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Title: Miracle Gold (Vol. 2 of 3) - A Novel
Author: Dowling, Richard
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Miracle Gold (Vol. 2 of 3) - A Novel" ***

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Transcriber's Notes:

   1. Page scan source:
      http://books.google.com/books?id=nj4VAAAAQAAJ
      (Oxford University)



                            MIRACLE GOLD.



                     New Novels at the Libraries.

                          *   *   *   *   *

    MARVEL. By the Author of "Molly Bawn." 3 vols.
    FOR FREEDOM. By TIGHE HOPKINS. 2 vols.
    MOLLY'S STORY; a Family History. 3 vols.
    AN ADVENTURESS. 2 vols.
    LADY STELLA AND HER LOVER. 3 vols.
    ONE MAID'S MISCHIEF. By G. M. FENN. 3 vols.
    UNCLE BOB'S NIECE. By LESLIE KEITH. 3 vols.
    A VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS. By C. FOTHERGILL. 3 vols.

                          *   *   *   *   *

                  WARD & DOWNEY, PUBLISHERS, LONDON.



                            MIRACLE GOLD.


                               A Novel.



                                  BY

                           RICHARD DOWLING,

                              AUTHOR OF

            "The Mystery of Killard," "The Weird Sisters,"
              "Tempest Driven," "Under St. Paul's," &c.



                         _IN THREE VOLUMES_.


                               VOL. II.



                               LONDON:

                           WARD AND DOWNEY,

                 12, YORK STREET, COVENT GARDEN, W.C.

                                1888.

                       [_All rights reserved_.]



                              PRINTED BY
          KELLY AND CO., GATE STREET, LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS,
                       AND KINGSTON-ON-THAMES.



                              CONTENTS.


       CHAP.

       XIV.--Spirit and Flesh.

        XV.--A Substitute for Gold.

       XVI.--Red Herrings.

      XVII.--Dinner at Curzon Street.

     XVIII.--In the Dark.

       XIX.--Mrs. Hanbury.

        XX.--John Hanbury Alone.

       XXI.--Timmons's Tea and Leigh's Dinner.

      XXII.--A Quarter Past Twelve.

     XXIII.--An Early Visitor to Timmons.

      XXIV.--Gracedieu, Derbyshire.

       XXV.--Two of a Race.

      XXVI.--The End of Day.



                            MIRACLE GOLD.



                            MIRACLE GOLD.



                             CHAPTER XIV.

                          SPIRIT AND FLESH.


The folding-doors between the back and front drawing-rooms at Mrs.
Ashton's were thrown open, and both rooms were full that Thursday
afternoon. Some of the visitors were standing, some sitting, and many
ladies and gentlemen were moving about. A few had cups of tea, and all
seemed to wish to appear pleased and pleasant. If serious matters were
mentioned or discussed, it was in a light and desultory way It was
impossible to plan ground for the foundation of enduring structures in
politics, or taste, or art, or science, or polemics, when a humourist
might come up and regard what you were saying as the suggestion for a
burlesque opera or harlequinade. All the talk was touch-and-go, and as
bright and witty as the speakers could make it. There was an unceasing
clatter of tongues and ripple of laughter, which had not time to
gather volume. Most of the people were serious and earnest, but the
great bulk of the dialogue was artificial, designedly and deliberately
artificial, for the purpose of affording relief to the speakers. Mrs.
Ashton held that the most foolish way to spend life is to be always
wise. These At homes were for recreation, not for the solemnities of
work. People took no liberties, but all were free. Even such sacred
subjects as the franchise, drainage, compound interest, the rights of
the subject, and oysters, were dealt with lightly on Thursdays in
Curzon Street.

As Oscar Leigh followed John Hanbury slowly from the immediate
vicinity of Mrs. Ashton, his ears were aware of many and various
voices saying many and various things, but he paid no attention to
voices or words. He was all eyes. Miss Ashton was moving away to her
former place by the window. She was accompanied by a tall, grizzled,
military-looking man, who, to judge by her quick glances and laughing
replies, was amusing and interesting her very much.

"That was a wild prank of yours," said Hanbury, bending over the
little man and laying admonitory emphasis on his words. "You ought not
to play tricks like that in a place like this. Everyone who saw and
heard, Mrs. Ashton of course among the number, must have noticed your
manner and the effect your words had upon----" He paused. They were
standing in the second window-place. He did not like to say "upon me,"
for that would be an admission he had felt alarmed or frightened; it
would also imply a suspicion of Leigh's trustworthiness in keeping his
word and the secret.

The clockmaker did not say anything for a moment. He had no intention
of helping Hanbury over the pause. It was his design, on the contrary,
to embarrass the other as much as he could. He looked up with an
innocent expression of face, and asked, "The effect of my manner on
what, or whom?"

"Well," said Hanbury, with hesitation, "upon anyone who heard. Tricks
of that kind may be amusing, but I am afraid you did not improve your
credit for sense with Miss Ashton by what you said and your way of
saying it. For a moment I felt afraid she might be surprised into an
expression that would betray all."

"_You!_" cried Leigh in a low tone of wild amazement. "_You_ were
afraid Miss Ashton might have been surprised into an expression that
would have betrayed all?"

"Yes. She was not prepared for your little sally and your subtlety,"
said Hanbury with a frown. It was intolerable to have to speak of Dora
Ashton, his Dora, his wife that was to be, to this mechanic, or
mechanist, or mechanician, or whatever he happened to be. "Miss Ashton
might have been taken off her guard."

"Bah, sir! _You_ might have been surprised and taken off _your_ guard
by what I said, but not _she!_ Hah!" He said this with a secret
mocking laugh. "I am fairly astonished at a man of your intelligence,
Mr. Hanbury, mistaking me for a fool. I _never_ make mistakes about
people. I never make wrong estimates of the _men_ or _women_ I meet. I
would trust Miss Ashton in any position of danger or difficulty, any
situation requiring courage or tact."

"I am sure if she knew your high estimate of her she would be
enormously flattered," said Hanbury, with a sneer.

"No, she would not. She is not the woman to be flattered by anything,
and certainly not by any such trifle as my opinion of her good sense.
_You_ ought to know as much by this time. You and she are engaged?"

The cool assurance of the dwarf's manner, and the simple directness of
the question with which he finished his speech, had the effect of
numbing Hanbury's faculties, and confusing his purpose. "The relations
between Miss Ashton and me are not a subject I care to speak of, and I
beg of you to say no more of the matter," said he, with clumsiness,
arising from disgust and annoyance, and the sense of helplessness.

"Hah! I thought so. Now if you were only as clever as Miss Ashton, you
would not allow me to find out how matters stood between you and her,
as you have plainly done by your answer. You are a young man, and in
life many things are against a young man. In an encounter of this kind
his bad temper is his chief foe. Hah!"

Hanbury's head was fiery hot, and his mind in a whirl. Things and
people around him were blurred and dim to his eyes. "I have performed
my part of the contract," he said, with impotent fury, "had we not
better go now? This is no place for scenes or lectures, for lectures
by even the most able and best qualified."

This conversation had been conducted in suppressed voices, inaudible
to all ears but those of the speakers, and most of it by the open
window, Miss Ashton being at her former position in the other one
looking into the street.

"Yes, you have done your part. You have introduced me to Miss Ashton,
or rather Mrs. Ashton has done so, and that is the same thing. I am
perfectly satisfied so far. I do not ask you to do any more. I am not
a levier of blackmail. I, too, have performed my part of the contract.
So far we are quits. We are as though we had never met. If you have
any engagement or wish that draws you away from this place I do not
see why you should remain. If you want to go, by all means go. I shall
stay. Hah!"

"What! Mr. Leigh, you do not mean to say you intend using my
introduction here, which I undertook in compliance with your whim, as
the means of effecting a lodgment!"

Leigh sprinkled a few drops of eau-de-cologne from his little silver
flask into the palms of his long brown-yellow hands and sniffed it up
noisily. "You do not use eau-de-cologne? You are wrong. It is
refreshing--most refreshing. If you had been poring over retorts and
crucibles until your very marrow was turned to dust, burnt-up to
powder, you'd appreciate eau-de-cologne. It's most refreshing. It is,
indeed. I am not going away from this place yet; but do not let me
detain you if business or pleasure is awaiting you anywhere else. Do
not stand on ceremony with me, my dear sir."

Hanbury ground his teeth and groaned. Sinbad's Old Man of the Sea was
pleasant company compared with this hideous monster. Go from this
place leaving him behind! John Hanbury would sooner fling himself
head-foremost from that window than walk down the stairs without this
hateful incubus. He now knew Leigh too well to try and divert or win
him from his purpose. The dwarf was one of those men who see the
object they desire to the exclusion of all other objects, and never
take their eyes off it until it is in their hands. Once having brought
Leigh here, he must hold himself at his mercy until it pleased the
creature to take himself off. How deplorably helpless and mean and
degraded he felt! He had never been in so exasperating and humiliating
a position before, and to feel as he felt now, and be so circumstanced
in this house above all other houses in London! It was not to be
borne.

Then he reflected on the events which had drawn him into the
predicament. He had gone down that atrocious Chetwynd Street at Dora's
request, and against his own wish, conviction, instinct. They had seen
the hateful place, and the odious people who lived there. That
accident had befallen him, and while he was insensible Dora had given
this man their names. He had come back to prevent their names getting
into the newspapers, and found this man in the act of meditating a
paragraph, with the "Post Office Directory" before him. He saw this
man was not open to a money-bribe, but still he was open to a bribe,
and the bribe was, to state it shortly, bringing him here, and
introducing him to Dora. He introduced him to Mrs. Ashton, and, seeing
that he brought Leigh to her house, she naturally thought he was a
great friend of his! Good heavens, a great friend of his!

Only for Dora nothing of this would ever have happened. It all arose
out of her foolish interest in the class of people of whom Leigh was a
specimen. It was poetic justice on her that Leigh should insist upon
coming here. Would it not be turning this visit into a useful lesson
to her if she were allowed to see more of this specimen of the people?
The kind of mind this man had? The kind of man he was? Yes, they
should go to Dora.

During the progress of Leigh and Hanbury through the room to Mrs.
Ashton, and on their way from her to the window, Hanbury had met a
score of people he knew intimately, and several others with whom he
was acquainted. He had nodded and spoken a few words of greeting right
and left, and, when there was any likelihood of friends expecting more
of him, had glanced at his companion to intimate that he was engaged
and devoted to him. Whatever was to happen, it would not do to allow
the clockmaker to break away from him, and mingle unaccompanied in the
throng. While the two were at the window, Hanbury stood with his back
to the room, in front of Leigh, so that he himself might not easily be
accosted, and Leigh should be almost hidden from view.

He now made a violent effort to compose his mind and his features, and
with an assumption of whimsical good humour turned round and faced the
room. He had in a dismal and disagreeable way made up his mind to
brazen out this affair. Let them both go to Dora, and when he was
alone with her after dinner he could arrange that Leigh was not to
come here again, for apart from Leigh's general objectionableness it
would be like living in a powder magazine with a lunatic possessing
flint and steel to be in Ashton's house with a man who held the secret
of Chetwynd Street or Welbeck Place, or whatever the beastly region
was called.

"I am not in the least hurry away from this, Mr. Leigh," said he,
partly turning to the other. "It occurred to me that the place might
be dull to you."

"On the contrary, the place and the people are most interesting to me.
I am not, as you may fancy, much of a society man. I go out but
little. I am not greatly sought after, Mr. Hanbury; and I do not think
you can consider it unreasonable in me to wish to see this thing out."
He was speaking suavely and pleasantly now, and when one was not
looking at him there appeared nothing in his tone or manner to suggest
disagreeableness, unless the heavy thick breathing, half wheeze, half
gasp.

"But there is nothing to be seen out. There is no climax to these At
homes. People come and chat and perhaps drink a cup of tea and go
away. That is all. By the way, the servant has just set down some tea
by Miss Ashton; perhaps you would like a cup."

"I have had no breakfast. I have eaten nothing to-day."

"I am sorry for that. I am greatly afraid they will not give you
anything very substantial here; nothing but a cup of tea and a biscuit
or wafery slice of bread. But let us get some. Half a loaf is better
than no bread." He forced a smile, as pleasant a one as he could
command.

"I shall be most grateful for a cup of tea from Miss Ashton's hands,"
said the dwarf graciously.

"He can," thought Hanbury, as they moved towards the other window,
where Miss Ashton was now standing over a tiny inlaid table on which
rested the tea equipage, "be quite human when he likes." Aloud he
said, "I hope you will be more guarded this time?"

"I am always guarded--and armed. I shall be glad to take the useful
olive from Pallas-Athena."

"And the olive bough too, I hope," said Hanbury under an impulse of
generosity.

"It was a dove not a goddess brought the olive bough."

"But the dove was only a messenger."

"The olive bough was only a symbol; the olive itself was substantive
good."

"But is not the symbol of peace better than an earthly meal?"

"Answer your own case out of your own mouth. I have never eaten
to-day. I have never eaten yet in all my life. You are filled with
divine luxuries. Go you your gait, I go mine. Tell me, Mr. Hanbury,
would you rather have the spirit of my promise to you or the flesh of
my promise?"

"I do not know exactly what you mean."

"Would you rather trust my word or see my dead body? If I were dead I
could not speak."

"Trust your word beyond all doubt," said Hanbury with a perplexed and
uneasy smile.

"Hah! I believe you believe what you say. But I am afraid your
shoulders are not broad enough, your back is not strong enough for the
faith you profess in me. I don't suppose you'd go to the extremity of
murdering me, but at this moment you would not be sorry if I fell dead
at your feet. Hah!"

"Pray do not say such a horrible thing. I assure you it is not
true. Indeed you wrong me. I do not want the miserable thing talked
about----"

"Sir, are you referring to me? I am the only miserable thing here."

"You are incorrigible."

"You are mistaken, sir. I am as plastic as wax; but like wax, if the
fingers that touch me are cold I become brittle."

"If you persist how are we to approach Miss Ashton?"

"Thus! Follow me!"

He threw back his head haughtily, and glancing with scorn from side to
side, strode to the table over which bent the exquisite face and
figure of Dora.



                             CHAPTER XV.

                        A SUBSTITUTE FOR GOLD.


The air of pleasant badinage which pervaded the room had no more
effect on Oscar Leigh than on the gasalier. No one spoke to him, for
no one knew him. Except what passed between Leigh and Hanbury all
words were intended for any ears who might hear. Intensities of
individuality were laid aside at the threshold. Those whose
individuality pursued and tyrannized over them like a Frankenstein
remained away. They did not put it to themselves in this way. They
told themselves they found the place too mixed or too light or too
frivolous or too distracting.

Oscar Leigh was in no degree influenced by the humour or manner of the
people present. These chattering men and women were indifferent to
him, so long as he did not see how to put them to any use or find them
in his way. He was not accustomed to the society of ladies and
gentlemen, and consequently he omitted little customary observances.
But he was not inured to any society at all, and this saved him from
vulgarities; and then he was much used to commune with himself, which
gave him directness and simplicity of manner.

One of the things affording freshness and vitality to Leigh was that
he did not feel the need of common-places. Common-places are the
tribute which intelligence pays to stupidity. They are the inventions
of a beneficent Satan in the interest of the self-respect of fools.

"Miss Ashton," said Leigh bowing without emphasis or a smile, "I have
ventured to come to beg a cup of tea of you."

She looked at him with a smile and said, "You have chosen the right
moment. I have just got a fresh supply."

"This is a very fortunate day for me. It may be the most fortunate day
of my life."

"And what is the nature of the good fortune you have found to-day?"
she asked, handing him a tiny cup, while the servant who still
lingered near offered him some thin bread-and-butter. There were
half-a-dozen films on an exquisite china dish. Leigh took one doubled
it twice and ate it greedily.

"You will let me have all? I have tasted no food to-day."

"Oh, certainly. I am afraid all is very little. But James can get us
more." A faint colour had come into Miss Ashton's face. James, the
servant, who had been christened Wilfrid, passed his disengaged hand
over his mouth to conceal a smile. Hanbury flushed purple. For a
moment there was a pause in the talk of those within hearing.

"What's the matter?" asked a very young man with a very fresh
healthy-looking face of a chatty dowager who was looking through a
gold-rimmed eye-glass at the dwarf.

"Hanbury's friend, the dwarf, is _eating!_"

"Good Heavens!" cried the young man leaning against the wall at his
back as in dismay.

Leigh went on eating.

"It is excellent bread-and-butter," said he when he had finished the
last slice. "I have never tasted better."

Hanbury stooped to pick up nothing and whispered "This is not a
restaurant," fiercely into Leigh's ear.

"Eh? No. I am well aware of that," said the other in an ordinary tone
and quite audibly. "You would not find such good bread-and-butter as
that in any restaurant I know of. Or it may be that I was very
hungry."

"Shall I get some more?" asked Miss Ashton, who had by this time
recovered from her surprise and was beaming with good-natured
amusement.

"You are very kind, thank you. It was enough."

"I tell you what it is, Lady Forcar, that is a remarkable person,"
said the young man with the fresh complexion, to the dowager.

"If people hear of this it will become the fashion," said Lady Forcar,
whose complexion never altered except in her dressing-room or when the
weather was excessively hot.

"What?" asked the young man. "What will become the fashion?"

"Eating."

"How shocking!"

"If that man had only money and daring and a handsome young wife, he
could do anything--anything. He could make pork sausages the rage.
Have you ever eaten pork sausages, Sir Julius?"

"Thousands of times. They are often the only things I can eat for
breakfast, but not in London. One should never eat anything they can
make in London."

"Pork is a neglected animal," said Lady Forcar with a sigh. "It must
be years since I tasted any."

"You know pork isn't exactly an animal?"

"No. Pork sausages are animalculæ of pork with bread and thyme and
sweet marjoram and fennel and mint. Have you ever taken it into your
mind, Sir Julius, to explain why it is that while a pig when alive is
far from agreeable company, no sooner does he die than all the
romantic herbs of the kitchen garden gather round him?"

"No doubt it comes under the head of natural selection."

"No doubt it does. Have you ever tried to account for the fact that
there are no bones in pork sausages?"

"I fancy it may be explained by the same theory of natural selection.
The bones select some other place."

"True. Very true. _That_ never occurred to me before. Do you know I
have often thought of giving up my intellect and devoting the
remainder of my days to sensualism."

"Good gracious, Lady Forcar, that sounds appalling."

"It does. If I had as much genius as that humpbacked little man, I'd
do it, but I feel my deficiency; I know I haven't the afflatus."

"The thing sounds very horrible as you put it. For what form of
sensualism would you go in? climate? or soap? or chemical waters? or
yachting?"

"None of them. Simply pork. You observe that the people who are
nearest the sensible and uncorrupted beasts worship pork. If you hear
anyone speak well of pork, that person is a sensualist at heart. I
sigh continually for pork. The higher order of apes, including man,
live in trees and on fruits that grow nearer to Heaven than any other
thing. Cows and sheep and low types of man and brutes of moderate
grossness eat things they find on the earth, such as grass and corn,
and hares and deer and goats, but it is only pigs and men of the
lowest types that burrow into the ground for food. The lowest creature
of all is the sensualist, who not only eats potatoes and turnips and
carrots but the very pigs that root for things nature has had the
decency to hide away from the sight of the eyes of angels and of men.
Can you conceive anything lower in the scale of sensual joy or more
delicious than pork and onions? I tell you, Sir Julius, if this
humpbacked dwarf only had money, a handsome wife and courage, he could
popularize sausages being served before the soup. He is the only man
since Napoleon the Great who has the manner of power sufficient for
such a reform."

"Let us devoutly hope, Lady Forcar, that he may bring about the
blessed change, that is if you wish it."

"Wish it! Good Heavens, Sir Julius, you don't for a moment fancy me
capable of trifling with such a subject! I say to you deliberately, it
is the only thing which would now save Society from ennui and its
present awful anxiety about the temperature of the soup."

The dowager Lady Forcar was well known for her persiflage, her
devotion to her young and plain daughter-in-law, the head now of her
son's house, her inch-thick paint, of which she spoke freely and
explained on the grounds of keeping in the swim, and her intense
interest in all that affected the welfare of the rural cottager.

Sir Julius Whinfield, in spite of his very fresh young face and
affectation, was an excellent authority on Hebrew and the manufacture
of silk, so that if he had only happened to live once upon a time he
might have talked wisdom to Solomon and dresses with Solomon's wives.
He was not a clever conversationalist, but when not under pressure
could say sound things pithily. Of Lady Forcar he once declared that
he never understood what a saint must have been like when living until
he met her. This did not come to her ears and had nothing to do with
her liking for the young man.

The tall, military-looking man who had been speaking to Miss Ashton,
and who was not a soldier but a composer of music, now came up and
said:

"I am in sore need of you, Lady Forcar. I am about to start a new
crusade. I am going to try to depose the greatest tyrant of the time."

"And who is that? Wagner? Bismarck? The Russian Bear? The Higher
Culture?"

"No. Soap. I am of opinion that this age can do no good so long as it
is bound to the chariot wheels of soap. This is the age of science,
and soap is its god. Old Q. once became impatient with the river
Thames, and said he could see nothing in it----"

"He was born too soon. In his time they had not begun to spy into the
slums of nature. For my part I think the microscope is the tyrant of
this age. What did old Q. say about our father Tiber?"

"He said he could see nothing in it, that it always went
flow--flow--flow, and that was all."

"One must not expect too much of a river. A river is no more than
human, after all. But what has soap been doing?"

"Nothing; and in the fact that it has been doing nothing lies one of
my chief counts against it. Of old you judged a man by the club to
which he belonged, the number of his quarterings, the tailor who made
his clothes, the income he had, the wife he married, the horses he
backed, or the wine he drank. Now we classify men according to the
soap they use. There are more soaps now than patent medicines."

"Soaps are patent medicine for external use only," said Lady Forcar,
touching her white plump wrist.

"There may be some sense in a pill against the earthquake, or against
an unlucky star, but how on earth can soap be of any use? First you
smear a horrid compound over you, and then you wash it off as quickly
as possible. Can anything be more childish? It is even more childish
than the Thames. It can't even flow of itself. It is a relic of
barbarism."

"But are not we ourselves relics of barbarism? Suppose you were to
abolish all relics of barbarism in man, you would have no man at all.
Heads, and arms, and bodies, are relics of barbaric man. Had not
barbaric man heads, and arms, and bodies? Are you going to abolish
heads, and arms, and bodies?"

"Well," said Mr. Anstruther, the composer, "I don't know. I think they
might be reduced. Anyway," dropping his voice, and bending over her
ladyship, "our little friend here, whom Mr. Hanbury brought in,
manages to hold his own, and more than hold his own, with less of such
relics of barbarism than most of us."

"I was just saying to Sir Julius when you, Mr. Anstruther, came up,
that I consider the stranger the most remarkable man I ever met in
this house, and quite capable of undertaking and carrying out any
social revolution, even to the discrediting of soap. If you have been
introduced bring him to me."

"I haven't, unfortunately, but I'll tell Hanbury, who looks as black
as thunder, that you would like to speak to him."

"I have scarcely seen Miss Ashton to-day. Let us go to them. That is
the simplest way," said Lady Forcar, rising and moving towards the
place where Dora, Hanbury, and Leigh stood.

When Leigh finished eating the bread-and-butter and drinking the tiny
cup of tea, he said: "You wish, Miss Ashton, to know in what way I
have been lucky to-day?"

She looked in perplexity at Hanbury, and then at the dwarf. She had no
doubt he had alluded to her when he spoke of having found a model for
the Pallas-Athena. An average man accustomed to ordinary social
observances would not pursue that kind of flattery any further, but
could this man be depended on? He certainly was not an ordinary man,
and as certainly he was not accustomed to ordinary social observances.
If he pursued that subject it would be embarrassing. It was quite
plain John was in very bad humour. He deserved to be punished for his
pusillanimous selfishness to-day, but there were limits beyond which
punishment ought not to be pressed. She would forgive John now and try
to make the best of the situation. She felt convinced that John would
not have brought this man here except under great pressure. Let him be
absolved from further penalties.

She said pleasantly: "One always likes to hear of good fortune coming
to those in whom one is interested." Nothing could be more bald, or
commonplace, or trite, yet in the heart of Leigh the words made joyous
riot. She had implied, even if she did not mean her implication, that
she took an interest in _him_.

"I was speaking a moment ago about the figures of time in my clock. I
had the honour of telling Mrs. Ashton that there would be thousands of
them, and that they would be modelled, not chiefly or at all for the
display of mechanism, but in the first place as works of art; to these
works of art mechanism would be adapted later."

"Which will make your clock the only one of the kind in the world,"
said she, much relieved to find no pointed reference to herself.

"Precisely. But I did not do myself the honour of telling Mrs. Ashton
of what material the figures were to be composed."

"No. I do not think you said what they would be made of. Wax, is it
not?" With the loss of apprehension on her own account, she had gained
interest in this wonderful clock.

"The models will of course be made of wax, but the figures themselves,
the figures which I intend to bequeath to posterity, will be made of
gold."

"Gold! All those figures made of gold! Why, your clock will cost you a
fortune."

"It will not cost _me_ as much as it would cost any other man living.
I am going to make the gold too." He drew himself up, and looked
proudly round.

At this moment Lady Forcar and Mr. Anstruther came up, and
introductions took place. Leigh submitted to the introductions as
though he had no interest in them beyond the interruption they caused
in what he was saying.

Miss Ashton briefly placed Lady Forcar and Mr. Anstruther in
possession of the subject, and then Leigh went on. He no longer leant
upon his stick. He straightened himself, threw back his head
haughtily, and kept it back. He shifted his stout gnarled stick into
his left hand and thrust the long, thin, sallow, hairy fingers of his
right hand into the breast of his coat, and looked around as though
challenging denial.

"I have," he said, "invented a metal, a compound which is absolutely
indistinguishable from gold, which is in fact gold, and of which I
shall make my figures. Mystery gold was a clumsy juggle that one found
out in the fire. My gold is _bonâ fide_ a miracle, and I have called
it Miracle Gold. My gold will resist the acid, and the blow-pipe, and
the crucible. As I live, if they provoke me, I will sell them not
metal miracle gold, but perchloride of miracle gold. No one can doubt
me then!"

"And will you be able, Mr. Leigh, to make not only enough for your
figures but some for sale also?" asked Mr. Anstruther.

"I may be able to spare a little, but my gold cannot be sold for a
chapman's price. It will cost me much in money and health and risk,
and even then the yield will be small."

"In health and risk?" said Miss Ashton, in a tone of concern and
sympathy. "How in health and risk?" He seemed even now to have but
little store of health.

He lowered his head and abated the arrogance of his manner. "The steam
of fusing metals and fumes of acids are not for men who would live
long, Miss Ashton. They paralyse the muscles and eat into the
wholesome flesh of those whose flesh is wholesome, while with one who
is not fashioned fair to the four winds of attack, the end comes with
insidious speed. Then for the risk, there are conjunctions of
substances that, both in the dry and the wet, lead often to unexpected
ebullitions and rancorous explosions of gas or mere forces that kill.
There may spring out of experiments vapours more deadly than any known
now, poisons that will slay like the sight of the angel of death."

"Then, Mr. Leigh," said the girl, with eyes fixed upon him, "why need
you make these figures of time of such costly material?"

"Ah, there may be reasons too tedious to relate."

"And does the good fortune you speak of concern the manufacture of
this miracle gold?" she asked with a faint flush, and eyes shining
with anxiety.

"It does."

"A discovery which perhaps will make the manufacture less dangerous?"

"Which would make the manufacture unnecessary."

She clasped her hands before her with delight, and cried while her
eyes shone joyously into his, "Oh, that would be lucky indeed. And how
will you know if your augury of good fortune will come true?"

"You are interested?" He bent his head still lower, and his voice was
neither so firm nor so harsh.

"Intensely. You tell us your life may be endangered if you go on. Tell
us you think you can avoid the risk."

"I do not know yet."

"When can you know?"

"Would you care to hear as soon as I know?"

"Oh, yes."

"I shall, I think, be certain by this day week."

"Then come to us again next Thursday. We shall all be here as we are
now?"

"Thank you, Miss Ashton, I will. Good day."

He backed a pace and bowed to her, and then turned round, and, with
head erect and scornful eyes flashing right and left, but seeing
nothing, strode out of the room.

"Dora," whispered Lady Forcar, "you have made another conquest. That
little genius is in love with you."

The girl laughed, but did not look up for a moment. When she did so
her eyes were full of tears.



                             CHAPTER XVI.

                            RED HERRINGS.


Dealers in marine stores generally select quiet by-ways, back-waters
of traffic, for the scene of their trade. In the open high roads of
business the current is too quick for them. They buy and sell
substantial and weighty articles; their transactions are few and far
between. Those who come to sell may be in haste; those who come to
buy, never. No one ever yet rushed into a marine-store dealer's, and
hammered with his money on a second-hand copper, in lieu of a counter,
and shouted out that he could not wait a moment for a second-hand iron
tripod. It is extremely doubtful if a marine-store dealer ever sells
anything. Occasionally buying of ungainly, heavy, amorphous,
valueless-looking bundles goes on, but a sale hardly ever. Who, for
instance, could want an object visible in the business establishment
of John Timmons, Tunbridge Street, London Road? The most
important-looking article was a donkey-engine without a funnel, or any
of its taps, and with a large rusty hole bulged in its knobby boiler.
Then there lay a little distance from the engine the broken beam of a
large pair of scales and the huge iron scoop of another pair. After
this, looking along the left-hand side out of the gloom towards the
door, lay three cannon-shot, for guns of different calibres; then the
funnel of a locomotive, flat, and making a very respectable pretence
of having been the barrel from which the cannon-shot had dribbled,
instead of flown, because of the barrel's senile decay. After the
funnel came a broken anvil, around the blockless and deposed body
of which gathered--no doubt for the sake of old lang syne--two
sledge-hammer heads, without handles, and the nozzle of a prodigious
forge-bellows. Next appeared a heap of chunks of leaden pipe. Next, a
patch of mutilated cylindrical half-hundred weights, like iron
mushrooms growing up out of the ferruginous floor. The axle-tree and
boxes of a cart stood against the wall, like the gingham umbrella of
an antediluvian giant, and keeping them company the pillars and trough
of a shower-bath, plainly the stand into which the umbrella ought to
have been placed, if the dead Titan had had any notion of tidiness.
Then appeared the cistern of the shower-bath, like the Roundhead iron
cap of the cyclopean owner of the umbrella. Then spread what one might
fancy to be the mouth of a mine of coffee mills, followed by a huge
chaotic pile of rusty and broken guns and swords, and blunderbusses
and pistols. Beyond this chaotic patch, a ton of nuts and screws and
bolts; and, later, a bank of washers, a wire screen, five dejected
chimney-jacks, the stock of an anchor, broken from the flukes, several
hundred fathoms of short chains of assorted lengths, half a bundle of
nailrod iron, three glassless ship's lamps, a pile of brazen
miscellanies, a pile of iron miscellanies, a pile of copper
miscellanies, and then the doorless opening into Tunbridge Street, and
standing on the iron-grooved threshold, into which the shutters fitted
at night, Mr. John Timmons in person, the owner of this flourishing
establishment.

Mr. John Timmons was a tall and very thin man, of fifty years, or
thereabouts. His face was dust-colour, with high, well-padded cheek
bones, blue eyes and insignificant cocked nose. His hair was dark
brown, touched here and there with grey, curly, short, thin. He wore a
low-crowned brown felt hat and a suit of dark chocolate tweed, the
trousers being half a span too short over his large shoes, and the
waistcoat half a span too wide, half a span too long, and buttoned up
to the deep-sunken hollow of his scraggy throat. His neck was
extremely long and thin and wrinkled, and covered with sparse greyish
hair. His ears were enormous, and stood out from his ill-shapen head
like fins. They were iron-grey, the colour of the under surface of a
bat's wing. The forehead was low, retreating, and creased with
close parallel lines. The eyes were keen, furtive, suspicious. A
hand's-breath below the sharp, large apple of his throat, and hanging
loose upon the waistcoat, was the knot of a washed-out blue cotton
neckerchief. He wore long mutton-chop whiskers. The rest of the face
was covered with a short, grizzled stubble. When he was not using his
hands, he carried them thrust down to the utmost in his trousers'
pockets, showing a wide strip of red sinewy arm between the sleeve of
his coat and the pocket of the trousers. No shirt was visible, and the
neckerchief touched the long, lank neck, there being no collar or
trace of linen. Excepting the blue patch of neckerchief on his chest,
and his blue eyes, no positive colour appeared anywhere about the man.
No part of the man himself or of his clothes was clean.

Mr. Timmons was taking the air on his own threshold late in the
afternoon of that last Thursday in June. It was now some hours since
the dwarf had called and had held that conversation with him in the
cellar. Not a human being had entered the marine store since. Mr.
Timmons was gazing out of his watchet blue eyes in a stony and
abstracted way at the dead brick wall opposite. He had been standing
in this position for a good while, now shifting the weight of his body
to one foot, now to the other. Occasionally he cleared his throat,
which, being a supererogation, showed that he was in deep thought, for
no man, in his waking moments, could think of clearing so long a
throat without ample reason. The sound he made was so deep and
sepulchral it seemed as though he had left his voice behind him in the
cellar, and it was becoming impatient there.

Although it had not yet struck six o'clock, he was thinking of closing
his establishment. At this time of the day very few people passed
through Tunbridge Street; often a quarter of an hour went by bringing
no visitor. But after six the street became busier, for with the end
of the working day came more carts and vans and barrows to rest for
the night with their shafts thrust up in the air, after their
particular manner of sleeping. This parking of the peaceful artillery
of the streets Mr. Timmons looked on with dislike, for it brought many
people about the place and no grist to his mill. He shared with poets
and aristocrats the desire for repose and privacy.

As he was about to retire for the long shutters that by night defended
and veiled his treasure from predatory hands or prying eyes, his
enormous left ear became aware that feet were approaching from the end
of the street touching London Road. He turned his pale blue eyes in
the direction of the sound and saw coming along close to the wall the
figure of a low sized stout woman, wearing a black bonnet far off her
forehead. She was apparently about his own age, but except in the
matter of age there was no likeness in the appearance of the two. She
was dressed in shabby black stuff which had long ago forgotten to what
kind of material it belonged. Her appearance was what merciful
newspaper reporters describe as "decent," that is, she was not old or
in tatters, or young and attractive and gaudy in apparel; her clothes
were black and whole, and she was sober. She looked like an humble
monthly nurse or an ideal charwoman. She carried a fish-basket in her
hand. Out of this basket projected the tails of half-a-dozen red
herrings. She had, apparently, once been good-looking, and was now
well-favoured. She had that smooth, cheesy, oily, colourless rounded
face peculiar to well-fed women of the humbler class indigenous in
London.

Mr. Timmons' forehead wrinkled upwards as he recognised the visitor to
Tunbridge Street. He smiled, displaying an imperfect line of long
discoloured teeth.

"Good afternoon," said John Timmons in a deep vibrating voice that
sounded as though it had effected its escape from the cellar through a
drum.

"Afternoon," said the woman entering the store without pausing. Then
nodding her head back in the direction whence she had come she asked:
"Anyone?"

"No," answered Timmons, after a long and careful scrutiny of the
eastern half of Tunbridge Street. "Not a soul."

"I thought I'd never get here. It's mortal hot. Are you sure there is
no one after me?" said the woman, sitting down on a broken fire-grate,
in the rear of the pile of shutters standing up against the wall on
the left. She began rubbing her perspiring glistening face with a
handkerchief of a dun colour rolled up in a damp ball. Still she held
her fish-bag in her hand.

"Certain. Which shows what bad taste the men have. Now, only for Tom I
know you'd have one follower you could never shake off," said Timmons,
with a gallant laugh that sounded alarmingly deeper than his speaking
voice. Timmons was at his ease and leisure, and he made it a point to
be always polite to ladies.

"Tom's at home," said the woman, thrusting the handkerchief into her
pocket and smiling briefly and mechanically in acknowledgment of the
man's compliment to her charms. "I've brought you some fish for your
tea."

"Herrings," he said, bending to examine the protruding tails. "Fresh
herrings, or red?" he asked in a hushed significant voice. He did not
follow the woman into the store, but still stood at the threshold, so
that he could see up and down the street.

"Red," she whispered hoarsely, "and as fine as ever you saw. I thought
you might like them for your tea."

By this time a man with a cart turned into the street, and, it just
then striking six, the door of a factory poured out a living turbid
stream of bedraggled, frowsy girls, some of whom went up and some down
the street, noisily talking and laughing.

"Yes, There is nothing I am so fond of for my tea as red herrings," he
said, with his face half turned to the store, half to the street. "And
I shall like them particularly to-night."

"Eh! Particularly to-night? Are you alone? Are you going to have
company at tea, Mr. Timmons?" asked the woman in a tone and manner of
newly-awakened interest. She now held her fish basket with both hands
in front of her fat body and resting on her shallow lap.

Timmons was standing half-a-dozen yards from her on the threshold. She
could hear his voice quite plainly, notwithstanding the noise in the
street and the fact that he spoke in a muffled tone. While he answered
he kept his mouth partly open, and, because of so doing, spoke with
some indistinctness. It was apparent he did not want people within
sight or hearing to know he was speaking. "No; I am not expecting
anyone to tea, and there is no one here. I am going to have my tea all
by myself. I am very busy just now. I have had a visitor to-day--a few
hours ago----"

"Well," whispered the woman eagerly.

"And _I have the kettle on the boil_, and I am going to put those red
herrings in it for my tea." He was looking with vacant blue eyes down
the street as he spoke. He did not lay stress upon the words, "I have
the kettle on the boil." He uttered them in a lower tone and more
slowly than any others. The emphasis thus given them was very great.
It seemed to startle the woman. She rose partly as if to go to him.
She was fluttered and agreeably fluttered.

"Stay where you are," he said. He seemed to know she had attempted to
rise without turning his eyes upon her. She was half hidden in the
gloom of the store. No casual observer passing by would have noticed
her. She was simply a black shapeless mass on the old fire-grate
against a dingy dark wall in a half light. She might easily be taken
for some of Timmons's stock.

"And," she said, "he'll do it!"

"He will. He's been to Birmingham and has arranged all. They'll take
every bit they can get and pay a good price--twice as much as could be
got otherwise--from anyone else."

"Fine! Tine! You know, Mr. Timmons, how hard it is to find a bit
now, and to get so little for it as we have been handling is very
bad--heartbreaking. It takes all the spirit out of Tom."

"Where did you buy the six herrings?"

"Well," said the woman, with a smile, "I didn't exactly buy them
herrings, though they are as good ones as ever you saw. You see, my
little boys went to the meeting about the votes, or the Niggers, or
the Gospel, or something or other, and they found the herrings growing
on the trees there, ha-ha-ha."

"I know. It was a meeting for trying to get some notion of
Christianity into the heads of the African Blacks. I read about it in
the newspaper this morning. The missionaries and ourselves are much
beholden to the Blacks."

"It was something now I remember about the Blacks. Anyway, they're six
beauties. And can you let me have a little money, Mr. Timmons, for I
must hurry back to Tom with the good news."

"How is Tom? Is he on the drink?"

"No, he isn't."

"That's a bad sign. What's the matter?"

"I don't know, if it isn't going to them Christian meetings about the
Blacks. It's my belief that he'll turn Christian in the end, and you
know, Mr. Timmons, that won't pay _him_."

"Not at Tom's time of life. You must begin that kind of thing young.
There are lots of converted--well sinners, but they don't often make
bishops of even the best of them."

"Well, am I to go? What are you going to give me, Mr. Timmons? When
Tom isn't in a reasonable state of drink there's no standing him. Make
it as much as you can. Say a fiver for luck on the new-found-out."

"I'll give you an order on the Bank of England for a million if you
like, but I can't give you more than ten thousand pounds in
sovereigns, or even half sovereigns, just at this moment, even for the
good of the unfortunate heathen Blacks. But here, anyway, take this
just to keep you going. I haven't landed any fish myself yet."

The woman rose and he handed to her money. Then followed a long,
good-humoured dialogue in which she begged for more, and he firmly,
but playfully, refused her. Then she went away, and Mr. John Timmons
was left once more alone.

He had taken the fish basket from the woman when giving her the money,
and now carried it to the back of the store and descended with, it to
the cellar. He did not remain long below, but soon came trotting up
the ladder, humming a dull air in a deep growl. Then he set himself
briskly to work putting up the shutters, taking them out of the pile
in front of the old fire-grate on which the woman had sat, carrying
each one separately to the front and running it home through the slot.
When all were up, he opened the lower part of one, which hung on
hinges serving as a wicket, and stepped out into the street full from
end to end of the bright, warm evening sunlight.

He rubbed his forehead with the sleeve of his coat and took a
leisurely survey of the street. The noisy girls from the factory had
all disappeared, and the silence of evening was falling upon the
place. A few men busied themselves among the carts and vans and a dull
muffled sound told of the traffic in London Road. The hum of machinery
had ceased, and, contrasted with the noise of an hour ago, the place
was soundless.

John Timmons seemed satisfied with his inspection. He closed the
wicket and retired into the deep gloom of the store. The only light
now in this place entered through holes up high in two shutters. The
holes were no more than a foot square, and were protected by
perforated iron plates. They were intended for ventilating not
lighting the store.

Even in the thick dark air John Timmons was quite independent of
light. He could have found any article in his stock blindfold. He was
no sun-worshipper, nor did he pay divine honours to the moon. A good
thick blinding London fog was his notion of reasonable weather. One
could then do one's business, whatever it might be, without fear of
bright and curious eyes.

He had told his late visitor that he had the kettle on the fire. She
had brought him half-a dozen red herrings and left them with him in a
fish-basket. Now red herrings, differing in this respect from other
kinds of fish, are seldom or never cooked in a kettle, and although
the front of the door was closed and the only visible source of heat
the two ventilators high up in the shutters, the air of the store was
growing already warmer and drier, and although there was no smell of
cooking there was an unmistakable smell of fire.

The owner did not seem in any great hurry to cook and taste his
savoury victuals. He might have meant that the kettle was for tea
merely, and had nothing to do directly with the red herrings. He
fastened the wicket-door very carefully, and then slowly examined the
rear of the shutters one by one, and, holding his eye close to them
here and there, tried if he could spy out, in order to ascertain if
any one could spy in. Then he rested his shoulder against the middle
shutter, leant his head against the panel and, having thrust his hands
deeper than ever into his trousers' pockets, gave up his soul to
listening.

In the meantime the fish basket, with the tails of the six red
herrings sticking out, was lying on the top of the old fire-grate
which had served his visitor as a seat. It had been placed here by
Timmons when he took it from the woman.

A quarter of an hour the man remained thus without moving. Apparently
he was satisfied at last. He stood upright upon his feet, shook
himself, gazed confidently round the store and then walked to the old
fire-grate. He was going to get his tea at last.

He took up the basket, drew out the wooden skewer by which it was
closed, caught the herrings in a bundle and threw them behind him on
the gritty earthen floor.

He opened the bag wide and peered into it. Holding it in his left hand
upon his upraised thigh he thrust his right hand into it and fumbled
about, bending his head down to look the better.

He was on the point of drawing something out when he suddenly paused
and listened motionless.

There was the sound of approaching steps. Timmons stood as still as
death.

Three soft knocks sounded upon the wicket and then, after an interval
of a few seconds, two more knocks still softer.

"It's Stamer himself," cried Timmons, with an imprecation, in a
muffled voice. Then he added: "What does he want? More money? Anyway,
I suppose I must let him in."

He turned round, caught up the scattered red herrings, thrust them
into the bag, fixed it with the skewer, and then threw it carelessly
on the hob of the old grate. Then he went to the wicket, opened it
without speaking, and admitted his second visitor of that evening.

When the new comer was inside the door and the bolt drawn once more,
Timmons said, in a slow angry tone, "Well, Stamer, what do you want?
Is a bargain a bargain? You were not to come here in daylight, and
only in the dark when something of great consequence brought you. I
gave your wife all I will give just now, if we are to go on working on
the co-operative principle. What do you want?"

The low sized, round shouldered man, dressed in fustian and wearing
two gold rings on the little finger of his left hand, said in a
whisper: "The ole 'oman gev me the coin, gov'nor. I don't want no more
till all's right. What I did come about is of consequence, is of the
greatest consequence, gov'nor." He glanced round with furtive eyes,
looking apprehensively in the dim light at everything large enough to
conceal a man.

"What is it? Out with it!" said Timmons impatiently.

"You're going to see this cove to-night?"

"Yes."

"At what o'clock?"

"That's my affair," said Timmons savagely.

"I know it is, Mr. Timmons, but still I'm a bit interested too, if I
understand right the co-operative principle."

"You! What are you interested in so long as you get the coin?"

"In you. I'm powerful interested in you."

"What do you mean?" asked Timmons, frowning.

"Tell me when you're going and I'll tell you."

"Midnight."

"Ah! It will be dark then!"

"What news you tell us. It generally is dark at midnight."

"Are you going to take much of the stuff with you--much of the red
stuff--of the red herrings?"

Timmons drew back a pace with a start and looked at Stamer
suspiciously. "Have you come to save me the trouble? Eh? Would you
like to take it yourself? Eh? Did you come here to rob me? I mean to
share fair. Do you want to throw up the great co-operative principle
and bag all?"

Stamer's eyes winked quickly, and he answered in a tone of sorrow and
reproach: "Don't talk like that, gov'nor. You know I'm a square un, I
am. I'd die for you. Did I ever peach on you when I was in trouble,
gov'nor? It hurts my feelings for you to talk like that! I say, don't
do it, gov'nor. You know I'm square. Tell me how much stuff are you
going to take with you to-night?"

The words and manner of the man indicated extreme sincerity, and
seemed to reassure Timmons. "About two pounds," he answered.

"Oh!" groaned Stamer, shaking his close-cropped head dismally.

"What is the matter with the man? Are you mad? You're not drunk. Your
wife tells me you're not on the drink."

"No. I'm reforming. Drink interferes dreadful with business. It spoils
a man's nerve too. Two pounds is an awful lot."

"What are you driving at, Stamer? You say you're a square man. Well,
as far as I have had to do with you I have found you a square man----"

"And honest?" said Stamer pathetically.

"With me. Yes."

"No man is honest in the way of business."

"Well, well! What is the matter?" said Timmons impatiently; "I've got
the kettle on and must run down. I haven't put in those herrings your
old woman brought yet."

"I know. I'm sorry, gov'nor, for bothering you. I'd give my life for
you. Look here, gov'nor, suppose _he_ is not an honest man, like me.
He isn't in our co-operative plan, you know. Suppose _he_ isn't
particular about how he gets hold of a bit of stuff?"

"And tried to rob me?"

"That's not what I'd mind." He put his hand to the back of his
waistband. "You know what I carry here. Suppose he carries one too?"

"You mean that he may murder me first and rob me after?"

Stamer nodded.

"Well, I'm very much obliged to you, Stamer, indeed I am; but I'm not
a bit afraid, not a bit. Why, he's not much over four feet, and he's a
hunchback as well."

"But hunchbacks can buy tools like this, and a man's inches don't
matter then," moving his hand under his coat.

"I'm not a bit afraid. Not a bit. If that's what you came about it's
all right, and now I _must_ go down. The fire is low by this time, and
I may as well run these out of likeness at once."

He opened the door for Stamer, who, with a doubtful shake of the head,
stepped over the raised threshold and went out. As Stamer sauntered
down Tunbridge Street he muttered to himself, "I'll keep my eye on
this affair anyway."

When the wicket-door was closed Timmons took up the fish-basket, flung
away the red herrings a second time, and descended to the cellar.



                            CHAPTER XVII.

                       DINNER AT CURZON STREET.


When Oscar Leigh left Mrs. Ashton's drawing-room abruptly that
afternoon, Hanbury was too much annoyed and perplexed to trust himself
to speak to Dora. It was getting late. He had promised to dine in
Curzon Street that evening, and would have ample opportunity after
dinner of saying to Dora anything he liked. Therefore he made an
excuse and a hasty exit as if to overtake Leigh. He had had however
enough of the clockmaker for that day, for all his life; so when he
found himself on the landing and stairs and in the hall he walked
slowly, allowing time for Leigh to get out of sight before emerging
from the house.

He took his way south and crossed Piccadilly at Hyde Park Corner. He
had to get to his mother's house in Chester Square, to dress for
dinner, and there was not much time to lose. His mother did not expect
him to dine at home that day. She knew he had promised to go to Curzon
Street, and was not in the house when he arrived.

He went straight to his own room in no very amiable humour. He was not
at all pleased with the day. He did not think Dora had acted with
prudence in persisting on going slumming in Chelsea, he was quite
certain she had not done prudently in giving Leigh their names. He
considered Leigh had behaved--well, not much better than a man of his
class might be expected to behave, and, worst of all and hardest of
all to bear, he did not consider his own conduct had been anything
like what it ought.

If he made up his mind to go in for a popular platform, he must
overcome, beat down this squeamishness which caused him to give way at
unpleasant sights. Whether he did or did not adopt the popular
platform he ought to do this. It was grotesque that his effectiveness
in an emergency should be at the mercy of a failing which most
school-girls would laugh at! It was too bad that Dora should be able
to help where he became a mere encumbrance. Poor girl----but there, he
must not allow himself to run off on a sentimental lead just now. He
must keep his mind firm, for he must be firm with Dora this evening.

What a wonderful likeness there was between that strange girl and
Dora. Yes, Miss Grace was, if possible, lovelier in face than Dora.
More quiet and still mannered. She absolutely looked more of an
aristocrat than Dora. It would be curious to see if her mind was like
Dora's too; if, for example, she had active, vivid, democratic
sympathies.

Every one who knew him told him he had a brilliant future before him.
Before he got married (about which there was no great hurry as they
were both young) it would be necessary for him to take up a definite
position in politics. He felt he had the stuff in him out of which to
make an orator, and an orator meant a statesman, and a statesman meant
power, what he pleased, a coronet later in life if he and Dora cared
for one. But he must select his career before marriage.

It would be very interesting to see if those two girls, so
marvellously alike in appearance, were similar in aspirations. How
extraordinarily alike they were. The likeness was as that man had
said, stranger than his own fabulous miracle gold.

Ashton and his wife got on very well together, although they did not
take the same view of public affairs. But then in this case things
were different from what they would be in his. Mrs. Ashton was an
ardent politician, her husband none at all. For a politician to enter
upon his public career with a young wife opposed to him would be most
unwise, the beginning of disagreement at home. At first, when he met
Dora, he was attracted towards her by the enthusiasm of her spirit. He
had never before met so young a woman, a mere girl, with such settled
faith. At that time he was not very sure how he himself thought on
many of the questions which divided men. She knew no doubt or
hesitancy, and she was very lovely and bright and fresh. He had
thought--What a helpmate for a busy man! And then, before he had time
to think much more, he had made up his mind he could not get on
without Dora.

There were many cases in which wives had been the best aids and
friends of illustrious politicians. It would never do for a man to
have a wife who would continually throw cold water on her husband's
public ardours; or, worse still, who would be actively opposed to him.
Such a state could not be borne.

Dora had clearer views and more resolute convictions than he. Women
always saw more quickly and sharply than men. If he threw himself into
the arms of the people she would be with him heart and soul, and he
should attain a wide popularity at all events.

How on earth did that man Leigh become acquainted with that exquisite
creature, Miss Grace? No wonder he called her miracle gold.

Well, it was time for him to be getting back to Curzon Street. There
was to be no one at dinner but the family and himself. There would,
therefore, neither before nor after be any politics. What a relief it
was to forget the worry, and heat and dust of politics now and then
for a while, for a little while even!

Grimsby Street was an awful place for a girl like Miss Grace to live
in. Why did she live in such horrible street? Poverty, no doubt.
Poverty. What a shame! She looked as if it would suit her better to
live in a better place. By heavens, what a lovely, exquisite girl she
was. Could that poor misshapen clockmaker be in love with her? He in
love? Monstrous!

Ten minutes past eight! Not a moment to be lost.

"Hansom! Curzon Street."

John Hanbury reached Ashton's as dinner was announced. The host
greeted him with effusion. He was always glad to have some guest, and
he particularly liked Hanbury. He was by no means hen-pecked, but
there was between him and his wife when alone the consciousness of a
truce, not the assurance of peace. Each felt the other was armed, she
with many convictions, he with only one, namely, that all convictions
were troublesome and more or less fraudulent. They lived together in
the greatest amity. They did not agree to disagree, but they agreed
not to disagree, which is a much better thing. Ashton of course
guessed there was something between Dora and Hanbury, but he had no
official cognizance of it yet, and therefore treated Hanbury merely as
a very acceptable visitor. He liked the young man, and his position
and prospects were satisfactory.

Towards the end of dinner, he said: "They tell me, Hanbury, that you
brought a very remarkable character with you to-day, a sorcerer, or an
astrologer, or alchemist. I thought men of that class had all turned
into farriers by this time."

"I don't think Leigh has anything to do with hooves, unless hooves of
the cloven kind," said Hanbury with a laugh. "If a ravenous appetite
for bread confirms the graminivorous characteristic of the hoof I am
afraid it is all up with poor Leigh in Mrs. Ashton's opinion."

"I found him very interesting I am sure," said Mrs. Ashton, "and I am
only sorry I had not more opportunity of hearing about his wonderful
clock."

"Clock? Oh, he is a clockmaker, is he," said the host, "Then I did not
make such a bad shot after all. He has something to do with metal?"

"I told you, Jerry, he makes _gold_, miracle gold," said Mrs. Ashton
vivaciously.

"So you did, my dear. So you did. My penetration then in taking him
for an alchemist does not seem to have been very great. I should be a
first-rate man to discover America now. But I fancy if I had been born
before Columbus I should not have taken the bread out of his mouth."

"Mr. Leigh told us he was not sure he would go on making this miracle
gold," said Dora.

"Not go on making gold!" cried the father in astonishment, "was there
ever yet a man who of his own free will gave up making gold? Why is he
thinking of abandoning the mine, Dora?"

"There is so much difficulty and danger, he says, father."

"Difficulty and danger! Of course there is always difficulty in making
gold; but danger--what is the danger?"

"He is liable to be blown up."

"Good heavens! for making gold? Why, what are you talking of, child?
Ah! I see," with a heavy, affected sigh, "he is a bachelor. If he were
a married man he would stand in danger of being blown up for _not_
making gold. Well, Josephine, my dear," to his wife, "you do get some
very original people around you. I must say I should like to see this
timid alchemist."

"If Mr. Ashton will honour his own house with his presence this day
week, he will have an excellent opportunity of meeting Mr. Leigh,"
said Mrs. Ashton with a bow.

"My dearest Josephine, your friend, Mr. Ashton, will do nothing of the
kind. He will not add another to your collection of monsters."

"That's a very heartless and rude speech, father."

"And I look on it as distinctly personal," said Hanbury, "for I attend
regularly."

"I have really very little to do with the matter," said Mrs. Ashton.
"Mr. Leigh is Dora's thrall."

The girl coloured and looked reproachfully at her mother, and uneasily
at Hanbury. It would be much more pleasant if the conversation shifted
away from Leigh.

"He is going to model her for Pallas-Athena."

"Mother, the poor man did not say that."

"No; he did not _say_ it, but he meant it, Dora."

"Oh, he is a sculptor, too!" cried Mr. Ashton with a laugh. "Is there
any end to this prodigy's perfections and accomplishments? But, I say,
Dora, seriously, I won't have any folly of that kind. I won't have you
give sittings to any one."

"Oh, father! indeed, you must not mind mother. She is joking. Mr.
Leigh never said or meant anything of the kind." She had grown red and
very uncomfortable.

Her father sat back in his chair and said in a bantering tone, under
which the note of seriousness could be heard:

"You know I am not a bigot. But I will have no professional-beauty
nonsense, for three reasons: First, because professional beauties are
played out; they are no longer the rage--that reason would be
sufficient with average people. Second, and more important, it isn't,
and wasn't, and never can be good form to be a professional beauty;
and third," he hesitated and looked fondly at his daughter, "and
third--confound it, my girl is too good-looking to be mentioned in the
same breath as any of these popular beauties."

"Bravo, sir," said Hanbury, as he got up to open the door for Mrs.
Ashton and Dora, who had risen to leave the room.

When the two men were left alone, Mr. Ashton said:

"This Leigh is, I assume, one of the people?"

"Yes," said Hanbury, who wished Leigh and all about him at the bottom
of the Red Sea. "But, he is not, you know, one of the horny-handed
sons of toil. He is a man of some reading, and intelligence, and
education, but rather vulgar all the same."

"All right. I'm sure if he is your friend he must be an excellent
fellow, my dear Hanbury; and if you put him up for this constituency,
I'll vote for him, no matter what his principles are. That is," he
added thoughtfully, "if I have a vote. But, for the present, my
dear fellow, I'll tell you what we'll do with him--we'll let him
alone--that is, if you don't mind doing so."

"I shall do so with great pleasure. I have had quite enough of him for
to-day," said the other, greatly relieved.

"All right. Hanbury, I shall let you into a secret. I don't care for
people who aren't nice. I prefer nice people. I like people like my
wife and Dora, and your mother and yourself."

"I am sure, sir, you are very good to include me in your list."

"And I don't care at all for people who aren't nice, you know. I don't
care at all for the poor. When they aren't objectionable they are an
awful bore. For the life of me I can't make out what reasonable men
and women see in the people. I don't object to them. I suppose they
are necessary, and have their uses and functions, and all that; but if
they have, why interfere with them? Lots of fellows I know go in for
the poor partly out of fun, and for a change, and partly to catch
votes. All right. But these fellows don't emigrate from the West and
live in the East End. If they did, they'd go mad, my boy--they'd go
mad. Anyway, I should. You know, I hate politics, and never talk
politics. If I were a very rich man, I'd buy the whole of the Isle of
Wight and banish all the poor from it, and live there the whole of my
life, and drown any of the poor that dared to land on it. I wouldn't
tell this to any soul in the world except you. I know I can trust you
to keep my secret. Mind, I don't object to my wife and Dora doing what
they like in such affairs; in fact, I rather like it, for it keeps
matters smooth for me. This is, I know, a horribly wicked profession
of faith; but I make it to you alone. I know that, according to poetic
justice, I ought to be killed on my way to the club by a coster's
run-away ass or the horse in a pauper's hearse, but I don't think I
shall oblige poetic justice by falling into or under such a scheme--_I
am always very careful at crossings_. If you are _very_ careful at
crossings, I don't see how poetic justice is to get at you. There, let
us drop this ghastly subject now."

The conversation then wandered off into general ways, and lost its
particular and personal character.

Hanbury had never heard from any other man so cynical a speech as
Ashton's, and he was considerably shocked and pained by it. His own
convictions were few. He was himself in that condition of aimless
aspiring enthusiasm proper to ardent youth, when youth has just begun
to think conscientiously with a view to action. He could see nothing
very clearly, but everything he did see shone fiercely in splendid
clouds. This low view of life, this mere animal craving for peace and
comfort, for nice things and nice people, was abhorrent to him. If in
the early part of that day he had spoken slightingly of the people, it
was out of no cynical indifference, but from the pain and worry caused
to himself in his own mind by his opinions not being ascertained and
fixed.

If he hesitated to throw his fortunes into the scale with the more
advanced politicians, it was from no mean or sordid motive. He could
not decide within himself which class had the more worthy moral
sanction. If the present rate of progress was too slow, then those who
sought to retard it were villains; if too quick, those who tried to
accelerate it were fools. Whatever else he might be, he was not
corrupt.

What Mr. Ashton said had a great influence on young Hanbury. It
aroused his suspicions. Could it be that most of those who sought to
check the car of progress harboured such vile and unmanly sentiments
as his host had uttered in confidence? Could it be that Ashton was
more courageous because he had nothing tangible to lose by candour?
Could it be that if he himself espoused the side of the slower movers,
it would be assumed he harboured opinions such as those Ashton had
just uttered? The mere supposition was an outrage. It was a suspicion
under which he would not willingly consent to rest one hour. This
cold-blooded declaration of Ashton's had done more towards the making
up of his mind than all he had heard and read since he turned his
attention to public affairs.

Yes, he would decide to throw himself body and soul among the more
progressive party. He would espouse the principles of the extreme
Liberals. Then there would be no more wavering or doubt, and no
question of discord in politics would arise between Dora and himself.
They would have but the one creed in public affairs. Their opinions
would not merely resemble the principles of one another--they would be
identical.

Mr. Ashton and his guest did not remain long in the dining-room.
Hanbury was not treated with ceremony in that house, so Mr. Ashton
merely looked into the drawing-room for a few minutes, and then went
off to his club. Mrs. Ashton had letters to write, and retired shortly
after him to the study, leaving Dora alone with John Hanbury.

He thought that in order to keep a good understanding there was
nothing like establishing a clear understanding. In order to ensure
complete pleasantness in the future, all things that might lead to
unpleasantness ought to be removed from the past and present. The best
way of treating a nettle, when you have to touch it, is to seize it
boldly.

He was in love with Dora, and he was resolved to marry her. That very
evening he was going to ask her if she did not think the best thing
they could do would be to get married soon, at once. He had made up
his mind to adopt the popular platform, and then, of course, his way
would be clear. Up to this he had been regarded as almost committed to
the more cautious side, to the Conservative party, the Democratic
Conservative party. By declaring himself now for the advanced party,
he should be greeted by it as a convert, and no doubt he could find a
willing constituency at the next general election.

That was all settled, all plain sailing. He was a young man, and in
love; but it must be observed he was not also a fool. He would show
all who knew him he was no fool. The life he now saw before him was
simple, straightforward, pleasant. Dora was beautiful, and good, and
clever, and in his part of popular politician would be an ornament by
his side, and, perhaps, a help to him in his career. She was a dear
girl, and would adorn any position to which he might aspire, to which
he might climb.

Yes, he was a young man, he was in love, but he was no fool, and he
knew that Dora would think less of him, would think nothing at all of
him, if she believed him to be a fool. Between lovers there ought to
be confidence, freedom of speech. She would esteem him all the more
for being candid and plain with her. What was this he had to say to
her? Oh, yes, he recollected----

Dora and he were sitting close to one another in the window-place
where Leigh and he had found her earlier. The long June day had faded
into luminous night; the blinds had not been lowered, or the lamps in
the room lit. The long, soft, cool, blue midsummer twilight was still
and delicious for any people, but especially for lovers.



                            CHAPTER XVIII.

                             IN THE DARK.


"Well, Dora," he began, "this has been an exciting day."

"Yes," she said softly, and added with tender anxiety, "I hope
you have quite recovered? I hope you do not feel any bad effects
of--of--of--what happened to you, Jack?" She did not know how he would
take even this solicitous reference to his fainting.

"I feel quite well, dearest. Do not let us talk of that affair again.
That cabman brought you quite safe?"

"Oh, quite safe," she said gently. "Tell me what happened after you
left me?" It gratified her that he thought of her. She had accused him
of selfishness, now he was showing that his first thought was of her.
With the self-sacrificing spirit of her sex she was satisfied with a
little sympathy on her own account. She wanted to give him all her
sympathy now. "Of course, I know you found Mr. Leigh. What an
extraordinary man. Is he a little mad, do you think?"

"A good deal mad, I fancy, with conceit," he said impatiently. Leigh,
personally, had been a misfortune, and now the memory of him was
exasperating and a bore.

The ungentleness of the answer jarred upon the girl's heart. Leigh had
suffered such miserable wrongs at the hand of fate, that surely he was
deserving of all consideration and compassion. His bodily disabilities
made him more helpless and piteous than a lonely, deserted child.
"Tell me all," she said. "It was so good of you to bring him here. I
felt quite proud of you when I saw you coming with him. Many men would
have been afraid to trust so uncouth a man with so unpleasant a secret
into this room of a Thursday." She spoke to encourage Hanbury, by
anticipating in part his account of the generous thing she fancied he
had done.

He twisted and turned uneasily on his chair. Whatever Dora or anyone
else might think of him, he was not going to pose in plumes that were
not his by right. It was very gratifying in one sense that she should
give him credit for such extravagant, such Quixotic good nature; but
she must not be allowed to run away with the story.

"The fact is, Dora," said he in a tone of deliberation and
dissatisfaction, "I did not bring him here of my own free will.
Indeed, I do not know how you could imagine I would invite such a man.
I found him contemplating a paragraph for the papers, and he promised
he would say nothing about what had occurred if I would introduce him
to you. He seems to have conceived a romantic interest in you, because
of your likeness to some one he knows." Later this evening he should
tell her all about this "some one."

"I see," she said, her spirits declining. It was not out of good
nature or generosity, but cowardice, moral cowardice, Jack had brought
Leigh. The principle which had made Jack flee from Welbeck Place after
sending Leigh for the cab, and then made him fly back there again when
he learned that the little man knew their names, had forced him
against his will to bring Leigh to her mother's At home. She was in
the most indulgent and forgiving of humours, but--but--but--"Oh, Jack,
I am so sorry!" was all she could think of saying. She was sorry for
him, for John Hanbury, who either was not, or would not be, too big to
be troubled by such paltry fears, and irritated by such paltry
annoyances.

"Sorry! Sorry for what?" he cried. He gathered from her tone and
manner that she was not speaking out fully. He could not guess what
was in her mind. He had a little lecture or exhortation prepared to
deliver her, and in addition to the unpleasantness of not knowing
exactly what she meant when she said she was sorry, he had the
confusing and exasperating sense of repression, of not being able to
get on the ground he intended occupying.

She did not speak for a while. She was looking out into the dark blue
air of the street. She had formed a high ideal of what he, her hero,
ought to be, nearly was. But now and then, often, he did not reach the
standard she had raised. Her ideal was the man of noble thought
certainly, but he should still more be the man of noble action. She
would have laid down her life freely in what she believed to be a good
cause, and to her mind the noblest cause in which a woman could die
would be for a noble man whom she loved. She believed the place of
woman was by the side of man, not independent of man. She held that in
all matters man and wife should be, to use words that had been
employed in acts, to think of which rent her heart with agony, one and
undivisible. She regarded strong-minded women as wrong-minded women.
Strength and magnanimity were the attributes of men; love and
gentleness of women. She wanted this man beside her to shine bright in
the eyes of men by reason of his great and rare gifts. No one doubted
his abilities as a man; she wanted him to treat his abilities as only
the foundation of his character. She wanted not only to know that he
possessed great gifts and precious powers, but to feel as well that he
was fit to be a god. She yearned to pass her life by the side of a man
who could force the world to listen to his words, and fill the one
pedestal in her earthly temple. She wanted him to be a hero and a
conqueror in the face of the world, and she wanted to give him the
whole loyal worship of her woman's heart, that she might live always
in the only attitude which rests a woman's spirit, the attitude of
giving service of the hand and largess of the heart, and homage of the
soul. She wanted to give this man all her heart and soul unceasingly.
To give him everything that was hers to give, under Heaven.

It was necessary to make some reply, and she had none ready. In the
pause she had not been thinking. She had been seeing visions, dreaming
dreams, from which occupations thought is always absent.

He became still more uneasy. Her hand was in his. He pressed it
slightly, to recall her attention to him, "What are you sorry for,
Dora? What are you thinking of, dear? Are you angry with me still?"

She started without turning her eyes away from the blue duskness of
the street, and in a tone of wonderful tenderness and sadness, said:

"I don't know exactly what I was thinking of, Jack. The evening is so
fresh and still it is not necessary for one to think. Angry with you,
dear! Oh, no! Oh, no! Angry with you for what?"

"About the harsh words I said of Leigh. It seems to me your manner
changed the moment I mentioned his name. Let us not speak of him any
more this evening."

He pressed her hand, and stole his arm round her waist. She returned
the pressure of his hand, but did not turn her eyes inward from the
still street.

"But why should we not speak of him, Jack?"

"Because, dear, we are here together, and we are much more interesting
to one another than he can be to either."

"Yes, dear, in a way more interesting to one another than all the
world besides; but in another way not nearly so interesting as this
poor clockmaker," she said slowly, in a dreamy voice.

"I own," he said testily, "I do not see the matter as you put it. How
can he, a mere stranger, and a mere stranger who might have done us
harm, be more interesting in any light than we are to one another?" He
was a man, and thought as the average man thinks, of getting not
giving. He was here alone with this beautiful girl who was to be his
wife one day, and his chief concern was to get the most pleasure out
of her presence by his side, the sound of her voice, the assurance of
her love, the contemplation of their future happiness, the sense that
she was his very own, that she would be bound to render him obedience
which would, of course, never be exacted, and that he was about to lay
before her his views of what her conduct ought to be, of where she had
declined to accept his advice with regard to their walk of that day,
and above all of his determination as to his future course, and the
desirableness of their early marriage. He wanted in fact to get her
disapproval of the expedition which had led to the unpleasantness of
that day, her disapproval of her venturesome overruling of his
judgment and her approval of all his plans for the future. He did not
state his position thus. He simply wanted certain things, and never
thought of referring his wants to any principle.

"In this way," she answered softly, "all about us is happy and
assured. For ourselves we have everything that is necessary not only
for mere life, but for enjoyment. The things we lack are only
luxuries----"

"Luxuries!" he cried. "Do you consider the ardours of a public life
luxuries? Do you not yet know me better than to believe I would lead
an existence of idle pleasure? Why, a public man now-a-days works
harder than a blacksmith, and generally without necessity or reward!"
He spoke indignantly. She had attacked his class, she was showing
indifference to the usefulness and disinterestedness of his order.

Neither his words nor his manner roused her. "I am not at all
forgetting what you speak of. I am thinking, Jack dear, of things more
common and essential than fame or the reputation of a benefactor to
man. You know I hold that the first sphere of woman is her home.
People like us are rarely grateful for food or shelter, or even
health, and no people of any kind are grateful for the air they
breathe." She paused and sighed. She did not finish her thought in
words.

"Well," said he, withdrawing his arm from her waist and taking a chair
opposite her in the window-place, "how does this apply? Of course,
when you realize the fact that you could not live without air, you are
grateful for it. I don't see what you are driving at."

"I cannot help thinking of the man and pitying him. He will go into
his grave having missed nearly everything in the world."

"Why, the man has enough conceit to make a battalion of Guards happy.
He is a greater man in his own opinion than the Premier, the Lord
Chancellor and the Commander-in-Chief rolled into one."

"But even if he is, Jack, that is not all. The Premier and the Lord
Chancellor and the Commander-in-Chief, over and above their great
successes and fame, have the comforts ordinary men enjoy as well. They
are not afflicted in their forms as he is. You say he is interested in
me because I remind him of some one. How must it be with an ordinary
human heart beating in such a body? Would it not be better for such a
man to be born blind than to find his Pallas-Athena, as he calls her?"

The eyes of the girl could not be seen in the darkness of the room;
they were full of tears and there were tears in her voice.

Hanbury started, he could not tell why. He exclaimed: "Good Heavens,
Dora! you do not mean to tell me that you feel seriously concerned in
the love affairs, if there are such things, of this man?"

"No, dear, but I am saddened when I think of them. However absurd it
may seem, I cannot help believing this finding of his ideal must be a
dreadful misfortune to him."

"Even if you yourself were the ideal, Dora?"

"Even so. But you tell me he had found it before he came here. Of
course, dear, my mind is influenced only for the moment by the thought
of him and his affairs; but ever since I heard him speak, grotesque as
it may seem, my heart has been feeling for him with his poor deformed
body and his elaborate gallantry of manner and his Pallas-Athena."

Now was the time to tell Dora of this Miss Grace, but it seemed to him
the story was too long for so late an hour, and that it could be told
with pleasanter effect when Dora was less exercised about the dwarf.
The conversation was too sentimental for him. He had matters of
practical moment to speak about, and this subject obstinately blocked
the way. The best thing for him to do was to give the matter an
every-day aspect at once. "Well, Dora, in any case, Leigh isn't in the
first glory of youth, and if he ever does fall in love and marry, it
will, I am sure, be no Pallas-Athena, but a barmaid, with practical
views, and a notion of keeping an hotel, or something of that kind."

"But how do you think a man with his imagination, his Pallas-Athena,
and his incomparable clock and his miracle gold----?"

"Which is nonsense, of course. You don't mean that you believe in
transmutation in this end of the nineteenth century?" he said
impatiently.

"I do not know. I am not scientific. I suppose more wonderful things
have been done. If there ever was a time for making gold it is now.
All the wonders that poets dreamed of long ago are coming true in
prose to-day. Why not the great dream of the alchemists too? At all
events, the fancies are bad for him. Suppose there is to be no
Pallas-Athena or wonderful clock or miracle gold in his life, what is
there left to him? It seems to me he is all the poorer for his
delusions. Jack, I will not try to disguise it. I am intensely
interested in this poor clockmaker, this mad visionary, if you prefer
to call him that."

This was not at all the kind of preface Hanbury wanted to the
communications he had to make to her. He felt disconcerted, clumsy,
petulant. "I have been so unfortunate as to introduce the cause of all
this anxiety to you. It would have been much better for every sake I
had not gone back and met the man the second time, much better I
should cut a ridiculous figure before all the town to-morrow!" He was
growing angry as his speech went on. His own words were inflaming his
mind by the implication of his wrongs.

She placed her hand gently on his, and said in a reproachful voice, a
voice quite different from the meditative tones in which she had been
speaking, "Jack, I did not mean that. You know I did not mean that.
Why do you reproach me with thoughts you ought to know I could not
harbour?" She had turned in from the window, and was looking at him
opposite her in the dim darkness. She was now fully alive to his
presence and everything around her.

"No doubt," he said bitterly, "I am ungenerous to you. I am unjust. I
am afraid, Dora, I am but an ill-conditioned beast----"

"Jack, that is the most unjust thing you could possibly say to me. In
saying it you seem to use words you fancy I would like to use, only I
am not brave enough."

"I know you are brave enough for anything. I know it is I who am the
coward."

"Jack! Oh, Jack!"

"You told me so yourself to-day. You cannot say I am putting that word
into your mouth." He was taking fire.

"Have you no mercy for me, Jack; my Jack?"

"You told me with your own lips I had no thought but of my miserable
self in the miserable thing that happened."

"Jack, have you no pity. My Jack, have you no pity for your own Dora."
She seized his hands with both her own. There were no tears in her
voice now, there was the blood of her heart.

"Ay, and when I, yielding to my cowardly heart----"

"Oh God!" She took her hands away from his and covered her face with
them.

"--And brought that man here as the price of his silence, you--knowing
the chicken-livered creature I am--absolutely asked him to come next
week. To come here where his presence is to cure me of my cowardice or
accustom me to the peril of ridicule which you know I hate worse than
death!" He was blazing now.

"Good night."

"After this, how can I be sure that you may not consider it salutary
to betray me yourself?" He was mad.

"Good bye, Jack. Oh God, my heart is broken!"

"I tell you----" He turned around. He was alone.



                             CHAPTER XIX.

                            MRS. HANBURY.


John Hanbury had reached the end of the street before he knew where he
was. He had no memory of how he got out of the house. No doubt he had
behaved like a madman, and he had been temporarily insane. He must
have snatched his hat in the hall, but he was without his overcoat.

His heart was beating violently, and his head was burning hot. He must
have run down the street. There was no one in view. He had only a
whirling and flashing memory of the last few minutes with Dora. His
temper had completely mastered him, and he must have spoken and
behaved like a maniac. He must have behaved like a maniac in her
presence--to her!

Now and then, in the heat of public speaking, he had been carried
beyond himself, beyond the power of memory afterwards, but never in
his life had impetuosity betrayed him in private life until now. What
sort of a lunatic must he have been to sin for the first time before
the only woman he ever cared for? The woman he had asked to be his
wife?

The excitement of the day had been too much for him, and he had broken
down in the end. He had taken only one glass of wine at dinner, and
only coffee after. Something must have gone wrong with his brain.
Could it be this fainting which had overtaken him to-day, and twice
before, indicated some flaw or weakness in the brain? It would have
been better he had died in that accursed slum than come back to
consciousness and done this. Then he had fainted like a woman, and
behaved like a coward. Now he had acted like a cad! He had abused,
reviled the woman he professed to love, and who he knew loved him! He
dared say he had not struck her! It was, perhaps, a pity he had not
struck her, for if he had he should be either now in the hands of the
police, or shot by her father! It was a good job the girl had a father
to shoot him. If he was called out he should fire in the air, and if
Ashton demanded another shot and missed him, he should reserve his
fire and blow his own brains out. When a man did a thing like this,
there was only one reflection that could ease his intolerable agony of
reproach--he could blow out his brains and rid the world of a cowardly
cad.

From the moment he found himself at the end of Curzon Street until he
reached his mother's house in Chester Square, he walked rapidly,
mechanically, and without design. When he saw the door before him he
was staggered for a moment.

"How did I come here?" he asked himself, as he opened it with a
latch-key. He could not answer the question. He saw in a dim way that
it would be interesting to imagine how a man in possession of his
faculties walked a whole mile without knowing why he walked or
remembering anything by the way. But at present--Pooh! pooh!

"Mrs. Hanbury wishes to see you, sir, in her own room, if you please,"
said a servant, who had heard him come in and appeared while he was
hanging up his hat.

"Very well. Tell her I shall be with her in a few minutes."

His mother's room adjoined her sleeping chamber, and was opposite his
own bed-room on the second floor.

He turned into the long dining-room to his right. There was here a dim
light burning, the windows were wide open, the place cool and still.

He shut the door behind him and began pacing quickly up and down. It
was necessary in some way to collect his mind before meeting his
mother.

He shut his fists hard against his chest and breathed hard as he
walked. By his breathing he judged he must have run part of the way
from Curzon Street.

The perspiration was trickling down his forehead. He held his head up
high; he felt as though there was a tight hand round his throat. He
thrust his fingers inside his collar and tried to ease his neck.

"This is absurd," he said aloud at last. But what it was that he felt
to be absurd he did not know.

"The heat is suffocating one!" he said in a short time, and tore again
at his shirt, loosing his necktie and rumpling his collar.

"I am choking for air!" he cried, and tried to fling the windows
higher up, but they were both as high as they could go.

"My throat is cracking!" he cried huskily, and looking round with
blazing eyes through the dim room saw a caraffa on the side-board. He
poured out a glass of water and swallowed the water at a draught. "Oh,
that is much better," he said with a smile, and resumed his walk up
and down the long room at a lessened rate. "Let me think," he said;
"let me think if I can."

He clasped his hands behind his back and leaned his head on one side,
his attitude when designing the plan of a speech or musing upon the
parts of it.

The water he had swallowed and the slackened pace and the posture of
reflection, tended to cool him and bring his mind into condition for
harmonious working.

"Let me treat the matter," he whispered, "as though I were only a
friend, and had come here to state my case and implore advice. How
does the matter stand exactly? Let us look at the facts, the simple
facts first."

His pace became slower and slower. His face ceased to work, and lost
the flushed and wild appearance. Gradually his head rose erect and
stood back upon his neck. His eyes lit up with the flashes of reason.
They no longer blazed with the flame of chaotic despair. He unclasped
his hands and began to gesticulate. He ceased to be the self-convicted
culprit, and became the argumentative contender before the court. He
had ceased to do his worst against the accused and was exercising all
his faculties to compel an acquittal.

Presently his manner changed. He had adduced all his reasons and knit
them together in his argument. Now he was beginning to appeal to the
feelings of the man on the bench and the men in the box. His head was
no longer erect, his gestures no longer combative. He was asking them
to remember the circumstances of the case. He was painting a picture
of himself. He appealed to their finer natures, and begged them not to
contemn this young man, who by the nature of the great art, the noble
art of oratory, to which he had devoted much study and in which he had
had some successful practice, lived always in a state of exalted
sentiment and sensations. This young man was more likely than others
of his years to be overborne and carried away by emotions which would
not disturb the equanimity of another man. His nature was excitable,
and he had the ready, in this case the fatally ready, command of words
belonging to men who had trained themselves for public speaking.

Here the scene became so real to his mind that unknown to himself he
broke out into speech:

"Gentlemen, I know he, may not be excused wholly. I will not ask you
to say he is not to blame. I will not dare to say I think he behaved
as a considerate and thoughtful man. But, gentlemen, though you
cannot approve his conduct, you will not, oh, I pray you, do not take
away from him the reputation he holds dearer than life, the reputation
of being a sincere man and a gentleman. Amerce him in any penalty
you please short of denying him the reputation of being earnest and
high-minded and----" He paused. Tears for the spectacle of himself
were in his eyes. His voice was shaken by the intensity of his pity
for himself.

"John," said a soft voice behind him.

He turned quickly round. A tall, slender woman, with calm, clear face
and snow-white hair, was standing in the room.

"Mother! I did not hear you come in."

"I hope I did not break in disastrously. It is late. I wanted to see
you for a few minutes before I went to bed. I did not like to speak
until you stopped."

He had gone to her and put his arm round her waist and kissed her
smooth white hair above her smooth, pure forehead. "Mother," he said,
in a low, soft, musical and infinitely tender voice, "I am sorry I
kept you waiting for me. I was going to you in a moment, dear."

There was none of the art of the orator in these words, or in the
exquisitely tender flexions of the voice. But the heart of the man was
in the tones of his voice for his mother.

She looked at him in the dim light and saw his disordered collar and
tie, but put that down to excitement caused by his rehearsal.

He led her gently to a chair and took one in front of her by the side
of the dining-table. He took her thin, white hand in both his own and
looked into her calm, beautiful face, radiant with that tranquil light
of maternal love justified and fulfilled.

"You have something to tell me, mother? Something pleasant, I hope,
about yourself." He had never spoken in a voice of such unreckoning
love to Dora in all their meetings and partings. It was the broad,
rich, even sound of a river that is always flowing in one direction
and always full, not the tinkle of a capricious fountain or the
tempestuous rush of a torrent at the mercy of exhaustion or drought.

"I have, my son. It does not concern me, or if it does, but
indirectly. Indeed, I do not know. It has to do with you, dear." They,
like sweethearts, called one another "dear," because they were
inexpressibly dear to one another.

"With me, mother? And how?" John Hanbury was not a handsome man, but
when he smiled at his slender, grey-haired mother, and patted her
delicate white thin hands with his own large and brown, there was more
than physical beauty in his looks, there was a subjugating, an
intoxicating radiance, and all-completed prostration of his soul
before the mother he worshipped.

"I do not know exactly, John. Your father gave me in trust for you, as
you know, a paper, which I was not to give to you except at some great
crisis of your life. If no harm of any particular moment threatened
you until you were thirty, you were never to see this paper."

"I know," he said. "I was only seventeen then--not launched in the
world--and he thought I might, when I came of age, and got my two
thousand a-year, plunge into dissipation, and take to racing or
backing horses, or cards, or something of that kind. Well, mother, I
hope you are not uneasy about me on those scores? This paper is no
doubt one of extremely good advice from an excellent father to a young
son. I am sure I will read the paper with all the respect I owe to any
words he may have left for my guidance. You do not think, mother, I am
now likely to give way to any of those temptations?"

She shook her small head gravely.

"I do not fear you will give way to the ordinary temptations of youth,
John. I know you too well to dread anything of the kind. I don't think
the paper your father left me for you refers to the ordinary danger in
a young man's path."

"Then you must believe it has to do with unusual dangers, and you must
believe I am now threatened by some unusual dangers?" said he with a
start. He had been threatened by a very uncommon danger that day, the
danger of being made a laughing stock for the whole town, but such a
misfortune could never have been contemplated by his father. Compared
with the importance of a message from his dead father, how poor and
insignificant seemed his fears of the early part Of this day.

"I do not know. I am not sure. Something out of the common must be in
your case, my dear child." What a luxury of pride and delight to think
the tall, powerful, stalwart, clever man, was her child, had been a
little helpless baby lying in her lap, pressed close to her heart!
"When your father died you were in his opinion too young, I dare say,
to be taken into his confidence. He often told me he would leave a
paper for you, and that I was not to give it you until you were
between twenty one and thirty (if I lived), and that I was only to
give it to you in case you showed any very strong leaning towards
politics or a public life."

The son smiled, and threw himself back in his chair. He felt greatly
relieved. He knew his father had always shown a morbid horror of
politics, and had always tried to impress upon him the emptiness of
public honours and distinctions. Why, his father never said. The son
distinctly remembered how tremulously excited the old and ailing man
had been at every rumour of ambitious scheming abroad, particularly
how he garrulously condemned the ceaseless scheming for the throne of
France then perplexing the political world. He had often pointed out
to his young son the folly of the Legitimists and the Orleanists and
the Napoleons, until once John had said, "Why, sir, you are as
emphatic to me in this matter as if I myself were a pretender!" Upon
which his father had said, "Hush! Hush! my boy. You must not jest
about such matters. Idle, the idlest, pretensions of the kind have
often caused oceans of bloodshed." Upon which John had smiled in
secret to note how his father's cherished horror had carried him so
far as to caution him, John Hanbury, member of a simple English
household, against aspiring to the kingly or imperial throne of the
Tuileries!

"You do not think, mother," he said gaily, "that I am going to buy a
tame eagle, and hire a fishing boat and take France?"

She smiled sadly, remembering her husband's dread of lofty aspirants.
"No," she said, "I think, if your father were alive now, he would see
as little need of cautioning you against becoming a pretender to the
throne of France as of keeping out of dissipation. But he told me if
ever you showed signs of plunging into politics I was to give you the
paper. I left it in my room, thinking we might both sit there, not
fancying we should have our chat here. I shall give it to you as you
go to your room."

"And you have no clue to what the paper contains?" he asked
pleasantly.

"No," she answered with hesitancy and a thoughtful lowering of her
eyes. "You remember, at that time--I mean as a boy and lad--you were a
fierce Radical."

"Oh, more than that! I was a Republican, a Socialist, a Nihilist, I
think. A regular out-and-out Fire-eater, Iconoclast, Destructionist, I
think," the young man laughed, throwing himself back in his chair and
enjoying the memory of his youthful thoroughness.

"And your father took no part whatever in politics, seemed to dread
the mention of them. He was at heart, I think, an aristocrat."

"And married the daughter of Sir Ralph Preston, whose family goes back
centuries before the Plantagenets, and to whom a baronetcy is like a
mere Brummagem medal on the breast of a Pharoah."

Mrs. Hanbury shook her head deprecatingly and smiled. "I am afraid you
are as ardent in your estimate of my family pretensions to lineage as
you were long ago in your hatred of kings and princes."

"But I have always been true to you, mother!" he said in that
wonderful, irresistible, meltingly affectionate voice; he took her
hand and kissed it reverentially.

"Yes, my son. Always." As his head was bent over her hand she laid her
hand on his thick dark curly hair.

"My mother," he murmured, when he felt her touch.

Her eyes filled and shone with tears. She made an effort, commanded
herself, and as her son sat back on his chair, went on: "You know when
your father went into business there was no necessity of a money kind
for his doing so. The Hanburys have had plenty of money always, never
lands, as far as I know, but money always. They were not a very old
family as far as I have heard. This was a point on which your father
was reticent. At all events he went into business in the City, as you
are aware, and there made a second fortune."

"Well, mother, I am not at all ashamed of our connection with business
or the City," said the young man pleasantly.

"Nor am I, John, as you know. When I married your father, none of my
people said, at all events to me, that I disgraced my family or
degraded my blood. Your father was in business in Fenchurch Street
then. My family had known your father all his life. Our marriage was
one purely of inclination, and was most happy. Your father was a
simple, intelligent, kind-hearted gentleman, John, and as good a
husband and father as ever breathed."

"Indeed, mother, I am quite sure of that. I still feel raw and cold
without him," said the young man gravely.

"And I shall never get over his loss. I never forget it for one hour
of any day. But I am growing talkative in my age like all old people,"
she said, drawing herself up and laughing faintly. "I am sure I have
no reason for saying it, but I fancy the paper your father left with
me for you, is in some way connected with the business, or the reason
which made him go into business. He gave it to me a few days before he
died, and when he knew he was dying. He gave it to me after saying a
great deal to me about business, after arranging his other business
affairs. He said he did not like you to take so much interest in
politics, but that he supposed he must not try to foretell your
future. That there was such a thing as going too far in any cause, and
that if ever you showed any disposition to put your extreme views in
practice, I was to give you this paper. 'In fact, Amy,' said he, 'if
our dear boy goes into public life at the popular side, give him this
paper; it may be the means of moderating his ardour; but do not give
it to him until he is over twenty-one. He will have, I think, no need
of it if he keeps quiet until he is thirty. If his mind takes the
other bend and he shows any sympathy with any reactionary party in
Europe, any party that wants to unsettle things as they now are,
destroy this on your peril. If you think he is devoted only to English
Radicalism, give him the paper; if he mixes himself up with any
Republican party on the Continent, give him the paper. But if he shows
sympathy with any pretender on the Continent, _burn the paper, Amy, as
you love your boy, and bury the ashes of it too_.' Those were his very
words. What they mean or refer to I do not know." Her face had grown
paler.

"And you never read the paper?"

"No. Nor have I the least clue to its contents. I only know that your
father was a sensible man, and attached great importance to it. If you
come I will give it to you now."

They both rose and left the dining-room together. As they went
up-stairs she said:

"I am aware for some time you have not been quite certain as to the
side you would throw in your lot with. I don't think your father ever
contemplated such a situation, and it seems to me that if this paper
is to be of any use to you it must be of most use when you are
wavering."

"But I am no longer wavering. I have decided to throw in my lot with
the advanced party."

"When did you make up your mind?"

"To-day."

"Oh, you dined at Curzon Street. And have you arranged about your
marriage with dear Dora? No new daughter was ever so welcome as she
will be to me. Has the time been fixed?"

He started. "No, not exactly, mother." He had forgotten for the past
quarter of an hour all about the quarrel or scene with Dora. He
flushed crimson, and then grew dusky white. He seized the balustrade
for a moment to steady himself. His mother was walking in front, and
could not see the signs of his agitation.

He recovered himself instantly.

She judged by his tone that her question had not been well timed. With
the intention of getting away as far as possible from the thought of
Dora, or marriage, she said, turning round upon him with a smile as
she opened her boudoir door, "By the way, who was that admirable
paragon whose panegyric you were pronouncing in the dining-room when I
came in?"

He laughed uneasily and did not meet her eyes. "An acquaintance of
mine, a poor devil who has got himself into serious trouble."

"A friend of yours, John, in serious trouble."

"Not a friend, mother, an acquaintance of mine."

"Do I know him, John?"

"No, mother. Not in the least. I should be very sorry you did. I hope
you may never know him."

For the second time in a minute Mrs. Hanbury felt that she had asked
an ill-timed question.

She handed him the paper of which she had spoken. He said good-night
to her, and as the clock on the lower lobby was striking midnight he
entered his own room.



                             CHAPTER XX.

                         JOHN HANBURY ALONE.


When John Hanbury closed and locked the door of his own room and threw
himself into an old easy chair, he felt first an overwhelming sense of
relief. A day of many exciting and unpleasant events was over, and he
was encompassed by the security of his home and environed closely by
the privacy of his own sleeping chamber. No one uninvited would enter
by the outer door of the house; no one could enter this room without
his absolute permission. He was secure against the annoyance or
intrusion of people. Here he could rest and be safe. Here he was
protected against even himself, for he could not make himself
ridiculous or commit himself when alone. All trials of great agony
spring from what we conceive to be our relations with others. Beyond
physical pains and pleasures, which are few and unimportant in life,
we owe all our joys and sorrows to what others think or say of us.
Even in the most abstracted spiritual natures the anger of Heaven is
more intolerable to anticipate than the torture of Hell.

John Hanbury's room was in the back of the house. Here, as in the
dining-room, the window was wide open. The stars were dull in the
misty midsummer sky. Now and then came the muffled rattle of a distant
cab, now and then the banging of doors, now and then the sounds of
shooting locks and bolts as servants fastened up the rears of houses
for the night. Beyond these sounds there was none, and these came so
seldom and so dulled by distance, and with intervals so increasing in
length that they seemed like the drowsy muttering of the vast city as
it moved heavily seeking ease and sleep.

For a while Hanbury sat without stirring. He still held in his hand
the paper his mother had given him. He knew he had not escaped the
battle. He was merely reposing between the fights. He sat with his
head drooped low upon his chest, his arms lying listlessly by his
side, his legs stretched out. This was the first rest of body or mind
he had had that day, but, as in a sleep obtained from narcotics, while
it gave him physical relief his mind was gaining no freshness.

At length Hanbury shook himself, shuddered, and rose. The light was
not fully up. He left his window open from the bottom all night. He
went to it, pulled up the blind and sat down on the low window-frame.
He put his hand on the stone window sill, and leaning forward looked
below.

Here the silence was not so deep or monotonous as in the room with the
blind down. There arose sounds, faint sounds of music from the backs
of houses where entertainments were being given, now and then voices
and laughter could be heard indistinctly. In many of the windows shone
lights. No suggestion of tumult or trouble came from any side or from
the sky above. On earth spread a peaceful heaven of man's making and
man's keeping; above a peaceful heaven of God's will.

Here was the largest, and richest, and most powerful, and most
civilized city of all time, lying round the feet of a stupendous
goddess of liberty, whose statue had been reared by wisdom borrowed
from all the ages of the history of man. This was the heart of the
colossal nation whose vital blood flowed in every clime.

Here were powers capable of beneficent application lying ready to the
hand of every strength. To be here and able was to have the key-board
of the most gigantic organ ever devised by human mind open to one's
touch.

Here all creeds were free, all thoughts were free, all words were
free, all men were free. There was no slavery of the soul or the
person. Here, the leader of the people was the ruler of the state. The
people made the laws, and the King saw that the laws were obeyed.

Each man of the people was a monarch who deputed his regal powers to
the King.

An hereditary sovereign was the best, better a thousand times than
elected King.

In this country were no plots and schemings about succession. Here the
King's son came to the throne under the will of the people. This
country was never disturbed by struggles to get a good ruler. This
country always had a good ruler, that is the will of the people.

What a miserable spectacle France, great France, chivalric France
presented now! How many pretenders were there to the throne?--to the
presidential chair? There were the Legitimists, and the Orleanists,
and the Napoleons, two branches of Napoleons, and a dozen aspirants to
the presidency! How miserable! What waste of vigour and dignity.

Yes, he was glad he had made up his mind. He would devote himself,
body and soul, to the sovereign people under the constitutional
sovereign.

He would be as advanced as any man short of revolution, short of
violence. His motto should be All things for the people under the
people's King.

No doubt his mother's talk to him in the dining-room had set him off
on such currents of thought. His mother's talk in the dining-room--by
the way, he had not yet looked at the paper she had given him.

He pulled down the blind, turned up the lights over the mantel, and
standing with his back to the chimney-piece, examined the packet in
his hand.

It was a large envelope, tied in a very elaborate manner, and the
string was sealed in three places at the back. On the front, under the
string, he read his own name in his father's well-known large legible
writing. He cut the string and the envelope, and drew out of the
latter a long narrow parcel. This he opened, and found to consist of
half-a-dozen sheets of brief-paper closely covered on both sides with
the large legible writing of his father. The paper was secured at the
left hand corner by a loop of red tape. He saw at a glance that the
document took the form of a letter to him. It began, "My dear and only
son, John," and finished with "Your most affectionate and anxious
father, William Hanbury." The young man turned over the sheets slowly,
glancing at each in turn. This long letter was not, from first to
finish, broken in any way. There were no general heading, or divisions
into sections, or even paragraphs. From beginning to end no break
appeared. The wide margin bore not a single scratch. There was no mark
from the address to the signature to attract attention.

He glanced at the opening words of this long letter. From them it was
plain his father meant him to read them quietly and deliberately in
the sequence in which they ran. The first sentence was this:


"It is of the greatest importance to the object I have in view that
the facts I am about to disclose to you should reach your mind in the
order I have here put them; otherwise the main fact in the revelation
might have a pernicious effect upon you, my son."


The young man lowered the manuscript and mused a moment. It was
obvious to him that no matter what he should think of the contents of
this document his father had considered them of first-rate importance,
and likely to influence his own mind and actions in no ordinary way.
His father's sense and judgment! had never been called in question by
any of his father's oldest and closest friends, and those who knew him
most intimately never saw reason to account him liable to exaggerated
estimates of the influence of ideas, except in his morbid
sensitiveness to anything like popular revolutions or dynastic
intrigues.

John Hanbury raised the document and recommenced where he had left
off. That first sentence was cautionary: the second sentence took away
the breath of the young man, by reason of the large field it opened to
view, and the strange and intense personal interest it at once
aroused. It ran thus:


"About the middle of the last century, when George the Second sat on
the throne of England, and the usurper, Elizabeth, daughter of Peter
the Great, on the throne of Russia, Sir Charles Hanbury Williams was
appointed our ambassador to Russia. To Sir Charles Hanbury Williams
you and I owe our name, although a drop of his blood does not flow in
our veins, nor are we in any way that I know of related to him or
his."


Again the young man lowered the manuscript from before his eyes. His
face suddenly flushed, his eyes contracted, he thrust his head forward
as though listening intently. What could be coming? He strained his
hearing to catch sounds and voices muttering and mumbling on the
limits of his thoughts. He was at sea, gazing with wild eagerness into
the haze ahead, trying to determine whether what he saw was sea-smoke
or cloud or land. Why these great chords in the prelude? What meant
these muffled trumpets, telling of ambassadors and courts and kingdoms
and empires? What concords were these preluding? What stately themes
and regal confluences of harmony? Were these words the first taps of
the kettle drums in his march upon some soul-expanding knowledge? What
should he now see with his eyes and hear with his ears and touch with
his hands? Upon what marvellous scenes of the undisclosed past was the
curtain about to rise? Were some mighty engines that had wrought in
the world's history about to be exhibited to his eyes? What mysteries
of councils and of courts was he destined to witness and understand?
Who was he? Of whom was he? Whence was he? Hanbury and yet no Hanbury.
How came it he owned the middle and not the final name of the
diplomatist and poet of the days of George the Second?

God of Heaven, could it be there was the blood of a shameful woman in
his veins?

His face suddenly blanched. The thick dark veins of his temples and
forehead lay down flat and then sank hollow. His swarthy rough skin
shrank and puckered. His lips drew backward thinned and livid. His
clenched white teeth shone out, and his breath came though them with a
hissing noise. He drew himself up to his full height, and for a moment
looked round defiantly.

All at once the blood flew back to his cheeks, his forehead, his neck.
He covered his face with his bent arm and sank into a chair, crying:
"Not that! Oh God, not that! Anything but that!"

He remained for a long time motionless, with his face covered by his
arm, and the hand of that arm holding the paper against his shoulder.
At first no thoughts passed through his mind. He was no longer trying
to see or hear or divine. He felt overwhelmed, and if he had the power
to do it he would there and then have ceased to think, have
annihilated the power of thought for ever. To his sensitive and
highly-wrought mind, base blood of even four or five generations back
would have forbidden him any part in public life, and, worse than that
a thousand times, have destroyed his personal interest and pride in
himself for ever.

"I would rather," he moaned, when his mind became more orderly, "carry
the hump upon the withered, distorted legs of that man, Oscar Leigh,
than a bend sinister. A noble woman may fall, but no noble woman who
has fallen would take money for her sin. It is not the sin that would
hurt me, but the hire of the sin, the notion that I had the blood of
shame in my veins, and the price of shame in my pocket. Bah! I would
die of fever if it were so. My blood, the blood in my veins would
ferment and stew my flesh. I should rot from within."

He dropped his arm and looked around him. The sight of the familiar
room and well-known objects allayed the agony of despair. He drew a
deep breath and sat up.

"I have been terrifying myself with shadows, with less than shadows,
with absolute blanks; nay, I have been terrifying myself with less
than nothing! I have been trying to change the absolute and manifest,
and vouched sunlight into gloom and the people of gloom, phantoms. The
only evidence before me is evidence against my fears. Instead of an
intangible horror, there is an affirmed and ponderable assurance that
although my name is Hanbury, and I got that name from Sir Hanbury
Williams, not a drop of his blood is in my veins! Why, I am more like
a girl with her first love-letter, trying to guess its contents from
the outside, than a man with a business document in his hand! Let me
read this thing through now as I discussed another matter awhile ago,
as if it were a brief put into my hands as a counsel. It is exactly,
or almost exactly like a brief." He tossed the sheets carelessly in
his hand. "Let us see what the case is."

He sat himself back deliberately in his chair, thrust out his legs
before him, and holding the manuscript in both hands began it again.

With contracted brows and face of stern attention he read on. He
betrayed no more excitement than if he held in his hand a bluebook
which he desired to master for some routine speech. Now and then he
cleared his throat softly, imperfectly, indifferent to the result; for
all other sound he made he might have been fashioned of marble. Now
and then he turned the leaves and moved slightly from side to side;
for all other motion he made he might have been dead.

At last he came to the final line, to his father's signature. He read
all and then allowing the manuscript to fall from his hands and his
arms to drop to his side, sat in the chair motionless, staring into
vacancy.

For an hour he remained thus. Beyond the heaving of his chest and his
calm regular respiration, he was perfectly still. At length he sighed
profoundly, not from sadness, but deep musing, shook himself,
shuddered, looked round him as though he had just waked from sleeping
in a strange place.

He rose slowly and going to the window drew up the blind.

No lights were now to be seen in the rear of any of the houses, and
complete silence filled the windless air.

"How peaceful," he whispered, "how calm. All the loyal subjects of Her
Majesty Queen Victoria are now sleeping in calm security. What a
contrast! Here the person of the subject is as sacred as the person
of the sovereign. Good heavens, what a contrast! Gracedieu in
Derbyshire. I seem to have heard of that place before, but I cannot
recollect, when or where. Gracedieu must be a very small place,
for my father says it is near the village of Castleton. I don't know
where Castleton is, beyond the fact that it is in Derbyshire.
Gracedieu--Gracedieu--Gracedieu. The name seems familiar enough, but
joined with what or whom I cannot think. It is a common name. There
must be many places of the name in England. My memory of it must be
connected with some circumstance or people, for I am sure I have never
been in the place myself or in Castleton either; or in Derbyshire at
all, for the matter of that, except passing through. I don't think I
can be familiar with the name in connection with the Peak. My only
knowledge of the Peak and its neighbourhood is from some written
description, and my only memory of the name Gracedieu is one of the
ear, not of the eye.

"I am sure my memory of it is of the ear, and that it is a pleasant
memory too! but I can get no further now. To-morrow I shall go and see
the place for myself. This whole history is astounding. I am too much
stunned by it to think about it yet.

"There's two o'clock striking. I must not wake my mother to tell her.
I feel as if my reason were a little disturbed. I feel choked and
smothered up--as if I could not breathe. I am worn out and weak. The
day has been too much for me. I will go to bed. I am sure I shall
sleep. I am half asleep as it is."

He drew back from the window and stretched up his hand for the cord.

"The Queen of England sleeps secure, with all her subjects secure
around her--and I----" He did not finish the sentence. He shook his
head and pulled down the blind.

Suddenly he struck his thigh with his clenched fist, calling out in a
whisper: "Of course, I now remember where I heard of Gracedieu. What a
stupid fool I have been not to recall it at once! It's the place that
beautiful girl the dwarf introduced me to comes from! My head must be
dull not to remember that! His Pallas-Athena, and I----"

He turned out the lights, and began undressing in the dim twilight;
there were already faint blue premonitions of dawn upon the blind.

"I wonder," he muttered in the twilight, "will his figures of time
include Cophetua and the Beggar Maid! Ha--ha--ha. I am half asleep.

"That old story I read this night was not unlike Cophetua and the
Beggar Maid, only--I must not think of it now, I am too dazed and
stunned and stupid."

He was in bed, and in a few minutes was asleep. On a sudden he woke up
at the sound of his own voice, crying out loud in the profound peace
of the early dawn:--

"Thieves! Thieves! Kosciusko to the rescue. The king is on your side!"

He found himself standing up in the bed gesticulating wildly. The
sweat was pouring down from his forehead and he was trembling
violently in all his limbs.

He stood listening awhile to ascertain if his shout had wakened the
household, but unbroken silence followed his cry. Then he lay down and
soon fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.



                             CHAPTER XXI.

                  TIMMONS'S TEA AND LEIGH'S DINNER.


Mr. John Timmons's tea was a very long and unsociable meal. It took
hours, and not even the half-dozen red-herrings brought to him by Mrs.
Stamer in the fish-basket were allowed to assist at it. They lay in
dense obscurity on the floor of the marine-store. Tunbridge Street was
now as silent as the grave.

It was after eleven o'clock and John Timmons had not yet emerged from
his cellar. All the while he had been below a strong pungent smell of
burning, the dry sulphurous smell of burning coke, had ascended from
below, with now and then noise of a hand-bellows blowing a fire, but no
steam or sound or savour of cooking. Now and again there was the noise
of stirring a fire, and now and again the noise of a tongs gripping
and loosing and slipping on what a listener might, in conjunction with
other evidence, take to be pieces of coke. From time to time the man
below might be heard to breathe heavily and sigh. Otherwise he uttered
no sound. If the subterranean stoker desired secrecy he had his wish,
for there was no one in or near the place listening.

But if no one was listening to the stoker some one was watching
the exterior of the marine-store in Tunbridge Street. A short time
before eleven o'clock a man dressed in seedy black cloth, with short
iron-grey, whiskers and beard, and long iron-grey hair and wearing
blue spectacles, turned into the street, and sat down in a crouching
position on the axle-tree of a cart, whose shafts, like a pair of
slender telescopes, pointed to the dim summer stars, or taken together
the cart and man looked like a huge flying beetle, the body of the
cart being the wings, the wheels the high elbowed legs, the man the
body of the insect and the two long shafts the antennae thrust upwards
in alarm.

When it was about a quarter past eleven John Timmons emerged from the
cellar, carrying in one hand a dark lantern, with the slide closed.
When he found himself in his upper, or ground-floor chamber, or shop,
or store, he drew himself to his full height, and, with head advanced
sideways, listened awhile.

There was no sound. He nodded his head with satisfaction. Then he went
cautiously to the wicket, and with a trowel began digging up the earth
of the floor, which was here dark and friable and dry. It was, old
sand from a foundry, and could be moved and replaced without showing
the least trace of disturbance. Timmons did not use the lamp. He had
placed it beside him on the ground with the slide closed.

After digging down about a foot he came upon a small, old,
courier-bag, which he lifted out, and which contained something heavy.
The bag had been all rubbed over with grease and to the grease the
dark sand stuck thickly. Out of this bag he took a small, heavy,
cylindrical bundle of chamois leather. Then he restored the bag to the
hole, shovelled back the sand and smoothed the floor, rose and stood a
minute hearkening, with the cylinder of chamois rolled-up leather in
his hand.

This hiding-place had been selected and contrived with great
acuteness. It was so close to the foot of the shutters that no one
looking in through the ventilators at any angle could catch sight of
it. The presence of the moulder's sand at the threshold was explained
by the fact that no other substance was so good for canting heavy
metal objects upon. Superficial disturbances were to be expected in
such a floor, and it was impossible to tell superficial disturbances
from deep ones. Once the sand was re-levelled with a broom-handle,
used as a striker is used in measuring corn, it was impossible to
guess whether any disturbance had recently taken place. In concealing
and recovering anything here the operator's ear was within two inches
of the street, and he could hear the faintest sound outside. The
threshold was not a likely place to challenge examination in case of
search.

Timmons now walked softly over his noiseless floor, carrying his
lantern in one hand and the roll of leather in the other, until he got
behind the old boiler of the donkey engine. Here he slid back the
slide of the lantern and unrolled the leather. The latter proved to be
a belt about a palm deep, and consisting of little bags or pockets of
chamois leather, clumsily but securely sewn to a band of double
chamois.

There were a dozen of those little pockets in all; six of them
contained some heavy substance. Each one closed with a piece of string
tied at the mouth. Timmons undid one and rolled out on his hand a
thick lump of yellow metal about the size of the large buttons worn as
ornaments on the coats of coachmen. It was not, however, flat, but
slightly convex at one side and almost semi-spherical on the other.

He smiled a well-satisfied smile at the gold ingot, and weighed it
affectionately in his black, grimy palm, where the gold shone like a
yellow unchanging flame. Timmons gave the ingot a loving polish with
his sleeve, dropped it back into its bag, and re-tied the string. Then
out of each of his trousers' pockets he took a similar ingot or
button, weighed each, and looked at each with affectionate approval,
and secured each in one of the half-dozen vacant leather bags.

"Two pounds two ounces all together," he whispered. "I have never been
able to get more than fifteen shillings an ounce for it, taking it all
round at fifteen carats. His offer is as good as thirty shillings an
ounce, which leaves a margin for a man to get a living out of it, if
the dwarf is safe. If I had had only one deal with him, I'd feel he's
safe, but he has done nothing but talk grand and nonsense up to this,
and----" Timmons paused and shook his head ominously. He did not
finish the sentence, but as he stood weighing the belt up and down in
his hand, assumed suddenly a more pleasant look, and whispered with a
smile exhibiting his long yellow teeth: "But after this deal to-night
he can't draw back or betray me. That's certain, anyhow."

He unbuttoned his waistcoat, strapped the belt round his lank, hollow
waist, blew out the lantern, and walking briskly, crossed the store,
opened the wicket and stepped into the deserted street. He closed and
locked the door behind him, and turning to his left walked rapidly
among the carts and vans to London Road.

Before he disappeared, the elderly man with grizzled hair and
whiskers, dressed in seedy black cloth, emerged from the shadow
of the cart and kept stealthily and noiselessly in the rear of the
marine-store dealer. John Timmons was on his way to keep his important
business appointment with Leigh in Chetwynd Street, Chelsea, and the
low-sized man with blue spectacles was following, shadowing Timmons.

When Leigh left Curzon Street that evening, he made his way into
Piccadilly first, and thence westward in a leisurely way, with his
head held high and a look of arrogant impudence and exultation on his
face. He turned to the left down Grosvenor Place. He was bound to
Chetwynd Street, but he was in no humour for short cuts or dingy
streets.

He was elated. He walked with his head among the stars. All the men he
met were mud and dross compared with him. Whatever difficulty he set
himself before melted into nothingness at his glance. If it had suited
him to set his purpose to do what other men counted impossible, that
thing should be done by him. No political party he led should ever be
out-voted, no army he commanded defeated, no cause he advocated
extinguished. These creatures around him were made of clay, he of pure
spirit, that saw clearly where the eyes of mere men were filled with
dust and rheum.

This clock upon which he was engaged would be the eighth wonder of the
world when completed. He had not yet done all the things he spoke of,
had not yet introduced all the movements and marvels he had described
to the groundlings. But the clock was not finished. Why it was not
well begun. By and by he would set about those figures of time. They
would require a new and vastly complicated movement and great
additional power, but to a man of genius what was all this but a
bagatelle, a paltry thing he could devise in an hour and execute by
and by?

Already the clock was enormously complicated, and although it seemed
simple enough, as simple as playing cats-cradle when he was near it,
when he could see the cause and application of all its parts and
instantly put any defect to rights, still when he was away from it for
a long time, part of it seemed to stop and sometimes the whole of it,
and--this was distracting, maddening--the power seemed to originate at
the escapements, and the whole machine would work backward against his
will until the enormous weights in the chimney, out of which he got
his power, were wound up tight against the beams, until the chains
seemed bursting and the beams tearing and the wheels splitting and
dashing asunder. And all the while the escapements went flying in
reverse so fast as to dazzle him and make him giddy, and then, when
all seemed lost and the end at hand, some merciful change would occur
and the accursed reversed movement would die away and cease, and after
a pause of unspeakable joy the machine would start in its natural and
blessed way again and he would cry out and weep for happiness at the
merciful deliverance.

Hah! He felt in thinking of these sufferings about the clock as though
the movement were going to be reversed now.

Leigh paused for a moment, and looked around him to bring himself back
to the actual world.

"Hah!" he whispered. "I know why I feel so queer. It's the want of
food. I have had no food to-day--for the body any way--except what she
gave me. What food she gave me for the soul! My soul was never full
fed until to-day."

He resumed his course, and, without formulating his destination,
directed his steps instinctively towards the restaurant where he
usually dined.

"But this alchemy?" his thoughts went on, "this miracle gold? What of
it?" He dropped his chin upon his chest and lapsed into deep thought.
The boastful and confident air vanished from his eyes and manner. He
was deep sunk in careful and elaborate thought.

The position looks simple if regarded in one way. Here this man
Timmons calls on him and says:--

I am a marine store dealer, and all kinds of old metal come into my
hands. I buy articles of iron and copper and lead and brass and tin
and zinc. I buy old battered silver electro-plate and melt it down for
the silver. Silver is not worth the attention of a great chemist like
you. But sometimes I come across gold. It may reach my hands in one
way or several ways. It may turn up in something I am melting. It may
be gilding on old iron I buy. You are not to know all the secrets of
my trade as a marine store dealer, which is a highly respectable if
not an exalted trade. Now gold, no matter how or where it may be, is
worth any man's consideration. The gold that comes my way is never
pure. It averages half or little more than half alloy. You are a great
chemist. I cannot afford time to separate the gold from the alloy. I
cannot spare time to go about and sell it. Every man to his trade; I
am a marine-store dealer, you are a great chemist. What will you give
me for ingots fifteen carats fine?

The value of gold of fifteen carats to sell is two pounds thirteen
shillings and a penny. Gold is the only thing that never changes its
price. Any one who wants pure gold must give four pounds four
shillings and eleven pence halfpenny for it. Fifteen twenty-fourths!
The value of fifteen twenty-fourths of that sum is two pounds thirteen
and a penny. The alloy counts as dross and fetches nothing----

"Hah! Yes," thought Leigh interrupting his retrospect with a start as
he found himself at the door of the restaurant where he proposed
dining, "I must have food for the body. Food for the soul, if taken
too largely or alone, kills the body, no matter how strong and shapely
and lithe it may be. I shall think this matter out when I have eaten.
I shall think it out over a cigar and coffee."

He ordered a simple meal and ate it slowly, taking great comfort and
refreshment out of the rest and meat. He had a little box all to
himself. He was in no humour for company, and it was long past the
dinner time in this place, so that the room was comparatively
deserted.

When he had finished eating he ordered coffee and a cigar, and putting
his legs up on the seat, rested his elbow on the table, lit his cigar
and resumed his cogitations in a more vigorous and vocal manner, using
words in his mind now instead of pictures.

"Let me see. Where was I? Oh, I recollect. Timmons can't spare time
for chemistry or metallurgy and doesn't care to deal with so valuable
a metal as gold, even if he had the time. I understand all about
metals and chemistry and so on. I entertain the suggestion placed
before me and turn it round in my mind to see what I can make of it. I
get hold of a superb idea.

"Of course, after extracting the metal from the alloy, when I had the
virgin gold in my hand I should have to find a market for it, to sell
it. The time has not yet come for absolutely forming my figures of
time in metal. Wax will do even after I begin the mere drudgery of the
modelling.

"Well, if I were to offer considerable quantities of gold for sale in
the ordinary way, I should have to mention all about John Timmons, and
that would be troublesome and derogatory to my dignity, for then it
would seem as though I were doing no more than performing cupelling
work for this man Timmons.

"The whole volume of science is open to me. I am a profound chemist. I
am theoretically and practically acquainted with the whole science
from the earliest records of alchemy down to to-day. I agree with
Lockyer, that according to the solar spectrum some of the substances
we call elements have been decomposed in the enormous furnaces of the
sun. I hold instead of their being seventy elements there is but one,
in countless modifications, owing to countless contingencies. What we
call different elements are only different arrangements of one
individual element, the one element of nature, the irreducible unit of
the creation, the primal atom. This is a well-known theory, but no one
has proved it yet.

"I stand forth to prove it, and how better can I prove it than by
realizing the dream of the old transmuters of metals. Alikser is not a
substance. The philosopher's stone is not a thing you can carry in
your pocket. It is no more than a re-arrangement of primal atoms. What
we call gold is, let us say, nothing more than crystallized
electricity, and I have found the secret of so bringing the atoms of
electricity together that they fall into crystals of pure gold. Up to
this the heat of the strongest furnaces have not been able to
volatilize one grain of metallic gold: all you have to do to make
metallic gold is to solidify it out of its vapourous condition, say
electricity or hydrogen, what you please.

"How this is done is my great discovery, my inviolate secret. The
process of manufacture is extremely expensive, I cannot share the
secret with anyone, lest I should lose all the advantage and profit of
my discovery, for no patent that all the government of earth could
make with brass and steel would keep people from making gold if they
could read how it may be done.

"Pure gold is value for a halfpenny less than four pounds five
shillings an ounce Troy. I will sell you pure gold, none of your
childish mystery gold with its copper, and silver, and platinum
clumsiness that will not stand the fire, but pure gold that will defy
any test wet or dry, or cupel, for four pounds the ounce. Come, will
you buy my Miracle Gold at four pounds the ounce Troy?"

Leigh struck the table triumphantly with his hand, and uttered the
question aloud. His excitement had carried him away from the table,
and the restaurant. He was nowhere he could name. He was in the clouds
challenging no one he could name to refuse so good an offer. He was
simply in the lists of immortality, throwing down the gage to
universal man.

No one was present to accept or decline his offer. No one caught the
words he uttered. But the sound of the blow of his fist upon the table
brought a waiter to the end of the box. Leigh ordered more coffee and
another cigar. When they had been brought and he was once more alone,
his mind ran on:--

"That is one view of it, that is the view I should offer to my
customers and to the world of my position. But what kept me so from
closing with this Timmons was the consideration that everyone who
heard my version of the matter might not accept it.

"The clock is out-growing me, and often I feel giddy and in a maze
with it. A clock cannot fill all my life and satisfy all a man's
heart. At the time I began it years ago I fancied it would suffice. I
fancied it would keep my heart from preying on itself. But now the
mechanism is often too much for me when it is not before my eyes. It
wears, and wears, and wears the mind, as it wears, and wears, and
wears itself.

"When this man Timmons came to me first, I thought of putting the
clock to a use I never contemplated when I started making it. Since I
began to think of making the clock of use in my dealings with this
Miracle Gold, I have seen her; I have seen this Edith Grace, who
staggered me in my pursuit of Miracle Gold and filled my veins with
fire I never knew before. What fools we men are! And I who have not
the proportions of a man, what a fool ten thousand times multiplied!
She shrank from me as though I were a leper, I who am only a monster!
I would give all the gold that ever blazed before the eye-balls of men
to have a man's fair inches and straight back! I! I! I! What am I that
I should have feelings? Why, I am worse than the vilest lepers that
rotted without the city gate. _They_, even _they_, had had their days
of wholesomeness and strength before the plague fell upon them. I was
predestined from birth to stand in odious and grotesque blackness
against the sun, to seem in the eyes of all women a goblin spewed out
of the maw of hell!"

He paused. The clock struck. He sprang to his feet.

"Ten!" he said aloud. He said to himself: "Ten o'clock, and I have a
good deal to do before Timmons comes at midnight."

Suddenly he paused on his way to the door of the restaurant, and stood
in deep thought. Then he resumed his way to the door and when he got
out into the street, said half aloud:

"Strange that I should have forgotten all about that. Have I much to
do before midnight? I told her--the other, the more wonderful and more
beautiful one of the same mould, the one with the heart, the lady of
the two--that I should decide about the gold between the time I was
speaking to her and the same time next week. She did not shrink from
me as if I were a leper, this second one of the two. Stop, I have no
time to think this matter out now. I have a week. I will take all
steps as though I had not seen her in that room. What a pitiful, mean
cad that Hanbury is! Why, he's lower than a leper! He's more
contemptible than even I!"

He cleared his mind of all doubts and concentrated it upon what he had
to do before meeting John Timmons. He hurried along and in a few
minutes let himself into his house with his latch-key.

There was no voice or even light to greet him in his home. As he
ascended the stairs he thought: "If tombs were only as roomy as this
house I shouldn't mind being done with daylight and the world, and
covered up. Now, I'd give all I own in this world to have a
comfortable mind like Williams, my friend the publican, over the way.
Ha-ha-ha!" His hideous laugh, now shrill like the squeal of grating
metal, now soft and flabby and gelatinous like the flapping of a wet
cloth, echoed in the impenetrable darkness around him.

"If Hanbury were only here now and had a knife--in ten minutes I'd
know more than any living man. Ha-ha-ha!"



                            CHAPTER XXII.

                        A QUARTER PAST TWELVE.


Oscar Leigh sat in the dark on the last step but one of the stairs of
his house, awaiting the arrival of John Timmons. It was close to the
appointed hour. He had spent the interval in his workshop with the
clock. He had one of his knees drawn up close to his body, his elbow
rested on his knee, his long bearded chin in the palm of that hand. It
was pitch dark. Nothing could be seen, absolutely nothing. For all the
human eye could learn an inch from it might be a plate of iron or
blind space.

"My mother cannot live for ever," whispered the dwarf--like many
people who live much in the solitude of cities he had the habit of
communing with himself aloud--"and then all will be blank, all will be
dark as this place round me. Where shall I turn then? Whom shall I
speak my heart to? I designed my clock to be a companion, a friend, a
confidant, a solace, a triumph; it is becoming a tyrant and a scourge.
It is cruel that my mother should grow old. Why should not things stop
as they are now? But we are all on our way to death. We are all on our
way out of the world to make room for those who are coming in. No
sooner do we grow to full years and strive to form our hearts than we
discover we are only lodgers in this world and that those we like are
leaving our neighbourhood very soon, and that while we cannot go with
them we cannot remain either.

"A man must have something to think of besides himself; a deformed
dwarf must never think of himself at all, unless he thinks great
things of himself. I am depressed to-night. I have been living too
fast all day. What a long day it has been. I told that young whelp,
Hanbury, I should show him something more wonderful than Miracle Gold.
I took him with me to Grimsby Street, and the marvellous likeness
between those two girls took the sight out of his eyes and the speech
out of his mouth, and the little brains he has out of his head. Then I
go with him to see _her_ who is the other, only with glory added to
beauty. She is better and more wonderful than Miracle Gold, better and
more wonderful than the substance of the ruby flash in the flame of
the diamond. If the devil had but let me grow up as other men, she
might have made me try to carry myself and act like a god. I am of
Satan's crew now--it would hardly pay to apostatize. Here's Timmons."

The knock agreed upon sounded on the door and reverberated through the
hollow darkness. Leigh rose, and sliding his left foot and supporting
his body on the stick, held close in under his ribs, went to the door
and opened it.

"Twelve to the minute," said Timmons, holding up his hand and waving
it in the direction whence came the sound of a church clock striking
midnight.

"Let us go for a walk," said Leigh, turning west, away from Welbeck
Place and the Hanover, and shutting the door behind him.

"But I have the stuff with me," said Timmons, in a tone of annoyance
and protest.

"Let us go for a walk, I say," cried Leigh imperiously, striking his
thick twisted stick fiercely on the flags as he spoke.

The two men turned to the left, and went on a few paces in silence.
Timmons was sulky. A nice thing surely for a creature to ask a man to
call on business at his private residence with valuable property at
midnight and then slam the door in his face and coolly ask him to go
out for a walk! It was a downright insult, but a man couldn't resent
an insult from such a creature. That was the worst of it.

"I have been in telegraphic communication with Birmingham since I saw
you," said Leigh, stopping under a lamp-post, pouring out a few drops
of eau-de-cologne into his palm and inhaling the spirit noisily.

"Oh?" said Timmons interrogatively, as he looked contemptuously at the
dwarf.

"Hah! That's very refreshing. Most refreshing. May I offer you a
little eau-de-cologne, Mr. Timmons?" said the little man with
elaborate suavity.

"No, thanks," said Timmons gruffly. "I don't like it." Timmons's
private opinion was that a man who used perfume of any kind must be an
effeminate fool. It was not pleasant to think this man, with whom he
was about to have very important business transactions, should be an
effeminate fool. Perhaps it indicated that he was only a new kind of
villain; that would be much better.

"Hah!" said Leigh, as they re-commenced their walk, "I am sorry for
that, for it is refreshing, most refreshing. I was saying that since I
had the pleasure of visiting your emporium--I suppose it is an
emporium, Mr. Timmons?" he asked, with a pleasant smile.

"It may be, or it may be an alligator, or a bird-show, or anything
else you like to call it," said Timmons in exasperation. "But you were
saying you had a message from Birmingham since I saw you."

"I had not only a message, but several messages. I went straight from
your emporium to King's Cross, so as to be near Birmingham and save
delay in wiring. I know where I can usually get a clear wire there--a
great thing when one is in a hurry--the mere signalling of the message
is, as you know, instantaneous."

"Ay," said Timmons scornfully, with an impatient serpentine movement
running up his body and almost shaking his head off its long,
stalk-like neck. "Well, is the fool off the job?" asked he coarsely,
savagely, in slang, with a view to showing how cheap he held such
unprincipled circumlocution.

The dwarf stopped and looked up with blank amazement on his face and
an ugly flash in his eyes. "Is what fool off the job, Mr. Timmons? Am
I to understand that you are tired of these delays?"

Timmons snorted in disdainful rage. The implication that he was the
only fool connected with the matter lay in the tone rather than the
words, but it was unmistakable. The dwarf meant to insult him grossly,
and he could not strike him, for it would be unmanly to hit such a
creature, and he could not strangle him, for there were people about
the street. By a prodigious effort he swallowed down his rage, spread
his long thin legs out wide, as if to prevent the flight of Leigh, and
said in a hoarse, threatening, sepulchral voice: "Look here, Mr.
Leigh. I've come on business. What have you to say to me? I have
twenty-six ounces that will average fifteen carats. Are you going to
act square and stump up?"

"Hah! I see," said Leigh, smiling blandly, as though rejoicing on
dismissing the injurious suspicion that Timmons wanted to back out of
the bargain. "I own I am relieved. The fact, my dear sir, is, that on
leaving you I telegraphed to my correspondent in Birmingham for----"

"No more gammon," said the other, menacingly. They were in front of a
church, of the church whose clock they had heard strike midnight
before they left Leigh's doorstep. Here there was a quiet space suited
to their talk. The church and churchyard interrupted the line of
houses, and fewer people passed on that side of the way than on the
other. There were no shops in this street. Still it was lightsome, and
never quite free from the sound of footsteps or the presence of some
one at a distance. Stamer had hinted that Leigh might try to murder
Timmons for plunder, and now Timmons was almost in the humour to
murder Leigh for rage.

Leigh made a gesture of gracious deprecation with his left hand and
bowed. "This, Mr. Timmons, is a matter of business, and I never allow
anything so odious as fiction to touch even the robe of sacred
business." He lifted his hat, raised his eyes to the top of the spire
of the church and then bowed low his uncovered head. "For, Mr.
Timmons, business is the deity every one of our fellow-countrymen
worship."

"What are you going to do; that's what I want to know?" said the other
fiercely.

"Precisely. Well, sir, I shall tell you my position in two words. I
suspect my Birmingham correspondent." Leigh threw back his head and
smiled engagingly, as though he had ended an amusing anecdote.

"By ----, you don't say that?" cried Timmons, fairly startled and
drawing back a pace.

"I do."

"What does he know?"

"About what, my dear sir? What does he know about what? Are you
curious to learn his educational equipments? Surely you cannot be
curious on such a point?" He looked troubled because of Timmons's idle
curiosity.

"Don't let us have any more rot. You say you suspect this man?"

"I do."

"What does he know of the stuff?"

"Of the stuff, as you call it, he knows from me absolutely nothing."

"How can you suspect him if he doesn't know? How can he peach if you
haven't let him into the secret?"

"I didn't say I suspected him of betraying the secret of my
manufacture."

"Then what _do_ you suspect him of--speak plain?" Timmons's voice and
manner were heavy with threat.

"Of something much worse than treachery."

"There is nothing worse than treachery in our business."

"I suspect this man of something that is worse than treachery in any
business."

"It has no name?"

"It has a name. I suspect this man of not having much money."

"Ah!"

"Is not that bad? Is not that worse than treachery?"

Timmons did not heed these questions. They were too abstract for his
mind.

"And you think this villain might cheat, might swindle us after all
our trouble?"

"I think this villain capable of trying to get the best of us, in the
way of not paying promptly or the full price agreed upon, or perhaps
not being able to pay at all."

"And, Mr. Leigh, when did you begin to suspect this unprincipled
scoundrel?" Timmons's language was losing the horrible element of
slang as the virtuous side of his nature began to assert itself.

"Only to-day; only since I saw you in Tunbridge Street."

"Mr. Leigh, I hope, sir, you'll forgive my hot words of a while ago. I
know I have a bad temper. I humbly ask your pardon, Mr. Leigh."
Timmons was quite humble now.

"Certainly, freely. We are to work, as you suggested, on the
co-operative principle. If through my haste or inefficiency the money
had been lost, we should all be the poorer."

"I have advanced about twenty pounds of my own money on the bit I have
on me. My own money, without allowing anything for work and labour
done in the way of melting down, or for anxiety of mind, or for
profit. If that little bit of yellow stuff could keep me awake of
nights, I often wonder how the people that own the Bank of England can
sleep at all."

"They hire a guard of soldiers to sleep for them in the Bank every
night."

"Eh, sir?"

"Hah! Nothing. Now you understand why I did not ask you into my place
and take the alloy. We must wait a little yet. We must wait until I
can light upon an honest man to work up the result of our great
chemical discovery. I hope by this day week to be able to give you
good and final news. In the meantime the ore is safe with you."

"I'm sure I'm truly grateful to you, sir."

"What greater delight can a person have than helping an honest man to
protect himself against business wretches who are little better than
thieves?"

"Eh?"

"Hah! Nothing. Give me a week. This day week at the same hour and at
the same place."

"Very good. I shall be there."

An empty hansom was passing. Leigh whistled and held up his hand to
the driver.

Suddenly both he and Timmons started, a long clang came from the other
side of the railings.

"'Tisn't the last Trumpet for the tenants of these holdings," said
Leigh, pointing his long, skinny, yellow, hairy hand at the graves.
"It's the clock striking the quarter-past twelve. Good-night."

"Good-night," said Timmons, in a tone of reserve and suspicion. He was
far from clear as to what he thought of the little man now bowling
along down the road in the hansom.

Yes, this man was quite beyond him. Whether the whole thing was a
solemn farce or not he could not determine. This man talked fifty to
the dozen, at least fifty to the dozen.

Timmons touched his belt. Ay, the gold was there sure enough. That was
a consolation anyway, but----

He shook his head, and set out to walk the whole way back to the dim,
dingy street off the Borough Road, where he had a bed-room in which he
spent no part of his time but the hours of sleep.



                            CHAPTER XXIII.

                     AN EARLY VISITOR TO TIMMONS.


Men in Mr. Timmons's business never look fresher at one period of the
day than another. They seem no brighter for sleep, and, to judge by
their appearance, either soap and water has no effect on them, or they
seek no effect of soap and water. Lawyers put aside their wigs and
gowns, and professors their gowns and mortar-boards, and butchers
their aprons, and cooks their caps, before they leave the scene of
their labours, but dealers in marine-stores never lay aside their
grime. They cannot. The signs and tokens of their calling are ground
into their flesh, and would resist any attempt at removal. Mr. Timmons
was no exception to his class. On Thursday morning he was in every
outward seeming the same as on Wednesday night. He was the same as on
all other mornings, except that he came a little earlier than usual to
his place in Tunbridge Street. He had private business to transact
before throwing open the front of his store to the eyes of the few
stragglers who passed through that gloomy haunt of discarded and
disabled vehicles of the humbler kind.

He went in through the wicket, locked the wicket after him, and
without loss of time dug up the old canvas-bag from under the sand,
rolled up the chamois belt, and, having placed the belt in the bag,
re-buried the latter in its old hiding place. Then he rose and
stretched himself and yawned, more like a man whose day's work was
over than about to begin.

He sat down on the old fire-grate where Mrs. Stamer had rested the
night before, yawned again, leaned his head against the wall and fell
fast asleep. The fact is he had slept little or nothing the night
before. Oscar Leigh's strange conduct had set him thinking and
fearing, and the knowledge that for the first time his chamois-belt
was away from its home made him restless and kept him awake.

John Timmons had no regular time for throwing his bazaar open to the
public. The shutters were never taken down before eight o'clock and
never remained up after ten. He had come that morning at seven, and
sat down to rest and doze before eight. At a little after nine he
jumped up with a start and looked round with terror. A knock on the
outside of the shutters had aroused him. He had often been at the
store as early as seven, but never until now had he heard a demand for
admittance at so early an hour. Could it be he had slept long into the
day, or were the police after him?

He looked round hastily, wildly, out of his pale blue eyes. He threw
up his arms on high, and shook them, indicating that all was lost.
Then he composed himself, pulled his hat straight over his forehead,
drew down his waistcoat and coat-sleeves, arranged his blue tie, and
clearing his throat with a deep loud sound, stepped quickly to the
wicket, where for a moment he moved his feet rapidly about to give the
newly-levelled sand an appearance of ordinary use.

With great noise and indications of effort he unlocked the door and
opened it.

A low-sized man, with grizzled hair and mutton-chop whiskers and blue
spectacles, dressed in seedy black, and looking like a schoolmaster
broken in health and purse, stood in the doorway.

Timmons stared at the man in amazement first, anger next, and lastly
rage.

"Well?" he bellowed fiercely; "who are you? What do you want?"

The man did not speak. He coolly stepped over the bar of the wicket
and stood close to Timmons in the dimly-lighted store.

The dealer was staggered. Was this a policeman come to arrest him? If
he was, and if he had come alone, so much the worse for him!

Timmons put his hand on the man's shoulder, drew the man quickly clear
of the wicket, shut the door and locked it. Then turning menacingly on
the intruder, who had taken a couple of paces into the store, he said
ferociously, "Now, sir! What is it?"

Quick as lightning the man drew a revolver from his waist-band under
his coat and presented it at Timmons's head.

The latter fell back against the shutters with an oath and a shout of
dismay.

Swift as thought the man dropped the weapon and thrust it back into
its place in his waist-band under his coat, saying as he did so:

"You always said you should know me if I was boiled. What do you say
now?"

"Stamer!" yelled Timmons, with another oath.

The other laughed. "And not even boiled either."

"By ----, I'll have it out of you for this trick yet," said Timmons in
a whisper. "What a fright you gave me! and what a shout I made!
Someone may have heard me. You should not play such tricks as that,
Stamer. It's no joke. I thought you were a copper." And he began
walking up and down rapidly to calm himself.

"If you'll excuse me, Mr. Timmons," said the man, humbly and with an
apologetic cough, "but I think your nerves want looking after."

"You scoundrel!"

"They do indeed, sir; you ought to get your doctor to put them right."

"You cursed blackguard!" hissed Timmons as he strode up and down the
dark store, wiping the sweat off his streaked forehead with the ball
of his hand.

"In an anxious business like ours, sir, a man can't be too careful.
That's my reason again' the drink. Attendin' them temperance meetin's
has done me a deal of good. I never get flustered now, Mr. Timmons,
since I gave up the drink. I know, sir, you're next door to a
teetotaller. It may be too much studyin', sir, with you. I have heard,
sir, that too much studyin' on the brain and such like is worse than
gin. If you could get away to the sea-side for a bit, sir, I'm certain
'twould do you a deal of good. You know I speak for your good, Mr.
Timmons."

"You fool, hold your tongue! First I took you for a policeman----"

"I haven't come to that yet, sir," said the man in a tone of injury,
and raising his shoulders to his ears as if to protect them from the
pollution of hearing the word.

"And then I took you for a thief."

"Mr. Timmons!" cried the man pathetically. "Couldn't you see who I
was? I never came here on business, sir. I came for the pleasure of
seeing you, and to try if you would do a favour for me."

"Hold your tongue!" cried Timmons. "Hold your tongue, you fool."

The man said no more, but leaning his back against the wall, looked up
blankly at the unceiled rafters and boards of the floor above.

The manner of Mr. John Timmons gradually became less volcanic. He
arranged his necktie and thrust his hands deep into his trousers'
pockets instead of swinging them round him, or running his fingers
through his grizzled hair and whiskers. Suddenly he stopped before his
visitor, and said grimly in a low voice, "Stamer, aren't you surprised
you are alive?"

Stamer stood up on his feet away from the wall and said in a tone of
expostulation, "Now, Mr. Timmons, it isn't so bad as that with me yet.
I may have let one or two people see the barrel, you know, just to
help business; but I never pulled trigger yet, sir. Indeed, I didn't."

"I mean, you fool, aren't you surprised I didn't kill you?" he asked
heavily.

"You kill me, sir! For what?" cried the man in astonishment.

"For coming here at this time of the morning in the disgraceful state
you are now in," he said, pointing scornfully at the other.

"Disgraceful state, Mr. Timmons, sir! You don't mean to say you think
I'm in liquor?" said Stamer in an injured tone.

"In liquor, no. But worse. You are in masquerade, sir. In masquerade."

"Indeed, I'm not, sir. Why, I couldn't be! I don't even as much as
know what it is."

"I mean, sir (and you know very well what I mean), that you are not
here in your own clothes. What do you mean in coming here with your
tomfoolery?" said Timmons severely. He was now quite recovered from
his fright, and wanted to say nothing of his recent abject condition.
The best way of taking a man's mind off you is to make an attack on
him.

"Not in my own clothes! I hope you don't think I'm such a born loony
as to walk about the streets in togs that I came by in the course of
business. If you think that of me, sir, you put me down very low. I'm
a general hand, as you ought to know, sir, and when there isn't
anything to be done in the crib line, I'm not above turning my hand to
anything that may be handy, such as tickers in a crowd. I use the duds
I have on when I go to hear about the African Blacks. I change about,
asking questions for information, and writin' down all the gentlemen
tell me in my note-book, and I wind up my questions by asking not what
o'clock it is, which would be suspicious, but how long the meeting
will last, and no man, sir, that I ever saw can answer that question
without hauling out his ticker, and then I can see whether it is all
right, or pewter, or a Waterbury. Mr. Timmons, Waterburys is growing
that common that men who have to make a living are starving. It's a
downright shame and imposition for respectable English gentlemen to
give their time to tryin' to improve the condition of the African
Black, and do nothing to encourage the English watch-maker. What's to
become of the English watch-maker, Mr. Timmons? I feel for him, sir!"

"You have a great deal too much talk for a man in your position. Why
did you come here at this hour and in this outlandish get-up?"

"Well, sir," said Stamer, answering the latter question first, "you
see I was here yesterday in fustian, and I didn't like to come here
to-day in the same rags. It might look suspicious, for a man in my
line can't be too careful. Of course, Mr. Timmons, you and I know,
sir, that I come here on the square; but bad-minded people are horrid
suspicious, and sometimes them new hands in the coppers make the
cruellest and most unjust mistakes, sir. So I hope you'll forgive me
coming here as an honest man. It won't occur again, sir. Indeed it
won't."

"You have a great deal too much talk for a man in your position,"
repeated Timmons, who by this time had regained his ordinary
composure. "You know I treat you as men in your position are never
treated by men in mine. I not only give you a fair price for your
goods, but now, when the chance comes, I am going to admit you to the
advantages of the co-operative system."

"It's very, very kind of you, sir, and I'm truly thankful, sir; and I
need only say that, barring thick and thin uns, I bring you
everything, notes included, that come my way. The thick and thin uns,
sir, are the only perquisites of the business I look for."

"Stamer, hold your tongue. Tell me in two words, what brought you
here?"

"Well, sir, I was anxious to know how you got on last night? You know
how anxious I was about you, because of your carrying so much stuff
with you down a bad locality like Chelsea. I know you got there safe.
I hope you'll excuse me, Mr. Timmons, for the liberty I took, but I
thought two of us would be safer than one."

"You know I got there! Two of us safer than one! What do you mean? You
are full of talk and can't talk straight. Out with it, man! Out with
it!" cried Timmons, shaking his fist in Stamer's face.

"I took the liberty of followin' you, sir, at a respectful distance
and I saw you safe to Mr. Leigh's door----"

"You infernal, prying ruffian----"

"No, sir. I was not curious. I was only uneasy about you, and I only
saw you at his door all right; then I knew I could be of no more use,
for, of course, you'd leave the stuff with him, and if anyone got wind
of it there would be no use in followin' you after, and I could do
nothing while you was in the house."

"Ah!" cried Timmons sharply, as though Stamer had convicted himself of
lying. "If you came away when you saw me go into the house how did you
find out the man's name? _I_ never told you. That's one question I
want to ask you; now here's another. What o'clock was it when you saw
me go into the house?"

"Twelve to the minute."

"How do you know? Had you a red herring in your pocket? Eh?" asked
Timmons derisively, shaking his forefinger in Stamer's face.

"I heard the clock, a church clock strike."

Timmons paused and drew back. He recollected his holding up his hand
to Leigh, as the latter opened the door, and drawing attention to his
own punctuality.

"But then what did you mean by going peeping and prying about there.
Did you think I was deceiving you?" The dealer scowled at his visitor
as he put the question.

Stamer made a gesture of humility and protest:

"Oh, no, sir! It was this way. When I saw you safe into the house----"

"Oh--ha-ha-ha! So you saw me safe into the house, did you?
Ha-ha-ha--ho-ho-ho!" laughed Timmons in an appallingly deep voice.

"Well, no," answered Stamer in mild protest. "I didn't exactly see you
go into the house. You know, for the moment I forgot I had these duds
on, and I thought you might turn round and look back and see me and be
wild with me for followin' you, so the minute you stopped at the door
and knocked I slipped into a public that's at the corner, to be out of
sight in case you should turn around, as most people do, to have a
good look before going into a strange house--anyway I always do----"

"Very likely. Very likely you do have a good look round both before
and after too. Well, and when you got into the public-house--although
you're not on the drink--you began making your inquiries, I dare say?"
said Timmons in withering reproach. "Or, may be you didn't bother to
ask questions, but told all you knew right off to the potman or the
barmaid. Eh?"

"Mr. Timmons, you're too hard," said Stamer in an injured tone, and
with a touch of outraged dignity. "If you don't want to hear what
happened, or won't believe what I say, I'll stop."

"Well, go on, but don't take all day."

"There isn't much to tell. I got into the private bar at the end of a
passage and, just as I got in, the landlord was sayin' how Mr. Leigh,
the little gentleman over the way, with the hump on him, had been in
that day, and had told him wonderful things he was going to do with
the skeleton of Moses, or somethin' of that kind, which had been found
at the bottom of the Nile, or somewhere. This mention of a little man
with a hump made me take an interest, for I remembered what you told
me last evenin'. And, as the landlord was talking quite free and open
for all to hear, I asked for a tuppenny smoke and a small lemon--for
I'm off the drink----"

"Go on, or you'll drive me to it," said Timmons impatiently.

"I couldn't understand what the landlord was sayin' about the Prince
being as dry as snuff, but anyway, after a minute he said: 'There he
is, winding up his wonderful clock,' and all the men in the bar looked
up, and I did too, and there was the little man with the hump on his
back pulling at something back and forward like the rods in a railway
signal-box."

"You saw him?"

"Yes, and all the men in the bar saw him."

"How many men were there in the private bar?"

"Half-a-dozen or eight."

"You were drunk last night, Stamer."

"I was as sober as I am now."

"What o'clock was it then?"

"Well, I cannot say exactly, between twelve and half-past."

"How long did you stay in that public-house?"

"Until closing time."

"And how soon after you went in did you see the little man working the
handle, or whatever it was?"

"A minute after I went in. As I went in the landlord was speakin', and
before he finished what he had to say he pointed, and I looked up and
saw Mr. Leigh."

"The next time you dog me, and tell a lie to get out of blame, tell a
good lie."

"Mr. Timmons, what I tell you is as true as that there's daylight at
noon."

"Tell a better lie next time, Stamer," said Timmons, shaking his
minatory finger at the other.

"Strike me dead if it isn't true."

"Why, the man, Mr. Leigh, did not go back into the house at all last
night. He and I went for a walk, and were more than half-a-mile away
when a quarter past twelve struck."

"Has your Mr. Leigh a twin brother?"

"Pooh! as though a twin brother would have a hump! Stamer, I don't
know what your object is, but you are lying to me."

"Then the man's neighbours does not know him. All the men in the bar,
except two or three, knew the hump-backed Leigh, and they saw the
man's face plain enough, for at twenty minutes past twelve by the
clock in the bar he stopped working at the handle and turned round and
nodded to the landlord, who nodded back and waved his hand and said,
'There he his a noddin' at me now.' The publican is a chatty man. And
then Mr. Leigh nodded back again, and after that turned round and went
on working at the handle again."

"I tell you, at a quarter past twelve last night, I was standing under
the church clock you heard, talking to Mr. Leigh, and as they keep all
public-house clocks five minutes fast, that's the time you say you saw
him. I never found you out in a lie to me, Stamer. I'll tell you what
happened. You got beastly drunk and dreamed the whole thing."

"What, got drunk in half-an-hour? 'Tain't in the power of liquor to do
it. Mr. Timmons, I swear to you I had nothing to drink all yesterday
but that small lemon. I swear it to you, so help me----, and I swear
to you, so help me, that all I say is true, and that all I say I saw I
saw with my eyes, as I see you now, with my wakin' eyes and in my
sober senses. If you won't take my word for it, go down to Chelsea and
ask the landlord of the Hanover--that's the name of the house I was
in."

The manner of the man was earnest and sincere, and Timmons could not
imagine any reason for his inventing such a story. The dealer could
make nothing of the thing, except that Stamer was labouring under some
extraordinary delusion. Timmons had never been to Leigh's place before
and never in the Hanover. If he had not been with Leigh during the
very minutes Stamer was so sure he had seen Leigh working at his
clock, he would have had no hesitation whatever in believing what the
other had told him. But here was Stamer, or rather the hearsay
evidence of the landlord of the public house, that Leigh was visibly
working at his clock and in Chetwynd Street at the very moment the
dwarf was talking to himself in the open air half-a-mile away. Of
course five minutes in this case might make all the difference in the
world, and there is often more than five minutes' difference in the
time of clocks in public places; but then Stamer said Leigh was
together the whole quarter-hour from midnight to a quarter past
twelve!

There was something hideous, unearthly, ghastly, about this deformed
dwarf. The chemist or clockmaker, in the few interviews which had
taken place between them, had talked of mysteries and mysterious power
and faculties which placed him above other men. There was something
creepy in the look of the man, and something horrible in the touch of
his long, lean, sallow, dark-haired, monkeylike fingers. The man or
monster was unnatural, no doubt--was he more or less than mortal? Did
he really know things hidden from other men? To make up for his
deformities and deficiencies had powers and faculties denied to other
men been given to him?

John Timmons did not believe in ghosts, but he did believe in devils,
and he was not sure that devils might not even now assume human form,
or that Oscar Leigh was not one of them, habilitated in flesh for evil
purposes among men.

Stamer held no such faith. He did not believe in devils. He believed
in man, and man was the only being he felt afraid of. He thought
it no more than reasonable that Timmons should lie to him. He had
the most implicit faith in the material honesty of Timmons in the
dealings between the two of them; but lying was a consideration of
spiritual faith, and he had no spiritual faith himself. But he was
liberal-minded and generous, and did not resent spiritual faith in
others. It was nothing to him. Timmons was the only man he had ever
met who was absolutely honest in the matter of money dealings with
him, and Stamer had elevated Timmons into the position of an idol to
which he paid divine honours. He would not have lied to Timmons, for
it would have done no good. He brought the fruits of his precarious
and dangerous trade as a thief and burglar to Timmons, and he acted as
agent for other men of his trade and class, and Timmons was the first
fence he had met who treated him honourably, considerately. He had
conceived a profound admiration and dog-like affection for this man.
He would have laid down his life for him freely. He would have
defended him with the last drop of his blood against his own
confederates and associates. He would not have cheated him of a penny;
but he would have lied to him freely if there was any good in lying,
but as far as he could see there wasn't, and why should he bother to
lie?

He was anxious about the fate of the twenty-six ounces of gold. If
Timmons got the enhanced price promised by the dwarf, some more money,
a good deal more money, was promised to him by Timmons, and he knew as
surely as fate that if Timmons succeeded the money would be paid to
himself. But he was afraid of the craft of this Oscar Leigh who was
not shaped as other men, whom other men suspected of possessing
strange powers, and who, according to his own statement, had been
fishing up the corpses of prophets, or something of that kind, out of
the bottom of the Nile.

A long silence had fallen on the two men. Timmons had resumed his walk
up and down the store, but this time his eyes were cast down, his
steps slow. He had no reason to distrust Stamer beyond the ordinary
distrustfulness with which he regarded all sons of Adam. He had many
reasons for relying on Stamer more than on nine-tenths of the men he
met and had dealings with. He was puzzled, sorely puzzled, and he
would much prefer to be alone. He was confounded, but it would not do
to admit this, even in manner, to Stamer, and he felt conscious that
his manner was betraying him. He stopped suddenly before his visitor
and said sharply "Now that you have been here half-an-hour and upwards
can't you say what you want. Money?"

"No, sir. Not money to-day. I called partly to know if you was safe,
and partly to know if you had arranged. I hope you will excuse my
bein' a little interested and glad to see you all right." Stamer never
used slang to Timmons. He paid this tribute to the honesty of the
dealer.

"Yes. Of course, it would be bad for you if I was knifed or shot.
You'd fall into the hands of a rogue again. Well, you may make your
mind easy for the present. I am alive, as you see. He did not come to
any final arrangement last night. I brought the stuff back again with
me safe and sound, and I am to meet him again at the same place in a
week. Are you satisfied now?"

"No!" Stamer moved towards the door.

"Why?"

Stamer shook his head. "Have nothing to do with that man."

"What maggot have you got in your head now, Stamer?"

"He'll sell the pass. It is not clear in my mind now that he has not
sold the pass already, that he has not rounded on you. If you meet him
there again in a week it isn't clear to me that you won't find more
company than you care for."

"What do you mean? Shall you be there?"

"No."

"Who then?"

"The police."

Stamer hurried through the wicket and was gone.

Timmons shut the door once more, and leaning his back against it
plunged into a sea of troubled thoughts.



                            CHAPTER XXIV.

                        GRACEDIEU, DERBYSHIRE.


When Edith Grace came into the little sitting-room in Grimsby Street,
the morning after her flight from Eltham House, she found her
grandmother had not yet appeared. She went to Mrs. Grace's door and
asked if she might bring the old woman her breakfast. To her question
she received a blithe answer that Mrs. Grace would be ready in a
minute. The girl came back to the room where the breakfast was laid
and sat down to wait. The old woman always presided, and sat with her
face to the window. She liked to see as much sunlight and cheerfulness
as came into Grimsby Street. On the table were two plates, two cups,
eggs, rashers, and a loaf of bread. By the side of Mrs. Grace's plate
a letter. It was a frugal-looking breakfast for middle-class people,
but much, more elegantly appointed than one would expect to find in a
Grimsby Street lodging-house. The cutlery, linen, silver and china
were bright and clean and excellent. There were no delicacies or
luxuries on the table, but the adjuncts of the viands were such as no
lady need take exception to.

Edith was dressed in a perfectly plain black gown, one she had got for
her duties as companion. She had a trace of colour at the best of
times. This morning she looked pale and listless. She had slept little
during the night. She had lain awake, alternately reviewing the
extraordinary events of the day before, and trying to discover some
means by which in her future search of employment she might insure
herself against repeating her recent experience.

Up to this she knew little or nothing of the world. Her father, a
barrister, had died when she was young. Her mother had been dead since
her childhood. She had spent seven years at a boarding school, during
which time she had come home for the holidays to find her
grandmother's position gradually declining, until from a fine house in
Bloomsbury the old woman was reduced to poor lodgings in Grimsby
Street, where the two had lived together since Edith left school,
three years ago. The money left her by her father had been more than
enough to pay the fees of the "select seminary for young ladies" where
she had spent those seven years.

While at school she had kept much apart from the other boarders, and
had made no friends, for she knew all the girls she met at Miss
Graham's had homes much better than she could hope to possess after
her grandmother had been compelled to leave Russell Square.

Edith did not care to take any of her school-fellows into the secret
of their decaying fortunes. She was too proud to pretend to be their
equal in wealth, and too sensitive to allow them to know how poor she
was. She was the quietest, most silent, most reserved girl in all the
school. The majority of those around her were the daughters of City
men. Her father had been a barrister. He had never soiled his fingers
with business. He had been a gentleman by the consecration of
generations of forefathers who had never chaffered across a counter,
never been in trade; and she was a lady. She did not despise those
around her for their wealth or unfortunate origin. She simply kept
herself to herself, and made no friends. She was kind and considerate
to all, and polite almost to painfulness, but she would let no one
near her. Her school-fellows said Edith Grace would be perfect, simply
perfect, if she only had a heart.

But, alas! the girl had a heart, and what is worse still, a heart very
hard to possess in seeming peace in a young breast confronted with a
decaying fortunes.

Her school-fellows said she ought to be a queen. By this they meant
that she was, by her appearance and manners, suited to statelinesses,
and splendours, and pageants. They conceived a queen to be above the
common nature of our kind. To be free from the aches and pains of
feeling. To be superior to the bemeaning littlenesses of life. To be
incapable of joy or suffering which does not involve the triumph or
the ruin of a state.

From the moment of her father's death she knew she must expect to be
poor, poor far below any depth she would have been likely to know, if
he had lived a dozen years longer. Young as she then was, she felt
within herself a love of all the beautiful things that money can buy.
She loved rich and exquisite flowers, and dainty fabrics, and
sparkling stones, and gleaming metals, and fine odours, and stately
pictures, and glories of lamps and melody. As she grew older, her love
of these things would, she told herself, increase. To what purpose? To
the torture of desire denied; for with such splendour she could hold
no converse. She was poor, and she should always be poor. What was to
be done? Beat down, stamp out these tastes, teach herself to rise
above them. Deny herself.

In time she should leave school and be a woman. She should, when she
left school, be a young woman, and a young woman of no ordinary
personal attractions. She knew this as fully as she knew that the
perfume of the tuberose is sweet, by the evidence of one of her
senses. How should it be with her, then? All these other girls around
her would marry, she never. For who would come wooing her? Some other
lodger in Grimsby Street! A City clerk, or a prosperous hairdresser,
or a furniture dealer, or a man who contracted for the supply of
suppers, or a man who beat carpets, or a baker in a white cap, or the
son and heir of a tailor! She had no moderation of power to
discriminate between any of these. They were all preposterously
impossible lovers, and there were no others left! No thing was
degrading even to fancy. There was only one way of meeting this aspect
of her poverty--she should never marry. That was easy enough. Nothing
could be easier than to keep all men at as great a distance as she
kept the cabman, or the young man who sold her the double elephant
paper for drawing, or the telegraph clerk. No man should, to her dying
day, ever say anything to her beyond the mere business words necessary
to their meeting. Thus she should be as strong in this way as she was
now in her indifference to diamonds or the opera. People said girls
were weak, but girls could be as strong as men, stronger than men, if
they only made up their minds not to long for pretty, or fine, or
interesting objects.

In the latter class Edith supposed lovers would find their place.

She should be strong because she should be self-contained. She should
be content because she should be undesiring. She should be independent
because she should form no ties of any kind. Her position should be
completely unassailable.

So she did not allow herself to display any particular affection for
any one of her schoolmates. She was uniformly kind, and gentle, and
polite. But she was too poor to love anyone, for it would rend her
heart to be separated from one she loved, and she could run no risk of
breaking her heart about her poverty when her poverty did not step in
to separate her from one on whom she settled her affections.

So for the three years she had lived at home with her grandmother she
comported herself with strict exclusiveness. No young man out of the
formidable list of possible suitors she had allowed to a young girl
with her means had approached her to tell a tale of love, and towards
all whom she met she sought to pass for a retiring shadow.

But her first advent into the world had brought an alarming, a
horrible awakening.

The discipline of denial to which she had inured herself prepared her
for the loss of her modest competency. Up to the time of leaving
school, she had regarded her income as sure as the coming of the
planets into the constellations. Soon after leaving Miss Graham's
doubts began to arise in her mind. When at length the blow came, and
she learned she was penniless, no giant despair crushed her. She
simply bowed to the inevitable, without going to the trouble of even
affecting indifference. The money or income had been hers, and was
gone. To lose an income was an unmixed evil, but it ought to affect
her less than others, for had she not cultivated self-abnegation? Was
she not used to desire little or nothing, and was not the step between
asking for little next to that of working for the necessaries of life,
for the things indispensable? She should now have to go forth and earn
her bread, for she could not think of encroaching on the little left
to her grandmother. She was young, and healthy, and accomplished, as
far as Miss Graham's select seminary for young ladies at Streatham
could make a receptive pupil accomplished.

Up to this she had allowed herself only one luxury, a deep, and quiet,
and romantic love, the love for her kind-hearted old grandmother. That
need not even now be put away, could not, indeed, be put away, but it
might and must be dissimulated. Or, anyway, it might and must remain
undemonstrative, for to show much affection to her grandmother would
be to enhance the pain of the old woman at the parting.

Hence she steeled herself, and prepared for the separation with
seeming indifference, which only made the desolation seem to Mrs.
Grace more complete, more like death, and freed it from the torture of
struggling with a living and cruel force.

When Edith Grace saw Oscar Leigh, and arranged to go as companion to
his mother, although she shrank naturally from his objectionable
manner and unhappy appearance, she was better pleased than if he had
belonged to the ordinary mould of man. His deformities made him seem a
being proper to a new condition of life, a condition of life in which
his very unusualness would enable her to preserve and even increase
the feeling of reserve, and being apart from the world, cultivated by
her with such success at Miss Graham's and at home. He was so much out
of the common, he need not be taken into account at all. His
unhandsome appearance would be no more to her than the unhandsomeness
of this street in which she, who dreamed of parks and palaces, and the
Alhambra of Granada, lived. No doubt to look at him was to feel
unpleasant, but the endurance of unpleasant sights was not very much
harder, if so hard, as doing without pleasing sights, and she had
taught herself to abstain from longing after gratifying the eyes. The
system of self-denial which she had imposed upon herself with so much
success needed only a little extension to cover endurance of the
undesirable. She was strong, fortified at every point. This system of
hers was the whole secret of getting through life scatheless. It
afforded an armour nothing could pierce. It made her superior to
fate--absolutely superior to fate.

She had built for herself a tower of strength. She lived in a virgin
fortress.

In thinking over at Miss Graham's the possible suitors a young lady
who lodged in Grimsby Street might have, she had allowed as likely a
City clerk, or a prosperous hairdresser, or a man who contracted for
the supply of suppers, or a man who beat carpets, or a baker in a
white cap, or the son and heir of a tailor. With such, she had some
kind of acquaintance, either personal or by strong hearsay. Often in
amused reverie, she passed these candidates for the hand of an
imaginary young lady before her view. The young men were invariably in
their Sunday best when they came a-wooing. There was a dandified air,
an air of coxcombry, about them which amused her. They were, of
course, dandies only after their kind; not like Lord Byron in his
Childe Harold days, or the dandy officers for whom the great Duke of
Wellington prayed so devoutly. They wore gloves of a sort, and flowers
in their button-holes. They carried canes in genteel imitation of the
beaux of old. Their hair was arranged with much precision and nicety.
Their figures were good. They were stalwart and valorous, not, indeed,
in the grand way, but as of their kind. They made displays, as
displays may be made in reasonable conduct, of their physical graces
and alertness. They carried themselves with the heroic air, without
the inartistic stiffness of soldiers of the rank and file. Their
features were well proportioned and agreeable, and they wore smiles of
bland confidence and alluring archness. They looked their approbation
of this imaginary young lady, but their good manners, their awe, never
allowed them to do anything more than strut like harmless peacocks
before the object of their admiration.

When the girl was alone and in good spirits, she often laughed aloud
at these phantom suitors of this imaginary young lady lodger in
Grimsby Street. She did not look on them with the pity of disdain. She
regarded them as actors in a play. She summoned them for her amusement
and dismissed them without emotion, without even thanks for the
entertainment which they had afforded her.

On stepping out of the world of dreams into the world of reality what
had happened?

This man, this deformed, odious little man, whose bread she was to eat
for hire and whose money she was to take for services under his roof,
had paid her attentions! forced his hateful attentions upon her!
attempted to kiss her after an acquaintance of a few hours!

Good Heavens! Had she, Edith Grace, lived to see that day? Had it come
to this with her? Had she fallen so low? Had she suffered such
degradation and lived?

It was not the young lady lodger in Grimsby Street of her imagination,
who had been compelled to listen to the ridiculous suits of the clerk,
and the caterer, and the carpet-beater, and the baker, and the tailor
of her fancy, but she herself, Edith Grace, who had had love offered
to her by this miserable creature who was her master also!

Yet she had lived through it, and the house, Eltham House, had not
fallen down on them, nor had the ground opened and swallowed them, and
neither her grandmother herself nor Leigh seemed to realise the
enormity of the crime!

Even if she had been the young lady of her imagination, and the young
men of her fancy had taken flesh and done this thing, it would be
unendurable degradation. What had occurred had been endured, although
to reason a thing infinitely less seemed unendurable! In pity's name,
had all that had taken place happened to her, Edith Grace?

Thoughts in part such as these had haunted the dark hours and early
morning of the young girl. What wonder she was wakeful. Then she had
to consider the future. Turn which way she might, the prospect was not
cheerful. The necessity for her seeking her own living was as
imperative as ever. She could not live at home in idleness without
absolutely depriving her grandmother of the comforts of life. All her
own money had vanished into thin air, and so much of Mrs. Grace's that
there would be barely enough for her mere comfort. When Edith arranged
to go to Eltham House Mrs. Grace had given the landlady notice that
she should no longer require the second bed-room. It was doubtful if
even the sitting-room could be retained, and if the old woman had to
content herself with a bed-room and the "use" of a sitting-room (which
no lodger ever used except to eat in), the poor old woman would mope
and pine and, in all likelihood, sicken and break down. This
consideration, being one not of her own, Edith allowed to trouble her
deeply. For herself she had no pity, but she could not forbear weeping
in the security of her own room when she thought of her grandmother
suffering absolute poverty in old age. No wonder the girl looked pale
and worn.

She was standing at the window absorbed in thought, when Mrs. Grace
glided into the room and took the girl in her arms before Edith was
aware of her presence.

"Thank God, you are here once more, my darling. To see you makes even
this place look like home. Oh, what a miserable time it was to me
while my child was away. It seemed an age. Short as it was, it seemed
an age, darling. Of one thing, Edy, I am quite certain, that no matter
what is to become of us we shall never be separated again, never,
darling, never. That is, if you are not too proud or too nice to be
satisfied with what will satisfy your old grandmother."

It was only in moments of great emotion that Mrs. Grace called her
grand-daughter by the affectionate pet name, Edy. The girl's name was
Edith, and she looked all Edith could mean, and deserved the full
stateliness of the name. But this morning the old woman's heart was
overflowing upon the lost one who had returned. The heart of the
blameless prodigal was so disturbed and softened that it became human,
and all Edith could say or do was to fall upon the bosom of the old
woman, and with her young, soft, moist lips, kiss the dry lips of the
other and cry out:

"Oh, mother! oh, mother!" and burst into tears.

Mrs. Grace calling the young girl Edy was not by any means common, but
Edith's weeping in a scene was without any parallel. It frightened the
grandmother. What she, the passionless, the collected, the just Edith
in tears! This was very serious, very serious indeed. The affair of
Eltham House must have had a much greater effect upon the child than
anything which had hitherto occurred, for Mrs. Grace could remember no
other manifestation exactly so sudden and so vehement.

"There child, there!" cried the old woman, caressing the bent,
shapely, smooth head against her breast. She durst not say any more.
She was afraid of checking this outburst of feeling, afraid of saying
something which would not be in harmony with the feelings of this
troubled young heart.

So the girl sobbed her long-pent torrent of chaotic feeling away, the
old woman stroking softly the dark glossy hair with one hand and
pressing the head to her bosom with the other.

In a little while Edith recovered her composure, and stealing out of
her grandmother's arms, turned towards the window to conceal her red
and tear-stained face. The old woman went and busied herself at the
table, re-arranging what was quite in order, and making changes that
were no improvement. At last she sat down and saw the letter awaiting
her close to her plate. She took it up anxiously, hoping it might
prove the means of introducing some new subject between them.

Mrs. Grace was no slave to that foolish modern habit of tearing and
rending a letter open the minute one sees it, as though it were a
long-lost enemy. Most of the few letters she received were pleasant.
She liked to savour the good things that came by the post before she
bolted them. To one who knows how to enjoy this self-denial of delay,
the few moments before a letter addressed in unknown or partly
remembered handwriting are more precious than the coarse pleasures of
realization. While the seal is unbroken one holds the key of an
intensely provoking mystery. Once the envelope is removed the mystery
is explained, and no mystery ever yet improved upon explanation. The
writing of this letter was unknown to Mrs. Grace. She could make
nothing of it. She turned the back, she could make nothing of that
either. She was expecting a letter from her solicitor, Mr. James
Burrows. This was not from him. He had the bad taste to print his name
on the back of the envelope, a vandalism which paralyzed all power of
speculation at once, and was more coldly and brutally disenchanting
than the habit of writing the name of the sender on the left-hand
corner of the face, for this external signature had often the merit of
being illegible. The writing on the face of this was in a business,
clerkly hand. The thing was a circular, no doubt.

"Edy," she said, "here is a letter. I have not my glasses with me.
Will you read it to me, dear?"

The girl turned round, took the letter and went back to the
window--for a better light.

"From whom is it?" asked Mrs. Grace, when she saw Edith break the
envelope.

"It is signed Bernard Coutch," answered the girl in a low voice.

"Bernard Coutch--Bernard Coutch. I do not know anyone of that name.
Are you quite sure the address is right?"

"Quite sure, mother. 'Mrs. Grace, 28, Grimsby Street.'"

"Well, go on, child. Let us hear what this Mr. Coutch has to say.
Breakfast must wait. Nothing grows cold in such lovely weather. I hope
this Mr. Coutch has good news."


"Dear Madam,

"Mr. James Burrows, solicitor, of Lincoln's Inn, wrote me a few weeks
ago, with a view to ascertaining some facts regarding the Graces of
Gracedieu----"

"Stop," said Mrs. Grace, "where is the letter dated from?"

"Castleton, Derbyshire," answered the girl with some awakening of
interest in her voice and manner.

"Wait a minute, Edith." The old woman rose excitedly and came to the
window. "I must tell you, dear, that when first Mr. Burrows wrote me
to say the bank had failed, and that your money and mine were gone, I
went to him, as you know, and got no hope of ever saving anything out
of the bank. But I did not tell you then, for I was ashamed of being
so weak as to mention the matter to Mr. Burrows, that I told him all I
knew of the history of the Graces of Gracedieu, and of the old story
of mysterious money going to the runaway Kate Grace, of a hundred and
twenty or thirty years ago. I asked him to make what inquiry he could,
and let me know any news he might pick up. I was foolish enough to
imagine, dear, that something might come to you out of the property of
the rich Graces if we only knew where they are, if there are any. Now
go on, dear."

Edith re-commenced the letter:--


"Dear Madam,

"Mr. James Burrows, solicitor, of Lincoln's Inn, wrote me a few weeks
ago, with a view to ascertaining some facts regarding the Graces of
Gracedieu, near this place. He requested, with a view to saving time,
that I should forward you the result of my inquiries.

"I regret to say that I have not been able to find out much. Gracedieu
is a small residence about a couple of miles from this. No property of
any extent is or was, as far as I can ascertain, attached to the
place. In the middle of the last century the Graces lived in this
town, and dealt, I believe, in wool. The family were in comfortable
circumstances, and one of the daughters, a lady of great beauty,
attracted the attention of all who lived in the town, or saw her in
passing through. She disappeared and was, so the story goes, never
afterwards heard of here. It was rumoured she married a very handsome
and rich young foreign nobleman who had been on a visit in the
neighbourhood, but nothing is known for certain of her fate.

"Some years after the disappearance of the young lady, Mr. Grace
seemed to come suddenly into a large amount of money; for he gave up
the wool business, bought a few acres of land, and built a house for
himself a couple of miles out of the town, and called his place
Gracedieu. From the name of the house it was assumed the gentleman the
young Miss Grace had married was a French nobleman. Why this was
supposed from the name is not clear, except that the name is French.
It is, however, a common name enough in England. I know two other
Gracedieus. About a hundred years ago the Graces left Gracedieu for
ever, and went to reside, it is believed, in London. Absolutely
nothing else is known of them in this neighbourhood, and even this
much would not be remembered only for the romantic disappearance of
Miss Kate Grace, the rumour she was married, and the sudden influx of
wealth upon the family.

"The land attached to Gracedieu in the time of the builder of the
house was about five acres. The family, as far as is known, never held
any other property here.

"If you desire it, search, involving considerable expense, can be made
in the records of the town and parish and county, but I understand
from Mr. Burrows that no expense is to be incurred without hearing
further from you or him.

                           "Yours faithfully,

                                  "Bernard Coutch."


The girl turned away from the window, dropped the letter to the floor,
and said in a listless voice, looking, with eyes that did not see
external things, at the old woman, "Mother you ought to be glad you
are not one of the family of Grace."

"Why, child, why?"

"We are an accursed race."

"My child! my child, what folly you talk. There is no disgrace in
marriage, no disgrace in this. There was no shame in this, and who
knows but the mysterious man who ran away with the beautiful Kate long
ago, and married her, may now be a great man in France. He was a
nobleman then and honours are things that grow, dear. If we could only
find out the title he had. I suppose we could if we tried."

The girl shook her head. "Where there is no disgrace, mother, there is
no secrecy about such things. I thought the Graces went further back
than that."

"What! Do you want them to go back to Noah or Adam? Why this is four
or five generations! How many of the best titled houses in England go
back so far? Nonsense, child, I wish we knew what the French title
is."

"So there really was no family of Grace of Gracedieu after all. That
is if this account is true. And there was no estate, mother, and there
can be no money. I am very, very sorry for you, mother."

"For me, child! Why for me? I don't want anything, pet. I have enough
for my darling and myself, more than enough. I did not make these
inquiries on my own account, but it was on yours that I asked Mr.
Burrows to find out for me. Anyway, dear, no harm has been done. Come
pet, breakfast must be getting cold even this warm morning. How
delightful it is to be able to breakfast with the window open. Tea is
such a luxury this warm weather."

It was the only luxury on that table tasted by either woman that
morning. The food went away untouched.

When the landlady saw the unbroken food, she said to her daughter, "I
know the poor ladies are sorely troubled by their losses in that
shameful bank. There's one thing I can't make out about our corrupt
nature. The people who are troubled by something wrong with their
bodies eat and drink more than is good for them by way of trying to
coax themselves to break their fast, and them that are troubled in
their minds don't eat anything at all. The matter seems upside down
somehow."



                             CHAPTER XXV.

                            TWO OF A RACE.


That day had not opened pleasantly or auspiciously for Mrs. Grace and
her granddaughter. As soon as the pretence of breakfast was disposed
of, Edith went to her room and the old woman took her work and sat in
the open window.

Edith was too unnerved to think of doing anything that day towards
getting a new place. Disappointment and despair seemed to hedge her in
on all sides; but she was resolved to persevere in getting a situation
as soon as she recovered from the effects of her late discomfiture and
shock. The need for immediate employment was all the greater now, for
her outfit and expedition to Eltham House had not only absorbed the
money she had by her, but all her grandmother could command as well,
and there would be little or nothing coming in now.

For herself she did not care, because she had schooled herself to
regard herself and her feelings as of no consequence. Until that
morning she had enjoyed the sustaining power of family pride. If what
this attorney of Castleton said were true, she no longer could count
on that support. What were three or four or five generations to one
who had believed her name and race had come with the blood-making
William? She had no blood in her veins worth speaking about. She was
at most fifth in line from an humble dealer in wool, in an obscure
provincial town. She who had regarded half-a-dozen of the great ducal
houses as new people! She! who was she or what was she? After all
perhaps it might be better that one who had to earn her bread by
rendering service should not have too far back reaching a lineage.
There was less derogation in earning money by service when one came of
a race of humble dealers in wool than if one had come of an historic
house.

But the discovery had a depressing effect nevertheless. Her
grandmother didn't feel the matter, of course, so much as she felt it;
for the old woman had none of the Grace blood in her veins. Never had
she, while at school, committed the vulgar folly of boasting of her
family. How fortunate that was, in face of the fact disclosed this
morning. Why, her people had started as small shopkeepers, come by
money and affected therefrom the airs of their betters, and the
consequence of illustrious race. The claims of the Grace family were
nothing more than a piece of pretentious bombast, if not, at the
outset, deliberate lying. No doubt her father had believed he was
well-bred and of gentle birth, but his father before him, or, anyway,
his father before him again, must have known better.

No doubt the house of Leeds could show no higher origin, but then she
had had nothing but contempt for the house of Leeds. She would rather
have come of an undistinguished soldier of William's, one who never in
himself, or any descendant of his, challenged fame or bore a title,
than owe origin to a City source. She had believed the Graces had the
undiluted blood of Hastings, and now she found they could trace back
no further than the common puddle of an obscure country town. The
romantic past and mysterious background of an old race, no longer
modified the banalities of her position. If she were to choose a
suitor of her peers she should have to take one of the bourgeois
tribe, and one in poor circumstances, too, to suit her own condition!

Why, if ever she thought of marriage, the fit mate for her was to be
found in that line of vulgar admirers she had paraded for her
amusement, her laughter, her scorn!

After the discovery of that morning, she, Edith Grace, could lift her
head no more.

The hours of the weary, empty day went by slowly for the girl. The
blaze of sunlight was unbroken by a cloud. The sun stood up so high in
heaven it cast scant shadows. Grimbsy Street was always quiet, but
after the morning efflux of men towards the places of their daily
work, the street was almost empty until the home-returning of the men
in the late afternoon and early morning. In the white and flawless air
there was nothing to mark the passage of time.

A sense of oppression and desolation fell upon Edith. In the old days,
that were only a few hours of time gone by, she could always wrap
herself from the touch of adversity in the rich brocaded cloak of
noble, if undistinguished, ancestry. Now she was cold and bare, and
full in the vulgar light of day, among the common herd of people. No
better than the very landlady whose rooms they occupied, and whom a
day back she looked on as a separate and but dimly understood
creation.

In the middle of the day there was a light lunch, at which Mrs. Grace
made nothing of the disappointment of the morning, and Edith passed
the subject almost silently. Then the afternoon dragged on through all
the inexhaustible sunlight to dinner, and each woman felt a great
sense of relief when the meal arrived, for it marked the close of that
black, blank day, and all the time between dinner and bed-time is but
the twilight dawn of another day.

An after-dinner custom of the two ladies was that Mrs. Grace should
sit in her easy chair at one side of the window in summer, and Edith
at the other, while the girl read an evening paper aloud until the
light failed or the old woman fell asleep.

It was eight o'clock, and still the unwearying light pursued and
enveloped the hours pertinaciously. The great reflux of men had long
since set in and died down low. Now and then a brisk footstep passed
the window with sharp beating sound; now and then a long and echoing
footfall lingered from end to end of the opposite flagway; now and
then an empty four-wheeled cab lumbered sleepily by.

The fresh, low voice of the girl bodied forth the words clearly, but
with no emotion or aid of inflection beyond the markings of the
punctuation on the page. She had been accustomed to read certain parts
of the paper in a particular order, and she began in this order and
went on. The words she read and uttered conveyed no meaning to her own
mind, and if at any moment she had been stopped and asked what was the
subject of the article, she would have been obliged to wait and trust
to the unconsciously-recording memory of her ear for the words her
voice had uttered.

The old woman's eyes were open. She was broad awake, but not listening
to a word that Edith read. The girl's voice had a pleasing soothing
effect, and she was sadly fancying how they two could manage to live
on the narrow means now adjudged to her by fate.

Suddenly there was a sharper, brisker sound than usual in the street.
The old woman awoke to observation. The sound approached rapidly, and
suddenly stopped close at hand with the harsh tearing noise of a
wheel-tire grating along the curbstone. Mrs. Grace leaned forward and
looked out of the window. A hansom cab had drawn up at the door, and a
man was alighting.

"There's the gentleman who was here yesterday with Mr. Leigh," said
Mrs. Grace drawing back from the window.

Edith paused a moment, and then went on reading aloud in the same
mechanical voice as before.

"I wonder could he have forgotten his gloves or his cane yesterday?"
said Mrs. Grace, whose curiosity was slightly aroused. Any excitement,
however slight, would be welcome now.

"I don't know, mother. If he forgot anything he must have left it
downstairs. I saw nothing here, and I heard of nothing."

"If you please, Mrs. Grace, Mr. Hanbury has called and wishes to see
you," said the landlady's daughter from the door of the room.

"Mr. Hanbury wants to see me!" said the old lady in astonishment.
"Will you kindly ask him to walk up? Don't stir, darling," she said as
Edith rose to go. "No doubt he brings some message from Mr. Leigh."

With a listless sigh the young girl sank back upon her chair in the
window-place.

"Mr. Hanbury, ma'am," said the landlady's daughter from the door, as
the young man looking hot and excited, stepped into the room, drew up,
and bowed to the two ladies.

"I feel," said the young man, as the door was closed behind him, "that
this is a most unreasonable hour for a visit of one you saw for the
first time, yesterday, Mrs. Grace; but last night I made a most
astounding discovery about myself, and to-day I made a very surprising
discovery about you."

"Pray, sit down," said the old lady graciously, "and tell us what
these discoveries are. But discovery or no discovery I am glad to see
you. A visit from the distinguished Mr. Hanbury would be an honour to
any house in London."

The young man bowed and sat down. In manner he was restless and
excited. He glanced from one of the women to the other quickly, and
with flashing eyes.

Edith leaned back on her chair, and looked at the visitor. He was
sitting between the two a little back from the window, so that the
full light of eight o'clock in midsummer fell upon him. The girl could
in no way imagine what discovery of this impetuous, stalwart, gifted
young man could interest them.

"You see, Mrs. Grace," he said, looking rapidly again from one to the
other, "I have just come back from the country where I had to go on an
affair of my own. An hour or two ago I got back to London, and after
seeing my mother and speaking to her awhile I came on here to you."

"Are all men impudent," thought Edith, "like Leigh and this one. What
have we to do with him or his mother, or his visit to the country?"

"Oh!" cried Mrs. Grace. "I know. I understand. You've been to Millway
and Eltham House with Mr. Leigh, and you have been kind enough to
bring us news of my grand-daughter's luggage."

"Eh? What?" He looked in astonishment from one to the other.

"Are all men," thought Edith indignantly, "so pushing, and impudent,
and interfering? What insolence of this man to call at such an hour
about my luggage!"

"Eltham House? Millway? Miss Grace's luggage? Believe me, I do not
understand." Again his eyes wandered in confused amazement from one to
the other.

"My grand-daughter left Mr. Leigh's house early yesterday morning and
did not bring her luggage with her," said the old woman severely. "If
you have not called on behalf of Mr. Leigh about the luggage, may I
ask to what you are referring when you say you have been to the
country and found out something of interest to me?"

"But I have not said I have been to Mr. Leigh's place in the country.
May I ask you where it is?"

"Near Millway, on the south coast; Sussex, I think."

"I don't know where Millway is. I have never been there; I have not
come from the south. I have been in the Midlands since I had the
pleasure of seeing you yesterday."

"The Midlands? The Midlands?" said the old woman, leaning forward and
looking at him keenly.

Edith's face changed almost imperceptibly. She showed a faint trace of
interest.

"Yes; I have just come back from Derbyshire. You are interested in
Derbyshire, aren't you?"

"Go on," said the old woman eagerly. She was now trembling, and caught
the arms of her easy chair to steady her hands.

"In Derbyshire I had occasion to visit Castleton, and there I met a
Mr. Coutch, who said he had been in communication with you respecting
your family--the Graces of Gracedieu, in the neighbourhood of
Castleton."

"Yes, yes," said the old woman impatiently. "That is quite right. I
had a letter from Mr. Coutch this morning, saying the Graces had left
the place long ago, and owned no property in the place. Have you any
other--any better news?"

"Not respecting the Graces and Gracedieu, as far as your questions
go."

"Oh," said the old woman, and with a sigh she sank back in the chair,
her interest gone. "The Graces are a Derbyshire family, and as my
grand-daughter has just lost all her little fortune, I was anxious to
know if there were any traces of her people in Derbyshire still."

The eyes of the man moved to the girl and rested on her.

"I am sorry to hear Miss Grace has lost her fortune," he said softly.
"Very sorry indeed."

"It was not very much," said the old woman, becoming garrulous and
taking it for granted Hanbury was an intimate friend of Leigh's and
knew all the dwarf's affairs, "and the loss of it was what made my
granddaughter accept the companionship to old Mrs. Leigh down at
Eltham House, near Millway. Miss Grace could not endure Mr. Leigh, and
left, without her luggage, a few hours after arriving there. That was
why I thought you came about Miss Grace's luggage."

"Miss Grace a companion to Mr. Leigh's mother?" cried the young man in
a tone of indignant protest. "What!" he thought. "This lovely creature
mewed up in the same 'house with that little, unsightly creature?"

"Yes. But she stayed only a few hours. In fact she ran away, as no
doubt your friend told you."

"Mr. Leigh told me absolutely nothing of the affair; and may I beg of
you not to call him my friend? He told you I was a friend of his, but
I never met him till yesterday, and I have no desire to meet him
again. When he had the impudence to bring me here I did not know where
I was coming, or whom I was coming to see. I beg of you, let me
impress upon you, Mr. Leigh is no friend of mine, and let me ask you
to leave him out of your mind for a little while. The matter that
brings me here now has nothing to do with him. I have come this time
to talk about the Grace family, and I hope you will not think my visit
impertinent, though the hour is late for a call."

"Certainly not impertinent. I am glad to see you again, Mr. Hanbury,
particularly as you tell me that odious man is no friend of yours."

"You are very kind," said the young man, with no expression on his
face corresponding with the words. "Mr. Coutch, the attorney of
Castleton, told me that a few weeks ago you caused inquiries to be
made in his neighbourhood respecting the Grace family. Now it so
happened that this morning, before London was awake, I started for
Castleton to make inquiries about the Grace family."

"What, you, Mr. Hanbury! Are you interested in the Grace family?"
enquired the old woman vivaciously.

"Intensely," he answered, moving uneasily on his chair. He dreaded
another interruption.

Edith Grace saw now that Hanbury was greatly excited. She put out her
hand gently and laid it soothingly on her grandmother's hand as it
rested on the arm of the chair. This young man was not nearly so
objectionable as the other man, and he had almost as much as said he
hated Leigh, a thing in itself to commend him to her good opinion. It
was best to hear in quiet whatever he had to tell.

"Yes, my child," said Mrs. Grace, responding to the touch of the
girl's hand, "I am most anxious to hear Mr. Hanbury."

"When I had the pleasure of seeing you yesterday I did not take more
interest in Castleton than any other out-of-the-way English town of
which I knew nothing, and my only interest in your family was confined
to the two ladies in this room. Last night a document was given me by
my mother, and upon reading it, I conceived the most intense interest
in Castleton and Gracedieu and the family which gave that place a
name."

He was very elaborate, and seemed resolved upon telling his story in a
way he had arranged, for his eyes were not so much concerned with Mrs.
Grace and Edith as with an internal scroll from which he was reading
slowly and carefully.

"I went to Derbyshire this morning to see Gracedieu and to make
inquiries as to a branch of the Grace family."

"And you, like me, have found out that there is no trace of the other
branch," said the widow sadly. "You found out from Mr. Coutch that
there were my granddaughter and myself and no clue to anyone else."

"Pardon me. I found out all I wanted."

"What!" exclaimed Mrs. Grace, sitting up in her chair and becoming
once more intensely interested. "You found out about the other
branch?"

"Yes, I found out all about the other branch."

"And where--where are they? Who are they? What is the name?" cried the
old woman in tremulous excitement.

"The other branch is represented by Miss Grace, here," said Hanbury,
softly laying his hand on the girl's hand as it rested on the old
woman's.

"What? What? I don't understand you! We are the Graces of Gracedieu,
or rather my husband and son were, and my grand-daughter is. There was
no difficulty in finding out us. The difficulty was to find out the
descendants of Kate Grace, who married a French nobleman in the middle
of the last century."

He rose, and bending over the girl's hand raised it to his lips and
kissed it, saying in a low voice, deeply shaken: "I am the only
descendant of Kate Grace, who, in the middle of the last century,
married Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski, called Stanislaus the Second,
King of Poland."



                            CHAPTER XXVI.

                           THE END OF DAY.


Edith sprang from her chair trembling, abashed, overwhelmed. Mrs.
Grace fell back and stared at Hanbury. It was not a moment for
coherent thought or reasonable words. Even John Hanbury was as much
overcome as though the discovery came upon him then for the first
time. He felt more inclined for action than for words, and thought was
out of the question. He would have liked to jump upon a horse and ride
anywhere for life. He would have liked to plunge into a tumultuous
river and battle with the flood. The sight of lives imperilled by
fire, and rescue possible through him alone, would have afforded a
quieting relief in desperate and daring effort.

In his own room, the night before, when he came upon this astounding
news in his father's letter, the discovery brought only dreams and
visions, echoing voices of the past, and marvellous views of glories
and pageantries, splendours and infamies, a feeble ancestor and a
despoiled nation.

Now, here was the first effect of declaring his awful kinship to the
outside world. His mother's was he, and what was his glory, or infamy
of name, was hers; although she was not of the blood. He knew that
whatever he was, she was that also, body and soul. But here were two
women, one of whom was allied to his race, though stranger to his
blood; and the other of whom was remotely his cousin, whose ancestor
had been the sister of a king's wife, and he, the descendant of that
king. This young girl was kin, though not kind, they were of the
half-blood. Revealing his parentage to these two women, was as though
he assumed the shadowy crown of kingship in a council of his kinsfolk,
conferring and receiving homage.

A king! Descended from a king!

How had his mind shifted and wavered, uncertain. How had his
aspirations now fixed on one peak, now on another, until he felt in
doubt as to whether there were any stable principle in his whole
nature. How had his spirit now sympathised with the stern splendours
of war, and now with the ennobling glories of peace. How had he
trembled for the rights of the savage, and weighed the consideration
that civilization, not mere man, was the only thing to be counted of
value. How had he felt his pulses throb at the thought of the lofty
and etherealizing privileges of the upper classes, and sworn that
Christ's theory of charity to the poor, and fellowship with the simple
and humble, was the only way of tasting heaven, and acting God's will
while on earth. Had all these mutations, these dizzying and
distracting vacillations, been only the stirring of the kingly
principle in his veins?

After many meaningless exclamations and wide questions by Mrs. Grace,
and a few replies from Hanbury, the latter said, "I think the best
thing I can do is to tell you all I know, as briefly as possible."

"That will be the best," said Mrs. Grace. "But if the man who married
Kate Grace was a Pole, how did they come to call him a Frenchman?"

"No doubt he used French here in England, as being the most convenient
language for one who did not know English. Remember, he was a private
gentleman then."

"I thought you said he was a count?"

"Well, yes, of course he was a count; but I meant, he had no public
position such as he afterwards held, nor had he any hopes of being
more than plain Count Poniatowski."

"Oh, I see. Then may we hear the story?" She settled herself back in
her chair, taking the hand of her grand-daughter into the safe keeping
and affectionate clasp of both her hands.

"Towards the end of the first half of the eighteenth century, Count
Poniatowski, son of a Lituanian nobleman, came to England. He was a
man of great personal beauty and accomplishments. While he was in this
country he made the acquaintance of Sir Hanbury Williams, and became a
favourite with that poet and diplomatist. When Sir Hanbury went as
Ambassador to St. Petersburg, he took the young nobleman with him. In
the Russian capital, he attracted the attention of the Grand Duchess
Catherine. When she came to the Russian throne--when King Augustus
III. of Poland died, in 1764--Catherine, now Empress--used her
influence to such effect, that Stanislaus was elected King of Poland.
He was then thirty-two years of age. It was under this unfortunate
king that the infamous partition of Poland took place, and the kingdom
was abolished. Russia, Austria and Germany now own the country over
which Stanislaus once reigned."

"And how about Kate Grace?" asked the widow in a low voice.

"I am coming to that, as you may imagine, but I wanted first to tell
you who this man was. Well, Stanislaus spent a good while in England,
and among other places that he went to was Derbyshire, and there,
while staying in the neighbourhood with a gentleman, a friend of Sir
Hanbury Williams, he saw and fell in love with Kate Grace, the beauty
of the place in those times. He made love to her, and she ran away
with him, and was married to him in the name of Augustus Hanbury, in
the town of Derby, as the parish Register, my father says, shows to
this day. Subsequently she came to London and lived with him as his
wife, but under the name of Hanbury. He sent a substantial sum of
money to his father-in-law, and an assurance that Kate had been
legally married, but that, for family reasons, he could not
acknowledge his wife just then, but would later. Subsequently he went
to Russia in the train of his friend, Sir Hanbury Williams, leaving
behind him his wife and infant son comfortably provided for. He had
not been long in St. Petersburg when his King, Augustus III of Poland,
recalled him to that kingdom. Meanwhile, his wife, Kate Grace that had
been, died; they said of a broken heart. Young Stanislaus Hanbury, the
son of this marriage, was taken charge of by one of the Williams
family, and when Stanislaus became King of Poland, he sent further
moneys to the Graces, and to provide for his son, Stanislaus. But the
Graces never knew exactly the man their daughter had married. They
were quite sure she was legally married, and had no difficulty in
taking the money Stanislaus sent them. They were under the impression
their daughter had gone to France, that she died early, and that she
left no child."

"It is a most wonderful and romantic history," said the old woman in a
dazed way. The story had seemed to recede from her and hers, and to be
no more to her than a record of things done in China a thousand years
ago. The remote contact of her grand-daughter with the robes of a
crowned King, had for the time numbed her faculties. It seemed as
though the girl, upon the mere recital, must have suffered a change,
and that it would be necessary to readjust the relations between them.

Edith did not say anything. She merely pressed the under one of the
two hands that held hers.

"A very romantic history," said the visitor. "I have now told you whom
Kate Grace married. She married a man who, after her death, sat thirty
years on the throne of Poland, and was alive when that kingdom ceased
to exist. What this man was I will not say. It is not my place, as a
descendant of his, to tell his story. It has been told by many. I know
little of it, but what I know is far from creditable to him. Remember,
I never had my attention particularly directed to Stanislaus the
Second, or Poland, until last night, and since then I have been
enquiring after the living, and not unearthing the records of the
dead."

"And you never even suspected anything of this until last night?" said
Mrs. Grace, who now began slowly to recover the use of the ordinary
faculties of the mind.

"Never. Nor did my mother. In the long paper my father left in charge
of my mother he says he only heard the facts from some descendant of
Sir Hanbury Williams. When he found out who he really was he seemed to
have been seized with a positive horror of the blood in his veins, not
because of what it had done in the past, but of what it might do in
the future. He was a careful, timid man. He thought the best way to
kill the seed of ambition in the veins of a Hanbury would be to reduce
the position of the family from that of people of independent means to
that of traders. Hence he went into business in the City; although he
had no need of more money, he made a second fortune. He says his
theory was that, in these days, no man who ever made up parcels of
tea, or offered hides for sale, could aspire to a throne, and that no
man of business who was doing well at home, ever became a conspirator
abroad. When he saw I was taking a great interest in the struggles of
parties in France, he thought the best thing he could do would be to
let me know who I was, and leave me his opinion as to the folly of
risking anything in a foreign cause, when one could find ample
opportunity of employing one's public spirit usefully in England, for
notwithstanding his foreign blood, my father was an Englishman with
Englishmen against all the world. His instructions to my mother were,
that if, at any time, I showed signs of abandoning myself to excess in
politics, I was to get the paper, for if I leaned too much to the
people the knowledge that I had the blood of a King in me might modify
my ardour; and if I seemed likely to adopt the cause of any foreign
ruler or pretender, I might be restrained by a knowledge that, as far
as the experience of one of my ancestors went, unwelcome rulers meant
personal misery and national ruin."

"And, Mr. Hanbury, what do you purpose doing? Do you intend changing
your name and claiming your rights?"

"The only rights I have are those common to every Englishman. The name
I have worn I shall continue to wear. Though my great grandfather's
grandfather was for more than thirty years a king, there is not now a
rood of ground for his descendants to lord it over. This marriage of
Stanislaus Poniatowski with Kate Grace has been kept secret up to
this. Now I wish to bind you and Miss Grace to secrecy for the future.
I have told you the history of the past in order, not to glorify the
past and magnify the Hanburys, but in order to establish between you
two, and my mother and myself, the friendly relations which ought to
exist between kith and kin. You are the last left of your line and we
of ours. To divulge to the public what I have told you now would be to
expose us to ridicule. I came here yesterday in the design of saving
myself from ridicule a thousand times less than would follow if any
one said I set up claims to be descended from a king. I will tell you
the story of yesterday another time. Anyway, I hope I have made out
this evening that we are related. I know, if you will allow it, we
shall become friends. As earnest of our friendship will you give me
your hands?"

The old woman held out hers with the young girl's in it and Hanbury
stood up and bent and kissed the two hands.

Then Mrs. Grace began to cry and sob. It was strange to meet a kinsman
of her dead husband, and her son, and her son's child, so late in her
life, and it comforted her beyond containing herself, so she sobbed on
in gratitude.

"My mother, who is the greatest-hearted woman alive, will come to see
you both tomorrow. Fortunately all the Stanislaus or Grace, or
Hanbury, money was not in rotten banks, and as long as English Consols
hold their own there will be no need to seek a fortune in Millway or
any other part of Sussex. Edith, my cousin, I may call you Edith?" he
asked, gently taking her hand.

"If it pleases you," she said, speaking for the first time. She had
felt inclined to say "Sir," or "My Lord," or even "Sire." She had been
looking in mute astonishment at the being before her. She, who had
more respect for birth than for power, or wealth, or genius, had sat
there listening to the speech of this man as he referred to his origin
in an old nobility, and related the spreading splendours of his
forefathers blossoming into kingly honours, regal state! There,
sitting before her, at the close of this dull day of disenchantment
and sordid cares, was set a man who was heir not only to an ancient
title in Poland, but to the man who had sat, the last man who had sat,
in the royal chair of that historic land. Her heart swelled with a
rapture that was above pride, for it was unselfish. It was the
intoxicating joy one has in knowledge of something outside and beyond
one's self, as in the magnitude of space, the immensities of the
innumerable suns of the heavens, the ineffable tribute of the flowery
earth to the sun of summer. Her spirit rose to respect, veneration,
awe. What were the tinsel glories she had until that morning
attributed to her own house, compared with the imperial, solid, golden
magnificence of his race? Nothing. No better than the obscure shadows
of the forgotten moon compared with the present and insistent
effulgence of the zenith sun.

And, intolerable thought! the blood of this man had been allied with
the humble stream flowing in her veins, and he was calling her cousin,
and kissing her hand, he standing while she sat! instead of her
kneeling to kiss his hand and render him homage!

"My lord and my king," she thought. "Yes, my king. After a joy such as
this, the rest of life must seem a desert. After this night I shall
desire to live no more. I, who thought myself noble because I came of
an untitled soldier of the Conqueror's, am claimed as cousin by the
son of one who ruled in his country as William himself ruled in
England, from the throne!"

"And we shall be good friends," Hanbury said, smiling upon her.

"Yes," she said, having no hope or desire for better acquaintance with
the king in her heart, for who could be friends with her king, even
though there were remote ties of blood between them?

He caught the tone of doubt in the voice, and misconstrued it. "You
will not be so unkind, so unjust, as to visit my intrusion of
yesterday upon me?"

"No." How should one speak to a king when one could not use the common
titles or forms?

"You must know that the man I came with yesterday told me if I
accompanied him he would show me something more wonderful than miracle
gold."

"Yes," she said, for he paused, and her answer by some word or note
was necessary to show she was hearkening.

"And I came and saw you, Edith, but did not then know you were my
cousin, nor did you dream it?"

"No."

"You are the only relative I have living, except my mother, and you
will try and not be distant and cold with me?"

"Yes, I will try." But in the tone there was more than doubt.

"And you will call me John or Jack?"

"Oh!--no--no--no!" She slipped from her chair and knelt close to where
he stood.

"Are you faint?" he cried, bending over her anxiously.

"I am better now," she said, rising.

Unknown to him she had stooped and kissed his hand.



                          END OF VOLUME II.





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