls of
Jerusalem--ah! it is all very wonderful, and then I open my eyes and
blink at my dying fire, and look at my slippered feet, and remember that
I am a stout old gentleman who has never left his native land, and I
yawn and take my candle and go to my bed.'

There was something so curiously pathetic and yet comic about the white
gentleman's case, about his odd blend of bookish knowledge and personal
inexperience, that the Dictator could scarcely forbear smiling. But he
did forbear, and he spoke with all gravity.

'I am not sure that you haven't the better part after all,' he said. 'I
find that the chief pleasure of travel lies in recollection. _You_ seem
to get the recollection without the trouble.'

'Perhaps so,' said Mr. Sarrasin; 'perhaps so. But I think I would rather
have had the trouble as well. Believe me, my dear sir, believe a
dreamer, that action is better than dreams. Ah! how much better it is
for you, sir, to sit here, a disappointed man for the moment it may be,
but a man with a glowing past behind him, than, like me, to have nothing
to look back upon! My adventures are but compounded out of the essences
of many books. I have never really lived a day; you have lived every day
of your life. Believe me, you are much to be envied.'

There was genuine conviction in the white gentleman's voice as he spoke
these words, and the note of genuine conviction troubled the Dictator in
his uncertainty whether to laugh or cry. He chose a medium course and
smiled slightly.

'I should think, Mr. Sarrasin, that you are the only one in London
to-day who looks upon me as a man much to be envied. London, if it
thinks of me at all, thinks of me only as a disastrous failure, as an
unsuccessful exile--a man of no account, in a word.'

Mr. Sarrasin shook his head vehemently. 'It is not so,' he protested,
'not so at all. Nobody really thinks like that, but if everybody else
did, my brother Oisin Stewart Sarrasin certainly does not think like
that, and his opinion is better worth having than that of most other
men. You have no warmer admirer in the world than my brother, Mr.
Ericson.'

The Dictator expressed much satisfaction at having earned the good
opinion of Mr. Sarrasin's brother.

'You would like him, I am sure,' said Mr. Sarrasin. 'You would find him
a kindred spirit.'

The Dictator graciously expressed his confidence that he should find a
kindred spirit in Mr. Sarrasin's brother. Then Mr. Sarrasin, apparently
much delighted with his interview, rose to his feet and declared that it
was time for him to depart. He shook hands very warmly with Miss
Ericson, but he held the Dictator's hands with a grasp that was devoted
in its enthusiasm. Then, expressing repeatedly the hope that he might
soon meet the Dictator again, and once more assuring him of the kinship
between the Dictator and Captain Oisin Stewart Sarrasin, the white
gentleman took himself off, a pale bulky figure looming heavily across
the grassy lawn and through the French window into the darkness of the
sitting-room.

When he was quite out of sight the Dictator, who had followed his
retreating figure with his eyes, turned to Miss Ericson with a look of
inquiry. Miss Ericson smiled.

'Who is Mr. Sarrasin?' the Dictator asked. 'He has come up since my
time.'

'Oh, yes; he first came to live here about six years ago. He is one of
the best souls in the world; simple, good-hearted, an eternal child.'

'What is he?' The Dictator asked.

'Well, he is nothing in particular now. He was in the City, his father
was the head of a very wealthy firm of tea merchants, Sarrasin, Jermyn,
& Co. When the father died a few years ago he left all his property to
Mr. Gilbert, and then Mr. Gilbert went out of business and came here.'

'He does not look as if he would make a very good business man,' said
the Dictator.

'No; but he was very patient and devoted to it for his father's sake.
Now, since he has been free to do as he likes, he has devoted himself to
folk-lore.'

'To folk-lore?'

'Yes, to the study of fairy tales, of comparative mythology. I am quite
learned in it now since I have had Mr. Sarrasin for a neighbour, and
know more about "Puss in Boots" and "Jack and the Beanstalk" than I ever
did when I was a girl.'

'Really,' said the Dictator, with a kind of sigh. 'Does he devote
himself to fairy tales?' It crossed his mind that a few moments before
he had been thinking of himself as a small child in that garden, with a
taste for fairy tales, and regretting that he had not stayed in that
garden. Now, with the dust of battle and the ashes of defeat upon him,
he came back to find a man much older than himself, who seemed still to
remain a child, and to be entranced with fairy tales. 'I wish I were
like that,' the Dictator said to himself, and then the veil seemed to
lift, and he saw again the Plaza Nacional of Gloria, and the Government
Palace, where he had laboured at laws for a free people. 'No,' he
thought, 'no; action, action.'

'What are you thinking of?' asked Miss Ericson softly. 'You seem to be
quite lost in thought.'

'I was thinking of Mr. Sarrasin,' answered the Dictator. 'Forgive me for
letting my thoughts drift. And the brother, what sort of man is this
wonderful brother?'

'I have only seen the brother a very few times,' said Miss Ericson
dubiously. 'I can hardly form an opinion. I do not think he is as nice
as his brother, or, indeed, as nice as his brother believes him to be.'

'What is his record?'

'He didn't get on with his father. He was sent against his will to China
to work in the firm's offices in Shanghai. But he hated the business,
and broke away and entered the Chinese army, I believe, and his father
was furious and cut him off. Since then he has been all over the world,
and served all sorts of causes. I believe he is a kind of soldier of
fortune.'

The Dictator smiled, remembering Captain Sarrasin's own words.

'And has he made his fortune?'

'Oh, no; I believe not. But Gilbert behaved so well. When he came into
the property he wanted to share it all with his disinherited brother,
for whom he has the greatest affection.'

'A good fellow, your Gilbert Sarrasin.'

'The best. But the brother wouldn't take it, and it was with difficulty
that Gilbert induced him to accept so much as would allow him a small
certainty of income.'

'So. A good fellow, too, your Oisin Stewart Sarrasin, it would seem; at
least in that particular.'

'Yes; of course. The brothers don't meet very often, for Captain
Sarrasin----'

'Where does he take his title from?'

'He was captain in some Turkish irregular cavalry.'

'Turkish irregular cavalry? That must be a delightful corps,' the
Dictator said with a smile.

'At least he was captain in several services,' Miss Ericson went on;
'but I believe that is the one he prefers and still holds. As I was
going to say, Captain Sarrasin is almost always abroad.'

'Well, I feel curious to meet him. They are a strange pair of brothers.'

'They are, but we ought to talk of nothing but you to-day. Ah, my dear,
it is so good to have you with me again.'

'Dear old aunt!'

'Let me see much of you now that you have come back. Would it be any use
asking you to stop here?'

'Later, every use. Just at this moment I mustn't. Till I see how things
are going to turn out I must live down there in London. But my heart is
here with you in this green old garden, and where my heart is I hope to
bring my battered old body very often. I will stop to luncheon with you
if you will let me.'

'Let you? My dear, I wish you were always stopping here.' And the grey
old lady put her arms round the neck of the Dictator and kissed him
again.



CHAPTER IV

THE LANGLEYS


That same day there was a luncheon party at the new town house of the
Langleys, Prince's Gate. The Langleys were two in number all told,
father and daughter.

Sir Rupert Langley was a remarkable man, but his daughter, Helena
Langley, was a much more remarkable woman. The few handfuls of people
who considered themselves to constitute the world in London had at one
time talked much about Sir Rupert, but now they talked a great deal more
about his daughter. Sir Rupert was once grimly amused, at a great party
in a great house, to hear himself pointed out by a knowing youth as
Helena Langley's father.

There was a time when people thought, and Sir Rupert thought with them,
that Rupert Langley was to do great deeds in the world. He had entered
political life at an early age, as all the Langleys had done since the
days of Anne, and he made more than a figure there. He had travelled in
Central Asia in days when travel there or anywhere else was not so easy
as it is now, and he had published a book of his travels before he was
three-and-twenty, a book which was highly praised, and eagerly read. He
was saluted as a sort of coming authority upon Eastern affairs in a day
when the importance of Eastern affairs was beginning to dawn dimly upon
the insular mind, and he made several stirring speeches in the House of
Commons' which confirmed his reputation as a coming man. He was very
dogmatic, very determined in his opinions, very confident of his own
superior knowledge, and possessed of a degree of knowledge which
justified his confidence and annoyed his antagonists. He formed a little
party of his own, a party of strenuous young Tories who recognised the
fact that the world was out of joint, but who rejoiced in the conviction
that they were born for the express purpose of setting it right. In Sir
Rupert they found a leader after their own heart, and they rallied
around him and jibed at their elders on the Treasury Bench in a way that
was quite distressing to the sensitive organs of the party.

Sir Rupert and his adherents preached the new Toryism of that day--the
new Toryism which was to work wonders, which was to obliterate
Radicalism by doing in a practical Tory way, and conformably to the best
traditions of the kingdom, all that Radicalism dreamed of. Toryism, he
used to say in those hot-blooded, hot-headed days of his youth, Toryism
is the triumph of Truth, and the phrase became a catchword and a
watchword, and frivolous people called his little party the T. T.s--the
Triumphers of Truth. People versed in the political history of that day
and hour will remember how the newspapers were full of the T. T.s, and
what an amazing rejuvenescence of political force was supposed to be
behind them.

Then came a general election which carried the Tory Party into power,
and which proved the strength of Langley and his party. He was offered a
place in the new Government, and accepted it--the Under-Secretaryship
for India. Through one brilliant year he remained the most conspicuous
member of the Administration, irritating his colleagues by daring
speeches, by innovating schemes; alarming timid party-men by a Toryism
which in certain aspects was scarcely to be distinguished from the
reddest Radicalism. One brilliant year there was in which he blazed the
comet of a season. Then, thwarted in some enterprise, faced by a refusal
for some daring reform of Indian administration, he acted, as he had
acted always, impetuously.

One morning the 'Times' contained a long, fierce, witty, bitter letter
from Rupert Langley assailing the Government, its adherents, and, above
all, its leaders in the Lords. That same afternoon members coming to the
Chamber found Langley sitting, no longer on the Treasury Bench, but in
the corner seat of the second row below the gangway. It was soon known
all over the House, all over town, all over England, that Rupert Langley
had resigned his office. The news created no little amazement, some
consternation in certain quarters of the Tory camp, some amusement among
the Opposition sections. One or two of the extreme Radical papers made
overtures to Langley to cross the floor of the House, and enter into
alliance with men whose principles so largely resembled his own. These
overtures even took the form of a definite appeal on the part of Mr.
Wynter, M. P., then a rising Radical, who actually spent half an hour
with Sir Rupert on the terrace, putting his case and the case of
youthful Radicalism.

Sir Rupert only smiled at the suggestion, and put it gracefully aside.
'I am a Tory of the Tories,' he said; 'only my own people don't
understand me yet. But they have got to find me out.' That was
undoubtedly Sir Rupert's conviction, that he was strong enough to force
the Government, to coerce his party, to compel recognition of his
opinions and acceptance of his views. 'They cannot do without me,' he
said to himself in his secret heart. He was met by disappointment. The
party chiefs made no overtures to him to reconsider his decision, to
withdraw his resignation. Another man was immediately put in his place,
a man of mediocre ability, of commonplace mind, a man of routine,
methodical, absolutely lacking in brilliancy or originality, a man who
would do exactly what the Government wanted in the Government way. There
was a more bitter blow still for Sir Rupert. There were in the
Government certain members of his own little Adullamite party of the
Opposition days, T. T.s who had been given office at his insistence, men
whom he had discovered, brought forward, educated for political success.

It is certain that Sir Rupert confidently expected that these men, his
comrades and followers, would endorse his resignation with their own,
and that the Government would thus, by his action, find itself suddenly
crippled, deprived of its young blood, its ablest Ministers. The
confident expectation was not realised. The T. T.s remained where they
were. The Government took advantage of the slight readjustment of places
caused by Sir Rupert's resignation to give two of the most prominent T.
T.s more important offices, and to those offices the T. T.s stuck like
limpets.

Sir Rupert was not a man to give way readily, or readily to acknowledge
that he was defeated. He bided his time, in his place below the gangway,
till there came an Indian debate. Then, in a House which had been roused
to intense excitement by vague rumours of his intention, he moved a
resolution which was practically a vote of censure upon the Government
for its Indian policy. Always a fluent, ready, ornate speaker, Sir
Rupert was never better than on that desperate night. His attack upon
the Government was merciless; every word seemed to sting like a poisoned
arrow; his exposure of the imbecilities and ineptitudes of the existing
system of administration was complete and cruel; his scornful attack
upon 'the Limpets' sent the Opposition into paroxysms of delighted
laughter, and roused a storm of angry protest from the crowded benches
behind the Ministry. That night was the memorable event of the session.
For long enough after those who witnessed it carried in their memories
the picture of that pale, handsome young man, standing up in that corner
seat below the gangway and assailing the Ministry of which he had been
the most remarkable Minister with so much cold passion, so much fierce
disdain. 'By Jove! he's smashed them!' cried Wynter, M.P., excitedly,
when Rupert Langley sat down after his speech of an hour and a quarter,
which had been listened to by a crowded House amidst a storm of cheering
and disapproval. Wynter was sitting on a lower gangway seat, for every
space of sitting room in the chamber was occupied that night, and he had
made this remark to one of the Opposition leaders on the front bench,
craning over to call it into his ear. The leader of the Opposition heard
Wynter's remark, looked round at the excited Radical, and, smiling,
shook his head. The excitement faded from Wynter's face. His chief was
never wrong.

The usual exodus after a long speech did not take place when Rupert sat
down. It was expected that the leader of the House would reply to Sir
Rupert, but the expectation was not realised. To the surprise of almost
everyone present the Government put up as their spokesman one of the men
who had been most allied with Sir Rupert in the old T.T. party, Sidney
Blenheim. Something like a frown passed over Sir Rupert's face as
Blenheim rose; then he sat immovable, expressionless, while Blenheim
made his speech. It was a very clever speech, delicately ironical,
sharply cutting, tinged all through with an intolerable condescension,
with a gallingly gracious recognition of Langley's merits, an irritating
regret for his errors. There was a certain languidness in Blenheim's
deportment, a certain air of sweetness in his face, which made his
satire the more severe, his attack the more telling. People were as much
surprised as if what looked like a dandy's cane had proved to be a sword
of tempered steel. Whatever else that night did, it made Blenheim's
reputation.

Langley did not carry a hundred men with him into the lobby against the
Government. The Opposition, as a body, supported the Administration; a
certain proportion of Radicals, a much smaller number of men from his
own side, followed him to his fall. He returned to his seat after the
numbers had been read out, and sat there as composedly as if nothing had
happened, or as if the ringing cheers which greeted the Government
triumph were so many tributes to his own success. But those who knew, or
thought they knew, Rupert Langley well said that the hour in which he
sat there must have been an hour of terrible suffering. After that great
debate, the business of the rest of the evening fell rather flat, and
was conducted in a House which rapidly thinned down to little short of
emptiness. When it was at its emptiest, Rupert Langley rose, lifted his
hat to the Speaker, and left the Chamber.

It would not be strictly accurate to say that he never returned to it
that session; but practically the statement would be correct. He came
back occasionally during the short remainder of the session, and sat in
his new place below the gangway. Once or twice he put a question upon
the paper; once or twice he contributed a short speech to some debate.
He still spoke to his friends, with cold confidence, of his inevitable
return to influence, to power, to triumph; he did not say how this would
be brought about--he left it to be assumed.

Then paragraphs began to appear in the papers announcing Sir Rupert
Langley's intention of spending the recess in a prolonged tour in India.
Before the recess came Sir Rupert had started upon this tour, which was
extended far beyond a mere investigation of the Indian Empire. When the
House met again, in the February of the following year, Sir Rupert was
not among the returned members. Such few of his friends as were in
communication with him knew, and told their knowledge to others, that
Sir Rupert was engaged in a voyage round the world. Not a voyage round
the world in the hurried sense in which people occasionally made then,
and frequently make now--a voyage round the world, scampering, like the
hero of Jules Verne, across land and sea, fast as steam-engine can drag
and steamship carry them. Sir Rupert intended to go round the world in
the most leisurely fashion, stopping everywhere, seeing everything,
setting no limit to the time he might spend in any place that pleased
him, fixing beforehand no limit to chain him to any place that did not
please him. He proposed, his friends said, to go carefully over his old
ground in Central Asia, to make himself a complete master of the
problems of Australasian colonisation, and especially to make a very
profound and exhaustive study of the strange civilisations of China and
Japan. He intended further to give a very considerable time to a
leisurely investigation of the South American Republics. 'Why,' said
Wynter, M.P., when one of Sir Rupert's friends told him of these plans,
'why, such a scheme will take several years.' 'Very likely,' the friend
answered; and Wynter said, 'Oh, by Jove!' and whistled.

The scheme did take several years. At various intervals Sir Rupert wrote
to his constituents long letters spangled with stirring allusions to the
Empire, to England's meteor flag, to the inevitable triumph of the New
Toryism, to the necessity a sincere British statesman was under of
becoming a complete master of all the possible problems of a
daily-increasing authority. He made some sharp thrusts at the weakness
of the Government, but accused the Opposition of a lack of patriotism in
trading upon that weakness; he almost chaffed the leader in the Lower
House and the leader in the Lords; he made no allusion to Sidney
Blenheim, then rapidly advancing along the road of success. He concluded
each letter by offering to resign his seat if his constituents wished
it.

His constituents did not wish it--at least, not at first. The
Conservative committee returned him a florid address assuring him of
their confidence in his statesmanship, but expressing the hope that he
might be able speedily to return to represent them at Westminster, and
the further hope that he might be able to see his way to reconcile his
difficulties with the existing Government. To this address Sir Rupert
sent a reply duly acknowledging its expression of confidence, but taking
no notice of its suggestions. Time went on, and Sir Rupert did not
return. He was heard of now and again; now in the court of some rajah in
the North-West Provinces; now in the khanate of some Central Asian
despot; now in South America, from which continent he sent a long letter
to the 'Times,' giving an interesting account of the latest revolution
in the Gloria Republic, of which he had happened to be an eye-witness;
now in Java; now in Pekin; now at the Cape. He did not seem to pursue
his idea of going round the world on any settled consecutive plan.

Of his large means there could be no doubt. He was probably one of the
richest, as he was certainly one of the oldest, baronets in England, and
he could afford to travel as if he were an accredited representative of
the Queen--almost as if he were an American Midas of the fourth or fifth
class. But as to his large leisure people began to say things. It began
to be hinted in leading articles that it was scarcely fair that Sir
Rupert's constituents should be disfranchised because it pleased a
disappointed politician to drift idly about the world. These hints had
their effect upon the disfranchised constituents, who began to grumble.
The Conservative Committee was goaded almost to the point of addressing
a remonstrance to Sir Rupert, then in the interior of Japan, urging him
to return or resign, when the need for any such action was taken out of
their hands by a somewhat unexpected General Election. Sir Rupert
telegraphed back to announce his intention of remaining abroad for the
present, and of not, therefore, proposing to seek just then the
suffrages of the electors. Sidney Blenheim succeeded in getting a close
personal friend of his own, who was also his private secretary, accepted
by the Conservative Committee, and he was returned at the head of the
poll by a slightly decreased majority.

Sir Rupert remained away from England for several years longer. After he
had gone round the world in the most thorough sense, he revisited many
places where he had been before, and stayed there for longer periods. It
began to seem as if he did not really intend to return to England at
all. His communications with his friends grew fewer and shorter, but
wandering Parliamentarians in the recess occasionally came across him in
the course of an extended holiday, and always found him affable,
interested to animation in home politics, and always suggesting by his
manner, though never in his speech, that he would some day return to his
old place and his old fame. Of Sidney Blenheim he spoke with an equable,
impartial composure.

At last one day he did come home. He had been in the United States
during the closing years of the American Civil War, and in Washington,
when peace was concluded, he had met at the English Ministry a young
girl of great beauty, of a family that was old for America, that was
wealthy, though not wealthy for America. He fell in love with her, wooed
her, and was accepted. They were married in Washington, and soon after
the marriage they returned to England. They settled down for a while at
the old home of the Langleys, the home whose site had been the home of
the race ever since the Conquest. Part of an old Norman tower still held
itself erect amidst the Tudor, Elizabethan, and Victorian additions to
the ancient place. It was called Queen's Langley now, had been so called
ever since the days when, in the beginning of the Civil War, Henrietta
Maria had been besieged there, during her visit to the then baronet, by
a small party of Roundheads, and had successfully kept them off. Queen's
Langley had been held during the Commonwealth by a member of the family,
who had declared for the Parliament, but had gone back to the head of
the house when he returned with his king at the Restoration.

At Queen's Langley Sir Rupert and his wife abode for a while, and at
Queen's Langley a child was born to them, a girl child, who was
christened after her mother, Helena. Then the taste for wandering, which
had become almost a passion with Sir Rupert, took possession of Sir
Rupert again. If he had expected to re-enter London in any kind of
triumph he was disappointed. He had allowed himself to fall out of the
race, and he found himself almost forgotten. Society, of course,
received him almost rapturously, and his beautiful wife was the queen of
a resplendent season. But politics seemed to have passed him by. The New
Toryism of those youthful years was not very new Toryism now. Sidney
Blenheim was a settled reactionary and a recognised celebrity. There was
a New Toryism, with its new cave of strenuous, impetuous young men, and
they, if they thought of Sir Rupert Langley at all, thought of him as
old-fashioned, the hero or victim of a piece of ancient history.

Nevertheless, Sir Rupert had his thoughts of entering political life
again, but in the meantime he was very happy. He had a steam yacht of
his own, and when his little girl was three years old he and his wife
went for a long cruise in the Mediterranean. And then his happiness was
taken away from him. His wife suddenly sickened, died, unconscious, in
his arms, and was buried at sea. Sir Rupert seemed like a broken man.
From Alexandria he wrote to his sister, who was married to the Duke of
Magdiel's third son, Lord Edmond Herrington, asking her to look after
his child for him--the child was then with her aunt at Herrington Hall,
in Argyllshire--in his absence. He sold his yacht, paid off his crew,
and disappeared for two years.

During those two years he was believed to have wandered all over Egypt,
and to have passed much of his time the hermit-like tenant of a tomb on
the lovely, lonely island of Phylæ, at the first cataract of the Nile.
At the end of the two years he wrote to his sister that he was returning
to Europe, to England, to his own home, and his own people. His little
girl was then five years old.

He reappeared in England changed and aged, but a strong man still, with
a more settled air of strength of purpose than he had worn in his wild
youth. He found his little girl a pretty child, brilliantly healthy,
brilliantly strong. The wind of the mountain, of the heather, of the
woods, had quickened her with an enduring vitality very different from
that of the delicate fair mother for whom his heart still grieved. Of
course the little Helena did not remember her father, and was at first
rather alarmed when Lady Edmond Herrington told her that a new papa was
coming home for her from across the seas. But the feeling of fear passed
away after the first meeting between father and child. The fascination
which in his younger days Rupert Langley had exercised upon so many men
and women, which had made him so much of a leader in his youth, affected
the child powerfully. In a week she was as devoted to him as if she had
never been parted from him.

Helena's education was what some people would call a strange education.
She was never sent to school; she was taught, and taught much, at home,
first by a succession of clever governesses, then by carefully chosen
masters of many languages and many arts. In almost all things her father
was her chief instructor. He was a man of varied accomplishments; he was
a good linguist, and his years of wandering had made his attainments in
language really colloquial; he had a rich and various store of
information, gathered even more from personal experience than from
books. His great purpose in life appeared to be to make his daughter as
accomplished as himself. People had said at first when he returned that
he would marry again, but the assumption proved to be wrong. Sir Rupert
had made up his mind that he would never marry again, and he kept to his
determination. There was an intense sentimentality in his strong nature;
the sentimentality which led him to take his early defeat and the
defection of Sidney Blenheim so much to heart had made him vow, on the
day when the body of his fair young wife was lowered into the sea,
changeless fidelity to her memory. Undoubtedly it was somewhat of a
grief to him that there was no son to carry on his name; but he bore
that grief in silence. He resolved, however, that his daughter should be
in every way worthy of the old line which culminated in her; she should
be a woman worthy to surrender the ancient name to some exceptional
mortal; she should be worthy to be the wife of some great statesman.

In those years in which Helena Langley was growing up from childhood to
womanhood, Sir Rupert returned to public life. The constituency in which
Queen's Langley was situated was a Tory constituency which had been
represented for nearly half a century by the same old Tory squire. The
Tory squire had a grandson who was as uncompromisingly Radical as the
squire was Tory; naturally he could not succeed, and would not contest
the seat. Sir Rupert came forward, was eagerly accepted, and
successfully returned. His reappearance in the House of Commons after so
considerable an interval made some small excitement in Westminster,
roused some comment in the press. It was fifteen years since he had left
St. Stephen's; he thought curiously of the past as he took his place,
not in that corner seat below the gangway, but on the second bench
behind the Treasury Bench. His Toryism was now of a settled type; the
Government, which had been a little apprehensive of his possible
antagonism, found him a loyal and valuable supporter. He did not remain
long behind the Treasury Bench. An important vacancy occurred in the
Ministry; the post of Foreign Secretary was offered to and accepted by
Sir Rupert. Years ago such a place would have seemed the highest goal of
his ambition. Now he--accepted it. Once again he found himself a
prominent man in the House of Commons, although under very different
conditions from those of his old days.

In the meantime Helena grew in years and health, in beauty, in
knowledge. Sir Rupert, as an infinite believer in the virtues of travel,
took her with him every recess for extended expeditions to Europe, and,
as she grew older, to other continents than Europe. By the time that she
was twenty she knew much of the world from personal experience; she knew
more of politics and political life than many politicians. After she was
seventeen years old she began to make frequent appearances in the
Ladies' Gallery, and to take long walks on the Terrace with her father.
Sir Rupert delighted in her companionship, she in his; they were always
happiest in each other's society. Sir Rupert had every reason to be
proud of the graceful girl who united the beauty of her mother with the
strength, the physical and mental strength, of her father.

It need surprise no one, it did not appear to surprise Sir Rupert, if
such an education made Helena Langley what ill-natured people called a
somewhat eccentric young woman. Brought up on a manly system of
education, having a man for her closest companion, learning much of the
world at an early age, naturally tended to develop and sustain the
strongly marked individuality of her character. Now, at
three-and-twenty, she was one of the most remarkable girls in England,
one of the best-known girls in London. Her independence, both of thought
and of action, her extended knowledge, her frankness of speech, her
slightly satirical wit, her frequent and vehement enthusiasms for the
most varied pursuits and pleasures, were much commented on, much admired
by some, much disapproved of by others. She had many friends among women
and more friends among men, and these were real friendships, not
flirtations, nor love affairs of any kind. Whatever things Helena
Langley did there was one thing she never did--she never flirted. Many
men had been in love with her and had told their love, and had been
laughed at or pitied according to the degree of their deserts, but no
one of them could honestly say that Helena had in any way encouraged his
love-making, or tempted him with false hopes, unless indeed the
masculine frankness of her friendship was an encouragement and a
treacherous temptation. One and all, she unhesitatingly refused her
adorers. 'My father is the most interesting man I know,' she once said
to a discomfited and slightly despairing lover. 'Till I find some other
man as interesting as he is, I shall never think of marriage. And really
I am sure you will not take it in bad part if I say that I do not find
you as interesting a man as my father.' The discomfited adorer did not
take it amiss; he smiled ruefully, and took his departure; but, to his
credit be it spoken, he remained Helena's friend.



CHAPTER V

'MY GREAT DEED WAS TOO GREAT'


The luncheon hour was an important epoch of the day in the Langley house
in Prince's Gate. The Langley luncheons were an institution in London
life ever since Sir Rupert bought the big Queen Anne house and made his
daughter its mistress. As he said himself good-humouredly, he was a mere
Roi Fainéant in the place; his daughter was the Mayor of the Palace, the
real ruling power.

Helena Langley ruled the great house with the most gracious autocracy.
She had everything her own way and did everything in her own way. She
was a little social Queen, with a Secretary of State for her Prime
Minister, and she enjoyed her sovereignty exceedingly. One of the great
events of her reign was the institution of what came to be known as the
Langley luncheons.

These luncheons differed from ordinary luncheons in this, that those who
were bidden to them were in the first instance almost always interesting
people--people who had done something more than merely exist, people who
had some other claim upon human recognition than the claim of ancient
name or of immense wealth. In the second place, the people who were
bidden to a Langley luncheon were of the most varied kind, people of the
most different camps in social, in political life. At the Langley table
statesmen who hated each other across the floor of the House sat side by
side in perfect amity. The heir to the oldest dukedom in England met
there the latest champion of the latest phase of democratic socialism;
the great tragedian from the Acropolis met the low comedian from the
Levity on terms of as much equality as if they had met at the Macklin or
the Call-Boy clubs; the President of the Royal Academy was amused by,
and afforded much amusement to, the newest child of genius fresh from
Paris, with the slang of the Chat Noir upon his lips and the scorn of
_les vieux_ in his heart. Whig and Tory, Catholic and Protestant,
millionaire and bohemian, peer with a peerage old at Runnymede and the
latest working-man M.P., all came together under the regal republicanism
of Langley House. Someone said that a party at Langley House always
suggested to him the Day of Judgment.

On the afternoon of the morning on which Sir Rupert's card was left at
Paulo's Hotel, various guests assembled for luncheon in Miss Langley's
Japanese drawing-room. The guests were not numerous--the luncheons at
Langley House were never large parties. Eight, including the host and
hostess, was the number rarely exceeded; eight, including the host and
hostess, made up the number in this instance. Mr. and Mrs. Selwyn, the
distinguished and thoroughly respectable actor and actress, just
returned from their tour in the United States; the Duke and Duchess of
Deptford--the Duchess was a young and pretty American woman; Mr. Soame
Rivers, Sir Rupert's private secretary; and Mr. Hiram Borringer, who had
just returned from one expedition to the South Pole, and who was said to
be organising another.

When the ringing of a chime of bells from a Buddhist's temple announced
luncheon, and everyone had settled down in the great oak room, where
certain of the ancestral Langleys, gentlemen and ladies of the last
century, whom Reynolds and Gainsborough and Romney and Raeburn had
painted, had been brought up from Queen's Langley at Helena's special
wish, the company seemed to be under special survey. There was one
vice-admiral of the Red who was leaning on a Doric pillar, with a
spy-glass in his hand, apparently wholly indifferent to a terrific naval
battle that was raging in the background; all his shadowy attention
seemed to be devoted to the mortals who moved and laughed below him.
There was something in the vice-admiral which resembled Sir Rupert, but
none of the lovely ladies on the wall were as beautiful as Helena.

Mrs. Selwyn spoke with that clear, bell-like voice which always
enraptured an audience. Every assemblage of human beings was to her an
audience, and she addressed them accordingly. Now, she practically took
the stage, leaning forward between the Duke of Deptford and Hiram
Borringer, and addressing Helena Langley.

'My dear Miss Langley,' she said, 'do you know that something has
surprised me to-day?'

'What is it?' Helena asked, turning away from Mr. Selwyn, to whom she
had been talking.

'Why, I felt sure,' Mrs. Selwyn went on, 'to meet someone here to-day. I
am quite disappointed--quite.'

Everyone looked at Mrs. Selwyn with interest. She had the stage all to
herself, and was enjoying the fact exceedingly. Helena gazed at her with
a note of interrogation in each of her bright eyes, and another in each
corner of her sensitive mouth.

'I made perfectly sure that I should meet him here to-day. I said to
Harry first thing this morning, when I saw the name in the paper,
"Harry," I said, "we shall be sure to meet him at Sir Rupert's this
afternoon." Now did I not, Harry?'

Mr. Selwyn, thus appealed to, admitted that his wife had certainly made
the remark she now quoted.

Mrs. Selwyn beamed gratitude and affection for his endorsement. Then she
turned to Miss Langley again.

'Why isn't _he_ here, my dear Miss Langley, why?' Then she added, 'You
know you always have everybody before anybody else, don't you?'

Helena shook her head.

'I suppose it's very stupid of me,' she said, 'but, really, I'm afraid I
don't know who your "he" is. Is your "he" a hero?'

Mrs. Selwyn laughed playfully. 'Oh, now your very words show that you do
know whom I mean.'

'Indeed I don't.'

'Why, that wonderful man whom you admire so much, the illustrious exile,
the hero of the hour, the new Napoleon.'

'I know whom you mean,' said Soame Rivers. 'You mean the Dictator of
Gloria?'

'Of course. Whom else?' said Mrs. Selwyn, clapping her hands
enthusiastically. The Duke gave a sigh of relief, and Hiram Borringer,
who had been rather silent, seemed to shake himself into activity at the
mention of Gloria. Mr. Selwyn said nothing, but watched his wife with
the wondering admiration which some twenty years of married life had
done nothing to diminish.

The least trace of increased colour came into Helena's cheeks, but she
returned Mrs. Selwyn's smiling glances composedly.

'The Dictator,' she said. 'Why did you expect to see him here to-day?'

'Why, because I saw his name in the "Morning Post" this very morning. It
said he had arrived in London last night from Paris. I felt morally
certain that I should meet him here to-day.'

'I am sorry you should be disappointed,' Helena said, laughing, 'but
perhaps we shall be able to make amends for the disappointment another
day. Papa called upon him this morning.'

Sir Rupert, sitting opposite his daughter, smiled at this. 'Did I
really?' he asked. 'I was not aware of it.'

'Oh, yes, you did, papa; or, at least, I did for you.'

Sir Rupert's face wore a comic expression of despair. 'Helena, Helena,
why?'

'Because he is one of the most interesting men existing.'

'And because he is down on his luck, too,' said the Duchess. 'I guess
that always appeals to you.' The beautiful American girl had not shaken
off all the expressions of her fatherland.

'But, I say,' said Selwyn, who seemed to think that the subject called
for statesmanlike comment, 'how will it do for a pillar of the
Government to be extending the hand of fellowship----'

'To a defeated man,' interrupted Helena. 'Oh, that won't matter one bit.
The affairs of Gloria are hardly likely to be a grave international
question for us, and in the meantime it is only showing a courtesy to a
man who is at once an Englishman and a stranger.'

A slightly ironical 'Hear, Hear,' came from Soame Rivers, who did not
love enthusiasm.

Sir Rupert followed suit good-humouredly.

'Where is he stopping?' asked Sir Rupert.

'At Paulo's Hotel, papa.'

'Paulo's Hotel,' said Mrs. Selwyn; 'that seems to be quite the place for
exiled potentates to put up at. The ex-King of Capri stopped there
during his recent visit, and the chiefs from Mashonaland.'

'And Don Herrera de la Mancha, who claims the throne of Spain,' said the
Duke.

'And the Rajah of Khandur,' added Mrs. Selwyn, 'and the Herzog of
Hesse-Steinberg, and ever so many more illustrious personages. Why do
they all go to Paulo's?'

'I can tell you,' said Soame Rivers. 'Because Paulo's is one of the best
hotels in London, and Paulo is a wonderful man. He knows how to make
coffee in a way that wins a foreigner's heart, and he understands the
cooking of all sorts of eccentric foreign dishes; and, though he is as
rich as a Chicago pig-dealer, he looks after everything himself, and
isn't in the least ashamed of having been a servant himself. I think he
was a Portuguese originally.'

'And our Dictator went there?' Mrs. Selwyn questioned.

Soame Rivers answered her, 'Oh, it is the right thing to do; it poses a
distinguished exile immediately. Quite the right thing. He was well
advised.'

'If only he had been as well advised in other matters,' said Mr. Selwyn.

Then Hiram Borringer, who had hitherto kept silent, after his wont,
spoke.

'I knew him,' he said, 'some years ago, when I was in Gloria.'

Everybody looked at once and with interest at the speaker. Hiram seemed
slightly embarrassed at the attention he aroused; but he was not allowed
to escape from explanation.

'Did you really?' said Sir Rupert. 'How very interesting! What sort of
man did you find him?'

Helena said nothing, but she fixed her dark eyes eagerly on Hiram's face
and listened, with slightly parted lips, all expectation.

'I found him a big man,' Hiram answered. 'I don't mean big in bulk, for
he's not that; but big in nature, the man to make an empire and boss
it.'

'A splendid type of man,' said Mrs. Selwyn, clasping her hands
enthusiastically. 'A man to stand at Cæsar's side and give directions.'

'Quite so,' Hiram responded gravely; 'quite so, madam. I met him first
just before he was elected President, and that's five years ago.'

'Rather a curious thing making an Englishman President, wasn't it?' Mr.
Selwyn inquired. At Sir Rupert's Mr. Selwyn always displayed a profound
interest in all political questions.

'Oh, he is a naturalised citizen of Gloria, of course,' said Soame
Rivers, deftly insinuating his knowledge before Hiram could reply.

'But I thought,' said the Duke, 'that in those South American Republics,
as in the United States, a man has to be born in the country to attain
to its highest office.'

'That is so,' said Hiram. 'Though I fancy his friends in Gloria wouldn't
have stuck at a trifle like that just then. But as a matter of fact he
was actually born in Gloria.'

'Was he really?' said Sir Rupert. 'How curious!' To which Mr. Selwyn
added, 'And how convenient;' while Mrs. Selwyn inquired how it happened.

'Why, you see,' said Hiram, 'his father was English Consul at Valdorado
long ago, and he married a Spanish woman there, and the woman died, and
the father seems to have taken it to heart, for he came home, bringing
his baby boy with him. I believe the father died soon after he got
home.'

Sir Rupert's face had grown slightly graver. Soame Rivers guessed that
he was thinking of his own old loss. Helena felt a new thrill of
interest in the man whose personality already so much attracted her.
Like her, he had hardly known a mother.

'Then was that considered enough?' the Duke asked. 'Was the fact of his
having been born there, although the son of an English father, enough,
with subsequent naturalisation, to qualify him for the office of
President?'

'It was a peculiar case,' said Hiram. 'The point had not been raised
before. But, as he happened to have the army at his back, it was
concluded then that it would be most convenient for all parties to yield
the point. But a good deal has been made of it since by his enemies.'

'I should imagine so,' said Sir Rupert. 'But it really is a very curious
position, and I should not like to say myself off-hand how it ought to
be decided.'

'The big battalions decided it in his case,' said Mrs. Selwyn.

'Are they big battalions in Gloria?' inquired the Duke.

'Relatively, yes,' Hiram answered. 'It wasn't very much of an army at
that time, even for Gloria; but it went solid for him. Now, of course,
it's different.'

'How is it different?' This question came from Mr. Selwyn, who put it
with an air of profound curiosity.

Hiram explained. 'Why, you see, he introduced the conscription system.
He told me he was going to do so, on the plan of some Prussian
statesman.'

'Stein,' suggested Soame Rivers.

'Very likely. Every man to take service for a certain time. Well, that
made pretty well all Gloria soldiers; it also made him a heap of
enemies, and showed them how to make themselves unpleasant. I thought it
wasn't a good plan for him or them at the time.'

'Did you tell him so?' asked Sir Rupert.

'Well, I did drop him a hint or two of my ideas, but he wasn't the sort
of man to take ideas from anybody. Not that I mean at all that my ideas
were of any importance, but he wasn't that sort of man.'

'What sort of man was he, Mr. Borringer?' said Helena impetuously. 'What
was he like, mentally, physically, every way? That's what we want to
know.'

Hiram knitted his eyebrows, as he always did when he was slightly
puzzled. He did not greatly enjoy haranguing the whole company in this
way, and he partly regretted having confessed to any knowledge of the
Dictator. But he was very fond of Helena, and he saw that she was
sincerely interested in the subject, so he went on:

'Well, I seem to be spinning quite a yarn, and I'm not much of a hand at
painting a portrait, but I'll do my best.'

'Shall we make it a game of twenty questions?' Mrs. Selwyn suggested.
'We all ask you leading questions, and you answer them categorically.'

Everyone laughed, and Soame Rivers suggested that they should begin by
ascertaining his age, height, and fighting weight.

'Well,' said Hiram, 'I guess I can get out my facts without
cross-examination.' He had lived a great deal in America, and his speech
was full of American colloquialisms. For which reason the beautiful
Duchess liked him much.

'He's not very tall, but you couldn't call him short; rather more than
middling high; perhaps looks a bit taller than he is, he carries himself
so straight. He would have made a good soldier.'

'He did make a good soldier,' the Duke suggested.

'That's true,' said Hiram thoughtfully. 'I was thinking of a man to whom
soldiering was his trade, his only trade.'

'But you haven't half satisfied our curiosity,' said Mrs. Selwyn. 'You
have only told us that he is a little over the medium height, and that
he bears him stiffly up. What of his eyes, what of his hair--his beard?
Does he discharge in either your straw-colour beard, your orange tawny
beard, your purple-in-grain beard, or your French crown-coloured beard,
your perfect yellow?'

Hiram looked a little bewildered. 'I beg your pardon, ma'am,' he said.
The Duke came to the rescue.

'Mrs. Selwyn's Shakespearean quotation expresses all our sentiments, Mr.
Borringer. Give us a faithful picture of the hero of the hour.'

'As for his hair and beard,' Hiram resumed, 'why, they are pretty much
like most people's hair and beard--a fairish brown--and his eyes match
them. He has very much the sort of favour you might expect from the son
of a very fair-haired man and a dark woman. His father was as fair as a
Scandinavian, he told me once. He was descended from some old Danish
Viking, he said.'

'That helps to explain his belligerent Berserker disposition,' said Sir
Rupert.

'A fine type,' said the Duke pensively, and Mr. Selwyn caught him up
with 'The finest type in the world. The sort of men who have made our
empire what it is;' and he added somewhat confusedly, for his wife's
eyes were fixed upon him, and he felt afraid that he was overdoing his
part, 'Hawkins, Frobisher, Drake, Rodney, you know.'

'But,' said Helena, who had been very silent, for her, during the
interrogation of Hiram, 'I do not feel as if I quite know all I want to
know yet.'

'The noble thirst for knowledge does you credit, Miss Langley,' said
Soame Rivers pertly.

Miss Langley laughed at him.

'Yes, I want to know all about him. He interests me. He has done
something; he casts a shadow, as somebody has said somewhere. I like men
who do something, who cast shadows instead of sitting in other people's
shadows.'

Soame Rivers smiled a little sourly, and there was a suggestion of
acerbity in his voice as he said in a low tone, as if more to himself
than as a contribution to the general conversation, 'He has cast a
decided shadow over Gloria.' He did not quite like Helena's interest in
the dethroned Dictator.

'He made Gloria worth talking about!' Helena retorted. 'Tell me, Mr.
Borringer, how did he happen to get to Gloria at all? How did it come in
his way to be President and Dictator and all that?'

'Rebellion lay in his way and he found it,' Mrs. Selwyn suggested,
whereupon Soame Rivers tapped her playfully upon the wrist, carrying on
the quotation with the words of Prince Hal, 'Peace, chewit, peace.' Mr.
Soame Rivers was a very free-and-easy young gentleman, occasionally, and
as he was a son of Lord Riverstown, much might be forgiven to him.

Hiram, always slightly bewildered by the quotations of Mrs. Selwyn and
the badinage of Soame Rivers, decided to ignore them both, and to
address himself entirely to Miss Langley.

'Sorry to say I can't help you much, Miss Langley. When I was in Gloria
five years ago I found him there, as I said, running for President. He
had been a naturalised citizen there for some time, I reckon, but how he
got so much to the front I don't know.'

'Doesn't a strong man always get to the front?' the Duchess asked.

'Yes,' said Hiram, 'I guess that's so. Well, I happened to get to know
him, and we became a bit friendly, and we had many a pleasant chat
together. He was as frank as frank, told me all his plans. "I mean to
make this little old place move," he said to me.'

'Well, he has made it move,' said Helena. She was immensely interested,
and her eyes dilated with excitement.

'A little too fast, perhaps,' said Hiram meditatively. 'I don't know.
Anyhow, he had things all his own way for a goodish spell.'

'What did he do when he had things his own way?' Helena asked
impatiently.

'Well, he tried to introduce reforms----'

'Yes, I knew he would do that,' the girl said, with the proud air of a
sort of ownership.

'You seem to have known all about him,' Mrs. Selwyn said, smiling
loftily, sweetly, as at the romantic enthusiasm of youth.

'Well, so I do somehow,' Helena answered almost sharply; certainly with
impatience. She was not thinking of Mrs. Selwyn.

'Now, Mr. Borringer, go on--about his reforms.'

'He seemed to have gotten a kind of notion about making things English
or American. He abolished flogging of criminals and all sorts of
old-fashioned ways; and he tried to reduce taxation; and he put down a
sort of remnant of slavery that was still hanging round; and he wanted
to give free land to all the emancipated folks; and he wanted to have an
equal suffrage to all men, and to do away with corruption in the public
offices and the civil service; and to compel the judges not to take
bribes; and all sorts of things. I am afraid he wanted to do a good deal
too much reform for what you folks would call the governing classes out
there. I thought so at the time. He was right, you know,' Hiram said
meditatively, 'but, then, I am mightily afraid he was right in a wrong
sort of way.'

'He was right, anyhow,' Helena said, triumphantly.

'S'pose he was,' said Hiram; 'but things have to go slow, don't you
see?'

'Well, what happened?'

'I don't rightly know how it all came about exactly; but I guess all the
privileged classes, as you call them here, got their backs up, and all
the officials went dead against him----'

'My great deed was too great,' Helena said.

'What is that, Helena?' her father asked.

'It's from a poem by Mrs. Browning, about another dictator; but more
true of my Dictator than of hers,' Helena answered.

'Well,' Hiram went on, 'the opposition soon began to grumble----'

'Some people are always grumbling,' said Soame Rivers. 'What should we
do without them? Where should we get our independent opposition?'

'Where, indeed,' said Sir Rupert, with a sigh of humorous pathos.

'Well,' said Helena, 'what did the opposition do?'

'Made themselves nasty,' answered Hiram. 'Stirred up discontent against
the foreigner, as they called him. He found his congress hard to handle.
There were votes of censure and talks of impeachment, and I don't know
what else. He went right ahead, his own way, without paying them the
least attention. Then they took to refusing to vote his necessary
supplies for the army and navy. He managed to get the money in spite of
them; but whether he lost his temper, or not, I can't say, but he took
it into his head to declare that the constitution was endangered by the
machinations of unscrupulous enemies, and to declare himself Dictator.'

'That was brave,' said Helena, enthusiastically.

'Rather rash, wasn't it?' sneered Soame Rivers.

'It may have been rash, and it may not,' Hiram answered meditatively. 'I
believe he was within the strict letter of the constitution, which does
empower a President to take such a step under certain conditions. But
the opposition meant fighting. So they rebelled against the Dictator,
and that's how the bother began. How it ended you all know.'

'Where were the people all this time?' Helena asked eagerly.

'I guess the people didn't understand much about it then,' Hiram
answered.

'My great deed was too great,' Helena murmured once again.

'The usual thing,' said Soame Rivers. 'Victory to begin with, and the
confidence born of victory; then defeat and disaster.'

'The story of those three days' fighting in Valdorado is one of the most
rattling things in recent times,' said the Duke.

'Was it not?' said Helena. 'I read every word of it every day, and I did
want him to win so much.'

'Nobody could be more sorry that you were disappointed than he, I should
imagine,' said Mrs. Selwyn.

'What puzzles me,' said Mr. Selwyn, 'is why when they had got him in
their power they didn't shoot him.'

'Ah, you see he was an Englishman by family,' Sir Rupert explained; 'and
though, of course, he had changed his nationality, I think the
Congressionalists were a little afraid of arousing any kind of feeling
in England.'

'As a matter of fact, of course,' said Soame Rivers, 'we shouldn't have
dreamed of making any row if they had shot him or hanged him, for the
matter of that.'

'You can never tell,' said the Duke. 'Somebody might have raised the
Civis Romanus cry----'

'Yes, but he wasn't any longer Civis Romanus,' Soame Rivers objected.

'Do you think that would matter much if a cry was wanted against the
Government?' the Duke asked, with a smile.

'Not much, I'm afraid,' said Sir Rupert. 'But whatever their reasons, I
think the victors did the wisest thing possible in putting their man on
board their big ironclad, the "Almirante Cochrane," and setting him
ashore at Cherbourg.

'With a polite intimation, I presume, that if he again returned to the
territory of Gloria he would be shot without form of trial,' added Soame
Rivers.

'But he will return,' Helena said. 'He will, I am sure of it, and
perhaps they may not find it so easy to shoot him then as they think
now. A man like that is not so easily got rid of.'

Helena spoke with great animation, and her earnestness made Sir Rupert
smile.

'If that is so,' said Soame Rivers, 'they would have done better if they
had shot him out of hand.'

Helena looked slightly annoyed as she replied quickly, 'He is a strong
man. I wish there were more men like him in the world.'

'Well,' said Sir Rupert, 'I suppose we shall all see him soon and judge
for ourselves. Helena seems to have made up her mind already. Shall we
go upstairs?'

'My great deed was too great' held possession that day of the mind and
heart of Helena Langley.



CHAPTER VI

'HERE IS MY THRONE--BID KINGS COME BOW TO IT'


London, eager for a lion, lionised Ericson. That royal sport of
lion-hunting, practised in old times by kings in Babylon and Nineveh, as
those strange monuments in the British Museum bear witness, is the
favourite sport of fashionable London to-day. And just at that moment
London lacked its regal quarry. The latest traveller from Darkest
Africa, the latest fugitive pretender to authority in France, had
slipped out of the popular note and the favours of the Press. Ericson
came in good time. There was a gap, and he filled it.

He found himself, to his amazement and his amusement, the hero of the
hour. Invitations of all kinds showered upon him; the gates of great
houses yawned wide to welcome him; had he been gifted like Kehama with
the power of multiplying his personality, he could scarcely have been
able to accept every invitation that was thrust upon him. But he did
accept a great many; indeed, it might be said that he had to accept a
great many. Had he had his own way, he might, perhaps, have buried
himself in Hampstead, and enjoyed the company of his aunt and the mild
society of Mr. Gilbert Sarrasin. But the impetuous, indomitable Hamilton
would hear of no inaction. He insisted copying a famous phrase of Lord
Beaconsfield's, that the key of Gloria was in London. 'We must make
friends,' he said; 'we must keep ourselves in evidence; we must never
for a moment allow our claim to be forgotten, or our interests to be
ignored. If we are ever to get back to Gloria we must make the most of
our inevitable exile.'

The Dictator smiled at the enthusiasm of his young henchman. Hamilton
was tremendously enthusiastic. A young Englishman of high family, of
education, of some means, he had attached himself to Ericson years
before at a time when Hamilton, fresh from the University, was taking
that complement to a University career--a trip round the world, at a
time when Ericson was just beginning that course of reform which had
ended for the present in London and Paulo's Hotel. Hamilton's enthusiasm
often proved to be practical. Like Ericson, he was full of great ideas
for the advancement of mankind; he had swallowed all Socialisms, and had
almost believed, before he fell in with Ericson, that he had elaborated
the secret of social government. But his wide knowledge was of service;
and his devotion to the Dictator showed itself of sterling stuff on that
day in the Plaza Nacional when he saved his life from the insurgents. If
the Dictator sometimes smiled at Hamilton's enthusiasm, he often allowed
himself to yield to it. Just for the moment he was a little sick of the
whole business; the inevitable bitterness that tinges a man's heart who
has striven to be of service, and who has been misunderstood, had laid
hold of him; there were times when he felt that he would let the whole
thing go and make no further effort. Then it was that Hamilton's
enthusiasm proved so useful; that Hamilton's restless energy in keeping
in touch with the friends of the fallen man roused him and stimulated
him.

He had made many friends now in London. Both the great political parties
were civil to him, especially, perhaps, the Conservatives. Being in
power, they could not make an overt declaration of their interest in
him, but just then the Tory Party was experiencing one of those
emotional waves which at times sweep over its consciousness, when it
feels called upon to exalt the banner of progress; to play the old Roman
part of lifting up the humble and casting down the proud; of showing a
paternal interest in all manner of schemes for the redress of wrong and
suffering everywhere. Somehow or other it had got it into its head that
Ericson was a man after its own heart; that he was a kind of new Gordon;
that his gallant determination to make the people of Gloria happy in
spite of themselves was a proof of the application of Tory methods. Sir
Rupert encouraged this idea. As a rule, his party were a little afraid
of his advanced ideas; but on this occasion they were willing to accept
them, and they manifested the friendliest interest in the Dictator's
defeated schemes. Indeed, so friendly were they that many of the
Radicals began to take alarm, and think that something must be wrong
with a man who met with so cordial a reception from the ruling party.

Ericson himself met these overtures contentedly enough. If it was for
the good of Gloria that he should return some day to carry out his
dreams, then anything that helped him to return was for the good of
Gloria too, and undoubtedly the friendliness of the Ministerialists was
a very important factor in the problem he was engaged upon. He did not
know at first how much Tory feeling was influenced by Sir Rupert; he did
not know until later how much Sir Rupert was influenced by his daughter.

Helena had aroused in her father something of her own enthusiasm for the
exiled Dictator. Sir Rupert had looked into the whole business more
carefully, had recognised that it certainly would be very much better
for the interests of British subjects under the green and yellow banner
that Gloria should be ruled by an Englishman like Ericson than by the
wild and reckless Junta, who at present upheld uncertain authority by
martial law. England had recognised the Junta, of course; it was the _de
facto_ Government, and there was nothing else to be done. But it was not
managing its affairs well; the credit of the country was shaken; its
trade was gravely impaired; the very considerable English colony was
loud in its protests against the defects of the new _régime_. Under
these conditions Sir Rupert saw no reason for not extending the hand of
friendship to the Dictator.

He did extend the hand of friendship. He met the Dictator at a
dinner-party given in his honour by Mr. Wynter, M. P.: Mr. Wynter, who
had always made it a point to know everybody, and who was as friendly
with Sir Rupert as with the chieftains of his own party. Sir Rupert had
expressed to Wynter a wish to meet Ericson; so when the dinner came off
he found himself placed at the right-hand side of Ericson, who was at
his host's right-hand side. The two men got on well from the first. Sir
Rupert was attracted by the fresh unselfishness of Ericson, by something
still youthful, still simple, in a man who had done and endured so much,
and he made himself agreeable, as he only knew how, to his neighbour.
Ericson, for his part, was frankly pleased with Sir Rupert. He was a
little surprised, perhaps, at first to find that Sir Rupert's opinions
coincided so largely with his own; that their views of government agreed
on so many important particulars. He did not at first discover that it
was Ericson's unconstitutional act in enforcing his reforms, rather than
the actual reforms themselves, that aroused Sir Rupert's admiration. Sir
Rupert was a good talker, a master of the manipulation of words, knowing
exactly how much to say in order to convey to the mind of his listener a
very decided impression without actually committing himself to any
pledged opinion. Ericson was a shrewd man, but in such delicate
dialectic he was not a match for a man like Sir Rupert.

Sir Rupert asked the Dictator to dinner, and the Dictator went to the
great house in Queen's Gate and was presented to Helena, and was placed
next to her at dinner, and thought her very pretty and original and
attractive, and enjoyed himself very much. He found himself, to his
half-unconscious surprise, still young enough and human enough to be
pleased with the attention people were paying him--above all, that he
was still young enough and human enough to be pleased with the very
obvious homage of a charming young woman. For Helena's homage was very
obvious indeed. Accustomed always to do what she pleased, and say what
she pleased, Helena, at three-and-twenty, had a frankness of manner, a
straightforwardness of speech, which her friends called original and her
detractors called audacious. She would argue, unabashed, with the great
leader of the party on some high point of foreign policy; she would talk
to the great chieftain of Opposition as if he were her elder brother.
People who did not understand her said that she was forward, that she
had no reserve; even people who understood her, or thought they did,
were sometimes a little startled by her careless directness. Soame
Rivers once, when he was irritated by her, which occasionally happened,
though he generally kept his irritation to himself, said that she had a
'slap on the back' way of treating her friends. The remark was not kind,
but it happened to be fairly accurate, as unkind remarks sometimes are.

But from the first Helena did not treat the Dictator with the same
brusque spirit of _camaraderie_ which she showed to most of her friends.
Her admiration for the public man, if it had been very enthusiastic, was
very sincere. She had, from the first time that Ericson's name began to
appear in the daily papers, felt a keen interest in the adventurous
Englishman who was trying to introduce free institutions and advanced
civilisation into one of the worm-eaten republics of the New World. As
time went on, and Ericson's doings became more and more conspicuous, the
girl's admiration for the lonely pioneer waxed higher and higher, till
at last she conjured up for herself an image of heroic chivalry as
romantic in its way as anything that could be evolved from the dreams of
a sentimental schoolgirl. To reform the world--was not that always
England's mission, if not especially the mission of her own party?--and
here was an Englishman fighting for reform in that feverish place, and
endeavouring to make his people happy and prosperous and civilised, by
methods which certainly seemed to have more in common with the
benevolent despotism of the Tory Party than with the theories of the
Opposition. Bit by bit it came to pass that Helena Langley grew to look
upon Ericson over there in that queer, ebullient corner of new Spain, as
her ideal hero; and so it happened that when at last she met her hero in
the flesh for the first time her frank audacity seemed to desert her.

Not that she showed in the slightest degree embarrassment when Sir
Rupert first presented to her the grave man with the earnest eyes, whose
pointed beard and brown hair were both slightly touched with grey. Only
those who knew Helena well could possibly have told that she was not
absolutely at her ease in the presence of the Dictator. Ericson himself
thought her the most self-possessed young lady he had ever met, and to
him, familiar as he was with the exquisite effrontery belonging to the
New Castilian dames of Gloria, self-possession in young women was a
recognised fact. Even Sir Rupert himself scarcely noticed anything that
he would have called shyness in his daughter's demeanour as she stood
talking to the Dictator, with her large fine eyes fixed in composed gaze
upon his face. But Soame Rivers noticed a difference in her bearing; he
was not her father, and he was accustomed to watch every tone of her
speech and every movement of her eyes, and he saw that she was not
entirely herself in the company of the 'new man,' as he called Ericson;
and seeing it he felt a pang, or at least a prick, at the heart, and
sneered at himself immediately in consequence. But he edged up to Helena
just before the pairing took place for dinner, and said softly to her,
so that no one else could hear, 'You are shy to-night. Why?'--and moved
away smiling at the angry flash of her eyes and the compression of her
mouth.

Possibly the words of Rivers may have affected her more than she was
willing to admit; but she certainly was not as self-composed as usual
during that first dinner. Her wit flashed vivaciously; the Dictator
thought her brilliant, and even rather bewildering. If anyone had said
to him that Helena Langley was not absolutely at her ease with him, he
would have stared in amazement. For himself, he was not at all dismayed
by the brilliant, beautiful girl who sat next to him. The long habit of
intercourse with all kinds of people, under all kinds of conditions, had
given him the experience which enabled him to be at his ease under any
circumstances, even the most unfamiliar, and certainly talking to Helena
Langley was an experience that had no precedent in the Dictator's life.
But he talked to her readily, with great pleasure; he felt a little
surprise at her obvious willingness to talk to him and accept his
judgment upon many things; but he set this down as one of the few
agreeable conditions attendant upon being lionised, and accepted it
gratefully. 'I am the newest thing,' he thought to himself, 'and so this
child is interested in me and consequently civil to me. Probably she
will have forgotten all about me the next time we meet; in the meanwhile
she is very charming.' The Dictator had even been about to suggest to
himself that he might possibly forget all about her; but somehow this
did not seem very likely, and he dismissed it.

He did not see very much of Helena that night after the dinner. Many
people came in, and Helena was surrounded by a little court of adorers,
men of all ages and occupations, statesmen, soldiers, men of letters,
all eagerly talking a kind of talk which was almost unintelligible to
the Dictator. In that bright Babel of voices, in that conversation which
was full of allusions to things of which he knew nothing, and for which,
if he had known, he would have cared less, the Dictator felt his sense
of exile suddenly come strongly upon him like a great chill wave. It was
not that he could feel neglected. A great statesman was talking to him,
talking at much length confidentially, paying him the compliment of
repeatedly inviting his opinion, and of deferring to his judgment. There
was not a man or woman in the room who was not anxious to be introduced
to Ericson, who was not delighted when the introduction was accorded,
and when he or she had taken his hand and exchanged a few words with
him. But somehow it was Helena's voice that seemed to thrill in the
Dictator's ears; it was Helena's face that his eyes wandered to through
all that brilliant crowd, and it was with something like a sense of
serious regret that he found himself at last taking her hand and wishing
her good-night. Her bright eyes grew brighter as she expressed the hope
that they should meet soon again. The Dictator bowed and withdrew. He
felt in his heart that he shared the hope very strongly.

The hope was certainly realised. So notable a lion as the Dictator was
asked everywhere, and everywhere that he went he met the Langleys. In
the high political and social life in which the Dictator, to his
entertainment, found himself, the hostilities of warring parties had
little or no effect. In that rarefied air it was hard to draw the breath
of party passion, and the Dictator came across the Langleys as often in
the houses of the Opposition as in Ministerial mansions. So it came to
pass that something almost approaching to an intimacy sprang up between
John Ericson on the one part and Sir Rupert and Helena Langley on the
other. Sir Rupert felt a real interest in the adventurous man with the
eccentric ideas; perhaps his presence recalled something of Sir Rupert's
own hot youth when he had had eccentric ideas and was looked upon with
alarm by the steady-going. Helena made no concealment of her interest in
the exile. She was always so frank in her friendships, so off-hand and
boyish in her air of comradeship with many people, that her attitude
towards the Dictator did not strike any one, except Soame Rivers, as
being in the least marked--for her. Indeed, most of her admirers would
have held that she was more reserved with the Dictator than with others
of her friends. Soame Rivers saw that there was a difference in her
bearing towards the Dictator and towards the courtiers of her little
court, and he smiled cynically and pretended to be amused.

Ericson's acquaintance with the Langleys ripened into that rapid
intimacy which is sometimes possible in London. At the end of a week he
had met them many times and had been twice to their house. Helena had
always insisted that a friendship which was worth anything should
declare itself at once, should blossom quickly into being, and not grow
by slow stages. She offered the Dictator her friendship very frankly and
very graciously, and Ericson accepted very frankly the gracious gift.
For it delighted him, tired as he was of all the strife and struggle of
the last few years, to find rest and sympathy in the friendship of so
charming a girl; the cordial sympathy she showed him came like a balm to
the humiliation of his overthrow. He liked Helena, he liked her father;
though he had known them but for a handful of days, it always delighted
him to meet them; he always felt in their society that he was in the
society of friends.

One evening, when Ericson had been little more than a month in London,
he found himself at an evening party given by Lady Seagraves. Lady
Seagraves was a wonderful woman--'the fine flower of our modern
civilisation,' Soame Rivers called her. Everybody came to her house; she
delighted in contrasts; life was to her one prolonged antithesis. Soame
Rivers said of her parties that they resembled certain early Italian
pictures, which gave you the mythological gods in one place, a battle in
another, a scene of pastoral peace in a third. It was an astonishing
amalgam.

Ericson arrived at Lady Seagraves' house rather late; the rooms were
very full--he found it difficult to get up the great staircase. There
had been some great Ministerial function, and the dresses of many of the
men in the crowd were as bright as the women's. Court suits, ribands,
and orders lent additional colour to a richly coloured scene. But even
in a crowd where everybody bore some claim to distinction the arrival of
the Dictator aroused general attention. Ericson was not yet sufficiently
hardened to the experience to be altogether indifferent to the fact that
everyone was looking at him; that people were whispering his name to
each other as he slowly made his way from stair to stair; that pretty
women paused in their upward or downward progress to look at him, and
invariably with a look of admiration for his grave, handsome face.

When he got to the top of the stairs Ericson found his hostess, and
shook hands with her. Lady Seagraves was an effusive woman, who was
always delighted to see any of her friends; but she felt a special
delight at seeing the Dictator, and she greeted him with a special
effusiveness. Her party was choking with celebrities of all kinds,
social, political, artistic, legal, clerical, dramatic; but it would not
have been entirely triumphant if it had not included the Dictator. Lady
Seagraves was very glad to see him indeed, and said so in her warm,
enthusiastic way.

'I'm so glad to see you,' Lady Seagraves murmured. 'It was so nice of
you to come. I was beginning to be desperately afraid that you had
forgotten all about me and my poor little party.'

It was one of Lady Seagraves' graceful little affectations to pretend
that all her parties were small parties, almost partaking of the nature
of impromptu festivities. Ericson glanced around over the great room
crammed to overflowing with a crowd of men and women who could hardly
move, men and women most of whose faces were famous or beautiful, men
and women all of whom, as Soame Rivers said, had their names in the
play-bill; there was a smile on his face as he turned his eyes from the
brilliant mass to Lady Seagraves' face.

'How could I forget a promise which it gives me so much pleasure to
fulfil?' he asked. Lady Seagraves gave a little cry of delight.

'Now that's perfectly sweet of you! How did you ever learn to say such
pretty things in that dreadful place? Oh, but of course; I forgot
Spaniards pay compliments to perfection, and you have learnt the art
from them, you frozen Northerner.'

Ericson laughed. 'I am afraid I should never rival a Spaniard in
compliment,' he said. He never knew quite what to talk to Lady Seagraves
about, but, indeed, there was no need for him to trouble himself, as
Lady Seagraves could at all times talk enough for two more.

So he just listened while Lady Seagraves rattled on, sending his glance
hither and thither in that glittering assembly, seeking almost
unconsciously for one face. He saw it almost immediately; it was the
face of Helena Langley, and her eyes were fixed on him. She was standing
in the throng at some little distance from him, talking to Soame Rivers,
but she nodded and smiled to the Dictator.

At that moment the arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Deptford set
Ericson free from the ripple of Lady Seagraves' conversation. She turned
to greet the new arrivals, and the Dictator began to edge his way
through the press to where Helena was standing. Though she was only a
little distance off, his progress was but slow progress. The rooms were
tightly packed, and almost every person he met knew him and spoke to
him, or shook hands with him, but he made his way steadily forward.

'Here comes the illustrious exile!' said Soame Rivers, in a low tone. 'I
suppose nobody will have a chance of saying a word to you for the rest
of the evening?'

Miss Langley glanced at him with a little frown. 'I am afraid I can
scarcely hope that Mr. Ericson will consent to be monopolised by me for
the whole of the evening,' she said; 'but I wish he would, for he is
certainly the most interesting person here.'

Soame Rivers shrugged his shoulders slightly. 'You always know someone
who is the most interesting man in the world--for the time being,' he
said.

Miss Langley frowned again, but she did not reply, for by this time
Ericson had reached her, and was holding out his hand. She took it with
a bright smile of welcome. Soame Rivers slipped away in the crowd, after
nodding to Ericson.

'I am so glad that you have come,' Helena said. 'I was beginning to fear
that you were not coming.'

'It is very kind of you,' the Dictator began, but Miss Langley
interrupted him.

'No, no; it isn't kind of me at all; it is just natural selfishness. I
want to talk to you about several things; and if you hadn't come I
should have been disappointed in my purpose, and I hate being
disappointed.'

The Dictator still persisted that any mark of interest from Miss Langley
was kindness. 'What do you want to talk to me about particularly?' he
asked.

'Oh, many things! But we can't talk in this awful crush. It's like
trying to stand up against big billows on a stormy day. Come with me.
There is a quieter place at the back, where we shall have a chance of
peace.'

She turned and led the way slowly through the crowd, the Dictator
following her obediently. Once again the progress was a slow one, for
every man had a word for Miss Langley, and he himself was eagerly caught
at as they drifted along. But at last they got through the greater crush
of the centre rooms and found themselves in a kind of lull in a further
saloon where a piano was, and where there were fewer people. Out of this
room there was a still smaller one with several palms in it, and out of
the palms arising a great bronze reproduction of the Hermes of
Praxiteles. Lady Seagraves playfully called this little room her Pagan
parlour. Here people who knew the house well found their way when they
wanted quiet conversation. There was nobody in it when Miss Langley and
the Dictator arrived. Helena sat down on a sofa with a sigh of relief,
and Ericson sat down beside her.

'What a delightful change from all that awful noise and glare!' said
Helena. 'I am very fond of this little corner, and I think Lady
Seagraves regards it as especially sacred to me.'

'I am grateful for being permitted to cross the hallowed threshold,'
said the Dictator. 'Is this the tutelary divinity?' And he glanced up at
the bronze image.

'Yes,' said Miss Langley; 'that is a copy of the Hermes of Praxiteles
which was discovered at Olympia some years ago. It is the right thing to
worship.'

'One so seldom worships the right thing--at least, at the right time,'
he said.

'I worship the right thing, I know,' she rejoined, 'but I don't quite
know about the right time.'

'Your instincts would be sure to guide you right,' he answered, not
indeed quite knowing what he was talking about.

'Why?' she asked, point blank.

'Well, I suppose I meant to say that you have nobler instincts than most
other people.'

'Come, you are not trying to pay me a compliment? I don't want
compliments; I hate and detest them. Leave them to stupid and
uninteresting men.'

'And to stupid and uninteresting women?'

'Another try at a compliment!'

'No; I felt that.'

'Well, anyhow, I did not entice you in here to hear anything about
myself; I know all about myself.'

'Indeed,' he said straightforwardly, 'I do not care to pay compliments,
and I should never think of wearying you with them. I believe I hardly
quite knew what I was talking about just now.'

'Very well; it does not matter. I want to hear about you. I want to know
all about you. I want you to trust in me and treat me as your friend.'

'But what do you want me to tell you?'

'About yourself and your projects and everything. Will you?'

The Dictator was a little bewildered by the girl's earnestness, her
energy, and the perfect simplicity of her evident belief that she was
saying nothing unreasonable. She saw reluctance and hesitation in his
eyes.

'You are very young,' he began.

'Too young to be trusted?'

'No, I did not say _that_.'

'But your look said it.'

'My look then mistranslated my feeling.'

'What did you feel?'

'Surprise, and interest, and gratitude.'

She tossed her head impatiently.

'Do you think I can't understand?' she asked, in her impetuous way--her
imperial way with most others, but only an impetuous way with him. For
most others with whom she was familiar she was able to control and be
familiar with, but she could only be impetuous with the Dictator.
Indeed, it was the high tide of her emotion which carried her away so
far as to fling her in mere impetuousness against him.

The Dictator was silent for a moment, and then he said: 'You don't seem
much more than a child to me.'

'Oh! Why? Do you not know?--I am twenty-three!'

'I am twenty-three,' the Dictator murmured, looking at her with a kindly
and half-melancholy interest. 'You are twenty-three! Well, there it
is--do you not see, Miss Langley?'

'There what is?'

'There is all the difference. To be twenty-three seems to you to make
you quite a grown-up person.'

'What else should it make me? I have been of age for two years. What am
I but a grown-up person?'

'Not in my sense,' he said placidly. 'You see, I have gone through so
much, and lived so many lives, that I begin to feel quite like an old
man already. Why, I might have had a daughter as old as you.'

'Oh, stuff!' the audacious young woman interposed.

'Stuff? How do you know?'

'As if I hadn't read lives of you in all the papers and magazines and I
don't know what. I can tell you your birthday if you wish, and the year
of your birth. You are quite young--in my eyes.'

'You are kind to me,' he said, gravely, 'and I am quite sure that I look
at my very best in your eyes.'

'You do indeed,' she said fervently, gratefully.

'Still, that does not prevent me from being twenty years older than
you.'

'All right; but would you refuse to talk frankly and sensibly about
yourself?--sensibly, I mean, as one talks to a friend and not as one
talks to a child. Would you refuse to talk in that way to a young man
merely because you were twenty years older than he?'

'I am not much of a talker,' he said, 'and I very much doubt if I should
talk to a young man at all about my projects, unless, of course, to my
friend Hamilton.'

Helena turned half away disappointed. It was of no use, then--she was
not his friend. He did not care to reveal himself to her; and yet she
thought she could do so much to help him. She felt that tears were
beginning to gather in her eyes, and she would not for all the world
that he should see them.

'I thought we were friends,' she said, giving out the words very much as
a child might give them out--and, indeed, her heart was much more as
that of a little child than she herself knew or than he knew then; for
she had not the least idea that she was in love or likely to be in love
with the Dictator. Her free, energetic, wild-falcon spirit had never as
yet troubled itself with thoughts of such kind. She had made a hero for
herself out of the Dictator--she almost adored him; but it was with the
most genuine hero-worship--or fetish-worship, if that be the better and
harsher way of putting it--and she had never thought of being in love
with him. Her highest ambition up to this hour was to be his friend and
to be admitted to his confidence, and--oh, happy recognition!--to be
consulted by him. When she said 'I thought we were friends,' she jumped
up and went towards the window to hide the emotion which she knew was
only too likely to make itself felt.

The Dictator got up and followed her. 'We are friends,' he said.

She looked brightly round at him, but perhaps he saw in her eyes that
she had been feeling a keen disappointment.

'You think my professed friendship mere girlish inquisitiveness--you
know you do,' she said, for she was still angry.

'Indeed I do not,' he said earnestly. 'I have had no friendship since I
came back an outcast to England--no friendship like that given to me by
you----'

She turned round delightedly towards him.

'And by your father.'

And again, she could not tell why, she turned partly away.

'But the truth is,' he went on to say, 'I have no clearly defined plans
as yet.'

'You don't mean to give in?' she asked eagerly.

He smiled at her impetuosity. She blushed slightly as she saw his smile.

'Oh I know,' she exclaimed, 'you think me an impertinent schoolgirl, and
you only laugh at me.'

'I do nothing of the kind. It is only too much of a pleasure to me to
talk to you on terms of friendship. Look here, I wish we could do as
people used to do in the old melodramas, and swear an eternal
friendship.'

'I swear an eternal friendship to you,' she exclaimed, 'whether you like
it or not,' and, obeying the wild impulse of the hour, she held out both
her hands.

He took them both in his, held them for just one instant, and then let
them go.

'I accept the friendship,' he said, with a quiet smile, 'and I
reciprocate it with all my heart.'

Helena was already growing a little alarmed at her own impulsiveness and
effusiveness. But there was something in the Dictator's quiet, grave,
and protecting way which always seemed to reassure her. 'He will be sure
to understand me,' was the vague thought in her mind.

Assuredly the Dictator now thought he did understand her. He felt
satisfied that her enthusiasm was the enthusiasm of a generous girl's
friendship, and that she thought about him in no other way. He had
learned to like her companionship, and to think much of her fresh,
courageous intellect, and even of her practical good sense. He had no
doubt that he should find her advice on many things worth having. His
battlefield just now and for some time to come must be in London--in the
London of finance and diplomacy.

'Come and sit down again,' the Dictator said; 'I will tell you all I
know--and I don't know much. I do not mean to give up, Miss Langley. I
am not a man who gives up--I am not built that way.'

'Of course I knew,' Helena exclaimed triumphantly; 'I knew you would
never give up. You couldn't.'

'I couldn't--and I do not believe I ought to give up. I am sure I know
better how to provide for the future of Gloria than--than--well, than
Gloria knows herself--just now. I believe Gloria will want me back.'

'Of course she will want you back when she comes to her senses,' Helena
said with sparkling eyes.

'I don't blame her for having a little lost her senses under the
conditions--it was all too new, and I was too hasty. I was too much
inspired by the ungoverned energy of the new broom. I should do better
now if I had the chance.'

'You will have the chance--you must have it!'

'Do you promise it to me?' he asked with a kindly smile.

'I do--I can--I know it will come to you!'

'Well, I can wait,' he said quietly. 'When Gloria calls me to go back to
her I will go.'

'But what do you mean by Gloria? Do you want a _plébiscite_ of the whole
population in your favour?'

'Oh no! I only mean this, that if the large majority of the people whom
I strove to serve are of opinion they can do without me--well, then, I
shall do without them. But if they call me I shall go to them, although
I went to my death and knew it beforehand.'

'One may do worse things,' the girl said proudly, 'than go knowingly to
one's death.'

'You are so young,' he said. 'Death seems nothing to you. The young and
the generous are brave like that.'

'Oh,' she exclaimed, 'let my youth alone!'

She would have liked to say, 'Oh, confound my youth!' but she did not
give way to any such unseemly impulse. She felt very happy again, her
high spirits all rallying round her.

'Let your youth alone!' the Dictator said, with a half-melancholy smile.
'So long as time lets it alone--and even time will do that for some
years yet.'

Then he stopped and felt a little as if he had been preaching a sermon
to the girl.

'Come,' she broke in upon his moralisings, 'if I am so dreadfully young,
at least I'll have the benefit of my immaturity. If I am to be treated
as a child, I must have a child's freedom from conventionality.' She
dragged forward a heavy armchair lined with the soft, mellowed, dull red
leather which one sees made into cushions and sofa-pillows in the shops
of Nuremberg's more artistic upholsterers, and then at its side on the
carpet she planted a footstool of the same material and colour. 'There,'
she said, 'you sit in that chair.'

'And you, what are you going to do?'

'Sit first, and I will show you.'

He obeyed her and sat in the great chair. 'Well, now?' he asked.

'I shall sit here at your feet.' She flung herself down and sat on the
footstool.

'Here is my throne,' she said composedly; 'bid kings come bow to it.'

'Kings come bowing to a banished Republican?'

'You are my King,' she answered, 'and so I sit at your feet and am proud
and happy. Now talk to me and tell me some more.'

But the talk was not destined to go any farther that night. Rivers and
one or two others came lounging in. Helena did not stir from her lowly
position. The Dictator remained as he was just long enough to show that
he did not regard himself as having been disturbed. Helena flung a saucy
little glance of defiance at the principal intruder.

'I know you were sent for me,' she said. 'Papa wants me?'

'Yes,' the intruder replied; 'if I had not been sent I should never have
ventured to follow you into this room.'

'Of course not--this is my special sanctuary. Lady Seagraves has
dedicated it to me, and now I dedicate it to Mr. Ericson. I have just
been telling him that, for all he is a Republican, he is _my_ King.'

The Dictator had risen by this time.

'You are sent for?' he said.

'Yes--I am sorry.'

'So am I--but we must not keep Sir Rupert waiting.'

'I shall see you again--when?' she asked eagerly.

'Whenever you wish,' he answered. Then they shook hands, and Soame
Rivers took her away.

Several ladies remarked that night that really Helena Langley was going
quite beyond all bounds, and was overdoing her unconventionality quite
too shockingly. She was actually throwing herself right at Mr. Ericson's
head. Of course Mr. Ericson would not think of marrying a chit like
that. He was quite old enough to be her father.

One or two stout dowagers shook their heads sagaciously, and remarked
that Sir Rupert had a great deal of money, and that a large fortune got
with a wife might come in very handy for the projects of a dethroned
Dictator. 'And men are all so vain, my dear,' remarked one to another.
'Mr. Ericson doesn't look vain,' the other said meditatively. 'They are
all alike, my dear,' rejoined the one. And so the matter was settled--or
left unsettled.

Meanwhile the Dictator went home, and began to look over maps and charts
of Gloria. He buried himself in some plans of street improvement,
including a new and splendid opera house, of which he had actually laid
the foundation before the crash came.



CHAPTER VII

THE PRINCE AND CLAUDIO


Why did the Dictator bury himself in his maps and his plans and his
improvements in the street architecture of a city which in all
probability he was never to see more?

For one reason. Because his mind was on something else to-night, and he
did not feel as if he were acting with full fidelity to the cause of
Gloria if he allowed any subject to come even for an hour too directly
between him and that. Little as he permitted himself to put on the airs
of a patriot and philanthropist--much as he would have hated to exhibit
himself or be regarded as a professional patriot--yet the devotion to
that cause which he had himself created--the cause of a regenerated
Gloria--was deep down in his very heart. Gloria and her future were his
day-dream--his idol, his hobby, or his craze, if you like; he had long
been possessed by the thought of a redeemed and regenerated Gloria.
To-night his mind had been thrown for a moment off the track--and it was
therefore that he pulled out his maps and was endeavouring to get on to
the track again.

But he could not help thinking of Helena Langley. The girl embarrassed
him--bewildered him. Her upturned eyes came between him and his maps.
Her frank homage was just like that of a child. Yet she was not a child,
but a remarkably clever and brilliant young woman, and he did not know
whether he ought to accept her homage. He was, for all his strange
career, somewhat conservative in his notions about women. He thought
that there ought to be a sweet reserve about them always. He rather
liked the pedestal theory about woman. The approaches and the devotion,
he thought, ought to come from the man always. In the case of Helena
Langley, it never occurred to him to think that her devotion was
anything different from the devotion of Hamilton; but then a young man
who is one's secretary is quite free to show his devotion, while a young
woman who is not one's secretary is not free to show her devotion.
Ericson kept asking himself whether Sir Rupert would not feel vexed when
he heard of the way in which his dear spoiled child had been going
on--as he probably would from herself--for she evidently had not the
faintest notion of concealment. On the other hand, what could Ericson
do? Give Helena Langley an exposition of his theories concerning proper
behaviour in unmarried womanhood? Why, how absurd and priggish and
offensive such a course of action would be? The girl would either break
into laughter at him or feel herself offended by his attempt to lecture
her. And who or what had given him any right to lecture her? What, after
all, had she done? Sat on a footstool beside the chair of a public man
whose cause she sympathised with, and who was quite old enough--or
nearly so, at all events--to be her father. Up to this time Ericson was
rather inclined to press the 'old enough to be her father,' and to leave
out the 'nearly so.' Then, again, he reminded himself that social ways
and manners had very much changed in London during his absence, and that
girls were allowed, and even encouraged, to do all manner of things now
which would have been thought tomboyish, or even improper, in his
younger days. Why, he had glanced at scores of leading articles and
essays written to prove that the London girl of the close of the century
was free to do things which would have brought the deepest and most
comprehensive blush to the cheeks of the meek and modest maidens of a
former generation.

Yes--but for all this change of manners it was certain that he had
himself heard comments made on the impulsive unconventionality of Miss
Langley. The comments were sometimes generous, sympathetic, and perhaps
a little pitying--and of course they were sometimes ill-natured and
spiteful. But, whatever their tone, they were all tuned to the one
key--that Miss Langley was impulsively unconventional.

The Dictator was inclined to resent the intrusion of a woman into his
thoughts. For years he had been in the habit of regarding women as trees
walking. He had had a love disappointment early in life. His true love
had proved a false true love, and he had taken it very seriously--taken
it quite to heart. He was not enough of a modern London man to recognise
the fact that something of the kind happens to a good many people, and
that there are still a great many girls left to choose from. He ought to
have made nothing of it, and consoled himself easily, but he did not. So
he had lost his ideal of womanhood, and went through the world like one
deprived of a sense. The man is, on the whole, happiest whose true love
dies early, and leaves him with an ideal of womanhood which never can
change. He is, if he be at all a true man, thenceforth as one who walks
under the guidance of an angel. But Ericson's mind was put out by the
failure of his ideal. Happily he was a strong man by nature, with deep
impassioned longings and profound convictions; and going on through life
in his lonely, overcrowded way, he soon became absorbed in the
entrancing egotism of devotion to a great cause. He began to see all
things in life first as they bore on the regeneration of Gloria--now as
they bore on his restoration to Gloria. So he had been forgetting all
about women, except as ornaments of society, and occasionally as useful
mechanisms in politics.

The memory of his false true love had long faded. He did not now
particularly regret that she had been false. He did not regret it even
for her own sake--for he knew that she had got on very well in life--had
married a rich man--held a good position in society, and apparently had
all her desires gratified. It was probable--it was almost certain--that
he should meet her in London this season--and he felt no interest or
curiosity about the meeting--did not even trouble himself by wondering
whether she had been following his career with eyes in which old
memories gleamed. But after her he had done no love-making and felt
inclined for no romance. His ideal, as has been said, was gone--and he
did not care for women without an ideal to pursue.

Every night, however late, when the Dictator had got back to his rooms,
Hamilton came to see him, and they read over letters and talked over the
doings of the next day. Hamilton came this night in the usual course of
things, and Ericson was delighted to see him. He was sick of trying to
study the street improvements of the metropolis of Gloria, and he was
vexed at the intrusion of Helena Langley into his mind--for he did not
suspect in the least that she had yet made any intrusion into his heart.

'Well, Hamilton, I hope you have been enjoying yourself?'

'Yes, Excellency--fairly enough. Do you know I had a long talk with Sir
Rupert Langley about you?'

'Aye, aye. What does Sir Rupert say about me?'

'Well, he says,' Hamilton began distressedly, 'that you had better give
up all notions of Gloria and go in for English politics.'

The Dictator laughed; and at the same time felt a little touched. He
could not help remembering the declaration of his life's policy he had
just been making to Sir Rupert Langley's daughter.

'What on earth do I know about English politics?'

'Oh, well; of course you could get it all up easily enough, so far as
that goes.'

'But doesn't Sir Rupert see that, so far as I understand things at all,
I should be in the party opposed to him?'

'Yes, he sees that; but he doesn't seem to mind. He thinks you would
find a field in English politics; and he says the life of the House of
Commons is the life to which the ambition of every true Englishman ought
to turn--and, you know--all that sort of thing.'

'And does he think that I have forgotten Gloria?'

'No; but he has a theory about all South American States. He thinks they
are all rotten, and that sort of thing. He insists that you are thrown
away on Gloria.'

'Fancy a man being thrown away upon a country,' the Dictator said, with
a smile. 'I have often heard and read of a country being thrown away
upon a man, but never yet of a man being thrown away upon a country. I
should not have wondered at such an opinion from an ordinary Englishman,
who has no idea of a place the size of Gloria, where we could stow away
England, France, and Germany in a little unnoticed corner. But Sir
Rupert--who has been there! Give us out the cigars, Hamilton--and ring
for some drinks.'

Hamilton brought out the cigars, and rang the bell.

'Well--anyhow--I have told you,' he said hesitatingly.

'So you have, boy, with your usual indomitable honesty. For I know what
you think about all this.'

'Of course you do.'

'You don't want to give up Gloria?'

'Give up Gloria? Never--while grass grows and water runs!'

'Well, then, we need not say any more about that. Tell me, though, where
was all this? At Lady Seagraves'?'

'No; it was at Sir Rupert's own house.'

'Oh, yes, I forgot; you were dining there?'

'Yes; I was dining there.'

'This was after dinner?'

'Yes; there were very few men there, and he talked all this to me in a
confidential sort of way. Tell me, Excellency, what do you think of his
daughter?'

The Dictator almost started. If the question had come out of his own
inner consciousness it could not have illustrated more clearly the
problem which was perplexing his heart.

'Why, Hamilton, I have not seen very much of her, and I don't profess to
be much of a judge of young ladies. Why on earth do you want my opinion?
What is your own opinion of her?'

'I think she is very beautiful.'

'So do I.'

'And awfully clever.'

'Right again--so do I.'

'And singularly attractive, don't you think?'

'Yes; very attractive indeed. But you know, my boy, that the attractions
of young women have now little more than a purely historical interest
for me. Still, I am quite prepared to go as far with you as to admit
that Miss Langley is a most attractive young woman.'

'She thinks ever so much of _you_,' Hamilton said dogmatically.

'She has great sympathy with our cause,' the Dictator said.

'She would do anything _you_ asked her to do.'

'My boy, I don't want to ask her to do anything.'

'Excellency, I want you to advise her to do something--for _me_.'

'For you, Hamilton? Is that the way?' The Dictator asked the question
with a tone of infinite sympathy, and he stood up as if he were about to
give some important order. Hamilton, on the other hand, collapsed into a
chair.

'That is the way, Excellency.'

'You are in love with this child?'

'I am madly in love with this child, if you call her so.'

Ericson made some strides up and down the room with his hands behind
him. Then he suddenly stopped.

'Is this quite a serious business?' he asked, in a low, soft voice.

'Terribly serious for me, Excellency, if things don't turn out right. I
have been hit very hard.'

The Dictator smiled.

'We get over such things,' he said.

'But I don't want to get over this; I don't mean to get over it.'

'Well,' Ericson said good-humouredly, and with quite recovered
composure, 'it may not be necessary for you to get over it. Does the
young lady want you to get over it?'

'I haven't ventured to ask her yet.'

'What do you mean to ask her?'

'Well, of course--if she will--have me.'

'Yes, naturally. But I mean when----'

'When do I mean to ask her?'

'No; when do you propose to marry her?'

'Well, of course, when we have settled ourselves again in Gloria, and
all is right there. You don't fancy I would do anything before we have
made that all right?'

'But all that is a little vague,' the Dictator said; 'the time is
somewhat indefinite. One does not quite know what the young lady might
say.'

'She is just as enthusiastic about Gloria as I am, or as you are.'

'Yes, but her father. Have you said anything to him about this?'

'Not a word. I waited until I could talk of it to you, and get your
promise to help me.'

'Of course I'll help you, if I can. But tell me, how can I? What do you
want me to do? Shall I speak to Sir Rupert?'

'If you would speak to him after, I should be awfully glad. But I don't
so much mind about him just yet; I want you to speak to her!'

'To Miss Langley? To ask her to marry you?'

'That's about what it comes to,' Hamilton said courageously.

'But, my dear love-sick youth, would you not much rather woo and win the
girl for yourself?'

'What I am afraid of,' Hamilton said gravely, 'is that she would pretend
not to take me seriously. She would laugh and turn me into ridicule, and
try to make fun of the whole thing. But if you tell her that it is
positively serious and a business of life and death with me, then she
will believe you, and she _must_ take it seriously and give you a
serious answer, or at least promise to give me a serious answer.'

'This is the oddest way of love-making, Hamilton.'

'I don't know,' Hamilton said; 'we have Shakespeare's authority for it,
haven't we? Didn't Don Pedro arrange for Claudio and Hero?'

'Well, a very good precedent,' Ericson said with a smile. 'Tell me about
this to-morrow. Think over it and sleep over it in the meantime, and if
you still think that you are willing to make your proposals through the
medium of an envoy, then trust me, Hamilton, your envoy will do all he
can to win for you your heart's desire.'

'I don't know how to thank you,' Hamilton exclaimed fervently.

'Don't try. I hate thanks. If they are sincere they tell their tale
without words. I know you--everything about you is sincere.'

Hamilton's eyes glistened with joy and gratitude. He would have liked to
seize his chief's hand and press it to his lips; but he forbore. The
Dictator was not an effusive man, and effusiveness did not flourish in
his presence. Hamilton confined his gratitude to looks and thoughts and
to the dropping of the subject for the present.

'I have been pottering over these maps and plans,' the Dictator said.

'I am so glad,' Hamilton exclaimed, 'to find that your heart is still
wholly absorbed in the improvement of Gloria.'

The Dictator remained for a few moments silent and apparently buried in
thought. He was not thinking, perhaps, altogether of the projected
improvements in the capital of Gloria. Hamilton had often seen him in
those sudden and silent, but not sullen, moods, and was always careful
not to disturb him by asking any question or making any remark. The
Dictator had been sitting in a chair and pulling the ends of his
moustache. At once he got up and went to where Hamilton was seated.

'Look here, Hamilton,' he said, in a tone of positive sternness, 'I want
to be clear about all this. I want to help you--of course I want to help
you--if you can really be helped. But, first of all, I must be
certain--as far as human certainty can go--that you really know what you
do want. The great curse of life is that men--and I suppose women too--I
can't say--do not really know or trouble to know what they do positively
want with all their strength and with all their soul. The man who
positively knows what he does want and sticks to it has got it already.
Tell me, do you really want to marry this young woman?'

'I do--with all my soul and with all my strength!'

'But have you thought about it--have you turned it over in your
mind--have you come down from your high horse and looked at yourself, as
the old joke puts it?'

'It's no joke for me,' Hamilton said dolefully.

'No, no, boy; I didn't mean that it was. But I mean, have you really
looked at yourself and her? Have you thought whether she could make you
happy?--have you thought whether you could make her happy? What do you
know about her? What do you know about the kind of life which she lives?
How do you know whether she could do without that kind of life--whether
she could live any other kind of life? She is a London Society girl, she
rides in the Row at a certain hour, she goes out to dinner parties and
to balls, she dances until all hours in the morning, she goes abroad to
the regular place at the regular time, she spends a certain part of the
winter visiting at the regulation country houses. Are you prepared to
live that sort of life--or are you prepared to bear the responsibility
of taking her out of it? Are you prepared to take the butterfly to live
in the camp?'

'She isn't a butterfly----'

'No, no; never mind my bad metaphor. But she has been brought up in a
kind of life which is second nature to her. Are you prepared to live
that life with her? Are you sure--are you quite, quite sure--that she
would be willing, after the first romantic outburst, to put up with a
totally different life for the sake of you?'

'Excellency,' Hamilton said, smiling somewhat sadly, 'you certainly do
your best to take the conceit out of a young man.'

'My boy, I don't think you have any self-conceit, but you may have a
good deal of self-forgetfulness. Now I want you to call a halt and
remember yourself. In this business of yours--supposing it comes to what
you would consider at the moment a success----'

'At the moment?' Hamilton pleaded, in pained remonstrance.

'At the moment--yes. Supposing the thing ends successfully for you, one
plan of life or other must necessarily be sacrificed--yours or hers.
Which is it going to be? Don't make too much of her present enthusiasm.
Which is it going to be?'

'I don't believe there will be any sacrifice needed,' Hamilton said, in
an impassioned tone. 'I told you she loves Gloria as well as you or I
could do.'

The Dictator shook his head and smiled pityingly.

'But if there is to be any sacrifice of any life,' Hamilton said, driven
on perhaps by his chief's pitying smile, 'it shan't be hers. No, if she
will have me after we have got back to Gloria, I'll live with her in
London every season and ride with her in the Row every morning and
afternoon, and take her, by Jove! to all the dinners and balls she cares
about, and she shall have her heart's desire, whatever it be.'

The Dictator's face was crossed by some shadows. Pity was there, and
sympathy was there--and a certain melancholy pleasure, and, it may be, a
certain disappointment. He pulled himself together very quickly, and was
cool, genial, and composed, according to his usual way.

'All right, my boy,' he said, 'this is genuine love at all events,
however it may turn out. You have answered my question fairly and fully.
I see now that you do know what you want. That is one great point,
anyhow. I will do my very best to get for you what you want. If it only
rested with me, Hamilton!' There was a positive note of tenderness in
his voice as he spoke these words; and yet there was a kind of forlorn
feeling in his heart, as if the friend of his heart was leaving him. He
felt a little as the brother Vult in Richter's exquisite and forgotten
novel might have felt when he was sounding on his flute that final
morning, and going out on his cold way never to see his brother again.
The brother Walt heard the soft, sweet notes, and smiled tranquilly,
believing that his brother was merely going on a kindly errand to help
him, Walt, to happiness. But the flute-player felt that, come what
might, they were, in fact, to be parted for ever.



CHAPTER VIII

'I WONDER WHY?'


The Dictator had had a good deal to do with marrying and giving in
marriage in the Republic of Gloria. One of the social and moral reforms
he had endeavoured to bring about was that which should secure to young
people the right of being consulted as to their own inclinations before
they were formally and finally consigned to wedlock. The ordinary
practice in Gloria was very much like that which prevails in certain
Indian tribes--the family on either side arranged for the young man and
the maiden, made it a matter of market bargain, settled it by compromise
of price or otherwise, and then brought the pair together and married
them. Ericson set his face against such a system, and tried to get a
chance for the young people. He carried his influence so far that the
parents on both sides among the official classes in the capital
consulted him generally before taking any step, and then he frankly
undertook the mediator's part, and found out whether the young woman
liked the young man or not--whether she liked someone better or not. He
had a sweet and kindly way with him which usually made both the youths
and the maidens confidential--and he learned many a quiet heart-secret;
and where he found that a suggested marriage would really not do, he
told the parents as much, and they generally yielded to his influence
and his authority. He had made happy many a pair of young lovers who,
without his beneficent intervention, would have been doomed to 'spoil
two houses,' as the old saying puts it.

Therefore, he did not feel much put out at the mere idea of intervening
in another man's love affairs, or even the idea of carrying a proposal
of marriage from another man.

Yet the Dictator was in somewhat thoughtful mood as he drove to Sir
Rupert Langley's. He had taken much interest in Helena Langley. She had
an influence over him which he told himself was only the influence of a
clever child--told himself of this again and again. Yet there was a
curious feeling of unfitness or dissatisfaction with the part he was
going to play. Of course, he would do his very best for Hamilton. There
was no man in the world for whom he cared half so much as he did for
Hamilton. No--that is not putting it strongly enough--there was now no
man in the world for whom he really cared but Hamilton. The Dictator's
affections were curiously narrowed. He had almost no friends whom he
really loved but Hamilton--and acquaintances were to him just all the
same, one as good as another, and no better. He was a philanthropist by
temperament, or nature, or nerve, or something; but while he would have
risked his life for almost any man, and for any woman or child, he did
not care in the least for social intercourse with men, women, and
children in general. He could not talk to a child--children were a
trouble to him, because he did not know what to say to them. Perhaps
this was one reason why he was attracted by Helena Langley; she seemed
so like the ideal child to whom one can talk. Then came up the thought
in his mind--must he lose Hamilton if Miss Langley should consent to
take him as her husband? Of course, Hamilton had declared that he would
never marry until the Dictator and he had won back Gloria; but how long
would that resolve last if Helena were to answer, Yes--and Now? The
Dictator felt lonely as his cab stopped at Sir Rupert Langley's door.

'Is Miss Langley at home?'

Yes, Miss Langley was at home. Of course, the Dictator knew that she
would be, and yet in his heart he could almost have wished to hear that
she was out. There is a mood of mind in which one likes any
postponement. But the duty of friendship had to be done--and the
Dictator was sorry for everybody.

The Dictator was met in the hall by the footman, and also by To-to.
To-to was Helena's black poodle. The black poodle took to all Helena's
friends very readily. Whom she liked, he liked. He had his ways, like
his mistress--and he at once allowed Ericson to understand not only that
Helena was at home, but that Helena was sitting just then in her own
room, where she habitually received her friends. The footman told the
Dictator that Miss Langley was at home--To-to told him what the footman
could not have ventured to do, that she was waiting for him in her own
drawing-room, and ready to receive him.

Now, how did To-to contrive to tell him that? Very easily, in truth.
To-to had a keen, healthy curiosity. He was always anxious to know what
was going on. The moment he heard the bell ring at the great door he
wanted to know who was coming in, and he ran down the stairs and stood
in the hall to find out. When the door was opened, and the visitor
appeared, To-to instantly made up his mind. If it was an unfamiliar
figure, To-to considered it an introduction in which he had no manner of
interest, and, without waiting one second, he scampered back to rejoin
his mistress, and try to explain to her that there was some very
uninteresting man or woman coming to call on her. But if it was somebody
he knew, and whom he knew that his mistress knew, then there were two
courses open to him. If Helena was not in her sitting room, To-to
welcomed the visitor in the most friendly and hospitable way, and then
fell into the background, and took no further notice, but ranged the
premises carelessly and on his own account. If, however, his mistress
were in her drawing room, then To-to invariably preceded the visitor up
the stairs, going in front even of the footman, and ushered the
new-comer into my lady's chamber. The process of reasoning on To-to's
part must have been somewhat after this fashion. 'My business is to
announce my lady's friends, the people whom I, with my exquisite
intelligence, know to be people whom she wants to see. If I know that
she is in her drawing-room ready to see them, then, of course, it is my
duty and my pleasure to go before, and announce them. But if I know,
having just been there, that she is not yet there, then I have no
function to perform. It is the business of some other creature--her maid
very likely--to receive the news from the footman that someone is
waiting to see her. That is a complex process with which I have nothing
to do.' The favoured visitor, therefore--the visitor, that is to say,
whom To-to favoured, believing him or her to be favoured by To-to's
mistress--had to pass through what may be called two portals, or
ordeals. First, he had to ask of the servant whether Miss Langley was at
home. Being informed that she was at home, then it depended on To-to to
let the visitor know whether Miss Langley was actually in her
drawing-room waiting to receive him, or whether he was to be shown into
the drawing-room and told that Miss Langley would be duly informed of
his presence, and asked if he would be good enough to take a chair and
wait for a moment. Never was To-to known to make the slightest mistake
about the actual condition of things. Never had he run up in advance of
the Dictator when his mistress was not seated in her drawing-room ready
to receive her visitor. Never had he remained lingering in the hall and
the passages when Miss Langley was in her room, and prepared for the
reception. Evidently, To-to regarded himself as Helena's special
functionary. The other attendants and followers--footmen, maids, and
such like--might be allowed the privilege of saying whether Miss Langley
was or was not at home to receive visitors; but the special and quite
peculiar function of To-to was to make it clear whether Miss Langley was
or was not at that very moment waiting in her own particular
drawing-room to welcome them.

So the Dictator, who had not much time to spare, being pressed with
various affairs to attend to, was much pleased to find that To-to not
merely welcomed him when the door was opened--a welcome which the
Dictator would have expected from To-to's undisguised regard and even
patronage--but that To-to briskly ran up the stairs in advance of the
footman, and ran before him in through the drawing-room door when the
footman had opened it. The Dictator loved the dog because of the
creature's friendship for him and love for its mistress. The Dictator
did not know how much he loved the dog because the dog was devoted to
Helena Langley. On the stairs, as he went up, a sudden pang passed
through the Dictator's heart. It might, perhaps, have brought him even
clearer warning than it did. 'If I succeed in my mission'--it might have
told him--'what is to become of _me_?' But, although the shot of pain
did pass through him, he did not give it time to explain itself.

Helena was seated on a sofa. The moment she heard his name announced she
jumped up and ran to meet him.

'I ought to have gone beyond the threshold,' she said, blushing, 'to
meet my king.'

'So kind of you,' he said, rather stiffly, 'to stay in for me. You have
so many engagements.'

'As if I would not give up any engagement to please you! And the very
first time you expressed any wish to see me!'

'Well, I have come talk to you about something very serious.'

She looked up amazed, her bright eyes broadening with wonder.

'Something that concerns the happiness of yourself, perhaps--of another
person certainly.'

She drooped her eyes now, and her colour deepened and her breath came
quickly.

The Dictator went to the point at once.

'I am bad at prefaces,' he said, 'I come to speak to you on behalf of my
dear young friend and comrade, Ernest Hamilton.'

'Oh!' She drew herself up and looked almost defiantly at him.

'Yes; he asked me to come and see you.'

'What have I to do with Mr. Hamilton?'

'That you must teach me,' said Ericson, smiling rather sadly, and
quoting from 'Hamlet.'

'I can teach you that very quickly--Nothing.'

'But you have not heard what I was going to say.'

'No. Well, you were quoting from Shakespeare--let me quote too. "Had I
three ears I'd hear thee."' She drew herself back into her sofa. They
were seated on the sofa side by side. He was leaning forward--she had
drawn back. She was waiting in a sort of dogged silence.

'Hamilton is one of the noblest creatures I ever knew. He is my very
dearest friend.'

A shade came over her face, and she shrugged her shoulders.

'I mean amongst men. I was not thinking of you.'

'No,' she answered, 'I am quite sure you were not thinking of me.'

She perversely pretended to misunderstand his meaning. He hardly noticed
her words. 'Please go on,' she said, 'and tell me about Mr. Hamilton.'

'He is in love with you,' the Dictator said in a soft low-voice, and as
if he envied the man about whom that tale could be told.

'Oh!' she exclaimed impatiently, turning on the sofa as if in pain, 'I
am sick of all this love making! Why can't a young man like one without
making an idiot of himself and falling in love with one? Why can't we
let each other be happy all in our own way? It is all so horribly
mechanical! You meet a man two or three times, and you dance with him,
and you talk with him, and perhaps you like him--perhaps you like him
ever so much--and then in a moment he spoils the whole thing by throwing
his ridiculous offer of marriage right in your face! Why on earth should
I marry Mr. Hamilton?'

'Don't take it too lightly, dear young lady--I know Hamilton to the very
depth of his nature. This is a serious thing with him--he is not like
the commonplace young masher of London society; when he feels, he feels
deeply--I know what has been his personal devotion to myself.'

'Then why does he not keep to that devotion? Why does he desert his
post? What does he want of me? What do I want of him? I liked him
chiefly because he was devoted to you--and now he turns right round and
wants to be devoted to me! Tell him from me that he was much better
employed with his former devotion--tell him my advice was that he should
stick to it.'

'You must give a more serious answer,' the Dictator said gravely.

'Why didn't he come himself?' she asked somewhat inconsequently, and
going off on another tack at once. 'I can't understand how a man of any
spirit can make love by deputy.'

'Kings do sometimes,' the Dictator said.

Helena blushed again. Some thought was passing through her mind which
was not in his. She had called him her king.

'Mr. Hamilton is not a king,' she said almost angrily. She was on the
point of blurting out, 'Mr. Hamilton is not _my_ king,' but she
recovered herself in good time. 'Even if he were,' she went on, 'I
should rather be proposed to in person as Katherine was by Henry the
Fifth.'

'You take this all too lightly,' Ericson pleaded. 'Remember that this
young man's heart and his future life are wrapped up in your answer, and
in _you_.'

'Tell him to come himself and get his answer,' she said with a scornful
toss of her head. Something had risen up in her heart which made her
unkind.

'Miss Langley,' Ericson said gravely, 'I think it would have been much
better if Hamilton had come himself and made his proposal, and argued it
out with you for himself. I told him so, but he would not be advised. He
is too modest and fearful, although, I tell you, I have seen more than
once what pluck he has in danger. Yes, I have seen how cool, how elate
he can be with the bullets and the bayonets of the enemy all at work
about him. But he is timid with _you_--because he loves you.'

'"He either fears his fate too much----"' she began.

'You can't settle this thing by a quotation. I see that you are in a
mood for quotations, and that shows that you are not very serious. I
shall tell you why he asked me, and prevailed upon me, to come to you
and speak for him. There is no reason why I should not tell you.'

'Tell me,' she said.

'I am old enough to have no hesitation in telling a girl of your age
anything.'

'Again!' Helena said. 'I do wish you would let my age alone? I thought
we had come to an honourable understanding to leave my age out of the
question.'

'I fear it can't well be left out of this question. You see, what I was
going to tell you was that Hamilton asked me to break this to you
because he believes that I have great influence with you.'

'Of course, you know you have.'

'Yes--but there was more.'

'What more?' She turned her head away.

'He is under the impression that you would do anything I asked you to
do.'

'So I would, and so I will!' she exclaimed impetuously. 'If you ask me
to marry Mr. Hamilton I will marry him! Yes--I _will_. If you, knowing
what you do know, can wish your friend to marry me, and me to become his
wife, I will accept his condescending offer! You know I do not love
him--you know I never felt one moment's feeling of that kind for
him--you know that I like him as I like twenty other young men--and not
a bit more. You know this--at all events, you know it now when I tell
you--and will you ask me to marry Mr. Hamilton now?'

'But is this all true? Is this really how you feel to him?'

'Zwischen uns sei Wahrheit,' Helena said scornfully. 'Why should I
deceive you? If I loved Mr. Hamilton I could marry him, couldn't
I?--seeing that he has sent you to ask me? I do not love him--I never
could love him in that way. Now what do you ask me to do?'

'I am sorry for my poor young friend and comrade,' the Dictator answered
sadly. 'I thought, perhaps, he might have had some reason to
believe----'

'Did he tell you anything of the kind?'

'Oh, no, no; he is the last man in the world to say such a thing, or
even to think it. One reason why he wished me to open the matter to you
was that he feared, if he spoke to you about it himself, you would only
laugh at him and refuse to give him a serious answer. He thought you
would give me a serious answer.'

'What a very extraordinary and eccentric young man!'

'Indeed, he is nothing of the kind--although, of course, like myself, he
has lived a good deal outside the currents of English feeling.'

'I should have thought,' she said gravely, 'that that was rather a
question of the currents of common human feeling. Do the young women in
Gloria like to be made love to by delegation?'

'Would it have made any difference if he had come himself?'

'No difference in the world--now or at any other time. But remember, I
am a very loyal subject, and I admit the right of my king to hand me
over in marriage. If you tell me to marry Mr. Hamilton, I will.'

'You are only jesting, Miss Langley, and this is not a jest.'

'I don't feel much in the mood for jesting,' she answered. 'It would
rather seem as if I had been made the subject of a jest----'

'Oh, you must not say that,' he interposed in an almost angry tone. 'You
can't, and don't, think that either of him or of me.'

'No, I don't; I could not think it of _you_--and no, I could not think
it of him either. But you must admit that he has acted rather oddly.'

'And I too, I suppose?'

'Oh, you--well, of course, you were naturally thinking of the interest,
or, at least, the momentary wishes, of your friend.'

'Of my two friends--you are my friend. Did we not swear an eternal
friendship the other night?'

'Now you _are_ jesting.'

'I am not; I am profoundly serious. I thought perhaps this might be for
the happiness of both.'

'Did you ever see anything in me which seemed to make such an idea
likely?'

'You see, I have known you but for so short a time.'

'People who are worth knowing at all are known at once or never known,'
she said promptly and very dogmatically.

'Young ladies do not wear their hearts upon their sleeves.'

'I am afraid I do sometimes--too much,' she said.

'I thought it at least possible.'

'Now you _know_. Well, are you going to ask me to marry your friend Mr.
Hamilton?'

'No, indeed, Miss Langley. That would be a cruel injustice and wrong to
him and to you. He must marry someone who loves him; you must marry
someone whom you love. I am sorry for my poor friend--this will hurt
him. But he cannot blame you, and I cannot blame you. He has some
comfort--he has Gloria to fight for some day.'

'Put it nicely--_very_ nicely to him,' Helena said, softening now that
all was over. 'Tell him--won't you?--that I am ever so fond of him; and
tell him that this must not make the least difference in our friendship.
No one shall ever know from me.'

'I will put it all as well as I can,' said the Dictator; 'but I am
afraid it must make a difference to him. It made a difference to
me--when I was a young man of about his age.'

'You were disappointed?' Helena asked, in rather tremulous tone.

'More than that; I think I was deceived. I was ever so much worse off
than Hamilton, for there was bitterness in my story, and there can be
none in his. But I have survived--as you see.'

'Is--she--still living?'

'Oh, yes; she married for money and rank, and has got both, and I
believe she is perfectly happy.'

'And have you recovered--quite?'

'Quite; I fancy it must have been an unreal sort of thing altogether. My
wound is quite healed--does not give me even a passing moment of pain,
as very old wounds sometimes do. But I am not going to lapse into the
sentimental. It was only the thought of Hamilton that brought all this
up.'

'You are not sentimental?' Helena asked.

'I have not had time to be. Anyhow, no woman ever cared about me--in
that way, I mean--no, not one.'

'Ah, you never can tell,' Helena said gently. He seemed to her somehow,
to have led a very lonely life; it came into her thoughts just then; she
could not tell why. She was relieved when he rose to go, for she felt
her sympathy for him beginning to be a little too strong, and she was
afraid of betraying it. The interview had been a curious and a trying
one for her. The Dictator left the room wondering how he could ever have
been drawn into talking to a girl about the story of his lost love.
'That girl has a strange influence over me,' he thought. 'I wonder why?'



CHAPTER IX

THE PRIVATE SECRETARY


Soame Rivers was in some ways, and not a few, a model private secretary
for a busy statesman. He was a gentleman by birth, bringing-up,
appearance, and manners; he was very quick, adroit and clever; he had a
wonderful memory, a remarkable faculty for keeping documents and ideas
in order; he could speak French, German, Italian, and Spanish, and
conduct a correspondence in these languages. He knew the political and
other gossip of most or all of the European capitals, and of Washington
and Cairo just as well. He could be interviewed on behalf of his chief,
and could be trusted not to utter one single word of which his chief
could not approve. He would see any undesirable visitor, and in five
minutes talk him over into the belief that it was a perfect grief to the
Minister to have to forego the pleasure of seeing him in person. He was
to be trusted with any secret which concerned his position, and no power
on earth could surprise him into any look or gesture from which anybody
could conjecture that he knew more than he professed to know. He was a
younger son of very good family, and although his allowance was not
large, it enabled him, as a bachelor, to live an easy and gentlemanly
life. He belonged to some good clubs, and he always dined out in the
season. He had nice little chambers in the St. James's Street region,
and, of course, he spent the greater part of every day in Sir Rupert's
house, or in the lobby of the House of Commons. It was understood that
he was to be provided with a seat in Parliament at the earliest possible
opportunity, not, indeed, so much for the good of the State as for the
convenience of his chief, who, naturally, found it unsatisfactory to
have to go out into the lobby in order to get hold of his private
secretary. Rivers was devoted to his chief in his own sort of way. That
way was not like the devotion of Hamilton to the Dictator; for it is
very likely that, in his own secret soul, Rivers occasionally made fun
of Sir Rupert, with his Quixotic ideas and his sentimentalisms, and his
views of life. Rivers had no views on the subject of life or of anything
else. But Hamilton himself could not be more careful of his chief's
interests than was Rivers. Rivers had no beliefs and no prejudices. He
was not an immoral man, but he had no prejudice in favour of morality;
he was not cruel, but he had no objection to other people being as cruel
as they liked, as cruel as the law would allow them to be, provided that
their cruelty was not exercised on himself, or any one he particularly
cared about. He never in his life professed or felt one single impulse
of what is called philanthropy. It was to him a matter of perfect
indifference whether ten thousand people in some remote place did or did
not perish by war, or fever, or cyclone, or inundation. Nor did he care
in the least, except for occasional political purposes, about the
condition of the poor in our rural villages or in the East End of
London. He regarded the poor as he regarded the flies--that is, with
entire indifference so long as they did not come near enough to annoy
him. He did not care how they lived, or whether they lived at all. For a
long time he could not bring himself to believe that Helena Langley
really felt any strong interest in the poor. He could not believe that
her professed zeal for their welfare was anything other than the
graceful affectation of a pretty and clever girl.

But we all have our weaknesses, even the strongest of us, and Soame
Rivers found, when he began to be much in companionship with Helena
Langley, where the weak point was to be hit in his panoply of pride. To
him love and affection and all that sort of thing were mere sentimental
nonsense, encumbering a rising man, and as likely as not, if indulged
in, to spoil his whole career. He had always made up his mind to the
fact that, if he ever did marry, he must marry a woman with money. He
would not marry at all unless he could have a house and entertain as
other people in society were in the habit of doing. As a bachelor he was
all right. He could keep nice chambers; he could ride in the Row; he
could have a valet; he could wear good clothes--and he was a man whom
Nature had meant, and tailor recognised, for one to show off good
clothes. But if he should ever marry it was clear to him that he must
have a house like other people, and that he must give dinner parties. He
did not reason this out in his mind--he never reasoned anything out in
his mind--it was all clear and self-evident to him. Therefore, after a
while, the question began to arise--why should he not marry Helena
Langley? He knew perfectly well that if she wished to be married to him
Sir Rupert would not offer the slightest objection. Any man whom his
daughter really loved Sir Rupert would certainly accept as a son-in-law.
Rivers even fancied, not, perhaps, altogether without reason, that Sir
Rupert personally would regard it as a convenient arrangement if his
daughter were to fall in love with his secretary and get married to him.
But above and beyond all this, Rivers, as a practical philosopher, had
broken down, and he found himself in love with Helena Langley. For
herself, Helena never suspected it. She had grown to be very fond of
Soame Rivers. He seemed to fill for her exactly the part that a
good-tempered brother might have done. Indeed, not any brother, however
good-natured, would have been as attentive to a sister as Rivers was to
her. He had a quiet, unobtrusive way of putting his personal attentions
as part of his official duty which absolutely relieved Helena's mind of
any idea of lover-like consideration. At many a dinner party or evening
party her father had to leave her prematurely, and go down to the House
of Commons. It became to her a matter of course that in such a case
Rivers was always sure to be there to put her into her carriage and see
that she got safely home. There was nothing in it. He was her father's
secretary--a gentleman, to be sure; a man of social position, as good as
the best; but still, her father's secretary looking after her because of
his devotion to her father. She began to like him every day more and
more for his devotion to her father. She did not at first like his
cynical ways--his trick of making out that every great deed was really
but a small one, that every seemingly generous and self-sacrificing
action was actually inspired by the very principle of selfishness; that
love of the poor, sympathy with the oppressed, were only with the better
classes another mode of amusing a weary social life. But she soon made
out a generous theory to satisfy herself on that point. Soame Rivers,
she felt sure, put on that panoply of cynicism only to guard himself
against the weakness of yielding to a futile sensibility. He was very
poor, she thought. She had lordly views about money, and she thought a
man without a country house of his own must needs be wretchedly poor,
and she knew that Soame Rivers passed all his holiday seasons in the
country houses of other people. Therefore, she made out that Soame
Rivers was very poor; and, of course, if he was very poor, he could not
lend much practical aid to those who, in the East End or otherwise, were
still poorer than he. So she assumed that he put on the mask of cynicism
to hide the flushings of sensibility. She told him as much; she said she
knew that his affected indifference to the interests of humanity was
only a disguise put on to conceal his real feelings. At first he used to
laugh at her odd, pretty conceits. After a while he came to encourage
her in the idea, even while formally assuring her that there was nothing
in it, and that he did not care a straw whether the poor were miserable
or happy.

Chance favoured him. There were some poor people whom Helena and her
father were shipping off to New Zealand. Sir Rupert, without Helena's
knowledge, asked his secretary to look after them the night of their
going aboard, as he could not be there himself. Helena, without
consulting her father, drove down to the docks to look after her poor
friends, and there she found Rivers installed in the business of
protector. He did the work well--as he did every work that came to his
hand. The emigrants thought him the nicest gentleman they had ever
known. Helena said to him, 'Come now! I have found you out at last.' And
he only said, 'Oh, nonsense! this is nothing.' But he did not more
directly contradict her theory, and he did not say her father had sent
him--for he knew Sir Rupert would never say that of himself.

Rivers found himself every day watching over Helena with a deepening
interest and anxiety. Her talk, her companionship, were growing to be
indispensable to him. He did not pay her compliments--indeed, sometimes
they rather sparred at one another in a pleasant schoolboy and
schoolgirl sort of way. But she liked his society, and felt herself
thoroughly companionable and comrade-like with him, and she never
thought of concealing her liking. The result was that Soame Rivers began
to think it quite on the cards that, if nothing should interpose, he
might marry Helena Langley--and that, too, before very long. Then he
should have in every way his heart's desire.

If nothing should interpose? Yes, but there was where the danger came
in! If nothing should interpose? But was it likely that nothing and
nobody would interpose? The girl was well known to be a rich heiress;
she was the only child of a most distinguished statesman; she would be
very likely to have Dukes and Marquises competing for her hand, and
where might Soame Rivers be then? The young man sometimes thought that,
if through her unconventional and somewhat romantic nature he could
entangle her in a love affair, he might be able to induce her to get
secretly married to him--before any of the possible Dukes and Marquises
had time to put in a claim. But, of course, there would be always the
danger of his turning Sir Rupert hopelessly against him by any trick of
that kind, and he saw no use in having the daughter on his side if he
could not also have the father. Besides, he had a sore conviction that
the girl would not do anything to displease her father. So he gave up
the idea of the romantic elopement, or the secret marriage, and he
reminded himself that, after all, Helena Langley, with all her
unconventional ways, was not exactly another Lydia Languish.

Then the Dictator and Hamilton came on the scene, and Rivers had many an
unhappy hour of it. At first he was more alarmed about Hamilton than
about the Dictator. He could easily understand an impulsive girl's
hero-worship for the Dictator, and he did not think much about it. The
Dictator, he assured himself, must seem quite an elderly sort of person
to a girl of Helena's age; but Hamilton was young and handsome, of good
family, and undoubtedly rich. Hamilton and Helena fraternised very
freely and openly in their adoration for Ericson, and Rivers thought
moodily that that partnership of admiration for a third person might
very well end in a partnership of still closer admiration for each
other. So, although from the very first he disliked the Dictator, yet he
soon began to detest Hamilton a great deal more.

His dislike of Ericson was not exclusively and altogether because of
Helena's hero-worship. According to his way of thinking, all foreign
adventure had something more or less vulgar in it, but that was
especially objectionable in the case of an Englishman. What business had
an Englishman--one who claims apparently to be an English
gentleman--what business had he with a lot of South American
Republicans? What did he want among such people? Why should he care
about them? Why should he want to govern them? And if he did want to
govern them, why did he not stay there and govern? The thing was in any
case mere bravado, and melodramatic enterprise.

It was the morning after the day when the Dictator had proposed to
Helena for poor Hamilton. Soame Rivers met Helena on the staircase.

'Of course,' he said, with an emphasis, '_you_ will be at luncheon
to-day?'

'Why, of course?' she asked, carelessly.

'Well--your hero is coming--didn't you know?'

'I didn't know; and who is my hero?'

'Oh, come now!--the Dictator, of course.'

'_Is_ he coming?' she asked, with a sudden gleam of genuine emotion
flashing over her face.

'Yes; your father particularly wants him to meet Sir Lionel Rainey.'

'Oh, I didn't know. Well, yes--I shall be there, I suppose, if I feel
well enough.'

'Are you not well?' Rivers asked, with a tone of somewhat artificial
tenderness in his voice.

'Oh, yes, I am all right; but I might not feel quite up to the level of
Sir Lionel Rainey. Only men, of course?'

'Only men.'

'Well, I shall think it over.'

'But you can't want to miss your Dictator?'

'My Dictator will probably not miss me,' the girl said in scornful tones
which brought no comfort to the heart of Soame Rivers.

'You would be very sorry if he did not miss you,' Soame Rivers said
blunderingly. Your cynical man of the world has his feelings and his
angers.

'Very sorry!' Helena defiantly declared.

The Dictator came punctually at two--he was always punctual. To-to was
friendly, but did not conduct him. He was shown at once into the
dining-room, where luncheon was laid out. The room looked lonely to the
Dictator. Helena was not there.

'My daughter is not coming down to luncheon,' Sir Rupert said.

'I am so sorry,' the Dictator said. 'Nothing serious, I hope?'

'Oh, no!--a cold, or something like that--she didn't tell me. She will
be quite well, I hope, to-morrow. You see how To-to keeps her place.'

Ericson then saw that To-to was seated resolutely on the chair which
Helena usually occupied at luncheon.

'But what is the use if she is not coming?' the Dictator suggested--not
to disparage the intelligence of To-to, but only to find out, if he
could, the motive of that undoubtedly sagacious animal's taking such a
definite attitude.

'Well, To-to does not like the idea of anyone taking Helena's place
except himself. Now, you will see; when we all settle down, and no one
presumes to try for that chair, To-to will quietly drop out of it and
allow the remainder of the performance to go undisturbed. He doesn't
want to set up any claim to sit on the chair himself; all he wants is to
assert and to protect the right of Helena to have that chair at any
moment when she may choose to join us at luncheon.'

The rest of the party soon came in from various rooms and consultations.
Soame Rivers was the first.

'Miss Langley not coming?' he said, with a glance at To-to.

'No,' Sir Rupert answered. 'She is a little out of sorts to-day--nothing
much--but she won't come down just yet.'

'So To-to keeps her seat reserved, I see.'

The Dictator felt in his heart as if he and To-to were born to be
friends.

The other guests were Lord Courtreeve and Sir Lionel Rainey, the famous
Englishman, who had settled himself down at the Court of the King of
Siam, and taken in hand the railway and general engineering and military
and financial arrangements of that monarch; and, having been somewhat
hurt in an expedition against the Black Flags, was now at home, partly
for rest and recovery, and partly in order to have an opportunity of
enlightening his Majesty of Siam, who had a very inquiring mind, on the
immediate condition of politics and house-building in England. Sir
Lionel said that, above all things, the King of Siam would be interested
in learning something about Ericson and the condition of Gloria, for the
King of Siam read everything he could get hold of about politics
everywhere. Therefore, Sir Rupert had undertaken to invite the Dictator
to this luncheon, and the Dictator had willingly undertaken to come.
Soame Rivers had been showing Sir Lionel over the house, and explaining
all its arrangements to him--for the King of Siam had thoughts of
building a palace after the fashion of some first-class and up-to-date
house in London. Sir Lionel was a stout man, rather above the middle
height, but looking rather below it, because of his stoutness. He had a
sharply turned-up dark moustache, and purpling cheeks and eyes that
seemed too tightly fitted into the face for their own personal comfort.

Lord Courtreeve was a pale young man, with a very refined and delicate
face. He was a member of the London County Council, and was a chairman
of a County Council in his own part of the country. He was a strong
advocate of Local Option, and wore at his courageous buttonhole the blue
ribbon which proclaimed his devotion to the cause of temperance. He was
an honoured and a sincere member of the League of Social Purity. He was
much interested in the increase of open spaces and recreation grounds
for the London poor. He was an unaffectedly good young man, and if
people sometimes smiled quietly at him, they respected him all the same.
Soame Rivers had said of him that Providence had invented him to be the
chief living argument in favour of the principle of hereditary
legislation.

Sir Lionel Rainey and Lord Courtreeve did not get on at all. Sir Lionel
had too many odd and high-flavoured anecdotes about life in Siam to be a
congenial neighbour for the champion of social purity. He had a way,
too, of referring everything to the lower instincts of man, and roughly
declining to reckon in the least idea of any of man's, or woman's,
higher qualities. Therefore, the Dictator did not take to him any more
than Lord Courtreeve did; and Sir Rupert began to think that his
luncheon party was not well mixed. Soame Rivers saw it too, and was
determined to get the company out of Siam.

'Do you find London society much changed since you were here last, Sir
Lionel?' he asked.

'Didn't come to London to study society,' Sir Lionel answered, somewhat
gruffly, for he thought there was much more to be said about Siam. 'I
mean in that sort of way. I want to get some notions to take back to the
King of Siam.'

'But might it not interest his Majesty to know of any change, if there
were any, in London society during that time?' Rivers blandly asked.

'No, sir. His Majesty never was in England, and he could not be expected
to take any interest in the small and superficial changes made in the
tone or the talk of society during a few years. You might as well expect
him to be interested in the fact that whereas when I was here last the
ladies wore eel-skin dresses, now they wear full skirts, and some of
them, I am told, wear a divided skirt.'

'But I thought such changes of fashion might interest the King,' Rivers
remarked with an elaborate meekness.

'The King, sir, does not care about divided skirts,' Sir Lionel
answered, with scorn and resentment in his voice.

'I must confess,' the Dictator said, glad to be free of Siam, 'that I
have been much interested in observing the changes that have been made
in the life of England--I mean in the life of London--since I was living
here.'

'We have all got so Republican,' Sir Rupert said sadly.

'And we all profess to be Socialists,' Soame Rivers added.

'There is much more done for the poor than ever there was before,' Lord
Courtreeve pleaded.

'Because so many of the poor have got votes,' Rivers observed.

'Yes,' Sir Lionel struck in with a laugh, 'and you fellows all want to
get into the House of Commons or the County Council, or some such place.
By Jove! in my time a gentleman would not want to become a County
Councillor.'

'I am not troubling myself about English politics,' the Dictator said.
'I do not care to vex myself about them. I should probably only end by
forming opinions quite different from some of my friends here, and, as I
have no mission for English political life, what would be the good of
that? But I am much interested in English social life, and even in what
is called Society. Now, what I want to know is how far does society in
London represent social London, and still more, social England?'

'Not the least in the world,' Sir Rupert promptly replied.

'I am not quite so sure of that,' Soame Rivers interposed, 'I fancy most
of the fellows try to take their tone from us.'

'I hope not,' the Dictator said.

'So do I,' added Sir Rupert emphatically; 'and I am quite certain they
do not. What on earth do you know about it, Rivers?' he asked almost
sharply.

'Why shouldn't I know all about it, if I took the trouble to find out?'
Rivers answered languidly.

'Yes, yes. Of course you could,' Sir Rupert said benignly, correcting
his awkward touch of anger as a painter corrects some sudden mistake in
drawing. 'I didn't mean in the least to disparage your faculty of
acquiring correct information on any subject. Nobody appreciates more
than I do what you are capable of in that way--nobody has had so much
practical experience of it. But what I mean is this--that I don't think
you know a great deal of English social life outside the West End of
London.'

'Is there anything of social life worth knowing to be known outside the
West End of London?' Soame Rivers asked.

'Well, you see, the mere fact that you put the question shows that you
can't do much to enlighten Mr. Ericson on the one point about which he
asks for some enlightenment. He has been out of England for a great many
years, and he finds some fault with our ways--or, at least, he asks for
some explanation about them.'

'Yes, quite so. I am afraid I have forgotten the point on which Mr.
Ericson desired to get information.' And Rivers smiled a bland smile
without looking at Ericson. 'May I trouble you, Lord Courtreeve, for the
cigarettes?'

'It was not merely a point, but a whole cresset of points--a cluster of
points,' Ericson said, 'on every one of which I wished to have a tip of
light. Is English social life to be judged of by the conversation and
the canons of opinion which we find received in London society?'

'Certainly not,' Sir Rupert explained.

'Heaven forbid!' Lord Courtreeve added fervently.

'I don't quite understand,' said Soame Rivers.

'Well,' the Dictator explained, 'what I mean is this. I find little or
nothing prevailing in London society but cheap cynicism--the very
cheapest cynicism--cynicism at a farthing a yard or thereabouts. We all
admire healthy cynicism--cynicism with a great reforming and purifying
purpose--the cynicism that is like a corrosive acid to an evil system;
but this West End London sham cynicism--what does that mean?'

'I don't quite know what you mean,' Soame Rivers said.

'I mean this, wherever you go in London society--at all events, wherever
I go--I notice a peculiarity that I think did not exist, at all events
to such an extent, in my younger days. Everything is taken with easy
ridicule. A divorce case is a joke. Marriage is a joke. Love is a joke.
Patriotism is a joke. Everybody is assumed, as a matter of course, to
have a selfish motive in everything. Is this the real feeling of London
society, or is it only a fashion, a sham, a grimace?'

'I think it is a very natural feeling,' Soame Rivers replied, with the
greatest promptitude.

'And represents the true feeling of what are called the better classes
of London?'

'Why, certainly.'

'I think the thing is detestable, anyhow,' Lord Courtreeve interposed,
'and I am quite sure it does not represent the tone of English society.'

'So am I,' Sir Rupert added.

'But you must admit that it is the tone which does prevail,' the
Dictator said pressingly, for he wanted very much to study this question
down to its roots.

'I am afraid it is the prevailing social tone of London--I mean the West
End,' Sir Rupert admitted reluctantly. 'But you know what a fashion
there is in these things, as well as in others. The fashion in a woman's
gown or a man's hat does not always represent the shape of a woman's
body or the size of a man's head.'

'It sometimes represents the shape of the man's mind, and the size of
the woman's heart,' said Rivers.

'Well, anyhow,' Sir Rupert persevered, 'we all know that a great deal of
this sort of talk is talked for want of anything else to say, and
because it amuses most people, and because anybody can talk cheap
cynicism; I believe that London society is healthy at the core.'

'But come now--let us understand?' Ericson asked; 'how can the society
be healthy at the core for which you yourself make the apology by saying
that it parrots the jargon of a false and loathsome creed because it has
nothing better to say, or because it hopes to be thought witty by
parroting it? Come, Sir Rupert, you won't maintain that?'

'I will maintain,' Sir Rupert said, 'that London society is not as bad
as it seems.'

'Oh, well, I have no doubt you are right in that,' the Dictator hastily
replied. 'But what I think so melancholy to see is that degeneracy of
social life in England--I mean in London--which apes a cynicism it
doesn't feel.'

'But I think it does feel it,' Rivers struck in; 'and very naturally and
justly.'

'Then you think London society is really demoralised?' the Dictator
spoke, turning on him rather suddenly.

'I think London society is just what is has always been,' Rivers
promptly answered.

'Corrupt and cynical?'

'Well, no. I should rather say corrupt and candid.'

'If that is London society, that certainly is not English social life,'
Lord Courtreeve declared emphatically, patting the table with his hand.
'It isn't even London social life. Come down to the East End, sir----'

'Oh, indeed, by Jove! I shall do nothing of the kind!' Rivers replied,
as with a shudder. 'I think, of all the humbugs of London society,
slumming is about the worst.'

'I was not speaking of that,' Lord Courtreeve said, with a slight flush
on his mild face. 'Perhaps I do not think very differently from you
about some of it--some of it--although, Heaven be praised, not about
all; but what I mean and was going to say when I was interrupted'--and
he looked with a certain modified air of reproach at Rivers--'what I was
going to say when I was interrupted,' he repeated, as if to make sure
that he was not going to be interrupted this time--'was, that if you
would go down to the East End with me, I could show you in one day
plenty of proofs that the heart of the English people is as sound and
true as ever it was----'

'Very likely,' Rivers interposed saucily. 'I never said it wasn't.'

Lord Courtreevo gaped with astonishment.

'I don't quite grasp your meaning,' he stammered.

'I never said,' Soame Rivers replied deliberately, 'that the heart of
the English people was not just as sound and true now as ever it was--I
dare say it is just about the same--_même jeu_, don't you know?' and he
took a languid puff at his cigarette.

'Am I to be glad or sorry of your answer?' Lord Courtreeve asked, with a
stare.

'How can I tell? It depends on what you want me to say.'

'Well, if you mean to praise the great heart of the English people now,
and at other times----'

'Oh dear, no; I mean nothing of the kind.'

'I say, Rivers, this is all bosh, you know,' Sir Rupert struck in.

'I think we are all shams and frauds in our set--in our class,' Rivers
said, composedly; 'and we are well brought up and educated and all that,
don't you know? I really can't see why some cads who clean windows, or
drive omnibuses, or sell vegetables in a donkey-cart, or carry bricks up
a ladder, should be any better than we. Not a bit of it--if we are bad,
they are worse, you may put your money on that.'

'Well I think I have had my answer,' the Dictator said, with a smile.

'And what is your interpretation of the Oracle's answer?' Rivers asked.

'I should have to interpret the Oracle itself before I could be clear as
to the meaning of its answer,' Ericson said composedly.

Soame Rivers knew pretty well by the words and by the tone that if he
did not like the Dictator, neither did the Dictator very much like him.

'You must not mind Rivers and his cynicism,' Sir Rupert said,
intervening somewhat hurriedly; 'he doesn't mean half he says.'

'Or say half he means,' Rivers added.

'But, as I was telling you, about the police organisation of Siam,' Sir
Lionel broke out anew. And this time the others went back without
resistance to a few moments more of Siam.



CHAPTER X

A SOLDIER OF FORTUNE


Captain Oisin Sarrasin came one morning to see the Dictator by
appointment.

Captain Oisin Sarrasin had described himself in his letter to the
Dictator as a soldier of fortune. So he was indeed, but there are
soldiers and soldiers of fortune. Ho was not the least in the world like
the Orlando the Fearless, who is described in Lord Lytton's 'Rienzi,'
and who cared only for his steed and his sword and his lady the
peerless. Or, rather, he was like him in one respect--he did care for
his lady the peerless. But otherwise Captain Oisin Sarrasin resembled in
no wise the traditional soldier of fortune, the Dugald Dalgetty, the
Condottiere, the 'Heaven's Swiss' even. Captain Sarrasin was terribly in
earnest, and would not lend the aid of his bright sword to any cause
which he did not believe to be the righteous cause, and, owing to the
nervous peculiarities of his organisation, it was generally the way of
Captain Sarrasin to regard the weaker cause as the righteous cause. That
was his ruling inclination. When he entered as a volunteer the Federal
ranks in the great American war, he knew very well that he was entering
on the side of the stronger. He was not blinded in the least, as so many
Englishmen were, by the fact that in the first instance the Southerners
won some battles. He knew the country from end to end, and he knew
perfectly well what must be the outcome of such a struggle. But then he
went in to fight for the emancipation of the negroes, and he knew that
they were the weakest of all the parties engaged in the controversy, and
so he struck in for them.

He was a man of about forty-eight years of age, and some six feet in
height. He was handsome, strong, and sinewy--all muscles and flesh, and
no fat. He had a deep olive complexion and dark-brown hair and
eyes--eyes that in certain lights looked almost black.

He was a silent man habitually, but given anything to talk about in
which he felt any interest and he could talk on for ever.

Unlike the ordinary soldier of fortune, he was not in the least
thrasonical. He hardly ever talked of himself--he hardly ever told
people of where he had been and what campaigns he had fought in. He
looked soldierly; but the soldier in him did not really very much
overbear the demeanour of the quiet, ordinary gentleman. At the moment
he is a leader-writer on foreign subjects for a daily newspaper in
London, and is also retained on the staff in order that he may give
advice as to the meaning of names and places and allusions in late
foreign telegrams. There is a revolution, say, in Burmah or Patagonia,
and a late telegram comes in and announces in some broken-kneed words
the bare fact of the crisis. Then the editor summons Captain Sarrasin,
and Sarrasin quietly explains:--'Oh, yes, of course; I knew that was
coming this long time. The man at the head of affairs was totally
incompetent. I gave him my advice many a time. Yes, it's all right. I'll
write a few sentences of explanation, and we shall have fuller news
to-morrow.' And he would write his few sentences of explanation, and the
paper he wrote for would come out next morning with the only
intelligible account of what had happened in the far-off country.

The Dictator did not know it at the time, but it was certain that
Captain Sarrasin's description of the rising in Gloria and the expulsion
of Gloria's former chief had done much to secure a favourable reception
of Ericson in London. The night when the news of the struggle and the
defeat came to town no newspaper man knew anything in the world about it
but Oisin Sarrasin. The tendency of the English Press is always to go in
for foreign revolutions. It saves trouble, for one thing. Therefore, all
the London Press except the one paper to which Oisin Sarrasin
contributed assumed, as a matter of course, that the revolution in
Gloria was a revolution against tyranny, or priestcraft, or corruption,
or what not--and Oisin Sarrasin alone explained that it was a revolution
against reforms too enlightened and too advanced--a revolution of
corruption against healthy civilisation and purity--of stagnation
against progress--of the system comfortable to corrupt judges and to
wealthy suitors, and against judicial integrity. It was pointed out in
Captain Sarrasin's paper that this was the sort of revolution which had
succeeded for the moment in turning out the Englishman Ericson--and the
other papers, when they came to look into the matter, found that Captain
Sarrasin's version of the story was about right--and in a few days all
the papers when they came out were glorifying the heroic Englishman who
had endeavoured so nobly to reorganise the Republic of Gloria on the
exalted principles of the British Constitution, and had for the time
lost his place and his power in the generous effort. Then the whole
Press of London rallied round the Dictator, and the Dictator became a
splendid social success.

Oisin Sarrasin had been called to the English bar and to the American
bar. He seemed to have done almost everything that a man could do, and
to have been almost everywhere that a man could be. Yet, as we have
said, he seldom talked of where he had been or what he had done. He did
not parade himself--he was found out. He never paraded his intimate
knowledge of Russia, but he happened at Constantinople one day to sit
next to Sir Mackenzie Wallace at a dinner party, and to get into talk
with him, and Sir Mackenzie went about everywhere the next day telling
everybody that Captain Sarrasin knew more about the inner life of Russia
than any other Englishman he had ever met. It was the same with Stanley
and Africa--the same with Lesseps and Egypt--the same with South America
and the late Emperor of Brazil, to whom Captain Sarrasin was presented
at Cannes. There was a story to the effect that he had lived for some
time among the Indian tribes of the Wild West--and Sarrasin had been
questioned on the subject, and only smiled, and said he had lived a
great many lives in his time--and people did not believe the story. But
it was certain that at the time when the Wild West Show first opened in
London, Oisin Sarrasin went to see it, and that Red Shirt, the fighting
chief of the Sioux nations, galloping round the barrier, happened to see
Sarrasin, suddenly wheeled his horse, and drew up and greeted Sarrasin
in the Sioux dialect, and hailed him as his dear old comrade, and talked
of past adventures, and that Sarrasin responded, and that they had for a
few minutes an eager conversation. It was certain, too, that Colonel
Cody (Buffalo Bill), noticing the conversation, brought his horse up to
the barrier, and, greeting Sarrasin with the friendly way of an old
comrade, said in a tone heard by all who were near, 'Why, Captain, you
don't come out our way in the West as often as you used to do.' Sarrasin
could talk various languages, and his incredulous friends sometimes laid
traps for him. They brought him into contact with Richard Burton, or
Professor Palmer, hoping in their merry moods to enjoy some disastrous
results. But Burton only said in the end, 'By Jupiter, what a knowledge
of Asiatic languages that fellow has!' And Palmer declared that Sarrasin
ought to be paid by the State to teach our British officers all the
dialects of some of the East Indian provinces. In a chance mood of
talkativeness, Sarrasin had mentioned the fact that he spoke modern
Greek. A good-natured friend invited him to a dinner party with M.
Gennadius, the Greek Minister in London, and presented him as one who
was understood to be acquainted with modern Greek. The two had much
conversation together after dinner was over, and great curiosity was
felt by the sceptical friends as to the result. M. Gennadius being
questioned, said, 'Oh, well, of course he speaks Greek perfectly, but I
should have known by his accent here and there that he was not a born
Greek.'

The truth was that Oisin Sarrasin had seen too much in life--seen too
much of life--of places, and peoples, and situations, and so had got his
mind's picture painted out. He had started in life too soon, and
overclouded himself with impressions. His nature had grown languorous
under their too rich variety. His own extraordinary experiences seemed
commonplace to him; he seemed to assume that all men had gone through
just the like. He had seen too much, read too much, been too much. Life
could hardly present him with anything which had not already been a
familiar object or thought to him. Yet he was always on the quiet
look-out for some new principle, some new cause, to stir him into
activity. He had nothing in him of the used-up man--he was curiously the
reverse of the type of the used-up man. He was quietly delighted with
all he had seen and done, and he still longed to add new sights and
doings to his experiences, but he could not easily discover where to
find them. He did not crave merely for new sensations. He was on the
whole a very self-sufficing man--devoted to his wife as she was devoted
to him. He could perfectly well have done without new sensations. But he
had a kind of general idea that he ought to be always doing something
for some cause or somebody, and for a certain time he had not seen any
field on which to develop his Don Quixote instincts. The coming of
Ericson to London reminded him of the Republic of Gloria, and of the
great reforms that were only too great, and, as we have said, he wrote
Ericson up in his newspaper.

Captain Sarrasin had a home in the far southern suburbs, but he had
lately taken a bedroom in Paulo's Hotel. The moment Captain Sarrasin
entered the room the Dictator remembered that he had seen him before.
The Dictator never forgot faces, but he could not always put names to
them, and he was a little surprised to find that he and the soldier of
fortune had met already.

He advanced to meet his visitor with the smile of singular sweetness
which was so attractive to all those on whom it beamed. The Dictator's
sweet smile was as much a part of his success in life--and of his
failure, too, perhaps--as any other quality about him--as his nerve, or
his courage, or his good temper, or his commander-in-chief sort of
genius.

'We have met before, Captain Sarrasin,' he said. 'I remember seeing you
in Gloria--I am not mistaken, surely?'

'I was in Gloria,' Captain Sarrasin answered, 'but I left long before
the outbreak of the revolution. I remained there a little time. I think
I saw even then what was coming. I am on your side altogether.'

'Yes, so you were good enough to tell me. Well, have you heard any late
news? You know how my heart is bound up with the fortunes of Gloria?'

'I know very well, and I think I do bring you some news. It is all going
to pieces in Gloria without you.'

'Going to pieces--how can that be?'

'The Republic is torn asunder by faction, and she is going to be annexed
by her big neighbour.'

'The new Republic of Orizaba?'

This was a vast South American state which had started into political
existence as an empire and had shaken off its emperor--sent him home to
Europe--and had set up as a republic of a somewhat aggressive order.

'Yes, Orizaba, of course.'

'But do you really believe, Captain Sarrasin, that Orizaba has any
actual intentions of that kind?'

'I happen to know it for certain,' Captain Sarrasin grimly replied.

'How do you know it, may I ask?'

'Because I have had letters offering me a command in the expedition to
cross the frontier of Gloria.'

The Dictator looked straight into the eyes of Captain Sarrasin. They
were mild, blue, fearless eyes. Ericson read nothing there that he might
not have read in the eyes of Sarrasin's quiet, scholarly, untravelled
brother.

'Captain Sarrasin,' he said, 'I am an odd sort of person, and always
have been--can't help myself in fact. Do you mind my feeling your
pulse?'

'Not in the least,' Sarrasin gravely answered, with as little expression
of surprise about him as if Ericson had asked him whether he did not
think the weather was very fine. He held out a strong sinewy and white
wrist. Ericson laid his finger on the pulse.

'Your pulse as mine,' he said, 'doth temperately keep time, and makes as
healthful music.'

Captain Sarrasin's face lighted.

'You are a Shakespearian?' he said eagerly. 'I am so glad. I am an
old-fashioned person, and I love Shakespeare; that is only another
reason why----'

'Go on, Captain Sarrasin.'

'Why I want to go along with you.'

'But do you want to go along with me, and where?'

'To Gloria, of course. You have not asked me why I refused to give my
services to Orizaba.'

'No; I assumed that you did not care to be the mercenary of an
invasion.'

'Mercenary? No, it wasn't quite that. I have been a mercenary in many
parts of the world, although I never in my life fought on what I did not
believe to be the right side. That's how it comes in here--in your case.
I told the Orizaba people who wrote to me that I firmly believed you
were certain to come back to Gloria, and that if the sword of Oisin
Sarrasin could help you that sword was at your disposal.'

'Captain Sarrasin,' the Dictator said, 'give me your hand.'

Captain Sarrasin was a pretty strong man, but the grip of the Dictator
almost made him wince.

'When you make up your mind to go back,' Captain Sarrasin said, 'let me
know. I'll go with you.'

'If this is really going on,' the Dictator said meditatively--'if
Orizaba is actually going to make war on Gloria--well, I _must_ go back.
I think Gloria would welcome me under such conditions--at such a crisis.
I do not see that there is any other man----'

'There is no other man,' Sarrasin said. 'Of course one doesn't know what
the scoundrels who are in office now might do. They might arrest you and
shoot you the moment you landed--they are quite capable of it.'

'They are, I dare say,' the Dictator said carelessly. 'But I shouldn't
mind that--I should take my chance,' And then the sudden thought went to
his heart that he should dislike death now much more than he would have
done a few weeks ago. But he hastened to repeat, 'I should take my
chance.'

'Of course, of course,' said Sarrasin, quite accepting the Dictator's
remark as a commonplace and self-evident matter of fact. 'I'll take _my_
chance too. I'll go along with you, and so will my wife.'

'Your wife?'

'Oh, yes, my wife. She goes everywhere with me.'

The face of the Dictator looked rather blank. He did not quite see the
appropriateness of petticoats in actual warfare--unless, perhaps, the
short petticoats of a _vivandière_; and he hoped that Captain Sarrasin's
wife was not a _vivandière_.

'You see,' Sarrasin said cheerily, 'my wife and I are very fond of each
other, and our one little child is long since dead, and we have nobody
else to care much about. And she is a tall woman, nearly as tall as I
am, and she dresses up as my _aide-de-camp_; and she has gone with me
into all my fights. And we find it so convenient that if ever I should
get killed, then, of course, she would manage to get killed too, and
_vice versâ--vice versâ_, of course. And that would be so convenient,
don't you see? We are so used to each other, one of us couldn't get on
alone.'

The Dictator felt his eyes growing a little moist at this curious
revelation of conjugal affection.

'May I have the honour soon,' he asked, 'of being presented to Mrs.
Sarrasin?'

'Mrs. Sarrasin, sir,' said her husband, 'will come whenever she is asked
or sent for. Mrs. Sarrasin will regard it as the highest honour of her
life to be allowed to serve upon your staff with me.'

'Has she been with you in all your campaigns?' Ericson asked.

'In all what I may call my irregular warfare, certainly,' Captain
Sarrasin answered. 'When first we married I was in the British service,
sir; and of course they wouldn't allow anything of the kind there. But
after that I gave up the English army--there wasn't much chance of any
real fighting going on--and I served in all sorts of odd irregular
campaignings, and Mrs. Sarrasin found out that she preferred to be with
me--and so from that time we fought, as I may say, side by side. She has
been wounded more than once--but she doesn't mind. She is not the woman
to care about that sort of thing. She is a very remarkable woman.'

'She must be,' the Dictator said earnestly. 'When shall I have the
chance of seeing her? When may I call on her?'

'I hardly venture to ask it,' Captain Sarrasin said; 'but would you
honour us by dining with us--any day you have to spare?'

'I shall be delighted,' the Dictator replied. 'Let us find a day. May I
send for my secretary?'

Mr. Hamilton was sent for and entered, bland and graceful as usual, but
with a deep sore at his heart.

'Hamilton, how soon have I a free day for dining with Captain Sarrasin,
who is kind enough to ask me?'

Hamilton referred to his engagement-book.

'Saturday week is free. That is, it is not filled up. You have seven
invitations, but none of them has yet been accepted.'

'Refuse them all, please; I shall dine with Captain Sarrasin.'

'If Mr. Hamilton will also do me the pleasure----' the kindly captain
began.

'No, I am afraid I cannot allow him,' the Dictator answered. 'He is sure
to have been included in some of these invitations, and we must diffuse
ourselves as much as we can. He must represent me somewhere. You see,
Captain Sarrasin, it is only in obedience to Hamilton's policy that I
have consented to go to any of these smart dinner parties at all, and he
must really bear his share of the burden which he insists on imposing
upon me.'

'All right; I'm game,' Hamilton said.

'He likes it, I dare say,' Ericson said. 'He is young and fresh and
energetic, and he is fond of mashing on to young and pretty women--and
so the dinner parties give him pleasure. It will give me sincere
pleasure to dine with Mrs. Sarrasin and you, and we'll leave Hamilton to
his countesses and marchionesses. But don't think too badly of him,
Captain Sarrasin, for all that: he is so young. If there is a fight to
go on in Gloria he'll be there with you and me--you may depend on that.'

'But is there any chance of a fight going on?' Hamilton asked, looking
up from his papers with flushing face and sparkling eyes.

'Captain Sarrasin thinks that there is a good chance of something of the
kind, and he offers to be with us. He has certain information that there
is a scheme on foot in Orizaba for the invasion and annexation of
Gloria.'

Hamilton leaped up in delight.

'By Jove!' he exclaimed, 'that would be the one chance to rally all that
is left of the national and the patriotic in Gloria! Hip, hip,
hurrah!--one cheer more--hurrah!' And the usually demure Hamilton
actually danced then and there, in his exultation, some steps of a
music-hall breakdown. His face was aflame with delight. The Dictator and
Sarrasin both looked at him with an expression of sympathy and
admiration. But there were different feelings in the breasts of the two
sympathising men. Sarrasin was admiring the manly courage and spirit of
the young man, and in his admiration there was that admixture of
melancholy, of something like compassion, with which middle-age regards
the enthusiasm of youth.

With the Dictator's admiration was blended the full knowledge that, amid
all Hamilton's sincere delight in the prospect of again striking a blow
for Gloria, there was a suffused delight in the sense of sudden
lightening of pain--the sense that while fighting for Gloria he would be
able, in some degree, to shake off the burden of his unsuccessful love.
In the wild excitement of the coming struggle he might have a chance of
now and then forgetting how much he loved Helena Langley and how she did
not love him.



CHAPTER XI

HELENA


Love, according to the Greek proverb quoted by Plutarch, is the
offspring of the rainbow and the west wind, that delicious west wind, so
full of hope and youth in all its breathings--that rainbow that we may,
if we will, pursue for ever, and which we shall never overtake. Helena
Langley, although she was a fairly well-read girl, had probably never
heard of the proverb, but there was something in her mood of mind at
present that might seem to have sprung from the conjunction of the
rainbow and the west wind. She was exalted out of herself by her
feelings--the west wind breathed lovingly on her--and yet she saw that
the rainbow was very far off. She was beginning to admit to herself that
she was in love with the Dictator--at all events, that she was growing
more and more into love with him; but she could not see that he was at
all likely to be in love with her. She was a spoilt child; she had all
the virtues and no doubt some of the defects of the spoilt child. She
had always been given to understand that she would be a great
match--that anybody would be delighted to marry her--that she might
marry anyone she pleased provided she did not take a fancy to a royal
prince, and that she must be very careful not to let herself be married
for her money alone. She knew that she was a handsome girl, and she
knew, too, that she had got credit for being clever and a little
eccentric--for being a girl who was privileged to be unconventional, and
to say what she pleased and whatever came into her head. She enjoyed the
knowledge of the fact that she was allowed to speak out her mind, and
that people would put up with things from her which they would not put
up with from other girls. The knowledge did not make her feel
cynical--it only made her feel secure. She was not a reasoning girl; she
loved to follow her own impulses, and had the pleased conviction that
they generally led her right.

Now, however, it seemed to her that things had not been going right with
her, and that she had her own impulses all to blame. She had taken a
great liking to Mr. Hamilton, and she had petted him and made much of
him, and probably got talked of with him, and all the time she never had
the faintest idea that he was likely to misunderstand her feelings
towards him. She thought he would know well enough that she admired him
and was friendly and free with him because he was the devoted follower
of the Dictator. And at first she regarded the Dictator himself only as
the chief of a cause which she had persuaded herself to recognise and
talked herself into regarding as _her_ cause. Therefore it had not
occurred to her to think that Hamilton would not be quite satisfied with
the friendliness which she showed to him as the devoted follower of
their common leader. She went on the assumption that they were sworn and
natural comrades, Hamilton and herself, bound together by the common
bond of servitude to the Dictator. All this dream had been suddenly
shattered by the visit of Ericson, and the curious mission on which he
had come. Helena felt her cheeks flushing up again and again as she
thought of it. It had told her everything. It had shown her what a
mistake she had made when she lavished so much of her friendly
attentions on Hamilton--and what a mistake she had made when she failed
to understand her own feelings about the Dictator. The moment he spoke
to her of Hamilton's offer she knew at a flash how it was with her. The
burst of disappointment and anger with which she found that he had come
there to recommend to her the love of another man was a revelation that
almost dazzled her by its light. What had she said, what had she done?
she now kept asking herself. Had she betrayed her secret to him, just at
the very moment when it had first betrayed itself to her? Had she
allowed him to guess that she loved him? Her cheeks kept reddening again
and again at the terrible suspicion. What must he think of her? Would he
pity her? Would he wonder at her--would he feel shocked and sorry, or
only gently mirthful? Did he regard her only as a more or less
precocious child? What had she said--how had she looked--had her eyes
revealed her, or her trembling lips, or her anger, or the tone of her
voice? A young man accustomed to ways of abstinence is tempted one
sudden night into drinking more champagne than is good for him, and in a
place where there are girls, where there is one girl in whose eyes above
all others he wishes to seem an admirable and heroic figure. He gets
home all right--he is apparently in possession of all his senses; but he
has an agonised doubt as to what he may have said or done while the
first flush of the too much champagne was still in his spirits and his
brain. He remembers talking with her. He tries to remember whether she
looked at all amazed or shocked. He does not think she did; he cannot
recall any of her words, or his words; but he may have said something to
convince her that he had taken too much champagne, and for her even to
think anything of the kind about him would have seemed to him eternal
and utter degradation in her eyes. Very much like this were the feelings
of Helena Langley about the words which she might have spoken, the looks
which she might have given, to the Dictator. All she knew was that she
was not quite herself at the time: the rest was mere doubt and misery.
And Helena Langley passed in society for being a girl who never cared in
the least what she said or what she did, so long as she was not
conventional.

To add to her concern, the Duchess of Deptford was announced. Now Helena
was very fond of the beautiful and bright little Duchess, with her
kindly heart, her utter absence of affectation, and her penetrating
eyes. She gathered herself up and went to meet her friend.

'My! but you are looking bad, child!' the genial Duchess said. She may
have been a year and a half or so older than Helena. 'What's the matter
with you, anyway? Why have you got those blue semicircles round your
eyes? Ain't you well?'

'Oh, yes, quite well,' Helena hastened to explain. 'Nothing is ever the
matter with _me_, Duchess. My father says Nature meant to make me a boy
and made a mistake at the last moment. I am the only girl he knows--so
he tells me--that never is out of sorts.'

'Well, then, my dear, that only proves the more certainly that Nature
distinctly meant you for a girl when she made you a girl.'

'Dear Duchess, how _do_ you explain that?'

'Because you have got the art of concealing your feelings, which men
have not got, anyhow,' the Duchess said, composedly. 'If you ain't out
of sorts about something--and with these blue semicircles under your
lovely eyes--well, then, a semicircle is not a semicircle, nor a girl a
girl. That's so.'

'Dear Duchess, never mind me. I am really in the rudest health----'

'And no troubles--brain, or heart, or anything?'

'Oh, no; none but those common to all human creatures.'

'Well, well, have it your own way,' the Duchess said, good-humouredly.
'You have got a kind father to look after you, anyway. How is dear Sir
Rupert?'

Helena explained that her father was very well, thank you, and the
conversation drifted away from those present to some of those absent.

'Seen Mr. Ericson lately?' the Duchess asked.

'Oh, yes, quite lately.' Helena did not explain how very lately it was
that she had seen him.

'I like him very much,' said the Duchess. 'He is real sweet, I think.'

'He is very charming,' Helena said.

'And his secretary, young--what is his name?'

'Mr. Hamilton?'

'Yes, yes, Mr. Hamilton. Don't you think he is just a lovely young man?'

'I like him immensely.'

'But so handsome, don't you think? Handsomer than Mr. Ericson, I think.'

'One doesn't think much about Mr. Ericson's personal appearance,' Helena
said, in a tone which distinctly implied that, according to her view of
things, Mr. Ericson was quite above personal appearance.

'Well, of course, he is a great man, and he did wonderful things; and he
was a Dictator----'

'And will be again,' said Helena.

'What troubles me is this,' said the Duchess, 'I don't see much of the
Dictator in him. Do you?'

'How do you mean, Duchess?' Helena asked evasively.

'Well, he don't seem to me to have much of a ruler of men about him. He
is a charming man, and a brainy man, I dare say; but the sort of man
that takes hold at once and manages things and puts things straight all
of his own strength--well, he don't seem to be quite that sort of
man--now, does he?'

'We haven't seen him tried,' Helena said.

'No, of course; we haven't had a chance that way, but it seems to me as
if you could get some kind of notion about a man's being a great
commander-in-chief without actually seeing him directing a field of
battle. Now I don't appear to get that impression from Mr. Ericson.'

'Mr. Ericson wouldn't care to show off probably. He likes to keep
himself in the background,' Helena said warmly.

'Dear child, I am not finding any fault with your hero, or saying that
he isn't a hero; I am only saying that, so far, I have not discovered
any of the magnetic force of the hero--isn't magnetic force the word? He
is ever so nice and quiet and intellectual, and I dare say, as an
all-round man, he's first-class, but I have not yet struck the
Dictatorship quality in him.'

The Duchess rose to go away.

'You see, there's nothing in particular for him to do in this country,'
Helena said, still lingering on the subject which the Duchess seemed
quite willing to put away.

'Is he going back to his own country?' the Duchess asked, languidly.

'His own country, Duchess? Why, _this_ is his own country.' Wrapped as
she was in the fortunes of Gloria, Helena, like a genuine English girl,
could not help resenting the idea of any Englishman acknowledging any
country but England. Especially she would not admit that her particular
hero could be any sort of foreigner.

'Well--his adopted country I mean--the country where he was Dictator. Is
he going back there?'

'When the people call him, he will go,' Helena answered proudly.

'Oh, my dear, if he wants to get back he had better go before the people
call him. People forget so soon nowadays. We have all sorts of exiles
over in the States, and it don't seem to me as if anybody ever called
them back. Some of them have gone without being called, and then I think
they mostly got shot. But I hope your hero won't do that. Good-bye,
dear; come and see me soon, or I shall think you as mean as ever you can
be.' And the beautiful Duchess, bending her graceful head, departed, and
left Helena to her own reflections.

Somehow these were not altogether pleasant reflections. Helena did not
like the manner in which the Dictator had been discussed by the Duchess.
The Duchess talked of him as if he were just some ordinary adventurer,
who would be forgotten in his old domain if he did not keep knocking at
the door and demanding readmittance even at the risk of being shot for
his pains. This grated harshly on her ears. In truth, it is very hard to
talk of the loved one to loving ears without producing a sound that
grates on them. Too much praise may grate--criticism of any kind
grates--cool indifferent comment, even though perfectly free from
ill-nature, is sure to grate. The loved one, in fact, is not to be
spoken of as other beings of earth may lawfully and properly be spoken
of. On the whole, the loving one is probably happiest when the name of
the loved one is not mentioned at all by profane or commonplace lips.
But there was something more than this in Helena's case. The very
thought which the Duchess had given out so freely and so carelessly had
long been a lurking thought in Helena's own mind. Whenever it made its
appearance too boldly she tried to shut it down and clap the hatches
over it, and keep it there, suppressed and shut below. But it would come
up again and again. The thought was, Where is the Dictator? She could
recognise the bright talker, the intellectual thinker, the clever man of
the world, the polished, grave, and graceful gentleman, but where were
the elements of Dictatorship? It was quite true, as she herself had
said, had pleaded even, that some men never carry their great public
qualities into civil life; and Helena raked together in her mind all
manner of famous historical examples of men who had led great armies to
victory, or had discovered new worlds for civilisation to conquer, and
who appeared to be nothing in a drawing- or a dining-room but ordinary,
well-behaved, undemonstrative gentlemen. Why should not the Dictator be
one of these? Why, indeed? She was sure he must be one of these, but was
it not to be her lot to see him in his true light--in his true self?
Then the meeting of that other day gave her a keen pang. She did not
like the idea of the Dictator coming to her to make love by deputy for
another man. It was not like him, she thought, to undertake a task such
as that. It was done, of course, out of kindness and affection for Mr.
Hamilton--and that was, in its way, a noble and a generous act--but
still, it jarred upon her feelings. The truth was that it jarred upon
her feelings because it showed her, as she thought, how little serious
consideration of her was in the Dictator's mind, and how sincere and
genuine had been his words when he told her again and again that to him
she seemed little more than a child. It was not that feeling which had
brought up the wish that she could see the Dictator prove himself
a man born to dictate. But that wish, or that doubt, or that
questioning--whatever it might be--which was already in her mind was
stirred to painful activity now by the consciousness which she strove to
exclude, and could not help admitting, that she, after all, was nothing
to the Dictator.

That night, like most nights when she did not herself entertain, Helena
went with her father to a dinner party. She showed herself to be in
radiant spirits the moment she entered the room. She was dressed
bewitchingly, and everyone said she was looking more charming than ever.
The fashion of lighting drawing-rooms and dining-rooms gives ample
opportunity for a harmless deception in these days, and the blue
half-circles were not seen round Helena's eyes, nor would any of the
company in the drawing-room have guessed that the heart under that
silken bodice was bleeding.



CHAPTER XII

DOLORES


Mr. Paulo was perplexed. And as Mr. Paulo was a cool-headed,
clear-sighted man, perplexity was an unusual thing with him, and it
annoyed him. The cause of his perplexity was connected almost entirely
with the ex-Dictator of Gloria. Ericson had still kept his rooms in the
hotel; he had said, and Hamilton agreed with him, that in remaining
there they seemed more like birds of passage, more determined to regard
return to Gloria as not merely a possible but a probable event, and an
event in the near future. To take a house in London, the Dictator
thought, and, of course, Hamilton thought with him, would be to admit
the possibility of a lengthy sojourn in London, and that was a
possibility which neither of the two men wished to entertain. 'It
wouldn't look well in the papers,' Hamilton said, shaking his head
solemnly. So they remained on at Paulo's, and Paulo kept the green and
yellow flag of Gloria flying as if the guest beneath his roof were still
a ruling potentate.

But it was not the stay of the Dictator that in any way perplexed Mr.
Paulo. Paulo was honestly proud of the presence of Ericson in his house.
Paulo's father was a Spaniard who had gone out to Gloria as a waiter in
a _café_, and who had entered the service of a young Englishman in the
Legation, and had followed him to England and married an English wife.
Mr. Paulo--George Paulo--was the son of this international union. His
father had been a 'gentleman's gentleman,' and Paulo followed his
father's business and became a gentleman's gentleman too. George Paulo
was almost entirely English in his nature, thanks to a strong-minded
mother, who ruled the late Manuel Paulo with a kindly severity. The only
thing Spanish about him was his face--smooth-shaven with small, black
side whiskers--a face which might have seemed more appropriately placed
in the bull rings of Madrid or Seville. George Paulo, in his turn,
married an Englishwoman, a lady's-maid, with some economies and more
ideas. They had determined, soon after their marriage, to make a start
in life for themselves. They had kept a lodging-house in Sloane Street,
which soon became popular with well-to-do young gentlemen, smart
soldiers, and budding diplomatists, for both Paulo and his wife
understood perfectly the art of making these young gentlemen
comfortable.

Things went well with Paulo and his wife; their small economies were
made into small investments; the investments, being judicious,
prospered. A daring purchase of house property proved one stroke of
success, and led to another. When he was fifty years of age Paulo was a
rich man, and then he built Paulo's Hotel, and his fortune swelled
yearly. He was a very happy man, for he adored his wife and he idolised
his daughter, the handsome, stately, dark-eyed girl whom, for some
sentimental reason, her mother had insisted upon calling Dolores.
Dolores was, or at least seemed to be, that rarest creature among
women--an unconscious beauty. She could pass a mirror without even a
glance at it.

Dolores Paulo had everything she wanted. She was well taught; she knew
several languages, including, first of all, that Spanish of which her
father, for all his bull-fighter face, knew not a single syllable; she
could play, and sing, and dance; and, above all things, she could ride.
No one in the Park rode better than Miss Paulo; no one in the Park had
better animals to ride. George Paulo was a judge of horseflesh, and he
bought the best horses in London for Dolores; and when Dolores rode in
the Row, as she did every morning, with a smart groom behind her,
everyone looked in admiration at the handsome girl who was so perfectly
mounted. The Paulos were a curious family. They had not the least desire
to be above what George Paulo called their station in life. He and his
wife were people of humble origin, who had honestly become rich; but
they had not the least desire to force themselves upon a society which
might have accepted them for their money, and laughed at them for their
ambition. They lived in a suite of rooms in their own hotel, and they
managed the hotel themselves. They gave all their time to it, and it
took all their time, and they were proud of it. It was their business
and their pleasure, and they worked for it with an artistic
conscientiousness which was highly admirable. Dolores had inherited the
sense and the business-like qualities of her parents, and she insisted
on taking her part in the great work of keeping the hotel going. Paulo,
proud of his hotel, was still prouder of the interest taken in it by his
daughter.

Dolores came in from her ride one afternoon, and was hurrying to her
room to change her dress, when she was met by her father in the public
corridor.

'Dolores, my little girl'--he always called the splendidly? proportioned
young woman 'my little girl'--'I'm puzzled. I don't mind telling you, in
confidence, that I am extremely puzzled.'

'Have you told mother?'

'Oh, yes, of course I've told mother, but she don't seem to think there
is anything in it.'

'Then you may be sure there is nothing in it.' Mrs., or Madame, Paulo
was the recognised sense-carrier of the household.

'Yes, I know. Nobody knows better than I what a woman _your_ mother is.'
He laid a kindly emphasis on the word 'your' as if to carry to the
credit of Dolores some considerable part of the compliment that he was
paying to her parent. 'But still, I thought I should like to talk to
you, too, little girl. If two heads are better than one, three heads, I
take it, are better than two.'

'All right, dear; go ahead.'

'Well, its about this Captain Sarrasin--in number forty-seven--you
know.'

'Of course I know, dear; but what can puzzle you about him? He seems to
me the most simple and charming old gentleman I have seen in this house
for a long time.'

'Old gentleman,' Paulo said, with a smile. 'I fancy how much he would
like to be described in that sort of way, and by a handsome girl, too!
He don't think he is an old gentleman, you may be sure.'

'Why, father, he is almost as old as you; he must be fifty years old at
least--more than that.'

'So you consider me quite an old party?' Paulo said, with a smile.

'I consider you an old darling,' his daughter answered, giving him a
fervent embrace--they were alone in the corridor--and Paulo seemed quite
contented.

'But now,' he said, releasing himself from the prolonged osculation,
'about this Captain Sarrasin?'

'Yes, dear, about him. Only what about him?'

'Well, that's exactly what I want to know. I don't quite see what he's
up to. What does he have a room in this hotel for?'

'I suppose because he thinks it is a very nice hotel--and so it is,
dear, thanks to you.'

'Yes, that's all right enough,' Paulo said, a little dissatisfied; the
personal compliment did not charm away his discomfort in this instance,
as the embrace had done in the other.

'I don't see where your trouble comes in, dear.'

'Well, you see, I have ascertained that this Captain Sarrasin is a
married man, and that he has a house where he and his wife live down
Clapham way,' and Paulo made a jerk with his hand as if to designate to
his daughter the precise geographical situation of Captain Sarrasin's
abode. 'But he sleeps here many nights, and he is here most of the day,
and he gets his letters here, and all sorts of people come to see him
here.'

'I suppose, dear, he has business to do, and it wouldn't be quite
convenient for people to go out and see him in Clapham.'

'Why, my little girl, if it comes to that, it would be almost as
convenient for people--City people for instance--to go to Clapham as to
come here.'

'Dear, that depends on what part of Clapham he lives in. You see we are
just next to a station here, and in parts of Clapham they are two miles
off anything of the kind. Besides, all people don't come from the City,
do they?'

'Business people do,' Mr. Paulo replied sententiously.

'But the people I see coming after Captain Sarrasin are not one little
bit like City people.'

'Precisely,' her father caught her up; 'there you have got it, little
girl. That's what has set me thinking. What are your ideas about the
people who come to see him? You know the looks of people pretty well by
this time. You have a good eye for them. How do you figure them up?'

The girl reflected.

'Well, I should say foreign refugees generally, and explorers, and all
that kind; Mr. Hiram Borringer comes with his South Pole expeditions,
and I see men who were in Africa with Stanley--and all that kind of
thing.'

'Yes, but some of that may be a blind, don't you know. Have you ever,
tell me, in all your recollection, seen a downright, unmistakable, solid
City man go into Captain Sarrasin's room?'

'No, no,' said the girl, after a moment's thought; 'I can't quite say
that I have. But I don't see what that matters to us. There are good
people, I suppose, who don't come from the City?'

'I don't like it, somehow,' Paulo said. 'I have been thinking it
over--and I tell you I don't like it!'

'What I can't make out,' the girl said, not impatiently but very gently,
'is what you don't like in the matter. Is there anything wrong with this
Captain Sarrasin? He seems an old dear.'

'This is how it strikes me. He never came to this house until after his
Excellency the Dictator made up his mind to settle here.'

'Oh!' Dolores started and turned pale. 'Tell me what you mean, dear--you
frighten one.'

Paulo smiled.

'You are not over-easily frightened,' he said, 'and so I'll tell you all
my suspicions.'

'Suspicions?' she said, with a drawing in of the breath that seemed as
emphatic as a shudder. 'What is there to suspect?'

'Well, there is nothing more than suspicion at present. But here it is.
I have it on the best authority that this Captain Sarrasin was out in
Gloria. Now, he never told _me_ that.'

'No? Well, go on.'

'He came back here to England long before his Excellency came, but he
never took a room in this house until his Excellency had made up his
mind to settle down here for all his time with Mr. Hamilton. Now, what
do you think his settling down here, and not taking a house, like
General Boulanger--what do you think his staying on here means?'

'I suppose,' the girl said, slowly, 'it means that he has not given up
the idea of recovering his position in Gloria.' She spoke in a low tone,
and with eyes that sparkled.

'Right you are, girl. Of course, that's what it does mean. Mr. Hamilton
as good as told me himself; but I didn't want him to tell me. Now,
again, if this Captain Sarrasin has been out in Gloria, and if he is on
the right side, why didn't he call on his Excellency and prove himself a
friend?'

'Dear, he has called on him.'

'Yesterday, yes; but not before.'

'Yes, but don't you see, dear,' Dolores said eagerly, 'that would cut
both ways. You think that he is not a friend, but an enemy?'

'I begin to fear so, Dolores.'

'But, don't you see, an enemy might be for that very reason all the more
anxious to pass himself off as a friend?'

'Yes, there's something in that, little girl; there's something in that,
to be sure. But now you just hear me out before you let your mind come
to any conclusion one way or the other.'

'I'll hear you out,' said Dolores; 'you need not be afraid about that.'

Dolores knew her father to be a cool-headed and sensible man; but still,
even that fact would hardly in itself account for the interest she took
in suspicions which appeared to have only the slightest possible
foundation. She was evidently listening with breathless anxiety.

'Now, of course, I never allow revolutionary plotting in this house,'
Paulo went on to say. 'I may have _my_ sympathies and you may have
_your_ sympathies, and so on; but business is business, and we can't
have any plans of campaign carried on in Paulo's Hotel. Kings are as
good customers to me when they're on a throne as when they're off
it--better maybe.'

'Yes, dear, I know all about that.'

'Still, one must assume that a man like his Excellency will see his
friends in private, in his own rooms, and talk over things. I don't
suppose he and Mr. Hamilton are talking about nothing but the play and
the opera and Hurlingham, and all that.'

'No, no, of course not. Well?'

'It would get out that they were planning a return to Gloria. Now I
know--and I dare say you know--that a return to Gloria by his Excellency
would mean the stopping of the supplies to hundreds of rascals there,
who are living on public plunder, and who are always living on it as
long as he is not there, and who never will be allowed to live upon it
as long as he is there--don't you see?'

'Oh yes, dear; I see very plainly.'

'It's all true what I say, isn't it?'

'Quite true--quite--quite true.'

'Well, now, I dare say you begin to take my idea. You know how little
that gang of scoundrels care about the life of any man.'

'Oh, father, please don't!' She had her riding-whip in her hand, and she
made a quick movement with it, expressively suggesting how she should
like to deal with such scoundrels.

'My child, my child, it has to be talked about. You don't seem quite in
your usual form to-day----'

'Oh, yes; I'm all right. But it sounds so dreadful. You don't really
think people are plotting to kill--him?'

'I don't say that they are; but from what I know of the scoundrels out
there who are opposed to him, it wouldn't one bit surprise me.'

'Oh!' The girl shuddered, and again the riding-whip flashed.

'But it may not be quite that, you know, little girl; there are shabby
tricks to be done short of that--there's spying and eavesdropping, to
find out, in advance, all he is going to do, and to thwart it----'

'Yes, yes, there might be that,' Dolores said, in a tone of relief--the
tone of one who, still fearing for the worst, is glad to be reminded
that there may, after all, be something not so bad as the very worst.

'I don't want his Excellency spied on in Paulo's Hotel,' Mr. Paulo
proudly said. 'It has not been the way of this hotel, and I do not mean
that it ever should be the way.'

'Not likely,' Dolores said, with a scornful toss of her head. 'The idea,
indeed, of Paulo's Hotel being a resort of _mouchards_ and spies, to
find out the secrets of illustrious exiles who were sheltered as
guests!'

'Well, that's what I say. Now I have my suspicions of this Captain
Sarrasin. I don't know what he wants here, and why, if he is on the side
of his Excellency, he don't boldly attend him every day.'

'I think you are wrong about him, dear,' Dolores quietly said. 'You may
be right enough in your general suspicions and alarms and all that, and
I dare say you _are_ quite right; but I am sure you are wrong about him.
Anyhow, you keep a sharp look-out everywhere else, and leave me to find
out all about _him_.'

'Little girl, how can you find out all about him?'

'Leave that to me. I'll talk to him, and I'll make him talk to me. I
never saw a man yet whose character I couldn't read like a printed book
after I have had a little direct and confidential talk with him.' Miss
Dolores tossed her head with the air of one who would say, 'Ask me no
questions about the secret of my art; enough for you to know that the
art is there.'

'Well, some of you women have wonderful gifts, I know,' her father said,
half admiringly, half reflectively, proud of his daughter, and wondering
how women came to have such gifts.

While they were speaking, Hamilton and Sir Rupert Langley came out of
the Dictator's rooms together. Dolores knew that the Dictator had been
out of the hotel for some hours. Mr. Paulo disappeared. Dolores knew Sir
Rupert perfectly well by sight, and knew who he was, and all about him.
She had spoken now and again to Hamilton. He took off his hat in
passing, and she, acting on a sudden impulse, asked if he could speak to
her for a moment.

Hamilton, of course, cheerfully assented, and asked Sir Rupert to wait a
few seconds for him. Sir Rupert passed along the corridor and stood at
the head of the stairs.

'Only a word, Mr. Hamilton. Excuse me for having stopped you so
unceremoniously.'

'Oh, Miss Paulo, please don't talk of excuses.'

'Well, it's only this. Do you know anything about a Captain Sarrasin,
who stays here a good deal of late?'

'Captain Sarrasin? Yes, I know a little about him; not very much,
certainly; why do you ask?'

'Do you think he is a man to be trusted?'

She spoke in a low tone; her manner was very grave, and she fixed her
deep, dark eyes on Hamilton. Hamilton read earnestness in them. He was
almost startled.

'From all I know,' he answered slowly, 'I believe him to be a brave
soldier and a man of honour.'

'So do I!' the girl said emphatically, and with relief sparkling in her
eyes.

'But why do you ask?'

'I have heard something,' she said; 'I don't believe it; but I'll soon
find out about his being here as a spy.'

'A spy on whom?'

'On his Excellency, of course.'

'I don't believe it, but I thank you for telling me.'

'I'll find out and tell you more,' she said hurriedly. 'Thank you very
much for speaking to me; don't keep Sir Rupert waiting any longer.
Good-morning, Mr. Hamilton,' and with quite a princess-like air she
dismissed him.

Hamilton hastily rejoined Sir Rupert, and was thinking whether he ought
to mention what Dolores had been saying or not. The subject, however, at
once came up without him giving it a start.

'See here, Hamilton,' Sir Rupert said as he was standing on the hotel
steps, about to take his leave, 'I don't think that, if I were you, I
would have Ericson going about the streets at nights all alone in his
careless sort of fashion. It isn't common sense, you know. There are all
sorts of rowdies--and spies, I fancy--and very likely hired
assassins--here from all manner of South American places; and it can't
be safe for a marked man like him to go about alone in that free and
easy way.'

'Do you know of any danger?' Hamilton asked eagerly.

'How do you mean?'

'Well, I mean have you had any information of any definite danger--at
the Foreign Office?'

'No; we shouldn't be likely to get any information of that kind at the
Foreign Office. It would go, if there were any, to the Home Office?'

'Have you had any information from the Home Office?'

'Well, I may have had a hint--I don't know what ground there was for
it--but I believe there was a hint given at the Home Office to be on the
look-out for some fellows of a suspicious order from Gloria.'

Hamilton started. The words concurred exactly with the kind of warning
he had just received from Dolores Paulo.

'I wonder who gave the hint,' he said meditatively. 'It would immensely
add to the value of the information if I were to know who gave the
hint.'

'Oh! So, then, you have had some information of your own?'

'Yes, I may tell you that I have; and I should be glad to know if both
hints came from the same man.'

'Would it make the information more serious if they did?'

'To my mind, much more serious.'

'Well, I may tell you in confidence--I mean, not to get into the
confounded papers, that's all--the Home Secretary in fact, made no
particular mystery about it. He said the hint was given at the office by
an odd sort of person who called himself Captain Oisin Sarrasin.'

'That's the man,' Hamilton exclaimed.

'Well, what do you make of that and of him?'

'I believe he is an honest fellow and a brave soldier,' Hamilton said.
'But I have heard that some others have thought differently, and were
inclined to suspect that he himself was over here in the interests of
his Excellency's enemies. I don't believe a word of it myself.'

'Well, he will be looked after, of course,' Sir Rupert said decisively.
'But in the meantime I wouldn't let Ericson go about in that sort of
way--at night especially. He never ought to be alone. Will you see to
it?'

'If I can; but he's very hard to manage.'

'Have you tried to manage him on that point?' 'I have--yes--quite
lately.'

'What did he say?'

'Wouldn't listen to anything of the kind. Said he proposed to go about
where he liked. Said it was all nonsense. Said if people want to kill a
man they can do it, in spite of any precautions he takes. Said that if
anyone attacks him in front he can take pretty good care of himself, and
that if fellows come behind no man can take care of himself.'

'But if someone walks behind him--to take care of him----'

'Oh, police protection?' Hamilton asked.

'Yes; certainly. Why not?'

'Out of the question. His Excellency never would stand it. He would say,
"I don't choose to run life on that principle," and he would smile a
benign smile on you, and you couldn't get him to say another word on the
subject.'

'But we can put it on him, whether he likes it or not. Good heavens!
Hamilton, you must see that it isn't only a question of him; it is a
question of the credit and the honour of England, and of the London
police system.'

'That's a little different from a question of the honour of England, is
it not?' Hamilton asked with a smile.

'I don't see it,' Sir Rupert answered, almost angrily. 'I take it that
one test of the civilisation of a society is the efficiency of its
police system. I take it that if a metropolis like London cannot secure
the personal safety of an honoured and distinguished guest like
Ericson--himself an Englishman, too--by Jove! it forfeits in so far its
claim to be considered a capital of civilisation. I really think you
might put this to Ericson.'

'I think you had better put it to him yourself, Sir Rupert. He will take
it better from you than he would from me. You know I have some of his
own feeling about it, and if I were he I fancy I should feel as he
feels. I wouldn't accept police protection against those fellows.'

'Why don't you go about with him yourself? You two would be quite
enough, I dare say. _He_ wouldn't be on his guard, but _you_ would, for
_him_.'

'Oh, if he would let _me_, that would be all right enough. I am always
pretty well armed, and I have learned, from his very self, the way to
use weapons. I think I could take pretty good care of him. But then, he
won't always let me go with him, and he will persist in walking home
from dinner parties and studying, as he says, the effect of London by
night.'

'As if he were a painter or a poet,' Sir Rupert said in a tone which did
not seem to imply that he considered painting and poetry among the
grandest occupations of humanity.

'Why, only the other night,' Hamilton said, 'I was dining with some
fellows from the United States at the Buckingham Palace Hotel, and I
walked across St. James's Park on my way to look in at the Voyagers'
Club, and as I was crossing the bridge I saw a man leaning on it and
looking at the pond, and the sky, and the moon--and when I came nearer I
saw it was his Excellency--and not a policeman or any other human being
but myself within a quarter of a mile of him. It was before I had had
any warning about him; but, by Jove! it made my blood run cold.'

'Did you make any remonstrance with him?'

'Of course I did. But he only smiled and turned it off with a joke--said
he didn't believe in all that subterranean conspiracy, and asked whether
I thought that on a bright moonlight night like that he shouldn't notice
a band of masked and cloaked conspirators closing in upon him with
daggers in their hands. No, it's no use,' Hamilton wound up
despondingly.

'Perhaps I might try,' Sir Rupert said.

'Yes, I think you had better. At all events, he will take it from you. I
don't think he would take it from me. I have worried him too much about
it, and you know he can shut one up if he wants to.'

'I tell you what,' Sir Rupert suddenly said, as if a new idea had dawned
upon him. 'I think I'll get my daughter to try what she can do with
him.'

'Oh--yes--how is that?' Hamilton asked, with a throb at his heart and a
trembling of his lips.

'Well, somehow I think my daughter has a certain influence over him--I
think he likes her--of course, it's only the influence of a clever child
and all that sort of thing--but still I fancy that something might be
made to come of it. You know she professes such open homage for him, and
she is all devoted to his cause--and he is so kind to her and puts up so
nicely with all her homage, which, of course, although she _is_ my
daughter and I adore her, must, I should say, bore a man of his time of
life a good deal when he is occupied with quite different ideas--don't
you think so, Hamilton?'

'I can't imagine a man at any time of life or with any ideas being bored
by Miss Langley,' poor Hamilton sadly replied.

'That's very nice of you, Hamilton, and I am sure you mean it, and don't
say it merely to please me--and she likes you ever so much, that I know,
for she has often told me--but I think I could make some use of her
influence over him. Don't you think so? If she were to ask him as a
personal favour--to her and to me, of course--leaving the Government
altogether out of the question--as a personal favour to her and to me to
take some care of himself--don't you think he could be induced? He is so
chivalric in his nature that I don't think he would refuse anything to a
young woman like her.'

'What is there that I could refuse to her;' poor Hamilton thought sadly
within himself. 'But she will not care to plead to me that I should take
care of my life. She thinks my poor, worthless life is safe enough--as
indeed it is--who cares to attack me?--and even if it were not safe,
what would that be to her?' He thought at the moment that it would be
sweetness and happiness to him to have his life threatened by all the
assassins and dynamiters in the world if only the danger could once
induce Helena Langley to ask him to take a little better care of his
existence.

'What do you think of my idea?' Sir Rupert asked. He seemed to find
Hamilton's silence discouraging. Perhaps Hamilton knew that the Dictator
would not like being interfered with by any young woman. For the fondest
of fathers can never quite understand why the daughter, whom he himself
adores, might not, nevertheless, seem sometimes a little of a bore to a
man who is not her father.

Hamilton pulled himself together.

'I think it is an excellent idea, Sir Rupert--in fact, I don't know of
any other idea that is worth thinking about.'

'Glad to hear you say so, Hamilton,' Sir Rupert said, greatly cheered.
'I'll put it in operation at once. Good-bye.'



CHAPTER XIII

DOLORES ON THE LOOK-OUT


Captain Sarrasin when he was in the hotel always had breakfast in his
little sitting-room. A very modest breakfast it was, consisting
invariably of a cup of coffee and some dry toast with a radish. Of late,
when he emerged from his bedroom he always found a little china jar on
his breakfast-table with some fresh flowers in it. He thought this a
delightful attention at first, and assumed that it would drop after a
day or two, like other formal civilities of a hotel-keeper. But the days
went on and the flowers came, and Captain Sarrasin thought that at least
he ought to make it known that he received and appreciated them, and was
grateful.

So he took care to be in the breakfast-room one day while the waiter was
laying out the breakfast things, and crowning the edifice metaphorically
with the little china jar and its fresh flowers--roses this time.
Sarrasin knew enough to know that the deftest-handed waiter in the world
had never arranged that cluster of roses and moss and leaves.

'Now, look here, dear boy,' he asked of the waiter in his beaming
way--Sarrasin hardly ever addressed any personage of humbler rank
without some friendly and encouraging epithet, 'to whom am I indebted
for these delightful morning gifts of flowers?'

'To Miss Dolores--Miss Paulo,' the man said. He was a Swiss, and spoke
with a thick, Swiss accent.

'Miss Paulo--the daughter of the house?'

'Yes, sir; she arranges them herself every day.'

'Is that the tall and handsome young lady I sometimes see with Mr. Paulo
in his room?'

'Yes; that is she.'

'But I want to thank her for her great kindness. Will you take a card
from me, my dear fellow, and ask her if she will be good enough to see
me?'

'Willingly, sir; Miss Dolores has her own room on this floor--No. 25.
She is there every morning after she comes back from her early ride and
until luncheon time.'

'After she comes back from her ride?'

'Yes, sir; Miss Dolores rides in the Park every morning and afternoon.'

This news somewhat dashed the enthusiasm of Captain Sarrasin. He liked a
girl who rode, that was certain. Mrs. Sarrasin rode like that rarest of
creatures, except the mermaid, a female Centaur, and if he had had a
dozen daughters, they would all have been trained to ride, one better
than the other. The riding, therefore, was clearly in the favour of
Dolores, so far as Captain Sarrasin's estimate was concerned. But then
the idea of a hotel-keeper's daughter riding in the Row and giving
herself airs! He did not like that. 'When I was young,' he said, 'a girl
wasn't ashamed of her father's business, and did not try to put on the
ways of a class she did not belong to.' Still, he reminded himself that
he was growing old, and that the world was becoming affected--and that
girls now, of any order, were not like the girls in the dear old days
when Mrs. Sarrasin was young. And in any case the morning flowers were a
charming gift and a most delightful attention, and a gentleman must
offer his thanks for them to the most affected young woman in the world.
So he told the waiter that after breakfast he would send his card to
Miss Paulo's room, and ask her to allow him to call on her.

'Miss Paulo will see you, of course,' the man replied. 'Mr. Paulo is
generally very busy, and sees very few people, but Miss Paulo--she will
see everybody for him.'

'Everybody? What about, my good young man?'

'But, monsieur, about everything--about paying bills--and complaints of
gentlemen, and ladies who think they have not had value for their money,
and all that sort of thing--monsieur knows.'

'Then the young lady looks after the business of the hotel?'

'Oh, yes, monsieur--always.'

That piece of news was a relief to Captain Sarrasin. Miss Dolores went
up again high in his estimation, and he felt abashed at having wronged
her even by the misconception of a moment. He consumed his coffee and
his radish and dry toast, and he selected from the china jar a very
pretty moss rose, and put it in his gallant old buttonhole, and then he
rang for his friend the waiter, and sent his card to Miss Paulo. In a
moment the waiter brought back the intimation that Miss Paulo would be
delighted to see Captain Sarrasin at once.

Miss Paulo's door stood open, as if to convey the idea that it was an
office rather than a young lady's boudoir--a place of business and not a
drawing-room. It was a very pretty room, as Sarrasin saw at a glance
when he entered it with a grand and old-fashioned bow, such as men make
no more in these degenerate days. It was very quietly decorated with
delicate colours, and a few etchings and many flowers; and Dolores
herself came from behind her writing desk, smiling and blushing, to meet
her tall visitor. The old soldier scanned her as he would have scanned a
new recruit, and the result of his impressionist study was to his mind
highly satisfactory. He already liked the girl.

'My dear young lady,' he began, 'I have to introduce myself--Captain
Sarrasin. I have come to thank you.'

'No need to introduce yourself or to thank me,' the girl said, very
simply. 'I have wanted to know you this long time, Captain Sarrasin, and
I sent you flowers every morning, because I knew that sooner or later
you would come to see me. Now won't you sit down, please?'

'But may I not thank you for your flowers?'

'No, no, it is not worth while. And besides, I had an interested object.
I wanted to make your acquaintance and to talk to you.'

'I am so glad,' he said gravely. 'But I am afraid I am not the sort of
man young ladies generally care to talk to. I am a battered old soldier
who has been in many wars, as Burns says----'

'That is one reason. I believe you have been in South America?'

'Yes, I have been a great deal in South America.'

'In the Republic of Gloria?'

'Yes, I have been in the Republic of Gloria.'

'Do you know that the Dictator of Gloria is staying in this house?'

'My dear young lady, everyone knows _that_.'

'Are you on his side or against him?' Dolores asked bluntly.

'Dear young lady, you challenge me like a sentry.' And Captain Sarrasin
smiled benignly, feeling, however, a good deal puzzled.

'I have been told that you are against him,' the girl said; 'and now
that I see you I must say that I don't believe it.'

'Who told you that I was against him?' the stout old Paladin asked; 'and
why shouldn't I be against him if my conscience directed me that way?'

'Well, it was supposed that you might be against him. You are both
staying in this hotel, and, until the other day, you have never called
upon him or gone to see him, or even sent your card to him. That seemed
to my father a little strange. He talked of asking you frankly all about
it. I said I would ask you. And I am glad to have got you here, Captain
Sarrasin, to challenge you like a sentry.'

'Well, but now look here, my dear young lady--why should your father
care whether I was for the Dictator or against him?'

'Because if you were against him it might not be well that you were in
the same house,' Dolores answered with business-like promptitude and
straightforwardness, 'getting to know what people called on him, and how
long they stayed, and all that.'

'Playing the spy, in fact?'

'Such things have been done, Captain Sarrasin.'

'By gentlemen and soldiers, Miss Paulo?' and he looked sternly at her.
The unabashed damsel did not quail in the least.

'By persons calling themselves gentlemen and soldiers,' she answered
fearlessly. The old warrior smiled. He liked her courage and her
frankness. It was clear that she and her father were devoted friends of
the Dictator. It was clear that somebody had suspected him of being one
of the Dictator's political enemies. He took to Dolores.

'My good young lady,' he said, 'you seem to me a very true-hearted girl.
I don't know why, but that is the way in which I take your measure and
add you up.'

Dolores was a little amazed at first; but she saw that his eyes
expressed nothing save honest purpose, and she did not dream of being
offended by his kindly patronising words.

'You may add me up in any way you like,' she said. 'I am pretty good at
addition myself, and I think I shall come out that way in the end.'

'I know it,' he said, with a quite satisfied air, as if her own account
of herself had settled any lingering doubt he might possibly have had
upon his mind. 'Very well; now you say you can add up figures pretty
well--and, in fact, I know you do, because you help your father to keep
his books, now don't you?'

'Of course I do,' she answered promptly, 'and very proud of it I am that
I can assist him.'

'Quite right, my dear. Well, now, as you are so good in figuring up
things, I wonder could you figure _me_ up?'

There was something so comical in the question, and in the manner and
look of the man who propounded it, that Dolores could not keep from a
smile, and indeed could hardly prevent the smile from rippling into a
laugh. For Captain Sarrasin threw back his head, stiffened up his frame,
opened widely his grey eyes, compressed his lips, and in short put
himself on parade for examination.

'Figure me up,' he said, 'and be candid with it, dear girl. Say what I
come up to in your estimation.'

Dolores tried to take the whole situation seriously.

'Look into my eyes,' he said imperatively. 'Tell me if you see anything
dishonest or disloyal, or traitorous there?'

With her never-failing shrewd common sense, the girl thought it best to
play the play out. After all, a good deal depended on it, to her
thinking. She looked into his eyes. She saw there an almost childlike
sincerity of purpose. If truth did not lie in the well of those eyes,
then truth is not to be found in mortal orbs at all. But the quick and
clever Dolores did fancy that she saw flashing now and then beneath the
surface of those eyes some gleams of fitfulness, restlessness--some
light that the world calls eccentric, some light which your sound and
practical man would think of as only meant to lead astray--to lead
astray, that is, from substantial dividends and real property, and lucky
strokes on the Stock Exchange, and peerages and baronetcies and other
good things. There was a strong dash of the poetic about Dolores, for
all her shrewd nature and her practical bringing-up, and her conflicts
over hotel bills; and somehow, she could not tell why, she found that as
she looked into the eyes of Captain Sarrasin her own suddenly began to
get dimmed with tears.

'Well, dear girl,' he asked, 'have you figured me up, and can you trust
me?'

'I have figured you up,' she said warmly, 'and I can trust you;' and
with an impulse she put her hand into his.

'Trust me anywhere--everywhere?'

'Anywhere--everywhere!' she murmured passionately.

'All right,' he said, cheerfully. 'I have the fullest faith in you, and
now that you have full faith in me we can come straight at things. I
want you to know my wife. She would be very fond of you, I am quite
sure. But, now, for the moment: You were wondering why I am staying in
this hotel?'

'I was,' she said, with some hesitancy, 'because I didn't know you----'

'And because you were interested in the Dictator of Gloria?'

She felt herself blushing slightly; but his face was perfectly serious
and serene. He was evidently regarding her only in the light of a
political partisan. She felt ashamed of her reddening cheeks.

'Yes; I am greatly interested in him,' she answered quite proudly; 'so
is my father.'

'Of course he is, and of course you are--and, of course, so is every
Englishman and Englishwoman who has the slightest care for the future
fortunes of Gloria--which may be one of the best homes in the world for
some of our poor people from this stifling country, if only a man like
Ericson can be left to manage it. Well, well, I am wandering off into
matters which you young women can't be expected to understand, or to
care anything about.'

'But I do understand them--and I do care a great deal about them,'
Dolores said indignantly. 'My father understands all about Gloria--and
he has told me.'

'I am glad to hear it,' Sarrasin said gravely. 'Well, now, to come
back----' and he paused.

'Yes, yes,' she said eagerly, 'to come back?'

'I am staying in this hotel for a particular purpose. I want to look
after the Dictator. That's the whole story. My wife and I have arranged
it all.'

'You want to look after him? Is he in danger?' The girl was turning
quite pale.

'Danger? Well, it is hard to say where real danger is. I find, as a
rule, that threatened men live long, and that there isn't much real
danger where danger is talked about beforehand, but I never act upon
that principle in life. I am never governed in my policy by the fact
that the cry of wolf has been often raised--I look out for the wolf all
the same.'

'Has he enemies?'

'Has he enemies? Why, I wonder at a girl of your knowledge and talent
asking a question like that! Is there a scoundrel in Gloria who is not
his enemy? Is there a man who has succeeded in getting any sinecure
office from the State who doesn't know that the moment Ericson comes
back to Gloria out he goes, neck and crop? Is there a corrupt judge in
Gloria who wouldn't, if he could, sentence Ericson to be shot the moment
he landed on the coast of Gloria? Is there a perjured professional
informer who doesn't hate the very name of Ericson? Is there a cowardly
blackguard in the army, who has got promotion because the general liked
his pretty wife--oh, well, I mean because the general happened to be
some relative of his wife--is there any fellow of this kind who doesn't
hate Ericson and dread his coming back to Gloria?'

'No, I suppose not,' Dolores sadly answered. Paulo's Hotel was like
other hotels, a gossiping place, and it is to be feared that Dolores
understood better than Captain Sarrasin supposed, the hasty and
speedily-qualified allusion to the General and the pretty wife.

'Well, you see,' Sarrasin summed up, 'I happen to have been in Gloria,
and know something of what is going on there. I studied the place a
little bit before Ericson had left, and I got to know some people. I am
what would have been called in other days a soldier of fortune, dear
girl, although, Heaven knows! I never made much fortune by my
soldiering--you should just ask my wife! But anyhow, you know, when I
have been in a foreign country where things are disturbed people send to
me and offer me jobs, don't you see? So in that way I found that the
powers that be in Gloria at present'--Sarrasin was fond of good old
phrases like 'the powers that be'--'the powers that be in Gloria have a
terrible dread of Ericson's coming back. I know a lot about it. I can
tell you they follow everything that is going on here. They know
perfectly well how thick he is with Sir Rupert Langley, the Foreign
Secretary, and they fancy that means the support of the English
Government in any attempt to return to Gloria. Of course, we know it
means nothing of the kind, you and I.'

'Of course, of course,' Dolores said. She did not know in the least
whether it did or did not mean the support of the English Government;
for her own part, she would have been rather inclined to believe that it
did. But Captain Sarrasin evidently wanted an answer, and she hastened
to give him the answer which he evidently wanted.

'But _they_ never can understand that,' he added. 'The moment a man
dines with a Secretary of State in London they get it into their absurd
heads that that means the pledging of the whole Army, Navy, and Reserve
Forces of England to any particular cause which the man invited to
dinner may be supposed to represent. Here, in nine cases out of ten, the
man invited to dinner does not exchange one confidential word with the
Secretary of State, and the day but one after the dinner the Secretary
of State has forgotten his very existence.'

'Oh, but is that really so?' Dolores asked, in a somewhat aggrieved tone
of voice. She was disposed to resent the idea of any Secretary of State
so soon forgetting the existence of the Dictator.

'Not in this case, dear girl--not in this case certainly. Sir Rupert and
Ericson are great friends; and they say Ericson is going to marry Sir
Rupert's daughter.'

'Oh, do they?' Dolores asked earnestly.

'Yes, they do; and the Gloria folk have heard of it already, I can tell
you; and in their stupid outsider sort of way they go on as if their
little twopenny-halfpenny Republic were being made an occasion for great
state alliances on the part of England.'

'What is she like?' Dolores murmured faintly. 'Is she very pretty? Is
she young?'

'I am told so,' Sarrasin answered vaguely. To him the youth or beauty of
Sir Rupert's daughter was matter of the slightest consideration.

'Told what?' Dolores asked somewhat sharply. 'That she is young and
pretty, or that she isn't?'

'Oh, that she is young and very pretty, quite a beauty they tell me; but
you know, my dear, that with Royal Princesses and very rich girls a
little beauty goes a long way.'

'It wouldn't with him,' Dolores answered emphatically.

'With whom?' Captain Sarrasin asked blankly, and Dolores saw that she
had all unwittingly put herself in an awkward position. 'I meant,' she
tried to explain, 'that I don't think his Excellency would be governed
much by a young woman's money.'

'But, my dear girl, where are we now? Did I ever say he would be?'

'Oh, no,' she replied meekly, and anxious to get back to the point of
the conversation. 'Then you think, Captain Sarrasin, that his Excellency
has enemies here in London--enemies from Gloria, I mean.'

'I shouldn't wonder in the least if he had,' Sarrasin replied
cautiously. 'I know there are some queer chaps from Gloria about in
London now. So we come to the point, dear girl, and now I answer the
question we started with. That's why I am staying in this hotel.'

Dolores drew a deep breath.

'I knew it from the first,' Dolores said. 'I was sure you had come to
watch over him.'

'That's exactly why I am here. Some of them, perhaps, will only know me
by name as a soldier of fortune, and may think that they could manage to
humbug me and get me over to their side. So they'll probably come to me
and try to talk me over, don't you see? They'll try to make me believe
that Ericson was a tyrant and a despot, don't you know; and that I ought
to go back to Gloria and help the Republic to resist the oppressor, and
so get me out of the way and leave the coast clear to them--see? Others
of them will know pretty well that where I am on watch and ward, I am
the right man in the right place, and that it isn't of much use their
trying on any of their little assassination dodges here--don't you see?'

Dolores was profoundly touched by the simple vanity and the sterling
heroism of this Christian soldier--for she could not account him any
less. She believed in him with the fullest faith.

'Does his Excellency know of this?' she asked.

'Know of what, my dear girl?'

'About these plots?' she asked impatiently.

'I don't suppose he thinks about them.'

'All the more reason why we should,' Dolores said emphatically.

'Of course. There are lots of foreign fellows always staying here,'
Sarrasin said, more in the tone of one who asks a question than in that
of one who makes an assertion.

'Yes--yes--of course,' Dolores answered.

'I wonder, now, if you would be able to pick out a South American
foreigner from the ordinary Spanish or Italian foreigner?'

'Oh, yes--I _think_ so,' Dolores answered after a second or two of
consideration. 'Moustache more curled--nose more thick--general air of
swagger.'

'Yes--you haven't hit it off badly at all. Well, keep a look-out for any
such, and give me the straight tip as soon as you can--and keep your
eyes and your senses well about you.'

'You may trust me to do _that_,' the girl said cheerily.

'Yes, I know we can. Now, how about your father?'

'I think it will be better not to bring father into this at all,'
Dolores answered very promptly.

'No, dear girl? Now, why not?'

'Well, perhaps it would seem to him wrong not to let out the whole thing
at once to the authorities, or not to refuse to receive any suspicious
persons into the house at all, and that isn't, by any means, what you
and I are wanting just now, Captain Sarrasin!'

'Why, certainly not,' the old soldier said, with a beaming smile. 'What
a clever girl you are! Of course, it isn't what we want; we want the
very reverse; we want to get them in here and find out all about them!
Oh, I can see that we shall be right good pals, you and I, dear girl,
and you must come and see my wife. She will appreciate you, and she is
the most wonderful woman in the world.'



CHAPTER XIV

A SICILIAN KNIFE


The day had come when the Dictator was to dine with that 'happy
warrior,' the Soldier of Fortune.

Captain Sarrasin and his wife lived in an old-fashioned house on the
farther fringe of Clapham Common. The house was surrounded by trees, and
had a pretty lawn, not as well kept as it might be, for Captain Sarrasin
and his wife were wanderers, and did not often make any long stay at
their home in the southern suburbs of London. There were many Scotch
firs among the trees on the lawn, and there was a tiny pool within the
grounds which had a tinier islet on its surface, and on the tiny islet a
Scotch fir stood all alone. The place had been left to Mrs. Sarrasin
years and years ago, and it suited her and her husband very well. It
kept them completely out of the way of callers and of a society for
which they had neither of them any manner of inclination. Mrs. Sarrasin
never remained actually in town while she was in London--indeed, she
seldom went into London, and when she did she always, however late the
hour, returned to her Clapham house. Sarrasin often had occasion to stay
in town all night, but whenever he could get away in time he was fond of
tramping the whole distance--say, from Paulo's Hotel to the farther side
of Clapham Common. He loved a night walk, he said.

Business and work apart, he and his wife were company for each other.
They had no children. One little girl had just been shown to the light
of day--it could not have seen the daylight with its little closed-up
eyes doomed never to open--and then it was withdrawn into darkness. They
never had another child. When a pair are thus permanently childless, the
effect is usually shown in one of two ways. They both repine and each
secretly grumbles at the other--or if one only repines, that comes to
much the same thing in the end--or else they are both drawn together
with greater love and tenderness than ever. All the love which the wife
would have given to the child is now concentrated on the husband, and
all the love the husband would have given to the infant is stored up for
the wife. A first cause of difference, or of coldness, or of growing
indifference between a married pair is often on the birth of the first
child. If the woman is endowed with intense maternal instinct she
becomes all but absorbed in the child, and the husband, kept at a little
distance, feels, rightly or wrongly, that he is not as much to her as he
was before. Before, she was his companion; now she has got someone else
to look after and to care about. It is a crisis which sensible and
loving people soon get over--but all people cannot be loving and
sensible at once and always--and there does sometimes form itself the
beginning of a certain estrangement. This probably would not have
happened in the case of the Sarrasins, but certainly if they had had
children Mrs. Sarrasin would no longer have been able to pad about the
round world wherever her husband was pleased to ask her to accompany
him. If in her heart there were now and again some yearnings for a
child, some pangs of regret that a child had not been given to her or
left with her, she always found ready consolation in the thought that
she could not have been so much to her husband had the Fates imposed on
her the sweet and loving care of children.

The means of the Sarrasins were limited; but still more limited were
their wants. She had a small income--he had a small income--the two
incomes put together did not come to very much. But it was enough for
the Sarrasins; and few married couples of middle age ever gave
themselves less trouble about money. They were able to go abroad and
join some foreign enterprise whenever they felt called that way, and,
poor as he was, Sarrasin was understood to have helped with his purse
more than one embarrassed cause or needy patriot. The chief ornaments
and curios of their house were weapons of all kinds, each with some
story labelled on to it. Captain Sarrasin displayed quite a collection
of the uniforms he had worn in many a foreign army and insurgent band,
and of the decorations he had received and doubtless well earned. Mrs.
Sarrasin, for her part, could show anyone with whom she cared to be
confidential a variety of costumes in which she had disguised herself,
and in which she had managed either to escape from some danger, or, more
likely yet, to bring succour of some sort to others who were in danger.

Mrs. Sarrasin was a woman of good family--a family in the veins of which
flowed much wild blood. Some of the men had squandered everything early,
and then gone away and made adventurers of themselves here and there.
Certain of these had never returned to civilisation again. With the
women the wild strain took a different line. One became an explorer, one
founded a Protestant sisterhood for woman's missionary labour, and
diffused itself over India, and Thibet, and Burmah, and other places. A
third lived with her husband in perpetual yachting--no one on board but
themselves and the crew. A steady devotion to some one object which had
nothing to do with the conventional purposes or ambitions or comforts of
society, was the general characteristic of the women of that family.
None of them took to mere art or literature or woman's suffrage. Mrs.
Sarrasin fell in love with her husband, and devoted herself to his wild,
wandering, highly eccentric career.

Mrs. Sarrasin was a tall and stately woman, with an appearance decidedly
aristocratic. She had rather square shoulders, and that sort of
repression or suppression of the bust which conies of a woman's
occupying herself much in the more vigorous pursuits and occupations
which habitually belong to a man. Mrs. Sarrasin could ride like a man as
well as like a woman, and in many a foreign enterprise she had adopted
man's clothing regularly. Yet there was nothing actually masculine about
her appearance or her manners, and she had a very sweet and musical
voice, which much pleased the ears of the Dictator.

Oisin mentioned the fact of his wife's frequent appearance in man's
dress with an air of pride in her versatility.

'Oh, but I haven't done that for a long time,' she said, with a light
blush rising to her pale cheek. 'I haven't been out of my petticoats for
ever so long. But I confess I did sometimes enjoy a regular good gallop
on a bare-backed horse, and riding-habits won't do for that.'

'Few men can handle a rifle as that woman can,' Sarrasin remarked, with
another gleam of pride in his face.

The Dictator expressed his compliments on the lady's skill in so many
manly exercises, but he had himself a good deal of the old-fashioned
prejudice against ladies who could manage a rifle and ride astride.

'All I have done,' Mrs. Sarrasin said, 'was to take the commands of my
husband and be as useful as I could in the way he thought best. I am not
for Woman's Rights, Mr. Ericson--I am for wives obeying their husbands,
and as much as possible effacing themselves.'

The Dictator did not quite see that following one's husband to the wars
in man's clothes was exactly an act of complete self-effacement on the
part of a woman. But he could see at a glance that Mrs. Sarrasin was
absolutely serious and sincere in her description of her own condition
and conduct. There was not the slightest hint of the jocular about her.

'You must have had many most interesting and extraordinary experiences,'
the Dictator said. 'I hope you will give an account of them to the world
some day.'

'I am already working hard,' Mrs. Sarrasin said, 'putting together
materials for the story of my husband's life--not mine; mine would be
poor work indeed. I am in my proper place when I am acting as his
secretary and his biographer.'

'And such a memory as she has,' Sarrasin exclaimed. 'I assure your
Excellency'--Ericson made a gesture as if to wave away the title, which
seemed to him ridiculous under present circumstances, but Sarrasin, with
a movement of polite deprecation, repeated the formality--'I assure your
Excellency that she remembers lots of things happening to me----'

'Or done by you,' the lady interposed.

'Well, or done by me; things that had wholly passed out of my memory.'

'Quite natural,' Mrs. Sarrasin observed, blandly, 'that you should
forget them, and that I should remember them.' There was something
positively youthful about the smile that lighted up her face as she said
the words, and Ericson noticed that she had a peculiarly sweet and
winning smile, and that her teeth could well bear the brightest light of
day. Ericson began to grow greatly interested in her, and to think that
if she was a little of an oddity it was a pity we had not a good many
other oddity women going round.

'I should like to see what you are doing with your husband's career,
Mrs. Sarrasin,' he said, 'if you would be kind enough to let me see. I
have been something of a literary man myself--was at one time--and I
delight in seeing a book in some of its early stages. Besides, I have
been a wanderer and even a fighter myself, and perhaps I might be able
to make a suggestion or two.'

'I shall be only too delighted. Now, Oisin, my love, you must _not_
object. His Excellency knows well that you are a modest man by nature,
and do not want to have anything made of what you have done; but as he
wishes to see what I am doing----'

'Whatever his Excellency pleases,' Captain Sarrasin said, with a grave
bow.

'Dinner is served,' the man-servant announced at this critical moment.

'You shall see it after dinner,' Mrs. Sarrasin said, as she took the
Dictator's arm, and led him rather than accompanied him out of the
drawing-room and down the stairs.

'What charming water-colours!' the Dictator said, as he noticed some
pictures hung on the wall of the stairs.

'Oh, these? I am so pleased that you like them. I am very fond of
drawing; it often amuses me and helps to pass away the time. You see, I
have no children to look after, and Oisin is a good deal away.'

'Not willingly, I am sure.'

'No, no, not willingly. Dear Oisin, he has always my approval in
everything he does. He is my child--my one child--my big child--so I
tell him often.'

'But these water-colours. I really must have a good look at them
by-and-by. And they are so prettily and tastefully framed--so unlike the
sort of frame one commonly sees in London houses.'

'The frames--yes--well, I make them to please myself and Oisin.'

'You make them yourself.'

'Oh, yes; I am fond of frame-making, and doing all sorts of jobs of that
kind.'

By this time they had reached the dining-room. It was a very pretty
little room, its walls not papered, but painted a soft amber colour. No
pictures were on the walls.

'I like the idea of your walls,' Ericson said. 'The walls are themselves
the decoration.'

'Yes,' she said, 'that was exactly our idea--let the colour be the
decoration; but I don't know that I ever heard anyone discover the idea
before. People generally ask me why I don't have pictures on the
dining-room walls, and then I have to explain as well as I can that the
colour is decoration enough.'

'And then, I suppose, some of them look amazed, and can't understand how
you----'

'Oh, indeed, yes,' she answered.

The dinner was simple and unpretentious, but excellent, almost perfect
in its way. A clear soup, a sole, an entrée or two, a bit of venison, a
sweet--with good wines, but not too many of them.

'You have a good cook, Mrs. Sarrasin,' the Dictator said.

'I am made proud by your saying so. We don't keep a cook--I do it all
myself--am very fond of cooking.'

The Dictator looked round at her in surprise. Was this a jest? Oh, no;
there was no jesting expression on Mrs. Sarrasin's face. She was merely
making a statement of fact. Ericson began to suspect that the one thing
which the lady had least capacity for making, or, perhaps, for
understanding, was a jest. But he was certainly amazed at the
versatility of her accomplishments, and he frankly told her so.

'You see, we have but a small income,' she explained quietly, 'and I
like to do all I can; and Oisin likes my cookery--he is used to it. We
only keep two maids and this man'--alluding to the momentarily absent
attendant--'and he was an old soldier of Oisin's. I will tell you his
story some time--it is interesting in its way.'

'I think everything in this house is interesting,' the Dictator declared
in all sincerity.

Captain Sarrasin talked but little. He was quite content to hear his
wife talk with the Dictator and to know that she was pleased, and to
believe that the Dictator was pleased with her. That, however, he
assumed as a matter of course--everybody must be pleased with that
woman.

After dinner the Dictator studied the so-called autobiography. It was a
marvellously well-ordered piece of composition as far as it went. It was
written in the neatest of manuscript, and had evidently been carefully
copied and re-copied so that the volume now in his hands was about as
good as any print. It was all chaptered and paged most carefully. It was
rich with capital pencil sketches and even with etchings. There was no
trace of any other hand but the one that he could find out in the whole
volume. He greatly admired the drawings and etchings.

'These are yours, of course?' he said, turning his eyes on Mrs.
Sarrasin.

'Oh, yes; I like to draw for this book. I hope it will have a success.
Do you think it will?' she asked wistfully.

'A success in what way, Mrs. Sarrasin? Do you mean a success in money?'

'Oh, no; we don't care about that. I suppose it will cost us some
money.'

'I fancy it will if you have all these illustrations, and of course you
will?'

'Yes, I want them to be in, because I think I can show what danger my
husband has been in better with my pencil than with my pen--I am a poor
writer.'

'Then the work is really all your own?'

'Oh, yes; _he_ has no time; I could not have him worried. It is my wish
altogether, and he yields to it--only to please me. He does not care in
the least for publicity--I do, for _him_.'

The Dictator began to be impressed, for the first time, by a recognition
of the fact that an absence of the sacred gift of humour is often a
great advantage to mortal happiness, and even to mortal success. There
was clearly and obviously a droll and humorous side to the career and
the companionship of Captain Sarrasin and his wife. How easy it would be
to make fun of them both! perhaps of her more especially. Cheap cynicism
could hardly find in the civilised world a more ready and defenceless
spoil. Suppose, then, that Sarrasin or his wife had either of them any
of the gift--if it be a gift and not a curse--which turns at once to the
ridiculous side of things, where would this devoted pair have been? Why,
of course they would have fallen out long ago. Mrs. Sarrasin would soon
have seen that her husband was a ridiculous old Don Quixote sort of
person, whom she was puffing and booming to an unconscionable degree,
and whom people were laughing at. Captain Sarrasin would have seen that
his wife was unconsciously 'bossing the show,' and while professing to
act entirely under his command was really doing everything for him--was
writing his life while declaring to everybody that he was writing it
himself. Now they were like two children--like brother and
sister--wrapped up in each other, hardly conscious of any outer world,
or, perhaps, still more like two child-lovers--like Paul and Virginia
grown old in years, but not in feelings. The Dictator loved humour, but
he began to feel just now rather glad that there were some mortals who
did not see the ridiculous side of life. He felt curiously touched and
softened.

Suddenly the military butler came in and touched his forehead with a
sort of military salute.

'Telegram for his Excellency,' he said gravely.

Ericson took the telegram. 'May I?' he asked of Mrs. Sarrasin, who made
quite a circuitous bow of utter assent.

Ericson read.

'Will you meet me to-night at eleven, on bridge, St. James's Park. Have
special reason.--Hamilton.'

Ericson was puzzled.

'This is curious,' he said, looking up at his two friends. 'This is a
telegram from my friend and secretary and aide-de-camp, and I don't know
what else--Hamilton--asking me to meet him in St. James's Park, on the
bridge, at eleven o'clock. Now, that is a place I am fond of going
to--and Hamilton has gone there with me--but why he should want to meet
me there and not at home rather puzzles me.'

'Perhaps,' Captain Sarrasin suggested, 'there is someone coming to see
you at your hotel later on, for whose coming Mr. Hamilton wishes to
prepare you.'

'Yes, I have thought of that,' Ericson said meditatively; 'but then he
signs himself in an odd sort of way.'

'Eh, how is that?' Sarrasin asked. 'It _is_ his name, surely, is it
not--Hamilton?'

'Yes, but I had got into a way years ago of always calling him "the
Boy," and he got into a way of signing himself "Boy" in all our
confidential communications, and I haven't for years got a telegram from
him that wasn't signed "Boy."'

Mrs. Sarrasin sent a flash of her eyes that was like a danger signal to
her husband. He at once understood, and sent another signal to her.

'Of course I must go,' Ericson said. 'Whatever Hamilton does, he has
good reason for doing. One can always trust him in that.'

Captain Sarrasin was about to interpose something in the way of caution,
but his wife flashed another signal at him, and he shut up.

'And so I must go,' the Dictator said, 'and I am sorry. I have had a
very happy evening; but you will ask me again, and I shall come, and we
shall be good friends. Shall we not, Mrs. Sarrasin?'

'I hope so,' said the lady gravely. 'We are devoted to your Excellency,
and may perhaps have a chance of proving it one day.'

The Dictator had a little brougham from Paulo's waiting for him. He took
a kindly leave of his host and hostess. He lifted Mrs. Sarrasin's long,
strong, slender hand in his, and bent over it, and put it to his lips.
He felt drawn towards the pair in a curious way, and he felt as if they
belonged to a different age from ours--as if Sarrasin ought to have been
another Götz of Berlichingen, about whom it would have been right to
say, 'So much the worse for the age that misprizes thee'; as if she were
the mail-clad wife of Count Robert of Paris.

When he had gone, up rose Mrs. Sarrasin and spake:--

'Now, then, Oisin, let _us_ go.'

'Where shall we go?' Oisin asked rather blankly.

'After him, of course.'

'Yes, of course, you are quite right,' Sarrasin said, suddenly waking up
at the tone of her voice to what he felt instinctively must be her view
of the seriousness of the situation. 'You don't believe, my love, that
that telegram came from Hamilton?'

'Why, dearest, of course I don't believe it--it is some plot, and a very
clumsy plot too; but we must take measures to counterplot it.'

'We must follow him to the ground.'

'Of course we must.'

'Shall I bring a revolver?'

'Oh, no; this will be only a case of one man. We shall simply appear at
the right time.'

'You always know what to do,' Sarrasin exclaimed.

'Because I have a husband who has always taught me what to do,' she
replied fervently.

Then the military butler was sent for a hansom cab, and Sarrasin and his
wife were soon spinning on their way to St. James's Park. They had ample
time to get there before the appointed moment, and nothing would be done
until the appointed moment came. They drove to St. James's Park, and
they dismissed their cab and made quickly for the bridge over the pond.
It was not a moonlight night, but it was not clouded or hazy. It was
what sailors would call a clear dark night. There was only one figure on
the bridge, and that they felt sure was the figure of the Dictator. Mrs.
Sarrasin had eyes like a lynx, and she could even make out his features.

'Is it he?' Sarrasin asked in a whisper. He had keen sight himself, but
he preferred after long experience to trust to the eyes of his wife.

'It is he,' she answered; 'now we shall see.'

They sat quietly side by side on a bench under the dark trees a little
away from the bridge. Nobody could easily see them--no one passing
through the park or bound on any ordinary business would be likely to
pay any attention to them even if he did see them. It was no part of
Mrs. Sarrasin's purpose that they should be so placed as to be
absolutely unnoticeable. If Mr. Hamilton should appear on the bridge she
would then simply touch Sarrasin's arm, and they would quietly get up
and go home together. But suppose--what she fully expected--that someone
should appear who was not Hamilton, and should make for the bridge, and
in passing should see her husband and her, and thereupon should slink
off in another direction, then she should have seen the man, and could
identify him among a thousand for ever after. In that event Sarrasin and
she could then consider what was next to be done--whether to go at once
to Ericson and tell him of what they had seen, or to wait there and keep
watch until he had gone away, and then follow quietly in his track until
they had seen him safely home. One thing Mrs. Sarrasin had made up her
mind to: if there was any assassin plot at all, and she believed there
was, it would be a safe and certain assassination tried when no watching
eyes were near.

The Dictator meanwhile was leaning over the bridge and looking into the
water. He was not thinking much about the water, or the sky, or the
scene. He was not as yet thinking even of whether Hamilton was coming or
not. He was, of course, a little puzzled by the terms of Hamilton's
telegram, but there might be twenty reasons why Hamilton should wish to
meet him before he reached home, and as Hamilton knew well his fancy for
night lounges on that bridge, and as the park lay fairly well between
Captain Sarrasin's house and the region of Paulo's Hotel, it seemed
likely enough that Hamilton might select it as a convenient place of
meeting. In any case, the Dictator was not by nature a suspicious man,
and he was not scared by any thoughts of plots, and mystifications, and
personal danger. He was a fatalist in a certain sense--not in the
religious, but rather in the physical sense. He had a sort of
wild-grown, general thought that man is sent into the world to do a
certain work, and that while he is useful for that work he is not likely
to be sent away from it. This was, perhaps, only an effect of
temperament, although he found himself often trying to palm it off on
himself as philosophy.

So he was not troubling himself much about the doubtful nature of the
telegram. Hamilton would come and explain it, and if Hamilton did not
come there would be some other explanation. He began to think about
quite other things--he found himself thinking of the bright eyes and the
friendly, frank, caressing ways of Helena Langley.

The Dictator began somehow to realise the fact that he had hitherto been
leading a very lonely life. He was seldom alone--had seldom been alone
for many years; but he began to understand the difference between not
being alone and being lonely. During all his working career his life had
wanted that companionship which alone is companionship to a man of
sensitive nature. He had been too busy in his time in Gloria to think
about all this. The days had gone by him with a rush. Each day brought
its own sudden and vivid interest. Each day had its own decisions to be
formed, its own plans to be made, its own difficulties to be
encountered, its own struggles to be fought out. Ericson had delighted
in it all, as a splendid exhilarating game. But now, in his enforced
retirement and comparative restlessness, he looked back upon it and
thought how lonely it all was. When each day closed he had no one to
whom he could tell all his thoughts about what the day had done or what
the next day was likely to bring forth. Someone has written about the
'passion of solitude'--not meaning the passion _for_ solitude, the
passion of the saint and the philosopher and the anchorite to be alone
and to commune with outer nature or one's inner thought--no, no, but the
passion _of_ solitude--the raging passion born of solitude which craves
and cries out in agony for the remedy of companionship--of some sweet
and loved and trusted companionship--like the fond and futile longing of
the childless mother for a child.

Eleven! The strokes of the hour rang out from Big Ben in the Clock Tower
of Westminster Palace--the Parliament House of which Ericson, in his
collegiate days, had once made it his ambition to be a member. The sound
of the strokes recalled his mind for the moment to those early days,
when the ambition for a seat in Parliament had been the very seamark of
his utmost sail. How different his life had been from what his early
ideas would have constructed it! And now--was it all over? Had his
active career closed? Was he never again to have his chance in
Gloria--in Gloria which he had almost begun to love as a bride? Or was
he failing in his devotion to his South American Dulcinea del Toboso?
Was the love of a mortal woman coming in to distract him from his love
to that land with an immortal future?

It pleased him and tantalised him thus to question himself and find
himself unable to give the answers. But he bore in mind the fact that
Hamilton, the most punctual of living men, was not quite punctual this
time. He turned his keen eyes upon the Clock Tower, and could see that
during his purposeless reflections quite five minutes had passed.
'Something has happened,' he thought. 'Hamilton is certainly not coming.
If he meant to keep the appointment he would have been here waiting for
me five minutes before the time. Well, I'll give him five minutes more,
and then I'll go.'

Several persons had passed him in the meanwhile. They were the ordinary
passengers of the night time. The milliner's apprentice took leave of
her lover and made for her home in one of the smaller streets about
Broad Sanctuary. The artisan, who had been enjoying a drink in one of
the public-houses near the Park, was starting for his home on the south
side of the river. Occasionally some smart man came from St. James's
Street to bury himself in his flat in Queen Anne's Mansions. A belated
Tommy Atkins crossed the bridge to make for the St. James's Barracks.
One or two of the daughters of folly went loungingly by--wandering, not
altogether purposeless, among the open roads of the Park. None of all
these had taken any notice of the Dictator.

Suddenly a step was heard near, just as the Dictator was turning to go,
and even at that moment he noticed that several persons had quite lately
passed, and that this was the first moment when the place was solitary,
and a thought flashed through his mind that this might be Hamilton, who
had waited for an opportunity. He turned round, and saw that a short and
dapper-looking man had come up close beside him. The man leaned over the
bridge.

'A fine night, governor,' he said.

'A very fine night,' Ericson said cheerily, and he was turning to go
away.

'No offence in talking to you, I hope, governor?'

'Not the least in the world,' Ericson said. 'Why should there be? Why
shouldn't you talk to me?'

'Some gents are so stuck-up, don't you know.'

'Well, I am not very much stuck-up,' Ericson said, much amused; 'but I
am not quite certain whether I exactly know what stuck-up means.'

'Why, where do you come from?' the stranger asked in amazement.

'I have been out of England for many years. I have come from South
America.'

'No--you don't mean that! Why, that beats all! Look here--I have a
brother in South America.

'South America is a large place. Where is your brother?'

'Well, I've got a letter from him here. I wonder if you could tell me
the name of the place. I can't make it out myself.'

'I dare say I can,' said Ericson carelessly. 'Come under this gas-lamp
and let me see your letter.' The man fumbled in his pocket and drew out
a folded letter. He had something else in his hand, as the keen eyes of
the watching Mrs. Sarrasin could very well see.

'Another second,' she whispered to her husband.

The Dictator took the letter good-naturedly, and began to open it under
the light of the lamp which hung over the bridge. The stranger was
standing just behind him. The place was otherwise deserted.

'Now,' Mrs. Sarrasin whispered.

Then Captain Sarrasin strode forward and seized the stranger by the
shoulder with one hand, and by his right arm with another.

'What are you a-doin' of?' the stranger asked angrily.

'Well, I want to know who you are in the first place. I beg your
Excellency's pardon for intruding on you, but my wife and I happened to
be here, and we just came up as this person was talking to you, and we
want to know who he is.'

'Captain Sarrasin! Mrs. Sarrasin! Where have you turned up from? Tell
me--have you really been benignly shadowing me all this way?' Ericson
asked with a smile. 'There isn't the slightest danger, I can assure you.
This man merely asked me a civil question.'

The civil man, meanwhile, was wrestling and wriggling under Sarrasin's
grip. He was wrestling and wriggling all in vain.

'You let me go,' the man exclaimed, in a tone of righteous indignation.
'You hain't nothin' to do with me.'

'I must first see what you have got there in your hand,' Sarrasin said.
'See--there it is! Look here, your Excellency--look at that knife!'

Sarrasin took from the man's hand a short, one-bladed,
delicately-shaped, and terrible knife. It might be trusted to pierce its
way at a single touch, not to say stroke, into the heart of any victim.

'That's the knife I use at my trade,' the man exclaimed indignantly. 'I
am a ladies' slipper-maker, and that's the knife I use for cutting into
the leathers, because it cuts clean, don't you see, and makes no waste.
Lord bless you, governor, what a notion you have got into your 'ead! I
shall amuse my old woman when I tell her.'

'Why did you have the knife in your hand?' Sarrasin sternly asked.

'Took it out, governor, jest by chance when I was taking put the
letter.'

'You don't carry a knife like that open in your pocket,' Sarrasin said
sternly. 'It closes up, I suppose, or else you have a sheath for it. Oh,
yes, I see the spring--it closes this way and I think I have seen this
pretty sort of weapon before. Well, look here, you don't carry that sort
of toy open in your pocket, you know. How did it come open?'

'Blest if I know, governor--you are all a-puzzlin' of me.'

'Show me the knife,' the Dictator said, taking for the first time some
genuine interest in the discussion.

'Look at it,' Sarrasin said. 'Don't give it back to him.'

The Dictator took the knife in his hand, and, touching the spring with
the manner of one who understood it, closed and opened the weapon
several times.

'I know the knife very well,' he said; 'it has been brought into South
America a good deal, but I believe it is Sicilian to begin with. Look
here, my man, you say you are a ladies' slipper-maker?'

'Of course I am. Ain't I told you so?'

'Whom do you work for?'

'Works for myself, governor.'

'Where is your shop?'

'Down in the East End, don't you know?'

'I want to talk to you about the East End,' Mrs. Sarrasin struck in with
her musical, emphatic voice. 'Tell me exactly where you live.'

'Out Whitechapel way.'

'But please tell me the exact place. I happen to know Whitechapel pretty
well.'

'Off Whitechapel Road there.'

'Where?'

He made a sulky effort to evade. Mrs. Sarrasin was not to be so easily
evaded.

'Tell me,' she said, 'the name of the street you live in, and the name
of any streets near to it, and how they lie with regard to each other.
Come, don't think about it, but tell me; you must know where you live
and work.'

'I don't want to have you puzzlin' and worritin' me.'

'Can you tell me where this street is'--she named a street--'or this
court, or that hospital, or the nearest omnibus stand to the hospital?'

No, he didn't remember any of these places; he had enough to do mindin'
of his work.

'This man doesn't live in Whitechapel,' Mrs. Sarrasin said composedly.
She put on no air of triumph--she never put on any airs of triumph or
indeed airs of any kind.

'Well, there ain't no crime in giving a wrong address,' the man said.
'What business have you with where I live? You don't pay for my lodging,
anyhow.'

'Where were you born?' Mrs. Sarrasin asked.

'Why, in London, to be sure.'

'In the East End?'

'So I'm told--I don't myself remember.'

'Well, look here, will you just say a few words after me?'

'I ain't got no pertickler objection.'

The cross-examination now had passed wholly into the hands of Mrs.
Sarrasin. Captain Sarrasin looked on with wonder and delight--Ericson
was really interested and amused.

'Say these words.' She repeated slowly, and giving him plenty of time to
get the words into his ears and his mind, a number of phrases in which
the peculiar accent and pronunciation of the born Whitechapel man were
certain to come out. Ericson, of course, comprehended the meaning of the
whole performance. The East End man hesitated.

'I ain't here for playing tricks,' he mumbled. 'I want to be getting
home to my old woman.'

'Look here,' Sarrasin said, angrily interfering. 'You just do as you are
told, or I'll whistle for a policeman and give you into custody, and
then everything about you will come out--or, by Jove, I'll take you up
and drop you into that pond as if you were a blind kitten! Answer the
lady at once, you confounded scoundrel!'

The small eyes of the Whitechapel man flashed fire for an instant--a
fire that certainly is not common to Cockney eyes--and he made a sudden
grasp at his pocket.

'See there!' Sarrasin exclaimed. 'The ladies' slipper-maker is grasping
for his knife, and forgets that we have got it in our possession.'

'This is certainly becoming interesting,' Ericson said. 'It is much more
interesting than most plays that I have lately seen. Now, then, recite
after the lady, or confess thyself.'

It had not escaped the notice of the Dictator that when once or twice
some wayfarer passed along the bridge or on one of the near-lying paths
the maker of ladies' slippers did not seem in the least anxious to
attract attention. He appeared, in fact, to be the one of the whole
party who was most eager to withdraw himself from the importunate notice
of the casual passer-by. A man conscious of no wrong done or planned by
him, and unjustly bullied and badgered by three total strangers, would
most assuredly have leaped at the chance of appealing to the
consideration and the help of the passing citizen.

Mrs. Sarrasin remorselessly repeated her test words, and the man
repeated them after her.

'That will do,' she said contemptuously; 'the man was never born in
Whitechapel--his East End accent is mere gotten up stage-play.' Then she
spoke some rapid words to her husband in a _patois_ which Ericson did
not understand. The Whitechapel man's eyes flashed fire again.

'You see,' she said to the Dictator, 'he understands me! I have been
saying in Sicilian _patois_ that he is a hired assassin born in England
of Sicilian parents, and brought up, probably, near Snow Hill--and this
Whitechapel gentleman understood every word I said! If you give him the
alternative of going to the nearest police-station and being charged, or
of talking Sicilian _patois_ with me, you will see that he prefers the
alternative of a conversation in Sicilian _patois_ with me.

'I propose that we let him go,' the Dictator said decisively. 'We have
no evidence against him, except that he carries a peculiar knife, and
that he is, as you say, of Sicilian parents.'

'Your Excellency yourself gave me the hint I acted on,' Mrs. Sarrasin
said deferentially, 'when you made the remark that the knife was
Sicilian. I spoke on mere guess-work, acting on that hint.'

'And you were right, as you always are,' Captain Sarrasin struck in with
admiring eyes fixed on his wife.

'Well, he is a poor creature, anyhow,' the Dictator said--and he spoke
now to his friends in Spanish--'and not much up to his work. If he were
worth anything in his own line of business he might have finished the
job with that knife instead of stopping to open a conversation with me.'

'But he has been set on by someone to do this job,' Sarrasin said, 'and
we might get to know who is the someone that set him on.'

'We shall not know from him,' the Dictator replied; 'he probably does not
know who are the real movers. No; if there is anything serious to come
it will come from better hands than his. No, my dear and kind friends,
we can't get any further with _him_. Let the creature go. Let him tell
his employers, whoever they are, that I don't scare, as the Americans
say, worth a cent. If they have any real assassins to send on, let them
come; this fellow won't do; and I can't have paragraphs in the papers to
say that I took any serious alarm from a creature who, with such a knife
in his hand, could not, without a moment's parley, make it do his work.'

'The man is a hired assassin,' Sarrasin declared.

'Very likely,' the Dictator replied calmly; 'but we can't convict him of
it, and we had better let him go his blundering way.' The Dictator had
meanwhile been riveting his eyes on the face of the captive--if we may
call him so--anxious to find out from his expression whether he
understood Spanish. If he seemed to understand Spanish then the affair
would be a little more serious. It might lead to the impression that he
was really mixed up in South American affairs, and that he fancied he
had partisan wrongs to avenge. But the man's face remained
imperturbable. He evidently understood nothing. It was not even, the
Dictator felt certain, that he had been put on his guard by his former
lapse into unlucky consciousness when Mrs. Sarrasin tried him and
trapped him with the Sicilian _patois_. No, there was a look of dull
curiosity on his face, and that was all.

'We'll keep the knife?' Sarrasin asked.

'Yes; I think you had better keep the knife. It may possibly come in as
a _pièce de justification_ one of these days. What's the value of your
knife?' he asked in English, suddenly turning on the captive with a
stern voice and manner that awed the creature.

'It's well worth a quid, governor.'

'Yes; I should think it was. There's a quid and a half for you, and go
your ways. We have agreed--my friends and I--to let you off this time,
although we have every reason to believe that you meant murder.'

'Oh, governor!'

'If you try it again,' the Dictator said, 'you will forfeit your life
whether you succeed or fail. Now get away--and set us free from your
presence.'

The man ran along the road leading eastward--ran with the speed of some
hunted animal, the path re-echoing to the sound of his flying feet.
Ericson broke into a laugh.

'You have in all probability saved my life,' the Dictator said. 'You
two----'

'All _her_ doing,' Sarrasin interposed.

'I think I understand it all,' Ericson went on. 'I have no doubt this
was meant as an attempt. But it was a very bungling first attempt. The
planners, whoever they were, were anxious first of all to keep
themselves as far as possible out of responsibility and suspicion, and
instead of hiring a South American bravo, and so in a manner bringing it
home to themselves, they merely picked up and paid an ordinary Sicilian
stabber who had no heart in the matter, who probably never heard of me
before in all his life, and had no partisan hatred to drive him on. So
he dallied, and bungled; and then you two intervened, and his game was
hopeless. He'll not try it again, you may be sure.'

'No, he probably has had enough of it,' Captain Sarrasin said; 'and of
course he has got his pay beforehand. But someone else will.'

'Very likely,' the Dictator said carelessly. 'They will manage it on a
better plan next time.'

'We must have better plans, too,' Sarrasin said warmly.

'How can we? The only wise thing in such affairs is to take the ordinary
and reasonable precautions that any sane man takes who has serious
business to do in life, and then not to trouble oneself any further.
Anyhow, I owe to you both, dear friends,' and the Dictator took a hand
of each in one of his, 'a deep debt of gratitude. And now I propose that
we consider the whole incident as _vidé_, and that we go forthwith to
Paulo's and have a pleasant supper there and summon up the boy Hamilton,
even should he be in bed, and ask him how he came to send out telegrams
for belated meetings in St. James's Park, and have a good time to repay
us for our loss of an hour and the absurdity of our adventure. Come,
Mrs. Sarrasin, you will not refuse my invitation?'

'Excellency, certainly not.'

'You can stay in the hotel, dear,' Sarrasin suggested.

'Yes, I should like that best,' she said.

'They won't expect you at home?' the Dictator asked.

'They never expect us,' Mrs. Sarrasin answered with her usual sweet
gravity. 'When we are coming we let them know--if we do not we are never
to be expected. My husband could not manage his affairs at all if we
were to have to look out for being expected.'

'You know how to live your life, Mrs. Sarrasin,' the Dictator said, much
interested.

'I have tried to learn the art,' she said modestly.

'It is a useful branch of knowledge,' Ericson answered, 'and one of the
least cultivated by men or women, I think.'

They were moving along at this time. They crossed the bridge and passed
by Marlborough House, and so got into Pall Mall.

'How shall we go?' the Dictator asked, glancing at the passing cabs,
some flying, some crawling.

'Four-wheeler?' Sarrasin suggested tentatively.

'No; I don't seem to be in humour for anything slow and creeping,' the
Dictator said gaily. 'I feel full of animal spirits, somehow. Perhaps it
is the getting out of danger, although really I don't think there was
much'--and then he stopped, for he suddenly reflected that it must seem
rather ungracious to suggest that there was not much danger to a pair of
people who had come all the way from Clapham Common to look after his
life. 'There was not much craft,' he went on to say, 'displayed in that
first attempt. You will have to look after me pretty closely in the
future. No; I must spin in a hansom--it is the one thing I specially
love in London, its hansom. Here, we'll have two hansoms, and I'll take
charge of Mrs. Sarrasin, and you'll follow us, or, at least, you'll find
your way the best you can, Captain Sarrasin--and let us see who gets
there first.'



CHAPTER XV

'IF I WERE TO ASK YOU?'


It is needless to say that Hamilton had never sent any telegram asking
the Dictator to meet him on the bridge in St. James's Park or anywhere
else at eleven o'clock at night. Hamilton at first was disposed to find
fault with the letting loose of the supposed assassin, and was at all
events much in favour of giving information at Scotland Yard and putting
the police authorities on the look-out for some plot. But the opinion of
the Dictator was clear and fixed, and Hamilton naturally yielded to it.
Ericson was quite prepared to believe that some plot was expanding, but
he was convinced that it would be better to allow it to expand. The one
great thing was to find out who were the movers in the plot. If the
London Sicilian really were a hired assassin, it was clear that he was
thrown out merely as a skirmisher in the hope that he might succeed in
doing the work at once, and the secure conviction that if he failed he
could be abandoned to his fate. It was the crude form of an attempt at
political assassination. A wild outcry on the part of the Dictator's
friends would, he felt convinced, have no better effect than to put his
enemies prematurely on their guard, and inspire them to plan something
very subtle and dangerous. Or if, then, their hate did not take so
serious a form, the Dictator reasoned that they were not particularly
dangerous. So he insisted on lying low, and quietly seeing what would
come of it. He was not now disposed to underrate the danger, but he felt
convinced that the worst possible course for him would be to proclaim
the danger too soon.

Therefore, Ericson insisted that the story of the bridge and the
Sicilian knife must be kept an absolute secret for the present at least,
and the help of Scotland Yard must not be invoked. Of course, it was
clear even to Hamilton that there was no evidence against the supposed
Sicilian which would warrant any magistrate in committing him for trial
on a charge of attempted assassination. There was conjectural
probability enough; but men are not sent for trial in this country on
charges of conjectural probability. The fact of the false telegram
having been sent was the only thing which made it clear that behind the
Sicilian there were conspirators of a more educated and formidable
character. The Sicilian never could have sent that telegram; would not
be likely to know anything about Hamilton. Hamilton in the end became
satisfied that the Dictator was right, and that it would be better to
keep a keen look-out and let the plot develop itself. The most absolute
reliance could be put on the silence of the Sarrasins; and better
look-out could hardly be kept than the look-out of that brave and
quick-witted pair of watchers. Therefore Ericson told Hamilton he meant
to sleep in spite of thunder.

The very day after the scene on the bridge the Dictator got an imperious
little note from Helena asking him to come to see her at once, as she
had something to say to him. He had been thinking of her--he had been
occupying himself in an odd sort of way with the conviction, the memory,
that if the supposed assassin had only been equal to his work, the last
thought on earth of the Dictator would have been given to Helena
Langley. It did not occur to the Dictator, in his quiet, unegotistic
nature, to think of what Helena Langley would have given to know that
her name in such a crisis would have been on his dying lips.

Ericson himself did not think of the matter in that sentimental and
impassioned way. He was only studying in his mind the curious fact that
he certainly was thinking about Helena Langley as he stood on the bridge
and looked on the water; and that, if the knife of the ladies'
slipper-maker had done its business promptly, the last thought in his
mind, the last feeling in his heart, would have been given not to Gloria
but to Helena Langley.

He was welcomed and ushered by To-to. When the footman had announced
him, Helena sprang up from her sofa and ran to meet him.

'I sent for you,' she said, almost breathlessly, 'because I have a
favour to ask of you! Will you promise me, as all gallants did in the
old days--will you promise me before I ask it, that you will grant it?'

'The knights in the old days had wonderful auxiliaries. They had magical
spells, and sorceresses, and wizards--and we have only our poor selves.
Suppose I were not able to grant the favour you ask of me?'

'Oh, but, if that were so, I never should ask it. It is entirely and
absolutely in your power to say yes or no.'

'To say--and then to do.'

'Yes, of course--to say and then to do.'

'Well, then, of course,' he said, with a smile, 'I shall say yes.'

'Thank you,' she replied fervently; 'it's only this--that you will take
some care of yourself--take,' and she hesitated, and almost shuddered,
'some care of your--life.'

For a moment he thought that she had heard of the adventure in St.
James's Park, and he was displeased.

'Is my life threatened?' he asked.

'My father thinks it is. He has had some information. There are people
in Gloria who hate you--bad and corrupt and wicked people. My father
thinks you ought to take some care of yourself, for the sake of the
cause that is so dear to you, and for the sake of some friends who care
for you, and who, I hope, are dear to you too.' Her voice trembled, but
she bore up splendidly.

'I love my friends,' the Dictator said quietly, 'and I would do much for
their sake--or merely to please them. But tell me, what can I do?'

'Be on the look-out for enemies, don't go about alone--at all events at
night--don't go about unarmed. My father is sure attempts will be made.'

These words were a relief to Ericson. They showed at least that she did
not suppose any attempt had yet been, made. This was satisfactory. The
secret to which he attached so much importance had been kept.

'It is of no use,' the Dictator said. 'In this sort of business a man
has got to take his life in his hand. Precautions are pretty well
useless. In nine cases out of ten the assassin--I mean the fellow who
wants to be an assassin and tries to be an assassin--is a mere
mountebank, who might be safely allowed to shoot at you or stab at you
as long as he likes and no harm done. Why? Because the creature is
nervous, and afraid to risk his own life. Get the man who wants to kill
you, and does not care about his own life--is willing and ready to die
the instant after he has killed you--and from a man like that you can't
preserve your life.'

Helena shuddered. 'It is terrible,' she said.

'Dear Miss Langley, it is not more terrible than a score of chances in
life which young ladies run without the slightest sense of alarm. Why
you, in your working among the poor, run the danger of scarlet fever and
small-pox every other day in your life, and you never think about it.
How many public men have died by the assassin's hand in my days? Abraham
Lincoln, Marshal Prim, President Garfield, Lord Frederick Cavendish--two
or three more; and how many young ladies have died of scarlet fever?'

'But one can't take any precautions against scarlet fever--except to
keep away from where it may be, and not to do what one must feel to be a
duty.'

'Exactly,' he said eagerly; 'there is where it is.'

'You can't,' she urged, 'have police protection against typhus or
small-pox.'

'Nor against assassination,' he said gravely. 'At least, not against the
only sort of assassins who are in the least degree dangerous. I want you
to understand this quite clearly,' he said, turning to her suddenly with
an earnestness which had something tender in it. 'I want you to know
that I am not rash or foolhardy or careless about my own life. I have
only too much reason for wanting to live--aye, even for clinging to
life! But, as a matter of calculation, there is no precaution to be
taken in such a case which can be of the slightest value as a genuine
protection. An enemy determined enough will get at you in your bedroom
as you sleep some night--you can't have a cordon of police around your
door. Even if you did have a police cordon round you when you took your
walks abroad, it wouldn't be of the slightest use against the bullet of
the assassin firing from the garret window.'

'This is appalling,' Helena said, turning pale. 'I now understand why
some women have such a horror of anything like political strife. I
wonder if I should lose courage if someone in whom I was interested were
in serious danger?'

'You would never lose your courage,' the Dictator said firmly. 'You
would fear nothing so much as that those you cared for should not prove
themselves equal to the duty imposed upon them.'

'I used to think so once,' she said. 'I begin to be afraid about myself
now.'

'Well, in this case,' he interposed quickly, 'there does not seem to be
any real apprehension of danger. I am afraid,' he added, with a certain
bitterness, 'my enemies in Gloria do not regard me as so very formidable
a personage as to make it worth their while to pay for the cost of my
assassination. I don't fancy they are looking out for my speedy return
to Gloria.'

'My father's news is different. He hears that your party is growing in
Gloria every day, and that the people in power are making themselves
every day more and more odious to the country.'

'That they are likely enough to do,' he said, with a bright look coming
into his eyes, 'and that is one reason why I am quite determined not to
precipitate matters. We can't afford to have revolution after
revolution in a poor and struggling place like Gloria, and so I want
these people to give the full measure of their incapacity and their
baseness so that when they fall they may fall like Lucifer! Hamilton
would be rather for rushing things--I am not.'

'Do you keep in touch with Gloria?' Helena asked almost timidly. She had
lately grown rather shy of asking him questions on political matters, or
of seeming to assume any right to be in his confidence. All the
impulsive courage which she used to have in the days when their
acquaintanceship was but new and slight seemed to have deserted her now
that they were such close and recognised friends, and that random report
occasionally gave them out as engaged lovers.

'Oh, yes,' he answered; 'I thought you knew--I fancied I had told you. I
have constant information from friends on whom I can absolutely rely--in
Gloria.'

'Do they know what your enemies are doing?'

'Yes, I should think they would get to know,' he said with a smile, 'as
far as anything can be known.'

'Would they be likely to know,' she asked again in a timid tone, 'if any
plot were being got up against you?'

'Any plot for my murder?'

'Yes!' Her voice sank to a whisper--she hardly dared to put the
possibility into words. The fear which we allow to occupy our thoughts
seems sometimes too fearful to be put into words. It appears as if by
spoken utterance we conjure up the danger.

'Some hint of the kind might be got,' he said hesitatingly. 'Our enemies
are very crafty, but these things often leak out. Someone loses courage
and asks for advice--or confides to his wife, and she takes fright and
goes for counsel to somebody else. Then two words of a telegram across
the ocean would put me on my guard.'

'If you should get such a message, will you--tell _me_?'

'Oh, yes, certainly,' he said carelessly, 'I can promise you that.'

'And will you promise me one thing more--will you promise to be
careful?'

'What _is_ being careful? How can one take care, not knowing where or
whence the danger threatens?'

'But you need not go out alone, at night.'

'You have no idea how great a delight it is for me to go about London at
night. Then I am quite free--of politicians, interviewers, gossiping
people, society ladies, and all the rest. I am master of myself, and I
am myself again.'

'Still, if your friends ask you----'

'Some of my friends have asked me.'

'And you did not comply?'

'No; I did not think there was any necessity for complying.'

'But if _I_ were to ask you?' She laid her hand gently, lightly,
timidly, on his.

'Ah, well, if _you_ were to ask me, that would be quite a different
thing.'

'Then I do ask you,' she exclaimed, almost joyously.

He smiled a bright, half-sad smile upon the kindly, eager girl.

'Well, I promise not to go out alone at night in London until you
release me from my vow. It is not much to do this to please you, Miss
Langley--you have been so kind to me. I am really glad to have it in my
power to do anything to please you.'

'You have pleased me much, yet I feel penitent too.'

'Penitent for what?'

'For having deprived you of these lonely midnight walks which you seem
to love so much.'

'I shall love still more the thought of giving anything up to please
you.'

'Thank you,' she said gravely--and that was all she said. She began to
be afraid that she had shown her hand too much. She began to wonder what
he was thinking of her--whether he thought her too free spoken--too
forward--whether he had any suspicion of her feelings towards him. His
manner, too, had always been friendly, gentle, tender even; but it was
the manner of a man who apparently considered all suspicion of
love-making to be wholly out of the question. This very fact had made
her incautious, she thought. If any serious personal danger ever should
threaten him, how should she be able to keep her real feelings a secret
from him? Were they, she asked herself in pain and with flushing face, a
secret even now? After to-day could he fail to know--could he at all
events fail to guess?

Did the Dictator know--did he guess--that the girl was in love with him?

The Dictator did not know and did not guess. The frankness of her
manners had completely led him astray. The way in which she rendered him
open homage deceived him wholly as to her feelings. He knew that she
liked his companionship--of that he could have no doubt--he knew that
she was by nature a hero-worshipper and that he was just now her hero.
But he never for a moment imagined that the girl was in love with him.
After a little while he would go away--to Gloria, most likely--and she
would soon find some other hero, and one day he would read in the papers
that the daughter of Sir Rupert Langley was married. Then he would write
her a letter of congratulation, and in due course he would receive from
her a friendly answer--and there an end.

Perhaps just now he was more concerned about his own feelings than about
hers--much more, indeed, because he had not the remotest suspicion that
her feelings were in any wise disturbed. But his own? He began to think
it time that he should grow acquainted with his heart, and search what
stirred it so. He could not conceal from himself the fact that he was
growing more and more attached to the companionship of this beautiful,
clever, and romantic girl. He found that she disputed Gloria in his
mind. He found that, mingling imperceptibly with his hope of a
triumphant return to Gloria, was the thought that _she_ would feel the
triumph too, or the painful thought that if it came she would not be
near him to hear the story. He found that one of the delights of his
lonely midnight walks was the quiet thought of her. It used to be a
gladness to him to recall, in those moments of solitude, some word that
she had spoken--some kindly touch of her hand.

He began to grow afraid of his position and his feelings. What had he to
do with falling in love? That was no part of the work of his life. What
could it be to him but a misfortune if he were to fall in love with this
girl who was so much younger than he? Supposing it possible that a girl
of that age could love him, what had he to offer her? A share in a
career that might well prove desperate--a career to be brought to a
sudden and swift close, very probably by his own death at the hands of
his successful enemies in Gloria! Think of the bright home in which he
found that girl--of the tender, almost passionate, love she bore to her
father, and which her father returned with such love for her--think of
the brilliant future that seemed to await her, and then think of the
possibility of her ever being prevailed upon to share his dark and
doubtful fortunes. The Dictator was not a rich man. Much of what he once
had was flung away--or at all events given away--in his efforts to set
up reform and constitutionalism in Gloria. The plain truth of the
position was that even if Helena Langley were at all likely to fall in
love with him it would be his clear duty, as a man of honour and one who
wished her well, to discourage any such feeling and to keep away from
her. But the Dictator honestly believed that he was entitled to put any
such thought as that out of his mind. The very frankness--the childlike
frankness--with which she had approached him made it clear that she had
no thought of any love-making being possible between them. 'She thinks
of me as a man almost old enough to be her father,' he said to himself.
So the Dictator reconciled his conscience, and still kept on seeing her.



CHAPTER XVI

THE CHILDREN OF GRIEVANCE


The Dictator and Hamilton stood in Ericson's study, waiting to receive a
deputation. The Dictator had agreed to receive this deputation from an
organisation of working men. The deputation desired to complain of the
long hours of work and the small rate of pay from which English artisans
in many branches of labour had to suffer. Why they had sought to see him
he could not very well tell--and certainly if it had been left to
Hamilton, whose mind was set on sparing the Dictator all avoidable
trouble, and who, moreover, had in his heart of hearts no great belief
in remedy by working-men's deputation, the poor men would probably not
have been accorded the favour of an interview. But the Dictator insisted
on receiving them, and they came; trooped into the room awkwardly; at
first seemed slow of speech, and soon talked a great deal. He listened
to all they had to say, and put questions and received answers, and
certainly impressed the deputation with the conviction that if his
Excellency the ex-Dictator of Gloria could not do anything very much for
them, his heart at least was in their cause. He had an idea in his mind
of something he could do to help the over-oppressed English working
man--and that was the reason why he had consented to receive the
deputation.

The spokesman of the deputation was a gaunt and haggard-looking man. The
dirt seemed ingrained in him--in his hands, his eyebrows, his temples,
under his hair, up to his very eyes. He told a pitiful story of long
work and short pay--of hungry children and an over-tasked wife. He told,
in fact, the story familiar to all of us--the 'chestnut' of the
newspapers--the story which the busy man of ordinary society is not
expected to trouble himself by reading any more--supposing he ever had
read it at all.

The Dictator, however, was not an ordinary society man, and he had been
a long time away from England, and had not had his attention turned to
these social problems of Great Britain. He was therefore deeply
interested in the whole business, and he asked a number of questions,
and got shrewd, keen answers sometimes, and very rambling answers on
other occasions. The deputation was like all other deputations with a
grievance. There was the fanatic burning to a white heat, with the
inward conviction of wrong done, not accidentally, but deliberately, to
him and to his class. There was the prosaic, didactic, reasoning man,
who wanted to talk the whole matter out himself, and to put everybody's
arguments to the test, and to prove that all were wrong and weak and
fallible and unpractical save himself alone. There was the fervid man,
who always wanted to dash into the middle of every other man's speech.
There was the practical man, who came with papers of figures and desired
to make it all a question of statistics. There was the 'crank,' who
disagreed with everything that everybody else said or suggested or could
possibly have said or suggested on that or any other subject. The first
trouble of the Dictator was to get at any commonly admitted appreciation
of facts. More than once--many times indeed--he had to interpose and
explain that he personally knew nothing of the subjects they were
discussing; that he only sought for information; and that he begged them
if they could to agree among themselves as to the actual realities which
they wished to bring under his notice. Even when he had thus adjured
them it was not easy for him to get them to be all in a story. Poor
fellows! each one of them had his own peculiar views and his own
peculiar troubles too closely pressing on his brain. The Dictator was
never impatient--but he kept asking himself the question: 'Suppose I had
the power to legislate, and were now called upon by these men and in
their own interests to legislate, what on their own showing should I be
able to do?'

More than once, too, he put to them that question. 'Admitting your
grievances--admitting the justice, the reason, the practical good sense
of your demands, what can _I_ do? Why do you appeal to me? I am no
legislator. I am a proscribed and banished man from a country which
until lately most of you had never heard of. What would you have of me?'

The spokesman of the deputation could only answer that they had heard of
him as of one who had risen to supreme position in a great far-off
country, and who had always concerned himself deeply with the interest
of the working classes.

'Will that,' he asked, 'get me one moment's audience from an English
official department?'

No, they did not suppose it would; they shook their heads. They could
not help him to learn how he was to help them.

The day was cold and dreary. No matter though the season was still
supposed to be far remote from winter, yet the look of the skies was
cruelly depressing, and the atmosphere was loaded with a misty chill.
Ericson's heart was profoundly touched. He saw in his mind's eye a
country glowing with soft sunshine--a country where even winter came
caressingly on the people living there; a country with vast and almost
boundless spaces for cultivation; a country watered with noble rivers
and streams; a country to be renowned in history as the breeder of
horses and cattle and the grower of grain; a country well qualified to
rear and feed and bring up in sunny comfort more than the whole mass of
the hopeless toilers on the chill English fields and in the sooty
English cities. His mind was with the country with which he had
identified his career--which only wanted good strong hands to convert
her into a country of practical prosperity--which only needed brains to
open for her a history that should be remembered in all far-stretching
time. He now excused himself for what had at one moment seemed his
weakness in consenting to receive a deputation for which he could do
nothing. He found that he had something to say to them after all.

The Dictator had a sweet, strong, melodious voice. When he had heard
them all most patiently out, he used his voice and said what he had to
say. He told them that he had directly no right to receive them at all,
for, as far as regards this country, there was absolutely nothing he
could do for them. He was not an official, not a member of Parliament,
not a person claiming the slightest influence in English public life.
Nor even in the country of his adoption did he reckon for much just now.
He was, as they all knew, an exile; if he were to return to that country
now, his life would, in all probability, be forfeit. Yet, in God's good
pleasure, he might, after all, get back some time, and, if that should
be, then he would think of his poor countrymen, in England. Gloria was a
great country, and could find homes for hundreds and hundreds of
thousands of Englishmen. There--he had no scheme, had never thought of
the matter until quite lately--until they had asked him to receive their
deputation. He had nothing more to say and nothing more to ask. He was
ashamed to have brought them to listen to a reply of so little worth in
any sense; but that was all that he could tell them, and if ever again
he was in a position to do anything, then he could only say that he
hoped to be reminded of his promise.

The deputation went away not only contented but enthusiastic. They quite
understood that their immediate cause was not advanced and could not be
advanced by anything the Dictator could possibly have to say. But they
had been impressed by his sincerity and by his sympathy. They had been
deputed to wait on many a public official, many a head of a department,
many a Secretary of State, many an Under-Secretary. They were familiar
with the stereotyped official answers, the answers that assured them
that the case should have consideration, and that if anything could be
done--well, then, perhaps, something would be done. Possibly no other
answer could have been given. The answer of the unofficial and
irresponsible Dictator promised absolutely nothing; but it had the
musical ring of sincerity and of sympathy about it, and the men grasped
strongly his strong hand, and went away glad that they had seen him.

The Dictator did not usually receive deputations. But he had a great
many requests from deputations that they might be allowed to wait on him
and express their views to him. He was amazed sometimes to find what an
important man he was in the estimation of various great organisations.
Ho was assured by the committee of the Universal Arbitration Society
that, if he would only appear on their platform and deliver a speech,
the cause of universal arbitration would be secured, and public war
would go out of fashion in the world as completely as the private duel
has gone out of fashion in England. Of course, he was politely pressed
to receive a deputation on behalf of several societies interested on one
side or the other of the great question of Woman's Suffrage. The
teetotallers and Local Optionists of various forms solicited the favour
of a talk with him. The trade associations and the licensed victuallers
eagerly desired to get at his views. The letters he received on the
subject of the hours of labour interested him a great deal, and he tried
to grapple with their difficulties, but soon found he could make little
of them. By the strenuous advice of Hamilton he was induced to keep out
of these complex English questions altogether. Ericson yielded, knowing
that Hamilton was advising him for the best; but he had a good deal of
the Don Quixote in his nature; and having now a sort of enforced
idleness put upon him, he felt a secret yearning for some enterprise to
set the world right in other directions than that of Gloria.

There was a certain indolence in Ericson's nature. It was the indolence
which is perfectly consistent with a course of tremendous and sustained
energy. It was the nature which says to itself at one moment, 'Up and do
the work,' and goes for the work with unconquerable earnestness until
the work is done, and then says, 'Very good; now the work is done, let
us rest and smoke and talk over other things.' Nature is one thing;
character is another. We start with a certain kind of nature; we beat it
and mould it, or it is beaten and moulded for us, into character. Even
Hamilton was never quite certain whether Nature had meant Ericson for a
dreamer, and Ericson and Fortune co-operating had hammered him into a
worker, or whether Nature had moulded him for a worker, and his own
tastes for contemplation and for reading and for rest had softened him
down into a dreamer.

'The condition of this country horrifies me, Hamilton,' he said, when
left alone with his devoted follower. 'I don't see any way out of it. I
find no one who even professes to see any way out of it. I don't see any
people getting on well but the trading class.'

'_But_ the trading class?' Hamilton asked, with a quiet smile.

'You mean that if the trading class are getting on well the country in
the end will get on well?'

'It would look like that,' Hamilton answered; 'wouldn't it? This is a
country of trade. If our trade is sound, our heart is sound.'

'But what is becoming of the land, what is becoming of the peasant? What
is becoming of the East End population? I don't see how trade helps any
of these. Read the accounts from Liverpool, from Manchester, from
Sheffield, from anywhere: nothing but competition and strikes and
general misery. And, look here, I can't bear the idea of everything in
life being swallowed up in the great cities, and the peasantry of
England totally disappearing, and being succeeded by a gaunt, ragged
class of half-starved labourers in big towns. Take my word for it,
Hamilton, a cursed day has come when we see _that_ day.'

'What can be done?' Hamilton asked, in a kind of compassionate
tone--compassion rather for the trouble of his chief than for the
supposed national tribulation. Hamilton was as generous-hearted a young
fellow as could be, but his affections were more evidenced in the
concrete than in the abstract. He had grown up accustomed to all these
distracting social questions, and he did not suppose that anything very
much was likely to come of them--at any rate, he supposed that if
anything were to come of them it would come of itself, and that we could
not do much to help or hinder it. So he was not disposed to distress
himself much about these social complications, although, if he felt sure
that his purse or his labour could avail in any way to make things
better, his help most assuredly would not be wanting. But he did not
like the Dictator to be worried about such things. The Dictator's work,
he thought, was to be kept for other fields.

'Nothing can be done, I suppose,' the Dictator said gloomily. 'But, my
dear Hamilton, that is the trouble of the whole business. That does not
help us to put it out of our minds--it only racks our minds all the
more. To think that it should be so! To think that in this great
country, so rich in money, so splendid in intellect, we should have to
face that horrible problem of misery and poverty and vice, and, having
stared at it long enough, simply close our eyes, or turn away and
deliver it as our final utterance that there is nothing to be done!'

'Anyhow,' Hamilton said, 'there is nothing to be done by you and me.
It's of no use our wearing out our energies about it.'

'No,' the Dictator assented, not without drawing a deep breath; 'but if
I had time and energy I should like to try. We have no such problems to
solve in Gloria, Hamilton.'

'No, by Jupiter!' Hamilton exclaimed, 'and therefore the very sooner we
get back there the better.'

The Dictator sent a compassionate and even tender glance at his young
companion. He had the best reason to know how sincere and
self-sacrificing was Hamilton's devotion to the cause of Gloria; but he
could not doubt that just at present there was mingled in the young
man's heart, along with the wish to be serving actively the cause of
Gloria, the wish also to be free of London, to be away from the scene of
a bitter disappointment. The Dictator's heart was deeply touched. He had
admired with the most cordial admiration the courage, the noble
self-repression, which Hamilton had displayed since the hour of his
great disappointment. Never a word of repining, never the exhibition in
public of a clouded brow, never any apparent longing to creep into
lonely brakes like the wounded deer--only the man-like resolve to put up
with the inevitable, and go on with one's work in life just as if
nothing had happened. All the time the Dictator knew what a passionately
loving nature Hamilton had, and he knew how he must have suffered. 'I am
old enough almost to be the lad's father,' he thought to himself, 'and I
could not have borne it like that.' All this passed through his mind in
a time so short that Hamilton was not able to notice any delay in the
reply to his observation.

'You are right, boy,' the Dictator cheerily said. 'I don't believe that
you and I were meant for any mission but the redemption of Gloria.'

'I am glad, to hear you say so,' Hamilton interposed quickly.

'Had you ever any doubt of my feelings on that subject?' Ericson asked
with a smile.

'Oh, no, of course not; but I don't always like to hear you talking
about the troubles of these old worn-out countries, as if you had
anything to do with them or were born to set them right. It seems as if
you were being decoyed away from your real business.'

'No fear of that, boy,' the Dictator said. 'What I was thinking of was
that we might very well arrange to do something for the country of our
birth and the country of our adoption at once, Hamilton--by some great
scheme of English colonisation in Gloria. If we get back again I should
like to see clusters of English villages springing up all over the
surface of that lovely country.'

'Our people are so wanting in adaptability,' Hamilton began.

'My dear fellow, how can you say that? Who made the United States? What
about Australia? What about South Africa?'

'These were weedy poor chaps, these fellows who were here just now,'
Hamilton suggested.

'Good brain-power among some of them, all the same,' the Dictator
asserted. 'Do you know, Hamilton, say what you will, the idea catches
fire in my mind?'

'I am very glad, Excellency; I am very glad of any idea that makes you
warm to the hope of returning to Gloria.'

'Dear old boy, what _is_ the matter with you? You seem to think that I
need some spurring to drive me back to Gloria. Do you really think
anything of the kind?'

'Oh, no, Excellency, I don't--if it comes to that. But I don't like your
getting mixed up in any manner of English local affairs.'

'I see, you are afraid I might be induced to become a candidate for the
House of Commons--or, perhaps, for the London County Council, or the
School Board. I tell you what, Hamilton: I do seriously wish I had an
opportunity of going into training on the School Board. It would give me
some information and some ideas which might be very useful if we ever
get again to be at the head of affairs in Gloria.'

Hamilton was a young man who took life seriously. If it were possible to
imagine that he could criticise unfavourably anything said or done by
his chief, it would be perhaps when the chief condescended to trifle
about himself and his position. So Hamilton did not like the mild jest
about the School Board. Indeed, his mind was not at the moment much in a
condition for jests of any kind, mild or otherwise.

'I don't fancy we should learn anything in the London School Board that
would be of any particular service to us out in Gloria,' he said
protestingly.

'Right you are,' the Dictator answered, with a half-pathetic smile. 'I
need you, boy, to recall me to myself, as the people say in the novels.
No, I do not for a moment feel myself vain enough to suppose that the
ordinary member of the London School Board could at a stroke put his
finger within a thousand miles of Gloria on the map of the
world--Mercator's Projection, or any other. And yet, do you know, I have
odd dreams in my head of a day when Gloria may become the home and the
shelter of a sturdy English population, whom their own country could
endow with no land but the narrow slip of earth that makes a pauper's
grave.'



CHAPTER XVII

MISS PAULO'S OBSERVATION


Miss Paulo sat for a while thoughtfully biting the top of her quill pen
and looking out dreamily into the street. Her little sitting-room faced
Knightsbridge and the trees and grass of the Park. Often when some
problem of the domestic economy of the hotel caused her a passing
perplexity, she would derive new vigour for grappling with complicated
sums from a leisurely study of those green spaces and the animated
panorama of the passing crowd. But to-day there was nothing particularly
complicated about the family accounts, and Dolores Paulo sought for no
arithmetical inspiration from the pleasant out-look. Her mind was wholly
occupied with the thought of what Captain Sarrasin had been saying to
her--of the possible peril that threatened the Dictator.

She drew the feather from between her lips and tapped the blotting-pad
with it impatiently.

'Why should I trouble my head or my heart about him?' she asked herself
bitterly. 'He doesn't trouble his head or his heart about me.'

But she felt ashamed of her petulant speech immediately. She seemed to
see the grave, sweet face of the Dictator looking down at her in
surprise; she seemed to see the strong soldierly face of Captain
Sarrasin frown upon her sternly.

'Ah,' she meditated with a sigh, 'it is only natural that he should fall
in love with a girl like that. She can be of use to him--of use to his
cause. What use can I be to him or to his cause? There is nothing I can
do except to look out for a possible South American with an especially
dark skin and especially curly moustache.'

As she reflected thus, her eye, wandering over the populous thoroughfare
and the verdure beyond, populous also, noted, or rather accepted, the
presence of one particular man out of the many. The one particular man
was walking slowly up and down on the roadside opposite to the hotel by
the Park railings. That he was walking up and down Dolores became
conscious of through the fact that, having half unconsciously seen him
once float into her ken, she noted him again, with some slight surprise,
and was aware of him yet a third time with still greater surprise. The
man paced slowly up and down on what appeared to be a lengthy beat, for
Dolores mentally calculated that something like a minute must have
elapsed between each glimpse of his face as he moved in the direction in
which she most readily beheld him. He was a man a little above the
middle height, with a keen, aquiline face, smooth-shaven, and
red-haired. There was nothing in his dress to render him in the least
remarkable; he was dressed like everybody else, Dolores said to herself,
and it must therefore have been his face that somehow or other attracted
her vagrant fancy. Yet it was not a particularly attractive face in any
sense. It was not a comely face which would compel the admiring
attention of a girl, nor was it a face so strongly marked, so out of the
ordinary lines, as to command attention by its ugliness or its strength
of character. It was the smooth-shaven face of an average man of a
fair-haired race; there was something Scotch about it--Lowland Scotch,
the kind of face of which one might see half a hundred in an hour's
stroll along the main street of Glasgow or Prince's Street in Edinburgh.
Dolores had been in both these cities and knew the type, and as it was
not a specially interesting type she soon diverted her gaze from the
unknown and resumed attentively her table of figures. But she had not
given many seconds to their consideration when her attention was again
diverted. A four-wheeled cab had driven up to the door with a
considerable pile of luggage on it. There was nothing very remarkable in
that. The arrival of a cab loaded with luggage was an event of hourly
occurrence at Paulo's Hotel, and quite unlikely to arouse any especial
interest in the mind of Miss Dolores. What, however, did languidly
arouse her interest, did slightly stir her surprise, was that the
smooth-shaven patroller of the opposite side of the way immediately
crossed the road as the cab drew up, and standing by the side of the cab
door proceeded to greet the occupant of the cab. Even that was not very
much out of the way, and yet Dolores was sufficiently interested to lay
down her pen and to see who should emerge from the vehicle, around which
now the usual little guard of hotel porters had gathered.

A big man got out of the cab, a big man with a blonde beard and amiable
spectacles. He carried under his arm a large portfolio, and in each hand
he carried a collection of books belted together in a hand-strap. He was
enveloped in a long coat, and his appearance and the appearance of his
luggage suggested that he had travelled, and even from some considerable
distance.

Curiosity is often an inexplicable thing, even to the curious, and
certainly Dolores would have been hard put to it to explain why she felt
any curiosity about the new arrival and the man who had so patiently
awaited him. But she did feel curious, and mingled with her curiosity
was a vague sense of something like compassion, if not exactly of pity,
for she knew very well that at that moment the hotel was very full, and
that the new-comer would have to put up with rather uncomfortable
quarters if he were lucky enough to get any at all. The sense of
curiosity was, however, stronger than her sense of compassion, and she
ran rapidly down stairs by her own private stair and slipped into the
little room at the back of the hotel office, where either her father or
her mother was generally to be found. At this particular moment, as it
happened, neither her father nor mother was in the little room. The door
communicating with the office stood slightly ajar, and Dolores, standing
by it, could see into the office and hear all that passed without being
seen.

The blonde-bearded stranger came up to the office smiling confidently.
He had still his portfolio under his arm, but his smooth-shaven friend
had relieved him of the two bundles of books, and stood slightly apart
while the rest of the new-comer's belongings were being piled into a
huge mound of impedimenta in the hall. Dolores expected the confident
smile of the blonde man to disappear rapidly from his face. But it did
not disappear. He said something to the office clerk which Dolores could
not catch; the clerk immediately nodded, rang for a page-boy, collected
sundry keys from their hooks, and handed them to the page-boy, who
immediately made off in the direction of the lift, heralding the
blonde-bearded stranger, with his smooth-shaven friend still in
attendance, while a squad of porters descended upon the luggage and
wafted it away with the rapidity of Afrite magicians.

Dolores could not restrain her curiosity. She opened the door wider and
called to the clerk, 'Mr. Wilkins.'

Mr. Wilkins looked round. He was a tall, alert, sharp-looking young man,
whose only weakness in life was a hopeless attachment to Miss Paulo.

'Yes, Miss Paulo.'

'Who was the gentleman who just arrived, Mr. Wilkins?'

Mr. Wilkins seemed a little surprised at the interest Miss Paulo
displayed in the arrival of a stranger. But he made the most of the
occasion. He was glad to have anything to tell which could possibly
interest _her_.

'That,' said Mr. Wilkins with a certain pride, 'is quite a distinguished
person in his way. He is Professor Wilberforce P. Flick, President of
the Denver and Sacramento Folk-Lore Societies. He has been travelling on
the Continent for some time past for the benefit of the societies, and
has now arrived in London for the purpose of making acquaintance with
the members of the leading lights of folk-lore in this country.'

Dolores laughed. 'Did he tell you all that just now?' she asked.

'Oh, no,' the young man replied, 'Oh, no, Miss Paulo. All that valuable
information I gained largely from a letter from the distinguished
gentleman himself from Paris last week, and partially also from the
spontaneous statements of his friend Mr. Andrew J. Copping, of Omaha,
who is now in London, and who came here to see if his friend's rooms
were duly reserved.'

'Was that Mr. Copping who was with the Professor just now?'

'Yes, the clean-shaven man was Mr. Andrew J. Copping, of Omaha.'

'Is he also stopping at the hotel?' Miss Paulo asked.

'No.' Mr. Wilkins explained. Mr. Copping was apparently for the time a
resident of London, and lived, he believed, somewhere in the Camden Town
region. But he was very anxious that his friend and compatriot should be
comfortable, and that his rooms should be commodious.

'How many rooms does Professor Flick occupy?' asked Miss Paulo.

It seemed that the Professor occupied a little suite of rooms which
comprised a bedroom and sitting-room, with a bath-room. It seemed that
the Professor was a very studious person and that he would take all his
meals by himself, as he pursued the study of folk-lore even at his
meals, and wished not to have his attention in the least disturbed
during the process.

'What an impassioned scholar!' said Miss Paulo. 'I had no idea that
places like Denver and Sacramento were leisurely enough to produce such
ardent students of folk-lore.'

'Not to mention Omaha,' added Mr. Wilkins.

'Is Mr. Copping also a folk-lorist then?' inquired Miss Paulo; and Mr.
Wilkins replied that he believed so, that he had gathered as much from
the remarks of Mr. Copping on the various occasions when he had called
at the hotel.

'The various occasions?'

Yes, Mr. Copping had called several times, to make quite sure of
everything concerning his friend's comfort. He was very particular about
the linen being aired one morning. Another morning ho looked in to
ascertain whether the chimneys smoked, as the learned Professor often
liked a fire in his rooms even in summer. A third time he called to
enquire if the water in the bath-room was warm enough at an early hour
in the morning, as the learned Professor often rose early to devote
himself to his great work!

'What a thoughtful friend, to be sure!' said Miss Paulo. 'It is pleasant
to find that great scholarship can secure such devoted disciples. For I
suppose Professor Flick is a great scholar.'

'One of the greatest in the world, as I understand from Mr. Copping,'
replied Mr. Wilkins. 'I understand from Mr. Copping that when Professor
Flick's great work appears it will revolutionise folk-lore all over the
world.'

'Dear me!' said Miss Paulo; 'how little one does know, to be sure. I had
no idea that folk-lore required revolutionising.'

'Neither had I,' said Mr. Wilkins; 'but apparently it does.'

'And Professor Flick is the man to do it, apparently,' said Miss Paulo.

'If Mr. Copping is correct about the great work,' said Mr. Wilkins.

'Ay, yes, the great work. And what is the great work? Did Mr. Copping
communicate that as well?'

Oh, yes, Mr. Copping had communicated that as well. The great work was a
study in American folk-lore, and it went to establish, as far as Mr.
Wilkins could gather from Mr. Copping's glowing but somewhat
disconnected phrases, that all the legends of the world were originally
the property of the Ute Indians, who, with the Apaches, constituted,
according to the Professor, the highest intellectual types on the
surface of the earth.

'Well,' said Dolores, 'all that, I dare say, is very interesting and
exciting, and even exhilarating to the studious inhabitants of Denver
and of Sacramento. I wonder if it will greatly interest London? Where
have you put Professor Flick?'

Professor Flick was located, it appeared, upon the first floor. It
seemed, according to the representations of the devoted Copping, that
Professor Flick was a very nervous man about the possibility of fires;
that he never willingly went higher than the first floor in consequence,
and that he always carried with him in his baggage a patent rope-ladder
for fear of accidents.

'On the first floor,' said Miss Paulo. 'Which rooms?'

'The end suite at the right. On the same side as the rooms of his
Excellency, but further off. Mr. Copping seems to like their situation
the best of all the rooms I showed him.'

'On the same side as his Excellency's rooms? Well, I should think
Professor Flick would be a quiet neighbour.'

'Probably, for he was very anxious to be quiet himself. But I am afraid
the fame of our illustrious guest does not extend so far as Denver, for
Mr. Copping asked what the flag was flying for, and when I told him he
did not seem to be a bit the wiser.'

'The stupid man!' said Miss Paulo scornfully.

'And Professor Flick is just as bad. When I mentioned to him that his
rooms were near those of Mr. Ericson, the Dictator of Gloria, he said
that he had never heard of him, but that he hoped he was a quiet man,
and did not sit up late.'

'Really,' said Miss Paulo, frowning, 'this Mr. Flick would seem to think
that the world was made for folk-lore, and that he was folk-lore's
Cæsar.'

'Ah, Miss Paulo,' said the practical Wilkins, with a smile, 'these
scholars have queer ways.'

'Evidently,' answered Miss Paulo, 'evidently. Well, I suppose we must
humour them sometimes, for the sake of the Utes and Apaches at least;'
and, with the sunniest of smiles, Miss Paulo withdrew from the office,
leaving, as it seemed to Mr. Wilkins, who was something of a poet in his
spare moments, the impression as of departed divinity. The atmosphere of
the hotel hall seemed to take a rosy tinge, and to be impregnated with
enchanting odours as from the visit of an Olympian. Mr. Wilkins had been
going through a course of Homer of late, in Bohn's translation, and
permitted himself occasionally to allow his fancy free play in classical
allusion. Never, though, to his credit be it recorded, did his poetic
studies or his love-dreamings operate in the least to the detriment of
his serious duties as head of the office in Paulo's Hotel, a post which,
to do him justice, he looked upon as scarcely less important than that
of a Cabinet Minister.

Since the day when Dolores first spoke to Hamilton about the danger
which was supposed to threaten the Dictator, she had had many talks with
the young man. It became his habit now to stop and talk with her
whenever he had a chance of meeting her. It was pleasant to him to look
into her soft, bright, deep-dark eyes. Her voice sounded musical in his
ears. The touch of her hand soothed him. His devotion to the Dictator
touched her; her devotion to the Dictator touched him. For a while they
had only one topic of conversation--the Dictator, and the fortunes of
Gloria.

Soon the clever and sympathetic girl began to think that Hamilton had
some trouble in his mind or in his heart which did not strictly belong
to the fortunes of the Dictator. There was an occasional melancholy
glance in his eye, and then there came a sudden recovery, an almost
obvious pulling of himself together, which Dolores endeavoured to reason
out. She soon reasoned it out to her own entire conviction, if not to
her entire satisfaction. For she felt deeply sorry for the young man. He
had been crossed in love, she felt convinced. Oh, yes, he had been
crossed in love! Some girl had deceived him, and had thrown him over!
And he was so handsome, and so gentle, and so brave, and what better
could the girl have asked for? And Dolores became quite angry with the
unnamed, unknown girl. Her manner grew all the more genial and kindly to
Hamilton. All unconsciously, or perhaps feeling herself quite safe in
her conviction that Hamilton's heart was wholly occupied with his love,
she allowed herself a certain tone of tender friendship, wholly
unobtrusive, almost wholly impersonal--a tender sympathy with the
suffering, perhaps, rather than with the sufferer, but bringing much
sweetness of voice to the sufferer's ear.

The two became quite confidential about the Dictator and the danger that
was supposed to be threatening him. They had long talks over it--and
there was an element of secrecy and mystery about the talks which gave
them a certain piquancy and almost a certain sweetness. Of course these
talks had to be all confidential. It was not to be supposed that the
Dictator would allow, if he knew, that any work should be made about any
personal danger to him. Therefore Hamilton and Dolores had to talk in an
underhand kind of way, and to turn on to quite indifferent subjects when
anyone not in the mystery happened to come in. The talks took place
sometimes in the public corridor--often in Dolores' own little room.
Sometimes the Dictator himself looked in by chance and exchanged a few
words with Miss Dolores, and then, of course, the confidential talk
collapsed. The Dictator liked Dolores very much. He thought her a
remarkably clever and true-hearted girl, and quite a princess and a
beauty in her way, and he had more than once said so to Hamilton.

One day Dolores ventured to ask Hamilton, 'Is it true what they say
about his Excellency?' and she blushed a little at her own boldness in
asking the question.

'Is what true?' Hamilton asked in return, and all unconscious of her
meaning.

'Well, is it true that he is going to marry--Sir Rupert Langley's
daughter?'

Then Hamilton's face, usually so pale, flushed a sudden red, and for a
moment he could hardly speak. He opened his mouth once or twice, but the
words did not come.

'Who said that?' he asked at last.

'I don't know,' Dolores answered, much alarmed and distressed, with a
light breaking on her that made her flush too. 'I heard it said
somewhere--I dare say it's not true. Oh, I am quite sure it is _not_
true--but people always _are_ saying such things.'

'It can't be true,' Hamilton said. 'If he had any thought of it he would
have told me. He knows that there is nothing I could desire more than
that he should be made happy.'

Again he almost broke down.

'Yes, if it would make him happy,' Dolores intervened once again,
plucking up her courage.

'She is a very noble girl,' Hamilton said, 'but I don't believe there is
anything in it. She admires him as we all do.'

'Why, yes, of course,' said Dolores.

'I don't think the Dictator is a marrying man. He has got the cause of
Gloria for a wife. Good morning, Miss Paulo. I have to get to the
Foreign Office.'

'I hope I haven't vexed you,' Dolores asked eagerly, and yet timidly,
'by asking a foolish question and taking notice of silly gossip?'

She knew Hamilton's secret now, and in her sympathy and her kindliness
and her assurance of being safe from misconstruction she laid her hand
gently on the young man's arm, and he looked at her, and thought he saw
a moisture in her eyes. And he knew that his secret was his no longer.
He knew that Dolores had in a moment seen the depths of his trouble.
Their eyes looked at each other, and then, only too quickly, away from
each other.

'Vexed me?' he said. 'No, indeed, Miss Paulo. You are one of the kindest
friends I have in the world.'

Now, what had this speech to do with the question of whether the
Dictator was likely or was not likely to ask Helena Langley to marry
him? Nothing at all, so far as an outer observer might see. But it had a
good deal to do with the realities of the situation for Hamilton and
Dolores. It meant, if its meaning could then have been put into plain
words on the part of Hamilton--'I know that you have found out my
secret--and I know, too, that you will be kind and tender with it--and I
like you all the better for having found it out, and for being so tender
with it, and it will be another bond of friendship between us--that, and
our common devotion to the Dictator. But this we cannot have in common
with the Dictator. Of this, however devoted to him we are, he must now
know nothing. This is for ourselves alone--for you and me.' It is a
serious business with young men and women when any story and any secret
is to be confined to 'you and me.'

For Dolores it meant that now she had a perfect right to be sympathetic
and kindly and friendly with Hamilton. She felt as if she were in his
absolute heart-confidence--although he had told her nothing whatever,
and she did not want him to tell her anything whatever. She knew enough.
He was in love, and he was disappointed. She? Well, she really had not
been in love, but she had been all unconsciously looking out for love,
and she had fancied that she was falling in love with the Dictator. She
was an enthusiast for his cause; and for his cause because of himself.
With her it was the desire of the moth for the star--of the night for
the morrow. She knew this quite well. She knew that that was the sole
and the full measure of her feeling towards the Dictator. But all the
same, up to this time she had never felt any stirring of emotion towards
any other man. She must have known--sharp-sighted girl that she
was--that poor Mr. Wilkins adored her. She _did_ know it--and she was
very much interested in the knowledge, and thought it was such a pity,
and was sorry for him--honestly and sincerely sorry--and was ever so
kind and friendly to him. But her mind was not greatly troubled about
his love. She took it for granted that Mr. Wilkins would get over his
trouble, and would marry some girl who would be fond of him. It always
happens like that. So her mind was at rest about Wilkins.

Thus, her mind being at rest about Wilkins, because she knew that, as
far as she was concerned, it never could come to anything, and her mind
being equally at rest about the Dictator, because she felt sure that on
his part it could never come to anything, she had leisure to give some
of her sympathies to Hamilton, now that she knew his secret. Then about
Hamilton--how about him?

There are moments in life--not moments in actual clock-time, but
eventful moments in feelings when one seems to be conscious of a special
influence of sympathy and kindness breathing over him like a healing
air. A great misfortune has come down upon one's life, and the
conviction is for the time that nothing in life can ever be well with
him again. The sun shines no more for him; the birds sing no more for
him; or, if their notes do make their way into his dulled and saddened
ears, it is only to break his heart as the notes of the birds did for
the sufferer on the banks of bonnie Doon. The afflicted one seems to lie
as in a darkened room, and to have no wish ever to come out into the
broad, free, animating air again--no wish to know any more what is going
on in the world outside. Friends of all kinds, and in all kindness, come
and bring their futile, barren consolations, and make offers of
unneeded, unacceptable service, as unpalatable as the offer of the Grand
Duchess in 'Alice in Wonderland,' who, declaring that she knows what the
thirsty, gasping little girl wants, tenders her a dry biscuit. The dry
biscuit of conventional service is put to the lips of the choking
sufferer, and cannot be swallowed. Suddenly some voice, perhaps all
unknown before, is heard in the darkened chamber, and it is as if a hand
were laid on the sufferer's shoulder, tenderly touching him and arousing
him to life once more. The voice seems to whisper, 'Come, arise! Awake
from mere self-annihilation in grief; there is something yet to live
for; the world has still some work to do--_for you_. There are paths to
be found for you; there are even, it may be, loves to be loved by you
and for you. Arise and come out into the light of the sun and the light
of the stars again.' The voice does not really say all this or any of
this. If it were to do so, it would be only going over the old sort of
consolation which proved hopeless and only a source of renewed anguish
when it was offered by the ordinary well-meaning friends. But the
peculiar, the timely, the heaven-sent influence breathes all this and
much more than this into a man--and the hand that seems at first to be
laid so gently on his shoulder now takes him, still so gently--oh, ever
so gently, but very firmly by the arm, and leads him out of the room
darkened by despair and into the open air, where the sun shines not with
mocking and gaudy glare, but with tender, soft, and sympathising light,
and the new life has begun, and the healing of the sufferer is a
question of time. It may be that he never quite knows from whom the
sudden peculiarity of influence streamed in so beneficently upon him.
Perhaps the source of inspiration is there just by his side, but he
knows nothing of it. Happy the man who, under such conditions, does know
where to find the holy well from which came forth the waters that cured
his pain, and sent him out into life to be a man among men again.

Poor Hamilton was, as he put it himself, hit very hard when he learned
that Helena Langley absolutely refused him. It was not the slightest
consolation to him to know that she was quite willing that their
friendship should go on unbroken. He was rather glad, on the whole, not
to hear that she had declared herself willing to regard him as a
brother. Those dreadful old phrases only make the refusal ten times
worse. Probably the most wholesome way in which a refusal could be put
to a sensitive young man is the blunt, point-blank declaration that
never, under any circumstances, could there be a thought of the girl's
loving him and having him for her husband. Then a young man who is worth
his salt is thrown back upon his own mettle, and recognises the
conditions under which he has to battle his life out, and if he is
really good for anything he soon adapts himself to them. For the time
the struggle is terrible. No cheapness of cynicism will persuade a young
man that he does not suffer genuine anguish when under this pang of
misprized love. But the sooner he knows the worst the more soon is he
likely to be able to fight his way out of the deeps of his misery.

Hamilton did not quite realise the fact as yet--perhaps did not realise
it at all--but the friendly voice in his ear, the friendly touch on his
arm, that bade him come out into the light and live once again a life of
hope, was the voice and the touch of Dolores Paulo. And for her part she
knew it just as little as he did.



CHAPTER XVIII

HELENA KNOWS HERSELF, BUT NOT THE OTHER


Decidedly Gloria was coming to the front again--in the newspapers, at
all events. The South American question was written about, telegraphed
about, and talked about, every day. The South American question was for
the time the dispute between Gloria and her powerful neighbour, who was
supposed to cherish designs of annexation with regard to her. It is a
curious fact that in places like South America, where every State might
be supposed to have, or indeed might be shown to have, ten times more
territory than she well knows what to do with, the one great idea of
increasing the national dignity seems to be that of taking in some vast
additional area of land. The hungry neighbour of Gloria had been an
Empire, but had got rid of its Emperor, and was now believed to be
anxious to make a fresh start in dignity by acquiring Gloria, as if to
show that a Republic could be just as good as an Empire in the matter of
aggression and annexation. Therefore a dispute had been easy to get up.
A frontier line is always a line that carries an electric current of
disputes. There were some questions of refugees, followers of Ericson,
who had crossed the frontier, and whose surrender the new Government of
Gloria had absurdly demanded. There were questions of tariff, of duties,
of smuggling, all sorts of questions, which, after flickering about
separately for some time, ran together at last like drops of
quicksilver, and so formed for the diplomatists and for the newspapers
the South American question.

What did it all mean? There were threats of war. Diplomacy had for some
time believed that the great neighbour of Gloria wanted either war or
annexation. The new Republic desired to vindicate its title to
respectability in the eyes of a somewhat doubtful and irreverent
population, and if it could only boast of the annexation of Gloria the
thing would be done. The new government of Gloria flourished splendidly
in despatches, in which they declared their ardent desire to live on
terms of friendship with all their neighbours, but proclaimed that
Gloria had traditions which must be maintained. If Gloria did not mean
resistance, then her Government ought certainly not to have kept such a
stiff upper lip; and if Gloria did mean resistance was she strong enough
to face her huge rival?

This was the particular question which puzzled and embarrassed the
Dictator. He could methodically balance the forces on either side. The
big Republic had measureless tracts of territory, but she had only a
comparatively meagre population. Gloria was much smaller in extent--not
much larger, say, than France and Germany combined--but she had a denser
population. Given something vital to fight about, Ericson felt some hope
that Gloria could hold her own. But the whole quarrel seemed to him so
trivial and so factitious that he could not believe the reality of the
story was before the world. He knew the men who were at the head of
affairs in Gloria, and he had not the slightest faith in their national
spirit. He sometimes doubted whether he had not made a mistake, when,
having their lives in his hand, and dependent on his mercy, he had
allowed them to live. He had only to watch the course of events
daily--to follow with keen and agonising interest the telegrams in the
papers--telegrams often so torturingly inaccurate in names and facts and
places--and to wait for the private advices of his friends, which now
came so few and so far between that he felt certain he was cut off from
news by the purposed intervention of the authorities at Gloria.

One question especially tormented him. Was the whole quarrel a sham so
far as Gloria and her interests were concerned? Was Gloria about to be
sold to her great rival by the gang of adventurers, political,
financial, and social, who had been for the moment entrusted with the
charge of her affairs? Day after day, hour after hour, Ericson turned
over this question in his mind. He was in constant communication with
Sir Rupert, and his advice guided Sir Rupert a great deal in the framing
of the despatches, which, of course, we were bound to send out to our
accredited representatives in Orizaba and in Gloria. But he did not
venture to give even Sir Rupert any hint of his suspicions that the
whole thing was only a put-up job. He was too jealous of the honour of
Gloria. To him Gloria was as his wife, his child; he could not allow
himself to suggest the idea that Gloria had surrendered herself body and
soul to the government of a gang of swindlers.

Sir Rupert prepared many despatches during these days of tension.
Undoubtedly he derived much advantage from such schooling as he got from
the Dictator. He perfectly astonished our representatives in Orizaba and
in Gloria by the fulness and the accuracy of his local knowledge. His
answers in the House of Commons were models of condensed and clear
information. He might, for aught that anyone could tell to the contrary,
have lived half his life in Gloria and the other half in Orizaba. For
himself he began to admire more and more the clear impartiality of the
Dictator. Ericson seemed to give him the benefit of his mere local
knowledge, strained perfectly clear of any prejudice or partisanship.
But Ericson certainly kept back his worst suspicions. He justified
himself in doing so. As yet they were only suspicions.

Sir Rupert dictated to Soame Rivers the points of various despatches.
Sir Rupert liked to have a distinct savour of literature and of culture
in his despatches, and he put in a certain amount of that kind of thing
himself, and was very much pleased when Soame Rivers could contribute a
little more. He was becoming very proud of his despatches on this South
American question. Nobody could be better coached, he thought. Ericson
must certainly know all about it--and he was pretty well able to give
the despatches a good form himself--and then Soame Rivers was a
wonderful man for a happy allusion or quotation or illustration. So Sir
Rupert felt well contented with the way things were going; and it may be
that now and again there came into his mind the secret, half-suppressed
thought that if the South American question should end, despite all his
despatches, in the larger Republic absorbing the lesser, and that thus
Ericson was cut off from any further career in the New World, it would
be very satisfactory if he would settle down in England; and then if
Helena and he took to each other, Helena's father would put no
difficulties in their way.

Soame Rivers copied, amended, added to, the despatches with,
metaphorically, his tongue in his cheek. The general attitude of Soame
Rivers towards the world's politics was very much that of tongue in
cheek. The attitude was especially marked in this way when he had to do
with the affairs of Gloria. He copied out and improved and enriched the
graceful sentences in which his chief urged the representatives of
England to be at once firm and cautious, at once friendly and reserved,
and so on, with a very keen and deliberate sense of a joke. He could
see, of course, with half an eye, where the influence of Ericson came
in, and he should have dearly liked, but did not venture, to spoil all
by some subtle phrase of insinuation which perhaps his chief might fail
to notice, and so allow to go off for the instruction of our
representative in Gloria or Orizaba. Soame Rivers had begun to have a
pretty strong feeling of hatred for the Dictator. It angered him even to
hear Ericson called 'the Dictator.' 'Dictator of what?' he asked himself
scornfully. Because a man has been kicked out of a place and dare not
set his foot there again, does that constitute him its dictator! There
happened to be about that time a story going the round of London society
concerning a vain and pretentious young fellow who had been kicked out
of a country house for thrusting too much of his fatuous attentions on
the daughter of the host and hostess. Soame Rivers at once nicknamed him
'The Dictator' 'Why "The Dictator"?' people asked. 'Because he has been
kicked out--don't you see?' was the answer. But Soame Rivers did not
give forth that witticism in the presence of Sir Rupert or of Sir
Rupert's daughter.

Meanwhile, the Dictator was undoubtedly becoming a more important man
than ever with the London public. The fact that he was staying in London
gave the South American question something like a personal interest for
most people. A foreign question which otherwise would seem vague,
unmeaning, and unintelligible comes to be at least interesting and
worthy of consideration, if not indeed of study, if you have under your
eyes some living man who has been in any important way mixed up in it.
The general sympathy of the public began to go with the young Republic
of Gloria and against her bigger rival. A Republic for which an
Englishman had thought of risking his life--which he had actually ruled
over--he being still visible and so the front just now in London, must
surely be better worthy the sympathy of Englishmen than some great, big,
bullying State, which, even when it had a highly respectable Emperor,
had not the good sense to hold possession of him.

So the Dictator found himself coming in for a new season of popularity.
One evening he accompanied the Langleys to a theatre where some new and
successful piece was in its early run, and when he was seen in the box
and recognised, there was an outbreak of cheers from the galleries and
in somewhat slow sequence from the pit. The Dictator shrank back into
the box; Helena's eyes flashed up to the galleries and down to the pit
in delight and pride. She would have liked the orchestra to strike up
the National Anthem of Gloria, and would have thought such a performance
only a natural and reasonable demonstration in favour of her friend and
hero. She leaned back to him and said:

'You see they appreciate you here.'

'They don't understand a bit about our Gloria troubles,' he said. 'Why
should they? What is it to them?'

'How ungracious!' Helena exclaimed. 'They admire you, and that is the
way in which you repay them.'

'I know how little it all means,' Ericson murmured, 'and I don't know
that I represent just now the cause of Gloria in her quarrel. I want to
see into it a little deeper.'

'But it is generous of these people here. They think that Gloria is
going to be annexed--and they know that you have been Gloria's patriot
and Dictator, and therefore they applaud you. Oh, come now, you must be
grateful--? you really must--and you must own that our English people
can be sympathetic.'

'I will admit all you wish,' he said.

Helena drew back in the box, and instinctively leaned towards her
father, who was standing behind, and who seldom remained long in a box
at a theatre, because he generally had so many people to see in other
boxes between the acts. She was vexed because Ericson would persist in
treating her as a child. She did not want him to admit anything merely
because she wished him to admit it. She wanted to be argued with, like a
rational human being--like a man.

'What a handsome dark woman that is in the box just opposite to us,' she
said, addressing her words rather to Sir Rupert than to the Dictator.
'She _is_ very handsome. I don't know her--I wonder who she is?'

'I seem to know her face,' Sir Rupert said, 'but I can't just at the
moment put a name to it.'

'I know her face well and I _can_ put a name to it,' the Dictator said.
'It is Miss Paulo--Dolores Paulo--daughter of the owner of Paulo's
Hotel, where I am staying.'

'Oh, yes, of course,' Sir Rupert struck in; 'I have seen her and spoken
with her. She is quite lady-like, and I am told well educated and clever
too.'

'She is very well educated and very clever,' Ericson said 'and as
well-bred a woman as you could find anywhere.'

'Does she go into society at all? I suppose not,' Helena said coldly.
She felt a little spiteful--not against Dolores; at least, not against
Dolores on Dolores' own account--but against her as having been praised
by Ericson. She thought it hard that Ericson should first have treated
her, Helena, as a child with whom one would agree, no matter what she
said, and immediately after launch out into praise of the culture and
cleverness of Miss Paulo.

'I don't fancy she cares much about getting into society,' Ericson
replied. 'One of the things I admire most about Paulo and his daughter
is that they seem to make their own life and their own work enough for
them, and don't appear to care to get to be anything they are not.'

'Is that her father with her?' Sir Rupert asked.

'Yes, that is her father,' Ericson answered. 'I must go round and pay
them a visit when this act is over.'

'I'll go, too,' Sir Rupert said.

'Oh, and may not I go?' Helena eagerly asked. She had in a moment got
over her little spleen, and felt in her generous, impulsive way that she
owed instant reparation to Miss Paulo.

'No, I think you had better not go rushing round the theatre,' Sir
Rupert said. 'Mr. Ericson will go first, and when he comes back to take
charge of you, I will pay my visit.'

'Well,' Helena said composedly, and settling herself down in her chair,
'I'll go and call on her to-morrow.'

'Certainly, by all means,' her father said.

Ericson gave Helena a pleased and grateful look. Her eyes drooped under
it--she hardly knew why. She had a penitent feeling somehow. Then the
curtain fell, and Ericson went round to visit Miss Paulo.

'Who has just come into the back of that girl's box?' Sir Rupert
asked--who was rather short-sighted and hated the trouble of an
opera-glass.

'Oh, it's Mr. Hamilton,' his daughter, who had the eyes of an eagle, was
able to tell him.

'Hamilton? Oh, yes, to be sure; I've seen him talking to her.'

'He seems to be talking to her now pretty much,' said Helena.

'Oh, the curtain is going up,' Sir Rupert said, 'and Ericson is rushing
away. Hamilton stays, I see. I'll go and see her after this act.'

'And I'll go and see her to-morrow,' were the words of his daughter.

In a moment Ericson came in. The piece was in movement again. Helena
kept her eyes fixed on Miss Paulo's box. She was puzzled about Hamilton.
She had very little prejudice of caste or class, and yet she could not
readily admit into her mind the possibility of a man of her own social
rank who had actually wanted to marry _her_, making love soon after to
the daughter of an hotel-keeper. But why should she fancy that Hamilton
was making love to Miss Paulo? He was very attentive to her, certainly,
and did not seem willing to leave her box; but was not that probably
part of the chivalry of his nature--and the chivalry of his training
under the Dictator--to pay especial attention to a girl of low degree?
The Dictator, she thought to herself with a certain pride in him and for
him, had not left his box to go to see anyone but Miss Paulo.

When the curtain fell for the next time, Sir Rupert went round in his
stately way to the box where Dolores and her father and Hamilton were
sitting. Then Helena seized her opportunity, and suddenly said to
Ericson:

'I want you to tell me all about Miss Paulo. Dolores--what a pretty
name!'

'She is a very clever girl,' he began.

'But not, I hope, a superior person? Not a woman to be afraid of?'

'No, no; not in the least.'

'Does Mr. Hamilton see much of her?' Helena had now grown saucy again,
and looked the Dictator full in the face, with the look of one who means
to say: 'You and I know something of what happened before _that_.'

Ericson smiled, a grave smile.

'He has to see her now and again,' he said.

'Has to see her? Perhaps he likes to see her.'

'I am sure I hope he does. He must be rather lonely.'

'Are men ever lonely?'

'Very lonely sometimes.'

'But not as women are lonely. Men can always find companionship. Do look
at Mr. Hamilton--how happy _he_ seems!'

'Hamilton's love for _you_ was deep and sincere,' the Dictator said,
with an almost frowning earnestness.

'And now behold,' she replied, with sparkling and defiant eyes. 'See!
Look there!'

Then Sir Rupert came back to the box and the discussion was brought to
an end.

Hamilton came into the box and paid a formal visit, and said a few
formal words. The curtain fell upon the last act, and Sir Rupert's
carriage whirled his daughter away. Helena sat up late in her bedroom
that night. She was finding out more and more with every day, every
incident, that the conditions of life were becoming revolutionised for
her. She was no longer like the girl she always had been before. She
felt herself growing profoundly self-conscious, self-inquiring. She who
had hitherto been the merest creature of impulse--generous impulse,
surely, almost always--now found herself studying beforehand every word
she ought to speak and every act she ought to do. She lay awake of
nights cross-examining herself as to what precise words she had spoken
that day, as to what things she had done, what gestures even she had
made, in the vain and torturing effort to find out whether she had done
anything which might betray her secret. It seemed to her, with the
touching, delightful, pitiful egotism of which the love of the purest
heart is capable, that there was not a breathing of the common wind that
might not betray to the world the secret of her love. She had in former
days carried her disregard for the conventional so far that malign
critics, judging purely by the narrowest laws, had described her as
unwomanly. Nor were all these harsh and ill-judging critics women--which
would have been an intelligible thing enough. It is gratifying to
discourage vanity in woman, to set down as unwomanly the girl who has
gathered all the men around her. It is soothing to mortified feeling to
say that the successful girl simply 'went for' the men, and compelled
them to pay attention to her. But there were men not unfriendly to her
or to Sir Rupert who shook their heads and said that Helena Langley was
rather unwomanly. If they could have seen into her heart now, they would
have known that she was womanly enough in all conscience. She succumbed
in a moment to all the tenderest weaknesses and timidities of woman.
Never before had she cared one straw whether people said she was
flirting with this, that, or the other man--and the curious thing is
that, while she was thus utterly careless, people never did accuse her
of flirting. But now she felt in her own heart that she was conscious of
some emotion far more deep and serious than a wish for a flirtation; she
found that she was in love--in love--in love, and with a man who did not
seem to have the faintest thought of being in love with her. She felt,
therefore, as if she had to go through this part of her life masked, and
also armoured. Every eye that turned on her she regarded as a suspicious
eye. Every chance question addressed suddenly to her seemed like a
question driven at her, to get at the heart of her mystery. A man slowly
recovering from some wound or other injury which has shattered for the
time his nervous power, will, when he begins to walk slowly about the
streets, start and shudder if he sees someone moving rapidly in his
direction, because he is seized with an instinctive and horrible dread
that the rapid walker is sure to come into collision with him. Helena
Langley felt somewhat like that. Her nerves were shaken; her framework
of joyous self-forgetfulness was wholly shattered; she was conscious and
nervous all over--in every sudden word or movement she feared an attack
upon her nerves. What would it matter to the world--the world of
London--even if the world had known all? Two ladies would meet and say,
'Oh, my dear, do you know, that pretty and odd girl Helena Langley--Sir
Rupert's daughter--has fallen over head and ears in love with the
Dictator, as they call him--that man who has come back from some South
American place! Isn't it ridiculous?--and they say he doesn't care one
little bit about her.' 'Well, I don't know--he might do a great deal
worse--she's a very clever girl, _I_ think, and she will have lots of
money.' 'Yes, if her father chooses to give it to her; but I'm told she
hasn't a single sixpence of her own, and Sir Rupert mightn't quite like
the idea of her taking up with a beggarly foreign exile from South
America, or South Africa, or wherever it is.' 'But, my dear, the man
isn't a foreigner--he is an Englishman, and a very attractive man too. I
think _I_ should be very much taken by him if I were a girl.' 'Well, you
surprise me. I am told he is old enough to be her father.' 'Oh, good
gracious, no; a man of about forty, I should think; just the right age
of man for a girl to marry; and really there are so _few_ marrying men
in these days that even girls with rich fathers can't always be
choosers, don't you know?'

Now, the way in which these two ladies might have talked about Helena's
secret, if they could have discovered it, is a fair illustration of the
vapid kind of interest which society in general would have taken in the
whole story. But it did not seem thus to Helena. To her it appeared as
if the whole world would have cried scorn upon her if it had found out
that she fell in love with a man who had given her no reason to believe
that he had fallen in love with her. Outside her own closest friends,
society would not have cared twopence either way. Society is interested
in the marriages of girls who belong to its set--or in their subsequent
divorces, if such events should come about. But society cares nothing
whatever about maiden heart-throbbings. It is vaguely and generally
assumed that all girls begin by falling in love with the wrong person,
and then soberise down for matrimony and by matrimony, and that it does
not matter in the least what their silly first fancies were. Even the
father and mother of some particular girl will not take her early
love-fancies very seriously. She will get over it, they say
contentedly--perhaps with self-cherished, half-suppressed recollection
of the fact that he and she have themselves got over such a feeling and
been very happy, or at least fairly happy, after, in their married
lives.

But to Helena Langley things looked differently. She was filled with the
conviction that it would be a shame to her if the world--her world--were
to discover that she had fallen in love with a man who had not fallen in
love with her. The world would have taken the news with exactly the same
amount of interest, alarm, horror, that it would have felt if
authoritatively informed that Helena Langley had had the toothache. In
the illustration just given of a morbid, nervous condition, the sufferer
dreads that anyone moving rapidly in his direction is going to rush in
upon him and collide with him. But the rapid mover is thinking not at
all of the nervous sufferer, and would be only languidly interested if
he were told of the suffering, and would think it an ordinary and
commonplace sort of suffering after all--just what everybody has at one
time or another, don't you know?

Was Helena unhappy? On the whole, no--decidedly not. She had found her
hero. She had found out her passion. A new inspiration was breathed into
her life. This Undine of the West End, of the later end of the outworn
century had discovered the soul that was in her formerly undeveloped
system. She had come in for a possession like the possession of a
throne, which brings heavy responsibility and much peril and pain with
it, but yet which those who have once possessed it will not endure to be
parted from. She could follow _his_ fortunes--she could openly be his
friend--she felt a kind of claim on him and proprietorial right over
him. She had never felt any particular use in her existence before,
except, indeed, in amusing herself, and, let it be added in fairness to
the child, in giving pleasure to others, and trying to do good for
others.

But now she had found a new existence. She had come in for her
inheritance--for her kingdom--the kingdom of human love which is the
inheritance of all of us, and which, when we come in for it, we would
never willingly renounce, no matter what tears it brings with it. Helena
Langley had found that she was no longer a thoughtless, impulsive girl,
but a real woman, with a heart and a hero and a love secret. She felt
proud of her discovery. Columbus found out that he had a heart before he
found out a new world; one wonders which discovery was the sweeter at
the time.



CHAPTER XIX

TYPICAL AMERICANS--NO DOUBT


Up in Hampstead the world seemed to wheel in its orbit more tranquilly
than in the feverish city which lay at the foot of its slopes. There was
something in its clear, its balsamic air, so cleanly free from the
eternal smoke-clouds of London, that seemed to invite to a repose, to a
leisurely movement in the procession of life. Captain Sarrasin once said
that it reminded him of the pure air of the prairie, almost of the keen
air of the cañons. Captain Sarrasin always professed that he found the
illimitable spaces of the West too tranquillising for him. The sight of
those great, endless fields, the isolation of those majestic mountains,
suggested to him a recluse-like calm which never suited his quick-moving
temper. So he did not very often visit his brother in Hampstead, and the
brother in Hampstead, deeply engrossed in the grave cares of comparative
folk-lore, seldom dropped from his Hampstead eyrie into the troubled
city to seek out his restless brother. Hampstead was just the place for
the folk-lore-loving Sarrasin. No doubt that, actually, human life is
just the same in Hampstead as anywhere else, from Pekin to Peru, tossed
by the same passions, driven onward by the same racking winds of desire,
ambition, and despair. People love and hate and envy, feel mean or
murderous, according to their temper, as much on the slopes of Hampstead
as in the streets of London that lie at its foot. But such is not the
suggestion of Hampstead itself upon a tranquil summer day to the pensive
observer. It seems a peaceful, a sleepy hollow, an amiable elevated
lubber-land, affording to London the example of a kind of suburban
Nirvana.

So while London was fretting in all its eddies, and fretting
particularly for us in the eddy that swirled and circled around the
fortunes of the Dictator, up in Hampstead, at Blarulf's Garth, and in
the adjacent cottage which Mr. Sarrasin had named Camelot, life flowed
on in a tranquil current. The Dictator often came up; whatever the
claims, the demands upon him, he managed to dine one day in every week
with Miss Ericson. Not the same day in every week indeed; the Dictator's
life was inevitably too irregular for that; but always one day,
whichever day he could snatch from the imperious pressure of the growing
plans for his restoration, from the society which still regarded him as
the most royal of royal lions, and, above all, from the society of the
Langleys. However, it did not matter. One day was so like another up in
Hampstead, that it really made no difference whether any particular
event took place upon a Monday, a Tuesday, or a Wednesday; and Miss
Ericson was so happy in seeing so much of her nephew after so long and
blank an absence, that it would never have occurred to her to complain,
if indeed complaining ever found much of a place in her gentle nature.

Whenever the Dictator came now, Mr. Sarrasin was always on hand, and
always eager to converse with the wonderful nephew who had come back to
London like an exiled king. To Mr. Sarrasin the event had a threefold
interest. In the first place, the Dictator was the nephew of Miss
Ericson. Had he been the most commonplace fellow that had ever set one
foot before the other, there would have been something attractive about
him to Sarrasin because of his kinship with his gentle neighbour. In the
second place, he knew now that his brother, the brother whom he adored,
had declared himself on the Dictator's side, and had joined the
Dictator's party. In the third place, if no associations of friendship
or kinship had linked him in any way with the fortunes of the Dictator,
the mere fact of his eventful rule, of his stormy fortunes, of the rise
and fall of such a stranger in such a strange land, would have fired all
that was romantic, all that was adventurous, in the nature of the quiet,
stay-at-home gentleman, and made him as eager a follower of the
Dictator's career as if Ericson had been Jack with the Eleven Brothers,
or the Boy who Could not Shiver. So Mr. Sarrasin spent the better part
of six days in the week conversing with Miss Ericson about the Dictator;
and on the day when Ericson came to Hampstead, Sarrasin was sure, sooner
or later, to put in an appearance at Blarulf's Garth, and to beam in
delighted approbation upon the exile of Gloria.

One day Mr. Sarrasin came into Miss Ericson's garden with a countenance
that beamed with more than usual benignity. But the benignity was, as it
were, blended with an air of unwonted wonder and exhilaration which
consorted somewhat strangely with the wonted calm of the excellent
gentleman's demeanour. He had a large letter in his hand, which he kept
flourishing almost as wildly as if he were an enthusiastic spectator at
a racecourse, or a passenger outward bound waving a last good-night to
his native land.

It happened to be one of the days when the Dictator had come up from the
strenuous London, and from playing his own strenuous part therein. He
was sitting with Miss Ericson in the garden, as he had sat there on the
first day of his return--that day which now seemed so long ago and so
far away--almost as long ago and as far away as the old days in Gloria
themselves. He was telling her all that had happened during the days
that had elapsed since their last meeting. He spoke, as he always did
now, much of the Langleys, and as he spoke of them Miss Ericson's grave,
kind eyes watched his face closely, but seemed to read nothing in its
unchanged composure. As they were in the middle of their confidential
talk, the French windows of the little drawing-room opened, and Mr.
Sarrasin made his appearance--a light-garmented vision of pleasurably
excited good-humour.

'What _has_ happened to our dear old friend?' Ericson asked the old lady
as Sarrasin came beaming across the grass towards them, fluttering his
letter. 'He seems to be quite excited.'

Miss Ericson laughed as she rose to greet her friend. 'You may be sure
we shall not long be left in doubt,' she said, as she advanced with
hands extended.

Mr. Sarrasin caught both her hands and pressed them warmly. 'I have such
news,' he murmured, 'such wonderful news!' Then he turned his smiling
face in the direction of the Dictator. 'Good-day, Mr. Ericson; wonderful
news! And it concerns _you_ too, in a measure; only in a measure,
indeed, but still in a measure.'

The Dictator's face expressed a smiling interest. He had really grown
quite fond of this sweet-tempered, cheery, childlike old gentleman. Miss
Ericson drew Sarrasin to a seat opposite to her own, and sat down again
with an air of curiosity which suggested that she and her nephew were
waiting for the wonderful news. As she had predicted, they had not long
to wait. Mr. Sarrasin having plunged into the subject on the moment of
his arrival, could think of nothing else.

'I have a letter here,' he said; '_such_ a letter! Whom do you think it
is from? Why, from no less a person than Professor Flick, who is, as of
course _you_ know, the most famous authority on folk-lore in the whole
of the West of America.'

Sarrasin paused and looked at them with an air of triumph. He evidently
expected them to say something. So Ericson spoke.

'I am ashamed to say,' he confessed, 'that I have never heard the
honoured name of Professor Flick before.'

Mr. Sarrasin looked a trifle dashed. 'I was in hopes you might have
known,' he said, 'for his name and his books are of course well known to
me. But no doubt you have had little time for such study. Anyhow, we
shall soon know him personally, both you and I; you probably even sooner
than I.'

'Indeed!' said Ericson. 'How am I to come to know him? I am not very
strong on folk-lore.'

'Why?' answered Mr. Sarrasin. 'Because he is stopping in your hotel.
This letter which I have received from him this morning is dated from
Paulo's Hotel, the chosen home apparently of all illustrious persons.'

The Dictator smiled. 'I dare not claim equality with Professor Flick,
and I fear I might not recognise him if I met him in the corridors, or
on the stairs. I must inquire about him from Miss Paulo.'

'Do, do,' said Mr. Sarrasin. 'But he will come here. Of course he will
come here. He writes to me a most flattering letter, in which he does me
the honour to say that he has read with pleasure my poor tractates on
"The Survival of Solar Myths in Kitchen Customs," and on "The Probable
Patagonian Origin of 'A Frog he would a-wooing go.'" He is pleased to
express a great desire to make my acquaintance. I wonder if he has heard
of my brother? Oisin must have been in Sacramento and Omaha and all the
other places.'

'I should think he was sure to have met your brother,' said the
Dictator, feeling he was expected to say something.

'If not, I must introduce my brother,' Mr. Sarrasin said joyously.
'Fancy anyone being introduced to anybody through me!'

Miss Ericson had listened quietly, with an air of smiling interest,
while Mr. Sarrasin was giving forth his joyful news. Now she leaned
forward and spoke.

'What do you propose to do in honour of this international episode?'
she asked. There was a slender vein of humour in Miss Ericson's
character, and she occasionally exercised it gently at the expense of
her friend's hobby. Mr. Sarrasin always enjoyed her mild banter hugely.
Now, as ever, he paid it the tribute of the cheeriest laughter.

'That is excellent,' he said; 'International Episode is excellent. But,
you see,' he went on, growing suddenly grave, 'it really _is_ something
of an international affair after all. Here we have an eminent American
scholar----'

'Who is naturally anxious to make the acquaintance of an eminent English
scholar,' the Dictator suggested.

Mr. Sarrasin's large fair face flushed pink with pleasure.

'You are too good, Mr. Ericson, too good. But I feel that I must do
something for our distinguished friend, especially as he has done me the
honour to single me out for so gratifying a mark of his approval. I
think that I shall ask him to dinner.' And Mr. Sarrasin looked
thoughtfully at his audience to solicit their opinion.

'A very good idea,' said the Dictator. 'Nothing cements literary or
political friendship like judicious dining. Dining has a folk-lore of
its own.'

'But don't you think,' suggested Miss Ericson, 'that as this gentleman,
Professor----'

'Flick,' prompted Mr. Sarrasin.

'Thank you; Professor Flick. That, as Professor Flick is a stranger, and
a distinguished stranger, it is your duty, my dear Mr. Sarrasin, to call
upon him at his hotel?'

Mr. Sarrasin bowed again. 'Thank you, Miss Ericson, _thank_ you. You
always think of the right thing. Of course it is obviously my duty to
pay my respects to Professor Flick at his hotel, which happens also to
be our dear friend's hotel. And the sooner the better, I suppose.'

'The sooner the visit the stronger the compliment, of course,' said Miss
Ericson.

'That decides me,' said Mr. Sarrasin. 'I will go this very day.'

'Then let us go into town together,' the Dictator suggested. 'I must be
getting back again.' For this was one of those days on which Ericson
came out early to Blarulf's Garth and left after luncheon. The
suggestion made Mr. Sarrasin beam more than ever.

'That will be delightful,' he said, with all the conviction of a
schoolboy to whom an unexpected holiday has been promised.

'I have my cab outside,' the Dictator said. Ericson liked tearing round
in hansom cabs, and could hardly ever be induced to make use of one of
the hotel broughams.

So the two men took affectionate leave of Miss Ericson and passed
together out of the gate. There were two cabs in sight--one waiting for
Ericson, the other in front of Sarrasin's Camelot Cottage. Two men had
got out of the cab, and were asking some questions of the servant at the
door.

'These must be your friends of the Folk-Lore,' Ericson said.

'Why--God bless me--I suppose so! Never heard of such promptness. Will
you excuse me a moment? Can you wait? Are you pressed for time? It may
not be they, you know, after all.'

'Oh, yes, I'll wait; I am in no breathless hurry.'

Then Sarrasin went over and accosted the two men. Evidently they were
the men he had guessed them to be, for there was much bowing and shaking
of hands and apparently cordial and effusive talk. Then the whole trio
advanced towards Ericson. He saw that one of the men was big,
fair-haired, and large-bearded, and that he wore moony spectacles, which
gave him something of the look of Mr. Pickwick grown tall. The other man
was slim and closely shaven, except for a yellowish moustache. There was
nothing very striking about either of them.

'Excellency,' the good Sarrasin said, in his courtliest and yet simplest
tones, 'I ask permission to present to you two distinguished American
scholars--Professor Flick of Denver and Sacramento, and Mr. Andrew J.
Copping of Omaha. These gentlemen will be proud to have the honour of
meeting the patriot Dictator of Gloria, whose fame is world-renowned.'

'Excellency,' said Professor Flick, 'I am proud to meet you.'

'Excellency,' said Mr. Andrew J. Copping, 'I am proud to meet you.'

'Gentlemen,' Ericson said, 'I am very glad to meet you both. I have been
in your country--indeed, I have been all over it.'

'And yet it is a pretty big country, sir,' the Professor observed, with
a good-natured smile, as that of a man who kindly calls attention to the
fact that one has made himself responsible for rather a large order.

'It is, indeed,' Ericson assented, without thought of disputation; 'but
I have been in most of its regions. My own interests, of course, are in
South America, as you would know.'

'As we know now, sir,' the Professor replied, 'as we know now,
Excellency. I am ashamed to say that we specialists have a way of
getting absorbed right up in our own topics, and my friend and I know
hardly anything of politics or foreign affairs. Why, Mr. Sarrasin,' and
here the Professor suddenly turned to Sarrasin, as if he had something
to say that would specially interest him above all other men, 'do you
know, sir, that I sometimes fail to remember who is the existing
President of the United States?'

'Well, I am sure,' said Sarrasin, 'I don't know at this moment the name
of the present Lord Mayor of London.'

'And that is how I had known nothing about the career of your Excellency
until quite lately,' the Professor blandly explained. 'I think it wrong,
sir--a breach of truth, sir--that a man should pretend to any knowledge
on any subject which he has not got. Of course, since I have been in
Paulo's Hotel I have heard all about your record, and it is a pride and
a privilege to me to make your acquaintance. And we need hardly say,
sir, my friend and I, what a surprise it is to have the honour of making
your acquaintanceship on the occasion of the first visit we have
ventured to pay to the house of our distinguished friend Professor
Sarrasin.'

'Not a professor,' said Sarrasin, with a mild disclaiming smile. 'I have
no claim to any title of any kind.'

'Fame like yours, sir,' the Professor gravely said, 'requires no title.
In our far-off West, among all true votaries of folk-lore, the name of
Sarrasin is, sir--well, is a household word.'

'I am pleased to hear you say so,' the blushing Sarrasin murmured; 'I
will frankly confess that I am delighted. But I own that I am greatly
surprised.'

'Our folks when they take up a subject study it right through,' the
Professor affirmed. 'Sir, we should not have sought you if we had not
known of you. We knew of you, and we have sought you.'

There was no gainsaying this. Sarrasin could not ignore his fame.

'But you were going to the City, sir, with your illustrious friend.' An
American hardly ever understands the Londoner's localisation of 'the
City,' and when he speaks of a visit to Berkeley Square would call it
going to the City. 'Please do not let us interrupt your doubtless highly
important mission.'

'It was only a mission to call on you at Paulo's Hotel,' Sarrasin said;
'and his Excellency was kind enough to offer to drive me there. Now that
you are here you have completed my mission for the moment. Shall we not
go in?'

'I am afraid I must get back to town,' Ericson said.

'Surely--surely--our friends will quite understand how much your time
is taken up.'

'Much of it taken up to very little profit of any kind,' Ericson said
with a smile. 'But to-day I have some rather important things to look
after. I am glad, however, that I did not set about looking after them
too soon to see your American visitors, Mr. Sarrasin.'

'Just a moment,' Sarrasin eagerly said, stammering in the audacity of
his venture. 'One part of my purpose in seeking out Professor Flick,
and--Mr.--Mr. Andrew J. Copping--of Omaha--yes--I think I am right--of
Omaha--was to ask these gentlemen if they would do me the favour of
dining with me on the earliest day we can fix--not here, of course--oh,
no--I could not think of bringing them out here again; but at the
Folk-Lore Club, the only club, gentlemen, with which I have the honour
to be connected----'

'Sir, you do us too much honour,' the Professor gravely said, 'and any
day that suits you shall be made suitable to us.'

'Suitable to us,' Mr. Copping solemnly chimed in.

'And I was thinking,' Sarrasin said, turning to Ericson, who was now
becoming rather eager to get away, 'that if we could prevail upon his
Excellency to join us he might be interested in our quaint little club,
to say nothing of an evening with two such distinguished American
scholars, who, I am sure----'

'I shall be positively delighted,' Ericson said, 'if you can only
persuade Hamilton to agree to the night and to let me off. Hamilton is
my friend who acts as private secretary to me, Professor Flick; and, as
I am informed you sometimes say in America, he bosses the show.'

'I believe, sir, that is a phrase common among the less educated of our
great population,' Professor Flick conceded.

'Quite so,' said Ericson, beginning to think the Professor of Folk-Lore
rather a prig.

'Then that is all but arranged,' Sarrasin said, flushing with joy and
only at the moment having one regret--that the Folk-Lore Club did not
take in ladies as guests, and that, therefore, there was no use in his
thinking of asking Miss Ericson to join the company at his dinner party.

'Well, the basis of negotiation seems to have been very readily accepted
on both sides,' Ericson said, with a feeling of genuine pleasure in his
heart that he was in a position to do anything that could give Sarrasin
a pleasure, and resolving within himself that on that point at least he
would stand no nonsense from Hamilton.

So they all parted very good friends. Sarrasin and the two Americans
disappeared into Camelot, and Ericson drove home alone. As he drove he
was thinking over the Americans. What a perfect type they both were of
the regulation American of English fiction and the English stage! If
they could only go on to the London stage and speak exactly as they
spoke in ordinary life they must make a splendid success as American
comic actors. But, no doubt, as soon as either began to act, the
naturalness of the accent and the manner and the mode of speech would
all vanish and something purely artificial would come up instead. Still,
he wondered how it came about that distinguished scholars, learned above
all things in folk-lore--a knowledge that surely ought to bring
something cosmopolitan with it--should be thus absolutely local, formal,
and typical of the least interesting and least appreciative form of
provincial character in America. 'It is really very curious,' he said to
himself. 'They seem to me more like men acting a stiff and conventional
American part than like real Americans. But, of course, I have never met
much of that type of American.' He soon put the question away, and
thought of other people than Professor Flick and Mr. Andrew J. Copping.
He was interested in them, however--he could not tell why--and he was
glad to have the chance of meeting them at dinner with dear old Sarrasin
at the Folk-Lore Club; and he was wondering whether they would relax at
all under the genial influence, and become a little less like type
Americans cut out of wood and moved by clockwork, and speaking by
mechanical contrivance. Ericson had a good deal of boyish interest in
life, and even in small things, left in him, for all his Dictatorship
and his projects, and his Gloria, and the growing sentiment that
sometimes made him feel with a start and a pang that it was beginning to
rival Gloria itself in its power of absorption.



CHAPTER XX

THE DEAREST GIRL IN THE WORLD


Sir Rupert Langley and his daughter had a small party staying with them
at their seaside place on the South-Western coast. Seagate Hall the
place was called. It was not much of a hall, in the grandiose sense of
the word. It had come to Sir Rupert through his mother, and was not a
big property in any sense--a little park and a fine old mansion, half
convent, half castle, made up the whole of it. But Helena was very fond
of it, and, indeed, much preferred it to the more vast and stately
inland country place. To please her, Sir Rupert consented to spend some
parts of every year there. It was a retreat to go to when the summer
heats or the autumnal heats of London were unendurable--at least to the
ordinary Briton, who is under the fond impression that London is really
hot sometimes, and who claps a puggaree on his chimney-pot hat the
moment there comes in late May a faint glimpse of sunshine. The Dictator
was one of the party. So was Hamilton. So was Soame Rivers. So was Miss
Paulo, on whose coming Helena had insisted with friendly pressure. Later
on were to come Professor Flick, and his friend Mr. Andrew J. Copping of
Omaha, in whom Helena, at Ericson's suggestion, had been pleased to take
some interest. So were Captain Sarrasin and his wife. Mr. Sarrasin, of
Hampstead, had been cordially invited, but he found himself unable to
venture on so much of a journey. He loved to travel far and wide while
seated at his chimney corner or on a garden seat in the lawn in front of
Miss Ericson's cottage, or of Camelot, his own.

The mind of the Dictator was disturbed--distressed--even distracted. He
was expecting every day, almost every hour, some decisive news with
regard to the state of Gloria. His feelings were kept on tenter-hooks
about it. He had made every preparation for a speedy descent on the
shores of his Republic. But he did not feel that the time was yet quite
ripe. The crisis between Gloria and Orizaba seemed for the moment to be
hanging fire, and he did not believe that any event in life could arouse
the patriotic spirit of Gloria so thrillingly as the aggression of the
greater Republic. But the controversy dragged on, a mere diplomatic
correspondence as yet, and Ericson could not make out how much of it was
sham and how much real. He knew, and Hamilton knew, that his great part
must be a _coup de théâtre_, and although he despised political _coups
de théâtre_ in themselves, he knew as a practical man that by means of
such a process he could best get at the hearts of the population of
Gloria. The moment he could see clearly that something serious was
impending, that moment he and his companions would up steam and make for
the shores of Gloria. But just now the dispute seemed somehow to be
flickering out, and becoming a mere matter of formally interchanged
despatches. Was that itself a stratagem, he thought--were the present
rulers of Gloria waiting for a chance of quietly selling their Republic?
Or had they found that such a base transaction was hopeless? and were
they from whatever reason--even for their own personal safety--trying to
get out of the dispute in some honourable way, and to maintain for
whatever motive the political integrity and independence of Gloria? If
such were the case, Ericson felt that he must give them their chance.
Whatever might be his private and personal doubts and fears, he must not
increase the complications and difficulties by actively intervening in
the work. Therefore his mind was disturbed and distressed; and he
watched with a sometimes sickening eagerness for every new edition of
the papers, and was always on the look-out for telegrams either
addressed to himself personally or fired at Sir Rupert in the Foreign
Office.

He had other troubles too. He was beginning to be seriously alarmed
about his own feelings to Helena Langley. He was beginning to feel,
whenever he was away from her, that 'inseparable sigh for her,' which
Byron in one of the most human of all his very human moods, has so
touchingly described. He felt that she was far too young for him, and
that the boat of his shaky fortunes was not meant to carry a bright and
beautiful young woman in it--a boat that might go to pieces on a rock at
any moment after it had tried to put to sea; and which must,
nevertheless, try to put to sea. Then again he had been irritated by
paragraphs in the society papers coupling his name more or less
conjecturally with that of Helena Langley. 'All this must come to an
end,' he thought. 'I have got my work to do, and I must go and do it.'

One evening Ericson wandered along outside the gates of the Park, and
along the chalky roads that led by the sea-wall towards the little town.
The place was lonely even at that season. The rush of Londoners had not
yet found a way there. To 'Arry and 'Arriet it offered no manner of
attraction. The sunset was already over, but there was still a light and
glow in the sky. The Dictator looked at his watch. It wanted a quarter
to seven--there was yet time enough, before returning to dress for the
eight o'clock dinner. 'I must make up my mind,' he said to himself; 'I
must go.'

He heard the rattle of wheels, and towards him came a light pony
carriage with two horses, a footman sitting behind, and a young woman
driving. It was Helena. She pulled up the moment she saw him.

'I have been down into the town,' she said.

'Seeing after your poor?'

'Oh--well--yes--I like seeing after them. It's no sacrifice on my
part--I dare say I shouldn't do it if I didn't like it. Shall I drive
you home?'

'It is early,' he said, hesitatingly; 'I thought of enjoying the evening
a little yet.'

This was not well said, but Helena thought nothing of it.

'May I walk with you?' she asked, 'and I'll send the carriage home.'

'I shall only be too happy to be with you,' the Dictator said, and he
felt what he said. So the carriage was sent on, and Ericson and Helena
walked slowly, and for a while silently, on in the direction of the
town.

'I have not been only seeing after my poor,' she said, 'I have been
doing a little shopping.'

'Shopping here! What on earth can _you_ want to buy in this little
place?'

'Well, I persuaded papa into occupying this house here every year, and I
very soon found out that you get terribly unpopular if you don't buy
something in the town. So I buy all I can in the town.'

'But what do you buy?'

'Oh, well, wine, and tongues, and hams, and gloves.'

'But the wine?'

'I believe some of it is not so awfully bad. Anyhow, one need not drink
it. Only the trouble is that I was in the other day at the one only wine
merchant's, and while I was ordering something I heard a lady ask for
two bottles of some particular claret, and the proprietor called out:
"Very sorry, madam, but Sir Rupert Langley carried away all I had left
of that very claret, didn't he, William?" And William responded stoutly,
and I dare say quite truly, "Oh yes, madam; Sir Rupert, 'e 'as carried
all that off." Now _I_ was Sir Rupert.'

'Yes, I dare say you were. He never knew?'

'Oh, no; my dodges to make him popular would not interest him one little
bit. He goes in for charity and all that, and doing real good to
deserving poor; but he doesn't care a straw about popularity. Now _I_
do.'

'I don't believe you do in the least,' Ericson said, looking fixedly at
her. Very handsome she showed, with the west wind blowing back her hair,
and a certain gleam of excitement in her eyes, as if she were boldly
talking of something to drive away all thought or possibility of talk
about something else.

'Oh, not about myself, of course! But I want papa to be popular here and
everywhere else. Do you know--it is very funny--the first day I came
down here--this time--I went into one of the shops to give some orders,
and the man, when he had written them down--he hadn't asked my name
before--he said, "You _are_ Sir Rupert Langley, ain't you, miss?" and I
said, without ever thinking over the question, "Oh, yes, of course I
am." It was all right. We each meant what we said, and we conveyed our
ideas quite satisfactorily. He didn't fancy that "Miss" was passing off
for her father, and I didn't suppose that he thought anything of the
kind. So it was all right, but it was very amusing, I thought.'

She was talking against time, it would seem. At least she was probably
not talking of what deeply interested her just then. In truth, she had
stopped her carriage on a sudden impulse when she saw Ericson, and now
she was beginning to think that she had acted too impulsively. Until
lately she had allowed her impulses to carry her unquestioned whither
they were pleased to go.

'I suppose we had better turn back,' she said.

'I suppose so,' the Dictator answered. They stood still before turning,
and looked along the way from home.

The sky was all of a faint lemon-colour along the horizon, deepening in
some places to the very tenderest tone of pink--a pink that suggested in
a dim way that the soft lemon sky was about to see at once another dawn.
Low down on the horizon one bright white spark struck itself out against
the sky.

'What is that little light--that spark?' she asked. 'Is it a star?'

'Oh, no,' the Dictator said gravely, 'it is only an ordinary
gas-lamp--nothing more.'

'A gas-lamp? Oh, come, that is quite impossible. I mean that star, there
in the sky.'

'It is only a gas-lamp all the same,' he said. 'You will see in a
moment. It is on the brow of the road--probably the first gas-lamp on
the way into the town. Against that clear sky, with its tender tones,
the light in the street-lamp shows not orange or red, but a sparkling
white.'

'Come nearer and let us see,' she said, impatiently. 'Come, by all
means.'

So they went nearer, and the illusion was gone. It was, as he had said,
a common street-lamp.

'I am quite disappointed,' Helena said, after a moment of silence.

'But why?' he asked. 'Might not one extract a moral out of that?'

'Oh, I don't see how you could.'

'Well, let us try. The common street-lamp got its opportunity, and it
shone like a star. Isn't there a good deal of human life very like
that?'

'But what is the good of showing for once like a star when it is not a
star?'

'Ah, well, I am afraid a good deal of life's ambition would be baffled
if everyone were to take that view of things.'

'But isn't it the right view?'

'To the higher sense, yes--but the ambition of most men is to be taken
for the star, at all events.'

'That is, mistaken for the star,' she said.

'Yes, if you will--mistaken for the star.'

'I am sure that is not your ambition,' she said warmly. 'I am sure you
would rather be the star mistaken at a distance by some stupid creature
for a gas-lamp, than the gas-lamp mistaken even by me'--she spoke this
smilingly--'for a star.'

'I should not like to be mistaken by you for anything,' he said.

'You know I could not mistake you.'

'I think you are mistaking me now--I am afraid so.

'Oh, no; please do not think anything like that. I never could mistake
you--I always understand you. Tell me what you mean.'

'Well; you think me a man of courage, I dare say.'

'Of course I do. Everyone does.'

'Yet I feel rather cowardly at this moment.'

'Cowardly! About what?'

'About you,' he answered blankly.

'About me? Am I in any danger?'

'No, not in that sense.' He did not say in what sense.

She promptly asked him: 'In what sense then?'

'Well, then,' said the Dictator, 'there is something I ought to tell
you, something disagreeable--I am sure it will be disagreeable, and I
don't know how to tell it. I seem to want the courage.'

'Talk to me as if I were a man,' she said hotly.

'That would not mend matters, I am afraid.'

They were now walking back towards the Park.

'Call me Dick Langley,' she said, 'and talk to me as if I were a boy,
and then perhaps you can tell me all you mean and all you want to do. I
am tired of this perpetual difficulty.'

'It wouldn't help in the least,' the Dictator said, 'if I were to call
you Dick Langley. You would still be Helena Langley.'

The girl, usually so fearless and unconstrained--so unconventional,
those said who liked her--so reckless, they said who did not like
her--this girl felt for the first time in her life the meaning of the
conventional--the all-pervading meaning of the difference of sex. For
the mere sound of her own name, 'Helena,' pronounced by Ericson, sent
such a thrill of delight through her that it made her cheek flush. It
did a great deal more than that--it made her feel that she could not
long conceal her emotion towards the Dictator, could not long pretend
that it was nothing more than that which the most enthusiastic devotee
feels for a political leader. A shock of fear came over her, something
compounded of exquisite pleasure and bewildering pain. That one word
'Helena,' spoken perhaps carelessly by the man who walked beside her,
broke in upon her soul and sense with the awakening touch of a
revelation. She awoke, and she knew that she must soon betray herself.
She knew that never again could she have the careless freedom of heart
which she owned but yesterday. She was afraid. She felt tears coming
into her eyes. She stopped suddenly, and put her hand to her side and
gasped as if for breath.

'What is the matter?' Ericson asked. 'Are you unwell?'

'No, no!' she said hastily. 'I felt just a little faintish for a
moment--but it's nothing. I am not a bit of a fainting girl, Mr.
Ericson, I can assure you--never fainted in all my life. I have the
nerves of a bull-dog and the digestion of an ostrich.'

'You don't quite look like that now,' he said, in an almost
compassionate tone. He was puzzled. Something had undoubtedly happened
to make her start and pause like that. But he could only think of
something physical; it never occurred to him to suppose that anything he
had said could have caused it.

'Shall we go back to what we were talking about?' he asked.

'What we were talking about?' Already her new discovery had taken away
some of her sincerity, and inspired her with the sense of a necessity
for self-defence. Already, and for the first time in her life, she was
having recourse to one of the commonest, and, surely, one of the least
culpable, of the crafts and tricks of womanhood, she was trying not to
betray her love to the man who, so far as she knew, had not thought of
love for her.

'Well, you were accusing me of a want of frankness with you, and were
urging me to be more open?'

'Was I? Yes, of course I was; but I don't suppose I meant anything in
particular--and, then, I have no right.'

The Dictator grew more puzzled than ever.

'No right?' he asked. 'Yes--but I gave you the right when I told you I
was proud of your friendship, and I asked you to tell me of anything you
wanted to know. But _I_ wanted to speak to _you_ very frankly too.'

She looked at him in surprise and a sort of alarm.

'Yes, I did. I want to tell you why I can't treat you as if you were
Dick Langley. I want to tell you why I can't forget that you are Helena
Langley.'

This time the sound of the name was absolutely sweet in her ears. The
mere terror had gone already, and she would gladly have had him call her
'Helena,' 'Helena,' ever so many times over without the intermission of
a moment. 'Only perhaps I should get used to it then, and I shouldn't
feel it so much,' she thought, with a sudden correcting influence on a
first passionate desire. She steadied her nerves and asked him:

'Why can you not speak to me as if I were Dick Langley, and why can you
never forget that I am--Helena Langley?'

'Because you are Helena Langley for one thing, and not Dick,' he said
with a smile. 'Because you are not a young man, but a very charming and
beautiful young woman.'

'Oh!' she exclaimed, with an almost angry movement of her hand.

'I am not paying compliments,' he said gently. 'Between us let there be
truth, as you said yourself in your quotation from Goethe the other day.
I am setting out the facts before you. Even if I could forget that you
are Helena Langley, there are others who could not forget it either for
you or for me.'

'I don't understand what you mean,' she said wonderingly.

'You would not understand, of course. I am afraid I must explain to you.
You will forgive me?'

'I have not the least idea,' she said impetuously, 'what I am to
understand, or what I am to forgive. Mr. Ericson, do for pity's sake be
plain with me.'

'I have resolved to be,' he said gloomily.

'What on earth has been happening? Why have you changed in this way to
me?'

'I have not changed.'

'Well, tell me the whole story,' she said impatiently, 'if there is a
story.'

'There is a story,' he said, with a melancholy smile, 'a very silly
story--but still a story. Look here, Miss Langley: even if you do not
know that you are beautiful and charming and noble-hearted and good--as
I well know that you are all this and ever so much more--you must know
that you are very rich.'

'Yes, I do know that, and I am glad of it sometimes, and I hate it
sometimes. I don't know yet whether I am going to be glad of it or to
hate it now. Go on, Mr. Ericson, please, and tell me what is to follow
this prologue about my disputed charms and virtues--for I assure you
there are many people, some women among the rest, who think me neither
good-looking nor even good--and my undisputed riches.' She was plucking
up a spirit now, and was much more like her usual self. She felt herself
tied to the stake, and was determined to fight the course.

'Do you know,' he asked, 'that people say I am coming here after you?'

She blushed crimson, but quickly pulled herself together. She was equal
to anything now.

'Is that all?' she asked carelessly. 'I should have thought they said a
great deal more and a great deal worse than that.'

He looked at her in some surprise.

'What else do you suppose they could have said?'

'I fancied,' she answered with a laugh, 'that they were saying I went
everywhere after you.'

'Come, come,' he said, after a moment's pause, during which the Dictator
seemed almost as much bewildered as if she had thrown her fan in his
face. 'You mustn't talk nonsense. I am speaking quite seriously.'

'So am I, I can assure you.'

'Well, well, to come to the point of what I had to say. People are
talking, and they tell each other that I am coming after you, to marry
you, for the sake of your money.'

'Oh!' She recoiled under the pain of these words. 'Oh, for shame,' she
exclaimed, 'they cannot say that--of you--of you?'

'Yes, they do. They say that I am a mere broken-down and penniless
political adventurer--that I am trying to recover my lost position in
Gloria--which I am, and by God's good help I shall recover it too.'

'Yes, with God's good help you shall recover it,' the girl exclaimed
fervently, and she put out her hand in a sudden impulse for him to take
it in his. The Dictator smiled sadly and did not touch the proffered
hand, and she let it fall, and felt chilled.

'Well, they say that I propose to make use of your money to start me on
my political enterprise. They talked of this in private, the society
papers talk of it now.'

'Well?' she asked, with a curious contracting of the eyebrows.

'Well, but that is painful--it is hurtful.'

'To you?'

'Oh, no,' he replied almost angrily, 'not to me. How could it be painful
and hurtful to me? At least, what do you suppose I should care about it?
What harm could it do me?'

'None whatever,' she calmly replied. She was now entirely mistress of
herself and her feelings again. 'No one who knows you would believe
anything of the kind--and for those who do not know you, you would say,
"Let them believe what they will."'

'Yes, they might believe anything they liked so far as I am concerned,'
he said scornfully. 'But then we must think of _you_. Good heaven!' he
suddenly broke off, 'how the journalism of England--at all events of
London--has changed since I used to be a Londoner! Fancy apparently
respectable journals, edited, I suppose, by men who call themselves
gentlemen--and who no doubt want to be received and regarded as
gentlemen--publishing paragraphs to give to all the world conjectures
about a young woman's fortune--a young woman whom they name, and about
the adventurers who are pursuing her in the hope of getting her
fortune.'

'You have been a long time out of London,' Helena said composedly. She
was quite happy now. If this was all, she need not care. She was afraid
at first that the Dictator meant to tell her that he was leaving England
for ever. Of course, if he were going to rescue and recover Gloria, she
would have felt proud and glad. At least she would certainly have felt
proud, and she would have tried to make herself think that she felt
glad, but it would have been a terrible shock to her to hear that he was
going away; and, this shock being averted, she seemed to think no other
trouble an affair of much account. Therefore, she was quite equal to any
embarrassment coming out of what the society papers, or any other
papers, or any persons whatever, might say about her. If she could have
spoken out the full truth she would have said: 'Mr. Ericson, so long as
my father and you are content with what I do, I don't care three rows of
pins what all the rest of the world is saying or thinking of me.' But
she could not quite venture to say this, and so she merely offered the
qualifying remark about his having been a long time out of London.

'Yes, I have,' he said with some bitterness. 'I don't understand the new
ways. In my time--you know I once wrote for newspapers myself, and very
proud I was of it, too, and very proud I am of it--a man would have been
kicked who dragged the name of a young woman into a paper coupled with
conjectures as to the scoundrels who were running after her for her
money.'

'You take it too seriously,' said Helena sweetly. She adored him for his
generous anger, but she only wanted to bring him back to calmness. 'In
London we are used to all that. Why, Mr. Ericson, I have been married in
the newspapers over and over again--I mean I have been engaged to be
married. I don't believe the wedding ceremonial has ever been described,
but I have been engaged times out of mind. Why, I don't believe papa and
I ever have gone abroad, since I came out, without some paragraph
appearing in the society papers announcing my engagement to some foreign
Duke or Count or Marquis. I have been engaged to men I never saw.'

'How does your father like that sort of thing?' the Dictator asked
fiercely.

'My father? Oh, well, of course he doesn't quite like it.'

'I should think not,' Ericson growled--and he made a flourish of his
cane as if he meant to illustrate the sort of action he should like to
take with the publishers of these paragraphs, if he only knew them and
had an opportunity of arguing out the case with them.

'But, then, I think he has got used to it; and of course as a public man
he is helpless, and he can't resent it.' She said this with obvious
reference to the flourish of the Dictator's cane; and it must be owned
that a very pretty flash of light came into her eyes which signified
that if she had quite her own way the offence might be resented after
all.

'No, of course he can't resent it,' the Dictator said, in a tone which
unmistakably conveyed the idea, 'and more's the pity.'

'Then what is the good of thinking about it?' Helena pleaded. 'Please,
Mr. Ericson, don't trouble yourself in the least about it. These things
will appear in those papers. If it were not you it would be somebody
else. After all we must remember that there are two sides to this
question as well as to others. I do not owe my publicity in the society
papers to any merits or even to any demerits of my own. I am known to be
the heiress to a large fortune, and the daughter of a Secretary of
State.'

'That is no reason why you should be insulted.'

'No, certainly. But do you not think that in this over-worked and
over-miserable England of ours there are thousands and thousands of poor
girls ever so much better than I, who would be only too delighted to
exchange with me--to put up with the paragraphs in the society papers
for the sake of the riches and the father--and to abandon to me without
a sigh the thimble and the sewing machine, and the daily slavery in the
factory or behind the counter? Why, Mr. Ericson, only think of it. I can
sit down whenever I like, and there are thousands and thousands of poor
girls in England who dare not sit down during all their working hours.'

She spoke with increasing animation.

The Dictator looked at her with a genuine admiration. He knew that all
she said was the true outcome of her nature and her feelings. Her
sparkling eyes proclaimed the truth.

'You look at it rightly,' the Dictator said at last, 'and I feel almost
ashamed of my scruples. Almost--but not quite--for they were scruples on
your account and not upon my own.'

'Of course I know that,' she interrupted hastily. 'But please, Mr.
Ericson, don't mind me. I don't care, and I know my father won't care.
Do not--please do not--let this interfere in the least with your
friendship; I cannot lose your friendship for this sort of thing. After
all, you see, they can't force you to marry me if you don't want to;'
and then she stopped, and was afraid, perhaps, that she had spoken too
lightly and saucily, and that he might think her wanting in feeling. He
did not think her wanting in feeling. He thought her nobly considerate,
generous and kind. He thought she wanted to save him from embarrassment
on her account, and to let him know that they were to continue good
friends, true friends, in spite of what anybody might choose to say
about them; and that there was to be no thought of anything but
friendship. This was Helena's meaning in one sense, but not in another
sense. She took it for granted that he was not in love with her, and she
wished to make it clear to him that there was not the slightest reason
for him to cease to be her friend because he could not be her lover.
That was her meaning. Up to a certain point it was the meaning that he
ascribed to her, but in her secret heart there was still a feeling which
she did not express and which he could not divine.

'Then we are still to be friends?' he said. 'I am not to feel bound to
cut myself off from seeing you because of all this talk?'

'Not unless you wish it.'

'Oh, wish it!' and he made an energetic gesture.

'I have talked very boldly to you,' Helena said--'cheekily, I fancy some
people would call it; but I do so hate misunderstandings, and having
others and myself made uncomfortable, and I do so prefer my happiness to
my dignity! You see, I hadn't much of a mother's care, and I am a sort
of wild-growth, and you must make allowance for me and forgive me, and
take me for what I am.'

'Yes, I take you cordially for what you are,' the Dictator exclaimed,
'the noblest and the dearest girl in the world--to me.'

Helena flushed a little. But she was determined that the meaning of the
flush was not to be known.

'Come,' she said, with a wholly affected coquetry of manner, 'I wonder
if you have said that to any other girls--and if so, how many?'

The Dictator was not skilled in the wiles of coquetry. He fell
innocently into the snare.

'The truth is,' he said simply, 'I hardly know any girl but you.'

Surely the Dictator had spoken out one of the things we ought to wish
not to have said. It amused Helena, however, and greatly relieved
her--in her present mood.

'Come,' she exclaimed, with a little spurt of laughter which was a
relief to the tension of her feelings; 'the compliment, thank heaven, is
all gone! I _must_ be the dearest girl in the world to you--I can't help
it, whatever my faults--if you do not happen to know any other girl!'

'Oh, I didn't meant _that_.'

'Didn't mean even that? Didn't even mean that I had attained, for lack
of any rival, to that lonely and that inevitable eminence?'

'Come, you are only laughing at me. I know what I meant myself.'

'Oh, but please don't explain. It is quite delightful as it is.'

They were now under the lights of the windows in Seagate Hall, and only
just in time to dress for dinner.



CHAPTER XXI

MORGIANA


Sir Rupert took the Duchess of Deptford in to dinner. The Duke was
expected in a day or two, but just at present was looking after racing
schooners at Ryde and Cowes. Ericson had the great satisfaction of
having Helena Langley, as the hostess, assigned to him. An exiled
Dictator takes almost the rank of an exiled king, and Ericson was
delighted with his rank and its one particular privilege just now. He
was not in a mood to talk to anybody else, or to be happy with anybody
but Helena. To him now all was dross that was not Helena, as to Faust in
Marlowe's play. Soame Rivers had charge of Mrs. Sarrasin. Professor
Flick was permitted to escort Miss Paulo. Hamilton and Mr. Andrew J.
Copping went in without companionship of woman. The dinner was but a
small one, and without much of ceremonial.

'One thing I miss here,' the Dictator said to Helena as they sat down,
'I miss To-to.'

'I generally bring him down with me,' Helena said. 'But this time I
haven't done so. Be comforted, however; he comes down to-morrow.'

'I never quite know how he understands his position in this household.
He conducts himself as if he were your personal property. But he is
actually Sir Rupert's dog, is he not?'

'Yes,' Helena answered; 'but it is all quite clear. To-to knows that he
belongs to Sir Rupert, but he is satisfied in his own mind that _I_
belong to _him_.'

'I see,' the Dictator said with a smile. 'I quite understand the
situation now. There is no divided duty.'

'Oh, no, not in the least. All our positions are marked out.'

'Is it true, Sir Rupert,' asked the Duchess, 'that our friend,' and she
nodded towards Ericson, 'is going to make an attempt to recover his
Republic?'

'I should rather be inclined to put it,' Sir Rupert said, 'that if there
is any truth in the rumours one reads about, he is going to try to save
his Republic. But why not ask him, Duchess?'

'He might think it so rude and presuming,' the pretty Duchess objected.

'No, no; he is much too gallant a gentleman to think anything you do
could be rude and presuming.'

'Then I'll ask him right away,' the Duchess said encouraged. 'Only I
can't catch his eye--he is absorbed in your daughter, and a very odd
sort of man he would be if he were not absorbed in her.'

'You look at him long enough and keenly enough, and he will be sure very
soon to feel that your eyes are on him.'

'You believe in that theory of eyes commanding eyes?'

'Well, I have noticed that it generally works out correctly.'

'But Miss Langley has such divine eyes, and she is commanding him now. I
fear I may as well give up. Oh!' For at that moment Ericson, at a word
from Helena, who saw that the Duchess was gazing at them, suddenly
looked up and caught the beaming eyes of the pretty and sprightly young
American woman who had become the wife of a great English Duke.

'The Duchess wants to ask you a question,' Sir Rupert said to Ericson,
'and she hopes you won't think her rude or presuming. I have ventured to
say that I am sure you will not think her anything of the kind.'

'You can always speak for me, Sir Rupert, and never with more certainty
than just now, and to the Duchess.'

'Well,' the Duchess said with a pretty little blush, as she found all
the eyes at the table fixed on her, including those that were covered by
Professor Flick's moony spectacles, 'I have been reading all sorts of
rumours about you, Mr. Ericson.'

Ericson quailed for a moment. 'She can't mean _that_,' he thought. 'She
can't mean to bring up the marriage question here at Sir Rupert's own
table, and in the ears of Sir Rupert's daughter! No,' he suddenly
consoled himself, 'she is too kind and sweet--she would never do
_that_'--and he did the Duchess only justice. She had no such thought in
her mind.

'Are you really going to risk your life by trying to recover your
Republic? Are you going to be so rash?'

Ericson was not embarrassed in the least.

'I am not ambitious to recover the Republic, Duchess,' he answered
calmly--'if the Republic can get on without me. But if the Republic
should be in danger--then, of course, I know where my place ought to
be.'

'Just what I told you, Duchess,' Sir Rupert said, rather triumphant with
himself.

Helena sent a devoted glance at her hero, and then let her eyes droop.

'Well, I must not ask any indiscreet questions,' the Duchess said; 'and
besides, I know that if I did ask them you would not answer them. But
are you prepared for events? Is that indiscreet!'

'Oh, no; not in the least. I am perfectly prepared.'

'I wish he would not talk out so openly as that,' Hamilton said to
himself. 'How do we know who some of these people are?'

'Rather an indiscreet person, your friend the Dictator,' Soame Rivers
said to Mrs. Sarrasin. 'How can he know that some of these people here
may not be in sympathy with Orizaba, and may not send out a telegram to
let people know there that he has arranged for a descent upon the shores
of Gloria? Gad! I don't wonder that the Gloria people kicked him out, if
that is his notion of statesmanship.

'The Gloria people, as a people, adore him, sir,' Mrs. Sarrasin sternly
observed.

'Odd way they have of showing it,' Rivers replied.

'We, in this country, have driven out kings,' Mrs. Sarrasin said, 'and
have taken them back and set them on their thrones again.'

'Some of them we have not taken back, Mrs. Sarrasin.'

'We may yet--or some of their descendants.'

Mrs. Sarrasin became, for the moment, and out of a pure spirit of
contradiction, a devoted adherent of the Stuarts and a wearer of the
Rebel Rose.

'Oh, I say, this is becoming treasonable, Mrs. Sarrasin. Do have some
consideration for me--the private secretary of a Minister of State.'

'I have great consideration for you, Mr. Rivers; I bear in mind that you
do not mean half what you say.'

'But don't you really think,' he asked in a low tone, 'that your
Dictator was just a little indiscreet when he talked so openly about his
plans?'

'He is very well able to judge of his own affairs, I should think, and
probably he feels sure'--and she made this a sort of direct stab at
Rivers--'that in the house of Sir Rupert Langley he is among friends.'

Rivers was only amused, not in the least disconcerted.

'But these Americans, now--who knows anything about them? Don't all
Americans write for newspapers? and why might not these fellows
telegraph the news to the _New York Herald_ or the _New York Tribune_,
or some such paper, and so spread it all over the world, and send an
Orizaba ironclad or two to look out for the returning Dictator?'

'I don't know them,' Mrs. Sarrasin answered, 'but my brother-in-law
does, and I believe they are merely scientific men, and don't know or
care anything about politics--even in their own country.'

Miss Paulo talked a good deal with Professor Flick. Mr. Copping sat on
her other side, and she had tried to exchange a word or two now and then
with him, but she failed in drawing out any ready response, and so she
devoted all her energies to Professor Flick. She asked him all the
questions she could think of concerning folk-lore. The Professor was
benignant in his explanations. He was, she assumed, quite compassionate
over her ignorance on the subject. She was greatly interested in his
American accent. How strong it was, and yet what curiously soft and
Southern tones one sometimes caught in it! Dolores had never been in the
United States, but she had met a great many Americans.

'Do you come from the Southern States, Professor?' she asked, innocently
seeking for an explanation of her wonder.

'Southern States, Miss Paulo? No, madam. I am from the Wild West--I have
nothing to do with the South. Why did you ask?'

'Because I thought there was a tone of the Spanish in your accent, and I
fancied you might have come from New Orleans. I am a sort of Spaniard,
you know.'

'I have nothing to do with New Orleans,' he said--'I have never even
been there.'

'But, of course, you speak Spanish?' Miss Paulo said suddenly _in_
Spanish. 'A man with your studies must know ever so many languages.'

As it so happened, she glanced quite casually and innocently up into the
eyes of Professor Flick. She caught his eye, in fact, right under the
moony spectacles; and if those eyes under the moony spectacles did not
understand Spanish, then Dolores had lost faith in her own bright eyes
and her own very keen and lively perceptions.

But the moony spectacles were soon let down over the eyes of the
Professor of Folk-Lore, and hung there like shutters or blinkers.

'No, madam,' spoke the Professor; 'I am sorry to say that I do not
understand Spanish, for I presume you have been addressing me in
Spanish,' he added hastily. 'It is a noble tongue, of course, but I have
not had time to make myself acquainted with it.'

'I thought there was a great amount of folk-lore in Spanish,' the
pertinacious Dolores went on.

'So there is, dear young lady, so there is. But one cannot know every
language--one must have recourse to translations sometimes.'

'Could I help you,' she asked sweetly, 'with any work of translating
from the Spanish? I should be delighted if I could--and I really do know
Spanish pretty well.'

'Dear young lady, how kind that would be of you! And what a pleasure to
me!'

'It would be both a pride and a pleasure to _me_ to lend any helping
hand towards the development of the study of folk-lore.'

The Professor looked at her in somewhat puzzled fashion, not through but
from beneath the moony spectacles. Dolores felt perfectly satisfied that
he was studying her. All the better reason, she thought, for her
studying him.

What had Dolores got upon her mind? She did not know. She had not the
least glimmering of a clear idea. It was not a very surprising thing
that an American Professor addicted mainly to the study of folk-lore
should not know Spanish. Dolores had a vague impression of having heard
that, as a rule, Americans were not good linguists. But that was not
what troubled and perplexed her. She felt convinced, in this case, that
the professed American did understand Spanish, and that his ordinary
accent had something Spanish in it, although he had declared that he had
never been even in New Orleans.

We all remember the story of Morgiana in 'The Forty Thieves.' The
faculties of the handsome and clever Morgiana were strained to their
fullest tension with one particular object. She looked at everything,
studied everything--with regard to that object. If she saw a chalk-mark
on a door she instantly went and made a like chalk-mark on various doors
in the neighbourhood. Dolores found her present business in life to be
somewhat like that of Morgiana. A chalk-mark was enough to fill her with
suspicion; an unexpected accent was enough to fill her with suspicion;
an American Professor who knew Spanish, but had no confidence in his
Spanish, might possibly be the Captain of the Forty Immortals--thieves,
of course, and not Academicians. Dolores had as vague an idea about the
Spanish question as Morgiana had about the chalk-mark on the door, but
she was quite clear that some account ought to be taken of it.

At this moment, much to the relief of the perplexed Dolores, Helena
caught the eye of the pretty Duchess, and the Duchess arose, and Mrs.
Sarrasin arose, and Hamilton held the door open, and the ladies floated
through and went upstairs. Now came the critical moment for Dolores. Had
she discovered anything? Even if she had discovered anything, was it
anything that concerned her or anyone she cared for? Should she keep her
discovery--or her fancied discovery--to herself?

The Duchess settled down beside Helena, and appeared to be made up for a
good talk with her. Mrs. Sarrasin was beginning to turn over the leaves
of a photographic album. 'Now is my time,' Dolores thought, 'and this is
the woman to talk to and to trust myself to. If she laughs at me, then I
shall feel pretty sure that mine was all a false alarm.' So she sat
beside Mrs. Sarrasin, who looked up at once with a beaming smile.

'Mrs. Sarrasin,' Dolores said in a low, quiet voice, 'should you think
it odd if a man who knows Spanish were to pretend that he did not
understand a word of it?'

'That would depend a good deal on who the man was, my dear, and where he
was, and what he was doing. I should not be surprised if a Carlist spy,
for instance, captured some years ago by the Royalists, were to pretend
that he did not speak Spanish, and try to pass off for a commercial
traveller from Bordeaux.'

'Yes. But where there was no war--and no capture--and no need of
concealing one's acquirements----'

Mrs. Sarrasin saw that something was really disturbing the girl. She
became wonderfully composed and gentle. She thought a moment, and then
said:

'I heard Mr. Soame Rivers say to-night that he didn't understand
Spanish. Was that only his modesty--and does he understand it?'

'Oh, Mrs. Sarrasin, I wasn't thinking about him. What does it matter
whether he understands it or not?'

'Nothing whatever, I should say. So it was not he?'

'Oh, no, indeed.'

'Then whom were you thinking about?'

Dolores dropped her voice to its lowest tone and whispered:

'Professor Flick!' Then she glanced in some alarm towards Helena,
fearing lest Miss Langley might have heard. The good girl's heart was
set on sparing Miss Langley any distress of mind which could possibly be
avoided. Dolores saw in a moment how her words had impressed Mrs.
Sarrasin. Mrs. Sarrasin turned on Dolores a face of the deepest
interest. But she had all the composure of her many campaigns.

'This is a very different business,' she said, 'from Mr. Rivers and his
profession of ignorance. Do you really mean to say, Miss Paulo--you are
a clever girl, I know, with sound nerve and good judgment--do you mean
to say that Professor Flick really does know Spanish, although he says
he does not understand it?'

'I spoke to him a few words of Spanish, and, as it so happened, I looked
up at him, and quite accidentally caught his eye under his big
spectacles, and I saw that he understood me. Mrs. Sarrasin, I _could_
not be mistaken--I _know_ he understood me. And then he recovered
himself, and said that he knew nothing of Spanish. Why, there was so
much of the Spanish in his accent--it isn't _very_ much, of course--that
I assumed at first that he must have come from New Orleans or from
Texas.'

'I have had very little talk with him,' Mrs. Sarrasin said; 'but I never
noticed any Spanish peculiarity in his accent.'

'But you wouldn't; you are not Spanish; and, anyhow, it's only a mere
little shade--just barely suggests. Do you think there is anything in
all this? I may be mistaken, but--no--no--I am not mistaken. That man
knows Spanish as surely as I know English.'

'Then it is a matter of the very highest importance,' said Mrs. Sarrasin
decidedly. 'If a man comes here professing not to speak Spanish, and yet
does speak Spanish, it is as clear as light that he has some motive for
concealing the fact that he is a Spaniard--or a South American. Of
course he is not a Spaniard--Spain does not come into this business. He
is a South American, and he is either a spy----'

'Yes--either a spy----.' Dolores waited anxiously.

'Or an assassin.'

'Yes--I thought so;' and Dolores shuddered. 'But a spy,' she whispered,
'has nothing to find out. Everything about--about his Excellency--is
known to all the world here.'

'You are quite right, dear young lady,' Mrs. Sarrasin said. 'We are
driven to the other conclusion. If you are right--and I am sure you are
right--that that man knows Spanish and professes not to know it, we are
face to face with a plot for an assassination. Hush!--the gentlemen are
coming. Don't lose your head, my dear--whatever may happen. You may be
sure I shall not lose mine. Go and talk to Mr. Hamilton--you might find
a chance of giving him a word, or a great many words, of warning. I must
have a talk with Sarrasin as soon as I can. But no outward show of
commotion, mind!'

'It may be a question of a day,' Dolores whispered.

'If the man thinks he is half-discovered, it may be a question of an
hour,' Mrs. Sarrasin replied, as composedly as if she were thinking of
the possible spoiling of a dinner. Dolores shuddered. Mrs. Sarrasin felt
none the less, but she had been in so many a crisis that danger for
those she loved came to her as a matter of course.

Then the door was thrown open, and the gentlemen came in. Sir Rupert
made for Dolores. He was anxious to pay her all the attention in his
power, because he feared, in his chivalrous way, that if she were not
followed with even a marked attention, she might think that as the
daughter of Paulo's Hotel she was not regarded as quite the equal of all
the other guests. The Dictator thought he was bound to address himself
to the Duchess of Deptford, and fancied that it might look a little too
marked if he were at once to take possession of Helena. The good-natured
Duchess saw through his embarrassment in a moment. The light of
kindliness and sympathy guided her; and just as Ericson was approaching
her she feigned to be wholly unconscious of his propinquity, and leaning
forward in her chair she called out in her clear voice:

'Now, look here, Professor Flick, I want you to sit right down here and
talk to me. You are a countryman of mine, and I haven't yet had a chance
of saying anything much to you, so you come and talk to me.'

The Professor declared himself delighted, honoured, all the rest, and
came and seated himself, according to the familiar modern phrase, in the
pretty Duchess's pocket.

'We haven't met in America, Professor, I think?' the Duchess said.

'No, Duchess; I have never had that high honour.'

'But your name is quite familiar to me. You have a great observatory,
haven't you--out West somewhere--the Flick Observatory, is it not?'

'No, Duchess. Pardon me. You are thinking of the Lick Observatory.'

'Oh, am I? Yes, I dare say. Lick and Flick are so much alike. And I
don't know one little bit about sciences. I don't know one of them from
another. They are all the same to me. I only define science as something
that I can't understand. I had a notion that you were mixed up with
astronomy. That's why I got thinking of the Lick Observatory.'

'No, your Grace, my department is very modest--folk-lore.'

'Oh, yes, nursery rhymes of all nations, and making out that every
country has got just the same old stories--that's the sort of thing, as
far as I can make out--ain't it?'

'Well,' the Professor said, somewhat constrainedly, 'that is a more or
less humorous condensed description of a very important study.'

'I think I should like folk-lore,' the lively Duchess went on. 'I do
hope, Professor, that you will come to me some afternoon, and talk
folk-lore to me. I could understand it so much better than astronomy, or
chemistry, or these things; and I don't care about history, and I _do_
hate recitations.'

Just then Soame Rivers entered the room, and saw that Ericson was
talking with Helena. His eyebrows contracted. Rivers was the last man to
go upstairs to the drawing-room. He had a pretty clear idea that
something was going on. During the time while the men were having their
cigars and cigarettes, telegrams came in for almost everyone at the
table; the Dictator opened his and glanced at it and handed it over to
Hamilton, who, for his part, had had a telegram all to himself. Rivers
studied Ericson's face, and felt convinced that the very
imperturbability of its expression was put on in order that no one might
suppose he had learned anything of importance. It was quite different
with Hamilton--a light of excitement flashed across him for a moment and
was then suddenly extinguished. 'News from Gloria, no doubt,' Rivers
thought to himself. 'Bad news, I hope.'

'Does anyone want to reply to his telegrams?' Sir Rupert courteously
asked. 'They are kind enough to keep the telegraph office open for my
benefit until midnight.'

No one seemed to think there was any necessity for troubling the
telegraph office just then.

'Shall we go upstairs?' Sir Rupert asked. So the gentlemen went
upstairs, and on their appearance the conversation between Dolores and
Mrs. Sarrasin came to an end, as we know.

Soame Rivers went into his own little study, which was kept always for
him, and there he opened his despatch. It was from a man in the Foreign
Office who was in the innermost councils of Sir Rupert and himself.

'Tell Hamilton look quietly after Ericson. Certain information of
dangerous plot against Ericson's life. Danger where least expected. Do
not know any more. No need as yet alarm Sir Rupert.'

Soame Rivers read the despatch over and over again. It was in cypher--a
cypher with which he was perfectly familiar. He grumbled and growled
over it. It vexed him. For various reasons he had come to the conclusion
that a great deal too much work was made over the ex-Dictator, and his
projects, and his personal safety.

'All stuff and nonsense!' he said to himself. 'It's absurd to make such
a fuss about this fellow. Nobody can think him important enough to get
up any plot for killing him; as far as I am concerned I don't see why
they shouldn't kill him if they feel at all like it--personally, I am
sure I wish they _would_ kill him.'

Soame Rivers thought to himself, although he hardly put the thought into
words even to himself and for his own benefit, that he might have had a
good chance of winning Helena Langley to be his wife--of having her and
her fortune--only for this so-called Dictator, whom, as a Briton, he
heartily despised.

'I'll think it over,' he said to himself; 'I need not show this
danger-signal to Hamilton just yet. Hamilton is a hero-worshipper and an
alarmist--and a fool.'

So, looking very green of complexion and grim of countenance, Soame
Rivers crushed the despatch and thrust it into his pocket, and then went
upstairs to the ladies.



CHAPTER XXII

THE EXPEDITION


Every room in every house has its mystery by day and by night. But at
night the mystery becomes more involved and a darker veil gathers round
the secret. Each inmate goes off to bed with a smiling good-night to
each other, and what could be more unlike than the hopes and plans and
schemes for the morrow which each in silence is forming? All this of
course is obvious and commonplace. But there would be a certain novelty
of illustration if we were to take the fall of night upon Seagate Hall
and try to make out what secrets it covered.

Ericson had found a means of letting Helena know by a few whispered
words that he had heard news which would probably cut short his visit to
Seagate Hall and hurry his departure from London. The girl had listened
with breath kept resolutely in and bosom throbbing, and she dared not
question further at such a moment. Only she said, 'You will tell me
all?' and he said, 'Yes, to-morrow'; and she subsided and was content to
wait and to take her secret to sleep with her, or rather take her secret
with her to keep her from sleeping. Mrs. Sarrasin had found means to
tell her husband what Dolores had told her--and Sarrasin agreed with his
wife in thinking that, although the discovery might appear trivial in
itself, it had possibilities in it the stretch of which it would be
madness to underrate. Ericson and Hamilton had common thoughts
concerning the expedition to Gloria; but Hamilton had not confided to
the Dictator any hint of what Mrs. Sarrasin had told him, and what
Dolores had told Mrs. Sarrasin. On the other hand, Ericson did not think
it at all necessary to communicate to Hamilton the feelings with which
the prospect of a speedy leaving of Seagate Hall had inspired him. Soame
Rivers, we may be sure, took no one into the secret of the cyphered
despatch which he had received, and which as yet he had kept in his own
exclusive possession. If the gifted Professor Flick and his devoted
friend Mr. Copping had secrets--as no doubt they had--they could hardly
be expected to proclaim them on the house-tops of Seagate Hall--a place
on the shores of a foreign country. The common feeling cannot be
described better than by saying that everybody wanted everybody else to
get to bed.

The ladies soon dispersed. But no sooner had Mrs. Sarrasin got into her
room than she hastily mounted a dressing-gown and sought out Dolores,
and the two settled down to low-toned earnest talk as though they were a
pair of conspirators--which for a noble purpose they were.

The gentlemen, as usual, went to the billiard-room for cigars and
whisky-and-soda. The two Americans soon professed themselves rather
tired, and took their candles and went off to bed. But even they would
seem not to be quite so sleepy and tired as they may have fancied; for
they both entered the room of Professor Flick and began to talk. It was
a very charming 'apartment' in the French sense. The Professor had a
sitting-room very tastefully furnished and strewn around with various
books on folk-lore; and he had a capacious bedroom. Copping flung
himself impatiently on the sofa.

'Look here,' Copping whispered, 'this business must be done to-night. Do
you hear?--this very night.'

'I know it,' the Professor said almost meekly.

'What have _you_ heard?' Copping asked fiercely. 'Do you know anything
more about Gloria than I know--than I got to know to-night?'

'Nothing more about Gloria, but I know that I am on the straight way to
being found out.' And the Professor drooped.

'Found out? What do you mean? Found out for what?'

'Well, found out for a South American professing to be a Yankee.'

'But who has found you out?'

'That Spanish-London girl--that she-devil--Miss Paulo. She suddenly
talked to me in Spanish--and I was thrown off my guard.'

'You fool!--and you answered her in Spanish?'

'No I didn't--I didn't say a word--but I saw by her look that she knew I
understood her--and you'll see if they don't suspect something.'

'Of course they will suspect something. South Americans passing off as
North Americans! here, here--with _him_ in the house! Why, the light
shines through it! Good heavens, what a fool you are! I never heard of
anything like it!'

'I am always a failure,' the downcast Professor admitted, 'where women
come into the work--or the play.'

The places of the two men appeared to have completely changed. The
Professor was no longer the leader but the led. The silent and devoted
Mr. Andrew J. Copping was now taking the place of leader.

'Well,' Copping said contemptuously, 'you have got your chance just as I
have. If you manage this successfully we shall get our pardon--and if we
don't we shan't.'

'If we fail,' the learned Professor said, 'I shan't return to Gloria.'

'No, I dare say not. The English police will take good care of that,
especially if Ericson should marry Sir Rupert's daughter. No--and do you
fancy that even if the police failed to find us, those that sent us out
would fail to find us? Do you think they would let us carry their
secrets about with us? Why, what a fool you are!'

'I suppose I am,' the distressed student of folk-lore murmured.

'Many days would not pass before there was a dagger in both our hearts.
It is of no use trying to avoid the danger now. Rally all your
nerves--get together all your courage and coolness. This thing must be
done to-night--we have no time to lose--and according to what you tell
me we are being already found out. Mind--if you show the least flinching
when I give you the word--I'll put a dagger into you! Hush--put your
light out--I'll come at the right time.'

'You are too impetuous,' the Professor murmured with a sort of groan,
and he took off his moony spectacles in a petulant way and put them on
the table. Behold what a change! Instead of a moon-like beneficence of
the spectacles, there was seen the quick shifting light of two dark,
fierce, cruel, treacherous, cowardly eyes. They were eyes that might
have looked out of the head of some ferocious and withal cowardly wild
beast in a jungle or a forest. One who saw the change would have
understood the axiom of a famous detective, 'No disguise for some men
half so effective as a pair of large spectacles.'

'Put on your spectacles,' Copping said sternly.

'What's the matter? We are here among friends.'

'But it is so stupid a trick! How can you tell the moment when someone
may come in?'

'Very good,' the Professor said, veiling his identity once again in the
moony spectacles; 'only I can tell you I am getting sick of the dulness
of all this, and I shall be glad of anything for a change.'

'You'll have a change soon enough,' Copping said contemptuously. 'I hope
you will be equal to it when it comes.'

'How long shall I have to wait?'

'Until I come for you.'

'With the dagger, perhaps?' Professor Flick said sarcastically.

'With the dagger certainly, but I hope with no occasion for using it.'

'I hope so too; you might cut your fingers with it.'

'Are you threatening me?' Copping asked fiercely, standing up. He spoke,
however, in the lowest of tones.

'I almost think I am. You see you have been threatening _me_--and I
don't like it. I never professed to have as much courage as you have--I
mean as you say you have; but I'm like a woman, when I'm driven into a
corner I don't much care what I do--ah! then I _am_ dangerous! It's not
courage, I know, it's fear; but a man afraid and driven to bay is an
ugly creature to deal with. And then it strikes me that I get all the
dullest and also the most dangerous part of the work put on me, and I
don't like _that_.'

Copping glanced for a moment at his colleague with eyes from which,
according to Carlyle's phrase, 'hell-fire flashed for an instant.'
Probably he would have very much liked to employ the dagger there and
then. But he knew that that was not exactly the time or place for a
quarrel, and he knew too that he had been talking too long with his
friend already, and that he might on coming out of Professor Flick's
room encounter some guest in the corridor. So by an effort he took off
from his face the fierce expression, as one might take off a mask.

'We can't quarrel now, we two,' he said. 'When we come safe out of this
business----'

'_If_ we come safe out of this business,' the Professor interposed, with
a punctuating emphasis on the 'if.'

Copping answered all unconsciously in the words of Lady Macbeth.

'Keep your courage up, and we shall do what we want to do.'

Then he left the room, and cautiously closed the door behind him, and
crept stealthily away.

Ericson, Hamilton, and Sarrasin remained with Sir Rupert after the
distinguished Americans had gone. There was an evident sense of relief
running through the company when these had gone. Sir Rupert could see
with half an eye that some news of importance had come.

'Well?' he asked; and that was all he asked.

'Well,' the Dictator replied, 'we have had some telegrams. At least
Hamilton and I have. Have you heard anything, Sarrasin?'

'Something merely personal, merely personal,' Sarrasin answered with a
somewhat constrained manner--the manner of one who means to convey the
idea that the tortures of the Inquisition should not wrench that secret
from him. Sarrasin was good at most things, but he was not happy at
concealing secrets from his friends. Even as it was he blinked his eyes
at Hamilton in a way that, if the others were observing him just then,
must have made it apparent that he was in possession of some portentous
communication which could be divulged to Hamilton alone. Sir Rupert,
however, was not thinking much of Sarrasin.

'I mustn't ask about your projects,' Sir Rupert said; 'in fact, I
suppose I had better know nothing about them. But, as a host, I may ask
whether you have to leave England soon. As a mere matter of social duty
I am entitled to ask that much. My daughter will be so sorry----'

'We shall have to leave for South America very soon, Sir Rupert,' the
Dictator said--'within a very few days. We must leave for London
to-morrow by the afternoon train at the latest.'

'How do you propose to enter Gloria?' Sir Rupert asked hesitatingly.
What he really would have liked to ask was--'What men, what armament,
have you got to back you when you land in your port?'

The Dictator divined the meaning.

'I go alone,' he said quietly.

'Alone!'

'Yes, except for the two or three personal friends who wish to accompany
me--as friends, and not as a body-guard. I dare say the boy there,' and
he nodded at Hamilton, 'will be wanting to step ashore with me.'

'Oh, yes, I shall step ashore at the same moment, or perhaps half a
second later,' Hamilton said joyously. 'I'm a great steppist.'

'Bear in mind that _I_ am going too,' Sarrasin interposed.

'We shall not go without you, Captain Sarrasin,' Ericson answered with a
smile. For he felt well assured that when Captain Sarrasin stepped
ashore, Mrs. Sarrasin would be in step with him.

'Do you go unarmed?' Sir Rupert asked.

'Absolutely unarmed. I am not a despot coming to recapture a rebel
kingdom--I am going to offer my people what help I can to save their
Republic for them. If they will have me, I believe I can save the
Republic; if they will not----' He threw out his hands with the air of
one who would say, 'Then, come what will, it is no fault of mine.'

'Suppose they actually turn against you?'

'I don't believe they will. But if they do, it will no less have been an
experiment well worth the trying, and it will only be a life lost.'

'Two lives lost,' Hamilton pleaded mildly.

'Excuse me, three lives lost, if you please,' Sarrasin interposed, 'or
perhaps four.' For he was thinking of his heroic wife, and of the
general understanding between them that it would be much more
satisfactory that they should die together than that one should remain
behind.

Sir Rupert smiled and sighed also. He was thinking of his romantic and
adventurous youth.

'By Jove!' he said, 'I almost envy you fellows your expedition and your
enthusiasm. There was a time--and not so very long ago--when I should
have loved nothing better than to go with you and take your risks. But
office-holding takes the enthusiasm out of us. One can never do anything
after he has been a Secretary of State.'

'But, look here,' Hamilton said, 'here is a man who has been a
Dictator----'

'Quite a different thing, my dear Hamilton,' Sir Rupert replied. 'A
Dictator is a heroic, informal, unconventional sort of creature. There
are no rules and precedents to bind him. He has no permanent officials.
No one knows what he might or might not turn out. But a Secretary of
State is pledged to respectability and conventionality. St. George might
have gone forth to slay the dragon even though he had several times been
a Dictator; never, never, if he had even once been Secretary of State.'

Captain Sarrasin took all this quite seriously, and promised himself in
his own mind that nothing on earth should ever induce him to accept the
office of Secretary of State. The Dictator quite understood Sir Rupert.
He had learned long since to recognise the fact that Sir Rupert had set
out in life full of glorious romantic dreams and with much good outfit
to carry him on his way--but not quite outfit enough for all he meant to
do. So, after much struggle to be a hero of romance, he had quietly
settled down in time to be a Secretary of State. But the Dictator
greatly admired him. He knew that Sir Rupert had just barely missed a
great career. There is a genuine truth contained in the Spanish proverb
quoted by Dr. Johnson, that if a man would bring home the wealth of the
Indies he must take out the wealth of the Indies with him. If you will
bring home a great career, you must take out with you the capacity to
find a great career.

'You see, I had better not ask you too much about your plans,' Sir
Rupert said hastily; 'although, of course it relieves me from all
responsibility to know that you are only making a peaceful landing.'

'Like any ordinary travellers,' Hamilton said.

'Ah, well, no--I don't quite see that, and I rather fancy Ericson would
not quite see it either. Of course you are going with a certain
political purpose--very natural and very noble and patriotic; but still
you are not like ordinary travellers--not like Cook's tourists, for
example.'

'No-o-o,' Captain Sarrasin almost roared. The idea of his being like a
Cook's tourist!

'Well, that's what I say. But what I was coming to is this. Your
purposes are absolutely peaceful, as you assure me--peaceful, I mean, as
regards the country on whose shores you are landing.'

'We shall land in Gloria,' the Dictator said, 'for the sake of Gloria,
for the love of Gloria.'

'Yes, I know that well. But men might do that in the sincerest belief
that for the sake of Gloria and for the love of Gloria they were bound
to overthrow by force of arms some bad Government. Now that I understand
distinctly is not your purpose.'

'That,' the Dictator said, 'is certainly not our primary purpose. We are
going out unarmed and unaccompanied. If the existing Government are
approved of by the people--well, then our lives are in their hands. But
if the people are with us----'

'Yes--and if the existing Government should refuse to recognise the
fact?'

'Then, of course, the people will put them aside.

'Ah! and so there may be civil war?'

'If I understand the situation rightly, the people will by the time we
land see through the whole thing, and will thrust aside anyone who
endeavours to prevent them from resisting the invader on the frontier. I
only hope that we may be there in time to prevent any act of violence.
What Gloria has to do now is to defend and to maintain her national
existence; we have no time for the trial or the punishment of worthless
or traitorous ministers and officials.'

'Well, well,' Sir Rupert said, 'I suppose I had better ask no questions
nor know too much of your plans. They are honourable and patriotic, I am
sure; and indeed it does not much become a part of our business here,
for we have never been in very cordial relations with the new Government
of Gloria, and I suppose now we shall never have any occasion to trouble
ourselves much about it. So I wish you from my heart all good-fortune;
but of course I wish it as the personal friend, and not as the Secretary
of State. That officer has no wish but that satisfactory relations may
be obtained with everybody under the sun.'

Ericson smiled, half sadly. He was thinking that there was even more of
an official fossilisation of Sir Rupert's earlier nature than Sir Rupert
himself had suspected or described. Hamilton assumed that it was all the
natural sort of thing--that everybody in office became like that in
time. Sarrasin again told himself that at no appeal less strong than
that of a personal and imploring request from her gracious Majesty
herself would he ever consent to become a Secretary of State for Foreign
Affairs.

Sir Rupert had come to have a very strong feeling of friendship and even
of affection for the Dictator. He thought him far too good a man to be
thrown away on a pitiful South American Republic. But of late he
accepted the situation. He understood--at all events, he recognised--the
almost fanatical Quixotism that was at the base of Ericson's character,
and he admired it and was also provoked by it, for it made him see that
remonstrance was in vain.

Sir Rupert felt himself disappointed, although only in a vague sort of
way. Half-unconsciously he had lately been forming a wish for the future
of his daughter, and now he was dimly conscious that that wish was not
to be realised. He had been thinking that Helena was much drawn towards
the Dictator, and he did not see where he could have found a more
suitable husband. Ericson did not come of a great family, to be sure,
but Sir Rupert saw more and more every day that the old-fashioned social
distinctions were not merely crumbling but positively breaking down, and
he knew that any of the duchesses with whom he was acquainted would
gladly encourage her daughter to marry a millionaire from Oil City,
Pennsylvania. He had seen and he saw that Ericson was made welcome into
the best society of London, and, what with his fame and Helena's money,
he thought they might have a pleasant way in life together. Now that
dream had come to an end. Ericson, of course, would naturally desire to
recover his position in South America; but even if he were to succeed he
could hardly expect Helena to settle down to a life in an obscure and
foetid South American town. Sir Rupert took this for granted. He did
not argue it out. It came to his eyes as a certain, unarguable fact. He
knew that his daughter was unconventional, but he construed that only as
being unconventional within conventional limits. Some of her ways might
be unconventional; he did not believe it possible that her life could
be. It did not even occur to him to ask himself whether, if Helena
really wished to go to South America and settle there, he could be
expected to give his consent to such a project.



CHAPTER XXIII

THE PANGS OF THE SUPPRESSED MESSAGE


'By Jove, I thought they would never go!' Hamilton said to Captain
Sarrasin as they moved towards their bedrooms.

'So did I,' Sarrasin declared with a sigh of relief. 'They' whose
absence was so much desired were Sir Rupert Langley and the Dictator.

'Come into my room,' Hamilton said in a low tone. They entered
Hamilton's room, speaking quietly, as if they were burglars. Sarrasin
was lodged on the same corridor a little farther off. The soft electric
light was sending out its pale amber radiance on the corridor and in the
bedroom. Hamilton closed his door.

'Please take a seat, Sarrasin,' he said with elaborate politeness; and
Sarrasin obeyed him and sat down in a luxurious armchair, and then
Hamilton sat down too. This apparently was pure ceremonial, and the
ceremonial was over, for in a moment they both rose to their feet. They
had something to talk about that passed ceremonial.

'What do you think of all this?' Hamilton asked. 'Do you think there is
anything in it?'

'Yes, I'm sure there is. That's a very clever girl, Miss Paulo----'

'Yes, she's very clever,' Hamilton said in an embarrassed sort of
way--'a very clever girl, a splendid girl. But we haven't much to go on,
have we? She can only suspect that this fellow knows Spanish--she can't
be quite sure of it.'

'Many a pretty plot has been found out with no better evidence to start
the discovery. The end of a clue is often the almost invisible tail of a
piece of string. But we have other evidence too.'

'Out with it!' Hamilton said impatiently. In all his various anxieties
he was conscious of one strong anxiety--that Dolores might be justified
in her conjecture and proved not to have made a wild mistake.

'I got a telegram from across the Atlantic to-night,' Sarrasin said,
'that time in the dining-room.'

'Yes--well--I saw you had got something.'

'It came from Denver City.'

'Oh!'

'The home of Professor Flick. See?'

'Yes, yes, to be sure. Well?'

'Well, it tells me that Professor Flick is now in China, and that he
will return home by way of London.'

'By Jove!' Hamilton exclaimed, and he turned pale with excitement. This
was indeed a confirmation of the very worst suspicion that the discovery
of Dolores could possibly have suggested. The man passing himself off as
Professor Flick was not Professor Flick, but undoubtedly a South
American. And he and his accomplice had been for days and nights
domiciled with the Dictator!

'Is your telegram trustworthy?' he asked.

'Perfectly; my message was addressed yesterday to my old friend
Professor Clinton, who is now settled in Denver City, but who used to be
at the University of New Padua, Michigan.'

'What put it into your head to send the message? Had you any suspicion?'

'No, not the least in the world; but somehow my wife began to have a
kind of idea of her own that all was not right. Do you know, Hamilton,
the intuitions of that woman are something marvellous--marvellous, sir!
Her perceptions are something outside herself, something transcendental,
sir. So I telegraphed to my friend Clinton, and here we are, don't you
see?'

'Yes, I see,' Hamilton said, his attention wandering a little from the
transcendental perceptions of Mrs. Sarrasin. 'Why, I wonder, did this
fellow, whoever he is, take the name of a real man?'

'Oh, don't you see? Why, that's plain enough. How else could he ever
have got introductions--introductions that would satisfy anybody? You
see the folk-lore dodge commended itself to my poor simple brother, who
knew the name and reputation of the real Professor Flick, and naturally
thought it was all right. Then there seemed no immediate connection
between my brother and the Dictator; and finally, the real Professor
Flick was in China, and would not be likely to hear about what was going
on until these chaps had done the trick; whereas, if anyone in the
States not in constant communication with the real Flick heard of his
being in London it would seem all right enough--they would assume that
he had taken London first, and not last. I must say, Hamilton, it was a
very pretty plot, and it was devilish near being made a success.'

'We'll foil it now,' Hamilton said, with his teeth clenched.

'Oh, of course we'll foil it now,' Sarrasin said carelessly. 'We should
be pretty simpletons if we couldn't foil the plot now that we have the
threads in our hands.'

'What do you make of it--murder?' Hamilton lowered his voice and almost
shuddered at his own suggestion.

'Murder, of course--the murder of the Dictator, and of everyone who
comes in the way of _that_ murder. If the Dictator gets to Gloria the
game of the ruffians is up--that we know by our advices--and if he is
murdered in England he certainly can't get to Gloria. There you are!'

Nobody, however jealous for the Dictator, could doubt the sympathy and
devotion of Captain Sarrasin to the Dictator and his cause. Yet his cool
and business-like way of discussing the question grated on Hamilton's
ears. Hamilton, perhaps, did not make quite enough of allowance for a
man who had been in so many enterprises as Captain Sarrasin, and who had
got into the way of thinking that his own life and the life of every
other such man is something for which a game is played by the Fates
every day, and which he must be ready to forfeit at any moment.

'The question is, what are we to do?' Hamilton asked sharply.

'Well, these fellows are sure to know that his Excellency leaves
to-morrow, and so the attempt will be made to-night.'

'Suppose we rouse up Sir Rupert--indeed, he is probably not in bed
yet--and send for the local police, and have these ruffians arrested? We
could arrest them ourselves without waiting for the police.'

Sarrasin thought for a little. 'Wouldn't do,' he said. 'We have no
evidence at all against them, except a telegram from an American unknown
to anyone here, and who might be mistaken. Besides, I fancy that if they
are very desperate they have got accomplices who will take good care
that the work is carried out somehow. You see, what they have set their
hearts on is to prevent the Dictator from getting back to Gloria, and
that so simplifies their business for them. I have no doubt that there
is someone hanging about who would manage to do the trick if these two
fellows were put under arrest--all the easier because of the uproar
caused by their arrest. No, we must give the fellows rope enough. We
must let them show what their little game is, and then come down upon
them. After all, _we_ are all right, don't you see?'

Hamilton did not quite see, but he was beginning already to be taken a
good deal with the cool and calculating ways of the stout old Paladin,
for whom life could not possibly devise a new form of danger.

'I fancy you are right,' Hamilton said after a moment of silence.

'Yes, I think I am right,' Sarrasin answered confidently. 'You see, we
have the pull on them, for if their game is simple, ours is simple too.
They want Ericson to die--we mean to keep him alive. You and I don't
care two straws what becomes of our own lives in the row.'

'Not I, by Jove!' Hamilton exclaimed fervently.

'All right; then you see how easy it all is. Well, do you think we ought
to wake up the Dictator? It seems unfair to rattle him up on mere
speculation, but the business _is_ serious.'

'Serious?--yes, I should think it was! Life or death--more than that,
the ruin or the failure of a real cause!'

Hamilton knew that the Dictator had by nature a splendid gift of sleep,
which had stood him in good stead during many an adventure and many a
crisis. But it was qualified by a peculiarity which had to be recognised
and taken into account. If his sleep were once broken in upon, it could
not be put together again for that night. Therefore, his trusty henchman
and valet took good care that his Excellency's slumbers should not if
possible be disturbed. It should be said that mere noise never disturbed
him. He would waken if actually called, but otherwise could sleep in
spite of thunder. Now that he was in quiet civic life, it was easy
enough for him to get as much unbroken sleep as he needed. The
directions which his valet always gave at Paulo's Hotel were, that his
Excellency was to be roused from his sleep if the house were on
fire--not otherwise. Of course all this was perfectly understood by
everybody in Seagate Hall.

'Must we waken him?' Sarrasin asked doubtfully.

'Oh, yes,' Hamilton answered decisively. 'I'll take that responsibility
upon myself.'

'What I was thinking of,' Sarrasin whispered, 'was that if you and I
were to keep close watch he might have his sleep out and no harm could
happen to him.'

'But then we shouldn't get to know, for to-night at least, what the harm
was meant to be, or whose the hand it was to come from. If there really
is any attempt to be made, it will not be made while there is any
suspicion that somebody is on the watch.'

'True,' said Sarrasin, quite convinced and prepared for anything.

'My idea is,' Hamilton said, 'a very simple old chestnut sort of idea,
but it may serve a good turn yet--get his Excellency out of his room,
and one of us get into it. Nothing will be done, of course, until all
the lights are out, and then we shall soon find out whether all this is
a false alarm or not.'

'A capital idea! I'll take his Excellency's place,' Sarrasin said
eagerly.

Hamilton shook his head. 'I have the better claim,' he said.

'Tisn't a question of claim, my dear Hamilton. Of course, if it were, I
should have no claim at all. It is a question of effect--of result--of a
thing to be done, don't you see?'

'Well, what has that to do with the question? I fancy I could see it
through as well as most people,' Hamilton said, flushing a little and
beginning to feel angry. The idea of thinking that there was anybody
alive who could watch over the safety of the Dictator better than he
could! Sarrasin was really carrying things rather too far.

'My dear boy,' the kind old warrior said soothingly, 'I never meant
that. But you know I am an old and trained adventurer, and I have been
in all sorts of dangers and tight places, and I have a notion, my dear
chap, that I am physically a good deal stronger than you, or than most
men, for that matter, and this may come to be a question of strength,
and of disarming and holding on to a fellow when once you have caught
him.'

'You are right,' Hamilton said submissively but disappointed. 'Of
course, I ought to have thought of _that_. I have plenty of nerve, but I
know I am not half as strong as you. All right, Sarrasin, you shall do
the trick this time.'

'It will very likely turn out to be nothing at all,' Sarrasin said, by
way of soothing the young man's sensibilities; 'but even if we have to
look a little foolish in Ericson's eyes to-morrow we shan't much mind.'

'I'll go and rouse him up. I'll bring him along here. He won't enjoy
being disturbed, but we can't help that.'

'Better be disturbed by you than by--some other,' Sarrasin said grimly.

The tone in which he answered, and the words and the grimness of his
face, impressed Hamilton somehow with a new and keener sense of the
seriousness of the occasion.

'Tread lightly,' Sarrasin said, 'speak in low tones, but for your life
not in a whisper--a whisper travels far. Keep your eyes about you, and
find out, if you can, who are stirring. I am going to look in on Mrs.
Sarrasin's room for a moment, and I shall keep my eyes about me, I can
tell you. The more people we have awake and on the alert, the
better--always provided that they are people whose nerves we can trust.
As I tell you, Hamilton, I can trust the nerves of Mrs. Sarrasin. I have
told her to be on the watch--and she will be.'

'I am sure--I am sure,' said Hamilton; and he cut short the encomium by
hurrying on his way to the Dictator's room.

Sarrasin left Hamilton's room and went for a moment or two to let Mrs.
Sarrasin know how things were going. He had left Hamilton's room door
half open. When he was coming out of his wife's room he heard the slow,
cautious step of a man in the corridor on which Hamilton's room opened,
and which was at right angles with that on which Mrs. Sarrasin was
lodged. Could it be Hamilton coming back without having roused the
Dictator? Just as he turned into that corridor he saw someone look into
Hamilton's doorway, push the door farther apart, and then enter the
room. Sarrasin quickly glided into the room after him; the man turned
round--and Sarrasin found himself confronted by Soame Rivers.

'Hello!' Rivers said, with his usual artificiality of careless ease, 'I
thought Hamilton was here. This is his room, ain't it?'

'Yes, certainly, this is his room; he has just gone to look up the
Dictator.'

'Has he gone to waken him up?' Rivers asked, with a shade of alarm
passing over him. For Rivers had been meditating during the last two
hours over his suppressed, telegram, and thinking what a fix he should
have got himself into if any danger really were to threaten the Dictator
and it became known that he, the private secretary of Sir Rupert
Langley, had in Sir Rupert's own house deliberately suppressed the
warning sent to him from the Foreign Office--a warning sent for the
protection of the man who was then Sir Rupert's guest. If anything were
to happen, diplomacy would certainly never further avail itself of the
services of Soame Rivers. Nor would Helena Langley be likely to turn a
favourable eye on Soame Rivers. So, after much consideration, Rivers
thought his best course was to get at Hamilton and let him know of the
warning. Of course he need not exactly say when he had received it, and
Hamilton was such a fool that he could easily be put off, and in any
case the whole thing was probably some absurd scare; but still Rivers
wanted to be out of all responsibility, and was already cursing the
sudden impulse that made him crumple up the telegram and keep it back.
Now, he could not tell why, his mind misgave him when he found Sarrasin
coming into Hamilton's room and heard that Hamilton had gone to arouse
the Dictator.

'We have thought it necessary to waken his Excellency' Sarrasin said
emphatically; and he did not fail to notice the look of alarm that came
over Rivers's face. 'Something wrong here,' Sarrasin thought.

'You don't really suppose there is any danger; isn't it all alarmist
nonsense, don't you think?'

'I hadn't said anything about danger, Mr. Rivers.'

'No. But the truth is, I wanted to see Hamilton about a private message
I got from the Foreign Office, telling me to advise him to look after
the--the--the ex-Dictator--that there was some plot against him; and I'm
sure it's all rubbish--people don't _do_ these things in England, don't
you know?--but I thought I would come round and tell Hamilton all the
same.'

'Hamilton will be here in a moment or two with his Excellency. Hadn't
you better wait and see them?'

'Oh--thanks--no--it will do as well if you will kindly give my message.'

'May I ask what time you got your message?'

'Oh--a little time ago. I feel sure it's all nonsense; but still I
thought I had better tell Hamilton about it all the same.'

'I hope it's all nonsense,' Sarrasin said gravely. 'But we have thought
it right to arouse his Excellency.'

'Oh!' Rivers said anxiously, and slackened in his departure, 'you have
got some news of your own?'

'We have got some news of our own, Mr. Rivers, and we have got some
suspicions of our own. Some of us have our eyes, others of us have our
ears. Others of us get telegrams--and act on them at once.' This was a
thrash deeper even than its author intended.

'You don't really expect that anything is going to happen to-night?'

'I am too old a soldier to expect anything. I keep awake and wait until
it comes.'

'But, Mr. Sarrasin--I beg pardon, Colonel Sarrasin----'

'Captain Sarrasin, if you please.'

'I beg your pardon, Captain Sarrasin. Do you really think there is any
plot against--against--his Excellency?' Rivers had hesitated for a
moment. He hated to call Ericson either 'his Excellency' or 'the
Dictator.' But just now he wanted above all other things to conciliate
Sarrasin, and if possible get him on his side, in case there should come
to be a question concerning the time of the delayed warning.

'I believe it is pretty likely, sir.'

'In this house?'

'In this very house.'

'But, good God! that can't be. Why don't we tell Sir Rupert?'

'Why didn't you tell Sir Rupert?'

'Because I was told not to alarm him for nothing.'

'Exactly; we don't want to alarm him for nothing. We think that we
three--the Dictator, Hamilton, and I--we can manage this little business
for ourselves. Not one of the three of us that hasn't been in many a
worse corner alone before, and now there _are_ three of us--don't you
see?'

'Can't I help?'

'Well, I think if I were you I'd just keep awake,' Sarrasin said. 'Odd
sorts of things may happen. One never knows. Hush! I think I hear our
friends. Will you stay and talk with them?'

'No,' said Rivers emphatically; and he left the room straightway, going
in the opposite direction from the Dictator's room, and turning into the
other corridor before he could have been seen by anyone coming into the
corridor where the Dictator and Hamilton and Sarrasin were lodged.

Soame Rivers went back to his room, and sat there and waited and
watched. His thoughts were far from enviable. He was in the mood of a
man who, from being an utter sceptic, or at least Agnostic, is suddenly
shaken up into a recognition of something supernatural, and does not as
yet know how to make the other fashions of his life fit in with this new
revelation. Selfish as he was, he would not have put off taking action
on the warning he had received from the Foreign Office if he had at the
time believed in the least that there was any possibility of a plot for
political assassination being carried on in an English country-house.
Soame Rivers reasoned, like a realistic novelist, from his own
experiences only. He regarded the notion of such things taking place in
an English country-house as no less an anachronism than the moving
helmet in the 'Castle of Otranto' or the robber-castle in the 'Mysteries
of Udolpho.' Not that we mean to convey the idea that Rivers had read
either of these elaborate masterpieces of old-fashioned fiction--for he
most certainly had not read either of them, and very likely had not even
heard of either. But if he had studied them he would probably have
considered them as quite as much an appurtenance of real life as any
story of a plot for political assassination carried on in an English
country-house. Now, however, it was plain that a warning had been given
which did not come from the fossilised officials of the Foreign Office,
and which impressed so cool an old soldier as Captain Sarrasin with a
sense of serious danger. As far as regarded all the ordinary affairs of
life, Rivers looked down on Sarrasin with a quite unutterable contempt.
Sarrasin was not a man to get in the ordinary way into Soame Rivers's
set; and Rivers despised alike anyone who was not in his set, and anyone
who was pushed, or who pushed himself, into it. He detested
eccentricities of all sorts. He would have instinctively disliked and
dreaded any man whose wife occasionally wore man's clothes and rode
astride. He considered all that sort of thing bad form. He chafed and
groaned and found his pain sometimes almost more than he could bear
under the audacious unconventionalities of Helena Langley. But he knew
that he had to put up with Helena Langley; he knew that she would
consider herself in no way responsible to him for anything she said or
did; and he only dreaded the chance of some hinted, hardly repressible
remonstrance from him provoking her to tell him bluntly that she cared
nothing about his opinion of her conduct. Now, however, as he thought of
Sarrasin, he found that he could not deny Sarrasin's coolness and
courage and judgment, and it comforted him to think that Sarrasin must
always say he had a warning from him, Soame Rivers, before anything had
occurred--if anything was to occur. If anything should occur, the actual
hour of the warning given would hardly be recalled amid so many
circumstances more important. Soame sat in his room and watched with
heavy heart. He felt that he had been playing the part of a traitor,
and, more than that, that he was likely to be found out. Could he
retrieve himself even yet? He knew he was not a coward.



CHAPTER XXIV

THE EXPLOSION


Meanwhile Hamilton came back to his room with the Dictator. The Dictator
looked fresh, bright, wide-awake, and ready for anything. He had
grumbled a little on being roused, and was at first inclined rather
peevishly to 'pooh-pooh' all suggestion of conspiracies and personal
danger.

He even went so far as to say that, on the whole, he would rather prefer
to be allowed to have his sleep out, even though it were to be concisely
rounded off by his death. But he soon pulled himself together and got
out of that perverse and sleepy mood, and by the time he and Hamilton
had found Sarrasin, the Dictator was well up to all the duties of a
commander-in-chief. He had a rapid review of the situation with
Sarrasin.

'What I don't see,' he quietly said--he knew too well to try
whispering--'is why I should not keep to my own room. If anything is
going to happen I am well forewarned, and shall be well fore-armed, and
I shall be pretty well able to take care of myself; and why should
anyone else run any risk on my account?'

'It isn't on your account,' Sarrasin answered, a little bluntly.

'No? Well, I am glad to hear that. On whose account, then, may I ask?'

'On account of Gloria,' Sarrasin answered decisively. 'If Hamilton here
is killed, or _I_ am killed, it does not matter a straw so far as Gloria
is concerned. But if you got killed, who, I want to know, is to go out
to Gloria? Gloria would not rise for Hamilton or me.'

The Dictator could say nothing. He could only clasp in silence the hand
of either man.

'They are putting out the lights downstairs,' Sarrasin said in a low
tone. 'I had better get to my lair.'

'Have you got a revolver?' Hamilton asked.

'Never go without one, dear boy.' Then Sarrasin stole away with the
noiseless tread of the Red Indian, whose comrade and whose enemy he had
been so often.

Hamilton closed his door, but did not fasten it. The electric light
still burned softly there.

'Will you smoke?' Hamilton asked. 'I smoke here every night, and
Sarrasin too, mostly. It won't arouse any suspicion if the smoke gets
about the corridor. I am often up much later than this. You need not
answer, and then your voice can't be heard. Just take a cigar.'

The Dictator quietly nodded, and took two cigars, which he selected very
carefully, and began to smoke.

'Do you know,' Ericson said, 'that to-morrow is my birthday? No--I mean
it is already my birthday.'

'As if I didn't know,' Hamilton replied.

'Odd, if anything should happen.'

Then there was absolute silence in the room. Each man kept his thoughts
to himself, and yet each knew well enough what the other was thinking
of. Ericson was thinking, among other things, how, if there should
really be some assassin-plot, what a trouble and a scandal and even a
serious danger he should have brought upon the Langleys, who were so
kind and sweet to him. He was thinking of Sarrasin, and of the danger
the gallant veteran was running for a cause which, after all, was no
cause of his. He could hardly as yet believe in the existence of the
murder-plot; and still, with his own knowledge of the practices of
former Governments in Gloria, he could not look upon the positive
evidence of Sarrasin's telegram from across the Atlantic and the sudden
suspicions of Dolores as insignificant. He knew well that one of the
practices of former Governments in Gloria had been, when they wanted a
dangerous enemy removed, to employ some educated and clever criminal
already under conviction and sentence of death, and release him for the
time with the promise that, if he should succeed in doing their work,
means should be found to relieve him from his penalty altogether. When
he became Dictator he had himself ordered the re-arrest of two such men
who had had the audacity to return to the capital to claim their reward,
under the impression that they should find their old friends still in
power. He commuted the death punishment in their case, bad as they were,
on the principle that they were the victims of a loathsome system, and
that they were tempted into the new crime. But he left them to
imprisonment for life. Ericson had a strong general objection to the
infliction of capital punishment--to the punishment that is irreparable,
that cannot be recalled. He was not actually an uncompromising opponent
on moral grounds of the principle of capital punishment, but he would
think long before sanctioning its infliction.

He was wondering, in an idle sort of way, whether he could remember the
appearance or the name of either of these two men. He might perhaps
remember the names; he did not believe he could recall the faces.
Clearly the Dictator wanted that great gift which, according to popular
tradition or belief, always belonged to the true leaders of men--the
gift of remembering every face one ever has seen, and every name one has
ever heard. Alexander had it, we are told, and Julius Cæsar, and Oliver
Cromwell, and Claverhouse, and Napoleon Bonaparte, and Brigham Young.
Napoleon, to be sure, worked it up, as we have lately come to know, by
collusion with some of his officers; and it may be that Brigham Young
was occasionally coached by devoted Elders at Salt Lake City. At all
events, it would not appear that the Dictator either had the gift, or at
present the means of being provided with any substitute for it. He could
not remember the appearance of the men he had saved from execution. It
is curious, however, how much of his time and his thoughts they had
occupied or wasted while he was waiting for the first sound that might
be expected to give the alarm.

Hamilton looked at his watch. The Dictator motioned to him, and Hamilton
turned the face of the watch towards him. Half-past one o'clock Ericson
saw. He looked tired. Hamilton made a motion towards his own bed which
clearly signified, 'would you like to lie down for a little?' Ericson
replied by a sign of assent, and presently he stretched himself half on
the bed and half off--on the coverlet of the bed as to his head and
shoulders, with his legs hanging over the side and his feet on the
floor--and he thought again, about his birthday, and so he fell asleep.

Hamilton had often seen him fall asleep like this in the immediate
presence of danger, but only when there was nothing that could
immediately, and in the expected course of things, exact or even call
for his personal attention or his immediate command. Now, however,
Hamilton somewhat marvelled at the power of concentration which could
enable his chief to give himself at once up to sleep with the knowledge
that some sort of danger--purely personal danger--hung over him, the
nature, the form, and the time of which were absolutely hidden in
darkness. Very brave men, familiar with the perils and horrors of war,
experienced duellists, intrepid explorers, seamen whose nerves are never
shaken by the white squall of the Levant, or the storm in the Bay of
Biscay, or the tempest round some of the most rugged coasts of
Australia--such men are often turned white-livered by the threat of
assassination--that terrible pestilence which walks abroad at night or
in the dusk, and dogs remorselessly the footsteps of the victim. But
Ericson slept composedly, and his deep, steady breathing seemed to tell
pale-hearted fear it lied.

And other thoughts, too, came up into Hamilton's mind. He had long put
away all wild hopes and dreams of Helena. He had utterly given her up;
he had seen only too clearly which way her love was stretching its
tentacula, and he had long since submitted himself to the knowledge that
they did not stretch themselves out to grapple with the strings of his
heart. He knew that Helena loved the Dictator. He bent to the knowledge;
he was not sorry _now_ any more. But he wondered if the Dictator in his
iron course was sleeping quietly in the front of danger for him which
must mean misery for _her_, and was thinking nothing about her. Surely
he must know, by this time, that she loved him! Surely he must love
her--that bright, gifted, generous, devoted girl? Was she, then,
misprized by Ericson? Was the Dictator's heart so full of his own
political and patriotic schemes and enterprises that he could not spare
a thought, even in his dreams, for the girl who so adored him, and whom
Hamilton had at one time so much adored? Did this stately tree never
give a thought to the beautiful and fresh flower that drank the dew at
its feet?

Suddenly Ericson turned on the bed, and from his sleeping lips came a
murmuring cry--a low-voiced plaint, instinct with infinite love and
yearning and pathos--and the only words then spoken were the words
'Helena, Helena!' And then the question of Hamilton's mind was answered,
and Ericson shook himself free of sleep, and turned on the bed, and sat
up and looked at Hamilton, and was clearly master of the situation.

'I have been sleeping,' he said, in the craftily-qualified tone of the
experienced one who thoroughly understands the difference in a time of
danger between the carefully subdued tone and the penetrating, sibilant
whisper. 'Nothing has happened?'

Hamilton made a gesture of negation.

'It must come soon--if it is to come at all,' Ericson said. 'And it will
come--I know it--I have had a dream.'

'You don't believe in dreams?' Hamilton murmured gently.

'I don't believe in all dreams, boy; I do believe in that dream.'

'Hush!' said Hamilton, holding up his hand.

Some faint, vague sounds were heard in the corridor. The Dictator and
Hamilton remained absolutely motionless and silent.

The Duchess had disappeared into her room for a while, and called
together her maids and passed them in review. It was a whim of the
good-hearted young Duchess to go round to country-houses carrying three
maids along with her. She had one maid as her personal and bodily
attendant, a second to dress her hair, and a third maid to look after
her packing and her dresses. She had honestly got under the impression
of late years that a woman could not be well looked after who had not
three maids to go about with her and see to her wants. When first she
settled down at Seagate Hall with her three attendant Graces, Helena was
almost inclined to resent such an invasion as an insult. It would not
have mattered, the girl said to her father, if it were at King's
Langley, where were rooms enough for a squadron of maids; but here, at
Seagate Hall, the accommodation of which was limited, what an
extraordinary thing to do! Who ever heard of a woman going about with
three maids? Sir Rupert, however, would not have a breath of murmur
against the three maids, and the Duchess made herself so thoroughly
agreeable and sympathetic in every other way that Helena soon forgot the
infliction of the three maids. 'I only hope they are made quite
comfortable,' she said to the dignified housekeeper.

'A good deal more comfortable, Miss, than they had any right to expect,'
was the reply, and so all was settled.

This night, then, the Duchess summoned her maids around her and had her
hair 'fixed,' as she would herself have expressed it, and then made up
her mind to pay a visit to Helena. She had become really quite fond of
Helena--all the more because she felt sure that the girl had a
love-secret--and wished very much that Helena would take her into
confidence.

The Duchess appeared in Helena's room draped in a lovely dressing-gown
and wearing slippers with be-diamonded buckles. The Duchess evidently
was ready for a long dressing-gown talk. She liked to contemplate
herself in one of her new Parisian dressing-gowns, and she was quite
willing to give Helena her share in the gratification of the sight. But
Helena's thoughts were hopelessly away from dressing-gowns, even from
her own. She became aware after a while that the Duchess was giving her
a history of some marvellous new dresses she had brought from Paris, and
which were to be displayed lavishly during the short time left of the
London season, and at Goodwood, and afterwards at various
country-houses.

'You're sleepy, child,' the Duchess suddenly said, 'and I am keeping you
up with my talk.'

'No, indeed, Duchess, I am not in the least sleepy, and it's very kind
of you to come and talk to me.'

'Well, if you ain't sleepy you are sorrowful, or something like it. So
your Dictator _is_ going to try his luck again! Well, clear, I just wish
you and I could help some. By the way, don't you take my countrymen here
as just our very best specimens of Americans.'

'I hadn't much noticed,' Helena said listlessly. 'They seemed very quiet
men.'

'Meaning that American men in general are rather noisy and
self-assertive?' the Duchess said with a smile.

'Oh, no, Duchess, I never meant anything of the kind. But they _do_ seem
very quiet, don't they?'

'Stupid, _I_ should say,' was the comment of the Duchess. 'I didn't talk
much with Mr. Copping, but I had a little talk with Professor Flick. I
am afraid, by the way, _he_ thinks me very stupid, for I appear to have
got him mixed up in my mind with somebody quite different, and you know
it vexes anybody to be mistaken for anybody else. I meant to ask him
what State he hailed from, but I quite forgot. His accent didn't seem
quite familiar to me somehow. I wish I had thought of asking him.' The
Duchess seemed so much in earnest about the matter that Helena felt
inspired to say, by way of consoling her:

'Dear Duchess, you can ask him the important question to-morrow. I dare
say he will not be offended.'

'Well, now that's just what I have been thinking about, dear child. You
see, I have already put my foot in it.'

'Won't do much harm,' Helena said smiling--'foot is too small.'

'Come now, that's very prettily said;' and the gratified Duchess
stretched out half-unconsciously a very small and pretty foot, cased in
an exquisite shoe and stocking, and then drew it in again, as if
thinking that she must not seem to be personally vindicating Helena's
compliment. 'But he might be offended, perhaps, if I were to convey the
idea that I knew nothing at all of him or his place of birth. Well--good
night, child; we shall meet him anyhow to-morrow.' She kissed Helena and
left the room.

When the Duchess had gone, Helena sat in her bedroom, broad awake. She
had got her hair arranged and put on a dressing-gown, and sent her maid
to bed long before, and now she took up a book and tried to read it, and
now and then put it wearily down upon her lap, and then took it up again
and read a page or two more, and then put it away again, and went back
to think over things. What was she thinking about? Mostly, if not
altogether, of the few words the Dictator had spoken to her--the words
that told her he must cut short his visit to Seagate Hall. She knew
quite well what that meant. It meant, of course, that he was going out
to fling himself upon the shore of Gloria, and that he might never come
back. He might have miscalculated the strength of his following in
Gloria--and then it was all but certain that he must die for his
mistake. Or he might have calculated wisely--and then he would be
welcomed back to the Dictatorship of Gloria, and then he would--oh! she
was sure he would--drive back the invaders from the frontier, and she
would be proud, oh! so proud, of that! But then he would remain in
Gloria, and devote himself to Gloria, and come back to England no more.
How women have to suffer for a political cause! Not merely the mothers
and wives and sisters who have to see their loved ones go to the prison
or the scaffold for some political question which they regard, from
their domestic point of view, as a pure nuisance and curse because it
takes the loved one from them. Oh! but there is more than that, worse
than that, when a woman is willing to be devoted to the cause, but finds
her heart torn with agony by the thought that her lover cares more for
the cause than he cares for _her_--that for the sake of the cause he
could live without her, and even could forget her!

This was what Helena was thinking of this night, as she outwatched the
stars, and knew by his tale half-told that the Dictator would soon be
leaving her, in all probability for ever. He was not her lover in any
sense. He had never made love to her. He had never even taken seriously
her innocently bold advances towards him. He had taken them as the sweet
and kindly advances of a girl who out of her generosity of heart was
striving to make the course of life pleasant for a banished man with a
ruined career. Helena saw all this with brave impartial eyes. She had
judged rightly up to a certain point; but she did not see, she could not
see, she could not be expected to see, how a time came about when the
Dictator had begun to be afraid of the part he was playing--of the time
when the Dictator grew acquainted with his heart, and searched what
stirred it so--according to the tender and lovely words of Beaumont and
Fletcher--and, alas! had found it love. Strange that these two hearts so
thoroughly affined should be so misjudging each of the other! It was
like the story told in Uhland's touching poem, which probably no one
reads now, even in Uhland's own Germany, about the youth who is leaving
his native town for ever, accompanied by the _geleit_--the escort, the
'send-off'--of his companion-students, and who looks back to the window
which the maiden has just opened and thinks, 'If she had but loved me!'
and a tear comes into the girl's deep blue eye, and she closes her
window, hopeless, and thinks, 'If he had but loved me!'

'And now he is going!' thought Helena. And at that hour Ericson was
waking up, aroused from sleep by the sound of his own softly-breathed
word 'Helena!'

'It is now his birthday,' she thought.

Soame Rivers was not in his character very like Hamlet. But of course
there is that one touch of nature that makes the whole world kin, and
the touch of nature that made Hamlet and Soame Rivers kin to-night was
found in the fact that on this night, as on a memorable night of
Hamlet's career, in his heart there was 'a kind of fighting' that would
not let him sleep. He sat up fully dressed. The one thing present to his
mind was the thought that, if anything whatever should happen to the
Dictator--and the more the night grew later, the more the possibility
seemed to enlarge upon him--the ruin of all Soame Rivers's career seemed
certain. Inquiry would assuredly be made into the exact hour when the
telegram was sent from the Foreign Office and when it was received at
Sir Rupert Langley's, and it would be known that Rivers had that
telegram for hours in his hands without telling anyone about it. It was
easy in the light and the talk of the dining-room and the billiard-room
to tell one's self that there could be no possible danger threatening
anyone in an English gentleman's country-house. But now, in the deep of
the night, in the loneliness, with the knowledge of what Sarrasin had
said, all looked so different. It was easy at that earlier and brighter
and more self-confident hour to crumple up a telegram and make nothing
of it; but now Soame Rivers could only curse himself for his levity and
his folly. What would Helena Langley say to him?

Was there anything he could do to retrieve his position? Only one thing
occurred to him. He could go and hide himself somewhere in shade or in
darkness near the Dictator's door. If any attempt at assassination
should be made, he might be in advance of Sarrasin and Hamilton. If
nothing should happen, he at least would be found at his self-ordained
post of watchfulness by Hamilton and Sarrasin, and they would report of
him to Sir Rupert--and to Helena.

This seemed the best stroke of policy for him. He threw off his
smoking-coat and put on a small, tight, closely-buttoned jacket, which
in any kind of struggle, if such there were to be, would leave no
flapping folds for an antagonist to cling to. Rivers was well-skilled in
boxing and in all manner of manly exercises; he took care to be a master
in his way of every art a smart young Englishman ought to possess, and
he began to think with a sickening revulsion of horror that in keeping
back the telegram he had been doing just the thing which would shut him
out from the society of English gentlemen for ever. A powerful impulse
was on him that he must redeem himself, not merely in the eyes of
others--others, perhaps, might never know of his momentary lapse--but in
his own eyes. At that moment he would have braved any danger, not merely
to save the Dictator, but simply to show that he had striven to save the
Dictator. It flashed across his mind that he might even still make
himself a sort of second-best hero--in the eyes of Helena Langley.

He thought he heard a stirring somewhere in one of the corridors. He put
on a pair of tight-fitting noiseless velvet slippers, and he glided out
of his room and turned into the corridor where the Dictator slept. Yes,
there surely was a sound in that direction. Rivers crept swiftly and
stealthily on.

Soame Rivers belonged to his age and his society. He was born of
Cynicism and of Introspection. It would have interested him quite as
much to find out himself as to find out any other person. While he was
moving along in the darkness it occurred to him to remember that he did
not know in the least whither, to what rescue, to what danger, he was
steering. He might, for aught he knew, have to grapple with assassins.
The whole thing might prove to be a false alarm, an absurd scare, and
then he, who based his whole life and his whole reputation on the theory
that nothing ever could induce him to make himself ridiculous or to
become bad form, might turn out to be the ludicrous hero of a
country-house 'booby-trap.' To do him justice, he feared this result
much more than the other. But he wanted to test himself--to find himself
out. All this thinking had not as yet delayed his movements by a single
step, but now he paused for one short second, and he felt his pulse. It
beat steadily, regularly as the notes of Big Ben at Westminster. 'Come,'
he breathed to himself, 'I am all right. Come what will, I know I am not
a coward!'

For there had come into Rivers's somewhat emasculated mind now and again
the doubt whether his father, Cynicism, and his mother, Introspection,
might not, between them, have entailed some cowardice on him. He felt
relieved, encouraged, satisfied, by the test of his pulse. 'Come,' he
thought to himself, 'if there is anything really to be done, Helena
shall praise me to-morrow.' So he stole his quiet way.

Sarrasin had made himself acquainted with the Dictator's habits--and he
at once installed himself in bed. He took off his outer clothing, his
coat and waistcoat, kicked off his dress-shoes, and keeping on his
trousers he settled himself down among the bed-clothes. He left his coat
and waistcoat and shoes ostentatiously lying about. If there was to be a
murderous attack, his idea was to invite, not to discourage, that
murderous attack, and certainly not by any means to scare it away. Any
indication of preparedness or wakefulness or activity could only have
the effect of giving warning to the assassin, and so putting off the
attempt at the crime. The old soldier felt sure that the attempt could
never be made under conditions so favourable to his side of the
controversy as at the present moment. 'We have got it here,' he said to
himself, 'we can't tell where it may break out next.'

He turned off the electric light. The button was so near his hand that
it would not take him a second to turn the light on again whenever he
should have need of it. His purpose was to get the assassin or assassins
as far as possible into the room and close to the bed. He was determined
not to admit that he had thrown off sleep until the very last moment,
and then to flash the electric light at once. He would leave no chance
whatever for any explanation or apology about a mistake in the room or
anything of that kind. Before he would consent to open his eyes fully he
must have indisputable evidence of the murderous plot. Once for all!

Sarrasin kept his watch under his pillow, safe within reach. He wanted
to be sure of the exact minute when everything was to occur. He fancied
he heard some faint moving in the corridor, and he turned on the
electric light and gave one glance at his watch, and then summoned
darkness again. He found that it was exactly two o'clock. Now, he
thought, if anything is going to be done, it must be done very soon; we
can't have long to wait. He was glad. The most practised and
case-hardened soldier is not fond of having to wait for his enemy.

Sarrasin had left his door--Ericson's door--unlocked and unbarred.
Everybody who knew the Dictator intimately knew that he had a sort of
_tic_ for leaving his doors open. Sarrasin knew this; but, besides, he
was anxious, as has been already said, to draw the assassin-plot, if
such plot there were, into him, not to bar it out and keep it on the
other side. Now the way was clear for the enemy. Sarrasin lay low and
listened. Yes, there was undoubtedly the sound of feet in the corridor.
It was the sound of one pair of feet, Sarrasin felt certain. He had not
campaigned with Red Shirt and his Sioux for nothing; he could
distinguish between two sounds and four sounds. 'Come, this is going to
be an easy job,' he thought to himself. 'I am not much afraid of any one
man who is likely to turn up. Bring along your bears.' The old soldier
chuckled to himself; he was getting to be rather amused with the whole
proceeding. He lay down, and even in the lightness of his plucky heart
indulged in simulation of deep breathings intended to convey to the
possibly coming assassin that the victim was fast asleep, and merely
waiting to be killed off conveniently without trouble to anybody, even
to himself. He was a little, just a little, sorry that Mrs. Sarrasin
could not be present to see how well he could manage the job. But her
presence would not be practicable, and she would be sure to believe that
he had borne himself well under whatever difficulty and danger. So
perhaps he breathed the name of his lady-love, as good knights did in
the days to which he and his lady-love ought to have belonged; and then
he committed his soul to his Creator.

The subtle sound came near the door. The door was gently tried--opened
with a soft dexterity and suppleness of touch which much impressed the
sham sleeper in the bed. 'No heavy British hand there,' Sarrasin
thought, recalling his many memories of many lands and races. He lay
with his right arm thrown carelessly over the coverlets, and his left
arm hidden. Given any assassin who is not of superlative quality, he
will be on his guard as to the disclosed right arm, and will not trouble
himself about the hidden left. The door opened. Somebody came gliding
in. The somebody was breathing too heavily. 'A poor show of an
assassin,' Sarrasin could not help thinking. His nerves were now all
abrace like the finest steel, and he could observe a dozen things in a
second of time. 'If I couldn't do without puffing like that, I'd never
join the assassin trade!' Then a crouching figure came to the bedside
and looked over him, and took note, as he had expected, of the
outstretched right arm, and stooped over it, and ranged beyond it and
kept out of its reach, and then lifted a knife; and then Sarrasin let
out a terrible left-hander just under the assassin's chin, and the
assassin tumbled over like a heavy lump on the carpet of the floor, and
Sarrasin quietly leaped out of bed and took the knife out of his palsied
hand and gently turned on the light.

'Let's have a look at you,' he said, and he turned the fallen man over.
In the meanwhile he had thrust the knife under the pillow, and he held
the revolver comfortably ready at the forehead of the reviving murderer.
He studied his face. 'Hello,' he quietly said, 'so it is _you_!'

Yes, it was the wretched Saffron Hill Sicilian of St. James's Park.

The Sicilian was opening his eyes and beginning vaguely to form a faint
idea of how things had been going.

'Why, you poor pitiful trash!' Sarrasin murmured under his breath, 'is
this the whole business? Are you and your ladies' slipper knife going to
run this whole machine? I don't believe a bit of it. Look here; tell us
your whole infernal plot, or I'll blow your brains out--at least as many
as you have, which don't amount to much. Do you feel that?'

He pressed the barrel of his revolver hard on to the Sicilian's
forehead. Under other conditions it might have felt cool and refreshing.
The touch _was_ cool and refreshing certainly. But the Sicilian, even in
his bewildered condition, readily recognised the fact that the cool
touch of the iron was evidently to be followed by a distressing
explosion, and he could only whine feebly for mercy.

For a second or two Sarrasin was fairly puzzled what to do. It would be
no trouble to him to drive or drag this wretched Sicilian into the room
where Ericson and Hamilton were waiting. Perhaps if they had heard any
noise they would be round in a moment. But was this the plot? Was this
the whole of the plot? This poor pitiful trumpery attempt at
assassination--was this all that the reactionaries of Gloria and of
Orizaba could do? 'Out of the question,' Sarrasin thought.

'I think I had better finish you off,' he said to the Sicilian, speaking
in a low, bland tone, subdued as that of a gentle evening breeze.
'Nobody really wants you any more. I don't care to rouse the house by
using my revolver for a creature like you. Just come this way,' and he
dragged him with remorseless hand towards the bed. 'I want to get at
your own knife. That will do the business nicely.'

Honest Sarrasin had not the faintest idea of becoming executioner in
cold blood of the hired Sicilian stabber. It was important to him to see
how far the Sicilian stabber's stabbing courage would hold out--whether
there were stronger men behind him who could be grappled with in their
turn. He still held to his conviction, 'We haven't got the whole plot
out yet. Anybody could do this sort of thing.'

'Don't kill me!' faintly murmured the wretched assassin.

'Why not? Just tell me all, or I'll kill you in two seconds,' Sarrasin
answered, in the same calm low voice, and, gripping the Sicilian solidly
round the waist, he trailed him towards the bed, where the knife was.

Then there came a flare and splash and blaze of yellowish red light
across the eyes of Sarrasin and his captive, and in a moment a noise as
fierce as if all the artillery of Heaven--or the lower deep--were let
loose at once. No words could describe the devastating influence of that
explosion on the ears and the nerves and the hearts of those for whom it
first broke. Utter silence--that is, the suspension of all faculty of
hearing or feeling or thinking--succeeded for the moment. Sight and
sound were blown out, as the flame of a candle is blown out by an
ordinary gunpowder explosion. Then the sudden and complete silence was
succeeded by a crashing of bells in the ears, by a flashing of furnaces
in the eyes, by a limpness of every limb, a relaxation of every fibre,
by a longing to die and be quiet, by a craving to live and get out of
the noise, by an all unutterable struggle between present blindness and
longed-for sight, present deafness and an impatient, insane thirst to
hear what was going on, between the faculties momentarily disordered and
the faculties wildly striving to grasp again at order. And Sarrasin
began to recover his reason and his senses, and, brave as he was, his
nerves relaxed when he saw in the instreaming light of the morning--the
electric light had been driven out--that he was still gripping on to the
body of the Sicilian, and that half the wretched Sicilian's head had
been blown away. Then everything was once more extinguished for him.

But in that one moment of reviving consciousness he contrived to keep
his wits well about him. 'It was not the Sicilian who did _that_,' he
said to himself doggedly.



CHAPTER XXV

SOME VICTIMS


The crash came on the ears of the Dictator and Hamilton. For a moment or
two the senses of both were paralysed. It is not easy for most of us,
who have not been through the cruel suffocation of a dynamite explosion,
to realise completely how the crushed collapse of the nervous system
leaves mind, thought, and feeling absolutely prostrate before the mere
shrillness of sound. We are not speaking now of the cases in which
serious harm is done--of course anyone can understand _that_--but only
of the cases, after all, and in even the best carried out and most
brutally contrived dynamite attempt--the vast majority of cases in which
the intended, or at least the probable, victims suffer no permanent harm
whatever. The Dictator suddenly found his senses deserting him with the
crash of the explosion. He knew in a moment what it was, and he knew
also that for a certain moment or two his senses would utterly fail to
take account of it. For one fearful second he knew he was going to be
insensible, just as a passenger at sea knows he is going to be sick.
Then it was all over with him and quiet, and he felt nothing.

How much time had passed when he was roused by the voice of Hamilton he
did not know. Hamilton had had much the same experience, but Hamilton's
main work in life was looking after the Dictator, and the Dictator's
main work in life was not in looking after himself. Hamilton, too, was
the younger man. Anyhow, he rallied the sooner.

'Are you hurt?' he cried. And he trembled lest he should hear the
immortal words of Sir Henry Lawrence at Lucknow, 'I'm killed!'

'Eh--what? I say, is it you, Hamilton? I'm all right, boy; how about
you?'

'Nothing the matter with _me_,' Hamilton said. 'Quite sure you are not
hurt?'

'Not the least little bit--only dazzled and dazed a good deal,
Hamilton.'

'Let's see what's going on outside,' Hamilton said. He sprang to open
the door.

'Wait a moment,' Ericson said quietly. 'Let us see if that is all. There
may be another. Don't rush, Hamilton, please. Take your time.' The
Dictator was cool and composed.

'Gunpowder?' Hamilton asked.

'No, no--dynamite. You go and look after Sarrasin, Hamilton; I'll take
charge of the house and see what this really comes to.'

And so, with the composure of a man to whom nothing in the way of action
is quite new or disturbing, he opened the door and went out into the
corridor. All the lights that were anywhere burning had been blown out.
Servants, men and women, were rushing distractedly downstairs, those who
slept above; those who slept below were rushing distractedly upstairs.
It was a confused scene of night-shirts and night-dresses.

Ericson seized one stout footman, whom he knew well by sight and by
name: 'Look here, Frederick,' he said quietly, 'don't spread any
alarm--the worst is over. Turn on all the lights you can, and get
someone to saddle a horse at once--no, to put a bridle on the
horse--never mind the saddle--and in the meanwhile guard the house-doors
and see that no one goes out, except me. I want to get the horse. Do you
understand all this? Have you your senses about you?'

The man was plucky enough, and took his tone readily from Ericson's
calm, subdued way. He recognised a leader. He had all the courage of
Tommy Atkins, and all Tommy Atkins's daring, and only wanted leadership:
only lead him and he was all right. He could follow.

'Yes, your Excellency, I think I do. Lights on; horse bridled; no one
allowed out but you.'

'Right,' Ericson answered; 'you are a brave fellow.'

In a moment Helena came from her room, fully dressed--that is to say,
fully robed, in the dressing-gown wherein the Duchess had seen her, with
white cheeks but resolute face.

'Oh! thank God _you_ are safe,' she exclaimed. 'What is it? Where is my
father?'

Just at the moment Sir Rupert came out of his room, plunging,
staggering, but undismayed, and even then not forgetful of his position
as a Secretary of State.

'Here is your father, Heaven be praised!' Ericson exclaimed. 'Sir
Rupert, I am an unlucky guest! I have brought all this on you!'

Helena threw herself on her father's neck. He clasped her tenderly,
looking over her shoulder to Ericson as if he were putting her carefully
for the moment out of the way. 'It _is_ dynamite, Ericson?'

'Oh, yes, I think so. The sound seems to me beyond all mistake. I have
heard it before.'

'Not an accident?'

'No--no accident. I don't think we need trouble about _that_. Look here,
Sir Rupert; you look after the house and the Duchess, and Sarrasin and
everybody; Hamilton will help you--I say, Hamilton! Hamilton! where are
you? I am going to have a ride round the grounds and see if anyone is
lurking. I have ordered a horse to be bridled.'

'You take command, Ericson,' Sir Rupert said.

'Outside, yes,' Ericson assented. 'You look after things inside.'

'You must order a horse for me too,' Helena exclaimed, stiffening
herself up from her father's protecting embrace. 'I can help you, I have
the eyes of a lynx--I must do something. I must! Let me go, papa!' She
turned appealingly to Sir Rupert.

'Go, child, if you won't be in the way.'

Ericson hesitated, just for a second; then he spoke.

'Come with me if you will, Miss Langley. You can pilot me over the
grounds as nobody else can.'

'Oh!' she exclaimed, and they both rushed downstairs together. The
servants were already lighting up such of the electric lamps as had been
left uninjured after the explosion. The electric engineer was on the
spot and at work, with his assistants, as fresh and active as if none of
them had ever wanted a rest in his life. Ericson cast a glance over the
whole scene, and had to acknowledge that the household had turned out
with almost the promptitude of a fire-drill on the ocean. The
women-servants, who were to be seen in their night-dresses scuttling
wildly about when the crash of the explosion first shook them up had now
altogether disappeared, and were in all probability steadily engaged in
putting things to rights wherever they could, and no one yet knew the
number of the dead.

Ericson and Helena got down to the hall. The girl was happy. Her father
was safe; and she was with the man she loved. More than that, she had a
sense of sharing a danger with the man she loved. That was a delight to
be expressed by no words. She had not the remotest idea of what had
happened. She had been sitting up late--unable to sleep. She had been
thinking about the news the Dictator had told her--that he was going to
leave her. Then came the tremendous crash of the explosion, and for a
moment her senses and her thought were gone. Then she staggered to her
feet, half blinded, half deafened, but alive, and she rushed to her door
and dragged it open; and but for a blue foam of dawn all was darkness,
and in another moment she knew that Ericson was alive, and she was able
to welcome her father. What on earth did she want more? It might be that
there was danger to Hamilton--to Sarrasin--to Mrs. Sarrasin--to the
Duchess--to Miss Paulo--to some of the servants--to her own maid, a
great friend and favourite of hers--to all sorts of persons. She had to
acknowledge to her own heart that in such a moment she did not much
care. She was conscious of a sense of joy in the knowledge of the fact
that To-to had not yet got down from London. There all calculation
ceased.

The hall-door was opened. The breath of the fresh morning came into
their lungs. Helena drank it in, as if it were a draught of wine--in
more correct words, as if it were _not_ a draught of wine, for she was
not much of a wine-drinker. The freshness of the air was a shuddering
and a delight to her.

'Let nobody leave the house until we come back,' Ericson said to the man
who opened the doors for Helena and him.

'Nobody, sir?' the man asked in astonishment.

'Nobody whatever.'

'Not Sir Rupert, sir?'

'Certainly not. Sir Rupert above all men! We can't have your father
getting into danger, Miss Langley--can we?'

'Oh no,' she answered quickly.

'Which way to the stables?' Ericson asked the man.

'Come with me,' Helena said; 'I can show you.'

They hurried round to the stables, and found a wide-awake groom or two
who had a lady's horse properly saddled, and a man's horse with no
saddle, but only a bridle on. They had evidently taken the Dictator's
command to the letter, and assumed that he had some particular motive
for riding without a saddle.

Ericson lifted Helena into her seat. It has to be confessed that she was
riding in her already-mentioned dressing-gown, and that she had nothing
on her head, and that her bare feet were thrust into slippers. Mrs.
Grundy was not on the premises, and, even if she were, Helena would not
have cared two straws about Mrs. Grundy's reflections and criticisms.

'Oh, look here, you haven't a saddle!' she cried to Ericson.

'Saddle!--no matter--never mind the saddle,' he called. The horse was a
little shy, and backed and edged, and went sideways, and plunged. One of
the grooms rushed at him to hold his head.

The Dictator laid one hand upon his mane. 'Let him go!' he said, and he
swung himself easily on to the unsaddled back and gripped the bridle.
'Now for it, Helena!' he exclaimed.

Now for it, Helena! She just caught the words in the wild flash of their
flight. Never before had he used her name in that way. He rode his
unsaddled horse with all the ease of another Mephistopheles; and what
delighted the girl was that he seemed to count on her riding her course
just as well.

'Look out everywhere you can,' he called to her; 'tell me if you see a
squirrel stirring, or the eyes of an owl looking out of the ivy-bushes.'

Helena had marvellous sight--but she could descry no human figure, no
human eyes, but _his_ anywhere amid the myriad eyes of the dark night.
They rode on and round.

'We shall soon find out the whole story,' he said to her after a while,
and he brought his horse so near to hers that it touched her saddle.
'There is no one in the grounds, and we shall soon know all, if we have
only to deal with the people who were indoors. I think we have settled
that already.'

'But what _is_ it all?' she breathlessly asked, as they galloped round
the young plantation. The hour, the companionship, the gallop, the fresh
breath of the morning air among the trees, seemed to make her feel as if
she never had been young before.

'"Miching mallecho; it means mischief," as Hamlet says,' the Dictator
replied, 'and very much mischief too,' and he checked himself, pulling
up his horse so suddenly that the creature fell back upon his haunches,
and then flinging himself off the horse as lightly as if he were
performing some equestrian exercise to win a prize in a competition.
Then he let his own horse run loose, and he stopped Helena's, and took
her foot in his hand.

'Jump off!' he said, in a voice of quiet authority. They were now in
front of the hall-door.

'What more is the matter?' she asked nervously, though she did not delay
her descent. She was firm on the gravel already, picking up the dragging
skirts of her dressing-gown. The dawn was lighting on her.

'The house is on fire at this side,' he said composedly. 'I must go and
show them how to put it out.'

'The house on fire!' she exclaimed.

'Yes--for the moment. I shall put that all right.'

She was prepared for anything now. 'We have a fire-escape in the
village,' she said, panting for breath. She had full faith in the
Dictator's power to conquer any conflagration, but she did not want to
give utterly away the resources of Seagate Hall.

'Yes, I am afraid of that sort of thing,' the Dictator replied. 'I have
no time to lose. Tell your father to look after things indoors and to
let nobody out.'

Then the hall-door was flung open, and both Ericson and Helena saw by
the scared faces of the two men who stood in the hall that something had
happened since the Dictator and she had gone out on their short wild
night-ride.

'What has gone wrong, Frederick?' Helena asked eagerly.

'Oh please, Miss, Mr. Rivers--Miss----'

'Yes, Frederick, Mr. Rivers----'

'Please, Miss, poor Mr. Rivers--he is killed!'

Then for the first time the terrible reality of the situation was
brought straight home to Helena--to her mind and to her heart. Up to
this moment it was melodramatic, startling, shocking, bewildering; but
there was no cold, grim, cruel, practical detail about it. It was like
the fierce blinding flash of the lightning and the crash of the thunder,
followed, when senses coldly recover, by the knowledge of the abiding
blindness. It was like the raw conscript's first sight of the comrade
shot down by his side. Helena was a brave girl, but she would have
fallen in a faint were it not that a burst of stormy tears came to her
relief.

'Poor Soame Rivers!' she sobbed. 'I wish I could have liked him more
than I did.' And she sobbed again, and Ericson understood her and
sympathised with her.

'Poor Soame Rivers!' he said after her. 'I wish I too had liked him, and
known him better!'

'What was he killed for?' Helena passionately asked.

'He was killed for _me_!' the Dictator answered calmly. 'All this
trouble and tragedy have been brought on your house by _me_.'

'Let it come!' the girl sobbed, in a wild fresh outburst of new emotion.

'Come,' Ericson said gently and sympathetically, 'let us go in and learn
what has happened. Let us have the full story of the whole tragedy.
Nothing is now left but to punish the guilty.'

'Who _are_ they?' Helena asked in passion.

'We shall find them,' he answered. 'Come with me, Helena. You are a
brave girl, and you are not going to give way now. I may have to ask you
to lend a helping hand yet.'

The Dictator said these words with a purpose. He knew that the best way
to get a courageous woman to brace herself together for new effort and
new endurance was to make her believe that her personal help would still
be wanted.

'Oh, I--I am ready for anything,' she said fervently. 'Only tell me what
I am to do, and you will see that I can do it.'

'I trust you,' he answered quietly. Meanwhile his keen eyes were
wandering over the side of the house, where a light smoke told him of
fire. Time enough yet, he thought.

Ericson and Helena hurried into the house and up to the corridor, which
seemed to be the stage of the tragedy. Sir Rupert was there, and Mrs.
Sarrasin, and Miss Paulo, and the Duchess and her three maids, who, with
the instinct of discipline, had rallied round her when, like the three
hares in the old German folk-song, they found that they were not killed.

'Who are killed?' the Dictator asked anxiously but withal composedly. He
had seen men killed before.

'Poor Soame Rivers is killed,' Sir Rupert said sadly. 'The man who broke
into Sarrasin's room--your room, Ericson--_he_ is killed.'

'And Sarrasin himself?' Ericson asked, glancing away from Mrs. Sarrasin.

'Sarrasin is cut about on the shoulder--and of course he was stunned and
deafened. But nothing dangerous we all hope.'

'I have seen my husband,' Mrs. Sarrasin stoutly said; 'he will be as
well as ever before many days.'

'And one of the menservants is killed, I am sorry to say.'

'What about the American gentlemen?'

'I have sent to ask after them,' Sir Rupert innocently said. 'They are
both uninjured.'

'My countrymen,' said the Duchess, 'are bound to get through, like
myself. But they might come out and comfort us.'

'Well, I can do nothing here for the moment,' Ericson said; 'one end of
the house is on fire.'

'Oh, no!' Sir Rupert exclaimed.

'Yes; the east wing is on fire. I shall easily get it under. Send me a
lot of the grooms; they will be the readiest fellows. Let no one leave
the place, Sir Rupert, except these grooms. You give the order, please,
and let someone here see to it.'

'I'll see to it,' Mrs. Sarrasin promptly said. 'I will stand in the
doorway.'

'Shall I go with you?' Helena asked pathetically of Ericson.

'No, no. It would be only danger, and no use.'

Poor Soame Rivers! No use to him certainly. If Helena could only have
known! The one best and noblest impulse of his life had brought his life
to a premature end. He had deeply repented his suppression of the
warning telegram, although he had not for a moment believed that there
was the slightest foundation for real alarm. But it was borne in upon
him that, seeing what his hidden and ulterior views were, it was not
acting quite like an English gentleman to run the slightest risk in such
a case. His only conscience was to do as an English gentlemen ought to
do. If he had not loved--as far as he was capable of loving--Helena
Langley; if he had not hated--so far as he was capable of hating--the
man whom it hurt him to hear called the Dictator, then he might not have
judged his own conduct so harshly. But he had thought it over, and he
knew that he had crushed and suppressed the telegram out of a feeling of
spite, because he loved Helena, and for her sake hated the Dictator. He
could not accuse himself of having consciously given over the Dictator
to danger, for he did not believe at the time that there was any real
danger; but he condemned himself for having done a thing which was not
straightforward--which was not gentlemanly, and which was done out of
personal spite. So he made himself a watch-dog in the corridor. He went
to Hamilton's room, but he heard there the tones of Sarrasin's voice,
and he did not choose to take Sarrasin into his confidence. He went back
into his own room, and waited. Later on he crept out, having heard what
seemed to him suspicious footfalls at Ericson's door, and he stole
along, and just as he got to the door he became aware that a struggle
was going on inside, and he flung the door open, and then came the
explosion. He lived a few minutes, but Sarrasin saw him and knew him,
and could bear ready witness to his pluck and to the tragedy of his
fate.

'Come, Miss Paulo,' Helena said, 'we will go over the rooms and see what
is to be done. Papa, where is poor--Mr. Rivers?'

'I have had him taken to his room, Helena, although I know that was
_not_ what was right. He ought to have been allowed to remain where he
was found; but I couldn't leave him there--my poor dear friend! I had
known him since he was a child. I could not leave his body
there--disfigured and maimed, to lie in the open passage! Good heavens!'

'What brought him there, anyhow?' the Duchess asked sharply.

'He must have heard some noise, and was running to the rescue,' Helena
softly said. She was remorseful in her heart because she had not thought
more deeply about poor Soame Rivers. She had been too much charged with
gladness over the safety of her hero and the safety of her father.

'Like the brave comrade that he was,' Sir Rupert said mournfully. That
was Soame Rivers's epitaph.

Mrs. Sarrasin and Dolores had thoughts of their own. They knew that
there was something further to come, of which Sir Rupert and Helena had
no knowledge or even suspicion. They were content to wait until Ericson
came back. Curiously enough, no one seemed to be alarmed about the fact
that the house had caught fire in a wing quite near to them. The common
feeling was that the Dictator had taken that business in hand and that
he would put it through; and that in any case, if there were danger to
them, he would be sure to come in good time and tell them.

'I wonder our American friends have not come to look after us,' Helena
said.

'They are used to all sorts of accidents in their country,' Sir Rupert
explained. 'They don't mind such things there.'

'Excuse me, Sir Rupert,' the Duchess said, 'it's _my_ country--and
gentlemen _do_ look after ladies there, when there's any danger round.'

'Beg your pardon, Sir Rupert,' one of the footmen said, coming
respectfully but rather flushed towards the group, 'but this gentleman
wished to go out into the grounds, and his Excellency was very
particular in his orders that nobody was to go out until he came back.'

Mr. Copping of Omaha, fully dressed, tall hat in hand, presented himself
and joined the group.

'Pray excuse me, Sir Rupert--and you ladies,' Mr. Copping said; 'I just
thought I should like to have a look round to see what was happening;
but your hired men said it was against orders, and, as I suppose you
give the orders here, I thought I should just like to come and talk to
you.'

'I beg your pardon, Mr. Copping; I do in a general way give the orders
here, but Mr. Ericson just now is in command; he understands this sort
of thing much better than I do, and we have put it all into his hands
for the moment. The police will soon be here, but then our village
police----'

'Don't amount to much, I dare say.'

'You see there has been a terrible attempt made----'

'Oh, you allow it really was an attempt, then, and not an accident--gas
explosion or anything of the kind?'

'There is no gas in Seagate Hall,' Sir Rupert replied.

'Then you really think it was an explosion? Now, my friend and I, we
didn't quite figure it up that way.'

'Well, even a gas explosion, if there were any gas to explode, wouldn't
quite explain the presence of a strange man in Captain Sarrasin's room.'

'Then you think that it was an attempt on the life of Captain Sarrasin?'

Mrs. Sarrasin contracted her eyebrows. Was Mr. Copping indulging in a
sneer? Possibly some vague idea of the same kind grated on the nerves of
Sir Rupert.

'I haven't had time to make any conjectures that are worth talking about
as yet,' Sir Rupert said. 'Captain Sarrasin is not well enough yet to be
able to give us any clear account of himself.'

'He will very soon be able to give a very clear account,' Mrs. Sarrasin
said with emphasis.

'I have sent for doctors and police,' Sir Rupert observed.

'Before the house was put into a state of siege?'

'Before I had requested my friend Mr. Ericson to take command and do the
best he could,' Sir Rupert said, displeased, he hardly knew why, at Mr.
Copping's persistent questioning.

'The stranger who invaded Captain Sarrasin's room will have to explain
himself, won't he--when your police come along?'

'The stranger will not explain himself,' Sir Rupert said emphatically;
'he is dead.'

Mr. Copping had much power of self-control, but he did seem to start at
this news.

'Great Scott!' he exclaimed. 'Then I don't see how you are ever to get
at the truth of this story, Sir Rupert.'

'We shall get at the whole truth--every word--never fear,' Mrs. Sarrasin
said defiantly.

'We shall send for the local magistrates,' Sir Rupert said, 'of course.'
He was anxious, for the moment, to allow no bickerings. 'I am a
magistrate myself, but in such a case I should naturally rather leave it
to others. I have lost a dear friend by this abominable crime, Mr.
Copping.'

'So I hear, Sir Rupert--sorry to hear it, sir--so is my friend Professor
Flick.'

'Thank you--thank you both--you can understand then how I feel about the
matter, and how little I am likely to leave any stone unturned to bring
the murderers of my friend to justice. After the death of my friend
himself, I most deeply deplore the death of the man who made his way
into Sarrasin's room----'

'Yes, quite right, Sir Rupert; spoils the track, don't it?'

'But when Captain Sarrasin comes to he will tell us something.'

'He will,' Mrs. Sarrasin added earnestly.

'Well, I say,' Mr. Copping exclaimed, 'Professor Flick, and where have
you been all this time?'

The moony spectacles beamed not quite benevolently on the corridor.

'I don't quite understand, Sir Rupert Langley, sir,' the learned
Professor declared, 'why one is to be treated as a prisoner in a house
like this--a house like this, sir, in the truly hospitable home of an
English gentleman, and a statesman, and a Minister of her Majesty's
Crown of Great Britain----'

'If my esteemed and most learned friend,' Mr. Copping intervened, 'would
allow me to direct his really gigantic intellect to the fact that very
extraordinary events have occurred in this household, and that it is Sir
Rupert Langley's duty as a Minister of the Crown to take care that every
possible assistance is to be given to the proper authorities--and that
at such a time some regulations may be necessary which would not be
needed or imposed under other circumstances----'

'Precisely,' Sir Rupert said. 'Mr. Copping quite appreciates the extreme
gravity of the situation.'

'Come, let us go round, let us do something,' Helena said impatiently,
and she and the Duchess and Mrs. Sarrasin and Miss Paulo left the
corridor.

Meanwhile Mr. Copping had been sending furtive glances at his learned
friend, which, if they had only possessed the fabled power of the
basilisk, would assuredly have made things uncomfortable for Professor
Flick.

'Please, Sir Rupert,' a servant said, 'Mrs. Sarrasin wishes to ask could
you speak to her one moment?'

'Certainly, certainly,' Sir Rupert said, and he hastened away, leaving
the two distinguished friends together.

'Look here,' Copping exclaimed, with blazing eyes, 'if you are going to
get into one of your damnation cowardly fits I shall just have to stick
a knife into you.'

The learned Professor began with characteristic ineptitude to reply in
South American Spanish.

'Confound you,' Copping said in a fierce low tone and between his teeth,
'why do you talk Spanish? Haven't you given us trouble enough already
without that? Talk English--you don't know who may be listening to us.
Now look here, we shall come out of this all right if you can only keep
up your confounded courage. There's nothing against us if you don't give
us away. But just understand this, I am not going to be taken alone. If
I am to die, you are to die too--by my hand if it can't be done in any
other way.'

'I am not going to stop here,' the shivering Professor murmured, 'to die
like a poisoned rat in a hole. I'll get away--I must get away--out of
this accursed place, where you brought me.'

'Where I brought you? Could I have done anything better for you? Were
you or were you not under sentence of death? Was this or was it not your
last chance to escape the garrotte?'

'Well, I don't care about all that. I tell you if I have no better
chance left I shall appeal to the Dictator himself, and tell him the
whole story, and ask him to show me some mercy.'

'That you never, never shall!' Copping whispered ferociously into his
ear. 'You shall die by my hand before I leave this place if you don't
act with me and leave the place with me. Keep that in your mind as fast
as you can. You shall never leave this place alive unless you and I
leave it free men together. Remember that!'

'You are always bullying me,' the big man whimpered.

'Hold your tongue!' Copping said savagely. 'Here is Sir Rupert coming
back.'

Sir Rupert came back, and in a moment was followed by the Dictator.



CHAPTER XXVI

'WHEN ROGUES----'


'I have put out the fire, Sir Rupert,' Ericson said composedly, 'or,
rather, I have shown your men how to do it. It was not a very difficult
job after all, and they managed very well. They obeyed orders--that is
the good point about all Englishmen.'

'Well, what's to be done now?' Sir Rupert asked.

'Now? I don't know that there is much to be done now by us. We shall be
soon in the hands of the coroner, and the magistrates, and the police;
is not that the regular sort of thing?'

'Yes, I suppose we must put up with the ordinary conventionalities of
criminal administration. Our American friends, these two gentlemen here,
Professor Flick and Mr. Copping, they are rather anxious to be allowed
to go on their way. We have taken up some of their valuable time already
by bringing them down to this out-of-the-way sort of place.'

'Oh, but, Sir Rupert, 'twas so great an honour to us,' Mr. Copping said,
and a very keen observer might have fancied that he gave a glance to
Professor Flick which admonished him to join in protest against the
theory that any inconvenience could have come from the kindly acceptance
of an invitation to Seagate Hall.

'Of course, of course,' Professor Flick murmured perfunctorily.

'I don't see how we can release our friends just yet,' Ericson replied
quietly. 'There will be questions of evidence. These gentlemen may have
seen something you and I did not see, they may have heard something we
did not hear. But the delay will not be long in any case, I should
think, and meanwhile this is not a very disagreeable place to stay in,
now that we have succeeded in putting out the fire, and we don't expect
any more dynamite explosions.'

'Then the fire _is_ all out?' Sir Rupert asked, not hurriedly, but
certainly somewhat anxiously, as anxiously as a somewhat self-conscious
Minister of State could own up to.

'Yes, we have got it under completely,' the Dictator replied, as calmly
as if the putting out of fires were the natural business of his daily
life.

'Then perhaps we can let these gentlemen go,' Sir Rupert suggested, for
he felt a sort of unwillingness, being the host, to keep anyone under
his roof longer than the guest desired to tarry.

'No--no--I am afraid we can't do that just yet,' Ericson replied; 'we
shall all have to give our evidence--to tell what each of us knows. Our
American friends will not grudge remaining a little time longer with us
in order to help us to explain to our police authorities what this whole
thing is, and how it came about.'

'Delighted--delighted--I am sure--to stay here under any conditions,'
Mr. Copping hastened to say.

'But still, if one has other work to do,' Professor Flick was beginning
to articulate.

'My friend is very much occupied with his own special culture,' Mr.
Copping said in gentle explanation, 'and he does not quite live in the
ordinary world of men; but still, I think he will see how necessary it
is that we should stay here just for the present and add our testimony,
as impartial outsiders, to what the regular residents of the house may
have to tell.'

'I can tell nothing,' Professor Flick said bluntly, and yet with
curiously trembling lip.

'Oh, yes--you _can_,' his colleague added blandly; and again he flashed
a danger signal on the eyes that were alert enough when not actually
observed under the moony spectacles.

The signalled eyes under the moony spectacles received the danger signal
with something of impatience. The learned Professor seemed to be
beginning to think that the time had come in this particular business
for every man to drag his own corpse out of the fight. The influence of
Mr. Copping of Omaha had kept him in due control for awhile, but the
time was clearly coming when the Professor would kick over the traces
and give his friend from Omaha the good-bye. It was curious--it might
have been evident to anyone who was there and took notice--that the
parts of the two friends had changed of late. When the pair set out on
their London social expedition the Professor with his folk-lore was the
man deliberately put in front and the leader of the whole enterprise.
Now it seemed somehow as if the sceptre of the leadership had suddenly
and altogether passed into the hands of the quiet Mr. Andrew Copping of
Omaha. Ericson began to see something of this, and to be impressed by
it. But he said nothing to Sir Rupert; his own suspicions were only
suspicions as yet. He was trying to get two names back to his memory,
and he felt sure he had much better let events discover and display
themselves.

'Still, I don't quite know that _I_ can stay,' Professor Flick began to
argue. Mr. Copping struck impatiently in:

'Why, of course, Professor Flick, you have just got to stay. We are
bound to stay, don't you see? We must throw all the light we can on this
distressing business.'

'But I can't throw any light,' the hapless Professor said, 'upon
anything. And I came to England about folk-lore, and not about cases of
dynamite and fire and explosions.'

The dawn was now beginning to throw light on various things. It was
flooding the corridor--there were splashes of red sunlight on the
floors, which to the excited imagination of Helena seemed like little
pools of blood. There was a stained window in the corridor which
certainly caught the softest stream of the entering sunlight, and
transfigured it there and then into a stream of blood. Helena and the
Duchess had stolen back into the corridor; Mrs. Sarrasin and Miss Paulo
were in attendance on Captain Sarrasin; the Duchess and Helena both felt
in a vague manner that sense of being rather in the way which most women
feel when some serious business concerning men is going on, and they
have no particular mission to stanch a wound or smooth a pillow.

'I think, dear child,' the Duchess whispered, 'we had better go and
leave these men to themselves.'

But Helena's eyes were fixed on the Dictator's face. She had heard about
the easy way in which he had got the fire under, but just now she felt
sure that he was thinking of something quite different and something
very serious.

'Stay a moment, Duchess,' she entreated; 'they won't mind us--or my
father will tell us to go if they want us away.'

Then there was a little commotion caused by the arrival of the coroner
for that part of the county, two local doctors, and the local inspector
of police. The coroner, Mr. St. John Raven, was very proud of being
summoned to the house of so great a man as Sir Rupert Langley.
Mysterious deaths and mysterious crimes in the home of a Minister of
State are events that cannot happen in the lives of many coroners. The
doctors and the police inspector were less swelled up with pride. The
sore throat of a lady's maid would at any time bring a doctor to Seagate
Hall; the most commonplace burglary, without any question of jewels,
would summon the police inspector thither. After formal salutations, Mr.
St. John Raven looked doubtfully adown the corridor.

'I think,' he suggested, 'we had better, Sir Rupert, request these
ladies to withdraw--unless, of course, either is in a position to
contribute by personal evidence to the elucidation of the case. Of
course, if either can, or both----'

'I can't tell anything,' Helena said; 'I heard a crash, and that was
all--I felt as if I were in an earthquake; I know nothing more about
it.'

'I hardly know even so much,' the Duchess said, 'for I had not wits
enough left in me even to think about the earthquake. Come, dear child,
let us go.'

She made a sweeping bow to all the company. The coroner afterwards
learned that she was a Duchess, and was glad to have caught her eyes.

'I have summoned a jury,' the coroner said blandly. Sir Rupert winced.
The idea of having a coroner's jury in his home seemed a sort of
degradation to him. But so, too, did the idea of a dynamite explosion.
Even his genuine grief for poor Soame Rivers left room enough in his
breast for a very considerable stowage of vexation that the whole
confounded thing should have happened in his house. Grief is seldom so
arbitrary as to exclude vexation. The giant comes attended by his dwarf.

'Well, we shall have a look at everything,' the coroner said cheerily.
'I suppose we need not think of the possibility of a mere accident?'

And now Ericson found himself involuntarily, and voluntarily too,
working out that marvellous, never-to-be-explained problem about the
revival of a vanished memory. It is like the effort to bring back to
life a three-parts drowned creature. Or it is like the effort to get
some servant far down beneath you who has gone to sleep to rouse up and
obey your call and attend to his duty. You ring and ring and no answer
comes, until at last, when you have all but given up hope, the summons
tells upon the sleeper's ear and he wakes up and gives you his answer.

So it was with Ericson. Just as he thought the quest was hopeless, just
as he thought the last opportunity was slipping by, his sluggish
servant, Memory, woke up with a start, and fulfilled its duty.

And Ericson quietly put himself forward and said:

'I beg your pardon, Sir Rupert and Mr. Coroner, but I have to say
something in this matter. I have to charge these two men, who say they
are American citizens, with being escaped or released convicts from the
State prison of the capital of Gloria, in South America. I charge them
with being guilty of the plot for assassination and for dynamite in this
house. I say that their names are José Cano and Manoel Silva. I say it
was I who commuted the death sentence of these men to perpetual
imprisonment, and I say that in my firm conviction they have been let
loose to do these crimes.'

Sir Rupert seemed thunderstruck.

'My dear Ericson,' he pleaded. 'These gentleman are my guests.'

'I never remembered their names until this moment,' Ericson said. 'But
they are the men--and they are the murderers.'

The face of Professor Flick was livid with fear. Great pearls of
perspiration stood out on his forehead. Mr. Copping of Omaha stood
composed and firm, like a man with his back to the wall who just turns
up his sleeves and gets his sword and dagger ready and is prepared to
try the last chance--the very last.

'We are American citizens,' he said stoutly; 'the flag of the Stars and
Stripes defends us wherever we go.'

'God bless the flag of the Stars and Stripes,' Ericson exclaimed, 'and
if it shelters you I shall have nothing more to say. But only just try
if it will either claim you or shelter you. I remember now that you both
of you did take refuge for a long time in Southern California, but if
you prove yourselves American citizens, then you can be made to answer
to American reading of international law, and the flag of the Great
Republic will not shelter convicts from a prison in Gloria when they are
accused of dynamite outrage in England. Sir Rupert, Mr. Coroner, I have
only to ask you to do your duty.'

'This will be an international question,' Mr. Andrew Copping quietly
said. 'There will be a row over this.'

'No there won't,' Professor Flick declared abruptly. 'Look here, we have
made a muddle of this. My comrade in this business has been managing
things pretty badly; he always wanted to boss the show too much. Now I
am getting sick of all that, don't you see? I have had the dangerous
part always, and he has had the pleasure of bullying me. Now I am tired
of all that, and I have made up my mind, and I am just going to have the
bulge on him by turning--what do you call it?--Queen's evidence.'

Then Mr. Andrew Copping suddenly thrust himself into the front.

'No you don't--you bet you don't!' he exclaimed. 'You are a coward and a
traitor, and you shall never give Queen's evidence or any other evidence
against me.'

Those who stood around thought he was going to strike Professor Flick.
Some ran between, but they were not quick enough. Copping made one
clutch at his breast, and then, with a touch that seemed as light as if
he were merely throwing his hand into the air unpurposing, he made a
push at the breast of Professor Flick, and Professor Flick went down as
the bull goes down in the amphitheatre of Madrid or Seville when the
hand of the practised swordsman has touched him with the point in just
the place where he lived. Professor Flick, as he called himself, was
dead, and the whole plot was revealed and was over.

By a curious stroke of fate it was Ericson who caught the dying
Professor Flick as he fainted and died, and it was Hamilton who gripped
the murderer, the so-called Copping. Copping made no struggle; the
police took quiet charge of him--and of his weapon.

'Well, I think,' said Sir Rupert with a shudder, 'we have case enough
for a committal now.'

'We have occasion,' said the Coroner with functional gravity, 'for three
inquests; three?--no, pardon me, for four inquests, and for at least one
charge of deliberate murder.'

'Good Heaven, how coolly one takes it,' Sir Rupert murmured, 'when it
really does happen! Well, Mr. Coroner, Mr. Inspector, we must have a
warrant signed for Mr. Andrew J. Copping's detention--if he still
prefers to be called by that name.'

'Call me by any name you like,' Copping said sullenly, but pluckily. 'I
don't care what you call me or what you do to me, so long as I have had
the best of the traitor who deserted me in the fight. He'll not give any
Queen's evidence--that's all I care about--now. I'd have done the work
but for that coward; I'd have done the work if I had been alone!'

       *       *       *       *       *

Yet a little, and the silence and quietude of a perfectly serene and
ordered household had returned to Seagate Hall. The Coroner's jury had
viewed the dead, and then had gone off to the best public-house in the
village to hold their inquest. The dead themselves had been laid in
seemly beds. The Sicilian and the victimised serving-man were not
allowed to be seen by anyone but the Coroner and his jury, and the
police officials, and of course the doctors. Almost any wound may be
seen by courageous and kindly eyes that is not on the head and face. But
a destruction to the head and face is a sight that the bravest and most
kindly eyes had better not look upon unless they are trained against
shock and horror by long prosaic experience. The wounds of Soame Rivers
happened to be almost altogether in his chest and ribs--his chest was
well-nigh torn away--and when the doctors and the nurses made him up
seemly in his death-bed he might be looked upon without horror. He was
looked upon by Helena Langley without horror. She sat beside him, and
mourned over him, and cried over him, and wished that she could have
better appreciated him while he lived--and never did know, and never
will know, what was the act of treachery which had stirred him up to
remorse and to manhood, and which in fact had redeemed him, and had
caused his death.

Silence and order fell with subdued voice upon the house which had so
lately crashed with dynamite and rung with hurrying, scurrying feet. The
Coroner's jury had found a verdict of wilful murder against the man
describing himself as Andrew J. Copping of Omaha, for the killing of the
man describing himself as Professor Flick, and had found that the
calamities at Seagate Hall were the work of certain conspirators at
present not fully known, but of whom Andrew J. Copping, otherwise known
as Manoel Silva, was charged with being one. Then the whole question was
remitted into the hands of the magistrates and the police; and the
so-called Andrew J. Copping was sent to the County Gaol to await his
trial. The Dictator had little evidence to give except the fact of his
distinct recollection that two men, whose names he perfectly well
remembered now, but whose faces he could not identify, had been relieved
by him from the death penalty in Gloria, but had been sent to penal
servitude for life; and that he believed the men who called themselves
Flick and Copping were the two professional murderers. The fact could
easily be established by telegraph--had, as we know, been already
established--that the real Professor Flick, the authority on folk-lore,
had not yet reached England, but would soon be here on his way home. Not
many hours of investigation were needed to foreshadow the whole plan and
purpose of the conspiracy. In any case, it did not seem likely that the
man who called himself Andrew J. Copping would give himself any great
trouble to interfere with the regular course of justice. No matter how
often he was warned by the police officials that any words he chose to
utter would be taken down and used in evidence against him, he continued
to say with a kind of delight that he had done his work faithfully, and
that he could have done it quite successfully if he had not been mated
with a coward and a skunk, and that he didn't much care now what came of
him, since he didn't suppose they would let him loose and give him one
hour's chance again, and see if he couldn't work the thing somewhat
better than he had had a chance of doing before. If he had not trusted
too long to the courage and nerve of his comrade it would have been all
right, he said. His only remorse seemed to be in that self-accusation.

Sarrasin recovered consciousness in a few hours. As his plucky wife
said, it took a good deal to kill him. His story was clear. The
Sicilian--the Saffron Hill Sicilian--came into his room and tried to
kill him. Of course the Sicilian believed that he was trying to kill
Ericson. Sarrasin easily disarmed this pitiful assassin, and then came
the explosion. Sarrasin was perfectly clear in his mind that the
Sicilian had nothing to do with the explosion--that it was made from
without, and not from within the door. His own theory was clear from the
beginning, and was in perfect harmony with the theory which the Dictator
had formed at the time of the abortive attempt at assassination in St.
James's Park. Then a miserable stabber of the class familiar to every
South Italian or South American town was hired at a good price to do a
vulgar job which, if it only succeeded, would satisfy easily and cheaply
the business of those who hired the murderer. The scheme failed, and
something more subtle had to be sought. The something more subtle,
according to Sarrasin, was found in the rehiring of the same creature to
do a deed which he was told would be made quite easy for him--the
smuggling him into the house to do the deed; and then the surrounding of
the deed with conditions which would at the same moment make him seem
the sole actor in the deed, and destroy at once his life and his
evidence. The real assassins, Sarrasin felt assured, had no doubt that
their hireling would get a fair way on the road to his business of
assassination, and then a well-timed dynamite cartridge would make sure
his work, and would make sure also that he never could appear in
evidence against the men who had set him on.

Thus it was that Sarrasin reasoned out the case from the first moment of
his returning senses, and to this theory he held. But one of the first
painful sensations in Sarrasin's mind--when he realised, appreciated,
and enjoyed the fact that he was still alive--that his wife was still
alive--that they were still left to live for one another--one of the
first painful sensations in his mind was that he could not go out with
the Dictator to his landing in Gloria. It was clear to the stout old
soldier that it must take some time before he could be of any personal
use to any cause; and, despite of himself, he knew that he must regard
himself as an invalid. It was a hard stroke of ill-luck. Still, he had
known such strokes of ill-luck before. It had happened to him many a
time to be stricken down in the first hour of a battle, and to be sent
forthwith to the rear, and to lose the whole story of the struggle, and
yet to pull through and fight another day--many other days. So Sarrasin
took his wife's hand in his and whispered, 'We may have a chance yet; it
may not all be settled so soon as some of them think.'

Mrs. Sarrasin comforted him.

'If it can be all settled without us, darling, so much the better! If it
takes time and trouble, well, we shall be there.'

Consoled and encouraged by her sympathetic and resolute words, Sarrasin
fell into a sound and wholesome sleep.



CHAPTER XXVII

'SINCE IT IS SO!'


Helena had often before divined the Dictator. Now at last she realised
him. She had divined him in spite of her own doubts at one time--or
perhaps because of her own doubts, or the doubts put into her mind by
other minds and other tongues. She had always felt assured that the
Dictator was there--had felt certain that he must be there--and now at
last she knew that he was there. She had faith in him as one may have
faith in some sculptor whose masterpiece one has not yet seen. We
believe in the work because we know the man, although we have not yet
seen him in his work. We know that he has won fame, and we know that he
is not a man likely to put up with a fame undeserved. So we wait
composedly for the unveiling of his statue, and when it is unveiled we
find in it simply the justification of our faith. It was so with Helena
Langley. She felt sure that whenever her hero got the chance he would
prove himself a hero--show himself endowed with the qualities of a
commander-in-chief. Now she knew it. She had seen the living proof of
it. She had seen him tried by the test of a thoroughly new situation,
and she had seen that he had not wasted one moment on mere surprise. She
had seen how quickly he had surveyed the whole scene of danger, and how
in the flash of one moment's observation he had known what was to be
done--and what alone was to be done. She had seen how he had taken
command by virtue of his knowledge that at such a moment of confusion,
bewilderment, and danger, the command came to him by right of the
fittest.

The heart of the girl swelled with pride; and she felt a pride even in
herself, because she had so instinctively recognised and appreciated
him. She told herself that she must really be worth something when she
had from the very beginning so thoroughly appreciated him. Of course, a
romantic girl's wild enthusiasm might also have been a romantic girl's
wild mistake. The Dictator had, after all, only shown the qualities of
courage and coolness with which his enemies as well as his friends had
always credited him. The elaborate and craftily got-up attack upon him
would never have been concerted--would never have had occasion to be
concerted--but that his enemies regarded him as a most dangerous and
formidable opponent. Even in her hurried thoughts of the moment Helena
took in all this. But the knowledge made her none the less proud.

'Of course,' she thought, 'they knew what a danger and a terror he was
to them, and now I know it as well as they do; but I knew it all along,
and now they--they themselves--have justified my appreciation of him.'
All the time she had a shrinking, sickening terror in her heart about
further plots and future dangers. Some of Ericson's own words lingered
in her memory--words about the impossibility of finding any real
protection against the attempt of the fanatic assassin who takes his own
life in his hand, and is content to die the moment he has taken the life
of his victim.

This was the all but absorbing thought in Helena's mind just then. _His_
life was in danger; he had escaped this late attempt, and it had been a
serious one, and had deluged a house in blood, and what chance was there
that he might escape another? He would go out to Gloria, and even on the
very voyage he might be assassinated, and she would not be there,
perhaps to protect him--at all events, to be with him--and she did not
know, even know whether he cared about her--whether he would miss
her--whether she counted for anything in his thoughts and his plans and
his life--whether he would remember or whether he would forget her. She
was in a highly strung, and, if the expression may be used, an exalted
frame of mind. She had not slept much. After all the wildness of the
disturbance was over Sir Rupert had insisted on her going to bed and not
getting up until luncheon-time, and she had quietly submitted, and had
been undressed, and had slept a little in a fitful, upstarting sort of
way; and at last noon came, and she soon got up again, and bathed, and
prepared to be very heroic and enduring and self-composed. She was much
in the habit of going into the conservatory before luncheon, and Ericson
had often found her there; and perhaps she had in her own mind a
lingering expectation that if he got back from the village, and the
coroner, and the magistrates, and all the rest of it, in time, he would
come to the conservatory and look for her. She wanted him to go to
Gloria--oh, yes--of course, she wanted him to go--he was going perhaps
that very day; but she did not want him to go before he had spoken to
her--alone--alone. We have said that she did not know whether he cared
about her or not. So she told herself. But did not an instinct the other
way drive her into that conservatory where they had met before about the
same hour of the day--on less fateful days?

The house looked quiet and peaceful enough now under the clear, poetic
melancholy of an autumn sunlight. The musical Oriental bells--a set the
same as those that Helena had established in the London house--rang out
their announcement or warning that luncheon-time was coming as blithely
as though the house were not a mournful hospital for the sick and for
the dead. Helena was moving slowly, sadly, in the conservatory. She did
not care to affront the glare of the open, and outer day. Suddenly
Ericson came dreamily in, and he flushed at seeing her, and her cheek
hung out involuntarily, unwillingly, its red flag in reply. There was a
moment of embarrassment and silence.

'All these terrible things will not alter your plans?' she asked, in a
voice curiously timid for her.

'My plans about Gloria?'

'Yes; I mean your plans about Gloria.'

'Oh, no; I have not much evidence to offer. You see, I can only give the
police a clue--I can't do more than that. I have been to the inquest and
have told that I remember the crimes of these men and their names, but I
cannot identify either of the men personally. As soon as I get out to
Gloria I shall make it all clear. But until then I can only put the
police here on the track.'

'Then you _are_ going?' she asked in pathetic tone. The truth is, that
she was not much thinking about the chances of justice being done to the
murderers--even to the murderers of poor Soame Rivers. She was thinking
of Ericson's going away.

'Yes, I am going,' he said. 'My duty and my destiny--if I may speak in
that grandiose sort of style--call me that way.'

'I know it,' Helena said; 'I would not have it otherwise.'

'And I know _that_,' he replied tenderly, 'because I know you,
Helena--and I know what a mind and what a heart you have. Do you think
it costs me no pang to leave you?' She looked up at him amazed, and then
let her eyes droop. Her courage had all gone. If the women who
constantly kept saying that she was forward with men could only have
seen her now!

'Are you really sorry to leave me?' she asked at last. 'Shall you miss
me when you go?'

'Am I sorry to leave you? Shall I miss you when I go? Do you really not
guess how dear you are to me, how I love your companionship--and
you--you--you!'

'Oh, I did _not_ know it,' she said. 'But I do know----'. She could not
get on.

'You do know--what?' he asked tenderly, and he took one hand of hers in
his, and she did not draw it away. The moment had come. Each knew it.

'I know that I love you,' she said in a passionate whisper. 'I know that
you are my hero and my idol! There!'

He only kissed her hand.

'Then you will wait for me?' he asked.

'Wait for you--wait here--_without_ you?'

'Until I have won my fight, and can claim you.'

'Oh!' she exclaimed in passion of love and grief and fear, 'how could I
live here without you, and know that you were in danger? No, I
couldn't--couldn't--couldn't! That wouldn't be love--not my
love--no--not _my_ love!'

For a moment even the thought of a rescued Gloria was pushed back in the
Dictator's mind.

'Since it is so,' said the Dictator, not without a gasp in his throat as
he said it, 'come with me, Helena.'

'Oh, thank God, and thank _you_!' the girl cried. 'See here--this is
your birthday, and I had no birthday-gift ready to give you. Ah, I have
been thinking so much about you--about _you_, you _yourself_--that I
forgot your birthday. But now I remember; and here is a birthday-gift
for you--the best I can give!' And she seized his hand and kissed it
fervently.

'Helena,' the Dictator said, with an emotion that he tried in vain to
repress, 'let me thank you for your birthday-gift.' And he lifted her
head towards him and kissed her lips.

'I am to go with you?' she asked fervently, gazing up into his eyes with
her own tear-stained, anxious, wistful eyes.

'You are to go with me,' he answered quietly, 'wherever I go, to my
death, or to yours.'

'Oh,' she exclaimed, 'how happy I am! At last at last, I _am_ happy!'

She was clinging around his neck. He gently, tenderly, lifted her arms
from him, and held her a little apart, and looked at her with a proud
affection and a love before which her eyes drooped. She was overborne by
the rush of her own too great happiness. What did she care whether they
succeeded or failed in their enterprise on Gloria? What did she care
about being the Dictatress, if there be any such word, of Gloria? Alas!
what did she care in that proud, selfish moment for the future and the
prosperity of Gloria? She was only thinking that _he_ loved her, and
that she was to be allowed to go with him to the very last, that she was
to be allowed to die with him. For she had not at that moment the
faintest hope or thought of being allowed to live with him. Her horizon
was much more limited. She could only think that they would go out to
Gloria and get killed there, together. But was not that enough? They
would be killed together. What better could she ask or hope? Youth is
curiously generous with its life-blood. It delights to think of throwing
life away, not merely for some beloved being, but even with some beloved
being. As time goes on and the span of life shrinks, the seeming value
of life swells, and the old man is content to outlive his old wife, the
old wife to outlive the husband of her youth.

'You are fit to be an empress!' the Dictator exclaimed, and he pressed
her again to his heart. He did not overrate her courage and her
devotion, but, being a man, he a little--just a little--misunderstood
her. She was not thinking of empire, she was thinking of _him_. She was
not thinking of sharing power with him. Her heart was swollen with joy
at the thought that she was to be allowed to share danger and death with
him. It is not easy for a daring, ambitious man to enter into such
thoughts. They are the property, and the copyright, and the birthright
of woman.

But Helena was pleased and proud indeed that he had called her fit to be
an empress. Fit to be _his_ empress: what praise beyond that could human
voice give to her? Her face flushed crimson with delight and pride, and
she stood on tiptoe up to him and kissed him.

Then she started away, for the door of the conservatory opened. But she
returned to him again.

'See!' Helena exclaimed triumphantly, 'here is my father!' And she
caught the Dictator's hand in hers and drew it to her breast.

This was the sight that showed itself to a father's eyes. Sir Rupert had
not thought of anything like this. He was utterly thrown out of his
mental orbit for the moment. He had never thought of his daughter as
thus demonstrative and thus unashamed.

'Was this well done, Helena?' he asked, more sadly than sternly.

'Bravely done--by Helena,' the Dictator exclaimed; 'well done as all is,
as everything is, that _is_ done by Helena!'

'At least you might have told me of this, Ericson,' Sir Rupert said,
turning on the Dictator, and glad to have a man to dispute with. 'You
might have forewarned me of all this.'

'I could not forewarn you, Sir Rupert, of what I did not know myself.'

'Did not know yourself?'

'Not until a very few minutes ago.'

'Did you not know that you were making love to my daughter?'

'Until just now--just before you came in--I did not make love to your
daughter.'

'Oh, it was the girl who made love to you, I suppose!'

The Dictator's eyes flashed fire for a second and then were calm again.
Even in that moment he could feel for Helena's father.

'I never knew until now,' he said quietly, 'that your daughter cared
about me in any way but the beaten way of friendship. I have been in
love with Helena this long time--these months and months.'

'Oh!'

This interrupting exclamation came from Helena. It was simply an
inarticulate cry of joy and triumph. Ericson looked tenderly down upon
her. She was standing close to him--clinging to him--pressing his hand
against her heart.

'Yes, Sir Rupert, I have been in love with your daughter this long time,
but I never gave her the least reason to suspect that I was in love with
her.'

'No, indeed, he never did,' Helena interrupted again. 'Don't you think
it was very unfair of him, papa? He might have made me happy so much
sooner!'

Sir Rupert looked half-angrily, half-tenderly, at this incorrigible
girl. In his heart he knew that he was conquered already.

'I never told her, Sir Rupert,' the Dictator went on, 'because I did not
believe it possible that she could care about me, and because, even if
she did, I did not think that her bright young life could be made to
share the desperate fortunes of a life like mine. Just now, on the eve
of parting--at the thought of parting--we both broke down, I suppose,
and we knew each other--and then--and then--you came in.'

'And I am very glad you did, papa!' Helena exclaimed enthusiastically;
'it saved such a lot of explanation.'

Helena was quite happy. It had not entered into her thoughts to suppose
that her father would seriously put himself against any course of action
concerning herself which she had set her heart upon. The pain of parting
with her father--of knowing that she was leaving him to a lonely life
without her--had not yet come up and made itself real in her mind. She
could only think that her hero loved her, and that he knew she loved
him. It was the sacred, sanctified selfishness of love.

Helena's raptures fell coldly on her father's ears. Sir Rupert saw life
looking somewhat blankly before him.

'Ericson,' he said, 'I am sorry if I have said anything to hurt you. Of
course, I might have known that you would act in everything like a man
of honour--and a gentleman; but the question now is, What do you propose
to do?'

'Oh, papa, what nonsense!' Helena said.

'What do I propose to do, Sir Rupert?' the Dictator asked, quite
composedly now. 'I propose to accept the sacrifice that Helena is
willing to make. I have never importuned her to make it, I never asked
her or even wished her to make it. She does it of her own accord, and I
take her love and herself as a gift from Heaven. I do not stop any
longer to think of my own unworthiness; I do not stop any longer even to
think of the life of danger into which I may be bringing her; she
desires to cast in her lot with mine, and may God do as much and more to
me if I refuse to accept the life that is given to me!'

'Well, well, well!' Sir Rupert said, perplexed by these exalted people
and sentiments, and at the same time a good deal in sympathy with the
people and the sentiments. 'But in the meantime what do you propose to
do? I presume that you, Ericson, will go out to Gloria at once?'

'At once,' Ericson assented.

'And then, if you can establish yourself there--I mean when you have
established yourself there, and are quite secure and all that--you will
come back here and marry Helena?'

'Oh, no, papa dear,' Helena said, 'that is not the programme at all.'

'Why not? What _is_ the programme?'

'Well, if my intended husband waited for all that before coming to marry
me, he might wait for ever, so far as I am concerned.'

'I don't understand you,' Sir Rupert said almost angrily. His patience
was beginning to be worn out.

'Dear, I shall make it very plain. I am not going to let my husband put
through all the danger and get through all the trouble, and then come
home for me that I may enjoy all the triumph and all the comfort. If
that is his idea of a woman's place, all right, but he must get some
other girl to marry him. "Some girls will,"' Helena went on, breaking
irreverently into a line of a song from a burlesque, '"but this girl
won't!"'

'But you see, Helena,' Sir Rupert said almost peevishly, 'you don't seem
to have thought of things. I don't want to be a wet blanket, or a
prophet of evil omen, or any of that sort of thing; but there may be
accidents, you know, and miscalculations, and failures even, and things
may go wrong with this enterprise, no matter how well planned.'

'Yes, I have thought of all that. That is exactly where it is, dear.'

'Where what is, Helena?'

'Dear, where my purpose comes in. If there is going to be a failure, if
there is going to be a danger to the man I love--well, I mean to be in
it too. If he fails, it will cost his life; if it costs his life, I want
it to cost my life too.'

'You might have thought a little of _me_, Helena,' her father said
reproachfully. 'You might have remembered that I have no one but you.'

Helena burst into tears.

'Oh, my father, I did think of you--I do think of you always; but this
crisis is beyond me and above us both. I have thought it out, and I
cannot do anything else than what I am prepared to do. I have thought it
over night after night, again and again--I have prayed for guidance--and
I see no other way! You know,' and a smile began to show itself through
her tears, 'long before I knew that he loved me I was always thinking
what I ought to do, supposing he _did_ love me! And then, papa dear, if
I were to remain at home, and to marry a marquis, or an alderman, or a
man from Chicago, I might get diphtheria and die, and who would be the
better for _that_--except, perhaps, the marquis, or the alderman, or the
man from Chicago?'

'Look here, Sir Rupert,' the Dictator said, 'let me tell you that at
first I was not inclined to listen to this pleading of your daughter. I
thought she did not understand the sacrifice she was making. But she has
conquered me--she has shown me that she is in earnest--and I have caught
the inspiration of her spirit and her generous self-sacrifice, and I
have not the heart to resist her--I dare not refuse her. She shall come,
in God's name!'

       *       *       *       *       *

Before many weeks there came to the London morning papers a telegram
from the principal seaport of Gloria.

'His Excellency President Ericson, ex-Dictator of Gloria, has just
landed with his young wife and his secretary, Mr. Hamilton, and has been
received with acclamation by the populace everywhere. The Reactionary
Government by whom he was exiled have been overthrown by a great rising
of the military and the people. Some of the leaders have escaped across
the frontier into Orizaba, the State to which they had been trying to
hand over the Republic. The Dictator will go on at once to the capital,
and will there reorganise his army, and will promptly move on to the
frontier to drive back the invading force.'

There came, too, a private telegram from Helena to her father, concocted
with a reckless disregard of the cost per word of a submarine message
from South America to London.

'My darling Papa,--It is so glorious to be the wife of a patriot and a
hero, and I am so happy, and I only wish you could be here.'

When Captain Sarrasin gets well enough, he and his wife will go out to
Gloria, and it is understood that at the special request of Hamilton,
and of some one else too, they will take Dolores Paulo out with them.

For which other reason, as for many more, we wish success and freedom,
and stability and progress to the Republic of Gloria, and happiness to
the Dictator, and to all whom he has in charge.



       *       *       *       *       *



               _OPINIONS OF THE PRESS_ ON THE DICTATOR.


'In Mr. McCarthy's novels we are always certain of finding humour,
delicate characterisation, and an interesting story; but they are
chiefly attractive, we think, by the evidence they bear upon every page
of being written by a man who knows the world well, who has received a
large and liberal education in the university of life. In "The Dictator"
Mr. McCarthy is in his happiest vein. The life of London--political,
social, artistic--eddies round us. We assist at its most brilliant
pageants, we hear its superficial, witty, and often empty chatter, we
catch whiffs of some of its finer emotions.... The brilliantly sketched
personalities stand out delicately and incisively individualised. Mr.
McCarthy's light handling of his theme, the alertness and freshness of
his touch, are admirably suited to the picture he paints of contemporary
London life.'--Daily News.

'"The Dictator" is bright, sparkling, and entertaining.... Few novelists
are better able to describe the political and social eddies of
contemporary society in the greatest city in the world than Mr.
McCarthy; and this novel abounds in vivid and picturesque sidelights,
drawn with a strong and simple touch.'--Leeds Mercury.

'This is a pleasant and entertaining story.... A book to be read by an
open window on a sunny afternoon between luncheon and tea.'--Daily
Chronicle.

'Mr. McCarthy's story is pleasant reading.'--Scotsman.

'As a work of literary art the book is excellent.'--Glasgow
Herald.

'"The Dictator" is bright, sparkling, and entertaining. The book might
almost be described as a picture of modern London. It abounds in vivid
and picturesque sidelights, drawn with a strong touch.'--Leeds
Mercury.

'In "The Dictator" the genial leader of the Irish party writes as
charmingly as ever. His characters are as full of life, as exquisitely
portrayed, and as true to nature as anything that is to be found in
fiction, and there is the same subtle fascination of plot and incident
that has already procured for the author of "Dear Lady Disdain" his
select circle of admirers.... The nicety of style, the dainty wholesome
wit, and the ever-present freshness of idea that pervade it render the
reading of it a positive feast of pleasure. It is the work of a man of
the world and a gentleman, of a man of letters, and of a keen observer
of character and manners.'--Colonies and India.





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