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Title: Miracle Gold (Vol. 3 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.

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Transcriber's Notes:

   1. Page scan source:
      http://books.google.com/books?id=tT4VAAAAQAAJ
      (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. III.



                               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.

     XXVII.--New Relatives.

    XXVIII.--Leigh at his Bench.

      XXIX.--Strong Smelling Salts.

       XXX.--Dora Ashton Alone.

      XXXI.--Winding up the Clock.

     XXXII.--The Morning After.

    XXXIII.--Leigh confides in Timmons.

     XXXIV.--The Wrong Man.

      XXXV.--The Ruins.

     XXXVI.--Open Confession.

    XXXVII.--Free.

   XXXVIII.--Doctor Shaw's Verdict.

     XXXIX.--Patient and Nurse.

        XL.--The Two Patients.

       XLI.--Fugitives.

      XLII.--The End.



                            MIRACLE GOLD.



                            MIRACLE GOLD.



                            CHAPTER XXVII.

                            NEW RELATIVES.


When John Hanbury turned his face homeward to Chester Square from
Grimsby Street that evening, the long summer day was at last ended,
and it was dusk.

He had, before setting out for the country that morning, written a
note to his mother explaining whither he was going, and left it with
the document she had given him the night before. He wound up his note
by telling her he was still, even after the night, so confused and
hurried in his thoughts that he would make no comment on the discovery
except that it was one of the most extraordinary that had ever
befallen man. He was going into the country to find what confirmation
he could, if any, of the marvellous tale.

On getting back to London he had had a strange meeting with his
mother. Both were profoundly moved, and each, out of mercy to the
other, affected to be perfectly calm, and fell to discussing the new
aspect of affairs as though the news into which they had just come was
no more interesting than the ordinary surprises that awaken interest
once a week in the quietest family. Beyond an embrace of more warmth
and endurance than usual, there was no sign that anything very unusual
had occurred since their last meeting. Then Mrs. Hanbury sat down, and
her son, as was his custom when excited, walked up and down the room
as he told his Derbyshire experience.

"In a few hours," he went on, after some introductory sentences, "I
found out all that is to be found out about the Graces near their
former place, Gracedieu. It exactly corresponds with all my father
says. The story of Kate Grace's disappearance and marriage to a
foreign nobleman (by the tradition he is French), is still told in the
place, and the shop in which her father formerly carried on his
business in wool can still be pointed out, unaltered after a hundred
and thirty years. There is Gracedieu itself, a small house in a
garden, such as a man who had made money in trade in a country town
would retire to. There is also the tradition that Grace, the wool
dealer, did not make his money in trade, but came into it through his
rich son-in-law, whose name is not even guessed at, the people there
being content as a rule to describe him as a foreigner, while those
who pride themselves on their accuracy, call him a Frenchman, and the
entirely scrupulous say he was a French count."

"And do these Graces still live at Gracedieu, John?"

"No, mother. They left it years ago--generations ago. And now I want
to tell you a thing almost as incredible as the subject of my father's
letter. No longer since than yesterday I met, in London, the
representative of these Graces, the only surviving descendant."

"That is truly astonishing," said Mrs. Hanbury. "Yesterday was a day
of wonders."

"A day of miracles," said the young man thoughtfully.

For the first time in his life he had a secret from his mother, and he
was at this moment in doubt as to whether he should impart to her, or
not, all the circumstances of his going to Grimsby Street yesterday.
He had no inclination to speak now of the quarrel or disagreement with
Dora. That incident no longer occupied a front and illumined position
in his mind. It was in a dim background, a quiet twilight.

"How did you come across them? What are they like?"

"I came across them quite by accident. It is much too long a tale to
tell now. Indeed, it would take hours to tell fully, and I want not to
lose any time at present."

"As you please, John. This is a day when wonders come so quick that we
lose all sense of their importance. Tell me just what you like. I am
only concerned about one thing."

"And what is that, mother?" He asked in a troubled voice. He was
afraid she was about to make some reference to Dora.

"That you do not allow yourself to become too excited or carried
away," she said, with pleading solicitude.

He kissed her, and said cheerfully: "Trust me, mother, I am not going
to lose my head or knock myself up. Well, when I met Mrs. and Miss
Grace yesterday----"

"Oh, the representatives are women?"

"Yes, mother, and gentlewomen too; though I should think far from well
off----"

"If," said Mrs. Hanbury promptly, "narrow circumstances are all the
drawback they labour under that could be soon put right."

"God bless you, my good mother," cried the son with affectionate
pride. "Well, when I saw them yesterday in their place in Grimsby
Street I had, of course, no notion whatever that they were in any way
related to us. I took no particular notice of them beyond observing
that they were ladies. The strangest thing about them is that the
younger is--is----" He hesitated, not knowing how much of yesterday's
events must come out.

"What?" said the mother with a smile.

"Is, as I said, a perfect lady."

"Yes; but why do you hesitate?"

"Well, mother, I don't know how to put it," he laughed lightly, and
coloured impatiently at his own blundering stupidity.

"I will help you. That the younger is fifty, wears corkscrew curls,
and teaches the piano in that awful Grimsby Street. Never mind, John,
I am not afraid of an old maid, even if you are."

"Good heavens! I don't mean that, mother! I'll put it in this way. It
is not to say that there is a strong likeness, but, if you saw Miss
Grace, you would be prepared to swear it was Miss Ashton."

"What? So like Dora Ashton! Then, indeed, she must be not only
ladylike but a beauty as well."

"The two would be, I think, quite indistinguishable to the eye,
anyway. The voices are not the same."

"Now, indeed, you do interest me. And was it because of this
extraordinary resemblance you sought the young lady's acquaintance?"

"Well, as I said, it is too long a story, much too long a story to
tell now. I did not seek the lady's acquaintance. A man who knew us
both, and whom I met yesterday by accident, was so struck by the
similarity between Miss Ashton and Miss Grace that he insisted upon my
going with him to the house of this Mrs. Grace."

"Oh, I understand. You were at Mrs. Ashton's Thursday, met some man
there, and he carried you off. Upon my word you seem to be in a whirl
of romances," she said gaily.

"That was not exactly the way the thing arose. The man who introduced
me was at Ashton's, but we shall have the whole story out another
day."

"Then what do you think of doing now? You seem in a great hurry."

"I'm not, mother, in a great hurry anywhere in particular.

"You, of course, are wishing to run away to Curzon street?"

"No. They are not at home this evening. Mrs. Ashton said they were to
dine at Byngfield's. I am in a hurry, but in a hurry nowhere. I am
simply in a blaze of excitement, as you may imagine." He paused, and
wiped his forehead with his handkerchief. The worst was over. There
had been a reference to Dora and no explanation, a thing he wished to
avoid at any expense just now. There had been a statement that he had
met the Graces, and no mention of Leigh. His mind had been in a wild
whirl. He had in the first burst of his interview with his mother
magnified to himself the unpleasant episodes of yesterday, as far as
Leigh was concerned at all events. Now he was more at rest. He had got
breathing space, and he could between this and the next reference
decide upon the course he should pursue in that most uncomfortable
affair. There would be ample excuse for almost any irregularity on his
part with regard to her in the amazing news which had come upon him.
His mind was calmer and more unclouded now.

"Well, perhaps if you talk to me a while you may grow cooler. Tell me
anything you like or nothing. You will wear yourself out, John, if you
don't take care. To judge from your father's letter to you he attached
on practical importance to the secret it contained, to the only object
he had in communicating it was to keep you still. It has had so far an
effect the very opposite of what he desired."

"I know I am very excitable. I will try to be more calm. Let me see.
What can we talk about? Of course I can neither think nor speak about
anything which does not bear on the disclosure."

"Tell me then what you heard of the Graces in Derbyshire, and why you
think them not well off. That may have a practical use, and will take
your mind off your own place in the affair."

"Oh! yes. Well, you see Castleton isn't a very big place, and Mr.
Coutch is the most important professional man in it, so I found my way
to him, and he told me he had been making inquiries for a widow and
her granddaughter who lived in London, and I asked where they lived
and so on, and found out that Mrs. Grace who was making the inquiries
was the very Mrs. Grace I had met yesterday. I told Coutch that I was
the person he was looking for, that I represented the other branch of
the Grace family, and that I was most anxious to befriend my relatives
by giving them what information they might desire. I did not say
anything to him about the Polish affair, or the man whom Kate Grace
had married, beyond informing Coutch that he had not been a French
nobleman, and that I was a descendant of that marriage.

"Then he told me he feared from what his London correspondent had
written him that the Graces were in distress, or anyway were far from
well off, as Mrs. Grace had lately lost a large sum of money, and Miss
Grace every penny she had in the world. His correspondent said he
thought the only object of the inquiry was to find out if by any
chance there might be ever so remote a chance of tracing the other
branch of the family with a view to finding out if by will or failure
of that line some property might remain to those who bore the name of
Grace, and were direct in the line of the wool-dealer of the
eighteenth century. I then told him that I was not either exactly poor
or rich, and that I would be most happy to do anything in my power for
my distant relatives. He said that there was not even a trace of
property in his neighbourhood to which either of the branches had the
shadow of a claim, as Gracedieu had generations ago passed away from
the family by sale, and they had never owned anything else there."

"I am delighted you told this man we would be happy to be of any use
we could to this poor old lady, and her granddaughter. Of course,
John, in this case you must not do anything in which I am not a
sharer. All I have will be yours legally one day, and in the mean time
is yours with my whole heart and soul. Apart altogether from my desire
to aid in this matter because these people are your people, it would,
of course, be my duty to do so, because they are your dead father's
people. You own you are restless. Why not go to them and tell them
all? Say they have friends and well-wishers in us, and that I will
call upon them to-morrow."

So mother and son parted, and he went to Grimsby Street. He had left
Chester Square in a comparatively quiet state of mind, but as he drove
in the hansom his imagination took fire once more, and when he found
himself in Mrs. Grace's sitting-room he was highly excited.

When he returned to Chester Square he sought his mother's room. He
found her sitting alone in the twilight. In a hasty way he described
the interview between himself, Mrs. and Miss Grace, and said he had
conveyed his mother's promise of a visit the next day.

Then he said: "Do you know, I think we had better keep all this to
ourselves?"

"I am glad, my son, you are of that opinion. Up to this I have spoken
to no one, not even to your aunt Preston or Sir Edward, who were here
to-day. I don't remember ever having heard that the Hanburys were
related to people called Grace, and I suppose if I did not hear it, no
one among our friends did. I hope you cautioned Mrs. and Miss Grace.
But, remember, John, this is not wholly our secret. It is theirs quite
as much, if not more, than ours. All we can do for the present is to
keep our own tongues quiet."

"I am sure you will like Mrs. and Miss Grace. They are very quiet
people and took my news very well. Good news or news of this kind
tries people a great deal more than calamitous news. They seem to be
simple and well-bred."

"Well, when people are simple and well-bred, and good-natured, and not
selfish----"

"I think they are all that," he interjected.

"There is no merit in getting on with them. The only thing to consider
John, is, will they get on with me? Am I to be got on with by them?"

"Why, my mother would get on with the most disagreeable women ever
known."

"Yes, but then these two may not be the most disagreeable. At all
events I'll do my best. Do you intend staying in or are you going to
the club or to Curzon Street?"

"The Curzon Street people are dining out at Byngfields' as I told you
earlier in the day. I am too restless to stay in the house and the
club seems too trivial for an evening like this. I think I'll go out
and walk to that most delightful of all places."

"Where is that?"

"Nowhere in particular. I am too tired and excited to decide upon
anything to-night. I'll just go for a stroll and think about nothing
at all. I'll say good night, as I may not be back early."

And so mother and son parted.

He left the house. It was almost dark. He wandered on in an easterly
direction, not caring or heeding where he went. He tried to keep his
mind from hurrying by walking at a leisurely rate, and he tried to
persuade himself he was thinking of nothing by employing his eyes
actively on all things that came his way as he strolled along. But
this device was only an attempt and scarcely a sincere attempt.

"A king," he would think, insensibly holding his head high, "one of my
people, my great grandfather's grandfather, has been king of an old
monarchy and millions of men. It is a long time ago, no doubt, but
what does all blood pride itself upon if not former splendours? A
king! And the king of no miserable Balkan state or Christian fragment
of the Turkish empire, but a king of an ancient and powerful state
which stood powerful and stubborn in the heart of fierce, military,
warlike Europe and held its own! Poniatowski was no doubt an elected
king, but so were the others, and he was a Lithuanian nobleman before
he became King. The kingdom over which he ruled exists no longer
except in history, and even if the infamous partitions had never taken
place and Stanislaus had owned his English marriage and taken his
English family with him, I should have no more claim to the throne
than to that of the Queen. But I am the lineal descendant of a king
who reigned for a generation, and neither the malignity of to-day nor
the lies of history can destroy that fact.

"Still the whole thing is, of course, only moonshine now, and if I
went to Lithuania, to Wolczyn itself, they would laugh at my
pretensions. The family estates and honours had been vapourized before
that last of the Poniatowskis fell under Napoleon. So my father
asserts, and he took some trouble to enquire. Therefore, no doubt it
would be best to keep the whole thing secret. But can we?"

He put the thought away from him as having no immediate urgency. It
would be best for him to think of nothing at all, but to watch the gas
lamps and the people and the cabs and carriages hurrying through the
free air of England.

But Dora? What of Dora? Dora had said good night to him and then good
bye. He had behaved badly, shamefully, no doubt. There was no excuse
for him or for any man allowing himself to be carried away by temper
in speaking to a lady, above all in speaking to a lady whom he thought
and intended to make his wife. Could Dora ever forgive him? It was
more than doubtful. If she did, what assurance had he for the future?
How would Dora take this discovery about the husband of Kate Grace in
the eighteenth century? She would think little or nothing about it.
She had no respect for hereditary honours or for old blood. She judged
all men by their deeds and by their deeds alone. Hence she had
tolerated him, doubtless, when she believed him to be no more than the
son of a City merchant possessing some abilities. She had tolerated
him! It was intolerable to be tolerated! And by the woman he intended
asking to be his wife.

He had asked her to be his wife and she had hung back because he had
not yet done anything important, had not yet even taken up a
well-defined position in politics.

If he told her to-night that he was descended from Stanislaus II. King
of Poland she would not be impressed ever so little. He did not attach
much importance to his old Lithuanian blood or the transient gleam of
kingship which had shone upon his race. But there was, in spite of
Dora, something in these things after all, or all the world was wrong.

Dora was really too matter-of-fact. No doubt the rank is but the
guinea stamp and the man is the gold for all that. But in our complex
civilization the stamp is very convenient; it saves the trouble of
assaying and weighing every piece of yellow metal we are offered as
gold, and Burns himself, in his letters at least, shows anything but
this fierce democratic spirit. Why Burns' letters erred the other way,
and were full of sickening tuft-hunting and sycophancy.

What a marvellous likeness there was between the appearance of those
two young girls. Now, if anyone had said there was a remote cousinship
between the girls all who saw would say cousinship! Sisterhood! No
twins could be more alike. And yet the resemblance was only
accidental.

He would like to see them together and compare them.

Like to see them together? Should he?

Well, no.

Dora was generous, there was no question of that; and she was not
disposed to be in the least jealous. But she could scarcely help
wondering how he felt towards another girl who was physically her
counterpart and seemed to think more of blood and race.

It might occur to Dora to look at the likeness between herself and his
cousin Edith in this way: To me John Hanbury is merely a young man of
promising ability, who may if he likes forward causes in which I take
a great interest. I sometimes cross him and thwart him, but then he is
my lover, and, though I despise rank, I am his social superior in
England now anyway. How would it be with him if this young girl whose
appearance is so like mine cares' for him, apart from his abilities
and possible usefulness in causes interesting to me, and sets great
store by noble race and royal blood?

That would be an inquiry upon which Dora might not care to enter. Or
it might be she would not care? Might it be she was glad to say
good-bye?

"Perhaps Dora has begun to think she made a mistake in listening to me
at all. After yesterday and my cowardly weakness and vacillation
during the afternoon, and my unpardonable outburst after dinner, she
may not care to send me away from her because she pities me! Good God!
am I going to marry a woman who pities me?

"I will put Dora away from my thoughts for the present.

"The Graces must come to live with us, that's certain.

"Fancy that odious dwarf and Dora pitying me! I cannot bear the
thought! I could not breathe five minutes in an atmosphere of pity.
There are good points in my character, but I must take care of them or
they might deteriorate into baseness. I must take care of myself,
beware of myself. I am not perfect, I am not very vile. I should like
to be a god. Let me try."

He had told his mother he was going Nowhere in particular. It was
quite plain his reflections were bringing him no nearer to Curzon
Street.



                           CHAPTER XXVIII.

                         LEIGH AT HIS BENCH.


Tom Stamer was afraid of only two people, namely, John Timmons and the
policeman. Of both he had experience. In his fear of Timmons were
mingled love and admiration. No such diluting sentiments qualified his
feelings towards the guardians of law and order. He had "done time,"
and he did not want to do it again. He was a complete stranger to
anything like moral cowardice. He had never even heard of that
weakness by that name. He was a burglar and a thief without any code
at all, except that he would take anything he wished to take, and he
would die for John Timmons. He did not look on dying as a very serious
thing. He regarded imprisonment as a monstrous calamity, out of all
proportion to any other. He would not go out of his way to kill a
policeman, but if one stood in his way he would kill him with as
little compunction and as much satisfaction as a terrier kills a rat.
If up to the present his hands were clean of blood, it was because
shedding it had never seemed to him at once expedient and safe. If he
were made absolute king he would like to gather all the police of the
kingdom into a yard with high walls and shoot them from a safe
balcony.

Although his formulated code was limited to the two articles mentioned
above, certain things he had not done wore the air of virtue. He never
quarrelled with any man, he never ill-treated his wife, he never
cheated anyone. When drunk he was invariably amiable and good-natured,
and gave liberally to others. He was a completely loyal friend, and an
enemy all the more merciless and horrible because he was without
passion.

He had little or no mind, but he was on that account the more terribly
steadfast. Once he had resolved upon a thing nothing could divert
him from trying to accomplish it. His was one of those imperfect,
half-made intellects that are the despair of philanthropists. You
could do nothing whatever with him; he could rob and murder you. If he
had all those policemen in that high-walled court he would not have
inflicted any torture upon them. He would have shot them with his own
hand merely to make sure the race was extirpated. His fidelity was
that of an unreasoning beast. He knew many men of his own calling, and
by all of them he was looked upon as being the most mild and true, and
dangerous and deadly burglar in London. He was morally lower than the
lowest of the uncorrupted brutes.

Stamer had made up his mind that Oscar Leigh was in league with the
police, and that this postponement of buying the gold from Timmons was
merely part of some subtle plan to entrap Timmons and himself.

This conviction was his way of deciding upon taking Oscar Leigh's
life. He did not even formulate the dwarfs death to himself. He had
simply decided that Leigh meant to entrap Timmons in the interest of
Scotland Yard. Timmons and himself were one.

Wait a week indeed, and be caught in a trap! Not he! Business was
business, and no time was to be lost.

When he left Tunbridge Street that morning, he made straight for
Chelsea. This was a class of business which did not oblige him to keep
his head particularly clear. He would lay aside his ordinary avocation
until this affair was finished. The weather was warm, so he turned
into a public-house in the Vauxhall Bridge Road and sat down at a
table to think the matter over while cooling and refreshing himself
with a pint of beer.

One thing puzzled him. How was it that the dwarf pretended to be with
Timmons half-a-mile away, at the time he himself, and half-a-dozen
other men who knew Leigh's appearance thoroughly, saw him as plain as
the sun at noonday winding up his clock at the second floor window of
the house opposite the Hanover? There could, of course, not be the
least doubt that Timmons had been deceived, imposed upon in some way.
But how was it done? Timmons knew the dwarf well, knew his figure,
which could not easily be mistaken, and knew his voice also. They had
met several times before Timmons even broached the gold difficulty to
him. Leigh had told Timmons that he was something of a magician. That
he could do things no other man could do. That he had hidden knowledge
of metals, and so on, and could do things no other man living could do
with metals, and that he had books of fortune-telling and magic and
the stars, and so on.

Stamer's education had been neglected. He had read little, and knew
nothing of magic and these things, but he had heard it was only
foolishness. Timmons was an honourable man and wouldn't lie. He had
said the plan of getting rid of the gold was to be that Leigh was to
pretend to make it and sell it openly or with very little secrecy.
That was a good notion if Leigh could persuade people he made it.
Unfortunately gold could not be run into sovereigns. It had to be
stamped cold and that could only be managed by machinery.

Well, anyway, if this man, this Leigh, knew a lot of hidden things he
might know a lot about chloroform and laudanum and other drugs he
heard much about but that did not come in his way of business. Leigh
might know of or have invented something more sudden and powerful than
chloroform and have asked Timmons to smell a bottle, or have waved a
handkerchief in Timmons's face, and Timmons might have there and then
gone off into a sleep and dreamed all he believed about the walk at
midnight and the church clock.

That looked a perfectly reasonable and complete explanation. In fact
it was the explanation and no other was needed. This was simplicity
itself.

But what was the object of this hocussing of Timmons, and, having
hocussed the man, why didn't he rob him of the gold he had with him,
or call the police? That was a question of nicer difficulty and would
require more beer and a pipe. So far he was getting on famously, doing
a splendid morning's work.

He made himself comfortable with his tobacco and beer and resumed
where he had left off.

The reason why the dwarf didn't either take the gold or hand over
Timmons to the police was because he hadn't all he wanted. When he got
Timmons asleep he left him somewhere and went back to wind his clock
just to show he wasn't up to anything. What was it Timmons hadn't?
Why, papers, of course. Timmons hadn't any papers about Stamer or any
of them, and the only thing Leigh would have against Timmons, if he
gave him up then, would be the gold, out of which by itself they could
make nothing! That was the whole secret! Leigh knew the time when
Timmons would come to his senses to a minute, and had him out in the
street half a mile from the house before he knew where he was.

If confirmation of this theory were required had not Timmons told him
that Leigh carried a silver bottle always with him, and that he was
ever sniffing up the contents of the bottle? Might not he carry
another bottle the contents of which, when breathed even once, were
more powerful, ten times more powerful, than chloroform?

This explanation admitted of no doubt or even question. But if a
clincher were needed, was it not afforded by what he had heard the
landlord and frequenters of the Hanover say last night about this
man's clock? They said that when the clock was wound up by night the
winding up _always_ took place in the half hour between midnight and
half-past twelve, and furthermore that on no occasion but one, and
that one when Leigh was out of town, that one and singular occasion
being the night before his visit to the Hanover, had a soul but the
dwarf been seen in the clock room or admitted to it.

This affair must be looked after at once. It admitted of no delay. He
would go to the Hanover and early enough to try some of their rum hot,
of which he had heard such praises last night.

This was the substance of Stamer's thinking, though not the words of
his thought.

On his way to Chetwynd Street he thought:

"He wants to get evidence against Timmons, and he wants to get
evidence against _me_ for the police. If he doesn't get it from
Timmons pockets next Thursday, he'll get it some other way soon, and
then Timmons and I will be locked up. That must be prevented. He is
too clever for an honest, straightforward man like Timmons. It isn't
right to have a man like that prying into things and disturbing
things. It isn't right, and it isn't fair, and it must be stopped, and
it shall be stopped soon, or my name isn't Tom Stamer. I may make
pretty free in this get-up. It belonged to a broken-down bailiff, and
I think I look as like a broken-down bailiff as need be. When Timmons
didn't guess who I was, I don't think anyone else will know, even if I
met a dozen of the detectives."

He was in no hurry. He judged it to be still early for the Hanover. He
wanted to go there when people were in the private bar, some time
about the dinner hour would be the best part of the day for his
purpose, and it was now getting near that time.

When he reached Welbeck Place he entered the private bar of the
Hanover, and perching himself by the counter opposite the door, on one
of the high stools, asked for some rum hot. There was no one in this
compartment. The potman served him. As a rule Williams himself
attended to the private compartment, but he was at present seated on a
chair in the middle of the bar, reading a newspaper. He looked up on
the entrance of Stamer, and seeing only a low-sized man, in very seedy
black, and wearing blue spectacles, he called out to Tom to serve the
gentleman.

Mr. Stamer paid for his steaming rum, tasted it, placed the glass
conveniently at his right elbow, lit his pipe, and stretched himself
to show he was quite at his ease, about to enjoy himself, and in no
hurry. Then he took off his blue spectacles, and while he wiped the
glasses very carefully, looked around and about him, and across the
street at the gable of Forbes's bakery, with his naked eyes.

He saw with satisfaction that Oscar Leigh was sitting at the top
window opposite, working away with a file on something held in a
little vice fixed on his clockmaker's bench.

Oscar Leigh, at his bench in the top room of Forbes's bakery,
overlooking Welbeck Place, was filing vigorously a bar of brass held
in a little vice attached to the bench. He was unconscious that anyone
was watching him. He was unconscious that the file was in his hand,
and that the part of the bar on which he was working gradually grew
flatter and flatter beneath the fretting rancour of the file. He was
at work from habit, and thinking from habit, but his inattention to
the result of his mechanical labour was unusual, and the thoughts
which occupied him were far away from the necessities of his craft.

When he put the rod in the vice, and touched its dull yellow skin into
glittering ribs and points sparkling like gold, he had had a purpose
in his mind for that rod. Now he had shaved it down flat, and the rod
and the purpose for which it had been intended were forgotten. The
brazen dust lay like a new-fallen Danäe shower upon the bench before
him, upon his grimy hands, upon his apron. He was watching the
delicate sparkling yellow rain as it fell from the teeth of inexorable
steel.

Oscar Leigh was thinking of gold--Miracle Gold.

Stamer had resumed his blue spectacles. He was furtively watching out
of the corners of his eyes behind the blue glasses the man at the
window above. He too was thinking of a metal, but not of the regal,
the imperial yellow monarch of the Plutonian realms, but of a livid,
dull, deadly, poisonous metal--lead, murderous lead.

The gold-coloured dust fell from the dwarf's file like a thin,
down-driven spirt of auriferous vapour.

"Miracle Gold," he thought, "Miracle Gold. All gold is Miracle Gold
when one tests it by that only great reagent, the world. The world,
the world. In my Miracle Gold there would be found an alloy of copper
and silver. Yes, a sad and poisonous alloy. Copper is blood-red, and
silver is virgin white, and gold is yellow, a colour between the two,
and infinitely more precious than they, the most precious of all
metals is gold.

"The men who sought for the elixir of life sought also for the
philosopher's stone. They placed indefinite prolongation of life and
transmutation of the baser metals into gold side by side in
importance. And all the time they were burying in their own graves
their own little capital of life; they were missing all the gold of
existence!

"They ceaselessly sought for endless life and found nothing but the
end of the little life which had been given them! They ceaselessly
sought to make gold while gold was being made all round them in
prodigal profusion! They seared up their eyes with the flames of
furnaces and the fumes of brass, to make another thing the colour of
flame, the colour of brass! Was there no gold made by the sunlight or
the motion of men's hearts?

"I cannot make this Miracle Gold. I can pretend to make it and put the
fruit of violence and rapine abroad as fruit of the garden of the
Hesperides. The world will applaud the man who has climbed the wall
and robbed the garden of the Hesperides, providing that wall is not in
London, or England, or the British Empire.

"I am not thinking of making this gold for profit; but for fame; for
fame or infamy?

"I am in no want of money, as the poor are in want of money, and I do
not value money as the rich value it. From my Miracle Gold I want the
fame of the miracle not the profit of the gold. But why should I
labour and run risk for the philosopher's stone, when I am not greedy
of pelf? For the distinction. For the glory.

"Mine is a starved life and I must make the food nature denies me.

"But is this food to be found in the crucible? or on the filter?

"I am out of gear with life, but that is no reason why I should invent
a dangerous movement merely to set me going in harmony with something
that is still more out of gear with life.

"The elixir of life is not what is poured into life, but what is
poured out of it. We are not rich by what we get, but by what we give.
Tithonus lived until he prayed for death.

"And Midas starved. He would have given all the gold in the world for
a little bread and wine or for the touch of a hand that did not harden
on his shoulder.

"Here is a golden shower from this brass bar.

"Miracle Gold! Miracle Gold does not need making at my hands. It is
made by the hands of others for all who will stretch forth their hands
and take it. It is ready made in the palm of every hand that touches
yours in friendship. It is the light of every kindly eye.

"It is on the lips of love for lovers.

"One touch of God's alchemy could make it even in the breast of a
hunchback if it might seem sweet to one of God's angels to find it
there!"

He dropped the file, swept the golden snow from the bench, rose and
shook from his clothes the shower of golden sparks of brass. Then he
worked his intricate way deftly through the body of the clock and
locking the door of the clock-room behind him, descended the stairs
and crossed Welbeck Place to the Hanover public house.



                            CHAPTER XXIX.

                        STRONG SMELLING SALTS.


Stamer had by this time been provided with a second glass of the
Hanover's famous rum hot. Mr. Williams the proprietor was still
immersed in his newspaper, although Stamer's implied appreciation of
the hot rum, in the order of a second glass, had almost melted the
host into the benignity of conversation with the shabby-looking
stranger. On the appearance of the dwarf, Williams rose briskly from
his chair and greeted the new-comer cordially. Stamer did not stir
beyond drawing back a little on his stool. Out of his blue spectacles
he fixed a steady and cat-like gaze upon Leigh.

"How warm the weather keeps," said Leigh, climbing to the top of a
stool, with his back to the door of the compartment and directly
opposite Stamer. "Even at the expense of getting more dust than I can
manage well with, I think I must leave my window open," pointing
upwards to the clock-room. "The place is suffocating. Hah!
Suffocating."

"Why don't you get a fine muslin blind and then you could leave the
window open, particularly if you wet the blind."

"There's something in that, Mr. Williams; there's a great deal in what
you say, Mr. Williams. But, you see, the water would dry off very soon
in this broiling weather, and then the dust would come through. But if
I soaked the blind in oil, a non-drying oil, it would catch all the
dust and insects. Dust is as bad for my clock as steel filings from a
stone are for the lungs of a Sheffield grinder. Hah! Yes, I must get
some gauze and steep it in oil. Would you lend me the potman for a few
minutes? He would know what I want and I am rather tired for
shopping."

"Certainly, with pleasure, Mr. Leigh. Here, Binns, just put on your
coat and run on an errand for Mr. Leigh, will you."

The potman who was serving the only customer in the public bar
appeared, got his instructions and money from the clock-maker and
skipped off with smiling alacrity. The little man was open-handed in
such matters.

"Yes; the place is bad enough in the daytime," went on Leigh as he was
handed a glass of shandy-gaff, "but at night when the gas is lighted
it becomes choking simply."

"It's a good job you haven't to stay there long at night. No more than
half-an-hour with the gas on."

"Yes, about half-an-hour does for winding up. But then I sometimes
come there when you are all in bed. I often get up in the middle of
the night persuaded something has gone wrong. I begin to wonder if
that clock will get the better of me and start doing something on its
own account."

"It's twice too much to have on your mind all by yourself. Why don't
you take in a partner?" asked Williams sympathetically, "or," he
added, "give it up altogether if you find it too much for you?" If
Leigh gave up his miserable clock, Leigh and Williams might do
something together. The two great forces of their minds might be
directed to one common object and joined in one common fame.

"Partner! Hah!" cried Leigh sharply, "and have all my secrets blown
upon in twenty-four hours." Then he added significantly. "The only man
whom I would allow into that room for a minute should be deaf and dumb
and a fool."

"And not able to read or write," added Williams with answering
significance.

"And not able to read or write," said the dwarf, nodding his head to
Williams.

The publican stood a foot back from the counter and expanded his chest
with pride at the thought of being trusted by the great little man
with the secret of the strange winder of two nights ago. Then he
added, by way of impressing on Leigh his complete trustworthiness
respecting the evening which was not to be spoken of, "By-the-way Mr.
Leigh, we saw you wind up last night, sure enough."

"Oh yes, I saw you. I nodded to you."

"Yes, at ten minutes past twelve by my clock, a quarter past twelve by
my watch; for I looked, Mr. Leigh. You nodded. I told the gentlemen
here how wonderfully particular you were about time, and how your
clock would go right to a fraction of a second. If I am not mistaken
this gentleman was here. Weren't you here, sir?" Williams said,
addressing Stamer for the first time, but without moving from where he
stood.

"I happened to be here at the time, and I saw the gentleman at the
window above," said Stamer in a meek voice.

Then a remarkable thing happened.

The partition between the private bar and the public bar was about six
feet high. Just over the dwarf's head a pair of long thin hands
appeared on the top of the partition, and closed on it with the
fingers pointing downward. Then very slowly and quite silently a
round, shabby, brown hat stole upwards over the partition, followed by
a dirty yellow-brown forehead, and last of all a pair of gleaming blue
eyes that for a moment looked into the private bar, and then silently
the eyes, the forehead, and the hat, sank below the rail, and finally
the hands were withdrawn from the top of the partition. From the
moment of the appearance of the hands on the rail until they left it
did not occupy ten seconds.

No one in the private bar saw the apparition.

"Well," said Leigh, who showed no disposition to include Stamer in the
conversation, "I can have a breath of air to-night when I am winding
up. I am free till then. I think I'll go and look after that mummy.
Oh! here's Binns with the muslin. Thank you, Binns, this will do
capitally."

He took the little silver flask out of his pocket, and poured a few
drops from it into his hand and sniffed it up, and then made a noisy
expiration.

"Very refreshing. Very refreshing, indeed. I know I needn't ask you,
Williams. I know you never touch it. You have no idea of how
refreshing it is."

The smell of eau-de-cologne filled the air.

Stamer watched the small silver flask with eyes that blazed balefully
behind the safe screen of his blue glasses.

"Would you oblige me," he said in a timid voice, holding out his hand
as he spoke.

Leigh was in the act of returning the tiny flask to his waistcoat
pocket. He arrested it a moment, and then let it fall in out of sight,
saying sharply: "You wouldn't like it, sir. Very few people do like
it. You must be used to it."

Stamer's suspicions were now fully roused. This was the very drug
Leigh had used with Timmons. It produced little or no effect on the
dwarf, for as he explained, he was accustomed to it, but on a man who
had never inhaled it before the effect would be instant, and long and
complete insensibility. "I should like very much to try. I can stand
very strong smelling salts."

"Oh! indeed. Can you? Then you would like to try some strong smelling
salts?" said Leigh with a sneer as he scornfully surveyed the shabby
man who had got off his stool and was standing within a few feet of
him. "Well, I have no more in the flask. That was the last drop, but I
have some in this." Out of his other waistcoat pocket he took a small
glass bottle with a ground cap and ground stopper. He twisted off the
cap and loosened the stopper. "This is very strong, remember."

"All right." If he became insensible here and at this time it would do
no harm. There was plenty of help at hand, and nothing at stake, not
as with Timmons last night in that house over the way.

"Snuff up heartily," said the dwarf, holding out the bottle towards
the other with the stopper removed.

Stamer leaned on one of the high stools with both his hands, and put
his nose over the bottle. With a yell he threw his arms wildly into
the air and fell back on the floor as if he were shot.

Williams sprang up on the counter and cried: "What's this! He isn't
dead?" in terror.

The potman flew over the counter into the public bar, and rushed into
the private compartment.

The solitary customer in the public bar drew himself up once more and
stared at the prostrate man with round blue eyes.

Leigh laughed harshly as he replaced the stopper and screwed on the
cap.

"Dead! Not he! He's all right! He said he could stand strong salts. I
gave him the strongest ammonia. That's all."

The potman had lifted Stamer from the ground, propped him against the
wall and flung half a bottle of water over his head.

Stamer recovered himself instantly. His spectacles were in pieces on
the floor. He did not, considering his false beard and whiskers, care
for any more of the potman's kindnesses. He stooped, picked up his hat
and walked quickly out of the Hanover.

"I like to see a man like that," said Leigh, calmly blowing a dense
cloud of cigar-smoke from his mouth and nodding his head in the
direction Stamer had taken.

"You nearly killed the man," said Williams, dropping down from the
counter inside the bar and staring at Leigh with frightened eyes that
looked larger than usual owing to the increased pallor of his face.

"Pooh! Nonsense! That stuff wouldn't kill anyone unless he had a weak
heart or smashed his head in his fall. I got it merely to try the
effect of it combined with a powerful galvanic battery, on the nasal
muscles of my mummy. Now, if that man were dead we'd get him all right
again in a jiffy with one sniff of it. I was saying I like a man like
him. You see, he was impudent and intruded himself on me when he had
no right to do anything of the kind, and he insisted on smelling my
strong salts. Well, he had his wish, and he came to grief, and he
picked himself up, or rather Binns picked him up, and he never said
anything but went away. He knew he was in the wrong, and he knew he
got worsted, and he simply walked away. That is the spirit which makes
Englishmen so great all the world over. When they are beaten they
shake hands and say no more about the affair. That's true British
pluck." Leigh blew another dense cloud of smoke in front of him and
looked complacently at Williams.

"Well," said the publican in a tone of doubt, "he didn't exactly shake
hands, you know. He does look a bit down in the world, seems to me an
undertaker's man out of work, but I rather wonder he didn't kick up a
row. Many another man would."

"A man of any other nationality would, but not a Britisher. If,
however, you fancy the poor chap is out of work and he comes back and
grumbles about the thing, give him half-a-sovereign from me."

"Mr. Leigh, I must say that is very handsome of you, sir," said
Williams, thawing thoroughly. He was a kind-hearted man, and did think
the victim of the trick ought to get some sort of compensation.

Meanwhile, Stamer had reached the open air and was seemingly in no
great hurry to go back to the Hanover to claim the provision Leigh had
made for his injury. He did not seem in a hurry to go anywhere, and a
person who knew of what had taken place in the private bar, and seeing
him move slowly up Welbeck Place with his left shoulder to the wall
and his eyes on the window of the workshop, would think he was either
behaving very like a kicked cur and slinking away with the desire of
attracting as little attention as possible, or that he was meditating
the mean revenge of breaking the dwarf's window.

But Stamer was not sneaking away. He was simply taking observations in
a comprehensive and leisurely manner. Above all, he was not dreaming
of breaking the clockmaker's window. On the contrary he was hugging
himself with delight at the notion that he would not have to break
Leigh's window. No, there would not be the least necessity for that.
As the window was now no doubt it would be necessary to smash one pane
at least. But with that muslin blind well-soaked in oil stretched
across the open, caused by the raising of the lower sash there would
be no need whatever of injuring the dwarf's glass.

He passed very slowly down Welbeck Place towards the mews under the
window which lighted the private bar, and through which he had watched
the winding up of the clock last night. His eyes, now wanting the blue
spectacles, explored and examined every feature of Forbes's with as
close a scrutiny as though he were inspecting it to ascertain its
stability.

When he had deliberately taken in all that eyes could see in the gable
of Forbes's bakery, he turned his attention to his left, and looked
with care unmingled with anxiety at the gable or rather second side of
the Hanover. Then he passed slowly on. It might almost be fancied from
his tedious steps that he had hurt his back or his legs in his fall,
but he did not limp or wriggle or drag his legs.

Beyond the Hanover, that is on this side between the end of the public
house and the Welbeck Mews, were two poor two-storey houses, let in
tenements to men who found employment about the mews. These houses
Stamer observed closely also, and then passed under the archway into
the mews. Here he looked back on the gables of the tenement houses.
They were, he saw, double-roofed, with a gutter in the middle, and
from the gutter to the mews descended a water-pipe into the ground.

When there was nothing more to be noted in the outside of the gables,
Stamer pulled his hat over his eyes and struck out briskly across the
mews, which he quitted by the southern outlet.

As he finished his inspection and left the mews he thought:

"So that was the stuff he gave Timmons, was it? I suppose it had more
effect on him or he got more of it. It didn't take my senses away for
more than a flash of lightning, but more of it might knock me silly
for a while. Besides, Timmons is not as strong a man as I. It is a
wonder it did not kill him. I felt as if the roof of my skull was
blown off. I felt inclined to draw and let him have an ounce. But
then, although he may be playing into the hands of the police, he
isn't a policeman. He couldn't have done the drill, although his boots
are as big as the regulation boots. Then, even if I did draw on him I
couldn't have got away. There were too many people about.

"So he'll wind up his clock to-night between twelve and half-past,
will he? It will take him the longest half-hour he ever spent in all
his life! There's plenty of time to get the tools ready, and for a
little practice too."

Stamer had no personal resentment against Leigh because of the trick
put upon him. A convict never has the sense of the sacred
inviolateness of his person that belongs to men of even the most
depraved character who have never "done time." He had arrived at his
deadly intent not from feelings of revenge but from motives of
prudence. Leigh possessed dangerous information, and Leigh was guilty
of treason and was trying to compass betrayal; therefore he must be
put away, and put away at once.

Meanwhile the man who drew himself up by his hands, and looked over
the partition between the public and private bar, had left the
Hanover. He was a very tall man with grizzled, mutton-chop whiskers
and an exceedingly long, rusty neck. He wore a round-topped brown hat,
and tweed clothes, a washed-out blue neckerchief, the knot of which
hung low on his chest. He had no linen collar, and as he walked
carried his hands thrust deep into his trousers' pockets.

He too, had come to Chetwynd Street, to the Hanover, to gather any
facts he might meet about this strange clockmaker and his strange
ways. He had gone into the public bar for he did not wish to encounter
face to face the man about whom he was inquisitive. He had sent a boy
for Stamer's wife and left her in charge of his marine store in
Tunbridge Street, saying he was unexpectedly obliged to go to the
Surrey Dock. He told her of the visit Stamer had paid him that
morning, and said he thought her husband was getting a bit crazy. Then
he left her, having given her instructions about the place and
promising to be back in a couple of hours.

Timmons was more than three hours gone, and when he re-entered
Tunbridge Street Mrs. Stamer came in great excitement to meet him,
saying she had no notion he would be so long and that if Tom came back
during her absence he would be furious, as she had left no word where
she was to be found. To this Timmons replied shortly that he didn't
suppose Stamer would have come back, and parted from her almost
rudely, which showed he was in a mind far from ordinary, for he was
always jocular and polite after his fashion to the woman.

When he was alone in his own place he began walking up and down in a
state of great perturbation.

"I don't know what to make of it--I don't know what to make of it," he
thought. "Stamer is no fool, and I know he would not lie to me. He
says he saw Leigh wind up the clock at the time Leigh was standing
with me under the church tower. The landlord of that public-house says
he saw him, and Leigh himself says he nodded to the landlord at a
quarter past twelve! I'm not mad, and I wasn't drunk. What can it
mean? I can make nothing of it.

"There may be something in what Stamer says after all. This miserable,
hump-backed creature may be only laying a trap for us. If I thought I
was to be caught after my years of care and caution by a mannikin like
that, I'd slit his wizand for him. I did not like his way last night,
and the more I think of it the less I like it. I think I had better be
off this job. I don't like it, but I don't care to fail, particularly
after telling Stamer all about it.

"What business had that fool Stamer to walk straight into the lion's
mouth? What did he want in Chetwynd Street? No doubt he went there on
the same errand as I, to try to find out something more about last
night. Well, a nice thing he did find out. What infernal stuff did the
dwarf give Stamer to smell? It was a mercy it did not kill the man. If
it had killed Stamer, and there had been an inquest, it would have
made a nice mess. No one could tell what might have come out about
Stamer, about the whole lot, about myself!

"It is plain no one ought to have further dealings with that little
man. Anyone who could give stuff like that to a man to smell in broad
daylight, and in the presence of witnesses, would not stick at a
trifle in the dark and when no one was by. Yes, I must cut the dwarf.
Fortunately, there is nothing in Leigh's possession he can use against
me. I took good care of that.

"How will Stamer take the affair? Will he cherish anger? Will he want
revenge?

"Well, if he will let him."

These were not the words in which Timmons thought, but they represent
the substance of his cogitations.

Meanwhile, Oscar Leigh had left Chetwynd Street, and gone back to the
clock-room to fix the new blind Binns, the potman, had bought for him.
He had not intended returning that day, but he had nothing special to
do, and the blind was a new idea and new ideas interested him.

He let himself in by the private door, and went straight to the
clock-room. He had a bottle of sweet oil, and the roll of muslin. He
oiled the muslin, and having stretched and nailed it in position,
raised the lower sash of the window about two feet from the sill. The
muslin was double, and the two sheets were kept half an inch apart by
two rods, so that any dust getting through the outer fold might be
caught by the inner one. Having settled this screen to his
satisfaction, he left the room and descended once more.

"My clock," he thought, "will be enough for fame. I will not meddle
with this Miracle Gold. I am committed to nothing, and anything
Timmons may say will be only slander, even if he did dare to speak."

He reached the street, and wandered on aimlessly.

"My clock when it is finished will be the most perfect piece of
mechanism ever designed and executed by one man. It will be classed
among the wonders of the world, and be spoken of with admiration as
long as civilization lasts.

"But I must take care it does not get the upper hand of me. Already
the multiplicity of the movements confuse my head at times when I am
not near it. I must be careful of my head, or my great work will
suffer. Sometimes I see those figure of time all modelled and
fashioned and in their proper dispositions executing their assigned
evolutions. At times I am in doubt about them. They grow faint, and
cobwebby, and misty, as though they were huddled together in some dim
room, to which one ray of light was suddenly admitted. I must be
careful of my head.

"Long ago, and also until not very long ago, when I added a new effect
or movement it fell into its proper place and troubled me no more.
Now, when I am away from my clock, when I cannot see and touch it, I
often forget a movement, or give it a wrong direction, draw from it a
false result.

"I am too much a man of one idea. I have imagination enough for a score
of hands and ten stout bodies, and I have only a pair of hands and
THIS!"

He paused and looked down at his protuberant chest and twisted trunk,
and shrunken, bent legs, and enormous feet.

"I am a bad specimen of the work of Nature's journeyman, to put it as
some one does, and I am abominably made--all except the head!"

He threw up his head and glanced around with scornful challenge in his
eye.

"Hey!" cried a man's voice in alarm.

He looked up.

The chest of a horse was within a hand's breadth of his shoulder. The
horse's head was flung aloft. The horse snorting and quivering, and
bearing back upon his haunches.

Leigh sprang aside and looked around. He was in the middle of
Piccadilly at Hyde Park Corner. He had almost been ridden over by a
group of equestrians.

The gentleman whose horse had nearly touched him, took off his hat and
apologised.

"You stopped suddenly right under the horse's head," said the
gentleman. "I am extremely sorry."

Leigh raised his stick to strike the head of the horse.

The rider pulled his horse sharply away and muttered something under
his breath.

"Oh, Sir Julius," cried a voice in terror, "it's Mr. Leigh!"

The dwarf's stick fell from his hand. "God's mercy in Heaven!" he
cried in a whisper, as he took off his hat slowly, "Miss Ashton!"

Then, bareheaded and without his stick, he went up to the side of her
horse, and said in a hoarse whisper, "I will have nothing to do with
that Miracle Gold!"

A groom who had dismounted handed him his stick, and putting on his
hat, he hastened away through the crowd which had begun to gather,
leaving Dora in a state of mingled alarm and pity.

"Is he mad?" said Sir Julius Whinfield as the dwarf disappeared and
the equestrians moved on.

"I'm sure I don't know. I think not. For a moment he terrified me, and
now he breaks my heart!"

"Breaks your heart?"

"Oh, he ought not to be human! There surely can be no woe like his!"



                             CHAPTER XXX.

                          DORA ASHTON ALONE.


Dora Ashton was greatly shocked and distressed by the peril of Oscar
Leigh and his subsequent behaviour.

"I am sure, Miss Ashton, I hope you will not imagine for a moment
either that I was riding carelessly or that I recognised Mr. Leigh
until you spoke. I saw him plainly enough as he was crossing the road.
He was not minding in the least where he was going. He would have got
across us in good time if he had only kept on; but he pulled up
suddenly right under my horse's nose. I am sure I was more frightened
than he. By Jove! how he glared at me. I think he would have killed me
there and then if he could. He was going to strike my horse with that
dreadful bludgeon of his. I am sure I was much more frightened than he
was," said Sir Julius, in a penitential tone of voice, as the two rode
on side by side.

The other members of the party, including Mr. Ashton, had fallen
behind and were also discussing the incident among themselves.

"You were quite blameless," said the girl, who was still pale and
trembling. "I don't suppose the poor man was much afraid. Of what
should he be afraid?"

"Well," said the baronet, stroking the arching neck of his bay, "he
was within an ace of being ridden over, you know."

"And suppose he had been knocked down and ridden over, what has he to
fear, poor man?" she said. Her eyes were fixed, and she was speaking
as if unconscious she uttered her words. The group had turned out of
the noise of Piccadilly and were riding close together.

"He might have been hurt, I mean seriously hurt. Particularly he?"

"Hurt! How could he be hurt? You might be hurt, or I might be hurt,
but how could he be hurt. Particularly he! You fancy because he is
maimed and misshapen he is more likely to be hurt than a sound man?"

"Assuredly."

"I cannot see that. When people say a man was hurt, they do not mean
merely or mostly that he endured pain. They mean that he was injured
or disabled in some way. How can you injure or disable him? He is as
much injured and disabled as a man can be and live."

"That is very true; but he might have been killed. Miss Ashton, you do
not mean to say you think it would be better he had been killed?"
cried Sir Julius in a tone of one shocked and surprised.

"I do not know. Surely death and Heaven must be conditions of greater
ease and happiness for him than for ordinary mortals."

"I am entirely of your opinion there. But from what I saw and heard
of this man yesterday and to-day, I am disposed to think he has
self-esteem enough to sustain him in any difficulty and carry him
through any embarrassment."

"How are we to know how much of this self-esteem is assumed?"

"It does not matter whether it is assumed or not, so long as it is
sustaining."

"What! Does it not matter at what expense it is hired for use? You
amaze me, Sir Julius. You are generally sympathetic and sound, I think
you have not been taking your lessons regularly under Lady Forcar. She
would be quicker sighted in a matter of this kind." The girl shook off
her air of abstraction and smiled at the young man.

"No, Miss Ashton, I am not neglecting the lectures of Lady Forcar, but
of late they have not been much concerned with man. I deeply deplore
it, but she has taken to pigs. Anyway she would talk of nothing but
pigs yesterday, at your mother's. And even the improvement of my mind
does not come within her consideration under the head of pigs,
although I begged of her to be gracious and let it."

"That is very sad indeed. You must feel sorely slighted. And what has
she to say about pigs?"

"Oh, I really couldn't think of half the distractingly flattering
things she has to say about them. She made me miserably jealous, I
assure you. She says she is going to write an article for one of the
heavy, of the very heaviest, magazines, and she is going to call her
article 'Dead Pigs and the Pigs that eat them,' and such harmless
people as you and I are to be considered among the latter class in the
title. Isn't that fearful. She says from this forth, her mission is
pigs."

"I shall certainly read this wonderful article when it appears," said
the girl with a laugh. "Can you tell me anything more about this
article?"

"No; except that it was Mr. Leigh started the subject between her and
me."

"Mr. Leigh?" said Dora gravely.

"Yes. When she saw him eat all your bread and butter, she said he was
a man who, in the hands of a clever wife, might act the part of a
Napoleon the Great in social matters."

The grave look on Dora's face changed to one of sadness. At first,
when Sir Julius mentioned the dwarf's name, she thought some unkind
reference was about to be made to his unhappy physical deformities.
Now her anxiety was relieved on that score only to have her feelings
aroused anew over the spectacle of his spiritual desolation. He marry!
How could he marry? And yet he had told them he had found the model
for his Pallas-Athena. She was not so simple as to think the mere
intellectual being was represented to him by the model for his
Pallas-Athena. Suppose he used the name of Pallas-Athena only out of
shyness for what struck him as mere loveliness in woman, mere good
looks and kindliness of nature? What a heart-breaking thought! What an
awful torture it must be to be hungry for love and beauty in such a
form!

Sir Julius Whinfield left her at the house in Curzon Street, and she
went up to her own room to change her dress. She had nothing arranged
for between that and dinner. Her father had gone away on foot from the
house, and her mother had taken the carriage before luncheon to pay a
visit to some people in whom Dora was not interested. The girl had all
the afternoon to herself, and she had plenty of thought to occupy it.
She threw herself in a large easy chair by the open window. Her room
was at the back of the house, and looked out on a space of roofs and
walls and tiny gardens. There was nothing in view to distract the eye.
There was much within to exercise the spirit.

"It would be madness," was the result of deep and long thought, "to go
any further. I like him well enough and admire him greatly, and I
daresay--no, let me be quite candid--I _know_ he likes me. I daresay
we are better disposed towards each other than one tenth of the people
who marry, but that is not enough.

"We did not fall in love with one another at first sight. It was no
boy and girl attachment. We were attracted towards one another by the
intellectual sides of our characters. I thought I was wiser than other
girls in not allowing my fancy to direct my fate. I thought he and I
together might achieve great things. I am now afraid it is as great,
even a greater, mistake to marry for intellect than to marry for money
or position.

"I have made up my mind now. Nothing shall change me. My decision is
as much for his good as my own. Last night was not the climax of what
would be. It was only the first of a long line of difficulties or
quarrels that would increase as time went on.

"We have been enduring one another out of admiration for one another,
not loving one another for our own and love's own sake.

"It will cost me many a pang, but it must be done. I shall make no
sign. I shall make no announcement. No one has been formally told we
are engaged, and no one has any business to know. If people have
guessed it, let them now guess the engagement has been broken off. I
am not bound to enlighten them."

Then she rose and found materials for a letter, and wrote:


"Dear Mr. Hanbury,

"I have been thinking a great deal of the talk we had last night after
dinner, and I have come to the conclusion that it was all for the
best. We should never be able to agree. I think the least said now the
better. Our engagement has not been announced to anyone. Nothing need
be said about its being broken off. I hope this arrangement will be
carried out with as little pain to either as possible. I shall not
send you back your letters. I am sure getting back letters is always
painful, and ought to be avoided. I shall burn yours, and I ask you to
do the same with any notes you may have of mine. Neither will I return
the few things that cannot be burned. None of them is, I think, of any
intrinsic value to you beyond the value it had between you and me. I
shall keep them for a week and then destroy them.

"Believe me, Mr. Hanbury, I take this step with a view to our mutual
good, and in no haste or pique. I shall always think of you, with the
greatest interest and respect. I should like, if you think well of it,
that we may remain friends in appearance as I hope we may always be in
spirit.

"I ask you for only one favour. Pray do not make any attempt whatever
to treat this decision as anything but final and irrevocable.

                    "Yours very sincerely,

                                  "Dora Ashton."


She determined not to post this letter until late that night.
To-morrow she was dining out. She should leave home early and not come
back until she had to go straight to her room to dress. After dinner,
they were going to the theatre, so she should avoid all chance of
meeting him if he disregarded her request and called.

So far the difficult parts of the affair had been done, and done too
with much less pain than she could have imagined. She had taken the
two great steps without faltering. She had made up her mind to end the
engagement between her and John Hanbury, and she had written to him
saying the engagement was at an end. If ill-matched people who found
themselves engaged to one another only acted with her decision and
promptness what an infinity of misery would be avoided. She was almost
surprised it had required so little effort for her to make up her mind
and to put her decision on paper. She had often heard of the miseries
such a step entailed, and here she was now sitting alone in her own
room after doing the very thing and feeling little the worse of it.
She was but twenty-one, and she had broken with the only man she had
ever seriously thought of as a lover, and it had not caused her
anything like the pang she had suffered last night when he reproached
her so bitterly and told her he could expect nothing but betrayal at
her hands.

And now that the important part of the affair had been disposed of in
a business-like way, what had she to do?

Nothing.

She could do nothing else whatever. It wanted some hours of
dinner-time, and no one ever called upon them of Fridays except--him,
and he would not call to-day. She should have the whole of the
afternoon to herself. That was fortunate, for although she did not
feel greatly depressed or cast down, she was not inclined towards
company of any kind. It had been arranged early yesterday that she
should ride with her father in the Park to-day, and she had not cared
to plead any excuse, for she did not want to attract attention to
herself, and besides, she did not feel very much in need of any excuse
since she knew he would not be there. He knew they were to ride there.
In fact he had promised to meet her there, but after last night he
would not of course go, for he would not like the first meeting after
last night to occur in so public a place and so soon after that scene.

Yes, everything was in perfectly regular order now and she had the
afternoon to herself without any fear of interruption. So she could
now sit down and rest, and--think.

Then she remained quite still for a long time in her easy chair, quite
still, with her hand before her face and her eyes closed. The
difficulties had been faced and overcome in a wise and philosophical
way, and nothing remained to be done but to do nothing, and as she sat
and thought this doing of nothing became harder than all that had gone
before. She had told herself she was a person of convictions and
principles when she was resolving on action and acting on resolve. She
had no further need of her convictions and principles. She laid them
aside with the writing materials out of which she had called forth
that letter to Jack--to Mr. Hanbury. She did not realize until this
moment, she had not had time to realize it, that she was a woman, a
young girl who had given her heart to a young man, and that now he and
she had parted to meet no more on the old terms.

It was easy to shut up the ceremonious gates of the temple and say
worship was at an end in that place for ever. But how fared it in the
penetralia of her heart? How did she face the inner chambers of her
soul where the statue of her hero stood enshrined for worship? It cost
but little effort to say that the god was deposed, but could she all
at once effectually forbid the priestess to worship?

Ah, this doing of nothing when all had been done, was ten thousand
times harder than action!

All the faculties of her reason were in favour of her decision, but
what has the reason to do with the glance of an eye, or the touch of a
hand, of the confiding commune of a soul in sympathy with one's own?

She understood him better than any other woman ever should. It was her
anxiety that he should stand high in his own regard that made her
jealous of his little weaknesses, and they were little, and only
weaknesses after all, and only weaknesses in a giant, not the
weaknesses of a man of common clay. If she had loved more what he was
to her than what she dreamed he might be to himself and all the world,
she would have taken no trouble in these matters that angered him to
fury.

And why should he not be angered with her for her poor, feeble woman's
interference with his lion nature? Why should he not turn upon her and
revile her for coming across his path? Who was she that she must
irritate him that was all the world to her, and deferred to by all men
who came his way? Why should she thwart or impede him?

He was not perfect, no doubt, but who had set her the task of
perfecting him?

Her haughty love.

Yes, the very intensity of her love had ended in the estrangement of
the lover. She found noble qualities in the man, and she had tried to
make him divine. Not because he was _her_ lover, but because she
_loved him_. She had given him her heart and soul, and now she had
sacrificed her love itself upon the altar of her devotion.

That was the heroic aspect of the affair, and as in all other sorrows
that take large shape, the heroic aspect elevated above pain and
forbade the canker of tears.

But this girl saw other aspects too.

She should miss him--oh, so bitterly! She should miss him the whole of
her life forth from that hour! She should miss him in the immediate
future. She had missed him that day in the Park. She should miss him
tomorrow. He always came on Saturdays. He used to say he always came
to Curzon Street on Saturday afternoon, like any other good young man,
to see his sweetheart when the shop was shut. She should miss him on
Sunday, too, for he always came on Sunday, saying, the better the day
the better the deed. On Mondays he made it a point to stay away, but
contrived to meet her somewhere, in the Park, or at a friend's place,
or in Regent Street, and now he would stay away altogether, not making
a point of it, but because she had told him to make an observance of
always staying away.

She should miss his voice, his marvellous voice, which could be so
clarion toned and commanding among men, and was so soft and tunable
for her ear. When he spoke to her it always seemed that the
instrumental music designed to accompany his words had fined off into
silence for shame of its inadequacy. How poor and thin and harsh all
voices would sound now. They would merely make idle sounds to the idle
air. Of old, of that old which began its backward way only yesterday,
all voices had seemed the prelude of his. They sounded merely as notes
of preparation and awakening. They were only the overture, full of
hints and promises.

She should miss his eyes. She should miss the clear vivid leap of
flame into his eyes when he glanced at her with enthusiasm, or joy, or
laughter. She should miss the gleam of that strange light which, once
having caught his eye in moments of enthusiasm, appeared to bathe his
face while he looked and spoke. She should miss the sound of his
footstep, that fleet herald of his impatient love!

Oh, it was hard--hard--hard to be doomed to miss so much!

And all this was only what she should miss in the immediate future.

In the measure of her after life would be nothing but idle air. In her
dreams of the future she had pictured him going forth from her in the
morning radiant and confident, to mingle in some worthy strife, and
coming back in the evening suffused with glory, to draw breaths of
peaceful ease in her society, in her home, her new home, their joint
home. She had thought of the reverse of this picture. She had thought
of him returning weary and unsuccessful, coming home to her for rest
now, and soothing service of love and inspiriting words of hope.

She had visions of later life and visions of their gradual decay, and
going down the hill of life hand in hand together. She had dreamed
they should never, never, never be parted.

And now they were parted for ever and ever and ever, and she should
miss him to-day and to-morrow and all the days of the year now half
spent, and of all the after years of her life.

She should miss him in death. She should not lie by his side in the
grave. She should not be with him in the Life to Come.

All the glory of the world was only a vapour, a mist. The sunlight was
a purposeless weariness. The smell of the flowers in the window-sill
was thin and foretold decay. What was the use of a house and servants
and food. Lethe was a river of Hell. Why? Why not a river of Paradise?

She should not be with him even in the grave--even in the grave where
he could have no fear of her betraying him!

She would now take any share of humbleness in life if she might count
on touching his hand and being for ever near him in the tomb.



                            CHAPTER XXXI.

                        WINDING UP THE CLOCK.


It was eleven o'clock that night when Tom Stamer, dressed in the seedy
black clothes and wearing the false beard and whiskers he had on in
the morning, started from the Borough once more for the West. He had
not replaced the spectacles broken in his fall at the Hanover in
Chetwynd Street. He carried a very substantial-looking walking-stick
of great thickness and weight. It was not a loaded stick, but it would
manifestly be a terrible weapon at close quarters, for, instead of
consisting of metal only in one part of one end, it was composed of
metal throughout. The seeming stick was not wood or leaded wood, but
iron It was not solid, but hollow like a gas pipe, and at the end
intended to touch the ground, the mouth of the tube was protected by a
brass ferrule to which a small tampion was affixed. The handle was
massive and crooked, and large enough to give ample hold to the
largest hand of man. About a couple of inches from the crook there was
a joining where the stick could be unscrewed.

Stamer accounted to the eyes of observers for carrying so massive a
stick by affecting a lameness of the right leg. When he entered a
dense crowd or came upon a point at which the people were hurrying, he
raised the stick up from the ground and laid aside his limp. But where
people were few and close observation of him possible, his lameness
grew very marked, and not only did his stick seem indispensable, but
he put it down on the pavement as gingerly as though the least jar
caused him pain. Sympathetic people who saw him fancied he had but
just come out of hospital, and were inclined to be indignant that he
had not been supplied with more effectual support, such as crutches.

One old gentleman asked him if he ought not to have a second stick;
Stamer snivelled and said he knew he ought, but declared with a sigh
he had no money to buy another one. The old gentleman gave Stamer a
shilling. Stamer touched his hat, thanked the old gentleman for his
kindness and his gift, and requested Heaven to bless him. The old
gentleman wore a heavy gold chain and, no doubt, a watch. But Stamer
had important business on hand, and there were a great number of
people about, and he did not want to run, for running would make his
arm unsteady, so he asked Heaven to bless the old gentleman and
forebore to rob him.

But the thought of that missed opportunity rankled in him. The feeling
that he had been obliged to neglect business and accept charity
fretted and vexed him. The thought of the mean squalid shilling made
him sick, and as soon as he came to a quiet place he threw it with a
curse into the middle of the road. He had shillings of his own, and
didn't want charity of any man. If he had stolen the shilling that
would have been a different affair. Then it would have come to him in
a straightforward business-like way, and would, doubtless, be the best
he could have done under the circumstances. But now it seemed the
result of a fraud committed upon him, to which he had been forced to
consent. It was the ransom he had under duress accepted for a gold
watch and chain, and was, therefore, loathsome and detestable in his
sight. Its presence could not be endured. It was abominable. Foh! He
was well rid of it?

He did not approach Welbeck Place by Chetwynd Street. He did not
intend repeating his visit to Mr. Williams's house. He had got there
all he wanted and a little more. He kept along by the river and then
retraced the way he had come that afternoon after leaving the Hanover.
On his previous visit to-day to this locality he had been silent and
watchful as a cat, and he had a cat's strong sense of locality. He
never forgot a place he was once in; and, piercing northward from the
river through a network of mean streets he had never seen until today,
he hit upon the southward entrance to Welbeck Mews with as much ease
and certainty as though he had lived there for twenty years.

The mews were lonely after nightfall, and the road through them little
used. When Stamer found himself in the yard, the place was absolutely
deserted. They were a cabman's mews and no one would, in all
likelihood, have business there for a couple of hours. The night was
now as dark as night ever is at that time of the year, and the place
was still. It wanted about twenty minutes of twelve yet.

When Stamer came to the gable of the house next but one to the
Hanover, and the wall of which formed one half of the northern
boundary of the yard, he paused and listened. He could hear no sound
of life or movement near him beyond the snort or cough of a horse now
and then.

The ostler who waited on the cabmen lived in the house at the gable of
which he stood, and at this hour he had to be aroused in case of any
man returning because of accident, or a horse knocked up by some long
and unexpected drive. As a rule, the ostler slept undisturbed from
eleven at night till half-past four or five in the morning.

After a pause of two or three minutes, Stamer stooped, slipped off his
boots, slung them around his neck, and having hitched the crook of his
heavy stick to a belt he wore under his waistcoat, he laid hold of the
waterpipe that descended from the gutter of the double roof to the
yard, and began ascending the gable of the house with surprising
agility and speed.

In less than two minutes from the time he first seized the waterpipe
he disappeared in the gutter above. He crawled in a few yards from the
edge and then reclined against the sloping slates of the roof to rest.
The ascent had taken only a couple of minutes, but the exertion had
been very great, and he was tired and out of breath.

Then he unscrewed the ferrule and withdrew the tampion and unscrewed
the handle of his stick, and was busy in the darkness for a while with
the weapon he carried. Overhead the stars looked pale and faint and
wasting in the pall of pale yellow cloud that hangs by night over
London in summer, the glare of millions of lights on the vapour rising
up from the great city.

He particularly wished to have a steady hand and arm that night, in a
few minutes, so he made up his mind to rest until five minutes to
twelve. Then he should get into position. He should creep down the
gutter until he came to the wall of the Hanover, the gable wall of the
Hanover standing up over the roofs of the houses on which he now was
lying. He should then be almost opposite the window at which he last
night saw the dwarf wind up his clock. He should be a little out of
the direct line, but not much. The width of Welbeck Place was no more
from house to house than fifty feet. The distance from the wall of the
house he should be on then, and the wall of Forbes's bakery could not
be more than sixty feet. The weapon he carried was perfectly
trustworthy at a hundred, a hundred-and-fifty yards, or more. He
had been practising that afternoon and evening at an old hat at forty
yards, and he had never missed it once. Forty yards was just double
the distance he should be from that window if he were on a parapet
instead of being at the coping tile, lying on the inside slope of the
roof. Allow another ten feet for that. This would bring the distance
up to seventy feet at the very outside, and he had never missed once
at a hundred and twenty feet. He had given himself now and then a good
deal of practice with the gun, for he enjoyed peculiar facilities;
because the factory wall by which the lane at the back of his place
ran, prevented anyone seeing what he was doing, and the noise of the
factory drowned the whurr of the gun and the whizz of the bullet.

There was to be a screen, or curtain, or blind up to-night, but that
was all the better, for it made no difference to the aim or bullet,
and it would prevent anything being noticed for a while, perhaps until
morning no one would know.

The work would go on at the window until half-past twelve. It would be
as well not to _do it_ until very near half-past; for then there would
be the less time for anyone in the Hanover to spy out anything wrong,
At half-past would come the noise and confusion of closing time. There
would then be plenty of people about, and it would be quite easy to
get away.

It was a good job there were no windows in the Hanover gable, though
no one was likely to be upstairs in the public-house until after
closing time. The landlord was not a married man. It was a good job
there was no moon.

It would be a good job when this was done.

It was a good job he thought of waiting until just half-past twelve,
for then everything would be more favourable below, and his hand and
arm would have more time to steady.

It was a good job that in this country there were some things stronger
than even smelling-salts!

At half-past eleven that night the private bar of the Hanover held
about half-a-dozen customers. The weather was too warm for anything
like a full house. Three or four of the men present were old
frequenters, but it lacked the elevating presence of Oscar Leigh, who
always gave the assembly a distinctly intellectual air, and it was not
cheered and consoled by the radiation of wealth from Mr. Jacobs, the
rich greengrocer of Sloane Street.

The three or four frequenters present were in no way distinguished
beyond their loyalty to the house. They came there regularly night
after night, drank, in grave silence, a regular quantity of beer and
spirits, and went away at closing time with the conviction that they
had been spending their time profitably attending to the improvement
of their minds. They had no views on any subjects ever discussed.
They had, with reference to the Hanover, only one opinion, and it
was that the finishing touches of a liberal education could nowhere
else in London be so freely obtained without derogation and on the
self-respecting principle of every man paying his way and being
theoretically as good as any other. If they could they would put a
stop to summer in these islands, for summer had a thinning and
depreciating effect on the company of the private bar.

A few minutes later, however, the spirits of those present rose, for
first Mr. Jacobs came in, smiling and bland, and then Mr. Oscar Leigh,
rubbing his forehead and complaining of the heat.

Mr. Jacobs greeted the landlord and the dwarf affably, as became a man
of substance, and then, knowing no one else by name, greeted the
remainder of the company generally, as became a man of politeness and
consideration.

"I'll have three-pennyworth of your excellent rum hot," said Mr.
Jacobs to the landlord, in a way which implied that, had not the
opinion of an eminent physician been against it, he would have ordered
ten times the quantity and drunk it with pleasure. Then he sat down on
a seat that ran along the wall, took out of his pocket a cigar-case,
opened it carefully, and, having selected a cigar, examined the weed
as though it was not uncommon to discover protruding through the side
of these particular cigars a diamond of priceless value or a deadly
drug. Then he pierced the end of his cigar with a silver piercer which
he took out of a trouser's pocket, pulled down his waistcoat, and
began to smoke, wearing his hat just a trifle on one side to show that
he was unbent.

Just as he had settled himself comfortably, the door of the public
department opened, and a tall, thin man, with enormous ears,
wearing long mutton-chop whiskers, a brown round hat, and dark
chocolate-coloured clothes, entered and was served by the potman.

"I have only a minute or two. I must be off to wind up," said Leigh.
"Ten minutes to twelve by your clock, Mr. Williams, that means a
quarter to right time. I'll have three of rum hot, if you please."

"That's quite right, Mr. Leigh," said the landlord, proceeding to brew
the punch and referring to his clock. "We always keep our clock a few
minutes fast to avoid bother at closing time. The same as always, Mr.
Jacobs, I see, and I _smell_."

"I beg your pardon?" said the greengrocer, as though he hadn't the
least notion of what the landlord alluded to.

"A good cigar, sir. That is an excellent cigar you are smoking."

It was clear that up to that moment Mr. Jacobs had not given a thought
to the quality of his cigar, for he took it from his lips, looked at
it as though he was now pretty certain this particular one did not
exude either priceless diamonds or deadly drugs, and said with great
modesty and satisfaction, "Yes, it's not bad. I get a case now and
then from my friend Isaacs of Bond Street. They cost me, let me see,
about sixpence a piece."

There was a faint murmur of approval at this statement. It was most
elevating to know that you were acquainted with a man who smoked
cigars he bought in Bond Street, and that he did not buy them by the
dozen or the box even, but by the case! If a man bought cigars by the
case from a friend in Bond Street at the rate of sixpence each, what
would be the retail price of them across the counter? It was
impossible to say exactly and dangerous to guess, but it was certain
you could not buy one for less than a shilling or eighteen-pence, that
is, if a man like Mr. Jacobs' friend Mr. Isaacs would bemean himself
by selling a single one at any price to a chance comer.

"Still working at your wonderful clock, Mr. Leigh?" said the
greengrocer from Sloane Street, with the intention of sharing his
conversation fairly between the landlord and the dwarf, the only men
present who were sitting above the salt.

"Well, sir, literally speaking, I cannot be said to be working at it
now. But I am daily engaged upon it, and before a quarter of an hour I
shall be busy winding it up."

"Have you to wind it every day?"

"Yes. St. Paul's clock takes three quarters of an hour's winding every
day with something like a winch handle. My clock takes half an hour
every night. It must be wound between twelve and one, and I have made
it a rule to wind it in the first half hour. My one does not want
nearly so much power as St. Paul's. It is wound by a lever and not a
winch handle. By-and-by, when it is finished and placed in a proper
position in a proper tower, and I can increase the power, once a week
will be sufficient."

"It is, I have heard, the most wonderful clock in London?"

"In London! In London! In the worlds sir. It is the most wonderful
clock ever conceived by man."

"And now suppose you forgot to wind it up, what would happen?"

"There is no fear of that."

"It must be a great care on your mind."

"Immense. I have put up a curtain today, so that I may be able to keep
the window open and get a breath of air this hot weather."

"Are you not afraid of fire up there and so near a bakehouse?"

"I never thought of fire. There is little or no danger of fire. Mr.
Forbes is quite solvent."

"But suppose anything were to happen, it is so high up, it could not
be got down?"

"Got down! Got down! Why, my dear sir, it is twelve feet by nine, and
parts of it are so delicate that a rude shake would ruin them. Got
down! Why it is shafted to the wall. All my power comes through the
wall, from the chimney. When it is shifted no one will be able to stir
bolt or nut but me. _I_ must do it, sir. No other man living knows
anything about it. No other man could understand it. Fancy anyone but
myself touching it! Why he might do more harm in an hour than I could
put right in a year, ay, in three years. Well, my time is up. Good
night, gentlemen."

He scrambled off his high stool and was quickly out of the bar. It was
now five minutes to twelve o'clock right time.

He crossed Welbeck Street and opening the private door of Forbes's in
Chetwynd Street went in, closing the door after him.

As he came out John Timmons emerged from the public bar of the
Hanover, and turned into Welbeck Place. He went on until he came
opposite the window of the clock-room. Here he stood still, thrust his
hands deep down in his trousers' pockets, and leaning his back against
the wall, prepared to watch with his own eyes the winding of the
clock.

In less than five minutes the window of the top room, which had been
dark, gradually grew illumined until the light came full through the
transparent oiled muslin curtain. Timmons could see for all practical
purposes as plainly as through glass.

"There Leigh is, anyway," thought Timmons, "working away at his lever.
Can it be he was doing the same thing at this hour last night?
Nonsense. He was walking away from this place with me at this hour
last night as sure as I am here now. But what did he say himself
to-day? I shouldn't mind Stamer, for he is a fool. But the landlord
and Stamer say the same thing, and Leigh himself said it too this day.
I must be going mad.

"There, he is turning round now and nodding to the men in the bar.
They said he did the same last night, and, as I live, there's the
clock we were under striking the quarter past again! I must be going
mad. I begin to think last night must have been all a dream with me. I
don't think he's all right. I don't believe in witchcraft, but I do
believe in devilry, and there's something wrong here. I'll watch this
out anyway. I must bring him to book over it. I'll tell him straight
what I know--that is if I know anything and am not going mad----"

Whurr--whizz!

"Why what's that over head?"

Timmons looked up, but saw nothing.

"It's some young fellows larking."

He glanced back at the window.

"What a funny way he's nodding his head now. And there's a hole in the
curtain and there seems to be a noise in the room. There goes the gas
out. I suppose the clock is wound up now. Well, it's more than I can
understand and a great deal more than I like, and I'll have it out of
him. It would be too bad if that fool Stamer were right after all,
and--but the whole thing is nonsense.

"Strange I didn't hear the clock strike the hour and yet Leigh's light
is out. I suppose his half hour winding was only another piece of his
bragging.

"Is the light quite out? Looks now as if it wasn't. He must have put
it out by mistake or accident, for surely it hasn't struck half-past
twelve yet.

"Ah, what's that? He is lighting a match or something. No, my eyes
deceive me. There is no light. Everything here seems to deceive me.
I'll go home.

"Ah, there's the half-hour at last!"

And John Timmons walked out of Welbeck Place, and took his way
eastward.



                            CHAPTER XXXII.

                          THE MORNING AFTER.


Mr. John Timmons was not a hard-working man in the sense of one
devoted ardently to physical labour. His domain was thought. He was a
merchant, a negotiator, not an artisan. He kept his hands in his
pockets mostly, in order that his brain might not be distracted by
having to look after them. He had a theory that it is wasteful to burn
the candle at both ends. If you employ your brain and your hands it
will very soon be all over with you. Still, he held that the
appearance of indulgence or luxury was most unbecoming in any place of
business, and particularly in a marine store, where transactions were
concerned with so stern and stubborn things as junk and old metal. He
dealt in junk, but out of regard for the feelings of gentlemen who
might have had bitter and long acquaintance with it while adorning
another sphere, Timmons kept the junk away from sight in the cellar,
to which mere callers were never admitted. Timmons had an opinion that
the mere look of junk had a tendency to damp the professional ardour
of men who had ever spent the days of their captivity in converting it
into oakum.

On the ground floor of Timmons's premises there was no such thing as a
chair. He looked on a chair in a marine store as a token of dangerous
softening of manners. If a man allowed himself a chair in his place of
business why not also a smoking-cap and slippers?

But Timmons had a high office stool, which was a thing differing
altogether from a chair. It was of Spartan simplicity and
uncomfortableness, and besides, it gave the solvent air of a counting
house to the place. It had also another advantage, it enabled you to
sit down without placing your eyes lower than the level of a man of
your own height standing.

On Saturday morning about nine o'clock Timmons was reposing on the
high stool at his doorway, if any part of this establishment may be
called a doorway, where one side was all door and there was no other
means of exit. He had bought a morning paper on his way to business,
and he now sat with the advertising sheet of the paper spread out
before him on his knees. Sometimes articles in which he dealt were
offered for sale in that sheet, and once in a way he bought a paper to
have a look at this sheet, and afterwards, if he had time, scan the
news. He made it a point never to look at the reports of the police
courts or criminal trials. Every man has his own feelings, and Timmons
was not an exception. If an inquiry or trial in which he took interest
was going on in London he was certain to know more of it than the
newspapers told. He avoided the accounts of trials that did not
interest him. They had as damping effect on him as the sight of junk
had on some of his customers.

Beyond the improvement of his mind gathered from reading the
advertisement columns of things for sale, he got no benefit out of the
advertising sheet. None of the articles offered at a sacrifice was at
all in his way. When he had finished the perusal of the marvellous
miscellany he took his eyes off the paper and stared straight at the
brick wall before him.

He turned his mind back for the twentieth time on the events of
yesterday.

There was not in the whole list of what had occurred a single incident
that pleased him. He was a clear-headed man, and prided himself on his
brains. He had neither the education nor the insolence to call his
brains intellect. But he was very proud of his brains, and his brains
were completely at a loss. As with all undisciplined minds, his had
not the power of consecutive abstract thought. But it had the power of
reviewing in panoramic completeness events which had come within the
reach of its senses.

The result of his review was that he did not like the situation at
all. There was a great deal about this scheme he did not understand,
and with such minds not to understand is to suspect and fear.

It was perfectly clear that for some purpose or other, Leigh hung back
from entering upon the matter of their agreement, and now it seemed as
though there might be a great deal in what Stamer feared, namely, that
Leigh might have the intention of betraying them all into the hands of
the police. Stamer had told him that in the talk at the Hanover, the
night before, the landlord had informed the company under the seal of
secrecy that Leigh on one occasion entrusted the winding up of the
clock to a deputy who was deaf and dumb, and not able to write. That,
no doubt, was the person they had seen in the clock-room the evening
before, and not the dwarf. Leigh had not taken him into confidence
respecting this clock, or this man who wound it up for him in his
absence, but Leigh had taken him into confidence very little. It was a
good thing that Leigh had not taken the gold from him. Of course, he
was not such a fool as to part with the buttons unless he got gold
coins to the full value of them, but still they might, if once in the
possession of the little man, be used in evidence against him. The
great thing to guard against was giving Leigh any kind of hold at all
upon him.

He did not know whether to believe or not Leigh's account of the man
in Birmingham. It looked more than doubtful. His talk about
telegraphing and all that was only bunkum. The whole thing looked
shaky and dangerous, and perhaps it would be as well for him to get
out of it.

At all events he was pretty sure not to hear any more of the matter
for a week or so. He should put it out of his head for the present.

He took up the newspaper this time with a view to amusement not
business.

He glanced over it casually for a time, reading a few lines here and
there. He passed by columns of parliamentary reports in which he took
no interest whatever. Then came the law courts which he shunned.
Finally he came upon the place where local London news was given. His
eye caught a large heading, "Fire And Loss Of Life In Chelsea." The
paragraph was, owing to the late hour at which the event took place,
brief, considering its importance. It ran as follows:--


"Last night, between half-past twelve and one o'clock, a disastrous
and fatal fire broke out in the bakery establishment of Mr. Forbes at
the corner of Chetwynd Street and Welbeck Place, Chelsea. It appears
from the information we have been able to gather, that the ground
floor of the establishment is used as a baker's shop and the floor
above as a store house by Mr. Forbes. The top floor, where the
fire originated was occupied by Mr. Oscar Leigh, who has lost his
life in the burning. The top floor is divided into three rooms, a
sitting-room, a bed-room, and a workshop. In the last, looking into
Welbeck Place, the late Mr. Leigh was engaged in the manufacture of a
very wonderful clock, which occupied fully half the room, and which
Mr. Leigh invariably wound up every night between twelve and half-past
twelve.

"Last night, at a little before twelve, Mr. Leigh left the Hanover
public house, at the opposite corner of Welbeck Place, and went into
the bakery by the private entrance beside the shop door in Chetwynd
Street. In the act of letting himself in with his latchkey he spoke to
a neighbour, who tried to engage him in conversation, but the
unfortunate gentleman excused himself, saying he hadn't a minute to
spare, as the clock required his immediate attention. After this,
deceased was seen by several people working the winding lever of the
clock in the window. At half-past twelve he was observed to make some
unusual motions of his head, so as to give the notion that he was in
pain or distress of some kind. Then the light in the clock-room was
extinguished and, as Mr. Leigh made no call or cry (the window at
which he sat was open), it was supposed all was right. Shortly
afterwards, dense smoke and flames were observed bursting through the
window of the room, and before help could arrive all hope of reaching
the unfortunate gentleman was at an end.

"The building is an old one. The flames spread rapidly, and before an
hour had elapsed the whole was burnt out and the roof had fallen in.

"At the rear of the house proper is an off building abutting on
Welbeck Mews. In this slept the shopman and his wife. This bakehouse
also took fire and is burned out, but fortunately the two occupants
were saved by the fire escape which had been on the spot ten minutes
after the first alarm.

"It is generally supposed that the eccentric movements of Mr. Leigh
were the result of a fit or sudden seizure of some other kind, and
that in his struggles some inflammable substance was brought into
contact with the gas before it was turned out."

Timmons flung down the paper with a shout, crying "Dead! Dead! Leigh
is dead!"

At that moment the figure of a man appeared at the threshold of the
store, and Stamer, with a scowl and a stare, stepped in hastily and
looked furtively, fearfully, around.

"What are you shoutin' about?" cried Stamer, in a tone of dangerous
menace. "What are you shoutin' about?" he said again, as he passed
Timmons and slunk behind the pile of shutters and flattened himself up
against the wall in the shadow of them.

"Leigh is dead!" cried Timmons in excitement, and taking no notice of
Stamer's strange manner and threatening tone.

"_I_ know all about _that_, I suppose," said Stamer from his place
of concealment. He was standing between the shutters and the old
fire-grate, and quite invisible to anyone in the street. His voice was
hollow, his eyes bloodshot and starting out of his head.
Notwithstanding the warmth of the morning, his teeth were chattering
in his head. His bloodshot eyes were in constant motion, new exploring
the gloomy depths of the store, now glancing savagely at Timmons, now
looking, in the alarm of a hunted beast, at the opening into the
street.

Timmons took little or no notice of the other man beyond addressing
him. He was in a state of wild excitement, not exactly of joy,
but triumph. It was a hideous sight to see this lank, grizzled,
repulsive-looking man capering around the store, and exulting in the
news he had just read, of a man on whom he had fawned a day before.
"He's dead! The dwarf is dead, Stamer!" he cried again. In his wild
gyrations his hat had fallen off, disclosing a tall, narrow head,
perfectly bald on the top.

"Shut up!" whispered Stamer, savagely, "if you don't want to follow
him. I'm in no humour for your noise and antics. Do you want to have
the coppers down on us?--do you, you fool?" He flattened himself still
more against the wall, as though he were striving to imbed himself in
it.

Timmons paused. Stamer's words and manner were so unusual and
threatening that they attracted his attention at last. "What's the
matter?" he asked, in irritated surprise. "What's the matter?" he
repeated, with lowering look.

"Why, you've said what's the matter," said Stamer, viciously. "And
you're shouting and capering as if you wanted to tell the whole world
the news. This is no time for laughing and antics, you fool!"

"Who are you calling a fool?" cried Timmons, catching up an iron bar
and taking a few steps towards the burglar.

"You, if you want to know. Put that down. Put that bar down, I say. Do
it at once, and if you have any regard for your health, for your life,
don't come a foot nearer, or I'll send you after him! By ----, I
will!"

Timmons let the bar fall, more in astonishment than fear. "What do you
mean, you crazy thief? Have they just let you out of Bedlam, or are
you on your way there? Anyway, it's lucky the place is handy, you
knock-kneed jail-bird! Why he's shaking as if he saw a ghost!"

"Let me alone and I'll do you no harm. I don't want to have _two_ on
me."

"What does the fool mean? I tell you Leigh is dead."

"Can you tell me who killed him? If you can't, _I_ can." He pointed to
himself.

"What!" cried Timmons, starting back, and not quite understanding the
other's gesture.

"Now are you satisfied? I thought you guessed. I wouldn't have told
you if I didn't think you knew or guessed. Curse me, but I am a fool
for opening my mouth! I thought you knew, and that, instead of saying
a good word to me, you were going to down me and give me up."

Timmons stepped slowly back in horror. "You!" he whispered, bending
his head forward and beginning to tremble in every limb. "You! You did
it! You did this! You, Stamer!"

Stamer merely nodded, and looked like a hunted wild beast at the
opening. He wore the clothes of last night, but was without the
whiskers or beard. All the time he cowered in the shelter of the
shutters, he kept his right hand behind his back.

Timmons retreated to the other wall, and leaned his back against it,
and glared at the trembling man opposite.

"For God's sake don't look at me like that. You are the only one that
knows," whined Stamer, now quite unmanned. "I should not have told you
anything about it, only I thought you knew, when I heard you say he
was dead. You took me unawares. Don't stare at me like that, for God's
sake. Say a word to me. Call me a fool, or anything you like, but
don't stand there staring at me like that. If 'twas you that did it,
you couldn't be more scared. Say a word to me, or I'll blow my brains
out! I haven't been home. I am afraid to go home. I am not used to
this--yet. I thought I had the nerve for anything, and I find I
haven't the nerve of a child. I am afraid to go home. I am afraid to
look at my wife. I thought I shouldn't be afraid of you, and now you
scare me worse than anything. For the love of God, speak to me, and
don't look at me like that. I can't stand it."

"You infernal scoundrel, to kill the poor foolish dwarf!" whispered
Timmons. His mouth was parched and open. The sweat was rolling down
off his forehead. He was trembling no longer. He was rigid now. He was
basilisked by the awful apparition of a man who had confessed to
murder.

Stamer looked towards the opening, and then his round, blood-shot eyes
went back to the rigid figure of Timmons. "I don't mind what you say,
if you'll only speak to me, only not too loud. No one can hear us. I
know that, and no one can listen at the door, without our seeing him.
You don't know what I have gone through. I have not been home. I am
afraid to go home. I am afraid of everything. You don't know all. It's
worse than you think. It's enough to drive one mad----"

"You murderous villain!'

"It's enough to drive any man mad. I've been wandering about all
night. I am more afraid of my wife than of anyone else. I don't know
why, but I tremble when I think of her, more than of the police,
or--or--or----"

"The hangman?"

"Yes. You don't know all. When you do, you'll pity me----"

"The poor foolish dwarf!"

"Yes. I was afraid he'd betray us--you----"

"Oh, villain!"

"And I got on a roof opposite the window, and when he was working at
the lever, I fired, and his head went so--and then so--and then
so----"

"Stop it, you murderer!"

"Yes. And I knew it was done. The neck! Yes, I knew the neck was
broken, and it was all right."

"Oh! Oh! Oh, that I should live to hear you!"

"Yes. I thought it was all right, and it was in one way. For he
tumbled down on his side, so----"

"If you don't stop it, I'll brain you!"

"Yes. And I got down off the roof and ran. I couldn't help running,
and all the time I was running I heard him running after me. I heard
him running after me, and I saw his head wagging so--so--so, as he
ran. Every step he took, his head wagged, so--and so--and so----"

"If you don't stop that----"

"Yes. I will. I'll stop it. But I could not stop _him_ last night. All
the time I ran I couldn't stop him. His head kept wagging and his lame
feet kept running after me, and I couldn't stop the feet or the head.
I don't know how long I ran, or where I ran, but I could run no more,
and I fell up against a wall, and then it overtook me! I saw _it_ as
plainly as I see you--plainer, I saw it----"

The man paused a moment to wipe his forehead.

"Do you hear?" he yelled, suddenly flinging his arms up in the air.
"Do you hear? Will you believe me now? The steps again! The lame steps
again. Do you hear them, you fool?"

"Mad!"

"Mad, you fool! I told you. Look!"

The figure of a low-sized, deformed dwarf came into the opening and
crossed the threshold of the store.

With a groan Stamer fell forward insensible.



                           CHAPTER XXXIII.

                      LEIGH CONFIDES IN TIMMONS.


Timmons uttered a wild yell, and springing away from the wall fled to
the extreme end of the store, and then faced round panting and livid.

"Hah!" said the shrill voice of the man on the threshold. "Private
theatricals, I see. I did not know, Mr. Timmons, that you went in for
such entertainments. They are very amusing I have been told; very
diverting. But I did not imagine that business people indulged in them
in their business premises at such an early hour of the day. I am
disposed to think that, though the idea is original, the frequent
practice of such scenes would not tend to increase the confidence of
the public in the disabled anchors, or shower-baths, or invalid
coffee-mills, or chain shot, or rusty fire-grates, it is your
privilege to offer to the consideration of customers. Hah! I may be
wrong, but such is my opinion. Don't you think, Mr. Timmons, that you
ought to ring down the curtain, and that this gentleman, who no doubt
represents the villain of the piece confronted with his intended
victim, had better get up and look after his breakfast?" He pointed to
the prostrate Stamer, who lay motionless upon the sandy floor.

Timmons did not move or speak. The shock had, for the moment,
completely bereft him of his senses.

"I have just come back from the country," said the dwarf, "and I
thought I'd call on you at once. I should like to have a few moments'
conversation with you, if your friend and very able supporter would
have the kindness to consider himself alive and fully pardoned by his
intended victim."

"Hush!" cried Timmons, uttering the first sound. The words of the
hunchback, although uttered in jest, had an awful significance for the
dazed owner of the place.

"Hah! I see your friend is not fabled to be in heart an assassin, but
the poor and hard-working father of a family, who is just now
indulging in that repose which is to refresh him for tackling anew the
one difficulty of providing board and lodging and raiment for his wife
and little ones. But, Mr. Timmons, in all conscience, don't you think
you ought to put an end to this farce? When I came in I judged by his
falling down and some incoherent utterance of yours that you two were
rehearsing a frightful tragedy. Will you oblige us by getting up, sir?
The play is over for the present, and my excellent friend Timmons here
is willing to make the ghost walk."

The prostrate man did not move.

Timmons shuddered. He made a prodigious effort and tried to move
forward, but had to put his hand against the wall to steady himself.

Leigh approached Stamer and touched him with his stick. Stamer did not
stir.

"Is there anything the matter with the man? I think there must be,
Timmons. What do you mean by running away to the other end of the
place? Why this man is unconscious. I seem to be fated to meet
fainting men."

Timmons now summoned all his powers and staggered forward. Leigh bent
over Stamer, but, although he tried, failed to move him.

Timmons regained his voice and some of his faculties. "He has only
fainted," said he, raising Stamer into a sitting posture.

Stamer did not speak, but struggled slowly to his feet, and assisted
by Timmons walked to the opening and was helped a few yards down the
street. There the two parted without a word. By the time Timmons got
back he was comparatively composed. He felt heavy and dull, like a man
who has been days and nights without sleep, but he had no longer any
doubt that Oscar Leigh was present in the flesh.

"Are we alone?" asked Leigh impatiently on Timmons's return.

"We are."

"Hah! I am glad we are. If your friend were connected with racing I
should call him a stayer. I came to tell you that I have just got back
from Birmingham. I thought it best to go there and see again the man I
had been in treaty with. I not only saw him but heard a great deal
about him, and I am sorry to say I heard nothing good. He is, it
appears, a very poor man, and he deliberately misled me as to his
position and his ability to pay. I am now quite certain that if I had
opened business with him I should have lost anything I entrusted to
him, or, if not all, a good part. Hah!"

"Then I am not to meet you _at the same place_, next Thursday night?"
asked Timmons, with emphasis on the tryst. He had not at this moment
any interest in the mere business about which they had been
negotiating. He was curious about other matters. His mind was now
tolerably clear, but flabby and inactive still.

"No. There is no use in your giving me the alloy until I see my way to
doing something with it, and I feel bound to say that after this
disappointment in Birmingham, I feel greatly discouraged altogether.
Hah! You do not, I think you told me, ever use eau-de-cologne?"

"I do not."

"Then you are distinctly wrong, for it is refreshing, most
refreshing." He sniffed up noisily some he had poured into the palm of
one hand and then rubbed together between the two. "Most refreshing."

"Then, Mr. Leigh, I suppose we are at a standstill?"

"Precisely."

"What you mean, I suppose, Mr. Leigh, is that you do not see your way
to going any further?"

"Well, yes. At present I do not see my way to going any further."

Timmons felt relieved, but every moment his curiosity was increasing.
There was no longer any need for caution with this goblin, or man, or
devil, or magician. If Leigh had meant to betray him, the course he
was now pursuing was the very last he would adopt.

"You went to Birmingham yesterday. May I ask you by what train you
went down?"

"Two-thirty in the afternoon."

"And you came back this morning?"

"Yes. Just arrived. I drove straight here, as I told you."

"And you were away from half-past two yesterday until now. You were
out of London yesterday from two-thirty until early this morning?"

"Yes; until six this morning. Why are you so curious? You do not, I
hope, suspect me of saying anything that is not strictly true?" said
Leigh, throwing his head back and striking the sandy floor fiercely
with his stick.

"No. I don't _suspect_ you of saying anything that is not strictly
true."

The emphasis on the word _suspect_ caught Leigh's attention. He drew
himself up haughtily and said, "What do you mean, sir?"

"I mean, sir," said Timmons, shaking his minatory finger at him, and
frowning heavily, "not that I suspect you of lying, but that I am sure
you are lying. I was at the Hanover last night, you were there too."

Leigh started and drew back. He looked down and said nothing. He could
not tell how much this man knew. Timmons went on:

"I was in the public bar, against the partition that separates it from
the private bar, when you came in. You called for rum hot, and you
went away at close to twelve o'clock to wind up your clock. I went out
then and saw you at the window winding up the clock. I was there when
the light went out just at half past twelve. Now, sir, are you lying
or am I?"

Leigh burst into a loud, long, harsh roar of laughter that made
Timmons start, it was so weird and unexpected. Then the dwarf cried,
"Why you, sir, you are lying, of course. The man you saw and heard is
my deputy."

"You lie. I heard about your deputy. He is a deaf and dumb man, who
can't write, and is as tall as I am, a man with fair hair and beard."

"My dear sir, your language is so offensive I do not know whether you
deserve an explanation or not. Anyway, I'll give you this much of an
explanation. I have two deputies. One of the kind you describe, and
one who could not possibly be known by sight from myself."

"But I have more than sight, even if the two of you were matched like
two peas. I heard your voice, and all your friends in the bar knew you
and spoke to you, and called you Mr. Leigh. It was you then and there,
as sure as it is you here and now." Timmons thought, "Stamer when he
fired must have missed Leigh, and Leigh must have gone away, after,
for some purpose of his own, setting fire to the place. He is going on
just as if the place had not been burned down last night, why, I am
sure I do not know. I can't make it out, but anyway, Stamer did not
shoot him, and he is pretending he was not there, and that he was in
Birmingham. He's too deep for me, but I am not sure it would not be a
good thing if Stamer did not miss him after all."

The clockmaker paused awhile in thought. It was not often he was
posed, but evidently he was for a moment at a nonplus. Suddenly he
looked up, and with a smile and a gesture of his hands and shoulders,
indicating that he gave in:

"Mr. Timmons," he said suavely, "you have a just right to be angry
with me for mismanaging our joint affair, and I own I have not told
you quite the truth. I did _not_ go to Birmingham by the two-thirty
yesterday. I was at the Hanover last night just before twelve, and I
did go into Forbes's bakery as you say. But I swear to you I left
London last night by the twelve-fifteen, and I swear to you I did not
wind up my clock last night. It was this morning between four and five
o'clock I found out in Birmingham that the man was not to be trusted.
You will wonder where I made inquiries at such an hour."

"I do, indeed," said Timmons scornfully.

"I told you, and I think you know, that I am not an ordinary man. My
powers, both in my art and among men, are great and exceptional. When
I got to Birmingham this morning, I went to--where do you think?"

"The devil!"

"Well, not exactly, but very near it. I went to a police-station. It
so happens that one of the inspectors of the district in which this
man lives is a great friend of mine. He was not on duty, but his name
procured for me, my dear Mr. Timmons, all the information I desired. I
was able to learn all I needed, and catch the first train back to
town. You see now how faithfully I have attended to our little
business. I left the Hanover at five minutes to twelve, and at two
minutes to twelve I was bowling along to Paddington to catch the last
train, the twelve-fifteen."

"That, sir, is another lie, and one that does you no good. At
twelve-fifteen I saw you as plain as I see you now--for although there
was a thin curtain, the curtain was oiled, and I could see as if there
was no curtain, and the gas was up and shining on you--I say _at
fifteen minutes after twelve I saw you turn around and nod to your
friends in the bar_. It's nothing to me now, as the business is off,
but I stick to what I say, Mr. Leigh."

"And I stick to what I say."

"Which of the says?" asked Timmons contemptuously. "You have owned to
a lie already."

"Lie is hardly a fair word to use. I merely said one hour instead of
another, and that does not affect the substance of my explanation
about Birmingham. I told you two-thirty, for I did not want you to be
troubled with my friend the inspector."

This reference to a police-station and inspector would have filled
Timmons with alarm early in the interview, but now he was in no fear.
If this man intended to betray him, why had he not done so already?
and why had he not taken the gold for evidence?

"But if you left Forbes's, how did you get away? Through the
front-door in Chetwynd Street, or through the side-door in Welbeck
Place?"

"Through neither. Through the door of the bakehouse into the mews."

Timmons started. This might account for Stamer's story of the ghost.

"But who wound the clock? I saw you do it, Mr. Leigh--I saw you do it,
sir, and all this Birmingham tale is gammon."

"Again you are wrong. And now, to show you how far you are wrong, I
will tell you a secret. I have two deputies. One I told that fool
Williams about, and requested him as a great favour not to let a soul
know. By this, of course, I intended that every one who enjoyed the
privilege of Mr. Williams's acquaintance should know. But of my second
deputy I never spoke to a soul until now, until I told you this
moment. The other deputy is a man extremely like me from the waist up.
He is ill-formed as I am, and so like me when we sit that you would
not know the difference across your own store. But our voices are
different, very different, and he is more than a foot taller than I.
You did not see the winder last night standing up. He always takes his
seat before raising the gas."

A light broke in on Timmons. This would explain all. This would make
Stamer's story consist with his own experience of the night before.
This would account for this man, whom Stamer said he had shot, being
here now, uninjured. This would make the later version of the tale
about Birmingham possible, credible. But--awful but!--it would mean
that the unfortunate, afflicted deputy had been sacrificed! Yes, most
of what this man had said was true.

"What's the unfortunate deputy's name?" he asked, with a shudder.

"That I will not tell."

"But it must come out on the inquest, to-day or to-morrow, or whenever
they find the remains."

"Remains of what?" asked Leigh, frowning heavily.

"Of your deputy. They say in the paper it was you that lost your life
in the fire."

"Fire! Fire! Fire where?" thundered the dwarf, in a voice which shook
the unceiled joists above their heads and made the thinner plates of
metal vibrate.

"Don't you know? Haven't you seen a paper? Why Forbes's bakery was
burnt out last night, and the papers say you lost your life in the
fire."



                            CHAPTER XXXIV.

                            THE WRONG MAN.


When Timmons led the almost unconscious Stamer from the threshold, and
left him a few yards from the door, the latter did not go far. He had
scarcely the strength to walk away, and he certainly had not the
desire to go. He had borne two extreme phases of terror within the
last twenty-four hours; he had suffered the breathless terror of
believing he had taken human life, and he had imagined the spirit of
the murdered man was pursuing him.

He had often, in thought, faced the contingency of having to fire on
some one who found him at his midnight depredations, but he had not,
until he formed the resolve of putting Leigh away, contemplated lying
in wait for an unsuspecting man and shooting him as if he were a bird
of prey.

Once it had entered his mind to kill Leigh, nothing seemed simpler
than to do it, and nothing easier than to bear the burden of the deed.
He had no hint of conscience, and there were only two articles in his
code--first, that prison was a punishment not to be borne if, at any
expense, it could be avoided; and, second, that no harm was to be
allowed near Timmons. Both articles were concerned, inextricably bound
up, in Leigh's life. He saw in the dwarf the agent, the ally of the
police--the police, absolutely, in a more malignant form than the
stalwart detective who, with handcuffs in his pockets, runs a man
down. This Leigh was a traitor and a policeman together. It seemed as
though it would be impossible for one human being to possess any
characteristic which could add to the hatefulness of him who exhibited
these two. And yet this Leigh was not only a traitor and a policeman
combined, but an enemy of Timmons--a beast who threatened Timmons as
well! Shooting was too merciful a death for such a miscreant. But
then, shooting was easy and sure, so he should be shot.

The act itself had been very easy. There had been no more difficulty
about it than about hitting the old hat in the shadow of the factory
wall. But when the silent shot was sped and the air-gun disposed of by
being carefully hung down the inside of a chimney and hooked to a
copper-wire tie of the slate chimney-top, and he was safely down the
water pipe and in the mews, the aspect of the whole deed changed, or
rather it became another thing altogether.

Before pulling the trigger of the air-gun, he was perfectly satisfied
that Leigh deserved, richly deserved death. That was as plain as the
dome of St. Paul's from London Bridge. It had been equally plain to
him that when Leigh was dead, and dead by his hand, he should never
because of any compunction be sorry for his act. No sooner was he at
the bottom of the water-pipe than he found he had no longer any
control over his thoughts, or more correctly that the thoughts in his
mind did not belong to him at all, but were, as it might be, thoughts
hired in the interest of the dead man, hostile, relentless
mercenaries, inside the very walls of the citadel within which he was
besieged, and from which there was no escape except by flinging his
naked bosom on the bayonets of the besiegers.

It made not the least difference now whether the man merited death a
thousand times or not, that man insisted on haunting him. It did not
now matter in the least how it pleased him to regard the provoker of
that shot, it was how the murdered man regarded him was the real
question. He had always told himself that a murdered man was only a
dead man after all. Now he had to learn that no man ever born of woman
is more awfully alive than a murdered man. He had yet to learn that
the blow of the murderer endows the victim with inextinguishable
vitality. He had yet to learn that all things which live die to the
mind of a murderer except the man who is dead. He had yet to learn
that in the mind of a murderer there is a gradually filling in and
crowding together of the images of the undamned dead that in the end
blind and block up the whole soul in stifling intimacies with the
dead, until the murderer in his despair flings himself at the feet of
the hangman shrieking for mercy, for mercy, for the mercy of violent
and disgraceful death in order to put an end to the fiendish gibes of
the dead who is not dead but living, who will not sink into hell, but
brings hell into the assassin's brain. The desire to kill is easy, and
the means of killing are easy, but the spirit of the murdered man
takes immortal form in the brain of the murderer and cleaves to him
for evermore.

So that when Stamer descended from the roof and found himself in the
yard of the mews, he was not alone. He had seen little of Leigh, but
now all he had seen came back upon the eye of his memory with
appalling distinctness. He saw each detail of the man's body as though
it were cast in rigid bronze and pressed forcibly, painfully,
unbearably, upon his perception. He could see, he could feel, the long
yellow fingers and the pointed chin hidden in the beard, and the hairs
on the neck growing thinner and thinner as the neck descended into the
collar. He could see the wrinkles about the eyes, and a peculiar
backward motion of the lips before the dwarf spoke. He could see the
forehead wrinkled upward in indulgent scorn, or the eyes flashing with
insolent self-esteem. He could see. He could see the swift, sharp
up-tilt of the chin when a deep respiration became necessary. There
was nothing about the dwarf that he could not see, that he did not
see, that he could avoid seeing, that was not pressed upon him as by a
cold, steel die, that was not pressed and pressed upon him until his
mind ached for the vividness, until he turned within himself
frantically to avoid the features or actions of the dwarf, and found
no space unoccupied, no loop-hole of escape, no resting-place for the
eye, no variety for the mind. He was possessed by a devil, and he had
made that devil into the likeness of Leigh with his own hands out of
the blood of Leigh.

He had run, he did not know how long, or whither, but all the time he
was running, he had some relief from the devil which possessed him,
for he heard footsteps behind him, the footsteps of the dwarf. But
what signified footsteps behind him, or the ordinary ghost one heard
of, which could not take shape in day-light, or linger after cockcrow,
compared with this internal spirit of the murdered man, this awful
presence, this agonizingly minute portraiture at the back of the
eye-balls where all the inside of the head could see it, when the eyes
were shut, when one was asleep?

At the time Leigh overtook him, he was sure Leigh was dead. But when
he found himself exhausted against the wall, and saw the dwarf go by,
it was with a feeling of relief. This was the vulgar ghost of which he
had heard so much, but which he had always held in contempt. But he
had never heard of the other ghost before, and his spirit was goaded
with terrors, and frantic with fears.

Then came that night of wandering, with inexpungeable features of the
dwarf sharp limned upon his smarting sight, and after that long night,
which was a repetition of the first few minutes after the deed, the
visit to Timmons, and the appearance of Leigh in the flesh!

No wonder Stamer was faint.

He was in no immediate fear now. He was merely worn out by the awful
night, and prostrated by the final shock. All he wanted was rest, and
to know how it came to be that the dwarf was about that morning,
seemingly uninjured. As Leigh was not dead, or hurt, he had nothing to
fear at present. He would rest somewhere from which he could watch
Timmons, and go back to his friend as soon as the clock-maker
disappeared. He sat down on the tail-board of an upreared cart to
wait.

At length he saw the hunchback issue hastily from the store, and
hasten, with pale face and hard-drawn breath, in the direction of
London Road. Stamer kept his eyes on the little man until he saw him
hail a cab and drive away. Then he rose, and, with weary steps and a
heart relieved, hastened to the marine store.

The murdered ghost which had haunted the secret chambers of his spirit
had been exorcised, by the sight of Leigh in the flesh, and he was at
rest.

He found Timmons pacing up and down the store gloomily. "That's a good
job, any way, Mr. Timmons," said the shorter man when he had got
behind the shutters. This time he did not stand up with his back
against the wall; he sat down on the old fire-grate. He was much
bolder. In fact, he sought cover more from habit than from a sense of
present insecurity.

"Good job," growled Timmons. "Worse job, you mean, you fool."

"Worse job? Worse job, Mr. Timmons? Worse, after all you said, to see
Mr. Leigh here, than to know he was lying on the floor under the
window with a broken neck?" cried Stamer, in blank and hopeless
amazement.

"Broken neck! Broken neck! It's you deserve the broken neck; and as
sure as you're alive, Tom Stamer, you'll get it, get it from Jack
Ketch, before long, and you deserve it."

"Deserve it for missing Leigh?" cried Stamer, in a tone of dismay.
Nothing could satisfy Timmons this morning. First he was furious
because he had killed Leigh, and now he was savage because the bullet
had missed him!

"No, you red-handed botch! Worse than even if you killed Leigh, who
hasn't been all straight. But you have killed an innocent man. A man
you never saw or heard of in all your life until last night. A man
that came into Leigh's place, privately, through a third door in the
mews, and wound up his clock for him, in the window, and nodded to the
Hanover bar people, as Leigh used to do, and who was so like Leigh
himself, hump and all, barring that he was taller, that their own
mothers would not know one from the other. Leigh hired him, so that he
might be able to go to Birmingham and places on _our_ business, and
seem to be in London and at his own place, if it became necessary to
prove he had not been in Birmingham, if it became necessary to prove
an alibi. And you, you blundering-headed fool, go and shoot the very
man Leigh had hired to help our business! You're a useful pal, you
are! You're a good working mate, you are! Are you proud of yourself?
Eh? You not only put your head into the halter of your own free will,
and out of the cleverness of your own brains, but you round on a chap
who was a pal after all. You go having snap shots, you do, and you bag
a comrade, a man who did no one any harm, a man who was in the swim!
Oh, you are a nice, useful, tidy working pal, you are! A useful,
careful mate! I wonder you didn't shoot me, and say you did it for the
good of my health, and out of kindness to me. Anyway, I'm heartily
sorry it wasn't yourself you shot, last night. No one would have been
sorry for that, and the country would have saved the ten pounds to
Jack Ketch for hanging you, and the cost of a new rope!"

"Eh?" cried Stamer, not that he did not hear and understand, but in
order that he might get the story re-told.

Timmons went over the principal points again.

The burglar listened quite unmoved.

"You take it coolly enough, anyhow?"

"Why not? It was an accident."

"An accident! An accident!" cried Timmons, drawing up in front of
Stamer and looking at him in perplexity.

"Well, what could be plainer, Mr. Timmons? Of course, it was an
accident. Why should I hurt a man who never hurt me?"

"But you did."

"They have to prove that. They _can't_ prove _I_ rounded on a pal. I
can get a hundred witnesses to character."

"Nice witnesses they would be."

"But the coppers _know_ I'm a straight man."

"They would hardly come to speak for you. It's someone from Portland
would give you a character. But you know you fired the shot."

"At a screech-owl, my lord, at a screech-owl, my lord, that was flying
across the street. You don't suppose, my lord, I'd go and round on a
pal of Mr. Timmons's and my own?"

Timmons glared at him. "But the man is dead, and someone shot him."

"Well, my lord, except Mr. Timmons--and to save him I risked my own
life, and would lay it down, and am ready to lay it down now or any
time it may please your lordship--unless Mr. Timmons goes into the box
and swears my life away, you can prove nothing against me, my lord."

"After all," said Timmons, looking through half-closed critical eyes
at Stamer, "after all, the man has some brains."

"And a straight man for a friend in Mr. John Timmons."

"Yes, Stamer, you have."

Stamer stood up and approached Timmons. "You'll shake hands on that,
Mr. Timmons?"

"I will." Timmons gave him his hand. "And now," he added, "I don't
think you know the good news."

"What?"

"Why, Forbes's bakery was burned out last night."

"Hurroo!" cried Stamer, with a yell of sudden relief and joy. "My
lord, you haven't a single bit of evidence against Tom Stamer. My
lord, good-bye. Mr. John Timmons and Tom Stamer against the world!"



                            CHAPTER XXXV.

                              THE RUINS.


The morning following Hanbury's visit to Grimsby Street saw the order
of arrival of the ladies in the sitting-room reversed. Mrs. Grace was
there first. Edith had been too excited when she went to bed after the
young man's disclosures to sleep, and it was not until the small hours
were growing big that the girl could close her eyes. As a consequence,
she was late.

But when at last she did awake, how different were her feelings from
the day before! She could scarcely believe she was the same being, or
it was the same world. That letter from Mr. Coutch, of Castleton, had
plunged her into a depth of leaden hopelessness she had never known
before. Now all was changed. Then she was the last of a race of
shopkeepers; now she had for cousin a man whose ancestor had been a
king. Whatever fate might do against her in the future, it could never
take away that consoling consciousness. At Miss Graham's in Streatham
the girls used to say she ought to be a queen. Well, a not very remote
relative of hers would have sat on a throne if she had lived and come
into her rights! Prodigious.

She found her grandmother waiting for her. The old lady was seated in
the window, spectacles on nose, reading the morning paper. All the
papers of that morning had not an account of the disaster at Chelsea,
because of the late hour at which it occurred. Mrs. Grace's paper was
one that did not get the news in time for insertion that morning, so
that the old lady and Edith were spared the pain of believing that a
man who sat in this room yesterday had met with a sudden and horrible
death.

But Mrs. Grace's eye had caught a paragraph headed "The Last of the
Poles." Without a word or comment she handed the paper to the girl and
said merely, "Read that. It ought to interest you."

Edith looked at the heading, flushed, and then read the paragraph. It
ran:


"The last survivor of one of the great historical families of Europe
was buried at Chone, near Geneva, four days before Christmas. The
venerable Mathilde Poniatowski, the widow of Count Szymanowski, had
just passed her ninetieth year. Her family gave to Poland its last
king, Stanislaus Augustus, under whose reign the death-struggle of the
Polish nation began, and its last hero, Prince Joseph Poniatowski, who
fell as one of Napoleon's generals when bravely attempting to cover
the retreat of the French at the battle of Leipzig. The Tzar
Alexander, with a generosity which did him credit, allowed his corpse
to be buried in the church at Cracow amongst the old Kings and heroes
of Poland. Count Szymanowski, the husband of the deceased lady, took a
prominent part in the rising of the Poles in 1831, since which time
she has lived a quiet and uneventful life in the hospitable republic
of Geneva."


"And think," said Mrs. Grace, "that she who is just dead represented
only the younger branch of Mr. Hanbury's family. It is all more like
an Eastern romance than anything which could take place in Europe!"

Edith could not say much. She felt choking, and merely said it was
wonderful, and that Mr. Hanbury would no doubt know all about the
countess.

"I don't think so. You know he said he did not know much of the
family. I must cut out this paragraph and keep it for him."

The notion of cutting a paragraph out of a penny paper and giving it
to the head of the house here referred to, was grotesque. Besides, he
had not said that he should come again. He said his mother would call,
and he expressed a vague hope that they might be better friends. Edith
knew no practical importance was to be attached to this man's
parentage, as far as honours went; but still it could not be that he
would move about as freely now as of yore, or mingle with the people
he had formerly considered his equals. He could no more destroy the
stream of noble and kingly blood in his veins than a costermonger
could carry the arms of a Howard or a Percy.

Edith broke bread that morning, but made little more than a formal
meal. Mrs. Hanbury would of course call. When? And what would she be
like? The son had been much too condescending and familiar for one in
his position. Would his mother make up in stateliness what he left
aside? She would drive up between three and five with powdered
footmen. The arrival of the carriage, and the footmen, and Mrs.
Hanbury, mother of the well-known Mr. Hanbury, would be an event in
Grimsby Street. Her old resolution of not knowing rich people must be
waived in this case. There was no remedy for it; for he had said his
mother would come.

Neither grandmother nor grand-daughter was in humour for talk. Edith
was occupied with her own thoughts. They had nothing to do that day,
for Edith had made up her mind to do nothing about a new situation
until Monday. It being now Saturday, there was no time to take any
steps that week.

They had not sat down to breakfast until half-past nine, and by ten
they had not finished. As the little clock on the mantelpiece struck
the hour the landlady's daughter entered to say a lady was below who
desired to see Mrs. and Miss Grace.

Both rose. Whom could it be?

Mrs. Hanbury.

"I have taken the liberty of coming up without permission," said a
voice at the door, and a tall, stately lady, with white hair and
dressed in black, appeared at the threshold of the door left open by
the attendant.

Mrs. Grace invited her to enter and be seated.

"I need not introduce myself further," the visitor said with a smile,
as she sat down, after shaking hands with the two, "than to say I am
the mother of Mr. Hanbury, who had the pleasure of calling upon you
yesterday evening. I am afraid my visit this morning is as
inconveniently early as his last night was late. But the discovery of
the relationship between us is so extraordinary, and so pleasant to
me, that I could not deny myself the happiness of calling at the very
earliest moment I could get away. You have not even finished
breakfast. I fear you will find it hard to forgive me." Her words, and
smile, and manner were so friendly and unassuming, that grandmother
and grand-daughter felt at ease immediately.

Mrs. Grace said that if the visitor would forgive the disorder of the
table, they should have no reason to feel anything but extremely
grateful to Mrs. Hanbury for coming so soon.

Mrs. Hanbury bowed and said, "I saw my son on his return from
Derbyshire yesterday and when he came back from you last night. But he
had not come down when I was leaving home just now. I am a very
positive, self-willed old woman, and I have to ask you as a favour to
make allowances for these infirmities. I have made up my mind that the
best thing for us to do is to hold a little family council, and I have
grown so used to my own room I never can feel equal to discussing
family matters anywhere else. I have therefore come to ask you a
favour to begin with. Do humour me, please, and come with me to my
place. John will be down and done breakfast by the time we get there,
and we four can talk over all this wonderful story at our leisure."

There were objections and demurs to this, but Mrs. Hanbury's
insistent, good-humoured determination prevailed, and the end was that
the three ladies set out together on foot for Chester Square. "And
now," said Mrs. Hanbury, as they walked along, "that I have tasted the
delights of conquest, I mean to turn from a mild and seemingly
reasonable supplicant into a rigid tyrant. Back into that dreadful
Grimsby Street neither of you shall ever go again. It is quite enough
to destroy one's zest for life merely to look down it!"

The protests and demurs were more vehement than before.

"We shall not argue the point now. In my capacity of tyrant, I decline
to argue anything. But we shall see--we shall see."

When they reached Mrs. Hanbury's, they went straight, to her own room.
She left word that she was most particularly engaged, and could see no
one. On enquiring for her son, she heard with surprise that he had
come down shortly after she left and gone out without leaving any
message for her.

That morning John Hanbury awoke to the most unpleasant thoughts
about Dora. What ought he to do in the matter? Had he not acted
badly to her in not writing the next morning after the scene in the
drawing-room?--the very night?

Unquestionably it would have been much better if he had written at
once. But then at the time he reached home, he was in no state of mind
to write to any one, and when he read his father's letter, the
contents of it drove all other matters into the background, and made
it seem that they could easily wait. Now he had been to Derbyshire,
and knew all that was to be learned at Castleton, and had seen Mrs.
Grace and Miss Grace and told them of the discovery he had made. His
mother had undertaken to go see them, and for the present there was
nothing to press in front of his thought of Dora.

He had behaved very badly indeed to her. At the interview he had acted
more like a lunatic brute than a sane gentleman, and afterwards his
conduct had been--yes, cowardly. Curse it! was he always to behave
like a coward in her eyes? She had reproached him with cowardice the
other day, and he fully deserved her reproach. That is, he fully
deserved the reproach of an impartial and passionless judge. But was
the attitude of an impartial and passionless judge exactly the one a
man expected from his sweetheart? Surely the ways of life would be
very dusty and dreary if a man found his severest critics always
closest to his side, if any deficiencies in the public indictment of
his character or conduct were to be supplied by a voice from his own
hearth, by his other self, by his wife?

John Hanbury had from his first thinking of Dora more than of any
other girl he had met, looked on her as a possible wife. When he went
further and made up his mind to ask her to marry him, he had regarded
her as a future wife more than a present sweetheart. He had felt that
she would be a credit and an ornament to him and that they should get
on well together. He had never for an hour been carried away by his
feelings towards her. He had never lost his head. He told himself he
had lost his heart, because he was more happy in her society than in
the society of any other young woman he had met.

He was an imaginative man, of good education, strong impulse, and
skilful in the use of words. Yet he had not addressed a single piece
of verse to her. She had not moved him to adopt that unfamiliar form
of expression. He had nothing in his mind about her that he could not
express in prose. This alone was a suspicious circumstance. He knew he
was not a poet, and he felt it would be absurd to try to be a poet,
because he was going to marry a woman he liked very much.

This was ample evidence she had not touched the inner springs of love
in him. The young man who keeps his reason always about him, and won't
make a fool of himself for the woman he wants to marry, isn't in love
at all. There may be fifty words describing beautifully the excellence
of his intentions towards the young woman, but love is not one of
those words. He had felt all along that they were about to enter into
a delicious partnership; not that he was going to drink the wine of a
heavenly dream.

This morning he was wrestling and groaning in spirit when the servant
brought the letters to his door. He recognised her writing at once,
and tore the envelope open hastily.

He read the letter slowly and with decaying spirit. When he had
finished he folded it up deliberately and put it back into the
envelope. His face was pale, his lips were apart, his eyes dull,
expressionless.

"Be it so," he said at length. "She is right," he added bitterly. "She
is always right. She would always be right, and I when I differed from
her always wrong. That is not the position a husband should occupy in
a wife's esteem."

Then he sat down in the easy chair he had occupied two nights before,
and fell into a reverie. He did not heed how time went. When he roused
himself he learned that his mother had gone out. He did not want to
meet her now. He did not want to meet anyone. He wished to be alone
with his thoughts. Where can man be more alone than in the streets of
a great city?

He went out with no definite object except to be free of interruption.
His mind ran on Dora. Now he thought of her with anger, now with
affection, now with sorrow. He had no thought of trying to undo her
resolve. He acquiesced in it. He was glad it came from her and not
from him.

Now that all was over between them, and they were by-and-by to be good
friends, and no more, he became sentimental.

He passed in review the pleasant hours they had spent together. He
took a melancholy delight in conjuring up the things they had said,
the places they had gone to, the balls, and theatres, and galleries
and meetings they had been at with one another. He thought of the last
walk they took, the walk which led to the present breach between them.
It was in this neighbourhood somewhere. Ah, he remembered. He would go
and see the place once more.

Once more! Why it was only two days since they had come this way, she
leaning on his arm. What a wonderful lot of things had been crowded
into those two days!

This was the street. What was the meaning of the crowd? When she and
he were here last, there had been a crowd too. Was there always a
crowd here? By Jove! there had been a fire. And, by Jove! the house
burned was the one against the end wall of which she and he had stood
to watch the nigger.

Policemen were keeping people back from the front of Forbes's bakery,
which was completely gutted, standing a mere shell, with its bare,
roofless walls open to the light of Heaven. All the floors had fallen,
and a fireman with a hose was playing on the smoking rubbish within.

"An unlucky place," thought Hanbury, as he stood to look at the ruins.
"First that unfortunate nigger meets with an accident there, and now
this house is burned quite out. An unlucky corner."

At that moment there was a cry of dismay from the crowd. Hanbury drew
back. He thought the walls were falling. Presently the cry of dismay
changed to a cheer, and the crowd at the corner of the Hanover swayed
and opened, and through it, from a cab which had just drawn up, walked
hastily towards the smoking pile, Oscar Leigh.

Where Hanbury stood was the nearest point from which the dwarf could
command a view of the bakery. When he reached Hanbury's side, he
stopped, looked up, dropped his stick, flung his hands aloft and
uttered an awful yell of despair.

The people drew back from him.

No trace of even the floor of the clock-room remained in position,
beyond a few charred fragments of joists. Everything was gone, wheels
and pulleys, and levers, and shafts, and chains, and drums, and bands.
Even the very frame itself, with its four strong pillars and thick
cross-bars, left not a trace aloft, and its very position was not
indicated in the heap of steaming rubbish.

"All gone! All gone! The work of seven years. The result of a
lifetime. Gone! gone! gone!"

He reeled and would have fallen but that Hanbury caught him and
supported him.

Williams appeared and between Williams and Hanbury the dwarf was led
into the private bar in which his learning and occult knowledge had
brought him distinction and respect.

A chair was fetched by Binns the potman and Leigh was set upon it with
his back to the window, so that his eyes might not look upon the grave
of his labour.

"All gone! All gone! Nothing left! Nothing left! The work of seven
years day and night! Day and night! Day and night! Gone, all gone!"

"But, Mr. Leigh," said the pale-faced Williams, in a low and very
kindly voice, "it might have been ever so much worse."

"Worse! How could it be worse? There is nothing saved."

"Why, thank God, Mr. Leigh, you are saved. It was said in some of the
papers and we all believed you were burned in the fire."

"And what if I was? I wish I was."

"You oughtn't say that, Mr. Leigh. It is not right to say that. You
ought to be grateful for being saved."

"Grateful for being saved! Who? I! Who should be grateful that I am
saved? Not I, for one."

"Well, your friends are very glad, any way. Didn't you hear how the
people cried out with fear first, for they thought you were a ghost,
and didn't you hear how they cheered then when they saw it was you
yourself, alive and well?"

"I! Who am I? What am I? My clock, sir, was all I had in this whole
world. It was the savings bank of my heart, of my soul, and now the
bank is broken and I am beggared."

"But, Mr. Leigh, you are not beggared indeed. You have plenty of money
still," said Williams in the soft tone one uses to a reasonable child.

"Money, sir, what is money to me? I am not a pauper, but what good is
mere money to me? Can I dance at balls, or ride fine horses or shoot?
What good is money to me more than to get me food and drink for my
body? and what a body! Who will feed my soul? What will feed my soul?
How am I who am but a joke of nature to live with no spiritual food?
My clock was my life, and my soul, and my fame, my immortal part and
now--! Gone! gone! gone!"

"But how did you escape, Mr. Leigh? We saw you winding up after you
left this, and you nodded to us as usual, when the easy part of the
winding came, half-way through."

"I did. Curse my mandarin neck. If I had minded nothing but my clock
it would be safe now, or I should be dead with it."

"But how did you escape, Mr. Leigh?"

"The devil takes care of his own, Mr. Hanbury," he said, speaking for
the first time to the young man. "Whatever way you are going I should
like to go, if you would have no objection? I have no way of my own
now except the way common to us all."

"I shall be very glad to have your company," said Hanbury, who was
sincerely moved at the loss and grief of the little clockmaker.

"Shall we walk or would you prefer to drive?"

"Let us drive, please. I have lost my stick. Ay, I have lost my
crutch, my stick, my prop. You are very kind to let me go with you."

"Indeed I am very glad to be of any use I can."

And leaning on the arm of John Hanbury, Oscar Leigh limped out of the
private bar of the Hanover.



                            CHAPTER XXXVI.

                           OPEN CONFESSION.


When the two men gained the open air no cab was in sight.

"If you will rest awhile here," said Hanbury, "I'll fetch a cab. I
cannot see one up or down the street."

"No," said Leigh, a shudder passing through his frame. "Let us walk,
if you do not mind. I could not bear to stay near this place any
longer. Is it not strange that you should have wanted a cab in this
spot forty-eight hours ago, and I should want it here now?"

"It is strange," said Hanbury, "but the world is very small, and our
absolute wants in it are very closely circumscribed." The manner of
Leigh had changed in a marked manner since they emerged from the door
of the Hanover. His steps had become slow and more dragged, his
breathing more laboured, and he had lost all swagger and bounce, and
self-assertiveness.

"I know I am going very slowly. But I cannot get along quicker. I have
had a great shock, and a slow step is becoming at a funeral."

"Pray, do not apologise. I assure you I have absolutely nothing to
do."

"Nor I, nor shall I ever have anything to do in this world again. Sir,
this slow pace befits a funeral. This is my funeral."

"Oh, you mustn't say so. I am sure your clock must have been a
terrible loss, but not irreparable."

"Do you mean that the clock is reparable?"

"No. I am well aware the clock is past repair, but the loss may be
repaired."

"No, sir. It may not. I do not want ever to see this street or that
corner again. I have lived there seven years. I have toiled and
planned there night and day for seven years, and now I am going
away shorn of the growth of all my labours. Men of my make are never
long-lived. When they meet a great shock and a great loss such as this
they die. There is a hansom, but don't call that. Call a four-wheeler.
It is more like a hearse, and this is a funeral. Let us dress the
rehearsal of the play, the real play, as well as we can. I am rather
glad I am done with life----"

"Why, you are quite a young man yet, Mr. Leigh."

"I am rather glad I am done with life, I was saying, for I was
beginning to tire of it. A man formed as I am has a weary up-hill
fight. He must either play the part of the subtle beast, or go under,
and a man who cannot ever stand up and fight for himself does not like
to go under. It is not fair to ask a man who has never been able to
put up his hands if he has had enough."

"But you will begin another great clock, even a greater one."

For a moment the little man fired up, and seemed about to regain his
old insolent combativeness. "Sir, it would be impossible to design a
greater."

"Well, let us say as great," said the young man soothingly. He was
beginning not only to take an interest in this strange being, but to
sympathise with him.

"No, sir. I shall begin no other clock. The sands in my own hour-glass
are running low already. When a man of my make endures a great shock
and a great disappointment he does not endure much more. He dies. I am
glad to meet you again. I am glad it was your arm kept me from
falling. I want you to be my friend. I have no friend on earth
excepting my poor mother, who is more helpless than I myself. I know
what I am asking when I say I want you for my friend. I would not ask
you to be my friend the day before yesterday. I would have preferred
you for an enemy then, for then I was strong and able to take care of
myself. Now I am too weak to be your enemy, and I am fit only to be
your friend. You will not spurn me?" He paused in their walk, and
looked up anxiously into Hanbury's face.

"Assuredly not. I will do anything I can for you. Please let me know
what I can do for you?"

"I may presently, I may later. I may the last thing of all. But not
now. Let us walk on. My clock is gone for ever, and on the ruins of my
clock I have found a friend. I would much rather have my clock, ten
thousand times rather have my clock, than you, but then I knew it so
long and so well. If you had made that clock as I had, and had lost it
as I have lost it, you would go mad and kill someone, maybe yourself,
or perhaps both."

"I am sure I should feel bitterly the loss of so many years of
labour."

"Of so many years of labour and love and confidence and pride, the
depository of so many hopes, the garden in which grew all the flowers
of my mind. Well, while I had the clock, I had a friend in which I
could confide. The clock is gone past recall. My mother cannot, poor
soul, be expected to understand me. As you have promised to be my
friend, I will confide in you. I know I may do so with safety."

"I think you may."

"It is past _thinking_ in me: I _know_. I told you before, I never
make mistakes about people." In all this talk Hanbury noticed that
the old self-assertive "Hah!" had no place, nor was there any use of
eau-de-cologne or reference to it. These had been nothing more than
conversational fripperies, and had been laid aside with the spirit of
aggression. The manner of aggression still prevailed in the form of
thought and manner of expression. "You will be astonished to hear that
I was attracted towards you from the moment I saw you in Welbeck
Place--the attraction of repulsion, no doubt. But still you were not
indifferent to me. I have had so long a life of loneliness and
repression, I want a few hours of companionship and free-speaking
before I die."

"Anything you may tell me to relieve your mind, I shall treat as a
secret of my own--as a secret in keeping which my personal honour is
concerned."

"I know. I wish I were as sure of anything else as I am of you. I tell
you I never make mistakes about people. Never. I lied to you very
considerably. I lied to everyone pretty considerably, partly because I
have imagination, or fancy, or invention, or whatever you call the
power of easily devising things that are not. I lied because I had
imagination. I lied because I had vanity. I lied because people are
such fools. How could a man tell the truth to a creature like
Williams, the owner of that public-house? The creature could not
appreciate it. Besides, lying is so amusing, and I had so little
amusement. I used lies as at once a sword and buckler. I cut down a
fool with a lie; I defended myself against the silly talk of fools by
holding up a lie with a brazen boss the shining of which dazzled their
eyes and choked their silly voices. I lied a good deal to you."

"Pray do not pain yourself by apologies. You said what you said to me
merely for pastime."

"No; as an indication of my contempt for you. Did you not see I had a
contempt for you? Did I not make it plain? Did you not see it?"

"Yes, I think you made it plain."

"I am glad of that, for my intention was to hurt you a good deal, and
I hate to fail. I am very glad you saw I had a great contempt for you.
This is my death-bed confession, and I shall keep back nothing,
without warning you I am keeping something back."

"You are quite candid now, I am sure."

"Quite candid, as candid as a child is in its unspoken mind. What I
said about those figures of time was mostly a lie."

"I guessed that."

"What I said about Miracle Gold was mostly a lie also."

"I knew that."

"You knew it! How could you know it? How can you _know_ a negative any
more than _prove_ it, except by the evidence of your senses?--and then
you do not _know_, you only fail to perceive."

"Well, let us not get into metaphysics."

"All right. _Most_ of what I told you about Miracle Gold was a lie.
_All_ I told you about making it was a lie. I was about to enter into
a league with thieves to take stolen gold, and pretend to make it. I
was going to do this for the sake of the fame, not the profit."

"A very dangerous kind of alchemy."

"Yes; but very common, though not in its application to real metallic
gold."

"It would be worse for us to get into a discussion on morals than even
on metaphysics."

"It would. Anyway I have told you what my scheme was. I told Mrs.
Ashton that my clock was independent of my hands for winding up. You
heard Williams, the publican, say they saw me wind up my clock last
night. Well I was not near my clock last night."

"But he said he saw you."

"He did. Now you can understand how necessary it was for me to lie."

"I candidly confess I cannot."

"Well to me it would be unbearable that a man like Williams should
know of all my actions. I was not near my clock, not in the same room
with it, not on the floor where it stood, from the early afternoon of
yesterday. When I conceived the notion of making Miracle Gold I knew I
ran a great risk. I thought it might become necessary to prove
_affirmatives_ at all events. The proposition of an alibi is an
affirmative, the deduction a negative. I told you my clock was my
friend. Well, I made it help me in this. I gave out in the private bar
of the Hanover that my clock had now become so complicated that I had
arranged to connect all the movements, which had hitherto been more or
less independent, awaiting removal to a tower. I said I was going to
get all my power from one force, weights in the chimney. Hitherto I
had said I used springs and weights. I said this change would involve
half-an-hour's continual winding every night, with a brief break of a
few seconds in the middle of the half hour. The clock was to be wound
up by a lever fixed near the window, at which I sat when at work, the
only window in the room. Night after night I worked at this lever for
half-an-hour, turning round exactly at a quarter-past twelve to nod at
the landlord of the Hanover and the people in the private bar.
Meanwhile, I was busy constructing two life-sized figures. One of the
body of a man in every way unlike me. The other of a man who should be
as like me as possible. I have skill, a good deal of skill, in
modelling. The face and figure unlike mine were the first finished.
Both were made to be moved by the lever, not to move it. I easily
timed the head so as to turn at a quarter-past. I inserted in the neck
of the figure like myself a movement which would make the head nod
before turning away to go on with the winding. You now see my idea?"

"Not quite clearly. But I suspect it."

"Suppose I had to meet one of my clients about the gold, I should make
an appointment with him at a quarter-past twelve in Islington, or
Wapping, or Wandsworth, or Twickenham. My clock, at twelve o'clock,
slowly raised the figure from the floor to the place in which I sat in
my chair, turned up the gas, which had been dimmed to the last glimmer
that would live, and then released the weight in the chimney and set
the figure moving as if working the lever, instead of the lever
working it. Thus you see I should have a dozen to swear they saw me in
my room at Chelsea, if anything went wrong in my interviews with my
clients, or if from any other cause it became necessary for me to
prove I was in my workshop between twelve and half-past twelve at
night."

"Very ingenious indeed."

"The night before I met you in Welbeck Place, that is to say Wednesday
night, I tried my first figure, the figure of the man unlike me."

"May I ask what was the object of this figure? Why had you one that
was not like you?"

"To give emphasis to the figure of myself. I at first intended going
into the Hanover on Wednesday and declaring that I had been obliged to
employ a deputy in case of anything preventing my being able to attend
between twelve and half-past. I had intended spending the half hour
the figure was visible in the bar, but I changed my mind. I went to
the country instead, and imparted as a secret to the landlord that I
was to have a deputy that night, and that he was to keep an eye on him
and see he did not shirk his work. I knew Williams could no more keep
a secret of that kind than fly. I did not want him to keep it. My
motive in cautioning him was merely that he might watch closely, for
of course I was most anxious that the delusion should be complete and
able to bear the test of strict watching from the private bar. I went
down to the country partly to be out of the way and partly for another
reason I need not mention."

Hanbury started. The excitement of seeing the place burned out, and
meeting the dwarf and listening to his strange tale, had prevented him
recollecting the connection between Edith Grace and Leigh. "Go on,"
said Hanbury, wishing the clockmaker to finish before he introduced
the name of Edith.

"There is not much more to tell. Owing to a reason I need not mention,
I made up my mind on Thursday morning to go on with the production of
Miracle Gold. I resolved against my better judgment, and gave the word
for the first lot of the gold to be delivered at my place at midnight
exactly. You know how my afternoon was spent. While at Mrs. Ashton's,
my better judgment and my worse one had a scuffle, and I made up my
mind to decide upon nothing that night, and certainly to commit myself
to nothing that night. What you would call the higher influence was at
work."

"Pallas-Athena?"

"Yes, if you think that a good name. Any way I made up my mind to do
nothing definite in the interest of Miracle Gold that night. I set my
dummy figure and left my house at midnight exactly, saw my client and
told him I could do nothing for a week. Next day I heard from Williams
that I had wound up my clock and nodded at a quarter-past twelve,
right time. Last night I went into the Hanover, as you heard Williams
say, and passed into my house after speaking a while to a friend in
the street. But I did not go upstairs. I went through the house and
out into the mews at the back. I was supplied by the landlord with
keys for the doors into Chetwynd Street and Welbeck Place, but had not
one for the bakehouse door into the mews until I got one made unknown
to anyone. Thus the landlord and the people all round to whom I spoke
freely would never dream of my going through into the mews. It was my
intention they should have a distinct impression I could not do it.
Thus I had the use, as it were, of a secret door. When I got into the
mews I hastened to Victoria and caught the last train for Millway, the
12.15. I wanted to see my mother about business which I need not
mention. I had made up mind to have nothing to do with the Miracle
Gold. On my way back to town I called on my client and learned that
the place was burnt down and that I was believed to be dead. The
latter belief is only a little premature. I am going fast. Is there no
cab? I can hardly breathe. Have you seen Miss Ashton since?"

"Since I saw you last?"

"Yes."

"I have."

"Since yesterday afternoon?"

"No."

Leigh gave a sigh of pain and stopped. "I am done," he said. "I can go
no further. I shall walk no more."

"Nonsense, you will be all right again. Here is a cab at last, thank
goodness!"

"You will come with me. You will not desert me. My confession is over.
I shall speak of this matter no more to any man. It was only a
temptation, and I absolutely did no wrong. You will not desert me. I
am very feeble. I do not know what the matter is with me. I have no
strength in my body. I never had much, but the little I had is gone.
You will not desert me, Mr. Hanbury. I have only listened to the voice
of the tempter. I have not gone the tempter's ways, and mind, I was
not tempted by the love of lucre. If I had had a voice, and stature,
and figure like yours I might have been able to win fame in the big
and open world, as I was I could win it only in the world that is
little and occult. Come with me. You promised to be my friend before
you heard of my temptation. Are you less inclined to be my friend
because I was tempted and resisted the tempter, than if I had never
been tempted at all? Get in and come with me. See me under a roof
anyway. The next roof that covers me will be the last one I shall lie
under over ground."

"I own," said Hanbury, "I was a little staggered at first, but only at
first. I am quite willing to go with you. Where shall I tell the man
to drive?" Hanbury had assisted Leigh into the cab, and was standing
on the flagway.

Leigh gave the address, and the two drove off.

The dwarf's confession had not benefitted his position in Hanbury's
mind. The fact that this man had been in communication with a fence,
with a view to the disposal of stolen gold, was enough to make the
average man shrink from contact with the dwarf. But then Hanbury
remembered that the secret had been divulged by the clock-maker in a
moment of extreme excitement, and after what to him must have been an
enormous calamity. To have been tempted is not to have fallen; but,
the temptation resisted, to have risen to heights proportionate to the
strength of the temptation, and the degree of self-denial in the
resistance of it.

Yet, this was a strange companion, friend, for John Hanbury, the
well-known public speaker, a man who had made up his mind to adopt the
career of a progressive and reforming politician, the descendant of
Stanislaus II. of Poland! Contact with a man who had absolutely
entertained the notion of trading in stolen goods was a thing most
people would shun. But, then, were most people right? This man had
claimed his good offices, first, because Hanbury was in his power, and
now Leigh claimed his good offices, because he was in great affliction
and prostration. Certainly Hanbury would be more willing to fall in
with Leigh's views now, when he was supplicating, than on Thursday,
when he was threatening. Who could withhold sympathy from this
deformed, marred, wheezing, halting, sickly-looking man, who had just
seen the work of a lifetime swept away for ever?

Then Hanbury remembered he had questions to ask Leigh, and that his
motive for keeping with him was not wholly pure. How many motives, of
the most impersonal and disinterested, are quite pure?

The young man did not know how exactly to introduce the subject of the
Graces, and, for a moment, he hemmed and fidgetted in the cab.

At last he began, "You have not seen Mrs. Grace, since?"

"No; nor shall I ever again."

"Why, you have not quarrelled with her, have you?"

"Quarrelled with her! Not I. But I have explained to you that I am
going home, that this is a funeral; my home is not in Grimsby Street.
You did not say Grimsby Street to the cabman, I hope?"

"I did not. I gave him 12, Barnes Street, Chelsea. Is not that right?"

"Yes. That's right. No, I am not likely to see Mrs. Grace again. How
wonderfully like Miss Ashton Miss Grace is! Oh, I may as well tell
you, how I came to know Miss Grace, as she has really been the means
of bringing us together as we are to-day. My mother is paralyzed, and
I advertised for a companion for her. Miss Grace replied, and I
engaged her. I said she should see little of me. But at the time it
did not occur to me that I might like to see a great deal of her. I
did not explain this before, for the explanation would have
interrupted the story of my clock. Well, although you may hardly be
able to credit it, I, who had, up to that time, avoided the crowning
folly of even thinking of marriage, thought, not quite as calmly as I
am speaking now, that I should like to marry a wife, and that I should
like to marry her. She was to go to my mother on Wednesday. I was to
test my automaton on Wednesday night. I ran down to my mother's place,
and was at Eltham when Miss Grace arrived. My appearance there, after
saying she should see me little, must have frightened her. I have
often heard children call me bogie. At all events, she came back to
Town next day. Ran away, is the truth. Ran away from the sight of me,
of bogie. If she had staid with my mother, I should have had something
to think of besides Miracle Gold. It was upon seeing her and arranging
that she was to go to Eltham, that my interest in Miracle Gold began
to diminish, and I grew to think that my clock alone would suffice for
my fame, and that I might marry and leave London, and live at Eltham.
Well, she ran away, as I said, and I came back to London the same day,
and made up my mind to go on with Miracle Gold. Then I met you and
Miss Ashton, and I went to Curzon Street, and I thought, If Mrs.
Ashton will let me come on Thursdays, and breathe another atmosphere,
and meet other kinds of people, I still may be able to live without
the excitement of Miracle Gold. And so I wavered and wavered, and at
last made up my mind to give up the Gold altogether, and now the clock
is gone, and I am alone. Quite alone. This is the house. It belongs to
Dr. Shaw. He has looked after my health for years, and has promised to
let me come here and live with him, when I haven't long to live. I
have your address, and you have this one. Will you come to see me
again?"

"Indeed I will."

"When--to-morrow? To-morrow will be Sunday."

"Perhaps I may come to-morrow. I shall come as soon as ever I can."

They were standing at the door-step. Leigh had leaned his side against
the area-railings for support. His breathing was terrible, and every
now and then he gasped, and clutched his hands together.

"If you come, perhaps you may not come alone?"

Hanbury flushed. He did not want to make his confession just now.

"Perhaps I may not," he said. "Good-bye, now."

"Good-bye; and thank you for your goodness. You know whom I hope to
see with you?"

"Yes."

"Who?"

"Pallas-Athena, of course."

"Of course."



                           CHAPTER XXXVII.

                                FREE.


With a feeling of relief, Hanbury walked rapidly away. The last words
of Leigh had stirred within him once more the trouble which had made
him shirk meeting his mother that morning. The burning down of Leigh's
place and the destruction of the wonderful clock, and the meeting with
the unfortunate clockmaker, would afford a story to be told when he
got home, and he might interpose that history between the first words
of meeting and the ultimate announcement that the engagement between
Dora and himself was at an end.

Family considerations or desires had nothing to do with the
understanding which had existed between Dora and him; but to his
mother, from whom he had no secret, except that of the quarrel on
Thursday night, he must explain, and explain fully too. There was no
good in putting off the inevitable meeting any longer. He knew his
mother had great respect and liking for Dora, but she had had nothing
whatever to do with bringing about the understanding between the two
of them. They had been quite as free in their choice of one another as
though they had been the heroine and hero of a pastoral. He had never
been a fool about Dora and she had never been a fool about him. In his
life he meant to be no cypher among men; it would never do for him to
be a cypher in his own home. Dora and he had acted with great
reasonableness throughout their whole acquaintance, and with supreme
reasonableness when they agreed to separate. If he had been an
ordinary man, a man with no great public career before him, he might
have been disposed to yield more to Dora's opinion or judgment; but as
matters stood, any man with the smallest trace of common sense must
commend Dora's decision of terminating the engagement, and his
acceptance of her decision.

When he got back to Chester Square he heard, with great relief, that
Mrs. and Miss Grace were at luncheon in the dining-room with Mrs.
Hanbury. The presence of the two visitors and the general nature of
the conversation necessary to their presence and the meal, would serve
as an admirable softener of the story he had for his mother's private
ear.

"You see, John, I have succeeded," said Mrs. Hanbury, after greetings
were over. "I went the moment breakfast was finished and carried Mrs.
and Miss Grace away from that awful Grimsby Street. We have had a good
long chat, and, although I have done my best with Mrs. Grace, I cannot
induce her to promise not to go back to that murderous street again. I
must now ask you to join with me in forbidding her to leave us."

Hanbury spoke in favour of his mother's proposal and urged many
arguments; but the old woman was quite firm. Back they must and would
go. Why, if no other consideration would be allowed to weigh, there
was the fact that her grand-daughter had not yet received her luggage
from Eltham House.

This reference brought in Leigh's name, and then Hanbury told of the
fire, the destruction of the clock, his meeting that morning with the
dwarf, and the conviction of the latter that he would not long survive
the destruction of his incomparable machine. He noticed as he went on
that Miss Grace first flushed and then paled.

The girl had hardly spoken up to this. She sat silent and timid. She
did not seem to hear quickly or to apprehend accurately. She had
hesitated in her answers like one afraid. The table was small, and
laid for four people. Hanbury sat opposite his mother, Edith opposite
her grandmother. The heat was intense.

There was a buzzing and beating in the girl's ears. She heard as
through a sound of plashing water. The talk of Leigh had carried her
mind back to the country, back to Millway and Eltham House, and to the
unexpected and unwelcome and disquieting apparition of the dwarf at
the door of the house when she arrived there.

Through this strange noise of splashing water she heard in a low
far-away voice the story of her fear and loneliness and desolation on
that Wednesday, separated from her old home and the familiar streets,
and the sustaining companionship of her old grandmother, who had been
all the world to her. She heard this story chanted, intoned in this
low, monotonous voice, and she had a dim feeling that all was changed,
and that she was now environed by securities through which she could
not be assailed by the attentions of that strange, ill-featured dwarf.

But her sight was very dim, and she could not see anything clearly or
recollect exactly where she was. Gradually her sight cleared a little,
and she was under trees heavy with leaves, alone on a lonely road by
night. The rain fell unseen through the mute warm air. A thick perfume
of roses made the air heavy with richness. She felt her breath come
short, as though she had walked fast or run. The air was too rich to
freshen life to cool the fevered blood.

Now she became dimly conscious of some sound other than the plashing
of water. It was not the voice, for the voice had ceased. The sound
was loud and distinct, and emphatic and tumultuous.

All at once she remembered what that sound was. She hastily put one
hand to her left side, and the other to her forehead and rose, swaying
softly to and fro.

"I--I----" she whispered, but could say no more.

Hanbury caught her, or she would have fallen. The two ladies got up.

"She is not well," said the old woman excitedly. "She has eaten
nothing for days!"

The girl reclined, cold and pale as marble, in the young man's arms.
Her eyes were half closed, her lips half open.

He half led her half lifted her to a couch. Restoratives such as stood
at hand were applied, but she did not quite recover. She was not
exactly unconscious. This was no ordinary faint.

The women were terrified. Mrs. Grace had never seen her in any such
state before. To her knowledge the girl had never fainted.

The ladies were terrified, and Hanbury ran off for a doctor. When he
came back, the girl had been got upstairs. She was still in the same
state, not quite conscious, and not quite insensible.

The doctor made a long examination, and heard all that was to be told.
When he came down to the dining-room, where Hanbury was excitedly
walking up and down, he said the case was serious, but not exactly
dangerous, that is, the patient's life was in no imminent peril. She
had simply been overwrought and weakened by want of food, and jarred
by suppressed and contending emotions. There was no organic disease,
but the heart had been functionally affected by the vicissitudes of
the past few days acting on an organism of exquisite sensibility.
Quiet was the best medicine, and after quiet, careful strengthening,
and then the drugs mentioned in this prescription. But above all,
quiet.

Could she be moved? Mrs. Grace asked.

By no means. Moving might not bring about a fatal termination, but it
would most assuredly enhance her danger, and most certainly retard her
recovery.

Would she recover?

There was no reason to fear she would not. All was sound, but much was
weak. Her anxiety of mind, and the excitement of going to that
uncongenial home, and the long walk the morning she left, and the lack
of food had weakened her much, but nothing had given way or was in
immediate peril of giving way, and with care and quiet all would be
well.

And when this was passed would she be quite well again?

Yes. In all possible likelihood under Heaven, quite well again.

It would leave no blemish in her life? No weak place? She would be as
well as ever?

Well, that was asking a doctor to say a great deal, but it was
probable, highly probable, she would be quite as well as if this had
never happened. The key to her recovery lay in the one word, Quiet.
After quiet came careful nurture and, a long way from the second of
these, drugs. But recollect, Quiet.

Hanbury took up the prescription and hastened off with it.

The poor girl so sensitive and fragile! It was a mercy this illness
came upon her here. How would it have fared with her down in that
lonely Eltham House to which she had taken such a dislike? Why, it
would have killed her.

What an exquisite creature she was, and so soft and gentle in her
ways. It was fortunate this illness had not overtaken her in Eltham
House, or in Grimsby Street, for that matter, because the street was
detestable, and to be ill in lodgings must be much worse than to be
ill in a public hospital, for in hospital there was every appliance
and attendance, and in lodgings only noise, and bustle, and grumbling.
It was dreadful to think of being sick in lodgings. And now Mrs. Grace
and her grand-daughter were poor.

How horrible it would be to think of this girl lying stricken in that
other house, and requiring first of all quiet, and then cherishing,
and being able to get neither! It was dreadful to picture such things.
And fancy, if these poor ladies had not enough money for a good doctor
and what the poor weak child wanted! Fancy if they could not pay their
rent and were obliged to leave. Oh! how fortunate it was he had come
across them so soon, and how strange to think that Leigh had been the
means of first bringing them together. He owed that good turn to
Leigh.

On his way back from the druggist he reverted to the past of Leigh:

"Yes, I owed the introduction to him. I freely forgive him now.
Indeed, I don't know what I have to forgive him of. He did not send or
write that paragraph to the papers. He did not even write it, as far
as I know, and although he was rough and rude, and levied a kind of
blackmail on me, the price he asked me was not disgraceful from his
point of view. If I had met him under happy circumstances, I might
have brought him to a Thursday at Curzon Street. He was interesting,
with his alchemy and clock and omniscience and insolence and
intellectual swagger. Of course, I did not at the time know he was in
treaty with a fence. According to his own account he never committed
himself in that quarter, and as he had no need to tell me of that
transaction at all, I daresay he kept pretty near the truth. How
strange that when he lost his clock, he must straightway get a
confidant! I wonder is there any truth in his own prophecy about his
health?

"He, too, was the means of breaking off the Curzon Street affair. I
must write there at once. I have behaved badly in not doing so before.
I'll write the moment I get home. Yes, I must write when I get back,
and then I'll put the affair out of my mind altogether, for good and
ever."

Upon getting to the house, he went to the library and read over Dora
Ashton's letter once more, slowly. He gathered no new impression from
this second reading. Her resolution to put an end to the engagement
seemed to him more strong than at first. That was the only change he
noticed in the effect of the letter upon him. It was as cool and
business-like and complete as could be. He was too much of a gentleman
to give expression in his mind to any fault-finding with the woman to
whom he had been engaged, and whom he had behaved so badly towards the
other evening, but it seemed quite certain to him now that Dora Ashton
was a girl of great cleverness and good sense and beauty--but no
heart.

He did not at all like the task before him, but it must be done. When
the letter was finished, it ran:


"My Dear Miss Ashton,

"I got your letter. It was very good of you to write to me in so kind
and unreproaching a spirit, and I thank you with all my heart for your
merciful forbearance. My conduct, my violence on Thursday evening,
must always be a sorrow and a mystery to me. I only indistinctly
recollect what I said, but I feel and know my words were perfectly
monstrous and cruelly unjust. I feel most bitterly that no apology of
mine can obliterate the impression my insanity must have made on you.
To say I am profoundly sorry is only to say that I am once more in my
right mind. I must in the most complete and abject manner beg your
pardon for my shameful violence on Thursday evening. I must not even
try to explain that violence away. I ask your pardon as an expression
of my own horror of my conduct and of my remorse. But I do not hope
for your forgiveness, I do not deserve it, I will not accept it. I
shall bear with me in expiation of my offence the consciousness of my
unpardonable conduct, and the knowledge that it remains unpardoned.
Even lenity could ask no more indulgent treatment of my monstrous
behaviour.

"As to terminating the engagement between us I have nothing to do but
accept your decision, and since you ask it as a favour, the only
favour you ever asked of me, I must receive your decision as
irrevocable. I will not make any unpleasantness here by even referring
to the difference of the ending I had in the hope of my mind. As you
very justly say, the least said now the better. I shall say not a word
to anyone about the immediate subject of this letter except to my
mother. On that you may rely. I must tell her. You, I suppose, will
inform Mrs. and Mr. Ashton (if they do not know of it); nobody else
need hear of the abandonment of our designs. Let us by all means meet
as you suggest, as though we never had been more than the best of
friends, and were (as I hope we shall be) the best of friends still. I
also quite agree with you about the notes, &c. Burn and destroy them.
I will most scrupulously burn your letters, of which I have a few.
This letter will I suppose be the last of the series.

"In a little time I trust we may meet again, but not just now for both
our sakes.

                    "Yours ever most sincerely,

                                 "John Hanbury."


When he had finished the letter he closed it without reading it over.
"When one reads over a letter like this," he thought, "one grows nice
about phrases and tries to alter, and finally tears up. I am satisfied
that if I tried all day long I should do no better than this. I shall
post it myself when I go out. That letter is a great weight off my
mind, and now I am much less disinclined to break the matter to my
mother. When that is over I shall feel that I am free."

He found his mother alone in her own room. Mrs. Grace was with Edith
in a room which had been hastily prepared for her.

"She is just the same way," said Mrs. Hanbury. The young man had heard
from a servant downstairs that there was no change. "We are not to
expect much change for a while. She has quite recovered consciousness,
but is very weak, and the doctor says she is not to be allowed to stir
even a hand more than is necessary. There is no anxiety. With time and
care all will be well."

"I am glad I found you alone, mother. I think you must have seen that
I have been a good deal excited during the past few days."

"Yes, and very naturally too. That letter must have disturbed you a
good deal."

The son paused in his walk and stared at her. "How did you know about
that letter? Who told you? Have you seen Dora? But that is absurd. She
would not speak of it."

Mrs. Hanbury looked at him in amazement and alarm. "What do you mean,
John? You make me very uneasy. What has Dora Ashton to do with it?
Miss Grace may, but not Dora. Surely you do not suppose I did not read
your father's letter?"

"Oh!" he cried, "I did not mean my father's letter. I was referring to
another letter. Upon reflection I quite agree with you and my father
in attaching little or no importance to that discovery. I was thinking
of a letter I had from Dora."

"Yes," said Mrs. Hanbury with a sigh of relief. For a moment she
thought her son's head had been turned by the disclosure of his
pedigree. "What does she say?"

He was walking up and down rapidly now. "Well, the fact is, mother,
the thing is off."

"Off?"

"Yes."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, the thing is over between us, the engagement, you know. The
fact is we had a scene on Thursday evening. I lost command of myself
completely, and used very violent language----"

"To Dora!" cried the mother in bewilderment.

"Yes, to Dora. I don't know what came over me, but I was carried quite
beyond myself and said things no gentleman, no man, ought to say to
any girl----"

"John, I don't believe you--you are under some strange and miserable
hallucination. You said something to Dora Ashton that no man ought to
say to any girl! Impossible! Thank God, I know my son better than to
believe anything of the kind," said Mrs. Hanbury, beginning in a
manner of incredulity and ending in firm conviction.

"Unfortunately mother it is only too true. I need not repeat what
passed, but the dispute----"

"Dispute--dispute with Dora! Why she would not dispute with you! How
could she dispute with you? Dispute with you! It is nonsense. Why the
girl _loves_ you, John, the girl _loves_ you. It is lunacy to say it!"

"I may have used an unhappy word----"

"A completely meaningless word, I assure you."

"At all events, we differed in opinion, and I completely lost my
temper and told her in the end that in certain cases of importance she
might betray me."

"Oh, this is too bad! I will not sit and listen to this raving. You
never said such a childishly cruel thing to Dora Ashton? She is the
noblest girl I know. The noblest girl I ever met."

"I was mad, mother."

"Most wickedly mad."

"Well you do not know how sorry I am I allowed myself to be carried
away. But that cannot be helped now. I must abide the consequence of
my folly and madness. She has broken off the engagement, for we were
engaged, and I have written saying I cannot disapprove of her
decision. We have agreed that as no one has known anything of the
engagement no one is to hear of its being broken off. Are you angry
with me, mother?"

"Angry--no; but greatly disappointed. I was as happy in thinking of
Dora as your wife as if she were my own daughter, but I suppose I must
become reconciled. If you and she have agreed to part no one has any
right to say more than that it is a pity, and I think it is a pity,
and I am very sorry."

That was the end of the interview of which the young man had stood in
such dread, and now that it was over and he was going to post his last
letter to Dora he felt relieved. The news had doubtless greatly
surprised and shocked his mother, but this meeting had not been nearly
so distressing as he had anticipated.

When he came to the post pillar into which he had dropped most of the
letters he had written to Curzon Street, he felt an ugly twinge as
this one slid from his fingers and he turned away--free.



                           CHAPTER XXXVIII

                        DOCTOR SHAW'S VERDICT.


Dr. Shaw, at whose house door Hanbury had left Oscar Leigh, was a
fresh-coloured, light haired, baldheaded, energetic man of about
fifty-five. He was always in a state of astonishment, and the
spectacles he wore over his green grey eyes seemed ever on the point
of being thrust forward out of their position by the large round
prominent dancing eyes of their wearer. He was a bachelor and had a
poor practice, but one which he preferred to hold in undisputed
ownership, rather than increase at the sacrifice of liberty in taking
a wife.

He had just come back from his round of morning visits and was sitting
down to his simple early dinner, as Leigh knocked. When he heard who
the visitor was he rose instantly and went into the small bare
surgery, the front ground-floor room.

"Bless my soul, Mr. Leigh, what's the matter?"

Leigh was sitting in a wooden elbow chair breathing heavily, noisily,
irregularly. "I have come," he said in gasps and snatches, "I have
come to die."

"Eh! Bless my soul, what are you saying?" cried the doctor approaching
the clockmaker so as to get the light upon his own back.

"I have come to die, I tell you."

"But that is an opinion, and it is I that am to give the opinion--not
you. You are to state the facts, I am to lay down the law. What's the
matter?"

"In this case, I am judge and jury. The facts and the law are all
against me. I have had another seizure a few minutes ago," he laid his
hand on his chest. "In the excitement I kept up, but I know 'tis all
over. You will remember your promise about the quicklime. I never let
anyone pry into the machinery of my clock, and I won't have any
foolish young jackanapes prying into the works of this old carcase.
You will fill up the box with quicklime?"

"Not yet anyway. What happened. Where do you feel queer?"

Leigh pointed to his chest a little at the left of the middle line.

"Shock?"

"Yes."

"What?"

"My clock, the work of seven years, has been burned, destroyed."

"Burned! That was hard. I'm very sorry to hear it. We'll have your
coat off. Yes, I'll lock the door. You need not be afraid. No one
comes at this time. Yes, I'll pull the blind down too. Stand up....
That will do. Put on your coat. Let me help you. Drink this. Sit down
now and rest yourself."

"Rest myself? Rest myself! After standing for that half a minute?"

"Yes."

"Did I not tell you facts and law were against me?"

"You are not well."

"I am dying."

"You are very ill."

"I had better go to bed?"

"You would be more rested there."

"Would it be safe for me to go to Millway, about sixty miles?"

"No."

"How long do you think I shall last?"

"It is quite impossible to say."

"Hours?"

"Oh, yes."

"Days?"

"Yes."

"Weeks?"

"With care."

"Months?"

"The best thing you can do now is to go to bed. I'll see the room got
ready. You feel very weak, weaker even than when you came in here."

"I feel I cannot walk."

"The excitement has kept you up so far. You are now suffering from
reaction. After you have rested a while you will be better."

"Very good. Shaw, will you send for your solicitor, I want to make my
will."

The doctor left the surgery for a few minutes to give the necessary
orders about the room for Leigh and to send for the solicitor. Half an
hour ago he had felt very hungry, and when the clockmaker knocked he
had been thinking of nothing but his dinner. His dinner still lay
untasted. He had forgotten all about it. He was the most kind-hearted
of men, and the sight of Leigh in his present condition, and the fatal
story he had heard through the stethoscope had filled him with pity
and solicitude.

"The room will be ready in a few minutes," he said, in a cheerful
voice and with an encouraging smile, when he again came into the
surgery. "We shall try to make you as comfortable as ever we can. I am
sorry for your sake I haven't a wife to look after you."

"If you had a wife I shouldn't be here."

"What! You! Why, that is the only ungallant thing I ever heard you say
in all my life."

"I should envy you and be jealous of you."

"Then, my dear fellow, I am very glad we are by ourselves. I suppose
your mother would not like to come up to nurse you?"

"She cannot move about now, except in her wheeled chair."

"Is there anyone you would wish to come to see you? This house you
will, of course, consider as your own."

"Thank you, there is no one. I do not know anyone in the world, except
my mother, so long as I know you. The only friend likely to call I saw
to-day. There is no need for me to send for him to-day, is there?"

"Need, no. You will be much better when you have rested a while. You
know cheerful company is always very useful to us doctors, and we like
to have all the help we can. But I daresay we shall get on famously as
we are." He would like to have heard all about the fire and the
destruction of the clock, but he refrained from asking because he
feared the excitement for his patient.

It happened that Dr. Shaw's solicitor lived near, and was at home, so
that he came back with the boy before the room was ready. Shaw
withdrew from the surgery, and for half-an-hour the lawyer and the
clockmaker were alone. Then Leigh was carried upstairs and went to
bed, and felt, as Shaw said he would, better and easier for lying
down.

"I have no trouble on my mind now, Shaw, and my body cannot be a
trouble to me or anybody else long. I never say thanks or make pretty
speeches, but I am not ungrateful all the same. I don't think we have
ever shaken hands yet, Shaw. Will you shake hands now?"

"With the greatest pleasure, my dear fellow," said Shaw, grasping the
hand of the little man, and displaying his greatest pleasure by
allowing his large dancing green-grey eyes to fill up with tears
behind his unemotional spectacles.

"That clock would have made my fame. I don't know how the fire arose.
I had the clock wound up last night by a mechanical contrivance, and
before leaving for Millway I lit the faintest glimmer of gas. Some
accident must have happened. Some accident which can now never be
explained. I left the window open for the first time last night. I had
put up a curtain for the first time last night. If any boy had thrown
a stone, and the stone got through the curtain, there is no knowing
what it might not do among the machinery; the works were so close and
complicated, it might have brought something inflammable within reach
of the flame of the gas, for the gas would not be quite out. At all
events, the clock is gone. It was getting too much for me. Often of
late, when I was away from it, the movements became reversed, and all
the works went backwards, and I often thought that kind of thing would
injure my brain."

"It was a sure sign injury was beginning, and I think it is a good
thing for you the clock is burned," said Shaw soothingly.

"But the shock! The shock you will say, by-and-by, killed me. How,
then, do you count the loss of the clock good?"

"I mean if you had told me there was no way of stopping this
involuntary reversal of the movement I should have advised you to
smash the clock rather than risk the brain."

"And I should have declined to take your advice."

Shaw laughed. "You would not be singular in that. I can get ten people
to take my medicines for one who will take my advice."

"What an awful mortality there would be, Shaw, if people took both!"

"There now," said Shaw, with another laugh, "you will do now. You are
your old self again. I must run away. I shall see you in an hour or
two, and have my tea up here with you. If you want anything, ring."

So Leigh was left alone.

"The clothes," he thought, "of the figure must have in some way or
other come in contact with the gas-jet. If they once caught fire the
wax would burn--the wax of the head, and then there would be plenty of
material for a blaze.

"Ah, me; the clock is gone! Even if that survived, I should not mind.
I was so jealous of it. I never let anyone examine it, and the things
it could do will not be credited when I am dead, for I often, very
often, exaggerated, and even invented, a little.

"Ay, ay, ay, the clock is gone, and the Miracle Gold, too. I am glad I
never had anything really to do with it. I am sorry I was not always
of the mind I was yesterday--my last day at my bench. All the time I
was burying in my own grave my own small capital of life, I was
missing the real gold of existence. I sought to build up fame in my
clock and in that gold. Fame is for the dead. What are the dead to us?
What shall I be when they bury me to myself, who walked in the
sunlight and saw the trees and the flowers, and the clouds and the
sea, where there were no men to remind me of my own unshapeliness?
Nothing. Why should a man care for fame among people he has never
seen, among the dim myriads of faces yet to come out of the womb of
time, when he could have had an abiding place in the heart's ingle
among those whom he knows and whose hands he can touch? What good to
us will the voices of the strange men of the hereafter be? What a fool
I was to think of buying the applause of strange, unborn men out of
gold rent from living men, whose friend I might have been.

"I told Hanbury I was making a dying confession to him. I suppose this
is a death-bed repentance. Very well. But I sinned only in thought. In
order to show other men I was better than they, I was willing to be
worse. Shaw is right. I am much easier here. I feel rested. I feel
quiet. I have really done nothing harmful to any man. It will be a
relief to get out of this husk. I will try to sleep. My poor old
mother! But we cannot be separated long. It is easier to die in a body
like this than to live in it."

He was very weak, and life fluttered feebly in his veins. He closed
his eyes and ceased to think. The calm that comes with the knowledge
that one is near the end was upon him. He did not think, he did not
sleep. He lay simply gathering quiet for the great sleep. He was
learning how to rest, how to lie still, how to want not, how to wait
the sliding aside of the mysterious panel that the flesh keeps shut
against the eyes of the spirit while the two are partners in life.



                            CHAPTER XXXIX.

                          PATIENT AND NURSE.


Mrs. Hanbury was greatly shocked by the news her son had given her
that day about his relations with Dora. She had a conviction that it
would be to John's advantage to be married. She held that, all other
things being reasonably taken care of, a young man of twenty-six ought
to marry and settle down to face the world in the relations and
surroundings which would govern the remainder of his life. There had
never been any consideration of John's sowing wild oats. He had always
been studious, serious, domestic. He was the very man to marry and, in
the cheerful phrase of the story book, live happy ever after.

And where could he find a wife better suited to him than in Curzon
Street? Dora had every single quality a most exacting mother could
desire in the wife of an only son, and Mrs. Hanbury was anything but
an exacting mother. Dora's family was excellent. She was one of the
most beautiful girls in London, she was extremely clever, and although
she and he did not seem fully in accord in their views of some things,
they agreed in the main. She was extremely clever and accomplished,
and amiable, and by-and-by she should be rich. In fact, Mrs. Hanbury
might have doubled this list without nearly exhausting the advantages
possessed by Miss Ashton, and now it was all over between the pair.
This really was too bad.

She idolized her son, and thought there were few such good young men
in the world; but she was no fool about him. She had watched his
growth with yearning interest from infancy to this day. She knew as
well, perhaps better than anyone, that he was not perfect. She knew he
was too enthusiastic, that sometimes his temper was not to be relied
on. She knew he was haughty, and at rare times even scornful. She knew
he had no mean estimate of his own merits, and was restive under
control. But what were these faults? Surely nothing to affright any
gentle and skilful woman from uniting herself with him for life. Most
of his faults were those of youth and inexperience. When he was
properly launched, and met other men and measured himself against
them, much of his haughty self-satisfaction would disappear. Most
young men who had anything in them were discontented, for they had
only vague premonitions of their powers, and they felt aggrieved that
the world would not take them on their own mere word at their own
estimate.

What Mr. and Mrs. Ashton would say she could not fancy. Perhaps they
would imitate for once the example of younger people, and say nothing
at all. They could not, however, help thinking of the matter, and they
would be sure to form no favourable estimate of John's conduct in the
affair. The rest of the world would be certain to say that John jilted
the girl, and anyone who heard the true history of the Hanbury family,
just come to light, would say that John kept back in the hope of
making a more ambitious marriage.

He was, every one allowed, one of the most promising young men in
England, and now the glamour of a throne was around him. All the
philosophy in the world would not make him ever again the plain John
Hanbury he was in the eyes of people a few days ago, in the eyes of
every one outside this house still. Stanislaus II. may have been
everything that was weak and contemptible, and been one of the chief
reasons why his unfortunate country disappeared from the political map
of the world, but John Hanbury was the descendant of King Stanislaus
II. of Poland, and if that monarchy had been hereditary and the
kingdom still existed, her son would be the legal sovereign, in spite
of all the Republicans and revilers in Europe.

She herself set no store by these remote and shadowy kingly honours,
but even in her own heart she felt a swelling of pride when she
thought that the child she had borne and reared was the descendant of
a king. A pretender to the throne of England would be put in a padded
room and treated with indulgent humanity. But on the Continent it was
not so. Sometimes they put him in prison, and sometimes they put him
on the throne he claimed. She knew that her son would no more think of
laying stress upon his descent from the Poniatowskis than of asking to
be put in that padded room. But others would think of it and set value
on it. Exclusive doors might be closed against the clever speaker,
plain John Hanbury, son of an English gentleman, who for whim or greed
went into trade, when he was rich enough to live without trade; but
few doors would be closed against the gifted orator who was straight
in descent and of the elder line of the Poniatowskis of Lithuania, and
whose great grandfather's grandfather was the last King of Poland.

After all, upon looking more closely at the affair, the discovery was
of some value. No one now could think him over ambitious for his years
if he offered himself for Parliament. Younger men than he, sons of
peers, got into Parliament merely by reason of a birth not nearly so
illustrious as his, and with abilities it would be unfair to them to
estimate against his.

There was something in it after all.

If now he chose to marry high, whom might he not marry? Putting out of
view that corrupt, that forced election to the throne of Poland, he
was a Poniatowski, _the_ Poniatowski, and few English families of
to-day could show such a pedigree as her son's.

There was certainly no family in England that could refuse an alliance
with him on account of birth.

And now vicious people would say he had been guilty, of the
intolerable meanness of giving up Dora Ashton either in order that he
might satisfy his ambition by a more distinguished marriage, or that
he might be the freer to direct his public career towards some lofty
goal. She knew her son too well to fancy for a moment any such
unworthy thought could find a home in his breast; but all the world
did not know him as she did, and no one would believe that the
breaking-off came from Dora and the cause of it arose before the
discovery of Stanislaus' secret English marriage.

When the doctor made his second visit, he pronounced Edith Grace
progressing favourably. She was then fully conscious, but pitifully
weak. There was not, the doctor said, the least cause for uneasiness
so long as the patient was kept quite free from excitement, from
even noise. A rude and racking noise might induce another period of
semi-insensibility. Quiet, quiet, quiet was the watchword, and so he
went away.

Mrs. Grace had protested against a hired nurse. She herself should sit
up at night, and in the daytime the child would need no attendance.
Mrs. Grace had, however, to go back to their lodgings to fetch some
things needed, and to intimate that they were not returning for the
present. Mrs. Hanbury volunteered to sit in Edith's room while the old
woman was away. Protests were raised against this, but the hostess
carried her point. "I told you," she said, with a smile, "that I am
very positive. Let this be proof and a specimen."

So the old lady hastened off, and Mrs. Hanbury sat down to watch at
the bedside of the young girl. Speaking was strictly forbidden. Mrs.
Hanbury took a book to beguile the time, and sat with her face to the
patient, so that she could see that all was right by merely lifting
her eyes.

The young girl lay perfectly still, with her long dark hair spread out
upon the pillow for coolness, and her white face lying in the midst of
it as white as the linen of the sheet. Her breathing was very faint,
the slight heaving of her breast barely moving the light counterpane.
The lips were slightly open, and the eyes closed.

Edith was too weary and too weak to think. Before she had the fainting
fit or attack of weakness (she had not quite fainted), she heard the
story of the dwarfs misfortunes in a confused way through that sound
of plashing water. She was quite content now to lie secure here
without thought, in so far as thought is the result of voluntary
mental act or the subject of successive processes. But the whole time
she kept saying to herself in a way that did not weary her, "How
strange that Leigh should lose everything and I gain so much, and that
both should be lying ill, all in so short a time!" This went on in her
mind over and over again, more like the sound of a melody that does
not distress one and may be listened to or not at will, than an
inherent suggestion of the brain. It was the result of the last strong
effort of the brain at memory blending with the first awakening to
full consciousness. "How strange that Leigh should lose everything and
I gain so much, and that both should be lying ill in so short a time!"

Mrs. Hanbury raised her eyes from her book and gazed at the pallid
face in the sea of dark hair. "She might be asleep or dead. How
exquisitely beautiful she is, and how like Dora. How very like Dora,
but she is more beautiful even than Dora. Dora owes a great deal to
her trace of colour and her animation. This face is the most lovely
one I ever saw, I think. How gentle she looks! I wonder was Kate Grace
that Poniatowski married like her. If so I do not wonder. Who could
help loving so exquisite a creature as this?"

Both of the girl's hands were stretched outside the counterpane.

Mrs. Hanbury leaned forward, bent and kissed the one near her, kissed
it ever so lightly.

The lids of the girl trembled slightly but did not open.

Mrs. Hanbury drew back afraid. She had perhaps awakened her.

Gradually something began to shine at the end of the long lashes, and
a tear rolled down the sweet young pale face.

"Have I awakened you?"

"No. I was awake."

"Are you in pain?"

"No. Oh, no!

"You are weeping."

"That," she moved slightly the hand Mrs. Hanbury had kissed, "that
made me, oh, so happy."

"Thank you, dear."

No more words were uttered, but when Mrs. Hanbury looked down upon her
book her own eyes were full.

The touch of the lips upon that hand had brought more quiet into the
girl's heart than all the muffling in the house or the whispered
orders to the servants or the doctor's drugs.

"She believed I was asleep and she kissed my hand," thought the girl.
No quiet such as this had ever entered her bosom before.



                             CHAPTER XL.

                          THE TWO PATIENTS.


Day followed day in Chester Square, bringing slowly, almost
imperceptibly, health and strength back to the exquisite form of Edith
Grace. The spirituality lent by illness still more refined the
delicate beauty of the girl, and when the colour came back to the
lips, and the cheeks lost their pallor she seemed more like a being
new-born of heaven to earth than a mortal of our homely race.

At the end of a week she was still restricted to her room, although
allowed to sit up. The fear was not so much of physical weakness as of
mental excitement. There was now no need to watch her by night. She
seemed in perfect health, in that cool seraphic health of man before
the Fall.

And what a change had taken place in the young girl's spirit! Her
grandmother had told her that Mrs. Hanbury had insisted on making good
the loss they had sustained in the failure of the bank, and more
beside.

"I am very rich," said Mrs. Hanbury, "for a woman, I have only a life
interest in most of the money my late husband left, and on my death it
all goes to John. But I have never spent anything like my income, and
John has an income of his own since he came of age. It is not that I
will listen to no refusal, but I will hear no objection. I put it to
you in this way: Do you suppose if my husband were making his will at
this moment and knew of the misfortune which had come upon you and the
child, he would insert no provision for you in his will? And do you
mean to say that I am to have no regard to what I know would be his
wish if he were alive? Remember, you represent the English side of his
house. The child is the last of the English side, as John is the last
of the Polish side. So let me hear no more of the matter. John has a
sufficient income. I have large savings with which I do nothing. Am I
to give my savings to an hospital or a charity or to the people of my
husband, who left the money?"

Then Mrs. Grace told Edith that Mrs. Hanbury had taken a great liking
to her.

"She always calls you 'the child' when she speaks of you, and indeed
it seems to me she cares for you nearly as much as if you were her own
daughter. She told me she never had a sister or a daughter, and that
she barely remembers her own mother, and that all her married life she
prayed for a girl-baby, but it was not given to her. And now that she
has found you, dear, and me, she says she is not going to be lonely
for womenfolk ever again, for although we are not of her own blood we
are of John's, and we are the nearest people in the world to her
except her brother, Sir Edward Preston. She says she has a right to
us, that she found us, and means to insist upon her right by keeping
us to herself."

And all this helped to make the quiet greater in the girl and helped
to heal her.

Then the old woman told Edith that Mrs. Hanbury wondered if she were
like that Grace of more than a hundred years back. She said this at
dinner one day, and there and then Mr. Hanbury conceived the notion of
trying to find out if, in that great portrait-painting age, any
portrait had been painted of the beautiful Kate Grace who had
fascinated the king. Mrs. Grace always spoke of Poniatowski as though
he were a king while he lived in England in the days of George II.

The young man hunted all London to find out a portrait, and behold in
one of the great houses within a mile of where she lay, a house at
which Mr. Hanbury had often visited, was a portrait of "Mrs. Hanbury
and child," believed to be one of the Hanbury-Williams family. Mr.
John Hanbury had gone to see the portrait, and came back saying one
would fancy it was a portrait of Edy herself, only it was not nearly
so beautiful as Edy.

This all helped to cheer and heal the girl greatly. The notion that
this Mr. John Hanbury had gone to a great house to see the portrait of
her relative, the beautiful Kate Grace, that married the man
afterwards a king, opened up fields for speculation and regions of
dreams so different from those possible when she was fronting decaying
fortune in Miss Graham's, at Streatham, or face to face with poverty
in Grimsby Street, that it was enough to pour vital strength into
veins less young and naturally healthy.

She now breathed an atmosphere of refinement and wealth. Her mind was
no longer tortured by the thought of having to face uncongenial duties
among strange people. She had all her life denied herself friendships,
because she could not hope for friends in the class of people whom she
would care to know.

Now all this was changed, as by a magician's wand. If in the old days
she might have had the assurance of Mrs. Hanbury's friendship, she
would have allowed her heart to go out to her, for Mrs. Hanbury,
although she was rich, did not think of money as those girls Edith met
at Streatham. The girls she met were, first of all, the daughters of
rich fathers, and then they were people of importance next. Mrs.
Hanbury was, first of all, intensely human. She was a woman first of
all, and a generous, kind-hearted, large-natured, sympathetic woman.
As her son had said of her, the greatest-hearted woman in the world.
Princes and peasants were, to her mind, men, before anything else.

This was a revelation to Dora, who had always heard men measured by
the establishment they kept up, and the society in which they moved.
There had been only one retreat for her from feeling belittled in the
presence of these plutocrats. She would set all store by pedigree, and
make no friends. A beggar may have a pedigree equal to a Hapsburg, and
a peasant who has no friends, and goes into no society, cannot have
his poverty impressed upon him from without, however bitterly he may
suffer from within.

And this Mrs. Hanbury, who was so kind and gentle, and who had
manifested such an interest in her, belonged to a class of society in
which no girl she ever met at Miss Graham's moved, in which any girl
she had ever met there would give anything she possessed to move. Mrs.
Hanbury's father had been a baronet, and her forefathers before him as
far as baronets reached back into history, and her father's family had
been county people, back to the Conquest, if not beyond it.

And Mr. Hanbury, who was the son of this woman, had a pedigree more
illustrious still, a pedigree going back no one knew how far. The
family had been ennobled for centuries, and in the eighteenth century
one of them had sat on the throne of Poland, a crowned king.

She was now under the roof of these people, not as the humble paid
companion of Mrs. Hanbury, which would have been the greatest height
of her hope a week ago, not as an acquaintance to whom Mrs. Hanbury
had taken a liking, but as a relative, as a distant relative of this
house, as one of this family!

Oh, it was such a relief, such a deliverance to be lifted out of that
vulgar and squalid life, to be away from that odious necessity for
going among strange and dull people as a hired servant! There was no
tale in all the Arabian Nights equal to this for wonders, and all this
was true, and referred to her!

Youth, and a mind to which are opening new and delightful vistas, are
more help to the doctor when dealing with a patient who is only
overworn than even quiet, and day by day, to the joy of all who came
near her, Edith Grace gained strength. The old stateliness which had
made her schoolfellows say she ought to be a queen, had faded, and
left scarcely a trace behind. There was no need to wear an air of
reserve, when there was nothing to be guarded against. She was Mrs.
Hanbury's relative, and to be reserved now would seem to be elated or
vain. There was no longer fear of anyone disputing her position. There
was no longer any danger of exasperating familiarity. She was
acknowledged by Mrs. Hanbury and Mr. Hanbury, who would be a nobleman
in Poland, and whose forefather had been a king.

She did not try or desire to look into the future, her own future. The
present was too blessed a deliverance to be put aside. Up to this
there had been no delightful present in her life, and she was loath to
go beyond the immediate peace.

While the young girl was slowly but surely mending in Chester
Square, the invalid under the care of Dr. Shaw, of Barnes Street, not
very far off, was slowly yielding to the summons he had received. The
kind-hearted and energetic doctor saw no reason to alter his original
opinion of the case. The end was approaching, and not very far off. On
the fifth day after the morning examination, Shaw said, "You arranged
everything with the solicitor? There is nothing on your mind, my dear
friend?"

"I understand," said Leigh. "How long have I?"

"Oh, I only wanted to know if your mind was at rest. Anxiety is always
to be avoided."

"I tell you, Shaw, I understand. How long do you think this will
last?"

"My dear fellow, if all your affairs are in order, and your mind is
quite free, your chance is improved, you know. That only stands to
reason."

"I am sorry I cannot go to Eltham. But that cannot be helped now. She,
poor thing, will notice little change, for I have not been with her
much of late. Shaw, the last time I was there I promised her a
daughter-in-law, and straight-backed grandchildren, and soon she will
not have even a cripple son! Poor old woman. Well! well! But, Shaw,
send to Chester Square for my friend, Mr. John Hanbury, the man who
brought me here, you know. I want to see him alone, privately. He is
the only person who knows all my affairs." There was a flicker of the
old boasting spirit in the way he gave Hanbury's name and address, and
spoke of him as his friend.

Hanbury came at once.

"I sent for you because I have something on my mind; and, as you are
the only man who knows all the secret of Mystery Gold, and my deputy
winder, I want you to do me a service. Will you?"

"Any thing that an honest and honourable man may do, I will do for you
with pleasure, if I can possibly," said Hanbury, shocked and subdued
by the change in the clock-maker's appearance.

"That man, Timmons, who was to get me the gold, has a place in
Tunbridge Street, London Road, across the river. He believes that a
man was burned in that fire. He believes my deputy winder lost his
life in the miserable fire that destroyed my clock. Go to Timmons, and
tell him that no one was lost in that fire, that the winder of the
clock is alive, that I am dying, and that the best thing he can do is
to leave the country. He will understand, when I am dead, no secrets
will be kept. I do not want to give him up. I have no conscience. But
the country may as well be rid of him and me together."

"But, need I go? Can I not send?" asked Hanbury, not liking the idea
of such a message from such a man to such a man. It looked like
shielding a criminal. Leigh had, according to his own account,
coquetted with crime, but kept clear of it.

"No, it would not be nearly so good to me, for you know the secrets,
and if he showed any disposition to rebel, you could drop a word that
would convince him you were authorized by me, and knew what might be
dangerous to him."

"You are asking me too much. I cannot do it."

"Where is your promise of a moment ago?"

"No honest man would assist the escape of this thief."

"Hush! Let me think awhile."

"It is not clear to me, that I ought not to give this villain up to
the police, and that you are not bound to give him up. I would do
anything I could, in reason, for you; but is it reasonable to ask me
to carry a message from you to a man who, you tell me, or hint to me,
is a thief, or receiver of stolen goods?"

"I did not regard it in that way. I fancied you would like to rid the
country of such a man."

"Yes, by locking him up. I think you are in duty bound to denounce
him."

"But, in honour, I am bound not; and honour is more binding on a man
than any law."

"But you cannot have any honourable bond with a man like that."

"What about honour among thieves? Even they recognize honour."

"But, are you a thief, that you want to shield yourself under their
code?"

"No. I am no thief. I haven't a penny that isn't fairly mine. I told
you I have no conscience, at least nothing that people are accustomed
to call conscience; but do you think honour does not bind a man to a
thief?"

"Surely not about the fruits of his theft."

"I have not looked at it in that way. When a man has no conscience,
what binds him?"

"Nothing, except the law of the land, or handcuffs."

"Ah, that is your view. Well, it is not mine. Of course, I have not
given you the man's real name or address. I gave you merely a
fictitious name and address. Whom did I say? The Prince of Wales, was
it, and Marlborough House, or the Prime Minister, and 10, Downing
Street? Which was it? I forget."

"Well," said Hanbury, "can I do anything for you?"

"Are you going to Curzon Street on Thursday?"

"No." Hanbury reddened, but he was standing with his back to the
light. "The family are leaving Town suddenly."

"Are you going too?"

"No." Hanbury was anything but pleased with all this, but who could be
angry with a dying man, and such a dying man too?

"If you were going I should like to send a message. But of course you
cannot be going if they are leaving town. I told you I have some money
of my own. I have made my will since I saw you. After my mother's
death all will go, I mean the yearly interest of all will go in equal
shares to any hunchbacks that apply for shares. The conditions will be
advertised in the papers."

"I think you could not have done better with it," said Hanbury,
cordially.

"Yes. When you see her next, tell her I gave up all thought of making
Miracle Gold, because she said she wished me. What a wonderful
likeness there is between Miss Grace and Miss Ashton. I had not begun
to model those figures of time. That clock was getting too much for
me. Often when I was away from it, and when I was in bed, the movement
was reversed, and all went backwards until the weights were wound up
so tight against the beam, that something must give way if the
machinery did not stop. Then, all at once, the machinery would stop,
and suddenly begin running in the ordinary manner, and I used often to
shout out and cry with relief. You don't know all that clock was to
me. And yet it would have killed me. It has killed me."

"The strain must have been very great. I wonder it did not break you
down."

"Yes."

"In reality, though, it was the Miracle Gold did the mischief. Only
for it I should not have been away from my clock, or left the gas
lighting. I know it is not fair of me to keep you here. You want to
go. Say good-bye to her before she leaves town. This is Wednesday. You
must not stay here any longer. Will you say good-bye to me also? Two
good-byes in one day. One to her and one to me."

Hanbury rose and held out his hand, saying "Good-bye."

Leigh did not stir.

"Are we not to shake hands?"

"Yes, in a moment."

Hanbury waited a while. "I am going now. You have nothing more to
say?"

He had not.

He had nothing more to say. He would say no more to anyone. He was
dead.



                             CHAPTER XLI.

                              FUGITIVES.


Hanbury had, during the past few days, carefully avoided meeting
friends or acquaintances. He went near no club and kept in the house a
good deal. When he went abroad he drove. He did not wish to be asked
questions of the most ordinary kind respecting the Ashtons.

The discovery of his foreign extraction had not yet got abroad, but,
although Mrs. Grace and her grand-daughter were under his mother's
roof, and they were the only persons besides his mother in whom he had
confided, he felt as though every one must know. Such things got about
in most unaccountable ways.

That morning he had seen in a newspaper that Mr., Mrs., and Miss
Ashton were leaving for a tour in Norway and Sweden. That was all the
paragraph said.

At the very moment Hanbury was speaking to Oscar Leigh, the Ashton
family were leaving Curzon Street.

When Dora Ashton sat that afternoon in her own room, after writing to
her lover, she knew the engagement was at an end, and realized the
knowledge. But she had not said anything of it. When she got his
answer all was over beyond any chance whatever. He had apologized
amply for his offence, and accepted her decision.

His letter had a bracing effect upon her. She had been perfectly
sincere in writing her letter and she had never wavered in her
resolution of breaking off the engagement, yet deep down in her
nature was a formless hope, which she would not acknowledge to herself
for a moment, that he might disregard her request and insist upon her
re-consideration. But with the advent of his letter, that hope
vanished wholly, and she felt more firm and secure. Now all was plain.
She should tell her mother, and tell her, moreover, in an easy and
light manner. The letter had been a tonic. If he were so easily
dismissed, he had not been very much in earnest.

She went to Mrs. Ashton at once, and said, "Of course, mother, you
knew that there was something between John Hanbury and me."

"Yes, dear," said Mrs. Ashton in surprise that grew as she looked at
the girl.

"Well, I have come to say that we have decided it would be better to
put an end to it; we have come to the conclusion it would not be for
our happiness it should go on any further. It is all over."

"All over! my dear! All over! But I thought it was fully arranged that
you were to be married as soon as he had made a beginning in the
world."

"I am sure, mother, you do not want me to say more than I wish to say,
and I don't think speaking about the affair can do good to anyone. He
and I understand each other fully. This is no mere quarrel. At my
suggestion the affair has been broken off. I wrote to him, saying I
desired it broken off, and gave him my reasons, and he wrote me back
saying that he is very sorry, and that it is to be as I wish."

"But, my dear, although I judge by your manner you are not very much
distressed, I cannot help feeling a good deal of concern about you."

"Oh," said the girl with a smile, "you must not imagine I am
desperate. I am not, I assure you. The breaking off has been done in
two very sensible letters, and we have arranged to be fast friends,
and to meet one another as though there never had been anything but
friendship between us. You see, mother, there are a great many things
upon which we don't agree, and most likely never should, and it would
never do to risk life-long bickering. I assure you we behaved more
like two elderly people with money or something else practical in
view, than two of our age. You know I am not a sentimental girl, and
although the thing is unpleasant I shall I am certain never regret the
step I have taken in putting an end to what could not otherwise end
well for either of us. And now mother do me one favour, will you?"

"Oh, yes, my darling. My darling Dora. My own poor child."

For a moment the girl was compelled to pause to steady her lips and
her voice. "Do not speak to me again about this until I speak to you,
and--and--and don't let father speak to me either."

"It will kill you, child. It will kill you, my Dora."

Again the girl was compelled to pause. "No. It will not. And mother,
don't treat me in any other way than as if it had not occurred. Be
just the same to me."

"My darling."

"And," again she had to stop, "above all don't be more affectionate.
That would break my heart. Promise."

"I promise."

The girl threw her arms round her mother's neck and kissed her, and
the mother burst out crying, and the girl hushed her and petted her,
and tried to console her, and asked her to bear up and not to cry.

"I'll try, child, I'll try; but it's very hard, darling."

"Yes, mother, but bear up for me, for my sake."

"I will, dear! I will indeed. We shall not stop here. We shall go away
at once."

"Very well. Just what you please, mother."

"I couldn't bear to stay here and see you, my child."

"If you wish it, mother, let us go away at once. Look at me how brave
I am. Do not give way. Do not give way, for my sake."

"I will try--I will try."

The grief seemed to be all the mother's, and the duty of consolation
all the daughter's duty.

It is the sorrows of others that most hurt noble natures, and the
natures of noble women most of all.

That night it was settled that the Ashtons should go to Norway and
Sweden for three months. Norway and Sweden had been put into Mr.
Ashton's head by the announcement of Sir Julius Whinfield months ago
that he was making up a party for his yacht to go north that summer,
and that the Dowager Lady Forcar and Mrs. Lawrence, Sir Julius's
married sister, and her husband, Mr. James Lawrence, had promised to
be of the party. "We can arrange to meet somewhere," said Mr. Ashton,
and so the expedition was arranged.


When John Hanbury left Dr. Shaw's, he thought that now, all being over
with Leigh, he was bound in common rectitude to disclose the source of
the gold which Leigh had intended passing off as the result of his
imaginary discovery in chemistry or alchemy. The simplest course would
be to go to Scotland Yard and there tell all he knew. Against this
course prudence suggested that perhaps the name and address given were
imaginary, and that there was no such man or street. He was not
anxious to pass through streets in which he was known, and he was glad
of anything to do. How better could he employ an hour than by driving
to London Road and trying to find out if any such man as Timmons
existed? He did not like the whole thing, but he could not rest easy
while he had the name of a man whom Leigh said dealt largely in the
fruit of robberies and thefts. At all events, supposing the whole
story told him by the dwarf was fiction, no harm could come of a visit
to Tunbridge Street.

He jumped into a hansom and was rapidly driven to London Road, and
alighted at the end of Tunbridge Street.

Yes, sure enough, there was the name and the place: "John Timmons,
Marine Store Dealer." But how did one get in, supposing one wanted to
get in? The place was all shut up, and he could see no door.

A man was busy with one of the many up-ended carts. He had the wheel
off and was leisurely greasing the axletree.

"Has Mr. Timmons left this place, please?" he asked of the man.

"I think so. Ay, he has."

"Do you know how long?"

"A few days. Since Monday, I think. Anyway, the place hasn't been open
since Monday, and I hear that he is gone since Saturday night."

"Have you any notion where he's gone?"

The man stopped greasing the wheel and looked up curiously. "Are you
from the Yard too?"

"What yard?"

"Why Scotland Yard, of course."

"No, I am not. Have people been here from Scotland Yard?"

"Ay. And if you was in with Timmons and that crew, you'd better show a
clean pair of heels. There's something wrong about a dwarf or a
cripple that's missed down Chelsea way, burned up in a fire. Timmons
and a cracksman was seen hanging about that place, and they do say
that if they're catched they'll be hanging about somewhere else. So if
you're in with that lot, you'd better clear out too. They say Timmons
has got out of the country, but they'll ketch him by Atlantic cable,
and hang him with British rope." The man laughed at his own wit, and
resumed his work upon the axle. Hanbury thanked him and turned away.
He had nothing to do here. The police had information already.



                            CHAPTER XLII.

                               THE END.


"Well," he said, "what is the matter? Oh, breakfast." He put down his
newspaper. "I see," he added, "they have given this fellow Timmons
five years, and serve him very right."

"John, you have forgotten something!" she said, stopping him on his
way to the breakfast table and laying one of her delicate white hands
on his shoulder.

"Eh? Forgotten something? Have I? What? I have a lot of important
things on my mind," said he, looking down on the clear sweet, oval
face, turned up to his.

"Whatever is on your mind, sir, you ought not to forget the duties of
your lips. I have not had my good-morrow kiss, sir."

"I never had anything so important on my mind, or on my lips, Edy, as
your kiss, dear." He took her in his arms and kissed her fondly.

"You grow better at compliments as the days go by."

"No dear, deeper in love."

"With such a commonplace kind of thing as a wife?"

"With the most un-commonplace sweetheart--wife in all the world."

"John, I am already beginning to feel quite a middle-aged wife, and my
ring where it touches the guard is getting worn."

"That's a desperately serious thing--about the ring, I mean. Gold was
too easily--worn a metal to marry you with, Edith. It should have been
a plain band of adamant, and even that would not last long enough,
dear."

"Are you practising a speech to win a constituency?"

"No. I am speaking out of my heart to keep what I have won."

"Do you know I envy you only for one thing?"

"And what is that?"

"All the love that you give me."

"But we are quits there, for I give all, you give all."

"But yours seems so much richer than mine."

"Does it, sweetheart? Then I am glad of that. For what I give is yours
and you cannot help yourself but give it all back to me again."

"Oh, but what pains me is that I never seem to be able to give you any
of mine. All you have got from me seems to be only your own going back
and I long--oh, my darling, I do long--to show you that when all you
gave me is given back to you I never could exhaust my own. Indeed, I
could not, and keeping so much as I have is like a pain."

"Then what must I do to soothe my sweetheart's pain?"

"I do not know. I often think few people know what this love is."

"There is nothing worth calling love that is not such as ours. Love is
more than content, more than joy, and not delusive with rapture. It is
full and steady and unbroken, like the light of day."

"It is a pain, a pain, a pain! A secret pain. And do you know it is no
less when you are away, and no greater when you are near? And it often
seems to me that it is not exactly you as you are I love, but
something that is beyond speech and thought, and the reason I want you
is that you may hold my hand and love it too."

"My Sibyl! My Seer!"

"You and I are, as it were, waiting, and I should not wait if you were
not with me."

"But I am with you, and always shall be. You are not afraid of my
leaving you?"

"In the vulgar sense? Oh, no! Afraid of your going away and caring for
some one else? Oh, no! That could not be."

"No, indeed. No, indeed."

"For I should call you back and show you my heart, and how could you
leave me when you saw that there was nothing in all my heart but you?
Your pity would not let you do that. You might take something else
away, but you could not take away all that I had in my heart."

"You dreamer of holy dreams."

"It is by the firmness of the clasp of our hands we may know that we
shall be together at the revelation. I think people coarsen their
minds against love. I have heard that people think it is a sign
of foolishness. But it can't be. Where, I think, the harm is that
people harden their natures against it before it has time to become
all--before it has time to spiritualize the soul. It seems to me that
this love of one another that Christ taught is the beginning of being
with God."

"Surely child, my child, my dear, you have come from some blessed
place, you have come to us from some place that is better than this."

"No," she said softly. "No. There is no better place for me. I am
where God placed me--in my husband's arms."

They had been married a couple of months, and it was June once more.
Not a cloud had arisen between them for these two months, or during
the months before. John Hanbury's mother said that Edith Grace had the
same witchery in appearance as that village beauty of the days of
George II., and that some quality of the blood which flowed in his
veins made him succumb at once to her; for otherwise how could it be
that he should almost immediately after parting from Dora Ashton fall
helplessly in love with a girl so extraordinarily like Dora as Edith?
How else could the fascination be accounted for?

Edith herself could give no reason except that things of the kind
invariably arranged themselves independently of reason. All she knew
was that at first she was disposed to worship him because of his
illustrious origin, and gradually she lost this feeling and grew to
love him for himself. And with that explanation and him she was
content.

He, being a man, could not, of course, admit he did anything without
not only a reason but an excellent reason too. He began by saying that
she was even lovelier than Dora herself, which was a thing more
astonishing in one at all like Dora that it counted for more than an
even still more wonderful beauty of another type. Then he had been
chiefly drawn towards the girl during her tardy convalescence because
of her weakness and dependence, and the thousand little services he
could render her, which kept him always watchful and attentive when
near her, and devising little pleasures of fruit or flowers, or books,
when not by her side.

"I do not believe," he would say to himself, "that I was ever in love
with Dora. I do think we should never have got on well together, and I
am certain when she and Whinfield are married, there will not be a
happier couple in England excepting Edith and me. When I heard that
Dora was to be one of the party on the homeward cruise of Whinfield's
yacht, I knew all would be arranged before they saw England again.
They are most admirably suited to one another.

"But she and I were not. I was always thinking of what I should like
her to do and what I should not, and her political views had a serious
interest for me, and I was perpetually trying to get her to adopt
this, and modify that, and abandon the third. Nice way of making love,
indeed!

"I never went forth to her with song and timbrel and careless joy. My
mind ran more on propositions and principles. If at any time she said
what I did not approve, I was ready to stop and argue the point. I did
not know what love was then, and if I married Dora, I should have worn
down her heart and turned into a selfish, crusty old curmudgeon in no
time.

"But with Edith all was different. I never thought for a moment of
what I should like her to do or say or think. I only thought of what
the girl might like. I lost hold of myself, and did not care for
searching in the mirror of the mind as to how I myself looked, or how
she and I compared together. I did not pause to ask whether I was
happy or not, so long as I saw she was happy. There was no refinement
in the other feeling. It was sordid and exacting. With Edith a
delicate subtlety was reached, undreamed-of before. An inspired accord
arose between us. She leaned upon me, and I grew strong enough to
support the burden of Atlas. I flung myself aside, so that I might not
be impeded in my services to her. And I was welcomed in the spirit I
came. She would take what I had to give, and she would like to take
it. And so she accepted me, and all I had, and I had no care in my
mind of myself or any of the gifts or graces which had been mine and
now were hers. So I had enough time to think of her and no care to
distract me from her."

That was his way of putting it to himself when he was in a very
abstract and figurative humour. When he was not quite so abstract or
figurative, he would say to himself, "It is sympathy, nothing more
than sympathy. That is the Miracle Gold we should all try to make in
the crucible of our hearts."



                               THE END.





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