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´╗┐Title: The Doings of Raffles Haw
Author: Doyle, Arthur Conan, 1859-1930
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Doings of Raffles Haw" ***

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THE DOINGS OF RAFFLES HAW

By Arthur Conan Doyle


CONTENTS

CHAPTER

 1.  A DOUBLE ENIGMA

 2.  THE TENANT OF THE NEW HALL.

 3.  A HOUSE OF WONDERS.

 4.  FROM CLIME TO CLIME.

 5.  LAURA'S REQUEST

 6.  A STRANGE VISITOR

 7.  THE WORKINGS OF WEALTH.

 8.  A BILLIONAIRE'S PLANS.

 9.  A NEW DEPARTURE

10. THE GREAT SECRET

11. A CHEMICAL DEMONSTRATION.

12. A FAMILY JAR.

13. A MIDNIGHT ADVENTURE

14. THE SPREAD OF THE BLIGHT.

15. THE GREATER SECRET.



CHAPTER I. A DOUBLE ENIGMA.


"I'm afraid that he won't come," said Laura McIntyre, in a disconsolate
voice.

"Why not?"

"Oh, look at the weather; it is something too awful."

As she spoke a whirl of snow beat with a muffled patter against the cosy
red-curtained window, while a long blast of wind shrieked and whistled
through the branches of the great white-limbed elms which skirted the
garden.

Robert McIntyre rose from the sketch upon which he had been working, and
taking one of the lamps in his hand peered out into the darkness. The
long skeleton limbs of the bare trees tossed and quivered dimly amid the
whirling drift. His sister sat by the fire, her fancy-work in her lap,
and looked up at her brothers profile which showed against the brilliant
yellow light. It was a handsome face, young and fair and clear cut, with
wavy brown hair combed backwards and rippling down into that outward
curve at the ends which one associates with the artistic temperament.
There was refinement too in his slightly puckered eyes, his dainty
gold-rimmed _pince-nez_ glasses, and in the black velveteen coat which
caught the light so richly upon its shoulder. In his mouth only
there was something--a suspicion of coarseness, a possibility of
weakness--which in the eyes of some, and of his sister among them,
marred the grace and beauty of his features. Yet, as he was wont himself
to say, when one thinks that each poor mortal is heir to a legacy of
every evil trait or bodily taint of so vast a line of ancestors, lucky
indeed is the man who does not find that Nature has scored up some
long-owing family debt upon his features.

And indeed in this case the remorseless creditor had gone so far as to
exact a claim from the lady also, though in her case the extreme beauty
of the upper part of the face drew the eye away from any weakness which
might be found in the lower. She was darker than her brother--so dark
that her heavily coiled hair seemed to be black until the light shone
slantwise across it. The delicate, half-petulant features, the finely
traced brows, and the thoughtful, humorous eyes were all perfect in
their way, and yet the combination left something to be desired. There
was a vague sense of a flaw somewhere, in feature or in expression,
which resolved itself, when analysed, into a slight out-turning and
droop of the lower lip; small indeed, and yet pronounced enough to turn
what would have been a beautiful face into a merely pretty one. Very
despondent and somewhat cross she looked as she leaned back in the
armchair, the tangle of bright-coloured silks and of drab holland upon
her lap, her hands clasped behind her head, with her snowy forearms and
little pink elbows projecting on either side.

"I know he won't come," she repeated.

"Nonsense, Laura! Of course he'll come. A sailor and afraid of the
weather!"

"Ha!" She raised her finger, and a smile of triumph played over her
face, only to die away again into a blank look of disappointment. "It is
only papa," she murmured.

A shuffling step was heard in the hall, and a little peaky man, with his
slippers very much down at the heels, came shambling into the room. Mr.
McIntyre, sen., was pale and furtive-looking, with a thin straggling
red beard shot with grey, and a sunken downcast face. Ill-fortune and
ill-health had both left their marks upon him. Ten years before he had
been one of the largest and richest gunmakers in Birmingham, but a long
run of commercial bad luck had sapped his great fortune, and had finally
driven him into the Bankruptcy Court. The death of his wife on the very
day of his insolvency had filled his cup of sorrow, and he had gone
about since with a stunned, half-dazed expression upon his weak pallid
face which spoke of a mind unhinged. So complete had been his downfall
that the family would have been reduced to absolute poverty were it not
for a small legacy of two-hundred a year which both the children had
received from one of their uncles upon the mother's side who had amassed
a fortune in Australia. By combining their incomes, and by taking a
house in the quiet country district of Tamfield, some fourteen miles
from the great Midland city, they were still able to live with some
approach to comfort. The change, however, was a bitter one to all--to
Robert, who had to forego the luxuries dear to his artistic temperament,
and to think of turning what had been merely an overruling hobby into a
means of earning a living; and even more to Laura, who winced before
the pity of her old friends, and found the lanes and fields of
Tamfield intolerably dull after the life and bustle of Edgbaston. Their
discomfort was aggravated by the conduct of their father, whose life
now was one long wail over his misfortunes, and who alternately sought
comfort in the Prayer-book and in the decanter for the ills which had
befallen him.

To Laura, however, Tamfield presented one attraction, which was now
about to be taken from her. Their choice of the little country hamlet as
their residence had been determined by the fact of their old friend,
the Reverend John Spurling, having been nominated as the vicar. Hector
Spurling, the elder son, two months Laura's senior, had been engaged to
her for some years, and was, indeed, upon the point of marrying her when
the sudden financial crash had disarranged their plans. A sub-lieutenant
in the Navy, he was home on leave at present, and hardly an evening
passed without his making his way from the Vicarage to Elmdene, where
the McIntyres resided. To-day, however, a note had reached them to
the effect that he had been suddenly ordered on duty, and that he must
rejoin his ship at Portsmouth by the next evening. He would look in,
were it but for half-an-hour, to bid them adieu.

"Why, where's Hector?" asked Mr. McIntyre, blinking round from side to
side.

"He's not come, father. How could you expect him to come on such a night
as this? Why, there must be two feet of snow in the glebe field."

"Not come, eh?" croaked the old man, throwing himself down upon the
sofa. "Well, well, it only wants him and his father to throw us over,
and the thing will be complete."

"How can you even hint at such a thing, father?" cried Laura
indignantly. "They have been as true as steel. What would they think if
they heard you."

"I think, Robert," he said, disregarding his daughter's protest, "that
I will have a drop, just the very smallest possible drop, of brandy. A
mere thimbleful will do; but I rather think I have caught cold during
the snowstorm to-day."

Robert went on sketching stolidly in his folding book, but Laura looked
up from her work.

"I'm afraid there is nothing in the house, father," she said.

"Laura! Laura!" He shook his head as one more in sorrow than in anger.
"You are no longer a girl, Laura; you are a woman, the manager of a
household, Laura. We trust in you. We look entirely towards you. And yet
you leave your poor brother Robert without any brandy, to say nothing of
me, your father. Good heavens, Laura! what would your mother have said?
Think of accidents, think of sudden illness, think of apoplectic fits,
Laura. It is a very grave res--a very grave response--a very great risk
that you run."

"I hardly touch the stuff," said Robert curtly; "Laura need not provide
any for me."

"As a medicine it is invaluable, Robert. To be used, you understand, and
not to be abused. That's the whole secret of it. But I'll step down to
the Three Pigeons for half an hour."

"My dear father," cried the young man "you surely are not going out upon
such a night. If you must have brandy could I not send Sarah for some?
Please let me send Sarah; or I would go myself, or--"

Pip! came a little paper pellet from his sister's chair on to the
sketch-book in front of him! He unrolled it and held it to the light.

"For Heaven's sake let him go!" was scrawled across it.

"Well, in any case, wrap yourself up warm," he continued, laying bare
his sudden change of front with a masculine clumsiness which horrified
his sister. "Perhaps it is not so cold as it looks. You can't lose your
way, that is one blessing. And it is not more than a hundred yards."

With many mumbles and grumbles at his daughter's want of foresight, old
McIntyre struggled into his great-coat and wrapped his scarf round his
long thin throat. A sharp gust of cold wind made the lamps flicker as he
threw open the hall-door. His two children listened to the dull fall of
his footsteps as he slowly picked out the winding garden path.

"He gets worse--he becomes intolerable," said Robert at last. "We should
not have let him out; he may make a public exhibition of himself."

"But it's Hector's last night," pleaded Laura. "It would be dreadful if
they met and he noticed anything. That was why I wished him to go."

"Then you were only just in time," remarked her brother, "for I hear the
gate go, and--yes, you see."

As he spoke a cheery hail came from outside, with a sharp rat-tat at the
window. Robert stepped out and threw open the door to admit a tall young
man, whose black frieze jacket was all mottled and glistening with snow
crystals. Laughing loudly he shook himself like a Newfoundland dog, and
kicked the snow from his boots before entering the little lamplit room.

Hector Spurling's profession was written in every line of his face.
The clean-shaven lip and chin, the little fringe of side whisker, the
straight decisive mouth, and the hard weather-tanned cheeks all spoke of
the Royal Navy. Fifty such faces may be seen any night of the year round
the mess-table of the Royal Naval College in Portsmouth Dockyard--faces
which bear a closer resemblance to each other than brother does commonly
to brother. They are all cast in a common mould, the products of a
system which teaches early self-reliance, hardihood, and manliness--a
fine type upon the whole; less refined and less intellectual, perhaps,
than their brothers of the land, but full of truth and energy and
heroism. In figure he was straight, tall, and well-knit, with keen grey
eyes, and the sharp prompt manner of a man who has been accustomed both
to command and to obey.

"You had my note?" he said, as he entered the room. "I have to go again,
Laura. Isn't it a bore? Old Smithers is short-handed, and wants me back
at once." He sat down by the girl, and put his brown hand across her
white one. "It won't be a very large order this time," he continued.
"It's the flying squadron business--Madeira, Gibraltar, Lisbon, and
home. I shouldn't wonder if we were back in March."

"It seems only the other day that you landed." she answered.

"Poor little girl! But it won't be long. Mind you take good care of her,
Robert when I am gone. And when I come again, Laura, it will be the last
time mind! Hang the money! There are plenty who manage on less. We need
not have a house. Why should we? You can get very nice rooms in Southsea
at 2 pounds a week. McDougall, our paymaster, has just married, and he
only gives thirty shillings. You would not be afraid, Laura?"

"No, indeed."

"The dear old governor is so awfully cautious. Wait, wait, wait, that's
always his cry. I tell him that he ought to have been in the Government
Heavy Ordnance Department. But I'll speak to him tonight. I'll talk him
round. See if I don't. And you must speak to your own governor. Robert
here will back you up. And here are the ports and the dates that we are
due at each. Mind that you have a letter waiting for me at every one."

He took a slip of paper from the side pocket of his coat, but, instead
of handing it to the young lady, he remained staring at it with the
utmost astonishment upon his face.

"Well, I never!" he exclaimed. "Look here, Robert; what do you call
this?"

"Hold it to the light. Why, it's a fifty-pound Bank of England note.
Nothing remarkable about it that I can see."

"On the contrary. It's the queerest thing that ever happened to me. I
can't make head or tail of it."

"Come, then, Hector," cried Miss McIntyre with a challenge in her eyes.
"Something very queer happened to me also to-day. I'll bet a pair of
gloves that my adventure was more out of the common than yours, though I
have nothing so nice to show at the end of it."

"Come, I'll take that, and Robert here shall be the judge."

"State your cases." The young artist shut up his sketch-book, and rested
his head upon his hands with a face of mock solemnity. "Ladies first! Go
along Laura, though I think I know something of your adventure already."

"It was this morning, Hector," she said. "Oh, by the way, the story will
make you wild. I had forgotten that. However, you mustn't mind, because,
really, the poor fellow was perfectly mad."

"What on earth was it?" asked the young officer, his eyes travelling
from the bank-note to his _fiancee_.

"Oh, it was harmless enough, and yet you will confess it was very queer.
I had gone out for a walk, but as the snow began to fall I took shelter
under the shed which the workmen have built at the near end of the great
new house. The men have gone, you know, and the owner is supposed to be
coming to-morrow, but the shed is still standing. I was sitting there
upon a packing-case when a man came down the road and stopped under the
same shelter. He was a quiet, pale-faced man, very tall and thin, not
much more than thirty, I should think, poorly dressed, but with the look
and bearing of a gentleman. He asked me one or two questions about the
village and the people, which, of course, I answered, until at last we
found ourselves chatting away in the pleasantest and easiest fashion
about all sorts of things. The time passed so quickly that I forgot all
about the snow until he drew my attention to its having stopped for
the moment. Then, just as I was turning to go, what in the world do you
suppose that he did? He took a step towards me, looked in a sad pensive
way into my face, and said: `I wonder whether you could care for me if
I were without a penny.' Wasn't it strange? I was so frightened that I
whisked out of the shed, and was off down the road before he could add
another word. But really, Hector, you need not look so black, for when
I look back at it I can quite see from his tone and manner that he meant
no harm. He was thinking aloud, without the least intention of being
offensive. I am convinced that the poor fellow was mad."

"Hum! There was some method in his madness, it seems to me," remarked
her brother.

"There would have been some method in my kicking," said the lieutenant
savagely. "I never heard of a more outrageous thing in my life."

"Now, I said that you would be wild!" She laid her white hand upon the
sleeve of his rough frieze jacket. "It was nothing. I shall never see
the poor fellow again. He was evidently a stranger to this part of the
country. But that was my little adventure. Now let us have yours."

The young man crackled the bank-note between his fingers and thumb,
while he passed his other hand over his hair with the action of a man
who strives to collect himself.

"It is some ridiculous mistake," he said. "I must try and set it right.
Yet I don't know how to set about it either. I was going down to the
village from the Vicarage just after dusk when I found a fellow in a
trap who had got himself into broken water. One wheel had sunk into the
edge of the ditch which had been hidden by the snow, and the whole thing
was high and dry, with a list to starboard enough to slide him out of
his seat. I lent a hand, of course, and soon had the wheel in the road
again. It was quite dark, and I fancy that the fellow thought that I was
a bumpkin, for we did not exchange five words. As he drove off he shoved
this into my hand. It is the merest chance that I did not chuck it away,
for, feeling that it was a crumpled piece of paper, I imagined that it
must be a tradesman's advertisement or something of the kind. However,
as luck would have it, I put it in my pocket, and there I found it when
I looked for the dates of our cruise. Now you know as much of the matter
as I do."

Brother and sister stared at the black and white crinkled note with
astonishment upon their faces.

"Why, your unknown traveller must have been Monte Cristo, or Rothschild
at the least!" said Robert. "I am bound to say, Laura, that I think you
have lost your bet."

"Oh, I am quite content to lose it. I never heard of such a piece of
luck. What a perfectly delightful man this must be to know."

"But I can't take his money," said Hector Spurling, looking somewhat
ruefully at the note. "A little prize-money is all very well in its way,
but a Johnny must draw the line somewhere. Besides it must have been
a mistake. And yet he meant to give me something big, for he could not
mistake a note for a coin. I suppose I must advertise for the fellow."

"It seems a pity too," remarked Robert. "I must say that I don't quite
see it in the same light that you do."

"Indeed I think that you are very Quixotic, Hector," said Laura
McIntyre. "Why should you not accept it in the spirit in which it was
meant? You did this stranger a service--perhaps a greater service than
you know of--and he meant this as a little memento of the occasion. I do
not see that there is any possible reason against your keeping it."

"Oh, come!" said the young sailor, with an embarrassed laugh, "it is not
quite the thing--not the sort of story one would care to tell at mess."

"In any case you are off to-morrow morning," observed Robert. "You have
no time to make inquiries about the mysterious Croesus. You must really
make the best of it."

"Well, look here, Laura, you put it in your work-basket," cried Hector
Spurling. "You shall be my banker, and if the rightful owner turns up
then I can refer him to you. If not, I suppose we must look on it as a
kind of salvage-money, though I am bound to say I don't feel entirely
comfortable about it." He rose to his feet, and threw the note down into
the brown basket of coloured wools which stood beside her. "Now, Laura,
I must up anchor, for I promised the governor to be back by nine. It
won't be long this time, dear, and it shall be the last. Good-bye,
Robert! Good luck!"

"Good-bye, Hector! _Bon voyage!_"

The young artist remained by the table, while his sister followed her
lover to the door. In the dim light of the hall he could see their
figures and overhear their words.

"Next time, little girl?"

"Next time be it, Hector."

"And nothing can part us?"

"Nothing."

"In the whole world?"

"Nothing."

Robert discreetly closed the door. A moment later a thud from without,
and the quick footsteps crunching on the snow told him that their
visitor had departed.



CHAPTER II. THE TENANT OF THE NEW HALL.


The snow had ceased to fall, but for a week a hard frost had held the
country side in its iron grip. The roads rang under the horses' hoofs,
and every wayside ditch and runlet was a street of ice. Over the long
undulating landscape the red brick houses peeped out warmly against the
spotless background, and the lines of grey smoke streamed straight up
into the windless air. The sky was of the lightest palest blue, and
the morning sun, shining through the distant fog-wreaths of Birmingham,
struck a subdued glow from the broad-spread snow fields which might have
gladdened the eyes of an artist.

It did gladden the heart of one who viewed it that morning from the
summit of the gently-curving Tamfield Hill Robert McIntyre stood with
his elbows upon a gate-rail, his Tam-o'-Shanter hat over his eyes, and
a short briar-root pipe in his mouth, looking slowly about him, with the
absorbed air of one who breathes his fill of Nature. Beneath him to
the north lay the village of Tamfield, red walls, grey roofs, and a
scattered bristle of dark trees, with his own little Elmdene nestling
back from the broad, white winding Birmingham Road. At the other
side, as he slowly faced round, lay a vast stone building, white and
clear-cut, fresh from the builders' hands. A great tower shot up from
one corner of it, and a hundred windows twinkled ruddily in the light of
the morning sun. A little distance from it stood a second small square
low-lying structure, with a tall chimney rising from the midst of it,
rolling out a long plume of smoke into the frosty air. The whole vast
structure stood within its own grounds, enclosed by a stately park
wall, and surrounded by what would in time be an extensive plantation
of fir-trees. By the lodge gates a vast pile of _debris_, with lines
of sheds for workmen, and huge heaps of planks from scaffoldings, all
proclaimed that the work had only just been brought to an end.

Robert McIntyre looked down with curious eyes at the broad-spread
building. It had long been a mystery and a subject of gossip for the
whole country side. Hardly a year had elapsed since the rumour had first
gone about that a millionaire had bought a tract of land, and that it
was his intention to build a country seat upon it. Since then the work
had been pushed on night and day, until now it was finished to the
last detail in a shorter time than it takes to build many a six-roomed
cottage. Every morning two long special trains had arrived from
Birmingham, carrying down a great army of labourers, who were relieved
in the evening by a fresh gang, who carried on their task under the rays
of twelve enormous electric lights. The number of workmen appeared to be
only limited by the space into which they could be fitted. Great lines
of waggons conveyed the white Portland stone from the depot by the
station. Hundreds of busy toilers handed it over, shaped and squared, to
the actual masons, who swung it up with steam cranes on to the growing
walls, where it was instantly fitted and mortared by their companions.
Day by day the house shot higher, while pillar and cornice and carving
seemed to bud out from it as if by magic. Nor was the work confined
to the main building. A large separate structure sprang up at the same
time, and there came gangs of pale-faced men from London with much
extraordinary machinery, vast cylinders, wheels and wires, which they
fitted up in this outlying building. The great chimney which rose from
the centre of it, combined with these strange furnishings, seemed to
mean that it was reserved as a factory or place of business, for it
was rumoured that this rich man's hobby was the same as a poor man's
necessity, and that he was fond of working with his own hands amid
chemicals and furnaces. Scarce, too, was the second storey begun ere the
wood-workers and plumbers and furnishers were busy beneath, carrying
out a thousand strange and costly schemes for the greater comfort and
convenience of the owner. Singular stories were told all round the
country, and even in Birmingham itself, of the extraordinary luxury and
the absolute disregard for money which marked all these arrangements.
No sum appeared to be too great to spend upon the smallest detail which
might do away with or lessen any of the petty inconveniences of life.
Waggons and waggons of the richest furniture had passed through the
village between lines of staring villagers. Costly skins, glossy
carpets, rich rugs, ivory, and ebony, and metal; every glimpse into
these storehouses of treasure had given rise to some new legend. And
finally, when all had been arranged, there had come a staff of forty
servants, who heralded the approach of the owner, Mr. Raffles Haw
himself.

It was no wonder, then, that it was with considerable curiosity that
Robert McIntyre looked down at the great house, and marked the smoking
chimneys, the curtained windows, and the other signs which showed that
its tenant had arrived. A vast area of greenhouses gleamed like a lake
on the further side, and beyond were the long lines of stables and
outhouses. Fifty horses had passed through Tamfield the week before, so
that, large as were the preparations, they were not more than would
be needed. Who and what could this man be who spent his money with
so lavish a hand? His name was unknown. Birmingham was as ignorant as
Tamfield as to his origin or the sources of his wealth. Robert McIntyre
brooded languidly over the problem as he leaned against the gate,
puffing his blue clouds of bird's-eye into the crisp, still air.

Suddenly his eye caught a dark figure emerging from the Avenue gates and
striding up the winding road. A few minutes brought him near enough to
show a familiar face looking over the stiff collar and from under the
soft black hat of an English clergyman.

"Good-morning, Mr. Spurling."

"Ah, good-morning, Robert. How are you? Are you coming my way? How
slippery the roads are!"

His round, kindly face was beaming with good nature, and he took little
jumps as he walked, like a man who can hardly contain himself for
pleasure.

"Have you heard from Hector?"

"Oh, yes. He went off all right last Wednesday from Spithead, and he
will write from Madeira. But you generally have later news at Elmdene
than I have."

"I don't know whether Laura has heard. Have you been up to see the new
comer?"

"Yes; I have just left him."

"Is he a married man--this Mr. Raffles Haw?"

"No, he is a bachelor. He does not seem to have any relations either, as
far as I could learn. He lives alone, amid his huge staff of servants.
It is a most remarkable establishment. It made me think of the Arabian
Nights."

"And the man? What is he like?"

"He is an angel--a positive angel. I never heard or read of such
kindness in my life. He has made me a happy man."

The clergyman's eyes sparkled with emotion, and he blew his nose loudly
in his big red handkerchief.

Robert McIntyre looked at him in surprise.

"I am delighted to hear it," he said. "May I ask what he has done?"

"I went up to him by appointment this morning. I had written asking him
if I might call. I spoke to him of the parish and its needs, of my long
struggle to restore the south side of the church, and of our efforts
to help my poor parishioners during this hard weather. While I spoke
he said not a word, but sat with a vacant face, as though he were not
listening to me. When I had finished he took up his pen. 'How much will
it take to do the church?' he asked. 'A thousand pounds,' I answered;
'but we have already raised three hundred among ourselves. The Squire
has very handsomely given fifty pounds.' 'Well,' said he, 'how about
the poor folk? How many families are there?' 'About three hundred,' I
answered. 'And coals, I believe, are at about a pound a ton', said he.
'Three tons ought to see them through the rest of the winter. Then you
can get a very fair pair of blankets for two pounds. That would make
five pounds per family, and seven hundred for the church.' He dipped his
pen in the ink, and, as I am a living man, Robert, he wrote me a cheque
then and there for two thousand two hundred pounds. I don't know what
I said; I felt like a fool; I could not stammer out words with which
to thank him. All my troubles have been taken from my shoulders in an
instant, and indeed, Robert, I can hardly realise it."

"He must be a most charitable man."

"Extraordinarily so. And so unpretending. One would think that it was
I who was doing the favour and he who was the beggar. I thought of that
passage about making the heart of the widow sing for joy. He made my
heart sing for joy, I can tell you. Are you coming up to the Vicarage?"

"No, thank you, Mr. Spurling. I must go home and get to work on my new
picture. It's a five-foot canvas--the landing of the Romans in Kent. I
must have another try for the Academy. Good-morning."

He raised his hat and continued down the road, while the vicar turned
off into the path which led to his home.

Robert McIntyre had converted a large bare room in the upper storey of
Elmdene into a studio, and thither he retreated after lunch. It was
as well that he should have some little den of his own, for his father
would talk of little save of his ledgers and accounts, while Laura
had become peevish and querulous since the one tie which held her
to Tamfield had been removed. The chamber was a bare and bleak one,
un-papered and un-carpeted, but a good fire sparkled in the grate, and
two large windows gave him the needful light. His easel stood in the
centre, with the great canvas balanced across it, while against the
walls there leaned his two last attempts, "The Murder of Thomas of
Canterbury" and "The Signing of Magna Charta." Robert had a weakness for
large subjects and broad effects. If his ambition was greater than
his skill, he had still all the love of his art and the patience under
discouragement which are the stuff out of which successful painters are
made. Twice his brace of pictures had journeyed to town, and twice they
had come back to him, until the finely gilded frames which had made such
a call upon his purse began to show signs of these varied adventures.
Yet, in spite of their depressing company, Robert turned to his fresh
work with all the enthusiasm which a conviction of ultimate success can
inspire.

But he could not work that afternoon.

In vain he dashed in his background and outlined the long curves of the
Roman galleys. Do what he would, his mind would still wander from his
work to dwell upon his conversation with the vicar in the morning. His
imagination was fascinated by the idea of this strange man living alone
amid a crowd, and yet wielding such a power that with one dash of his
pen he could change sorrow into joy, and transform the condition of
a whole parish. The incident of the fifty-pound note came back to his
mind. It must surely have been Raffles Haw with whom Hector Spurling
had come in contact. There could not be two men in one parish to whom so
large a sum was of so small an account as to be thrown to a bystander in
return for a trifling piece of assistance. Of course, it must have been
Raffles Haw. And his sister had the note, with instructions to return
it to the owner, could he be found. He threw aside his palette, and
descending into the sitting-room he told Laura and his father of his
morning's interview with the vicar, and of his conviction that this was
the man of whom Hector was in quest.

"Tut! Tut!" said old McIntyre. "How is this, Laura? I knew nothing of
this. What do women know of money or of business? Hand the note over to
me and I shall relieve you of all responsibility. I will take everything
upon myself."

"I cannot possibly, papa," said Laura, with decision. "I should not
think of parting with it."

"What is the world coming to?" cried the old man, with his thin hands
held up in protest. "You grow more undutiful every day, Laura. This
money would be of use to me--of use, you understand. It may be the
corner-stone of the vast business which I shall re-construct. I will use
it, Laura, and I will pay something--four, shall we say, or even
four and a-half--and you may have it back on any day. And I will give
security--the security of my--well, of my word of honour."

"It is quite impossible, papa," his daughter answered coldly. "It is not
my money. Hector asked me to be his banker. Those were his very words.
It is not in my power to lend it. As to what you say, Robert, you may
be right or you may be wrong, but I certainly shall not give Mr. Raffles
Haw or anyone else the money without Hector's express command."

"You are very right about not giving it to Mr. Raffles Haw," cried old
McIntyre, with many nods of approbation. "I should certainly not let it
go out of the family."

"Well, I thought that I would tell you."

Robert picked up his Tam-o'-Shanter and strolled out to avoid the
discussion between his father and sister, which he saw was about to
be renewed. His artistic nature revolted at these petty and sordid
disputes, and he turned to the crisp air and the broad landscape to
soothe his ruffled feelings. Avarice had no place among his failings,
and his father's perpetual chatter about money inspired him with a
positive loathing and disgust for the subject.

Robert was lounging slowly along his favourite walk which curled
over the hill, with his mind turning from the Roman invasion to the
mysterious millionaire, when his eyes fell upon a tall, lean man in
front of him, who, with a pipe between his lips, was endeavouring
to light a match under cover of his cap. The man was clad in a rough
pea-jacket, and bore traces of smoke and grime upon his face and hands.
Yet there is a Freemasonry among smokers which overrides every social
difference, so Robert stopped and held out his case of fusees.

"A light?" said he.

"Thank you." The man picked out a fusee, struck it, and bent his head to
it. He had a pale, thin face, a short straggling beard, and a very sharp
and curving nose, with decision and character in the straight thick
eyebrows which almost met on either side of it. Clearly a superior
kind of workman, and possibly one of those who had been employed in
the construction of the new house. Here was a chance of getting some
first-hand information on the question which had aroused his curiosity.
Robert waited until he had lit his pipe, and then walked on beside him.

"Are you going in the direction of the new Hall?" he asked.

"Yes."

The man's voice was cold, and his manner reserved.

"Perhaps you were engaged in the building of it?"

"Yes, I had a hand in it."

"They say that it is a wonderful place inside. It has been quite the
talk of the district. Is it as rich as they say?"

"I am sure I don't know. I have not heard what they say."

His attitude was certainly not encouraging, and it seemed to Robert that
he gave little sidelong suspicious glances at him out of his keen grey
eyes. Yet, if he were so careful and discreet there was the more reason
to think that there was information to be extracted, if he could but
find a way to it.

"Ah, there it lies!" he remarked, as they topped the brow of the hill,
and looked down once more at the great building. "Well, no doubt it is
very gorgeous and splendid, but really for my own part I would rather
live in my own little box down yonder in the village."

The workman puffed gravely at his pipe.

"You are no great admirer of wealth, then?" he said.

"Not I. I should not care to be a penny richer than I am. Of course I
should like to sell my pictures. One must make a living. But beyond that
I ask nothing. I dare say that I, a poor artist, or you, a man who work
for your bread, have more happiness out of life than the owner of that
great palace."

"Indeed, I think that it is more than likely," the other answered, in a
much more conciliatory voice.

"Art," said Robert, warming to the subject, "is her own reward. What
mere bodily indulgence is there which money could buy which can
give that deep thrill of satisfaction which comes on the man who has
conceived something new, something beautiful, and the daily delight as
he sees it grow under his hand, until it stands before him a completed
whole? With my art and without wealth I am happy. Without my art I
should have a void which no money could fill. But I really don't know
why I should say all this to you."

The workman had stopped, and was staring at him earnestly with a look of
the deepest interest upon his smoke-darkened features.

"I am very glad to hear what you say," said he. "It is a pleasure to
know that the worship of gold is not quite universal, and that there are
at least some who can rise above it. Would you mind my shaking you by
the hand?"

It was a somewhat extraordinary request, but Robert rather prided
himself upon his Bohemianism, and upon his happy facility for making
friends with all sorts and conditions of men. He readily exchanged a
cordial grip with his chance acquaintance.

"You expressed some curiosity as to this house. I know the grounds
pretty well, and might perhaps show you one or two little things which
would interest you. Here are the gates. Will you come in with me?"

Here was, indeed, a chance. Robert eagerly assented, and walked up the
winding drive amid the growing fir-trees. When he found his uncouth
guide, however, marching straight across the broad, gravel square to the
main entrance, he felt that he had placed himself in a false position.

"Surely not through the front door," he whispered, plucking his
companion by the sleeve. "Perhaps Mr. Raffles Haw might not like it."

"I don't think there will be any difficulty," said the other, with a
quiet smile. "My name is Raffles Haw."



CHAPTER III. A HOUSE OF WONDERS.


Robert McIntyre's face must have expressed the utter astonishment which
filled his mind at this most unlooked-for announcement. For a moment he
thought that his companion must be joking, but the ease and assurance
with which he lounged up the steps, and the deep respect with which a
richly-clad functionary in the hall swung open the door to admit him,
showed that he spoke in sober earnest. Raffles Haw glanced back, and
seeing the look of absolute amazement upon the young artist's features,
he chuckled quietly to himself.

"You will forgive me, won't you, for not disclosing my identity?" he
said, laying his hand with a friendly gesture upon the other's sleeve.
"Had you known me you would have spoken less freely, and I should not
have had the opportunity of learning your true worth. For example, you
might hardly have been so frank upon the matter of wealth had you known
that you were speaking to the master of the Hall."

"I don't think that I was ever so astonished in my life," gasped Robert.

"Naturally you are. How could you take me for anything but a workman?
So I am. Chemistry is one of my hobbies, and I spend hours a day in my
laboratory yonder. I have only just struck work, and as I had inhaled
some not-over-pleasant gases, I thought that a turn down the road and a
whiff of tobacco might do me good. That was how I came to meet you, and
my toilet, I fear, corresponded only too well with my smoke-grimed face.
But I rather fancy I know you by repute. Your name is Robert McIntyre,
is it not?"

"Yes, though I cannot imagine how you knew."

"Well, I naturally took some little trouble to learn something of my
neighbours. I had heard that there was an artist of that name, and I
presume that artists are not very numerous in Tamfield. But how do you
like the design? I hope it does not offend your trained taste."

"Indeed, it is wonderful--marvellous! You must yourself have an
extraordinary eye for effect."

"Oh, I have no taste at all; not the slightest. I cannot tell good from
bad. There never was such a complete Philistine. But I had the best man
in London down, and another fellow from Vienna. They fixed it up between
them."

They had been standing just within the folding doors upon a huge mat
of bison skins. In front of them lay a great square court, paved with
many-coloured marbles laid out in a labyrinth of arabesque design. In
the centre a high fountain of carved jade shot five thin feathers of
spray into the air, four of which curved towards each corner of the
court to descend into broad marble basins, while the fifth mounted
straight up to an immense height, and then tinkled back into the central
reservoir. On either side of the court a tall, graceful palm-tree shot
up its slender stem to break into a crown of drooping green leaves some
fifty feet above their heads. All round were a series of Moorish arches,
in jade and serpentine marble, with heavy curtains of the deepest purple
to cover the doors which lay between them. In front, to right and to
left, a broad staircase of marble, carpeted with rich thick Smyrna rug
work, led upwards to the upper storeys, which were arranged around the
central court. The temperature within was warm and yet fresh, like the
air of an English May.

"It's taken from the Alhambra," said Raffles Haw. "The palm-trees are
pretty. They strike right through the building into the ground beneath,
and their roots are all girt round with hot-water pipes. They seem to
thrive very well."

"What beautifully delicate brass-work!" cried Robert, looking up with
admiring eyes at the bright and infinitely fragile metal trellis screens
which adorned the spaces between the Moorish arches.

"It is rather neat. But it is not brass-work. Brass is not tough enough
to allow them to work it to that degree of fineness. It is gold. But
just come this way with me. You won't mind waiting while I remove this
smoke?"

He led the way to a door upon the left side of the court, which, to
Robert's surprise, swung slowly open as they approached it. "That is
a little improvement which I have adopted," remarked the master of the
house. "As you go up to a door your weight upon the planks releases a
spring which causes the hinges to revolve. Pray step in. This is my own
little sanctum, and furnished after my own heart."

If Robert expected to see some fresh exhibition of wealth and luxury
he was woefully disappointed, for he found himself in a large but bare
room, with a little iron truckle-bed in one corner, a few scattered
wooden chairs, a dingy carpet, and a large table heaped with books,
bottles, papers, and all the other _debris_ which collect around a busy
and untidy man. Motioning his visitor into a chair, Raffles Haw pulled
off his coat, and, turning up the sleeves of his coarse flannel shirt,
he began to plunge and scrub in the warm water which flowed from a tap
in the wall.

"You see how simple my own tastes are," he remarked, as he mopped his
dripping face and hair with the towel. "This is the only room in my
great house where I find myself in a congenial atmosphere. It is homely
to me. I can read here and smoke my pipe in peace. Anything like luxury
is abhorrent to me."

"Really, I should not have though it," observed Robert.

"It is a fact, I assure you. You see, even with your views as to the
worthlessness of wealth, views which, I am sure, are very sensible and
much to your credit, you must allow that if a man should happen to be
the possessor of vast--well, let us say of considerable--sums of money,
it is his duty to get that money into circulation, so that the community
may be the better for it. There is the secret of my fine feathers. I
have to exert all my ingenuity in order to spend my income, and yet keep
the money in legitimate channels. For example, it is very easy to give
money away, and no doubt I could dispose of my surplus, or part of my
surplus, in that fashion, but I have no wish to pauperise anyone, or to
do mischief by indiscriminate charity. I must exact some sort of money's
worth for all the money which I lay out You see my point, don't you?"

"Entirely; though really it is something novel to hear a man complain of
the difficulty of spending his income."

"I assure you that it is a very serious difficulty with me. But I have
hit upon some plans--some very pretty plans. Will you wash your hands?
Well, then, perhaps you would care to have a look round. Just come into
this corner of the room, and sit upon this chair. So. Now I will sit
upon this one, and we are ready to start."

The angle of the chamber in which they sat was painted for about six
feet in each direction of a dark chocolate-brown, and was furnished with
two red plush seats protruding from the walls, and in striking contrast
with the simplicity of the rest of the apartment.

"This," remarked Raffles Haw, "is a lift, though it is so closely joined
to the rest of the room that without the change in colour it might
puzzle you to find the division. It is made to run either horizontally
or vertically. This line of knobs represents the various rooms. You can
see 'Dining,' 'Smoking,' 'Billiard,' 'Library' and so on, upon them. I
will show you the upward action. I press this one with 'Kitchen' upon
it."

There was a sense of motion, a very slight jar, and Robert, without
moving from his seat, was conscious that the room had vanished, and that
a large arched oaken door stood in the place which it had occupied.

"That is the kitchen door," said Raffles Haw. "I have my kitchen at the
top of the house. I cannot tolerate the smell of cooking. We have come
up eighty feet in a very few seconds. Now I press again and here we are
in my room once more."

Robert McIntyre stared about him in astonishment.

"The wonders of science are greater than those of magic," he remarked.

"Yes, it is a pretty little mechanism. Now we try the horizontal. I
press the 'Dining' knob and here we are, you see. Step towards the door,
and you will find it open in front of you."

Robert did as he was bid, and found himself with his companion in a
large and lofty room, while the lift, the instant that it was freed
from their weight, flashed back to its original position. With his feet
sinking into the soft rich carpet, as though he were ankle-deep in some
mossy bank, he stared about him at the great pictures which lined the
walls.

"Surely, surely, I see Raphael's touch there," he cried, pointing up at
the one which faced him.

"Yes, it is a Raphael, and I believe one of his best. I had a very
exciting bid for it with the French Government. They wanted it for the
Louvre, but of course at an auction the longest purse must win."

"And this 'Arrest of Catiline' must be a Rubens. One cannot mistake his
splendid men and his infamous women."

"Yes, it is a Rubens. The other two are a Velasquez and a Teniers,
fair specimens of the Spanish and of the Dutch schools. I have only old
masters here. The moderns are in the billiard-room. The furniture here
is a little curious. In fact, I fancy that it is unique. It is made of
ebony and narwhals' horns. You see that the legs of everything are of
spiral ivory, both the table and the chairs. It cost the upholsterer
some little pains, for the supply of these things is a strictly limited
one. Curiously enough, the Chinese Emperor had given a large order for
narwhals' horns to repair some ancient pagoda, which was fenced in with
them, but I outbid him in the market, and his celestial highness has had
to wait. There is a lift here in the corner, but we do not need it. Pray
step through this door. This is the billiard-room," he continued as they
advanced into the adjoining room. "You see I have a few recent pictures
of merit upon the walls. Here is a Corot, two Meissoniers, a Bouguereau,
a Millais, an Orchardson, and two Alma-Tademas. It seems to me to be
a pity to hang pictures over these walls of carved oak. Look at those
birds hopping and singing in the branches. They really seem to move and
twitter, don't they?"

"They are perfect. I never saw such exquisite work. But why do you call
it a billiard-room, Mr. Haw? I do not see any board."

"Oh, a board is such a clumsy uncompromising piece of furniture. It is
always in the way unless you actually need to use it. In this case the
board is covered by that square of polished maple which you see let into
the floor. Now I put my foot upon this motor. You see!" As he spoke,
the central portion of the flooring flew up, and a most beautiful
tortoise-shell-plated billiard-table rose up to its proper position.
He pressed a second spring, and a bagatelle-table appeared in the same
fashion. "You may have card-tables or what you will by setting the
levers in motion," he remarked. "But all this is very trifling. Perhaps
we may find something in the museum which may be of more interest to
you."

He led the way into another chamber, which was furnished in antique
style, with hangings of the rarest and richest tapestry. The floor was
a mosaic of coloured marbles, scattered over with mats of costly fur.
There was little furniture, but a number of Louis Quatorze cabinets of
ebony and silver with delicately-painted plaques were ranged round the
apartment.

"It is perhaps hardly fair to dignify it by the name of a museum," said
Raffles Haw. "It consists merely of a few elegant trifles which I have
picked up here and there. Gems are my strongest point. I fancy that
there, perhaps, I might challenge comparison with any private collector
in the world. I lock them up, for even the best servants may be
tempted."

He took a silver key from his watch chain, and began to unlock and draw
out the drawers. A cry of wonder and of admiration burst from Robert
McIntyre, as his eyes rested upon case after case filled with the
most magnificent stones. The deep still red of the rubies, the clear
scintillating green of the emeralds, the hard glitter of the diamonds,
the many shifting shades of beryls, of amethysts, of onyxes, of
cats'-eyes, of opals, of agates, of cornelians seemed to fill the whole
chamber with a vague twinkling, many-coloured light. Long slabs of the
beautiful blue lapis lazuli, magnificent bloodstones, specimens of pink
and red and white coral, long strings of lustrous pearls, all these were
tossed out by their owner as a careless schoolboy might pour marbles
from his bag.

"This isn't bad," he said, holding up a great glowing yellow mass as
large as his own head. "It is really a very fine piece of amber. It
was forwarded to me by my agent at the Baltic. Twenty-eight pounds,
it weighs. I never heard of so fine a one. I have no very large
brilliants--there were no very large ones in the market--but my average
is good. Pretty toys, are they not?" He picked up a double handful of
emeralds from a drawer, and then let them trickle slowly back into the
heap.

"Good heavens!" cried Robert, as he gazed from case to case. "It is an
immense fortune in itself. Surely a hundred thousand pounds would hardly
buy so splendid a collection."

"I don't think that you would do for a valuer of precious stones," said
Raffles Haw, laughing. "Why, the contents of that one little drawer
of brilliants could not be bought for the sum which you name. I have a
memo. here of what I have expended up to date on my collection, though
I have agents at work who will probably make very considerable additions
to it within the next few weeks. As matters stand, however, I have
spent--let me see-pearls one forty thousand; emeralds, seven fifty;
rubies, eight forty; brilliants, nine twenty; onyxes--I have several
very nice onyxes-two thirty. Other gems, carbuncles, agates--hum!
Yes, it figures out at just over four million seven hundred and forty
thousand. I dare say that we may say five millions, for I have not
counted the odd money."

"Good gracious!" cried the young artist, with staring eyes.

"I have a certain feeling of duty in the matter. You see the cutting,
polishing, and general sale of stones is one of those industries which
is entirely dependent upon wealth. If we do not support it, it must
languish, which means misfortune to a considerable number of people. The
same applies to the gold filigree work which you noticed in the
court. Wealth has its responsibilities, and the encouragement of these
handicrafts are among the most obvious of them. Here is a nice ruby. It
is Burmese, and the fifth largest in existence. I am inclined to think
that if it were uncut it would be the second, but of course cutting
takes away a great deal." He held up the blazing red stone, about the
size of a chestnut, between his finger and thumb for a moment, and then
threw it carelessly back into its drawer. "Come into the smoking-room,"
he said; "you will need some little refreshment, for they say that
sight-seeing is the most exhausting occupation in the world."



CHAPTER IV. FROM CLIME TO CLIME


The chamber in which the bewildered Robert now found himself was more
luxurious, if less rich, than any which he had yet seen. Low settees of
claret-coloured plush were scattered in orderly disorder over a mossy
Eastern carpet. Deep lounges, reclining sofas, American rocking-chairs,
all were to be had for the choosing. One end of the room was walled by
glass, and appeared to open upon a luxuriant hot-house. At the further
end a double line of gilt rails supported a profusion of the most recent
magazines and periodicals. A rack at each side of the inlaid fireplace
sustained a long line of the pipes of all places and nations--English
cherrywoods, French briars, German china-bowls, carved meerschaums,
scented cedar and myall-wood, with Eastern narghiles, Turkish
chibooques, and two great golden-topped hookahs. To right and left
were a series of small lockers, extending in a treble row for the whole
length of the room, with the names of the various brands of tobacco
scrolled in ivory work across them. Above were other larger tiers of
polished oak, which held cigars and cigarettes.

"Try that Damascus settee," said the master of the house, as he threw
himself into a rocking-chair. "It is from the Sultan's upholsterer.
The Turks have a very good notion of comfort. I am a confirmed smoker
myself, Mr. McIntyre, so I have been able, perhaps, to check my
architect here more than in most of the other departments. Of pictures,
for example, I know nothing, as you would very speedily find out. On
a tobacco, I might, perhaps, offer an opinion. Now these"--he drew out
some long, beautifully-rolled, mellow-coloured cigars--"these are really
something a little out of the common. Do try one."

Robert lit the weed which was offered to him, and leaned back
luxuriously amid his cushions, gazing through the blue balmy fragrant
cloud-wreaths at the extraordinary man in the dirty pea-jacket who spoke
of millions as another might of sovereigns. With his pale face, his sad,
languid air, and his bowed shoulders, it was as though he were crushed
down under the weight of his own gold. There was a mute apology, an
attitude of deprecation in his manner and speech, which was strangely
at variance with the immense power which he wielded. To Robert the
whole whimsical incident had been intensely interesting and amusing. His
artistic nature blossomed out in this atmosphere of perfect luxury
and comfort, and he was conscious of a sense of repose and of absolute
sensual contentment such as he had never before experienced.

"Shall it be coffee, or Rhine wine, or Tokay, or perhaps something
stronger," asked Raffles Haw, stretching out his hand to what looked like
a piano-board projecting from the wall. "I can recommend the Tokay. I
have it from the man who supplies the Emperor of Austria, though I think
I may say that I get the cream of it."

He struck twice upon one of the piano-notes, and sat expectant. With a
sharp click at the end of ten seconds a sliding shutter flew open, and
a small tray protruded bearing two long tapering Venetian glasses filled
with wine.

"It works very nicely," said Raffles Haw. "It is quite a new thing--never
before done, as far as I know. You see the names of the various wines
and so on printed on the notes. By pressing the note down I complete an
electric circuit which causes the tap in the cellars beneath to remain
open long enough to fill the glass which always stands beneath it. The
glasses, you understand, stand upon a revolving drum, so that there must
always be one there. The glasses are then brought up through a pneumatic
tube, which is set working by the increased weight of the glass when the
wine is added to it. It is a pretty little idea. But I am afraid that I
bore you rather with all these petty contrivances. It is a whim of mine
to push mechanism as far as it will go."

"On the contrary, I am filled with interest and wonder," said Robert
warmly. "It is as if I had been suddenly whipped up out of prosaic old
England and transferred in an instant to some enchanted palace, some
Eastern home of the Genii. I could not have believed that there existed
upon this earth such adaptation of means to an end, such complete
mastery of every detail which may aid in stripping life of any of its
petty worries."

"I have something yet to show you," remarked Raffles Haw; "but we will
rest here for a few minutes, for I wished to have a word with you. How
is the cigar?"

"Most excellent."

"It was rolled in Louisiana in the old slavery days. There is nothing
made like them now. The man who had them did not know their value. He
let them go at merely a few shillings apiece. Now I want you to do me a
favour, Mr. McIntyre."

"I shall be so glad."

"You can see more or less how I am situated. I am a complete stranger
here. With the well-to-do classes I have little in common. I am no
society man. I don't want to call or be called on. I am a student in a
small way, and a man of quiet tastes. I have no social ambitions at all.
Do you understand?"

"Entirely."

"On the other hand, my experience of the world has been that it is the
rarest thing to be able to form a friendship with a poorer man--I mean
with a man who is at all eager to increase his income. They think much
of your wealth, and little of yourself. I have tried, you understand,
and I know." He paused and ran his fingers through his thin beard.

Robert McIntyre nodded to show that he appreciated his position.

"Now, you see," he continued, "if I am to be cut off from the rich by
my own tastes, and from those who are not rich by my distrust of their
motives, my situation is an isolated one. Not that I mind isolation:
I am used to it. But it limits my field of usefulness. I have no
trustworthy means of informing myself when and where I may do good.
I have already, I am glad to say, met a man to-day, your vicar, who
appears to be thoroughly unselfish and trustworthy. He shall be one
of my channels of communication with the outer world. Might I ask you
whether you would be willing to become another?"

"With the greatest pleasure," said Robert eagerly.

The proposition filled his heart with joy, for it seemed to give him an
almost official connection with this paradise of a house. He could not
have asked for anything more to his taste.

"I was fortunate enough to discover by your conversation how high a
ground you take in such matters, and how entirely disinterested you
are. You may have observed that I was short and almost rude with you at
first. I have had reason to fear and suspect all chance friendships.
Too often they have proved to be carefully planned beforehand, with some
sordid object in view. Good heavens, what stories I could tell you!
A lady pursued by a bull--I have risked my life to save her, and have
learned afterwards that the scene had been arranged by the mother as an
effective introduction, and that the bull had been hired by the hour.
But I won't shake your faith in human nature. I have had some rude
shocks myself. I look, perhaps, with a jaundiced eye on all who come
near me. It is the more needful that I should have one whom I can trust
to advise me."

"If you will only show me where my opinion can be of any use I shall be
most happy," said Robert. "My people come from Birmingham, but I know
most of the folk here and their position."

"That is just what I want. Money can do so much good, and it may do so
much harm. I shall consult you when I am in doubt. By the way, there
is one small question which I might ask you now. Can you tell me who
a young lady is with very dark hair, grey eyes, and a finely chiselled
face? She wore a blue dress when I saw her, with astrachan about her
neck and cuffs."

Robert chuckled to himself.

"I know that dress pretty well," he said. "It is my sister Laura whom
you describe."

"Your sister! Really! Why, there is a resemblance, now that my attention
is called to it. I saw her the other day, and wondered who she might be.
She lives with you, of course?"

"Yes; my father, she, and I live together at Elmdene."

"Where I hope to have the pleasure of making their acquaintance. You
have finished your cigar? Have another, or try a pipe. To the real
smoker all is mere trifling save the pipe. I have most brands of tobacco
here. The lockers are filled on the Monday, and on Saturday they are
handed over to the old folk at the alms-houses, so I manage to keep it
pretty fresh always. Well, if you won't take anything else, perhaps you
would care to see one or two of the other effects which I have devised.
On this side is the armoury, and beyond it the library. My collection of
books is a limited one; there are just over the fifty thousand volumes.
But it is to some extent remarkable for quality. I have a Visigoth Bible
of the fifth century, which I rather fancy is unique; there is a 'Biblia
Pauperum' of 1430; a MS. of Genesis done upon mulberry leaves, probably
of the second century; a 'Tristan and Iseult' of the eighth century; and
some hundred black-letters, with five very fine specimens of Schoffer
and Fust. But those you may turn over any wet afternoon when you have
nothing better to do. Meanwhile, I have a little device connected with
this smoking-room which may amuse you. Light this other cigar. Now sit
with me upon this lounge which stands at the further end of the room."

The sofa in question was in a niche which was lined in three sides and
above with perfectly clear transparent crystal. As they sat down the
master of the house drew a cord which pulled out a crystal shutter
behind them, so that they were enclosed on all sides in a great box
of glass, so pure and so highly polished that its presence might very
easily be forgotten. A number of golden cords with crystal handles hung
down into this small chamber, and appeared to be connected with a long
shining bar outside.

"Now, where would you like to smoke your cigar?" said Raffles Haw, with
a twinkle in his demure eyes. "Shall we go to India, or to Egypt, or to
China, or to--"

"To South America," said Robert.

There was a twinkle, a whirr, and a sense of motion. The young artist
gazed about him in absolute amazement. Look where he would all round
were tree-ferns and palms with long drooping creepers, and a blaze of
brilliant orchids. Smoking-room, house, England, all were gone, and he
sat on a settee in the heart of a virgin forest of the Amazon. It was no
mere optical delusion or trick. He could see the hot steam rising from
the tropical undergrowth, the heavy drops falling from the huge green
leaves, the very grain and fibre of the rough bark which clothed the
trunks. Even as he gazed a green mottled snake curled noiselessly over
a branch above his head, and a bright-coloured paroquet broke suddenly
from amid the foliage and flashed off among the tree-trunks. Robert
gazed around, speechless with surprise, and finally turned upon his host
a face in which curiosity was not un-mixed with a suspicion of fear.

"People have been burned for less, have they not?" cried Raffles Haw
laughing heartily. "Have you had enough of the Amazon? What do you say
to a spell of Egypt?"

Again the whirr, the swift flash of passing objects, and in an instant
a huge desert stretched on every side of them, as far as the eye could
reach. In the foreground a clump of five palm-trees towered into the
air, with a profusion of rough cactus-like plants bristling from their
base. On the other side rose a rugged, gnarled, grey monolith, carved at
the base into a huge scarabaeus. A group of lizards played about on the
surface of the old carved stone. Beyond, the yellow sand stretched away
into furthest space, where the dim mirage mist played along the horizon.

"Mr. Haw, I cannot understand it!" Robert grasped the velvet edge of the
settee, and gazed wildly about him.

"The effect is rather startling, is it not? This Egyptian desert is
my favourite when I lay myself out for a contemplative smoke. It seems
strange that tobacco should have come from the busy, practical West.
It has much more affinity for the dreamy, languid East. But perhaps you
would like to run over to China for a change?"

"Not to-day," said Robert, passing his hand over his forehead. "I feel
rather confused by all these wonders, and indeed I think that they have
affected my nerves a little. Besides, it is time that I returned to my
prosaic Elmdene, if I can find my way out of this wilderness to which
you have transplanted me. But would you ease my mind, Mr. Haw, by
showing me how this thing is done?"

"It is the merest toy--a complex plaything, nothing more. Allow me to
explain. I have a line of very large greenhouses which extends from
one end of my smoking-room. These different houses are kept at varying
degrees of heat and humidity so as to reproduce the exact climates of
Egypt, China, and the rest. You see, our crystal chamber is a tramway
running with a minimum of friction along a steel rod. By pulling this or
that handle I regulate how far it shall go, and it travels, as you have
seen, with amazing speed. The effect of my hot-houses is heightened by
the roofs being invariably concealed by skies, which are really very
admirably painted, and by the introduction of birds and other creatures,
which seem to flourish quite as well in artificial as in natural heat.
This explains the South American effect."

"But not the Egyptian."

"No. It is certainly rather clever. I had the best man in France,
at least the best at those large effects, to paint in that circular
background. You understand, the palms, cacti, obelisk, and so on, are
perfectly genuine, and so is the sand for fifty yards or so, and I defy
the keenest-eyed man in England to tell where the deception commences.
It is the familiar and perhaps rather meretricious effect of a circular
panorama, but carried out in the most complete manner. Was there any
other point?"

"The crystal box? Why was it?"

"To preserve my guests from the effects of the changes of temperature.
It would be a poor kindness to bring them back to my smoking-room
drenched through, and with the seeds of a violent cold. The crystal has
to be kept warm, too, otherwise vapour would deposit, and you would have
your view spoiled. But must you really go? Then here we are back in the
smoking-room. I hope that it will not be your last visit by many a one.
And if I may come down to Elmdene I should be very glad to do so. This
is the way through the museum."

As Robert McIntyre emerged from the balmy aromatic atmosphere of the
great house, into the harsh, raw, biting air of an English winter
evening, he felt as though he had been away for a long visit in some
foreign country. Time is measured by impressions, and so vivid and novel
had been his feelings, that weeks and weeks might have elapsed since his
chat with the smoke-grimed stranger in the road. He walked along with
his head in a whirl, his whole mind possessed and intoxicated by the one
idea of the boundless wealth and the immense power of this extraordinary
stranger. Small and sordid and mean seemed his own Elmdene as he
approached it, and he passed over its threshold full of restless
discontent against himself and his surroundings.



CHAPTER V. LAURA'S REQUEST.


That night after supper Robert McIntyre poured forth all that he had
seen to his father and to his sister. So full was he of the one subject
that it was a relief to him to share his knowledge with others. Rather
for his own sake, then, than for theirs he depicted vividly all
the marvels which he had seen; the profusion of wealth, the regal
treasure-house of gems, the gold, the marble, the extraordinary devices,
the absolute lavishness and complete disregard for money which was shown
in every detail. For an hour he pictured with glowing words all
the wonders which had been shown him, and ended with some pride by
describing the request which Mr. Raffles Haw had made, and the complete
confidence which he had placed in him.

His words had a very different effect upon his two listeners. Old
McIntyre leaned back in his chair with a bitter smile upon his lips, his
thin face crinkled into a thousand puckers, and his small eyes shining
with envy and greed. His lean yellow hand upon the table was clenched
until the knuckles gleamed white in the lamplight. Laura, on the other
hand, leaned forward, her lips parted, drinking in her brother's words
with a glow of colour upon either cheek. It seemed to Robert, as he
glanced from one to the other of them, that he had never seen his father
look so evil, or his sister so beautiful.

"Who is the fellow, then?" asked the old man after a considerable pause.
"I hope he got all this in an honest fashion. Five millions in jewels,
you say. Good gracious me! Ready to give it away, too, but afraid of
pauperising any one. You can tell him, Robert, that you know of one
very deserving case which has not the slightest objection to being
pauperised."

"But who can he possibly be, Robert?" cried Laura. "Haw cannot be his
real name. He must be some disguised prince, or perhaps a king in exile.
Oh, I should have loved to have seen those diamonds and the emeralds! I
always think that emeralds suit dark people best. You must tell me again
all about that museum, Robert."

"I don't think that he is anything more than he pretends to be," her
brother answered. "He has the plain, quiet manners of an ordinary
middle-class Englishman. There was no particular polish that I
could see. He knew a little about books and pictures, just enough to
appreciate them, but nothing more. No, I fancy that he is a man quite in
our own position of life, who has in some way inherited a vast sum. Of
course it is difficult for me to form an estimate, but I should judge
that what I saw to-day--house, pictures, jewels, books, and so on--could
never have been bought under twenty millions, and I am sure that that
figure is entirely an under-statement."

"I never knew but one Haw," said old McIntyre, drumming his fingers on
the table; "he was a foreman in my pin-fire cartridge-case department.
But he was an elderly single man. Well, I hope he got it all honestly. I
hope the money is clean."

"And really, really, he is coming to see us!" cried Laura, clapping her
hands. "Oh, when do you think he will come, Robert? Do give me warning.
Do you think it will be to-morrow?"

"I am sure I cannot say."

"I should so love to see him. I don't know when I have been so
interested."

"Why, you have a letter there," remarked Robert. "From Hector, too, by
the foreign stamp. How is he?"

"It only came this evening. I have not opened it yet. To tell the truth,
I have been so interested in your story that I had forgotten all about
it. Poor old Hector! It is from Madeira." She glanced rapidly over the
four pages of straggling writing in the young sailor's bold schoolboyish
hand. "Oh, he is all right," she said. "They had a gale on the way out,
and that sort of thing, but he is all right now. He thinks he may
be back by March. I wonder whether your new friend will come
to-morrow--your knight of the enchanted Castle."

"Hardly so soon, I should fancy."

"If he should be looking about for an investment. Robert," said the
father, "you won't forget to tell him what a fine opening there is now
in the gun trade. With my knowledge, and a few thousands at my back, I
could bring him in his thirty per cent. as regular as the bank. After
all, he must lay out his money somehow. He cannot sink it all in
books and precious stones. I am sure that I could give him the highest
references."

"It may be a long time before he comes, father," said Robert coldly;
"and when he does I am afraid that I can hardly use his friendship as a
means of advancing your interest."

"We are his equals, father," cried Laura with spirit. "Would you put us
on the footing of beggars? He would think we cared for him only for his
money. I wonder that you should think of such a thing."

"If I had not thought of such things where would your education have
been, miss?" retorted the angry old man; and Robert stole quietly away
to his room, whence amid his canvases he could still hear the hoarse
voice and the clear in their never-ending family jangle. More and more
sordid seemed the surroundings of his life, and more and more to be
valued the peace which money can buy.

Breakfast had hardly been cleared in the morning, and Robert had not yet
ascended to his work, when there came a timid tapping at the door, and
there was Raffles Haw on the mat outside. Robert ran out and welcomed
him with all cordiality.

"I am afraid that I am a very early visitor," he said apologetically;
"but I often take a walk after breakfast." He had no traces of work upon
him now, but was trim and neat with a dark suit, and carefully brushed
hair. "You spoke yesterday of your work. Perhaps, early as it is, you
would allow me the privilege of looking over your studio?"

"Pray step in, Mr. Haw," cried Robert, all in a flutter at this advance
from so munificent a patron of art; "I should be only too happy to show
you such little work as I have on hand, though, indeed, I am almost
afraid when I think how familiar you are with some of the greatest
masterpieces. Allow me to introduce you to my father and to my sister
Laura."

Old McIntyre bowed low and rubbed his thin hands together; but the young
lady gave a gasp of surprise, and stared with widely-opened eyes at the
millionaire. Maw stepped forward, however, and shook her quietly by the
hand,

"I expected to find that it was you," he said. "I have already met your
sister, Mr. McIntyre, on the very first day that I came here. We took
shelter in a shed from a snowstorm, and had quite a pleasant little
chat."

"I had no notion that I was speaking to the owner of the Hall," said
Laura in some confusion. "How funnily things turn out, to be sure!"

"I had often wondered who it was that I spoke to, but it was only
yesterday that I discovered. What a sweet little place you have here! It
must be charming in summer. Why, if it were not for this hill my windows
would look straight across at yours."

"Yes, and we should see all your beautiful plantations," said Laura,
standing beside him in the window. "I was wishing only yesterday that
the hill was not there."

"Really! I shall be happy to have it removed for you if you would like
it."

"Good gracious!" cried Laura. "Why, where would you put it?"

"Oh, they could run it along the line and dump it anywhere. It is not
much of a hill. A few thousand men with proper machinery, and a line
of rails brought right up to them could easily dispose of it in a few
months."

"And the poor vicar's house?" Laura asked, laughing.

"I think that might be got over. We could run him up a facsimile, which
would, perhaps, be more convenient to him. Your brother will tell you
that I am quite an expert at the designing of houses. But, seriously, if
you think it would be an improvement I will see what can be done."

"Not for the world, Mr. Haw. Why, I should be a traitor to the whole
village if I were to encourage such a scheme. The hill is the one thing
which gives Tamfield the slightest individuality. It would be the
height of selfishness to sacrifice it in order to improve the view from
Elmdene."

"It is a little box of a place this, Mr. Haw," said old McIntyre. "I
should think you must feel quite stifled in it after your grand mansion,
of which my son tells me such wonders. But we were not always accustomed
to this sort of thing, Mr. Haw. Humble as I stand here, there was a
time, and not so long ago, when I could write as many figures on a
cheque as any gunmaker in Birmingham. It was--"

"He is a dear discontented old papa," cried Laura, throwing her arm
round him in a caressing manner. He gave a sharp squeak and a grimace
of pain, which he endeavoured to hide by an outbreak of painfully
artificial coughing.

"Shall we go upstairs?" said Robert hurriedly, anxious to divert his
guest's attention from this little domestic incident. "My studio is the
real atelier, for it is right up under the tiles. I shall lead the way,
if you will have the kindness to follow me."

Leaving Laura and Mr. McIntyre, they went up together to the workroom.
Mr. Haw stood long in front of the "Signing of Magna Charta," and
the "Murder of Thomas a Becket," screwing up his eyes and twitching
nervously at his beard, while Robert stood by in anxious expectancy.

"And how much are these?" asked Raffles Haw at last.

"I priced them at a hundred apiece when I sent them to London."

"Then the best I can wish you is that the day may come when you would
gladly give ten times the sum to have them back again. I am sure that
there are great possibilities in you, and I see that in grouping and in
boldness of design you have already achieved much. But your drawing, if
you will excuse my saying so, is just a little crude, and your colouring
perhaps a trifle thin. Now, I will make a bargain with you, Mr.
McIntyre, if you will consent to it. I know that money has no charms
for you, but still, as you said when I first met you, a man must live.
I shall buy these two canvases from you at the price which you name,
subject to the condition that you may always have them back again by
repaying the same sum."

"You are really very kind." Robert hardly knew whether to be delighted
at having sold his pictures or humiliated at the frank criticism of the
buyer.

"May I write a cheque at once?" said Raffles Haw. "Here is pen and ink.
So! I shall send a couple of footmen down for them in the afternoon.
Well, I shall keep them in trust for you. I dare say that when you are
famous they will be of value as specimens of your early manner."

"I am sure that I am extremely obliged to you, Mr. Haw," said the young
artist, placing the cheque in his notebook. He glanced at it as he
folded it up, in the vague hope that perhaps this man of whims had
assessed his pictures at a higher rate than he had named. The figures,
however, were exact. Robert began dimly to perceive that there were
drawbacks as well as advantages to the reputation of a money-scorner,
which he had gained by a few chance words, prompted rather by the
reaction against his father's than by his own real convictions.

"I hope, Miss McIntyre," said Raffles Haw, when they had descended to
the sitting-room once more, "that you will do me the honour of coming to
see the little curiosities which I have gathered together. Your brother
will, I am sure, escort you up; or perhaps Mr. McIntyre would care to
come?"

"I shall be delighted to come, Mr. Haw," cried Laura, with her sweetest
smile. "A good deal of my time just now is taken up in looking after the
poor people, who find the cold weather very trying." Robert raised his
eyebrows, for it was the first he had heard of his sister's missions of
mercy, but Mr. Raffles Haw nodded approvingly. "Robert was telling us of
your wonderful hot-houses. I am sure I wish I could transport the whole
parish into one of them, and give them a good warm."

"Nothing would be easier, but I am afraid that they might find it a
little trying when they came out again. I have one house which is only
just finished. Your brother has not seen it yet, but I think it is the
best of them all. It represents an Indian jungle, and is hot enough in
all conscience."

"I shall so look forward to seeing it," cried Laura, clasping her hands.
"It has been one of the dreams of my life to see India. I have read so
much of it, the temples, the forests, the great rivers, and the tigers.
Why, you would hardly believe it, but I have never seen a tiger except
in a picture."

"That can easily be set right," said Raffles Haw, with his quiet smile.
"Would you care to see one?"

"Oh, immensely."

"I will have one sent down. Let me see, it is nearly twelve o'clock. I
can get a wire to Liverpool by one. There is a man there who deals in
such things. I should think he would be due to-morrow morning. Well,
I shall look forward to seeing you all before very long. I have rather
outstayed my time, for I am a man of routine, and I always put in a
certain number of hours in my laboratory." He shook hands cordially with
them all, and lighting his pipe at the doorstep, strolled off upon his
way.

"Well, what do you think of him now?" asked Robert, as they watched his
black figure against the white snow.

"I think that he is no more fit to be trusted with all that money than a
child," cried the old man. "It made me positively sick to hear him talk
of moving hills and buying tigers, and such-like nonsense, when there
are honest men without a business, and great businesses starving for a
little capital. It's unchristian--that's what I call it."

"I think he is most delightful, Robert," said Laura. "Remember, you have
promised to take us up to the Hall. And he evidently wishes us to go
soon. Don't you think we might go this afternoon?"

"I hardly think that, Laura. You leave it in my hands, and I will
arrange it all. And now I must get to work, for the light is so very
short on these winter days."

That night Robert McIntyre had gone to bed, and was dozing off when a
hand plucked at his shoulder, and he started up to find his sister in
some white drapery, with a shawl thrown over her shoulders, standing
beside him in the moonlight.

"Robert, dear," she whispered, stooping over him, "there was something I
wanted to ask you, but papa was always in the way. You will do something
to please me, won't you, Robert?"

"Of course, Laura. What is it?"

"I do so hate having my affairs talked over, dear. If Mr. Raffles Haw
says anything to you about me, or asks any questions, please don't say
anything about Hector. You won't, will you, Robert, for the sake of your
little sister?"

"No; not unless you wish it."

"There is a dear good brother." She stooped over him and kissed him
tenderly.

It was a rare thing for Laura to show any emotion, and her brother
marvelled sleepily over it until he relapsed into his interrupted doze.



CHAPTER VI. A STRANGE VISITOR.


The McIntyre family was seated at breakfast on the morning which
followed the first visit of Raffles Haw, when they were surprised to
hear the buzz and hum of a multitude of voices in the village street.
Nearer and nearer came the tumult, and then, of a sudden, two maddened
horses reared themselves up on the other side of the garden hedge,
prancing and pawing, with ears laid back and eyes ever glancing at some
horror behind them. Two men hung shouting to their bridles, while a
third came rushing up the curved gravel path. Before the McIntyres could
realise the situation, their maid, Mary, darted into the sitting-room
with terror in her round freckled face:

"If you please, miss," she screamed, "your tiger has arrove."

"Good heavens!" cried Robert, rushing to the door with his half-filled
teacup in his hand. "This is too much. Here is an iron cage on a trolly
with a great ramping tiger, and the whole village with their mouths
open."

"Mad as a hatter!" shrieked old Mr. McIntyre. "I could see it in his
eye. He spent enough on this beast to start me in business.
Whoever heard of such a thing? Tell the driver to take it to the
police-station."

"Nothing of the sort, papa," said Laura, rising with dignity and
wrapping a shawl about her shoulders. Her eyes were shining, her cheeks
flushed, and she carried herself like a triumphant queen.

Robert, with his teacup in his hand, allowed his attention to be
diverted from their strange visitor while he gazed at his beautiful
sister.

"Mr. Raffles Haw has done this out of kindness to me," she said,
sweeping towards the door. "I look upon it as a great attention on his
part. I shall certainly go out and look at it."

"If you please, sir," said the carman, reappearing at the door, "it's
all as we can do to 'old in the 'osses."

"Let us all go out together then," suggested Robert.

They went as far as the garden fence and stared over, while the whole
village, from the school-children to the old grey-haired men from the
almshouses, gathered round in mute astonishment. The tiger, a long,
lithe, venomous-looking creature, with two blazing green eyes, paced
stealthily round the little cage, lashing its sides with its tail, and
rubbing its muzzle against the bars.

"What were your orders?" asked Robert of the carman.

"It came through by special express from Liverpool, sir, and the train
is drawn up at the Tamfield siding all ready to take it back. If it 'ad
been royalty the railway folk couldn't ha' shown it more respec'. We are
to take it back when you're done with it. It's been a cruel job, sir,
for our arms is pulled clean out of the sockets a-'olding in of the
'osses."

"What a dear, sweet creature it is," cried Laura. "How sleek and how
graceful! I cannot understand how people could be afraid of anything so
beautiful."

"If you please, marm," said the carman, touching his skin cap, "he out
with his paw between the bars as we stood in the station yard, and if
I 'adn't pulled my mate Bill back it would ha' been a case of kingdom
come. It was a proper near squeak, I can tell ye."

"I never saw anything more lovely," continued Laura, loftily overlooking
the remarks of the driver. "It has been a very great pleasure to me
to see it, and I hope that you will tell Mr. Haw so if you see him,
Robert."

"The horses are very restive," said her brother. "Perhaps, Laura, if you
have seen enough, it would be as well to let them go."

She bowed in the regal fashion which she had so suddenly adopted. Robert
shouted the order, the driver sprang up, his comrades let the horses
go, and away rattled the waggon and the trolly with half the Tamfielders
streaming vainly behind it.

"Is it not wonderful what money can do?" Laura remarked, as they knocked
the snow from their shoes within the porch. "There seems to be no wish
which Mr. Haw could not at once gratify."

"No wish of yours, you mean," broke in her father. "It's different when
he is dealing with a wrinkled old man who has spent himself in working
for his children. A plainer case of love at first sight I never saw."

"How can you be so coarse, papa?" cried Laura, but her eyes flashed, and
her teeth gleamed, as though the remark had not altogether displeased
her.

"For heaven's sake, be careful, Laura!" cried Robert. "It had not struck
me before, but really it does look rather like it. You know how you
stand. Raffles Haw is not a man to play with."

"You dear old boy!" said Laura, laying her hand upon his shoulder, "what
do you know of such things? All you have to do is to go on with your
painting, and to remember the promise you made the other night."

"What promise was that, then?" cried old McIntyre suspiciously.

"Never you mind, papa. But if you forget it, Robert, I shall never
forgive you as long as I live."



CHAPTER VII. THE WORKINGS OF WEALTH.


It can easily be believed that as the weeks passed the name and fame
of the mysterious owner of the New Hall resounded over the quiet
countryside until the rumour of him had spread to the remotest corners
of Warwickshire and Staffordshire. In Birmingham on the one side, and in
Coventry and Leamington on the other, there was gossip as to his untold
riches, his extraordinary whims, and the remarkable life which he led.
His name was bandied from mouth to mouth, and a thousand efforts were
made to find out who and what he was. In spite of all their pains,
however, the newsmongers were unable to discover the slightest trace of
his antecedents, or to form even a guess as to the secret of his riches.

It was no wonder that conjecture was rife upon the subject, for hardly a
day passed without furnishing some new instance of the boundlessness of
his power and of the goodness of his heart. Through the vicar, Robert,
and others, he had learned much of the inner life of the parish, and
many were the times when the struggling man, harassed and driven to
the wall, found thrust into his hand some morning a brief note with
an enclosure which rolled all the sorrow back from his life. One day a
thick double-breasted pea-jacket and a pair of good sturdy boots were
served out to every old man in the almshouse. On another, Miss Swire,
the decayed gentlewoman who eked out her small annuity by needlework,
had a brand new first-class sewing-machine handed in to her to take the
place of the old worn-out treadle which tried her rheumatic joints.
The pale-faced schoolmaster, who had spent years with hardly a break in
struggling with the juvenile obtuseness of Tamfield, received through
the post a circular ticket for a two months' tour through Southern
Europe, with hotel coupons and all complete. John Hackett, the farmer,
after five long years of bad seasons, borne with a brave heart, had at
last been overthrown by the sixth, and had the bailiffs actually in the
house when the good vicar had rushed in, waving a note above his head,
to tell him not only that his deficit had been made up, but that enough
remained over to provide the improved machinery which would enable him
to hold his own for the future. An almost superstitious feeling came
upon the rustic folk as they looked at the great palace when the sun
gleamed upon the huge hot-houses, or even more so, perhaps, when at
night the brilliant electric lights shot their white radiance through
the countless rows of windows. To them it was as if some minor
Providence presided in that great place, unseen but seeing all,
boundless in its power and its graciousness, ever ready to assist and to
befriend. In every good deed, however, Raffles Haw still remained in
the background, while the vicar and Robert had the pleasant task of
conveying his benefits to the lowly and the suffering.

Once only did he appear in his own person, and that was upon the famous
occasion when he saved the well-known bank of Garraweg Brothers in
Birmingham. The most charitable and upright of men, the two brothers,
Louis and Rupert, had built up a business which extended its
ramifications into every townlet of four counties. The failure of their
London agents had suddenly brought a heavy loss upon them, and the
circumstance leaking out had caused a sudden and most dangerous run upon
their establishment. Urgent telegrams for bullion from all their forty
branches poured in at the very instant when the head office was crowded
with anxious clients all waving their deposit-books, and clamouring for
their money. Bravely did the two brothers with their staff stand with
smiling faces behind the shining counter, while swift messengers sped
and telegrams flashed to draw in all the available resources of the
bank. All day the stream poured through the office, and when four
o'clock came, and the doors were closed for the day, the street without
was still blocked by the expectant crowd, while there remained scarce a
thousand pounds of bullion in the cellars.

"It is only postponed. Louis," said brother Rupert despairingly, when
the last clerk had left the office, and when at last they could relax
the fixed smile upon their haggard faces.

"Those shutters will never come down again," cried brother Louis, and
the two suddenly burst out sobbing in each other's arms, not for their
own griefs, but for the miseries which they might bring upon those who
had trusted them.

But who shall ever dare to say that there is no hope, if he will but
give his griefs to the world? That very night Mrs. Spurling had received
a letter from her old school friend, Mrs. Louis Garraweg, with all her
fears and her hopes poured out in it, and the whole sad story of their
troubles. Swift from the Vicarage went the message to the Hall, and
early next morning Mr. Raffles Haw, with a great black carpet-bag in his
hand, found means to draw the cashier of the local branch of the Bank
of England from his breakfast, and to persuade him to open his doors
at unofficial hours. By half-past nine the crowd had already begun
to collect around Garraweg's, when a stranger, pale and thin, with a
bloated carpet-bag, was shown at his own very pressing request into the
bank parlour.

"It is no use, sir," said the elder brother humbly, as they stood
together encouraging each other to turn a brave face to misfortune,
"we can do no more. We have little left, and it would be unfair to the
others to pay you now. We can but hope that when our assets are realised
no one will be the loser save ourselves."

"I did not come to draw out, but to put in," said Raffles Haw in his
demure apologetic fashion. "I have in my bag five thousand hundred-pound
Bank of England notes. If you will have the goodness to place them to my
credit account I should be extremely obliged."

"But, good heavens, sir!" stammered Rupert Garraweg, "have you
not heard? Have you not seen? We cannot allow you to do this thing
blindfold; can we Louis?"

"Most certainly not. We cannot recommend our bank, sir, at the present
moment, for there is a run upon us, and we do not know to what lengths
it may go."

"Tut! tut!" said Raffles Haw. "If the run continues you must send me a
wire, and I shall make a small addition to my account. You will send me
a receipt by post. Good-morning, gentlemen!" He bowed himself out ere
the astounded partners could realise what had befallen them, or raise
their eyes from the huge black bag and the visiting card which lay upon
their table. There was no great failure in Birmingham that day, and the
house of Garraweg still survives to enjoy the success which it deserves.

Such were the deeds by which Raffles Haw made himself known throughout
the Midlands, and yet, in spite of all his open-handedness, he was not
a man to be imposed upon. In vain the sturdy beggar cringed at his gate,
and in vain the crafty letter-writer poured out a thousand fabulous woes
upon paper. Robert was astonished when he brought some tale of trouble
to the Hall to observe how swift was the perception of the recluse, and
how unerringly he could detect a flaw in a narrative, or lay his finger
upon the one point which rang false. Were a man strong enough to help
himself, or of such a nature as to profit nothing by help, none would
he get from the master of the New Hall. In vain, for example, did old
McIntyre throw himself continually across the path of the millionaire,
and impress upon him, by a thousand hints and innuendoes, the hard
fortune which had been dealt him, and the ease with which his fallen
greatness might be restored. Raffles Haw listened politely, bowed,
smiled, but never showed the slightest inclination to restore the
querulous old gunmaker to his pedestal.

But if the recluse's wealth was a lure which drew the beggars from
far and near, as the lamp draws the moths, it had the same power of
attraction upon another and much more dangerous class. Strange hard
faces were seen in the village street, prowling figures were marked at
night stealing about among the fir plantations, and warning messages
arrived from city police and county constabulary to say that evil
visitors were known to have taken train to Tamfield. But if, as Raffles
Haw held, there were few limits to the power of immense wealth, it
possessed, among other things, the power of self-preservation, as one or
two people were to learn to their cost.

"Would you mind stepping up to the Hall?" he said one morning, putting
his head in at the door of the Elmdene sitting-room. "I have something
there that might amuse you." He was on intimate terms with the McIntyres
now, and there were few days on which they did not see something of each
other.

They gladly accompanied him, all three, for such invitations were
usually the prelude of some agreeable surprise which he had in store for
them.

"I have shown you a tiger," he remarked to Laura, as he led them into
the dining-room. "I will now show you something quite as dangerous,
though not nearly so pretty." There was an arrangement of mirrors at one
end of the room, with a large circular glass set at a sharp angle at the
top.

"Look in there--in the upper glass," said Raffles Haw.

"Good gracious! what dreadful-looking men!" cried Laura. "There are two
of them, and I don't know which is the worse."

"What on earth are they doing?" asked Robert. "They appear to be sitting
on the ground in some sort of a cellar."

"Most dangerous-looking characters," said the old man. "I should
strongly recommend you to send for a policeman."

"I have done so. But it seems a work of supererogation to take them to
prison, for they are very snugly in prison already. However, I suppose
that the law must have its own."

"And who are they, and how did they come there? Do tell us, Mr. Haw."

Laura McIntyre had a pretty beseeching way with her, which went rather
piquantly with her queenly style of beauty.

"I know no more than you do. They were not there last night, and they
are here this morning, so I suppose it is a safe inference that they
came in during the night, especially as my servants found the window
open when they came down. As to their character and intentions, I should
think that is pretty legible upon their faces. They look a pair of
beauties, don't they?"

"But I cannot understand in the least where they are," said Robert,
staring into the mirror. "One of them has taken to butting his head
against the wall. No, he is bending so that the other may stand upon his
back. He is up there now, and the light is shining upon his face. What
a bewildered ruffianly face it is too. I should so like to sketch it.
It would be a study for the picture I am thinking of of the Reign of
Terror."

"I have caught them in my patent burglar trap," said Haw. "They are my
first birds, but I have no doubt that they will not be the last. I will
show you how it works. It is quite a new thing. This flooring is now
as strong as possible, but every night I disconnect it. It is done
simultaneously by a central machine for every room on the ground-floor.
When the floor is disconnected one may advance three or four steps,
either from the window or door, and then that whole part turns on a
hinge and slides you into a padded strong-room beneath, where you may
kick your heels until you are released. There is a central oasis between
the hinges, where the furniture is grouped for the night. The flooring
flies into position again when the weight of the intruder is removed,
and there he must bide, while I can always take a peep at him by this
simple little optical arrangement. I thought it might amuse you to have
a look at my prisoners before I handed them over to the head-constable,
who I see is now coming up the avenue."

"The poor burglars!" cried Laura. "It is no wonder that they look
bewildered, for I suppose, Mr. Haw, that they neither know where they
are, nor how they came there. I am so glad to know that you guard
yourself in this way, for I have often thought that you ran a danger."

"Have you so?" said he, smiling round at her. "I think that my house
is fairly burglar-proof. I have one window which may be used as an
entrance, the centre one of the three of my laboratory. I keep it so
because, to tell the truth, I am somewhat of a night prowler myself, and
when I treat myself to a ramble under the stars I like to slip in and
out without ceremony. It would, however, be a fortunate rogue who picked
the only safe entrance out of a hundred, and even then he might find
pitfalls. Here is the constable, but you must not go, for Miss McIntyre
has still something to see in my little place. If you will step into the
billiard-room I shall be with you in a very few moments."



CHAPTER VIII. A BILLIONAIRE'S PLANS.


That morning, and many mornings both before and afterwards, were spent
by Laura at the New Hall examining the treasures of the museum, playing
with the thousand costly toys which Raffles Haw had collected, or
sallying out from the smoking-room in the crystal chamber into the long
line of luxurious hot-houses. Haw would walk demurely beside her as
she flitted from one thing to another like a butterfly among flowers,
watching her out of the corner of his eyes, and taking a quiet pleasure
in her delight. The only joy which his costly possessions had ever
brought him was that which came from the entertainment of others.

By this time his attentions towards Laura McIntyre had become so
marked that they could hardly be mistaken. He visibly brightened in
her presence, and was never weary of devising a thousand methods of
surprising and pleasing her. Every morning ere the McIntyre family were
afoot a great bouquet of strange and beautiful flowers was brought
down by a footman from the Hall to brighten their breakfast-table. Her
slightest wish, however fantastic, was instantly satisfied, if human
money or ingenuity could do it. When the frost lasted a stream was
dammed and turned from its course that it might flood two meadows,
solely in order that she might have a place upon which to skate. With
the thaw there came a groom every afternoon with a sleek and beautiful
mare in case Miss McIntyre should care to ride. Everything went to show
that she had made a conquest of the recluse of the New Hall.

And she on her side played her part admirably. With female adaptiveness
she fell in with his humour, and looked at the world through his eyes.
Her talk was of almshouses and free libraries, of charities and of
improvements. He had never a scheme to which she could not add some
detail making it more complete and more effective. To Haw it seemed that
at last he had met a mind which was in absolute affinity with his own.
Here was a help-mate, who could not only follow, but even lead him in
the path which he had chosen.

Neither Robert nor his father could fail to see what was going forward,
but to the latter nothing could possibly be more acceptable than a
family tie which should connect him, however indirectly, with a man of
vast fortune. The glamour of the gold bags had crept over Robert also,
and froze the remonstrance upon his lips. It was very pleasant to have
the handling of all this wealth, even as a mere agent. Why should he
do or say what might disturb their present happy relations? It was his
sister's business, not his; and as to Hector Spurling, he must take his
chance as other men did. It was obviously best not to move one way or
the other in the matter.

But to Robert himself, his work and his surroundings were becoming more
and more irksome. His joy in his art had become less keen since he had
known Raffles Haw. It seemed so hard to toll and slave to earn such a
trifling sum, when money could really be had for the asking. It was true
that he had asked for none, but large sums were for ever passing through
his hands for those who were needy, and if he were needy himself his
friend would surely not grudge it to him. So the Roman galleys still
remained faintly outlined upon the great canvas, while Robert's days
were spent either in the luxurious library at the Hall, or in strolling
about the country listening to tales of trouble, and returning like
a tweed-suited ministering angel to carry Raffles Haw's help to the
unfortunate. It was not an ambitious life, but it was one which was very
congenial to his weak and easy-going nature.

Robert had observed that fits of depression had frequently come upon
the millionaire, and it had sometimes struck him that the enormous sums
which he spent had possibly made a serious inroad into his capital, and
that his mind was troubled as to the future. His abstracted manner, his
clouded brow, and his bent head all spoke of a soul which was weighed
down with care, and it was only in Laura's presence that he could throw
off the load of his secret trouble. For five hours a day he buried
himself in the laboratory and amused himself with his hobby, but it
was one of his whims that no one, neither any of his servants, nor
even Laura or Robert, should ever cross the threshold of that outlying
building. Day after day he vanished into it, to reappear hours
afterwards pale and exhausted, while the whirr of machinery and the
smoke which streamed from his high chimney showed how considerable were
the operations which he undertook single-handed.

"Could I not assist you in any way?" suggested Robert, as they sat
together after luncheon in the smoking-room. "I am convinced that you
over-try your strength. I should be so glad to help you, and I know a
little of chemistry."

"Do you, indeed?" said Raffles Haw, raising his eyebrows. "I had no
idea of that; it is very seldom that the artistic and the scientific
faculties go together."

"I don't know that I have either particularly developed. But I have
taken classes, and I worked for two years in the laboratory at Sir
Josiah Mason's Institute."

"I am delighted to hear it," Haw replied with emphasis. "That may be
of great importance to us. It is very possible--indeed, almost
certain--that I shall avail myself of your offer of assistance, and
teach you something of my chemical methods, which I may say differ
considerably from those of the orthodox school. The time, however, is
hardly ripe for that. What is it, Jones?"

"A note, sir."

The butler handed it in upon a silver salver. Haw broke the seal and ran
his eye over it.

"Tut! tut! It is from Lady Morsley, asking me to the Lord-Lieutenant's
ball. I cannot possibly accept. It is very kind of them, but I do wish
they would leave me alone. Very well, Jones. I shall write. Do you know,
Robert, I am often very unhappy."

He frequently called the young artist by his Christian name, especially
in his more confidential moments.

"I have sometimes feared that you were," said the other sympathetically.
"But how strange it seems, you who are yet young, healthy, with every
faculty for enjoyment, and a millionaire."

"Ah, Robert," cried Haw, leaning back in his chair, and sending up thick
blue wreaths from his pipe. "You have put your finger upon my
trouble. If I were a millionaire I might be happy, but, alas, I am no
millionaire!"

"Good heavens!" gasped Robert.

Cold seemed to shoot to his inmost soul as it flashed upon him that this
was a prelude to a confession of impending bankruptcy, and that all this
glorious life, all the excitement and the colour and change, were about
to vanish into thin air.

"No millionaire!" he stammered.

"No, Robert; I am a billionaire--perhaps the only one in the world. That
is what is on my mind, and why I am unhappy sometimes. I feel that I
should spend this money--that I should put it in circulation--and yet it
is so hard to do it without failing to do good--without doing positive
harm. I feel my responsibility deeply. It weighs me down. Am I justified
in continuing to live this quiet life when there are so many millions
whom I might save and comfort if I could but reach them?"

Robert heaved a long sigh of relief. "Perhaps you take too grave a view
of your responsibilities," he said. "Everybody knows that the good which
you have done is immense. What more could you desire? If you really
wished to extend your benevolence further, there are organised charities
everywhere which would be very glad of your help."

"I have the names of two hundred and seventy of them," Haw answered.
"You must run your eye over them some time, and see if you can suggest
any others. I send my annual mite to each of them. I don't think there
is much room for expansion in that direction."

"Well, really you have done your share, and more than your share.
I would settle down to lead a happy life, and think no more of the
matter."

"I could not do that," Haw answered earnestly. "I have not been singled
out to wield this immense power simply in order that I might lead
a happy life. I can never believe that. Now, can you not use your
imagination, Robert, and devise methods by which a man who has command
of--well, let us say, for argument's sake, boundless wealth, could
benefit mankind by it, without taking away any one's independence or in
any way doing harm?"

"Well, really, now that I come to think of it, it is a very difficult
problem," said Robert.

"Now I will submit a few schemes to you, and you may give me your
opinion on them. Supposing that such a man were to buy ten square miles
of ground here in Staffordshire, and were to build upon it a neat city,
consisting entirely of clean, comfortable little four-roomed
houses, furnished in a simple style, with shops and so forth, but no
public-houses. Supposing, too, that he were to offer a house free to all
the homeless folk, all the tramps, and broken men, and out-of-workers
in Great Britain. Then, having collected them together, let him employ
them, under fitting superintendence, upon some colossal piece of work
which would last for many years, and perhaps be of permanent value to
humanity. Give them a good rate of pay, and let their hours of labour be
reasonable, and those of recreation be pleasant. Might you not benefit
them and benefit humanity at one stroke?"

"But what form of work could you devise which would employ so vast
a number for so long a time, and yet not compete with any existing
industry? To do the latter would simply mean to shift the misery from
one class to another."

"Precisely so. I should compete with no one. What I thought of doing was
of sinking a shaft through the earth's crust, and of establishing rapid
communication with the Antipodes. When you had got a certain distance
down--how far is an interesting mathematical problem--the centre of
gravity would be beneath you, presuming that your boring was not quite
directed towards the centre, and you could then lay down rails and
tunnel as if you were on the level."

Then for the first time it flashed into Robert McIntyre's head that his
father's chance words were correct, and that he was in the presence of
a madman. His great wealth had clearly turned his brain, and made him a
monomaniac. He nodded indulgently, as when one humours a child.

"It would be very nice," he said. "I have heard, however, that the
interior of the earth is molten, and your workmen would need to be
Salamanders."

"The latest scientific data do not bear out the idea that the earth
is so hot," answered Raffles Haw. "It is certain that the increased
temperature in coal mines depends upon the barometric pressure. There
are gases in the earth which may be ignited, and there are combustible
materials as we see in the volcanoes; but if we came across anything of
the sort in our borings, we could turn a river or two down the shaft,
and get the better of it in that fashion."

"It would be rather awkward if the other end of your shaft came out
under the Pacific Ocean," said Robert, choking down his inclination to
laugh.

"I have had estimates and calculations from the first living
engineers--French, English, and American. The point of exit of the
tunnel could be calculated to the yard. That portfolio in the corner is
full of sections, plans, and diagrams. I have agents employed in buying
up land, and if all goes well, we may get to work in the autumn. That is
one device which may produce results. Another is canal-cutting."

"Ah, there you would compete with the railways."

"You don't quite understand. I intend to cut canals through every neck
of land where such a convenience would facilitate commerce. Such a
scheme, when unaccompanied by any toll upon vessels, would, I think, be
a very judicious way of helping the human race."

"And where, pray, would you cut the canals?" asked Robert.

"I have a map of the world here," Haw answered, rising, and taking one
down from the paper-rack. "You see the blue pencil marks. Those are the
points where I propose to establish communication. Of course, I should
begin by the obvious duty of finishing the Panama business."

"Naturally." The man's lunacy was becoming more and more obvious, and
yet there was such precision and coolness in his manner, that Robert
found himself against his own reason endorsing and speculating over his
plans.

"The Isthmus of Corinth also occurs to one. That, however, is a small
matter, from either a financial or an engineering point of view. I
propose, however, to make a junction here, through Kiel between the
German Ocean and the Baltic. It saves, you will observe, the whole
journey round the coast of Denmark, and would facilitate our trade with
Germany and Russia. Another very obvious improvement is to join the
Forth and the Clyde, so as to connect Leith with the Irish and American
routes. You see the blue line?"

"Quite so."

"And we will have a little cutting here. It will run from Uleaborg to
Kem, and will connect the White Sea with the Gulf of Bothnia. We must
not allow our sympathies to be insular, must we? Our little charities
should be cosmopolitan. We will try and give the good people of
Archangel a better outlet for their furs and their tallow."

"But it will freeze."

"For six months in the year. Still, it will be something. Then we must
do something for the East. It would never do to overlook the East."

"It would certainly be an oversight," said Robert, who was keenly alive
to the comical side of the question. Raffles Haw, however, in deadly
earnest, sat scratching away at his map with his blue pencil.

"Here is a point where we might be of some little use. If we cut through
from Batoum to the Kura River we might tap the trade of the Caspian, and
open up communication with all the rivers which run into it. You notice
that they include a considerable tract of country. Then, again, I think
that we might venture upon a little cutting between Beirut, on the
Mediterranean, and the upper waters of the Euphrates, which would lead
us into the Persian Gulf. Those are one or two of the more obvious
canals which might knit the human race into a closer whole."

"Your plans are certainly stupendous," said Robert, uncertain whether to
laugh or to be awe-struck. "You will cease to be a man, and become one
of the great forces of Nature, altering, moulding, and improving."

"That is precisely the view which I take of myself. That is why I feel
my responsibility so acutely."

"But surely if you will do all this you may rest. It is a considerable
programme."

"Not at all. I am a patriotic Briton, and I should like to do something
to leave my name in the annals of my country. I should prefer, however,
to do it after my own death, as anything in the shape of publicity and
honour is very offensive to me. I have, therefore, put by eight hundred
million in a place which shall be duly mentioned in my will, which I
propose to devote to paying off the National Debt. I cannot see that any
harm could arise from its extinction."

Robert sat staring, struck dumb by the audacity of the strange man's
words.

"Then there is the heating of the soil. There is room for improvement
there. You have no doubt read of the immense yields which have resulted
in Jersey and elsewhere, from the running of hot-water pipes through the
soil. The crops are trebled and quadrupled. I would propose to try the
experiment upon a larger scale. We might possibly reserve the Isle of
Man to serve as a pumping and heating station. The main pipes would run
to England, Ireland, and Scotland, where they would subdivide rapidly
until they formed a network two feet deep under the whole country. A
pipe at distances of a yard would suffice for every purpose."

"I am afraid," suggested Robert, "that the water which left the Isle of
Man warm might lose a little of its virtue before it reached Caithness,
for example."

"There need not be any difficulty there. Every few miles a furnace might
be arranged to keep up the temperature. These are a few of my plans for
the future, Robert, and I shall want the co-operation of disinterested
men like yourself in all of them. But how brightly the sun shines, and
how sweet the countryside looks! The world is very beautiful, and
I should like to leave it happier than I found it. Let us walk out
together, Robert, and you will tell me of any fresh cases where I may be
of assistance."



CHAPTER IX. A NEW DEPARTURE.


Whatever good Mr. Raffles Haw's wealth did to the world, there could be
no doubt that there were cases where it did harm. The very contemplation
and thought of it had upon many a disturbing and mischievous effect.
Especially was this the case with the old gunmaker. From being merely
a querulous and grasping man, he had now become bitter, brooding, and
dangerous. Week by week, as he saw the tide of wealth flow as it were
through his very house without being able to divert the smallest rill to
nourish his own fortunes, he became more wolfish and more hungry-eyed.
He spoke less of his own wrongs, but he brooded more, and would stand
for hours on Tamfield Hill looking down at the great palace beneath, as
a thirst-stricken man might gaze at the desert mirage.

He had worked, and peeped, and pried, too, until there were points upon
which he knew more than either his son or his daughter.

"I suppose that you still don't know where your friend gets his money?"
he remarked to Robert one morning, as they walked together through the
village.

"No, father, I do not. I only know that he spends it very well."

"Well!" snarled the old man. "Yes, very well! He has helped every tramp
and slut and worthless vagabond over the countryside, but he will
not advance a pound, even on the best security, to help a respectable
business man to fight against misfortune."

"My dear father, I really cannot argue with you about it," said Robert.
"I have already told you more than once what I think. Mr. Haw's object
is to help those who are destitute. He looks upon us as his equals, and
would not presume to patronise us, or to act as if we could not help
ourselves. It would be a humiliation to us to take his money."

"Pshaw! Besides, it is only a question of an advance, and advances
are made every day among business men. How can you talk such nonsense,
Robert?"

Early as it was, his son could see from his excited, quarrelsome manner
that the old man had been drinking. The habit had grown upon him of
late, and it was seldom now that he was entirely sober.

"Mr. Raffles Haw is the best judge," said Robert coldly. "If he earns
the money, he has a right to spend it as he likes."

"And how does he earn it? You don't know, Robert. You don't know that
you aren't aiding and abetting a felony when you help him to fritter
it away. Was ever so much money earned in an honest fashion? I tell you
there never was. I tell you, also, that lumps of gold are no more to
that man than chunks of coal to the miners over yonder. He could build
his house of them and think nothing of it."

"I know that he is very rich, father. I think, however, that he has an
extravagant way of talking sometimes, and that his imagination carries
him away. I have heard him talk of plans which the richest man upon
earth could not possibly hope to carry through."

"Don't you make any mistake, my son. Your poor old father isn't quite
a fool, though he is only an honest broken merchant." He looked up
sideways at his son with a wink and a most unpleasant leer. "Where
there's money I can smell it. There's money there, and heaps of it.
It's my belief that he is the richest man in the world, though how he
came to be so I should not like to guarantee. I'm not quite blind yet,
Robert. Have you seen the weekly waggon?"

"The weekly waggon!"

"Yes, Robert. You see I can find some news for you yet. It is due this
morning. Every Saturday morning you will see the waggon come in. Why,
here it is now, as I am a living man, coming round the curve."

Robert glanced back and saw a great heavy waggon drawn by two strong
horses lumbering slowly along the road which led to the New Hall. From
the efforts of the animals and its slow pace the contents seemed to be
of great weight.

"Just you wait here," old McIntyre cried, plucking at his son's sleeve
with his thin bony hand. "Wait here and see it pass. Then we will watch
what becomes of it."

They stood by the side of the road until it came abreast of them. The
waggon was covered with tarpaulin sheetings in front and at the sides,
but behind some glimpse could be caught of the contents. They consisted,
as far as Robert could see, of a number of packets of the same shape,
each about two feet long and six inches high, arranged symmetrically
upon the top of each other. Each packet was surrounded by a covering of
coarse sacking.

"What do you think of that?" asked old McIntyre triumphantly as the load
creaked past.

"Why, father? What do you make of it?"

"I have watched it, Robert--I have watched it every Saturday, and I had
my chance of looking a little deeper into it. You remember the day when
the elm blew down, and the road was blocked until they could saw it in
two. That was on a Saturday, and the waggon came to a stand until they
could clear a way for it. I was there, Robert, and I saw my chance.
I strolled behind the waggon, and I placed my hands upon one of those
packets. They look small, do they not? It would take a strong man to
lift one. They are heavy, Robert, heavy, and hard with the hardness of
metal. I tell you, boy, that that waggon is loaded with gold."

"Gold!"

"With solid bars of gold, Robert. But come into the plantation and we
shall see what becomes of it."

They passed through the lodge gates, behind the waggon, and then
wandered off among the fir-trees until they gained a spot where they
could command a view. The load had halted, not in front of the house,
but at the door of the out-building with the chimney. A staff of
stablemen and footmen were in readiness, who proceeded to swiftly unload
and to carry the packages through the door. It was the first time that
Robert had ever seen any one save the master of the house enter the
laboratory. No sign was seen of him now, however, and in half an hour
the contents had all been safely stored and the waggon had driven
briskly away.

"I cannot understand it, father," said Robert thoughtfully, as they
resumed their walk. "Supposing that your supposition is correct, who
would send him such quantities of gold, and where could it come from?"

"Ha, you have to come to the old man after all!" chuckled his companion.
"I can see the little game. It is clear enough to me. There are two of
them in it, you understand. The other one gets the gold. Never mind how,
but we will hope that there is no harm. Let us suppose, for example,
that they have found a marvellous mine, where you can just shovel it out
like clay from a pit. Well, then, he sends it on to this one, and he has
his furnaces and his chemicals, and he refines and purifies it and makes
it fit to sell. That's my explanation of it, Robert. Eh, has the old man
put his finger on it?"

"But if that were true, father, the gold must go back again."

"So it does, Robert, but a little at a time. Ha, ha! I've had my eyes
open, you see. Every night it goes down in a small cart, and is sent on
to London by the 7.40. Not in bars this time, but done up in iron-bound
chests. I've seen them, boy, and I've had this hand upon them."

"Well," said the young man thoughtfully, "maybe you are right. It is
possible that you are right."

While father and son were prying into his secrets, Raffles Haw had found
his way to Elmdene, where Laura sat reading the _Queen_ by the fire.

"I am so sorry," she said, throwing down her paper and springing to
her feet. "They are all out except me. But I am sure that they won't be
long. I expect Robert every moment."

"I would rather speak with you alone," answered Raffles Haw quietly.
"Pray sit down, for I wanted to have a little chat with you."

Laura resumed her seat with a flush upon her cheeks and a quickening of
the breath. She turned her face away and gazed into the fire; but there
was a sparkle in her eyes which was not caught from the leaping flames.

"Do you remember the first time that we met, Miss McIntyre?" he
asked, standing on the rug and looking down at her dark hair, and the
beautifully feminine curve of her ivory neck.

"As if it were yesterday," she answered in her sweet mellow tones.

"Then you must also remember the wild words that I said when we
parted. It was very foolish of me. I am sure that I am most sorry if I
frightened or disturbed you, but I have been a very solitary man for a
long time, and I have dropped into a bad habit of thinking aloud. Your
voice, your face, your manner, were all so like my ideal of a true
woman, loving, faithful, and sympathetic, that I could not help
wondering whether, if I were a poor man, I might ever hope to win the
affection of such a one."

"Your good opinion, Mr. Raffles Haw, is very dear to me," said Laura.
"I assure you that I was not frightened, and that there is no need to
apologise for what was really a compliment."

"Since then I have found," he continued, "that all that I had read upon
your face was true. That your mind is indeed that of the true woman,
full of the noblest and sweetest qualities which human nature can aspire
to. You know that I am a man of fortune, but I wish you to dismiss that
consideration from your mind. Do you think from what you know of my
character that you could be happy as my wife, Laura?"

She made no answer, but still sat with her head turned away and her
sparkling eyes fixed upon the fire. One little foot from under her skirt
tapped nervously upon the rug.

"It is only right that you should know a little more about me before you
decide. There is, however, little to know. I am an orphan, and, as far
as I know, without a relation upon earth. My father was a respectable
man, a country surgeon in Wales, and he brought me up to his own
profession. Before I had passed my examinations, however, he died and
left me a small annuity. I had conceived a great liking for the subjects
of chemistry and electricity, and instead of going on with my medical
work I devoted myself entirely to these studies, and eventually built
myself a laboratory where I could follow out my own researches. At about
this time I came into a very large sum of money, so large as to make me
feel that a vast responsibility rested upon me in the use which I made
of it. After some thought I determined to build a large house in a quiet
part of the country, not too far from a great centre. There I could be
in touch with the world, and yet would have quiet and leisure to mature
the schemes which were in my head. As it chanced, I chose Tamfield as my
site. All that remains now is to carry out the plans which I have
made, and to endeavour to lighten the earth of some of the misery and
injustice which weigh it down. I again ask you, Laura, will you throw
in your lot with mine, and help me in the life's work which lies before
me?"

Laura looked up at him, at his stringy figure, his pale face, his keen,
yet gentle eyes. Somehow as she looked there seemed to form itself
beside him some shadow of Hector Spurling, the manly features, the
clear, firm mouth, the frank manner. Now, in the very moment of her
triumph, it sprang clearly up in her mind how at the hour of their
ruin he had stood firmly by them, and had loved the penniless girl as
tenderly as the heiress to fortune. That last embrace at the door, too,
came back to her, and she felt his lips warm upon her own.

"I am very much honoured, Mr. Haw," she stammered, "but this is so
sudden. I have not had time to think. I do not know what to say."

"Do not let me hurry you," he cried earnestly. "I beg that you will
think well over it. I shall come again for my answer. When shall I come?
Tonight?"

"Yes, come tonight."

"Then, adieu. Believe me that I think more highly of you for your
hesitation. I shall live in hope." He raised her hand to his lips, and
left her to her own thoughts.

But what those thoughts were did not long remain in doubt. Dimmer and
dimmer grew the vision of the distant sailor face, clearer and clearer
the image of the vast palace, of the queenly power, of the diamonds, the
gold, the ambitious future. It all lay at her feet, waiting to be picked
up. How could she have hesitated, even for a moment? She rose, and,
walking over to her desk, she took out a sheet of paper and an envelope.
The latter she addressed to Lieutenant Spurling, H.M.S. _Active_,
Gibraltar. The note cost some little trouble, but at last she got it
worded to her mind.

   "Dear Hector," she said--"I am convinced that your father has
   never         entirely approved of our engagement, otherwise he
   would not have thrown obstacles in the way of our marriage.
   I am sure, too, that since my poor father's misfortune it is
   only your own sense of honour and feeling of duty which have
   kept you true to me, and that you would have done infinitely
   better had you never seen me.  I cannot bear, Hector, to allow
   you to imperil your future for my sake, and I have determined,
   after thinking well over the matter, to release you from our
   boy and girl engagement, so that you may be entirely free in
   every way.  It is possible that you may think it unkind of me
   to do this now, but I am quite sure, dear Hector, that when you
   are an admiral and a very distinguished man, you will look back
   at this, and you will see that I have been a true friend to you,
   and have prevented you from making a false step early in your
   career.  For myself, whether I marry or not, I have determined
   to devote the remainder of my life to trying to do good, and to
   leaving the world happier than I found it.  Your father is very
   well, and gave us a capital sermon last Sunday.  I enclose the
   bank-note which you asked me to keep for you.  Good-bye, for ever,
   dear Hector, and believe me when I say that, come what may, I am
   ever your true friend,

   "Laura S. McIntyre."

She had hardly sealed her letter before her father and Robert returned.
She closed the door behind them, and made them a little curtsey.

"I await my family's congratulations," she said, with her head in the
air. "Mr. Raffles Haw has been here, and he has asked me to be his
wife."

"The deuce he did!" cried the old man. "And you said--?"

"I am to see him again."

"And you will say--?"

"I will accept him."

"You were always a good girl, Laura," said old McIntyre, standing on his
tiptoes to kiss her.

"But Laura, Laura, how about Hector?" asked Robert in mild remonstrance.

"Oh, I have written to him," his sister answered carelessly. "I wish you
would be good enough to post the letter."



CHAPTER X. THE GREAT SECRET.


And so Laura McIntyre became duly engaged to Raffles Haw, and old
McIntyre grew even more hungry-looking as he felt himself a step nearer
to the source of wealth, while Robert thought less of work than ever,
and never gave as much as a thought to the great canvas which still
stood, dust-covered, upon his easel. Haw gave Laura an engagement ring
of old gold, with a great blazing diamond bulging out of it. There was
little talk about the matter, however, for it was Haw's wish that all
should be done very quietly. Nearly all his evenings were spent at
Elmdene, where he and Laura would build up the most colossal schemes of
philanthropy for the future. With a map stretched out on the table in
front of them, these two young people would, as it were, hover over the
world, planning, devising, and improving.

"Bless the girl!" said old McIntyre to his son; "she speaks about it as
if she were born to millions. Maybe, when once she is married, she won't
be so ready to chuck her money into every mad scheme that her husband
can think of."

"Laura is greatly changed," Robert answered; "she has grown much more
serious in her ideas."

"You wait a bit!" sniggered his father. "She is a good girl, is Laura,
and she knows what she is about. She's not a girl to let her old dad go
to the wall if she can set him right. It's a pretty state of things," he
added bitterly: "here's my daughter going to marry a man who thinks no
more of gold than I used to of gun-metal; and here's my son going about
with all the money he cares to ask for to help every ne'er-do-well in
Staffordshire; and here's their father, who loved them and cared for
them, and brought them both up, without money enough very often to buy
a bottle of brandy. I don't know what your poor dear mother would have
thought of it."

"You have only to ask for what you want."

"Yes, as if I were a five-year-old child. But I tell you, Robert, I'll
have my rights, and if I can't get them one way I will another. I won't
be treated as if I were no one. And there's one thing: if I am to be
this man's pa-in-law, I'll want to know something about him and his
money first. We may be poor, but we are honest. I'll up to the Hall now,
and have it out with him." He seized his hat and stick and made for the
door.

"No, no, father," cried Robert, catching him by the sleeve. "You had
better leave the matter alone. Mr. Haw is a very sensitive man. He would
not like to be examined upon such a point. It might lead to a serious
quarrel. I beg that you will not go."

"I am not to be put off for ever," snarled the old man, who had been
drinking heavily. "I'll put my foot down now, once and for ever." He
tugged at his sleeve to free himself from his son's grasp.

"At least you shall not go without Laura knowing. I will call her down,
and we shall have her opinion."

"Oh, I don't want to have any scenes," said McIntyre sulkily, relaxing
his efforts. He lived in dread of his daughter, and at his worst moments
the mention of her name would serve to restrain him.

"Besides," said Robert, "I have not the slightest doubt that Raffles
Haw will see the necessity for giving us some sort of explanation before
matters go further. He must understand that we have some claim now to be
taken into his confidence."

He had hardly spoken when there was a tap at the door, and the man of
whom they were speaking walked in.

"Good-morning, Mr. McIntyre," said he. "Robert, would you mind stepping
up to the Hall with me? I want to have a little business chat." He
looked serious, like a man who is carrying out something which he has
well weighed.

They walked up together with hardly a word on either side. Raffles Haw
was absorbed in his own thoughts. Robert felt expectant and nervous,
for he knew that something of importance lay before him. The winter had
almost passed now, and the first young shoots were beginning to peep out
timidly in the face of the wind and the rain of an English March. The
snows were gone, but the countryside looked bleaker and drearier, all
shrouded in the haze from the damp, sodden meadows.

"By the way, Robert," said Raffles Haw suddenly, as they walked up the
Avenue. "Has your great Roman picture gone to London?"

"I have not finished it yet."

"But I know that you are a quick worker. You must be nearly at the end
of it."

"No, I am afraid that it has not advanced much since you saw it. For one
thing, the light has not been very good."

Raffles Haw said nothing, but a pained expression flashed over his face.
When they reached the house he led the way through the museum. Two great
metal cases were lying on the floor.

"I have a small addition there to the gem collection," he remarked as he
passed. "They only arrived last night, and I have not opened them yet,
but I am given to understand from the letters and invoices that there
are some fine specimens. We might arrange them this afternoon, if you
care to assist me. Let us go into the smoking-room now."

He threw himself down into a settee, and motioned Robert into the
armchair in front of him.

"Light a cigar," he said. "Press the spring if there is any refreshment
which you would like. Now, my dear Robert, confess to me in the first
place that you have often thought me mad."

The charge was so direct and so true that the young artist hesitated,
hardly knowing how to answer.

"My dear boy, I do not blame you. It was the most natural thing in the
world. I should have looked upon anyone as a madman who had talked to me
as I have talked to you. But for all that, Robert, you were wrong, and I
have never yet in our conversations proposed any scheme which it was not
well within my power to carry out. I tell you in all sober earnest that
the amount of my income is limited only by my desire, and that all the
bankers and financiers combined could not furnish the sums which I can
put forward without an effort."

"I have had ample proof of your immense wealth," said Robert.

"And you are very naturally curious as to how that wealth was obtained.
Well, I can tell you one thing. The money is perfectly clean. I have
robbed no one, cheated no one, sweated no one, ground no one down in the
gaining of it. I can read your father's eye, Robert. I can see that he
has done me an injustice in this matter. Well, perhaps he is not to be
blamed. Perhaps I also might think uncharitable things if I were In his
place. But that is why I now give an explanation to you, Robert, and not
to him. You, at least, have trusted me, and you have a right, before I
become one of your family, to know all that I can tell you. Laura also
has trusted me, but I know well that she is content still to trust me."

"I would not intrude upon your secrets, Mr. Haw," said Robert, "but
of course I cannot deny that I should be very proud and pleased if you
cared to confide them to me."

"And I will. Not all. I do not think that I shall ever, while I live,
tell all. But I shall leave directions behind me so that when I die you
may be able to carry on my unfinished work. I shall tell you where those
directions are to be found. In the meantime, you must be content to
learn the effects which I produce without knowing every detail as to the
means."

Robert settled himself down in his chair and concentrated his attention
upon his companion's words, while Haw bent forward his eager, earnest
face, like a man who knows the value of the words which he is saying.

"You are already aware," he remarked, "that I have devoted a great deal
of energy and of time to the study of chemistry."

"So you told me."

"I commenced my studies under a famous English chemist, I continued
them under the best man in France, and I completed them in the most
celebrated laboratory of Germany. I was not rich, but my father had left
me enough to keep me comfortably, and by living economically I had a
sum at my command which enabled me to carry out my studies in a very
complete way. When I returned to England I built myself a laboratory
in a quiet country place where I could work without distraction or
interruption. There I began a series of investigations which soon took
me into regions of science to which none of the three famous men who
taught me had ever penetrated.

"You say, Robert, that you have some slight knowledge of chemistry, and
you will find it easier to follow what I say. Chemistry is to a large
extent an empirical science, and the chance experiment may lead to
greater results than could, with our present data, be derived from the
closest study or the keenest reasoning. The most important chemical
discoveries from the first manufacture of glass to the whitening and
refining of sugar have all been due to some happy chance which might
have befallen a mere dabbler as easily as a deep student.

"Well, it was to such a chance that my own great discovery--perhaps the
greatest that the world has seen--was due, though I may claim the credit
of having originated the line of thought which led up to it. I had
frequently speculated as to the effect which powerful currents of
electricity exercise upon any substance through which they are poured
for a considerable time. I did not here mean such feeble currents as
are passed along a telegraph wire, but I mean the very highest possible
developments. Well, I tried a series of experiments upon this point. I
found that in liquids, and in compounds, the force had a disintegrating
effect. The well-known experiment of the electrolysis of water will, of
course, occur to you. But I found that in the case of elemental solids
the effect was a remarkable one. The element slowly decreased in weight,
without perceptibly altering in composition. I hope that I make myself
clear to you?"

"I follow you entirely," said Robert, deeply interested in his
companion's narrative.

"I tried upon several elements, and always with the same result. In
every case an hour's current would produce a perceptible loss of weight.
My theory at that stage was that there was a loosening of the molecules
caused by the electric fluid, and that a certain number of these
molecules were shed off like an impalpable dust, all round the lump of
earth or of metal, which remained, of course, the lighter by their loss.
I had entirely accepted this theory, when a very remarkable chance led
me to completely alter my opinions.

"I had one Saturday night fastened a bar of bismuth in a clamp, and had
attached it on either side to an electric wire, in order to observe what
effect the current would have upon it. I had been testing each metal in
turn, exposing them to the influence for from one to two hours. I had
just got everything in position, and had completed my connection, when
I received a telegram to say that John Stillingfleet, an old chemist in
London with whom I had been on terms of intimacy, was dangerously ill,
and had expressed a wish to see me. The last train was due to leave in
twenty minutes, and I lived a good mile from the station, I thrust a few
things into a bag, locked my laboratory, and ran as hard as I could to
catch it.

"It was not until I was in London that it suddenly occurred to me that
I had neglected to shut off the current, and that it would continue to
pass through the bar of bismuth until the batteries were exhausted. The
fact, however, seemed to be of small importance, and I dismissed it from
my mind. I was detained in London until the Tuesday night, and it
was Wednesday morning before I got back to my work. As I unlocked the
laboratory door my mind reverted to the uncompleted experiment, and it
struck me that in all probability my piece of bismuth would have been
entirely disintegrated and reduced to its primitive molecules. I was
utterly unprepared for the truth.

"When I approached the table I found, sure enough, that the bar of metal
had vanished, and that the clamp was empty. Having noted the fact, I was
about to turn away to something else, when my attention was attracted to
the fact that the table upon which the clamp stood was starred over with
little patches of some liquid silvery matter, which lay in single drops
or coalesced into little pools. I had a very distinct recollection of
having thoroughly cleared the table before beginning my experiment,
so that this substance had been deposited there since I had left for
London. Much interested, I very carefully collected it all into one
vessel, and examined it minutely. There could be no question as to what
it was. It was the purest mercury, and gave no response to any test for
bismuth.

"I at once grasped the fact that chance had placed in my hands a
chemical discovery of the very first importance. If bismuth were, under
certain conditions, to be subjected to the action of electricity, it
would begin by losing weight, and would finally be transformed into
mercury. I had broken down the partition which separated two elements.

"But the process would be a constant one. It would presumably prove
to be a general law, and not an isolated fact. If bismuth turned into
mercury, what would mercury turn into? There would be no rest for me
until I had solved the question. I renewed the exhausted batteries and
passed the current through the bowl of quicksilver. For sixteen hours I
sat watching the metal, marking how it slowly seemed to curdle, to grow
firmer, to lose its silvery glitter and to take a dull yellow hue. When
I at last picked it up in a forceps, and threw it upon the table, it had
lost every characteristic of mercury, and had obviously become another
metal. A few simple tests were enough to show me that this other metal
was platinum.

"Now, to a chemist, there was something very suggestive in the order in
which these changes had been effected. Perhaps you can see the relation,
Robert, which they bear to each other?"

"No, I cannot say that I do."

Robert had sat listening to this strange statement with parted lips and
staring eyes.

"I will show you. Speaking atomically, bismuth is the heaviest of the
metals. Its atomic weight is 210. The next in weight is lead, 207, and
then comes mercury at 200. Possibly the long period during which the
current had acted in my absence had reduced the bismuth to lead and
the lead in turn to mercury. Now platinum stands at 197.5, and it was
accordingly the next metal to be produced by the continued current. Do
you see now?"

"It is quite clear."

"And then there came the inference, which sent my heart into my mouth
and caused my head to swim round. Gold is the next in the series.
Its atomic weight is 197. I remembered now, and for the first time
understood why it was always lead and mercury winch were mentioned by
the old alchemists as being the two metals which might be used in their
calling. With fingers which trembled with excitement I adjusted the
wires again, and in little more than an hour--for the length of the
process was always in proportion to the difference in the metals--I
had before me a knob of ruddy crinkled metal, which answered to every
reaction for gold.

"Well, Robert, this is a long story, but I think that you will agree
with me that its importance justifies me in going into detail. When
I had satisfied myself that I had really manufactured gold I cut the
nugget in two. One half I sent to a jeweller and worker in precious
metals, with whom I had some slight acquaintance, asking him to report
upon the quality of the metal. With the other half I continued my series
of experiments, and reduced it in successive stages through all the long
series of metals, through silver and zinc and manganese, until I brought
it to lithium, which is the lightest of all."

"And what did it turn to then?" asked Robert.

"Then came what to chemists is likely to be the most interesting portion
of my discovery. It turned to a greyish fine powder, which powder gave
no further results, however much I might treat it with electricity.
And that powder is the base of all things; it is the mother of all
the elements; it is, in short, the substance whose existence has been
recently surmised by a leading chemist, and which has been christened
protyle by him. I am the discoverer of the great law of the electrical
transposition of the metals, and I am the first to demonstrate protyle,
so that, I think, Robert, if all my schemes in other directions come to
nothing, my name is at least likely to live in the chemical world.

"There is not very much more for me to tell you. I had my nugget back
from my friend the jeweller, confirming my opinion as to its nature and
its quality. I soon found several methods by which the process might
be simplified, and especially a modification of the ordinary electric
current, which was very much more effective. Having made a certain
amount of gold, I disposed of it for a sum which enabled me to buy
improved materials and stronger batteries. In this way I enlarged my
operations until at last I was in a position to build this house and
to have a laboratory where I could carry out my work on a much larger
scale. As I said before, I can now state with all truth that the amount
of my income is only limited by my desires."

"It is wonderful!" gasped Robert. "It is like a fairy tale. But with
this great discovery in your mind you must have been sorely tempted to
confide it to others."

"I thought well over it. I gave it every consideration. It was obvious
to me that if my invention were made public, its immediate result would
be to deprive the present precious metals of all their special value.
Some other substance--amber, we will say, or ivory--would be chosen as a
medium for barter, and gold would be inferior to brass, as being heavier
and yet not so hard. No one would be the better for such a consummation
as that. Now, if I retained my secret, and used it with wisdom, I might
make myself the greatest benefactor to mankind that has ever
lived. Those were the chief reasons, and I trust that they are not
dishonourable ones, which led me to form the resolution, which I have
today for the first time broken."

"But your secret is safe with me," cried Robert. "My lips shall be
sealed until I have your permission to speak."

"If I had not known that I could trust you I should have withheld it
from your knowledge. And now, my dear Robert, theory is very weak work,
and practice is infinitely more interesting. I have given you more than
enough of the first. If you will be good enough to accompany me to the
laboratory I shall give you a little of the latter."



CHAPTER XI. A CHEMICAL DEMONSTRATION.


Raffles Haw led the way through the front door, and crossing over the
gravelled drive pushed open the outer door of the laboratory--the same
through which the McIntyres had seen the packages conveyed from the
waggon. On passing through it Robert found that they were not really
within the building, but merely in a large bare ante-chamber, around
the walls of which were stacked the very objects which had aroused his
curiosity and his father's speculations. All mystery had gone from
them now, however, for while some were still wrapped in their sackcloth
coverings, others had been undone, and revealed themselves as great pigs
of lead.

"There is my raw material," said Raffles Haw carelessly, nodding at the
heap. "Every Saturday I have a waggon-load sent up, which serves me
for a week, but we shall need to work double tides when Laura and I
are married, and we get our great schemes under way. I have to be very
careful about the quality of the lead, for, of course, every impurity is
reproduced in the gold."

A heavy iron door led into the inner chamber. Haw unlocked it, but only
to disclose a second one about five feet further on.

"This flooring is all disconnected at night," he remarked. "I have no
doubt that there is a good deal of gossip in the servants'-hall about
this sealed chamber, so I have to guard myself against some inquisitive
ostler or too adventurous butler."

The inner door admitted them into the laboratory, a high, bare,
whitewashed room with a glass roof. At one end was the furnace and
boiler, the iron mouth of which was closed, though the fierce red light
beat through the cracks, and a dull roar sounded through the building.
On either side innumerable huge Leyden jars stood ranged in rows, tier
topping tier, while above them were columns of Voltaic cells. Robert's
eyes, as he glanced around, lit on vast wheels, complicated networks of
wire, stands, test-tubes, coloured bottles, graduated glasses, Bunsen
burners, porcelain insulators, and all the varied _debris_ of a chemical
and electrical workshop.

"Come across here," said Raffles Haw, picking his way among the heaps of
metal, the coke, the packing-cases, and the carboys of acid. "Yours
is the first foot except my own which has ever penetrated to this
room since the workmen left it. My servants carry the lead into the
ante-room, but come no further. The furnace can be cleaned and stoked
from without. I employ a fellow to do nothing else. Now take a look in
here."

He threw open a door on the further side, and motioned to the young
artist to enter. The latter stood silent with one foot over the
threshold, staring in amazement around him. The room, which may have
been some thirty feet square, was paved and walled with gold. Great
brick-shaped ingots, closely packed, covered the whole floor, while on
every side they were reared up in compact barriers to the very ceiling.
The single electric lamp which lighted the windowless chamber struck
a dull, murky, yellow light from the vast piles of precious metal, and
gleamed ruddily upon the golden floor.

"This is my treasure house," remarked the owner. "You see that I have
rather an accumulation just now. My imports have been exceeding my
exports. You can understand that I have other and more important duties
even than the making of gold, just now. This is where I store my output
until I am ready to send it off. Every night almost I am in the habit of
sending a case of it to London. I employ seventeen brokers in its sale.
Each thinks that he is the only one, and each is dying to know where I
can get such large quantities of virgin gold. They say that it is the
purest which comes into the market. The popular theory is, I believe,
that I am a middleman acting on behalf of some new South African mine,
which wishes to keep its whereabouts a secret. What value would you put
upon the gold in this chamber? It ought to be worth something, for it
represents nearly a week's work."

"Something fabulous, I have no doubt," said Robert, glancing round at
the yellow barriers. "Shall I say a hundred and fifty thousand pounds?"

"Oh dear me, it is surely worth very much more than that," cried Raffles
Haw, laughing. "Let me see. Suppose that we put it at three ten an
ounce, which is nearly ten shillings under the mark. That makes,
roughly, fifty-six pounds for a pound in weight. Now each of these
ingots weighs thirty-six pounds, which brings their value to two
thousand and a few odd pounds. There are five hundred ingots on each of
these three sides of the room, but on the fourth there are only three
hundred, on account of the door, but there cannot be less than two
hundred on the floor, which gives us a rough total of two thousand
ingots. So you see, my dear boy, that any broker who could get the
contents of this chamber for four million pounds would be doing a nice
little stroke of business."

"And a week's work!" gasped Robert. "It makes my head swim."

"You will follow me now when I repeat that none of the great schemes
which I intend to simultaneously set in motion are at all likely to
languish for want of funds. Now come into the laboratory with me and see
how it is done."

In the centre of the workroom was an instrument like a huge vice, with
two large brass-coloured plates, and a great steel screw for bringing
them together. Numerous wires ran into these metal plates, and were
attached at the other end to the rows of dynamic machines. Beneath was
a glass stand, which was hollowed out in the centre into a succession of
troughs.

"You will soon understand all about it," said Raffles Haw, throwing off
his coat, and pulling on a smoke-stained and dirty linen jacket. "We
must first stoke up a little." He put his weight on a pair of great
bellows, and an answering roar came from the furnace. "That will do. The
more heat the more electric force, and the quicker our task. Now for the
lead! Just give me a hand in carrying it."

They lifted a dozen of the pigs of lead from the floor on to the glass
stand, and having adjusted the plates on either side, Haw screwed up the
handle so as to hold them in position.

"It used in the early days to be a slow process," he remarked; "but now
that I have immense facilities for my work it takes a very short time. I
have now only to complete the connection in order to begin."

He took hold of a long glass lever which projected from among the wires,
and drew it downwards. A sharp click was heard, followed by a loud,
sparkling, crackling noise. Great spurts of flame sprang from the two
electrodes, and the mass of lead was surrounded by an aureole of golden
sparks, which hissed and snapped like pistol-shots. The air was filled
with the peculiar acid smell of ozone.

"The power there is immense," said Raffles Haw, superintending the
process, with his watch upon the palm of his hand. "It would reduce an
organic substance to protyle instantly. It is well to understand the
mechanism thoroughly, for any mistake might be a grave matter for the
operator. You are dealing with gigantic forces. But you perceive that
the lead is already beginning to turn."

Silvery dew-like drops had indeed begun to form upon the dull-coloured
mass, and to drop with a tinkle and splash into the glass troughs.
Slowly the lead melted away, like an icicle in the sun, the electrodes
ever closing upon it as it contracted, until they came together in the
centre, and a row of pools of quicksilver had taken the place of the
solid metal. Two smaller electrodes were plunged into the mercury, which
gradually curdled and solidified, until it had resumed the solid form,
with a yellowish brassy shimmer.

"What lies in the moulds now is platinum," remarked Raffles Haw. "We
must take it from the troughs and refix it in the large electrodes.
So! Now we turn on the current again. You see that it gradually takes a
darker and richer tint. Now I think that it is perfect." He drew up the
lever, removed the electrodes, and there lay a dozen bricks of ruddy
sparkling gold.

"You see, according to our calculations, our morning's work has been
worth twenty-four thousand pounds, and it has not taken us more than
twenty minutes," remarked the alchemist, as he picked up the newly-made
ingots, and threw them down among the others.

"We will devote one of them to experiment," said he, leaving the last
standing upon the glass insulator. "To the world it would seem an
expensive demonstration which cost two thousand pounds, but our
standard, you see, is a different one. Now you will see me run through
the whole gamut of metallic nature."

First of all men after the discoverer, Robert saw the gold mass, when
the electrodes were again applied to it, change swiftly and successively
to barium, to tin, to silver, to copper, to iron. He saw the long white
electric sparks change to crimson with the strontium, to purple with the
potassium, to yellow with the manganese. Then, finally, after a hundred
transformations, it disintegrated before his eyes, and lay as a little
mound of fluffy grey dust upon the glass table.

"And this is protyle," said Haw, passing his fingers through it. "The
chemist of the future may resolve it into further constituents, but to
me it is the Ultima Thule."

"And now, Robert," he continued, after a pause, "I have shown you enough
to enable you to understand something of my system. This is the great
secret. It is the secret which endows the man who knows it with such
a universal power as no man has ever enjoyed since the world was made.
This secret it is the dearest wish of my heart to use for good, and
I swear to you, Robert McIntyre, that if I thought it would tend to
anything but good I would have done with it for ever. No, I would
neither use it myself nor would any other man learn it from my lips. I
swear it by all that is holy and solemn!"

His eyes flashed as he spoke, and his voice quivered with emotion.
Standing, pale and lanky, amid his electrodes and his retorts, there was
still something majestic about this man, who, amid all his stupendous
good fortune, could still keep his moral sense undazzled by the glitter
of his gold. Robert's weak nature had never before realised the strength
which lay in those thin, firm lips and earnest eyes.

"Surely in your hands, Mr. Haw, nothing but good can come of it," he
said.

"I hope not--I pray not--most earnestly do I pray not. I have done for
you, Robert, what I might not have done for my own brother had I one,
and I have done it because I believe and hope that you are a man who
would not use this power, should you inherit it, for selfish ends.
But even now I have not told you all. There is one link which I have
withheld from you, and which shall be withheld from you while I live.
But look at this chest, Robert."

He led him to a great iron-clamped chest which stood in the corner, and,
throwing it open, he took from it a small case of carved ivory.

"Inside this," he said, "I have left a paper which makes clear anything
which is still hidden from you. Should anything happen to me you
will always be able to inherit my powers, and to continue my plans
by following the directions which are there expressed. And now,"
he continued, throwing his casket back again into the box, "I shall
frequently require your help, but I do not think it will be necessary
this morning. I have already taken up too much of your time. If you are
going back to Elmdene I wish that you would tell Laura that I shall be
with her in the afternoon."



CHAPTER XII. A FAMILY JAR.


And so the great secret was out, and Robert walked home with his head in
a whirl, and the blood tingling in his veins. He had shivered as he
came up at the damp cold of the wind and the sight of the mist-mottled
landscape. That was all gone now. His own thoughts tinged everything
with sunshine, and he felt inclined to sing and dance as he walked
down the muddy, deeply-rutted country lane. Wonderful had been the fate
allotted to Raffles Haw, but surely hardly less important that which had
come upon himself. He was the sharer of the alchemist's secret, and
the heir to an inheritance which combined a wealth greater than that of
monarchs, to a freedom such as monarchs cannot enjoy. This was a destiny
indeed! A thousand gold-tinted visions of his future life rose up
before him, and in fancy he already sat high above the human race,
with prostrate thousands imploring his aid, or thanking him for his
benevolence.

How sordid seemed the untidy garden, with its scrappy bushes and gaunt
elm trees! How mean the plain brick front, with the green wooden porch!
It had always offended his artistic sense, but now it was obtrusive in
its ugliness. The plain room, too, with the American leather chairs, the
dull-coloured carpet, and the patchwork rug, he felt a loathing for it
all. The only pretty thing in it, upon which his eyes could rest with
satisfaction, was his sister, as she leaned back in her chair by the
fire with her white, clear beautiful face outlined against the dark
background.

"Do you know, Robert," she said, glancing up at him from under her long
black lashes, "Papa grows unendurable. I have had to speak very plainly
to him, and to make him understand that I am marrying for my own benefit
and not for his."

"Where is he, then?"

"I don't know. At the Three Pigeons, no doubt. He spends most of his
time there now. He flew off in a passion, and talked such nonsense about
marriage settlements, and forbidding the banns, and so on. His notion
of a marriage settlement appears to be a settlement upon the bride's
father. He should wait quietly, and see what can be done for him."

"I think, Laura, that we must make a good deal of allowance for him,"
said Robert earnestly. "I have noticed a great change in him lately. I
don't think he is himself at all. I must get some medical advice. But I
have been up at the Hall this morning."

"Have you? Have you seen Raffles? Did he send anything for me?"

"He said that he would come down when he had finished his work."

"But what is the matter, Robert?" cried Laura, with the swift perception
of womanhood. "You are flushed, and your eyes are shining, and really
you look quite handsome. Raffles has been telling you something! What
was it? Oh, I know! He has been telling you how he made his money.
Hasn't he, now?"

"Well, yes. He took me partly into his confidence. I congratulate you,
Laura, with all my heart, for you will be a very wealthy woman."

"How strange it seems that he should have come to us in our poverty.
It is all owing to you, you dear old Robert; for if he had not taken a
fancy to you, he would never have come down to Elmdene and taken a fancy
to some one else."

"Not at all," Robert answered, sitting down by his sister, and patting
her hand affectionately. "It was a clear case of love at first sight.
He was in love with you before he ever knew your name. He asked me about
you the very first time I saw him."

"But tell me about his money, Bob," said his sister. "He has not told
me yet, and I am so curious. How did he make it? It was not from his
father; he told me that himself. His father was just a country doctor.
How did he do it?"

"I am bound over to secrecy. He will tell you himself."

"Oh, but only tell me if I guess right. He had it left him by an uncle,
eh? Well, by a friend? Or he took out some wonderful patent? Or he
discovered a mine? Or oil? Do tell me, Robert!"

"I mustn't, really," cried her brother laughing. "And I must not talk to
you any more. You are much too sharp. I feel a responsibility about it;
and, besides, I must really do some work."

"It Is very unkind of you," said Laura, pouting. "But I must put my
things on, for I go into Birmingham by the 1.20."

"To Birmingham?"

"Yes, I have a hundred things to order. There is everything to be got.
You men forget about these details. Raffles wishes to have the wedding
in little more than a fortnight. Of course it will be very quiet, but
still one needs something."

"So early as that!" said Robert, thoughtfully. "Well, perhaps it is
better so."

"Much better, Robert. Would it not be dreadful if Hector came back first
and there was a scene? If I were once married I should not mind. Why
should I? But of course Raffles knows nothing about him, and it would be
terrible if they came together."

"That must be avoided at any cost."

"Oh, I cannot bear even to think of it. Poor Hector! And yet what could
I do, Robert? You know that it was only a boy and girl affair. And how
could I refuse such an offer as this? It was a duty to my family, was it
not?"

"You were placed in a difficult position--very difficult," her brother
answered. "But all will be right, and I have no doubt Hector will see it
as you do. But does Mr. Spurling know of your engagement?"

"Not a word. He was here yesterday, and talked of Hector, but indeed I
did not know how to tell him. We are to be married by special licence in
Birmingham, so really there is no reason why he should know. But now I
must hurry or I shall miss my train."

When his sister was gone Robert went up to his studio, and having
ground some colours upon his palette he stood for some time, brush and
mahlstick in hand, in front of his big bare canvas. But how profitless
all his work seemed to him now! What object had he in doing it? Was it
to earn money? Money could be had for the asking, or, for that matter,
without the asking. Or was it to produce a thing of beauty? But he had
artistic faults. Raffles Haw had said so, and he knew that he was right.
After all his pains the thing might not please; and with money he could
at all times buy pictures which would please, and which would be things
of beauty. What, then, was the object of his working? He could see none.
He threw down his brush, and, lighting his pipe, he strolled downstairs
once more.

His father was standing in front of the fire, and in no very good
humour, as his red face and puckered eyes sufficed to show.

"Well, Robert," he began, "I suppose that, as usual, you have spent your
morning plotting against your father?"

"What do you mean, father?"

"I mean what I say. What is it but plotting when three folk--you and she
and this Raffles Haw--whisper and arrange and have meetings without a
word to me about it? What do I know of your plans?"

"I cannot tell you secrets which are not my own, father."

"But I'll have a voice in the matter, for all that. Secrets or no
secrets, you will find that Laura has a father, and that he is not a man
to be set aside. I may have had my ups and downs in trade, but I have
not quite fallen so low that I am nothing in my own family. What am I to
get out of this precious marriage?"

"What should you get? Surely Laura's happiness and welfare are enough
for you?"

"If this man were really fond of Laura he would show proper
consideration for Laura's father. It was only yesterday that I asked him
for a loan-condescended actually to ask for it--I, who have been within
an ace of being Mayor of Birmingham! And he refused me point blank."

"Oh, father! How could you expose yourself to such humiliation?"

"Refused me point blank!" cried the old man excitedly. "It was against
his principles, if you please. But I'll be even with him--you see if I
am not. I know one or two things about him. What is it they call him at
the Three Pigeons? A 'smasher'--that's the word-a coiner of false
money. Why else should he have this metal sent him, and that great smoky
chimney of his going all day?"

"Why can you not leave him alone, father?" expostulated Robert. "You
seem to think of nothing but his money. If he had not a penny he would
still be a very kind-hearted, pleasant gentleman."

Old McIntyre burst into a hoarse laugh.

"I like to hear you preach," said he. "Without a penny, indeed! Do you
think that you would dance attendance upon him if he were a poor man?
Do you think that Laura would ever have looked twice at him? You know as
well as I do that she is marrying him only for his money."

Robert gave a cry of dismay. There was the alchemist standing in the
doorway, pale and silent, looking from one to the other of them with his
searching eyes.

"I must apologise," he said coldly. "I did not mean to listen to your
words. I could not help it. But I have heard them. As to you, Mr.
McIntyre, I believe that you speak from your own bad heart. I will not
let myself be moved by your words. In Robert I have a true friend. Laura
also loves me for my own sake. You cannot shake my faith in them. But
with you, Mr. McIntyre, I have nothing in common; and it is as well,
perhaps, that we should both recognise the fact."

He bowed, and was gone ere either of the McIntyres could say a word.

"You see!" said Robert at last. "You have done now what you cannot
undo!"

"I will be even with him!" cried the old man furiously, shaking his
fist through the window at the dark slow-pacing figure. "You just wait,
Robert, and see if your old dad is a man to be played with."



CHAPTER XIII. A MIDNIGHT VENTURE.


Not a word was said to Laura when she returned as to the scene which had
occurred in her absence. She was in the gayest of spirits, and prattled
merrily about her purchases and her arrangements, wondering from time
to time when Raffles Haw would come. As night fell, however, without any
word from him, she became uneasy.

"What can be the matter that he does not come?" she said. "It is the
first day since our engagement that I have not seen him."

Robert looked out through the window.

"It is a gusty night, and raining hard," he remarked. "I do not at all
expect him."

"Poor Hector used to come, rain, snow, or fine. But, then, of course, he
was a sailor. It was nothing to him. I hope that Raffles is not ill."

"He was quite well when I saw him this morning," answered her brother,
and they relapsed into silence, while the rain pattered against the
windows, and the wind screamed amid the branches of the elms outside.

Old McIntyre had sat in the corner most of the day biting his nails and
glowering into the fire, with a brooding, malignant expression upon his
wrinkled features. Contrary to his usual habits, he did not go to
the village inn, but shuffled off early to bed without a word to his
children. Laura and Robert remained chatting for some time by the fire,
she talking of the thousand and one wonderful things which were to be
done when she was mistress of the New Hall. There was less philanthropy
in her talk when her future husband was absent, and Robert could not but
remark that her carriages, her dresses, her receptions, and her travels
in distant countries were the topics into which she threw all the
enthusiasm which he had formerly heard her bestow upon refuge homes and
labour organisations.

"I think that greys are the nicest horses," she said. "Bays are nice
too, but greys are more showy. We could manage with a brougham and a
landau, and perhaps a high dog-cart for Raffles. He has the coach-house
full at present, but he never uses them, and I am sure that those fifty
horses would all die for want of exercise, or get livers like Strasburg
geese, if they waited for him to ride or drive them."

"I suppose that you will still live here?" said her brother.

"We must have a house in London as well, and run up for the season. I
don't, of course, like to make suggestions now, but it will be different
afterwards. I am sure that Raffles will do it if I ask him. It is all
very well for him to say that he does not want any thanks or honours,
but I should like to know what is the use of being a public benefactor
if you are to have no return for it. I am sure that if he does only
half what he talks of doing, they will make him a peer--Lord Tamfield,
perhaps--and then, of course, I shall be my Lady Tamfield, and what
would you think of that, Bob?" She dropped him a stately curtsey, and
tossed her head in the air, as one who was born to wear a coronet.

"Father must be pensioned off," she remarked presently. "He shall have
so much a year on condition that he keeps away. As to you, Bob, I don't
know what we shall do for you. We shall make you President of the Royal
Academy if money can do it."

It was late before they ceased building their air-castles and retired to
their rooms. But Robert's brain was excited, and he could not sleep.
The events of the day had been enough to shake a stronger man. There
had been the revelation of the morning, the strange sights which he
had witnessed in the laboratory, and the immense secret which had been
confided to his keeping. Then there had been his conversation with his
father in the afternoon, their disagreement, and the sudden intrusion
of Raffles Haw. Finally the talk with his sister had excited his
imagination, and driven sleep from his eyelids. In vain he turned and
twisted in his bed, or paced the floor of his chamber. He was not only
awake, but abnormally awake, with every nerve highly strung, and every
sense at the keenest. What was he to do to gain a little sleep? It
flashed across him that there was brandy in the decanter downstairs, and
that a glass might act as a sedative.

He had opened the door of his room, when suddenly his ear caught the
sound of slow and stealthy footsteps upon the stairs. His own lamp was
unlit, but a dim glimmer came from a moving taper, and a long black
shadow travelled down the wall. He stood motionless, listening intently.
The steps were in the hall now, and he heard a gentle creaking as the
key was cautiously turned in the door. The next instant there came a
gust of cold air, the taper was extinguished, and a sharp snap announced
that the door had been closed from without.

Robert stood astonished. Who could this night wanderer be? It must be
his father. But what errand could take him out at three in the morning?
And such a morning, too! With every blast of the wind the rain beat up
against his chamber-window as though it would drive it in. The glass
rattled in the frames, and the tree outside creaked and groaned as its
great branches were tossed about by the gale. What could draw any man
forth upon such a night?

Hurriedly Robert struck a match and lit his lamp. His father's room was
opposite his own, and the door was ajar. He pushed it open and looked
about him. It was empty. The bed had not even been lain upon. The single
chair stood by the window, and there the old man must have sat since he
left them. There was no book, no paper, no means by which he could have
amused himself, nothing but a razor-strop lying on the window-sill.

A feeling of impending misfortune struck cold to Robert's heart. There
was some ill-meaning in this journey of his father's. He thought of his
brooding of yesterday, his scowling face, his bitter threats. Yes, there
was some mischief underlying it. But perhaps he might even now be in
time to prevent it. There was no use calling Laura. She could be no help
in the matter. He hurriedly threw on his clothes, muffled himself in his
top-coat, and, seizing his hat and stick, he set off after his father.

As he came out into the village street the wind whirled down it, so that
he had to put his ear and shoulder against it, and push his way forward.
It was better, however, when he turned into the lane. The high bank and
the hedge sheltered him upon one side. The road, however, was deep in
mud, and the rain fell in a steady swish. Not a soul was to be seen, but
he needed to make no inquiries, for he knew whither his father had gone
as certainly as though he had seen him.

The iron side gate of the avenue was half open, and Robert stumbled his
way up the gravelled drive amid the dripping fir-trees. What could his
father's intention be when he reached the Hall? Was it merely that he
wished to spy and prowl, or did he intend to call up the master and
enter into some discussion as to his wrongs? Or was it possible that
some blacker and more sinister design lay beneath his strange doings?
Robert thought suddenly of the razor-strop, and gasped with horror. What
had the old man been doing with that? He quickened his pace to a run,
and hurried on until he found himself at the door of the Hall.

Thank God! all was quiet there. He stood by the big silent door and
listened intently. There was nothing to be heard save the wind and the
rain. Where, then, could his father be? If he wished to enter the Hall
he would not attempt to do so by one of the windows, for had he not been
present when Raffles Haw had shown them the precautions which he had
taken? But then a sudden thought struck Robert. There was one window
which was left unguarded. Haw had been imprudent enough to tell them
so. It was the middle window of the laboratory. If he remembered it so
clearly, of course his father would remember it too. There was the point
of danger.

The moment that he had come round the corner of the building he found
that his surmise had been correct. An electric lamp burned in the
laboratory, and the silver squares of the three large windows stood out
clear and bright in the darkness. The centre one had been thrown open,
and, even as he gazed, Robert saw a dark monkey-like figure spring up
on to the sill, and vanish into the room beyond. For a moment only it
outlined itself against the brilliant light beyond, but in that moment
Robert had space to see that it was indeed his father. On tiptoe he
crossed the intervening space, and peeped in through the open window. It
was a singular spectacle which met his eyes.

There stood upon the glass table some half-dozen large ingots of gold,
which had been made the night before, but which had not been removed to
the treasure-house. On these the old man had thrown himself, as one who
enters into his rightful inheritance. He lay across the table, his arms
clasping the bars of gold, his cheek pressed against them, crooning
and muttering to himself. Under the clear, still light, amid the giant
wheels and strange engines, that one little dark figure clutching and
clinging to the ingots had in it something both weird and piteous.

For five minutes or more Robert stood in the darkness amid the rain,
looking in at this strange sight, while his father hardly moved save to
cuddle closer to the gold, and to pat it with his thin hands. Robert
was still uncertain what he should do, when his eyes wandered from the
central figure and fell on something else which made him give a little
cry of astonishment--a cry which was drowned amid the howling of the
gale.

Raffles Haw was standing in the corner of the room. Where he had come
from Robert could not say, but he was certain that he had not been there
when he first looked in. He stood silent, wrapped in some long, dark
dressing-gown, his arms folded, and a bitter smile upon his pale face.
Old McIntyre seemed to see him at almost the same moment, for he
snarled out an oath, and clutched still closer at his treasure, looking
slantwise at the master of the house with furtive, treacherous eyes.

"And it has really come to this!" said Haw at last, taking a step
forward. "You have actually fallen so low, Mr. McIntyre, as to steal
into my house at night like a common burglar. You knew that this window
was unguarded. I remember telling you as much. But I did not tell you
what other means I had adopted by which I might be warned if knaves made
an entrance. But that you should have come! You!"

The old gunmaker made no attempt to justify himself, but he muttered
some few hoarse words, and continued to cling to the treasure.

"I love your daughter," said Raffles Haw, "and for her sake I will not
expose you. Your hideous and infamous secret shall be safe with me. No
ear shall hear what has happened this night. I will not, as I might,
arouse my servants and send for the police. But you must leave my house
without further words. I have nothing more to say to you. Go as you have
come."

He took a step forward, and held out his hand as if to detach the old
man's grasp from the golden bars. The other thrust his hand into the
breast of his coat, and with a shrill scream of rage flung himself upon
the alchemist. So sudden and so fierce was the movement that Haw had no
time for defence. A bony hand gripped him by the throat, and the blade
of a razor flashed in the air. Fortunately, as it fell, the weapon
struck against one of the many wires which spanned the room, and flying
out of the old man's grasp, tinkled upon the stone floor. But, though
disarmed, he was still dangerous. With a horrible silent energy he
pushed Haw back and back until, coming to a bench, they both fell over
it, McIntyre remaining uppermost. His other hand was on the alchemist's
throat, and it might have fared ill with him had Robert not climbed
through the window and dragged his father off from him. With the aid
of Haw, he pinned the old man down, and passed a long cravat around his
arms. It was terrible to look at him, for his face was convulsed, his
eyes bulging from his head, and his lips white with foam.

Haw leaned against the glass table panting, with his hand to his side.

"You here, Robert?" he gasped. "Is it not horrible? How did you come?"

"I followed him. I heard him go out."

"He would have robbed me. And he would have murdered me. But he is
mad--stark, staring mad!"

There could be no doubt of it. Old McIntyre was sitting up now, and
burst suddenly into a hoarse peal of laughter, rocking himself backwards
and forwards, and looking up at them with little twinkling, cunning
eyes. It was clear to both of them that his mind, weakened by long
brooding over the one idea, had now at last become that of a monomaniac.
His horrid causeless mirth was more terrible even than his fury.

"What shall we do with him?" asked Haw. "We cannot take him back to
Elmdene. It would be a terrible shock to Laura."

"We could have doctors to certify in the morning. Could we not keep him
here until then? If we take him back, some one will meet us, and there
will be a scandal."

"I know. We will take him to one of the padded rooms, where he can
neither hurt himself nor anyone else. I am somewhat shaken myself. But I
am better now. Do you take one arm, and I will take the other."

Half-leading and half-dragging him they managed between them to convey
the old gunmaker away from the scene of his disaster, and to lodge him
for the night in a place of safety. At five in the morning Robert had
started in the gig to make the medical arrangements, while Raffles Haw
paced his palatial house with a troubled face and a sad heart.



CHAPTER XIV. THE SPREAD OF THE BLIGHT.


It may be that Laura did not look upon the removal of her father as an
unmixed misfortune. Nothing was said to her as to the manner of the old
man's seizure, but Robert informed her at breakfast that he had thought
it best, acting under medical advice, to place him for a time under
some restraint. She had herself frequently remarked upon the growing
eccentricity of his manner, so that the announcement could have been
no great surprise to her. It is certain that it did not diminish her
appetite for the coffee and the scrambled eggs, nor prevent her from
chatting a good deal about her approaching wedding.

But it was very different with Raffles Haw. The incident had shocked
him to his inmost soul. He had often feared lest his money should do
indirect evil, but here were crime and madness arising before his very
eyes from its influence. In vain he tried to choke down his feelings,
and to persuade himself that this attack of old McIntyre's was something
which came of itself--something which had no connection with himself or
his wealth. He remembered the man as he had first met him, garrulous,
foolish, but with no obvious vices. He recalled the change which, week
by week, had come over him--his greedy eye, his furtive manner, his
hints and innuendoes, ending only the day before in a positive demand
for money. It was too certain that there was a chain of events there
leading direct to the horrible encounter in the laboratory. His money
had cast a blight where he had hoped to shed a blessing.

Mr. Spurling, the vicar, was up shortly after breakfast, some rumour of
evil having come to his ears. It was good for Haw to talk with him, for
the fresh breezy manner of the old clergyman was a corrective to his own
sombre and introspective mood.

"Prut, tut!" said he. "This is very bad--very bad indeed! Mind unhinged,
you say, and not likely to get over it! Dear, dear! I have noticed
a change in him these last few weeks. He looked like a man who had
something upon his mind. And how is Mr. Robert McIntyre?"

"He is very well. He was with me this morning when his father had this
attack."

"Ha! There is a change in that young man. I observe an alteration in
him. You will forgive me, Mr. Raffles Haw, if I say a few serious words
of advice to you. Apart from my spiritual functions I am old enough
to be your father. You are a very wealthy man, and you have used your
wealth nobly--yes, sir, nobly. I do not think that there is a man in a
thousand who would have done as well. But don't you think sometimes that
it has a dangerous influence upon those who are around you?"

"I have sometimes feared so." "We may pass over old Mr. McIntyre. It
would hardly be just, perhaps, to mention him in this connection. But
there is Robert. He used to take such an interest in his profession.
He was so keen about art. If you met him, the first words he said were
usually some reference to his plans, or the progress he was making in
his latest picture. He was ambitious, pushing, self-reliant. Now he does
nothing. I know for a fact that it is two months since he put brush to
canvas. He has turned from a student into an idler, and, what is worse,
I fear into a parasite. You will forgive me for speaking so plainly?"

Raffles Haw said nothing, but he threw out his hands with a gesture of
pain.

"And then there is something to be said about the country folk," said
the vicar. "Your kindness has been, perhaps, a little indiscriminate
there. They don't seem to be as helpful or as self-reliant as they used.
There was old Blaxton, whose cowhouse roof was blown off the other day.
He used to be a man who was full of energy and resource. Three months
ago he would have got a ladder and had that roof on again in two days'
work. But now he must sit down, and wring his hands, and write letters,
because he knew that it would come to your ears, and that you would make
it good. There's old Ellary, too! Well, of course he was always poor,
but at least he did something, and so kept himself out of mischief. Not
a stroke will he do now, but smokes and talks scandal from morning to
night. And the worst of it is, that it not only hurts those who have
had your help, but it unsettles those who have not. They all have an
injured, surly feeling as if other folk were getting what they had an
equal right to. It has really come to such a pitch that I thought it was
a duty to speak to you about it. Well, it is a new experience to me.
I have often had to reprove my parishioners for not being charitable
enough, but it is very strange to find one who is too charitable. It is
a noble error."

"I thank you very much for letting me know about it," answered Raffles
Haw, as he shook the good old clergyman's hand. "I shall certainly
reconsider my conduct in that respect."

He kept a rigid and unmoved face until his visitor had gone, and then
retiring to his own little room, he threw himself upon the bed and burst
out sobbing with his face buried in the pillow. Of all men in England,
this, the richest, was on that day the most miserable. How could he use
this great power which he held? Every blessing which he tried to give
turned itself into a curse. His intentions were so good, and yet the
results were so terrible. It was as if he had some foul leprosy of the
mind which all caught who were exposed to his influence. His charity,
so well meant, so carefully bestowed, had yet poisoned the whole
countryside. And if in small things his results were so evil, how could
he tell that they would be better in the larger plans which he had
formed? If he could not pay the debts of a simple yokel without
disturbing the great laws of cause and effect which lie at the base of
all things, what could he hope for when he came to fill the treasury
of nations, to interfere with the complex conditions of trade, or to
provide for great masses of the population? He drew back with horror as
he dimly saw that vast problems faced him in which he might make errors
which all his money could not repair. The way of Providence was the
straight way. Yet he, a half-blind creature, must needs push in and
strive to alter and correct it. Would he be a benefactor? Might he not
rather prove to be the greatest malefactor that the world had seen?

But soon a calmer mood came upon him, and he rose and bathed his flushed
face and fevered brow. After all, was not there a field where all were
agreed that money might be well spent? It was not the way of nature, but
rather the way of man which he would alter. It was not Providence that
had ordained that folk should live half-starved and overcrowded in
dreary slums. That was the result of artificial conditions, and it
might well be healed by artificial means. Why should not his plans
be successful after all, and the world better for his discovery? Then
again, it was not the truth that he cast a blight on those with whom he
was brought in contact. There was Laura; who knew more of him than she
did, and yet how good and sweet and true she was! She at least had lost
nothing through knowing him. He would go down and see her. It would be
soothing to hear her voice, and to turn to her for words of sympathy in
this his hour of darkness.

The storm had died away, but a soft wind was blowing, and the smack of
the coming spring was in the air. He drew in the aromatic scent of the
fir-trees as he passed down the curving drive. Before him lay the long
sloping countryside, all dotted over with the farmsteadings and little
red cottages, with the morning sun striking slantwise upon their grey
roofs and glimmering windows. His heart yearned over all these people
with their manifold troubles, their little sordid miseries, their
strivings and hopings and petty soul-killing cares. How could he get
at them? How could he manage to lift the burden from them, and yet not
hinder them in their life aim? For more and more could he see that all
refinement is through sorrow, and that the life which does not refine is
the life without an aim.

Laura was alone in the sitting-room at Elmdene, for Robert had gone out
to make some final arrangements about his father. She sprang up as her
lover entered, and ran forward with a pretty girlish gesture to greet
him.

"Oh, Raffles!" she cried, "I knew that you would come. Is it not
dreadful about papa?"

"You must not fret, dearest," he answered gently. "It may not prove to
be so very grave after all."

"But it all happened before I was stirring. I knew nothing about it
until breakfast-time. They must have gone up to the Hall very early."

"Yes, they did come up rather early."

"What is the matter with you, Raffles?" cried Laura, looking up into his
face. "You look so sad and weary!"

"I have been a little in the blues. The fact is, Laura, that I have had
a long talk with Mr. Spurling this morning."

The girl started, and turned white to the lips. A long talk with Mr.
Spurling! Did that mean that he had learned her secret?

"Well?" she gasped.

"He tells me that my charity has done more harm than good, and in fact,
that I have had an evil influence upon every one whom I have come
near. He said it in the most delicate way, but that was really what it
amounted to."

"Oh, is that all?" said Laura, with a long sigh of relief. "You must not
think of minding what Mr. Spurling says. Why, it is absurd on the face
of it! Everybody knows that there are dozens of men all over the country
who would have been ruined and turned out of their houses if you had not
stood their friend. How could they be the worse for having known you? I
wonder that Mr. Spurling can talk such nonsense!"

"How is Robert's picture getting on?"

"Oh, he has a lazy fit on him. He has not touched it for ever so long.
But why do you ask that? You have that furrow on your brow again. Put it
away, sir!"

She smoothed it away with her little white hand.

"Well, at any rate, I don't think that quite everybody is the worse,"
said he, looking down at her. "There is one, at least, who is beyond
taint, one who is good, and pure, and true, and who would love me as
well if I were a poor clerk struggling for a livelihood. You would,
would you not, Laura?"

"You foolish boy! of course I would."

"And yet how strange it is that it should be so. That you, who are the
only woman whom I have ever loved, should be the only one in whom I also
have raised an affection which is free from greed or interest. I wonder
whether you may not have been sent by Providence simply to restore my
confidence in the world. How barren a place would it not be if it were
not for woman's love! When all seemed black around me this morning, I
tell you, Laura, that I seemed to turn to you and to your love as the
one thing on earth upon which I could rely. All else seemed shifting,
unstable, influenced by this or that base consideration. In you, and you
only, could I trust."

"And I in you, dear Raffles! I never knew what love was until I met
you."

She took a step towards him, her hands advanced, love shining in her
features, when in an instant Raffles saw the colour struck from her
face, and a staring horror spring into her eyes. Her blanched and rigid
face was turned towards the open door, while he, standing partly behind
it, could not see what it was that had so moved her.

"Hector!" she gasped, with dry lips.

A quick step in the hall, and a slim, weather-tanned young man sprang
forward into the room, and caught her up in his arms as if she had been
a feather.

"You darling!" he said; "I knew that I would surprise you. I came right
up from Plymouth by the night train. And I have long leave, and plenty
of time to get married. Isn't it jolly, dear Laura?"

He pirouetted round with her in the exuberance of his delight. As he
spun round, however, his eyes fell suddenly upon the pale and silent
stranger who stood by the door. Hector blushed furiously, and made an
awkward sailor bow, standing with Laura's cold and unresponsive hand
still clasped in his.

"Very sorry, sir--didn't see you," he said. "You'll excuse my going on
in this mad sort of way, but if you had served you would know what it
is to get away from quarter-deck manners, and to be a free man. Miss
McIntyre will tell you that we have known each other since we were
children, and as we are to be married in, I hope, a month at the latest,
we understand each other pretty well."

Raffles Haw still stood cold and motionless. He was stunned, benumbed,
by what he saw and heard. Laura drew away from Hector, and tried to free
her hand from his grasp.

"Didn't you get my letter at Gibraltar?" she asked.

"Never went to Gibraltar. Were ordered home by wire from Madeira.
Those chaps at the Admiralty never know their own minds for two hours
together. But what matter about a letter, Laura, so long as I can see
you and speak with you? You have not introduced me to your friend here."

"One word, sir," cried Raffles Haw in a quivering voice. "Do I entirely
understand you? Let me be sure that there is no mistake. You say that
you are engaged to be married to Miss McIntyre?"

"Of course I am. I've just come back from a four months' cruise, and I
am going to be married before I drag my anchor again."

"Four months!" gasped Haw. "Why, it is just four months since I came
here. And one last question, sir. Does Robert McIntyre know of your
engagement?"

"Does Bob know? Of course he knows. Why, it was to his care I left Laura
when I started. But what is the meaning of all this? What is the matter
with you, Laura? Why are you so white and silent? And--hallo! Hold up,
sir! The man is fainting!"

"It is all right!" gasped Haw, steadying himself against the edge of the
door.

He was as white as paper, and his hand was pressed close to his side as
though some sudden pain had shot through him. For a moment he tottered
there like a stricken man, and then, with a hoarse cry, he turned and
fled out through the open door.

"Poor devil!" said Hector, gazing in amazement after him. "He seems hard
hit anyhow. But what is the meaning of all this, Laura?"

His face had darkened, and his mouth had set.

She had not said a word, but had stood with a face like a mask looking
blankly in front of her. Now she tore herself away from him, and,
casting herself down with her face buried in the cushion of the sofa,
she burst into a passion of sobbing.

"It means that you have ruined me," she cried. "That you have
ruined-ruined--ruined me! Could you not leave us alone? Why must you
come at the last moment? A few more days, and we were safe. And you
never had my letter."

"And what was in your letter, then?" he asked coldly, standing with his
arms folded, looking down at her.

"It was to tell you that I released you. I love Raffles Haw, and I was
to have been his wife. And now it is all gone. Oh, Hector, I hate you,
and I shall always hate you as long as I live, for you have stepped
between me and the only good fortune that ever came to me. Leave me
alone, and I hope that you will never cross our threshold again."

"Is that your last word, Laura?"

"The last that I shall ever speak to you."

"Then, good-bye. I shall see the Dad, and go straight back to Plymouth."
He waited an instant, in hopes of an answer, and then walked sadly from
the room.



CHAPTER XV. THE GREATER SECRET.


It was late that night that a startled knocking came at the door of
Elmdene. Laura had been in her room all day, and Robert was moodily
smoking his pipe by the fire, when this harsh and sudden summons
broke in upon his thoughts. There in the porch was Jones, the stout
head-butler of the Hall, hatless, scared, with the raindrops shining in
the lamplight upon his smooth, bald head.

"If you please, Mr. McIntyre, sir, would it trouble you to step up to
the Hall?" he cried. "We are all frightened, sir, about master."

Robert caught up his hat and started at a run, the frightened butler
trotting heavily beside him. It had been a day of excitement and
disaster. The young artist's heart was heavy within him, and the shadow
of some crowning trouble seemed to have fallen upon his soul.

"What is the matter with your master, then?" he asked, as he slowed down
into a walk.

"We don't know, sir; but we can't get an answer when we knock at the
laboratory door. Yet he's there, for it's locked on the inside. It has
given us all a scare, sir, that, and his goin's-on during the day."

"His goings-on?"

"Yes, sir; for he came back this morning like a man demented, a-talkin'
to himself, and with his eyes starin' so that it was dreadful to look at
the poor dear gentleman. Then he walked about the passages a long time,
and he wouldn't so much as look at his luncheon, but he went into the
museum, and gathered all his jewels and things, and carried them into
the laboratory. We don't know what he's done since then, sir, but his
furnace has been a-roarin', and his big chimney spoutin' smoke like a
Birmingham factory. When night came we could see his figure against the
light, a-workin' and a-heavin' like a man possessed. No dinner would he
have, but work, and work, and work. Now it's all quiet, and the furnace
cold, and no smoke from above, but we can't get no answer from him, sir,
so we are scared, and Miller has gone for the police, and I came away
for you."

They reached the Hall as the butler finished his explanation, and
there outside the laboratory door stood the little knot of footmen and
ostlers, while the village policeman, who had just arrived, was holding
his bull's-eye to the keyhole, and endeavouring to peep through.

"The key is half-turned," he said. "I can't see nothing except just the
light."

"Here's Mr. McIntyre," cried half-a-dozen voices, as Robert came
forward.

"We'll have to beat the door in, sir," said the policeman. "We can't get
any sort of answer, and there's something wrong."

Twice and thrice they threw their united weights against it until at
last with a sharp snap the lock broke, and they crowded into the narrow
passage. The inner door was ajar, and the laboratory lay before them.

In the centre was an enormous heap of fluffy grey ash, reaching up
half-way to the ceiling. Beside it was another heap, much smaller, of
some brilliant scintillating dust, which shimmered brightly in the rays
of the electric light. All round was a bewildering chaos of broken jars,
shattered bottles, cracked machinery, and tangled wires, all bent and
draggled. And there in the midst of this universal ruin, leaning back in
his chair with his hands clasped upon his lap, and the easy pose of one
who rests after hard work safely carried through, sat Raffles Haw, the
master of the house, and the richest of mankind, with the pallor of
death upon his face. So easily he sat and so naturally, with such a
serene expression upon his features, that it was not until they raised
him, and touched his cold and rigid limbs, that they could realise that
he had indeed passed away.

Reverently and slowly they bore him to his room, for he was beloved by
all who had served him. Robert alone lingered with the policeman in the
laboratory. Like a man in a dream he wandered about, marvelling at the
universal destruction. A large broad-headed hammer lay upon the
ground, and with this Haw had apparently set himself to destroy all
his apparatus, having first used his electrical machines to reduce
to protyle all the stock of gold which he had accumulated. The
treasure-room which had so dazzled Robert consisted now of merely four
bare walls, while the gleaming dust upon the floor proclaimed the fate
of that magnificent collection of gems which had alone amounted to a
royal fortune. Of all the machinery no single piece remained intact,
and even the glass table was shattered into three pieces. Strenuously
earnest must have been the work which Raffles Haw had done that day.

And suddenly Robert thought of the secret which had been treasured in
the casket within the iron-clamped box. It was to tell him the one last
essential link which would make his knowledge of the process complete.
Was it still there? Thrilling all over, he opened the great chest, and
drew out the ivory box. It was locked, but the key was in it. He turned
it and threw open the lid. There was a white slip of paper with his own
name written upon it. With trembling fingers he unfolded it. Was he
the heir to the riches of El Dorado, or was he destined to be a poor
struggling artist? The note was dated that very evening, and ran in this
way:

   "MY DEAR ROBERT,--My secret shall never be used again. I cannot
   tell you how I thank Heaven that I did not entirely confide it to
   you, for I should have been handing over an inheritance of misery
   both to yourself and others.  For myself I have hardly had a happy
   moment since I discovered it. This I could have borne had I been
   able to feel that I was doing good, but, alas! the only effect of my
   attempts has been to turn workers into idlers, contented men into
   greedy parasites, and, worst of all, true, pure women into
   deceivers and hypocrites.  If this is the effect of my interference
   on a small scale, I cannot hope for anything better were I to carry
   out the plans which we have so often discussed.  The schemes of my
   life have all turned to nothing.  For myself, you shall never see me
   again.  I shall go back to the student life from which I emerged.
   There, at least, if I can do little good, I can do no harm.  It is
   my wish that such valuables as remain in the Hall should be sold,
   and the proceeds divided amidst all the charities of Birmingham.
   I shall leave tonight if I am well enough, but I have been much
   troubled all day by a stabbing pain in my side.  It is as if wealth
   were as bad for health as it is for peace of mind.  Good-bye,
   Robert, and may you never have as sad a heart as I have to-night.
   Yours very truly,
   RAFFLES HAW."

"Was it suicide, sir? Was it suicide?" broke in the policeman as Robert
put the note in his pocket.

"No," he answered; "I think it was a broken heart."

And so the wonders of the New Hall were all dismantled, the carvings and
the gold, the books and the pictures, and many a struggling man or woman
who had heard nothing of Raffles Haw during his life had cause to bless
him after his death. The house has been bought by a company now, who
have turned it into a hydropathic establishment, and of all the folk who
frequent it in search of health or of pleasure there are few who know
the strange story which is connected with it.

The blight which Haw's wealth cast around it seemed to last even after
his death. Old McIntyre still raves in the County Lunatic Asylum, and
treasures up old scraps of wood and metal under the impression that they
are all ingots of gold. Robert McIntyre is a moody and irritable man,
for ever pursuing a quest which will always evade him. His art is
forgotten, and he spends his whole small income upon chemical and
electrical appliances, with which he vainly seeks to rediscover that
one hidden link. His sister keeps house for him, a silent and brooding
woman, still queenly and beautiful, but of a bitter, dissatisfied mind.
Of late, however, she has devoted herself to charity, and has been of so
much help to Mr. Spurling's new curate that it is thought that he may
be tempted to secure her assistance for ever. So runs the gossip of the
village, and in small places such gossip is seldom wrong. As to Hector
Spurling, he is still in her Majesty's service, and seems inclined to
abide by his father's wise advice, that he should not think of marrying
until he was a Commander. It is possible that of all who were brought
within the spell of Raffles Haw he was the only one who had occasion to
bless it.





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