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Title: A Deal with The Devil
Author: Phillpotts, Eden
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Deal with The Devil" ***

[Illustration: Cover art]

                                 A DEAL
                               THE DEVIL


                           *EDEN PHILLPOTTS*

                               AUTHOR OF
                         "IN SUGAR-CANE LAND;"
                        "SOME EVERY-DAY FOLKS;"

                        BLISS, SANDS AND FOSTER
                      CRAVEN STREET, STRAND, W.C.


      I. Grandfather’s Birthday
     II. In the Cupboard
    III. Cold Comfort
     IV. Hidden in London
      V. The People next Door
     VI. Retreat
    VII. "Vote for Dolphin"
   VIII. Marie Rogers
     IX. In London once more
      X. The Crusade
     XI. A New Leaf turned
    XII. A Suggestion
   XIII. The Squire’s Daughter
    XIV. At Upper Norwood
     XV. Susan Marks
    XVI. On the River
   XVII. Phyllis
  XVIII. I forbid the Banns
    XIX. Counsel’s Opinion
     XX. A Climax
    XXI. My Nightmare
   XXII. The Dwindling of Grandpapa
  XXIII. "Fine by Degrees and Beautifully Less"
   XXIV. The Passing of Grandpapa

                       _*A Deal with the Devil.*_

                              *CHAPTER I.*

                      _*GRANDFATHER’S BIRTHDAY.*_

Before my grandpapa, Mr. Daniel Dolphin, comes down to breakfast on the
morning of his hundredth birthday, I may tell you something about him.
He has been married three times; he has buried all his wives and all his
children.  There were five of the latter, resulting from grandpapa’s
three marriages; but now I, Martha Dolphin, the only child of
grandpapa’s eldest son, am the sole survivor and living descendant of
Daniel Dolphin.

Frankly it must be confessed that grandpapa has been an unprincipled man
in his time.  Among other inconveniences, resulting from unedifying
conduct, he suffered five years’ imprisonment for forgery before I was
born; but when he turned ninety-five I think he honestly began to
realise that this world is, after all, a mere temporary place of
preparation, and from that age up to the present moment (I am dealing
with the morning of his hundredth birthday) he abandoned the things
which once gave him pleasure, and began to look seriously towards
another and a better life beyond the grave.  Indeed, thanks to my
ever-present warnings, and the Rev. John Murdoch’s ministrations,
grandpapa, from the time he was ninety-five, kept as sober, as honest,
and as innocent as one could wish to see any nonagenarian.  He regarded
the future with quiet confidence now, feared death no longer, and
alleged that his approaching end had no terrors for him.  The dear old
fellow was very fond of me, and he often said that, but for his patient
granddaughter, he should never have turned from the broad downward road
at all.  I can see him now coming in to breakfast--a marvellous man for
his age.  Bent he was, and shrivelled as a brown pippin from last year
looks in June, but his eyes were bright, his intelligence was keen, his
wit and humour ever active, his jokes most creditable for a man of such
advanced age.  In his antique frilled shirt, black stock, long
snuff-coloured coat, and velvet cap, grandpapa looked a perfect picture.
I cannot say there was anything venerable about him, but he would have
made a splendid model for a miser or something of that sort.

"Many, many happy returns of the day, dear grandpapa," said I, hastening
to kiss his withered cheek and to place a white rose from our little
garden in his button-hole.

"Thank you, thank you, Martha.  Have you got a present for the old man?"
he asked, in his sharp, piping treble.

"That I have, dear grandpapa--a big packet of the real rappee you always
like so much."

"Good girl.  And this--Lord!  Lord!--this is my hundredth birthday!"

Presently he wrestled with a poached egg and some bread-and-milk.  He
spoiled his beautiful frilled shirt with the egg, and used an expletive.
Then he remembered a comic incident, and began to chuckle in the middle
of tea-drinking, and so choked.

I patted him on the back, cleaned him up, and pulled him together.
Then, spluttering and laughing, all in a breath, he turned to me,
gradually calmed down, and spoke:

"A dream--it was a dream that came to me last night--a vivid incubus,
mighty clear and mighty real.  It must have been the tapioca pudden at
supper.  I told you it was awful tough."

"Indeed, dearest one, I made it myself."

"Well, well.  To the dream.  I thought a figure stood at my bedside--a
figure much like that in the flames on the old stained-glass window at
St. Paul’s.  He wore horns too, but certainly he had the manners of a
gentleman. Of course we all know he is one.  It’s in the Bible, or
Shakespeare, or somewhere."

"A fiend, grandpapa!"

"The devil himself, my dear, and a very tidy personage too.  Bless your
life, he bowed and scraped like a Frenchman, apologised for troubling me
at such a late hour, handed me my glasses, that I might the better see
the friendly look on his face, and then asked me if I could spare him
ten minutes.  You know nothing ever alarms me.  I’m ’saved,’ if I
understand Parson Murdoch rightly; and, therefore I’ve no need to be
bothered about the other place or anybody in it."

"Don’t talk like that, grandpapa."

"Why not?  ’Well, fire away, Nicholas,’ I said, ’but candidly you’ve
come to the wrong man, if you imagine you’ll do any business here.  I
was off your books five years ago. You know that well enough.’
’Daniel,’ he answered, with more familiarity than I cared about,
’Daniel, it is only because you were on my books for ninety-five years
that I’ve dropped in this evening.  One good turn deserves another.  You
are probably not aware that, in the ordinary course of events, to-morrow
morning--the morning of your hundredth birthday--will never come for
you. The sun will rise and find you lifeless clay; your granddaughter
will knock at your chamber door and receive no answer; for your days are
numbered, your span of life, handsome enough in all conscience, is done.
But listen, I can guarantee ten more years.  We only do these things for
very old customers. Put yourself in my hands and ten more mundane years
of life shall be yours.’"

Here my grandpapa broke off to chuckle, which he did very heartily.
Then he took snuff, and it dropped about his shirt-front, where the
poached egg had already fallen, and imparted to the dear old man his
usual appearance.

"’What are the terms, Nick?’ I asked," continued grandpapa.  "’The
ordinary terms, Daniel,’ he answered.  ’This is a little private
speculation of my own, and I want to point out the beauties of it to
you, because it’s a bit out of the common, even for me.  You see,
Daniel, as a rule we grant these extensions only to gentlemen in dire
distress--on the days before executions and so forth.  But in your case
you might justly consider that no offer of increased life was worth
accepting.  You are right. More it would be.  A man cannot get any solid
satisfaction out of life after he is a hundred years old.  The body at
that age is a mere clog; eating and drinking become a farce; the
pleasures of sense are dead.  As to brain, even that’s only a broken box
full of tangled threads.  Intellectual enjoyments are no longer for you.
Not, of course, that they were ever your strong point.  You can only sit
in the chimney corner now, and blink and sleep, and wait for Death to
come and roll you over with his pole-axe, like the worn-out old animal
you are.  No, you shan’t grow older, Dan, you shall grow younger if you
please.  You shall cram another lifetime into the ten years which I
promise.  Each of them will extend over a period of ten earthly years.
That is the offer.  It should work out well for both of us.  Read this.
I had the thing drafted; in fact, I did it myself to save time.’  Then
he handed me a form of agreement duly stamped."

"My dear grandpapa, what an extraordinary nightmare!"

"It was.  I read the bond critically, and, for reasons which I cannot
now remember, determined to sign it."


"Well, it was only a dream.  Ten years more life, remember.  That was
worth a slight sacrifice."

"A _slight_ sacrifice, grandpapa!"

"Anyhow, I said I’d sign, and Nick took a red feather out of his cap in
a twinkling. ’A matter of form,’ he said, ’one drop of venous blood is
all we shall require.’  Then he dug the pen into my shoulder and
politely handed it to me.  ’Of course witnesses in these cases are very
inconvenient,’ proceeded Nick, ’but between gentlemen our bonds will be
sufficiently binding.’  So I signed, and he bowed and wished me joy and
went up the chimney.  But a funny coincidence is that this morning my
shoulder has a round red mark upon it like a burn."

"A flea, dearest one."

"Possibly.  In fact that is how I explained it to myself.  As you know,
a dream often occupies the briefest flash of time, and it may be that
some chance insect biting my shoulder produced a moment’s irritation,
and was responsible for the entire vision.  But I still think it may
have been that tapioca pudden. Mind you are more careful with my food in
the future."

                             *CHAPTER II.*

                          _*IN THE CUPBOARD.*_

We laughed the matter off, and should probably have forgotten all about
it but that grandpapa suffered a great deal of inconvenience with his
shoulder.  The round, red mark gathered and grew very painful. Indeed it
only yielded to a long course of bread poultices.  Thanks to tonics,
however, he soon recovered his health; and then it seemed that his
splendid constitution had almost enabled him to take a new lease of
life. He actually gained strength instead of losing it, and his
faculties became clearer if anything. We lived in Ealing, Middlesex, at
the time, and when my grandpapa’s health was thoroughly re-established,
his medical man wrote to the _Lancet_, and a deputation waited on my
grandfather from the local Liberal Club to congratulate him.  The dear
old fellow became quite a celebrity in his way, and, what is more, there
was no backsliding; he went to church with me every Sunday in a bath
chair, and at home he kept his temper better, and nearly always did what
he was told.

But six months after his birthday the thunder-cloud burst upon our
little home.  I was sitting in the parlour, doing household accounts,
and grandpapa was in his own room, playing the flute.  He had not
touched this instrument for at least five years, but to my amazement,
that afternoon he dragged it out of some old cupboard and began to play
it, with runs and shakes and false notes, just in the old pleasant way.
He stopped suddenly, however, after giving a very creditable rendering
of the "Old Hundredth."  I feared this effort had been too much for him,
and was just hastening upstairs when he came hurrying down and tottered
into the room.  Fright and dismay sat on his wrinkled face; his knees
shook and knocked together, his eyes protruded like a crab’s, and his
poor old jaws were going like a pair of nut-crackers, but he could not

"My dearest, _what_ is it?" I cried, running to him as he subsided on
the sofa.  "Oh, why will you be so active at your time of life? You’ll
_kill_ yourself if you go on so.  What have you done now?  You’ve
strained something internal with that flute--I know you have."

"I’ve found it!  I’ve found it!" he cried, trembling all over.

"Of course, or else you couldn’t play it," I replied.

"I’ve found IT," he repeated, raising his hand wildly and waving a
manuscript over his head.  "Read that--Oh, why was I ever born?  Read
it, I tell you.  It’s a real agreement, on parchment, not a nightmare at
all. He’s got the other, no doubt; the one I signed.  I’ve bartered away
my immortal soul for ten more years of horrible life, and _I’m growing
younger every moment!_"

"Where did this come from?" was all I could say, taking a parchment
scroll from my grandpapa’s shaking hand.

"It fell out of the cupboard where I keep my flute music," he groaned.
"Read it, read it slowly, aloud.  Is there any escape?  It seems very
loosely worded.  Oh why, why didn’t Jack live?  He would have got me out
of this appalling fix if anybody could."

Jack, or John, was my father--a very able solicitor; but what law is
capable of coping with utterly unprincipled people who live in another
world?  I read the thing.  It was written in English, and signed with a
strange scrawl, like a flash of black lightning.  Attached to it hung a
seal of flame-coloured wax.  To show my unhappy grandparent’s exact
position I had better transcribe this document.  Thus it ran:

"Know all men, and others, by these presents that in consideration of a
compact, signed, sealed, and delivered by Daniel Dolphin, of No. 114,
Windsor Road, Ealing, County of Middlesex, England, I hereby undertake
to provide him with certain years of life, to the number of ten, over,
above, and beyond the number (of one hundred) which it was originally
predestined that he should exist.  And, further, it is to be noted,
observed, and understood that each of the said ten years hereinbefore
abovementioned shall embrace a period of life formerly extending over a
decade of ordinary mundane years; and it is also understood, granted,
and agreed that the aforementioned Daniel Dolphin do henceforth and
hereafter grow younger instead of older, which provision I hereby
undertake for the reason that human life protracted beyond a century,
ceases to give the possessor thereof pleasure or gratification in any

Then followed the date, the signature, and an address, which need not be
insisted upon, but which was sufficiently clear.

"What does it mean, grandpapa?" I asked faintly.

"Mean?" he screamed, "it means that in less than ten years’ time I shall
be a bald-headed baby again.  It means that I shall live a hundred years
in ten and _go backwards_ all the while.  It means I’m faced with about
the most hideous prospect ever heard of.  And I’ve got nothing to make
me suffer with Christian fortitude either, for look at the end of it!
It’s a shameful programme--frightful and demoniacal: ten years of the
most fantastic existence that ever a devil designed, and then--then _my_
part of the bond has to be complied with.  This is the result of turning
over a new leaf at ninety-five.  Why didn’t I go on as I was going, and
only reform on my death-bed like other people?"

My grandfather sat in a haggard heap on the sofa, cried senile tears,
wrung his bony hands, and, I regret to say, used the only language which
was in his opinion equal to describing his shocking discovery.  I
procured brandy and water, tried to say a few hopeful words, and then
went out to seek professional aid of some sort.

I was a woman of fifty then--accounted practical and far-seeing too.
But the terror of this stupendous misfortune fairly set my mind in a
whirl and quite clouded my generally lucid judgment.  I hardly knew
where I should apply.  My thoughts wavered between a clergyman, a
doctor, and a solicitor.  In some measure it seemed a case for them all.
Finally I determined to speak to our Vicar.  He was an old man, and
mainly responsible for grandpapa’s conversion.  I must have been quite
hysterical by the time I reached the vicarage. At any rate, all I can
remember is that I sank down in Mr. Murdoch’s study, and wept bitterly
and sobbed out:

"Such a dreadful thing--such a dreadful thing.  Grandpapa’s growing
younger every minute; and he’s gone and sold himself to the Devil!"

                             *CHAPTER III.*

                           _*COLD COMFORT.*_

Mr. Murdoch came round and saw my poor grandpapa at once.  He was a
pompous, kind-hearted man, but proved of little service to us, being
unpractical, and unable apparently to grasp the horrid facts. Grandpapa
felt better, and rather more hopeful when we returned to him; but I fear
that alcohol alone was responsible for his improved spirits.  I usually
kept the brandy locked up, because the dear old man never would
understand that it should only be taken as medicine; but I forgot to
remove it before going for the Vicar, and grandpapa had helped himself.

"Here’s a rum go!" he said, as Mr. Murdoch arrived, with his face a yard

"My poor friend, my dear Dolphin, I cannot believe it; I refuse to
credit it."

"Read that then," said grandfather, kicking the Agreement across the
room with his felt slipper.  Mr. Murdoch puzzled over it. Presently he
dropped the thing and smelt his gloves.

"It has an evil odour," he said.  Then he sighed and shook his head and
seemed more concerned for the parish than for grandpapa.

"That such a thing should have happened in Ealing, of all places, is a
source of unutterable grief to me," murmured the Vicar.

"Smother Ealing!" piped out poor grandpapa. "Think of _me_!
Generalities are no good. Be practical if you can.  Is it a ghastly hoax
or a hideous fact?  Hasn’t anything of the kind ever happened before?
And couldn’t something be done to wriggle out of it?  Regard the thing
professionally.  You’re always talking about fighting the Evil One.
Well, here’s a chance to do it."

"I shall mention the matter in my private devotions," said Mr. Murdoch

"Don’t do anything of the sort," snapped back grandpapa.  "This affair
shan’t get about if I can help it--least of all in the next world. If
you can’t do anything definite, keep quiet. It must not be known.  I
believe the thing’s a paltry joke myself.  I don’t feel a day
younger--not an hour.  We shall see.  I’m going to let Nature take its
course for six months more; then I shall be a hundred and one, or else
only ninety, if this dastardly Deed speaks the truth. Then, should I
find I’m growing younger, I shall take steps and see George Lewis, and
the Bishop of London, and Andrew Clark.  I’ll back them to thrash this
thing out for me anyhow.  Meanwhile, please refrain from alluding to the
subject anywhere.  Give me some more brandy, Martha."

So Mr. Murdoch, promising to preserve absolute silence, went away like a
man recovering from a bad dream, and grandpapa, having taken a great
deal more spirit than was good for him, slumbered uneasily on the sofa.

In his dreams I could hear him wrangling with something supernatural,
and evidently getting the worst of the argument.  "It’s too bad," I
heard him say.  "It’s simple sharp practice to jump on an old man like
me, and make him sign a one-sided thing like that when he was half

The cook and I presently helped the unhappy old sufferer to bed.  Then,
locking up the Agreement, I sat down to think.  We were alone in the
world, grandpapa and I.  He looked to me for everything, and I devoted
my life to him.  In person I was a plain woman, with simple tastes and a
tolerable temper.  My life had been uneventful up to the present time,
but it looked as though a fair share of earthly excitement lay before me
now.  I tried to picture the future, and my brain reeled.  I saw my
grandfather renewing his youth day by day and hour by hour.  I pictured
him going back to his old, unsatisfactory ways, with nothing whatever to
check him, and nobody to speak a word of warning.  I saw Time winging
backwards with grandpapa and onwards with me. When I was fifty-five he
would be fifty; when I was fifty-six he would be forty; when I was
fifty-seven he would be thirty, and so on.  As his future was now
definitely arranged for, no existing force of any sort remained to keep
grandpapa straight--none, at least, excepting the police force.  He
would get out of my control when he was eighty, or thereabouts. From
that time forward I shuddered for him, and for myself.  We belonged to
the lower middle-class, and had made a good many friends since
grandpapa’s reformation; but now our relations with our fellow-creatures
promised to present some rather exceptional difficulties.  In fact, I
wept as I thought of the future.  If I had known a quarter of what
awaited me, I should probably have screamed also.  Somehow it was borne
in upon me from the first that we were faced with no imaginary problem.
The Agreement had a genuine, business-like look, in spite of the loose

"This woe will last ten years," I told myself. "Then something of a
definite nature must happen to grandpapa, and I shall be left to go into
the world once more--that is, if I outlive him, which is more or less
doubtful."  For his dear sake I prayed and trusted I might be spared to
see him to the end of his complicated existence.

Dull gloom and dread and misery settled down upon our once happy little
establishment. Grandpapa appeared to lose all hope after the effects of
the brandy and water passed off, and he found that I had locked up the
bottle as usual.  He eyed me, as though measuring his strength against
mine, but he did not attempt any encounter then.  From that time forward
he spent the greater part of his days worrying in front of the
looking-glass and trying to find fresh signs of infirmity and decay.  He
grew morose and moody, and used some harsh language to me because I
could not observe a new wrinkle which he alleged he had discovered.

"Any fool but you could see that I’m growing weaker every hour, both in
mind and body," he said; but the truth was that everything pointed in
the opposite direction.  His appetite for solids improved, he slept less
by day, he began to "take notice" when people called, and showed little
gleams of returning memory.  To my bitter regret he gave up going to
church, and resumed the habit of smoking tobacco.  He tried one of his
old, favourite "churchwarden" clay pipes, but it was a failure, and he
told me next morning with delight that the thing had been too much for

"That’s a sign I’m growing older, anyhow," he declared.  But he was not.
I could see the early dawn of middle-age already creeping back over him,
and sick at heart it made me.

I pass rapidly to his hundred-and-first birthday, upon which anniversary
there was a scene--the beginning of a series.  My friend Mrs. Hopkins
called to drink tea.  She has a good heart and always tries to please
people.  We have known one another for many years, and she has no
secrets from me.  She called, and ate, and drank, and, in her cheery
way, congratulated grandpapa upon his appearance.

"Positively, Mr. Dolphin, you grow younger instead of older.  You don’t
look a day more than ninety, and I doubt if you feel as much," she said,
very kindly.

"Bah!  Stuff and rubbish, woman!  I feel a thousand and look more.
Don’t talk twaddle like that.  It makes me sick.  Personal remarks are
always common, and I’m sorry you can allow yourself to sink to ’em."

Then he went out of the room in a pet, and I saw that he hobbled away
quite easily without using his walking sticks at all.

"Lor, Martha!" said Mrs. Hopkins.  "What corn have I trod on now?  I
thought the old gentleman would have been pleased."

I explained that grandfather felt very keenly about his age, and did not
like people to imagine that he looked any younger than was in reality
the case.

But when she went away, he came down again and dared me to bring any
more old women in to snigger and make jokes at his expense, as he
angrily put it.

"And another thing," said grandfather, "you can give Jane and the cook
warning, and see about sub-letting the house.  I’m leaving Ealing at the
quarter-day.  Here’s half a column about me and my wonderful age in the
_West Middlesex County Times_.  I’m not going to make a curiosity and a
raree show of myself in this place for you or anybody. They’ll have me
at Tussaud’s Waxworks next.  We clear out of this on June 24. I’m going
back to town."

                             *CHAPTER IV.*

                         _*HIDDEN IN LONDON.*_

I was sorry to leave Mr. Murdoch, Mrs. Hopkins, and other kind friends
at Ealing; but, as I always said, I did not mind changing residences,
for No. 114, Windsor Road, was an old-fashioned dwelling house without a
bathroom, which is a great drawback.

Grandpapa’s hair began to come back now, in little silvery tufts over
his ears.  He also lost something of his old stoop, and took to using
one walking-stick instead of a couple.

He grew terribly sensitive and bad-tempered as his powers increased; and
with access of mental strength the agony and horror of his position
naturally became more and more keen.

We had a long conversation as to where we should take ourselves and our
secret. Grandpapa first changed his mind about London, and wanted to
leave England.  He had an unpractical yearning to sail away and hide his
approaching manhood on some desert island; and for my part I wish now I
had fallen in with this project, and taken the old man off to the heart
of the tropics, or the point of the Poles, or anywhere away from
civilization; but in a weak moment I urged him to abide by his original
opinion, that the metropolis was a place where he might best hide his
approaching transformation.  I forgot my grandfather’s different
weaknesses, when I made this suggestion.  I should, of course, have
recollected that the ruling passions of his life would reassert

However, he consented to come to town, and away we went--suddenly,
mysteriously, without leaving any address, though not before I had
settled every outstanding account.  Our means were fortunately ample for
all moderate comforts.  We took a little house at West Kensington--No.
18, Wharton Terrace--and there, having engaged a cook and housemaid, we
settled down to face what problems the future might have in store for

Grandpapa continued to hug his hideous secret, nor would he suffer me to
seek spiritual, legal, or medical aid.  For the present he had abandoned
his design of consulting the Bishop of London, and the other celebrities
he had mentioned in the first agony of his discovery. In fact, as time
passed, I could see he was trying to banish his position from his mind.
He fought against his growing strength, and attempted excesses in the
matter of eating and drinking with a view to impair his constitution.

"Don’t be chattering about the matter, for heaven’s sake!" he said to me
on the occasion of his hundred-and-second birthday.  "You’re always
whining and making stupid suggestions. Do try and look cheerful, even if
you don’t feel so.  It’s bad enough to be the sport of fiends without
having a wet blanket like you crying and sighing about from morning till
night.  You make every room in the house damp and draughty with your
groans and tears."

"You are now eighty," I said, "eighty, according to the New Scheme, and
you look less.  Are you going on without making any effort to throw off
this abominable curse?  Are you content to let matters take their
backward course?  Do something--anything, I implore you.  Take some
steps; _try_ to stem the tide; be a man, grandpapa!"

"A man!"  He laughed bitterly.  "Yes," he continued, "a man first, then
a conceited puppy with a moustache and ridiculous clothes; then a
long-legged lout of a boy, with a pimply face that blushes when the
girls pass by; then a little good-for-nothing devil at school; then a
fat, sweetmeat-eating child in a straw hat and knickerbockers; then a
small, red-cheeked beast in short frocks; then a limp, putty-faced,
indiarubber-sucking, howling fragment in long frocks; then--then--My
God!  It’s terrible."

He hid his old face and cried.  I noticed the blue veins that used to
cover the backs of his hands in a net-work, like the railway lines at
Clapham Junction, were dwindling.  The shiny skin was filling out; the
muscles were developing once more.

"Terrible indeed, dear grandpapa; but I will never, never, leave you."

He brushed away his tears and stood erect.

"You may do what you please.  And now I’ll tell you what _I’m_ going to
do.  No more crying over spilt milk, anyhow.  I’ve got eight years left,
and I’m going to use ’em.  I’m a man without a future--at least without
a future I can make or mar.  Everything’s settled, but I’m free for
eight years.  We’ve got five hundred a year; that means a principal of
fifteen thousand pounds.  I shall leave you five thousand, and spend the
other ten thousand during my lifetime."


"Yes, I’m going to enjoy myself.  It isn’t as much money as I should
like, but my tastes are fairly simple.  I shall keep the bulk of the
coin until three years hence.  Then I shall be fifty.  From that time,
for the next three years, until I’m twenty, I shall paint the town red.
Then, from twenty downwards, when I shall begin to shrink very rapidly,
you may look after me again, if you’re still alive."

"Thank you, grandpapa, but I shan’t be. Such a programme as you are
arranging would certainly kill me.  I’m getting an old woman now.  I
couldn’t stand it, I couldn’t see you dragging an honoured name in the
dust.  Oh, think what this is you propose to do!  What does your
conscience say?  What would my father, your eldest son, have said?"

"My conscience!" he cried, "a pretty sweet thing in consciences I must
have!  If my conscience couldn’t keep me out of this hole I should think
he had mistaken his vocation. You wait, that’s all.  I’ll pay him back;
I’ll give him something to do presently!  I’ll keep him busy.  I guess
he’ll be about the most over-worked conscience, even in London, before

It was in this bitter and irreligious way that grandpapa had now taken
to talk.  He picked up all the modern slang, and waited with almost
fiendish impatience for his strength to reach a point when he would be
able to go out once more into the wicked world.  But, of course, the
instincts and habits of old age were still to some extent upon him.  He
continued to read the political articles in the papers, and give vent to
old-fashioned reflections.  He was a Tory, left high and dry--a man who
even yet declared that the Reform Bill ought never to have been passed.

About every six weeks grandpapa had to change the strength of his
spectacles, for his sight became better daily; and with it, one by one,
the wrinkles were blotted out, the hearing grew sharper, the round, bald
patch on his head decreased, and a little grey already sprinkled the
silver of his hair.

He joined an old man’s club in our neighbourhood called the
"Fossils"--"as a preliminary canter," so he told me; and from this
questionable gathering, which met at a hostelry in Hammersmith Broadway,
he came home at night very late, and often so worn out and weary that he
had not strength to use his latch-key.  I always let him in, and
supported him to bed on these occasions.

Then, when he was about seventy-five, according to the New Scheme, he
kissed Sophie, the housemaid--a most respectable girl and engaged.  She
gave warning, and I felt that poor grandpapa had now definitely set out
on his great task of "painting the town red."  This expression was often
in his mouth, and I began to dimly gather the significance of it.

                              *CHAPTER V.*

                       _*THE PEOPLE NEXT DOOR.*_

When the builders took a piece of Hammersmith and called it West
Kensington, no doubt they did a wise thing. I think a house in West
Kensington sounds very genteel myself, and Wharton Terrace was an
exceptionally genteel row even for that neighbourhood.  Young men went
off to the City from it every morning, and young women walked out an
hour later, with little string bags, to do the shopping and arrange nice
dinners, and so on.  They were mostly youthful married couples in
Wharton Terrace.  One end of the row was not quite completed yet, but
the other extremity had been finished two years, and there were already
perambulators in the areas at that end.  When perambulators set in, I
notice that the window-boxes begin to get shabby, and the pet cats have
to look after their own welfare.

At No. 16, next door to us (for the numbers ran even on one side of the
road, odd upon the other), were some very refined people, who called on
me the day after Mrs. Hopkins drove over to see us from Ealing, in a
hired brougham.  Grandpapa said, in his cynical way, that they supposed
the brougham was Mrs. Hopkins’s own, and that, for his part, he didn’t
want to know the neighbours.  But he soon changed his mind.

The Bangley-Browns were four in family: a widowed mother, florid, ample,
sixty, convincing in manner, full of the faded splendours of a past
prosperity; two daughters, also florid and ample, but quite refined with
it; and a son of thirty, who worked in a lawyer’s office by day, and
toiled at the banjo of an evening.  They used to keep their drawing-room
blind up at night, so that people passing might see pink lamp-shades
throwing a beautiful reflection on their pretty things; and at such
times the Misses Bangley-Brown would sit in graceful attitudes in their
evening toilets, and Mr. Bangley-Brown, who wore a velvet coat after
dinner, would play the banjo and sing.  There was often quite a little
audience outside on the pavement to watch them.  They were most
high-bred gentlepeople, and one could see at a glance that evil fortune
alone brought them to Wharton Terrace.

The head of the family became very friendly with me.  Her husband had
been most unfortunate in speculations on the Stock Exchange. They were
the Sussex Bangley-Browns, not the Essex people, so she explained.  She
asked me if we were related to the Derbyshire Dolphins, and seemed
disappointed when I informed her that we had been Peckham Rye Dolphins
until the past five years.

She took a great fancy to grandpapa, and he showed pleasure in her
society.  I cannot expend time on their gradual increase of friendship,
but it did increase rapidly, and I believe, towards the end of it, that
grandpapa had no secrets from Mrs. Bangley-Brown--none, that is,
excepting the one awful mystery of the New Scheme.  But he told her
about his money and position, and she, taking him to be a well-preserved
man of seventy-five or so, met him half-way.  Already the old love for
the sex was beginning to reappear in my grandfather. It soon became a
very trying sight for me.  Grandfather constantly dropped in at No. 16
after dinner, and sat under the reflection of the pink lamp-shades, and
behaved in a manner which might have been gallant, but was also most
painful under the circumstances. The two poor girls soon confided in me.
They saw whither things were drifting.  "It would never do," said they,
"for your father[#] to marry our mother.  Such marriages are not happy,
and do not end well."  I assured them that I was of the same opinion.

[#] _Father_.  I may say here that, in public, I now posed as
grandpapa’s daughter.  I was averse to the deception, but he insisted.
"I’m not going to have you giving me away at the very start," he said.
Our relationship changed every two years at first; afterwards, more

"There are sufficient reasons why such a match should not take place.
Indeed, I cannot think my father contemplates any such action," I said.

"What does he contemplate then?" asked Florence Bangley-Brown.  "He
constantly gets us theatre tickets and so on, and I believe pays Fred to
take us off out of the way.  He haunts the house.  He buys us all sorts
of presents.  It must mean something."

I knew well enough what it meant.  It meant a move.  It was high time we
left West Kensington: the pilgrimage must be begun. Like Noah’s dove,
there would probably be no more rest for the soles of our feet until the
end of dear grandpapa--according to the New Scheme.

                             *CHAPTER VI.*


I had it out with him after breakfast, on the morning which followed my
conversation with the Bangley-Brown girls.  He took it better than I
expected, and seemed more amused than angry.

"She is a fine woman, and would be a satisfaction to me for quite six
months.  Then she’d pall.  I only realised last night that she was not
growing younger.  Whereas I am.  I realised it about two minutes after
I’d proposed."

"’Proposed’!  Oh, grandpapa!"

"Yes, while the gals were in here.  Bless you, Martha, the gals begin to
interest me more than the mother now."

"But she--Mrs. Bangley-Brown--what did she say?"

"What do you think?  Jumped at it.  Was half in my lap before I’d
finished.  You’re quite right: she’s not the woman for me. We’ll up
anchor before there’s trouble, and away.  I don’t care how soon we go."

It was fully time.  Apart from the monstrous step my grandfather had
taken, his own condition threw us more and more open to comment.  The
servants noticed it, and imagined the old man got the effect with
hair-dyes and cosmetics.  But as a matter of fact, every change was in
the ordinary, or rather extraordinary course which Nature now pursued
with grandpapa.

He was on thorns to be off after his engagement became known.  "There’s
no fool like an old fool," he said.  "I hope I shall soon outgrow this
sort of weakness.  Marriage indeed!  I rather think my time will be too
fully occupied during the next few years to waste much of it on a wife."

So he resigned his membership of the "Fossils," avoided Mrs.
Bangley-Brown as much as was possible under the circumstances, and sent
me out into the suburbs to find a new house.  I pointed out the needless
expense of such a course; I explained that furnished lodgings would much
better meet the case. What was the good of taking another house, which
we should certainly have to vacate in a year?  I explained that three
moves were generally held to be as bad as a fire, and so forth.  In
fact, I used every argument I could think of, but he was firm.

"Find a house, and be smart," he said. "This old hen-dragon’s beginning
to worry me to name the day.  We’ll flit by night.  And when you do get
diggings, better keep the address extremely dark.  I don’t want my
approaching manhood to be spoilt by the shadow of Mother Bangley-Brown."

Thus did he speak of a loving, if ample woman, to whom but a short
fortnight before he had offered his heart and fortunes.  The Misses
Bangley-Brown cut me after the engagement was announced, and, for my
part, I was glad of it.  It prevented the necessity for prevarication,
or perhaps untruth, because I could not have told them that I was going
to take grandpapa away, though doubtless they would have helped me to do
so very gladly.

But for the time I escaped much deliberate falsehood, although I already
saw, with a horrified prophetic eye, the awful pitfalls which lay before
me.  Grandpapa was dragging me down with him.  My religion, my morals,
my probity--nothing would avail.  If I spent the next eight years with
him, it appeared certain that I should spend eternity with him also.

I felt myself gradually drifting away on to the broad, downward road
with grandpapa. And yet I would not leave him--I could not do so.  His
horribly defenceless condition made me feel it must be simple cruelty to
let him fight this awful battle alone.  And I will say for grandpapa
that, now and then, he quieted down and picked his language, and had
beautiful thoughts about the solemnity of his position. At such times he
was goodness itself to me. He thanked me for my attention, for the
courageous way in which I clung to him, for my cool judgment, and
invaluable advice.

"Be sure, Martha, that you will reap your reward some day," he said.
"Such attachment and devotion to a suffering grandparent will not be

I thought so too.  If ever a woman deserved some consideration
hereafter, I was she; but, as I have said, I began to fear that blind
support of grandpapa would only serve to place me, in the long run,
under conditions of eternal discomfort with the poor old man himself.
Of course, he never talked about his own future, and I felt, under the
circumstances, that it would be bad taste for me to do so.

We went to Chislehurst, a pretty suburb in which I hoped that grandpapa
would occupy himself with the beauties of Nature, and dig in the garden
and plant seeds, and watch them come up, and be quiet and good.  But
though he accompanied me willingly enough to the little red-brick,
modern, ’Queen Anne’ residence I found there, he refused to dig in the
garden, or plant seeds, or be quiet and good.

It was one of his bad days when I suggested horticultural operations.

"Seeds be shot!" he said.  "I shall set about sowing my wild oats pretty
soon--that’s the only gardening for me!"

He had not threatened to paint the town red since we left it, but now
his constant allusion to wild oats caused me much uneasiness.

He was not interested in the works of Nature, but showed a craving to
get into society.  Nobody called, however, and I was glad enough that
people did not come to see us.  The longer we were left alone, the
longer we should be able to stop there.  But grandpapa was now fast
reaching an age when no mere passive part on life’s stage would suit

"I must be up and doing," he said to me. "’Satan finds some mischief
still,’ etc.," he added, with an unpleasant laugh.  "You know the rest."

"I only wish you would try and occupy yourself in a profitable way, dear
grandpapa," I said, ignoring the allusion, which, to say the least, was

"I’m going to," he answered.  "I’ve got eighteen months yet before I’m
fifty.  For that period of time we shall be able to stop here.  And I’m
going to take up pursuits fit for my age.  I’m going to do a bit of good
if I can."

It was an answer to my prayers, no doubt. But for all that I could
scarcely believe my ears.

"You are going to teach in the Sunday-school!" I cried with sudden
conviction, flinging myself on my knees beside my dear old hero.

"Get up," he said, "and don’t be an idiot. I’m going to run for the
Local Board; and if I get on, as I think I shall, I’ll raise Cain in
this place.  We’re all asleep here."

The Chislehurst air, which is bracing, had simply taken years off my
grandfather’s life, and I was conscious that he would make himself heard
on the Local Board pretty loudly if they really elected him.  This, I
doubted not, was what he meant by the peculiar idiom that he would raise
Cain.  The old man was always picking up new expressions now.  His
refined, old-world diction had almost entirely departed from his tongue.

                             *CHAPTER VII.*

                      *"*_*VOTE FOR DOLPHIN.*_*"*

"The truth is," said grandpapa, "that I have got to know some of the
shop people here.  Not the stuck-up cads who live in the big houses by
night and sneak up to London to sell boots and beer and underclothing by
day; not the purse-proud rubbish that sticks ’Esquire’ after its name
without any right; but genuine people, who live over their shops in
Chislehurst, and sell boots and beer and underclothing openly, and don’t
mind admitting it.  Mr. Lomax, our butcher, is proposing me, and Rogers,
the landlord of the _Eight Bells Inn_, has seconded my nomination. I’m
going to write an address to the electors, and leave no stone unturned
to get in."

"Is it worth while, my dearest?" I ventured to ask.

"Of course it’s worth while," he answered testily.  "You’re always
nagging at me in a quiet way to use my precious time; and when I
undertake a big enterprise like this you throw cold water on it.  And
another thing: it’s rather doubtful taste your questioning my actions at
all.  I look sixty and I feel sixty, but I am a hundred and four and
your grandfather. Don’t let appearances make you forget that.  Rogers
says I’m safe to get in.  Then I shall wake this place up a bit, and say
a thing or two that wants saying."

He had Mr. Rogers and his wife and daughter in to dine.  "Socially they
are nothing," my grandpapa admitted; "but when you’re running for a
public appointment you must be all things to all men, and not disdain to
make use of mere _canaille_."

Mr. Rogers was a very vulgar, plain-spoken man, and his wife had caught
his manner. Their daughter I liked less than them.  She allowed herself
to worry too much over her parents’ ignorance.  She corrected their
grammar openly; shivered ostentatiously when they dropped an "h" or
inserted the aspirate unexpectedly; told them plainly where to use a
fork when habit and inclination led them to employ a knife, and so
forth.  After the meal we went to the drawing-room, and when her mother
had gone to sleep in a corner, Miss Rogers told me that her parents were
a source of great sorrow to her.  They had given her an education of
exceptional thoroughness and gentility; which was weak of them, because
it enabled her to see their shortcomings, but had not made her a lady or
anything like one. She was called Marie--christened Mary no doubt--and
she was engaged to a life insurance agent in a fair way of business--so
he said.

This young man--one Mr. Walter Widdicombe--and his prospective
father-in-law, the innkeeper, worked very hard on grandpapa’s behalf.
Mr. Widdicombe understood canvassing, and he gladly accepted a sovereign
a day for his expenses, and went about beating up voters and making
people promise to poll for Daniel Dolphin.  Grandpapa’s election motto
was "Advance," and he wrote a manifesto in the local paper.  It was full
of suggested reforms and plain-speaking and hard hitting, and made the
old man a great many enemies.

If grandfather had been a peaceful, unassertive person, he might have
slunk through those terrible years of his existence without attracting
undue attention; if he had even been a moral and fairly religious man,
his position (and mine) would have presented less frightful
complications.  But he began to grow more boisterous and unprincipled as
his vital energy returned.  His disposition had always been at once
cantankerous and pushing, and now the circumstance of his prospects only
embittered and accentuated the worse traits in his character.  He was
reckless, unbound by any ordinary guiding and controlling views of this
life or the next, simply determined to "make the running," "go it up to
the knocker," and so on.  The expressions, of course, are his own.  I
was ignorant of their exact meaning until he practically illustrated

Grandpapa got in by twenty votes, after a great struggle.  He gave a
dinner, to men only, at the _Eight Bells_.  They had a large public room
there, used for important occasions; and ladies were allowed to sit in a
little gallery which ran round it, and listen to the speeches and watch
their heroes dine.  The same thing is done on a bigger scale by more
important people.

I sat by Miss Rogers, who nearly fell out of the gallery on to the table
below when her papa began to eat peas with a knife.  She suffered also
during his speech, which was faulty in manner, though I thought the
matter excellent.  He praised grandpapa’s good qualities, noted his
fiery, manly spirit, hinted that in approaching old institutions the
reformer must begin with caution and the thin end of the wedge.  But
grandpapa showed by the tone of certain remarks, in which he responded
to the toast of his health, that "caution" was not going to be his
watchword by any means. He was flushed with success, and hardly looked a
day more than fifty.  He alluded to the "bright-eyed angels" hovering
above him in the gallery, and hinted at garden parties in our back
garden, and made me extremely uncomfortable by ordering a dozen of
champagne to be sent up to us.

I left him smoking cigars, and getting very noisy and excited.  He came
home at half-past one o’clock, between Mr. Rogers and Mr. Lomax, our
butcher.  I need not dwell upon his condition.  I saw everything in the
moonlight through my Venetian blind.  One of his supporters found
grandfather’s latch-key and opened the door with it.  Then both dragged
him up to his room and went home, shutting the front door behind them.
Grandpapa was very poorly indeed during the night, but refused my aid.
I offered to fetch a medical man, but he told me to let him alone and go
and bury myself.  Of course I could not disguise the truth.  Grandpapa
had taken too much to drink.  The thought went through me like a knife.
Indeed, I cried all night, and when I rose my pillow was still wet with

In the morning he was looking ten years older, and for a short time I
thought and hoped the New Scheme had broken down.  But, after a glass of
brandy and soda-water, he brightened up, and his headache went off.  He
declared that he had enjoyed himself extremely, spent a royal night, and
felt all the better for it.

"I find," he said, "that I don’t care a straw for wine yet, but the old
taste for spirits has come back.  We must get in a few gallons at once.
And cigars, too; I’m taking to cigars again."

He was rather sulky when I did up his accounts, but he considered it
money well spent.  Then he put on his hat and went out "to see the

He came back in a terrible rage, and used three new expletives, and
hinted at murder. It appeared that his defeated rivals on the Local
Board had lodged a protest against him for bribery and corruption.
Grandpapa nearly went mad with rage.  He knocked a man down in the open
street, and was summoned and appeared at a police court, and had to be
bound over to keep the peace.  Finally he lost his seat on the Local
Board, the case going against him; and as he dashed into the kitchen,
where I was showing the cook how to make something, he absolutely foamed
at the mouth.  He threatened to buy dynamite, to blow Chislehurst to the
skies, to destroy his political opponents with poison.  Then he talked
seriously of ending his own existence, from which step I dissuaded him,
feeling at the same time, that he could hardly make worse arrangements
for his future than he had already done.  After dinner on that day he
said he should give up trying to do good, and he kept his word.  He took
to living at the _Eight Bells_, and to writing insulting letters to the
local papers.  One of these cost him a hundred pounds in a libel action.
Then (and I was not sorry for it) he found some brown hair on his head.
This threatened to spread and attract attention, so I considered that
the time had come for us to make another move, and begin life upon a new
plan with altered relationships.

                            *CHAPTER VIII.*

                           _*MARIE ROGERS.*_

Heaven knows that I do not wish to show up grandpapa in this narrative,
or make the unhappy old sufferer appear worse than he was.  Indeed, my
desire is to write with a dispassionate pen, to state facts, and leave
scientists, legal experts, and students of ethics to draw their own
conclusions.  But I do not intend that anything shall blind me to what I
owe my grandpapa; and I will say that in the matter of Marie Rogers he
was not entirely to blame.  The girl set her cap at him, haunted him in
the tap-room at her father’s place of entertainment, sent him flowers,
gushed about him to me, and did everything she could to flatter his
vanity. This had always been extremely easy.  He was still old enough to
feel tickled by the attention of a woman of thirty.  Miss Rogers had a
childish prettiness of manner, which might have been effective when she
was younger, but struck me as rather ridiculous now.  She talked young
and dressed young, and pretended a general ignorance of the seamy side
of the world which took in my grandpapa completely.  No doubt it had
similarly deceived the life insurance agent. That young man lost his
temper with Miss Rogers over the matter of my grandpapa, and received
short notice in consequence.

"Gad!" said grandfather, "it’s very gratifying--an old buffer of a
hundred and six to cut out this youngster.  What d’ ye think of her,
Martha?  Not a day older than thirty--eh?"

"I think you are on the verge of a volcano, grandpapa.  You are doing a
most dangerous thing by stopping here.  Already people laugh at your new
piebald wig, as they call it.  You ought to have left Chislehurst three
months ago, as I urged you at the time."

"Well, well, let ’em laugh.  Who cares? I’m sure I don’t.  This girl
takes my fancy, and that’s a fact.  She’s in love with me, and can’t
hide it, and Rogers hasn’t any objection."

"Of course not; he knows what you’re worth."

"I’ve been wondering if I could run away with her and marry her
somewhere in Scotland," said grandpapa, winking at me.  I did not
understand the wink, and asked him what he meant.

"It doesn’t matter," he answered, "only she might get tired of me when I
grow younger; and I myself might fancy something a little fresher later

"Once and for all," I said, "this inclination towards matrimony is
reprehensible and must be crushed, dear grandpapa.  I implore of you to
fight against it.  Don’t let every woman you meet fool you into a
declaration.  Do be circumspect; for Heaven’s sake, look on ahead."

"It’s brutal always asking me to do that," he answered, shedding tears,
for it was one of his maudlin days; "I don’t want to look ahead.  The
future can take care of itself. I’m spoiling for somebody who would be a
comfort to me at home--somebody who would take a bright view of things
and not always be ramming the future down my throat, like you do.  I see
no reason why I should not marry."

"Then let me give you some," I answered desperately.  "You must remember
what lies in store.  No woman shall suffer as I have suffered and am
suffering.  This girl, Marie Rogers, is thirty or more; you are--say,
five-and-fifty.  In four years’ time you will be _fifteen_!  You cannot
get away from that.  The horrible fact is reached by simple arithmetic.
Imagine yourself at that age saddled with a wife, and perhaps a family!
If you can face such a prospect with a good conscience, I cannot.  I’d
rather die than see you in such a position."

He laughed bitterly.

"What relation would you be to them, I wonder?  The brats would be your
uncles and aunts, and my wife your grandmother! What a fool you’d look!"

I couldn’t see it, and for the first time since the commencement of the
New Scheme, I lost my temper with grandpapa.

"Oh, you horrid, depraved old man!" I cried, "will no words, or tears,
or prayers, make you pause and reflect?  Cannot your only surviving
relation, your own son’s child, carry any weight with you?  Would you
rather have this flighty female at your side than me?  Cannot you
realise what I am doing for you, what you would be without me?  I blush
for you; I blush for your disgraceful tastes and wicked ambitions.  You,
who ought to spend all your time on your knees and in church, calling on
Providence to avert this doom!  You shall not marry.  Hear me, I say,
once and for all, you shall not.  If you dare to get engaged again, I’ll
tell the woman’s people.  I’ll make a clean breast of it to Mr. Rogers.
Then you’ll have to leave this place whether you like it or not. I’ve
done a great deal for you, but I’m only human, and you’ve stung me
beyond endurance to-day.  Let us have no repetition of this terrible
conversation.  Make your choice once for all.  Take Marie Rogers, or let
me stay with you, and fight for you.  But you cannot have both of us."

He was rather cowed by my vehemence.

"Of course, if you’re going to make such a a fuss, I must debate with
myself," he said. "Only it’s rather awkward now.  Why didn’t you speak
sooner?  You must have seen the woman adoring me for the last six

"I gave you credit for a certain amount of proper feeling," I answered.

"That was weak," he said.  "I’ve made a law unto myself lately.  As a
matter of fact we are engaged.  I popped the question yesterday in the
bar-parlour, and she cried and asked me to see the old man.  He was
delighted.  I didn’t explain things to him, but it’s a very good
bargain--for Marie.  She’ll have a rum time of it certainly for five
years and six months; then I shall fade away, or be carried off in a
fiery chariot or something, and she can take the money.  Still, I may be
doing a foolish thing.  My tastes are changing so readily.  I’m certain
to drop my eye on something more up-to-date as soon as I’m booked to

"I implore you, grandpapa, to throw her over.  She doesn’t love you.
She is marrying you for your money.  Her regard will never stand against
the shock of finding out the New Scheme.  She will confide in others and
ruin your peace of mind.  Possibly she will run away altogether when you
begin to--to shrink, as you must.  I, on the contrary, am prepared to
face everything.  Tear her image from your heart!  Fight the passion and
conquer it. Rest on me!"

My grandpapa smoked and drank whisky, while I sat up into the small
hours and argued with him.

"I believe you’re right," he said at last. "I can’t face the girl, nor
yet her father now; but I really think we’d better drop the connection.
Socially, of course, it’s not satisfactory at all.  No doubt young
Widdicombe, the life insurance agent, will come back when I’m gone.
Yes, we’d better make tracks, perhaps. She hasn’t got anything in
writing.  Besides, I’m sick of this place.  I’ve quarrelled with pretty
nearly everybody in it, and I’m owing some money too--some debts of
honour--that I think I can wriggle out of paying.  I’ll try and forget
Marie.  We’ll ’shoot the moon’ before quarter-day."

By "shooting the moon," my grandpapa explained that he employed a
well-known technicality which meant leaving Chislehurst at night, in an
abrupt manner, without letting our departure be known beforehand or
advertising our new address in the local newspapers, or even mentioning
it at the post-office.

                             *CHAPTER IX.*

                        _*IN LONDON ONCE MORE.*_

Of course, a hale man with a strong will of his own, numerous vices,
rapidly-decreasing years, and strong, if misplaced, convictions, was
more than an unmarried, inexperienced, woman of my age could be expected
to manage.

As time progressed I gave up attempting to reform grandpapa, and simply
contented myself with praying that he might complete his career without
falling into absolute crime.  The thought of seeing him in a felon’s
dock at the last haunted me like a nightmare.  He would get younger and
less familiar with the wicked ways of the world daily.  As a young man,
he was one for whom traps, snares, and pitfalls had never been set in
vain.  When he reached a hundred and eight he would look and feel twenty
years of age under the New Scheme. Then, how probable that the poor old
man might fall a prey to some iniquitous schemer! I told him my fears,
and he sneered bitterly, and said:

"Yes, a pretty old cough-drop I should look, shouldn’t I, being
sentenced to penal servitude for life--at a hundred and nine years of
age?  Then you’d see an advertisement in the papers, ’Wanted, at
Portland Prison, a wet nurse for the notorious forger and embezzler,
Daniel Dolphin.’  Bless you, Martha, there’s some real fun in store for
you and me yet."

I cried and begged him not to say such things.  It was a horrible
thought, and yet had a ray of comfort in it, that if I could only keep
the old man fairly straight for the next five years, or less, he would
then be at my mercy again.  By that time somebody would certainly have
to be a second mother to grandpapa.

We "shot the moon" on a night when there was none.  Our next move took
us back to town.  I hired a little flat, No. 1, Oxford Mansions, a snug
place enough, near Earl’s Court.  According to custom, we left no
address behind us, and began life anew.  I was obliged to drop all my
old friends in Peckham Rye and Ealing for grandpapa’s sake. I had met
Mrs. Hopkins at Whiteley’s, and told her the old man was dead.  She
pressed me to come and see her, and I answered that I would write.  Then
I hastened away to the Drugs Department, leaving her in the
Haberdashery, astonished and disappointed.  My heart sorrowed, for I
loved the good woman; but there was nothing else to be done.  On another
occasion grandpapa took me to the Royal Figi Exhibition at Earl’s Court,
and we ran right on top of the Bangley-Browns.  The girls recognised me,
and whispered to their mother; but, of course, they did not know
grandpapa.  He was twenty years younger than when they last saw him.
Mrs. Bangley-Brown turned very red, and sailed towards me; but I dodged
with my grandpapa round a refreshment building, and then dragged him
through a crowd to the entrance of the Exhibition, finally escaping in a
hansom cab.

"What do I care?" he said.  "I’d like to have spoken to her again.  I
spotted ’em before you did.  She wasn’t half a bad old bounder. Those
gals don’t go off apparently; too much torso and not enough tin, eh?"

In this painful style did the old man speak of two perfect ladies, whose
only crime was a hereditary inclination to _enbonpoint_.  I toned him
down when I could, but he rarely listened to me now.  It was as his
sister that I posed at No. 1, Oxford Mansions.  He had grown into a very
corpulent, big-bearded man.  He wore white waistcoats, and followed
fashion, and took particular pains with his person.  He abandoned
politics and began to develop interest in City affairs.  Once he brought
home a new friend who he said was on the Stock Exchange--a most
gentlemanly, polite individual, who treated me with a courtesy and
consideration to which I had long been a stranger.  After he had gone,
grandpapa told me he was somebody of great importance.

"He’s floating a fine scheme that’s got thousands in it," he explained.
"We dined at Richmond with some friends last week, and, coming home in
the drag, Phil Montague--that’s his name--let me into a secret or two,
and promised me shares.  Mind, Martha, I’m doing this for you.  Don’t
say I never think of you.  When I’m gone, you’ll draw many a fine
dividend from the ’Automatic Postcard Company.’  And when you draw ’em,
think of me, far away--probably frying."

Mr. Phil Montague called again, and, finally, I know that grandpapa took
at least a thousand pounds of his capital out of Something Three Per
Cents, and put them into Automatic Postcards.  Then he suddenly
determined to go upon the Stock Exchange himself.  I think that he would
have carried out this mad project, but other affairs distracted his
attention.  Hardly was the company of Mr. Phil Montague well floated
when that gentleman called again, dined by invitation, and broached a
new scheme to grandpapa.

This man represents my own greatest failure as a student of character.
I was utterly deceived in him.  He simply laid himself out to deceive
me.  Doubtless he felt that if he could get me on his side he would be
able to deal with grandpapa all the more easily. Outwardly Mr. Montague
was both religious and modest; which qualities, openly paraded in a
stockbroker, appeared very beautiful to me. He also quoted Scripture,
not ostentatiously, but evidently from habit.  He constantly alluded to
his dead mother, and told me that he took exotics to her grave at
Brompton every second Sunday afternoon.  How many financiers would do
that?  He never talked business in front of me, and I found after he had
known my grandpapa about a month that the old man began to grow very
secretive and peculiar.  A cunning furtive look appeared in his eye; he
was away from home--in the City and elsewhere--a great deal; he avoided
discussion of his affairs as far as possible. Once I asked him some
question about Mr. Montague’s own status, and he laughed, and answered
in bad taste--

"Spoons, eh?  Well, Martha, old chip, I believe he’s gone on you, too,
or else he’s playing the fool because he thinks it will please me.
’Fine woman, your sister,’ he said to me last week.  ’Fine for her
age--she’s sixty,’ I answered."

"Grandfather, you _know_ I’m not!"

"Well, you look it, every hour of it.  But he pretended to be surprised,
and said it was strange you hadn’t made some good man happy before now."

"I think he is a very worthy, honourable gentleman, grandfather, and I
wish you would try and be more like him."

"Bless you, Phil’s all right.  We’re great pals.  And he’s got some
brains under that sanctified manner, too.  We have a little bit of fun
in hand just now that means a pile for us both, if I’m not mistaken."

At this moment Mr. Montague himself was announced, and, without waiting
to enquire of grandpapa whether I might do so, I asked him boldly of
what nature was his new enterprise.

                              *CHAPTER X.*

                            _*THE CRUSADE.*_

"I will tell you with great pleasure, dear Miss Dolphin," he said, in
his sad, rather sweet voice.

He sat down, stroked his clean-shaven chin, drew up his trousers that
their elegant appearance might not be spoiled by his sharp, thin knees,
and then spoke:

"Your brother and I are engaged in a crusade.  Is not that the word, Mr.

"As good as any other," said my grandpapa.

"Better than any other.  You have doubtless heard of Monte Carlo, Miss
Dolphin?  It is a plague-spot on the fair face of France. God made the
Riviera; man is responsible for Monte Carlo.  The Prince of Monaco is
the landlord, so I understand; the Prince of Darkness is the tenant.
Miss Dolphin, it is often necessary to fight the Devil with his own
weapons.  We are going to Monte Carlo with a golden sword.  Your brother
finds the sword--I wield it."

"In plain English, Martha, Montague’s worked out a dead snip----"

"A system, pardon me."

"Well, a ’system,’ that will take the stuffing out of the strongest bank
that ever robbed innocents.  We are both going."

"Grandf--!  Daniel!  Going to Monte Carlo!"

"Yes.  Don’t want you.  It’s simply a matter of business."

"Let me explain," said Mr. Montague. "You are rather startled, dear Miss
Dolphin, and I cannot wonder at it."

He blew his nose.  His handkerchiefs and shirt-cuffs and so on were
always beautiful. He said:

"The facts are these.  I have had an inspiration.  Heaven has from my
earliest youth been pleased to bestow upon me certain mathematical gifts
denied to most men.  This power of dealing with figures was not given me
for nothing.  It is a talent not to be hidden in a napkin."

"No fear," said grandpapa.

"I have long been seeking some outlet for my peculiar ability, and I
have at length found it.  In my hand is a power, that rightly exercised,
will extinguish one of the greatest evils of the present day.  Under
Heaven I have been mercifully permitted to discover a system which rises
naturally from certain processes in the higher mathematics.  This system
applied to the laws which govern chance produces a most startling
result.  It annihilates chance altogether, and substitutes certainty. Do
I make myself clear?"

"Clear as crystal," said grandpapa, chuckling.

"A lady can hardly be interested in my deductions, but their
conclusions, their practical results, will not fail to interest her,"
continued Mr. Montague.  "My system, once grasped and accepted, becomes
a law, and the effect of that law must be a revolution in human society.
Think, dear Miss Dolphin, of a world from which all element of chance is
eliminated! The vices of gambling and betting vanish. Mathematics will
rise superior to human roguery.  We know when to expect red or black--I
refer to card-playing; we know which horse ought to win every race, and
if it doesn’t we know where to throw the blame; we know everything; we
are become as gods!"

"But what has that to do with Monte Carlo, sir?" I ventured to ask.

"Good old Martha!  Go up one," said grandpapa.

Then Mr. Montague turned to me and answered my question.

"I expected you would ask that, Miss Dolphin, and I gladly explain.
Monte Carlo is the headquarters of this pestilential passion, this love
of gambling which dominates mankind. We are going to begin a crusade
there, and fight against the most powerful troops the enemy has at

"That’s so!  I’m planking down a thousand; and we’re goin’ to play a big
game and make some of ’em hop, and wish they had never been born," said

"In other and more seemly words, Miss Dolphin, we design to crush Monte
Carlo, to wipe that blot from the fair face of France. The gambling hell
shall be no more; treachery, falsehood, knavery shall cease out of the

"And we’ll come home with flags flying, in a triumphal car drawn by
oof-birds," said grandpapa.

"That, of course, is a circumstance incidental to the scheme," explained
Mr. Montague to me.  "You do not understand your brother, naturally
enough, but what he means is that a large sum of money will accrue to
us.  With this wealth we shall develop my system, and place it within
the reach of the misguided speculators of all countries."

Grandpapa exploded with noisy laughter, and patted Mr. Montague on the

"Why not do so first?" I asked.  "Why not publish this great discovery
at once in the papers?"

"Give it away!  Good Lord, Martha--and you a lawyer’s daughter!" said

"I would do so willingly enough," answered Mr. Montague, "but
advertisement is a costly business.  To make the system sufficiently
known would require an expenditure of many thousands of pounds.  You see
no better advertisement of it could be hit upon than breaking the bank
at Monte Carlo.  We shall go on breaking that bank until the proprietors
are ruined and the place is shut up.  Then we shall return home."

"By way of Paris," said grandpapa.  "If you like to meet us there," he
added, with his real affection for me bubbling up to the surface of his
nature, "you may; and we’ll make a bit of a splash among the frogs."
But I had never been out of England in my life, and did not like the
picture of splashing with grandpapa in Paris.  At the same time the
thought of him splashing there alone was even less pleasant.

Mr. Montague said a few more words, promised never to lose sight of my
grandfather and then took his leave, kissing my hand on his departure,
in a stately, old-fashioned way which was very pleasing to me.

I could not help contrasting him with grandpapa, to the disadvantage of
the latter.  They looked about the same age, yet how different in their
conduct, language, and attitude towards the gentler sex!  One behaved,
and thought, and acted as though he was forty-five; the other, who
ought, heaven knows, to have been old-fashioned, and staid, and
sensible, conducted himself like a fast, silly boy of twenty-one.  For
about this time grandfather began to grow young for his years, even on
the New Scheme.

He bought some showy clothes, cloth caps, and knickerbockers, a
meerschaum pipe, a spirit-flask, and several other things at the Army
and Navy Stores.  For these he certainly paid, but he gave the people
who served him an imaginary name and ticket number.  Rather than spend
five shillings in a member’s voucher, he told a lie to the officials
of-the Co-operative Society; which I should think was very unusual.
Then the old man drew another precious thousand pounds out of Government
securities, and went away with Mr. Montague to wipe out Monte Carlo.

I was fearful of the entire concern, but he told me to "keep up my
pecker and watch the papers," and so departed in roaring spirits.  The
only thing which troubled him was that his time for "blueing the booty"
would be so short.  To this day I have never met anybody who could
explain the meaning of the expression "blueing the booty."

                             *CHAPTER XI.*

                         _*A NEW LEAF TURNED.*_

I am a simple old woman, ready to see fine qualities in anybody,
unwilling to doubt the honesty of fellow-creatures or the good faith of
their assertions.  Therefore I am not ashamed to confess that Mr.
Montague entirely deceived me, and turned out, not merely no better than
he should have been, but much worse.  He deceived dear grandpapa, too,
though in a different way.

"I thought he was a sly beggar who ’d found a plum in the pie," said
grandfather to me afterwards; "but it wasn’t so--a mere blackleg, a
scamp, a devourer of orphans. Break the bank?  No, we didn’t break the
bank, but I broke his nose, and scattered his false teeth from one end
of the Casino to the other, and dusted the steps with him afterwards!"

These and other things grandpapa said when he returned from Monte Carlo.
I watched the daily journals as he directed, and so was not wholly
unprepared for the fiasco which resulted from his trip to the Continent.

Indeed two startling items, both involving dear grandpapa, met my eye on
the same morning, in the same copy of the _Daily Telegraph_.  Under the
"agony column" of that periodical I read as follows:--

"Wanted, address of one Daniel Dolphin. The same to Rogers, ’Eight
Bells,’ Chislehurst, will meet with a reward."

And elsewhere, under the heading of "Scene at Monte Carlo," occurred
this paragraph:

"The English here are making things lively. Two adventurers with a new
’system’ began to play last night and lost a thousand pounds at a
sitting.  One appears to have been a knave, the other a fool.  When
their resources were exhausted they came to blows, and the bigger man,
presumed to be the capitalist, fell upon his companion and thrashed him
unmercifully.  It appears they had come in great state with a flourish
of trumpets; but their ’system,’ like most others, though doubtless
pretty on paper, broke down at the tables. Both men have disappeared."

Here was cause for alarm if you will.  I could not be sure that the
persons mentioned were my dear grandfather and his companion, but
somehow I always fancied that the matter related to them.  I also dimly
guessed why Mr. Rogers wanted grandpapa’s address.  No doubt Marie’s
affections had been trifled with, and the law possesses power to
estimate the value of such broken promises in pounds, shillings, and

I waited a fortnight without hearing a word from grandpapa.  Then he
suddenly came home, penniless and destitute of everything but the
clothes on his back.  He had grown thinner, and nearly a year younger,
but his health appeared excellent, though his memory seemed to be
impaired.  Of course time was winging backwards at such a hideous rate
with grandpapa that events, which only seemed of yesterday to me,
already grew dim in his memory.

I sent for the tailor to come and measure him for some new clothes, and
then begged he would tell me all that had happened.  He began
immediately about Paris, but I reminded him of Monte Carlo and Mr. Phil
Montague.  Then he grew enraged, and explained to me how he had treated
that gentleman.

"I left the place next day, and slipped back to Paris.  There I’ve had a
pretty good time, but it’s an expensive place.  I kept a few hundreds up
my sleeve, you know, and after I’d lost the ’thou.,’ which simply
filtered away in a few hours, I reckoned I’d get better money’s worth
with what was left.  So I went to Paris and had a gaudy fortnight."

"And now you will settle down, dearest, won’t you, and drop all this
speculation and money-making?"

"Yes, no more ’systems’ for me.  First settle up, then settle down.  We
must bolt out of London, anyhow."

"Why, grandpapa?  We are safe for six months yet, if you keep quiet."

"I haven’t kept quiet," he acknowledged frankly.  "You’d better hear the
truth.  I’m in a very awkward position."

"Tell me everything, grandpapa.  I can bear it."

"Well, I met her in Paris."

"Grandpapa!  Another?"

"Listen.  I met the woman in Paris.  She was a Russian princess,
stopping at the Hotel Bristol.  She could speak English--worse luck.  So
we got on.  No side at all about her.  Let me take her everywhere and
pay. One of those golden-haired, expensive women, but beautiful as a
dream.  Her husband still lives somewhere in Russia.  He had a row with
the Czar about her.  She was nobody herself.  They were separated
through no fault of hers.  She couldn’t stand him because he funked the
Czar.  Plucky little woman; coming over to this country to play the harp
at the music-halls.  We’re engaged."


"Don’t criticise, I can’t stand it to-day. She’s called the Princess
Hopskipchoff.  She said it was the dream of her life to marry me; that
she’s seen me in her sleep and that a fortune-teller, now in Siberia,
had accurately described me to her years ago.  She’s twenty-five and
true as steel.  Socially it would have been a step in the right
direction, though Russian Princesses are rather a drug in the market.
But I can’t marry her, of course. I’ve thought better of it since we
parted, and I’ve had time to do up my accounts."

"You break hearts as a pastime, grandfather. Poor woman.  I’m sorry for

"As to that, it wasn’t a love match entirely either.  She was fairly
cute.  I rather hoodwinked the girl, perhaps; but all’s fair in love.
I--well--I pulled, the long bow, certainly."

"You disguised your true condition?"

"More than that.  I hinted at twenty thousand a year and a park."

"You will kill me, grandpapa!"

"And I also told her I was a Viscount, Viscount Dolphin, heir to the
titles and estates of the Duke of Cornwall."

"Good heavens!  The Prince of Wales is the Duke of Cornwall!"

"Is he, begad?  I’d forgotten that," said grandpapa, with a painful,
cunning look on his face, "then she can go and worry ’em at Marlborough
House.  She won’t get any information about me there.  Don’t you bother.
We’ll smash her if she makes a row.  I’ll say she’s a Russian spy or
something.  Anyhow the simplest way will be for us to clear out of town
altogether.  I’m sick of the wickedness of London.  Every second man you
meet’s a swindler or a rogue.  Give me the peaceful country--a bottle of
port at the squire’s mahogany, the _Field_ newspaper, a decent mount,
and pleasant feminine society.  That’s good enough for me.  I’m a
hundred and six in three days’ time; forty by the New Scheme.  Yes, let
me go and dwindle from forty to thirty amidst quiet, rural, agricultural

I was delighted at this resolution.  Grandpapa henceforth appeared as my
son, made me wear a wedding-ring, and carried me away to a little
honeysuckle-covered cottage near Salisbury.

                             *CHAPTER XII.*

                           _*A SUGGESTION.*_

When I mentioned Mr. Rogers’s advertisement to my grandfather he buried
himself in the past, and by great effort of memory re-called his career
at Chislehurst. It began to be a puzzle to him that time, which flew so
fast where he was concerned, should drag so extremely with the rest of
the world.

"Chislehurst!  Why that’s twenty years ago, or near it," he said.  "The
girl must be fifty if she’s a day.  No judge would grant her a hearing
at all.  Breach of promise indeed!  But we’re perfectly safe, they
wouldn’t recognise me if I walked into the _Eight Bells_ to-morrow."

With fortunes to some extent impaired we set off for Rose Cottage, near
Salisbury. Grandpapa had forgotten all about the "Automatic Postcard
Company," but I reminded him of the affair, and he went to a meeting of
shareholders and said some nasty things, and was cheered by the other
victims.  Of course we lost all the money he had put in.

And now, in the quiet country, my grandfather made his one solitary
effort towards reformation.  It lasted three weeks, and ended in
failure, and a run up to town without me.

But grandpapa did try all he knew to be good.  He lived a blameless
life, kept early hours, became a practical teetotaler, played a little
lawn-tennis at the vicarage, and went to church twice every Sunday.  I
think he expected too much, and was too hopeful.

He said on one occasion:

"If heaven don’t take pity on me now, and put a spoke in the New Scheme,
then I shall say Providence is simply played out.  Look at the life I’m
leading.  Look at the way I talk; never a strong expression.  I helped a
lame woman across the road yesterday.  Is that to count for nothing?
One cigar a day, early hours, no liquor, no language, no
flirtation--why, if I was on my death-bed I couldn’t be leading a more
insipid life.  It _must_ tell in the long run."

But he only got younger and handsomer. The early hours and exercise at
lawn-tennis did wonders.  Men do not alter much between thirty and forty
as a rule, but grandpapa began to get absolutely boyish.  Half the
pretty girls in the place were in love with him. Everybody thought he
was younger than even the New Scheme made him appear.

I felt all along that he was not conducting his reformation on right
lines, for what hope of success could be expected when the entire
structure of his life stood on foundations of falsehood?

At the end of a fortnight, finding no improvement, he grumbled at
Providence, and slipped for a moment into his old methods of expression.
Then I made a suggestion.

"You will never escape from this hideous predicament, dearest," said I,
taking his great, muscular hand between my thin ones, "you will never
put yourself on a proper footing with heaven again, unless you proclaim
the truth, banish all these false pretences which now hem us in on every
side, and explain your position to the world.  Only old Mr. Murdoch, of
Ealing, knows the truth.  Rise up and tell everybody, grandpapa!"

He shaved now, with the exception of his moustache.  This he tugged and
twisted, and looked at me with undisguised contempt.

"Well, that fairly takes the crumb!" he said.  "D’ you actually suggest
that I should go on the housetops and cry, ’Look at me, look at me, good
people; I’m nearly a hundred and seven years of age; I’ve signed a
treaty with the devil.  He will have what is left of me in about three
years.  This ancient woman is my granddaughter.  Come, all of you, pray
for us’?  Would you suggest I did that, Martha?"

"Something like it," I answered.  "Then you would feel that you were
telling the truth, at all events."

"Pretty true ring about it, certainly. Everybody would believe it,
wouldn’t they?"

"I could substantiate the facts, grandpapa."

"Which would merely place you in a lunatic asylum as well as me.  If you
are going to babble about telling the _truth_ we may as well pack up our
traps and take the train to Colney Hatch right away."

"But the world might watch you shrinking, grandpapa.  A committee of
doctors would find out in six weeks that you were telling the truth."

"And have people paying sixpence a head to come in and see me dwindling?
I don’t mean to make a circus of myself for you or anybody.  If
Providence can’t do anything, then we’ll just rip forward as we’re
going, and abide by the result.  I’ll keep up this psalm-singing one
more week; then, if nothing happens, I shall go on the razzle-dazzle,
and chance it."

"What d’you mean, grandpapa?"

"It doesn’t matter what I mean.  I shall do it anyhow."

And he did.  A week later he went off for a couple of days "on the
razzle-dazzle."  I asked our curate if he knew the idiom.  He was but
recently ordained, after an undistinguished career at the University of
Oxford.  He said that to "go on the razzle-dazzle" meant a round of
picture galleries, museums, and similar institutions, where healthy
amusement might be found mingled with instruction.

"Many and many a time have I done likewise myself, Mrs. Dolphin, in the
good old days of the Polytechnic," he said.  "Your son will return all
the better for his trip."

This, coming from a cleric, comforted me not a little.

Grandpapa certainly did seem happier after his holiday.  He presently
re-appeared devoid of money, but in an excellent temper.  I trusted that
he would take more of these excursions in future, for they served to
distract his thoughts and do him good.

He was full of one topic.

"I saw the Hopskipchoff yesterday.  She’s quite the rage, and her
romance about Viscount Dolphin is a regular joke in the music halls.  I
sat pretty tight, I can tell you. Not that she would recognise me, now
my beard’s gone.  Fancy liking her!  What beastly bad taste old Johnnies
of five-and-forty have!  Why, she’s all paint, and eyes, and false
hair--no more a princess than you are, Martha."

"I’m thankful you escaped that snare, dear grandpapa."

"Yes, but she’s hunting for Viscount Dolphin still.  Several chance
acquaintances I made told me that she is.  She tried Marlborough House,
but that didn’t wash. They shot her out mighty quick, and she says it’s
a conspiracy.  Daresay she’ll find me some day trundling a hoop or
playing peg-top in the gutter.  I shall be a legal infant before anybody
can look round."

                            *CHAPTER XIII.*

                       _*THE SQUIRE’S DAUGHTER.*_

On his hundred-and-seventh birthday grandpapa gave up hope, went to
London for some new clothes, started a groom and two horses, laid in a
stock of the choicest wines, and began to live on his capital.  My
little portion had gone in the "Automatic Postcards."

"What there is left over after the final smash you can keep," said he to
me; "but I tell you frankly there won’t be much.  I’ve got about five
thousand left, and I’m going to live at the rate of two thousand or more
a year.  That will enable me to get into society if I spend it the right
way.  In two years I shall be ten years old.  Then you can look after me
again. But, during those two years, it might almost be better if you
left me and went to live somewhere else.  You won’t get any solid
satisfaction out of watching me.  I shall marry very likely, or do any
other fool’s trick that takes my fancy."

Of course I refused to leave him, and he said I might stay if I
particularly wished to, but he warned me never to interfere with him.

"And if you must stay," he added, "I will thank you to buy some better
clothes.  You’re getting too much of a back number to suit me. I don’t
like bringing classy people into the house.  You’re fifty years behind
the times. I’m a particular man myself, and I wish my relations to look
smart and prosperous.  I’m sorry I didn’t give out you were a rich aunt,
and that I was your nephew, with expectations. Then it wouldn’t have
mattered.  As it is, you must pull yourself together, and try to look as
little like a guy as possible.  I can hang on here for another six
months--till I’m five-and-twenty.  Then I suppose my moustache will
begin to moult, or something cheerful.  When that happens, we’ll toddle
back to town, and I’ll finish my career there."

I humoured him, bought a silk dress in the latest fashion, and a few
pieces of jewellery, for which he supplied the money.  This was done
with an object.  Heaven is aware that precious stones gave me no
pleasure, but I looked forward to the time when we should be bankrupt,
or when grandpapa would depart, leaving me at the workhouse door, so to
speak. Against this evil hour I bought the jewels and silk dress.  They
delighted my grandparent.

"Good old dowager!" he exclaimed at sight of me, "we are a proper old
box of tricks now!  I tell you what, Martha, my tulip: this must be
shown to the county.  We’ll give a dinner--a regular spread.  Men laugh
at me for living on in this little hole, but I laugh back, and tell ’em
I like it.  They believe I’m enormously wealthy, and fancy that to spend
but two thousand a year is miserly.  Yes, they think me awfully
eccentric--well, let ’em; God knows I am.  As to this feed, we’ll get
the grub from Salisbury, open the folding doors, and ask twenty people.
The Dawsons and the Westertons, and the parson and Squire Talbot and his
wife and daughter.  Then we’ll invite a big clerical pot or two from
Salisbury, and certain men I know.  The affair will distract me.  You
must write the invitations and so on.  If you don’t know how to, I’ll
buy you an etiquette book, with all the rotten rules and regulations."

"One point only, grandpapa.  Please, for my sake, don’t ask the Talbots.
It isn’t right; it isn’t fair to the girl.  You’re a man to make any
pretty child’s heart ache now.  I know you ride with her, and spend half
your time at Talbot Priory.  Recollect----"

"That’s enough," he said, shortly.  "You remember, too.  The Talbots are
to be asked. Mabel Talbot and I are friends.  That is all."

"That never is all with you," I answered, and then continued, undismayed
by his frown. "If she comes here, and you dine well, and drink, and so
on, you’ll end by proposing. You’ll blight another heart, and then come
to me next morning, and say it is time we made another move.  You may
well blush.  I will not stay to see it, that I solemnly vow.  If the
Talbots are to come, I leave the house."

"As you please--a good riddance."

My resolution was quickly formed.  I left him, put on my bonnet, and
walked up to Talbot Priory, a distance of one mile.  Fortune favoured
me, for Mabel Talbot, in a little pony carriage, alone save for the
company of a small groom behind her, came driving from the Priory.  She
was fond of me for a private reason, and now she stopped her vehicle,
leapt out, and gave me a kiss.  The girl was beautiful and good, and
hopelessly in love with my grandpapa.  He worshipped her too, and
explained to me on one occasion, at great length, that this was, to all
intents and purposes, his first real love.

"Cupid’s a blind fool, we all know, and, of course, he didn’t realise
what he was doing when he dropped Mabel Talbot in my way," said
grandpapa one day.

The old man gave out now that he had five thousand a year, for I heard
the servants discussing it; and Squire Talbot, to whose ear came this
rumour, believed it, and greatly desired grandpapa for his son-in-law.
The Squire was a clever, cunning aristocrat, and played on poor
grandpapa’s love of admiration, and made much of him.

But to return; I met Miss Talbot, as I have said, and accepted her
invitation to drive awhile.

"I want to talk to you, Mabel, about my grand----about dear Daniel," I
began, as we trotted out on to Salisbury Plain.  She blushed rosy red,
and nearly overturned the little carriage.

"Oh, dear, dear Mrs. Dolphin, has he told you?"

Then, of course, I knew they were engaged.

"How far has it gone?" I asked wearily.

No doubt the same old, sickening flight was upon us once more.  The life
I led was killing me.  I certainly began to grow old as fast as
grandpapa grew young.  But this time they might be secretly married
already for all I knew.

"He is going to see papa.  I know my father will consent.  And you, dear
Mrs. Dolphin?  May I be a little daughter to you? I will love you so
dearly.  I do already."

"Child," I answered, "you must face the truth and be brave.  Daniel is
much older--I mean younger--at least, he is different to what he seems.
He can never marry again.  Daniel has a great mystery hanging over his
life. Supernatural agents are interested in him.  He has violated all
the laws of Nature--at least, I fancy so.  I am not his mother at all.
He is my grandfather.  His real mother has been dead nearly a hundred

The girl’s blue eyes grew quite round.

"Mrs. Dolphin!" she gasped.

"No; Miss Dolphin.  He is my grandfather I tell you.  I am unmarried.
He has signed an agreement with--it doesn’t matter.  At any rate, he’s
already been married three times. He’s a widower, and he cannot live
more than three years, and----"

Mabel screamed, jumped from the pony carriage, and fell almost at the
feet of a horseman who had overtaken us.  It was grandpapa.

The girl ran sobbing to him, and I got out of the pony carriage.
Grandfather, dismounting, took the trembling Mabel into his arms, on the
high road, near some Druidical remains, and openly hugged her before me
and the groom.

"What does this mean?" asked grandpapa fiercely, eyeing me with a scowl.

"She--she--oh, Daniel, she says you’re her grandfather, and a married
man, and--and I’m frightened--very frightened of her."

"You needn’t be, darling," he said, with a bitter laugh; "she’s quite
harmless, poor old thing.  It’s only a passing attack.  She has these
fits from time to time in the hot weather. She’s very mad to-day.  Never
mind; I rode out to find her, and I’m glad I have.  I’ve tried to keep
the malady a secret, but female lunatics are so cunning."

"Madness is hereditary.  Oh, Dan, Dan, if papa knows that your poor
mother is so very eccentric, he will never consent."

"He has consented, my darling.  Fear nothing.  My mother’s insanity is
not hereditary. She fell out of a three-storey window on to her head
when she was seventeen.  Since then the ailment has appeared
occasionally. Her customary hallucination is blue rats.  You say she
thinks I am her grandpapa!  Poor old soul!  Go home, dear joy of my
life!  We meet to-morrow, after the Squire and I have seen the lawyers."

He kissed her, put her back in her pony carriage, and then turned to me,
after she had driven away.

"Now, you old devil," he said, making his heavy hunting crop whistle in
my ear, "you march home in front of me.  And mark this, if you _dare_ to
come between me and my amusements again, I’ll get two doctors to sign a
certificate, and have you under lock and key in Bedlam or Hanwell,
before you can say ’knife.’"

                             *CHAPTER XIV.*

                         _*AT UPPER NORWOOD.*_

In a week from that horrible day grandpapa and I were on affectionate
terms again, and living in furnished apartments at Upper Norwood, near
the Crystal Palace.  Events followed each other with such bewildering
rapidity now, that I have a difficulty in remembering their correct

After grandpapa’s brutal threat I felt my liberty, and even my life
itself, began to be in danger; so that night, after a silent dinner, I
waited until he went down to the stables to smoke, and then sending
hastily for a cab, put one box, which I had already packed, into it, and
drove away to Salisbury.  I caught a late train to town, and lodged for
the night at a little hotel near Waterloo.  From here, next morning, I
wrote to grandpapa, giving him my address, and telling him I was as
ready as ever to help him and fight for him if he needed me. Then I went
out and sold a brooch for five-and-twenty pounds, and bought myself a
bottle of brandy.  I want to hide nothing in this narrative.  Of late my
nerves had suffered not a little.  Stimulant was the only thing that
steadied them.  I took more and more of it.

Three days later grandpapa turned up at the hotel.  He had shaved off
his moustache, was very frightened and cowed, and said the police were
after him.  He insisted on our changing our names, and getting off
quietly into lodgings without delay.  He studied an "A.B.C." Railway
Guide, and said that Upper Norwood was a respectable sort of place,
where they wouldn’t be likely to look for him. Not until we were settled
in furnished rooms, half-way up Gipsy Hill, and had ordered lunch, did
he explain what had happened.  Then he told the story.

"The day after you bolted I met old Talbot and his lawyer about a
settlement.  I talked rather big, and suggested fifty thousand.  Then
the brute of a lawyer said, after he had heard my name, ’How odd.  Now
there is a gentleman I have been wanting to find for the last two years
nearly, and he is called Daniel Dolphin!’  Like a fool, and forgetting
the man he wanted must be years older than me, I lost my nerve, and the
lawyer saw that I had.  ’It’s an odd name--perhaps a relative?’ he said.
’The gentleman I mean used to live at Chislehurst.  You will be doing me
a kindness if you can tell me anything of him.’  Instead of simply
answering that I had never heard of the man, I replied that he was my
uncle.  ’How?’ exclaimed the Squire, ’I thought you had no relations but
your mother?’  Then I tried to explain, and bungled it--I’m growing so
damned young and silly now--and finally the matter dropped, but I could
see that lawyer meant getting the truth out of me later on.  I arranged
the settlements and so on, and gave them a list of my imaginary
investments, which, of course, I’d just picked out of the money columns
in the papers.  Then I wanted to marry at once, and get Mabel before
they had time to find out my game.  But the Squire said he wouldn’t hear
of it till the autumn. That wasn’t good enough, so I saw Mabel and told
her a yarn or two, and worked on her love for romance, and finally got
her to run away with me.  You needn’t jump.  The plot fell through.  She
weakly confided in a lady’s maid.  I saddled my horses myself, and rode
out at midnight to abduct her in the good old style.  I waited at a
certain point by the Priory walls, and presently she arrived.  But
hardly had we galloped off--I meant to take her to Salisbury, and marry
her before the registrar next morning--when we were confronted on the
Plain by Squire Talbot and half-a-dozen mounted bounders he’d got to
help him.  The Squire collared his daughter, and left his friends to
deal with me.  They tried to take me prisoner, but I’m pretty fit just
now, and pretty reckless too.  I was mad to think they’d scored off me
like this, and I hit out and knocked one chap off his horse, and nearly
strangled another, and fired my revolver at a third.  I missed him, and
shot his mount.  When they found I was armed, they cleared off.  It was
an exciting, old-fashioned scrimmage, and I enjoyed it while it lasted.
But of course, there’s the devil to pay.  I rode into Salisbury, put up
my horse at an inn, dodged around all night, and took the first train up
this morning.  The bobbies were prowling about at Salisbury station, but
they didn’t recognise me.  I’d cut off my moustache in the night, and
looked not more than eighteen in the morning.  The lawyer, of course,
wants me for Marie Rogers; and Talbot will want me; and the chap whose
head I broke will want me; and the man whose horse I shot will want me.
Let ’em want!"

"This is the beginning of the end, grandpapa," I said, sadly enough.

"Not it!  You wait and see what the next six months bring!  I shouldn’t
wonder if I was in a tight place six months hence.  This is nothing.
I’ll make some of ’em squeak yet before they’ve done with me."

It was in this wicked and reckless frame of mind that he prepared to
spend the remainder of his days.  However, he rested from his labours
for about six weeks, notwithstanding his boast to make people "squeak."
He read the reports of his performance on Salisbury Plain with great
delight, and he found, as the matter developed, that sundry unexpected
names appeared in it.  Daniel Dolphin was "wanted" by the
representatives of one Mrs. Bangley-Brown, to whom he had promised
marriage; a man of the same name had performed a similar action at
Chislehurst, the victim in that case being Miss Marie Rogers. It also
appeared that some impostor, calling himself Viscount Dolphin, and
claiming Royalty for his kindred, had met and proposed to Princess
Hopskipschoff in Paris.  These were all different persons of different
ages, the newspapers admitted, but they might have a connection with the
vanished rascal of the Talbot Priory business near Salisbury.  There was
a mystery of some kind, and the police naturally had a clue.

Grandpapa gloated over this confusion.  He had changed his name now to
Abraham Whiting--"another prophet and another fish," as he put it--but
he longed to go back to his true cognomen and "keep the pot boiling."
This, with difficulty, I prevented him doing for a short time.  His
monetary affairs were much simplified now: he had about three thousand
pounds in hand in notes and gold.  All the furniture, and horses, and
effects at Salisbury were sold, and what moneys were not claimed, under
legal and other expenses, went, I believe, into Chancery.  But grandpapa
had about three thousand pounds left, which, as he said, would last his
time with care.

His moustache did not grow again to any extent.  He took to wearing a
straw hat with a bright ribbon, a blue and red "blazer," white flannel
trousers, and tan boots.  Thus attired he spent much of his time in the
Crystal Palace, choosing undesirable friends at the different stalls and
"growing blue devils under glass," as he tersely put it.

                             *CHAPTER XV.*

                            _*SUSAN MARKS.*_

I may say at once that the police never found grandpapa.  Neither Le Coq
nor Edgar Allen Poe’s amateur would have done so, for the simple reason
that my grandparent was growing younger at the rate of one year every
five weeks or so; and though there is not much difference between one
year and the next in adult life, yet when we deal with the period of
adolescence, great changes become visible in brief periods.  He was
about five-and-twenty when we went to Upper Norwood, and two-and-twenty
when we left that desirable neighbourhood, after a residence of about
three months.

"You look your age; there’s no doubt about that, Martha," he said to me
once, in a very uncalled-for way.

"So do most respectable people," I answered sharply.  "We can’t all go
backwards.  The terms wouldn’t suit everybody."

"You needn’t be personal," he answered; "and you needn’t lose your
temper.  I say you look your age, and more than your age; and I’ll tell
you why----"

He broke off and tapped a bottle significantly. "Go your own way, of
course, but don’t say nobody ever tried to save you.  Don’t say your
grandfather didn’t warn you in time. You were as stupid as an owl last
night when I came in.  Yes, I know what you’re going to say: I had
better look to myself before I criticise other people.  But, remember, I
don’t matter; my tour’s booked through.  Things are different with you,
and I tell you frankly it’s a sorry sight to see an old woman of your
age going down the hill so fast.  No grandfather could view such a
spectacle calmly."

How I wept to be sure.  It was the first kind, thoughtful word I had
ever heard from him since the commencement of the New Scheme.  For
several days afterwards his manner quite changed.  He devoted himself to
me, and, amongst other things, purchased me two dozen bottles of
non-alcoholic bitter beer, and a book of intemperate temperance

All too soon, however, I discovered the reasons for this sudden outburst
of affection. Dear grandpapa began to feel that he could not get on
without me, and he had another little affair in hand.

I found a morocco case in his room one morning.  It contained a very
exquisite gold bracelet.  He had been late overnight, and I had taken
his breakfast up to him.  The parcel with the bracelet came on the
preceding evening while he was out.  He had opened it on returning and
left it open.  As he was asleep when I took in his morning meal, I had
time to examine the trinket.  I looked at the costly toy, and then at
grandpapa reposing peacefully and sweetly, with a glow of health and
youth on his face.  He lived out of doors now, and spent most of his
time at the Palace. Of course the bracelet spoke louder than words.

He awoke, saw what I had seen, sat up, ate three eggs, much toast, and
other things, then made a clean breast of his latest entanglement.

"It’s the purest, truest attachment--my first genuine love, so to speak,
and my last.  And she’s a girl to whom I can tell my secret; I feel
that.  Susan would believe anything. She will see me through the next
two years or so, and then she will be left free to marry again.  Yes, we
are engaged.  Socially it is a bit of a come-down from Mabel Talbot, but
I don’t want to found a family or go in for a swagger connection.  The
girl loves me, and that’s quite good enough for me."

"Who is she, grandpapa?"

"Nobody; at least I don’t know anything about her family.  She doesn’t
ever mention them, and I make no enquiries.  I don’t want to be within
the radius of another mother-in-law again at my time of life--I know
them. We’re going to be married privately, and then run out to America.
Susan keeps a stall at the Crystal Palace.  She’s a model girl, and
sells chocolate and sweetstuff generally.  You might go and see her
without saying anything. Just stop in a casual way and hear her talk.
Buy a pennyworth of something and study the girl a little.  She’s a
perfect treasure of a woman in my opinion.  I’ve reached an age now when
goodness outweighs beauty and everything.  But she is beautiful too.
She hangs out under that statue of the lady and the horse--lady and
horse both dressed alike. You’ll find her there, and you’ll recognise
her if you go this afternoon by this bracelet, which she’ll have on by
that time.  Draw her out and you’ll find I’m right.  She would cling to
me and comfort my declining years.  I shall tell her I’m going away to
London for the afternoon; then you will have it all to yourself and see
what a girl she is."

I obeyed him, and that afternoon visited the Palace, found Lady Godiva
without difficulty, and Susan Marks selling chocolate below.  I saw the
bracelet immediately.  It was on the wrist of a big, dark girl, very
showily dressed. She had bold, black eyes, that twinkled at the men as
they passed, and a hard voice, which she endeavoured to make seductive
as she lured visitors to the chocolate.  She was talking to a young man
when I arrived, and kept me waiting a considerable time.  But I did not
mind that; I was listening to some interesting conversation.

"Yes, it ain’t a bad bangle; my little mash, Dan Dolphin, gave it to me.
He’s fairly gone on me--that’s straight.  I’ve got fal-lals to the tune
of three or four hundred quid out of him, and a promise of marriage."

"Promise what you like, Sue, but no kid. Mind what you said.  I ain’t
jealous, but I’m No. 1, mind.  He’s only No. 2."

"No. 2!  He’s No. 20 more like.  You’re a fool, Tom, and you _are_
jealous.  And I like to see you angry.  You know well enough, Tommy,
that I never loved none but you. The fools come and the fools go, but
Tom goes on for ever.  This little chappie ought to be good for a
hundred or two more--then we’ll be married, you and me, and I’ll cut the
chocolate and the butterflies."

Had they arranged their conversation expressly for my benefit, neither
could have made a more conclusive, satisfactory, and at the same time
disgraceful statement.

My blood boiled when I thought of my grandfather’s boyish passion being
wasted on this minx.

"What are you starin’ at?" asked the girl rudely, suddenly realising
that I was standing by the stall.

"I’m waiting to be served," I answered.  "I want one of those penny
sticks of Cadbury’s chocolate, when you can make it convenient to attend
to me."

She gave me the refreshment, and I heard her utter a vulgar jest at my
expense as I turned away.  But, for all that, I hastened home with a
light heart.  Once more was I in a position to save grandpapa.

                             *CHAPTER XVI.*

                           _*ON THE RIVER.*_

It is not easy to describe grandpapa’s indignation when I detailed the
result of my interview with Susan Marks.  I told him all about the young
man to whom she had been talking, and he recognised the youth as one
Tomkins.  He had already quarrelled with Susan about him.

"But why, dear grandfather," I asked, "did you give this wretched woman
your real name?"

"It was a safe thing to do," he answered. "All the old fusses have blown
over.  Besides, I should have had to give it when I married her.  I
meant most honourably by the jade, and this is the result.  They’re all
alike, confusion take ’em.  That’s the last.  I’ve done with women now.
They don’t interest me as they used to do.  I shall go on amusing myself
with the cats for another six months or so, till I’m a few years
younger, but I’m blest if I ever take ’em seriously again. They’re not
worth it--excepting you.  You’re a good old daisy, Martha, and I’m much
obliged to you."

Two days afterwards he gave Miss Marks a bit of his mind, and had it out
with Tomkins, down among the firework apparatus.  It appears that he
punched Tomkins on the head, and then kicked him when he was down, and
finally dropped him into one of the fountains.

"After that," said grandfather, as he gleefully narrated the
circumstances to me, "I made tracks and hid among those great stone
pre-adamite beasts at the bottom of the grounds.  I squirmed down
alongside of an ichthyosaurus or some such brute, and sat tight there
until dark.  Then I dodged out with the crowd.  But they’ll want me
to-day, so I guess we must be toddling."

We talked the matter out, and he decided to go and rent lodgings
somewhere near the river.  He was now twenty-two, by the New Scheme, and
his old love for athletics had returned.

"No more tomfoolery for me," said grandfather. "I’ve passed the silly
stage now.  I shall take up rowing again and join a cricket club, and
lead a quiet, wholesome life.  As the end approaches so rapidly, I begin
to lose interest in worldly affairs.  Let us go to the river, and I will
row you about, over the peaceful waters, under the trees, among the
swans.  If I find I have kept any of my old form with the sculls, I
shall very likely enter for the ’Diamonds’ at Henley.  It would be a
record for a man of nearly one hundred and eight to win ’em.  But I
doubt how I should shape in these gimcrack, new-fangled wager-boats."

I encouraged his simple, boyish ambition, and we took our way to
Twickenham.  Grandpapa, finding himself better and happier for the
peaceful life, actually thought once more of reformation.  It was summer
time, and a sort of holy calm would settle on my beloved grandfather, as
he paddled me about the river and drew up sometimes in the cool shadows
of overhanging trees.

He was a handsome boy of one-and-twenty now.  His face grew tanned by
the sun.  He wore a picturesque green and yellow "blazer," with a blue
handkerchief round his waist and a big sunflower embroidered on his grey
felt hat.  He began to get quite simple in speech, and his interest
revolved about the river races and the cricket field.  He seemed to
forget the past, and I often prayed that the past would forget him.  But
grandpapa had sown the wind and the whirlwind was beginning to spring
up.  Time did not fly as quickly with the world as it seemed to do with
us.  The young fellow with his simple athletic interests and ambitions,
training quietly for the Diamond Sculls, was not destined to escape the
fruits of those many indiscretions committed in his maturer years; and
it is hardly the least of my griefs and regrets that, in a measure, I
was the cause of keeping grandpapa’s name before the world, and before
divers more or less malicious women, who refused to forget his past
relationships with them.  I thought that by the quiet waters of the
Thames, hidden in snug but comfortable lodgings at Twickenham, we should
have escaped notice; but I soon found my mistake, for the river is a
highway, a pleasure ground (so to speak) whereon all meet.
Representatives of every London suburb pass and repass; respectable and
questionable rub shoulders in every lock, exchange repartees at every
bend, drift side by side in every backwater.

We were out one day after lunch, and I, steering carelessly, nearly ran
into a boatload of ladies and gentlemen.  Grandpapa reprimanded me, and
apologised to the other party. Then somebody said:

"Positively it is--it is Miss Dolphin."

The speaker was Mrs. Bangley-Brown.  She insisted on stopping and asking
after grandpapa; and the old man, like a fool, forgetting the altered
conditions, answered:

"_I’m_ all right.  Glad to see you again. Jove! how well the gals look.
And you as blooming as a four-year-old.  D----d if I don’t think you’re
going backwards too!"

Mrs. Bangley-Brown glared at the youth, and grandpapa, with wonderful
readiness, explained himself.

"Awfully sorry.  Thought you must know me.  My pals call me
’grandfather,’ ’cause I’m a bit old-fashioned.  No offence meant, none
taken I hope."

She turned from him with disgust, and the two girls in the boat and some
young men looked at my escort and tittered.

"Where is your grandfather?" said Mrs. Bangley-Brown to me, leaning over
the edge of the boat and whispering.  "I have been wanting his address
for five years.  Perhaps you can favour me with it.  There is something
fatal about the name, I think.  I have heard it often of late,
associated in every case with some broken-hearted woman."

"He treated you badly, I know," I answered, also under my breath.  "It
was a bitter grief to me at the time.  But things are better as they
are.  He would not have made you happy."

"Probably not," she answered bitterly, "but he might have made me
comfortable.  And it is not too late.  We need not discuss his conduct.
I know what an English jury would think of it.  Give me his address, if
you please."

"Don’t do anything of the sort, Martha," said grandpapa, in a great
state of excitement. He had overheard Mrs. Bangley-Brown’s last remark,
and now turned to her.

"I’m only a youngster," he began craftily, "but I know the rights of
that story.  I heard it from the old man, and it don’t do you any
credit.  You’re an awful designing woman, and ought to know better.  I
daresay you’ve been after a dozen old fogeys since that."

"You little horror!" screamed Mrs. Bangley-Brown, "if I could get to you
I’d box your ears."

She rose and made the boat shake, and her daughters implored her to sit
down, or they would all be in the river.

"Yes, you’re a bad old lady--a regular old fossil-hunter, and no
mistake," said grandpapa, shaking his head at her.  "Shocking example
for the gals!"  Then he began to row away.

"Follow them!  Don’t lose sight of them!" cried the angry woman; but
grandpapa was a fine oar and had a light load.  He simply laughed at
their efforts to keep pace with him, and fired off all sorts of jokes at
the pursuers. Finally he spurted when near the "rollers," had our boat
over them in a twinkling, and setting to work, bustled me up to Kingston
with extraordinary celerity.  After dark we paddled quietly home again.

"It is a warning to me," said grandpapa. "In future if we meet old
friends, I am your young nephew from Oxford; and your grandfather,
should they ask after him, has been dead for some years.  I wish that
was true."

                            *CHAPTER XVII.*


Misfortunes never come singly. After the meeting with Mrs. Bangley-Brown
I was nervous of going on the river at all, but upon the following
Sunday grandpapa persuaded me to accompany him.  Most young men would
have chosen the society of their own sex, but grandfather was loyal to
his old granddaughter; and I will say that with regard to my growing
weakness for stimulant, he did everything in his power to shame me out
of it. I tried my best, but alcohol had become a necessity, and, as I
have said elsewhere, was the only thing I could rely upon to keep my
nerves steady at a crisis.

To return, we proceeded that Sunday to Teddington Lock, when suddenly,
alongside of us, waiting for the lock to open, appeared Susan Marks and
the young man Tomkins. The woman recognised us both instantly, and
proclaimed the fact.

"Lor!  if that ain’t that little beast Dolphin! Look, Tommy; and it was
that old Guy Fawkes as ’eard me ’n you talking.  She split an’ told him.
But it shan’t wash; I swear it shan’t.  He’s promised marriage, you know
that; and all the old grandmothers in the world shan’t save him!"

"Who are you, you brazen creature?  I don’t know you--never saw you
before in my life," said grandfather, calmly.

"Don’t you talk to me like that, you wretch," bawled the virago, "or
I’ll come over and wring your neck."

"Poor soul!  Take her out of the sun and send for a medical man," said
my grandfather.

Then Tomkins spoke.  He was a small, weak person.

"You can’t bounce it like that, you know," he said.  "You’re Dan
Dolphin, engaged to Miss Marks; I ought to know you well enough; I’ve
had a summons out against you for three months.  You’d better give me
your address, and not make a scene here."

"You’re labouring under a case of mistaken identity," said grandfather,
not taking any notice of the intimation to give his address. "And as for
that beauty there, if she’s engaged to me or some other fellow, what are
you doing with her here on the river?  Now row away, and try and behave
yourselves. I’m afraid you’re no better than you ought to be, either of

In this cool manner, with a quiet air of experience and superiority, did
grandfather cow the man Tomkins.  The woman Marks, however, was not
cowed.  She shook her fist and raved and disgraced her sex and made a
scene; but grandfather only laughed and proceeded.  As he truly
remarked, they had got "precious little change" out of him.

Not less than an hour later, I saw another of grandpapa’s old flames;
one whom I had never met before.  The Princess Hopskipschoff, with a
party of younger sons and music-hall artistes, passed us in a
steam-launch.  Grandpapa was very excited, and his admiration for her,
which waxed at forty-five and dwindled to nothing at thirty, now at
twenty-one, burst out anew.

"A glorious woman--a goddess, by Jove! How sickening she must find the
twaddle of those boys!" said grandpapa.  "Ah, she doesn’t know, as she
glances at me from under her dark lids, that the young fellow in the
yellow and green ’blazer’ was once engaged to marry her.  How sweet and
fresh she is still!  I wonder if she’ll be at Henley?"

Then he sighed and caught a "crab" in the wash of the steamer.  I was
amazed to hear him talk thus, and ventured to expostulate.

"The big woman under the red-and-white parasol?  Why, grandpapa, she’s
forty, and painted up to the eyes!"

"Don’t blaspheme," he said.  "Don’t discuss her.  You needn’t be jealous
of the princess. To think that she has never forgotten me, that she
seeks me yet!  But her dream would be rather rudely shattered if she
knew.  Well, well, let us talk of something else.  What fiend made me
leave her?  To think of all I lost!"

From which I have since drawn the curious conclusion that very young men
and quite middle-aged ones are often attracted by the same sort of

"A fellow cannot get on without woman’s love," said grandpapa, suddenly,
after a long silence.  "At least, some fellows can’t--I can’t for one."

"A mother’s love is what you will soon be needing, dear one.  I shall do
the best I can."

"Bosh!" he said angrily.  "That’s not love at all; it’s instinct.  And I
don’t want you to fuss over me when I become a child, mind that.  Just
keep me clean and tidy, and give me toys and tell me Bible stories.  But
don’t pretend you’re my mother then, because that’s outraging the laws
of Nature, and people will laugh at you.  I’m not talking of those
matters now; I’m alluding to love."

"You said, when you left Upper Norwood, that you had done with that for

"Yes, very likely; young men say foolish things.  You can’t help fate.
Marriages are made in heaven wholesale, though I admit they never
guarantee the quality, and turn out a lot of goods that don’t wear.  You
observe that lock ahead?  We’re going to lunch there. The lock-keeper is
called Rose, and he has a daughter named Phyllis.  She’s the daintiest,
most exquisite, human thing I ever saw.  No brains, thank God--I’ve had
enough of clever women--but the disposition of an angel, eyes like grey
rainclouds with sunshine in ’em, hair brown, lily-white hands, tiny
feet, and everything complete.  What’s more, the girl understands me."

"I may assume, then, grandfather, that you are engaged?"

"I will not deceive you, Martha; we are."

"How far has it gone?"

"To the ’second time of asking.’  I mean business this journey.  We’re
to be married after Henley.  I didn’t tell you, because it would only
have worried you, and, I fear, make you take kinder than ever to
stimulant. I’ve arranged it all.  We’re going to Scotland. Then, when I
get a bit younger, I shall leave her a letter with all my money in it,
and clear out and make away with myself.  I was only pretending just
now.  I couldn’t stand childhood again, not even with you, let alone as
a married man.  I want you to be friends with her, and live with her
after I am gone."

His voice broke, and, at the same moment we reached the lock.

                            *CHAPTER XVIII.*

                        _*I FORBID THE BANNS.*_

"There you are!" said a soft, musical voice above us, and glancing up I
saw Phyllis Rose.  She was in truth a beautiful girl, dressed in her
Sunday clothes, looking the pink of health and happiness.

"I’ve watched you ever so long, dear Dan; and this is your dear, dear
grandmother? Oh, I hope she will let me love her for your sake."

She kissed me, and, I confess, my heart warmed to her.  She was as
pretty and tender a little soul as ever lived to make sunshine for other
people.  I soon found that she worshipped the ground my grandfather trod
upon. She slipped her little hand into his as she walked up to her
father’s cottage, and talked pleasantly and happily with a London

At her modest habitation an excellent meal and a bottle of very passable
red wine were prepared.  The girl’s parents seemed delighted to see us,
and welcomed me in a most hearty, but at the same time respectful
manner.  I tried to banish the real, fatal aspect of the position and
live in the passing hour.  Grandpapa seemed very cheerful.

"Were the banns called again to-day?" he asked.

"That they was," said Mr. Rose; "and Phyllis, the little silly, got as
red as a peony, and her mother, no better, blushed like a school-girl,
too.  That’s the second time of asking.  Don’t you have no more fruit
pie, Dan.  Remember Henley."

But my grandfather explained he had not gone into regular training yet.
"Sam Sturgess and I begin hard work together on Monday week," he said.
"We’re both very fit, and if I don’t pull off the ’Diamonds,’ I ought to
go near winning the ’double sculls’ with Sam.  It’s a month next

The young things went off together presently, and I had a thimbleful of
cold punch with Mr. and Mrs. Rose, and chatted to them.  It was seldom I
got an opportunity to talk to my fellow-creatures now, and I must admit
that I enjoyed doing so.  They were quite willing to listen, and tried
to turn our talk to grandfather; but I said as little on that head as

"What d’ you think of her?" my grandfather asked, as he rowed me home in
the evening.

"She is a pearl of a girl.  But it must not be, grandfather.  You
contemplate a most wicked action.  I pray you abandon the idea. Stop
till Henley, if you must; then let us hurry away.  We can write and
break it off, and send her a present in money.  They are poor, and it
would be very welcome."

"You may talk yourself inside out, Martha, but it won’t alter me," he
said, with quiet determination.  "This is the only girl I’ve ever really
loved, and the Devil himself won’t stop me.  For that matter, he’s the
last who ’d try to, no doubt."

"It is necessary to have your banns called in your own parish as well,

"I know, I know.  I wasn’t married three times without getting a pretty
good knowledge of the ropes.  My banns have been called twice at St.
Jude’s.  You never go to church now, or you’d have heard ’em."

"St. Jude’s is not much patronised.  The service is long and low, and
the church half empty."

"So much the better."

Then he changed the subject, and as the moon rose and made the river
look romantic, grandpapa tried to invent a bit of poetry about Phyllis,
and failed.

"Oh, Phyllis mine, come let us twine our arms about each other’s necks,"
he began. Then he turned to me and said--

"Put that flask away, Martha; you think I can’t see you, but I can.
’Our arms about each other’s necks.’  Then, let me see, what rhymes with

"Cheques," I answered, humouring him.

"Ah, that would come in if this was an ordinary, modern sort of love
match, but it isn’t.  I want something pastoral or idyllic. Let me see,
where ’d I got to?  ’Come, Phyllis mine, and let us twine our arms about
each other’s necks.’  Wrecks, decks, specks, flecks, pecks.  Necks is
’off.’  Let’s try ’each other’s waists.’  Waste, raced, paste, taste,
graced, laced, haste----"

Then he ran into the bank and abandoned verse, and fell back upon lurid
prose, which he applied to me and my management of the rudder lines.

"What d’ you think you’re doing, you muddle-headed old mummy?  Sit
straight and look at the river, not at the moon.  I’ll make you sign the
pledge to-morrow, blessed if I don’t!  You’ll have more water with your
whisky than you want in a moment.  Oh, Lord! never again--never.  Pull
the right string--the right.  Holy mouse!  On Sunday evening too!"

Finally I gave up the lines, being really far from well, and he
unshipped the rudder and made me sit in the bottom of the boat.  I don’t
know what possessed me, but I felt quite happy in spite of my passing
dizziness, and when a boat went by us, with a young man in it playing on
a banjo and singing, I sang too. It was the first time I had done so for
forty years.

"Shut up, you ruin!" gasped grandfather. "Stop it, for the love of the
Lord.  D’ you think I want the whole river to know?  It’s like a cargo
of corncrakes.  You’re enough to frighten a steam launch!"

I stopped then and cried at his cruelty.

"Don’t be harsh, grandfather--don’t be brutal to your only grandchild,"
I sobbed.

"Behave yourself, then.  When you take to singing in public it’s about
time I spoke out."

We got home somehow, and never returned to the subject.  He did not
desire to be reminded of his poetry, and therefore was careful not to
allude to my passing indisposition.

But I never hesitated to speak on the subject of poor Phyllis.  I
implored him, by everything that was sacred, to abandon this
undertaking.  Each day throughout that week I attacked him, until in
sheer despair and rage he would take his hat and fly from the house. But
nothing availed--grandfather would not alter his intention; and I
therefore determined to forbid the banns.  The thought was naturally
very distasteful to me, but I could see no alternative.  Grandpapa,
never dreaming of such a thing, rowed up the river as usual on the
following Sunday, and I went to St. Jude’s.

In due course the minister published the banns of marriage "between
Daniel Dolphin, of this parish, bachelor, and Phyllis Rose,
of"--somewhere else, I forget the name of the place--"spinster."  It was
for the third and last time of asking.

I got up, grasped the pew in front of me, and exclaimed:

"This--this mustn’t go on.  I forbid the banns!"

"Which?" asked the minister.  He had read out a string of names.

"Those between my grand--between Daniel Dolphin and Phyllis Rose."

"Will the individual who has forbidden these banns of marriage meet me
in the vestry at the end of the service?" said the clergyman. Then he

In the vestry he asked me for particulars.

"In the first place," I answered, "Mr. Dolphin is not a bachelor at all.
He is married.  He has been married three times."

"D’ you mean to say that mere boy’s been married three times?"

"It’s the solemn truth."

"No wife alive, I trust?"

"Oh, no--the last died sixty years ago--at least--that is----"

"Woman," said the pastor sternly, "what do you mean?  Mr. Dolphin came
to see me himself.  He is twenty, so he says, but does not look that.
You have told me a transparent lie.  Do you know Mr. Dolphin?"

"Know him!  He’s my grandfather."

The Vicar looked round to see if the coast was clear.  He prepared to
escape if I should grow violent.  His manner instantly changed.

"Keep cool, dear madam.  I quite understand. Let me get you a glass of
water to drink."

Then he withdrew, and I heard him whispering to an old woman who opened
the pews. He bid her run for a doctor and a policeman. Upon this I rose
and came home.

To my surprise, grandpapa rowed back pretty early in the afternoon.  He
was in a terribly depressed and agitated condition, so I did not tell
him just then what I had clone.

"What’s the matter, grandfather?  Phyllis is well?"

"No, she’s not well.  A brute got up at her wretched church and forbid
the banns.  She fainted, and her father met the person and somebody else
afterwards.  Whether it was Tomkins, or Talbot, or Rogers, or the
Princess, I don’t know.  But it’s all up.  Old Rose is going to arrange
an action for breach of promise.  His wife came home from church and
gave me the particulars, and some pretty peppery criticism at the same
time.  We must clear out of this, but I’ll row for the ’Diamonds’ if the
heavens fall.  Get your traps.  We’ll go up the river by easy stages,
and lie low in the day-time.  I can enter for the regatta under a
feigned name."

Thus had my poor grandparent’s banns been forbidden at both places of
worship simultaneously.

                             *CHAPTER XIX.*

                         _*COUNSEL’S OPINION.*_

Grandpapa decided that Sunbury would be a likely sort of place to "lie
low" in, so we went up after dark that same Sunday evening, reached our
new halting-place soon after midnight, and took some lodgings by the
water-side.  The affair was in the papers next day, and the name of
Daniel Dolphin echoed in people’s mouths once more.

Grandfather now called himself Elisha Spratt, and he entered under that
name at Henley. By a curious coincidence, the first heat for the Diamond
Sculls fell on grandpapa’s birthday. Nearly a month, however, had yet to
pass by before that elate.  Mr. Rose’s added another to the long list of
indictments against grandfather, but the old man cared nothing.  He went
on steadily and quietly with his practice and training, and the harder
he trained, the younger he began to look.

A painful incident, out of which arose another still more trying, has
here to be recorded. Grandpapa, while discussing the different processes
at law which he had incurred, told me, in some glee, of matters I did
not know.

"I did a smart thing recently," he began. "Of course, a man must help
his chums where he can, and I’ve been able to do so without any hurt to
myself.  People on the river think I’ve got pots of money, because I
spend very freely.  On the strength of this I’ve been asked to lend my
security on about twenty different occasions.  I never refused.  Men
thought I was a fool, but I knew what I was about very well."

The old, cunning look came back into his eyes once more.  It had a very
painful appearance on the face of so young a man.

"What have you done now, dear grandfather? Hide nothing from me," I

"I’ve backed a lot of bills, and gone security for thousands and
thousands.  A good few of the Johnnies can’t pay, and they’ll come down
on me like a ton of bricks.  Ha, ha!"

"I don’t see what there is to laugh at, grandpapa.  So little amuses you

"Why, _I’m under age_.  That’s where the laugh comes in.  I’m a legal
infant, or something of that sort.  They can’t touch me."

"A legal infant!  Why, grandfather, you’re a hundred and eight years old
in a few weeks’ time."

"Not by the New Scheme."

"What’s the New Scheme got to do with the money-lenders?  They’ll fight
it out on the Old Scheme, and trace you back and back, and confront you
with your past career.  It was madness to do such a thing."

The old man grew rather wretched and uneasy, but he soon cheered up

"I thought it was such a smart move; and, after all, no harm’s done, for
I haven’t got the money.  In fact, fifteen hundred or less is about my
limit now.  I’m safe enough if you don’t go and give me away.  People
recognise you, but, of course, I shall begin changing and dwindling at a
deuce of a rate, after Henley.  To think that my mental powers will
begin to fade, too--that’s what cuts me up."

What he called his mental powers had already begun to fade.  He was
stupid for his age now, and would be a mere clown of a boy in six
months’ time.  But I did not tell him so.  I said nothing; and soon
afterwards he went to bed.

In the morning he came down to breakfast, fired with an extraordinary
new project.  And yet, in justice to myself, I cannot say strictly that
it was a fresh idea.  I had advised him to take the step he now
contemplated any time this five years.

"I have been reading the agreement," said grandpapa, "and, upon my soul,
it looks to me, duffer though I am, as if the thing didn’t hold water.
I don’t know anything about law, but the question is simply a legal one,
after all; and if there’s a flaw anywhere, I don’t see why I shouldn’t
benefit by it.  Any way, it’s good enough to get an opinion on.  I shall
go up to Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and see Messrs. Tarrant and Hawker.  They
helped me in the matter of the Automatic Postcard swindle, if you
remember.  I shall pretend the agreement is a joke, and, of course, they
won’t know me from Adam.  Just think if they discovered a flaw, now, at
the eleventh hour, so to speak!"

"Go, by all means, grandpapa, but don’t buoy yourself, my dearest.
Recollect Who wrote that agreement.  He may not be skilled in legal
matters himself, but he must have had ample opportunities for submitting
the draft to experts."

"That’s the point," answered grandpapa. "He expressly said he’d drawn it
up himself. It was a new thing in agreements, even for him.  He fancied
it too.  But there may be a slip somewhere.  I want a day off the river,
and I’ll go up with this document after lunch. You sit tight at home and
don’t show yourself. If people see you--Rose or any of the rest--they’ll
know I’m not far off."

"And take care yourself, grandpapa.  They are on the look out, no doubt.
If you are arrested, I shall go mad."

He started, and I spent the afternoon reading disquieting paragraphs
about Daniel Dolphin. Many papers made mention of him, and certain of
the comic organs printed what they doubtless regarded as jokes.  My name
appeared.  There was much diversity of opinion about me.  Some said that
I was his daughter; others that we were brother and sister; others,
again, that Daniel Dolphin’s mother or grandmother or great-aunt
assisted him in his pernicious career. The _Star_ fancied that Daniel
Dolphin often masqueraded as an old woman.  Everybody agreed that the
truth would soon be known, because the police had an undoubted clue, and
the matter was in most experienced hands.

My grandpapa returned to dinner.  He wept into his plate all through
that meal, and showed me in a thousand ways that his enterprise had
produced no good results.

"Speak, my treasure!" I cried at length, unable to bear the suspense;
"is it as bad as you thought?"

"A million times worse!"

"Worse!  What could be worse, grandpapa?"

"I’ll explain.  This fool--Nick, I mean--has drawn out the thing
single-handed, and defeated his own object, and wrecked me utterly.  I
saw Mr. Hawker himself.  He studied the agreement for an hour, then gave
judgment on it.  He said, tapping it with his eyeglass, ’Now this
document is curious--very much so.  The--the person who wrote it appears
to have had a certain smattering of law terms, which he sprinkles over
his remarks without any legal knowledge, without any familiarity with
their forensic significance.  The most remarkable thing about this
agreement, however, is that by the processes to be applied to Daniel
Dolphin, the said gentleman will absolutely cease to exist at the end of
the specified time.  The deed is amateurish in many respects, but in
none more than this.  It defeats its own object, for on the completion
of the period herein set out, _there will be nothing of Mr. Daniel
Dolphin left to go anywhere_! He said that, and I thanked him and paid
six-and-eightpence, and came away, feeling about as cheap as a bad egg."

My grandfather flung himself on a sofa, and cried again.

"Then you can’t go to--to--!" I said, with a thrill of exultation.

"I can’t go anywhere at all," he moaned; "I go out like gas when it’s
turned off at the tap.  You don’t understand--it’s terrible, it’s
unheard of.  I’d rather have gone down below than nowhere at
all--anybody would.  But now--now I shall become as extinct as the dodo.
He’s spoofed himself, and squelched me.  Talk about justice!"

I cannot dwell upon his sufferings.  He had always believed firmly in a
life beyond the grave.  Now it was snatched from him by a juggling,
muddle-headed, self-sufficient fiend, who ought never to have been
allowed the use of writing materials.  The matter was a logical one; the
end of the New Scheme simply meant eternal annihilation for my unhappy
old grandfather.

                             *CHAPTER XX.*

                             _*A CLIMAX.*_

Grandfather had little time to concern himself with his new and terrible
sorrows.  All his hopes and ambitions now centred in the race at Henley;
but adequate training became very difficult, because we were marked
people now, despite the fact that we had changed our names.  Detectives
were constantly watching us and taking photographs of us in a
hand-camera, and doing all they could to identify grandpapa with Daniel
Dolphin. We moved higher up the river, then proceeded above Henley, then
retreated back again to Kew.  This threw the police out for awhile, but
as time went on they found us again, and finally the first writ arrived.
But this and others concerned money affairs, and grandpapa brushed them
away with contempt.  Anon, however, a more serious injunction fell upon
us. Mr. Rose, satisfied that grandfather was no other than Daniel
Dolphin, and doubtless advised by those familiar with the law, brought
an action in the name of his daughter for breach of promise of marriage.

"It’s pretty rough on me," said grandpapa, "that the one girl of the lot
that I really was faithful to, and wanted to marry, and meant to marry,
should jump on me like this.  I couldn’t help the banns being forbidden.
And now I have got to appear in the Queen’s Bench Division, and very
likely get run in for all I’m worth, and a bit over."

"D’you observe the date?" I asked, after looking at the document.

"By Jove! my twentieth birthday by the New Scheme--same date as first
heat of the ’Diamonds.’  Well, I can’t attend, that’s all. They’ll have
to put it off."

A sort of fatality attached to subsequent summonses for grandpapa.  The
Salisbury people got wind of his address too, and he was ordered to
repair to that city on divers charges. I think about six detectives, all
working in different interests, were now employed upon grandfather.  He
was commanded to appear in the Queen’s Bench Division on no less than
three different counts, for Marie Rogers brought a case against Daniel
Dolphin, and Mrs. Bangley-Brown did the same.

"They’ll look pretty complete fools, those women," said grandpapa
grimly, "when I do turn up in the box--a callow, lanky lout of twenty.
The detectives have marked you down, Martha, and associate you with the
missing Daniel Dolphin.  So they think they are on the right track.
You’ll have to come and swear anything I tell you to."

But I had my own troubles.  There were several summonses out against me
for "aiding and abetting" grandpapa in his different enterprises.

"Shall you employ a solicitor?" I asked.

"Not I," he answered.  "No good chucking money away.  I shall plead
infancy, and if that won’t wash, I shall throw myself on the mercy of
the Court.  I shall get up some legal expressions, like _ultra vires_,
and _sub judice_, and _suggestio falsi_, and _prima facie_, and so on.
With these I shall endeavour to conduct my own case.  As a last resort I
shall try an alibi. But my own impression is that these fools of women
will cry off the moment they see me. I don’t want to drag in the New
Scheme if I can possibly help it.  What a cur Nick is not to lend a hand
at a time like this!"

"And what am I to do, grandfather?"

"Well, you’ll have to stand your trial.  As far as I can see, you’ll get
about five years if they’re lenient.  You might bounce it with an alibi.
After all, what does it matter?  Quiet rest in a prison cell would be
luxury after this life.  I’ve foreseen it for some time.  In your case
it might be the best thing that could happen.  You’ll have to be steady
there.  It’s about the only thought that really worries me, to remember
that when I’m a defenceless babe I shall be in the hands of a woman who

"Grandpapa! you know how I try."

"I know how you succeed.  Any excuse is good enough for a whack with you
now. Every time a new injunction or process or writ drops in, off you go
to the brandy bottle and carouse, as though they were matters to rejoice
about.  What was the good of signing the pledge if you never meant to
keep it?"

"I find my system must have stimulant now, and I take it medicinally."

"Oh, of course--the same old lie that’s been on people’s tongues ever
since Noah invented it.  It’s your business after all, only you might
look on ahead a little.  Not long ago you were always telling me to do
so.  One of these days, after I’m a poor bawling infant in arms, you’ll
see purple centipedes or something just when I want your attention, and
I shall get left."

The subject dropped, and I turned the conversation to a pleasanter
theme.  We were within a week of the race, and grandpapa, in the pink of
condition, only hoped and prayed that the law would not put violent
hands upon him before Henley Regatta.  The complications of the position
had now become impossible to describe in words.  We were lodging at
Henley, and already letters, signed "Verax" and "Scrutator," were
appearing in the sporting papers hinting at matters mysteriously
connecting the young sculler, Elisha Spratt, with the scoundrel, Daniel
Dolphin.  Mr. Rose was responsible for these; at least, grandpapa
thought so.

But nobody interfered with him.  He wound up his training, and backed
himself with a thousand pounds, which was all we had left in the world.
On the night before the race some policemen made an endeavour to arrest
grandpapa, but he escaped, and joined me at a mean hotel near the river,
where with great difficulty we succeeded in getting two adjoining
bedrooms. A good night’s rest was absolutely necessary for him.

"You see, I’ve got to win the Sculls at Henley, and answer for myself at
Salisbury and in the Queen’s Bench Division, and before a magistrate at
Twickenham, and in three police-courts elsewhere, so I shall be fairly
busy to-morrow," he said, with a rather pathetic smile.  Then he kissed
me, and went to bed in perfect good-temper.  He was happily too young
now to thoroughly realise his awful position.

                             *CHAPTER XXI.*

                           _*MY NIGHTMARE.*_

I did not sleep that night for many hours, and when I finally slumbered
there came to me a nightmare, involving grandpapa, which took ten years
off my life.

I dreamed that the morning had come, and that I went into grandfather’s
room to wish him many happy returns of the day--a thing I should
certainly not have done in reality.  But I was in the spirit, and never
shall I forget the spectacle which greeted me as I stood by the old
man’s pillow.  Instead of the ruddy, healthy boy I had left
over-night--instead of the muscular, deep-chested, deep-voiced young
athlete who was that day to row at Henley, there sat up in the bed an
uncanny, wrinkled, decrepit mummy of a creature.  It was bald, save for
a thin tangle of white eyebrow over each bleared eye.  Its mouth was a
mere slit, its nose and chin nearly met, its cheeks had fallen in.  One
thin skeleton of a claw held the bedclothes up to its scraggy neck.  Its
head shook, its under jaw dropped, its back was round as a wheel; the
thing manifested indications of profoundest age.

"What--what is this?  Who are you?" I gasped, turning faint and
clutching at a chair-back for support.

It laughed a little squeaky, wheezy laugh, and a cunning expression came
into its dim eyes.

"Keep your nerve," it said.  "The show’s bust up; the New Scheme’s
broken down!"


"He--he--he!  Yes.  A hundred and eight, not twenty.  I’ve downed him."

"Downed him, grandpapa?"

"That means bested him, beaten him, scored off him.  Lord!  Lord!  You’d
have laughed to see what went on here last night.  Nick swore and cussed
and stormed and stamped round and perspired brimstone; but it wasn’t any
manner of use.  He’d given himself away by his own foolishness."

"Tell me, grandfather, tell me all about it. This is a happy day

In my dream I gave the old hero an egg-and-milk with a little brandy.
Then he sat up, and in a weak, trembling voice, broken with fits of
senile chuckling, he told me about his interview.

"Nick came in just for a chat.  He always goes to Henley.  He mentioned
the ’Diamonds,’ and guaranteed I should win ’em.  He was friendly as you
please, and hoped I’d had a good time, and didn’t regret my bargain.

"Then I told him of my visit to the lawyers, rapped out at him for a
blundering, unbusiness-like ass, got the agreement out, went through it
with him, and showed him what he’d really done.  He was fairly mad, but
he couldn’t get away from facts.  I said:

"’The point lies in a nutshell.  There’ll be nothing of me left to go
anywhere; and even you cannot arrange for the eternity of a non-existent
being, can you?’

"He had to admit he couldn’t.  He was properly cross.  He tore the
agreement to little pieces, and stamped on it.  He argued some time with
me, and pointed out a fact that I had fully grasped already.  He said:

"’Yes, it’s pretty clear I’ve over-reached myself.  My fiendish
conceit’s always tripping me up.  I ought to have got my lawyers to help
me; but I thought I could thrash a simple thing like that out alone.’

"He said that much, and then I made some satirical remark which stung
him, for he turned on me, about as short and nasty as they make ’em, and

"’Blest if I know what _you_ want to snigger for!  You don’t seem to
realise what a unique fix you’re in.  You _won’t go anywhere_ now!
That’s what’s the matter with you.  Nothing to chortle about, I should

"’I’m not chortling at that,’ I answered, ’I’m merely smiling a bit to
see you getting so warm.  You’d better listen to reason and leave the
past alone.  Is there any way out of this?  Of course, I want to go
somewhere. I’ve got a strong objection to becoming extinct.  How would
you like it?  I suppose even you would rather hang on where you are than
be blotted out altogether.’

"’We can’t get away from a signed agreement,’ he said sulkily.

"Yes we can, if we draw out another, cancelling the first,’ I answered.

"’No more writing for me,’ he said.

"’Well, then, let us have an oral understanding,’ I suggested.

"’I’ll entertain any proposal in reason,’ he replied.

"But, of course, I was unprepared with suggestions.  The interview had
been sprung upon me, and I had not bestowed a moment’s thought upon

"’You’re in a fix, I know,’ he remarked, ’a mere temporal quandary, only
involving certain ladies and so forth, but still troublesome so far as
it goes.  I might do this; I might quash all these earthly suits by the
simple expedient of restoring you to your real age.  As it is, you will
upset a good many of them, because old Bangley-Brown, for instance, is
on the look-out for a man of seventy-five; and the publican’s daughter,
Marie Rogers, expects a man of five-and-forty or fifty.  But, by
returning to the ripe old age of one hundred-and-eight, you reduce the
whole series of proceedings to a farce, and leave the different police
courts and places without a stain on your character.  In any case, you
can only live one year more, but the difference is this: that if you go
on as you’re going, you go out altogether; whereas, if you consent to my
alternative, you’ll die in your bed, and have a future.’

"As you may imagine, Martha, I grew very excited.

"’A future--where?’ I enquired, in my dream.

"Exactly.  Where?  There’s the rub," grandfather answered.  "I asked
Nick the same question, and he said:

"’I wonder you can inquire.  If you’ve got any sense of justice or
gratitude, you ought to feel the extent of your debt and not hesitate to
pay it.  In any case, whatever your private ambitions may be, your past
record is such that, if you go anywhere at all, your destination is
practically determined.’

"I did not argue upon this point," continued grandfather, "feeling it
would be better tact to slur it over, and leave a loop-hole, but he held
me to it, and finally got me to promise that I would never attempt to
reform or amend my ways during the last year of my life.  He insisted
all the time that it would not alter the result, but I could see, from
his great anxiety upon the point, that he knew there might be plenty of
opportunity for me to turn over a new leaf, and make a good end, if I
chose to do so.  However, I promised him to lead as abandoned and
dissolute a life as could be expected from a man of one hundred and
eight, so we effected the compromise.  He was nervous about it to the
last, but felt it to be the only way out of the _cul-de-sac_ his own
stupidity had placed him in.  Then the change was made.  I went to sleep
a boy and woke as you find me.  I’m all here, but stiff about the legs,
and deucedly rheumatic.  Go out and get me a tall hat and some black,
ready-made clothes, and some easy felt boots and a few walking sticks,
and the strongest spectacles you can buy.  Then I’ll get up."

So ended my clear grandpapa’s astounding statement, but my dream went
on.  I made him some bread-and-milk, fed him with it, and then hurried
out to purchase necessaries.

The world, had turned upside down for me. I expected the newspaper boys
to be yelling out "Failure of the New Scheme!"

                            *CHAPTER XXII.*

                    _*THE DWINDLING OF GRANDPAPA.*_

But there was no truth in the vision.  I awoke unrested--rose, and, of
course, found grandpapa under the New Scheme, as usual.  He had arranged
to hide somewhere in a backwater, and only paddle out when the race for
the Diamond Sculls was beginning.  I tried hard to dissuade him from
making the attempt.  I pointed out that arrest was sure to follow the
struggle, and that, once taken, there would be sufficient legal
complications all over the country to last him much more than the
remainder of his life.  I said:

"In a year’s time you will be ten; in two years you will be nothing.
Let us hide this tragedy if we can.  Publicity now means that the
concluding catastrophes of your life will be watched by the whole of
England--perhaps by the entire civilised world.  Surely that would add
another sting to extinction?  Let me implore of you, dear one, to give
up this aquatic enterprise.  We will fly together.  I have done up the
accounts this morning, and find we have exactly nine hundred and
ninety-eight pounds left.  This is ample provision for your approaching
childhood.  Come and dwindle by the sea--at Margate or somewhere. Or let
us go abroad, if that idea gives you pleasure."

"Not me," he said.  "I shall flicker out in the old country.  And as to
not rowing, that’s absurd.  This race is my last flutter.  In six months
I shall be a boy of fifteen.  I must make my final adult appearance
to-day.  It’s jolly lucky there’s only one other entry besides myself,
as I certainly shall have no chance of appearing more than once.
However, this morning I mean to row the course, and then keep on the
river and pull quietly into the backwater, and lie low till dark.
Meantime you can go to Margate if you like and find new diggings, and
I’ll join you to-morrow."

With this arrangement I had to be content. I took a train to London, and
managed to escape comfortably in it with my box.  I journeyed to
Margate, took three fair rooms overlooking the sea, and waited with
deepest anxiety for grandfather’s arrival.  On the following morning I
purchased the _Sportsman_, to find that the dear old man had managed to
elude the detectives and win the Diamond Sculls!  I felt that this was
probably the last piece of real joy he would ever have.  But the report
in the _Sportsman_ quickly quenched my passing happiness.  Satisfaction,
indeed, was turned into black despair, when I read what my grandfather
had done on the completion of the boat-race.

"Elisha Spratt," said the _Sportsman_, "the mysterious young oarsman who
has suddenly burst into fame, won the ’Diamonds’ with ridiculous ease,
and simply played with his better-known opponent.  The sensation of the
race, however, was reserved for the finish. Hardly had Spratt passed the
winning-post when a boat, full of police-constables, pulled quickly out
from the crowd of craft that thronged the course and made towards him.
Spratt, it seems, has been ’wanted’ for some time, being mysteriously
connected with what is known as the ’Dolphin Mystery’; and the
preservers of law and order believed that by taking him in mid-stream,
immediately after the race, they would ensure an easy capture.  Their
judgment, however, proved faulty.  Spratt, who was nearly as fresh as
when he began to row, made a vigorous defence, and when he ultimately
succeeded in capsizing the boatload of Crown officials and escaping, the
enthusiasm of the sightseers knew no bounds.  Finally he disappeared up
stream, and has not since been heard of.  He is certainly a magnificent
sculler, but we fear his next appearance in public will not be in a
wager boat.  The constables were all rescued, though one of them, a
well-known detective, is said to lie still insensible, and little hopes
are entertained of his recovery."

This was the end of it then--murder!  My grandfather had taken a life.
Now, if they caught him they would doubtless endeavour to hang him.
Even the New Scheme could hardly continue if they succeeded in hanging
grandfather.  At least, so it struck me.  But first they had to catch
him.  Luckily, he was just at a difficult age to catch.  We had arranged
I should wait for him at the station, and presently he came down from
town, travelling third-class, in the same compartment with part of a
Sunday school treat.  He had disguised himself, and was wearing a false
nose and little imitation whiskers hooked over his ears.  He saw me, and
followed at a distance as I walked from the station, but he did not join
me until I had reached the doorstep of our lodgings.  Then he approached
and entered. He was very excited, and full of a new idea. He had already
quite forgotten the race on the preceding day, and talked of nothing
save the nearly-drowned detective.

"You see, if he pops off, they’d hang me," he explained eagerly.

"Grandfather, I implore you not to talk so," I sobbed, quite giving way.

"But I want ’em to.  Nothing better could happen.  The next two years
won’t be much of a catch from my point of view; and if I’m executed, of
course, the New Scheme must be upset.  I shall have to go somewhere
then; I shan’t become extinct anyway."

His hopes in this direction were doomed to disappointment, however.  The
detective recovered, and we were unmolested.  We had, in fact, thrown
the Scotland Yard people completely off the trail.  But grandpapa still
longed to be hanged.  He even discussed the feasibility of a capital
crime at Margate, and, as it was all one to him in the matter of a
victim, he generously offered to put anybody I liked out of the way.  He
even bought a revolver.

"To be executed it is necessary to take a life," he explained.  "The
question is, whose life?  If you’ve got an enemy, Martha, now’s your
time to name him or her.  If you’ve no fancy, then I shall pip a
prominent member of the Government."

But two months passed by, and my grandfather’s horrid ambition gradually
faded. When he was eighteen, and after we left Margate for Ramsgate,
which step was taken about this period, he acquired a passing passion
for sea-fishing, bought a rod and line, and angled uneventfully for days
together off the pier-head or out of an open boat.  From Ramsgate we
proceeded to Deal, then lurked a week or two at Dover, and continued our
tour of the south-coast watering-places, secreting our sorrows in turn
at Folkestone, Hastings, St. Leonard’s-on-Sea, Eastbourne, Brighton, and
Bognor.  I thought we might winter in the Isle of Wight, but grandfather
was for Cornwall and conger-fishing, so we pushed onwards to Fowey, and
arrived there shortly after Christmas, when my grandparent was about

His wardrobe became a greater difficulty daily.  The poor old sufferer
shrank in a heartbreaking way.  I had always to be taking in and turning
up and reducing his different articles of apparel.  He was now
mercifully allowed to lose intelligence very rapidly.  He lived more and
more in the passing hour, and began to develop simple boyish ambitions
and hopes and complaints.  As he gradually fell completely under my
control, a certain peace of mind, to which I had long been a stranger,
returned.  The position was harrowing enough, heaven knows, but whereas
throughout grandfather’s career under the New Scheme, he had played his
own game, so to speak, and never paid much attention to the faithful
woman always at his elbow, now the position was rapidly changing.  He
had to look to me and rely upon me more and more.  Indeed, he did so as
a matter of course.  I held the purse, and took good care to keep it.
The dear old man never wanted for anything, but I had to think of my own
future.  When he was gone, there would only be a few hundred pounds
between me and starvation. However, I denied him nothing in reason,
allowed him gradually decreasing pocket-money, and, as he grew younger,
exercised entire authority.  To this he submitted humbly enough now.  He
was a bad boy, as boys go--a sly, calculating, cruel boy; but a
circumstance happened soon after we left Fowey which practically made
grandfather helpless, and placed him under my complete control.  It was
this.  With dwindling intellect his memory also waned, and ultimately
broke down altogether.  He forgot the past, he forgot his own
extraordinary situation and destination, he quite forgot our
relationship, and soon simply believed that things were as they seemed.
One day he electrified me by talking with bright, boyish confidence of
"growing up" and marrying a bonny bride, and becoming a smuggler.
"Growing up"! Poor little darling, he was growing down at the rate of a
year every six weeks.  But now the old man’s mental troubles were
practically at an end, and I thanked heaven for it. Literally he was
twice a child.  He gave up cigarettes and took to chocolate, and stupid
little toys.  At rare intervals, inspired by the friends he picked up in
our wanderings, he showed flashes of ambition, and pestered me to know
when I was going to send him to school like other boys.  He grumbled and
said he believed he was backward.  I denied it and temporised.  I told
him he was more than clever.  Of course, to send him to school would
have been frank and senseless waste of money.  Besides, the New Scheme
must have been discovered in a fortnight.  He travelled half price now,
for he was not more than ten years old when I took him to Dawlish.
Before we had been at that small but delightful sea-side resort six
weeks, grandfather openly bought a little iron spade and bucket, thereby
proving that childhood had set in.  I had him well in hand in
Devonshire, and I may state that my own peace of mind was comparatively
such that I had almost cured myself of a weakness I have not hidden
here--a weakness brought on by the terrors of the past.  And dear
grandfather’s own favourite beverage, subject to my sanction, was
sherbet now. Indeed, taking one thing with another, that last summer in
the West of England with my grandparent, proved the happiest time I
spent from the beginning of the New Scheme to its close.  He was quite
happy too.  He made sand castles, and tormented the shrimps which he
caught from time to time, and otherwise conducted himself like a simple,
healthy little lad of eight years old.

                            *CHAPTER XXIII.*


I would willingly draw a veil over the last year of my grandfather’s
life, but I have set my hand to the pen and will not turn back, though
nothing but grief and horror and the ghosts of dead miseries haunt me as
I write.

When the old man was about eight years old, I put him into a blue sailor
suit, bought him a wooden hoop, and took him to a new locality.  We left
Dawlish and went up to Tavybridge--a pretty spot on Dartmoor. Here I
proposed staying for at least a month. It now became necessary to
regulate his hours, see that he had fairly wholesome food, and keep him
clean.  His memory had long grown an absolute blank.  He put his little
hand in mine, trotted about over the moors and through the country, and
clamoured first for a pony, secondly to be allowed to sing in the choir
at a quaint old country place of worship. I did not see my way to
gratifying either ambition.  At Tavybridge grandpapa speedily waned.  He
called me "Granny" now, and quite believed it was so; I addressed him
both in public and private as "Daniel," and let people believe that his
parents were in India. Though I lacked the comfort and support of having
a man in the house, to whom I could go with all my sorrows and
anxieties, yet the loss was more than compensated by the relief of
knowing that my ancient grandparent was now powerless to do further ill,
either to himself or other people.  But, strange to say, though absolute
infancy now threatened him, his love for the sex was not even yet wholly
dead.  I well remember grandfather coming to me, hand in hand with a
little village maid of some six summers, and acquainting me with the
fact that they were engaged.

"This is Bessie Wiggles, grandma," said the venerable sufferer; "I met
her down by the bridge over the river, and I gave her sweeties and a
kite, and she gived me a kiss for them, and we’s going to be married,
Bessie Wiggles and me, when we’s grown up."

I promised them they should be.  This was an attachment which really
mattered nothing. It kept grandfather out of mischief, and made him part
with at least a proportion of the deleterious rubbish he bought with his
weekly sixpence of pocket-money.  I felt that two small stomachs might
carry a load of toffee and other horrid stuffs, which must certainly
upset one.  It was an idyllic engagement. Bessie Wiggles came to tea
constantly, and grandpapa would talk with confidence of his future and
the great things he should do when he was a man.  The children walked
about the village hand in hand.  The villagers smiled and said it was
pretty to see them. Then one day a herd of cows, going to be milked,
knocked grandfather down accidentally and bruised him, and terrified him
to such an extent that he prayed I would take him away from Tavybridge
instantly, to some remote spot where there were no more cows.  He
abandoned Bessie Wiggles without a murmur, and I took him away to
Exeter.  He was rapidly approaching the age of five years or one hundred
and nine and a half, according from which Scheme you looked at him.

My stay at the old cathedral city was even shorter than I had intended,
for grandfather got damp on a bleak December day, and abstracted some
almonds and raisins out of a cupboard when I was not by.  This
combination of circumstances resulted for him in a bad attack of croup.
Very foolishly, and forgetting that in such a case appearances must be
much against me, I did not send for a doctor, but contented myself with
patting the old man on the back and giving him repeated drinks of Eno’s
Fruit Salt.  This I knew was not the right treatment for croup, but what
did it matter?  Grandfather would certainly be perfectly well again in
the morning.  After all his adventures, this paltry childish ailment was
not going to destroy him now.  I felt very certain of that.  But,
unfortunately, the landlady heard grandfather making a great deal of
noise about two in the morning, and, being a mother, she recognised the
sound, and was instantly up in arms to help me.  When she found I did
not intend sending for a medical man, she became both vulgar and
offensive. She accused me of fooling a helpless child’s life away.  She

"I know what it is to be a mother, though you’ve forgotten, it seems.
Eno’s salts for croup!  Lord!  You be daft, I should think. What would
that poor lamb’s ma say if she knowed?"

I said:

"Its ma’s in heaven long ago; probably she does know.  I venture to
think she would be quite satisfied with my treatment."

"Shame on ’e!" she answered.  "A horphan--that makes it wus and wus.  I
guess you be no better ’n a baby-farmer--now then!"

Thereupon I declined further conversation, and gave her notice that I
should leave that day week.  She replied that it would be impossible for
me to leave too soon for her, though her heart bled for the ill-used
child, meaning my grandparent.  Stung to anger, I was almost tempted to
hint at the New Scheme, but bitter experience and my better judgment
told me such an action, taking into consideration the mental calibre of
the woman, must be worse than futile.  So I bid her go to her room; she
departed with the word "murderess" on her lips, and the incident

Of course, grandfather was pretty right the next day, but disorders now
gained upon him rapidly, and I know I was to blame for adding a good
deal of unnecessary suffering to those last fleeting years of his life.
His stomach-aches, his rashes, his mumps, might all have been avoided
had I understood better the care of the extremely youthful.  Everywhere
I went I heard expressions of open surprise that I, a woman of
seventy-five apparently, and a grandmother, should know so precious
little about babies.  And, of course, the old man was shrivelling with
such cruel rapidity now that my knowledge could not keep pace with him.
When I understood the nature and requirements of a child of five he was
already four; by the time I grasped his needs at this age he had sunk to

We were at Bideford when I put him into short frocks and kept flannel
next his skin and looked round for a second-hand perambulator. He was
always ailing at this stage, and frightfully fretful, owing to a
complication of disorders. He had whooping-cough and a slight touch of
congestion of the lungs, and measles and a sore throat.  His teeth
worried him terribly, too.  God alone knows what was happening to them.
The process put the poor old man to evident torment, and to hear him say
again and again: "Oh, ganny, my toofs _is_ hurtin’ me so," would have
made angels weep.  For all I know it did.  The celestial being who could
gaze unmoved at Daniel Dolphin’s sufferings during those last, awful,
loathsome years of his earthly life would have been hard-hearted indeed.
And heaven must have pitied me a trifle too--especially at Bideford,
after I had put him into short frocks.

When he was one hundred and nine and three-quarters--when but three
months remained before the climax--he lost the art of walking and
talking about the same time.  He seemed easy to manage without these
accomplishments.  I certainly missed his childish prattle as it
gradually dwindled and ceased, but when command of locomotion slipped
from him my work was much lightened.  As a young child he had been very
trying; now, on the dawn of babyhood, he enjoyed better health and got
prettier to look at, at least, so it struck me.  Indeed, he gradually
grew to be the dearest, best-tempered little mite any woman ever loved
and cuddled.  I thought how proud his dear mother must have been of him
more than a century ago.  I also marvelled that so bonny a babe should
have blossomed into such a funny child, and such an unsatisfactory man.
Of course, I was led by appearances myself now. I could not revere the
aged man I danced on my knee and fondled and hugged.  I could not
realise that this blue-eyed, thumb-sucking, crowing, kicking atom was my
grandfather. My imagination was not equal to the task of grasping these
facts.  I only know that we lurked at Basingstoke three weeks, and then
at Brixton; and that I lived night and day for grandfather, as his sun
sank to the setting.  I took him for long rides in his perambulator, and
looked to his every want and joyed in his innocent, little, waning life.
His curls went at Clapham Junction; the short, lanky locks of a year-old
infant soon covered his bulbous skull; his proportions were those of
tenderest youth.  An awful expanse of brow and a triangular mouth had
appeared; his nose had dwindled to a mere upturned lump, his eyes
assumed the fatuous blear and blink of babyhood; he gasped and he
gurgled, and jerked and panted, and stretched out fat fingers to me.  He
was always good-tempered to the last, though his intervals of weeping
grew longer and longer.  One thing he never could stand: my singing.
When his first teeth were undergoing some unhallowed metamorphosis he
had a succession of very bad nights, and at such times, until I realised
the facts, I endeavoured to soothe him with musical lullabies. But I
soon found my voice exercised a peculiarly irritating effect on
grandfather.  He had not enjoyed it even in the past, so I ceased from
vocal efforts and never sang again.

Anon we went to Kilburn, when grandfather had but one year left to live
by the New Scheme and rather more than five weeks by the old.  Then he
began to play with his toes, and that was the beginning of the end.

                            *CHAPTER XXIV.*

                     _*THE PASSING OF GRANDPAPA.*_

I shall not set down here the hard words hurled at me by different
lodging-house keepers, who took it upon themselves to criticise my
management of grandfather. Because, for instance, I persisted in feeding
him latterly on condensed milk, instead of wasting money upon a wet
nurse, I was unmercifully abused.  But I went my way, and soon had him
in long frocks, and took him from Kilburn to Ravenscourt Park.  Here I
was accused of being a baby-thief, because I explained as usual that the
infant’s parents were in India.

"Its ma must be a pretty quick traveller then," said the sceptical
landlady.  "That hinfant ain’t a day more than three weeks old, or I’m
no judge."

She was nearly right.  It wanted now but one month to make grandfather a
hundred and ten or nothing at all.  It was, in fact, twenty-nine days
before he was born, or after, according as you look at it.  I got very
muddled over his age about this time myself.  I only remembered the date
of his birthday, and realised that on the night before that anniversary
the New Scheme would come to an end.  The old man was now a mere
hairless, blotchy, howling fragment, needing ceaseless attention at all
hours of night and day.  A bitter thought often came to me while I was
getting his bottle--that my tiny grandfather should be going to such an
unsatisfactory place so soon.  For I never could believe, despite what
the lawyers said, that his fiendish opponent had made any radical
blunder in the agreement.

As the long days followed each other I became overstrung and hysterical,
and felt that a very little more of it would send me mad. I let
grandpapa drop out of his perambulator one day in Ravenscourt Park,
where I had taken him for an airing.  Of course, he screamed as only a
frightened baby can, and attracted the attention of a policeman.  The
constable merely addressed me good-humouredly, but a ribald crowd
collected in no time.  Boys chaffed, women cried shame on me; an
officious old fool, who said he belonged to some institution for the
Prevention of Brutality to Infants in Arms, insisted on taking my
address.  I gave it to him, trundled grandfather home, and moved to
Turnham Green the same evening. At our new lodgings I told the truth for
once, and said grandfather’s poor mother was dead. The landlady here was
young, and had a baby of her own, and showed me great kindness and
sympathy.  She prophesied all manner of hopeful things for grandfather,
but feared that I should never live to see him grow up. There were
reasonable grounds for such a doubt, for I was now much more than my
age, and growing somewhat infirm.  The last ten years had added not less
than thirty to my own life.  I looked pretty nearly eighty now, and felt
considerably older.

A feeling of awe and horror daily gained ground upon me at this season.
I was haunted by the thought of that awful night so close at hand, and I
pictured a thousand terrors.  I strung myself up to the task of facing
the future alone, but I would have given all I possessed to feel that
during those supreme last moments some fellow-creature--a medical man or
one of the clergy for choice--would be with me.  But I had kept my poor
grandfather’s secret for ten years, and meant keeping it to the end.
The final problem, however, was quite full of horrid possibility.  One
night I thought of an idea that made me turn goose-flesh all over.  What
if on the expiring of the New Scheme grandfather should revert to the
old?  What if on the morning of his hundred and tenth birthday, instead
of finding nothing in his cradle, I should rise and be confronted with
the withered remains of a centenarian? Of course, it would not matter
much to grandfather, but an event of that kind must leave me in a
dilemma, beside which the New Scheme itself was a mere child’s problem.
What would the landlady say?  What would anybody say? I determined that
no one should have half a chance to say anything.  It was merely justice
to myself.  I arranged a programme for that last night.  The time of the
year was late June, the weather beautiful, so a week before the end I
took train to North London.  I made up my mind to spend the last night
of grandfather’s life quite alone with him on the wilds of Hampstead
Heath.  Then, if he suffered any further outrageous transformation at
the last, I could just leave him there, and he would be found and duly
buried after a coroner’s inquest, and I could put flowers on the grave
anonymously afterwards.  If, on the other hand, he simply went out, I
should be able to rejoin my boxes, which would be waiting at the nearest
railway station, and go upon my way unsuspected.  If he suddenly
disappeared in a lodging-house, it seemed clear to me that I should
probably be arrested on suspicion of murder.  I took two rooms not far
from the Heath, and watched grandfather’s last week pass away in
ceaseless wailing.  Then came the night before his birthday.  That
evening I gave up the lodgings, sent my boxes to the station, and after
a meat tea and the first dose of stimulant I had taken for a year, went
forth to the final scene.  Every seat upon Hampstead Heath that night
seemed to be engaged by parties of two.  The daylight waned slowly. Not
until nine o’clock did the moonlight begin to grow strong enough to
throw shadows.  By ten it flooded the Heath with soft grey light. The
scene was extremely peaceful; it even soothed to some slight extent the
chaos in my heart.  Grandfather slept.  He had been unusually silent all
day.  He had shrunk, of course, to a mere red, new-born atom now.  I had
him snugly in a bundle all done up with safety pins. I remember
wondering, even at that solemn time, how the Devil would be able to get
grandfather out of that bundle without undoing the pins.

About eleven o’clock I threw his bottle away, for I knew he would never
want it again.  It was a beautiful night for the passing of grandpapa.
I only hoped and prayed that he _would_ pass, and have done with it.  I
rambled about in the shadows cast by the moon, and peeped from time to
time into the blanket I carried to see if anything was happening to
grandfather; but he nestled there, silent and wide awake.  I shivered as
I looked into his round, open eyes, bright with moonlight.  There was an
unutterably weird expression in them, for they had intelligence once
more; they were the eyes of a thinking being.  It would hardly have
surprised me at that moment if he had spoken and exchanged ideas with
me.  But he kept deadly silence, looking out of his blanket with those
round moon-lit eyes that haunt me still.  And then a strange thing
happened. Despite my agitation, and the fact that I was now shaking with
excitement, and suffering from palpitation of the heart, a great longing
for sleep crept over me.  I yearned to close my eyes; an astounding
feeling, almost approaching indifference, rose within me.  I actually
heard myself saying, "I must sleep, I must sleep; it won’t make any
difference to him."  I fought against the overpowering drowsiness, being
sure that it was simply sent by some malevolent, supernatural power, in
order to prevent me from being in at the finish, so to speak.  But my
efforts were unavailing. As a distant church clock chimed half-past
eleven, I sank down at the top of a bank under some gorse bushes, and
the last action of which I am conscious was that I drew grandfather
close to me and put my arms tight round him--those poor old arms that
had been of some use to him in the past, but were powerless now.

Doubtless I slept for half-an-hour.  Then I was awakened suddenly by the
wail of a new-born babe.  I sat up wildly.  The bundle with grandfather
in it was not in my arms.  It had apparently rolled to the bottom of the
bank.  But even as I rose to struggle after it, the shrill cry of the
infant changed to the mumbling groan of one infinitely old, and across
the gorse bushes, in the haze of the moonlight, I saw the passing of
grandfather. Whether the vision came out of my own brain, or was
actually visible to my eyes, I cannot say.  All I remember is that I
distinctly heard my name, "Martha, Martha!" called twice in weak but
frenzied accents, and saw an old, bent figure, with the moonbeams
shining on its bald head, move across the light.  It was stretching
thin, bony fingers out towards me, and wringing its hands at the same
time.  I struggled to reach it, but suddenly grew conscious of something
that came between--something formless and unutterable.  There was a
laugh in the air, harsh, unearthly, like a parrot’s.  It died away, and
the echo of a moan seemed to crawl as though alive through the high
gorse.  Then there was silence, and I, with my hands groping in front of
me, fell forward unconscious.

I cannot have been insensible for very long, as facts proved.  When I
recovered again the moon still shone brightly, but the east already
trembled with dawn, and it was cold.  I staggered down the bank to where
the baby’s cry had come from, and there lay the bundle, just as I had
clasped it to my heart.  I opened it; it was still warm as a nest from
which the sitting bird has just flown; but it was empty. At the moment I
awoke I must have missed grandfather’s birth or death, or departure or
arrival, by the fraction of a second.  I searched frantically round for
him; I tore my face and my gloves in the furze and briars; I raised my
voice and shrieked to him, and fell on my knees and prayed for him; but
under my mad frenzy there throbbed a thought that spoke to me coldly and
told me he was gone--clean gone, and vanished away for ever.

Presently I found a vacant seat, where I sat and collected myself.  I
dried the blood from a thorn scratch across my face, brushed the mud
from my dress, and then, as a golden dawn flashed over the dew and woke
the birds, I crawled away towards the railway station. A train for
working men went at five, but I had to wait an hour and a half for it,
and the time dragged.  Every moment I expected to hear grandfather’s
cry, and once I found my foot mechanically rocking his cradle.  Then
they opened the station, and I took a ticket to Baker Street, and saw my
two boxes labelled, and went back into the world--alone.

                     *      *      *      *      *

I have set this narrative out with my own hand, and left it in safe
keeping.  When I am gone, and not sooner, I have directed that it shall
be given to my fellow creatures.  There is nothing more to add.  For my
own part, I am passing the fag-end of my life in seclusion--unknown,
forgotten.  So I would have it. I recently put up a cenotaph to
grandfather’s memory in the little village church which I regularly
attend.  There can be no harm in that.  I still think the old man was
most unfairly treated, and I shall not hesitate to say so hereafter if
opportunity ever offers.  As for my own dismal part in probably the most
awful tragedy earth’s annals ever recorded, I need say nothing. Those
ten ghastly, sunless years are always with me, and I should have
hesitated before adding another sad book to the many in the world, but
that I hold it my duty to record these facts.  My object is that a
materialistic age may be confounded, that those who do not believe in
the principalities and powers by which mankind is secretly led and
guided, blinded and befooled, may pause and reflect before they find
themselves meshed in some muddling devil’s web, from which there is no

If an outrage of this sort can happen once, it may again.  Who is safe?


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