The Mark Of Cain
by Andrew Lang
Tale of Two
Mark of Cain.
Verdict of Fate.
CHAPTER I.A Tale of Two Clubs.
Such arts the gods who dwell on high
Have given to the Greek.Lays of Ancient Rome.
In the Strangers' Room of the Olympic Club the air was thick with
tobacco-smoke, and, despite the bitter cold outside, the temperature
was uncomfortably high. Dinner was over, and the guests, broken up into
little groups, were chattering noisily. No one had yet given any sign
of departing: no one had offered a welcome apology for the need of
catching an evening train.
Perhaps the civilized custom which permits women to dine in the
presence of the greedier sex is the proudest conquest of Culture. Were
it not for the excuse of joining the ladies, dinner-parties (Like the
congregations in Heaven, as described in the hymn) would ne'er break
up, and suppers (like Sabbaths, on the same authority) would never
Hang it all, will the fellows never go?
So thought Maitland, of St. Gatien's, the founder of the feast. The
inhospitable reflections which we have recorded had all been passing
through his brain as he rather moodily watched the twenty guests he had
been feedingone can hardly say entertaining. It was a duty dinner
he had been givingalmost everything Maitland did was done from a
sense of dutyyet he scarcely appeared to be reaping the reward of an
approving conscience. His acquaintances, laughing and gossipping round
the half-empty wine-glasses, the olives, the scattered fruit, and the
ashes of the weeds of their delight, gave themselves no concern about
the weary host. Even at his own party, as in life generally, Maitland
felt like an outsider. He wakened from his reverie as a strong hand was
laid lightly on his shoulder.
Well, Maitland, said a man sitting down beside him, what have
you been doing this long time?
What have I been doing, Barton? Maitland answered. Oh, I have
been reflecting on the choice of a life, and trying to humanize myself!
Bielby says I have not enough human nature.
Bielby is quite right; he is the most judicious of college dons and
father-confessors, old man. And how long do you mean to remain his
pupil and penitent? And how is the pothouse getting on?
Frank Barton, the speaker, had been at school with Maitland, and
ever since, at college and in life, had bullied, teased, and befriended
him. Barton was a big young man, with great thews and sinews, and a
broad, breast beneath his broadcloth and wide shirt-front. He was
blonde, prematurely bald, with an aquiline commanding nose, keen, merry
blue eyes, and a short, fair beard. He had taken a medical as well as
other degrees at the University; he had studied at Vienna and Paris; he
was even what Captain Costigan styles a scoientific cyarkter. He had
written learnedly in various Proceedings of erudite societies; he had
made a cruise in a man-of-war, a scientific expedition; and his Les
Tatouages, Étude Médico-Lêgale, published in Paris, had been
commended by the highest authorities. Yet, from some whim of
philanthropy, he had not a home and practice in Cavendish Square, but
dwelt and labored in Chelsea.
How is your pothouse getting on? he asked again.
The pothouse? Oh, the Hit or Miss you mean? Well, I'm afraid
it's not very successful I took the lease of it, you know, partly by
way of doing some good in a practical kind of way. The working men at
the waterside won't go to clubs, where there is nothing but coffee to
drink, and little but tracts to read. I thought if I gave them sound
beer, and looked in among them now and then of an evening, I might help
to civilize them a bit, like that fellow who kept the Thieves' Club in
the East End. And then I fancied they might help to make me a
little more human. But it does not seem quite to succeed. I fear I am a
born wet blanket But the idea is good. Mrs. St. John Delo-raine quite
agrees with me about that. And she is a high authority.
Mrs. St. John Deloraine? I've heard of her. She is a lively widow,
She is a practical philanthropist, answered Maitland, flushing a
Pretty, too, I have been told?
Yes; she is 'conveniently handsome,' as Izaak Walton says.
I say, Maitland, here's a chance to humanize you. Why don't you ask
her to marry you? Pretty and philanthropic and richwhat better would
I wish everyone wouldn't bother a man to marry, Maitland replied
testily, and turning red in his peculiar manner; for his complexion was
pale and unwholesome.
What a queer chap you are, Maitland; what's the matter with you?
Here you are, young, entirely without encumbrances, as the
advertisements say, no relations to worry you, with plenty of money,
let alone what you make by writing, and yet you are not happy. What is
the matter with you?
Well, you should know best What's the good of your being a doctor,
and acquainted all these years with my moral and physical constitution
(what there is of it), if you can't tell what's the nature of my
I don't diagnose many cases like yours, old boy, down by the side
of the water, among the hardy patients of Mundy &Barton, general
practitioners. There is plenty of human nature there!
And do you mean to stay there with Mundy much longer?
Well, I don't know. A fellow is really doing some good, and it is a
splendid practice for mastering surgery. They are always falling off
roofs, or having weights fall on them, or getting jammed between
barges, or kicking each other into most interesting jellies. Then the
foreign sailors are handy with their knives. Altogether, a man learns a
good deal about surgery in Chelsea. But, I say, Barton went on,
lowering his voice, where on earth did you pick up?
Here he glanced significantly at a tall man, standing at some
distance, the centre of half a dozen very youthful revellers.
Cranley, do you mean? I met him at the Trumpet office. He
was writing about the Coolie Labor Question and the Eastern Question.
He has been in the South Seas, like you.
Yes; he has been in a lot of queerer places than the South Seas,
answered the other, and he ought to know something about Coolies. He
has dealt in them, I fancy.
I daresay, Maitland replied rather wearily. He seems to have
travelled a good deal: perhaps he has travelled in Coolies, whatever
they may be.
Now, my dear fellow, do you know what kind of man your guest is, or
He seems to be a military and sporting kind of gent, so to speak,
said Maitland; but what does it matter?
Then you don't know why he left his private tutor's; you don't know
why he left the University; you don't know why he left the
Ninety-second; you don't know, and no one does, what he did after that;
and you never heard of that affair with the Frenchman in Egypt?
Well, Maitland replied, about his ancient history I own I don't
know anything. As to the row with the Frenchman at Cairo, he told me
himself. He said the beggar was too small for him to lick, and that
duelling was ridiculous.
They didn't take that view of it at Shephard's Hotel
Well, it is not my affair, said Maitland. One should see all sort
of characters, Bielby says. This is not an ordinary fellow. Why, he has
been a sailor before the mast, he says, by way of adventure, and he is
full of good stories. I rather like him, and he can't do my moral
character any harm. I'm not likely to deal in Coolies, at my
time of life, nor quarrel with warlike aliens.
No; but he's not a good man to introduce to these boys from
Oxford, Barton was saying, when the subject of their conversation came
up, surrounded by his little court of undergraduates.
The Hon. Thomas Cranley was a good deal older than the company in
which he found himself. Without being one of the hoary youths who play
Falstaff to every fresh heir's Prince Harry, he was a middle-aged man,
too obviously accustomed to the society of boys. His very dress spoke
of a prolonged youth. À large cat's-eye, circled with diamonds, blazed
solitary in his shirt-front, and his coat was cut after the manner of
the contemporary reveller. His chin was clean shaven, and his face,
though a good deal worn, was ripe, smooth, shining with good cheer, and
of a purply bronze hue, from exposure to hot suns and familiarity with
the beverages of many peoples. His full red lips, with their humorous
corners, were shaded by a small black mustache, and his twinkling
bistre-colored eyes, beneath mobile black eyebrows, gave Cranley the
air of a jester and a good fellow. In manner he was familiar, with a
kind of deference, too, and reserve, like a dog that is always wagging
his tail and deprecating a kick, thought Barton grimly, as he watched
the other's genial advance.
He's going to say good-night, bless him, thought Maitland
gratefully. Now the others will be moving too, I hope!
So Maitland rose with much alacrity as Cranley approached him. To
stand up would show, he thought, that he was not inhospitably eager to
detain the parting guest.
Good-night, Mr. Maitland, said the senior, holding out his hand.
It is still early, said the host, doing his best to play his part.
Must you really go?
Yes; the night's young (it was about half-past twelve), but I
have a kind of engagement to look in at the Cockpit, and three or four
of your young friends here are anxious to come with me, and see how we
keep it up round there. Perhaps you and your friend will walk with us.
Here he bowed slightly in the direction of Barton.
There will be a little bac going on, he continuedun
petit bac de santé; and these boys tell me they have never played
anything more elevating than loo.
I'm afraid I am no good at a round game, answered Maitland, who
had played at his Aunt's at Christmas, and who now observed with
delight that everyone was moving; but here is Barton, who will be
happy to accompany you, I daresay.
If you're for a frolic, boys, said Barton, quoting Dr. Johnson,
and looking rather at the younger men than at Cranley, why, I will not
balk you. Good-night, Maitland.
And he shook hands with his host.
Good-nights were uttered in every direction; sticks, hats, and
umbrellas were hunted up; and while Maitland, half-asleep, was being
whirled to his rooms in Bloomsbury in a hansom, his guests made the
frozen pavement of Piccadilly ring beneath their elegant heels.
It is only round the corner, said Cranley to the four or five men
who accompanied him. The Cockpit, where I am taking you, is in a
fashionable slum off St. James's. We're just there.
There was nothing either meretricious or sinister in the aspect of
that favored resort, the Cockpit, as the Decade Club was familiarly
called by its friendsand enemies. Two young Merton men and the
freshman from New, who were enjoying their Christmas vacation in town,
and had been dining with Maitland, were a little disappointed in the
appearance of the place. They had hoped to knock mysteriously at a back
door in a lane, and to be shown, after investigating through a
loopholed wicket, into a narrow staircase, which, again, should open on
halls of light, full of blazing wax candles and magnificent lacqueys,
while a small mysterious man would point out the secret hiding-room,
and the passages leading on to the roof or into the next house, in case
of a raid by the police. Such was the old idea of a Hell; but the
advance of Thought has altered all these early notions. The Decade Club
was like any other small club. A current of warm air, charged with
tobacco-smoke, rushed forth into the frosty night when the swinging
door was opened; a sleepy porter looked out of his little nest, and
Cranley wrote the names of the companions he introduced in a book which
was kept for that purpose.
Now you are free of the Cockpit for the night, he said, genially.
It's a livelier place, in the small hours, than that classical Olympic
we've just left.
They went upstairs, passing the doors of one or two rooms, lit up
but empty, except for two or three men who were sleeping in
uncomfortable attitudes on sofas. The whole of the breadth of the first
floor, all the drawing-room of the house before it became a club, had
been turned into a card-room, from which brilliant lights, voices, and
a heavy odor of tobacco and alcohol poured out when the door was
opened. A long green baize-covered table, of very light wood, ran down
the centre of the room, while refreshments stood on smaller tables, and
a servant out of livery sat, half-asleep, behind a great desk in the
remotest corner. There were several empty chairs round the green
baize-covered table, at which some twenty men were sitting, with money
before them; while one, in the middle, dealt out the cards on a broad
flap of smooth black leather let into the baize. Every now and then he
threw the cards he had been dealing into a kind of well in the table,
and after every deal he raked up his winnings with a rake, or
distributed gold and counters to the winners, as mechanically as if he
had been a croupier at Monte Carlo. The players, who were all in
evening dress, had scarcely looked up when the strangers entered the
Brought some recruits, Cranley? asked the Banker, adding, as he
looked at his hand, J'en donne! and becoming absorbed in his
The game you do not understand? said Cranley to one of his
Not quite, said the lad, shaking his head.
All right; I will soon show you all about it; and I wouldn't play,
if I were you, till you know all about it. Perhaps, after you
know all about it, you'll think it wiser not to play at all At
least, you might well think so abroad, where very fishy things are
often done. Here it's all right, of course.
Is baccarat a game you can be cheated at, thenI mean, when people
are inclined to cheat?
Cheat! Oh, rather! There are about a dozen ways of cheating at
The other young men from Maitland's party gathered round their
mentor, who continued his instructions in a low voice, and from a
distance whence the play could be watched, while the players were not
likely to be disturbed by the conversation.
Cheating is the simplest thing in the world, at Nice or in Paris,
Cranley went on; but to show you how it is done, in case you ever do
play in foreign parts, I must explain the game. You see the men first
put down their stakes within the thin white line on the edge of the
tabla Then the Banker deals two cards to one of the men on his left,
and all the fellows on that side stand by his luck. Then he
deals two to a chappie on his right, and all the punters on the right,
back that sportsman. And he deals two cards to himself. The game is to
get as near nine as possible, ten, and court cards, not counting at
all. If the Banker has eight or nine, he does not offer cards; if he
has less, he gives the two players, if they ask for them, one card
each, and takes one himself if he chooses. If they hold six, seven, or
eight, they stand; if less, they take a card. Sometimes one stands at
five; it depends. Then the Banker wins if he is nearer nine than the
players, and they win if they are better than he; and that's the
I don't see where the cheating can come in, said one of the young
Dozens of ways, as I told you. A man may have an understanding with
the waiter, and play with arranged packs; but the waiter is always the
dangerous element in that little combination. He's sure to peach
or blackmail his accomplice. Then the cards may be marked. I remember,
at Ostend, one fellow, a big German; he wore spectacles, like all
Germans, and he seldom gave the players anything better than three
court cards when he dealt One evening he was in awful luck, when he
happened to go for his cigar-case, which he had left in the hall in his
great-coat pocket. He laid down his spectacles on the table, and
someone tried them on. As soon as he took up the cards he gave a start,
and sang out, 'Here's a swindle! Nous sommes volés!' He could
see, by the help of the spectacles, that all the nines and court cards
were marked; and the spectacles were regular patent double million
And what became of the owner of the glasses?
Oh, he just looked into the room, saw the man wearing them, and
didn't wait to say good-night. He just went!
Here Cranley chuckled.
I remember another time, at Nice: I always laugh when I think of
it! There was a little Frenchman who played nearly every night. He
would take the bank for three or four turns, and he almost always won.
Well, one night he had been at the theatre, and he left before the end
of the piece and looked in at the Cercle. He took the Bank: lost once,
won twice; then he offered cards. The man who was playing nodded, to
show he would take one, and the Frenchman laid down an eight of clubs,
a greasy, dirty old rag, with théâtre français de nice stamped
on it in big letters. It was his ticket of readmission at the theatre
that they gave him when he went out, and it had got mixed up with a
nice little arrangement in cards he had managed to smuggle into the
club pack. I'll never forget his face and the other man's when
Théâtre Français turned up. However, you understand the game now,
and if you want to play, we had better give fine gold to the waiter in
exchange for bone counters, and get to work.
Two or three of the visitors followed Cranley to the corner where
the white, dissipated-looking waiter of the card-room sat, and provided
themselves with black and red jetons (bone counters) of various
values, to be redeemed at the end of the game.
When they returned to the table the banker was just leaving his
I'm cleaned out, said he, décavé. Good-night, and he
No one seemed anxious to open a bank. The punters had been winning
all night, and did not like to desert their luck.
Oh, this will never do, cried Cranley. If no one else will open a
bank, I'll risk a couple of hundred, just to show you beginners how it
Cranley sat down, lit a cigarette, and laid the smooth silver
cigarette-case before him. Then he began to deal.
Fortune at first was all on the side of the players. Again and again
Cranley chucked out the counters he had lost, which the others gathered
in, or pushed three or four bank-notes with his little rake in the
direction of a more venturesome winner. The new-comers, who were
winning, thought they had never taken part in a sport more gentlemanly
I must have one shy, said Martin, one of the boys who had hitherto
stood with Barton, behind the Banker, looking on. He was a gaudy youth
with a diamond stud, rich, and not fond of losing. He staked five
pounds and won; he left the whole sum on and lost, lost again, a third
time, and then said, May I draw a cheque?
Of course you may, Cranley answered. The waiter will give you
tout ce qu'il faut pour écrire, as the stage directions say; but I
don't advise you to plunge. You've lost quite enough. Yet they say the
devil favors beginners, so you can't come to grief.
The young fellow by this time was too excited to take advice. His
cheeks had an angry flush, his hands trembled as he hastily constructed
some paper currency of considerable value. The parallel horizontal
wrinkles of the gambler were just sketched on his smooth girlish brow
as he returned with his paper. The bank had been losing, but not
largely. The luck turned again as soon as Martin threw down some of his
scrip. Thrice consecutively he lost.
Excuse me, said Barton suddenly to Cranley, may I help myself to
one of your cigarettes?
He stooped as he spoke, over the table, and Cranley saw him pick up
the silver cigarette-case. It was a handsome piece of polished silver.
Certainly; help yourself. Give me back my cigarette-case, please,
when you have done with it.
He dealt again, and lost.
What a nice case! said Barton, examining it closely. There is an
Arabic word engraved on it.
Yes, yes, said Cranley, rather impatiently, holding out his hand
for the thing, and pausing before he dealt. The case was given me by
the late Khédive, dear old Ismail, bless him! The word is a talisman.
I thought so. The case seemed to bring you luck, said Barton.
Cranley half turned and threw a quick look at him, as rapid and
timid as the glance of a hare in its form.
Come, give me it back, please, he said.
Now, just oblige me: let me try what there is in luck. Go on
playing while I rub up my Arabic, and try to read this ineffable name
on the case. Is it the word of Power of Solomon?
Cranley glanced back again. All right, he said, as you are so
He offered cards, and lost. Martin's face brightened up. His paper
currency was coming back to him.
It's a shame, grumbled Cranley, to rob a fellow of his fetich.
Waiter, a small brandy-and-soda! Confound your awkwardness! Why do you
spill it over the cards?
By Cranley's own awkwardness, more than the waiter's, a little
splash of the liquid had fallen in front of him, on the black leather
part of the table where he dealt. He went on dealing, and his luck
altered again. The rake was stretched out over both halves of the long
table; the gold and notes and counters, with a fluttering assortment of
Martin's I O U's, were all dragged in. Martin went to the den of the
money-changer sullenly, and came back with fresh supplies.
Banco? he cried, meaning that he challenged Cranley for all the
money in the bank. There must have been some seven hundred pounds.
All right, said Cranley, taking a sip of his soda water. He had
dealt two cards, when his hands were suddenly grasped as in two vices,
and cramped to the table. Barton had bent over from behind and caught
him by the wrists.
Cranley made one weak automatic movement to extricate himself; then
he sat perfectly still. His face, which he turned over his shoulder,
was white beneath the stains of tan, and his lips were blue.
Damn you! he snarled. What trick are you after now?
Are you drunk, Barton? cried some one.
Leave him alone! shouted some of the players, rising from their
seats; while others, pressing round Barton, looked over his shoulder
without seeing any excuse for his behavior.
Gentlemen, said Barton, in a steady voice, I leave my conduct in
the hands of the club. If I do not convince them that Mr. Cranley has
been cheating, I am quite at their disposal, and at his. Let anyone who
doubts what I say look here.
Well, I'm looking here, and I don't see what you are making such a
fuss about, said Martin, from the group behind, peering over at the
table and the cards.
Will you kindlyNo, it is no use. The last remark was addressed
to the captive, who had tried to release his hands. Will you kindly
take up some of the cards and deal them slowly, to right and left, over
that little puddle of spilt soda water on the leather? Get as near the
table as you can.
There was a dead silence while Martin made this experiment.
By gad, I can see every pip on the cards! cried Martin.
Of course you can; and if you had the art of correcting fortune,
you could make use of what you see. At the least you would know whether
to take a card or stand.
I didn't, said the wretched Cranley. How on earth was I to know
that the infernal fool of a waiter would spill the liquor there, and
give you a chance against me?
You spilt the liquor yourself, Barton answered coolly, when I
took away your cigarette-case. I saw you passing the cards over the
surface of it, which anyone can see for himself is a perfect mirror. I
tried to warn youfor I did not want a rowwhen I said the case
'seemed to bring you luck.' But you would not be warned; and when the
cigarette-case trick was played out, you fell back on the old dodge
with the drop of water. Will anyone else convince himself that I am
right before I let Mr. Cranley go?
One or two men passed the cards, as they had seen the Banker do,
over the spilt soda water.
It's a clear case, they said. Leave him alone.
Barton slackened his grip of Cranley's hands, and for some seconds
they lay as if paralyzed on the table before him, white and cold, with
livid circles round the wrists. The man's face was deadly pale, and wet
with perspiration. He put out a trembling hand to the glass of
brandy-and-water that stood beside him; the class rattled against his
teeth as he drained all the contents at a gulp.
You shall hear from me, he grumbled, and, with an inarticulate
muttering of threats he made his way, stumbling and catching at chairs,
to the door. When he had got outside, he leaned against the wall, like
a drunken man, and then shambled across the landing into a
reading-room. It was empty, and Cranley fell into a large easy-chair,
where he lay crumpled up, rather than sat, for perhaps ten minutes,
holding his hand against his heart.
They talk about having the courage of one's opinions. Confound it!
Why haven't I the nerve for my character? Hang this heart of mine! Will
it never stop thumping?
He sat up and looked about him, then rose and walked toward the
table; but his head began to swim, and his eyes to darken; so he fell
back again in his seat, feeling drowsy and beaten. Mechanically he
began to move the hand that hung over the arm of his low chair, and it
encountered a newspaper which had fallen on the floor. He lifted it
automatically and without thought: it was the Times. Perhaps to
try his eyes, and see if they served him again after his collapse, he
ran them down the columns of the advertisements.
Suddenly something caught his attention; his whole lax figure grew
braced again as he read a passage steadily through more than twice or
thrice. When he had quite mastered this, he threw down the paper and
gave a low whistle.
So the old boy's dead, he reflected; and that drunken tattooed
ass and his daughter are to come in for the money and the mines!
They'll be clever that find him, and I shan't give them his address!
What luck some men have!
Here he fell into deep thought, his brows and lips working eagerly.
I'll do it, he said at last, cutting the advertisement out of the
paper with a penknife. It isn't often a man has a chance to star
in this game of existence. I've lost all my own social Lives: one in
that business at Oxford, one in the row at Ali Musjid, and the third
wentto-night. But I'll star. Every sinner should desire a new
Life, he added with a sneer.*
* Starring is paying for a new Life at Pool.
He rose, steady enough now, walked to the door, paused and listened,
heard the excited voices in the card-room still discussing him, slunk
down-stairs, took his hat and greatcoat, and swaggered past the porter.
Mechanically he felt in his pocket, as he went out of the porch, for
his cigarette-case; and he paused at the little fount of fire at the
He was thinking that he would never light a cigarette there again.
Presently he remembered, and swore. He had left his case on the
table of the card-room, where Barton had laid it down, and he had not
the impudence to send back for it.
Vile damnum! he muttered (for he had enjoyed a classical
education), and so disappeared in the frosty night.
CHAPTER II.In the Snow.
The foul and foggy night of early February was descending, some
weeks after the scene in the Cockpit, on the river and the town. Night
was falling from the heavens; or rather, night seemed to be rising from
the earthsteamed up, black, from the dingy trampled snow of the
streets, and from the vapors that swam above the squalid houses. There
was coal-smoke and a taste of lucifer matches in the air. In the
previous night there had been such a storm as London seldom sees; the
powdery, flying snow had been blown for many hours before a tyrannous
northeast gale, and had settled down, like dust in a neglected chamber,
over every surface of the city. Drifts and snow-wreathes, as northern
folk say, were lying in exposed places, in squares and streets, as deep
as they lie when sheep are smoored on the sides of Sundhope or
Penchrist in the desolate Border-land. All day London had been
struggling under her cold winding-sheet, like a feeble, feverish
patient trying to throw off a heavy white counterpane. Now the
counterpane was dirty enough. The pavements were three inches deep in a
rich greasy deposit of mud and molten ice. Above the round glass or
iron coverings of coal-cellars the foot-passengers slipped, ricked
their backs, and swore as they stumbled, if they did not actually fall
down, in the filth. Those who were in haste, and could afford it,
travelled, at fancy prices, in hansoms with two horses driven tandem.
The snow still lay comparatively white on the surface of the
less-frequented thoroughfares, with straight shining black marks where
wheels had cut their way.
At intervals in the day the fog had fallen blacker than night. Down
by the waterside the roads were deep in a mixture of a weak gray-brown
or coffee color. Beside one of the bridges in Chelsea, an open slope
leads straight to the stream, and here, in the afternoonfor a late
start was madethe carts of the Vestry had been led, and loads of
slush that had choked up the streets in the more fashionable parts of
the town had been unladen into the river. This may not be the most;
scientific of sanitary modes of clearing the streets and squares, but
it was the way that recommended itself to the wisdom of the Contractor.
In the early evening the fog had lightened a little, but it fell sadly
again, and grew so thick that the bridge was lost in mist half-way
across the river, like the arches of that fatal bridge beheld by Mirza
in his Vision. The masts of the vessels moored on the near bank
disappeared from view, and only a red lamp or two shone against the
blackness of the hulks. From the public-house at the cornerthe Hit
or Missstreamed a fan-shaped flood of light, soon choked by the
Out of the muddy twilight of a street that runs at right angles to
the river, a cart came crawling; its high-piled white load of snow was
faintly visible before the brown horses (they were yoked tandem) came
into view. This cart was driven down to the water-edge, and was there
upturned, with much shouting and cracking of whips on the part of the
men engaged, and with a good deal of straining, slipping, and stumbling
on the side of the horses.
One of the men jumped down, and fumbled at the iron pins which kept
the backboard of the cart in its place.
Blarmme, Bill, he grumbled, if the blessed pins ain't froze.
Here he put his wet fingers in his mouth, blowing on them afterward,
and smacking his arms across his breast to restore the circulation.
The comrade addressed as Bill merely stared speechlessly as he stood
at the smoking head of the leader, and the other man tugged again at
It won't budge, he cried at last. Just run into the Hit or
Miss at the corner, mate, and borrow a hammer; and you might get a
pint o' hot beer when ye're at it. Here's fourpence. I was with three
that found a quid in the Mac,* end of last week; here's the last
* A quid in the Maca sovereign in the
called Mac from Macadam, and employed as mortar in
building eligible freehold tenements.
He fumbled in his pocket, but his hands were so numb that he could
scarcely capture the nimble fourpence. Why should the nimble
fourpence have the monopoly of agility?
I'm Blue Ribbon, Tommy, don't yer know, said Bill, with regretful
sullenness. His ragged great-coat, indeed, was decorated with the azure
badge of avowed and total abstinence.
Blow yer blue ribbon! Hold on where ye are, and I'll bring the
bloomin' hammer myself.
Thus growling, Tommy strode indifferent through the snow, his legs
protected by bandages of straw ropes. Presently he reappeared in the
warmer yellow of the light that poured through the windows of the old
public-house. He was wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, which
he then thrust into the deeps of his pockets, hugging a hammer to his
body under his armpit.
A little hot beer would do yer bloomin' temper a deal more good
than ten yards o' blue ribbon at sixpence. Blue ruin's more in my
line, observed Thomas, epigram-matically, much comforted by his
refreshment. Aid with two well-directed taps he knocked the pins out of
their sockets, and let down the backboard of the cart.
Bill, uncomforted by ale, sulkily jerked the horses forward; the
cart was tilted up, and the snow tumbled out, partly into the shallow
shore-water, partly on to the edge of the slope.
Ullo! cried Tommy suddenly. E're's an old coat-sleeve a sticking
out o' the snow.
'Alves! exclaimed Bill, with a noble eye on the main chance.
'Alves! of course, 'alves. Ain't we on the same lay, replied the
chivalrous Tommy. Then he cried, Lord preserve us, mate; there's a
cove in the coat!
He ran forward, and clutched the elbow of the sleeve which stood up
stiffly above the frozen mound of lumpy snow. He might well have
thought at first that the sleeve was empty, such a very stick of bone
and skin was the arm he grasped within it.
Here, Bill, help us to dig him out, poor chap!
Is he dead? asked Bill, leaving the horses' heads.
Dead! he's bound to be dead, under all that weight. But how the
dickens did he get into the cart? Guess we didn't shovel him in, eh;
we'd have seen him?
By this time the two men had dragged a meagre corpse out of the snow
heap. A rough worn old pilot-coat, a shabby pair of corduroy trousers,
and two broken boots through which the toes could be seen peeping
ruefully, were all the visible raiment of the body. The clothes lay in
heavy swathes and folds over the miserable bag of bones that had once
been a tall man. The peaked blue face was half hidden by a fell of
iron-gray hair, and a grizzled beard hung over the breast.
The two men stood for some moments staring at the corpse. A wretched
woman in a thin gray cotton dress had come down from the bridge, and
shivered beside the body for a moment.
He's a goner, was her criticism. I wish I was.
With this aspiration she shivered back into the fog again, walking
on her unknown way. By this time a dozen people had started up from
nowhere, and were standing in a tight ring round the body. The behavior
of the people was typical of London gazers. No one made any remark, or
offered any suggestion; they simply stared with all their eyes and
souls, absorbed in the unbought excitement of the spectacle. They were
helpless, idealess, interested and unconcerned.
Run and fetch a peeler, Bill, said Tommy at last.
Peeler be hanged! Bloomin' likely I am to find a peeler. Fetch him
Sulky devil you are, answered Tommy, who was certainly of milder
mood; whereas Bill seemed a most unalluring example of the virtue of
Temperance. It is true that he had only been Blue Ribbon since the
end of his Christmas boutthat is, for nearly a fortnightand Virtue,
a precarious tenant, was not yet comfortable in her new lodgings.
Before Tommy returned from his quest the dusk had deepened into
night The crowd round the body in the pea-coat had grown denser, and it
might truly be said that the more part knew not wherefore they had
come together. The centre of interest was not a fight, they were sure,
otherwise the ring would have been swaying this way and that. Neither
was it a dispute between a cabman and his fare: there was no sound of
angry repartees. It might be a drunken woman, or a man in a fit, or a
lost child. So the outer circle of spectators, who saw nothing, waited,
and patiently endured till the moment of revelation should arrive.
Respectable people who passed only glanced at the gathering;
respectable people may wonder, but they never do find out the mystery
within a London crowd. On the extreme fringe of the mob were some
amateurs who had just been drinking in the Hit or Miss. They
were noisy, curious, and impatient.
At last Tommy arrived with two policeman, who, acting on his
warning, had brought with them a stretcher. He had told them briefly
how the dead man was found in the cart-load of snow.
Before the men in blue, the crowd of necessity opened. One of the
officers stooped down and flashed his lantern on the heap of snow where
the dead face lay, as pale as its frozen pillow.
Lord, it's old Dicky Shields! cried a voice in the crowd, as the
peaked still features were lighted up.
The man who spoke was one of the latest spectators that had arrived,
after the news that some pleasant entertainment was on foot had passed
into the warm alcoholic air and within the swinging doors of the Hit
You know him, do you? asked the policeman with the lantern.
Know him, rather! Didn't I give him sixpence for rum when he
tattooed this here cross and anchor on my arm? Dicky was a grand hand
at tattooing, bless you: he'd tattooed himself all over!
The speaker rolled up his sleeve, and showed, on his burly red
forearm, the emblems of Faith and Hope rather neatly executed in blue.
Why, he was in the Hit or Miss, the speaker went on, no
later nor last night.
Wot beats me, said Tommy again, as the policeman lifted the light
corpse, and tried vainly to straighten the frozen limbs, Wot beats me
is how he got in this here cart of ours.
He's light enough surely, added Tommy; but I warrant we
didn't chuck him on the cart with the snow in Belgrave Square.
Where do you put up at night? asked one of the policemen suddenly.
He had been ruminating on the mystery.
In the yard there, behind that there hoarding, answered Tommy,
pointing to a breached and battered palisade near the corner of the
At the back of this ricketty plank fence, with its particolored
tatters of damp and torn advertisements, lay a considerable space of
waste ground. The old houses that recently occupied the site had been
pulled down, probably as condemned slums, in some moment of reform,
when people had nothing better to think of than the housing of the
There had been an idea of building model lodgings for tramps, with
all the latest improvements, on the space, but the idea evaporated when
something else occurred to divert the general interest. Now certain
sheds, with roofs sloped against the nearest walls, formed a kind of
lumber-room for the parish.
At this time the scavengers' carts were housed in the sheds, or
outside the sheds when these were overcrowded. Not far off were stables
for the horses, and thus the waste ground was not left wholly
Was this cart o' yours under the sheds all night or in the open?
asked the policeman, with an air of penetration.
Just outside the shed, worn't it, Bill? replied Tommy.
Bill said nothing, being a person disinclined to commit himself.
If the cart was outside, said the policeman, then the thing's
plain enough. You started from there, didn't you, with the cart in the
Ay, answered Tommy.
And there was a little sprinkle o' snow in the cart?
May be there wos. I don't remember one way or the other.
Then you must be a stupid if you don't see that this here
cove, pointing to the dead man, got drinking too much last night,
lost hisself, and wandered inside the hoarding, where he fell asleep in
Snow do make a fellow bloomin' sleepy, one of the crowd assented.
Well, he never wakened no more, and the snow had covered over his
body when you started with the cart, and him in it, unbeknown. He's
light enough to make no difference to the weight. Was it dark when you
One of them spells of fog was on; you could hardly see your hand,
Well, then, it's as plain asas the nose on your face, said the
policeman, without any sarcastic intentions. That's how it was.
Bravo, Bobby! cried one of the crowd. They should make you an
inspector, and set you to run in them dynamiting Irish coves.
The policeman was not displeased at this popular tribute to his
shrewdness. Dignity forbade him, however, to acknowledge the
compliment, and he contented himself with lifting the two handles of
the stretcher which was next him. A covering was thrown over the face
of the dead man, and the two policemen, with their burden, began to
make their way northward to the hospital.
A small mob followed them, but soon dwindled into a tail of street
boys and girls. These accompanied the body till it disappeared from
their eyes within the hospital doors. Then they waited for half an hour
or so, and at last seemed to evaporate into the fog.
By this time Tommy and his mate had unharnessed their horses and
taken them to stable, the cart was housed (beneath the sheds this
time), and Bill had so far succumbed to the genial influences of the
occasion as to tear off his blue badge and follow Tommy into the Hit
A few chance acquaintances, hospitable and curious, accompanied
them, intent on providing with refreshments and plying with questions
the heroes of so remarkable an adventure. It is true that they already
knew all Tommy and Bill had to tell; but there is a pleasure, in
moments of emotional agitation, in repeating at intervals the same
questions, and making over and again the same profound remarks. The
charm of these performances was sure to be particularly keen within the
very walls where the dead man had probably taken his last convivial
glass, and where some light was certain to be thrown, by the landlady
or her customers, on the habits and history of poor Dicky Shields.
CHAPTER III.An Academic Pothouse.
The Hit or Miss tavern, to customers (rough customers, at
least) who entered it on a foggy winter night, seemed merely a public
by the river's brim. Not being ravaged and parched by a thirst for the
picturesque, Tommy and his mates failed to pause and observe the
architectural peculiarities of the building. Even if they had been of a
romantic and antiquarian turn, the fog was so thick that they could
have seen little to admire, though there was plenty to be admired. The
Hit or Miss was not more antique in its aspect than modern in its
fortunes. Few public-houses, if any, boasted for their landlord such a
person as Robert Maitland, M.A., Fellow of St. Gatien's, in the
University of Oxford.
It is, perhaps, desirable and even necessary to explain how this
arrangement came into existence. We have already made acquaintance with
mine host of the Hit or Miss, and found him to be by no means
the rosy, genial Boniface of popular tradition. That a man like
Maitland should be the lessee of a waterside tavern, like the Hit or
Miss, was only one of the anomalies of this odd age of ours. An age
of revivals, restorations, experimentsan age of dukes who are
Socialistsan age which sees the East-end brawling in Pall Mall, and
parties of West-end tourists personally conducted down Ratcliffe
Highwayneed not wonder at Maitland's eccentric choice in
Maitland was an orphan, and rich. He had been an unpopular lonely
boy at a public school, where he was known as a sap, or assiduous
student, and was remarked for an almost unnatural indifference to
cricket and rowing. At Oxford, as he had plenty of money, he had been
rather less unpopular. His studies ultimately won him a Fellowship at
St. Gatien's, where his services as a tutor were not needed. Maitland
now developed a great desire to improve his own culture by acquaintance
with humanity, and to improve humanity by acquaintance with himself.
This view of life and duty had been urged on him by his college
coach, philosopher, and friend, Mr. Joseph Bielby. A man of some
energy of character, Bielby had made Maitland leave his desultory
reading and dull hospitalities at St. Gatien's and betake himself to
You tell me you don't see much in life, Bielby had said. Throw
yourself into the life of others, who have not much to live on.
Maitland made a few practical experiments in philanthropy at Oxford.
He once subsidized a number of glaziers out on strike, and thereon had
his own windows broken by conservative undergraduates. He urged on the
citizens the desirability of running a steam tramway for the people
from the station to Cowley, through Worcester, John's, Baliol, and
Wadham Gardens and Magdalene. His signature headed a petition in favor
of having three devils, or steam-whoopers, yelling in different
quarters of the town between five and six o'clock every morning, that
the artisans might be awakened in time for the labors of the day.
As Maitland's schemes made more noise than progress at Oxford,
Bielby urged him to come out of his Alma Mater and practise benevolence
in town. He had a great scheme for building over Hyde Park, and
creating a Palace of Art in Poplar with the rents of the new streets.
While pushing this ingenious idea in the columns of the Daily
Trumpet, Maitland looked out for some humbler field of personal
usefulness. The happy notion of taking a philanthropic public-house
occurred to him, and was acted upon at the first opportunity. Maitland
calculated that in his own bar-room he could acquire an intimate
knowledge of humanity in its least sophisticated aspects. He would sell
good beer, instead of drugged and adulterated stuff He would raise the
tone of his customers, while he would insensibly gain some of their
exuberant vitality. He would shake off the prig (which he knew to be a
strong element in his nature), and would, at the same time, encourage
temperance by providing good malt liquor.
The scheme seemed feasible, and the next thing to do was to acquire
a tavern. Now, Maitland had been in the Oxford movement just when
æstheticism was fading out, like a lovely sun-stricken lily, while
philanthropy and political economy and Mr. Henry George were coming in,
like roaring lions. Thus in Maitland there survived a little of the old
leaven of the student of Renaissance, a touch of the amateur of
impressions and of antiquated furniture. He was always struggling
against this side, as he called it, of his culture, and in his
hours of reaction he was all for steam tramways, devils, and
Kindergartens standing where they ought not. But there were moments
when his old innocent craving for the picturesque got the upper hand;
and in one of those moments Maitland had come across the chance of
acquiring the lease of the Hit or Miss.
That ancient bridge-house pleased him, and he closed with his
opportunity. The Hit or Miss was as attractive to an artistic as
most public-houses are to a thirsty soul When the Embankment was made,
the bridge-house had been one of a street of similar quaint and
many-gabled old buildings that leaned up against each other for mutual
support near the rivers edge. But the Embankment slowly brought
civilization that way: the dirty rickety old houses were both condemned
and demolished, till at last only the tavern remained, with hoardings
and empty spaces, and a dust-yard round it.
The house stood at what had been a corner. The red-tiled roof was so
high-pitched as to be almost perpendicular. The dormer windows of the
attics were as picturesque as anything in Nuremberg. The side-walls
were broken in their surface by little odd red-tiled roofs covering
projecting casements, and the house was shored up and supported by huge
wooden beams. You entered (supposing you to enter a public-house) by a
low-browed door in front, if you passed in as ordinary customers did.
At one corner was an odd little board, with the old-fashioned sign:
Jack's Bridge House.
Hit or MissLuck's All.
But there was a side-door, reached by walking down a covered way,
over which the strong oaken rafters (revealed by the unflaking of the
plaster) lay bent and warped by years and the weight of the building.
From this door you saw the side, or rather the back, which the house
kept for its intimates; a side even more picturesque with red-tiled
roofs and dormer windows than that which faced the street. The passage
led down to a slum, and on the left hand, as you entered, lay the empty
space and the dust-yard where the carts were sheltered in sheds, or
left beneath the sky, behind the ruinous hoarding.
Within, the Hit or Miss looked cosey enough to persons
entering out of the cold and dark. There was heat, light, and a
bar-parlor with a wide old-fashioned chimney-place, provided with seats
within the ingle. On these little benches did Tommy and his friends
make haste to place themselves, comfortably disposed, and thawing
rapidly, in a room within a room, as it were; for the big chimney-place
was like a little chamber by itself. Not on an ordinary night could
such a party have gained admittance to the bar-parlor, where Maitland
himself was wont to appear, now and then, when he visited the tavern,
and to produce by his mere presence, and without in the least intending
it, an Early Closing Movement.
But to-night was no common night, and Mrs. Gullick, the widowed
landlady, or rather manager, was as eager to hear all the story of the
finding of poor Dicky Shields as any of the crowd outside had been.
Again and again the narrative was repeated, till conjecture once more
began to take the place of assertion.
I wonder, asked one of the men, how old Dicky got the money for a
The money, ay, and the chance, said another. That daughter of
hisa nice-looking girl she iskept poor Dicky pretty tight.
Didn't let him get the epigrammatist of the company was just
beginning to put in, when the brilliant witticism he was about to utter
burst at once on the intellect of all his friends.
Didn't let him get tight, you was a-goin' to say, Tommy,
howled three or four at once, and there ensued a great noise of the
slapping of thighs, followed by chuckles which exploded, at intervals,
Dicky 'ad been 'avin' bad times for long, the first speaker went
on. I guess he 'ad about tattooed all the parish as would stand a pint
for tattooing. There was hardly a square inch of skin not made
beautiful forever about here.
Ah! and there was no sale for his beastesses and bird-ses nuther;
or else he was clean sold out, and hadn't no capital to renew his stock
of hairy cats and young parrots.
The very stuffed beasts, perched above old Dicky's shop, had got to
look real mangey and mouldy. I think I see them now: the fox in the
middle, the long-legged moulting foreign bird at one end, and that 'ere
shiny old rhinoceros in the porch under them picters of the dying deer
and t'other deer swimming. Poor old Dicky! Where he raised the price o'
a drain, let alone a booze, beats me, it does.
Why, said Mrs. Gullick, who had been in the outer room during the
conversation, why, it was a sailor gentleman that stood Dicky treat A
most pleasant-spoken man for a sailor, with a big black beard He used
to meet Dicky here, in the private room up-stairs, and there Dicky used
to do him a turn of his tradetattooing him, like. 'I'm doing him to
pattern, mum,' Dicky sez, sez he: 'a facsimile o' myself, mum.'
It wasn't much they drank neitherjust a couple of pints; for sez the
sailor gentleman, he sez, 'I'm afeared, mum, our friend here can't
carry much even of your capital stuff. We must excuse' sez he,
'the failings of an artis'; but I doesn't want his hand to shake or
slip when he's a doin' me,' sez he. 'Might > spile the pattern,'
he sez, 'also hurt' And I wouldn't have served old Dicky with more than
was good for him, myself, not if it was ever so, I wouldn't I promised
that poor daughter of his, before Mr. Maitland sent her to
schoolyears ago nowI promised as I would keep an eye on her father,
and speak ofA hangel, if here isn't Mr. Maitland his very self!
And Mrs. Gullick arose, with bustling courtesy, to welcome her
landlord, the Fellow of St. Gatien's.
Immediately there was a stir among the men seated in the ingle. One
by onesome with a muttered pretence at excuse, others with
shame-faced awkwardnessthey shouldered and shuffled out of the room.
Maitland's appearance had produced its usual effect, and he was left
alone with his tenant.
Well, Mrs. Gullick, said poor Maitland, ruefully, I came here for
a chat with our friendsa little social relaxationon economic
questions, and I seem to have frightened them all away.
Oh, sir, they're a rough lot, and don't think themselves company
for the likes of you. But, said Mrs. Gullick, eagerlywith the
delight of the oldest aunt in telling the saddest taleyou 've heard
this hawful story? Poor Miss Margaret, sir! It makes my blood
What physiological effect on the circulation Mrs. Gullick was about
to ascribe to alarming intelligence will never be known; for Maitland,
growing a little more pallid than usual, interrupted her:
What has happened to Miss Margaret? Tell me, quick!
Nothing to herself, poor lamb, but her poor father, sir.
Maitland seemed sensibly relieved.
Well, what about her father?
Gone, sirgone! In a cartload o' snow, this very evening, he was
found, just outside o* this very door.
In a cartload of snow! cried Maitland. Do you mean that he went
away in it, or that he was found in it dead?
Yes, indeed, sir; dead for many hours, the doctor said; and in this
very house he had been no later than last night, and quite steady, sir,
I do assure you. He had been steadyoh, steady for weeks.
Maitland assumed an expression of regret, which no doubt he felt to
a certain extent But in his sorrow there could not but have been some
relief. For Maitland, in the course of his philanthropic labors, had
known old Dicky Shields, the naturalist and professional tattooer, as a
hopeless mauvais sujet. But Dicky's daughter, Margaret, had been
a daisy flourishing by the grimy waterside, till the young social
reformer transplanted her to a school in the purer air of Devonshire.
He was having her educated there, and after she was educatedwhy,
then, Maitland had at one time entertained his own projects or dreams.
In the way of their accomplishment Dicky Shields had been felt as an
obstacle; not that he objectedon the other hand, he had made Maitland
put his views in writing. There were timesthere had lately, above
all, been timeswhen Maitland reflected uneasily on the conditional
promises in this document Dicky was not an eligible father-in-law,
however good and pretty a girl his daughter might be. But now Dicky had
ceased to be an obstacle; he was no longer (as he certainly had been)
in any man's way; he was nobody's enemy now, not even his own.
The vision of all these circumstances passed rapidly, like a
sensation rather than a set of coherent thoughts, through Maitland's
Tell me everything you know of this wretched business, he said,
rising and closing the door which led into the outer room.
Well, sir, you have not been here for some weeks, or you would know
that Dicky had found a friend latelyan old shipmate, or
petty-officer, he called hima sailor-man. Well-to-do, he seemed; the
mate of a merchant vessel he might be. He had known Dicky, I think,
long ago at sea, and he'd bring him here 'to yarn with him,' he said,
once or twice it might be in this room, but mainly in the parlor
up-stairs. He let old Dicky tattoo him a bit, up there, to put him in
the way of earning an honest penny by his tradea queer trade it was.
Never more than a pint, or a glass of hot rum and water, would he give
the old man. Most considerate and careful, sir, he ever was. Well, last
night he brought him in about nine, and they sat rather late; and about
twelve the sailor comes in, rubbing his eyes, and 'Good-night, mum,'
sez he. 'My friend's been gone for an hour. An early bird he is, and
I've been asleep by myself. If you please, I'll just settle our little
score. It's the last for a long time, for I'm bound to-morrow for the
China Seas, eastward. Oh, mum, a sailor's life!' So he pays, changing a
half-sovereign, like a gentleman, and out he goes, and that's the last
I ever see o' poor Dicky Shields till he was brought in this afternoon,
out of the snow-cart, cold and stiff, sir.
And how do you suppose all this happened? How did Shields get
into the cart?
Well, that's just what they've been wondering at, though the cart
was handy and uncommon convenient for a man as 'ad too much, if 'ad he
'ad; as believe it I cannot, seeing a glass of hot rum and water
would not intoxicate a babe. May be he felt faint, and laid down a bit,
and never wakened. But, Lord a mercy, what's that? screamed
Mrs. Gullick, leaping to her feet in terror.
The latched door which communicated with the staircase had been
burst open, and a small brown bear had rushed erect into the room, and,
with a cry, had thrown itself on Mrs. Gullick's bosom.
Well, if ever I 'ad a fright! that worthy lady exclaimed,
turning toward the startled Maitland, and embracing at the same time
the little animal in an affectionate clasp. Well, if ever there
was such a child as you, Lizer! What is the matter with you now
Oh, mother, cried the bear, I dreamed of that big Bird I saw on
the roof, and I ran down-stairs before I was 'arf awake, I was that
Well, you just go up-stairs againand here's a sweet-cake for
youand you take this night-light, said Mrs. Gullick, producing the
articles she mentioned, and put it in the basin careful, and knock on
the floor with the poker if you want me. If it wasn't for that bearskin
Mr. Toopny was kind enough to let you keep, you'd get your death o'
cold, you would, running about in the night. And look 'ere, Lizer, she
added, patting the child affectionately on the shoulder, do get that
there Bird out o' your head. It's just nothing but indigestion comes o'
you and the other childrenhimps they may well call you, and himps I'm
sure you arealways wasting your screws on pasty and lemonade and
raspberry vinegar. Just-nothing but indigestion.
Thus admonished, the bear once more threw its arms, in a tight
embrace, about Mrs. Gullick's neck; and then, without lavishing
attention on Maitland, passed out of the door, and could be heard
I'm sure, sir, I ask your pardon, exclaimed poor Mrs. Gullick;
but Lizer's far from well just now, and she did have a scare last
night, or else, which is more likely, her little inside (saving your
presence) has been upset with a supper the Manager gave all them
But, Mrs. Gullick, why is she dressed like a bear?
She's such a favorite with the Manager, sir, and the Property Man,
and all of them at the Hilarity, you can't think, sir,
said Mrs. Gullick, not in the least meaning to impugn Maitland's
general capacity for abstract speculation. A regular little genius
that child is, though I says it as shouldn't. Ah, sir, she takes it
from her poor father, sir. And Mrs. Gullick raised her apron to her
Now the late Mr. Gullick had been a clown of considerable merit;
but, like too many artists, he was addicted beyond measure to convivial
enjoyment. Maitland had befriended him in his last days, and had
appointed Mrs. Gullick (and a capital appointment it was) to look after
his property when he became landlord of the Hit or Miss.
What a gift, sir, that child always had! Why, when she was no more
than four, I well remember her going to fetch the beer, and her being a
little late, and Gullick with the thirst on him, when she came in with
the jug, he made a cuff at her, not to hurt her, and if the little
thing didn't drop the jug, and take the knap! Lord, I thought Gullick
would 'a died laughing, and him so thirsty, too.
Take the knap? said Maitland, who imagined that the knap must be
some malady incident to childhood.
Oh, sir, it's when one person cuffs at another on the stage, you
know, and the other slaps his own hand, on the far side, to make the
noise of a box on the ear: that's what we call 'taking the knap' in the
profession. And the beer was spilt, and the jug broken, and allLizer
was that clever? And this is her second season, just ended, as a himp
at the Hilarity pantermime; and they're that good to her, they
let her bring her bearskin home with her, what she wears, you know,
sir, as the Little Bear in 'The Three Bears,' don't you know, sir.
Maitland was acquainted with the legend of the Great Bear, the
Middle Bear, and the Little Tiny Small Bear, and had even proved, in a
learned paper, that the Three Bears were the Sun, the Moon, and the
Multitude of Stars in the Aryan myth. But he had not seen the pantomime
founded on the traditional narrative.
But what was the child saying about a big Bird? he asked. What
was it that frightened her?
Oh, sir, I think it was just tiredness, and may be, a little
something hot at that supper last night; and, besides, seeing so many
queer things in pantermimes might put notions in a child's head. But
when she came home last night, a little late, Lizer was very strange.
She vowed and swore she had seen a large Bird, far bigger than any
common bird, skim over the street. Then when I had put her to bed in
the attic, down she flies, screaming she saw the Bird on the roof. I
had hard work to get her to sleep. To-day I made her lay a-bed and wear
her theatre pantermime bearskin, that fits her like another skinand
she'll be too big for it next yearjust to keep her warm in that cold
garret. That's all about it, sir. She'll be well enough in a day or
two, will Lizer.
I am sure I hope she will, Mrs. Gullick, said Maitland; and, as I
am passing his way, I will ask Dr. Barton to call and see the little
girl. Now I must go, and I think the less we say to anyone about Miss
Shields, you know, the better. It will be very dreadful for her to
learn about her father's death, and we must try to prevent Her from
hearing how it happened.
Certainly, sir, said Mrs. Gullick, bobbing; and being safe away
at school, sir, we'll hope she won't be told no more than she needn't
know about it.
Maitland went forth into the thick night: a half-hearted London thaw
was filling the shivering air with a damp brown fog.
He walked to the nearest telegraph office, and did not observe, in
the raw darkness and in the confusion of his thoughts, that he was
followed at no great distance by a man muffled up in a great-coat and a
woollen comforter. The stranger almost shouldered against him, as he
stood reading his telegram, and conscientiously docking off a word here
and there to save threepence,
From Robert Maitland to Miss Marlett.
The Dovecot, Conisbeare,
I come to-morrow, leaving by 10.30 train. Do
not let Margaret see newspaper. Her father dead.
This telegram gave Maitland, in his excited state, more trouble to
construct than might have been expected. We all know the wondrous
badness of post-office pens or pencils, and how they tear or blot the
paper when we are in a hurry; and Maitland felt hurried, though there
was no need for haste. Meantime the man in the woollen comforter was
buying stamps, and, finishing his bargain before the despatch was
stamped and delivered, went out into the fog, and was no more seen.
CHAPTER IV.Miss Marlett's.
Girls' schools are chilly places. The unfortunate victims, when you
chance to meet them, mostly look but half-alive, and dismally cold.
Their noses (however charming these features may become in a year or
two, or even may be in the holidays) appear somehow of a frosty
temperature in the long dull months of school-time. The hands, too, of
the fair pupils are apt to seem larger than common, inclined to blue in
color, and, generally, are suggestive of inadequate circulation. À
tendency to get as near the fire as possible (to come within the
frontiers of the hearth-rug is forbidden), and to cower beneath shawls,
is also characteristic of joyous girlhoodschool-girlhood, that is. In
fact, one thinks of a girls' school as too frequently a spot where no
one takes any lively exercise (for walking in a funereal procession is
not exercise, or Mutes might be athletes), and where there is apt to be
a pervading impression of insufficient food, insufficient clothing, and
general unsatisfied tedium.
Miss Marlett's Establishment for the Highest Education of Girls,
more briefly known as The Dovecot, Conisbeare, was no exception, on a
particularly cold February daythe day after Dicky Shields was found
deadto these pretty general rules. The Dovecot, before it became a
girls' school, was, no doubt, a pleasant English home, where the fires
wass coot, as the Highlandman said. The red-brick house, with its lawn
sloping down to the fields, all level with snow, stood at a little
distance from the main road, at the end of a handsome avenue of Scotch
pines. But the fires at Miss Marlett's were not good on this February
morning. They never were good at the Dovecot. Miss Marlett was
one of those people who, fortunately for themselves, and unfortunately
for persons dwelling under their roofs, never feel cold, or never know
what they feel. Therefore, Miss Marlett never poked the fire, which,
consequently used to grow black toward its early death, and was only
revived, at dangerously long intervals, by the most minute doses of
stimulant in the shape of rather damp small coals. Now, supplies of
coal had run low at the Dovecot, for the very excellent reason that the
roads were snowed up, and that convoys of the precious fuel were
scarcely to be urged along the heavy ways.
This did not matter much to the equable temperature of Miss Marlett;
but it did matter a great deal to her shivering pupils, three of whom
were just speeding their morning toilette, by the light of one candle,
at the pleasant hour of five minutes to seven on a frosty morning.
Oh dear, said one maidenJaney Harman by namewhose blonde
complexion should have been pink and white, but was mottled with alien
and unbecoming hues, why won't that old Cat let us have fires
to dress by? Gracious, Margaret, how black your fingers are!
Yes; and I cant get them clean, said Margaret, holding up two very
pretty dripping hands, and quoting, in mock heroic parody:
Ho, dogs of false Tarentum,
Are not my hands washed white?
No talking in the bedrooms, young ladies, came a voice,
accompanied by an icy draught, from the door, which was opened just
enough to admit a fleeting vision of Miss Mariettas personal charms.
I was only repeating my lay, Miss Marlett, replied the maiden thus
rebuked, in a tone of injured innocence
'Ho, dogs of false Tarentum,'
and the door closed again on Miss Marlett, who had not altogether
the best of it in this affair of outposts, and could not help feeling
as if that Miss Shields was laughing at her.
Old Cat! the young lady went on, in a subdued whisper. But no
wonder my hands were a little black, Janey. You forget that it's my
week to be Stoker. Already, girls, by an early and unexpected movement,
I have cut off some of the enemy's supplies.
So speaking, Miss Margaret Shields proudly displayed a small deposit
of coals, stored, for secrecy, in the bottom of a clothes-basket.
Gracious, Daisy, how clever! Well, you are something like a
stoker, exclaimed the third girl, who by this time had finished
dressing: we shall have a blaze to-night.
Now, it must be said that at Miss Marlett's school, by an unusual
and inconsistent concession to comfort and saniitary principles, the
elder girls were allowed to have fires in their bed-rooms at night, in
winter. But seeing that these fires resembled the laughter of the
wicked, inasmuch as they were brief-lived as the crackling of thorns
under pots, the girls were driven to make predatory attacks on fuel
wherever it could be found. Sometimes, one is sorry to say, they robbed
each other's fireplaces, and concealed the coal in their pockets. But
this conductresembling what is fabled of the natives of the Scilly
Islands, that they eke out a precarious livelihood by taking in each
other's washingled to strife and bickering; so that the Stoker for
the week (as the girl appointed to collect these supplies was called)
had to infringe a little on the secret household stores of Miss
Marlett. This week, as it happened, Margaret Shields was the Stoker,
and she so bore herself in her high office as to extort the admiration
of the very housemaids.
Even the ranks of Tusculum
Could scarce forbear to cheer,
if we may again quote the author who was at that time Miss Shields'
favorite poet. Miss Shields had not studied Mr. Matthew Arnold, and was
mercifully unaware that not to detect the pinchbeck in the Lays
is the sign of a grovelling nature.
Before she was sent to Miss Marlett's, four years ere this date,
Margaret Shields' instruction had been limited. The best thing that
could be said for it, as the old sporting prophet remarked of his own
education, was that it had been mainly eleemosynary. The Chelsea
School Board fees could but rarely be extracted from old Dicky Shields.
But Robert Maitland, when still young in philanthropy, had seen the
clever, merry, brown-eyed child at some school treat, or inspection, or
other function; had covenanted in some sort with her shiftless parent;
had rescued the child from the streets, and sent her as a pupil to Miss
Marlett's. Like Mr. Day, the accomplished author of Sandford and
Merton, and creator of the immortal Mr. Barlow, Robert Maitland had
conceived the hope that he might have a girl educated up to his own
intellectual standard, and made, or ready-made, a helpmate meet for
him. He was, in a more or less formal way, the guardian of Margaret
Shields, and the ward might be expected (by anyone who did not know
human nature any better) to blossom into the wife.
Maitland could please himself, as people say; that is, in his
choice of a partner he had no relations to pleaseno one but the elect
young lady, who, after all, might not be pleased with alacrity.
Whether pleased or not, there could be no doubt that Margaret
Shields was extremely pleasing. Beside her two shivering chamber-mates
(chamber-dekyns they would have been called, in Oxford slang, four
hundred years ago), Miss Shields looked quite brilliant, warm, and
comfortable, even in the eager and the nipping air of Miss Marlett's
shuddering establishment, and by the frosty light of a single candle.
This young lady was tall and firmly fashioned; a nut-brown maid, with a
ruddy glow on her cheeks, with glossy hair rolled up in a big tight
knot, and with à smile (which knew when it was well off) always
faithful to her lips. These features, it is superfluous to say in
speaking of a heroine, were rather too large for regular beauty. She
was perfectly ready to face the enemy (in which light she humorously
regarded her mistress) when the loud cracked bell jangled at seven
o'clock exactly, and the drowsy girls came trooping from the
dormitories down into the wintry class-rooms.
Arithmetical diversions, in a cold chamber, were the intellectual
treat which awaited Margaret and her companions. Arithmetic and slates!
Does anyone remembercan anyone forgethow horribly distasteful a
slate can be when the icy fingers of youth have to clasp that cold
educational formation (Silurian, I believe), and to fumble with the
greasy slate-pencil? With her Colenso in her lap, Margaret Shields
grappled for some time with the mysteries of Tare and Tret. Tare an'
'ouns, I call it, whispered Janey Harman, who had taken, in the
holidays, a course of Lever's Irish novels. Margaret did not make
very satisfactory progress with her commercial calculations. After
hopelessly befogging herself, she turned to that portion of Colenso's
engaging work which is most palpitating with actuality:
If ten Surrey laborers, in mowing a field of forty acres, drink
twenty-three quarts of beer, how much cider will thirteen Devonshire
laborers consume in building a stone wall of thirteen roods four poles
in length, and four feet six in height?
This problem, also, proved too severe for Margaret's mathematical
endowments, and (it is extraordinary how childish the very greatest
girls can be) she was playing at oughts and crosses with Janey Harman
when the arithmetic master came round. He sat down, not unwillingly,
beside Miss Shields, erased, without comment, the sportive diagrams,
and set himself vigorously to elucidate (by the low cunning of
algebra") the difficult sum from Colenso.
You see, it is like this, he said, mumbling rapidly, and
scribbling a series of figures and letters which the pupil was expected
to follow with intelligent interest. But the rapidity of the processes
quite dazed Margaret: a result not unusual when the teacher understands
his topic so well, and so much as a matter of course that he cannot
make allowance for the benighted darkness of the learner.
Ninety-five firkins fourteen gallons three quarts. You see, it's
quite simple, said Mr. Cleghorn, the arithmetic master.
Oh, thank you; I see, said Margaret, with the kind
readiness of woman, who would profess to see the Secret of Hegel, or
the inmost heart of the Binomial Theorem, or the nature of the duties
of cover-point, or the latest hypothesis about the frieze of the
Parthenon, rather than be troubled with prolonged explanations, which
the expositor, after all, might find it inconvenient to give.
Arithmetic and algebra were not this scholar's forte; and no
young lady in Miss Marlett's establishment was so hungry, or so glad
when eight o'clock struck and the bell rang for breakfast, as Margaret
Breakfast at Miss Marlett's was not a convivial meal. There was a
long narrow table, with cross-tables at each end, these high seats, or
dais, being occupied by Miss Marlett and the governesses. At
intervals down the table were stacked huge piles of bread and
butterof extremely thick bread and surprisingly thin buttereach
slice being divided into four portions. The rest of the banquet
consisted solely of tea. Whether this regimen was enough to support
growing girls, who had risen at seven, till dinnertime at half-past
one, is a problem which, perhaps, the inexperienced intellect of man
can scarcely approach with confidence. But, if girls do not always
learn as much at school as could be desired, intellectually speaking,
it is certain that they have every chance of acquiring Spartan habits,
and of becoming accustomed (if familiarity really breeds contempt) to
despise hunger and cold. Not that Miss Marlett's establishment was a
Dothegirls Hall, nor a school much more scantily equipped with
luxuries than others. But the human race has still to learn that girls
need good meals just as much as, or more than, persons of maturer
years. Boys are no better off at many places; but boys have
opportunities of adding bloaters and chops to their breakfasts, which
would be considered horribly indelicate and insubordinate conduct in
Est ce que vous aimez les tartines à l'Anglaise, said Janey Harman
Ce que j'aime dans la tartine, c'est la simplicité prime-sautière
da sa nature, answered Miss Shields.
It was one of the charms of the matinal meal (as the author of
Guy Livingstone calls breakfast) that the young ladies were all
compelled to talk French (and such French!) during this period of
Toutes choses, la cuisine exceptée, sont Françaises, dans cet
établissement peu recréatif, went on Janey, speaking low and fast.
Je déteste le Français, Margaret answered, mais je le préfère
infiniment à l'Allemand.
Comment accentuez, vous le mot préfère, Marguerite? asked Miss
Marlett, who had heard the word, and who neglected no chance of
Oh, two accentsone this way, and the other that, answered
Margaret, caught unawares. She certainly did not reply in the most
Vous allez perdre dix marks, remarked the schoolmistress, if
incorrectly, perhaps not too severely. But perhaps it is not easy to
say, off-hand, what word Miss Marlett ought to have employed for
Voici les lettres qui arrivent, whispered Janey to Margaret, as
the post-bag was brought in and deposited before Miss Marlett, who
opened it with a key and withdrew the contents.
This was a trying moment for the young ladies. Miss Marlett first
sorted out all the letters for the girls, which came, indubitably and
unmistakably, from fathers and mothers. Then she picked out the other
letters, those directed to young ladies whom she thought she could
trust, and handed them over in honorable silence. These maidens were
regarded with envy by the others. Among them was not Miss Harman, whose
letters Miss Marlett always deliberately opened and read before
Il y a une lettre pour moi, et elle va la lire, said poor Janey to
her friend, who, for her part, never received any letters, save a few,
at stated intervals, from Maitland. These Miss Shields used to carry
about in her pocket without opening them till they were all crumply at
the edges. Then she hastily mastered their contents, and made answer in
the briefest and most decorous manner.
Qui est votre correspondent? Margaret asked. We are not defending
C'est le pauvre Harry Wyville, answered Janey. Il est
sous-lieutenant dans les Berkshires à Aldershot Pourquoi ne doit il pas
écrire à moi, il est comme on diroit, mon frère.
Est il votre parent?
Non, pas du tout, mais je l'ai connu pour des ans. Oh, pour des
ans! Voici, elle à deux dépêches télégraphiques, Janey added,
observing two orange colored envelopes which had come in the mail-bag
with the letters.
As this moment Miss Marlett finished the fraternal epistle of
Lieutenant Wyville, which she folded up with a frown and returned to
Jeanne je veux vous parler à part, après, dans mon boudoir,
remarked Miss Marlett severely; and Miss Herman, becoming a little
blanched, displayed no further appetite for tartines, nor for French
Indeed, to see another, and a much older lady, read letters written
to one by a lieutenant at Aldershot, whom one has known for years, and
who is just like one's brother, is a trial to any girl.
Then Miss Marlett betook herself to her own correspondence, which,
as Janey had noticed, included two telegraphic despatches in
That she had not rushed at these, and opened them first, proves the
admirable rigidity of her discipline. Any other woman would have done
so, but it was Miss Marietta rule to dispose of the pupils'
correspondence before attending to her own. Business first, pleasure
afterward, was the motto of this admirable woman.
Breakfast ended, as the girls were leaving the room for the tasks of
the day, Miss Marlett beckoned Margaret aside.
Come to me, dear, in the boudoir, after Janey Harman, said the
schoolmistress in English, and in a tone to which Margaret was so
unaccustomed that she felt painfully uneasy and anxiousunwonted moods
for this careless maiden.
Janey, something must have happened, she whispered to her friend,
who was hardening her own heart for the dreadful interview.
Something's going to happen, I'm sure, said poor Janey,
apprehensively, and then she entered the august presence, alone.
Margaret remained at the further end of the passage, leading to what
Miss Marlett, when she spoke French, called her boudoir. The girl
felt colder than even the weather warranted. She looked alternately at
Miss Marietta door and out of the window, across the dead blank flats
to the low white hills far away. Just under the window one of the
little girls was standing, throwing crumbs, remains of the tartines, to
robins and sparrows, which chattered and fought over the spoil. One or
two blackbirds, with their yellow bills, fluttered shyly on the outside
of the ring of more familiar birds. Up from the south a miserable
blue-gray haze was drifting and shuddering, ominous of a thaw. From the
eaves and the branches of the trees heavy drops kept falling, making
round black holes in the snow, and mixing and melting here and there in
a yellowish plash.
Margaret shivered. Then she heard the boudoir door open, and Janey
came out, making a plucky attempt not to cry.
What is it? whispered Margaret, forgetting the dread interview
before her, and her own unformed misgivings.
She won't give me the letter. I'm to have it when I go home for
good; and I'm to go home for good at the holidays, whimpered Janey.
Poor Janey! said Margaret, petting the blonde head on her
Margaret Shields, come here! cried Miss Marlett, in a shaky voice,
from the boudoir.
Come to the back music-room when she's done with you, the other
girl whispered. And Margaret marched, with a beating heart, into Miss
My dear Margaret! said Miss Marlett, holding out her hands. She
was standing up in the middle of the boudoir. She ought to have been
sitting grimly, fortified behind her bureau; that was the position in
which she generally received pupils on these gloomy occasions.
My dear Margaret! she repeated. The girl trembled a little as the
school-mistress drew her closer, and made her sit down on a sofa.
What has happened? she asked. Her lips were so dry that she could
You must make up your mind to be very brave. Your father
Was it an accident? asked Margaret, suddenly. She knew pretty well
what was coming. Often she had foreseen the end, which it needed no
prophet to foretell. Was it anything very dreadful?
Mr. Maitland does not say. You are to be called for to-day. Poor
Oh, Miss Marlett, I am so very unhappy! the girl sobbed. Somehow
she was kneeling now, with her head buried in the elder lady's lap. I
have been horrid to you. I am so wretched!
A little kindness and a sudden trouble had broken down Miss Margaret
Shields. For years she had been living, like Dr. Johnson at college,
with a sad and hungry heart, trying to carry it off by her wild talk
and her wit. It was bitterness they mistook for frolic. She had
known herself to be a kind of outcast, and she determined to hold her
own with the other girls who had homes and went to them in the
holidays. Margaret had not gone home for a year. She had learned much,
working harder than they knew; she had been in the best set among the
pupils, by dint of her cheery rebelliousness. Now she suddenly felt all
her loneliness, and knew, too, that she had been living, socially, in
that little society at the expense of this kind queer old Miss
I have been horrid to you, she repeated. I wish I had never been
The school-mistress said nothing at all, but kept stroking the
girl's beautiful head. Surreptitiously Miss Marlett wiped away a frosty
Don't mind me, at last Miss Marlett said. I never thought hardly
of you; I understood. Now you must go and get ready for your journey;
you can have any of the girls you like to help you to pack.
Miss Marlett carried generosity so far that she did not even ask
which of the girls was to be chosen for this service. Perhaps she
guessed that it was the other culprit.
Then Margaret rose and dried her eyes, and Miss Marlett took her in
her arms and kissed her and went off to order a travelling luncheon and
to select the warmest railway rug she could find; for the teacher,
though she was not a very learned nor judicious school-mistress, had a
heart and affections of her own. She had once, it is true, taken the
word legibus (dative plural of lex, a law) for an adjective of
the third declension, legibus, legiba, legibum; and Margaret had
criticised this grammatical subtlety with an unsparing philological
acumen, as if she had been Professor Moritz Haupt and Miss Marlett,
Orelli. And this had led to the end of Latin lessons at the Dovecot,
wherefore Margaret was honored as a goddess by girls averse to studying
the classic languages. But now Miss Marlett forgot these things, and
all the other skirmishes of the past.
Margaret went wearily to her room, where she bathed her face with
cold water; it could not be too cold for her, A certain numb
forgetfulness seemed to steep her mind while she was thus deadening her
eyes again and again. She felt as if she never wished to raise her eyes
from this chilling consolation. Then, when she thought she had got lid
of all the traces of her trouble, she went cautiously to the back
music-room. Janey was there, moping alone, drumming on the window-pane
with her fingers.
Come to my room, Janey, she said, beckoning.
Now, to consort together in their bedrooms during school-hours was
forbidden to the girls.
Why, well only get into another scrape, said Janey, ruefully.
No, come away; I've got leave for you. You're to help me to pack
To pack! cried Janey. Why, you're not expelled, are you?
You've done nothing. You've not even had a perfectly harmless letter
from a boy who is just like a brother to you and whom you've known for
Margaret only beckoned again and turned away, Janey following in
silence and intense curiosity.
When they reached their room, where Margaret's portmanteau had
already been placed, the girl began to put up such things as she would
need for a short journey. She said nothing till she had finished, and
then she sat down on a bed and told Janey what she had learned; and the
pair had a good cry, and comforted each other as well as they might.
And what are you going to do? asked Janey, when, as Homer says,
they had taken their fill of chilling lamentations.
I don't know!
Have you no one else in all the world?
No one at all. My mother died when I was a little child, in Smyrna.
Since then we have wandered all about; we were a long time in Algiers,
and we were at Marseilles, and then in London.
But you have a guardian, haven't you?
Yes; he sent me here. And, of course, he's been very kind, and done
everything for me; but he's quite a young man, not thirty, and he's so
stupid, and so stiff, and thinks so much about Oxford, and talks so
like a book. And he's so shy, and always seems to do everything, not
because he likes it, but because he thinks he ought to. And, besides
But Margaret did not go further in her confessions, nor explain more
lucidly why she had scant affection for Mait-land of St. Gatien's.
And had your poor father no other friends who could take care of
you? Janey asked.
There was a gentleman who called now and then; I saw him twice. He
had been an officer in father's ship, I think, or had known him long
ago at sea. He found us out somehow in Chelsea. There was no one else
And you don't know any of your father's family?
No, said Margaret, wearily. Ob, I have forgotten to pack up my
prayer-book. And she took up a little worn volume in black morocco
with silver clasps. This was a book my father gave me, she said. It
has a name on itmy grandfather's, I suppose'Richard Johnson,
Linkheaton, 1837.' Then she put the book in a pocket of her travelling
Your mother's father it may have belonged to, said Janey.
I don't know, Margaret replied, looking out of the window.
I hope you won't stay away long, dear, said Janey, affectionately.
But you are going, too, you know, Margaret answered,
without much tact; and Janey, reminded of her private griefs, was about
to break down, when the wheels of a carriage were heard laboring slowly
up the snow-laden drive.
Why, here's some one coming! cried Janey, rushing to the window.
Two horses! and a gentleman all in furs. Oh, Margaret, this must be
Maitland's reflections as, in performance of the promise he had
telegraphed, he made his way to the Dovecot were deep and distracted.
The newspapers with which he had littered the railway carriage were
left unread: he had occupation enough in his own thoughts. Men are so
made that they seldom hear even of a death without immediately
considering its effects on their private interests. Now, the death of
Richard Shields affected Maitland's purposes both favorably and
unfavorably. He had for some time repented of the tacit engagement
(tacit as far as the girl was concerned) which bound him to Margaret.
For some time he had been dimly aware of quite novel emotions in his
own heart, and of a new, rather painful, rather pleasant, kind of
interest in another lady. Maitland, in fact, was becoming more human
than he gave himself credit for, and a sign of his awakening nature was
the blush with which he had greeted, some weeks before, Barton's casual
criticism on Mrs. St. John Deloraine.
Without any well-defined ideas or hopes, Maitland had felt that his
philanthropic entanglementit was rather, he said to himself, an
entanglement than an engagementhad become irksome to his fancy. Now
that the unfortunate parent was out of the way, he felt that the
daughter would not be more sorry than himself to revise the relations
in which they stood to each other. Vanity might have prevented some men
from seeing this; but Maitland had not vitality enough for a healthy
conceit. A curious aloofness of nature permitted him to stand aside,
and see himself much as a young lady was likely to see him. This
disposition is rare, and not a source of happiness.
On the other hand, his future relations to Margaret formed a puzzle
inextricable. He could not at all imagine how he was to dispose of so
embarrassing a protégée. Margaret was becoming too much of a
woman to be left much longer at school; and where was she to be
I might send her to Girton, he thought; and then,
characteristically, he began to weigh in his mind the comparative
educational merits of Girton and Somerville Hall. About one thing only
was he certain: he must consult his college mentor, Bielby of St.
Gatien's, as soon as might be. Too long had this Rasselasoccupied,
like the famous Prince of Abyssinia, with the choice of life
neglected to resort to his academic Imlac. In the meantime he could
only reflect that Margaret must remain as a pupil at Miss Marlett's.
The moment would soon be arriving when some other home, and a chaperon
instead of a school-mistress, must be found for this peculiar object of
philanthropy and outdoor relief.
Maitland was sorry he had not left town by the nine o'clock train.
The early dusk began to gather, gray and damp; the train was late,
having made tardy progress through the half-melted snow. He had set out
from Paddington by the half-past ten express, and a glance at the harsh
and crabbed page of Bradshaw will prove to the most sceptical that
Maitland could not reach Tiverton much before six. Half frozen, and in
anything but a happy temper, he engaged a fly, and drove off, along
heavy miserable roads, to the Dovecot.
Arriving at the closed and barred gates of that vestal
establishment, Maitland's cabman pulled, and pushed, and kicked, and
knocked for a considerable time, without manifest effect. Clearly the
retainers of Miss Marlett had secured the position for the night, and
expected no visitors, though Maitland knew that he ought to be
expected. The bandogs bayed and howled, as they did round the secret
bower of the Lady of Brauksome; and lights flitted about the windows.
When a lantern at last came flickering up to the gate, the bearer of it
stopped to challenge an apparently unlooked-for and unwelcome stranger.
Who are you? What do you want? said a female voice, in a strong
I want Miss Marlett, answered Maitland.
There was some hesitation. Then the porter appeared to reflect that
a burglar would not arrive in a cab, and that a surreptitious lover
would not ask for the schoolmistress.
The portals were at length unbarred and lugged apart over the
gravel, and Maitland followed the cook (for she was no one less) and
the candle up to the front door. He gave his card, and was ushered into
the chamber reserved for interviews with parents and guardians. The
drawing-room had the air and faint smell of a room very seldom
occupied. All the chairs were so elegantly and cunningly constructed
that they tilted up at intervals, and threw out the unwary male who
trusted himself to their hospitality. Their backs were decorated with
antimacassars wrought with glass beads, and these, in the light of one
dip, shone fitfully with a frosty lustre. On the round table in the
middle were volumes of The Mothers of England, The Grandmothers of
the Bible, Blair On the Grave, and The Epic of Hades, the latter
copiously and appropriately illustrated. In addition to these cheerful
volumes there were large tomes of lake and river scenery, with gilt
edges and faded magenta bindings, shrouded from the garish light of day
in drab paper covers.
The walls, of a very faint lilac tint, were hung with prize
sketches, in water colors or in pencil, by young ladies who had left.
In the former works of art, distant nature was represented as, on the
whole, of a mauve hue, while the foreground was mainly composed of
burnt-umber rocks, touched up with orange. The shadows in the pencil
drawings had an agreeably brilliant polish, like that which, when
conferred on fenders by Somebody's Patent Dome-Blacklead, increases
the attractions of the fireside, according to the advertisements.
Maitland knew all the blacklead caves, broad-hatted brigands, and
pea-green trees. They were old acquaintances, and as he fidgeted about
the room he became very impatient.
At last the door opened, and Miss Marlett appeared, rustling in
silks, very stiff, and with an air of extreme astonishment.
Mr. Maitland? she said, in an interrogative tone.
Didn't you expect me? Didn't you get my telegram? asked Maitland.
It occurred to him that the storm might have injured the wires, that
his message might never have arrived, and that he might be obliged to
explain everything, and break his bad news in person.
Yes, certainly. I got both your telegrams. But why have you
Why, to see Margaret Shields, of course, and consult you about her.
But what do you mean by both my telegrams?
Miss Marlett turned very pale, and sat down with unexpected
Oh, what will become of the poor girl? she cried, and what will
become of me? It will get talked about. The parents will hear of
it, and I am ruined.
The unfortunate lady passed her handkerchief over her eyes, to the
extreme discomfiture of Maitland. He could not bear to see a woman cry;
and that Miss Marlett should cryMiss Marlett, the least melting, as
he had fancied, of her sexwas a circumstance which entirely puzzled
and greatly disconcerted him.
He remained silent, looking at a flower in the pattern of the
carpet, for at least a minute.
I came here to consult you, Miss Marlett, about what is to become
of the poor girl; but I do not see how the parents of the other young
ladies are concerned. Death is common to all; and Margaret's father,
though his life was exposed to criticism, cannot be fairly censured
because he has left it And what do you mean, please, by receiving
both my telegrams? I only #sent one, to the effect that I
would leave town by the 10.30 train, and come straight to you. There
must be some mistake somewhere. Can I see Miss Shields?
See Miss Shields! Why, she's gone! She left this morning
with your friend, said Miss Marlett, raising a face at once mournful
and alarmed, and looking straight at her visitor.
She's gone! She left this morning with my friend! repeated
Maitland. He felt like a man in a dream.
You said in your first telegram that you would come for her
yourself, and in your second that you were detained, and that your
friend and her father's friend, Mr. Lithgow, would call for her by the
early train; so she went with him.
My friend, Mr. Lithgow! I have no friend, Mr. lithgow, cried
Maitland; and I sent no second telegram.
Then who did send it, sir, if you please? For I will show
you both telegrams, cried Miss Marlett, now on her defence; and
rising, she left the room.
While Miss Marlett was absent, in search of the telegrams, Maitland
had time to reflect on the unaccountable change in the situation. What
had become of Margaret? Who had any conceivable interest in removing
her from school at the very moment of her father's accidental death?
And by what possible circumstances of accident or fraud could two
messages from himself have arrived, when he was certain that he had
only sent one? The records of somnambulism contain no story of a person
who despatched telegrams while walking in his sleep. Then the notion
occurred to Maitland that his original despatch, as he wrote it, might
have been mislaid in the office, and that the imaginative clerk who
lost it might have filled it up from memory, and, like the examinees in
the poem, might
Have wrote it all by rote,
And never wrote it right.
But the fluttering approach of such an hypothesis was dispersed by
the recollection that Margaret had actually departed, and (what was
worse) had gone off with his friend, Mr. Lithgow. Clearly, no amount
of accident or mistake would account for the appearance of Mr. Lithgow,
and the disappearance of Margaret.
It was characteristic of Maitland that within himself he did not
greatly blame the schoolmistress. He had so little human natureas he
admitted, on the evidence of his old college tutorthat he was never
able to see things absolutely and entirely from the point of view of
his own interests. His own personality was not elevated enough to
command the whole field of human conduct. He was always making
allowances for people, and never felt able to believe himself
absolutely in the right, and everyone else absolutely in the wrong. Had
he owned a more full-blooded life, he would probably have lost his
temper, and spoken his mind, as the saying is, to poor Miss Marlett
She certainly should never have let Margaret go with a stranger, on the
authority even of a telegram from the girl's guardian.
It struck Maitland, finally, that Miss Marlett was very slow about
finding the despatches. She had been absent quite a quarter of an hour.
At last she returned, pale and trembling, with a telegraphic despatch
in her hand, but not alone. She was accompanied by a blonde and
agitated young lady, in whom Maitland, having seen her before, might
have recognized Miss Janey Harman. But he had no memory for faces, and
merely bowed vaguely.
This is Miss Harman, whom I think you have seen on other
occasions, said Miss Marlett, trying to be calm.
Maitland bowed again, and wondered more than ever. It did occur to
him, that the fewer people knew of so delicate a business the better
for Margaret's sake.
I have brought Miss Harman here, Mr. Maitland, partly because she
is Miss Shields' greatest friend (here Janey sobbed), but chiefly
because she can prove, to a certain extent, the truth of what I have
I never for a moment doubted it, Miss Marlett; but will you kindly
let me compare the two telegrams? This is a most extraordinary affair,
and we ought to lose no time in investigating it, and discovering its
meaning. You and I are responsible, you know, to ourselves, if
unfortunately to no one else, for Margaret's safety.
But I haven't got the two telegrams! exclaimed poor Miss Marlett,
who could not live up to the stately tone of Maitland. I haven't got
them, or rather, I only have one of them, and I have hunted everywhere,
high and low, for the other.
Then she offered Maitland a single dispatch, and the flimsy pink
paper fluttered in her shaking hand.
Maitland took it up and read aloud:
Sent out at 7.45. Received 7.51.
From Robert Maitland to Miss Marlett.
The Dovecot, Conisbeare,
I come to-morrow, leaving by 10.30 train.
Do not let Margaret see the newspaper.
Her father dead. Break news.
Why, that is my own telegram! cried Maitland; but what have you
done with the other you said you received?
That is the very one I cannot find, though I had both on the
escritoire in my own room this morning. I cannot believe anyone would
touch it. I did not lock them away, not expecting to have any use for
them; but I am quite sure, the last time I saw them, they were lying
This is very extraordinary, said Maitland. You tell me, Miss
Marlett, that you received two telegrams from me. On the strength of
the later of the two you let your pupil go away with a person of whom
you know nothing, and then you have not even the telegram to show me.
How long an interval was there between the receipt of the two
I got them both at once, said poor, trembling Miss Marlett, who
felt the weakness of her case. They were both sent up with the letters
this morning. Were they not, Miss Harman?
Yes, said Janey; I certainly saw two telegraphic envelopes lying
among your letters at breakfast. I mentioned it toto poor Margaret,
she added, with a break in her voice.
But why were the telegrams not delivered last night? Maitland
I have left orders, Miss Marlett answered, that only telegrams of
instant importance are to be sent on at once. It costs twelve
shillings, and parents and people are so tiresome, always telegraphing
about nothing in particular, and costing a fortune. These telegrams
were very important, of course; but nothing more could have been
done about them if they had arrived last night, than if they came this
morning. I have had a great deal of annoyance and expense, the
schoolmistress added, with telegrams that had to be paid for.
And here most people who live at a distance from telegraph offices,
and are afflicted with careless friends whose touch on the wire is easy
and light, will perhaps sympathize with Miss Marlett.
You might at least have telegraphed back to ask me to confirm the
instructions, when you read the second despatch, said Maitland.
He was beginning to take an argumentative interest in the strength
of his own case. It was certainly very strong, and the excuse for the
schoolmistress was weak in proportion.
But that would have been of no use, as it happens, Janey put
inan unexpected and welcome ally to Miss Marlettbecause you must
have left Paddington long before the question could have reached you.
This was unanswerable, as a matter of fact; and Miss Marlett could
not repress a grateful glance in the direction of her wayward pupil.
Well, said Maitland, it is all very provoking, and very serious.
Can you remember at all how the second message ran, Miss Marlett?
Indeed, I know it off by heart; it was directed exactly like that
in your hand, and was dated half an hour later. It ran: 'Plans altered.
Margaret required in town. My friend and her father's, Mr. Lithgow,
will call for her soon after mid-day. I noticed there were just twenty
And did you also notice the office from which the message was sent
No, said Miss Marlett, shaking her head with an effort at
recollection. I am afraid I did not notice.
That is very unfortunate, said Maitland, walking vaguely up and
down the room. Do you think the telegram is absolutely lost?
I have looked everywhere, and asked all the maids.
When did you see it last, for certain?
I laid both despatches on the desk in my room when I went out to
make sure that Margaret had everything comfortable before she started.
And where was this Mr. Lithgow then?
He was sitting over the fire in my room, trying to warm himself; he
seemed very cold.
Clearly, then, Mr. Lithgow is now in possession of the telegram,
which he probably, or rather certainly, sent himself. But how he came
to know anything about the girl, or what possible motive he can have
had muttered Maitland to himself. She has never been in any place,
Miss Marlett, since she came to you, where she could have made the
It is impossible to say whom girls may meet, and how they may
manage it, Mr. Maitland, said Miss Marlett sadly; when Janey broke in:
I am sure Margaret never met him here. She was not a girl to
have such a secret, and she could not have acted a part so as to have
taken me in. I saw him first, out of the window. Margaret was very
unhappy; she had been crying. I said, 'Here's a gentleman in furs,
Margaret; he must have come for you.' Then she looked out and said, 'It
is not my guardian; it is the gentleman whom I saw twice with my
What kind of a man was he to look at?
He was tall, and dark, and rather good-looking, with a slight black
mustache. He had a fur collar that went up to his eyes almost, and he
was not a young man. He was a gentleman, said Janey, who flattered
herself that she recognized such persons as bear without reproach that
grand old namewhen she saw them.
Would you know him again if you met him?
Anywhere, said Janey; and I would know his voice.
He wore mourning, said Miss Marlett, and he told me he had known
Margaret's father. I heard him say a few words to her, in a very kind
way, about him. That seemed more comfort to Margaret than anything. 'He
did not suffer at all, my dear,' he said. He spoke to her in that way,
as an older man might.
Why, how on earth could he know? cried Maitland. No one
was present when her poor father died. His body was found in a, and
Maitland paused rather awkwardly. There was, perhaps, no necessity for
adding to the public information about the circumstances of Mr.
Shields' decease. He was overcome by the cold and snow, I mean, on the
night of the great storm.
I have always heard that the death of people made drowsy by snow
and fatigue is as painless as sleep, said Miss Marlett with some tact.
I suppose that is what the man must have meant, Maitland answered.
There was nothing more to be said on either side, and yet he
lingered, trying to think over any circumstance which might lend a clew
in the search for Margaret and of the mysterious Mr. Lithgow.
At last he said Good-night, after making the superfluous remark
that it would be as well to let everyone suppose that nothing unusual
or unexpected had happened. In this view Miss Marlett entirely
concurred, for excellent reasons of her own, and now she began to
regret that she had taken Miss Harman into her counsels. But there was
no help for it; and when Maitland rejoined his cabman (who had been
refreshed by tea), a kind of informal treaty of peace was concluded
between Janey and the schoolmistress. After all, it appeared to Miss
Marlett (and correctly) that the epistle from the young officer whom
Janey regarded as a brother was a natural and harmless communication.
It chiefly contained accounts of contemporary regimental sports and
pastimes, in which the writer had distinguished himself, and if it did
end Yours affectionately, there was nothing very terrible or
inflammatory in that, all things considered. So the fair owner of the
letter received it into her own keeping, only she was never to do it
Miss Marlett did not ask Janey to say nothing about Margaret's
inexplicable adventure. She believed that the girl would have
sufficient sense and good feeling to hold her peace; and if she did not
do so of her own accord, no vows would be likely to bind her. In this
favorable estimate of her pupil's discretion Miss Marlett was not
Janey did not even give herself airs of mystery among the girls,
which was an act of creditable self-denial. The rest of the school
never doubted that, on the death of Miss Shields' father, she had been
removed by one of her friends. As for Maitland, he was compelled to
pass the night at Tiverton, revolving many memories. He had now the
gravest reason for anxiety about the girl, of whom he was the only
friend and protector, and who was, undeniably, the victim of some plot
or conspiracy. Nothing more practical than seeking the advice of Bielby
of St. Gatien's occurred to his perplexed imagination.
CHAPTER VI.At St. Gatien's.
The following day was spent by Maitland in travel, and in pushing
such inquiries as suggested themselves to a mind not fertile in
expedients. He was not wholly unacquainted with novels of adventure,
and he based his conduct, as much as possible, on what he could
remember in these authorities. For example, he first went in search
of the man who had driven the cab which brought the mysterious Mr.
Lithgow to flutter the Dovecot. So far, there was no difficulty. One of
the cabdrivers who plied at the station perfectly remembered the
gentleman in furs whom he had driven to the school After waiting at the
school till the young lady was ready, he had conveyed them back again
to the station, and they took the up-train. That was all he
knew. The gentleman, if his opinion were asked, was a scaly varmint.
On inquiry, Maitland found that this wide moral generalization was
based on the limited pour-boire which Mr. Lithgow had presented
to his charioteer. Had the gentleman any luggage? Yes, he had a
portmanteau, which he left in the cloak-room, and took away with him on
his return to townnot in the van, in the railway carriage. What
could he want with all that luggage? Maitland wondered.
The next thing was, of course, to find the guard of the train which
conveyed Margaret and her mysterious friend to Taunton. This official
had seen the gentleman and the young lady get out at Taunton. They went
on to London.
The unfortunate guardian of Margaret Shields was now obliged to
start for Taunton, and thence pursue his way, and his inquiries, as far
as Paddington. The position was extremely irksome to Maitland.
Although, in novels, gentlemen often assume the rôle of the
detective with apparent relish, Maitland was not cast by Nature for the
part. He was too scrupulous and too shy. He detested asking guards, and
porters, and station-masters, and people in refreshment-rooms if they
remembered having seen, yesterday, a gentleman in a fur coat travelling
with a young lady, of whom he felt that he had to offer only a too
suggestive description. The philanthropist could not but see that
everyone properly constructed, in imagination, a satisfactory little
myth to account for all the circumstancesa myth in which Maitland
played the unpopular part of the Avenging Brother or Injured Husband.
What other path, indeed, was open to conjecture? A gentleman in a
fur coat, and a young lady of prepossessing appearance, are travelling
alone together, one day, in a carriage marked Engaged. Next day,
another gentleman (not prepossessing, and very nervous) appears on the
same route, asking anxious questions about the wayfarer in the notable
coat (bearskin, it seemed to have been) and about the interesting young
lady. Clearly, the pair were the fond fugitives of Love; while the
pursuer represented the less engaging interests of Property, of Law,
and of the Family. All the romance and all the popular interest were
manifestly on the other side, not on Maitland's side. Even his tips
were received without enthusiasm.
Maitland felt these disadvantages keenly; and yet he had neither the
time nor the power to explain matters. Even if he had told everyone he
met that he was really the young lady's guardian, and that the
gentleman in the fur coat was (he had every reason to believe) a forger
and a miscreant, he would not have been believed. His opinion would,
not unjustly, have been looked on as distorted by what Mr. Herbert
Spencer calls the personal bias. He had therefore to put up with
general distrust and brief discourteous replies.
There are many young ladies in the refreshment-bar at Swindon. There
they gather, numerous and fair as the sea-nymphsDoto, Proto, Doris,
and Panope, and beautiful Galatea. Of them Maitland sought to be
instructed. But the young ladies were arch and uncommunicative,
pretending that their attention was engaged in their hospitable duties.
Soup it was their business to minister to travellers, not private
information. They had seen the gentleman and lady. Very
attentive to her he seemed. Yes, they were on the best terms: very
sweet on each other, one young lady averred, and then secured her
retreat and concealed her blushes by ministering to the wants of a
hungry and hurried public. All this was horribly disagreeable to
Maitland finally reached Paddington, still asking questions. He had
telegraphed the night before to inquire whether two persons answering
to the oft-repeated description had been noticed at the terminus. He
had received a reply in the negative before leaving Tiverton. Here,
then, was a check. If the ticket-collector was to be credited, the
objects of his search had reached Westbourne Park, where their tickets
had been taken. There, however, all the evidence proved that they had
not descended. Nobody had seen them alight Yet, not a trace was to be
found at Paddington of a gentleman in a fur coat, nor of any gentleman
travelling alone with a young lady.
It was nearly nine o'clock when Maitland, puzzled, worn out, and
disgusted, arrived in town. He did what he could in the way of
interrogating the portersall to no purpose. In the crowd and bustle
of passengers, who skirmish for their luggage under inadequate lights,
no one remembered having seen either of the persons whom Maitland
described. There remained the chance of finding out and cross-examining
all the cab-drivers who had taken up passengers by the late trains the
night before. But that business could not be transacted at the moment,
nor perhaps by an amateur.
Maitland's time was limited indeed. He had been obliged to get out
at Westbourne Park and prosecute his inquisition there. Thence he drove
to Paddington, and, with brief enough space for investigations that
yielded nothing, he took his ticket by the 9.15 evening train for
Oxford. His whole soul was set on consulting Bielby of St. Gatien's,
whom, in his heart, Maitland could not but accuse of being at the
bottom of all these unprecedented troubles. If Bielby had not driven
him, as it were, out of Oxford, by urging him to acquire a wider
knowledge of humanity, and to expand his character by intercourse with
every variety of our fallen species, Maitland felt that he might now be
vegetating in an existence peaceful, if not well satisfied. Adventures
are to the adventurous. It is a hard thing when they have to be
achieved by a champion who is not adventurous at all. If he had not
given up his own judgment to Bielby's, Maitland told himself he never
would have plunged into philanthropic enterprise, he never would have
taken the Hit or Miss he never would have been entangled in the
fortunes of Margaret Shields, and he would not now be concerned with
the death, in the snow, of a dissipated old wanderer, nor obliged to
hunt down a runaway or kidnapped school-girl. Nor would he be suffering
the keen and wearing anxiety of speculating on what had befallen
His fancy suggested the most gloomy yet plausible solutions of the
mystery of her disappearance. In spite of these reflections, Maitland's
confidence in the sagacity of his old tutor was unshaken. Bielby had
not been responsible for the details of the methods by which his pupil
was trying to expand his character. Lastly, he reflected that if he had
not taken Bielby's advice, and left Oxford, he never would have known
Mrs. St. John Deloraine, the lady of his diffident desires.
So the time passed, the minutes flitting by, like the telegraph
posts, in the dark, and Maitland reached the familiar Oxford Station.
He jumped into a hansom, and said, Gatien's. Past Worcester, up
Carfax, down the High Street, they struggled through the snow; and at
last Maitland got out and kicked at the College gate. The porter (it
was nearly midnight) opened it with rather a scared face:
Horful row on in quad, sir, he said. The young gentlemen 'as a
bonfire on, and they're a larking with the snow. Orful A they're a
The agricultural operation thus indicated by the porter was being
forwarded with great vigor. A number of young men, in every variety of
garb (from ulsters to boating-coats), were energetically piling up a
huge Alp of snow against the door of the Master's lodge. Meanwhile,
another band had carried into the quad all the light tables and cane
chairs from a lecture-room. Having arranged these in a graceful
pyramidal form, they introduced some of the fire-lighters, called
devils by the College servants, and set a match to the whole.
Maitland stood for a moment in doubt, looking, in the lurid glare,
very like a magician who has raised an army of fiends, and cannot find
work for them. He felt no disposition to interfere, though the
venerable mass of St Ga-tien's seemed in momentary peril, and the noise
was enough to waken the dead, let alone the Bursar of Oriel. But
Maitland was a non-resident Fellow, known only to the undergraduates,
where he was known at all, as a Radical, with any number of
decorative epithets, according to the taste and fancy of the speaker.
He did not think he could identify any of the rioters, and he was not
certain that they would not carry him to his room, and there screw him
up, according to precedent. Maitland had too much sense of personal
dignity to face the idea of owing his escape from his chambers to the
resources of civilization at the command of the college blacksmith. He,
therefore, after a moment of irresolution, stole off under a low-browed
old door-way communicating with a queer black many-sided little
quadrangle; for it is by no means necessary that a quadrangle should,
in this least mathematical of universities, be quadrangular. Groping
and stumbling his familiar way up the darkest of spiral staircases,
Maitland missed his footing, and fell, with the whole weight of his
body, against the door at which he had meant to knock.
Come in, said a gruff voice, as if the knocking had been done in
the most conventional manner.
Maitland had come in by this time, and found the distinguished Mr.
Bielby, Fellow of St. Gatien's, sitting by his fireside, attired in a
gray shooting-coat, and busy with a book and a pipe. This gentleman
had, on taking his degree, gone to town, and practised with singular
success at the Chancery Bar. But on some sudden disgust or
disappointment, he threw up his practice, returned to College, and
there lived a retired life among his brown Greek manuscripts. He was
a man of the world, turned hermit, and the first of the kind whom
Maitland had ever known. He had coached Maitland, though he usually
took no pupils, and remained his friend and counsellor.
How are you, Maitland? said the student, without rising. I
thought, from the way in which you knocked, that you were some of the
young men, coming to 'draw me,' as I think they call it.
Mr. Bielby smiled as he spoke. He knew that the undergraduates were
as likely to draw him as boys who hunt a hare are likely to draw a
fierce old bear that dwells among bones and blood.
Mr. Bielby's own environment, to be sure, was not of the grisly and
mortuary character thus energetically described by the poet His pipe
was in his hand. His broad, bald, red face, ending in an auburn
spade-shaped beard, wore the air of content. Around him were old books
that had belonged to famous students of oldScaliger, Meursius,
Muretusand before him lay the proof-sheets of his long-deferred work,
a new critical edition of Demetrius of Scepsis.
Looking at his friend, Maitland envied the learned calm of a man who
had not contrived, in the task of developing his own human nature, to
become involved, like his pupil, in a singular and deplorable
conjuncture of circumstances.
The men are making a terrible riot in quad, he said, answering the
Yes, yes, replied Bielby, genially; boys will be boys, and so
will young men. I believe our Torpid has bumped Keble, and the event is
Here there came a terrific howl from without, and a crash of broken
There go some windows into their battels, said Mr. Bielby. They
will hear of this from the Provost But what brings you here, Maitland,
so unexpectedly? Very glad to see you, whatever it is.
Well, sir, said Maitland, I rather want to ask your advice on an
important matter. The fact is, to begin at the beginning of a long
story, that some time ago I got, more or less, engaged to be married.
This was not a very ardent or lover-like announcement, but Bielby
Ah-ha, replied the tutor, with a humorous twinkle. Happy to hear
it Indeed, I had heard a rumor, a whisper! A little bird, as
they say, brought a hint of itI hope, Maitland, a happy omen! A
pleasant woman of the world, one who can take her own part in society,
and your part, too, a littleif you will let me say sois exactly
what you need. I congratulate you very heartily. And are we likely to
see the young lady in Oxford? Where is she just now?
Maitland saw that the learned Bielby had indeed heard something, and
not the right thing. He flushed all over as he thought of the truth,
and of Mrs. St John Deloraine.
I'm sure I wish I knew, said Maitland at last, beginning to find
this consulting of the oracle a little difficult. The fact is, that's
just what I wanted to consult you about. II'm afraid I've lost all
traces of the young lady.
Why, what do you mean? asked the don, his face suddenly growing
grave, while his voice had not yet lost its humorous tone. She has not
eloped? You don't mean to tell me she has run away from you?
I really don't know what to say, answered Maitland. I'm afraid
she has been run away with, that she is the victim of some plot or
You surely can't mean what you say (and now the voice was gruffer
than ever). People don't plot and conspire nowadays, if ever they did,
which probably they didn't! And who are the young lady's people? Why
don't they look after her? I had heard she was a widow, but she must
She is not a widowshe is an orphan, said Maitland, blushing
painfully. I am her guardian in a kind of way.
Why, the wrong stories have reached me altogether! I'm sure I beg
your pardon, but did you tell me her name?
Her name is ShieldsMargaret Shields(Not the name I was told,
muttered Bielby)and her father was a man who had been rather
unsuccessful in life.
What was his profession, what did he do?
He had been a sailor, I think, said the academic philanthropist;
but when I knew him he had left the sea, and was, in fact, as far as
he was anything, a professional tattooer.
He tattooed patterns on sailors and people of that class for a
Bielby sat perfectly silent for a few minutes, and no one who saw
him could doubt that his silence arose from a conscious want of words
on a level with the situation.
Has Missh'm, SpearsShields? thank you; has she been an orphan
long? he asked, at length. He was clearly trying to hope that the most
undesirable prospective father-in-law described by Maitland had long
been removed from the opportunity of forming his daughter's character.
I only heard of his death yesterday, said Maitland.
Was it sudden?
Why, yes. The fact is, he was a man of rather irregular habits, and
he was discovered dead in one of the carts belonging to the Vestry of
St George's, Hanover Square.
St. George's, Hanover Square, indeed! said the don, and once more
he relapsed, after a long whistle, into a significant silence.
Maitland, he said at last, how did you come to be acquainted with
these people? The father, as I understand, was a kind of artist; but
you can't, surely, have met them in society?
He came a good deal to 'my public-house, the Hit or Miss. I
think I told you about it, sir, and you rather seemed to approve of it.
The tavern in Chelsea, if you remember, where I was trying to do
something for the riverside population, and to mix with them for their
good, you know.
Good-night! growled Bielby, very abruptly, and with considerable
determination in his tone. I am rather busy this evening. I think you
had better think no more about the young lady, and say nothing whatever
about the matter to anyone. Good-night!.
So speaking, the hermit lighted his pipe, which, in the astonishment
caused by Maitland's avowals, he had allowed to go out, and he applied
himself to a large old silver tankard. He was a scholar of the
Cambridge school, and drank beer. Maitland knew his friend and mentor
too well to try to prolong the conversation, and withdrew to his bleak
college room, where a timid fire was smoking and crackling among the
wet faggots, with a feeling that he must steer his own course in this
affair. It was clearly quite out of the path of Bielby's experience.
And yet, thought Maitland, if I had not taken his advice about
trying to become more human, and taken that infernal public-house too,
I never would have been in this hole.
All day Maitland had scarcely tasted anything that might reasonably
be called food. He had eaten; he had not dined, to adopt the
distinction of Brillat-Savarin. He had been dependent on the gritty and
flaccid hospitalities of refreshment-rooms, on the sandwich and the
bun. Now he felt faint as well as weary; but, rummaging amidst his
cupboards, he could find no provisions more tempting and nutritious
than a box of potted shrimps, from the college stores, and a bottle of
some Hungarian vintage sent by an advertising firm to the involuntary
bailees of St. Gatien's. Maitland did not feel equal to tackling these
He did not forget that he had neglected to answer a note, on
philanthropic business, from Mrs. St. John Deloraine.
Weary as he was, he took pleasure in replying at length, and left
the letter out for his scout to post. Then, with a heavy headache, he
tumbled into bed, where, for that matter, he went on tumbling and
tossing during the greater part of the night. About five o'clock he
fell into a sleep full of dreams, only to be awakened, at six, by the
steam-whooper, or devil, a sweet boon with which his philanthropy had
helped to endow the reluctant and even recalcitrant University of
Instead of becoming human, I have only become humanitarian,
Maitland seemed to hear his own thoughts whispering to himself in a
night-mare. Through the slowly broadening winter dawn, in snatches of
sleep that lasted, or seemed to last, five minutes at a time, Maitland
felt the thought repeating itself, like some haunting refrain, with a
CHAPTER VII.After the Inquest.
To be ill in college rooms, how miserable it is! Mainland's scout
called him at half-past seven with the invariable question, Do you
breakfast out, sir? If a man were in the condemned cell, his scout (if
in attendance) would probably arouse him on the morning of his
execution with, Do you breakfast out, sir?
No, said Maitland, in reply to the changeless inquiry; in common
room as usual. Pack my bag, I am going down by the nine o'clock train.
Then he rose and tried to dress; but his head ached more than ever,
his legs seemed to belong to someone else, and to be no subject of just
complacency to their owner. He reeled as he strove to cross the room,
then he struggled back into bed, where, feeling alternately hot and
cold, he covered himself with his ulster, in addition to his blankets.
Anywhere but in college, Maitland would, of course, have rung the bell
and called his servant; but in our conservative universities, and
especially in so reverend a pile as St. Gatiens, there was, naturally,
no bell to ring. Maitland began to try to huddle himself into his
greatcoat, that he might crawl to the window and shout to Dakyns, his
But at this moment there fell most gratefully on his ear the sound
of a strenuous sniff, repeated at short intervals in his sitting-room.
Often had Maitland regretted the chronic cold and handkerchiefless
condition of his bedmaker; but now her sniff was welcome as music, much
more so than that of two hunting horns which ambitious sportsmen were
trying to blow in quad.
Mrs. Trattles! cried Maitland, and his own voice sounded faint in
his ears. Mrs. Trattles!
The lady thus invoked answered with becoming modesty, punctuated by
sniffs, from the other side of the door:
Yes, sir; can I do anything for you, sir?
Call Dakyns, please, said Maitland, falling back on his pillow. I
don't feel very well.
Dakyns appeared in due course.
Sorry to hear you're ill, sir; you do look a little flushed. Hadn't
I better send for Mr. Whalley, sir?
Now, Mr. Whalley was the doctor whom Oxford, especially the younger
generation, delighted to honor.
No; I don't think you need. Bring me breakfast here. I think I'll
be able to start for town by the 11.58. And bring me my letters.
Very well, sir, answered Dakyns.
Then with that fearless assumption of responsibility which always
does an Englishman credit, he sent the college messenger in search of
Mr. Whalley before he brought round Maitland's letters and his
There were no letters bearing on the subject of Margaret's
disappearance; if any such had been addressed to him, they would
necessarily be, as Maitland remembered after his first feeling of
disappointment, at his rooms in London. Neither Miss Marlett, if she
had aught to communicate, nor anyone else, could be expected to know
that Mait-land's first act would be to rush to Oxford and consult
The guardian of Margaret turned with no success to his breakfast
commons; even tea appeared unwelcome and impossible.
Maitland felt very drowsy, dull, indifferent, when a knock came to
his door, and Mr. Whalley entered. He could not remember having sent
for him; but he felt that, as an invalid once said, there was a pain
somewhere in the room, and he was feebly pleased to see his physician.
A very bad feverish cold, was the verdict, and Mr. Whalley would
call again next day, till which time Maitland was forbidden to leave
He drowsed through the day, disturbed by occasional howls from the
quadrangle, where the men were snowballing a little, and, later, by the
scraping shovels of the navvies who had been sent in to remove the
snow, and with it the efficient cause of nocturnal disorders in St.
So the time passed, Maitland not being quite conscious of its
passage, and each hour putting Margaret Shields more and more beyond
the reach of the very few people who were interested in her existence.
Maitland's illness took a more severe form than Whalley had
anticipated, and the lungs were affected. Bielby was informed of his
state, and came to see him; but Maitland talked so wildly about the
Hit or Miss, about the man in the bearskin coat, and other
unintelligible matters, that the hermit soon withdrew to the more
comprehensible fragments of Demetrius of Scepsis. He visited his old
pupil daily, and behaved with real kindness; but the old implicit trust
never revived with Maitland's returning health.
At last the fever abated. Maitland felt weak, yet perfectly
conscious of what had passed, and doubly anxious about what was to be
done, if there was, indeed, a chance of doing anything.
Men of his own standing had by this time become aware that he was in
Oxford, and sick, consequently there was always someone to look after
Brown, said Maitland to a friend, on the fifth day after his
illness began, would you mind giving me my things? I'll try to dress.
The experiment was so far successful that Maitland left the queer
bare slit of a place called his bedroom (formed, like many Oxford
bedrooms, by a partition added to the large single room of old times),
and moved into the weirdly aesthetic study, decorated in the Early
William Morris manner.
Now will you howl for Dakyns, and make him have this telegram sent
to the post? Awfully sorry to trouble you, but I can't howl yet for
myself, whispered Maitland, huskily, as he scribbled on a telegraph
Delighted to howl for you, said Brown, and presently the wires
were carrying a message to Barton in town. Maitland wanted to see him
at once, on very pressing business. In a couple of hours there came a
reply: Barton would be with Maitland by dinner-time.
The ghostly room, in the Early William Morris manner, looked cosey
and even homelike when the lamp was lit, when the dusky blue curtains
were drawn, and a monster of the deepone of the famous Oxford soles,
larger than you ever see them elsewheresmoked between Maitland and
Barton. Beside the latter stood a silver quart pot, full of strong, a
reminiscence of the old coaching days, when Maitland had read with
Barton for Greats. The invalid's toast and water wore an air of modest
conviviality, and might have been mistaken for sherry by anyone who
relied merely on such information as is furnished by the sense of sight
The wing of a partridge (the remainder of the brace fell to Barton's
lot) was disposed of by the patient; and then, over the wine, which he
did not touch, and the walnuts, which he tried nervously to crack in
his thin, white hands, Maitland made confession and sought advice.
It was certainly much easier talking to Barton than to Bielby, for
Barton knew so much already, especially about the Hit or Miss;
but when it came to the story of the guardianship of Margaret, and the
kind of prospective engagement to that young lady, Barton rose and
began to walk about the room. But the old beams creaked under him in
the weak places; and Barton, seeing how much he discomposed Maitland,
sat down again, and steadied his nerves with a glass of the famous St.
Then, when Maitland, in the orderly course of his narrative, came to
the finding of poor Dick Shields' body in the snow-cart, Barton cried,
Why, you don't mean to say that was the man, the girl's father? By
George, I can tell you something about him! At the inquest my
partner, old Munby, made out
Has there been an inquest already? Oh, of course there must have
been, said Maitland, whose mind had run so much on Margaret's
disappearance that he had given little of his thoughts (weak and
inconsecutive enough of late) to the death of her father.
Of course there has been an inquest Have you not read the papers
since you were ill?
Now, Maitland had the common-room back numbers of the Times
since the day of his return from Devonshire in his study at that very
moment But his reading, so far, had been limited to the Agony Column
of the advertisements (where he half hoped to find some message), and
to all the paragraphs headed Strange Occurrence and Mysterious
Disappearance. None of these had cast any light on the fortunes of
I have not seen anything about the inquest, he said. What verdict
did they bring in? The usual one, I suppose'Visitation,' and all that
kind of thing, or 'Death from exposure while under the influence of
That's exactly what they made it, said Barton; and I don't blame
them; for the medical evidence my worthy partner gave left them no
other choice. You can see what he said for yourself in the papers.
Barton had been turning over the file of the Times, and
showed Maitland the brief record of the inquest and the verdict;
matters so common that their chronicle might be, and perhaps is, kept
stereotyped, with blanks for names and dates.
A miserable end, said Maitland, when he had perused the paragraph.
And now I had better go on with my story? But what did you mean by
saying you didn't 'blame' the coroner's jury?
Have you any more story? Is it not enough? I don't know that I
should tell you; it is too horrid!
Don't keep anything from me, please, said Maitland, moving
nervously. I must know everything.
Well, answered Barton, his voice sinking to a tone of reluctant
horrorwell, your poor friend was murdered! That's what I
meant when I said I did not blame the jury; they could have given no
other verdict than they did on the evidence of my partner.
Murder! The very word has power to startle, as if the crime were a
new thing, not as old (so all religions tell us) as the first brothers.
As a meteoric stone falls on our planet, strange and unexplained, a
waif of the universe, from a nameless system, so the horror of murder
descends on us, when we meet it, with an alien dread, as of an
intrusion from some lost star, some wandering world that is Hell.
Murdered! cried Maitland. Why, Barton, you must be dreaming! Who
on earth could have murdered poor Shields? If ever there was a man who
was no one's enemy but his own, that man was Shields! And he literally
had nothing that anyone could have wanted to steal. I allowed him so
mucha small sumpaid weekly, on Thursdays; and it was a Wednesday
when he waswhen he died. He could not have had a shilling at that
moment in the world!
I am very sorry to have to repeat it, but murdered he was, all the
same, and that by a very cunning and cautious villaina man, I should
say, of some education.
But how could it possibly have been done? There's the evidence
before you in the paper. There was not a trace of violence on him, and
the circumstances, which were so characteristic of his ways, were more
than enough to account for his death. The exposure, the cold, the mere
sleeping in the snowit's well known to be fatal Why, said Maitland,
eagerly, in a long walk home from shooting in winter, I have had to
send back a beater for one of the keepers; and we found him quite
asleep, in a snowdrift, under a hedge. He never would have wakened.
He was naturally anxious to refute the horrible conclusion which
Barton had arrived at.
The young doctor only shook his head. His opinion was manifestly
But how can you possibly know better than the jury, urged Maitland
peevishly, and the coroner, and the medical officer for the district,
who were all convinced that his death was perfectly naturalthat he
got drunk, lost his way, laid down in the cart, and perished of
exposure? Why, you did not even hear the evidence. I can't make out,
he went on, with the querulousness of an invalid, why you should have
come up just to talk such nonsense. The coroner and the jury are sure
to have been right.
Well, you see, it was not the coroner's business nor the jury's
business, to know better than the medical officer for the district, on
whose evidence they relied. But it is my business; for the said
officer is my partner, and, but for me, our business would be worth
very little. He is about as ignorant and easy-going an excellent old
fellow as ever let a life slip out of his hands.
Then, if you knew so much, why didn't you keep him straight?
Well, as it happened, I was down in Surrey with my people, at a
wedding, when the death occurred, and they made a rather superficial
examination of the deceased.
Still, I see less than ever how you got a chance to form such an
extraordinary and horrible opinion if you were not there, and had only
this printed evidence, said Maitland, waving a sheet of the Times, to go by; and this is dead against you. You're too clever.
But I made a proper and most careful examination myself, on my
return to town, the day after the inquest, said Barton, and I found
evidence enough for menever mind whereto put the matter
beyond the reach of doubt. The man was murdered, and murdered,
as I said, very deliberately, by some one who was not an ordinary
Still, I don't see how you got a chance to make your examination,
said Maitland; the man would be buried as usual
Excuse me. The unclaimed bodies of paupersand there was no one to
claim hisare reserved, if needed
I seedon't go on, said Maitland, turning rather pale, and
falling back on his sofa, where he lay for a little with his eyes shut
It is all the fault of this most unlucky illness of mine, he said,
presently. In my absence, and as nobody knew where I was, there was
naturally no one to claim the body. The kind of people who knew about
him will take no trouble or risk in a case like that. He was silent
again for a few moments; then, What do you make out to have
been tbe cause of death? he asked.
Well, said Barton slowly, I don't much care to go into details
which you may say I can hardly prove, and I don't want to distress you
in your present state of health.
Why don't you speak out! Was he poisoned? Did you detect arsenic or
anything? He had been drinking with some one!
No; if, in a sense, he had been poisoned, there was literally
nothing that could be detected by the most skilled analysis. But, my
dear fellow, there are venoms that leave no internal trace. If I
am rightand I think I amhe was destroyed by one of these. He had
been a great traveller, had he not?
Yes, answered Maitland.
Well, it is strange; the murderer must have been a great traveller
also. He must have been among the Macoushi Indians of Guiana, and well
acquainted with their arts. I know them too. I went there botanizing.
You won't be more explicit?
No, he said; you must take it on my word, after all.
Maitland, if not convinced, was silent He had knowledge enough of
Barton, and of his healthy and joyous nature, to be certain that his
theory was no morbid delusion; that he had good grounds for an opinion
which, as he said, he could no longer, provewhich was, indeed, now
incapable of any proof. No one had seen the commission of tbe crime,
and the crime was of such a nature, and so cunningly planned, that it
could not possibly be otherwise brought home to the murderer.
Now Maitland, knowing the Hit or Miss, and the private room
up-stairs with the dormer windows, where the deed must have been done,
if done at all, was certain that there could not possibly have been any
eye-witness of the crime.
What shall you do? he asked, or have you done anything in
consequence of your discovery? Have you been to the police?
No, said Barton; where was the use? How can I prove anything now?
It is not as if poison had been used, that could be detected by
analysis. Besides, I reflected that if I was right, the less fuss made,
the more likely was the murderer to show his hand. Supposing he had a
secret motiveand he must have hadhe will act on that motive sooner
or later. The quieter everything is kept, the more he feels certain he
is safe, the sooner he will move in some way or other. Then, perhaps,
there may be a chance of detecting him; but it's an outside chance. Do
you know anything of the dead man's past history?
Nothing, except that he was from the North, and had lived a
Well, we must wait and see. But there is his daughter, left under
your care. What do you mean to do about her?
The question brought Maitland back to his old perplexities, which
were now so terribly increased and confused by what he had just been
I was going to tell you, when you broke in with this dreadful
business. Things were bad before; now they are awful, said Maitland.
His daughter has disappeared! That was what I was coming to: that
was the rest of my story. It was difficult and distressing enough
before I knew what you tell me; nowgreat Heavens! what am I to do?
He turned on the sofa, quite overcome. Barton put his hand
encouragingly on his shoulder, and sat so for some minutes.
Tell me all about it, old boy? asked Barton, at length.
He was very much interested, and most anxious to aid his unfortunate
friend. His presence, somehow, was full of help and comfort. Maitland
no longer felt alone and friendless, as he had done after his
consultation of Bielby. Thus encouraged, he told, as clearly and fully
as possible, the tale of the disappearance of Margaret, and of his
entire failure even to come upon her traces or those of her companion.
And you have heard nothing since your illness?
Nothing to any purpose. What do you advise me to do?
There is only one thing certain, to my mind, said Barton. The
seafaring man with whom Shields was drinking on the last night of his
life, and the gentleman in the fur travelling-coat who sent the
telegram in your name and took away Margaret from Miss Marlett's, are
in the same employment, or, by George, are probably the same person.
Now, have you any kind of suspicion who they or he may be? or can you
suggest any way of tracking him or them?
No, said Maitland; my mind is a perfect blank on the subject. I
never heard of the sailor till the woman at the Hit or Miss
mentioned him, the night the body was found. And I never heard of a
friend of Shields', a friend who was a gentleman, till I went down to
Then all we can do at present is, not to set the police at
workthey would only prevent the man from showingbut to find out
whether anyone answering to the description is 'wanted' or is on their
books, at Scotland Yard. Why are we not in Paris, where a man, whatever
his social position might be, who was capable of that unusual form of
crime, would certainly have his dossier? They order these things
better in France.
There is just one thing about him, at least about the man who was
drinking with poor Shields on the night of his death. He was almost
certainly tattooed with some marks or other. Indeed, I remember Mrs.
Gullickthat's the landlady of the Hit or Misssaying that
Shields had been occupied in tattooing him. He did a good deal in that
way for sailors.
By Jove, said Barton, if any fellow understands tattooing, and
the class of jail-birds who practise it, I do. It is a clew after a
fashion; but, after all, many of them that go down to the sea in ships
are tattooed, even when they are decent fellows; and besides, we
seldom, in our stage of society, get a view of a fellow-creature with
nothing on but these early decorative designs.
This was only too obvious, and rather damping to Maitland, who for a
moment had been inclined to congratulate himself on his flair as
CHAPTER VIII.The Jaffa Oranges.
Letting I dare not wait upon I would.
Of all fairy gifts, surely the most desirable in prospect, and the
most embarrassing in practice, would be the magical telescope of Prince
Ali, in the Arabian Nights. With his glass, it will be remembered, he
could see whatever was happening on whatever part of the earth he
chose, and, though absent, was always able to behold the face of his
beloved. How often would one give Aladdin's Lamp, and Fortunatus'
Purse, and the invisible Cap which was made of a darkness that might
be felt to possess for one hour the Telescope of Fairyland!
Could Maitland and Barton have taken a peep through the tube, while
they were pondering over the means of finding Margaret, their quest
would have been aided, indeed, but they would scarcely have been
reassured. Yet there was nothing very awful, nor squalid, nor alarming,
as they might have expected, anticipated, and dreaded, in what the
vision would have shown. Margaret was not in some foreign den of
iniquity, nor, indeed, in a den at all.
The tube enchanted would have revealed to them Margaret, not very
far off, not in Siberia nor Teheran, but simply in Victoria Square,
Pimlico, S.W. There, in a bedroom, not more than commonly dingy, on the
drawing-room floor, with the rattling old green Venetian blinds drawn
down, Margaret would have been displayed. The testimony of a cloud of
witnesses, in the form of phials and medical vessels, proved that she
had for some time been an invalid. The pretty dusky red of health would
have been seen to have faded from her cheeks, and the fun and daring
had died out of her eyes. The cheeks were white and thin, the eyes were
half-closed from sickness and fatigue, and Margaret, a while ago so
ready of speech, did not even bestir herself to answer the question
which a gentleman, who stood almost like a doctor, in an attitude of
respectful inquiry, was putting as to her health.
He was a tall gentleman, dark, with a ripe kind of face, and full,
red, sensitive, sensual lips, not without a trace of humor. Near the
door, in a protesting kind of attitude, as if there against her will,
was a remarkably handsome young person, attired plainly as a
housekeeper, or upper-servant, The faces of some women appear to have
been furnished by Nature, or informed by habit, with an aspect that
seems to say (in fair members of the less educated classes), I won't
put up with none of them goings on. Such an expression this woman
I hope you feel better, my dear? the dark gentleman asks again.
She's going on well enough, interrupted the woman with the
beautiful dissatisfied face. What with peaches and grapes from Covent
Garden, and tonics as you might bathe in
She ought to get well, the dissatisfied woman continued, as
if the invalid were obstinately bent on remaining ill.
I was not speaking, at the moment, to you, Mrs. Darling, said the
dark gentleman, with mockery in his politeness, but to the young lady
whom I have entrusted to your charge.
A pretty trust! the woman replied, with a sniff
Yes, as you kindly say, an extremely pretty trust. And now,
Margaret, my dear'
The fair woman walked to the window, and stared out of it with a
trembling lip, and eyes that saw nothing.
Now, Margaret, my dear, tell me for yourself, how do you feel?
You are very kind, answered the girl at last. I am sure I am
better. I am not very strong yet. I hope I shall get up soon.
Is there anything you would like? Perhaps you are tired of peaches
and grapes; may I send you some oranges?
Oh, thank you; you are very good. I am often thirsty when I waken,
or rather when I leave off dreaming. I seem to dream, rather than
sleep, just now.
Poor girl! said the dark gentleman, in a pitying voice. And what
do you dream?
There seems to be a dreadful quiet, smooth, white place, said the
girl, slowly, where I am; and something I feelsomething, I don't
know whatdrives me out of it. I cannot rest in it; and then I find
myself on a dark plain, and a great black horror, a kind of blackness
falling in drifts, like black snow in a wind, sweeps softly over me,
till I feel mixed in the blackness; and there is always some one
watching me, and chasing me in the darksome one I can't see. Then I
slide into the smooth, white, horrible place again, and feel I must
get away from it. Oh, I don't know which is worst! And they go and come
all the while I'm asleep, I suppose.
I am waiting for the doctor to look in again; but all I can
do is to get you some Jaffa oranges, nice large ones, myself. You will
oblige me, Mrs. Darling (he turned to the housekeeper), by placing
them in Miss Burnside's room, and then, perhaps, she will find them
refreshing when she wakes. Good-by for the moment, Margaret.
The fair woman said nothing, and the dark gentleman walked into the
street, where a hansom cab waited for him. Covent Garden, he cried to
We have not for some time seen, or rather we have for some time made
believe not to recognize, the Hon. Thomas Cranley, whose acquaintance
(a very compromising one) we achieved early in this narrative.
Mr. Cranley, with his own substantial private purpose sun-clear
before him (as Mr. Carlyle would have said, in apologizing for some
more celebrated villain), had enticed Margaret from school. Nor had
this been, to a person of his experience and resources, a feat of very
great difficulty. When he had once learned, by the simplest and
readiest means, the nature of Maitland's telegram to Miss Marlett, his
course had been dear. The telegram which followed Maitland's, and in
which Cranley used Maitland's name, had entirely deceived Miss Marlett,
as we have seen. By the most obvious ruses he had prevented Maitland
from following his track to London. His housekeeper had entered the
engaged carriage at Westbourne Park, and shared, as far as the
terminus, the compartment previously occupied by himself and Margaret
alone. Between Westbourne Park and Paddington he had packed the notable
bearskin coat in his portmanteau. The consequence was, that at
Paddington no one noticed a gentleman in a bearskin coat, travelling
alone with a young lady. A gentleman in a light ulster, travelling with
two ladies, by no means answered to the description Maitland gave in
his examination of the porters. They, moreover, had paid but a divided
attention to Maitland's inquiries.
The success of Cranley's device was secured by its elementary
simplicity. A gentleman who, for any reason, wishes to obliterate his
trail, does wisely to wear some very notable, conspicuous, unmistakable
garb at one point of his progress. He then becomes, in the minds of
most who see him, the man in the bearskin coat, or the man in the
jack-boots, or the man with the white hat. His identity is
practically merged in that of the coat, or the boots, or the hat; and
when he slips out of them, he seems to leave his personality behind, or
to pack it up in his portmanteau, or with his rugs. By acting on this
principle (which only requires to be stated to win the assent of pure
reason), Mr. Cranley had successfully lost himself and Margaret in
With Margaret his task had been less difficult than it looked. She
recognized him as an acquaintance of her father's, and he represented
to her that he had been an officer of the man-of-war in which her
father had served; that he had lately encountered her father, and
pitied his povertyin poor Shields, an irremediable condition. The
father, so he declared, had spoken to him often and anxiously about
Margaret, and with dislike and distrust about Maitland. According to
Mr. Cranley, Shield's chief desire in life had been to see Margaret
entirely free from Maitland's guardianship. But he had been conscious
that to take the girl away from school would be harmful to her
prospects. Finally, with his latest breath, so Mr. Cranley declared, he
had commended Margaret to his old officer, and had implored him to
abstract her from the charge of the Fellow of St Gatien's.
Margaret, as we know, did not entertain a very lively kindness for
Maitland, nor had she ever heard her father speak of that unlucky young
man with the respect which his kindness, his academic rank, and his
position in society deserved. It must be remembered that, concerning
the manner of her father's death, she had shrunk from asking questions.
She knew it had been sudden; she inferred that it had not been
reputable. Often had she dreaded for him one of the accidents against
which Providence does not invariably protect the drunkard. Now the
accident had arrived, she was fain to be ignorant of the manner of it.
Her new guardian, again, was obviously a gentleman; he treated her with
perfect politeness and respect, and, from the evening of the day when
she left school, she had been in the charge of that apparently correct
chaperon, the handsome housekeeper with the disapproving countenance.
Mr. Cranley had even given up to her his own rooms in Victoria Square,
and had lodged elsewhere; his exact address Margaret did not know. The
only really delicate pointCranley's assumption of the name of Mr.
Lithgowhe frankly confessed to her as soon as they were well out of
the Dovecot. He represented that, for the fulfilment of her father's
last wish, the ruse of the telegram and the assumed name had been
necessary, though highly repugnant to the feelings of an officer and a
gentleman. Poor Margaret had seen nothing of gentlemen, except as
philanthropists, and (as we know) philanthropists permit themselves a
license and discretion not customary in common society.
Finally, even had the girl's suspicions been awakened, her illness
prevented her from too closely reviewing the situation. She was with
her father's friend, an older man by far, and therefore a more
acceptable guardian than Maitland. She was fulfilling her father's
wish, and hoped soon to be put in the way of independence, and of
earning her own livelihood; and independence was Margaret's ideal.
Her father's friend, her own protectorin that light she regarded
Cranley, when she was well enough to think consecutively. There could
be no more complete hallucination. Cranley was one of those egotists
who do undoubtedly exist, but whose existence, when they are
discovered, is a perpetual surprise even to the selfish race of men. In
him the instinct of self-preservation (without which the race could not
have endured for a week) had remained absolutely unmodified, as it is
modified in the rest of us, by thousands of years of inherited social
experience. Cran-ley's temper, in every juncture, was precisely that of
the first human being who ever found himself and other human beings
struggling in a flood for a floating log that will only support one of
them. Everything must give way to his desire; he had literally never
denied himself anything that he dared taka As certainly as the stone,
once tossed up, obeys the only law it knows, and falls back to earth,
so surely Cranley would obtain what he desired (if it seemed safe),
though a human life, or a human soul, stood between him and his
Now, Margaret stood, at this moment, between him and the aims on
which his greed was desperately bent. It was, therefore, necessary that
she should vanish; and to that end he had got her into his power.
Cranley's original idea had been the obvious one of transporting the
girl to the Continent, where, under the pretence that a suitable
situation of some kind had been found for her, he would so arrange that
England should never see her more, and that her place among honest
women should be lost forever. But there were difficulties in the way of
this tempting plan. For instance, the girl knew some French, and was no
tame, unresisting fool; and then Margaret's illness had occurred, and
had caused delay, and given time for reflection.
After all, he thought, as he lit his cigar and examined his
mustache in the mirror (kindly provided for that purpose in
well-appointed hansoms)after all it is only, the dead who tell no
tales, and make no inconvenient claims.
For after turning over in his brain the various safe and easy ways
of removing an inconvenient person, one devilish scheme had flashed
across a not uninstructed intellecta scheme which appeared open to
the smallest number of objections.
She shall take a turn for the worse, he thought; and the doctor
will be an uncommonly clever man, and particularly well read in
criminal jurisprudence, if he sees anything suspicious in it.
Thus pondering, this astute miscreant stopped at Covent Garden,
dismissed his cab, and purchased a basket of very fine Jaffa oranges.
He then hailed another cab, and drove with his parcel to the shop of an
eminent firm of chemists, again dismissing his cab. In the shop he
asked for a certain substance, which it may be as well not to name, and
got what he wanted in a small phial, marked poison. Mr. Cranley
then called a third cab, gave the direction of a surgical-instrument
maker's (also eminent), and amused his leisure during the drive in
removing the label from the bottle. At the surgical-instrument maker's
he complained of neuralgia, and purchased a hypodermic syringe for
injecting morphine or some such anodyne into his arm. À fourth cab took
him back to the house in Victoria Square, where he let himself in with
a key, entered the dining-room, and locked the door.
Nor was he satisfied with this precaution. After aimlessly moving
chairs about for a few minutes, and prowling up and down the room, he
paused and listened. What he heard induced him to stuff his
pocket-handkerchief into the keyhole, and to lay the hearth-rug across
the considerable chink which, as is usual, admitted a healthy draught
under the bottom of the door. Then the Honorable Mr. Cranley drew down
the blinds, and unpacked his various purchases. He set them out on the
table in orderthe oranges, the phial, and the hypodermic syringe.
Then he carefully examined the oranges, chose half a dozen of the
best, and laid the others on a large dessert plate in the dining-room
cupboard. One orange he ate, and left the skin on a plate on the table,
in company with a biscuit or two.
When all this had been arranged to his mind, Mr. Cranley chose
another orange, filled a wineglass with the liquid in the phial, and
then drew off a quantity in the little syringe. Then he very delicately
and carefully punctured the skin of one of the oranges, and injected
into the fruit the contents of the syringe. This operation he
elaborately completed in the case of each of the six chosen oranges,
and then tenderly polished their coats with a portion of the skin of
the fruit he had eaten. That portion of the skin he consumed to dust in
the fire; and, observing that a strong odor remained in the room, he
deliberately turned on the unlighted gas for a few minutes. After this
he opened the window, sealed his own seal in red wax on paper a great
many times, finally burning the collection, and lit a large cigar,
which he smoked through with every appearance of enjoyment. While
engaged on this portion of his task, he helped himself frequently to
sherry from the glass, first carefully rinsed, into which he had poured
the liquid from the now unlabelled phial. Lastly he put the phial in
his pocket with the little syringe, stored the six oranges, wrapped in
delicate paper, within the basket, and closed the window.
Next he unlocked the door, and, without opening it, remarked in a
Now, Alice, you may come in!
The handle turned, and the housekeeper entered.
How is Miss Burnside? he asked, in the same silvery accents. (He
had told Margaret that she had better be known by that name, for the
present at least.)
She is asleep. I hope she may never waken. What do you want with
her? Why are you keeping her in this house? What devil's brew have you
been making that smells of gas and sherry and sealing-wax?
My dear girl, replied Mr. Cranley, you put too many questions at
once. As to your first pair of queries, my reasons for taking care of
Miss Burnside are my own business, and do not concern you, as my
housekeeper. As to the 'devil's brew' which you indicate in a style
worthy rather of the ages of Faith and of Alchemy, than of an epoch of
positive science, did you never taste sherry and sealing-wax? If you
did not, that is one of the very few alcoholic combinations in which
you have never, to my knowledge, attempted experiments. Is there any
other matter on which I can enlighten an intelligent and respectful
The fair woman's blue eyes and white face seemed to glitter with
anger, like a baleful lightning.
I don't understand your chaff, she said, with a few ornamental
epithets, which, in moments when she was deeply stirred, were apt to
decorate her conversation.
I grieve to be obscure, he answered; brevis esse laboro,
the old story. But, as you say Miss Burnside is sleeping, and as, when
she wakens, she may be feverish, will you kindly carry these oranges
and leave them on a plate by her bedside? They are Jaffa oranges, and
finer fruit, Alice, my dear, I have seldom tasted! After that, go to
Cavendish Square, and leave this note at the doctor's.
Oh, nothing's too good for her! growled the jealous woman,
thinking of the fruit; to which he replied by offering her several of
the oranges not used in his experiment.
Bearing these, she withdrew, throwing a spiteful glance and leaving
the door unshut, so that her master distinctly heard her open
Margaret's door, come out again, and finally leave the house.
Now, I'll give her a quarter of an hour to waken, said Mr.
Cranley, and he took from his pocket a fresh copy of the Times.
He glanced rather anxiously at the second column of the outer sheet
Still advertising for him, he said to himself; and he then turned to
the sporting news. His calmness was extraordinary, but natural in him;
for the reaction of terror at the possible detection of his villainy
had not yet come on. When he had read all that interested him in the
Times, he looked hastily at his watch.
Just twenty minutes gone, he said. Time she wakenedand tried
those Jaffa oranges.
Then he rose, went up stairs stealthily, paused a moment opposite
Margaret's door, and entered the drawing-room. Apparently he did not
find any of the chairs in the dining-room comfortable enough; for he
chose a large and heavy fauteuil, took it up in his arms, and
began to carry it out In the passage, just opposite Margaret's chamber,
he stumbled so heavily that he fell, and the weighty piece of furniture
was dashed against the door of the sick-room, making a terrible noise.
He picked it up, and retired silently to the dining-room.
That would have wakened the dead, he whispered to himself, and
she is not deadyet. She is certain to see the oranges, and take one
of them, and then
The reflection did not seem to relieve him, as he sat, gnawing his
mustache, in the chair he had brought down with him. Now the deed was
being accomplished, even his craven heart awoke to a kind of criminal
remorse. Now anxiety for the issue made him wish the act undone, or
frustrated; now he asked himself if there were no more certain and less
perilous way. So intent was his eagerness that a strange kind of
lucidity possessed him. He felt as if he beheld and heard what was
passing in the chamber of sickness, which he had made a chamber of
She has wakenedshe has looked roundshe has seen the poisoned
fruitshe has blessed him for his kindness in bringing itshe has
tasted the orangesshe has turned to sleep againand the unrelenting
venom is at its work!
Oh, strange forces that are about us, all inevitably acting, each in
his hour and his place, each fulfilling his law without turning aside
to the right hand or to the left! The rain-drop running down the pane,
the star revolving round the sun of the furthest undiscoverable system,
the grains of sand sliding from the grasp, the poison gnawing and
burning the tissueseach seems to move in his inevitable path,
obedient to an unrelenting will. Innocence, youth, beautythat will
spares them not. The rock falls at its hour, whoever is under it. The
deadly drug slays, though it be blended with the holy elements. It is a
will that moves all thingsmens agitat molem; and yet we can
make that will a slave of our own, and turn this way and that the blind
steadfast forces, to the accomplishment of our desires.
It was not, naturally, with these transcendental reflections that
the intellect of Mr. Cranley was at this moment engaged. If he seemed
actually to be present in Margaret's chamber, watching every movement
and hearing every heart-beat of the girl he had doomed, his blue lips
and livid face, from which he kept wiping the cold drops, did not
therefore speak of late ruth, or the beginning of remorse.
It was entirely on his own security and chances of escaping
detection that he was musing.
Now it's done, it can't be undone, he said. But is it so very
safe, after all? The stuff is not beyond analysis, unluckily; but it's
much more hard to detect this way, mixed with the orange-juice, than
any other way. And then there's all the horrid fuss afterward. Even if
there is not an inquestas, of course, there won't bethey'll ask who
the girl is, what the devil she was doing here. Perhaps they'll, some
of them, recognize Alice: she has been too much before the public,
confound her. It may not be very hard to lie through all these
And then he looked mechanically at his cold fingers, and bit his
thumb-nail, and yawned.
By gad! I wish I had not risked it, he said to himself; and his
complexion was now of a curious faint blue, and his heart began to
flutter painfully in a manner not strange in his experience. He sunk
back in his chair, with his hands all thrilling and pricking to the
finger-tips. He took a large silver flask from his pocket, but he could
scarcely unscrew the stopper, and had to manage it with his teeth. A
long pull at the liquor restored him, and he began his round of
That French fellow who tried it this way in Scotland was found
out, he said; and He did not like, even in his mind, to add that
the French fellow, consequently, suffered the extreme penalty of the
law. But then he was a fool, and boasted beforehand, and bungled it
infernally. Still, it's not absolutely safe: the other plan I thought
of first was better. By gad! I wish I could be sure she had not taken
the stuff. Perhaps she hasn't. Anyway, she must be asleep again now;
and, besides, there are the other oranges to be substituted for those
left in the room, if she has taken it. I must go and see.
I don't like the job.
He filled his pockets with five unpoisoned oranges, and the skin of
a sixth, and so crept upstairs. His situation was, perhaps, rather
novel. With murder in his remorseless heart, he yet hoped against hope,
out of his very poltroonery, that murder had not been done. At the
girl's door he waited and listened, his face horribly agitated and
shining wet. All was silent. His heart was sounding hoarsely within
him, like a dry pump: he heard it, so noisy and so distinct that he
almost feared it might wake the sleeper. If only, after all, she had
not touched the fruit!
Then he took the door-handle in his clammy grasp; he had to cover it
with a handkerchief to get a firm hold. He turned discreetly, and the
door was pushed open in perfect stillness, except for that dreadful
husky thumping of his own heart. At this moment the postman's hard
knock at the door nearly made him cry out aloud. Then he entered; a
dreadful visitor, had anyone seen him. She did not see him; she was
asleep, sound asleep; in the dirty brown twilight of a London winter
day, he could make out that much. He did not dare draw close enough to
observe her face minutely, or bend down and listen for her breath. And
the oranges! Eagerly he looked at them. There were only five of them.
Surelyno! a sixth had fallen on the floor, where it was lying. With a
great sigh of relief he picked up all the six oranges, put them in his
pockets, and, as shrinkingly as he had come-yet shaking his hand at the
girl, and cursing his own cowardice under his breathhe stole down
stairs, opened the dining-room door, and advanced into the blind, empty
Now I'll settle with you! came a voice out of the dimness; and the
start wrought so wildly on his nerves, excited to the utmost degree as
they were, that he gave an inarticulate cry of alarm and despair. Was
he trapped, and by whom?
In a moment he saw whence the voice came. It was only Alice Darling,
in bonnet and cloak, and with a face flushed with something more than
anger, that stood before him.
Not much used to shame, he was yet ashamed of his own alarm, and
tried to dissemble it. He sat down at a writing-table facing her, and
Now that you have returned, Alice, will you kindly bring lights? I
want to read.
What were you doing up-stairs just now? she snarled. Why did you
send me off to the doctor's, out of the way?
My good girl, I have again and again advised you to turn that
invaluable curiosity of yourscuriosity, a quality which Mr. Matthew
Arnold so justly views with high esteeminto wider and nobler
channels. Disdain the merely personal; accept the calm facts of
domestic life as you find them; approach the broader and less
irritating problems of Sociology (pardon the term) or Metaphysics.
It was cruel to see the enjoyment he got out of teasing this woman
by an ironical jargon which mystified her into madness. This time he
went too far. With an inarticulate snarl of passion she lifted a knife
that lay on the dining-room table and made for him. But this time,
being prepared, he was not alarmed; nay, he seemed to take leasure in
the success of his plan of tormenting. The heavy escritoire at which he
sat was a breastwork between him and the angry woman. He coolly opened
a drawer; produced a revolver, and remarked:
No; I did not ask for the carving-knife, Alice. I asked for lights;
and you will be good enough to bring them. I am your master, you know,
in every sense of the word; and you are aware that you had better both
hold your tongue and keep your hands off meand off drink. Fetch the
She left the room cowed, like a beaten dog. She returned, set the
lamp silently on the table, and was gone. Then he noticed a letter,
which lay on the escritoire, and was addressed to him. It was a rather
peculiar letter to look at, or rather the envelope was peculiar; for,
though bordered with heavy black, it was stamped, where the seal should
have been, with a strange device in gold and colorsa brown bun, in a
glory of gilt rays.
Mrs. St John Deloraine, he said, taking it up. How in the world
did she find me out? Well, she is indeed a friend that sticketh
closer than a brothera deal closer than Surbiton, anyhow.
Lord Surbiton was the elder brother of Mr. Cranley, and bore the
second title of the family.
I don't suppose there is another woman in London, he thought to
himself, that has not heard all about the row at the Cockpit, and that
would write to me.
Then he tore the chromatic splendors of the device on the envelope,
and read the following epistle:
Early English Bunhouse,
Chelsea, Friday. My dear Mr. Cranley,
Where are you hiding, or yachting, you wandering man? I can
hear nothing of you from anyonenothing good, and you
know I never believe anything else. Do come and see me,
the old Bunhouse here, and tell me about yourself
(She has heard, he muttered)
and help me in a little difficulty. Our housekeeper (you
know we are strictly blue ribbona cordon bleu, I call
her) has become engaged to a plumber, and she is
us. Can you recommend me another? I know how interested
you are (in spite of your wicked jokes) in our little
enterprise. And we also want a girl, to be under the
housekeeper, and keep the accounts. Surely you will come to
see me, whether you can advise me or not.
Yours very truly,
Mary St. John Deloraine
Idiot! murmured Mr. Cranley, as he finished reading this document;
and then he added, By Jove! it's lucky, too. I'll put these two
infernal women off on her, and Alice will soon do for the girl,
if she once gets at the drink. She's dangerous, by Jove, when she has
been drinking. Then the Law will do for Alice, and all will be plain
sailing in smooth waters.
CHAPTER IX.Mrs. St. John Deloraine
Mrs. St. John Deloraine, whose letter to Mr. Cranley we have been
privileged to read, was no ordinary widow. As parts of her character
and aspects of her conduct were not devoid of the kind of absurdity
which is caused by virtues out of place, let it be said that a better,
or kinder, or gentler, or merrier soul than that of Mrs. St. John
Deloraine has seldom inhabited a very pleasing and pretty tenement of
clay, and a house in Cheyne Walk.
The maiden name of this lady was by no means so euphonious as that
which she had attained by marriage. Miss Widdicombe, of Chipping Carby,
in the county of Somerset, was a very lively, good-hearted and
agreeable young woman; but she was by no means favorably looked on by
the ladies of the County Families. Now, in the district around Chipping
Carby, the County Families are very County indeed, few more so. There
is in their demeanor a kind of morgue so funereal and mournful,
that it inevitably reminds the observer (who is not County) of an
edifice in Paris, designed by Méryon, and celebrated by Mr. Robert
Browning. The County Families near Chipping Carby are far, far from
gay, and what pleasure they do take, they take entirely in the society
of their equals. So determined are they to drink delight of tennis with
their peers, and with nobody else, that even the Clergy are excluded,
ex officio, and in their degrading capacity of ministers of
Religion, from the County Lawn Tennis Club. As we all know how
essential young curates fresh from college are to the very being of
rural lawn-tennis, no finer proof can be given of the inaccessibility
of the County people around Chipping Carby, and of the sacrifices which
they are prepared to make to their position.
Now, born in the very purple, and indubitably (despite his
profession) one of the gentlest born of men, was, some seven years ago,
a certain Mr. St. John Deloraine. He held the sacrosanct position of a
squarson, being at once Squire and Parson of the parish of Little
Wentley. At the head of the quaint old village street stands, mirrored
in a moat, girdled by beautiful gardens, and shadowy with trees, the
Manor House and Parsonage (for it is both in one) of Wentley Deloraine.
To this desirable home and opulent share of earth's good things did
Mr. St. John Deloraine succeed in boyhood. He went to Oxford, he
travelled a good deal, he was held in great favor and affection by the
County matrons and the long-nosed young ladies of the County. Another,
dwelling on such heights as he, might have become haughty; but there
was in this young man a cheery naturalness and love of mirth which
often drove him from the society of his equals, and took him into that
of attorneys' daughters. Fate drew him one day to an archery meeting at
Chipping Carby, and there he beheld Miss Widdicombe. With her he paced
the level turf, her points he counted, and he found that she, at
least, could appreciate his somewhat apt quotation from Chastelard
Pray heaven, we make good Ends.
Miss Widdicombe did make good Ends. She vanquished Mrs.
Struggles, the veteran lady champion of the shaft and bow, a
sportswoman who was now on the verge of sixty. Why are ladies, who,
almost professionally, rejoice in arrows, like the Homeric
Artemiswhy are they nearly always so well stricken in years? Was Maid
Marion forty at least before her performances obtained for her a place
in the well-known band of Hood, Tuck, Little John, and Co.?
This, however, is a digression. For our purpose it is enough that
the contrast between Miss Widdicombe's vivacity and the deadly
stolidity of the County families, between her youth and the maturity of
her vanquished competitors, entirely won the heart of Mr. St John
Deloraine. He sawhe loved herhe was laughed athe proposedhe was
acceptedand, oh, shame! the County had to accept, more or less, Miss
Widdicombe, the attorney's daughter, as châtelaine (delightful
word, and dear to the author of Guy Livingstone) of Wentley
When the early death of her husband threw Mrs. St John Deloraine
almost alone on the world (for her family had, naturally, been offended
by her good fortune), she left the gray old squarsonage, and went to
town. In London, Mrs. St John Deloraine did not find people stiff, With
a good name, an impulsive manner, a kind heart, a gentle tongue, and
plenty of money, she was welcome almost everywhere, except at the big
County dinners which the County people of her district give to each
other when they come to town.
This lady, like many of us, had turned to charity and philanthropy
in the earlier days of her bereavement; but, unlike most of us, her
benevolence had not died out with the sharpest pangs of her sorrow.
Never, surely, was there such a festive philanthropist as Mrs. St. John
She would go from a garden-party to a mothers' meeting; she was
great at taking children for a day in the country, and had the art of
keeping them amused. She was on a dozen charitable committees, belonged
to at least three clubs, at which gentlemen as well as ladies of
fashion were eligible, and where music and minstrelsy enlivened the
So good and unsuspecting, unluckily, was Mrs. St. John Deloraine,
that she made bosom friends for life, and contracted vows of eternal
sympathy, wherever she went. At Aix, or on the Spanish frontier, she
has been seen enjoying herself with acquaintances a little dubious,
like Greek texts which, if not absolutely corrupt, yet stand greatly in
need of explanation. It is needless to say that gentlemen of fortune,
in the old sensethat is, gentlemen in quest of a fortunepursued
hotly or artfully after Mrs. St. John Deloraine. But as she never for a
moment suspected their wiles, so these devices were entirely wasted on
her, and her least warrantable admirers found that she insisted on
accepting them as endowed with all the Christian virtues. Just as some
amateurs of music are incapable of conceiving that there breathes a man
who has no joy in popular concerts (we shall have popular conic
sections next), so Mrs. St John Deloraine persevered in crediting all
she met with a passion for virtue. Their speech might bewray them as
worldlings of the world, but she insisted on interpreting their talk as
a kind of harmless levity, as a mere cynical mask assumed by a tender
and pious nature. Thus, no one ever combined a delight in good works
with a taste for good things so successfully as Mrs. St John Deloraine.
At this moment the lady's favorite vanity, in the matter of good
works, was The Bunhouse. This really serviceable, though quaint,
institution was not, in idea, quite unlike Maitland's enterprise of the
philanthropic public-house, the Hit or Miss. In a slum of
Chelsea there might have been observed a modest place of entertainment,
in the coffee and bun line, with a highly elaborate Chelsea Bun painted
on the sign. This piece of art, which gave its name to the
establishment, was the work of one of Mrs. St John Deloraine's friends,
an artist of the highest promise, who fell an early victim to
arrangements in haschisch and Irish whiskey. In spite of this
ill-omened beginning, The Bunhouse did very useful work. It was
a kind of unofficial club and home, not for Friendly Girls, nor the
comparatively subdued and domesticated slavery of common life, but for
the tameless tribes of young women of the metropolis. Those who disdain
service, who turn up expressive features at sewing machines, and who
decline to stand perpendicularly for fifteen hours a day in shopsall
these young female outlaws, not professionally vicious, found in The
Bunhouse a kind of charitable shelter and home.
They were amused, they were looked after, they were encouraged not
to stand each other drinks, nor to rival the profanity of their
brothers and fathers. Places were found for them, in the rare
instances when they condescended to places. Sometimes they
breakfasted at The Bunhouse, sometimes went there to supper.
Very often they came in a state of artificial cheerfulness, or ready
for battle. Then there would arise such a disturbance as civilization
seldom sees. Not otherwise than when boys, having tied two cats by the
tails, hang them over the handle of a doorthey then spit, and shriek,
and swear, fur flies, and the clamor goes up to heaven: so did the
street resound when the young patrons of The Bunhouse were in a
warlike humor. Then the stern housekeeper would intervene, and check
these motions of their minds, haec certamina tanta, turning the
more persistent combatants into the street. Next day Mrs. St. John
Deloraine would come in her carriage, and try to be very severe, and
then would weep a little, and all the girls would shed tears, all would
have a good cry together, and finally the Lady Mother (Mrs. St John
Deloraine) would take a few of them for a drive in the Park. After that
there would be peace for a while, and presently disturbances would come
For this establishment it was that Mrs. St. John Deloraine wanted a
housekeeper and an assistant. The former housekeeper, as we have been
told, had yielded to love, which subdues the hearts of all female
women, even of the prudent, according to Homer, and was going to share
the home and bear the children of a plumber. With her usual invincible
innocence, Mrs. St. John Deloraine had chosen to regard the Hon. Thomas
Cranley as a kind good Christian in disguise, and to him she appealed
in her need of a housekeeper and assistant.
No application could possibly have suited that gentleman better.
He could give his own servant an excellent character; and if once
she was left to herself, to her passions, and the society of Margaret,
that young lady's earthly existence would shortly cease to embarrass
Mr. Cranley. Probably there was not one other man among the motley
herds of Mrs. St. John Deloraine's acquaintance who would have used her
unsuspicious kindness as an instrument in a plot of any sort. But Mr.
Cranley had (when there was no personal danger to be run) the courage
of his character.
Shall I go and lunch with her? he asked himself, as he twisted her
note, with its characteristic black border and device of brown, and
gold. I haven't shown anywhere I was likely to meet anyone I knew, not
sincesince I came back from Monte Carlo.
Even to himself he did not like to mention that affair of the
Cockpit The man in the story who boasted that he had committed every
crime in the calendar withdrew his large words when asked if he had
ever cheated at cards.
Well, Mr. Cranley went on, I don't know: I dare say it's safe
enough. She does know some of those Cockpit fellows; confound her, she
knows all sorts of fellows. But none of them are likely to be up so
early in the daynot up to luncheon anyhow. She saysand he looked
again at the notethat she'll be alone; but she won't. Everyone she
sees before lunch she asks to luncheon: everyone she meets before
dinner she asks to dinner. I wish I had her money: it would be simpler
and safer by a very long way than this kind of business. There really
seems no end to it when once you begin. However, here goes, said Mr.
Cranley, sitting down to write a letter at the escritoire which had
just served him as a bulwark and breastwork. I'll write and accept
Probably she'll have no one with her, but some girl from Chipping
Carby, or some missionary from the Solomon Islands who never heard of a
heathen like me.
As a consequence of these reflections, Mr. Cranley arrived, when the
clock was pointing to half-past one, at Mrs. St. John Deloraine's house
in Cheyne Walk. He had scarcely entered the drawing-room before that
lady, in a costume which agreeably became her pleasant English style of
beauty, rushed into the room, tumbling over a favorite Dandie Dinmont
terrier, and holding out both her hands.
The terrier howled, and Mrs. St. John Deloraine had scarcely grasped
the hand which Mr. Cranley extended with enthusiasm, when she knelt on
the carpet and was consoling the Dandie.
Love in which thy hound has part, quoted Mr. Cranley. And the
lady, rising with her face becomingly flushed beneath her fuzzy brown
hair, smiled, and did not remark the sneer.
Thank you so much for coming, Mr. Cranley, she said; and, as I
have put off luncheon till two, do tell me that you know someone
who will suit me for my dear Bun-house. I know how much you have
always been interested in our little project.
Mr. Cranley assured her that, by a remarkable coincidence, he knew
the very kind of people she wanted. Alice he briefly described as a
respectable woman of great strength of character, of body, too, I
believe, which will not make her less fit for the position.
No, said Mrs. St. John Deloraine, sadly; the dear girls are
sometimes a little tiresome. On Wednesday, Mrs. Carter, the
housekeeper, you know, went to one of the exhibitions with her
fiancé, and the girls broke all the windows and almost all the
The woman whom I am happy to be able to recommend to you will not
stand anything of that kind, answered Mr. Cranley. She is quiet, but
extremely firm, and has been accustomed to deal with a very desperate
character. At one time, I mean, she was engaged as the attendant of a
person of treacherous and ungovernable disposition.
This was true enough; and Mr. Cranley then began to give a more or
less fanciful history of Margaret She had been left in his charge by
her father, an early acquaintance, a man who had known better days, but
had bequeathed her nothing, save an excellent schooling and the desire
to earn her own livelihood.
So far, he knew he was safe enough; for Margaret was the last girl
to tell the real tale of her life, and her desire to avoid Maitland was
strong enough to keep her silent, even had she not been naturally proud
and indisposed to make confidences.
There is only one thing I must ask, said Mr. Cranley, when he had
quite persuaded the lady that Margaret would set a splendid example to
her young friends. How soon does your housekeeper leave you, and when
do you need the services of the new-comers?
Well, the plumber is rather in a hurry. He really is a good man,
and I like him better for it, though it seems rather selfish of him to
want to rob me of Joan. He is; determined to be married before next
Bank Holidayin a fortnight that isand then they will go on their
honeymoon of three days to Yarmouth.
Mr. Cranley blessed the luck that had not made the plumber a yet
more impetuous wooer.
No laggard in love, he said, smiling. Well, in a fortnight the
two women will be quite ready for their new place. But I must ask you
to remember that the younger is somewhat delicate, and has by no means
recovered from the shock of her father's sudden deatha very sad
affair, added Mr. Cranley, in a sympathetic voice.
Poor dear girl! cried Mrs. St. John Deloraine, with the ready
tears in her eyes; for this lady spontaneously acted on the injunction
to weep with those who weep, and also laugh with those who laugh.
Mr. Cranley, who was beginning to feel hungry, led her thoughts off
to the latest farce in which Mr. Toole had amused the town; and when
Mrs. St. John Deloraine had giggled till she wept again over her
memories of this entertainment, she suddenly looked at her watch.
Why, he's very late, she said; and yet it is not far to come from
the Hit or Miss.
From the Hit or Miss! cried Mr. Cranley, much louder than
he was aware.
Yes; you may well wonder, if you don't know about it, that I should
have asked a gentleman from a public-house to meet you. But you will be
quite in love with him; he is such a very good young man. Not handsome,
nor very amusing; but people think a great deal too much of amusingness
now. He is very, very good, and spends almost all his time among the
poor. He is a Fellow of his College at Oxford.
During this discourse Mr. Cranley was pretending to play with the
terrier; but, stoop as he might, his face was livid, and he knew it.
Did I tell you his name? Mrs. St. John Deloraine ran on. He is
Here the door was opened, and the servant announced Mr. Maitland.
When Mrs. St. John Deloraine had welcomed her new guest, she turned,
and found that Mr. Cranley was looking out of the window.
His position was indeed agonizing, and, in the circumstances, a
stronger heart might have blanched at the encounter.
When Cranley last met Maitland, he had been the guest of that
philanthropist, and he had gone from his table to swindle his
fellow-revellers. What other things he had donethings in which
Maitland was concernedthe reader knows, or at least suspects. But it
was not these deeds which troubled Mr. Cranley, for these he knew were
undetected. It was that affair of the baccarat which unmanned him.
There was nothing for it but to face Maitland and the situation.
Let me introduce you said Mrs. St. John Deloraine.
There is no need, interrupted Maitland. Mr. Cranley and I have
known each other for some time. I don't think we have met, he added,
looking at Cranley, since you dined with me at the Olympic, and we are
not likely to meet again, I'm afraid; for to-morrow, as I have come to
tell Mrs. Si John Deloraine, I go to Paris on business of importance.
Mr. Cranley breathed again; it was obvious that Maitland, living out
of the world as he did, and concerned (as Cranley well knew him to be)
with private affairs of an urgent character, had never been told of the
trouble at the Cockpit, or had, in his absent fashion, never attended
to what he might have heard with the hearing of the ear. As to Paris,
he had the best reason for guessing why Maitland was bound thither, as
he was the secret source of the information on which Maitland proposed
At luncheonwhich, like the dinner described by the American guest,
was luscious and abundantMr. Cranley was more sparkling than the
champagne, and made even Maitland laugh. He recounted little
philanthropic misadventures of his owncases in which he had been
humorously misled by the Captain Wraggs of this world, or
beguiled by the authors of that polite correspondencebegging letters.
When luncheon was over, and when Maitland was obliged, reluctantly,
to go (for he liked Mrs. St. John Deloraine's company very much),
Cranley, who had determined to see him out, shook hands in a very
cordial way with the Fellow of St. Gatien's.
And when are we likely to meet again? he asked.
I really don't know, said Maitland. I have business in Paris, and
I cannot say how long I may be detained on the Continent.
No more can I, said Mr. Cranley to himself; but I hope you won't
return in time to bother me with your blundering inquiries, if ever you
have the luck to return at all.
But while he said this to himself, to Maitland he only wished a good
voyage, and particularly recommended to him a comedy (and a
comédienne) at the Palais Royal.
The day before the encounter with Mr. Cranley at the house of the
lady of The Bunhouse, Barton, when he came home from a round of
professional visits, had found Maitland waiting in his chill, unlighted
lodgings. Of late, Maitland had got into the habit of loitering there,
discussing and discussing all the mysteries which made him feel that he
was indeed moving about in worlds not realized. Keen as was the
interest which Barton took in the labyrinth of his friend's affairs, he
now and again wearied of Maitland, and of a conversation that ever
revolved round the same fixed but otherwise uncertain points.
Hullo, Maitland; glad to see you, he observed, with some shade of
hypocrisy. Anything new to-day?
Yes, said Maitland; I really do think I have a clew at last.
Well, wait a bit till they bring the candles, said Barton,
groaning as the bell-rope came away in his hands. Bring lights,
please, and tea, and stir up the fire, Jemima, my friend, he remarked,
when the blackened but alert face of the little slavey appeared at the
Yes, Dr. Barton, in a minute, sir, answered Jemima, who greatly
admired the Doctor, and in ten minutes the dismal lodgings looked
Now for your clew, old man, exclaimed Barton, as he handed
Maitland a cup of his peculiar mixture, very weak, with plenty of milk
and no sugar. Oh, Ariadne, what a boon that clew of yours has been to
the detective mind! To think that, without the Minotaur, the police
would probably never have hit on that invaluable expression, 'the
police have a clew.'
Maitland thought this was trifling with the subject.
This advertisement, he said, gravely, appears to me undoubtedly
to refer to the miscreant who carried off Margaret, poor girl.
Does it, by Jove? cried Barton, with some eagerness this time.
Let's have a look at it!
This was what he read aloud:
Bearskin Coat.The gentleman travelling with a young lady,
who, on Feb. 19th, left a bearskin coat at the Hôtel Alsace
and Lorraine, Avenue de l'Opéra, Paris, is requested to
remove it, or it will be sold to defray expenses.
This may mean business, he said, or it may not. In the
first place, is there such an hotel in Paris as the 'Alsace et
Lorraine,' and is M. Dupin the proprietor?
That's all right, said Maitland. I went at once to the
Club, and looked up the Bottin, the Paris Directory, don't you
So far, so good; and yet I don't quite see what you can make of it.
It does not come to much, you know, even if the owner of the coat is
the man you want And again, is he likely to have left such a very
notable article of dress behind him in an hotel? Anyway, can't you send
some detective fellow? Are you going over yourself in this awful
So Barton argued, but Maitland was not to be easily put off the
Why, don't you see, he exclaimed, the people at the hotel will at
least be able to give one a fuller description of the man than anything
we have yet. And they may have some idea of where he has gone to; and,
at least, they will have noticed how he was treating Margaret, and
that, of course, is what I am most anxious to learn. Again, he may have
left other things besides the coat, or there may be documents in the
pockets. I have read of such things happening.
Yes, in 'Le Crime de l'Opéra;' and a very good story, too,
answered the incredulous Barton; but I don't fancy that the villain of
real life is quite so innocent and careless as the monster of fiction.
Everyone knows that murderers are generally detected through some
incredible piece of carelessness, said Mait-land; and why should this
elaborate scoundrel be more fortunate than the rest? If he did
leave the coat, he will scarcely care to go back for it; and I do not
think the chance should be lost, even if it is a poor one. Besides, I'm
doing no good here, and I can do no harm there.
This was undeniably true; and though Barton muttered something about
a false scent, he no longer attempted to turn Maitland from his
purpose. He did, however, with some difficulty, prevent the Fellow of
St. Gatien's from purchasing a blonde beard, one of those wigs which
simulate baldness, and a pair of blue spectacles. In these disguises,
Maitland argued, he would certainly avoid recognition, and so discomfit
any mischief planned by the enemies of Margaret.
Yes; but, on the other hand, you would look exactly like a German
professor, and probably be taken for a spy of Bismarck's, said Barton.
And Maitland reluctantly gave up the idea of disguise. He retained,
however, certain astute notions of his own about his plan of
operations, and these, unfortunately, he did not communicate to his
friend. The fact is, that the long dormant romance of Maitland's
character was now thoroughly awake, and he began, unconsciously, to
enjoy the adventure.
His enjoyment did not last very long. The usual troubles of a winter
voyage, acting on a dilapidated digestive system, were not spared the
guardian of Margaret But everything-even a period of waiting at the
Paris salle d'attente, and a struggle with the cochers at
the station (who, for some reason, always decline to take a fare)must
come to an end at last. About dinner-time, Maitland was jolted through
the glare of the Parisian streets, to the Avenue de l'Opéra. At the
Hôtel Alsace et Lorraine he determined not to betray himself by too
precipitate eagerness. In the first place, he wrote an assumed name in
the hotel book, choosing, by an unlucky inspiration, the pseudonym of
Buchanan. He then ordered dinner in the hotel, and, by way of
propitiation, it was a much better dinner than usual that Maitland
ordered. Bottles of the higher Bordeaux wines, reposing in beautiful
baskets, were brought at his command; for he was determined favorably
to impress the people of the house.
His conduct in this matter was partly determined by the fact that,
for the moment, the English were not popular in Paris.
In fact, as the French newspapers declared, with more truth than
they suspected, Paris was not the place for English people, especially
for English women.
In these international circumstances, then, Maitland believed he
showed the wisdom of the serpent when he ordered dinner in the fearless
old fashion attributed by tradition to the Milords of the past But he
had reckoned without his appetite.
A consequence of sea-travel, neither uncommon nor alarming, is the
putting away of all desire to eat and drink. As the waiter carried off
the untouched hors d'oeuvres (whereof Maitland only nibbled the
delicious bread and butter); as he bore away the huîtres,
undiminished in number; as the bisque proved too much for the
guest of the evening; as he faltered over the soles, and failed to
appreciate the cutlets; as he turned from the noblest crûs
(including the widow's crûs, those of La Veuve Cliquot), and
asked for siphon and fine champagne, the waiter's
countenance assumed an air of owl-like sagacity. There was something
wrong, the garçon felt sure, about a man who could order a
dinner like Maitland's, and then decline to partake thereof. However,
even in a republican country, you can hardly arrest a man merely
because his intentions are better than his appetite. The waiter,
therefore, contented himself with assuming an imposing attitude, and
whispering something to the hall porter.
The Fellow of St. Gatien's, having dined with the Barmecide
regardless of expense, went on (as he hoped) to ingratiate himself with
the concierge. From that official he purchased two large cigars,
which he did not dream of attempting to enjoy; and he then endeavored
to enter into conversation, selecting for a topic the state of the
contemporary drama. What would monsieur advise him to go to see? Where
was Mile. Jane Hading playing?
Having in this conversation broken the ice (and almost every rule of
French grammar), Maitland began to lead up craftily to the great
matterthe affair of the bearskin coat. Did many English use the
hotel? Had any of his countrymen been there lately? He remembered that
when he left England a friend of his had asked him to inquire about an
article of dressa great-coatwhich he had left somewhere, perhaps in
a cab. Could monsieur the Porter tell him where he ought to apply for
news about the garment, a coat in peau d'ours?
On the mention of this raiment a clerkly-looking man, who had been
loitering in the office of the concierge, moved to the
neighborhood of the door, where he occupied himself in study of a
railway map hanging on the wall.
The porter now was all smiles. But, certainly! Monsieur had fallen
well in coming to him. Monsieur wanted a lost coat in skin of the bear?
It had been lost by a compatriot of monsieur's? Would monsieur give
himself the trouble to follow the porter to the room where lost baggage
Maitland, full of excitement, and of belief that he now really was
on the trail, followed the porter, and the clerkly man (rather a
liberty, thought Maitland) followed him.
The porter led them to a door marked private, and they all three
The clerkly-looking person now courteously motioned Maitland to take
The Englishman sat down in some surprise.
Where, he asked, was the bearskin coat?
Would monsieur first deign to answer a few inquiries? Was the coat
his own, or a friend's?
A friend's, said Maitland, and then, beginning to hesitate,
admitted that the garment only belonged to a man he knew something
What is his name? asked the clerkly man, who was taking notes.
His name, indeed! If Maitland only knew that! His French now began
to grow worse and worse in proportion to his flurry.
Well, he explained, it was very unlucky, but he did not exactly
remember the man's name. It was quite a common name. He had met him for
the first time on board the steamer; but the man was going to Brussels,
and, finding that Maitland was on his way to Paris, had asked him to
Here the clerkly person, laying down his notes, asked if English
gentlemen usually spoke of persons whom they had just met for the first
time on board the steamer as their friends?
Maitland, at this, lost his temper, and observed that, as they
seemed disposed to give him more trouble than information, he would go
and see the play.
Hereupon the clerkly person requested monsieur to remember, in his
deportment, what was due to Justice; and when Maitland rose, in a
stately way, to leave the room, he also rose and stood in front of the
However little of human nature an Englishman may possess, he is
rarely unmoved by this kind of treatment. Maitland took the man by the
collar, sans phrase, and spun him round, amid the horrified
clamor of the porter. But the man, without any passion, merely produced
and displayed a card, containing a voucher that he belonged to the
Secret Police, and calmly asked Maitland for his papers.
Maitland had no papers. He had understood that passports were no
The detective assured him that passports spoil nothing. Had
monsieur nothing stating his identity? Maitland, entirely forgetting
that he had artfully entered his name as Buchanan on the hotel book,
produced his card, on the lower corner of which was printed, St.
Gatien's College. This address puzzled the detective a good deal,
while the change of name did not allay his suspicions, and he ended by
requesting Maitland to accompany him into the presence of Justice. As
there was no choice, Maitland obtained leave to put some linen in his
travelling-bag, and was carried off to what we should call the nearest
police-station. Here he was received in a chill bleak room by a formal
man, wearing a decoration, who (after some private talk with the
detective) asked Maitland to explain his whole conduct in the matter of
the coat. In the first place, the detective's notes on their
conversation were read aloud, and it was shown that Maitland had given
a false name; had originally spoken of the object of his quest as the
coat of a friend; then as the coat of a man whom he knew something
about; then as the coat of a man whose name he did not know; and
that, finally, he had attempted to go away without offering any
satisfactory account of himself.
All this the philanthropist was constrained to admit; but he was,
not unnaturally, quite unable to submit any explanation of his
proceedings. What chiefly discomfited him was the fact that his
proceedings were a matter of interest and observation. Why, he kept
wondering, was all this fuss made about a coat which had, or had not,
been left by a traveller at the hotel? It was perfectly plain that the
hotel was used as a souricière, as the police say, as a trap in
which all inquirers after the coat could be captured. Now, if he had
been given time (and a French dictionary), Maitland might have set
before the Commissaire of Police the whole story of his troubles. He
might have begun with the discovery of Shields' body in the snow; he
might have gone on to Margaret's disappearance (enlèvement), and
to a description of the costume (bearskin coat and all) of the villain
who had carried her away. Then he might have described his relations
with Margaret, the necessity of finding her, the clew offered by the
advertisement in the Times, and his own too subtle and ingenious
attempt to follow up that clew. But it is improbable that this
narrative, had Maitland told it ever so movingly, would have entirely
satisfied the suspicions of the Commissaire of Police. It might even
have prejudiced that official against Maitland. Moreover, the Fellow of
St. Gatien's had neither the presence of mind nor the linguistic
resources necessary to relate the whole plot and substance of this
narrative, at a moment's notice, in a cold police-office, to a
sceptical alien. He therefore fell back on a demand to be allowed to
communicate with the English Ambassador; and that night Maitland of
Gatien's passed, for the first time during his blameless career, in a
It were superfluous to set down in detail all the humiliations
endured by Maitland. Do not the newspapers continually ring with the
laments of the British citizen who has fallen into the hands of
Continental Justice? Are not our countrymen the common butts of German,
French, Spanish, and even Greek and Portuguese Jacks in office? When an
Englishman appears, do not the foreign police usually arrest him at a
venture, and inquire afterward?
Maitland had, with the best intentions, done a good deal more than
most of these innocents to deserve incarceration. His conduct, as the
Juge d'Instruction told him, without mincing matters, was undeniably
In the first place, the suspicions of M. Dupin, of the Hôtel Alsace
et Lorraine, had been very naturally excited by seeing the
advertisement about the great-coat in the Times, for he made a
study of the journal of the City.
Here was a notice purporting to be signed by himself, and referring
to a bearskin coat, said (quite untruly) to have been left in his own
hotel. A bearskin coat! The very words breathe of Nihilism, dynamite,
stratagems, and spoils. Then the advertisement was in English, which
is, at present and till further notice, the language spoken by the
brave Irish. M. Dupin, as a Liberal, had every sympathy with the brave
Irish in their noble struggle for whatever they are struggling
for; but he did not wish his hostelry to become, so to speak, the
mountain-cave of Freedom, and the great secret storehouse of
nitro-glycerine. With a view to elucidating the mystery of the
advertisement, he had introduced the police on his premises, and the
police had hardly settled down in its affût, when, lo! a
stranger had been captured, in most suspicious circumstances. M. Dupin
felt very clever indeed, and his friends envied him the distinction and
advertisement which were soon to be his.
When Maitland appeared, as he did in due course, before the Juge
d'Instruction, he attempted to fall back on the obsolete Civis
Romanus sum! He was an English citizen. He had written to the
English ambassador, or rather to an old St. Gatien's man, an attaché
of the embassy, whom he luckily happened to know. But this great ally
chanced to be out of town, and his name availed Maitland nothing in his
interview with the Juge d'Instruction. That magistrate, sitting with
his back to the light, gazed at Maitland with steady, small gray eyes,
while the scribble of the pen of the greffier, as he took down
the Englishman's deposition, sounded shrill in the bleak
torture-chamber of the law.
Your name? asked the Juge d'Instruction.
Maitland, replied the Fellow of St. Gatien's.
You lie! said the Juge d'Instruction. You entered the name of
Buchanan in the book of the hotel.
My name is on my cards, and on that letter, said Maitland, keeping
his temper wonderfully.
The documents in question lay on a table, as pièces
These cards, that letter, you have robbed them from some
unfortunate person, and have draped (afflublé) yourself in the
trappings of your victim! Where is his body?
This was the working hypothesis which the Juge d'Instruction had
formed within himself to account for the general conduct and
proceedings of the person under examination.
Where is whose body? asked Maitland, in unspeakable
Buchanan, said the Juge d'Instruction. (And to hear the gallantry
with which he attacked this difficult name, of itself insured respect.)
Buchanan, you are acting on a deplorable system. Justice is not
deceived by your falsehoods, nor eluded by your subterfuges. She is
calm, stern, but merciful. Unbosom yourself freely (répandez
franchement), and you may learn that justice can be lenient It is
your interest to be frank. (Il est de votre intérêt d'être franc.)
But what do you want me to say? asked the prévenu, What is all
this pother about a great-coat? (Tant de fracas pour un paletot?
Maitland was rather proud of this sentence.
It is the part of Justice to ask questions, not to answer them,
said the Juge d'Instruction. Levity will avail you nothing. Tell me,
Buchanan, why did you ask for the coat at the Hôtel Alsace et
In answer to that advertisement in the Times.
That is false; you yourself inserted the advertisement. But, on
your own system, bad as it is, what did you want with the coat?
It belonged to a man who had done me an ill-turn.
I do not know his name; that is just what I wanted to find out I
might have found his tailor's name on the coat, and then have
discovered for whom the coat was made.
You are aware that the proprietor of the hotel did not insert the
So he says.
You doubt his word? You insult France in one of her citizens!
Then whom do you suspect of inserting the advertisement, as you
deny having done it yourself, for some purpose which does not appear?
I believe the owner of the coat put in the advertisement.
That is absurd. What had he to gain by it?
To remove me from London, where he is probably conspiring against
me at this moment.
Buchanan, you trifle with Justice!
I have told you that my name is not Buchanan.
Then why did you forge that name in the hotel book?
I wrote it in the hurry and excitement of the moment; it was
Why did you lie? (Pourquoi avez vous menti?)
Maitland made an irritable movement
You threaten Justice. Your attitude is deplorable. You are
consigned au secret, and will have an opportunity of revising
your situation, and replying more fully to the inquiries of Justice.
So ended Maitland's first and, happily, sole interview with a Juge
d'Instruction. Lord Walter Brixton, his old St Gatien's pupil, returned
from the country on the very day of Maitland's examination. An
interview (during which Lord Walter laughed unfeelingly) with his old
coach was not refused to the attaché, and, in a few hours, after
some formalities had been complied with, Maitland was a free man. His
pièces justificatives, his letters, cards, and return ticket to
Charing Cross, were returned to him intact.
But Maitland determined to sacrifice the privileges of the
I am going straight to Constantinople and the Greek Islands, he
wrote to Barton. Do you know, I don't like Paris. My attempt at an
investigation has not been a success. I have endured considerable
discomfort, and I fear my case will get into the Figaro, and
there will be dozens of 'social leaders' and 'descriptive headers'
about me in all the penny papers.
Then Maitland gave his banker's address at Constantinople,
relinquished the quest of Margaret, and for a while, as the Sagas say,
is out of the story.
CHAPTER XI.The Night of
A cold March wind whistled and yelled round the twisted chimneys of
the Hit or Miss. The day had been a trial to every sense. First
there would come a long-drawn distant moan, a sigh like that of a
querulous woman; then the sigh grew nearer and became a shriek, as if
the same woman were working herself up into a passion; and finally a
gust of rainy hail, mixed with dust and small stones, was dashed, like
a parting insult, on the windows of the Hit or Miss.
Then the shriek died away again into a wail and a moan, and so da
Well, Eliza, what do you do now that the pantomime season is over?
said Barton to Miss Gullick, who was busily dressing a doll, as she
perched on the table in the parlor of the Hit or Miss.
Barton occasionally looked into the public-house, partly to see that
Maitland's investment was properly managed, partly because the place
was near the scene of his labors; not least, perhaps, because he had
still an unacknowledged hope that light on the mystery of Margaret
would come from the original centre of the troubles.
I'm in no hurry to take an engagement, answered the resolute
Eliza, holding up and examining her doll. It was a fashionable doll, in
a close-fitting tweed ulster, which covered a perfect panoply of other
female furniture, all in the latest mode. As the child worked, she
looked now and then at the illustrations in a journal of the fashions.
There's two or three managers in treaty with me, said Eliza. There's
the Follies and Frivolities down Norwood way, and the
Varieties in the 'Ammersmith Road. Thirty shillings a week and my
dresses, that's what I ask for, and I'll get it too! Just now I'm
taking a vacation, and making an honest penny with these things, and
she nodded at a little basket full of the wardrobe of dolls.
Do you sell the dresses to the toy-shops, Eliza? asked Barton.
Yes, said Eliza; I am doing well with them. I'm not sure I shan't
need to take on some extra hands, by the job, to finish my Easter
Pm glad you are successful, answered Barton. I say, Eliza!
Would you mind showing me the room up-stairs where poor old Shields
was sitting the night before he was found in the snow?
It had suddenly occurred to Bartonit might have occurred to him
beforethat this room might be worth examining.
We ain't using it now! Ill show you it, said Eliza, leading the
way up-stairs, and pointing to a door.
Barton took hold of the handle.
Ladies first, he said, making way for Eliza, with a bow.
No, came the child's voice, from half-way down the stairs; I
won't come in! They say he walks, I've heard noises there at night.
A cold stuffy smell came out of the darkness of the unused room.
Barton struck a match, and, seeing a candle on the table, lit it The
room had been left as it was when last it was tenanted. On the table
were an empty bottle, two tumblers, and a little saucer stained with
dry colors, blue and red, part of Shields' stock-in-trade. There were,
besides, some very sharp needles of bone, of a savage make, which
Barton recognized. They were the instruments used for tattooing in the
islands of the Southern Seas.
Barton placed the lighted candle beside the saucer, and turned over
the needles. Presently his eyes brightened: he chose one out, and
examined it closely. It was astonishingly sharp, and was not of bone
like the others, but of wood.
Barton made an incision in the hard brittle wood with his knife, and
carefully felt the point, which was slightly crusted with a dry brown
I thought so, he said aloud, as he placed the needle in a pocket
instrument-case: the stem of the leaf of the coucourite palm!
Then he went down-stairs with the candle.
Did you see him? asked Eliza, with wide-open eyes.
Don't be childish, Eliza: there's no one to see. Why is the room
left all untidy?
Mother dare not go in! whispered the child. Then she asked in a
low voice, Did you never hear no more of that awful big Bird I saw the
night old Shields died in the snow?
The Bird was a dream, Eliza. I am surprised such a clever girl as
you should go on thinking about it, said Barton, rather sternly. You
were tired and ill, and you fancied it.
No, I wasn't, said the child, solemnly. I never say no more about
it to mother, nor to nobody; but I did see it, ay, and heard it, too. I
remember it at night in my bed, and I am afraid. Oh, what's that?
She turned with a scream, in answer to a scream on the other side of
the curtained door that separated the parlor from the bar of the Hit
Someone seemed to fall against the door, which at the same moment
flew open, as if the wind had burst it in. A girl, panting and holding
her hand to her breast, her face deadly white and so contorted by
terror as to be unrecognizable, flashed into the room. Oh, come! oh,
come! she cried. She's killing her! Then the girl vanished as
hurriedly as she had appeared. It was all over in a moment: the vivid
impression of a face maddened by fear, and of a cry for help, that was
all. In that moment Barton had seized his hat, and sped, as hard as he
could run, after the girl. He found her breaking through a knot of
loafers in the bar, who were besieging her with questions. She turned
and saw Barton.
Come, doctor, come! she screamed again, and fled out into the
night, crossing another girl who was apparently speeding on the same
errand. Barton could just see the flying skirts of the first messenger,
and hear her footfall ring on the pavement. Up a long street, down
another, and then into a back slum she flew, and, lastly, under a
swinging sign of the old-fashioned sort, and through a doorway. Barton,
following, found himself for the first time within the portals of
The Old English Bun-house.
The wide passage (the house was old) was crowded with girls, wildly
excited, weeping, screaming, and some of them swearing. They were
pressed so thick round a door at the end of the hall, that Barton could
scarcely thrust his way through them, dragging one aside, shouldering
another: it was a matter of life and death.
Oh, she's been at the drink, and she's killed her! she's killed
her! I heard her fall! one of the frightened girls was exclaiming with
Let me pass! shouted Barton; and reaching the door at last, he
turned the handle and pushed. The door was locked.
Give me room, he cried, and the patrons of The Bun-house
yielding place a little, Barton took a little short run, and drove with
all the weight of his shoulders against the door. It opened reluctantly
with a crash, and he was hurled into the room by his own impetus, and
by the stress of the girls behind him.
What he beheld was more like some dreadful scene of ancient tragedy
than the spectacle of an accident or a crime of modern life.
By the windy glare of a dozen gas-jets (red and shaken like the
flame of blown torches by the rainy gusts that swept through a broken
pane), Barton saw a girl stretched bleeding on the sanded floor.
One of her arms made a pillow for her head; her soft dark hair,
unfastened, half hid her, like a veil; the other arm lay loose by her
side; her lips were white, her face was bloodless; but there was blood
on the deep-blue folds about the bosom, and on the floor. At the
further side of this girlwho was dead, or seemingly deadsat, on a
low stool, a woman, in a crouching, cat-like attitude, quite silent and
still. The knife with which she had done the deed was dripping in her
hand; the noise of the broken door, and of the entering throng, had not
For a moment even Barton's rapidity of action and resolution were
paralyzed by the terrible and strange vision that he beheld. He stared
with all his eyes, in a mist of doubt and amazement, at a vision,
dreadful even to one who saw death every day. Then the modern spirit
awoke in him.
Fetch a policeman, he whispered, to one of the crowding frightened
troop of girls.
There is a copper at the door, sir; here he comes, said Susan, the
young woman who had called Barton from the Hit or Miss.
The helmet of the guardian of the peace appeared welcome above the
And still the pale woman in white sat as motionless as the stricken
girl at her feetas if she had not been an actor, but a figure in a
Policeman, said Barton, I give that woman in charge for an
attempt at murder. Take her to the station.
I don't like the looks of her, whispered the policeman. I'd
better get her knife from her first, sir.
Be quick, whatever you do, and have the house cleared. I can't look
after the wounded girl in this crowd.
Thus addressed, the policeman stole round toward the seated woman,
whose eyes had never deigned, all this time, to stray from the body of
her victim. Barton stealthily drew near, outflanking her on the other
They were just within arm's reach of the murderess when she leaped
with incredible suddenness to her feet, and stood for one moment erect
and lovely as a statue, her fair locks lying about her shoulders. Then
she raised her right hand; the knife flashed and dropped like lightning
into her breast, and she, too, fell beside the body of the girl whom
she had stricken.
By George, she's gone! cried the policeman. Barton pushed past
him, and laid his hand on the woman's heart. She stirred once, was
violently shaken with the agony of death, and so passed away, carrying
into silence her secret and her story.
Mr. Cranley's hopes had been, at least partially, fulfilled.
Drink, I suppose, as usual. A rummy start! remarked the policeman,
sententiously; and then, while Barton was sounding and stanching the
wound of the housekeeper's victim, and applying such styptics as he had
within reach, the guardian of social order succeeded in clearing
_The Bunhouse of its patrons, in closing the door, and in sending a
message (by the direction of the girl who had summoned Barton, and who
seemed not devoid of sense) to Mrs. St. John Deloraine. While that lady
was being expected, the girl, who now took a kind of subordinate lead,
was employed by Barton in helping to carry Margaret to her own room,
and in generally restoring order.
When the messenger arrived at Mrs. St John Delo-raine's house with
Barton's brief note, and with his own curt statement that murder was
being done at The Bun-house, he found the Lady Superior
rehearsing for a play. Mrs. St. John Deloraine was going to give a
drawing-room representation of Nitouche, and the terrible news found
her in one of the costumes of the heroine. With a very brief
explanation (variously misunderstood by her guests and fellow-amateurs)
Mrs. St. John Deloraine hurried off, just as she was, and astonished
Barton (who had never seen her before) by arriving at The Bunhouse
as a rather conventional shepherdess, in pink and gray, rouged, and
with a fluffy flaxen wig. The versatility with which Mrs. St. John
Deloraine made the best of all worlds occasionally let her into
inconsequences of this description.
But, if she was on pleasure bent, Mrs. St. John Deloraine had also,
not only a kind heart, but a practical mind. In five minutes she had
heard the tragic history, had dried her eyes, torn off her wig, and
settled herself as nurse by the bedside of Margaret. The girl's wound,
as Barton was happily able to assure her, was by no means really
dangerous; for the point of the weapon had been turned, and had touched
no vital part. But the prodigious force with which the blow had
followed on a scene of violent reproaches and insane threats (described
by one of the young women) had affected most perilously a constitution
already weakened by sickness and trouble. Mrs. St. John Deloraine,
assisted by the most responsible of The Bun-house girls,
announced her intention to, sit up all night with the patient.
Bartonwho was moved, perhaps, as much by the beauty of the girl, and
by the excitement of the events, as by professional dutyremained in
attendance till nearly dawn, when the Lady Superior insisted that he
should go home and take some rest. As the danger for the patient was
not immediate, but lay in the chances of fever, Barton allowed himself
to be persuaded, and, at about five in the morning, he let himself out
of The Bunhouse, and made sleepily for his lodgings. But sleep
that night was to be a stranger to him, and his share of
adventureswhich, like sorrows, never come as single spies, but in
battalionswas by no means exhausted.
The night, through which the first glimpse of dawn just peered, was
extremely cold; and Barton, who had left his great-coat in the Hit
or Miss, stamped his way homeward, his hands deep in his pockets,
his hat tight on his head, and with his pipe for company.
There's the gray beginning, Zooks, he muttered to himself, in
half-conscious quotation. He was as drowsy as a man can be who still
steps along and keeps an open eye. The streets were empty, a sandy wind
was walking them alone, and hard by the sullen river flowed on, the
lamplights dimly reflected in the growing blue of morning. Barton was
just passing the locked doors of the Hit or Missfor he
preferred to go homeward by the riversidewhen a singular sound, or
mixture of sounds, from behind the battered old hoarding close by,
attracted his attention. In a moment he was as alert as if he had not
passed a nuit blanche. The sound at first seemed not very unlike
that which a traction engine, or any other monster that murders sleep,
may make before quite getting up steam. Then there was plainly
discernible a great whirring and flapping, as if a windmill had become
deranged in its economy, and was laboring without a conscience or an
aim. Whir, whir, flap, thump, came the sounds, and then, mixed with
and dominating them, the choking scream of a human being in agony. But,
strangely enough, the scream appeared to be half checked and
suppressed, as if the sufferer, whoever he might be, and whatever his
torment, were striving with all his might to endure in silence. Barton
had heard such cries in the rooms of the hospital. To such sounds the
Question Chambers of old prisons and palaces must often have echoed.
Barton stopped, thrilling with a half-superstitious dread; so moving,
in that urban waste, were the accents of pain.
Then whir, flap, came the noise again, and again the human note was
heard, and was followed by a groan. The time seemed infinite, though it
was only to be reckoned by moments, or pulse-beatsthe time during
which the torturing crank revolved, and was answered by the hard-wrung
exclamation of agony. Barton looked at the palings of the hoarding:
they were a couple of feet higher than his head. Then he sprung up,
caught the top at a place where the rusty-pointed nails were few and
broken, and next moment, with torn coat and a scratch on his arm, he
was within the palisade.
Through the crepuscular light, bulks of thingsbig, black,
formlesswere dimly seen; but nearer the hoarding than the middle of
the waste open ground was a spectacle that puzzled the looker-on. Great
fans were winnowing the air, a wheel was running at prodigious speed,
flaming vapors fled hissing forth, and the figure of a man, attached in
some way to the revolving fans, was now lifted several feet from the
ground, now dashed to earth again, now caught in and now torn from the
teeth of the flying wheel.
Barton did not pause long in empty speculation; he shouted, Hold
on! or some other such encouragement, and ran in the direction of the
sufferer. But, as he stumbled over dust-heaps, piles of wood, old
baskets, outworn hats, forsaken boots, and all the rubbish of the waste
land, the movement of the flying fans began to slacken, the wheels ran
slowly down, and, with a great throb and creak, the whole engine ceased
moving, as a heart stops beating. Then, just when all was over, a voice
came from the crumpled mass of humanity in the centre of the hideous
Don't come here; stop, on your peril! I am armed, and I will
The last words were feeble, and scarcely audible.
Barton stood still. Even a brave man likes (the old Irish duelling
days being over) at least to know why he is to be shot at.
What's the matter with you? he said. What on earth are you doing?
How can you talk about shooting? Have you a whole bone in your
To this the only reply was another groan; then silence.
By this time there was a full measure of the light which London
takes the day to be, and Barton had a fair view of his partner in this
He could see the crumpled form of a man, weak and distorted like a
victim of the rackscattered, so to speakin a posture inconceivably
out of drawing, among the fragments of the engine. The man's head was
lowest, and rested on an old battered box; his middle was supported by
a beam of the engine; one of his legs was elevated on one of the fans,
the other hung disjointedly in the air. The man was strangely dressed
in a close-fitting suit of clothsomething between the uniform of
bicycle clubs and the tights affected by acrobats. Long, thin, gray
locks fell back from a high yellow forehead: there was blood on his
mouth and about his beard.
Barton drew near and touched him: the man only groaned.
How am I to help you out of this? said the surgeon, carefully
examining his patient, as he might now be called. A little close
observation showed that the man's arms were strapped by buckles into
the fans, while one of his legs was caught up in some elastic coils of
With infinite tenderness, Barton disengaged the victim, whose
stifled groans proved at once the extent of his sufferings and of his
Finally, the man was free from the machine, and Barton discovered
that, as far as a rapid investigation could show, there were no fatal
injuries done, though a leg, an arm, and several ribs were fractured,
and there were many contusions.
Now I must leave you here for a few minutes, while I go round to
the police-office and get men and a stretcher, said Barton.
The man held up one appealing hand; the other was paralyzed.
First hide all this, he murmured, moving his head so as to
indicate the fragments of his engine. They lay all confused, a heap of
spars, cogs, wheels, fans, and what not, a puzzle to the science of
mechanics. Don't let them know a word about it, he said. Say I had
an accidentthat I was sleep-walking, and fell from a windowsay
anything you like, but promise to keep my secret. In a week, he
murmured dreamily, it would have been complete. It is the second time
I have just missed success and fame.
I have not an idea what your secret may be, said Barton; but here
goes for the machine.
And, while the wounded man watched him, with piteous and wistful
eyes, he rapidly hid different fragments of the mechanism beneath and
among the heaps of rubbish, which were many, and, for purposes of
Are you sure you can find them all again? asked the victim of
Oh yes, all right, said Barton.
Then you must get me to the street before you bring any help. If
they find me here they will ask questions, and my secret will come
But how on earth am I to get you to the street? Barton inquired,
very naturally. Even if you could bear being carried, I could not lift
you over the boarding.
I can bear anythingI will bear anything, said the man. Look in
my breast, and you will find a key of a door in the palings.
Barton looked as directed, and, fastened round the neck of the
sufferer by a leather shoe-tie, he discovered, sure enough, a kind of
skeleton-key in strong wire.
With that you can open the gate, and get me into the street, said
the crushed man; but be very careful not to open the door while anyone
He only got out these messages very slowly, and after intervals of
silence broken by groans.
Wait! one thing more, he said, as Barton stooped to take him in
his arms. I may faint from pain. My address is, Paterson's Kents, hard
by; my name is Winter. Then, after a pause, I can pay for a private
room at the infirmary, and I must have one. Lift the third plank from
the end in the left-hand corner by the window, and you will find
Then Barton very carefully picked up the poor man, mere bag of bones
(and broken bones) as he was.
The horrible pain that the man endured Barton could imagine, yet he
dared not hurry, for the ground was strewn with every sort of pitfall.
At lastit seemed hours to Barton, it must have been an eternity to
the suffererthe hoarding was reached, and, after listening earnestly,
Barton opened the door, peered out, saw that the coast was clear,
deposited his burden on the pavement, and flew to the not distant
He was not absent long, and returning with four men and a stretcher,
he found, of course, quite a large crowd grouped round the place where
he had left his charge. The milkman was there, several shabby women,
one or two puzzled policemen, three cabmen (though no wizard could have
called up a cab at that hour and place had he wanted to catch a train;)
there were riverside loafers, workmen going to their labor, and a lucky
penny-a-liner with his tissue and pencil.
Pushing his way through these gapers, Barton found, as he expected,
that his patient had fainted. He aided the policemen to place him on
the stretcher, accompanied him to the infirmary (how common a sight is
that motionless body on a stretcher in the streets!), explained as much
of the case as was fitting to the surgeon in attendance, and then, at
last, returned to his rooms and a bath, puzzling over the mystery.
By Jove! he said, as he helped himself to a devilled wing of a
chicken at breakfast, I believe the poor beggar had been experimenting
with a Flying-Machine!
CHAPTER XII.A Patient.
A doctor, especially a doctor actively practising among the poor and
laborious, soon learns to take the incidents of his profession rather
calmly. Barton had often been called in when a revel had ended in
suicide or death; and if he had never before seen a man caught in a
flying-machine, he had been used to heal wounds quite as dreadful
caused by engines of a more familiar nature.
Though Barton, therefore, could go out to his round of visits on the
day after his adventurous vigil without unusual emotion, it may be
conceived that the distress and confusion at The Bunhouse were
very great. The police and the gloomy attendants on Death were in the
place; Mrs. St. John Deloraine had to see many official people, to
answer many disagreeable questions, and suffered in every way extremely
from the consequences of her beneficent enterprise. But she displayed a
coolness and businesslike common sense worthy of a less versatile
philanthropist, and found time, amid the temporary ruin of her work, to
pay due attention to Margaret. She had scarcely noticed the girl
before, taking her very much on trust, and being preoccupied with
various schemes of social enjoyment. But now she was struck by her
beauty and her educated manner, though that, to be sure, was amply
accounted for by the explanations offered by Cranley before her
engagement. Already Mrs. St. John Deloraine was conceiving a project of
perpetual friendship, and had made up her mind to adopt Margaret as a
daughter, or, let us say, niece and companion. The girl was too refined
to cope with the rough-and-ready young patronesses of The Bunhouse.
If the lady's mind was even more preoccupied by the survivor in the
hideous events of the evening than by the tragedy itself and the dead
woman, Barton, too, found his thoughts straying to his new patientnot
that he was a flirt or a sentimentalist. Even in the spring Barton's
fancy did not lightly turn to thoughts of love. He was not one of those
amatorious young men (as Milton says, perhaps at too great length)
who cannot see a pretty girl without losing their hearts to her. Barton
was not so prodigal of his affections; yet it were vain to deny that,
as he went his rather drowsy round of professional visits, his ideas
were more apt to stray to the girl who had been stabbed, than to the
man who had been rescued from the machinery. The man was old, yellow,
withered, and, in Barton's private opinion, more of a lunatic charlatan
than a successful inventor. The girl was young, beautiful, and
interesting enough, apart from her wound, to demand and secure a place
in any fancy absolutely free.
It was no more than Barton's actual duty to call at The Old
English Bunhouse in the afternoon. Here he was welcomed by Mrs. St
John Deloraine, who was somewhat pale and shaken by the horrors of the
night. She had turned all her young customers out, and had stuck up a
paper bearing a legend to the effect that The Old English Bunhouse
was closed for the present and till further notice. A wistful crowd was
drawn up on the opposite side of the street, and was staring at The
Mrs. St John Deloraine welcomed Barton, it might almost be said,
with open arms. She had by this time, of course, laid aside the outward
guise of Nitouche, and was dressed like other ladies, but
My dear Mr. Barton, she exclaimed, your patient is doing very
well indeed. She will be crazy with delight when she hears that you
Barton could not help being pleased at this intelligence, even when
he had discounted it as freely as even a very brief acquaintance with
Mrs. Si John Deloraine taught her friends to do.
Do you think she is able to see me? he asked.
I'll run to her room and inquire, said Mrs. St John Deloraine,
fleeting nimbly up the steep stairs, and leaving, like Astrsea, as
described by Charles Lamb's friend, a kind of rosy track or glow behind
her from the chastened splendor of her very becoming hose.
Barton waited rather impatiently till the lady of The Bunhouse
returned with the message that he might accompany her into the presence
of the invalid.
A very brief interview satisfied him that his patient was going on
even better than he had hoped; also that she possessed very beautiful
and melancholy eyes. She said little, but that little kindly, and asked
whether Mr. Cranley had sent to inquire for her. Mrs. St. John
Deloraine answered the question, which puzzled Barton, in the negative;
and when they had left Margaret (Miss Burnside, as Mrs. St. John
Deloraine called her), he ventured to ask who the Mr. Cranley might be
about whom the girl had spoken.
Well, replied Mrs. St. John Deloraine, it was through Mr. Cranley
that I engaged both Miss Burnside and that unhappy woman whom I can't
think of without shuddering. The inquest is to be held to-morrow. It is
too dreadful when these things, that have been only names, come home to
one. Now, I really do not like to think hardly of anybody, but I must
admit that Mr. Cranley has quite misled me about the housekeeper. He
gave her an excellent character, especially for sobriety, and
till yesterday I had no fault to find with her. Then, the girls say,
she became quite wild and intoxicated, and it is hard to believe that
this is the first time she yielded to that horrid temptation. Don't you
think it was odd of Mr. Cranley? And I sent round a messenger with a
note to his rooms, but it was returned, marked, 'Has left; address not
Known.' I don't know what has become of him. Perhaps the housekeeper
could have told us, but the unfortunate woman is beyond reach of
Do you mean the Mr. Cranley who is Rector of St. Medard's, in
Chelsea? asked Barton.
No; I mean Mr. Thomas Cranley, the son of the Earl of Birkenhead.
He was a great friend of mine.
Mr. Thomas Cranley! exclaimed Barton, with an expression of face
which probably spoke at least three volumes, and these of a highly
Now, please, cried Mrs. St. John Deloraine, clasping her hands in
a pretty attitude of entreaty, like a recording angel hesitating to
enter the peccadillo of a favorite saint; please don't say you know
anything against Mr. Cranley. I am aware that he has many enemies.
Barton was silent for a minute. He had that good old school-boy
feeling about not telling tales out of school, which is so English and
so unknown in France; but, on the other side, he could scarcely
think it right to leave a lady of invincible innocence at the mercy of
a confirmed scoundrel.
Upon my word, it is a very unpleasant thing to have to say; but
really, if you ask me, I should remark that Mr. Cranley's enemies are
of his own making. I would not go to him for a girl's character, I'm
sure. But I thought he had disappeared from society.
So he had. He told me that there was a conspiracy against him, and
that I was one of the few people who, he felt sure, would never desert
him. And I never would. I never turn my back on my friends.
If there was a conspiracy, said Barton, I am the ringleader in
it; for, as you ask me, I must assure you, on my honor, that I detected
Mr. Cranley in the act of trying to cheat some very young men at cards.
I would not have mentioned it for the world, he added, almost alarmed
at the expression of pain and terror in Mrs. St John Deloraine's face;
but you wished to be told. And I could not honestly leave you in the
belief that he is a man to be trusted. What he did when I saw him was
only what all who knew him well would have expected. And his treatment
of you, in the matter of that woman's character, was, cried Barton,
growing indignant as he thought of it, one of the very basest things I
ever heard of. I had seen that woman before; she was not fit to be
entrusted with the care of girls. She was at one time very well known.
Mrs. St. John Deloraine's face had passed through every shade of
expressiondoubt, shame, and indignation; but now it assumed an air of
Margaret has always spoken so well of him, she said, half to
herself. He was always very kind to her, and yet she was only the poor
daughter of a humble acquaintance.
Perhaps he deviated into kindness for once, said Barton; but as
to his general character, it is certain that it was on a par with the
trap he laid for you. I wish I knew where to find him. You must never
let him get the poor girl back into his hands.
Certainly not, said Mrs. Si John Deloraine, with conviction in her
voice; and now I must go back to her, and see whether she wants
anything. Do you think I may soon move her to my own house, in Cheyne
Walk? It is not far, and she will be so much more comfortable there.
The best thing you can do, said Barton; and be sure you send for
me if you want me, or if you ever hear anything more of Mr. Cranley. I
am quite ready to meet him anywhere.
You will call to-morrow?
Certainly, about this time, said Barton; and he kept his promise
assiduously, calling often.
A fortnight went by, and Margaret, almost restored to health, and in
a black tea-gown, the property of Mrs. St. John Deloraine, was lying
indolently on a sofa in the house in Cheyne Walk. She was watching the
struggle between the waning daylight and the fire, when the door
opened, and the servant announced Dr. Barton.
Margaret held forth a rather languid hand.
I'm so sorry Mrs. St. John Deloraine is out, she said. She is at
a soap-bubble party. I wish I could go. It is so long since I saw any
children, or had any fun.
So Margaret spoke, and then she sighed, remembering the reason why
she should not attend soap-bubble parties.
I'm selfish enough to be glad you could not go, said Barton; for
then I should have missed you. But why do you sigh?
I have had a good many things to make me unhappy, said Margaret,
in addition to myto my accident. You must not think I am always
bewailing myself. But perhaps you know that I lost my father, just
before I entered Mrs. St. John Deloraine's service, and then my whole
course of life was altered.
I am very sorry for you, said Barton, simply. He did not know what
else to say; but he felt more than his conventional words indicated,
and perhaps he looked as if he felt it and more.
Margaret was still too weak to bear an expression of sympathy, and
tears came into her eyes, followed by a blush on her pale, thin cheeks.
She was on the point of breaking down.
There is nothing in the world so trying to a young man as to see a
girl crying. A wild impulse to kiss and comfort her passed through
Barton's mind, before he said, awkwardly again:
I can't tell you how sorry I am; I wish I could do anything for
you. Can't I help you in any way? You must not give up so early in the
troubles of life; and then, who knows but yours, having begun soon, are
Barton would perhaps have liked to ask her to let him see that they
were over, as far as one mortal can do as much for another.
They have been going on so long, said Margaret I have had such a
wandering life, and such changes.
Barton would have given much to be able to ask for more information;
but more was not offered.
Let us think of the future, he said. Have you any idea about what
you mean to do?
Mrs. St. John Deloraine is very kind. She wishes me to stay with
her always. But I am puzzled about Mr. Cranley. I don't know what he
would like me to do. He seems to have gone abroad.
Barton hated to hear her mention Cranley's name.
Had you known him long? he asked.
No; for a very short time only. But he was an old friend of my
father's, and had promised him to take care of me. He took me away from
school, and he gave me a start in life.
But surely he might have found something more worthy of you, of
your education, said Barton.
What can a girl do? answered Margaret. We know so little. I could
hardly even have taught very little children. They thought me
dreadfully backward at schoolat least, MissI mean, the teachers
thought me backward.
I'm sure you know as much as anyone should, said Barton,
indignantly. Were you at a nice school? he added.
He had been puzzling himself for many days over Margaret's history.
She seemed to have had at least the ordinary share of education and
knowledge of the world; and yet he had found her occupying a menial
position at a philanthropic bunhouse. Even now she was a mere dependent
of Mrs. St. John Deloraine, though there was a stanchness in that
lady's character which made her patronage not precarious.
There were some nice girls at it, answered Margaret, without
Rochefoucauld declares that there are excellent marriages, but no
such thing as a delightful marriage. Perhaps school-girls may admit, as
an abstract truth, that good schools exist; but few would allow that
any place of education is nice.
It is really getting quite late, Barton observed, reluctantly. He
liked to watch the girl, whose beauty, made wan by illness, received
just a touch of becoming red from the glow of the fire. He liked to
talk to her; in fact, this was his most interesting patient by far. It
would be miserably black and dark in his lodgings, he was aware; and
non-paying patients would be importunate in proportion to their
poverty. The poor are often the most exacting of hypochondriacs.
Margaret noticed his reluctance to go contending with a sense of what
he owed to propriety.
I am sure you must want tea; but I don't like to ring. It is so
short a time since I wore an apron and a cap and the rest of it myself
at The Bunhouse, that I am afraid to ask the servants to do
anything for me. They must dislike me; it is very natural.
It is not natural at all, said Barton, with conviction; perfectly
monstrous, on the other hand. This little compliment eclipsed the
effect of fire-light on the girl's face. Suppose I ring, he added,
and then you can say, when Mary says 'Did you ring, miss?' 'No, I
didn't ring; but as you are here, Mary, would you mind bringing
I don't know if that would be quite honest, said Margaret,
A pious frauda drawing-room comedy, said Barton; have we
rehearsed it enough?
Then he touched the bell, and the little piece of private
theatricals was played out, though one of the artists had some
difficulty (as amateurs often have) in subduing an inclination to
Now, this is quite perfect, said Barton, when he had been
accommodated with a large piece of plum-cake. This is the very kind of
cake which we specially prohibit our patients to touch; and so near
dinner-time, too! There should be a new proverb, 'Physician, diet
thyself.' You see, we don't all live on a very thin slice of cold bacon
and a piece of dry toast.
Mrs. St John Deloraine has never taken up that kind of life, said
Margaret. She tries a good many new things, Barton remarked.
Yes; but she is the best woman in the world! answered the girl.
Oh, if you knew what a comfort it is to be with a lady again! And she
shuddered as she remembered her late chaperon.
I wonder if some dayyou won't think me very rude? asked
Bartonyou would mind telling me a little of your history?
Mr. Cranley ordered me to say nothing about it, answered Margaret;
and a great deal is very sad and hard to tell. You are all so kind,
and everything is so quiet here, and safe and peaceful, that it
frightens me to think of things that have happened, or may happen.
They shall never happen, if you will trust me, cried Barton, when
a carriage was heard to stop at the gateway of the garden outside.
Here is Mrs. St. John Deloraine at last, cried Margaret, starting
to run to the window; but she was so weak that she tripped, and would
have fallen had Barton not caught her lightly.
Oh, how stupid you must think me! she said, blushing. And Barton
thought he had never seen anything so pretty.
Once for all, I don't think you stupid, or backward, or anything
else that you call yourself.
But at that very moment the door opened, and Mrs. St John Deloraine
entered, magnificently comfortable in furs, and bringing a fresh air of
hospitality and content with existence into the room.
Oh, you are here! she cried, and I have almost missed you.
Now you must stay to dinner. You need not dress; we are all
alone, Margaret and I.
So he did stop to dine, and pauper hypochondriacs, eager for his
society (which was always cheering), knocked, and rang also, at his
door in vain. It was an excellent dinner; and, on the wings of the
music Mrs. St John Deloraine was playing in the front drawing-room, two
happy hours passed lightly over Barton and Margaret, into the backward,
where all hoursgood and evilabide, remembered or forgotten.
CHAPTER XIII.Another Patient.
Des ailes! des ailes! des ailes!
Comme dans le chant de Ruckert.
So you think a flying machine impossible, sir, and me, I presume, a
fanatic? Well, well, you have Eusebius with you. 'Such an one,' he
saysmeaning me, and inventors like me'is a little crazed with the
humors of melancholy.'
The speaker was the man whom Barton had rescued from the cogs and
wheels and springs of an infuriated engine. Barton could not but be
interested in the courage and perseverance of this sufferer, whom he
was visiting in hospital. The young surgeon had gone to inspect the
room in Paterson's Rants, and had found it, as he more or less
expected, the conventional den of the needy inventor. Our large towns
are full of such persons. They are the Treasure Hunters of cities and
of civilizationthe modern seekers for the Philosopher's Stone. At the
end of a vista of dreams they behold the great Discovery made perfect,
and themselves the winners of fame and of wealth incalculable.
For the present, most of these visionaries are occupied with
electricity. They intend to make the lightning a domestic slave in
every house, and to turn Ariel into a common carrier. But, from the
aspect of Winter's den in Paterson's Rents, it was easy to read that
his heart was set on a more ancient foible. The white deal
book-shelves, home-made, which lined every wall, were packed with
tattered books on mechanics, and especially on the art of flying. Here
you saw the spoils of the fourpenny box of cheap bookvendors mixed with
volumes in better condition, purchased at a larger cost. Hereamong
the litter of tattered pamphlets and well-thumbed Proceedings of the
Linnean and the Aeronautic Society of Great Britainhere were
Fredericus Hermannus' De Arte Volandi, and Cayley's works, and Hatton
Turner's Astra Castra, and the Voyage to the Moon of Cyrano de
Bergerac, and Bishop Wilkins's Dædalus, and the same sanguine
prelate's Mercury, The Secret Messenger. Here were Cardan and Raymond
Lully, and a shabby set of the classics, mostly in French translations,
and a score of lucubrations by French and other inventorsPonton
d'Amocourt, Borelli, Chabrier, Girard, and Marey.
Even if his books had not shown the direction of the new patient's
mind(a man is known by his books at least as much as by his
companions, and companions Winter had none)even if the shelves had
not spoken clearly, the models and odds-and-ends in the room would have
proclaimed him an inventor. As the walls were hidden by his library,
and as the floor, also, was littered with tomes and pamphlets and
periodicals, a quantity of miscellaneous gear was hung by hooks from
Barton, who was more than commonly tall, found his head being
buffeted by big preserved wings of birds and other flying thingsfrom
the sweeping pinions of the albatross to the leathery covering of the
bat. From the ceiling, too, hung models, cleverly constructed in
various materials; and herea cork with quills stuck into it, and with
a kind of drill-bowwas the little flying model of Sir George Cayley.
The whole place, dusty and musty, with a faded smell of the oil in
birds' feathers, was almost more noisome than curious. When Barton left
it, his mind was made up as to the nature of Winter's secret, or
delusion; and when he visited that queer patient in hospital, he was
not surprised either by his smattered learning or by his golden dreams.
Yes, sir; Eusebius is against me, no doubt, Winter went on with
his eager talk. An acute manrather too acute, don't you
think, for a Father of the Church? That habit he got into of smashing
the arguments of the heathen, gave him a kind of flippancy in talking
of high matters.
Such as flying? put in Barton.
Yes; such as our great aimthe aim of all the ages, I may call it.
What does Bishop Wilkins say, sir? Why, he says, (I doubt not but that
flying in the air may be easily effected by a diligent and ingenious
artificer.) 'Diligent,' I may say, I have been; as to 'ingenious,' I
leave the verdict to others.
Was that Peter Wilkins you were quoting? asked Barton, to humor
Why, no sir; the Bishop was not Peter. Peter Wilkins is the hero of
a mere romance, in which, it is true, we meet with womenGoories
he calls themendowed with the power of flight. But they were
born so. We get no help from Peter Wilkins: a mere dreamer.
It doesn't seem to be so easy as the Bishop fancies? remarked
Barton, leading him on.
No, sir, cried Winter, all his aches and pains forgotten, and his
pale face flushed with the delight of finding a listener who did not
laugh at him. No, sir; the Bishop, though ingenious, was not a
practical man. But look at what he says about the weight of your
flying machine! Can anything be more sensible? Borne out, too, by the
most recent researches, and the authority of Professor Pettigrew Bell
himself. You remember the iron fly made by Begimontanus of Nuremberg?
The iron fly! murmured Barton. I can't say I do.
You will find a history of it in Bamus. This fly would leap from
the hands of the great Begimontanus, flutter and buzz round the heads
of his guests assembled at supper, and then, as if wearied, return and
repose on the finger of its maker.
You don't mean to say you believe that? asked Barton.
Why not, sir; why not? Did not Archytas of Tarenturn, one of
Plato's acquaintances, construct a wooden dove, in no way less
miraculous? And the same Regimontanus, at Nuremberg, fashioned an eagle
which, by way of triumph, did fly out of the city to meet Charles V.
But where was I? Oh, at Bishop Wilkins. Cardan doubted of the iron fly
of Regimontanus, because the material was so heavy. But Bishop Wilkins
argues, in accordance with the best modern authorities, that the weight
is no hindrance whatever, if proportional to the motive power. A flying
machine, says Professor Bell, in the Encyclopodia Britannica
(you will not question the authority of the Encyclopodia Britannica
?)a flying machine should be 'a compact, moderately heavy, and
powerful structure.' There, you see, the Bishop was right.
Yours was deuced powerful, remarked Barton. I did not expect to
see two limbs of you left together.
It is powerful, or rather it was, answered Winter,
with a heavy sigh; but it's all to do over againall to do over
again! Yet it was a noble specimen. 'The passive surface was reduced to
a minimum,' as the learned author in the Encyclopodia
By Jove! the passive surface was jolly near reduced to a mummy.
You were the passive surface, as far as I could see.
Don't laugh at me, please sir, after you've been so kind. All the
rest laugh at me. You can't think what a pleasure it has been to talk
to a scholar, and there was a new flush on the poor fellow's cheek,
and something watery in his eyes.
I beg your pardon, my dear sir, cried Barton, greatly ashamed of
himself. Pray go on. The subject is entirely new to me. I had not been
aware that there were any serious modern authorities in favor of the
success of this kind of experiment.
Thank you, sir, said Winter, much encouraged, and taking Barton's
hand in his own battered claw; thank you. But why should we run only
to modern authorities? All great inventions, all great ideas, have been
present to men's minds and hopes from the beginning of civilization.
Did not Empedocles forestall Mr. Darwin, and hit out, at a stroke, the
hypothesis of natural selection?
Well, he did make a shot at it, admitted Barton, who
remembered as much as that from the old coaching days, and college
lectures at St. Gatien's.
Well, what do we find? As soon as we get a whisper of civilization
in Greece, we find Dædalus successful in flying. The pragmatic
interpreters pretend that the fable does but point to the discovery of
sails for ships; but I put it to you, is that probable?
Obvious bosh, said Barton.
And the meteorological mycologists, sir, they maintain that
Dædalus is only the lightning flying in the breast of the storm!
There's nothing those fellows won't say, replied Barton.
I'm glad you are with me, sir. In Dædalus I see either a
record of a successful attempt at artificial flight, or at the very
least, the expression of an aspiration as old as culture. You
wouldn't make Dædalus the evening clouds accompanying Minos, the sun,
to his setting in Sicily, in the west? added Winter anxiously.
I never heard of such nonsense, said Barton.
Sir Frederick Leighton, the President of the Royal Academy, is with
me, sir, if I may judge by his picture of Dædalus.
Every sensible man must be with you, answered Barton.
Well, sir, I won't detain you with other famous flyers of
antiquity, such as Abaris, mounted on an arrow, as described by
Herodotus. Doubtless the arrow was a flying machine, a novelty to the
It must have been, indeed.
Then there was the Greek who flew before Nero in the circus; but
he, I admit, had a bad fall, as Seutonius recounts. That character of
Lucian's, who employed an eagle's wing and a vulture's in his flight, I
take to be a mere figment of the satirist's imagination. But what do
you make of Simon Magus? He, I cannot doubt, had invented a machine in
which, like myself, he made use of steam or naphtha. This may be
gathered from Arnobius, our earliest authority. He mentions expressly
currum Simonis Magi et quadrigas igneas, the chariot of Simon Magus
and his vehicles of flameclearly the naphtha is alluded
towhich vanished into air at the word of the Apostle Peter. The
latter circumstances being miraculous, I take leave to doubt; but
certainly Simon Magus had overcome the difficulties of aerial
navigation. But, though Petrus Crinitus rejects the tradition as
fabulous, I am prepared to believe that Simon Magus actually flew from
the Capitol to the Aventine!
'The world knows nothing of its greatest men,' quoted Barton.
Simon Magus has been the victim, sir, of theological acrimony, his
character blackened, his flying machine impugned, or ascribed, as by
the credulous Arnobius, to diabolical arts. In the dark ages,
naturally, the science of Artificial Flight was either neglected or
practised in secret, through fear of persecution. Busbequius speaks of
a Turk at Constantinople who attempted something in this way; but he
(the Turk, I mean), was untrammelled by ecclesiastical prejudice. But
why should we tarry in the past? Have we not Mr. Proctor with us, both
in Knowledge and the Cornhill? Does not the preeminent
authority, Professor Pettigrew Bell, himself declare, with the weight,
too, of the Encyclopodia Britannica, that 'the number of
successful flying models is considerable. It is not too much to
expect,' he goes on, 'that the problem of artificial flight will be
actually solved, or at least much simplified.' What less can we expect,
as he observes, in the land of Watt and Stephenson, when the
construction of flying machines has been 'taken up in earnest by
We may indeed, said Barton, hope for the best when persons of
your learning and ingenuity devote their efforts to the cause.
As to my learning, you flatter me, said Winter. I am no scholar;
but an enthusiast will study the history of his subject Did I remark
that the great Dr. Johnson, in these matters so sceptical, admits (in a
romance, it is true) the possibility of artificial flight? The artisan
of the Happy Valley expected to solve the problem in one year's time.
'If all men were equally virtuous,' said this artist, 'I should with
equal alacrity teach them all to fly.'
And you will keep your secret, like Dr. Johnson's artist?
To you I do not mind revealing this much. The vans or wings
of my machine describe elliptic figures of eight.
I've seen them do that, said Barton.
Like the wings of birds; and have the same forward and downward
stroke, by a direct piston action. The impetus is given, after a
descent in airwhich I effected by starting from a height of six feet
onlyby a combination of heated naphtha and of india rubber under
torsion. By steam alone, in 1842, Philips made a model of a
flying-machine soar across two fields. Penaud's machine, relying only
on india rubber under torsion, flies for some fifty yards. What a model
can do, as Bishop Wilkins well observes, a properly weighted and
proportioned flying-machine, capable of carrying a man, can do also.
But yours, when I first had the pleasure of meeting you, was not
carrying you at all.
Something had gone wrong with the mechanism, answered Winter,
sighing. It is always so. An inventor has many things to contend
against. Remember Ark-wright, and how he was puzzled hopelessly by that
trifling error in the thickness of the valves in his spinning machine.
He had to give half his profits to Strutt, the local blacksmith, before
Strutt would tell him that he had only to chalk his valves! The
thickness of a coating of chalk made all the difference. Some trifle
like that, depend on it, interfered with my machine. You see, I am
obliged to make my experiments at night, and in the dark, for fear of
being discovered and anticipated. I have been on the vergenay,
over the vergeof success. 'No imaginable invention,' Bishop
Wilkins says, 'could prove of greater benefit to the world, or greater
glory to the author.' A few weeks ago that glory was mine!
Why a few weeks ago? asked Barton. Was your machine more advanced
then than when I met you?
I cannot explain what had happened to check its motion, said
Winter, wearily; but a few weeks ago my machine acted, and I
may say that I knew the sensations of a bird on the wing.
Do you mean that you actually flew?
For a very short distance, I did indeed, sir!
Barton looked at him curiously: two currents of thoughtone wild
and credulous, the other practical and professionalsurged and met in
his brain. The professional current proved the stronger for the moment.
Good-night, he said. You are tiring and over-exciting yourself. I
will call again soon.
He did call again, and Winter told him a tale which will be
repeated in its proper place.
All precious things, discovered late,
To those that seek them issue forth;
For Love, in sequel, works with Fate,
And draws the veil from hidden worth.
The Sleeping Beauty.
That Margaret and Barton were losing their hearts to each other
could not, of course, escape the keen eye of Mrs. St. John Deloraine.
She noticed that Margaret, though perfectly restored to health, and
lacking only the clear brown over the rose of her cheeks, was by no
means so light of heart as in the very earliest days of her recovery.
Love makes men and women poor company, and, to speak plainly, takes the
fun out of them. Margaret was absent-minded, given to long intervals of
silence, a bad listenerall of them things hateful to Mrs. St. John
Delo-raine, but pardoned, in this instance, by the benevolent lady.
Margaret was apt to blush without apparent cause, to start when a knock
came to the door, to leave the room hurriedly, and need to be sought
and brought back, when Barton called. Nor was Barton himself such good
company as he had been. His manner was uncertain and constrained; his
visits began to be paid at longer intervals; he seemed to have little
to say, or talked in fits and starts; and yet he did not know how to go
Persons much less clear-sighted than Mrs. St John Deloraine could
have interpreted, without difficulty, this awkward position of affairs.
Now, like most women of her kindly and impulsive character (when it
has not been refined away into nothing by social hypocrisies), Mrs. St.
John Deloraine was a perfectly reckless match-maker. She believed in
love with her whole heart; it was a joy to her to mark the beginnings
of inclination in two young souls, and she simply revelled in an
engagement. All considerations of economy, prudence, and foresight
melted away before the ardor of her enthusiasm: to fall in love first,
to get engaged next, and to be married as soon as possible afterward,
without regard to consequences of any kind, were, in this lady's mind,
heroic actions, and almost the whole duty of men and women.
In her position, and with her opportunities, she soon knew all that
was to be known about Margaret's affections, and also about Barton's.
He's as much in love with you as a man can be, my dear, she said
to Margaret Not worthy of him? Your past a barrier between you and
him? Nonsense, Daisy; that is his affair. I know you are as good
a girl as ever lived. Your father was poor, no doubt, and that wretched
Mr. Cranleyyes, he was a wretchhad a spite against you. I don't
know why, and you won't help me to guess. But Mr. Barton is too much of
a man to let that kind of thing disturb him, I'm sure. You are afraid
of something, Margaret Your nerves have been unstrung. I'm sure I don't
wonder at it. I know what it is to lose one's nerve. I could no more
drive now, as I used to do, or go at the fences I used to think
nothing of! But once you are married to a man like Mr. Barton, who
is there can frighten you? And as to being poor, and Mrs. St. John
Deloraine explained her generous views as to arrangements on her part,
which would leave Margaret far from portionless.
Then Margaret would cry a little, and lay her head on her friend's
shoulder, and the friend would shed some natural tears for company; and
they would have tea, and Barton would call, and look a great deal at
his boots, and fidget with his hat.
I've no patience with you, Mr. Barton, said Mrs. St. John
Deloraine at last, when she had so manouvred as to have some private
conversation with him, and Barton had unpacked his heart. I've no
patience with you. Why, where is your courage? 'She has a history?'
She's been persecuted. Well, where's your chivalry? Why don't you try
your fortune? There never was a better girl, nor a pleasanter companion
when she's notwhen she's not disturbed by the nervousness of an
undecided young man. If you don't take your courage in both hands, I
will carry Margaret off on a yachting voyage to the Solomon Islands, or
Jericho, or somewhere. Look here, I am going to take her for a drive in
Battersea Park; it is handy, and looking very pretty, and as lonely as
Tadmor in the wilderness. We will get out and saunter among the ponds.
I shall be tired and sit down; you will show Margaret the marvels of
natural history in the other pond, and when you come back you will both
have made up your minds!
With this highly transparent ruse Barton expressed his content. The
carriage was sent for, and in less than half an hour Barton and
Margaret were standing alone, remote, isolated from the hum of men,
looking at a pond where some water-hens were diving, while a fish
(coarse, but not uninteresting) occasionally flopped on the surface,
The treesit was the last week of Maywere in the earliest freshness
of their foliage; the air, for a wonder, was warm and still.
How quiet and pretty it is! said Margaret Who would think we were
Barton said nothing. Like the French parrot, mentioned by Sir Walter
Scott, he thought the more.
Miss Burnside! he exclaimed suddenly, we have known each other
now for some time.
This was a self evident proposition; but Margaret felt what was
coming, and trembled. She turned for a moment, pretending to watch the
movements of one of the water-fowls. Inwardly she was nerving herself
to face the hard part of her duty, and to remind Barton of the mystery
in her life.
Yes, she said at last; we have known each other for some time,
and yetyou know nothing about me.
With these words she lifted her eyes and looked him straight in the
face. There seemed a certain pride and nobility in her he had not seen
before, though her beautiful brown eyes were troubled, and there was a
mark of pain on her brow. What was she going to tell him?
Barton felt his courage come back to him.
I know one thing about you, and that is enough for me. I know I
love you! he said. Margaret, can't you care for me a little? Don't
tell me anything you think you should not say. I'm not curious.
Margaret turned back again to her inspection of the pond and its
inmates, grasping the iron railing in front of her and gazing down into
the waters, so that he could not see her face.
No, she said at last, in a very low voice; it would not be fair.
Then, after another pause, There is someone she murmured, and
This was the last thing Barton had expected. If she did not care for
him, he fancied she cared for nobody.
If you like someone better he was beginning.
But I don't like him at all, interrupted Margaret. He was very
Then can't you like me? asked Barton; and by this time he
was very near her, and was looking down into her face, as curiously as
she was still studying the natural history of Battersea Ponds.
Perhaps I should not; it is so difficult to know, murmured
Margaret. And yet her rosy confusion, and beautiful lowered eyes,
tender and ashamed, proved that she knew very well. Love is not always
so blind but that Barton saw his opportunity, and was assured that she
had surrendered. And he prepared, a conqueror, to march in with all the
honors and rewards of war; for the place was lonely, and a covenant is
no covenant until it is sealed.
But when he would have kissed her, Margaret disengaged herself
gently, with a little sigh, and returned to the strong defensible
position by the iron railings.
I must tell you about myself, she said. I have promised never to
tell, but I must. I have been so tossed about, and so weak, and so many
things have happened. And she sighed.
However impassioned a lover may be, he does naturally prefer that
there should be no mystery about her he adores. Barton had convinced
himself (aided by the eloquence and reposing on the feminine judgment
of Mrs. St. John Deloraine) that Margaret could have nothing that was
wrong to conceal. He could not look at her frank eyes and kind face and
suspect her; though, to anyone but a lover, these natural advantages
are no argument. He, therefore, prepared to gratify an extreme
curiosity, and, by way of comforting and aiding Margaret, was on the
point of assuming an affectionate attitude. But she moved a little
away, and, still turning toward the friendly ponds, began her story:
The personthe gentleman whom I was thinking of was a friend of my
father's, who, at one time, wanted himhere Margaret pausedwanted
me toto be his wife some day.
The rapid imagination of Barton conjured up the figure of a
well-to-do local pawnbroker, or captain of a trading vessel, as the
selected spouse of Margaret. He fumed at the picture in his fancy.
I didn't like him much, though he certainly was very kind. His
namebut perhaps I should not mention his name?
Never mind, said Barton. I dare say I never heard of him.
But I should tell you, first of all, that my own name is not that
which you, and Mrs. St. John Deloraine know me by. I had often intended
to tell her; but I have become so frightened lately, and it seemed so
mean to be living with her under a false name. But to speak of it
brought so many terrible things back to mind.
Dear Margaret, Barton whispered, taking her hand.
They were both standing, at this moment, with their backs to the
pathway, and an observer might have thought that they were greatly
interested in the water-fowl.
My name is not Burnside, Margaret went on, glancing over her
shoulder across the gardens and toward the river; my name is
Daisy Shields! cried a clear voice. Daisy, you're found at last,
and I've found you! How glad Miss Marlett will be!
But by this time the astonished Barton beheld Margaret in the
impassioned embrace of a very pretty and highly-excited young lady;
while Mrs. St. John Deloraine, who was with her, gazed with amazement
in her eyes.
Oh, my dear! Miss Harman (for it was that enthusiast) hurried on,
in a pleasant flow of talk, like a brook, with pleasant interruptions.
Oh, my dear! I was walking in the park with my maid, and I met Mrs.
St. John Deloraine, and she said she had lost her friends, and I came
to help her to look for them; and I've found you! It's like
Stanley finding Livingstone. 'How I Found Daisy.' I'll write a book
about it. And where have you been hiding yourself? None of the
girls ever knew anything was the matteronly Miss Mariett and me! And
I've left for good; and she and I are quite friends, and I'm to be
presented next Drawing Room.
While this address (which, at least, proved that Margaret had
acquaintances in the highest circles) was being poured forth, Mrs. St.
John Deloraine and Barton were observing all with unfeigned
astonishment and concern.
They both perceived that the mystery of Margaret's past was about to
be dispelled, or rather, for Barton, it already was dispelled.
The names of Shields and Miss Marlett had told him all that he
needed to know. But he would rather have heard the whole story from his
lady's lips; and Mrs. St. John Deloraine was mentally accusing Janey
Harman of having interrupted a proposal, and spoiled a darling
It was therefore with a certain most unfamiliar sharpness that Mrs.
St John Deloraine, observing that the day was clouded over, requested
Margaret to return to the carriage.
And as Miss Harman seems to have a great deal to say to you,
Margaret, added the philanthropic lady, you two had better walk on as
fast as you can; for you must be very careful not to catch cold!
I see Miss Harman's maid waiting for her in the distance there. And you
and I, Mr. Barton, if you will give me your arm, will follow slower;
I'm not a good walker.
Now, said Barton's companion eagerly, when Margaret and
Janey, about three yards in advance, might be conventionally regarded
as beyond earshotNow, Mr. Barton, am I to congratulate you?
Barton gave a little shamefaced laugh, uneasily.
I don't knowI hope soI'm not sure.
Oh, you're not satisfactorynot at all satisfactory. Are you
still shilly-shallying? What is the matter with young people?
cried the veteran of twenty-nine. Or was it that wretched Janey,
rushing in, like a cow in a conservatory? She's a regular school-girl!
It isn't that exactly, or at least that's not all. I hopeI think
she does care for me, or will care for me, a little.
Oh, bother! said Mrs. St John Deloraine. She would not, for all
the world, reveal the secrets of the confessional, and tell Barton what
she knew of the state of Margaret's heart But she was highly provoked,
and showed it in her manners, at no time applauded for their repose.
The fact is, Barton admitted, that I'm so taken by surprise I
hardly know where I am! I do think, if I may say so without seeming
conceited, that I have every reason to be happy. But, just as she was
beginning to tell me about herself, that young lady, who seems to have
known her at school, rushed in and explained the whole mystery.
Well, said Mrs. Si John Deloraine, turning a little pale and
looking anxiously at Barton, was it anything so very dreadful?
She called her Daisy Shields, said Barton.
Well, I suppose she did! I always fancied, after what happened at
The Bunhouse, that that dreadful Mr. Cranley sent her to me under a
false name. It was not her fault. The question is, What was her
reason for keeping her real name concealed?
That's what I'm coming to, said Barton. I have a friend, a Mr.
Mr. Maitland of St. Gatien's? asked the widow.
I know him.
Yes, I have often heard him speak of you, said Barton. Well, he
had a protégéea kind of ward, to tell a long story in few
wordsa girl whom he had educated, and whom he was under some kind of
promise to her father to marry. The father died suddenly; the girl
disappeared mysteriously from school at the same moment; and Maitland,
after many efforts, has never been able to find out anything about her.
Now, this girl's name, this girl in whom my friend was interested, was
Margaret Shields. That is the very name by which your friend, Miss
Harman, called Margaret. So, you see, even if I am right, and if she
does care for me, what a dreadful position I am in! I want to marry
the girl to whom my friend is, more or less, engaged! My friend, after
doing his best to find his ward, and after really suffering a great
deal of anxiety and annoyance, is living abroad. What am I to say to
Mr. Barton, said Mrs. St John Deloraine, perhaps you alarm
yourself too much. I thinkhere she dropped her voice a littleI
thinkI don't think Mr. Maitland's heart is very deeply
concerned about Miss Shields. I may be wrong, but I know him pretty
wellshe gave a little nervous laughand I don't think he's in
love with Margaret.
By the time she reached the end of this interrupted and tentative
discourse Mrs. St. John Deloraine was blushing like a rose in June.
Barton felt an enormous weight lifted from his heart, and a flood of
welcome light poured into his mind. The two philanthropists were in
love with each other!
He's an awfully good fellow, Maitland, he replied. But you are
right; I'm sure you are right. You must know. He is not
in love with Margaret.
Mrs. St. John Deloraine seemed not displeased at the tribute to
Maitland's unobtrusive virtues, and replied:
But he will be very glad to hear that she is found at last, and
quite safe; and I'll write to him myself, this very evening. I heard
from himabout a charity, you knowa few days ago, and I have his
By this time they had reached the carriage. Janey, with many
embraces, tore herself from Margaret, and went off with her attendant;
while Mrs. St John Deloraine, with a beaming face, gave the coachman
the order Home.
We shall see you to-morrow at luncheon, she cried to Barton; and
no offer of hospitality had ever been more welcome.
He began to walk home, turning over his discoveries in his thoughts,
when he suddenly came to a dead halt.
By George! he said out loud; I'll go back and have it out with
her at once. I've had enough of this shillyshally.
He turned and strode off in the direction of Cheyne Walk. In a few
minutes he was standing at the familiar door.
Will you ask MissMiss Burnside if she can see me for one moment?
he said to the servant I have forgotten something she wished me to do
for her, he added in a mumble.
Then he was taken into the boudoir, and presently Margaret appeared,
still in her bonnet and furs.
I couldn't help coming back, Margaret, he said, as soon as she
entered the room. I want to tell you that it is all right, that you
needn't thinkI mean, that I know all about it, and that there is
nothing, nothing to prevent usI mean» Margaret, if you
really care for me
Then he came to a dead stop.
It was not a very easy situation. Barton could not exactly say to
Margaret, My dear girl, you need not worry yourself about Maitland. He
does not care a pin for you; he'll be delighted at being released. He
is in love with Mrs. St. John Deloraine.
That would have been a statement both adequate and explicit; but it
could not have been absolutely flattering to Margaret, and it would
have been exceedingly unfair to her hostess.
The girl came forward to the table, and stood with her hand on it,
looking at Barton. She did not help him out in any way; her attitude
was safe, but embarrassing.
He made a charge, as it were, at the positiona random, desperate
Margaret, can you trust me? he asked.
She merely put out her hand, which he seized.
Well, then, believe me when I tell you that I know everything about
your doubts; that I know more than anyone else can do; and that there
is nothing to prevent us from being happy. More than that, if
you will only agree to make me happy, you will make everyone else happy
too. Can't you take it on trust? Can't you believe me?
Margaret said nothing; but she hid her face on Barton's shoulder.
She did believe him.
The position was carried!
CHAPTER XV.The Mark of Cain.
Next morning Barton entered his sitting-room in very high spirits,
and took up his letters. He had written to Maitland the night before,
saying little but, Come home at once. Margaret is found. She is going
to be my wife. You can't come too quickly, if you wish to hear of
something very much to your advantage. A load was off his mind, and he
felt as Romeo did just before the bad news about Juliet
In this buoyant disposition, Barton opened his letters. The first
was in a hand he knew very wellthat of a man who had been his
fellow-student in Paris and Vienna, and who was now a prosperous young
physician. The epistle ran thus:
Dear Barton.I'm off to the West of Ireland, for a fortnight
People are pretty fit, as the season has not run far. Most of my
patients have not yet systematically overeaten themselves. I want you
to do something for me. Martin &Wright, the lawyers, have a queer
little bit of medical jurisprudence, about which young Wright, who was
at Oriel in our time, asked my opinion. I recommended him to see you,
as it is more in your line; and my line will presently be
attached to that eminent general practitioner, 'The Blue Doctor.' May
he prosper with the Galway salmon!
Lucky beggar! thought Barton to himself, but he was too happy to
envy even a man who had a fortnight of salmon-fishing before him.
The next letter he opened was in a blue envelope, with the stamp of
Messrs. Martin &Wright. The brief and and formal note which it
contained requested Dr. Barton to call, that very day if possible, at
the chambers of the respectable firm, on business of great
What in the world can they want? thought Barton. Nobody can have
left me any money. Besides, Franks says it is a point in medical
jurisprudence. That sounds attractive. I'll go down after breakfast.
He walked along the sunny embankment, and that bright prospect of
houses, trees, and ships have never seemed so beautiful. In an hour he
was in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and had shaken hands with young Wright,
whom he knew; had been introduced to old Wright, a somewhat stately man
of business, and had taken his seat in the chair sacred to clients.
Dr. Barton, said old Mr. Wright, solemnly, you are, I think, the
author of this book?
He handed to Barton a copy of his own volume, in its gray paper
cover, Les Tatouages Étude Médico-Légale.
Certainly, said Barton. I wrote it when I was in Paris I had
plenty of chances of studying tattooing in the military hospitals.
I have not read it myself, said old Mr. Wright, because I am not
acquainted with the French language; but my son tells me it is a work
of great learning.
Barton could only bow, and mutter that he was glad Mr. Wright liked
it. Why he should like it, or what the old gentleman wanted, he
could not even imagine.
We are at present engaged in a very curious case, Dr. Barton, went
on the lawyer, in which we think your special studies may assist us.
The position is this: Nearly eight months ago a client of ours died, a
Mr. Richard Johnson, of Linkheaton, in the North. You must excuse me if
I seem to be troubling you with a long story?
Barton mentioned that he was delighted, and added, Not at all, in
the vague modern dialect.
This Mr. Richard Johnson, then, was a somewhat singular character.
He was what is called a 'statesman' in the North. He had a small
property of about four hundred acres, on the marches, as they say, or
boarders of the Earl of Birkenhead's lands. Here he lived almost alone,
and in a very quiet way. There was not even a village near him, and
there were few persons of his own position in life, because his little
place was almost embedded, if I may say so, in Lord Birkenhead's
country, which is pastoral. You are with me, so far?
Perfectly, said Barton.
This Mr. Johnson, then, lived quite alone, with an old housekeeper,
dead since his decease, and with one son, called Richard, like himself.
The young man was of an adventurous character, a ne'er-do-weel in fact;
and about twenty years ago he left Linkheaton, after a violent quarrel
with his father. It was understood that he had run away to sea. Two
years later he returned; there was another quarrel, and the old man
turned him out, vowing that he would never forgive him. But, not long
after that, a very rich deposit of coala very rich deposit,
said Mr. Wright, with the air of a man tasting most excellent
claretwas discovered on this very estate of Linkheaton. Old Johnson,
without much exertion on his part, and simply through the payment of
royalties by the company that worked the coal, became exceedingly
opulent, in what you call most affluent circumstances.
Here Mr. Wright paused, as if to see whether Barton was beginning to
understand the point of the narrative, which, it is needless to remark,
he was not. There is no marked connection between coal mines,
however lucrative, and Les Tatouages, Étude Médico-Légale.
In spite of his wealth, Mr. Johnson in no way changed his habits.
He invested his money carefully, under our advice, and he became, as I
said, an extremely warm man. But he continued to live in the old
farmhouse, and did not, in any way, court society. To tell the truth,
except Lord Birkenhead, who is our client, I never knew anyone who was
at all intimate with the old man. Lord Birkenhead had a respect for
him, as a neighbor and a person of the old-fashioned type. Yes, Mr.
Wright added, seeing that his son was going to speak, and, as you were
about to say, Tom, they were brought together by a common misfortune.
Like old Mr. Johnson, his lordship has a son who is very,
veryunsatisfactory. His lordship has not seen the Honorable Mr.
Thomas Cranley for many years; and in that lonely country the two boys
had been companions in wild amusements, long before. He is very
unsatisfactory, the Honorable Thomas Cranley; and Mr. Wright sighed
heavily, in sympathy with a client so noble and so afflicted.
I know the beast, said Barton, without reflecting.
Mr. Wright looked at him in amazement and horror. The beast! A son
of Lord Birkenhead's called The beast!
To return to our case, Dr. Barton, he went on severely, with some
stress laid on the doctor. Mr. Johnson died, leaving, by a will
made on his death-bed, all that he possessed to his son Richard, or, in
case of his decease, to the heirs of his body lawfully begotten. From
that day to this we have hunted everywhere for the man. We have traced
him all over the world; we have heard of him in Australia, Burmah,
Guiana, Smyrna, but at Smyrna we lose sight of him. This
advertisement, said the old gentleman, taking up the outside sheet of
the Times, and folding it so as to bring the second column into
view, remained for more than seven months unanswered, or only answered
by impostors and idiots.
He tapped his finger on the place as he handed the paper to Barton,
who read aloud:
Linkheaton.If Richard Johnson, of Linkheaton, Durham, last heard
of at Smyrna in 1875, will apply to Messrs. Martin and Wright,
Lincoln's Inn Fields, he will hear of something very greatly to his
advantage. His father died, forgiving him. A reward of £1,000 will be
paid to anyone producing Richard Johnson, or proving his decease.
As a mixture of business with the home affections, said old Mr.
Wright proudly (for the advertisement was of his own composition), I
think that leaves little ta be desired.
It is admirable, said Bartonadmirable; but may I ask
Where the tattooing comes in? said Mr. Wright. I am just
approaching that. The only person from whom we received any
reliable information about Richard Johnson was an old ship-mate of his,
a wandering, adventurous character, now, I believe, in Paraguay, where
we cannot readily communicate with him. According to his account,
Johnson was an ordinary seafaring man, tanned, and wearing a black
beard, but easily to be recognized for an excellent reason. He was
tattooed almost all over his whole body.
Barton nearly leaped out of his chair, the client's chair, so sudden
a light flashed on him.
What is the matter, Dr. Barton! I thought I should interest
you; but you seem quite excited.
I really beg your pardon, said Barton. It was automatic, I think;
besides, I am extremely interested in tattooing.
Then, sir, it is a pity you could not have seen Johnson. He
appears, from what our informant tells us, to have been a most
remarkable specimen. He had been tattooed by Australian blacks, by
Burmese, by Arabs, and, in a peculiar blue tint and to a particular
pattern, by the Dyacks of Borneo. We have here a rough chart, drawn by
our informant, of his principal decorations.
Here the lawyer solemnly unrolled a great sheet of drawing-paper, on
which was rudely outlined the naked figure of a man, filled up, on the
breast, thighs, and arms, with ornamental designs.
The guess which made Barton leap up had not been mistaken: he
recognized the tattooings he had seen on the dead body of Dicky
This confirmation of what he had conjectured, however, did not draw
any exclamation or mark of excitement from Barton, who was now on his
This is highly interesting, he said, as he examined the diagram;
and I am sure, Mr. Wright, that it should not be difficult to
recognize a claimant with such remarkable peculiarities.
No, sir; it is easy enough, and we have been able to dismiss scores
of sham Richard Johnsons. But one man presented himself the day before
yesterdaya rough sailor fellow, who went straight to the point; asked
if the man we wanted had any private marks; said he knew what they
were, and showed us his wrist, which exactly, as far as we could verify
the design, corresponded to that drawing.
Well, asked Barton, controlling his excitement by a great effort,
what did you do with him?
We said to him that it would be necessary to take the advice of an
expert before we could make any movement; and, though he told us things
about old Johnson and Linkheaton, which it seemed almost impossible
that anyone but the right man could have known, we put him off till we
had seen you, and could make an appointment for you to examine the
tattooings. They must be dealt with first, before any other
I suppose you have made some other necessary inquiries? Did he say
why he was so late in answering the advertisement? It has been out for
Yes, and that is rather in his favor, said Mr. Wright. If he had
been an impostor on the lookout he would probably have come to us long
ago. But he has just returned from the Cape, where he had been out of
the way of newspapers, and he did not see the advertisement till he
came across it three or four days ago.
Very well, said Barton. Make an appointment with the man for any
time to-morrow, and I will be with you.
As he said this he looked very hard and significantly at the younger
Very good, sir; thank you. Shall we say at noon tomorrow?
With pleasure, answered Barton, still with his eye on the younger
He then said good-by, and was joined, as he had hoped, in the outer
office by young Wright.
You had something to say to me? asked the junior member of the
Several things, said Barton, smiling. And first, would you mind
finding out whether the coast is clearwhether any one is watching for
Watching for you! What do you mean?
Just take a look round the square, and tell me whether any
suspicious character is about.
Young Wright, much puzzled, put on his hat, and stood lighting a
cigarette on the outer steps.
Not a soul in sight but lawyers' clerks, he reported.
Very well; just tell your father that, as it is a fine morning, you
are taking a turn with me.
Barton's friend did as he wished, and presently the pair had some
I'll do exactly as you suggest, and explain to my father, said the
young lawyer as they separated.
Thanks; it is so much easier for you to explain than for a stranger
like myself, said Barton, and strolled westward by way of Co vent
At the noted establishment of Messrs. Aminadab, theatrical
costumiers, Barton stopped, went in, was engaged some time with the
Messrs. Aminadab, and finally had a cab called for him, and drove home
with a pretty bulky parcel.
* * * * *
At five minutes to twelve on the following day, a tall, burly,
mahogany-colored mariner, attired, for the occasion, in a frock-coat
and hat, appeared in Lincoln's Inn Fields. He seemed to be but ill
acquainted with those coasts, and mooned about for some minutes before
he reached the door of Messrs. Wright Then he rang, the door was
opened, and he was admitted into the presence of the partners.
I have come, gentlemen, in answer to your letter, he said with a
Northern burr, bowing awkwardly, and checking a disposition to salute
by touching his forelock.
His eyes wandered round the room, where he saw no one but the
partners, with whom he was already acquainted, and a foreign-looking
gentlemana gentleman with hay-colored hair, a soft hat, spectacles,
and a tow-colored beard. He had a mild, short-sighted expression, a
pasty complexion, and the air of one who smoked too much.
Good morning, Mr.h'mMr. Johnson, said old Mr. Wright. As we
told you, sir, we have, as a necessary preliminary to the inquiry,
requested Professor Lieblein to step in and inspecth'mthe personal
marks of which you spoke. Professor Lieblein, of Bonn, is a great
authority on these mattersauthor of 'Die Tattuirung,' a very learned
work, I am told.
Thus introduced, the Professor bowed.
Glad to meet you, sir, said the sailor-man gruffly, or any
gentleman as really knows what's what.
You have been a great traveller, sir? said the learned Professor,
whose Teutonic accent it is superfluous to reproduce. You have in many
lands travelled? So!
Yes, sir; I have seen the world.
And you are much tattooed: it is to me very interesting. You have
by many races been decorated?
Most niggers have had a turn at me, sir!
How happy you are to have had such experiences! Now, the
Burmeseah! have you any little Burmese marks?
Yes, sir; from the elbow to the shoulder, replied the seafaring
man. Saving your presence, I'll strip to the buff.
The buff! What is that? Oh, thank you, sir, this was in reply to
young Mr. Wright The naked body! why, buff! 'Buff,' the abstract word,
the actual stuff, the very wesen of man unclothed. 'Buffer,' the
concrete man, in the 'buff,' in the flesh; it is sehr intéressant.
While the learned Professor muttered these metaphysical and
philological reflections, the seaman was stripping himself to the
That's the Burmese style, sir, he said, pointing to his shoulders
and upper arm.
These limbs were tattooed in a beautiful soft blue; the pattern was
a series of diminishing squares, from which long narrow triangles ran
down to the elbow-joints.
Sehr schôn, sehr schôn, exclaimed the delighted Professor.
It is very hubsch, very pretty, very well. We cannot now
decorate, we Germans. Ach, it is mournful! and he sighed. And now,
sir, have you to show me any moko? A little moko would be
Moko? Rather! The Maori pattern, you mean; the New Zealand dodge?
Just look between my shoulders, and the seaman turned a broad bare
back, whereon were designs of curious involuted spirals.
That is right, that is right, whispered the Professor. Moko,
schlange, serpent-marks, so they call it in their tongue. Better
moko, on an European man, have I never seen. You observe, he
remarked to the elder Mr. Wright, waving his hand as he followed the
tattooed linesyou observe the serpentine curves? Very beautiful.
Extremely interesting, said Mr. Wright, who, being no
anthropologist, seemed nervous and uncomfortable.
Corresponds, too, with the marks in the picture, he added,
comparing the sketch of the original Shields with the body of the
Are you satisfied now, governor? asked the sailor.
One little moment. Have you on the Red Sea coast been? Have you
been at Suakim? Have you any Arab markings?
Oh, yes; here you are! and the voyager pointed to his breast.
The Professor inspected, with unconcealed delight, some small
tattooings of irregular form.
It is, it is, he cried, the wasm, the sharat,* the
Semitic tribal mark, the mark with which the Arab tribes brand their
cattle! Of old time they did tattoo it on their bodies. The learned
Herr Professor Robertson Smith, in his leedle book, do you know what he
calls that very mark, my dear sir?
* Sharat or Short.The shart was in old times a tattooed
mark.... In the patriarchal story of Cain...the institution
of blood revenge is connected with a 'mark' which Jehovah
appoints to Cain. Can this be anything else than the
sharat, or tribal mark, which every man bore on his
Robertson Smith, Kinship in Ancient Arabia, p.215.
Not I, said the sailor; I'm no scholar.
He says it wasI do not say he is right, cried the Professor, in
a loud voice, pointing a finger at his victim's breasthe says it was
the mark of cain!
The sailor, beneath his mahogany tan, turned a livid white, and
grasped at a bookcase by which he stood.
What do you mean? he cried, through his chattering teeth; what do
you mean with your damned Hebrew-Dutch and your mark of Cain? The
mark's all right! A Hadendowa woman did it in Suakim years ago. Ain't
it on that chart of yours?
Certainly, good sir; it is, answered the Professor. Why do you so
agitate yourself? The proof is complete! he added, still
pointing at the sailor's breast.
Then I'll put on my togs, with your leave: it's none so warm!
grumbled the man.
He had so far completed his dressing that he was in his waistcoat,
and was just looking round for his coat.
Stop! said the Professor. Hold Mr. Johnson's coat for a moment!
This was to young Wright, who laid his hands on the garment in
You must be tired, sir, said the Professor, in a very soft voice.
May I offer you a leedle cigarette?
He drew from his pocket a silver cigarette-case, and, in a
thoroughly English accent, he went on:
I have waited long to give you back your cigarette-case, which you
left at your club, Mr. Thomas Cranley!
The sailor's eye fell on it. He dashed the silver box violently to
the ground, and trampled on it, then he made one rush at his coat.
Hold it, hold it! cried Barton, laying aside his Teutonic
accenthold it: there's a revolver in the pocket!
But there was no need to struggle for the coat.
The sailor had suddenly staggered and fallen, a crumpled but not
unconscious mass, on the floor.
Call in the police! said Barton. They'll have no difficulty in
This is the man against whom you have the warrant, he went on, as
young Wright opened the door and admitted two policemen. I charge the
Honorable Thomas Cranley with murder!
The officers lifted the fallen man.
Let him be, said Barton. He has collapsed. Lay him on the floor:
he's better so. He needs a turn of my profession: his heart's weak.
Bring some brandy.
Young Wright went for the spirits, while the frightened old lawyer
The Honorable Thomas Cranley was always very
It had been explained to the old gentleman that an impostor would be
unmasked, and a criminal arrested; but he had not been informed
that the culprit was the son of his great client, Lord Birkenhead.
Barton picked up the cigarette-case, and as he, for the first time,
examined its interior, some broken glass fell out and tinkled on the
CHAPTER XVI.The Verdict of Fate.
Maitland did not dally long in the Levant after getting Barton's
letter. He was soon in a position to receive, in turn, the
congratulations which he offered to Margaret and Barton with unaffected
Mrs. St. John Deloraine and he understood each other!
Maitland, for perhaps the first time in his life, was happy in a
thoroughly human old-fashioned way.
Meanwhile the preparations for Cranley's trial dragged on. Interest,
as usual, was frittered away in examinations before the magistrates.
But at last the day of judgment shone into a court crowded as courts
are when it is the agony of a gentleman that the public has to view.
When the prisoner, uttering his last and latest falsehood,
proclaimed himself Not Guilty, his voice was clear and strong enough,
though the pallor of his face attested, not only the anxiety of his
situation, but the ill-health which, during his confinement, had often
made it doubtful whether he could survive to plead at the bar of any
The Counsel for the Crown, opening the case, stated the theory of
the prosecution, the case against Cranley. His argument is here offered
in a condensed form:
First, Counsel explained the position of Johnson, or Shields, as the
unconscious heir of great wealth, and set forth his early and late
relations with the prisoner, a dishonored and unscrupulous outcast of
society. The prisoner had been intimately acquainted with the
circumstances of Johnson's early life, with his history and his home.
His plan, therefore, was to kill him, and then personate him. A
celebrated case, which would be present to the minds of the jury,
proved that a most plausible attempt at the personation of a
long-missing man might be made by an uneducated impostor, who possessed
none of the minute local and personal knowledge of the prisoner. Now,
to personate Johnson, a sailor whose body was known to have been
indelibly marked by the tattooing of various barbarous races, it was
necessary that the prisoner should be similarly tattooed. It would be
shown that, with unusual heartlessness, he had persuaded his victim to
reproduce on his body the distinctive marks of Johnson, and then had
destroyed him with fiendish ingenuity, in the very act of assuming his
personality. The very instrument, it might be said, which stamped
Cranley as Johnson, slew Johnson himself, and the process which
hallmarked the prisoner as the heir of vast wealth stigmatized him with
the brand of Cain. The personal marks which seemed to establish the
claimant's case demonstrated his guilt He was detected by the medical
expert brought in to prove his identity, and was recognized by that
gentleman, Dr. Barton, who would be called, and who had once already
exposed him in a grave social offencecheating at cards. The same
witness had made a post-mortem examination of the body of
Richard Johnson, and had then suspected the method by which he had been
The murder itself, according to the theory of the prosecution, was
committed in the following manner: Cranley, disguised as a sailor (tbe
disguise in which he was finally taken), had been in the habit of
meeting Johnson, and being tattooed by him, in a private room of the
Hit or Miss tavern, in Chelsea. On the night of February 7th, he
met him there for the last time. He left the tavern late, at nearly
twelve o'clock, telling the landlady that his friend, as he called
Johnson, had fallen asleep upstairs. On closing the establishment, the
landlady, Mrs. Gullick, found the room, an upper one, with dormer
windows opening on the roof, empty. She concluded that Johnsonor
Shields, as she called himhad wakened, and left the house by the back
staircase, which led to a side-alley. This way Johnson, who knew the
house well, often took, on leaving. On the following afternoon,
however, the dead body of Johnson, with no obvious marks of violence on
it, was found in a cart belonging to the vestrya cart which, during
the night, had remained near a shed on the piece of waste ground
adjoining the Hit or Miss. A coroner's jury had taken the view
that Johnson, being intoxicated, had strayed into the piece of waste
ground (it would be proved that the door in the palisade surrounding it
was open on that night), had lain down in the cart, and died in his
sleep of cold and exposure. But evidence derived from a later medical
examination would establish the presumption, which would be confirmed
by the testimony of an eye-witness, that death had been wilfully caused
by Cranley, employing a poison which it would be shown he had in his
possessiona poison which was not swallowed by the victim, but
introduced by means of a puncture into the system. The dead man's body
had then been removed to a place where his decease would be accounted
for as the result of cold and exhaustion. A witness would be put in the
box who, by an extraordinary circumstance, had been enabled to see the
crime committed by the prisoner, and the body carried away, though, at
the moment, he did not understand the meaning of what he saw. As the
circumstances by which this witness had been enabled to behold what was
done at dead of night, in an attic room, locked and bolted, and not
commanded from any neighboring house nor eminence, were exceedingly
peculiar, testimony would be brought to show that the witness really
had enjoyed the opportunity of observation which he claimed.
On the whole, then, as the prisoner had undeniably personated
Johnson, and claimed Johnson's property; as he undeniably had induced
Johnson, unconsciously, to aid him in the task of personation; as the
motive for the murder was plain and obvious; as Johnson, according to
the medical evidence, had probably been murdered; and as an eye-witness
professed to have seen, without comprehending, the operation by which
death, according to the medical theory, was caused, the counsel for the
prosecution believed that the jury could find no other verdict than
that the prisoner had wilfully murdered Richard Johnson on the night of
This opened the case for the Crown. It is unnecessary to
recapitulate the evidence of all the witnesses who proved, step by
step, the statements of the prosecution. First was demonstrated the
identity of Shields with Johnson. To do this cost enormous trouble and
expense; but Johnson's old crony, the man who drew the chart of his
tattoo marks, was at length discovered in Paraguay, and, by his aid and
the testimony he collected, the point was satisfactorily made out. It
was, of course, most important in another respect, as establishing
Margaret's claims on the Linkheaton estate.
The discovery of the body of Johnson (or Shields) in the snow was
proved by our old friends Bill and Tommy.
The prisoner was recognized by Mrs. Gullick as the sailor gentleman
who had been with Johnson on the last night of his life. In spite of
the difference of dress, and of appearance caused by the absence of
beardfor Cranley was now clean shavedMrs. Gullick was positive as
to his voice and as to his eyebrows, which were peculiarly black and
Barton, who was called next, and whose evidence excited the keenest
interest, identified the prisoner as the man whom he had caused to be
arrested in the office of Messrs. Martin and Wright, and whom he had
known as Cranley. His medical evidence was given at considerable
length, and need not be produced in full detail On examining the body
of Richard Johnson, his attention had naturally been directed chiefly
to the tattooings. He had for some years been deeply interested, as an
ethnologist, in the tattooed marks of various races. He had found many
curious examples on the body of the dead man. Most of the marks were
obviously old; but in a very unusual place, generally left
blanknamely, behind and under the right shoulderhe had discovered
certain markings of an irregular character, clearly produced by an
inexperienced hand, and perfectly fresh and recent. They had not
healed, and were slightly discolored. They could not, from their
position, possibly have been produced by the man himself. Microscopic
examinations of these marks, in which the coloring matter was brown,
not red or blue, as on the rest of the body, showed that this coloring
matter was of a character familiar to the witness as a physiologist and
scientific traveller. It was the Woorali, or arrow poison of the
Macoushi Indians of Guiana.
Asked to explain the nature of this poison to the Court, the witness
said that its principle (to use the term of the old medical writers)
had not yet been disengaged by Science, nor had it ever been compounded
by Europeans. He had seen it made by the Macoushi Indians, who combined
the juice of the Woorali vine with that of certain bulbous plants, with
certain insects, and with the poison-fangs of two serpents, boiling the
whole amidst magical ceremonies, and finally straining off a thick
brown paste, which, when perfectly dry, was used to venom the points of
their arrows. The poison might be swallowed by a healthy man without
fatal results. But if introduced into the system through a wound, the
poison would act almost instantaneously, and defy analysis. Its effect
was to sever, as it were, the connection between the nerves and the
muscles, and the muscles used in respiration being thus gradually
paralyzed, death followed within a brief time, proportionate to the
size of the victim, man or animal, and the strength of the dose.
Traces of this poison, then, the witness had found in the fresh
tattoo marks on Johnson's body.
The witness now produced the sharp wooden needle, the stem of the
leaf of the coucourite palm, which he had found among Johnson's
tattooing materials, in the upper chamber of the Hit or Miss.
This needle had been, he said, the tip of one of the arrows used for
their blowpipes, by the Macoushi of Guiana.
Barton also produced the Oriental silver cigarette-case, the
instrument of his cheating at baccarat, which Cranley had left in the
club on the evening of his detection. He showed that the case had
contained a small crystal receptacle, intended to hold opium. This
crystal had been broken by Cranley when he dashed down the case, in the
office of Martin and Wright. But crumbs of the poisonWoorali, or
Ouraliperfectly dry, remained in this réceptacle. It was thus clear
that Cranley, himself a great traveller, was possessed of the rare and
The medical evidence having been heard, and confirmed in its general
bearing by various experts, and Barton having stood the test of a
severe cross-examination, William Winter was called.
There was a flutter in the Court, as a pale and partly paralyzed man
was borne in on a kind of litter, and accommodated in the witness-box.
Where were you, asked the counsel for the prosecution, when the
officer had sworn the witness, at eleven o'clock on the night of
I was on the roof of the Hit or Miss tavern.
On which part of the roof?
On the ledge below the dormer window at the back part of the house,
facing the waste ground behind the plank fence.
Will you tell the Court what you saw while you were in that
Winter's face was flushed with excitement; but his voice, though
thin, was clear as he said:
There was a light streaming through the dormer window beside which
I was lying, and I looked in.
What did you see?
I saw a small room, with a large fire, a table, on which were
bottles and glasses, and two men, one seated, the other standing.
Would you recognize either man if you saw him?
I recognize the man who was seated, in the prisoner at the bar; but
at that time he wore a beard.
Tell the Court what happened.
The men were facing me. One of themthe prisonerwas naked to the
waist. His breast was tattooed. The otherthe man who stood upwas
touching him with a needle, which he applied, again and again, to a
saucer on the table.
Could you hear what they said?
I could; for the catch of the lattice window had not caught, and
there was a slight chink open.
I could not help it; the scene was so strange. I heard the man with
the needle give a sigh of relief, and say, 'There, it's finished, and a
pretty job too, though I say it.' The other said, 'You have done it
beautifully, Dicky; it's a most interesting art. Now, just out of
curiosity, let me tattoo you a bit.' The other man
laughed, and took off his coat and shirt while the other dressed.
'There's scarce an inch of me plain,' he said, 'but you can try your
hand here,' pointing to the lower part of his shoulder.
What happened then?
They were both standing up now. I saw the prisoner take out
something sharp; his face was deadly pale, but the other could not see
that. He began touching him with the sharp object, and kept chaffing
all the time. This lasted, I should think, about five minutes, when the
face of the man who was being tattooed grew very red. Then he swayed a
little, backward and forward, then he stretched out his hands like a
blind man, and said, in a strange, thick voice, as if he was paralyzed,
'I'm very cold; I can't shiver!' Then he fell down heavily, and his
body made one or two convulsive movements. That was all.
What did the prisoner do?
He looked like death. He seized the bottle on the table, poured out
half a tumbler full of the stuff in it, drank it off, and then fell
into a chair, and laid his face between his hands. He appeared ill, or
alarmed, but the color came back into his cheek after a third or fourth
glass. Then I saw him go to the sleeping man and bend over him,
listening apparently to his breathing. Then he shook him several times,
as if trying to arouse him. But the man lay like a log. Finally, about
half-an-hour after what I have described, he opened the door and went
out. He soon returned, took up the sleeping man in his armshis weight
seemed lighter than you would expectand carried him out. From the
roof I saw him push the door in the palisade leading into the waste
land, a door which I myself had left open an hour before. It was not
light enough to see what he did there; but he soon returned alone and
Such was the sum of Winter's evidence, which, if accepted, entirely
corroborated Barton's theory of the manner of the murder.
In cross-examination, Winter was asked the very natural question:
How did you come to find yourself on the roof of the Hit or Miss
late at night?
Winter nearly rose from his litter, his worn faced flushed, his eye
Sir, I flew!
There was a murmur and titter through the court, which was, of
course, instantly suppressed.
You flew! What do you mean by saying that you flew?
I am the inventor of a flying machine, which, for thirty years, I
have labored at and striven to bring to perfection. On that one night,
as I was experimenting with it, where I usually did, inside the waste
land bordering on the Hit or Miss, the machine actually worked,
and I was projected in the machine, as it were, to some height in the
air, coming down with à fluttering motion, like a falling feather, on
the roof of the Hit or Miss.
Here the learned counsel for the defence smiled with infinite
expression at the jury.
My lord, said the counsel for the prosecution, noting the smile,
and the significant grin with which it was reflected on the
countenances of the twelve good men and true, I may state that we are
prepared to bring forward a large mass of scientific
evidenceincluding a well-known man of science, the editor of
Wisdom, a popular journal which takes all knowledge for its
provinceto prove that there is nothing physically impossible in the
facts deposed to by this witness. He is at present suffering, as you
see, from a serious accident caused by the very machine of which he
speaks, and which can be exhibited, with a working model, to the
It certainly requires corroboration, said the judge. At present,
so far as I am aware, it is contrary to scientific experience. You can
prove, perhaps, that, in the opinion of experts, these machines have
only to take one step further to become practical modes of locomotion.
But that is the very step qui coûte. Nothing but direct
evidence that the step has been takenthat a flying machine, on this
occasion, actually flew (they appear to be styled volantes, a
non volando)would really help your case, and establish the
credibility of this witness.
With your lordship's learned remarks, replied the counsel for the
crown, I am not the less ready to agree, because I have an
actual eye-witness, who not only saw the flight deposed to by the
witness, but reported it to several persons, who are in court, on the
night of its occurrence, so that her statement, though disbelieved, was
the common talk of the neighborhood.
Ah! that is another matter, said the judge.
Call Eliza Gullick, said the counsel.
Eliza was called, and in a moment was curtsying, with eagerness, but
After displaying an almost technical appreciation of the nature of
an oath, Eliza was asked:
You remember the night of the 7th of February?
I remember it very well, sir.
Why do you remember it so well, Eliza?
Becos such a mort o' things happened, sir, that night.
Will you tell his lordship what happened?
Certainly, my lord. Mr. Toopny gave us a supper, us himps, my lord,
at the Hilarity; for he said
Never mind what he said, tell us what happened as you were coming
Well, sir, it was about eleven o'clock at night, and I was turning
the lane into the Hit or Miss, when I heard an awful flapping
and hissing and whirring, like wings working by steam, in the waste
ground at the side of the lane. And, as I was listeningoh, it
frightens me now to think of itoh, sir
Well, don't be alarmed, my good child! What occurred?
A great thing like a bird, sir, bigger than a man, flew up over my
head, higher than the houses. And thendid you ever see them Japanese
toys, my lord, them things with two feathers and a bit of India-rubber
as you twist round and round and toss them up and they fly
Well, my girl, I have seen them.
Well, just as if it had been one of them things settling down, the
bird's wings turned round and fluttered and shook, and at last it all
lighted, quite soft like, on the roof of our house, the Hit or Miss. And there I saw it crouching when I went to bed, and looked out o' the
window, but they wouldn't none o' them believe me, my lord.
There was a dead silence in the Court as Eliza finished this
extraordinary confirmation of Winter's evidence, and wove the net
inextricably round the prisoner.
Then the silence was broken by a soft crashing sound, as if
something heavy had dropped a short distance on some hard object.
All present turned their eyes from staring at Eliza to the place
whence the sound had come.
The prisoner's head had fallen forward on the railing in front of
One of the officers of the Court touched him on the shoulder.
He did not stir. They lifted him. He moved not.
The faint heart of the man had fluttered with its last pulsation.
The evidence had sufficed for him without verdict or sentence. As he
had slain his victim, so Fate slew him, painlessly, in a moment!
And what became of them all?
He who does not tell, on the plea that he is competing with Life,
which never knits up a plot, but leaves all the threads loose, acts
Mrs. St. John Deloraine is now Mrs. Maitland, and the happy couple
are visiting the great Colonies, seeking a site for a new settlement of
the unemployed, who should lead happy lives under the peaceful sway of
happy Mrs. Maitland.
Barton and Mrs. Barton have practised the endowment of research, in
the case of Winter, who has quite recovered from his injuries, and
still hopes to fly. But he has never trusted himself again on his
machine, which, moreover, has never flown again. Winter, like the
alchemist who once made a diamond by chance, in Balzac's novel, has
never recovered the creative moment. But he makes very interesting
models, in which Mrs. Barton's little boy begins to take a lively
Eliza Gullick, declining all offers of advancement unconnected with
the British drama, clings to the profession for which, as Mrs. Gullick
maintains, she has a hereditary genius.
We hear, says the Athenæum, that the long promised edition
of 'Demetrius of Scepsis,' by Mr. Bielby, of St. Gatien's, is in the
hands of the delegates of the Clarendon Press.
But Fiction herself is revolted by the improbability of the
statement that an Oxford Don has finished his magnum opus!