An Old Meerschaum
by David Christie Murray
AN OLD MEERSCHAUM
By David Christie Murray
From Coals Of Fire And Other Stories By David Christie Murray In
Three Volumes Vol. II.
Chatto &Windus, Piccadilly 1882
The market-place at Trieste lay in a blaze of colour under the June
sunlight. The scent of fruits and flowers was heavy on the air. A
faint-hearted breeze which scarcely dared to blow came up from the
harbour now and again, and made the heat just bearable. Mr. William
Holmes Barndale, of Barndale in the county of Surrey, and King's Bench
Walk-, Temple, sat in shadow in front of a restaurant with his legs
comfortably thrust forth and his hat tilted over his eyes. He pulled
his tawny beard lazily with one hand, and with the other caressed a
great tumbler of iced beer. He was beautifully happy in his perfect
idleness, and a sense was upon him of the eternal fitness of things in
general. In the absolute serenity of his beatitude he fell asleep, with
one hand still lazily clutching his beard, and the other still
lingering lovingly near the great tumbler. This was surely not
surprising, and on the face of things it would not have seemed that
there was any reason for blushing at him. Yet a young lady,
unmistakably English and undeniably pretty, gave a great start,
beholding him, and blushed celestial rosy red. She was passing along
the shady side of the square with papa and mamma, and the start and the
blush came in with some hurried commonplace in answer to a commonplace.
These things, papa and mamma noted notgood, easy, rosy, wholesome
people, who had no great trouble in keeping their heads clear of
fancies, and were chiefly engaged just then with devices for keeping
Two minutes later, or thereabouts, came that way a young gentleman
of whom the pretty young lady seemed a refined and feminine copy, save
and except that the young lady was dearly and daintily demure, whilst
from this youth impudence and mischief shone forth as light radiates
from a lantern. He, pausing before the sleeping Barndale, blushed not,
but poked him in the ribs with the end of his walking-stick, and
regarded him with an eye of waggish joy, as who should say that to poke
a sleeping man in the ribs was a stroke of comic genius whereof the
world had never beheld the like. He sat on his stick, cocked Mr.
Barndale's hat on one side, and awaited that gentleman's waking. Mr.
Barndale, languidly stretching himself, arose, adjusted his hat, took a
great drink of iced beer, and, being thereby in some degree primed for
'That you, Jimmy?' said Mr. Barndale.
'Billy, my boy?' said the awakener, 'how are you?'
'Thought you were in Oude, or somewhere,' said Mr. Barndale.
'Been back six months,' the other answered.
'Anybody with you here?'
'Yes,' said the awakener, 'the Mum, the Pater, and the Kid.'
Mr. Barndale did not look like the sort of man to be vastly shocked
at these terms of irreverence, yet it is a fact that his brown and
bearded cheeks flushed like any schoolgirl's.
'Stopping at the Hotel de la Ville,' said the awakener, 'and adoing
of the Grand Tower, my pippin. I'm playing cicerone. Come up and have a
smoke and a jaw.'
'All right,' said Mr. Barndale languidly. Nobody, to look at him
now, would have guessed how fast his heart beat, and how every nerve in
his body fluttered. 'I'm at the same place. When did you come?'
'Three hours ago. We're going on to Constantinople. Boat starts at
'Ah!' said Barndale placidly. 'I'm going on to Constantinople
'Now that's what I call jolly,' said the other. 'You're going
to-night of course?'
'Of course. Nothing to stay here for.'
At the door of the hotel stood Barndale's servant, a sober-looking
Scotchman dressed in dark tweed.
'Come with me, Bob,' said Barndale as he passed him. 'See you in the
coffee-room in five minutes, Jimmy.'
In his own room Barndale sat down upon the bedside and addressed his
'I have changed my mind about going home. Go to Lloyd's office and
take places for this evening's boat to Constantinople. Wait a bit. Let
me see what the fare is. There you are. Pack up and get everything down
to the boat and wait there until I come.'
The man disappeared, and Barndale joined his friend. He had scarce
seated himself when a feminine rustling was heard outside. The door
opened, a voice of singular sweetness cried, 'Jimmy, dear!' and a young
lady entered. It was the young lady who blushed and started when she
saw Barndale asleep in front of the restaurant. She blushed again, but
held her hand frankly out to him. He rose and took it with more
tenderness than he knew of. The eyes of the third person twinkled, and
he winked at his own reflection in a mirror.
'This,' Barndale said, 'is not an expected pleasure, and is all the
greater on that account. By a curious coincidence I find we are
travelling together to Constantinople.'
Her hand still lingered in his whilst he said this, and as he ceased
to speak he gave it a little farewell pressure. Her sweet hazel eyes
quite beamed upon him, and she returned the pressure cordially. But she
'Papa will be very pleased,'
'Isn't it singular,' said the guilty Barndale with an air of
commonplace upon him, 'that we should all be making this journey
'Very singular indeed,' said pretty Miss Le-land, with so bright a
sparkle of mirth in those demure hazel eyes that Barndale, without
knowing why, felt himself confounded.
Mr. James Leland winked once more at his reflection in the mirror,
and was discovered in the act by Barndale, who became signally
disconcerted in manner.
Miss Leland relieved his embarrassment by taking away her brother
for a conference respecting the package of certain treasures purchased
a day or two before in Venice. The lone one smoked, and lounged, and
waited. He tried to read, and gave it up. He strayed down to the
harbour, and, finding his servant solemnly mounting guard over his
luggage on board the boat, he himself went aboard and in-spected his
berth, and chatted with the steward, in whom he discovered an old
But the time went drearily; and Barndale, who was naturally a man to
be happy under all sorts of circumstances, suffered all the
restlessness, chagrin, and envy with which love in certain of its
stages has power to disturb the spirit. He had made up a most heroic
mind on this question of Miss Leland some three months ago, and had
quite decided that she did not care for him. He wasn't going to break
his heart for a woman who didn't care for him. Not he.
If she be not fair for me,
What care I how fair she be?
She had made fun of him in her own demure way. He ventured once on a
little touch of sentiment, which she never neglected to repeat, when
opportunity offered, in his presence. She repeated it with so serious
an air, so precisely as if it were an original notion which had just
then occurred to her, that Barndale winced under it every time she used
it. His mind was quite made up on this matter. He would go away and
forget her. He believed she liked him, in a friendly sisterly sort of
way, and that made him feel more hopeless. There were evidences enough
to convince you or me, had we been there to watch them, that this young
lady was caught in the toils of love quite as inextricably as this
young gentleman; but, with the pigheaded obstinacy and stupidity
incident to his condition, he declined to see it, and voluntarily
betook himself to misery, after the manner of young men in love from
time immemorial. A maiden who can be caught without chasing is pretty
generally not worth catching; and cynics have been known to say that
the pleasure of stalking your bride is perhaps the best part of
matrimony. This our young Barndale would not have believed. He
believed, rather, that the tender hopes and chilling fears of love were
among the chief pains of life, and would have laughed grimly if anyone
had prophesied that he would ever look back to them with longing
regret. We, who are wiser, will not commiserate but envy this young
gentleman, remembering the time when those tender hopes and chilling
fears were ourswhen we were happier in our miseries than we have now
the power to be in our joys.
The Lelands came at last, and Barndale had got the particular form
of love's misery which he most coveted. The old gentleman was cordial,
the old lady was effusive, the awakener was what he had always been,
and Lilian was what she had always been to Barndalea bewildering
maddening witchery, namely, which set him fairly beside himself. Let it
not be prejudicial to him in your judgment that you see him for the
first time under these foolish circumstances. Under other conditions
you would find much to admire in him. Even now, if you have any taste
for live statuary, you shall admire this upright six feet two inches of
finely-modelled bone and muscle. If manly good-nature can make a
handsome sun-browned face pleasant to you, then shall Barndale's
countenance find favour in your eyes. Of his manly ways, his good and
honest heart, this story will tell you something, though perchance not
much. If you do not like Barndale before you part with him, believe me,
it is my fault, who tell his story clumsily, and not his. For the lady
of his love there might be more to say, if I were one of those clever
people who read women. As it is, you shall make your own reading of
her, and shall dislike her on your own personal responsibility, or love
her for her transparent merits, and for the sake of no stupid analysis
Do you know the Adriatic? It pleases me to begin a love story over
its translucent sapphire and under its heavenly skies. I shall rejoice
again in its splendours as I hover in fancy over these two
impressionable young hearts, to whom a new glamour lives upon its
Papa and Mamma Leland are placidly asleep on the saloon deck,
beneath the flapping awning. Leland Junior is carrying on a pronounced
flirtation with a little Greek girl, and Lilian and Barndale are each
enjoying their own charming spiritual discomforts. They say little,
but, like the famous parrot, they think the more. Concerning one thing,
however, Mr. Barndale thinks long and deeply, pulling his tawny beard
meanwhile. Lilian, gazing with placid-seeming spirit on the deep, is
apparently startled by the suddenness of his address.
'How you startled me!' she answers, turning her hazel eyes upon him.
She has been waiting these last five minutes for him to speak, and knew
that he was about it. But take notice that these small deceits in the
gentle sex are natural, and by no means immoral.
'I am disturbed in mind,' says Barndale, blushing a httle behind his
bronze, 'about an incident of yesterday.'
'Conscience,' says Lilian, calmly didactic, 'will assert herself
'Conscience,' says Barndale, blushing a httle more perceptibly, 'has
httle to do with this disturbance. Why did you laugh when I said that
it was singular that we should be making this pleasant journey
'Did I laugh?' she asked demurely. Then quite suddenly, and with an
air of denunciation.
Barndale rises obediently.
'No, no,' says the lady. 'Sit down, Mr. Barndale. I was only joking.
There was no reason.' And now the young lady is blushing. 'Did I really
'You smiled,' says the guilty Barndale. 'At what?' inquires she with
'Oh!' cries the young fellow, laughing outright, 'that is too bad.
Why did you laugh when I said it was singular?'
'I am not prepared,' she answers, 'to account for all my smiles of
'Then,' says Barndale, 'I'll go and ask Jimmy.'
'You will do nothing of the kind.'
'Because you are too polite, Mr. Barndale, to pry into a lady's
'There is a secret here, then?'
'You are contradictory, Miss Leland?'
'You are obtuse, Mr. Barndale. If there be a secret it is as open
'As your door was yesterday when you spoke to your servant.'
'Yes,' responds Miss Lilian, severely. I know you gentlemen. You
were going home until you met that idle and dissolute James, by
accident. Then you suddenly change your mind, and go out to
Constantinople.' There for a moment she pauses and follows up her
victory over the now crimson Barndale with a terrible whisper. 'On
the spree! Oh, you need scarcely look surprised. I have learned
your vulgar terms from James.'
'I hope I am not so criminal as you fancy,' says Barndale, finding
the proof of his guilt fall less heavily than he had feared.
'If you were thrice as criminal, this is not the tribunal,' and she
waves her parasol round her feet, 'at which the felon should be tried.'
'But, Miss Leland, if it were not because I met your brother thatI
came out here! If there were another reason!'
'If there were another reason I confess my smile out of time and
apologise for it.' And therewith she shot him through and through with
another smile. It was fatal to both, for he in falling caught her with
him. These things have a habit of occurring all at once, and in
anything rather than the meditated fashion.
'Lilian,' said the young Barndale, inwardly delirious at his own
daring and the supernal beauty of her smile, but on the outside of him
quite calm and assured, and a trifle masterful, 'I came because I
learned that you were com-ing. If you are displeased with me for that,
I will land at Corfu and go home. And bury my misery,' he added in a
tone so hollow and sepulchral that you or I had laughed.
Miss Leland sat quite grave with downcast eyes.
'Are you displeased?'
'I have no right to be displeased,' she murmured.
Of course you and I can see quite clearly that he might have kissed
her there and then, and settled the business, murmuring 'Mine own!' But
he was in love, which we are not, and chose to interpret that pretty
murmur wrongly. So there fell upon the pair an awkward silence. He was
the first to break it.
'I will land at Corfu,' he said, with intense penitence.
'But notnot because of my displeasure,' she answered; a little too
gaily for the gaiety to be quite real.
'Ah, then!' he said, catching at this ark of perfect safety, which
looked like a straw to his love-blinded eyes, 'you are not displeased?'
'No,' she answered lightly, still playing with him, now she felt so
sure of him, and inwardly melting and yearning over him; 'I am not
'But are you pleased?' said he, growing bolder.' Are you pleased
that I came because you camebecause I?'
There he paused, and she took a demure look at him. He burst out all
at once in a whisper
'Because I love you?'
She did not answer him; but when next she looked at him he saw that
the tears had gathered thickly in her lovely eyes.
'You are not pained at that,' he said. 'I have loved you ever since
that day you were at my place in Surrey, when you came down with Jimmy,
and my poor old dad was there.'
'Yes,' she said, looking up again, and smiling through the dimness
of her eyes, 'I know.'
And so it came about that, when Leland Senior awoke, Barndale held a
conference with him, which terminated in a great shaking of hands.
There was another conference between Lilian and her mother, which
ended, as it began, in tears, and kisses, and smiles. Tears, and
kisses, and smiles made a running accompaniment to that second
conference, and tender embraces broke in upon it often. It was settled
between them allpapa, and mamma, and the loversthat they should
finish the journey together, and that the marriage should be solemnised
a year after their arrival at home. It goes without saying that
Barndale looked on this delay with very little approval. But Leland
Senior insisted on it stoutly, and carried his point. And even in spite
of this the young people were tolerably happy. They were together a
good deal, and, in the particular stage at which they had arrived, the
mere fact of being together is a bliss and a wonder. Leigh Huntless
read in these days than he deserves to besings truly
Heaven's in any roof that covers On any one same night two lovers.
They went about in a state of Elysian beatitude, these young people.
Love worked strange metamorphoses, as he does always. They found new
joys in Tennyson, and rejoiced in the wonderful colours of the waves. I
am not laughing at them for these things. I first read Tennyson when I
was in love, and liked him, and understood him a great deal better than
I have been able to do since I came out of Love's dear bondages. To be
in love is a delicious and an altogether admirable thing. I would be in
love again to-morrow if I could. You should be welcome to your foolish
laugh at my raptures. Ah me! I shall never know those raptures any
more; and the follies you will laugh at in me will be less noble, less
tender, less innocently beautiful than those of young love. But to
them, who were so sweet to each other, the moonlight was a revelation
of marvellous sanctity, and the sea was holy by reason of their
passionate hearts that hallowed it.
Incidental mention has been made of the fact that Leland Junior
engaged in a pronounced flirtation with a little Greek girl aboard the
vessel wherein Barndale made love so stupidly and so successfully. It
was out of this incident that the strange story which follows arose. It
would not have been easy to tell that story without relating the
episode just concluded; and when one has to be tragic it is well to
soften the horrors by a little love-making, or some other such
emollient. I regret to say that the little Greek girlwho was
tyrannously pretty by the waywas as thorough-paced a little flirt as
ever yet the psychic philosopher dissected. She had very large eyes,
and very pretty lips, and a very saucy manner with a kind of inviting
shyness in it. Jimmy Leland's time had not yet come, or I know no
reason why he should not have succumbed to this charming young daughter
of Hellas. As it was, he flirted hugely, and cared not for her one
copper halfpenny. She was a little taken with him, and was naturally a
little indiscreet. Otherwise surely she would never have consented to
meet James at the Concordia Garden on the evening of their arrival at
Constantinople. He had been in Constantinople before, and was 'down to
the ropes,' as he preferred to say. He made his appointment with the
young lady and kept it, slipping out from Misserie's, and leaving the
other members of his party trifling with their dessert at that dreary
table d'hôte, and lost in wonder at the execrable pictures which are
painted in distemper upon the walls of that dismal salle à manger. He
strolled down the Grande Rue de Pera, drank a liqueur at Valori's, and
turned into the Concordia in the summer dusk. He sat down at one of the
little wooden tables, and aired his Turkish before the waiter by orders
for vishnap, limoni, and attesh. Then he crossed his legs, lit his
cigar, and waited and watched for the little Greek lady. The little
Greek lady came not; but in her stead, as he watched the entrance
place, appeared the manly form of his chum Barndale, clad in loose
white serge. Barndale caught sight of Leland almost at the moment of
his own entrance, and took a seat beside him.
'Lilian has gone to bed,' said Barndale, 'and I came in here by
accident. Glad I found you.'
He looked about him with no great interest. The stream of people
flowed round and round the little circle, and repeated itself once in
five minutes or thereabouts, until he got to know nearly all the faces
in the crowd. He noted one face especially, where many were notable.
It was the face of a Greek of a very severe and commanding type,
shadowed in some strange way by a look which made the owner of the face
absolutely irritating to Barndale. There are some opposites in
naturehuman naturewhich can only meet to hate each other. These two
crossed glances once, and each was displeased with what he saw in the
other. The Greek saw a handsome, good-natured, bronzed face, the
thoughtful eyes whereof looked at him with an expression of curiosity
and analysis. The Englishman saw a pair of languid eyes, which flashed
instantaneous defiance and anger back to scrutiny. The Greek went by,
and in his after passages looked no more at Barndale, who continued to
watch him with an unaccountable, disliking regard. The crowd had
completed its circle some half score of times, and Barndale missed his
Greek from it. Turning to address Leland, he missed him too. He rose
and mingled with the circling procession, and listened to the music of
the band, and speculated idly on the people who surrounded him, as lazy
and unoccupied men will at times. Suddenly, in the shadow of the
projecting orchestra, he caught sight of a figure which he fancied was
familiar to him. Scarcely had he noticed it when it was joined by
another figure, recognisable at once even in that deep shadowMr.
James Leland. And the other personage was of course the pretty little
Greek girl. 'No affair of mine,' said Barndale, who was slow to meddle,
even in thought, with other people's doings; 'but neither wise nor
right on Jimmy's side,' He walked round the little circle
discontentedly, thinking this matter over with deepening displeasure.
When he came to the orchestra again the handsome Greek was there, with
an expression so devilish on his face that Barndale regarded him with
amazement. Demetri Agryopoulo, salaried hanger-on to the Persian
embassy, was glaring like a roused wild beast at these two shadowy
figures in the shadow of the orchestra. The band was crashing away at
the overture to 'Tannhäuser,' the people were laughing and chattering
as they circled, and not an eye but Barndale's regarded this drama in
the corner. The Greek's hand was in his bosom, where it clutched
something with an ugly gesture. His face was in the sideway glare of
the footlights which illumined the orchestra. Leland, unconscious of
observation, stooped above the girl and chatted with her. He had one
arm about her waist. She was nestling up to him in a trustful sort of
way. Barndale's eyes were on the Greek, and every muscle in his body
was ready for the spring which he knew might have to be made at any
minute. Leland stooped lower, and kissed the face upturned to his. At
that second the band gave its final crash, and dead silence fell. Out
of that dead silence came a shriek of wrath, and hatred, and anguish
from Demetri Agryopoulo's lips, and he leaped into the shadow with a
hand upraised, and in the hand a blade that glittered as he raised it,
One impulse seemed to shoot forth the jealous Greek and his watcher,
and before Demetri Agryopoulo could form the faintest notion as to how
the thing had happened, a sudden thunderbolt seemed launched against
him, and he was lying all abroad with a sprained wrist. The stiletto
flew clean over the wall, so swift and dexterous was the twist which
Barndale gave the murderous hand that held it.
'Get the girl away,' said Barndale rapidly to Leland. The crowd
gathered round, alarmed, curious, eager to observe. Barndale helped the
Greek to his feet. 'Are you hurt?' he asked. Demetri glared at him,
felt his sprained right wrist with his left hand, picked up his hat,
shook off the dust from his disordered clothes, and went his way
without a word. Barndale went his way also. The band crashed out again,
and the crowd once more began its circle. When a torpedo is lowered
into the sea, the wound it makes in the water is soon healed. But the
torpedo goes on and explodes by-and-by, with terrible likelihood of
Barndale came down heavily on Leland, in the latter's bedroom at the
hotel, that night.
'Well,' said Jimmy, in sole answer to his friend's remonstrance and
blame; 'there's one thing about the matter which may be looked on as a
dead certainty. The beggar would have had my blood if it hadn't been
for you, old man. It's only one more good turn out of a million, Billy,
but I shan't forget it.'
With that he arose and shook Barndale's hand.
'What did you do with the girl?' asked Barndale.
'Took her home. The Bloke who had such strong objections to me is
He's engaged to her; but she says she hates him, and is afraid of
him. She'll be more afraid of him now than ever, and with better
reason. I suppose I shall have to stop here a time, and see that she
isn't murdered. Suppose I went to that Greek sweep, BillyI've got his
addressand explained to him politely that it was all a mistake, and
that I'm sorry I went poaching on his manor, and told him that if he
liked to have a pot at me he'd be quite welcome! D'ye think that would
be of any use, old man?'
'Leave ill alone!' said Barndale, pulling solemnly away at his pipe.
'I can't,' answered Leland. 'That cove's likelier to murder her than
not, if he hasn't got me to murder. Look here, Billy, I'll marry the
'Don't be a fool,' said Barndale. 'What do you know about the girl?'
'Lots,' answered the imperturbable James.
'Highly connected. Lots of tin. Character irreproachable. That
elderly Bulgarian party, Kesanlyk Attar of Roses man, knew all about
her. The fat Bloke aboard the boat. You know.'
'He won't hurt her,' said Barndale, thinking of the Greek lover,
'and you're well out of it. Why should you marry the girl? There's
nothing worse than I know, is there?'
'There's nothing at all in it but that confounded meeting at the
'Keep out of the way of the man in future,' Barndale counselled his
friend,' and leave him and his ladylove to make this matter up between
them. That'll all blow over in time.' With that he said good-night, and
rose to go. At the door he turned and asked
'Who is the man?'
Leland produced his pocket-book, searched for a page, found it, and
handed it over to. Barndale. There, in a delicate but tremulous hand,
was written, 'Demetri Agryopoulo, Hotel Misserie, Grande Rue de Pera.'
'He lives in this house,' said Barndale gravely. 'Lock your door
before you go to bed.'
Leland took his advice.
The next morning at table d'hôte they met the Greek. He was
evidently well known at the table, and was popular. His right wrist was
bandaged, and in answer to many friendly inquiries, he said it had been
sprained by a fall. He never looked at either Barndale or Leland, but
chatted with his friends in a free and unembarrassed way which extorted
the admiration of the two Englishmen, who were both somewhat silent and
uncomfortable. But in Lilian's society it was not possible for Barndale
to be gravely thoughtful just now. The business of the day was a trip
to the Sweet Waters of Europe. Jimmy, who had been caught by that
charming title on a former visit, proclaimed the show a swindle, and
the Sweet Waters a dreary and dirty canal; but Lilian and her mother
must needs go and see what everybody else went to see; and so an open
vehicle having with infinitude of trouble been procured, and George
Stamos, best of dragomans and staunchest of campaigning comrades, being
engaged, Barndale and Leland mounted and rode behind the carriage. Papa
Leland, in white serge and a big straw hat with a bigger puggaree on
it, winked benevolent in the dazzling sunlight.' The party crawled
along the Grande Rue, and once off its execrable pavement took the road
at a moderately good pace, saw the sights, enjoyed the drive, and
started for home again, very much disappointed with the Sweet Waters,
and but poorly impressed with the environs of Constantinople on the
whole. On the return journey an accident happened which sent grief to
Five or six years ago, wandering aimlessly in Venice, Barndale had
an adventure. He met a sculptor, a young Italian, by name Antoletti, a
man of astonishing and daring genius. This man was engaged on a work of
exquisite proportions'Madeline and Porphyro' he called it. He had
denied himself the very necessaries of life, as genius will, to buy his
marble and to hire his studio. He had paid a twelvemonth's rent in
advance, not daring to trust hunger with the money. He lived, poor
fellow, by carving meerschaum pipes for the trade, but he lived for
'Madeline and Porphyro' and his art. It took Barndale a long time to
get into this young artist's confidence; but he got there at last, and
made a bid for 'Madeline and Porphyro,' and paid something in advance
for it, and had the work completed. He sold it to a connoisseur at an
amazing profit, handed that profit to young Antoletti, and made a man
of him. 'What can I do for you?' the artist asked him with all his
grateful Italian soul on fire, and the tears sparkling in his beautiful
Italian eyes. Barn-dale hesitated awhile: 'You won't feel hurt,' he
said at length, 'if I seem to ask too small a thing. I'm a great
smoker, and I should like a souvenir now I'm going away. Would you mind
carving me a pipe, now? It would be pleasant to have a trifle like that
turned out by the hands of genius. I should prize it more than a
statue.' 'Ah!' said Antoletti, beaming on him, 'ah, signor! you shall
have it. It shall be the last pipe I will ever carve, and I will
remember you whilst I carve it.' So the pipe was carveda work of
exquisitely intricate and delicate art. On the rear of the bowl, in
view of the smoker, was a female face with a wreath of flowers about
the forehead, and with flowers and grapes hanging down in graceful
intermingling with flowing bands of hair. These flowers ran into ragged
weeds and bedraggled-looking grasses on the other side, and from these
grinned a death's head. In at the open mouth of the skull and out at
the eyes, and wrapped in sinuous windings at the base, coiled a snake.
The pipe was not over large, for all its wealth of ornamentation.
Barndale had hung over it when he smoked it first with the care of an
affectionate nurse over a baby. It had rewarded his cares by colouring
magnificently until it had grown a deep equable ebony everywhere. Not a
trace of burn or scratch defaced its surface, and no touch of its first
beauty was destroyed by use. Apart from its memories, Barndale would
not have sold that pipe except at some astounding figure, which nobody
would ever have been likely to bid for it. The precious souvenir was in
his pocket, snug in its case. In an evil hour he drew it out, tenderly
filled it and lit it. He and Leland were riding at a walk, and there
seemed no danger, when suddenly his horse shied violently, and with the
shock crash went Barndale's teeth through the delicate amber, and the
precious pipe fell to the roadway. Barndale was down in a second, and
picked it up in two pieces. The stem was broken within an inch of the
marvellous bowl. He lamented over it with a chastened grief which here
and there a smoker and an enthusiast will understand. The pathos of the
situation may be caviare to the general, but the true amateur in pipes
will sympathise with him. I have an ugly old meerschaum of my own which
cheered me through a whole campaign, and, poor as I am, I would not
part with it or break it for the price of this story.
Barndale was displaying his mangled darling to Papa Leland in the
salle à manger, when Demetri Agryopoulo came in with a friend and went
out again after a stay of two or three minutes. Barndale did not notice
him, but Jimmy met him point-blank at the door, and made way for him to
pass. The two friends crossed over to Stamboul and went to the bazaar
with their dragoman, and there chaffered with a skilled old Turkish
artificer who asked just ten times what he meant to take for the job,
and finally took it at only twice his bottom price. A silver band was
all it needed to restore it, and it was promised that the work should
be done and the pipe ready to be called for at noon on the morrow. It
chanced that as the friends left the bazaar they ran full against their
Greek enemy, who raised his hat with well-dissembled rage, and stalked
on. The Greek by ill hap passed the stall of the man to whom the
precious pipe had been entrusted. Barn-dale had smoked this remarkable
pipe that morning in the Greek's view in the reading-room, and Demetri
knew it again at a glance. It lay there on the open stall in its open
case. Now Demetri Agryopoulo was not a thief, and would have scorned
theft under common circumstances. But, for revenge, and its sweet sake,
there was no baseness to which he would not stoop. The stall's
phlegmatic proprietor drowsed with the glass mouthpiece of his
narghilly between his lips. The opposite shops were empty. Not a soul
observed. Demetri Agryopoulo put forth his hand and seized the pipe.
The case closed with a little snap, the whole thing went like lightning
into his breast pocket, and he sauntered on. He had heard Barndale's
lament to Leland Senior: 'I wouldn't have done it,' said Barndale, 'for
a hundred poundsfor five hundred. It was the most valued souvenir I
have.' So Agryopoulo Bey marched off happy in his revengeful mind.
There was quite a whirlwind of emotion in the old Turk's stall at noon
on the following day. The precious wonderful pipe, souvenir of dead
Antoletti, greatest of modern sculptors, had disappeared, none could
say whither. The old Turk was had up before the British Consul; but his
character for honesty, his known wealth, the benevolence of his
character, his own good honest old face, all pleaded too strongly for
him. He was ordered to pay the price set on the pipe; but Barndale
refused to take a price for it, and the old artificer and tradesman
thereupon thanked him with flowing and beautiful Oriental courtesy. It
was settled that the pipe had been stolen from the stall by some
passer-by, but, as a matter of course, no suspicion fell upon the
Greek. Why should it?
When the time came for the little party to leave Constantinople, and
to take the boat for Smyrna, Barndale and his friend went first aboard
with packages of Eastern produce bought for Lilian; and Lilian herself
with her father and mother followed half-an-hour later, under the care
of the faithful George, whom I delight to remember. The Greek was
aboard when the two young Englishmen reached the boat. To their
surprise he addressed them.
Lifting his hat formally he said, in admirable English:
'Gentlemen, our quarrel is not over, but it can wait for a little
time. We shall meet again.'
With that he bowed and turned away. Leland ran after him, and,
uncovering, stood bareheaded before him.
'I owe you an apology,' he said. 'I am extremely sorry and very much
ashamed of my part in the quarrel.'
'I care little for your shame,' said Demetri Agryopoulo, with his
voice quite low and calm and his eyes ablaze. 'I do not care about your
shame, but you shall live to be more sorry than you are.'
He went down the ladder by the side of the boat, and was pulled away
in a caique. As he went he laughed to himself, and pulled out
Barndale's piperemembrancer of his mean triumph, since repaired by
his own hands. He filled and lit it, smoking calmly as the sturdy
caiquejee pulled him across the Golden Horn. Suddenly the caique fouled
with another, and there came a volley of Turkish oaths and
objurgations. The Greek looked up, and saw Miss Leland in the other
boat. Her eyes were fixed upon him and the pipe. He passed his hand
lazily over the bowl and took the pipe indolently from his lips, and
addressed himself to the caiquejee. The boats got clear of each other.
Lilian, coming aboard the boat, could not get speech with Barndale
until the steamer was well under way. By then, she had time to think
the matter over, and had come to the conclusion that she would say
nothing about it. For, womanlike, she was half jealous of the pipe, and
she was altogether afraid of two thingsfirst, that Barndale would
leave her to go back to Constantinople; and next, that the Greek and he
would enter on a deadly quarrel. For she had a general belief that all
Orientals were bloodthirsty. But the meerschaum pipe was not yet done
with, and it played its part in a tragedy before its tale was fully
The English party reached London in the middle of July, and made
haste out of itLilian and her elders to peaceful Suffolk, where they
had a house they visited rarely; and her lover and her brother to
Thames Ditton, where these two inseparables took a house-boat, aboard
which they lived in Bohemian and barbaric ease, like rovers of the
deep. Here they fished, and swam, and boated, and grew daily more and
more mahogany coloured beneath the glorious summer sun. They cooked
their own steaks, and ate with ravenous appetites, and enjoyed
themselves like the two wholesome young giants they were, and grew and
waxed in muscle, and appetite, and ruddiness until a city clerk had
gone wild with envy, beholding them. Their demands for beer amazed the
landlord of the historic 'Swan,' and their absorption of steaks left
the village butcher in astonishment.
But in the midst of all this a purpose came upon Barndale quite
suddenly one day as he lay beneath the awning, intent on doing nothing.
He had not always been a wealthy man. There had been a time when he had
had to write for a living, or, at least, to eke a not over-plentiful
living out. At this time his name was known to the editors of most
magazines. He had written a good deal of graceful verse, and one or two
pretty idyllic stories, and there were people who looked very hopefully
on him as a rising light of literature. His sudden accession to wealth
had almost buried the poor taper of his genius when the hands of Love
triumphant took it suddenly at the time of that lazy lounge beneath the
awning, and gave it a chance once more. He was meditating, as lovers
will, upon his own unworthiness and the all-worthy attributes of the
divine Lilian. And it came to him to do somethingsuch as in him
layto be more worthy of her. 'I often used to say,' he said now
within himself, 'that if I had time and money I would try to write a
comedy. Well then, here goes. Not one of the flimsy Byron or Burnand
frivolities, but a comedy with heart in it, and motive in it, and
honest, patient labour.'
So, all on fire with this laudable ambition, he set to work at once.
The plot had been laid long since, in the old impecunious hardworking
days. He revised it now and strengthened it. Day after day the passers
by upon the silent highway came in sight of this bronzed young giant
under his awning, with a pipe in his mouth and a vast bottle by his
side, and beheld him enthusiastically scrawling, or gazing with fixed
eye at nothing in particular on the other side of the river. Once or
twice being caught in the act of declaiming fragments of his dialogue,
by easy-going scullers who pulled silently round the side of the
houseboat, he dashed into the interior of that aquatic residence with
much precipitation. At other times his meditations were broken in upon
by the cheery invitations and restless invasions of a wild tribe of the
youth of Twickenham and its neighbourhood who had a tent in a field
hard by, and whose joy at morning, noon, and night, was beer. These
savages had an accordion and a penny whistle and other instruments of
music wherewith to make the night unbearable and the day a heavy
burden. They were known as 'The Tribe of the Scorchers,' and were a
happy and a genial people, but their presence was inimical to the
rising hopes of the drama. Nevertheless, Barndale worked, and the
comedy grew little by little towards completion. James, outwardly
cynical regarding it, was inwardly delighted. He believed in Barndale
with a full and firm conviction; and he used to read his friend's work
at night, or listen to it when Barndale read, with internal enthusiasm
and an exterior of coolness. Barndale knew him through and through, and
in one scene in the comedy had drawn the better part of him to the
life. Hearing this scene read over, it occurred to the genial youth
himself that he would like to play the part.
'Billy, old man,' said he, 'I think Sir What's-his-name there's
about my style of man. Before you put that immortal work upon the
public stage you'd better try an amateur performance carefully
rehearsed. You play George Rondel. I'll play Sir What's-his-name.
Easily fill up the other characters. Ladies from London. Week's
rehearsals. Bring it out at your own place at Christmas.'
Barndale caught at this idea so eagerly that he sat down that
evening and wrote to a London manager requesting him to secure the
services of three famous actresses, whom he named, for the first week
of the next year. He stipulated also for the presence of a competent
stage manager through the whole week, and promised instructions with
respect to scenery, and so forth, later on. In his enthusiasm he drew
up a list of critics and authors to invite, and he and Leland
straightway began to study their respective parts. It was getting near
the end of August now, and the evenings began to close in rapidly. The
river was quite deserted as a rule by eight o'clock, and then the two
friends used to rehearse one especial scene. There was a quarrel in
this scene which, but for the intervening hand of the deux ex machinâ,
bade fair to be deadly. When, after repeated trials, they warmed to
their work, and got hold of something like the passion of their part, a
listener might have acquitted them of all play-acting, and broken in
himself to prevent bloodshed. For they both started from the assumption
that the tones of the stage must be gradually built up into power from
those used in ordinary speech, and so they avoided the least taint of
staginess, and were on their way to become rather better actors than
the best we have just now.
Leland's temperament was not of a nature to persuade him to
perpetual effort in any direction; and so, whilst Barndale worked, the
other amateur relieved vacuity with billiards. It got into a settled
habit with him at last to leave Barndale nightly at his comedy, and to
return to the house-boat at an hour little short of midnight. He would
find Barndale still at work writing by the light of a lamp grown dim
with incrustations of self-immolated insects. Moths fluttered to this
light in incredible numbers, and literal thousands of lives were thus
sacrificed nightly at the drama's shrine. It was nearly midnight, and
as black as a wolfs mouth, when Leland sculled up from the 'Swan' to
spend his last night but one aboard the house-boat.
'Billy, old man,' he cried, bursting in suddenly; 'look here! Ain't
I in for it now? Read this!'
He handed to his friend a letter which Barndale read in silence.
'This is awkward,' the latter said after a long, grave pause.
Leland sat in constrained solemnity for awhile, but by-and-by a
genial grin spread over his features, and he chuckled in deep
'It's a lark for all that, Billy. We shall have the noble Demetri
here next, I suppose. Let's hire him for the great Christmas show.
Signor Demetri Agryopoulo will appear in his great stiletto trick,
frustrated by Billy Barndale, the Bounding Brother of the Bosphorus.'
'What is to be done?' said Barndale, ignoring his companion's
'Yes,' said Leland, sitting down and growing suddenly grave. 'What's
to be done? Read the letter out, Billy, and let's consider the thing
Barndale read aloud.
'My very dear Friend,At what time you was at
Constantinople, when trouble came, you made promise that you
would not forget me if my poor Demetri should trouble about
you. When you last wrote to me this was made againthe
promise. My life for not one moment is safe. My aunt is dead
and my possessions are now mine, but there is no friend in
all the world. Demetri is mad. Of him I know not when I am
safe. I fly then to London, where all is safe. But there it
is not possible that I should be alone. If there is any
lady in the circle of your knowledge who would be kind with
me, and permit that I should live with her, it will have for
ever my gratitude. I shall go as of old to the Palace Hotel
at Westminster. Two days beyond this letter I shall be
'Always your friend,
After the reading of this epistle, the friends sat in silence,
regarding each other with grave looks. In the silence they could hear
the river lapping against the bank, and the rustling of the boughs on
the roof, and the moaning and sighing of the wind. But they could not
hear the suppressed breathing of Demetri Agryopoulo where he stood
knee-deep in water below the house-boat window, listening to their
talk. Yet there he stood, not knowing that he was not on dry land;
drunk with rage and jealousy; with murder plainly written in his heart
and eyes, and all his blood on fire. He threw his soul into his ears,
'This letter has been a long time on its way, surely,' said
Barndale, referring to the date. 'It can't take three weeks to bring a
letter from Constantinople.'
'Where's the envelope?' asked. Leland. 'Look at that, and see what
the London date is.'
The home stamp made it clear that the letter had reached England ten
'My man brought it down this afternoon, the lazy scamp!' said
Leland. 'He has never been near those blessed chambers since I left
till now. A pile of letters came together, but I took no notice.'
'Listen to me,' said Barndale. 'You have done harm enough in this
matter already, Jimmy, and you must do no more. You must keep clear of
her. I will send her down to my sister for a time. Sophy is a good
girl, and will be glad to have a companion whilst I am away. I will go
up to town to-morrow and see Miss Perzio. You stay here. I shall either
wire to you or come back in the evening.'
The weather had been hot and clear for weeks together, and the
traditions of English summer were preparing to enforce themselves by
the common thunderstorm. The wind moaned in swift and sudden gusts, and
the distant thunder rumbled threateningly. The listener outside
misheard this speech thus:
'You will be glad of a companion whilst I am away. I will go up to
town to-morrow and see Miss Perzio.'
He ground his teeth, and clenched his hands, and held himself in
resolute silence, fighting against the instinct which prompted him to
cry aloud and dash in upon the two, and either slay them both, or sell
his own life, then and there. But reflecting on the certainty of
defeat, unarmed as he was, and dreading to declare himself too soon,
and so put his enemy upon his guard, he fought the instinct down. Yet
so strong was it upon him that he knew that sooner or later it would
master him. He waded to the shore and crept along the field in the
thick darkness, groping his way with both hands. Turning, he could see
the dull gleam of the river, and the house-boat bulking black against
it. He stood watching, whilst within and without the storm swept
swiftly up. Dead silence. Then a creeping whisper in the grass at his
feet and in the trees about him, but no wind. Then the slow dropping of
heavy raindrop, drop, droplike blood. Then a fierce and sudden howl
from the wind, like some hoarse demon's signal, and the storm began.
But what a puny storm was that which raged outside could one have seen
the tempest in this murderous soul! Not all the tones of great material
nature's diapason could find this tortured spirit voice enough. Yet to
find the very heavens in tune with his mood brought the Greek to a
still madder ecstasy of passion.
At such times the mind, fearful for herself, catches at phrases and
fancies, as drowning men catch at straws. So now, with terrible
irrelevance, his mind caught at the simple couplet:
Nenni, nenni, vattienne, non me stà chiù' à seccar
Sta rosa che pretienne non la sto manco à gardar!
There was nothing for the mind to hold to except that it was the
last song the runaway Thecla had sung to him. He did not remember this,
and had only a half consciousness of the words themselves. But in this
mad whirl of the spiritual elements the mind was glad to cling to
anything, and turned the refrain over, and over, and over,
Nenni, nenni, vattienne, non me stà chiù' à seccar
Sta rosa che pretienne non la sto manco à gardar!
Rain, and wind, and thunder, and Lightning, had their time without
and within. Peace came to the summer heavens, and the pale stars took
the brief night with beauty. But to the firmament of his soul no star
of peace returned. There dwelt night and chaos. If his passion were
blind, the blindness was wilful. For he saw clearly the end of what he
meant to do, and chose it. Whatever his love might have been worth, he
had been robbed of it, and for him life ended there. He was but an
automaton of vengeance now.
So having set resolve before him, and having done with it, he went
his way. His plan was long since laid, and was simple enough. Demetri
Agryopoulo was not the man to perplex himself with details until the
time came for them to be useful. When that time came he could rely upon
himself for invention. And so his plan was simply to take James Leland
alone, and then and there to put an end to him. He had taken a room in
a river-side public-house near Kingston, and thither he walked. He made
some grim excuse for the lateness of the hour and his bedraggled
garments to the drowsy ostler who had sat up for him, and calmed the
drowsy ostler's grumbles by a gift of half-a-crown. Then he drank a
glass of neat brandy, and went to bed and slept like an innocent child.
Next morning he was up early, ate a cheerful breakfast, delighted
his host with foreign affabilities, paid his bill, and went away by
train to London. Leaving his luggage in a cloak-room at the station, he
took a stroll about town, dropping into public-houses here and there,
and drinking terrible brandy. At home he drank mastica as
Englishmen drink beer, and brandy was insipid as water to his palate,
and had just now almost as little effect upon his head. Demetri
Agryopoulo had discovered the one secret of the true dissembler, that
he who controls his features controls his mind. A man who can put a
smile on his face while torments rack him, can thereby calm the
torments. The resolute will which arrests the facial expression of
grief or rage, allays the grief or rage. He went about with an aspect
of calm insouciance, and therefore with a feeling of calm and ease
within. Yet he was like one who walks with a madman, knowing that if
his own courage should for one instant seem to waver, the maniac will
be upon him. In his journey to town he had been alone, and between one
station and another he had opened his portmanteau and taken therefrom a
small breech-loading revolver and a stiletto. He laid his hand upon
these now and again, and smiled to himself.
The afternoon grew into evening. He took train to Wimbledon, and
thence struck across country in the direction of the houseboat. He
skirted the village with its straggling lights, and made his way across
the fields to the river side. Nearing the boat cautiously, he ensconced
himself in the bushes on the bank, and watched and listened. There were
two voices audible. Barndale and Leland were engaged in serious and
indeed in angry talk. There was a woman in the question apparently, and
it would seem that the friends were quarrelling concerning her. But the
Greek soon heard enough to convince him that this woman was not Thecla
Perzio. The voices grew louder, and some open breach of the peace
seemed imminent. The friends were rehearsing their own especial scene
in Barndale's comedy.
It becomes necessary to this history at this point to set forth the
fact that one Hodges, resident in the village, had within an hour of
this time received intelligence of the straying of a cow. This man was
a yokel of no interest to us, apart from this one episode in his
career. He had supplied the inmates of the house-boat with new milk and
fresh butter from the time of their first coming. And it was he who had
set afloat a report, not unknown at the historic 'Swan,' to the effect
that for all so sweet as them two young gents did go about wi' one
another, they was a naggin' like blazes every night,' He came by now,
driving his recovered cow before him, and passed within a foot of the
Greek, who lay as still as death in the brushwood. The quarrel, when at
its height, ceased suddenly, and the voices fell so low that neither
Hodges nor the Greek could hear anything more than a murmur. The
amateurs were criticising the dialogue and its rendering over pipes and
'Well,' said Hodges, addressing vacancy, 'if theer ain't murder
afore long, it is a pity.'
Then the bovine Hodges went his way. Events supplied him with an
excitement which lasted him for life; and the younger Hodges who has
succeeded to his father's cows and remembrances, will not willingly let
die the story of his progenitor's association with this tragic tale.
The Greek lay hidden in the bushes, and listened to the soft
retreating steps in the field and the murmur of voices in the boat.
By-and-by the door opened, and the friends appeared.
'I shall not come back by the late train now, Jimmy,' Barndale said,
as he placed a small portmanteau in the dingy. 'You had better come
down with me to the Swan and scull up again.'
'No,' said Leland, unconscious of the impending fate, 'I'll walk
down for the boat tomorrow. If I get down there to-night I shall stay,
and I want to write some letters. Goodbye, old fellow. Send us a line
in the morning.'
'All right,' said Barndale. 'Good-bye.'
The sculls dipped, and he shot into the darkness. For a few minutes
we follow Barndale. He pulled down stream rapidly, for the train by
which he intended to reach town was already nearly due. There was
nobody at the landing place. He fastened the boat, and seizing his
small portmanteau, dashed at full speed into the road, ran all the way
to the station, and threw himself into the train panting, and just in
time. At the bottom of the station steps he had spilt a countryman, to
whom he threw out a hurried apology. The countryman was Mr. Hodges.
The Greek listened until the measured beat of Barndale's sculls had
lost itself in silence. Then he crept forward from the bushes, stepped
lightly to the margin of the stream, laid both hands on a sturdy branch
which drooped above the house-boat, and swung himself light as a
feather to the after deck The door of the rear room, which served the
inmates as a kitchen, was unsecured and open. He passed through, pistol
in hand, and trod the matted floor stealthily, drawn and guided by the
tiny beam of light which issued from the interstice between it and the
doorway. With the motion of the boat the door beat idly and noiselessly
to and fro, so that the beam was cut off at regular intervals, and at
regular intervals again shone forth, keeping time with the Greek's
noiseless footsteps, and his beating heart and his bated breath, and
altogether taking to itself that importance and force which trifles
always have in moments of intense passion or suffering. Even yet he
would not let the madman within him loose. Even yet he would hold him
back until he saw the object of his hate and rage, and then
The door swung to and fro gently, and the Greek approached it with
his hand, when suddenly the unconscious Leland from within banged it to
noisily and fixed the hasp. Then with one resolute action Demetri threw
it back and stepped into the doorway, pistol in hand. Leland rose and
turned. He saw the Greek, and read murder in his face, and dashed
himself upon him. But the murderous hand was quick and true. One shot
rang out, and Leland, with outcast arms, fell backwards. The Greek,
with a hand on the table, looked down upon him. Not a struggle or a
groan stirred the prone figure. Demetri threw the revolver through the
open window, and heard the splash with which it fell into the water. He
drew the stiletto from his bosom, and threw that after it. Then closing
the door lightly, and stepping still on tiptoe as though he feared to
wake that prone figure from its awful sleep, he swung himself on shore
'Our rustic friend,' he said to himself as he stood and looked upon
the boat, bulking black against the dull gleam of the river, like some
uncouth animal standing at the bank and peering landward with fiery
eyes, our rustic friend may not forget his prophecy.'
Therewith he went his way again, and the darkness shrouded him.
What should bring fashion, and wealth, and beauty in one charming
person up to London from the country at the latter end of August? The
town house long since dismantled for the grand tour now finishedthe
charms of the season abandoned for peaceful Suffolkwhy should Lilian
care to return thus at the fag end of London's feast of folly? Has the
bronzed and bearded Barndale anything to do with it? Lady Dives Luxor
gives a ball; and Lady Dives, being Lilian's especial patroness and
guardian angel and divinity, insists on Lilian being present thereat.
This ball is designed as the crowning festivity of a brilliant year;
and to Lilian, blest with youth and beauty and high spirits, and such a
splendid lover, shall it not be a night to remember until the grey
curtain fall on the close of the last season, and nothing is any more
remembered? But a cloud of sadness settles on Lilian's charming face
when she misses the bronzed and bearded. Lady Dives knows all about the
engagement, and is enthusiastic over it; and, when Lilian has a
second's time to snatch an enquiry concerning the absent one, she
answers, 'He has never been near me once. I wrote him a special note,
and told him you were coming. He will be here.' So Lady Dives strives
to chase the cloud. Barndale does not come, having never, in point of
fact, received that special note which Lady Dives had despatched to
him. So the ball is a weariness, and Lilian goes back with mamma to the
hotel with quite drooping spirits. She makes excuses for the absent
Barndale, but fancies all manner of things in her feminine fashion,
preferring to believe in fevers and boat accidents and other horrors
rather than think that a valet has been lazy or a postman inaccurate.
Papa Leland, who is here to take care of his womankind, has ideas of
his own on some matters.
'Hang your swell hotels,' says Papa Leland; 'I always stop at the
Westminster, It's near the House, and quite convenient enough for
It was thus that Lilian found herself under the same roof with
Thecla Perzio, who lived there with a sore and frightened heart,
waiting for that shallow lover who had caught her in love's toils, and
broken up her life for her, and who now left her poor appeal
Poor indiscreet little Thecla had a suite of rooms on the first
floor, and lived alone within them with her Greek maid, and agonised.
She was for ever peering furtively through the door when any manly step
sounded in the corridor, but she never saw the form she waited for. But
it chanced, the morning after the ball, that she opened her door and
looked out upon the corridor at the sound of Papa Leland's footstep.
Papa Leland went by briskly; but Lilian caught sight of her and knew
her in a moment, and stayed to speak. The two girls had been too
closely engaged with their respective love-makings to form any very
close acquaintance with each other; but during a week's imprisonment on
board ship the friendships of women, and especially of young and
gentle-hearted women, advance very rapidly. They had parted with a
great deal of mutual liking, and met again now with mutual pleasure. In
a minute Lilian was seated in the poor little Greek's big and dreary
parlour. She was a proud creature was little Thecla, and would not
chatter with her maid. She had given nobody her confidence; and now,
having once confessed that she was unhappy, she broke out, with her
pretty head on Lilian's lap, and had a grand, refreshing, honest cry.
That over, she set forth her story. She told how Demetri was madly,
foolishly jealous; how he had tried to murder the gentleman of whom he
was jealous; and how at last, finding herself alone in the world, and
being afraid of Demetri, she had sought an asylum in England. She did
not say of whom Demetri was jealous, and Lilian had not the remotest
notion of the truth. It very soon came out, however; and then Lihan was
sore afraid for Thecla Perzio's happiness. She had no great belief in
her brother. She loved him very much; but she was dimly afraid that
James was an impracticable and unmarriable man, a person who could set
all the wiles and all the tenderness of the sex at calm defiancea
born bachelor. And, besides that, being, in spite of her many charms
and virtues, an Englishwoman, she had a natural and ridiculous
objection to the marriage of any person whom she valued to any other
person of foreign blood, excepting in the case of British royalty, in
whose foreign matches she felt unfeigned delightwherefore, Heaven,
perchance, knoweth. But then Lilian was not a woman of a logical turn
of mind; she was inconsistent and amiable, as good girls always are;
and being strongly opposed to marriages of this kind in general,
determined to lay herself out, heart and soul, for the prosperity of
this particular arrangement. So she kissed Thecla vivaciously, and went
to mamma, and persuaded that estimable lady to a visit to Thames Ditton
in search of James. Mamma, having regard to the missing Barndale, and
being in some matronly alarm for him, consented, and the two set out
Barndale in the meantime had gone to his own chambers, and had there
smoked many deliberative and lonely pipes. When he came near to the
enterprise he had so readily undertaken in his friend's behalf, he
began to feel signally nervous and uncomfortable about it. Of course he
did not for one moment think of resigning it; but he was puzzled, and
in his be-puzzlement retired within himself to concoct a plan of
action. Having definitely failed in this attempt, he resolved to go off
at once without preparation, and ask at the hotel for Miss Perzio, and
then a round, unvarnished tale deliver. This resolution formed, he
started at once and hurried, lest it should break by the way. Lilian
and he were within twenty yards of each other, neither of them knowing
it, when his cab rushed up to the door of the hotel.
Lilian knew the house-boat and its ways. One of the Amphibia of
Ditton conveyed the two ladies in a capacious boat to the aquatic
residence of the two friends. Lilian stepped lightly to the fore deck,
and assisted mamma from the boat.
'They are both away,' said Lilian, smiling and blushing. 'And the
careless creatures have left the doors open. We will wait for them and
give them a surprise.'
The two women, full of fluttering complacency, entered the living
room. Lilian went first, and fell upon her knees with a sudden shriek,
beholding the prone figure on the floor; the mother darted to her side,
saw and partly understood, whipped out a vinaigrette, seized a caraffe
of water, and applied those innocent restoratives at once. Neither
mother nor daughter had time to think of anything worse than a fainting
fit, until Lilian, who had taken her brother's head upon her lap, found
blood upon her hands. Then she turned white to the very lips, and tore
open the blue serge coat and waistcoat. The white flannel shirt beneath
was caked with blood. The two women moaned, but not a finger faltered.
They opened the shirt tenderly, and there, on the right breast, saw a
dull blue stain with a crimson thread in the middle of it. A gunshot
wound looks to unaccustomed eyes altogether too innocent a thing to
account for death or even for serious danger. But the cold pallor of
the face and body, the limp and helpless limbs betokened something
'Take his poor head, mamma,' cried Lilian; and she darted from the
cabin to the deck, The boatman was lounging quietly in the boat some
thirty yards down stream. She called to him aloud
'Go for a doctor. My brother is dying here. Be quick, be quick, be
quick!' she almost screamed as the man stared at her. Understanding at
last, the fellow snatched up his sculls and dashed through the water.
Lilian flew back to her brother; and while the two women, not knowing
what to do further, sat supporting the helpless head together; a man
'You called for a doctor, madam,' he said quietly, 'I am a surgeon.
Permit me to assist you.'
The women made way for him. He was a youngish man, with a sunburnt
complexion and grey hair, a gentleman beyond denial, and beyond doubt
self-possessed and accustomed to obedience. They trusted him at once.
He raised the recumbent figure to a couch, and then looked at the
wound. He turned over the lappel of the coat and glanced at it. He had
a habit of speaking to himself.
'Pistol shot,' he muttered. 'Close quarters. Coat quite burned.
Decimal three-fifty or thereabouts I fancy from the look of it. Ah,
here it is! Have you a penknife or a pair of scissors, madam? That
small knife will do. Thank you.'
A dexterous touch, and from the little gaping lips carved by the
penknife's point in the muscle of the back rolled out a flattened piece
of lead with jagged edges like a battered shilling, but a trifle
'Yes,' said the surgeon, laying it on the table; 'decimal
three-fifty. What's this? Wound on the head. Your handkerchief, please.
Cold water. Thank you.'
His busy and practised hands were at work all the while.
'Now, ladies, wait here for a few moments. I must bring help.'
'Stop one minute!' cried the mother. 'Is he in danger?'
'Will he die?'
'Not if I can help it,' And with that the stranger leaped on shore,
and ran like a racehorse across the fields and into the nearest house,
where he turned out the residents in a body, and made them unship a
five-barred gate. There were plenty of cushions in the boat, and he
wasted no time in getting others. The helpers beaten up by the doctor
worked with a will; and one ran off in advance and seized upon a punt
belonging to the Campers Out, and set it at the end of the house-boat,
towards the shore. Over this they bore Leland, and laid him on the
cushions which the doctor had arranged upon the gate. Then they carried
him into the 'Swan' and got him to bed there.
Lilian and her mother, trembling and struggling with their tears,
followed the bearers. The crowd which always accompanies disaster, even
in a village, made its comments as the melancholy little cortege went
along, and Lilian could not fail to overhear. Hodges was there.
'I know'd what it ud come to,' proclaimed Hodges loudly. 'They was a
naggin' every night, like mad, they was. I told you all what it ud come
'So a did,' said others in the crowd. Then some one asked 'Where's
t'other chap?' and in the murmur Lilian heard her lover's name again
and again repeated.
She knew well enoughshe could not fail to knowthe meaning of the
murmurs; but she started as though she had been struck when Hodges said
aloud, so that all might hear
'They was a naggin' again last night, an' then theer was a shot; and
then ten minutes arterwards that Barndale bolts and knocks me over at
the bottom o' the station steps. What's all that pint to?'
'Oh,' said another, 'there can't be no mortal shadder of a doubt who
For a moment these cruel words turned her faint; but the swift
reaction of certainty and resolve which followed them nerved her and
braced her for all the troublous times to come. She waited calmly until
all had been done that could be done. Then when the doctor had left his
patient, she took him apart.
'My brother has been wounded by a pistol shot?' she asked him very
bravely and steadily. The doctor nodded. 'I must find out who did it,'
she went on, looking him full in the face with her hazel eyes.
'The people here seem to suspect a Mr. '
She snatched the word out of the doctor's mouth.
'My brother's dearest friend, sir. Why, sir, they would have died
for each other.'
'As you would for one of them?' said the doctor to himself.
'You have experience in these matters, sir. Will you help me to
examine the boat? There may perhaps be something there to help us to
track the criminal.'
The doctor had but the poorest opinion of this scheme. 'But, yes,'
he said, he would go, and then fell to thinking aloud. 'Poor thing.
Wonderfully plucky. Bears it well. Brother half killed. Lover
suspected. Go! Of course I'll go. Why the devil shouldn't I?' And he
marched along unconscious of his utterances or of the heightened colour
and the look of momentary surprise in Lilian's face. 'Pretty girl,
too,' said the doctor, in audible thought. 'Devilish pretty! Good girl,
I should fancy. Like the looks of her. Hard lines, poor thinghard
They reached the bank and walked across the punt into the
house-boat. As she entered the door Lilian gave a cry, and dashed at
the table; then turned and held up before the doctor's eyes a
meerschaum pipethe identical Antoletti meerschaum stolen in the
Stamboul Bazaar by Demetri Agryopoulo.
'This is it!' she gasped. 'The clue! Oh, it is certain! It is true!
Who else could have wished him ill?'
Then she told the doctor the story of the pipe. She told her tale in
verbal lightning. Every sentence flashed forth a fact; and in sixty
seconds or thereabouts the doctor was a man convinced.
But meantime where was Barndale? Poor Leland could tell them
nothing. For many a day he would bear no questioning. Could her lover,
Lilian asked herself, have started for the ball last night, and come to
any damage by the way?
'Here is a letter,' said the doctor, quietly taking up something
from the table. 'A lady's handwriting. Postmark, Constantinople.'
He drew the letter from its envelope and read it as coolly as if he
had a right to read it.
'The story is clear enough,' he said. 'The lady is in London. Your
brother knew of her presence there. The Greek you speak of has followed
her. The pipe proves his presence here. But how did he find out with
whom the lady was in correspondence?'
'That I cannot guess,' said Lilian.
It had been late in the afternoon when Lilian and her mother reached
the house-boat first. Twilight had fallen when the doctor and the girl
started to walk back together. Lilian, turning to look at the
house-boat as they went, seized the doctor by the shoulder. He turned
and looked at her. She pointed to a figure in the fields.
'The Greek!' she whispered.
She was right. Demetri Àgryopoulo had come back again with twilight
to the scene of his crime, drawn by an impulse, passionate,
The doctor ran straight for him, leaping the hedge like a deer.
Lilian, mad with the excitement of the moment, followed she knew not
how. Demetri Agryopoulo turned and awaited the arrival of these two
onward-rushing figures calmly. The doctor laid a hand upon him.
'I arrest you on a charge of murder,' he said, gasping for breath.
'Bah!' said Demetri Agryopoulo quietly, and threw the doctor's hand
The doctor seized him again, but he was spent and breathless. The
Greek threw him off as if he had been a child.
'Are you mad?' he asked. 'What murder? Where? When?'
'My brother's murder, here, last night,' panted Lilian, and flung
herself, a mouse against a mountain, on the Greek, and grappled with
him, and actually bore him to the ground. But before the doctor could
lend a hand to aid her, Demetri was on his feet again, and with one
bound sprang into a little skiff which lay with its nose upon the bank.
He swung one of the sculls about his head, and shouted, 'Stand back!'
But the doctor watched his time, and dashed in upon him, and before he
knew it was struggling in the water, whilst Demetri in the skiff was a
score of yards away tugging madly for the farther shore. The doctor
scrambled to the bank and ran up and down the riverside looking for
another boat. But he found none, and the Greek was already growing dim
in the twilight mist. And again Demetri Agryopoulo went his own way,
and the darkness shrouded him.
Thecla Perzio received Barndale with much shyness and embarrassment;
and he, seeing that she was a good deal afraid of him, plucked up
courage and treated her rather wilfully. He insisted on her going down
to his sister at his own house in Surrey and staying there under the
old maid's chaperonage, at least until such time as she should be able
to find another suitable companion. The more Thecla found herself
overpowered by this masterful son of Anak, the more she felt resigned,
and comfortable, and peaceful, and safe. Barndale, like the coward he
was, felt his power and took advantage of it. He would have no 'nay' on
any grounds, but exacted immediate obedience.
To make things smoother he set out that afternoon for Surrey, saw
his sister, talked her into a great state of sympathy for little
Thecla, and brought her back to town by the next morning's train. Then,
having introduced the ladies to each other, he left them and went to
his own chambers in King's Bench Walk. Arrived there he stooped at the
keyhole, finding some trifle or other there opposing his latch-key. The
key-hole was half-filled with putty. Barndale never lost his temper.
'Some genius takes this for a joke, I suppose,' he murmured
philosophically, and proceeded by the aid of a pocket corkscrew to
clear the keyhole. He had just succeeded when a hand was laid
familiarly upon his shoulder. He turned and saw a stranger
clean-shaven, calm, and in aspect business-like.
'Mr. Barndale, I think?' said the familiar stranger.
'Yes,' said Barndale, looking down at him in a somewhat stately way,
in resentment of the familiar hand upon his shoulder.
'We'll do our little bit of business inside, sir, if you
Barndale looked at him again inquiringly, opened the door, walked
in, and allowed the stranger to follow. The man entered the room and
stood before Barndale on the hearthrug. He had one hand in the breast
of his coat; and somehow, as Barndale looked at him, he bethought him
of the Greek who had stood with his hand at his breast in the Concordia
Garden glaring at Leland.
'I hope you'll take it quietly,' said the clean-shaven man, 'but
it's got to be done, and will be done whether you take it quietly or
not. I'm an officer, and it's my duty to arrest you.'
There passed rapidly through Barndale's mind the remembrance of a
disputed wine-bill, and the service of some legal document which he had
thrown into the fire without reading.
He connected the clean-shaven stranger with these things, and was
tickled at the idea of being arrested for some such trifle as a hundred
pounds. He was so far tickled that he laughed outright.
'Come,' said Barndale, still smiling, 'this is absurd. I'll give you
a cheque at once. Are you empowered to give a receipt?'
The clean-shaven stranger regarded him with a cool, observant, wary
'It's my duty to arrest you,' he said again quietly, 'and I hope
you'll come quietly and make no fuss about it.'
'My good man,' said Barndale, 'you can't arrest me if I pay the
'Come, come, come, sir,' said the official, with calm superiority in
his tone; 'that's all very well and very pretty, but it's Mr. Leland's
affair that I want you for, sir.'
'Mr. Leland's affair?' said Barndale.
'That little attempted murder the night before last, that's all.
Now, take it quiet; don't let's have any nonsense, you know.'
The clean-shaven stranger's lips pressed close together with a
resolute look, and his hand came a little way out of the breast of his
'Will you have the goodness to tell me what you mean?' asked
Barndale, bewildered, and a little angry to find himself so.
'Well, if you won't know anything about it, Mr. James Leland
was found yesterday in a house-boat at Thames Ditton, with a pistol
bullet into him, and he ain't expected to recover, and that's my
business along with you, and I'll trouble you to come quiet.'
The tension on the official nerves made hash of the official's
English. Barndale smote the mantel-piece with his clenched hand.
'Great God!' he cried. 'The Greek! Where is Mr. Leland?' he asked
the official eagerly.
'In bed at the Swan, abeing doctored. That's where he is,'
replied the official curtly. 'Now, come along, and don't let's have no
Barndale discerned the nature of the situation, and remained master
'I will come with you,' he said with grave self-possession. 'I am
somehow suspected of having a hand in the attempted murder of my
friend. Now, you shall arrest me since you must, but you shall not tie
the hands of justice by preventing me from tracing the criminal. The
man who has committed this crime is Demetri Agryopoulo, a Greek,
attached to the Persian Embassy at Constantinople. You look like a
shrewd and wary man,' Barndale took out his cheque-book and wrote a
cheque for one hundred pounds. 'When you have done with me, cash that
cheque and spend every penny of it, if need be, in pursuit of that man.
When it is gone come to me for more. When you have caught him, come to
me for five hundred pounds. Wait a moment.'
He sat down and wrote in a great, broad hand: 'I promise to pay to
Bearer the sum of Five Hundred Pounds (500L.) on the arrest of Demetri
Agryopoulo, attaché to the Persian Embassy at Constantinople__W. Holmes
Barn-dale.' He appended date and place, and handed it to the officer.
'Very good, sir,' said he, waving the papers to and fro in the air
to dry the ink, and keeping all the while a wary eye on Barndale. 'I
know that my opinion goes for nothing, but if I was a grand jury I
should throw out the bill, most likely. We'll make it as quiet as we
can, sir; but there's two of my men outside, and if there should be
any need for force it'll have to be used, that's all.'
'I shall go with you quietly,' said Barndale. 'I have two things to
impress upon you. Let no apparent evidence in any other direction throw
you off the scent on which I have set you. Next: send a smart man to
Thames Ditton and let him collect evidence of all the grounds on which
I am suspected. Now I am ready.'
Thus torn with grief for his friend, and sorrow for his lover, but
moved to no upbraiding of Fate for the cruel trick she had played him,
this British gentleman surrendered himself to the emissary of Public
Gossip and went away with him.
The officer, having ideas of his own, got into a cab with Barndale
and drove straight to Scotland Yard. On the way Barndale set out the
evidence in favour of his own theory of the crime and its motive.
Inspector Webb's experience of criminals was large; but he had never
known a criminal conduct himself after Barn-dale's fashion, and was
convinced of his innocence, and hotly eager to be in pursuit of the
Greek. When the cab drew up in the Yard a second cab drew up behind it,
and from it emerged two clean-shaven, quiet-looking men in
inconspicuous dresses, whom Barndale had seen in King's Bench Walk as
he had gone that afternoon to his chambers. Scarcely had they alighted
when a third cab came up, and from it dashed a mahogany-coloured young
man with grey hair, and assisted a lady to alight. Catching sight of
Barndale, the lady ran forward and took him by the arm.
'Oh, Will,' she said, 'you have heard this dreadful news?'
'My poor child!' he answered.
'This,' said Lilian, pointing out her companion, 'is Dr. Wattiss,
who saved James's life.'
'Hundred and Ninety-first Foot,' said the medical man. 'I've had
considerable experience in gunshot wounds, and I don't think Mr.
Leland's case at all desperate, if that's any comfort to anybody,'
There the doctor smiled. 'You are Mr. Barndale, I presume. Miss Leland
has evidence of the name and even the whereabouts of the scoundrel who
inflicted the wound, and we are here to hunt him up.'
'May I ask who's the suspected party?' asked Inspector Webb with his
eye on the doctor.
'Demetri Agryopoulo,' said Lilian, 'a Greek'
'Attached to the Persian Embassy at Constantinople.' said Inspector
Webb. 'All right. Come with me, ma'am. This way, gentlemen.' And the
inspector marshalled them all upstairs. There he gave a whispered order
to an officer who lounged to the door, and placed his back against it,
and there picked his teeth, insouciant. The inspector disappeared. In
two minutes he was back again.
'This way, ma'am. This way, gentlemen,' And he ushered all three
before him up a set of stone stairs, down a set of stone stairs, and
into a carpeted apartment, where sat a gentleman of military aspect,
behind a business-looking table overspread with papers.
'You have a statement to make to me, I believe,' he said to Lilian
with grave politeness.
Lilian told her story without faltering and without superfluous
words. When she mentioned the pipe Dr. Wattiss drew a packet from his
pocket and unwound it carefully, and laid the precious meerschaum on
'What is this statement of a nightly quarrel between the two
residents in the house-boat, Webb?' Thus spoke the superior officer
behind the business table.
'Man named Hodges, sir,' responded the inspector, 'states that he
overheard violent rows after dusk.'
In spite of all his grief and anxiety Barn-dale laughed, and was
about to speak in explanation when Lilian rose and laid a letter on the
'Will you kindly read that, sir, and then ask Mr. Barndale to
explain?' she said simply.
The military-looking official took the letter and read it through.
It ran thus:
'On the Roaring Deep,
'Billy has struck ile. He's at work on an amazing comedy
with which he intends to fire the Thames next first of
April. He and I are both going to appear in it at Barndale
in the Christmas week. Meantime we rehearse a terrific
'While words of learned length and thundering sound Amaze the
wondering rustics gathered round.
'A genial idiot, Hodges yclept, has persuaded the whole
village that a murder is on the carpet, and that Billy and I
are at daggers drawn. Don't tell him this in any of your
letters. It's a great tribute to our acting that even Hodges
takes us to be in earnest. I can't call to mind any stage
row I ever listened to that I shouldn't have spotted the
hollowness of in a brace of shakes. At this minute Author
summons Actor to Rehearsal. I close up. This Scrawl to tell
you I haven't forgotten you. Would have written more, but
authority's voice is urgent.
'Your affectionate brother,
'I think you had something to say, sir,' said the military official
turning to Barndale, and handing the letter back to Lilian.
'The supposed quarrel between poor Leland and myself is easily
explained. We were rehearsing for amateur theatricals, almost nightly,
in a somewhat animated scene, and I can only suppose that we were
overheard, and that our play was taken for earnest.'
'Have you any clue to the whereabouts of this Greek?' the officer
asked Lilian. The doctor broke in
'Miss Leland was describing the Greek to me this morning with a view
to his identification, when a man walked into the room, said he had
overheard the lady through the open window, and had seen the man she
described two hours before. He was the boots of an hotel at Kingston.
We came here at once, after sending an officer to look after him.'
'That will do, Mr. Webb,' said the superior official. 'There can be
no necessity for detaining this gentleman.'
Lilian and the doctor read this last sentence in its most
superficial light, but Barndale rose and turned with a feeling of vast
'Our bargain holds good still,' he said to the inspector, as they
went downstairs together.
'Yes, sir,' said the inspector, and bade the trio adieu with great
They three took train for Thames Ditton at once, and by the way
Barndale told the story of his arrest.
Arrived at the historic 'Swan,' they settled down to their separate
avocationsLilian and the doctor to nurse Leland, and Barndale to do
all that in him lay to track the Greek. My story nears its close; and I
may say at once, without word-spinning, that Demetri Agryopoulo
disappeared, and was no more heard of. He was too wily to speak the
English described in the advertisement of his peculiarities. He spoke
German like an Alsatian, French like a Gascon, and Italian like a
Piedmontese, and could pass for any one of the three. By what devices
he held himself in secrecy it matters not here to say. But again, and
for the last time in this story, he went his way, and the darkness
On the day following Barndale's arrest and release, Lilian sat by
her brother's bedside, when the door of the bedroom opened noiselessly,
and two women stole in on stealthy tiptoe.
One was Barndale's maiden sister, and the other was poor little
Lilian kissed them both; and Thecla said, in a tearful, frightened
'It is all my wicked, wicked fault. But O mademoiselle, may I not
help to nurse him?'
'Not mademoiselle, dearLilian!' was Lilian's sole answer.
So the three women stayed, together with mamma Leland, and nursed
the invalid in couples. And it came to pass that the indiscreet little
Thecla won everybody's heart about the place, and that everybody came
to be assured that no lack of maidenly honour had made her indiscreet,
but only a very natural, unsuspecting, childlike confidence. It came to
pass also that when Leland Junior began to get better he saw good and
sufficient reasons for setting a term to his bachelor existence.
And with no great difficulty Thecla Perzio was brought to his
By Christmas time Leland was well and strong again. The chase after
the Greek was dismissed from the official mind by this time: and
Barndale, being reminded of Inspector Webb by the receipt of the
promissory note for five hundred pounds, wrote to that official to
offer him a week or two in the country. The inspector came, and brought
the marvellous pipe with him. It had been detained until then to be put
in evidence in case of the Greek's arrest and trial.
The inspector heard the comedy, and told Barndale, later on, that he
regarded the quarrel scene as a masterpiece of histrionic art.
'I don't wonder that bumpkin took it all for earnest,' he said. 'I
should ha' done that myself. No, thankee, sir. I don't care about
mixing with the lords and swells upstairs. I'll have a look in on the
butler. Smoking the old pipe again, I see, sir. Not many old
meerschaums knocking about with a tale like that attached to 'em.'
It pleases me to add that Doctor Wattiss officiated at Leland's
wedding, and married the maiden sister.