The Brass Bottle by F. Anstey
CHAPTER II. A
CHAPTER III. AN
CHAPTER IV. AT
CHAPTER V. CARTE
LIVELY SENSE OF
FAVOURS TO COME”
CHAPTER X. NO
PLACE LIKE HOME!
CHAPTER XI. A
CHAPTER XII. THE
CHAPTER XIII. A
CHOICE OF EVILS
NO HELP, COME,
LET US KISS AND
CHAPTER XVI. A
CHAPTER XVIII. A
GAME OF BLUFF
THE BRASS BOTTLE
First Published, October, 1900
THE BRASS BOTTLE
CHAPTER I. HORACE VENTIMORE RECEIVES
This day six weeksjust six weeks ago! Horace Ventimore said,
half aloud, to himself, and pulled out his watch. Half-past
twelvewhat was I doing at half-past twelve?
As he sat at the window of his office in Great Cloister Street,
Westminster, he made his thoughts travel back to a certain glorious
morning in August which now seemed so remote and irrecoverable. At this
precise time he was waiting on the balcony of the Hôtel de la
Plagethe sole hostelry of St. Luc-en-Port, the tiny Normandy
watering-place upon which, by some happy inspiration, he had lighted
during a solitary cycling tourwaiting until She should appear.
He could see the whole scene: the tiny cove, with the violet shadow
of the cliff sleeping on the green water; the swell of the waves lazily
lapping against the diving-board from which he had plunged half an hour
before; he remembered the long swim out to the buoy; the exhilarated
anticipation with which he had dressed and climbed the steep path to
the hotel terrace.
For was he not to pass the whole remainder of that blissful day in
Sylvia Futvoye's society? Were they not to cycle together (there were,
of course, others of the partybut they did not count), to cycle over
to Veulettes, to picnic there under the cliff, and ride backalways
togetherin the sweet-scented dusk, over the slopes, between the
poplars or the cornfields glowing golden against a sky of warm purple?
Now he saw himself going round to the gravelled courtyard in front
of the hotel with a sudden dread of missing her. There was nothing
there but the little low cart, with its canvas tilt which was to convey
Professor Futvoye and his wife to the place of rendezvous.
There was Sylvia at last, distractingly fair and fresh in her cool
pink blouse and cream-coloured skirt; how gracious and friendly and
generally delightful she had been throughout that unforgettable day,
which was supreme amongst others only a little less perfect, and all
now fled for ever!
They had had drawbacks, it was true. Old Futvoye was perhaps the
least bit of a bore at times, with his interminable disquisitions on
Egyptian art and ancient Oriental character-writing, in which he seemed
convinced that Horace must feel a perfervid interest, as, indeed, he
thought it politic to affect. The Professor was a most learned
archæologist, and positively bulged with information on his favourite
subjects; but it is just possible that Horace might have been less
curious concerning the distinction between Cuneiform and Aramæan or
Kufic and Arabic inscriptions if his informant had happened to be the
father of anybody else. However, such insincerities as these are but so
many evidences of sincerity.
So with self-tormenting ingenuity Horace conjured up various
pictures from that Norman holiday of his: the little half-timbered
cottages with their faded blue shutters and the rushes growing out of
their thatch roofs; the spires of village churches gleaming above the
bronze-green beeches; the bold headlands, their ochre and yellow cliffs
contrasting grimly with the soft ridges of the turf above them; the
tethered black-and-white cattle grazing peacefully against a background
of lapis lazuli and malachite sea, and in every scene the sensation of
Sylvia's near presence, the sound of her voice in his ears. And now?...
He looked up from the papers and tracing-cloth on his desk, and round
the small panelled room which served him as an office, at the framed
plans and photographs, the set squares and T squares on the walls, and
felt a dull resentment against his surroundings. From his window he
commanded a cheerful view of a tall, mouldering wall, once part of the
Abbey boundaries, surmounted by chevaux-de-frise, above whose
rust-attenuated spikes some plane trees stretched their yellowing
She would have come to care for me, Horace's thoughts ran on,
disjointedly. I could have sworn that that last day of alland her
people didn't seem to object to me. Her mother asked me cordially
enough to call on them when they were back in town. When I did
When he had called, there had been a differencenot an unusual
sequel to an acquaintanceship begun in a Continental watering-place. It
was difficult to define, but unmistakablea certain formality and
constraint on Mrs. Futvoye's part, and even on Sylvia's, which seemed
intended to warn him that it is not every friendship that survives the
Channel passage. So he had gone away sore at heart, but fully
recognising that any advances in future must come from their side. They
might ask him to dinner, or at least to call again; but more than a
month had passed, and they had made no sign. No, it was all over; he
must consider himself dropped.
After all, he told himself, with a short and anything but mirthful
laugh, it's natural enough. Mrs. Futvoye has probably been making
inquiries about my professional prospects. It's better as it is. What
earthly chance have I got of marrying unless I can get work of my own?
It's all I can do to keep myself decently. I've no right to dream of
asking any oneto say nothing of Sylviato marry me. I should only be
rushing into temptation if I saw any more of her. She's not for a poor
beggar like me, who was born unlucky. Well, whining won't do any
goodlet's have a look at Beevor's latest performance.
He spread out a large coloured plan, in a corner of which appeared
the name of William Beevor, Architect, and began to study it in a
spirit of anything but appreciation.
Beevor gets on, he said to himself. Heaven knows that I don't
grudge him his success. He's a good fellowthough he does build
architectural atrocities, and seem to like 'em. Who am I to give myself
airs? He's successfulI'm not. Yet if I only had his opportunities,
what wouldn't I make of them!
Let it be said here that this was not the ordinary self-delusion of
an incompetent. Ventimore really had talent above the average, with
ideals and ambitions which might under better conditions have attained
recognition and fulfilment before this.
But he was not quite energetic enough, besides being too proud, to
push himself into notice, and hitherto he had met with persistent
So Horace had no other occupation now but to give Beevor, whose
offices and clerk he shared, such slight assistance as he might
require, and it was by no means cheering to feel that every year of
this enforced semi-idleness left him further handicapped in the race
for wealth and fame, for he had already passed his twenty-eighth
If Miss Sylvia Futvoye had indeed felt attracted towards him at one
time it was not altogether incomprehensible. Horace Ventimore was not a
model of manly beautymodels of manly beauty are rare out of novels,
and seldom interesting in them; but his clear-cut, clean-shaven face
possessed a certain distinction, and if there were faint satirical
lines about the mouth, they were redeemed by the expression of the
grey-blue eyes, which were remarkably frank and pleasant. He was well
made, and tall enough to escape all danger of being described as short;
fair-haired and pale, without being unhealthily pallid, in complexion,
and he gave the impression of being a man who took life as it came, and
whose sense of humour would serve as a lining for most clouds that
might darken his horizon.
There was a rap at the door which communicated with Beevor's office,
and Beevor himself, a florid, thick-set man, with small side-whiskers,
I say, Ventimore, you didn't run off with the plans for that house
I'm building at Larchmere, did you? Becauseah, I see you're looking
over them. Sorry to deprive you, but
Thanks, old fellow, take them, by all means. I've seen all I wanted
Well, I'm just off to Larchmere now. Want to be there to check the
quantities, and there's my other house at Fittlesdon. I must go on
afterwards and set it out, so I shall probably be away some days. I'm
taking Harrison down, too. You won't be wanting him, eh?
Ventimore laughed. I can manage to do nothing without a clerk to
help me. Your necessity is greater than mine. Here are the plans.
I'm rather pleased with 'em myself, you know, said Beevor; that
roof ought to look well, eh? Good idea of mine lightening the slate
with that ornamental tile-work along the top. You saw I put in one of
your windows with just a trifling addition. I was almost inclined to
keep both gables alike, as you suggested, but it struck me a little
varietyone red brick and the other 'parged'would be more
Oh, much, agreed Ventimore, knowing that to disagree was useless.
Not, mind you, continued Beevor, that I believe in going in for
too much originality in domestic architecture. The average client no
more wants an original house than he wants an original hat; he wants
something he won't feel a fool in. I've often thought, old man, that
perhaps the reason why you haven't got onyou don't mind my speaking
candidly, do you?
Not a bit, said Ventimore, cheerfully. Candour's the cement of
friendship. Dab it on.
Well, I was only going to say that you do yourself no good by all
those confoundedly unconventional ideas of yours. If you had your
chance to-morrow, it's my belief you'd throw it away by insisting on
some fantastic fad or other.
These speculations are a trifle premature, considering that there
doesn't seem the remotest prospect of my ever getting a chance at all.
I got mine before I'd set up six months, said Beevor. The great
thing, however, he went on, with a flavour of personal application,
is to know how to use it when it does come. Well, I must be off
if I mean to catch that one o'clock from Waterloo. You'll see to
anything that may come in for me while I'm away, won't you, and let me
know? Oh, by the way, the quantity surveyor has just sent in the
quantities for that schoolroom at Woodforddo you mind running through
them and seeing they're right? And there's the specification for the
new wing at Tusculum Lodgeyou might draft that some time when you've
nothing else to do. You'll find all the papers on my desk. Thanks
awfully, old chap.
And Beevor hurried back to his own room, where for the next few
minutes he could be heard bustling Harrison, the clerk, to make haste;
then a hansom was whistled for, there were footsteps down the old
stairs, the sounds of a departing vehicle on the uneven stones, and
after that silence and solitude.
It was not in Nature to avoid feeling a little envious. Beevor had
work to do in the world: even if it chiefly consisted in profaning
sylvan retreats by smug or pretentious villas, it was still work which
entitled him to consideration and respect in the eyes of all
And nobody believed in Horace; as yet he had never known the
satisfaction of seeing the work of his brain realised in stone and
brick and mortar; no building stood anywhere to bear testimony to his
existence and capability long after he himself should have passed away.
It was not a profitable train of thought, and, to escape from it, he
went into Beevor's room and fetched the documents he had mentionedat
least they would keep him occupied until it was time to go to his club
and lunch. He had no sooner settled down to his calculations, however,
when he heard a shuffling step on the landing, followed by a knock at
Beevor's office-door. More work for Beevor, he thought; what luck
the fellow has! I'd better go in and explain that he's just left town
But on entering the adjoining room he heard the knocking
repeatedthis time at his own door; and hastening back to put an end
to this somewhat undignified form of hide-and-seek, he discovered that
this visitor at least was legitimately his, and was, in fact, no other
than Professor Anthony Futvoye himself.
The Professor was standing in the doorway peering short-sightedly
through his convex glasses, his head protruded from his loosely-fitting
great-coat with an irresistible suggestion of an inquiring tortoise. To
Horace his appearance was more welcome than that of the wealthiest
clientfor why should Sylvia's father take the trouble to pay him this
visit unless he still wished to continue the acquaintanceship? It might
even be that he was the bearer of some message or invitation.
So, although to an impartial eye the Professor might not seem the
kind of elderly gentleman whose society would produce any wild degree
of exhilaration, Horace was unfeignedly delighted to see him.
Extremely kind of you to come and see me like this, sir, he said
warmly, after establishing him in the solitary armchair reserved for
Not at all. I'm afraid your visit to Cottesmore Gardens some time
ago was somewhat of a disappointment.
A disappointment? echoed Horace, at a loss to know what was coming
I refer to the factwhich possibly, however, escaped your
noticeexplained the Professor, scratching his scanty patch of
grizzled whisker with a touch of irascibility, that I myself was not
at home on that occasion.
Indeed, I was greatly disappointed, said Horace, though of course
I know how much you are engaged. It's all the more good of you to spare
time to drop in for a chat just now.
I've not come to chat, Mr. Ventimore. I never chat. I wanted to see
you about a matter which I thought you might be so obliging as
toBut I observe you are busyprobably too busy to attend to such a
It was clear enough now; the Professor was going to build, and had
decidedcould it be at Sylvia's suggestion?to entrust the work to
him! But he contrived to subdue any self-betraying eagerness, and reply
(as he could with perfect truth) that he had nothing on hand just then
which he could not lay aside, and that if the Professor would let him
know what he required, he would take it up at once.
So much the better, said the Professor; so much the better. Both
my wife and daughter declared that it was making far too great a demand
upon your good nature; but, as I told them, 'I am much mistaken,' I
said, 'if Mr. Ventimore's practice is so extensive that he cannot leave
it for one afternoon'
Evidently it was not a house. Could he be needed to escort them
somewhere that afternoon? Even that was more than he had hoped for a
few minutes since. He hastened to repeat that he was perfectly free
In that case, said the Professor, beginning to fumble in all his
pocketswas he searching for a note in Sylvia's handwriting?in that
case, you will be conferring a real favour on me if you can make it
convenient to attend a sale at Hammond's Auction Rooms in Covent
Garden, and just bid for one or two articles on my behalf.
Whatever disappointment Ventimore felt, it may be said to his credit
that he allowed no sign of it to appear. Of course I'll go, with
pleasure, he said, if I can be of any use.
I knew I shouldn't come to you in vain, said the Professor. I
remembered your wonderful good nature, sir, in accompanying my wife and
daughter on all sorts of expeditions in the blazing hot weather we had
at St. Lucwhen you might have remained quietly at the hotel with me.
Not that I should trouble you now, only I have to lunch at the Oriental
Club, and I've an appointment afterwards to examine and report on a
recently-discovered inscribed cylinder for the Museum, which will fully
occupy the rest of the afternoon, so that it's physically impossible
for me to go to Hammond's myself, and I strongly object to employing a
broker when I can avoid it. Where did I put that catalogue?... Ah, here
it is. This was sent to me by the executors of my old friend, General
Collingham, who died the other day. I met him at Nakada when I was out
excavating some years ago. He was something of a collector in his way,
though he knew very little about it, and, of course, was taken in right
and left. Most of his things are downright rubbish, but there are just
a few lots that are worth securing, at a reasonable figure, by some one
who knew what he was about.
But, my dear Professor, remonstrated Horace, not relishing this
responsibility, I'm afraid I'm as likely as not to pick up some of the
rubbish. I've no special knowledge of Oriental curios.
At St. Luc, said the Professor, you impressed me as having, for
an amateur, an exceptionally accurate and comprehensive acquaintance
with Egyptian and Arabian art from the earliest period. (If this were
so, Horace could only feel with shame what a fearful humbug he must
have been.) However, I've no wish to lay too heavy a burden on you,
and, as you will see from this catalogue, I have ticked off the lots in
which I am chiefly interested, and made a note of the limit to which I
am prepared to bid, so you'll have no difficulty.
Very well, said Horace; I'll go straight to Covent Garden, and
slip out and get some lunch later on.
Well, perhaps, if you don't mind. The lots I have marked seem to
come on at rather frequent intervals, but don't let that consideration
deter you from getting your lunch, and if you should miss
anything by not being on the spot, why, it's of no consequence, though
I don't say it mightn't be a pity. In any case, you won't forget to
mark what each lot fetches, and perhaps you wouldn't mind dropping me a
line when you return the catalogueor stay, could you look in some
time after dinner this evening, and let me know how you got on?that
would be better.
Horace thought it would be decidedly better, and undertook to call
and render an account of his stewardship that evening. There remained
the question of a deposit, should one or more of the lots be knocked
down to him; and, as he was obliged to own that he had not so much as
ten pounds about him at that particular moment, the Professor extracted
a note for that amount from his case, and handed it to him with the air
of a benevolent person relieving a deserving object. Don't exceed my
limits, he said, for I can't afford more just now; and mind you give
Hammond your own name, not mine. If the dealers get to know I'm after
the things, they'll run you up. And now, I don't think I need detain
you any longer, especially as time is running on. I'm sure I can trust
you to do the best you can for me. Till this evening, then.
A few minutes later Horace was driving up to Covent Garden behind
the best-looking horse he could pick out.
The Professor might have required from him rather more than was
strictly justified by their acquaintanceship, and taken his
acquiescence too much as a matter of coursebut what of that? After
all, he was Sylvia's parent.
Even with my luck, he was thinking, I ought to succeed in
getting at least one or two of the lots he's marked; and if I can only
please him, something may come of it.
And in this sanguine mood Horace entered Messrs. Hammond's
well-known auction rooms.
CHAPTER II. A CHEAP LOT
In spite of the fact that it was the luncheon hour when Ventimore
reached Hammond's Auction Rooms, he found the big, skylighted gallery
where the sale of the furniture and effects of the late General
Collingham was proceeding crowded to a degree which showed that the
deceased officer had some reputation as a connoisseur.
The narrow green baize tables below the auctioneer's rostrum were
occupied by professional dealers, one or two of them women, who sat,
paper and pencil in hand, with much the same air of apparent apathy and
real vigilance that may be noticed in the Casino at Monte Carlo. Around
them stood a decorous and businesslike crowd, mostly dealers, of
various types. On a magisterial-looking bench sat the auctioneer,
conducting the sale with a judicial impartiality and dignity which
forbade him, even in his most laudatory comments, the faintest accent
The October sunshine, striking through the glazed roof, re-gilded
the tarnished gas-stars, and suffused the dusty atmosphere with palest
gold. But somehow the utter absence of excitement in the crowd, the
calm, methodical tone of the auctioneer, and the occasional mournful
cry of Lot here, gentlemen! from the porter when any article was too
large to move, all served to depress Ventimore's usually mercurial
For all Horace knew, the collection as a whole might be of little
value, but it very soon became clear that others besides Professor
Futvoye had singled out such gems as there were, also that the
Professor had considerably under-rated the prices they were likely to
Ventimore made his bids with all possible discretion, but time after
time he found the competition for some perforated mosque lantern,
engraved ewer, or ancient porcelain tile so great that his limit was
soon reached, and his sole consolation was that the article eventually
changed hands for sums which were very nearly double the Professor's
Several dealers and brokers, despairing of a bargain that day, left,
murmuring profanities; most of those who remained ceased to take a
serious interest in the proceedings, and consoled themselves with cheap
witticisms at every favourable occasion.
The sale dragged slowly on, and, what with continual disappointment
and want of food, Horace began to feel so weary that he was glad, as
the crowd thinned, to get a seat at one of the green baize tables, by
which time the skylights had already changed from livid grey to slate
colour in the deepening dusk.
A couple of meek Burmese Buddhas had just been put up, and bore the
indignity of being knocked down for nine-and-sixpence the pair with
dreamy, inscrutable simpers; Horace only waited for the final lot
marked by the Professoran old Persian copper bowl, inlaid with silver
and engraved round the rim with an inscription from Hafiz.
The limit to which he was authorised to go was two pounds ten; but,
so desperately anxious was Ventimore not to return empty-handed, that
he had made up his mind to bid an extra sovereign if necessary, and say
nothing about it.
However, the bowl was put up, and the bidding soon rose to three
pounds ten, four pounds, four pounds ten, five pounds, five guineas,
for which last sum it was acquired by a bearded man on Horace's right,
who immediately began to regard his purchase with a more indulgent eye.
Ventimore had done his best, and failed; there was no reason now why
he should stay a moment longerand yet he sat on, from sheer fatigue
and disinclination to move.
Now we come to Lot 254, gentlemen, he heard the auctioneer saying,
mechanically; a capital Egyptian mummy-case in fine conNo, I beg
pardon, I'm wrong. This is an article which by some mistake has been
omitted from the catalogue, though it ought to have been in it.
Everything on sale to-day, gentlemen, belonged to the late General
Collingham. We'll call this No. 253_a. Antique brass bottle. Very
One of the porters carried the bottle in between the tables, and set
it down before the dealers at the farther end with a tired nonchalance.
It was an old, squat, pot-bellied vessel, about two feet high, with
a long thick neck, the mouth of which was closed by a sort of metal
stopper or cap; there was no visible decoration on its sides, which
were rough and pitted by some incrustation that had formed on them, and
been partially scraped off. As a piece of bric-à-brac it
certainly possessed few attractions, and there was a marked tendency to
guy it among the more frivolous brethren.
What do you call this, sir? inquired one of the auctioneer, with
the manner of a cheeky boy trying to get a rise out of his form-master.
Is it as 'unique' as the others?
You're as well able to judge as I am, was the guarded reply. Any
one can see for himself it's not modern rubbish.
Make a pretty little ornament for the mantelpiece! remarked a wag.
Is the top made to unscrew, or what, sir? asked a third. Seems
fixed on pretty tight.
I can't say. Probably it has not been removed for some time.
It's a goodish weight, said the chief humorist, after handling it.
What's inside of it, sirsardines?
I don't represent it as having anything inside it, said the
auctioneer. If you want to know my opinion, I think there's money in
Don't misunderstand me, gentlemen. When I say I consider there's
money in it, I'm not alluding to its contents. I've no reason to
believe that it contains anything. I'm merely suggesting the thing
itself may be worth more than it looks.
Ah, it might be that without 'urting itself!
Well, well, don't let us waste time. Look upon it as a pure
speculation, and make me an offer for it, some of you. Come.
Tuppence-'ap'ny! cried the comic man, affecting to brace himself
for a mighty effort.
Pray be serious, gentlemen. We want to get on, you know. Anything
to make a start. Five shillings? It's not the value of the metal, but
I'll take the bid. Six. Look at it well. It's not an article you come
across every day of your lives.
The bottle was still being passed round with disrespectful raps and
slaps, and it had now come to Ventimore's right-hand neighbour, who
scrutinised it carefully, but made no bid.
That's all right, you know, he whispered in Horace's ear.
That's good stuff, that is. If I was you, I'd 'ave that.
Seven shillingseightnine bid for it over there in the corner,
said the auctioneer.
If you think it's so good, why don't you have it yourself? Horace
asked his neighbour.
Me? Oh, well, it ain't exactly in my line, and getting this last
lot pretty near cleaned me out. I've done for to-day, I 'ave. All the
same, it is a curiosity; dunno as I've seen a brass vawse just that
shape before, and it's genuine old, though all these fellers are too
ignorant to know the value of it. So I don't mind giving you the tip.
Horace rose, the better to examine the top. As far as he could make
out in the flickering light of one of the gas-stars, which the
auctioneer had just ordered to be lit, there were half-erased scratches
and triangular marks on the cap that might possibly be an inscription.
If so, might there not be the means here of regaining the Professor's
favour, which he felt that, as it was, he should probably forfeit,
justly or not, by his ill-success?
He could hardly spend the Professor's money on it, since it was not
in the catalogue, and he had no authority to bid for it, but he had a
few shillings of his own to spare. Why not bid for it on his own
account as long as he could afford to do so? If he were outbid, as
usual, it would not particularly matter.
Thirteen shillings, the auctioneer was saying, in his
dispassionate tones. Horace caught his eye, and slightly raised his
catalogue, while another man nodded at the same time. Fourteen in two
places. Horace raised his catalogue again. I won't go beyond
fifteen, he thought.
Fifteen. It's against you, sir. Any advance on fifteen?
Sixteenthis very quaint old Oriental bottle going for only sixteen
After all, thought Horace, I don't mind anything under a pound
for it. And he bid seventeen shillings. Eighteen, cried his rival, a
short, cheery, cherub-faced little dealer, whose neighbours adjured him
to sit quiet like a good little boy and not waste his pocket-money.
Nineteen! said Horace. Pound! answered the cherubic man.
A pound only bid for this grand brass vessel, said the auctioneer,
indifferently. All done at a pound?
Horace thought another shilling or two would not ruin him, and
A guinea. For the last time. You'll lose it, sir, said the
auctioneer to the little man.
Go on, Tommy. Don't you be beat. Spring another bob on it, Tommy,
his friends advised him ironically; but Tommy shook his head, with the
air of a man who knows when to draw the line. One guineaand that's
not half its value! Gentleman on my left, said the auctioneer, more in
sorrow than in angerand the brass bottle became Ventimore's property.
He paid for it, and, since he could hardly walk home nursing a large
metal bottle without attracting an inconvenient amount of attention,
directed that it should be sent to his lodgings at Vincent Square.
But when he was out in the fresh air, walking westward to his club,
he found himself wondering more and more what could have possessed him
to throw away a guineawhen he had few enough for legitimate
expenseson an article of such exceedingly problematical value.
CHAPTER III. AN UNEXPECTED OPENING
Ventimore made his way to Cottesmore Gardens that evening in a
highly inconsistent, not to say chaotic, state of mind. The thought
that he would presently see Sylvia again made his blood course quicker,
while he was fully determined to say no more to her than civility
At one moment he was blessing Professor Futvoye for his happy
thought in making use of him; at another he was bitterly recognising
that it would have been better for his peace of mind if he had been
left alone. Sylvia and her mother had no desire to see more of him; if
they had, they would have asked him to come before this. No doubt they
would tolerate him now for the Professor's sake; but who would not
rather be ignored than tolerated?
The more often he saw Sylvia the more she would make his heart ache
with vain longingwhereas he was getting almost reconciled to her
indifference; he would very soon be cured if he didn't see her.
Why should he see her? He need not go in at all. He had
merely to leave the catalogue with his compliments, and the Professor
would learn all he wanted to know.
On second thoughts he must go inif only to return the bank-note.
But he would ask to see the Professor in private. Most probably he
would not be invited to join his wife and daughter, but if he were, he
could make some excuse. They might think it a little odda little
discourteous, perhaps; but they would be too relieved to care much
When he got to Cottesmore Gardens, and was actually at the door of
the Futvoyes' house, one of the neatest and demurest in that retired
and irreproachable quarter, he began to feel a craven hope that the
Professor might be out, in which case he need only leave the catalogue
and write a letter when he got home, reporting his non-success at the
sale, and returning the note.
And, as it happened, the Professor was out, and Horace was
not so glad as he thought he should be. The maid told him that the
ladies were in the drawing-room, and seemed to take it for granted that
he was coming in, so he had himself announced. He would not stay
longjust long enough to explain his business there, and make it clear
that he had no wish to force his acquaintance upon them. He found Mrs.
Futvoye in the farther part of the pretty double drawing-room, writing
letters, and Sylvia, more dazzlingly fair than ever in some sort of
gauzy black frock with a heliotrope sash and a bunch of Parma violets
on her breast, was comfortably established with a book in the front
room, and seemed surprised, if not resentful, at having to disturb
I must apologise, he began, with an involuntary stiffness, for
calling at this very unceremonious time; but the fact is, the
I know all about it, interrupted Mrs. Futvoye, brusquely, while
her shrewd, light-grey eyes took him in with a cool stare that was
humorously observant without being aggressive. We heard how shamefully
my husband abused your good-nature. Really, it was too bad of him to
ask a busy man like you to put aside his work and go and spend a whole
day at that stupid auction!
Oh, I'd nothing particular to do. I can't call myself a busy
manunfortunately, said Horace, with that frankness which scorns to
conceal what other people know perfectly well already.
Ah, well, it's very nice of you to make light of it; but he ought
not to have done itafter so short an acquaintance, too. And to make
it worse, he has had to go out unexpectedly this evening, but he'll be
back before very long if you don't mind waiting.
There's really no need to wait, said Horace, because this
catalogue will tell him everything, and, as the particular things he
wanted went for much more than he thought, I wasn't able to get any of
I'm sure I'm very glad of it, said Mrs. Futvoye, for his study is
crammed with odds and ends as it is, and I don't want the whole house
to look like a museum or an antiquity shop. I'd all the trouble in the
world to persuade him that a great gaudy gilded mummy-case was not
quite the thing for a drawing-room. But, please sit down, Mr.
Thanks, stammered Horace, butbut I mustn't stay. If you will
tell the Professor how sorry I was to miss him, andand give him back
this note which he left with me to cover any deposit, II won't
interrupt you any longer.
He was, as a rule, imperturbable in most social emergencies, but
just now he was seized with a wild desire to escape, which, to his
infinite mortification, made him behave like a shy schoolboy.
Nonsense! said Mrs. Futvoye; I am sure my husband would be most
annoyed if we didn't keep you till he came.
I really ought to go, he declared, wistfully enough.
We mustn't tease Mr. Ventimore to stay, mother, when he so
evidently wants to go, said Sylvia, cruelly.
Well, I won't detain youat least, not long. I wonder if you would
mind posting a letter for me as you pass the pillar-box? I've almost
finished it, and it ought to go to-night, and my maid Jessie has such a
bad cold I really don't like sending her out with it.
It would have been impossible to refuse to stay after thateven if
he had wished. It would only be for a few minutes. Sylvia might spare
him that much of her time. He should not trouble her again. So Mrs.
Futvoye went back to her bureau, and Sylvia and he were practically
She had taken a seat not far from his, and made a few constrained
remarks, obviously out of sheer civility. He returned mechanical
replies, with a dreary wonder whether this could really be the girl who
had talked to him with such charming friendliness and confidence only a
few weeks ago in Normandy.
And the worst of it was, she was looking more bewitching than ever;
her slim arms gleaming through the black lace of her sleeves, and the
gold threads in her soft masses of chestnut hair sparkling in the light
of the shaded lamp behind her. The slight contraction of her eyebrows
and the mutinous downward curve of her mouth seemed expressive of
What a dreadfully long time mamma is over that letter! she said at
last. I think I'd better go and hurry her up.
Please don'tunless you are particularly anxious to get rid of
I thought you seemed particularly anxious to escape, she said
coldly. And, as a family, we have certainly taken up quite enough of
your time for one day.
That is not the way you used to talk at St. Luc! he said.
At St. Luc? Perhaps not. But in London everything is so different,
When one meets people abroad whowho seem at all inclined to be
sociable, she continued, one is so apt to think them pleasanter than
they really are. Then one meets them again, andand wonders what one
ever saw to like in them. And it's no use pretending one feels the
same, because they generally understand sooner or later. Don't you find
I do, indeed, he said, wincing, though I don't know what I've
done to deserve that you should tell me so!
Oh, I was not blaming you. You have been most angelic. I can't
think how papa could have expected you to take all that trouble for
himstill, you did, though you must have simply hated it.
But, good heavens! don't you know I should be only too delighted to
be of the least service to himor to any of you?
You looked anything but delighted when you came in just now; you
looked as if your one idea was to get it over as soon as you could. You
know perfectly well you're longing now for mother to finish her letter
and set you free. Do you really think I can't see that?
If all that is true, or partly true, said Horace, can't you guess
I guessed how it was when you called here first that afternoon.
Mamma had asked you to, and you thought you might as well be civil;
perhaps you really did think it would be pleasant to see us againbut
it wasn't the same thing. Oh, I saw it in your face directlyyou
became conventional and distant and horrid, and it made me horrid too;
and you went away determined that you wouldn't see any more of us than
you could help. That's why I was so furious when I heard that papa had
been to see you, and with such an object.
All this was so near the truth, and yet missed it with such perverse
ingenuity, that Horace felt bound to put himself right.
Perhaps I ought to leave things as they are, he said, but I
can't. It's no earthly use, I know; but may I tell you why it really
was painful to me to meet you again? I thought you were changed,
that you wished to forget, and wished me to forgetonly I can'tthat
we had been friends for a short time. And though I never blamed youit
was natural enoughit hit me pretty hardso hard that I didn't feel
anxious to repeat the experience.
Did it hit you hard? said Sylvia, softly. Perhaps I minded too,
just a very little. However, she added, with a sudden smile, that made
two enchanting dimples in her cheeks, it only shows how much more
sensible it is to have things out. Now perhaps you won't persist
in keeping away from us?
I believe, said Horace, gloomily, still determined not to let any
direct avowal pass his lips, it would be best that I should
Her half-closed eyes shone through their long lashes; the violets on
her breast rose and fell. I don't think I understand, she said, in a
tone that was both hurt and offended.
There is a pleasure in yielding to some temptations that more than
compensates for the pain of any previous resistance. Come what might,
he was not going to be misunderstood any longer.
If I must tell you, he said, I've fallen desperately, hopelessly,
in love with you. Now you know the reason.
It doesn't seem a very good reason for wanting to go away and never
see me again. Does it?
Not when I've no right to speak to you of love?
But you've done that!
I know, he said penitently; I couldn't help it. But I never meant
to. It slipped out. I quite understand how hopeless it is.
Of course, if you are so sure as all that, you are quite right not
Sylvia! You can't mean thatthat you do care, after all?
Didn't you really see? she said, with a low, happy laugh. How
stupid of you! And how dear!
He caught her hand, which she allowed to rest contentedly in his.
Oh, Sylvia! Then you doyou do! But, my God, what a selfish brute I
am! For we can't marry. It may be years before I can ask you to come to
me. You father and mother wouldn't hear of your being engaged to me.
Need they hear of it just yet, Horace?
Yes, they must. I should feel a cur if I didn't tell your mother,
at all events.
Then you shan't feel a cur, for we'll go and tell her together.
And Sylvia rose and went into the farther room, and put her arms round
her mother's neck. Mother darling, she said, in a half whisper, it's
really all your fault for writing such very long letters, butbutwe
don't exactly know how we came to do itbut Horace and I have got
engaged somehow. You aren't very angry, are you?
I think you're both extremely foolish, said Mrs. Futvoye, as she
extricated herself from Sylvia's arms and turned to face Horace. From
all I hear, Mr. Ventimore, you're not in a position to marry at
Unfortunately, no said Horace; I'm making nothing as yet. But my
chance must come some day. I don't ask you to give me Sylvia till
And you know you like Horace, mother! pleaded Sylvia. And I'm
ready to wait for him, any time. Nothing will induce me to give him up,
and I shall never, never care for anybody else. So you see you may just
as well give us your consent!
I'm afraid I've been to blame, said Mrs. Futvoye. I ought to have
foreseen this at St. Luc. Sylvia is our only child, Mr. Ventimore, and
I would far rather see her happily married than making what is called a
'grand match.' Still, this really does seem rather hopeless. I
am quite sure her father would never approve of it. Indeed, it must not
be mentioned to himhe would only be irritated.
So long as you are not against us, said Horace, you won't forbid
me to see her?
I believe I ought to, said Mrs. Futvoye; but I don't object to
your coming here occasionally, as an ordinary visitor. Only understand
thisuntil you can prove to my husband's satisfaction that you are
able to support Sylvia in the manner she has been accustomed to, there
must be no formal engagement. I think I am entitled to ask that
She was so clearly within her rights, and so much more indulgent
than Horace had expectedfor he had always considered her an
unsentimental and rather worldly womanthat he accepted her conditions
almost gratefully. After all, it was enough for him that Sylvia
returned his love, and that he should be allowed to see her from time
It's rather a pity, said Sylvia, meditatively, a little later,
when her mother had gone back to her letter-writing, and she and Horace
were discussing the future; it's rather a pity that you didn't manage
to get something at that sale. It might have helped you with
Well, I did get something on my own account, he said, though I
don't know whether it is likely to do me any good with your father.
And he told her how he had come to acquire the brass bottle.
And you actually gave a guinea for it? said Sylvia, when you
could probably get exactly the same thing, only better, at Liberty's
for about seven-and-sixpence! Nothing of that sort has any charms for
papa, unless it's dirty and dingy and centuries old.
This looks all that. I only bought it because, though it wasn't
down on the catalogue, I had a fancy that it might interest the
Oh! cried Sylvia, clasping her pretty hands, if only it does,
Horace! If it turns out to be tremendously rare and valuable! I do
believe dad would be so delighted that he'd consent to anything. Ah,
that's his step outside ... he's letting himself in. Now mind you don't
forget to tell him about that bottle.
The Professor did not seem in the sweetest of humours as he entered
the drawing-room. Sorry I was obliged to be from home, and there was
nobody but my wife and daughter here to entertain you. But I am glad
you stayedyes, I'm rather glad you stayed.
So am I, sir, said Horace, and proceeded to give his account of
the sale, which did not serve to improve the Professor's temper. He
thrust out his under lip at certain items in the catalogue. I wish I'd
gone myself, he said; that bowl, a really fine example of
sixteenth-century Persian work, going for only five guineas! I'd
willingly have given ten for it. There, there, I thought I could have
depended on you to use your judgment better than that!
If you remember, sir, you strictly limited me to the sums you
Nothing of the sort, said the Professor, testily; my marginal
notes were merely intended as indications, no more. You might have
known that if you had secured one of the things at any price I should
Horace had no grounds for knowing anything of the kind, and much
reason for believing the contrary, but he saw no use in arguing the
matter further, and merely said he was sorry to have misunderstood.
No doubt the fault was mine, said the Professor, in a tone that
implied the opposite. Still, making every allowance for inexperience
in these matters, I should have thought it impossible for any one to
spend a whole day bidding at a place like Hammond's without even
securing a single article.
But, dad, put in Sylvia, Mr. Ventimore did get one
thingon his own account. It's a brass bottle, not down in the
catalogue, but he thinks it may be worth something perhaps. And he'd
very much like to have your opinion.
Tchah! said the Professor. Some modern bazaar work, most
probably. He'd better have kept his money. What was this bottle of
yours like, now, eh?
Horace described it.
H'm. Seems to be what the Arabs call a 'kum-kum,' probably used as
a sprinkler, or to hold rose-water. Hundreds of 'em about, commented
the Professor, crustily.
It had a lid, riveted or soldered on, said Horace; the general
shape was something like this ... And he made a rapid sketch from
memory, which the Professor took reluctantly, and then adjusted his
glasses with some increase of interest.
Hathe form is antique, certainly. And the top hermetically
fastened, eh? That looks as if it might contain something.
You don't think it has a genie inside, like the sealed jar the
fisherman found in the 'Arabian Nights'? cried Sylvia. What fun if it
By genie, I presume you mean a Jinnee, which is the more
correct and scholarly term, said the Professor. Female, Jinneeyeh, and plural Jinn. No, I do not contemplate that as a
probable contingency. But it is not quite impossible that a vessel
closed as Mr. Ventimore describes may have been designed as a
receptacle for papyri or other records of archæological interest, which
may be still in preservation. I should recommend you, sir, to use the
greatest precaution in removing the liddon't expose the documents, if
any, too suddenly to the outer air, and it would be better if you did
not handle them yourself. I shall be rather curious to hear whether it
really does contain anything, and if so, what.
I will open it as carefully as possible, said Horace, and
whatever it may contain, you may rely upon my letting you know at
He left shortly afterwards, encouraged by the radiant trust in
Sylvia's eyes, and thrilled by the secret pressure of her hand at
He had been amply repaid for all the hours he had spent in the close
sale-room. His luck had turned at last: he was going to succeed; he
felt it in the air, as if he were already fanned by Fortune's pinions.
Still thinking of Sylvia, he let himself into the semi-detached,
old-fashioned house on the north side of Vincent Square, where he had
lodged for some years. It was nearly twelve o'clock, and his landlady,
Mrs. Rapkin, and her husband had already gone to bed.
Ventimore went up to his sitting-room, a comfortable apartment with
two long windows opening on to a trellised verandah and balconya room
which, as he had furnished and decorated it himself to suit his own
tastes, had none of the depressing ugliness of typical lodgings.
It was quite dark, for the season was too mild for a fire, and he
had to grope for the matches before he could light his lamp. After he
had done so and turned up the wicks, the first object he saw was the
bulbous, long-necked jar which he had bought that afternoon, and which
now stood on the stained boards near the mantelpiece. It had been
delivered with unusual promptitude!
Somehow he felt a sort of repulsion at the sight of it. It's a
beastlier-looking object than I thought, he said to himself
disgustedly. A chimney-pot would be about as decorative and
appropriate in my room. What a thundering ass I was to waste a guinea
on it! I wonder if there really is anything inside it. It is so
infernally ugly that it ought to be useful. The Professor seemed
to fancy it might hold documents, and he ought to know. Anyway, I'll
find out before I turn in.
He grasped it by its long, thick neck, and tried to twist the cap
off; but it remained firm, which was not surprising, seeing that it was
thickly coated with a lava-like crust.
I must get some of that off first, and then try again, he decided;
and after foraging downstairs, he returned with a hammer and chisel,
with which he chipped away the crust till the line of the cap was
revealed, and an uncouth metal knob that seemed to be a catch.
This he tapped sharply for some time, and again attempted to wrench
off the lid. Then he gripped the vessel between his knees and put forth
all his strength, while the bottle seemed to rock and heave under him
in sympathy. The cap was beginning to give way, very slightly; one last
wrenchand it came off in his hand with such suddenness that he was
flung violently backwards, and hit the back of his head smartly against
an angle of the wainscot.
He had a vague impression of the bottle lying on its side, with
dense volumes of hissing, black smoke pouring out of its mouth and
towering up in a gigantic column to the ceiling; he was conscious, too,
of a pungent and peculiarly overpowering perfume. I've got hold of
some sort of infernal machine, he thought, and I shall be all over
the square in less than a second! And, just as he arrived at this
cheerful conclusion, he lost consciousness altogether.
He could not have been unconscious for more than a few seconds, for
when he opened his eyes the room was still thick with smoke, through
which he dimly discerned the figure of a stranger, who seemed of
abnormal and almost colossal height. But this must have been an optical
illusion caused by the magnifying effects of the smoke; for, as it
cleared, his visitor proved to be of no more than ordinary stature. He
was elderly, and, indeed, venerable of appearance, and wore an Eastern
robe and head-dress of a dark-green hue. He stood there with uplifted
hands, uttering something in a loud tone and a language unknown to
Ventimore, being still somewhat dazed, felt no surprise at seeing
him. Mrs. Rapkin must have let her second floor at lastto some
Oriental. He would have preferred an Englishman as a fellow-lodger, but
this foreigner must have noticed the smoke and rushed in to offer
assistance, which was both neighbourly and plucky of him.
Awfully good of you to come in, sir, he said, as he scrambled to
his feet. I don't know what's happened exactly, but there's no harm
done. I'm only a trifle shaken, that's all. By the way, I suppose you
can speak English?
Assuredly I can speak so as to be understood by all whom I
address, answered the stranger.
Dost thou not understand my speech?
Perfectly, now, said Horace. But you made a remark just now which
I didn't followwould you mind repeating it?
I said: 'Repentance, O Prophet of God! I will not return to the
like conduct ever.'
Ah, said Horace. I dare say you were rather startled. So
was I when I opened that bottle.
Tell mewas it indeed thy hand that removed the seal, O young man
of kindness and good works?
I certainly did open it, said Ventimore, though I don't know
where the kindness comes infor I've no notion what was inside the
I was inside it, said the stranger, calmly.
CHAPTER IV. AT LARGE
So you were inside that bottle, were you? said Horace,
blandly. How singular! He began to realise that he had to deal with
an Oriental lunatic, and must humour him to some extent. Fortunately he
did not seem at all dangerous, though undeniably eccentric-looking. His
hair fell in disorderly profusion from under his high turban about his
cheeks, which were of a uniform pale rhubarb tint; his grey beard
streamed out in three thin strands, and his long, narrow eyes, opal in
hue, and set rather wide apart and at a slight angle, had a curious
expression, part slyness and part childlike simplicity.
Dost thou doubt that I speak truth? I tell thee that I have been
confined in that accursed vessel for countless centurieshow long, I
know not, for it is beyond calculation.
I should hardly have thought from your appearance, sir, that you
had been so many years in bottle as all that, said Horace, politely,
but it's certainly time you had a change. May I, if it isn't
indiscreet, ask how you came into such a very uncomfortable position?
But probably you have forgotten by this time.
Forgotten! said the other, with a sombre red glow in his opal
eyes. Wisely was it written: 'Let him that desireth oblivion confer
benefitsbut the memory of an injury endureth for ever.' I
forget neither benefits nor injuries.
An old gentleman with a grievance, thought Ventimore. And mad
into the bargain. Nice person to have staying in the same house with
Know, O best of mankind, continued the stranger, that he who now
addresses thee is Fakrash-el-Aamash, one of the Green Jinn. And I dwelt
in the Palace of the Mountain of the Clouds above the City of Babel in
the Garden of Irem, which thou doubtless knowest by repute?
I fancy I have heard of it, said Horace, as if it were an
address in the Court Directory. Delightful neighbourhood.
I had a kinswoman, Bedeea-el-Jemal, who possessed incomparable
beauty and manifold accomplishments. And seeing that, though a
Jinneeyeh, she was of the believing Jinn, I despatched messengers to
Suleyman the Great, the son of Daood, offering him her hand in
marriage. But a certain Jarjarees, the son of Rejmoos, the son of
Ibleesmay he be for ever accursed!looked with favour upon the
maiden, and, going secretly unto Suleyman, persuaded him that I was
preparing a crafty snare for the King's undoing.
And, of course, you never thought of such a thing? said
By a venomous tongue the fairest motives may be rendered foul, was
the somewhat evasive reply. Thus it came to pass that Suleymanon
whom be peace!listened unto the voice of Jarjarees and refused to
receive the maiden. Moreover, he commanded that I should be seized and
imprisoned in a bottle of brass and cast into the Sea of El-Karkar,
there to abide the Day of Doom.
Too badreally too bad! murmured Horace, in a tone that he could
only hope was sufficiently sympathetic.
But now, by thy means, O thou of noble ancestors and gentle
disposition, my deliverance hath been accomplished; and if I were to
serve thee for a thousand years, regarding nothing else, even thus
could I not requite thee, and my so doing would be a small thing
according to thy desserts!
Pray don't mention it, said Horace; only too pleased if I've been
of any use to you.
In the sky it is written upon the pages of the air: 'He who doth
kind actions shall experience the like.' Am I not an Efreet of the
Jinn? Demand, therefore, and thou shalt receive.
Poor old chap! thought Horace, he's very cracked indeed. He'll be
wanting to give me a present of some sort soonand of course I can't
have that.... My dear Mr. Fakrash, he said aloud, I've done
nothingnothing at alland if I had, I couldn't possibly accept any
reward for it.
What are thy names, and what calling dost thou follow?
I ought to have introduced myself beforelet me give you my card;
and Ventimore gave him one, which the other took and placed in his
girdle. That's my business address. I'm an architect, if you know what
that isa man who builds houses and churchesmosques, you knowin
fact, anything, when he can get it to build.
A useful calling indeedand one to be rewarded with fine gold.
In my case, Horace confessed, the reward has been too fine to be
perceived. In other words, I've never been rewarded, because
I've never yet had the luck to get a client.
And what is this client of whom thou speakest?
Oh, well, some well-to-do merchant who wants a house built for him
and doesn't care how much he spends on it. There must be lots of them
aboutbut they never seem to come in my direction.
Grant me a period of delay, and, if it be possible, I will procure
thee such a client.
Horace could not help thinking that any recommendation from such a
quarter would hardly carry much weight; but, as the poor old man
evidently imagined himself under an obligation, which he was anxious to
discharge, it would have been unkind to throw cold water on his good
My dear sir, he said lightly, if you should come across
that particular type of client, and can contrive to impress him with
the belief that I'm just the architect he's looking out forwhich,
between ourselves, I am, though nobody's discovered it yetif you can
get him to come to me, you will do me the very greatest service I could
ever hope for. But don't give yourself any trouble over it.
It will be one of the easiest things that can be, said his
visitor, that is (and here a shade of rather pathetic doubt crossed
his face) provided that anything of my former power yet remains unto
Well, never mind, sir, said Horace; if you can't, I shall take
the will for the deed.
First of all, it will be prudent to learn where Suleyman is, that I
may humble myself before him and make my peace.
Yes, said Horace, gently, I would. I should make a point of that,
sir. Not now, you know. He might be in bed. To-morrow morning.
This is a strange place that I am in, and I know not yet in what
direction I should seek him. But till I have found him, and justified
myself in his sight, and had my revenge upon Jarjarees, mine enemy, I
shall know no rest.
Well, but go to bed now, like a sensible old chap, said Horace,
soothingly, anxious to prevent this poor demented Asiatic from falling
into the hands of the police. Plenty of time to go and call on
I will search for him, even unto the uttermost ends of the earth!
That's rightyou're sure to find him in one of them. Only, don't
you see, it's no use starting to-nightthe last trains have gone long
ago. As he spoke, the night wind bore across the square the sound of
Big Ben striking the quarters in Westminster Clock Tower, and then,
after a pause, the solemn boom that announced the first of the small
hours. To-morrow, thought Ventimore, I'll speak to Mrs. Rapkin, and
get her to send for a doctor and have him put under proper carethe
poor old boy really isn't fit to go about alone!
I will start nowat once, insisted the stranger for there is no
time to be lost.
Oh, come! said Horace, after so many thousand years, a few hours
more or less won't make any serious difference. And you can't go
out nowthey've shut up the house. Do let me take you upstairs to your
Not so, for I must leave thee for a season, O young man of kind
conduct. But may thy days be fortunate, and the gate never cease to be
repaired, and the nose of him that envieth thee be rubbed in the dust,
for love for thee hath entered into my heart, and if it be permitted
unto me, I will cover thee with the veils of my protection!
As he finished this harangue the speaker seemed, to Ventimore's
speechless amazement, to slip through the wall behind him. At all
events, he had left the room somehowand Horace found himself alone.
He rubbed the back of his head, which began to be painful. He can't
really have vanished through the wall, he said to himself. That's too
absurd. The fact is, I'm over-excited this eveningand no wonder,
after all that's happened. The best thing I can do is to go to bed at
Which he accordingly proceeded to do.
CHAPTER V. CARTE BLANCHE
When Ventimore woke next morning his headache had gone, and with it
the recollection of everything but the wondrous and delightful fact
that Sylvia loved him and had promised to be his some day. Her mother,
too, was on his side; why should he despair of anything after that?
There was the Professor, to be surebut even he might be brought to
consent to an engagement, especially if it turned out that the brass
bottle ... and here Horace began to recall an extraordinary dream in
connection with that extremely speculative purchase of his. He had
dreamed that he had forced the bottle open, and that it proved to
contain, not manuscripts, but an elderly Jinnee who alleged that he had
been imprisoned there by the order of King Solomon!
What, he wondered, could have put so grotesque a fancy into his
head? and then he smiled as he traced it to Sylvia's playful suggestion
that the bottle might contain a genie, as did the famous jar in the
Arabian Nights, and to her father's pedantic correction of the word
to Jinnee. Upon that slight foundation his sleeping brain had built
up all that elaborate fabrica scene so vivid and a story so
circumstantial and plausible that, in spite of its extravagance, he
could hardly even now persuade himself that it was entirely imaginary.
The psychology of dreams is a subject which has a fascinating mystery,
even for the least serious student.
As he entered the sitting-room, where his breakfast awaited him, he
looked round, half expecting to find the bottle lying with its lid off
in the corner, as he had last seen it in his dream.
Of course, it was not there, and he felt an odd relief. The
auction-room people had not delivered it yet, and so much the better,
for he had still to ascertain if it had anything inside it; and who
knew that it might not contain something more to his advantage than a
maundering old Jinnee with a grievance several thousands of years old?
Breakfast over, he rang for his landlady, who presently appeared.
Mrs. Rapkin was a superior type of her much-abused class. She was
scrupulously clean and neat in her person; her sandy hair was so smooth
and tightly knotted that it gave her head the colour and shape of a
Barcelona nut; she had sharp, beady eyes, nostrils that seemed to smell
battle afar off, a wide, thin mouth that apparently closed with a snap,
and a dry, whity-brown complexion suggestive of bran.
But if somewhat grim of aspect, she was a good soul and devoted to
Horace, in whom she took almost a maternal interest, while regretting
that he was not what she called serious-minded enough to get on in
the world. Rapkin had wooed and married her when they were both in
service, and he still took occasional jobs as an outdoor butler, though
Horace suspected that his more staple form of industry was the
consumption of gin-and-water and remarkably full-flavoured cigars in
the basement parlour.
Shall you be dining in this evening, sir? inquired Mrs. Rapkin.
I don't know. Don't get anything in for me; I shall most probably
dine at the club, said Horace; and Mrs. Rapkin, who had a confirmed
belief that all clubs were hotbeds of vice and extravagance, sniffed
disapproval. By the way, he added, if a kind of brass pot is sent
here, it's all right. I bought it at a sale yesterday. Be careful how
you handle itit's rather old.
There was a vawse come late last night, sir; I don't know if
it's that, it's old-fashioned enough.
Then will you bring it up at once, please? I want to see it.
Mrs. Rapkin retired, to reappear presently with the brass bottle. I
thought you'd have noticed it when you come in last night, sir, she
explained, for I stood it in the corner, and when I see it this
morning it was layin' o' one side and looking that dirty and
disrespectable I took it down to give it a good clean, which it wanted
It certainly looked rather the better for it, and the marks or
scratches on the cap were more distinguishable, but Horace was somewhat
disconcerted to find that part of his dream was truethe bottle had
I hope I've done nothing wrong, said Mrs. Rapkin, observing his
expression; I only used a little warm ale to it, which is a capital
thing for brass-work, and gave it a scrub with 'Vitrolia' soapbut it
would take more than that to get all the muck off of it.
It is all right, so long as you didn't try to get the top off,
Why, the top was off it, sir. I thought you'd done it with
the 'ammer and chisel when you got 'ome, said his landlady, staring.
I found them 'ere on the carpet.
Horace started. Then that part was true, too! Oh, ah, he
said, I believe I did. I'd forgotten. That reminds me. Haven't you let
the room above toto an Oriental gentlemana native, you knowwears
a green turban?
That I most certainly 'ave not, Mr. Ventimore, said Mrs.
Rapkin, with emphasis, nor wouldn't. Not if his turbin was all the
colours of the rainbowfor I don't 'old with such. Why, there was
Rapkin's own sister-in-law let her parlour floor to a Horientala
Parsee he was, or one o' them Hafrican tribesand reason
she 'ad to repent of it, for all his gold spectacles! Whatever made you
fancy I should let to a blackamoor?
Oh, I thought I saw somebody abouteranswering that description,
and I wondered if
Never in this 'ouse, sir. Mrs. Steggars, next door but one,
might let to such, for all I can say to the contrary, not being what
you might call particular, and her rooms more suitable to savage
notionsbut I've enough on my hands, Mr. Ventimore, attending
to younot keeping a girl to do the waiting, as why should I while I'm
well able to do it better myself?
As soon as she relieved him of her presence, he examined the bottle:
there was nothing whatever inside it, which disposed of all the hopes
he had entertained from that quarter.
It was not difficult to account for the visionary Oriental as an
hallucination probably inspired by the heavy fumes (for he now believed
in the fumes) which had doubtless resulted from the rapid decomposition
of some long-buried spices or similar substances suddenly exposed to
If any further explanation were needed, the accidental blow to the
back of his head, together with the latent suggestion from the Arabian
Nights, would amply provide it.
So, having settled these points to his entire satisfaction, he went
to his office in Great Cloister Street, which he now had entirely to
himself, and was soon engaged in drafting the specification for Beevor
on which he had been working when so fortunately interrupted the day
before by the Professor.
The work was more or less mechanical, and could bring him no credit
and little thanks, but Horace had the happy faculty of doing thoroughly
whatever he undertook, and as he sat there by his wide-open window he
soon became entirely oblivious of all but the task before him.
So much so that, even when the light became obscured for a moment,
as if by some large and opaque body in passing, he did not look up
immediately, and, when he did, was surprised to find the only armchair
occupied by a portly person, who seemed to be trying to recover his
I beg your pardon, said Ventimore; I never heard you come in.
His visitor could only wave his head in courteous deprecation, under
which there seemed a suspicion of bewildered embarrassment. He was a
rosy-gilled, spotlessly clean, elderly gentleman, with white whiskers;
his eyes, just then slightly protuberant, were shrewd, but genial; he
had a wide, jolly mouth and a double chin. He was dressed like a man
who is above disguising his prosperity; he wore a large, pear-shaped
pearl in his crimson scarf, and had probably only lately discarded his
summer white hat and white waistcoat.
My dear sir, he began, in a rich, throaty voice, as soon as he
could speak; my dear sir, you must think this is a most unceremonious
way ofah!dropping in on youof invading your privacy.
Not at all, said Horace, wondering whether he could possibly
intend him to understand that he had come in by the window. I'm afraid
there was no one to show you inmy clerk is away just now.
No matter, sir, no matter. I found my way up, as you perceive. The
important, I may say the essential, fact is that I am here.
Quite so, said Horace, and may I ask what brought you?
What brought The stranger's eyes grew fish-like for the
moment. Allow me, II shall come to thatin good time. I am still a
littleas you can see. He glanced round the room. You are, I think,
an architect, Mr. ahMr. um?
Ventimore is my name, said Horace, and I am an architect.
Ventimore, to be sure! he put his hand in his pocket and produced
a card: Yes, it's all quite correct: I see I have the name here. And
an architect, Mr. Ventimore, so II am given to understand, of immense
I'm afraid I can't claim to be that, said Horace, but I may call
myself fairly competent.
Competent? Why, of course you're competent. Do you suppose,
sir, that I, a practical business man, should come to any one who was
not competent? he said, with exactly the air of a man trying to
convince himselfagainst his own judgmentthat he was acting with the
Am I to understand that some one has been good enough to recommend
me to you? inquired Horace.
Certainly, not, sir, certainly not. I need no recommendation
but my own judgment. Iahhave a tolerable acquaintance with all that
is going on in the art world, and I have come to the conclusion,
Mr.ehahVentimore, I repeat, the deliberate and unassisted
conclusion, that you are the one man living who can do what I want.
Delighted to hear it, said Horace, genuinely gratified. When did
you see any of my designs?
Never mind, sir. I don't decide without very good grounds. It
doesn't take me long to make up my mind, and when my mind is made up, I
act, sir, I act. And, to come to the point, I have a small
commissionunworthy, I am quite aware, of yourahdistinguished
talentwhich I should like to put in your hands.
Is he going to ask me to attend a sale for him? thought
Horace. I'm hanged if I do.
I'm rather busy at present, he said dubiously, as you may see.
I'm not sure whether
I'll put the matter in a nutshell, sirin a nutshell. My name is
Wackerbath, Samuel Wackerbathtolerably well known, if I may say so,
in City circles. Horace, of course, concealed the fact that his
visitor's name and fame were unfamiliar to him. I've lately bought a
few acres on the Hampshire border, near the house I'm living in just
now; and I've been thinkingas I was saying to a friend only just now,
as we were crossing Westminster BridgeI've been thinking of building
myself a little place there, just a humble, unpretentious home, where I
could run down for the weekend and entertain a friend or two in a quiet
way, and perhaps live some part of the year. Hitherto I've rented
places as I wanted 'emold family seats and ancestral mansions and so
forth: very nice in their way, but I want to feel under a roof of my
own. I want to surround myself with the simple comforts,
theahunassuming elegance of an English country home. And you're the
manI feel more convinced of it with every word you sayyou're the
man to do the job in styleahto execute the work as it should be
Here was the long-wished-for client at last! And it was satisfactory
to feel that he had arrived in the most ordinary and commonplace
course, for no one could look at Mr. Samuel Wackerbath and believe for
a moment that he was capable of floating through an upper window; he
was not in the least that kind of person.
I shall be happy to do my best, said Horace, with a calmness that
surprised himself. Could you give me some idea of the amount you are
prepared to spend?
Well, I'm no Croesusthough I won't say I'm a pauper
preciselyand, as I remarked before, I prefer comfort to splendour. I
don't think I should be justified in going beyondwell, say sixty
Sixty thousand! exclaimed Horace, who had expected about a tenth
of that sum. Oh, not more than sixty thousand? I see.
I mean, on the house itself, explained Mr. Wackerbath; there will
be outbuildings, lodges, cottages, and so forth, and then some of the
rooms I should want specially decorated. Altogether, before we are
finished, it may work out at about a hundred thousand. I take it that,
with such a margin, you couldahrun me up something that in a modest
way would take the shine out ofI mean to say eclipseanything in the
I certainly think, said Horace, that for such a sum as that I can
undertake that you shall have a home which will satisfy you. And he
proceeded to put the usual questions as to site, soil, available
building materials, the accommodation that would be required, and so
You're young, sir, said Mr. Wackerbath, at the end of the
interview, but I perceive you are up to all the tricks of theI
should say, versed in the minutiæ of your profession. You
would like to run down and look at the ground, eh? Well, that's only
reasonable; and my wife and daughters will want to have their
say in the matterno getting on without pleasing the ladies, hey? Now,
let me see. To-morrow's Sunday. Why not come down by the 8.45 a.m. to
Lipsfield? I'll have a trap, or a brougham and pair, or something,
waiting for youtake you over the ground myself, bring you back to
lunch with us at Oriel Court, and talk the whole thing thoroughly over.
Then we'll send you up to town in the evening, and you can start work
the first thing on Monday. That suit you? Very well, then. We'll expect
With this Mr. Wackerbath departed, leaving Horace, as may be
imagined, absolutely overwhelmed by the suddenness and completeness of
his good fortune. He was no longer one of the unemployed: he had work
to do, and, better still, work that would interest him, give him all
the scope and opportunity he could wish for. With a client who seemed
tractable, and to whom money was clearly no object, he might carry out
some of his most ambitious ideas.
Moreover, he would now be in a position to speak to Sylvia's father
without fear of a repulse. His commission on £60,000 would be £3,000,
and that on the decorations and other work at least as much
againprobably more. In a year he could marry without imprudence; in
two or three years he might be making a handsome income, for he felt
confident that, with such a start, he would soon have as much work as
he could undertake.
He was ashamed of himself for ever having lost heart. What were the
last few years of weary waiting but probation and preparation for this
splendid chance, which had come just when he really needed it, and in
the most simple and natural manner?
He loyally completed the work he had promised to do for Beevor, who
would have to dispense with his assistance in future, and then he felt
too excited and restless to stay in the office, and, after lunching at
his club as usual, he promised himself the pleasure of going to
Cottesmore Gardens and telling Sylvia his good news.
It was still early, and he walked the whole way, as some vent for
his high spirits, enjoying everything with a new zestthe dappled grey
and salmon sky before him, the amber, russet, and yellow of the scanty
foliage in Kensington Gardens, the pungent scent of fallen chestnuts
and acorns and burning leaves, the blue-grey mist stealing between the
distant tree-trunks, and then the cheery bustle and brilliancy of the
High Street. Finally came the joy of finding Sylvia all alone, and
witnessing her frank delight at what he had come to tell her, of
feeling her hands on his shoulders, and holding her in his arms, as
their lips met for the first time. If on that Saturday afternoon there
was a happier man than Horace Ventimore, he would have done well to
dissemble his felicity, for fear of incurring the jealousy of the high
When Mrs. Futvoye returned, as she did only too soon, to find her
daughter and Horace seated on the same sofa, she did not pretend to be
gratified. This is taking a most unfair advantage of what I was weak
enough to say last night, Mr. Ventimore, she began. I thought I could
have trusted you!
I shouldn't have come so soon, he said, if my position were what
it was only yesterday. But it's changed since then, and I venture to
hope that even the Professor won't object now to our being regularly
engaged. And he told her of the sudden alteration in his prospects.
Well, said Mrs. Futvoye, you had better speak to my husband about
The Professor came in shortly afterwards, and Horace immediately
requested a few minutes' conversation with him in the study, which was
The study to which the Professor led the way was built out at the
back of the house, and crowded with Oriental curios of every age and
kind; the furniture had been made by Cairene cabinet-makers, and along
the cornices of the book-cases were texts from the Koran, while every
chair bore the Arabic for Welcome in a gilded firework on its leather
back; the lamp was a perforated mosque lantern with long pendent glass
tubes like hyacinth glasses; a mummy-case smiled from a corner with
Well, began the Professor, as soon as they were seated, so I was
not mistakenthere was something in the brass bottle after all, then?
Let's have a look at it, whatever it is.
For the moment Horace had almost forgotten the bottle. Oh! he
said, II got it open; but there was nothing in it.
Just as I anticipated, sir, said the Professor. I told you there
couldn't be anything in a bottle of that description; it was simply
throwing money away to buy it.
I dare say it was, but I wished to speak to you on a much more
important matter; and Horace briefly explained his object.
Dear me, said the Professor, rubbing up his hair irritably, dear
me! I'd no idea of thisno idea at all. I was under the impression
that you volunteered to act as escort to my wife and daughter at St.
Luc purely out of good nature to relieve me from whatto a man of my
habits in that extreme heatwould have been an arduous and distasteful
I was not wholly unselfish, I admit, said Horace. I fell in love
with your daughter, sir, the first day I met heronly I felt I had no
right, as a poor man with no prospects, to speak to her or you at that
A very creditable feelingbut I've yet to learn why you should
have overcome it.
So, for the third time, Ventimore told the story of the sudden turn
in his fortunes.
I know this Mr. Samuel Wackerbath by name, said the Professor;
one of the chief partners in the firm of Akers and Coverdale, the
great estate agentsa most influential man, if you can only succeed in
Oh, I don't feel any misgivings about that, sir, said Horace. I
mean to build him a house that will be beyond his wildest expectations,
and you see that in a year I shall have earned several thousands, and I
need not say that I will make any settlement you think proper when I
When you are in possession of those thousands, remarked the
Professor, dryly, it will be time enough to talk of marrying and
making settlements. Meanwhile, if you and Sylvia choose to consider
yourselves engaged, I won't objectonly I must insist on having your
promise that you won't persuade her to marry you without her mother's
and my consent.
Ventimore gave this undertaking willingly enough, and they returned
to the drawing-room. Mrs. Futvoye could hardly avoid asking Horace, in
his new character of fiancé, to stay and dine, which it need not
be said he was only too delighted to do.
There is one thing, my dearerHorace, said the Professor,
solemnly, after dinner, when the neat parlourmaid had left them at
dessert, one thing on which I think it my duty to caution you. If you
are to justify the confidence we have shown in sanctioning your
engagement to Sylvia, you must curb this propensity of yours to
Papa! cried Sylvia. What could have made you think Horace
Really, said Horace, I shouldn't have called myself particularly
Nobody ever does call himself particularly extravagant,
retorted the Professor; but I observed at St. Luc that you habitually
gave fifty centimes as a pourboire when twopence, or even a
penny, would have been handsome. And no one with any regard for the
value of money would have given a guinea for a worthless brass vessel
on the bare chance that it might contain manuscripts, which (as any one
could have foreseen) it did not.
But it's not a bad sort of bottle, sir, pleaded Horace. If you
remember, you said yourself the shape was unusual. Why shouldn't it be
worth all the money, and more?
To a collector, perhaps, said the Professor, with his wonted
amiability, which you are not. No, I can only call it a senseless and
reprehensible waste of money.
Well, the truth is, said Horace, I bought it with some idea that
it might interest you.
Then you were mistaken, sir. It does not interest me. Why
should I be interested in a metal jar which, for anything that appears
to the contrary, may have been cast the other day at Birmingham?
But there is something, said Horace; a seal or inscription
of some sort engraved on the cap. Didn't I mention it?
You said nothing about an inscription before, replied the
Professor, with rather more interest. What is the characterArabic?
I really couldn't sayit's almost rubbed outqueer little
triangular marks, something like birds' footprints.
That sounds like Cuneiform, said the Professor, which would seem
to point to a Phoenician origin. And, as I am acquainted with no
Oriental brass earlier than the ninth century of our era, I should
regard your description as, à priori, distinctly unlikely.
However, I should certainly like to have an opportunity of examining
the bottle for myself some day.
Whenever you please, Professor. When can you come?
Why, I'm so much occupied all day that I can't say for certain when
I can get up to your office again.
My own days will be fairly full now, said Horace; and the thing's
not at the office, but in my rooms at Vincent Square. Why shouldn't you
all come and dine quietly there some evening next week, and then you
could examine the inscription comfortably afterwards, you know,
Professor, and find out what it really is? Do say you will. He was
eager to have the privilege of entertaining Sylvia in his own rooms for
the first time.
No, no, said the Professor; I see no reason why you should be
troubled with the entire family. I may drop in alone some evening and
take the luck of the pot, sir.
Thank you, papa, put in Sylvia; but I should like to come
too, please, and hear what you think of Horace's bottle. And I'm dying
to see his rooms. I believe they're fearfully luxurious.
I trust, observed her father, that they are far indeed from
answering that description. If they did, I should consider it a most
unsatisfactory indication of Horace's character.
There's nothing magnificent about them, I assure you, said Horace.
Though it's true I've had them done up, and all that sort of thing, at
my own expensebut quite simply. I couldn't afford to spend much on
them. But do come and see them. I must have a little dinner, to
celebrate my good fortuneit will be so jolly if you'll all three
If we do come, stipulated the Professor, it must be on the
distinct understanding that you don't provide an elaborate banquet.
Plain, simple, wholesome food, well cooked, such as we have had this
evening, is all that is necessary. More would be ostentatious.
My dear dad! protested Sylvia, in distress at this somewhat
dictatorial speech. Surely you can leave all that to Horace!
Horace, my dear, understands that, in speaking as I did, I was
simply treating him as a potential member of my family. Here Sylvia
made a private little grimace. No young man who contemplates marrying
should allow himself to launch into extravagance on the strength of
prospects which, for all he can tell, said the Professor, genially,
may prove fallacious. On the contrary, if his affection is sincere, he
will incur as little expense as possible, put by every penny he can
save, rather than subject the girl he professes to love to the ordeal
of a long engagement. In other words, the truest lover is the best
I quite understand, sir, said Horace, good-temperedly; it would
be foolish of me to attempt any ambitious form of
entertainmentespecially as my landlady, though an excellent plain
cook, is not exactly a cordon bleu. So you can come to my modest
board without misgivings.
Before he left, a provisional date for the dinner was fixed for an
evening towards the end of the next week, and Horace walked home,
treading on air rather than hard paving-stones, and striking the stars
with his uplifted head.
The next day he went down to Lipsfield and made the acquaintance of
the whole Wackerbath family, who were all enthusiastic about the
proposed country house. The site was everything that the most exacting
architect could desire, and he came back to town the same evening,
having spent a pleasant day and learnt enough of his client's
requirements, andwhat was even more importantthose of his client's
wife and daughters, to enable him to begin work upon the sketch-plans
the next morning.
He had not been long in his rooms at Vincent Square, and was still
agreeably engaged in recalling the docility and ready appreciation with
which the Wackerbaths had received his suggestions and rough sketches,
their compliments and absolute confidence in his skill, when he had a
shock which was as disagreeable as it was certainly unexpected.
For the wall before him parted like a film, and through it stepped,
smiling benignantly, the green-robed figure of Fakrash-el-Aamash, the
CHAPTER VI. EMBARRAS DE RICHESSES
Ventimore had so thoroughly convinced himself that the released
Jinnee was purely a creature of his own imagination, that he rubbed his
eyes with a start, hoping that they had deceived him.
Stroke thy head, O merciful and meritorious one, said his visitor,
and recover thy faculties to receive good tidings. For it is indeed
IFakrash-el-Aamashwhom thou beholdest.
II'm delighted to see you, said Horace, as cordially as he
could. Is there anything I can do for you?
Nay, for hast thou not done me the greatest of all services by
setting me free? To escape out of a bottle is pleasant. And to thee I
owe my deliverance.
It was all true, then: he had really let an imprisoned Genius or
Jinnee, or whatever it was, out of that bottle! He knew he could not be
dreaming nowhe only wished he were. However, since it was done, his
best course seemed to be to put a good face on it, and persuade this
uncanny being somehow to go away and leave him in peace for the future.
Oh, that's all right, my dear sir, he said, don't think any more
about it. II rather understood you to say that you were starting on a
journey in search of Solomon?
I have been, and returned. For I visited sundry cities in his
dominions, hoping that by chance I might hear news of him, but I
refrained from asking directly lest thereby I should engender
suspicion, and so Suleyman should learn of my escape before I could
obtain an audience of him and implore justice.
Oh, I shouldn't think that was likely, said Horace. If I were
you, I should go straight back and go on travelling till I did
Well was it said: 'Pass not any door without knocking, lest haply
that which thou seekest should be behind it.'
Exactly, said Horace. Do each city thoroughly, house by house,
and don't neglect the smallest clue. 'If at first you don't succeed,
try, try, try, again!' as one of our own poets teaches.
'Try, try, try again,' echoed the Jinnee, with an admiration that
was almost fatuous. Divinely gifted truly was he who composed such a
He has a great reputation as a sage, said Horace, and the maxim
is considered one of his happiest efforts. Don't you think that, as the
East is rather thickly populated, the less time you lose in following
the poet's recommendation the better?
It may be as thou sayest. But know this, O my son, that wheresoever
I may wander, I shall never cease to study how I may most fitly reward
thee for thy kindness towards me. For nobly it was said: 'If I be
possessed of wealth and be not liberal, may my head never be
My good sir, said Horace, do please understand that if you were
to offer me any reward forfor a very ordinary act of courtesy, I
should be obliged to decline it.
But didst thou not say that thou wast sorely in need of a client?
That was so at the time, said Horace; but since I last had the
pleasure of seeing you, I have met with one who is all I could possibly
I am indeed rejoiced to hear it, returned the Jinnee, for thou
showest me that I have succeeded in performing the first service which
thou hast demanded of me.
Horace staggered under this severe blow to his pride; for the moment
he could only gasp: Youyou sent him to me?
I, and no other, said the Jinnee, beaming with satisfaction; for
while, unseen of men, I was circling in air, resolved to attend to thy
affair before beginning my search for Suleyman (on whom be peace!), it
chanced that I overheard a human being of prosperous appearance say
aloud upon a bridge that he desired to erect for himself a palace if he
could but find an architect. So, perceiving thee afar off seated at an
open casement, I immediately transported him to the place and delivered
him into thy hands.
But he knew my namehe had my card in his pocket, said Horace.
I furnished him with the paper containing thy names and abode, lest
he should be ignorant of them.
Well, look here, Mr. Fakrash, said the unfortunate Horace, I know
you meant wellbut never do a thing like that again! If my
brother-architects came to know of it I should be accused of most
unprofessional behaviour. I'd no idea you would take that way of
introducing a client to me, or I should have stopped it at once!
It was an error, said Fakrash. No matter. I will undo this
affair, and devise some other and better means of serving thee.
No, no, he said, for Heaven's sake, leave things aloneyou'll
only make them worse. Forgive me, my dear Mr. Fakrash, I'm afraid I
must seem most ungrateful; butbut I was so taken by surprise. And
really, I am extremely obliged to you. For, though the means you took
werewere a little irregular, you have done me a very great
It is naught, said the Jinnee, compared to those I hope to render
so great a benefactor.
But, indeed, you mustn't think of trying to do any more for me,
urged Horace, who felt the absolute necessity of expelling any scheme
of further benevolence from the Jinnee's head once and for all. You
have done enough. Why, thanks to you, I am engaged to build a palace
that will keep me hard at work and happy for ever so long.
Are human beings, then, so enamoured of hard labour? asked
Fakrash, in wonder. It is not thus with the Jinn.
I love my work for its own sake, said Horace, and then, when I
have finished it, I shall have earned a very fair amount of
moneywhich is particularly important to me just now.
And why, my son, art thou so desirous of obtaining riches?
Because, said Horace, unless a man is tolerably well off in these
days he cannot hope to marry.
Fakrash smiled with indulgent compassion. How excellent is the
saying of one of old: 'He that adventureth upon matrimony is like unto
one who thrusteth his hand into a sack containing many thousands of
serpents and one eel. Yet, if Fate so decree, he may draw forth
the eel.' And thou art comely, and of an age when it is natural to
desire the love of a maiden. Therefore be of good heart and a cheerful
eye, and it may be that, when I am more at leisure, I shall find thee a
helpmate who shall rejoice thy soul.
Please don't trouble to find me anything of the sort! said Horace,
hastily, with a mental vision of some helpless and scandalised stranger
being shot into his dwelling like coals. I assure you I would much
rather win a wife for myself in the ordinary wayas, thanks to your
kindness, I have every hope of doing before long.
Is there already some damsel for whom thy heart pineth? If so, fear
not to tell me her names and dwelling place, and I will assuredly
obtain her for thee.
But Ventimore had seen enough of the Jinnee's Oriental methods to
doubt his tact and discretion where Sylvia was concerned. No, no; of
course not. I spoke generally, he said. It's exceedingly kind of
youbut I do wish I could make you understand that I am
overpaid as it is. You have put me in the way to make a name and
fortune for myself. If I fail, it will be my own fault. And, at all
events, I want nothing more from you. If you mean to find Suleyman (on
whom be peace!) you must go and live in the East altogetherfor he
certainly isn't over here; you must give up your whole time to it, keep
as quiet as possible, and don't be discouraged by any reports you may
hear. Above all, never trouble your head about me or my affairs again!
O thou of wisdom and eloquence, said Fakrash, this is most
excellent advice. I will go, then; but may I drink the cup of perdition
If I become unmindful of thy benevolence!
And, raising his joined hands above his head as he spoke, he sank,
feet foremost, through the carpet and was gone.
Thank Heaven, thought Ventimore, he's taken the hint at last. I
don't think I'm likely to see any more of him. I feel an ungrateful
brute for saying so, but I can't help it. I can not stand being
under any obligation to a Jinnee who's been shut up in a beastly brass
bottle ever since the days of Solomon, who probably had very good
reasons for putting him there.
Horace next asked himself whether he was bound in honour to disclose
the facts to Mr. Wackerbath, and give him the opportunity of
withdrawing from the agreement if he thought fit.
On the whole, he saw no necessity for telling him anything; the only
possible result would be to make his client suspect his sanity; and who
would care to employ an insane architect? Then, if he retired from the
undertaking without any explanations, what could he say to Sylvia? What
would Sylvia's father say to him? There would certainly be an
end to his engagement.
After all, he had not been to blame; the Wackerbaths were quite
satisfied. He felt perfectly sure that he could justify their selection
of him; he would wrong nobody by accepting the commission, while he
would only offend them, injure himself irretrievably, and lose all hope
of gaining Sylvia if he made any attempt to undeceive them.
And Fakrash was gone, never to return. So, on all these
considerations, Horace decided that silence was his only possible
policy, and, though some moralists may condemn his conduct as
disingenuous and wanting in true moral courage, I venture to doubt
whether any reader, however independent, straightforward, and
indifferent to notoriety and ridicule, would have behaved otherwise in
Ventimore's extremely delicate and difficult position.
Some days passed, every working hour of which was spent by Horace in
the rapture of creation. To every man with the soul of an artist in him
there comes at timesonly too seldom in most casesa revelation of
latent power that he had not dared to hope for. And now with Ventimore
years of study and theorising which he had often been tempted to think
wasted began to bear golden fruit. He designed and drew with a rapidity
and originality, a sense of perfect mastery of the various problems to
be dealt with, and a delight in the working out of mass and detail, so
intoxicating that he almost dreaded lest he should be the victim of
His evenings were of course spent with the Futvoyes, in discovering
Sylvia in some new and yet more adorable aspect. Altogether, he was
very much in love, very happy, and very busythree states not
invariably found in combination.
And, as he had foreseen, he had effectually got rid of Fakrash, who
was evidently too engrossed in the pursuit of Solomon to think of
anything else. And there seemed no reason why he should abandon his
search for a generation or two, for it would probably take all that
time to convince him that that mighty monarch was no longer on the
It would have been too brutal to tell him myself, thought Horace,
when he was so keen on having his case reheard. And it gives him an
object, poor old buffer, and keeps him from interfering in my affairs,
so it's best for both of us.
Horace's little dinner-party had been twice postponed, till he had
begun to have a superstitious fear that it would never come off; but at
length the Professor had been induced to give an absolute promise for a
On the day before, after breakfast, Horace had summoned his landlady
to a consultation on the menu. Nothing elaborate, you know,
Mrs. Rapkin, said Horace, who, though he would have liked to provide a
feast of all procurable delicacies for Sylvia's refection, was obliged
to respect her father's prejudices. Just a simple dinner, thoroughly
well cooked, and nicely servedas you know so well how to do it.
I suppose, sir, you would require Rapkin to wait?
As the ex-butler was liable to trances on these occasions during
which he could do nothing but smile and bow with speechless politeness
as he dropped sauce-boats and plates, Horace replied that he thought of
having someone in to avoid troubling Mr. Rapkin; but his wife expressed
such confidence in her husband's proving equal to all emergencies, that
Ventimore waived the point, and left it to her to hire extra help if
she thought fit.
Now, what soup can you give us? he inquired, as Mrs. Rapkin stood
at attention and quite unmollified.
After protracted mental conflict, she grudgingly suggested gravy
soupwhich Horace thought too unenterprising, and rejected in favour
of mock turtle. Well then, fish? he continued; how about fish?
Mrs. Rapkin dragged the depths of her culinary resources for several
seconds, and finally brought to the surface what she called a nice
fried sole. Horace would not hear of it, and urged her to aspire to
salmon; she substituted smelts, which he opposed by a happy inspiration
of turbot and lobster sauce. The sauce, however, presented insuperable
difficulties to her mind, and she offered a compromise in the form of
codwhich he finally accepted as a fish which the Professor could
hardly censure for ostentation.
Next came the no less difficult questions of entrée or no
entrée, of joint and bird. What's in season just now? said
Horace; let me seeand glanced out of the window as he spoke, as
though in search of some outside suggestion.... Camels, by Jove! he
Camels, Mr. Ventimore, sir? repeated Mrs. Rapkin, in some
bewilderment; and then, remembering that he was given to untimely
flippancy, she gave a tolerant little cough.
I'll be shot if they aren't camels! said Horace. What do
you make of 'em, Mrs. Rapkin?
Out of the faint mist which hung over the farther end of the square
advanced a procession of tall, dust-coloured animals, with long,
delicately poised necks and a mincing gait. Even Mrs. Rapkin could not
succeed in making anything of them except camels.
What the deuce does a caravan of camels want in Vincent Square?
said Horace, with a sudden qualm for which he could not account.
Most likely they belong to the Barnum Show, sir, suggested his
landlady. I did hear they were coming to Olympia again this year.
Why, of course, cried Horace, intensely relieved. It's on their
way from the Docksat least, it isn't out of their way. Or
probably the main road's up for repairs. That's itthey'll turn off to
the left at the corner. See, they've got Arab drivers with them.
Wonderful how the fellows manage them.
It seems to me, sir, said Mrs. Rapkin, that they're coming our
waythey seem to be stopping outside.
Don't talk such infernalI beg your pardon, Mrs. Rapkin; but why
on earth should Barnum and Bailey's camels come out of their way to
call on me? It's ridiculous, you know! said Horace, irritably.
Ridicklous it may be, sir, she retorted, but they're all
layin' down on the road opposite our door, as you can seeand them
niggers is making signs to you to come out and speak to 'em.
It was true enough. One by one the camels, which were apparently of
the purest breed, folded themselves up in a row like campstools at a
sign from their attendants, who were now making profound salaams
towards the window where Ventimore was standing.
I suppose I'd better go down and see what they want, he said, with
rather a sickly smile. They may have lost the way to Olympia.... I
only hope Fakrash isn't at the bottom of this, he thought, as he went
downstairs. But he'd come himselfat all events, he wouldn't send me
a message on such a lot of camels! As he appeared on the doorstep, all
the drivers flopped down and rubbed their flat, black noses on the
For Heaven's sake get up! said Horace angrily. This isn't
Hammersmith. Turn to the left, into the Vauxhall Bridge Road, and ask a
policeman the nearest way to Olympia.
Be not angry with thy slaves! said the head driver, in excellent
English. We are here by command of Fakrash-el-Aamash, our lord, whom
we are bound to obey. And we have brought thee these as gifts.
My compliments to your master, said Horace, between his teeth,
and tell him that a London architect has no sort of occasion for
camels. Say that I am extremely obligedbut am compelled to decline
O highly born one, explained the driver, the camels are not a
giftbut the loads which are upon the camels. Suffer us, therefore,
since we dare not disobey our lord's commands, to carry these trifling
tokens of his good will into thy dwelling and depart in peace.
Horace had not noticed till then that every camel bore a heavy
burden, which the attendants were now unloading. Oh, if you must! he said, not too graciously; only do look sharp about itthere's a
crowd collecting already, and I don't want to have a constable here.
He returned to his rooms, where he found Mrs. Rapkin paralysed with
amazement. It'sit's all right, he said; I'd forgottenit's only a
few Oriental things from the place where that brass bottle came from,
you know. They've left them hereon approval.
Seems funny their sending their goods 'ome on camels, sir, doesn't
it? said Mrs. Rapkin.
Not at all funny! said Horace; theythey're an enterprising
firmtheir way of advertising.
One after another, a train of dusky attendants entered, each of whom
deposited his load on the floor with a guttural grunt and returned
backward, until the sitting-room was blocked with piles of sacks, and
bales, and chests, whereupon the head driver appeared and intimated
that the tale of gifts was complete.
I wonder what sort of tip this fellow expects, thought Horace; a
sovereign seems shabbybut it's all I can run to. I'll try him with
But the overseer repudiated all idea of a gratuity with stately
dignity, and as Horace saw him to the gate, he found a stolid constable
by the railings.
This won't do, you know, said the constable; these 'ere
camels must move onor I shall 'ave to interfere.
It's all right, constable, said Horace, pressing into his hand the
sovereign the head driver had rejected; they're going to move on now.
They've brought me a few presents fromfrom a friend of mine in the
By this time the attendants had mounted the kneeling camels, which
rose with them, and swung off round the square in a long, swaying trot
that soon left the crowd far behind, staring blankly after the caravan
as camel after camel disappeared into the haze.
I shouldn't mind knowin' that friend o' yours, sir, said the
constable; open-hearted sort o' gentleman, I should think?
Very! said Horace, savagely, and returned to his room, which Mrs.
Rapkin had now left.
His hands shook, though not with joy, as he untied some of the sacks
and bales and forced open the outlandish-looking chests, the contents
of which almost took away his breath.
For in the bales were carpets and tissues which he saw at a glance
must be of fabulous antiquity and beyond all price; the sacks held
golden ewers and vessels of strange workmanship and pantomimic
proportions; the chests were full of jewelsropes of creamy-pink
pearls as large as average onions, strings of uncut rubies and
emeralds, the smallest of which would have been a tight fit in an
ordinary collar-box, and diamonds, roughly facetted and polished, each
the size of a coconut, in whose hearts quivered a liquid and prismatic
On the most moderate computation, the total value of these gifts
could hardly be less than several hundred millions; never probably in
the world's history had any treasury contained so rich a store.
It would have been difficult for anybody, on suddenly finding
himself the possessor of this immense incalculable wealth, to make any
comment quite worthy of the situation, but, surely, none could have
been more inadequate and indeed inappropriate than Horace'swhich,
heartfelt as it was, was couched in the simple monosyllableDamn!
CHAPTER VII. GRATITUDEA LIVELY
SENSE OF FAVOURS TO COME
Most men on suddenly finding themselves in possession of such
enormous wealth would have felt some elation. Ventimore, as we have
seen, was merely exasperated. And, although this attitude of his may
strike the reader as incomprehensible or absolutely wrong-headed, he
had more reason on his side than might appear at a first view.
It was undoubtedly the fact that, with the money these treasures
represented, he would be in a position to convulse the money markets of
Europe and America, bring society to his feet, make and unmake
kingdomsdominate, in short, the entire world.
But, then, as Horace told himself with a groan, it wouldn't amuse
me in the least to convulse money markets. Do I want to see the
smartest people in London grovelling for anything they think they're
likely to get out of me? As I should be perfectly well aware that their
homage was not paid to any personal merit of mine, I could hardly
consider it flattering. And why should I make kingdoms? The only thing
I understand and care about is making houses. Then, am I likely to be a
better hand at dominating the world than all the others who have tried
the experiment? I doubt it.
He called to mind all the millionaires he had ever read or heard of;
they didn't seem to get much fun out of their riches. The majority of
them were martyrs to dyspepsia. They were often weighed down by the
cares and responsibilities of their position; the only people who were
unable to obtain an audience of them at any time were their friends;
they lived in a glare of publicity, and every post brought them
hundreds of begging letters, and a few threats; their children were in
constant danger from kidnappers, and they themselves, after knowing no
rest in life, could not be certain that even their tombs would be
undisturbed. Whether they were extravagant or thrifty, they were
equally maligned, and, whatever the fortune they left behind them, they
could be absolutely certain that, in a couple of generations, it would
be entirely dissipated.
And the biggest millionaire living, concluded Horace, is a pauper
compared with me!
But there was another considerationhow was he to realise all this
wealth? He knew enough about precious stones to be aware that a ruby,
for instance, of the true pigeon's blood colour and the size of a
melon, as most of these rubies were, would be worth, even when cut,
considerably over a million; but who would buy it?
I think I see myself, he reflected grimly, calling on some
diamond merchant in Hatton Garden with half a dozen assorted jewels in
a Gladstone bag. If he believed they were genuine, he'd probably have a
fit; but most likely he'd think I'd invented some dodge for
manufacturing them, and had been fool enough to overdo the size.
Anyhow, he'd want to know how they came into my possession, and what
could I say? That they were part of a little present made to me by a
Jinnee in grateful acknowledgment of my having relieved him from a
brass bottle in which he'd been shut up for nearly three thousand
years? Look at it how you will, it's not convincing. I fancy I
can guess what he'd say. And what an ass I should look! Then suppose
the thing got into the papers?
Got into the papers? Why, of course it would get into the papers. As
if it were possible in these days for a young and hitherto unemployed
architect suddenly to surround himself with wondrous carpets, and gold
vessels, and gigantic jewels without attracting the notice of some
enterprising journalist. He would be interviewed; the story of his
curiously acquired riches would go the round of the papers; he would
find himself the object of incredulity, suspicion, ridicule. In
imagination he could already see the headlines on the news-sheets:
AMAZING ARABESQUES BY AN ARCHITECT
HE SAYS THE JAR CONTAINED A JINNEE
And so on, through every phrase of alliterative ingenuity. He ground
his teeth at the mere thought of it. Then Sylvia would come to hear of
it, and what would she think? She would naturally be repelled,
as any nice-minded girl would be, by the idea that her lover was in
secret alliance with a supernatural being. And her father and
motherwould they allow her to marry a man, however rich, whose wealth
came from such a questionable source? No one would believe that he had
not made some unholy bargain before consenting to set this incarcerated
spirit freehe, who had acted in absolute ignorance, who had
persistently declined all reward after realising what he had done!
No, it was too much. Try as he might to do justice to the Jinnee's
gratitude and generosity, he could not restrain a bitter resentment at
the utter want of consideration shown in overloading him with gifts so
useless and so compromising. No Jinneehowever old, however unfamiliar
with the world as it is nowhad any right to be such a fool!
And at this, above the ramparts of sacks and bales, which occupied
all the available space in the room, appeared Mrs. Rapkin's face.
I was going to ask you, sir, before them parcels came, she began,
with a dry cough of disapproval, what you would like in the way of
ongtray to-morrow night. I thought if I could find a sweetbread at all
To Horacesurrounded as he was by incalculable richessweetbreads
seemed incongruous just then; the transition of thought was too
I can't bother about that now, Mrs. Rapkin, he said; we'll settle
it to-morrow. I'm too busy.
I suppose most of these things will have to go back, sir, if
they're only sent on approval like?
If he only knew where and how he could send them back! II'm not
sure, he said; I may have to keep them.
Well, sir, bargain or none, I wouldn't have 'em as a gift myself,
being so dirty and fusty; they can't be no use to anybody, not to
mention there being no room to move with them blocking up all the
place. I'd better tell Rapkin to carry 'em all upstairs out of people's
Certainly not, said Horace, sharply, by no means anxious for the
Rapkins to discover the real nature of his treasures. Don't touch
them, either of you. Leave them exactly as they are, do you
As you please, Mr. Ventimore, sir; only, if they're not to be
interfered with, I don't see myself how you're going to set your
friends down to dinner to-morrow, that's all.
And, indeed, considering that the table and every available chair,
and even the floor, were heaped so high with valuables that Horace
himself could only just squeeze his way between the piles, it seemed as
if his guests might find themselves inconveniently cramped.
It will be all right, he said, with an optimism he was very far
from feeling; we'll manage somehowleave it to me.
Before he left for his office he took the precaution to baffle any
inquisitiveness on the part of his landlady by locking his sitting-room
door and carrying away the key, but it was in a very different mood
from his former light-hearted confidence that he sat down to his
drawing-board in Great Cloister Street that morning. He could not
concentrate his mind; his enthusiasm and his ideas had alike deserted
He flung down the dividers he had been using and pushed away the
nest of saucers of Indian ink and colours in a fit of petulance. It's
no good, he exclaimed aloud; I feel a perfect duffer this morning. I
couldn't even design a decent dog-kennel!
Even as he spoke he became conscious of a presence in the room, and,
looking round, saw Fakrash the Jinnee standing at his elbow, smiling
down on him more benevolently than ever, and with a serene expectation
of being warmly welcomed and thanked, which made Horace rather ashamed
of his own inability to meet it.
He's a thoroughly good-natured old chap, he thought,
self-reproachfully. He means well, and I'm a beast not to feel more
glad to see him. And yet, hang it all! I can't have him popping in and
out of the office like a rabbit whenever the fancy takes him!
Peace be upon thee, said Fakrash. Moderate the trouble of thy
heart, and impart thy difficulties to me.
Oh, they're nothing, thanks, said Horace, feeling decidedly
embarrassed. I got stuck over my work for the moment, and it worried
me a littlethat's all.
Then thou hast not yet received the gifts which I commanded should
be delivered at thy dwelling-place?
Oh, indeed I have! replied Horace; andand I really don't know
how to thank you for them.
A few trifling presents, answered the Jinnee, and by no means
suited to thy dignityyet the best in my power to bestow upon thee for
the time being.
My dear sir, they simply overwhelm me with their magnificence!
They're beyond all price, andand I've no idea what to do with such a
A superfluity of good things is good, was the Jinnee's sententious
Not in my particular case. II quite feel your goodness and
generosity; but, indeed, as I told you before, it's really impossible
for me to accept any such reward.
Fakrash's brows contracted slightly. How sayest thou that it is
impossibleseeing that these things are already in thy possession?
I know, said Horace; butyou won't be offended if I speak quite
Art thou not even as a son to me, and can I be angered at any words
Well, said Horace, with sudden hope, honestly, then, I would very
much ratherif you're sure you don't mindthat you would take them
all back again.
What? Dost thou demand that I, Fakrash-el-Aamash, should consent to
receive back the gifts I have bestowed? Are they, then, of so little
value in thy sight?
They're of too much value. If I took such a reward forfor a very
ordinary service, I should never be able to respect myself again.
This is not the reasoning of an intelligent person, said the
If you think me a fool, I can't help it. I'm not an ungrateful
fool, at all events. But I feel very strongly that I can't keep these
gifts of yours.
So thou wouldst have me break the oath which I swore to reward thee
fitly for thy kind action?
But you have rewarded me already, said Horace, by
contriving that a wealthy merchant should engage me to build him a
residence. Andforgive my plain speakingif you truly desire my
happiness (as I am sure you do) you will relieve me of all these
precious gems and merchandise, because, to be frank, they will not
make me happy. On the contrary, they are making me extremely
In the days of old, said Fakrash, all men pursued wealth; nor
could any amass enough to satisfy his desires. Have riches, then,
become so contemptible in mortal eyes that thou findest them but an
encumbrance? Explain the matter.
Horace felt a natural delicacy in giving his real reasons. I can't
answer for other men, he said. All I know is that I've never been
accustomed to being rich, and I'd rather get used to it gradually, and
be able to feel that I owed it, as far as possible, to my own
exertions. For, as I needn't tell you, Mr. Fakrash, riches alone
don't make any fellow happy. You must have observed that they're apt
towell, to land him in all kinds of messes and worries.... I'm
talking like a confounded copybook, he thought, but I don't care how
priggish I am if I can only get my way!
Fakrash was deeply impressed. O young man of marvellous
moderation! he cried. Thy sentiments are not inferior to those of the
Great Suleyman himself (on whom be peace!). Yet even he doth not
utterly despise them, for he hath gold and ivory and precious stones in
abundance. Nor hitherto have I ever met a human being capable of
rejecting them when offered. But, since thou seemest sincere in holding
that my poor and paltry gifts will not advance thy welfare, and since I
would do thee good and not evilbe it even as thou wouldst. For
excellently was it said: 'The worth of a present depends not on itself,
nor on the giver, but on the receiver alone.'
Horace could hardly believe that he had really prevailed. It's
extremely good of you, sir, he said, to take it so well. And if you
could let that caravan call for them as soon as possible, it would
be a great convenience to me. I meanerthe fact is, I'm expecting a
few friends to dine with me to-morrow, and, as my rooms are rather
small at the best of times, I don't quite know how I can manage to
entertain them at all unless something is done.
It will be the easiest of actions, replied Fakrash; therefore,
have no fear that, when the time cometh, thou wilt not be able to
entertain thy friends in a fitting manner. And for the caravan, it
shall set out without delay.
By Jove, though, I'd forgotten one thing, said Horace: I've
locked up the room where your presents arethey won't be able to get
in without the key.
Against the servants of the Jinn neither bolts nor bars can
prevail. They shall enter therein and remove all that they brought
thee, since it is thy desire.
Very many thanks, said Horace. And you do really
understand that I'm every bit as grateful as if I could keep the
things? You see, I want all my time and all my energies to complete the
designs for this building, which, he added gracefully, I should never
be in a position to do at all, but for your assistance.
On my arrival, said Fakrash, I heard thee lamenting the
difficulties of the task; wherein do they consist?
Oh, said Horace, it's a little difficult to please all the
different people concerned, and myself too. I want to make something of
it that I shall be proud of, and that will give me a reputation. It's a
large house, and there will be a good deal of work in it; but I shall
manage it all right.
This is a great undertaking indeed, remarked the Jinnee, after he
had asked various by no means unintelligent questions and received the
answers. But be persuaded that it shall all turn out most fortunately
and thou shalt obtain great renown. And now, he concluded, I am
compelled to take leave of thee, for I am still without any certain
tidings of Suleyman.
You mustn't let me keep you, said Horace, who had been on thorns
for some minutes lest Beevor should return and find him with his
mysterious visitor. You see, he added instructively, so long as you
will neglect your own much more important affairs to look after
mine, you can hardly expect to make much progress, can you?
How excellent is the saying, replied the Jinnee: 'The time which
is spent in doing kindnesses, call it not wasted.'
Yes, that's very good, said Horace, feeling driven to silence this
maxim, if possible, with one of his own invention. But we have
a saying toohow does it go? Ah, I remember. 'It is possible for a
kindness to be more inconvenient than an injury.'
Marvellously gifted was he who discovered such a saying! cried
I imagine, said Horace, he learnt it from his own experience. By
the way, what place were you thinking of drawingI mean tryingnext
I purpose to repair to Nineveh, and inquire there.
Capital, said Ventimore, with hearty approval, for he hoped that
this would take the Jinnee some little time. Wonderful city, Nineveh,
from all I've heardthough not quite what it used to be, perhaps. Then
there's Babylonyou might go on there. And if you shouldn't hear of
him there, why not strike down into Central Africa, and do that
thoroughly? Or South America; it's a pity to lose any chanceyou've
never been to South America yet?
I have not so much as heard of such a country, and how should
Suleyman be there?
Pardon me, I didn't say he was there. All I meant to convey
was, that he's quite as likely to be there as anywhere else. But if
you're going to Nineveh first, you'd better lose no more time, for I've
always understood that it's rather an awkward place to get atthough
probably you won't find it very difficult.
I care not, said Fakrash, though the search be long, for in
travel there are five advantages
I know, interrupted Horace, so don't stop to describe them now. I
should like to see you fairly started, and you really mustn't think it
necessary to break off your search again on my account, because, thanks
to you, I shall get on splendidly alone for the futureif you'll
kindly see that that merchandise is removed.
Thine abode shall not be encumbered with it for another hour, said
the Jinnee. O thou judicious one, in whose estimation wealth is of no
value, know that I have never encountered a mortal who pleased me as
thou hast; and moreover, be assured that such magnanimity as thine
shall not go without a recompense!
How often must I tell you, said Horace, in a glow of impatience,
that I am already much more than recompensed? Now, my kind, generous
old friend, he added, with an emotion that was not wholly insincere,
the time has come to bid you farewellfor ever. Let me picture you as
revisiting your former haunts, penetrating to quarters of the globe
(for, whether you are aware of it or not, this earth of ours is
a globe) hitherto unknown to you, refreshing your mind by foreign
travel and the study of mankindbut never, never for a moment losing
sight of your main object, the eventual discovery of and reconciliation
with Suleyman (on whom be peace!). That is the greatest, the only
happiness you can give me now. Good-bye, and bon voyage!
May Allah never deprive thy friends of thy presence! returned the
Jinnee, who was apparently touched by this exordium, for truly thou
art a most excellent young man!
And stepping back into the fireplace, he was gone in an instant.
Ventimore sank back in his chair with a sigh of relief. He had begun
to fear that the Jinnee never would take himself off, but he had gone
at lastand for good.
He was half ashamed of himself for feeling so glad, for Fakrash was
a good-natured old thing enough in his way. Only he would overdo
things: he had no sense of proportion. Why, thought Horace, if a
fellow expressed a modest wish for a canary in a cage he's just the
sort of old Jinnee to bring him a whole covey of rocs in an aviary
about ten times the size of the Crystal Palace. However, he does
understand now that I can't take anything more from him, and he isn't
offended either, so that's all settled. Now I can set to work
and knock off these plans in peace and quietness.
But he had not done much before he heard sounds in the next room
which told him that Beevor had returned at last. He had been expected
back from the country for the last day or two, and it was fortunate
that he had delayed so long, thought Ventimore, as he went in to see
him and to tell him the unexpected piece of good fortune that he
himself had met with since they last met. It is needless to say that,
in giving his account, he abstained from any mention of the brass
bottle or the Jinnee, as unessential elements in his story.
Beevor's congratulations were quite as cordial as could be expected,
as soon as he fully understood that no hoax was intended. Well, old
man, he said, I am glad. I really am, you know. To think of a
prize like that coming to you the very first time! And you don't even
know how this Mr. Wackerbath came to hear of youjust happened to see
your name up outside and came in, I expect. Why, I dare say, if I
hadn't chanced to go away as I didand about a couple of paltry two
thousand pound houses, too! Ah, well, I don't grudge you your luck,
though it does seem ratherIt was worth waiting for; you'll
be cutting me out before longif you don't make a mess of this
job. I mean, you know, old chap, if you don't go and give your City man
a Gothic castle when what he wants is something with plenty of
plate-glass windows and a Corinthian portico. That's the rock I see
ahead of you. You mustn't mind my giving you a word of warning!
Oh no, said Ventimore; but I shan't give him either a Gothic
castle or plenty of plate-glass. I venture to think he'll be pleased
with the general idea as I'm working it out.
Let's hope so, said Beevor. If you get into any difficulty, you
know, he added, with a touch of patronage, just you come to me.
Thanks, said Horace, I will. But I'm getting on very fairly at
I should rather like to see what you've made of it. I might be able
to give you a wrinkle here and there.
It's awfully good of you, but I think I'd rather you didn't see the
plans till they're quite finished, said Horace. The truth was that he
was perfectly aware that the other would not be in sympathy with his
ideas; and Horace, who had just been suffering from a cold fit of
depression about his work, rather shrank from any kind of criticism.
Oh, just as you please! said Beevor, a little stiffly; you always
were an obstinate beggar. I've had a certain amount of experience,
you know, in my poor little pottering way, and I thought I might
possibly have saved you a cropper or two. But if you think you can
manage better aloneonly don't get bolted with by one of those
architectural hobbies of yours, that's all.
All right, old fellow. I'll ride my hobby on the curb, said
Horace, laughing, as he went back to his own office, where he found
that all his former certainty and enjoyment of his work had returned to
him, and by the end of the day he had made so much progress that his
designs needed only a few finishing touches to be complete enough for
his client's inspection.
Better still, on returning to his rooms that evening to change
before going to Kensington, he found that the admirable Fakrash had
kept his promiseevery chest, sack, and bale had been cleared away.
Them camels come back for the things this afternoon, sir, said
Mrs. Rapkin, and it put me in a fluster at first, for I made sure
you'd locked your door and took the key. But I must have been
mistookleastways, them Arabs got in somehow. I hope you meant
everything to go back?
Quite, said Horace; I saw thethe person who sent them this
morning, and told him there was nothing I cared for enough to keep.
And like his impidence sending you a lot o' rubbish like that on
approvaland on camels, too! declared Mrs. Rapkin. I'm sure I don't
know what them advertising firms will try nextpushing, I call
Now that everything was gone, Horace felt a little natural regret
and doubt whether he need have been quite so uncompromising in his
refusal of the treasures. I might have kept some of those tissues and
things for Sylvia, he thought; and she loves pearls. And a
prayer-carpet would have pleased the Professor tremendously. But no,
after all, it wouldn't have done. Sylvia couldn't go about in pearls
the size of new potatoes, and the Professor would only have ragged me
for more reckless extravagance. Besides, if I'd taken any of the
Jinnee's gifts, he might keep on pouring more in, till I should be just
where I was beforeor worse off, really, because I couldn't decently
refuse them, then. So it's best as it is.
And really, considering his temperament and the peculiar nature of
his position, it is not easy to see how he could have arrived at any
CHAPTER VIII. BACHELOR'S QUARTERS
Horace was feeling particularly happy as he walked back the next
evening to Vincent Square. He had the consciousness of having done a
good day's work, for the sketch-plans for Mr. Wackerbath's mansion were
actually completed and despatched to his business address, while
Ventimore now felt a comfortable assurance that his designs would more
than satisfy his client.
But it was not that which made him so light of heart. That night his
rooms were to be honoured for the first time by Sylvia's presence. She
would tread upon his carpet, sit in his chairs, comment upon, and
perhaps even handle, his books and ornamentsand all of them would
retain something of her charm for ever after. If she only came! For
even now he could not quite believe that she really would; that some
untoward event would not make a point of happening to prevent her, as
he sometimes doubted whether his engagement was not too sweet and
wonderful to be trueor, at all events, to last.
As to the dinner, his mind was tolerably easy, for he had settled
the remaining details of the menu with his landlady that
morning, and he could hope that without being so sumptuous as to excite
the Professor's wrath, it would still be not altogether unworthyand
what goods could be rare and dainty enough?to be set before Sylvia.
He would have liked to provide champagne, but he knew that wine
would savour of ostentation in the Professor's judgment, so he had
contented himself instead with claret, a sound vintage which he knew he
could depend upon. Flowers, he thought, were clearly permissible, and
he had called at a florist's on his way and got some chrysanthemums of
palest yellow and deepest terra-cotta, the finest he could see. Some of
them would look well on the centre of the table in an old Nankin
blue-and-white bowl he had; the rest he could arrange about the room:
there would just be time to see to all that before dressing.
Occupied with these thoughts, he turned into Vincent Square, which
looked vaster than ever with the murky haze, enclosed by its high
railings, and under a wide expanse of steel-blue sky, across which the
clouds were driving fast like ships in full sail scudding for harbour
before a storm. Against the mist below, the young and nearly leafless
trees showed flat, black profiles as of pressed seaweed, and the sky
immediately above the house-tops was tinged with a sullen red from
miles of lighted streets; from the river came the long-drawn tooting of
tugs, mingled with the more distant wail and hysterical shrieks of
railway engines on the Lambeth lines.
And now he reached the old semi-detached house in which he lodged,
and noticed for the first time how the trellis-work of the veranda
made, with the bared creepers and hanging baskets, a kind of decorative
pattern against the windows, which were suffused with a roseate glow
that looked warm and comfortable and hospitable. He wondered whether
Sylvia would notice it when she arrived.
He passed under the old wrought-iron arch that once held an
oil-lamp, and up a short but rather steep flight of steps, which led to
a brick porch built out at the side. Then he let himself in, and stood
spellbound with perplexed amazement,for he was in a strange house.
In place of the modest passage with the yellow marble wall-paper,
the mahogany hat-stand, and the elderly barometer in a state of chronic
depression which he knew so well, he found an arched octagonal
entrance-hall with arabesques of blue, crimson, and gold, and
richly-embroidered hangings; the floor was marble, and from a shallow
basin of alabaster in the centre a perfumed fountain rose and fell with
a lulling patter.
I must have mistaken the number, he thought, quite forgetting that
his latch-key had fitted, and he was just about to retreat before his
intrusion was discovered, when the hangings parted, and Mrs. Rapkin
presented herself, making so deplorably incongruous a figure in such
surroundings, and looking so bewildered and woebegone, that Horace, in
spite of his own increasing uneasiness, had some difficulty in keeping
Oh, Mr. Ventimore, sir, she lamented; whatever will you go
and do next, I wonder? To think of your going and having the whole
place done up and altered out of knowledge like this, without a word of
warning! If any halterations were required, I do think as me and
Rapkin had the right to be consulted.
Horace let all his chrysanthemums drop unheeded into the fountain.
He understood now: indeed, he seemed in some way to have understood
almost from the first, only he would not admit it even to himself.
The irrepressible Jinnee was at the bottom of this, of course. He
remembered now having made that unfortunate remark the day before about
the limited accommodation his rooms afforded.
Clearly Fakrash must have taken a mental note of it, and, with that
insatiable munificence which was one of his worst failings, had
determined, by way of a pleasant surprise, to entirely refurnish and
redecorate the apartments according to his own ideas.
It was extremely kind of him; it showed a truly grateful
dispositionbut, oh! as Horace thought, in the bitterness of his
soul, if he would only learn to let well alone and mind his own
However, the thing was done now, and he must accept the
responsibility for it, since he could hardly disclose the truth.
Didn't I mention I was having some alterations made? he said
carelessly. They've got the work done rather sooner than I expected.
Werewere they long over it?
I'm sure I can't tell you, sir, having stepped out to get some
things I wanted in for to-night; and Rapkin, he was round the corner at
his reading-room; and when I come back it was all done and the workmen
gone 'ome; and how they could have finished such a job in the time
beats me altogether, for when we 'ad the men in to do the back kitchen
they took ten days over it.
Well, said Horace, evading this point, however they've done this,
they've done it remarkably wellyou'll admit that, Mrs. Rapkin?
That's as may be sir, said Mrs. Rapkin, with a sniff, but it
ain't my taste, nor yet I don't think it will be Rapkin's taste
when he comes to see it.
It was not Ventimore's taste either, though he was not going to
confess it. Sorry for that, Mrs. Rapkin, he said, but I've no time
to talk about it now. I must rush upstairs and dress.
Begging your pardon, sir, but that's a total unpossibilityfor
they've been and took away the staircase.'
Taken away the staircase? Nonsense? cried Horace.
So I think, Mr. Ventimorebut it's what them men have done,
and if you don't believe me, come and see for yourself!
She drew the hangings aside, and revealed to Ventimore's astonished
gaze a vast pillared hall with a lofty domed roof, from which hung
several lamps, diffusing a subdued radiance. High up in the wall, on
his left, were the two windows which he judged to have formerly
belonged to his sitting-room (for either from delicacy or inability, or
simply because it had not occurred to him, the Jinnee had not
interfered with the external structure), but the windows were now
masked by a perforated and gilded lattice, which accounted for the
pattern Horace had noticed from without. The walls were covered with
blue-and-white Oriental tiles, and a raised platform of alabaster on
which were divans ran round two sides of the hall, while the side
opposite to him was pierced with horseshoe-shaped arches, apparently
leading to other apartments. The centre of the marble floor was spread
with costly rugs and piles of cushions, their rich hues glowing through
the gold with which they were intricately embroidered.
Well, said the unhappy Horace, scarcely knowing what he was
saying, itit all looks very cosy, Mrs. Rapkin.
It's not for me to say, sir; but I should like to know where you
thought of dining?
Where? said Horace. Why, here, of course. There's plenty of
There isn't a table left in the house, said Mrs. Rapkin; so,
unless you'd wish the cloth laid on the floor
Oh, there must be a table somewhere, said Horace, impatiently, or
you can borrow one. Don't make difficulties, Mrs. Rapkin. Rig up
anything you like.... Now I must be off and dress.
He got rid of her, and, on entering one of the archways, discovered
a smaller room, in cedar-wood encrusted with ivory and mother-o'-pearl,
which was evidently his bedroom. A gorgeous robe, stiff with gold and
glittering with ancient gems, was laid out for himfor the Jinnee had
thought of everythingbut Ventimore, naturally, preferred his own
Mr. Rapkin! he shouted, going to another arch that seemed to
communicate with the basement.
Sir? replied his landlord, who had just returned from his
reading-room, and now appeared, without a tie and in his
shirt-sleeves, looking pale and wild, as was, perhaps, intelligible in
the circumstances. As he entered his unfamiliar marble halls he
staggered, and his red eyes rolled and his mouth gaped in a cod-like
fashion. They've been at it 'ere, too, seemin'ly, he remarked
There have been a few changes, said Horace, quietly, as you can
see. You don't happen to know where they've put my dress-clothes, do
I don't 'appen to know where they've put nothink. Your dress
clothes? Why, I dunno where they've bin and put our little parler where
me and Maria 'ave set of a hevenin' all these years regular. I dunno
where they've put the pantry, nor yet the bath-room, with 'ot and cold
water laid on at my own expense. And you arsk me to find your hevenin'
soot! I consider, sir, I consider that a unwallthat a most
unwarrant-terrible liberty have bin took at my expense.
My good man, don't talk rubbish! said Horace.
I'm talking to you about what I know, and I assert that an
Englishman's 'ome is his cashle, and nobody's got the right when his
backsh turned to go and make a 'Ummums of it. Not nobody
Make a what of it? cried Ventimore.
A 'Ummumsthat's English, ain't it? A bloomin' Turkish baths! Who
do you suppose is goin' to take apartments furnished in this 'ere
ridic'loush style? What am I goin' to say to my landlord? It'll about
ruing me, this will; and after you bein' a lodger 'ere for five year
and more, and regarded by me and Maria in the light of one of the
family. It's 'ardit's damned 'ard!
Now, look here, said Ventimore, sharplyfor it was obvious that
Mr. Rapkin's studies had been lightened by copious refreshmentpull
yourself together, man, and listen to me.
I respeckfully decline to pull myshelf togerrer f'r anybody
livin', said Mr. Rapkin, with a noble air. I shtan' 'ere upon my
dignity as a man, sir. I shay, I shtand 'ere upon Here he waved
his hand, and sat down suddenly upon the marble floor.
You can stand on anything you likeor can, said Horace; but hear
what I've got to say. Thethe people who made all these alterations
went beyond my instructions. I never wanted the house interfered with
like this. Still, if your landlord doesn't see that its value is
immensely improved, he's a fool, that's all. Anyway, I'll take care
you shan't suffer. If I have to put everything back in its former
state, I will, at my own expense. So don't bother any more about
You're a gen'l'man, Mr. Ventimore, said Rapkin, cautiously
regaining his feet. There's no mishtaking a gen'l'man. I'm a
Of course you are, said Horace genially, and I'll tell you how
you're going to show it. You're going straight downstairs to get your
good wife to pour some cold water over your head; and then you will
finish dressing, see what you can do to get a table of some sort and
lay it for dinner, and be ready to announce my friends when they
arrive, and wait afterwards. Do you see?
That will be all ri', Mr. Ventimore, said Rapkin, who was not far
gone enough to be beyond understanding or obeying. You leave it
entirely to me. I'll unnertake that your friends shall be made
comforrable, perfelly comforrable. I've lived as butler in the besht,
the mosht ecxlumost arishtoyou know the sort o' fam'lies I'm tryin'
to r'memberandand everything was always all ri', and I shall
be all ri' in a few minutes.
With this assurance he stumbled downstairs, leaving Horace relieved
to some extent. Rapkin would be sober enough after his head had been
under the tap for a few minutes, and in any case there would be the
hired waiter to rely upon.
If he could only find out where his evening clothes were! He
returned to his room and made another frantic searchbut they were
nowhere to be found; and as he could not bring himself to receive his
guests in his ordinary morning costumewhich the Professor would
probably construe as a deliberate slight, and which would certainly
seem a solecism in Mrs. Futvoye's eyes, if not in her daughter'she
decided to put on the Eastern robes, with the exception of a turban,
which he could not manage to wind round his head.
Thus arrayed he re-entered the domed hall, where he was annoyed to
find that no attempt had been made as yet to prepare a dinner-table,
and he was just looking forlornly round for a bell when Rapkin
appeared. He had apparently followed Horace's advice, for his hair
looked wet and sleek, and he was comparatively sober.
This is too bad! cried Horace; my friends may be here at any
moment nowand nothing done. You don't propose to wait at table like
that, do you? he added, as he noted the man's overcoat and the
comforter round his throat.
I do not propose to wait in any garments whatsoever, said Rapkin;
I'm a-goin' out, I am.
Very well, said Horace; then send the waiter upI suppose he's
He comebut he went away againI told him as he wouldn't be
You told him that! Horace said angrily, and then controlled
himself. Come, Rapkin, be reasonable. You can't really mean to leave
your wife to cook the dinner, and serve it too!
She ain't intending to do neither; she've left the house already.
You must fetch her back, cried Horace. Good heavens, man,
can't you see what a fix you're leaving me in? My friends have
started long agoit's too late to wire to them, or make any other
There was a knock, as he spoke, at the front door; and odd enough
was the familiar sound of the cast-iron knocker in that Arabian hall.
There they are! he said, and the idea of meeting them at the door
and proposing an instant adjournment to a restaurant occurred to
himtill he suddenly recollected that he would have to change and try
to find some money, even for that. For the last time, Rapkin, he
cried in despair, do you mean to tell me there's no dinner ready?
Oh, said Rapkin, there's dinner right enough, and a lot o'
barbarious furriners downstairs a cookin' of itthat's what broke
Maria's 'artto see it all took out of her 'ands, after the trouble
she'd gone to.
But I must have somebody to wait, exclaimed Horace.
You've got waiters enough, as far as that goes. But if you expect a
hordinary Christian man to wait along of a lot o' narsty niggers, and
be at their beck and call, you're mistook, sir, for I'm going to sleep
the night at my brother-in-law's and take his advice, he bein' a
doorkeeper at a solicitor's orfice and knowing the law, about this 'ere
business, and so I wish you a good hevening, and 'oping your dinner
will be to your liking and satisfaction.
He went out by the farther archway, while from the entrance-hall
Horace could hear voices he knew only too well. The Futvoyes had come;
well, at all events, it seemed that there would be something for them
to eat, since Fakrash, in his anxiety to do the thing thoroughly, had
furnished both the feast and attendance himselfbut who was there to
announce the guests? Where were these waiters Rapkin had spoken of?
Ought he to go and bring in his visitors himself?
These questions answered themselves the next instant, for, as he
stood there under the dome, the curtains of the central arch were drawn
with a rattle, and disclosed a double line of tall slaves in rich
raiment, their onyx eyes rolling and their teeth flashing in their
chocolate-hued countenances, as they salaamed.
Between this double line stood Professor and Mrs. Futvoye and
Sylvia, who had just removed their wraps and were gazing in undisguised
astonishment on the splendours which met their view.
Horace advanced to receive them; he felt he was in for it now, and
the only course left him was to put as good a face as he could on the
matter, and trust to luck to pull him through without discovery or
CHAPTER IX. PERSICOS ODI, PUER,
So you've found your way here at last? said Horace, as he shook
hands heartily with the Professor and Mrs. Futvoye. I can't tell you
how delighted I am to see you.
As a matter of fact, he was very far from being at ease, which made
him rather over-effusive, but he was determined that, if he could help
it, he would not betray the slightest consciousness of anything
bizarre or unusual in his domestic arrangements.
And these, said Mrs. Futvoye, who was extremelly stately in black,
with old lace and steel embroiderythese are the bachelor lodgings
you were so modest about! Really, she added, with a humorous twinkle
in her shrewd eyes, you young men seem to understand how to make
yourselves comfortabledon't they, Anthony?
They do, indeed, said the Professor, dryly, though it manifestly
cost him some effort to conceal his appreciation. To produce such
results as these must, if I mistake not, have entailed infinite
researchand considerable expense.
No, said Horace, no. Youyou'd be surprised if you knew how
I should have imagined, retorted the Professor, that any
outlay on apartments which I presume you do not contemplate occupying
for an extended period must be money thrown away. But, doubtless, you
But your rooms are quite wonderful, Horace! cried Sylvia, her
charming eyes dilating with admiration. And where, where did
you get that magnificent dressing-gown? I never saw anything so lovely
in my life!
She herself was lovely enough in a billowy, shimmering frock of a
delicate apple-green hue, her only ornament a deep-blue Egyptian scarab
with spread wings, which was suspended from her neck by a slender gold
II ought to apologise for receiving you in this costume, said
Horace, with embarrassment; but the fact is, I couldn't find my
evening clothes anywhere, soso I put on the first things that came to
It is hardly necessary, said the Professor, conscious of being
correctly clad, and unconscious that his shirt-front was bulging and
his long-eared white tie beginning to work up towards his left
jawhardly necessary to offer any apology for the simplicity of your
costumewhich is entirely in keeping with theahstrictly Oriental
character of your interior.
I feel dreadfully out of keeping! said Sylvia, for there's
nothing in the least Oriental about meunless it's my
scaraband he's I don't know how many centuries behind the time, poor
If you said 'thousands of years,' my dear, corrected the
Professor, you would be more accurate. That scarab was taken out of a
tomb of the thirteenth dynasty.
Well, I'm sure he'd rather be where he is, said Sylvia, and
Ventimore entirely agreed with her. Horace, I must look at
everything. How clever and original of you to transform an ordinary
London house into this!
Oh, well, you see, explained Horace, itit wasn't exactly done
Whoever did it, said the Professor, must have devoted
considerable study to Eastern art and architecture. May I ask the name
of the firm who executed the alterations?
I really couldn't tell you, sir, answered Horace, who was
beginning to understand how very bad a mauvais quart d'heure can
You can't tell me! exclaimed the Professor. You order these
extensive, and I should say expensive, decorations, and you
don't know the firm you selected to carry them out!
Of course I know, said Horace, only I don't happen to
remember at this moment. Let me see, now. Was it Liberty? No, I'm
almost certain it wasn't Liberty. It might have been Maple, but I'm not
sure. Whoever did do it, they were marvellously cheap.
I am glad to hear it, said the Professor, in his most unpleasant
tone. Where is your dining-room?
Why, I rather think, said Horace, helplessly, as he saw a train of
attendants laying a round cloth on the floor, I rather think this
is the dining-room.
You appear to be in some doubt? said the Professor.
I leave it to themit depends where they choose to lay the cloth,
said Horace. Sometimes in one place; sometimes in another. There's a
great charm in uncertainty, he faltered.
Doubtless, said the Professor.
By this time two of the slaves, under the direction of a tall and
turbaned black, had set a low ebony stool, inlaid with silver and
tortoiseshell in strange devices, on the round carpet, when other
attendants followed with a circular silver tray containing covered
dishes, which they placed on the stool and salaamed.
Yourahgroom of the chambers, said the Professor, seems to
have decided that we should dine here. I observe they are making signs
to you that the food is on the table.
So it is, said Ventimore. Shall we sit down?
But, my dear Horace, said Mrs. Futvoye, your butler has forgotten
You don't appear to realise, my dear, said the Professor, that in
such an interior as this chairs would be hopelessly incongruous.
I'm afraid there aren't any, said Horace, for there was nothing
but four fat cushions. Let's sit down on these, he proposed.
Itit's more fun!
At my time of life, said the Professor, irritably, as he let
himself down on the plumpest cushion, such fun as may be derived from
eating one's meals on the floor fails to appeal to my sense of humour.
However, I admit that it is thoroughly Oriental.
I think it's delightful, said Sylvia; ever so much nicer
than a stiff, conventional dinner-party.
One may be unconventional, remarked her father, without escaping
the penalty of stiffness. Go away, sir! go away! he added snappishly,
to one of the slaves, who was attempting to pour water over his hands.
Your servant, Ventimore, appears to imagine that I go out to dinner
without taking the trouble to wash my hands previously. This, I may
mention, is not the case.
It's only an Eastern ceremony, Professor, said Horace.
I am perfectly well aware of what is customary in the East,
retorted the Professor; it does not follow that suchahhygienic
precautions are either necessary or desirable at a Western table.
Horace made no reply; he was too much occupied in gazing blankly at
the silver dish-covers and wondering what in the world might be
underneath; nor was his perplexity relieved when the covers were
removed, for he was quite at a loss to guess how he was supposed to
help the contents without so much as a fork.
The chief attendant, however, solved that difficulty by intimating
in pantomime that the guests were expected to use their fingers.
Sylvia accomplished this daintily and with intense amusement, but
her father and mother made no secret of their repugnance. If I were
dining in the desert with a Sheik, sir, observed the Professor, I
should, I hope, know how to conform to his habits and prejudices. Here,
in the heart of London, I confess all this strikes me as a piece of
I'm very sorry, said Horace; I'd have some knives and forks if I
couldbut I'm afraid these fellows don't even understand what they
are, so it's useless to order any. Wewe must rough it a little,
that's all. I hope thaterfish is all right, Professor?
He did not know precisely what kind of fish it was, but it was fried
in oil of sesame and flavoured with a mixture of cinnamon and ginger,
and the Professor did not appear to be making much progress with it.
Ventimore himself would have infinitely preferred the original cod and
oyster sauce, but that could not be helped now.
Thank you, said the Professor, it is curiousbut characteristic.
Not any more, thank you.
Horace could only trust that the next course would be more of a
success. It was a dish of mutton, stewed with peaches, jujubes and
sugar, which Sylvia declared was delicious. Her parents made no
Might I ask for something to drink? said the Professor, presently;
whereupon a cupbearer poured him a goblet of iced sherbet perfumed with
conserve of violets.
I'm very sorry, my dear fellow, he said, after sipping it, but if
I drink this I shall be ill all next day. If I might have a glass of
Another slave instantly handed him a cup of wine, which he tasted
and set down with a wry face and a shudder. Horace tried some
afterwards, and was not surprised. It was a strong, harsh wine, in
which goatskin and resin struggled for predominance.
It's an old and, I make no doubt, a fine wine, observed the
Professor, with studied politeness, but I fancy it must have suffered
in transportation. I really think that, with my gouty tendency, a
little whisky and Apollinaris would be better for meif you keep such
occidental fluids in the house?
Horace felt convinced that it would be useless to order the slaves
to bring whisky or Apollinaris, which were of course, unknown in the
Jinnee's time, so he could do nothing but apologise for their absence.
No matter, said the Professor; I am not so thirsty that I cannot
wait till I get home.
It was some consolation that both Sylvia and her mother commended
the sherbet, and even appreciatedor were so obliging as to say they
appreciatedthe entrée, which consisted of rice and mincemeat
wrapped in vine-leaves, and certainly was not appetising in appearance,
besides being difficult to dispose of gracefully.
It was followed by a whole lamb fried in oil, stuffed with pounded
pistachio nuts, pepper, nutmeg, and coriander seeds, and liberally
besprinkled with rose-water and musk.
Only Horace had sufficient courage to attack the lamband he found
reason to regret it. Afterwards came fowls stuffed with raisins,
parsley, and crumbled bread, and the banquet ended with pastry of weird
forms and repellent aspect.
I hope, said Horace, anxiously, you don't find this Eastern
cookery veryerunpalatable?he himself was feeling distinctly
unwell: it's rather a change from the ordinary routine.
I have made a truly wonderful dinner, thank you, replied the
Professor, not, it is to be feared, without intention. Even in the
East I have eaten nothing approaching this.
But where did your landlady pick up this extraordinary cooking, my
dear Horace? said Mrs. Futvoye. I thought you said she was merely a
plain cook. Has she ever lived in the East?
Not exactly in the East, exclaimed Horace; not what you
would call living there. The fact is, he continued, feeling
that he was in danger of drivelling, and that he had better be as
candid as he could, this dinner wasn't cooked by her. Sheshe
was obliged to go away quite suddenly. So the dinner was all sent in
byby a sort of contractor, you know. He supplies the whole thing,
waiters and all.
I was thinking, said the Professor, that for a bacheloran
engaged bacheloryou seemed to maintain rather a large
Oh, they're only here for the evening, sir, said Horace. Capital
fellowsmore picturesque than the local greengrocerand they don't
breathe on the top of your head.
They're perfect dears, Horace, remarked Sylvia; onlywell, just
a little creepy-crawly to look at!
It would ill become me to criticise the style and method of our
entertainment, put in the Professor, acidly, otherwise I might be
tempted to observe that it scarcely showed that regard for economy
which I should have
Now, Anthony, put in his wife, don't let us have any
fault-finding. I'm sure Horace has done it all delightfullyyes,
delightfully; and even if he has been just a little extravagant,
it's not as if he was obliged to be as economical now, you
My dear, said the Professor, I have yet to learn that the
prospect of an increased income in the remote future is any
justification for reckless profusion in the present.
If you only knew, said Horace, you wouldn't call it profusion.
Itit's not at all the dinner I meant it to be, and I'm afraid it
wasn't particularly nicebut it's certainly not expensive.
Expensive is, of course, a very relative term. But I think I have
the right to ask whether this is the footing on which you propose to
begin your married life?
It was an extremely awkward question, as the reader will perceive.
If Ventimore repliedas he might with truththat he had no intention
whatever of maintaining his wife in luxury such as that, he stood
convicted of selfish indulgence as a bachelor; if, on the other hand,
he declared that he did propose to maintain his wife in the same
fantastic and exaggerated splendour as the present, it would certainly
confirm her father's disbelief in his prudence and economy.
And it was that egregious old ass of a Jinnee, as Horace thought,
with suppressed rage, who had let him in for all this, and who was now
far beyond all remonstrance or reproach!
Before he could bring himself to answer the question, the attendants
had noiselessly removed the tray and stool, and were handing round
rosewater in a silver ewer and basin, the character of which, luckily
or otherwise, turned the Professor's inquisitiveness into a different
These are not badreally not bad at all, he said, inspecting the
design. Where did you manage to pick them up?
I didn't, said Horace; they're provided by thethe person who
supplies the dinner.
Can you give me his address? said the Professor, scenting a
bargain; because really, you know, these things are probably
antiquesmuch too good to be used for business purposes.
I'm wrong, said Horace, lamely; these particular things areare
lent by an eccentric Oriental gentleman, as a great favour.
Do I know him? Is he a collector of such things?
You wouldn't have met him; hehe's lived a very retired life of
I should very much like to see his collection. If you could give me
a letter of introduction
No, said Horace, in a state of prickly heat; it wouldn't be any
use. His collection is never shown. Hehe's a most peculiar man. And
just now he's abroad.
Ah! pardon me if I've been indiscreet; but I concluded from what
you said that thisahbanquet was furnished by a professional
Oh, the banquet? Yes, that came from the Stores, said
Horace, mendaciously. Thethe Oriental Cookery Department. They've
just started it, you know; soso I thought I'd give them a trial. But
it's not what I call properly organised yet.
The slaves were now, with low obeisances, inviting them to seat
themselves on the divan which lined part of the hall.
Ha! said the Professor, as he rose from his cushion, cracking
audibly, so we're to have our coffee and what not over there, hey?...
Well, my boy, I shan't be sorry, I confess, to have something to lean
my back againstand a cigar, a mild cigar, willahaid digestion.
You do smoke here?
Smoke? said Horace, Why, of course! All over the place. Here, he
said, clapping his hands, which brought an obsequious slave instantly
to his side; just bring coffee and cigars, will you?
The slave rolled his brandy-ball eyes in obvious perplexity.
Coffee, said Horace; you must know what coffee is. And
cigarettes. Well, chibouks, then'hubble-bubbles'if that's
what you call them.
But the slave clearly did not understand, and it suddenly struck
Horace that, since 'tobacco and coffee were not introduced, even in the
East, till long after the Jinnee's time, he, as the founder of the
feast, would naturally be unaware how indispensable they had become at
the present day.
I'm really awfully sorry, he said; but they don't seem to have
provided any. I shall speak to the manager about it. And,
unfortunately, I don't know where my own cigars are.
It's of no consequence, said the Professor, with the sort of
stoicism that minds very much. I am a moderate smoker at best, and
Turkish coffee, though delicious, is apt to keep me awake. But if you
could let me have a look at that brass bottle you got at poor
Collingham's sale, I should be obliged to you.
Horace had no idea where it was then, nor could he, until the
Professor came to the rescue with a few words of Arabic, manage to make
the slaves comprehend what he wished them to find.
At length, however, two of them appeared, bearing the brass bottle
with every sign of awe, and depositing it at Ventimore's feet.
Professor Futvoye, after wiping and adjusting his glasses, proceeded
to examine the vessel. It certainly is a most unusual type of
brassware, he said, as unique in its way as the silver ewer and
basin; and, as you thought, there does seem to be something resembling
an inscription on the cap, though in this dim light it is almost
impossible to be sure.
While he was poring over it, Horace seated himself on the divan by
Sylvia's side, hoping for one of the whispered conversations permitted
to affianced lovers; he had pulled through the banquet somehow, and on
the whole he felt thankful things had not gone off worse. The noiseless
and uncanny attendants, whom he did not know whether to regard as
Efreets, or demons, or simply illusions, but whose services he had no
wish to retain, had all withdrawn. Mrs. Futvoye was peacefully
slumbering, and her husband was in a better humour than he had been all
Suddenly from behind the hangings of one of the archways came
strange, discordant sounds, barbaric janglings and thumpings, varied by
yowls as of impassioned cats.
Sylvia drew involuntarily closer to Horace; her mother woke with a
start, and the Professor looked up from the brass bottle with returning
What's this? What's this? he demanded; some fresh surprise in
store for us?
It was quite as much of a surprise for Horace, but he was spared the
humiliation of owning it by the entrance of some half-dozen dusky
musicians swathed in white and carrying various strangely fashioned
instruments, with which they squatted down in a semi-circle by the
opposite wall, and began to twang, and drub, and squall with the
complacent cacophony of an Eastern orchestra. Clearly Fakrash was
determined that nothing should be wanting to make the entertainment a
What a very extraordinary noise! said Mrs. Futvoye; surely they
can't mean it for music?
Yes, they do, said Horace; itit's really more harmonious than
it soundsyou have to get accustomed to theernotation. When you
do, it's rather soothing than otherwise.
I dare say, said the poor lady. And do they come from the
No, said Horace, with a fine assumption of candour, they don't;
they come fromthe Arab Encampment at Earl's Courtparties and
fêtes attended, you know. But they play here for nothing;
theythey want to get their name known, you see; very deserving and
respectable set of fellows.
My dear Horace! remarked Mrs. Futvoye, if they expect to get
engagements for parties and so on, they really ought to try and learn a
tune of some sort.
I understand, Horace, whispered Sylvia, it's very naughty of you
to have gone to all this trouble and expense (for, of course, it has
cost you a lot) just to please us; but, whatever, dad may say, I love
you all the better for doing it!
And her hand stole softly into his, and he felt that he could
forgive Fakrash everything, eveneven the orchestra.
But there was something unpleasantly spectral about their shadowy
forms, which showed in grotesquely baggy and bulgy shapes in the
uncertain light. Some of them wore immense and curious white
head-dresses, which gave them the appearance of poulticed thumbs; and
they all went on scraping and twiddling and caterwauling with a doleful
monotony that Horace felt must be getting on his guests' nerves, as it
certainly was on his own.
He did not know how to get rid of them, but he sketched a kind of
gesture in the air, intended to intimate that, while their efforts had
afforded the keenest pleasure to the company generally, they were
unwilling to monopolise them any longer, and the artists were at
liberty to retire.
Perhaps there is no art more liable to misconstruction than
pantomime; certainly, Ventimore's efforts in this direction were
misunderstood, for the music became wilder, louder, more aggressively
and abominably out of tuneand then a worse thing happened.
For the curtains separated, and, heralded by sharp yelps from the
performers, a female figure floated into the hall and began to dance
with a slow and sinuous grace.
Her beauty, though of a pronounced Oriental type, was unmistakable,
even in the subdued light which fell on her; her diaphanous robe
indicated a faultless form; her dark tresses were braided with sequins;
she had the long, lustrous eyes, the dusky cheeks artificially
whitened, and the fixed scarlet smile of the Eastern dancing-girl of
And she paced the floor with her tinkling feet, writhing and
undulating like some beautiful cobra, while the players worked
themselves up to yet higher and higher stages of frenzy.
Ventimore, as he sat there looking helplessly on, felt a return of
his resentment against the Jinnee. It was really too bad of him; he
ought, at his age, to have known better!
Not that there was anything objectionable in the performance itself;
but still, it was not the kind of entertainment for such an
occasion. Horace wished now he had mentioned to Fakrash who the guests
were whom he expected, and then perhaps even the Jinnee would have
exercised more tact in his arrangements.
And does this girl come from Earl's Court? inquired Mrs. Futvoye,
who was now thoroughly awake.
Oh dear, no, said Horace; I engaged her atat
Harrod'sthe Entertainment Bureau. They told me there she was rather
goodstruck out a line of her own, don't you know. But perfectly
correct; sheshe only does this to support an invalid aunt.
These statements were, as he felt even in making them, not only
gratuitous, but utterly unconvincing, but he had arrived at that
condition in which a man discovers with terror the unsuspected amount
of mendacity latent in his system.
I should have thought there were other ways of supporting invalid
aunts, remarked Mrs. Futvoye. What is this young lady's name?
Tinkler, said Horace, on the spur of the moment. Miss Clementine
But surely she is a foreigner?
Mademoiselle, I ought to have said. And Tinklawith an 'a,' you
know. I believe her mother was of Arabian extractionbut I really
don't know, explained Horace, conscious that Sylvia had withdrawn her
hand from his, and was regarding him with covert anxiety.
I really must put a stop to this, he thought.
You're getting bored by all this, darling, he said aloud; so am
I. I'll tell them to go. And he rose and held out his hand as a sign
that the dance should cease.
It ceased at once; but, to his unspeakable horror, the dancer
crossed the floor with a swift jingling rush, and sank in a gauzy heap
at his feet, seizing his hand in both hers and covering it with kisses,
while she murmured speeches in some tongue unknown to him.
Is this a usual feature in Miss Tinkla's entertainments, may I
ask? said Mrs. Futvoye, bristling with not unnatural indignation.
I really don't know, said the unhappy Horace; I can't make out
what she's saying.
If I understand her rightly, said the Professor, she is
addressing you as the 'light of her eyes and the vital spirit of her
Oh! said Horace, she's quite mistaken, you know. Itit's the
emotional artist temperamentthey don't mean anything by it.
Mymy dear young lady, he added, you've danced most delightfully,
and I'm sure we're all most deeply indebted to you; but we won't detain
you any longer. Professor, he added, as she made no offer to rise,
will you kindly explain to them in Arabic that I should be obliged
by their going at once?
The Professor said a few words, which had the desired effect. The
girl gave a little scream and scudded through the archway, and the
musicians seized their instruments and scuttled after her.
I am so sorry, said Horace, whose evening seemed to him to have
been chiefly spent in apologies; it's not at all the kind of
entertainment one would expect from a place like Whiteley's.
By no means, agreed the Professor; but I understood you to say
Miss Tinkla was recommended to you by Harrod's?
Very likely, sir, said Horace; but that doesn't affect the case.
I shouldn't expect it from them.
Probably they don't know how shamelessly that young person conducts
herself, said Mrs. Futvoye. And I think it only right that they
should be told.
I shall complain, of course, said Horace. I shall put it very
A protest would have more weight coming from a woman, said Mrs.
Futvoye; and, as a shareholder in the company, I shall feel bound
No, I wouldn't, said Horace; in fact, you mustn't. For, now I
come to think of it, she didn't come from Harrod's, after all, or
Then perhaps you will be good enough to inform us where she did
I would if I knew, said Horace; but I don't.
What! cried the Professor, sharply, do you mean to say you can't
account for the existence of a dancing-girl whoin my daughter's
presencekisses your hand and addresses you by endearing epithets?
Oriental metaphor! said Horace. She was a little overstrung. Of
course, if I had had any idea she would make such a scene as that
Sylvia, he broke off, you don't doubt me?
No, Horace, said Sylvia, simply, I'm sure you must have some
explanationonly I do think it would be better if you gave it.
If I told you the truth, said Horace, slowly, you would
none of you believe me!
Then you admit, put in the Professor, that hitherto you have
not been telling the truth?
Not as invariably as I could have wished, Horace confessed.
So I suspected. Then, unless you can bring yourself to be perfectly
candid, you can hardly wonder at our asking you to consider your
engagement as broken off?
Broken off! echoed Horace. Sylvia, you won't give me up! You
know I wouldn't do anything unworthy of you!
I'm certain that you can't have done anything which would make me
love you one bit the less if I knew it. So why not be quite open with
Because, darling, said Horace, I'm in such a fix that it would
only make matters worse.
In that case, said the Professor, and as it is already rather
late, perhaps you will allow one of your numerous retinue to call a
Horace clapped his hands, but no one answered the summons, and he
could not find any of the slaves in the antechamber.
I'm afraid all the servants have left, he explained; and it is to
be feared he would have added that they were all obliged to return to
the contractor by eleven, only he caught the Professor's eye and
decided that he had better refrain. If you will wait here, I'll go out
and fetch a cab, he added.
There is no occasion to trouble you, said the Professor; my wife
and daughter have already got their things on, and we will walk until
we find a cab. Now, Mr. Ventimore, we will bid you good-night and
good-bye. For, after what has happened, you will, I trust, have the
good taste to discontinue your visits and make no attempt to see Sylvia
Upon my honour, protested Horace, I have done nothing to warrant
you in shutting your doors against me.
I am unable to agree with you. I have never thoroughly approved of
your engagement, because, as I told you at the time, I suspected you of
recklessness in money matters. Even in accepting your invitation
to-night I warned you, as you may remember, not to make the occasion an
excuse for foolish extravagance. I come here, and find you in
apartments furnished and decorated (as you informed us) by yourself,
and on a scale which would be prodigal in a millionaire. You have a
suite of retainers which (except for their nationality and imperfect
discipline) a prince might envy. You provide a banquet
ofhem!delicacies which must have cost you infinite trouble and
unlimited expensethis, after I had expressly stipulated for a quiet
family dinner! Not content with that, you procure for our diversion
Arab music and dancing of aof a highly recondite character. I should
be unworthy of the name of father, sir, if I were to entrust my only
daughter's happiness to a young man with so little common sense, so
little self-restraint. And she will understand my motives and obey my
You're right, Professor, according to your lights, admitted
Horace. And yetconfound it all!you're utterly wrong, too!
Oh, Horace, cried Sylvia; if you had only listened to dad, and
not gone to all this foolish, foolish expense, we might have been so
But I have gone to no expense. All this hasn't cost me a penny!
Ah, there is some mystery! Horace, if you love me, you will
explainhere, now, before it's too late!
My darling, groaned Horace, I would, like a shot, if I thought it
would be of the least use!
Hitherto, said the Professor, you cannot be said to have been
happy in your explanationsand I should advise you not to venture on
any more. Good-night, once more. I only wish it were possible, without
needless irony, to make the customary acknowledgments for a pleasant
Mrs. Futvoye had already hurried her daughter away, and, though she
had left her husband to express his sentiments unaided, she made it
sufficiently clear that she entirely agreed with them.
Horace stood in the outer hall by the fountain, in which his drowned
chrysanthemums were still floating, and gazed in stupefied despair
after his guests as they went down the path to the gate. He knew only
too well that they would never cross his threshold, nor he theirs,
Suddenly he came to himself with a start. I'll try it! he cried.
I can't and won't stand this! And he rushed after them bareheaded.
Professor! he said breathlessly, as he caught him up, one moment.
On second thoughts, I will tell you my secret, if you will
promise me a patient hearing.
The pavement is hardly the place for confidences, replied the
Professor, and, if it were, your costume is calculated to attract more
remark than is desirable. My wife and daughter have gone onif you
will permit me, I will overtake themI shall be at home to-morrow
morning, should you wish to see me.
Noto-night, to-night! urged Horace. I can't sleep in that
infernal place with this on my mind. Put Mrs. Futvoye and Sylvia into a
cab, Professor, and come back. It's not late, and I won't keep you
longbut for Heaven's sake, let me tell you my story at once.
Probably the Professor was not without some curiosity on the
subject; at all events he yielded. Very well, he said, go into the
house and I will rejoin you presently. Only remember, he added, that
I shall accept no statement without the fullest proof. Otherwise you
will merely be wasting your time and mine.
Proof! thought Horace, gloomily, as he returned to his Arabian
halls, The only decent proof I could produce would be old Fakrash, and
he's not likely to turn up againespecially now I want him.
A little later the Professor returned, having found a cab and
despatched his women-folk home. Now, young man, he said, as he
unwound his wrapper and seated himself on the divan by Horace's side,
I can give you just ten minutes to tell your story in, so let me beg
you to make it as brief and as comprehensible as you can.
It was not exactly an encouraging invitation in the circumstances,
but Horace took his courage in both hands and told him everything, just
as it had happened.
And that's your story? said the Professor, after listening to the
narrative with the utmost attention, when Horace came to the end.
That's my story, sir, said Horace. And I hope it has altered your
opinion of me.
It has, replied the Professor, in an altered tone; it has indeed.
Yours is a sad casea very sad case.
It's rather awkward, isn't it? But I don't mind so long as you
understand. And you'll tell Sylviaas much as you think proper?
Yesyes; I must tell Sylvia.
And I may go on seeing her as usual?
Wellwill you be guided by my advicethe advice of one who has
lived more than double your years?
Certainly, said Horace.
Then, if I were you, I should go away at once, for a complete
change of air and scene.
That's impossible, siryou forget my work!
Never mind your work, my boy: leave it for a while, try a
sea-voyage, go round the world, get quite away from these
But I might come across the Jinnee again, objected Horace;
he's travelling, as I told you.
Yes, yes, to be sure. Still, I should go away. Consult any doctor,
and he'll tell you the same thing.
Consult anyGood God! cried Horace; I see what it isyou
think I'm mad!
No, no, my dear boy, said the Professor, soothingly, not
madnothing of the sort; perhaps your mental equilibrium is just a
trifleit's quite intelligible. You see, the sudden turn in your
professional prospects, coupled with your engagement to SylviaI've
known stronger minds than yours thrown off their balancetemporarily,
of course, quite temporarilyby less than that.
You believe I am suffering from delusions?
I don't say that. I think you may see ordinary things in a
Anyhow, you don't believe there really was a Jinnee inside that
Remember, you yourself assured me at the time you opened it that
you found nothing whatever inside it. Isn't it more credible that you
were right then than that you should be right now?
Well, said Horace, you saw all those black slaves; you ate, or
tried to eat, that unutterably beastly banquet; you heard that
musicand then there was the dancing-girl. And this hall we're in,
this robe I've got onare they delusions? Because if they are,
I'm afraid you will have to admit that you're mad too.
Ingeniously put, said the Professor. I fear it is unwise to argue
with you. Still, I will venture to assert that a strong imagination
like yours, over-heated and saturated with Oriental ideasto which I
fear I may have contributedis not incapable of unconsciously
assisting in its own deception. In other words, I think that you may
have provided all this yourself from various quarters without any clear
recollection of the fact.
That's very scientific and satisfactory as far as it goes, my dear
Professor, said Horace; but there's one piece of evidence which may
upset your theoryand that's this brass bottle.
If your reasoning powers were in their normal condition, said the
Professor, compassionately, you would see that the mere production of
an empty bottle can be no proof of what it containedor, for that
matter, that it ever contained anything at all!
Oh, I see that, said Horace; but this bottle has a
stopper with what you yourself admit to be an inscription of some sort.
Suppose that inscription confirms my storywhat then? All I ask you to
do is to make it out for yourself before you decide that I'm either a
liar or a lunatic.
I warn you, said the Professor, that if you are trusting to my
being unable to decipher the inscription, you are deceiving yourself.
You represent that this bottle belongs to the period of Solomonthat
is, about a thousand years B.C. Probably you are not aware that the
earliest specimens of Oriental metal-work in existence are not older
than the tenth century of our era. But, granting that it is as old as
you allege, I shall certainly be able to read any inscription there may
be on it. I have made out clay tablets in Cuneiform which were
certainly written a thousand years before Solomon's time.
So much the better, said Horace. I'm as certain as I can be that,
whatever is written on that lidwhether it's Phoenician, or Cuneiform,
or anything elsemust have some reference to a Jinnee confined in the
bottle, or at least bear the seal of Solomon. But there the thing
isexamine it for yourself.
Not now, said the Professor; it's too late, and the light here is
not strong enough. But I'll tell you what I will do. I'll take this
stopper thing home with me, and examine it carefully to-morrowon one
You have only to name it, said Horace.
My condition is, that if I, and one or two other Orientalists to
whom I may submit it, come to the conclusion that there is no real
inscription at allor, if any, that a date and meaning must be
assigned to it totally inconsistent with your storyyou will accept
our finding and acknowledge that you have been under a delusion, and
dismiss the whole affair from your mind.
Oh, I don't mind agreeing to that, said Horace,
particularly as it's my only chance.
Very well, then, said the Professor, as he removed the metal cap
and put it in his pocket; you may depend upon hearing from me in a day
or two. Meantime, my boy, he continued, almost affectionately, why
not try a short bicycle tour somewhere, hey? You're a cyclist, I
knowanything but allow yourself to dwell on Oriental subjects.
It's not so easy to avoid dwelling on them as you think! said
Horace, with rather a dreary laugh. And I fancy, Professor,
thatwhether you like it or notyou'll have to believe in that Jinnee
of mine sooner or later.
I can scarcely conceive, replied the Professor, who was by this
time at the outer door, any degree of evidence which could succeed in
convincing me that your brass bottle had ever contained an Arabian
Jinnee. However, I shall endeavour to preserve an open mind on the
subject. Good evening to you.
As soon as he was alone, Horace paced up and down his deserted halls
in a state of simmering rage as he thought how eagerly he had looked
forward to his little dinner-party; how intimate and delightful it
might have been, and what a monstrous and prolonged nightmare it had
actually proved. And at the end of it there he wasin a fantastic,
impossible dwelling, deserted by every one, his chances of setting
himself right with Sylvia hanging on the slenderest thread; unknown
difficulties and complications threatening him from every side!
He owed all this to Fakrash. Yes, that incorrigibly grateful Jinnee,
with his antiquated notions and his high-flown professions, had
contrived to ruin him more disastrously than if he had been his
bitterest foe! Ah! if he could be face to face with him once moreif
only for five minuteshe would be restrained by no false delicacy: he
would tell him fairly and plainly what a meddling, blundering old fool
he was. But Fakrash had taken his flight for ever: there were no means
of calling him backnothing to be done now but go to bed and sleepif
Exasperated by the sense of his utter helplessness, Ventimore went
to the arch which led to his bed-chamber and drew the curtain back with
a furious pull. And just within the archway, standing erect with folded
arms and the smile of fatuous benignity which Ventimore was beginning
to know and dread, was the form of Fakrash-el-Aamash, the Jinnee!
CHAPTER X. NO PLACE LIKE HOME!
May thy head long survive! said Fakrash, by way of salutation, as
he stepped through the archway.
You're very good, said Horace, whose anger had almost evaporated
in the relief of the Jinnee's unexpected return, but I don't think any
head can survive this sort of thing long.
Art thou content with this dwelling I have provided for thee?
inquired the Jinnee, glancing around the stately hall with perceptible
It would have been positively brutal to say how very far from
contented he felt, so Horace could only mumble that he had never been
lodged like that before in all his life.
It is far below thy deserts, Fakrash observed graciously. And
were thy friends amazed at the manner of their entertainment?
They were, said Horace.
A sure method of preserving friends is to feast them with
liberality, remarked the Jinnee.
This was rather more than Horace's temper could stand. You were
kind enough to provide my friends with such a feast, he said, that
they'll never come here again.
How so? Were not the meats choice and abounding in fatness? Was not
the wine sweet, and the sherbet like unto perfumed snow?
Oh, everything waseras nice as possible, said Horace.
Couldn't have been better.
Yet thou sayest that thy friends will return no morefor what
Well, you see, explained Horace, reluctantly, there's such a
thing as doing people too well. I mean, it isn't everybody that
appreciates Arabian cooking. But they might have stood that. It was the
dancing-girl that did for me.
I commanded that a houri, lovelier than the full moon, and graceful
as a young gazelle, should appear for the delight of thy guests.
She came, said Horace, gloomily.
Acquaint me with that which hath occurredfor I perceive plainly
that something hath fallen out contrary to thy desires.
Well, said Horace, if it had been a bachelor party, there would
have been no harm in the houri; but, as it happened, two of my guests
were ladies, and theywell, they not unnaturally put a wrong
construction on it all.
Verily, exclaimed the Jinnee, thy words are totally
incomprehensible to me.
I don't know what the custom may be in Arabia, said Horace, but
with us it is not usual for a man to engage a houri to dance after
dinner to amuse the lady he is proposing to marry. It's the kind of
attention she'd be most unlikely to appreciate.
Then was one of thy guests the damsel whom thou art seeking to
She was, said Horace, and the other two were her father and
mother. From which you may imagine that it was not altogether agreeable
for me when your gazelle threw herself at my feet and hugged my knees
and declared that I was the light of her eyes. Of course, it all meant
nothingit's probably the conventional behaviour for a gazelle, and
I'm not reflecting upon her in the least. But, in the circumstances, it
I thought, said Fakrash, that thou assuredst me that thou wast
not contracted to any damsel?
I think I only said that there was no one whom I would trouble you
to procure as a wife for me, replied Horace; I certainly was
engagedthough, after this evening, my engagement is at an endunless
... that reminds me, do you happen to know whether there really was
an inscription on the seal of your bottle, and what it said?
I know naught of any inscription, said the Jinnee; bring me the
seal that I may see it.
I haven't got it by me at this moment, said Horace; I lent it to
my friendthe father of this young lady I told you of. You see, Mr.
Fakrash, you got me intoI mean, I was in such a hole over this affair
that I was obliged to make a clean breast of it to him. And he wouldn't
believe it, so it struck me that there might be an inscription of some
sort on the seal, saying who you were, and why Solomon had you confined
in the bottle. Then the Professor would be obliged to admit that
there's something in my story.
Truly, I wonder at thee and at the smallness of thy penetration,
the Jinnee commented; for if there were indeed any writing upon this
seal, it is not possible that one of thy race should be able to
Oh, I beg your pardon, said Horace; Professor Futvoye is an
Oriental scholar; he can make out any inscription, no matter how many
thousands of years old it may be. If anything's there, he'll decipher
it. The question is whether anything is there.
The effect of this speech on Fakrash was as unexpected as it was
inexplicable: the Jinnee's features, usually so mild, began to work
convulsively until they became terrible to look at, and suddenly, with
a fierce howl, he shot up to nearly double his ordinary stature.
O thou of little sense and breeding! he cried, in a loud voice;
how camest thou to deliver the bottle in which I was confined into the
hands of this learned man?
Ventimore, startled as he was, did not lose his self-possession. My
dear sir, he said, I did not suppose you could have any further use
for it. And, as a matter of fact, I didn't give Professor Futvoye the
bottlewhich is over there in the cornerbut merely the stopper. I
wish you wouldn't tower over me like thatit gives me a crick in the
neck to talk to you. Why on earth should you make such a fuss about my
lending the seal; what possible difference can it make to you even if
it does confirm my story? And it's of immense importance to me
that the Professor should believe I told the truth.
I spoke in haste, said the Jinnee, slowly resuming his normal
size, and looking slightly ashamed of his recent outburst as well as
uncommonly foolish. The bottle truly is of no value; and as for the
stopper, since it is but lent, it is no great matter. If there be any
legend upon the seal, perchance this learned man of whom thou speakest
will by this time have deciphered it?
No, said Horace, he won't tackle it till to-morrow. And it's as
likely as not that when he does he won't find any reference to you
and I shall be up a taller tree than ever!
Art thou so desirous that he should receive proof that thy story is
Why, of course I am! Haven't I been saying so all this time?
Who can satisfy him so surely as I?
You! cried Horace. Do you mean to say you really would? Mr.
Fakrash, you are an old brick! That would be the very thing!
There is naught, said the Jinnee, smiling indulgently, that I
would not do to promote thy welfare, for thou hast rendered me
inestimable service. Acquaint me therefore with the abode of this sage,
and I will present myself before him, and if haply he should find no
inscription upon the seal, or its purport should be hidden from him,
then will I convince him that thou hast spoken the truth and no lie.
Horace very willingly gave him the Professor's address. Only don't
drop in on him to-night, you know, he thought it prudent to add, or
you might startle him. Call any time after breakfast to-morrow, and
you'll find him in.
To-night, said Fakrash, I return to pursue my search after
Suleyman (on whom be peace!). For not yet have I found him.
If you will try to do so many things at once, said Horace,
I don't see how you can expect much result.
At Nineveh they knew him notfor where I left a city I found but a
heap of ruins, tenanted by owls and bats.
They say the lion and the lizard keep the Courts
murmured Horace, half to himself. I was afraid you might be
disappointed with Nineveh myself. Why not run over to Sheba? You might
hear of him there.
Seba of El-Yementhe country of Bilkees, the Queen beloved of
Suleyman, said the Jinnee. It is an excellent suggestion, and I will
follow it without delay.
But you won't forget to look in on Professor Futvoye to-morrow,
Assuredly I will not. And now, ere I depart, tell me if there be
any other service I may render thee.
Horace hesitated. There is just one, he said, only I'm
afraid you'll be offended if I mention it.
On the head and the eye be thy commands! said the Jinnee; for
whatsoever thou desirest shall be accomplished, provided that it lie
within my power to perform it.
Well, said Horace, if you're sure you don't mind, I'll tell you.
You've transformed this house into a wonderful place, more like the
AlhambraI don't mean the one in Leicester Squarethan a London
lodging-house. But then I am only a lodger here, and the people the
house belongs toexcellent people in their waywould very much rather
have the house as it was. They have a sort of idea that they won't be
able to let these rooms as easily as the others.
Base and sordid dogs! said the Jinnee, with contempt.
Possibly, said Horace, it's narrow-minded of thembut that's the
way they look at it. They've actually left rather than stay here. And
it's their housenot mine.
If they abandon this dwelling, thou wilt remain in the more secure
Oh, shall I, though? They'll go to law and have me turned
out, and I shall have to pay ruinous damages into the bargain. So, you
see, what you intended as a kindness will only bring me bad luck.
Comewithout more wordsto the statement of thy request, said
Fakrash, for I am in haste.
All I want you to do, replied Horace, in some anxiety as to what
the effect of his request would be, is to put everything here back to
what it was before. It won't take you a minute.
Of a truth, exclaimed Fakrash, to bestow a favour upon thee is
but a thankless undertaking, for not once, but twice, hast thou
rejected my benefitsand now, behold, I am at a loss to devise means
to gratify thee!
I know I've abused your good nature, said Horace; but if you'll
only do this, and then convince the Professor that my story is true, I
shall be more than satisfied. I'll never ask another favour of you!
My benevolence towards thee hath no boundsas thou shalt see; and
I can deny thee nothing, for truly thou art a worthy and temperate
young man. Farewell, then, and be it according to thy desire.
He raised his arms above his head, and shot up like a rocket towards
the lofty dome, which split asunder to let him pass. Horace, as he
gazed after him, had a momentary glimpse of deep blue sky, with a star
or two that seemed to be hurrying through the transparent opal scud,
before the roof closed in once more.
Then came a low, rumbling sound, with a shock like a mild
earthquake: the slender pillars swayed under their horseshoe arches;
the big hanging-lanterns went out; the walls narrowed, and the floor
heaved and rosetill Ventimore found himself up in his own familiar
sitting-room once more, in the dark. Outside he could see the great
square still shrouded in grey hazethe street lamps flickering in the
wind; a belated reveller was beguiling his homeward way by rattling his
stick against the railings as he passed.
Inside the room everything was exactly as before, and Horace found
it difficult to believe that a few minutes earlier he had been standing
on that same site, but twenty feet or so below his present level, in a
spacious blue-tiled hall, with a domed ceiling and gaudy pillared
But he was very far from regretting his short-lived splendour; he
burnt with shame and resentment whenever he thought of that nightmare
banquet, which was so unlike the quiet, unpretentious little dinner he
had looked forward to.
However, it was over now, and it was useless to worry himself about
what could not be helped. Besides, fortunately, there was no great harm
done; the Jinnee had been brought to see his mistake, and, to do him
justice, had shown himself willing enough to put it right. He had
promised to go and see the Professor next day, and the result of the
interview could not fail to be satisfactory. And after this, Ventimore
thought, Fakrash would have the sense and good feeling not to interfere
in his affairs again.
Meanwhile he could sleep now with a mind free from his worst
anxieties, and he went to his room in a spirit of intense thankfulness
that he had a Christian bed to sleep in. He took off his gorgeous
robesthe only things that remained to prove to him that the events of
that evening had been no delusionand locked them in his wardrobe with
a sense of relief that he would never be required to wear them again,
and his last conscious thought before he fell asleep was the comforting
reflection that, if there were any barrier between Sylvia and himself,
it would be removed in the course of a very few more hours.
CHAPTER XI. A FOOL'S PARADISE
Ventimore found next morning that his bath and shaving-water had
been brought up, from which he inferred, quite correctly, that his
landlady must have returned.
Secretly he was by no means looking forward to his next interview
with her, but she appeared with his bacon and coffee in a spirit so
evidently chastened that he saw that he would have no difficulty so far
as she was concerned.
I'm sure, Mr. Ventimore, sir, she began, apologetically, I don't
know what you must have thought of me and Rapkin last night, leaving
the house like we did!
It was extremely inconvenient, said Horace, and not at all what I
should have expected from you. But possibly you had some reason for
Why, sir, said Mrs. Rapkin, running her hand nervously along the
back of a chair, the fact is, something come over me, and come over
Rapkin, as we couldn't stop here another minute not if it was ever so.
Ah! said Horace, raising his eyebrows, restlessnesseh, Mrs.
Rapkin? Awkward that it should come on just then, though, wasn't it?
It was the look of the place, somehow, said Mrs. Rapkin. If
you'll believe me, sir, it was all changed likenothing in it the same
from top to bottom!
Really? said Horace. I don't notice any difference myself.
No more don't I, sir, not by daylight; but last night it was all
domes and harches and marble fountings let into the floor, with parties
moving about downstairs all silent and as black as your hatwhich
Rapkin saw them as well as what I did.
From the state your husband was in last night, said Horace, I
should say he was capable of seeing anythingand double of most
I won't deny, sir, that Rapkin mayn't have been quite hisself, as a
very little upsets him after he's spent an afternoon studying the
papers and what-not at the libery. But I see the niggers too, Mr.
Ventimore, and no one can say I ever take more than is good for
I don't suggest that for a moment, Mrs. Rapkin, said Horace;
only, if the house was as you describe last night, how do you account
for its being all right this morning?
Mrs. Rapkin in her embarrassment was reduced to folding her apron
into small pleats. It's not for me to say, sir, she replied, but, if
I was to give my opinion, it would be as them parties as called 'ere on
camels the other day was at the bottom of it.
I shouldn't wonder if you were right, Mrs. Rapkin, said Horace
blandly; you see, you had been exerting yourself over the cooking, and
no doubt were in an over-excited state, and, as you say, those camels
had taken hold of your imagination until you were ready to see anything
that Rapkin saw, and he was ready to see anything you
did. It's not at all uncommon. Scientific people, I believe, call it
Law, sir! said the good woman, considerably impressed by this
diagnosis, you don't mean to say I had that? I was always
fanciful from a girl, and could see things in coffee-grounds as nobody
else couldbut I never was took like that before. And to think of me
leaving my dinner half cooked, and you expecting your young lady and
her pa and ma! Well, there, now, I am sorry. Whatever did
you do, sir?
We managed to get food of sorts from somewhere, said Horace, but
it was most uncomfortable for me, and I trust, Mrs. RapkinI sincerely
trust that it will not occur again.
That I'll answer for it shan't, sir. And you won't take no notice
to Rapkin, sir, will you? Though it was his seein' the niggers and that
as put it into my 'ed; but I 'ave spoke to him pretty severe already,
and he's truly sorry and ashamed for forgetting hisself as he did.
Very well, Mrs. Rapkin, said Horace; we will understand that last
night'shemrather painful experience is not to be alluded to
againon either side.
He felt sincerely thankful to have got out of it so easily, for it
was impossible to say what gossip might not have been set on foot if
the Rapkins had not been brought to see the advisability of reticence
on the subject.
There's one more thing, sir, I wished for to speak to you about,
said Mrs. Rapkin; that great brass vawse as you bought at an oction
some time back. I dunno if you remember it?
I remember it, said Horace. Well, what about it?
Why, sir, I found it in the coal-cellar this morning, and I thought
I'd ask if that was where you wished it kep' in future. For, though no
amount o' polish could make it what I call a tasty thing, it's neither
horniment nor yet useful where it is at present.
Oh, said Horace, rather relieved, for he had an ill-defined dread
from her opening words that the bottle might have been misbehaving
itself in some way. Put it wherever you please, Mrs. Rapkin; do
whatever you like with itso long as I don't see the thing again!
Very good, sir; I on'y thought I'd ask the question, said Mrs.
Rapkin, as she closed the door upon herself.
Altogether, Horace walked to Great Cloister Street that morning in a
fairly cheerful mood and amiably disposed, even towards the Jinnee.
With all his many faults, he was a thoroughly good-natured old
devilvery superior in every way to the one the Arabian Nights
fisherman found in his bottle.
Ninety-nine Jinn out of a hundred, thought Horace, would have
turned nasty on finding benefit after benefit 'declined with thanks.'
But one good point in Fakrash is that he does take a hint in
good part, and, as soon as he can be made to see where he's wrong, he's
always ready to set things right. And he thoroughly understands now
that these Oriental dodges of his won't do nowadays, and that when
people see a penniless man suddenly wallowing in riches they naturally
want to know how he came by them. I don't suppose he will trouble me
much in future. If he should look in now and then, I must put up with
it. Perhaps, if I suggested it, he wouldn't mind coming in some form
that would look less outlandish. If he would get himself up as a
banker, or a bishopthe Bishop of Bagdad, sayI shouldn't care how
often he called. Only, I can't have him coming down the chimney in
either capacity. But he'll see that himself. And he's done me one real
serviceI mustn't let myself forget that. He sent me old Wackerbath.
By the way, I wonder if he's seen my designs yet, and what he thinks of
He was at his table, engaged in jotting down some rough ideas for
the decoration of the reception-rooms in the projected house, when
Beevor came in.
I've got nothing doing just now, he said; so I thought I'd come
in and have a squint at those plans of yours, if they're forward enough
to be seen yet.
Ventimore had to explain that even the imperfect method of
examination proposed was not possible, as he had despatched the
drawings to his client the night before.
Phew! said Beevor; that's sharp work, isn't it?
I don't know. I've been sticking hard at it for over a fortnight.
Well, you might have given me a chance of seeing what you've made
of it. I let you see all my work!
To tell you the honest truth, old fellow, I wasn't at all sure
you'd like it, and I was afraid you'd put me out of conceit with what
I'd done, and Wackerbath was in a frantic hurry to have the plansso
there it was.
And do you think he'll be satisfied with them?
He ought to be. I don't like to be cock-sure, but I believeI
really do believethat I've given him rather more than he expected.
It's going to be a devilish good house, though I say it myself.
Something new-fangled and fantastic, eh? Well, he mayn't care about
it, you know. When you've had my experience, you'll realise that a
client is a rum bird to satisfy.
I shall satisfy my old bird, said Horace, gaily. He'll
have a cage he can hop about in to his heart's content.
You're a clever chap enough, said Beevor; but to carry a big job
like this through you want one thingand that's ballast.
Not while you heave yours at my head! Come, old fellow, you aren't
really riled because I sent off those plans without showing them to
you? I shall soon have them back, and then you can pitch into 'em as
much as you please. Seriously, though, I shall want all the help you
can spare when I come to the completed designs.
'Um, said Beevor, you've got along very well alone so farat
least, by your own account; so I dare say you'll be able to manage
without me to the end. Only, you know, he added, as he left the room,
you haven't won your spurs yet. A fellow isn't necessarily a Gilbert
Scott, or a Norman Shaw, or a Waterhouse just because he happens to get
a sixty-thousand pound job the first go off!
Poor old Beevor! thought Horace, repentantly, I've put his back
up. I might just as well have shown him the plans, after all; it
wouldn't have hurt me and it would have pleased him. Never mind,
I'll make my peace with him after lunch. I'll ask him to give me his
idea for ano, hang it all, even friendship has its limits!
He returned from lunch to hear what sounded like an altercation of
some sort in his office, in which, as he neared his door, Beevor's
voice was distinctly audible.
My dear sir, he was saying, I have already told you that it is no
affair of mine.
But I ask you, sir, as a brother architect, said another voice,
whether you consider it professional or reasonable?
As a brother architect, replied Beevor, as Ventimore opened the
door, I would rather be excused from giving an opinion.... Ah, here is
Mr. Ventimore himself.
Horace entered, to find himself confronted by Mr. Wackerbath, whose
face was purple and whose white whiskers were bristling with rage. So,
sir! he began. So, sir! and choked ignominiously.
There appears to have been some misunderstanding, my dear
Ventimore, explained Beevor, with a studious correctness which was
only a shade less offensive than open triumph. I think I'd better
leave you and this gentleman to talk it over quietly.
Quietly? exclaimed Mr. Wackerbath, with an apoplectic snort;
I've no idea what you are so excited about, sir, said Horace.
Perhaps you will explain?
Explain! Mr. Wackerbath gasped; whyno, if I speak just now, I
shall be ill: you tell him, he added, waving a plump hand in
I'm not in possession of all the facts, said Beevor, smoothly;
but, so far as I can gather, this gentleman thinks that, considering
the importance of the work he intrusted to your hands, you have given
less time to it than he might have expected. As I have told him, that
is a matter which does not concern me, and which he must discuss with
So saying, Beevor retired to his own room, and shut the door with
the same irreproachable discretion, which conveyed that he was not in
the least surprised, but was too much of a gentleman to show it.
Well, Mr. Wackerbath, began Horace, when they were alone, so
you're disappointed with the house?
Disappointed! said Mr. Wackerbath, furiously. I am disgusted,
Horace's heart sank lower still; had he deceived himself after all,
then? Had he been nothing but a conceited fool, andmost galling
thought of allhad Beevor judged him only too accurately? And yet, no,
he could not believe ithe knew his work was good!
This is plain speaking with a vengeance, he said; I'm sorry
you're dissatisfied. I did my best to carry out your instructions.
Oh, you did? sputtered Mr. Wackerbath. That's what you callbut
go on, sir, go on!
I got it done as quickly as possible, continued Horace, because I
understood you wished no time to be lost.
No one can accuse you of dawdling over it. What I should like to
know is how the devil you managed to get it done in the time?
I worked incessantly all day and every day, said Horace. That's
how I managed itand this is all the thanks I get for it!
Thanks? Mr. Wackerbath well-nigh howled. Youyou insolent young
charlatan; you expect thanks!
Now look here, Mr. Wackerbath, said Horace, whose own temper was
getting a little frayed. I'm not accustomed to being treated like
this, and I don't intend to submit to it. Just tell mein as moderate
language as you can commandwhat you object to?
I object to the whole damned thing, sir! I mean, I repudiate the
entire concern. It's the work of a raving lunatica place that no
English gentleman, sir, with any self-respect orah!consideration
for his reputation and position in the county, could consent to occupy
for a single hour!
Oh, said Horace, feeling deathly sick, in that case it is
useless, of course, to suggest any modifications.
Absolutely! said Mr. Wackerbath.
Very well, then; there's no more to be said, replied Horace. You
will have no difficulty in finding an architect who will be more
successful in realising your intentions. Mr. Beevor, the gentleman you
met just now, he added, with a touch of bitterness, would probably be
just your man. Of course I retire altogether. And really, if any one is
the sufferer over this, I fancy it's myself. I can't see how you are
any the worse.
Not any the worse? cried Mr. Wackerbath, when the infernal place
Built! echoed Horace feebly.
I tell you, sir, I saw it with my own eyes driving to the station
this morning; my coachman and footman saw it; my wife saw itdamn it,
sir, we all saw it!
Then Horace understood. His indefatigable Jinnee had been at work
again! Of course, for Fakrash it must have been what he would term the
easiest of affairsespecially after a glance at the plans (and
Ventimore remembered that the Jinnee had surprised him at work upon
them, and even requested to have them explained to him)to dispense
with contractors and bricklayers and carpenters, and construct the
entire building in the course of a single night.
It was a generous and spirited actionbut, particularly now that
the original designs had been found faulty and rejected, it placed the
unfortunate architect in a most invidious position.
Well, sir, said Mr. Wackerbath, with elaborate irony, I presume
it is you whom I have to thank for improving my land by erecting this
precious palace on it?
II began Horace, utterly broken down; and then he saw, with
emotions that may be imagined, the Jinnee himself, in his green robes,
standing immediately behind Mr. Wackerbath.
Greeting to you, said Fakrash, coming forward with his smile of
amiable cunning. If I mistake not, he added, addressing the startled
estate agent, who had jumped visibly, thou art the merchant for whom
my son here, and he laid a hand on Horace's shrinking shoulder,
undertook to construct a mansion?
I am, said Mr. Wackerbath, in some mystification. Have I the
pleasure of addressing Mr. Ventimore, senior?
No, no, put in Horace; no relation. He's a sort of informal
Hast thou not found him an architect of divine gifts? inquired the
Jinnee, beaming with pride. Is not the palace that he hath raised for
thee by his transcendent accomplishments a marvel of beauty and
stateliness, and one that Sultans might envy?
No, sir! shouted the infuriated Mr. Wackerbath; since you ask my
opinion, it's nothing of the sort! It's a ridiculous tom-fool cross
between the palm-house at Kew and the Brighton Pavilion! There's no
billiard-room, and not a decent bedroom in the house. I've been all
over it, so I ought to know; and as for drainage, there isn't a sign of
it. And he has the brassah, I should say, the unblushing
effronteryto call that a country house!
Horace's dismay was curiously shot with relief. The Jinnee, who was
certainly very far from being a genius except by courtesy, had taken it
upon himself to erect the palace according to his own notions of
Arabian domestic luxuryand Horace, taught by bitter experience, could
sympathise to some extent with his unfortunate client. On the other
hand, it was balm to his smarting self-respect to find that it was not
his own plans, after all, which had been found so preposterous; and, by
some obscure mental process, which I do not propose to explain, he
became reconciled, and almost grateful, to the officious Fakrash. And
then, too, he was his Jinnee, and Horace had no intention of
letting him be bullied by an outsider.
Let me explain, Mr. Wackerbath, he said. Personally I've had
nothing to do with this. This gentleman, wishing to spare me the
trouble, has taken upon himself to build your house for you, without
consulting either of us, and, from what I know of his powers in the
direction, I've no doubt thatthat it's a devilish fine place, in its
way. Anyhow, we make no charge for ithe presents it to you as a free
gift. Why not accept it as such and make the best of it?
Make the best of it? stormed Mr. Wackerbath. Stand by and see the
best site in three counties defaced by a jimcrack Moorish nightmare
like that! Why, they'll call it 'Wackerbath's Folly,' sir. I shall be
the laughing-stock of the neighbourhood. I can't live in the beastly
building. I couldn't afford to keep it up, and I won't have it
cumbering my land. Do you hear? I won't! I'll go to law, cost me
what it may, and compel you and your Arabian friends there to pull the
thing down. I'll take the case up to the House of Lords, if necessary,
and fight you as long as I can stand!
As long as thou canst stand! repeated Fakrash, gently. That is a
long time truly, O thou litigious one!... On all fours, ungrateful dog
that thou art! he cried, with an abrupt and entire change of manner,
and crawl henceforth for the remainder of thy days. I,
Fakrash-el-Aamash, command thee!
It was both painful and grotesque to see the portly and intensely
respectable Mr. Wackerbath suddenly drop forward on his hands while
desperately striving to preserve his dignity. How dare you, sir? he
almost barked, how dare you, I say? Are you aware that I could
summon you for this? Let me up. I insist upon getting up!
O contemptible in aspect! replied the Jinnee, throwing open the
door. Begone to thy kennel.
I won't! I can't! whimpered the unhappy man. How do you expect
meme!to cross Westminster Bridge on all fours? What will the
officials think at Waterloo, where I have been known and respected for
years? How am I to face my family inin this position? Do, for mercy's
sake, let me get up!
Horace had been too shocked and startled to speak before, but now
humanity, coupled with disgust for the Jinnee's high-handed methods,
compelled him to interfere. Mr. Fakrash, he said, this has gone far
enough. Unless you stop tormenting this unfortunate gentleman, I've
done with you.
Never, said Fakrash. He hath dared to abuse my palace, which is
far too sumptuous a dwelling for such a son of a burnt dog as he.
Therefore, I will make his abode to be in the dust for ever.
But I don't find fault, yelped poor Mr. Wackerbath.
Youyou entirely misunderstood thethe few comments I ventured to
make. It's a capital mansion, handsome, and yet 'homey,' too. I'll
never say another word against it. I'llyes, I'll live in
itif only you'll let me up?
Do as he asks you, said Horace to the Jinnee, or I swear I'll
never speak to you again.
Thou art the arbiter of this matter, was the reply. And if I
yield, it is at thy intercession, and not his. Rise then, he said to
the humiliated client; depart, and show us the breadth of thy
It was this precise moment which Beevor, who was probably unable to
restrain his curiosity any longer, chose to re-enter the room. Oh,
Ventimore, he began, did I leave my?... I beg your pardon. I
thought you were alone again.
Don't go, sir, said Mr. Wackerbath, as he scrambled awkwardly to
his feet, his usually florid face mottled in grey and lilac. II
should like you to know that, after talking things quietly over with
your friend Mr. Ventimore and his partner here, I am thoroughly
convinced that my objections were quite untenable. I retract all I
said. The house isahadmirably planned: most convenient,
roomy, andahunconventional. Thethe entire freedom from all
sanitary appliances is a particular recommendation. In short, I am more
than satisfied. Pray forget anything I may have said which might be
taken to imply the contrary.... Gentlemen, good afternoon!
He bowed himself past the Jinnee in a state of deference and
apprehension, and was heard stumbling down the staircase. Horace hardly
dared to meet Beevor's eyes, which were fixed upon the green-turbaned
Jinnee, as he stood apart in dreamy abstraction, smiling placidly to
I say, Beevor said to Horace, at last, in an undertone, you never
told me you had gone into partnership.
He's not a regular partner, whispered Ventimore; he does odd
things for me occasionally, that's all.
He soon managed to smooth your client down, remarked Beevor.
Yes, said Horace; he's an Oriental, you see, and, he has aa
very persuasive manner. Would you like to be introduced?
If it's all the same to you, replied Beevor, still below his
voice, I'd rather be excused. To tell you the truth, old fellow, I
don't altogether fancy the looks of him, and it's my opinion, he
added, that the less you have to do with him the better. He strikes me
as a wrong'un, old man.
No, no, said Horace; eccentric, that's allyou don't understand
Receive news! began the Jinnee, after Beevor, with suspicion and
disapproval evident even on his back and shoulders, had retreated to
his own room, Suleyman, the son of Daood, sleeps with his fathers.
I know, retorted Horace, whose nerves were unequal to much
reference to Solomon just then. So does Queen Anne.
I have not heard of her. But art thou not astounded, then, by my
I have matters nearer home to think about, said Horace, dryly. I
must say, Mr. Fakrash, you have landed me in a pretty mess!
Explain thyself more fully, for I comprehend thee not.
Why on earth, Horace groaned, couldn't you let me build that
house my own way?
Did I not hear thee with my own ears lament thy inability to
perform the task? Thereupon, I determined that no disgrace should fall
upon thee by reason of such incompetence, since I myself would erect a
palace so splendid that it should cause thy name to live for ever. And,
behold, it is done.
It is, said Horace. And so am I. I don't want to reproach you. I
quite feel that you have acted with the best intentions; but, oh, hang
it all! can't you see that you've absolutely wrecked my career
as an architect?
That is a thing that cannot be, returned the Jinnee, seeing that
thou hast all the credit.
The credit! This is England, not Arabia. What credit can I gain
from being supposed to be the architect of an Oriental pavilion, which
might be all very well for Haroun-al-Raschid, but I can assure you is
preposterous as a home for an average Briton?
Yet that overfed hound, remarked the Jinnee, expressed much
Naturally, after he had found that he could not give a candid
opinion except on all-fours. A valuable testimonial, that! And how do
you suppose I can take his money? No, Mr. Fakrash, if I have to go on
all-fours myself for it, I must say, and I will say, that you've made a
most frightful muddle of it!
Acquaint me with thy wishes, said Fakrash, a little abashed, for
thou knowest that I can refuse thee naught.
Then, said Horace, boldly, couldn't you remove that
palacedissipate it into space or something?
Verily, said the Jinnee, in an aggravated tone, to do good acts
unto such as thee is but wasted time, for thou givest me no peace till
they are undone!
This is the last time, urged Horace; I promise never to ask you
for anything again.
Not for the first time hast thou made such a promise, said
Fakrash. And save for the magnitude of thy service unto me, I would
not hearken to this caprice of thine, nor wilt thou find me so
indulgent on another occasion. But for this onceand he muttered some
words and made a sweeping gesture with his right handthy desire is
granted unto thee. Of the palace and all that is therein there
remaineth no trace!
Another surprise for poor old Wackerbath, thought Horace, but a
pleasant one this time. My dear Mr. Fakrash, he said aloud, I really
can't say how grateful I am to you. And nowI hate bothering you like
this, but if you could manage to look in on Professor
What! cried the Jinnee, yet another request? Already!
Well, you promised you'd do that before, you know! said Horace.
For that matter, remarked Fakrash, I have already fulfilled my
You have? Horace exclaimed. And does he believe now that it's all
true about that bottle?
When I left him, answered the Jinnee, all his doubts were
By Jove, you are a trump! cried Horace, only too glad to be
able to commend with sincerity. And do you think, if I went to him
now, I should find him the same as usual?
Nay, said Fakrash, with his weak and yet inscrutable smile, that
is more than I can promise thee.
But why? asked Horace, if he knows all?
There was the oddest expression in the Jinnee's furtive eyes: a kind
of elfin mischief combined with a sense of wrong-doing, like a naughty
child whose palate is still reminiscent of illicit jam. Because, he
replied, with a sound between a giggle and a chuckle, because, in
order to overcome his unbelief, it was necessary to transform him into
a one-eyed mule of hideous appearance.
What! cried Horace. But, whether to avoid thanks or
explanations, the Jinnee had disappeared with his customary abruptness.
Fakrash! shouted Horace, Mr. Fakrash! Come back! Do you hear? I
must speak to you! There was no answer; the Jinnee might be well
on his way to Lake Chad, or Jericho, by that timehe was certainly far
enough from Great Cloister Street.
Horace sat down at his drawing-table, and, his head buried in his
hands, tried to think out this latest complication. Fakrash had
transformed Professor Futvoye into a one-eyed mule. It would have
seemed incredible, almost unthinkable, once, but so many
impossibilities had happened to Horace of late that one more made
little or no strain upon his credulity.
What he felt chiefly was the new barrier that this event must raise
between himself and Sylvia; to do him justice, the mere fact that the
father of his fiancée was a mule did not lessen his ardour in
the slightest. Even if he had felt no personal responsibility for the
calamity, he loved Sylvia far too well to be deterred by it, and few
family cupboards are without a skeleton of some sort.
With courage and the determination to look only on the bright side
of things, almost any domestic drawback can be lived down.
But the real point, as he instantly recognised, was whether in the
changed condition of circumstances Sylvia would consent to marry him. Might she not, after the experiences of that abominable dinner of his
the night before, connect him in some way with her poor father's
transformation? She might even suspect him of employing this means of
compelling the Professor to renew their engagement; and, indeed, Horace
was by no means certain himself that the Jinnee might not have acted
from some muddle-headed motive of this kind. It was likely enough that
the Professor, after learning the truth, should have refused to allow
his daughter to marry the protégé of so dubious a patron, and
that Fakrash had then resorted to pressure.
In any case, Ventimore knew Sylvia well enough to feel sure that
pride would steel her heart against him so long as this obstacle
It would be unseemly to set down here all that Horace said and
thought of the person who had brought all this upon them, but after
some wild and futile raving he became calm enough to recognise that his
proper place was by Sylvia's side. Perhaps he ought to have told her at
first, and then she would have been less unprepared for thisand yet
how could he trouble her mind so long as he could cling to the hope
that the Jinnee would cease to interfere?
But now he could be silent no longer; naturally the prospect of
calling at Cottesmore Gardens just then was anything but agreeable, but
he felt it would be cowardly to keep away.
Besides, he could cheer them up; he could bring with him a message
of hope. No doubt they believed that the Professor's transformation
would be permanenta harrowing prospect for so united a family; but,
fortunately, Horace would be able to reassure them on this point.
Fakrash had always revoked his previous performances as soon as he
could be brought to understand their fatuityand Ventimore would take
good care that he revoked this.
Nevertheless, it was with a sinking heart and an unsteady hand that
he pulled the visitors' bell at the Futvoyes' house that afternoon, for
he neither knew in what state he should find that afflicted family, nor
how they would regard his intrusion at such a time.
CHAPTER XII. THE MESSENGER OF HOPE
Jessie, the neat and pretty parlour-maid, opened the door with a
smile of welcome which Horace found reassuring. No girl, he thought,
whose master had suddenly been transformed into a mule could possibly
smile like that. The Professor, she told him, was not at home, which
again was comforting. For a savant, however careless about his
personal appearance, would scarcely venture to brave public opinion in
the semblance of a quadruped.
Is the Professor out? he inquired, to make sure.
Not exactly out, sir, said the maid, but particularly engaged,
working hard in his study, and not to be disturbed on no account.
This was encouraging, too, since a mule could hardly engage in
literary labour of any kind. Evidently the Jinnee must either have
overrated his supernatural powers, or else have been deliberately
amusing himself at Horace's expense.
Then I will see Miss Futvoye, he said.
Miss Sylvia is with the master, sir, said the girl; but if you'll
come into the drawing-room I'll let Mrs. Futvoye know you are here.
He had not been in the drawing-room long before Mrs. Futvoye
appeared, and one glance at her face confirmed Ventimore's worst fears.
Outwardly she was calm enough, but it was only too obvious that her
calmness was the result of severe self-repression; her eyes, usually so
shrewdly and placidly observant, had a haggard and hunted look; her
ears seemed on the strain to catch some distant sound.
I hardly thought we should see you to-day, she began, in a tone of
studied reserve; but perhaps you came to offer some explanation of the
extraordinary manner in which you thought fit to entertain us last
night? If so
The fact is, said Horace, looking into his hat, I came because I
was rather anxious about the Professor.
About my husband? said the poor lady, with a really heroic effort
to appear surprised. He isas well as could be expected. Why should
you suppose otherwise? she asked, with a flash of suspicion.
I fancied perhaps thatthat he mightn't be quite himself to-day,
said Horace, with his eyes on the carpet.
I see, said Mrs. Futvoye, regaining her composure; you were
afraid that all those foreign dishes might not have agreed with him.
Butexcept that he is a little irritable this afternoonhe is much as
I'm delighted to hear it, said Horace, with reviving hope. Do you
think he would see me for a moment?
Great heavens, no! cried Mrs. Futvoye, with an irrepressible
start; I mean, she explained, that, after what took place last
night, Anthonymy husbandvery properly feels that an interview would
be too painful.
But when we parted he was perfectly friendly.
I can only say, replied the courageous woman, that you would find
him considerably altered now.
Horace had no difficulty in believing it.
At least, I may see Sylvia? he pleaded.
No, said Mrs. Futvoye; I really can't have Sylvia disturbed just
now. She is very busy, helping her father. Anthony has to read a paper
at one of his societies to-morrow night, and she is writing it out from
If any departure from strict truth can ever be excusable, this
surely was one; unfortunately, just then Sylvia herself burst into the
Mother, she cried, without seeing Horace in her agitation, do
come to papa, quick! He has just begun kicking again, and I can't
manage him alone.... Oh, you here? she broke off, as she saw
who was in the room. Why do you come here now, Horace? Please,
please go away! Papa is rather unwellnothing serious, onlyoh,
do go away!
Darling! said Horace, going to her and taking both her hands, I
know alldo you understand?all!
Mamma! cried Sylvia, reproachfully, have you told himalready?
When we settled that even Horace wasn't to know tilltill papa
I have told him nothing, my dear, replied her mother. He can't
possibly know, unlessbut no, that isn't possible. And, after all,
she added, with a warning glance at her daughter, I don't know why we
should make any mystery about a mere attack of gout. But I had better
go and see if your father wants anything. And she hurried out of the
Sylvia sat down and gazed silently into the fire. I dare say you
don't know how dreadfully people kick when they've got gout, she
Oh yes, I do, said Horace, sympathetically; at least, I can
Especially when it's in both legs, continued Sylvia.
Or, said Horace gently, in all four.
Ah, you do know! cried Sylvia. Then it's all the more
horrid of you to come!
Dearest, said Horace, is not this just the time when my place
should be near youand him?
Not near papa, Horace! she put in anxiously; it wouldn't be at
Do you really think I have any fear for myself?
Are you sure you quite knowwhat he is like now?
I understand, said Horace, trying to put it as considerately as
possible, that a casual observer, who didn't know your father, might
mistake him, at first sight, forfor some sort of quadruped.
He's a mule, sobbed Sylvia, breaking down entirely. I could bear
it better if he had been a nice mule.... Bbut he isn't!
Whatever he may be, declared Horace, as he knelt by her chair
endeavouring to comfort her, nothing can alter my profound respect for
him. And you must let me see him, Sylvia; because I fully believe I
shall be able to cheer him up.
If you imagine you can persuade him toto laugh it off! said
I wasn't proposing to try to make him see the humorous side of his
situation, Horace mildly explained. I trust I have more tact than
that. But he may be glad to know that, at the worst, it is only a
temporary inconvenience. I'll take care that he's all right again
before very long.
She started up and looked at him, her eyes widened with dawning
dread and mistrust.
If you can speak like that, she said, it must have been you
whono, I can't believe itthat would be too horrible!
I who did what, Sylvia? Weren't you there whenwhen it
No, she replied. I was only told of it afterwards. Mother heard
papa talking loudly in his study this morning, as if he was angry with
somebody, and at last she grew so uneasy she couldn't bear it any
longer, and went in to see what was the matter with him. Dad was quite
alone and looked as usual, only a little excited; and then, without the
slightest warning, just as she entered the room, hehe changed slowly
into a mule before her eyes! Anybody but mamma would have lost her head
and roused the whole house.
Thank Heaven she didn't! said Horace, fervently. That was what I
was most afraid of.
Thenoh, Horace, it was you! It's no use denying it. I feel
more certain of it every moment!
Now, Sylvia! he protested, still anxious, if possible, to keep the
worst from her, what could have put such an idea as that into your
I don't know, she said slowly. Several things last night. No one
who was really nice, and like everybody else, would live in such queer
rooms like those, and dine on cushions, with dreadful black slaves,
andand dancing-girls and things. You pretended you were quite poor.
So I am, darling. And as for my rooms, andand the rest, they're
all gone, Sylvia. If you went to Vincent Square to-day, you wouldn't
find a trace of them!
That only shows! said Sylvia. But why should you play such a
cruel, andand ungentlemanly trick on poor dad? If you had ever really
But I do, Sylvia, you can't really believe me capable of such an
outrage! Look at me and tell me so.
No, Horace, said Sylvia frankly. I don't believe you did
it. But I believe you know who did. And you had better tell me
If you're quite sure you can stand it, he replied, I'll tell you
everything. And, as briefly as possible, he told her how he had
unsealed the brass bottle, and all that had come of it.
She bore it, on the whole, better than he had expected; perhaps,
being a woman, it was some consolation to her to remind him that she
had foretold something of this kind from the very first.
But, of course, I never really thought it would be so awful as
this! she said. Horace, how could you be so careless as to let
a great wicked thing like that escape out of its bottle?
I had a notion it was a manuscript, said Horacetill he came
out. But he isn't a great wicked thing, Sylvia. He's an amiable old
Jinnee enough. And he'd do anything for me. Nobody could be more
grateful and generous than he has been.
Do you call it generous to change the poor, dear dad into a mule?
inquired Sylvia, with a little curl of her upper lip.
That was an oversight, said Horace; he meant no harm by it. In
Arabia they do these thingsor used to in his day. Not that that's
much excuse for him. Still, he's not so young as he was, and besides,
being bottled up for all those centuries must have narrowed him rather.
You must try and make allowances for him, darling.
I shan't, said Sylvia, unless he apologises to poor father, and
puts him right at once.
Why, of course, he'll do that, Horace answered confidently. I'll
see that he does. I don't mean to stand any more of his nonsense. I'm
afraid I've been just a little too slack for fear of hurting his
feelings; but this time he's gone too far, and I shall talk to him like
a Dutch uncle. He's always ready to do the right thing when he's once
shown where he has gone wrongonly he takes such a lot of showing,
poor old chap!
But when do you think he'lldo the right thing?
Oh, as soon as I see him again.
Yes; but when will you see him again?
That's more than I can say. He's away just nowin China, or Peru,
Horace! Then he won't be back for months and months!
Oh yes, he will. He can do the whole trip, aller et retour,
you know, in a few hours. He's an active old beggar for his age. In the
meantime, dearest, the chief thing is to keep up your father's spirits.
So I think I'd betterI was just telling Sylvia, Mrs. Futvoye, he
said, as that lady re-entered the room, that I should like to see the
Professor at once.
It's quite, quite impossible! was the nervous reply. He's
in such a state that he's unable to see any one. You don't know how
fractious gout makes him!
Dear Mrs. Futvoye, said Horace, believe me, I know more than you
Yes, mother, dear, put in Sylvia, he knows everythingreally
everything. And perhaps it might do dad good to see him.
Mrs. Futvoye sank helplessly down on a settee. Oh, dear me! she
said. I don't know what to say. I really don't. If you had seen
him plunge at the mere suggestion of a doctor!
Privately, though naturally he could not say so, Horace thought a
vet. might be more appropriate, but eventually he persuaded Mrs.
Futvoye to conduct him to her husband's study.
Anthony, love, she said, as she knocked gently at the door, I've
brought Horace Ventimore to see you for a few moments, if he may.
It seemed from the sounds of furious snorting and stamping within,
that the Professor resented this intrusion on his privacy. My dear
Anthony, said his devoted wife, as she unlocked the door and turned
the key on the inside after admitting Horace, try to be calm. Think of
the servants downstairs. Horace is so anxious to help.
As for Ventimore, he was speechlessso inexpressibly shocked was he
by the alteration in the Professor's appearance. He had never seen a
mule in sorrier condition or in so vicious a temper. Most of the
lighter furniture had been already reduced to matchwood; the glass
doors of the bookcase were starred or shivered; precious Egyptian
pottery and glass were strewn in fragments on the carpets, and even the
mummy, though it still smiled with the same enigmatic cheerfulness,
seemed to have suffered severely from the Professorial hoofs.
Horace instinctively felt that any words of conventional sympathy
would jar here; indeed, the Professor's attitude and expression
reminded him irresistibly of a certain Blondin Donkey he had seen
enacted by music-hall artists, at the point where it becomes sullen and
defiant. Only, he had laughed helplessly at the Blondin Donkey, and
somehow he felt no inclination to laugh now.
Believe me, sir, he began, I would not disturb you like this
unlesssteady there, for Heaven's sake Professor, don't kick till
you've heard me out! For, the mule, in a clumsy, shambling way which
betrayed the novice, was slowly revolving on his own axis so as to
bring his hind-quarters into action, while still keeping his only
serviceable eye upon his unwelcome visitor.
Listen to me, sir, said Horace, manoeuvring in his turn. I'm not
to blame for this, and if you brain me, as you seem to be endeavouring
to do, you'll simply destroy the only living man who can get you out of
The mule appeared impressed by this, and backed cumbrously into a
corner, from which he regarded Horace with a mistrustful, but
attentive, eye. If, as I imagine, sir, continued Horace, you are,
though temporarily deprived of speech, perfectly capable of following
an argument, will you kindly signify it by raising your right ear? The
mule's right ear rose with a sharp twitch.
Now we can get on, said Horace. First let me tell you that I
repudiate all responsibility for the proceedings of that infernal
Jinnee.... I wouldn't stamp like thatyou might go through the floor,
you know.... Now, if you will only exercise a little patience
At this the exasperated animal made a sudden run at him with his
mouth open, which obliged Horace to shelter himself behind a large
leather arm-chair. You really must keep cool, sir, he
remonstrated; your nerves are naturally upset. If I might suggest a
little champagneyou could manage it inin a bucket, and it would
help you to pull yourself together. A whisk of yourertail would
imply consent. The Professor's tail instantly swept some rare Arabian
glass lamps and vases from a shelf at his rear, whereupon Mrs. Futvoye
went out, and returned presently with a bottle of champagne and a large
china jardinière, as the best substitute she could find for a
When the mule had drained the flower-pot greedily and appeared
refreshed, Horace proceeded: I have every hope, sir, he said, that
before many hours you will be smilingpray don't prance like that, I
mean what I saysmiling over what now seems to you, very justly, a
most annoying and serious catastrophe. I shall speak seriously to
Fakrash (the Jinnee, you know), and I am sure that, as soon as he
realises what a frightful blunder he has made, he will be the first to
offer you every reparation in his power. For, old foozle as he is, he's
The Professor drooped his ears at this, and shook his head with a
doleful incredulity that made him look more like the Pantomime Donkey
I think I understand him fairly well by this time, sir, said
Horace, and I'll answer for it that there's no real harm in him. I
give you my word of honour that, if you'll only remain quiet and leave
everything to me, you shall very soon be released from this absurd
position. That's all I came to tell you, and now I won't trouble you
any longer. If you could bring yourself, as a sign that you bear
me no ill-feeling, to give me youryour off-foreleg at parting, I
But the Professor turned his back in so pointed and ominous a manner
that Horace judged it better to withdraw without insisting further.
I'm afraid, he said to Mrs. Futvoye, after they had rejoined Sylvia
in the drawing-roomI'm afraid your husband is still a little sore
with me about this miserable business.
I don't know what else you can expect, replied the lady, rather
tartly; he can't help feelingas we all must and do, after what you
said just nowthat, but for you, this would never have happened!
If you mean it was all through my attending that sale, said
Horace, you might remember that I only went there at the Professor's
request. You know that, Sylvia.
Yes, Horace, said Sylvia; but papa never asked you to buy a
hideous brass bottle with a nasty Genius in it. And any one with
ordinary common sense would have kept it properly corked!
What, you against me too, Sylvia! cried Horace, cut to the quick.
No, Horace, never against you. I didn't mean to say what I did.
Only it is such a relief to put the blame on somebody. I know, I
know you feel it almost as much as we do. But so long as poor, dear
papa remains as he is, we can never be anything to one another. You
must see that, Horace!
Yes, I see that, he said; but trust me, Sylvia, he shall not
remain as he is. I swear he shall not. In another day or two, at the
outside, you will see him his own self once more. And thenoh,
darling, darling, you won't let anything or anybody separate us?
Promise me that!
He would have held her in his arms, but she kept him at a distance.
When papa is himself again, she said, I shall know better what to
say. I can't promise anything now, Horace.
Horace recognised that no appeal would draw a more definite answer
from her just then; so he took his leave, with the feeling that, after
all, matters must improve before very long, and in the meantime he must
bear the suspense with patience.
He got through dinner as well as he could in his own rooms, for he
did not like to go to his club lest the Jinnee should suddenly return
during his absence.
If he wants me he'd be quite equal to coming on to the club after
me, he reflected, for he has about as much sense of the fitness of
things as Mary's lamb. I shouldn't care about seeing him suddenly
bursting through the floor of the smoking-room. Nor would the
He sat up late, in the hope that Fakrash would appear; but the
Jinnee made no sign, and Horace began to get uneasy. I wish there was
some way of ringing him up, he thought. If he were only the slave of
a ring or a lamp, I'd rub it; but it wouldn't be any use to rub that
bottleand, besides, he isn't a slave. Probably he has a suspicion
that he has not exactly distinguished himself over his latest feat, and
thinks it prudent to keep out of my way for the present. But if he
fancies he'll make things any better for himself by that he'll find
It was maddening to think of the unhappy Professor still fretting
away hour after hour in the uncongenial form of a mule, waiting
impatiently for the relief that never came. If it lingered much longer,
he might actually starve, unless his family thought of getting in some
oats for him, and he could be prevailed upon to touch them. And how
much longer could they succeed in concealing the nature of his
affliction? How long before all Kensington, and the whole civilised
world, would know that one of the leading Orientalists in Europe was
restlessly prancing on four legs around his study in Cottesmore
Racked by speculations such as these, Ventimore lay awake till well
into the small hours, when he dropped off into troubled dreams that,
wild as they were, could not be more grotesquely fantastic than the
realities to which they were the alternative.
CHAPTER XIII. A CHOICE OF EVILS
Not even his morning tub could brace Ventimore's spirits to their
usual cheerfulness. After sending away his breakfast almost untasted he
stood at his window, looking drearily out over the crude green turf of
Vincent Square at the indigo masses of the Abbey and the Victoria Tower
and the huge gasometers to the right which loomed faintly through a
He felt a positive loathing for his office, to which he had gone
with such high hopes and enthusiasm of late. There was no work for him
to do there any longer, and the sight of his drawing-table and
materials would, he knew, be intolerable in their mute mockery.
Nor could he with any decency present himself again at Cottesmore
Gardens while the situation still remained unchanged, as it must do
until he had seen Fakrash.
When would the Jinnee return, orhorrible suspicion!did he never
intend to return at all?
Fakrash! he groaned aloud, you can't really mean to leave
me in such a regular deuce of a hole as this?
At thy service! said a well-known voice behind him, and he turned
to see the Jinnee standing smiling on the hearthrugand at this
accomplishment of his dearest desire all his indignation surged back.
Oh, there you are! he said irritably. Where on earth have
you been all this time?
Nowhere on earth, was the bland reply; but in the regions of the
air, seeking to promote thy welfare.
If you have been as brilliantly successful up there as you have
down here, retorted Horace, I have much to thank you for.
I am more than repaid, answered the Jinnee, who, like many highly
estimable persons, was almost impervious to irony, by such assurances
of thy gratitude.
I'm not grateful, said Horace, fuming. I'm devilish
Well hath it been written, replied the Jinnee:
'Be disregardful of thine affairs, and commit them to the
For often a thing that enrages thee may eventually be to thee
I don't see the remotest chance of that, in my case, said Horace.
Why is thy countenance thus troubled, and what new complaint hast
thou against me?
What the devil do you mean by turning a distinguished and perfectly
inoffensive scholar into a wall-eyed mule? Horace broke out. If that
is your idea of a practical joke!
It is one of the easiest affairs possible, said the Jinnee,
complacently running his fingers through the thin strands of his beard.
I have accomplished such transformations on several occasions.
Then you ought to be ashamed of yourself, that's all. The question
is nowhow do you propose to restore him again?
Far from undoing be that which is accomplished! was the
What? cried Horace, hardly believing his ears; you surely don't
mean to allow that unhappy Professor to remain like that for ever, do
None can alter what is predestined.
Very likely not. But it wasn't decreed that a learned man should be
suddenly degraded to a beastly mule for the rest of his life. Destiny
wouldn't be such a fool!
Despise not mules, for they are useful and valuable animals in the
But, confound it all, have you no imagination? Can't you enter at
all into the feelings of a mana man of wide learning and
reputationsuddenly plunged into such a humiliating condition?
Upon his own head be it, said Fakrash, coldly. For he hath
brought this fate upon himself.
Well, how do you suppose that you have helped me by this
performance? Will it make him any the more disposed to consent to my
marrying his daughter? Is that all you know of the world?
It is not my intention that thou shouldst take his daughter to
Whether you approve or not, it's my intention to marry her.
Assuredly she will not marry thee so long as her father remaineth a
There I agree with you. But is that your notion of doing me a good
I did not consider thy interest in this matter.
Then will you be good enough to consider it now? I have pledged my
word that he shall be restored to his original form. Not only my
happiness is at stake, but my honour.
By failure to perform the impossible none can lose honour. And this
is a thing that cannot be undone.
Cannot be undone? repeated Horace, feeling a cold clutch at his
Because, said the Jinnee, sullenly, I have forgotten the way.
Nonsense! retorted Horace; I don't believe it. Why, he urged,
descending to flattery, you're such a clever old JohnnyI beg your
pardon, I meant such a clever old Jinneeyou can do anything,
if you only give your mind to it. Just look at the way you changed this
house back again to what it was. Marvellous!
That was the veriest trifle, said Fakrash, though he was obviously
pleased by this tribute to his talent; this would be a different
But child's play to you! insinuated Horace. Come, you know
very well you can do it if you only choose.
It may be as thou sayest. But I do not choose.
Then I think, said Horace, that, considering the obligation you
admit yourself you are under to me, I have a right to know the
reasonthe real reasonwhy you refuse.
Thy claim is not without justice, answered the Jinnee, after a
pause, nor can I decline to gratify thee.
That's right, cried Horace; I knew you'd see it in the proper
light when it was once put to you. Now, don't lose any more time, but
restore that unfortunate man at once, as you've promised.
Not so, said the Jinnee; I promised thee a reason for my
refusaland that thou shalt have. Know then, O my son, that this
indiscreet one had, by some vile and unhallowed arts, divined the
hidden meaning of what was written upon the seal of the bottle wherein
I was confined, and was preparing to reveal the same unto all men.
What would it matter to you if he did?
Muchfor the writing contained a false and lying record of my
If it is all lies, it can't do you any harm. Why not treat them
with the contempt they deserve?
They are not all lies, the Jinnee admitted reluctantly.
Well, never mind. Whatever you've done, you've expiated it by this
Now that Suleyman is no more, it is my desire to seek out my
kinsmen of the Green Jinn, and live out my days in amity and honour.
How can that be if they hear my name execrated by all mortals?
Nobody would think of execrating you about an affair three thousand
years old. It's too stale a scandal.
Thou speakest without understanding. I tell thee that if men knew
but the half of my misdoings, said Fakrash, in a tone not altogether
free from a kind of sombre complacency, the noise of them would rise
even unto the uppermost regions, and scorn and loathing would be my
Oh, it's not so bad as all that, said Horace, who had a private
impression that the Jinnee's past would probably turn out to be
chiefly made up of peccadilloes. But, anyway, I'm sure the Professor
will readily agree to keep silence about it; and, as you have of
course, got the seal in your own possession again
Nay; the seal is still in his possession, and it is naught to me
where it is deposited, said Fakrash, since the only mortal who hath
deciphered it is now a dumb animal.
Not at all, said Horace. There are several friends of his who
could decipher that inscription quite as easily as he did.
Is this the truth? said the Jinnee, in visible alarm.
Certainly, said Horace. Within the last quarter of a century
archæology has made great strides. Our learned men can now read
Babylonian bricks and Chaldean tablets as easily as if they were
advertisements on galvanised iron. You may think you've been extremely
clever in turning the Professor into an animal, but you'll probably
find you've only made another mistake.
How so? inquired Fakrash.
Well, said Horace, seeing his advantage, and pushing it
unscrupulously, now, that, in your infinite wisdom, you have ordained
that he should be a mule, he naturally can't possess property.
Therefore all his effects will have to be sold, and amongst them will
be that seal of yours, which, like many other things in his collection,
will probably be bought up by the British Museum, where it will be
examined and commented upon by every Orientalist in Europe. I suppose
you've thought of all that?
O young man of marvellous sagacity! said the Jinnee; truly I had
omitted to consider these things, and thou hast opened my eyes in time.
For I will present myself unto this man-mule and adjure him to reveal
where he hath bestowed this seal, so that I may regain it.
He can't do that, you know, so long as he remains a mule.
I will endow him with speech for the purpose.
Let me tell you this, said Horace: he's in a very nasty temper
just now, naturally enough, and you won't get anything out of him until
you have restored him to human form. If you do that, he'll agree to
Whether I restore him or not will depend not on me, but on the
damsel who is his daughter, and to whom thou art contracted in
marriage. For first of all I must speak with her.
So long as I am present and you promise not to play any tricks,
said Horace, I've no objection, for I believe, if you once saw her and
heard her plead for her poor father, you wouldn't have the heart to
hold out any longer. But you must give me your word that you'll behave
Thou hast it, said the Jinnee; I do but desire to see her on
Very well, agreed Horace; but I really can't introduce you in
that turbanshe'd be terrified. Couldn't you contrive to get yourself
up in commonplace English clothes, just for oncesomething that
wouldn't attract so much attention?
Will this satisfy thee? inquired the Jinnee, as his green turban
and flowing robes suddenly resolved themselves into the conventional
chimney-pot hat, frock-coat, and trousers of modern civilisation.
He bore a painful resemblance in them to the kind of elderly
gentleman who comes on in the harlequinade to be bonneted by the clown;
but Horace was in no mood to be critical just then.
That's better, he said encouragingly; much better. Now, he
added, as he led the way to the hall and put on his own hat and
overcoat, we'll go out and find a hansom and be at Kensington in less
than twenty minutes.
We shall be there in less than twenty seconds, said the Jinnee,
seizing him by the arm above the elbow; and Horace found himself
suddenly carried up into the air and set down, gasping with surprise
and want of breath, on the pavement opposite the Futvoyes' door.
I should just like to observe, he said, as soon as he could speak,
that if we've been seen, we shall probably cause a sensation.
Londoners are not accustomed to seeing people skimming over the
chimney-pots like amateur rooks.
Trouble not for that, said Fakrash, for no mortal eyes are
capable of following our flight.
I hope not, said Horace, or I shall lose any reputation I have
left. I think, he added, I'd better go in alone first and prepare
them, if you don't mind waiting outside. I'll come to the window and
wave my pocket-handkerchief when they're ready. And do come in
by the door like an ordinary person, and ask the maidservant if you may
I will bear it in mind, answered the Jinnee, and suddenly sank, or
seemed to sink, through a chink in the pavement.
Horace, after ringing at the Futvoyes' door, was admitted and shown
into the drawing-room, where Sylvia presently came to him, looking as
lovely as ever, in spite of the pallor due to sleeplessness and
anxiety. It is kind of you to call and inquire, she said, with the
unnatural calm of suppressed hysteria. Dad is much the same this
morning. He had a fairly good night, and was able to take part of a
carrot for breakfastbut I'm afraid he has just remembered that he has
to read a paper on 'Oriental Occultism' before the Asiatic Society this
evening, and it's worrying him a little.... Oh, Horace, she broke out,
unexpectedly, how perfectly awful all this is! How are we to
Don't give way, darling! said Horace; you will not have to bear
it much longer.
It's all very well, Horace, but unless something is done soon
it will be too late. We can't go on keeping a mule in the study
without the servants suspecting something, and where are we to put
poor, dear papa? It's too ghastly to think of his having to be sent
away toto a Home of Rest for Horsesand yet what is to be
done with him?... Why do you come if you can't do anything?
I shouldn't be here unless I could bring you good news. You
remember what I told you about the Jinnee?
Remember! cried Sylvia. As if I could forget! Has he really come
Yes. I think I have brought him to see that he has made a foolish
mistake in enchanting your unfortunate father, and he seems willing to
undo it on certain conditions. He is somewhere within call at this
moment, and will come in whenever I give the signal. But he wishes to
speak to you first.
To me? Oh, no, Horace! exclaimed Sylvia, recoiling. I'd so
much rather not. I don't like things that have come out of brass
bottles. I shouldn't know what to say, and it would frighten me
You must be brave, darling! said Horace. Remember that it depends
on you whether the Professor is to be restored or not. And there's
nothing alarming about old Fakrash, either, I've got him to put on
ordinary things, and he really doesn't look so bad in them. He's quite
a mild, amiable old noodle, and he'll do anything for you, if you'll
only stroke him down the right way. You will see him, won't you,
for your father's sake?
If I must, said Sylvia, with a shudder, II'll be as nice to him
as I can.
Horace went to the window and gave the signal, though there was no
one in sight. However, it was evidently seen, for the next moment there
was a resounding blow at the front door, and a little later Jessie, the
parlour-maid, announced Mr. Fatrasher Larmashto see Mr. Ventimore,
and the Jinnee stalked gravely in, with his tall hat on his head.
You are probably not aware of it, sir, said Horace, but it is the
custom here to uncover in the presence of a lady. The Jinnee removed
his hat with both hands, and stood silent and impassive.
Let me present you to Miss Sylvia Futvoye, Ventimore continued,
the lady whose name you have already heard.
There was a momentary gleam in Fakrash's odd, slanting eyes as they
lighted on Sylvia's shrinking figure, but he made no acknowledgment of
The damsel is not without comeliness, he remarked to Horace; but
there are lovelier far than she.
I didn't ask you for either criticisms or comparisons, said
Ventimore, sharply; there is nobody in the world equal to Miss
Futvoye, in my opinion, and you will be good enough to remember that
fact. She is exceedingly distressed (as any dutiful daughter would be)
by the cruel and senseless trick you have played her father, and she
begs that you will rectify it at once. Don't you, Sylvia?
Yes, indeed! said Sylvia, almost in a whisper, ifif it isn't
troubling you too much!
I have been turning over thy words in my mind, said Fakrash to
Horace, still ignoring Sylvia, and I am convinced that thou art right.
Even if the contents of the seal were known of all men, they would
raise no clamour about affairs that concern them not. Therefore it is
nothing to me in whose hands the seal may be. Dost thou not agree with
me in this?
Of course I do, said Horace. And it naturally follows that
It naturally follows, as thou sayest, said the Jinnee, with a
cunning assumption of indifference, that I have naught to gain by
demanding back the seal as the price of restoring this damsel's father
to his original form. Wherefore, so far as I am concerned, let him
remain a mule for ever; unless, indeed, thou art ready to comply with
Conditions! cried Horace, utterly unprepared for this conclusion.
What can you possibly want from me? But state them. I'll agree to
anything, in reason!
I demand that thou shouldst renounce the hand of this damsel.
That's out of all reason, said Horace, and you know it. I will
never give her up, so long as she is willing to keep me.
Maiden, said the Jinnee, addressing Sylvia for the first time,
the matter rests with thee. Wilt thou release this my son from his
contract, since thou art no fit wife for such as he?
How can I, cried Sylvia, when I love him and he loves me? What a
wicked tyrannical old thing you must be to expect it! I can't
give him up.
It is but giving up what can never be thine, said Fakrash. And be
not anxious for him, for I will reward and console him a thousandfold
for the loss of thy society. A little while, and he shall remember thee
Don't believe him, darling, said Horace; you know me better than
Remember, said the Jinnee, that by thy refusal thou wilt condemn
thy parent to remain a mule throughout all his days. Art thou so
unnatural and hard-hearted a daughter as to do this thing?
Oh, I couldn't! cried Sylvia. I can't let poor father remain a
mule all his life when one wordand yet what am I to do?
Horace, what shall I say? Advise me.... Advise me!
Heaven help us both! groaned Ventimore. If I could only see the
right thing to do. Look here, Mr. Fakrash, he added, this is a matter
that requires consideration. Will you relieve us of your presence for a
short time, while we talk it over?
With all my heart, said the Jinnee, in the most obliging manner in
the world, and vanished instantly.
Now, darling, began Horace, after he had gone, if that
unspeakable old scoundrel is really in earnest, there's no denying that
he's got us in an extremely tight place. But I can't bring myself to
believe that he does mean it. I fancy he's only trying us. And
what I want you to do is not to consider me in the matter at all.
How can I help it? said poor Sylvia. Horace, youyou don't
want to be released, do you?
I? said Horace, when you are all I have in the world! That's so
likely, Sylvia! But we are bound to look facts in the face. To begin
with, even if this hadn't happened, your people wouldn't let our
engagement continue. For my prospects have changed again, dearest. I'm
even worse off than when we first met, for that confounded Jinnee has
contrived to lose my first and only client for methe one thing worth
having he ever gave me. And he told her the story of the mushroom
palace and Mr. Wackerbath's withdrawal. So you see, darling, he
concluded, I haven't even a home to offer you; and if I had, it would
be miserably uncomfortable for you with that old Marplot continually
dropping in on usespecially if, as I'm afraid he has, he's taken some
unreasonable dislike to you.
But surely you can talk him over? said Sylvia; you said you could
do anything you liked with him.
I'm beginning to find, he replied, ruefully enough, that he's not
so easily managed as I thought. And for the present, I'm afraid, if we
are to get the Professor out of this, that there's nothing for it but
to humour old Fakrash.
Then you actually advise me toto break it off? she cried; I
never thought you would do that!
For your own sake, said Horace; for your father's sake. If you
won't, Sylvia, I must. And you will spare me that? Let us both
agree to part andand trust that we shall be united some day.
Don't try to deceive me or yourself, Horace, she said; if we part
now, it will be for ever.
He had a dismal conviction that she was right. We must hope for the
best, he said drearily; Fakrash may have some motive in all this we
don't understand. Or he may relent. But part we must, for the present.
Very well, she said. If he restores dad, I will give you up. But
Hath the damsel decided? asked the Jinnee, suddenly re-appearing;
for the period of deliberation is past.
Miss Futvoye and I, Horace answered for her, are willing to
consider our engagement at an end, until you approve of its renewal, on
condition that you restore her father at once.
Agreed! said Fakrash. Conduct me to him, and we will arrange the
matter without delay.
Outside they met Mrs. Futvoye on her way from the study. You here,
Horace? she exclaimed. And who is thisgentleman?
This, said Horace, is theerauthor of the Professor's
misfortunes, and he had come here at my request to undo his work.
It would be so kind of him! exclaimed the distressed lady,
who was by this time far beyond either surprise or resentment. I'm
sure, if he knew all we have gone through! and she led the way to
her husband's room.
As soon as the door was opened the Professor seemed to recognise his
tormentor in spite of his changed raiment, and was so powerfully
agitated that he actually reeled on his four legs, and stood over in
a lamentable fashion.
O man of distinguished attainments! began the Jinnee, whom I have
caused, for reasons that are known unto thee, to assume the shape of a
mule, speak, I adjure thee, and tell me where thou hast deposited the
inscribed seal which is in thy possession.
The Professor spoke; and the effect of articulate speech proceeding
from the mouth of what was to all outward seeming an ordinary mule was
strange beyond description. I'll see you damned first, he said
sullenly. You can't do worse to me than you've done already!
As thou wilt, said Fakrash; but unless I regain it, I will not
restore thee to what thou wast.
Well, then, said the mule, savagely, you'll find it in the top
right-hand drawer of my writing-table: the key is in that diorite bowl
on the mantelpiece.
The Jinnee unlocked the drawer, and took out the metal cap, which he
placed in the breast pocket of his incongruous frock-coat. So far,
well, he said; next thou must deliver up to me the transcription thou
hast made, and swear to preserve an inviolable secrecy regarding the
Do you know what you're asking, sir? said the mule, laying back
his ears viciously. Do you think that to oblige you I'm going to
suppress one of the most remarkable discoveries of my whole scientific
career? Never, sirnever!
Since if thou refusest I shall assuredly deprive thee of speech
once more and leave thee a mule, as thou art now, of hideous
appearance, said the Jinnee, thou art like to gain little by a
discovery which thou wilt be unable to impart. However, the choice
rests with thee.
The mule rolled his one eye, and showed all his teeth in a vicious
snarl. You've got the whip-hand of me, he said, and I may as well
give in. There's a transcript inside my blotting-caseit's the only
copy I've made.
Fakrash found the paper, which he rubbed into invisibility between
his palms, as any ordinary conjurer might do.
Now raise thy right forefoot, he said, and swear by all thou
holdest sacred never to divulge what thou hast learntwhich oath the
Professor, in the vilest of tempers, took, clumsily enough.
Good, said the Jinnee, with a grim smile. Now let one of thy
women bring me a cup of fair water.
Sylvia went out, and came back with a cup of water. It's filtered,
she said anxiously; I don't know if that will do?
It will suffice, said Fakrash. Let both the women withdraw.
Surely, remonstrated Mrs. Futvoye, you don't mean to turn his
wife and daughter out of the room at such a moment as this? We shall be
perfectly quiet, and we may even be of some help.
Do as you're told, my dear! snapped the ungrateful mule; do as
you're told. You'll only be in the way here. Do you suppose he doesn't
know his own beastly business?
They left accordingly; whereupon Fakrash took the cupan ordinary
breakfast cup with a Greek key-border pattern in pale blue round the
topand, drenching the mule with the contents, exclaimed, Quit this
form and return to the form in which thou wast!
For a dreadful moment or two it seemed as if no effect was to be
produced; the animal simply stood and shivered, and Ventimore began to
feel an agonising suspicion that the Jinnee really had, as he had first
asserted, forgotten how to perform this particular incantation.
All at once the mule reared, and began to beat the air frantically
with his fore-hoofs; after which he fell heavily backward into the
nearest armchair (which was, fortunately, a solid and capacious piece
of furniture) with his fore-legs hanging limply at his side, in a
semi-human fashion. There was a brief convulsion, and then, by some
gradual process unspeakably impressive to witness, the man seemed to
break through the mule, the mule became merged in the manand
Professor Futvoye, restored to his own natural form and habit, sat
gasping and trembling in the chair before them.
CHAPTER XIV. SINCE THERE'S NO HELP,
COME, LET US KISS AND PART!
As soon as the Professor seemed to have regained his faculties,
Horace opened the door and called in Sylvia and her mother, who were,
as was only to be expected, overcome with joy on seeing the head of the
family released from his ignoble condition of a singularly ill-favoured
There, there, said the Professor, as he submitted to their
embraces and incoherent congratulations, it's nothing to make a fuss
about. I'm quite myself again, as you can see. And, he added, with an
unreasonable outburst of ill-temper, if one of you had only had the
common sense to think of such a simple remedy as sprinkling a little
cold water over me when I was first taken like that, I should have been
spared a great deal of unnecessary inconvenience. But that's always the
way with womenlose their heads the moment anything goes wrong! If I
had not kept perfectly cool myself
It was very, very stupid of us not to think of it, papa, said
Sylvia, tactfully ignoring the fact that there was scarcely an
undamaged article in the room; still, you know, if we had
thrown the water it mightn't have had the same effect.
I'm not in a condition to argue now, said her father; you didn't
trouble to try it, and there's no more to be said.
No more to be said! exclaimed Fakrash. O thou monster of
ingratitude, hast thou no thanks for him who hath delivered thee from
As I am already indebted to you, sir, said the Professor, for
about twenty-four hours of the most poignant and humiliating mental and
bodily anguish a human being can endure, inflicted for no valid reason
that I can discover, except the wanton indulgence of your unholy
powers, I can only say that any gratitude of which I am conscious is of
a very qualified description. As for you, Ventimore, he added, turning
to Horace, I don't knowI can only guess atthe part you have played
in this wretched business; but in any case you will understand, once
for all, that all relations between us must cease.
Papa, said Sylvia, tremulously, Horace and I have already agreed
thatthat we must separate.
At my bidding, explained Fakrash, suavely; for such an alliance
would be totally unworthy of his merits and condition.
This frankness was rather too much for the Professor, whose temper
had not been improved by his recent trials.
Nobody asked for your opinion, sir! he snapped. A person who has
only recently been released from a term of long and, from all I have
been able to ascertain, well-deserved imprisonment, is scarcely
entitled to pose as an authority on social rank. Have the decency not
to interfere again with my domestic affairs.
Excellent is the saying, remarked the imperturbable Jinnee, 'Let
the rat that is between the paws of the leopard observe rigidly all the
rules of politeness and refrain from words of provocation.' For to
return thee to the form of a mule once more would be no difficult
I think I failed to make myself clear, the Professor hastened to
observefailed to make myself clear. II merely meant to
congratulate you on your fortunate escape from the consequences of what
II don't doubt was an error of justice. II am sure that, in the
future, you will employ youryour very remarkable abilities to better
purpose, and I would suggest that the greatest service you can do this
unfortunate young man here is to abstain from any further attempts to
promote his interests.
Hear, hear! Horace could not help throwing in, though in so
discreet an undertone that it was inaudible.
Far be this from me, replied Fakrash. For he has become unto me
even as a favourite son, whom I design to place upon the golden
pinnacle of felicity. Therefore, I have chosen for him a wife, who is
unto this damsel of thine as the full moon to the glow-worm, and as the
bird of Paradise to an unfledged sparrow. And the nuptials shall be
celebrated before many hours.
Horace! cried Sylvia, justly incensed, whywhy didn't you
tell me this before?
Because, said the unhappy Horace, this is the very first I've
heard of it. He's always springing some fresh surprise on me, he
added, in a whisperbut they never come to anything much. And he
can't marry me against my will, you know.
No, said Sylvia, biting her lip. I never supposed he could do
I'll settle this at once, he replied. Now, look here, Mr.
Jinnee, he added, I don't know what new scheme you have got in your
headbut if you are proposing to marry me to anybody in
Have I not informed thee that I have it in contemplation to obtain
for thee the hand of a King's daughter of marvellous beauty and
You know perfectly well you never mentioned it before, said
Horace, while Sylvia gave a little low cry.
Repine not, O damsel, counselled the Jinnee, since it is for his
welfare. For, though as yet he believeth it not, when he beholds the
resplendent beauty of her countenance he will swoon away with delight
and forget thy very existence.
I shall do nothing of the sort, said Horace, savagely. Just
understand that I don't intend to marry any Princess. You may prevent
mein fact, you havefrom marrying this lady, but you can't
force me to marry anybody else. I defy you!
When thou hast seen thy bride's perfections thou wilt need no
compulsion, said Fakrash. And if thou shouldst refuse, know this:
that thou wilt be exposing those who are dear to thee in this household
to calamities of the most unfortunate description.
The awful vagueness of this threat completely crushed Horace; he
could not think, he did not even dare to imagine, what consequences he
might bring upon his beloved Sylvia and her helpless parents by
persisting in his refusal.
Give me time, he said heavily; I want to talk this over with
Pardon me, Ventimore, said the Professor, with acidulous
politeness; but, interesting as the discussion of your matrimonial
arrangements is to you and youraprotector, I should greatly prefer
that you choose some more fitting place for arriving at a decision
which is in the circumstances a foregone conclusion. I am rather tired
and upset, and I should be obliged if you and this gentleman could
bring this most trying interview to a close as soon as you conveniently
You hear, Mr. Fakrash? said Horace, between his teeth, it is
quite time we left. If you go at once, I will follow you very shortly.
Thou wilt find me awaiting thee, answered the Jinnee, and, to Mrs.
Futvoye's and Sylvia's alarm, disappeared through one of the bookcases.
Well, said Horace, gloomily, you see how I'm situated? That
obstinate old devil has cornered me. I'm done for!
Don't say that, said the Professor; you appear to be on the eve
of a most brilliant alliance, in which I am sure you have our best
wishesthe best wishes of us all, he added pointedly.
Sylvia, said Horace, still lingering, before I go, tell me that,
whatever I may have to do, you will understand thatthat it will be
for your sake!
Please don't talk like that, she said. We may never see one
another again. Don't let my last recollection of you be ofof a
A hypocrite! he cried. Sylvia, this is too much! What have I said
or done to make you think me that?
Oh, I am not so simple as you suppose, Horace, she replied. I see
now why all this has happened: why poor dad was tormented; why you
insisted on my setting you free. But I would have released you without
that! Indeed, all this elaborate artifice wasn't in the least
You believe I was an accomplice in that old fool's plot? he said.
You believe me such a cur as that?
I don't blame you, she said. I don't believe you could help
yourself. He can make you do whatever he chooses. And then, you are so
rich now, it is natural that you should want to marry some onesome
one more suited to youlike this lovely Princess of yours.
Of mine! groaned the exasperated Horace. When I tell you I've
never even seen her! As if any Princess in the world would marry me to
please a Jinnee out of a brass bottle! And if she did, Sylvia, you
can't believe that any Princess would make me forget you!
It depends so very much on the Princess, was all Sylvia could be
induced to say.
Well, said Horace, if that's all the faith you have in me, I
suppose it's useless to say any more. Good-bye, Mrs. Futvoye; good-bye,
Professor. I wish I could tell you how deeply I regret all the trouble
I have brought on you by my own folly. All I can say is, that I will
bear anything in future rather than expose you or any of you to the
I trust, indeed, said the Professor, stiffly, that you will use
all the influence at your command to secure me from any repetition of
an experience that might well have unmanned a less equable temperament
than my own.
Good-bye, Horace, said Mrs. Futvoye, more kindly. I believe you
are more to be pitied than blamed, whatever others may think. And I
don't forgetif Anthony doesthat, but for you, he might, instead of
sitting there comfortably in his armchair, be lashing out with his hind
legs and kicking everything to pieces at this very moment!
I deny that I lashed out! said the Professor. Myahind
quarters may have been under imperfect controlbut I never lost my
reasoning powers or my good humour for a single instant. I can say that
If the Professor could say that truthfully amidst the general wreck
in which he sat, like another Marius, he had little to learn in the
gentle art of self-deception; but there was nothing to gain by
contradicting him then.
Good-bye, Sylvia, said Horace, and held out his hand.
Good-bye, she said, without offering to take it or look at
himand, after a miserable pause, he left the study. But before he had
reached the front door he heard a swish and swirl of drapery behind
him, and felt her light hand on his arm. Ah, no! she said, clinging
to him, I can't let you go like this. I didn't mean all the things I
said just now. I do believe in you, Horaceat least, I'll try
hard to.... And I shall always, always love you, Horace.... I
shan't carevery mucheven if you do forget me, so long as you are
happy.... Only don't be too happy. Think of me sometimes!
I shall not be too happy, he said, as he held her close to
his heart and kissed her pathetically drawn mouth and flushed cheeks.
And I shall think of you always.
And you won't fall in love with your Princess? entreated Sylvia,
at the end of her altruism. Promise!
If I am ever provided with one, he replied, I shall loathe
herfor not being you. But don't let us lose heart, darling. There
must be some way of talking that old idiot out of this nonsense and
bringing him round to common sense. I'm not going to give in just yet!
These were brave wordsbut, as they both felt, the situation had
little enough to warrant them, and, after one last long embrace, they
parted, and he was no sooner on the steps than he felt himself caught
up as before and borne through the air with breathless speed, till he
was set down, he could not have well said how, in a chair in his own
sitting-room at Vincent Square.
Well, he said, looking at the Jinnee, who was standing opposite
with a smile of intolerable complacency, I suppose you feel satisfied
with yourself over this business?
It hath indeed been brought to a favourable conclusion, said
Fakrash. Well hath the poet written
I don't think I can stand any more 'Elegant Extracts' this
afternoon, interrupted Horace. Let us come to business. You seem, he
went on, with a strong effort to keep himself in hand, to have formed
some plan for marrying me to a King's daughter. May I ask you for full
No honour and advancement can be in excess of thy deserts,
answered the Jinnee.
Very kind of you to say sobut you are probably unaware that, as
society is constituted at the present time, the objections to such an
alliance would be quite insuperable.
For me, said the Jinnee, few obstacles are insuperable. But speak
thy mind freely.
I will, said Horace. To begin with, no European Princess of the
Blood Royal would entertain the idea for a moment. And if she did, she
would forfeit her rank and cease to be a Princess, and I should
probably be imprisoned in a fortress for lèse majesté or
Dismiss thy fears, for I do not propose to unite thee to any
Princess that is born of mortals. The bride I intend for thee is a
Jinneeyeh; the peerless Bedeea-el-Jemal, daughter of my kinsman
Shahyal, the Ruler of the Blue Jann.
Oh, is she, though? said Horace, blankly. I'm exceedingly
obliged, but, whatever may be the lady's attractions
Her nose, recited the Jinnee, with enthusiasm, is like unto the
keen edge of a polished sword; her hair resembleth jewels, and her
cheeks are ruddy as wine. She hath heavy lips, and when she looketh
aside she putteth to shame the wild cows....
My good, excellent friend, said Horace, by no means impressed by
this catalogue of charms, one doesn't marry to mortify wild cows.
When she walketh with a vacillating gait, continued Fakrash, as
though he had not been interrupted, the willow branch itself turneth
green with envy.
Personally, said Horace, a waddle doesn't strike me as
particularly fascinatingit's quite a matter of taste. Do you happen
to have seen this enchantress lately?
My eyes have not been refreshed by her manifold beauties since I
was enclosed by Suleymanwhose name be accursedin the brass bottle
of which thou knowest. Why dost thou ask?
Merely because it occurred to me that, after very nearly three
thousand years, your charming kinswoman maywell, to put it as mildly
as possible, not have altogether escaped the usual effects of Time. I
mean, she must be getting on, you know!
O, silly-bearded one! said the Jinnee, in half-scornful rebuke;
art thou, then, ignorant that we of the Jinn are not as mortals, that
we should feel the ravages of age?
Forgive me if I'm personal, said Horace; but surely your own hair
and beard might be described as rather inclining to grey.
Not from age, said Fakrash, This cometh from long confinement.
I see, said Horace. Like the Prisoner of Chillon. Well, assuming
that the lady in question is still in the bloom of early youth, I see
one fatal difficulty to becoming her suitor.
Doubtless, said the Jinnee, thou art referring to Jarjarees, the
son of Rejmoos, the son of Iblees?
No, I wasn't, said Horace; because, you see, I don't remember
having ever heard of him. However, he's another fatal
difficulty. That makes two of them.
Surely I have spoken of him to thee as my deadliest foe? It is true
that he is a powerful and vindictive Efreet, who hath long persecuted
the beauteous Bedeea with hateful attentions. Yet it may be possible,
by good fortune, to overthrow him.
Then I gather that any suitor for Bedeea's hand would be looked
upon as a rival by the amiable Jarjarees?
Far is he from being of an amiable disposition, answered the
Jinnee, simply, and he would be so transported by rage and jealousy
that he would certainly challenge thee to mortal combat.
Then that settles it, said Horace. I don't think any one can
fairly call me a coward, but I do draw the line at fighting an Efreet
for the hand of a lady I've never seen. How do I know he'll fight
He would probably appear unto thee first in the form of a lion, and
if he could not thus prevail against thee, transform himself into a
serpent, and then into a buffalo or some other wild beast.
And I should have to tackle the entire menagerie? said Horace.
Why, my dear sir, I should never get beyond the lion!
I would assist thee to assume similar transformations, said the
Jinnee, and thus thou mayst be enabled to defeat him. For I burn with
desire to behold mine enemy reduced to cinders.
It's much more likely that you would have to sweep me up!
said Horace, who had a strong conviction that anything in which the
Jinnee was concerned would be bungled somehow. And if you're so
anxious to destroy this Jarjarees, why don't you challenge him to meet
you in some quiet place in the desert and settle him yourself? It's
much more in your line than it is in mine!
He was not without hopes that Fakrash might act on this suggestion,
and that so he would be relieved of him in the simplest and most
satisfactory way; but any such hopes were as usual doomed to
It would be of no avail, said the Jinnee, for it hath been
written of old that Jarjarees shall not perish save by the hand of a
mortal. And I am persuaded that thou wilt turn out to be that mortal,
since thou art both strong and fearless, and, moreover, it is also
predestined that Bedeea shall wed one of the sons of men.
Then, said Horace, feeling that this line of defence must be
abandoned, I fall back on objection number one. Even if Jarjarees were
obliging enough to retire in my favour, I should still decline to
become theaconsort of a Jinneeyeh whom I've never seen, and don't
Thou hast heard of her incomparable charms, and verily the ear may
love before the eye.
It may, admitted Horace, but neither of my ears is the
least in love at present.
These reasons are of no value, said Fakrash, and if thou hast
Well, said Ventimore, I think I have. You profess to be anxious
toto requite the trifling service I rendered you, though hitherto,
you'll admit yourself, you haven't made a very brilliant success of it.
But, putting the past aside, he continued, with a sudden dryness in
his throat; putting the past aside, I ask you to consider what
possible benefit or happiness such a match as thisI'm afraid I'm not
so fortunate as to secure your attention? he broke off, as he observed
the Jinnee's eyes beginning to film over in the disagreeable manner
characteristic of certain birds.
Proceed, said Fakrash, unskinning his eyes for a second; I am
hearkening unto thee.
It seems to me, stammered Horace, inconsequently enough, that all
that time inside a bottlewell, you can't call it experience
exactly; and possibly in the interval you've forgotten all you knew
about feminine nature. I think you must have.
It is not possible that such knowledge should be forgotten, said
the Jinnee, resenting this imputation in quite a human way. Thy words
appear to me to lack sense. Interpret them, I pray thee.
Why, explained Horace, you don't mean to tell me that this young
and lovely relation of yours, a kind of immortal, andand with the
devil's own pride, would be gratified by your proposal to bestow her
hand upon an insignificant and unsuccessful London architect? She'd
turn up that sharp and polished nose of hers at the mere idea of so
unequal a match!
An excellent rank is that conferred by wealth, remarked the
But I'm not rich, and I've already declined any riches from
you, said Horace. And, what's more to the point, I'm perfectly and
hopelessly obscure. If you had the slightest sense of humourwhich I
fear you have notyou would at once perceive the absurdity of
proposing to unite a radiant, ethereal, superhuman being to a
commonplace professional nonentity in a morning coat and a tall hat.
It's really too ridiculous!
What thou hast just said is not altogether without wisdom, said
Fakrash, to whom this was evidently a new point of view. Art thou,
indeed, so utterly unknown?
Unknown? repeated Horace; I should rather think I was! I'm simply
an inconsiderable unit in the population of the vastest city in the
world; or, rather, not a unita cipher. And, don't you see, a man to
be worthy of your exalted kinswoman ought to be a celebrity. There are
plenty of them about.
What meanest thou by a celebrity? inquired Fakrash, falling into
the trap more readily than Horace had ventured to hope.
Oh, well, a distinguished person, whose name is on everybody's
lips, who is honoured and praised by all his fellow-citizens. Now,
that kind of man no Jinneeyeh could look down upon.
I perceive, said Fakrash, thoughtfully. Yes, I was in danger of
committing a rash action. How do men honour such distinguished
individuals in these days?
They generally overfeed them, said Horace. In London the highest
honour a hero can be paid is to receive the freedom of the City, which
is only conferred in very exceptional cases, and for some notable
service. But, of course, there are other sorts of celebrities, as you
could see if you glanced through the society papers.
I cannot believe that thou, who seemest a gracious and talented
young man, can be indeed so obscure as thou hast represented.
My good sir, any of the flowers that blush unseen in the desert
air, or the gems concealed in ocean caves, so excellently described by
one of our poets, could give me points and a beating in the matter of
notoriety. I'll make you a sporting offer. There are over five million
inhabitants in this London of ours. If you go out into the streets and
ask the first five hundred you meet whether they know me, I don't mind
betting youwhat shall I say? a new hatthat you won't find half a
dozen who've ever even heard of my existence. Why not go out and see
To his surprise and gratification the Jinnee took this seriously. I
will go forth and make inquiry, he said, for I desire further
enlightenment concerning thy statements. But, remember, he added:
should I still require thee to wed the matchless Bedeea-el-Jemal, and
thou shouldst disobey me, thou wilt bring disaster, not on thine own
head, but on those thou art most desirous of protecting.
Yes, so you told me before, said Horace, brusquely. Good
evening. But Fakrash was already gone. In spite of all he had gone
through and the unknown difficulties before him, Ventimore was seized
with what Uncle Remus calls a spell of the dry grins at the thought
of the probable replies that the Jinnee would meet with in the course
of his inquiries. I'm afraid he won't be particularly impressed by the
politeness of a London crowd, he thought; but at least they'll
convince him that I am not exactly a prominent citizen. Then he'll give
up this idiotic match of hisI don't know, though. He's such a
pig-headed old fool that he may stick to it all the same. I may find
myself encumbered with a Jinneeyeh bride several centuries my senior
before I know where I am. No, I forget; there's the jealous Jarjarees
to be polished off first. I seem to remember something about a
quick-change combat with an Efreet in the Arabian Nights. I may as
well look it up, and see what may be in store for me.
And after dinner he went to his shelves and took down Lane's
three-volume edition of The Arabian Nights, which he set himself to
study with a new interest. It was long since he had looked into these
wondrous tales, old beyond all human calculation, and fresher, even
now, than the most modern of successful romances. After all, he was
tempted to think, they might possess quite as much historical value as
many works with graver pretentions to accuracy.
He found a full account of the combat with the Efreet in The Story
of the Second Royal Mendicant in the first volume, and was
unpleasantly surprised to discover that the Efreet's name was actually
given as Jarjarees, the son of Rejmoos, the son of Ibleesevidently
the same person to whom Fakrash had referred as his bitterest foe. He
was described as of hideous aspect, and had, it seemed, not only
carried off the daughter of the Lord of the Ebony Island on her wedding
night, but, on discovering her in the society of the Royal Mendicant,
had revenged himself by striking off her hands, her feet, and her head,
and transforming his human rival into an ape. Between this fellow and
old Fakrash, he reflected ruefully, at this point, I seem likely to
have a fairly lively time of it!
He read on till he reached the memorable encounter between the
King's daughter and Jarjarees, who presented himself in a most hideous
shape, with hands like winnowing forks, and legs like masts, and eyes
like burning torcheswhich was calculated to unnerve the stoutest
novice. The Efreet began by transforming himself from a lion to a
scorpion, upon which the Princess became a serpent; then he changed to
an eagle, and she to a vulture; he to a black cat, and she to a cock;
he to a fish, and she to a larger fish still.
If Fakrash can shove me through all that without a fatal hitch
somewhere, Ventimore told himself, I shall be agreeably disappointed
in him, But, after reading a few more lines, he cheered up. For the
Efreet finished as a flame, and the Princess as a body of fire. And
when we looked towards him, continued the narrator, we perceived that
he had become a heap of ashes.
Come, said Horace to himself, that puts Jarjarees out of action,
any way! The odd thing is that Fakrash should never have heard of it.
But, as he saw on reflection, it was not so very odd, after all, as
the incident had probably happened after the Jinnee had been consigned
to his brass bottle, where intelligence of any kind would be most
unlikely to reach him.
He worked steadily through the whole of the second volume and part
of the third; but, although he picked up a certain amount of
information upon Oriental habits and modes of thought and speech which
might come in useful later, it was not until he arrived at the 24th
Chapter of the third volume that his interest really revived.
For the 24th Chapter contained The Story of Seyf-el-Mulook and
Bedeea-el-Jemal, and it was only natural that he should be anxious to
know all that there was to know concerning the antecedents of one who
might be his fiancée before long. He read eagerly.
Bedeea, it appeared, was the lovely daughter of Shahyal, one of the
Kings of the Believing Jann; her fathernot Fakrash himself, as the
Jinnee had incorrectly representedhad offered her in marriage to no
less a personage than King Solomon himself, who, however, had preferred
the Queen of Sheba. Seyf, the son of the King of Egypt, afterwards fell
desperately in love with Bedeea, but she and her grandmother both
declared that between mankind and the Jann there could be no agreement.
And Seyf was a King's son! commented Horace. I needn't alarm
myself. She wouldn't be likely to have anything to say to me.
It's just as I told Fakrash.
His heart grew lighter still as he came to the end, for he learnt
that, after many adventures which need not be mentioned here, the
devoted Seyf did actually succeed in gaining the proud Bedeea as his
wife. Even Fakrash could not propose to marry me to some one who has a
husband already, he thought. Still, she may be a widow!
To his relief, however, the conclusion ran thus; Seyf-el-Mulook
lived with Bedeea-el-Jemal a most pleasant and agreeable life ... until
they were visited by the terminator of delights and the separator of
If that means anything at all, he reasoned, it means that Seyf
and Bedeea are both deceased. Even Jinneeyeh seem to be mortal. Or
perhaps she became so by marrying a mortal; I dare say that Fakrash
himself wouldn't have lasted all this time if he hadn't been bottled,
like a tinned tomato. But I'm glad I found this out, because Fakrash is
evidently unaware of it, and, if he should persist in any more
of this nonsense, I think I see my way now to getting the better of
So, with renewed hope and in vastly improved spirits, he went to bed
and was soon sound asleep.
CHAPTER XV. BLUSHING HONOURS
It was rather late the next morning when Ventimore opened his eyes,
to discover the Jinnee standing by the foot of his bed. Oh, it's
you, is it? he said sleepily. How did youaget on last night?
I gained such information as I desired, said Fakrash, guardedly;
and now, for the last time, I am come to ask thee whether thou wilt
still persist in refusing to wed the illustrious Bedeea-el-Jemal? And
have a care how thou answerest.
So you haven't given up the idea? said Horace. Well, since you
make such a point of it, I'll meet you as far as this. If you produce
the lady, and she consents to marry me, I won't decline the honour. But
there's one condition I really must insist on.
It is not for thee to make stipulations. Still, yet this once I
will hear thee.
I'm sure you'll see that it's only fair. Supposing, for any reason,
you can't persuade the Princess to meet me within a reasonable
timeshall we say a week?
Thou shalt be admitted to her presence within twenty-four hours,
said the Jinnee.
That's better still. Then, if I don't see her within twenty-four
hours, I am to be at liberty to infer that the negotiations are off,
and I may marry anybody else I please, without any opposition from you?
Is that understood?
It is agreed, said Fakrash, for I am confident that Bedeea will
accept thee joyfully.
We shall see, said Horace. But it might be as well if you went
and prepared her a little. I suppose you know where to find herand
you've only twenty-four hours, you know.
More than is needed, answered the Jinnee, with such childlike
confidence, that Horace felt almost ashamed of so easy a victory. But
the sun is already high. Arise, my son, put on these robesand with
this he flung on the bed the magnificent raiment which Ventimore had
last worn on the night of his disastrous entertainmentand when thou
hast broken thy fast, prepare to accompany me.
Before I agree to that, said Horace, sitting up in bed, I should
like to know where you're taking me to.
Obey me without demur, said Fakrash, or thou knowest the
It seemed to Horace that it was as well to humour him, and he got up
accordingly, washed and shaved, and, putting on his dazzling robe of
cloth-of-gold thickly sewn with gems, he joined Fakrashwho, by the
way, was similarly, if less gorgeously, arrayedin the sitting-room,
in a state of some mystification.
Eat quickly, commanded the Jinnee, for the time is short. And
Horace, after hastily disposing of a cold poached egg and a cup of
coffee, happened to go to the windows.
Good Heavens! he cried. What does all this mean?
He might well ask. On the opposite side of the road, by the railings
of the square, a large crowd had collected, all staring at the house in
eager expectation. As they caught sight of him they raised a cheer,
which caused him to retreat in confusion, but not before he had seen a
great golden chariot with six magnificent coal-black horses, and a
suite of swarthy attendants in barbaric liveries, standing by the
pavement below. Whose carriage is that? he asked.
It belongs to thee, said the Jinnee; descend then, and make thy
progress in it through the City.
I will not, said Horace. Even to oblige you I simply can't drive
along the streets in a thing like the band-chariot of a travelling
It is necessary, declared Fakrash. Must I again recall to thee
the penalty of disobedience?
Oh, very well, said Horace, irritably. If you insist on my making
a fool of myself, I suppose I must. But where am I to drive, and why?
That, replied Fakrash, thou shalt discover at the fitting
moment. And so, amidst the shouts of the spectators, Ventimore climbed
up into the strange-looking vehicle, while the Jinnee took his seat by
his side. Horace had a parting glimpse of Mr. and Mrs. Rapkin's
respective noses flattened against the basement window, and then two
dusky slaves mounted to a seat at the back of the chariot, and the
horses started off at a stately trot in the direction of Rochester Row.
I think you might tell me what all this means, he said. You've no
conception what an ass I feel, stuck up here like this!
Dismiss bashfulness from thee, since all this is designed to render
thee more acceptable in the eyes of the Princess Bedeea, said the
Horace said no more, though he could not but think that this parade
would be thrown away.
But as they turned into Victoria Street and seemed to be heading
straight for the Abbey, a horrible thought occurred to him. After all,
his only authority for the marriage and decease of Bedeea was the
Arabian Nights, which was not unimpeachable evidence. What if she
were alive and waiting for the arrival of the bridegroom? No one but
Fakrash would have conceived such an idea as marrying him to a
Jinneeyeh in Westminster Abbey; but he was capable of any extravagance,
and there were apparently no limits to his power.
Mr. Fakrash, he said hoarsely, surely this isn't mymy wedding
day? You're not going to have the ceremony there?
Nay, said the Jinnee, be not impatient. For this edifice would be
totally unfitted for the celebration of such nuptials as thine.
As he spoke, the chariot left the Abbey on the right and turned down
the Embankment. The relief was so intense that Horace's spirits rose
irrepressibly. It was absurd to suppose that even Fakrash could have
arranged the ceremony in so short a time. He was merely being taken for
a drive, and fortunately his best friends could not recognise him in
his Oriental disguise. And it was a glorious morning, with a touch of
frost in the air and a sky of streaky turquoise and pale golden clouds;
the broad river glittered in the sunshine; the pavements were lined
with admiring crowds, and the carriage rolled on amidst frantic
enthusiasm, like some triumphal car.
How they're cheering us! said Horace. Why, they couldn't make
more row for the Lord Mayor himself.
What is this Lord Mayor of whom thou speakest? inquired Fakrash.
The Lord Mayor? said Horace. Oh, he's unique. There's nobody in
the world quite like him. He administers the law, and if there's any
distress in any part of the earth he relieves it. He entertains
monarchs and Princes and all kinds of potentates at his banquets, and
altogether he's a tremendous swell.
Hath he dominion over the earth and the air and all that is
Within his own precincts, I believe he has, said Horace, rather
lazily, but I really don't know precisely how wide his powers are. He
was vainly trying to recollect whether such matters as sky-signs,
telephones, and telegraphs in the City were within the Lord Mayor's
jurisdiction or the County Council's.
Fakrash remained silent just as they were driving underneath Charing
Cross Railway Bridge, when he started perceptibly at the thunder of the
trains overhead and the piercing whistles of the engines. Tell me, he
said, clutching Horace by the arm, what meaneth this?
You don't mean to say, said Horace, that you have been about
London all these days, and never noticed things like these before?
Till now, said the Jinnee, I have had no leisure to observe them
and discover their nature.
Well, said Horace, anxious to let the Jinnee see that he had not
the monopoly of miracles, since your days we have discovered how to
tame or chain the great forces of Nature and compel them to do our
will. We control the Spirits of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, and make
them give us light and heat, carry our messages, fight our quarrels for
us, transport us wherever we wish to go, with a certainty and precision
that throw even your performances, my dear sir, entirely into the
Considering what a very large majority of civilised persons would be
as powerless to construct the most elementary machine as to create the
humblest kind of horse, it is not a little odd how complacently we
credit ourselves with all the latest achievements of our generation.
Most of us accept the amazement of the simple-minded barbarian on his
first introduction to modern inventions as a gratifying personal
tribute: we feel a certain superiority, even if we magnanimously
refrain from boastfulness. And yet our own particular share in these
discoveries is limited to making use of them under expert guidance,
which any barbarian, after overcoming his first terror, is quite as
competent to do as we are.
It is a harmless vanity enough, and especially pardonable in
Ventimore's case, when it was so desirable to correct any tendency to
uppishness on the part of the Jinnee.
And doth the Lord Mayor dispose of these forces at his will?
inquired Fakrash, on whom Ventimore's explanation had evidently
produced some impression.
Certainly, said Horace; whenever he has occasion.
The Jinnee seemed engrossed in his own thoughts, for he said no more
They were now nearing St. Paul's Cathedral, and Horace's first
suspicion returned with double force.
Mr. Fakrash, answer me, he said. Is this my wedding day or not?
If it is, it's time I was told!
Not yet, said the Jinnee, enigmatically, and indeed it proved to
be another false alarm, for they turned down Cannon Street and towards
the Mansion House.
Perhaps you can tell me why we're going through Victoria Street,
and what all this crowd has come out for? asked Ventimore. For the
throng was denser than ever; the people surged and swayed in serried
ranks behind the City police, and gazed with a wonder and awe that for
once seemed to have entirely silenced the Cockney instinct of
For what else but to do thee honour? answered Fakrash.
What bosh! said Horace. They mistake me for the Shah or
somebodyand no wonder, in this get-up.
Not so, said the Jinnee. Thy names are familiar to them.
Horace glanced up at the hastily improvised decorations; on one
large strip of bunting which spanned the street he read: Welcome to
the City's most distinguished guest! They can't mean me, he thought;
and then another legend caught his eye: Well done, Ventimore! And an
enthusiastic householder next door had burst into poetry and displayed
Would we had twenty more
Like Horace Ventimore!
They do mean me! he exclaimed. Now, Mr. Fakrash, will
you kindly explain what tomfoolery you've been up to now? I know you're
at the bottom of this business.
It struck him that the Jinnee was slightly embarrassed. Didst thou
not say, he replied, that he who should receive the freedom of the
City from his fellow-men would be worthy of Bedeea-el-Jemal?
I may have said something of the sort. But, good heavens! you don't
mean that you have contrived that I should receive the freedom
of the City?
It was the easiest affair possible, said the Jinnee, but he did
not attempt to meet Horace's eye.
Was it, though? said Horace, in a white rage. I don't want to be
inquisitive, but I should like to know what I've done to deserve it?
Why trouble thyself with the reason? Let it suffice thee that such
honour is bestowed upon thee.
By this time the chariot had crossed Cheapside and was entering King
This really won't do! urged Horace. It's not fair to me. Either
I've done something, or you must have made the Corporation believe
I've done something, to be received like this. And, as we shall be in
the Guildhall in a very few seconds, you may as well tell me what it
Regarding that matter, replied the Jinnee, in some confusion, I
am truly as ignorant as thyself.
As he spoke they drove through some temporary wooden gates into the
courtyard, where the Honourable Artillery Company presented arms to
them, and the carriage drew up before a large marquee decorated with
shields and clustered banners.
Well, Mr. Fakrash, said Horace, with suppressed fury, as he
alighted, you have surpassed yourself this time. You've got me into a
nice scrape, and you'll have to pull me through it as well as you can.
Have no uneasiness, said the Jinnee, as he accompanied his
protégé into the marquee, which was brilliant with pretty women in
smart frocks, officers in scarlet tunics and plumed hats, and servants
in State liveries.
Their entrance was greeted by a politely-subdued buzz of applause
and admiration, and an official, who introduced himself as the Prime
Warden of the Candlestick-makers' Company, advanced to meet them. The
Lord Mayor will receive you in the library, he said. If you will have
the kindness to follow me
Horace followed him mechanically. I'm in for it now, he thought,
whatever it is. If I can only trust Fakrash to back me upbut I'm
hanged if I don't believe he's more nervous than I am!
As they came into the noble Library of the Guildhall a fine string
band struck up, and Horace, with the Jinnee in his rear, made his way
through a lane of distinguished spectators towards a dais, on the steps
of which, in his gold-trimmed robes and black-feather hat, stood the
Lord Mayor, with his sword and mace-bearers on either hand, and behind
him a row of beaming sheriffs.
A truly stately and imposing figure did the Chief Magistrate for
that particular year present: tall, dignified, with a lofty forehead
whose polished temples reflected the light, an aquiline nose, and
piercing black eyes under heavy white eyebrows, a frosty pink in his
wrinkled cheeks, and a flowing silver beard with a touch of gold still
lingering under the lower lip: he seemed, as he stood there, a worthy
representative of the greatest and richest city in the world.
Horace approached the steps with an unpleasant sensation of weakness
at the knees, and no sort of idea what he was expected to do or say
when he arrived.
And, in his perplexity, he turned for support and guidance to his
self-constituted mentoronly to discover that the Jinnee, whose
short-sightedness and ignorance had planted him in this present false
position, had mysteriously and perfidiously disappeared, and left him
to grapple with the situation single-handed.
CHAPTER XVI. A KILLING FROST
Fortunately for Ventimore, the momentary dismay he had felt on
finding himself deserted by his unfathomable Jinnee at the very outset
of the ceremony passed unnoticed, as the Prime Warden of the
Candlestick-makers' Company immediately came to his rescue by briefly
introducing him to the Lord Mayor, who, with dignified courtesy, had
descended to the lowest step of the dais to receive him.
Mr. Ventimore, said the Chief Magistrate, cordially, as he pressed
Horace's hand, you must allow me to say that I consider this one of
the greatest privilegesif not the greatest privilegethat
have fallen to my lot during a term of office in which I have had the
honour of welcoming more than the usual number of illustrious
My Lord Mayor, said Horace, with absolute sincerity, you really
overwhelm me. II only wish I could feel that I had done anything to
deserve thisthis magnificent compliment!
Ah! replied the Lord Mayor, in a paternally rallying tone.
Modest, my dear sir, I perceive. Like all truly great men! A most
admirable trait! Permit me to present you to the Sheriffs.
The Sheriffs appeared highly delighted. Horace shook hands with both
of them; indeed, in the flurry of the moment he very nearly offered to
do so with the Sword and Mace bearers as well, but their hands were, as
it happened, otherwise engaged.
The actual presentation, said the Lord Mayor, takes place in the
Great Hall, as you are doubtless aware.
II have been given to understand so, said Horace, with a sinking
heartfor he had begun to hope that the worst was over.
But before we adjourn, said his host, you will let me tempt you
to partake of some slight refreshmentjust a snack?
Horace was not hungry, but it occurred to him that he might get
through the ceremony with more credit after a glass of champagne; so he
accepted the invitation, and was conducted to an extemporised buffet at
one end of the Library, where he fortified himself for the impending
ordeal with a caviare sandwich and a bumper of the driest
champagne in the Corporation cellars.
They talk of abolishing us, said the Lord Mayor, as he took an
anchovy on toast; but I maintain, Mr. VentimoreI maintain that we,
with our ancient customs, our time-honoured traditions, form a link
with the past, which a wise statesman will preserve, if I may employ a
somewhat vulgar term, untinkered with.
Horace agreed, remembering a link with a far more ancient past with
which he devoutly wished he had refrained from tinkering.
Talking of ancient customs, the Lord Mayor continued, with an odd
blend of pride and apology, you will shortly have an illustration of
our antiquated procedure, which may impress you as quaint.
Horace, feeling absolutely idiotic, murmured that he felt sure it
would do that.
Before presenting you for the freedom, the Prime Warden and five
officials of the Candlestick-makers' Company will give their testimony
as compurgators in your favour, making oath that you are 'a man of good
name and fame,' and that (you will be amused at this, Mr.
Ventimore)that you 'do desire the freedom of this city, whereby to
defraud the Queen or the City.' Ha, ha! Curious way of putting it, is
Very, said Horace, guiltily, and not a little concerned on the
A mere form! said the Lord Mayor; but I for one, Mr. VentimoreI
for one should be sorry to see the picturesque old practices die out.
To my mind, he added, as he finished a pâté de foie gras
sandwich, the modern impatience to sweep away all the ancient
landmarks (whether they be superannuated or not) is one of the most
disquieting symptoms of the age. You won't have any more champagne?
Then I think we had better be making our way to the Great Hall for the
Event of the Day.
I'm afraid, said Horace, with a sudden consciousness of his
incongruously Oriental attireI'm afraid this is not quite the sort
of dress for such a ceremony. If I had known
Now, don't say another word! said the Lord Mayor. Your costume is
very nicevery nice indeed, andand most appropriate, I am sure. But
I see the City Marshal is waiting for us to head the procession. Shall
we lead the way?
The band struck up the March of the Priests from Athalie, and
Horace, his head in a whirl, walked with his host, followed by the City
Lands Committee, the Sheriffs, and other dignitaries, through the Art
Gallery and into the Great Hall, where their entrance was heralded by a
flourish of trumpets.
The Hall was crowded, and Ventimore found himself the object of a
popular demonstration which would have filled him with joy and pride if
he could only have felt that he had done anything whatever to justify
it, for it was ridiculous to suppose that he had rendered himself a
public benefactor by restoring a convicted Jinnee to freedom and
His only consolation was that the English are a race not given to
effusiveness without very good reason, and that before the ceremony was
over he would be enabled to gather what were the particular services
which had excited such unbounded enthusiasm.
Meanwhile he stood there on the crimson-draped and flower-bedecked
dais, bowing repeatedly, and trusting that he did not look so forlornly
foolish as he felt. A long shaft of sunlight struck down between the
Gothic rafters, and dappled the brown stone walls with patches of gold;
the electric lights in the big hooped chandeliers showed pale and
feeble against the subdued glow of the stained glass; the air was heavy
with the scent of flowers and essences. Then there was a rustle of
expectation in the audience, and a pause, in which it seemed to Horace
that everybody on the dais was almost as nervous and at a loss what to
do next as he was himself. He wished with all his soul that they would
hurry the ceremony through, anyhow, and let him go.
At length the proceedings began by a sort of solemn affectation of
having merely met there for the ordinary business of the day, which to
Horace just then seemed childish in the extreme; it was resolved that
items 1 to 4 on the agenda need not be discussed, which brought them
to item 5.
Item 5 was a resolution, read by the Town Clerk, that the freedom
of the City should be presented to Horace Ventimore, Esq., Citizen and
Candlestick-maker (which last Horace was not aware of being, but
supposed vaguely that it had been somehow managed while he was at the
buffet in the Library), in recognition of his servicesthe
resolution ran, and Horace listened with all his earsespecially in
connection with ... It was most unfortunatebut at this precise point
the official was seized with an attack of coughing, in which all was
lost but the conclusion of the sentence, ... that have justly
entitled him to the gratitude and admiration of his fellow-countrymen.
Then the six compurgators came forward and vouched for Ventimore's
fitness to receive the freedom. He had painful doubts whether they
altogether understood what a responsibility they were undertakingbut
it was too late to warn them and he could only trust that they knew
more of their business than he did.
After this the City Chamberlain read him an address, to which Horace
listened in resigned bewilderment. The Chamberlain referred to the
unanimity and enthusiasm with which the resolution had been carried,
and said that it was his pleasing and honourable duty, as the
mouthpiece of that ancient City, to address what he described with some
inadequacy as a few words to one by adding whose name to their roll
of freemen the Corporation honoured rather themselves than the
recipient of their homage.
It was flattering, but to Horace's ear the phrases sounded
excessive, almost fulsomethough, of course, that depended very much
on what he had done, which he had still to ascertain. The orator
proceeded to read him the Illustrious List of London's Roll of Fame,
a recital which made Horace shiver with apprehension. For what names
they were! What glorious deeds they had performed! How was it possible
that heplain Horace Ventimore, a struggling architect who had missed
his one great chancecould have achieved (especially without even
being aware of it) anything that would not seem ludicrously
insignificant by comparison?
He had a morbid fancy that the marble goddesses, or whoever they
were, at the base of Nelson's monument opposite, were regarding him
with stony disdain and indignation; that the statue of Wellington knew
him for an arrant impostor, and averted his head with cold contempt;
and that the effigy of Lord Mayor Beckford on the right of the dais
would come to life and denounce him in another moment.
Turning now to your own distinguished services, he suddenly heard
the City Chamberlain resuming, you are probably aware, sir, that it is
customary on these occasions to mention specifically the particular
merit which had been deemed worthy of civic recognition.
Horace was greatly relieved to hear it, for it struck him as a most
sensible and, in his own particular case, essential formality.
But, on the present occasion, sir, proceeded the speaker, I feel,
as all present must feel, that it would be unnecessarynay, almost
impertinentwere I to weary the public ear by a halting recapitulation
of deeds with which it is already so appreciatively familiar. At this
he was interrupted by deafening and long-continued applause, at the end
of which he continued: I have only therefore, to greet you in the name
of the Corporation, and to offer you the right hand of fellowship as a
Freeman, and Citizen, and Candlestick-maker of London.
As he shook hands he presented Horace with a copy of the Oath of
Allegiance, intimating that he was to read it aloud. Naturally,
Ventimore had not the least objection to swear to be good and true to
our Sovereign Lady Queen Victoria, or to be obedient to the Lord Mayor,
and warn him of any conspiracies against the Queen's peace which might
chance to come under his observation; so he took the oath cheerfully
enough, and hoped that this was really the end of the ceremony.
However, to his great chagrin and apprehension, the Lord Mayor rose
with the evident intention of making a speech. He said that the
conclusion of the City to bestow the highest honour in their gift upon
Mr. Horace Ventimore had beenhere he hesitatedsomewhat hastily
arrived at. Personally, he would have liked a longer time to prepare,
to make the display less inadequate to, and worthier of, this
exceptional occasion. He thought that was the general feeling. (It
evidently was, judging from the loud and unanimous cheering). However,
for reasons whichfor reasons with which they were as well acquainted
as himself, the notice had been short. The Corporation had yielded (as
they always did, as it would always be their pride and pleasure to
yield) to popular pressure which was practically irresistible, and had
done the best they could in the limitedhe might almost say the
unprecedentedly limitedperiod allowed them. The proudest leaf in Mr.
Ventimore's chaplet of laurels to-day was, he would venture to assert,
the sight of the extraordinary enthusiasm and assemblage, not only in
that noble hall, but in the thoroughfares of this mighty Metropolis.
Under the circumstances, this was a marvellous tribute to the
admiration and affection which Mr. Ventimore had succeeded in inspiring
in the great heart of the people, rich and poor, high and low. He would
not detain his hearers any longer; all that remained for him to do was
to ask Mr. Ventimore's acceptance of a golden casket containing the
roll of freedom, and he felt sure that their distinguished guest,
before proceeding to inscribe his name on the register, would oblige
them all by some account from his own lips ofof the events in which
he had figured so prominently and so creditably.
Horace received the casket mechanically; there was a universal cry
of Speech! from the audience, to which he replied by shaking his head
in helpless deprecationbut in vain; he found himself irresistibly
pressed towards the rail in front of the dais, and the roar of applause
which greeted him saved him from all necessity of attempting to speak
for nearly two minutes.
During that interval he had time to clear his brain and think what
he had better do or say in his present unenviable dilemma. For some
time past a suspicion had been growing in his mind, until it had now
almost swollen into certainty. He felt that, before he compromised
himself, or allowed his too generous entertainers to compromise
themselves irretrievably, it was absolutely necessary to ascertain his
real position, and, to do that, he must make some sort of speech. With
this resolve, all his nervousness and embarrassment and indecision
melted away; he faced the assembly coolly and gallantly, convinced that
his best alternative now lay in perfect candour.
My Lord Mayor, my lords, ladies, and gentlemen, he began, in a
clear voice which penetrated to the farthest gallery and commanded
instant attention. If you expect to hear from me any description of
what I've done to be received like this, I'm afraid you will be
disappointed. For my own belief is that I've done nothing whatever.
There was a general outcry of No, no! at this, and a fervid murmur
It's all very well to say 'No, no,' said Horace, and I am
extremely grateful to you all for the interruption. Still, I can only
repeat that I am absolutely unaware of having ever rendered my Country,
or this great City, a single service deserving of the slightest
acknowledgment. I wish I could feel I hadbut the truth is that, if I
have, the fact has entirely slipped from my memory.
Again there were murmurs, this time with a certain under-current of
irritation; and he could hear the Lord Mayor behind him remarking to
the City Chamberlain that this was not at all the kind of speech for
I know what you're thinking, said Horace. You're thinking this is
mock modesty on my part. But it's nothing of the sort. I don't
know what I've donebut I presume you are all better informed. Because
the Corporation wouldn't have given me that very charming casketyou
wouldn't all of you be here like thisunless you were under a strong
impression that I'd done something to deserve it. At this there
was a fresh outburst of applause. Just so, said Horace, calmly.
Well, now, will any of you be kind enough to tell me, in a few words,
what you suppose I've done?
There was a dead silence, in which every one looked at his or her
neighbour and smiled feebly.
My Lord Mayor, continued Horace, I appeal to you to tell me and
this distinguished assembly why on earth we're all here!
The Lord Mayor rose. I think it sufficient to say, he announced
with dignity, that the Corporation and myself were unanimously of
opinion that this distinction should be awardedfor reasons which it
is unnecessary andhumhainvidious to enter into here.
I am sorry, persisted Horace, but I must press your lordship for
those reasons. I have an object.... Will the City Chamberlain oblige
me, then?... No? Well, then, the Town Clerk?... No?it's just as I
suspected: none of you can give me your reasons, and shall I tell you
why? Because there aren't any.... Now, do bear with me for a
moment. I'm quite aware this is very embarrassing for all of youbut
remember that it's infinitely more awkward for me! I really
cannot accept the freedom of the City under any suspicion of false
pretences. It would be a poor reward for your hospitality, and base and
unpatriotic into the bargain, to depreciate the value of so great a
distinction by permitting it to be conferred unworthily. If, after
you've heard what I am going to tell you, you still insist on my
accepting such an honour, of course I will not be so ungracious as to
refuse it. But I really don't feel that it would be right to inscribe
my name on your Roll of Fame without some sort of explanation. If I
did, I might, for anything I know, involuntarily be signing the
death-warrant of the Corporation!
There was a breathless hush upon this; the silence grew so intense
that to borrow a slightly involved metaphor from a distinguished friend
of the writer's, you might have picked up a pin in it! Horace leaned
sideways against the rail in an easy attitude, so as to face the Lord
Mayor, as well as a portion of his audience.
Before I go any farther, he said, will your lordship pardon me if
I suggest that it might be as well to direct that all reporters present
should immediately withdraw?
The reporters' table was instantly in a stir of anger, and many of
the guests expressed some dissatisfaction. We, at least, said the
Lord Mayor, rising, flushed with annoyance, have no reason to dread
publicity. I decline to make a hole-and-corner affair of this. I shall
give no such orders.
Very well, said Horace, when the chorus of approval had subsided.
My suggestion was made quite as much in the Corporation's interests as
mine. I merely thought that, when you all clearly understood how
grossly you've been deluded, you might prefer to have the details kept
out of the newspapers if possible. But if you particularly want them
published over the whole world, why, of course
An uproar followed here, under cover of which the Lord Mayor
contrived to give orders to have the doors fastened till further
Don't make this more difficult and disagreeable for me than it is
already! said Horace, as soon as he could obtain a hearing again. You
don't suppose that I should have come here in this Tom-fool's dress,
imposing myself on the hospitality of this great City, if I could have
helped it! If you've been brought here under false pretences, so have
I. If you've been made to look rather foolish, what is your
situation to mine? The fact is, I am the victim of a headstrong force
which I am utterly unable to control....
Upon this a fresh uproar arose, and prevented him from continuing
for some time. I only ask for fair play and a patient hearing! he
pleaded. Give me that, and I will undertake to restore you all to good
humour before I have done.
They calmed down at this appeal, and he was able to proceed. My
case is simply this, he said. A little time ago I happened to go to
an auction and buy a large brass bottle....
For some inexplicable reason his last words roused the audience to
absolute frenzy; they would not hear anything about the brass bottle.
Every time he attempted to mention it they howled him down, they
hissed, they groaned, they shook their fists; the din was positively
Nor was the demonstration confined to the male portion of the
assembly. One lady, indeed, who is a prominent leader in society, but
whose name shall not be divulged here, was so carried away by her
feelings as to hurl a heavy cut-glass bottle of smelling-salts at
Horace's offending head. Fortunately for him, it missed him and only
caught one of the officials (Horace was not in a mood to notice details
very accurately, but he had a notion that it was the City Remembrancer)
somewhere about the region of the watch-pocket.
Will you hear me out? Ventimore shouted. I'm not trifling.
I haven't told you yet what was inside the bottle. When I opened it, I
He got no fartherfor, as the words left his lips, he felt himself
seized by the collar of his robe and lifted off his feet by an agency
he was powerless to resist.
Up and up he was carried, past the great chandeliers, between the
carved and gilded rafters, pursued by a universal shriek of dismay and
horror. Down below he could see the throng of pale, upturned faces, and
hear the wild screams and laughter of several ladies of great
distinction in violent hysterics. And the next moment he was in the
glass lantern, and the latticed panes gave way like tissue paper as he
broke through into the open air, causing the pigeons on the roof to
whirr up in a flutter of alarm.
Of course, he knew that it was the Jinnee who was abducting him in
this sensational manner, and he was rather relieved than alarmed by
Fakrash's summary proceeding, for he seemed, for once, to have hit upon
the best way out of a situation that was rapidly becoming impossible.
CHAPTER XVII. HIGH WORDS
Once outside in the open air, the Jinnee towered like a pheasant
shot through the breast, and Horace closed his eyes with a combined
swing-switchback-and-Channel-passage sensation during a flight which
apparently continued for hours, although in reality it probably did not
occupy more than a very few seconds. His uneasiness was still further
increased by his inability to guess where he was being taken tofor he
felt instinctively that they were not travelling in the direction of
At last he felt himself set down on some hard, firm surface, and
ventured to open his eyes once more. When he realised where he actually
was, his knees gave way under him, and he was seized with a sudden
giddiness that very nearly made him lose his balance. For he found
himself standing on a sort of narrow ledge or cornice immediately under
the ball at the top of St. Paul's.
Many feet beneath him spread the dull, leaden summit of the dome,
its raised ridges stretching, like huge serpents over the curve, beyond
which was a glimpse of the green roof of the nave and the two west
towers, with their grey columns and urn-topped buttresses and gilded
pineapples, which shone ruddily in the sun.
He had an impression of Ludgate Hill and Fleet Street as a deep,
winding ravine, steeped in partial shadow; of long sierras of roofs and
chimney-pots, showing their sharp outlines above mouse-coloured
smoke-wreaths; of the broad, pearl-tinted river, with oily ripples and
a golden glitter where the sunlight touched it; of the gleaming slope
of mud under the wharves and warehouses on the Surrey side; of barges
and steamers moored in black clusters; of a small tug fussing noisily
down the river, leaving a broadening arrow-head in its wake.
Cautiously he moved round towards the east, where the houses formed
a blurred mosaic of cream, slate, indigo, and dull reds and browns,
above which slender rose-flushed spires and towers pierced the haze,
stained in countless places by pillars of black, grey, and amber smoke,
and lightened by plumes and jets of silvery steam, till all blended by
imperceptible gradations into a sky of tenderest gold slashed with
It was a magnificent view, and none the less so because the
indistinctness of all beyond a limited radius made the huge City seem
not only mystical, but absolutely boundless in extent. But although
Ventimore was distinctly conscious of all this, he was scarcely in a
state to appreciate its grandeur just then. He was much too concerned
with wondering why Fakrash had chosen to plant him up there in so
insecure a position, and how he was ever to be rescued from it, since
the Jinnee had apparently disappeared.
He was not far off, however, for presently Horace saw him stalk
round the narrow cornice with an air of being perfectly at home on it.
So there you are! said Ventimore; I thought you'd deserted me
again. What have you brought me up here for?
Because I desired to have speech with thee in private, replied the
We're not likely to be intruded on here, certainly, said Horace.
But isn't it rather exposed, rather public? If we're seen up here, you
know, it will cause a decided sensation.
I have laid a spell on all below that they should not raise their
eyes. Be seated, therefore, and hear my words.
Horace lowered himself carefully to a sitting position, so that his
legs dangled in space, and Fakrash took a seat by his side. O, most
indiscreet of mankind! he began, in an aggrieved tone; thou hast been
near the committal of a great blunder, and doing ill to thyself and to
Well, I do like that! retorted Horace; when you let me in
for all that freedom of the City business, and then sneaked off,
leaving me to get out of it the best way I could, and only came back
just as I was about to explain matters, and carried me up through the
roof like a sack of flour. Do you consider that tactful on your part?
Thou hadst drunk wine and permitted it to creep as far as the place
Only one glass, said Horace; and I wanted it, I can assure you. I
was obliged to make a speech to them, and, thanks to you, I was in such
a hole that I saw nothing for it but to tell the truth.
Veracity, as thou wilt learn, answered the Jinnee, is not
invariably the Ship of Safety. Thou wert about to betray the benefactor
who procured for thee such glory and honour as might well cause the
gall-bladder of lions to burst with envy!
If any lion with the least sense of humour could have witnessed the
proceedings, said Ventimore, he might have burst with
laughtercertainly not envy. Good Lord! Fakrash, he cried, in his
indignation, I've never felt such an absolute ass in my whole life! If
nothing would satisfy you but my receiving the freedom of the City, you
might at least have contrived some decent excuse for it! But you left
out the only point there was in the whole thingand all for what?
What doth it signify why the whole populace should come forth to
acclaim thee and do thee honour, so long as they did so? said Fakrash,
sullenly. For the report of thy fame would reach Bedeea-el-Jemal.
That's just where you're mistaken, said Horace. If you had not
been in too desperate a hurry to make a few inquiries, you would have
found out that you were taking all this trouble for nothing.
How sayest thou?
Well, you would have discovered that the Princess is spared all
temptation to marry beneath her by the fact that she became the bride
of somebody else about thirty centuries ago. She married a mortal, one
Seyf-el-Mulook, a King's son, and they've both been dead a considerable
timeanother obstacle to your plans.
It is a lie, declared Fakrash.
If you will take me back to Vincent Square, I shall be happy to
show you the evidence in your national records, said Horace. And you
may be glad to know that your old enemy, Mr. Jarjarees, came to a
violent end, after a very sporting encounter with a King's daughter,
who, though proficient in advanced magic, unfortunately perished
herself, poor lady, in the final round.
I had intended thee to accomplish his downfall, said
I know, said Horace. It was most thoughtful of you. But I doubt
if I should have done it half as welland it would have probably cost
me an eye, at the very least. It's better as it is.
And how long hast thou known of these things?
Only since last night.
Since last night? And thou didst not unfold them unto me till this
I've had such a busy morning, you see, explained Horace. There's
been no time.
Silly-bearded fool that I was to bring this misbegotten dog into
the august presence of the great Lord Mayor himself (on whom be
peace!), cried the Jinnee.
I object to being referred to as a misbegotten dog, said Horace,
but with the rest of your remark I entirely concur. I'm afraid the
Lord Mayor is very far from being at peace just now. He pointed to the
steep roof of the Guildhall, with its dormers and fretted pinnacles,
and the slender lantern through which he had so lately made his
inglorious exit. There's the devil of a row going on under that
lantern just now, Mr. Fakrash, you may depend upon that. They've locked
the doors till they can decide what to do nextwhich will take them
some time. And it's all your fault!
It was thy doing. Why didst thou dare to inform the Lord Mayor that
he was deceived?
Why? Because I thought he ought to know. Because I was bound,
particularly after my oath of allegiance, to warn him of any conspiracy
against him. Because I was in such a hat. He'll understand all thathe
won't blame me for this business.
It is fortunate, observed the Jinnee, that I flew away with thee
before thou couldst pronounce my name.
You gave yourself away, said Horace. They all saw you, you know.
You weren't flying so particularly fast. They'll recognise you again.
If you will carry off a man from under the Lord Mayor's very
nose, and shoot up through the roof like a rocket with him, you can't
expect to escape some notice. You see, you happen to be the only
unbottled Jinnee in this City.
Fakrash shifted his seat on the cornice. I have committed no act of
disrespect unto the Lord Mayor, he said, therefore he can have no
just cause of anger against me.
Horace perceived that the Jinnee was not altogether at ease, and
pushed his advantage accordingly.
My dear good old friend, he said, you don't seem to realise yet
what an awful thing you've done. For your own mistaken purposes, you
have compelled the Chief Magistrate and the Corporation of the greatest
City in the world to make themselves hopelessly ridiculous. They'll
never hear the last of this affair. Just look at the crowds waiting
patiently below there. Look at the flags. Think of that gorgeous
conveyance of yours standing outside the Guildhall. Think of the
assembly insideall the most aristocratic, noble, and distinguished
personages in the land, continued Horace, piling it on as he
proceeded; all collected for what? To be made fools of by a Jinnee out
of a brass bottle!
For their own sakes they will preserve silence, said Fakrash, with
a gleam of unwonted shrewdness.
Probably they would hush it up, if they only could, conceded
Horace. But how can they? What are they to say? What plausible
explanation can they give? Besides, there's the Press: you don't know
what the Press is; but I assure you its power is tremendousit's
simply impossible to keep anything secret from it nowadays. It has eyes
and ears everywhere, and a thousand tongues. Five minutes after the
doors in that hall are unlocked (and they can't keep them locked
much longer) the reporters will be handing in their special
descriptions of you and your latest vagaries to their respective
journals. Within half an hour bills will be carried through every
quarter of Londonbills with enormous letters: 'Extraordinary Scene at
the Guildhall.' 'Strange End to a Civic Function.' 'Startling
Appearance of an Oriental Genie in the City.' 'Abduction of a Guest of
the Lord Mayor.' 'Intense Excitement.' 'Full Particulars!' And by that
time the story will have flashed round the whole world. 'Keep silence,'
indeed! Do you imagine for a moment that the Lord Mayor, or anybody
else concerned, however remotely, will ever forget, or be allowed to
forget, such an outrageous incident as this? If you do, believe me,
Truly, it would be a terrible thing to incur the wrath of the Lord
Mayor, said the Jinnee, in troubled accents.
Awful! said Horace. But you seem to have managed it.
He weareth round his neck a magic jewel, which giveth him dominion
over devilsis it not so?
You know best, said Horace.
It was the splendour of that jewel and the majesty of his
countenance that rendered me afraid to enter his presence, lest he
should recognise me for what I am and command me to obey him, for
verily his might is greater even than Suleyman's, and his hand heavier
upon such of the Jinn as fall into his power!
If that's so, said Horace, I should strongly advise you to find
some way of putting things straight before it's too lateyou've no
time to lose.
Thou sayest well, said Fakrash, springing to his feet, and turning
his face towards Cheapside. Horace shuffled himself along the ledge in
a seated position after the Jinnee, and, looking down between his feet,
could just see the tops of the thin and rusty trees in the churchyard,
the black and serried swarms of foreshortened people in the street, and
the scarlet-rimmed mouths of chimney-pots on the tiled roofs below.
There is but one remedy I know, said the Jinnee, and it may be
that I have lost power to perform it. Yet will I make the endeavour.
And, stretching forth his right hand towards the east, he muttered some
kind of command or invocation.
Horace almost fell off the cornice with apprehension of what might
follow. Would it be a thunderbolt, a plague, some frightful convulsion
of Nature? He felt sure that Fakrash would hesitate at no means,
however violent, of burying all traces of his blunder in oblivion, and
very little hope that, whatever he did, it would prove anything but
some worse indiscretion than his previous performances.
Happily none of these extreme measures seemed to have occurred to
the Jinnee, though what followed was strange and striking enough.
For presently, as if in obedience to the Jinnee's weird
gesticulations, a lurid belt of fog came rolling up from the direction
of the Royal Exchange, swallowing up building after building in its
rapid course; one by one the Guildhall, Bow Church, Cheapside itself,
and the churchyard disappeared, and Horace, turning his head to the
left, saw the murky tide sweeping on westward, blotting out Ludgate
Hill, the Strand, Charing Cross, and Westminstertill at last he and
Fakrash were alone above a limitless plain of bituminous cloud, the
only living beings left, as it seemed, in a blank and silent universe.
Look again! said Fakrash, and Horace, looking eastward, saw the
spire of Bow Church, rosy once more, the Guildhall standing clear and
intact, and the streets and house-tops gradually reappearing. Only the
flags, with their unrestful shiver and ripple of colour, had
disappeared, and, with them, the waiting crowds and the mounted
constables. The ordinary traffic of vans, omnibuses, and cabs was
proceeding as though it had never been interruptedthe clank and
jingle of harness chains, the cries and whip-crackings of drivers, rose
with curious distinctness above the incessant trampling roar which is
the ground-swell of the human ocean.
That cloud which thou sawest, said Fakrash, hath swept away with
it all memory of this affair from the minds of every mortal assembled
to do thee honour. See, they go about their several businesses, and all
the past incidents are to them as though they had never been.
It was not often that Horace could honestly commend any performance
of the Jinnee's, but at this he could not restrain his admiration. By
Jove! he said, that certainly gets the Lord Mayor and everybody else
out of the mess as neatly as possible. I must say, Mr. Fakrash, it's
much the best thing I've seen you do yet.
Wait, said the Jinnee, for presently thou shalt see me perform a
yet more excellent thing.
There was a most unpleasant green glow in his eyes and a bristle in
his thin beard as he spoke, which suddenly made Horace feel
uncomfortable. He did not like the look of the Jinnee at all.
I really think you've done enough for to-day, he said. And this
wind up here is rather searching. I shan't be sorry to find myself on
the ground again.
That, replied the Jinnee, thou shalt assuredly do before long, O
impudent and deceitful wretch! And he laid a long, lean hand on
He is put out about something! thought Ventimore. But
what? My dear sir, he said aloud, I don't understand this tone of
yours. What have I done to offend you?
Divinely gifted was he who said: 'Beware of losing hearts in
consequence of injury, for the bringing them back after flight is
Excellent! said Horace. But I don't quite see the application.
The application, explained the Jinnee, is that I am determined to
cast thee down from here with my own hand!
Horace turned faint and dizzy for a moment. Then, by a strong effort
of will, he pulled himself together. Oh, come now, he said, you
don't really mean that, you know. After all your kindness! You're much
too good-natured to be capable of anything so atrocious.
All pity hath been eradicated from my heart, returned Fakrash.
Therefore prepare to die, for thou art presently about to perish in
the most unfortunate manner.
Ventimore could not repress a shudder. Hitherto he had never been
able to take Fakrash quite seriously, in spite of all his supernatural
powers; he had treated him with a half-kindly, half-contemptuous
tolerance, as a well-meaning, but hopelessly incompetent, old foozle.
That the Jinnee should ever become malevolent towards him had never
entered his head till nowand yet he undoubtedly had. How was he to
cajole and disarm this formidable being? He must keep cool and act
promptly, or he would never see Sylvia again.
As he sat there on the narrow ledge, with a faint and not unpleasant
smell of hops saluting his nostrils from some distant brewery, he tried
hard to collect his thoughts, but could not. He found himself, instead,
idly watching the busy, jostling crowd below, who were all unconscious
of the impending drama so high above them. Just over the rim of the
dome he could see the opaque white top of a lamp on a shelter, where a
pigmy constable stood, directing the traffic.
Would he look up if Horace called for help? Even if he could, what
help could he render? All he could do would be to keep the crowd back
and send for a covered stretcher. No, he would not dwell on
these horrors; he must fix his mind on some way of circumventing
How did the people in The Arabian Nights manage? The fisherman,
for instance? He persuaded his Jinnee to return to the bottle by
pretending to doubt whether he had ever really been inside it.
But Fakrash, though simple enough in some respects, was not quite
such a fool as that. Sometimes the Jinn could be mollified and induced
to grant a reprieve by being told stories, one inside the other, like a
nest of Oriental boxes. Unfortunately Fakrash did not seem in the
humour for listening to apologues, and, even if he were, Horace could
not think of or improvise any just then. Besides, he thought, I
can't sit up here telling him anecdotes for ever. I'd almost sooner
die! Still, he remembered that it was generally possible to draw an
Arabian Efreet into discussion: they all loved argument, and had a
rough conception of justice.
I think, Mr. Fakrash, he said, that, in common fairness, I have a
right to know what offence I have committed.
To recite thy misdeeds, replied the Jinnee, would occupy much
I don't mind that, said Horace, affably. I can give you as long
as you like. I'm in no sort of a hurry.
With me it is otherwise, retorted Fakrash, making a stride towards
him. Therefore court not life, for thy death hath become unavoidable.'
Before we part, said Horace, you won't refuse to answer one or
Didst thou not undertake never to ask any further favour of me?
Moreover, it will avail thee nought. For I am positively determined to
I demand it, said Horace, in the most great name of the Lord
Mayor (on whom be peace!)
It was a desperate shotbut it took effect. The Jinnee quailed
Ask, then, he said; but briefly, for the time groweth short.
Horace determined to make one last appeal to Fakrash's sense of
gratitude, since it had always seemed the dominant trait in his
Well, he said, but for me, wouldn't you be still in that brass
That, replied the Jinnee, is the very reason why I purpose to
Oh! was all Horace could find to say at this most unlooked-for
answer. His sheet anchor, in which he had trusted implicitly, had
suddenly draggedand he was drifting fast to destruction.
Are there any other questions which thou wouldst ask? inquired the
Jinnee, with grim indulgence; or wilt thou encounter thy doom without
Horace was determined not to give in just yet; he had a very bad
hand, but he might as well play the game out and trust to luck to gain
a stray trick.
I haven't nearly done yet, he said. And, remember, you've
promised to answer mein the name of the Lord Mayor!
I will answer one other question, and no more, said the Jinnee, in
an inflexible tone; and Ventimore realised that his fate would depend
upon what he said next.
CHAPTER XVIII. A GAME OF BLUFF
Thy second question, O pertinacious one? said the Jinnee,
impatiently. He was standing with folded arms looking down on Horace,
who was still seated on the narrow cornice, not daring to glance below
again, lest he should lose his head altogether.
I'm coming to it, said Ventimore; I want to know why you should
propose to dash me to pieces in this barbarous way as a return for
letting you out of that bottle. Were you so comfortable in it as all
In the bottle I was at least suffered to rest, and none molested
me. But in releasing me thou didst perfidiously conceal from me that
Suleyman was dead and gone, and that there reigneth one in his stead
mightier a thousand-fold, who afflicteth our race with labours and
tortures exceeding all the punishments of Suleyman.
What on earth have you got into your head now? You can't mean the
Whom else? said the Jinnee, solemnly. And though, for this once,
by a device I have evaded his vengeance, yet do I know full well that
either by virtue of the magic jewel upon his breast, or through that
malignant monster with the myriad ears and eyes and tongues, which thou
callest 'The Press,' I shall inevitably fall into his power before
For the life of him, in spite of his desperate plight, Horace could
not help laughing. I beg your pardon, Mr. Fakrash, he said, as soon
as he could speak, butthe Lord Mayor! It's really too absurd. Why,
he wouldn't hurt a hair on a fly's head!
Seek not to deceive me further! said Fakrash, furiously. Didst
thou not inform me with thy own mouth that the spirits of Earth, Air,
Water, and Fire were subject to his will? Have I no eyes? Do I not
behold from here the labours of my captive brethren? What are those on
yonder bridges but enslaved Jinn, shrieking and groaning in clanking
fetters, and snorting forth steam, as they drag their wheeled burdens
behind them? Are there not others toiling, with panting efforts,
through the sluggish waters; others again, imprisoned in lofty pillars,
from which the smoke of their breath ascendeth even unto Heaven? Doth
not the air throb and quiver with their restless struggles as they
writhe below in darkness and torment? And thou hast the shamelessness
to pretend that these things are done in the Lord Mayor's own realms
without his knowledge! Verily thou must take me for a fool!
After all, reflected Ventimore, if he chooses to consider that
railway engines and steamers, and machinery generally, are inhabited by
so many Jinn 'doing time,' it's not to my interest to undeceive
himindeed, it's quite the contrary!
I wasn't aware the Lord Mayor had so much power as all that, he
said; but very likely you're right. And if you're so anxious to keep
in favour with him, it would be a great mistake to kill me. That
would annoy him.
Not so, said the Jinnee, for I should declare that thou hadst
spoken slightingly of him in my hearing, and that I had slain thee on
Your proper course, said Horace, would be to hand me over to him,
and let him deal with the case. Much more regular.
That may be, said Fakrash; but I have conceived so bitter a
hatred to thee by reason of thy insolence and treachery, that I cannot
forego the delight of slaying thee with my own hand.
Can't you really? said Horace, on the verge of despair. And
then, what will you do?
Then, replied the Jinnee, I shall flee away to Arabia, where I
shall be safe.
Don't you be too sure of that! said Horace. You see all those
wires stretched on poles down there? Those are the pathways of certain
Jinn known as electric currents, and the Lord Mayor could send a
message along them which would be at Baghdad before you had flown
farther than Folkestone. And I may mention that Arabia is now more or
less under British jurisdiction.
He was bluffing, of course, for he knew perfectly well that, even if
any extradition treaty could be put in force, the arrest of a Jinnee
would be no easy matter.
Thou art of opinion, then, that I should be no safer in mine own
country? inquired Fakrash.
I swear by the name of the Lord Mayor (to whom be all reverence!)
said Horace, that there is no land you could fly to where you would be
any safer than you are here.
If I were but sealed up in my bottle once more, said the Jinnee,
would not even the Lord Mayor have respect unto the seal of Suleyman,
and forbear to disturb me?
Why, of course he would! cried Horace, hardly daring to believe
his ears. That's really a brilliant idea of yours, my dear Mr.
And in the bottle I should not be compelled to work, continued the
Jinnee. For labour of all kinds hath ever been abhorrent unto me.
I can quite understand that, said Horace, sympathetically. Just
imagine your having to drag an excursion train to the seaside on a Bank
Holiday, or being condemned to print off a cheap comic paper, or even
the War Cry, when you might be leading a snug and idle existence
in your bottle. If I were you, I should go and get inside it at once.
Suppose we go back to Vincent Square and find it?
I shall return to the bottle, since in that alone there is safety,
said the Jinnee. But I shall return alone.
Alone! cried Horace. You're not going to leave me stuck up here
all by myself?
By no means, said the Jinnee. Have I not said that I am about to
cast thee to perdition? Too long have I delayed in the accomplishment
of this duty.
Once more Horace gave himself up for lost; which was doubly bitter,
just when he had begun to consider that the danger was past. But even
then, he was determined to fight to the last.
One moment, he said. Of course, if you've set your heart on
pitching me over, you must. OnlyI may be quite mistakenbut I don't
quite see how you are going to manage the rest of your programme
without me, that's all.
O deficient in intelligence! cried the Jinnee. What assistance
canst thou render me?
Well, said Horace, of course, you can get into the bottle
alonethat's simple enough. But the difficulty I see is this: Are you
quite sure you can put the cap on yourselffrom the inside, you
know? If he can, he thought, I'm done for!
That, began the Jinnee, with his usual confidence will be the
easiest ofnay, he corrected himself, there be things that not even
the Jinn themselves can accomplish, and one of them is to seal a vessel
while remaining in it. I am indebted to thee for reminding me thereof.
Not at all, said Ventimore. I shall be delighted to come and seal
you up comfortably myself.
Again thou speakest folly, exclaimed the Jinnee. How canst thou
seal me up after I have dashed thee into a thousand pieces?
That, said Horace, with all the urbanity he could command, is
precisely the difficulty I was trying to convey.
There will be no difficulty, for as soon as I am in the bottle I
shall summon certain inferior Efreets, and they will replace the seal.
When you are once in the bottle, said Horace, at a venture, you
probably won't be in a position to summon anybody.
Before I get into the bottle, then! said the Jinnee,
impatiently. Thou dost but juggle with words!
But about those Efreets, persisted Horace. You know what Efreets
are! How can you be sure that, when they've got you in the bottle,
they won't hand you over to the Lord Mayor? I shouldn't trust them
myselfbut, of course, you know best!
Whom shall I trust, then? said Fakrash, frowning.
I'm sure I don't know. It's rather a pity you're so determined to
destroy me, because, as it happens, I'm just the one person living who
could be depended on to seal you up and keep your secret. However,
that's your affair. After all, why should I care what becomes of you? I
shan't be there!
Even at this hour, said the Jinnee, undecidedly, I might find it
in my heart to spare thee, were I but sure that thou wouldst be
faithful unto me!
I should have thought I was more to be trusted than one of your
beastly Efreets! said Horace, with well-assumed indifference. But
never mind, I don't know that I care, after all. I've nothing
particular to live for now. You've ruined me pretty thoroughly, and you
may as well finish your work. I've a good mind to jump over, and save
you the trouble. Perhaps, when you see me bouncing down that dome,
you'll be sorry!
Refrain from rashness! said the Jinnee, hastily, without
suspecting that Ventimore had no serious intention of carrying out his
threat. If thou wilt do as thou art bidden, I will not only pardon
thee, but grant thee all that thou desirest.
Take me back to Vincent Square first, said Horace. This is not
the place to discuss business.
Thou sayest rightly, replied the Jinnee; hold fast to my sleeve,
and I will transport thee to thine abode.
Not till you promise to play fair, said Horace, pausing on the
brink of the ledge. Remember, if you let me go now you drop the only
friend you've got in the world!
May I be thy ransom! replied Fakrash. There shall not be harmed a
hair of thy head!
Even then Horace had his misgivings; but as there was no other way
of getting off that cornice, he decided to take the risk. And, as it
proved, he acted judiciously, for the Jinnee flew to Vincent Square
with honourable precision, and dropped him neatly into the armchair in
which he had little hoped ever to find himself again.
I have brought thee hither, said Fakrash, and yet I am persuaded
that thou art even now devising treachery against me, and wilt betray
me if thou canst.
Horace was about to assure him once more that no one could be more
anxious than himself to see him safely back in his bottle, when he
recollected that it was impolitic to appear too eager.
After the way you've behaved, he said, I'm not at all sure that I
ought to help you. Still, I said I would, on certain conditions, and
I'll keep my word.
Conditions! thundered the Jinnee. Wilt thou bargain with me yet
My excellent friend, said Horace quietly, you know perfectly well
that you can't get yourself safely sealed up again in that bottle
without my assistance. If you don't like my terms, and prefer to take
your chance of finding an Efreet who is willing to brave the Lord
Mayor, well, you've only to say so.
I have loaded thee with all manner of riches and favours, and I
will bestow no more upon thee, said the Jinnee, sullenly. Nay, in
token of my displeasure, I will deprive thee even of such gifts as thou
hast retained. He pointed his grey forefinger at Ventimore, whose
turban and jewelled robes instantly shrivelled into cobwebs and tinder,
and fluttered to the carpet in filmy shreds, leaving him in nothing but
That only shows what a nasty temper you're in, said Horace,
blandly, and doesn't annoy me in the least. If you'll excuse me, I'll
go and put on some things I can feel more at home in; and perhaps by
the time I return you'll have cooled down.
He slipped on some clothes hurriedly and re-entered the
sitting-room. Now, Mr. Fakrash, he said, we'll have this out. You
talk of having loaded me with benefits. You seem to consider I ought to
be grateful to you. In Heaven's name, for what? I've been as forbearing
as possible all this time, because I gave you credit for meaning well.
Now, I'll speak plainly. I told you from the first, and I tell you now,
that I want no riches nor honours from you. The one real good turn you
did me was bringing me that client, and you spoilt that because you
would insist on building the palace yourself, instead of leaving it to
me! As for the resthere am I, a ruined and discredited man, with a
client who probably supposes I'm in league with the Devil; with the
girl I love, and might have married, believing that I have left her to
marry a Princess; and her father, unable ever to forgive me for having
seen him as a one-eyed mule. In short, I'm in such a mess all round
that I don't care two straws whether I live or die!
What is all this to me? said the Jinnee.
Only thisthat unless you can see your way to putting things
straight for me, I'm hanged if I take the trouble to seal you up in
How am I to put things straight for thee? cried Fakrash,
If you could make all those people entirely forget that affair in
the Guildhall, you can make my friends forget the brass bottle and
everything connected with it, can't you?
There would be no difficulty in that, Fakrash admitted.
Well, do itand I'll swear to seal you up in the bottle exactly as
if you had never been out of it, and pitch you into the deepest part of
the Thames, where no one will ever disturb you.
First produce the bottle, then, said Fakrash, for I cannot
believe but that thou hast some lurking guile in thy heart.
I'll ring for my landlady and have the bottle brought up, said
Horace. Perhaps that will satisfy you? Stay, you'd better not let her
I will render myself invisible, said the Jinnee, suiting the
action to his words. But beware lest thou play me false, his voice
continued, for I shall hear thee!
So you've come in, Mr. Ventimore? said Mrs. Rapkin, as she
entered. And without the furrin gentleman? I was surprised, and
so was Rapkin the same, to see you ridin' off this morning in the
gorgious chariot and 'osses, and dressed up that lovely! 'Depend upon
it,' I says to Rapkin, I says, 'depend upon it, Mr. Ventimore'll be
sent for to Buckinham Pallis, if it ain't Windsor Castle!
Never mind that now, said Horace, impatiently; I want that brass
bottle I bought the other day. Bring it up at once, please.
I thought you said the other day you never wanted to set eyes on it
again, and I was to do as I pleased with it, sir?
Well, I've changed my mind, so let me have it, quick.
I'm sure I'm very sorry, sir, but that you can't, because Rapkin,
not wishful to have the place lumbered up with rubbish, disposed of it
on'y last night to a gentleman as keeps a rag and bone emporium off the
Bridge Road, and 'alf-a-crown was the most he'd give for it, sir.
Give me his name, said Horace.
Dilger, sirEmanuel Dilger. When Rapkin comes in I'm sure he'd go
round with pleasure, and see about it, if required.
I'll go round myself, said Horace. It's all right, Mrs. Rapkin,
quite a natural mistake on your part, butbut I happen to want the
bottle again. You needn't stay.
O thou smooth-faced and double-tongued one! said the Jinnee, after
she had gone, as he reappeared to view. Did I not foresee that thou
wouldst deal crookedly? Restore unto me my bottle!
I'll go and get it at once, said Horace; I shan't be five
minutes. And he prepared to go.
Thou shalt not leave this house, cried Fakrash, for I perceive
plainly that this is but a device of thine to escape and betray me to
the Press Devil!
If you can't see, said Horace, angrily, that I'm quite as anxious
to see you safely back in that confounded bottle as ever you can be to
get there, you must be pretty dense! Can't you understand? The
bottle's sold, and I can't buy it back without going out. Don't be so
Go, then, said the Jinnee, and I will await thy return here. But
know this: that if thou delayest long or returnest without my bottle, I
shall know that thou art a traitor, and will visit thee and those who
are dear to thee with the most unpleasant punishments!
I'll be back in half an hour, at most, said Horace, feeling that
this would allow him ample margin, and thankful that it did not occur
to Fakrash to go in person.
He put on his hat, and hurried off in the gathering dusk. He had
some little trouble in finding Mr. Dilger's establishment, which was a
dirty, dusty little place in a back street, with a few deplorable old
chairs, rickety washstands, and rusty fenders outside, and the interior
almost completely blocked by piles of dingy mattresses, empty
clock-cases, tarnished and cracked mirrors, broken lamps, damaged
picture-frames, and everything else which one would imagine could have
no possible value for any human being. But in all this collection of
worthless curios the brass bottle was nowhere to be seen.
Ventimore went in and found a youth of about thirteen straining his
eyes in the fading light over one of those halfpenny humorous journals
which, thanks to an improved system of education, at least eighty per
cent. of our juvenile population are now enabled to appreciate.
I want to see Mr. Dilger, he began.
You can't, said the youth. 'Cause he ain't in. He's attending of
When will he be in, do you know?
Might be back to his teabut I wasn't to expect him not before
You don't happen to have any old metal bottlescopper oror brass
would dofor sale?
You don't git at me like that! Bottles is made o' glorss.
Well, a jar, thena big brass potanything of that kind?
Don't keep 'em, said the boy, and buried himself once more in his
copy of Spicy Sniggers.
I'll just look round, said Horace, and began to poke about with a
sinking heart, and a horrid dread that he might have come to the wrong
shop, for the big pot-bellied vessel certainly did not seem to be
there. At last, to his unspeakable joy, he discovered it under a piece
of tattered drugget. Why, this is the sort of thing I meant, he said,
feeling in his pocket and discovering that he had exactly a sovereign.
How much do you want for it?
I dunno, said the boy.
I don't mind three shillings, said Horace, who did not wish to
appear too keen at first.
I'll tell the guv'nor when he comes in, was the reply, and you
can look in later.
I want it at once, insisted Horace. Come, I'll give you
three-and-six for it.
It's more than it's wurf, replied the candid youth.
Perhaps, said Horace, but I'm rather pressed for time. If you'll
change this sovereign, I'll take the bottle away with me.
You seem uncommon anxious to get 'old on it, mister! said the boy,
with sudden suspicion.
Nonsense! said Horace. I live close by, and I thought I might as
well take it, that's all.
Oh, if that's all, you can wait till the guv'nor's in.
II mayn't be passing this way again for some time, said Horace.
Bound to be, if you live close by, and the provoking youth
returned to his Sniggers.
Do you call this attending to your master's business? said Horace.
Listen to me, you young rascal. I'll give you five shillings for it.
You're not going to be fool enough to refuse an offer like that?
I ain't goin' to be fool enough to refuse itnor yet I ain't goin'
to be fool enough to take it, 'cause I'm only 'ere to see as nobody
don't come in and sneak fings. I ain't got no authority to sell
anyfink, and I don't know the proice o' nuffink, so there you 'ave it.
Take the five shillings, said Horace, and if it's too little I'll
come round and settle with your master later.
I thought you said you wasn't likely to be porsin' again? No,
mister, you don't kid me that way!
Horace had a mad impulse to snatch up the precious bottle then and
there and make off with it, and might have yielded to the temptation,
with disastrous consequences, had not an elderly man entered the shop
at that moment. He was bent, and wore rather more fluff and flue upon
his person than most well-dressed people would consider necessary, but
he came in with a certain air of authority, nevertheless.
Mr. Dilger, sir, piped the youth, 'ere's a gent took a fancy to
this 'ere brass pot o' yours. Says he must 'ave it. Five
shillings he'd got to, but I told him he'd 'ave to wait till you come
Quite right, my lad! said Mr. Dilger, cocking a watery but sharp
old eye at Horace. Five shillings! Ah, sir, you can't know much about
these hold brass antiquities to make an orfer like that.
I know as much as most people, said Horace. But let us say six
Couldn't be done, sir; couldn't indeed. Why, I give a pound for it
myself at Christie's, as sure as I'm standin' 'ere in the presence o'
my Maker, and you a sinner! he declared impressively, if rather
Your memory is not quite accurate, said Horace. You bought it
last night from a man of the name of Rapkin, who lets lodgings in
Vincent Square, and you paid exactly half a crown for it.
If you say so I dare say it's correct, sir, said Mr. Dilger,
without exhibiting the least confusion. And if I did buy it off Mr.
Rapkin, he's a respectable party, and ain't likely to have come by it
I never said he did. What will you take for the thing?
Well, just look at the work in it. They don't turn out the like o'
that nowadays. Dutch, that is; what they used for to put their milk and
Damn it! said Horace, completely losing his temper. I know
what it was used for. Will you tell me what you want for it?
I couldn't let a curiosity like that go a penny under thirty
shillings, said Mr. Dilger, affectionately. It would be robbin'
I'll give you a sovereign for itthere, said Horace. You know
best what profit that represents. That's my last word.
My last word to that, sir, is good hevenin', said the
Good evening, then, said Horace, and walked out of the shop;
rather to bring Mr. Dilger to terms than because he really meant to
abandon the bottle, for he dared not go back without it, and he had
nothing about him just then on which he could raise the extra ten
shillings, supposing the dealer refused to trust him for the
balanceand the time was growing dangerously short.
Fortunately the well-worn ruse succeeded, for Mr. Dilger ran out
after him and laid an unwashed claw upon his coat-sleeve. Don't go,
mister, he said; I like to do business if I can; though, 'pon my word
and honour, a sovereign for a work o' art like that! Well, just for
luck and bein' my birthday, we'll call it a deal.
Horace handed over the coin, which left him with a few pence. There
ought to be a lid or stopper of some sort, he said suddenly. What
have you done with that?
No, sir, there you're mistook, you are, indeed. I do assure you you
never see a pot of this partickler pattern with a lid to it. Never!
Oh, don't you, though? said Horace. I know better. Never mind,
he said, as he recollected that the seal was in Fakrash's possession.
I'll take it as it is. Don't trouble to wrap it up. I'm in rather a
It was almost dark when he got back to his rooms, where he found the
Jinnee shaking with mingled rage and apprehension.
No welcome to thee! he cried. Dilatory dog that thou art! Hadst
thou delayed another minute, I would have called down some calamity
Well, you need not trouble yourself to do that now, returned
Ventimore. Here's your bottle, and you can creep into it as soon as
But the seal! shrieked the Jinnee. What hast thou done with the
seal which was upon the bottle?
Why, you've got it yourself, of course, said Horace, in one of
O thou of base antecedents! howled Fakrash, shaking out his
flowing draperies. How should I have the seal? This is but a
fresh device of thine to undo me!
Don't talk rubbish! retorted Horace. You made the Professor give
it up to you yesterday. You must have lost it somewhere or other. Never
mind! I'll get a large cork or bung, which will do just as well. And
I've lots of sealing-wax.
I will have no seal but the seal of Suleyman! declared the Jinnee.
For with no other will there be security. Verily I believe that that
accursed sage, thy friend, hath contrived by some cunning to get the
seal once more into his hands. I will go at once to his abode and
compel him to restore it.
I wouldn't, said Horace, feeling extremely uneasy, for it was
evidently a much simpler thing to let a Jinnee out of a bottle than to
get him in again. He's quite incapable of taking it. And if you go out
now you'll only make a fuss and attract the attention of the Press,
which I thought you rather wanted to avoid.
I shall attire myself in the garments of a mortaleven those I
assumed on a former occasion, said Fakrash, and as he spoke his outer
robes modernised into a frock-coat. Thus shall I escape attention.
Wait one moment, said Horace. What is that bulge in your
Of a truth, said the Jinnee, looking relieved but not a little
foolish as he extracted the object, it is indeed the seal.
You're in such a hurry to think the worst of everybody, you see!
said Horace. Now, do try to carry away with you into your
seclusion a better opinion of human nature.
Perdition to all the people of this age! cried Fakrash,
re-assuming his green robe and turban, for I now put no faith in human
beings and would afflict them all, were not the Lord Mayor (on whom be
peace!) mightier than I. Therefore, while it is yet time, take thou the
stopper, and swear that, after I am in this bottle, thou wilt seal it
as before and cast it into deep waters, where no eye will look upon it
With all the pleasure in the world! said Horace; only you must
keep your part of the bargain first. You will kindly obliterate
all recollection of yourself and the brass bottle from the minds of
every human being who has had anything to do with you or it.
Not so, objected the Jinnee, for thus wouldst thou forget thy
Oh, very well, leave me out, then, said Horace. Not that
anything could make me forget you!
Fakrash swept his right hand round in a half circle. It is
accomplished, he said. All recollection of myself and yonder bottle
is now erased from the memories of every one but thyself.
But how about my client? said Horace. I can't afford to lose
him, you know.
He shall return unto thee, said the Jinnee, trembling with
impatience. Now perform thy share.
Horace had triumphed. It had been a long and desperate duel with
this singular being, who was at once so crafty and so childlike, so
credulous and so suspicious, so benevolent and so malign. Again and
again he had despaired of victory, but he had won at last. In another
minute or so this formidable Jinnee would be safely bottled once more,
and powerless to intermeddle and plague him for the future.
And yet, in the very moment of triumph, quixotic as such scruples
may seem to some, Ventimore's conscience smote him. He could not help a
certain pity for the old creature, who was shaking there convulsively
prepared to re-enter his bottle-prison rather than incur a wholly
imaginary doom. Fakrash had aged visibly within the last hour; now he
looked even older than his three thousand and odd years. True, he had
led Horace a fearful life of late, but at first, at least, his
intentions had been good. His gratitude, if mistaken in its form, was
the sign of a generous disposition. Not every Jinnee, surely, would
have endeavoured to press untold millions and honours and dignities of
all kinds upon him, in return for a service which most mortals would
have considered amply repaid by a brace of birds and an invitation to
an evening party.
And how was Horace treating him? He was taking what, in his
heart, he felt to be a rather mean advantage of the Jinnee's ignorance
of modern life to cajole him into returning to his captivity. Why not
suffer him to live out the brief remainder of his years (for he could
hardly last more than another century or two at most) in freedom?
Fakrash had learnt his lesson: he was not likely to interfere again in
human affairs; he might find his way back to the Palace of the Mountain
of the Clouds and end his days there, in peaceful enjoyment of the
society of such of the Jinn as might still survive unbottled.
So, obeyingagainst his own interestssome kindlier impulse,
Horace made an effort to deter the Jinnee, who was already hovering in
air above the neck of the bottle in a swirl of revolving draperies,
like some blundering old bee vainly endeavouring to hit the opening
into his hive.
Mr. Fakrash, he cried, before you go any farther, listen to me.
There's no real necessity, after all, for you to go back to your
bottle. If you'll only wait a little
But the Jinnee, who had now swelled to gigantic proportions, and
whose form and features were only dimly recognisable through the
wreaths of black vapour in which he was involved, answered him from his
pillar of smoke in a terrible voice. Wouldst thou still persuade me to
linger? he cried. Hold thy peace and be ready to fulfil thine
But, look here, persisted Horace. I should feel such a brute if I
sealed you up without telling you The whirling and roaring column,
in shape like an inverted cone, was being fast sucked down into the
vessel, till only a semi-materialised but highly infuriated head was
left above the neck of the bottle.
Must I tarry, it cried, till the Lord Mayor arrive with his
Memlooks, and the hour of safety is expired? By my head, if thou
delayest another instant, I will put no more faith in thee! And I will
come forth once more, and afflict thee and thy friendsay, and all the
dwellers in this accursed citywith the most painful and unheard-of
And, with these words, the head sank into the bottle with a loud
clap resembling thunder.
Horace hesitated no longer. The Jinnee himself had absolved him from
all further scruples; to imperil Sylvia and her parentsnot to mention
all Londonout of consideration for one obstinate and obnoxious old
demon, would clearly be carrying sentiment much too far.
Accordingly, he made a rush for the jar and slipped the metal cover
over the mouth of the neck, which was so hot that it blistered his
fingers, and, seizing the poker, he hammered down the secret catch
until the lid fitted as closely as Suleyman himself could have
Then he stuffed the bottle into a kit-bag, adding a few coals to
give it extra weight, and toiled off with it to the nearest steamboat
pier, where he spent his remaining pence in purchasing a ticket to the
* * * * *
Next day the following paragraph appeared in one of the evening
papers, which probably had more space than usual at its disposal:
SINGULAR OCCURRENCE ON A PENNY
A gentleman on board one of the Thames steamboats (so we are
informed by an eye-witness) met with a somewhat ludicrous mishap
yesterday evening. It appears that he had with him a small portmanteau,
or large hand-bag, which he was supporting on the rail of the stern
bulwark. Just as the vessel was opposite the Savoy Hotel he
incautiously raised his hand to the brim of his hat, thereby releasing
hold of the bag, which overbalanced itself and fell into the deepest
part of the river, where it instantly sank. The owner (whose
carelessness occasioned considerable amusement to passengers in his
immediate vicinity) appeared no little disconcerted by the oversight,
and was not unnaturally reticent as to the amount of his loss, though
he was understood to state that the bag contained nothing of any great
value. However this may be, he has probably learnt a lesson which will
render him more careful in future.
On a certain evening in May Horace Ventimore dined in a private room
at the Savoy, as one of the guests of Mr. Samuel Wackerbath. In fact,
he might almost be said to be the guest of the evening, as the dinner
was given by way of celebrating the completion of the host's new
country house at Lipsfield, of which Horace was the architect, and also
to congratulate him on his approaching marriage (which was fixed to
take place early in the following month) with Miss Sylvia Futvoye.
Quite a small and friendly party! said Mr. Wackerbath, looking
round on his numerous sons and daughters, as he greeted Horace in the
reception-room. Only ourselves, you see, Miss Futvoye, a young lady
with whom you are fairly well acquainted, and her people, and an old
schoolfellow of mine and his wife, who are not yet arrived. He's a man
of considerable eminence, he added, with a roll of reflected
importance in his voice; quite worth your cultivating. Sir Lawrence
Pountney, his name is. I don't know if you remember him, but he
discharged the onerous duties of Lord Mayor of London the year before
last, and acquitted himself very creditablyin fact, he got a
baronetcy for it.
As the year before last was the year in which Horace had paid his
involuntary visit to the Guildhall, he was able to reply with truth
that he did remember Sir Lawrence.
He was not altogether comfortable when the ex-Lord-Mayor was
announced, for it would have been more than awkward if Sir Lawrence had
chanced to remember him. Fortunately, he gave no sign that he
did so, though his manner was graciousness itself. Delighted, my dear
Mr. Ventimore, he said pressing Horace's hand almost as warmly as he
had done that October day of the dais, most delighted to make your
acquaintance! I am always glad to meet a rising young man, and I hear
that the house you have designed for my old friend here is a perfect
palacea marvel, sir!
I knew he was my man, declared Mr. Wackerbath, as Horace modestly
disclaimed Sir Lawrence's compliment. You remember, Pountney, my dear
fellow, that day when we were crossing Westminster Bridge together, and
I was telling you I thought of building? 'Go to one of the leading
menan R.A. and all that sort of thing,' you said, 'then you'll be
sure of getting your money's worth.' But I said, 'No, I like to choose
for myself; toahexercise my own judgment in these matters. And
there's a young fellow I have in my eye who'll beat 'em all, if he's
given the chance. I'm off to see him now.' And off I went to Great
Cloister Street (for he hadn't those palatial offices of his in
Victoria Street at that time) without losing another instant, and
dropped in on him with my little commission. Didn't I, Ventimore?
You did indeed, said Horace, wondering how far these reminiscences
And, continued Mr. Wackerbath, patting Horace on the shoulder,
from that day to this I've never had a moment's reason to regret it.
We've worked in perfect sympathy. His ideas coincided with mine. I
think he found that I met him, so to speak, on all fours.
Ventimore assented, though it struck him that a happier expression
might, and would, have been employed if his client had remembered one
particular interview in which he had not figured to advantage.
They went in to dinner, in a room sumptuously decorated with panels
of grey-green brocade and softly shaded lamps, and screens of gilded
leather; through the centre of the table rose a tall palm, its boughs
hung with small electric globes like magic fruits.
This palm, said the Professor, who was in high good humour,
really gives quite an Oriental look to the table. Personally, I think
we might reproduce the Arabian style of decoration and arrangement
generally in our homes with great advantage. I often wonder it never
occurred to my future son-in-law there to turn his talents in that
direction and design an Oriental interior for himself. Nothing more
comfortable and luxuriousfor a bachelor's purposes.
I'm sure, said his wife, Horace managed to make himself quite
comfortable enough as it was. He has the most delightful rooms in
Vincent Square. Ventimore heard her remark to Sir Lawrence: I shall
never forget the first time we dined there, just after my daughter and
he were engaged. I was quite astonished: everything was so
perfectquite simple, you know, but so ingeniously arranged,
and his landlady such an excellent cook, too! Still, of course, in many
ways, it will be nicer for him to have a home of his own.
With such a beautiful and charming companion to share it with,
said Sir Lawrence, in his most florid manner, theahpoorest home
would prove a Paradise indeed! And I suppose now, my dear young lady,
he added, raising his voice to address Sylvia, you are busy making
your future abode as exquisite as taste and research can render it,
ransacking all the furniture shops in London for treasures, and going
about to auctionsor do youahdelegate that department to Mr.
I do go about to old furniture shops, Sir Lawrence, she said, but
not auctions. I'm afraid I should only get just the thing I didn't want
if I tried to bid.... And, she added, in a lower voice, turning to
Horace, I don't believe you would be a bit more successful,
What makes you say that, Sylvia? he asked, with a start.
Why, do you mean to say you've forgotten how you went to that
auction for papa, and came away without having managed to get a single
thing? she said. What a short memory you must have!
There was only tender mockery in her eyes; absolutely no
recollection of the sinister purchase he had made at that sale, or how
nearly it had separated them for ever. So he hastened to admit that
perhaps he had not been particularly successful at the auction
Sir Lawrence next addressed him across the table. I was just
telling Mrs. Futvoye, he said, how much I regretted that I had not
the privilege of your acquaintance during my year of office. A Lord
Mayor, as you doubtless know, has exceptional facilities for exercising
hospitality, and it would have afforded me real pleasure if your first
visit to the Guildhall could have been paid under
You are very kind, said Horace, very much on his guard; I could
not wish to pay it under better.
I flatter myself, said the ex-Lord Mayor, that, while in office,
I did my humble best to maintain the traditions of the City, and I was
fortunate enough to have the honour of receiving more than the average
number of celebrities as guests. But I had one great disappointment, I
must tell you. It had always been a dream of mine that it might fall to
my lot to present some distinguished fellow-countryman with the freedom
of the City. By some curious chance, when the opportunity seemed about
to occur, the thing was put off and I missed itmissed it by the
Ah, well, Sir Lawrence, said Ventimore, one can't have
For my part, put in Lady Pountney, who had only caught a word or
two of her husband's remarks, what I miss most is having the
sentinels present arms whenever I went out for a drive. They did it so
nicely and respectfully. I confess I enjoyed that. My husband never
cared much for it. Indeed, he wouldn't even use the State coach unless
he was absolutely obliged. He was as obstinate as a mule about it!
I see, Lady Pountney, the Professor put in, that you share the
common prejudice against mules. It's quite a mistaken one. The mule has
never been properly appreciated in this country. He is really the
gentlest and most docile of creatures!
I can't say I like them myself, said Lady Pountney; such a
mongrel sort of animalneither one thing nor the other!
And they're hideous too, Anthony, added his wife. And not at all
There you're mistaken, my dear, said the Professor; they are
capable of almost human intelligence. I have had considerable personal
experience of what a mule can do, he informed Lady Pountney, who
seemed still incredulous. More than most people indeed, and I can
assure you, my dear Lady Pountney, that they readily adapt themselves
to almost any environment, and will endure the greatest hardships
without exhibiting any signs of distress. I see by your expression,
Ventimore, that you don't agree with me, eh?
Horace had to set his teeth hard for a moment, lest he should
disgrace himself by a peal of untimely mirthbut by a strong effort of
will he managed to command his muscles.
Well, sir, he said, I've only chanced to come into close contact
with one mule in my life, and, frankly, I've no desire to repeat the
You happened to come upon an unfavourable specimen, that's all,
said the Professor. There are exceptions to every rule.
This animal, Horace said, was certainly exceptional enough in
Do tell us all about it, pleaded one of the Miss Wackerbaths, and
all the ladies joined in the entreaty until Horace found himself under
the necessity of improvising a story, which, it must be confessed, fell
This final ordeal past, he grew silent and thoughtful, as he sat
there by Sylvia's side, looking out through the glazed gallery outside
upon the spring foliage along the Embankment, the opaline river, and
the shot towers and buildings on the opposite bank glowing warm brown
against an evening sky of silvery blue.
Not for the first time did it seem strange, incredible almost, to
him that all these people should be so utterly without any recollection
of events which surely might have been expected to leave some trace
upon the least retentive memoryand yet it only proved once more how
thoroughly and honourably the old Jinnee, now slumbering placidly in
his bottle deep down in unfathomable mud, opposite the very spot where
they were dining, had fulfilled his last undertaking.
Fakrash, the brass bottle, and all the fantastic and embarrassing
performances were indeed as totally forgotten as though they had never
* * * * *
And it is but too probable that even this modest and veracious
account of them will prove to have been included in the general act of
oblivionthough the author will trust as long as possible that
Fakrash-el-Aamash may have neglected to provide for this particular
case, and that the history of the Brass Bottle may thus be permitted to
linger awhile in the memories of some at least of its readers.