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Title: The Sack of Monte Carlo - An Adventure of To-day
Author: Frith, Walter
Language: English
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                        THE SACK OF MONTE CARLO


                        =An Adventure of To-day=

                  As narrated by Vincent Blacker, Esq.
                 Lieutenant H.M.’s East ——shire Militia

                                   BY
                              WALTER FRITH
                     AUTHOR OF “IN SEARCH OF QUIET”

             _Quo timoris minus est, eo minus est Periculi_
                                              LIVY, xii., 5

                             [Illustration]

                      HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
                          NEW YORK AND LONDON
                                  1898



                            BY WALTER FRITH.

                 *        *        *        *        *

      IN SEARCH OF QUIET. A Country Journal, May
          to July. Post 8vo, Cloth, $1.25.

          A very entertaining book, written in a very entertaining
      style.—_Cincinnati Commercial-Gazette._
          A book which will enchain the attention of the reader
      from beginning to end.—_Boston Advertiser._
                 *        *        *        *        *
                          NEW YORK AND LONDON:
                     HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS.

                 Copyright, 1897, by HARPER & BROTHERS.
                 *        *        *        *        *
                         _All rights reserved._



                                   TO

                           MRS. F. W. SHARON

                 IN RECOLLECTION OF MANY HAPPY HOURS IN

                      NEW YORK, ÉTRETAT, AND PARIS

                         London, October, 1897



                                CONTENTS

                 *        *        *        *        *

                                CHAPTER I
         Some Slight Explanation—Objects of the
           Expedition—Love the Promoter—Lucy Thatcher—Her
           Portrait by Lamplight                                1

                                CHAPTER II
         “The French Horn”—Mabel Harker: My Unfortunate
           Engagement to Her—Mr. Crage and Wharton Park         7

                               CHAPTER III
         I Continue to Keep Out of Mabel Harker’s Way and
           Go to Goring—Return to “The French
           Horn”—Wanderings with Lucy—Mr. Crage Rehearses
           His Own Funeral                                     17

                                CHAPTER IV
         I am Free of Mabel Harker—Return to “The French
           Horn”—Disastrous Interference of Harold Forsyth
           in My Affairs                                       25

                                CHAPTER V
         Anglesey Lodge—My Interview with Lucy in
           Kensington Gardens—Not so Satisfactory as I
           could Desire                                        29

                                CHAPTER VI
         Early Difficulties—I Fail to Persuade the
           Honorable Edgar Fanshawe, the Reverend Percy
           Blyth, and Mr. Parker White, M.P., to Join our
           Monte Carlo Party                                   37

                               CHAPTER VII
         I Interview Mr. Brentin—His Sympathy and
           Interest—Sir Anthony Hipkins and the Yacht
           _Amaranth_—We Determine to Look Over It             47

                               CHAPTER VIII
         We Go to Ryde—The _Amaranth_—Accidental Meeting
           with Arthur Masters and His Lady Friend—I Enroll
           Him Among Us, Provisionally—We Decide to
           Purchase the Yacht                                  60

                                CHAPTER IX
         My Sister’s Suspicions—Heroes of _The Argo_—My
           Sister Determines to Come with Us as Chaperon to
           Miss Rybot                                          70

                                CHAPTER X
         Mr. Brentin’s Indiscretion—Lucy and I Make It
           Up—Bailey Thompson Appears in Church—On
           Christmas Day we Hold a Council of War              77

                                CHAPTER XI
         Mr. Bailey Thompson Gives us His Ingenious
           Advice—We are Fools enough to Trust
           Him—Misplaced Confidence                            87

                               CHAPTER XII
         Monte Carlo—Mr. Van Ginkel’s Yacht _Saratoga_—We
           Prospect—Fortunate Discovery of the Point of
           Attack—First Visit to the Rooms                     95

                               CHAPTER XIII
         Mrs. Wingham and Teddy Parsons—He Foolishly
           Confides in Her—I Make a Similar Mistake           103

                               CHAPTER XIV
         Arrival of the _Amaranth_—All Well on Board—Their
           First Experience of the Rooms                      111

                                CHAPTER XV
         Influence of Climate on Adventure—Unexpected
           Arrival of Lucy—Her Revelations—Danger Ahead       118

                               CHAPTER XVI
         Council of War—Captain Evans’s Decision—I Go to
           the Rooms and Confide in My Sister                 127

                               CHAPTER XVII
         Enter Mr. Bailey Thompson—Van Ginkel Stands by
           Us—We Show Thompson Round and Explain
           Details—Teddy Parsons’s Alarm                      136

                              CHAPTER XVIII
         Exit Mr. Bailey Thompson                             146

                               CHAPTER XIX
         The Great Night—Dinner at the “Hôtel de Paris”—A
           Last Look Round—The Sack and Its
           Incidents—Flight                                   151

                                CHAPTER XX
         We Discover Teddy Parsons is Left Behind—I Make Up
           My Mind—To the Rescue!—Unmanly Conduct of the
           Others—I Go Alone—Disguise—The Garde Champêtre     171

                               CHAPTER XXI
         In My Disguise I am Mistaken for Lord B.—A Club
           Acquaintance—Teddy at the Law Courts—Mrs.
           Wingham—The Defence and The Acquittal—We Bolt      185

                               CHAPTER XXII
         Our Flight to Venice—Thence to Athens—We all Meet
           on the Acropolis—Reappearance of Mr. Bailey
           Thompson!—Again we Manage to Put Him Off the
           Scent                                              202

                              CHAPTER XXIII
         We Arrive Safe in London and Go to Medworth
           Square—Back at “The French Horn”—News at Last of
           the _Amaranth_—I Interview Mr. Crage and Find
           Him Ill                                            219

                               CHAPTER XXIV
         Arrival of Brentin—My Wedding-day—We Go to
           Wharton—Bailey Thompson and Cochefort Follow
           Us—We Finally Defeat Them Both                     230

         CONCLUSION                                           243



                        THE SACK OF MONTE CARLO
   “_I don’t say that it is possible; I only affirm it to be true._”



                               CHAPTER I

   SOME SLIGHT EXPLANATION—OBJECTS OF THE EXPEDITION—LOVE THE
     PROMOTER—LUCY THATCHER—HER PORTRAIT BY LAMPLIGHT


THE idea occurred to me, quite unexpectedly and unsought for, early one
morning in bed; and, as ideas of such magnitude are valuable and scarce
(at any rate, with me), it was not long before I determined to try and
realize it.

The expedition was so successful, and we got, on the whole, so clear and
clean away with the swag, or, as Mr. Julius C. Brentin, our esteemed
American _collaborateur_, called it, “the boodle,” that, for my part,
there I should have been perfectly content to let the affair rest; but,
the fact is, so many of my friends have taken upon themselves to doubt
whether we really did it at all, and the Monte Carlo authorities from
the very first so cunningly managed to suppress all details (with their
subsidized press), that I feel it due to us all to try and write the
adventure out; since I know very well how, with most, seeing in print is
believing.

Briefly, then, my idea was to sack or raid the gambling-tables at Monte
Carlo, that highly notorious _cloaca maxima_ for all the scum of Europe,
which there gutters and gushes forth into the sapphire and tideless
Mediterranean. I had worked details out for myself, and believed that,
what with the money on the tables and the reserve in the vaults, there
could not be much short of £200,000 on the Casino premises, a sum as
much worth making a dash for, it seemed to me, as Spanish plate-ships to
Drake or Raleigh. Nor did it seem likely we should have to do much
fighting to secure it; for all the authorities I consulted assured me
the place was by no means a Gibraltar, and, in fact, that half a dozen
resolute gentlemen with revolvers and a swift steam-yacht waiting in the
harbor would be more than enough to do the trick and clean the place
out; which was pretty much what we found.

As for the morality of the affair, I confess _that_ never in the least
troubled me—never once. One puts morality on one side when dealing with
a gaming-establishment, and to raid the place seemed to me just as
reasonable and fair as to go there with a system, besides being likely
to be a good deal more profitable. And since the objects to which we
destined the money were in the main charitable, I soon came to regard
the expedition strictly _in pios usus_ (as lawyers say), and hope and
believe the public will regard it in that light too.

Let me say right here—to quote Mr. Brentin again—that not one of us
touched one single red cent of the large amount we so fortunately
secured, but that it was all expended for the purposes (in the main, as
I say, charitable) for which we had always intended it—with the single
exception of a necklet of napoleons I had made for the fat little neck
of my enchanting niece Mollie, which she always wears at parties, and
keeps to this day in an old French plum-box, along with her beads and
bangles and a small holy ring I once brought her from Rome; being
amazingly fond of all sorts of bedizenments, as most female children
are.

Mollie, therefore, was the only person who really had any of the swag,
or boodle; though, of course, she doesn’t know it, and thinks it was
properly won at play. For as for Bob Hines, who had some for the new
gymnasium and swimming-bath at his boys’ school at Folkestone; and Mr.
Thatcher (my dear wife Lucy’s father), who got his old family estate,
Wharton Park, back; and the hospitals, convalescent homes, and
sanatoriums, which all shared alike; and Teddy Parsons, of my militia,
who had the bill paid off that was worrying him—that was all in the
original scheme, and all went to form the well-understood reasons for
our undertaking the expedition; without which inducements, indeed, it
would never even have started.

So if, after this clear denial in print, the public still choose to
fancy anything has stuck to my fingers, all I can ask them in fairness
to do is to come to our flat in Victoria Street any morning between
twelve and two, when they can see the accounts and receipts for
themselves, all in order and properly audited by Messrs. Fitch & Black,
the eminent accountants of Lothbury, E. C....

Now, they say love is at the bottom of most of the affairs and
enterprises of the world, and so I believe it mostly is. At all events,
I don’t fancy I should have undertaken, or, at any rate, been so
prominent in this Monte Carlo affair, if I hadn’t at the time been so
deeply in love with Lucy, and correspondingly anxious to get her
father’s property back for them at Wharton Park. It is situate near
Nesshaven, on the Essex coast; which, though to many it may not be a
particularly attractive part of the country, is to me forever sacred as
the spot where I first met the dear girl who is now my wife, coming back
so rosily from her morning bath, through the whin and the sand, from the
long, flat shore and the idle sea, carrying her own damp towel back to
her father’s inn, “The French Horn.”

I can see her now as I saw her then, on that warm September morning
eighteen months ago; sea and sky and monotonous Essex land all bathed in
hazy sunshine, the whins still glistening with the morning mist, which
at that time of the year lies heavily till the sun at mid-day warms them
dry and sets the seed-cases exploding like Prince-Rupert drops—I can
see her, I say, come towards me along the coast-guard path, round the
pole that sticks up to mark it, and towards the wooden bridge that
crosses one of the dikes.

If any line of that sweet face were faint in my memory, I have only to
look across at her now, as she sits sewing under the lamp as I write,
for all its charm and perfection to be present as first I saw it. I have
only to put a straw-hat on the pretty, rough, dark hair, which in
sunshine gleams with the bronze of chestnut, give her a freckle or two
on the low, white forehead, color her round cheek a little more
delicately rose-leaf, and there she is—not forgetting to take away the
wedding-ring!—as she passed me on the Nesshaven golf-links that hazy
September morning eighteen months ago. There is the straight nose, the
short upper lip, the pure, fresh mouth, the plump and rounded chin, and
the soft, pink lips that part so readily with a smile and show the
beautiful white teeth, white as the youngest hazel-nuts....

Lucy felt my eyes were upon her, and looked up at me and smiled, with
something of a blush, for she blushes very readily. She saw me still
looking longingly, the invitation in my eyes, and after a moment’s
hesitation (for, though we have been married nearly six months, she
still is shy) she put down her sewing and came to me at my
writing-table. She bent over me and put her arms round my neck, her warm
cheek against mine. Her soft lips kissed me; I felt the tender, loving
palpitation of her bosom as I bent my head back. Our sitting-room seemed
full of silence, happy and melodious silence, while from outside in
Victoria Street I head the jingle of a passing cab....



                               CHAPTER II

   “THE FRENCH HORN”—MABEL HARKER, MY UNFORTUNATE ENGAGEMENT TO HER
     —MR. CRAGE AND WHARTON PARK


THOUGH the idea to sack Monte Carlo did not occur to me till late in the
year (in the September of which I first met Lucy Thatcher), I must first
say something of my going down to Nesshaven in June, and the events
which led to my being in a position to undertake an affair of such nerve
and magnitude.

Lucy thought I should take readers straight to Monte Carlo, confining
myself to that part of the work only; but, after talking it over, she
agrees with me now that the adventure must be led up to in the natural
way it really was or the public won’t believe in it, after all, and I
shall have all my pains for nothing. So that’s what I shall do, in the
shortest and best way I can; promising, like the esteemed old
circus-rider Ducrow, as soon as possible to “cut the cackle and come to
the ’osses.”

Well, then, it was towards the middle of June when I joined the golf
club at Nesshaven, just after my militia training month was over. I was
introduced by Harold Forsyth (one of our Monte Carlo band later, and one
of the stanchest of them), who had the golf fever very badly, and, I
must say, was beginning to make himself rather a bore with it.

He and I went down from Liverpool Street and stayed at “The French
Horn,” the inn kept by Mr. Thatcher, Lucy’s father; and after Forsyth
had introduced me to the club and shown me round the links, he went back
to his regiment, the “Devon Borderers,” then stationed at Colchester,
very angry and complaining, as soldiers mostly are when obliged to do
any work. I remained behind, not that I had yet seen Lucy, but rather to
keep out of Mabel Harker’s way—the young lady to whom (as Lucy knows) I
happened, much against my will, to be at that time unfortunately engaged
to be married.

My first visit to “The French Horn” lasted three weeks, during which
time I manfully held my ground, though heavily bombarded by Mabel’s
letters, regularly discharged thrice a week from her aunt’s house in
Clifton Gardens at Folkestone. At last, as Mabel came to stay at her
sister’s in the Regent’s Park (on purpose, I believe), I was obliged to
go up to town for ten days, and there passed a sad time with her at the
University match, Henley, and the Eton and Harrow; at which noted places
of amusement and relaxation I cannot help thinking I was the most
unhappy visitor, though, to be sure, I tried hard not to show it.

But it was dreadful when I got back to my rooms in Little St. James’s
Street and attempted sleep; for I really think that _not_ being in love
with the person you have bound yourself to marry keeps more men awake
_more miserably_ than any of the so-called torments of love, which, with
scarcely an exception, I have never found otherwise than agreeable.

At last Mabel went back to Folkestone, and I was free to return to “The
French Horn,” and I never saw her again (thank goodness!) till the
momentous interview between us in October, from which I emerged a free
man; she having discovered in a boarding-house at Lucerne an architect
named Byles, whom she’d the sense to see was a more determined wooer
than I had ever been, and likely to make her a far better husband.

“The French Horn” is not an old house, having been built in about the
year 1830, from designs made by Mr. Thatcher’s father, who had copied it
from an inn he had once stayed in in Spain. For a country gentleman of
old family, the father seems to have been a somewhat remarkable person.
He had, for instance, been an intimate friend of the celebrated Lord
Byron, and was the only man in England (so Mr. Thatcher always said) who
knew the real story of the quarrel between the poet and his wife. Byron
confided it to him at Pisa as the closest of secrets; but, as he had
always told it to everybody when alive, and his son, my father-in-law,
invariably did and still does the same, there must be a good many people
in England by now who know all about it.

In fact, there was scarcely a golfer or bicyclist came to the house but
Mr. Thatcher didn’t fix him sooner or later in the bar and ask him if he
knew the real reason why Byron quarrelled with his wife and left
England. And as it was a hundred to one chance that they didn’t, Mr.
Thatcher always informed them in a loud, husky whisper, and shouted
after them as they left, “But you mustn’t publish it, because it’s a
family secret!”

And the reason was, according to Mr. Thatcher, that Lord Byron had
killed a country girl when a young man (somebody he’d got into trouble,
I suppose) and flung her body in the pond at Newstead; and that having,
in a moment of loving expansion, bragged of it to his wife, Lady Byron
had, very properly, promptly kicked him out of the house in Piccadilly;
which, also according to Mr. Thatcher, was the origin of those touching
lines:

        “They tell me ’tis decided you depart:
        ’Tis wise, ’tis well, but not the less a pain,”

invariably quoted by him on the departure of a guest.

It was this same father of Mr. Thatcher’s who had parted with Wharton
Park, their ancestral home. He had been a great gambler in his youth,
and lost enormous sums at Crockford’s and on the turf, so that when he
died, in 1850, he had nothing to leave his only son, my Lucy’s father,
but three or four thousand pounds, very soon muddled away in unfortunate
business speculations.

At last, about twenty years ago, it occurred to Mr. Thatcher to come
down to Nesshaven and take “The French Horn,” close to the Park gates of
his old home, where, until the golf mania set in, beyond gaining a bare
livelihood, he did no particular good; having to depend on
natural-history lunatics, who came there in winter and prowled the shore
with shot-guns after rare birds, and, in summer, on families from
Colchester—tradespeople and bank-clerks and so on—who spent their
holidays lying about in the warm sand among the whins and complaining of
the food. Betweenwhiles there was scarcely a soul about except the
coast-guards, who came up to fill their whiskey-bottles, and a few
bicyclists who ate enormous teas and never would pay more than
ninepence.

But when a Colchester builder erected the club-house down on the links,
Mr. Thatcher’s business looked up wonderfully, and he really began to
make money, and even sometimes to turn it away, for the house was small.
Harold Forsyth discovered it, being quartered so near, and it was he who
introduced me, for which I can never be sufficiently grateful.

It was a curious place, as most amateur buildings are. Forsyth had not
told me anything about it, and I was indeed astonished when we first
drove up; for, with its colored bricks, veranda, high-pitched roof, and
odd carved wood-work, it reminded me somehow of an illustration to _Don
Quixote_, and I quite expected to see a team of belled mules and hear
the gay castanet click of the fandango. Instead of which, out came Mr.
Thatcher in a dirty old cricket blazer.

It was towards the middle of June, and the sun was just setting at the
end of a long, warm day. Mr. Thatcher showed us our rooms, and then took
us into the great hall up-stairs, from which a balcony and steps
descended into the garden. It had a very high-pitched roof, and was
decorated in the Moorish fashion (rather like the old London Crystal
Palace; where, by-the-way, I have eaten pop-corn many a time as a boy,
but cannot honestly say I ever enjoyed it), and would hold, I dare say,
a hundred and fifty people; rather senseless, I thought, seeing there
were only seven or eight bedrooms, but possibly useful for bean-feasts
or a printer’s wayz-goose.

The broad June sun was setting, as I say, and streamed right in from the
garden, as Forsyth and I ate our dinner. The only other guests were two
brothers named Walton, who spent their lives playing golf. They played
at Nesshaven all day, and wrote accounts of it every night, sitting
close together, smoking and mumbling about the condition of the greens
and their tee-shots, all of which was solemnly committed to paper.

What they would have done with themselves twenty years ago I can’t
conceive—possibly taken to drink. At any rate, now they only live for
golf, and their thick legs and indifferent play are to be seen wherever
there’s a links and they can get permission to perform.

Mr. Thatcher’s wife, a doctor’s daughter, had long been dead; but his
old mother, of the astonishing age of ninety-three, was still alive, and
lived with him in the inn. At first she had not at all liked the idea of
settling down almost at the gates of Wharton Park, her old home; but
every year since they came she had expected would be her last, and she
only lived on on sufferance, as it were, in the hope she would soon die.
Sprier old lady, however, I must say, I never saw. She wasn’t in the
least deaf, and never wore glasses, and she was simply the keenest hand
at bezique I ever encountered; at which entertaining game, by-the-way,
if she wasn’t watched, she would cheat outrageously.

She came of a good old Norfolk family, and actually remembered the
jubilee of George III. in 1810; but when asked for details of that
touching and patriotic event, all she could say was, “Well, I remember
the blacksmith’s children dressed in white.”

Old Mrs. Thatcher and I were great friends, and used to potter about the
garden together in the early mornings. Farther abroad she never
ventured, except once a year, I believe, when she trotted off to the
church to visit her husband’s grave and see the tablet inside was kept
clean.

So June and part of July slipped away, diversified, as I have explained,
by a visit to London and some melancholy pleasures sipped in Mabel
Harker’s society, from which I returned to “The French Horn” in a truly
desperate and pitiable frame of mind. Indeed, so low and forlorn was I
at times that Mr. Thatcher, with great sympathy, once or twice fetched
me out a bottle of old port (and not bad tipple, either, for a country
inn), which we drank together, while he related to me at some length the
misfortunes of his life.

Chief among them was the loss of his ancestral home, Wharton Park. The
Thatchers had lived there since the first of them, a Lord Mayor of the
time of Henry VIII., had built the house in the year 1543—of which
original structure only the stables, in an extremely ramshackle
condition, remained. A drunken Thatcher with a bedroom candle had burned
the rest, towards the end of the last century, when the present house
was built by my father-in-law’s grandfather; a bad man, apparently,
since though he had a wife and children established in Portman Square,
he kept a mistress in one of the wings of Wharton Park, where one night
she went suddenly raving mad (treading on her long boa and believing it
a serpent come from the lower regions to claim and devour her), and
filled the air with her screechings till, a year later, she died.

Mr. Thatcher’s father had mortgaged the place heavily to Mr. Crage, an
attorney and moneylender of Clement’s Inn, and soon after his death, in
1850, the mortgage was foreclosed, and Mr. Crage took possession and had
lived there with great disrepute ever since. He was a very vile old man,
who had killed his wife with ill-treatment and turned his daughters
out-of-doors; no female domestic servant was safe from his dreadful
advances, and at last he was left with no one to serve him but the
gardener and his wife, with whom, especially when they all got drunk
together on gin-and-water in the kitchen, he was as often as not engaged
in hand-to-hand fighting.

When I first saw him he was well over eighty, and a more
abandoned-looking old villain I never set eyes on; with a gashed,
slobbering mouth, in which the yellow teeth stuck up out of the
under-jaw like an old hound’s; a broken nose, which had once been
hooked, until displaced by a young carpenter in the village, whose
sweetheart he had been rude to; and the most extraordinary, bushy, black
eyebrows. His hand shook so he always cut himself shaving, and his chin
was always dabbled with dry blood. In short, a more malignant and gaunt
personality I never saw, as I first did quite close, leaning on a gate
and mumbling to himself, dressed in a tight body-coat, gaiters, and a
dull, square, black hat, like a horse-coper’s.

I remember he called out to me over the gate in a rasping voice, “Hi,
there, you young Cockney! what’s the time?” Whereupon I haughtily
replied it was time he thought of his latter end and behaved himself. At
which he fell to cursing and shaking his stick, and making sham,
impotent efforts to get over the gate. For they told me he was mortally
afraid of dying, as all bad (and, for the matter of that, many good) men
are. He knew, of course, Mr. Thatcher was the rightful owner of the
place, and he would sometimes come down to “The French Horn” and jeer
him about it, offering it for £30,000, which, he dared say, Mr. Thatcher
had in the house. And more than once, curse his senile impudence! Mr.
Thatcher told me he had offered to marry Lucy!—but this is really too
horrible a subject to be dwelt on.

In short, I loathed the old wretch so heartily that it was perhaps the
happiest moment of my life (with the exception of that blessed February
morning when I stood at the altar of Nesshaven church with Lucy and
heard her sweet and tremulous “I will”) when, after our triumphant
return from Monte Carlo, Mr. Thatcher and I went up to Wharton Park with
the £30,000 in notes and gold and paid the old ruffian out over the
coarse kitchen-table, almost the only furniture of the grand
drawing-room, where there were still the old yellow silk hangings—as
will all come in its place, later on.

Lucy Thatcher at this time, in June and July, was staying with her aunt,
Miss Young, her mother’s sister, who kept a girls’ school in the
Ladbroke Grove Road, out at Notting Hill. She taught some of the younger
children and made herself generally useful, taking them out walks in
Kensington Gardens; for Mr. Thatcher wisely thought her too beautiful to
be always at “The French Horn,” since bicyclists and golfers are
somewhat apt to be too boldly attentive to the lovely faces they meet
with on their roundabouts. Nor can I altogether blame them. So, as I
have said, I never saw her till my return in September, when her beauty
and modesty—which in my judgment are synonymous—at once captured me,
and always will hold me captive till I die.



                              CHAPTER III

   I CONTINUE TO KEEP OUT OF MABEL HARKER’S WAY AND GO TO GORING—
     RETURN TO “THE FRENCH HORN”—WANDERINGS WITH LUCY—MR. CRAGE
     REHEARSES HIS OWN FUNERAL


AS August approached I began to feel apprehensive as to the right course
to pursue with regard to Mabel Harker, my _fiancée_. I don’t want to say
anything unkind about her here in print, but, the fact is, the
engagement had been an unfortunate one from the first. Let me only
observe that I really honestly think if a man is to choose between
behaving like a brute (as people say you do when you break off an
engagement) and making himself miserable for life (as I most certainly
should if I had married Mabel), he had much better select the former
course. At any rate, I know now that if I had had the brutality, or the
courage, to tell Mabel point-blank at first that I was very sorry, but I
didn’t care for her sufficiently to marry her, I should have spared
myself a vast deal of annoyance and self-reproach, which now I
understand to have been altogether unnecessary; seeing, I know now very
well, she didn’t really care for me in the least, but simply regarded me
as a lay-figure (with eight hundred a year) to stand beside her at the
altar rails and mechanically say “_I will_” and “_I do_” and the rest of
it.

After her visit to her sister’s in the Regent’s Park, in July, she had
gone back to Folkestone, and I was in some tremor whether she might not
desire me to spend the holiday months with them there; but, most
fortunately, Mrs. Harker, her aunt, received a very good offer for her
house in Clifton Gardens, which she determined to take, and go abroad to
Switzerland, where she and Mabel could live in a _pension_ and save
quite three-fourths of the home rent.

Mabel wanted me to join them, but I managed to get out of it, and very
lucky I did; for it was at that very _pension_ at Lucerne she met
Charles Byles, the architect, her present husband, and a great ass he
must have looked with that small face of his and huge mustache, and a
rope round him for going up Pilatus; besides being slightly bandy.

As for me, I went off down to my sister’s, Mrs. Rivers, married to the
publisher, who had taken a little house on the river at Taplow, where I
spent the end of August and early part of September with great content,
more especially in the middle of the week, when my precious
brother-in-law (a dull fellow and a prig) was away doing his publishing
in town.

I left Taplow the second week in September, and something gentle, yet
persuasive and strong, seeming to call me back to “The French Horn,” off
I went there; and there, as I have already mentioned, I met and fell
madly in love with Lucy Thatcher at first sight, a passion deepening to
a tempest before October dawned.

Now, as I am telling the truth in this work, and not writing a romance,
I have to admit that the month I had of Lucy’s dear companionship,
before I knew I was free, was by no means spent idly, and that I made
all the running with her of which my amorous wits are capable, just as
though I had been really unappropriated.

Nor was this altogether wrong, for I felt quite sure Providence would
stand my good friend, as always in such affairs before, and direct Mabel
Harker’s hopes into another, sounder matrimonial channel than mine. Even
if Providence had not, but had stood aloof and fought shy, I should then
most certainly have deemed it necessary to play the part myself, seeing
how deeply and truly my heart was now _for the first time_ engaged.

Dear! dear! at what amazing speed that happy month flew past; how little
there seems I can say about it now. Isn’t it strange that Time, whom
poets prefigure as an ancient person with anchylosed joints, further
encumbered, notwithstanding his great age, with a scythe and an enormous
hour-glass, is yet on occasion capable of showing the panting hurry of a
sprinter?

With Lucy I was alone almost all the time, for Mr. Thatcher, very
properly, wouldn’t allow her to help in the bar—a department he
gracefully presided over himself in his dirty blazer, grasping the
handle of the beer engine, and sometimes, on Saturday nights mostly,
slightly shaken with a gentlemanly but unmistakable attack of hiccoughs.
So dear Lucy had nothing much to do but go bathing and help her
grandmother in the garden, gathering the plums and raking down the
ripening apples. And though there were days when, womanlike, she shunned
me and kept out of my way (so as not to make herself too cheap), yet she
was very frank and simple and trusting in giving me at other times her
constant companionship; and as on the days when she desired to be more
alone I always respected her wish and kept away (just turning at the
fourth hole on the links to watch her light, firm figure crossing down
to her bathing-tent on the shore, and waving the putter at her), she
was, as she has since told me, pleased at my delicacy and perception,
and showed her pleasure when we again met by the extraordinary
brightness of her eyes and the sweet readiness of her smile.

It was harvest-time, and though Mr. Thatcher had no acreage of his own,
still there was plenty of it round him under cultivation, and a fine
time it was for the Tap, for which there was a separate entrance, with a
painted hand pointing to it for those who couldn’t read. While my
sweetheart and I strolled about the lanes by day, gathering blackberries
and plucking at the wisps of corn caught by the high hedges and low
branches from the passing wagons, on warm evenings we would sit alone in
the garden, listening to the hearty rustic revelry of premature
harvest-homes from the inn, and, when it was very still, hearing the
faint, mysterious rustle of the waves on the long, sandy shore, as
though the lulling sea were whispering to the land, “Hush! hush! now go
to sleep like a good child. You’ve had a long day and must be
tired—_hush!_”

It was at this time, as I very well remember, we strolled up late one
afternoon to Wharton Park, her old ancestral home, and a very curious
and unedifying sight we witnessed there. We went in at the empty lodge
gates, and had a look in first at the church in the Park grounds, of
which Mr. Thatcher kept the key in the bar; for there was no rectory,
and the parson came over only on Sundays from Nesshaven for an afternoon
service—at six in summer and at three in winter.

The ancient, bird-haunted edifice was pretty full of deceased
Thatchers—all of them, in fact, I believe, lie there, except the Lord
Mayor of Henry VIII.’s reign, who gets what rest he can in a church off
Cornhill, and Mr. Thatcher’s grandfather, who is buried out at Florence;
and where there aren’t tablets and tombs of old-time, worthy Thatchers,
there are kindly memorials to their servants, house-keepers, and
bailiffs for forty years and so on; which when Lucy and I had duly and
reverently inspected and sighed over, we had a peep in at the vestry,
where hung the parson’s crisp surplice behind a piece of religious
arras, and a framed and glazed view of Wharton in 1750 (the mansion that
was burned), with pompous gentlemen in three-cornered hats giving their
hands to ladies in immense hoops up the centre path; and a tattered,
begrimed notice of the reign of Queen Anne, affording the clergy
instructions for sending parishioners up to St. James’s to be touched
for the king’s evil.

And when we had mourned over these things, and inspected the fragment of
the holy-water scoop, and the blunt, whitewashed squint, and the broken
place where once the mass-priests sat, and the Wharton pew, with an icy
cold stove in it and a little frame of dingy red curtain hung round on
rods and rings, so that the hinds shouldn’t see when the quality
Thatchers fell asleep—not in the Lord!—on drowsy summer Sunday
afternoons—as, alas! they haven’t had the opportunity of doing for many
years past now; then we went on up to the house, leaving the drive,
however, and dodging across the fields to the _ha-ha_, for fear of
meeting that old villain Crage.

We got up through a small spinney to the end of the ha-ha that faces the
house, and, as we were quite close, saw with our own eyes a most strange
and monstrous sight—a sight so strange that many readers would scarcely
credit it, had they not noticed that truth and not fiction is my object.

Hidden in the spinney, we were not more than forty yards from the house,
which is long and low and not particularly beautiful—in fact, decidedly
Gothic and unsightly. In front of it, lengthways and pretty broad, runs
a gravel path, and up and down that broad gravel path was stamping and
swearing old Mr. Crage; stamping and swearing and shaking his stick at
six men (laborers of his, Lucy said, and all men she knew) who were
actually carrying a coffin, a smart, brand-new coffin with dandy silver
handles, on their shoulders.

The old wretch was positively rehearsing his own funeral! We could very
plainly hear him cursing the men for walking too fast and jolting him,
and so on; as though, once the miserable old hunks were cold, it
mattered how anybody carried him.

Then he made them rest the coffin on one end while he showed them
himself the pace they should travel and the demeanor they ought to
exhibit; and truly, if it hadn’t been scandalous and horrible it would
have been ludicrous to see the way the blaspheming old scamp trailed the
path before them, dragging one foot along after another, with head and
shoulders bent in sham sorrow and reverence; trying, in short, to
play-act the distressed, grief-stricken mourner, touched to the quick at
his own loss.

When he had finished his parade, he shook his stick at the six men, and
cursed them, raving and foaming, for damned scoundrels and thieves and
disrespectful ruffians, who would be glad to see him dead, and would
whistle and dance while carrying him off, instead of doing it all in the
proper depressed manner he had just shown them; while the men stood and
looked at him stupidly and sullenly, and, I’ve no doubt, would have
liked to jump on him there and then and beat him to a pulp, finishing
once and for all with so dreadful a mockery by making it real.

Dear Lucy and I stole away, quite shocked and silent. Afterwards she
told me old Crage had had the coffin a long time, and rehearsed the
funeral once before; but that lately, having by threats of an action
screwed twenty pounds out of his daughter for money he had lent her (on
which, by-the-way, Miss Crage had promptly run away and got married), he
had had the silver handles added; and, now that the coffin was, in his
estimation, quite perfect, had doubtless gone through the unholy
ceremony again, so that when the hour struck there might be no excuse
for a hitch.

So Lucy and I stole away back to “The French Horn” in shocked silence.
Pleasant and human it sounded, when we got on the road again, to hear a
carter singing as he rattled homeward in his empty wagon.



                               CHAPTER IV

   I AM FREE OF MABEL HARKER—RETURN TO “THE FRENCH HORN”—DISASTROUS
     INTERFERENCE OF HAROLD FORSYTH IN MY AFFAIRS


IT was the 13th of October, as I very well remember, that, shortly after
Mabel’s return to England from Switzerland, she wrote me an incoherent
epistle, begging me to come up to town and see her at once, for that she
was the most miserable of girls and had sad news for me, signed “your
heartbroken Mabel.” I must say I was glad to hear it, and greatly looked
forward to the sad news; since I very well knew it could only be that
another wooer had stepped up on to the Regent’s Park _tapis_, and one a
good deal more determined to win her than I. Directly I got there and
found the fire wasn’t lit in the drawing-room, though it was horribly
cold, I knew I was right, and the interview was meant to be brief and
painful.

It was the same room, by-the-way (though the fire had been lit for us
then!) in which I had made my unfortunate declaration in the early
spring, soon after Easter—a declaration precipitated by Mabel, who
began playing the piano, but soon broke down over it and wept, alleging
me to be the cause of her unhappiness; which, being uncommon
tender-hearted where the sex are concerned, completely bowled me over
and drove me to propose.

When she came in this time, with melancholy mouth but unmistakably
triumphant eyes, she at once told me the sad news; to which I listened
with as gloomy a face as I could, demanding in hoarse tones the name of
my successful rival. I could scarcely contain my mirth when I heard it
was Byles, the man she had so often laughed at in her letters from
Lucerne, as girls not infrequently do at the man they are one day
destined to marry. But I must say I think she might at any rate have
_offered_ to send me my presents back, for there are many of them
(particularly a diamond and sapphire ring—cost me eighteen pounds) I
should have liked to have given Lucy. I make no manner of doubt that if
it had been garnets and carnelian, I should have had it back at once in
a registered letter.

Directly our painful interview was over, I hurried back to Nesshaven and
“The French Horn,” feeling happier than I had done for months past, a
free man, and my heart beating so rapturously I believe an old lady in
the carriage with me heard it, she looked so frightened at my
restlessness.

But at “The French Horn” a blow awaited me, from which, when I think of
it, I yet reel; for judge of my stupor when, on my gay return, I was
met, not by Lucy, towards whom I was so impetuously rushing to tell all,
but by the whiskified thunders of Mr. Thatcher, who took me at once into
the bar-parlor, and proceeded there and then to claw me about the ears
with the angry rhetoric of a theatrically outraged heavy father.

Of course he was quite right; but then I was myself _now_ quite right,
too; and when he talked in real Adelphi fashion about stealing
affections and repaying him in this way, I was—thank Heaven!—in a
position to be angry too, and give him as good as he gave me.

So I let him fume on till he ran himself down, when I temperately
explained what my position really was, and how I was altogether free;
and how, above all, that if Lucy cared for me, as I very well knew she
did, I was going to marry her at once, and (if not precisely in the
immediate neighborhood of “The French Horn”) settle down and live
happily ever after.

Whereupon Mr. Thatcher’s easily corrugated brow began as easily to
clear, and he steadied himself and seized and shook me by the wrong
hand. So we sat down and had a cigar and a split whiskey-and-soda, and
he was good enough to say he had known all along (from the way I had
always paid my bill, I suppose) that he could trust me implicitly, and
all would come right in the end.

But in the meantime he had shipped off dear Lucy to her aunt’s school in
the Ladbroke Grove Road, where she had gone back—very tearfully, poor
child, at the news of my supposed treachery—to her altogether
uncongenial employment with the younger children.

By judicious pumping I discovered it was Harold Forsyth who had blown
upon me and “queered my pitch,” as showmen say, having come over from
Colchester to play golf, and been seized upon by the watchful Thatcher,
who of course had noticed my unremitting attentions to his daughter.
Upon which Harold, either because he fancied it his duty (old friends
are often very inconsiderate) or from sheer stupidity, had let slip the
disastrous news of my engagement to another lady; though, as a matter of
fact, at the very moment of their conversation it was off and I was
free.

Old Mrs. Thatcher took the situation in at a glance, and, either from a
natural desire to see her granddaughter properly settled or from pure
friendship for me, who had always been attentive to her, and once took a
bee out of her hair (that animal being almost the only living thing she
really feared), immediately suggested I should go off at once to the
Ladbroke Grove Road, provided with a letter to the aunt from Mr.
Thatcher, in which everything was explained, and I was given authority
to interview and settle matters with my dear sweetheart. So, next
morning early, off I drove to Nesshaven Station in the milk cart, gay as
a lark—that chorister of the poor and the cheerful well-to-do—and by
twelve o’clock was rattling in a cab down the Ladbroke Grove Road.



                               CHAPTER V

   ANGLESEY LODGE—MY INTERVIEW WITH LUCY IN KENSINGTON GARDENS—NOT
     SO SATISFACTORY AS I COULD DESIRE


THERE was a piano-organ playing in front of Anglesey Lodge as I drove
up; it was playing the old “Les Roses” waltz, and quite dramatic and
affecting the music sounded as I impatiently waited in the drawing-room,
hung with Doré’s works to impress parents, and with a model of the Taj
under glass, done in soapstone, and sent by some girl-pupil, I imagine,
who had married and gone out to India.

The aunt soon joined me, smiling, with Mr. Thatcher’s open letter in her
hand, and a very handsome woman she must have been—indeed, still
was—with traces, on a florid scale, of Lucy’s simple and yet delicate
beauty.

She was so friendly, and made herself so fascinating, it was fully half
an hour before I could get away. She told me Lucy was out with some of
the pupils, and that, if I went to Kensington Gardens and walked down
the Broad Walk, I should be sure to see them. Further, if we made it up
(as we surely should, she graciously added), she begged me to come back
to lunch at half-past one; though she must ask me not to walk home with
the young ladies through the streets for fear of adverse neighborly
comments, and upsetting them for the afternoon studies.

I was soon at the entrance to the gardens in the Bayswater Road, where
the keeper’s lodge is, with its glass bottles of sweets and half-penny
rock-buns; and, true enough, there was dear Lucy, sitting on one of the
seats facing the walk, reading to one of the little girls, while the
other bigger ones, perhaps half a dozen of them, were playing rounders
in French, among the trees and the dead leaves.

“_Combien de rounders avez-vous?_” cried one of them as I came up; and
“_Courrez, Maud, courrez!_” cried another, clapping her hands, as the
tennis-ball in its torn cover whizzed close by me, whacked by a young
person with a racquet, who was soon off on her round in a short frock
but with uncommonly long legs.

I came quite close behind Lucy, taking care not to make the leaves
rustle. She was reading Bonnechose’s _History of France_ aloud,
something about the wars of the Fronde and Cardinal Richelieu.

“‘_The conduct of the cardinal at this juncture_—’” she was saying with
great seriousness, when the little girl beside her, who naturally wasn’t
attending, looked up and saw me. I gave her a friendly smile, and after
that moment’s careful scrutiny which females of all ages indulge in, she
smiled back. The next moment Lucy looked at her and then round up at me,
giving a soft, frightened “Hah!” and then going as white as a sheet.

Really, it is quite impossible to say at what age a comprehension of
love, its torments and its joys, arises in the fresh girlish breast. The
pretty creature seated at Lucy’s side couldn’t have been more than
eleven, but she saw at once I loved her teacher and desired to be alone
with her; so she immediately rose, staid and composed as a woman, shook
her long hair, and, with complete unconsciousness, strolled off and
joined the other older girls; while they, not to be behindhand in
delicacy, soon stopped their somewhat noisy game, and, forming a
sympathetic group at some little distance under an elm, stood there
talking in whispers with their backs to us; pretending to be immensely
interested and absorbed in the ’buses rumbling down the Bayswater Road.

But for her little frightened cry, Lucy received me in silence, and
didn’t even give me her hand. She sat there on the seat—cut and scarred
with other, happier lovers’ records—with her head slightly turned away
from me; perfectly composed, apparently, after the first shock and
natural agitation of seeing me again so suddenly were over.

I asked her how she was and how long she had been in town; she said she
was quite well, and had been there since the day before yesterday.

Then she said, calmly, “Can you tell me the time, please?” and on my
replying it was a quarter to one, murmured she must be going home to
dinner, and made as if she would rise.

I stopped her with, “Please, Lucy, let me speak to you first.” So she
remained perfectly still, though with her pretty head still turned away
from me.

Eloquent, or, at all events, talkative, as I generally am with the sex,
I admit I couldn’t for the life of me tell how to begin.

At last I said I was afraid she must think badly of me, and then waited
of course for her contradiction; but as it never came, and she never
made a sign, I went on to say I shouldn’t dare approach her were it not
I was a free man; that my affair with—with the other lady was finally
at an end, and so I came to her first and at once with my whole heart.
As I spoke, I watched her closely, if only in the hope I might detect
some slight twitching of her small ungloved hands, or some involuntary
twittering of her eyes or lips, when I told her I was free; but she sat
so like an antique, or, for the matter of that, a modern statue, I began
to grow frightened, since I know very well how implacable even the
tenderest of women can sometimes be when it suits them.

“Oh, Lucy dear!” I stammered, “d-don’t be hard on me. I loved you the
moment I saw you. I never really loved the other one. Since the day I
first set eyes on you, I have never given any other woman a serious
thought. You can’t be so unkind as to break my life in pieces, merely
because I’ve been careless, merely because I spoke to you before I was
quite sure I was free? Why, I was free of her directly I saw you, and if
she hadn’t released me of her own accord, as she has done—Oh, Lucy!
don’t leave me in this dreadful suspense! Do, my dear girl, say
something kind to me, for mercy’s sake!”

“I don’t feel kindly towards you, Mr. Blacker,” Lucy answered, cold and
stern, “and I can’t pretend. I know quite well what’s happened. You
thought I was only an innkeeper’s daughter—”

“Oh, Lucy!”

“And that so long as you were staying there you might as well amuse
yourself.”

“Love is no amusement, Lucy—it’s a most fearful trial.”

“But did you ever, when you were daring to make love to me,” she said,
suddenly turning on me with amazing fierceness, “even cease writing love
letters to her? Tell me that, Mr. Vincent Blacker!”

I groaned; for the truth is I had written more warmly to Mabel Harker
all that delightful month at “The French Horn” than usual; from the
simple fact that, myself feeling happier, I naturally wished Mabel to
share, in a sense, in my joy. So what could I do but groan?

“If we hadn’t found out quite by accident you were engaged,” Lucy went
on, “should we have ever found it out from you? Were you making any
effort of any sort to free yourself? You were acting an untruth to me
all that time. How can I tell you are not acting an untruth to me now?”

“I wasn’t in the least acting an untruth when I said I loved you. How
can you say such a thing, Lucy dear?”

“You mustn’t call me by my Christian name,” she answered, pale, and
setting her lips tight; and then she was silent again.

“You are very hard on me,” I cried, after a pause, “and I hope you will
never live to regret it. What could a man do differently, situate so
unfortunately as I was?”

“You should have been perfectly honest and frank. At least, you should
have made sure you were off with the old love before you tried to be on
with the new.”

“But you talk as if these things always lay within our power! I didn’t
purposely fall in love with you—I simply couldn’t help myself! And into
the other affair I had been more or less entrapped.”

“Yes,” she replied, with some scorn, “and three months hence you will be
saying exactly the same thing to the next girl.”

“I shall never speak to any one again,” I answered, solemnly and truly,
“as I am speaking now to you. You can believe me or not, as you please,
but I can never think of any one as I think of you, and I never have. If
you will only think of me kindly, and try to make excuses for me; if you
will only consult your own heart a little—”

“I mustn’t allow myself to be turned round by a few soft speeches,” said
Lucy, looking almost frightened and rising before I could prevent her.
“You have hurt me very much, and I don’t know that my feelings will ever
alter, or that I should allow them to.”

“But you will let me see you again?” I humbly entreated.

“I don’t know. Certainly not for some little time.”

“I may write to you?”

“No, certainly not!”

“This is all very poor comfort, Lucy,” I groaned, “after the journey I
have taken on purpose to see you and make it all right.”

“What other comfort do you deserve, Mr. Blacker?” she asked me,
haughtily, and immediately moved away from the seat towards her young
ladies.

“I will come down at Christmas, if I may,” I said, tenderly and humbly;
but she never replied, and the next moment was marshalling the girls for
walking home.

They walked to the gate in the Bayswater Road in a group, and formed up
two and two as they got outside.

Lucy never turned her head once, but nearly every young lady treated
herself to a look behind; when they might have seen me plunged down in
melancholy on the seat, digging a morose pattern into the Broad Walk
with the point of my stick.

I drawled back unhappily across the Gardens and down the empty Row to
Hyde Park Corner, along Piccadilly, and to the club.

Christmas! and this was only October!

Sympathetic readers (and I desire no others) can have no conception what
I suffered during the next few days.



                               CHAPTER VI

   EARLY DIFFICULTIES—I FAIL TO PERSUADE THE HONORABLE EDGAR
     FANSHAWE, THE REVEREND PERCY BLYTH, AND MR. PARKER WHITE, M. P.,
     TO JOIN OUR MONTE CARLO PARTY


LUCY declares I have written enough about her, and now had better get on
to the Monte Carlo part—who went with me, and why they went, and so on.

I dare say she’s right; for though we neither of us know anything
whatever about writing, she says she represents the average reader, and,
having been told (as well as I could do it) something about “The French
Horn” and my love-affair there, is, as an average reader, growing
anxious to learn how I got the party together for so apparently
hazardous, not to say hopeless, an enterprise.

I must just mention, however, that, after my sad interview with her in
Kensington Gardens, I at once wrote to Mr. Thatcher and told him exactly
what had occurred, informing him of my intention to come down at
Christmas and try and settle matters with his daughter. At the same time
I begged him to send me up the clothes and portmanteaus I had left
behind me at “The French Horn.” They arrived, accompanied by a scrawl
from Mr. Thatcher, urging me to be a man and bear up and all would come
right, and enclosing a rather larger bill than I fancied I owed, but
which I thought it politic to pay without protest of any kind.

Even the old lady, his mother, sent me a line, in a very upright fist,
kindly informing me “brighter days were in store.” A simple prophecy,
that long has ceased to interest me; since I have invariably had it from
the innumerable fortunetellers, by cards and tea-leaves and the crystal,
whom for years past I have rather foolishly been in the habit of
consulting, but never derived any real benefit from.

As for my great idea to sack Monte Carlo, it came to me one morning
(quite unexpectedly, as I have said) when I was lying in bed, trying to
summon up resolution to rise for another dull and irksome day. It was
still a long time off Christmas, and life was lying on me with extreme
heaviness; for, as I think I have explained, I am in the militia, and
when once my month’s training is over have nothing to do with myself
except live on my eight hundred a year and amuse myself as best I can;
and my idleness was rendered further indigestible at this period by the
unhappy state of my relations with dear Lucy, whom I could neither see
nor write to.

But the idea that I should get a small, resolute party together, and
raid the tables at Monte Carlo, brought a new interest into my life; and
after making a few quiet and judicious inquiries (for I had never been
there), I determined to set about the affair in earnest and see if I
could get any one to join me.

My first efforts in that direction, as is generally the case with
anything new and startling, were not at all successful; but the more
opposition and ridicule I met with, the more obstinate and determined I
became. As for the morality of the affair, that, as I have said, has
never troubled me from first to last. Does any one think of calling the
police immoral when they go and raid a silver gambling-hell in Soho? For
the life of me I have never been able to see the difference between us,
except that _in our case_ there was needed a greater nerve and address.

Now my sister, Mrs. Rivers, the wife of the publisher, lives in Medworth
Square, S. W., and, on considering her intimates, I made up my mind to
approach the Honorable Edgar Fanshawe first. He has a brother in the
Foreign Office, and relations scattered about everywhere in government
employ, so I decided he would be a good man to have with us in case the
affair proved a _fiasco_ and we all got into trouble, a chance that
naturally had to be provided for.

Fanshawe, I should explain, was at one time in the Guards, but now
writes the most dreadfully dull historical novels, which my
brother-in-law publishes, and no one that I have ever met reads. Every
autumn, sure as fate, among the firm’s list of new books you see
announced, _Something or Other, a Tale of the Young Pretender_; or,
_Something or Other Else, an Episode of the Reign of Terror_; with
quotations from the _Scots Herald_, “this enthralling story”; or, from
the _Dissenters’ Times_, “no more powerful and picturesque romance has
at present issued,” etc. Or _The Leeds Commercial Gazette_ would declare
it “the best historical novel since Scott,” which I seem to have heard
before of many other dull works.

Fanshawe is a purring, mild, genteel, rather elderly person, who listens
to everything you are good enough to say most attentively and politely,
with his head on one side, and never will be parted from his opera-hat.
When I attacked him one night after dinner in Medworth Square he was in
his usual autumnal condition of beatitude at the excellence of the
reviews of his latest historical composition (which, as usual, scarcely
sold), and beamed on me with delighted condescension, stuffing
quantities of raisins.

“What shall you be doing in January?” I cautiously began. “Would you be
free for a little run over to Monte Carlo?”

Unfortunately, the Honorable Edgar is the sort of person who, half an
hour after dinner, will undertake to do anything with anybody, and then
write and get out of it immediately after breakfast next morning, when
he’s cold; so I quite expected the reply that Monte Carlo in January
would suit him exactly, and what hotel did I propose to stay at?

“Now I’ve an idea,” I went on, drawing a little closer. “You’ve been to
Monte Carlo, of course, and know what a quantity of money there is in
the place.”

“Some of it mine,” smiled Fanshawe. “I beg your pardon for interrupting
you.”

“Well,” I said, “how would you like to join a little party of us for the
purpose of getting it back?”

“A syndicate to work a system?”

“Nothing so unprofitable.”

“I don’t know of any other way.”

“My idea,” I went on, sinking my voice, “is shortly this: that half a
dozen of us should join and take a yacht—a fast steam-yacht—”

“Rather an expensive way of doing it, isn’t it?” objected Fanshawe, in
alarm. He doesn’t mind what he pays to have his books published, but is
otherwise mean.

“Not when you consider the magnitude of the stakes.”

“Why, the most you can win, even if you break the bank, is only a
hundred thousand francs!”

“But consider the number of the tables, to say nothing of the reserve in
the vaults, and the money lying about already staked!”

The old boy looked puzzled, but nodded his head politely all the same.
“That’s true,” he said, vaguely.

“The place is not in any sense guarded, as no doubt you remember.”

“No, I don’t know that I ever saw a soldier about, except one or two,
very bored, on sentry go, up at Monaco. But what has that to do with
it?”

“Why, half a dozen resolute men with revolvers could clear the whole
place out in five minutes,” I murmured, seductively. “The steam-yacht
lies in the harbor, we collect the money, or as much of it as half a
dozen of us can carry away, and, once on board the lugger—”

Fanshawe pushed his chair back and stared at me.

“—We go full-steam ahead to one of the Greek islands, divide the swag,
scuttle the steamer, make our way to the Piræus, inspect the Acropolis,
and come home, _viâ_ Corfu, as Cook’s tourists. Or go to the Holy Land,
eh, by way of completely averting suspicion?” And I winked and nudged
him, nearly falling over in my effort to get at his frail old ribs.

“My dear friend!” gasped the startled Fanshawe; “why propose such an
elaborate pleasantry? It’s like school-boy’s talk in a dormitory.”

“I never felt further from my school-days in my life,” I answered with
determination. “The affair is perfectly easy—easier than you think. All
it wants is a little resolution, and the money’s ours.”

“But it’s simple robbery.”

“Oh, don’t imagine,” I at once replied, “I propose anything so coarse as
burglary and the melting-pot. No; I say to myself, here is the most
iniquitous establishment in Europe, simply reeking with gold, of which
an enormous surplus remains at the end of the year to be divided,
principally among Semitic Parisians, who lavish it on their miserable
pleasures. Here, on the other hand, are numerous deserving
establishments in London—hospitals and so on—with boards out, closing
their wards and imploring subscriptions. The flow of gold has evidently
got into the wrong channels, as it always will if not sharply looked
after. Be ours the glorious enterprise to divert it anew—”

“My good friend,” interrupted Fanshawe, “if I thought you serious—”

“Never was more serious in my life!”

“But, gracious me, suppose you’re all caught?”

“Oh, there is a prison up at Monaco, I believe,” I answered, lightly;
“but they tell me prisoners come and go just as they please. That
doesn’t in the least alarm me. Besides, Europe would be on our side—at
all events, the respectable portion of it—and would hail our _coup_
with rapture, even if it ended in failure. And with your brother in the
Foreign Office, they’d soon have you back. Now what do you say? Will you
make one?”

“My dear Blacker, you really must be crazy!”

“At a given signal, when the rooms are fullest, some of us—two would be
enough—drive the gamblers into a corner and make them hold up their
hands. The others loot the tables and the vaults. Then we turn out the
electric light—”

“Any more wine, Fanshawe?” called out my brother-in-law.

Fanshawe rose, and I saw at once by the limp way he pulled his waistcoat
down he was no good.

“Well,” I said, as I followed him into the drawing-room, “if you won’t
join us, you must give me your word not to breathe a syllable of what we
are going to do. It’s an immense idea, and I don’t want any one to get
hold of it first, and find the place gutted by some one else before we
can get a look in.”

Fanshawe’s only reply was that if I got into trouble he would thank me
not to apply to him to bail me out; so we mutually promised.

I don’t know that, on the whole, I very much regretted him; he is, after
all, a very muddle-headed, nervous old creature; but my hopes were for a
time a good deal dashed by the refusal of the Reverend Percy Blyth to
join us (much as he approved of the scheme), though I did my best to
tempt him with the offer of new stops for his organ out of the boodle.
He is the clergyman of St. Blaise’s, Medworth Square, and intimate with
all the theatrical set, for whom he holds services at all sorts of odd
hours; the natural result of which is he is on the free list of nearly
every theatre, and has given me many a box.

Now every school-boy knows how priceless the presence of a parson is to
all human undertakings—on a race-course, for instance, for
thimble-rigging, the three-card trick, and other devices. They call him
the _bonnet_, and if you have any trifling dispute about there being no
pea, or the corner of the card being turned down, you are likely to be
very much astonished to find the clergyman (who, of course, is only a
cove dressed up) take the proprietor’s part and, at a pinch, offer to
fight you, or any other dissatisfied bystander.

So I naturally thought it would be a good thing for us if we had a real
parson in the party, if only as a most superior _bonnet_, to avert
suspicion; though, if I had only thought a little, I might have known
the idea wouldn’t work, since Blyth couldn’t very well have gone into
the Casino rooms in parson’s rig, and I didn’t really want him for
anything else.

There was only one other of my sister’s friends I approached on the
subject before I had recourse to my own—Parker White, a bouncing sort
of young man who had just got into the House of Commons, and who, I
thought, might possibly be useful. But, as I cautiously felt my way with
him, he looked so frightened, and talked such balderdash about his
position and filibustering and European complications (complications
with Monaco, if you please, with an army of seventy men!) that I
pretended it was all a joke and turned the conversation.

To tell the truth, I was not much disappointed in Parker White, since I
know very well how most of those younger men in the House are all gas
and no performance; but, all the same, he was pretty cunning; for, to
put it vulgarly, he lay low and waited, and when talk began to get about
of what we had done, and the Casino Company’s shares fell immediately in
consequence of our success, he bought them up like ripe cherries; and
then, when it was all contradicted by a subsidized press (which made me
wild and drove me to writing this work in self-defence), and the shares
jumped up again, he promptly sold and made a good thing out of it.

But he has never had the grace to thank me for putting the opportunity
in his way; which is so like those men in the House who speculate on
their information on the sly and then blush to find it fame.



                              CHAPTER VII

   I INTERVIEW MR. BRENTIN—HIS SYMPATHY AND INTEREST—SIR ANTHONY
     HIPKINS AND THE YACHT _AMARANTH_—WE DETERMINE TO LOOK OVER IT


I SOON began to see that, out of so conventional an atmosphere as
Medworth Square, I was not likely to gather any great profit to my
scheme; that, if my idea were ever to bear fruit, I must set to work
among my own particular friends in my own way.

On thinking them over, I determined to approach Mr. Julius C. Brentin
first, an American gentleman whom I knew to be above prejudice, and to
whom I could talk with perfect freedom and security.

He is a man of about fifty-five, a Californian, of medium height (which,
like many Americans, he always pronounces _heighth_), with black hair,
black eyebrows, and a small black mustache. He carries cigars loose in
every pocket, and he will drink whiskey with you with great good-humor
till the subject of the immortality of the soul crops up, when he
suddenly becomes angry, suspicious, and, finally, totally silent. And
that subject he always introduces himself, though for what reason I
never can conceive, unless it be to quarrel and part. I had met him in
the street a day or two before, when he told me he had recently married
a New York young lady and was staying at the “Victoria”; he begged me to
come and call, and on going there I found him chewing a green cigar in
the smoking-room, his hat on the bridge of his pugnacious nose, and a
glass of Bourbon whiskey beside him.

He reached me out a hand from the depths of his breeches pocket, as
though he had just found it there and desired to make me a present of
it, and pulled me down by his side. Then he gave me a long, black cigar
out of his waistcoat pocket, worked his own round to the farther corner
of his mouth, while with a solemn gesture he pointed to his trousers,
carefully turned up over small patent-leather boots.

“Mr. Blacker,” he said, “observe my pants. I am endeavoring to please
Mrs. Brentin; I am striving to be English. You English invariably turn
up the bottom of your pants; it is economical and it is fashionable,
don’t yer know.” And Mr. Brentin winked at me a glittering, beady black
eye.

I hoped Mrs. Brentin was quite well, and he replied:

“Mrs. Brentin has gone way off to Holborn, sir; she has organized an
expedition with Mrs. William Chivers, ay socially prominent
Philadelphian, in search of the scene of the labors of your Mrs. Gamp.
From there she goes to the Marshalsea, to discover traces of Little
Dorrit. She knows your Charles Dickens by heart, sir, and she follows
him ayround. This is her first visit to the old country, and I humor her
tastes, which are literary and high-toned, by staying at home and
practising the English accent. I have studied the English accent
theoretically, and I trace it to the predominance among your people of
the waist muscles. We as a nation are deficient in waist muscles. So I
stay at home and exercise them in the refined society of any stranger
who can be indooced to talk with me. It is a labor of some difficulty,
Mr. Blacker, which is gradually driving me to drink; for the strangers
in this hotel are shy, and apt to regard me in the unflattering light of
ay bunco-steerer.”

Mr. Brentin sighed, drank, and worked his jaw and cigar with the
solemnity of a cow masticating.

“At other times, sir,” he drawled, “I stroll a block or two, way down
the Strand. I compose my features and endeavor to assoom the vacant
expression of ay hayseed or countryman. I have long desired to be
approached by one of your confidence-trick desperadoes, but my success
so far has been mighty small. They keep away from me, sir, as though I
had the _grippe_. I apprehend, Mr. Blacker, that in my well-meant
efforts to look imbecyle, I only look cunning. If they would only try me
with the green-goods swindle, I should feel my time was not being
altogether misspent. It is plaguy disheartening, and I might as well be
back in Noo York for all the splurge I am making over here. And how have
you been putting in your time, sir, since last year, when we went down
to the Durby—I should say, the Darby—together?” he asked, turning his
head my way.

On any other day, I have no doubt, I should have given Mr. Brentin a
spirited and somewhat lengthy sketch of my doings during the last year
and a half; but my recent failures in Medworth Square had taught me the
value of time, and I plunged at once into the real object of my visit.

Directly, in rapid, clear-cut outline, I began to make my scheme clear,
Mr. Brentin turned and looked at me; from the rigid lines of my speaking
countenance he saw at once I was in earnest, and transferred his gaze to
his pants and boots. Once only he gave me another rapid look, an ocular
upper-cut, apparently to satisfy himself of my sincerity, when my mask
spoke so strongly of enthusiasm and determination I felt I had
completely reassured him, and was, in fact, gradually overhauling his
will. As I went on, he began to breathe gustily through his nose and
give a series of small kicks with his varnished toe, indications of
growing ardor for the enterprise and a desire to immediately set about
it that simply enchanted me.

When I descended to details, it was my turn to watch him. The cigar he
was chewing was a complete indicator of his frame of mind. As I spoke of
half a dozen resolute men with revolvers, it rose to the horizontal;
when I mentioned the steam-yacht and a bolt for the harbor, it drooped
like a trailed stick; while, as I sketched our rapid flight to the Greek
Archipelago and division of the spoil, it stuck up like a peacock’s
tail, a true standard of revolt against the narrowness and timidity of
our modern life.

The American mind works so quickly I was not at all surprised when Mr.
Brentin suddenly sat up, took the cigar out of his mouth, and hurled it
to the other end of the smoking-room.

Bravo! for I knew it signified away with prejudice, away with
conventionality, away, above all, with fear! It was a silent, triumphant
“_Jacta est alea, Rubicon transibimus!_”

Then he turned to me.

“Mr. Blacker,” he excitedly whispered, “by the particular disposition of
Providence there is a party now lying up-stairs, ay titled gentleman
with an enlarged liver, the fruit of some years spent in your colonial
service, who owns and desires to part with one, at all events, of the
instruments of this enterprise of ours.”

“The yacht?”

“The steam-yacht, sir. It is called the _Amaranth_, and lies at this
moment at Ryde.”

“What is the owner’s name?”

“He was good enough to introdooce himself to me one afternoon last week
in the parlor as Sir Anthony Hipkins.”

“Hipkins? That doesn’t sound right.”

“Sir,” replied Mr. Brentin, “I know very little of your titled
aristocracy, but I admit it did not sound right to me. However, I talked
it over with my friend, the clerk in the bureau, and he assured me that
Hipkins is his real name; that he has been for some years judge on the
Gold Coast, and, by the personal favor of your Queen Victoria, has been
lately elevated to the dignity of knighthood, as some compensation for
his complaint caught in the service. He had the next room to us, but the
midnight groaning-act in which he occasionally indulged was too much for
Mrs. Brentin, and we were forced to shift.”

“Has he spoken to you about his yacht?”

“He introdooced himself right here in the parlor, and offered it me for
three thousand pounds.”

“What did you say?”

“I presented him to Mrs. Brentin right away, as I invariably do when I
want an inconvenient request refused. She explained that ay steam-yacht
was very little use to her in the journeys she is at present taking
about this city in search of the localities of Charles Dickens.
Whereupon Judge Hipkins, who impressed me as being brainy, immediately
replied, ‘What about Yarmouth and little Em’ly’”

“What did Mrs. Brentin say to that?”

“Why, sir, Mrs. Brentin thought three thousand pounds too much to pay
for the privilege of approaching Yarmouth by sea; more especially as she
is a bad sailor, and commences to be sick at her stomach before leaving
the kay-side. Now, however, Mr. Blacker,” he said, rising, “we will, if
you please, go and find Sir Anthony Hipkins, and we will buy his
steam-yacht.”

The rapidity of the American mind somewhat alarmed me; still, I felt
there was nothing for it but to follow Mr. Brentin. He went straight to
the bureau, and, on inquiring for Sir Anthony, learned he was up-stairs
ill in bed, and that his wife was with him.

As we went up in the lift, Mr. Brentin winked at me. “It is in our
favor, sir, that the judge is sick; we will be sympathetic, but we will
not offer more than two thousand five hundred pounds.”

We found No. 246, and Mr. Brentin knocked. A deep groaning voice called
to us to come in.

“The judge must be real bad if he has sent for his wife,” observed Mr.
Brentin. “On reflection, we will try him with two thousand. Come right
alawng in, sir, and I will present you.”

I followed him into the bedroom, and there we found Sir Anthony lying,
propped up in bed. He was a long, gaunt man, with a grizzling beard, a
hook-nose, like a tulwar, and a quantity of rough, brown hair turning
gray. By his side was sitting a small, dry, prim old lady, reading from
a book, with gold pince-nez, and notwithstanding our entrance she went
steadily on.

“Stop that now, Nanny,” Sir Anthony called, fretfully, stretching his
hand out of the bed over the page, “and let us hear what these men
want.”

“Sir Anthony and Lady Hipkins,” said Mr. Brentin, politely, with a bow
to each, his hat in his hand, “permit me to present to you my young
friend, Mr. Vincent Blacker. He is in want of a yacht, and though he has
his eye on several, would be glad to learn particulars of yours before
concluding.”

Sir Anthony rolled his bony head on the pillow and groaned. Directly he
withdrew his hand from the page the dry old lady went on with her
reading in a curious, dull, flat voice. Mr. Brentin came to the foot of
the bed, and, leaning his arms on the brass rail, surveyed him
sympathetically.

“Are you too sick, judge,” he asked, “to discuss business matters with
us?”

“_And in the eleventh year of Joram, the son of Ahab_—” droned her
ladyship.

“Go away, Nanny,” shouted Sir Anthony, pointing to the opposite door;
“go into the next room, or go out and take a walk.”

Mr. Brentin opened the door, and, after putting the Bible on the bed
under Sir Anthony’s big nose, Lady Hipkins left the room quietly, as she
was directed.

“You’re Mr. Brentin, ain’t you?” asked the judge. “Beg your pardon for
not recognizing you. What did you say your friend’s name was?”

Mr. Brentin explained that I was Mr. Vincent Blacker, a gentleman of
position and the highest integrity, an officer in Queen Victoria’s
militia.

“Oh, ah!” said the judge, sitting up in bed and scratching his legs
ruefully. “And he wants to buy a yacht?”

“He has almost concluded for the purchase of one,” Mr. Brentin replied,
“but I have suggested he should wait—”

The judge began most unexpectedly to laugh, bending his head between his
knees and stifling his merriment with the counterpane.

“The judge is better,” observed Mr. Brentin, with a wave of his hand.
“The presence of gentlemen who sympathize with his complaint, and the
likelihood of completing—”

“It’s too damn ridiculous,” laughed the judge, “to be caught shamming
Abraham like this, by George! Serves me right. You see, Mr. Blacker,
after three years of the Gold Coast I was naturally anxious to see
whether London had greatly altered in my absence, and, consequently,
neglected to go and reside at Norwood with her ladyship. Whereupon her
ladyship wrote, demanding the reason of my lengthy stay in the
metropolis. What was I to do but say I was too ill to move, but that the
minute I was well enough—” Sir Anthony went off laughing again, and I
laughed too.

“But that midnight groaning-act of yours, judge,” asked the shocked
Brentin, “which so much disturbed and alarmed Mrs. Brentin and myself?”

“Oh, that was genuine enough,” chuckled Sir Anthony; “but it was more
the thought of having to go to Norwood and attend the concerts at the
Crystal Palace than any actual physical pain.”

Mr. Brentin’s visage clouded over, and he grew sombre and grave. With
true American chivalry, he could not bear the idea of any one imposing
on a woman, especially an old and plain one.

“However,” said the judge, “I’m rightly punished by her ladyship’s
descending on me and forcing me to go to bed—not to mention the Book of
Kings, and all my smoke cut off.”

“This will be ay lesson to you, judge, I trust,” observed Mr. Brentin,
sternly.

“First and second lesson, by George! And now let’s talk about the yacht.
Your friend wants to buy a yacht?”

I must say I was a good deal alarmed at Brentin’s coolness and
precipitancy in so readily bringing me forward as purchaser of the
_Amaranth_, and, as I listened to their conversation, quite made up my
mind not to bind myself irrevocably to anything. Three, or even two,
thousand pounds! My idea was doubtless a remarkable one, but I had no
notion of backing it to that amount—at all events, with my own money.
So, with an air of sham gravity, I listened, assuming as solid an air of
wealth as I could on so short a notice, determined at the last moment to
make the necessary fatal objections, which would finally effectually
prevent my being saddled with the thing.

The judge explained that the yacht had only just been left him by an
uncle who had died very suddenly in the “Albany”; that it was in
complete order, ready victualled and manned; that it had usually been
sent round to the Riviera, and joined there overland by his uncle, who
spent the winter months on board till the advent of spring enabled him
to return to London; that there it was lying at Ryde, awaiting his
orders, and that he had accidentally heard that Captain Evans, in
default of instructions, was actually employing it for excursions on his
own behalf, and taking the Ryde people for trips in the Solent and runs
over to Bournemouth at so much a head when the weather was favorable;
which would all have to be accounted for, added the judge, of course. It
was a large yacht, of about four hundred tons, and, rather than be
bothered with it, the judge would let it go for three thousand pounds.

“Why don’t you go down and see it,” he asked, “before you decide? And,
if I were you, I wouldn’t let Evans know you are coming; if it’s a fine
day, you are sure to catch him at some of his little games, and that’ll
give you a hold over him.”

“Three thousand pounds is ay large sum of money, judge,” objected Mr.
Brentin.

“Not bad; but then it’s a large yacht. Now look here, don’t you haggle
with me,” he went on, irritably, “because I don’t like it. You can
either take it or leave it. I won’t let it go for a penny less. Rather
than that, I’ll go and live on board and spend my time crossing between
Portsmouth and the island. I should be safe from her ladyship, at any
rate, for even coming up in the lift upsets her.”

We shook his hand and left him composing himself to receive Lady Hipkins
again. She was walking up and down the corridor as we came out, and Mr.
Brentin went up to her and bowed.

“The judge is real bad, ma’am,” he said, with great gravity, “and should
not be left. He has been explaining to us what a comfort you and your
reading are to him, and how much he looks forward to being taken down to
Norwood and nursed back to his former robust health at your hands. If I
may venture to advise, you should procure a hotel conveyance as soon as
possible and drive him way down home by easy stages. The air in this
city, ma’am, is not good for ay man of the judge’s temperament and
physique.”

“You have a kind face,” her ladyship answered, in her strange, flat
voice, “and mean kindly, I am sure. But I am extremely deaf, and have
not heard one word you have said. Perhaps you would kindly write it down
for me?” she added, handing him a little book.

“It’s of no consequence,” bawled Mr. Brentin through his hands.
“Good-afternoon!”

“Why doesn’t the old shakes carry a trumpet” he said, angrily, as we
went down-stairs. “What’s the matter with a trumpet?”

In the hall, before leaving him, I hastened to explain I had no thought
of expending three thousand pounds in the purchase of Sir Anthony’s or
any yacht whatsoever; that my contribution to the expedition would be
the idea, and so many of the resolute men as I could lay hands on among
my friends.

“That will be all right, Mr. Blacker,” Brentin loftily replied; “I will
see after the yacht portion of the affair. It can be made good to me, if
I run short, out of the boodle, and, if it all fails, I have no doubt I
shall have my money value in excitement. In the meantime, sir, let us
waltz in and secure the yacht, to begin with. If you will be free in the
morning, we will descend upon Ryde and Captain Evans. If we find him
going to sea, so much the better; we shall have the opportunity of
testing the sailing capacities of the _Amaranth_. Good-day to you, sir.
I have to thank you for infusing my exhossted veins with a breath of the
true spirit of the forty-niners, who made the State of California what
she is. The holding up of ay Sacramento bank will be nothing to this,
sir, if we don’t spile—that is, spoil—it.”



                              CHAPTER VIII

   WE GO TO RYDE—THE _AMARANTH_—ACCIDENTAL MEETING WITH ARTHUR
     MASTERS AND HIS LADY FRIEND—I ENROLL HIM AMONG US PROVISIONALLY
     —WE DECIDE TO PURCHASE THE YACHT


I DON’T know that it would be altogether necessary to the course of the
narrative of this work to say much about our visit to Ryde and the
_Amaranth_ were it not that, while there, we accidentally encountered
Arthur Masters, an old friend and school-fellow of mine. He was staying
at Seaview, and, being in a mazed condition of lovelornness (for nothing
short of it would have induced him to neglect the harriers of which he
is master in Hertfordshire), had come over for the day with the young
lady, and was spending it there mainly on the pier, being uncommonly
warm and fine for November.

Mr. Brentin and I had just arrived, and were keeping our weather-eye
open for the _Amaranth_, when we came on Arthur and his young lady
sitting on the pier in the sun. She was introduced to us as Miss Rybot,
and wore a straw-hat and a shirt, just as though it were summer.

We told them we had come down about a yacht, and, if we could only find
her, were thinking of making a small trial-trip across the Solent.

As we were talking and persuading them to accompany us, up comes a
sailor in a blue jersey, with _Amaranth_ across it in red, and hands us
a printed bill.

    “_The_ Amaranth, _fast steam-yacht (Captain Evans, Commander),
    will sail daily from Hyde pier-head (weather permitting) for a
    two hours’ trip in the Solent. Fares: Saloon, half a crown; fore
    cabin, one shilling_.”

“Doing much business?” asked Mr. Brentin carelessly, cocking his eye on
the man.

“Pretty fair, mister,” the sailor replied, “when the weather’s like
this. There’s a good few aboard already.”

“Is there?” Mr. Brentin innocently remarked. “All right. Give Captain
Evans Sir Anthony Hipkins’s compliments and say we will come aboard
right away.”

“Sir Anthony! Lord love you!” ejaculated the sailor, and was off pretty
fast down to the pier-head.

“We will give the captain a few minutes to clear out his Ryde friends,”
observed Mr. Brentin with a wink, “and then we will pro-ceed.”

And, sure enough, as we got leisurely down to the pier-head there we
found a boat just landing from the _Amaranth_, half a dozen
excursionists in her with hand-bags and bottles, talking fast among
themselves and giving frightened glances back at the yacht lying in the
tideway two or three hundred yards off.

“Anything wrong on board, my friend?” drawled Mr. Brentin to a large,
puce-faced man with a red comforter loosely knotted round his throat, as
he clambered up the pier steps.

“Anythin’ wrong?” echoed the terrified man. “Captain says rust ’as
suddenly got into the b’ilers and ’e’s afraid they’ll bust. That’s
all!—Mother, where’s Emma?”

“We shall have the ship to ourselves,” remarked Mr. Brentin. “Music
provided, too. Sakes alive!”

The music was a harp, a cornet, and a stout woman with a large accordion
slung on her back. The cornettist, a battered-looking young man with one
eye, carried a shell for collecting the money, and a camp-stool.

“Oh, don’t go!” drawled Mr. Brentin; “we have a passion for music on the
waters.”

“‘Ave you?” cried the sarcastic cornettist. “Well, I ’ope you’ll like
gittin’ blown up, too. Full steam a’ead, mates! Now then, missis, out of
the way!”

Off they all trooped together as fast as they could down the length of
the pier, giving occasional frightened glances back at the yacht, which
began to blow us a sycophantish salute with her whistle.

“The only person who will get blown up to-day,” observed Mr. Brentin as
he took his seat in the boat, “will be Captain Evans.”

All this time Miss Rybot had scarcely said a word. She was rather a
haughty, not to say disagreeable-looking, young lady; tall, slightly
freckled, with a high nose and a quantity of beautiful auburn hair. She
appeared to take the situation with the utmost indifference, and not in
the least to care whether she stayed on shore or went to sea and never
came back. Altogether the sort of young lady who might lead an adorer
rather a dance.

“Get under way at once, if you please, Captain Evans,” said Mr. Brentin,
sternly, as we came on board and found the captain waiting for us,
exceedingly alarmed, his cap in his hand.

“Aye, aye, sir!” bleated the captain. “Where to?”

“Anywhere where we can give the yacht’s speed a fair trial. What’s the
matter with our going round the island?”

“There’s nothing the matter with it, sir, that I am aware of,” answered
the startled Evans.

“Then make it so! And then come and give me a few moments’ conversation
in the saloon. For the use of which,” Mr. Brentin gravely added, “I do
not propose to pay half a dollar.”

“Aye, aye, sir!” And off we bustled towards Spithead.

“Where will you sit, Miss Rybot?” Masters asked, humbly.

“Anywhere out of the wind,” was the indifferent answer; “and be good
enough, please, to leave me to myself for a little. I wish to collect my
thoughts, and you have, no doubt, a good deal to talk over with your
friend.”

The unfortunate Masters found her a sheltered seat (which she soon left
and selected another), wrapped her legs in a rug (which she promptly
threw off), and then came and sat himself down by me.

“She’s an orphan,” he whispered, biting his nails, “and has to teach. I
met her at Seaview. She has forty pounds a year of her own, and has one
little nasty pupil, whom she loathes. She’s a strict Roman Catholic, and
talks of entering a convent, but she’s a good deal in debt, and wants to
pay off her debts first. She talks of going to Monte Carlo and winning
enough at the tables to pay her debts, and then becoming a Poor Clare.”

“A Poor Clare?”

“They’re a strictly enclosed order,” he groaned; “they keep a perpetual
fast, have no beds, and go barefooted. They spend all their time in
prayer and meditation, and live on alms.”

“Then they don’t marry, I suppose?”

“Don’t I tell you they’re strictly enclosed?”

“How long have you known her?”

“About a month. I met her at a friend’s house at Seaview.”

“Have you said anything to her yet?”

“Nothing very definite. I was going to to-day. But I don’t believe it
will be any use,” he sighed; “she seems bent on the convent.”

“Do you think she suspects your attachment?”

“Oh, she must by this time. I’ve given up several days’ golf for her.
But she’s so confoundedly independent and thinks so badly of men. She
fancies they’re all after her because she’s poor.”

“Extraordinary young person!”

“Well, she says that if a man knows a girl’s poor he always believes
she’s only too ready to marry him, just to escape from teaching and
secure a comfortable home. That’s the sort of girl she is; she swears
she won’t be purchased. What am I to do? What do you advise?”

I gave him plenty of sound advice, but could see he wasn’t attending to
me. At last he roused himself to ask about my affairs. He had heard the
Mabel Harker entanglement was over, and naturally supposed there was
some one else. So off I went about Lucy and “The French Horn,”
describing her minutely, and how unhappy I was, and how I was going down
there at Christmas to make it all up, and that in the meantime—

“Then you would speak to her to-day and get some definite answer out of
her?” he asked, biting his nails.

“How can I to-day, when she’s miles away in the Ladbroke Grove Road?”

Masters stared, and I saw, of course, he hadn’t been attending and was
only thinking of himself.

With his mind in so confused and despondent a condition, I judged the
opportunity excellent to try and get him to join us; so, after a few
cautious preliminaries, I drew closer and let him into the whole secret
of our visit to Ryde and trial of the yacht, giving him to understand
that Mr. Brentin was already one of the heads of the enterprise, and
that, if I couldn’t get the necessary half-dozen resolute Englishmen, he
would easily fill their places with the same number of ditto Americans,
from the hotels in Northumberland Avenue; which would cause me some
national shame, I said, and give me ground for fearing the ancient
spirit of the country was really gone and dribbled off into mere
stock-jobbing, as so many people assert—Drake and the Gilberts and
Raleigh having shuffled into Capel Court, touting on curb-stones like
Hamburg peddlers or ready-money pencillers, instead of taking the broad
and daring road of nerve and valor.

Further, I seductively pointed out there would be no sort of reason why
Miss Rybot shouldn’t be of the party and try legitimately to win enough
at the tables to pay her debts, if her heart was set on it; which would
free her from all obligation towards him and bring about their marriage
in the most natural way; and that if a chaperon were needed, I would
engage to supply one, whether the young lady went to Monte Carlo by land
or by sea.

As I had already experienced, different men take an announcement of this
high order in different ways—some are shocked, some incredulous; some
see all the difficulties at once, some never see any. As for Arthur
Masters, he was in such a state of depression that I believe if I had
said, “Arthur, we are going North to root up the Pole; will you make
one?” he’d have answered, “Delighted!” and been off to Beale & Inman’s
at once to order the necessary outfit.

At all events, what he did say was, that if Miss Rybot could be induced
to come, he would certainly come too, and do his best, charging himself
with the duty of feeling his way with her, and promising to let me know
the result as soon as possible. He only stipulated he should not be away
longer than a fortnight in January, because of his harriers, which all
this time were being rather inefficiently hunted by his younger brother
and the dog boy.

We got back safely to Ryde, thoroughly satisfied with our outing and the
behavior of the _Amaranth_, and caught the six-o’clock train back to
Victoria.

Mr. Brentin had unfortunately taken a strong dislike to Miss Rybot, and
imitated her cold, haughty “Really! you don’t say so!” and other
stand-offish little speeches, most of the way up. The imitation was not
in the least like, of course, but served to show me the scornful bent of
his mind towards her. When I told him I had secured Masters on the
condition she came too, he grew quite angry, and declared that whatever
route she took he should most certainly take the other, rather than be
frozen in her society. He added, as a further ground of dislike, she was
“pop-eyed”—a somewhat unjust description of her slightly prominent,
large, cold, gray optics.

As for Captain Evans and his little game of using the yacht for
excursions on his own account, the captain had given the, to me, rather
lame explanation that yachts left idle came to no good, and should, in
short, be taken out for exercise just like horses. Questioned why he
didn’t go out without company, he averred he must have ballast or the
yacht would throb her sides out, and that he thought he might as well
make the ballast pay. Also that he had kept a most careful record of
receipts, and was prepared to account for every farthing to the rightful
owners, whoever they should turn out to be.

In short, as is so often the case, Captain Evans had managed to prove
quite conclusively that Mr. Brentin was entirely in the wrong in
suspecting his proceedings, and that he was a much injured and wholly
innocent British sailor.

“That, sir,” said Mr. Brentin, chewing his cigar as we rattled along in
the train, “has happened to me more than once with your lower orders. I
go into my tailor’s with my noo coat bulging at the back, bursting with
ay sense of injury at the misfit considering the price I have paid. And
that tailor keeps cool while I stamp around; he surveys me with ay
pitying smile, he calls up his assistants to admire the fit, and he
proves to me con-clusively that the best part of that coat is precisely
the bulge in the back, and that I shall injure his reputation and ruin
the coat if I have it touched. I enter that store, sir, like ay raging
lion, and I leave it ay teething lamb, my mouth overflowing with
apologies, which the damn tailor will scarcely accept. And I know he
thinks, ‘What infernal fools these Yankees are!’ and is laafing at me in
his sleeve as the bulge and I disappear in the crowd of his other
misfits, and are lost in the night of his paid accounts.”

That same evening the purchase of the yacht was concluded by Mr.
Brentin, as he wrote me in the morning; directing me, further, to go
right ahead and get the rest of my desperadoes together for a dash on
the tables in January. He added in a postscript that, for his part, he
was going into the city early next morning to buy three fair-sized
cannon, capable of throwing three fair-sized shells; for, in case
anything went wrong and we were captured, it would be just as well to
leave orders with Captain Evans to shell the Casino, and so continue
till we were released and replaced on board the _Amaranth_, with a
guarantee for our expenses, and an undertaking for no further
molestation.

Bold as I am, owing in some measure to my militia training, the rapidity
of the American mind was again causing me some considerable qualms.



                               CHAPTER IX

   MY SISTER’S SUSPICIONS—HEROES OF _THE ARGO_—MY SISTER DETERMINES
     TO COME WITH US AS CHAPERON TO MISS RYBOT


FROM now right on to Christmas I lived in a constant hurry and ferment
of excitement; for not only was I full of every sort of preparation for
our adventure, but every day brought me nearer “The French Horn” and my
seeing dear Lucy once more. By the second week in December I had at last
got our party of six together; to which number, for the present, at any
rate, by Mr. Brentin’s advice, it was determined to limit it. If it were
to be done at all, he said, six could easily do it, and by adding more
we were only increasing the danger of the affair leaking out and the
people at the tables being forewarned and forearmed; neither of which,
though more particularly the latter, did we at all desire.

Directly the party was complete, I informed Mr. Brentin, and by his
directions gave them all a rendezvous at “The French Horn” for
Christmas. He wished to see us all together he said, and take our
measure; not that he doubted I had chosen the right sort, but rather
that he might consider what post should be assigned to each—who should
lead the van and who should guard the rear, and who, if necessary,
should form the reserve and direct the shell-throwing on the Casino in
case of our capture.

Meantime I had been so busy running over the country, interviewing and
persuading, and by many being point-blank refused, that I had quite
neglected my sister, Mrs Rivers, and Medworth Square; and whether it was
she suspected something from my continued absence, or something had
leaked out through Parker White, I never could quite discover; but, at
any rate, she one day sent for me to come to tea, and attacked me at
once to know what I was doing and why I never came to the house.

From very early days my sister Muriel has been my confidante in
everything. My father I scarcely remember, beyond the fact that he
always wore a white waistcoat and smelt of sherry when he kissed me, and
my dear mother died in Jubilee year—a very sad year, notwithstanding
the universal illuminations and rejoicings, for me; so to Muriel I have
always carried all my troubles and griefs, and no better sister for that
sort of work could any man wish for.

Particularly has she always been the sympathetic recipient of my
love-affairs, with the single exception of my affair with Lucy; for
though Muriel isn’t in the least a snob, yet I don’t suppose she would
have been best pleased to learn of her only brother’s attachment to an
innkeeper’s daughter, of however old a family. So all she knew was that
the Mabel Harker business was at an end, and was naturally wondering how
my vagrant heart was being employed meantime; questions on which
subject, however, I had always managed to shirk.

Directly we were alone in the Medworth Square morning-room, she opened
fire on me.

“Frank has been asking what has become of you lately, Vincent,” she
said—“what have you been doing with yourself?”

“I’ve been seeing a good deal of some Americans at the ‘Victoria,’ and a
good deal in and out of town.”

“Nothing else?”

“Nothing of any importance. How’s Mollie?”

“You can go and see Mollie afterwards. Now, look here, Vincent, you’re
up to something, and I mean to know what it is. I can’t have my only
brother drifting into a scrape, without doing my best to keep him out of
it. You’d better make a clean breast. I shall be sure to find out.”

I’d half a mind to tell her a downright fib and stop her importunities
that way; but I’d the instinct she knew something of the fact, and was
well aware that, if she weren’t told all, would set her prig of a
husband to work; and then our enterprise would as likely as not be
nipped in the bud by being made public property.

So, on the whole, I judged it best to tell her exactly what we were
doing and were going to do, taking care only to bind her over to the
completest secrecy, which, once she had given her word, I knew she would
die sooner than break.

She was half amused, half frightened, and at first wholly incredulous.

“But who on earth have you found to join you in such a cracked scheme?”
she asked. “I didn’t know you’d so many desperate lunatics among your
acquaintances.”

“Well, there’s Arthur Masters and Bob Hines, to begin with; you know
them.”

“I don’t think I know Mr. Hines, do I? Who is he?”

“Oh, he was at Marlborough with me, and now keeps a boys’ school at
Folkestone.”

“A nice instructor of youth, to go on an expedition of this kind,”
laughed my sister.

“That’s exactly what he’s afraid of; he says if he’s caught, it’ll be
the end of his business and he’ll have to break stones.”

“Then why does he go?”

“Well, you see, he’s very much in want of a gymnasium for his boys, and
I’ve promised to build him one out of the swag, if he’ll join us.”

“Tempted and fallen!” said my sister. “Really, Vincent, you’re a
Mephistopheles. And who else?”

“Harold Forsyth, of the Devon Borderers.”

“Is that the little man who always looks as if he was bursting out of
his clothes with overeating?”

“I dare say.”

“But I thought he was engaged to be married. What’s the young lady
about, to let him go?”

“Well, the fact is,” said I, “the young lady turns out to be a wrong un,
and is now chasing him about with a writ for breach of promise in her
glove, like a cab-fare.”

“So he’s off to escape that?” said my sister. “You’re a nice lot. Any
one else?”

“Teddy Parsons, in my militia.”

“He’s a poor creature,” my sister observed. “I shouldn’t take him; why,
all he can do is play the banjo and walk about Southport in breeches and
gaiters!”

“Yes, but he’s an old friend, and I want to do him a good turn.”

“You’ve odd notions of doing people a good turn,” Muriel laughed.

“The fact is,” I said, “he’s rather in a hole about a bill of his that’s
coming due. He’s gone shares with one of our fellows in the regiment in
a steeple-chaser and given him a bill to meet the expenses of training
and the purchase; and as the bill’s coming due and he’s mortally afraid
of his father—”

“You undertake to meet the bill, on the condition he joins you. I see.
And has that been the best you can do? Who’s the sixth?”

“Mr. Brentin, who’s bought the yacht; the American at the ‘Victoria.’”

“Well, all I can say is,” said my sister, after a pause, “you’re rather
a lame crew. Why, Teddy Parsons alone is enough to ruin anything!”

“Yes, I know,” I groaned, “but what is one to do? I’ve been all over the
country seeing men, but they’re all much too frightened. We’re an
utterly scratch lot, I know, but Brentin and I must do the best we can
with the material and trust to luck.”

“That you most certainly will have to do,” said my sister, with
conviction.

“Why can’t you come with us,” I urged, “and be the mascot of the party?
We must have some one of the kind, if only to chaperon Miss Rybot.”

“Dear me, who’s Miss Rybot?”

“Arthur Masters’s young woman, without whom he won’t stir.”

Now my sister Muriel is like a good many other highly respectable
Englishwomen: she is a most faithful wife and devoted mother, but she
doesn’t care in any particular degree about her husband, and is only too
glad to welcome anything in the way of honest excitement, if only to
break the monotony of home life. And here was excitement for her,
indeed, and, properly regarded, of the most irreproachably honest
description.

It flattered, too, her love of adventure, for which she had never had
much outlet in Medworth Square. Where we Blackers get our love of
adventure from, by-the-way, I don’t quite know, unless it be from my
mother’s father, who fought at Waterloo, and died a very old gentleman,
a Knight of Windsor; but we certainly both of us have it very strongly,
as all good English people should.

To cut a long story short, for I must really be getting on, my sister
finally agreed to come, if only as chaperon to Miss Rybot. Like the rest
of us, she had never been to Monte Carlo, having been hitherto forbidden
by her husband; but now she said she would insist, and allege as a
reason the necessity of her presence for keeping her only brother from
ruining himself at the tables.

So I was delighted to hear of her plucky resolve, particularly as it at
once got rid of the difficulty of Miss Rybot’s chaperon—since Brentin
had made up his mind not to take his wife, but send her down to
Rochester while he was away, and keep her fully employed there, in
Charles Dickens’s country.

I kissed my sister, promising to come back to dinner, and meantime went
up in the nursery, where I found my niece Mollie seated by the fire,
wrapped in a grimy little shawl, reading Grimm’s _Fairy Tales_.



                               CHAPTER X

   MR. BRENTIN’S INDISCRETION—LUCY AND I MAKE IT UP—BAILEY THOMPSON
     APPEARS IN CHURCH—ON CHRISTMAS DAY WE HOLD A COUNCIL OF WAR


NOW it was the very day we went down to “The French Horn” together that
Mr. Brentin confessed to me how, in spite of our agreement as to keeping
the affair a profound secret, he had actually been so rash as to confide
our whole plan to a stranger—a stranger casually encountered, above all
places, in the smoking-room of the “Victoria”!

How incomprehensible, how weak and wavering is man! Here was Julius C.
Brentin, as shrewd an American as can be met with in Low’s Exchange,
deliberately pouring into a strange ear a secret he had hitherto rigidly
guarded even from his young and attractive wife.

Of course he had his excuses and defence; what man has not, when he does
wrong? But whatever the excuse, there still remained the unpleasant fact
that there was positively a man walking about (and from his description
one evidently not quite a gentleman) who knew all about our arrangements
and could at any moment communicate them to the authorities at Monte
Carlo.

When I asked him, somewhat sharply, how ever he had come to commit so
gross a blunder, he had really no explanation to give. He seemed to
think he had sufficiently safeguarded himself by exchanging cards with
the man, than which I could not conceive anything more childish—

                         _MR. BAILEY THOMPSON_

without an address or a club on it! What possible guarantee was there in
that? Brentin himself couldn’t quite say; only he seemed to fancy the
possession of his card gave him some sort of hold on the owner, and that
so long as he had it in his keeping we were safe against treachery.

How totally wrong he was, and how nearly his absurd confidence came to
absolutely ruining us all, will clearly appear as this work goes on and
readers are taken to Monte Carlo.

At last, as I continued to reproach him, he took refuge in saying,
“Well, it’s done, and there’s an end to it; give over talking through
your hat!” A vulgar Americanism which much offended me, and caused us to
drive up to “The French Horn” in somewhat sulky silence.

It was the 23d of December, and we found Mr. Thatcher ready for us. I at
once left him to show Brentin over the house, the great hall decorated
with holly and cotton-wool mottoes, and to his room, while I went in
immediate search of Lucy.

Over that tender meeting I draw the sacred veil of reticence. The dear
girl was soon in my arms, soft and palpitating, full of forgiveness and
love. We spent the afternoon together in a long walk across the links
and down to the coast-guards’ cottages, where we had tea; returning only
in time for dinner, through the dark and starry evening of that
singularly mild December.

The result of our walk was that we made up our minds to be married
shortly before Easter—so soon, in fact, as I could get back from abroad
and settle my affairs. About Monte Carlo, I told her nothing further
than that my sister was not well, and I had undertaken to escort her
there, and see after her for a time—a fib, which, knowing Lucy’s
apprehensive nature, I judged to be necessary, and for which I trust one
day to be forgiven.

Mr. Brentin and I dined together, partly in silence, partly snapping at
each other. On Christmas Eve our party was complete, with the exception
of Harold Forsyth, who came over next morning from Colchester. On
Christmas Day, “What’s the matter with our all going to Church?” said
Mr. Brentin.

“Nothing particularly the matter,” Bob Hines replied, rather gruffly,
“except that some of us are probably unaccustomed to it.”

However, Brentin insisted, and to Church, accordingly, we all went, as
meek as bleating lambs.

Now in the Wharton Park pew was sitting Mr. Crage. The pew is so
sheltered with its high partition and curtain-rods, I didn’t see him
till he stood up; nor did I know there was any one else there till the
parson glared down straight into the pew from the clerk’s ancient seat
under the pulpit, whence he read the lessons, and said he really must
beg chance members of the congregation to observe the proper reverential
attitude, and not be continually seated.

Whereupon a deep voice replied, amid considerable sensation, from the
bowels of the pew, “Sir, you are in error. I always rise as the rubric
directs, but having no advantage of height—” the rest of the speech
being lost in the irreverent titters of our party.

Brentin, who was next the pew, looked over the partition and added to
the sensation by audibly observing, “Sakes alive! It’s friend Bailey
Thompson.”

When the service was over and we all got outside, he whispered, “Wait a
minute, Blacker; send the others on, and I’ll present you to my friend.”
So the others went on back to “The French Horn,” while I remained behind
with some apprehension and curiosity to take this Mr. Bailey Thompson’s
measure. He came out alone, Mr. Crage remaining to have a few words with
the parson (with whom he was continually squabbling), and Brentin and
Bailey Thompson greeted each other with great warmth.

He turned out to be a short, dark, determined-looking little man, with a
square chin and old-fashioned, black, mutton-chop whiskers. No, he was
clearly not quite a gentleman, in the sense that he had evidently never
been at a public school.

“This,” said Mr. Brentin as he presented me, “is the originator of the
little scheme I was telling you of—Mr. Vincent Blacker.”

“Oh, indeed!” Mr. Bailey Thompson replied, looking me full in the face
with his penetrating black eyes, and politely lifting his small, tall
hat. “Oh, indeed! so you really meant it?”

“Meant it?” echoed Brentin. “Why, the band of brothers is here; they
were in the pew next you. Mr. Bailey Thompson, we are all here together
for the making of our final arrangements, and in two weeks we start.”

“Oh, indeed!” he smiled; “it’s a bold piece of work.”

“Sir, it is colossal, but it will succeed!”

“Let us hope so. I am sure I wish you every success.”

“Mr. Bailey Thompson,” said Brentin, evidently nettled at the way the
little man continued incredulously to smile, “if you care to join us
some time during the afternoon we shall be glad to lay details of our
plan before you. They will not only prove our _bona-fides_, but show how
complete and fully thought out all our preparations are.”

“If I can leave my friend Crage towards four o’clock, I will,” Mr.
Thompson replied. “I know Monte Carlo as well as most men, and may be
able to give you some useful hints.”

“We shall be glad to see you, for none of us have ever been there. But
not a word to your friend!”

“Not a word to a soul!” smiled the imperturbable little man; and he left
us to join the abandoned Crage, who was still inside the sacred edifice
snarling at the parson.

It was quite useless saying anything further to Brentin. I merely
contented myself with pointing out that if anything could make me
suspect Mr. Bailey Thompson, it was his being the guest of Mr. Crage.

“Pawsibly!” drawled Mr. Brentin. “I don’t pretend the man is pure-bred,
nor exactly fit at this moment to take his seat at Queen Victoria’s
table; but that he’s stanch, with that square chin, I will stake my
bottom dollar. And seeing how well he knows the locality, we shall learn
something from him, sir, which, you may depend upon, will be highly
useful.”

The attitude of the band of brothers so far had been rather of the
negative order. Whether their enthusiasm was cooling, as they had been
employing their spare time in pitifully surveying the difficulties and
danger of the scheme, instead of the glory and the profit, I know not;
but, obviously, neither on Christmas Eve nor Christmas morning were they
any longer in the hopeful condition in which they were when I first
approached and secured them.

That they had been talking the matter over among themselves was clear,
for no sooner was the Christmas fare disposed of in the great hall than
they began to open fire. Their first shot was discharged when Mr.
Thatcher brought us in a bowl of punch, about three o’clock, and Brentin
proceeded to charge their glasses, and desire them to drink to the
affair and our successful return therefrom.

They drank the toast so half-heartedly, much as Jacobites when called on
to pledge King George, that Brentin lost his temper.

“Gentlemen!” he cried, thumping the table, “if you cannot drink to our
success with more _momentum_ than that, you will never do for
adventurers; you may as well stay right here and till the soil. And
that’s all there is to it!”

“What’s the matter with eating fat bacon under a hedge?” growled Bob
Hines. He had been much nettled at the way Brentin had taken us all in
charge, and more particularly at his being ordered off to church. Hence
his not altogether apposite interruption.

Brentin fixed him with his glittering, beady eyes. “Mr. Hines,” he said,
“if you are the spokesman of the malecontents, I am perfectly ready to
hear what you have to object.”

“You are very good,” Hines replied, stiffly, “but I imagined the scheme
was Blacker’s, and not yours at all.”

“The scheme is the scheme,” said Brentin, impatiently. “Neither one
man’s nor another’s. Either you go in with us or you do not; now, then,
take your choice, right here and now. You know all about it, what we are
going to do and how we are going to do it. There are no flies on the
scheme, any more than there are on us. We don’t care ay ginger-snap
whether you withdraw or not; but at least we have the right to know
which course you intend to pursue.”

“The difficulty appears to me,” Forsyth struck in, in conciliatory
tones, “that none of us have ever been to the place, so that we can’t
really tell whether the thing is possible or not.”

“Exactly!” murmured Teddy Parsons.

Brentin gave a gesture of vexation. “Monte Carlo has, of course, been
thoroughly surveyed before this determination of ours has been arrived
at—from a distance, ay considerable distance, I admit. Still, it has
been surveyed, though, naturally, through other parties’ eyes. Every
authority we have consulted agrees that the thing is perfectly feasible;
every one, without exception, wonders why it has never been done before;
every one admits it is a plague-spot which should be cauterized. Shall
we do it? Yes or no? There is the whole thing in ay nutshell.”

Teddy Parsons observed, “There is one thing I should like to know, and
that is—er—will there be any bloodshed?”

“Not unless they shed it,” was Brentin’s somewhat grim reply.

Teddy shuddered and went on, “But I understand we are actually to be
armed with revolvers.”

“That is so,” said Brentin, “but they will not be loaded, or with blank
cartridge at the most. Experience tells us that gentlemen are just as
badly frightened by an unloaded as by a loaded gun.”

Then Arthur Masters struck in, “I suppose there will be likely to be a
good deal of hustling and possibly violence before we can count on
getting clear away?”

“I don’t apprehend,” said Brentin, “there will be much of either;
though, of course, we can’t expect the affair will pass off quite so
quietly as an ordinary social lunch-party. We may, for instance, have to
knock a few people down. Surely English gentlemen are not afraid of
having to do that?”

“It is not a question of fear,” Masters haughtily replied. “I’m not
thinking of that.”

“Hear! Hear!” cried that snipe Parsons.

“I am thinking of the ladies of our party.”

“There’s a very pretty girl here,” Parsons ventured. “I wish she could
be persuaded—”

Forsyth nudged him, while I cried “Order!” savagely.

“There will be ladies in our party,” Masters went on. “It would be a
terrible thing if they were to be frightened or in any way injured.”

“I yield to no man,” declaimed Brentin, “in my chivalrous respect for
the sex. But there are certain places and times when the presence of
ladies is highly undesirable. The Casino rooms at Monte Carlo, when we
are about to raid them, is one. That’s the reason which has determined
me to leave Mrs. Brentin behind, in complete ignorance of what we are
about to do. I do not presume to dictate to other gentlemen what their
course of action should be, but I must say our chances of success will
be enormously magnified if no ladies are permitted to be of the party.”

“Hear! Hear!” murmured Hines, who from a certain gruffness of manner is
no particular favorite with the sex.

“Perhaps it would be enough,” urged Masters, “if, on the actual day of
our attempt, the ladies of our party undertook not to go into the
rooms?”

“Perhaps it would,” Brentin replied, “but for myself I should prefer
they remained altogether in England, offering up a series of succinct
and heartfelt prayers for our safe return.”

Bob Hines gave a snort of laughter, whereupon Brentin fixed him
inquiringly.

“Englishwomen have prayed for the safe return of heroes before now, Mr.
Hines.”

“I am aware of it.”

“Then why gurgle at the back of your throat?”

“I have a certain irrepressible sense of humor.”

“That is remarkable for an Englishman!”

Whether Mr. Brentin were deliberately bent on rubbing us all up the
wrong way, I don’t know, but he was most certainly doing it, so I
thought it judicious to interpose. It was just at that moment Mr. Bailey
Thompson stepped into the room.



                               CHAPTER XI

   MR. BAILEY THOMPSON GIVES US HIS INGENIOUS ADVICE—WE ARE FOOLS
     ENOUGH TO TRUST HIM—MISPLACED CONFIDENCE


“THE very man!” cried Brentin. “Mr. Bailey Thompson, let me present you
to my friends. You are just in time to give them assurance of the
feasibility of the great scheme you and I have already had some
discussion over.”

Now Bailey Thompson’s name had been cursorily mentioned during dinner as
that of a gentleman who might look in in the course of the afternoon,
and, if he came, would be able to give us some useful hints; but, beyond
that, Brentin had kept him back as a final card, having already some
notion of the wavering going on, and desiring to use him to clinch the
business one way or the other.

Mr. Thompson bowed and smiled, and Brentin went on.

“There is some dissatisfaction in the camp, sir; there is some doubt and
there is fear. Advice is badly needed. I look to you to give it us.”

“I shall be very glad to be of any use.”

“Then let me present you, Mr. Thompson. This powerful young man with the
leonine head and cherry-wood pipe is Mr. Hines; next him, with the
slight frame, tawny mustache, and Richmond Gem cigarette, is Mr.
Parsons; opposite, with the clean, clear, and agreeable countenance and
the cigar, is Mr. Forsyth; next him, with the sloping brow and
thoughtful back to his head, is Mr. Masters, who doesn’t smoke. Vincent
Blacker you know. Gentlemen, Mr. Bailey Thompson. There is your glass,
sir; drink, and when you feel sufficiently stimulated and communicative,
speak!”

Mr. Thompson darted his penetrating eyes over the company, smiled again,
and took his glass of tepid punch.

“So you really mean it,” he said, sitting between us.

Mr. Brentin groaned. “Don’t let us hear that from you again, sir,” he
said; “it is likely to breed bad blood. Take it from me, we really mean
it, and only need advice how it should best be done. Mr. Bailey
Thompson, we are all attention.”

“In the first place, then,” the little man remarked, amid dead silence,
as he sipped his punch, “let me say you have, in my judgment, enormously
underestimated the amount of money in the rooms.”

“Ah!”

“I know the place well, and speak with some authority.”

“Just what we want.”

“Now, there are nine roulette and four trente-et-quarante tables. Each,
I am told, is furnished with £4000 to begin play on for the day; total,
£52,000.”

“Mark this, gentlemen!” cried the agitated Brentin.

“But each table wins per diem, roughly speaking, about £400; so that, if
you select, say, ten o’clock in the evening for your attempt, you may
count on £5200 more—total, say, £58,000.”

“Make a note, gentlemen,” said Brentin, “that we select ten-thirty, to
make sure.”

“That does not take into account the money lying there already staked by
the players, which you may calculate as fully £3000 more.”

“Oh, go slow, Mr. Bailey Thompson, sir, go slow!”

“But where your underestimation is most marked,” said the impressive
little man, sweeping his eyes round the attentive circle, “is in
calculating the reserve in the vaults. In short, I have no hesitation in
saying that, taking everything into consideration, there must be at
least half a million of money lying in the Casino premises,
at—the—very—least!”

In the dead silence, broken only by the taking in of breath, I could
hear Lucy playing the piano down-stairs in the little room behind the
bar.

Mr. Thompson sipped his punch again and looked at us calmly over the rim
of his tumbler.

“And you think the money in the vaults is as easily got at as the rest?”
Bob Hines asked, in a constrained voice.

“That I shouldn’t like to say,” Thompson cautiously replied. “I can tell
you, however, that I have myself twice seen the bank broken; which only
means, by-the-way, that the £4000 at that particular table had been
won.”

“And what happened?”

“Play at that table was merely suspended while a further supply was
being fetched from the vaults.”

“And where are the vaults?”

“Below the building somewhere, but precisely where I cannot tell you;
but I have no doubt, once the rooms are in your possession, and, given
the time, you would have no difficulty whatever in breaking into them.”

Impressive silence again, broken at last by Brentin. “And now, sir, will
you be good enough to give us some idea of the amount of opposition we
are likely to meet with?”

Bailey Thompson looked meditative, and, after a pause, proceeded.
“Outside the building, at every twenty paces or so, you will find men
stationed. They are merely firemen, whose chief duty it is to see no
bomb is thrown into the rooms or deposited outside by the anarchists,
who have frequently threatened it. They are not soldiers, and are not in
any way armed.”

Teddy Parsons breathed heavily and murmured, “Capital!”

“And what force is there inside?”

“There are a great number of men about, attendants and so forth, but I
cannot conceive them capable of any resistance.”

“You don’t imagine they are secretly armed?” asked the palpitating
Teddy.

“Dear me, no, any more than the attendants at an ordinary club!”

“In short,” said Mr. Brentin, “you feel pretty confident that neither
inside nor outside we are likely to encounter a single weapon of
offence?”

“Perfectly confident. Perfectly confident, gentlemen.”

“And what about the army?” Parsons asked. “I understand the Prince of
Monaco has an army of seventy men.”

“Quite correct,” Bailey Thompson replied, “but it is stationed up in
Monaco, at least a mile away.”

“Then it would be some time before they could be mustered.”

“Besides,” Mr. Brentin dryly observed, “they are not likely to be of
much use unless they can swim. We propose to escape on board the
_Amaranth_.”

“That’s your best chance, gentlemen,” said Mr. Thompson—“in fact, your
only practicable one.”

“And you think six of us are enough for the business?” asked Masters.

“You will be the best judges of that, perhaps, when you see the place.
My own feeling is that, to make it all perfectly safe, you should be at
least a dozen.”

“If necessary,” said Mr. Brentin, “we can always impress half a dozen of
our crew. Nothing like a jolly Jack-tar for a job of this kind.”

“If you do,” smiled Bailey Thompson, “you will have to fig them out in
what they call _tenue de ville convenable_. They won’t let them into the
rooms in their common sailor dress. Why, gentlemen, they refused me
admission once because my boots were dusty. Clean hands don’t so much
matter,” he added, in his sly fashion.

Then he rose and remarked, “I must now be returning to Wharton; my poor
old friend Crage is in low spirits, and I have undertaken not to be more
than half an hour away from him. If there is any further information
wanted, however—”

“Just this,” said Hines; “taking it at its worst, and supposing we are
all, or any of us, captured, what do you imagine will be our fate?”

Mr. Thompson shrugged his shoulders. “You will be treated with every
courtesy; you will undoubtedly be tried, but—if only from the fact of
your failing—you will, I should think, be let off easily. If you
succeed, and all of you get clear away, I do not imagine there will be
any serious pursuit, for policy will close the authorities’ mouth; they
will not care to advertise to the world how easily the place can be
looted. In fact, from what I know of them, they will most likely take
particular pains to deny it has ever been done at all. You see,
gentlemen, the entire Continental press is in their pay.”

“There is, no doubt, a criminal court and a prison at Monaco?”

“Oh yes; and if, unfortunately, you are caught, you will all be
sentenced for life, I imagine.”

“I don’t call that being let off easy,” grunted Teddy.

“Perhaps not in theory, but in practice, yes; for in a year or so you
will find yourselves free to stroll about the town, and even down to
Monte Carlo.”

“In fact, bolt?” said Masters.

“Exactly; more especially if your relatives pay due attention to the
jailers and see they want for nothing. In conclusion, gentlemen, I drink
to your enterprise, and wish you all well through it. _Au revoir!_” And
with a courteous bow and wave of his gloved hand (he wore dogskin gloves
the whole time), Mr. Bailey Thompson, accompanied by the jubilant
Brentin, withdrew.

“Well,” I said, “what do you say now?”

There was a brief silence, and then Teddy Parsons observed, “It seems to
me we may as well go.”

“Half a million of money!” murmured Forsyth, meditatively, “and most of
it for hospitals.”

“I think, out of _that_, you might manage to stand me a swimming-bath as
well as a gymnasium, eh?” whispered Bob Hines.

Mr. Brentin returned to us radiant. “Well, gentlemen, what do you think
of it all now?”

“They are coming,” I ventured to say, and the band of brothers nodded.

“But, I say!” spluttered Masters, who had for the most part kept
silent—“who is Mr. Bailey Thompson? Who knows anything about him? Who
can guarantee he won’t give us away to the Monte Carlo people, and have
us all quodded before we can even get a look in?”

Mr. Brentin frowned. “I will answer for Mr. Thompson with my life!” he
cried. “He is a gentleman of the most royal integrity. I have studied
him in every social relation, and I never knew him fail.”

“Oh, well, that’ll do,” interrupted Bob Hines, who had all along shown
some impatience at Brentin’s long speeches. “We only want to know
somebody is responsible for his not selling us, that’s all.”

A responsibility Mr. Brentin undertook with the greatest cheerfulness
and readiness, and that, mind you, for a man who turned out to be
Scotland Yard personified—who, but for his inane jealousy of the French
police and his desire to effect our capture single-handed, would have
been the means of casting five highly strung English gentlemen, and one
excitable American, into lifelong chains; and who, on the very morning
after his interview with us (as he afterwards confessed to me), was
actually at Whitehall concerting plans with the authorities there how
best to catch us _in flagrante delicto_!

How, on the contrary, we caught _him_, and had him deported to the
southernmost point of Greece, forms one of my choicest memories, and
will now soon be related at sufficient length.



                              CHAPTER XII

   MONTE CARLO—MR. VAN GINKEL’S YACHT _SARATOGA_—WE PROSPECT—
     FORTUNATE DISCOVERY OF THE POINT OF ATTACK—FIRST VISIT TO THE
     ROOMS


IT was a brilliant January day, mild and sunny, when Mr. Brentin,
Parsons, and I were standing in the old bastion on the point of Monaco,
straining our gaze for a glimpse of the _Amaranth_. In front stretched
the flickering, shifting pavement of the Mediterranean, of a deep,
smooth sapphire, ruffled here and there, as the nap of a hat brushed the
wrong way. Nothing to be seen on it but the one loose white sail of a
yacht drifting out of harbor past the point.

We had strolled up the long ramp from the Condamine and through the
gateway leading to the old bastions, chiefly to see whether they were
provided with guns; we were relieved to find they were not—mere
peaceable flower-walks, in fact, and already blossoming with geranium.

From the unfinished cathedral behind us in the old town, crushed and
huddled together like a Yorkshire fishing village, came the rolling
throb of the heavy mid-day bell; up from the harbor far below, the smart
bugle-call of a French corvette. Little figures in white ran about the
deck, and the tricolor fluttered from the peak. Close alongside her lay
an American yacht, the _Saratoga_, belonging to Mr. Van Ginkel, a former
friend of Mr. Brentin’s. Both the vessels caused us a considerable
amount of uneasiness; the corvette carried guns, the _Saratoga_ was
noted for her speed. It was quite uncertain how long they might continue
to grace the harbor. One could easily blow us out of the water; the
other could just as easily give us an hour’s start, take fifty men on
board, pursue, overhaul, and bring us back, flushed though in other
respects we might be with victory.

We had already been three days in Monte Carlo, and so far there had been
no sign of their departure. “If the worst comes,” said Mr. Brentin, “we
must take Van Ginkel into our confidence and indooce him to take a trip
over to San Remo on the night of our attempt. The mischief is, I am so
little of his acquaintance now I hesitate to ask so great a favor.”

“What sort of man is he?” I asked.

“Well, sir, we were classmates at Harvard in ’60. Since then, though
full of good-will, we have scarcely met. I understand, however, he has
some stomach trouble, and is ay considerable invalid.”

“Married?”

“Di-vorced. Mrs. Van Ginkel is now the Princess Danleno, of Rome, a
widow of large wealth. She owns the Villa Camellia at Cannes, and is
over here constantly, in the season, they tell me. She plays heavily on
a highly ingenious and complicated system of her own, which costs her
about as much as the _Saratoga_ costs her former husband.”

We had taken up our abode at the “Hôtel Monopôle”—a hotel recommended
to us by Mr. Bailey Thompson, by-the-way, for purposes of his own. It is
a quiet little house, up the hill, and not far from the “Victoria”;
there we had safely arrived three days before—Parsons, Brentin, Bob
Hines, and I. Forsyth, Masters, my sister Mrs. Rivers, and Miss Rybot
had embarked in the _Amaranth_ from Portsmouth a few days before we left
London, and were now about due at Monte Carlo. My brother-in-law, the
publisher, had made no difficulty to my sister’s joining the expedition,
as to the true object of which he of course knew nothing; in fact, he
was delighted she could get a holiday on the Riviera so cheaply. It was
understood she was not to play, and not to spend more than £10 _en
route_. I heard afterwards that Paternoster Row simply ran with his
brag. “I’m a bachelor just at present. My wife’s yachting in the
Mediterranean with some rich Americans. Very hospitable people; they
wanted me to come, but really, just now—” etc., etc.

We had spent our first three days, not unprofitably, in prospecting the
place. We reached Monte Carlo in the afternoon, and at once drove up to
the hotel. Almost the first thing we saw was a large board over a little
house on the hillside, close by the Crédit Lyonnais, with “_Avances sur
bijoux_” on it.

Brentin chuckled. “Well, gentlemen,” he said, “we sha’n’t play the game
quite so low down as that, eh? It will be either neck or nothing with
us.”

It was five o’clock before we started to go down to the Casino. We set
out in solemn silence, down the steep and glaring white road, past the
“Victoria” and the chemist’s. At the head of the gaudy, painted gardens,
that look like the supreme effort of a _modiste_, we came in full view
of the rooms. There we paused, choked, the most sensitive of us, by our
emotions.

In front there was a long strip of gay flower-beds and white pebble
paths, flanked by rows of California palms. To my excited fancy they
were the planted feather brooms of _valets-de-place_—moral
_valets-de-place_ who had set out to sweep the place clean but had never
had the courage to go further. To the right of us were the hotels—the
“St. James’s” and the “De Paris”; to the left, the Casino gardens again,
and the shallow pools where the frogs croak so dolorously at nightfall.
They are, I believe (for I am a Pythagorean), the souls of ruined
gamblers, still croaking out their _quatre premier_, their _dix-quinze_,
their _douze dernier_.

“Peace, batrachians!” I cried to them one evening, in the exalted mood
that now became common to me. “Be still, hoarse souls! push no more
shadowy stakes upon a board of shadows with your webbed fingers. We are
here to avenge ye!”

Then we went on down to the front of the rooms. There, unable to find a
seat, we leaned against a lamp-post and gloated on the fantastic
building that held our future possessions. On our left was the Café de
Paris, overflowing with _consommateurs_ at little tables under the
awning; from the swirling whirlpool of noise made by the Hungarian band
issued a maimed but recognizable English comic air. The sun was just
setting in a matchless sky of Eton blue; the breeze had dropped, and the
dingy Monaco flag over the Casino hung inert.

“Soldiers!” whispered Teddy, giving me a frightened nudge.

They were, apparently, a couple of officers of the prince’s army,
strolling round, smoking cheap cigars; they carried no side arms, and
were of no particular physique. “Besides,” I said, “they are not allowed
to enter the rooms. Don’t be so nervous, Teddy.”

“Let us go down on to the terrace,” murmured Brentin, “and view the
place from the back. We must see how close we can get the yacht up!”

So we went to the right, past the jingling omnibus crawling up from the
Condamine, down the steps, and on to the terrace facing the sea. We
passed the firemen Bailey Thompson told us we should find there, five or
six of them; one at every twenty paces, in uniform, with an odd sort of
gymnastic belt on. They were stationed at the back, too, and clearly
formed a complete protection against any possible bomb-throwing.

“There are too many of those men,” observed Brentin, irritably. “We
shall have to do something to draw them off on our great night or
they’ll get in the way.”

Then we went and looked over the balustrade of the terrace. Below us ran
the railway from Monaco; on the other side of the line, connected by an
iron bridge with the Casino terrace, was the pigeon-shooting club-house
and grounds. They formed a sort of bastion, jutting out into the sea;
the pale, wintry grass was still marked with the traps of last year.

“_That_ won’t do!” Brentin said, decisively, after a few moments’
survey. “The run’s too far over that bridge and down across the grass.
Besides, we should want rope ladders before we could get down the wall.
Come, gentlemen, let us try this way.”

We went to the extreme right of the terrace, and there, miraculously
enough, we found at once the very thing we wanted. Mr. Brentin merely
pointed at it in silence, keeping his attitude till we had all grasped
the situation. It was a rickety gate at the head of an evidently unused
flight of steps, leading down on to the railway line below. Beside it
stood a weather-worn board with “_Défense d’entrée au public_” on it. It
looked singularly out of place amid all that smart newness; but there it
was, the very thing we were in search of.

The railway below ran six or eight feet above the sea, without any
protecting parapet to speak of. Just at the angle where the
pigeon-shooting ground jutted out there was a sort of broken space,
where, for some reason (perhaps to allow the employés to descend), rocks
were piled up from the shore. A boat could be there in waiting; the
yacht could lie thirty yards off; if we had designed the place
ourselves, we couldn’t have done it better.

Mr. Brentin slowly pointed a fateful finger down the steps, across the
line, to the corner where the shore lay so close and handy.

“Do you observe it, gentlemen?” he whispered, awe-struck—“do you take
it all in? There is no tide in the Mediterranean; the edge of the sea
will always be there. Even if the night turns out as black as velvet we
could find the boat there blindfold.”

It was a solemn moment, broken only by the jingle of omnibus bells. I
felt like Wolfe when he first spied the broken path that led up the
cliff face from the St. Lawrence to the Heights of Abraham.

By accident or design, Brentin gave Teddy Parsons’s white Homburg hat a
tilt with his elbow; it tumbled off down the face of the terrace and
fell out of sight on to the line.

“There’s your chance, Teddy,” I said. “Run down the steps and fetch your
hat. You can see if there’s another gate at the bottom where that bunch
of cactus is.”

Teddy came back breathless. “There’s no sort of obstruction,” he gasped.
“It’s a clear run all the way. Only we shall have to be careful, if the
night’s dark; some of the steps are broken.” Poor Teddy, how prophetic!

We entered the rooms for the first time after dinner.

Readers who have been to Monte Carlo will remember that, before going
into the hall, there is a room on the left, where half a dozen men sit
writing cards of admission and drawing up lists of visitors. They make
no trouble about it, they simply ask you your hotel and
nationality—_Anglish, hein?_—and hand you over a pink card, good only
for one day. Then you go to the right and leave your stick. Neither
stick nor umbrella are allowed in the rooms. “Another point in our
favor,” as I whispered to Brentin.

Facing is the large hall; up and down stroll gamblers, come out for a
breath of air or the whiff of a cigarette. Any one may use it, or the
concert-room on the right, or the reading-rooms above, without a ticket;
the ticket is needed only for the gambling. You can even cash a check or
discount a bill there; for clerks are in attendance from the different
banking-houses, within and without the principality, who will attend to
your wants as a loser or take charge of your winnings.

On the left, heavy doors are constantly swinging. You can hear, if you
listen, as they swing, the faint, enticing clink of the five-franc
pieces within.

“Oh, my friends,” murmured Brentin, as we moved towards them, “support
me!”

He presented his pink card with a low bow to the two men guarding the
entrance; we followed, and the next minute were palpitating in the
stifling atmosphere of the last of the European public infernos.



                              CHAPTER XIII

   MRS. WINGHAM AND TEDDY PARSONS—HE FOOLISHLY CONFIDES IN HER—I
     MAKE A SIMILAR MISTAKE


NOW there was staying at our hotel, among other quiet people, a quiet
old lady, whom, from her accent and the way she occasionally stumbled
over an h, I took to be the widow of a well-to-do tradesman, a suburban
_bon marché_, or stores. She played regularly every afternoon till
dinner-time, dressed in black, with a veil down just below the tip of
her nose, and worn black kid gloves, staking mostly on the _pair_ or
_impair_ at roulette; and every evening she sat in the hotel over a bit
of wood-fire, reading either _Le Petit Niçois_ or an odd volume of
_Sartor Resartus_, which, with some ancient torn _Graphics_, formed the
library of the “Monopôle.” Her name I discovered afterwards to be Mrs.
Wingham.

It was only the third evening after our arrival that, going into the
reading-room to write my daily loving letter to Lucy, there I found Mrs.
Wingham and Teddy Parsons seated each side of the fire, talking away as
confidentially as if they had known each other all their lives. Bob
Hines, who had taken to gambling and couldn’t be kept away from the
rooms, and Brentin had gone down to the Casino.

Few things I know more difficult than to write a letter and at the same
time listen to a conversation, and I soon found myself writing down
scraps of Teddy’s inflated talk, working it, in spite of myself, into my
letter to Lucy—talk all the more inflated as I had come into the room
quietly at his back, and he didn’t know I was there.

He was telling the old lady all about his father, the colonel, and how
he had fought through the Crimea without a scratch. Yes, he was in the
army himself—at least, the auxiliary portion of it: the second line. He
lived most of the year at Southport, when he wasn’t out with his
regiment, or hunting and shooting with friends, and always came up to
London for the Derby and stayed in Duke Street. He was very fond of a
bit of racing, and, in fact, owned some race horses—or, rather, “a
chaser”—

“A what, sir?” asked the old woman, who was listening to him with her
mouth open.

“A chaser—a steeple-chaser, don’t you know—‘Tenderloin,’ which was
entered for the Grand National, and would be sure to be heavily backed.”

No, he didn’t care much about gambling; a man didn’t get a fair run for
his money at Monte Carlo, the bank reserved too many odds in their own
favor; to say nothing, as I knew, of his being kept very short of
pocket-money by the colonel. And then he was actually fool enough to
say, with a self-satisfied laugh, that he’d a notion the right way to
treat the bank was to raid it.

“Raid it, sir?” cried the old woman.

“Yes, certainly, raid it; go into the rooms with a pistol and shout
‘Hands up, everybody!’ and carry off all the money on board a yacht, and
be off, full speed.” Did Mrs. Wingham know if it had ever been tried?

From that to confiding our whole plan would have been only one step; but
just at that moment in came Mrs. Sellars and Miss Marter, the only two
other English ladies in the hotel, and Teddy and Mrs. Wingham fell to
talking in whispers.

Mrs. Sellars, who was a stout, comfortable-looking person, with a large
nose, a high color, and an expansive figure, generally attired in a
blouse and a green velveteen skirt, was given to walking up and down the
reading-room, moaning in theatrical agony over the disquieting news from
South Africa. If she didn’t get a letter from her husband in the
morning, she didn’t know what she should do; it was weeks since she had
heard from him; something told her he was dead—and so on. Every
distressed turn she took brought her nearer the ramshackle piano; so at
last Miss Marter, mainly to stop her (for old maids don’t take much
interest in other women’s husbands, alive or dead), with some asperity
remarked, “Sing us something, dear; it will calm you.”

Then she came to me and said, excitedly, “_Do_ you mind if I bring down
my little dog? I always ask, as people sometimes object. It is the
dearest little dog, and always sits in my lap.”

Teddy gave a violent start when he heard me answer, and knew he was
detected. He got up, and, pretending to hum, immediately left the room.
I didn’t like to follow at once, as I felt inclined; it would look as
though Mrs. Sellars’s threatened singing drove me away. But the moment
she finished I meant to go and give the wind-bag a good blowing-up, and
meantime went on with my letter.

Mrs. Sellars hooted “’Tis I!” and “In the Gloaming,” and was beginning
“Twickenham Ferry” when she broke down over the accompaniment, rose, and
came to the fire. Miss Marter was sitting one side of it, stroking her
torpid little terrier, and Mrs. Wingham (who was focussing _Sartor
Resartus_ through her glasses) on the other.

“Thank you, dear,” said Miss Marter. “I hope you feel calmer.”

“I shall never be calmer,” Mrs. Sellars moaned, “till George is home
again at my side.”

“Well, dear,” Miss Marter maliciously replied, looking down her long
nose, “you know you insisted on his going.”

So I left the two ladies to squabble as to who was mainly responsible
for George’s being in South Africa in such ticklish times, and went in
search of Teddy.

He was neither in the _fumoir_ nor his bedroom, so down I went to the
rooms.

There I found Bob Hines punting on the middle dozen and the last six at
roulette, with a pile of five-franc pieces before him.

“Those your winnings?” I whispered; to which he gave the not over-polite
reply, “How can you be such a fool?”

So I knew he was losing, and went off in search of Brentin.

I found him in an excited circle watching a common-looking Englishman at
the _trente-et-quarante_ tables, who with great coolness was staking the
maximum of twelve thousand francs, two at a time, one on _couleur_ and
one on black. In front of him the notes were piled so high that, being a
little man, he had to press them down with his elbows before he could
use his rake. Sometimes he won one bundle of notes, neatly pinned
together and representing the maximum; sometimes both, as _couleur_ and
black turned out alike. Rarely he lost both. Others were staking, but
mostly only paltry louis, or the broad, shining five-louis pieces one
only sees at Monte Carlo. There was the usual church-like silence,
broken only by the dry, sharp tones of the croupier’s harsh voice, “_Le
jeu est fait!_” and then, sharper still, “_Rien ne va plus!_”

Once the tension was broken by a titter of laughter, as a withered
little Italian with a frightened air threw a five-franc piece down on
the board and the croupier pushed it back. The poor devil apparently
didn’t know that gold only may be staked at _trente-et-quarante_.

I plucked Brentin by the sleeve and drew him to a side seat against the
wall. “I hope that gentleman may be staking here this day week,” he
chuckled. “Notes are easy to carry, and I myself have seen him win sixty
thousand francs.”

When he heard about Teddy he was furious. It was all I could do to
prevent him from going off at once to the hotel and insisting on his
leaving Monte Carlo by the next train.

“I allow,” he said, “I was precipitate with Bailey Thompson, but at
least we drew something out of him in the way of information. But to
confide in a blathering old woman, who has nothing to do but eat and
talk—”

I went back to the hotel, only to find Teddy’s bedroom door locked, and
to have my knocking greeted with a loud, sham snore. Mrs. Wingham I
found still in the reading-room, alone, still focussing _Sartor
Resartus_ with her shocked and puzzled expression.

“Your friend has just gone up to bed,” she remarked, “if you are looking
for him.”

I thanked her, and, sitting the other side of the fire, proceeded to
draw her out. She soon told me Teddy was so like a nephew of hers she
had recently lost she had felt obliged to speak to him. She noticed him
at once, she said, the first evening at dinner, and felt drawn to him
immediately. What a fine, manly young feller he was, and how full of
sperrit.

Yes, I said, he was, and often had very ingenious ideas—for instance,
that notion of his to raid the tables I had overheard him discussing
with her. But, then, there was all the difference in the world between
having an idea and the carrying it out, wasn’t there? Merely as a matter
of curiosity, what did she think of the notion—she, who doubtless knew
the place so well?

The artful old woman—Bailey Thompson’s sister, if you please, and spy,
as it afterwards turned out; hence his recommending us the “Monopôle,”
so that she might keep an eye on us and report—the artful old woman
looked puzzled, as though she were trying to remember what it was Teddy
had said on the subject. Then she began to laugh. “Oh, I didn’t think
much of that. Why, look at all the people there are about! Why, you’d
need a ridgiment!”

Now, will it be believed that I, who had just been so righteously
indignant with Parsons for his talkative folly, did myself (feeling
uncommonly piqued at her scornful tone) immediately set out to prove to
her the thing was perfectly possible, and then and there explain in
detail how it could all be successfully done, and with how small a
force. I did, indeed, so true as I am sitting writing here now, in our
flat in Victoria Street.

Mrs. Wingham listened to me attentively, laughing to herself and saying,
“Dear! dear! so it might!” as she rubbed her knuckled old hands between
her black silk knees. When I had done, I felt so vexed with myself I
could have bitten my tongue out.

I rose, however, and, observing, “Of course, it is an idea and nothing
else, and never will be realized,” bade her good-night and left the
room, feeling uncommonly weak and foolish. She murmured, “Oh, of
course!” as I closed the noisy glass door behind me and went up-stairs
to bed.

A few minutes later, remembering I had left my book on the table where I
had been writing to Lucy, I went down-stairs again to fetch it. Mrs.
Wingham was still there, sitting at the table writing a letter. The
envelope, already written, was lying close by my book, and I couldn’t
help reading it.

It was positively addressed to “Jas. B. Thompson, Esq., 3 Aldrich Road
Villas, Brixton Rise, S. E. London.”

I felt so faint I could scarcely get out of the room again and up the
stairs.

But such is our insane confidence, where we ourselves and our own doings
are concerned—such, at any rate, was mine in my lucky star—that I
really felt no difficulty in persuading myself the whole thing was
merely a coincidence, and that the writing of the letter had nothing
whatever to do with either my or Teddy Parsons’s divulgations; more
especially as the Bailey, on which Thompson evidently piqued himself,
was omitted.

And I determined to say nothing about it to Brentin, partly because I
didn’t care about being blackguarded by an American, and partly because
I felt convinced it was all an accident, and nothing would come of it.
Nor, in my generosity, did I do more to Teddy Parsons than temperately
point out the folly he had been guilty of, and beg him to be more
careful in future, which he very cheerfully promised, and for which
magnanimity of mine he was, as I meant he should be, really uncommonly
grateful.



                              CHAPTER XIV

   ARRIVAL OF THE _AMARANTH_—ALL WELL ON BOARD—THEIR FIRST
     EXPERIENCE OF THE ROOMS


THE next afternoon, soon after four, the _Amaranth_ arrived in harbor.

Bob Hines was gambling, as usual, but Brentin, Teddy, and I went down to
the Condamine to meet them. Teddy and Brentin had had their row out in
the morning, to which I had listened in silence—with the indulgent air
of a man who doesn’t want to add to the unpleasantness—and now were
pretty good friends again. It was clearly understood, however, that no
new acquaintances were to be made, male or female, and that henceforth
any one of us seen talking to a stranger was immediately to be sent
home.

I fear the party from the _Amaranth_ did not have a very good impression
of Monte Carlo to begin with, for they landed in the Condamine, just
where the town drain-pipes lie, and came ashore, each of them, with a
handkerchief to the nose.

“So this is the Riviera!” snuffled my good sister. “I understood it was
embosomed in flowers.”

They all looked very brown and well, and seemed in high spirits.

As for the yacht, she had behaved splendidly all through, and the
conduct and polite attentions of Captain Evans and the crew had been
above all praise. The only difficulty had been to explain away the shell
and the three cannon; for which Forsyth had found the ingenious excuse
that they were wanted for the Riff pirates, in case we determined to
voyage along the African coast, where they are said to abound and will
sometimes attack a yacht.

We all strolled up the hill together, and, such were their spirits,
nothing would content the new arrivals but an immediate visit to the
rooms. Miss Rybot, especially, was as cheerful as a blackbird in April;
she had come there to gamble, she said, and gamble she would at once.
She and Masters were evidently on the best of terms, and even the
captious Brentin was pleased with what people who write books call her
“infectious gayety.”

“You have your own little schemes,” she cried, “and I have mine. I am
going to win fifty pounds to pay my debts with, and then I am going
home, whether you have finished or not. And if I haven’t finished, you
will all have to leave me here.”

They were soon provided with their pink admission-cards (ours had that
morning, after the usual pretended scrutiny and demur, been exchanged
for white monthly ones), and, after leaving their cloaks, passed through
the swing-doors into the rooms.

It was just that impressive hour—the only one, I think, at Monte
Carlo—when the Casino footmen, in their ill-fitting liveries, zigzagged
with faded braid, bring in the yellow oil-lamps with hanging green
shades, and sling them from the long brass chains over the tables. The
rest of the rooms lie in twilight, before the electric light is turned
up. Dim figures sweep noiselessly as spectres over the dull-shining
parquet floor, and, like a spear, I have seen the last long ray of
southern sunshine strike in and touch the ghastly hollow cheek of some
old woman fingering her coins, lifeless and mechanical as Charon
fingering his passage-money for the dead; but, just over the tables, the
yellow light from the lamp falls brilliant, yet softly, brightly
illuminating the gamblers’ hands and some few of their faces, throwing
the white numbers on the rich green cloth as strongly into relief as
though newly sewn on there of tape.

“_Faites votre jeu, messieurs!_” croaks the croupier, in his dry,
toneless voice.

With deft fingers he spins the active, rattling little ball.

“_Le jeu est fait!_”

The white ball begins to tire, drops out of its circuit.

“_Rien ne va plus!_”

A few seconds of leaping indecision and restlessness, before the ball
falls finally into a number and remains there, while the board still
spins.

“_Trente-six!—Rouge, pair et manque!_”

The croupiers’ rakes are busy, pulling in the money lost; the money won
is thrown with dull, heavy thuds and clinks on to the table. In a few
moments it is begun all over again.

“_Faites votre jeu, messieurs!_”

“So this is Monte Carlo!” whispered my sister, in the proper, hushed
tones, as though asking me for something to put in the collection. “My
one objection is, no one looks in the least haggard or anxious. I
understood I should see such terrible faces, and they all look as bored
as people at an ordinary London dinner-party. Take me round.”

Brentin came with us, and we visited each of the busy roulette-tables in
turn. Monte Carlo was very full, and round some of the tables the crowd
was so deep it was impossible to get near enough to look, much less to
play. But between the tables there were large vacant spaces of
dull-shining, greasy parquet; the tables looked like populous places on
the map, and the flooring like open country. Here and there stood the
footmen, straight out of an old Adelphi melodrama; some of them carried
trays and glasses of water, and some gave you cards to mark the winning
numbers and the colors.

“It is not quite so splendid and gay as I imagined,” my sister observed.
“In fact, it’s all rather dim and dingy. Do you know it reminds me of
the Pavilion at Brighton more than anything else. And how common some of
the people are! Isn’t that your friend, Mr. Hines?”

Bob Hines was sitting in rather a melancholy heap, with a pile of
five-franc pieces in front of him, and a card on which he was morosely
writing the numbers as they came up.

“Let’s ask him how he’s doing?”

“Never speak to a gambler,” I whispered; “it’s considered unlucky.”

“Judging from his expression, he will be glad to get something back in
your raid! And why seat himself between those two terrible old women?”

“They look,” Brentin murmured, “like representations of friend Zola’s
the fat and the lean. Sakes alive! they’d make the fortune of a dime
museum. Those women are freaks, ma’am, freaks.”

Hines was sitting between two ladies; one, with a petulant face of old
childishness, was enormously stout. Her eyebrows were densely blackened,
her pendulous cheeks as dusty with powder as the Mentone road. She was
gorgeously overdressed; her broad bosom, fluid as of arrested molten
tallow, was hung with colored jewels, like a _bambino_. With huge gloved
hands and arms she was wielding a rake, whereof poor Bob had
occasionally the end in his face. Beside her, on the green cloth, lay a
withered bunch of roses, dead of her large, cruel grasp. At her back
stood her husband, a German Jew financier, who couldn’t keep his
pince-nez on. Continually he smoothed his thin hair and tried to get her
away, grumbling and moving from leg to leg; for hours he would stand
behind her chair, supplying her with money, for she nearly always lost.
Occasionally she grabbed other people’s stakes, or they grabbed hers.
Then she was sublime in her horrible ill-humor; half rising, with her
great arms resting on the table, she shouted at the croupiers to be
paid, in harsh, rattling, fish-fag tones. The sunken corners of her
small mouth were drawn upward; the deep-set eyes worked in dull fury;
you saw short, white teeth that once had smiled in a pretty Watteau
face. Now the body was old and torpid and swollen; but the rabbit
intelligence was still undeveloped, except in the direction of its
rapacity.

Poor Bob Hines! He was indeed badly placed! On his other side sat a
lath-and-plaster widow in the extensive mourning of a Jay’s
advertisement. Her face was yellow and damaged as a broken old fresco at
Florence; thin, oblong, brittle, only the semi-circular, blackened
eyebrows seemed alive. The dyed, pallid hair looked dead as a Lowther
Arcade doll’s; dead were her teeth, her long, thin, griffin hands with
curved nails. Decomposition, even by an emotion, was somehow palpably
arrested; perhaps she was frozen by the bitter chill of fatal zero.
Horrible, old, crape-swathed mummy, one would have said she had lost
even her husband at play. Who could ever have been found to love her? At
whom had she ever smiled? at what had she ever laughed or wept? Bride of
Frankenstein’s monster, she worked her muck-rake with the small, dry,
galvanized gestures of an Edison invention. Poor Bob Hines! It sickened
me to think these women, and others perhaps worse, were of the same
sisterhood with Lucy. What a day when we should sweep them all out
before us, as the fresh autumn wind sweeps the withered leaves across
the walks of Kensington Gardens!

“So this is Monte Carlo!” murmured my sister again. “It stifles me! Take
me out to the Café de Paris and give me some tea.”

As she took my arm and we went down the steps, “Easier place, however,
to raid,” she remarked, “I never saw. As for the morality of it, I was a
little doubtful at first, but now—”



                               CHAPTER XV

   INFLUENCE OF CLIMATE ON ADVENTURE—UNEXPECTED ARRIVAL OF LUCY—HER
     REVELATIONS—DANGER AHEAD


SO a few days passed, and, pleasantly idle though it all was, it began
to be time for us to think seriously of our purport in being at Monte
Carlo at all. Our party had very easily fallen into the ways of the
place, and appeared to be enjoying themselves, each in their own
fashion, amazingly.

“Here’s Teddy’s got a bicycle,” as I said to Brentin, “and is always
over at Mentone with friends. Bob Hines does nothing but gamble, and is
scarcely ever with us, even at meal-times. He lives on sandwiches and
hot _grog Américaine_ at the Café de Paris. Forsyth struts about in
fancy suits, making eyes at the ladies, and Masters is all day at the
back of Miss Rybot’s chair, supplying her with fresh funds and taking
charge of her winnings.”

“_C’est magnifique_,” yawned Brentin, “_mais ce n’est pas la guerre_.”

“It’s worse,” I said; “it’s Capua, simply, and must be put a stop to.”

“I know if I were here a fortnight longer,” yawned my sister, “with
nothing to do, I should desert my husband and child and be off into
Italy along the Corniche with white mice.”

“Turn pifferari; exactly,” said Brentin. “Therefore, sir, we must move
in this business, and the sooner the better, or the golden opportunity
will slip by us, never to return. And that’s all there is to it. We will
summon a council of war this evening on board the _Amaranth_ and fix the
day finally.”

“Well, all I ask is,” said my sister, “that in case of failure Miss
Rybot and I are afforded every opportunity of escape. I don’t want to
give those Medworth Square people the chance of coming and crowing over
me in a French prison. Besides, it wouldn’t do Frank’s business any
good, if I were caught.”

“Why, just think what a book you could make of it,” I murmured—“_Penal
Servitude for Life; by a Lady_. Rivers would make his fortune.”

What would have been, after all, the end of our adventure, whether the
sunshine might not have softened us into finally abandoning the
enterprise altogether—to my lasting shame and grief!—I cannot take
upon myself to say. All I know for certain is, that if our hands had not
been, in a measure, forced—if circumstances had not made it rather more
dangerous for us to go back than to go on—our party would at any rate
have needed an amount of whipping into line which would as likely as not
have driven them into restive retirement, instead of the somewhat
alarmed advance which was ultimately forced on us and turned out so
entirely successful.

And as it is my particular pride to think I owe the undertaking, in the
first place, to my love for Lucy, so it is my joy to reflect how the
final carrying of it out was due to her affection for me, that drove her
to journey—quite unused to foreign parts as she was—right across
Europe, alone, and give me timely warning of the dastardly scheme on
foot for our capture and ruin.

It was the very afternoon following the morning of our brief
conversation on the terrace that I went back early to the hotel, with
some natural feelings of depression and irritation at the growing
callous inertia of our party.

I was going up to my room, when from the reading-room I heard the sound
of the piano. I stopped in some amazement, for there was being played an
air I never heard any one but Lucy play. It was an old Venetian piece of
church music (by Gordigiani, if I remember right), and I had never heard
it anywhere but at “The French Horn,” on the rather damaged old cottage
piano in the little room behind the bar.

I stole down-stairs again, and, my heart beating, opened the glass door
noiselessly.

It was Lucy! and the next moment, with a little scream, she was in my
arms. I took her to the sofa; for some moments she was so agitated she
couldn’t speak, nor could I, believing, indeed, it was a ghost, till I
felt the soft pressure of her arms and the warmth of her cheek as her
head lay on my shoulder, while she trembled and sobbed.

“Don’t be frightened,” I murmured. “It’s really I. Now, don’t cry; be
calm and tell me all about it. We are both safe; we love each other.
Nothing else in the world matters.”

At last, in broken tones and at first with many tears, she told me the
whole story. I listened as though I were in a dream, and my bones
stiffened with anger and apprehension.

The gist of it was briefly this: that one day Mr. Crage had come down to
“The French Horn” and had an interview with her father in the
bar-parlor. He had come to put an end to Mr. Thatcher’s tenancy, a
yearly one, and turn him out of the inn, unless, as he suggested,
exactly like a villain on the stage, Lucy would, for her father’s sake,
engage to marry him, in which case he might remain, and at a reduced
rent. Thatcher, who, after all, is a gentleman, declared the idea
preposterous, more particularly as his daughter was already engaged,
with his full consent and approbation.

“Oh, ah!” snarled Crage—“to that young cockney who was down here at
Christmas. Suppose you call her in, however, and let her speak for
herself.”

Whereupon Lucy was sent for and told of Crage’s iniquitous proposal, of
which Thatcher very properly urged her not to think, but to refuse there
and then.

“Oh, ah!” Crage had grinned. “The young cockney has enough for you all
and won’t grudge it, I dare say. He’s gone to Monte Carlo, ain’t he?”

Yes, said Lucy, Mr. Blacker had, and had promised her not to gamble.

“Gamble or not,” sneered Crage, “I know what he is up to. The police are
already on his track. Why, I shouldn’t be the least surprised to hear
he’s already in their hands, and condemned to penal servitude for life.”

On hearing that, poor Lucy said she thought she should have dropped on
the floor, like water. But she has the courage of her race, and, telling
the old man in so many words he was mad, turned to leave the room.

Now, it’s an odd thing that the old wretch, though he never minded being
called a liar, never could bear any reflection on his sanity—it was the
fusty remains, I suppose, of his old professional Clement’s Inn pride;
so he lost his temper at once, and with many shrieks and gesticulations
told them the whole story.

That—as I have written—Bailey Thompson was a detective, frequently in
the “Victoria” smoking-room in the course of his duty; and that Brentin
had actually confided in him—as we know—all that we were going to do,
that he was an old friend of Crage’s, dating from the Clement’s Inn
days, and on Christmas night had divulged the whole scheme just as he
had received it from us, telling him with much glee, being a season of
jollity and good-will, how he was going to follow us to Monte Carlo and
make every disposition to catch us in the act. Crage added that Bailey
Thompson had rather doubted at first whether we weren’t humbugging him;
but having since heard from his sister, Mrs. Wingham, that she believed
we were really in earnest, was already somewhere on his way out to
superintend our capture in person.

“I didn’t know what to do,” cried Lucy, piteously; “I could only laugh
in his face and tell him he was the victim of a practical joke.”

“Practical joke!” Crage had screamed; “you wait till they’re all in
prison; perhaps they’ll call that a practical joke, too. Now, look here,
Thatcher, you’re a sensible man; you break off this engagement before
the scandal overtakes you all, and I’ll treat you and your daughter
handsomely. You shall stay on in the inn, or not, just as you please,
and the day we’re married I’ll settle Wharton on dear Lucy here. I
sha’n’t live so very much longer, I dare say,” he whined—“I’m
eighty-two next month—and then she can marry the young cockney, if she
wants to, when he’s done his time. Don’t decide now; send me up a note
in the course of the next few days. Hang it! I won’t be hard on you;
I’ll give you both a fortnight.”

And with that and no more the wicked old man had stumped out of the bar
parlor.

Lucy’s mind was soon made up. Notwithstanding her father’s
expostulations, she had determined to come after me and learn the truth
for herself; and as he couldn’t come with her, to come alone. She hadn’t
written, for fear of my telegraphing she was not to start. And here she
was, to be told the truth, to be reassured, to be made happy once more;
if possible, to take me home with her.

“Oh, it’s not true, Vincent, dearest!” she murmured. “It’s all a fable,
isn’t it? You’re not even dreaming of doing anything so dangerous and
foolish?”

Now, deep and true as is my affection for Lucy, I should have been quite
unworthy of her if I had allowed myself to be turned from so deeply
matured and worthy a purpose as ours merely by her tears.

The more I had seen of Monte Carlo, the more sincerely was I convinced
of its worthlessness, and the dignity of a serious effort to put a stop
to it. For it is simply, as I have written, a _cocotte’s_ paradise and
nothing more; and if, by any effort of mine, I could close it, I felt I
should be rendering a service to humanity only second to Wilberforce and
the Slave Trade. What a glorious moment if only I could live to see a
large board stuck out of the Casino windows with _À Vendre_ on it, to
say nothing of the boards taken in from outside the London hospitals and
the closed wards in working order again, full of sufferers!

So I calmed dear Lucy and told her how glad I was to see her; that above
all things she must trust me and believe what I was doing and going to
do was for the best and would turn out not unworthy of nor unserviceable
to her in the long-run; more especially, if only it were, as we had
every reason to believe it would be, successful.

After some further talk, she promised to say no more and to trust me
entirely, both now and always, begging me only to assure her I was not
angry, and that what she had done in coming was really for my benefit
and welfare. I told her truly she had rendered me the greatest possible
service, and that I loved her if possible more deeply for this new proof
of her devotion than before. Then I telegraphed to her father of her
safety, got her something to eat, and sent her off early to bed after
her long journey (she had come second-class, poor child, and had stopped
once at least at every station, and twice at some), and at nine o’clock
we went down to the Condamine to go on board the _Amaranth_ for our
council of war.

On the way down I told Brentin the reason of Lucy’s sudden visit, and
the new danger from Bailey Thompson, who by this time was clearly on his
way after us, if indeed he hadn’t already arrived. At the same time, I
candidly confessed to my indiscretion with Mrs. Wingham, and the letter
I had seen her writing to her brother. We found no difficulty in
agreeing we both had behaved like arrant fools, and might very fairly be
pictured as standing on the romantic, but uncomfortable, edge of a
precipice.

“But we must go on, sir,” said Brentin, with decision. “It will never do
to back out now, after coming so far and spending so much money. We must
never allow this shallow detective trash to frighten us; we must meet
him in a friendly spirit, and find some means to dump him where he may
be both remote and harmless. The Balearic Isles, for choice.”

“What about the band of brothers?” I asked. “How will they regard these
fresh revelations?”

“That’s the difficulty,” replied Brentin, thoughtfully. “We must
exercise care, sir, or they’ll be scattering off home like Virginia
wheat-ears.”



                              CHAPTER XVI

   COUNCIL OF WAR—CAPTAIN EVANS’S DECISION—I GO TO THE ROOMS AND
     CONFIDE IN MY SISTER


WHEN the band of brothers in the saloon on board the _Amaranth_ heard
all, or rather so much as we thought fit delicately to tell them, they
turned—collectively and individually—pale.

“Then there’s an end of it,” chattered Teddy. “It was a fool’s journey
from the beginning, and the sooner we all go home again the better.”

“The sooner you go, sir,” retorted Brentin, “the easier we shall all
breathe. Is there any other palpitating gentleman desires to climb
down?”

“One moment, first,” said Hines; “before we decide to break up, can’t we
consider whether there may not be a way of either stopping your friend
Bailey Thompson _en route_, or at least rendering him powerless when he
arrives? The fact is,” he diffidently continued, “I have lost a good
deal of money here, and don’t altogether care about leaving it without
an effort of some kind to get it back, to say nothing of the lark of the
thing, which I take it has been one of its chief recommendations from
the first.”

To say nothing, too, of the fact—as I knew—that before leaving
Folkestone he had sent out a circular to the parents of his boys to
announce the addition of a swimming-bath and a gymnasium to his
establishment, the non-erection of which would surely cause him to look
more foolish than a schoolmaster cares about. And what would the boys
say who had cheered him loudly at the end of last term, when, in a neat
speech, he had announced his generous intention?

“Spoken like ay white man!” cried Brentin. “Why, whoever supposed that
in an enterprise of this magnitude there would not arise danger and
difficulties? They are only just beginning, gentlemen; if any of you,
therefore, still desire to shirk, he has only to say the word.
Conveyance to the shore is immediately at his service; he can this
moment go and pack his grip and be way off home. We shall be well rid of
him.”

There was a pause, and then Forsyth said:

“Aren’t you going, Parsons?”

Teddy lighted a cigarette nervously and replied:

“Well, dash it all, let’s hear what’s proposed first.”

“No, sir!” shouted Brentin, thumping the table. “You go or you stay, one
or the other; we will have no ha-alf measures. The time for them has
elapsed.”

“Very well,” stammered the unhappy Parsons, “if you are all going to
stay, of course I must stay too. I thought the affair was all over,
that’s why I spoke. I wasn’t thinking, you know, of deserting my pals.”

“Bravo!” cried Hines, sardonically. “You ain’t exactly a hero, Parsons,
but I dare say you’ll do very well.”

“There is just one thing I should like to point out,” Arthur Masters
observed, “before we go any further. The affair is assuming a somewhat
grave aspect, and it is of course possible that, in spite of all
precautions, we may, after all, be captured, either on shore or, later,
on board the yacht.”

“Hear! Hear!” Teddy murmured.

“Now, is it fair to get Captain Evans and the crew into difficulties
without letting them know what we are going to do, and giving them the
chance of refusing to join us first?”

“Well, sir,” objected Brentin, “we always meant to tell him, but not
until the last moment, when we should have claimed their assistance, if
only in removing the boodle. You see, gentlemen, the British sailor is a
fine fellow, but he is apt to tank-up and get full—full as ay goat,
gentlemen—and in that condition he is confiding. Now we have
unfortunately been confiding when dry, but the British sailor—”

“We must risk that,” Masters replied. “And, after all, once they are
told and have consented, they can be refused permission to go on shore
again before we start.”

“Well,” said Forsyth, “why not have Captain Evans in and tell him now;
then he can use his discretion as to telling the crew at all till the
last moment, or selecting the most trustworthy and sober of them for his
confidence at once.”

So we decided to send for Captain Evans before going any further.

When he stepped into the saloon, smart and sailor-like, peaked cap in
hand, Brentin begged him to be seated, and gave him one of his longest
and blackest cigars.

Then, “Captain Evans,” he said, “we have sent for you so that in case of
this affair of ours going wrong you may not have any cause of complaint
against us.”

“Aye, aye, sir!” said the captain, “and what affair may that be?”

He listened with the deepest attention and in complete silence while our
scheme was unfolded.

“Well, gentlemen,” he said, when Brentin had finished, “I will be
perfectly frank with you. Your scheme is your own, and you know best how
far it is likely to fail or to succeed. But if it fails and we are all
caught, I shall never be able to persuade the authorities I was an
innocent party, and there will be an end to any future employment. I
have a wife and a fine little boy to think of, gentlemen; how am I going
to support them?”

“Your objection is perfectly fair, captain,” said Brentin. “My answer to
it is, that if you get into trouble, I will personally undertake to make
you an allowance of £150 per annum for the period dooring which you
remain out of a berth. In the case of success, and the boodle being
considerable, you must trust us to make you such a present or _solatium_
as shall in my opinion repay you for any risks you may have run. How
will that do?”

“That will do, gentlemen, thank you,” the captain replied. “And what
about the crew?”

“We shall be glad if you will select six of the most elegant of your
men, whose assistance will be needed in the rooms on the night. Clothes
will be provided for them, and their duties will be explained in good
time. As for the others, if they are to be told, they must not be
allowed on shore. To-day is Wednesday; we propose to start Friday. Till
Friday they must be confined on board.”

“With the exception of the cook, gentlemen,” urged the captain. “He has
to go on shore marketing.”

“Then don’t tell the cook. Now, do we understand each other?”

“Aye, aye, sir!”

“One question, captain,” said Brentin, as he rose. “The French corvette
has left the harbor, I understand?”

“Yes, sir, she sailed to Villefranche yesterday.”

“And the _Saratoga_, what of her?”

“She’s away over at San Remo, sir, and returns some time to-night or
to-morrow.”

“Thank you, Captain Evans; that will do. Good-evening.”

“My friends,” he said, as the captain closed the door, “this is going to
cost a lot of money; let us hope we shall all come out right side up.”

“And now, what about Bailey Thompson?” Bob Hines asked.

“Our plan is obvious,” Brentin replied. “I must board the _Saratoga_
first thing in the morning, reintrodooce myself to Van Ginkel, confide
in him and beg him to take Thompson on board for us, and be off with him
kindly down the coast. East or west, he can dump him where he pleases,
so long as he does dump him somewhere and leave him there like dirt. How
does that strike you, gentlemen?”

“If only he can be got to go!” I answered; “and Mrs. Wingham? You must
remember it was he who advised us to go to the Monopôle, no doubt giving
the old lady instructions to keep an eye on us and report.”

“Well,” said Brentin, “Mr. Parsons here is her friend. He must manage to
let her know we don’t start operations till Saturday. That will put her
off the scent. And now, gentlemen, let us discuss details and
positions.”

I left them to their discussion and went on shore to find my sister and
Miss Rybot, who were at the rooms. My sister knew nothing whatever about
Lucy—still less of her being at Monte Carlo. I had to make a clean
breast of it all, and get her to take Lucy on board the yacht in the
morning, so as to be out of Bailey Thompson’s way.

I found them without much difficulty, full as the rooms were. Miss Rybot
was seated, playing roulette, rather unsuccessfully, if I might judge
from her ill-humored expression. Facing her, standing staring at her
pathetically, with a soft hat crushed under his arm, was a tall, blond,
sentimental-looking young German.

“Tell that man to go away, please,” she said to me, crossly. “He’s been
standing there staring at me the last half-hour, and he brings me bad
luck. Tell him I hate the sight of him. Tell him to go away at once.”

I explained that I was scarcely sufficient master of German for all
that.

“Keep my place, please,” she said, imperiously, and went round to the
young man, who received her with a fascinating smile.

“_Vous comprenez le Français?_” I heard her say to him, folding her arms
and looking him resolutely full in the face.

“_Oui, mademoiselle._”

“_Alors, allez-vous-en, sivooplay_,” she went on; “_je n’aime pas qu’un
homme me regarde comme ça. Vous me portez de la guigne. Allez-vous-en,
ou j’appelle les valets. C’est inouï! Allez-vous-en! Vous avez une de
ces figures qui porte de la guigne toujours. Entendez-vous? toujours!_”

With that, entirely unconcerned, she resumed her seat, while the young
German, who had hitherto been under the impression he had made a
conquest, strolled off somewhat alarmed to another table.

My sister I found in the farther rooms watching the
_trente-et-quarante_. “Hullo, Vincent!” she said. “Council over? Dear
me, I wish I hadn’t promised Frank not to play; my fingers are simply
tingling. However, I’ve been playing in imagination and lost 40,000
francs, so perhaps it’s just as well.”

I drew her to a side seat and soon told her all about Lucy and her
arrival, softening down the Bailey Thompson part for fear of alarming
her unduly; giving other reasons for the dear girl’s sudden descent on
us, all more or less true.

My good sister was as sympathetic as usual, only she entreated me to be
sure I was really serious and in earnest this time.

“You know, Vincent,” she said, “you have so often come moaning to me
about young ladies, and I have so often asked them to tea and taken them
to dances for you, and nothing whatever has come of it.”

“But that hasn’t been my fault,” I answered. “I have simply got tired of
them, that’s all. This time I am really in earnest.”

“So you always were!” she laughed, “up to a certain point. Why, you’re a
sort of a young lady-taster.”

“Well,” I replied, “how are you to know what sort of cheese you like
unless you taste several?”

“Rather hard on the cheese, isn’t it? The process of tasting is apt to
leave a mark.”

“Oh, not in the hands of an adroit and respectable cheesemonger’s
assistant.”

“Vincent,” said my sister, severely, “don’t be cynical, or I’ll do
nothing.”

All the same, she knew what I said was true. Men would, I believe,
always be faithful if only they could feel there was anything really to
be faithful to. But they meet an angel at an evening party, and then,
when they go to call, they find the angel fled and the most ordinary
young person in her place; one scarcely capable of inspiring a
school-boy in the fifth form to the mediocre height of the most ordinary
verse-power.

But with Lucy! Sympathetic readers don’t, I am sure, look for
protestations from me where she’s concerned. At least, not now.

The end of our talk was, it was arranged between us Lucy should go on
board the _Amaranth_ in the morning and there remain.

And the next morning there she was comfortably installed, and already
looking forward to the Friday evening, when she was told we were going
to make a move out of harbor, and probably go home by way of the Italian
coast, and possibly by rail from Venice.

Everything else was kept from her carefully, which is, I think, the
worst of an adventure of this kind; one is driven to subterfuge even
with those one loves best.



                              CHAPTER XVII

   ENTER MR. BAILEY THOMPSON—VAN GINKEL STANDS BY US—WE SHOW
     THOMPSON ROUND AND EXPLAIN DETAILS—TEDDY PARSONS’S ALARM


THE Bailey Thompson problem confronted us _in propriâ personâ_ that very
same afternoon, the Thursday, at about half-past four, when, as we were
some of us sitting outside the Café de Paris at tea, I saw him strolling
round the central flower-beds in front of the rooms. He wore one of the
new soft straw hats, a black frock-coat, tan shoes, and the invariable
dog-skin gloves, and over his arm he carried a plaid shawl. In short, he
looked like what he was, Scotland Yard _en voyage_.

I pointed him out to Brentin, who immediately jumped up, crossed the
road, and greeted him with effusion. Then he brought him over and
introduced him to our party, among whom, luckily enough, was seated Mr.
Van Ginkel.

Now I don’t want to say anything uncivil in print about a gentleman who
rendered us later a service so undeniable, and, indeed, priceless; but I
cannot help observing that Van Ginkel, on the whole, was one of the
dreariest personalities I ever came in touch with.

He was about Brentin’s age, fifty-four or so, but he appeared years
older; his hair and beard were almost white, and his face was so lined,
the flesh appeared folded, almost like linen. He had some digestive
troubles that kept him to a milk diet, and he would sit in entire
silence looking straight ahead of him, searching, as it were, for the
point of time when he should be able to eat meat once more.

Brentin had boarded the _Saratoga_ early that morning on its return, and
given a full account of our scheme and its difficulties. Van Ginkel had
listened in complete silence; and when Brentin had told him of Bailey
Thompson, and our earnest desire to get him out of the way, ending by
asking him to be so friendly as to take him on board and keep him there
till we had finished, Van Ginkel had just remarked, “Why, certainly!”
and relapsed into silence again.

“He has very much altered,” Brentin had whispered, after presenting me;
when Van Ginkel shook me by the hand, said “Mr. Vincent Blacker,” in the
American manner, and was further entirely dumb. “He was the liveliest
freshman of my class and the terror of the Boston young ladies,
especially when he was full. As, of course, you know from his name, he
is one of the oldest families of Noo York State.”

“Yes,” I replied, “and he looks it.”

Bailey Thompson sat with us for some little time outside the “Café de
Paris,” and made himself uncommonly agreeable, according to his Scotland
Yard lights. He told us, the hypocrite, he usually came to Monte Carlo
at this time of the year, and usually stayed at the “Monte Carlo Hotel,”
just where the road begins to descend to the Condamine, once Madame
Blanc’s villa.

Where were we? Oh! some of us were at the “Monopôle” and some on board
the yacht. Really? Why, the “Monopôle” was the hotel he had recommended
us, wasn’t it? He hoped we found it fairly quiet and comfortable, and
not too dear, did the arch-hypocrite!

When my sister rose to go back to the rooms and look after Miss Rybot,
Van Ginkel roused himself to ask her to lunch with him the next day,
Friday, on board the _Saratoga_, and go for a sail afterwards to
Bordighera. He managed the affair like an artist, for he didn’t
immediately include Bailey Thompson in the invitation, as though he knew
too little of him just for the present. It was not till later, as we
strolled down to the Condamine—he, Thompson, Brentin, and I—that he
asked us to come on board the yacht and see over it, and not till
finally as we were leaving that (as though reminding himself he must not
be impolite) he begged the detective to be of the party, if he had no
other engagement of the kind.

Thompson—simple soul!—was enchanted to accept, and, as we went back on
shore in the boat, went off into raptures at the beauty of the yacht and
the politeness of the owner in asking him on so short an acquaintance.

As we three strolled up the hill, Brentin, with the most natural air of
trust, at once launched out on the subject of our plan.

“Well, here we are, sir, you see,” he said; “everything is in train. We
approach the hour.”

“Here am I, too,” smiled the cool little man. “I told you I should most
likely be over.”

“We are real glad to see you.”

“And you really mean it, now you’re on the spot and can measure some of
the difficulties for yourselves?”

“So much so that we have decided for Saturday night,” was Brentin’s
light and untruthful reply. “We have observed the rooms are at their
fullest then.”

“Where are the rest of your party—the other gentlemen I saw at ‘The
French Horn?’”

“Mr. Hines is gambling, having unfortunately developed tastes in that
direction. Mr. Masters is in attendance on a lady friend—”

“The ladies of your party know nothing of your intentions, I presume?”
said Thompson.

“Nothing, sir; nothing. For them it is a mere party of pleasure all the
time. Then Mr. Forsyth is playing that fool-game, tennis, with his late
colonel, behind the “Hôtel de Paris,” and Mr. Parsons is somewhere way
off on the Mentone Road, choking himself with dust on ay loaned
bicycle.”

“That’s the six of you. But now you have seen everything, do you really
think six will be enough?”

“Sir,” said Brentin, “six stalwarts of our crew have been confided in.
They will be furnished with linen bags to collect the boodle, directly
the tables are cleared of the croupiers and gamblers by us; in fact,
acting on your kind hint, longshore suits have been provided them in
which they have already rehearsed.”

“Not in the rooms?”

“Sir, they were there mid-day just before you came, and their behavior
was as scroopulous as the late Lord Nelson’s.”

“Was there any difficulty made about their cards?”

“Why, none whatever. They went in in pairs, and each told a different
lie: one pair were staying at the ‘Metropôle,’ another at the ‘de
Paris,’ and another at the ‘S. James.’ They were well coached and they
are brainy fellows. They were informed they must behave like ornaments
of high-toned society, and not expectorate on the floor; and they
paraded in couples, ejaculating _Haw, demmy!_”

“Really!” murmured Bailey Thompson, “these people deserve to be raided.
And that is your yacht, I suppose, lying off there—the _Amaranth_,
isn’t it?”

“That is the _Amaranth_, sir. At 9.30 to-morrow—I should say
Saturday!—_Saturday_ night, she will have orders to get as close up to
the shore as quickly as she can. If you will step this way, sir, down on
to the terrace here, we will have pleasure in showing you the spot
marked out by Nature and Providence for our retreat.”

When we showed him the board with _défense d’entrée au public_ on it,
the steps leading down on to the railway line, the broken piece of
embankment, so few feet above the shore, Bailey Thompson gave a low
whistle.

“Lord! how simple it is,” he murmured. “Now you’d think people would
take better care than that of property of such enormous value, wouldn’t
you?”

“Sir,” said Mr. Brentin, with magisterial emphasis, “in the simplicity
of the idea lies its grandeur. It is significant of poor human nature to
make difficulties for themselves; they neglect what lies at their feet,
ready to be carted away for the trouble. Everybody has heard of the man
who stood on your London Bridge offering sovereigns for a penny apiece,
and doing no trade in them; while we all know the Boer children played
for years with large diamonds, believing them to be white pebbles. Sir,
it’s the same thing here precisely, and that’s all there is to it.”

“I need hardly say, of course, that here there’s a good deal of risk,”
said Thompson. “You have naturally all of you thought well over that?”

“We have thought well over everything. If you care to attend the rooms
on Saturday—_Saturday_ night—at about ten, you will see for yourself
how complete in every respect our thought has been. And you will be
amused, I fancy, at the little scene you will witness, in which I will
undertake, Mr. Bailey Thompson, you shall be neither hurt nor hustled,”
added Mr. Brentin, considerately.

As we strolled back with Thompson to his hotel, I could, having some
sort of gift that way, see quite well what was passing in his mind.

After all, he said to himself, he was an English detective; why should
he interfere to protect a French company who couldn’t look after
themselves? Why, too, should he spoil gentlemen’s sport? They didn’t
want the money for themselves; they wanted it (as we had always been
careful to explain) for hospitals and good works generally. It wasn’t as
if we were vulgar cracksmen, long firm swindlers, gentry he had been
brought up to struggle with and defeat all his life. Hang it all! we
were gentlemen and had treated him well, quite as one of ourselves. We
had been frank and above-board, and had told him everything from the
first.

I could see it was on the tip of his tongue to blurt out: “Mr. Brentin
and Mr. Blacker! you have been quite frank with me, and, at any cost, I
will be quite frank with you. I am a detective from Scotland Yard, and
unless you promise me to give up this scheme of yours—which, as Heaven
shall judge me, will, I believe, be successful!—it will be my
unpleasant duty to warn the police here and have you all arrested.”

But there lay the difficulty, eh? We could scarcely be arrested for an
idea, without overt act of any kind. Wouldn’t it be a complete answer if
we declared the whole thing a practical joke, and turned the tables by
laughing at him for being so simple as to believe it? No, if we were to
be successfully caught, we must be caught in the act, that was clear.

And then I felt the detective was too strong in him: the desire for the
reward, the fame of such a capture; his professional pride, in short,
bulked too large before him to be ignored.

No! he said to himself, if we would go on with it, why we must take the
consequences. For his part, he would go to the Principality police, arm
a couple of dozen of them, and have them ready in the rooms. It would be
a simple matter, for hadn’t we always told him our revolvers would not
be loaded?

When, after a long silence, he ended by shrugging his shoulders, I was
as well aware of his resolve as though he had spoken it out loud.

We left him at the door of his hotel, undertaking to meet him in the
rooms at nine and show him every detail of our plan, so that we might
have the benefit of his final advice on any possible weak points.

“There is, of course, the chance,” I observed to Brentin, “of his going
off at once to the police, and getting them to be present on Friday
night as well, _ex majori cautelâ_.”

“Oh, he won’t do that! We’ve told him no lies at present.”

“None at any rate that he has discovered.”

“The same thing!—and if we say Saturday, he probably believes we mean
it. He won’t go to the police till the very last moment; he wouldn’t go
then if only there were any way of managing the business by himself.”

“And our ultimate arrest, now that he knows us all?”

“Why, sir, that will be the affair of the authorities here; that is, of
course, the chief risk we have now to run. My own notion, however,
always has been that, if only for fear of advertising our success too
widely, and suggesting the scheme to others, the Casino Company will put
up with their loss, just as though we had legitimately won the boodle at
play.”

“Let us hope so!” I said, and parted from him with a warm grasp of the
hand.

Then I went down to the Condamine, and signalled for the _Amaranth_
boat. We had left Lucy on board all day, for fear of her running up
against Bailey Thompson on shore, and so arousing his suspicions by her
presence. As for old Crage’s finding means to let him know what, in a
fit of temper, he had blurted out, that I didn’t think altogether
likely; in the first place, he would probably be afraid; and in the
second, he would believe Lucy had by this time warned us and the whole
affair was off. So I spent a very happy hour with dear Lucy on board,
finding her sewing in a very bewitching tea-gown of my sister’s, and,
going back to the hotel, discovered Teddy outside in a considerable
state of alarm and excitement. He had just seen Thompson leaving the
hotel, parting from Mrs. Wingham at the door.

“Oh, Vincent!” he cried, “it’s not too late; we’d better hook it, we had
really!”—and other terrified absurdities—the fact being, no doubt,
that Thompson had merely come up to see the old lady and find out from
her whether she knew if Saturday really was the day, or if we were by
any chance trying to put him off the scent.

I calmed Teddy with the assurance all was going on perfectly well, and
that he had only to keep calm to do himself and his militia training
full justice.

“Hang it all!” I said to him, “you are as nearly as possible a British
officer; do, for goodness’ sake, try and behave like one.”

But he never did, from first to last; and for that, painful as it is, I
feel myself obliged publicly to censure him here, in print.



                             CHAPTER XVIII

                        EXIT MR. BAILEY THOMPSON


FRIDAY dawned, blue and auspicious, and soon after twelve Brentin and I
called at his hotel to conduct the luckless Thompson on board the
_Saratoga_. We had matured our little plan, and as we went down the hill
to the Condamine we began to put it in motion.

In this wise. Brentin suddenly pulled up short, saying: “Sakes alive! I
have forgotten to telegraph to the hotel at Venice to secure our rooms.
Mr. Blacker, will you conduct our friend to the boat, and I will join
you?”

I went on with Thompson to the boat lying ready for us, and there we
waited. Then at the top of the hill appeared Brentin, as per
arrangement, outside the telegraph office, making weird signals with his
arms.

“What on earth is he doing?” I innocently asked.

“He apparently wants you,” replied the unsuspicious Thompson; “perhaps
he has forgotten the name of the hotel.”

“Oh, Lord!” I ejaculated, “and I shall have to go all the way back up
that horrible hill. Don’t you wait for me, please. If you don’t mind
just going on board and sending the boat back, we shall be ready, and by
that time Parsons and Hines will have joined us. We are a little too
early as it is.”

“The others come from the _Amaranth_, I presume?”

“Yes; there’s the boat”—for we had arranged they should at any rate
start, and not turn back till they had seen the detective decoyed below
deck on board the _Saratoga_.

“_Au revoir!_” I cried, and without turning, up the hill I hastened,
only too delighted and relieved to hear the boat put off and the soft
plash of the oars behind me.

I never turned till I got to the telegraph office, and then Brentin and
I stood there and watched with breathless interest. Brentin had glasses
with him, and at once turned them on the _Saratoga_.

“Van Ginkel receives him,” he chuckled, “with stately, old-fashioned
courtesy. Thompson explains how it is he is alone, and that the boat is
to go back for us. Van Ginkel insists on taking his plaid shawl, and
entreats him to come below out of the sun. He leads the way, and they go
to the head of the saloon companion-ladder, engaged in affable
conversation and friendly rivalry for the shawl. They disappear. Bravo!
The _Amaranth_ boat turns back. The _Saratoga_ men rapidly haul their
own boat on board. The anchor is apparently already weighed. Animated
figures cross and recross the deck. Orders are rapidly given—she’s off!
By Heaven, sir, she’s off!”

A long pause, while the shapely _Saratoga_ begins to leave the harbor
and head for the open sea. She crosses the bows of the _Amaranth_, where
the rest of our company are standing, with Captain Evans and his crew,
waiting and watching.

“Ah, ha!” roared Brentin, suddenly. “Thompson’s head reappears, without
his hat. He looks round him, scared. He hurries to the captain, who is
walking the bridge, his hands behind him, his eye watchful. He speaks to
the captain. He shouts, he beats the bridge, he foams at the mouth. The
captain pays him no heed—no heed, sir, whatever. He even casually steps
on his fingers. Ha! he rushes to the man at the wheel. He gesticulates,
he yells, he attempts to seize the wheel. Steady, Scotland Yard! You
should know better than that. Bravo! The man at the wheel kicks a long
leg out at him and shouts to the captain. The captain gives sharp,
decisive orders. Bravo! Well done! Bailey Thompson is seized by a couple
of Long Tom Coffins and hurried away. They hurry him, struggling
violently, to the head of the companion-ladder. Down with him,
gentlemen! Down with him, among the dead men! Bravo!”

Bailey Thompson’s struggle and discomfiture were watched by our friends
on the _Amaranth_ with interest at least as keen as ours. As the
_Saratoga_ fell away across their bows, and Thompson disappeared down
the companion-ladder, Captain Evans takes off his cap and leads his
brave fellows to a cheer. They cheer vociferously and derisively, the
ladies wave their handkerchiefs.

“Exit Mr. Bailey Thompson!” cried Brentin, and taking off his hat he
gave a loud “Hurray!” much to the astonishment of the man outside the
telegraph office, who stands there with a tray of colored pince-nez for
sale, as a protection against the Monte Carlo glare of white roads and
blue sparkling sea.

Just then up came Parsons and Hines.

“Well, is it all right? Has he gone? Have they got him?”

“Look for yourselves, gentlemen!” he cried, handing them the glass.
“Search earth and sky for vestiges of Mr. Bailey Thompson, of Scotland
Yard and Brixton. You will not find him. He has passed out of our ken.
He’s on his way to Majorca, Minorca, Ivaca, and the Balearic Isles
generally. For purposes of any active mischief he is as dead and
harmless as the dodo.”

“For the present—only for the present!” muttered Teddy, who was in his
usual pallid condition.

“And now,” said Brentin, with satisfaction, putting away his glasses,
“rebellion being dead, let us go back to the ‘Monopôle,’ enjoy our
breakfast, and pay our bill. Then we pack up and get our things on board
the yacht. Fortune smiles on us, gentlemen,” he added, “as ever on the
bold. Nothing, so far, could be better!”

From the terrace of the “Monopôle” we took a last look over the sea
before going in to breakfast. There was the _Saratoga_, rapidly growing
diminutive as she bustled far away out to sea to the right. Exit Mr.
Bailey Thompson, indeed!

Mrs. Wingham’s place, between Mrs. Sellars and Miss Marter, was empty.
They told Teddy the old lady had breakfasted early, and was down at the
rooms for a long afternoon’s play.

And Mr. Parsons was leaving? How sorry they were—how much they would
miss him! Certainly they would say good-bye to Mrs. Wingham for him. Oh,
we were all going to Bordighera in a friend’s yacht, and should most
probably not return. Well, good-bye. _Bon voyage!_

“Now she’ll think,” said the sagacious Teddy, as he joined us, “the
whole affair’s off, notwithstanding my telling her it was fixed for
Saturday. She’ll fancy we’ve got frightened, or been warned, and have
bolted. Good business!”



                              CHAPTER XIX

   THE GREAT NIGHT—DINNER AT THE “HÔTEL DE PARIS”—A LAST LOOK ROUND
     —THE SACK AND ITS INCIDENTS—FLIGHT


BY five o’clock of that same afternoon—Friday, January 17th—we and our
luggage were all safe on board the _Amaranth_.

Our luggage stowed away and our cabin arrangements made (rather a tight
fit we found it), I took Lucy on shore to show her round, or give her a
walk rather, as it was nearly dark; for now that Bailey Thompson was
well out at sea, there was no danger of her being met and recognized.
For the night, our plan of action briefly was, that at a quarter to
eight we were all to dine together at the “Hôtel de Paris,” the ladies
afterwards to return on board the yacht. At ten we gentlemen, with the
six sailors, were to be in the rooms; at half-past, precisely, the start
was to be made.

At ten-twenty the boats, two of them, were to leave the yacht and be
ready at the spot I have indicated. They were not to start a minute
earlier, for fear of exciting suspicions among any of the firemen or
police who might be about on the terrace. For them, on Brentin’s
suggestion, we had arranged a small pyrotechnic display—what he called
“fire-crackers”—on the terrace not far from the band-stand. Parsons had
purchased a “Devil among the Tailors” over at Mentone, and Jarvis, one
of the sailors—the same, by-the-way, who had first accosted us on the
pier at Ryde—was to light it one minute before the half-hour. We
calculated it would explode and draw the firemen away, just about the
time when they would otherwise be in demand to stop us in our rush down
the terrace steps, and through the rickety gate on to the railway line.

Our dinner at the “Hôtel de Paris” was a very expensive and merry one.
It was lucky, by-the-way, as it turned out, that I ate and drank a good
deal more than usual, for it was almost four-and-twenty hours before I
got anything approaching a proper meal again; through that idiot Teddy
Parsons’ fault, as presently will plainly enough appear.

Soon after half-past nine we sent the ladies off in a carriage down to
the Condamine to go on board the yacht. It was a solemn moment, for it
was quite on the cards I might never see any of them again, and one was
my sweetheart and one my sister. Indeed, so affected was I, that I bent
into the carriage and kissed Miss Rybot by mistake, which made everybody
but Arthur Masters laugh. I knew I had made the mistake directly my lips
touched her cheek, for hers was hard and cold as an apple off wet grass,
whereas dear Lucy’s was ever soft and warm as a sunny peach.

Then they drove away, laughing and kissing their hands; Lucy
particularly merry, for she still knew nothing of what we were almost
immediately going to do, and was quite gay at the thought of leaving
Monte Carlo so soon—to which unhallowed spot, as most good and
sensitive women, she had taken the supremest dislike.

We gentlemen sat a little time smoking, in somewhat perturbed silence,
and just before ten we had a glass of old brandy each, paid our bill,
and left. The others went on into the rooms, while Brentin and I walked
down on to the terrace to have a last look at the gate, and see it was
still open; or, rather, would open to a slight push.

The night was singularly mild, dark, and heavy; the terrace absolutely
deserted. There was not a star in the dense, low sky; they all seemed
fallen on shore, outlining the Condamine and heights of Monaco in the
many regular pin-pricks of the gas-lamps. From the “Café de Paris” came
the swirl of the Hungarian band; from the Casino concert-room, the high
notes of Madame Eames singing in the new opera; from the Condamine, the
jingle of the omnibus bells. Not another sound of life from earth or
heaven; but mainly the persistent jangle of those omnibus bells, as
though sadly shaken by some dyspeptic Folly. The Mediterranean, as ever,
was absolutely still.

I could have stayed there a long time, but—

“Come!” whispered Brentin, and taking my arm, walked me back up the
steps towards the rooms. As we passed the end of the concert-room, I
noticed that up against the outside balconies, at the back of the stage,
ladders were reared, so that, in case of fire, the artistes might have
some other chance of escape than the dubious one of fighting their way
through the _salle_. I found myself fitfully wondering whether those
ladders would be used.

“Come!” whispered Brentin, again, feeling, I dare say, the alarm in my
elbow. “Courage!”

For I do not mind confessing here in print that, as the hour approached,
I began to feel frightened at the audacity of what we were going to do,
and, if only I could—consistently with my honor—would willingly have
withdrawn; nay, to put it plainly, turned tail and bolted. My revolver,
loaded with blank cartridge only, in the pocket of my smoking-jacket
beat remindfully against my hip as I walked up the Casino steps. Even
now as I write, months after the occurrence, the tremor of that hour
seizes me and my hand shakes so I can scarcely guide the pen.

Another moment, and we had walked through the hall, and passed the
swing-doors into the stifling gambling-rooms.

It is extremely unlikely I ever visit Monte Carlo again; indeed, my
conduct, on this the last occasion I entered the rooms, rather precludes
me from ever even making the attempt; but if ever I do, they will never
make the same impression on me as they did that warm January evening
when Brentin and I strolled into them arm in arm.

Every incident of that memorable evening, every face I then saw, is
photographed into my memory, still remains there distinct and indelible.
The rooms, either because of the attraction of a new opera or because
the night was so warm, were somewhat empty. The crowds were only round
the table, and the parquet flooring between looked more than usually
vacant and dull.

Dimmer they looked, too, and more than ever badly lit; and the air
seemed even heavier charged with gamblers’ exasperation.

Now, in some slight particulars, we had modified our original plan. We
had long given over all attempt to turn the light out, for one thing,
since we had never been able to discover where the mains were; probably
somewhere well out of sight, down below among the vaults, which also we
had decided not to attempt. Nor did we intend to do anything towards
securing the gamblers’ valuables, as at one time we had projected. It
was very like vulgar robbery, to begin with, and next, as Thompson had
pointed out, it would take too much time.

Directly we got inside, Brentin looked up at the clock over the door and
set his watch by it; then we strolled off to find the rest, and, showing
each of them the watch, saw that each had the precise time. Our six
sailors were wandering about genteelly in pairs; to each Brentin
whispered, “Got your bag all right?” and each nodded a reply. Each had a
linen bag buttoned inside his short, respectable reefer jacket. One who,
I fear, was not quite sober, a man named Barker, took his bag out with a
stupid laugh to show us; whereupon his companion (Frank Joyce, from
Sandown, in the Isle of Wight, who had him by the arm) said, “Now then,
Barker, don’t be a fool, it ain’t time yet.”

It was then between the ten minutes and the quarter past ten.

When we had visited the rooms with Bailey Thompson the night before, and
explained our plan in detail on the spot, we had, by his advice, and
very wisely, reversed it. Previously, we had designed to begin at the
first, the _roulette_ tables, and drive the people gradually before us
into the last room, towards the _trente-et-quarante_; but that, as he
pointed out, would force us to work with our backs to the exit and bring
us between two fires as it were; whereas, if we began in the farthest
rooms and cleared the _trente-et-quarante_ tables first, we should have
our faces to the doors, and, by driving everybody before us, secure the
further advantage of increasing the confusion that would arise from the
people rushing in to see what was wrong and meeting the people rushing
out. And through that surging, terrified mass we ought to have no
difficulty in forcing a passage, if only we kept our unloaded revolvers
up to the mark and frowned unflinchingly.

As for masking ourselves, which we had also at first designed, Thompson
was strongly against it; it would all take time, and might only obscure
our vision; for, as he truly pointed out, that sort of thing scarcely
ever fits properly.... I gave a nervous glance at my watch, and found it
nearly ten-twenty.

I was standing just by the last _roulette_ table, and saw one or two
little things that, as I have said, are still distinctly photographed in
my memory. There were two young men standing behind me, and one said,
“I’ll just chuck a louis on the table and see where it will fall.” It
fell on the number eighteen, and eighteen actually turned up! He laughed
excitedly as the croupier pushed him thirty-five times his stake.
“That’s not bad for my one gentle little louis, eh?” he giggled.

Opposite, a brown-faced English yachtsman, over from Mentone, was
steadily backing the colors with notes of five hundred francs. He was
always right; he changed from side to side, and always hit the right red
or black. He was watched by two common Englishmen, with long upper lips
and ridiculous pantaloon beards, dressed in shiny broadcloth. “That
feller’s won another twenty-pound,” said one of them, gaping. “We must
bring Louisa in to see this.”

Now it was past the ten-twenty, and I moved off into the
_trente-et-quarante_ rooms.

Every one who has been to Monte Carlo knows that the four
_trente-et-quarante_ tables are in the two end rooms, two in each.

In the right-hand room were to be stationed Brentin, Parsons, and I,
with three of the sailors; in the left, Forsyth, Masters, and Hines,
with the other three. Brentin was to give the signal in our
room—“_Levez les mains!_”—and Hines in the other, while the immediate
discharge of the “Devil among the Tailors” outside on the terrace would,
we hoped, increase the confusion and alarm within. It was rather awkward
that we were forced to go to work a little out of sight of each other;
for, though there is an opening between the rooms, we meant to begin
well at the back, and the opening did not so far reach as to bring us in
sight of each other.

It was close on the twenty-five minutes past ten, and so alarmed was I
at the difficulties which, now we were actually on the spot ready to
overcome them, loomed so desperately large, that I would willingly have
sacrificed half my income to be allowed to leave without even making the
attempt.

On one side of me was Brentin; on the other a very pretty, smart young
Englishwoman, standing with a purse in her hand, watching the run on
black. As in a dream, I noticed all the details of her dress, the white
facings of her dark jacket on the cuffs and pockets, the piquant spots
on her veil. Quietly, as though she were paying for a pair of gloves,
she staked all the gold she had left, about twenty pounds, and lost
that. She searched her purse, found it quite empty, snapped it
leisurely, and sauntered away. Brentin whispered me he had seen her
stake roll after roll of notes, and lose them all. Beautifully dressed,
with a hanging, jewelled little watch and many neat gold bracelets, I
had often seen her strolling about the gardens, neither speaking to nor
looking at any one; now I found myself stupidly wondering who she was,
even envying her, notwithstanding her totally cleaned-out condition.

The relentless minutes stole on. I looked piteously at Brentin, glaring
with resolution straight in front of him, his hand in his pocket
fingering his revolver; at Parsons, white as this paper, his legs
bending under him.

Piteously I looked at the table in front of me; at the croupiers, with
their cropped black heads and emotionless faces; at the _chef_ sitting
above them, his bored, round back towards me; at the delicately pretty,
demure Italian, olive-skinned and colorless, leaning her arm, in its
long white glove, over the back of his chair; at the young Frenchman
staking his thousand-franc notes, his forehead and eyes twitching with
excitement, or some nervous complaint; at the gaunt English girl—

_Bang!_ from the terrace outside. _Bang! bang!_

I gave a jump like a terrified horse. It was the “Devil among the
Tailors,” set off a minute or two too soon by our friend and accomplice,
the sailor.

The confusion and alarm it caused was nothing compared to what followed.
I had just time to see the Italian lady’s frightened profile, as she
turned and put her white glove up to her smooth cheek, when the bold
Brentin gave a hoarse shout—“_Levez les mains!_”—and produced the
revolver. Then, indeed, a panic set in! comparable, I imagine, to
nothing but the sudden striking of a ship.

At first a dead pause, and then immediately a rushing to and fro, as of
rats in a pit, the haggard looking in each other’s fallen, discomposed
faces. And then the noise! the overthrow of chairs and the dragging of
them along the parquet floor, caught in screaming women’s dresses as
they scudded away like sea-shore birds, bent low, with their hands up to
their ears, while the shouting, swearing, groaning men clutched at their
money, and tried to thrust it in their pockets, as they leaped and
huddled themselves away, the louis falling and tinkling on the floor.

I saw before me a hideous, moving frieze of terror, of distorted
faces—Russian, French, German, Italian, English, American, Greek—all
reduced to the same monotony of look under the overmastering influence
of the same passion—abject fear. The English were no better than the
rest; they were a little quicker in getting away, perhaps, and that was
all. The confusion of tongues was as complete as though, on the Tower of
Babel, some one had screamed the foundations were giving way, and all
must save themselves as best they could.

As in a battle the soldier knows only incidents, the faces he sees as
frightened or determined as his own, the eyes peering into his through
smoke he mostly himself seems to make; so, out of this action—so famous
and yet so little known—can I only report the events that met me in my
narrow section of the struggle, a section drawn almost in parallel
straight lines from the point I started at to the point of exit at the
farther end of the rooms.

First it was the _chef_, on his high chair facing me, who fell over
backwards, ridiculous enough at such a time of tragic import. One of the
croupiers, in jumping horrified to his feet, gave him a tilt and over he
went. He was a youngish man, with round, fat, clean-shaven cheeks, and a
small, bristling, black mustache. His arms and legs waved and kicked
like an impaled insect; his mouth opened with a stupendous screaming
oath, and as he fell—strange how at all times one notices details!—I
saw he wore half-shoes and blue socks.

In another minute we were at the vacant table, the _chef_ crawling away
under a sofa-seat against the wall, and two of our gallant sailors were
stuffing the notes and coins into their linen bags. The second table was
equally deserted, and there the not-quite-sober sailor, Barker, with
empty, delighted laughter, was already scratching the notes out of the
metal stand they are always kept in. Suddenly I saw he nearly fell; some
one under the table had him by the leg. He clutched the _chef’s_ empty
high chair, and, with a mighty oath and mighty random kick, released
himself.

“Hurry up, men! hurry up!” chanted Brentin, as we moved forward
irresistibly over the bare floor.

_Bang!_ suddenly went Teddy’s revolver off, in his nervousness, close to
my ear. It was a mistake, but not altogether a disastrous one; it showed
we were in earnest, and soon cleared some of the people away from the
space between the roulette rooms and the _trente-et-quarante_. Like a
wave that breaks against the shore and then returns, so these broken
people, spent against the struggling mass round the swing-doors, had
gushed back again and almost reached the point they started from.

From the room on the left, where Hines and his party were at work, I
suddenly heard Arthur Masters shout, “Look out, Forsyth!” At what, I
know not; I just gave a look in their direction, and their room seemed
as vacant of opposition as ours.

“Forward!” cried Brentin. “Hurry up! hurry up!”

The sailors, with their bags, fell behind us, and forward we three
charged. As we came through the sort of ante-chamber dividing the rooms,
there, through the other door, at the same moment, came Hines, Forsyth,
and Masters, hurrying.

“Bravo!” screamed to them the excited Brentin. “The left-hand table,
gentlemen!”

Right and left the tables were absolutely deserted. As the sailors
pounced on and proceeded to clear them, I had an unobstructed view down
the length of the remaining rooms right to the exit.

Such a scene of terrified, shouting, screaming confusion I never saw;
nor ever shall, unless my lurid evil star should one day carry me into
the hot heart of a theatre-panic, the uncontrollable frenzied meeting of
a fighting pit, gallery, dress circle, and stalls. They say a man will
give all he hath for his life, and here were innumerable men and women,
believing their precious lives in peril, giving all their fiery energies
play in their efforts to best their neighbor and reach the door. Often,
by-the-way, as I have heard of people wringing their hands, this was the
only occasion on which I ever really saw it done. One of the footmen, in
his absurd, ill-fitting livery, was standing on one of the side sofas, a
chap with laughable long whiskers, a discolored beak of a nose, and a
rabbit mouth; there he stood, dancing up and down, his face all puckered
with terror, actually wringing his hands in his misfitting long sleeves.
Then he suddenly fell over and crawled away, yelping like a frightened
lap-dog, and for the life of me I couldn’t help a spirit of laughter.

“Gracious!” yelled Brentin, above the indescribable din, “I hope no one
will be injured. Loose off your gun, friend Parsons.”

_Bang!_ went Teddy’s revolver. I looked at him; his face was still dead
white, while his mouth was working and distorted with a dreadful grin.
_Bang!_ it went again, while Teddy gave a silly laugh. Like a shot in a
mine that clears the air, or like the blowing out of a candle at ten
paces, the blank discharge had its due effect. The tortured mass heaved
and groaned, yielding irresistibly to the pressure of their terrors;
irresistibly they began to pour and gush out through the swing-doors at
the end. Every second, so fast they went, our road to safety was notably
being cleared for us.

“Forward! Forward!” Brentin sang.

To the right we went again into the next room, in the same
irreproachable order, with the same sublime results. Arthur Masters, in
all the energetic glory of battle, was waving his revolver, trying to
crack it, beating it against his thigh, as though it were a whip,
cheering on his men like hounds. He is master, as I have mentioned, of a
pack of harriers in Hertfordshire, and all the time he was at work in
the last two rooms he was musically crying, “Melody! Harmony! Trixie!
Hie over, lass, hie over!” And once, as one of his sailors bent on the
floor over a few scattered louis, he roared at him, “’Ware trash!” When
safe in England, I told him of it afterwards. He laughed and declared he
hadn’t the slightest recollection of doing anything of the sort.

Now will it be believed that, so universal was the panic, at one of the
tables only, at the bottom one in the room before the last, was there
anybody found to receive us! And that not so much, I fancy, in the
spirit of opposition as of curiosity, or perhaps inability to move.

For there we found an English lady tranquilly seated—elderly, perhaps
sixty, with a shrewd, not unpleasant face. To this day I don’t know her
name, but I know her quite well by sight, having often seen her driving
in Piccadilly and Bond Street. At the back of her chair her husband was
standing, eye-glass in eye; a tall man with a large head, rather of the
empty House of Commons air of importance, coolly watching us.

“You will be good enough not to touch this lady’s money,” he said, as
our men pounced on the table. Then, as a sort of after-thought, he
added, “You ought to be ashamed of yourselves.”

“Write to the _Times_,” chuckled Brentin, impudently.

The old lady looked hard at me, as much as to say, “I’ve seen _you_
somewhere before, more respectably engaged than this.”

And, before I forget, it is an odd thing that, only a week or so ago, I
again met her driving in Piccadilly; I was in a cab with Lucy, and we
met her victoria face to face. We stood side by side for quite three
minutes in a block, and she recognized and stared at me in astonishment.
I returned her stare, not rudely, I hope, and then positively couldn’t
help beginning to laugh; she didn’t laugh back, but I could see quite
well she was very near it.

There still remained the end room of all and our exit through the doors.
Now was the time for all our nerve, all our resource.

Breathlessly, I glanced up at the clock, and saw it was just over the
twenty-five minutes to eleven. We had taken only some six or seven
minutes to clear eleven tables; there still remained the two last and
our rush for the yacht.

Our friends on the left hurried up to us, we having been slightly
quicker on the right; and then, strangely enough, there was a moment’s
dead silence, at any rate, in the rooms. In the pause we could hear the
dull, frightened roar from the hall outside, and then, suddenly and
faintly, the short, sharp, defiant call of a bugle.

The gamblers and croupiers, still massed struggling round the exit,
turned, many of them as though by an understanding, and faced us, some
of them even crying “_Silence!_” “_Silence!_” The valets, clambering on
the side seats, leaned towards us expectantly. It seemed as though they
were looking for us to make them a speech, some kind of an apology for
our inexplicable and outrageous conduct. It was a sort of “Gentlemen of
the French Guard, fire first!” and though I don’t suppose it lasted more
than a second, it seemed an age.

Then Brentin stepped forward, and sweeping his revolver along the line
of their expectant faces, said in his ordinary voice—and all the more
authoritative and effective it sounded—“_Retirez-vous!_”

My gaze was fixed on a tall croupier, a man I had often seen walking
about in a straw-hat with his little daughter; indeed, once I had
stopped and kissed the child, she was so pretty. Then he had been
delighted; now he was staring at me with hard, frightened eyes, grinding
his teeth.

As Brentin stepped forward, we stepped forward too.

“Close up behind us, you men!” Masters called to the sailors. “Use your
fists if they try to stop you!”

Instantly the screaming and shouting began again. As we moved briskly
and irresistibly forward, the seething crowd at the swing-doors melted
away before us like wax before the fire. Men and women began to steal
behind us and run back frantically into the vacant rooms we had just
stripped and left.

“_Retirez-vous!_” cried Brentin, in a higher key.

I kept my eye on the tall croupier, clearly meditating mischief, and
then suddenly covered him with my unloaded revolver. His face fell like
a shutter; all at once he seemed to be struck imbecile. Death was
staring at him, he fancied, down the stubborn, steel tube—death! and he
had never made his _salut_—would die in the gambling-rooms! He fell
back with the rest, using his elbows viciously, and out we went with a
rush, like uncorked soda-water opened by an unskilful hand at a picnic.

An arm reached out at me from behind the door as I darted through, and
caught my coat. I gave myself a vigorous wrench and swore (the first and
only time that night), while my pocket came tearing off in the villain’s
grasp. He was very welcome to it, if only as a souvenir.

The hall was pretty empty, for most people who had escaped from the
rooms had rushed wildly out into the night, in their terror. When the
“Devil among the Tailors” first went off on the terrace, there had been
shouts and cries of “_Les Anarchistes!_” and all who heard it thought
the building was about to be blown to atoms with a bomb, and flew, like
sand before the wind.

Still, numbers were beginning to pour into the far end of the hall out
from the concert-room, where the alarm was just spreading and playing
the deuce with the new opera. As we ran through and down the steps to
the right, I could hear the band still playing and some one singing.
Then, evidently, the alarm reached the instrumentalists, for they
stopped suddenly with a wheeze, like a musical box run down.

Down the steps we rushed, knocking some few of both sexes, I am ashamed
to say, over and aside in our stride. Out of the watchful corner of my
right eye I saw the waiters come running out of the “Café de Paris,” in
their white aprons.

Outside, as we turned the corner of the building, to the left down on to
the terrace, one or two firemen came bounding up the steps to meet us.
One of them faced us, holding out his arms and saying something in
French I didn’t catch.

It was addressed to Barker, whose only reply was to grunt and knock the
man head over heels into a heap of cactus. Hating violence as I do, I am
pleased to report it was absolutely the only blow struck the whole time,
and was a singularly efficient one.

At the bottom of the steps to the right we darted, so close together we
might have been almost covered with a pocket-handkerchief, of the larger
Derby-winner type.

“Get in front, you men!” panted Brentin, in a sibilant whisper. “Take
the first boat, this way!”

The sailors plunged in front as Brentin pulled the gate open. Down the
steps they clattered. One of them, as he passed me, I saw was trying to
tie the tape round the neck of his linen bag with his teeth.

And now furious steps were rushing after us over the gravel of the
terrace; menacing dark figures, many of them, were making for our gate.

“Give ’em a fusillade!” hissed Hines, and turning we fired, each of us,
pretty nearly the whole of our six blank barrels.

From that moment our retreat, which had hitherto been conducted in such
beautiful order, became as loose and streaming as the tail of a comet.
As for me, I fired most of my six barrels as I ran down the steps,
straight over my head, anywhere. I can feel now the soft kick of my
revolver as I held it loosely in my left hand.

Now I don’t know it is exactly to my credit, but it certainly says
something for my physical condition, that I was first down. I plunged
panting across the railway lines, and simply hurled myself down the
embankment, on to the shore.

The first boat with the sailors already in it, the boodle in its linen
bags gleaming ghostily in a tumbled heap at the bottom, was just pushing
off. I tore through the water up to my waist, and they soon had me on
board, pulling me in excitedly by the arms. The night was so dark that,
a dozen strokes from the shore, there was nothing to be seen but the
yacht’s lights, fifty yards ahead. We flew over the water, the men
talking, swearing, panting, and helping one another push at the oars. We
were alongside almost immediately, and I was the first up on deck.

“All safe, sir?” cried the captain, as I swung myself up.

“Get her ready,” I panted, “the others will be here in a minute.”

“Aye, aye, sir!”

My sister ran up and kissed me. Miss Rybot was standing at the taffrail,
glaring like a young eagle over the black water, and drumming her
fingers on the rail. A few heavy raindrops were beginning to fall.

“Where’s Lucy?”

“We sent her below; she’s reading a book.”

I paused to listen for the other boat, and could hear the tearing of the
oars, the thud of the rowlocks. Away down from Monaco came the stern and
menacing beat of a drum. Through the open lighted windows of the Casino
concert-room I could see dark figures preparing to descend the ladders I
had noticed considerately placed there against the balconies.

And then, suddenly, for the first time since we had been aboard, just as
the other boat came tearing alongside and I stumbled off breathlessly
below, it began to rain in earnest, a seething, hissing downpour; what
my old Derbyshire nurse used picturesquely to call, _whole water_.

By the time I reached Lucy’s cabin door we were well under weigh,
shouldering our way swiftly and sturdily through the still, wet night.



                               CHAPTER XX

   WE DISCOVER TEDDY PARSONS IS LEFT BEHIND—I MAKE UP MY MIND—TO
     THE RESCUE!—UNMANLY CONDUCT OF THE OTHERS—I GO ALONE—DISGUISE
     —THE GARDE CHAMPÊTRE


“IT’S all over!” I cried to Lucy, as I stumbled in; “we’ve done it
beautifully! We’re all safe, without a scratch!”

And then, so overwrought was I with the long tension, I became quite
hysterical.

I went off into a fit of laughter, and at last, with the silly, happy
tears chasing one another like sheep down my face, I managed to tell her
she was free now to go back to Wharton Park with her father and
grandmother, that Bob Hines would have his swimming-bath and gymnasium,
that the ho-ho-hospitals would all open their closed wards again, and
Teddy Parsons breathe freely once more before his fierce old governor,
the colonel, at Southport.

“It was my idea!” I cried, “and we’ve done it with the greatest ease—I
knew we should!—and we’re all safe; and oh, Lucy! do just come into the
saloon and see how much we’ve got. It was my own idea, and the fools all
said it was impossible, and just look how simple it’s been, after all!
Why, we must have carried off sixty thousand pounds, at least!”

Lucy seemed scarcely to understand what I was talking about; but she saw
I was safe, and, feeling the yacht well under weigh, cared for very
little else; so she held my hand and soothed and calmed me, and then
followed with obedient laughter as I almost dragged her into the saloon.

There, neatly piled under the electric light on the table, lay the linen
bags, for all the world like the letter-bags in a mail-train; and there
was Brentin, with wet hair and tie all on one side, beginning to empty
them and arrange notes and gold in separate heaps. The silver was a
little deficient, for we had given the sailors orders more or less to
ignore the five-franc pieces.

Of the gallant band, Hines and Forsyth were lying on the sofas with
closed eyes, still slightly panting; my sister was looking on, leaning
up against one of the pillars, where Miss Rybot, seated at the table,
was unfolding the notes with her long, slim fingers, and arranging them
in bundles according to their respective values. She was doing it with
the greatest coolness, and, for some reason, a rather more haughty air
of displeasure than usual.

“Well, Master Vincent,” said Brentin, looking up at me with grim joy,
“here we all are, and here is the boodle. Come and help count.”

At that moment in came Masters. It appears he had fallen, getting down
off the railway line, and muddied his trousers; he had been changing
them, not caring to appear before his young lady with dirty knees.

Hines and Forsyth roused themselves, and, almost in silence, we sat down
to count; not a sound but a step or two on deck overhead and the throb
of the engines, the luxurious rustle of notes, the pleasing chink of
gold.

Suddenly my sister said, “Where’s Mr. Parsons?”

Miss Rybot murmured, “Two hundred and forty-seven thousand-franc notes.”

I looked round the saloon. “Yes, by-the-way, where’s Teddy?”

There was no answer, and Brentin stopped emptying the last bag. “In his
cabin, probably,” he said, carelessly.

“No, he’s not,” replied Masters, who shared it with him.

“He came in your boat,” said Brentin, looking across at me, startled.

“Indeed, he didn’t!”

There was dead silence while for a moment we looked in each other’s
frightened faces.

Then I got up and left the saloon. Outside I shouted for him; no answer.

I hurried on deck to find the captain; it was still raining hard, and
the captain was in his shelter up on the bridge. The light from the
binnacle struck up on the resolute face of Joyce at the wheel.

“Captain Evans!”

“Sir!”

“Did you see Mr. Parsons come on board?”

“Can’t say I particularly noticed him, sir.”

“Joyce, did you?”

“No, sir.”

“He wasn’t in our boat, was he?”

“No, sir.”

“Who rowed the second boat?”

“Bramber and Meikle, sir.”

I hurried away and at last found them in the galley with the cook,
eating a surreptitious supper, with tin plates on their knees.

“Who came in the boat with you men?” I asked.

“Mr. Brentin, Mr. Masters, Mr. Hines, and Mr. Forsyth,” said Bramber,
with his mouth full.

“That’s right!” said Meikle.

“You saw nothing of Mr. Parsons?”

“No, sir; we thought he was with you.”

I stumbled down the companion and almost fell into the saloon. They had
stopped counting and looked up at me anxiously. “Well?”

“He’s not on board!”

“Sakes alive!” murmured Brentin. “That’s awkward!—for Mr. Parsons,” he
considerately added.

My sister said “Good gracious, Vincent!” while with her silver pencil
Miss Rybot began to draw poor Teddy’s insignificant profile on the back
of one of the thousand-franc notes.

I took a perturbed turn or two up and down the saloon.

“He can’t have fallen overboard?” ventured Masters.

“How could he, if he didn’t even come off in either of the boats?” some
one replied.

There was another pause, and then I asked:

“How closely were you followed?”

“Why, not at all,” said Brentin. “After we loosed off the guns they all
ran back.”

“Did anybody see Teddy after we got down the steps?”

Nobody answered. The fact was, I fear, we were all too busy looking
after ourselves to look after any one else.

“He may have fallen crossing the line. Did anybody notice whether any
one fell?”

Silence again. Then, with vague emphasis, Brentin said:

“Depend upon it, Mr. Parsons is ay gentleman of so much resource that,
wherever he is, he may safely be left to extricate himself from
embarrassment. Let us resoom the counting.”

I looked at him reproachfully.

“Mr. Brentin, it was agreed we stood by each other, I believe?”

“You were the first to get ahead, sir,” he replied, with what was meant
for withering sarcasm, “and be off in the wrong boat.”

“Because I understood we were all safe.”

“So we were. So, no doubt, is Mr. Parsons.”

“And if at this moment he is in the hands of the police?”

The base Brentin shrugged his shoulders.

“_Tong pee pour louee_,” he said, in New York French. “Gentlemen, let us
resoom the counting.”

“No!” I cried, banging the table, “not till we have decided what is to
be done.”

Brentin frowned and looked across at me sourly. I couldn’t have believed
success would so utterly change a man; but so it often is.

“Good chap, Teddy Parsons,” murmured Forsyth. “I’m sorry.”

“I do not know, sir,” scowled Brentin, “whether you propose to imperil
the safety of five gentlemen, three elegant and refined ladies, and—”

“Was it, or was it not, understood we stood by each other?” I cried,
impatiently. “See here, you fellows, you can’t be seriously thinking of
leaving that poor little snipe in the lurch like this?”

“Parsons never was any particular friend of mine,” growled Hines.

“Besides, I expect he’s all right,” said Masters, evasively. “He knows
people over at Mentone; he’ll be off over there, you bet.”

“Don’t you excite yourself, old boy,” murmured Forsyth. “Parsons is one
of the cleverest chaps I know. He’ll get out of it all right, you take
your oath. Besides, we can scarcely turn back now.”

“Turn back!” snarled Brentin. “This vessel is mine and under my orders.
There will be no turning back, except over my dead body; and that’s all
there is to it! Come, gentlemen,” he cried, impatiently, “resoom the
counting.”

And such was their incredible baseness that they actually began counting
again, just as though poor Teddy Parsons had never been born. Only the
ladies looked shocked, while Lucy kept her frightened eyes fixed on my
face. As for me, my mind was soon made up.

“Well,” I said, resolutely, “if you won’t any of you come, I shall go
back alone.”

“What’s the matter with walking on the waters?” sneered Brentin.

“In a few moments,” I continued, “we shall be off Cap Martin. Mr.
Brentin, you will be good enough to give orders to have me put ashore
there.”

“Aye, aye, sir!” he jeered.

“I shall make my way back to Monte Carlo alone—_alone!_” I cried, with
pathetic emphasis, “and not rest till I have discovered what has become
of our poor lost friend.”

“As you please,” said Brentin, sharply; “only if _you_ are caught you
mustn’t expect any one of us to come to your rescue. It’s simply sending
good money after bad.”

Poor Lucy began to cry as, before leaving the saloon, I turned to them
and fired my parting shot. I forget now precisely what it was, but I
know it was both dignified and touching; feeling, as I did, rather more
sorry for myself than even for poor Teddy. But it had no effect whatever
in rousing any of them to accompany me on my perilous journey.

Then I went back to my cabin to change my clothes, for I was still in my
smoking-suit with the torn pocket, and, so attired, could scarcely
venture ashore. Disguise of some sort was clearly imperative before
trusting myself again on the scene of our so recent successful labors.

Now, most providentially, before we left London, Brentin and I had gone
off one morning to Clarkson’s, the wig-maker. It was quite possible, we
had argued, we might have to fly, more or less closely pursued, and for
that unpleasing eventuality had hired half a dozen wigs, among them two
gray ones, for what are known, I believe, as “character old men.” I had
at the same time bought a pair of gray whiskers, and, with my old
regimental theatricals make-up box, packed them away, along with a
quiet, elderly suit. I was always intrusted with the old men’s parts in
our regimental theatricals, and invariably played them in a dress-coat,
frilled shirt, and a bunch of seals with moiré antique ribbon, bending
myself almost double and rapping with a crook stick in a manner so
natural as to deceive even the men of my own company at the back of the
hall. So that, unless I overacted, or a whisker came off, I felt pretty
sure of not being recognized by comparative strangers.

The quiet elderly suit I rapidly dressed myself in, and with my
mackintosh cape, an umbrella, and the make-up box under my arm, went
back to the saloon.

I was so offended at their pusillanimity I would look at no one but
Brentin, who, with glittering eye and long cigar, was jotting down the
amounts of our capture on a piece of paper.

“You have given the necessary orders?” I asked him, coldly.

“Aye, aye, sir!” he sneered. “The yacht is now slowing down.”

Lucy had gone to her cabin with my sister, in great distress, and Miss
Rybot was sitting there with arms folded, rubbing her silver pencil
between her lips.

“Good-bye, Mr. Blacker,” she said, “and good luck to you. I admire your
sense of loyalty. You are the only _man_ among the party!” she was good
enough to add.

“Pop, pop!” jeered the irrepressible Brentin.

Arthur Masters turned pale, and from a generous fear of making him feel
his inferiority by my presence, I bowed to them all in silence, and went
up on deck.

By this time the yacht had stopped, and off the port-beam I could just
distinguish the dark woods of Cap Martin looming. It was about half-past
eleven, and still slightly raining, though, fortunately, quite warm.

Lucy came running up, and, sobbing, threw her arms round my neck. My
sister kissed me affectionately, and said:

“We shall see you at Venice, Vincent dear; take care of yourself!”

And the next minute I was over the side and in the boat. I said never a
word the whole time, being, I confess, deeply offended at the light way
they all took my heroic resolution, and the assurance they showed in so
readily believing (however flattering to my courage and address) it was
all bound to be successful.

The men rowed me ashore in silence, bade me a respectful good-night, and
I was soon clambering over the stones and up the rough bank. Soon I was
in the comparative shelter of the woods, and there, finding the base of
a fir-tree tolerably dry, I sat me down to think and wait for morning.

Faintly I heard midnight strike from Monte Carlo, and then, so absorbed
in thought and conjecture I grew, I fell asleep. When I woke, it was
just getting gray; so I rose, stretched my stiff self, and had a good
look about me. I knew tolerably well whereabouts I was; for my sister,
Miss Rybot, Masters, and I had one day been over Cap Martin to tea at
the hotel, and walked back through the woods, past the Empress Eugenie’s
villa, on to the Mentone road, and so home.

We had then noticed, not far from the villa, in the woods, a small sort
of ancient decaying gamekeeper’s lodge, painted outside with arabesque
in the Italian manner, and faint vanishing mottoes of conviviality and
sport; and that I determined to make for, and see if I could there
secure facilities for shaving off my mustache, at any rate. Then I
proposed to retire into the woods again, and assume my character old man
wig and whiskers, and so disguised make my way leisurely back into Monte
Carlo, to try and find news of the luckless Teddy. Beyond that, I could
devise no plan of any sort, determining to leave all to the hazard of
the hour.

I wandered about a good time in the dawn, and at last struck the lodge,
soon after seven, when it was growing tolerably light. It was a fine
morning, fortunately, though very raw and cold. The lodge door was open,
and I peeped in. Probably, in the last century, it had been a
luncheon-house for the Grimaldis on their shooting or pleasure
expeditions; now it was rapidly decaying, and looked like a neglected
summerhouse. No one was to be seen, and so, the foot of a ladder showing
to the upper room, I entered and climbed it.

It was a bedroom, and evidently only just left; the bed was tumbled, and
there was the faint, fragrant odor of a pipe.

No time was to be lost, so I poured water into the basin (the owner had
evidently not washed that morning) and got out my razors. I found a pair
of scissors, and clipping myself as close as possible first and then
screwing up my courage, for shaving in cold water is horribly painful,
and lathering myself well, I set to work.

I hadn’t more than half done when I heard steps outside on the wet
gravel; they came into the house, to the foot of the ladder; then they
began slowly to climb. There was no help for it, I must go on and trust
to luck; so on I went with my shaving, keeping an eye meantime in the
glass on the door behind me, so that I might gain some impression of the
owner before tackling and conciliating him.

Fortunately, when I was trying for the army, before I failed and went
into the militia, I had been for six months with a coach at Dinan, in
Brittany, and spoke French well enough for all vulgar purposes; so when
the ordinary type of an old soldier, _garde champêtre_, head appeared at
the head of the ladder, bristling with astonishment, I felt more at home
with it than perhaps the ordinary British officer, who has only learned
his French at Wren’s or Scoone’s, would have done.

“_Dîtes donc!_” said the amazed man; “_je ne vous gêne pas?_”

“_Du tout!_” I replied, “_entrez_.”

“_Mais, nom d’un chien!_” he cried, coming into the room. “_Qu’est ce
que vous faites là?_”

“_Vous voyez, n’est ce pas? Je me rase._”

“_Je le vois bien! et après?_”

“_Après? Je m’en vais._”

There was a pause while the _garde champêtre_ came alongside, and
surveyed me with folded arms.

Tears were in my eyes, for the process was a torture; but I went on with
it heroically and in silence.

At last, “_Vous êtes Américain?_” he asked.

“_Mais oui. Toute ma vie!_”

“_C’est bien. J’aime les Américains._”

“_Merci! moi aussi!_”

The man laughed, and then he went on: “_Mais, dîtes donc! Pourquoi vous
rasez-vous ici comme ça, dans ma chambre, ma propre chambre?_”

“_C’est que_—” I hesitatingly began, and then, with an inspired
rush—“_voyez vous! Je suis marié, et je crois que ma femme me trompe._”

“_Oh, la! la! Et après?_”

“_Après? Je vais me déguiser et la pincer. C’est dur, n’est ce pas?_”

“_Très dur!_” said the man, looking amused; “_mais les femmes sont
toujours comme ça. Elle est Américaine?_”

“_Anglaise._”

“_Je déteste les Anglais! Continuez, mon bon monsieur. Je vous laisse._”

“_Merci! Dans cinq minutes je descendrai._”

“_Ne vous pressez pas, et déguisez-vous bien_,” he said, and, leaving
the room, went half-way down the ladder. Then he turned and put his head
into the room again, resting his elbows on the floor.

“_Dîtes donc, mon bon monsieur_,” he said, evidently at some pains to
check his mirth; “_avec qui croyez-vous que votre femme vous trompe?_”

“_Je ne sais pas au juste. Avec un de mes amis, je crois._”

“_Le misérable!_” he cried, theatrically. “_Un Français, sans doute?_”

“_Oui, malheureusement._”

“_Oh, la, la! Mais les amis sont comme ça. C’est très dur, tout de même.
Courage! Je vais préparer le café. Au revoir._”

With so sympathetic a _garde champêtre_ I felt I was in luck, and might
as well seize the opportunity for assuming my complete disguise, instead
of taking to the woods; so I put on my wig and, with some spirit-gum,
stuck on my gray whiskers, lined my face lightly, and, in five minutes,
presented myself to the more than ever astonished _garde champêtre_ as a
respectable, well preserved, elderly gentleman of sixty.

“_Mais nom d’un chien!_” he cried; “_c’est parfait! Elle ne vous
reconnaîtra pas; jamais de la vie!_”

We sat down and drank the coffee, the best friends in the world; and
then, giving him a louis and the box of make-up and razors as a
souvenir, I left him with a warm shake of the hand, and went off through
the wood to strike the Mentone road back into Monte Carlo.

I hadn’t gone twenty paces before he came running after me to say that
if ever I wanted to disguise myself again I was to come to him and use
his rooms, and that he would always keep the razors in order for the
purpose.

“_Mais c’est dur, tout de même_,” he added, sympathetically, as I
promised.

The last I saw of him, he turned and waved his hand. “_Adieu, mon
vieux!_” he cried. “_Bonne chance!_”



                              CHAPTER XXI

   IN MY DISGUISE I AM MISTAKEN FOR LORD B.—A CLUB ACQUAINTANCE—
     TEDDY AT THE LAW COURTS—MRS. WINGHAM—THE DEFENCE AND THE
     ACQUITTAL—WE BOLT


BEHOLD me, then, in sexagenarian disguise, trudging back into Monte
Carlo, with my mackintosh and umbrella. It was barely nine o’clock in
the morning when I started; and, soon after ten, there I was standing
once more in front of the Casino buildings, out of which, but a few
hours before, I had so triumphantly rushed.

Strange to say, there was no sign of anything extraordinary having
occurred; there were the usual people sitting about reading the papers
on the seats round the flower-beds, the usual attendants loafing on the
steps, guarding the entrance. Over the building flapped, as ever, the
dingy Monaco flag.

My first feeling was of intense annoyance and disgust that,
notwithstanding our complete success, the nefarious business was
apparently being carried on as usual. What on earth did it all mean?
Were sixty thousand pounds as naught to them? Were they placidly going
to put up with their loss, rather than advertise their misfortune? or,
under this apparent calm, were there really depths of trouble and
vengeance stirring—already rising—to ingulf poor Teddy, whom I never
doubted from the first was captured, and now shortly about to appear
before the Prince’s judges away up at Monaco, bent in painful submission
at the criminal bar!

I sat down for a few moments to consider what should be done, and look
about me for some one to whom I could apply for trustworthy information:
what was thought of us, and what steps the authorities proposed to take.

There was an old gentlemen, an Englishman, evidently, sitting on my
seat; and, as one garrulous old person to another might, I proceeded to
try him cautiously with a few questions. Did he know, could he tell me,
at what hour the rooms opened?

He looked at me over his pince-nez, and said at twelve. Then he flipped
his pince-nez off, smiled, and, giving me a friendly look, politely
observed he believed he and I were members of the same distinguished
club, the Mausolœum. He dared say I hadn’t forgotten dining next him
there in the autumn, and the interesting talk we had then had.

“Aye, aye, aye,” I mumbled, in my fright, a mixture of Punch and
Pantaloon.

He had seen me walking about before, he went on (what on earth did he
mean by that, I wondered), and had meant to take the liberty of speaking
to me. What I had said in the autumn had interested and impressed him
very much, and he had often thought over it. Then he folded up his
paper, and evidently began to lay himself out for a renewal of our
supposed conversation, a prospect which much alarmed and disconcerted
me.

I scarcely liked to exercise the complete vigor of my youth and make an
immediate bolt; for I had doddered up to the seat and, like an aged
pensioner, sat me down with a loud sigh of relief—rather overacting, in
fact; so, if I were to keep up the character, I must at least dodder
away again when I left. Yet, however complimentary to my make-up, it
was, just at present, a distinct nuisance to find myself mistaken for
somebody else, and likely to be detained over a conversation which,
under no circumstances, could ever have had the faintest interest for
me.

To prevent that, I cautiously began:

“My servant tells me there was a robbery, or something of that sort, in
the rooms last night.”

“Oh!” said my club comrade.

“Have you heard anything about it?”

“No, indeed.”

“The Casino authorities keep a thing of that sort pretty close, I
imagine,” I cautiously ventured.

“They’re quite right,” the old gentleman replied. “Quite right!” Then,
after a pause, he went on, “I suppose you never spoke to Markham on the
subject, after all?”

“No, indeed, I didn’t,” I mumbled, making the best reply I could under
the circumstances. “Fact is, I never saw him.”

“Why, didn’t he turn up?”

“I forget.” And then I uneasily added, “You know what a feather-headed
feller he is.”

The old gentleman laughed and said, “Somebody ought to speak to him,
though.”

“Well, what’s the matter with his wife?” I said, unconsciously, dropping
into one of Brentin’s phrases.

“That’s more than I can tell you,” the old gentleman replied. “She’s
looked like that for a long time now.”

I was so rapidly getting tired of this footling talk, not to mention the
fibs it entailed and the precious time being wasted, that, at any cost,
I determined to put a stop to it; so I rose with an effort, and saying,
vaguely, “Well, I’ve got to meet my wife; good-day to you! I dare say I
shall see you again somewhere about,” strolled off towards the Casino
steps.

The old gentleman, who had evidently looked forward to a long
conversation, answered me rather gruffly, “Good-day!”—while straight up
to one of the attendants at the head of the steps I walked.

“Yes, _monsieur_,” the man politely said, “the rooms are open for play
at twelve.”

“As usual?” I pointedly observed.

“Altogether as usual.”

“Notwithstanding the robbery?”

“Oh, as for that,” the man replied, shrugging his shoulders, “it was a
very small affair. The miserable was caught and would be punished.”

An Englishman, I understood.

Yes, an Englishman. No doubt at this moment he was being tried, and
already safe in prison. “_Au revoir, monsieur! à votre service,
monsieur!_”

My legs felt fully their assumed age as I turned and faltered down the
steps. So all hope was over; poor Teddy was really caught, and the
regiment would know him no more. Unless!—why, what could I do?—good
gracious!—

I was so deep in my own troubled thoughts and plans, I scarcely noticed
my supposed old club friend on the seat; should not have noticed him at
all, in fact, had I not just at this moment, when I was calling a
carriage to drive up to the “Monopôle,” come plump on the other highly
respectable elderly gentleman I evidently so closely resembled.

Face to face we met, and naturally stared at each other. Will it be
believed we were absolutely exactly alike, down even to the cut and
color of our clothes? For the first and only time in my life I saw
myself at full length, myself as I should be at sixty (if I only took
care of myself), sedate, healthy, a county magistrate, member of
Brooke’s, with my youngest boy just leaving Eton. I hurried into the
carriage and told the man to drive up to the “Monopôle” as fast as he
could go, just giving a look round at my friend on the seat as I got in.
He had turned, and, with his hands on his knees, was staring after me,
dumbfounded. My double had turned and was staring after me too.

To both those gentlemen, if they should ever chance to read this work, I
offer my sincere apology; they will understand now the reason of my
accidental resemblance, and, as between men of the world, will no doubt
forgive it. I can assure them both it will not occur again; how can it,
seeing that wig and whiskers are buried under an olive-tree on the
Mentone road?

At the “Monopôle”—having, of course, no notion who I really was—they
were very polite. No, Madame Wingham was not in; they couldn’t say where
she was; a letter had come for her early and she had gone out.
Instinctively, I felt the letter was from Teddy, imploring succor.

I left the hotel at once and drove straight up to Monaco. At the
cathedral I dismissed the carriage and walked on to the law courts. What
to do I had no idea; watch the proceedings, at any rate, _incognito_
from the back, and, at the worst, hear with my own sad ears how much
poor Teddy got. Any thought of rescue was, of course, out of the
question. What could a poor old person of sixty do against soldiers and
gendarmes?

The criminal court of Monaco sits in a bare upper room, close to the
cathedral. Outside, steep steps of the usual _Palais de Justice_
inverted V-shape lead up to it, with, at their head, a bare flag-pole,
like a barber’s sign. Up the steps I walked, and with beating heart (for
my own sake, I confess, as much as for poor Teddy’s) entered the fatal,
the lethal chamber. It was very full and stuffy. News of our victory and
the capture of one of the band no doubt had spread, for the public part
was crammed, tightly as sardines and garlic. Facing, under a crucifix,
from over which the dingy green curtain was drawn, sat three judges;
three real judges, in their bands and toques and ermine! Common white
bedroom blinds scarcely kept the sun out, streaming in mistily on the
members of the bar in beards and gowns, on the _greffier_ busily
writing, and the usher waiting to summon the luckless Parsons to the
dock. Just at present the judges were bending the weight of their
intellects on a couple of market-women charged with fighting; and there,
tightly wedged against the partition, stood the forlorn Mrs. Wingham, a
handkerchief in her black kid grasp, bending and talking tearfully to
the barrister seated below, whom she apparently had engaged for the
defence.

I made my way to her and pulled her sleeve.

“Come outside,” I whispered; “it’s I—hush!—Vincent Blacker.”

She stared at me, and then at last followed obediently to the door. We
stood outside at the head of the steps.

“They’ve got him, I suppose?” I asked.

“Oh, you cowards!” she gasped, “to run away and leave him.”

“Never mind that now,” I answered; “_I_ have come back, at any rate. Let
us consider what can be done. You’ve got some one to defend him?”

“But the man talks such horrible French, I can’t understand a word he
says,” she moaned, “and he reeks of garlic. And where’s my brother,
James Thompson?”

“He’s all right,” I evasively replied. “Never mind him just now. We must
really concentrate ourselves on doing something for poor Teddy.”

“Oh, I dare say! Now you mind this, young man!” cried Mrs. Wingham, with
sudden vindictiveness. “If he goes to prison you go, too! I won’t ’ear
of his going alone. I’ll shout to the police! I’ll ’ave you arrested! He
sha’n’t be the only one to suffer, poor young lamb!”

The hair under my wig stood up on end, and even my false whiskers
stiffened. The old woman was quite capable of executing her threat, and
for a moment I felt, not sixty, but a hundred.

Outwardly, however, I was calm.

“Desperate cases require desperate remedies,” I judicially observed.
“Take my arm and let us return to court. We’ll adopt our own line of
defence. Come along, ma’am, and for the present kindly remember I am
your husband and my name is Wingham.”

The vicious old woman held me so tightly, I knew that if Teddy went
under and were condemned she meant me to go under, too. Together we
wedged our way to the partition, just above our odoriferous barrister. I
was bending to speak to him when suddenly a bell was rung and Teddy was
immediately ushered, nay, thrust, in, between a couple of gendarmes.

Poor chap, he was almost unrecognizable, he had been so roughly handled.
His smoking-suit was torn, and round his neck, in place of collar and
tie, he had knotted a handkerchief, coster fashion; but what mostly
disguised and disfigured him was his gashed and puffed face; for in
falling down the steps he had fallen plump on a bunch of cactus, scoring
him as though he had been mauled by an angry tigress. He never had been
pretty, but now he looked exactly like the malefactor that, in the eye
of the law, at any rate, I suppose he really was.

“Oh, just look at his face!” gasped Mrs. Wingham. “Oh, the poor
creature!”

“Hush!” I whispered; “for goodness’ sake keep calm. And kindly remember
he’s our nephew.”

I judged it wisest to hear the evidence against him before considering
the line we should take in his defence. I contented myself for the
present with whispering to our counsel that the prisoner was our nephew,
his arrest a complete mistake, and he himself as innocent of any attempt
at robbery as the newly born.

Meantime, in French fashion, the President of the Court—a robust old
man with a white beard and a red face, like a neatly trimmed Father
Christmas—after reading the act of accusation, was the first to tackle
and brow-beat our unfortunate friend. To do him justice, Teddy kept
beautifully cool (he says now he recognized me and my wink through the
disguise, and knew he was safe) and answered nothing through his puffed
mouth but _Nong!_ and _Jammy!_ Every now and then the President, in the
politest manner in the world, observed, “_Vous mentez, jeune homme!_” or
“_C’est faux!_” while the judge on his right, a battered little man with
blue glasses and his mouth all fallen in, ejaculated “_Quelle
effronterie!_” or “_C’est abominable!_” at intervals.

As a matter of fact, the evidence against him (according to our English
notions, at any rate) was far from strong. There were croupiers present
ready to swear to having seen him in the rooms, charging down on the
tables with a revolver; there were the men from the door to swear they
had noticed him rush past; and there were the firemen who had found him
crawling away behind the signal-box, down on the line, after we had got
clear away. Very good. But the cactus had, for the present, so
disfigured him, that an adroit cross-examination could not fail very
much to shake them, and that, no doubt, the President felt; for, after
wrangling with Teddy for some time, and receiving nothing but an
eruption of _Nongs_ and _Jammys_ for his pains, he ill-temperedly cried
identification would be useless and unfair with the accused’s face in
its present condition, and that, until the swelling disappeared, he
should remand him; by which time, he sardonically added, he had no doubt
the other malefactors would be before him in a row.

Teddy gave me a piteous glance, and, nerving myself, I nudged our
barrister, whom all along I had been coaching, and up he got.

Now, most fortunately, when poor Teddy was caught, neither revolver nor
spoil were found on him; spoil he had never had, and the revolver, after
the final discharge, he had hurled over the embankment into the sea. And
he had always told the same story: that he had truly enough been in the
rooms, but had nothing whatever to do with the robbery, having been
forced out in the disturbance, and run as the others had; running, in
his alarm, he knew not where, until he fell down the steps, lost his
senses, and, coming to, found himself in the hands of the police. He was
a quiet, respectable young Englishman, he declared, come to Monte Carlo
for his health, and staying with his aunt at the hotel “Monopôle,” to
whom (as I thought) he had early despatched a note, announcing himself
as her nephew and in trouble, and imploring help.

And here we were to claim him, after so unpleasant an experience, Milor
and Madame Ving-ham—so the barrister announced us!—persons of the
highest consideration and wealth, constant visitors on the shores of the
hospitable Riviera; in short, this, that, and the other, all couched in
the finest language, and none of it in the least true. And then, in a
final peroration, amid murmurs of sympathy, culminating in a burst of
applause, the barrister threw up his fat hands, and invoked justice,
mercy, and international law (not to mention the hospitality of old
Greece and Rome), and, sitting down, wiped his forehead with the sleeve
of his gown; while Madame Ving-ham judiciously lifted up her troubled
voice, and wept louder than ever.

When the emotion had subsided, the President called me forward, and for
the second time that morning my unlucky resemblance to another gentleman
(a nobleman, by-the-way, as it turned out) was likely to get me into
further trouble; for in me, Vincent Blacker, disguised as an old boy of
sixty, the President imagined he recognized, just as my club friend had
done an hour before, a distinguished guest he had met the previous
evening at the Prince’s table; with whom he had held an improving
discussion as to the present unsatisfactory condition of the British
House of Lords, and the best method of amending, without destroying it.

“_Comment, Milor!_” he cried, in astonishment, looking at me over his
glasses; “_c’est votre Seigneurie?_”

Good Lord, I said to myself, here we are again—giving the old man a
polite but alarmed bow and smile.

But the President knew me as Milor B., he ventured to observe (I really
don’t quite like to give the illustrious name), and here was our
advocate announcing me as some one else!

I hastened to explain, with perspiration on my brow, that Ving-ham was
my second title, and in an unfortunate affair of this kind—_Cour
d’Assises_, in short—I did not care for my first to be publicly mixed
up.

The President bowed and said that was well understood, and then he
proceeded to put me a few exceedingly polite and fatuous questions about
Teddy, who, as a contrite nephew cut to the heart at so unfortunately
dragging an old and honored name through the purlieus of the criminal
law, was acting his part to perfection.

Yes, monsieur was my nephew, of a character gentle and affectionate; of
retiring habits and delicate health, a little _poitrinaire_, in fact (at
which Teddy, comprehending, coughed with unnecessary violence), but all
that was of obedient, tractable, and good. He had gone down to the
Casino, while we, my wife and I—Madame Ving-ham still weeping—had gone
to bed, believing he was in his room; and the next we had heard was
early that morning, when we received a note from him announcing the
unfortunate capture and mistake. _Monsieur le Président_ would readily
understand what of grief and desolation?—my affectionate uncle’s voice,
with a touch of an only nephew in it, trembled, and madame shook
convulsively as, still grasping my arm tight, she moaned and sobbed.

That was more than enough. In a very few minutes, after a brief
consultation among the judges, Teddy was released and dramatically
embracing us in the body of the court—thereby nearly bringing off my
left whisker—and I was paying our eloquent counsel. Before I left the
yacht I had providentially provided myself with a bundle of notes from
the heap of spoil on the table, and one of them—for a thousand
francs—I presented to the astonished and gratified barrister. I
trembled to think how much more than ever for the next few days he would
reek of his favorite _ail_.

Out went Mrs. Wingham, arm in arm with Teddy, and I followed, after
declining the President’s kind invitation to breakfast with him, on the
score of my overwrought feelings.

Just as I was going down the steps a man I recognized as a croupier
touched me respectfully on the arm, with a crafty, meridional smile. I
stopped in some alarm, thinking it possible I was discovered. What did
he want? Why, Milor no doubt remembered that lady whom Milor had
commissioned the croupier to find out all about and let him know?
Perfectly, I replied, with stiff and aristocratic upper lip. What had he
discovered?

She was an Italian, one Madame Vagliano, and she lived at the Villa des
Genets, above the Condamine. He was proceeding with more information,
when I haughtily cut him short with “_C’est bien! assez! voici madame
qui nous observe_,” and handing him a note, which I afterwards
discovered was unfortunately one of a thousand francs instead of, as I
meant, a hundred, I hurried to the foot of the steps, where madame and
Teddy were awaiting me. _Ce scélèrat de Lord B.!_ I have really a good
mind to give his illustrious name, after all.

We walked on a little way in silence, and then Mrs. Wingham said, with
traces of tearfulness:

“What are you two villains going to do now?”

“Bolt!” I replied, laconically.

“And where’s my poor brother James all this time?”

“He’s all right, enjoying himself first-rate, sailing about somewhere in
the _Saratoga_.”

“What’s the _Saratoga_?”

“A well-appointed steam-yacht, belonging to a friend of ours.”

“You thieving wretches! You’ve been and decoyed him on board, you know
you ’ave.”

“Well, he’s perfectly safe, wherever he is. Come along, Teddy, there’s
no time to be lost.”

“But I can’t go like this,” cried Teddy. “I haven’t even got a hat, and
all my clothes are on the yacht.”

We bought him a dreadful French straw-hat up in Monaco, and then we
jumped into a carriage and drove down to the tailor’s, next the “Grand
Hotel.” As we drove, I questioned Mrs. Wingham as to what was known and
said in the town about our escapade.

“Why,” said Mrs. Wingham, “people have been terribly frightened, and are
beginning to leave the place.”

“Good! And what line are the authorities taking?”

“They are denying it all, right and left, but they are determined to
catch you, all the same.”

“They can’t do both!” I coldly replied. “They’d much better put up with
their loss; we shall put the money to much better use than they could
ever have done. If they are going to make themselves unpleasant over it,
you may tell them from me we’ll come back and do precisely the same
thing next year.”

“You impudent young feller!” cried the angry old woman, “you forget that
one of the sharpest detectives in England is after you.”

“He’s taking a mighty circuitous route!”

“But he’ll catch you, all the same, at last.”

“Will he?” I answered, eying her with cold amusement. “Now look here,
missus, if you say much more I’ll communicate with Van Ginkel, and
direct him to take the yacht across to Cuba and have James landed and
shot there as a filibuster.”

Whereupon the poor old soul fell to whimpering again, though at the same
time she couldn’t help laughing a little at my readiness.

Teddy was soon fitted out at the tailor’s, and a sight he looked in what
they called the _dernier cri_ of a French travelling costume; more like
a young man out of the _Petit Journal pour rire_ than anything.

“Adieu, Madame Ving-ham!” I laughed, as we got outside. “Your nephew and
I are going to get bicycles and be off down the Corniche, over the
Italian frontier. Say good-bye to him, and be off home to Brixton
yourself as soon as possible, or you may get into trouble with the
police here for using a false title of nobility. Now, you did, you know!
it’s no use your denying it. Take my advice; the quieter you keep for
the next few months the better.”

She was so angry she wouldn’t say good-bye to me, but she overwhelmed
poor Parsons. And she implored him as soon as possible to give up my
desperate bad company, which, sooner or later, could only bring him to
ruin—I, if you please, who at so much risk had just rescued him!—and
to write to her soon to Brixton, and come and see her directly he got
back.

She stood watching us as we went off to the bicycle man’s in the Arcade,
near Ciro’s, and kept on waving her handkerchief till we got into the
gardens across the road and were lost to view.

“Now let this be a lesson to you, my son,” I sagely observed, as we
hurried along, “always to make yourself pleasant and polite to old
ladies. But for Mrs. Wingham, you might have been dragging a cannon-ball
at your ankle for years.”

Teddy shuddered, and said:

“What a blessing I resembled her nephew!”

“And mine!” I added. “Don’t forget me.”



                              CHAPTER XXII

   OUR FLIGHT TO VENICE—THENCE TO ATHENS—WE ALL MEET ON THE
     ACROPOLIS—REAPPEARANCE OF MR. BAILEY THOMPSON!—AGAIN WE MANAGE
     TO PUT HIM OFF THE SCENT


OF our flight down the Corniche and across the Italian frontier I do not
propose to say much. Suffice it that, at a quiet spot before we reached
Mentone, I found the opportunity to strip off my disguise and, for
precaution’s sake, bury both wig and whiskers at the root of an
olive-tree; where no doubt they still remain, if any one cares to go and
look for them. In well under the hour, so fast we travelled, we were
over the Italian border, just beyond Mentone, and, after the usual
difficulties with the _dogana_ about our bicycles, were before very long
safely seated in the Ventimiglia train for Turin. To avoid being further
troubled with the machines, we presented them to a couple of porters,
and, while waiting for the train, passed a highly amusing half-hour
watching them trying to learn to ride.

Our point was Venice, and, travelling all night, on the afternoon of the
next day (Sunday, January 19th) Teddy and I were glad to find ourselves
in a gondola, flapping along to the “Grand Hotel,” where we were all to
meet.

But at the “Grand” there was a telegram awaiting me: “_Come
Athens—Brentin._” It had been sent from Messina the previous afternoon,
and, disagreeable though it was, there was nothing for it but to obey.

We went off at once to Cook’s offices in the Piazza to inquire about a
steamer; but, being Sunday, of course found them closed. Very awkward!
Surely, nowadays, when they open the museums, Mr. Cook might stretch a
point and do the same with his offices?

What on earth were we to do? It was evident they didn’t care about
receiving us at the hotel; I was exceedingly dirty, with the remains of
the spirit-gum on my cheeks and the lines of the old-age pencil
alongside my nose; and poor Teddy’s puffs and scars were all the more
noticeable now they were just beginning to heal. We looked, in short,
like a couple of broken-down sea-side entertainers, who had had a row at
the last hall about returning the money. We had no luggage, not even a
sponge-bag, and I had talked grandly about the yacht until I found the
telegram, when I had to admit it wasn’t coming; at which the manager had
merely bowed with sour and silent politeness. “Then you don’t stay
here!” I read as plainly as possible in his watchful eye.

We went on down to the Piazzetta, to the harbor side, to see if we could
by chance hear of a vessel sailing for Athens.

“Yes,” grumbled Teddy, “and when we get to Athens we shall find another
wire, with ‘_Come Timbuctoo!_’ Let’s cut it short and go home by rail. I
don’t feel safe in these foreign parts. Oh, how glad I shall be to get
back to Southport again!”

“Strolling up and down Lord Street, eh? in those eternal breeches and
gaiters.”

“Well, why not? Come, let’s be off. I don’t know why we need follow them
half over Europe.”

“Certainly, let’s be off,” said I, “if you don’t mind paying for the
tickets.”

“Why, you don’t mean to say you haven’t got enough money?”

It was true, I hadn’t. What with the thousand francs for the defence,
the thousand for the croupier who told me about Madame Vagliano (what
the deuce did I care about Madame Vagliano!), the buying of the
bicycles, the clothes for Teddy, the tickets, and one thing and another,
I had only two or three hundred francs left; and Teddy had merely a
couple of louis, having spent the rest in bribing the Monte Carlo police
to carry his letter to Mrs. Wingham and put him in a better cell.

Nothing, I think, tries a man’s nature more truly than travelling and
the contretemps arising therefrom; nothing more surely discovers his
selfishness, his meanness, his want of even temper. We were certainly
rather in a fix, but scarcely to warrant Teddy’s outburst of anger and
ill-humor. If I was amused at it all and kept my equanimity, why
couldn’t he? But no! he kept on fuming and fretting to such a degree
that I was within an ace of decoying him up a piccolo canal and beating
him soundly about the head and ears, so much did he grate upon my
nerves.

At last we did manage to secure passages in a dirty Italian boat, _Il
Principe Umberto_, sailing that night down the coast to Ancona and
Brindisi, and thence across the Adriatic, _viâ_ Corfu, to Patras. It was
rather a tight fit, financially speaking, for after paying for our
berths and allowing something for food on board, we had only just about
enough left for the tickets from Patras to Athens. If the yacht didn’t
turn up there, then we should be in a fix indeed.

We went back to the hotel, and, ordering dinner, spent the time till it
was ready in the reading-room. There were no London papers, of course,
of Saturday’s date, but there were plenty of French and Italian. Most of
them had a paragraph about us and our doings, very guardedly expressed.
None of them went further than merely saying there had been an audacious
attempt at robbery in the rooms at Monte Carlo on Friday night, and much
excitement in consequence; but without exception they hastened to add
that all connected with it were in the hands of the police, tranquillity
reigned, and play was going on as usual. Teddy and I pointed each other
out the paragraphs as we found them, and chuckled over them amazingly.

Over the voyage I draw a veil; enough that it was exceedingly rough and
uncomfortable, and we were both very unwell, as somehow one always is if
one has to go second class. My only consolation lay in occasionally
seeing an extremely good-looking Italian stewardess, who looked in on us
every now and then, and sympathetically said “_Male?_” I never answered
her; I don’t know a word of Italian, and I couldn’t have said it if I
had; but it was something occasionally to see her fine, serious,
handsome face, shining in over our deathliness like a star.

At Corfu we managed to drag ourselves ashore for a couple of hours, and
mooned about arm-in-arm, in unsteady rapture at the warmth and sunshine.
At the hotel where we lunched we found the English papers. One of them
(that hebetated old ——, I think it was) had “Extraordinary Story from
Monte Carlo” among its foreign intelligence—just a few lines, to say an
attempt had been made by some Americans to raid the rooms, that it had
been completely frustrated, so far as plunder was concerned, but the
desperadoes had got clear away in a yacht known as the _Saratoga_. And
that, so far as I could ever afterwards learn, was the only reference to
our affair in the whole of the English press.

As for the _New York Guardian_, they declared the thieves were all
English, many of them well-known in New York, where the season before
they had masqueraded as peers and peers’ sons, and some of them nearly
succeeded in marrying prominent and wealthy society young ladies.
Really, when one happens to be a little behind the scenes, one is amazed
at the pompous inaccuracy of much of the information in the newspapers.
But, on the whole, I thought it wisest not to write and attempt to put
them straight.

On the Wednesday morning, early, we reached Patras, and were in Athens
soon after six. We drove up to the best hotel, but there was no news
whatever of the yacht. We had been so unwell, for after leaving Corfu it
again became fearfully rough, we looked more disreputable than ever. It
was no time, however, to be scrupulous, and I carried matters with such
a high hand, and was so dissatisfied and overbearing, we soon got rooms,
dined, and went to bed. I have always noticed, by-the-way, that if you
are rude and give yourself airs of importance, even without luggage, you
can generally get what you want in the way of accommodation. Most people
think you wouldn’t swagger or be insolent unless you were really
somebody, and either get out of the way and let you take what you want,
or give it you, bent double with obsequiousness. But, then, most people
are fools. So Teddy and I got two of the best bedrooms, after totally
refusing others, and slept in them with great comfort and soundness;
though all the money we had between us was seven francs fifty.

Next morning, soon after breakfast, we went up to the Acropolis. From my
school-days I knew it commanded a fine view, and hoped from thence soon
to descry the _Amaranth_.

’Οιμοι! there wasn’t a sign of her. We could look right down into the
harbor of the Piræus, three or four miles away, and the only occupants
were a Greek man-of-war and a couple of trading brigs. To comfort Teddy,
I pointed him out various famous islands—Salamis and Aegina, and so
forth—telling him such stories from Greek history as I could remember,
or partially invent. In the Acropolis itself, wandering among the
splendid and touching ruins, there wasn’t a soul but a dirty man, with
large patches on his knees, gathering snails.

“He follows the footsteps of Pericles, of Alcibiades, and of Solon,” I
said, “and from their dim traces he gathers snails for soup. Such, my
dear Teddy,” I added, tranquilly, “is all the history he knows. To him
the Acropolis is nothing but a hunting-ground for snails.”

“You’re talking exactly like Mr. Barlow!” replied Teddy, with a
dissatisfied snort.

In the afternoon we again set out for the Acropolis. At the bottom of
the sacred ascent a couple of carriages were waiting.

“It can scarcely be they,” I said. “They would come round and try all
the hotels first, surely.”

“Oh, a man like Brentin would do anything!” Teddy cried.

I looked into the first carriage, and soon recognized a little, rather
old, cloak Lucy used to wear, with a high Medici collar. She never had
much money for her clothes, poor child, and was apt to be a little
behind the fashions.

“It’s really they, Teddy,” I said. “Come along and we’ll give them a
fright. They deserve it.”

“They do, indeed!” shouted Teddy, scarlet with rage.

We peeped in cautiously at the entrance, and there they were. We could
see them all crossing from the Parthenon towards the Erechtheum, headed
by that toad Brentin. We let them get well inside the walls of the
beautiful little temple, and then we went quickly across to the left
towards them.

Just as we got up to the white marble walls, I pushed Teddy and said,
“Hide.” Then I went on in alone. Brentin was just saying, “This is
apparently the Erechtheum. There’s mighty little of it left; why don’t
they put it straight, anyway?”

You should just have seen their faces when they turned and saw me. Lucy,
who was looking very pale, ran tottering towards me with a little cry,
and nearly fainted in my arms. My sister followed, and was soon on my
other shoulder. Miss Rybot waved her parasol, Forsyth and Hines cheered,
and Arthur Masters gave a loud _gone away_! All Brentin said was, with
rather a forced smile, “Well, all right, eh? Here you are. You got my
telegram?”

We sat down on the fallen blocks of marble, and everybody began talking
at once. Where was Teddy, they asked, and why wasn’t he with me? Had he
really been caught, or had he, after all, run straight away home in his
fright?

As if trying to avoid a painful subject, “Why didn’t you come to Venice,
as we arranged?” I asked.

“We heard the French corvette was somewhere up in those waters,” Brentin
replied, “and thought it safer not. We should have come to look for you
here _at_ once, only we calculated you couldn’t possibly arrive till
to-morrow. But what about Parsons? What’s the matter with your telling
us all about Parsons?”

“Poor Teddy!” I sighed, and everybody looked shocked. I had scarcely
made up my mind whether to say he was dead, or in prison for life, when
Teddy himself suddenly fell in among us on his hands and knees. He
looked so ghastly, with his white face and red cactus scars—to say
nothing of his extraordinary way of entering—that the ladies began to
scream, and Bob Hines fell over backward.

“Teddy!”

“Hush! Hush! Hush!” hissed Teddy. “Bailey Thompson!”

“Im-pawsible,” snarled Brentin. “He’s in Minorca.”

“I say it’s Bailey Thompson. I saw him from outside, just coming in.”

“Alone?”

“Yes. Keep quiet!”

We all huddled close together and kept as still as death.

“I couldn’t be mistaken,” Teddy whispered. “He’s got on the same clothes
and carrying the shawl, and he was looking about him, just as he used at
Monte Carlo.”

“You don’t say!” said Brentin, looking scared. “What the plague is he
doing in Athens? We shall have all our trouble over again.” And then,
thinking he was not very polite, he added, “And how are you? All right?”

“No thanks to you!” grunted Teddy, at which the unfeeling Brentin began
to chuckle.

“Somebody’s scratched your face well for you,” he laughed. “Looks like
marriage lines!”

We lay very still, hoping against hope Thompson wouldn’t think the
Erechtheum worth a visit; but the fact was he had looked in the
carriages outside and questioned the driver, and, from the cloaks and
what the man had said, made up his mind it was our party. So, after
peeping in at the Parthenon, he came straight across; we heard his
footsteps, the divisional tread, closer and closer. Then he tumbled over
a column, swore, and the next moment was inside surveying us, huddled
together like a covey of partridges, with an expression I don’t find it
at all easy to describe—it was such a mixture of everything.

Poor creature, he had evidently suffered! His face was drawn, his beard
unshaved, and his forlorn eyes looked defiantly out from under a heavily
lined brow. His mouth was tight and grim, and yet about the compressed
lips there was an air of satisfaction, almost of unholy mirth. When he
saw us, ran his glance over us and noted we were all there, netted for
the fowler, flame leaped to his sombre eyes. There was dead silence
while he stepped majestically, solemnly forward, threw his plaid shawl
on a column, and unbuttoned his dusty frock-coat.

“And how are you?” said Brentin, coolly. “Come to see over the
Acropolis?”

Thompson glared at him, and without replying sat down on his shawl.

“How did you get here? Had a good voyage? Sakes alive, man, what a hole
in your boot!”

“Poor man!” whispered Lucy, “how fearfully tired and ill he looks.”

At so unexpected an expression of sympathy, the detective’s expression
suddenly changed. Poor wretch, he was worn out, hungry, and depressed;
humiliated and miserable, I suppose, at being so egregiously outwitted;
for his lip trembled, and, putting his face in his dog-skin hands, he
actually began to cry. I never felt so ashamed of myself, so sorry for a
man, in my life.

“Cry, baby, cry!” taunted Brentin. “Serve you thundering well right—”

“Be quiet!” I sternly cried. Brentin scowled at me, while poor Thompson
began to search with blinking eyes for his handkerchief.

Then I went on, with real feeling in my voice:

“We are sorry, Mr. Thompson, for the way we have treated you, but you
must see there was no other course open to us. We were entirely frank
with you, but you were never frank with us. We discovered your identity
quite by accident, and took the advantage we thought our due of the
discovery.”

“Oh, all right, sir, thank you!”

“At any rate,” struck in the irrepressible Brentin, with a wink at me,
“you have the satisfaction of knowing you spoiled a fine piece of work,
which will now, I guess, be consummated by other more imperfect hands
than ours.”

“What!” said the detective, brightening. “You never even made the
attempt?”

“What do you take us for?” cried the ingenious and evasive Brentin.
“Make an attempt of that nature, with the sharpest detective in old
England on our heels? No, sir!”

Thompson looked pleased, and then, with sly malice, observed:

“But, after all, gentlemen, you might have done it with perfect safety.”

“What!”

“With the most perfect safety, I assure you. I had not yet communicated
with the Monte Carlo police.”

“That so? But afterwards?”

“Oh, afterwards, I should have pinched you all, of course!”

“There you are!” cried Brentin; “we knew that, mighty well. No, sir!
There are no flies on us. You gave us a fright, Mr. Bailey Thompson, and
we, I guess, have given you one. But no real damage has been done to
either party. Let us cry quits. Your hand, sir!”

The simple fellow shook his hand obediently, and, polite as ever, bowed
to the ladies. My sister he already knew. She smiled at him and said:

“But how on earth have you got here, Mr. Bailey Thompson? We all
understood you were going to the Balearic Isles.”

“I know nothing of my original destination, madam,” the detective
replied. “I only know that after steaming for some few hours in one
direction, Mr. Van Ginkel suddenly bouted ship and went full speed in
the other.”

“But why, I wonder?”

“Some matter, I understood from the captain, connected with his divorced
wife.”

“The Princess Danleno,” said Brentin.

“Some such name. She had left Cannes and gone to San Remo, and Mr. Van
Ginkel was anxious to see her and effect a reconciliation, so the
captain told me. He is full of caprice, like all invalids, and on the
caprice seizing him he simply bouted ship without a word. But first he
had to get rid of me; so he carried me, full speed ahead, to the
southernmost point of Greece—somewhere near Cape Colonna, I
believe—and there he carted me ashore, gentlemen, like a sack of
coals.”

The poor man’s lip began to tremble again, and he looked round our
circle piteously for sympathy.

“Dear! dear!” murmured Brentin; “how like him! And never said a word the
whole time, I dare say?”

“Not one! That was early on Monday morning. Since then I have been
slowly making my way up the Morea with great difficulty and discomfort,
mainly on foot, and sometimes getting a lift in a country wagon. At
Nauplia I managed to secure a passage in a coasting steamer, which,
after a tempestuous voyage, has just landed me at the Piræus. There I
saw your yacht, gentlemen, and knew, of course, you were in the
neighborhood.”

“How did you manage about the language in the Peloponnese?” asked Hines,
curiously.

“Why, fortunately, I can draw a little,” replied the detective, who was
every moment recovering his spirits, “and anything I wanted I drew. But,
often as I drew a beefsteak or a chop, gentlemen,” he said, plaintively,
“I never got it. Nothing but eggs and a sort of polenta, and once—only
once—goat’s flesh, when I drew a bedstead, in token that I wanted to
sleep there. And the fleas, gentlemen, the fleas!” he cried. “There is a
large Greek flea—”

“Never mind that just now,” said Brentin, gravely. “There are elegant
and refined ladies present. The essential is you are safe, and bear us
all no malice. That is so, eh?”

“None in the world!” cried the good fellow. “But I shall be much obliged
if you will give me directions how to get home from the Acropolis in
Athens to Brixton. I have no money to speak of, and a large hole in my
right boot.”

“That will be all right, sir,” said Brentin, rising, with his grand air.
“Henceforth you are our guest. By-gones are by-gones, and we will look
after you till you are safely landed at Charing Cross.”

“Thence, by tram or ’bus, over Westminster Bridge,” murmured Hines, as
we all rose, shook ourselves, and prepared to descend.

“Well, all’s well that ends well,” cried Thompson. “But, all the same, I
rather regret, for all our sakes, the Monte Carlo business was left
untried.”

“Some other day, sir,” said Brentin; “some other day, when you are
enjoying your well-earned retirement, and an officer not quite so plaguy
sharp is in your place.”

The pleased detective walked jauntily on in front with the rest, while
Brentin, my sister, and I followed, Lucy clinging fondly to my arm.

“But what are you going to do with him?” I whispered. “It is ingenious
to let him suppose the thing has not been done; but once he gets on
board the yacht he’s bound to discover all, and that he’s been fooled
again. Then it will be all up, indeed!”

“Some of you must take him home overland, on the pretence there isn’t
room for every one on the _Amaranth_.”

“But he must find it all out directly he gets to England, mustn’t he?”
said Lucy, softly.

“I hope to goodness he won’t come trooping over to Medworth Square,” my
sister observed. “I shall never hear the last of it from Frank. And,
after all, I’ve done nothing, have I?”

“True, O queen!” muttered Brentin, knitting his brows. “But by the time
he gets back the scent will be fairly cold. And the Casino authorities
are taking the sensible course of ignoring the whole affair. That is so,
isn’t it? No doubt, you’ve seen the papers.”

Yes, I said, I had, and that was their line.

“There you are, then! For the rest, we must simply trust our luck. It
has stood by us pretty well so far. Oh, and, by-the-way, what about Mr.
Parsons? How did you manage to get him out?”

I rapidly sketched my part in the affair, and made them all laugh
amazingly as I told them of my disguise and its accidental resemblance
to Lord B.

“Whether we are drunken men or fools,” laughed Brentin, “I know not; but
Providence has certainly looked after us so far in a way that I may
fairly call the most favored nation clause.”

“_Quoti moris minus est, eo minus est periculi!_” I quoted, somehow
happening to remember the sentence from my old Latin grammar. “Which is
the Latin, ladies, for ‘Where there is the less fear, there is the less
danger.’”

Lucy pressed my arm and smiled happily.

Just as we neared the carriages:

“By-the-way,” I asked, “what did it all tote up to?”

“The boodle?”

“Yes.”

“Just over one million four hundred and fifty thousand francs; roughly
speaking, fifty-eight thousand pounds of your money.”

“You’ll be back in Wharton Park, dearest,” I whispered, “before the
swallow dares!”

She pressed my arm again and smiled more happily than ever.

“The only thing that troubles me,” said my sister, “is how on earth I am
to establish an _alibi_ to Frank’s satisfaction, in case there’s a
rumpus when we get back.”

“_Alibis_ are old-fashioned nowadays,” I answered. “We shall have to
think of something else for you than an _alibi_.”

The unsuspicious Bailey Thompson was standing at one of the carriage
doors in a dandified attitude, making himself agreeable to Miss Rybot.

As we drove away he again said—for after all he was human and meant to
be malicious—“But I do really wonder you didn’t do it, gentlemen, after
all!”

“Don’t torture us with remorse, Mr. Bailey Thompson, sir,” Brentin
cried; “the sense of neglected opportunity is hard to bear.”

“Well, all I can say is, I never saw an easier bit of work in my life,
and in my absence you were really perfectly safe. Those French police
are such utter fools, and as likely as not the Casino people would have
let you off. Come, now, confess! Don’t you regret it?”

“Sir,” said Brentin, loftily, “I regret nothing, and never did. All is
for the best in the best of all possible worlds.”

And the good detective couldn’t understand why, a few moments later,
Brentin was seized with a great roar of laughter. He explained it was
from seeing “Κοῦκ” in Greek letters over Cook’s offices; it looked so
droll! We all laughed heartily, too, and so drove up in immense mirth
and spirits to our hotel.



                             CHAPTER XXIII

   WE ARRIVE SAFE IN LONDON AND GO TO MEDWORTH SQUARE—BACK AT “THE
     FRENCH HORN”—NEWS AT LAST OF THE _AMARANTH_—I INTERVIEW MR.
     CRAGE AND FIND HIM ILL


VERY little remains to tell; but that little is of importance. Of our
journey home together (my sister, Lucy, Bailey Thompson, Parsons, and I,
the others sailing on board the yacht) I need say nothing, for it was
entirely pleasant and uneventful. Our luggage wasn’t even robbed on the
Italian lines; we felt the cold somewhat as we neared home, and that was
all.

At Charing Cross Thompson was evidently well-known to the officials; he
proclaimed us all his friends and above suspicion, so our portmanteaus
were barely looked at; everybody touched their hats to him, and we felt
quite royal in our immunities.

There we parted. Teddy jumped into a cab for Euston, to catch the night
express for his dear Southport; my sister, Lucy, and I went off in a
four-wheeler to Medworth Square; while the still unsuspicious Thompson
remained on the platform, bowing and smiling. Once safely landed at
Charing Cross, our duty to him was plainly at an end. No doubt he would
immediately go off to Brixton, find his sister, Mrs. Wingham, and learn
the truth; but what that might mean to us I really neither knew nor
cared. We had so far so brilliantly succeeded that readers must not
blame me if I continued obstinately optimistic, and believed, whatever
trouble might still be in store for us, we should certainly somehow
emerge from it scathless and joyous.

“I hope,” my sister said, as we drove away, “he won’t think it rude of
me not asking him to come and call. After all, he’s not quite of our
world, and he would need such a deal of explaining, for Frank always
insists on knowing exactly who everybody is.”

“He won’t think of coming of his own accord, I suppose?” whispered Lucy.
“And, oh! I do so wish he wasn’t a friend of Mr. Crage’s.”

“Lor’ bless you!” I philosophically remarked, “it’s even money we none
of us ever see or hear of him again.”

But we did, that day week exactly, when he turned up at “The French
Horn,” purple with ineffective rage, accompanied by his dazed French
_confrère_, Monsieur Cochefort.

In Medworth Square all was as usual. The Thursday evening German band
was playing the usual selection from that tiresome old “Mikado,” and my
sweet niece Mollie was soon tearing down the stairs to welcome us.

“She watch for you every night, ma’am,” her Welsh nurse said; “and last
night she go down-stairs her best, and blow up Mr. Blyth like anything
for doing a door-bell ring exactly like yours, ma’am.”

My brother-in-law was very glad to get his wife back, and, having been
warned by letter, welcomed my dear Lucy with sufficient warmth. How
could he help it? Everywhere she went she won all hearts. Brentin and
Parsons both admired her desperately, and Bob Hines, my sister told me,
paid her more attention on the yacht coming from Monte Carlo than he had
ever been known to pay any one before.

Even Forsyth, who is one of the most _difficile_ men I know (unless the
young lady makes a dead set at him, when he thinks her lovely), even he
said to me, “That’s a real pretty girl, Vincent, and you’re a very lucky
man to get her;” while Miss Rybot once quite surprised me by the warmth
of her congratulation. “She’s so fresh and unaffected, Mr. Blacker,” she
said. “She’s like a breeze that meets you at the end of a country lane
when you come suddenly upon the sea.” Which I thought both poetical and
perfectly true—rather a rare combination nowadays.

The next morning Lucy and I were off to Liverpool Street for Nesshaven
and “The French Horn.” As we drove up, and I saw the familiar place once
more, blinking in the soft February sunshine, just as we had left it, I
could scarcely believe all I had gone through in the way of peril and
adventure. Somehow, if one leaves a place for a time, and has
experiences of moment in the interval, one expects those experiences to
have had their effect elsewhere, too, even on inanimate objects.

I felt older, wiser, more developed, more of a man, and I was astonished
to find the place quite unaltered and Mr. Thatcher looking just the same
as he came running out in his dirty old blazer. His mother was at the
window, gazing through the panes with the naïve curiosity of a child at
new arrivals. She kissed Lucy, and said to me: “Well, here you are back
safe, you bad young man. You’ve given us a rare fright, I can tell
you”—and that was all.

That same evening, when the ladies were safely abed, I had a long talk
with Mr. Thatcher in the bar parlor. After dear Lucy’s escapade, we
decided we might as well be married at once, without waiting for Easter;
and that, with the help of a license, the following Thursday, February
6th, would be none too soon. For myself, apart from other
considerations, I thought it clearly wisest to get married and clear out
of the country, on a lengthy wedding-tour, as quick as we could; so
that, in case of search being made for me, as the head and guiding
spirit of the raid, I might, for some few months at any rate, be _non
inventus_.

Next, I delicately approached the subject of the repurchase of Wharton
Park. I told Mr. Thatcher we had been extraordinarily lucky at Monte
Carlo, and that, by a combination of rare circumstances, I was the
richer by £30,000 than when I started. He was shrewd enough to listen in
silence and ask no sort of question as to what particular system I had
pursued to enable me to return with so large a sum. In fact, I scarcely
gave him time to ask questions, I was so rapid, hurrying forward only to
the main point, whether Crage’s offer were still open and we should
still be able to get the old wretch out.

He told me that since Crage’s last visit and offer to marry Lucy he had
seen nothing of him, and, so far as he knew, the place was still to be
had. We could, if I liked, go up to the house in a day or two and make
inquiries cautiously, or write Crage a letter making him a formal
proposal.

To which I replied that, knowing something of human nature, I judged it
best, when we made our offer, to be prepared with the actual sum in
notes and gold to make it good; for, with a man like Crage, combined of
malice and craft, he would most likely try to bluff and raise us unless
he saw the very gold and notes before him, beyond which, not having any
more to offer, we were not prepared to go.

“Very true,” said Thatcher. “There’s nothing like the ready to tempt a
man, as I know very well. Why, when I was in business—”

“Then all we can do,” I continued, cutting him short, “is to wait in
patience till the boodle—”

“The what?” said Thatcher, taking the pipe out of his mouth.

“It’s an American term—the money we have won, arrives. It’s coming in
the yacht, and should be here in a day or two now. Then we’ll go up with
it to the house, in a bag, and spread it out on the table—”

“And I shall be back in Wharton Park again!” cried Thatcher. “Gracious
powers! Who would have thought it possible? And, of course, it will be
settled on Lucy. Me for life, and then Lucy. How delighted my poor old
mother will be!”

“Yes,” I said, “and that your name may be perpetuated, I will add it to
my own. Father-in-law, here’s health and prosperity to those two fine
old English families, the Thatcher-Blackers!”

So there was nothing we could do but wait in patience for the arrival of
the _Amaranth_. It was tedious, anxious work, for though I never doubted
all would be well, yet Bailey Thompson’s portentous silence somewhat
alarmed me; and as the days passed, and neither he nor the yacht gave
any sign of their existence, my nerves began to get unstrung, and I grew
worn and irritable.

Fortunately, as often happens in the early days of February, the weather
was beautifully fine; so fine that the more flatulent class of
newspapers were full of letters from country correspondents, who were
finding hedge-sparrows’ eggs and raspberries in their gardens, and the
usual Lincolnshire parson broke into jubilant twitterings over his dish
of green pease. Otherwise, I don’t think I really could have borne it.

At last, late on the Tuesday evening, came a telegram from Brentin at
Southampton—“_Safe, will arrive to-morrow_”—and I began to breathe a
little easier. But not a word of any sort from Bailey Thompson, neither
a reproach nor a threat; till I felt like that Damocles of Syracuse who,
though seated on a throne, was yet immediately under a faintly suspended
sword. For here was I, on a throne, indeed—the throne of dear Lucy’s
pure and constant affection—and yet!—at any moment!—

Dramatically enough, the sword fell on my very wedding morning—on its
flat side, happily—giving me a shock, but no cut of any sort, as I am
now briefly going to tell.

The next morning came another telegram from Brentin in London, to say he
would arrive at six and beg he might be met. All was well, he wired,
adding “_Any news Thompson?_”

I wired back to the “Victoria” there was none: “_bring boodle with
you_;” and then I went off and found Thatcher.

For always I had had the fancy to pay old Crage out of the place and be
married on the same day, and here was now my chance. We were to be
married in Nesshaven Church, in the grounds of Wharton Park, at twelve;
what was to prevent us, I said to Thatcher, from walking on up to the
house first with £30,000, completing the purchase, and hasting to the
wedding afterwards? Thence back to “The French Horn” for a light lunch,
afterwards catch the half-past-two train for Liverpool Street, and so to
Folkestone in the evening.

There was nothing to prevent it, said Thatcher, who for the last two
days had gone about in a triumphant, bulging white waistcoat; only it
would require rather delicate handling, all to be done successfully.
Crage should be prepared, for instance, he thought; for, notwithstanding
the sight of the money, the sight of dear Lucy in her happy wedding
radiance might turn him sour, and he might after all refuse to complete.
What was to prevent one of us, he said—meaning, of course, me—going up
to the house and sounding the old man first? Then we should know exactly
how we stood, and what chance there was of our money being accepted.

Now, for the last week nothing had been seen of the old man, and rumors
had reached us, chiefly through the gardener, he was very ill. He hadn’t
been to church for more than a month, and at church he had always been a
very regular attendant; not so much because he had any real religion in
him as that he might aggravate the parson by catching him up loudly in
the responses, and barking his way harshly through the hymns a good
half-line behind the rest of the congregation. Indeed, the chief
attraction, I fear, at Nesshaven Church was old Crage and his nauseous
eccentricities, and people who had heard how he had once lighted up his
pipe during the sermon and sat there sucking at it in the Wharton pew,
came from miles round in the hope he would enliven the discourse by
doing it again.

Nor had he been seen about the grounds, nor stumping down to the inn, as
he mostly did once a week to insult the inmates; in short, the end that
comes to us all—good, bad, and indifferent—was clearly coming now to
him, and if business were ever to be done, it must be done speedily and
at once.

So, before Brentin came, early on the Wednesday afternoon, I trudged
alone up to the house. There wasn’t a sign of life in it, and when I
rang at the hall door I heard the heavy bell clanging away down the
empty passages and cold servants’ quarters as in the depths of an
Egyptian tomb. I rang and rang, until at last I heard shuffling
footsteps approach. From the other side of the door came stertorous
breathing and wheezing, and the undoing of a chain; then a burglar’s
bell was taken off and fell with a jangle on the stone floor inside, and
at last the door was pulled ajar.

Poor old Crage! He looked out at me with his wicked, frightened old
face, pinched, haggard, unshaven, dirty; terror-struck, as though he
feared, I were Death himself who had been knocking at the door. He was
in his shirt and trousers and a frowzy old dressing-gown, and his bare,
bony feet were thrust in worn leather slippers. As he breathed his
throat rattled dismally, and his long hand, with the thick, muddy veins,
shook so he couldn’t fold the dressing-gown round his gaunt, corded,
bare throat.

“Hullo, young cockney!” he croaked; “what’s to do?”

“How are you, Mr. Crage?” I asked, shocked at the old man’s fallen,
forlorn look.

“Very bad!” he whispered, his rheumy eyes blinking with watery
self-pity.

“Is there anybody looking after you?”

“No—no—thieves! all thieves!—don’t want ’em.”

Then he made as if he would shut the door.

“I came up to see you on business,” I said; “about selling the house.”

“No business to-day,” he croaked. “Too ill. Come to-morrow—any time.
Come to-morrow.” And with that he shut the door in my face.

I heard him shuffling away across the hall, kicking the fallen bell with
a tinkle along the floor, and then, as I turned to go, I heard him fall
and groan. I ran in hastily, and with great difficulty managed to get
him on his feet again. He stood there for some few minutes, clutching me
and rattling his throat; then, hanging on my arm, dragging me along with
him, he paddled off down a short dark passage towards a half-open door,
pushed it wide, and pulled me after him into the great empty
drawing-room.

The blinds were down, and the fading February sun gleamed in on the bare
worn carpet. In front of the fine fireplace, with a little dying
wood-fire in it, stood an arm-chair, with a small table beside it. A
candle and snuffers were on it, and a plate of stale bread-and-butter.
On the high mantel-piece was a medicine bottle, full and corked.

He sank back into his chair, and lay there, breathing heavily, with his
eyes closed.

“But is there nobody looking after you?” I asked, and he made some
twitching movement with his fingers.

Just at that moment in flounced the gardener’s wife, drying her hands on
her apron. She was a big, handsome, shameless-looking creature, with a
naming eye and a hard, high color on her stiff cheeks.

“Now you’ve been moving yourself about again!” she cried, bending over
him.

Crage opened his eyes and looked up at her maliciously.

“He came up on business,” he whispered.

“You’re a pretty man to do business, ain’t you?” she sneered.

“No, not to-day,” he mocked. “Too ill. All right to-morrow. Tell the
genelman to come to-morrow, early. Quite well to-morrow.”

I turned to go, and Crage, raising himself in his chair, rasped out:

“Bring the money with you, young cockney, or no business. Mind that!”

The woman followed me to the door.

“Has he got a doctor?” I asked.

“Doctor Hall came once,” she said, “but he won’t do anything he tells
him. He won’t take his medicine and he won’t go to bed. He says he’ll
die if he goes to bed. He sleeps all night in that arm-chair in the
drawing-room. If he don’t die soon, I shall; I know that very well. If
you’ve got any business to do with him, you’d better come early in the
morning. He can’t last much longer.”

And with that she closed the door on me, and I heard her putting up the
chain again and the burglar’s bell as I went away down the weedy gravel
path.



                              CHAPTER XXIV

   ARRIVAL OF BRENTIN—MY WEDDING-DAY—WE GO TO WHARTON—BAILEY
     THOMPSON AND COCHEFORT FOLLOW US—WE FINALLY DEFEAT THEM BOTH


BRENTIN was in “The French Horn” by a quarter to seven, and, rather to
my surprise, he came alone. I thought Hines or Masters would surely have
come with him; but no, he said, except for Forsyth, they had all parted
company at Southampton. Masters and Miss Rybot had gone to Sea View,
where they were to be married almost immediately, and Hines had gone off
to stay with a married sister at Bournemouth. Forsyth alone had
travelled up to town with him, and then gone on straight to Colchester
to take up his neglected regimental duties. So I wrote out a telegram to
be sent first thing in the morning, begging him to come over and be my
best man.

And the boodle? Brentin winked and, with his hands on his knees, began
to laugh, like the priest in the _Bonne Histoire_.

“Some of it has melted, sir,” he joyously cried. “Your friend Hines has
got his, and Mr. Parsons, by this time, is toying with ay registered
letter way up in Southport. I have handsomely recompensed Captain Evans
and the crew; they have, no doubt, been tanking-up and painting
Portsmouth red all the time. I have reimbursed myself for the yacht and
other trifles, and there now remains the £30,000 for your young lady’s
ancestral home, and some £20,000 for the hospitals and so on. To-morrow,
sir, we will draw up a list of the most deserving of them.”

“You have the money with you?”

“Yes,” he said; it was all safe in what he called his grip, or hand-bag,
and quite at my service. I told him of my desire to complete the
purchase immediately before the marriage was solemnized, and then we
fell to talking of Bailey Thompson and his strange silence.

“Why, the man is piqued, sir,” said Brentin; “that’s what he is, piqued.
Beyond saying that, I do not propose to give him ay second thought. He
is mad piqued, and that’s all there is to it!”

So I tried to feel completely at my ease, and managed to spend a very
happy evening in the bar parlor, Lucy playing to us and Brentin
occasionally bursting into raucous song. Now, when I think of him, I
like best to remember him as he was that evening, forgetting his harder,
commoner side, when he so outrageously proposed to desert poor Teddy;
even refusing (as I forgot at the time to mention) to allow the cannon
to be brought into play for his rescue by shelling the rooms. He was
infinitely gay and amusing, only finishing up the evening, after dear
Lucy’s retirement, with a long and violent dispute with Mr. Thatcher on
the vague subject of the immortality of the soul. Thatcher believed he
had a soul and would live forever, in another, happier sphere; Brentin
denied it, could see no sign of Thatcher’s soul anywhere; so I left them
trying to shout each other down, both speaking at once.

I retired to rest with many solemn, touching thoughts. The last night of
bachelorhood gives rise to at least as much deep reflection as that of
the young maiden’s; more, in fact, so far as the bachelor himself is
concerned. I thought over it all so long and deeply I at last got
confused, and when I woke, the bright February sun was streaming in on
my best clothes and the bells from Nesshaven Church were ringing.

All the morning those bells rang out their happy, irregular peal.

        “The village church beneath the trees,
          Where first our marriage vows were given,
        With merry peal shall swell the breeze,
          And point with slender spire to heaven!”

Only, to be exact, Nesshaven Church has no spire, but a sunk, old,
bird-haunted, ivy-clad tower.

It was Thatcher’s idea to set the bells going early and keep them at it
all day; you see, they rang not only for the marriage of his only child,
but for his return to their ancestral home; and, when they showed any
sign of flagging, Thatcher listened with a pained expression, and cried,
“Why, surely they’re not going to stop yet! Run, Bobby, or Harriet, or
George, my man!”—or whoever happened to be handy—“and tell ’em to keep
’em going, and give ’em this from me. Here, Vincent, my boy, have you
got half-a-crown?”

By ten o’clock we were all dressed and ready, waiting only for Forsyth.
Soon after ten he came, and the procession started. It was a lovely day
again, mild and sunny, and, in true country-wedding fashion, we all set
out to walk. Lucy, looking perfectly sweet in gray, was on her father’s
arm, and the old lady, in black silk, on mine; while Brentin, carrying
his grip, with the boodle in it, and that good little chap, Forsyth,
brought up the rear.

The old lady, who within the last three months seemed to me to have
failed a good deal, mentally, at any rate, stepped out right well,
hanging lightly on my arm. At first she thought we were going straight
to the church, and couldn’t understand why we left it on our right and
went on up to the big house. Then she seemed to think it quite natural,
and that the place was hers again, and began talking of her early days,
when first she was married and came to Wharton as a bride. Once or
twice, indeed, she called me “Francis,” her husband’s name, who died in
1850, and drew my attention to the scandalous, weedy state of the walks.

“And this is what we pay good wages for!” she cried. “These men must be
spoken to about it, my dear, immediately.”

The gardener’s wife, who opened for us the hall door, was astonished at
our numbers.

“Why, what a crowd of you!” she said.

The old lady passed her haughtily.

“Come, Tom!” she cried to Mr. Thatcher. “We’ll go up-stairs and have tea
in _my_ room. Come, Lucy!”

And up-stairs, up the bare stone staircase, they went, for, as I
whispered to Thatcher, it was just as well the ladies should be out of
the way while we did our business.

In the great empty drawing-room we found old Crage ready waiting for us.
He had dressed himself up in rusty attorney black for the occasion, and
the plain kitchen-table was neatly spread with bundles of documents,
title-deeds, and so forth.

As the woman showed us in, she told me he had been up all night
rummaging in his old tin boxes, talking and mumbling to himself. Now he
seemed quite spry and well again. I could scarcely believe, as he sat
there alert and attentive, he was the same stricken, shambling old hunks
I had seen the previous afternoon, dragging himself about, senile and
dying. Such is the power of the will and the business instinct,
prolonged even to the verge of the grave!

Brentin, who, as usual, took everything into his own hands, adopted the
simplest method of dealing with him. Crage received us in complete
silence, and no one spoke a word, while Brentin opened his grip and took
out the notes and two or three little bags of gold. The gold he emptied
into heaps and piled them round the notes.

Then, “Thirty thousand pounds,” he said, with a smile—“thirty thousand
pounds! Is it a deal?”

Crage sat bolt upright, with his hand curved over his ear.

“For the entire property?” he asked.

“For the entire property. Is it a deal? Thirty thousand pounds, neither
less nor more.” And he emptied the grip and shook it, to show that not a
penny more remained.

“It’s worth more in the open market,” said Crage, cautiously.

“Then take it to the open market. We have no time to haggle. My client
is on his way to be married. Good-day.” And with that he began to scrape
the notes and gold together again.

“Hold hard!” cried Crage. “Don’t hurry an old man.”

“We’ll give the old man three minutes,” said Brentin, coolly pulling out
his watch.

We were all three of us grouped round the table, watching Crage, with
our backs to the door. The woman stood at his elbow, and we could, in
the complete silence, hear the heavy, swinging tick-tick of Brentin’s
large old-fashioned watch.

“Half time!” cried Brentin, when suddenly we heard steps outside in the
hall. I had just time to recognize Bailey Thompson’s even, divisional
tread, when he pushed the door open and stepped in. He was dressed as
usual, and behind him came a gentleman in a tight black frock-coat, an
evident Frenchman, thin, dark, and wiry, with a withered face, like a
preserved Bordeaux plum.

“One moment, if—you—please, gentlemen!” cried Bailey Thompson, as he
stepped up to the table.

My heart gave a bound, and Forsyth started and said, “Ho!” but the
unabashed Brentin merely politely replied, “One moment to _you_, sir. We
will attend to you directly.—Time’s up, Mr. Crage! is it or is it not a
deal?”

Bailey Thompson laughed. “Cool as ever, Mr. Brentin, I see,” he said.
“But don’t you think this amusing farce of yours has gone on long
enough? It has been successful so far, as I always thought it would be!”

“You’re mighty good!”

“We have no desire to be unduly hard on you.”

“You are mighty particular good!”

“The Casino authorities are, on the whole, willing to regard you as
eccentric English gentlemen of position, who have played a very cruel
practical joke on them.”

“That so?”

“That is so. This is their representative, Mossieu Cochefort.”

“_Enchantay!_” cried Brentin, with a bow.

“He is charged to say that, on the due return of the money you have
sto—ahem!—carried off, and an undertaking from you in writing that you
none of you ever visit the place again, on any pretence, they are
willing to forego criminal proceedings, and no further questions will be
asked.”

“Oh, come off it!” cried Brentin, laughing.

“Otherwise,” continued Bailey Thompson, with great gravity, “I must ask
you, Mr. Blacker, and Mr. Forsyth here, to follow me to the cab in
waiting at the door, and return with us to London as our prisoners.”

“In short, sir,” said Brentin, swelling with indignant importance, “you
invite _us_, eccentric gentlemen of recognized position, to compound a
felony!”

Thompson shrugged his shoulders, and Mossieu Cochefort looked puzzled.

“Be ashamed of yourself, sir!” Brentin cried, his voice ringing
scornfully through the empty room. “Be ashamed of yourselves, you and
Mossieu Cochefort, and give over talking through your hat! Mr. Crage, if
you will write out a formal receipt we will look upon the affair as
settled. The formal transfer can be effected later.”

“Aye, aye!” mumbled Crage, and, with his eyes on the money, began
fumbling in the inside pocket of his rusty black coat for the receipt.

“Gentlemen!” cried Thompson, with affected earnestness, “I warn you! I
very solemnly warn you—”

“Oh, come off it, Mr. Bailey Thompson, sir!” was Brentin’s emphatic and
withering reply; “come off it, and shut your head. We have long had
enough of you and your gas. For my part, my earnest advice to you and
Mossieu Cochefort is that you kiss yourselves good-bye and go your
several ways. And tell your amazing Casino Company from us that the only
undertaking we will give them is not to come and do it again in the
fall. To repeat a success is always dangerous; and next time, no doubt,
you will all be better prepared.—Now, Mr. Crage, the receipt!”

“_Qu’est ce qu’il a dit?_” asked the puzzled Frenchman, as Thompson,
fuming and fretting, dragged him off to the window to explain.

Meantime old Crage had produced his receipt, already written and signed,
and, handing it over, with trembling, eager fingers was beginning to
count the notes.

“Ten fifties—ten thousands—ten twenties,” he was mumbling, “nice clean
notes—beautiful crisp notes—he won’t get ’em back from me, if that’s
what he’s after! No, no, not from Crage. Crage wasn’t in Clement’s Inn
for forty years for nothing. Ten more fifties!—” So he went on mumbling
to himself, and stuffing the notes away in a broken old pocket-book,
while Brentin handed me over the receipt, and snapped his grip with a
click.

“It’s all right,” he whispered. “We’ve bluffed ’em. Keep cool.”

“Hadn’t you better let me keep ’em for you!” whined the woman, bending
over Crage’s chair. “You’ll only lose ’em. Give ’em me to take care of
for you, there’s a dearie!”

To which pathetic appeal the old man paid no sort of heed, but pushed
the pocket-book into his inside breast-pocket, with many senile signs of
satisfaction and joy.

“And now!” cried Brentin, in imperturbable high spirits, “the
wedding-procession will reform, and proceed to the church for the tying
of the sacred knot. Mr. Bailey Thompson—Mossieu Cochefort—we shall be
glad if you will join us, and afterwards, at ‘The French Horn,’ to a
slight but high-toned repast. Good-day, Mr. Crage; take care of yourself
and your money. Let us hope that when the robins nest they will find you
in your usual robust health. Mossieu Cochefort—Mr. Bailey Thompson—if
you will kindly follow us—”

But a sudden access of fury seemed to have seized the usually calm
little detective; he was stamping his feet, waving his arms, almost
foaming at the mouth.

In execrable French, Stratford-atte-Bow-Street French, he began to swear
aloud he would have nothing more to do with it, that he had done his
best, that he had never yet had dealings with the French police but they
hadn’t muddled it; for his part, his work was finished, and he was going
home.

“Here they are!” he cried, “three of them, all ready for you. Will you
have them, or won’t you? _Les voilar! Nong? Vous ne les voulay pas?_
Then if you don’t want them, why the ——” (dreadful bad word!) “did you
bring me off down here?” he yelled, breaking into profane English.

“_Mais, voyons! voyons!_” murmured the startled and conciliatory
Cochefort.

“Damn your _voyons_!” Bailey Thompson screamed. “If you don’t want them,
and won’t take them, do the rest of it yourself, the best way you can. I
wash my hands of it. Good-day, gentlemen, and thank your lucky stars for
the imbecility of the French police!” and with that he rushed to the
door, through the hall, and out into his cab. As he pulled the hall door
open I heard the wedding-bells come surging in with a new burst of joy.

“_Mais, mon ami!_” cried Cochefort, as Thompson tore himself away, “_ne
me laissez pas comme ça!_” and with much gesticulation prepared to
follow.

But Brentin sagely stopped him. “_Restay, Mossieu Cochefort!_” he said,
graciously; “_Restay avec nous. Tout va biang. Restay!_”

“_Mais, quel cochon!_” cried the angry Cochefort, stretching out his
black kid hands, and shaking them in Bailey Thompson’s direction. “_Ma
parole d’honneur! a t’on jamais vu un pareil sacré cochon!_”

“_C’est vrai!_” said Brentin. “_Mais il est toujours comme ça. Vous
savvy, il n’est pas gentilhomme. Nous sommes tous gentilhommes. Nous
vous garderong et vous traiterong tray biang. Restay!_”

So Mossieu Cochefort allowed himself to be comforted, and restay’d. We
took him with us to the church, and did him right well at lunch, and
then, so forlorn and downcast the poor creature seemed, Lucy and I
carried him off with us up to town, if only out of kindness, to put him
on his way back to Monaco.

On the way up in the train he confessed to me his only instructions had
been to try and get the money back, and that if he couldn’t manage that,
or part of it, he was directed not to think of embarrassing the
authorities by taking us all in charge. I could conceive, he said, that
the authorities didn’t want to be made the laughing-stock of Europe by
having to try us, nor to add to their already heavy expenses by keeping
us in prison—nearly all quite young men—for the term of our natural
lives. He hadn’t been able fully to explain all this to Bailey Thompson:
the man was such a lunatic, he said, and so obstinate: and besides, from
the moment of his arrival Bailey Thompson had ridden the high horse over
him, and proudly declaring he didn’t require to be taught his duties by
a foreigner, had immediately carried him off down to Nesshaven, scarcely
allowing him once to open his mouth all the way.

At Liverpool Street he seemed more lost, poor wretch, than ever. He knew
no single word of English, and looked at us so pathetically, as we stood
on the platform together, our soft hearts were touched. So we made up
our minds to carry him along with us to Folkestone, dine him at the
“Pavilion,” and afterwards see him safe on board the night-boat for
Boulogne.

It was droll, all the same, this carrying a French detective about with
us on our wedding-day; but the man was so truly grateful I have never
regretted it. We gave him a good dinner at the hotel, and at ten o’clock
walked him out on to the pier for his boat. He made me a little speech
at parting, declaring I had treated him “_en vrai camarade_,” and that
if ever I wanted to come to Monte Carlo again I was to let him know and
he would see I came to no harm. To Lucy he presented all his compliments
and felicitations on securing the affection of “_un si galant homme!_”
and then, with a twenty-pound note I slipped into his hand at parting,
bowed himself away, and was soon lost to sight in the purlieus of the
second cabin, whither he went prepared to be dreadfully sick, smooth and
calm as the night was.

As Lucy and I strolled back to the hotel, arm-in-arm, we both were
silent.

At last, just as we got back and heard the steamer’s final clanging bell
and despairing whistle, “I can’t make out, really, whether you’ve all
done right or wrong,” she whispered, softly; “but this I know, dearest,
you have been most extraordinarily lucky.”

To which simple little speech I merely pressed her arm, by way of
showing how thoroughly I agreed with her.



                               CONCLUSION


THIS is the true account of our raiding the tables at Monte Carlo, done
the best way I could.

For the rest, I may just mention poor old Crage died before the end of
the month, and by Easter Mr. Thatcher and his mother were safely
installed in Wharton Park. Arthur Masters was married to Miss Rybot in
April, Forsyth is to do the same to a widow (so he says) in September,
Bob Hines is very flourishing with his new gymnasium and
swimming-bath—just about finished now, as I write, at the end of
June—and Parsons is, I believe, at Southport, parading Lord Street as
usual in breeches and gaiters.

As for Brentin, I never saw him again, for by the time Lucy and I had
returned from our honeymoon he was back in New York. But I heard from
him the other day—a long, rambling letter, in which he told me he had
sold the _Amaranth_ to Van Ginkel, for his wife the Princess Danleno,
whom he had remarried, and with whom, on separate vessels, he was
sailing about the Greek Archipelago—probably in belated search for
Bailey Thompson. He concluded by begging me to think of something
“snappy” we could do together in the fall, ending finally by writing:
“What’s the matter with our going to Egypt and turning the Nile into the
Red Sea? A communicative stranger, an Englishman, by his accent, assures
me there is just one place where it can be done. Think it over, sonny,
and if you decide to do it, count on me. Sincerely, =Julius C.
Brentin=.”

I would write more, only Lucy is calling to me from the hay-field, the
other side of the ha-ha of Wharton, where I have come to finish this
work in retirement.

        “Around my ivied porch shall cling
          Each fragrant flower that drinks the dew,
        And Lucy at her wheel shall sing
          In russet gown with ’kerchief blue.”

As my dear Lucy says, I really am, and always have been, a most
extraordinarily lucky man.

                                THE END



                           TRANSCRIBER NOTES


Misspelled words and printer errors have been corrected. Some words are
hyphenated by the author for emphasis.

Inconsistencies in punctuation have been maintained.

Italicized words are surrounded by underline
characters, _like this_. Words in bold characters are surrounded by
equal signs, =like this=.





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