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Title: Checkmate
Author: Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan, 1814-1873
Language: English
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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.

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  [ Transcriber's Notes:

    Every effort has been made to replicate this text as faithfully
    as possible, including inconsistencies in spelling and hyphenation.
    Some corrections of spelling and punctuation have been made. They
    are listed at the end of the text.

    Italic text has been marked with _underscores_.
  ]



CHECKMATE



BY THE SAME AUTHOR


  GUY DEVERELL
  ALL IN THE DARK
  THE WYVERN MYSTERY
  THE COCK AND ANCHOR
  WYLDER'S HAND
  THE WATCHER
  CHECKMATE
  ROSE AND THE KEY
  TENANTS OF MALLORY
  WILLING TO DIE
  GOLDEN FRIARS
  THE EVIL GUEST



  Checkmate

  BY
  J. S. LE FANU

  Downey & Co.
  12 York St.
  Covent Garden.



CONTENTS.


   CHAPTER                                                   PAGE

        I. MORTLAKE HALL,                                       1

       II. MARTHA TANSEY,                                       7

      III. MR. LONGCLUSE OPENS HIS HEART,                      13

       IV. MONSIEUR LEBAS,                                     17

        V. A CATASTROPHE,                                      22

       VI. TO BED,                                             26

      VII. FAST FRIENDS,                                       31

     VIII. CONCERNING A BOOT,                                  38

       IX. THE MAN WITHOUT A NAME,                             43

        X. THE ROYAL OAK,                                      48

       XI. THE TELEGRAM ARRIVES,                               55

      XII. SIR REGINALD ARDEN,                                 62

     XIII. ON THE ROAD,                                        68

      XIV. MR. LONGCLUSE'S BOOT FINDS A TEMPORARY ASYLUM,      72

       XV. FATHER AND SON,                                     79

      XVI. A MIDNIGHT MEETING,                                 84

     XVII. MR. LONGCLUSE AT MORTLAKE HALL,                     91

    XVIII. THE PARTY IN THE DINING-ROOM,                       96

      XIX. IN MRS. TANSEY'S ROOM,                             103

       XX. MRS. TANSEY'S STORY,                               108

      XXI. A WALK BY MOONLIGHT,                               115

     XXII. MR. LONGCLUSE MAKES AN ODD CONFIDENCE,             120

    XXIII. THE MEETING,                                       125

     XXIV. MR. LONGCLUSE FOLLOWS A SHADOW,                    129

      XXV. A TETE-A-TETE,                                     133

     XXVI. THE GARDEN AT MORTLAKE,                            137

    XXVII. WINGED WORDS,                                      141

   XXVIII. STORIES ABOUT MR. LONGCLUSE,                       147

     XXIX. THE GARDEN PARTY,                                  153

      XXX. HE SEES HER,                                       158

     XXXI. ABOUT THE GROUNDS,                                 161

    XXXII. UNDER THE LIME-TREES,                              167

   XXXIII. THE DERBY,                                         171

    XXXIV. A SHARP COLLOQUY,                                  174

     XXXV. DINNER AT MORTLAKE,                                179

    XXXVI. MR. LONGCLUSE SEES A LADY'S NOTE,                  183

   XXXVII. WHAT ALICE COULD SAY,                              188

  XXXVIII. GENTLEMEN IN TROUBLE,                              192

    XXXIX. BETWEEN FRIENDS,                                   196

       XL. AN INTERVIEW IN THE STUDY,                         199

      XLI. VAN APPOINTS HIMSELF TO A DIPLOMATIC POST,         203

     XLII. DIPLOMACY,                                         206

    XLIII. A LETTER AND A SUMMONS,                            209

     XLIV. THE REASON OF ALICE'S NOTE,                        213

      XLV. COLLISION,                                         219

     XLVI. AN UNKNOWN FRIEND,                                 224

    XLVII. BY THE RIVER,                                      229

   XLVIII. SUDDEN NEWS,                                       232

     XLIX. VOWS FOR THE FUTURE,                               236

        L. UNCLE DAVID'S SUSPICIONS,                          239

       LI. THE SILHOUETTE,                                    244

      LII. MR. LONGCLUSE EMPLOYED,                            248

     LIII. THE NIGHT OF THE FUNERAL,                          252

      LIV. AMONG THE TREES,                                   258

       LV. MR. LONGCLUSE SEES A FRIEND,                       262

      LVI. A HOPE EXPIRES,                                    266

     LVII. LEVI'S APOLOGUE,                                   272

    LVIII. THE BARON COMES TO TOWN,                           276

      LIX. TWO OLD FRIENDS MEET AND PART,                     281

       LX. "SAUL,"                                            286

      LXI. A WAKING DREAM,                                    290

     LXII. LOVE AND PLAY,                                     295

    LXIII. PLANS,                                             300

     LXIV. FROM FLOWER TO FLOWER,                             304

      LXV. BEHIND THE ARRAS,                                  311

     LXVI. A BUBBLE BROKEN,                                   313

    LXVII. BOND AND DEED,                                     317

   LXVIII. SIR RICHARD'S RESOLUTION,                          322

     LXIX. THE MEETING,                                       326

      LXX. MR. LONGCLUSE PROPOSES,                            329

     LXXI. NIGHT,                                             332

    LXXII. MEASURES,                                          336

   LXXIII. AT THE BAR OF THE "GUY OF WARWICK,"                341

    LXXIV. A LETTER,                                          346

     LXXV. BLIGHT AND CHANGE,                                 351

    LXXVI. PHŒBE CHIFFINCH,                                   356

   LXXVII. MORE NEWS OF PAUL DAVIES,                          360

  LXXVIII. THE CATACOMBS,                                     364

    LXXIX. RESURRECTIONS,                                     371

     LXXX. ANOTHER,                                           376

    LXXXI. BROKEN,                                            379

   LXXXII. DOPPELGANGER,                                      384

  LXXXIII. A SHORT PARTING,                                   388

   LXXXIV. AT MORTLAKE,                                       393

    LXXXV. THE CRISIS,                                        399

   LXXXVI. PURSUIT,                                           406

  LXXXVII. CONCLUSION,                                        412



CHECKMATE.



CHAPTER I.

MORTLAKE HALL.


There stands about a mile and a half beyond Islington, unless it has
come down within the last two years, a singular and grand old house. It
belonged to the family of Arden, once distinguished in the Northumbrian
counties. About fifty acres of ground, rich with noble clumps and masses
of old timber, surround it; old-world fish-ponds, with swans sailing
upon them, tall yew hedges, quincunxes, leaden fauns and goddesses, and
other obsolete splendours surround it. It rises, tall, florid, built of
Caen stone, with a palatial flight of steps, and something of the grace
and dignity of the genius of Inigo Jones, to whom it is ascribed, with
the shadows of ancestral trees and the stains of two centuries upon it,
and a vague character of gloom and melancholy, not improved by some
indications not actually of decay, but of something too like neglect.

It is now evening, and a dusky glow envelopes the scene. The setting sun
throws its level beams, through tall drawing-room windows, ruddily upon
the Dutch tapestry on the opposite walls, and not unbecomingly lights up
the little party assembled there.

Good-natured, fat Lady May Penrose, in her bonnet, sips her tea and
chats agreeably. Her carriage waits outside. You will ask who is that
extremely beautiful girl who sits opposite, her large soft grey eyes
gazing towards the western sky with a look of abstraction, too forgetful
for a time of her company, leaning upon the slender hand she has placed
under her cheek. How silken and golden-tinted the dark brown hair that
grows so near her brows, making her forehead low, and marking with its
broad line the beautiful oval of her face! Is there carmine anywhere to
match her brilliant lips? And when, recollecting something to tell Lady
May, she turns on a sudden, smiling, how soft and pretty the dimples,
and how even the little row of pearls she discloses!

This is Alice Arden, whose singularly handsome brother Richard, with
some of her tints and outlines translated into masculine beauty, stands
leaning on the back of a prie-dieu chair, and chatting gaily.

But who is the thin, tall man--the only sinister figure in the
group--with one hand in his breast, the other on a cabinet, as he leans
against the wall? Who is that pale, thin-lipped man, "with cadaverous
aspect and broken beak," whose eyes never seem to light up, but maintain
their dismal darkness while his pale lips smile? Those eyes are fixed on
the pretty face of Alice Arden, as she talks to Lady May, with a
strangely intense gaze. His eyebrows rise a little, like those of
Mephistopheles, towards his temples, with an expression that is
inflexibly sarcastic, and sometimes menacing. His jaw is slightly
underhung, a formation which heightens the satirical effect of his
smile, and, by contrast, marks the depression of his nose.

There was at this time in London a Mr. Longcluse, an agreeable man, a
convenient man, who had got a sort of footing in many houses, nobody
exactly knew how. He had a knack of obliging people when they really
wanted a trifling kindness, and another of holding fast his advantage,
and, without seeming to push, or ever appearing to flatter, of
maintaining the acquaintance he had once founded. He looked about
eight-and-thirty: he was really older. He was gentlemanlike, clever, and
rich; but not a soul of all the men who knew him had ever heard of him
at school or college. About his birth, parentage, and education, about
his "life and adventures," he was dark.

How were his smart acquaintance made? Oddly, as we shall learn when we
know him a little better. It was a great pity that there were some odd
things said about this very agreeable, obliging, and gentlemanlike
person. It was a pity that more was not known about him. The man had
enemies, no doubt, and from the sort of reserve that enveloped him their
opportunity arose. But were there not about town hundreds of men, well
enough accepted, about whose early days no one cared a pin, and
everything was just as dark?

Now Mr. Longcluse, with his pallid face, his flat nose, his sarcastic
eyebrows, and thin-lipped smile, was overlooking this little company,
his shoulder leaning against the frame that separated two pieces of the
pretty Dutch tapestry which covered the walls.

"By-the-bye, Mr. Longcluse--you can tell me, for you always know
everything," said Lady May--"is there still any hope of that poor
child's recovering--I mean the one in that dreadful murder in Thames
Street, where the six poor little children were stabbed?"

Mr. Longcluse smiled.

"I'm so glad, Lady May, I can answer you upon good authority! I stopped
to-day to ask Sir Edwin Dudley that very question through his carriage
window, and he said that he had just been to the hospital to see the
poor little thing, and that it was likely to do well."

"I'm so glad! And what do they say can have been the motive of the
murder?"

"Jealousy, they say; or else the man is mad."

"I should not wonder. I'm sure I hope he is. But they should take care
to put him under lock and key."

"So they will, rely on it; that's a matter of course."

"I don't know how it is," continued Lady May, who was garrulous, "that
murders interest people so much, who ought to be simply shocked at
them."

"We have a murder in our family, you know," said Richard Arden.

"That was poor Henry Arden--I know," she answered, lowering her voice
and dropping her eyes, with a side glance at Alice, for she did not know
how she might like to hear it talked of.

"Oh, that happened when Alice was only five months old, I think," said
Richard; and slipping into the chair beside Lady May, he laid his hand
upon hers with a smile, and whispered, leaning towards her--

"You are always so thoughtful; it is _so_ nice of you!"

And this short speech ended, his eyes remained fixed for some seconds,
with a glow of tender admiration, on those of fat Lady May, who simpered
with effusion, and did not draw her hand away until she thought she saw
Mr. Longcluse glance their way.

It was quite true, all he said of Lady May. It would not be easy to find
a simpler or more good-natured person. She was very rich also, and, it
was said by people who love news and satire, had long been willing to
share her gold and other chattels with handsome Richard Arden, who being
but five-and-twenty, might very nearly have been her son.

"I remember that horrible affair," said Mr. Longcluse, with a little
shrug and a shake of his head. "Where was I then--Paris or Vienna? Paris
it was. I recollect it all now, for my purse was stolen by the very man
who made his escape--Mace was his name; he was a sort of low man on the
turf, I believe. I was very young then--somewhere about seventeen, I
think."

"You can't have been more, of course," said good-natured Lady May.

"I should like very much some time to hear all about it," continued Mr.
Longcluse.

"So you shall," said Richard, "whenever you like."

"Every old family has a murder, and a ghost, and a beauty also, though
she does not always live and breathe, except in the canvas of Lely, or
Kneller, or Reynolds: and they, you know, had roses and lilies to give
away at discretion, in their paint-boxes, and were courtiers," remarked
Mr. Longcluse, "who dealt sometimes in the old-fashioned business of
making compliments. _I_ say happy the man who lives in those summers
when the loveliness of some beautiful family culminates, and who may, at
ever such a distance, gaze and worship."

This ugly man spoke in a low tone, and his voice was rather sweet. He
looked as he spoke at Miss Arden, from whom, indeed, his eyes did not
often wander.

"Very prettily said!" applauded Lady May affably.

"I forgot to ask you, Lady May," inquired Alice, cruelly, at this
moment, "how the pretty little Italian greyhound is that was so
ill--better, I hope."

"Ever so much--quite well almost. I'd have taken him out for a drive
to-day, poor dear little Pepsie! but that I thought the sun just a
little overpowering. Didn't you?"

"Perhaps a little."

Mr. Longcluse lowered his eyes as he leaned against the wall and sighed,
with a pained smile, that even upon his plain, pallid face, was
pathetic.

Did proud Richard Arden perceive the devotion of the dubious
Longcluse--undefined in position, in history, in origin, in character,
in all things but in wealth? Of course he did, perfectly. But that
wealth was said to be enormous. There were Jews, who ought to know, who
said he was worth one million eight hundred thousand pounds, and that
his annual income was considerably more than a hundred thousand pounds a
year.

Was a man like that to be dismissed without inquiry? Had he not found
him good-natured and gentlemanlike? What about those stories circulated
among Jews and croupiers? Enemies might affect to believe them, and
quote the old saw, "There is never smoke without fire;" but dare one of
them utter a word of the kind aloud? Did they stand the test of five
minutes' inquiry, such even as he had given them? Had he found a
particle of proof, of evidence, of suspicion? Not a spark. What man had
ever escaped stories who was worth forging a lie about?

Here was a man worth more than a million. Why, if _he_ let him slip
through his fingers, some duchess would pounce on him for her daughter.

It was well that Longcluse was really in love--well, perhaps, that he
did not appreciate the social omnipotence of money.

"Where is Sir Reginald at present?" asked Lady May.

"Not here, you may be sure," answered Richard. "My father does not admit
my visits, you know."

"Really! And is that miserable quarrel kept up still?"

"Only too true. He is in France at present; at Vichy--ain't it Vichy?"
he said to Alice.

But she, not choosing to talk, said simply, "Yes--Vichy."

"I'm going to take Alice into town again; she has promised to stay with
me a little longer. And I think you neglect her a little, don't you? You
ought to come and see her a little oftener," pleaded Lady May, in an
undertone.

"I only feared I was boring you all. Nothing, _you_ know, would give me
half so much pleasure," he answered.

"Well, then, she'll expect your visits, mind."

A little silence followed. Richard was vexed with his sister; she was,
he thought, snubbing his friend Longcluse.

Well, when once he had spoken his mind and disclosed his treasures,
Richard flattered himself he had some influence; and did not Lady May
swear by Mr. Longcluse? And was his father, the most despotic and
violent of baronets, and very much dipt, likely to listen to sentimental
twaddle pleading against a hundred thousand a year? So, Miss Alice, if
you were disposed to talk nonsense, it was not very likely to be
listened to, and sharp and short logic might ensue.

How utterly unconscious of all this she sits there, thinking, I daresay,
of quite another person!

Mr. Longcluse was also for a moment in profound reverie; so was Richard
Arden. The secrecy of thought is a pleasant privilege to the
thinker--perhaps hardly less a boon to the person pondered upon.

If each man's forehead could project its shadows and the light of his
spirit shine through, and the confluence of figures and phantoms that
cross and march behind it become visible, how that magic-lantern might
appal good easy people!

And now the ladies fell to talking and comparing notes about their
guipure lacework.

"How charming yours looks, my dear, round that little table!" exclaimed
Lady May in a rapture. "I'm sure I hope mine may turn out half as
pretty. I wanted to compare; I'm not quite sure whether it is exactly
the same pattern."

And so on, until it was time for them to order their wings for town.

The gentlemen have business of their own to transact, or pleasures to
pursue. Mr. Longcluse has his trap there, to carry them into town when
their hour comes. They can only put the ladies into their places, and
bid them good-bye, and exchange parting reminders and good-natured
speeches.

Pale Mr. Longcluse, as he stands on the steps, looks with his dark eyes
after the disappearing carriage, and sighs deeply. He has forgotten all
for the moment but one dream. Richard Arden wakens him, by laying his
hand on his shoulder.

"Come, Longcluse, let us have a cigar in the billiard-room, and a talk.
I have a box of Manillas that I think you will say are delicious--that
is, if you like them full-flavoured."



CHAPTER II.

MARTHA TANSEY.


"By-the-bye, Longcluse," said Richard, as they entered together the long
tiled passage that leads to the billiard-room, "you like pictures. There
is one here, banished to the housekeeper's room, that they say is a
Vandyck; we must have it cleaned and backed, and restored to its old
place--but would you care to look at it?"

"Certainly, I should like extremely," said Mr. Longcluse.

They were now at the door of the housekeeper's room, and Richard Arden
knocked.

"Come in," said the quavering voice of the old woman from within.

Richard Arden opened the door wide. The misty rose-coloured light of the
setting sun filled the room. From the wall right opposite, the pale
portrait of Sir Thomas Arden, who fought for the king during the great
Civil War, looked forth from his deep dingy frame full upon them, stern
and melancholy; the misty beams touching the softer lights of his long
hair and the gleam of his armour so happily, that the figure came out
from its dark background, and seemed ready to step forth to meet them.
As it happened, there was no one in the room but old Mrs. Tansey, the
housekeeper, who received Richard Arden standing.

From the threshold, Mr. Longcluse, lost in wonder at the noble picture,
gazed on it, with the exclamation, almost a cry, "Good heaven! what a
noble work! I had no idea there could be such a thing in existence and
so little known." And he stood for awhile in a rapture, gazing from the
threshold on the portrait.

At sound of that voice, with a vague and terrible recognition, the
housekeeper turned with a start towards the door, expecting, you'd have
fancied from her face, the entrance of a ghost. There was a tremble in
the voice with which she cried, "Lord! what's that?" a tremble in the
hand extended towards the door, and a shake also in the pale frowning
face, from which shone her glassy eyes.

Mr. Longcluse stepped in, and the old woman's gaze became, as he did so,
more shrinking and intense. When he saw her he recoiled, as a man might
who had all but trod upon a snake; and these two people gazed at one
another with a strange, uncertain scowl.

In Mr. Longcluse's case, this dismal caprice of countenance did not last
beyond a second or two. Richard Arden, as he turned his eyes from the
picture to say a word to his companion, saw it for a moment, and it
faded from his features--saw it, and the darkened countenance of the old
housekeeper, with a momentary shock. He glanced from one to the other
quickly, with a look of unconscious surprise. That look instantly
recalled Mr. Longcluse, who, laying his hand on Richard Arden's arm,
said, with a laugh--"I do believe I'm the most nervous man in the
world."

"You don't find the room too hot?" said Richard, inwardly ruminating
upon the strange looks he had just seen exchanged. "Mrs. Tansey keeps a
fire all the year round--don't you, Martha?"

Martha did not answer, nor seem to hear; she pressed her lean hand,
instead, to her heart, and drew back to a sofa and sat down, muttering,
"My God, lighten our darkness, we beseech thee!" and she looked as if
she were on the point of fainting.

"That is a true Vandyck," said Mr. Longcluse, who was now again looking
stedfastly at the picture. "It deserves to rank among his finest
portraits. I have never seen anything of his more forcible. You really
ought not to leave it here, and in this state." He walked over and
raised the lower end of the frame gently from the wall. "Yes, just as
you said, it wants to be backed. That portrait would not stand a shake,
I can tell you. The canvas is perfectly rotten, and the paint--if you
stand here you'll see--is ready to flake off. It is an awful pity. You
shouldn't leave it in such danger."

"No," said Richard, who was looking at the old woman. "I don't think
Martha's well--will you excuse me for a moment?" And he was at the
housekeeper's side. "What's the matter, Martha?" he said kindly. "Are
you ill?"

"Very bad, Sir. I beg your pardon for sitting, but I could not help; and
the gentleman will excuse me."

"Of course--but what's the matter?" said Richard.

"A sudden fright like, Sir. I'm all over on a tremble," she quavered.

"See how exquisitely that hand is painted," continued Mr. Longcluse,
pursuing his criticism, "and the art with which the lights are managed.
It is a wonderful picture. It makes one positively angry to see it in
that state, and anywhere but in the most conspicuous and honourable
place. If I owned that picture, I should never be tired showing it. I
should have it where everyone who came into my house should see it; and
I should watch every crack and blur on its surface, as I should the
symptoms of a dying child, or the looks of the mistress of my heart. Now
just look at this. Where is he? Oh!"

"I beg your pardon, a thousand times, but I find my old friend Martha
feels a little faint and ill," said Richard.

"Dear me! I hope she's better," said Mr. Longcluse, approaching with
solicitude. "Can I be of any use? Shall I touch the bell?"

"I'm better, Sir, I thank you; I'm much better," said the old woman. "It
won't signify nothing, only--" She was looking hard again at Mr.
Longcluse, who now seemed perfectly at his ease, and showed in his
countenance nothing but the commiseration befitting the occasion. "A
sort of a weakness--a fright like--and I can't think, quite, what came
over me."

"Don't you think a glass of wine might do her good?" asked Mr.
Longcluse.

"Thanks, Sir, I don't drink it. Oh, lighten our darkness, we beseech
thee! Good Lord, a' mercy on us! I take them drops, hartshorn and
valerian, on a little water, when I feel nervous like. I don't know when
I was took wi' t' creepins before."

"You look better," said Richard.

"I'm quite right again, Sir," she said, with a sigh. She had taken her
"drops," and seemed restored.

"Hadn't you better have one of the maids with you? I'm going now; I'll
send some one," he said. "You must get all right, Martha. It pains me to
see you ill. You're a very old friend, remember. You must be all right
again; and, if you like, we'll have the doctor out, from town."

He said this, holding her thin old hand very kindly, for he was by no
means without good-nature. So sending the promised attendant, he and
Longcluse proceeded to the billiard-room, where, having got the lamps
lighted, they began to enjoy their smoke. Each, I fancy, was thinking of
the little incident in the housekeeper's room. There was a long silence.

"Poor old Tansey! She looked awfully ill," said Richard Arden at last.

"By Jove! she did. Is that her name? She rather frightened me," said Mr.
Longcluse. "I thought we had stumbled on a mad woman--she stared so. Has
she ever had any kind of fit, poor thing?"

"No. She grumbles a good deal, but I really think she's a healthy old
woman enough. She says she was frightened."

"We came in too suddenly, perhaps?"

"No, that wasn't it, for I knocked first," said Arden.

"Ah, yes, so you did. I only know she frightened me. I really thought
she was out of her mind, and that she was going to stick me with a
knife, perhaps," said Mr. Longcluse, with a little laugh and a shrug.

Arden laughed, and puffed away at his cigar till he had it in a glow
again. Was this explanation of what he had seen in Longcluse's
countenance--a picture presented but for a fraction of a second, but
thenceforward ineffaceable--quite satisfactory?

In a short time Mr. Longcluse asked whether he could have a little
brandy and water, which accordingly was furnished. In his first glass
there was a great deal of brandy, and very little water indeed; and his
second, sipped more at his leisure, was but little more diluted. A very
faint flush tinged his pallid cheeks.

Richard Arden was, by this time, thinking of his own debts and ill-luck,
and at last he said, "I wonder what the art of getting on in the world
is. Is it communicable? or is it no art at all, but a simple run of
luck?"

Mr. Longcluse smiled scornfully. "There are men who have immense faith
in themselves," said he, "who have indomitable will, and who are
provided with craft and pliancy for any situation. Those men are giants
from the first to the last hour of action, unless, as happened to
Napoleon, success enervates them. In the cradle, they strangle serpents;
blind, they pull down palaces; old as Dandolo, they burn fleets and
capture cities. It is only when they have taken to bragging that the
_lues Napoleonica_ has set in. Now I have been, in a sense, a successful
man--I am worth some money. If I were the sort of man I describe, I
should be worth, if I cared for it, ten times what I have in as many
years. But I don't care to confess I made my money by flukes. If, having
no tenderness, you have two attributes--profound cunning and perfect
audacity--nothing can keep you back. I'm a common-place man, I say; but
I know what constitutes power. Life is a battle, and the general's
qualities win."

"I have not got the general's qualities, I think; and I know I haven't
luck," said Arden; "so for my part I may as well drift, with as little
trouble as may be, wherever the current drives. Happiness is not for all
men."

"Happiness is for _no_ man," said Mr. Longcluse. And a little silence
followed. "Now suppose a fellow has got more money than ever he dreamed
of," he resumed, "and finds money, after all, not quite what he fancied,
and that he has come to long for a prize quite distinct and infinitely
more precious; so that he finds, at last, that he never can be happy for
an hour without it, and yet, for all his longing and his pains, sees it
is unattainable as that star." (He pointed to a planet that shone down
through the skylight.) "Is that man happy? He carries with him, go where
he may, an aching heart, the pangs of jealousy and despair, and the
longing of the damned for Paradise. That is _my_ miserable case."

Richard Arden laughed, as he lighted his second cigar.

"Well, if that's your case, you can't be one of those giants you
described just now. Women are not the obdurate and cruel creatures you
fancy. They are proud, and vain, and unforgiving; but the misery and the
perseverance of a lover constitute a worship that first flatters and
then wins them. Remember this, a woman finds it very hard to give up a
worshipper, except for another. Now why should you despair? You are a
gentleman, you are a clever fellow, an agreeable fellow; you are what is
accounted a young man still, and you can make your wife rich. They all
like that. It is not avarice, but pride. I don't know the young lady,
but I see no good reason why you should fail."

"I wish, Arden, I dare tell you all; but some day I'll tell you more."

"The only thing is---- You'll not mind my telling you, as you have been
so frank with me?"

"Pray say whatever you think. I shall be ever so much obliged. I forget
so many things about English manners and ways of thinking--I have lived
so very much abroad. Should I be put up for a club?"

"Well, I should not mind a club just yet, till you know more
people--quite time enough. But you must manage better. Why should those
Jew fellows, and other people, who don't hold, and never can, a position
the least like yours, be among your acquaintance? You must make it a
rule to drop all objectionable persons, and know none but good people.
Of course, when you are strong enough it doesn't so much matter,
provided you keep them at arm's length. But you passed your younger days
abroad, as you say, and not being yet so well known here, you will have
to be particular--don't you see? A man is so much judged by his
acquaintance; and, in fact, it is essential."

"A thousand thanks for any hints that strike you," said Longcluse
good-humouredly.

"They sound frivolous; but these trifles have immense weight with
women," said Arden. "By Jove!" he added, glancing at his watch, "we
shall be late. Your trap is at the door--suppose we go?"



CHAPTER III.

MR. LONGCLUSE OPENS HIS HEART.


The old housekeeper had drawn near her window, and stood close to the
pane, through which she looked out upon the star-lit night. The stars
shine down over the foliage of huge old trees. Dim as shadows stand the
horse and tax-cart that await Mr. Longcluse and Richard Arden, who now
at length appear. The groom fixes the lamps, one of which shines full on
Mr. Longcluse's peculiar face.

"Ay--the voice; I could a' sworn to that," she muttered. "It went
through me like a scythe. But that's a strange face; and yet there's
summat in it, just a hint like, to call my thoughts out a-seeking up and
down, and to and fro; and 'twill not let me rest until I come to find
the truth. Mace? No, no. Langly? Not he. Yet 'twas summat _that night_,
I think--summat awful. And who _was_ there? No one. Lighten our
darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord! for my heart is sore troubled."

Up jumped the groom. Mr. Longcluse had the reins in his hand, and he and
his companion passed swiftly by the window, and the flash of the lamps
crossed the panelled walls of the housekeeper's room. The light danced
wildly from corner to corner of the wainscot, accompanied by the shadows
of two geraniums in bow-pots on the window-stool. The lamps flew by, and
she still stood there, with the palsied shake of her head and hand,
looking out into the darkness, in rumination.

Arden and Longcluse glided through the night air in silence, under the
mighty old trees that had witnessed generations of Ardens, down the
darker, narrow road, and by the faded old inn, once famous in those
regions as the "Guy of Warwick," representing still on its board, in
tarnished gold and colours, that redoubted champion, with a boar's head
on the point of his sword, and a grotesque lion winding itself fawningly
about his horse's legs.

As they passed swiftly along this smooth and deserted road, Longcluse
spoke. _Aperit præcordia vinum._ In his brandy and water he had not
spared alcohol, and the quantity was considerable.

"I have lots of money, Arden, and I can talk to people, as you say," he
suddenly said, as if Richard Arden had spoken but a moment before; "but,
on the whole, is there on earth a more miserable dog than I? There are
things that trouble me that would make you laugh; there are others that
would, if I dare tell them, make you sigh. Soon I shall be able; soon
you shall know all. I'm not a bad fellow. I know how to give away money,
and, what is harder to bestow on others, my time and labour. But who to
look at me would believe it? I'm not a worse fellow than Penruddock. I
can cry for pity and do a kind act like him; but I look in my glass, and
I also feel like him, 'the mark of Cain' is on me--cruelty in my face.
Why should Nature write on some men's faces such libels on their
characters? Then here's another thing to make you laugh--you, a handsome
fellow, to whom beauty belongs, I say, by right of birth--it would make
me laugh also if I were not, as I am, forced every hour I live to count
up, in agonies of hope and terror, my chances in that enterprise in
which all my happiness for life is staked so wildly. Common ugliness
does not matter, it is got over. But such a face as mine! Come, come!
you are too good-natured to say. I'm not asking for consolation; I am
only summing up my curses."

"You make too much of these. Lady May thinks your face, she says, very
interesting--upon my honour, she does."

"Oh, heaven!" exclaimed Mr. Longcluse, with a shrug and a laugh.

"And what is more to the purpose (will you forgive my reporting all
this--you won't mind?), some young lady friends of hers who were by
said, I assure you, that you had so much expression, and that your
features were extremely refined."

"It won't do, Arden; you are too good-natured," said he, laughing more
bitterly.

"I should much rather be as I am, if I were you, than be gifted with
vulgar beauty--plump, pink and white, with black beady eyes, and all
that," said Arden.

"But the heaviest curse upon me is that which, perhaps, you do not
suspect--the curse of--secrecy."

"Oh, really!" said Arden, laughing, as if he had thought up to then that
Mr. Longcluse's history was as well known as that of the ex-Emperor
Napoleon.

"I don't say that I shall come out like the enchanted hero in a fairy
tale, and change in a moment from a beast into a prince; but I am
something better than I seem. In a short time, if you cared to be bored
with it, I shall have a great deal to tell you."

There followed here a silence of two or three minutes, and then, on a
sudden, pathetically, Mr. Longcluse broke forth--

"What has a fellow like me to do with love? and less than beloved, can I
ever be happy? I know something of the world--not of this London world,
where I live less than I seem to do, and into which I came too late ever
to understand it thoroughly--I know something of a greater world, and
human nature is the same everywhere. You talk of a girl's pride inducing
her to marry a man for the sake of his riches. Could I possess my
beloved on those terms? I would rather place a pistol in my mouth, and
blow my skull off. Arden, I'm unhappy; I'm the most miserable dog
alive."

"Come, Longcluse, that's all nonsense. Beauty is no advantage to a man.
The being agreeable is an immense one. But success is what women
worship, and if, in addition to that, you possess wealth--not, as I
said, that they are sordid, but only vain-glorious--you become very
nearly irresistible. Now _you_ are agreeable, successful and
wealthy--you must see what follows."

"I'm out of spirits," said Longcluse, and relapsed into silence, with a
great sigh.

By this time they had got within the lamps, and were threading streets,
and rapidly approaching their destination. Five minutes more, and these
gentlemen had entered a vast room, in the centre of which stood a
billiard-table, with benches rising tier above tier to the walls, and a
gallery running round the building above them, brilliantly lighted, as
such places are, and already crowded with all kinds of people. There is
going to be a great match of a "thousand up" played between Bill Hood
and Bob Markham. The betting has been unusually high; it is still going
on. The play won't begin for nearly half an hour. The "admirers of the
game" have mustered in great force and variety. There are young peers,
with sixty thousand a year, and there are gentlemen who live by their
billiards. There are, for once in a way, grave persons, bankers, and
counsel learned in the law; there are Jews and a sprinkling of
foreigners; and there are members of Parliament and members of the swell
mob.

Mr. Longcluse has a good deal to think about this night. He _is_ out of
spirits. Richard Arden is no longer with him, having picked up a friend
or two in the room. Longcluse, with folded arms, and his shoulders
against the wall, is in a profound reverie, his dark eyes for the time
lowered to the floor, beside the point of his French boot. _There_
unfold themselves beneath him picture after picture, the scenes of many
a year ago. Looking down, there creeps over him an old horror, a
supernatural disgust, and he sees in the dark a pair of wide, white
eyes, staring up at him in an agony of terror, and a shrill yell,
piercing a distance of many years, makes him shake his ears with a
sudden chill. Is this the witches' Sabbath of our pale Mephistopheles--his
night of goblins? He raised his eyes, and they met those of a person
whom he had not seen for a very long time--a third part of his whole
life. The two pairs of eyes, at nearly half across the room, have met,
and for a moment fixed. The stranger smiles and nods. Mr. Longcluse does
neither. He affects now to be looking over the stranger's shoulder at
some more distant object. There is a strange chill and commotion at his
heart.



CHAPTER IV.

MONSIEUR LEBAS.


Mr. Longcluse leaned still with folded arms, and his shoulder to the
wall. The stranger, smiling and fussy, was making his way to him. There
is nothing in this man's appearance to associate him with tragic
incident or emotion of any kind. He is plainly a foreigner. He is short,
fat, middle-aged, with a round fat face, radiant with good humour and
good-natured enjoyment. His dress is cut in the somewhat grotesque style
of a low French tailor. It is not very new, and has some spots of grease
upon it. Mr. Longcluse perceives that he is now making his way towards
him. Longcluse for a moment thought of making his escape by the door,
which was close to him; but he reflected, "He is about the most innocent
and good-natured soul on earth, and why should I seem to avoid him?
Better, if he's looking for me, to let him find me, and say his say." So
Longcluse looked another way, his arms still folded, and his shoulders
against the wall as before.

"Ah, ha! Monsieur is thinking profoundly," said a gay voice in French.
"Ah, ha, ha, ha! you are surprised, Sir, to see me here. So am I, my
faith! I saw you. I never forget a face."

"Nor a friend, Lebas. Who could have imagined anything to bring you to
London?" answered Longcluse, in the same language, shaking him warmly by
the hand, and smiling down on the little man. "I shall never forget your
kindness. I think I should have died in that _illness_ but for you. How
can I ever thank you half enough?"

"And the grand secret--the political difficulty--Monsieur found it well
evaded," he said, mysteriously touching his upper lip with two fingers.

"Not all quiet yet. I suppose you thought I was in Vienna?"

"Eh? well, yes--so I did," answered Lebas, with a shrug. "But perhaps
you think this place safer."

"Hush! You'll come to me to-morrow. I'll tell you where to find me
before we part, and you'll bring your portmanteau and stay with me while
you remain in London, and the longer the better."

"Monsieur is too kind, a great deal; but I am staying for my visit to
London with my brother-in-law, Gabriel Laroque, the watchmaker. He lives
on the Hill of Ludgate, and he would be offended if I were to reside
anywhere but in his house while I stay. But if Monsieur would be so good
as to permit me to call----"

"You must come and dine with me to-morrow; I have a box for the opera.
You love music, or you are not the Pierre Lebas whom I remember sitting
with his violin at an open window. So come early, come before six; I
have ever so much to ask you. And what has brought you to London?"

"A very little business and a great deal of pleasure; but all in a
week," said the little man, with a shrug and a hearty laugh. "I have
come over here about some little things like that." He smiled archly as
he produced from his waistcoat pocket a little flat box with a glass
top, and shook something in it. "Commerce, you see. I have to see two or
three more of the London people, and then my business will have
terminated, and nothing remain for the rest of the week but
pleasure--ha, ha!"

"You left all at home well, I hope--children?" He was going to say
"Madame," but a good many years had passed.

"I have seven children. Monsieur will remember two. Three are by my
first marriage, four by my second, and all enjoy the very best health.
Three are very young--three, two, one year old; and they say a fourth is
not impossible very soon," he added archly.

Longcluse laughed kindly, and laid his hand upon his shoulder.

"You must take charge of a little present for each from me, and one for
Madame. And the old business still flourishes?"

"A thousand thanks! yes, the business is the same--the file, the chisel,
and knife." And he made a corresponding movement of his hand as he
mentioned each instrument.

"_Hush!_" said Longcluse, smiling, so that no one who did not hear him
would have supposed there was so much cautious emphasis in the word. "My
good friend, remember there are details we talk of, you and I together,
that are not to be mentioned so suitably in a place like this," and he
pressed his hand on his wrist, and shook it gently.

"A thousand pardons! I am, I know, too careless, and let my tongue too
often run before my caution. My wife, she says, 'You can't wash your
shirt but you must tell the world.' It is my weakness truly. She is a
woman of extraordinary penetration."

Mr. Longcluse glanced from the corners of his eyes about the room.
Perhaps he wished to ascertain whether his talk with this man, whom you
would have taken to be little above the level of a French mechanic, had
excited anyone's attention. But there was nothing to make him think so.

"Now, Pierre, my friend, you must win some money upon this match--do you
see? And you won't deny me the pleasure of putting down your stake for
you; and, if you win, you shall buy something pretty for Madame--and,
win or lose, I shall think it friendly of you after so many years, and
like you the better."

"Monsieur is too good," he said with effusion.

"Now look. Do you see that fat Jew over there on the front bench--you
can't mistake him--with the velvet waistcoat all in wrinkles, and the
enormous lips, who talks to every second person who passes?"

"I see perfectly, Monsieur."

"He is betting three to one upon Markham. You must take his offer, and
back Hood. I'm told _he'll_ win. Here are ten pounds, you may as well
make them thirty. Don't say a word. Our English custom is to _tip_, as
we say, our friend's sons at school, and to make presents to everybody,
as often as we like. Now there--not a word." He quietly slipped into his
hand a little rouleau of ten pounds in gold. "If you say one word you
wound me," he continued. "But, good Heaven! my dear friend, haven't you
a breast-pocket?"

"No, Monsieur; but this is quite safe. I was paid, only five minutes
before I came here, fifteen pounds in gold, a cheque of forty-four
pounds, and----"

"Be silent. You may be overheard. Speak here in a very low tone, as I
do. And do you mean to tell me that you carry all that money in your
coat pocket?"

"But in a pocket-book, Monsieur."

"All the more convenient for the _chevalier d'industrie_," said
Longcluse. "Stop. Pray don't produce it; your fate is, perhaps, sealed
if you do. There are gentlemen in this room who would hustle and rob you
in the crowd as you get out; or, failing that, who, seeing that you are
a stranger, would follow and murder you in the streets, for the sake of
a twentieth part of that sum."

"Gabriel thought there would be none here but men distinguished," said
Lebas, in some consternation.

"Distinguished by the special attention of the police, some of them,"
said Longcluse.

"Hé! that is very true," said Monsieur Lebas--"very true, I am sure of
it. See you that man there, Monsieur? Regard him for a moment. The tall
man, who leans with his shoulder to the metal pillar of the gallery. My
faith! he has observed my steps and followed me. I thought he was a spy.
But my friend he says 'No, that is a man of bad character, dismissed for
bad practices from the police.' Aha! he has watched me sideways, with
the corner of his eye. I will watch him with the corner of mine--ha,
ha!"

"It proves, at all events, Lebas, that there are people here other than
gentlemen and men of honest lives," said Longcluse.

"But," said Lebas, brightening a little, "I have this weapon," producing
a dagger from the same pocket.

"Put it back this instant. Worse and worse, my good friend. Don't you
know that just now there is a police activity respecting foreigners, and
that two have been arrested only yesterday on no charge but that of
having weapons about their persons? I don't know what the devil you had
best do."

"I can return to the Hill of Ludgate--eh?"

"Pity to lose the game; they won't let you back again," said Longcluse.

"What shall I do?" said Lebas, keeping his hand now in his pocket on his
treasure.

Longcluse rubbed the tip of his finger a little over his eyebrow,
thinking.

"Listen to me," said Longcluse, suddenly. "Is your brother-in-law here?"

"No, Monsieur."

"Well, you have some London friend in the room, haven't you?"

"One--yes."

"Only be sure he is one whom you can trust, and who has a safe pocket."

"Oh, yes, Monsieur, entirely! and I saw him place his purse so," he
said, touching his coat, over his heart, with his fingers.

"Well, now, you can't manage it here, under the gaze of the people;
but--_where_ is best? Yes--you see those two doors at opposite sides in
the wall, at the far end of the room? They open into two parallel
corridors leading to the hall, and a little way down there is a cross
passage, in the middle of which is a door opening into a smoking-room.
That room will be deserted now, and there, unseen, you can place your
money and dagger in his charge."

"Ah, thank you a hundred thousand times, Monsieur!" answered Lebas. "I
shall be writing to the Baron van Boeren to-morrow, and I will tell him
I have met Monsieur."

"Don't mind; how is the baron?" asked Longcluse.

"Very well. Beginning to be not so young, you know, and thinking of
retiring. I will tell him his work has succeeded. If he demolishes, he
also secures. If he sometimes sheds blood----"

"_Hush!_" whispered Longcluse, sternly.

"There is no one," murmured little Lebas, looking round, but dropping
his voice to a whisper. "He also saves a neck sometimes from the blade
of the guillotine."

Longcluse frowned, a little embarrassed. Lebas smiled archly. In a
moment Longcluse's impatient frown broke into a mysterious smile that
responded.

"May I say one word more, and make one request of Monsieur, which I hope
he will not think very impertinent?" asked Monsieur Lebas, who had just
been on the point of taking his leave.

"It mayn't be in my power to grant it; but you can't be what you say--I
am too much obliged to you--so speak quite freely," said Longcluse.

So they talked a little more and parted, and Monsieur Lebas went on his
way.



CHAPTER V.

A CATASTROPHE.


The play has commenced. Longcluse, who likes and understands the game,
sitting beside Richard Arden, is all eye. He is intensely eager and
delighted. He joins modestly in the clapping that now and then follows a
stroke of extraordinary brilliancy. Now and then he whispers a criticism
in Arden's ear. There are many vicissitudes in the game. The players
have entered on the third hundred, and still "doubtful it stood." The
excitement is extraordinary. The assembly is as hushed as if it were
listening to a sermon, and, I am afraid, more attentive. Now, on a
sudden, Hood scores a hundred and sixty-eight points in a single break.
A burst of prolonged applause follows, and, during the clapping, in
which he had at first joined, Longcluse says to Arden,--

"I can't tell you how that run of Hood's delights me. I saw a poor
little friend of mine here before the play began--I had not seen him
since I was little more than a boy--a Frenchman, a good-natured little
soul, and I advised him to back Hood, and I have been trembling up to
this moment. But I think he's safe now to win. Markham can't score this
time. If he's in 'Queer Street,' as they whisper round the room, you'll
find he'll either give a simple miss, or put himself into the pocket."

"Well, I'm sure I hope your friend will win, because it will put three
hundred and eighty pounds into my pocket," said Richard Arden.

And now silence was called, and the building became, in a moment, hushed
as a cathedral before the anthem; and Markham knocked his own ball into
the pocket as Longcluse had predicted.

On sped the game, and at last Hood scored a thousand, and won the match,
greeted by an uproar of applause that, now being no longer restrained,
lasted for nearly five minutes. The assemblage had, by this time,
descended from the benches, and crowded the floor in clusters,
discussing the play or settling bets. The people in the gallery were
pouring down by the four staircases, and adding to the crowd and buzz.

Suddenly there is a sort of excitement perceptible of a new kind--a
gathering and pressure of men about one of the doors at the far corner
of the room. Men are looking back and beckoning to their companions;
others are shouldering forward as strenuously as they can. What is
it--any dispute about the score?--a pair of men boxing in the passage?

"No suspicion of fire?" the men at this near end exclaim, and sniff over
their shoulders, and look about them, and move toward the point where
the crowd is thickening, not knowing what to make of the matter. But
soon there runs a rumour about the room--"a man has just been found
murdered in a room outside," and the crowd now press forward more
energetically to the point of attraction.

In the cross-passage which connects the two corridors, as Mr. Longcluse
described, there is an awful crush, and next to no light. A single jet
of gas burns in the smoking room, where the pressure of the crowd is not
quite so much felt. There are two policemen in that chamber, in the
ordinary uniform of the force, and three detectives in plain clothes,
one supporting a corpse already stiffening, in a sitting posture, as it
was found, in a far angle of the room, on the bench to your left as you
look in. All the people are looking up the room. You can see nothing but
hats, and backs of heads, and shoulders. There is a ceaseless buzz and
clack of talk and conjecture. Even the policemen are looking, as the
rest do, at the body. The man who has mounted on the chair near the
door, with the other beside him, who has one foot on the rung and
another on the seat, and an arm round the first gentleman's neck,
although he has not the honour of his acquaintance, to support himself,
can see, over the others' heads, the one silent face which looks back
towards the door, upon so many gaping, and staring, and gabbling ones.
The light is faint. It has occurred to no one to light the gas lamps in
the centre. But that forlorn face is distinct enough. Fixed and leaden
it is, with the chin a little raised. The eyes are wide open, with a
deep and awful gaze; the mouth slightly distorted with what the doctors
call "a convulsive smile," which shows the teeth a little, and has an
odd, wincing look.

As I live, it is the little Frenchman, Pierre Lebas, who was talking so
gaily to-night with Mr. Longcluse!

The ebony haft of a dagger, sticking straight out, shows where the hand
of the assassin planted the last stab of four, through his black satin
waistcoat, embroidered with green leaves, red strawberries, and yellow
flowers, which, I suppose, was one of the finest articles in the little
wardrobe that Madame Lebas packed up for his holiday. It is not worth
much now. It has four distinct cuts, as I have said, on the left side,
right through it, and is soaked in blood.

His pockets have been rifled. The police have found nothing in them but
a red pocket-handkerchief and a papier-maché snuff-box. If that dumb
mouth could speak but fifty words, what a world of conjecture it would
end, and poor Lebas's story would be listened to as never was story of
his before!

A policeman now takes his place at the door to prevent further pressure.
No new-comers will be admitted, except as others go out. Those outside
are asking questions of those within, and transmitting, over their
shoulders, particulars, eagerly repeated. On a sudden there is a
subsidence of the buzz and gabble within, and one voice, speaking almost
at the pitch of a shriek, is heard declaiming. White as a sheet, Mr.
Longcluse, in high excitement, is haranguing in the smoking-room,
mounted on a table.

"I say," he cried, "gentlemen, excuse me. There are so many together
here, so many known to be wealthy, it is an opportunity for a word.
Things are coming to a pretty pass--garotters in our streets and
assassins in our houses of entertainment! Here is a poor little
fellow--look at him--here to-night to see the game, perfectly well and
happy, murdered by some miscreant for the sake of the money he had about
him. It might have been the fate of anyone of us. I spoke to him
to-night. I had not seen him since I was a boy almost. Seven children
and a wife, he told me, dependent on him. I say there are two things
wanted--first, a reward of such magnitude as will induce exertion. I
promise, for my own share, to put down double the amount promised by the
highest subscriber. Secondly, something should be done for the family he
has left, in proportion to the loss they have sustained. Upon this point
I shall make inquiry myself. But this is plain, the danger and scandal
have attained a pitch at which none of us who cares to walk the streets
at night, or at any time to look in upon amusements like that we
attended this evening, can permit them longer to stand. There is a fatal
defect somewhere. Are our police awake and active? Very possibly; but if
so the force is not adequate. I say this frightful scandal must be
abated if, as citizens of London, we desire to maintain our reputation
for common sense and energy."

There was a tall thin fellow, shabbily dressed, standing nearly behind
the door, with a long neck, and a flat mean face, slightly pitted with
small-pox, rather pallid, who was smiling lazily, with half-closed eyes,
as Mr. Longcluse declaimed; and when he alluded pointedly to the
inadequacy of the police, this man's amusement improved, and he winked
pleasantly at the clock which he was consulting at the moment with the
corner of his eye.

And now a doctor arrived, and Gabriel Laroque the watchmaker, and more
police, with an inspector. Laroque faints when he sees his murdered
friend. Recovered after a time, he identifies the body, identifies the
dagger also as the property of poor Lebas.

The police take the matter now quite into their hands, and clear the
room.



CHAPTER VI.

TO BED.


Mr. Longcluse jumped into a cab, and told the man to drive to his house
in Bolton Street, Piccadilly. He rolled his coat about him with a kind
of violence, and threw himself into a corner. Then, as it were, _in
furore_, and with a stamp on the floor, he pitched himself into the
other corner.

"I've seen to-night what I never thought I should see. What devil
possessed me to tell him to go into that black little smoking-room?" he
muttered. "What a room it is! It has seized my brain somehow. Am I in a
fever, or going mad, or what? That cursed smoking-room! I can't get out
of it. It is in the centre of the earth. I'm built round and round in
it. The moment I begin to think, I'm in it. The moment I close my eyes,
its four stifling walls are round me. There is no way out. It is like
hell."

The wind had come round to the south, and a soft rain was pattering on
the windows. He stopped the cab somewhere near St. James's Street, and
got out. It was late--it was just past two o'clock, and the streets were
quiet. Wonderfully still was the great city at this hour, and the
descent of the rain went on with a sound like a prolonged "hush" all
round. He paid the man, and stood for a while on the kerbstone, looking
up and down the street, under the downpour of the rain. You might have
taken this millionaire for a man who knew not where to lay his head that
night. He took off his hat, and let the refreshing rain saturate his
hair, and stream down his forehead and temples.

"Your cab's stuffy and hot, ain't it? Standing half the day with the
glass in the sun, I daresay," said he to the man, who was fumbling in
his pockets, and pretending a difficulty about finding change.

"See, never mind, if you haven't got change; I'll go on. Heavier rain
than I fancied; very pleasant though. When did the rain begin?" asked
Mr. Longcluse, who seemed in no hurry to get back again.

"A trifle past ten, Sir."

"I say, your horse's knees are a bit broken, ain't they? Never mind, I
don't care. He can pull you and me to Bolton Street, I daresay."

"Will you please to get in, Sir?" inquired the cabman.

Mr. Longcluse nodded, frowning and thinking of something else; the rain
still descending on his bare head, his hat in his hand.

The cabman thought this "cove" had been drinking and must be a trifle
"tight." He would not mind if he stood so for a couple of hours; it
would run his fare up to something pretty. So cabby had thoughts of
clapping a nosebag to his horse's jaws, and was making up his mind to a
bivouac. But Mr. Longcluse on a sudden got in, repeating his direction
to the driver in a gay and brisk tone, that did not represent his real
sensations.

"Why should I be so disturbed at that little French fellow? Have I been
ill, that my nerve is gone and I such a fool? One would think I had
never seen a dead fellow till now. Better for him to be quiet than at
his wit's ends, devising ways and means to keep his seven cubs in bread
and butter. I should have gone away when the game was over. What earthly
reason led me into that d----d room, when I heard the fuss there? I've a
mind to go and play hazard, or see a doctor. Arden said he'd look in, in
the morning. I should like that; I'll talk to Arden. I sha'n't sleep, I
know; I can't, all night; I've got imprisoned in that suffocating room.
Shall I ever close my eyes again?"

They had now reached the door of the small, unpretending house of this
wealthy man. The servant who opened the door, though he knew his
business, stared a little, for he had never seen his master return in
such a plight before, and looking so haggard.

"Where's Franklin?"

"Arranging things in your room, Sir."

"Give me a candle. The cab is paid. Mr. Arden, mind, may call in the
morning; if I should not be down, show him to my room. You are not to
let him go without seeing me."

Up-stairs went the pale master of the house. "Franklin!" he called, as
he mounted the last flight of stairs, next his bed-room.

"Yes, Sir."

"I sha'n't want you to-night, I think--that is, I shall manage what I
want for myself; but I mean to ring for you by-and-by." He was in his
dressing-room by this time, and looked round to see that his comforts
were provided for as usual--his foot-bath and hot water.

"Shall I fetch your tea, Sir?"

"I'll drink no tea to-night; I've been disgusted. I've seen a dead man,
quite unexpectedly; and I sha'n't get over it for some hours, I daresay.
I feel ill. And what you must do is this: when I ring my bell, you come
back, and you must sit up here till eight in the morning. I shall leave
the door between this and the next room open; and should you hear me
sleeping uneasily, moaning, or anything like nightmare, you must come in
and waken me. And you are not to go to sleep, mind; the moment I call, I
expect you in my room. Keep yourself awake how you can; you may sleep
all to-morrow, if you like."

With this charge Franklin departed.

But Mr. Longcluse's preparations for bed occupied a longer time than he
had anticipated. When nearly an hour had passed, Mr. Franklin ventured
up-stairs, and quietly approached the dressing-room door; but there he
heard his master still busy with his preparations, and withdrew. It was
not until nearly half-an-hour more had passed that his bell gave the
promised signal, and Mr. Franklin established himself for the night, in
the easy-chair in the dressing-room, with the connecting door between
the two rooms open.

Mr. Longcluse was right. The shock which his nerves had received did not
permit him to sleep very soon. Two hours later he called for the
Eau-de-Cologne that stood on his dressing-table; and although he made
belief to wet his temples with it, and kept it at his bedside with that
professed design, it was Mr. Franklin's belief that he drank the greater
part of what remained in the capacious cut-glass bottle. It was not
until people were beginning to "turn out" for their daily labour that
sleep at length visited the wearied eye-balls of the Crœsus.

Three hours of death-like sleep, and Mr. Longcluse, with a little start,
was wide awake.

"Franklin!"

"Yes, Sir." And Mr. Franklin stood at his bedside.

"What o'clock is it?"

"Just struck ten, Sir."

"Hand me the _Times_." This was done.

"Tell them to get breakfast as usual. I'm coming down. Open the
shutters, and draw the curtains, quite."

When Franklin had done this and gone down, Mr. Longcluse read the
_Times_ with a stern eagerness, still in bed. The great billiard match
between Hood and Markham was given in spirited detail; but he was
looking for something else. Just under this piece of news, he found
it--"Murder and Robbery, in the Saloon Tavern." He read this twice over,
and then searched the paper in vain for any further news respecting it.
After this search, he again read the short account he had seen before,
very carefully, and more than once. Then he jumped out of bed, and
looked at himself in the glass in his dressing-room.

"How awfully seedy I am looking!" he muttered, after a careful
inspection. "Better by-and-by."

His hand was shaking like that of a man who had made a debauch, or was
worn out with ague. He looked ten years older.

"I should hardly know myself," muttered he. "What a confounded, sinful
old fogey I look, and I so young and innocent!"

The sneer was for himself and at himself. The delivery of such is an odd
luxury which, at one time or other, most men indulge in. Perhaps it
should teach us to take them more kindly when other people crack such
cynical jokes on our heads, or, at least, to perceive that they don't
always argue personal antipathy.

The sour smile which had, for a moment, flickered with a wintry light on
his face, gave place suddenly to a dark fatigue; his features sank, and
he heaved a long, deep, and almost shuddering sigh.

There are moments, happily very rare, when the idea of suicide is
distinct enough to be dangerous, and having passed which, a man feels
that Death has looked him very nearly in the face. Nothing more trite
and true than the omnipresence of suffering. The possession of wealth
exempts the unfortunate owner from, say, two-thirds of the curse that
lies heavy on the human race. Two thirds is a great deal; but so is the
other third, and it may have in it, at times, something as terrible as
human nature can support.

Mr. Longcluse, the millionaire, had, of course, many poor enviers. Had
any one of all these uttered such a sigh that morning? Or did any one
among them feel wearier of life?

"When I have had my tub, I shall be quite another man," said he.

But it did not give him the usual fillip; on the contrary, he felt
rather chilled.

"What can the matter be? I'm a changed man," said he, wondering, as
people do at the days growing shorter in autumn, that time had produced
some changes. "I remember when a scene or an excitement produced no more
effect upon me, after the moment, than a glass of champagne; and now I
feel as if I had swallowed poison, or drunk the cup of madness.
Shaking!--hand, heart, every joint. I have grown such a muff!"

Mr. Longcluse had at length completed his very careless toilet, and
looking ill, went down-stairs in his dressing-gown and slippers.



CHAPTER VII.

FAST FRIENDS.


In little more than half-an-hour, as Mr. Longcluse was sitting at his
breakfast in his dining-room, Richard Arden was shown in.

"Dressing-gown and slippers--what a lazy dog I am compared with you!"
said Longcluse gaily as he entered.

"Don't say another word on that subject, I beg. I should have been later
myself, had I dared; but my Uncle David had appointed to meet me at
ten."

"Won't you take something?"

"Well, as I have had no breakfast, I don't mind if I do," said Arden,
laughing.

Longcluse rang the bell.

"When did you leave that place last night?" asked Longcluse.

"I fancy about the same time that you went--about five or ten minutes
after the match ended. You heard there was a man murdered in a passage
there? I tried to get down and see it but the crowd was awful."

"I was more lucky--I came earlier," said Longcluse. "It was perfectly
sickening, and I have been seedy ever since. You may guess what a shock
it was to me. The murdered man was that poor little Frenchman I told you
of, who had been talking to me, in high spirits, just before the play
began--and there he was, poor fellow! You'll see it all there; it makes
me sick."

He handed him the _Times_.

"Yes, I see. I daresay the police will make him out," said Arden, as he
glanced hastily over it. "Did you remark some awfully ill-looking
fellows there?"

"I never saw so many together in a place of the kind before," said
Longcluse.

"That's a capital account of the match," said Arden, whom it interested
more than the tragedy of poor little Lebas did. He read snatches of it
aloud as he ate his breakfast: and then, laying the paper down, he said,
"By-the-bye, I need not bother you by asking your advice, as I intended.
My uncle David has been blowing me up, and I think he'll make everything
straight. When he sends for me and gives me an awful lecture, he always
makes it up to me afterwards."

"I wish, Arden, I stood as little in need of your advice as you do, it
seems, of mine," said Longcluse suddenly, after a short silence. His
dark eyes were fixed on Richard Arden's. "I have been fifty times on the
point of making a confession to you, and my heart has failed me. The
hour is coming. These things won't wait. I must speak, Arden, soon or
never--_very_ soon, or never. _Never_, perhaps, would be wisest."

"Speak _now_, on the contrary," said Arden, laying down his knife and
fork, and leaning back. "Now is the best time always. If it's a bad
thing, why, it's over; and if it's a good one, the sooner we have it the
better."

Longcluse rose, looking down in meditation, and in silence walked slowly
to the window, where, for a time, without speaking he stood in a
reverie. Then, looking up, he said, "No man likes a crisis. 'No good
general ever fights a pitched battle if he can help it.' Wasn't that
Napoleon's saying? No man who has not lost his head likes to get
together all he has on earth, and make one stake of it. I have been on
the point of speaking to you often. I have always recoiled."

"Here I am, my dear Longcluse," said Richard Arden, rising and following
him to the window, "ready to hear you. I ought to say, only too happy if
I can be of the least use."

"Immense! everything?" said Longcluse vehemently. "And yet I don't know
how to ask you--how to begin--so much depends. Don't you conjecture the
subject?"

"Well, perhaps I do--perhaps I don't. Give me some clue."

"Have you formed no conjecture?" asked Longcluse.

"Perhaps."

"Is it anything in any way connected with your sister, Miss Arden?"

"It may be, possibly."

"Say what you think, Arden, I beseech you."

"Well, I think, perhaps, you admire her."

"Do I? Do I? Is that all? Would to God I could say that is all!
Admiration, what is it?--Nothing. Love?--Nothing. Mine is adoration and
utter madness. I have told my secret. What do you say? Do you hate me
for it?"

"Hate you, my dear fellow! Why on earth should I hate you? On the
contrary, I ought, I think, to like you better. I'm only a little
surprised that your feelings should so much exceed anything I could have
supposed."

"Yesterday, Arden, you spoke as if you liked me. As we drove into that
place, I fancied you half understood me; and cheered by what you then
said, I have spoken that which might have died with me, but for that."

"Well, what's the matter? My dear Longcluse, you talk as if I had shown
signs of wavering friendship. Have I? Quite the contrary."

"Quite the contrary, that is true," said Longcluse eagerly. "Yes, you
_should_ like me better for it--that is true also. Yours is no wavering
friendship, I'm sure of it. Let us shake hands upon it. A treaty, Arden,
a treaty!"

With a fierce smile upon his pale face, and a sudden fire in his eyes,
he extended his hand energetically, and took that of Arden, who answered
the invitation with a look in which gleamed faintly something of
amusement.

"Now, Richard Arden," he continued excitedly, "you have more influence
with Miss Arden than falls commonly to the lot of a brother. I have
observed it. It results from her having had during her earlier years
little society but yours, and from your being some years her senior. It
results from her strong affection for you, from her admiration of your
talents, and from her having neither brother nor sister to divide those
feelings. I never yet saw brother possessed of so evident and powerful
an influence with a sister. You must use it all for me."

He continued to hold Arden's hand in his as he spoke.

"You can withdraw your hand if you decline," said he. "I sha'n't
complain. But your hand remains--you don't. It is a treaty, then.
Henceforward we live _fædere icto_. I'm an exacting friend, but a good
one."

"My dear fellow, you do me but justice. I am your friend, altogether.
But you must not mistake me for a guardian or a father in the matter. I
wish I could make my sister think exactly as I do upon every subject,
and _that_ above all others. All I can say is, in me you have a fast
friend."

Longcluse pressed his hand, which he had not relinquished, at these
words, with a firm grasp and a quick shake.

"Now listen. I must speak on this point, the one that is in my mind, my
chief difficulty. Personally, there is not, I think, a living being in
England who knows my history. I am glad of it, for reasons which you
will approve by-and-by. But this is an enormous disadvantage, though
only temporary, and the friends of the young lady must weigh my wealth
against it for the present. But when the time comes, which can't now be
distant, upon my honour! upon my soul!--by Heaven, I'll show you I'm of
as good and old a family as any in England! We have been gentlemen up to
the time of the Conqueror, here in England, and as far before him as
record can be traced in Normandy. If I fail to show you this when the
hour comes, stigmatise me as you will."

"I have not a doubt, dear Longcluse. But you are urging a point that
really has no weight with us people in England. We have taken off our
hats to the gentlemen in casques and tabards, and feudal glories are at
a discount everywhere but in Debrett, where they are taken with
allowance. Your ideas upon these matters are more Austrian than ours. We
expect, perhaps, a little more from the man, but certainly less from his
ancestors than our forefathers did. So till a title turns up, and the
heralds want them, make your mind easy on matters of pedigree, and then
you can furnish them with effect. All I can tell you is this--there are
hardly fifty men in England who dare tell all the truth about their
families."

"We are friends, then; and in that relation, Arden, if there are
privileges, there are also liabilities, remember, and both extend into a
possibly distant future."

Longcluse spoke with a gloomy excitement that his companion did not
quite understand.

"That is quite true, of course," said Arden.

Each was looking in the other's face for a moment, and each face grew
suddenly dark, darker--and the whole room darkened as the air was
overshadowed by a mass of cloud that eclipsed the sun, threatening
thunder.

"By Jove! How awfully dark in a moment!" said Arden, looking from the
face thus suddenly overcast through the window towards the sky.

"Dark as the future we were speaking of," said Longcluse, with a sad
smile.

"Dark in one sense, I mean unseen, but not darkened in the ill-omened
sense," said Richard Arden. "I have great confidence in the future. I
suppose I am sanguine."

"I ought to be sanguine, if having been lucky hitherto should make one
so, and yet I'm not. _My_ happiness depends on that which I cannot, in
the least, control. Thought, action, energy, contribute nothing, and so
I but drift, and--my heart fails me. Tell me, Arden, for Heaven's sake,
truth--spare me nothing, conceal nothing. Let me but know it, however
bitter. First tell me, does Miss Arden dislike me--has she an antipathy
to me?"

"Dislike you! Nonsense. How could that be? She evidently enjoys your
society, when you are in spirits and choose to be amusing. Dislike you?
Oh, my dear Longcluse, you can't have fancied such a thing!" said Arden.

"A man placed as I am may fancy anything--things infinitely more
unlikely. I sometimes hope she has never perceived my admiration. It
seems strange and cruel, but I believe where a man cannot be beloved,
nothing is so likely to make him _hated_ as his presuming to love.
_There_ is the secret of half the tragedies we read of. The man cannot
cease to love, and the idol of his passion not only disregards but
insults it. It is their cruel nature; and thus the pangs of jealousy and
the agitations of despair are heightened by a peculiar torture, the
hardest of all hell's torture to endure."

"Well, I have seen you pretty often together, and you must see there is
nothing of that kind," said Arden.

"You speak quite frankly, do you? For Heaven's sake don't spare me!"
urged Longcluse.

"I say exactly what I think. There can't be any such feeling," said
Arden.

Longcluse sighed, looked down thoughtfully, and then, raising his eyes
again, he said--

"You must answer me another question, dear Arden, and I shall, for the
present, task your kindness no more. If you think it a fair question,
will you promise to answer me with unsparing frankness? Let me hear the
worst."

"Certainly," answered his companion.

"Does your sister like anyone in particular--is she attached to
anyone--are her affections quite disengaged?"

"So far as I am aware, certainly. She never cared for any one among all
the people who admired her, and I am quite certain such a thing could
not be without my observing it," answered Richard Arden.

"I don't know; perhaps not," said Longcluse. "But there is a young
friend of yours, who I thought was an admirer of Miss Arden's, and
possibly a favoured one. You guess, I daresay, who it is I mean?"

"I give you my honour I have not the least idea."

"I mean an early friend of yours--a man about your own age--who has
often been staying in Yorkshire and at Mortlake with you, and who was
almost like a brother in your house--very intimate."

"Surely you can't mean Vivian Darnley?" exclaimed Richard Arden.

"I do. I mean no other."

"Vivian Darnley? Why, he has hardly enough to live on, much less to
marry on. He has not an idea of any such thing. If my father fancied
such an absurdity possible, he would take measures to prevent his ever
seeing her more. You could not have hit upon a more impossible man," he
resumed, after a moment's examination of a theory which,
notwithstanding, made him a little more uneasy than he would have cared
to confess. "Darnley is no fool either, and I think he is a honourable
fellow; and altogether, knowing him as I do, the thing is utterly
incredible. And as for Alice, the idea of his imagining any such folly,
I can undertake to say, positively never entered her mind."

Here was another pause. Longcluse was again thoughtful.

"May I ask one other question, which I think you will have no difficulty
in answering?" said he.

"What you please, dear Longcluse; you may command me."

"Only this, how do you think Sir Reginald would receive me?"

"A great deal better than he will ever receive me; with his best
bow--no, not that, but with open arms and his brightest smile. I tell
you, and you'll find it true, my father is a man of the world. Money
won't, of course, do everything; but it can do a great deal. It can't
make a vulgar man a gentleman, but it may make a gentleman anything. I
really think you would find him a very fast friend. And now I must leave
you, dear Longcluse. I have just time, and no more, to keep my
appointment with old Mr. Blount, to whom my uncle commands me to go at
twelve."

"Heaven keep us both, dear Arden, in this cheating world! Heaven keep us
true in this false London world! And God punish the first who breaks
faith with the other!"

So spoke Longcluse, taking his hand again, and holding it hard for a
moment, with his unfathomable dark eyes on Arden. Was there a faint and
unconscious menace in his pale face, as he uttered these words, which a
little stirred Arden's pride?

"That's a comfortable litany to part with--a form of blessing elevated
so neatly, at the close, into a malediction. However, I don't object.
Amen, by all means," laughed Arden.

Longcluse smiled.

"A malediction? I really believe it was. Something very like it, and one
that includes myself, doesn't it? But we are not likely to earn it. An
arrow shot into the sea, it can hurt no one. But oh, dear Arden, what
does such language mean but suffering? What is all bitterness but pain?
Is any mind that deserves the name ever cruel, except from misery? We
are good friends, Arden: and if ever I seem to you for a moment other
than friendly, just say, 'It is his heart-ache and not he that speaks.'
Good-bye! God bless you!"

At the door there was another parting.

"There's a long dull day before me--say, rather, _night_; weary eyes,
sleepless brain," murmured Longcluse, in a rather dismal soliloquy,
standing in his slippers and dressing-gown again at the window.
"Suspense! What a hell is in that word! Chain a man across a rail, in a
tunnel--pleasant situation! let him listen for the faint fifing and
drumming of the engine, miles away, not knowing whether deliverance or
death may come first. Bad enough, that suspense. What is it to mine! I
shall see her to-night. I shall see her, and how will it all be? Richard
Arden wishes it--yes, he does. 'Away, slight man!' It is Brutus who says
that, I think. Good Heaven! Think of my life--the giddy steps I go by.
That dizzy walk by moonlight, when I lost my way in Switzerland--beautiful
nightmare!--the two mile ledge of rock before me, narrow
as a plank; up from my left, the sheer wall of rock; at my right
so close that my glove might have dropped over it, the precipice; and
curling vapour on the cliffs above, that seem about to break, and
envelope all below in blinding mist. There is my life translated into
landscape. It has been one long adventure--danger--fatigue. Nature is
full of beauty--many a quiet nook in life, where peace resides; many a
man whose path is broad and smooth. Woe to the man who loses his way on
Alpine tracks, and is benighted!"

Now Mr. Longcluse recollected himself. He had letters to read and note.
He did this rapidly. He had business in town. He had fifty things on his
hands; and, the day over, he would see Alice Arden again.



CHAPTER VIII.

CONCERNING A BOOT.


Several pairs of boots were placed in Mr. Longcluse's dressing-room.

"Where are the boots that I wore yesterday?" asked he.

"If you please, Sir," said Mr. Franklin, "the man called this morning
for the right boot of that pair."

"What man?" asked Mr. Longcluse, rather grimly.

"Mr. Armagnac's man, Sir."

"Did you desire him to call for it?" asked Mr. Longcluse.

"No, Sir. I thought you must have told some one else to order him to
send for it," said Franklin.

"_I?_ You ought to know I leave those things to _you_," said Mr.
Longcluse, staring at him more aghast and fierce than the possible
mislaying of a boot would seem to warrant. "Did you see Armagnac's man?"

"No, Sir. It was Charles who came up, at eight o'clock, when you were
still asleep, and said the shoemaker had called for the right boot of
the pair you wore yesterday. I had placed them outside the door, and I
gave it him, Sir, supposing it all right."

"Perhaps it _was_ all right; but you know Charles has not been a week
here. Call him up. I'll come to the bottom of this."

Franklin disappeared, and Mr. Longcluse, with a stern frown, was staring
vaguely at the varnished boot, as if it could tell something about its
missing companion. His brain was already at work. What the plague was
the meaning of this manœuvre about his boot? And why on earth, think I,
should he make such a fuss and a tragedy about it? Charles followed Mr.
Franklin up the stairs.

"What's all this about my boot?" demanded Mr. Longcluse, peremptorily.
"_Who_ has got it?"

"A man called for it this morning, Sir."

"What man?"

"I think he said he came from Mr. Armagnac's, Sir."

"You _think_. Say what you _know_, Sir. What _did_ he say?" said Mr.
Longcluse, looking dangerous.

"Well, Sir," said the man, mending his case, "he did say, Sir, he came
from Mr. Armagnac's, and wanted the right boot."

"What right boot?--_any_ right boot?"

"No, Sir, please; the right boot of the pair you wore last night,"
answered the servant.

"And _you_ gave it to him?"

"Yes, Sir, 'twas me," answered Charles.

"Well, you mayn't be quite such a fool as you look. I'll sift all this
to the bottom. You go, if you please, this moment, to Monsieur Armagnac,
and say I should be obliged to him for a line to say whether he this
morning sent for my boot, and got it--and I must have it back, mind;
_you_ shall bring it back, you understand? And you had better make
haste."

"I made bold, Sir," said Mr. Franklin, "to send for it myself, when you
sent me down for Charles; and the boy will be back, Sir, in two or three
minutes."

"Well, come you and Charles here again when the boy comes back, and
bring him here also. I'll make out who has been playing tricks."

Mr. Longcluse shut his dressing-room door sharply; he walked to the
window, and looked out with a vicious scowl; he turned about, and lifted
up his clenched hand, and stamped on the floor. A sudden thought now
struck him.

"The right foot? By Jove! it may not be the one."

The boot that was left was already in his hand. He was examining it
curiously.

"Ay, by heaven! The right _was_ the boot! What's the meaning of this?
Conspiracy? I should not wonder."

He examined it carefully again, and flung it into its corner with
violence.

"If it's an accident, it is a very odd one. It is a suspicious accident.
It may be, of course, all right. I daresay it _is_ all right. The odds
are ten, twenty, a thousand to one that Armagnac has got it. I should
have had a warm bath last night, and taken a ten miles' ride into the
country this morning. It must be all right, and I am plaguing myself
without a cause."

Yet he took up the boot, and examined it once more; then, dropping it,
went to the window and looked into the street--came back, opened his
door, and listened for the messenger's return.

It was not long deferred. As he heard them approach, Mr. Longcluse flung
open his door and confronted them, in white waistcoat and shirt-sleeves,
and with a very white and stern face--face and figure all white.

"Well, what about it? Where's the boot?" he demanded, sharply.

"The boy inquired, Sir," said Mr. Franklin, indicating the messenger
with his open hand, and undertaking the office of spokesman; "and Mr.
Armagnac did not send for the boot, Sir, and has not got it."

"Oh, oh! very good. And now, Sir," he said, in rising fury, turning upon
Charles, "what have _you_ got to say for yourself?"

"The man said he came from Mr. Armagnac, please, Sir," said Charles,
"and wanted the boot, which Mr. Franklin should have back as early as he
could return it."

"Then you gave it to a common thief with that cock-and-a-bull story, and
you wish me to believe that you took it all for gospel. There are men
who would pitch you over the bannisters for a less thing. If I could be
certain of it, I'd put you beside him in the dock. But, by heavens! I'll
come to the bottom of the whole thing yet."

He shut the door with a crash, in the faces of the three men, who stood
on the lobby.

Mr. Franklin was a little puzzled at these transports, all about a boot.
The servants looked at one another without a word. But just as they were
going down, the dressing-room door opened, and the following dialogue
ensued:--

"See, Charles, it was you who saw and spoke with that man?" said
Longcluse.

"Yes, Sir."

"Should you know him again?"

"Yes, Sir, I think I should."

"What kind of man was he?"

"A very common person, Sir."

"Was he tall or short? What sort of figure?"

"Tall, Sir."

"Go on; what more? Describe him."

"Tall, Sir, with a long neck, and held himself straight; very flat feet,
I noticed; a thin man, broad in the shoulders--pretty well that."

"Describe his face," said Longcluse.

"Nothing very particular, Sir; a shabby sort of face--a bad colour."

"How?"

"A bad white, Sir, and pock-marked something; a broad face and flat, and
a very little bit of a nose; his eyes almost shut, and a sort of smile
about his mouth, and stingy bits of red whiskers, in a curl, down each
cheek."

"How old?"

"He might be nigh fifty, Sir."

"Ha, ha! very good. How was he dressed?"

"Black frock coat, Sir, a good deal worn; an old flowered satin
waistcoat, worn and dirty, Sir; and a pair of raither dirty tweed
trousers. Nothing fitted him, and his hat was brown and greasy, begging
your parding, Sir; and he had a stick in his hand, and cotton
gloves--a-trying to look genteel."

"And he asked for the right boot?" asked Mr. Longcluse.

"Yes, Sir."

"You are quite sure of that? Did he take the boot without looking at it,
or did he examine it before he took it away?"

"He looked at it sharp enough, Sir, and turned up the sole, and he said
'It's all right,' and he went away, taking it along with him."

"He asked for the boot I wore yesterday, or last night--which did he
say?" asked Mr. Longcluse.

"I think it was last night he said, Sir," answered Charles.

"Try to recollect yourself. Can't you be certain? Which was it?"

"I think it was _last night_, Sir, he said."

"It doesn't signify," said Mr. Longcluse; "I wanted to see that your
memory was pretty clear on the subject. You seem to remember all that
passed pretty accurately."

"I recollect it perfectly well, Sir."

"H'm! That will do. Franklin, you'll remember that description--let
every one of you remember it. It is the description of a thief; and when
you see that fellow again, hold him fast till you put him in the hands
of a policeman. And, Charles, you must be prepared, d'ye see, to swear
to that description; for I am going to the detective office, and I shall
give it to the police."

"Yes, Sir," answered Charles.

"I sha'n't want you, Franklin; let some one call a cab."

So he returned to his dressing-room, and shut the door, and
thought--"That's the fellow whom that miserable little fool, Lebas,
pointed out to me at the saloon last night. He watched him, he said,
wherever he went. _I_ saw him. There may be other circumstances. That is
the fellow--that is the very man. Here's matter to think over! By
heaven! that fellow must be denounced, and discovered, and brought to
justice. It is a strong case--a pretty hanging case against him. We
shall see."

Full of surmises about his lost boot, _Atra Cura_ walking unheard behind
him, with her cold hand on his shoulder, and with the image of the
ex-detective always gliding before or beside him, and peering with an
odious familiarity over his shoulder into his face, Mr. Longcluse
marched eastward with a firm tread and a cheerful countenance. Friends
who nodded to him, as he walked along Piccadilly, down Saint James's
Street, and by Pall Mall, citywards, thought he had just been listening
to an amusing story. Others, who, more deferentially, saluted the great
man as he walked lightly by Temple Bar, towards Ludgate Hill, for a
moment perplexed themselves with the thought, "What stock is up, and
what down, on a sudden, to-day, that Longcluse looks so radiant?"



CHAPTER IX.

THE MAN WITHOUT A NAME.


Mr. Longcluse had made up his mind to a certain course--a sharp and bold
one. At the police office he made inquiry. "He understood a man had been
lately dismissed from the force, answering to a certain description,
which he gave them; and he wished to know whether he was rightly
informed, because a theft had been that morning committed at his house
by a man whose appearance corresponded, and against whom he hoped to
have sufficient evidence."

"Yes, a man like that had been dismissed from the detective department
within the last fortnight."

"What was his name?" Mr. Longcluse asked.

"Paul Davies, Sir."

"If it should turn out to be the same, I may have a more serious charge
to bring against him," said Mr. Longcluse.

"Do you wish to go before his worship, and give an information, Sir?"
urged the officer, invitingly.

"Not quite ripe for that yet," said Mr. Longcluse, "but it is likely
very soon."

"And what might be the nature of the more serious charge, Sir?" inquired
the officer, insinuatingly.

"I mean to give my evidence at the coroner's inquest that will be held
to-day, on the Frenchman who was murdered last night at the Saloon
Tavern. It is not conclusive--it does not fix anything upon him; it is
merely inferential."

"Connecting him with the murder?" whispered the man, something like
reverence mingling with his curiosity, as he discovered the interesting
character of his interrogator.

"I can only say possibly connecting him in some way with it. Where does
the man live?"

"He did live in Rosemary Court, but he left that, I think. I'll ask, if
you please, Sir. Tompkins--hi! You know where Paul Davies puts up. Left
Rosemary Court?"

"Yes, five weeks. He went to Gold Ring Alley, but he's left that a week
ago, and I don't know where he is now, but will easy find him. Will it
answer at eight this evening, Sir?"

"Quite. I want a servant of mine to have a sight of him," said
Longcluse.

"If you like, Sir, to leave your address and a stamp, we'll send you the
information by post, and save you calling here."

"Thanks, yes, I'll do that."

So Mr. Longcluse took his leave, and proceeded to the place where the
coroner was sitting. Mr. Longcluse was received in that place with
distinction. The moneyed man was honoured--eyes were gravely fixed on
him, and respectful whispers went about. A seat was procured for him;
and his evidence, when he came to give it, was heard with marked
attention, and a general hush of expectation.

                   *       *       *       *       *

The reader, with his permission, must now pass away, seaward, from this
smoky London, for a few minutes, into a clear air, among the rustling
foliage of ancient trees, and the fragrance of hay-fields, and the song
of small birds.

On the London and Dover road stands, as you know, the "Royal Oak," still
displaying its ancient signboard, where you behold King Charles II
sitting with laudable composure, and a crown of Dutch gold on his head,
and displaying his finery through an embrasure in the foliage, with an
ostentation somewhat inconsiderate, considering the proximity of the
halberts of the military emissaries in search of him to the royal
features. As you drive towards London, it shows at the left side of the
road, a good old substantial inn and posting-house. Its business has
dwindled to something very small indeed, for the traffic prefers the
rail, and the once bustling line of road is now quiet. The sun had set,
but a reflected glow from the sky was still over everything; and by this
somewhat lurid light Mr. Truelock, the innkeeper, was observing from the
steps the progress of a chaise, with four horses and two postilions,
which was driving at a furious pace down the gentle declivity about a
quarter of a mile away, from the Dover direction towards the "Royal Oak"
and London.

"It's a runaway. Them horses has took head. What do you think, Thomas?"
he asked of the old waiter who stood beside him.

"No. See, the post-boys is whipping the hosses. No, Sir, it's a gallop,
but no runaway."

"There's luggage a' top?" said the innkeeper.

"Yes, Sir, there's something," answered Tom.

"I don't see nothing a-followin' them," said Mr. Truelock, shading his
eyes with his hand as he gazed.

"No--there _is_ nothing," said Tom.

"They're in fear o' summat, or they'd never go at that lick," observed
Mr. Truelock, who was inwardly conjecturing the likelihood of their
pulling up at his door.

"Lawk! _there_ was a jerk. They _was_ nigh over at the finger-post
turn," said Tom, with a grin.

And now the vehicle and the reeking horses were near. The post-boys held
up their whips by way of signal to the "Royal Oak" people on the steps,
and pulled up the horses with all their force before the door.
Trembling, snorting, rolling up wreaths of steam, the exhausted horses
stood.

"See to the gentleman, will ye?" cried one of the postilions.

Mr. Truelock, with the old-fashioned politeness of the English
innkeeper, had run down in person to the carriage door, which Tom had
opened. Master and man were a little shocked to behold inside an old
gentleman, with a very brown, or rather a very bilious visage, thin, and
with a high nose, who looked, as he lay stiffly back in the corner of
the carriage, enveloped in shawls, with a velvet cap on, as if he were
either dead or in a fit. His eyes were half open, and nothing but the
white balls partly visible. There was a little froth at his lips. His
mouth and delicately-formed hands were clenched, and all the furrows and
lines of a selfish face fixed, as it seemed, in the lock of death. John
Truelock said not a word, but peered at this visitor with a horrible
curiosity.

"If he's dead," whispered Tom in his ear, "we don't take in no dead men
here. Ye'll have the coroner and his jury in the house, and the place
knocked up-side down; and if ye make five pounds one way ye'll lose ten
the tother."

"Ye'll have to take him on, I'm thinkin'," said Mr. Truelock, rousing
himself, stepping back a little, and addressing the post-boys sturdily.
"You've no business bringin' a deceased party to my house. You must go
somewhere else, if so be he _is_ deceased."

"He's not gone dead so quick as that," said the postilion, dismounting
from the near leader, and throwing the bridle to a boy who stood by, as
he strutted round bandily to have a peep into the chaise. The postilion
on the "wheeler" had turned himself about in the saddle in order to have
a peep through the front window of the carriage. The innkeeper returned
to the door.

If the old London and Dover road had been what it once was, there would
have been a crowd about the carriage by this time. Except, however, two
or three servants of the "Royal Oak," who had come out to see, no one
had yet joined the little group but the boy who was detained, bridle in
hand, at the horse's head.

"He'll not be dead yet," repeated the postilion dogmatically.

"What happened him?" asked Mr. Truelock.

"I don't know," answered the post-boy.

"Then how can you say whether he be dead or no?" demanded the innkeeper.

"Fetch me a pint of half-and-half," said the dismounted post-boy, aside,
to one of the "Royal Oak" people at his elbow.

"We was just at this side of High Hixton," said his brother in the
saddle, "when he knocked at the window with his stick, and I got a cove
to hold the bridle, and I came round to the window to him. He had scarce
any voice in him, and looked awful bad, and he said he thought he was
a-dying. 'And how far on is the next inn?' he asked; and I told him the
'Royal Oak' was two miles; and he said, 'Drive like lightning, and I'll
give you half a guinea a-piece'--I hope he's not gone dead--'if you get
there in time.'"

By this time their heads were in the carriage again.

"Do you notice a sort of a little jerk in his foot, just the least thing
in the world?" inquired the landlord, who had sent for the doctor. "It
will be a fit, after all. If he's living, we'll fetch him into the
'ouse."

The doctor's house was just round the corner of the road, where the
clump of elms stands, little more than a hundred yards from the sign of
the "Royal Oak."

"Who is he?" inquired Mr. Truelock.

"I don't know," answered the postilion.

"What's his name?"

"Don't know that, neither."

"Why, it'll be on that box, won't it?" urged the innkeeper, pointing to
the roof, where a portmanteau with a glazed cover was secured.

"Nothing on that but 'R. A.,'" answered the man, who had examined it
half an hour before, with the same object.

"Royal Artillery, eh?"

While they were thus conjecturing, the doctor arrived. He stepped into
the chaise, felt the old man's hand, tried his pulse, and finally
applied the stethoscope.

"It is a nervous seizure. He is in a very exhausted state," said the
doctor, stepping out again, and addressing Truelock. "You must get him
into bed, and don't let his head down; take off his handkerchief, and
open his shirt-collar--do you mind? I had best arrange him myself."

So the forlorn old man, without a servant, without a name, is carried
from the chaise, possibly to die in an inn.

The Rev. Peter Sprott, the rector, passing that way a few minutes later,
and hearing what had befallen, went up to the bed-room, where the old
gentleman lay in a four-poster, still unconscious.

"Here's a case," said the doctor to his clerical friend. "A nervous
attack. He'd be all right in no time, but he's so low. I daresay he
crossed the herring-pond to-day, and was ill; he's in such an exhausted
state. I should not wonder if he sank; and here we are, without a clue
to his name or people. No servant, no name on his trunk; and, certainly,
it would be awkward if he died unrecognised, and without a word to
apprise his relations."

"Is there no letter in his pockets?"

"Not one," Truelock says.

The rector happened to take up the great-coat of the old gentleman, in
which he found a small breast pocket, that had been undiscovered till
now, and in this a letter. The envelope was gone, but the letter, in a
lady's hand began: "My dearest papa."

"We are all right, by Jove, we're in luck!"

"How does she sign herself?" said the doctor.

"'Alice Arden,' and she dates from 8, Chester Terrace," answered the
clergyman.

"We'll telegraph forthwith," said the doctor. "It had best be in your
name--the clergyman, you know--to a young lady."

So together they composed the telegram.

"Shall it be _ill_ simply, or _dangerously_ ill?" inquired the
clergyman.

"Dangerously," said the doctor.

"But _dangerously_ may terrify her."

"And if we say only _ill_, she mayn't come at all," said the doctor.

So the telegram was placed in Truelock's hands, who went himself with it
to the office; and we shall follow it to its destination.



CHAPTER X.

THE ROYAL OAK.


Three people were sitting in Lady May Penrose's drawing-room, in Chester
Terrace, the windows of which, as all her ladyship's friends are aware,
command one of the parks. They were looking westward, where the sky was
all a-glow with the fantastic gold and crimson of sunset. It is quite a
mistake to fancy that sunset, even in the heart of London--which this
hardly could be termed--has no rural melancholy and poetic fascination
in it. Should that hour by any accident overtake you, in the very centre
of the city, looking, say, from an upper window, or any other elevation
toward the western sky beyond stacks of chimneys, roofs, and steeples,
even through the smoke of London, you will feel the melancholy and
poetry of sunset, in spite of your surroundings.

A little silence had stolen over the party; and young Vivian Darnley,
who stole a glance now and then at beautiful Alice Arden, whose large,
dark, grey eyes were gazing listlessly towards the splendid mists, that
were piled in the west, broke the silence by a remark that, without
being very wise, or very new, was yet, he hoped, quite in accord with
the looks of the girl, who seemed for a moment saddened.

"I wonder why it is that sunset, which is so beautiful, makes us all
sad!"

"It never made me sad," said good Lady May Penrose, comfortably. "There
is, I think, something very pleasant in a good sunset; there _must_ be,
for all the little birds begin to sing in it--it must be cheerful. Don't
you think so, Alice?"

Alice was, perhaps, thinking of something quite different, for rather
listlessly, and without a change of features, she said, "Oh, yes, very."

"So, Mr. Darnley, you may sing, 'Oh, leave me to my sorrow!' for we
won't mope with you about the sky. It is a very odd taste, that for
being dolorous and miserable. I don't understand it--I never could."

Thus rebuked by Lady Penrose, and deserted by Alice, Darnley laughed and
said--

"Well, I do seem rather to have put my foot in it--but I did not mean
miserable, you know; I meant only that kind of thing that one feels when
reading a bit of really good poetry--and most people do not think it a
rather pleasant feeling."

"Don't mind that moping creature, Alice; let us talk about something we
can all understand. I heard a bit of news to-day--perhaps, Mr. Darnley,
you can throw a light upon it. You are a distant relation, I think, of
Mr. David Arden."

"Some very remote cousinship, of which I am very proud," answered the
young man gaily, with a glance at Alice.

"And what is that--what about uncle David?" inquired the young lady,
with animation.

"I heard it from my banker to-day. Your uncle, you know, dear, despises
us and our doings, and lives, I understand, very quietly; I mean, he has
chosen to live quite out of the world, so we have no chance of hearing
anything except by accident, from people we are likely to know. Do you
see much of your uncle, my dear?"

"Not a great deal; but I am very fond of him--he is such a good man, or
at least, what is better," she laughed, "he has always been so very kind
to me."

"You know him, Mr. Darnley?" inquired Lady May.

"By Jove, I do!"

"And like him?"

"No one on earth has better reason to like him," answered the young man
warmly--"he has been my best friend on earth."

"It is pleasant to know two people who are not ashamed to be grateful,"
said fat Lady May, with a smile.

The young lady returned her smile very kindly. I don't think you ever
beheld a prettier creature than Alice Arden. Vivian Darnley had wasted
many a secret hour in sketching that oval face. Those large, soft, grey
eyes, and long dark lashes, how difficult they are to express! And the
brilliant lips! Could art itself paint anything quite like her? Who
could paint those beautiful dimples that made her smiles so soft, or
express the little circlet of pearly teeth whose tips were just
disclosed? Stealthily he was now, for the thousandth time, studying that
bewitching smile again.

"And what is the story about Uncle David?" asked Alice again.

"Well, what will you say--and you, Mr. Darnley, if it should be a story
about a young lady?"

"Do you mean that Uncle David is going to marry? I think it would be an
awful pity!" exclaimed Alice.

"Well, dear, to put you out of pain, I'll tell you at once; I only know
this--that he is going to provide for her somehow, but whether by
adopting her as a child, or taking her for a wife, I can't tell. Only I
never saw any one looking archer than Mr. Brounker did to-day when he
told me; and I fancied from that it could not be so dull a business as
merely making her his daughter."

"And who is the young lady?" asked Alice.

"Did you ever happen to meet anywhere a Miss Grace Maubray?"

"Oh, yes," answered Alice quickly. "She was staying, and her father,
Colonel Maubray, at the Wymerings' last autumn. She's quite lovely, I
think, and very clever--but I don't know--I think she's a little
ill-natured, but very amusing. She seems to have a talent for cutting
people up--and a little of that kind of thing, you know, is very well,
but one does not care for it _always_. And is she really the young
lady?"

"Yes, and---- Dear me! Mr. Darnley, I'm afraid my story has alarmed
you."

"Why should it?" laughed Vivian Darnley, partly to cover, perhaps, a
little confusion.

"I can't tell, I'm sure, but you blushed as much as a man can; and you
know you did. I wonder, Alice, what this under-plot can be, where all is
so romantic. Perhaps, after all, Mr. David Arden is to adopt the young
lady, and some one else, to whom he is also kind, is to marry her. Don't
you think that would be a very natural arrangement?"

Alice laughed, and Darnley laughed; but he was embarrassed.

"And Colonel Maubray, is he still living?" asked Alice.

"Oh, no, dear; he died ten or eleven months ago. A very foolish man, you
know; he wasted a very good property. He was some distant relation,
also; Mr. Brounker said your uncle, Mr. David Arden, was very much
attached to him--they were schoolfellows, and great friends all their
lives."

"I should not wonder," said Alice smiling--and then became silent.

"Do you know the young lady, this fortunate Miss Maubray?" said Lady
May, turning to Vivian Darnley again.

"I? Yes--that is, I can't say more than a mere acquaintance--and not an
old one. I made her acquaintance at Mr. Arden's house. He is her
guardian. I don't know about any other arrangements. I daresay there may
be."

"Well, I know her a little, also," said Lady May. "I thought her
pretty--and she sings a little, and she's clever."

"She's all that," said Alice. "Oh, here comes Dick! What do you say,
Richard--is not Miss Maubray very pretty? We are making a plot to marry
her to Vivian Darnley, and get Uncle David to contribute her _dot_."

"What benevolent people! _You_ don't object, I dare say, Vivian."

"I have not been consulted," said he; "and, of course, Uncle David need
not be consulted, as he has simply to transfer the proper quantity of
stock."

Richard Arden had drawn near Lady May, and said a few words in a low
tone, which seemed not unwelcome to her.

"I saw Longcluse this morning. He has not been here, has he?" he added,
as a little silence threatened the conversation.

"No, he has not turned up. And what a charming person he is!" exclaimed
Lady May.

"I quite agree with you, Lady May," said Arden. "He is, take him on
every subject, I think, about the cleverest fellow I ever met--art,
literature, games, _chess_, which I take to be a subject by itself. He
is very great at chess--for an amateur, I mean--and when I was
chess-mad, nearly a year ago and beginning to grow conceited, he opened
my eyes, I can tell you; and Airly says he is the best musical critic in
England, and can tell you at any hour who is who in the opera, all over
Europe; and he really understands, what so few of us here know anything
about, foreign politics, and all the people and their stories and
scandals he has at his fingers' ends. And he is such good company, when
he chooses, and such a gentleman always!"

"He is very agreeable and amusing when he takes the trouble; I always
like to listen when Mr. Longcluse talks," said Alice Arden, to the
secret satisfaction of her brother, whose enthusiasm was, I think,
directed a good deal to her--and to, perhaps, the vexation of other
people, whom she did not care at that moment to please.

"An Admirable Crichton!" murmured Vivian Darnley, with a rather
hackneyed sneer. "Do you like his style of--_beauty_, I suppose I should
call it? It has the merit of being very uncommon, at least, don't you
think?"

"Beauty, I think, matters very little. He has no beauty, but his face
has what, in a man, I think a great deal better--I mean refinement, and
cleverness, and a kind of satire that rather interests one," said Miss
Arden, with animation.

Sir Walter Scott, in his "Rob Roy"--thinking, no doubt, of the Diana
Vernon of his early days, the then beautiful lady, long afterwards
celebrated by Basil Hall as the old Countess Purgstorf (if I rightly
remember the title), and recurring to some cherished incident, and the
thrill of a pride that had ceased to agitate, but was at once pleasant
and melancholy to remember--wrote these words: "She proceeded to read
the first stanza, which was nearly to the following purpose. [Then
follow the verses.] 'There is a great deal of it,' said she, glancing
along the paper, and interrupting the sweetest sounds that mortal ears
can drink in--those of a youthful poet's verses, namely, read by the
lips which are dearest to them." So writes Walter Scott. On the other
hand, in certain states, is there a pain intenser than that of listening
to the praises of another man from the lips we love?

"Well," said Darnley, "as you say so, I suppose there is all that,
though I can't see it. Of course, if he tries to make himself agreeable
(which he never does to me), it makes a difference, it affects
everything--it affects even his looks. But I should not have thought him
good-looking. On the contrary, he appears to me about as ugly a fellow
as one could see in a day."

"He's not that," said Alice. "No one could be ugly with so much
animation and so much expression."

"You take up the cudgels very prettily, my dear, for Mr. Longcluse,"
said Lady May. "I'm sure he ought to be extremely obliged to you."

"So he would be," said Richard Arden. "It would upset him for a week, I
have no doubt."

There are few things harder to interpret than a blush. At these words
the beautiful face of Alice Arden flushed, first with a faint, and then,
as will happen, with a brighter crimson. If Lady May had seen it, she
would have laughed, probably, and told her how much it became her. But
she was, at that moment, going to her chair in the window, and Richard
Arden would, of course, accompany her. He did see it, as distinctly as
he saw the glow in the sky over the park trees. But, knowing what a
slight matter will sometimes make a recoil, and even found an antipathy,
he wisely chose to see it not--and chatting gaily, followed Lady May to
the window.

But Vivian Darnley, though he said nothing, saw that blush, of which
Alice, with a sort of haughty defiance, was conscious. It did not make
him like or admire Mr. Longcluse more.

"Well, I suppose he is very charming--I don't know him well enough
myself to give an opinion. But he makes his acquaintances rather oddly,
doesn't he? I don't think any one will dispute that."

"I don't know really. Lady May introduced him to me, and she seems to
like him very much. So far as I can see, people are very well pleased at
knowing him, and don't trouble their heads as to how it came about,"
said Miss Arden.

"No, of course; but people not fortunate enough to come within the
influence of his fascination, can't help observing. How did he come to
know your brother, for instance? Did any one introduce him? Nothing of
the kind. Richard's horse was hurt or lame at one of the hunts in
Warwickshire, and he lent him a horse, and introduced himself, and they
dined together that evening on the way back, and so the thing was done."

"Can there be a better introduction than a kindness?" asked Alice.

"Yes, where it _is_ a kindness, I agree; but no one has a right to push
his services upon a stranger who does not ask for them."

"I really can't see. Richard need not have taken his horse if he had not
liked," she answered.

"And Lady May, who thinks him such a paragon, knows no more about him
than any one else. She had her footman behind her--didn't she tell you
all about it?"

"I really don't recollect; but does it very much matter?"

"I think it does--that is, it has been a sort of system. He just gave
her his arm over a crossing, where she had taken fright, and then
pretended to think her a great deal more frightened than she really can
have been, and made her sit down to recover in a confectioner's shop,
and so saw her home, and _that_ affair was concluded. I don't say, of
course, that he is never introduced in the regular way; but a year or
two ago, when he was beginning, he always made his approaches by means
of that kind of stratagem; and the fact is, no one knows anything on
earth about him; he has emerged, like a figure in a phantasmagoria, from
total darkness, and may lose himself in darkness again at any moment."

"I am interested in that man, whoever he is; his entrance, and his
probable exit, so nearly resemble mine," said a clear, deep-toned voice
close to them; and looking up, Miss Arden saw the pale face and peculiar
smile of Mr. Longcluse in the fading twilight.

Mr. Longcluse was greeted by Lady May and by Richard Arden, and then
again he drew near Alice, and said, "Do you recollect, Miss Arden, about
ten days ago I told you a story that seemed to interest you--the story
of a young and eloquent friar, who died of love in his cell in an abbey
in the Tyrol, and whose ghost used to be seen pensively leaning on the
pulpit from which he used to preach, too much thinking of the one
beautiful face among his audience, which had enthralled him. I had left
the enamel portrait I told you of at an artist's in Paris, and I wrote
for it, thinking you might wish to see it--hoping you might care to see
it," he added, in a lower tone, observing that Vivian Darnley, who was
not in a happy temper, had, with a sudden impulse of disdain, removed
himself to another window, there to contemplate the muster of the stars
in the darkening sky, at his leisure.

"That was so kind of you, Mr. Longcluse! You have had a great deal of
trouble. It _is_ such an interesting story!" said Alice.

In his reception, Mr. Longcluse found something that pleased, almost
elated him. Had Richard Arden been speaking to her on the subject of
their morning's conversation? He thought not, Lady May had mentioned
that he had not been with them till just twenty minutes ago, and Arden
had told him that he had dined with his uncle David and Mr. Blount, upon
the same business on which he had been occupied with both nearly all
day. No, he could not have spoken to her. The slight change which made
him so tumultuously proud and happy, was entirely spontaneous.

"So it seemed to me--an eccentric and interesting story--but pray do not
wound me by speaking of trouble. I only wish you knew half the pleasure
it has been to me to get it to show you. May I hold the lamp near for a
moment while you look at it?" he said, indicating a tiny lamp which
stood on a pier-table, showing a solitary gleam, like a lighthouse,
through the gloom; "you could not possibly see it in this faint
twilight."

The lady assented. Had Mr. Longcluse ever felt happier?



CHAPTER XI.

THE TELEGRAM ARRIVES.


Mr. Longcluse placed the little oval enamel, set in gold, in Miss
Arden's fingers, and held the lamp beside her while she looked.

"How beautiful!--how very interesting!" she exclaimed. "What suffering
in those thin, handsome features! What a strange enthusiasm in those
large hazel eyes! I could fancy that monk the maddest of lovers, the
most chivalric of saints. And did he really suffer that incredible fate?
Did he really die of love?"

"So they say. But why incredible? I can quite imagine that wild
shipwreck, seeing what a raging sea love is, and how frail even the
strongest life."

"Well, I can't say, I am sure. But your own novelists laugh at the idea
of any but women--whose business it is, of course, to pay that tribute
to their superiors--dying of love. But if any man could die such a
death, he must be such as this picture represents. What a wild, agonised
picture of passion and asceticism! What suicidal devotion and melancholy
rapture! I confess I could almost fall in love with that picture
myself."

"And I think, were I he, I could altogether die to earn one such
sentence, so spoken," said Mr. Longcluse.

"Could you lend it to me for a very few days?" asked the young lady.

"As many--as long as you please. I am only too happy."

"I should so like to make a large drawing of this in chalks!" said
Alice, still gazing on the miniature.

"You draw so beautifully in chalks! Your style is not often found
here--your colouring is so fine."

"Do you really think so?"

"You must know it, Miss Arden. You are too good an artist not to suspect
what everyone else must see, the real excellence of your drawings. Your
colouring is better understood in France. Your master, I fancy, was a
Frenchman?" said Mr. Longcluse.

"Yes, he was, and we got on very well together. Some of his young lady
pupils were very much afraid of him."

"Your poetry is fired by that picture, Miss Arden. Your copy will be a
finer thing than the original," said he.

"I shall aim only at making it a faithful copy; and if I can accomplish
anything like that, I shall be only too glad."

"I hope you will allow me to see it?" pleaded Longcluse.

"Oh, certainly," she laughed. "Only I'm a little afraid of you, Mr.
Longcluse."

"What can you mean, Miss Arden?"

"I mean, you are so good a critic in art, every one says, that I really
_am_ afraid of you," answered the young lady, laughing.

"I should be very glad to forfeit any little knowledge I have, if it
were attended with such a misfortune," said Longcluse. "But I don't
flatter; I tell you truly, a critic has only to admire, when he looks at
your drawings; they are quite above the level of an amateur's work."

"Well, whether you mean it or not, I _am_ very much flattered," she
laughed. "And though wise people say that flattery spoils one, I can't
help thinking it very agreeable to be flattered."

At this point of the dialogue Mr. Vivian Darnley--who wished that it
should be plain to all, and to one in particular, that he did not care
the least what was going on in other parts of the room--began to stumble
through the treble of a tune at the piano with his right hand. And
whatever other people may have thought of his performance, to Miss Alice
Arden it seemed very good music indeed, and inspired her with fresh
animation. Such as it was, Mr. Darnley's solo also turned the course of
Miss Arden's thoughts from drawing to another art, and she said--

"You, Mr. Longcluse, who know everything about the opera, can you tell
me--of course you can--anything about the great basso who is coming?"

"Stentoroni?"

"Yes; the newspapers and critics promise wonders."

"It is nearly two years since I heard him. He was very great, and
deserves all they say in 'Robert le Diable.' But there his greatness
began and ended. The voice, of course, you had, but everything else was
defective. It is plain, however, that the man who could make so fine a
study of one opera, could with equal labour make as great a success in
others. He has not sung in any opera for more than a year and a half,
and has been working diligently; and so everyone is in the dark very
much, and I am curious to hear the result--and nobody knows more than I
have told you. You are sure of a good 'Robert le Diable,' but all the
rest is speculation."

"And now, Mr. Longcluse, I shall try your good-nature."

"How?"

"I am going to make Lady May ask you to sing a song."

"Pray don't."

"Why not?"

"I should so much rather you asked me yourself."

"That's very good of you; then I certainly shall. I _do_ ask you."

"And I instantly obey. And what shall the song be?" asked he,
approaching the piano, to which she also walked.

"Oh, that ghostly one that I liked so much when you sang it here about a
week ago," she answered.

"I know it--yes, with pleasure." And he sat down at the piano, and in a
clear, rich baritone, sang the following odd song:--

    "The autumn leaf was falling
       At midnight from the tree,
     When at her casement calling,
       'I'm here, my love,' says he.
     'Come down and mount behind me,
       And rest your little head,
     And in your white arms wind me,
       Before that I be dead.

    "'You've stolen my heart by magic,
       I've kissed your lips in dreams:
     Our wooing wild and tragic
       Has been in ghostly scenes.
     The wondrous love I bear you
       Has made one life of twain,
     And it will bless or scare you,
       In deathless peace or pain.

    "'Our dreamland shall be glowing,
       If you my bride will be;
     To darkness both are going,
       Unless you come with me.
     Come now, and mount behind me,
       And rest your little head,
     And in your white arms wind me,
       Before that I be dead.'"

"Why, dear Alice, will you choose that dismal song, when you know that
Mr. Longcluse has so many others that are not only charming, but cheery
and natural?"

"It is because it is _un_natural that I like that song so much; the air
is so ominous and spectral, and yet so passionate. I think the idea is
Icelandic--those ghostly lovers that came in the dark to win their
beloved maidens, who as yet knew nothing of their having died, to ride
with them over the snowy fields and frozen rivers, to join their friends
at a merry-making which they were never to see; but there is something
more mysterious even in this lover, for his passion has unearthly
beginnings that lose themselves in utter darkness. Thank you very much,
Mr. Longcluse. It is so very kind of you! And now, Lady May, isn't it
your turn to choose? May she choose, Mr. Longcluse?"

"Any one, if you desire it, may choose anything I possess, and have it,"
said he, in a low impassioned murmur.

How the young lady would have taken this, I know not, but all were
suddenly interrupted. For at this moment a servant entered with a note,
which he presented, upon a salver, to Mr. Longcluse.

"Your servant is waiting, Sir, please, for orders in the awl," murmured
the man.

"Oh, yes--thanks," said Mr. Longcluse, who saw a shabby letter, with the
words "Private" and "Immediate" written in a round, vulgar hand over the
address.

"Pray read your note, Mr. Longcluse, and don't mind us," said Lady May.

"Thank you very much. I think I know what this is. I gave some evidence
to-day at an inquest," began Mr. Longcluse.

"That wretched Frenchman," interposed Lady May, "Monsieur Lebrun or----"

"Lebas," said Vivian Darnley.

"Yes, so it was, Lebas; what a frightful thing that was!" continued Lady
May, who was always well up in the day's horrors.

"Very melancholy, and very alarming also. It is a selfish way of looking
at it, but one can't help thinking it might just as well have happened
to any one else who was there. It brings it home to one a little
uncomfortably," said Mr. Longcluse, with an uneasy smile and a shrug.

"And you actually gave evidence, Mr. Longcluse?" said Lady May.

"Yes, a little," he answered. "It may lead to something. I hope so. As
yet it only indicates a line of inquiry. It will be in the papers, I
suppose, in the morning. There will be, I daresay, a pretty full report
of that inquest."

"Then you saw something occur that excited your suspicions?" said Lady
May.

Mr. Longcluse recounted all he had to tell, and mentioned having made
inquiries as to the present abode of the man, Paul Davies, at the police
office.

"And this note, I daresay, is the one they promised to send me, telling
the result of their inquiries," he added.

"Pray open it and see," said Lady May.

He did so. He read it in silence. From his foot to the crown of his head
there crept a cold influence as he read. Stream after stream, this
_aura_ of fear spread upwards to his brain. Pale Mr. Longcluse shrugged
and smiled, and smiled and shrugged, as his dark eye ran down the lines,
and with a careless finger he turned the page over. He smiled, as
prizefighters smile for the spectators, while every nerve quivered with
pain. He looked up, smiling still, and thrust the note into his
breast-pocket.

"Well, Mr. Longcluse, a long note it seems to have been," said Lady May,
curiously.

"Not very long, but what is as bad, very illegible," said Mr. Longcluse
gaily.

"And what about the man--the person the police were to have inquired
after?" she persisted.

"I find it is no police information, nothing of the kind," answered
Longcluse with the same smile. "It comes by no means from one of that
long-headed race of men; on the contrary, poor fellow, I believe he is
literally a little mad. I make him a trifling present every Christmas,
and that is a very good excuse for his plaguing me all the year round. I
was in hopes this letter might turn out an amusing one, but it is not;
it is a failure. It is rather sensible, and disgusting."

"Well, then, I must have my song, Mr. Longcluse," said Lady May, who,
under cover of music, sometimes talked a little, in gentle murmurs, to
that person with whom talk was particularly interesting.

But that song was not to be heard in Lady May's drawing-room that night,
for a kindred interruption, though much more serious in its effects upon
Mr. Longcluse's companions, occurred. A footman entered, and presented
on a salver a large brown envelope to Miss Alice Arden.

"Oh, dear! It is a telegram," exclaimed Miss Arden, who had taken it to
the window. Lady May Penrose was beside her by this time. Alice looked
on the point of fainting.

"I'm afraid papa is very ill," she whispered, handing the paper, which
trembled very much in her hand, to Lady May.

"H'm! Yes--but you may be sure it's exaggerated. Bring some sherry and
water, please. You look a little frightened, my dear. Sit down, darling.
There now! These messages are always written in a panic. What do you
mean to do?"

"I'll go, of course," said Alice.

"Well, yes--I think you must go. What is the place? Twyford, the 'Royal
Oak?' Look out Twyford, please Mr. Darnley--there's a book there. It
must be a post-town. It was thoughtful saying it is on the Dover coach
road."

Vivian Darnley was gazing in deep concern at Alice. Instantly he began
turning over the book, and announced in a few moments more--"It is a
post-town--only thirty-six miles from London," said Mr. Darnley.

"Thanks," said Lady May. "Oh, here's the wine--I'm so glad! You must
have a little, dear; and you'll take Louisa Diaper with you, of course;
and you shall have one of my carriages, and I'll send a servant with
you, and he'll arrange everything; and how soon do you wish to go?"

"Immediately, instantly--thanks, darling. I'm _so_ much obliged!"

"Will your brother go with you?"

"No, dear. Papa, you know, has not forgiven him, and it is, I think, two
years since they met. It would only agitate him."

And with these words she hurried to her room, and in another moment,
with the aid of her maid, was completing her hasty preparations.

In wonderfully little time the carriage was at the door. Mr. Longcluse
had taken his leave. So had Richard Arden, with the one direction to the
servant, "If anything should go _very_ wrong, be sure to telegraph for
me. Here is my address."

"Put this in your purse, dear," said Lady May. "Your father is so
thoughtless, he may not have brought money enough with him; and you will
find it is as I say--he'll be a great deal better by the time you get
there; and God bless you, my dear."

And she kissed her as heartily as she dared, without communicating the
rouge and white powder which aided her complexion.

As Alice ran down, Vivian Darnley awaited her outside the drawing-room
door, and ran down with her, and put her into the carriage. He leaned
for a moment on the window, and said--

"I hope you didn't mind that nonsense Lady May was talking just now
about Miss Grace Maubray. I assure you it is utter folly. I was awfully
vexed; but you didn't believe it?"

"I didn't hear her say anything, at least seriously. Wasn't she
laughing? I'm in such trouble about that message! I am so longing to be
at my journey's end!"

He took her hand and pressed it, and the carriage drove away. And
standing on the steps, and quite forgetting the footman close behind
him, he watched it as it drove rapidly southward, until it was quite out
of sight, and then with a great sigh and "God for ever bless
you!"--uttered not above his breath--he turned about, and saw those
powdered and liveried effigies, and walked up with his head rather high
to the drawing-room, where he found Lady May.

"I sha'n't go to the opera to-night; it is out of the question," said
she. "But _you_ shall. You go to my box, you know; Jephson will put you
in there."

It was plain that the good-natured soul was unhappy about Alice, and,
Richard Arden having departed, wished to be alone. So Vivian took his
leave, and went away--but not to the opera--and sauntered for an hour,
instead, in a melancholy romance up and down the terrace, till the moon
rose and silvered the trees in the park.



CHAPTER XII.

SIR REGINALD ARDEN.


The human mind being, in this respect, of the nature of a kaleidoscope,
that the slightest hitch, or jolt, or tremor is enough to change the
entire picture that occupies it, it is not to be supposed that the
illness of her father, alarming as it was, could occupy Alice Arden's
thoughts to the exclusion of every other subject, during every moment of
her journey. One picture, a very pretty one, frequently presented
itself, and always her heart felt a strange little pain as this pretty
phantom appeared. It was the portrait of a young girl, with fair golden
hair, a brilliant complexion, and large blue eyes, with something
_riant_, triumphant, and arch to the verge of mischief, in her animated
and handsome face.

The careless words of good Lady May, this evening, and the very obvious
confusion of Vivian Darnley at mention of the name of Grace Maubray,
troubled her. What was more likely than that Uncle David, interested in
both, should have seriously projected the union which Lady May had gaily
suggested? If she--Alice Arden--liked Vivian Darnley, it was not very
much, her pride insisted. In her childhood they had been thrown
together. He had seemed to like her; but had he ever spoken? Why was he
silent? Was she fool enough to like him?--that cautious, selfish young
man, who was thinking, she was quite certain now, of a marriage of
prudence or ambition with Grace Maubray? It was a cold, cruel, sordid
world!

But, after all, why should he have spoken? or why should he have hoped
to be heard with favour? She had been to him, thank Heaven, just as any
other pleasant, early friend. There was nothing to regret--nothing
fairly to blame. It was just that a person whom she had come to regard
as a property was about to go, and belong quite, to another. It was the
foolish little jealousy that everyone feels, and that means nothing. So
she told herself; but constantly recurred the same pretty image, and
with it the same sudden little pain at her heart.

But now came the other care. As time and space shorten, and the moment
of decision draws near, the pain of suspense increases. They were within
six miles of Twyford. Her heart was in a wild flutter--now throbbing
madly, now it seemed standing still. The carriage window was down. She
was looking out on the scenery--strange to her--all bright and serene
under a brilliant moon. What message awaited her at the inn to which
they were travelling at this swift pace? How frightful it might be!

"Oh, Louisa!" she every now and then imploringly cried to her maid, "how
do you think it will be? Oh! how will it be? Do you think he'll be
better? Oh! do you think he'll be better? Tell me again about his other
illness, and how he recovered? Don't you think he will this time? Oh,
Louisa, darling! don't you think so? Tell me--_tell_ me you do!"

Thus, in her panic, the poor girl wildly called for help and comfort,
until at last the carriage turned a curve in the road at which stood a
shadowy clump of elms, and in another moment the driver pulled up under
the sign of the "Royal Oak."

"Oh, Louisa! Here it is," cried the young lady, holding her maid's wrist
with a trembling grasp.

The inn-door was shut, but there was light in the hall, and light in an
upper room.

"Don't knock--only ring the bell. He may be asleep, God grant!" said the
young lady.

The door was quickly opened, and a waiter ran down to the carriage
window, where he saw a pair of large wild eyes, and a very pale face,
and heard the question--"An old gentlemen has been ill here, and a
telegram was sent; is he--how is he?"

"He's better, Ma'am," said the man.

With a low, long "O--Oh!" and clasped hands and upturned eyes, she
leaned back in the carriage, and a sudden flood of tears relieved her.
Yes; he was a great deal better. The attack was quite over; but he had
not spoken. He seemed much exhausted; and having swallowed some claret,
which the doctor prescribed, he had sunk into a sound and healthy sleep,
in which he still lay. A message by telegraph had been sent to announce
the good news, but Alice was some way on her journey before it had
reached.

Now the young lady got down, and entered the homely old inn, followed by
her maid. She could have dropped on her knees in gratitude to her Maker;
but true religion, like true affection, is shy of demonstrating its
fervours where sympathy is doubtful.

Gently, hardly breathing, guided by the "chambermaid," she entered her
father's room, and stood at his bedside. There he lay, yellow, lean, the
lines of his face in repose still forbidding, the thin lips and thin
nose looking almost transparent, and breathing deeply and regularly, as
a child in his slumbers. In that face Alice could not discover what any
stranger would have seen. She only saw the face of her father. Selfish
and capricious as he was, and violent too--a wicked old man, if one
could see him justly--he was yet proud of her, and had many schemes and
projects afloat in his jaded old brain, of which her beauty was the
talisman, of which she suspected nothing, and with which his head was
never more busy than at the very moment when he was surprised by the
_aura_ of his coming fit.

The doctor's conjecture was right. He had crossed the Channel that
morning. In his French _coupée_, he had for companion the very man he
had most wished and contrived to travel homeward with. This was Lord
Wynderbroke.

Lord Wynderbroke was fifty years old and upwards. He was very much taken
with Alice, whom he had met pretty often. He was a man who was thought
likely to marry. His estate was in the nattiest order. He had always
been prudent, and cultivated a character. He had, moreover, mortgages
over Sir Reginald Arden's estate, the interest of which the baronet was
beginning to find it next to impossible to pay. They had been making a
little gouty visit to Vichy, and Sir Reginald had taken good care to
make the journey homeward with Lord Wynderbroke, who knew that when he
pleased he could be an amusing companion, and who also felt that kind of
interest in him which everyone experiences in the kindred of the young
lady of whom he is enamoured.

The baronet, who tore up or burnt his letters for the most part, had
kept this particular one by which his daughter had been traced and
summoned to the "Royal Oak." It was, he thought, clever. It was amusing,
and had some London gossip. He had read bits of it to Lord Wynderbroke
in the _coupée_. Lord Wynderbroke was delighted. When they parted, he
had asked leave to pay him a visit at Mortlake.

"Only too happy, if you are not afraid of the old house falling in upon
us. Everything _there_, you know, is very much as my grandfather left
it. I only use it as a caravanserai, and alight there for a little, on a
journey. Everything there is tumbling to pieces. But you won't mind--no
more than I do."

So the little visit was settled. The passage was rough. Peer and baronet
were ill. They did not care to reunite their fortunes after they touched
English ground. As the baronet drew near London, for certain reasons he
grew timid. He got out with a portmanteau and dressing-case, and an
umbrella, at Drowark station, sent his servant on with the rest of the
luggage by rail, and himself took a chaise; and, after one change of
horses, had reached the "Royal Oak" in the state in which we first saw
him.

The doctor had told the people at that inn that he would look in, in the
course of the night, some time after one o'clock, being a little uneasy
about a possible return of the old man's malady. There was that in the
aristocratic looks and belongings of his patient, and in the very
fashionable address to which the message to his daughter was
transmitted, which induced in the mind of the learned man a suspicion
that a "swell" might have accidentally fallen into his hands.

By this time, thanks to the diligence of Louisa Diaper, every one in the
house had been made acquainted with the fact that the sick man was no
other than Sir Reginald Arden, Bart., and with many other circumstances
of splendour, which would not, perhaps, have so well stood the test of
inquiry. The doctor and his crony, the rector--simplest of parsons--who
had agreed to accompany him in this nocturnal call, being a curious man,
as gentlemen inhabiting quiet villages will be--these two gentlemen now
heard all this lore in the hall at a quarter past one, and entered the
patient's chamber (where they found Miss Arden and her maid)
accordingly. In whispers, the doctor made to Miss Arden a most
satisfactory report. He made his cautious inspection of the patient, and
again had nothing but what was cheery to say.

If the rector had not prided himself upon his manners, and had been
content with one bow on withdrawing from the lady's presence, they would
not that night have heard the patient's voice--and perhaps, all things
considered, so much the better.

"I trust, Madam, in the morning Sir Reginald may be quite himself again.
It is pleasant, Madam, to witness slumber so quiet," murmured the
clergyman kindly, and in perfect good faith. "It is the slumber of a
tranquil mind--a spirit at peace with itself."

Smiling kindly in making the last stiff bow which accompanied these
happy words, the good man tilted over a little table behind him, on
which stood a decanter of claret, a water caraffe, and two glasses, all
of which came to the ground with a crash that wakened the baronet. He
sat up straight in his bed and stared round, while the clergyman, in
consternation, exclaimed--"Good gracious!"

"Hollo! what is it?" cried the fierce, thin voice of the baronet. "What
the devil's all this? Where's Crozier? Where's my servant? Will you,
will you, some of you, say where the devil I am?" He was screaming all
this, and groping and clutching at either side of the bed's head for a
bell-rope, intending to rouse the house. "Where's Crozier, I say? Where
the devil's my servant? eh? He's gone by rail, ain't he? No one came
with me. And where's this? What is it? Are you all tongue-tied?--haven't
you a word among you?"

The clergyman had lifted his hands in terror at the harangue of the old
man of the "tranquil mind." Alice had taken his thin hand, standing
beside him, and was speaking softly in his ear. But his prominent brown
eyes were fiercely scanning the strangers, and the hand which clutched
hers was trembling with eager fury. "Will some of you say what you mean,
or what you are doing, or where I am?" and he screeched another sentence
or two, that made the old clergyman very uncomfortable.

"You arrived here, Sir Reginald, about six hours ago--extremely ill,
Sir," said the doctor, who had placed himself close to his patient, and
spoke with official authority; "but we have got you all right again, we
hope; and this is the 'Royal Oak,' the principal hotel of Twyford, on
the Dover and London road; and my name is Proby."

"And what's all this?" cried the baronet, snatching up one of the
medicine-bottles from the little table by his bed, and plucking out the
cork and smelling at the fluid. "By heaven?" he screamed, "this is the
very thing. I could not tell what d----d taste was in my mouth, and here
it is. Why, my doctor tells me--and he knows his business--it is as much
as my life's worth to give me anything like--like that, pah! assafœtida!
If my stomach is upset with this filthy stuff, I give myself up! I'm
gone. I shall sink, Sir. Was there no one here, in the name of Heaven,
with a grain of sense or a particle of pity, to prevent that beast from
literally poisoning me? Egad! I'll make my son punish him! I'll make my
family hang him if I die!" There was a quaver of misery in his shriek of
fury, as if he was on the point of bursting into tears. "Doctor, indeed!
who sent for him? I didn't. Who gave him leave to drug me? Upon my soul,
I've been poisoned. To think of a creature in my state, dependent on
nourishment every hour, having his digestion destroyed! Doctor, indeed!
Pay him? Not I, begad," and he clenched his sentence with an ugly
expletive.

But all this concluding eloquence was lost upon the doctor, who had
mentioned, in a lofty "aside" to Miss Arden, that "unless sent for he
should not call again;" and with a marked politeness to her, and no
recognition whatever of the baronet, he had taken his departure.

"I'm not the doctor, Sir Reginald; I'm the clergyman," said the Reverend
Peter Sprott, gravely and timidly, for the prominent brown eyes were
threatening him.

"Oh, the clergyman! Oh, I see. Will you be so good as to ring the bell,
please, and excuse a sick man giving you that trouble. And is there a
post-office near this?"

"Yes, Sir--close by."

"This is you, Alice? I'm glad you're here. You must write a letter this
moment--a note to your brother. Don't be afraid--I'm better, a good
deal--and tell the people, when they come, to get me some strong soup
this moment, and--good evening, Sir, or good-night, or morning, or
whatever it is," he added, to the clergyman, who was taking his leave.
"What o'clock is it?" he asked Alice. "Well, you'll write to your
brother to meet me at Mortlake. I have not seen him, now, for how many
years? I forget. He's in town, is he? Very good. And tell him it is
perhaps the last time, and I expect him. I suppose he'll come. Say at a
quarter past nine in the evening. The sooner it's over the better. I
expect no good of it; it is only just to try. And I shall leave this
early--immediately after breakfast--as quickly as we can. I hate it!"



CHAPTER XIII.

ON THE ROAD.


Next morning the baronet was in high good-humour. He has written a
little reminder to Lord Wynderbroke. He will expect him at Mortlake the
day he named, to dinner. He remembers he promised to stay the night. He
can offer him, still, as good a game of piquet as he is likely to find
in his club; and he almost feels that he has no excuse but a selfish
one, for exacting the performance of a promise which gave him a great
deal of pleasure. His daughter, who takes care of her old father, will
make their tea and--_voilà tout!_

Sir Reginald was in particularly good spirits as he sent the waiter to
the post-office with this little note. He thinks within himself that he
never saw Alice in such good looks. His selfish elation waxes quite
affectionate, and Alice never remembered him so good-natured. She
doesn't know what to make of it exactly; but it pleases her, and she
looks all the more brilliant.

And now these foreign birds, whom a chance storm has thrown upon the
hospitality of the "Royal Oak," are up and away again. The old baronet
and his pretty daughter, Louisa Diaper sitting behind, in cloaks and
rugs, and the footman in front, to watch the old man's signals, are
whirling dustily along with a team of four horses; for Sir Reginald's
arrangements are never economical, and a pair would have brought them
over these short stages and home very nearly as fast. Lady May's
carriage pleases the old man, and helps his transitory good-humour: it
is so much more luxurious than the jolty hired vehicle in which he had
arrived.

Alice is permitted her thoughts to herself. The baronet has taken his
into companionship, and is leaning back in his corner, with his eyes
closed; and his pursed mouth, with its wonderful involution of wrinkles
round it, is working unconsciously; and his still dark eyebrows, now
elevating, now knitting themselves, indicate the same activity of brain.

With a silent look now and then at his face--for she need not ask
whether Sir Reginald wants anything, or would like anything changed, for
the baronet needs no inquiries of this kind, and makes people speedily
acquainted with his wants and fancies--she occupies her place beside
him, for the most part looking out listlessly from the window, and
thinks of many things. The baronet opens his eyes at last, and says
abruptly,

"Charming prospect! Charming day! You'll be glad to hear, Alice, I'm not
tired; I'm making my journey wonderfully! It is so pretty, and the sun
so cheery. You are looking so well, it is quite a pleasure to look at
you--charming! You'll come to me at Mortlake for a few days, to take
care of me, you know. I shall go on to Buxton in a week or so, and you
can return to Lady May to-night, and come to Mortlake shortly; and your
brother, graceless creature! I suppose, will come to-night. I expect
nothing from his visit, absolutely. He has been nothing to me but a
curse all his life. I suppose, if there's justice anywhere, he'll have
his deserts some day. But for the present I put him aside--I sha'n't
speak of him. He disturbs me."

They drove through London over Westminster Bridge, the servant thinking
that they were to go to Lady May Penrose's in Chester Terrace. It was
the first time that day, since he had talked of his son, that a black
shadow crossed Sir Reginald's face. He shrunk back. He drew up his
Chinese silk muffler over his chin. He was fearful lest some prowling
beak or eagle-eyed Jew should see his face, for Sir Reginald was just
then in danger. Glancing askance under the peak of his travelling cap,
he saw Talkington, with Wynderbroke on his arm, walking to their club.
How free and fearless those happy mortals looked! How the old man
yearned for his chat and his glass of wine at B----'s, and his afternoon
whist at W----'s! How he chafed and blasphemed inwardly at the invisible
obstacle that insurmountably interposed, and with what a fiery sting of
malice he connected the idea of his son with the fetters that bound him!

"You know that man?" said Sir Reginald sharply, as he saw Mr. Longcluse
raise his hat to her as they passed.

"Yes, I've met him pretty often at Lady May's."

"H'm! I had not an idea that anyone knew him. He's a man who might be of
use to one."

Here followed a silence.

"I thought, papa, you wished to go direct to Mortlake, and I don't think
this is the way," suggested Alice.

"Eh? heigho! You're right, child; upon my life, I was not thinking,"
said Sir Reginald, at the same time signalling vehemently to the
servant, who, having brought the carriage to a stand-still, came round
to the window.

"We don't stop anywhere in town, we go straight to Mortlake Hall. It is
beyond Islington. Have you ever been there? Well, you can tell them how
to reach it."

And Sir Reginald placed himself again in his corner. They had not
started early, and he had frequently interrupted their journey on
various whimsical pretexts. He remembered one house, for instance, where
there was a stock of the very best port he had ever tasted, and then he
stopped and went in, and after a personal interview with the proprietor,
had a bottle opened, and took two glasses, and so paid at the rate of
half a guinea each for them. It had been an interrupted journey, late
begun, and the sun was near its setting by the time they had got a mile
beyond the outskirts of Islington, and were drawing near the singular
old house where their journey was to end.

Always with a melancholy presentiment, Alice approached Mortlake Hall.
But never had she felt it more painfully than now. If there be in such
misgivings a prophetic force, was it to be justified by the coming
events of Miss Arden's life, which were awfully connected with that
scene?

They passed a quaint little village of tall stone houses, among great
old trees, with a rural and old-world air, and an ancient inn, with the
sign of "Guy of Warwick"--an inn of which we shall see more
by-and-by--faded, and like the rest of this little town, standing under
the shadow of old trees. They entered the road, dark with double
hedge-rows, and with a moss-grown park-wall on the right, in which, in a
little time, they reached a great iron gate with fluted pillars. They
drove up a broad avenue, flanked with files of gigantic trees, and
showing grand old timber also upon the park-like grounds beyond. The
dusky light of evening fell upon these objects, and the many windows,
the cornices, and the smokeless chimneys of a great old house. You might
have fancied yourself two hundred miles away from London.

"You don't stay here to-night, Alice. I wish you to return to Lady May,
and give her the note I am going to write. You and she come out to dine
here on Friday. If she makes a difficulty, I rely on you to persuade
her. I must have someone to meet Mr. Longcluse. I have reasons. Also, I
shall ask my brother David, and his ward Miss Maubray. I knew her
father: he was a fool, with his head full of romance, and he married a
very pretty woman who was a devil, without a shilling on earth. The girl
is an orphan, and David is her guardian, and he would like any little
attention we can show her. And we shall ask Vivian Darnley also. And
that will make a very suitable party."

Sir Reginald wrote his note, talking at intervals.

"You see, I want Lady May to come here again in a day or two, to stay
only for two or three days. She can go into town and remain there all
day, if she likes it. But Wynderbroke will be coming, and I should not
like him to find us quite deserted; and she said she'd come, and she may
as well do it now as another time. David lives so quietly, we are sure
of him; and I commit May Penrose to you. You must persuade her to come.
It will be cruel to disappoint. Here is her note--I will send the others
myself. And now, God bless you, dear Alice!"

"I am so uncomfortable at the idea of leaving you, papa." Her hand was
on his arm, and she was looking anxiously into his face.

"So of course you should be; only that I am so perfectly recovered, that
I must have a quiet evening with Richard; and I prefer your being in
town to-night, and you and May Penrose can come out to-morrow. Good-bye,
child, God bless you!"



CHAPTER XIV.

MR. LONGCLUSE'S BOOT FINDS A TEMPORARY ASYLUM.


In the papers of that morning had appeared a voluminous report of the
proceedings of the coroner's inquest which sat upon the body of the
deceased Pierre Lebas. I shall notice but one passage referring to the
evidence which, it seems, Mr. Longcluse volunteered. It was given in
these terms:--

"At this point of the proceedings, Mr. R. D. Longcluse, who had arrived
about half an hour before, expressed a wish to be examined. Mr.
Longcluse was accordingly sworn, and deposed that he had known the
deceased, Pierre Lebas, when he (Mr. Longcluse) was little more than a
boy, in Paris. Lebas at that time let lodgings, which were neat and
comfortable, in the Rue Victoire. He was a respectable and obliging man.
He had some other occupation besides that of letting lodgings, but he
(Mr. Longcluse) could not say what it might be." Then followed
particulars with which we are already acquainted; and the report went on
to say: "He seemed surprised when witness told him that there might be
in the room persons of the worst character; and he then, in considerable
alarm, pointed out to him (witness) a man who was and had been following
him from place to place, he fancied with a purpose. Witness observed the
man and saw him watch deceased, turning his eyes repeatedly upon him.
The man had no companions, so far as he could see, and affected to be
looking in a different direction. It was sideways and stealthily that he
was watching deceased, who had incautiously taken out and counted some
of his money in the room. Deceased did not conceal from the witness his
apprehensions from this man, and witness advised him again to place his
money in the hands of some friend who had a secure pocket, and
recommended, in case his friend should object to take so much money into
his care--Lebas having said he had a large sum about him--under the gaze
of the public, that he should make the transfer in the smoking-room, the
situation of which he described to him. Mr. Longcluse then proceeded to
give an exact description of the man who had been dogging the deceased;
the particulars were as follows:--"

Here I arrest my quotation, for I need not recapitulate the details of
the tall man's features, dress, and figure, which are already familiar
to the reader.

                   *       *       *       *       *

In a court off High Holborn there was, and perhaps is, a sort of
coffee-shop, in the small drawing-rooms of which, thrown into one room,
are many small and homely tables, with penny and halfpenny papers, and
literature with startling woodcuts. Here working mechanics and others
snatch a very early breakfast, and take their dinners, and such as can
afford time loiter their half-hour or so over this agreeable literature.
One penny morning paper visited that place of refection, for three hours
daily, and then flitted away to keep an appointment elsewhere. It was
this dull time in that peculiar establishment--namely, about nine
o'clock in the morning--and there was but one listless guest in the
room. It was the identical tall man in question. His flat feet were
planted on the bare floor, and he leaned a shoulder against the
window-case, with a plug of tobacco in his jaw, as, at his leisure, he
was getting through the coroner's inquest on Pierre Lebas. He was
smiling with half-closed eyes and considerable enjoyment, up to the
point where Mr. Longcluse's evidence was suddenly directed upon him.
There was a twitching scowl, as if from a sudden pain; but his smile
continued from habit, although his face grew paler. This man, whose name
was Paul Davies, winked hard with his left eye, as he got on, and read
fiercely with his right. His face was whiter now, and his smile less
easy. It was a queerish situation, he thought, and might lead to
consequences.

There was a little bit of a looking-glass, picked up at some rubbishy
auction, as old as the hills, with some tarnished gilding about it, in
the narrow bit of wall between the windows. Paul Davies could look at
nothing quite straight. He looked now at himself in this glass, but it
was from the corners of his eyes, askance, and with his sly, sleepy
depression of the eye-lids, as if he had not overmuch confidence even in
his own shadow. He folded the morning paper, and laid it, with formal
precision, on the table, as if no one had disturbed it; and taking up
the _Halfpenny Illustrated Broadsheet of Fiction_, and with it
flourishing in his hand by the corner, he called the waiter over the
bannister, and paid his reckoning, and went off swiftly to his garret in
another court, a quarter of a mile nearer to Saint Paul's--taking an
obscure and devious course through back-lanes and sequestered courts.

When he got up to his garret, Mr. Davies locked his door and sat down on
the side of his creaking settle-bed, and, in his playful phrase, "put on
his considering cap."

"That's a dangerous cove, that Mr. Longcluse. He's done a bold stroke.
And now it's him or me, I do suppose--him or me; me or him. Come, Paul,
shake up your knowledge-box; I'll not lose this cast simple. He's gave a
description of me. The force will know it. And them feet o' mine, they
_are_ a bit flat: but any chap can make a pair of insteps with a
penn'orth o' rags. I wouldn't care tuppence if it wasn't for them
pock-marks. There's no managing them. A scar or a wart you may touch
over with paint and sollible gutta-percha, or pink wafers and gelatine,
but pock-marks is too many for any man."

He was looking with some anxiety in the triangular fragment of
looking-glass--balanced on a nail in the window-case--at his features.

"I can take off them whiskers; and the long neck he makes so much of, if
it was as long as an oystrich, with fourpenn'orth of cotton waste and a
cabbage-net, I'd make a bull of it, and run my shoulders up to my ears.
I'll take the whiskers off, anyhow. That's no treason; and he mayn't
identify me. If I'm not had up for a fortnight my hair would be grew a
bit, and that would be a lift. But a fellow must think twice before he
begins disguisin'. Juries smells a rat. Howsomever, a cove may shave,
and no harm done; or his hair may grow a bit, and how can he help it?
Longcluse knows what he's about. He's a sharp lad, but for all that Paul
Davies 'ill sweat him yet."

Mr. Davies turned the button of his old-fashioned window, and let it
down. He shut out his two scarlet geraniums, which accompanied him in
all his changes from one lodging to another.

"Suppose he tries the larceny--that's another thing he may do, seeing
what my lay is. It wouldn't do to lose that thing; no more would it
answer to let them find it."

This last idea seemed to cause Paul Davies a good deal of serious
uneasiness. He began looking about at the walls, low down near the
skirting, and up near the ceiling, tapping now and then with his
knuckles, and sounding the plaster as a doctor would the chest of a
wheezy patient. He was not satisfied. He scratched his head, and fiddled
with his ear, and plucked his short nose dubiously, and winked hard at
his geraniums through the window.

Paul Davies knew that the front garret was not let. He opened his door
and listened. Then he entered that room. I think he had a notion of
changing his lodgings, if only he could find what he wanted. That was
such a hiding-place as professional seekers were not likely to discover.
But he could not satisfy himself.

A thought struck him, however, and he went into the lobby again; he got
on a chair and pushed open the skylight, and out went Mr. Davies on the
roof. He looked and poked about here. He looked to the neighbouring
roofs, lest any eye should be upon him; but there was no one. A maid
hanging clothes upon a line, on a sort of balcony, midway down the next
house, was singing, "The Ratcatcher's Daughter," he thought rather
sweetly--so well, indeed, that he listened for two whole verses--but
that did not signify.

Paul Davies kneeled down, and loosed and removed, one after the other,
several slates near the lead gutter, between the gables; and, having
made a sufficient opening in the roof for his purpose, he returned, let
himself down lightly through the skylight, entered his room, and locked
himself up. He then unlocked his trunk and took from under his clothes,
where it lay, a French boot--the veritable boot of Mr. Longcluse--which,
for greater security, he popped under the coarse coverlet of his bed. He
next took from his trunk a large piece of paper which, being unfolded at
the window, disclosed a rude drawing with a sentence or two underneath,
and three signatures, with a date preceding.

Having read this document over twice or thrice, with a rather menacing
smile, he rolled it up in brown paper and thrust it into the foot of the
boot, which he popped under the coverlet and bolster. He then opened his
door wide. Too long a silence might possibly have seemed mysterious, and
called up prying eyes, so, while he filled his pipe with tobacco, he
whistled, "Villikins and his Dinah" lustily. He was very cautious about
this boot and paper. He got on his great-coat and felt hat, and took his
pipe and some matches--the enjoying a quiet smoke without troubling
others with the perfume was a natural way of accounting for his visit to
the roof. He listened. He slipped his boot and its contents into his
capacious great-coat pocket, with a rag of old carpet tied round it; and
then, whistling still cheerily, he mounted the roof again, and placed
the precious parcel within the roof, which he, having some skill as a
slater, proceeded carefully and quickly to restore.

Down came Mr. Davies now, and shaved off his whiskers. Then he walked
out, with a bundle consisting of the coat, waistcoat, and blue necktie
he had worn on the evening of Lebas's murder. He was going to pay a
visit to his mother, a venerable greengrocer, who lived near the Tower
of London; and on his way he pledged these articles at two distinct and
very remote pawnbrokers', intending on his return to release, with the
proceeds, certain corresponding articles of his wardrobe, now in ward in
another establishment. These measures of obliteration he was taking
quietly. His visit to his mother, a very honest old woman, who believed
him to be the most virtuous, agreeable, and beautiful young man extant,
was made with a very particular purpose.

"Well, Ma'am," he said, in reply to the old lady's hospitable greeting,
"I won't refuse a pot of half-and-half and a couple of eggs, and I'll go
so far as a cut or two of bacon, bein' 'ungry; and I'm a-goin' to write
a paper of some consequence, if you'll obleege me with a sheet of
foolscap and a pen and ink; and I may as well write it while the things
is a-gettin' ready, accordin' to your kind intentions."

And accordingly Mr. Paul Davies sat in silence, looking very
important--as he always did when stationery was before him--at a small
table, in a dark back room, and slowly penned a couple of pages of
foolscap.

"And now," said he, producing the document after his repast, "will you
be so good, Ma'am, as to ask Mr. Sildyke and Mrs. Rumble to come down
and witness my signing of this, which I mean to leave it in your hands
and safe keepin', under lock and key, until I take it away, or otherwise
tells you what you must do with it. It is a police paper, Ma'am, and may
be wanted any time. But you keep it dark till I tells you."

This settled, Mr. Sildyke and Mrs. Rumble arrived obligingly; and Paul
Davies, with an adroit wink at his mother--who was a little shocked and
much embarrassed by the ruse, being a truth-loving woman--told them that
here was his last will and testament, and he wanted only that they
should witness his signature; which, with the date, was duly
accomplished. Paul Davies was, indeed, a man of that genius which
requires to proceed by stratagem, cherishing an abhorrence of straight
lines, and a picturesque love of the curved and angular. So, if Mr.
Longcluse was doing his duty at one end of the town, Mr. Davies, at the
other, was by no means wanting in activity, or, according to the level
of his intellect and experience, in wisdom.

We have recurred to these scenes in which Mr. Paul Davies figures,
because it was indispensable to the reader's right understanding of some
events that follow. Be so good, then, as to find Sir Reginald exactly
where I left him, standing on the steps of Mortlake Hall. His daughter
would have stayed, but he would not hear of it. He stood on the steps,
and smirked a yellow and hollow farewell, waving his hand as the
carriage drove away. Then he turned and entered the lofty hall, in which
the light was already failing.

Sir Reginald did not like the trouble of mounting the stairs. His
bed-room and sitting-room were on a level with the hall. As soon as he
came in, the gloom of his old prison-house began to overshadow him, and
his momentary cheer and good-humour disappeared.

"Where is Tansey? I suppose she's in her bed, or grumbling in
toothache," he snarled to the footman. "And where the devil's Crozier? I
have the fewest and the worst servants, I believe, of any man in
England."

He poked open the door of his sitting-room with the point of his
walking-stick.

"Nothing ready, I dare swear," he quavered, and shot a peevish and fiery
glance round it.

Things were not looking quite so badly as he expected. There was just
the little bit of expiring fire in the grate which he liked, even in
summer. His sealskin slippers were on the hearth-rug, and his easy-chair
was pushed into its proper place.

"Ha! Crozier, at last! Here, get off this coat, and these mufflers,
and---- I was d----d near dying in that vile chaise. I don't remember
how they got me into the inn. There, don't mind condoling. You're
privileged, but don't do that. As near dying as possible--rather an
awkward business for useless old servants here, if I had. I'll dress in
the next room. My son's coming this evening. Admit him, mind. I'll see
him. How long is it since we met last? Two years, egad! And Lord
Wynderbroke has his dinner here--I don't know what day, but some day
very soon--Friday, I think; and don't let the people here go to sleep.
Remember!"

And so on, with his old servant, he talked, and sneered, and snarled,
and established himself in his sitting-room, with his reviews, and his
wine, and his newspapers.

Night fell over dark Mortlake Hall, and over the blazing city of London.
Sir Reginald listened, every now and then, for the approach of his son.
Talk as he might, he did expect something--and a great deal--from the
coming interview. Two years without a home, without an allowance, with
no provision except a hundred and fifty pounds a year, might well have
tamed that wilful beast!

With the tremor of acute suspense, the old man watched and listened. Was
it a good or an ill sign, his being so late?

The city of London, with its still roaring traffic and blaze of
gas-lamps, did not contrast more powerfully with the silent shadows of
the forest-grounds of Mortlake, than did the drawing-room of Lady May
Penrose, brilliant with a profusion of light, and resonant with the gay
conversation of inmates, all disposed to enjoy themselves, with the dim
and vast room in which Sir Reginald sat silently communing with his own
dismal thoughts.

Nothing so contagious as gaiety. Alice Arden, laughingly, was "making
her book" rather prematurely in dozens of pairs of gloves, for the
Derby. Lord Wynderbroke was deep in it. So was Vivian Darnley.

"Your brother and I are to take the reins, turn about, Lady May says.
He's a crack whip. He's better than I, I think," said Vivian to Alice
Arden.

"You mustn't upset us, though. I am so afraid of you crack whips!" said
Alice. "Nor let your horses run away with us; I've been twice run away
with already."

"I don't the least wonder at Miss Arden's being run away with very
often," said Lord Wynderbroke, with all the archness of a polite man of
fifty.

"Very prettily said, Wynderbroke," smiled Lady May. "And where is your
brother? I thought he'd have turned up to-night," asked she of Alice.

"I quite forgot. He was to see papa this evening. They wanted to talk
over something together."

"Oh, I see!" said Lady May, and she became thoughtful.

What was the exact nature of the interest which good Lady May
undoubtedly took in Richard Arden? Was it quite so motherly as years
might warrant? At that time people laughed over it, and were curious to
see the progress of the comedy. Here was light and gaiety--light within,
lamps without; spirited talk in young anticipation of coming days of
pleasure; and outside the roll of carriage-wheels making a humming bass
to this merry treble.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Over the melancholy precincts of Mortlake the voiceless darkness of
night descends with unmitigated gloom. The centre--the brain of this
dark place--is the house: and in a large dim room, near the smouldering
fire, sits the image that haunts rather than inhabits it.



CHAPTER XV.

FATHER AND SON.


Sir Reginald Arden had fallen into a doze, as he sat by the fire with
his _Revue des Deux Mondes_, slipping between his finger and thumb, on
his knees. He was recalled by Crozier's voice, and looking up, he saw,
standing near the door, as if in some slight hesitation, a figure not
seen for two years before.

For a moment Sir Reginald doubted his only half-awakened senses. Was
that handsome oval face, with large, soft eyes, with such brilliant
lips, and the dark-brown moustache, so fine, and silken, that had never
known a razor, an unsubstantial portrait hung in the dim air, or his
living son? There were perplexity and surprise in the old man's stare.

"I should have been here before, Sir, but your letter did not reach me
until an hour ago," said Richard Arden.

"By heaven! Dick? And so you came! I believe I was asleep. Give me your
hand. I hope, Dick, we may yet end this miserable quarrel happily.
Father and son can have no real interests apart."

Sir Reginald Arden extended his thin hand, and smiled invitingly but
rather darkly on his son. Graceful and easy this young man was, and yet
embarrassed, as he placed his hand within his father's.

"You will take something, Dick, won't you?"

"Nothing, Sir, thanks."

Sir Reginald was stealthily reading his face. At last he began
circuitously--

"I've a little bit of news to tell you about Alice. How long shall I
allow you to guess what it is?"

"I'm the worst guesser in the world--pray don't wait for me, Sir."

"Well, I have in my desk there--would you mind putting it on the table
here?--a letter from Wynderbroke. You know him?"

"Yes, a little."

"Well, Wynderbroke writes--the letter arrived only an hour ago--to ask
my leave to marry your sister, if she will consent; and he says all he
will do, which is very handsome--very generous indeed. Wait a moment.
Yes, here it is. Read that."

Richard Arden did read the letter, with open eyes and breathless
interest. The old man's eyes were upon him as he did so.

"Well, Richard, what do you think?"

"There can be but one opinion about it. Nothing can be more handsome.
Everything suitable. I only hope that Alice will not be foolish."

"She sha'n't be that, I'll take care," said the old man, locking down
his desk again upon the letter.

"It might possibly be as well, Sir, to prepare her a little at first. I
may possibly be of some little use, and so may Lady May. I only mean
that it might hardly be expedient to make it from the first a matter of
authority, because she has romantic ideas, and she is spirited."

"I'll sleep upon it. I sha'n't see her again till to-morrow evening. She
does not care about anyone in particular, I suppose?"

"Not that I know of," said Richard.

"You'll find it will all be right--it _will_--all right. It _shall_ be
right," said Sir Reginald. And then there was a silence. He was
meditating the other business he had in hand, and again circuitously he
proceeded.

"What's going on at the opera? Who is your great danseuse at present?"
inquired the baronet, with a glimmer of a leer. "I haven't seen a ballet
for more than six years. And why? I needn't tell you. You know the
miserable life I lead. Egad! there are fellows placed everywhere to
watch me. There would be an execution in this house this night, if the
miserable tables and chairs were not my brother David's property. Upon
my life, Craven, my attorney, had to serve two notices on the sheriff in
one term, to caution him not to sell your uncle's furniture for my
debts. I shouldn't have had a joint-stool to sit down on, if it hadn't
been for that. And I had to get out of the railway-carriage, by heaven!
for fear of arrest, and come home--if home I can call this ruin--by
posting all the way, except a few miles. I did not dare to tell Craven I
was coming back. I wrote from Twyford, where I--I--took a fancy to sleep
last night, to no human being but yourself. My comfort is that they and
all the world believe that I'm still in France. It is a pleasant state
of things!"

"I am grieved, Sir, to think you suffer so much."

"I know it. I knew it. I know you are, Dick," said the old man eagerly.
"And my life is a perfect hell. I can nowhere in England find rest for
the sole of my foot. I am suffering perpetually the most miserable
mortifications, and the tortures of the damned. I know you are sorry. It
can't be pleasant to you to see your father the miserable outcast, and
fugitive, and victim he so often is. And I'll say distinctly--I'll say
at once--for it was with this one purpose I sent for you--that no son
with a particle of human feeling, with a grain of conscience, or an atom
of principle, could endure to see it, when he knew that by a stroke of
his pen he could undo it all, and restore a miserable parent to life and
liberty! Now, Richard, you have my mind. I have concealed nothing, and
I'm sure, Dick, I know, I _know_ you won't see your father perish by
inches, rather than sign the warrant for his liberation. For God's sake,
Dick, my boy speak out! Have you the heart to reject your miserable
father's petition? Do you wish me to kneel to you? I love you, Dick,
although you don't admit it. I'll kneel to you, Dick--I'll kneel to you.
I'll go on my knees to you."

His hands were clasped; he made a movement. His great prominent eyes
were fixed on Richard Arden's face, which he was reading with a great
deal of eagerness, it is true, but also with a dark and narrow
shrewdness.

"Good heaven, Sir, don't stir, I implore! If you do, I must leave the
room," said Richard, embarrassed to a degree that amounted to agitation.
"And I must tell you, Sir--it is very painful, but, I could not help it,
necessity drove me to it--if I were ever so desirous, it is out of my
power now. I have dealt with my reversion. I have executed a deed."

"You have been with the Jews!" cried the old man, jumping to his feet.
"You have been dealing, by way of _post obit_, with my estate!"

Richard Arden looked down. Sir Reginald was as nearly white as his
yellow tint would allow; his large eyes were gleaming fire--he looked as
if he would have snatched the poker, and brained his son.

"But what could I do, Sir? I had no other resource. I was forbidden your
house; I had no money."

"You lie, Sir!" yelled the old man, with a sudden flash, and a hammer of
his thin trembling fist on the table. "You had a hundred and fifty
pounds a year of your mother's."

"But that, Sir, could not possibly support any one. I was compelled to
act as I did. You really, Sir, left me no choice."

"Now, now, now, now, now! you're not to run away with the thing, you're
not to run away with it; you sha'n't run away with it, Sir. You could
have made a submission, you know you could. I was open to be reconciled
at any time--always too ready. You had only to do as you ought to have
done, and I'd have received you with open arms; you know I would--I
_would_--you had only to unite our interests in the estates, and I'd
have done everything to make you happy, and you know it. But you have
taken the step--you have done it, and it is irrevocable. You have done
it, and you've ruined me; and I pray to God you have ruined yourself!"

With every sinew quivering, the old man was pulling the bell-rope
violently with his left hand. Over his shoulder, on his son, he glanced
almost maniacally. "Turn him out!" he screamed to Crozier, stamping;
"put him out by the collar. Shut the door upon him, and lock it; and if
he ever dares to call here again, slam it in his face. I have done with
him for ever!"

Richard Arden had already left the room, and this closing passage was
lost on him. But he heard the old man's voice as he walked along the
corridor, and it was still in his ears as he passed the hall-door; and,
running down the steps, he jumped into his cab. Crozier held the
cab-door open, and wished Mr. Richard a kind good-night. He stood on the
steps to see the last of the cab as it drove down the shadowy avenue and
was lost in gloom. He sighed heavily. What a broken family it was! He
was an old servant, born on their northern estate--loyal, and somewhat
rustic--and, certainly, had the baronet been less in want of money, not
exactly the servant he would have chosen.

"The old gentleman cannot last long," he said, as he followed the sound
of the retreating wheels with his gaze, "and then Master Richard will
take his turn, and what one began the other will finish. It is all up
with the Ardens. Sir Reginald ruined, Master Harry murdered, and Master
David turned tradesman! There's a curse on the old house."

He heard the baronet's tread faintly, pacing the floor in agitation, as
he passed his door; and when he reached the housekeeper's room, that old
lady, Mrs. Tansey, was alone and all of a tremble, standing at the door.
Before her dim staring eyes had risen an oft-remembered scene: the
ivy-covered gatehouse at Mortlake Hall; the cold moon glittering down
through the leafless branches; the grey horse on its side across the
gig-shaft, and the two villains--one rifling and the other murdering
poor Henry Arden, the baronet's gay and reckless brother.

"Lord, Mr. Crozier! what's crossed Sir Reginald?" she said huskily,
grasping the servant's wrist with her lean hand. "Master Dick, I do
suppose. I thought he was to come no more. They quarrel always. I'm like
to faint, Mr. Crozier."

"Sit ye down, Mrs. Tansey, Ma'am; you should take just a thimbleful of
something. What has frightened you?"

"There's a scritch in Sir Reginald's voice--mercy on us!--when he raises
it so; it is the very cry of poor Master Harry--his last cry, when the
knife pierced him. I'll never forget it!"

The old woman clasped her fingers over her eyes, and shook her head
slowly.

"Well, that's over and ended this many a day, and past cure. We need not
fret ourselves no more about it--'tis thirty years since."

"Two-and-twenty the day o' the Longden steeple-chase. I've a right to
remember it." She closed her eyes again. "Why can't they keep apart?"
she resumed. "If father and son can't look one another in the face
without quarrelling, better they should turn their backs on one another
for life. Why need they come under one roof? The world's wide enough."

"So it is--and no good meeting and argufying; for Mr. Dick will never
open the estate," remarked Mr. Crozier.

"And more shame for him!" said Mrs. Tansey. "He's breaking his father's
heart. It troubles him more," she added in a changed tone, "I'm
thinking, than ever poor Master Harry's death did. There's none living
of his kith or kin cares about it now but Master David. He'll never let
it rest while he lives."

"He _may_ let it rest, for he'll never make no hand of it," said
Crozier. "Would you object, Ma'am, to my making a glass of something
hot?--you're gone very pale."

Mrs. Tansey assented, and the conversation grew more comfortable. And so
the night closed over the passions and the melancholy of Mortlake Hall.



CHAPTER XVI.

A MIDNIGHT MEETING.


A couple of days passed; and now I must ask you to suppose yourself
placed, at night, in the centre of a vast heath, undulating here and
there like a sea arrested in a ground-swell, lost in a horizon of
monotonous darkness all round. Here and there rises a scrubby hillock of
furze, black and rough as the head of a monster. The eye aches as it
strains to discover objects or measure distances over the blurred and
black expanse. Here stand two trees pretty close together--one in thick
foliage, a black elm, with a funereal and plume-like stillness, and
blotting out many stars with its gigantic canopy; the other, about fifty
paces off, a withered and half barkless fir, with one white branch left,
stretching forth like the arm of a gibbet. Nearly under this is a flat
rock, with one end slanting downwards, and half buried in the ferns and
the grass that grow about that spot. One other fir stands a little way
off, smaller than these two trees, which in daylight are conspicuous far
away as landmarks on a trackless waste. Overhead the stars are blinking,
but the desolate landscape lies beneath in shapeless obscurity, like
drifts of black mist melting together into one wide vague sea of
darkness that forms the horizon. Over this comes, in fitful moanings, a
melancholy wind. The eye stretches vainly to define the objects that
fancy sometimes suggests, and the ear is strained to discriminate the
sounds, real or unreal, that seem to mingle in the uncertain distance.

If you can conjure up all this, and the superstitious freaks that in
such a situation imagination will play in even the hardest and coarsest
natures, you have a pretty distinct idea of the feelings and
surroundings of a tall man who lay that night his length under the
blighted tree I have mentioned, stretched on its roots, with his chin
supported on his hands, and looking vaguely into the darkness. He had
been smoking, but his pipe was out now, and he had no occupation but
that of forming pictures on the dark back-ground, and listening to the
moan and rush of the distant wind, and imagining sometimes a voice
shouting, sometimes the drumming of a horse's hoofs approaching over the
plain. There was a chill in the air that made this man now and then
shiver a little, and get up and take a turn back and forward, and stamp
sharply as he did so, to keep the blood stirring in his legs and feet.
Then down he would lay again, with his elbows on the ground, and his
hands propping his chin. Perhaps he brought his head near the ground,
thinking that thus he could hear distant sounds more sharply. He was
growing impatient, and well he might.

The moon now began to break through the mist in fierce red over the far
horizon. A streak of crimson, that glowed without illuminating anything,
showed through the distant cloud close along the level of the heath.
Even this was a cheer, like a red ember or two in a pitch-dark room.
Very far away he thought now he heard the tread of a horse. One can hear
miles away over that level expanse of death-like silence. He pricked his
ears, he raised himself on his hands, and listened with open mouth. He
lost the sound, but on leaning his head again to the ground, that vast
sounding-board carried its vibration once more to his ear. It was the
canter of a horse upon the heath. He was doubtful whether it was
approaching, for the sound subsided sometimes; but afterwards it was
renewed, and gradually he became certain that it was coming nearer. And
now, like a huge, red-hot dome of copper, the moon rose above the level
strips of cloud that lay upon the horizon of the heath, and objects
began to reveal themselves. The stunted fir, that had looked to the
fancy of the solitary watcher like a ghostly policeman, with arm and
truncheon raised, just starting in pursuit, now showed some lesser
branches, and was more satisfactorily a tree; distances became
measurable, though not yet accurately, by the eye; and ridges and
hillocks caught faintly the dusky light, and threw blurred but deep
shadows backward.

The tread of the horse approaching had become a gallop as the light
improved, and horse and horseman were soon visible. Paul Davies stood
erect, and took up a position a few steps in advance of the blighted
tree at whose foot he had been stretched. The figure, seen against the
dusky glare of the moon, would have answered well enough for one of
those highwaymen who in old times made the heath famous. His low-crowned
felt hat, his short coat with a cape to it, and the leather casings,
which looked like jack-boots, gave this horseman, seen in dark outline
against the glow, a character not unpicturesque. With a sudden strain of
the bridle, the gaunt rider pulled up before the man who awaited him.

"What are you doing there?" said the horseman roughly.

"Counting the stars," answered he.

Thus the signs and countersigns were exchanged, and the stranger said--

"You're alone, Paul Davies, I take it."

"No company but ourselves, mate," answered Davies.

"You're up to half a dozen dodges, Paul, and knows how to lime a twig;
that's your little game, you know. This here tree is clean enough, but
that 'ere has a hatful o' leaves on it."

"I didn't put them there," said Paul, a little sulkily.

"Well, no. I do suppose a sight o' you wouldn't exactly put a tree in
leaf, or a rose-bush in blossom; nor even make wegitables grow. More
like to blast 'em, like that rum un over your head."

"What's up?" asked the ex-detective.

"Jest this--there's leaves enough for a bird to roost there, so this
won't do. Now, then, move on you with me."

As the gaunt rider thus spoke, his long red beard was blowing this way
and that in the breeze; and he turned his horse, and walked him towards
that lonely tree in which, as he lay gazing on its black outline, Paul
had fancied the shape of a phantom policeman.

"I don't care a cuss," said Davies. "I'm half sorry I came a leg to meet
yer."

"Growlin', eh?" said the horseman.

"I wish you was as cold as me, and you'd growl a bit, maybe, yourself,"
said Paul. "I'm jolly cold."

"Cold, are ye?"

"Cold as a lock-up."

"Why didn't ye fetch a line o' the old author with you?" asked the
rider--meaning brandy.

"I had a pipe or two."

"Who'd a-guessed we was to have a night like this in summer-time?"

"I do believe it freezes all the year round in this queer place."

"Would ye like a drop of the South-Sea mountain (gin)?" said the
stranger, producing a flask from his pocket, which Paul Davies took with
a great deal of good-will, much to the donor's content, for he wished to
find that gentleman in good-humour in the conversation that was to
follow.

"Drink what's there, mate. D'ye like it?"

"It ain't to be by no means sneezed at," said Paul Davies.

The horseman looked back over his shoulder. Paul Davies remarked that
his shoulders were round enough to amount almost to a deformity. He and
his companion were now a long way from the tree whose foliage he feared
might afford cover to some eavesdropper.

"This tree will answer. I suppose you like a post to clap your back to
while we are palaverin'," said the rider. "Make a finish of it, Mr.
Davies," he continued, as that person presented the half-emptied flask
to his hand. "I'm as hot as steam, myself, and I'd rather have a smoke
by-and-by."

He touched the bridle here, and the horse stood still, and the rider
patted his reeking neck, as he stooped with a shake of his ears and a
snort, and began to sniff the scant herbage at his feet.

"I don't mind if I have another pull," said Paul, replenishing the
goblet that fitted over the bottom of the flask.

"Fill it again, and no heel-taps," said his companion.

Mr. Davies sat down, with his mug in his hand, on the ground, and his
back against the tree. Had there been a donkey near, to personate the
immortal Dapple, you might have fancied, in that uncertain gloom, the
Knight and Squire of La Mancha overtaken by darkness, and making one of
their adventurous bivouacs under the boughs of the tree.

"What you saw in the papers three days ago did give you a twist, I take
it?" observed the gentleman on horseback, with a grin that made the red
bristles on his upper lip curl upwards and twist like worms.

"I can't tumble to a right guess what you means," said Mr. Davies.

"Come, Paul, that won't never do. You read every line of that there
inquest on the French cove at the Saloon, and you have by rote every
word Mr. Longcluse said. It must be a queer turning of the tables, for a
clever chap like you to have to look slippy, for fear other dogs should
lag you."

"'Tain't me that 'ill be looking slippy, as you and me well knows; and
it's jest because you knows it well you're here. I suppose it ain't for
love of _me_ quite?" sneered Paul Davies.

"I don't care a rush for Mr. Longcluse, no more nor I care for you; and
I see he's goin' where he pleases. He made a speech in yesterday's
paper, at the meetin' at the Surrey Gardens. He was canvassin' for
Parliament down in Derbyshire a week ago; and he printed a letter to the
electors only yesterday. He don't care two pins for you."

"A good many rows o' pins, I'm thinkin'," sneered Mr. Davies.

"Thinkin' won't make a loaf, Mr. Davies. Many a man has bin too clever,
and _thought_ himself into the block-house. You're making too fine a
game, Mr. Davies; a playin' a bit too much with edged tools, and
fiddlin' a bit too freely with fire. You'll burn your fingers, and cut
'em too, do ye mind? unless you be advised, and close the game where you
stand to win, as I rather think you do now."

"So do I, mate," said Paul Davies, who could play at brag as well as his
neighbour.

"I'm on another lay, a safer one by a long sight. My maxim is the same
as yours, 'Grab all you can;' but _I_ do it safe, d'ye see? You are in a
fair way to end your days on the twister."

"Not if I knows it," said Paul Davies. "I'm afeared o' no man livin'.
Who can say black's the white o' my eye? Do ye take me for a child? What
do ye take me for?"

"I take you for the man that robbed and done for the French cove in the
Saloon. That's the child I take ye for," answered the horseman
cynically.

"You lie! You don't! You know I han't a pig of his money, and never hurt
a hair of his head. You say that to rile me, jest."

"Why should I care a cuss whether you're riled or no? Do you think I
want to get anything out o' yer? I knows everything as well as you do
yourself. You take me for a queer gill, I'm thinking; that's not my lay.
I wouldn't wait here while you'd walk round my hoss to have every secret
you ever know'd."

"A queer gill, mayhap. I think I know you," said Mr. Davies, archly.

"You do, do ye? Well, come, who do you take me for?" said the stranger,
turning towards him, and sitting erect in the saddle, with his hand on
his thigh, to afford him the amplest view of his face and figure.

"Then I take you for Mr. Longcluse," said Paul Davies, with a wag of his
head.

"For Mr. Longcluse!" echoed the horseman, with a boisterous laugh.
"Well, _there's_ a guess to tumble to! The worst guess I ever heer'd
made. Did you ever see him? Why, there's not two bones in our two bodies
the same length, and not two inches of our two faces alike. There's a
guess for a detective! Be my soul, it's well for you it ain't him, for I
think he'd a shot ye!"

The rider lifted his hand from his coat-pocket as he said this, but
there was no weapon in it. Mistaking his intention, however, Paul Davies
skipped behind the tree, and levelled a revolver at him.

"Down with that, you fool!" cried the horseman. "There's nothing here."
And he gave his horse the spur, and made him plunge to a little
distance, as he held up his right hand. "But I'm not such a fool as to
meet a cove like you without the lead towels, too, in case you should
try that dodge." And dipping his hand swiftly into his pocket again, he
also showed in the air the glimmering barrels of a pistol. "If you must
be pullin' out your barkers every minute, and can't talk like a man,
where's the good of coming all this way to palaver with a cove. It ain't
not tuppence to me. Crack away if you likes it, and see who shoots best;
or, if you likes it better, I don't mind if I get down and try who can
hit hardest t'other way, and you'll find my fist tastes very strong of
the hammer."

"I thought you were up for mischief," said Davies, "and I won't be
polished off simple, that's all. It's best to keep as we are, and no
nearer; we can hear one another well enough where we stand."

"It's a bargain," said the stranger, "and I don't care a cuss who you
take me for. I'm not Mr. Longcluse; but you're welcome, if it pleases
you, to give me his name, and I wish I could have the old bloke's tin as
easy. Now here's my little game, and I don't find it a bad one. When two
gentlemen--we'll say, for instance, you and Mr. Longcluse--differs in
opinion (you says he did a certain thing, and he says he didn't, or goes
the whole hog and says _you_ did it, and not him), it's plain, if the
matter is to be settled amigable, it's best to have a man as knows what
he's about, and can find out the cove as threatens the rich fellow, and
deal with him handsome, according to circumstances. My terms is
moderate. I takes five shillins in the pound, and not a pig under; and
that puts you and I in the same boat, d'ye see? Well, I gets all I can
out of him, and no harm can happen me, for I'm but a cove a-carryin' of
messages betwixt you, and the more I gets for you the better for me. I
settled many a business amigable the last five years that would never
have bin settled without me. I'm well knowing to some of the swellest
lawyers in town, and whenever they has a dilikite case, like a gentleman
threatened with informations or the like, they sends for me, and I
arranges it amigable, to the satisfacshing of both parties. It's the
only way to settle sich affairs with good profit and no risk. I have
spoke to Mr. Longcluse. He was all for having your four bones in the
block-house, and yourself on the twister; and he's not a cove to be
bilked out of his tin. But he would not like the bother of your
cross-charge, either, and I think I could make all square between ye.
What do you say?"

"How can I tell that you ever set eyes on Mr. Longcluse?" said Davies,
more satisfied as the conference proceeded that he had misdirected his
first guess at the identity of the horseman. "How can I tell you're not
just a-gettin' all you can out o' me, to make what you can of it on your
own account in that market?"

"That's true, you can't tell, mate."

"And what do I know about you? What's your name?" pursued Paul Davies.

"I forgot my name, I left it at home in the cupboard; and you know
nothing about me, that's true, excepting what I told you, and you'll
hear no more."

"I'm too old a bird for that; you're a born genius, only spoilt in the
baking. I'm thinking, mate, I may as well paddle my own canoe, and sell
my own secret on my own account. What can you do for me that I can't do
as well for myself?"

"You don't think that, Paul. You dare not show to Mr. Longcluse, and you
know he's in a wax; and who can you send to him? You'll make nothing o'
that brag. Where's the good of talking like a blast to a chap like me?
Don't you suppose I take all that at its vally? I tell you what, if it
ain't settled now, you'll see me no more, for I'll not undertake it." He
pulled up his horse's head, preparatory to starting.

"Well, what's up now?--what's the hurry?" demanded Mr. Davies.

"Why, if this here meetin' won't lead to business, the sooner we two
parts and gets home again, the less time wasted," answered the cavalier,
with his hand on the crupper of the saddle, as he turned to speak.

Each seemed to wait for the other to add something.



CHAPTER XVII.

MR. LONGCLUSE AT MORTLAKE HALL.


"If you let me go this time, Mr. Wheeler, you'll not catch me a-walking
out here again," said Mr. Davies sourly. "If there's business to be
done, now's the time."

"Well, I can't make it no plainer--'tis as clear as mud in a
wine-glass," said the mounted man gaily, and again he shook the bridle
and hitched himself in the saddle, and the horse stirred uneasily, as he
added, "Have you any more to say?"

"Well, supposin' I say ay, how soon will it be settled?" said Paul
Davies, beginning to think better of it.

"These things doesn't take long with a rich cove like Mr. Longcluse.
It's where they has to scrape it up, by beggin' here and borrowin'
there, and sellin' this and spoutin' that--there's a wait always. But a
chap with no end o' tin--that has only to wish and have--that's your
sort. He swears a bit, and threatens, and stamps, and loses his temper
summat, ye see; and if I was the prencipal, like you are in this 'ere
case, and the police convenient, or a poker in his fist, he might make a
row. But seein' I'm only a messenger like, it don't come to nothin'. He
claps his hand in his pocket, and outs with the rino, and there's all;
and jest a bit of paper to sign. But I won't stay here no longer. I'm
getting a bit cold myself; so it's on or off _now_. Go yourself to
Longcluse, if you like, and see if you don't catch it. The least you get
will be seven-penn'orth, for extortin' money by threatenin' a
prosecution, if he don't hang you for the murder of the Saloon cove. How
would you like that?"

"It ain't the physic that suits my complaint, guvnor. But I have him
there. I have the statement wrote, in sure hands, and other hevidence,
as he may suppose, and dated, and signed by respectable people; and I
know his dodge. He thinks he came out first with his charge against me,
but he's out there; and if he _will_ have it, and I split, he'd best
look slippy."

"And how much do you want? Mind, I'll funk him all I can, though he's a
wideawake chap; for it's my game to get every pig I can out of him."

"I'll take two thousand pounds, and go to Canada or to New York, my
passage and expenses being paid, and sign anything in reason he wants;
and that's the shortest chalk I'll offer."

"Don't you wish you may get it? _I_ do, I know, but I'm thinking you
might jest as well look for the naytional debt."

"What's your name?" again asked Davies, a little abruptly.

"My name fell out o' window and was broke, last Tuesday mornin'. But
call me Tom Wheeler, if you can't talk without calling me something."

"Well, Tom, that's the figure," said Davies.

"If you want to deal, speak now," said Wheeler. "If I'm to stand between
you, I must have a power to close on the best offer I'm like to get. I
won't do nothing in the matter else-ways."

With this fresh exhortation, the conference on details proceeded; and
when at last it closed, with something like a definite understanding,
Tom Wheeler said,--"Mind, Paul Davies, I comes from no one, and I goes
to no one; and I never seed you in all my days."

"And where are you going?"

"A bit nearer the moon," said the mysterious Mr. Wheeler, lifting his
hand and pointing towards the red disk, with one of his bearded grins.
And wheeling his horse suddenly, away he rode at a canter, right toward
the red moon, against which for a few moments the figure of the
retreating horse and man showed black and sharp, as if cut out of
cardboard.

Paul Davies looked after him with his left eye screwed close, as was his
custom, in shrewd rumination. Before the horseman had got very far, the
moon passed under the edge of a thick cloud, and the waste was once more
enveloped in total darkness. In this absolute obscurity the retreating
figure was instantaneously swallowed, so that the shrewd ex-detective,
who had learned by rote every article of his dress, and every button on
it, and could have sworn to every mark on his horse at York Fair, had no
chance of discovering in the ultimate line of his retreat, any clue to
his destination. He had simply emerged from darkness, and darkness had
swallowed him again.

                   *       *       *       *       *

We must now see how Sir Reginald's little dinner-party, not a score of
miles away, went off only two days later. He was fortunate, seeing he
had bidden his guests upon very short notice, not one disappointed.

I daresay that Lady May--whose toilet, considering how quiet everything
was, had been made elaborately--missed a face that would have brightened
all the rooms for her. But the interview between Richard Arden and his
father had not, as we know, ended in reconciliation, and Lady May's
hopes were disappointed, and her toilet labour in vain.

When Lady May entered the room with Alice, she saw standing on the
hearth-rug, at the far end of the handsome room, a tall and very
good-looking man of sixty or upwards, chatting with Sir Reginald, one of
whose feet was in a slipper, and who was sitting in an easy-chair. A
little bit of fire burned in the grate, for the day had been chill and
showery. This tall man, with white silken hair, and a countenance kind,
frank, and thoughtful, with a little sadness in it, was, she had no
doubt, David Arden, whom she had last seen with silken brown locks, and
the cheerful aspect of early manhood.

Sir Reginald stood up, with an uncomfortable effort, and, smiling,
pointed to his slippers in excuse for his limping gait, as he shuffled
forth across the carpet to meet her, with a good-humoured shrug.

"Wasn't it good of her to come?" said Alice.

"She's better than good," said Sir Reginald, with his thin, yellow
smile, extending his hand, and leading her to a chair; "it is visiting
the sick and the halt, and doing real good, for it is a pleasure to see
her--a pleasure bestowed on a miserable soul who has very few pleasures
left;" and with his other thin hand he patted gently the fingers of her
fat hand. "Here is my brother David," continued the baronet. "He says
you will hardly know him."

"She'll hardly believe it. She was very young when she last saw me, and
the last ten years have made some changes," said Uncle David, laughing
gently.

At the baronet's allusion to that most difficult subject, the lapse of
time, Lady May winced and simpered uneasily; but she expanded gratefully
as David Arden disposed of it so adroitly.

"We'll not speak of years of change. I knew you instantly," said Lady
May happily. "And you have been to Vichy, Reginald. What stay do you
make here?"

"None, almost; my crippled foot keeps me always on a journey. It seems a
paradox, but so it is. I'm ordered to visit Buxton for a week or so, and
then I go, for change of air, to Yorkshire."

As Alice entered, she saw the pretty face, the original of the brilliant
portrait which had haunted her on her night journey to Twyford, and she
heard a very silvery voice chatting gaily. Mr. Longcluse was leaning on
the end of the sofa on which Grace Maubray sat; and Vivian Darnley, it
seemed in high spirits, was standing and laughing nearly before her.
Alice Arden walked quickly over to welcome her handsome guest. With a
misgiving and a strange pain at her heart, she saw how much more
beautiful this young lady had grown. Smiling radiantly, with her hand
extended, she greeted and kissed her fair kinswoman; and, after a few
words, sat down for a little beside her; and asked Mr. Longcluse how he
did; and finally spoke to Vivian Darnley, and then returned to her
conventional dialogue of welcome and politeness with her cousin--_how_
cousin, she could not easily have explained.

The young ladies seemed so completely taken up with one another that,
after a little waiting, the gentlemen fell into a desultory talk, and
grew gradually nearer to the window. They were talking now of dogs and
horses, and Mr. Longcluse was stealing rapidly into the good graces of
the young man.

"When we come up after dinner, you must tell me who these people are,"
said Grace Maubray, who did not care very much what she said. "That
young man is a Mr. Vivian, ain't he?"

"No--Darnley," whispered Alice; "Vivian is his Christian name."

"Very romantic names; and, if he really means half he says, he is a very
romantic person." She laughed.

"What has he been saying?" Alice wondered. But, after all, it was
possible to be romantic on almost any subject.

"And the other?"

"He's a Mr. Longcluse," answered Alice.

"He's rather clever," said the young lady, with a grave decision that
amused Alice.

"Do you think so? Well, so do I; that is, I know he can interest one. He
has been almost everywhere, and he tells things rather pleasantly."

Before they could go any further, Vivian Darnley, turning from the
window toward the two young ladies, said--"I've just been saying that we
must try to persuade Lady May to get up that party to the Derby."

"I can place a drag at her disposal," said Mr. Longcluse.

"And a splendid team--I saw them," threw in Darnley.

"There's nothing I should like so much," said Alice. "I've never been to
the Derby. What do you say, Grace? Can you manage Uncle David?"

"I'll try," said the young lady gaily.

"We must all set upon Lady May," said Alice. "She is so good-natured,
she can't resist us."

"Suppose we begin now?" suggested Darnley.

"Hadn't we better wait till we have her quite to ourselves? Who knows
what your papa and your uncle might say?" said Grace Maubray, turning to
Alice. "I vote for saying nothing to them until Lady May has settled,
and then they must only submit."

"I agree with you quite," said Alice laughing.

"Sage advice!" said Mr. Longcluse, with a smile; "and there's time
enough to choose a favourable moment. It comes off exactly ten days from
this."

"Oh, anything might be done in ten days," said Grace. "I'm sorry it is
so far away."

"Yes, a great deal might be done in ten days; and a great deal might
happen in ten days," said Longcluse, listlessly looking down at the
floor--"a great deal might happen."

He thought he saw Miss Arden's eye turned upon him, curiously and
quickly, as he uttered this common-place speech, which was yet a little
odd.

"In this busy world, Miss Arden, there is no such thing as quiet, and no
one acts without imposing on other people the necessity for action,"
said Mr. Longcluse; "and I believe that often the greatest changes in
life are the least anticipated by those who seem to bring them about
spontaneously."

At this moment, dinner being announced, the little party transferred
itself to the dining-room, and Miss Arden found herself between Mr.
Longcluse and Uncle David.



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE PARTY IN THE DINING-ROOM.


And now, all being seated, began the talk and business of dinner.

"I believe," said Mr. Longcluse, with a laugh, "I am growing
metaphysical."

"Well, shall I confess, Mr. Longcluse, you do sometimes say things that
are, I fear, a little too wise for my poor comprehension?"

"I don't express them; it is my fault," he answered, in a very low tone.
"You have _mind_, Miss Arden, for anything. There is no one it is so
delightful to converse with, owing in part to that very faculty--I mean
quick apprehension. But I know my own defects. I know how imperfectly I
often express myself. By-the-way, you seemed to wish to have that
curious little wild Bohemian air I sang the other night, 'The Wanderer's
Bride'--the song about the white lily, you know. I ventured to get a
friend, who really is a very good musician, to make a setting of it,
which I so very much hope you will like. I brought it with me. You will
think me very presumptuous, but I hoped so much you might be tempted to
try it."

When Mr. Longcluse spoke to Alice, it was always in a tone so very
deferential, that it was next to impossible that a very young girl
should not be flattered by it--considering, especially, that the man was
reputed clever, had seen the world, and had met with a certain success,
and that by no means of a kind often obtained, or ever quite despised.
There was also a directness in his eulogy which was unusual, and which
spoken with a different manner would have been embarrassing, if not
offensive. But in Mr. Longcluse's manner, when he spoke such phrases,
there appeared a real humility, and even sadness, that the boldness of
the sentiment was lost in the sincerity and dejection of the speaker,
which seemed to place him on a sudden at the immeasurable distance of a
melancholy worship.

"I am so much obliged!" said Alice. "I did wish so much to have it when
you sang it. It may not do for my voice at all, but I longed to try it.
When a song is sung so as to move one, it is sure to be looked out and
learned, without any thought wasted on voice, or skill, or natural
fitness. It is, I suppose, like the vanity that makes one person dress
after another. Still, I do wish to sing that song, and I am so much
obliged!"

From the other side her uncle said very softly--"What do you think of my
ward, Grace Maubray?"

"Oughtn't I to ask, rather, what you think of her?" she laughed archly.

"Oh! I see," he answered, with a pleasant and honest smile; "you have
the gift of seeing as far as other clever people into a millstone. But,
no--though perhaps I ought to thank you for giving me credit for so much
romance and good taste--I don't think I shall ever introduce you to an
aunt. You must guess again, if you will have a matrimonial explanation;
though I don't say there is any such design. And perhaps, if there were,
the best way to promote it would be to leave the intended hero and
heroine very much to themselves. They are both very good-looking."

"Who?" asked Alice, although she knew very well whom he meant.

"I mean that pretty creature over there, Grace Maubray, and Vivian
Darnley," said he quietly.

She smiled, looking very much pleased and very arch.

With how Spartan a completeness women can hide the shootings and
quiverings of mental pain, and of bodily pain too, when the motive is
sufficient! Under this latter they are often clamorous, to be sure; but
the demonstration expresses not want of patience, but the feminine
yearning for compassion.

"I fancy nothing would please the young rogue Vivian better. I wish I
were half so sure of her. You girls are so unaccountable, so fanciful,
and--don't be angry--so uncertain."

"Well, I suppose, as you say, we must only have patience, and leave the
matter in the hands of Time, who settles most things pretty well."

She raised her eyes, and fancied she saw Grace Maubray at the same
moment withdraw hers from her face. Lady May was talking from the end of
the table with Mr. Longcluse.

"Your neighbour who is talking to Lady May is a Mr. Longcluse?"

"Yes."

"He is a City notability; but oddly, I never happened to see him till
this evening. Do you think there is something curious in his
appearance?"

"Yes, a little, perhaps. Don't you?"

"So odd that he makes my blood run cold," said Uncle David, with a shrug
and a little laugh. "Seriously, I mean unpleasantly odd. What is Lady
May talking about? Yes--I thought so--that horrid murder at the 'Saloon
Tavern.' For so good-natured a person, she has the most bloodthirsty
tastes I know of; she's always deep in some horror."

"My brother Dick told me that Mr. Longcluse made a speech there."

"Yes, so I heard; and I think he said what is true enough. London is
growing more and more insecure; and that certainly was a most audacious
murder. People make money a little faster, that is true; but what is the
good of money, if their lives are not their own? It is quite true that
there are streets in London, which I remember as safe as this room,
through which no one suspected of having five pounds in his pocket could
now walk without a likelihood of being garotted."

"How dreadful!" said Alice, and Uncle David laughed a little at her
horror.

"It is too true, my dear. But, to pass to pleasanter subjects, when do
you mean to choose among the young fellows, and present me to a new
nephew?" said Uncle David.

"Do you fancy I would tell anyone if I knew?" she answered, laughing.
"How is it that you men, who are always accusing us weak women of
thinking of nothing else, can never get the subject of matrimony out of
your heads? Now, uncle, as you and I may talk confidentially, and at our
ease, I'll tell you two things. I like my present spinster life very
well--I should like it better, I think, if it were in the country; but
town or country, I don't think I should ever like a married life. I
don't think I'm fit for command."

"Command! I thought the prayer-book said something about obeying, on the
contrary," said Uncle David.

"You know what I mean. I'm not fit to rule a household; and I am afraid
I am a little idle, and I should not like to have it to do--and so I
could never do it well."

"Nevertheless, when the right man comes, he need but beckon with his
finger, and away you go, Miss Alice, and undertake it all."

"So we are whistled away, like poodles for a walk, and that kind of
thing! Well, I suppose, uncle, you are right, though I can't see that
I'm quite so docile a creature. But if my poor sex is so willing to be
won, I don't know how you are to excuse your solitary state, considering
how very little trouble it would have taken to make some poor creature
happy."

"A very fair retort!" laughed Uncle David. And he added, in a changed
tone, for a sudden recollection of his own early fortunes crossed
him--"But even when the right man does come, it does not always follow,
Miss Alice, that he dares make the sign; fate often interposes years,
and in them death may come, and so the whole card-castle falls."

"I've had a long talk," he resumed, "with Richard; he has made me
promises, and I hope he will be a better boy for the future. He has been
getting himself into money troubles, and acquiring--I'm afraid I should
say cultivating--a taste for play. I know you have heard something of
this before; I told you myself. But he has made me promises, and I hope,
for your sake, he'll keep them; because, you know, I and your father
can't last for ever, and he ought to take care of you; and how can he do
that, if he's not fit to take care of himself? But I believe there is no
use in thinking too much about what is to come. One has enough to do in
the present. I think poor Lady May has been disappointed," he said, with
a very cautious smile, his eye having glanced for a moment on her; "she
looks a little forlorn, I think."

"Does she? And why?"

"Well, they say she would not object to be a little more nearly related
to you than she is."

"You can't mean papa--or _yourself_!"

"Oh, dear, no!" he answered, laughing. "I mean that she misses Dick a
good deal."

"Oh, dear! uncle, you can't be serious!"

"It might be a very serious affair for her; but I don't know that he
could do a wiser thing. The old quarrel is still raging, he tells me,
and that he can't appear in this house."

"It is a great pity," said she.

"Pity! Not at all. They never could agree; and it is much better for
Dick they should not--on the terms Reginald proposes, at least. I see
Lady May trying to induce you to make her the sign at which ladies rise,
and leave us poor fellows to shift for ourselves."

"Ungallant old man! I really believe she is."

And in a moment more the ladies were floating from the room, Vivian
Darnley standing at the door. Somehow he could not catch Alice's eye as
they passed; she was smiling an answer to some gabble of Lady May's.
Grace gave him a very kind look with her fine eyes as she went by; and
so the young man, who had followed them up the massive stairs with his
gaze, closed the door and sat down again, before his claret glass, and
his little broken cluster of grapes, and half-dozen distracted bits of
candied fruit, and sighed deeply.

"That murder in the City that you were speaking of just now to Lady May
is a serious business for men who walk the streets, as I do sometimes,
with money in their pockets," said David Arden, addressing Mr.
Longcluse.

"So it struck me--one feels that instinctively. When I saw that poor
little good-natured fellow dead, and thought how easily I might have
walked in there myself, with the assassin behind me, it seemed to me
simply the turn of a die that the lot had not fallen upon me," said
Longcluse.

"He was robbed, too, wasn't he?" croaked Sir Reginald, who was growing
tired; and with his fatigue came evidences of his temper.

"Oh, yes," said David; "nothing left in his pockets."

"And Laroque, a watchmaker, a relation of his, said he had cheques about
him, and foreign money," said Longcluse; "but, of course, the cheques
were not presented, and foreign money is not easily traced in a big town
like London. I made him a present of ten pounds to stake on the game; I
could not learn that he did stake it, and I suppose the poor fellow
intended applying it in some more prudent way. But my present was in
gold, and that, of course, the robber applied without apprehension."

"Now, you fellows who have a stake in the City, it is a scandal your
permitting such a state of things to continue," said Sir Reginald;
"because, though your philanthropy may not be very diffuse, each of you
cares most tenderly for one individual at least in the human race--I
mean _self_--and whatever you may think of personal morality, and even
life--for you don't seem to me to think a great deal of grinding
operatives in the cranks of your mills, or blowing them up by bursting
steam-boilers, to say nothing of all the people you poison with
adulterated food, or with strychnine in beer, or with arsenic in
candles, or pretty green papers for bed-rooms--or smash or burn alive on
railways--yet you should, on selfish grounds, set your faces against a
system of assassination for pocket-books and purses, the sort of things
precisely you have always about you. Don't you see? And it's
inconsistent besides, because, as I said, although you care little for
life--other people's, I mean--in the abstract, yet you care a great deal
for property. I think it's your idol, by Jove! and worshipping
money--positively _worshipping_ it, as you do, it seems a scandalous
inconsistency that you should--of course, I don't mean you two
individually," he said, perhaps recollecting that he might be going a
little too fast; "you never, of course, fancied _that_. I mean, of
course, the class of men we have all heard of, or seen--but I do say,
with that sort of adoration for money and property, I can't understand
their allowing their pockets to be profaned and their purses made away
with."

Sir Reginald, having thus delivered himself with considerable asperity,
poured some claret into his glass, and pushed the jugs on to his
brother, and then, closing his eyes, composed himself either to listen
or to sleep.

"City or country, East End or West End, I fancy we are all equally
anxious to keep other people's hands out of our pockets," said David
Arden; "and I quite agree with Mr. Longcluse in all he is reported to
have said with respect to our police system."

"But is it so certain that the man was robbed?" said Vivian Darnley.

"Everything he had about him was taken," said Mr. Longcluse.

"But they pretend to rob men sometimes, when they murder them, only to
conceal the real motive," persisted Vivian Darnley.

"Yes, that's quite true; but then there must be _some_ motive," said Mr.
Longcluse, with something a little supercilious in his smile: "and it
isn't easy to conceive a motive for murdering a poor little good-natured
letter of lodgings, a person past the time of life when jealousy could
have anything to do with it, and a most inoffensive and civil creature.
I confess, if I were obliged to seek a motive other than the obvious
one, for the crime, I should be utterly puzzled."

"When I was travelling in Prussia," said Vivian Darnley, "I saw two
people in different prisons--one a woman, the other a middle-aged
man--both for murder. They had been found guilty, and had been kept
there only to get a confession from them before execution. They won't
put culprits to death there, you know, unless they have first admitted
their guilt; and one of these had actually confessed. Well, each had
borne an unexceptionable character up to the time when suspicion was
accidentally aroused, and then it turned out that they had been
poisoning and otherwise making away with people, at the rate of two or
three a year, for half their lives. Now, don't you see, these masked
assassins, having, as it appeared, absolutely no intelligible motive,
either of passion or of interest, to commit these murders, could have
had no inducement, as the woman had actually confessed, except a sort of
lust of murder. I suppose it is a sort of madness, but these people were
not otherwise mad; and it is quite possible that the same sort of thing
may be going on in other places. People say that the police would have
got a clue to the mystery by means of the foreign coin and the
bank-notes, if they had not been destroyed."

"But there are traces of organisation," said Mr. Longcluse. "In a
crowded place like that, such things could hardly be managed without it,
and insanity such as you describe is very rare; and you'll hardly get
people to believe in a swell-mob of madmen, committing murder in concert
simply for the pleasure of homicide. They will all lean to a belief in
the coarse but intelligible motive of the highwayman."

"I saw in the newspapers," said David Arden, "some evidence of yours,
Mr. Longcluse, which seemed rather to indicate a particular man as the
murderer."

"I have my eye upon him," said Longcluse. "There are suspicious
circumstances. The case in a little time may begin to clear; at present
the police are only groping."

"That's satisfactory; and those fellows are paid so handsomely for
groping," said Sir Reginald, opening his eyes suddenly. "I believe that
we are the worst-governed and the worst-managed people on earth, and
that our merchants and tradespeople are rich simply by flukes--simply by
a concurrence of lucky circumstances, with which they have no more to do
than Prester John or the Man in the Moon. Take a little claret, Mr.
Longcluse, and send it on."

"No more, thanks."

And all the guests being of the same mind, they marched up the broad
stairs to the ladies.



CHAPTER XIX.

IN MRS. TANSEY'S ROOM.


There were sounds of music and laughter faintly audible through the
drawing-room door. The music ceased as the door opened, and the
gentlemen entered an atmosphere of brilliant light, and fragrant with
the pleasant aroma of tea.

"Pray, Miss Arden, don't let us interrupt you," said Mr. Longcluse. "I
thought I heard singing as we came up the stairs." He had come to the
piano, and was now at her side.

She did not sing or play, but Vivian Darnley thought that her
conversation with Longcluse, as, with one knee on his chair, he leaned
over the back of it and talked, seemed more interesting than usual.

"I say, Reginald," said David Arden softly to his brother, "I must run
down and pay Martha Tansey my usual visit. She's in her room, I suppose.
I'll steal away and return quietly."

And so he was gone. He closed the door softly behind him, and slowly
descended the wide staircase, with many vague conjectures and images
revolving in his mind. He paused at the great window on the landing, and
looked out upon the solemn and familiar landscape. A brilliant moon was
high in the sky, and the stars glimmered brightly. His hand was on the
window as he looked out, thinking.

Uncle David was a man impulsive, prompt, sanguine--a temperament, in
short, which, directed by an able intellect, would have made a good
general. When an idea had got into his head, he could not rest until he
had worked it out. On the whole, throughout his life these fits of
sudden and feverish concentration had been effective, and aided his
fortunes. It is, perhaps, an unbusiness-like temperament; but commercial
habits and example had failed to control that natural ardour, and, when
once inflamed, it governed his actions implicitly.

An idea, very vague, very little the product of reason, had now taken
possession of his brain, and he relied upon it as an intuition. He had
been thinking over it. It first warmed, then simmered, then, as it were,
boiled. The process had been one of an hour and more, as he sat at his
brother's table and took his share in the conversation. When the steam
got up and the pressure rose to the point of action, forth went Uncle
David to have his talk with his early friend Tansey. He stopped, as I
have said, at the great window on the staircase, and looked out and up.
The moon was splendid; the stars were glimmering brightly; they looked
down like a thousand eyes set upon him, to watch the prowess and
perseverance of the man on whom fate had imposed a mission.

Some idea like this seized him, for, like many men of a similar
temperament, he had an odd and unconfessed vein of poetry in his nature.
He had looked out and up in a listless abstraction, and the dark heaven
above him, brilliant with its eternal lights, had for a moment withdrawn
and elevated his thoughts as if he had entered a cathedral.

"What specks and shadows we are, and how eternal is duty! And if we are
in another place to last like those unfailing lights--to become happy or
wretched, and, in either state, indestructible for ever--what signify
the labour and troubles of life, compared with that by which our
everlasting fate is fixed? God help us! Am I consulting revenge or
conscience in pursuing this barren inquiry? Do I mistake for the sublime
impulse of conscience a vulgar thirst for blood? I think not. I never
harboured malice; I hate punishing people. But murder is a crime against
God himself, respecting which he imposes duties upon man, and seconds
them by all the instincts of affection. Dare I neglect them, then, in
the case of poor loving Harry, my brother?"

The drawing-room door had been opened a little, the night being sultry,
and through it now came the clear tones of a well-taught baritone. It
was singing a slow and impassioned air, and its tones, though sweet,
chilled him with a strange pain. It seemed like instinct that told him
it was the stranger's voice. One moment's thought would have proved it
equally. There was no one else present to suspect but Vivian Darnley,
and he was no musician; but to David Arden it seemed that if a hundred
people were there he should have felt it all the same, and intuitively
recognised it as Longcluse's voice.

"What is it in that voice which is so hateful? What is it in that
passion which sounds insincere? What gives to those sweet tones a latent
discord, that creeps so coldly through my nerves?"

So thought David Arden, as, with one hand still upon the window-sash, he
listened and turned toward the open door, with a frown akin to one of
pain.

Spell-bound, he listened till the song was over, and sighed and shook
his ears with a sort of shudder when the music ceased.

"I don't know why I stayed to listen. Face--voice--what is the agency
about that fellow? I daresay I'm a fool, but I can't help it, and I must
bring the idea to the test."

He descended the stairs slowly, crossed the hall, and walked
thoughtfully down the passage leading to the housekeeper's room. At this
hour the old woman had it usually to herself. He knocked at the
housekeeper's door, and recognised the familiar voice that answered.

"How do you do, Martha?" said he, striding cheerily into the room.

"Ah! Master David? So it is, sure!"

"Ay, sure and sure, Martha," said he, taking the old woman's hand, with
his kind smile. "And how are you, Martha? Tell me how you are."

"I won't say much. I'm not so canty as you'll mind me. I'm an old wife
now, Master David, and not much for this world, I'm thinking," she
answered dolorously.

"You may outlive much younger people, Martha; we are all in the hands of
God," said David, smiling. "It seems to me but yesterday that I and poor
Harry used to run in here to you from our play in the grounds, and you
had always a bit of something for us hungry fellows to eat, come when we
might."

"Ah, ha! Yes, ye were hungry fellows then--spirin' up, fine tall lads.
Reginald was never like ye; he was seven years older than you. And
hungry? Yes! The cold turkey and ham, ye mind--by Jen! I _have_ seen ye
eat hearty; and pancakes--ye liked them best of all. And it went a' into
a good skin. I will say--you and Master Harry (God be wi' him!) a fine,
handsome pair o' lads ye were. And you're a handsome fellow still,
Master David, and might have married well, no doubt; but man proposes
and God disposes, and time and tide 'll wait for no man, and what's one
man's meat's another man's poison. Who knows and all may be for the
best? And that Mr. Longcluse is dining here to-day?" she added, not very
coherently, and with a sudden gloom.

"Yes, Martha, that Mr. Longcluse is dining here to-day; and Master Dick
tells me you did not fall in love with him at first sight, when they
paid you a visit here. Is that true?"

"I don't know. I don't know what. The sight of him--or the sound of his
voice, I don't know which--gave me a turn," said the old woman.

"Well, Martha, I don't like his face, either. He gave me, also, what you
call a turn. He's very pale, and I felt as if I had been frightened by
him when I was a child; and yet he must be some five and twenty years
younger than I am, and I'm almost certain I never saw him before. So I
say it must be something that's no' canny as you used to say. What do
you think, Martha?"

"Ye may be funnin', Master David. Ye were always a canty lad. But it's
o'er true. I can't bring to mind what it is--I can't tell--but something
in that man's face gev me a sten. I conceited I was just goin' to
swound; and he looked sa straight at me, like a ghost."

"Master Richard says you looked very hard at Mr. Longcluse; you had both
a good stare at each other," said Uncle David. "He thought there was
going to be a recognition."

"Did I? Well, no: I don't know him, I _think_. 'Tis all a jummlement,
like. I couldn't bring nout to mind."

"I know, Martha, you liked poor Harry well," said David Arden, not with
a smile, but with a very sad countenance.

"That I did," said Mrs. Tansey.

"And I think you like me, Martha?"

"Ye're not far wrong there, Master David."

"And for both our sakes--for mine and his, for the dead no less than the
living--I am sure you won't allow any thought of trouble, or
nervousness, or fear of lawyers' browbeating, or that sort of thing, to
deter you from saying, wherever and whenever justice may require it,
everything you know or suspect respecting that dreadful occurrence."

"The death o' Master Harry, ye mean!" exclaimed Mrs. Tansey sternly,
drawing herself up on a sudden, with a pale frown, and looking full at
him. "_Me_ to hide or hold back aught that could bring the truth to
light! Oh! Master David, do you know what ye're sayin'?"

"Perfectly," said he, with a melancholy smile; "and I am glad it vexes
you, Martha, because I need no answer on that point more than your
honest voice and face."

"Keep back aught, man!" she repeated, striking her hand on the table.
"Why, lad, I'd lose that old hand under the chopper for one gliff o' the
truth into that damned story. Why, lawk! where's yer head, boy? Wasn't I
maist killed myself, for sake o' him that night?"

"Ay, Martha, brave girl, I'm satisfied; and I ask your pardon for the
question. But years bring alteration, you know; and I'm changed in mind
myself in many ways I never could have believed. And everyone doesn't
see with me that it is our duty to explore a crime like that, to track
the villain, if we can, and bring him to justice. _You_ do, Martha; but
there are many in whose veins poor Harry's blood is running, who don't
feel like you. Master Richard said that the gentleman looked as if he
did not know what to make of you; 'and, by Jove!' said he, '_I_ didn't
either--Martha stared so.'"

"I couldn't help. 'Twas scarce civil; but truly I couldn't, Sir," said
Martha Tansey, who had by this time recovered her equanimity. "He did
remind me of summat."

"We will talk of that by-and-by, Martha; we will try to recall it. What
I want you first to tell me is exactly your recollection of the
lamentable occurrence of that night. I have a full note of it at home;
but I have not looked at it for years, and I want my recollection
confirmed to-night, that you and I may talk over some possibilities
which I should like to examine with your help."

"I can talk of it now," said the old woman; "but for many a year after
it happened I dare not. I could not sleep for many a night after I told
it to anyone. But now I can bear it. So, Master David, you may ask what
you please."

"First let me hear your recollection of what happened," said David
Arden.

"Ay, Master David, that I will. Sit ye down, for my old bones won't
carry me standing no time now, and sit I must. Right well ye're lookin',
and right glad am I to see it, Master David; and ye were always a
handsome laddie. God bless ye, and God be wi' the old times! And poor
Master Harry--poor laddie!--I liked him well. You two looked beautiful,
walkin' up to t' house together--two conny, handsome boys ye were."



CHAPTER XX.

MRS. TANSEY'S STORY.


"The sun don't touch these windows till nigh nightfall. In the short
days o' winter, the last sunbeam at the settin' just glints along the
wall, and touches a sprig or two o' them scarlet geraniums on the
windastone. 'Tis a cold room, Master David. In summer evenins, like
this, ye have just a chilly flush o' the sun settin', and, before it's
well on the windas, the bats and beetles is abroad, and the moth is
flittin', and the gloamin' fa's," said the old woman. "The windas looks
to the west, but also a bit to the north, ye'll mind, and that's the
cause o't. I don't complain. I ha' suffered it these thirty years and
more, and 'tain't worth while, for the few years that's left, makin' a
blub and a blither about it. I'm an old wife now, Master David, and
there can't be many more years for me left aboon the grass, sa I e'en
let be and taks the world easy, ye see; and that's the reason I aye keep
a bit o' wood burnin' on the hearth--it keeps the life in my old
bones--and I hope it ain't too warm for you, Master David?"

"Not a bit, Martha. This side of the house is cool. I remember that our
room, when we were boys, looked out from it, high up, you recollect, and
it never was hot."

"That's it, ye were in the top o' the house; and poor Harry, wi' his
picturs o' horses and dogs hangin' up on the wa's. Lawk! it seems but
last week. How the years flits! I often thinks of him. See what a moon
there is to-night. 'Twas just such a moon that night, only frostier, ye
see--the same clear sky and bright moon; 'twould make ye wink to look
at. Ye're not too hot wi' that bit o' wood lightin' in the grate?"

"I like the fire, Martha, and I like the moon, and I like your company
best of all."

The truth was, he did like the flicker of the wood fire. The flame was
cheery, and took off something of the dismal shadow that stole over
everything whenever he applied his affectionate mind to the horrors of
the dreadful night on which he was now ruminating. One of the
window-shutters was open, and the chill brilliancy of the moon, and the
deep blue sky, were serenely visible over the black foreground of trees.
The wavering of the redder light of the fire, as its reflection spread
and faded upon the wainscot, was warm and pleasant; and, had their talk
been of less ghastly things, would have brightened their thoughts with a
sense of comfort.

"I have not very long to stay, Martha," said David Arden, looking at his
watch, "so tell me your recollection as accurately as you can. Let me
hear _that_ first; and then I want to ask you for some particular
information, which I am sure you can give me."

"Why not? Who should I give it sooner to? Will ye take a cup o' coffee?
No. Well, a glass o' curaçoa? No. And what will ye take?"

"You forget that I have taken everything, and come to you with all my
wants supplied. So now, dear Martha, let me hear it all."

"I'll tell ye all about it. I was younger and stronger, mind, than I am
now, by twenty years and more. 'Tis a short time to look back on, but a
good while passing, and leaves many a gap and change, and many a scar
and wrinkle."

There was a palpable tremble always in Mrs. Tansey's voice, in the thin
hand she extended towards him, and in the head from which her old eyes
glittered glassily on him.

"The road is very lonely by night--the loneliest road in all England.
When it passes ten o'clock, you might listen till cock-crow for a
footfall. Well, I, and Thomas Ridley, and Anne Haslett, was all the
people at Mortlake just then, the family being in the North, except
Master Harry. He went to a race across country, that was run that day;
and he told me, laughing, he would not ask me to throw an old shoe after
him, as he stood sure to win two thousand pounds. And away he went,
little thinking, him and me, how our next meetin' would be. At that time
old Tom Clinton--ye'll mind Clinton?"

"To be sure I do," acquiesced David Arden.

"Well, Tom was in the gatehouse then; after he died, his daughter's
husband got it, ye know. And when he had outstayed his time by two
hours--for he was going northwards in the morning, and told me he'd be
surely back before ten--I began to grow frightened, and I put on my
bonnet and cloak, and down I runs to the gatehouse, and knocks up Tom
Clinton. It was nigh twelve o'clock then. When Tom came to the door,
having dressed in haste, I said, 'Tom, which way will Master Harry
return? he's not been since.' And says Tom, 'If he's comin' straight
from the course, he'll come down from the country; but if he's dinin'
instead in London, he'll come up the Islington way.' 'Well,' said I, 'go
you, Tom, to the turn o' the road, and look and listen for sight or
sound, and bring me word.' I don't know what was frightenin' me. He was
often later, and I never minded; but something that night was on my
mind, like a warning, for I couldn't get the fear out o' my heart. Well,
who comes ridin' back but Dick Wallock, the groom, that had drove away
with him in the gig in the mornin'; and glad I was to see his face at
the gate. It was bright moonlight, and says I, 'Dick, how is Master
Harry? Is all well with him?' So he tells me, ay, all was well, and he
goin' to drive the gig out himself from town. He was at a
place--_you'll_ mind the name of it--where it turned out they played
cards and dice, and won and lost like--like fools, or worse, as some o'
them no doubt was. 'Well,' says I, 'go you up, as he told you, with the
horse, and I'll stay here till he comes back, if it wasn't till
daybreak.' For all the time, ye see, my heart misgave me that there was
summat bad to happen; and when Tom Clinton came back, says I, 'Tom, you
go in, and get to your room, and let me sit down in your kitchen; and
I'll let him in when he comes, for I can't go up to the house, nor close
an eye, till he comes.' Well, it was a full hour after, and I was
sittin' in the kitchen window that looks out on the road, starin' wide
awake, and lookin', now one way and now another, up and down, when I
hears the clink of a footfall on the stones, and a tall, ill-favoured
man walks slowly by, and turns his face toward the window as he passed."

"You saw him distinctly, then?" said David.

"As plain as ever I saw you. An ill-favoured fellow in a light drab
great coat wi' a cape to it. He looked white wi' fear, and wild big
eyes, and a high hooked nose--a tall chap wi' his hands in his pockets,
and a low-crowned hat on. He went on slow, till a whistle sounded, and
then he ran down the road a bit toward the signal."

"That was toward the Islington side?"

"Ay, Sir, and I grew more uneasy. I was scared wi' the sight o' such a
man at that time o' night, in that lonesome place, and the whistlin' and
runnin'."

"Did you see the same man again that night?" asked David.

"Yes, 'twas the same I saw afterwards--Lord ha' mercy on us! I saw him
again, at his murderin' work. Oh, Master David! it makes my brain wild,
and my skin creep, to think o' that sight."

"I did wrong to interrupt you; tell it your own way, Martha, and I can
afterwards ask you the questions that lie near my heart," said Mr.
Arden.

"'Tis easy told, Sir; the candle was burnt down almost in the socket,
and I went to look out another--but before I could find one, it went
out. 'Twas but a stump I found and lighted, after I saw that fellow in
the light drab surtout go by. I wished to let them know, if they had any
ill design, there was folks awake in the lodge. But he was gone by
before I found the matches, and now that he was comin' again, the candle
went out--things goes so cross. It was to be, ye see. Well, while I was
rummagin' about, looking for a candle, I heard the sound of a horse
trotting hard, and wheels rollin' along; so says I, 'Thank God!' for
then I was sure it must be Harry, poor lad. So I claps on my bonnet, and
out wi' me, wi' t' key. I thought I heard voices, as the hoofs and
wheels came clinkin' up to the gate; but I could not be quite sure. I
was huffed wi' Master Harry for the long wait he gev me, and the fright,
and I took my time comin' round the corner of the gatehouse. And thinks
I to myself, he'll be offerin' me a seat in the gig up to the house, but
I won't take it. God forgi'e me for them angry thoughts to the poor
laddie that I was never to have a word wi' more! When I came to the gate
there was never a call, and nothing but voices talking and gaspin' like,
under their breath a'most, and a queer scufflin' sound, that I could not
make head nor tail on. So I unlocked the wicket, and out wi' me, and,
Lord ha' mercy on us, what a sight for me! The gig was there, with its
shafts on the ground, and its back cocked up, and the iron-grey flat on
his side, lashin' and scramblin', poor brute, and two villains in the
gig, both pullin' at poor Master Harry, one robbin', and t'other
murderin' him. I took one o' them--a short, thick fellow--by the skirt
o' his coat, to drag him out, and I screamed for Tom Clinton to come
out. The short fellow turned, and struck at me wi' somethin'; but, lucky
for me, 'appen, the lashin' horse that minute took me on the foot, and
brought me down. But up I scrambles wi' a stone in my hand, and I shied
it, the best I could, at the head o' the villain that was killin' Master
Harry. But what can a woman do? It did not go nigh him, I'm thinkin'. I
was, all the time, calling on Tom to come, and cryin' 'Murder!' that
you'd think my throat'd split. That bloody wretch in the gig had got
poor Master Harry's head back over the edge of it, and his knee to his
chest, a-strivin' to break his neck across the back-rails; and poor dear
lad, Master Harry, he just scritched, 'Yelland Mace! for God's sake!'
They were the last words I ever heard from him, and I'll never forget
that horrid scritch, nor the face of the villain that was over him, like
a beast over its prey. He was tuggin' at his throat, like you'd be
tryin' to tear up a tree by the roots--you never see such a face. His
teeth was set, and the froth comin' through, and his black eyebrows
screwed together, you'd think they'd crack the thin hooked nose of him
between them, and he pantin' like a wild beast. He looked like a madman,
I tell you; 'twas bright moonlight, and the trees bare, and the shadows
of the branches was switchin' across his face."

"You saw that face distinctly?" asked David Arden.

"As clear as yours this minute."

"Now tell me--and think first--was he a bit like that Mr. Longcluse
whose appearance startled you the other evening?" asked Mr. Arden, in a
very low tone, with his eyes fixed on her intensely.

"No, no, no! not a bit. He had a small mouth and white teeth, and a
great beak of a nose. No, no, no! not he. I saw him strike somethin'
that shone--a knife or a dagger--into the poor lad's throat, and he
struck it down at my head, as you know, and I mind nothin' after that.
I'll carry the scar o' that murderer's blow to my grave. There's the
whole story, and God forgi'e ye for asking me, for it gi'es me t'
creepins for a week after; and I didn't conceit 'twould 'a' made me sa
excited, Sir, or I would not 'a' bargained to tell it to-night--not that
I blame ye, Master David, for I thought, myself, that I could bear it
better--and I do believe, as I have gone so far in it, 'tis better to
make one job of it, and a finish. So ye'll ask me any question ye like,
and I'll make the best answer I can; only, Master David, ye'll not be
o'er long about it?"

"You are a good creature, Martha. I am sorry to pain you, but I pain
myself, and you know why I ask these questions."

"Ay, Sir, and I'd rather hear ye ask them than see you sit as easy under
all that as some does, that owed the poor fellow as much love as ever
you did, and were as near akin."

"I am puzzled, Martha, and hitherto I have been baffled, but I won't
give it up yet. You say that the wretch who struck you was a
singular-looking man, at least as you describe him. I know, Martha, I
can rely upon your caution--you will not repeat to any one what passes
in our interview." He lowered his voice. "You do not think that this Mr.
Longcluse--a rich gentleman, you know and a person who thinks he's of
some consequence, a person whom we must not look at, you know, as if he
had two heads--you really don't think that this Mr. Longcluse has any
resemblance to the villain whom you saw stab my brother, and who struck
you?"

"Not he--no more than I have. No, no, Mr. Longcluse is quite another
sort of face; but for all that, when he came in here, and I saw him
before me, his face and his speech reminded me of that night."

"How was that, Martha? Did he resemble the other man--the man who was
aiding?"

"That fellow was hanged, ye'll mind, Master David."

"Yes, but a likeness might have struck and startled you."

"No, Sir--no, Master David, not him; surely not him. I can't bring it to
mind, but it frightens me. It _is_ queer, Sir. All I can say for certain
is this, Master David. The minute I heard his voice, and got sight of
his face, like that," and she dropped her hand on the table, "the
thought of that awful night came back, bright and cold, Sir, and them
black shadows--'twas all about me, I can't tell how, and I hope I may
never see him again."

"Do you think there was another man by, besides the two villains in the
gig?" suggested David Arden.

"Not a living soul except them and myself. Poor Master Harry said to Tom
Clinton, ye'll mind, for he lived half-an-hour after, and spoke a
little, though faint and with great labour, and says he, 'There were
two: Yelland Mace killed me, and Tom Todry took the money.' Tom Clinton
heard him say that, and swore to it before the justice o' peace, and
after, on the trial. No, no, there wasn't a soul there but they two
villains, and the poor dear lad they murdered, and me and Tom Clinton,
that might as well 'a' bin in York for any good we did. Oh, no, Heaven
forbid I should be so unmannerly as to compare a gentleman like Mr.
Longcluse to such folk as that! Oh, lawk, no, Sir! But there's
something, there's a look--or a sound in his voice--I can't get round it
quite--but it reminds me of something about that night, with a start
like, I can't tell how--something unlucky and awful--and I would not see
him again for a deal."

"Well, Martha, a thousand thanks. I'm puzzled, as I said. Perhaps it is
only something strange in his face that caused that odd misgiving. For
_I_ who saw but one of the wretches engaged in the crime, the man who
was convicted, who certainly did not in the slightest degree resemble
Mr. Longcluse, experienced the same unpleasant sensation on first seeing
him. I don't know how it is, Martha, but the idea clings to me, as it
does to you. Some light may come. Something may turn up. I can't get it
out of my mind that somehow--it may be circuitously--he has, at least,
got the thread in his fingers that may lead us right. Good-night,
Martha. I have got the Bible with large print you wished for; I hope you
will like the binding. And now, God bless you! It is time I should bid
them good-night up-stairs. Farewell, my good old friend." And, so
saying, he shook her hard and shrivelled hand.

His steps echoed along the long tiled passage, with its one dim light,
and his mind was still haunted by its one obscure idea.

"It is strange," he thought, "that Martha and I--the only two living
persons, I believe, who care still for poor Harry, and feel alike
respecting the expiation that is due to his memory--should both have
been struck with the same odd feeling on seeing Longcluse. From that
white sinister face, it seems to me, I know not why, will shine the
light that will yet clear all up."



CHAPTER XXI.

A WALK BY MOONLIGHT.


While Martha Tansey was telling her grisly story in the housekeeper's
room, and David Arden listening to the oft-told tale, for the sake of
the possible new lights which the narration might throw upon his present
theory, the little party in the drawing-room had their music and their
talk. Mr. Longcluse sang the song which, standing beside Uncle David on
the landing, near the great window on the staircase, we have faintly
heard; and then he sang that other song, of the goblin wooer, at Alice's
desire.

"Was the poor girl fool enough to accept his invitation?" inquired Miss
Maubray.

"That I really can't say," laughed Mr. Longcluse.

"Yes, indeed, poor thing! I so hope she didn't," said Lady May.

"It's very likely she did," interposed Sir Reginald, opening his
eyes--every one thought he was dozing--"nothing more foolish, and
therefore, nothing more likely. Besides, if she didn't, she probably did
worse. Better to go straight to the----"

"Oh, dear Reginald!" exclaimed Lady May.

"Than by a tedious circumbendibus. I suppose her parents highly
disapproved of the goblin; wasn't that alone an excellent reason for
going away with him?"

And Sir Reginald closed his eyes again.

"Perhaps," said Miss Maubray aside to Vivian Darnley, "that romantic
young lady may have had a cross papa, and thought that she could not
change very much for the worse."

"Shall I tell that to Sir Reginald?--it would amuse him," inquired
Darnley.

"Not as my remark; but I make you a present of it."

"Thanks; but that, even with your permission, would be a plagiarism, and
robbing you of his applause."

Vivian Darnley was very inattentive to his own nonsense. He was talking
very much at random, for his mind, and occasionally his eyes, were
otherwise occupied.

Alice Arden was sitting near the piano, and talking to Mr. Longcluse.

"Is that meant to be a ghost, I wonder, in our sense, like the ghost of
Wilhelm in the ballad of Leonora? or is the lover a demon?"

"A demon, surely," answered Longcluse, "a spirit appointed to her
destruction. In an old ghostly writer there is a Latin sentence,
_Unicuique nascenti, adest dæmon vitæ mystagogus_, which I will
translate, 'There is present at the birth of every human being a demon,
who is the conductor of his life.' Be it fortunate, or be it direful, to
this supernatural influence he owes it all. So they thought; and to
families such a demon is allotted also, and they prosper or wane as his
function is ordained. I wonder whether such demons ever enter into human
beings, and, in the shape of living men, haunt, plague, and ruin their
predestinated victims."

This sort of mysticism for a time they talked, and then wandered away to
other themes, and the talk grew general; and Mr. Longcluse, with a pang,
discovered that it was late. He had something on his mind that night. He
had an undivulged use, also, to which to apply David Arden. As the hour
drew near it weighed more and more heavily at his heart. That hour must
be observed; he wished to be away before it arrived. There was still
ample time; but Lady May was now talking of going, and he made up his
mind to say farewell.

Lingeringly Mr. Longcluse took his leave. But go he must; and so, a last
touch of the hand, a last look, and the parting is over. Down-stairs he
runs; his groom and his brougham are at the door. What a glorious moon!
The white light upon all things around is absolutely dazzling. How sharp
and black the shadows! How light and filmy rises the old house! How
black the nooks of the thick ivy! Every drop of dew that hangs upon its
leaves, or on the drooping stalks of the neglected grass, is transmuted
into a diamond. As he stands for an instant upon the broad platform of
the steps, he looks round him with a deep sigh, and with a strange smile
of rapture. The man standing with the open door of the brougham in his
hand caught his eye.

"Go you down as far as the little church, before you reach the 'Guy of
Warwick,' in the village, quite close to this--you know it--and wait
there for me. I shall walk."

The man touched his hat, shut the door, and mounted the box beside the
driver, and away went the brougham. Mr. Longcluse lit a cigarette, and
slowly walked down the broad avenue after the vehicle. By the time he
had got about half-way, he heard the iron gates swing together, the
sound of the wheels was lost in distance, and the feeling of seclusion
returned. In the same vague intoxication of poetry and romance, he
paused and looked round again, and sighed. The trunk of a great tree
overthrown in the last year's autumnal gales, with some of its boughs
lopped off, lay on the grass at the edge of the avenue. There remained a
little of his cigarette to smoke, and the temptation of this natural
seat was irresistible; so he took it, and smoked, and gazed, and
dreamed, and sometimes, as he took the cigarette from his lips, he
sighed--never was man in a more romantic vein. He looked back on the
noble front of the picturesque old house. The cold moonlight gleamed on
most of the window-panes: but from a few tall windows glowed faintly the
warmer light of candles. If anyone had ever felt the piercing storms of
life, the treachery of his species, and the mendacity of the illusions
that surround us, Longcluse was that man. He had accepted the conditions
of life, and was a man of the world; but no boy of eighteen was ever
more in love than he at this moment.

Gazing back at the dim glow that flushed through the tall window-blinds
of the distant drawing-room, his fancy weaving all those airy dreams
that passion lives in, this pale, solitary man--whom no one quite knew,
who trusted no one, who had his peculiar passions, his sorrows, his
fears, and strange remembrances; everything connected with his origin,
vicissitudes, and character, except this one wild hope, locked up, as it
were, in an iron casket, and buried in a grave fathoms deep--was now
floated back, he knew not how, to that time of sweet perturbation and
agonising hope at which the youth of Shakespeare's time were wont to
sigh like a furnace, and indite woeful ballads to their mistress's
eyebrows. Now he saw lights in an upper room. Imagination and conjecture
were in a moment at work. No servant's apartment, its dimensions were
too handsome; and had not Sir Reginald mentioned that his room was upon
a level with the hall? Just at this moment Lady May's carriage drove
down the avenue and past him. Yes, she had run up direct to her room on
bidding Lady May good-night. How he drank in these rosy lights through
his dark eyes! and how their tremble seemed to quicken the pulsations of
his heart! Gradually his thoughts saddened, and his face grew dark.

"Two doors in life--only in this life, if all bishops and curates speak
truth--one or other shut for ever in the next. The gate to heaven, the
gate to hell. Heaven! _Facilis decensus._ Life is such a sophism. Yet
even those canting dogs in the pulpit can't bark away the truth. God
sees not with our eyes! Revealed religion--Mahomet, Moses, Mormon,
Borgia! What is the first lesson inscribed by his Maker on every man's
heart, instinct, intellect? I read the mandate thus: 'Take the best care
you can of number one.' Bah! 'It is he that hath made us, and not we
ourselves.'"

Uncle David's carriage now drove by.

"There goes that sharp girl--pretty, vain--and they're all vain; they
ought to be vain; they could not please if they were not. Vain she
is--devoured, mind, soul, passion, by vanity. Yes, and power--the lust
of power, conquest, acquisition. She's greedy and crafty, I daresay. Oh!
Alice, who was ever quite like you? The most beautiful, the best, my
darling! Oh! enchantress, work the miracle, and make this forlorn man
what he might be!"

It passed like a magic-lantern picture, and was gone. The distant clang
of the iron gate was heard again, the avenue was deserted and silent,
and Longcluse once more alone in his dream. He was looking towards the
house, sometimes breaking into a few murmured words, sometimes smoking,
and just as his cigarette was out he saw a figure approaching. It was
Uncle David, who was walking down the avenue. It so happened that his
mind was at that moment busy with Mr. Longcluse, and it was with an odd
little shock, therefore, that he saw the very man--whom he fancied by
that time to be at least two miles away--rise up in his path, and stand
before him, smiling, in the moonlight.

"Oh!--Mr. Longcluse?" exclaimed David Arden, coming suddenly to a halt.

"So it is," said Longcluse, with a little laugh. "You are surprised to
find me here, and I fancied I had seen your carriage go on."

"So you did; it is waiting near the gate for me. Can I give you a seat
into town?"

"Thanks," said Longcluse, smiling; "mine is waiting for me a little
further on."

Longcluse walked slowly on toward the gate, with David Arden at his
side.

"My ward, Miss Maubray, has gone on with Lady May, and Darnley went with
them. So I'm not such a brute as I should be if I were making a young
lady wait while I was enjoying the moonlight."

"It was this wonderful moon that led me, also, into this night-ramble on
foot," said Mr. Longcluse; "I found the temptation absolutely
irresistible."

As they thus talked, Mr. Longcluse had formed the resolution of choosing
that moment for a confidence which, considering how slender was his
acquaintance with Mr. David Arden, was, to say the least, a little bold
and odd. They had not very far to walk before reaching the gate, so, a
little abruptly turning the course of their talk, Mr. Longcluse said,
with a chilly little laugh, and a smile more pallid than ever in the
moonlight--

"By-the-bye, we were talking of that shocking occurrence in the Saloon
Tavern; and connected with it, I have had two threatening letters."

"Indeed!" said David Arden.

"Fact, I assure you," said Mr. Longcluse, with a shrug and another cold
little laugh.



CHAPTER XXII.

MR. LONGCLUSE MAKES AN ODD CONFIDENCE.


David Arden looked at Mr. Longcluse with a sudden glance, that was, for
a moment, shrinking and sharp. This confidence connected with such a
scene chimed in, with a harmony that was full of pain, with the utterly
vague suspicions that had somehow got into his imagination.

"Yes, and I have been a little puzzled," continued Longcluse. "They say
the man who is his own lawyer has a fool for his client; but there are
other things besides law to which the spirit of the canon more strongly
still applies. I think you could give me just the kind of advice I need,
if you were not to think my asking it too great a liberty. I should not
dream of doing so if the matter were simply a private one, and began and
ended in myself; but you will see in a moment that public interests of
some value are involved, and I am a little doubtful whether the course I
am taking is in all respects the right one. I have had two threatening
letters; would you mind glancing at them? The moon is so brilliant, one
has no difficulty in reading. This is the first. And may I ask you,
kindly, until I shall have determined, I hope, with your aid, upon a
course, to treat the matter as quite between ourselves? I have mentioned
it to but one other person."

"Certainly," said David, "you have a right to your own terms."

He took the letter and stopped short where he was, unfolding it. The
light was quite sufficient, and he read the odd and menacing letter
which Mr. Longcluse had received a few evenings before, as we know, at
Lady May's. It was to the following effect:

    "SIR,--The unfortunate situation in which you stand, the proof being
    so, as you must suppose, makes it necessary for you to act
    considerately, and no nonsense can be permitted by your well
    wishers. The poor man has his conscience all one as as the rich, and
    must be cautious as well as him. I can not put myself in no dainger
    for you, Sir, nor won't hold back the truth, so welp me. I have
    heerd tell of your boote bin took away. I would be happy to lend an
    and, Sir, to recover that property. How all will end otherwise I
    regrett. Knowing well who it will be that takes so mutch consern for
    your safety, you cannot doubt who I am, and if you wishes to meat me
    quiet to consult, you need only to name the place and time in the
    times newspaper, which I sees it every day. It must be put part in
    one days times, for the daite, saying a friend will show on sich a
    night, and in next days times for the place, saying the dogs will
    meet at sich and sich a place, and it shall hev the attenshen of
    your

    FAST FREND."

"That's a cool letter, upon my word," said David Arden. "Have you an
idea who wrote it?"

"Yes, a very good guess. I'll tell you all that if you allow me, just
now. I should say, indeed, an absolute certainty, for I have had another
this afternoon with the name of the writer signed, and he turns out to
be the very man whom I suspected. Here it is."

David Arden's curiosity was piqued. He took the last note and read as
follows:--

    "SIR,--My last Letter must have came to Hand, and you been in reseet
    of it since the 11th instant, has took no Notice thereoff, I have No
    wish for justice, as you may Suppose, and has no Fealing against you
    Mr. Longcluse Persanelly and to shew you plainly that Such is the
    case, I will meet you for an intervue if such is your Wishes in your
    Own house, if you should Rayther than name another place. I do not
    objeck To one frend been Present providing such Be not a lawyer. The
    subjek been Dellicat, I will Attend any hour and Place you appoint.
    If you should faile I must put my Proofs in the hands of the police,
    for I will take it for a sure sine of guilt if you fail after this
    to appoint for a meating.

    "I remain, Sir, Your obedient servent,
    "PAUL DAVIES.

    "No. 2 Rosemary Court."

"Well, that's pretty frank," said Longcluse, observing that he had read
to the end.

"Extremely. What do you suppose his object to be--to extort money?"

"Possibly; but he may have another object. In any case, he wants to make
money by this move."

"Very audacious, then. He must know, if he is fit for his trade, how
much risk there is in it; and his signing his name and address to his
letter, and seeking an interview with a witness by seems to me utterly
infatuated," said David Arden, with his eye upon Mr. Longcluse.

"So it does, except upon one supposition; I mean that the man believes
his story," said Mr. Longcluse, walking beside him, for they had resumed
their march towards the gate.

"Really! believes that you committed the murder?" said Uncle David,
again coming to a halt and looking full at him.

"I can't quite account for it otherwise," said Longcluse; "and I think
the right course is for me to meet him. But I have no intimacies in
London, and that is my difficulty."

"How? Why don't you arrest him?" said David Arden.

David Arden had seldom felt so oddly. A quarter-of-an-hour since, he
expected to have been seated in his carriage with his ward and Vivian
Darnley, driving into town in quiet humdrum fashion, by this time. How
like a dream was the actual scene! Here he was, standing on the grass
among the noble timber, under the moonlight, with the pale face beside
him which had begun to haunt him so oddly. The strange smile of his
mysterious companion, the cold tone that jarred sweetly, somehow, on his
ear, lending a sinister eccentricity to the extraordinary confession he
was making.

In this situation, which had come about almost unaccountably, there was
a strange feeling of unreality. Was this man, from whom he had felt an
indescribable repulsion, now by his side, and drawing him, in this
solitude, into a mysterious confidence? and had not this confidence an
unaccountable though distant relation to the vague suspicions that had
touched his mind? With a little effort he resumed,--

"I beg pardon, but if the case were mine I should put the letters at
once into the hands of the police and prosecute him."

"Precisely my own first impulse. But the letters are more cautiously
framed than you might at first sight suppose. I should be placed in an
awkward position were my prosecution to fail. _I_ am obliged to think of
this because, although I am nothing to the public, I am a good deal to
myself. But I've resolved to take a course not less bold, though less
public. I am determined to meet him face to face with an unexceptionable
witness present, and to discover distinctly whether he acts from fraud
or delusion, and then to proceed accordingly. I have communicated with
him."

"Oh, really!"

"Yes, I was clear I ought to meet him, but I would consent to nothing
with an air of concealment."

"I think you were right, Sir."

"He wanted our meeting by night on board a Thames boat; then in a
dilapidated house in Southwark; then in a deserted house that is to be
let in Thames Street; but I named my own house, in Bolton Street, at
half-past twelve to-night."

"Then you really wish to see him. I suppose you have thought it well
over; but I am always for taking such miscreants promptly by the throat.
However, as you say, cases differ, and I daresay you are well advised."

"And now may I venture a request, which, were it not for two facts
within my knowledge, I should not presume to make? But I venture it to
you, who take so special an interest in this case, because you have
already taken trouble and, like myself, contributed money to aid the
chances of discovery; and because only this evening you said you would
bestow more labour, more time, and more money with pleasure to procure
the least chance of an additional light upon it: now it strikes me as
just possible that the writer of those letters may be, to some extent,
honest. Though utterly mistaken about me, still he may have evidence to
give, be it worth much or little; and so, Mr. Arden, having the pleasure
of being known to some members of your family, although till to-night by
name only to you, I beg as a great kindness to a man in a difficulty,
and possibly in the interests of the public, that you will be so good as
to accompany me, and be present at the interview, that cannot be so well
conducted before any other witness whom I can take with me."

David Arden paused for a moment, but independently quite of his interest
in this case: he felt a strange curiosity about this pale man, whose
eyes from under their oblique brows gleamed back the cold moonlight;
while a smile, the character of which a little puzzled him, curled his
nostril and his thin lip, and showed the glittering edge of his teeth.
Did it look like treachery? or was it defiance, or derision? It was a
face, thus seen, so cadaverous and Mephistophelian, that an artist would
have given something for a minute to fix a note of it in white and
black.

David Arden was not to be disturbed in a practical matter by a pictorial
effect, however, and in another moment he said--

"Yes, Mr. Longcluse, as you desire it I will accompany you, and see this
fellow, and hear what he has to say. _Certainly._"

"That's very kind--only what I should have expected, also, from your
public spirit. I'm extremely obliged."

They resumed their walk towards the gate.

"I shall get into my brougham and call at home, to tell them not to
expect me for an hour or so. And what is the number of your house?"

He told him; and David Arden having offered to take him, in his
carriage, to the place where his own awaited him, which however he
declined, they parted for a little time, and Mr. Arden's brougham
quickly disappeared under the shadow of the tall trees that lined the
curving road.



CHAPTER XXIII.

THE MEETING.


As David Arden drove towards town, his confusion rather increased. Why
should Mr. Longcluse select him for this confidence? There were men in
the City whom he must know, if not intimately, at least much better than
he knew him. It was a very strange occurrence; and was not Mr.
Longcluse's manner, also, strange? Was he not, somehow, very oddly cool
under a charge of murder? There was something, it seemed, indefinably
incongruous in the nature of his story, his request, and his manner.

                   *       *       *       *       *

It was five or ten minutes before the appointed time when David Arden
and Longcluse met in the latter gentleman's "study" in Bolton Street.
There was a slight, odd flutter at Longcluse's heart, although his pale
face betrayed no sign of agitation, as the shuffling tread of a heavy
foot was heard on the doorsteps, followed by a faint knock, like that of
a tremulous postman. It was the preconcerted summons of Mr. Paul Davies.

Longcluse smiled at David Arden and raised his finger, as he lightly
drew near the room door, with an air of warning. He wished to remind his
companion that he was to receive their visitor alone. Mr. Arden nodded,
and Mr. Longcluse withdrew. In a minute more the servant opened the
study-door, and said--"Mr. Davies, Sir."

And the tall ex-detective entered, and looked with a silky simper
stealthily to the right and to the left from the corners of his eyes,
and glided in, shutting the door behind him.

Uncle David received this man without even a nod. He eyed him sternly,
from his chair at the end of the table.

"Sit in that chair, please," said he, pointing to a seat at the other
end.

The ex-policeman made his best bow, and turning out his toes very much,
he shuffled with his habitual sly smirk on, to the chair, in which he
seated himself, and with his big red hands on the table began turning,
and twisting, and twiddling a short pencil, which was a good deal bitten
at the uncut end, between his fingers and thumbs.

"You came here to see Mr. Longcluse?" asked David Arden.

"A few words of business at his desire. Sir, I ask your parding, I came,
Sir, by his wishes, not mine, which has brought me here at his request."

"And who am I, do you suppose?"

The man, still smiling, looked at him shrewdly. "Well, I don't know, I'm
sure; I may 'a' seen you."

"Did you ever see that gentleman?" said David Arden, as Mr. Longcluse
entered the room.

The ex-detective looked also shrewdly at Longcluse, but without any
light of recognition. "I may have seen him, Sir. Yes, I saw him in Saint
George's, Hanover Square, the day Lord Charles Dillingsworth married
Miss Wygram, the _hairess_. I saw him at Sydenham the second week in
February last when the Freemasons' dinner was there; and I saw him on
the night of the match between Hood and Markham, at the Saloon Tavern."

"Do you know my name?" said David Arden.

"Well, no, I don't at present remember."

"Do you know that gentleman's name?"

"His name?"

"Ay, his name."

"Well, no; I may have heard it, and I may bring it to mind, by-and-by."

Longcluse smiled and shrugged, looking at Mr. Arden, and he said to the
man--

"So you don't know _that_ gentleman's name, nor mine?"

The man looked at each, hard and a little anxiously, like a person who
feels that he may be making a very serious mistake; but after a pause he
said decisively--"No, I don't at present. I say I don't know your names,
either of you gentlemen, and I _don't_."

The two gentlemen exchanged glances.

"Is either of us as tall as Mr. Longcluse?" asked David Arden, standing
up.

The man stood up also, to make his inspection.

"You're both," he said, after a pause, "much about his height."

"Is either of us like him?"

"No," answered Davies, after a pause.

"Did you write these letters?" asked Mr. Longcluse laughing.

"Well, I did, or I didn't, and what's that to you?"

"Something, as you shall know presently."

"I think you're trying it on. I reckon this is a bit of a plant. I don't
care a scratch o' that pencil if it be. I wrote them letters, and I said
nothin' but what's true, and I'll go with you now to the station if you
like, and tell all I knows."

The fellow seemed nettled, and laughed viciously a little, and swaggered
at the close of his speech. The faintest flush imaginable tinged
Longcluse's forehead, as he shot a searching glance at him.

"No, we don't want that," said he; "but you may be of more use in
another way, although just now you are in the wrong box, and have
mistaken your man, for _I_ am Mr. Longcluse. You have been misinformed,
you see, as to the identity of the person you suspect; but some person
you have, no doubt, in your mind, and possibly a case worth sifting,
although you have been deceived as to his name. Describe the appearance
of the man you supposed to be Mr. Longcluse. You may be frank with me; I
mean you no harm."

"I defy any man to harm me, Sir, if you please, so long as I do my
dooty," said Paul Davies. "Mr. Longcluse, if that be his name, the man I
mean, he's about your height, with round shoulders and red hair, and
talks with a north-country twang on his tongue; he's a bit rougher, and
a swaggerin' cove, and a yard o' red beard over his waistcoat, and
bigger hands a deal than you, and broader feet."

"And have you a case against him?"

"Partly, but it ain't, Sir, if you please, by no means so complete as
would answer as yet. If I was sure you were really Mr. Longcluse, I
could say more, for I partly guess who this other gent is--a most
respectable party. I think I do know you, Sir, by appearance; if you had
your 'at on, Sir, I could say to a certainty. But I think, Sir, if you
please, I'm not very far wrong when I say that I would identify you for
Mr. David Arden."

"So I am; that is quite true."

"Thank you, Sir, I am obleeged; that's very quietin' to my mind, Sir,
having full confidence in your character; and if you, Sir, please to
tell me _that_ gentleman is undoubtingly Mr. Longcluse, the propperieter
of this house, I must 'a' been let into a mistake; I don't think they
was agreenin' of me, but it was a mistake, if you please, Sir, if you
say so."

"This is Mr. Longcluse--I know of no other--and he resides in this
house," said David Arden. "But if you have information to give
respecting that red-bearded fellow, there is no reason why you should
not give it forthwith to the police."

"Parding me, Sir, if you please, Mr. Arden. There is, I would say,
strong reasons for a poor man in rayther anxious circumstances, like
myself, Sir, 'aving an affectionate mother to, in a measure, support,
and been himself unfortunately rayther hard up, he can't answer it nohow
to his conscience if he lets a hoppertunity like the present pass him
and his aged mother by unimproved. There been a reward offered, Sir, I
naturally wish, Sir, if you please, to earn it myself by valuable
evidence leading to the conviction of the guilty cove; and if I was to
tell all I knows and 'av' made out by my own hindustry to the force,
Sir, other persons would, don't you conceive, Sir, draw the reward, and
me and my mother should go without. If I could get a hinterview with the
man I 'av' bin a-gettin' things together for, I'd lead him, I 'av' no
doubt, to make such hadmissions as would clench the prosecution, and
vendicate justice."

"I see what you mean," said David Arden.

"And fair enough, I think," added Longcluse.



CHAPTER XXIV.

MR. LONGCLUSE FOLLOWS A SHADOW.


The ex-detective cleared his voice, shook his head, and smirked.

"A hinterview, gentlemen," said he, "is worth much in the hands of a
persuasive party. I have hanged several obnoxious characters, and let
others in for penal for life, by means of a hinterview. You remember
Spikes, gentlemen, as got into difficulties for breaking Mr.
Winterbotham's desk? Spikes would have frusterated justice, if it wasn't
for me. It was done in one hinterview. Says I, 'Mr. Spikes, you have a
wife and five children.'"

The recollection of Mr. Paul Davies' diplomacy was so gratifying to that
smiling gentleman, that he could not forbear winking at his auditors as
he proceeded.

"'And my belief is, Mr. Spikes, Sir,'" he continued, "'that it was all
the hinfluence of Tom Sprowles. It was Sprowles persuaded yer--it was
him as got the whole thing up. That's my belief; and you did not want to
do it, no-wise, and only consented to force the henges in the belief
that Sprowles wanted to read the papers, and no more. I have a bad
opinion of Sprowles,' says I, 'for deceiving you, I may say innocently;'
and talking this way, you conceive, I got it all out of him, and he's
under penal for life. Whenever you want to get round a man, and to turn
him inside out, your way is to sympath_ise_ with him. If I had but an
hinterview with that man, I know enough to draw it out of him, every
bit. It's all done by sympath_ising_."

"But do you think you can discover the man?" asked Mr. Arden.

"I'm sure to make him out, if you please, Sir; I'll find out all about
him. I'd a found out the facks long ago, but for the mistake, which it
occurred most unlucky. I saw him twice sence, and I know well where to
look for him; and I'll have it all right before long, I'm thinkin'."

"That will do, then, for the present," said Mr. Longcluse. "You have
said all you have to say, and you see into what a serious mistake you
have blundered; but I sha'n't give you any trouble about it--it is too
ridiculous. Good-night, Mr. Davies."

"No mistake of mine, Sir, please. Misinformed, Sir, you will kindly
remark--misinformed, if you please--misinformed, as may occur to the
sharpest party going. Good-night, gentlemen; I takes my leave without no
unpleasant feelin', and good wishes for your 'ealth and 'appiness, both,
gentlemen." And blandly, and with a sly sleepy smile, this insinuating
person withdrew.

"It is the reward he is thinking of," said Longcluse.

"Yes, he won't spare himself; you mentioned that your own suspicions
respecting him were but vague," said David Arden.

"I merely stated what I saw to the coroner, and it was answered that he
was watching the Frenchman Lebas, because the detective police, before
Paul Davies' dismissal, had received orders to keep an eye on all
foreigners; and he hoped to conciliate the authorities, and get a
pension, by collecting and furnishing information. The police did not
seem to think his dogging and watching the unfortunate little fellow
really meant more than this."

"Very likely. It is a very odd affair. I wonder who that fellow is whom
he described. He did not give a hint as to the circumstances which
excited his suspicions."

"It _is_ strange. But that man, Paul Davies, kept his eye upon Lebas
from the motive I mentioned, and this circumstance may have led to his
seeing more of the matter than, with the reward in his mind, he cares to
make known at present. I think I did right in meeting him face to face."

"Quite right, Sir."

"It has been always a rule with me to go straight at everything. I think
the best diplomacy is directness, and that the truest caution lies in
courage."

"Precisely my opinion, Mr. Longcluse," said Uncle David, looking on him
with eyes of approbation. He was near adding something hearty in the
spirit of our ancestors' saying, "I hope you and I, Sir, may be better
acquainted;" but something in the look and peculiar face of this unknown
Mr. Longcluse chilled him, and he only said--

"As you say, Mr. Longcluse, courage is safety, and honesty the best
policy. Good-night, Sir."

"A thousand thanks, Mr. Arden. Might I ask one more favour, that you
will endorse on each of these threatening letters a memorandum of the
facts of this strange interview?--I mean a sentence or two, which may at
any time confound this fellow, should he turn out to be a villain."

"Certainly," said Mr. Arden thoughtfully, and he sat down again, and
wrote a few lines on the back of each, which, having signed, he handed
them to Mr. Longcluse, with the question, "Will that answer?"

"Perfectly, thank you very much; it is indeed impossible for me to thank
you as I ought and wish to," said Mr. Longcluse with effusion, extending
his hand at the same time; but Mr. Arden took it without much warmth,
and said, in comparison a little drily--

"No need to thank me, Mr. Longcluse; as you said at first, there are
motives quite sufficient, of a kind for which you can owe me,
personally, no thanks whatever, to induce the very slight trouble of
coming here."

"Well, Mr. Arden, I _am_ very _much_ obliged to you, notwithstanding;"
and so he gratefully saw him to the door, and smiled and bowed him off,
and stood for a moment as his carriage whirled down the short street.

"He does not like me--nor I, perhaps, him. Ha! ha! ha!" he laughed, very
softly and reservedly, looking down on the flags. "What an odd thing it
is! Those instincts and antipathies, they are very odd." All this,
except the faint laughter, was in thought.

Mr. Longcluse stepped back. He was negatively happy--he was rid of an
anxiety. He was positively happy--he had been better received by Miss
Arden, this evening, than he had ever been before. So he went to his bed
with a light heart, and a head full of dreams.

All the next day, one beautiful image haunted Longcluse's imagination.
He was delayed in town; he had to consult about operations in foreign
stocks; he had many words to say, directions to modify, and calls to
make on this man and that. He had hoped to be at Mortlake Hall at three
o'clock. But it was past six before he could disentangle himself from
the tenacious meshes of his business. Never had he thought it so
irksome. Was he not rich enough--too rich? Why should he longer submit
to a servitude so wearisome? It was high time he should begin to enjoy
his days in the sunshine of his gold and the companionship of his
beautiful idol. But "man proposes," says the ancient saw, "and God
disposes."

It was just seven o'clock when Mr. Longcluse descended at the steps of
old Mortlake Hall.

Sir Reginald, who is writhing under a letter from the attorney of the
millionaire mortgagee of his Yorkshire estate, making an alternative
offer, either to call in the principal sum or to allow it to stand out
on larger interest, had begged of Mr. Longcluse, last night, to give him
a few words of counsel some day. He had, in a quiet talk the evening
before, taken the man of huge investments rather into his confidence.

"I don't know, Mr.--a--Mr. Longcluse, whether you are aware how cruelly
my property is tied up," he said, as he talked in a low tone with him,
in a corner of the drawing-room. "A life estate, and my son, who
declines bearing any part of the burden of his own extravagance, will do
nothing to facilitate my efforts to pay his debts for him; and I declare
solemnly, if they raise the interest on this very oppressive mortgage, I
don't know how on earth I can pay my insurances. I don't see how I am to
do it. I should be so extremely obliged to you, Mr. Longcluse, if you
would, with your vast experience and knowledge in all--all financial
matters, give me any advice that strikes you--if you could, with perfect
convenience, afford so much time. I don't really know what rate of
interest is usual. I only know this, that interest, as a rule, has been
steadily declining ever since I can remember--perpetually declining; I
mean, of course, upon perfect security like this; and now this
confounded harpy wants, after ten years, to _raise_ it! I believe they
want to drive me out of the world, among them! and they well know the
cruelty of it, for I have never been able to pay them a single half-year
punctually. Will you take some tea?"

So Longcluse had promised his advice very gladly next day; and now he
asked for Sir Reginald. Sir Reginald was very particularly engaged at
this moment on business; Mr. Arden was with him at present; but if Mr.
Longcluse would wait for a few minutes, Sir Reginald would be most happy
to see him. So there was to be a little wait. How could he better pass
the interval than in Miss Arden's company?



CHAPTER XXV.

A TETE-A-TETE.


Up to the drawing-room went Mr. Longcluse, and there he found Miss Arden
finishing a drawing. He fancied a very slight flush on her cheek as he
entered. Was there really a heightening of that beautiful tint as she
smiled? How lovely her long lashes, and her even little teeth, and the
lustrous darkness of her eyes, in that subdued light!

"I so wanted advice, Mr. Longcluse, and you have come in so fortunately!
I am not satisfied with my sky and mountains, and the foreground where
the light touches that withered branch is a horrible failure. In nature,
it looked quite beautiful. I remember it so well. It looked on fire,
almost. This is Saxteen Castle, near Golden Friars, and that is a bit of
the lake and those are the fells. I sketched it in pencil, and trusted
to memory for colouring. It was just at the most picturesque moment,
when the sun was going down between the two mountains that overhang the
little town on the west."

"Sunset is very well expressed. You indicated all those long shadows,
Miss Arden, in pencil, and I envy your perspective, and I think your
colouring so extremely good! The distances are admirably marked. Try a
little cadmium, burnt sienna, and lake for the intense touches of light
in the foreground, on that barkless branch. Your own eye will best
regulate the proportions. I am one of those vandals who prefer colour a
little too bold and overdone to any timidity in that respect. Exuberance
in a beginner is always, in my mind, an augury of excellence. It is so
easy to moderate afterwards."

"Yes, I daresay; I'm very glad you advise that, because I always thought
so myself; but I was half afraid to act on it. I think that is about the
tint--a little more yellow, perhaps. Yes; how does it look now?--what do
you think?"

"Now judge yourself, Miss Arden. Do not those three sharp little touches
of reflected fire light up the whole drawing? I say it is admirable. It
is really quite a beautiful little drawing."

"I'm growing so vain! you will quite spoil me, Mr. Longcluse."

"Truth will never spoil any one. Praise is very delightful. I have not
had much of it in my day, but I think it makes one better as well as
happier; and to speak simple truth of you, Miss Arden, is inevitably to
praise you."

"Those are compliments, Mr. Longcluse, and they bewilder me--anything
one does not know how to answer; so I would rather you pointed me out
four or five faults in my drawing, and I should be very well content if
you said no more. I believe you know the scenery of Golden Friars."

"I do. Beautiful, and so romantic, and full of legends! the whole place
with its belongings is a poem."

"So I think. And the hotel--the inn I prefer calling it--the 'George and
Dragon,' is so picturesque and delightfully old, and so comfortable! Our
head-quarters were there for two or three weeks. And did you see Childe
Waylin's Leap?"

"Yes, an awful scene; what a terrible precipice! I saw it to great
advantage from a boat, while a thunderstorm was glaring and pealing over
its summit. You know the legend, of course?"

"No, I did not hear it."

"Oh, it is a very striking one, and won't take many words to tell. Shall
I tell it?"

"Pray do," said Alice, with her bright look of expectation.

He smiled sadly. Perhaps the story returned with an allegoric melancholy
to his mind. With a sigh and a smile he continued--

"Childe Waylin fell in love with a phantom lady, and walked day and
night along the fells--people thought in solitude, really lured on by
the beautiful apparition, which, as his love increased, grew less
frequent, more distant and fainter, until at last, in the despair of his
wild pursuit, he threw himself over that terrible precipice, and so
perished. I have faith in instinct--faith in passion, which is but a
form of instinct. I am sure he did wisely."

"I sha'n't dispute it; it is not a case likely to happen often. These
phantom ladies seem to have given up practice of late years, or else
people have become proof against their wiles, and neither follow, nor
adore, nor lament them."

"I don't think these phantom ladies are at all out of date," said Mr.
Longcluse.

"Well, men have grown wiser, at all events."

"No wiser, no happier; in such a case there is no room for what the
world calls wisdom. Passion is absolute, and as for happiness, that or
despair hangs on the turn of a die."

"I have made that shadow a little more purple--do you think it an
improvement?"

"Yes, certainly. How well it throws out that bit of the ruin that
catches the sunlight! You have made a very poetical sketch; you have
given not merely the outlines, but the character of that singular
place--the _genus loci_ is there."

Just as Mr. Longcluse had finished this complimentary criticism, the
door opened, and rather unexpectedly Richard Arden entered the room.
Very decidedly _de trop_ at that moment, his friend thought Mr. Arden.
Longcluse meant again to have turned the current of their talk into the
channel he liked best, and here was interruption. But was not Richard
Arden his sworn brother, and was he not sure to make an excuse of some
sort, and take his leave, and thus restore him to his _tête-à-tête_.

But was there--or was it fancy--a change scarcely perceptible, but
unpleasant, in the manner of this sworn brother? Was it not very
provoking, and a little odd, that he did not go away, but stayed on and
on, till at length a servant came in with a message from Sir Reginald to
Mr. Longcluse, to say that he would be very happy to see him whenever he
chose to come to his room? Mr. Longcluse was profoundly vexed. Richard
Arden, however, had resumed his old manner pretty nearly. Was the
interruption he had persisted in designed, or only accidental? Could he
suppose Richard Arden so stupid? He took his leave smiling, but with an
uncomfortable misgiving at his heart.

Richard Arden now proceeded in his own way, with some colouring and
enormous suppression at discretion, to give his sister such an account
as he thought would best answer of the interview he had just had with
his father. Honestly related, what occurred between them was as
follows:--

Richard Arden had come on summons from his father. Without a special
call, he never appeared at Mortlake while his father was there, and
never in his absence but with an understanding that Sir Reginald was to
hear nothing of it. He sat for a considerable time in the apartment that
opened from his father's dressing-room. He heard the baronet's peevish
voice ordering Crozier about. Something was dropped and broken, and the
same voice was heard in angrier alto. Richard Arden looked out of the
window and waited uncomfortably. He hated his father's pleadings with
him, and he did not know for what purpose he had appointed this
interview.

The door opened, and Sir Reginald entered, limping a little, for his
gout had returned slightly. He was leaning on a stick. His thin, dark
face and prominent eyes looked angry, and he turned about and poked his
dressing-room door shut with the point of his stick, before taking any
notice of his son.

"Sit down, if you please, in that chair," he said, pointing to the
particular seat he meant him to occupy with two vicious little pokes, as
if he were running a small-sword through it. "I wrote to ask you to
come, Sir, merely to say a word respecting your sister, for whom, if not
for other members of your family, you still retain, I suppose, some
consideration and natural affection."

Here was a pause which Richard Arden did not very well know what to do
with. However, as his father's fierce eyes were interrogating him, he
murmured--

"Certainly, Sir."

"Yes, and under that impression I showed you Lord Wynderbroke's letter.
He is to dine here to-morrow at a quarter to eight--please to
recollect--precisely. Do you hear?"

"I do, Sir, everything."

"You must meet him. Let us not appear more divided than we are. You know
Wynderbroke--he's peculiar. Why the devil shouldn't we appear united? I
don't say _be_ united, for you won't. But there is something owed to
decency. I suppose you admit that? And before people, confound you, Sir,
can't we appear affectionate? He's a quiet man, Wynderbroke, and makes a
great deal of these domestic sentiments. So you'll please to show some
respect and affection while he's present, and I mean to show some
affection for you; and after that, Sir, you may go to the devil for me!
I hope you understand?"

"Perfectly, Sir."

"As to Wynderbroke, the thing is settled--it is _there_." He pointed to
his desk. "What I told you before, I tell you now--you must see that
your sister doesn't make a fool of herself. I have nothing more to say
to you at present--unless you have something to say to me?"

This latter part of the sentence had something sharp and interrogative
in it. There was just a chance, it seemed to imply, that his son might
have something to say upon the one point that lay near the old man's
heart.

"Nothing, Sir," said Richard, rising.

"No, no; so I supposed. You may go, Sir--nothing."

Of this interview, one word of the real purport of which he could not
tell to his sister, he gave her an account very slight indeed, but
rather pleasant.



CHAPTER XXVI.

THE GARDEN AT MORTLAKE.


Alice leaned back in her chair, smiling, and very much pleased.

"So my father seems disposed to relent ever so little--and ever so
little, you know, is better than nothing," said Richard Arden.

"I'm so glad, Dick, that he wishes you to take your dinner with us
to-morrow; it is a very good sign. It would be so delightful if you
could be at home with us, as you used to be."

"You are a good little soul, Alice--a dear little thing! This is very
pretty," he said, looking at her drawing. "What is it?"

"The ruined castle near the northern end of the lake at Golden Friars.
Mr. Longcluse says it is pretty good. Is he to dine here, do you know?"

"No--I don't know--I hope not," said Richard shortly.

"Hope not! why?" said she. "I thought you liked him extremely."

"I thought he was very well for a sort of outdoor acquaintance for
_men_; but I don't even know _that_, now. There's no use in speaking to
Lady May, but I warn you--you had better drop him. There is very little
known about him, but there is a great deal that is not pleasant _said_."

"Really?"

"Yes, really."

"But you used to speak so highly of him. I'm so surprised!"

"I did not know half what people said of him. I've heard a great deal
since."

"But is it true?" asked Alice.

"It is nothing to me whether it is true or not. It is enough if a man is
talked about uncomfortably, to make it unpleasant to know him. We owe
nothing to Mr. Longcluse; there is no reason why you should have an
acquaintance that is not desirable. _I_ mean to drop him quietly, and
you _can't_ know him, really you _mustn't_, Alice."

"I don't know. It seems to me very hard," said Miss Alice spiritedly.
"It is not many days since you spoke of him so highly; and I was quite
pained when you came in just now. I don't know whether he perceived it,
but I think he must. I only know that I thought you were so cold and
strange to him, your manner so unlike what it always was before. I
thought you had been quarrelling. I fancied he was vexed, and I felt
quite sorry; and I don't think what you say, Richard, is manly, or like
yourself. You used to praise him so, and fight his battles; and he is,
though very distinguished in some ways, rather a stranger in London; and
people, you told me, envy him, and try in a cowardly way to injure him;
and what more easy than to hint discreditable things of people? and you
did not believe a word of those reports when last you spoke of him; and
considering that he had no people to stand by him in London, or to take
his part, and that he may never even hear the things that are said by
low people about him, don't you think it would be cowardly of us, and
positively base to treat him so?"

"Upon my word, Miss Alice, that is very good oratory indeed! I don't
think I ever heard you so eloquent before, at least upon the wrongs of
one of my sex."

"Now, Dick, that sneer won't do. There may possibly be reasons why it
would have been wiser never to have made Mr. Longcluse's acquaintance; I
can't say. Those reasons, however, you treated very lightly indeed a
little time ago--you know you did--and now, upon no better, you say you
are going to cut him. _I_ can't bring myself to do any such thing. He is
always looking in at Lady May's, and I can't help meeting him unless I
am to cut her also. Now don't you see how odious I should appear, and
how impossible it is?"

"I won't argue it now, dear Alice; there is quite time enough. I shall
come an hour before dinner, to-morrow, and we can have a quiet talk; and
I am quite sure I shall convince you. Mind, I don't say we should insult
him," he laughed. "I only say this, and I'll maintain it--and I'll show
you why--that he is not a desirable acquaintance. We have taken him up
very foolishly, and we _must_ drop him. And now, darling, good-bye."

He kissed her--she kissed him. She looked grave for a moment after,
after he had run down the stairs. He has quarrelled with Mr. Longcluse
about something, she thought, as she stood at the window with the tip of
her finger to her lip, looking at her brother as he mounted the showy
horse which had cantered with him up and down Rotten Row for two hours
or more, before he had ridden out to Mortlake. She saw him now ride
away.

It was near eight o'clock, and all this time Mr. Longcluse had been in
confidence with Sir Reginald about his miserable mortgage. Mr. Longcluse
was cautious; but there floated in his mind certain possible
contingencies, under which he might perhaps make the financial
adjustment, which Sir Reginald desired, very easy indeed to the worthy
baronet.

It was the tempting hour of evening when the birds begin to sing, and
the level beams from the west glorify all objects. Alice put on her hat
and ran out to the old gardens of Mortlake. They are enclosed in a grey
wall, and lie one above the other in three terraces, with tall standard
fruit trees, so old that their fruit was now dwarfed in size to half its
earlier bearings, standing high with a dark and sylvan luxuriance, and
at this moment, sheltering among their sunlit leaves, nestle and flutter
the small birds whose whistlings cheer and sadden the evening air. Every
tree and bush that bore fruit, in this old garden, had grown quite
beyond the common stature of its kind, and a good gardener would have
cut them all down fifty years ago. But there was a kind of sylvan and
stately beauty in those wonderful lofty pear-trees, with their dense
dark foliage, and in the standard cherries so tall and prim, and
something homely and comfortable in the great straggling apples and
plums, dappled with grey lichens and tufted with moss. There were
flowers as well as fruits, of all sorts, in this garden. All its
arrangements were out of date. There was an air, not actually of
neglect--for it was weeded, and the walks were trim and gravelled--but
of carelessness and rusticity, not unpleasant, in the place. Trees were
allowed to straggle and spread, and rise aloft in the air, just as they
pleased. Tall roses climbed the walls about the door, and clustered in
nodding masses overhead; and no end of pretty annuals and other flowers,
quite out of fashion, crowded the dishevelled currant bushes, and the
forest of raspberries. Here and there were very tall myrtles, and the
quince, and obsolete medlars, were discoverable among the other
fruit-trees. The summits of the walls were in some places crowned, to
the scandal of all decent gardening, with ivy, and a carved shaft in the
centre of each garden supported a sun-dial as old as the Hall itself.

There are fancies, as well as likings and lovings. Where there is a real
worship, however cautiously masked--and Mr. Longcluse was by no means
so--it is never a mystery to a clever girl. And such adoration, although
it be not at all reciprocated, is sometimes hard to part with. There is
something of the nature of compassion, with a little gratitude, perhaps,
mingling in the pang which a gentle lady feels at having to discharge
for ever an honest love and a true servant, and send him away to
solitary suffering for her sake. Some little pang of reproach of this
sensitive kind had, perhaps, armed her against her brother's sudden
sentence of exclusion pronounced against Mr. Longcluse.

The evening sunlight travelled over the ivy on the discoloured wall, and
glittered on the leaves of the tall fruit-trees, in whose thick foliage
the birds were still singing their vespers. Walking down the broad walk
towards the garden-door, she felt the saddening influence of the hour
returning; and as she reached the door, overclustered with roses, it
opened, and Mr. Longcluse stood in the shadow before her.

Miss Arden, thus surprised in the midst of thoughts which at that moment
happened to be employed about him, showed for a second, as she suddenly
stopped, something in her beautiful face almost amounting to
embarrassment.

"I was called away so suddenly to see Sir Reginald, that I went without
saying good-bye; so I ran up to the drawing-room, and the servant told
me I should probably find you here; and, really without reflecting--I
act, I'm afraid, so much from impulse that I might appear very
impertinent--I ventured to follow. What a beautiful evening! How
charming the light! You, who are such an artist, and understand the
poetry of colour so, must admire this cloister-like garden, so
beautifully illuminated."

Was Mr. Longcluse also a very little embarrassed as he descanted thus on
light and colour?

"It is a very old garden and does very little credit, I'm afraid, to our
care; but I greatly prefer it to our formal gardens and all their
finery, in Yorkshire."

She moved her hand as if she expected Mr. Longcluse to take it and his
leave, for it was high time her visitor should "order his wings and be
off the west," in which quarter, as we know, lay Mr. Longcluse's
habitation. He had stepped in, however, and the door closed softly
before the light evening breeze that swung it gently. She was standing
under the wild canopy of roses, and he under the sterner arch of grooved
and fluted stone that overhung the doorway.



CHAPTER XXVII.

WINGED WORDS.


"I was afraid I had vexed your brother somehow," said Mr. Longcluse--"I
thought he seemed to meet me a little formally. I should be so sorry if
I had annoyed him by any accident!"

He paused, and Miss Arden said, half laughing--"Oh, don't you know, Mr.
Longcluse, that people are out of spirits sometimes, and now and then a
little offended with all the world? It is nothing, of course."

"What a fib!" whispered conscience in the young lady's pretty ear, while
she smiled and blushed.

Again she raised her hand a little, expecting Mr. Longcluse's farewell.
But she looked a great deal too beautiful for a farewell. Mr. Longcluse
could not deny himself a minute more, and he said, "It is a year, Miss
Arden, since I first saw you."

"Is it really? I daresay."

"Yes, at Lady May Penrose's. Yes, I remember it distinctly--so
distinctly that I shall never forget any circumstance connected with it.
It is exactly a year and four days. You smile, Miss Arden, because for
you the event can have had no interest; for me it is different--how
different I will not say."

Miss Arden coloured and then grew pale. She was very much embarrassed.
She was about to say a word to end the interview, and go. Perhaps Mr.
Longcluse was, as he said, impulsive--too precipitate and impetuous. He
raised his hand entreatingly,--

"Oh, Miss Arden, pray, only a word!--I must speak it. Ever since
then--ever since that hour--I have been the slave of a single thought; I
have worshipped before one beautiful image, with an impious adoration,
for there is nothing--no sacrifice, no crime--I would shrink from for
your sake. You can make of me what you will; all I possess, all my
future, every thought and feeling and dream--all are yours. No, no;
don't interrupt the few half desperate words I have to speak, they may
move you to pity. Never before, in a life of terrible vicissitude, of
much suffering, of many dangers, have I seen the human being who could
move me as you have done. I did not believe my seared heart capable of
passion. And I stand now aghast at what I have spoken. I stand at the
brink of a worse death, by the word that trembles on your lips, than the
cannon's mouth could give me. I see I have spoken rashly--I see it in
your face--oh, Heaven! I see what you would say."

His hands were clasped in desperate supplication, as he continued; and
the fitful breeze shook the roses above them, and the fading leaves fell
softly in a shower about his feet.

"No, don't speak--your silence is sacred. I sha'n't misinterpret--I
conjure you, don't answer! Forget that I have spoken. Oh! let it, in
mercy, be all forgotten, and let us meet again as if there never had
been this moment of madness, and in pity--as you look for mercy--forget
it and forgive it!"

He waited for no answer: he was gone: the door closed as it was before.
Another breath of wind ruffled the roses, and a few more sere leaves
fell where he had just been standing. She drew a long breath, like one
awaking from a vision. She was trembling slightly. Never before had she
seen such agony in a human face! All had happened so suddenly. It was an
effort to believe it real. It seemed as if she could see nothing while
he spoke, but that intense, pale face. She heard nothing but his deep
and thrilling words. Now it seemed as if flowers, and trees, and wall,
and roses, all emerged suddenly again from mist, and as if all the birds
had resumed their singing after a silence.

"Forget it--forgive it! Let it, as you look for mercy, be all forgotten.
Let us meet again as if it never was." This strange petition still rang
in the ears of the astonished girl.

She was still too much flurried by the shock of this wild and sudden
outbreak of passion, and appeal to mercy, quite to see her true course
in the odd combination that had arisen. She was a little angry, and a
little flattered. There was a confusion of resentment and compassion.
What business had this Mr. Longcluse to treat her to those heroics! What
right had he to presume that he would be listened to? How dared he ask
her to treat all that had happened as if it had never been? How dared he
seek to found on this unwarrantable liberty relations of mystery between
them? How dared he fancy that she would consent to play at this game of
deception with him?

Mingled with these angry thoughts, however, were the recollections of
his homage, his tone of melancholy deference ever since she had known
him, and his admiration.

Underlying all his trifling talk, there had always been toward her a
respect which flattered her, which could not have been exceeded had she
been an empress in her own right. No, if he had said more than he had
any right to suppose would be listened to, the extravagance was due to
no want of respect for her, but to the vehemence of passion.

He was driving now into town, at a great pace. His cogitations were
still more perturbed. Had he, by one frantic precipitation, murdered his
best hopes?

One consolation at least he had. Being a man, not without reason, prone
to suspicion, he had a deep conviction that, for some reason, Richard
Arden was opposed to his suit, and had already begun to work upon Miss
Arden's mind to his prejudice. His best chance, then, he still thought,
was to anticipate that danger by a declaration. If that declaration
could only be forgiven, and the little scene at old Mortlake garden door
sponged out, might not his chances stand better far than before? Would
not the past, though never spoken of, give meaning, fire, and melancholy
to things else insignificant, and keep him always before her, and her
alone, be his demeanour and language ever so reserved and cold, as an
impassioned lover? Did not his knowledge of human nature assure him that
these relations of mystery would, more than any other, favour his
fortunes?

"That she should consign what has passed, in a few impetuous moments, to
oblivion and silence, is no unreasonable prayer, and one as easy to
grant as to will it. She will think it over, and, for my part, I will
meet her as if nothing had ever happened to change our trifling but
friendly relations. I wish I knew what Richard Arden was about. I soon
shall. Yes, I shall--I soon shall."

An opportunity seemed to offer sooner even than he had hoped; for as he
drove towards St. James's Street, passing one of Richard Arden's clubs,
he saw that young gentleman ascending the steps with Lord Wynderbroke.

Longcluse stopped his brougham, jumped out, and overtook Richard Arden
in the hall, where he stood, taking his letters from the hall-porter.

"How d'ye do, again? I sha'n't detain you a minute. I have had a long
talk with your father about business," said Longcluse, seizing the topic
most likely to secure a few minutes, and speaking very low. "You can
bring me into a room here, and I'll tell you all that is necessary in
two minutes."

"Certainly," said Richard, yielding to his curiosity. "I have only two
or three minutes. I dine here with a friend, who is at this moment
ordering dinner; so, you see, I am rather hurried."

He opened a door, and looking in said--

"Yes, we shall be quite to ourselves here."

Longcluse shut the door. There was no one to overhear them.

Richard Arden sat down on a sofa, and Mr. Longcluse threw himself into a
chair.

"And what did he say?" asked Richard.

"They want to raise his interest on the Yorkshire estate; and he says
you won't help him; but that of course is your affair, and I declined,
point-blank, to intervene in it. And before I go further, it strikes me,
as it did to-day at Mortlake, that your manner to me has undergone a
slight change."

"Has it? I did not mean it, I assure you," said Richard Arden, with a
little laugh.

"Oh! yes, Arden, it _has_, and you must know it, and--pardon me--you
must _intend_ it also; and now I want to know what I have done, or how I
have hurt you, or who has been telling lies of me?"

"Nothing of all these, that I know of," said Richard, with a cold little
laugh.

"Well, of course, if you prefer it, you may decline an explanation. I
must however, remind you, because it concerns my happiness, and possibly
other interests dearer to me than my life, too nearly to be trifled
with, that you heard all I said respecting your sister with the
friendliest approbation and encouragement. You knew as much and as
little about me then as you do now. I am not conscious of having said or
done anything to warrant the slightest change in your feelings or
opinion; and in your manner there _is_ a change, and a very decided
change, and I tell you frankly I can't understand it."

Thus directly challenged, Richard Arden looked at him hard for a moment.
He was balancing in his mind whether he should evade or accept the
crisis. He preferred the latter.

"Well, I can only say I did not intend to convey anything by my manner;
but, as you know, when there is anything in one's mind it is not always
easy to prevent its affecting, as you say, one's manner. I am not sorry
you have asked me, because I spoke without reflection the other day. No
one should answer, I really think, for any one else, in ever so small a
matter, in this world."

"But you didn't--you spoke only for yourself. You simply promised me
your friendship, your kind offices--you said, in fact, all I could have
hoped for."

"Yes, perhaps--yes, I may, I suppose I did. But don't you see, dear
Longcluse, things may come to mind, on thinking over."

"_What_ things?" demanded Longcluse quickly, with a sudden energy that
called a flush to his temples; and fire gleamed for a moment from his
deep-set, gloomy eyes.

"What things? Why, young ladies are not always the most intelligible
problems on earth. I think you ought to know that; and really I do
think, in such matters, it is far better that they should be left to
themselves as much as possible; and I think, besides, that there are
some difficulties that did not strike us. I mean, that I now see that
there really are great difficulties--insuperable difficulties."

"Can you define them?" said Longcluse coldly.

"I don't want to vex you, Longcluse, and I don't want to quarrel."

"That's extremely kind of you."

"I don't know whether you are serious, but it is quite true. I don't
wish any unpleasantness between us. I don't think I need say more than
that; having thought it over, I don't see how it could ever be."

"Will you give me your reasons?"

"I really don't see that I can add anything in particular to what I have
said."

"I think, Mr. Arden, considering all that has passed between us on this
subject, that you are _bound_ to let me know your reasons for so marked
a change of opinion."

"I can't agree with you, Mr. Longcluse. I don't see in the least why I
need tell you my particular reasons for the opinion I have expressed. My
sister can act for herself, and I certainly shall not account to you for
my reasons or opinions in the matter."

Mr. Longcluse's pale face grew whiter, and his brows knit, as he fixed a
momentary stare on the young man; but he mastered his anger, and said in
a cold tone--

"We disagree totally upon that point, and I rather think the time will
come when you _must_ explain."

"I have no more to say upon the subject, Sir, except this," said Arden,
very tartly, "that it is certain your hopes can never lead to anything,
and that I object to your continuing your visits at Mortlake."

"Why, the house does not belong to you--it belongs to Sir Reginald
Arden, who objects to your visits and receives mine. Your ideas seem a
little confused," and he laughed gently and coldly.

"Very much the reverse, Sir. I object to my sister being exposed to the
least chance of annoyance from your visits. I protest against it, and
you will be so good as to understand that I distinctly forbid them."

"The young lady's father, I presume, will hardly ask your advice in the
matter, and _I_ certainly shall not ask your leave. I shall call when I
please, so long as I am received at Mortlake, and shall direct my own
conduct, without troubling you for counsel in my affairs." Mr. Longcluse
laughed again icily.

"And so shall I, mine," said Arden sharply.

"You have no right to treat anyone so," said Longcluse angrily--"as if
one had broken his honour, or committed a crime."

"A crime!" repeated Richard Arden. "Oh! _That_, indeed, would pretty
well end all relations."

"Yes, as, perhaps, you shall find," answered Longcluse, with sudden and
oracular ferocity.

Each gentleman had gone a little farther than he had at first intended.
Richard Arden had a proud and fierce temper when it was roused. He was
near saying what would have amounted to insult. It was a chance opening
of the door that prevented it. Both gentlemen had stood up.

"Please, Sir, have you done with the room, Sir?" asked the man.

"Yes," said Longcluse, and laughed again as he turned on his heel.

"Because three gentlemen want the room, if it's not engaged, Sir. And
Lord Wynderbroke is waiting for you, please, Mr. Arden."

So with a little toss of his head, which he held unusually high, and a
flushed and "glooming" countenance, Richard Arden marched a little
swaggeringly forth, to his dinner _tête-à-tête_ with Lord Wynderbroke.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

STORIES ABOUT MR. LONGCLUSE.


The irritation of this unpleasant interview soon subsided, but Mr.
Longcluse's anxiety rather increased.

Next day early in the afternoon he drove to Lady May's and she received
him just as usual. He learned from her, without appearing to seek the
information, that Alice Arden was still at Mortlake. His visit was one
of but two or three minutes. He jumped into a hansom and drove out to
Mortlake. He knocked. Man of the world as he was, his heart beat faster.

"Is Miss Arden at home?"

"No, Sir."

"Not at home?"

"Miss Arden is gone out, Sir."

"Oh! perhaps in the garden?"

"No, Sir; she has gone out, and won't be back for some time."

The man spoke with the promptitude and decision of a servant instructed
to deny his mistress to the visitor. He had not a card; he would call
again another day.

He heard the piano faintly, and, he thought, Alice's voice also; and
certainly he saw Vivian Darnley in the drawing-room window, as his cab
turned away from the door. With a swelling heart he drove into town. The
portcullis, then, had fallen; access was denied him; and he should see
her no more!

Good Heaven! what had he done? He walked distractedly, for a while, up
and down his study. Should he employ Lady May's intervention, and tell
her the whole story? Good-natured Lady May! Perhaps she would undertake
his cause, and plead for his re-admission. But was even that so certain?
How could he tell what view she might take of the matter? And were she
to intercede for him ever so vehemently, how could he tell that she had
any chance of prevailing?

No; on the whole it was better to be his own advocate. He would sit down
then and there, and write to the offended or alarmed lady, and lay his
piteous case before her in his own words and rely on her compassion,
without an intervenient.

How many letters he began, how many he even finished, and rejected, I
need not tire you by telling. Some were composed in the first, others in
the third person. Not one satisfied him. Here was the man of a million
and more, who would dash off a note to his stock-broker, to buy or sell
a hundred thousand pounds' worth of stock--who would draft a resolution
of the bank of which he was the chairman, directing an operation which
would make men open their eyes, without the tremor of a nerve or the
hesitation of a moment--unmanned, helpless, distracted in the endeavour
to write a note to a young and inexperienced girl!

O beautiful sex! what a triumph is here! O Love! what fools will you not
make of us poor masculine wiseacres! The letter he dispatched was in
these terms. I daresay he had torn better ones to pieces:--

    "DEAR MISS ARDEN,--I had hoped that my profound contrition might
    have atoned for a momentary indiscretion--the declaration, though in
    terms the most respectful, of feelings which I had not self-command
    sufficient to suppress, and which had for nearly a year remained
    concealed in my own breast. I am sure, Miss Arden, that you are
    incapable of a gratuitous cruelty. Have I not sworn that one word to
    recall the remembrance of that, to me, all but fatal madness shall
    never escape my lips, in your presence? May I not entreat that you
    will forget it, that you will forbear to pass upon me the agonising
    sentence of exclusion? You shall never again have to complain of my
    uttering one word that the merest acquaintance, who is permitted the
    happiness of conversing with you, might not employ. You shall never
    regret your forbearance. I shall never cease to bless you for it;
    and whatever decision you arrive at, it shall be respected by me as
    sacred law. I shall never cease to reverence and bless the hand that
    spares or--afflicts me. May I be permitted this one melancholy hope,
    may I be allowed to interpret your omitting to answer this miserable
    letter as a concession of its prayer? Unless forbidden, I will
    endeavour to construe your silence as oblivion.

    "I have the honour to remain, dear Miss Arden, with deep compunction
    and respect, but not altogether without hope in your mercy,

    "Yours the most unhappy and distracted man in England,

    "WALTER LONGCLUSE."

Mr. Longcluse sealed this letter in its envelope, and addressed it. He
would have liked to send it that moment, by his servant, but an odd
shyness prevented. He did not wish his servants to conjure and put their
heads together over it; he could not endure the idea; so with his own
hand he dropped it in the post. Somewhat in the style of the old novel
was this composition of Mr. Longcluse's--a little theatrical, and, one
would have fancied, even affected; yet never was man more desperately
sincere.

Night came, and brought no reply. Was no news good news, or would the
morning bring, perhaps from Richard Arden, a withering answer? Morning
came, and no answer: what was he to conjecture?

That day, in Grosvenor Square, he passed Richard Arden, who looked
steadily and sternly a little to his right, and _cut_ him.

It was a marked and decided cut. His ears tingled as if he had received
a slap in the face. So things had assumed a very decided attitude
indeed! Longcluse felt very oddly enraged, at first; then anxious. It
was insulting that Richard Arden should have taken the initiative in
dissolving relations. But had he not been himself studiously impertinent
to Arden, in that brief colloquy of yesterday? He ought to have been
prepared for this. Without explanation, and the shaking of hands, it was
impossible that relations of amity should have been resumed between
them. But Longcluse had been entirely absorbed by a threatened
alienation that affected him much more nearly. There was a thesis for
conjecture in the situation, which made him still more anxious. A very
little time would probably clear all up.

He was walking homeward, saying to himself as he went, "No, I shall find
no answer; I should be a fool to fancy anything else;" and yet walking
all the more quickly, as he approached his house, in the hope of the
very letter which he affected, to himself, to have quite rejected as an
impossibility. Some letters had come, but none from Mortlake. His letter
to Alice was still unanswered. He was now in the agony of suspense and
distraction.

The same evening Richard Arden was talking about him, as he leaned with
his elbow on the mantelpiece at Mortlake. He and Alice were alone in the
drawing-room, awaiting the arrival of the little dinner-party. This, as
you know, was to include Lord Wynderbroke, before whose advances, in
Richard Arden's vision, Mr. Longcluse had waned, and even become an
embarrassment and a nuisance.

"It is easier to cut him than to explain," thought Richard Arden. "It
bores one so inexpressibly, giving reasons for what one does, and I'm so
glad he has saved me the trouble by his vulgar impertinence."

They had talked for some time, Alice chiefly a listener. How was she
affected toward Mr. Longcluse? He was agreeable; he flattered her; he
was passionately in love with her. All but this latter condition she
liked very well; but this was embarrassing, and quite impracticable. Who
knows what that tiny spark we term a fancy, a whim, a _penchant_ might
have grown to, had it not been blown away by this untimely gust? But,
for my part, I don't think it ever would have grown to a matter of the
heart. There was something in the way. A fancy is one thing, and passion
quite another. Pique is a common state of mind, and comes and goes, and
comes again, in many a courtship. But a liking that has once entered the
heart cannot be torn out in a hasty moment, and takes a long time, and
many a struggle, to kill.

She was a little sorry, just then, to lose him so inevitably. Perhaps
his letter, to which he had trusted to move her, had rendered the return
of old relations impossible. In this letter she felt herself the owner
of a secret--a secret which she could not keep without a sort of
understanding growing up between them--which therefore she had no idea
of keeping.

She was resolved to tell it. The letter she had locked, in marked
isolation, as if no property of hers, but simply a document that was in
her keeping, in the pretty ormolu casket that stood on the drawing-room
chimney-piece. She had intended showing it, and telling the story of the
scene in the garden, to Richard. But he was speaking with a mysterious
asperity of Mr. Longcluse, which made her hesitate. A very little thing,
it seemed to her, might suffice to make a very violent quarrel out of a
coldness. Instinctively, therefore, she refrained, and listened to
Richard while, with his arm touching the casket on the chimney-piece, he
descanted on the writer of the unknown letter.

She experienced an odd feeling of insecurity as, in the course of his
talk, his fingers began to trifle with the pretty fingers that stood out
in relief upon the casket; for she knew that the ordeal of the pistol,
discountenanced in England, was still in force on the Continent, and Mr.
Longcluse's ideas were all Continental; and how near were those fingers
to the letter which might suffice to explode the dangerous element that
had already accumulated!

"He has talked of us to his low companions; he chooses to associate with
usurers and worse people; and he has been speaking of us in the most
insolent terms."

"Really!" said Alice. Her large eyes looked larger as they fixed on him.

"Yes, and I'll tell you how I heard it. You must know, dear Alice, that
I happened to want a little money; and when one does, the usual course
is to borrow it. So I paid a visit to my harpy--and a harpy in need is a
harpy indeed. Being hard up, he fleeced me; and the gentleman, I
suppose, thinking he might be familiar, told me he was on confidential
terms with Mr. Longcluse and wished me a good deal of joy. 'Of what?' I
ventured to ask, for he had just hit me rather hard. 'Of your chance,'
or, as he called it _chanshe_, he said, with a delightfully arch leer. I
thought he meant I had backed the right horse for the Derby, but it
turned out he meant our chance of inducing Mr. Longcluse to make up his
mind to marry you. I was very near knocking him down; but a man who has
one's bill for three hundred pounds must be respected. So I merely
ventured to ask on whose authority he congratulated me, when it appeared
it was on Mr. Longcluse's own, who, it seems, had said a great deal
more, equally intolerable. In plain, coarse terms, he says that, being
poor, we have conspired with you to secure him, Mr. Longcluse, for your
husband. As to the fact of his having actually conveyed that, and to
more people than one, there is and can be no doubt whatever. I can
imagine, considering all things, nothing more vulgar, audacious, and
cowardly."

A blush of anger glowed in Alice's face. Richard Arden liked the proud
fire that gleamed from her dark grey eyes. It satisfied him that his
words were not lost.

"I lighted on a man who knew more about him than I had learned before,"
resumed Richard Arden. "He was suspected at Berlin of having been
engaged in a conspiracy to pigeon Dacre and Wilmot, who were travelling.
He did not appear, but he is said to have supplied the money, and had a
lion's share of the spoil. There is no good in repeating these things
generally, you know, because they are so hard to prove; and a fellow
like that is dangerous. They say he is very litigious."

"Upon my word, if your information is at all to be relied on, it is
plain we _have_ made a great mistake. It is a disappointing world, but I
could not have fancied him doing anything so low; and I must say for him
that he was gentlemanlike and quiet, and very unlike the person he
appears to be. I think I never heard of anything so outrageous! Vivian
Darnley told me that he was a great duellist, and thought to be a very
quarrelsome, dangerous companion abroad. But he had only heard this, and
what you tell me is so much worse, so mean, so utterly intolerable!"

"Oh! There's worse than that," said Richard, with a faint sinister
smile.

"What?" said she, returning it with an almost frightened gaze.

"There was a very beautiful girl at the opera in Vienna; her name was
Piccardi, a daughter of a good old Roman family. You can't imagine how
admired she was! And she was thought to be on the point of marrying
Count Baddenoff; Mr. Longcluse, it seems, chose to be in love with her;
he was not then anything like so rich as he became afterwards--and this
poor girl was killed."

"Good heavens! Richard--what can you mean?"

"I mean that she was assassinated, and that from that day Mr. Longcluse
was never received in society in Vienna, and had to leave it."

"You ought to tell May Penrose," said she, after a silence of dismay.

"Not for the world," said Richard; "she talks enough for six--and
where's the good? She'll only take up the cudgels for him, and we shall
be in the centre of a pretty row."

"Well, if you think it best----" she began.

"Certainly," said he. And a silence followed.

"Here is a carriage at the door," said Richard Arden. "Let us dismiss
Longcluse, and look a little more like ourselves."

That evening there came letters as usual to Mr. Longcluse, and among
others a note from Lady May Penrose, reminding him of her little
garden-party at Richmond next day.

"By Jove!" he exclaimed, starting up and reading the cards on his
chimney, "I thought it was the day after. It was very good-natured, poor
old thing, her reminding me. I shall see Alice Arden there. Not one line
does she vouchsafe. But is not she right? I think the more highly of her
for not writing. I don't think she ought to write. Oh, Heaven grant she
may meet me as usual? Does she mean it? If she did not, would she not
have got her brother to write, or have written herself a cold line, to
end our acquaintance?"

So he tried to comfort himself, and to keep alive his dying hope by
these artificial stimulants.



CHAPTER XXIX.

THE GARDEN PARTY.


Next morning Mr. Longcluse rose with a sense of something before him.

"So I shall see her to-day! If she's the girl I've thought her, she will
meet me as usual. That frantic scene, in which I risked all on the turn
of a die, will be forgotten. Hasty words, or precipitate letters, are
passed over every day; the man who commits such follies, under a
transitory insanity, is allowed the privilege of recalling them. There
were no witnesses present to make forgiveness difficult. It all lies
with her own good sense, and a heart proud but gentle. Let but those mad
words be sponged out, and I am happy. Alice, if you forgive me, I
forgive your brother, and take his name from where it is, and write it
in my heart. Oh, beautiful Alice! will you belie your looks? Oh, clear
bright mind! will you be clouded and perverted? Oh, gentle heart! can
you be merciless?"

Mr. Longcluse made his simple morning toilet very carefully. A very
plain man, extremely ugly some pronounce him; yet his figure is good,
his get-up unexceptionable, and altogether he is a most gentlemanlike
man to look upon, and in his movements and attitudes, quite unstudied,
there is an undefinable grace. His accent is a little foreign--the
slightest thing in the world, and Lady May Penrose declares it is so
very pretty. Then he is so agreeable, when he pleases; and he is so very
rich!

Some people wonder why he does not withdraw from all speculations,
retire upon his enormous wealth, and with his elegant tastes, and the
art of being magnificent without glare, even gorgeous without
vulgarity--for has he not shown this refined talent in the service of
others, who have taken him into council?--he could eclipse all the world
in splendid elegance, and make his way, _force d'argent_, to the
pinnacle of half the world's ambition. Were those stories true that
Richard Arden told his sister on the night before?

I don't think that Richard Arden stuck at trifles, where he had an
object to gain, and I don't believe a word of his story of Mr.
Longcluse's insulting talk. It was not his way to boast and vapour; and
he had a secret contempt for many of the Jewish and other agents whom he
chose to employ. But undoubtedly Mr. Longcluse had the reputation among
his discounting admirers of being a dangerous man to quarrel with; and
also it was true that he had fought three or four savage duels in the
course of his Continental life. There were other stories,
unauthenticated, unpleasant. These were whispered with sneers by Mr.
Longcluse's enemies. But there's a divinity doth hedge a King Crœsus,
and his character bore a charmed life, among the missiles that would
have laid that of many a punier man in the dust.

With an agitated heart, Mr. Longcluse approached the pretty little place
known as Raleigh Court, to which he had been invited. Through the
quaint, old-fashioned gate-way, under the embowering branches of tall
trees, he drove up a short, broad avenue, clumped at each side with old
timber, to the open hall-door of the pretty Elizabethan house. Carriages
of all sorts were discernible under the branches, assembled at the
further side to the right of the hall-door, over the wide steps of which
was spread a scarlet cloth. Croquet parties were already visible on the
shorn grass, under boughs that spread high in the air, and cast a
pleasant shadow on the sward. Groups were strolling among the
flower-beds--some walking in, some emerging from the open door--and the
scene presented the usual variety of dress, and somewhat listless to-ing
and fro-ing.

Did anyone, of all the guests of Lady May, mask so profound an
agitation, under the conventional smile, as that which beat at Walter
Longcluse's heart? Two or three people whom he knew, he met and talked
to--some for a minute, others for a longer time--as he drew near the
steps. His eye all the time was busy in the search after one pretty
figure, the least glimpse of which he would have recognised with the
thrill of a sure intuition, far or near. He would have liked to ask the
friends he met whether the Ardens were here. But what would have been
easy to him a week before, was now an effort for which he could not find
courage.

He entered the hall, quaint and lofty, rising to the entire height of
the house, with two galleries, one above the other, surrounding it on
three sides. Ancestors of the late Mr. Penrose, who had left all this
and a great deal more to his sorrowing relict, stood on the panelled
walls at full length--some in ruffs and trunk-hose, others in perukes
and cut-velvet, one with a bâton in his hand, and three with falcon on
fist--all stately and gentlemanlike, according to their several periods;
with corresponding ladies, some stiff and pallid, who figured in the
days of the virgin queen, and others in the graceful _déshabille_ of Sir
Peter Lely. This quaint oak hall was now resonant with the buzz and
clack of modern gossip, prose, and flirtation, and a great deal crowded,
notwithstanding its commodious proportions. Lady May was still receiving
her company near the doorway of the first drawing-room, and her kindly
voice was audible from within as the visitor approached. Mr. Longcluse
was very graciously received.

"I want you so particularly, to introduce you to Lady Hummington. She is
such a charming person. She is so thoroughly up in German literature.
She's a great deal too learned for me, but you and she will understand
one another so perfectly, and you will be quite charmed with her. Mr.
Addlings, did you happen to see Lady Hummington, or have you any idea
where she's gone?"

"I shall go and look for her, with pleasure. Is not she the tall lady
with grey hair? Shall I tell her you want to say a word to her?"

"You're very kind, but I'll not mind, thank you very much. It is so
provoking, Mr. Longcluse! you would have been perfectly charmed with
her."

"I shall be more fortunate, by-and-by, perhaps," said Mr. Longcluse.
"Are any of our friends from Mortlake here?" he added, looking a little
fixedly in her eyes, for he was thinking whether Alice had betrayed his
secret, and was trying to read an answer there.

Lady May answered quite promptly--

"Oh, yes, Alice is here, and her brother. He went out that way with some
friends," she said, indicating with a little nod a door which, from a
second hall, opened on a terrace. "I asked him to show them the three
fountains. You must see them also; they are in the Dutch garden; they
were put up in the reign of George the First.--How d'ye do, Mrs.
Frumply? How d'ye do, Miss Frumply?"

"What a charming house!" exclaims Mrs. Frumply, "and what a day! We were
saying, Arabella and I, as we drove out, that you must really have an
influence with the clerk of the weather, ha, ha, ha! didn't we,
Arabella? So charming!"

Lady May laughed affably, and said--"Won't you and your daughter go in
and take some tea? Mr. (she was going to call on Longcluse, but he had
glided away)--Oh, Mr. Darnley!"

And the introduction was made, and Vivian Darnley, with Mrs. Frumply on
his arm, attended by her daughter Arabella, did as he was commanded and
got tea for that simpering lady, and fruit and Naples biscuits, and
plum-cake, and was rewarded with the original joke about the clerk of
the weather.

Mr. Longcluse, in the meantime, had passed the door indicated by Lady
May, and stood upon the short terrace that overlooked the pretty
flower-garden cut out in grotesque patterns, so that looking down upon
its masses of crimson, blue, and yellow, as he leaned on the balustrade,
it showed beneath his eye like a wide deep-piled carpet, on the green
ground of which were walking groups of people, the brilliant hues of the
ladies' dresses rivalling the splendour of the verbenas, and making
altogether a very gay picture.

The usual paucity of male attendance made Mr. Longcluse's task of
observation easy. He was looking for Richard Arden's well-known figure
among the groups, thinking that probably Alice was not far off. But he
was not there, nor was Alice; and Walter Longcluse, gloomy and lonely in
this gay crowd, descended the steps at the end of this terrace, and
sauntered round again to the front of the house, now and then passing
some one he knew, with an exchange of a smile or a bow, and then lost
again in the Vanity Fair of strange faces and voices.

Now he is at the hall door--he mounts the steps. Suddenly, as he stands
upon the level platform at top, he finds himself within four feet of
Richard Arden. He looks on him as he might on the carved pilaster, at
the side of the hall door; no one could have guessed, by his inflexible
but unaffected glance, that he and Mr. Arden had ever been acquainted.
The younger man showed something in his countenance, a sudden hauteur, a
little elevation of the chin, a certain sternness, more melodramatic,
though less effective, than the simple blank of Mr. Longcluse's glance.

That gentleman looked about coolly. He was in search of Miss Arden, but
he did not see her. He entered the hall again, and Richard Arden a
little awkwardly resumed his conversation, which had suddenly subsided
into silence on Longcluse's appearance.

By this time Lady May was more at ease, having received all her company
that were reasonably punctual, and in the hall Longcluse now encountered
her.

"Have you seen Mr. Arden?" she inquired of him.

"Yes, he's at the door, at the steps."

"Would you mind telling him kindly that I want to say a word to him?"

"Certainly, most happy," said Longcluse, without any distinct plan as to
how he was to execute her awkward commission.

"Thank you very much. But, oh! dear, here is Lady Hummington, and she
wishes so much to know you; I'll send some one else. I must introduce
you, come with me--Lady Hummington, I want to introduce my friend, Mr.
Longcluse." So Mr. Longcluse was presented to Lady Hummington, who was
very lean, and a "blue," and most fatiguingly well up in archæology, and
all new books on dry and difficult subjects. So that Mr. Longcluse felt
that he was, in _Joe Willett's_ phrase, "tackled" by a giant, and was
driven to hideous exertions of attention and memory to hold his own.
When Lady Hummington, to whom it was plain kind Lady May, with an
unconscious cruelty, had been describing Mr. Longcluse's accomplishments
and acquirements, had taken some tea and other refection, and when Mr.
Longcluse's kindness "had her wants supplied," and she, like Scott's
"old man" in the "Lay of the Last Minstrel," "was gratified," she
proposed visiting the music-room, where she had heard a clever organist
play, on a harmonium, three distinct tunes at the same time, which being
composed on certain principles, that she explained with much animation
and precision, harmonised very prettily.

So this clever woman directed, and Mr. Longcluse led, the way to the
music-room.



CHAPTER XXX.

HE SEES HER.


Mr. Longcluse's attention was beginning to wander a little, and his eyes
were now busy in search of some one whom he had not found; and knowing
that the duration of people's stay at a garden-party is always
uncertain, and that some of those gaily-plumed birds who make the
flutter, and chirping, and brilliancy of the scene, hardly alight before
they take wing again, he began to fear that Alice Arden had gone.

"Just like my luck!" he thought bitterly; "and if she is gone, when
shall I have an opportunity of seeing her again?"

Lady Hummington's well-informed conversation had been, unheeded,
accompanying the ruminations and distractions of this "passionate
pilgrim;" and as they approached the door of the music-room, the little
crush there brought the learned lady's lips so near to his ear, that
with a little start he heard the words--"All strictly arithmetical, you
know, and adjusted by the relative frequency of vibrations. That theory,
I am sure, you approve, Mr. Longcluse."

To which the distracted lover made answer, "I quite agree with you, Lady
Hummington."

The music-room at Raleigh Court is an apartment of no great size, and
therefore when, with Lady Hummington on his arm, he entered, it was at
no great distance that he saw Miss Arden standing near the window, and
talking with an elderly gentleman, whose appearance he did not know, but
who seemed to be extremely interested in her conversation. She saw him,
he had not a doubt, for she turned a little quickly, and looked ever so
little more directly out at the window, and a very slight tinge flushed
her cheek. It was quite plain, he thought, and a dreadful pang stole
through his breast, that she did not choose to see him--quite plain that
she did see him--and he thought, from a subtle scrutiny of her beautiful
features, quite plain also that it gave her pain to meet without
acknowledging him.

Lady Hummington was conversing with volubility; but the air felt icy,
and there was a strange trembling at his heart, and this, in many
respects, hard man of the world, felt that the tears were on the point
of welling from his eyes. The struggle was but for a few moments, and he
seemed quite himself again. Lady Hummington wished to go to the end of
the room where the piano was, and the harmonium on which the organist
had performed his feat of the three tunes. That artist was taking his
departure, having a musical assignation of some kind to keep. But to
oblige Lady Hummington, who had heard of Thalberg's doing something of
the kind, he sat down and played an elaborate piece of music on the
piano with his thumbs only. This charming effort over, and applauded,
the performer took his departure. And Lady Hummington said--

"I am told, Mr. Longcluse, that you are a very good musician."

"A very indifferent performer, Lady Hummington."

"Lady May Penrose tells a very different tale."

"Lady May Penrose is too kind to be critical," said Longcluse; and as he
maintained this dialogue, his eye was observing every movement of Alice
Arden. She seemed, however, to have quite made up her mind to stand her
ground. There was a strange interest, to him, even in being in the same
room with her. Perhaps Miss Arden saw that Mr. Longcluse's movements
were dependent upon those of the lady whom he accompanied, and might
have thought that, the musician having departed, their stay in that room
would not be very long.

"I should be so glad to hear you sing, Mr. Longcluse," pursued Lady
Hummington. "You have been in the East, I think; have you any of the
Hindostanee songs? There are some, I have read, that embody the theories
of the Brahmin philosophy."

"Long-winded songs, I fancy," said Mr. Longcluse, laughing; "it is a
very voluminous philosophy, but the truth is, I've got a little cold,
and I should not like to make a bad impression so early."

"But surely there are some simple little things, without very much
compass, that would not distress you. How pretty those old English songs
are that they are collecting and publishing now! I mean songs of
Shakespeare's time--Ben Jonson's, Beaumont and Fletcher's, and
Massinger's, you know. Some of them are so extremely pretty!"

"Oh! yes, I'll sing you one of those with pleasure," said he with a
strange alacrity, quite forgetting his cold, sitting down at the
instrument, and striking two or three fierce chords.

I am sure that most of my readers are acquainted with that pretty old
English song, of the time of James the First, entitled, "Once I Loved a
Maiden Fair." That was the song he chose.

Never, perhaps, did he sing so well before, with a fluctuation of pathos
and scorn, tenderness and hatred, expressed with real dramatic fire, and
with more power of voice than at moments of less excitement he
possessed. He sang it with real passion, and produced, exactly where he
wished, a strange but unavowed sensation. He omitted one verse, and the
song as he delivered it was thus:--

    "Once I loved a maiden fair,
       But she did deceive me:
     She with Venus could compare,
       In my mind, believe me.
     She was young, and among
       All our maids the sweetest:
     Now I say, Ah, well-a-day!
       Brightest hopes are fleetest.

     Maidens wavering and untrue
       Many a heart have broken;
     Sweetest lips the world e'er knew
       Falsest words have spoken.
     Fare thee well, faithless girl,
       I'll not sorrow for thee:
     Once I held thee dear as pearl,
       Now I do abhor thee."

When he had finished the song, he said coldly, but very distinctly, as
he rose--

"I like that song, there is a melancholy psychology in it. It is a song
worthy of Shakespeare himself."

Lady Hummington urged him with an encore, but he was proof against her
entreaties. And so, after a little, she took Mr. Longcluse's arm; and
Alice felt relieved when the room was rid of them.



CHAPTER XXXI.

ABOUT THE GROUNDS.


Lady Hummington, well pleased at having found in Mr. Longcluse what she
termed a kindred mind, was warned by the hour that she must depart. She
took her leave of Mr. Longcluse with regret, and made him promise to
come to luncheon with her on the Thursday following. Mr. Longcluse
called her carriage for her, and put in, besides herself, her maiden
sister and two daughters, who all exhibited the family leanness, with
noses more or less red and aquiline, and small black eyes, set rather
close together.

As he ascended the steps he was accosted by a damsel in distress.

"Mr. Longcluse, I'm so glad to see you! You must do a very good-natured
thing," said handsome Miss Maubray, smiling on him. "I came here with
old Sir Arthur and Lady Tramway, and I've lost them; and I've been bored
to death by a Mr. Bagshot, and I've sent him to look for my
pocket-handkerchief in the tea-room; and I want you, as you hope for
mercy, to show it now, and rescue me from my troubles."

"I'm too much honoured. I'm only too happy, Miss Maubray. I shall put
Mr. Bagshot to death, if you wish it, and Sir Arthur and Lady Tramway
shall appear the moment you command."

Mr. Longcluse was talking his nonsense with the high spirits which
sometimes attend a painful excitement.

"I told them I should get to that tree if I were lost in the crowd, and
that they would be sure to find me under it after six o'clock. Do take
me there; I am so afraid of Mr. Bagshot's returning!"

So over the short grass that handsome girl walked, with Mr. Longcluse at
her side.

"I'll sit at this side, thank you; I don't want to be seen by Mr.
Bagshot."

So she sat down, placing herself at the further side of the great trunk
of the old chestnut-tree. Mr. Longcluse stood nearly opposite, but so
placed as to command a view of the hall-door steps. He was still
watching the groups that emerged, with as much interest as if his life
depended on the order of their to-ing and fro-ing. But, in spite of
this, very soon Miss Maubray's talk began to interest him.

"Whom did Alice Arden come with?" asked Miss Maubray. "I should like to
know; because, if I should lose my people, I must find some one to take
me home."

"With her brother, I fancy."

"Oh! yes, to be sure--I saw him here. I forgot. But Alice is very
independent, just now, of his protection," and she laughed.

"How do you mean?"

"Oh! Lord Wynderbroke, of course, takes care of her while she's here. I
saw them walking about together, so happy! I suppose it is all settled."

"About Lord Wynderbroke?" suggested Longcluse, with a gentle
carelessness, as if he did not care a farthing--as if a dreadful pain
had not at that moment pierced his heart.

"Yes, Lord Wynderbroke. Why, haven't you heard of that?"

"Yes, I believe--I think so. I am sure I have heard something of it; but
one hears so many things, one forgets, and I don't know him. What kind
of man is he?"

"He's hard to describe; he's not disagreeable, and he's not dull; he has
a great deal to say for himself about pictures, and the East, and the
Crimea, and the opera, and all the people at all the courts in Europe,
and he ought to be amusing; but I think he is the driest person I ever
talked to. And he is really good-natured; but I think him much more
teasing than the most ill-natured man alive, he's so insufferably
punctual and precise."

"You know him very well, then?" said Longcluse, with an effort to
contribute his share to the talk.

"Pretty well," said the young lady, with just a slight tinge flushing
her haughty cheek. "But no one, who has been a week in the same house
with him, could fail to see all that."

Miss Maubray herself, I am told, had hopes of Lord Wynderbroke about a
year before, and was not amiably disposed towards him now, and looked on
the triumph of Alice a little sourly; although something like the
beginning of a real love had since stolen into her heart--not, perhaps,
destined to be much more happy.

"Lord Wynderbroke--I don't know him. Is that gentleman he whom I saw
talking to Miss Arden in the music-room, I wonder? He's not actually
thin, and he is not at all stout; he's a little above the middle height,
and he stoops just a little. He appears past fifty, and his hair looks
like an old-fashioned brown wig, brushed up into a sort of cone over his
forehead. He seems a little formal, and very polite and smiling, with a
flower in his button-hole; a blue coat; and he has a pair of those
little gold Paris glasses, and was looking out through the window with
them."

"Had he a high nose?"

"Yes, rather a thin, high nose, and his face is very brown."

"Well, if he was all that, and had a brown face and a high nose, and was
pretty near fifty-three, and very near Alice Arden, he was positively
Lord Wynderbroke."

"And has this been going on for some time, or is it a sudden thing?"

"Both, I believe. It has been going on a long time, I believe, in old
Sir Reginald's head; but it has come about, after all, rather suddenly;
and my guardian says--Mr. David Arden, you know--that he has written a
proposal in a letter to Sir Reginald, and you see how happy the young
lady looks. So I think we may assume that the course of true love, for
once, runs smooth--don't you?"

"And I suppose there is no objection anywhere?" said Longcluse, smiling.
"It is a pity he is not a little younger, perhaps."

"I don't hear any complaints; let us rather rejoice he is not ten or
twenty years older. I am sure it would not prevent his happiness, but it
would heighten the ridicule. Are you one of Lady May Penrose's party to
the Derby to-morrow?" inquired the young lady.

"No; I haven't been asked."

"Lord Wynderbroke is going."

"Oh! of course he is."

"I don't think Mr. David Arden likes it; but, of course, it is no
business of his if other people are pleased. I wonder you did not hear
all this from Richard Arden, you and he are so intimate."

So said the young lady, looking very innocent. But I think she suspected
more than she said.

"No, I did not hear it," he said carelessly; "or, if I did, I forgot it.
But do you blame the young lady?"

"Blame her! not at all. Besides, I am not so sure that she knows."

"How can you think so?"

"Because I think she likes quite another person."

"Really! And who is he?"

"Can't you guess?"

"Upon my honour, I can't."

There was something so earnest, and even vehement, in this sudden
asseveration, that Miss Maubray looked for a moment in his face; and
seeing her curious expression, he said more quietly, "I assure you I
don't think I ever heard; I'm rather curious to know."

"I mean Mr. Vivian Darnley."

"Oh! Well, I've suspected that a long time. I told Richard Arden, one
day--I forget how it came about--but he said no."

"Well, I say yes," laughed the young lady, "and we shall see who's
right."

"Oh! Recollect I'm only giving you his opinion. I rather lean to yours,
but he said there was positively nothing in it, and that Mr. Darnley is
too poor to marry."

"If Alice Arden resembles me," said the young lady, "she thinks there
are just two things to marry for--either love or ambition."

"You place love first, I'm glad to hear," said Mr. Longcluse, with a
smile.

"So I do, because it is most likely to prevail with a pig-headed girl;
but what I mean is this: that social pre-eminence--I mean rank, and not
trumpery rank; but such as, being accompanied with wealth and
precedence, is also attended with power--is worth an immense sacrifice
of all other objects; my reason tells me, worth the sacrifice of love.
But that is a sacrifice which impatient, impetuous people can't always
so easily make--which I daresay I could not make if I were tried; but I
don't think I shall ever be fool enough to become so insane, for the
state of a person in love is a state of simple idiotism. It is pitiable,
I allow, but also contemptible; but, judging by what I see, it appears
to me a more irresistible delusion than ambition. But I don't understand
Alice well. I think, if I knew a little more of her brother--certain
qualities so run in families--I should be able to make a better guess.
What do you think of him?"

"He's very agreeable, isn't he? and, for the rest, really, until men are
tried as events only can try them, it is neither wise nor safe to
pronounce."

"Is he affectionate?"

"His sister seems to worship him," he answered; "but young ladies are so
angelic, that where they like they resent nothing, and respect
selfishness itself as a manly virtue."

"But you know him intimately; surely you must know something of him."

Under different circumstances, this audacious young lady's
cross-examination would have amused Mr. Longcluse; but in his present
relations, and spirits, it was otherwise.

"I should but mislead you if I were to answer more distinctly. I answer
for no man, hardly for myself. Besides, I question your theory. I don't
think, except by accident, that a brother's character throws any light
upon a sister's; and I hope--I think, I mean--that Miss Arden has
qualities illimitably superior to those of her brother. Are these your
friends, Miss Maubray?" he continued.

"So they are," she answered. "I'm so much obliged to you, Mr. Longcluse!
I think they are leaving."

Mr. Longcluse, having delivered her into the hands of her chaperon, took
his leave, and walked into the broad alleys among the trees, and in
solitude under their shade, sat himself down by a pond, on which two
swans were sailing majestically. Looking down upon the water with a
pallid frown, he struck the bank beneath him viciously with his heel,
peeling off little bits of the sward, which dropped into the water.

"It is all plain enough now. Richard Arden has been playing me false. It
ought not to surprise me, perhaps. The girl, I still believe, has
neither act nor part in the conspiracy. She has been duped by her
brother. I have thrown myself upon her mercy; I will now appeal to her
_justice_. As for him--what vermin mankind are! He must return to his
allegiance; he will. After all, he may not like to lose me. He will act
in the way that most interests his selfishness. Come, come! it is no
impracticable problem. I'm not cruel? Not I! No, I'm not cruel; but I am
utterly just. I would not hang a mouse up by the tail to die, as they do
in France, head downwards, of hunger, for eating my cheese; but should
the vermin nibble at my heart, in that case, what says justice? Alice,
beautiful Alice, you shall have every chance before I tear you from my
heart--oh, for ever! Ambition! That coarse girl, Miss Maubray, can't
understand you. Ambition, in her sense, you have none; there is nothing
venal in your nature. Vivian Darnley, is there anything in that either?
I think nothing. I observed them closely, that night, at Mortlake. No,
there was nothing. My conversation and music interested her, and when I
was by, he was nothing.

"They are going to the Derby to-morrow. I think Lady May has treated me
rather oddly, considering that she had all but borrowed my drag. She
might have put me off civilly; but I don't blame her. She is
good-natured, and if she has any idea that I and the Ardens are not
quite on pleasant terms, it quite excuses it. Her asking me here, and
her little note to remind, were meant to show that she did not take up
the quarrel against me. Never mind; I shall know all about it, time
enough. They are going to the Derby to-morrow. Very well, I shall go
also. It will all be right yet. When did I fail? When did I renounce an
object? By Heaven, one way or other, I'll accomplish this!"

Tall Mr. Longcluse rose, and looked round him, and in deep thought,
marched with a resolute step towards the house.



CHAPTER XXXII.

UNDER THE LIME-TREES.


At this garden-party, marvellous as it may appear, Lord Wynderbroke has
an aunt. How old she is I know not, nor yet with what conscience her
respectable relations can permit her to haunt such places, and run a
risk of being suffocated in doorways, or knocked down the steps by an
enamoured couple hurrying off to more romantic quarters, or of having
her maundering old head knocked with a croquet mallet, as she totters
drearily among the hoops.

This old lady is worth conciliating, for she has plate and jewels, and
three thousand a-year to leave; and Lord Wynderbroke is a prudent man.
He can bear a great deal of money, and has no objection to jewels, and
thinks that the plate of his bachelor and old-maid kindred should
gravitate to the centre and head of the house. Lord Wynderbroke was
indulgent, and did not object to her living a little longer, for this
aunt conduced to his air of juvenility more than the flower in his
button-hole. However, she was occasionally troublesome, and on this
occasion made an unwise mixture of fruit and other things; and a servant
glided into the music-room, and with a proper inclination of his person,
in a very soft tone said,--

"My lord, Lady Witherspoons is in her carriage at the door, my lord, and
says her ladyship is indisposed, and begs, my lord, that your lordship
will be so good as to hacompany her 'ome in her carriage, my lord."

"Oh! tell her ladyship I am so _very_ sorry, and will be with her in a
moment." And he turned with a very serious countenance to Alice. "How
extremely unfortunate! When I saw those miserable cherries, I knew how
it would be; and now I am torn away from this charming place; and I'm
sure I hope she may be better soon, it _is_ so (disgusting, he thought,
but he said) melancholy! With whom shall I leave you, Miss Arden?"

"Thanks, I came with my brother, and here is my cousin, Mr. Darnley, who
can tell me where he is."

"With a croquet party, near the little bridge. I'll be your guide, if
you'll allow me," said Vivian Darnley eagerly.

"Pray, Lord Wynderbroke, don't let me delay you longer. I shall find my
brother quite easily now. I so hope Lady Witherspoons may soon be
better!"

"Oh, yes, she always _is_ better soon; but in the meantime one is
carried away, you see, and everything upset; and all because, poor
woman, she won't exercise the smallest restraint. And she has, of
course, a right to command me, being my aunt, you know, and--and--the
whole thing is ineffably provoking."

And thus he took his reluctant departure, not without a brief but grave
scrutiny of Mr. Vivian Darnley. When he was gone, Vivian Darnley
proffered his arm, and that little hand was placed on it, the touch of
which made his heart beat faster. Though people were beginning to go,
there was still a crush about the steps. This little resistance and
mimic difficulty were pleasant to him for her sake. Down the steps they
went together, and now he had her all to himself; and silently for a
while he led her over the closely-shorn grass, and into the green walk
between the lime-trees, that leads down to the little bridge.

"Alice," at last he said--"Miss Arden, what have I done that you are so
changed?"

"Changed! I don't think I am changed. What is there to change me?" she
said carelessly, but in a low tone, as she looked along towards the
flowers.

"It won't do, Alice, repeating my question, for that is all you have
done. I like you too well to be put off with mere words. You are
changed, and without a cause--no, I could not say that--not without a
cause. Circumstances are altered; you are in the great world now, and
admired; you have wealth and titles at your feet--Mr. Longcluse with his
millions, Lord Wynderbroke with his coronet."

"And who told you that these gentlemen were at my feet?" she exclaimed,
with a flash from her fine eyes, that reminded him of moments of pretty
childish anger, long ago. "If I am changed--and perhaps I am--such
speeches as that would quite account for it. You accuse me of
caprice--has any one ever accused you of impertinence?"

"It is quite true, I deserve your rebuke. I have been speaking as freely
as if we were back again at Arden Court, or Ryndelmere, and ten years of
our lives were as a mist that rolls away."

"That's a quotation from a song of Tennyson's."

"I don't know what it is from. Being melancholy myself, I say the words
because they are melancholy."

"Surely you can find some friend to console you in your affliction."

"It is not easy to find a friend at any time, much less when things go
wrong with us."

"It is very hard if there is really no one to comfort you. Certainly _I_
sha'n't try anything so hopeless as comforting a person who is resolved
to be miserable. 'There's such a charm in melancholy, I would not if I
could, be gay.' There's a quotation for you, as you like
verses--particularly what I call moping verses."

"Come, Alice! this is not like you; you are not so unkind as your words
would seem; you are not cruel, Alice--you are cruel to no one else, only
to me, your old friend."

"I have said nothing cruel," said Miss Alice, looking on the grass
before her; "cruelty is too sublime a phrase. I don't think I have ever
experienced cruelty in my life; and I don't think it likely that you
have; I certainly have never been cruel to any one. I'm a very
good-natured person, as my birds and squirrel would testify if they
could."

She laughed.

"I suppose people call that cruel which makes them suffer very much; it
may be but a light look, or a cold word, but still it may be more than
years of suffering to another. But I don't think, Alice, you ought to be
so with me. I think you might remember old times a little more kindly."

"I remember them very kindly--as kindly as you do. We were always very
good friends, and always, I daresay, shall be. _I_ sha'n't quarrel. But
I don't like heroics, I think they are so unmeaning. There may be people
who like them very well and---- There is Richard, I think, and he has
thrown away his mallet. If his game is over, he will come now, and Lady
May doesn't want the people to stay late; she is going into town, and I
stay with her to-night. We are going to the Derby to-morrow."

"I am going also--it was so kind of her!--she asked me to be of her
party," said Vivian Darnley.

"Richard is coming also; I have never been to the Derby, and I daresay
we shall be a very pleasant party; I know I like it of all things. Here
comes Richard--he sees me. Was my uncle David here?"

"No."

"I hardly thought he was, but I saw Grace Maubray, and I fancied he
might have come with her," she said carelessly.

"Yes, she was here; she came with Lady Tramway. They went away about
half-an-hour ago."

So Richard joined her, and they walked to the house together, Vivian
Darnley accompanying them.

"I think I saw you a little spooney to-day, Vivian, didn't I?" said
Richard Arden, laughing. He remembered what Longcluse once said to him,
about Vivian's _tendre_ for his sister, and did not choose that Alice
should suspect it. "Grace Maubray is a very pretty girl."

"She may be that, though it doesn't strike me," began Darnley.

"Oh! come, I'm too old for that sort of disclaimer; and I don't see why
you should be so modest about it. She is clever and pretty."

"Yes, she is very pretty," said Alice.

"I suppose she is, but you're quite mistaken if you really fancy I
admire Miss Maubray. I _don't_, I give you my _honour_, I don't," said
Vivian vehemently.

Richard Arden laughed again, but prudently urged the point no more,
intending to tell the story that evening as he and Alice drove together
into town, in the way that best answered his purpose.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

THE DERBY.


The morning of the Derby day dawned auspiciously. The weather-cocks, the
sky, and every other prognostic portended a fine cloudless day, and many
an eye peeped early from bed-room window to read these signs, rejoicing.

"Ascot would have been more in _our_ way," said Lady May, glancing at
Alice, when the time arrived for taking their places in the carriage.
"But the time answered, and we shall see a great many people we know
there. So you must not think I have led you into a very fast
expedition."

Richard Arden took the reins. The footmen were behind, in charge of
hampers from Fortnum and Mason's, and inside, opposite to Alice, sat
Lord Wynderbroke; and Lady May's _vis-à-vis_ was Vivian Darnley. Soon
they had got into the double stream of carriages of all sorts. There are
closed carriages with pairs or fours, gigs, hansom cabs fitted with
gauze curtains, dog-carts, open carriages with hampers lashed to the
foot-boards, dandy drags, bright and polished, with crests; vans, cabs,
and indescribable contrivances. There are horses worth a hundred and
fifty guineas a-piece, and there are others that look as if the knacker
should have them. There are all sorts of raws, and sand-cracks, and
broken knees. There are kickers and roarers, and bolters and jibbers,
such a crush and medley in that densely packed double line, that jogs
and crushes along you can hardly tell how.

Sometimes one line passes the other, and then sustains a momentary
check, while the other darts forward; and now and then a panel is
smashed, with the usual altercation, and dust unspeakable eddying and
floating everywhere in the sun; all sorts of chaff exchanged, mail-coach
horns blowing, and general impudence and hilarity; gentlemen with veils
on, and ladies with light hoods over their bonnets, and all sorts of
gauzy defences against the dust. The utter novelty of all these sights
and sounds highly amuses Alice, to whom they are absolutely strange.

"I am so amused," she said, "at the gravity you all seem to take these
wonderful doings with. I could not have fancied anything like it. Isn't
that Borrowdale?"

"So it is," said Lady May. "I thought he was in France. He doesn't see
us, I think."

He did see them, but it was just as he was cracking a personal joke with
a busman, in which the latter had decidedly the best of it, and he did
not care to recognise his lady acquaintances at disadvantage.

"What a fright that man is!" said Lord Wynderbroke.

"But his team is the prettiest in England, except Longcluse's," said
Darnley; "and, by Jove, there's Longcluse's drag!"

"Those are very nice horses," said Lord Wynderbroke looking at
Longcluse's team, as if he had not heard Darnley's observation. "They
are worth looking at, Miss Arden."

Longcluse was seated on the box, with a veil on, through which his white
smile was indistinctly visible.

"And what a fright _he_ is, also! He looks like a picture of Death I
once saw, with a cloth half over his face; or the Veiled Prophet. By
Jove, a curious thing that the two most hideous men in England should
have between them the two prettiest teams on earth!"

Lord Wynderbroke looks at Darnley with raised brows, vaguely. He has
been talking more than his lordship perhaps thinks he has any business
to talk, especially to Alice.

"You will be more diverted still when we have got upon the course,"
interposes Lord Wynderbroke. "The variety of strange people
there--gipsies, you know, and all that--mountebanks, and
thimble-riggers, and beggars, and musicians--you'll wonder how such
hordes could be collected in all England, or where they come from."

"And although they make something of a day like this, how on earth they
contrive to exist all the other days of the year, when people are sober,
and minding their own business," added Darnley.

"To me the pleasantest thing about the drive is our finding ourselves in
the open country. Look out of the window there--trees and
farm-steads--it is so rural, and such an odd change!" said Lady May.

"And the young corn, I'm glad to see, is looking very well," said Lord
Wynderbroke, who claimed to be something of an agriculturist.

"And the oddest thing about it is our being surrounded, in the midst of
all this rural simplicity, with the population of London," threw in
Vivian Darnley.

"Remember, Miss Arden, our wager," said Lord Wynderbroke; "you have
backed May Queen."

"May! she should be a cousin of mine," said good Lady May, firing off
her little pun, which was received very kindly by her audience.

"Ha, ha! I did not think of that; she should certainly be the most
popular name on the card," said Lord Wynderbroke. "I hope I have not
made a great mistake, Miss Arden, in betting against so--so auspicious a
name."

"I sha'n't let you off, though. I'm told I'm very likely to win--isn't
it so?" she asked Vivian.

"Yes, the odds are in favour of May Queen now; you might make a capital
hedge."

"You don't know what a hedge is, I daresay, Miss Arden; ladies don't
always quite understand our turf language," said Lord Wynderbroke, with
a consideration which he hoped that very forward young man, on whom he
fancied Miss Arden looked good-naturedly, felt as he ought. "It is
called a hedge, by betting men, when----" and he expounded the meaning
of the term.

The road had now become more free, as they approached the course, and
Dick Arden took advantage of the circumstance to pass the omnibuses, and
other lumbering vehicles, which he soon left far behind. The grand stand
now rose in view--and now they were on the course. The first race had
not yet come off, and young Arden found a good place among the triple
line of carriages. Off go the horses! Miss Arden is assisted to a
cushion on the roof; Lord Wynderbroke and Vivian take places beside her.
The sun is growing rather hot, and the parasol is up. Good-natured Lady
May is a little too stout for climbing, but won't hear of anyone's
staying to keep her company. Perhaps when Richard Arden, who is taking a
walk by the ropes, and wants to see the horses which are showing,
returns, she may have a little talk with him at the window. In the
meantime, all the curious groups of figures, and a hundred more, which
Lord Wynderbroke promised--the monotonous challenges of the fellows with
games of all sorts, the whine of the beggar for a little penny, the
guitarring, singing, barrel-organing, and the gipsy inviting Miss Arden
to try her lucky sixpence--all make a curious and merry Babel about her.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

A SHARP COLLOQUY.


On foot, near the weighing stand, is a tall, powerful, and clumsy
fellow, got up gaudily--a fellow with a lowering red face, in loud
good-humour, very ill-looking. He is now grinning and chuckling with his
hands in his pockets, and talking with a little Hebrew, young,
sable-haired, with the sallow tint, great black eyes, and fleshy nose
that characterise his race. A singularly sullen mouth aids the effect of
his vivid eyes, in making this young Jew's face ominous.

"Young Dick Harden's 'ere," said Mr. Levi.

"Eh? is he?" said the big man with the red face and pimples, the green
cut-away coat, gilt buttons, purple neck-tie, yellow waistcoat, white
cord tights, and top boots.

"Walking down there," said Levi, pointing with his thumb over his
shoulder. "I shaw him shpeak to a fellow in chocolate and gold livery."

"And an eagle on the button, I know. That's Lady May Penrose's livery,"
said his companion. "He came down with her, I lay you fifty. And he has
a nice sister as ever you set eyes on--pretty gal, Mr. Levi--a reg'lar
little angel," and he giggled after his wont. "If there's a dragful of
hangels anyvere, she's one of them. I saw her yesterday in one of Lady
May Penrose's carriages in St. James' Street. Mr. Longcluse is engaged
to get married to her; you may see them linked arm-in-arm, any day you
please, walkin' hup and down Hoxford Street. And her brother, Richard
Harden, is to marry Lady May Penrose. That will be a warm family yet,
them Hardens, arter all."

"A family with a title, Mr. Ballard, be it never so humble, Sir, like
'ome shweet 'ome, hash nine livesh in it; they'll be down to the last
pig, and not the thickness of an old tizzy between them and the
glue-pot; and while you'd write your name across the back of a cheque,
all's right again. The title doesh it. You never shaw a title in the
workus yet, Mr. Ballard, and you'll wait awhile before you 'av a
hoppertunity of shayin', 'My lord Dooke, I hope your grashe's
water-gruel is salted to your noble tasht thish morning,' or, 'My noble
marquishe, I humbly hope you are pleashed with the fit of them
pepper-and-salts;' and, 'My lord earl, I'm glad to see by the register
you took a right honourable twisht at the crank thish morning.' No,
Mishter Ballard, you nor me won't shee that, Shir."

While these gentlemen enjoyed their agreeable banter, and settled the
fortunes of Richard Arden and Mr. Longcluse, the latter person was
walking down the course in the direction in which Mr. Levi had seen
Arden go, in the hope of discovering Lady May's carriage. Longcluse was
in an odd state of excitement. He had entered into the spirit of the
carnival. Voices all around were shouting, "Twenty to five on
Dotheboys;" or, "A hundred to five against Parachute."

"In what?" called Mr. Longcluse to the latter challenge.

"In assassins!" cried a voice from the crowd.

Mr. Longcluse hustled his way into the thick of it.

"Who said that?" he thundered.

No one could say. No one else had heard it. Who cared? He recovered his
coolness quickly, and made no further fuss about it. People were too
busy with other things to bother themselves about his questions, or his
temper. He hurried forward after young Arden, whom he saw at the turn of
the course a little way on.

"The first race no one cares much about; compared with the great event
of the day, it is as the farce before the pantomime, or the oyster
before the feast."

The bells had not yet rung out their warning, and Alice said to
Vivian,--

"How beautifully that girl with the tambourine danced and sang! I do so
hope she'll come again; and she is, I think, so perfectly lovely. She is
so like the picture of La Esmeralda; didn't you think so?"

"Do you really wish to see her again?" said Vivian. "Then if she's to be
found on earth you shall see her."

He was smiling, but he spoke in the low tone that love is said to employ
and understand, and his eyes looked softly on her. He was pleased that
she enjoyed everything so. In a moment he had jumped to the ground, and
with one smile back at the eager girl he disappeared.

And now the bells were ringing, and the police clearing the course. And
now the cry, "They're off, they're off!" came rolling down the crowd
like a hedge-fire. Lord Wynderbroke offered Alice his race-glass, but
ladies are not good at optical aids, and she prefers her eyes; and the
Earl constitutes himself her sentinel, and will report all he sees, and
stands on the roof beside her place, with the glasses to his eyes. And
now the excitement grows. Beggar-boys, butcher-boys, stable-helps, jump
up on carriage-wheels unnoticed, and cling to the roof with filthy
fingers. And now they are in sight, and a wild clamour arises. "Red's
first!" "No, Blue!" "White leads!" "Pink's first!"

And here they are! White, crimson, pink, black, yellow--the silk jackets
quivering like pennons in a storm--the jockeys tossing their arms madly
about, the horses seeming actually to fly; swaying, reeling, whirring,
the whole thing passes in a beautiful drift of a moment, and is gone!

Lord Wynderbroke is standing on tip-toe, trying to catch a glimpse of
the caps as they show at the opening nearer the winning-post. Vivian
Darnley is away in search of La Esmeralda. Miss Arden has seen the first
race of the day, the first she has ever seen, and is amazed and
delighted. The intruders who had been clinging to the carriage now jump
down, and join the crowd that crush on towards the winning-post, or
break in on the course. But there rises at the point next her a figure
she little expected to see so near that day. Mr. Longcluse has swung
himself up, and stands upon the wheel. He is bare-headed, his hat is in
the hand he clings by. In the other hand he holds up a small glove--a
lady's glove. His face is very pale. He is not smiling; he looks with an
expression of pain, on the contrary, and very great respect.

"Miss Arden, will you forgive my venturing to restore this glove, which
I happened to see you drop as the horses passed?"

She looked at him with something of surprise and fear, and drew back a
little instead of taking the proffered glove.

"I find I have been too presumptuous," he said gently. "I place it
there. I see, Miss Arden, I have been maligned. Some one has wronged me
cruelly. I plead only for a fair chance--for God's sake, give me a
chance. I don't say hear me now, only say you won't condemn me utterly
unheard."

He spoke vehemently, but so low that, amid the hubbub of other voices,
no one but Miss Arden, on whom his eyes were fixed, could hear him.

"I take my leave, Miss Arden, and may God bless you. But I rest in the
hope that your noble nature will refuse to treat any creature as my
enemies would have you treat me."

His looks were so sad and even reverential, and his voice, though low,
so full of agony, that no one could suppose the speaker had the least
idea of forcing his presence upon the lady a moment longer than sufficed
to ascertain that it was not welcome. He was about to step to the
ground, when he saw Richard Arden striding rapidly up with a very angry
countenance. Then and there seemed likely to occur what the newspapers
term an ungentlemanlike fracas. Richard Arden caught him, and pulled him
roughly to the ground. Mr. Longcluse staggered back a step or two, and
recovered himself. His pale face glared wickedly, for a moment or two,
on the flushed and haughty young man; his arm was a little raised, and
his fist clenched. I daresay it was just the turn of a die, at that
moment, whether he struck him or not.

These two bosom friends, and sworn brothers, of a week or two ago, were
confronted now with strange looks, and in threatening attitude. How
frail a thing is the worldly man's friendship, hanging on flatteries and
community of interest! A word or two of truth, and a conflict or even a
divergence of interest, and where is the liking, the friendship, the
intimacy?

A sudden change marked the face of Mr. Longcluse. The vivid fires that
gleamed for a moment from his eyes sunk in their dark sockets, the
intense look changed to one of sullen gloom. He beckoned, and said
coldly, "Please follow me;" and then turned and walked, at a leisurely
pace, a little way inward from the course.

Richard Arden, perhaps, felt that had he hesitated it would have
reflected on his courage. He therefore disregarded the pride that would
have scorned even a seeming compliance with that rather haughty summons,
and he followed him with something of the odd dreamy feeling which men
experience when they are stepping, consciously, into a risk of life. He
thought that Mr. Longcluse was inviting the interview for the purpose of
arranging the preliminaries of who were to act as their "friends," and
where each gentleman was to be heard of that evening. He followed, with
oddly conflicting feelings, to a place in the rear of some tents. Here
was a sort of booth. Two doors admitted to it--one to the longer room,
where was whirling that roulette round which men who, like Richard
Arden, could not deny themselves, even on the meanest scale, the
excitement of chance gain and loss, were betting and bawling. Into the
smaller room of plank, which was now empty, they stepped.

"Now, Sir, you'll be so good as to observe that you have taken upon you
a rather serious responsibility in laying your hand on me," said
Longcluse, in a very low tone, coldly and gently. "In France, such a
profanation would be followed by an exchange of shots, and here, under
other circumstances, I should exact the same chance of retaliation. I
mean to deal differently--quite differently. I have fought too many
duels, as you know, to be the least apprehensive of being misunderstood
or my courage questioned. For your sister's sake, not yours, I take a
peculiar course with you. I offer you an alternative; you may have
reconciliation--here is my hand" (he extended it)--"or you may abide the
other consequence, at which I sha'n't hint, in pretty near futurity. You
don't accept my hand?"

"No, Sir," said Arden haughtily--more than haughtily, insolently. "I can
have no desire to renew an acquaintance with you. I sha'n't do that.
I'll fight you, if you like it. I'll go to Boulogne, or wherever you
like, and we can have our shot, Sir, whenever you please."

"No, if you please--not so fast. You decline my friendship--that offer
is over," said Longcluse, lowering his hand resolutely. "I am not going
to shoot you--I have not the least notion of that. I shall take, let me
see, a different course with you, and I shall obtain on reflection your
entire concurrence with the hopes I have no idea of relinquishing. You
will probably understand me pretty clearly by-and-by."

Richard Arden was angry; he was puzzled; he wished to speak, but could
not light quickly on a suitable answer. Longcluse stood for some
seconds, smiling his pale sinister smile upon him, and then turned on
his heel, and walked quietly out upon the grass, and disappeared in the
crowd.

Richard Arden was irresolute. He threw open the door, and entered the
roulette-room--looked round on all the strange faces, that did not mind
him, or seem to see that he was there--then, with a sudden change of
mind, he retraced his steps more quickly, and followed Longcluse through
the other door. But there he could not trace him. He had quite vanished.
Perhaps, next morning, he was glad that he had missed him, and had been
compelled to "sleep upon it."

Now and then, with a sense of disagreeable uncertainty, recurred to his
mind the mysterious intimation, or rather menace, with which he had
taken his departure. It was not, however, his business to look up
Longcluse. He had himself seemed to intimate that the balance of insult
was the other way. If "satisfaction," in the slang of the duellist, was
to be looked for, the initiative devolved undoubtedly upon Longcluse.

Alice was so placed on the carriage, that she did not see what passed
immediately beside it, between Longcluse and her brother. Still, the
appearance of this man, and his having accosted her, had agitated her a
good deal, and for some hours the unpleasant effect of the little scene
spoiled her enjoyment of this day of wonders.

Very gaily, notwithstanding, the party returned--except, perhaps, one
person who had reason to remember that day.



CHAPTER XXXV.

DINNER AT MORTLAKE.


Lady May's party from the Derby dined together late, that evening, at
Mortlake. Lord Wynderbroke, of course, was included. He was very happy,
and extremely agreeable. When Alice, and Lady May, who was to stay that
night at Mortlake, and Miss Maubray, who had come with Uncle David, took
their departure for the drawing-room, the four gentlemen who remained
over their claret drew more together, and chatted at their ease.

Lord Wynderbroke was in high spirits. He admired Alice more than ever.
He admired everything. A faint rumour had got about that something was
not very unlikely to be. It did not displease him. He had been looking
at diamonds the day before; he was not vexed when that amusing wag,
Pokely, who had surprised him in the act, asked him that day, on the
Downs, some sly questions on the subject, with an arch glance at
beautiful Miss Arden. Lord Wynderbroke pooh-pooh'd this impertinence
very radiantly. And now this happy peer, pleased with himself, pleased
with everybody, with the flush of a complacent elation on his thin
cheeks, was simpering and chatting most agreeably, and commending
everything to which his attention was drawn.

In very marked contrast with this happy man was Richard Arden, who
talked but little, was absent, utterly out of spirits, and smiled with a
palpable effort when he did smile. His conversation with Lady May showed
the same uncomfortable peculiarities. It was intermittent and
bewildered. It saddened the good lady. Was he ill? or in some
difficulty?

Now that she had withdrawn, Richard Arden seemed less attentive to Lord
Wynderbroke than to his uncle. In so far as a wight in his melancholy
mood could do so, he seemed to have laid himself out to please his uncle
in those small ways where, in such situations, an anxiety to please can
show itself. Once his father's voice had roused him with the intimation,
"Richard, Lord Wynderbroke is speaking to you;" and he saw a very urbane
smile on his thin lips, and encountered a very formidable glare from his
dark eyes. The only subject on which Richard Arden at all brightened up
was the defeat of the favourite. Lord Wynderbroke remarked,--

"It seems to have caused a good deal of observation. I saw Hounsley and
Crackham, and they shake their heads at it a good deal, and----"

He paused, thinking that Richard Arden was going to interpose something,
but nothing followed, and he continued,--

"And Lord Shillingsworth, he's very well up in all these things, and he
seems to think it is a very suspicious affair; and old Sir Thomas
Fetlock, who should have known better, has been hit very hard, and says
he'll have it before the Jockey Club."

"I don't mind Sir Thomas, he blusters and makes a noise about
everything," said Richard Arden; "but it was quite palpable, when the
horse showed, he wasn't fit to run. I don't suppose Sir Thomas will do
it, but it certainly will be done. I know a dozen men who will sell
their horses, if it isn't done. I don't see how any man can take payment
of the odds on Dotheboys--I don't, I assure you--till the affair is
cleared up: _gentlemen_, of course, I mean; the other people would like
the money all the better if it came to them by a swindle. But it
certainly can't rest where it is."

No one disputing this, and none of the other gentlemen being authorities
of any value upon turf matters, the subject dropped, and others came on,
and Richard Arden was silent again. Lord Wynderbroke, who was to pass
two or three days at Mortlake, and who had made up his mind that he was
to leave that interesting place a _promesso sposo_, was restless, and
longed to escape to the drawing-room. So the sitting over the wine was
not very long.

Richard Arden made an effort, in the drawing-room, to retrieve his
character with Lady May and Miss Maubray, who had been rather puzzled by
his hang-dog looks and flagging conversation.

"There are times, Lady May," said he, placing himself on the sofa beside
her, "when one loses all faith in the future--when everything goes
wrong, and happiness becomes incredible. Then one's wisest course seems
to be, to take off one's hat to the good people in this planet, and go
off to another."

"Only that I know you so well," said Lady May, "I should tell
Reginald--I mean your father--what you say; and I think your uncle,
there, is a magistrate for the county of Middlesex, and could commit
you, couldn't he? for any such foolish speech. Did you observe
to-day--you saw him, of course--how miserably ill poor Pindledykes is
looking? I don't think, really, he'll be alive in six months."

"Don't throw away your compassion, dear Lady May. Pindledykes has always
looked dying as long as I can remember, and on his last legs; but those
last legs carry some fellows a long way, and I'm very sure he'll outlive
me."

"And what pleasure can a person so very ill as he looks take in going to
places like that?"

"The pleasure of winning other people's money," laughed Arden sourly.
"Pindledykes knows very well what he's about. He turns his time to very
good account, and wastes very little of it, I assure you, in pitying
other people's misfortunes."

"I'm glad to see that you and Richard are on pleasanter terms," said
David Arden to his brother, as he sipped his tea beside him.

"Egad! we are _not_, though. I hate him worse than ever. Would you
oblige me by putting a bit of wood on the fire? I told you how he has
treated me. I wonder, David, how the devil you could suppose we were on
pleasanter terms!"

Sir Reginald was seated with his crutch-handled stick beside him, and an
easy fur slipper on his gouty foot, which rested on a stool, and was a
great deal better. He leaned back in a cushioned arm-chair, and his
fierce prominent eyes glanced across the room, in the direction of his
son, with a flash like a scimitar's.

"There's no good, you know, David, in exposing one's ulcers to
strangers--there's no use in plaguing one's guests with family
quarrels."

"Upon my word, you disguised this one admirably, for I mistook you for
two people on tolerably friendly terms."

"I don't want to plague Wynderbroke about the puppy; there is no need to
mention that he has made so much unhappiness. _You_ won't, neither will
I."

David nodded.

"Something has gone wrong with him," said David Arden, "and I thought
you might possibly know."

"Not I."

"I think he has lost money on the races to-day," said David.

"I hope to Heaven he has! I'm glad of it. It will do me good; let him
settle it out of his blackguard _post-obit_," snarled Sir Reginald, and
ground his teeth.

"If he has been gambling, he has disappointed me. He can, however,
disappoint me but once. I had better thoughts of him."

So said David Arden, with displeasure in his frank and manly face.

"Playing? Of course he plays, and of course he's been making a
blundering book for the Derby. He likes the hazard-table and the turf,
he likes play, and he likes making books; and what he likes he does. He
always did. I'm rather pleased you have been trying to manage him.
You'll find him a charming person, and you'll understand what I have had
to combat with. He'll never do any good; he is so utterly graceless."

"I see my father looking at me, and I know what he means," said Richard
Arden, with a smile, to Lady May; "I'm to go and talk to Miss Maubray.
He wishes to please Uncle David, and Miss Maubray must be talked to; and
I see that Uncle David envies me my little momentary happiness, and
meditates taking that empty chair beside you. You'll see whether I am
right. By Jove! here he comes; I sha'n't be turned away so----"

"Oh, but, really, Miss Maubray has been quite alone," urged poor Lady
May, very much pleased; "and you _must_, to please _me_; I'm sure you
will."

Instantly he arose.

"I don't know whether that speech is most kind or _un_-kind; you banish
me, but in language so flattering to my loyalty, that I don't know
whether to be pleased or pained. Of course I obey." He said these
parting words in a very low tone, and had hardly ended them, when David
Arden took the vacant chair beside the good lady, and began to talk with
her.

Once or twice his eyes wandered to Richard Arden, who was by this time
talking with returning animation to Grace Maubray, and the look was not
cheerful. The young lady, however, was soon interested, and her
good-humour was clever and exhilarating. I think that she a little
admired this handsome and rather clever young man, and who can tell what
such a fancy may grow to?

That night, as Richard Arden bid him good-bye, his uncle said, coldly
enough,--

"By-the-bye, Richard, would you mind looking in upon me to-morrow, at
five in the afternoon? I shall have a word to say to you."

So the appointment was made, and Richard entered his cab, and drove into
town dismally.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

MR. LONGCLUSE SEES A LADY'S NOTE.


Next day Mr. Longcluse paid an early visit at Uncle David's house, and
saw Miss Maubray in the drawing-room. The transition from that young
lady's former, to her new life, was not less dazzling than that of the
heroine of an Arabian tale, who is transported by friendly genii, while
she sleeps, from a prison to the palace of a sultan. Uncle David did not
care for finery; no man's tastes could be simpler and more camp-like.
But these drawing-rooms were so splendid, so elegant and refined, and
yet so gorgeous in effect, that you would have fancied that he had
thought of nothing else all his life but china, marqueterie, buhl, Louis
Quatorze clocks, mirrors, pale-green and gold cabriole chairs, bronzes,
pictures, and all the textile splendours, the names of which I know not,
that make floors and windows magnificent.

The feminine nature, facile and self-adapting, had at once accommodated
itself to the dominion over all this, and all that attended it. And Miss
Maubray being a lady, a girl who had, in her troubled life, been much
among high-bred people--her father a gentle, fashionable, broken-down
man, and her mother a very elegant and charming woman--there was no
contrast, in look, air, or conversation, to mark that all this was new
to her: on the contrary, she became it extremely.

The young lady was sitting at the piano when Longcluse came in, and to
the expiring vibration of the chord at which she was interrupted she
rose, with that light, floating ascent which is so pretty, and gave him
her hand, and welcomed him with a very bright smile. She thought he was
a likely person to be able to throw some light upon two rumours which
interested her.

"How do you contrive to keep your rooms so deliciously cool? The blinds
are down and the windows open, but that alone won't do, for I have just
left a drawing-room that is very nearly insupportable; yours must be the
work of some of those pretty sylphs that poets place in attendance upon
their heroines. How fearfully hot yesterday was! You did not go to the
Derby with Lady May's party, I believe."

He watched her clever face, to discover whether she had heard of the
scene between him and Richard Arden--"I don't think she has."

"No," she said, "my guardian, Mr. Arden, took me there instead. On
second thoughts, I feared I should very likely be in the way. One is
always _de trop_ where there is so much love-making; and I am a very bad
gooseberry."

"A very dangerous one, I should fancy. And who are all these lovers?"

"Oh, really, they are so many, it is not easy to reckon them up. Alice
Arden, for instance, had _two_ lovers--Lord Wynderbroke and Vivian
Darnley."

"What, two lovers charged upon one lady? Is not that false heraldry? And
does she really care for that young fellow, Darnley?"

"I'm told she really is deeply attached to him. But that does not
prevent her accepting Lord Wynderbroke. He has spoken, and been
accepted. Old Sir Reginald told my guardian his brother, last night, and
_he_ told me in the carriage, as we drove home. I wonder how soon it
will be. I should rather like to be one of her bridesmaids. Perhaps she
will ask me."

Mr. Longcluse felt giddy and stunned; but he said, quite gaily--

"If she wishes to be suitably attended, she certainly will. But young
ladies generally prefer a foil to a rival, even when so very beautiful
as she is."

"And there was Vivian Darnley at one side, I'm told, whispering all
kinds of sweet things, and poor old Wynderbroke at the other, with his
glasses to his eyes, reporting all he saw. Only think! What a goose the
old creature must have looked!" And the young lady laughed merrily. "But
can you tell me about the other affair?" she asked.

"What is it?"

"Oh! you know, of course--Lady May and Richard Arden; is it true that it
was all settled the day before yesterday, at that kettle-drum?"

"There again my information is quite behind yours. I did not hear a word
of it."

"But you must have seen how very much in love they both are. Poor young
man! I really think it would have broken his heart if she had been
cruel, particularly if it is true that he lost so much as they say at
the Derby yesterday. I suppose he did. Do you know?"

"I'm sorry to say," said Mr. Longcluse, "I'm afraid it's only too true.
I don't know exactly how much it is, but I believe it is more than he
can, at present, very well bear. A mad thing for him to do. I'm really
sorry, although he has chosen to quarrel with me most unreasonably."

"Oh? I wasn't aware. I fancied you would have heard all from him."

"No, not a word--no."

"Lady May was talking to me at Raleigh Court, the day we were there--she
can talk of no one else, poor old thing!--and she said something had
happened to make him and his sister very angry. She would not say what.
She only said, 'You know how very proud they are, and I really think,'
she said, 'they ought to have been very much pleased, for everything, I
think, was most advantageous.' And from this I conclude there must have
been a proposal for Alice; I shall ask her when I see her."

"Yes, I daresay they are proud. Richard Arden told me so. He said that
his family were always considered proud. He was laughing, of course, but
he meant it."

"He's proud of being proud, I daresay. I thought you would be likely to
know whether all they say is true. It would be a great pity he should be
ruined; but, you know, if all the rest is true, there are resources."

Longcluse laughed.

"He has always been very particular and a little tender in that quarter;
very sweet upon Lady May, I thought," said he.

"Oh, very much gone, poor thing!" said Grace Maubray. "I think my
guardian will have heard all about it. He was very angry, once or twice,
with Richard Arden about his losing so much money at play. I believe he
has lost a great deal at different times."

"A great many people do lose money so. For the sake of excitement, they
incur losses, and risk even their utter ruin."

"How foolish!" exclaimed Miss Maubray. "Have you heard anything more
about that affair of Lady Mary Playfair and Captain Mayfair? He is now,
by the death of his cousin, quite sure of the title, they say."

"Yes it must come to him. His uncle has got something wrong with his
leg, a fracture that never united quite; it is an old hurt, and I'm told
he is quite breaking up now. He is at Buxton, and going on to Vichy, if
he lives, poor man."

"Oh, then, there can be no difficulty now."

"No, I heard yesterday it is all settled."

"And what does Caroline Chambray say to that?"

And so on they chatted, till his call was ended, and Mr. Longcluse
walked down the steps with his head pretty busy.

At the corner of a street he took a cab; and as he drove to Lady May's,
those fragments of his short talk with Grace Maubray that most
interested him were tumbling over and over in his mind. "So they are
angry, very angry; and very proud and haughty people. I had no business
dreaming of an alliance with Mr. Richard Arden. Angry, he may be--he may
affect to be--but I don't believe she is. And proud, is he? Proud of her
he might be, but what else has he to boast of? Proud and angry--ha, ha!
Angry and proud. We shall see. Such people sometimes grow suddenly mild
and meek. And she has accepted Lord Wynderbroke. I doubt it. Miss
Maubray, you are such a good-natured girl that, if you suspected the
torture your story inflicted, you would invent it, rather than spare a
fellow-mortal that pang."

In this we know he was a little unjust.

"Well, Miss Arden, I understand your brother; I shall soon understand
_you_. At present I hesitate. Alas! must I place you, too, in the
schedule of my lost friends? Is it come to this?--

    'Once I held thee dear as pearl,
     Now I do abhor thee.'"

Mr. Longcluse's chin rests on his breast as, with a faint smile, he thus
ruminates.

The cab stops. The light frown that had contracted his eyebrows
disappears, he glances quickly up at the drawing-room windows, mounts
the steps, and knocks at the hall door.

"Is Lady May Penrose at home?" he asked.

"I'll inquire, Sir."

Was it fancy, or was there in his reception something a little unusual,
and ominous of exclusion?

He was, notwithstanding, shown up-stairs. Mr. Longcluse enters the
drawing-room: Lady May will see him in a few minutes. He is alone. At
the further end of this room is a smaller one, furnished like the
drawing-room, the same curtains, carpet, and style, but much more minute
and elaborate in ornamentation--an extremely pretty boudoir. He just
peeps in. No, no one there. Then slowly he saunters into the other
drawing-room, picks up a book, lays it down, and looks round. Quite
solitary is this room also. His countenance changes a little. With a
swift, noiseless step, he returns to the room he first entered. There is
a little marqueterie table, to which he directs his steps, just behind
the door from the staircase, under the pretty old buhl clock that ticks
so merrily with its old wheels and lever, exciting the reverential
curiosity of Monsieur Racine, who keeps it in order, and comments on its
antique works with a mysterious smile every time he comes, to any one
who will listen to him. The door is a little bit open. All the better,
Mr. Longcluse will hear any step that approaches. On this little table
lies an open note, hastily thrown there, and the pretty handwriting he
has recognised. He knows it is Alice Arden's. Without the slightest
scruple, this odd gentleman takes it up and reads a bit, and looks
toward the door; reads a little more, and looks again, and so on to the
end.

On the principle that listeners seldom hear good of themselves, Mr.
Longcluse's cautious perusal of another person's letter did not tell him
a pleasant tale.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

WHAT ALICE COULD SAY.


The letter which Mr. Longcluse held before his eyes was destined to
throw a strong light upon the character of Alice Arden's feelings
respecting himself. After a few lines, it went on to say:--"And,
darling, about going to you this evening, I hardly know what to say, or,
I mean, I hardly know how to say it. Mr. Longcluse, you know, may come
in at any moment, and I have quite made up my mind that I cannot know
him. I told you all about the incredible scene in the garden at
Mortlake, and I showed you the very cool letter with which he saw fit to
follow it--and yesterday the scene at the races, by which he contrived
to make everything so uncomfortable--so, my dear creature, I mean to be
cruel, and cut him. I am quite serious. He has not an idea how to behave
himself; and the only way to repair the folly of having made the
acquaintance of such an ill-bred person is, as I said, to cut him--you
must not be angry--and Richard thinks exactly as I do. So, as I long to
see you, and, in fact, can't live away from you very long, we must
contrive some way of meeting now and then, without the risk of being
disturbed by him. In the meantime, you must come more to Mortlake. It is
too bad that an impertinent, conceited man should have caused me all
this very real vexation."

There was but little more, and it did not refer to the only subject that
interested Longcluse just then. He would have liked to read it through
once more, but he thought he heard a step. He let it fall where he had
found it, and walked to the window. Perhaps, if he had read it again, it
would have lost some of the force which a first impression gives to
sentences so terrible; as it was, they glared upon his retina, through
the same exaggerating medium through which his excited imagination and
feelings had scanned them at first.

Lady May entered, and Mr. Longcluse paid his respects, just as usual.
You would not have supposed that anything had occurred to ruffle him.
Lady May was just as affable as usual, but very much graver. She seemed
to have something on her mind, and not to know how to begin.

At length, after some little conversation, which flagged once or twice--

"I have been thinking, Mr. Longcluse, I must have appeared very stupid,"
says Lady May. "I did not ask you to be one of our party to the Derby:
and I think it is always best to be quite frank, and I know you like it
best. I'm afraid there has been some little misunderstanding. I hope in
a short time it will be all got over, and everything quite pleasant
again. But some of our friends--you, no doubt, know more about it than I
do, for I must confess, I don't very well understand it--are vexed at
something that has occurred, and----"

Poor Lady May was obviously struggling with the difficulties of her
explanation, and Mr. Longcluse relieved her.

"Pray, dear Lady May, not a word more; you have always been so kind to
me. Miss Arden and her brother choose to visit me with displeasure. I
have nothing to reproach myself with, except with having misapprehended
the terms on which Miss Arden is pleased to place me. She may however,
be very sure that I sha'n't disturb her happy evenings here, or anywhere
assume my former friendly privileges."

"But Mr. Longcluse, I'm not to lose your acquaintance," said kindly Lady
May, who was disposed to take an indulgent and even a romantic view of
Mr. Longcluse's extravagances. "Perhaps it may be better to avoid a risk
of meeting, under present circumstances; and, therefore, when I'm quite
sure that no such awkwardness can occur, I can easily send you a line,
and you will come if you can. You will do just as it happens to answer
you best at the time."

"It is extremely kind of you, Lady May. My evenings here have been so
very happy that the idea of losing them altogether would make me more
melancholy than I can tell."

"Oh, no, I could not consent to lose you, Mr. Longcluse, and I'm sure
this little quarrel can't last very long. Where people are amiable and
friendly, there may be a misunderstanding, but there can't be a real
quarrel, I maintain."

With this little speech the interview closed, and the gentleman took a
very friendly leave.

Mr. Longcluse was in trouble. Blows had fallen rapidly upon him of late.
But, as light is polarised by encountering certain incidents of
reflection and refraction, grief entering his mind changed its
character.

The only articles of expense in which Mr. Longcluse indulged--and even
in those his indulgence was very moderate--were horses. He was something
of a judge of horses, and had that tendency to form friendships and
intimacies with them which is proper to some minds. One of these he
mounted, and rode away into the country, unattended. He took a long
ride, at first at a tolerably hard pace. He chose the loneliest roads he
could find. His exercise brought him no appetite; the interesting hour
of dinner passed unimproved. The horse was tired now. Longcluse was
slowly returning, and looking listlessly to his right, he thus
soliloquised:--

"Alone again. Not a soul in human shape to disclose my wounds to, not a
soul. This is the way men go mad. He knows too well the torture he
consigns me to. How often has my hand helped him out of the penalties of
the dice-box and betting-book! How wildly have I committed myself to
him!--how madly have I trusted him! How plausibly has he promised. The
confounded miscreant! Has he good-nature, gratitude, justice, honour?
Not a particle. He has betrayed me, slandered me fatally, where only on
earth I dreaded slander, and he knew it; and he has ruined the only good
hope I had on earth. He has launched it: sharp and heavy is the curse.
Wait: it shall find him out. And _she_! I did not think Alice Arden
could have written that letter. My eyes are opened. Well, she has
refused to hear my good angel; the other may speak differently."

He was riding along a narrow old road, with palings, and quaint old
hedgerows, and now and then an old-fashioned brick house, staid and
comfortable, with a cluster of lofty timber embowering it, and chimney
smoke curling cosily over the foliage; and as he rode along, sometimes a
window, with very thick white sashes, and a multitude of very small
panes, sometimes the summit of a gable appeared. The lowing of unseen
cows was heard over the fields, and the whistle of the birds in the
hedges; and behind spread the cloudy sky of sunset, showing a peaceful
old-world scene, in which Izaak Walton's milkmaid might have set down
her pail, and sung her pretty song.

Not another footfall was heard but the clink of his own horse's hoofs
along the narrow road; and, as he looked westward, the flush of the sky
threw an odd sort of fire-light over his death-pale features.

"Time will unroll his book," said Longcluse, dreamily, as he rode
onward, with a loose bridle on his horse's neck, "and my fingers will
trace a name or two on the pages that are passing. That sunset, that
sky--how grand, and glorious, and serene--the same always. Charlemagne
saw it, and the Cæsars saw it, and the Pharaohs saw it, and we see it
to-day. Is it worth while troubling ourselves here? How grand and quiet
nature is, and how beautifully imperturbable! Why not we, who last so
short a time--why not drift on with it, and take the blows that come,
and suffer and enjoy the facts of life, and leave its dreadful dreams
untried? Of all the follies we engage in, what more hollow than
revenge--vainer than wealth?"

Mr. Longcluse was preaching to himself, with the usual success of
preachers. He knew himself what his harangue was driving at, although it
borrowed the vagueness of the sky he was looking on. He fancied that he
was discussing something with himself, which, nevertheless, was
settled--so fixed, indeed, that nothing had power to alter it.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

GENTLEMEN IN TROUBLE.


Mr. Longcluse had now reached a turn in the road, at which stands an old
house that recedes a little way and has four poplars growing in front of
it, two at each side of the door. There are mouldy walls, and gardens,
fruit and vegetables, in the rear, and in one wing of the house the
proprietor is licenced to sell beer and other refreshing drinks. This
quaint greengrocery and pot-house was not flourishing, I conjecture, for
a cab was at the door, and Mr. Goldshed, the eminent Hebrew, on the
steps, apparently on the point of leaving.

He is a short, square man, a little round shouldered. He is very bald,
with coarse, black hair, that might not unsuitably stuff a chair. His
nose is big and drooping, his lips large and moist. He wears a black
satin waistcoat, thrust up into wrinkles by his habit of stuffing his
short hands, bedizened with rings, into his trousers pockets. He has on
a peculiar low-crowned hat. He is smoking a cigar, and talking over his
shoulder, at intervals, in brief sentences that have a harsh, brazen
ring, and are charged with scoff and menace. No game is too small for
Mr. Goldshed's pursuit. He ought to have made two hundred pounds of this
little venture. He has not lost, it is true; but, when all is squared,
he'll not have made a shilling, and that for a Jew, you know, is very
hard to bear.

In the midst of this intermittent snarl, the large, dark eyes of this
man lighted on Mr. Longcluse, and he arrested the sentence that was
about to fly over his shoulder, in the disconsolate faces of the broken
little family in the passage. A smile suddenly beamed all over his dusky
features, his airs of lordship quite forsook him, and he lifted his hat
to the great man with a cringing salutation. The weaker spirit was
overawed by the more potent. It was the catape doing homage to
Mephistopheles, in the witch's chamber.

He shuffled out upon the road, with a lazy smile, lifting his hat again,
and very deferentially greeted "Mishter Longclooshe." He had thrown away
his exhausted cigar, and the red sun glittered in sparkles on the chains
and jewelry that were looped across his wrinkled black satin waistcoat.

"How d'ye do, Mr. Goldshed? Anything particular to say to me?"

"Nothing, no, Mr. Longclooshe. I sposhe you heard of that dip in the
Honduras?"

"They'll get over it, but we sha'n't see them so high again soon. Have
you that cab all to yourself, Mr. Goldshed?"

"No, Shir, my partner'sh with me. He'll be out in a minute; he'sh only
puttin' a chap on to make out an inventory."

"Well, I don't want him. Would you mind walking down the road here, a
couple of hundred steps or so? I have a word for you. Your partner can
overtake you in the cab."

"Shertainly, Mr. Longclooshe, shertainly, Shir."

And he halloed to the cabman to tell the "zhentleman" who was coming out
to overtake him in the cab on the road to town.

This settled, Mr. Longcluse, walking his horse along the road, and his
City acquaintance by his side, slowly made their way towards the City,
casting long shadows over the low fence into the field at their left;
and Mr. Goldshed's stumpy legs were projected across the road in such
slender proportions that he felt for a moment rather slight and elegant,
and was unusually disgusted, when he glanced down upon the substance of
those shadows, at the unnecessarily clumsy style in which Messrs. Shears
and Goslin had cut out his brown trousers.

Mr. Longcluse had a good deal to say when they got on a little. Being
earnest, he stopped his horse; and Mr. Goldshed, forgetting his
reverence in his absorption, placed his broad hand on the horse's
shoulder, as he looked up into Mr. Longcluse's face, and now and then
nodded, or grunted a "Surely." It was not until the shadows had grown
perceptibly longer, until Mr. Longcluse's hat had stolen away to the
gilded stem of the old ash-tree that was in perspective to their left,
and until Mr. Goldshed's legs had grown so taper and elegant as to
amount to the spindle, that the talk ended, and Mr. Longcluse, who was a
little shy of being seen in such company, bid him good evening, and rode
away townward at a brisk trot.

That morning Richard Arden looked as if he had got up after a month's
fever. His dinner had been a pretence, and his breakfast was a sham. His
luck, as he termed it, had got him at last pretty well into a corner.
The placing of the horses was a dreadful record of moral impossibilities
accomplished against him. Five minutes before the start he could have
sold his book for three thousand pounds; five minutes after it no one
would have accepted fifteen thousand to take it off his hands. The
shock, at first a confusion, had grown in the night into ghastly order.
It was all, in the terms of the good old simile, "as plain as a
pike-staff." He simply could not pay. He might sell everything he
possessed, and pay about ten shillings in the pound, and then work his
passage to another country, and become an Australian drayman, or a New
Orleans billiard-marker.

But not pay his bets! And how could he? Ten shillings in the pound? Not
five. He forgot how far he was already involved. What _was_ to become of
him. Breakfast he could eat none. He drank a cup of tea, but his tremors
grew worse. He tried claret, but that, too, was chilly comfort. He was
driven to an experiment he had never ventured before. He had a "nip,"
and another, and with this Dutch courage rallied a little, and was able
to talk to his friend and admirer, Vandeleur, who had made a miniature
book after the pattern of Dick Arden's and had lost some hundreds, which
he did not know how to pay; and who was, in his degree, as miserable as
his chief; for is it not established that--

    "The poor beetle, that we tread upon,
     In corporal sufferance feels a pang as great
     As when a giant dies"?

Young Vandeleur, with light silken hair, and innocent blue eyes, found
his paragon the picture of "grim-visaged, comfortless despair," drumming
a tattoo on the window, in slippers and dressing-gown, without a collar
to his shirt.

"You lost, of course," said Richard savagely; "you followed my lead. Any
fellow that does is sure to lose."

"Yes," answered Vandeleur, "I did, heavily; and, I give you my honour, I
believe I'm ruined."

"How much?"

"Two hundred and forty pounds!"

"_Ruined!_ What nonsense! Who are you? or what the devil are you making
such a row about? Two hundred and forty! How can you be such an ass?
Don't you know it's nothing?"

"Nothing! By Jove! I wish I could see it," said poor Van; "everything's
something to any one, when there's nothing to pay it with. I'm not like
you, you know; I'm awfully poor. I have just a hundred and twenty pounds
from my office, and forty my aunt gives me, and ninety I get from home,
and, upon my honour, that's all; and I owed just a hundred pounds to
some fellows that were growing impertinent. My tailor is sixty-four, and
the rest are trifling, but they were the most impertinent, and I was so
sure of this unfortunate thing that I told them I--really did--to call
next week; and now I suppose it's all up with me, I may as well make a
bolt of it. Instead of having any money to pay them, I'm two hundred and
forty pounds worse than ever. I don't know what on earth to do. Upon my
honour, I haven't an idea."

"I wish we could exchange our accounts," said Richard grimly: "I wish
you owed my sixteen thousand. I think you'd sink through the earth. I
think you'd call for a pistol, and blow"--(he was going to say, "your
brains out," but he would not pay him that compliment)--"blow your head
off."

So it was the old case--"_Enter Tilburina, mad, in white satin; enter
her maid, mad, in white linen._"

And Richard Arden continued--

"What's your aunt good for? You _know_ she will pay that; don't let me
hear a word more about it."

"And your uncle will pay yours, won't he?" said Van, with an innocent
gaze of his azure eyes.

"My uncle has paid some trifles before, but this is too big a thing.
He's tired of me and my cursed misfortunes, and he's not likely to apply
any of his overgrown wealth in relieving a poor tortured beggar like me.
I'm simply ruined."



CHAPTER XXXIX.

BETWEEN FRIENDS.


Van was looking ruefully out of the window, down upon the deserted
pavement opposite. At length he said,--

"And why don't you give your luck a chance?"

"Whenever I give it a chance it hits me so devilish hard," replied
Richard Arden.

"But I mean at play to retrieve," said Van.

"So do I. So I did, last night, and lost another thousand. It is utterly
monstrous."

"By Jove! that is really very extraordinary," exclaimed little Van. "I
tried it, too, last night. Tom Franklyn had some fellows to sup with
him, and I went in, and they were playing loo; and I lost thirty-seven
pounds more!"

"Thirty-seven confounded flea-bites! Why, don't you see how you torture
me with your nonsense? If you can't talk like a man of sense, for
Heaven's sake, shut up, and don't distract me in my misery."

He emphasised the word with a Lilliputian thump with the side of his
fist--that which presents the edge of the doubled-up little finger and
palm--a sort of buffer, which I suppose he thought he might safely apply
to the pane of glass on which he had been drumming. But he hit a little
too hard, or there was a flaw in the glass, for the pane flew out,
touching the window-sill, and alighted in the area with a musical
jingle.

"There! see what you made me do. My luck! Now we can't talk without
those brutes at that open window, over the way, hearing every word we
say. By Jove, it is later than I thought! I did not sleep last night."

"Nor I, a moment," said Van.

"It seems like a week since that accursed race, and I don't know whether
it is morning or evening, or day or night. It is past four, and I must
dress and go to my uncle--he said five. Don't leave me, Van, old fellow!
I think I should cut my throat if I were alone."

"Oh, no, I'll stay with pleasure, although I don't see what comfort
there is in me, for I am about the most miserable dog in London."

"Now don't make a fool of yourself any more," said Richard Arden. "You
have only to tell your aunt, and say that you are a prodigal son, and
that sort of thing, and it will be paid in a week. I look as if I was
going to be hanged--or is it the colour of that glass? I hate it. I'll
leave these cursed lodgings. Did you ever see such a ghost?"

"Well, you do look a trifle seedy: you'll look better when you're
dressed. It's an awful world to live in," said poor Van.

"I'll not be five minutes; you must walk with me a bit of the way. I
wish I had some fellow at my other side who had lost a hundred thousand.
I daresay he'd think me a fool. They say Chiffington lost a hundred and
forty thousand. Perhaps he'd think me as great an ass as I think
you--who knows? I may be making too much of it--and my uncle is so very
rich, and neither wife nor child; and, I give you my honour, I am sick
of the whole thing. I'd never take a card or a dice-box in my hand, or
back a horse, while I live, if I was once fairly out of it. He _might_
try me, don't you think? I'm the only near relation he has on earth--I
don't count my father, for he's--it's a different thing, you know--I and
my sister, just. And, really, it would be nothing to him. And I think he
suspected something about it last night; perhaps he heard a little of
it. And he's rather hot, but he's a good-natured fellow, and he has
commercial ideas about a man's going into the insolvent court; and, by
Jove, you know, I'm ruined, and I don't think he'd like to see our name
disgraced--eh, do you?"

"No, I'm quite sure," said Van. "I thought so all along."

"Peers and peeresses are very fine in their way, and people, whenever
the peers do anything foolish, and throw out a bill, exclaim 'Thank
Heaven we have still a House of Lords!' but you and I, Van, may thank
Heaven for a better estate, the order of aunts and uncles. Do you
remember the man you and I saw in the vaudeville, who exclaims every now
and then, '_Vive mon oncle! Vive ma tante!_'?"

So, in better spirits, Arden prepared to visit his uncle.

"Let us get into a cab; people are staring at you," said Richard Arden,
when they had walked a little way towards his uncle's house. "You look
so utterly ruined, one would think you had swallowed poison, and were
dying by inches, and expected to be in the other world before you
reached your doctor's door. Here's a cab."

They got in, and sitting side by side, said Vandeleur to him, after a
minute's silence,--

"I've been thinking of a thing--why did not you take Mr. Longcluse into
council? He gave you a lift before, don't you remember? and he lost
nothing by it, and made everything smooth. Why don't you look him up?"

"I've been an awful fool, Van."

"How so?"

"I've had a sort of row with Longcluse, and there are reasons--I could
not, at all events, have asked him. It would have been next to
impossible, and now it is _quite_ impossible."

"Why should it be? He seemed to like you; and I venture to say he'd be
very glad to shake hands."

"So he might, but _I_ shouldn't," said Richard imperiously. "No, no,
there's nothing in that. It would take too long to tell; but I should
rather go over the precipice than hold by that stay. I don't know how
long my uncle may keep me. Would you mind waiting for me at my lodgings?
Thompson will give you cigars and brandy and water; and I'll come back
and tell you what my uncle intends."

This appointment made, they parted, and he knocked at his uncle's door.
The sound seemed to echo threateningly at his heart, which sank with a
sudden misgiving.



CHAPTER XL.

AN INTERVIEW IN THE STUDY.


"Is my uncle at home?"

"No, Sir; I expect him at five. It wants about five minutes; but he
desired me to show you, Sir, into the study."

He was now alone in that large square room. The books, each in its
place, in a vellum uniform, with a military precision and
nattiness--seldom disturbed, I fancy, for Uncle David was not much of a
book-worm--chilled him with an aspect of inflexible formality; and the
busts, in cold white marble, standing at intervals on their pedestals,
seemed to have called up looks, like Mrs. Pentweezle, for the occasion.
Demosthenes, with his wrenched neck and square brow, had evidently heard
of his dealings with Lord Pindledykes, and made up his mind, when the
proper time came, to denounce him with a tempest of appropriate
eloquence. There was in Cicero's face, he thought, something satirical
and conceited which was new and odious; and under Plato's external
solemnity he detected a pleasurable and roguish anticipation of the
coming scene.

His uncle was very punctual. A few minutes would see him in the room,
and then two or three sentences would disclose the purpose he meditated.
In the midst of the trepidation which had thus returned, he heard his
uncle's knock at the hall-door, and in another moment he entered the
study.

"How d'ye do, Richard? You're punctual. I wish our meeting was a
pleasanter one. Sit down. You haven't kept faith with me. It is scarcely
a year since, with a large sum of money, such as at your age I should
have thought a fortune, I rescued you from bad hands and a great danger.
Now, Sir, do you remember a promise you then made me? and have you kept
your word?"

"I confess, uncle, I know I can't excuse myself; but I was tempted, and
I am weak--I am a fool, worse than a fool--whatever you please to call
me, and I'm sorry. Can I say more?" pleaded the young man.

"That is saying nothing. It simply means that you do the thing that
pleases you, and break your word where your inclination prompts; and you
are sorry because it has turned out unluckily. I have heard that you are
again in danger. I am not going to help you." His blue eyes looked cold
and hard, and the oblique light showed severe lines at his brows and
mouth. It was a face which, generally kindly, could yet look, on
occasion, stern enough. "Now, observe, I'm not going to help you; I'm
not even going to reason with you--you can do that for yourself, if you
please--I will simply help you with _light_. Thus forewarned, you need
not, of course, answer any one of the questions I am about to put, and
to ask which, I have no other claim than that which rests upon having
put you on your feet, and paid five thousand pounds for you, only a year
ago."

"But I entreat that you do put them. I'm ashamed of myself, dear Uncle
David; I implore of you to ask me whatever you please: I'll answer
everything."

"Well, I think I know everything; Lord Pindledykes makes no secret of
it. He's the man, isn't he?"

"Yes, Sir."

"That's the sallow, dissipated-looking fellow, with the eye that squints
outward. I know his appearance very well; I knew his good-for-nothing
father. No one likes to have transactions with that fellow--he's
shunned--and you chose him, of all people; and he has pigeoned you. I've
heard all about it. Everybody knows by this time. And you have really
lost fifteen thousand pounds to him?"

"I am afraid, uncle, it is very near that."

"This, you know," resumed Uncle David, "is not debt: it is ruin. You
chose to mortgage your reversion to some Jews, for fifteen hundred a
year, during your father's lifetime. Three hundred would have been
ample, with the hundred a year you had before--ample; but you chose to
do it, and the estates, whenever you succeed to them, will come to you
with a very heavy debt charged, for those Jews, upon them. I don't
suppose the estates are destined to continue long in our family; but
this is a vexation which don't touch you, nephew. _I_ am, I confess,
sorry. They were in our family, some of them, before the Conquest. No
matter. What you have to consider is your present position. They will
come to you, if ever, saddled with a heavy debt; and, in the meantime,
you have fifteen hundred a year for your father's life; and I don't
think it will sell for anything like the fifteen thousand pounds you
have just lost. You are therefore insolvent; there is the story told. I
see nothing for it but your becoming formally an insolvent. It is the
_bourgeoisie_ who shrink from that sort of thing; titled men, and men of
pleasure and fashion, don't seem to mind it. There are Lord Harry
Newgate, and the Honourable Alfred Pentonville, and Sir Aymerick Pigeon,
one of the oldest baronets in England, have been in the _Gazette_ within
the last twelve months. The money I paid, on the faith of your promise,
is worse than wasted. I'll pay no more into the pockets of rooks and
scoundrels; I'll divide no more of my money among blackguard jockeys and
villanous peers, simply to defer for a few months the consequences of a
fool's incorrigible folly."

"But, you know, uncle, I was not quite so mad. The thing was a swindle;
it can't stand. The horse was not fairly treated."

"I daresay: I suppose it was doctored. I don't care; I only think that
unless you meant to go in for drugging horses and bribing jockeys, you
had no business among such people, and at that sort of game. All I want
is that you clearly understand that in this matter--though I would
gladly see you safely out of it--I'll waste no more money in paying
gambling debts."

"This might have happened to anyone, Sir; it might indeed, uncle. Every
second man you meet is more or less on the turf, and they never come to
grief by it. No one, of course, can stand against a barefaced swindle,
like this thing."

"I don't care a farthing about other people; I've seen how it tells upon
you. I don't affect to value your promises, Dick; I don't think that
they are worth a shilling. How many have you made me, and broken? To me
it seems the vice is incurable, like drunkenness. Tattersall's, or
whatever is your place of business, is no better than the gin-palace;
and when once a fellow is fairly on the turf, the sooner he is under it,
the better for himself and all who like him. And you have lost money at
play besides. I heard that quite accidentally; and I daresay that is a
ruinous item in what I may call your schedule."

"I know what people are saying; but it isn't so immense a sum, by any
means."

"I'm sorry to hear it. I wish it was enormous; I wish it was a million.
I wish your failure could ruin every blackguard in England: the more
heavily you have hit them all round, the better I am pleased. They hit
you and me, Dick, pretty hard last time; it is our turn now. It is not
my fault now, Dick, if you don't understand me perfectly. If at any
future time I should do anything for you--by my _will_, mind--I shall
take care so to tie it up that you can't make away with a guinea. My
advice is not worth much to you, but I venture to give it, and I think
the best thing you can do is to submit to your misfortune, and file your
schedule; and when you are your own master again, I shall see if I can
manage some small thing for you. You will have to work for your bread,
you know, and you can't expect very much at first; but there are
things--of course, I mean in commercial establishments, and railways,
and that kind of thing--where I have an influence, of from a hundred and
twenty to two hundred pounds a year, and for some of them you would
answer pretty well, and you can tide over the time till you succeed to
the title: and after a little while I may be able to get you raised a
step; and when once you get accustomed to work, you can't think how you
will come to like it. So that, on the whole, the knock you have got may
do you some good, and make you prize your position more when you come to
it. Will you go up-stairs, and take a cup of tea with Miss Maubray?"

He used to call her Grace, when speaking to Richard. Perhaps, in the
concussion of this earthquake, the fabric of a matrimonial scheme may
have fallen to the ground.

Richard Arden was too dejected and too agitated to accept this
invitation, I need hardly tell you. He took his leave, chapfallen.



CHAPTER XLI.

VAN APPOINTS HIMSELF TO A DIPLOMATIC POST.


Mr. Vandeleur had availed himself very freely of Richard Arden's
invitation, to amuse himself during his absence with his cheroots and
manillas, as the clouded state of the atmosphere of his drawing-room
testified to that luckless gentleman--if indeed he was in a condition to
observe anything, on returning from his dreadful interview with his
uncle.

Richard's countenance was full of thunder and disaster. Vandeleur looked
in his face, with his cigar in his fingers, and said in a faint and
hollow tone--

"Well?"

To which inappropriate form of inquiry, Richard Arden deigned no reply;
but in silence stalked to the box of cigars on the table, threw himself
into a chair, and smoked violently for awhile.

Some minutes passed. Vandeleur's eyes were fixed, through the smoke, on
Richard's, who had fixed his on the chimney-piece. Van respected his
ruminations. With a delicate and noiseless attention, indeed, he
ventured to slide gently to his side the water carafe, and the brandy,
and a tumbler.

Still silence prevailed. After a time, Richard Arden poured brandy and
water suddenly into his glass.

"Think of that fellow, that uncle of mine--pretty uncle! Kind
relation--rolling in money! He sends for me simply to tell me that he
won't give me a guinea. He might have waited till he was asked. If he
had nothing better to say, he need not have given me the trouble of
going to his odious, bleak study, to hear all his vulgar advice and
arithmetic, ending in--what do you think? He says that I'm to be had up
in the bankrupt court, and when all that is over he'll get me appointed a
ticket-taker on a railway, or a clerk in a pawn-office, or something. By
Heaven! when I think of it, I wonder how I kept my temper. I'm not quite
driven to those curious expedients, that he seems to think so natural.
I've some cards still left in my hand, and I'll play them first, if it
is the same to him; and, hang it! my luck can't always run the same way.
I'll give it another chance before I give up, and to-morrow morning
things may be very different with me."

"It's an awful pity you quarrelled with Longcluse!" exclaimed Vandeleur.

"That's done, and can't be undone," said Richard Arden, resuming his
cigar.

"I wonder why you quarrelled with him. Why, good heavens! that man is
made of money, and he got you safe out of that fellow's clutches--I
forget his name--about that bet with Mr. Slanter, don't you
remember--and he was so very kind about it; and I'm sure he'd shake
hands if you'd only ask him, and one way or another he'd pull you
through."

"I can't ask him, and I won't; he may ask _me_ if he likes. I'm very
sure there is nothing he would like better, for fifty reasons, than to
be on good terms with me again, and I have no wish to quarrel any more
than he has. But if there is to be a reconciliation, I can't begin it.
He must make the overtures, and that's all."

"He seemed such an awfully jolly fellow that time. And it is such a
frightful state we are both in. I never came such a mucker before in my
life. I know him pretty well. I met him at Lady May Penrose's, and at
the Playfairs', and one night I walked home with him from the opera. It
is an awful pity you are not on terms with him, and--by Jove! I must go
and have something to eat; it is near eight o'clock."

Away went Van, and out of the wreck of his fortune contrived a modest
dinner at Verey's; and pondering, after dinner, upon the awful plight of
himself and his comrade, he came at last to the heroic resolution of
braving the dangers of a visit to Mr. Longcluse, on behalf of his
friend; and as it was now past nine, he hastily paid the waiter, took
his hat, and set out upon his adventure. It was a mere chance, he knew,
and a very unlikely one, his finding Mr. Longcluse at home at that hour.
He knew that he was doing a very odd thing in calling at past nine
o'clock; but the occasion was anomalous, and Mr. Longcluse would
understand. He knocked at the door, and learned from the servant that
his master was engaged with a gentleman in the study, on business. From
this room he heard a voice, faintly discoursing in a deep metallic
drawl.

"Who shall I say, Sir?" asked the servant.

If his mission had been less monotonous, and he less excited and
sanguine as to his diplomatic success, he would have, as he said,
"funked it altogether," and gone away. He hesitated for a moment, and
determined upon the form most likely to procure an interview.

"Say Mr. Vandeleur--a friend of Mr. Richard Arden's; you'll remember,
please--a friend of Mr. Richard Arden's."

In a moment the man returned.

"Will you please to walk up-stairs?" and he showed him into the
drawing-room.

In little more than a minute, Mr. Longcluse himself entered. His eyes
were fixed on the visitor with a rather stern curiosity. Perhaps he had
interpreted the term "friend" a little too technically. He made him a
ceremonious bow, in French fashion, and placed a chair for him.

"I had the pleasure of being introduced to you, Mr. Longcluse, at Lady
May Penrose's. My name is Vandeleur."

"I have had that honour, Mr. Vandeleur, I remember perfectly. The
servant mentioned that you announced yourself as Mr. Arden's friend, if
I don't mistake."



CHAPTER XLII.

DIPLOMACY.


Mr. Vandeleur and Mr. Longcluse were now seated, and the former
gentleman said--

"Yes, I am a friend of Mr. Arden's--so much so, that I have ventured
what I hope you won't think a very impertinent liberty. I was so very
sorry to hear that a misunderstanding had occurred--I did not ask him
about what--and he has been so unlucky about the Derby, you know--I
ought to say that I am, upon my honour, a mere volunteer, so perhaps you
will think I have no right to ask you to listen to me."

"I shall be happy to continue this conversation, Mr. Vandeleur, upon one
condition."

"Pray name it."

"That you report it fully to the gentleman for whom you are so kind as
to interest yourself."

"Yes, I'll certainly do that."

Mr. Longcluse looked by no means so jolly as Van remembered him, and he
thought he detected, at mention of Richard Arden's name, for a moment, a
look of positive malevolence--I can't say absolutely, it may have been
fancy--as he turned quickly, and the light played suddenly on his face.

Mr. Longcluse could, perhaps, dissemble as well as other men; but there
were cases in which he would not be at the trouble to dissemble. And
here his expression was so unpleasant, upon features so strangely marked
and so white, that Van thought the effect ugly, and even ghastly.

"I shall be happy, then, to hear anything you have to say," said
Longcluse gently.

"You are very kind. I was just going to say that he has been so
unlucky--he has lost so much money----"

"I had better say, I think, at once, Mr. Vandeleur, that nothing shall
tempt me to take any part in Mr. Arden's affairs."

Van's mild blue eyes looked on him wonderingly.

"You could be of so much use, Mr. Longcluse!"

"I don't desire to be of any."

"But--but that may be, I think it must, in consequence of the unhappy
estrangement."

He had been conning over phrases on his way, and thought that a pretty
one.

"A very happy estrangement, on the contrary, for the man who is straight
and true, and who is by it relieved of a great--mistake."

"I should be so extremely happy," said Van lingeringly, "if I were
instrumental in inducing both parties to shake hands."

"I don't desire it."

"But, surely, if Richard Arden were the first to offer----"

"I should decline."

Van rose; he fiddled with his hat a little; he hesitated. He had staked
too much on this--for had he not promised to report the whole thing to
Richard Arden, who was not likely to be pleased?--to give up without one
last effort.

"I hope I am not very impertinent," he said, "but I can hardly think,
Mr. Longcluse, that you are quite indifferent to a reconciliation."

"I'm not indifferent--I'm averse to it."

"I don't understand."

"Will you take some tea?"

"No, thanks; I do so hope that I don't quite understand."

"That's hardly my fault; I have spoken very distinctly."

"Then what you wish to convey is----" said Van, with his hand now at the
door.

"Is this," said Longcluse, "that I decline Mr. Arden's acquaintance,
that I won't consider his affairs, and that I peremptorily refuse to be
of the slightest use to him in his difficulties. I hope I am now
sufficiently distinct."

"Oh, perfectly--I----"

"Pray take some tea."

"And my visit is a failure. I'm awfully sorry I can't be of any use!"

"None here, Sir, to Mr. Arden--none, no more than I."

"Then I have only to beg of you to accept my apologies for having given
you a great deal of trouble, and to beg pardon for having disturbed you,
and to say good-night."

"No trouble--none. I am glad everything is clear now. Good-night."

And Mr. Longcluse saw him politely to the door, and said again, in a
clear, stern tone, but with a smile and another bow, "Good-night," as he
parted at the door.

About an hour later a servant arrived with a letter for Mr. Longcluse.
That gentleman recognised the hand, and suspended his business to read
it. He did so with a smile. It was thus expressed:--

    "SIR,

    "I beg to inform you, in the distinctest terms, that neither Mr.
    Vandeleur, nor any other gentleman, had any authority from me to
    enter into any discussion with you, or to make the slightest
    allusion to subjects upon which Mr. Vandeleur, at your desire, tells
    me he, this evening, thought fit to converse with you. And I beg, in
    the most pointed manner, to disavow all connection with, or previous
    knowledge of, that gentleman's visit and conversation. And I do so
    lest Mr. Vandeleur's assertion to the same effect should appear
    imperfect without mine.--I remain, Sir, your obedient servant,

    "RICHARD ARDEN.

    "To Walter Longcluse, Esq."

"Does any one wait for an answer?" he asked, still smiling.

"Yes, Sir: Mr. Thompson, please, Sir."

"Very well; ask him to wait a moment," said he, and he wrote as
follows:--

    "Mr. Longcluse takes the liberty of returning Mr. Arden's letter,
    and begs to decline any correspondence with him."

And this note, with Richard Arden's letter, he enclosed in an envelope,
and addressed to that gentleman.

While this correspondence, by no means friendly, was proceeding, other
letters were interesting, very profoundly, other persons in this drama.

Old David Arden had returned early from a ponderous dinner of the
magnates of that world which interested him more than the world of
fashion, or even of politics, and he was sitting in his study at
half-past ten, about a quarter of a mile westward of Mr. Longcluse's
house in Bolton Street.

Not many letters had come for him by the late post. There were two which
he chose to read forthwith. The rest would, in Swift's phrase, keep
cool, and he could read them before his breakfast in the morning. The
first was a note posted at Islington. He knew his niece's pretty hand.
This was an "advice" from Mortlake. The second which he picked up from
the little pack was a foreign letter, of more than usual bulk.



CHAPTER XLIII.

A LETTER AND A SUMMONS.


Paris? Yes, he knew the hand well. His face darkened a little with a
peculiar anxiety. This he will read first. He draws the candles all
together, near the corner of the table at which he sits. He can't have
too much light on these formal lines, legible and tall as the letters
are. He opens the thin envelope, and reads what follows:--

    "DEAR AND HONOURED SIR,

    "I am in receipt of yours of the 13th instant. You judge me rightly
    in supposing that I have entered on my mission with a willing mind,
    and no thought of sparing myself. On the 11th instant I presented
    the letter you were so good as to provide me with to M. de la
    Perriere. He received me with much consideration in consequence. You
    have not been misinformed with regard to his position. His influence
    is, and so long as the present Cabinet remain in power will continue
    to be, more than sufficient to procure for me the information and
    opportunities you so much desire. He explained to me very fully the
    limits of that assistance which official people here have it in
    their power to afford. Their prerogative is more extensive than with
    us, but at the same time it has its points of circumscription. Every
    private citizen has his well-defined rights, which they can in no
    case invade. He says that had I come armed with affidavits
    criminating any individual, or even justifying a strong and distinct
    suspicion, their powers would be much larger. As it is, he cautions
    me against taking any steps that might alarm Vanboeren. The baron is
    a suspicious man, it seems, and has, moreover, once or twice been
    under official surveillance, which has made him crafty. He is not
    likely to be caught napping. He ostensibly practises the professions
    of a surgeon and dentist. In the latter capacity he has a very
    considerable business. But his principal income is derived, I am
    informed, from sources of a different kind."

"H'm! what can he mean? I suppose he explains a little further on,"
mused Mr. Arden.

    "He is, in short, a practitioner about whom suspicions of an
    infamous kind have prevailed. One branch of his business, a rather
    strange one, has connected him with persons, more considerable in
    number than you would readily believe, who were, or are, political
    refugees."

"Can this noble baron be a distiller of poisons?" David Arden ruminated.

    "In all his other equivocal doings, he found, on the few occasions
    that seemed to threaten danger, mysterious protectors, sufficiently
    powerful to bring him off scot-free. His relations of a political
    character were those which chiefly brought him under the secret
    notice of the police. It is believed that he has amassed a fortune,
    and it is certain that he is about to retire from business. I can
    much better explain to you, when I see you, the remarkable
    circumstances to which I have but alluded. I hope to be in town
    again, and to have the honour of waiting upon you, on Thursday, the
    29th instant."

"Ay, that's the day he named at parting. What a punctual fellow that
is!"

    "They appear to me to have a very distinct bearing upon some
    possible views of the case in which you are so justly interested.
    The Baron Vanboeren is reputed very wealthy, but he is by no means
    liberal in his dealings, and is said to be insatiably avaricious.
    This last quality may make him practicable----"

"Yes, so it may," acquiesced Uncle David.

    "so that disclosures of importance may be obtained, if he be
    approached in the proper manner. Lebas was connected, as a mechanic,
    with the dentistry department of his business. Mr. L---- has been
    extremely kind to Lebas' widow and children, and has settled a small
    annuity upon her, and fifteen hundred francs each upon his
    children."

"Eh? Upon my life, that is very handsome--extremely handsome. It gives
me rather new ideas of this man--that is, if there's nothing odd in it,"
said Mr. Arden.

    "The deed by which he has done all this is, in its reciting part, an
    eccentric one. I waited, as I advised you in mine of the 12th, upon
    M. Arnaud, who is the legal man employed by Madame Lebas, for the
    purpose of handing him the ten napoleons which you were so good as
    to transmit for the use of his family; which sum he has, with many
    thanks on the part of Madame Lebas, declined, and which, therefore,
    I hold still to your credit. When explaining to me that lady's
    reasons for declining your remittance, he requested me to read a
    deed of gift from Mr. Longcluse, making the provisions I have before
    referred to, and reciting, as nearly in these words as I can
    remember:--'Whereas I entertained for the deceased Pierre Lebas, in
    whose house in Paris I lodged when very young, for more than a year
    and a half, a very great respect and regard: and whereas I hold
    myself to have been the innocent cause of his having gone to the
    room, as appears from my evidence, in which, unhappily, he lost his
    life: and whereas I look upon it as a disgrace to our City of London
    that such a crime could have been committed in a place of public
    resort, frequented as that was at the time, without either
    interruption or detection; and whereas, so regarding it, I think
    that such citizens as could well afford to subscribe money,
    adequately to compensate the family of the deceased for the
    pecuniary loss which both his widow and children have sustained by
    reason of his death, were bound to do so; his visit to London having
    been strictly a commercial one; and all persons connected with the
    trade of London being more or less interested in the safety of the
    commercial intercourse between the two countries: and whereas the
    citizens of London have failed, although applied to for the purpose,
    to make any such compensation; now this deed witnesseth,' etc."

"Well, in all that, I certainly go with him. We Londoners ought to be
ashamed of ourselves."

    "The widow has taken her children to Avranches, her native place,
    where she means to live. Please direct me whether I shall proceed
    thither, and also upon what particular points you would wish me to
    interrogate her. I have learned, this moment, that the Baron
    Vanboeren retires in October next. It is thought that he will fix
    his residence after that at Berlin. My informant undertakes to
    advise me of his address, whenever it is absolutely settled. In
    approaching this baron, it is thought you will have to exercise
    caution and dexterity, as he has the reputation of being cunning and
    unscrupulous."

"I'm not good at dealing with such people--I never was. I must engage
some long-headed fellow who understands them," said he.

    "I debit myself with two thousand five hundred francs, the amount of
    your remittance on the 15th inst., for which I will account at
    sight.--I remain, dear and honoured Sir, your attached and most
    obedient servant,

    "CHRISTOPHER BLOUNT."

"I shall learn all he knows in a few days. What is it that deprives me
of quiet till a clue be found to the discovery of Yelland Mace? And why
is it that the fancy has seized me that Mr. Longcluse knows where that
villain may be found? He admitted, in talking to Alice, she says, that
he had seen him in his young days. I will pick up all the facts, and
then consider well all that they may point to. Let us but get the
letters together, and in time we may find out what they spell. Here am
I, a rich but sad old bachelor, having missed for ever the best hope of
my life. Poor Harry long dead, and but one branch of the old tree with
fruit upon it--Reginald, with his two children: Richard, my
nephew--Richard Arden, in a few years the sole representative of the
whole family of Arden, and he such a scamp and fool! If a childless old
fellow could care for such things, it would be enough to break my heart.
And poor little Alice! So affectionate and so beautiful, left, as she
will be, alone, with such a protector as that fellow! I pity her."

At that moment her unopened note caught his eye, as it lay on the table.
He opened it, and read these words:--

    "MY DEAREST UNCLE DAVID,

    "I am so miserable and perplexed, and so utterly without any one to
    befriend or advise me in my present unexpected trouble, that I must
    implore of you to come to Mortlake, if you can, the moment this note
    reaches you. I know how unreasonable and selfish this urgent request
    will appear. But when I shall have told you all that has happened,
    you will say, I know, that I could not have avoided imploring your
    aid. Therefore, I entreat, distracted creature as I am, that you, my
    beloved uncle, will come to aid and counsel me; and believe me when
    I assure you that I am in extreme distress, and without, at this
    moment, any other friend to help me.--Your very unhappy niece,

    "ALICE."

He read this short note over again.

"No; it is not a sick lap-dog, or a saucy maid: there is some real
trouble. Alice has, I think, more sense--I'll go at once. Reginald is
always late, and I shall find them" (he looked at his watch)--"yes, I
shall find them still up at Mortlake."

So instantly he sent for a cab, and pulled on again a pair of boots,
instead of the slippers he had donned, and before five minutes was
driving at a rapid pace towards Mortlake.



CHAPTER XLIV.

THE REASON OF ALICE'S NOTE.


The long drive to Mortlake was expedited by promises to the cabman; for,
in this acquisitive world, nothing for nothing is the ruling law of
reciprocity. It was about half-past eleven o'clock when they reached the
gate of the avenue; it was a still night, and a segment of the moon was
high in the sky, faintly silvering the old fluted piers and urns, and
the edges of the gigantic trees that overhung them. They were now
driving up the avenue. How odd was the transition from the glare and
hurly-burly of the town to the shadowy and silent woodlands on which
this imperfect light fell so picturesquely.

There were associations enough to induce melancholy as he drove through
those neglected scenes, his playground in boyish days, where he, and
Harry whom he loved, had passed so many of the happy days that precede
school. He could hear his laugh floating still among the boughs of the
familiar trees, he could see his handsome face smiling down through the
leaves of the lordly chestnut that stood, at that moment, by the point
of the avenue they were passing, like a forsaken old friend overlooking
the way without a stir.

"I'll follow this clue to the end," said David Arden. "I sha'n't make
much of it, I fear; but if it ends, as others in the same inquiry have,
in smoke, I shall, at least, have done my utmost, and may abandon the
task with a good grace, and conclude that Heaven declines to favour the
pursuit. Taken for all-in-all, he was the best of his generation, and
the fittest to head the house. Something, I thought, was due, in mere
respect to his memory. The coldness of Reginald insulted me. If a
favourite dog had been poisoned, he would have made more exertion to
commit the culprit. And once in pursuit of this dark shadow, how intense
and direful grew the interest of the chase, and---- Here we are at the
hall-door. Don't mind knocking, ring the bell," he said to the driver.

He was himself at the threshold before the door was opened.

"Can I see my brother?" he asked.

"Sir Reginald is in the drawing-room--a small dinner-party to-day,
Sir--Lady May Penrose, and Lady Mary Maypol, they returned to town in
Lady May Penrose's carriage, Lord Wynderbroke remains, Sir, and two
gentlemen; they are at present with Sir Reginald in the smoking-room."

He learned that Miss Arden was alone in the small sitting-room, called
the card-room. David Arden had walked through the vestibule, and into
the capacious hall. The lights were all out, but one.

"Well, I sha'n't disturb him. Is Miss Alice----"

"Yes, Alice is here. It is so kind of you to come!" said a voice he well
knew. "Here I am! Won't you come up to the drawing-room, Uncle David?"

"So you want to consult Uncle David," he said, entering the room, and
looking round. "In my father's time the other drawing-rooms used to be
open; it is a handsome suite--very pretty rooms. But I think you have
been crying, my poor little Alice. What on earth is all this about, my
dear! Here I am, and it is past eleven; so we must come to the point, if
I am to hear it to-night. What is the matter?"

"My dear uncle, I have been so miserable!"

"Well, what is it?" he said, taking a chair; "you have refused some
fellow you like, or accepted some fellow you don't like. I am sure you
are at the bottom of your own misery, foolish little creature! Girls
generally are, I think, the architects of their own penitentiaries. Sit
there, my dear, and if it is anything I can be of the least use in, you
may count on my doing my utmost. Only you must tell me the whole case,
and you mustn't colour it a bit."

So they sat down on a sofa, and Miss Alice told him in her own way that,
to her amazement, that day Lord Wynderbroke had made something very like
a confession of his passion, and an offer of his hand, which this
unsophisticated young lady was on the point of repelling, when Lady May
entered the room, accompanied by her friend, Lady Mary Maypol; and, of
course, the interesting situation, for that time, dissolved. About an
hour after, Alice, who was shocked at the sudden distinction of which
she had become the object, and extremely vexed at the interruption which
had compelled her to suspend her reply, and very anxious for an
opportunity to answer with decision, found that opportunity in a little
saunter which she and the two ladies took in the grounds, accompanied by
Lord Wynderbroke and Sir Reginald.

When the opportunity came, with a common inconsistency, she rather
shrank from the crisis; and a slight uncertainty as to the actual
meaning of the noble lord, rendered her perplexity still more
disagreeable. It occurred thus: the party had walked some little
distance, and when Alice was addressed by her father--

"Here is Wynderbroke, who says he has never seen my Roman inscription!
You, Alice, must do the honours, for I daren't yet venture on the
grass,"--he shrugged and shook his head over his foot--"and I will take
charge of Lady Mary and Lady May, who want to see the Derbyshire
thistles--they have grown so enormous under my gardener's care. You
said, May, the other evening, that you would like to see them."

Lady May acquiesced with true feminine sympathy with the baronet's
stratagem, notwithstanding an imploring glance from Alice! and Lady Mary
Maypol, exchanging a glance with Lady May, expressed equal interest in
the Derbyshire thistles.

"You will find the inscription at the door of the grotto, only twenty
steps from this; it was dug up when my grandfather made the round pond,
with the fountain in it. You'll find us in the garden."

Lord Wynderbroke beamed an insufferable smile on Alice, and said
something pretty that she did not hear. She knew perfectly what was
coming, and although resolved, she was yet in a state of extreme
confusion.

Lord Wynderbroke was talking all the way as they approached the grotto;
but not one word of his harmonious periods did she clearly hear. By the
time they reached the little rocky arch under the evergreens, through
the leaves of which the marble tablet and Roman inscription were
visible, they had each totally forgotten the antiquarian object with
which they had set out.

Lord Wynderbroke came to a standstill, and then with a smiling precision
and distinctness, and in accents that seemed, somehow, to ring through
her head, he made a very explicit declaration and proposal; and during
the entire delivery of this performance, which was neat and lucid rather
than impassioned, she remained tongue-tied, listening as if to a tale
told in a dream.

She withdrew her hand hastily from Lord Wynderbroke's tender pressure,
and the young lady with a sudden effort, replied collectedly enough, in
a way greatly to amaze Lord Wynderbroke.

When she had done, that nobleman was silent for some time, and stood in
the same attitude of attention with which he had heard her. With a
heightened colour he cleared his voice, and his answer, when it came,
was dry and pettish. He thought with great deference, that he was,
perhaps entitled to a little consideration, and it appeared to him that
he had quite unaccountably misunderstood what had seemed the very
distinct language of Sir Reginald. For the present he had no more to
say. He hoped to explain more satisfactorily to Miss Arden, after he had
himself had a few words of explanation, to which he thought he had a
claim, from Sir Reginald; and he must confess that, after the lengths to
which he had been induced to proceed, he was quite taken by surprise,
and inexpressibly wounded by the tone which Miss Arden had adopted.

Side by side, at a somewhat quick pace, Miss Arden with a heightened
colour, and Lord Wynderbroke with his ears tingling, rejoined their
friends.

"Well, my dear child," said Uncle David, with a laugh, "if you have
nothing worse to complain of, though I am very glad to see you, I think
we might have put off our meeting till daylight."

"Oh! but you have not heard half what has happened. He has behaved in
the most cowardly, treacherous, ungentlemanlike way," she continued
vehemently. "Papa sent for me, and I never saw him so angry in my life.
Lord Wynderbroke has been making his unmanly complaints to him, and papa
spoke so violently. And _he_, instead of going away, having had from me
the answer which nothing on earth shall ever induce me to change, _he_
remains here; and actually had the audacity to tell me, very nearly in
so many words, that my decision went for nothing. I spoke to him quite
frankly, but said nothing that was at all rude--nothing that could have
made him the least angry. I implored of him to believe me that I never
could change my mind; and I could not help crying, I was so agitated and
wretched. But he seemed very much vexed, and simply said that he placed
himself entirely in papa's hands. In fact, I've been utterly miserable
and terrified, and I do not know how I can endure those terrible scenes
with papa. The whole thing has come upon me so suddenly. Could you have
imagined any gentleman capable of acting like Lord Wynderbroke--so
selfish, cruel, and dastardly?" and with these words she burst into
tears.

"Do you mean to say that he won't take your refusal?" said her uncle,
looking very angry.

"That is what he says," she sobbed. "He had an opportunity only for a
few words, and that was the purport of them; and I was so astounded, I
could not reply; and, instead of going away, he remains here. Papa and
he have arranged to prolong his visit; so I shall be teased and
frightened, and I am so nervous and agitated; and it is such an
outrage!"

"Now, we must not lose our heads, my dear child; we must consult calmly.
It seems you don't think it possible that you may come to like Lord
Wynderbroke sufficiently to marry him."

"I would rather _die_! If this goes on, I sha'n't stay here. I'd go and
be a governess rather."

"I think you might give my house a trial first," said Uncle David
merrily; "but it is time to talk about that by-and-by. What does May
Penrose think of it? She sometimes, I believe, on an emergency, lights
on a sensible suggestion."

"She had to return to town with Lady Mary, who dined here also; I did
not know she was going until a few minutes before they left. I've been
so _miserably_ unlucky! and I could not make an opportunity without its
seeming so rude to Lady Mary, and I don't know her well enough to tell
her; and, you have no idea, papa is so incensed, and so peremptory; and
what _am_ I to do? Oh! dear uncle, think of something. I know you'll
help me."

"That I will," said the old gentleman. "But allowances are to be made
for a poor old devil so much in love as Lord Wynderbroke."

"I don't think he likes me now--he can't like me," said Alice. "But he
is angry. It is simply pride and vanity. From something papa said, I am
sure of it, Lord Wynderbroke has been telling his friends, and speaking,
I fancy, as if everything was arranged, and he never anticipated that I
could have any mind of my own; and I suppose he thinks he would be
laughed at, and so I am to undergo a persecution, and he won't hear of
anything but what he pleases; and papa is determined to accomplish it.
And, oh! what _am_ I to do?"

"I'll tell you, but you must do exactly as I bid you. Who's there?" he
said suddenly, as Alice's maid opened the door.

"Oh! I beg pardon--Miss Alice, please," she said, dropping a curtsey and
drawing back.

"Don't go," said Uncle David, "we shall want you. What's the matter?"

"Sir Reginald has been took bad with his foot again, please, Miss."

"Nothing serious?" said Uncle David.

"Only pain, please, Sir, in the same place."

"All the better it should fix itself well in his foot. You need not be
uneasy about it, Alice. You and your maid must be in my cab, which is at
the hall door, in five minutes. Take leave of no one, and don't waste
time over finery; just put a few things up, and take your dressing-case;
and you and your maid are coming to town with me. Is my brother in the
drawing-room?"

"No, Sir, please; he is in his own room."

"Are the gentlemen who dined still here?"

"Two left, Sir, when Sir Reginald took ill; but Lord Wynderbroke
remains."

"Oh! and where is he?"

"Sir Reginald sent for him, please, Sir--just as I came up--to his
room."

"Very good, then I shall find them both together. Now, Alice, I must
find you and your maid in the cab in five minutes. I shall get your
leave from Reginald, and you order the fellow to drive down to the
little church gate in the village close by, and I'll walk after and join
you there in a few minutes. Lose no time."

With this parting charge, Uncle David ran down the stairs, and met Lord
Wynderbroke at the foot of them, returning from his visit of charity to
Sir Reginald's room.



CHAPTER XLV.

COLLISION.


"Lord Wynderbroke!" said Uncle David, and bowed rather ceremoniously.

Lord Wynderbroke, a little surprised, extended two fingers and said,
"How d'ye do, Mr. Arden?" and smiled drily, and then seemed disposed to
pass on.

"I beg your pardon, Lord Wynderbroke," said David Arden, "but would you
mind giving me a few minutes? I have something you may think a little
important to say, and if you will allow me, I'll say it in this
room"--he indicated the half-open door of the dining-room, in which
there was still some light--"I shall not detain you long."

The urbane and smiling peer looked on him for a moment--rather
darkly--with a shrewd eye; and he said, still smiling,--

"Certainly, Mr. Arden; but at this hour, and being about to write a
note, you will see that I have very little time indeed--I'm very sorry."

He was speaking stiffly, and any one might have seen that he suspected
nothing very agreeable as the result of Mr. Arden's communication.

When they had got into the dining-room, and the door was closed, Lord
Wynderbroke, with his head a little high, invited Mr. Arden to proceed.

"Then, as you are in a hurry, you'll excuse my going direct to the
point. I've come here in consequence of a note that reached me about an
hour ago, informing me that my niece, Alice Arden, has suffered a great
deal of annoyance. You know, of course, to what I refer?"

"I should extremely regret that the young lady, your niece, should
suffer the least vexation, from any cause; but I should have fancied
that her happiness might be more naturally confided to the keeping of
her father, than of a relation residing in a different house, and by no
means so nearly interested in consulting it."

"I see, Lord Wynderbroke, that I must address you very plainly, and even
coarsely. My brother Reginald does not consult her happiness in this
matter, but merely his own ideas of a desirable family connection. She
is really quite miserable; she has unalterably made up her mind. You'll
not induce her to change it. There is no chance of that. But by
permitting my brother to exercise a pressure in favour of your suit----"

"You'll excuse my interrupting for a moment, to say that there is, and
can be, nothing but the perfectly legitimate influence of a parent.
_Pressure_, there is none--none in the world, Sir; although I am not,
like you, Mr. Arden, a relation--and a very near one--of Sir Reginald
Arden's, I think I can undertake to say that he is quite incapable of
exercising what you call a pressure upon the young lady his daughter;
and I have to beg that you will be so good as to spare me the pain of
hearing that term employed, as you have just now employed it--or _at
all_, Sir, in connection with me. I take the liberty of insisting upon
that, _peremptorily_."

Mr. Arden bowed, and went on:

"And when the young lady distinctly declines the honour you propose, you
persist in paying your addresses, as though her answer meant just
nothing."

"I don't quite know, Sir, why I've listened so long to this kind of
thing from you; you have no right on earth, Sir, to address that sort of
thing to me. How dare you talk to me, Sir, in that--a--a--audacious tone
upon my private affairs and conduct?"

Uncle David was a little fiery, and answered, holding his head high,--

"What I have to say is short and clear. I don't care twopence about your
affairs, or your conduct, but I do very much care about my niece's
happiness; and if you any longer decline to take the answer she has
given you, and continue to cause her the slightest trouble, I'll make it
a personal matter with you. Good-_night_!" he added, with an inflamed
visage, and a stamp on the floor, thundering his valediction. And forth
he went to pay his brief visit to his brother--not caring twopence, as
he said, what Lord Wynderbroke thought of him.

Sir Reginald had got into his dressing-gown. He was not now in any pain
to speak of, and expressed great surprise at the sudden appearance of
his brother.

"You'll take something, won't you?"

"Nothing, thanks," answered David. "I came to beg a favour."

"Oh! did you? You find me very poorly," said the baronet, in a tone that
seemed to imply, "You might easily kill me, by imposing the least
trouble just now."

"You'll be all the better, Reginald, for this little attack; it is so
comfortably established in your foot."

"Comfortably! I wish you felt it," said Sir Reginald, sharply; "and it's
confoundedly late. Why didn't you come to dinner?"

David laughed good-humouredly.

"You forgot, I think, to ask me," said he.

"Well, well, you know there is always a chair and a glass for you; but
won't it do to talk about any cursed thing you wish to-morrow? I--I
never, by any chance, hear anything agreeable. I have been tortured out
of my wits and senses all day long by a tissue of pig-headed,
indescribable frenzy. I vow to Heaven there's a conspiracy to drive me
into a mad-house, or into my grave; and I declare to my Maker, I wish
the first time I'm asleep, some fellow would come in and blow my brains
out on the pillow."

"I don't know an easier death," said David; and his brother, who meant
it to be terrific, did not pretend to hear him. "I have only a word to
say," he continued, "a request you have never refused to other friends,
and, in fact, dear Reginald, I ventured to take it for granted you would
not refuse me; so I have taken Alice into town, to make me a little
visit of a day or two."

"You haven't taken Alice--you don't mean--she's not gone?" exclaimed the
baronet, sitting up with a sudden perpendicularity, and staring at his
brother as if his eyes were about to leap from their sockets.

"I'll take the best care of her. Yes, she _is_ gone," said David.

"But my dear, excellent, worthy--why, curse you, David, you can't
possibly have done anything so clumsy! Why, you forgot that Wynderbroke
is here; how on earth am I to entertain Wynderbroke without her?"

"Why, it is exactly because Lord Wynderbroke is here, that I thought it
the best time for her to make me a visit."

"I protest to Heaven, David, I believe you're deranged! Do you the least
know what you are saying?"

"Perfectly. Now, my dear Reginald, let us look at the matter quietly.
The girl does not like him; she would not marry him, and never will; she
has grown to hate him; his own conduct has made her despise and detest
him; and she's not the kind of girl who would marry for a mere title.
She has unalterably made up her mind; and these are not times when you
can lock a young lady into her room, and starve her into compliance; and
Alice is a spirited girl--all the women of our family were. You're no
goose like Wynderbroke--you only need to know that the girl has quite
made up her mind, or her heart, or her hatred, or whatever it is, and
she won't marry him. It is as well he should know it at first, as at
last; and I don't think, if he were a gentleman, peer though he be, he
would have been in this house to-night. He counted on his title: he was
too sure. I am very proud of Alice. And now he can't bear the
mortification--having, like a fool, disclosed his suit to others before
it had succeeded--of letting the world know he has been refused; and to
this petty vanity he would sacrifice Alice, and prevail on you, if he
could, to bully her into accepting him, a plan in which, if he
perseveres, I have told him he shall, besides failing ridiculously, give
me a meeting; for I will make it a personal quarrel with him."

Sir Reginald sat in his chair, looking very white and wicked, with his
eyes gleaming fire on his brother. He opened his mouth once or twice, to
speak, but only drew a short breath at each attempt.

David Arden rather wondered that his brother took all this so quietly.
If he had observed him a little more closely, he would have seen that
his hands were trembling, and perceived also that he had tried
repeatedly to speak, and that either voice or articulation failed him.
On a sudden he recovered, and regardless of his gout started to his
feet, and limped along the floor, exclaiming,--

"Help us--help us--God help us! What's this? My--my--oh, my God! It's
very bad!" He was stumping round and round the table, near which he had
sat, and restlessly shoving the pamphlets and books hither and thither
as he went. "What have I done to earn this curse?--was ever mortal so
pursued? The last thing, this was; now all's gone--quite gone--it's
over, quite. They've done it--they've done it. _Bravo! bravi tutti!
brava!_ All--all, and everything gone! To think of her--only to think of
her! She was my pet." (And in his bleak, trembling voice, he cried a
horrid curse at her.) "I tell you," he screamed, dashing his hand on the
table, at the other end of which he had arrested his monotonous shuffle
round it, when his brother caught suddenly his vacant eye, "you think,
because I'm down in the world, and you are prosperous, that you can do
as you like. If I was where I should be, you daren't. I'll have her
back, Sir. I'll have the police with you. I'll--I'll indict you--it's a
police-office affair. They'll take her through the streets. Where's the
wretch like her? I charge her--let them take her by the shoulder. And my
son, Richard--to think of him!--the cursed puppy!--his _post obit_! One
foot in the grave, have I? No, I'm not so near smoked out as you take
me--I've a long time for it--I've a long life. I'll live to see him
broken--without a coat to his back--you villanous, swindling dandy, and
I'll----"

His voice got husky, and he struck his thin fist on the table, and clung
to it, and the room was suddenly silent.

David Arden rang the bell violently, and got his arm round his brother,
who shook himself feebly, and shrugged, as if he disdained and hated
that support.

In came Crozier, who looked aghast, but wheeled his easy-chair close to
where he stood, and between them they got him into it, trembling from
head to foot.

Martha Tansey came in and lent her aid, and beckoning her to the door,
David Arden asked her if she thought him very ill.

"I 'a' seen him just so a dozen times over. He'll be well enough, soon,
and if ye knew him as weel in they takins, ye'd ho'd wi' me, there's
nothing more than common in't; he's a bit teathy and short-waisted, and
always was, and that's how he works himself into them fits."

So spoke Tansey, into whose talk, in moments of excitement, returned
something of her old north-country dialect.

"Well, so he was, vexed with me, as with other people, and he has
over-excited himself; but as he has this little gout about him, I may as
well send out his doctor as I return."

This little conversation took place outside Sir Reginald's room-door,
which David did not care to re-enter, as his brother might have again
become furious on seeing him. So he took his leave of Martha Tansey, and
their whispered dialogue ended. One or two sighs and groans showed that
Sir Reginald's energies were returning. David Arden walked quickly
across the vast hall, in which now burned duskily but a single candle,
and let himself out into the clear, cold night; and as he walked down
the broad avenue he congratulated himself on having cut the Gordian
knot, and liberated his niece.

It was a pleasant walk by the narrow road, with its lofty groining of
foliage, down to the village outpost of Islington, where, under the
shadow of the old church-spire, he found his cab waiting, with Alice and
her maid in it.



CHAPTER XLVI.

AN UNKNOWN FRIEND.


As they drove into town, Uncle David was thinking how awkward it would
be if Sir Reginald should have recovered his activity, and dispatched a
messenger to recall Alice, and await their arrival at his door. Well, he
did not want a quarrel; he hated a fracas; but he would not send Alice
back till next morning, come what might; and then he would return with
her, and see Lord Wynderbroke again, and take measures to compel an
immediate renunciation of his suit. As for Reginald, he would find
arguments to reconcile him to the disappointment. At all events, Alice
had thrown herself upon his protection, and he would not surrender her
except on terms.

Uncle David was silent, having all this matter to ruminate upon. He left
a pencilled line for Sir Henry Margate, his brother's physician, and
then drove on towards home.

Turning into Saint James's Street, Alice saw her brother standing at the
side of a crossing, with a great-coat and a white muffler on, the air
being sharp. A couple of carriages drawn up near the pavement, and the
passing of two or three others on the outside, for a moment checked
their progress, and Alice, had not the window been up, could have spoken
to him as they passed. He did not see them, but the light of a lamp was
on his face, and she was shocked to see how ill he looked.

"There is Dick," she said, touching her uncle's arm, "looking so
miserable! Shall we speak to him!"

"No, dear, never mind him--he's well enough." David Arden peeped at his
nephew as they passed. "He is beginning to take an interest in what
really concerns him."

She looked at her uncle, not understanding his meaning.

"We can talk of it another time, dear," he added with a cautionary
glance at the maid, who sat in the corner at the other side.

Richard Arden was on his way to the place where he meant to recover his
losses. He had been playing deep at Colonel Marston's lodgings, but not
yet luckily. He thought he had used his credit there as far as he could
successfully press it.

The polite young men who had their supper there that night, and played
after he left till nearly five o'clock in the morning, knew perfectly
what he had lost at the Derby; but they did not know how perilously, on
the whole, he was already involved. Was Richard Arden, who had lost
nearly seven hundred pounds at Colonel Marston's little gathering,
though he had not paid them yet, now quite desperate? By no means. It is
true he had, while Vandeleur was out, made an excursion to the City,
and, on rather hard terms, secured a loan of three hundred pounds--a
trifle which, if luck favoured, might grow to a fortune; but which, if
it proved contrary, half an hour would see out.

He had locked this up in his desk, as a reserve for a theatre quite
different from Marston's little party; and on his way to that more
public and also more secret haunt, he had called at his lodgings for it.
It was not that small deposit that cheered him, but a curious and
unexpected little note which he found there. It presented by no means a
gentlemanlike exterior. The hand was a round clerk's-hand, with
flourishing capitals, on an oblong blue envelope, with a vulgar little
device. A dun, he took it to be; and he was not immediately relieved
when he read at the foot of it, "Levi." Then he glanced to the top, and
read, "DEAR SIR."

This easy form of address he read with proper disdain.

    "I am instructed by a most respectable party who is desirous to
    assist you, to the figure of £1,000 or upwards, at nominal
    discounts, to meet you and ascertain your wishes thereupon, if
    possible to-night, lest you should suffer inconvenience.

    "Yours truly,
    "ISRAEL LEVI.

    "P.S.--In furtherance of the above, I shall be at Dignum's Divan,
    Strand, from 11 P.M. to-night to 1 A.M."

Here then, at last, was a sail in sight!

With this note in his pocket, he walked direct to the place of
rendezvous, in the Strand. It was on his way that, unseen by him, his
sister and his uncle had observed him, on their drive to David Arden's
house.

There were two friends only whom he strongly suspected of this very
well-timed interposition--there was Lady May Penrose, and there was
Uncle David. Lady May was rich, and quite capable of a generous
sacrifice for him. Uncle David, also rich, would like to show an
intimidating front, as he had done, but would hardly like to see him go
to the wall. There was, I must confess, a trifling bill due to Mr.
Longcluse, who had kindly got or given him cash for it. It was something
less than a hundred pounds--a mere nothing; but in their altered
relations, it would not do to permit any miscarriage of this particular
bill. He might have risked it in the frenzy of play. But to stoop to ask
quarter from Longcluse was more than his pride could endure. No; nor
would the humiliation avail to arrest the consequences of his neglect.
In the general uneasiness and horror of his situation, this little point
was itself a centre of torture, and now his unknown friend had come to
the rescue, and in the golden sunshine of his promise it, like a hundred
minor troubles, was dissolving.

In Pall Mall he jumped into a cab, feeling strangely like himself again.
The lights, the clubs, the well-known perspectives, the stars above him,
and the gliding vehicles and figures that still peopled the streets, had
recovered their old cheery look; he was again in the upper world, and
his dream of misery had broken up and melted. Under the great coloured
lamp, yellow, crimson, and blue, that overhung the pavement, emblazoned
on every side with transparent arabesques, and in gorgeous capitals
proclaiming to all whom it might concern "DIGNUM'S DIVAN," he dismissed
his cab, took his counter in the cigar shop, and entered the great rooms
beyond. The first of these, as many of my readers remember, was as large
as a good-sized Methodist Chapel; and five billiard-tables, under a
blaze of gas, kept the many-coloured balls rolling, and the marker busy,
calling "Blue on brown, and pink your player," and so forth; and
gentlemen young and old, Christians and Hebrews, in their shirt-sleeves,
picked up shillings when they took "lives," or knocked the butts of
their cues fiercely on the floor when they unexpectedly lost them.

Among a very motley crowd, Richard Arden slowly sauntering through the
room found Mr. Levi, whose appearance he already knew, having once or
twice had occasion to consult him financially. His play was over for the
night. The slim little Jew, with black curly head, large fierce black
eyes, and sullen mouth, stood with his hands in his pockets, gaping
luridly over the table where he had just, he observed to his friend
Isaac Blumer, who did not care if he was hanged, "losht sheven pound
sheventeen, ash I'm a shinner!"

Mr. Levi saw Richard Arden approaching, and smiled on him with his wide
show of white fangs. Richard Arden approached Mr. Levi with a grave and
haughty face. Here, to be sure, was nothing but what Horace Walpole used
to call "the mob." Not a human being whom he knew was in the room; still
he would have preferred seeing Mr. Levi at his office; and the audacity
of his presuming to grin in that familiar fashion! He would have liked
to fling one of the billiard-balls in his teeth. In a freezing tone, and
with his head high, he said,--

"I think you are Mr. Levi."

"The shame," responded Levi, still smiling; "and 'ow ish Mr. Harden
thish evening?"

"I had a note from you," said Arden, passing by Mr. Levi's polite
inquiry, "and I should like to know if any of that money you spoke of
may be made available to-night."

"Every shtiver," replied the Jew cheerfully.

"I can have it all? Well, this is rather a noisy place," hesitated
Richard Arden, looking around him.

"I can get into Mishter Dignum's book-offish here, Mr. Harden, and it
won't take a moment. I haven't notes, but I'll give you our cheques, and
there'sh no place in town they won't go down as slick as gold. I'll
fetch you to where there's pen and ink."

"Do so," said he.

In a very small room, where burned a single jet of gas, Mr. Arden signed
a promissory note for, £1,012 10s., for which Mr. Levi handed him
cheques of his firm for £1,000.

Having exchanged these securities, Richard Arden said--

"I wish to put one or two questions to you, Mr. Levi." He glanced at a
clerk who was making "tots" from a huge folio before him, on a slip of
paper, and transferring them to a small book, with great industry.

Levi understood him and beckoned in silence, and when they both stood in
the passage he said--

"If you want a word private with me, Mr. Harden, where there'sh no one
can shee us, you'll be as private as the deshert of Harabia if you walk
round the corner of the shtreet."

Arden nodded, and walked out into the Strand, accompanied by Mr. Levi.
They turned to the left, and a few steps brought them to the corner of
Cecil Street. The street widens a little after you pass its narrow
entrance. It was still enough to justify Mr. Levi's sublime comparison.
The moon shone mistily on the river, which was dotted and streaked, at
its further edge with occasional red lights from windows, relieved by
the black reflected outline of the building which made their
back-ground. At the foot of the street, at that time, stood a clumsy
rail, and Richard Arden leaned his arm on this, as he talked to the Jew,
who had pulled his short cloak about him; and in the faint light he
could not discern his features, near as he stood, except, now and then,
his white eye-balls, faintly, as he turned, or his teeth when he smiled.



CHAPTER XLVII.

BY THE RIVER.


"You mentioned, Mr. Levi, in your note, that you were instructed, by
some person who takes an interest in me, to open this business," said
Richard Arden, in a more conciliatory tone. "Will your instructions
permit you to tell me who that person is?"

"No, no," drawled Mr. Levi, with a slow shake of his head; "I declare to
you sholemnly, Mr. Harden, I couldn't. I'm employed by a third party,
and though I may make a tolerable near guess who's firsht fiddle in the
bishness, I can't shay nothin'."

"Surely you can say this--it is hardly a question, I am so sure of
it--is the friend who lends this money a gentleman?"

"I think the pershon as makesh the advanshe is a bit of a shwell. There,
now, that'sh enough."

"But I said a _gentleman_," persisted Arden.

"You mean to ask, hashn't a lady got nothing to do with it?"

"Well, suppose I do?"

Mr. Levi shook his head slowly, and all his white teeth showed dimly, as
he answered with an unctuous significance that tempted Arden strongly to
pitch him into the river.

"We puts the ladiesh first; ladiesh and shentlemen, that's the way it
goes at the theaytre; if a good-looking chap's a bit in a fix, there'sh
no one like a lady to pull him through."

"I really want to know," said Richard Arden, with difficulty restraining
his fury. "I have some relations who are likely enough to give me a lift
of this kind; some _are_ ladies, and some gentlemen, and I have a right
to know to whom I owe this money."

"To our firm; who elshe? We have took your paper, and you have our
cheques on Childs'."

"_Your_ firm lend money at five per cent.!" said Arden with contempt.
"You forget, Mr. Levi, you mentioned in your note, distinctly, that you
act for another person. Who _is_ that principal for whom you act?"

"I don't know."

"Come, Mr. Levi! you are no simpleton; you may as well tell me--no one
shall be a bit the wiser--for I _will_ know."

"Azh I'm a shinner--as I hope to be shaved----" began Mr. Levi.

"It won't do--you may just as well tell me--out with it!"

"Well, here now; I _don't_ know, but if I did, upon my shoul, I wouldn't
tell you."

"It is pleasant to meet with so much sensitive honour, Mr. Levi," said
Richard Arden very scornfully. "I have nothing particular to say, only
that your firm were mistaken, a little time ago, when they thought that
I was without resources; I've friends, you now perceive, who only need
to learn that I want money, to volunteer assistance. Have you anything
more to say?"

Richard Arden saw the little Jew's fine fangs again displayed in the
faint light, as he thus spoke; but it was only prudent to keep his
temper with this lucky intervenient.

"I have nothing to shay, Mr. Harden, only there'sh more where that came
from, and I may tell you sho, for that'sh no shecret. But don't you go
too fasht, young gentleman--not that you won't get it--but don't you go
too fasht."

"If I should ever ask your advice, it will be upon other things. I'm
giving the lender as good security as I have given to any one else. I
don't see any great wonder in the matter. Good-night," he said
haughtily, not taking the trouble to look over his shoulder as he walked
away.

"Good-night," responded Mr. Levi, taking one of Dignum's cigars from his
waistcoat-pocket, and preparing to light it with a lazy grin, as he
watched the retreating figure lessening in the perspective of the
street, "and take care of yourshelf for my shake, _do_, and don't you be
lettin' all them fine women be throwin' their fortunes like that into
your 'at, and bringin' themshelves to the workus, for love of your
pretty fashe--poor, dear, love-sick little fools! There you go, right
off to Mallet and Turner's, I dareshay, and good luck attend you, for a
reglar lady-killin', 'ansome, sweet-spoken, broken-down jackass!"

At this period of his valediction the vesuvian was applied to his cigar,
and Richard Arden, turning the far corner of the street, escaped the
remainder of his irony, as the Jew, with his hands in his pockets,
sauntered up its quiet pavement, in the direction in which Richard Arden
had just disappeared. It seemed to that young gentleman that his
supplies, no less than thirteen hundred pounds, would all but command
the luck of which, as his spirits rose, he began to feel confident.
"Fellows," he thought, "who have gone in with less than fifty, have come
out, to my knowledge, with thousands; and if less than fifty could do
that, what might not be expected from thirteen hundred?"

He picked up a cab. Never did lover fly more impatiently to the feet of
his mistress than Richard Arden did, that night, to the shrine of the
goddess whom he worshipped.

The muttered scoffs, the dark fiery gaze, the glimmering teeth of this
mocking, malicious little Jew, represented an influence that followed
Richard Arden that night.



CHAPTER XLVIII.

SUDDEN NEWS.


What is luck? Is there such an influence? What type of mind rejects
altogether, and consistently, this law or power? Call it by what name
you will, fate or fortune, did not Napoleon, the man of death and of
action, and did not Swedenborg, the man of quietude and visions,
acknowledge it? Where is the successful gamester who does not "back his
luck," when once it has declared itself, and bow before the storms of
fortune when they in turn have set in? I take Napoleon and
Swedenborg--the man of this visible world, and the man of the invisible
world--as the representatives of extreme types of mind. People who have
looked into Swedenborg's works will remember curious passages on the
subject, and find more dogmatical, and less metaphysical admissions in
Napoleon's conversations everywhere.

In corroboration of this theory, that luck is an element, with its
floods and ebbs, against which it is fatuity to contend, was the result
of Richard Arden's play.

Before half-past two, he had lost every guinea of his treasure. He had
been drinking champagne. He was flushed, dismal, profoundly angry. Hot
and headachy, he was ready to choke with gall. There was a big,
red-headed, vulgar fellow beside him, with a broad-brimmed white hat,
who was stuffing his pockets and piling the table before him, as though
he had found the secret of an "open sesame," and was helping himself
from the sacks of the Forty Thieves.

When Richard had lost his last pound, he would have liked to smash the
gas-lamps and windows, and the white hat and the red head in it, and
roar the blasphemy that rose to his lips. But men can't afford to make
themselves ridiculous, and as he turned about to make his unnoticed
exit, he saw the little Jew, munching a sandwich, with a glass of
champagne beside him.

"I say," said Richard Arden, walking up to the little man, whose big
mouth was full of sandwich, and whose fierce black eyes encountered his
instantaneously, "you don't happen to have a little more, on the same
terms, about you?"

Mr. Levi waited to bolt his sandwich, and then swallow down his
champagne.

"Shave me!" exclaimed he, when this was done. "The thoushand gone! every
rag! and" (glancing at his watch) "only two twenty-five! Won't it be
rayther young, though, backin' such a run o' bad luck, and throwin' good
money after bad, Mr. Harden?"

"That's my affair, I fancy; what I want to know is whether you have got
a few hundreds more, on the same terms--I mean, from the same lender.
Hang it, say yes or no--can't you?"

"Well, Mr. Harden, there's five hundred more--but 'twasn't expected
you'd a' drew it so soon. How much do you say, Mr. Harden?"

"I'll take it all," said Richard Arden. "I wish I could have it without
these blackguards seeing."

"They don't care, blesh ye! if you got it from the old boy himself. That
_is_ a rum un!" There were pen and ink on a small table beside the wall,
at which Mr. Levi began rapidly to fill in the blanks of a bill of
exchange. "Why, there's not one o' them, almost, but takes a hundred now
and then from me, when they runs out a bit too fast. You'd better shay
one month."

"Say two, like the other, and don't keep me waiting."

"You'd better shay one--your friend will think you're going a bit too
quick to the devil. Remember, as your proverb shays, 'taint the thing to
kill the gooshe that laysh the golden eggs--shay one month."

Levi's large black eye was fixed on him, and he added, "If you want it
pushed on a bit when it comes due, there won't be no great trouble about
it, I calculate."

Richard Arden looked at the large fierce eyes that were silently fixed
on him: one of those eyes winked solemnly and significantly.

"Well, what way you like, only be quick," said Richard Arden.

His new sheaf of cheques were quickly turned into counters; and, after
various fluctuations, these counters followed the rest, and in the grey
morning he left that haunt jaded and savage, with just fifteen pounds in
his pocket, the wreck of the large sum which he had borrowed to restore
his fortunes.

It needs some little time to enable a man, who has sustained such a
shock as Richard Arden had, to collect his thoughts and define the
magnitude of his calamity. He let himself in by a latch-key: the grey
light was streaming through the shutters, and turning the chintz pattern
of his window-curtains here and there, in streaks, into transparencies.
He went into his room and swallowed nearly a tumbler of brandy, then
threw off his clothes, drank some more, and fell into a flushed stupor,
rather than a sleep, and lay for hours as still as any dead man on the
field of battle.

Some four hours of this lethargy, and he became conscious, at intervals,
of a sound of footsteps in his room. The shutters were still closed. He
thought he heard a voice say, "Master Richard!" but he was too drowsy,
still, to rouse himself.

At length a hand was laid upon him, and a voice that was familiar to his
ear repeated twice over, more urgently, "Master Richard! Master
Richard!" He was now awake: very dimly, by his bedside, he saw a figure
standing. Again he heard the same words, and wondered, for a few
seconds, where he was.

"That's Crozier talking," said Richard.

"Yes, Sir," said Crozier, in a low tone; "I'm here half-an-hour, Sir,
waiting till you should wake."

"Let in some light; I can't see you."

Crozier opened half the window-shutter, and drew the curtain.

"Are ye ailin', Master Richard--are ye bad, Sir?"

"Ailing--yes, I'm bad enough, as you say--I'm miserable. I don't know
where to turn or what to do. Hold my coat while I count what's in the
pocket. If my father, the old scoundrel----"

"Master Richard, don't ye say the like o' that no more; all's over, this
morning, wi' the old master--Sir Reginald's dead, Sir," said the old
follower, sternly.

"Good God!" cried Richard, starting up in his bed and staring at old
Crozier with a frightened look.

"Ay, Sir," said the old servant, in a low stern tone, "he's gone at
last: he was took just a quarter past five this mornin', by the clock at
Mortlake, about four minutes before St. Paul's chimed the quarter. The
wind being southerly, we heard the chimes. We thought he was all right,
and I did not leave him until half-past twelve o'clock, having given him
his drops, and waited till he went asleep. It was about three he rang
his bell, and in I goes that minute, and finds him sitting up in his
bed, talking quite silly-like about old Wainbridge, the groom, that's
dead and buried, away in Skarkwynd Churchyard, these thirty year."

Crozier paused here. He had been crying hours ago, and his eyes and nose
still showed evidences of that unbecoming weakness. Perhaps he expected
Richard, now Sir Richard Arden, to say something, but nothing came.

"'Tis a change, Sir, and I feel a bit queer; and as I was sayin', when I
went in, 'twas in his head he saw Tom Wainbridge leadin' a horse saddled
and all into the room, and standin' by the side of his bed, with the
bridle in his hand, and holdin' the stirrup for him to mount. 'And what
the devil brings Wainbridge here, when he has his business to mind in
Yorkshire? and where could he find a horse like that beast? He's waiting
for me; I can hear the roarin' brute, and I see Tom's parchment face at
the door--_there_,' he'd say, 'and _there_--where are your eyes,
Crozier, can't you see, man? Don't be afraid--can't you look--and don't
you hear him? Wainbridge's old nonsense.' And he'd laugh a bit to
himself every now and again, and then he'd whimper to me, looking a bit
frightened, 'Get him away, Crozier, will you? He's annoying me, he'll
have me out,' and this sort o' talk he went on wi' for full twenty
minutes. I rang the bell to Mrs. Tansey's room, and when she was come we
agreed to send in the brougham for the doctor. I think he was a bit
wrong i' the garrets, and we were both afraid to let it be no longer."

Crozier paused for a moment, and shook his head.

"We thought he was goin' asleep, but he wasn't. His eyes was half shut,
and his shoulders against the pillows, and Mrs. Tansey was drawin' the
eider-down coverlet over his feet, softly, when all on a sudden--I
thought he was laughin'--a noise like a little flyrin' laugh, and then a
long, frightful yellock, that would make your heart tremble, and awa'
wi' him into one o' them fits, and so from one into another, until when
the doctor came he said he was in an apoplexy; and so, at just a quarter
past five the auld master departed. And I came in to tell you, Sir; and
have you any orders to give me, Master Richard? and I'm going on, I take
it you'd wish me, to your uncle, Mr. David, and little Miss Alice, that
han't heard nout o' the matter yet."

"Yes, Crozier--go," said Richard Arden, staring on him as if his soul
was in his eyes; and, after a pause, with an effort, he added--"I'll
call there as I go on to Mortlake; tell them I'll see them on my way."

When Crozier was gone, Richard Arden got up, threw his dressing-gown
about him, and sat on the side of his bed, feeling very faint. A sudden
gush of tears relieved the strange paroxysm. Then come other emotions
less unselfish. He dressed hastily. He was too much excited to make a
breakfast. He drank a cup of coffee, and drove to Uncle David's house.



CHAPTER XLIX.

VOWS FOR THE FUTURE.


As he drove to his uncle's house, he was tumbling over facts and
figures, in the endeavour to arrive at some conclusion as to how he
stood in the balance-sheet that must now be worked out. What a thing
that _post-obit_ had turned out! Those cursed Jews who had dealt with
him must have known ever so much more about his poor father's health
than he did. They are such fellows to worm out the secrets of a
family--all through one's own servants, and doctors, and apothecaries.
The spies! They stick at nothing--such liars! How they pretended to wish
to be off! What torture they kept him in! How they talked of the old
man's nervous fibre, and pretended to think he would live for twenty
years to come!

"And the deed was not six weeks signed when I found out he had those
epileptic fits, and they knew it, the wretches!--and so I've been hit
for that huge sum of money. And there is interest, two years' nearly, on
that other charge, and that swindle that half ruined me on the Derby.
And there are those bills that Levi has got, but that is only fifteen
hundred, and I can manage that any time, and a few other trifles."

And he thought what yeoman's service Longcluse might and _would_ have
rendered him in this situation. How translucent the whole opaque
complexity would have become in a hour or two, and at what easy interest
he would have procured him funds to adjust these complications! But
here, too, fortune had dealt maliciously. What a piece of cross-grained
luck that Longcluse should have chosen to fall in love with Alice! And
now they two had exchanged, not shots, but insults, harder to forgive.
And that officious fool, Vandeleur, had laid him open to a more direct
and humiliating affront than had before befallen him. Henceforward,
between him and Longcluse no reconciliation was possible. Fiery and
proud by nature was this Richard Arden, and resentful. In Yorkshire the
family had been accounted a vindictive race. I don't know. I have only
to do with those inheritors of the name who figure in this story.

There remained an able accountant and influential man on 'Change, on
whose services he might implicitly reckon--his uncle, David Arden. But
he was separated from him by the undefinable chasm of years--the want of
sympathy, the sense of authority. He would take not only the management
of this financial adjustment, but the carriage of the future of this
young, handsome, full-blooded fellow, who had certainly no wish to take
unto himself a Mentor.

Here have been projected on this page, as in the disk of an oxy-hydrogen
microscope, some of the small and active thoughts that swarmed almost
unsuspected in Richard Arden's mind. But it would be injustice to Sir
Richard Arden (we may as well let him enjoy at once the title which
stately Death has just presented him with--it seems to me a mocking
obeisance) to pretend that higher and kinder feelings had no place in
his heart.

Suddenly redeemed from ruin, suddenly shocked by an awful spectacle, a
disturbance of old associations where there had once been kindness,
where estrangements and enmity had succeeded: there was in all this
something moving and agitating, that stirred his affections strangely
when he saw his sister.

David Arden had left his house an hour before the news reached its
inmates. Sir Richard was shown to the drawing-room, where there was no
one to receive him; and in a minute Alice, looking very pale and
miserable, entered, and running up to him, without saying a word threw
her arms about his neck, and sobbed piteously.

Her brother was moved. He folded her to his heart. Broken and hurried
words of tenderness and affection he spoke, as he kissed her again and
again. Henceforward he would live a better and wiser life. He had tasted
the dangers and miseries that attend on play. He swore he would give it
up. He had done with the follies of his youth. But for years he had not
had a home. He was thrown into the thick of temptation. A fellow who had
no home was so likely to amuse himself with play; and he had suffered
enough to make him hate it, and she should see what a brother he would
be, henceforward, to her.

Alice's heart was bursting with self-reproach; she told Richard the
whole story of her trouble of the day before, and the circumstances of
her departure from Mortlake, all in an agony of tears; and declared, as
young ladies often have done before, that she never could be happy
again.

He was disappointed, but generous and gentle feelings had been stirred
within him.

"Don't reproach yourself, darling; that is mere folly. The entire
responsibility of your leaving Mortlake belongs to my uncle; and about
Wynderbroke, you must not torment yourself; you had a right to a voice
in the matter, surely, and I daresay you would not be happier now if you
had been less decided, and found yourself at this moment committed to
marry him. I have more reason to upbraid myself, but I'm sure I was
right, though I sometimes lost my temper; I know my Uncle David thinks I
was right; but there is no use now in thinking more about it; right or
wrong, it is all over, and I won't distract myself uselessly. I'll try
to be a better brother to you than I ever _have_ been; and I'll make
Mortlake our head-quarters: or we'll live, if you like it better, at
Arden Manor, or I'll go abroad with you. I'll lay myself out to make you
happy. One thing I'm resolved on, and that is to give up play, and find
some manly and useful pursuit; and you'll see I'll do you some credit
yet, or at least, as a country squire, do some little good, and be not
quite useless in my generation; and I'll do my best, dear Alice, to make
you a happy home, and to be all that I ought to be to you, my darling."

Very affectionately he both spoke and felt, and left Alice with some of
her anxieties lightened, and already more interest in the future than
she had thought possible an hour before.

Richard Arden had a good deal upon his hands that morning. He had money
liabilities that were urgent. He had to catch his friend Mardykes at his
lodgings, and get him to see the people in whose betting-books he stood
for large figures, to represent to them what had happened, and assure
them that a few days should see all settled. Then he had to go to the
office of his father's attorney, and learn whether a will was
forthcoming; then to consult with his own attorney, and finally to
follow his uncle, David Arden, from place to place, and find him at last
at home, and talk over details, and advise with him generally about many
things, but particularly about the further dispositions respecting the
funeral; for a little note from his Uncle David had offered to relieve
him of the direction of those hateful details transacted with the
undertaker, which every one is glad to depute.



CHAPTER L.

UNCLE DAVID'S SUSPICIONS.


Mr. David Arden, therefore, had made a call at the office of Paller,
Crapely, Plumes, and Co., eminent undertakers in the most
gentleman-like, and, indeed, aristocratic line of business, with immense
resources at command, and who would undertake to bury a duke, with all
the necessary draperies, properties, and _dramatis personæ_, if
required, before his grace was cold in his bed.

A little dialogue occurred here, which highly interested Uncle David. A
stout gentleman, with a muddy and melancholy countenance, and a sad
suavity of manner, and in the perennial mourning that belongs to
gentlemen of his doleful profession, presents himself to David Arden, to
receive his instructions respecting the deceased baronet's obsequies.
The top of his head is bald, his face is furrowed and baggy; he looks
fully sixty-five, and he announces himself as the junior partner, Plumes
by name.

Having made his suggestions and his notes, and taken his order for a
strictly private funeral in the neighbourhood of London, Mr. Plumes
thoughtfully observes that he remembers the name well, having been
similarly employed for another member of the same family.

"Ah! How was that? How long ago?" asked Mr. Arden.

"About twenty years, Sir."

"And where was that funeral?"

"The same place, Sir, Mortlake."

"Yes, I know that was----?"

"It was Mr. 'Enry, or rayther 'Arry Harden. We 'ad to take back the
plate, Sir, and change 'Enry to 'Arry--'Arry being the name he was
baptised by. There was a hinquest connected with that horder."

"So there was, Mr. Plumes," said Uncle David with awakened interest, for
that gentleman spoke as if he had something more to say on the subject.

"There was, Sir,--and it affected me very sensibly. My niece, Sir, had a
wery narrow escape."

"Your niece! Really? How could that be?"

"There was a Mister Yelland Mace, Sir, who paid his haddresses to her,
and I do believe, Sir, she rayther liked him. I don't know, I'm sure,
whether he was serious in 'is haddresses, but it looked very like as if
he meant to speak; though I do suppose he was looking 'igher for a wife.
Well, he was believed to 'ave 'ad an 'and in that 'orrible business."

"I know--so he undoubtably had--and the poor young lady, I suppose, was
greatly shocked and distressed."

"Yes, Sir, and she died about a year after."

David Arden expressed his regret, and then he asked--

"You have often seen that man, Yelland Mace?"

"Not often, Sir."

"You remember his face pretty well, I daresay?"

"Well, no, Sir, not very well. It is a long time."

"Do you recollect whether there was anything noticeable in his
features?--had he, for instance, a remarkably prominent nose?"

"I don't remember that he 'ad, Sir. I rather think not, but I can't by
no means say for certain. It is a long time, and I 'aven't much of a
memory for faces. There is a likeness of him among my poor niece's
letters."

"Really? I should be so much obliged if you would allow me to see it."

"It is at 'ome, Sir, but I shall be 'ome to dinner before I go out to
Mortlake; and, if you please, I shall borrow it of my sister, and take
it with me."

This offer David Arden gladly accepted.

When the events were recent, he could have no difficulty in identifying
Yelland Mace, by the evidence of fifty witnesses, if necessary. But it
was another thing now. The lapse of time had made matters very
different. It was recent impressions of a vague kind about Mr. Longcluse
that had revived the idea, and prompted a renewal of the search. Martha
Tansey was aged now, and he had misgivings about the accuracy of her
recollection. Was it possible, after all, that he was about to see that
which would corroborate his first vague suspicions?

Sir Richard had a busy and rather harassing day, the first of his
succession to an old title and a new authority, and he was not sorry
when it closed. He had stolen about from place to place in a hired cab,
and leaned back to avoid a chance recognition, like an absconding
debtor; and had talked with the people whom he was obliged to call on
and see, in low and hurried colloquy, through the window of the cab. And
now night had fallen, the lamps were glaring, and tired enough he
returned to his lodgings, sent for his tailor, and arranged promptly
about the

    "----inky cloak, good mother,
     And customary suits of solemn black;"

and that done, he wrote two or three notes to kindred in Yorkshire, with
whom it behoved him to stand on good terms; and then he determined to
drive out to Mortlake Hall. An unpleasant mixture of feelings was in his
mind as he thought of that visit, and the cold tenant of the ancestral
house, whom in the grim dignity of death, it would not have been seemly
to leave for a whole day and night unvisited. It was to him a repulsive
visit, but how could he postpone it?

Behold him, then, leaning back in his cab, and driving through glaring
lamps, and dingy shops, and narrow ill-thriven streets, eastward and
northward; and now, through the little antique village, with trembling
lights, and by the faded splendours of the "Guy of Warwick." And he sat
up and looked out of the windows, as they entered the narrow road that
is darkened by the tall overhanging timber of Mortlake grounds.

Now they are driving up the broad avenue, with its noble old trees
clumped at either side; and with a shudder Sir Richard Arden leans back
and moves no more until the cab pulls up at the door-steps, and the
knock sounds through hall and passages, which he dared not so have
disturbed, uninvited, a day or two before. Crozier ran down the steps to
greet Master Richard.

"How are you, old Crozier?" he said, shaking hands from the cab-window,
for somehow he liked to postpone entering the house as long as he could.
"I could not come earlier. I have been detained in town all day by
business, of various kinds, connected with this." And he moved his hand
toward the open hall-door, with a gloomy nod or two. "How is Martha?"

"Tolerable, Sir, thankye, considerin'. It's a great upset to her."

"Yes, poor thing, of course. And has Mr. Paller been here--the person
who is to--to----"

"The undertaker? Yes, Sir, he was here at two o'clock, and some of the
people has been busy in the room, and his men has come out again with
the coffin, Sir. I think they'll soon be leaving; they've been here a
quarter of an hour, and--if I may make bold to ask, Sir,--what day will
the funeral be?"

"I don't know myself, Crozier; I must settle that with my uncle. He said
he thought he would come here himself this evening, at about nine, and
it must be very near that now. Where is Martha?"

"In her room, Sir, I think."

"I won't see her there. Ask her to come to the oak-room."

Richard got out and entered the house of which he was now the master,
with an oppressive misgiving.

The oak-parlour was a fine old room, and into the panels were set four
full-length portraits. Two of these were a lady and gentleman, in the
costume of the beginning of Charles the Second's reign. The lady held an
Italian greyhound by a blue ribbon, and the gentleman stood booted for
the field, and falcon on fist. It struck Richard, for the first time,
how wonderfully like Alice that portrait of the beautiful lady was. He
raised the candle to examine it. There was a story about this lady. She
had been compelled to marry the companion portrait, with the hawk on his
hand, and those beautiful lips had dropped a curse, in her despair, when
she was dying, childless, and wild with grief. She prayed that no
daughter of the house of Arden might ever wed the man of her love, and
it was said that a fatality had pursued the ladies of that family, which
looked like the accomplishment of the malediction; and a great deal of
curious family lore was connected with this legend and portrait.

As he held the candle up to this picture, still scanning its features,
the door slowly opened, and Martha Tansey, arrayed in a black silk dress
of a fashion some twenty years out of date, came in. He set down the
candle, and took the old woman's hand, and greeted her very kindly.

"How's a' wi' you, Master Richard? A dowly house ye've come too. Ye
didna look to see this sa soon?"

"Very sudden, Martha--awfully sudden. I could not let the day pass
without coming out to see you."

"Not me, Master Richard, but to ha'e a last look at the face of the
father that begot ye. He'll be shrouded and coffined by this time--the
light 'ill not be lang on that face. The lid will be aboon it and
screwed down to-morrow, I dar' say. Ay, there goes the undertaker's men;
and there's a man from Mr. Paller--Mr. Plumes is his name--that says
he'll stay till your Uncle David comes, for he told him he had something
very particular to say to him; and I desired him to wait in my room
after his business about the poor master was over; and the a'ad things
is passin' awa' and it's time auld Martha was fittin' herself."

"Don't say that, Martha, unless you would have me think you expect to
find me less kind than my father was."

"There's good and there's bad in every one, Master Richard. Ye can't
take it in meal and take it in malt. A bit short-waisted he was, there's
no denyin', and a sharp word now and again; but none so hard to live wi'
as many a one that was cooler-tempered, and more mealy-mouthed; and I
think ye were o'er hard wi' him, Master Richard. Ye should have opened
the estate. It was that killed him," she continued considerately. "Ye
broke his heart, Master Richard; he was never the same man after he fell
out wi' you."

"Some day, Martha, you'll learn all about it," said he gently. "It was
no fault of mine--ask my Uncle David. I'm not the person to persuade
you; and, beside, I have not courage to talk over that cruel quarrel
now."

"Come and see him," said the old woman grimly, taking up the candle.

"No, Martha, no; set it down again--I'll not go."

"And when will you see him?"

"Another time--not now--I can't."

"He's laid in his coffin now; they'll be out again in the mornin'. If
you don't see him now, ye'll never see him; and what will the folk down
in Yorkshire say, when it's told at Arden Court that Master Richard
never looked on his dead father's face, nor saw more of him after his
flittin' than the plate on his coffin. By Jen! 'twill stir the blood o'
the old tenants and gar them clench their fists and swear, I warrant, at
the very sound o' yer name; for there never was an Arden died yet, at
Arden Court, but he was waked, and treated wi' every respect, and
visited by every living soul of his kindred, for ten mile round."

"If you think so, Martha, say no more. I'll--go as well now as another
time--and, as you say, sooner or later it must be done."



CHAPTER LI.

THE SILHOUETTE.


"He's lookin' very nice and like himself," mumbled the old woman, as she
led the way.

At the open door of Sir Reginald's room stood Mr. Plumes, in
professional black with a pensive and solemn countenance, intending
politely to do the honours.

"Thank you, Sir," said the old woman graciously, taking the lead in the
proceedings. "This is the young master, and he won't mind troublin' you,
Mr. Plumes. If you please to go to my room, Sir, the third door on the
right, you'll find tea made, Sir; and Mr. Crozier, I think, will be
there."

And having thus disposed of the stranger, they entered the room, in
which candles were burning.

Sir Reginald had, as it were, already made dispositions for his final
journey. He had left his bed, and lay instead, in the handsomely
upholstered coffin which stood on tressels beside it. Thin and fixed
were the cold, earthly features that looked upward from their white
trimmings. Sir Richard Arden checked his step and held his breath as he
came in sight of these stern lineaments. The pale light that surrounds
the dead face of the martyr was wanting here: in its stead, upon selfish
lines and contracted features, a shadow stood.

Mrs. Tansey, with a feather-brush placed near, drove away a fly that was
trying to alight on the still face.

"I mind him when he was a boy," she said, with a groan and a shake of
the head. "There was but six years between us, and the life that's ended
is but a dream, all like yesterday--nothing to look back on; and, I'm
sure, if there's rest for them that has been troubled on earth, he's
happy now: a blessed change 'twill be."

"Yes, Martha, we all have our troubles."

"Ay, it's well to know that in time: the young seldom does," she
answered sardonically.

"I'll go, Martha. I'll return to the oak-room. I wish my uncle were
come."

"Well, you have took your last look, and that's but decent, and---- Dear
me, Master Richard, you do look bad!"

"I feel a little faint, Martha. I'll go there; and will you give me a
glass of sherry?"

He waited at the room door, while Martha nimbly ran to her room, and
returned with some sherry and a wine-glass. He had hardly taken a glass,
and begun to feel himself better, when David Arden's step was heard
approaching from the hall. He greeted his nephew and Martha in a hushed
undertone, as he might in church; and then, as people will enter such
rooms, he passed in and crossed with a very soft tread, and said a word
or two in whispers. You would have thought that Sir Reginald was tasting
the sweet slumber of precarious convalescence, so tremendously does
death simulate sleep.

When Uncle David followed his nephew to the oak-room, where the servants
had now placed candles, he appeared a little paler, as a man might who
had just witnessed an operation. He looked through the unclosed shutters
on the dark scene; then he turned, and placed his hand kindly on his
nephew's arm, and said he, with a sigh--

"Well, Dick, you're the head of the house now; don't run the old ship on
the rocks. Remember, it is an old name, and, above all, remember, that
Alice is thrown upon your protection. Be a good brother, Dick. She is a
true-hearted, affectionate creature: be you the same to her. You can't
do your duty by her unless you do it also by yourself. For the first
time in your life, a momentous responsibility devolves upon you. In
God's name, Dick, give up play and do your duty!"

"I have learned a lesson, uncle; I have not suffered in vain. I'll never
take a dice-box in my hand again; I'd as soon take a burning coal. I
shall never back a horse again while I live. I am quite cured, thank
God, of that madness. I sha'n't talk about it; let time declare how I am
changed."

"I am glad to hear you speak so. You are right, that is the true test.
Spoken like a man!" said Uncle David, and he took his hand very kindly.

The entrance of Martha Tansey at this moment gave the talk a new turn.

"By-the-bye, Martha," said he, "has Mr. Plumes come? He said he would be
here at eight o'clock."

"He's waitin', Sir; and 'twas to tell you so I came in. Shall I tell him
to come here?"

"I asked him to come, Dick; I knew you would allow me. He has some
information to give me respecting the wretch who murdered your poor
Uncle Harry."

"May I remain?" asked Richard.

"Do; certainly."

"Then, Martha, will you tell him to come here?" said Richard, and in
another minute the sable garments and melancholy visage of Mr. Plumes
entered the room slowly.

When Mr. Plumes was seated, he said, with much deliberation, in reply to
Uncle David's question--

"Yes, Sir, I have brought it with me. You said, I think, you wished me
to fetch it, and as my sister was at home, she hobleeged me with a loan
of it. It belonged, you may remember, to her deceased daughter--my
niece. I have got it in my breast-pocket; perhaps you would wish me now
to take it hout?"

"I'm most anxious to look at it," said Uncle David, approaching with
extended hand. "You said you had seen him; was this a good likeness?"

These questions and the answers to them occupied the time during which
Mr. Plumes, whose proceedings were slow as a funeral, disengaged the
square parcel in question from his pocket, and then went on to loosen
the knots in the tape which tied it up, and afterwards to unfold the
wrappings of paper which enveloped it.

"I don't remember him well enough, only that he was good-looking. And
this was took by machinery, and it _must_ be like. The ball and socket
they called it. It must be hexact, Sir."

So saying, he produced a square black leather case, which being opened
displayed a black profile, the hair and whiskers being indicated by a
sort of gilding which, laid upon sable, reminded one of the decorations
of a coffin, and harmonised cheerfully with Mr. Plumes' profession.

"Oh!" exclaimed Uncle David with considerable disappointment, "I thought
it was a miniature; this is only a silhouette; but you are sure it _is_
the profile of Yelland Mace?"

"That is certain, Sir. His name is on the back of it, and she kept it,
poor young woman! with a lock of his 'air and some hother relics in her
work-box."

By this time Uncle David was examining it with deep interest. The
outline demolished all his fancies about Mr. Longcluse. The nose, though
delicately formed, was decidedly the ruling feature of the face. It was
rather a parrot face, but with a good forehead. David Arden was
disappointed. He handed it to his nephew.

"That is a kind of face one would easily remember," he observed to
Richard as he looked. "It is not like any one that I know, or _ever_
knew."

"No," said Richard; "I don't recollect any one the least like it." And
he replaced it in his uncle's hand.

"We are very much obliged to you, Mr. Plumes; it was your mention of it
this morning, and my great anxiety to discover all I can respecting that
man, Yelland Mace, that induced me to make the request. Thank you very
much," said old Mr. Arden, placing the profile in the fat fingers of Mr.
Plumes. "You must take a glass of sherry before you leave. And have you
got a cab to return in?"

"The men are waiting for me, I thank you, and I have just 'ad my tea,
Sir, much obleeged, and I think I had best return to town, gentlemen, as
I have some few words to say to-night to our Mr. Trimmer; so, with your
leave, gentlemen, I'll wish you good-night."

And with a solemn bow, first to Mr. Arden, then to the young scion of
the house, and lastly a general bow to both, that grave gentleman
withdrew.

"I could see no likeness in that thing to any one," repeated old Mr.
Arden. "Mr. Longcluse is a friend of yours?" he added a little abruptly.

"I can't say he was a friend; he was an acquaintance, but even that is
quite ended."

"What! you don't know him any longer?"

"No."

"You're quite sure!"

"Perfectly."

"Then I may say I'm very glad. I don't like him, and I can't say why;
but I can't help connecting him with your poor uncle's death. I must
have dreamed about him and forgot the dream, while the impression
continues; for I cannot discover in any fact within my knowledge the
slightest justification for the unpleasant persuasion that constantly
returns to my mind. I could not trace a likeness to him in that
silhouette."

He looked at his nephew, who returned his steady look with one of utter
surprise.

"Oh, dear! no. There is not a vestige of a resemblance," said Richard.
"I know his features very well."

"No," said Uncle David, lowering his eyes to the table, on which he was
tapping gently with his fingers; "no, there certainly is not--not any.
But I can't dismiss the suspicion. I can't get it out of my head,
Richard, and yet I can't account for it," he said, raising his eyes to
his nephew's. "There is something in it; I could not else be so
haunted."



CHAPTER LII.

MR. LONGCLUSE EMPLOYED.


The funeral was not to be for some days, and then to be conducted in the
quietest manner possible. Sir Reginald was to be buried in a small vault
under the little church, whose steeple cast its shadow every sunny
evening across the garden-hedges of the "Guy of Warwick," and could be
seen to the left from the door of Mortlake Hall, among distant trees.
Further it was settled by Richard Arden and his uncle, on putting their
heads together, that the funeral was to take place after dark in the
evening; and even the undertaker's people were kept in ignorance of the
exact day and hour.

In the meantime, Mr. Longcluse did not trouble any member of the family
with his condolences or inquiries. As a raven perched on a solitary
bough surveys the country round, and observes many things--very little
noticed himself--so Mr. Longcluse made his observations from his own
perch and in his own way. Perhaps he was a little surprised on receiving
from Lady May Penrose a note, in the following terms:--

    "DEAR MR. LONGCLUSE,

    "I have just heard something that troubles me; and as I know of no
    one who would more readily do me a kindness, I hope you won't think
    me very troublesome if I beg of you to make me a call to-morrow
    morning, at any time before twelve.

    "Ever yours sincerely,
    "MAY PENROSE."

Mr. Longcluse smiled darkly, as he read this note again. "It is better
to be sought after than to offer one's self."

Accordingly, next morning, Mr. Longcluse presented himself in Lady May's
drawing-room; and after a little waiting, that good-natured lady entered
the room. She liked to make herself miserable about the troubles of her
friends, and on this occasion, on entering the door, she lifted her
hands and eyes, and quickened her step towards Mr. Longcluse, who
advanced a step or two to meet her.

"Oh! Mr. Longcluse, it is so kind of you to come," she exclaimed; "I am
in such a sea of troubles! and you are such a friend, I know I may tell
you. You have heard, of course, of poor Reginald's death. How horribly
sudden!--shocking! and dear Alice is so broken by it! He had been, the
day before, so cross--poor Reginald, everybody knows he had a temper,
poor old soul!--and had made himself so disagreeable to her, and now she
is quite miserable, as if it had been her fault. But no matter; it's not
about that. Only do you happen to know of people--bankers or
something--called Childers and Ballard?"

"Oh! dear, yes; Childers and Ballard; they are City people, on
'Change--stockbrokers. They are people you can quite rely on, so far as
their solvency is concerned."

"Oh! it isn't that. They have not been doing any business for me. It is
a very unpleasant thing to speak about, even to a kind friend like you;
but I want you to advise what is best to be done; and to ask you, if it
is not very unreasonable, to use any influence you can--without trouble,
of course, I mean--to prevent anything so distressing as may possibly
happen."

"You have only to say, dear Lady May, what I can do. I am too happy to
place my poor services at your disposal."

"I knew you would say so," said Lady May, again shaking hands in a very
friendly way; "and I know what I say won't go any further. I mean, of
course, that you will receive it entirely as a confidence."

Mr. Longcluse was earnest in his assurances of secresy and good faith.

"Well," said Lady May, lowering her voice, "poor Reginald, he was my
cousin, you know, so it pains me to say it; but he was a good deal
embarrassed; his estates were very much in debt. He owed money to a
great many people, I believe."

"Oh! Really?" Mr. Longcluse expressed his well-bred surprise very
creditably.

"Yes, indeed; and these people, Childers and Ballard, have something
they call a judgment, I think. It is a kind of debt, for about twelve
hundred pounds, which they say must be paid at once; and they vow that
if it is not they will seize the coffin, and--and--all that, at the
funeral. And David Arden is so angry, you can't think! and he says that
the money is not owed to them, and that they have no right by law to do
any such thing; and that from beginning to end it is a mere piece of
extortion. And he won't hear of Richard's paying a farthing of it; and
he says that Richard must bring a law-suit against them, for ever so
much money, if they attempt anything of the kind, and that he's sure to
win. But that is not what I am thinking of--it is about poor Alice, she
is so miserable about the mere chance of its happening. The
profanation--the fracas--all so shocking and so public--the funeral, you
know."

"You are quite sure of that, Lady May?" said Longcluse.

"I heard it all as I tell you. My man of business told me; and I saw
David Arden," she answered.

"Oh! yes; but I mean, with respect to Miss Arden. Does _she_, in
particular, so very earnestly desire intervention in this awkward
business?"

"Certainly; _only_ she--only Miss Arden--only Alice."

He looked down in thought, and then again in her face, paler than usual.
He had made up his mind.

"I shall take measures," he said quietly. "I shall do everything--anything
in my power. I shall even expose myself to the risk of insult,
for her sake; only let it soften her. After I have done it,
ask her, not before, to think mercifully of me."

He was going.

"Stay, Mr. Longcluse, just a moment. I don't know what I am to say to
you; I am so much obliged. And yet how can I undertake that anything you
do may affect other people as you wish?"

"Yes, of course you are right; I am willing to take my chance of that.
Only, dear Lady May, will you _write_ to her? All I plead for--and it is
the _last_ time I shall sue to her for anything--is that my folly may be
forgotten, and I restored to the humble privileges of an acquaintance."

"But do you really wish me to write? I'll take an opportunity of
speaking to her. Would not that be less formal?"

"Perhaps so; but, forgive me, it would not answer. I beg of you to
write."

"But why do you prefer my writing?"

"Because I shall then read her answer."

"Then I must tell her that you are to read her reply."

"Certainly, dear Lady May; I meant nothing else."

"Well, Mr. Longcluse, there is no great difficulty."

"I only make it a request, not a condition. I shall do my utmost in any
case. Pray tell her that."

"Yes, I'll write to her, as you wish it; or, at least, I'll ask her to
put on paper what she desires me to say, and I'll read it to you."

"That will answer as well. How can I thank you?"

"There is no need of thanks. It is I who should thank you for taking, I
am afraid, a great deal of trouble so promptly and kindly."

"I know those people; they are cunning and violent, difficult to deal
with, harder to trust," said Longcluse, looking down in thought. "I
should be most happy to settle with them, and afterwards the executor
might settle with me at his convenience; but, from what you say, Mr.
David Arden and his nephew won't admit their claim. I don't believe such
a seizure would be legal; but they are people who frequently venture
illegal measures, upon the calculation that it would embarrass those
against whom they adopt them more than themselves to bring them into
court. It is not an easy card to play, you see, and they are people I
hate; but I'll try."

In another minute Mr. Longcluse had taken his leave, and was gone.



CHAPTER LIII.

THE NIGHT OF THE FUNERAL.


Mr. Longcluse smiled as he sat in his cab, driving City-ward to the
office of Messrs. Childers and Ballard.

"How easily, now, one might get up a scene! Let Ballard, the monster--he
would look the part well--with his bailiffs, seize the coffin and its
precious burden in the church; and I, like Sir Edward Maulay, step forth
from behind a pillar to stay the catastrophe. We could make a very fine
situation, and I the hero; but the girl is too clever for that, and
Richard as sharp--that is, as base--as I; knowing my objects, he would
at once see a _plant_, and all would be spoiled. I shall do it in the
least picturesque and most probable way. I should like to know the old
housekeeper, Mrs. Tansey, better; I should like to be on good terms with
her. An awkward meeting with Arden. What the devil do I care? besides,
it is but one chance in a hundred. Yes, that is the best way. Can I see
Mr. Ballard in his private room for a minute?" he added aloud, to the
clerk, Mr. Blotter, behind the mahogany counter, who turned from his
desk deferentially, let himself down from his stool, and stood attentive
before the great man, with his pen behind his ear.

"Certainly, Mr. Longcluse--certainly, Sir. Will you allow me, Sir, to
conduct you?"

Most men would have been peremptorily denied; the more fortunate would
have had to await the result of an application to Mr. Ballard; but to
Mr. Longcluse all doors flew open, and wherever he went, like
Mephistopheles, the witches received him gaily, and the cat-apes did him
homage.

Without waiting for the assistance of Mr. Blotter, he ran up the
back-stairs familiarly to see Mr. Ballard; and when Mr. Longcluse came
down, looking very grave, Mr. Ballard, with the red face and lowering
countenance which he could not put off, accompanied him down-stairs
deferentially, and held open the office-door for him; and could not
suppress his grins for some time in the consciousness of the honour he
had received. Mr. Ballard hoped that the people over the way had seen
Mr. Longcluse step from his door; and mentioned to everyone he talked to
for a week, that he had Mr. Longcluse in his private office in
consultation--first it was "for a quarter of an hour by the clock over
the chimney," speedily it grew to "half-an-hour," and finally to
"upwards of an hour, by----," with a stare in the face of the wondering,
or curious, listener. And when clients looked in, in the course of the
day, to consult him, he would say, with a wag of his head and a little
looseness about minutes, "There was a man sitting here a minute ago, Mr.
Longcluse--you may have met him as you came up the stairs--that could
have given us a wrinkle about that;" or, "Longcluse, who was here
consulting with me this morning, is clearly of opinion that Italian
bonds will be down a quarter by settling day;" or, "Take my advice, and
don't burn your fingers with those things, for it is possible something
queer may happen any day after Wednesday. I had Longcluse--I daresay you
may have heard of him," he parenthesised jocularly--"sitting in that
chair to-day for very nearly an hour and a half, and that's a fellow one
doesn't sit long with without hearing something worth remembering."

From the attorney of Sir Richard Arden was served upon Messrs. Childers
and Ballard, that day, a cautionary notice in very stern terms
respecting their threatened attack upon Sir Reginald's funeral
appointments and body; to which they replied in terms as sharp, and
fixed three o'clock for payment of the bond.

It was a very short mile from Mortlake to that small old church near the
"Guy of Warwick," the bit of whose grey spire and the pinnacle of whose
weather-cock you could see between the two great clumps of elms to the
left. Sir Reginald, feet foremost, was to make this little journey that
evening under a grove of black plumes, to the small, quiet room, which
he was henceforward to share with his ancestor Sir Hugh Arden, of
Mortlake Hall, Baronet, whose pillard monument decorated the little
church.

He lies now, soldered up and screwed down, in his strait bed, triply
secured in lead, mahogany, and oak, and as safe as "the old woman of
Berkeley" hoped to be from the grip of marauders. Once there, and the
stone door replaced and mortared in, the irritable old gentleman might
sleep the quietest sleep his body had ever enjoyed, to the crack of
doom. The space was short, too, which separated that from the bed-room
he was leaving; but the interval was "Jew's ground," trespassing on
which, it was thought, he ran a great risk of being clutched by frantic
creditors. A whisper of the danger had got into the housekeeper's room;
and Crozier, whose north-country blood was hot, and temper warlike, had
loaded the horse-pistols, and swore that he would shoot the first man
who laid a hand unfriendly on the old master's coffin.

There was an agitation simmering under the grim formalities and tip-toe
treadings of the house of death. Martha Tansey grew frightened, angry as
she was, and told Richard Arden that Crozier was "neither to hold nor to
bind, and meant to walk by the hearse, and stand by the coffin till it
was shut into the vault, with loaded pistols in his coat-pockets, and
would make food for worms so sure as they villains dar'd to interrupt
the funeral."

Whereupon Richard saw Crozier, took the pistols from him, shook him very
hard by the hand, for he liked him all the more, and told him that he
would desire nothing better than their attempting to accomplish their
threats, as he was well advised the law would make examples of them.
Then he went up-stairs, and saw Alice, and he could not help thinking
how her black crapes became her. He kissed her, and, sitting down beside
her, said,--

"Martha Tansey says, darling, that you are unhappy about something she
has been telling you concerning this miserable funeral. She ought not to
have alarmed you about it. If I had known that you were frightened, or,
in fact, knew anything about it, I should have made a point of coming
out here yesterday, although I had fifty things to do."

"I had a very good-natured note to-day, Dick, from Lady May," she
said--"only a word, but very kindly intended." And she placed the open
note in his fingers. When he had read it, Richard dropped the note on
the table with a sneer.

"That man, I suspect, is himself the secret promoter of this outrage--a
very inexpensive way, this, of making character with Lady May, and
placing you under an obligation--the scoundrel!"

Looks and language of hatred are not very pretty at any time, but in the
atmosphere of death they acquire a character of horror. Some momentary
disturbance of this kind Richard may have seen in his sister's pale
face, for he said,--

"Don't mind what I say about that fellow, for I have no patience with
myself for having ever known him."

"I am so glad, Dick, you have dropped _that_ acquaintance!" said the
young lady.

"You have come at last to think as I do," said Richard.

"It is not so much thinking as something different; the uncertainty
about him--the appalling stories you have heard--and, oh! Richard, I had
such a dream last night! I dreamt that Mr. Longcluse murdered you. You
smile, but I could not have imagined anything that was not real, so
vivid, and it was in this room, and--I don't know how, for I forget the
beginning of it--the candles went out, and you were standing near the
door talking to me, and bright moonlight was at the window, and showed
you quite distinctly, and the open door; and Mr. Longcluse came from
behind it with a pistol, and I tried to scream, but I couldn't. But you
turned about and stabbed at him with a knife or something; it shone in
the moonlight, and instantly there was a line of blood across his face;
he fired, and I saw you fall back on the floor; I knew you were dead,
and I awoke in terror. I thought I still saw his wicked face in the
dark, quite white as it was in my dream. I screamed, and thought I was
going mad."

"It is only, darling, that all that has happened has made you nervous,
and no wonder. Don't mind your dreams. Longcluse and I will never
exchange a word more. We have turned our backs on one another, and our
paths lie in very different directions."

This was a melancholy and grizzly evening at Mortlake Hall. The
undertakers were making some final and mysterious arrangements about the
coffin, and stole in and out of the dead baronet's room, of which they
had taken possession.

Martha Tansey was alone in her room. It was a lurid sunset. Immense
masses of black cloud were piled in the west, and from a long opening in
that sombre screen, near the horizon, the expiring light glared like the
red fire at night, through the clink of a smithy. Mrs. Tansey, dressed
in deepest mourning, awaited the hour when she was to accompany the
funeral of her old master.

Without succumbing to the threat of Messrs. Childers and Ballard, David
Arden and his nephew would have been glad to evade the risk of the
fracas, which would no doubt have been a dismal scandal. Martha Tansey
herself was not quite sure at what hour the funeral was to leave
Mortlake. Opposite the window from which she looked, stand groups of
gigantic elms that darken that side of the house, and underwood forms a
thick screen among their trunks. Upon the edges of this foliage glinted
that fierce farewell gleam, and among the glimmering leaves behind she
thought she saw the sinister face of Mr. Longcluse looking toward her.
Her fear and horror of Longcluse had increased, and if the very
remembrance of him visited her with a sudden qualm, you may be sure that
the sight of him, on this melancholy evening, was a shock. Alice's wild
dream, which she had recounted to her, did not serve to dissociate him
from the vague misgivings that his image called up. She stared aghast at
the apparition--itself uncertain--while in the deep shadow, with a
foreground of fiercely flashing leaves, had on a sudden looked at her,
and before she could utter an exclamation it was gone.

"I think it is my old eyes that plays me tricks, and my weary head
that's 'wildered wi' all this dowly jummlement! What sud bring him
there? It was never him I sid, only a fancy, and it's past and gone; and
so, in the name of God, be it now, and ever, amen! For an evil sight it
is, and bodes us no good. Who's there?"

"It's me, Mrs. Tansey," said Crozier, who had just come in. "Master
Richard desired me to tell you it is to be at ten o'clock to-night. He
and Mr. David thinks that best, and you're to please not to mention it
to no one."

"Ten o'clock! That's very late, ain't it? No, surely, I'll not blab to
no one; let him tell them when he sees fit. Martha Tansey's na that
sort; she has had mony a secret to keep, and always the confidence o'
the family, and 'twould be queer if she did not know to ho'd her tongue
by this time. Sit ye down, Mr. Crozier--ye're wore off yer feet, man,
like myself, ever since this happened--and rest a bit; the kettle's
boilin', and ye'll tak' a cup o' tea. It's hours yet to ten o'clock."

So Mr. Crozier, who was in truth a tired man, complied, and took his
seat by the fire, and talked over Sir Reginald's money matters, his
fits, and his death; and, finally, he fell asleep in his chair, having
taken three cups of tea.

The twilight had melted into darkness by this time, and the clear, cold
moonlight was frosting all the landscape, and falling white and bright
on the carriage-way outside, and casting on the floor the sharp shadows
of the window-sashes, and giving the brilliant representations of the
windows and the very veining of the panes of glass upon the white
boards.

As Martha sat by the table, with her eyes fixed, in a reverie, on one of
these reflections upon the floor, the shadow of a man was suddenly
presented upon it, and raising her eyes she saw a figure, black against
the moonlight, beckoning gently to her to approach.

Martha Tansey was an old lass of the Northumbrian counties, and had in
her veins the fiery blood of the Border. The man wore a great-coat, and
she could not discern his features; but he was tall and slight, and she
was sure he was Mr. Longcluse. But "what dar' Longcluse say or do that
she need fear?" And was not Crozier dozing there in the chair, "ready at
call?"

Up she got, and stalked boldly to the window, and, drawing near, she
plainly saw, as the stranger drew himself up from the window-pane
through which he had been looking, and the moonlight glanced on his
features, that the face was indeed that of Mr. Longcluse. He looked very
pale, and was smiling. He nodded to her in a friendly way once or twice
as she approached. She stood stock-still about two yards away, and
though she knew him well, she deigned no sign of recognition, for she
had learned vaguely something of the feud that had sprung up between him
and the young head of the family, and no daughter of the marches was
ever a fiercer partisan than lean old Martha. He tapped at the window,
still smiling, and beckoned her nearer. She did come a step nearer, and
asked sternly--

"What's your will wi' me?"

"I'm Mr. Longcluse," he said, in a low tone, but with sharp and measured
articulation. "I have something important to say. Open the window a
little; I must not raise my voice, and I have this to give you." He held
a note by the corner, and tapped it on the glass.

Martha Tansey thought for a moment. It could not be a law-writ he had to
serve; a rich man like him would never do that. Why should she not take
his note, and hear what he had to say? She removed the bolt from the
sash, and raised the window. There was not a breath stirring.



CHAPTER LIV.

AMONG THE TREES.


When the old woman had raised the window, "Thanks," said Mr. Longcluse,
almost in a whisper. "There are people, Lady May Penrose told me this
morning, threatening to interrupt the funeral to-night. Of course you
know--you must know."

"I have heard o' some such matter, but 'tis nout to no one here. We
don't care a snap for them, and if they try any sich lids, by my sang,
we'll fit them. And I think, Sir, if ye've any thing o' consequence to
tell to the family, ye'll not mind my saying 'twould be better ye sud
go, like ither folk, to the hall-door, and leave your message there."

"Your reproof would be better deserved, Mrs. Tansey," he answers
good-humouredly, "if there had not been a difficulty. Mr. Richard Arden
is not on pleasant terms with me, and my business will not afford to
wait. I understand that Miss Arden has suffered much anxiety. It is
entirely on her account that I have interested myself so much in it; and
I don't see, Mrs. Tansey, why you and I should not be better friends,"
he adds, extending his long slender hand gently towards her.

She does not take it, but makes a stiff little curtsey instead, and
draws back about six inches.

Perhaps Mr. Longcluse had meditated making her a present, but her severe
looks daunted him, and he thought that he might as well be a little
better acquainted before he made that venture. He went on--

"You have spoken very wisely, Mrs. Tansey; I am sure if these people do
as they threaten, it will be contrary to law, and so, as you say, you
may snap your fingers at them at last. But in the meantime they may
enter the house and seize the coffin, or possibly cause some disgraceful
interruption on the way. Lady May tells me that Miss Alice has suffered
a great deal in consequence. Will you tell her to set her mind at ease?
Pray assure her that I have seen the people, that I have threatened them
into submission, that I am confident no such attempt will be made, and
that should the slightest annoyance be attempted, Crozier has only to
present the notice enclosed in this to the person offering it, and it
will instantly be discontinued. I have done all this _entirely_ on her
account, and pray lose no time in quieting her alarms. I am sure, Mrs.
Tansey, you and I shall be better friends some day."

Mrs. Tansey curtseyed again.

"Pray take this note."

She took it.

"Give it to Crozier; and pray tell Miss Alice Arden, immediately, that
she need have no fears. Good-night."

And pale Mr. Longcluse, with his smile and his dismally dark gaze, and
the strange suggestion of something undefined in look or tone, or air,
that gradually overcame her more and more till she almost felt faint, as
he smiled and murmured at the open window, in the moonlight, was gone.
Then she stood with the note in her thin fingers, without moving, and
called to Crozier with a shrill and earnest summons as one who has just
had a frightful dream will call up a sleeper in the same room.

Mr. Longcluse walks boldly and listlessly through this forbidden ground.
He does not care who may meet him. Near the house, indeed, he would not
like an encounter with Sir Richard Arden, because he knows that his
being involved in a quarrel at such a moment, so near, especially with
her brother, would not subserve his interests with Alice Arden.

For hours he strode or loitered alone through the solitary woodlands.
The moonlight was beautiful; the old trees stand mournful and black
against the luminous sky; there is for him a fascination in the
solitude, as his noiseless steps lead him alternately into the black
shadow cast on the sward by the towering foliage, and into the clear
moonlight, on dewy grass that shows grey in that cold brightness. He was
in the excitement of hope and suspense. Things had looked very black,
but a door had opened and light came out. Was it a dream?

He leans with folded arms against the trunk of one of the trees that
stand there, and from the slight elevation of the ground he can see the
avenue under the boughs of the trees that flank it, and the chimneys of
Mortlake Hall through the summits of the opening clumps. How melancholy
and still the whole scene looks under that light!

"When I succeed to all this, who will be mistress of it?" he says, with
his strange smile, looking toward the summits of the chimneys, that
indicate the site of the Hall. "No one knows who I am; who can tell my
history? What about that opera-girl? What about my money?--money is
alway exaggerated. How many humbugs! how many collapses! stealing into
society by evasions, on false pretences, in disguise! The man in the
mask, ha! ha! Really perhaps _two_ masks; not a bad fluke, that. The
villain! You would not take a thousand pounds and know me--that is
speaking boldly. A thousand pounds is still something in your book. You
would not take it. The time will come, perhaps, when you'd _give_ a
thousand--_ten_ thousand, if you had them--that I were your friend.
Slanderous villain! To think of his talking so of me! The man in the
mask trying to excite suspicion. My two masks are broken, and I all the
better. By--! you shall meet me yet without a mask. Alice! will you be
my idol? There is no neutrality with one like me in such a case. If I
don't worship, I must _break_ the image. What a speck we stand on
between the illimitable--the eternal past and the eternal future--always
looking for a present that shall be something tangible; always finding
it a mathematical point, _cujus nulla est pars_--the mere stand-point of
a retrospect and a conjecture. Ha! There are the wheels: there goes the
funeral!"

He holds his breath, and watches. How interesting is everything
connected with Alice! Slowly it passes along. Through one opening made
by the havoc of a storm in the line of trees that form the avenue, he
sees it plainly enough. A very scanty procession--the plumed hearse and
three carriages, and a few persons walking beside. It passes. The great
iron gate shrieks its long and dolorous note as it opened, and Longcluse
heard it clang after the last carriage had passed, and with this
farewell the old gate sent forth the dead master of Mortlake.

"Farewell to Mortlake," murmured Longcluse, as he heard these sounds,
with a shrug and his peculiar smile; "farewell, the lights, the
claret-jug, the whist, and all the rest. You 'fear neither justices nor
bailiffs,' as the song says, any longer. Very easy about your interest
and your premiums; very careless who arrests you in your leaden vesture;
and having paid, if nothing else, at least your beloved son's _post
obit_. Courage, Sir Reginald! your earthly troubles are over. Here am I,
erect as this tree, and as like to live my term out, with all that
money, and no will made, and yet as tired as ever you were, and very
willing, if the transaction were feasible, to die, and be bothered no
more, instead of you."

He sighs, and looks toward the house, and sighs again.

"Does she relent? Was it not she who told Lady May to ask this service
of me? If I could only be sure of that, I should stand here, this
moment, the proudest man in England. I think I know myself--a very
simple character; just two principles--love and malice; for the rest,
unscrupulous. Mere cruelty gives me no pleasure: well for some people it
don't. Revenge does make me happy: well for some people if it didn't.
Except for those I love or those I hate, I live for none. The rest live
for me. I owe them no more than I do this rotten stick. Let them rot and
fatten my land; let them burn and bake my bread."

With these words he kicked the fragments of a decayed branch that lay at
his foot, and glided over the short grass, like a ghost, toward the
gate.



CHAPTER LV.

MR. LONGCLUSE SEES A FRIEND.


Sir Reginald Arden, then, is actually dead and buried, and is quite done
with the pomps and vanities, the business and the miseries of life--dead
as King Duncan, and cannot come out of his grave to trouble any one with
protest or interference; and his son, Sir Richard, is in possession of
the title, and seized of the acres, and uses them, without caring to
trouble himself with conjectures as to what his father would have liked
or abhorred.

A week has passed since the funeral. Lady May has spent two days at
Mortlake, and then gone down to Brighton. Alice does not leave Mortlake;
her spirits do not rise. Kind Lady May has done her best to persuade her
to come down with her to Brighton, but the perversity or the indolence
of grief has prevailed, and Alice has grown more melancholy and
self-upbraiding about her quarrel with her father, and will not be
persuaded to leave Mortlake, the very worst place she could have chosen,
as Lady May protests, for a residence during her mourning. Perhaps in a
little while she may feel equal to the effort, but now she can't. She
has quite lost her energy, and the idea of a place like Brighton, or
even the chance of meeting people, is odious to her.

"So, my dear, do what I may, there she will remain, in that _triste_
place," says Lady May Penrose; "and her brother, Sir Richard, has so
much business just now on his hands, that he is often away two or three
days at a time, and then she stays moping there quite alone; and only
that she likes gardening and flowers, and that kind of thing, I really
think she would go melancholy mad. But you know that kind of folly can't
go on always, and I am determined to take her away in a month or so.
People at first are so morbid, and make recluses of themselves."

Lady May stayed away at Brighton for about a week. On her return, Mr.
Longcluse called to see her.

"It was so kind of you, Mr. Longcluse, to take all the trouble you did
about that terrible business! and it was perfectly successful. There was
not the slightest unpleasantness."

"Yes, I knew I had made anything of that kind all but impossible, but
you are not to thank me. It made me only too happy to have an
opportunity of being of any use--of relieving any anxiety."

Longcluse sighed.

"You have placed me, I know, under a great obligation, and if every one
felt it as I do, you would have been thanked as you deserved before
now."

A little silence followed.

"How is Miss Arden?" asked he in a low tone, and hardly raising his
eyes.

"Pretty well," she answered, a little dryly. "She's not very wise, I
think, in planning to shut herself up so entirely in that melancholy
place, Mortlake. You have seen it?"

"Yes, more than once," he answered.

Lady May appeared more embarrassed as Mr. Longcluse grew less so. They
became silent again. Mr. Longcluse was the first to speak, which he did
a little hesitatingly.

"I was going to say that I hoped Miss Arden was not vexed at my having
ventured to interfere as I did."

"Oh! about that, of course there ought to be, as I said, but one
opinion; but you know she is not herself just now, and I shall have,
perhaps, something to tell by-and-by; and, to say truth--you won't be
vexed, but I'm sorry I undertook to speak to her, for on that point I
really don't quite understand her; and I am a little vexed--and--I'll
talk to you more another time. I'm obliged to keep an appointment just
now, and the carriage," she added, glancing at the _pendule_ on the
bracket close by, "will be at the door in two or three minutes; so I
must do a very ungracious thing, and say good-bye; and you must come
again very soon--come to luncheon to-morrow--you must, really; I won't
let you off, I assure you; there are two or three people coming to see
me, whom I think you would like to meet."

And, looking very good-natured, and a little flushed, and rather
avoiding Mr. Longcluse's dark eyes, she departed.

He had been thinking of paying Miss Maubray a visit, but he had not
avowed, even to himself, how high his hopes had mounted; and here was,
in Lady May's ominous manner and determined evasion, matter to disturb
and even shock him. Instead, therefore, of pursuing the route he had
originally designed, he strolled into the park, and under the shade of
green boughs he walked, amid the twitter of birds and the prattle of
children and nursery-maids, with despair at his heart, and a brain in
chaos.

As he sauntered, with downcast looks, under the trees, he came upon a
humble Hebrew friend, Mr. Goldshed, a magnate in his own circle, but
dwarfed into nothing beside the paragon of Mammon who walked on the
grass, so unpretentiously, and with a face as anxious as that of the
greengrocer who had just been supplicating the Jew for a renewal of his
twenty-five pound bill.

Mr. Goldshed came to a full stop a little way in advance of Mr.
Longcluse, anxious to attract his attention. Mr. Longcluse did see him,
as he sauntered on; and the fat old Jew, with the seedy velvet
waistcoat, crossed with gold chains, and with an old-fashioned gold
eye-glass dangling at his breast, first smiled engagingly, then looked
reverential and solemn, and then smiled again with his great moist lips,
and raised his hat. Longcluse gave him a sharp, short nod, and intended
to pass him.

"Will you shpare me one word, Mr. Lonclushe?"

"Not to-day, Sir."

"But I've been to your chambers, Sir, and to your houshe, Mr.
Lonclushe."

"You've wasted time--waste no more."

"I do assure you, Shir, it'sh very urgent."

"I don't care."

"It'sh about that East Indian thing," and he lowered his voice as he
concluded the sentence.

"I don't care a pin, Sir."

The amiable Mr. Goldshed hesitated; Mr. Longcluse passed him as if he
had been a post. He turned, however, and walked a few steps by Mr.
Longcluse's side.

"And everything elshe is going sho vell; and it would look fishy, don't
you think, to let thish thing go that way?"

"Let them go--and go you with them. I wish the earth would swallow you
all--scrip, bonds, children, and beldames." And if a stamp could have
made the earth open at his bidding, it would have yawned wide enough at
that instant. "If you follow me another step, by Heaven, I'll make it
unpleasant to you."

Mr. Longcluse looked so angry, that the Jew made him an unctuous bow,
and remained fixed for a while to the earth, gazing after his patron
with his hands in his pockets; and, with a gloomy countenance, he took
forth a big cigar from his case, lighted a vesuvian, and began to smoke,
still looking after Mr. Longcluse.

That gentleman sauntered on, striking his stick now and then to the
ground, or waving it over the grass in as many odd flourishes as a
magician in a pantomime traces with his wand.

If men are prone to teaze themselves with imaginations, they are equally
disposed to comfort themselves with the same shadowy influences.

"I'm so nervous about this thing, and so anxious, that I exaggerate
everything that seems to tell against me. How did I ever come to love
her so? And yet, would I kill that love if I could? Should I not kill
myself first? I'll go and see Miss Maubray--I may hear something from
her. Lady May _was_ embarrassed: what then? Were I a simple observer of
such a scene in the case of another, I should say there was nothing in
it more than this--that she had quite forgotten all about her promise.
She never mentioned my name, and when the moment came, and I had come to
ask for an account, she did not know what to say. It was well done, to
see old Mrs. Tansey as I did. Lady May is so good-natured, and would
feel her little neglect so much, and she will be sure to make it up.
Fifty things may have prevented her. Yes, I'll go and hear what Miss
Maubray has to say, and I'll lunch with Lady May to-morrow. I suspect
that her visit to-day was to Mortlake."

With these reflections, Mr. Longcluse's pace became brisker, and his
countenance brightened.



CHAPTER LVI.

A HOPE EXPIRES.


Mr. Longcluse knocked at Mr. David Arden's door. Yes, Miss Maubray was
at home. He mounted the stairs, and was duly announced at the
drawing-room door, and saw the brilliant young lady, who received him
very graciously. She was alone.

Mr. Longcluse began by saying that the weather was cooler, and the sun
much less intolerable.

"I wish we could say as much for the people, though, indeed, they are
cool enough. There are some people called Tramways: he's a baronet--a
very new one. Do you know anything of them? Are they people one can
know?"

"I only know that Lady Tramway chaperoned a very charming young lady,
whom everybody is very glad to know, to Lady May's garden-party the
other day, at Richmond."

"Yes, very true; I'm that young lady, and that is the very reason I want
to know. My uncle placed me in their hands."

"Oh, he knows everybody."

"Yes, and every one, which is quite another thing; and the woman has
never given me an hour's quiet since. She presents me with bouquets, and
fruit, and every imaginable thing I don't want, herself included, at
least once a day; and I assure you I live in hourly terror of her
getting into the drawing-room. You don't know anything about them?"

"I only know that her husband made a great deal of money by a contract."

"That sounds very badly, and she is such a vulgar woman?"

"I know no more of them; but Lady May had her to Raleigh Hall, and
surely she can satisfy your scruples."

"No, it was my guardian who asked for their card, so that goes for
nothing. It is really too bad."

"My heart bleeds for you."

"By-the-bye, talking of Lady May, I had a visit from her not a
quarter-of-an-hour ago. What a fuss our friends at Mortlake do make
about the death of that disagreeable old man!--Alice, I mean. Richard
Arden bears it wonderfully. When did you see either?" she asked,
innocently.

"You forget he has not been dead three weeks, and Alice Arden is not
likely to see any one but very intimate friends for a long time;
and--and I daresay you have heard that Sir Richard Arden and I are not
on very pleasant terms."

"'Oh! Pity such difference should be----.'"

"Thanks, and Tweedledum and Tweedledee are not likely to make it up. I'm
afraid people aren't always reasonable, you know, and expect, often,
things that are not quite fair."

"He ought to marry some one with money, and give up play."

"What! give up play, and commence husband? I'm afraid he'd think that a
rather dull life."

"Well, I'm sure I'm no judge of that, although I give an opinion.
Whatever he may be, you have a very staunch friend in Lady May."

"I'm glad of that; she's always so kind." And he looked rather oddly at
the young lady.

Perhaps she seemed conscious of a knowledge more than she had yet
divulged.

This young lady was, I need not tell you, a little coarse. She had, when
she liked, the frankness that can come pretty boldly to the point; but I
think she could be sly enough when she pleased; and was she just a
little mischievous?

"Lady May has been talking to me a great deal about Alice Arden. She has
been to see her very often since that poor old man died, and she
says--she says, Mr. Longcluse--will you be upon honour not to repeat
this?"

"Certainly, upon my honour."

"Well, she says----"

Miss Maubray gets up quickly, and settles some flowers over the
chimney-piece.

"She says that there is a coolness in that quarter also."

"I don't quite see," says Mr. Longcluse.

"Well, I must tell you she has taken me into council, and told me a
great deal; and she spoke to Alice, and wrote to her. Did she say she
would show you the answer? I have got it; she left it with me, and asked
me--she's so good-natured--to use my influence--she said _my_ influence!
She ought to know I've _no_ influence."

Longcluse felt very oddly indeed during this speech; he had still
presence of mind not to add anything to the knowledge the young lady
might actually possess.

"You have not said a great deal, you know; but Lady May certainly did
promise to show me an answer which she expected to a note she wrote
about three weeks ago, or less, to Miss Arden."

"I really don't know of what use I can be in the matter. I have no
excuse for speaking to Alice on the subject of her note--none in the
world. I think I may as well let you see it; but you will promise--you
_have_ promised--not to tell any one?"

"I have--I do--I promise. Lady May herself said she would show me that
letter."

"Well, I can't, I suppose, be very wrong. It is only a note: it does not
say much, but quite enough, I'm afraid, to make it useless, and almost
impertinent, for me, or any one else, to say a word more on the subject
to Alice Arden."

All this time she is opening a very pretty marqueterie writing-desk, on
spiral legs, which Longcluse has been listlessly admiring, little
thinking what it contains. She now produced a little note, which,
disengaging from its envelope, she places in the hand that Mr. Longcluse
extended to receive it.

"I do so hope," she said, as she gave it to him, "that I am doing what
Lady May would wish. I think she shrank a little from showing it to you
herself, but I am certain she wished you to know what is in it."

He opened it quickly. It ran thus ("Merry," I must remark, was a pet
name, originating, perhaps, in Shakespeare's song that speaks of "the
merry month of May"):--

    "DEAREST MERRY,

    "I hope you will come to see me to-morrow. I cannot yet bear the
    idea of going into town. I feel as if I never should, and I think I
    grow more and more miserable every day. You are one of the very few
    friends whom I can see. You can't think what a pleasure a call from
    you is--if, indeed, in my miserable state, I can call anything a
    pleasure. I have read your letter about Mr. Longcluse, and parts of
    it a little puzzle me. I can't say that I have anything to forgive,
    and I am sure he has acted just as kindly as you say. But our
    acquaintance has ended, and nothing shall ever induce me to renew
    it. I can give you fifty reasons, when I see you, for my not
    choosing to know him. Darling Merry, I have quite made up my mind
    upon this point. I _don't_ know Mr. Longcluse, and I _won't_ know
    Mr. Longcluse; and I'll tell you _all_ my reasons, if you wish to
    hear them, when we meet. Some of them, which seem to me _more_ than
    sufficient, you do know. The only condition I make is that you don't
    discuss them with me. I have grown so stupid that _I_ really cannot.
    I only know that I am right, and that _nothing_ can change me. Come,
    darling, and see me very soon. You have no idea how very wretched I
    am. But I do not complain: it has drawn me, I hope, to higher and
    better thoughts. The world is not what it was to me, and I pray it
    never may be. Come and see me soon, darling; you cannot think how I
    long to see you.--Your affectionate,

    "ALICE ARDEN."

"What mountains of molehills!" said Mr. Longcluse, very gently, smiling
with a little shrug, as he placed the letter again in Miss Maubray's
hand.

"Making such a fuss about that poor old man's death! It certainly does
look a little like a pretty affectation. Isn't that what you mean? He
_was_ so _insupportable_!"

"No, I know nothing about that. I mean such a ridiculous fuss about
nothing. Why, people cease to be acquainted every day for much less
reason. Sir Reginald chose to talk over his money matters with me, and I
think he expected me to do things which no stranger could be reasonably
invited to do. And I suppose, now that he is gone, Miss Arden resents my
insensibility to his hints; and I daresay Sir Richard, who, I may say,
on precisely similar grounds, chooses to quarrel with me, does not spare
invective, and has, of course, a friendly listener in his sister. But
how absurdly provoking that Lady May should have made such a diplomacy,
and given herself so much trouble! And--I'm afraid I appear so
foolish--I merely assented to Lady May's kind proposal to mediate, and I
could not, of course, appear to think it a less important mission than
she did; and--where are you going--Scotland? Italy?"

"My guardian, Mr. Arden, has not yet settled anything," she answered;
and upon this, Mr. Longcluse begins to recommend, and with much
animation to describe, several Continental routes, and then he tells her
all his gossip, and takes his leave, apparently in very happy spirits.

I doubt very much whether the face can ever be taught to lie as
impudently as the tongue. Its muscles, of course, can be trained; but
the young lady thought that Mr. Longcluse's pallor, as he smiled and
returned the note, was more intense, and his dark eyes strangely fierce.

"He was more vexed than he cared to say," thought the young lady. "Lady
May has not told me the whole story yet. There has been a great deal of
fibbing, but I shall know it all."

Mr. Longcluse had to dine out. He drove home to dress. On arriving, he
first sat down and wrote a note to Lady May.

    "DEAR LADY MAY,

    "I am so grateful. Miss Maubray told me to-day all the trouble you
    have been taking for me. Pray think no more of that little vexation.
    I never took so serious a view of so commonplace an unpleasantness,
    as to dream of tasking your kindness so severely. I am quite ashamed
    of having given you so much trouble.--Yours, dear Lady May,
    sincerely,

    "WALTER LONGCLUSE."

    "P.S.--I don't forget your kind invitation to lunch to-morrow."

Longcluse dispatched this note, and then wrote a few words of apology to
the giver of the City dinner, to which he had intended to go. He could
not go. He was very much agitated: he knew that he could not endure the
long constraint of that banquet. He was unfit, for the present, to bear
the company of any one. Gloomy and melancholy was the pale face of this
man, as if he were going to the funeral of his beloved, when he stepped
from his door in the dark. Was he going to walk out to Mortlake, and
shoot himself on the steps?

As Mr. Longcluse walked into town, he caught a passing sight of a
handsome young face that jarred upon him. It was that of Richard Arden,
who was walking, also alone, not under any wild impulse, but to keep an
appointment. This handsome face appeared for a moment gliding by, and
was lost. Melancholy and thoughtful he looked, and quite unconscious of
the near vicinity of his pale adversary. We shall follow him to his
place of rendezvous.

He walked quickly by Pall Mall, and down Parliament Street, into the
ancient quarter of Westminster, turned into a street near the Abbey, and
from it into another that ran toward the river. Here were tall and dingy
mansions, some of which were let out as chambers. In one of these, in a
room over the front drawing-room, Mr. Levi received his West-end
clients; and here, by appointment, he awaited Sir Richard Arden.

The young baronet, a little paler, and with the tired look of a man who
was made acquainted with care, enters this room, hot with the dry
atmosphere of gas-light. With his back towards the door, and his feet on
the fender, smoking, sits Mr. Levi. Sir Richard does not remove his hat,
and he stands by the table, which he slaps once or twice sharply with
his stick. Mr. Levi turns about, looking, in his own phrase, unusually
"down in the mouth," and his big black eyes are glowing angrily.

"Ho! Shir Richard Harden," he says, rising, "I did not think we was sho
near the time. Izh it a bit too soon?"

"A little later than the time I named."

"Crikey! sho it izh."



CHAPTER LVII.

LEVI'S APOLOGUE.


The room had once been a stately one. Three tall windows looked toward
the street. Its cornices and door-cases were ponderous, and its
furniture was heterogeneous, and presented the contrasts that might be
expected in a broker's store. A second-hand Turkey carpet, in a very
dusty state, covered part of the floor; and a dirty canvas sack lay by
the door for people coming in to rub their feet on. The table was a
round one, that turned on a pivot; it was oak, massive and carved, with
drawers; there were two huge gilt arm-chairs covered with Utrecht
velvet, a battered office-stool, and two or three bed-room chairs that
did not match. There were two great iron safes on tressels. On the top
of one was some valuable old china, and on the other an electrifying
machine; a French harp with only half-a-dozen strings stood in the
corner near the fire-place, and several dusty pictures of various sizes
leaned with their faces against the wall. A jet of gas burned right over
the table, and had blackened the ceiling by long use, and a dip candle,
from which Mr. Levi lighted his cigars, burned in a brass candlestick on
the hob of the empty grate. Over everything lay a dark grey drift of
dust. And the two figures, the elegant young man in deep mourning, and
the fierce vulgar little Jew, shimmering all over with chains, rings,
pins, and trinkets, stood in a narrow circle of light, in strong relief
against the dim walls of the large room.

"So you _will_ want that bit o' money in hand?" said Mr. Levi.

"I told you so."

"Don't you think they'll ever get tired helpin' you, if you keep pulling
alwaysh the wrong way?"

"You said, this morning, I might reckon upon the help of that friend to
any extent within reason," said Sir Richard, a little sourly.

"Ye're goin' fashter than yer friendsh li-likesh; ye're goin'
al-ash--ye're goin' a terrible lick, you are!" said Mr. Levi, solemnly.

His usually pale face was a little flushed; he was speaking rather
thickly, and there came at intervals a small hiccough, which indicated
that he had been making merry.

"That's my own affair, I fancy," replied Sir Richard, as haughtily as
prudence would permit. "You are simply an agent."

"Wish shome muff would take it off my hands; 'shan agenshy tha'll bring
whoever takesh it more tr-tr-ouble than tin. By my shoul I'll not keepsh
long! I'm blowsh if I'll be fool any longer!"

"I'm to suppose, then, that you have made up your mind to act no longer
for my friend, whoever that friend may be?" said Sir Richard, who boded
no good to himself from that step.

Mr. Levi nodded surlily.

"Have you drawn those bills?"

Mr. Levi gave the table a spin, unlocked a drawer, and threw two bills
across to Sir Richard, who glancing at them said,--

"The date is ridiculously short!"

"How can I 'elp 't? and the interesht shlesh than nothin': sh-shunder
the bank termsh f-or the besht paper going--I'm blesht if it ain't--it
ain't f-fair interesh--the timesh short becaushe the partiesh,
theysh--they shay they're 'ard hup, Shir, 'eavy sharge to pay hoff, and
a big purchashe in Austriansh!"

"My uncle, David Arden, I happen to know, is buying Austrian stock this
week; and Lady May Penrose is to pay off a charge on her property next
month."

The Jew smiled mysteriously.

"You may as well be frank with me," added Sir Richard Arden, pleased at
having detected the coincidence, which was strengthened by his having,
the day before, surprised his uncle in conference with Lady May.

"If you don't like the time, why don't you try shomwhere else? why don't
you try Lonclushe? There'sh a shwell! Two millionsh, if he's worth a
pig! A year, or a month, 'twouldn't matter a tizhy to him, and you and
him'sh ash thick ash two pickpockets!"

"You're mistaken; I don't choose to have any transactions with Mr.
Longcluse."

There was a little pause.

"By-the-bye, I saw in some morning paper--I forget which--a day or two
ago, a letter attacking Mr. Longcluse for an alleged share in the
bank-breaking combination; and there was a short reply from him."

"I know, in the _Timesh_," interposed Levi.

"Yes," said Arden, who, in spite of himself, was always drawn into talk
with this fellow more than he intended; such was the force of the
ambiguously confidential relations in which he found himself. "What is
thought of that in the City?"

"There'sh lotsh of opinionsh about it; not a shafe chap to quar'l with.
If you rub Lonclushe this year, he'll tear you for itsh the next. He'sh
a bish--a bish--a bit--bit of a bully, is Lonclushe, and don't alwaysh
treat 'ish people fair. If you've quar'led with him, look oush--I shay,
look oush!"

"Give me the cheque," said Sir Richard, extending his fingers.

"Pleashe, Shir Richard, accept them billsh," replied Levi, pushing an
ink-stand toward him, "and I'll get our cheque for you."

So Mr. Levi took the dip candle and opened one of the safes, displaying
for a moment cases of old-fashioned jewellery, and a number of watches.
I daresay Mr. Levi and his partner made advances on deposits.

"Why don't you cut them confounded rasesh, Shir Richard? I'm bleshed if
I didn't lose five pounds on the Derby myself! There'sh lotsh of field
sportsh," he continued, approaching the table with his cheque-book.
"Didn't you never shee a ferret kill a rabbit? It'sh a beautiful thing;
it takesh it shomeway down the back, and bit by bit it mendsh itsh grip,
moving up to-_wards_ the head. It _is_ really beautiful, and not a
shound from either, only you'll see the rabbitsh big eyes lookin' sho
wonderful! and the ferret hangsh on, swinging this way and that like a
shna-ake--'tish wery pretty!--till he worksh hish grip up to where the
backbone joinish in with the brain; and then in with itsh teeth, through
the shkull! and the rabbit givesh a screetch like a child in a fit. Ha,
ha, ha! I'm blesht if it ain't done ash clever ash a doctor could do it.
'Twould make you laugh. That will do."

And he took the bills from Sir Richard, and handed him two cheques, and
as he placed the bills in the safe, and locked them up, he continued,--

"It _ish_ uncommon pretty! I'd rayther shee it than a terrier on fifty
rats. The rabbit's sho shimple--there'sh the fun of it--and looksh sho
foolish; and every rabbit had besht look sharp," he continued, turning
about as he put the keys in his pocket, and looking with his burning
black eyes full on Sir Richard, "and not let a ferret get a grip
anywhere; for if he getsh a good purchase, he'll never let go till he
hash his teeth in his brain, and then he'sh off with a shqueak, and
there's an end of him."

"I can get notes for one of these cheques to-night?" said Sir Richard.

"The shmall one, yesh, eashy," answered Mr. Levi. "I'm a bachelor," he
added jollily, in something like a soliloquy, "and whenever I marry I'll
be the better of it; and I'm no muff, and no cove can shay that I ever
shplit on no one. And what do I care for Lonclushe? Not the snuff of
this can'le!" And he snuffed the dip scornfully with his fingers, and
flung the sparkling wick over the bannister, as he stood at the door, to
light Sir Richard down the stairs.



CHAPTER LVIII.

THE BARON COMES TO TOWN.


Weeks flew by. The season was in its last throes: the session was within
a day or two of its death. Lady May drove out to Mortlake with a project
in her head.

Alice Arden was glad to see her.

"I've travelled all this way," she said, "to make you come with me on
Friday to the Abbey."

"On Friday? Why Friday, dear?" answered Alice.

"Because there is to be a grand oratorio of Handel's. It is for the
benefit of the clergy's sons' school, and it is one that has not been
performed in England for I forget how many years. It is _Saul_. You have
heard the Dead March in Saul, of course; everyone has; but no one has
ever heard the oratorio, and come you must. There shall be no one but
ourselves--you and I, and your uncle and your brother to take care of
us. They have promised to come; and Stentoroni is to take Saul, and they
have the finest voices in Europe; and they say that Herr Von Waasen, the
conductor, is the greatest musician in the world. There have been eight
performances in that great room--oh! what do you call it?--while I was
away; and now there is only to be this one, and I'm longing to hear it;
but I won't go unless you come with me--and you need not dress. It
begins at three o'clock, and ends at six, and you can come just as you
are now; and an oratorio is really exactly the same as going to church,
so you have no earthly excuse; and I'll send out my carriage at one for
you; and you'll see, it will do you all the good in the world."

Alice had her difficulties, but Lady May's vigorous onset overpowered
them, and at length she consented.

"Does your uncle come out here to see you?" asks Lady May.

"Often; he's very kind," she replies.

"And Grace Maubray?"

"Oh, yes; I see her pretty often--that is, she has been here twice, I
think--quite often enough."

"Well, do you know, I never could admire Grace Maubray as I have heard
other people do," says Lady May. "There is something harsh and bold,
don't you think?--something a little cruel. She is a girl that I don't
think could ever be in love."

"I don't know that," says Alice.

"Oh! really?" says Lady May, "and who is it?"

"It is merely a suspicion," says Alice.

"Yes--but you think she likes some one--do, like a darling, tell me who
it is," urges Lady May, a little uneasily.

"You must not tell anyone, because they would say it was sisterly
vanity, but I think she likes Dick."

"Sir Richard?" says Lady May, with as much indifference as she could.

"Yes, I think she likes my brother."

Lady May smiles painfully.

"I always thought so," she says; "and he admires her, of course?"

"No, I don't think he admires her at all. I'm certain he doesn't," said
Alice.

"Well, certainly he always does speak of her as if she belonged to
Vivian Darnley," remarks Lady May, more happily.

"So she does, and he to her, I hope," said Alice.

"Hope?" repeated Lady May, interrogatively.

"Yes--I think nothing could be more suitable."

"Perhaps so; you know them better than I do."

"Yes, and I still think Uncle David intends them for one another."

"I would have asked Mr. Longcluse," Lady May begins, after a little
interval, "to use his influence to get us good hearing-places, but he is
in such disgrace--is he still, or is there any chance of his being
forgiven?"

"I told you, darling, I have really nothing to forgive--but I have a
kind of fear of Mr. Longcluse--a fear I can't account for. It began, I
think, with that affair that seemed to me like a piece of insanity, and
made me angry and bewildered; and then there was a dream, in which I saw
such a horrible scene, and fancied he had murdered Richard, and I could
not get it out of my head. I suppose I am in a nervous state--and there
were other things; and, altogether, I think of him with a kind of
horror--and I find that Martha Tansey has an unaccountable dread of him
exactly as I have; and even Uncle David says that he has a misgiving
about him that he can't get rid of, or explain."

"I can't think, however, that he is a ghost or even a malefactor," said
Lady May, "or anything worse than a very agreeable, good-natured person.
I never knew anything more zealous than his good-nature on the occasion
I told you of; and he has always approached you with so much devotion
and respect--he seemed to me so sensitive, and to watch your very looks;
I really think that a frown from you would have almost killed him."

Alice sighs, and looked wearily through the window, as if the subject
bored her; and she said listlessly,--

"Oh, yes, he was kind, and gentlemanlike, and sang nicely, I grant you
everything; but--there is something ominous about him, and I hate to
hear him mentioned, and with my consent I'll never meet him more."

Connected with the musical venture which the ladies were discussing, a
remarkable person visited London. He had a considerable stake in its
success. He was a penurious German, reputed wealthy, who ran over from
Paris to complete arrangements about ticket-takers and treasurer, so as
to ensure a system of check, such as would make it next to impossible
for the gentlemen his partners to rob him. This person was the Baron
Vanboeren.

Mr. Blount had an intimation of this visit from Paris, and Mr. David
Arden invited him to dine, of which invitation he took absolutely no
notice; and then Mr. Arden called upon him in his lodging in St.
Martin's Lane. There he saw him, this man, possibly the keeper of the
secret which he had for twenty years of his life been seeking for. If he
had a feudal ideal of this baron, he was disappointed. He beheld a
short, thick man, with an enormous head and grizzled hair, coarse pug
features, very grimy skin, and a pair of fierce black eyes, that never
rested for a moment, and swept the room from corner to corner with a
rapid and unsettled glance that was full of fierce energy.

"The Baron Vanboeren?" inquires Uncle David courteously.

The baron, who is smoking, nods gruffly.

"My name is Arden--David Arden. I left my card two days ago, and having
heard that your stay was but for a few days, I ventured to send you a
very hurried invitation."

The baron grunts and nods again.

"I wrote a note to beg the pleasure of a very short interview, and you
have been so good as to admit me."

The baron smokes on.

"I am told that you possibly are possessed of information which I have
long been seeking in vain."

Another nod.

"Monsieur Lebas, the unfortunate little Frenchman who was murdered here
in London, was, I believe, in your employment?"

The baron here had a little fit of coughing.

Uncle David accepted this as an admission.

"He was acquainted with Mr. Longcluse?"

"Was he?" says the baron, removing and replacing his pipe quickly.

"Will you, Baron Vanboeren, be so good as to give me any information you
possess respecting Mr. Longcluse? It is not, I assure you, from mere
curiosity I ask these questions, and I hope you will excuse the trouble
I give you."

The baron took his pipe from his mouth, and blew out a thin stream of
smoke.

"I have heard," said he, in short, harsh tones, "since I came to London,
nosing but good of Mr. Longcluse. I have ze greadest respect for zat
excellent gendleman. I will say nosing bud zat--ze greadest respect."

"You knew him in Paris, I believe?" urges Uncle David.

"Nosing but zat--ze greadest respect," repeats the baron. "I sink him a
very worzy gendleman."

"No doubt, but I venture to ask whether you were acquainted with Mr.
Longcluse in Paris?"

"Zere are a gread many beoble in Paris. I have nosing to say of Mr.
Longcluse, nosing ad all, only he is a man of high rebudation."

And on completing this sentence the baron replaced his pipe, and
delivered several rapid puffs.

"I took the liberty of enclosing a letter from a friend explaining who I
am, and that the questions I should entreat you to answer are not
prompted by any idle or impertinent curiosity; perhaps, then, you would
be so good as to say whether you know anything of a person named Yelland
Mace, who visited Paris some twenty years since?"

"I am in London, Sir, ubon my business, and no one else's. I am sinking
of myself, and not about Mace or Longcluse, and I will not speak about
eizer of zem. I am well baid for my dime. I will nod waste my dime on
dalking--I will nod," he continues, warming as he proceeds; "nosing
shall induce me do say one word aboud zoze gendlemen. I dake my oas I'll
not, mein Gott! What do you mean by asking me aboud zem?"

He looks positively ferocious as he delivers this expostulation.

"My request must be more unreasonable than it appeared to me."

"Nosing can be more unreasonable!"

"And I am to understand that you positively object to giving me any
information respecting the persons I have named?"

The baron appeared extremely uneasy. He trotted to the door on his short
legs, and looked out. Returning, he shut the door carefully. His grimy
countenance, under the action of fear, assumes an expression peculiarly
forbidding; and he said, with angry volubility--

"Zis visit must end, Sir, zis moment. Donnerwesser! I will nod be
combromised by you. But if you bromise as a Christian, ubon your honour,
never to mention what I say----"

"Never, upon my honour."

"Nor to say you have talked with me here in London----"

"Never."

"I will tell you that I have no objection to sbeak wis you, _privately_
in Paris, whenever you are zere--now, now! zat is all. I will not have
one ozer word--you shall not stay one ozer minude."

He opens the door and wags his head peremptorily, and points with his
pipe to the lobby.

"You'll not forget your promise, Baron, when I call? for visit you I
will."

"I never forget nosing. Monsieur Arden, will you go or _nod_?"

"Farewell, Sir," says his visitor, too much excited by the promise
opened to him, for the moment to apprehend what was ridiculous in the
scene or in the brutality of the baron.



CHAPTER LIX.

TWO OLD FRIENDS MEET AND PART.


When he was gone the Baron Vanboeren sat down and panted; his pipe had
gone out, and he clutched it in his hand like a weapon and continued for
some minutes, in the good old phrase, very much disordered.

"That old fool," he mutters, in his native German, "won't come near me
again while I remain in London."

This assurance was, I suppose, consolatory, for the baron repeated it
several times; and then bounced to his feet, and made a few hurried
preparations for an appearance in the streets. He put on a short cloak
which had served him for the last thirty years, and a preposterous hat;
and with a thick stick in his hand, and a cigar lighted, sallied forth,
square and short, to make Mr. Longcluse a visit by appointment.

By this time the lamps were lighted. There had been a performance of
_Saul_, a very brilliant success, although it pleased the baron to
grumble over it that day. He had not returned from the great room where
it had taken place more than an hour, when David Arden had paid his
brief visit. He was now hastening to an interview which he thought much
more momentous. Few persons who looked at that vulgar seedy figure,
strutting through the mud, would have thought that the thread-bare black
cloak, over which a brown autumnal tint had spread, and the monstrous
battered felt hat, in which a costermonger would scarcely have gone
abroad, covered a man worth a hundred and fifty thousand pounds.

Man is mysteriously so constructed that he cannot abandon himself to
selfishness, which is the very reverse of heavenly love, without in the
end contracting some incurable insanity; and that insanity of the higher
man constitutes, to a great extent, his mental death. The Baron
Vanboeren's insanity was avarice; and his solitary expenses caused him
all the sordid anxieties which haunt the unfortunate gentleman who must
make both ends meet on five-and-thirty pounds a year.

Though not _sui profusus_, he was _alieni appetens_ in a very high
degree; and his visit to Mr. Longcluse was not one of mere affection.

Mr. Longcluse was at home in his study. The baron was instantly shown
in. Mr. Longcluse, smiling, with both hands extended to grasp his,
advances to meet him.

"My dear Baron, what an unexpected pleasure! I could scarcely believe my
eyes when I read your note. So you have a stake in this musical
speculation, and though it is very late, and, of course, everything at a
disadvantage, I have to congratulate you on an immense success."

The baron shrugs, shakes his head, and rolls his eyes dismally.

"Ah, my friend, ze exbenses are enormous."

"And the receipts still more so," says Longcluse cheerfully; "you must
be making, among you, a mint of money."

"Ah! Monsieur Longcluse, id is nod what it should be! zay are all such
sieves and robbers! I will never escape under a loss of a sousand
bounds."

"You must be cheerful, my dear Baron. You shall dine with me to-day.
I'll take you with me to half a dozen places of amusement worth seeing
after dinner. To-morrow morning you shall run down with me to
Brighton--my yacht is there--and when you have had enough of that, we
shall run up again and have a whitebait dinner at Greenwich; and come
into town and see those fellows, Markham and the other, that poor little
Lebas saw play, the night he was murdered. You must see them play the
return match, so long postponed. Next day we shall----"

"Bardon, Monsieur, bardon! I am doo old. I have no spirits."

"What, not enough to see a game of billiards between Markham and Hood!
Why, Lebas was charmed so far as he saw it, poor fellow, with their
play."

"No, no, no, no, Monsieur; a sousand sanks, no, bardon, I cannod," says
the baron. "I do not like billiards, and your friends have not found it
a lucky game."

"Well, if you don't care for billiards, we'll find something else,"
replies hospitable Mr. Longcluse.

"Nosing else, nosing else," answers the baron hastily. "I hade all zese
sings, ze seatres, ze bubbedshows, and all ze ozer amusements, I give
you my oas. Did you read my liddle node?"

"I did indeed, and it amused me beyond measure," says Longcluse
joyously.

"Amuse!" repeats the baron, "how so?"

"Because it is so diverting; one might almost fancy it was meant to ask
me for fifteen hundred pounds."

"I have lost, by zis sing, a vast deal more zan zat."

"And, my dear Baron, what on earth have I to do with that?"

"I am an old friend, a good friend, a true friend," says the baron,
while his fierce little eyes sweep the walls, from corner to corner,
with quivering rapidity. "You would not like to see me quide in a
corner. You're the richest man in England, almost; what's one sousand
five hundred to you? I have not wridden to you, or come to England, dill
now. You have done nosing for your old friend yet: what are you going to
give him?"

"Not as much as I gave Lebas," said Longcluse, eyeing him askance, with
a smile.

"I don't know what you mean."

"Not a napoleon, not a franc, not a sou."

"You are jesding; sink, sink, sink, Monsieur, what a friend I have been
and _am_ to you."

"So I do, my dear Baron, and consider how I show my gratitude. Have I
ever given a hint to the French police about the identity of the clever
gentleman who managed the little tunnel through which a river of
champagne flowed into Paris, under the barrier, duty free? Have I ever
said a word about the confiscated jewels of the Marchioness de la
Sarnierre? Have I ever asked how the Comte de Loubourg's little boy is,
or directed an unfriendly eye upon the conscientious physician who
extricates ladies and gentlemen from the consequences of late hours,
nervous depression, and fifty other things that war against good
digestion and sound sleep? Come, come, my good Baron, whenever we come
to square accounts, the balance will stand very heavily in my favour. I
don't want to press for a settlement, but if you urge it, by Heaven,
I'll make you pay the uttermost farthing!"

Longcluse laughs cynically. The baron looks very angry. His face darkens
to a leaden hue. The fingers which he plunged into his snuff-box are
trembling. He takes two or three great pinches of snuff before speaking.

Mr. Longcluse watches all these symptoms of his state of mind with a
sardonic enjoyment, beneath which, perhaps, is the sort of suspense with
which a beast-tamer watches the eye of the animal whose fury he excites
only to exhibit the coercion which he exercises through its fears, and
who is for a moment doubtful whether its terrors or its fury may
prevail.

The baron's restless eyes roll wickedly. He puts his hand into his
pocket irresolutely, and crumbles some papers there. There was no
knowing, for some seconds, what turn things might take. But if he had
for a moment meditated a crisis, he thought better of it. He breaks into
a fierce laugh, and extends his hand to Mr. Longcluse, who as frankly
places his own in it, and the baron shakes it vehemently. And Mr.
Longcluse and he laugh boisterously and oddly together. The baron takes
another great pinch of snuff, and then he says, sponging out as it were,
as an ignored parenthesis, the critical part of their conversation--

"No, no, I sink not; no, no, surely not. I am not fit for all zose
amusements. I cannot knog aboud as I used; an old fellow, you know:
beace and tranquilidy. No, I cannot dine with you. I dine with
Stentoroni to-morrow; to-day I have dined with our _tenore_. How well
you look! What nose, what tees, what chin! I am proud of you. We bart
good friends, _bon soir_, Monsieur Longcluse, farewell. I am already a
liddle lade."

"Farewell, dear Baron. How can I thank you enough for this kind meeting?
Try one of my cigars as you go home."

The baron, not being a proud man, took half-a-dozen, and with a final
shaking of hands these merry gentlemen parted, and Longcluse's door
closed for ever on the Baron Vanboeren.

"That bloated spider?" mused Mr. Longcluse. "How many flies has he
sucked! It is another matter when spiders take to catching wasps."

Every man of energetic passions has within him a principle of
self-destruction. Longcluse had his. It had expressed itself in his
passion for Alice Arden. That passion had undergone a wondrous change,
but it was imperishable in its new as in its pristine state.

This gentleman was in the dumps so soon as he was left alone. Always
uncertainty; always the sword of Damocles; always the little reminders
of perdition, each one contemptible, but each one in succession touching
the same set of nerves, and like the fall of the drop of water in the
inquisition, _non vi, sed sæpe cadendo_, gradually heightening monotony
into excitement, and excitement into frenzy. Living always with a sense
of the unreality of life and the vicinity of death, with a certain stern
tremor of the heart, like that of a man going into action, no wonder if
he sometimes sickened of his bargain with Fate, and thought life
purchased too dear on the terms of such a lease.

Longcluse bolted his door, unlocked his desk, and there what do we see?
Six or seven miniatures--two enamels, the rest on ivory--all by
different hands; some English, some Parisian; very exquisite, some of
them. Every one was Alice Arden. Little did she dream that such a
gallery existed. How were they taken? Photographs are the colourless
phantoms from which these glowing life-like beauties start.
Tender-hearted Lady May has in confidence given him, from time to time,
several of these from her album; he has induced foreign artists to visit
London, and managed opportunities by which, at parties, in theatres, and
I am sorry to say even in church, these clever persons succeeded in
studying from the life, and learning all the tints which now glow before
him. If I had mentioned what this little collection cost him, you would
have opened your eyes. The Baron Vanboeren would have laughed and cursed
him with hilarious derision, and a money-getting Christian would have
been quite horror-struck, on reading the scandalous row of figures.

Each miniature he takes in turn, and looks at for a long time, holding
it in both hands, his hands resting on the desk, his face inclined and
sad, as if looking down into the coffin of his darling. One after the
other he puts them by, and returns to his favourite one; and at last he
shuts it up also, with a snap, and places it with the rest in the dark,
under lock and key.

He leaned back and laid his thin hand across his eyes. Was he looking at
an image that came out in the dark on the retina of memory? Or was he
shedding tears?



CHAPTER LX.

"SAUL."


The day arrived on which Alice Arden had agreed to go with Lady May to
Westminster Abbey, to hear the masterly performance of _Saul_. When it
came to the point, she would have preferred staying at home; but that
was out of the question. Every one has experienced that ominous
forboding which overcomes us sometimes with a shapeless forecasting of
evil. It was with that vague misgiving that she had all the morning
looked forward to her drive to town, and the long-promised oratorio. It
was a dark day, and there was a thunderous weight in the air, and the
melancholy atmosphere deepened her gloom.

Her Uncle David arrived in Lady May's carriage, to take care of her.
They were to call at Lady May's house, where its mistress and Sir
Richard Arden awaited them.

A few kind words followed Uncle David's affectionate greeting, as they
drove into town. He did not observe that Alice was unusually low. He
seemed to have something not very pleasant himself to think upon, and he
became silent for some time.

"I want," said he at last, looking up suddenly, "to give you a little
advice, and now mind what I say. Don't sign any legal paper without
consulting me, and don't make any promise to Richard. It is just
possible--I hope he may not, but it is just possible--that he may ask
you to deal in his favour with your charge on the Yorkshire estate. Do
you tell him if he should, that you have promised me faithfully not to
do anything in the matter, except as I shall advise. He may, as I said,
never say a word on the subject, but in any case my advice will do you
no harm. I have had bitter experience, my dear, of which I begin to grow
rather ashamed, of the futility of trying to assist Richard. I have
thrown away a great deal of money upon him, utterly thrown it away. _I_
can afford it, but _you_ cannot, and you shall not lose your little
provision." And here he changed the subject of his talk, I suppose to
avoid the possibility of discussion. "How very early the autumn has set
in this year! It is the extraordinary heat of the summer. The elms in
Mortlake are quite yellow already."

And so they talked on, and returned no more to the subject at which he
had glanced. But the few words her uncle had spoken gave Alice ample
matter to think on, and she concluded that Richard was in trouble again.

Lady May did not delay them a moment, and Sir Richard got into the
carriage after her, with the tickets in his charge. Very devoted, Alice
thought him, to Lady May, who appeared more than usually excited and
happy.

We follow our party without comment into the choir, where they take
possession of their seats. The chorus glide into their places like
shadows, and the vast array of instrumental musicians as noiselessly
occupy the seats before their desks. The great assembly is marshalled in
a silence almost oppressive, but which is perhaps the finest preparation
for the wondrous harmonies to come.

And now the grand and unearthly oratorio has commenced. Each person in
our little group hears it with different ears. I wonder whether any two
persons in that vast assembly heard it precisely alike. Sir Richard
Arden, having many things to think about, hears it intermittently as he
would have listened to a bore, and with a secret impatience. Lady May
hears it not much better, but felt as if she could have sat there for
ever. Old David Arden enjoyed music, and is profoundly delighted with
this. But his thoughts also begin to wander, for as the mighty basso
singing the part of Saul delivers the words,

    "I would that, by thy art, thou bring me up
     The man whom I shall name,"

David Arden's eye lighted, with a little shock, upon the enormous head
and repulsive features of the Baron Vanboeren. What a mask for a witch!
The travesti lost its touch of the ludicrous, in Uncle David's eye, by
virtue of the awful interest he felt in the possible revelations of that
ugly magician, who could, he fancied, by a word, call up the image of
Yelland Mace. The baron is sitting about the steps in front of him, face
to face. He wonders he has not seen him till now. His head is a little
thrown back, displaying his short bull neck. His restless eyes are fixed
now in a sullen reverie. His calculation as to the exact money value of
the audience is over; he is polling them no longer, and his unresting
brain is projecting pictures into the darkness of the future.

His face in a state of apathy was ill-favoured and wicked, and now
lighted with a cadaverous effect, by the dull purplish halo which marks
the blending of the feeble daylight, with the glow of the lamp that is
above him.

The baron had seen and recognised David Arden, and a train of thoughts
horribly incongruous with the sacred place was moving through his brain.
As he looks on, impassive, the great basso rings out--

    "If heaven denies thee aid, seek it from hell."

And the soprano sends forth the answering incantation, wild and
piercing--

    "Infernal spirits, by whose power
       Departed ghosts in living forms appear,
     Add horror to the midnight hour,
       And chill the boldest hearts with fear;
     To this stranger's wondering eyes
       Let the man he calls for rise."

If Mr. Longcluse had been near, he might have made his own sad
application of the air so powerfully sung by the alto to whom was
committed the part of David--

    "Such haughty beauties rather move
     Aversion, than engage our love."

He might with an undivulged anguish have heard the adoring strain--

    "O lovely maid! thy form beheld
       Above all beauty charms our eyes,
     Yet still within that form concealed,
       Thy mind a greater beauty lies."

In a rapture Alice listened on. The famous "Dead March" followed,
interposing its melancholy instrumentation, and arresting the vocal
action of the drama by the pomp of that magnificent dirge.

To her the whole thing seemed stupendous, unearthly, glorious beyond
expression. She almost trembled with excitement. She was glad she had
come. Tears of ecstasy were in her eyes.

And now, at length, the three parts are over, and the crowd begin to
move outward. The organ peals as they shuffle slowly along, checked
every minute, and then again resuming their slow progress, pushing on in
those little shuffling steps of two or three inches by which well-packed
crowds get along, every one wondering why they can't all step out
together, and what the people in front can be about.

In two several channels, through two distinct doors, this great human
reservoir floods out. Sir Richard has undertaken the task of finding
Lady May's carriage, and bringing it to a point where they might escape
the tedious waiting at the door; and David Arden, with Lady May on one
arm and Alice on the other, is getting on slowly in the thick of this
well-dressed and aristocratic mob.

"I think, Alice," said Uncle David, "you would be more out of the crush,
and less likely to lose me, if you were to get quite close behind us--do
you see?--between Lady May and me, and hold me fast."

The pressure of the stream was so unequal, and a front of three so wide,
that Alice gladly adopted the new arrangement, and with her hand on her
uncle's arm, felt safer and more comfortable than before.

This slow march, inch by inch, is strangely interrupted. A well-known
voice, close to her ear, says--

"Miss Arden, a word with you."

A pale face, with flat nose and Mephistophelian eyebrows, was stooping
near her. Mr. Longcluse's thin lips were close to her ear. She started a
little aside, and tried to stop. Recovering, she stretched her hand to
reach her uncle, and found that there were strangers between them.



CHAPTER LXI.

A WAKING DREAM.


There is something in that pale face and spectral smile that fascinates
the terrified girl; she cannot take her eyes off him. His dark eyes are
near hers; his lips are still close to her; his arm is touching her
dress; he leans his face to her, and talks on, in an icy tone little
above a whisper, and an articulation so sharply distinct that it seems
to pain her ear.

"The oratorio!" he continued: "the music! The words, here and there are
queer--a little sinister--eh? There are better words and wilder
music--you shall hear them some day! Saul had his evil spirit, and a bad
family have theirs--ay, they have a demon who is always near, and shapes
their lives for them; they don't know it, but, sooner or later justice
catches them. Suppose _I_ am the demon of _your_ family--it is very
funny, isn't it? I tried to serve you both, but it wouldn't do. I'll set
about the other thing now: the evil genius of a bad family; I'm
appointed to that. It almost makes me laugh--such cross-purposes! You're
frightened? That's a pity; you should have thought of that before. It
requires some nerve to fight a man like me. I don't threaten you, mind,
but you are frightened. There is such a thing as getting a dangerous
fellow bound over to keep the peace. Try that. I should like to have a
talk with you before his worship in the police-court, across the table,
with a corps of clever newspaper reporters sitting there. What fun in
the _Times_ and all the rest next morning."

It is plain to Miss Arden that Mr. Longcluse is speaking all this time
with suppressed fury, and his countenance expresses a sort of smiling
hatred that horrifies her.

"I'm not bad at speaking my mind," he continues. "It is unfortunate that
I am so well thought of and listened to in London. Yes, people mind what
I say a good deal. I rather think they'll choose to believe _my_ story.
But there's another way, if you don't like that. Your brother's not
afraid--_he_'ll protect you. Tell your brother what a miscreant I am,
and send him to me--do, pray! Nothing on earth I should like better than
to have a talk with that young gentleman. Do pray, send him, I entreat.
He'd like satisfaction--ha! ha!--and, by Heaven, I'll give it him! Tell
him to get his pistols ready; he shall have his shop! Let him come to
Boulogne, or where he likes--I'll stand it--and I don't think he'll need
to pay his way back again. He'll stay in France; he'll not walk in at
your hall-door, and call for luncheon, I promise you. Ha! ha! ha!"

This pale man enjoys her terror cruelly.

"I'm not worthy to speak to you, I believe--eh? That's odd, for the time
isn't far off when you'll pray to God I may have mercy on you. You had
no business to encourage me. I'm afraid the crowd is getting on very
slowly, but I'll try to entertain you: you _are_ such a good listener!"

Miss Arden often wondered afterwards at her own passiveness through all
this. There were, no doubt, close by, many worthy citizens, fathers of
families, who would have taken her for a few minutes under their
protection with honest alacrity. But it was a fascination; her state was
cataleptic: and she could no more escape than the bird that is throbbing
in the gaze of a snake. The cold murmur went distinctly on and on:

"Your brother will probably think I should treat you more ceremoniously.
Don't you agree with him? Pray, do complain to him. Pray, send him to
me, and I'll thank him for his share in this matter. He wanted to make
it a match between us--I'm speaking coarsely, for the sake of
distinctness--till a title turned up. What has become of the title,
by-the-bye?--I don't see him here. The peer wasn't in the running, after
all: didn't even start! Ha! ha! ha! Remember me to your brother, pray,
and tell him the day will come when he'll not need to be reminded of me:
I'll take care of that. And so Sir Richard is doomed to disappointment!
It is a world of disappointment. The earl is nowhere! And the proudest
family on earth--what is left of it--looks a little foolish. And well it
may: it has many follies to expiate. You had no business encouraging me,
and you are foolish enough to be terribly afraid now--ha! ha! ha! Too
late, eh? I daresay you think I'll punish you! Not I! Nothing of the
sort! I'll never punish anyone. Why should I take that trouble about
you. Not I: not even your brother. Fate does that. Fate has always been
kind to me, and hit my enemies pretty hard. You had no business
encouraging me. Remember this: the day is not far off when you will
_both_ rue the hour you threw me over!"

She is gazing helplessly into that dreadful face. There is a cruel
elation in it. He looks on her, I think, with admiration. Mixed with his
hatred, did there remain a fraction of love?

On a sudden the voice, which was the only sound she heard, was in her
ear no longer. The face which had transfixed her gaze was gone.
Longcluse had apparently pushed a way for her to her friends, for she
found herself again next her Uncle David. Holding his arm fast, she
looked round quickly for a moment: she saw Mr. Longcluse nowhere. She
felt on the point of fainting. The scene must have lasted a shorter time
than she supposed, for her uncle had not missed her.

"My dear, how pale you look! Are you tired?" exclaims Lady May, when
they have come to a halt at the door.

"Yes, indeed, so she does. Are you ill, dear?" added her uncle.

"No, nothing, thanks, only the crowd. I shall be better immediately."
And so waiting in the air, near the door, they were soon joined by Sir
Richard, and in his carriage he and she drove home to Mortlake. Lady
May, taking hers, went to a tea at old Lady Elverstone's; and David
Arden, bidding them good-bye, walked homeward across the park.

Richard had promised to spend the evening at Mortlake with her, and side
by side they were driving out to that sad and sombre scene. As they
entered the shaded road upon which the great gate of Mortlake opens, the
setting sun streamed through the huge trunks of the trees, and tinted
the landscape with a subdued splendour.

"I can't imagine, dear Alice, why you _will_ stay here. It is enough to
kill you," says Sir Richard, looking out peevishly on the picturesque
woodlands of Mortlake, and interrupting a long silence. "You never can
recover your spirits while you stay here. There is Lady May going all
over the world--I forget where, but she will be at Naples--and she
absolutely longs to take you with her; and you won't go! I really
sometimes think you want to make yourself melancholy mad."

"I don't know," said she, waking herself from a reverie in which,
against the dark background of the empty arches she had left, she still
saw the white, wicked face that had leaned over her, and heard the low
murmured stream of insult and menace. "I'm not sure that I shall not be
worse anywhere else. I don't feel energy to make a change. I can't bear
the idea of meeting people. By-and-by, in a little time, it will be
different. For the present, quiet is what I like best. But you, Dick,
are not looking well, you seem so over-worked and anxious. You really do
want a little holiday. Why don't you go to Scotland to shoot, or take a
few weeks' yachting? All your business must be pretty well settled now."

"It will never be settled," he said, a little sourly. "I assure you
there never was property in such a mess--I mean leases and everything.
Such drudgery, you have no idea; and I owe a good deal. It has not done
me any good. I'd rather be as I was before that miserable Derby. I'd
gladly exchange it all for a clear annuity of a thousand a year."

"Oh! my dear Dick, you can't mean that! All the northern property, and
this, and Morley?"

"I hate to talk about it. I'm tired of it already. I have been so
unlucky, so foolish, and if I had not found a very good friend, I should
have been utterly ruined by that cursed race; and he has been aiding me
very generously, on rather easy terms, in some difficulties that have
followed; and you know I had to raise money on the estate before all
this happened, and have had to make a very heavy mortgage, and I am
getting into such a mess--a confusion, I mean--and really I should have
sold the estates, if it had not been for my unknown friend, for I don't
know his name."

"What friend?"

"The friend who has aided me through my troubles--the best friend I ever
met, unless it be as I half suspect. Has anyone spoken to you lately, in
a way to lead you to suppose that he, or anyone else among our friends,
has been lending me a helping hand?"

"Yes, as we were driving into town to-day, Uncle David told me so
distinctly; but I am not sure that I ought to have mentioned it. I
fancy, indeed," she added, as she remembered the reflection with which
it was accompanied, "that he meant it as a secret, so you must not get
me into disgrace with him by appearing to know more than he has told you
himself."

"No, certainly," said Richard; "and he said it was he who lent it?"

"Yes, distinctly."

"Well, I all but knew it before. Of course it is very kind of him. But
then, you know he is very wealthy; he does not feel it; and he would not
for the world that our house should lose its position. I think he would
rather sell the coat off his back, than that our name should be
slurred."

Sir Richard was pleased that he had received this light in corroboration
of his suspicions. He was glad to have ascertained that the powerful
motives which he had conjectured were actually governing the conduct of
David Arden, although for obvious reasons he did not choose that his
nephew should be aware of his weakness.

The carriage drew up at the hall-door. The old house in the evening
beams, looked warm and cheery, and from every window in its broad front
flamed the reflection which showed like so many hospitable winter fires.



CHAPTER LXII.

LOVE AND PLAY.


"Here we are, Alice," says Sir Richard, as they entered the hall. "We'll
have a good talk this evening. We'll make the best of everything; and I
don't see if Uncle David chooses to prevent it, why the old ship should
founder after all."

They are now in the house. It is hard to get rid of the sense of
constraint that, in his father's time, he always experienced within
those walls; to feel that the old influence is exorcised and utterly
gone, and that he is himself absolute master where so lately he hardly
ventured to move on tip-toe.

They did not talk so much as Sir Richard had anticipated. There were
upon his mind some things that weighed heavily. He had got from Levi a
list of the advances made by his luckily found friend, and the total was
much heavier than he had expected. He began to fear that he might
possibly exceed the limits which his uncle must certainly have placed
somewhere. He might not, indeed, allow him to suffer the indignity of a
bankruptcy; but he would take a very short and unpleasant course with
him. He would seize his rents, and, with a friendly roughness, put his
estates to nurse, and send the prodigal on a Childe Harold's pilgrimage
of five or six years, with an allowance, perhaps, of some three hundred
a year, which in his frugal estimate of a young man's expenditure, would
be handsome.

While he was occupied in these ruminations, Alice cared not to break the
silence. It was a very unsociable _tête-à-tête_. Alice had a secret of
her own to brood over. If anything could have made Longcluse now more
terrible to her imagination, it would have been a risk of her brother's
knowing anything of the language he had dared to hold to her. She knew
from her brother's own lips, that he was a duellist; and she was also
persuaded that Mr. Longcluse was, in his own playful and sinister
phrase, very literally a "miscreant." His face, ever since that
interview, was always at her right side, with its cruel pallor, and the
vindictive sarcasm of lip and tone. How she wished that she had never
met that mysterious man! What she would have given to be exempted from
his hatred, and blotted from his remembrance!

One object only was in her mind, distinctly, with respect to that
person. She was, thank God, quite beyond his power. But men, she knew,
live necessarily a life so public, and have so many points of contact,
that better opportunities present themselves for the indulgence of a
masculine grudge; and she trembled at the thought of a collision. Why,
then, should not Dick seek a reconciliation with him, and, by any
honourable means, abate that terrible enmity.

"I have been thinking, Dick, that, as Uncle David makes the interest he
takes in your affairs a secret, and you can't consult him, it would be
very well indeed if you could find some one else able to advise, who
would consult with you when you wished."

"Of course, I should be only too glad," says Sir Richard, yawning and
smiling as well as he could at the same time; "but an adviser one can
depend on in such matters, my dear child, is not to be picked up every
day."

"Poor papa, I think, was very wise in choosing people of that kind.
Uncle David, I know, said that he made wonderfully good bargains about
his mortgages, or whatever they are called."

"I daresay--I don't know--he was always complaining, and always changing
them," says Sir Richard. "But if you can introduce me to a person who
can disentangle all my complications, and take half my cares off my
shoulders, I'll say you are a very wise little woman indeed."

"I only know this--that poor papa had the highest opinion of Mr.
Longcluse, and thought he was the cleverest person, and the most able to
assist, of any one he knew."

Sir Richard Arden hears this with a stare of surprise.

"My dear Alice, you seem to forget everything. Why, Longcluse and I are
at deadly feud. He hates me implacably. There never could be anything
but enmity between us. Not that I care enough about _him_ to hate him,
but I have the worst opinion of him. I have heard the most shocking
stories about him lately. They insinuate that he committed a murder! I
told you of that jealousy and disappointment, about a girl he was in
love with and wanted to marry, and it ended in _murder_! I'm told he had
the reputation of being a most unscrupulous villain. They say he was
engaged in several conspiracies to pigeon young fellows. He was the
utter ruin, they say, of young Thornley, the poor muff who shot himself
some years ago; and he was thought to be a principal proprietor of that
gaming-house in Vienna, where they found all the apparatus for cheating
so cleverly contrived."

"But are any of these things proved?" urges Miss Arden.

"I don't suppose he would be at large if they were," says Sir Richard,
with a smile. "I only know that I believe them."

"Well, Dick, you know I reminded you before--you used not to believe
those stories till you quarrelled with him."

"Why, what do you want, Alice?" he exclaims, looking hard at her. "What
on earth can you mean? And what can possibly make you take an interest
in the character of such a ruffian?"

Alice's face grew pale under his gaze. She cleared her voice and looked
down; and then she looked full at him, with burning eyes, and said--

"It is because I am afraid of him, and think he may do you some dreadful
injury, unless you are again on terms with him. I can't get it out of my
head; and I daresay I am wrong, but I am sure I am miserable."

She burst into tears.

"Why, you darling little fool, what harm can he do me?" said Richard
fondly, throwing his arms about her neck and kissing her, as he laughed
tenderly. "He exhausted his utmost malice when he angrily refused to
lend me a shilling in my extremity, or to be of the smallest use to me,
at a moment when he might have saved me, without risk to himself, by
simply willing it. _I_ didn't ask him, you may be sure. An officious,
foolish little friend, doing all, of course, for the best, _did_,
without once consulting me, or giving me a voice in the matter, until he
had effectually put his foot in it, as I told you. I would not for
anything on earth have applied to him, I need not tell you; but it was
done, and it only shows with what delight he would have seen me ruined,
as, in fact, I should have been, had not my own relations taken the
matter up. I do believe, Alice, the best thing I could do for myself and
for you would be to marry," he says, a little suddenly, after a
considerable silence.

Alice looks at him, doubtful whether he is serious.

"I really mean it. It is the only honest way of making or mending a
fortune now-a-days."

"Well, Dick, it is time enough to think of that by-and-by, don't you
think?"

"Perhaps so; I hope so. At present it seems to me that, as far as I am
concerned, it is just a race between the bishop and the bailiff which
shall have me first. If any lady is good enough to hold out a hand to a
poor drowning fellow, she had better----"

"Take care, Dick, that the poor drowning fellow does not pull her in.
Don't you think it would be well to consider first what you have got to
live on?"

"I have plenty to live on; I know that exactly," said Dick.

"What is it?"

"My wife's fortune."

"You are never serious for a minute, Dick! Don't you think it would be
better first to get matters a little into order, so as to know
distinctly what you are worth?"

"Quite the contrary; she'd rather not know. She'd rather exercise her
imagination than learn distinctly what I am worth. Any woman of sense
would prefer marrying me so."

"I don't understand you."

"Why, if I succeed in making matters quite lucid, I don't think she
would marry me at all. Isn't it better to say, 'My Angelina,' or
whatever else it may be, 'you see before you Sir Richard Arden, who has
estates in Yorkshire, in Middlesex, and in Devonshire, thus spanning all
England from north to south. We had these estates at the Conquest. There
is nothing modern about them but the mortgages. I have never been able
to ascertain exactly what they bring in by way of rents, or pay out by
way of interest. That I stand here, with flesh upon my bones, and pretty
well-made clothes, I hope, upon both, is evidence in a confused way that
an English gentleman--a baronet--can subsist upon them; and this
magnificent muddle I lay at your feet with the devotion of a passionate
admirer of your personal--property!' That, I say, is better than
appearing with a balance-sheet in your hand, and saying, 'Madam, I
propose marrying you, and I beg to present you with a balance-sheet of
the incomings and outgoings of my estates, the intense clearness of
which will, I hope, compensate for the nature of its disclosures. I am
there shown in the most satisfactory detail to be worth exactly fifteen
shillings per annum, and how unlimited is my credit will appear from the
immense amount and variety of my debts. In pressing my suit I rely
entirely upon your love of perspicuity and your passion for arithmetic,
which will find in the ledgers of my steward an almost inexhaustible
gratification and indulgence.' However, as you say, Alice, I have time
to look about me, and I see you are tired. We'll talk it over to-morrow
morning at breakfast. Don't think I have made up my mind; I'll do
exactly whatever you like best. But get to your bed, you poor little
soul; you do look so tired!"

With great affection they parted for the night. But Sir Richard did not
meet her at breakfast.

After she had left the room some time, he changed his mind, left a
message for his sister with old Crozier, ordered his servant and trap to
the door, and drove into town. It was not his good angel who prompted
him. He drove to a place where he was sure to find high play going on,
and there luck did not favour him.

What had become of Sir Richard Arden's resolutions? The fascinations of
his old vice were irresistible. The ring of the dice, the whirl of the
roulette, the plodding pillage of whist--any rite acknowledged by
Fortune, the goddess of his soul, was welcome to that keen worshipper.
Luck was not always adverse; once or twice he might have retreated in
comparative safety; but the temptation to "back his luck" and go on
prevailed, and left him where he was.

About a week after the evening passed at Mortlake, a black and awful
night of disaster befel him.

Every other extravagance and vice draws its victim on at a regulated
pace, but this of gaming is an hourly trifling with life, and one
infatuated moment may end him. How short had been the reign of the new
baronet, and where were prince and princedom now?

Before five o'clock in the morning, he had twice spent a quarter of an
hour tugging at Mr. Levi's office-bell, in the dismal old street in
Westminster. Then he drove off toward his lodgings. The roulette was
whirling under his eyes whenever for a moment he closed them. He thought
he was going mad.

The cabman knew a place where, even at that unseasonable hour, he might
have a warm bath; and thither Sir Richard ordered him to drive. After
this, he again essayed the Jew's office. The cool early morning was over
still quiet London--hardly a soul was stirring. On the steps he waited,
pulling the office-bell at intervals. In the stillness of the morning,
he could hear it distinctly in the remote room, ringing unheeded in that
capacious house.



CHAPTER LXIII.

PLANS.


It was, of course, in vain looking for Mr. Levi there at such an hour.
Sir Richard Arden fancied that he had, perhaps, a sleeping-room in the
house, and on that chance tried what his protracted alarm might do.

Then he drove to his own house. He had a latch-key, and let himself in.
Just as he is, he throws himself into a chair in his dressing-room. He
knows there is no use in getting into his bed. In his fatigued state,
sleep was quite out of the question. That proud young man was longing to
open his heart to the mean, cruel little Jew.

Oh, madness! why had he broken with his masterly and powerful friend,
Longcluse? Quite unavailing now, his repentance. They had spoken and
passed like ships at sea, in this wide life, and now who could count the
miles and billows between them! Never to cross or come in sight again!

Uncle David! Yes, he might go to him; he might spread out the broad
evidences of his ruin before him, and adjure him, by the God of mercy,
to save him from the great public disgrace that was now imminent;
implore of him to give him any pittance he pleased, to subsist on in
exile, and to deal with the estates as he himself thought best. But
Uncle David was away, quite out of reach. After his whimsical and
inflexible custom, lest business should track him in his holiday, he had
left no address with his man of business, who only knew that his first
destination was Scotland; none with Grace Maubray, who only knew that,
attended by Vivian Darnley, she and Lady May were to meet him in about a
fortnight on the Continent, where they were to plan together a little
excursion in Switzerland or Italy.

Sir Richard quite forgot there was such a meal as breakfast. He ordered
his horse to the door, took a furious two hours' ride beyond Brompton,
and returned and saw Levi at his office, at his usual hour, eleven
o'clock. The Jew was alone. His large lowering eyes were cast on Sir
Richard as he entered and approached.

"Look, now; listen," says Sir Richard, who looks wofully wild and pale,
and as he seats himself never takes his eyes off Mr. Levi. "I don't care
very much who knows it--I think I'm totally _ruined_."

The Jew knows pretty well all about it, but he stares and gapes
hypocritically in the face of his visitor as if he were thunderstruck,
and he speaks never a word. I suppose he thought it as well, for the
sake of brevity and clearness, to allow his client "to let off the
shteam" first, a process which Sir Richard forthwith commenced, with
both hands on the table--sometimes clenched, sometimes expanded,
sometimes with a thump, by blowing off a cloud of oaths and curses, and
incoherent expositions of the wrongs and perversities of fortune.

"I don't think I can tell you how much it is. I don't know," says Sir
Richard bleakly, in reply to a pertinent question of the Jew's. "There
was that rich fellow, what's his name, that makes candles--he's always
winning. By Jove, what a thing luck is! He won--I know it is more than
two thousand. I gave him I O U's for it. He'd be very glad, of course,
to know me, curse him! I don't care, now, who does. And he'd let me owe
him twice as much, for as long as I like. I daresay, only too glad--as
smooth as one of his own filthy candles. And there were three fellows
lending money there. I don't know how much I got--I was stupid. I signed
whatever they put before me. Those things can't stand, by heavens; the
Chancellor will set them all aside. The confounded villains! What's the
Government doing? What's the Government about, I say? Why don't
Parliament interfere, to smash those cursed nests of robbers and
swindlers? Here I am, utterly robbed--I know I'm _robbed_--and all by
that cursed temptation; and--and--and I don't know what cash I got, nor
what I have put my name to!"

"I'll make out that in an hour's time. They'll tell me at the houshe who
the shentleman wazh."

"And--upon my soul that's true--I owe the people there something too; it
can't be much--it isn't much. And, Levi, like a good fellow--by Heaven,
I'll _never_ forget it to you, if you'll think of something. You've
pulled me through so often; I am sure there's good-nature in you; you
wouldn't see a fellow you've known so long driven to the wall and made a
beggar of, without--without thinking of something."

Levi looked down, with his hands in his pockets, and whistled to
himself, and Sir Richard gazed on his vulgar features as if his life or
death depended upon every variation of their expression.

"You know," says Levi, looking up and swaying his shoulders a little,
"the old chap can't do no more. He's taken a share in that Austrian
contract, and he'll want his capital, every pig. I told you lasht time.
Wouldn't Lonclushe give you a lift?"

"Not he. He'd rather give me a shove under."

"Well, they tell me you and him wazh very thick; and your uncle'sh man,
Blount, knowshe him, and can just ashk him, from himself, mind, not from
you."

"For money?" exclaimed Richard.

"Not at a--all," drawled the Jew impatiently. "Lishen--mind. The old
fellow, your friend----"

"He's out of town," interrupted Richard.

"No, he'sh not. I shaw him lasht night. You're a--all wrong. He'sh not
Mr. David Harden, if that'sh what you mean. He'sh a better friend, and
he'll leave you a lot of tin when he diesh--an old friend of the
family--and if all goeshe shmooth he'll come and have a talk with you
fashe to fashe, and tell you all his plansh about you, before a week'sh
over. But he'll be at hish lasht pound for five or six weeksh to come,
till the firsht half-million of the new shtock is in the market; and he
shaid, 'I can't draw out a pound of my balanshe, but if he can get
Lonclushe's na--me, I'll get him any shum he wantsh, and bear Lonclushe
harmlesh.'"

"I don't think I can," said Sir Richard; "I can't be quite sure, though.
It is just possible he might."

"Well, let Blount try," said he.

There was another idea also in Mr. Levi's head. He had been thinking
whether the situation might not be turned to some more profitable
account, for him, than the barren agency for the "friend of the family,"
who "lent out money gratis," like Antonio; and if he did not "bring down
the rate of usance," at all events, deprived the Shylocks of London, in
one instance at least, of their fair game.

"If he won't do that, there'sh but one chansh left."

"What is that?" asked Sir Richard, with a secret flutter at his heart.
It was awful to think of himself reduced to his last chance, with his
recent experience of what a chance is.

"Well," says Mr. Levi, scrawling florid capitals on the table with his
office pen, and speaking with much deliberation, "I heard you were going
to make a very rich match; and if the shettlementsh was agreed on, I
don't know but we might shee our way to advancing all you want."

Sir Richard gets up, and walks slowly two or three times up and down the
room.

"I'll see about Blount," said he; "I'll talk to him. I think those
things are payable in six or eight days; and that tallow-chandler won't
bother me to-morrow, I daresay. I'll go to-day and talk to Blount, and
suppose you come to me to-morrow evening at Mortlake. Will nine o'clock
do for you? I sha'n't keep you half-an-hour."

"A--all right, Shir--nine, at Mortlake. If you want any diamondsh, I
have a beoo--ootiful collar and pendantsh, in that shaafe--brilliantsh.
I can give you the lot three thoushand under cosht prishe. You'll
wa--ant a preshent for the young la--ady."

"Yes, I suppose so," said Sir Richard, abstractedly. "To-morrow
night--to-morrow evening at nine o'clock."

He stopped at the door, looking silently down the stairs, and then
without leave-taking or looking behind him, he ran down, and drove to
Mr. Blount's house, close by, in Manchester Buildings.

For more than a year the young gentleman whom we are following this
morning had cherished vague aspirations, of which good Lady May had been
the object. There was nothing to prevent their union, for the lady was
very well disposed to listen. But Richard Arden did not like ridicule,
and there was no need to hurry; and besides, within the last half-year
had arisen another flame, less mercenary; also, perhaps, reciprocated.

Grace Maubray was handsome, animated; she had that combination of air,
tact, cleverness, which enter into the idea of _chic_. With him it had
been a financial, but notwithstanding rather agreeable, speculation.
Hitherto there seemed ample time before him, and there was no need to
define or decide.

Now, you will understand, the crisis had arrived, which admitted of
neither hesitation nor delay. He was now at Blount's hall-door. He was
certain that he could trust Blount with anything, and he meant to learn
from him what _dot_ his Uncle David intended bestowing on the young
lady.

Mr. Blount was at home. He smiled kindly, and took the young gentleman's
hand, and placed a chair for him.



CHAPTER LXIV.

FROM FLOWER TO FLOWER.


Mr. Blount was intelligent: he was an effective though not an artful
diplomatist. He promptly undertook to sound Mr. Longcluse without
betraying Sir Richard.

Richard Arden did not allude to his losses. He took good care to appear
pretty nearly as usual. When he confessed his _tendresse_ for Miss
Maubray, the grave gentleman smiled brightly, and took him by the hand.

"If _you_ should marry the young lady, mark you, she will have sixty
thousand pounds down, and sixty thousand more after Mr. David Arden's
death. That is splendid, Sir, and I think it will please him _very_
much."

"I have suffered a great deal, Mr. Blount, by neglecting his advice
hitherto. It shall be my chief object, henceforward, to reform, and to
live as he wishes. I believe people can't learn wisdom without
suffering."

"Will you take a biscuit and a glass of sherry, Sir Richard?" asked Mr.
Blount.

"Nothing, thanks," said Sir Richard. "You know, I'm not as rich as I
might have been, and marriage is a very serious step; and you are one of
the oldest and most sensible friends I have, and you'll understand that
it is only right I should be very sure before taking such a step,
involving not myself only, but another who ought to be dearer still,
that there should be no mistake about the means on which we may reckon.
Are you quite sure that my uncle's intentions are still exactly what you
mentioned?"

"Perfectly; he authorised me to say so two months ago, and on the eve of
his departure on Friday last he repeated his instructions."

Sir Richard, in silence, shook the old man very cordially by the hand,
and was gone.

As he drove to his house in May Fair, Sir Richard's thoughts, among
other things, turned again upon the question, "Who could his mysterious
benefactor be?"

Once or twice had dimly visited his mind a theory which, ever since his
recent conversation with Mr. Levi, had been growing more solid and
vivid. An illegitimate brother of his father's, Edwin Raikes, had gone
out to Australia early in life, with a purse to which three brothers,
the late Sir Reginald, Harry, and David, had contributed. He had not
maintained any correspondence with English friends and kindred; but
rumours from time to time reached home that he had amassed a fortune.
His feelings to the family of Arden had always been kindly. He was older
than Uncle David, and had well earned a retirement from the life of
exertion and exile which had consumed all the vigorous years of his
manhood. Was this the "old party" for whom Mr. Levi was acting?

With this thought opened a new and splendid hope upon the mind of Sir
Richard. Here was a fortune, if rumour spoke truly, which, combined with
David Arden's, would be amply sufficient to establish the old baronetage
upon a basis of solid magnificence such as it had never rested on
before.

It would not do, however, to wait for this. The urgency of the situation
demanded immediate action. Sir Richard made an elaborate toilet, after
which, in a hansom, he drove to Lady May Penrose's.

If our hero had had fewer things to think about he would have gone
first, I fancy, to Miss Grace Maubray. It could do no great harm,
however, to feel his way a little with Lady May, he thought, as he
chatted with that plump alternative of his tender dilemma. But in this
wooing there was a difficulty of a whimsical kind. Poor Lady May was so
easily won, and made so many openings for his advances, that he was at
his wits' end to find evasions by which to postpone the happy crisis
which she palpably expected. He did succeed, however; and with a promise
of calling again, with the lady's permission, that evening, he took his
leave.

Before making his call at his uncle's house, in the hope of seeing Grace
Maubray, he had to return to Mr. Blount, in Manchester Buildings, where
he hoped to receive from that gentleman a report of his interview with
Mr. Longcluse.

I shall tell you here what that report related. Mr. Longcluse was
fortunately still at his house when Mr. Blount called, and immediately
admitted him. Mr. Longcluse's horse and groom were at the door; he was
on the point of taking his ride. His gloves and whip were beside him on
the table as Mr. Blount entered.

Mr. Blount made his apologies, and was graciously received. His visit
was, in truth, by no means unwelcome.

"Mr. David Arden very well, I hope?"

"Quite well, thanks. He has left town."

"Indeed! And where has he gone--the moors?"

"To Scotland, but not to shoot, I think. And he's going abroad
then--going to travel."

"On the Continent? How nice that is! What part?"

"Switzerland and Italy, I think," said Mr. Blount, omitting all mention
of Paris, where Mr. Arden was going first to make a visit to the Baron
Vanboeren.

"He's going over ground that I know very well," said Mr. Longcluse.
"Happy man! He can't quite break away from his business, though, I
daresay."

"He never tells us where a letter will find him, and the consequence is
his holidays are never spoiled."

"Not a bad plan, Mr. Blount. Won't he visit the Paris Exhibition?"

"I rather think not."

"Can I do anything for you, Mr. Blount?"

"Well, Mr. Longcluse, I just called to ask you a question. I have been
invited to take part in arranging a little matter which I take an
interest in, because it affects the Arden estates."

"Is Sir Richard Arden interested in it?" inquired Mr. Longcluse, gently
and coldly.

"Yes, I rather fancy he would be benefited."

"I have had a good deal of unpleasantness, and, I might add, a great
deal of ingratitude from that quarter, and I have made up my mind never
again to have anything to do with him or his affairs. I have no
unpleasant _feeling_, you understand; no resentment; there is nothing,
of course, he could say or do that could in the least affect me. It is
simply that, having coolly reviewed his conduct, I have quite made up my
mind to aid in nothing in which he has act, part, or interest."

"It was not _directly_, but simply as a surety----"

"All the same, so far as I'm concerned," said Mr. Longcluse sharply.

"And only, I fancied, it might be, as Mr. David Arden is absent, and you
should be protected by satisfactory joint security----"

"I won't do it," said Mr. Longcluse, a little brusquely; and he took out
his watch and glanced at it impatiently.

"Sir Richard, I think, will be in funds immediately," said Mr. Blount.

"How so?" asked Mr. Longcluse. "You'll excuse me, as you press the
subject, for saying _that_ will be something new."

"Well," said Mr. Blount, who saw that his last words had made an
impression, "Sir Richard is likely to be married, very advantageously,
immediately."

"Are settlements agreed on?" inquired Mr. Longcluse, with real interest.

"No, not yet; but I know all about them."

"He is accepted then?"

"He has not proposed yet; but there can be, I fancy, no doubt that the
lady likes him, and all will go right."

"Oh! and who is the lady?"

"I'm not at liberty to tell."

"Quite right; I ought not to have asked," says Mr. Longcluse; and looks
down, slapping at intervals the side of his trousers lightly with his
whip. He raises his eyes to Mr. Blount's face, and looks on the point of
asking another question, but he does not.

"It is my opinion," said Mr. Blount, "the kindness would involve
absolutely no risk whatever."

There was a little pause. Mr. Longcluse looks rather dark and anxious;
perhaps his mind has wandered quite from the business before them. But
it returns, and he says,--

"Risk or no risk, Mr. Blount, I don't mean to do him that kindness; and
for how long will Mr. David Arden be absent?"

"Unless he should take a sudden thought to return, he'll be away at
least two months."

"Where is he?--in Scotland?"

"I _really_ don't know."

"Couldn't one see him for a few minutes before he starts? Where does he
take the steamer?"

"Southampton."

"And on what day?"

"You really want a word with him?" asked Blount, whose hopes revived.

"I may."

"Well, the only person who will know that is Mr. Humphries, of Pendle
Castle, near that town; for he has to transact some trust-business with
that gentleman as he passes through."

"Humphries, of Pendle Castle. Very good; thanks."

Mr. Longcluse looks again at his watch.

"And perhaps you will reconsider the matter I spoke of?"

"No use, Mr. Blount--not the least. I have quite made up my mind.
Anything more? I am afraid I must be off."

"Nothing, thanks," said Mr. Blount.

And so the interview ended.

When he was gone, Mr. Longcluse thought darkly for a minute.

"That's a straightforward fellow, they say. I suppose the facts are so.
It can't be, though, that Miss Maubray, that handsome creature with so
much money, is thinking of marrying that insolent coxcomb. It may be
Lady May, but the other is more likely. We must not allow _that_, Sir
Richard. That would never do."

There was a fixed frown on his face, and he was smiling in his dream.
Out he went. His pale face looked as if he meditated a wicked joke, and,
frowning still in utter abstraction, he took the bridle from his groom,
mounted, looked about him as if just wakened, and set off at a canter,
followed by his servant, for David Arden's house.

Smiling, gay, as if no care had ever crossed him, Longcluse enters the
drawing-room, where he finds the handsome young lady writing a note at
that moment.

"Mr. Longcluse, I'm so glad you've come!" she says, with a brilliant
smile. "I was writing to poor Lady Ethel, who is mourning, you know, in
the country. The death of her father in the house was so awfully sudden,
and I'm telling her all the news I can think of to amuse her. And is it
really true that old Sir Thomas Giggles has grown so cross with his
pretty young wife, and objects to her allowing Lord Knocknea to make
love to her?"

"Quite true. It is a very bad quarrel, and I'm afraid it can't be made
up," said Mr. Longcluse.

"It must be very bad, indeed, if Sir Thomas can't make it up; for he
allowed his first wife, I am told, to do anything she pleased. Is it to
be a separation?"

"At _least_. And you heard, I suppose, of poor old Lady Glare?"

"No!"

"She has been rolling ever so long, you know, in a sea of troubles, and
now, at last, she has fairly foundered."

"How do you mean?"

"They have sold her diamonds," said Mr. Longcluse. "Didn't you hear?"

"No! Really? Sold her diamonds? Good Heaven! Then there's nothing left
of her but her teeth. I hope they won't sell them."

"It is an awful misfortune," said Mr. Longcluse.

"Misfortune! She's utterly ruined. It was her diamonds that people
asked. I am really sorry. She was such fun; she was so fat, and such a
fool, and said such delicious things, and dressed herself so like a
macaw. Alas! I shall never see her more; and people thought her only use
on earth was to carry about her diamonds. No one seemed to perceive what
a delightful creature she was. What about Lady May Penrose? I have not
seen her since I came back from Cowes, the day before yesterday, and we
leave London together on Tuesday."

"Lady May! Oh! she is to receive a very interesting communication, I
believe. She is one name on a pretty long and very distinguished list,
which Sir Richard Arden, I am told, has made out, and carries about with
him in his pocket-book."

"You're talking riddles; pray speak plainly."

"Well, Lady May is one of several ladies who are to be honoured with a
proposal."

"And would you have me believe that Sir Richard Arden has really made
such a fool of himself as to make out a list of eligible ladies whom he
is about to ask to marry him, and that he has had the excellent good
sense and taste to read this list to his acquaintance?"

"I mean to say this--I'll tell the whole story--Sir Richard has ruined
himself at play; take that as a fact to start with. He is literally
ruined. His uncle is away; but I don't think any man in his senses would
think of paying his losses for him. He turns, therefore, naturally, to
the more amiable and less arithmetical sex, and means to invite, in
turn, a series of fair and affluent admirers to undertake, by means of
suitable settlements, that interesting office for him."

"I don't think you like him, Mr. Longcluse; is not that a story a little
too like 'The Merry Wives of Windsor?'"

"It is quite certain I don't like him, and it is quite certain," added
Mr. Longcluse, with one of his cold little laughs, "that if I did like
him, I should not tell the story; but it is also certain that the story
is, in all its parts, strictly fact. If you permit me the pleasure of a
call in two or three days, you will tell me you no longer doubt it."

Mr. Longcluse was looking down as he said that with a gentle and smiling
significance. The young lady blushed a little, and then more intensely,
as he spoke, and looking through the window, asked with a laugh,--

"But how shall we know whether he really speaks to Lady May?"

"Possibly by his marrying her," laughed Mr. Longcluse. "He certainly
will if he can, unless he is caught and married on the way to her
house."

"He was a little unfortunate in showing you his list, wasn't he?" said
Grace Maubray.

"I did not say that. If there had been any, the least, confidence,
nothing on earth could have induced me to divulge it. We are not even,
at present, on speaking terms. He had the coolness to send a Mr. Blount,
who transacts all Mr. David Arden's affairs, to ask me to become his
security, Mr. Arden being away; and by way of inducing me to do so, he
disclosed, with the coarseness which is the essence of business, the
matrimonial schemes which are to recoup, within a few days, the losses
of the roulette, the whist-table, or the dice-box."

"Oh! Mr. Blount, I'm told, is a very honest man."

"Quite so; particularly accurate, and I don't think anything on earth
would induce him to tell an untruth," testifies Mr. Longcluse.

After a little pause, Miss Maubray laughs.

"One certainly does learn," she said, "something new every day. Could
any one have fancied a _gentleman_ descending to so gross a meanness?"

"Everybody is a gentleman now-a-days," remarked Mr. Longcluse with a
smile; "but every one is not a hero--they give way, more or less, under
temptation. Those who stand the test of the crucible and the furnace are
seldom met with."

At this moment the door opened, and Lord Wynderbroke was announced. A
little start, a lighting of the eyes, as Grace rose, and a fluttered
advance, with a very pretty little hand extended, to meet him,
testified, perhaps, rather more surprise than one would have quite
expected. For Mr. Longcluse, who did not know him so well as Miss
Maubray, recognised his voice, which was peculiar, and resembling the
caw of a jay, as he put a question to the servant on his way up.

Mr. Longcluse took his leave. He was not sorry that Lord Wynderbroke had
called. He wished no success to Sir Richard's wooing. He thought he had
pretty well settled the question in Miss Maubray's mind, and smiling, he
rode at a pleasant canter to Lady May's. It was as well, perhaps, that
she should hear the same story. Lady May, however, unfortunately, had
just gone out for a drive.



CHAPTER LXV.

BEHIND THE ARRAS.


It was quite true that Lady May was not at home. She was actually, with
a little charming palpitation, driving to pay a very interesting visit
to Grace Maubray. In affairs of the kind that now occupied her mind, she
had no confidants but very young people.

Miss Maubray was at home--and instantly Lady May's plump instep was seen
on the carriage step. She disdained assistance, and descended with a
heavy skip upon the flags, where she executed an involuntary frisk that
carried her a little out of the line of advance.

As she ascended the stairs, she met her friend Lord Wynderbroke coming
down. They stopped for a moment on the landing, under a picture of Cupid
and Venus; Lady May, smiling, remarked, a little out of breath, what a
charming day it was, and expressed her amazement at seeing him in
town--a surprise which he agreeably reciprocated. He had been at
Glenkiltie in the Highlands, where he had accidentally met Mr. David
Arden. "Miss Maubray is in the drawing-room," he said, observing that
the eyes of the good lady glanced unconsciously upward at the door of
that room. And then they parted affectionately, and turned their backs
on each other with a sense of relief.

"Well, my dear," she said to Grace Maubray as soon as they had kissed,
"longing to have a few minutes with you, with ever so much to say. You
have no idea what it is to be stopped on the stairs by that tiresome
man--I'll never quarrel with you again for calling him a bore. No
matter, here I am; and really, my dear, it _is_ such an odd affair--not
quite that; such an odd scene, I don't know where or how to begin."

"I wish I could help you," said Miss Maubray laughing.

"Oh, my dear, you'd never guess in a hundred years."

"How do you know? Hasn't a certain baronet something to do with it?"

"Well, well--dear me! That is _very_ extraordinary. Did he tell you he
was going to--to--Good gracious! My dear, it _is_ the most extraordinary
thing. I believe you hear everything; but--a--but _listen_. Not an hour
ago he came--Richard Arden, of course, we mean--and, my dear Grace, he
spoke so very nicely of his troubles, poor fellow, you know--debts I
mean, of course--not the least his fault, and all that kind of thing,
and--he went on--I really don't know how to tell you. But he said--he
said--he said he liked me, and no one else on earth; and he was on the
very point of saying _everything_, when, just at that moment, who should
come in but that gossiping old woman, Lady Botherton--and he whispered,
as he was going, that he would return, after I had had my drive. The
carriage was at the door, so, when I got rid of the old woman, I got
into it, and came straight here to have a talk with you; and what do you
think I ought to say? Do tell me, like a darling, do!"

"I wish you would tell _me_ what one ought to say to that question,"
said Grace Maubray with a slight disdain (that young lady was in the
most unreasonable way piqued), "for I'm told he's going to ask me
precisely the same question."

"_You_, my dear?" said Lady May after a pause, during which she was
staring at the smiling face of the young lady; "you can't be serious!"

"_He_ can't be serious, you mean," answered the young lady, "and--who's
this?" she broke off, as she saw a cab drive up to the hall-door. "Dear
me! is it? No. Yes, indeed, it is Sir Richard Arden. We must not be seen
together. He'll know you have been talking to me. Just go in here."

She opened the door of the boudoir adjoining the room.

"I'll send him away in a moment. You may hear every word I have to say.
I should like it. I shall give him a lecture."

As she thus spoke she heard his step on the stair, and motioned Lady May
into the inner room, into which she hurried and closed the door, leaving
it only a little way open.

These arrangements are hardly completed when Sir Richard is announced.
Grace is positively angry. But never had she looked so beautiful; her
eyes so tenderly lustrous under their long lashes; her colour so
brilliant--an expression so maidenly and sad. If it was acting, it was
very well done. You would have sworn that the melancholy and agitation
of her looks, and the slightly quickened movement of her breathing, were
those of a person who felt that the hour of her fate had come.

With what elation Richard Arden saw these beautiful signs!



CHAPTER LXVI.

A BUBBLE BROKEN.


After a few words had been exchanged, Grace said in reply to a question
of Sir Richard's,--

"Lady May and I are going together, you know: in a day or two we shall
be at Brighton. I mean to bid Alice good-bye to-day. There--I mean at
Brighton--we are to meet Vivian Darnley, and possibly another friend;
and we go to meet your uncle at that pretty little town in Switzerland,
where Lady May----I wonder, by-the-bye, you did not arrange to come with
us; Lady May travels with us the entire time. She says there are some
very interesting ruins there."

"Why, dear old soul!" said Sir Richard, who felt called upon to say
something to set himself right with respect to Lady May, "she's thinking
of quite another place. She will be herself the only interesting ruin
there."

"I think you wish to vex me," said pretty Grace, turning away with a
smile, which showed, nevertheless, that this kind of joke was not an
unmixed vexation to her. "I don't care for ruins myself."

"Nor do I," he said, archly.

"But you don't think so of Lady May. I know you don't. You are franker
with her than with me, and you tell her a very different tale."

"I must be very frank, then, if I tell her more than I know myself. I
never said a civil thing of Lady May, except once or twice, to the poor
old thing herself, when I wanted her to do one or two little things, to
please _you_."

"Oh! come, you can't deceive me; I've seen you place your hand to your
heart, like a theatrical hero, when you little fancied any one but she
saw it."

"Now, really, that is too bad. I may have put my hand to my side, when
it ached from laughing."

"How can you talk so? You know very well I have heard you tell her how
you admire her music and her landscapes."

"No, no--not landscapes--she paints faces. But her colouring is, as
artists say, too chalky--and nothing but red and white, like--what is it
like?--like a clown. Why did not she get the late Mr. Etty--she's always
talking of him--to teach her something of his tints?"

"You are not to speak so of Lady May. You forget she is my particular
friend," says the young lady; but her pretty face does not express so
much severity as her words. "I do think you like her. You merely talk so
to throw dust in people's eyes. Why should not you be frank with me?"

"I wish I dare be frank with you," said Sir Richard.

"And why not?"

"How can I tell how my disclosures might be punished? My frankness might
extinguish the best hope I live for; a few rash words might make me a
very unhappy man for life."

"Really? Then I can quite understand that reflection alarming you in the
midst of a _tête-à-tête_ with Lady May; and even interrupting an
interesting conversation."

Sir Richard looked at her quickly, but her looks were perfectly artless.

"I really do wish you would spare me all further allusion to that good
woman. I can bear that kind of fun from any one but you. Why will you?
she is old enough to be my mother. She is fat, and painted, and
ridiculous. You think me totally without romance? I wish to heaven I
were. There is a reason, that makes your saying all that particularly
cruel. I am not the sordid creature you take me for. I'm not insensible.
I'm not a mere stock of stone. Never was human being more capable of the
wildest passion. Oh, if I dare tell you all!"

Was all this acting? Certainly not. Never was shallow man, for the
moment, more in earnest. Cool enough he was, although he had always
admired this young lady, when he entered the room. He had made that
entrance, nevertheless, in a spirit quite dramatic. But Miss Maubray
never looked so brilliant, never half so tender. He took fire--the
situation aiding quite unexpectedly--and the flame was real. It might
have been over as quickly as a balloon on fire; but for the moment the
conflagration was intense.

How was Miss Maubray affected? An immensely abler performer than the
young gentleman who had entered the room with his part at his fingers'
ends, and all his looks and emphasis arranged--only to break through all
this, and begin extemporising wildly--she, on the contrary, maintained
her _rôle_ with admirable coolness. It was not, perhaps, so easy; for
notwithstanding appearances, her histrionic powers were severely tasked;
for never was she more angry. Her self-esteem was wounded; the fancy (it
was no more), she had cherished for him was gone, and a great disgust
was there instead.

"You shall ask me no questions till I have done asking mine," said the
young lady, with decision; "and I will speak as much as I please of Lady
May!"

This jealousy flattered Sir Richard.

"And I will say this," continued Grace Maubray, "you never address her
except as a lover, in what you romantic people would call the language
of love."

"Now, now, now! How can you say that? Is that fair?"

"You do."

"No, really, I swear--that's _too_ bad!"

"Yes, the other day, when you spoke to her at the carriage window--you
did not think I heard--you accused her so tenderly of having failed to
go to Lady Harbroke's garden-party, and you couldn't say what you meant
in plain terms, but you said, 'Why were you false?'"

"I didn't, I swear."

"Oh! you did; I heard every syllable; 'false' was the word."

"Well, if I said 'false,' I must have been thinking of her hair; for she
is really a very honest old woman."

At this moment a female voice in distress is heard, and poor Lady May
comes pushing out of the pretty little room, in which Grace Maubray had
placed her, sobbing and shedding floods of tears.

"I can't stay there any longer, for I hear everything; I can't help
hearing every word--honest old woman, and all--opprobrious. Oh! how
_can_ people be so? how _can_ they? Oh! I'm very angry--I'm very
angry--I'm very angry!"

If Miss Maubray were easily moved to pity she might have been at sight
of the big innocent eyes turned up at her, from which rolled great
tears, making visible channels through the paint down her cheeks. She
sobbed and wept like a fat, good-natured child, and pitifully she
continued sobbing, "Oh, I'm a-a-ho--very angry; wha-at shall I do-o-o,
my dear? I-I'm very angry--oh, oh--I'm very a-a-angry!"

"So am I," said Grace Maubray, with a fiery glance at the young baronet,
who stood fixed where he was, like an image of death; "and I had
intended, dear Lady May, telling you a thing which Sir Richard Arden may
as well hear, as I mean to write to tell Alice to-day; it is that I am
to be married--I have accepted Lord Wynderbroke--and--and that's all."

Sir Richard, I believe, said "Good-bye." Nobody heard him. I don't think
he remembers how he got on his horse. I don't think the ladies saw him
leave the room--only, he was gone.

Poor Lady May takes her incoherent leave. She has got her veil over her
face, to baffle curiosity. Miss Maubray stands at the window, the tip of
her finger to her brilliant lip, contemplating Lady May as she gets in
with a great jerk and swing of the carriage, and she hears the footman
say "Home," and sees a fat hand, in a lilac glove, pull up the window
hurriedly. Then she sits down on a sofa, and laughs till she quivers
again, and tears overflow her eyes; and she says in the intervals,
almost breathlessly,--

"Oh, poor old thing! I really am sorry. Who could have thought she cared
so much? Poor old soul! what a ridiculous old thing!"

Such broken sentences of a rather contemptuous pity rolled and floated
along the even current of her laughter.



CHAPTER LXVII.

BOND AND DEED.


The summer span of days was gone; it was quite dark, and long troops of
withered leaves drifted in rustling trains over the avenue, as Mr. Levi,
observant of his appointment, drove up to the grand old front of
Mortlake, which in the dark spread before him like a house of white
mist.

"I shay," exclaimed Mr. Levi, softly, arresting the progress of the
cabman, who was about running up the steps, "I'll knock myshelf--wait
you there."

Mr. Levi was smoking. Standing at the base of the steps, he looked up,
and right and left with some curiosity. It was too dark; he could hardly
see the cold glimmer of the windows that reflected the grey horizon.
Vaguely, however, he could see that it was a grander place than he had
supposed. He looked down the avenue, and between the great trees over
the gate he saw the distant lights, and heard through the dim air the
chimes, far off, from London steeples, succeeding one another, or
mingling faintly, and telling all whom it might concern the solemn
lesson of the flight of time.

Mr. Levi thought it might be worth while coming down in the day-time,
and looking over the house and place to see what could be made of them;
the thing was sure to go a dead bargain. At present he could see nothing
but the wide, vague, grey front, and the faint glow through the hall
windows, which showed their black outlines sharply enough.

"Well, _he_'sh come a mucker, anyhow," murmured Mr. Levi, with one of
his smiles that showed so wide his white sharp teeth.

He knocked at the door and rang the bell. It was not a footman, but
Crozier who opened it. The old servant of the family did not like the
greasy black curls, the fierce jet eyes, the sallow face and the large,
moist, sullen mouth, that presented themselves under the brim of Mr.
Levi's hat, nor the tawdry glimmer of chains on his waistcoat, nor the
cigar still burning in his fingers. Sir Richard had told Crozier,
however, that a Mr. Levi, whom he described, was to call at a certain
hour, on very particular business, and was to be instantly admitted.

Mr. Levi looks round him, and extinguishes his cigar before following
Crozier, whose countenance betrays no small contempt and dislike, as he
eyes the little man askance, as if he would like well to be uncivil to
him.

Crozier leads him to the right, through a small apartment, to a vast
square room, long disused, still called the library, though but few
books remain on the shelves, and those in disorder. It is a chilly
night, and a little fire burns in the grate, over which Sir Richard is
cowering. Very haggard, the baronet starts up as the name of his visitor
is announced.

"Come in," cries Sir Richard, walking to meet him. "Here--here I am,
Levi, utterly ruined. There isn't a soul I dare tell how I am beset, or
anything to, but you. Do, for God's sake take pity on me, and think of
something! my brain's quite gone--you're such a clever fellow" (he is
dragging Levi by the arm all this time towards the candles): "do now,
you're sure to see some way out. It is a matter of _honour_; I only want
time. If I could only find my Uncle David: think of his
selfishness--good heaven! was there ever man so treated? and there's the
bank letter--_there_--on the table; you see it--dunning me, the
ungrateful harpies, for the trifle--what is it?--three hundred and
something, I overdrew; and that blackguard tallow-chandler has been
three times to my house in town, for payment to-day, and it's more than
I thought--near four thousand, he says--the scoundrel! It's just the
same to him two months hence; he's full of money, the beast--a fellow
like that--it's delight to him to get hold of a gentleman, and he won't
take a bill--the lying rascal! He is pressed for cash just now--a
pug-faced villain with three hundred thousand pounds! Those scoundrels!
I mean the people, whatever they are, that lent me the money; it turns
out it was all but at sight, and they were with my attorney to-day, and
they won't wait. I wish I was shot; I envy the dead dogs rolling in the
Thames! By heaven; Levi, I'll say you're the best friend man ever had on
earth, I will, if you manage something! I'll never forget it to you;
I'll have it in my power, yet! no one ever said I was ungrateful; I
swear I'll be the making of you! _Do_, Levi, think; you're accustomed
to--to emergency, and unless you will, I'm utterly ruined--ruined, by
heaven, before I have time to think!"

The Jew listened to all this with his hands in his pockets, leaning back
in his chair, with his big eyes staring on the wild face of the baronet,
and his heavy mouth hanging. He was trying to reduce his countenance to
vacancy.

"What about them shettlements, Sir Richard--a nishe young lady with a
ha-a-tful o' money?" insinuated Levi.

"I've been thinking over that, but it wouldn't do, with my affairs in
this state, it would not be honourable or straight. Put that quite
aside."

Mr. Levi gaped at him for a moment solemnly, and turned suddenly, and,
brute as he was, spit on the Turkey carpet. He was not, as you perceive,
ceremonious; but he could not allow the baronet to see the laughter that
without notice caught him for a moment, and could think of no better way
to account for his turning away his head.

"That'sh wery honourable indeed," said the Jew, more solemn than ever;
"and if you can't play in that direction, I'm afraid you're in queer
shtreet."

The baronet was standing before Levi, and at these words from that dirty
little oracle, a terrible chill stole up from his feet to the crown of
his head. Like a frozen man he stood there, and the Jew saw that his
very lips were white. Sir Richard feels, for the first time, actually,
that he is ruined.

The young man tries to speak, twice. The big eyes of the Jew are staring
up at the contortion. Sir Richard can see nothing but those two big
fiery eyes; he turns quickly away and walks to the end of the room.

"There's just one fiddle-string left to play on," muses the Jew.

"For God's sake!" exclaims Sir Richard, turning about, in a voice you
would not have known, and for fully a minute the room was so silent you
could scarcely have believed that two men were breathing in it.

"Shir Richard, will you be so good as to come nearer a bit? There,
that'sh the cheeshe. I brought thish 'ere thing."

It is a square parchment with a good deal of printed matter, and blanks,
written in, and a law stamp fixed with an awful regularity, at the
corner.

"Casht your eye over it," says Levi, coaxingly, as he pushes it over the
table to the young gentleman, who is sitting now at the other side.

The young man looks at it, reads it, but just then, if it had been a
page of "Robinson Crusoe," he could not have understood it.

"I'm not quite myself, I can't follow it; too much to think of. What is
it?"

"A bond and warrant to confess judgment."

"What is it for?"

"Ten thoushand poundsh."

"Sign it, shall I? Can you do anything with it?"

"Don't raishe your voishe, but lishten. Your friend"--and at the phrase
Mr. Levi winked mysteriously--"has enough to do it twishe over; and upon
my shoul, I'll shwear on the book, azh I hope to be shaved, it will
never shee the light; he'll never raishe a pig on it, sho' 'elp me, nor
let it out of hish 'ands, till he givesh it back to you. He can't ma-ake
no ushe of it; I knowshe him well, and he'll pay you the ten thoushand
to-morrow morning, and he wantsh to shake handsh with you, and make
himself known to you, and talk a bit."

"But--but my signature wouldn't satisfy him," began Sir Richard
bewildered.

"Oh! _no_--no, no?" murmured Mr. Levi, fiddling with the corner of the
bank's reminder which lay on the table.

"Mr. Longcluse won't sign it," said Sir Richard.

Mr. Levi threw himself back in his chair, and looked with a roguish
expression still upon the table, and gave the corner of the note a
little fillip.

"Well," said Levi, after both had been some time silent, "it ain't much,
only to write his name on the penshil line, _there_, you see, and
_there_--he shouldn't make no bonesh about it. Why, it's done every day.
Do you think I'd help in a thing of the short if there was any danger?
The Sheneral's come to town, is he? What are you afraid of? Don't you be
a shild--ba-ah!"

All this Mr. Levi said so low that it was as if he were whispering to
the table, and he kept looking down as he put the parchment over to Sir
Richard, who took it in his hand, and the bond trembled so much that he
set it down again.

"Leave it with me," he said faintly.

Levi got up with an unusual hectic in each cheek, and his eyes very
brilliant.

"I'll meet you what time you shay to-night; you had besht take a little
time. It'sh ten now. Three hoursh will do it. I'll go on to my offish by
one o'clock, and you come any time from one to two."

Sir Richard was trembling.

"Between one and two, mind. Hang it! Shir Richard, don't you be a fool
about nothing," whispers the Jew, as black as thunder.

He is fumbling in his breast-pocket, and pulling out a sheaf of letters;
he selects one, which he throws upon the parchment that lies open on the
table.

"That'sh the note you forgot in my offish yeshterday, with hish name
shined to it. There, now you have everything."

Without any form of valediction, the Jew had left the room. Sir Richard
sits with his teeth set, and a strange frown upon his face, scarcely
breathing. He hears the cab drive away. Before him on the table lie the
papers.



CHAPTER LXVIII.

SIR RICHARD'S RESOLUTION.


Two hours had passed, and more, of solitude. With a candle in his hand,
and his hat and great-coat on, Sir Richard Arden came out into the hall.
His trap awaited him at the door.

In the interval of his solitude, something incredible has happened to
him. It is over. A spectral secret accompanies him henceforward. A devil
sits in his pocket, in that parchment. He dares not think of himself.
Something sufficient to shake the world of London, and set all English
Christian tongues throughout the earth wagging on one theme, has
happened.

Does he repent? One thing is certain: he dares not falter. Something
within him once or twice commanded him to throw his crime into the fire,
while yet it is obliterable. But what then? what of to-morrow? Into that
sheer black sea of ruin, that reels and yawns as deep as eye can fathom
beneath him, he must dive and see the light no more. Better his chance.

He won't think of what he has done, of what he is going to do. He
suspects his courage: he dares not tempt his cowardice. Braver, perhaps,
it would have been to meet the worst at once. But surely, according to
the theory of chances, we have played the true game. Is not a little
time gained, everything? Are we not in friendly hands? Has not that
little scoundrel committed himself, by an all but actual participation
in the affair? It can never come to _that_. "I have only to confess, and
throw myself at Uncle David's feet, and the one dangerous debt would
instantly be brought up and cancelled."

These thoughts came vaguely, and on his heart lay an all but
insupportable load. The sight of the staircase reminded him that Alice
must long since have gone to her room. He yearned to see her and say
good-night. It was the last farewell that the brother she had known from
her childhood till now should ever speak or look. That brother was to
die to-night, and a spirit of guilt to come in his stead.

He taps lightly at her door. She is asleep. He opens it, and dimly sees
her innocent head upon the pillow. If his shadow were cast upon her
dream, what an image would she have seen looking in at the door! A
sudden horror seizes him--he draws back and closes the door; on the
lobby he pauses. It was a last moment of grace. He stole down the
stairs, mounted his tax-cart, took the reins from his servant in
silence, and drove swiftly into town. In Parliament Street, near the
corner of the street leading to Levi's office, they passed a policeman,
lounging on the flagway. Richard Arden is in a strangely nervous state;
he fancies he will stop and question him, and he touches the horse with
the whip to get quickly by.

In his breast-pocket he carried his ghastly secret. A pretty business if
he happened to be thrown out, and a policeman should make an inventory
of his papers, as he lay insensible in an hospital--a pleasant thing if
he were robbed in these villanous streets, and the bond advertised, for
a reward, by a pretended finder. A nice thing, good heaven! if it should
wriggle and slip its way out of his pocket, in the jolting and tremble
of the drive, and fall into London hands, either rascally or severe. He
pulled up, and gave the reins to the servant, and felt, however
gratefully, with his fingers, the crisp crumple of the parchment under
the cloth! Did his servant look at him oddly as he gave him the reins?
Not he; but Sir Richard began to suspect him and everything. He made him
stop near the angle of the street, and there he got down, telling him
rather savagely--for his fancied look was still in the baronet's
brain--not to move an inch from that spot.

It was half-past one as his steps echoed down the street in which Mr.
Levi had his office. There was a figure leaning with its back in the
recess of Levi's door, smoking. Sir Richard's temper was growing
exasperated.

It was Levi himself. Upstairs they stumble in the dark. Mr. Levi has not
said a word. He is not treating his visitor with much ceremony. He lets
himself into his office, secured with a heavy iron bar, and a lock that
makes a great clang, and proceeds to light a candle. The flame expands
and the light shows well-barred shutters, and the familiar objects.

When Mr. Levi had lighted a second candle, he fixed his great black eyes
on the young baronet, who glances over his shoulder at the door, but the
Jew has secured it. Their eyes meet for a moment, and Sir Richard places
his hand nervously in his breast-pocket and takes out the parchment.
Levi nods and extends his hand. Each now holds it by a corner, and as
Sir Richard lets it go hesitatingly, he says faintly--

"Levi, you wouldn't--you could not run any risk with that?"

Levi stands by his great iron safe, with the big key in his hand. He
nods in reply, and locking up the document, he knocks his knuckles on
the iron door, with a long and solemn wink.

"_Sha-afe!_--that'sh the word," says he, and then he drops the keys into
his pocket again.

There was a silence of a minute or more. A spell was stealing over them;
an influence was in the room. Each eyed the other, shrinkingly, as a man
might eye an assassin. The Jew knew that there was danger in that
silence; and yet he could not break it. He could not disturb the
influence acting on Richard Arden's mind. It was his good angel's last
pleading, before the long farewell.

In a dreadful whisper Richard Arden speaks:--

"Give me that parchment back," says he.

Satan finds his tongue again.

"Give it back?" repeats Levi, and a pause ensues. "Of course I'll give
it back; and I wash my hands of it and you, and you're throwing away ten
thoushand poundsh for _nothing_."

Levi was taking out his keys as he spoke, and as he fumbled them over
one by one, he said--

"You'll want a lawyer in the Insholwent Court, and you'd find Mishter
Sholomonsh azh shatisfactory a shengleman azh any in London. He'sh an
auctioneer, too; and there'sh no good in your meetin' that friendly cove
here to-morrow, for he'sh one o' them honourable chaps, and he'll never
look at you after your schedule's lodged, and the shooner that'sh done
the better; and them women we was courting, won't they laugh!"

Hereupon, with great alacrity, Mr. Levi began to apply the key to the
lock.

"Don't mind. Keep it; and mind, you d----d little swindler, so sure as
you stand there, if you play me a trick, I'll blow your brains out, if
it were in the police-office!"

Mr. Levi looked hard at him, and nodded. He was accustomed to excited
language in certain situations.

"Well," said he coolly, a second time returning the keys to his pocket,
"your friend will be here at twelve to-morrow, and if you please him as
well as he expects, who knows wha-at may be? If he leavesh you half hish
money, you'll not 'ave many bill transhactionsh on your handsh."

"May God Almighty have mercy on me!" groans Sir Richard, hardly above
his breath.

"You shall have the cheques then. He'll be here all right."

"I--I forget; did you say an hour?"

Levi repeats the hour. Sir Richard walks slowly to the stairs, down
which Levi lights him. Neither speaks.

In a few minutes more the young gentleman is driving rapidly to his town
house, where he means to end that long-remembered night.

When he had got to his room, and dismissed his valet, he sat down. He
looked round, and wondered how collected he now was. The situation
seemed like a dream, or his sense of danger had grown torpid. He could
not account for the strange indifference that had come over him. He got
quickly into bed. It was late, and he exhausted, and aided, I know not
by what narcotic, he slept a constrained, odd sleep--black as
Erebus--the thread of which snaps suddenly, and he is awake with a heart
beating fast, as if from a sudden start. A hard bitter voice has said
close by the pillow, "You are the first Arden that ever did that!" and
with these words grating in his ears, he awoke, and had a confused
remembrance of having been dreaming of his father.

Another dream, later on, startled him still more. He was in Levi's
office, and while they were talking over the horrid document, in a
moment it blew out of the window; and a lean, ill-looking man, in a
black coat, like the famous person who, in old woodcuts, picked up the
shadow of Peter Schlemel, caught the parchment from the pavement, and
with his eyes fixed corner-wise upon him, and a dreadful smile, tapped
his long finger on the bond, and with wide paces stepped swiftly away
with it in his hand.

Richard Arden started up in his bed; the cold moisture of terror was
upon his forehead, and for a moment he did not know where he was, or how
much of his vision was real. The grey twilight of early morning was over
the town. He welcomed the light; he opened the window-shutters wide. He
looked from the window down upon the street. A lean man with tattered
black, with a hammer in his hand, just as the man in his dream had held
the roll of parchment, was slowly stepping with long strides away from
his house, along the street.

As his thoughts cleared, his panic increased. Nothing had happened
between the time of his lying down and his up-rising to alter his
situation, and the same room sees him now half mad.



CHAPTER LXIX.

THE MEETING.


Near the appointed hour, he walked across the park, and through the
Horse Guards, and in a few minutes more was between the tall
old-fashioned houses of the street in which Mr. Levi's office is to be
found. He passes by a dingy hired coach, with a tarnished crest on the
door, and sees two Jewish-looking men inside, both smiling over some sly
joke. Whose door are they waiting at? He supposes another Jewish office
seeks the shade of that pensive street.

Mr. Levi opened his office door for his handsome client. They were quite
to themselves. Mr. Levi did not look well. He received him with a nod.
He shut the door when Sir Richard was in the room.

"He'sh not come yet. We'll talk to him inshide." He indicates the door
of the inner room, with a little side jerk of his head. "That'sh
private. He hazh that--_thing_ all right."

Sir Richard says nothing. He follows Levi into a small inner room, which
had, perhaps, originally been a lady's boudoir, and had afterwards, one
might have conjectured, served as the treasury of cash and jewels of a
pawn-office; for its door was secured with iron bars, and two great
locks, and the windows were well barred with iron. There were two huge
iron safes in the room, built into the wall.

"I'll show you a beauty of a dresshing-ca-ashe," said Levi, rousing
himself; "I'll shell it a dead bargain, and give time for half, if you
knowsh any young shwell as wantsh such a harticle. Look here; it was
made for the Duchess of Horleans--all in gold, hemerald, and
brilliantsh."

And thus haranguing, he displayed its contents, and turned them over,
staring on them with a livid admiration. Sir Richard is not thinking of
the duchess's dressing-case, nor is he much more interested when Mr.
Levi goes on to tell him, "There'sh three executions against peersh out
thish week--two gone down to the country. Sholomonsh nobbled Lord
Bylkington's carriage outshide Shyner's at two o'clock in the morning,
and his lordship had to walk home in the rain;" and Levi laughs and
wriggles pleasantly over the picture. "I think he'sh coming," says Levi
suddenly, inclining his ear toward the door. He looked back over his
shoulder with an odd look, a little stern, at the young gentleman.

"Who?" asked the young man, a little uncertain, in consequence of the
character of that look.

"Your--that--your friend, of course," said Levi, with his eyes again
averted, and his ear near the door.

It was a moment of trepidation and of hope to Richard Arden. He hears
the steps of several persons in the next room. Levi opens a little bit
of the door, and peeps through, and with a quick glance towards the
baronet, he whispers, "Ay, it's him."

Oh, blessed hope! here comes, at last, a powerful friend to take him by
the hand, and draw him, in his last struggle, from the whirlpool.

Sir Richard glances towards the door through which the Jew is still
looking, and signing with his hand as, little by little, he opens it
wider and wider; and a voice in the next room, at sound of which Sir
Richard starts to his feet, says sharply, "Is all right?"

"All _right_," replies Levi, getting aside; and Mr. Longcluse entered
the room and shut the door.

His pale face looked paler than usual, his thin cruel lips were closed,
his nostrils dilated with a terrible triumph, and his eyes were fixed
upon Arden, as he held the fatal parchment in his hand.

Levi saw a scowl so dreadful contract Sir Richard Arden's face--was it
pain, or was it fury?--that, drawing back as far as the wall would let
him, he almost screamed, "It ain't me!--it ain't my fault!--I can't help
it!--I couldn't!--I can't!" His right hand was in his pocket, and his
left, trembling violently, extended toward him, as if to catch his arm.

But Richard Arden was not thinking of him--did not hear him. He was
overpowered. He sat down in his chair. He leaned back with a gasp and a
faint laugh, like a man just overtaken by a wave, and lifted
half-drowned from the sea. Then, with a sudden cry, he threw his hands
and head on the table.

There was no token of relenting in Longcluse's cruel face. There was a
contemptuous pleasure in it. He did not remove his eyes from that
spectacle of abasement as he replaced the parchment in his pocket. There
is a silence of about a minute, and Sir Richard sits up and says
vaguely,--

"Thank God, it's over! Take me away; I'm ready to go."

"You shall go, time enough; I have a word to say first," said Longcluse,
and he signs to the Jew to leave them.

On being left to themselves, the first idea that struck Sir Richard was
the wild one of escape. He glanced quickly at the window. It was barred
with iron. There were men in the next room--he could not tell how
many--and he was without arms. The hope lighted up, and almost at the
same moment expired.



CHAPTER LXX.

MR. LONGCLUSE PROPOSES.


"Clear your head," says Mr. Longcluse, sternly, seating himself before
Sir Richard, with the table between; "you must conceive a distinct idea
of your situation, Sir, and I shall then tell you something that
remains. You have committed a forgery under aggravated circumstances,
for which I shall have you convicted and sentenced to penal servitude at
the next sessions. I have been a good friend to you on many occasions;
you have been a false one to me--who baser?--and while I was anonymously
helping you with large sums of money, you forged my name to a legal
instrument for ten thousand pounds, to swindle your unknown benefactor,
little suspecting who he was."

Longcluse smiled.

"I have heard how you spoke of me. I'm an adventurer, a leg, an
assassin, a person whom you were compelled to drop; rather a low person,
I fear, if a felon can't afford to sit beside me! You were always too
fine a man for me. Your get up was always peculiar; you were famous for
that. It will soon be more singular still, when your hair and your
clothes are cut after the fashion of the great world you are about to
enter. How your friends will laugh!"

Sir Richard heard all this with a helpless stare.

"I have only to stamp on the ground, to call up the men who will
accomplish your transformation. I can change your life by a touch, into
convict dress, diet, labour, lodging, for the rest of your days. What
plea have you to offer to my mercy?"

Sir Richard would have spoken, but his voice failed him. With a second
effort, however, he said--"Would it not be more manly if you let me meet
my fate, without this."

"And you are such an admirable judge of what is manly, or even
gentlemanlike!" said Longcluse. "Now, mind, I shall arrest you in five
minutes, on your three over-due bills. The men with the writ are in the
next room. I sha'n't immediately arrest you for the forgery. That shall
hang over you. I mean to make you, for a while, my instrument. Hear, and
understand; I mean to marry your sister. She don't like me, but she
suits me; I have chosen her, and I'll not be baulked. When that is
accomplished, you are safe. No man likes to see his brother a spectacle
of British justice, with cropped hair, and a log to his foot. I may hate
and despise you, as you deserve, but that would not do. Failing that,
however, you shall have justice, I promise you. The course I propose
taking is this: you shall be arrested here, for _debt_. You will be good
enough to allow the people who take you, to select your present place of
confinement. It is arranged. I will then, by a note, appoint a place of
meeting for this evening, where I shall instruct you as to the
particulars of that course of conduct I prescribe for you. If you mean
to attempt an escape, you had better try it _now_; I will give you
fourteen hours' start, and undertake to catch and bring you back to
London as a forger. If you make up your mind to submit to fate, and do
precisely as you are ordered, you may emerge. But on the slightest
evasion, prevarication, or default, the blow descends. In the meantime
we treat each other civilly before these people. Levi is in my hands,
and you, I presume, keep your own secret."

"That is all?" inquired Sir Richard, faintly, after a minute's silence.

"All for the _present_," was the reply; "you will see more clearly,
by-and-by, that you are my property, and you will act accordingly."

The two Jewish-looking gentlemen, whom Richard had passed in a
conference in their carriage which stood now at the steps of the house,
were the sheriff's officers destined to take charge of the fallen
gentleman, and convey him, by Levi's direction, to a "sponging house,"
which, I believe, belonged jointly to him and his partner, Mr. Goldshed.

It was on the principle, perhaps, on which hunters tame wild beasts, by
a sojourn at the bottom of a pit-fall, that Mr. Longcluse doomed the
young baronet to some ten hours' solitary contemplation of his hopeless
immeshment in that castle of Giant Despair, before taking him out and
setting him again before him, for the purpose of instructing him in the
conditions and duties of the direful life on which he was about to
enter.

Mr. Longcluse left the baronet suddenly, and returned to Levi's office
no more.

Sir Richard's _rôle_ was cast. He was to figure, at least first, as a
captive in the drama for which fate had selected him. He had no wish to
retard the progress of the piece. Nothing more odious than his present
situation was likely to come.

"You have something to say to me?" said the baronet, making tender, as
it were, of himself. The offer was, obligingly, accepted, and the
sheriffs, by his lieutenants, made prisoner of Sir Richard Arden, who
strode down the stairs between them, and entered the seedy coach, and
sitting as far back as he could, drove rapidly toward the City.

Stunned and confused, there was but one image vividly present to his
recollection, and that was the baleful face of Walter Longcluse.



CHAPTER LXXI.

NIGHT.


At about eight o'clock that evening, a hurried note reached Alice Arden,
at Mortlake. It was from her brother, and said,--

    "MY DARLING ALICE,

    "I can't get away from town to-night, I am overwhelmed with
    business; but to-morrow, before dinner, I hope to see you, and stay
    at Mortlake till next morning.--Your affectionate brother,

    "DICK."

The house was quiet earlier than in former times, when Sir Reginald, of
rakish memory, was never in his bed till past three o'clock in the
morning. Mortlake was an early house now, and all was still by a quarter
past eleven. The last candle burning was usually that in Mrs. Tansey's
room. She had not yet gone to bed, and was still in "the housekeeper's
room," when a tapping came at the window. It reminded her of Mr.
Longcluse's visit on the night of the funeral.

She was now the only person up in the house, except Alice, who was at
the far side of the building, where, in the next room, her maid was in
bed asleep. Alice, who sat at her dressing-table, reading, with her long
rich hair dishevelled over her shoulders, was, of course, quite out of
hearing.

Martha went to the window with a little frown of uncertainty. Opening a
bit of the shutter, she saw Sir Richard's face close to her. Was ever
old housekeeper so pestered by nightly tappings at her window-pane?

"La! who'd a thought o' seeing you, Master Richard! why, you told Miss
Alice you'd not be here till to-morrow!" she says pettishly, holding the
candle high above her head.

He makes a sign of caution to her, and placing his lips near the pane,
says,--

"Open the window the least bit in life."

With a dark stare in his face, she obeys. An odd approach, surely, for a
master to make to his own house!

"No one up in the house but you?" he whispers, as soon as the window is
open.

"Not one!"

"Don't say a word, only listen: come, softly, round to the hall-door,
and let me in; and light those candles there, and bring them with you to
the hall. Don't let a creature know I have been here, and make no noise
for your life!"

The old woman nodded with the same little frown; and he, pointing toward
the hall door, walks away silently in that direction.

"What makes you look so white and dowley?" mutters the old woman, as she
secures the window, and bars the shutters again.

"Good creature!" whispers Sir Richard, as he enters the hall, and places
his hand kindly on her shoulder, and with a very dark look; "you have
always been true to me, Martha, and I depend on your good sense; not a
word of my having been here to any one--not to Miss Alice! I have to
search for papers. I shall be here but an hour or so. Don't lock or bar
the door, mind, and get to your bed! Don't come up this way
again--good-night!"

"Won't you have some supper?"

"No, thanks."

"A glass of sherry and a bit o' something?"

"Nothing."

And he places his hand on her shoulder gently, and looks toward the
corridor that led to her room; then taking up one of the candles she had
left alight on the table in the hall, he says,--

"I'll give you a light," and he repeats, with a wondrous heavy sigh,
"Good-night, dear old Martha."

"God bless ye, Master Dick. Ye must chirp up a bit, mind," she says very
kindly, with an earnest look in her face. "I'm getting to rest--ye
needn't fear me walkin' about to trouble ye. But ye must be careful to
shut the hall-door close. I agree, as it is a thing to be done; but ye
must also knock at my bed-room window when ye've gane out, for I must
get up, and lock the door, and make a' safe; and don't ye forget, Master
Richard, what I tell ye."

He held the candle at the end of the corridor, down which the wiry old
woman went quickly; and when he returned to the hall, and set the candle
down again, he felt faint. In his ears are ever the terrible words:
"Mind, _I_ take command of the house, _I_ dispose of and appoint the
servants; I don't appear, you do all ostensibly--but from garret to
cellar, I'm _master_. I'll look it over, and tell you what is to be
done."

Sir Richard roused himself, and having listened at the staircase, he
very softly opened the hall-door. The spire of the old church showed
hoar in the moonlight. At the left, from under a deep shadow of elms,
comes silently a tall figure, and softly ascends the hall-door steps.
The door is closed gently.

Alice sitting at her dressing-table, half an hour later, thought she
heard steps--lowered her book, and listened. But no sound followed.
Again the same light foot-falls disturbed her--and again, she was
growing nervous. Once more she heard them, very stealthily, and now on
the same floor on which her room was. She stands up breathless. There is
no noise now. She was thinking of waking her maid, but she remembered
that she and Louisa Diaper had in a like alarm, discovered old Martha,
only two or three nights before, poking about the china-closet, dusting
and counting, at one o'clock in the morning, and had then exacted a
promise that she would visit that repository no more, except at
seasonable hours. But old Martha was so pig-headed, and would take it
for granted that she was fast asleep, and would rather fidget through
the house and poke up everything at that hour than at any other.

Quite persuaded of this, Alice takes her candle, determined to scold
that troublesome old thing, against whom she is fired with the
irritation that attends on a causeless fright. She walks along the
gallery quickly, in slippers, flowing dressing-gown and hair, with her
candle in her hand, to the head of the stairs, through the great window
of which the moonlight streams brightly. Through the keyhole of the door
at the opposite side, a ray of candlelight is visible, and from this
room opens the china-closet, which is no doubt the point of attraction
for the troublesome visitant. Holding the candle high in her left hand,
Alice opens the door.

What she sees is this--a pair of candles burning on a small table, on
which, with a pencil, Mr. Longcluse is drawing, it seems, with care, a
diagram; at the same moment he raises his eyes, and Richard Arden, who
is standing with one hand placed on the table over which he is leaning a
little, looks quickly round, and rising walks straight to the door,
interposing between her and Longcluse.

"Oh, Alice? You didn't expect me: I'm very busy, looking for--looking
over papers. Don't mind."

He had placed his hands gently on her shoulders, and she receded as he
advanced.

"Oh! it don't matter. I thought--I thought--I did not know."

She was smiling her best. She was horrified. He looked like a ghost.
Alice was gazing piteously in his face, and with a little laugh, she
began to cry convulsively.

"What is the matter with the little fool! There, there--don't,
don't--nonsense!"

With an effort she recovered herself.

"Only a little startled, Dick; I did not think you were
there--good-night."

And she hastened back to her chamber, and locked the door; and running
into her maid's room, sat down on the side of her bed, and wept
hysterically. To the imploring inquiries of her maid, she repeated only
the words, "I am frightened," and left her in a startled perplexity.

She knew that Longcluse had seen her, and he, that she had seen him.
Their eyes had met. He saw with a bleak rage the contracting look of
horror, so nearly hatred, that she fixed on him for a breathless moment.
There was a tremor of fury at his heart, as if it could have sprung at
her, from his breast, at her throat, and murdered her; and--she looked
so beautiful! He gazed with an idolatrous admiration. Tears were welling
to his eyes, and yet he would have laughed to see her weltering on the
floor. A madman for some tremendous seconds!



CHAPTER LXXII.

MEASURES.


About twelve o'clock next day Richard Arden showed himself at Mortlake.
It was a beautiful autumnal day, and the mellow sun fell upon a foliage
that was fading into russet and yellow. Alice was looking out from the
open window, on the noble old timber whose wide-spread boughs and
thinning leaves caught the sunbeams pleasantly. She had heard her
brother and his companion go down the stairs, and saw them, from the
window, walk quickly down the avenue, till the trees hid them from view.
She thought that some of the servants were up, and that the door was
secured on their departure; and the effect of the shock she had received
gradually subsiding, she looked to her next interview with her brother
for an explanation of the occurrence which had so startled her.

That interview was approaching; the cab drove up to the steps, and her
brother got out. Anxiously she looked, but no one followed him, and the
driver shut the cab-door. Sir Richard kissed his hand to her, as she
stood in the window.

From the hall the house opens to the right and left, in two suites of
rooms. The room in which Alice stood was called the sage-room, from its
being hung in sage-green leather, stamped in gold. It is a small room to
the left, and would answer very prettily for a card party or a
_tête-à-tête_. Alice had her work, her books, and her music there; she
liked it because the room was small and cheery.

The door opened, and her brother comes in.

"Good Dick, to come so early! welcome, darling," she said, putting her
arms about his neck, as he stooped and kissed her, smiling.

He looked very ill, and his smile was painful.

"That was an odd little visit I paid last night," said he, with his dark
eyes fixed on her, inquiringly she thought--"very late--quite
unexpected. You are quite well to-day?--you look flourishing."

"I wish I could say as much for you, Dick; I'm afraid you are tiring
yourself to death."

"I had some one with me last night," said Sir Richard, with his eye
still upon her; "I--I don't know whether you perceived that."

Alice looked away, and then said carelessly, but very gravely--

"I did--I saw Mr. Longcluse. I could not believe my eyes, Dick. You must
promise me one thing."

"What is that?"

"That he sha'n't come into this house any more--while I am here, I
mean."

"That is easily promised," said he.

"And what did he come about, Dick?"

"Oh! he came--he came--I thought I told you; he came about papers. I did
not tell you; but he has, after all, turned out very friendly. He is
going to do me a very important service."

She looked very much surprised.

The young man glanced through the window, to which he walked; he seemed
embarrassed, and then turning to her, he said peevishly--

"You seem to think, Alice, that one can never make a mistake, or change
an opinion."

"But I did not say so; only, Dick, I must tell you that I have such a
horror of that man--a _terror_ of him--as nothing can ever get over."

"I'm to blame for that."

"No, I can't say you are. I don't mind stories so much as----"

"As what?"

"As looks."

"Looks! Why, you used to think him a gentlemanly-looking fellow, and so
he is."

"Looks _and language_," said Alice.

"I thought he was a very civil fellow."

"I sha'n't dispute anything. I suppose you have found him a good friend
after all, as you say."

"As good a friend as most men," said Sir Richard, growing pale; "they
all act from interest: where interests are the same, men are friends.
But he has saved me from a great deal, and he may do more; and I believe
I was too hasty about those stories, and I think you were right when you
refused to believe them without proof."

"I daresay--I don't know--I believe my senses--and all I say is this, if
Mr. Longcluse is to come here any more, I must go. He is no gentleman, I
think--that is, I can't describe how I dislike him--how I hate him! I'm
afraid of him! Dick, you look ill and unhappy: what's the matter?"

"I'm well enough--I'm better; we shall be better--all better by-and-by.
I wish the next five weeks were over! We must leave this, we must go to
Arden Court; I will send some of the servants there first. I am going to
tell them now, they must get the house ready. You shall keep your maid
here with you; and when all is ready in Yorkshire, we shall be
off--Alice, Alice, don't mind me--I'm miserable--mad!" he says suddenly,
and covers his face with his hands, and, for the first time for years,
he is crying bitter tears.

Alice was by his side, alarmed, curious, grieved; and with all these
emotions mingling in her dark eyes and beautiful features, as she drew
his hand gently away, with a rush of affectionate entreaties and
inquiries.

"It is all very fine, Alice," he exclaims, with a sudden bitterness;
"but I don't believe, to save me from destruction, you would sacrifice
one of your least caprices, or reconcile one of your narrowest
prejudices."

"What can you mean, dear Richard? only tell me how I can be of any use.
You can't mean, of course----"

She stops with a startled look at him. "You know, dear Dick, that was
always out of the question: and surely you have heard that Lord
Wynderbroke is to be married to Grace Maubray? It is all settled."

Quite another thought had been in Richard's mind, but he was glad to
accept Alice's conjecture.

"Yes, so it is--so, at least, it is said to be--but I am so worried and
distracted, I half forget things. Girls are such jolly fools; they throw
good men away, and lose themselves. What is to become of you, Alice, if
things go wrong with me! I think the old times were best, when the old
people settled who was to marry whom, and there was no disputing their
decision, and marriages were just as happy, and courtships a great deal
simpler; and I am very sure there were fewer secret repinings, and
broken hearts, and--threadbare old maids. Don't _you_ be a fool, Alice;
mind what I say."

He is leaving the room, but pauses at the door, and returns and places
his hand on her arm, looking in her face, and says--

"Yes, mind what I say, for God's sake, and we may all be a great deal
happier."

He kisses her, and is gone. Her eyes follow him, as she thinks with a
sigh--

"How strange Dick is growing! I'm afraid he has been playing again, and
losing. It must have been something very urgent that induced him to make
it up again with that low malignant man; and this break-up, and journey
to Arden Court! I think I should prefer being there. There is something
ominous about this place, picturesque as it is, and much as I like it.
But the journey to Yorkshire is only another of the imaginary excursions
Dick has been proposing every fortnight; and next year, and the year
after, will find us, I suppose, just where we are."

But this conjecture, for once, was mistaken. It was, this time, a
veritable break-up and migration; for Martha Tansey came in, with the
importance of a person who has a matter of moment to talk over.

"Here's something sudden, Miss Alice; I suppose you've heard. Off to
Arden Court in the mornin'. Crozier and me; the footman discharged, and
you to follow with Master Richard in a week."

"Oh, then, it _is_ settled. Well, Martha, I am not sorry, and I daresay
you and Crozier won't be sorry to see old Yorkshire faces again, and the
Court, and the rookery, and the orchard."

"I don't mind; glad enough to see a'ad faces, but I'm a bit o'er a'ad
myself for such sudden flittins, and Manx and Darwent, and the rest, is
to go by night train to-morrow, and not a housemaid left in Mortlake.
But Master Richard says a's provided, and 'twill be but a few days after
a's done; and ye'll be down, then, at Arden by the middle o' next week,
and I'm no sa sure the change mayn't serve ye; and as your uncle, Master
David, and Lady May Penrose, and Miss Maubray--a strackle-brained lass
she is, I doubt--and to think o' that a'ad fule, Lord Wynderbroke,
takin' sich a young, bonny hizzy to wife! La bless ye, she'll play the
hangment wi' that a'ad gowk of a lord, and all his goold guineas won't
do. His kist o' money won't hod na time, I warrant ye, when once that
lassie gets her pretty fingers under the lid. There'll be gaains on in
that house, I warrant, not but he's a gude man, and a fine gentleman as
need be," she added, remembering her own strenuous counsel in his
favour, when he was supposed to be paying his court to Alice; "and if he
was mated wi' a gude lassie, wi' gude blude in her veins, would
doubtless keep as honourable a house, and hod his head as high as any
lord o' them a'. But as I was saying, Miss Alice, now that Master David,
and Lady May, and Miss Maubray, has left Lunnon, there's no one here to
pay ye a visit, and ye'd be fairly buried alive here in Mortlake, and
ye'll be better, and sa will we a', down at Arden, for a bit; and
there's gentle folk down there as gude as ever rode in Lunnon streets,
mayhap, and better; and mony a squire, that ony leddy in the land might
be proud to marry, and not one but would be glad to match wi' an Arden."

"That is a happy thought," said Alice, laughing.

"And so it is, and no laughing matter," said Martha, a little offended,
as she stalked out of the room, and closed the door, grandly, after her.

"And God bless you, dear old Martha," said the young lady, looking
towards the door through which she had just passed; "the truest and
kindest soul on earth."

Sir Richard did not come back. She saw him no more that evening.



CHAPTER LXXIII.

AT THE BAR OF THE "GUY OF WARWICK."


Next evening there came, not Richard, but a note saying that he would
see Alice the moment he could get away from town. As the old servant
departed northward, her solitude for the first time began to grow
irksome, and as the night approached, worse even than gloomy.

Her extemporised household made her laugh. It was not even a skeleton
establishment. The kitchen department had dwindled to a single person,
who ordered her luncheon and dinner, only two or three _plats_, daily,
from the "Guy of Warwick." The housemaid's department was undertaken by
a single servant, a short, strong woman of some sixty years of age.

This person puzzled Alice a good deal. She came to her, like the others,
with a note from her brother, stating her name, and that he had engaged
her for the few days they meant to remain roughing it at Mortlake, and
that he had received a very good account of her.

This woman has not a bad countenance. There is, indeed, no tenderness in
it; but there is a sort of hard good-humour. There are quickness and
resolution. She talks fluently of herself and her qualifications, and
now and then makes a short curtsey. But she takes no notice of any one
of Alice's questions.

A silence sometimes follows, during which Alice repeats her
interrogatory perhaps twice, with growing indignation, and then the new
comer breaks into a totally independent talk, and leaves the young lady
wondering at her disciplined impertinence. It was not till her second
visit that she enlightened her.

"I did not send for you. You can go!" said Alice.

"I don't like a house that has children in it, they gives a deal o'
trouble," said the woman.

"But I say you may go; you must go, please."

The woman looked round the room.

"When I was with Mrs. Montgomery, she had five, three girls and two
boys; la! there never was five such----"

"Go, this moment, please, I insist on your going; do you hear me, pray?"

But so far from answering, or obeying, this cool intruder continues her
harangue before Miss Arden gets half way to the end of her little
speech.

"That woman was the greatest fool alive--nothing but spoiling and
petting--I could not stand it no longer, so I took Master Tommy by the
lug, and pulled him out of the kitchen, the limb, along the passage to
the stairs, every inch, and I gave him a slap in the face, the fat young
rascal; you could hear all over the house! and didn't he rise the roof!
So missus and me, we quarrelled upon it."

"If you don't leave the room, _I_ must; and I shall tell my brother, Sir
Richard, how you have behaved yourself; and you may rely upon it----"

But here again she is overpowered by the strong voice of her visitor.

"It was in my next place, at Mr. Crump's, I took cold in my head, very
bad, Miss, indeed, looking out of window to see two fellows fighting, in
the lane--in both ears--and so I lost my hearing, and I've been deaf as
a post ever since!"

Alice could not resist a laugh at her own indignant eloquence quite
thrown away; and she hastily wrote with a pencil on a slip of paper:--

"Please don't come to me except when I send for you."

"La! Ma'am, I forgot!" exclaims the woman, when she had examined it; "my
orders was not to read any of _your_ writing."

"Not to read any of my writing!" said Alice, amazed; "then, how am I to
tell you what I wish about anything?" she inquires, for the moment
forgetting that not one word of her question was heard. The woman makes
a curtsey and retires. "What can Richard have meant by giving her such a
direction? I'll ask him when he comes."

It was likely enough that the woman had misunderstood him, still she
began to wish the little interval destined to be passed at Mortlake
before her journey to Yorkshire, ended.

She told her maid, Louisa Diaper, to go down to the kitchen and find out
all she could as to what people were in the house, and what duties they
had undertaken, and when her brother was likely to arrive.

Louisa Diaper, slim, elegant, and demure, descended among these
barbarous animals. She found in the kitchen, unexpectedly, a male
stranger, a small, slight man, with great black eyes, a big sullen
mouth, a sallow complexion, and a profusion of black ringlets. The deaf
woman was conning over some writing of his on a torn-off blank leaf of a
letter, and he was twiddling about the pencil, with which he had just
traced it, in his fingers, and, in a singing drawl, holding forth to the
other woman, who, with a long and high canvas apron on, and the handle
of an empty saucepan in her right hand, stood gaping at him, with her
arms hanging by her sides.

On the appearance of Miss Diaper, Mr. Levi, for he it was, directs his
solemn conversation to that young lady.

"I was just telling them about the robberies in the City and Wesht Hend.
La! there'sh bin nothin' like it for twenty year. They don't tell them
in the papersh, blesh ye! The 'ome Shecretary takesh precious good care
o' that; they don't want to frighten every livin' shoul out of London.
But there'll be talk of it in Parliament, I promish you. I know three
opposition membersh myshelf that will move the 'oushe upon it next
session."

Mr. Levi wagged his head darkly as he made this political revelation.

"Thish day twel'month the number o' burglariesh in London and the West
Hend, including Hizzlington, was no more than fifteen and a half a
night; and two robberiesh attended with wiolensh. What wazh it lasht
night? I have it in confidensh, from the polishe offish thish morning."

He pulled a pocket-book, rather greasy, from his breast, and from this
depositary, it is to be presumed, of statistical secrets, he read the
following official memorandum:--

"Number of 'oushes burglarioushly hentered lasht night, including
private banksh, charitable hinshtitutions, shops, lodging-'oushes,
female hacadamies, and private dwellings, and robbed with more or less
wiolench, one thoushand sheven hundred and shixty-sheven. We regret to
hadd," he continued, the official return stealing, as it proceeded,
gradually into the style of "The Pictorial Calendar of British Crime," a
half-penny paper which he took in--"this hinundation of crime seems
flowing, or rayther rushing northward, and hazh already enweloped
Hizhlington, where a bald-headed clock and watch maker, named Halexander
Goggles, wazh murdered with his sheven shmall children, with
unigshampled ba-arba-arity."

Mr. Levi eyed the women horribly all round as he ended the sentence, and
he added,--

"Hizhlington'sh only down there. It ain't five minutesh walk; only a
pleasant shtep; just enough to give a fellow azh has polished off a
family there a happetite for another up here. Azh I 'ope to be shaved, I
shleep every night with a pair of horshe pishtols, a blunderbush, and a
shabre by my bed; and Shir Richard wantsh every door in the 'oushe fasht
locked, and the keysh with him, before dark, thish evening, except only
such doors as you want open; and he gave me a note to Miss Harden." And
he placed the note in Miss Diaper's hand. "He wantsh the 'oushe a bit
more schecure," he added, following her towards the hall. "He wishes to
make you and she quite shafe, and out of harm's way, if anything should
occur. It will be only a few days, you know, till you're both away."

The effect of this little alarm, accompanied by Sir Richard's note, was
that Mr. Levi carried out a temporary arrangement, which assigned the
suite of apartments in which Alice's room was as those to which she
would restrict herself during the few days she was to remain there, the
rest of the house, except the kitchen and a servant's room or two
down-stairs, being locked up.

By the time Mr. Levi had got the keys together, and all safe in
Mortlake, the sun had set, and in the red twilight that followed he set
off in his cab towards town. At the "Guy of Warwick"--from the bar of
which already was flaring a good broad gas-light--he stopped and got
out. There was a full view of the bar from where he stood; and,
pretending to rummage his pockets for something, he was looking in to
see whether "the coast was clear."

"She's just your sort--not too bad and not too good--not too nashty, and
not too nishe; a good-humoured lash, rough and ready, and knowsh a thing
or two."

"Ye're there, are ye?" inquired Mr. Levi, playfully, as he crossed the
door-stone, and placed his fists on the bar grinning.

"What will you take, Sir, please?" inquired the young woman, at one side
of whom was the usual row of taps and pump-handles.

"Now, Miss Phœbe, give me a brandy and shoda, pleashe. When I talked to
you in thish 'ere place 'tother night, you wished to engage for a lady's
maid. What would you shay to me, if I was to get you a firsht-chop
tip-top pla-ashe of the kind? Well, don't you shay a word--that brandy
ain't fair measure--and I'll tell you. It'sh a la-ady of ra-ank! where
wagesh ish no-o object; and two years' savings, and a good match with a
well-to-do 'andsome young fellow, will set you hup in a better place
than this 'ere."

"It comes very timely, Sir, for I'm to leave to-morrow, and I was
thinking of going home to my uncle in a day or two, in Chester."

"Well it's all settled. Come you down to my offishe, you know where it
is, to-morrow, at three, and I'll 'av all partickulars for you, and a
note to the lady from her brother, the baronet; and if you be a good
girl, and do as you're bid, you'll make a little fortune of it."

She curtsied, with her eyes very round, as he, with a wag of his head
drank down what remained of his brandy and soda, and wiping his mouth
with his glove, he said, "Three o'clock sha-arp, mind; good-bye, Phœbe,
lass, and don't you forget all I said."

He stood ungallantly with his back towards her on the threshold lighting
a cigar, and so soon as he had it in his own phrase, "working at high
blast," he got into his cab, and jingled towards his office, with all
his keys about him.

While Miss Arden remained all unconscious, and even a little amused at
the strange shifts to which her brief stay and extemporised household at
Mortlake exposed her, a wily and determined strategist was drawing his
toils around her.

The process of isolation was nearly completed, without having once
excited her suspicions; and, with the same perfidious skill, the house
itself was virtually undergoing those modifications which best suited
his designs.

Sir Richard appeared at his club as usual. He was compelled to do so.
The all-seeing eye of his pale tyrant pursued him everywhere; he lived
under terror. A dreadful agony all this time convulsed the man, within
whose heart Longcluse suspected nothing but the serenity of death.

"What easier than to tell the story to the police. Meditated duresse.
Compulsion. Infernal villain! And then: what then? A pistol to his head,
a flash, and--darkness!"



CHAPTER LXXIV.

A LETTER.


Mr. Longcluse knocked at Sir Richard's house in May Fair, and sent
up-stairs for the baronet. It was about the same hour at which Mr. Levi
was drinking his thirsty potation of brandy and soda at the "Guy of
Warwick." The streets were darker than that comparatively open place,
and the gas lamp threw its red outline of the sashes upon the dark
ceiling, as Mr. Longcluse stood in the drawing-room between the windows,
in his great-coat, with his hat on, looking in the dark like an image
made of fog.

Sir Richard Arden entered the room.

"You were not at Mortlake to-day," said he.

"No."

"There's a cab at the door that will take you there; your absence for a
whole day would excite surmise. Don't stay more than five minutes, and
don't mention Louisa Diaper's name, and account for the locking up of
all the house, but one suite of rooms, I directed, and come to my house
in Bolton Street, direct from Mortlake. That's all."

Without another word, Mr. Longcluse took his departure.

In this cavalier way, and in a cold tone that conveyed all the menace
and insult involved in his ruined position, had this conceited young man
been ordered about by his betrayer, on his cruel behests, ever since he
had come under his dreadful rod. The iron trap that held him fast,
locked him in a prison from which, except through the door of death,
there seemed no escape.

Outraged pride, the terrors of suspense, the shame and remorse of his
own enormous perfidy against his only sister, peopled it with spectres.

As he drove out to Mortlake, pale, frowning, with folded arms, his
handsome face thinned and drawn by the cords of pain, he made up his
mind. He knocked furiously at Mortlake Hall door. The woman in the
canvas apron let him in. The strange face startled him; he had been
thinking so intently of one thing. Going up, through the darkened house,
with but one candle, and tapping at the door, on the floor above the
drawing-room, within which Alice was sitting, with Louisa Diaper for
company, and looking at her unsuspicious smile, he felt what a heinous
conspirator he was.

He made an excuse for sending the maid to the next room after they had
spoken a few words, and then he said,--

"Suppose, Alice, we were to change our plan, would you like to come
abroad? Out of this you must come immediately." He was speaking low. "I
am in great danger; I must go abroad. For your life, don't seem to
suspect anything. Do exactly as I tell you, or else I am utterly ruined,
and you, Alice, on your account, very miserable. Don't ask a question,
or look a look, that may make Louisa Diaper suspect that you have any
doubt as to your going to Arden, or any suspicion of any danger. She is
quite true, but not wise, and your left hand must not know what your
right hand is doing. Don't be frightened, only be steady and calm. Get
together any jewels and money you have, and as little else as you can
possibly manage with. Do this yourself; Louisa Diaper must know nothing
of it. I will mature our plans, and to-morrow or next day I shall see
you again; I can stay but a moment now, and have but time to bid you
good-night."

Then he kissed her. How horribly agitated he looked! How cold was the
pressure of his hand!

"Hush!" he whispered, and his dark eyes were fixed on the door through
which he expected the return of the maid. And as he heard her step, "Not
a word, remember!" he said; then bidding her good-night aloud, he
quitted the room almost as suddenly as he had appeared, leaving her, for
the first time, in the horrors of a growing panic.

Sir Richard leaned back in the cab as he drove into town. He had as yet
no plan formed. It was a more complicated exploit than he was at the
moment equal to. In Mortlake were two fellows, by way of protectors,
placed there for security of the house and people.

These men held possession of the keys of the house, and sat and regaled
themselves with their hot punch, or cold brandy and water, and pipes;
always one awake, and with ears erect, they kept watch and ward in the
room to the right of the hall-door, in which Sir Richard and Uncle David
had conversed with the sad Mr. Plumes, on the evening after the old
baronet's death. To effect Alice's escape, and reserve for himself a
chance of accomplishing his own, was a problem demanding skill, cunning,
and audacity.

While he revolved these things an alarm had been sounded in another
quarter, which unexpectedly opened a chance of extrication, sudden and
startling.

Mr. Longcluse was destined to a surprise to-night. Mr. Longcluse, at his
own house, was awaiting the return of Sir Richard. Overlooked in his
usually accurate though rapid selection, a particularly shabby and
vulgar-looking letter had been thrown aside among circulars, pamphlets,
and begging letters, to await his leisure. It was a letter from Paris,
and vulgar and unbusiness-like as it looked, there was yet, in its
peculiar scrivenery that which, a little more attentively scanned,
thrilled him with a terrible misgiving. The post-mark showed it had been
delivered four days before. When he saw from whom it came, and had
gathered something of its meaning from a few phrases, his dark eyes
gleamed and his face grew stern. Was this wretch's hoof to strike to
pieces the plans he had so nearly matured? The letter was as follows:--

    "SIR,

    "Mr Longcluse, I have been unfortunate With your money which you
    have Gave me to remove from England, and Keep me in New York. My
    boxes, and other things, and Ballens of the money in Gold, except
    about a Hundred pounds, which has kep me from want ever sense, went
    Down in the Mary Jane, of London, and my cousin went down in her
    also, which I might as well av Went down myself in her, only for me
    Stopping in Paris, where I made a trifle of Money, intending to go
    Out in August. Now, Sir, don't you Seppose I am not in as good
    Possition as I was when I Harranged with sum difculty With you. The
    boot with The blood Mark on the Soul is not Lost nor Distroyed, but
    it is Safe in my Custody; so as Likewise in safe Keeping is The
    traising, in paper, of the foot Mark in blood on the Floar of the
    Smoaking Room in question, with the signatures of the witnesses
    attached; and, Moreover, my Staitment made in the Form of a
    Information, at the Time, and signed In witness of My signature by
    two Unekseptinible witnesses. And all Is ready to Produise whenevor
    his worshop shall Apoynt. i have wrote To mister david Arden on this
    Supget. i wrote to him just a week ago, he seaming To take a Intrast
    in this Heer case; and, moreover, the two ieyes that sawd a certain
    Person about the said smoaking Room, and in the saime, is Boath wide
    open at This presen Time. mister Longcluse i do not Want to have
    your Life, but gustice must Taike its coarse unless it is settled of
    hand Slik. i will harrange the Same as last time, And i must have
    two hundred And fifty pounds More on this Settlement than i Had last
    time, for Dellay and loss of Time in this town. I will sign any law
    paper in reason you may ask of me. My hadress is under cover to
    Monseer Letexier, air-dresser, and incloses his card, which you Will
    please send an Anser by return Of post, or else i Must sepose you
    chose The afare shall take Its coarse; and i am as ever,

    "Your obeediant servant to command,
    "PAUL DAVIES."

Never did paper look so dazzlingly white, or letters so intensely black,
before Mr. Longcluse's eyes, as those of this ominous letter. He
crumpled it up, and thrust it in his trousers pocket, and gave to the
position a few seconds of intense thought.

His first thought was, what a fool he was for not having driven Davies
to the wall, and settled the matter with the high hand of the law at
once. His next, what could bring him to Paris? He was there for
something. To see possibly the family of Lebas, and collect and dovetail
pieces of evidence, after his detective practice, a process which would
be sure to conduct him to the Baron Vanboeren! Was this story of the
boot and the tracing of the bloodstained foot-print true? Had this
scoundrel reserved the strongest part of his case for this new
extortion? Was his trouble to be never ending? If this accursed ferret
were once to get into his warren, what power could unearth him, till the
mischief was done?

His eye caught again the words, on which, in the expressive phrase which
Mr. Davies would have used, his "sight spred" as he held the letter
before his eyes--"Mister Loncluse, i do not want to have your life." He
ground his teeth, shook his fist in the air, and stamped on the floor
with fury, at the thought that a brutal detective, not able to spell two
words, and trained for such game as London thieves and burglars, should
dare to hold such language to a man of thought and skill, altogether so
masterly as he! That he should be outwitted by that clumsy scoundrel!

Well, it was now to begin all over again. It should all go right this
time. He thought again for a moment, and then sat down and wrote,
commencing with the date and address--

    "PAUL DAVIES,

    "I have just received your note, which states that you have
    succeeded in obtaining some additional information, which you think
    may lead to the conviction of the murderer of M. Lebas, in the
    Saloon Tavern. I shall be most happy to pay handsomely any expense
    of any kind you may be put to in that matter. It is, indeed, no more
    than I had already undertaken. I am glad to learn that you have also
    written on the subject to Mr. David Arden, who feels entirely with
    me. I shall take an early opportunity of seeing him. Persist in your
    laudable exertions, and I shall not shrink from rewarding you
    handsomely.

    "Yours,
    "WALTER LONGCLUSE."

He addressed the letter carefully, and went himself and put it in the
post-office.

By this time Sir Richard Arden was awaiting him at home in his
drawing-room, and as he walked homeward, under the lamps, in inward
pain, one might have moralised with Peter Pindar--

    "These fleas have other fleas to bite 'em
     And so on _ad infinitum_."

The secret tyrant had in his turn found a secret tyrant, not less cruel
perhaps, but more ignoble.

"You made your visit?" asked Mr. Longcluse.

"Yes."

"Anything to report?"

"Absolutely nothing."

A silence followed.

"Where is Mr. Arden, your uncle?"

"In Scotland."

"How soon does he return?"

"He will not be in town till spring, I believe; he is going abroad, but
he passes through Southampton on his way to the Continent, on Friday
next."

"And makes some little stay there?"

"I think he stays one night."

"Then I'll go down and see him, and you shall come with me."

Sir Richard stared.

"Yes, and you had better not put your foot in it; and clear your head of
all notion of running away," he said, fixing his fiery eyes on Sir
Richard, with a sudden ferocity that made him fancy that his secret
thoughts had revealed themselves under that piercing gaze. "It is not
easy to levant now-a-days, unless one has swifter wings than the wires
can carry news with; and if you are false, what more do I need than to
blast you? and with your name in the _Hue-and-Cry_, and a thousand
pounds reward for the apprehension of Sir Richard Arden, Baronet, for
forgery, I don't see much more that infamy can do for you."

A dark flush crossed Arden's face as he rose.

"Not a word now," cried Longcluse harshly, extending his hand quickly
towards him; "I may do that which can't be undone."



CHAPTER LXXV.

BLIGHT AND CHANGE.


Danger to herself, Alice suspected none. But she was full of dreadful
conjectures about her brother. There was, she was persuaded, no good any
longer in remonstrance or entreaty. She could not upbraid him; but she
was sure that the terrible fascination of the gaming-table had caused
the sudden ruin he vaguely confessed.

"Oh," she often repeated, "that Uncle David were in town, or that I knew
where to find him!"

"But no doubt," she thought, "Richard will hide nothing from him, and
perhaps my hinting his disclosures, even to him, would aggravate poor
Richard's difficulties and misery."

It was not until the next evening that, about the same hour, she again
saw her brother. His good resolutions in the interval had waxed faint.
They were not reversed, but only in the spirit of indecision, and
something of the apathy of despair, postponed to a more convenient
season.

To her he seemed more tranquil. He said vaguely that the reasons for
flight were less urgent and that she had better continue her
preparations, as before, for her journey to Yorkshire.

Even under these circumstances the journey to Yorkshire was pleasant.
There was comfort in the certainty that he would there be beyond the
reach of that fatal temptation which had too plainly all but ruined him.
From the harrassing distractions, also, which in London had of late
beset him, almost without intermission, he might find in the seclusion
of Arden a temporary calm. There, with Uncle David's help, there would
be time, at least, to ascertain the extent of his losses, and what the
old family of Arden might still count upon as their own, and a plan of
life might be arranged for the future.

Full of these more cheery thoughts, Alice took leave of her brother.

"I am going," he said, looking at his watch, "direct to Brighton; I have
just time to get to the station nicely; business, of course--a meeting
to-night with Bexley, who is staying there, and in the morning a long
and, I fear, angry discussion with Charrington, who is also at
Brighton."

He kissed his sister, sighed deeply, and looking in her eyes for a
little, fixedly, he said--

"Alice, darling, you must try to think what sacrifice you can make to
save your wretched brother."

Their eyes met as she looked up, her hands about his neck, his on her
shoulders; he drew his sister to him quickly, and with another kiss,
turned, ran down stairs, got into his cab, and drove down the avenue.
She stood looking after him with a heavy heart. How happy they two might
have been, if it had not been for the one incorrigible insanity!

About an hour later, as the sun was near its setting, she put on her hat
and short grey cloak, and stepped out into its level beams, and looked
round smiling. The golden glow and transparent shadows made that
beautiful face look more than ever lovely. All around the air was
ringing with the farewell songs of the small birds, and, with a heart
almost rejoicing in sympathy with that beautiful hour, she walked
lightly to the old garden, which in that luminous air, looked, she
thought, so sad and pretty.

The well-worn aphorism of the Frenchman, "History repeats itself," was
about to assert itself. Sometimes it comes in literal sobriety,
sometimes in derisive travesti, sometimes in tragic aggravation.

She is in the garden now. The associations of place recall her strange
interview with Mr. Longcluse but a few months before. Since then a
blight has fallen on the scenery, and what a change upon the persons!
The fruit-leaves are yellow now, and drifts of them lie upon the walks.
Mantling ivy, as before, canopies the door, interlaced with climbing
roses; but they have long shed their honours. This thick mass of dark
green foliage and thorny tendrils forms a deep arched porch, in the
shadow of which, suddenly, as on her return she reached it, she sees Mr.
Longcluse standing within a step or two of her.

He raises his hand, it might be in entreaty, it might be in menace; she
could not, in the few alarmed moments in which she gazed at his dark
eyes and pale equivocal face, determine anything.

"Miss Arden, you may hate me; you can't despise me. You _must_ hear me,
because you are in my power. I relent, mind you, thus far, that I give
you one chance more of reconciliation; don't, for God's sake, throw it
from you!" (he was extending his open hand to receive hers). "Why should
you prefer an unequal war with me? I tell you frankly you are in my
power--don't misunderstand me--in _my power_ to this degree, that you
shall _voluntarily_, as the more tolerable of two alternatives, submit
with abject acquiescence to every one of my conditions. Here is my hand;
think of the degradation I submit to in asking you to take it. You gave
me no chance when I asked forgiveness. I tender you a full forgiveness;
here is my hand, beware how you despise it."

Fearful as he appeared in her sight, her fear gave way before her
kindling spirit. She had stood before him pale as death--anger now fired
her eye and cheek.

"How dare you, Sir, hold such language to me! Do you suppose, if I had
told my brother of your cowardice and insolence as I left the abbey the
other day, you would have dared to speak to him, much less to me? Let me
pass, and never while you live presume to address me more."

Mr. Longcluse, with a slow recoil, smiling fixedly, and bowing, drew
back and opened the door for her to pass. He did not any longer look
like a villain whose heart had failed him.

Her heart fluttered violently with fear as she saw that he stepped out
after her, and walked by her side toward the house. She quickened her
pace in great alarm.

"If you had liked me ever so little," said he in that faint and horrible
tone she remembered--"one, the smallest particle, of disinterested
liking--the grain of mustard-seed--I would have had you fast, and made
you happy, made you _adore_ me; _such_ adoration that you could have
heard from my own lips the confession of my crimes, and loved me
still--loved me more desperately. Now that you hate me, and I hate
_you_, and have you in my power, and while I hate still admire
you--still choose you for my wife--you shall hear the same story, and
think me all the more dreadful. You sought to degrade me, and I'll
humble you in the dust. Suppose I tell you I'm a criminal--the kind of
man you have read of in trials, and can't understand, and can scarcely
even believe in--the kind of man that seems to you as unaccountable and
monstrous as a ghost--your terrors and horror will make my triumph
exquisite with an immense delight. I don't want to smooth the way for
you; you do nothing for me. I disdain hypocrisy. Terror drives you on;
fate coerces you; you can't help yourself, and my delight is to make the
plunge terrible. I reveal myself that you may know the sort of person
you are yoked to. Your sacrifice shall be the agony of agonies, the
death of deaths, and yet you'll find yourself unable to resist. I'll
make you submissive as ever patient was to a mad doctor. If it took
years to do it, you shall never stir out of this house till it is done.
Every spark of insolence in your nature shall be trampled out; I'll
break you thoroughly. The sound of my step shall make your heart jump; a
look from me shall make you dumb for an hour. You shall not be able to
take your eyes off me while I'm in sight, or to forget me for a moment
when I am gone. The smallest thing you do, the least word you speak, the
very thoughts of your heart, shall all be shaped under one necessity and
one fear." (She had reached the hall door). "Up the steps! Yes; you wish
to enter? Certainly."

With flashing eyes and head erect, the beautiful girl stepped into the
hall, without looking to the right or to the left, or uttering one word,
and walked quickly to the foot of the great stair.

If she thought that Mr. Longcluse would respect the barrier of the
threshold, she was mistaken. He entered but one step behind her, shut
the heavy hall door with a crash, dropped the key into his coat pocket,
and signing with his finger to the man in the room to the right, that
person stood up briskly, and prepared for action. He closed the door
again, saying simply, "I'll call."

The young lady, hearing his step, turned round and stood on the stair,
confronting him fiercely.

"You must leave this house this moment," she cried, with a stamp, with
gleaming eyes and very pale.

"By-and-by," he replied, standing before her.

Could this be the safe old house in which childish days had passed, in
which all around were always friendly and familiar faces? The window
stood reflected upon the wall beside her in dim sunset light, and the
shadows of the flowers sharp and still that stood there.

"I have friends here who will turn you out, Sir!"

"You have _no_ friends here," he replied, with the same fixed smile.

She hesitated; she stepped down, but stopped in the hall. She remembered
instantly that, as she turned, she had seen him take the key from the
hall door.

"My brother will protect me."

"Is he here?"

"He'll call you to account to-morrow, when he comes."

"Will he say so?"

"Always--brave, true Richard!" she sobbed, with a strange cry in her
words.

"He'll do as I bid him: he's a forger, in my power."

To her wild stare he replied with a low, faint laugh. She clasped her
fingers over her temples.

"Oh! no, no, no, no, no, no!" she screamed, and suddenly she rushed into
the great room at her right. Her brother--was it a phantom?--stood
before her. With one long, shrill scream, she threw herself into his
arms, and cried, "It's a lie, darling, it's a lie!" and she had fainted.

He laid her in the great chair by the fire-place. With white lips, and
with one fist shaking wildly in the air, he said, with a dreadful shiver
in his voice,--

"You villain! you villain! you villain!"

"Don't you be a fool," said Longcluse. "Ring for the maid. There must
have been a crisis some time. I'm giving you a fair chance--trying to
save you; they all faint--it's a trick with women."

Longcluse looked into her lifeless face, with something of pity and
horror mingling in the villany of his countenance.



CHAPTER LXXVI.

PHŒBE CHIFFINCH.


Mr. Longcluse passed into the inner room, as he heard a step approaching
from the hall. It was Louisa Diaper, in whose care, with the simple
remedy of cold water, the young lady recovered. She was conveyed to her
room, and Richard Arden followed, at Longcluse's command, to "keep
things quiet."

In an agony of remorse, he remained with his sister's hand in his,
sitting by the bed on which she lay. Longcluse had spoken with the
resolution that a few sharp and short words should accomplish the
crisis, and show her plainly that her brother was, in the most literal
and terrible sense, in his power, and thus, indirectly, she also.
Perhaps, if she must know the fact, it was as well she should know it
now.

Longcluse, I suppose, had reckoned upon Richard's throwing himself upon
his sister's mercy. He thought he had done so before, and moved her as
he would have wished. Longcluse, no doubt, had spoken to her, expecting
to find her in a different mood. Had she yielded, what sort of husband
would he have made her? Not cruel, I daresay. Proud of her, he would
have been. She should have had the best diamonds in England. Jealous,
violent when crossed, but with all his malice and severity, easily by
Alice to have been won, had she cared to win him, to tenderness.

Was Sir Richard now seconding his scheme?

Sir Richard had no plan--none for escape, none for a catastrophe, none
for acting upon Alice's feelings.

"I am so agitated--in such despair, so stunned! If I had but one clear
hour! Oh, God! if I had but one clear hour to think in!"

He was now trying to persuade Alice that Longcluse had, in his rage,
used exaggerated language--that it was true he was in his power, but it
was for a large sum of money, for which he was his debtor.

"Yes, darling," he whispered, "only be firm. I shall get away, and take
you with me--only be secret, and don't mind one word he says when he is
angry--he is literally a madman; there is no limit to the violence and
absurdity of what he says."

"Is he still in the house?" she whispered.

"Not he."

"Are you certain?"

"Perfectly; with all his rant, he dares not stay: it would be a
police-office affair. He's gone long ago."

"Thank God!" she said, with a shudder.

Their agitated talk continued for some time longer. At last, darkly and
suddenly, as usual, he took his leave.

When her brother had gone, she touched the bell for Louisa Diaper. A
stranger appeared.

The stranger had a great deal of pink ribbon in her cap, she looked
shrewd enough, and with a pair of rather good eyes; she looked curiously
and steadily on the young lady.

"Who are you?" said Alice, sitting up. "I rang for my maid, Louisa
Diaper."

"Please, my lady," she answers, with a short curtsey, "she went into
town to fetch some things here from Sir Richard's house."

"How long ago?"

"Just when you was getting better, please, my lady."

"When she returns send her to me. What is your name?"

"Phœbe Chiffinch, please 'm."

"And you are here----"

"In her place, please my lady."

"Well, when she comes back you can assist. We shall have a great deal to
do, and I like your face, Phœbe, and I'm so lonely, I think I'll get you
to sit here in the window near me."

And on a sudden the young lady burst into tears, and sobbed and wept
bitterly.

The new maid was at her side, pouring all sorts of consolation into her
ear, with odd phrases--quite intelligible, I daresay, over the bar of
the "Guy of Warwick"--dropping h's in all directions, and bowling down
grammatic rules like nine-pins.

She was wonderfully taken by the kind looks and tones of the pretty lady
whom she saw in this distress, and with the silk curtains drawn back in
the fading flush of evening.

Hard work, hard fare, and harder words had been her portion from her
orphaned childhood upward, at the old "Guy of Warwick," with its dubious
customers, failing business, and bitter and grumbling old hostess.
Shrewd, hard, and not over-nice had Miss Phœbe grown up in that godless
school.

But she had taken a fancy, as the phrase is, to the looks of the young
lady, and still more to her voice and words, that in her ears sounded so
new and strange. There was not an unpleasant sense, too, of the
superiority of rank and refinement which inspires an admiring awe in her
kind; and so, in a voice that was rather sweet and very cheery, she
offered, when the young lady was better, to sit by the bed and tell her
a story, or sing her a song.

Everyone knows how his view of his own case may vary within an hour.
Alice was now of opinion that there was no reason to reject her
brother's version of the terrifying situation. A man who could act like
Mr. Longcluse, could, of course, say anything. She had begun to grow
more cheerful, and in a little while she accepted the offer of her
companion, and heard, first a story, and then a song; and, after all,
she talked with her for some time.

"Tell me, now, what servants there are in the house," asked Alice.

"Only two women and myself, please, Miss."

"Is there anyone else in the house, besides ourselves?"

The girl looked down, and up again, in Alice's eyes, and then away to
the floor at the other end of the room.

"I was told, Ma'am, not to talk of nothing here, Miss, except my own
business, please, my lady."

"My God! This girl mayn't speak truth to me," exclaimed Alice, clasping
her hands aghast.

The girl looked up uneasily.

"I should be sent away, Ma'am, if I do."

"Look--listen: in this strait you must be for or against me; you can't
be divided. For God's sake be a friend to me now. I may yet be the best
friend you ever had. Come, Phœbe, trust me, and I'll never betray you."

She took the girl's hand. Phœbe did not speak. She looked in her face
earnestly for some moments, and then down, and up again.

"I don't mind. I'll do what I can for you, Ma'am; I'll tell you what I
know. But if you tell them, Ma'am, it will be awful bad for me, my
lady."

She looked again, very much frightened, in her face, and was silent.

"No one shall ever know but I. Trust me entirely, and I'll never forget
it to you."

"Well, Ma'am, there is two men."

"Who are they?"

"Two men, please 'm. I knows one on 'em--he was keeper on the 'Guy o'
Warwick,' please, my lady, when there was a hexecution in the 'ouse.
They're both sheriff's men."

"And what are they doing here?"

"A hexecution, my lady."

"That is, to sell the furniture and everything for a debt, isn't that
it?" inquired the lady, bewildered.

"Well, that was it below at the 'Guy o' Warwick,' Miss; but Mr. Vargers,
he was courting me down there at the 'Guy o' Warwick,' and offered
marriage if I would 'av 'ad him, and he tells me heverything, and he
says that there's a paper to take you, please, my lady."

"Take _me_?"

"Yes, my lady; he read it to me in the room by the hall-door. Halice
Harden, spinster, and something about the old guv'nor's will, please;
and his horder is to take you, please, Miss, if you should offer to go
out of the door; and there's two on 'em, and they watches turn about, so
you can't leave the 'ouse, please, my lady; and if you try they'll only
lock you up a prisoner in one room a-top o' the 'ouse; and, for your
life, my lady, don't tell no one I said a word."

"Oh! Phœbe. What can they mean? What's to become of me? Somehow or other
you must get me out of this house. Help me, for God's sake! I'll throw
myself from the window--I'll kill myself rather than remain in their
power."

"Hush! My lady, please, I may think of something yet. But don't you do
nothing 'and hover 'ead. You must have patience. They won't be so sharp,
maybe, in a day or two. I'll get you out if I can; and, if I can't, then
God's will be done. And I'll make out what I can from Mr. Vargers; and
don't you let no one think you likes me, and I'll be sly enough, you may
count on me, my lady."

Trembling all over, Alice kissed her.



CHAPTER LXXVII.

MORE NEWS OF PAUL DAVIES.


Louisa Diaper did not appear that night, nor next morning. She had been
spirited away like the rest. Sir Richard had told her that his sister
desired that she should go into town, and stay till next day, under the
care of the housekeeper in town, and that he would bring her a list of
commissions which she was to do for her mistress preparatory to starting
for Yorkshire. I daresay this young lady liked her excursion to town
well enough. It was not till the night after that she started for the
North.

Alice Arden, for a time, lost heart altogether. It was no wonder she
should.

That her only brother should be an accomplice against her, in a plot so
appalling, was enough to overpower her; her horror of Longcluse, the
effectual nature of her imprisonment, and the strange and, as she
feared, unscrupulous people by whom she had been so artfully surrounded,
heightened her terrors to the pitch of distraction.

At times she was almost wild; at others stupefied in despair; at others,
again, soothed by the kindly intrepidity of Phœbe, she became more
collected. Sometimes she would throw herself on her bed, and sob for an
hour in helpless agony; and then, exhausted and overpowered, she would
fall for a time into a deep sleep, from which she would start, for
several minutes, without the power of collecting her thoughts, and with
only the stifled cry, "What is it?--Where am I?" and a terrified look
round.

One day, in a calmer mood, as she sat in her room after a long talk with
Phœbe, the girl came beside her chair with an oddly made key, with a
little strap of white leather to the handle, in her hands.

"Here's a latch-key, Miss; maybe you know what it opens?"

"Where did you find it?"

"In the old china vase over the chimney, please 'm."

"Let me see--oh! dear, yes, this opens the door in the wall of the
grounds, in that direction," and she pointed. "Poor papa lent it to my
drawing-master. He lived somewhere beyond that, and used to let himself
in by it when he came to give me my lessons."

"I remember that door well, Miss," said Phœbe, looking earnestly on the
key--"Mr. Crozier let me out that way, one day. Mr. Longcluse has put
strangers, you know, in the gatehouse. That's shut against us. I'll tell
you what, Miss--wait--well, I'll _think_. I'll keep this key safe,
anyhow; and--the more the merrier," she added with a sudden alacrity,
and lifting her finger, by way of signal, for everything now was done
with caution here, she left the room, and passed through the suite to
the landing, and quietly took out the door-keys, one by one, and
returned with her spoil to Alice's room.

"You thought they might lock us up?" whispered Alice.

The girl nodded. "No harm to have 'em, Miss--it won't hurt us." She
folded them tightly in a handkerchief, and thrust the parcel as far as
her arm could reach between the mattress and the bed. "I'll rip the
ticken a bit just now, and stitch them in," whispered the girl.

"Didn't I hear another key clink as you put your hand in?" asked Alice.

The girl smiled, and drew out a large key, and nodded, still smiling as
she replaced it.

"What does that open?" whispered Alice eagerly.

"_Nothing_, Miss," said the girl gravely--"it's the key of the old
back-door lock; but there's a new one there now, and this won't open
nothing. But I have a use for it. I'll tell you all in time, Miss; and,
please, you must keep up your heart, mind."

Sir Richard Arden was not the cold villain you may suppose. He was
resolved to make an effort of some kind for the extrication of his
sister. He could not bear to open his dreadful situation to his Uncle
David, nor to kill himself, nor to defy the vengeance of Longcluse. He
would effect her escape and his own simultaneously. In the meantime he
must acquiesce, ostensibly at least, in every step determined on by
Longcluse.

It was a bright autumnal day as Sir Richard and Mr. Longcluse took the
rail to Southampton. Longcluse had his reasons for taking the young
baronet with him.

It was near the hour, by the time they got there, when David Arden would
arrive from his northern point of departure. Longcluse looked
animated--smiling; but a stupendous load lay on his heart. A single
clumsy phrase in the letter of that detective scoundrel might be enough
to direct the formidable suspicions of that energetic old gentleman upon
him. The next hour might throw him altogether upon the defensive, and
paralyse his schemes.

Alice Arden, you little dream of the man and the route by which,
possibly, deliverance is speeding to you.

Near the steps of the large hotel that looks seaward, Longcluse and Sir
Richard lounge, expecting the arrival of David Arden almost momentarily.
Up drives a fly, piled with portmanteaus, hat-case, dressing-case, and
all the other travelling appurtenances of a comfortable wayfarer. Beside
the driver sits a servant. The fly draws up at the door near them.

Mr. Longcluse's seasoned heart throbs once or twice oddly. Out gets
Uncle David, looking brown and healthy after his northern excursion. On
reaching the top of the steps, he halts, and turns round to look about
him. Again Mr. Longcluse feels the same odd sensation.

Uncle David recognises Sir Richard, and smiling greets him. He runs down
the steps to meet him. After they have shaken hands, and, a little more
coldly, he and Mr. Longcluse, he says,--

"You are not looking yourself, Dick; you ought to have run down to the
moors, and got up an appetite. How is Alice?"

"Alice? Oh! Alice is very well, thanks."

"I should like to run up to Mortlake to see her. She has been
complaining, eh?"

"No, no--better," says Sir Richard.

"And you forget to tell your uncle what you told me," interposes Mr.
Longcluse, "that Miss Arden left Mortlake for Yorkshire yesterday."

"Oh!" said Uncle David, turning to Richard again.

"And the servants went before--two or three days ago," said Sir Richard,
looking down for a moment, and hastening, under that clear eye, to speak
a little truth.

"Well, I wish she had come with us," said David Arden; "but as she could
not be persuaded, I'm glad she is making a little change of air and
scene, in any direction. By-the-bye, Mr. Longcluse, you had a letter,
had not you, from our friend, Paul Davies?"

"Yes; he seemed to think he had found a clue--from Paris it was--and I
wrote to tell him to spare no expense in pushing his inquiries and to
draw upon me."

"Well, I have some news to tell you. His exploring voyage will come to
nothing; you did not hear?"

"No."

"Why, the poor fellow's dead. I got a letter--it reached me, forwarded
from my house in town, yesterday, from the person who hires the
lodgings--to say he had died of scarlatina very suddenly, and sending an
inventory of the things he left. It is a pity, for he seemed a smart
fellow, and sanguine about getting to the bottom of it."

"An awful pity!" exclaimed Longcluse, who felt as if a mountain were
lifted from his heart, and the entire firmament had lighted up; "an
awful pity! Are you quite sure?"

"There can't be a doubt, I'm sorry to say. Then, as Alice has taken
wing, I'll pursue my first plan, and cross by the next mail."

"For Paris?" inquired Mr. Longcluse, carelessly.

"Yes, Sir, for Paris," answered Uncle David deliberately, looking at
him; "yes, for Paris."

And then followed a little chat on indifferent subjects. Then Uncle
David mentioned that he had an appointment, and must dine with the dull
but honest fellow who had asked him to meet him here on a matter of
business, which would have done just as well next year, but he wished it
now. Uncle David nodded, and waved his hand, as on entering the door he
gave them a farewell smile over his shoulder.



CHAPTER LXXVIII.

THE CATACOMBS.


At his disappearance, for Sir Richard the air darkened as when, in the
tropics, the sun sets without a twilight, and the silence of an awful
night descended.

It seemed that safety had been so near. He had laid his hand upon it,
and had let it glide ungrasped between his fingers; and now the sky was
black above him, and an unfathomable sea beneath.

Mr. Longcluse was in great spirits. He had grown for a time like the
Walter Longcluse of a year before.

They two dined together, and after dinner Mr. Longcluse grew happy, and
as he sat with his glass by him, he sang, looking over the waves, a
sweet little sentimental song, about ships that pass at sea, and smiles
and tears, and "true, boys, true," and "heaven shows a glimpse of its
blue." And he walks with Sir Richard to the station, and he says, low,
as he leans and looks into the carriage window, of which young Arden was
the only occupant--

"Be true to me now, and we may make it up yet."

And so saying, he gives his hand a single pressure as he looks hard in
his eyes.

The bell had rung. He was remaining there, he said, for another train.
The clapping of the doors had ceased. He stood back. The whistle blew
its long piercing yell, and as the train began to glide towards London,
the young man saw the white face of Walter Longcluse in deep shadow, as
he stood with his back to the lamp, still turned towards him.

The train was now thundering on its course; the solitary lamp glimmered
in the roof. He threw himself back, with his foot against the opposite
seat.

"Good God! what is one to resolve! All men are cruel when they are
exasperated. Might not good yet be made of Longcluse? What creatures
women are!--what fools! How easy all might have been made, with the
least temper and reflection! What d----d selfishness!"

                   *       *       *       *       *

Uncle David was now in Paris. The moon was shining over that beautiful
city. In a lonely street, in a quarter which fashion had long
forsaken--over whose pavement, as yet unconscious of the Revolution, had
passed, in the glare of torchlight, the carved and emblazoned carriages
of an aristocracy, as shadowy now as the courts of the Cæsars--his
footsteps are echoing.

A huge house presents its front. He stops and examines it carefully for
a few seconds. It is the house of which he is in search.

At one time the Baron Vanboeren had received patients from the country,
to reside in this house. For the last year, during which he had been
gathering together his wealth, and detaching himself from business, he
had discontinued this, and had gradually got rid of his establishment.

When David Arden rang the bell at the hall-door, which he had to do
repeatedly, it was answered at last by an old woman, high-shouldered,
skin and bone, with a great nose, and big jaw-bones, and a high-cauled
cap. This lean creature looks at him with a vexed and hollow eye. Her
bony arm rests on the lock of the hall-door, and she blocks the narrow
aperture between its edge and the massive door-case. She inquires in
very nasal French what Monsieur desires.

"I wish to see Monsieur the Baron, if he will permit me an interview,"
answered Mr. Arden in very fair French.

"Monsieur the Baron is not visible; but if Monsieur will,
notwithstanding, leave any message he pleases for Monsieur the Baron, I
will take care he receives it punctually."

"But Monsieur the Baron appointed me to call to-night at ten o'clock."

"Is Monsieur sure of that?"

"Perfectly."

"Eh, very well; but, if he pleases, I must first learn Monsieur's name."

"My name is Arden."

"I believe Monsieur is right." She took a bit of notepaper from her
capacious pocket, and peering at it, spelled aloud, "D-a-v-i-d----"

"A-r-d-e-n," interrupted and continued the visitor, spelling his name,
with a smile.

"A-r-d-e-n," she followed, reading slowly from her paper; "yes, Monsieur
is right. You see, this paper says, 'Admit Monsieur David Arden to an
interview.' Enter, if you please Monsieur, and follow me."

It was a decayed house of superb proportions, but of a fashion long
passed away. The gaunt old woman, with a bunch of large keys clinking at
her side, stalked up the broad stairs and into a gallery, and through
several rooms opening _en suite_. The rooms were hung with cobwebs,
dusty, empty, and the shutters closed, except here and there where the
moonlight gleamed through chinks and seams.

David Arden, before he had seen the Baron Vanboeren in London, had
pictured him in imagination a tall old man with classic features, and
manners courteous and somewhat stately.

We do not fabricate such images; they rise like exhalations from a few
scattered data, and present themselves spontaneously. It is this
self-creation that invests them with so much reality in our
imaginations, and subjects us to so odd a surprise when the original
turns out quite unlike the portrait with which we have been amusing
ourselves.

She now pushed open a door, and said, "Monsieur the Baron here is
arrived Monsieur David d'Ardennes."

The room in which he now stood was spacious, but very nearly dark. The
shutters were closed outside, and the moonlight that entered came
through the circular hole cut in each. A large candle on a bracket
burned at the further end of the room. There the baron stood. A
reflector which interposed between the candle and the door at which
David Arden entered directed its light strongly upon something which the
baron held, and laid upon the table, in his hand; and now that he turned
toward his visitor, it was concentrated upon his large face, revealing,
with the force of a Rembrandt, all its furrows and finer wrinkles. He
stood out against a background of darkness with remarkable force.

The baron stood before him--a short man in a red waistcoat. He looked
more broad-shouldered and short-necked than ever in his shirt-sleeves.
He had an instrument in his hand resembling a small bit and brace, and
some chips and sawdust on his flannel waistcoat, which he brushed off
with two or three sweeps of his short fat fingers. He looked now like a
grim old mechanic. There was no vivacity in his putty-coloured features,
but there were promptitude and decision in every abrupt gesture. It was
his towering, bald forehead, and something of command and savage energy
in his lowering face, that redeemed the _tout ensemble_ from an almost
brutal vulgarity.

The baron was not in the slightest degree "put out," as the phrase is,
at being detected in his present occupation and _deshabille_.

He bowed twice to David Arden, and said, in English, with a little
foreign accent--

"Here is a chair, Monsieur Arden; but you can hardly see it until your
eyes have grown a little accustomed to our _crépuscula_."

This was true enough, for David Arden, though he saw him advance a step
or two, could not have known what he held in the hand that was in
shadow. The sound, indeed, of the legs of the chair, as he set it down
upon the floor, he heard.

"I should make you an apology, Mr. Arden, if I were any longer in my own
home, which I am not, although this is still my house; for I have
dismissed my servants, sold my furniture, and sent what things I cared
to retain over the frontier to my new habitation, whither I shall soon
follow; and this house too, I shall sell. I have already two or three
gudgeons nibbling, Monsieur."

"This house must have been the hotel of some distinguished family,
Baron; it is nobly proportioned," said David Arden.

As his eye became accustomed to the gloom, David Arden saw traces of
gilding on the walls. The shattered frames on which the tapestry was
stretched in old times remained in the panels, with crops of small,
rusty nails visible. The faint candle-light glimmered on a ponderous
gilded cornice, which had also sustained violence. The floor was bare,
with a great deal of litter, and some scanty furniture. There was a
lathe near the spot where David Arden stood, and shavings and splinters
under his feet. There was a great block with a vice attached. In a
portion of the fire-place was built a furnace. There were pincers and
other instruments lying about the room, which had more the appearance of
an untidy workshop than of a study, and seemed a suitable enough abode
for the uncouth figure that confronted him.

"Ha! Monsieur," growls the baron, "stone walls have ears, you say if
only they had tongues; what tales _these_ could tell! This house was one
of Madame du Barry's, and was sacked in the great Revolution. The
mirrors were let into the plaster in the walls. In some of the rooms
there are large fragments still stuck in the wall so fast, you would
need a hammer and chisel to dislodge and break them up. This room was an
ante-room, and admitted to the lady's bed-room by two doors, this and
that. The panels of that other, by which you entered from the stair,
were of mirror. They were quite smashed. The furniture, I suppose, flew
out of the window; everything was broken up in small bits, and torn to
rags, or carried off to the broker after the first fury, and
_sansculotte_ families came in and took possession of the wrecked
apartments. You will say then, what was left? The bricks, the stones,
hardly the plaster on the walls. Yet, Monsieur Arden, I have discovered
some of the best treasures the house contained, and they are at present
in this room. Are you a collector, Monsieur Arden?"

Uncle David disclaimed the honourable imputation. He was thinking of
cutting all this short, and bringing the baron to the point. The old man
was at the period when the egotism of age asserts itself, and was
garrulous, and being, perhaps, despotic and fierce (he looked both), he
might easily take fire and become impracticable. Therefore, on second
thoughts, he was cautious.

"You can now see more plainly," said the baron. "Will you approach?
Concealed by a double covering of strong paper pasted over it, and
painted and gilded, each of these two doors on its six panels contains
six distinct master-pieces of Watteau's. I have known that for ten
years, and have postponed removing them. Twelve Watteaus, as fine as any
in the world! I would not trust their removal to any other hand, and so,
the panel comes out without a shake. Come here, Monsieur, if you please.
This candle affords a light sufficient to see, at least, some of the
beauties of these incomparable works."

"Thanks, Baron, a glance will suffice, for I am nothing of an artist."

He approached. It was true that his sight had grown accustomed to the
obscurity, for he could now see the baron's features much more
distinctly. His large waxen face was shorn smooth, except on the upper
lip, where a short moustache still bristled; short black eyebrows
contrasted also with the bald massive forehead, and round the eyes was a
complication of mean and cunning wrinkles. Some peculiar lines between
these contracted brows gave a character of ferocity to this forbidding
and sensual face.

"Now! See there! Those four pictures--I would not sell those four
Watteaus for one hundred thousand francs. And the other door is worth
the same. Ha!"

"You are lucky, Baron."

"I think so. I do not wish to part with them: I don't think of selling
them. See the folds of that brocade! See the ease and grace of the lady
in the sacque, who sits on the bank there, under the myrtles, with the
guitar on her lap! and see the animation and elegance of that dancing
boy with the tambourine! This is a _chef-d'œuvre_. I ought not to part
with that, on any terms--no, never! You no doubt know many collectors,
wealthy men, in England. Look at that shot silk, green and purple; and
whom do you take that to be a portrait of, that lady with the
castanets?"

He was pointing out each object, on which he descanted, with his stumpy
finger, his hands being, I am bound to admit, by no means clean.

"If you do happen to know such people, nevertheless, I should not object
to your telling them where this treasure may be seen, I've no objection.
I should not like to part with them, that is true. No, no, _no_; but
every man may be tempted, it is possible--possible, just possible."

"I shall certainly mention them to some friends."

"Wealthy men, of course," said the baron.

"It is an expensive taste, Baron, and none but wealthy people can
indulge it."

"True, and these would be _very_ expensive. They are unique; that lady
there is the _Du Barry_--a portrait worth, alone, six thousand francs.
Ha! he! Yes, when I take zese out and place zem, as I mean before I go,
to be seen, they will bring all Europe together. _Mit speck fangt man
mause_--with bacon one catches mice!"

"No doubt they will excite attention, Baron. But I feel I am wasting
your time and abusing your courtesy in permitting my visit, the
immediate object of which was to earnestly beg from you some information
which, I think, no one else can give me."

"Information? Oh! ah! Pray resume your chair, Sir. Information? yes, it
is quite possible I may have information such as you need, Heaven knows!
But knowledge, they say, is power, and if I do you a service I expect as
much from you. _Eine hand wascht die and're_--one hand, Monsieur, washes
ze ozer. No man parts wis zat which is valuable, to strangers, wisout a
proper honorarium. I receive no more patients here; but you understand,
I may be induced to attend a patient: I may be _tempted_, you
understand."

"But this is not a case of attending a patient, Baron," said David
Arden, a little haughtily.

"And what ze devil _is_ it, then?" said the baron, turning on him
suddenly. "Monsieur will pardon me, but we professional men must turn
our time and knowledge to account, do you see? And we don't give eizer
wizout being paid, and _well_ paid for them, eh?"

"Of course. I meant nothing else," said David Arden.

"Then, Sir, we understand one another so far, and that saves time. Now,
what information can the Baron Vanboeren give to Monsieur David Arden?"

"I think you would prefer my putting my questions quite straight."

"Straight as a sword-thrust, Sir."

"Then, Baron, I want to know whether you were acquainted with two
persons, Yelland Mace and Walter Longcluse."

"Yes, I knew zem bos, slightly and yet intimately--intimately and yet
but slightly. You wish, perhaps, to learn particulars about those
gentlemen?"

"I do."

"Go on: interrogate."

"Do you perfectly recollect the features of these persons?"

"I ought."

"Can you give me an accurate description of Yelland Mace?"

"I can bring you face to face with both."

"By Jove! Sir, are you serious?"

"Mr. Longcluse is in London."

"But you talk of bringing me face to face with them; how soon?"

"In five minutes."

"Oh, you mean a photograph, or a picture?"

"No, in the solid. Here is the key of the catacombs." And he took a key
that hung from a nail on the wall.

"Bah, ha, yah!" exploded the baron, in a ferocious sneer, rather than a
laugh, and shrugging his great shoulders to his ears, he shook them in
barbarous glee, crying--"What clever fellow you are, Monsieur Arden! you
see so well srough ze millstone! _Ich bin klug und weise_--you sing zat
song. I am intelligent and wise, eh, he! gra-a, ha, ha!"

He seized the candlestick in one hand, and shaking the key in the other
by the side of his huge forehead, he nodded once or twice to David
Arden.

"Not much life where we are going; but you shall see zem bose."

"You speak riddles, Baron; but by all means bring me, as you say, face
to face with them."

"Very good, Monsieur; you'll follow me," said the baron. And he opened a
door that admitted to the gallery, and, with the candle and the keys, he
led the way, by this corridor, to an iron door that had a singular
appearance, being sunk two feet back in a deep wooden frame, that threw
it into shadow. This he unlocked, and with an exertion of his weight and
strength, swung slowly open.



CHAPTER LXXIX.

RESURRECTIONS.


David Arden entered this door, and found himself under a vaulted roof of
brick. These were the chambers, for there was at least two, which the
baron termed his catacombs. Along both walls of the narrow apartment
were iron doors, in deep recesses, that looked like the huge ovens of an
ogre, sunk deep in the wall, and the baron looked himself not an
unworthy proprietor. The baron had the General's faculty of remembering
faces and names.

"Monsieur Yelland Mace? Yes, I will show you him; he is among ze dead."

"Dead?"

"Ay, zis right side is _dead_--all zese."

"Do you mean," says David Arden, "_literally_ that Yelland Mace is no
longer living?"

"A, B, C, D, E, F, G," mutters the baron, slowly pointing his finger
along the right wall.

"I beg your pardon, Baron, but I don't think you heard me," said David
Arden.

"_Perfectly_, excuse me: H, I, J, K, L, M--M. I will show you _now_, if
you desire it, Yelland Mace; you shall see him now, and never behold him
more. Do you wish very much?"

"Intensely--_most_ intensely!" said Uncle David earnestly.

The baron turned full upon him, and leaned his shoulders against the
iron door of the recess. He had taken from his pocket a bunch of heavy
keys, which he dangled from his clenched fingers, and they made a faint
jingle in the silence that followed, for a few seconds.

"Permit me to ask," said the baron, "are your inquiries directed to a
legal object?"

"I have no difficulty in saying yes," answered he; "a legal object,
strictly."

"A legal object, by which you gain considerably?" he asked slowly.

"By which I gain the satisfaction of seeing justice done upon a
villain."

"That is fine, Monsieur. Eternal justice! I have thought and said that
very often: _Vive la justice eternelle!_ especially when her sword
shears off the head of my enemy, and her scale is laden with napoleons
for my purse."

"Monsieur le Baron mistakes, in my case; I have absolutely nothing to
gain by the procedure I propose; it is strictly criminal," said David
Arden drily.

"Not an estate? not a slice of an estate? Come, come! _Thorheit!_ That
is foolish talk."

"I have told you already, nothing," repeated David Arden.

"Then you don't care, in truth, a single napoleon, whether you win or
lose. We have been wasting our time, Sir. I have no time to bestow for
nothing; my minutes count by the crown, while I remain in Paris. I shall
soon depart, and practise no more; and my time will become my own--still
my own, by no means _yours_. I am candid, Sir, and I think you cannot
misunderstand me; I must be paid for my time and opportunities."

"I never meant anything else," said Mr. Arden sturdily; "I shall pay you
liberally for any service you render me."

"That, Sir, is equally frank; we understand now the principle on which I
assist you. You wish to see Yelland Mace, so you shall."

He turned about, and struck the key sharply on the iron door.

"There he waits," said the baron, "and--did you ever see him?"

"No."

"Bah! what a wise man. Then I may show you whom I please, and you know
nothing. Have you heard him described?"

"Accurately."

"Well, there is some little sense in it, after all. You shall see."

He unlocked the safe, opened the door, and displayed shelves, laden with
rudely-made deal boxes, each of a little more than a foot square. On
these were marks and characters in red, some, and some in black, and
others in blue.

"Hé! you see," said the baron, pointing with his key, "my mummies are
cased in hieroglyphics. Come! _Here_ is the number, the date, and the
man."

And lifting them carefully one off the other, he took out a deal box
that had stood in the lowest stratum. The cover was loose, except for a
string tied about it. He laid it upon the floor, and took out a plaster
mask, and brushing and blowing off the saw-dust, held it up.

David Arden saw a face with large eyes closed, a very high and thin
nose, a good forehead, a delicately chiselled mouth; the upper lip,
though well formed after the Greek model, projected a little, and gave
to the chin the effect of receding in proportion. This slight defect
showed itself in profile; but the face, looked at full front, was on the
whole handsome, and in some degree even interesting.

"You are quite sure of the identity of this?" asked Uncle David
earnestly.

There was a square bit of parchment, with two or three short lines, in a
character which he did not know, glued to the concave reverse of the
mask. The baron took it, and holding the light near, read, "Yelland
Mace, suspect for his politics, May 2nd, 1844."

"Yes," said Mr. Arden, having renewed his examination, "it very exactly
tallies with the description; the nose aquiline, but very delicately
formed. Is that writing in cypher?"

"Yes, in cypher."

"And in what language?"

"German."

David Arden looked at it.

"You will make nothing of it. In these inscriptions, I have employed
eight languages--five European, and three Asiatic--I am, you see,
something of a linguist--and four distinct cyphers; so having that
skill, I gave the benefit of it to my _friends_; this being secret."

"Secret?--oh!" said Uncle David.

"Yes, secret; and you will please to say nothing of it to any living
creature until the twenty-first of October next, when I retire. You
understand commerce, Mr. Arden. My practice is confidential, and I
should lose perhaps eighty thousand francs in the short space that
intervenes, if I were thought to have played a patient such a trick. It
is but twenty days of reserve, and then I go and laugh at them, every
one. Piff, puff, paff! ha! ha!"

"Yes, I promise that also," said Uncle David dryly, and to himself he
thought, "What a consummate old scoundrel!"

"Very good, Sir; we shall want this of Yelland Mace again, just now; his
face and coffin, ha! ha! can rest there for the present." He had
replaced the mask in its box, and that lay on the floor. The door of the
iron press he shut and locked. "Next, I will show you Mr. Longcluse:
those are dead."

He waved his short hand toward the row of iron doors which he had just
visited.

"Please, Sir, walk with me into this room. Ay, so. Here are the
_resurrections_. Will you be good enough--L, Longcluse, M, one, two,
three, four; _three_, yes, to hold this candlestick for a moment?"

The baron unlocked this door, and, after some rummaging, he took forth a
box similar to that he had taken out before.

"Yes, right, Walter Longcluse. I tell you how you will see it best:
there is brilliant moonlight, stand there."

Through a circular hole in the wall there streamed a beam of moonlight,
that fell upon the plaster-wall opposite with the distinctness of the
circle of a magic-lantern.

"You see it--you know it! Ha! ha! His pretty face!"

He held the mask up in the moonlight, and the lineaments, sinister
enough, of Mr. Longcluse stood, sharply defined in every line and
feature, in intense white and black, against the vacant shadow behind.
There was the flat nose, the projecting underjaw, the oblique, sarcastic
eyebrow, even the line of the slight but long scar, than ran nearly from
his eye to his nostril. The same, but younger.

"There is no doubt about _that_. But when was it taken? Will you read
what is written upon it?"

Uncle David had taken out the candle, and he held it beside the mask.
The baron turned it round, and read, "Walter Longcluse, 15th October,
1844."

"The same year in which Mace's was taken?"

"So it is, 1844."

"But there is a great deal more than you have read, written upon the
parchment in this one."

"It looks more."

"And _is_ more. Why, count the words, one, two, four, six, eight. There
must be thirty, or upwards."

"Well, suppose there are, Sir: I have read, nevertheless, all I mean to
read for the present. Suppose we bring these three masks together. We
can talk a little then, and I will perhaps tell you more, and disclose
to you some secrets of nature and art, of which perhaps you suspect
nothing. Come, come, Monsieur! kindly take the candle."

The baron shut the iron door with a clang, and locked it, and, taking up
the box, marched into the next room, and placing the boxes one on top of
the other, carried them in silence out upon the gallery, accompanied by
David Arden.

How desolate seemed the silence of the vast house, in all which, by this
time, perhaps, there did not burn another light!

They now re-entered the large and strangely-littered chamber in which he
had talked with the baron; they stop among the chips and sawdust with
which his work has strewn the floor.

"Set the candle on this table," says he. "I'll light another for a time.
See all the trouble and time you cost me!"

He placed the two boxes on the table.

"I am extremely sorry----"

"Not on my account, you needn't. You'll pay me well for it."

"So I will, Baron."

"Sit you down on that, Monsieur."

He placed a clumsy old chair, with a balloon-back, for his visitor, and,
seating himself upon another, he struck his hand on the table, and said,
arresting for a moment the restless movement of his eyes, and fixing on
him a savage stare--

"You shall see wonders and hear marvels, if only you are willing to pay
what they are worth." The baron laughed when he had said this.



CHAPTER LXXX.

ANOTHER.


"You shall sit here, Mr. Arden," said the baron, placing a chair for
him. "You shall be comfortable. I grow in confidence with you. I feel
inwardly an intuition when I speak wis a man of honour; my demon, as it
were, whispers 'Trust him, honour him, make much of him.' Will you take
a pipe, or a mug of beer?"

This abrupt invitation Mr. Arden civilly declined.

"Well, I shall have my pipe and beer. See, there is ze barrel--not far
to go." He raised the candle, and David Arden saw for the first time the
outline of a veritable beer-barrel in the corner, on tressels, such as
might have regaled a party of boors in the clear shadow of a Teniers.

"There is the comely beer-cask, not often seen in Paris, in the corner
of our boudoir, resting against the only remaining rags of the sky-blue
and gold silk--it is rotten now--with which the room was hung, and a
gilded cornice--it is black now--over its head; and now, instead of
beautiful women and graceful youths, in gold lace and cut velvets and
perfumed powder, there are but one rheumatic and crooked old woman, and
one old Prussian doctor, in his shirt-sleeves, ha! ha! _mutat terra
vices!_ Come, we shall look at these again, and you shall hear more."

He placed the two masks upon the chimney-piece, leaning against the
wall.

"And we will illuminate them," says he; and he takes, one after the
other, half a dozen pieces of wax candle, and dripping the melting wax
on the chimney-piece, he sticks each candle in turn in a little pool of
its own wax.

"I spare nothing, you see, to make all plain. Those two faces present a
marked contrast. Do you, Mr. Arden, know anything, ever so little, of
the fate of Yelland Mace?"

"Nothing. Is he living?"

"Suppose he is dead, what then?"

"In that case, of course, I take my leave of the inquiry, and of you,
asking you simply one question, whether there was any correspondence
between Yelland Mace and Walter Longcluse?"

"A very intimate correspondence," said the baron.

"Of what nature?"

"Ha! They have been combined in business, in pleasures, in crimes," said
the baron. "Look at them. Can you believe it? So dissimilar! They are
opposites in form and character, as if fashioned in expression and in
feature each to contradict the other; yet so united!"

"And in crime, you say?"

"Ay, in crime--in all things."

"Is Yelland Mace still living?" urged David Arden.

"Those features, in life, you will never behold, Sir."

"He is dead. You said that you took that mask from among the dead. _Is_
he dead?"

"No, Sir; not actually dead, but under a strange condition. Bah; Don't
you see I have a secret? Do you prize very highly learning where he is?"

"Very highly, provided he may be secured and brought to trial; and you,
Baron, must arrange to give your testimony to prove his identity."

"Yes; that would be indispensible," said the baron, whose eyes were
sweeping the room from corner to corner, fiercely and swiftly. "Without
me you can never lift the veil; without me you can never unearth your
stiff and pale Yelland Mace, nor without me identify and hang him."

"I rely upon your aid, Baron," said Mr. Arden, who was becoming
agitated. "Your trouble shall be recompensed; you may depend upon my
honour."

"I am running a certain risk. I am not a fool, though, like little
Lebas. I am not to be made away with like a kitten; and once I move in
this matter, I burn my ships behind me, and return to my splendid
practice, under no circumstances, ever again."

The baron's pallid face looked more bloodless, his accent was fiercer,
and his countenance more ruffianly as he uttered all this.

"I understood, Baron, that you had quite made up your mind to retire
within a very few weeks," said David Arden.

"Does any man who has lived as long as you or I quite trust his own
resolution? No one likes to be nailed to a plan of action an hour before
he need be. I find my practice more lucrative every day. I may be
tempted to postpone my retirement, and for a while longer to continue to
gather the golden harvest that ripens round me. But once I take this
step, all is up with that. You see--you understand. Bah! you are no
fool; it is plain, all I sacrifice."

"Of course, Baron, you shall take no trouble, and make no sacrifice,
without ample compensation. But are you aware of the nature of the crime
committed by that man?"

"I never trouble my head about details; it is enough, the man is a
political refugee, and his object concealment."

"But he was no political refugee; he had nothing to do with politics--he
was simply a murderer and a robber."

"What a little rogue! Will you excuse my smoking a pipe and drinking a
little beer? Now, he never hinted that, although I knew him very
intimately, for he was my patient for some months; never hinted it, he
was so sly."

"And Mr. Longcluse, was _he_ your patient also?"

"Ha! to be sure he was. You won't drink some beer? No; well, in a
moment."

He drew a little jugful from the cask, and placed it, and a pewter
goblet, on the table, and then filled, lighted, and smoked his pipe as
he proceeded.

"I will tell you something concerning those gentlemen, Mr. Longcluse and
Mr. Mace, which may amuse you. Listen."



CHAPTER LXXXI.

BROKEN.


"My hands were very full," said the baron, displaying his stumpy
fingers. "I received patients in this house; I had what you call many
irons in ze fire. I was making napoleons then, I don't mind telling you,
as fast as a man could run bullets. My minutes counted by the crown. It
was in the month of May, 1844, late at night, a man called here, wanting
to consult me. He called himself Herr von Konigsmark. I went down and
saw him in my audience room. He knew I was to be depended upon. Such
people tell one another who may be trusted. He told me he was an
Austrian proscribed: very good. He proposed to place himself in my
hands: very well. I looked him in the face--you have _there_ exactly
what I saw."

He extended his hand toward the mask of Yelland Mace.

"'You are an Austrian,' I said, 'a native subject of the empire?'

"'Yes.'

"'Italian?'

"'No.'

"'Hungarian?'

"'No.'

"'Well, you are not _German_--ha, ha!--I can swear to that.'

"He was speaking to me in German.

"'Your accent is foreign. Come, confidence. You must be no impostor. I
must make no mistake, and blunder into a national type of features, all
wrong; if I make your mask, it must do us credit. I know many
gentlemen's secrets, and as many ladies' secrets. A man of honour! What
are you afraid of?'"

"You were not a statuary?" said Uncle David, astonished at his
versatility.

"Oh, yes! A statuary, but only in grotesque, you understand. I will show
you some of my work by-and-by."

"And I shall perhaps understand."

"You _shall_, _perfectly_. With some reluctance, then, he admitted that
what I positively asserted was true; for I told him I knew from his
accent he was an Englishman. Then, with some little pressure, I invited
him to tell his name. He did--it was Yelland Mace. _That_ is Yelland
Mace."

He had now finished his pipe: he went over to the chimney-piece, and
having knocked out the ashes, and with his pipe pointing to the tip of
the long thin plaster nose, he said, "Look well at him. Look till you
know all his features by rote. Look till you fix them for the rest of
your days well in memory, and then say what in the devil's name you
could make of them. Look at that high nose, as thin as a fish-knife.
Look at the line of the mouth and chin; see the mild gentlemanlike
contour. If you find a fellow with a flat nose, and a pair of upper
tusks sticking out an inch, and a squint that turns out one eye like the
white of an egg, you pull out the tusks, you raise the skin of the nose,
slice a bit out of the cheek, and make a false bridge, as high as you
please; heal the cheek with a stitch or two, and operate with the lancet
for the squint, and your bust is complete. Bravo! you understand?"

"I confess, Baron, I do not."

"You shall, however. Here is the case--a political refugee, like
Monsieur Yelland Mace----"

"But he was no such thing."

"Well, a criminal--any man in such a situation is, for me, a political
refugee zat, for reasons, desires to revisit his country, and yet must
be so thoroughly disguised zat by no surprise, and by no process, can he
be satisfactorily recognised; he comes to me, tells me his case, and
says, 'I desire, Baron, to become your patient,' and so he places
himself in my hands, and so--ha, ha! You begin to perceive?"

"Yes, I do! I think I understand you clearly. But, Lord bless me! what a
nefarious trade!" exclaimed Uncle David.

The baron was not offended; he laughed.

"Nevertheless," said he, "There's no harm in that. Not that I care much
about the question of right or wrong in the matter; but there's none.
Bah! who's the worse of his going back? or, if he did not, who's the
better?"

Uncle David did not care to discuss this point in ethics, but simply
said,--

"And Mr. Longcluse was also a patient of yours?"

"Yes, certainly," said the baron.

"We Londoners know nothing of his history," said Mr. Arden.

"A political refugee, like Mr. Mace," said the baron. "Now, look at Herr
Yelland Mace. It was a severe operation, but a beautiful one! I opened
the skin with a single straight cut from the lachrymal gland to the
nostril, and one underneath meeting it, you see" (he was tracing the
line of the scalpel with the stem of his pipe), "along the base of the
nose from the point. Then I drew back the skin over the bridge, and then
I operated on the bone and cartilage, cutting them and the muscle at the
extremity down to a level with the line of the face, and drew the flap
of skin back, cutting it to meet the line of the skin of the cheek;
_there_, you see, so much for the nose. Now see the curved eyebrow.
Instead of that very well marked arch, I resolved it should slant from
the radix of the nose in a straight line obliquely upward; to effect
which I removed at the upper edge of each eyebrow, at the corner next
the temple, a portion of the skin and muscle, which, being reunited and
healed, produced the requisite contraction, and thus drew that end of
each brow upward. And now, having disposed of the nose and brows, I come
to the mouth. Look at the profile of this mask."

He was holding that of Yelland Mace toward Mr. Arden, and with the bowl
of the pipe in his right hand, pointed out the lines and features on
which he descanted, with the amber point of the stem.

"Now, if you observe, the chin in this face, by reason of the marked
prominence of the nose, has the effect of receding, but it does not. If
you continue the perpendicular line of ze forehead, ze chin, you see,
meets it. The upper lip, though short and well-formed, projects a good
deal. Ze under lip rather retires, and this adds to the receding effect
of the chin, you see. My _coup-d'œil_ assured me that it was practicable
to give to this feature the character of a projecting under-jaw. The
complete depression of the nose more than half accomplished it. The rest
is done by cutting away two upper and four under-teeth, and substituting
false ones at the desired angle. By that application of dentistry I
obtained zis new line." (He indicated the altered outline of the
features, as before, with his pipe). "It was a very pretty operation.
The effect you could hardly believe. He was two months recovering,
confined to his bed, ha! ha! We can't have an immovable mask of living
flesh, blood, and bone for nothing. He was threatened with erysipelas,
and there was a rather critical inflammation of the left eye. When he
could sit up, and bear the light, and looked in the glass, instead of
thanking me, he screamed like a girl, and cried and cursed for an hour,
ha, ha, ha! He was glad of it afterward: it was so complete. Look at it"
(he held up the mask of Yelland Mace): "a face, on the whole,
good-looking, but a little of a parrot-face, you know. I took him into
my hands with that face, and" (taking up the mask of Mr. Longcluse, and
turning it with a slow oscillation so as to present it in every aspect),
he added, "these are the features of Yelland Mace as I sent him into the
world with the name of Herr Longcluse!"

"You mean to say that Yelland Mace and Walter Longcluse are the same
person?" cried David Arden, starting to his feet.

"I swear that here is Yelland Mace _before_, and here _after_ the
operation, call him what you please. When I was in London, two months
ago, I saw Monsieur Longcluse. _He_ is Yelland Mace; and these two masks
are both masks of the same Yelland Mace."

"Then the evidence is complete," said David Arden, with awe in his face,
as he stood for a moment gazing on the masks which the Baron Vanboeren
held up side by side before him.

"Ay, the masks and the witness to explain them," said the baron,
sturdily.

"It is a perfect identification," murmured Mr. Arden, with his eyes
still riveted on the plaster faces. "Good God! how wonderful that proof,
so complete in all its parts, should remain!"

"Well, I don't love Longcluse, since so he is named; he disobliged me
when I was in London," said the baron. "Let him hang, since so you
ordain it. I'm ready to go to London, give my evidence, and produce
these plaster casts. But my time and trouble must be considered."

"Certainly."

"Yes," said the baron; "and to avoid tedious arithmetic, and for the
sake of convenience, I will agree to visit London, at what time you
appoint, to bring with me these two masks, and to give my evidence
against Yelland Mace, otherwise Walter Longcluse, my stay in London not
to exceed a fortnight, for ten thousand pounds sterling."

"I don't think, Baron, you can be serious," said Mr. Arden, as soon as
he had recovered breath.

"Donner-wetter! I will show you that I am!" bawled the baron. "Now or
never, Sir. Do as you please. I sha'n't abate a franc. Do you like my
offer?"

On the event of this bargain are depending issues of which David Arden
knows nothing; the dangers, the agonies, the salvation of those who are
nearest to him on earth. The villain Longcluse, and the whole fabric of
his machinations, may be dashed in pieces by a word.

How, then, did David Arden, who hated a swindle, answer the old
extortioner, who asked him, "Do you like my offer?"

"Certainly not, Sir," said David Arden, sternly.

"Then _was_ scheert's mich! What do I care! No more, no more about it!"
yelled the baron in a fury, and dashed the two masks to pieces on the
hearth-stone at his feet, and stamped the fragments into dust with his
clumsy shoes.

With a cry, old Uncle David rushed forward to arrest the demolition, but
too late. The baron, who was liable to such accesses of rage, was
grinding his teeth, and rolling his eyes, and stamping in fury.

The masks, those priceless records, were gone, past all hope of
restoration. Uncle David felt for a moment so transported with anger,
that I think he was on the point of striking him. How it would have
fared with him, if he had, I can't tell.

"Now!" howled the baron, "ten times ten thousand pounds would not place
you where you were, Sir. You fancied, perhaps, I would stand haggling
with you all night, and yield at last to your obstinacy. What is my
answer? The floor strewn with the fragments of your calculation. Where
will you turn--what will you do now?"

"Suppose I do this," said Uncle David fiercely--"report to the police
what I have seen--your masks and all the rest, and accomplish, besides,
all I require, by my own evidence as to what I myself saw?"

"And I will confront you, as a witness," said the baron, with a cold
sneer, "and deny it all--swear it is a dream, and aid your poor
relatives in proving you unfit to manage your own money matters."

Uncle David paused for a moment. The baron had no idea how near he was,
at that moment, to a trial of strength with his English visitor. Uncle
David thinks better of it, and he contents himself with saying, "I shall
have advice, and you shall _most certainly_ hear from me again."

Forth from the room strides David Arden in high wrath. Fearing to lose
his way, he bawls over the banister, and through the corridors, "Is any
one there?" and after a time the old woman, who is awaiting him in the
hall, replies, and he is once more in the open street.



CHAPTER LXXXII.

DOPPELGANGER.


It was late, he did not know or care how late. He was by no means
familiar with this quarter of the city. He was agitated and angry, and
did not wish to return to his hotel till he had a little walked off his
excitement. Slowly he sauntered along, from street to street. These were
old-fashioned, such as were in vogue in the days of the Regency. Tall
houses, with gables facing the street; few of them showing any light
from their windows, and their dark outlines discernible on high against
the midnight sky. Now he heard the voices of people near, emerging from
a low theatre in a street at the right. A number of men come along the
trottoir, toward Uncle David. They were going to a gaming-house and
restaurant at the end of the street, which he had nearly reached. This
troop of idlers he accompanies. They turn into an open door, and enter a
passage not very brilliantly lighted. At the left was the open door of a
restaurant. The greater number of those who enter follow the passage,
however, which leads to the roulette-room.

As Uncle David, with a caprice of curiosity, follows slowly in the wake
of this accession to the company, a figure passes and goes before him
into the room.

With a strange thrill he takes or mistakes this figure for Mr.
Longcluse. He pauses, and sees the tall figure enter the roulette-room.
He follows it as soon as he recollects himself a little, and goes into
the room. The players are, as usual, engrossed by the game. But at the
far side beyond these busy people, he sees this person, whom he
recognises by a light great-coat, stooping with his lips pretty near the
ear of a man who was sitting at the table. He raises himself in a moment
more, and stands before Uncle David, and at the first glance he is quite
certain that Mr. Longcluse is before him. The tall man stands with
folded arms, and looks carelessly round the room, and at Uncle David
among the rest.

"Here," he thought, "is the man; and the evidence, clear and conclusive,
and so near this very spot, now scattered in dust and fragments, and the
witness who might have clenched the case impracticable!"

This tall man, however, he begins to perceive, has points, and strong
ones, of dissimilarity, notwithstanding his general resemblance to Mr.
Longcluse. His beard and hair are red; his shoulders are broader, and
very round; much clumsier and more powerful he looks; and there is an
air of vulgarity and swagger and boisterous good spirits about him,
certainly in marked contrast with Mr. Longcluse's very quiet demeanour.

Uncle David now finds himself in that uncomfortable state of oscillation
between two opposite convictions which, in a matter of supreme
importance, amounts very nearly to torture.

This man does not appear at all put out by Mr. Arden's observant
presence, nor even conscious of it. A place becomes vacant at the table,
and he takes it, and stakes some money, and goes on, and wins and loses,
and at last yawns and turns away, and walks slowly round to the door
near which David Arden is standing. Is not this the very man whom he saw
for a moment on board the steamer, as he crossed? As he passes a jet of
gas, the light falls upon his face at an angle that brings out lines
that seem familiar to the Englishman, and for the moment determines his
doubts. David Arden, with his eyes fixed upon him, says, as he was about
to pass him,--

"How d'ye do, Mr. Longcluse?"

The gentleman stops, smiles, and shrugs.

"Pardon, Monsieur," he says in French, "I do not speak English or
German."

The quality of the voice that spoke these words was, he thought,
different from Mr. Longcluse's--less tone, less depth, and more nasal.

The gentleman pauses and smiles with his head inclined, evidently
expecting to be addressed in French.

"I believe I have made a mistake, Sir," hesitates Mr. Arden.

The gentleman inclines his head lower, smiles, and waits patiently for a
second or two. Mr. Arden, a little embarrassed, says,--

"I thought, Monsieur, I had met you before in England."

"I have never been in England, Monsieur," says the patient and polite
Frenchman, in his own language. "I cannot have had the honour,
therefore, of meeting Monsieur _there_."

He pauses politely.

"Then I have only to make an apology. I beg your--I beg--but surely--I
think--by Jove!" he breaks into English, "I can't be mistaken--you _are_
Mr. Longcluse."

The tall gentleman looks so unaffectedly puzzled, and so politely
good-natured, as he resumes, in the tones which seem perfectly natural,
and yet one note in which David Arden fails to recognise, and says,--

"Monsieur must not trouble himself of having made a mistake: my name is
St. Ange."

"I believe I _have_ made a mistake, Monsieur--pray excuse me."

The gentleman bows very ceremoniously, and Monsieur St. Ange walks
slowly out, and takes a glass of curaçoa in the outer room. As he is
paying the _garçon_, Mr. Arden again appears, once more in a state of
uncertainty, and again leaning to the belief that this person is indeed
the Mr. Longcluse who at present entirely possesses his imagination.

The tall stranger with the round shoulders in truth resembled the person
who, in a midnight interview on Hampstead Heath, had discussed some
momentous questions with Paul Davies, as we remember; but that person
spoke in the peculiar accent of the northern border. _His_ beard, too,
was exorbitant in length, and flickered wide and red, in the wind. This
beard, on the contrary, was short and trim, and hardly so red, I think,
as that moss-trooper's. On the whole, the likeness in both cases was
somewhat rude and general. Still the resemblance to Longcluse again
struck Mr. Arden so powerfully, that he actually followed him into the
street and overtook him only a dozen steps away from the door, on the
now silent pavement.

Hearing his hurried step behind him, the object of his pursuit turns
about and confronts him for the first time with an offended and haughty
look.

"Monsieur!" says he a little grimly, drawing himself up as he comes to a
sudden halt.

"The impression has forced itself upon me again that you _are_ no other
than Mr. Walter Longcluse," says Uncle David.

The tall gentleman recovered his good-humour, and smiled as before, with
a shrug.

"I have not the honour of that gentleman's acquaintance, Monsieur, and
cannot tell, therefore, whether he in the least resembles me. But as
this kind of thing is unusual, and grows wearisome, and may end in
putting me out of temper--which is not easy, although quite
possible--and as my assurance that I am really myself seems insufficient
to convince Monsieur, I shall be happy to offer other evidence of the
most unexceptionable kind. My house is only two streets distant. There
my wife and daughter await me, and our curé partakes of our little
supper at twelve. I am a little late," says he, listening, for the
clocks are tolling twelve; "however, it is a little more than two
hundred metres, if you will accept my invitation, and I shall be very
happy to introduce you to my wife, to my daughter Clotilde, and to our
good curé, who is a most agreeable man. Pray come, share our little
supper, see what sort of people we are, and in this way--more agreeable,
I hope, than any other, and certainly less fallacious--you can ascertain
whether I am Monsieur St. Ange, or that other gentleman with whom you
are so obliging as to confound me. Pray come; it is not much--a
fricasée, a few cutlets, an omelette, and a glass of wine. Madame St.
Ange will be charmed to make your acquaintance, my daughter will sing us
a song, and you will say that Monsieur le Curé is really a most
entertaining companion."

There was something so simple and thoroughly good-natured in this
invitation, under all the circumstances, that Mr. Arden felt a little
ashamed of his persistent annoyance of so hospitable a fellow, and for
the moment he was convinced that he must have been in error.

"Sir," says David Arden, "I am now convinced that I must have been
mistaken; but I cannot deny myself the honour of being presented to
Madame St. Ange, and I assure you I am quite ashamed of the annoyance I
must have caused you, and I offer a thousand apologies."

"Not one, pray," replies the Frenchman, with great good-humour and
gaiety. "I felicitate myself on a mistake which promises to result so
happily."

So side by side, at a leisurely pace, they pursued their way through
these silent streets, and unaccountably the conviction again gradually
stole over Uncle David that he was actually walking by the side of Mr.
Longcluse.



CHAPTER LXXXIII.

A SHORT PARTING.


The fluctuations of Mr. Arden's conviction continued. His new
acquaintance chatted gaily. They passed a transverse street, and he saw
him glance quickly right and left, with a shrewd eye that did not quite
accord with his careless demeanour.

Here for a moment the moon fell full upon them, and the effect of this
new light was, once more, to impair Mr. Arden's confidence in his last
conclusions about this person. Again he was at sea as to his identity.

There were the gabble and vociferation of two women quarrelling in the
street to the left, and three tipsy fellows, marching home, were singing
a trio some way up the street to the right.

They had encountered but one figure--a seedy scrivener, slipshod,
shuffling his way to his garret, with a baize bag of law-papers to copy
in his left hand, and a sheaf of quills in his right, and a pale,
careworn face turned up towards the sky. The streets were growing more
silent and deserted as they proceeded.

He was sauntering onward by the side of this urbane and garrulous
stranger, when, like a whisper, the thought came, "Take care!"

David Arden stopped short.

"Eh, bien?" said his polite companion, stopping simultaneously, and
staring in his face a little grimly.

"On reflection, Monsieur, it is so late, that I fear I should hardly
reach my hotel in time if I were to accept your agreeable invitation,
and letters probably await me, which I should, at least, _read_
to-night."

"Surely Monsieur will not disappoint me--surely Monsieur is not going to
treat me so oddly?" expostulated Monsieur St. Ange.

"Good-night, Sir. Farewell!" said David Arden, raising his hat as he
turned to go.

There intervened not two yards between them, and the polite Monsieur St.
Ange makes a stride after him, and extends his hand--whether there is a
weapon in it, I know not; but he exclaims fiercely,--

"Ha! robber! my purse!"

Fortunately, perhaps, at that moment, from a lane only a few yards away,
emerge two gendarmes, and Monsieur St. Ange exclaims, "Ah, Monsieur,
mille pardons! Here it is! All safe, Monsieur. Pray excuse my mistake as
frankly as I have excused yours. Adieu!"

Monsieur St. Ange raises his hat, shrugs, smiles, and withdrew.

Uncle David thought, on the whole, he was well rid of his ambiguous
acquaintance, and strode along beside the gendarmes, who civilly
directed him upon his way, which he had lost.

So, then, upon Mr. Longcluse's fortunes the sun shone; his star, it
would seem, was in the ascendant. If the evil genius who ruled his
destiny was contending, in a chess game, with the good angel of Alice
Arden, her game seemed pretty well lost, and the last move near.

When David Arden reached his hotel a note awaited him, in the hand of
the Baron Vanboeren. He read it under the gas in the hall. It said:--

    "We must, in this world, forgive and reconsider many things. I
    therefore pardon you, you me. So soon as you have slept upon our
    conversation, you will accept an offer which I cannot modify. I
    always proportion the burden to the back. The rich pay me
    handsomely; for the poor I have prescribed and operated, sometimes,
    for nothing! You have the good fortune, like myself, to be
    childless, wifeless, and rich. When I take a fancy to a thing,
    nothing stops me; you, no doubt, in like manner. The trouble is
    something to me; the danger, which you count nothing, to me is
    _much_. The compensation I name, estimated without the circumstances,
    is large; compared with my wealth, trifling; compared with
    your wealth, nothing; as the condition of a transaction between
    you and me, therefore, not worth mentioning. The accident of last
    night I can repair. The original matrix of each mask remains safe in
    my hands: from this I can multiply casts _ad libitum_. Both these
    matrices I will hammer into powder at twelve o'clock to-morrow
    night, unless my liberal offer shall have been accepted before that
    hour. I write to a man of honour. We understand each other.

    "EMMANUEL VANBOEREN."

The ruin, then, was not irretrievable; and there was time to take
advice, and think it over. In the baron's brutal letter there was a
coarse logic, not without its weight.

In better spirits David Arden betook himself to bed. It vexed him to
think of submitting to the avarice of that wicked old extortioner; but
to that submission, reluctant as he is, it seems probable he will come.

And now his thoughts turn upon the hospitable Monsieur St. Ange, and he
begins, I must admit not altogether without reason, to reflect what a
fool he has been. He wonders whether that hospitable and polite
gentleman had intended to murder him, at the moment when the gendarmes
so luckily appeared. And in the midst of his speculations, overpowered
by fatigue, he fell asleep, and ate his breakfast next morning very
happily.

Uncle David had none of that small diplomatic genius that helps to make
a good attorney. That sort of knowledge of human nature would have
prompted a careless reception of the baron's note, and an entire absence
of that promptitude which seems to imply an anxiety to seize an offer.

Accordingly, it was at about eleven o'clock in the morning that he
presented himself at the house of the Baron Vanboeren.

He was not destined to conclude a reconciliation with that German noble,
nor to listen to his abrupt loquacity, nor ever more to discuss or
negotiate anything whatsoever with him, for the Baron Vanboeren had been
found that morning close to his hall door on the floor, shot with no
less than three bullets through his body, and his pipe in both hands
clenched to his blood-soaked breast like a crucifix. The baron is not
actually dead. He has been hours insensible. He cannot live; and the
doctor says that neither speech nor recollection can return before he
dies.

By whose hands, for what cause, in what manner the world had lost that
excellent man, no one could say. A great variety of theories prevail on
the subject. He had sent the old servant for Pierre la Roche, whom he
employed as a messenger, and he had given him at about a quarter to
eleven a note addressed to David Arden, Esquire, which was no doubt that
which Mr. Arden had received.

Had Heaven decreed that this investigation should come to naught? This
blow seemed irremediable.

David Arden, however, had, as I mentioned, official friends, and it
struck him that he might through them obtain access to the rooms in
which his interviews with the baron had taken place; and that an
ingenious and patient artist in plaster might be found who would search
out the matrices, or, at worst, piece the fragments of the mask
together, and so, in part, perhaps, restore the demolished evidence. It
turned out, however, that the destruction of these relics was too
complete for any such experiments; and all that now remained was, upon
the baron's letter of the evening before, to move in official quarters
for a search for those "matrices" from which it was alleged the masks
were taken.

This subject so engrossed his mind, that it was not until after his late
dinner that he began once more to think of Monsieur St. Ange, and his
resemblance to Mr. Longcluse; and a new suspicion began to envelope
those gentlemen in his imagination. A thought struck him, and up got
Uncle David, leaving his wine unfinished, and a few minutes more saw him
in the telegraph office, writing the following message:--

    "From Monsieur David Arden, etc., to Monsieur Blount, 5 Manchester
    Buildings, Westminster, London.

    "Pray telegraph immediately to say whether Mr. Longcluse is at his
    house, Bolton Street, Piccadilly."

No answer reached him that night; but in the morning he found a telegram
dated 11.30 of the previous night, which said--

    "Mr. Longcluse is ill at his house at Richmond--better to-day."

To this promptly he replied--

    "See him, if possible, immediately at Richmond, and say how he
    looks. The surrender of the lease in Crown Alley will be an excuse.
    See him if there. Ascertain with certainty where. Telegraph
    immediately."

No answer had reached Uncle David at three o'clock P.M.; he had
despatched his message at nine. He was impatient, and walked to the
telegraph office to make inquiries, and to grumble. He sent another
message in querulous and peremptory laconics. But no answer came till
near twelve o'clock, when the following was delivered to him:--

    "Yours came while out. Received at 6 P.M. Saw Longcluse at Richmond.
    Looks seedy. Says he is all right now."

He read this twice or thrice, and lowered the hand whose fingers held it
by the corner, and looked up, taking a turn or two about the room; and
he thought what a precious fool he must have appeared to Monsieur St.
Ange, and then again, with another view of that gentleman's character,
what an escape he had possibly had.

So there was no distraction any longer; and he directed his mind now
exclusively upon the distinct object of securing possession of the
moulds from which the masks were taken; and for many reasons it is not
likely that very much will come of his search.



CHAPTER LXXXIV.

AT MORTLAKE.


Events do not stand still at Mortlake. It is now about four o'clock on a
fine autumnal afternoon. Since we last saw her, Alice Arden has not once
sought to pass the hall-door. It would not have been possible to do so.
No one passed that barrier without a scrutiny, and the aid of the key of
the man who kept guard at the door, as closely as ever did the office at
the hatch of the debtor's prison. The suite of five rooms up-stairs, to
which Alice is now strictly confined, is not only comfortable, but
luxurious. It had been fitted up for his own use by Sir Reginald years
before he exchanged it for those rooms down-stairs which, as he grew
older, he preferred.

Levi every day visited the house, and took a report of all that was said
and planned up-stairs, in a _tête-à-tête_ with Phœbe Chiffinch, in the
great parlour among the portraits. The girl was true to her young and
helpless mistress, and was in her confidence, outwitting the rascally
Jew, who every time, by Longcluse's order, bribed her handsomely for the
information that was misleading him.

From Phœbe the young lady concealed no pang of her agony. Well was it
for her that in their craft they had exchanged the comparatively useless
Miss Diaper for this poor girl, on whose apprenticeship to strange ways,
and a not very fastidious life, they relied for a clever and
unscrupulous instrument. Perhaps she had more than the cunning they
reckoned upon. "But I 'av' took a liking to ye, Miss, and they'll not
make nothing of Phœbe Chiffinch."

Alice was alone in her room, and Phœbe Chiffinch came running up the
great staircase singing, and through the intervening suite of rooms,
entered that in which her young mistress awaited her return. Her song
falters, and dies into a strange ejaculation, as she passes the door.

"The Lord be thanked, that's over and done!" she exclaims, with a face
pale from excitement.

"Sit down, Phœbe; you are trembling; you must drink a little water. Are
you well?"

"La! quite well, Miss," said Phœbe, more cheerily, and then burst into
tears. She gulped down some of the water which the frightened young lady
held to her lips, and recovering quickly, she gets on her feet, and says
impatiently--"I'm sure, Miss, I don't know what makes me such a fool;
but I'm all right now, Ma'am; and you asked me, the other day, about the
big key of the old back-door lock that I showed you, and I said, though
it could not open no door, I would find a use for it, yet. So I 'av',
Miss."

"Go on; I recollect perfectly."

"You remember the bit of parchment I asked you to write the words on
yesterday evening, Miss? They was these: 'Passage on the left, from main
passage to housekeeper's room,' etc. Well, I was with Mr. Vargers when
he locked that passage up, and it leads to a door in the side of the
'ouse, which it opens into the grounds; and in that houter door he left
a key, and only took with him the key of the door at the other end,
which it opens from the 'ousekeeper's passage. So all seemed sure--sure
it is, so long as you can't get into that side passage, which it is
locked."

"I understand; go on, Phœbe."

"Well, Miss, the reason I vallied that key I showed you so much, was
because it's as like the key of the side passage as one egg is to
another, only it won't turn in the lock. So, as that key I must 'av', I
tacked the bit of parchment you wrote to the 'andle of the other, which
the two matches exactly, and I didn't tell you, Miss, thinking what a
taking you'd be in, but I went down to try if I could not take it for
the right one."

"It was kind of you not to tell me; go on," said the young lady.

"Well, Miss, I 'ad the key in my pocket, ready to change; and I knew
well how 'twould be, if I was found out--I'd get the sack, or be locked
up 'ere myself, more likely, and no more chances for you. Mr. Vargers
was in the room--the porter's room they calls it now--and in I goes. I
did not see no one there, but Vargers and he was lookin' sly, I thought,
and him and Mr. Boult has been talking me over, I fancy, and they don't
quite trust me. So I began to talk, wheedling him the best I could to
let me go into town for an hour; 'twas only for talk, for well I knew I
shouldn't get to go; but nothing but chaff did he answer. And then, says
I, is Mr. Levice come yet, and he said, he is, but he has a second key
of the back door and he may 'av' let himself hout. Well, I says,
thinking to make Vargers jealous, he's a werry pleasant gentleman, a bit
too pleasant for me, and I'm a-going to the kitchen, and I'd rayther he
wastnt there, smoking as he often does, and talking nonsense, when I'm
in it. There's others that's nicer, to my fancy, than him--so, jest you
go and see, and I'll take care of heverything 'ere till you come
back--and don't you be a minute. There was the keys, lying along the
chimney-piece, at my left, and the big table in front, and nothing to
hinder me from changing mine for his, but Vargers' eye over me. Little I
thought he'd 'av' bin so ready to do as I said. But he smiled to
himself-like, and he said he'd go and see. So away he went; and I
listens at the door till I heard his foot go on the tiles of the passage
that goes down by the 'ousekeeper's room, and the billiard-room, to the
kitchen; and then on tip-toe, as quick as light, I goes to the
chimney-piece, and without a sound, I takes the very key I wanted in my
fingers, and drops it into my pocket, but putting down the other in its
place, I knocked down the big leaden hink-bottle, and didn't it make a
bang on the floor--and a terrible hoarse voice roars out from the tother
side of the table--'What the devil are you doing there, huzzy?' Saving
your presence, Miss; and up gets Mr. Boult, only half awake, looking as
mad as Bedlam, and I thought I would have fainted away! Who'd 'av'
fancied he was in the room? He had his 'ead on the table, and the cloak
over it, and I think, when they 'eard me a-coming downstairs, they
agreed he should 'ide hisself so, to catch me, while Vargers would leave
the room, to try if I would meddle with the keys, or the like--and while
Mr. Boult was foxing, he fell asleep in right earnest. Warn't it a joke,
Miss? So I brazent it hout, Miss, the best I could, and I threatened to
complain to Mr. Levi, and said I'd stay no longer, to be talked to, that
way, by sich as he. And Boult could not tell Vargers he was asleep, and
so I saw him count over the keys, and up I ran, singing."

By this time the girl was on her knees, concealing the key between the
beds, with the others.

"Thank God, Phœbe, you have got it! But, oh! all that is before us
still!"

"Yes, there's work enough, Miss. I'll not be so frightened no more. Tom
Chiffinch, that beat the Finchley pet, after ninety good rounds, was my
brother, and I won't show nothing but pluck, Miss, from this out--you'll
see."

Alice had proposed writing to summon her friends to her aid. But Phœbe
protested against that extremely perilous measure. Her friends were away
from London; who could say where? And she believed that the attempt to
post the letters would miscarry, and that they were certain to fall into
the hands of their jailors. She insisted that Alice should rely on the
simple plan of escape from Mortlake.

Martha Tansey, it is true, was anxious. She wondered how it was that she
had not once heard from her young mistress since her journey to
Yorkshire. And a passage in a letter which had reached her, from the old
servant, at David Arden's town house, who had been mystified by Sir
Richard, perplexed and alarmed her further, by inquiring how Miss Alice
looked, and whether she had been knocked up by the journey to Arden on
Wednesday.

So matters stood.

Each evening Mr. Levi was in attendance, and this day, according to
rule, she went down to the grand old dining-room.

"How'sh Miss Chiffinch?" said the little Jew, advancing to meet her;
"how'sh her grashe the duchess, in the top o' the houshe? Ish my Lady
Mount-garret ash proud ash ever?"

"Well, I do think, Mr. Levice, there's a great change; she's bin growing
better the last two days, and she's got a letter last night that's
seemed to please her."

"Wha'at letter?"

"The letter you gave me last night for her."

"O-oh! Ah! I wonder--eh? Do you happen to know what wa'azh in that ere
letter?" he asked, in an insinuating whisper.

"Not I, Mr. Levice. She don't trust me not as far as you'd throw a bull
by the tail. You might 'av' managed that better. You must 'a frightened
her some way about me. I try to be agreeable all I can, but she won't
a-look at me."

"Well, I don't want to know, _I'm_ sure. Did she talk of going out of
doors since?"

"No; there's a frost in the hair still, and she says till that's gone
she won't stir out."

"That frost will last a bit, I guess. Any more newshe?"

"Nothing."

"Wait a minute 'ere," said Mr. Levi, and he went into the room beyond
this, where she knew there were writing materials.

She waited some time, and at length took the liberty of sitting down.
She was kept a good while longer. The sun went down; the drowsy crimson
that heralds night overspread the sky. She coughed; several fits of
coughing she tried at short intervals. Had Mr. Levice, as she called
him, forgotten her? He came out at length in the twilight.

"Shtay you 'ere a few minutes more," said that gentleman, as he walked
thoughtfully through the room and paused. "You wazh asking yesterday
where izh Sir Richard Arden. Well, hezh took hishelf off to Harden in
Yorkshire, and he'll not be 'ome again for a week."

Having delivered this piece of intelligence, he nodded, and slowly went
to the hall, and closed the door carefully as he left the room. She
followed to the door and listened. There was plainly a little fuss going
on in the hall. She heard feet in motion, and low talking. She was
curious and would have peeped, but the door was secured on the outside.
The twilight had deepened, and for the first time she saw that a ray of
candle-light came through the key-hole from the inner room. She opened
the door softly, and saw a gentleman writing at the table. He was quite
alone. He turned, and rose: a tall, slight gentleman, with a singular
countenance that startled her.

"You are Phœbe Chiffinch," said a deep, clear voice, sternly, as the
gentleman pointed towards her with the plume end of the pen he held in
his fingers. "I am Mr. Longcluse. It is I who have sent you two pounds
each day by Levi. I hear you have got it all right."

The girl curtseyed, and said "Yes, Sir," at the second effort, for she
was startled. He had taken out and opened his pocket-book.

"Here are _ten_ pounds," and he handed her a rustling new note by the
corner. "I'll treat you liberally, but you must speak truth, and do
exactly as you are ordered by Levi." She curtseyed again. There was
something in that gentleman that frightened her awfully.

"If you do so, I mean to give you a hundred pounds when this business is
over. I have paid you as my servant, and if you deceive me I'll punish
you; and there are two or three little things they complain of at the
'Guy of Warwick,' and" (he swore a hard oath) "you shall hear of them if
you do."

She curtseyed, and felt, not angry, as she would if any one else had
said it, but frightened, for Mr. Longcluse's was a name of power at
Mortlake.

"You gave Miss Arden a letter last night. You know what was in it?"

"Yes, Sir."

"What was it?"

"An offer of marriage from you, Sir."

"Yes: how do you know that?"

"She told me, please, Sir."

"How did she take it? Come, don't be afraid."

"I'd say it pleased her well, Sir."

He looked at her in much surprise, and was silent for a time.

He repeated his question, and receiving a similar answer, reflected on
it.

"Yes; it _is_ the best way out of her troubles; she begins to see that,"
he said, with a strange smile.

He walked to the chimney-piece, and leaned on it; and forgot the
presence of Phœbe. She was too much in awe to make any sign. Turning he
saw her, suddenly.

"You will receive some directions from Mr. Levi; take care you
understand and execute them."

He touched the bell, and Levi opened the door; and she and that person
walked together to the foot of the stair, where in a low tone they
talked.



CHAPTER LXXXV.

THE CRISIS.


When Phœbe Chiffinch returned to Alice's room, it was about ten o'clock;
a brilliant moon was shining on the old trees, and throwing their
shadows on the misty grass. The landscape from these upper windows was
sad and beautiful, and above the distant trees that were softened by the
haze of night rose the silvery spire of the old church, in whose vault
her father sleeps with a cold brain, thinking no more of mortgages and
writs.

Alice had been wondering what had detained her so long, and by the time
she arrived had become very much alarmed.

Relieved when she entered, she was again struck with fear when Phœbe
Chiffinch had come near enough to enable her to see her face. She was
pale, and with her eyes fixed on her, raised her finger in warning, and
then glanced at the door which she had just closed.

Her young mistress got up and approached her, also growing pale, for she
perceived that danger was at the door.

"I wish there was bolts to these doors. They've got other keys. Never
mind; I know it all now," she whispered, as she walked softly up to the
end of the room farthest from the door. "I said I'd stand by you, my
lady; don't you lose heart. They're coming here in about a hour."

"For God's sake, what is it?" said Alice faintly, her eyes gazing wider
and wider, and her very lips growing white.

"There's work before us, my lady, and there must be no fooling," said
the girl, a little sternly. "Mr. Levi, please, has told me a deal, and
all they expect from me, the villains. Are you strong enough to take
your part in it, Miss? If not, best be quiet; best for both."

"Yes; quite strong, Phœbe. Are we to leave this?"

"I hope, Miss. We can but try."

"There's light, Phœbe," she said, glancing with a shiver from the
window. "It's a bright night."

"I wish 'twas darker; but mind you what I say. Longcluse is to be here
in a hour. Your brother's coming, God help you! and that little limb o'
Satan, that black-eyed, black-nailed, dirty little Jew, Levice! They're
not in town, they're out together near this, where a man is to meet them
with writings. There's a licence got, Christie Vargers saw Mr. Longcluse
showing it to your brother, Sir Richard; and I daren't tell Vargers that
I'm for you. He'd never do nothing to vex Mr. Levice, he daren't.
There's a parson here, a rum 'un, you may be sure. I think I know
something about him; Vargers does. He's in the room now, only one away
from this, next the stair head, and Vargers is put to keep the door in
the same room. All the doors along, from one room to t'other, is open,
from this to the stairs, except the last, which Vargers has the key of
it; and all the doors opening from the rooms to the gallery is locked,
so you can't get out o' this 'ere without passing through the one where
parson is, and Mr. Vargers, please."

"I'll speak to the clergyman," whispered Alice, extending her hands
towards the far door; "God be thanked, there's one good man here, and
he'll save me!"

"La, bless you child! why that parson had his two pen'orth long ago, and
spends half his nights in the lock-up."

"I don't understand, Phœbe."

"He had two years. He's bin in jail, Miss, Vargers says, as often as he
has fingers and toes; and he's at his brandy and water as I came
through, with his feet on the fender, and his pipe in his mouth. He's
here to marry you, please 'm, to Mr. Longcluse, and _there's_ all the
good _he'll_ do you; and your brother will give you away, Miss, and
Levice and Vargers for witnesses, and me I dessay. It's every bit
harranged, and they don't care the rinsing of a tumbler what you say or
do; for through with it, slicks, they'll go, and say 'twas all right, in
spite of all you can do; and who is there to make a row about it? Not
you, after all's done."

"We must get away! I'll lose my life, or I'll escape!"

Phœbe looked at her in silence. I think she was measuring her strength,
and her nerve, for the undertaking.

"Well, 'm, it's time it was begun. The time is come. Here's your cloak,
Miss, I'll tie a handkerchief over my head, if we get out; and here's
the three keys, betwixt the bed and the mattress."

After a moment's search on her knees, she produced them.

"The big one and this I'll keep, and you'll manage this other, please;
take it in your right hand--you must use it first. It opens the far door
of the room where Vargers is, and if you get through, you'll be at the
stair-head then. Don't you come in after me, till you see I have Vargers
engaged another way. Go through as light as a bird flies, and take the
key out of the door, at the other end, when you unlock it; and close it
softly, else he'll see it, and have the house about our ears; and you
know the big window at the drawing-room lobby; wait in the hollow of
that window till I come. Do you understand, please, Miss?"

Alice did perfectly.

"Hish-sh!" said the maid, with a prolonged caution.

A dead silence followed; for a minute--several minutes neither seemed to
breathe.

Phœbe whispered at length--

"_Now_, Miss, are you ready?"

"Yes," she whispered, and her heart beat for a moment as if it would
suffocate her, and then was still; an icy chill stole over her, and as
on tip-toe she followed Phœbe, she felt as if she glided without weight
or contact, like a spirit.

Through a dark room they passed, very softly, first, a little light
under the door showed that there were candles in the next. They halted
and listened. Phœbe opened the door and entered.

Standing back in the shadow, Alice saw the room and the people in it,
distinctly. The parson was not the sort of contraband clergyman she had
fancied, by any means, but a thin hectic man of some four-and-thirty
years, only looking a little dazed by brandy and water, and far gone in
consumption. Handsome thin features, and a suit of seedy black, and a
white choker, indicated that lost gentleman, who was crying silently as
he smoked his pipe, I daresay a little bit tipsy, gazing into the fire,
with his fatal brandy and water at his elbow.

"Eh! Mr. Vargers, smoking after _all_ I said to you!" murmured Miss
Phœbe severely, advancing toward her round-shouldered sweetheart, with
her finger raised.

Mr. Vargers replied pleasantly; and as this tender "chaff" flew lightly
between the interlocutors, the parson looked still into the fire,
hearing nothing of their play and banter, but sunk deep in the hell of
his sorrowful memory.

As Phœbe talked on, Vargers grew agreeable and tender, and in about
three minutes after her own entrance, she saw with a thrill,
imperfectly, just with the "corner of her eye," something pass behind
them swiftly toward the outer door. The crisis, then, had come. For a
moment there seemed a sudden light before her eyes, and then a dark
mist; in another she recovered herself.

Vargers stood up suddenly.

"Hullo! what's gone with the door there?" said he, sternly ending their
banter.

If he had been looking on her with an eye of suspicion, he might have
seen her colour change. But Phœbe was quick-witted and prompt, and
saying, in hushed tones--

"Well, dear, ain't I a fool, leaving the lady's door open? Look ye, now,
Mr. Vargers, she's lying fast asleep on her bed; and that's the reason I
took courage to come here and ask a favour. But I'd rayther you'd lock
her door, for if she waked and missed me she'd be out here, and all the
fat in the fire."

"I dessay you're right, Miss," said he, with a more business-like
gallantry; and as he shut the door and fumbled in his pocket for the
key, she stole a look over her shoulder.

The prisoner had got through, and the door at the other end was closed.

With a secret shudder, she thanked God in her heart, while with a laugh
she slapped Mr. Vargers' lusty shoulder, and said wheedlingly, "And now
for the favour, Mr. Vargers: you must let me down to the kitchen for
five minutes."

A little more banter and sparring followed, which ended in Vargers
kissing her, in spite of the usual squall and protest; and on his
essaying to let her out, and finding the door unlocked, he swore that it
was well she asked, as he'd 'av' got it hot and heavy for forgetting to
lock it, when the "swells" came up. The door closed upon her: so far the
enterprise was successful.

She stood at the head of the stairs; she went down a few steps, and
listened; then cautiously she descended. The moon shone resplendent
through the great window at the landing below the drawing-room. It was
that at which Uncle David had paused to listen to the minstrelsy of Mr.
Longcluse.

Here in that flood of white light stands Alice Arden, like a statue of
horror. The girl, without saying a word, takes her by the cold hand, and
leads her quickly down to the arch that opens on the hall.

Just as they reached this point, the door of the room, at the right of
the hall door, occupied by Mr. Boult, who did duty as porter, opens, and
stepping out with a candle in his hand, he calls in a savage tone--

"What's the row?"

Phœbe pushed Alice's hand in the direction of the passage that leads to
the housekeeper's room. For a moment the young lady stands irresolute.
Her presence of mind returns. She noiselessly takes the hint, and enters
the corridor; Phœbe advances to answer his challenge.

"Well, Mr. Boult, and what _is_ the row, pray?" she pertly inquires,
walking up to that gentleman, who eyes her sulkily, raising his candle,
and displaying as he does so a big patch of red on each cheek-bone,
indicative of the brandy, of which he smells potently.

"What's the row?--_you're_ the row! What brings you down here, Miss
Chivvige?"

"My legs! There's your answer, you cross boy." She laughed wheedlingly.

"Then walk you up again, and be d--d."

"On! Mr. Boult."

"P! Miss Phibbie."

Mr. Boult was speaking thick, and plainly was in no mood to stand
nonsense.

"Now Mr. Boult, where's the good of making yourself disagreeable?"

"Look at this 'ere," he replied, grimly holding a mighty watch, of some
white metal, under her eyes--"you know your clock as well as me, Miss
Chavvinge. The gentlemen will be in this 'ere awl in twenty minutes."

"All the more need to be quick, Mr. Boult, Sir, and why will you keep me
'ere talking?" she replies.

"You'll go up them 'ere stairs, young 'oman; you'll not put a foot in
the kitchen to-night," he says more doggedly.

"Well, we'll see how it will be when they comes and I tells
'em--'Please, gentlemen, the young lady, which you told me most
particular to humour her in everything she might call for, wished a cup
of tea, which I went down, having locked her door first, which here is
the key of it,'" and she held it up for the admiration of Mr. Boult,
"'which I consider it the most importantest key in the 'ouse; and though
the young lady, she lay on her bed a-gasping, poor thing, for her cup of
tea, Mr. Boult stopt me in the awl, and swore she shouldn't have a drop,
which I could not get it, and went hup again, for he smelt all over of
brandy, and spoke so wiolent, I daren't do as you desired.'"

"I don't smell of brandy; no, I don't; do I?" he says, appealing to an
imaginary audience. "And I don't want to stop you, if so be the case is
so. But you'll come to this door and report yourself in five minute's
time, or I'll tell 'em there's no good keepin' me 'ere no longer. I
don't want no quarrellin' nor disputin', only I'll do my dooty, and I'm
not afraid of man, woman, or child!"

With which magnanimous sentiment he turned on his clumsy heel, and
entered his apartment again.

In a moment more Phœbe and Alice were at the door which admits to a
passage leading literally to the side of the house. This door Phœbe
softly unlocks, and when they had entered, locks again on the inside.
They stood now on the passage leading to a side door, to which a few
paces brought them. She opens it. The cold night air enters, and they
step out upon the grass. She locks the door behind them, and throws the
key among the nettles that grew in a thick grove at her right.

"Hold my hand, my lady; it's near done now," she whispers almost
fiercely; and having listened for a few seconds, and looked up to see if
any light appeared in the windows, she ventures, with a beating heart,
from under the deep shadow of the gables, into the bright broad
moonlight, and with light steps together they speed across the grass,
and reach the cover of a long grove of tall trees and underwood. All is
silent here.

Soon a distant shouting brings them to a terrible stand-still.
Breathlessly Phœbe listens. No; it was not from the house. They resume
their flight.

Now under the ivy-laden branches of a tall old tree an owl startles them
with its shriek.

As Alice stares around her, when they stop in such momentary alarm, how
strange the scene looks! How immense and gloomy the trees about them!
How black their limbs stretch across the moon-lit sky! How chill and
wild the moonlight spreads over the undulating sward! What a spectral
and exaggerated shape all things take in her scared and over-excited
gaze!

Now they are approaching the long row of noble beeches that line the
boundary of Mortlake. The ivy-bowered wall is near them, and the screen
of gigantic hollies that guard the lonely postern through which Phœbe
has shrewdly chosen to direct their escape.

Thank God! they are at it. In her hand she holds the key, which shines
in the moon-beams.

Hush! what is this? Voices close to the door! Step back behind the holly
clump, for your lives, quickly! A key grinds in the lock; the bolt works
rustily; the door opens, and tall Mr. Longcluse enters, with every
sinister line and shadow of his pale face marked with a death-like
sternness, in the moonlight. Mr. Levi enters almost beside him; how
white his big eyeballs gleam, as he steps in under the same cold light!
Who next?

Her _brother_! Oh, God! The mad impulse to throw her arms about his
neck, and shriek her wild appeal to his manhood, courage, love, and
stake all on that momentary frenzy!

As this group halts in silence, while Sir Richard locks the door, the
Jew directs his big dark eyes, as she thinks, right upon Phœbe
Chiffinch, who stands in the shadow, and is therefore, she faintly
hopes, not visible behind the screen of glittering leaves. Her eyes,
nevertheless, meet his. He advances his head a little, with more than
his usual prying malignity, she thinks. Her heart flutters, and sinks.
She is on the point of stepping from her shelter and surrendering. With
his cane he strikes at the leaves, aiming, I daresay, at a moth, for
nothing is quite below his notice, and he likes smashing even a fly. In
this case, having hit or missed it, he turns his fiery eyes, to the
infinite relief of the girl, another way.

The three men who have thus stept into the grounds of Mortlake don't
utter a word as they stand there. They now recommence their walk toward
the house.

Phœbe Chiffinch, breathless, is holding Alice Arden's wrist with a firm
grasp. As they brush the holly-leaves, in passing, the very sprays that
touch the dresses of the scared girls are stirring. The pale group
drifts by in silence. They have each something to meditate on. They are
not garrulous. On they walk, like three shadows. The distance widens,
the shapes grow fainter.

"They'll soon be at the house, Ma'am, and wild work then. You'll do
something for poor Vargers? Well, time enough! You must not lose heart
now, my lady. You're all right, if you keep up for ten minutes longer.
You don't feel faint-like! Good lawk, Ma'am! rouse up."

"I'm better, Phœbe; I'm quite well again. Come on--come on!"

Carefully, to make as little noise as possible she turned the key in the
lock, and they found themselves in a narrow lane running by the wall,
and under the trees of Mortlake.

"Which way?"

"Not toward the 'Guy of Warwick.' They'll soon be in chase of us, and
that is the way they'll take. 'Twould never do. Come away, my lady; it
won't be long till we meet a cab or something to fetch us where you
please. Lean on me. I wish we were away from this wall. What way do you
mean to go?"

"To my Uncle David's house."

And having exchanged these words, they pursued their way side by side,
for a time, in silence.



CHAPTER LXXXVI.

PURSUIT.


Arrived at Mortlake, when Mr. Longcluse had discovered with certainty
the flight of Alice Arden, his first thought was that Sir Richard had
betrayed him. There was a momentary paroxysm of insane violence, in
which, if he could only have discovered that he was the accomplice of
Alice's escape, I think he would have killed him.

It subsided. How could Alice Arden have possessed such an influence over
this man, who seemed to hate her? He sat down, and placed his hand to
his broad, pale forehead, his dark eyes glaring on the floor, in what
seemed an intensity of thought and passion. He was seized with a violent
trembling fit. It lasted only for a few minutes. I sometimes think he
loved that girl desperately, and would have made her an idolatrous
husband.

He walked twice or thrice up and down the great parlour in which they
sat, and then with cold malignity said to Sir Richard--

"But for you she would have married me; but for you I should have
secured her now. _Consider_, how shall I settle with you?"

"Settle how you will--do what you will. I swear (and he did swear hard
enough, if an oath could do it, to satisfy any man) I've had _nothing_
to do with it. I've never had a hint that she meditated leaving this
place. I can't conceive how it was done, nor who managed it, and I know
no more than you do where she is gone." And he clenched his vehement
disclaimer with an imprecation.

Longcluse was silent for a minute.

"She has gone, I assume, to David Arden's house," he said, looking down.
"There is no other house to receive her in town, and she does not know
that he is away still. She knows that Lady May, and other friends, have
gone. She's _there_. The will makes you, colourably, her guardian. You
shall claim the custody of her person. We'll go there, and remove her."

Old Sir Reginald's will, I may remark, had been made years before, when
Richard was not twenty-two, and Alice little more than a child, and the
baronet and his son good friends.

He stalked out. At the steps was his trap, which was there to take Levi
into town. That gentleman, I need not say, he did not treat with much
ceremony. He mounted, and Sir Richard Arden beside him; and, leaving the
Jew to shift for himself, he drove at a furious pace down the avenue.
The porter placed there by Longcluse, of course, opened the gate
instantaneously at his call. Outside stood a cab, with a trunk on it. An
old woman at the lodge-window, knocking and clamouring, sought
admission.

"Let no one in," said Longcluse sternly to the man, who locked the iron
gate on their passing out.

"Hallo! What brings _her_ here? That's the old housekeeper!" said
Longcluse, pulling up suddenly.

It was quite true. Her growing uneasiness about Alice had recalled the
old woman from the North. Martha Tansey, who had heard the clang of the
gate and the sound of wheels and hoofs, turned about and came to the
side of the tax-cart, over which Longcluse was leaning. In the brilliant
moonlight, on the white road, the branches cast a network of black
shadow. A patch of light fell clear on the side of the trap, and on
Longcluse's ungloved hand as he leaned on it.

"Here am I, Martha Tansey, has lived fifty year wi' the family, and what
for am I shut out of Mortlake now?" she demanded, with stern audacity.

A sudden change, however, came over her countenance, which contracted in
horror, and her old eyes opened wide and white as she gazed on the back
of Longcluse's hand, on which was a peculiar star-shaped scar. She drew
back with a low sound, like the growl of a wicked old cat; it rose
gradually to such a yell and a cry to God as made Richard's blood run
cold, and lifting her hand toward her temple, waveringly, the old woman
staggered back, and fell in a faint on the road.

Longcluse jumped down and hammered at the window. "Hallo!" he cried to
the man, "send one of your people with this old woman; she's ill. Let
her go in that cab to Sir Richard Arden's house in town; you know it."
And he cried to the cabman, "Lift her in, will you?"

And having done his devoir thus by the old woman, he springs again into
his tax-cart, snatches the reins from Sir Richard, and drives on at a
savage pace for town.

Longcluse threw the reins to Sir Richard when they reached David Arden's
house, and himself thundered at the door.

They had searched Mortlake House for Alice, and that vain quest had not
wasted more than half-an-hour. He rightly conjectured that, if Alice had
fled to David Arden's house, some of the servants who received her must
be still on the alert. The door is opened promptly by an elderly servant
woman.

"Sir Richard Arden is at the door, and he wants to know whether his
sister, Miss Arden, has arrived here from Mortlake."

"Yes, Sir; she's up-stairs; but not by no means well, Sir."

Longcluse stepped in, to secure a footing, and beckoning excitedly to
Sir Richard, called, "Come in; all right. Don't mind the horse; it will
take its chance." He walked impatiently to the foot of the stairs, and
turned again toward the street door.

At this moment, and before Sir Richard had time to come in, there come
swarming out of David Arden's study, most unexpectedly, nearly a dozen
men, more than half of whom are in the garb of gentlemen, and some three
of them police. Uncle David himself, in deep conversation with two
gentlemen, one of whom is placing in his breast-pocket a paper which he
has just folded, leads the way into the hall.

As they there stand for a minute under the lamp, Mr. Longcluse, gazing
at him sternly from the stair, caught his eye. Old David Arden stepped
back a little, growing pale, with a sudden frown.

"Oh! Mr. Arden?" says Longcluse, advancing as if he had come in search
of him.

"That's enough, Sir," cries Mr. Arden, extending his hand peremptorily
toward him; and he adds, with a glance at the constables, "_There's_ the
man. That is Walter Longcluse."

Longcluse glances over his shoulder, and then grimly at the group before
him, and gathered himself as if for a struggle; the next moment he walks
forward frankly, and asks, "What is the meaning of all this?"

"A warrant, Sir," answers the foremost policeman, clutching him by the
collar.

"No use, Sir, making a row," expostulates the next, also catching him by
the collar and arm.

"Mr. Arden, can you explain this?" says Mr. Longcluse coolly.

"You may as well give in quiet," says the third policeman, producing the
warrant. "A warrant for murder. Walter Longcluse, _alias_ Yelland Mace,
I arrest you in the Queen's name."

"There's a magistrate here? Oh! yes, I see. How d'ye do, Mr. Harman? My
name is Longcluse, as you know. The name Mays, or any other _alias_,
you'll not insult me by applying to me, if you please. Of course this is
obvious and utter trumpery. Are there informations, or what the devil is
it?"

"They have just been sworn before me, Sir," answered the magistrate, who
was a little man, with a wave of his hand, and his head high.

"Well, really! don't you _see_ the absurdity? Upon my soul! It _is_
really _too_ ridiculous! You won't inconvenience me, of course,
unnecessarily. My own recognisance, I suppose, will do?"

"Can't entertain your application; quite out of the question," said his
worship, with his hands in his pockets, rising slightly on his toes, and
descending on his heels, as he delivered this sentence with a stoical
shake of his head.

"You'll send for my attorney, of course? I'm not to be humbugged, you
know."

"I must tell you, Mr. Longcluse, I can't listen to such language,"
observes Mr. Harman sublimely.

"If you have informations, they are the dreams of a madman. I don't
blame any one here. I say, policeman, you need not hold me quite so
hard. I only say, joke or earnest, I can't make head or tail of it; and
there's not a man in London who won't be shocked to hear how I've been
treated. Once more, Mr. Harman, I tender bail, any amount. It's too
ridiculous. You can't really have a difficulty."

"The informations are very strong, Sir, and the offence, you know as
well as I do, Mr. Longcluse, is not bailable."

Mr. Longcluse shrugged, and laughed gently.

"I may have a cab or something? My trap's at the door. It's not solemn
enough, eh, Mr. Harman? Will you tell one of your fellows to pick up a
cab? Perhaps, Mr. Arden, you'll allow me a chair to sit down upon?"

"You can sit in the study, if you please," says David Arden.

And Longcluse enters the room with the police about him, while the
servant goes to look for a cab. Sir Richard Arden, you may be sure, was
not there. He saw that something was wrong, and he had got away to his
own house. On arriving there, he sent to make inquiry, cautiously, at
his uncle's, and thus learned the truth.

Standing at the window, he saw his messenger return, let him in himself,
and then considered, as well as a man in so critical and terrifying a
situation can, the wisest course for him to adopt. The simple one of
flight he ultimately resolved on. He knew that Longcluse had still two
executions against him, on which, at any moment, he might arrest him. He
knew that he might launch at him, at any moment, the thunderbolt which
would blast him. He must wait, however, until the morning had confirmed
the news; that certain, he dared not act.

With a cold and fearless bearing, Longcluse had by this time entered the
dreadful door of a prison. His attorney was with him nearly the entire
night.

David Arden, as he promised, had dictated to him in outline the awful
case he had massed against his client.

"I don't want any man taken by surprise or at disadvantage; I simply
wish for truth," said he.

A copy of the written statement of Paul Davies, whatever it was worth,
duly witnessed, was already in his hands; the sworn depositions of the
same person, made in his last illness, were also there. There were also
the sworn depositions of Vanboeren, who _had_, after all, recovered
speech and recollection; and a deposition, besides, very unexpected, of
old Martha Tansey, who swore distinctly to the scar, a very peculiar
mark indeed, on the back of his left hand. This the old woman had
recognised with horror, at a moment so similar, as the scar, long
forgotten, which she had for a terrible moment seen on the hand of
Yelland Mace, as he clutched the rail of the gig while engaged in the
murder.

The plaster masks, which figured in the affidavits of Vanboeren, and of
David Arden, were re-cast from the moulds, and made an effectual
identification, corroborated, in a measure, by Mr. Plumes' silhouette of
Yelland Mace.

Other surviving witnesses had also turned up, who had deposed when the
murder of Harry Arden was a recent event. The whole case was, in the
eyes of the attorney, a very awful one. Mr. Longcluse's counsel was
called up, like a physician whose patient is _in extremis_, at dead of
night, and had a talk with the attorney, and kept his notes to ponder
over.

As early as prison rules would permit, he was with Mr. Longcluse, where
the attorney awaited him.

Mr. Blinkinsop looked very gloomy.

"Do you despair?" asked Mr. Longcluse sharply, after a long
disquisition.

"Let me ask you one question, Mr. Longcluse. You have, before I ask it,
I assume, implicit confidence in us; am I right?"

"Certainly--implicit."

"If you are innocent, we might venture on a line of defence which may
possibly break down the case for the Crown. If you are guilty, that line
would be fatal." He hesitated, and looked at Mr. Longcluse.

"I know such a question has been asked in like circumstances, and I have
no hesitation in telling you that I am _not_ innocent. Assume my guilt."

The attorney, who had been drumming a little tattoo on the table,
watches Longcluse earnestly as he speaks, suspending his tune, now
lowers his eyes to the table, and resumed his drumming slowly with a
very dismal countenance. He had been talking over the chances with this
eminent counsel, Mr. Blinkinsop, Q.C., and he knew what his opinion
would now be.

"One effect of a judgment in this case is forfeiture?" inquired Mr.
Longcluse.

"Yes," answered counsel.

"Everything goes to the Crown, eh?"

"Yes; clearly."

"Well, I have neither wife nor children. I need not care; but suppose I
make my will now; that's a good will, ain't it, between this and
judgment, if things should go wrong?"

"Certainly," said Mr. Blinkinsop. "No judgment no forfeiture."

"And now, Doctor, don't be afraid; tell me truly, shall I _do_?" said
Mr. Longcluse, leaning back, and looking darkly and steadily in his
face.

"It is a nasty case."

"Don't be afraid, I say. I should like to know, are the chances two to
one against me?"

"I'm afraid they are."

"Ten to one? Pray say what you think."

"Well, I think so."

Mr. Longcluse grew paler. They were all three silent. After about a
minute, he said, in a very low tone,--

"You don't think I have a chance? Don't mislead me."

"It is very gloomy."

Mr. Longcluse pressed his hand to his mouth. There was a silence.
Perhaps he wished to hide some nervous movement there. He stood up,
walked about a little, and then stood by Mr. Blinkinsop's chair, with
his fingers on the back of it.

"We must make a great fight of this," said Mr. Longcluse suddenly.
"We'll fight it hard; we must win it. We _shall_ win it, by----"

And after a short pause, he added gently,--

"That will do. I think I'll rest now; more, perhaps, another time.
Good-bye."

As they left the room, he signed to the attorney to stay.

"I have something for you--a word or two."

The attorney turned back, and they remained closeted for a time.



CHAPTER LXXXVII.

CONCLUSION.


Sir Richard Arden had learned how matters were with Mr. Longcluse. He
hesitated. Flight might provoke action of the kind for which there
seemed no longer a motive.

In an agony of dubitation, as the day wore on, he was interrupted. Mr.
Rooke, Mr. Longcluse's attorney, had called. There was no good in
shirking a meeting. He was shown in.

"This is for you, Sir Richard," said Mr. Rooke, presenting a large
letter. "Mr. Longcluse wrote it about three hours ago, and requested me
to place it in your own hand, as I now do."

"It is not any _legal_ paper----" began Sir Richard.

"I haven't an idea," answered he. "He gave it to me thus. I had some
things to do for him afterwards, and a call to make, at his desire, at
Mr. David Arden's. When I got home I was sent for again. I suppose you
heard the news?"

"No; what is it?"

"Oh, dear, really! They have heard it some time at Mr. Arden's. You
didn't hear about Mr. Longcluse?"

"No, nothing, excepting what we all know--his arrest."

The attorney's countenance darkened, and he said, dropping his voice as
low as he would have given a message in church--

"Oh, poor gentleman! he died to-day. Some kind of fit, I believe; he's
gone!"

Then Mr. Rooke went into particulars, so far as he knew them, and
mentioned that the coroner's inquest would be held that afternoon; and
so he departed.

Unmixed satisfaction accompanied the hearing of this news in Sir
Richard's mind. But with reflection came the terrifying question, "Has
Levi got hold of that instrument of torture and ruin--the forged
signature?"

In this new horror he saw the envelope which Rooke had handed to him,
upon the table. He opened it, and saw the forged deed. Written across
it, in Longcluse's hand, were the words--

    "Paid by W. Longcluse before due.

    "W. LONGCLUSE."

That day's date was added.

So the evidence of his guilt was no longer in the hands of a stranger,
and Sir Richard Arden was saved.

David Arden had already received under like circumstances, and by the
same hand, two papers of immense importance. The first written in
Rooke's hand and duly witnessed, was a very short will, signed by the
testator, Walter Longcluse, and leaving his enormous wealth absolutely
to David Arden. The second was a letter which attached a trust to this
bequest. The letter said--

    "I am the son of Edwin Raikes, your cousin. He had cast me off for
    my vices, when I committed the crime, not intended to have amounted
    to murder. It was Harry Arden's determined resistance and my danger
    that cost him his life. I did kill Lebas. I could not help it. He
    was a fool, and might have ruined me; and that villain, Vanboeren,
    has spoken truth for once.

    "I meant to set up the Arden family in my person. I should have
    taken the name. My father relented on his death-bed, and left me his
    money. I went to New York, and received it. I made a new start in
    life. On the Bourse in Paris, and in Vienna, I made a fortune by
    speculation; I improved it in London. You may take it all by my
    will. Do with half the interest as you please, during your lifetime.
    The other half pay to Miss Alice Arden, and the entire capital you
    are to secure to her on your death.

    "I had taken assignments of all the mortgages affecting the Arden
    estates. They must go to Miss Arden, and be secured unalienably to
    her.

    "My life has been arduous and direful. That miserable crime hung
    over me, and its dangers impeded me at every turn.

    "You have played your game well, but with all the odds of the
    position in your favour. I am tired, beaten. The match is over, and
    you may rise now and say Checkmate.

    "WALTER LONGCLUSE."

That Longcluse had committed suicide, of course I can have no doubt. It
must have been effected by some unusually subtle poison. The post-mortem
examination failed to discover its presence. But there was found in his
desk a curious paper, in French, published about five months before,
upon certain vegetable poisons, whose presence in the system no chemical
test detects, and no external trace records. This paper was noted here
and there on the margin, and had been obviously carefully read. Any of
these tinctures he could without much trouble have procured from Paris.
But no distinct light was ever thrown upon this inquiry.

In a small and lonely house, tenanted by Longcluse, in the then less
crowded region of Richmond, were found proofs, no longer needed, of
Longcluse's identity, both with the horseman who had met Paul Davies on
Hampstead Heath, and the person who crossed the Channel from Southampton
with David Arden, and afterwards met him in the streets of Paris, as we
have seen. There he had been watching his movements, and traced him,
with dreadful suspicion, to the house of Vanboeren. The turn of a die
had determined the fate of David Arden that night. Longcluse had
afterwards watched and seized an opportunity of entering Vanboeren's
house. He knew that the baron expected the return of his messenger, rang
the bell, and was admitted. The old servant had gone to her bed, and was
far away in that vast house.

Longcluse would have stabbed him, but the baron recognised him, and
sprang back with a yell. Instantly Longcluse had used his revolver; but
before he could make assurance doubly sure, his quick ear detected a
step outside. He then made his exit through a window into a deserted
lane at the side of the house, and had not lost a moment in commencing
his flight for London.

With respect to the murder of Lebas, the letter of Longcluse pretty
nearly explains it. That unlucky Frenchman had attended him through his
recovery under the hands of Vanboeren; and Longcluse feared to trust, as
it now might turn out, his life, in his giddy keeping. Of course, Lebas
had no idea of the nature of his crime, or that in England was the scene
of its perpetration. Longcluse had made up his mind promptly on the
night of the billiard-match played in the Saloon Tavern. When every eye
was fixed upon the balls, he and Lebas met, as they had ultimately
agreed, in the smoking-room. A momentary meeting it was to have been.
The dagger which he placed in his keeping, Longcluse plunged into his
heart. In the stream of blood that instantaneously flowed from the wound
Longcluse stepped, and made one distinct impression of his boot-sole on
the boards. A tracing of this Paul Davies had made, and had got the
signatures of two or three respectable Londoners before the room filled,
attesting its accuracy, he affecting, while he did so, to be a member of
the detective police, from which body, for a piece of _over_-cleverness,
he had been only a few weeks before dismissed. Having made his tracing,
he obscured the blood-mark on the floor.

The opportunity of distinguishing himself at his old craft, to the
prejudice of the force, whom he would have liked to mortify, while
earning, perhaps, his own restoration, was his first object. The
delicacy of the shape of the boot struck him next. He then remembered
having seen Longcluse--and his was the only eye that observed him--pass
swiftly from the passage leading to the smoking-room at the beginning of
the game. His mind had now matter to work upon; and hence his visit to
Bolton Street to secure possession of the boot, which he did by an
audacious _ruse_.

His subsequent interview with Mr. Longcluse, in presence of David Arden,
was simply a concerted piece of acting, on which Longcluse, when he had
made his terms with Davies, insisted, as a security against the
re-opening of the extortion.

Nothing will induce Alice to accept one farthing of Longcluse's
magnificent legacy. Secretly Uncle David is resolved to make it up to
her from his own wealth, which is very great.

Richard Arden's story is not known to any living person but the Jew
Levi, and vaguely to his sister, in whose mind it remains as something
horrible, but never approached.

Levi keeps the secret for reasons more cogent than charitable. First he
kept it to himself as a future instrument of profit. But on his
insinuating something that promised such relations to Sir Richard, the
young gentleman met it with so bold a front, with fury so unaffected,
and with threats so alarming, founded upon a trifling matter of which
the Jew had never suspected his knowledge, that Mr. Levi has not
ventured either to "utilise" his knowledge, in a profitable way, or
afterwards to circulate the story for the solace of his malice. They
seem, in Mr. Rooke's phrase, to have turned their backs on one another;
and as some years have passed, and lapse of time does not improve the
case of a person in Mr. Levi's position, we may safely assume that he
will never dare to circulate any definite stories to Sir Richard's
prejudice. A sufficient motive, indeed, for doing so exists no longer,
for Sir Richard, who had lived an unsettled life travelling on the
Continent, and still playing at foreign tables when he could afford it,
died suddenly at Florence in the autumn of '69.

Vivian Darnley has been in "the House," now, nearly four years. Uncle
David is very proud of him; and more impartial people think that he
will, at last, take an honourable place in that assembly. His last
speech has been spoken of everywhere with applause. David Arden's
immensely increased wealth enables him to entertain very magnificent
plans for this young man. He intends that he shall take the name of
Arden, and earn the transmission of the title, or the distinction of a
greater one.

A year ago Vivian Darnley married Alice Arden, and no two people can be
happier.

Lady May, although her girlish ways have not forsaken her, has no
present thoughts of making any man happy. She had a great cry all to
herself when Sir Richard died, and she now persuades herself that he
never meant one word he said of her, and that if the truth were known,
although after that day she never spoke to him more, he had never really
cared for more than one woman on earth. It was all spite of that odious
Lady Wynderbroke!

Alice has never seen Mortlake since the night of her flight from its
walls.

The two old servants, Crozier and Martha Tansey, whose acquaintance we
made in that suburban seat of the Ardens, are both, I am glad to say,
living still, and extremely comfortable.

Phœbe Chiffinch, I am glad to add, was jilted by her uninteresting
lover, who little knew what a fortune he was slighting. His desertion
does not seem to have broken her heart, or at all affected her spirits.
The gratitude of Alice Arden has established her in the prosperous
little Yorkshire town, the steep roof, chimneys, and church tower of
which are visible, among the trees, from the windows of Arden Court. She
is the energetic and popular proprietress of the "Cat and Fiddle," to
which thriving inn, at a nominal rent, a valuable farm is attached. A
fortune of two thousand pounds from the same grateful friend awaits her
marriage, which can't be far off, with the handsome son of rich Farmer
Shackleton.

THE END.



  [ Transcriber's Note:

    The following is a list of corrections made to the original.
    The first line is the original line, the second the corrected one.

    ALL IN DARK
    ALL IN THE DARK

  good humouredly.
  good-humouredly.

  Mr. Longcluse, the millionarie, had, of course, many poor enviers. Had
  Mr. Longcluse, the millionaire, had, of course, many poor enviers. Had

  sent me down for Charles; and the boy will be back. Sir, in two or three
  sent me down for Charles; and the boy will be back, Sir, in two or three

  "Oh oh! very good. And now, Sir," he said, in rising fury, turning upon
  "Oh, oh! very good. And now, Sir," he said, in rising fury, turning upon

  "You know him, Mr Darnley?" inquired Lady May.
  "You know him, Mr. Darnley?" inquired Lady May.

  "Why should it?" laughed Vivian Darnley, partly to cover perhaps, a
  "Why should it?" laughed Vivian Darnley, partly to cover, perhaps, a

  pretended to think her great deal more frightened than she really can
  pretended to think her a great deal more frightened than she really can

  you, and he ll arrange everything; and how soon do you wish to go?"
  you, and he'll arrange everything; and how soon do you wish to go?"

  likely to marry His estate was in the nattiest order. He had always
  likely to marry. His estate was in the nattiest order. He had always

  don't know what to make of it exactly; but it pleases her, and she
  doesn't know what to make of it exactly; but it pleases her, and she

  give an exact description of the man who had been dogging the decased;
  give an exact description of the man who had been dogging the deceased;

  for more than six years. And why? I needn't tell yon. You know the
  for more than six years. And why? I needn't tell you. You know the

  him for ever?"
  him for ever!"

  something. What has frightened you!"
  something. What has frightened you?"

  as he may suppose, and dated, and signed by espectable people; and I
  as he may suppose, and dated, and signed by respectable people; and I

  must try to persuade Lady May to get up that party to the Derby,"
  must try to persuade Lady May to get up that party to the Derby."

  "I believe," said Mr. Longcluse, with a laugh. "I am growing
  "I believe," said Mr. Longcluse, with a laugh, "I am growing

  "Yes, a little, perhaps. Don't you."
  "Yes, a little, perhaps. Don't you?"

  now, Master David, and not much for this world, I'm thinking'," she
  now, Master David, and not much for this world, I'm thinking," she

  this, ye have just a chilly flush o' the sun' settin', and, before it's
  this, ye have just a chilly flush o' the sun settin', and, before it's

  unacountable though distant relation to the vague suspicions that had
  unaccountable though distant relation to the vague suspicions that had

  "Do you know that gentleman's name!"
  "Do you know that gentleman's name?"

  you see, as to the indentity of the person you suspect; but some person
  you see, as to the identity of the person you suspect; but some person

  a swaggering' cove, and a yard o' red beard over his waistcoat, and
  a swaggerin' cove, and a yard o' red beard over his waistcoat, and

  very foolishly, and we _must_ drop him And now, darling, good-bye."
  very foolishly, and we _must_ drop him. And now, darling, good-bye."

  his homage, his tone of melancholy deference ever since she had know
  his homage, his tone of melancholy deference ever since she had known

  He heard the piano faintly, and, he thought, Alice's voice lso; and
  He heard the piano faintly, and, he thought, Alice's voice also; and

  certainly he saw Vivian Darnley in the drawing-room indow, as his cab
  certainly he saw Vivian Darnley in the drawing-room window, as his cab

  others a note from Lady Mary Penrose, reminding him of her little
  others a note from Lady May Penrose, reminding him of her little

  unauthenticated, unpleasant. There were whispered with sneers by Mr.
  unauthenticated, unpleasant. These were whispered with sneers by Mr.

  have thought that, the muscian having departed, their stay in that room
  have thought that, the musician having departed, their stay in that room

  So over the short grass that handsome girl walked, with Mr Longcluse at
  So over the short grass that handsome girl walked, with Mr. Longcluse at

  "Yes, she was here; she came with Lady Tramways. They went away about
  "Yes, she was here; she came with Lady Tramway. They went away about

  "Now, Sir, you'll be so good as to to observe that you have taken upon
  "Now, Sir, you'll be so good as to observe that you have taken upon

  trace a name or two on the pages that are passing That sunset, that
  trace a name or two on the pages that are passing. That sunset, that

  saw it, and the Cæsars saw it, and the Pharoahs saw it, and we see it
  saw it, and the Cæsars saw it, and the Pharaohs saw it, and we see it

  with coarse, black hair, that might not unsuitable stuff a chair. His
  with coarse, black hair, that might not unsuitably stuff a chair. His

  But not pays his bets! And how could he? Ten shillings in the pound? Not
  But not pay his bets! And how could he? Ten shillings in the pound? Not

  the rest are rifling, but they were the most impertinent, and I was so
  the rest are trifling, but they were the most impertinent, and I was so

  eloquence. There was in Cicero's face, he though, something satirical
  eloquence. There was in Cicero's face, he thought, something satirical

  again in danger. I I am not going to help you." His blue eyes looked cold
  again in danger. I am not going to help you." His blue eyes looked cold

      refugees.
      refugees."

  circumstances to which I have but alluded, I hope to be in town
  circumstances to which I have but alluded. I hope to be in town

  hall-door Don't mind knocking, ring the bell," he said to the driver.
  hall-door. Don't mind knocking, ring the bell," he said to the driver.

  and distinctness, and in accents that seemed, somehow to ring through
  and distinctness, and in accents that seemed, somehow, to ring through

  table, at the other of which he had arrested his monotonous shuffle
  table, at the other end of which he had arrested his monotonous shuffle

  So spoke Tansey, into whose talk, in moments of excitement returned
  So spoke Tansey, into whose talk, in moments of excitement, returned

  "No, dear, never mind him--he's well enough." David, Arden peeped at his
  "No, dear, never mind him--he's well enough." David Arden peeped at his

  sheventeen, ash I m a shinner!"
  sheventeen, ash I'm a shinner!"

  In a very small room, where burned a single jet of gas, Mr. Mr. Arden
  In a very small room, where burned a single jet of gas, Mr. Arden

  CHAPTER XLVIII
  CHAPTER XLVIII.

  suavity of manner, and in the perennial mourning that belongs to a
  suavity of manner, and in the perennial mourning that belongs to

  which would corroborate his first vague suspicions?"
  which would corroborate his first vague suspicions?

  The oak-parlour was a fine old room, and into the panels were let four
  The oak-parlour was a fine old room, and into the panels were set four

  Italian greyhound by a blue ribbon, and the gentlemen stood booted for
  Italian greyhound by a blue ribbon, and the gentleman stood booted for

  he'll stay still your Uncle David comes, for he told him he had something
  he'll stay till your Uncle David comes, for he told him he had something

  under the little chuch, whose steeple cast its shadow every sunny
  under the little church, whose steeple cast its shadow every sunny

  from Lady May Penrose a note, in the folowing terms:--
  from Lady May Penrose a note, in the following terms:--

  least picturesque and and most probable way. I should like to know the
  least picturesque and most probable way. I should like to know the

  that gradually overcome her more and more till she almost felt faint,
  that gradually overcame her more and more till she almost felt faint,

  connected with Alice? Slowly it passes along. Through one opening made
  connected with Alice! Slowly it passes along. Through one opening made

  to ensure a system of check, such as would made it next to impossible
  to ensure a system of check, such as would make it next to impossible

  Vanboeren
  Vanboeren.

  in London, was, I believe in your employment?"
  in London, was, I believe, in your employment?"

  "I am in London, Sir, ubon my business, and no one else's. I I am sinking
  "I am in London, Sir, ubon my business, and no one else's. I am sinking

  battered felt hat, in which a a costermonger would scarcely have gone
  battered felt hat, in which a costermonger would scarcely have gone

  end contracting some some incurable insanity; and that insanity of the
  end contracting some incurable insanity; and that insanity of the

  who is for a moment doubtful whther its terrors or its fury may
  who is for a moment doubtful whether its terrors or its fury may

  gallery exsited. How were they taken? Photographs are the colourless
  gallery existed. How were they taken? Photographs are the colourless

  There is something in that pale face and spectra smile that fascinates
  There is something in that pale face and spectral smile that fascinates

  Boulogne, or where he likes--I'll stand t--and I don't think he'll need
  Boulogne, or where he likes--I'll stand it--and I don't think he'll need

  "Yes, as were driving into town to-day, Uncle David told me so
  "Yes, as we were driving into town to-day, Uncle David told me so

  would marry me at all, Isn't it better to say, 'My Angelina,' or
  would marry me at all. Isn't it better to say, 'My Angelina,' or

  message for his sister with old Crozier ordered his servant and trap to
  message for his sister with old Crozier, ordered his servant and trap to

  harmlesh."
  harmlesh.'"

  heavy skip upon the flags, where she executed an involuutary frisk that
  heavy skip upon the flags, where she executed an involuntary frisk that

  staring at the smiling face of the young lady; you can't be serious!"
  staring at the smiling face of the young lady; "you can't be serious!"

  was no more), she had herished for him was gone, and a great disgust
  was no more), she had cherished for him was gone, and a great disgust

  was there nstead.
  was there instead.

  almos breathlessly,--
  almost breathlessly,--

  see the cold glimmer of the windows that reflected the gray horizon.
  see the cold glimmer of the windows that reflected the grey horizon.

  the gate he saw the distant lights, and heard through the the dim air the
  the gate he saw the distant lights, and heard through the dim air the

  dragging Levi by the arm all this time towards the candles: "do now,
  dragging Levi by the arm all this time towards the candles): "do now,

  heaven, before I have time to think?"
  heaven, before I have time to think!"

  "That'sh the note you forgot in my offish yeshterday, withhish name
  "That'sh the note you forgot in my offish yeshterday, with hish name

  enter. How your friends will laugh?"
  enter. How your friends will laugh!"

  "La! who'd a thought o' seeing you, Master Richard! why, ou told Miss
  "La! who'd a thought o' seeing you, Master Richard! why, you told Miss

  Alice you'd not be here till to-morrow!" she says ettishly, holding the
  Alice you'd not be here till to-morrow!" she says pettishly, holding the

  afraid of him! Dick, you look ill and unhappy: what's the matter!"
  afraid of him! Dick, you look ill and unhappy: what's the matter?"

  family there a happetite for another up here Azh I 'ope to be shaved, I
  family there a happetite for another up here. Azh I 'ope to be shaved, I

  locked. and the keysh with him, before dark, thish evening, except only
  locked, and the keysh with him, before dark, thish evening, except only

  Sir Richard leaned back in the cab as he drove into town, He had as yet
  Sir Richard leaned back in the cab as he drove into town. He had as yet

  no plan formed. It was a more complicated exploit that he was at the
  no plan formed. It was a more complicated exploit than he was at the

  spirited away like the rest Sir Richard had told her that his sister
  spirited away like the rest. Sir Richard had told her that his sister

  Richard lounges, expecting the arrival of David Arden almost momentarily.
  Richard lounge, expecting the arrival of David Arden almost momentarily.

  six distinct master-pieces of Watteau's. I have know that for ten
  six distinct master-pieces of Watteau's. I have known that for ten

  but slightly. You wish. perhaps to learn particulars about those
  but slightly. You wish, perhaps, to learn particulars about those

  "But you talk of bringing me face to face withthem; how soon?"
  "But you talk of bringing me face to face with them; how soon?"

  "No, in the the solid. Here is the key of the catacombs." And he took a
  "No, in the solid. Here is the key of the catacombs." And he took a

  "Bah! what a wise man Then I may show you whom I please, and you know
  "Bah! what a wise man. Then I may show you whom I please, and you know

  "And _is_ more. Why, count the words, one, two, four six, eight. There
  "And _is_ more. Why, count the words, one, two, four, six, eight. There

  nothing. Come, come. Monsieur! kindly take the candle."
  nothing. Come, come, Monsieur! kindly take the candle."

  which his work has strewn the floor
  which his work has strewn the floor.

  step, all is up with that, You see--you understand. Bah! you are no
  step, all is up with that. You see--you understand. Bah! you are no

  fool; it is plain. all I sacrifice."
  fool; it is plain, all I sacrifice."

  fared with him, if he had, I can't tell."
  fared with him, if he had, I can't tell.

  CHATPER LXXXIV.
  CHAPTER LXXXIV.

  mind; I know it all know," she whispered, as she walked softly up to the
  mind; I know it all now," she whispered, as she walked softly up to the

  time, or I'll tell 'em there's no good keepin' me 'ere no longer I
  time, or I'll tell 'em there's no good keepin' me 'ere no longer. I

  to do it. I've never had a hint that she meditated leaving this
  to do with it. I've never had a hint that she meditated leaving this

  upon the table. He opened it, and saw the orged deed. Written across
  upon the table. He opened it, and saw the forged deed. Written across

  desk a curious paper, in French. published about five months before,
  desk a curious paper, in French, published about five months before,

  nearly explains it. That unlucky Frenchman had attended him though his
  nearly explains it. That unlucky Frenchman had attended him through his

  ]





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