Beyond the City
Arthur Conan Doyle
Part 3 out of 3
coarse fringe of the woman whom he had befriended, "I've got him!" she
shrieked. "I'll 'old 'im. Now, Bill, knock the tripe out of him!" Her
grip was as strong as a man's, and her wrist pressed like an iron bar
upon the Admiral's throat. He made a desperate effort to disengage
himself, but the most that he could do was to swing her round, so as to
place her between his adversary and himself. As it proved, it was the
very best thing that he could have done. The rough, half-blinded and
maddened by the blows which he had received, struck out with all his
ungainly strength, just as his partner's head swung round in front of
him. There was a noise like that of a stone hitting a wall, a deep
groan, her grasp relaxed, and she dropped a dead weight upon the
pavement, while the Admiral sprang back and raised his stick once more,
ready either for attack or defense. Neither were needed, however, for
at that moment there was a scattering of the crowd, and two police
constables, burly and helmeted, pushed their way through the rabble. At
the sight of them the rough took to his heels, and was instantly
screened from view by a veil of his friends and neighbors.
"I have been assaulted," panted the Admiral. "This woman was attacked
and I had to defend her."
"This is Bermondsey Sal," said one police officer, bending over the
bedraggled heap of tattered shawl and dirty skirt. "She's got it hot
"He was a shortish man, thick, with a beard."
"Ah, that's Black Davie. He's been up four times for beating her. He's
about done the job now. If I were you I would let that sort settle
their own little affairs, sir."
"Do you think that a man who holds the Queen's commission will stand by
and see a woman struck?" cried the Admiral indignantly.
"Well, just as you like, sir. But you've lost your watch, I see."
"My watch!" He clapped his hand to his waistcoat. The chain was hanging
down in front, and the watch gone.
He passed his hand over his forehead. "I would not have lost that watch
for anything," said he. "No money could replace it. It was given me by
the ship's company after our African cruise. It has an inscription."
The policeman shrugged his shoulders. "It comes from meddling," said
"What'll you give me if I tell yer where it is?" said a sharp-faced boy
among the crowd. "Will you gimme a quid?"
"Well, where's the quid?"
The Admiral took a sovereign from his pocket. "Here it is."
"Then 'ere's the ticker!" The boy pointed to the clenched hand of the
senseless woman. A glimmer of gold shone out from between the fingers,
and on opening them up, there was the Admiral's chronometer. This
interesting victim had throttled her protector with one hand, while she
had robbed him with the other.
The Admiral left his address with the policeman, satisfied that the
woman was only stunned, not dead, and then set off upon his way once
more, the poorer perhaps in his faith in human nature, but in very good
spirits none the less. He walked with dilated nostrils and clenched
hands, all glowing and tingling with the excitement of the combat, and
warmed with the thought that he could still, when there was need, take
his own part in a street brawl in spite of his three-score and odd
His way now led towards the river-side regions, and a cleansing whiff of
tar was to be detected in the stagnant autumn air. Men with the blue
jersey and peaked cap of the boatman, or the white ducks of the dockers,
began to replace the cardurys and fustian of the laborers. Shops with
nautical instruments in the windows, rope and paint sellers, and slop
shops with long rows of oilskins dangling from hooks, all proclaimed the
neighborhood of the docks. The Admiral quickened his pace and
straightened his figure as his surroundings became more nautical, until
at last, peeping between two high, dingy wharfs, he caught a glimpse of
the mud-colored waters of the Thames, and of the bristle of masts and
funnels which rose from its broad bosom. To the right lay a quiet
street, with many brass plates upon either side, and wire blinds in all
of the windows. The Admiral walked slowly down it until "The Saint
Lawrence Shipping Company" caught his eye. He crossed the road, pushed
open the door, and found himself in a low-ceilinged office, with a long
counter at one end and a great number of wooden sections of ships stuck
upon boards and plastered all over the walls.
"Is Mr. Henry in?" asked the Admiral.
"No, sir," answered an elderly man from a high seat in the corner. "He
has not come into town to-day. I can manage any business you may wish
"You don't happen to have a first or second officer's place vacant, do
The manager looked with a dubious eye at his singular applicant.
"Do you hold certificates?" he asked.
"I hold every nautical certificate there is."
"Then you won't do for us."
"Your age, sir."
"I give you my word that I can see as well as ever, and am as good a man
in every way."
"I don't doubt it."
"Why should my age be a bar, then?"
"Well, I must put it plainly. If a man of your age, holding
certificates, has not got past a second officer's berth, there must be a
black mark against him somewhere. I don't know what it is, drink or
temper, or want of judgment, but something there must be."
"I assure you there is nothing, but I find myself stranded, and so have
to turn to the old business again."
"Oh, that's it," said the manager, with suspicion in his eye. "How long
were you in your last billet?"
"Yes, sir, one-and-fifty years."
"In the same employ?"
"Why, you must have begun as a child."
"I was twelve when I joined."
"It must be a strangely managed business," said the manager, "which
allows men to leave it who have served for fifty years, and who are
still as good as ever. Who did you serve?"
"The Queen. Heaven bless her!"
"Oh, you were in the Royal Navy. What rating did you hold?"
"I am Admiral of the Fleet."
The manager started, and sprang down from his high stool.
"My name is Admiral Hay Denver. There is my card. And here are the
records of my service. I don't, you understand, want to push another
man from his billet; but if you should chance to have a berth open, I
should be very glad of it. I know the navigation from the Cod Banks
right up to Montreal a great deal better than I know the streets of
The astonished manager glanced over the blue papers which his visitor
had handed him. "Won't you take a chair, Admiral?" said he.
"Thank you! But I should be obliged if you would drop my title now. I
told you because you asked me, but I've left the quarter-deck, and I am
plain Mr. Hay Denver now."
"May I ask," said the manager, "are you the same Denver who commanded at
one time on the North American station?"
"Then it was you who got one of our boats, the Comus, off the rocks in
the Bay of Fundy? The directors voted you three hundred guineas as
salvage, and you refused them."
"It was an offer which should not have been made," said the Admiral
"Well, it reflects credit upon you that you should think so. If Mr.
Henry were here I am sure that he would arrange this matter for you at
once. As it is, I shall lay it before the directors to-day, and I am
sure that they will be proud to have you in our employment, and, I hope,
in some more suitable position than that which you suggest."
"I am very much obliged to you, sir," said the Admiral, and started off
again, well pleased, upon his homeward journey.
STILL AMONG SHOALS.
Next day brought the Admiral a cheque for L5,000 from Mr. McAdam, and a
stamped agreement by which he made over his pension papers to the
speculative investor. It was not until he had signed and sent it off
that the full significance of all that he had done broke upon him. He
had sacrificed everything. His pension was gone. He had nothing save
only what he could earn. But the stout old heart never quailed. He
waited eagerly for a letter from the Saint Lawrence Shipping Company,
and in the meanwhile he gave his landlord a quarter's notice. Hundred
pound a year houses would in future be a luxury which he could not
aspire to. A small lodging in some inexpensive part of London must be
the substitute for his breezy Norwood villa. So be it, then! Better
that a thousand fold than that his name should be associated with
failure and disgrace.
On that morning Harold Denver was to meet the creditors of the firm, and
to explain the situation to them. It was a hateful task, a degrading
task, but he set himself to do it with quiet resolution. At home they
waited in intense anxiety to learn the result of the meeting. It was
late before he returned, haggard pale, like a man who has done and
"What's this board in front of the house?" he asked.
"We are going to try a little change of scene," said the Admiral. "This
place is neither town nor country. But never mind that, boy. Tell us
what happened in the City."
"God help me! My wretched business driving you out of house and home!"
cried Harold, broken down by this fresh evidence of the effects of his
misfortunes. "It is easier for me to meet my creditors than to see you
two suffering so patiently for my sake."
"Tut, tut!" cried the Admiral. "There's no suffering in the matter.
Mother would rather be near the theaters. That's at the bottom of it,
isn't it, mother? You come and sit down here between us and tell us all
Harold sat down with a loving hand in each of his.
"It's not so bad as we thought," said he, "and yet it is bad enough. I
have about ten days to find the money, but I don't know which way to
turn for it. Pearson, however, lied, as usual, when he spoke of
L13,000. The amount is not quite L7,000."
The Admiral claped his hands. "I knew we should weather it after all!
Hurrah my boy! Hip, hip, hip, hurrah!"
Harold gazed at him in surprise, while the old seaman waved his arm
above his head and bellowed out three stentorian cheers. "Where am I to
get seven thousand pounds from, dad?" he asked.
"Never mind. You spin your yarn."
"Well, they were very good and very kind, but of course they must have
either their money or their money's worth. They passed a vote of
sympathy with me, and agreed to wait ten days before they took any
proceedings. Three of them, whose claim came to L3,500, told me that if
I would give them my personal I.O.U., and pay interest at the rate of
five per cent, their amounts might stand over as long as I wished. That
would be a charge of L175 upon my income, but with economy I could meet
it, and it diminishes the debt by one-half."
Again the Admiral burst out cheering.
"There remains, therefore, about L3,200 which has to be found within ten
days. No man shall lose by me. I gave them my word in the room that if
I worked my soul out of my body every one of them should be paid. I
shall not spend a penny upon myself until it is done. But some of them
can't wait. They are poor men themselves, and must have their money.
They have issued a warrant for Pearson's arrest. But they think that he
has got away the States."
"These men shall have their money," said the Admiral.
"Yes, my boy, you don't know the resources of the family. One never
does know until one tries. What have you yourself now?"
"I have about a thousand pounds invested."
"All right. And I have about as much more. There's a good start. Now,
mother, it is your turn. What is that little bit of paper of yours?"
Mrs. Denver unfolded it, and placed it upon Harold's knee.
"Five thousand pounds!" he gasped.
"Ah, but mother is not the only rich one. Look at this!" And the
Admiral unfolded his cheque, and placed it upon the other knee.
Harold gazed from one to the other in bewilderment. "Ten thousand
pounds!" he cried. "Good heavens! where did these come from?"
"You will not worry any longer, dear," murmured his mother, slipping her
arm round him.
But his quick eye had caught the signature upon one of the cheques.
"Doctor Walker!" he cried, flushing. "This is Clara's doing. Oh, dad,
we cannot take this money. It would not be right nor honorable."
"No, boy, I am glad you think so. It is something, however, to have
proved one's friend, for a real good friend he is. It was he who
brought it in, though Clara sent him. But this other money will be
enough to cover everything, and it is all my own."
"Your own? Where did you get it, dad?"
"Tut, tut! See what it is to have a City man to deal with. It is my
own, and fairly earned, and that is enough."
"Dear old dad!" Harold squeezed his gnarled hand. "And you, mother!
You have lifted the trouble from my heart. I feel another man. You
have saved my honor, my good name, everything. I cannot owe you more,
for I owe you everything already."
So while the autumn sunset shone ruddily through the broad window these
three sat together hand in hand, with hearts which were too full to
speak. Suddenly the soft thudding of tennis balls was heard, and Mrs.
Westmacott bounded into view upon the lawn with brandished racket and
short skirts fluttering in the breeze. The sight came as a relief to
their strained nerves, and they burst all three into a hearty fit of
"She is playing with her nephew," said Harold at last. "The Walkers
have not come out yet. I think that it would be well if you were to
give me that cheque, mother, and I were to return it in person."
"Certainly, Harold. I think it would be very nice."
He went in through the garden. Clara and the Doctor were sitting
together in the dining-room. She sprang to her feet at the sight of
"Oh, Harold, I have been waiting for you so impatiently," she cried; "I
saw you pass the front windows half an hour ago. I would have come in
if I dared. Do tell us what has happened."
"I have come in to thank you both. How can I repay you for your
kindness? Here is your cheque, Doctor. I have not needed it. I find
that I can lay my hands on enough to pay my creditors."
"Thank God!" said Clara fervently.
"The sum is less than I thought, and our resources considerably more.
We have been able to do it with ease."
"With ease!" The Doctor's brow clouded and his manner grew cold. "I
think, Harold, that you would do better to take this money of mine, than
to use that which seems to you to be gained with ease."
"Thank you, sir. If I borrowed from any one it would be from you. But
my father has this very sum, five thousand pounds, and, as I tell him, I
owe him so much that I have no compunction about owing him more."
"No compunction! Surely there are some sacrifices which a son should
not allow his parents to make."
"Sacrifices! What do you mean?"
"Is it possible that you do not know how this money has been obtained?"
"I give you my word, Doctor Walker, that I have no idea. I asked my
father, but he refused to tell me."
"I thought not," said the Doctor, the gloom clearing from his brow. "I
was sure that you were not a man who, to clear yourself from a little
money difficulty, would sacrifice the happiness of your mother and the
health of your father."
"Good gracious! what do you mean?"
"It is only right that you should know. That money represents the
commutation of your father's pension. He has reduced himself to
poverty, and intends to go to sea again to earn a living."
"To sea again! Impossible!"
"It is the truth. Charles Westmacott has told Ida. He was with him in
the City when he took his poor pension about from dealer to dealer
trying to sell it. He succeeded at last, and hence the money."
"He has sold his pension!" cried Harold, with his hands to his face.
"My dear old dad has sold his pension!" He rushed from the room, and
burst wildly into the presence of his parents once more. "I cannot take
it, father," he cried. "Better bankruptcy than that. Oh, if I had only
known your plan! We must have back the pension. Oh, mother, mother,
how could you think me capable of such selfishness? Give me the cheque,
dad, and I will see this man to-night, for I would sooner die like a dog
in the ditch than touch a penny of this money."
A MIDNIGHT VISITOR.
Now all this time, while the tragi-comedy of life was being played in
these three suburban villas, while on a commonplace stage love and humor
and fears and lights and shadows were so swiftly succeeding each other,
and while these three families, drifted together by fate, were shaping
each other's destinies and working out in their own fashion the strange,
intricate ends of human life, there were human eyes which watched over
every stage of the performance, and which were keenly critical of every
actor on it. Across the road beyond the green palings and the close-
cropped lawn, behind the curtains of their creeper-framed windows, sat
the two old ladies, Miss Bertha and Miss Monica Williams, looking out as
from a private box at all that was being enacted before them. The
growing friendship of the three families, the engagement of Harold
Denver with Clara Walker, the engagement of Charles Westmacott with her
sister, the dangerous fascination which the widow exercised over the
Doctor, the preposterous behavior of the Walker girls and the
unhappiness which they had caused their father, not one of these
incidents escaped the notice of the two maiden ladies. Bertha the
younger had a smile or a sigh for the lovers, Monica the elder a frown
or a shrug for the elders. Every night they talked over what they had
seen, and their own dull, uneventful life took a warmth and a coloring
from their neighbors as a blank wall reflects a beacon fire.
And now it was destined that they should experience the one keen
sensation of their later years, the one memorable incident from which
all future incidents should be dated.
It was on the very night which succeeded the events which have just been
narrated, when suddenly into Monica William's head, as she tossed upon
her sleepless bed, there shot a thought which made her sit up with a
thrill and a gasp.
"Bertha," said she, plucking at the shoulder of her sister, "I have left
the front window open."
"No, Monica, surely not." Bertha sat up also, and thrilled in sympathy.
"I am sure of it. You remember I had forgotten to water the pots, and
then I opened the window, and Jane called me about the jam, and I have
never been in the room since."
"Good gracious, Monica, it is a mercy that we have not been murdered in
our beds. There was a house broken into at Forest Hill last week.
Shall we go down and shut it?"
"I dare not go down alone, dear, but if you will come with me. Put on
your slippers and dressing-gown. We do not need a candle. Now, Bertha,
we will go down together."
Two little white patches moved vaguely through the darkness, the stairs
creaked, the door whined, and they were at the front room window.
Monica closed it gently down, and fastened the snib.
"What a beautiful moon!" said she, looking out. "We can see as clearly
as if it were day. How peaceful and quiet the three houses are over
yonder! It seems quite sad to see that `To Let' card upon number one.
I wonder how number two will like their going. For my part I could
better spare that dreadful woman at number three with her short skirts
and her snake. But, oh, Bertha, look! look!! look!!!" Her voice had
fallen suddenly to a quivering whisper and she was pointing to the
Westmacotts' house. Her sister gave a gasp of horror, and stood with a
clutch at Monica's arm, staring in the same direction.
There was a light in the front room, a slight, wavering light such as
would be given by a small candle or taper. The blind was down, but the
light shone dimly through. Outside in the garden, with his figure
outlined against the luminous square, there stood a man, his back to the
road, his two hands upon the window ledge, and his body rather bent as
though he were trying to peep in past the blind. So absolutely still
and motionless was he that in spite of the moon they might well have
overlooked him were it not for that tell-tale light behind.
"Good heaven!" gasped Bertha, "it is a burglar."
But her sister set her mouth grimly and shook her head. "We shall see,"
she whispered. "It may be something worse."
Swiftly and furtively the man stood suddenly erect, and began to push
the window slowly up. Then he put one knee upon the sash, glanced round
to see that all was safe, and climbed over into the room. As he did so
he had to push the blind aside. Then the two spectators saw where the
light came from. Mrs. Westmacott was standing, as rigid as a statue, in
the center of the room, with a lighted taper in her right hand. For an
instant they caught a glimpse of her stern face and her white collar.
Then the blind fell back into position, and the two figures disappeared
from their view.
"Oh, that dreadful woman!" cried Monica. "That dreadful, dreadful
woman! She was waiting for him. You saw it with your own eyes, sister
"Hush, dear, hush and listen!" said her more charitable companion. They
pushed their own window up once more, and watched from behind the
For a long time all was silent within the house. The light still stood
motionless as though Mrs. Westmacott remained rigidly in the one
position, while from time to time a shadow passed in front of it to show
that her midnight visitor was pacing up and down in front of her. Once
they saw his outline clearly, with his hands outstretched as if in
appeal or entreaty. Then suddenly there was a dull sound, a cry, the
noise of a fall, the taper was extinguished, and a dark figure fled in
the moonlight, rushed across the garden, and vanished amid the shrubs at
the farther side.
Then only did the two old ladies understand that they had looked on
whilst a tragedy had been enacted. "Help!" they cried, and "Help!" in
their high, thin voices, timidly at first, but gathering volume as they
went on, until the Wilderness rang with their shrieks. Lights shone in
all the windows opposite, chains rattled, bars were unshot, doors
opened, and out rushed friends to the rescue. Harold, with a stick; the
Admiral, with his sword, his grey head and bare feet protruding from
either end of a long brown ulster; finally, Doctor Walker, with a poker,
all ran to the help of the Westmacotts. Their door had been already
opened, and they crowded tumultuously into the front room.
Charles Westmacott, white to his lips, was kneeling an the floor,
supporting his aunt's head upon his knee. She lay outstretched, dressed
in her ordinary clothes, the extinguished taper still grasped in her
hand, no mark or wound upon her--pale, placid, and senseless.
"Thank God you are come, Doctor," said Charles, looking up. "Do tell me
how she is, and what I should do."
Doctor Walker kneeled beside her, and passed his left hand over her
head, while he grasped her pulse with the right.
"She has had a terrible blow," said he. "It must have been with some
blunt weapon. Here is the place behind the ear. But she is a woman of
extraordinary physical powers. Her pulse is full and slow. There is no
stertor. It is my belief that she is merely stunned, and that she is in
no danger at all."
"Thank God for that!"
"We must get her to bed. We shall carry her upstairs, and then I shall
send my girls in to her. But who has done this?"
"Some robber" said Charles. "You see that the window is open. She must
have heard him and come down, for she was always perfectly fearless. I
wish to goodness she had called me."
"But she was dressed."
"Sometimes she sits up very late."
"I did sit up very late," said a voice. She had opened her eyes, and
was blinking at them in the lamplight. "A villain came in through the
window and struck me with a life-preserver. You can tell the police so
when they come. Also that it was a little fat man. Now, Charles, give
me your arm and I shall go upstairs."
But her spirit was greater than her strength, for, as she staggered to
her feet, her head swam round, and she would have fallen again had her
nephew not thrown his arms round her. They carried her upstairs among
them and laid her upon the bed, where the Doctor watched beside her,
while Charles went off to the police-station, and the Denvers mounted
guard over the frightened maids.
IN PORT AT LAST.
Day had broken before the several denizens of the Wilderness had all
returned to their homes, the police finished their inquiries, and all
come back to its normal quiet. Mrs. Westmacott had been left sleeping
peacefully with a small chloral draught to steady her nerves and a
handkerchief soaked in arnica bound round her head. It was with some
surprise, therefore, that the Admiral received a note from her about ten
o'clock, asking him to be good enough to step in to her. He hurried in,
fearing that she might have taken some turn for the worse, but he was
reassured to find her sitting up in her bed, with Clara and Ida Walker
in attendance upon her. She had removed the handkerchief, and had put
on a little cap with pink ribbons, and a maroon dressing-jacket,
daintily fulled at the neck and sleeves.
"My dear friend," said she as he entered, "I wish to make a last few
remarks to you. No, no," she continued, laughing, as she saw a look of
dismay upon his face. "I shall not dream of dying for at least another
thirty years. A woman should be ashamed to die before she is seventy.
I wish, Clara, that you would ask your father to step up. And you, Ida,
just pass me my cigarettes, and open me a bottle of stout."
"Now then," she continued, as the doctor joined their party. "I don't
quite know what I ought to say to you, Admiral. You want some very
plain speaking to."
"'Pon my word, ma'am, I don't know what you are talking about."
"The idea of you at your age talking of going to sea, and leaving that
dear, patient little wife of yours at home, who has seen nothing of you
all her life! It's all very well for you. You have the life, and the
change, and the excitement, but you don't think of her eating her heart
out in a dreary London lodging. You men are all the same."
"Well, ma'am, since you know so much, you probably know also that I have
sold my pension. How am I to live if I do not turn my hand to work?"
Mrs. Westmacott produced a large registered envelope from beneath the
sheets and tossed it over to the old seaman.
"That excuse won't do. There are your pension papers. Just see if they
He broke the seal, and out tumbled the very papers which he had made
over to McAdam two days before.
"But what am I to do with these now?" he cried in bewilderment.
"You will put them in a safe place, or get a friend to do so, and, if
you do your duty, you will go to your wife and beg her pardon for having
even for an instant thought of leaving her."
The Admiral passed his hand over his rugged forehead. "This is very good
of you, ma'am" said he, "very good and kind, and I know that you are a
staunch friend, but for all that these papers mean money, and though we
may have been in broken water lately, we are not quite in such straits
as to have to signal to our friends. When we do, ma'am, there's no one
we would look to sooner than to you."
"Don't be ridiculous!" said the widow. "You know nothing whatever about
it, and yet you stand there laying down the law. I'll have my way in
the matter, and you shall take the papers, for it is no favor that I am
doing you, but simply a restoration of stolen property."
"How that, ma'am?"
"I am just going to explain, though you might take a lady's word for it
without asking any questions. Now, what I am going to say is just
between you four, and must go no farther. I have my own reasons for
wishing to keep it from the police. Who do you think it was who struck
me last night, Admiral?"
"Some villain, ma'am. I don't know his name."
"But I do. It was the same man who ruined or tried to ruin your son.
It was my only brother, Jeremiah."
"I will tell you about him--or a little about him, for he has done much
which I would not care to talk of, nor you to listen to. He was always
a villain, smooth-spoken and plausible, but a dangerous, subtle villain
all the same. If I have some hard thoughts about mankind I can trace
them back to the childhood which I spent with my brother. He is my only
living relative, for my other brother, Charles's father, was killed in
the Indian mutiny.
"Our father was rich, and when he died he made a good provision both for
Jeremiah and for me. He knew Jeremiah and he mistrusted him, however;
so instead of giving him all that he meant him to have he handed me over
a part of it, telling me, with what was almost his dying breath, to hold
it in trust for my brother, and to use it in his behalf when he should
have squandered or lost all that he had. This arrangement was meant to
be a secret between my father and myself, but unfortunately his words
were overheard by the nurse, and she repeated them afterwards to my
brother, so that he came to know that I held some money in trust for
him. I suppose tobacco will not harm my head, Doctor? Thank you, then
I shall trouble you for the matches, Ida." She lit a cigarette, and
leaned back upon the pillow, with the blue wreaths curling from her
"I cannot tell you how often he has attempted to get that money from me.
He has bullied, cajoled, threatened, coaxed, done all that a man could
do. I still held it with the presentiment that a need for it would
come. When I heard of this villainous business, his flight, and his
leaving his partner to face the storm, above all that my old friend had
been driven to surrender his income in order to make up for my brother's
defalcations, I felt that now indeed I had a need for it. I sent in
Charles yesterday to Mr. McAdam, and his client, upon hearing the facts
of the case, very graciously consented to give back the papers, and to
take the money which he had advanced. Not a word of thanks to me,
Admiral. I tell you that it was very cheap benevolence, for it was all
done with his own money, and how could I use it better?
"I thought that I should probably hear from him soon, and I did. Last
evening there was handed in a note of the usual whining, cringing tone.
He had come back from abroad at the risk of his life and liberty, just
in order that he might say good-bye to the only sister he ever had, and
to entreat my forgiveness for any pain which he had caused me. He would
never trouble me again, and he begged only that I would hand over to him
the sum which I held in trust for him. That, with what he had already,
would be enough to start him as an honest man in the new world, when he
would ever remember and pray for the dear sister who had been his
savior. That was the style of the letter, and it ended by imploring me
to leave the window-latch open, and to be in the front room at three in
the morning, when he would come to receive my last kiss and to bid me
"Bad as he was, I could not, when he trusted me, betray him. I said
nothing, but I was there at the hour. He entered through the window, and
implored me to give him the money. He was terribly changed; gaunt,
wolfish, and spoke like a madman. I told him that I had spent the
money. He gnashed his teeth at me, and swore it was his money. I told
him that I had spent it on him. He asked me how. I said in trying to
make him an honest man, and in repairing the results of his villainy.
He shrieked out a curse, and pulling something out of the breast of his
coat--a loaded stick, I think--he struck me with it, and I remembered
"The blackguard!" cried the Doctor, "but the police must be hot upon his
"I fancy not," Mrs. Westmacott answered calmly. "As my brother is a
particularly tall, thin man, and as the police are looking for a short,
fat one, I do not think that it is very probable that they will catch
him. It is best, I think, that these little family matters should be
adjusted in private."
"My dear ma'am," said the Admiral, "if it is indeed this man's money
that has bought back my pension, then I can have no scruples about
taking it. You have brought sunshine upon us, ma'am, when the clouds
were at their darkest, for here is my boy who insists upon returning the
money which I got. He can keep it now to pay his debts. For what you
have done I can only ask God to bless you, ma'am, and as to thanking you
I can't even----"
"Then pray don't try," said the widow. "Now run away, Admiral, and make
your peace with Mrs. Denver. I am sure if I were she it would be a long
time before I should forgive you. As for me, I am going to America when
Charles goes. You'll take me so far, won't you, Ida? There is a
college being built in Denver which is to equip the woman of the future
for the struggle of life, and especially for her battle against man.
Some months ago the committee offered me a responsible situation upon
the staff, and I have decided now to accept it, for Charles's marriage
removes the last tie which binds me to England. You will write to me
sometimes, my friends, and you will address your letters to Professor
Westmacott, Emancipation College, Denver. From there I shall watch how
the glorious struggle goes in conservative old England, and if I am
needed you will find me here again fighting in the forefront of the
fray. Good-bye--but not you, girls; I have still a word I wish to say to
"Give me your hand, Ida, and yours, Clara," said she when they were
alone. "Oh, you naughty little pusses, aren't you ashamed to look me in
the face? Did you think--did you really think that I was so very blind,
and could not see your little plot? You did it very well, I must say
that, and really I think that I like you better as you are. But you had
all your pains for nothing, you little conspirators, for I give you my
word that I had quite made up my mind not to have him."
And so within a few weeks our little ladies from their observatory saw a
mighty bustle in the Wilderness, when two-horse carriages came, and
coachmen with favors, to bear away the twos who were destined to come
back one. And they themselves in their crackling silk dresses went
across, as invited, to the big double wedding breakfast which was held
in the house of Doctor Walker. Then there was health-drinking, and
laughter, and changing of dresses, and rice-throwing when the carriages
drove up again, and two more couples started on that journey which ends
only with life itself.
Charles Westmacott is now a flourishing ranchman in the western part of
Texas, where he and his sweet little wife are the two most popular
persons in all that county. Of their aunt they see little, but from time
to time they see notices in the papers that there is a focus of light in
Denver, where mighty thunderbolts are being forged which will one day
bring the dominant sex upon their knees. The Admiral and his wife still
live at number one, while Harold and Clara have taken number two, where
Doctor Walker continues to reside. As to the business, it had been
reconstructed, and the energy and ability of the junior partner had soon
made up for all the ill that had been done by his senior. Yet with his
sweet and refined home atmosphere he is able to realize his wish, and to
keep himself free from the sordid aims and base ambitions which drag
down the man whose business lies too exclusively in the money market of
the vast Babylon. As he goes back every evening from the crowds of
Throgmorton Street to the tree-lined peaceful avenues of Norwood, so he
has found it possible in spirit also to do one's duties amidst the babel
of the City, and yet to live beyond it.
Back to Full Books