Part 2 out of 5
work very well, too. Old Landlord Lenz had the utmost contempt for this
occupation, as a practical man should, but he was astonished one day
when a passing traveller offered an incredible sum for one of the
pictures that stood on the hall table. Standish was not to be found,
but the old man, quite willing to do his guest a good turn, sold the
picture. The young man, instead of being overjoyed at his luck, told
the landlord, with the calm cheek of an artist, that he would overlook
the matter this time, but it must not occur again. He had sold the
picture, added Standish, for about one-third its real value. There was
something in the quiet assurance of the youth that more than his words
convinced old Lenz of the truth of his statement. Manner has much to do
with getting a well-told lie believed. The inn-keeper's respect for the
young man went up to the highest attainable point, and he had seen so
many artists, too. But if such prices were obtained for a picture
dashed off in a few hours, the hotel business wasn't in it as a money-
It must be confessed that it was a great shock to young Standish when
he found that the fairy-like Tina was the daughter of the gross old
stupid keeper of the inn. It would have been so nice if she had
happened to be a princess, and the fact would have worked in well with
the marble terrace overlooking the lake. It seemed out of keeping
entirely that she should be any relation to old money-making Lenz. Of
course he had no more idea of marrying the girl than he had of buying
the lake of Como and draining it; still, it was such a pity that she
was not a countess at least; there were so many of them in Italy too,
surely one might have been spared for that _pension_ when a man
had to stay eight days to get the lowest rates. Nevertheless, Tina did
make a pretty water-colour sketch. But a man who begins sliding down a
hill such as there is around Como, never can tell exactly where he is
going to bring up. He may stop halfway, or he may go head first into
the lake. If it were to be set down here that within a certain space of
time Standish did not care one continental objurgation whether Tina was
a princess or a char-woman, the statement would simply not be believed,
because we all know that Englishmen are a cold, calculating race of
men, with long side whiskers and a veil round their hats when they
It is serious when a young fellow sketches in water-colours a charming
sylph-like girl in various entrancing attitudes; it is disastrous when
she teaches him a soft flowing language like the Italian; but it is
absolute destruction when he teaches her the English tongue and watches
her pretty lips strive to surround words never intended for the vocal
resources of a foreigner. As all these influences were brought to bear
on Walter Standish, what chance did the young fellow have? Absolutely
as little as has the un-roped man who misses his footing on the
And Tina? Poor little girl, she was getting paid back with a vengeance
for all the heart-aches she had caused--Italian, German, or Swiss
variety. She fell helplessly in love with the stalwart Englishman, and
realised that she had never known before what the word meant. Bitterly
did she regret the sham battles of the heart that she had hitherto
engaged in. Standish took it so entirely for granted that he was the
first to touch her lips (in fact she admitted as much herself) that she
was in daily, hourly terror lest he should learn the truth. Meanwhile
Pietro unburdened his neglected soul of strange oily imprecations that
might have sounded to the uneducated ear of Standish like mellifluous
benedictions, notwithstanding the progress he was making in Italian
under Tina's tuition. However, Pietro had one panacea for all his woes,
and that he proceeded to sharpen carefully.
One evening Standish was floating dreamily through the purple haze,
thinking about Tina of course, and wondering how her piquant archness
and Southern beauty would strike his sober people at home. Tina was
very quick and adaptable, and he had no doubt she could act to
perfection any part he assigned to her, so he was in doubt whether to
introduce her as a remote connexion of the reigning family of Italy, or
merely as a countess in her own right. It would be quite easy to
ennoble the long line of hotel-keepers by the addition of "di" or "de"
or some such syllable to the family name. He must look up the right
combination of letters; he knew it began with "d." Then the
_pension_ could become dimly "A castle on the Italian lakes, you
know"; in fact, he would close up the _pension_ as soon as he had
the power, or change it to a palace. He knew that most of the castles
in the Tyrol and many of the palaces of Italy had become boarding-
houses, so why not reverse the process? He was sure that certain
furnishing houses in London could do it, probably on the hire system.
He knew a fashionable morning paper that was in the habit of publishing
personal items at so much a line, and he thought the following would
read well and be worth its cost:--
"Mr. Walter Standish, of St. John's Wood, and his wife, the Comtessa di
Lenza, are spending the summer in the lady's ancestral home, the
Palazzio di Lenza, on the lake of Como."
This bright vision pleased him for a moment, until he thought it would
be just his luck for some acquaintance to happen along who remembered
the Palazzio Lenza when it was the Pension Lenz--rates on application.
He wished a landslide would carry buildings, grounds, and everything
else away to some unrecognisable spot a few hundred feet down the
Thus it was that young Standish floated along with his head in the
clouds, swinging his cane in the air, when suddenly he was brought
sharply down to earth again. A figure darted out from behind a tree, an
instinct rather than reason caused the artist to guard himself by
throwing up his left arm. He caught the knife thrust in the fleshy part
of it, and the pain was like the red-hot sting of a gigantic wasp. It
flashed through his brain then that the term cold steel was a misnomer.
The next moment his right hand had brought down the heavy knob of his
stout stick on the curly head of the Italian, and Pietro fell like a
log at his feet. Standish set his teeth, and as gently as possible drew
the stiletto from his arm, wiping its blade on the clothes of the
prostrate man. He thought it better to soil Pietro's suit than his own,
which was newer and cleaner; besides, he held, perhaps with justice,
that the Italian being the aggressor should bear any disadvantages
arising from the attack. Finally, feeling wet at the elbow, he put the
stiletto in his pocket and hurried off to the hotel.
[Illustration: WIPING ITS BLADE ON THE CLOTHES OF THE PROSTRATE MAN]
Tina fell back against the wall with a cry at the sight of the blood.
She would have fainted, but something told her that she would be well
advised to keep her senses about her at that moment.
"I can't imagine why he should attack me," said Standish, as he bared
his arm to be bandaged. "I never saw him before, and I have had no
quarrel with any one. It could not have been robbery, for I was too
near the hotel. I cannot understand it."
"Oh," began old Lenz, "it's easy enough to account for it. He--"
Tina darted one look at her father that went through him as the blade
had gone through the outstretched arm. His mouth closed like a steel
"Please go for Doctor Zandorf, papa," she said sweetly, and the old man
went. "These Italians," she continued to Standish, "are always
quarrelling. The villain mistook you for some one else in the dusk."
"Ah, that's it, very likely. If the rascal has returned to his senses,
he probably regrets having waked up the wrong passenger."
When the authorities searched for Pietro they found that he had
disappeared as absolutely as though Standish had knocked him through
into China. When he came to himself and rubbed his head, he saw the
blood on the road, and he knew his stroke had gone home somewhere. The
missing knife would be evidence against him, so he thought it safer to
get on the Austrian side of the fence. Thus he vanished over the
Stelvio pass, and found horses to drive on the other side.
The period during which Standish loafed around that lovely garden with
his arm in a sling, waited upon assiduously and tenderly by Tina, will
always be one of the golden remembrances of the Englishman's life. It
was too good to last for ever, and so they were married when it came to
an end. The old man would still have preferred a Swiss innkeeper for a
son-in-law, yet the Englishman was better than the beggarly Italian,
and possibly better than the German who had occupied a place in Tina's
regards before the son of sunny Italy appeared on the scene. That is
one trouble in the continental hotel business; there is such a
bewildering mixture of nationalities.
Standish thought it best not to go back to England at once, as he had
not quite settled to his own satisfaction how the _pension_ was to
be eliminated from the affair and transformed into a palace. He knew a
lovely and elevated castle in the Tyrol near Meran where they accepted
passers-by in an unobtrusive sort of way, and there, he resolved, they
would make their plans. So the old man gave them a great set-out with
which to go over the pass, privately charging the driver to endeavour
to get a return fare from Meran so as to, partly at least, cover the
outlay. The carriage was drawn by five horses, one on each side of the
pole and three in front. They rested the first night at Bormeo, and
started early next day for over the pass, expecting to dine at
Franzenshoehe within sight of the snowy Ortler.
It was late in the season and the weather was slightly uncertain, but
they had a lovely Italian forenoon for going up the wonderful, zigzag
road on the western side of the pass. At the top there was a slight
sprinkling of snow, and clouds hung over the lofty Ortler group of
peaks. As they got lower down a steady persistent rain set in, and they
were glad to get to the shelter and warmth of the oblong stone inn at
Franzenshoehe, where a good dinner awaited them. After dinner the
weather cleared somewhat, but the clouds still obscured the tops of the
mountains, and the roads were slippery. Standish regretted this, for he
wanted to show his bride the splendid scenery of the next five miles
where the road zigzags down to Trefoi, each elbow of the dizzy
thoroughfare overhanging the most awful precipices. It was a dangerous
bit of road, and even with only two horses, requires a cool and
courageous driver with a steady head. They were the sole guests at the
inn, and it needed no practised eye to see that they were a newly
married couple. The news spread abroad, and every lounger about the
place watched them get into their carriage and drive away, one hind
wheel of the carriage sliding on its skid, and all breaks on.
At the first turning Standish started, for the carriage went around it
with dangerous speed. The whip cracked, too, like a succession of
pistol shots, which was unusual going down the mountain. He said
nothing to alarm his bride, but thought that the driver had taken on
more wine than was good for him at the inn. At the second turn the
wheel actually slid against and bumped the stone post that was the sole
guard from the fearful precipice below. The sound and shock sent a cold
chill up the back of Standish, for he knew the road well and there were
worse places to come. His arm was around his wife, and he withdrew it
gently so as not to alarm her. As he did so she looked up and shrieked.
Following her glance to the front window of their closed carriage,
where the back of the driver is usually to be seen, he saw pressed
against the glass the distorted face of a demon. The driver was
kneeling on his seat instead of sitting on it, and was peering in at
them, the reins drawn over his shoulder, and his back to the horses. It
seemed to Standish that the light of insanity gleamed from his eyes,
but Tina saw in them the revengeful glare of the _vendetti_; the
rage of the disappointed lover.
"My God! that's not our driver," cried Standish, who did not recognise
the man who had once endeavoured to kill him. He sprang up and tried to
open the front window, but the driver yelled out--
"Open that window if you dare, and I'll drive you over here before you
get halfway down. Sit still, and I take you as far as the Weisse Knott.
That's where you are going over. There you'll have a drop of a mile
"Turn to your horses, you scoundrel," shouted Standish, "or I'll break
every bone in your body!"
"The horses know the way, Signor Inglese, and all our bones are going
to be broken, yours and your sweet bride's as well as mine."
The driver took the whip and fired off a fusilade of cracks overhead,
beside them, and under them. The horses dashed madly down the slope,
almost sending the carriage over at the next turn. Standish looked at
his wife. She had apparently fainted, but in reality had merely closed
her eyes to shut out the horrible sight of Pietro's face. Standish
thrust his arm out of the open window, unfastened the door, and at the
risk of his neck jumped out. Tina shrieked when she opened her eyes and
found herself alone. Pietro now pushed in the frame of the front window
and it dropped out of sight, leaving him face to face with her, with no
glass between them. "Now that your fine Inglese is gone, Tina, we are
going to be married; you promised it, you know."
"You coward," she hissed; "I'd rather die his wife than live yours."
"You're plucky, little Tina, you always were. But he left you. I
wouldn't have left you. I won't leave you. We'll be married at the
chapel of the Three Holy Springs, a mile below the Weisse Knott; we'll
fly, through the air to it, Tina, and our bed will be at the foot of
the Madatseh Glacier. We will go over together near where the man threw
his wife down. They have marked the spot with a marble slab, but they
will put a bigger one for us, Tina, for there's two of us."
Tina crouched in the corner of the carriage and watched the face of the
Italian as if she were fascinated. She wanted to jump out as her
husband had done, but she was afraid to move, feeling certain that if
she attempted to escape Pietro would pounce down upon her. He looked
like some wild beast crouching for a spring. All at once she saw
something drop from the sky on the footboard of the carriage. Then she
heard her husband's voice ring out--
"Here, you young fool, we've had enough of this nonsense."
The next moment Pietro fell to the road, propelled by a vigorous kick.
His position lent itself to treatment of that kind. The carriage gave a
bump as it passed over Pietro's leg, and then Tina thinks that she
fainted in earnest, for the next thing she knew the carriage was
standing still, and Standish was rubbing her hands and calling her
pleasant names. She smiled wanly at him.
"How in the world did you catch up to the carriage and it going so
fast?" she asked, a woman's curiosity prompting her first words.
"Oh, the villain forgot about the short cuts. As I warned him, he ought
to have paid more attention to what was going on outside. I'm going
back now to have a talk with him. He's lying on the road at the upper
end of this slope."
Tina was instantly herself again.
"No, dearest," she said caressingly; "you mustn't go back. He probably
has a knife."
"I'm not afraid."
"No, but I am, and you mustn't leave me."
"I would like to tie him up in a hard knot and take him down to
civilisation bumping behind the carriage as luggage. I think he's the
fellow who knifed me, and I want to find out what his game is."
Here Tina unfortunately began to faint again. She asked for wine in a
far-off voice, and Standish at once forgot all about the demon driver.
He mounted the box and took the reins himself. He got wine at the
little cabin of the Weisse Knott, a mile or two farther down. Tina, who
had revived amazingly, probably on account of the motion of the
carriage, shuddered as she looked into the awful gulf and saw five tiny
toy houses in the gloom nearly a mile below.
"That," said Standish, "is the chapel of the Three Holy Springs. We
will go there to-night, if you like, from Trefoi."
"No, no!" cried Tina, shivering. "Let us get out of the mountains at
At Trefoi they found their own driver awaiting them.
"What the devil are you doing here, and how did you get here?" hotly
"By the short cuts," replied the bewildered man. "Pietro, one of
master's old drivers, wanted--I don't know why--to drive you as far as
Trefoi. Where is he, sir?"
"I don't know," said Standish. "We saw nothing of him. He must have
been pushed off the box by the madman. Here, jump up and let us get
Tina breathed again. That crisis was over.
They live very happily together, for Tina is a very tactful little
THE HOUR AND THE MAN.
Prince Lotarno rose slowly to his feet, casting one malignant glance at
the prisoner before him.
"You have heard," he said, "what is alleged against you. Have you
anything to say in your defence?"
The captured brigand laughed.
"The time for talk is past," he cried. "This has been a fine farce of a
fair trial. You need not have wasted so much time over what you call
evidence. I knew my doom when I fell into your hands. I killed your
brother; you will kill me. You have proven that I am a murderer and a
robber; I could prove the same of you if you were bound hand and foot
in my camp as I am bound in your castle. It is useless for me to tell
you that I did not know he was your brother, else it would not have
happened, for the small robber always respects the larger and more
powerful thief. When a wolf is down, the other wolves devour him. I am
down, and you will have my head cut off, or my body drawn asunder in
your courtyard, whichever pleases your Excellency best. It is the
fortune of war, and I do not complain. When I say that I am sorry I
killed your brother, I merely mean I am sorry you were not the man who
stood in his shoes when the shot was fired. You, having more men than I
had, have scattered my followers and captured me. You may do with me
what you please. My consolation is that the killing me will not bring
to life the man who is shot, therefore conclude the farce that has
dragged through so many weary hours. Pronounce my sentence. I am
There was a moment's silence after the brigand had ceased speaking.
Then the Prince said, in low tones, but in a voice that made itself
heard in every part of the judgment-hall--
"Your sentence is that on the fifteenth of January you shall be taken
from your cell at four o'clock, conducted to the room of execution, and
The Prince hesitated for a moment as he concluded the sentence, and
seemed about to add something more, but apparently he remembered that a
report of the trial was to go before the King, whose representative was
present, and he was particularly desirous that nothing should go on the
records which savoured of old-time malignity; for it was well known
that his Majesty had a particular aversion to the ancient forms of
torture that had obtained heretofore in his kingdom. Recollecting this,
the Prince sat down.
The brigand laughed again. His sentence was evidently not so gruesome
as he had expected. He was a man who had lived all his life in the
mountains, and he had had no means of knowing that more merciful
measures had been introduced into the policy of the Government.
"I will keep the appointment," he said jauntily, "unless I have a more
The brigand was led away to his cell. "I hope," said the Prince, "that
you noted the defiant attitude of the prisoner."
"I have not failed to do so, your Excellency," replied the ambassador.
"I think," said the Prince, "that under the circumstances, his
treatment has been most merciful."
"I am certain, your Excellency," said the ambassador, "that his Majesty
will be of the same opinion. For such a miscreant, beheading is too
easy a death."
The Prince was pleased to know that the opinion of the ambassador
coincided so entirely with his own.
The brigand Toza was taken to a cell in the northern tower, where, by
climbing on a bench, he could get a view of the profound valley at the
mouth of which the castle was situated. He well knew its impregnable
position, commanding as it did, the entrance to the valley. He knew
also that if he succeeded in escaping from the castle he was hemmed in
by mountains practically unscalable, while the mouth of the gorge was
so well guarded by the castle that it was impossible to get to the
outer world through that gateway. Although he knew the mountains well,
he realised that, with his band scattered, many killed, and the others
fugitives, he would have a better chance of starving to death in the
valley than of escaping out of it. He sat on the bench and thought over
the situation. Why had the Prince been so merciful? He had expected
torture, whereas he was to meet the easiest death that a man could die.
He felt satisfied there was something in this that he could not
understand. Perhaps they intended to starve him to death, now that the
appearance of a fair trial was over. Things could be done in the
dungeon of a castle that the outside world knew nothing of. His fears
of starvation were speedily put to an end by the appearance of his
gaoler with a better meal than he had had for some time; for during the
last week he had wandered a fugitive in the mountains until captured by
the Prince's men, who evidently had orders to bring him in alive. Why
then were they so anxious not to kill him in a fair fight if he were
now to be merely beheaded?
"What is your name?" asked Toza of his gaoler.
"I am called Paulo," was the answer.
"Do you know that I am to be beheaded on the fifteenth of the month?"
"I have heard so," answered the man.
"And do you attend me until that time?"
"I attend you while I am ordered to do so. If you talk much I may be
"That, then, is a tip for silence, good Paulo," said the brigand. "I
always treat well those who serve me well; I regret, therefore, that I
have no money with me, and so cannot recompense you for good service."
"That is not necessary," answered Paulo. "I receive my recompense from
"Ah, but the recompense of the steward and the recompense of a brigand
chief are two very different things. Are there so many pickings in your
position that you are rich, Paulo?"
"No; I am a poor man."
"Well, under certain circumstances, I could make you rich."
Paulo's eyes glistened, but he made no direct reply. Finally he said,
in a frightened whisper, "I have tarried too long, I am watched. By-
and-by the vigilance will be relaxed, and then we may perhaps talk of
With that the gaoler took his departure. The brigand laughed softly to
himself. "Evidently," he said, "Paulo is not above the reach of a
bribe. We will have further talk on the subject when the watchfulness
And so it grew to be a question of which should trust the other. The
brigand asserted that hidden in the mountains he had gold and jewels,
and these he would give to Paulo if he could contrive his escape from
"Once free of the castle, I can soon make my way out of the valley,"
said the brigand.
"I am not so sure of that," answered Paulo. "The castle is well
guarded, and when it is discovered that you have escaped, the alarm-
bell will be rung, and after that not a mouse can leave the valley
without the soldiers knowing it."
The brigand pondered on the situation for some time, and at last said,
"I know the mountains well."
"Yes;" said Paulo, "but you are one man, and the soldiers of the Prince
are many. Perhaps," he added, "if it were made worth my while, I could
show you that I know the mountains even better than you do."
"What do you mean?" asked the brigand, in an excited whisper.
"Do you know the tunnel?" inquired Paulo, with an anxious glance
towards the door.
"What tunnel? I never heard of any."
"But it exists, nevertheless; a tunnel through the mountains to the
"A tunnel through the mountains? Nonsense!" cried the brigand. "I
should have known of it if one existed. The work would be too great to
"It was made long before your day, or mine either. If the castle had
fallen, then those who were inside could escape through the tunnel. Few
know of the entrance; it is near the waterfall up the valley, and is
covered with brushwood. What will you give me to place you at the
entrance of that tunnel?"
The brigand looked at Paulo sternly for a few moments, then he answered
slowly, "Everything I possess."
"And how much is that?" asked Paulo.
"It is more than you will ever earn by serving the Prince."
"Will you tell me where it is before I help you to escape from the
castle and lead you to the tunnel?"
"Yes," said Toza.
"Will you tell me now?"
"No; bring me a paper to-morrow, and I will draw a plan showing you how
to get it."
[Illustration: "I WILL DRAW A PLAN"]
When his gaoler appeared, the day after Toza had given the plan, the
brigand asked eagerly, "Did you find the treasure?"
"I did," said Paulo quietly.
"And will you keep your word?--will you get me out of the castle?"
"I will get you out of the castle and lead you to the entrance of the
tunnel, but after that you must look to yourself."
"Certainly," said Toza, "that was the bargain. Once out of this
accursed valley, I can defy all the princes in Christendom. Have you a
"We shall need none," said the gaoler. "I will come for you at
midnight, and take you out of the castle by the secret passage; then
your escape will not be noticed until morning."
At midnight his gaoler came and led Toza through many a tortuous
passage, the two men pausing now and then, holding their breaths
anxiously as they came to an open court through which a guard paced. At
last they were outside of the castle at one hour past midnight.
The brigand drew a long breath of relief when he was once again out in
the free air.
"Where is your tunnel?" he asked, in a somewhat distrustful whisper of
"Hush!" was the low answer. "It is only a short distance from the
castle, but every inch is guarded, and we cannot go direct; we must
make for the other side of the valley and come to it from the north."
"What!" cried Toza in amazement, "traverse the whole valley for a
tunnel a few yards away?"
"It is the only safe plan," said Paulo. "If you wish to go by the
direct way, I must leave you to your own devices."
"I am in your hands," said the brigand with a sigh. "Take me where you
will, so long as you lead me to the entrance of the tunnel."
They passed down and down around the heights on which the castle stood,
and crossed the purling little river by means of stepping-stones. Once
Toza fell into the water, but was rescued by his guide. There was still
no alarm from the castle as daylight began to break. As it grew more
light they both crawled into a cave which had a low opening difficult
to find, and there Paulo gave the brigand his breakfast, which he took
from a little bag slung by a strap across his shoulder.
"What are we going to do for food if we are to be days between here and
the tunnel?" asked Toza.
"Oh, I have arranged for that, and a quantity of food has been placed
where we are most likely to want it. I will get it while you sleep."
"But if you are captured, what am I to do?" asked Toza. "Can you not
tell me now how to find the tunnel, as I told you how to find the
Paulo pondered over this for a moment, and then said, "Yes; I think it
would be the safer way. You must follow the stream until you reach the
place where the torrent from the east joins it. Among the hills there
is a waterfall, and halfway up the precipice on a shelf of rock there
are sticks and bushes. Clear them away, and you will find the entrance
to the tunnel. Go through the tunnel until you come to a door, which is
bolted on this side. When you have passed through, you will see the end
of your journey."
Shortly after daybreak the big bell of the castle began to toll, and
before noon the soldiers were beating the bushes all around them. They
were so close that the two men could hear their voices from their
hiding-place, where they lay in their wet clothes, breathlessly
expecting every moment to be discovered.
The conversation of two soldiers, who were nearest them, nearly caused
the hearts of the hiding listeners to stop beating.
"Is there not a cave near here?" asked one. "Let us search for it!"
"Nonsense," said the other. "I tell you that they could not have come
this far already."
"Why could they not have escaped when the guard changed at midnight?"
insisted the first speaker.
"Because Paulo was seen crossing the courtyard at midnight, and they
could have had no other chance of getting away until just before
This answer seemed to satisfy his comrade, and the search was given up
just as they were about to come upon the fugitives. It was a narrow
escape, and, brave as the robber was, he looked pale, while Paulo was
in a state of collapse.
Many times during the nights and days that followed, the brigand and
his guide almost fell into the hands of the minions of the Prince.
Exposure, privation, semi-starvation, and, worse than all, the
alternate wrenchings of hope and fear, began to tell upon the stalwart
frame of the brigand. Some days and nights of cold winter rain added to
their misery. They dare not seek shelter, for every habitable place was
When daylight overtook them on their last night's crawl through the
valley, they were within a short distance of the waterfall, whose low
roar now came soothingly down to them.
"Never mind the daylight," said Toza; "let us push on and reach the
"I can go no farther," moaned Paulo; "I am exhausted."
"Nonsense," cried Toza; "it is but a short distance."
"The distance is greater than you think; besides, we are in full view
of the castle. Would you risk everything now that the game is nearly
won? You must not forget that the stake is your head; and remember what
day this is."
"What day is it?" asked the brigand, turning on his guide.
"It is the fifteenth of January, the day on which you were to be
Toza caught his breath sharply. Danger and want had made a coward of
him and he shuddered now, which he had not done when he was on his
trial and condemned to death.
"How do you know it is the fifteenth?" he asked at last.
Paulo held up his stick, notched after the method of Robinson Crusoe.
"I am not so strong as you are, and if you will let me rest here until
the afternoon, I am willing to make a last effort, and try to reach the
entrance of the tunnel."
"Very well," said Toza shortly.
As they lay there that forenoon neither could sleep. The noise of the
waterfall was music to the ears of both; their long toilsome journey
was almost over.
[Illustration: HE THREW ASIDE BUSHES, BRAMBLES AND LOGS]
"What did you do with the gold that you found in the mountains?" asked
Paulo was taken unawares, and answered, without thinking, "I left it
where it was. I will get it after."
The brigand said nothing, but that remark condemned Paulo to death.
Toza resolved to murder him as soon as they were well out of the
tunnel, and get the gold himself.
They left their hiding-place shortly before twelve o'clock, but their
progress was so slow, crawling, as they had to do, up the steep side of
the mountain, under cover of bushes and trees, that it was well after
three when they came to the waterfall, which they crossed, as best they
could, on stones and logs.
"There," said Toza, shaking himself, "that is our last wetting. Now for
The rocky sides of the waterfall hid them from view of the castle, but
Paulo called the brigand's attention to the fact that they could be
easily seen from the other side of the valley.
"It doesn't matter now," said Toza; "lead the way as quickly as you can
to the mouth of the cavern."
Paulo scrambled on until he reached a shelf about halfway up the
cataract; he threw aside bushes, brambles, and logs, speedily
disclosing a hole large enough to admit a man.
"You go first," said Paulo, standing aside.
"No," answered Toza; "you know the way, and must go first. You cannot
think that I wish to harm you--I am completely unarmed.
"Nevertheless," said Paulo, "I shall not go first. I did not like the
way you looked at me when I told you the gold was still in the hills. I
admit that I distrust you."
"Oh, very well," laughed Toza, "it doesn't really matter." And he
crawled into the hole in the rock, Paulo following him.
Before long the tunnel enlarged so that a man could stand upright.
"Stop!" said Paulo; "there is the door near here."
"Yes," said the robber, "I remember that you spoke of a door," adding,
however, "What is it for, and why is it locked?"
"It is bolted on this side," answered Paulo, "and we shall have no
difficulty in opening it."
"What is it for?" repeated the brigand.
"It is to prevent the current of air running through the tunnel and
blowing away the obstruction at this end," said the guide.
"Here it is," said Toza, as he felt down its edge for the bolt.
The bolt drew back easily, and the door opened. The next instant the
brigand was pushed rudely into a room, and he heard the bolt thrust
back into its place almost simultaneously with the noise of the closing
door. For a moment his eyes were dazzled by the light. He was in an
apartment blazing with torches held by a dozen men standing about.
In the centre of the room was a block covered with black cloth, and
beside it stood a masked executioner resting the corner of a gleaming
axe on the black draped block, with his hands crossed over the end of
the axe's handle.
The Prince stood there surrounded by his ministers. Above his head was
a clock, with the minute hand pointed to the hour of four.
"You are just in time!" said the Prince grimly; "we are waiting for
"AND THE RIGOUR OF THE GAME."
Old Mr. Saunders went home with bowed head and angry brow. He had not
known that Dick was in the habit of coming in late, but he had now no
doubt of the fact. He himself went to bed early and slept soundly, as a
man with a good conscience is entitled to do. But the boy's mother must
have known the hours he kept, yet she had said nothing; this made the
matter all the blacker. The father felt that mother and son were
leagued against him. He had been too lenient; now he would go to the
root of things. The young man would speedily change his ways or take
the consequences. There would be no half measures.
Poor old Mrs. Saunders saw, the moment her husband came in, that there
was a storm brewing, and a wild fear arose in her heart that her boy
was the cause. The first words of the old man settled the question.
"What time did Richard come in last night?"
"I--I don't know," she hesitated. "Shuffling" her husband always called
it. She had been a buffer between father and son since Dick was a
"Why don't you know? Who let him in?"
She sighed. The secret had long weighed upon her, and she felt it would
come out at some hapless moment.
"He has a key," she said at last.
The old man glared in speechless amazement. In his angriest mood he had
never suspected anything so bad as this.
"A key! How long has he had a key?"
"About six months. He did not want to disturb us."
"He is very thoughtful! Where does he spend his nights?"
"I don't know. He told me he belongs to a club, where he takes some
kind of exercise."
"Did he tell you he exercised with cards? Did he say it was a gambling
"I don't believe it is; I am sure Dick doesn't gamble. Dick is a good
"A precious lot you know about it, evidently. Do you think his
employer, banker Hammond, has any idea his clerk belongs to a gambling
"I am sure I don't know. Is there any thing wrong? Has any one been
speaking to you about Dick?"
"Yes; and not to his credit."
"Oh dear!" cried the mother in anguish. "Was it Mr. Hammond?"
"I have never spoken to Hammond in my life," said the old man,
relenting a little when he saw how troubled his wife was. "No, I
propose to stop this club business before it gets to the banker's ears
that one of his clerks is a nightly attendant there. You will see
Richard when he comes home this evening; tell him I wish to have a word
or two with him to-night. He is to wait for me here. I will be in
shortly after he has had his supper."
"You will not be harsh with him, father. Remember, he is a young man
now, so please advise and do not threaten. Angry words can do no good."
"I will do my duty," said the old man, uncompromisingly.
Gentle Mrs. Saunders sighed--for she well knew the phrase about duty.
It was a sure prelude to domestic trouble. When the old gentleman
undertook to do his duty, he nailed his flag to the mast.
"See that he waits for me to-night," was the parting shot as the old
man closed the door behind him.
Mrs. Saunders had had her share of trouble in this world, as every
woman must who lives with a cantankerous man. When she could save her
son a harsh word, or even a blow, she was content to take either
uncomplainingly. The old man's severity had put him out of touch with
his son. Dick sullenly resented his boyhood of continual fear. During
recent years, when fear had gradually diminished and finally
disappeared, he was somewhat troubled to find that the natural
affection, which a son should have for his father, had vanished with
it. He had, on several occasions, made half-hearted attempts at a
better understanding, but these attempts had unfortunately fallen on
inopportune moments, when the old man was not particularly gracious
toward the world in general, and latterly there had been silence
between the two. The young man avoided his father as much as possible;
he would not have remained at home, had it not been for his mother. Her
steady, unwavering affection for him, her belief in him, and the
remembrance of how she had stood up for him, especially when he was in
the wrong, had bound her to him with bonds soft as silk and strong as
steel. He often felt it would be a pleasure to go wrong, merely to
refute his father's ideas regarding the way a child should be brought
up. Yet Dick had a sort of admiration for the old man, whose many good
qualities were somewhat overshadowed by his brutal temper.
When Richard came home that evening he had his supper alone, as was
usual with him. Mrs. Saunders drew her chair near the table, and while
the meal went on she talked of many things, but avoided the subject
uppermost in her mind, which she postponed until the last moment.
Perhaps after all she would not need to ask him to stay; he might
remain of his own accord. She watched him narrowly as she talked, and
saw with alarm that there was anxiety in his face. Some care was
worrying him, and she yearned to have him confide his trouble to her.
And yet she talked and talked of other things. She noticed that he made
but a poor pretence of eating, and that he allowed her to talk while he
made few replies, and those absent-mindedly. At last he pushed back his
chair with a laugh that sounded forced.
"Well, mother," he said, "what is it? Is there a row on, or is it
merely looming in the horizon? Has the Lord of Creation--"
"Hush, Dick, you mustn't talk in that way. There is nothing much the
matter, I hope? I want to speak with you about your club."
Dick looked sharply at his mother for a moment, then he said: "Well,
what does father want to know about the club? Does he wish to join?"
"I didn't say your father--"
"No, you didn't say it; but, my dear mother, you are as transparent as
glass. I can see right through you and away beyond. Now, somebody has
been talking to father about the club, and he is on the war-path. Well,
what does he want to know?"
"He said it was a gambling club."
"Right for once."
"Oh, Dick, is it?"
"Certainly it is. Most clubs are gambling clubs and drinking clubs. I
don't suppose the True Blues gamble more than others, but I'll bet they
don't gamble any less."
"Oh, Dick, Dick, I'm sorry to hear that. And, Dick, my darling boy, do
"Do I gamble, mother? No, I don't. I know you'll believe me, though the
old man won't. But it's true, nevertheless. I can't afford it, for it
takes money to gamble, and I'm not as rich as old Hammond yet."
"Oh yes, Dick dear, and that reminds me. Another thing your father
feared was that Mr. Hammond might come to know you were a member of the
club. It might hurt your prospects in the bank," she added, not wishing
to frighten the boy with the threat of the dismissal she felt sure
would follow the revelation.
Dick threw back his head and roared. For the first time that evening
the lines of care left his brow. Then seeing his mother's look of
incomprehension, he sobered down, repressing his mirth with some
"Mother," he said at last, "things have changed since father was a boy;
I'm afraid he hardly appreciates how much. The old terrifying relations
between employer and employee do not exist now--at least, that is my
"Still if Mr. Hammond came to know that you spent your evenings at--"
"Mother, listen to me a moment. Mr. Julius Hammond proposed me for
membership in the club--my employer! I should never have thought of
joining if it hadn't been for him. You remember my last raise in
salary? You thought it was for merit, of course, and father thought it
was luck. Well, it was neither--or both, perhaps. Now, this is
confidential and to yourself only. I wouldn't tell it to any one else.
Hammond called me into his private office one afternoon when the bank
was closed, and said, 'Saunders, I want you to join the Athletic Club;
I'll propose you.' I was amazed and told him I couldn't afford it.
'Yes, you can,' he answered. 'I'm going to raise your salary double the
amount of entrance fee and annual. If you don't join I'll cut it down.'
So I joined. I think I should have been a fool if I hadn't."
"Dick, I never heard of such a thing! What in the world did he want you
to join for?"
"Well, mother," said Dick, looking at his watch, "that's a long story.
I'll tell it to you some other evening. I haven't time to-night. I must
"Oh, Dick, don't go to-night. Please stay at home, for my sake."
Dick smoothed his mother's grey hair and kissed her on the forehead.
Then he said: "Won't to-morrow night do as well, mother? I can't stay
to-night. I have an appointment at the club."
"Telegraph to them and put it off. Stay for my sake to-night, Dick. I
never asked you before."
The look of anxiety came into his face again.
"Mother, it is impossible, really it is. Please don't ask me again.
Anyhow, I know it is father who wants me to stay, not you. I presume
he's on the duty tack. I think what he has to say will keep till to-
morrow night. If he must work off some of his sentiments on gambling,
let him place his efforts where they are needed--let him tackle Jule
Hammond, but not during business hours."
"You surely don't mean to say that a respected business man--a banker
like Mr. Hammond--gambles?"
"Don't I? Why, Hammond's a plunger from Plungerville, if you know what
that means. From nine to three he is the strictest and best business
man in the city. If you spoke to him then of the True Blue Athletic
Club he wouldn't know what you were talking about. But after three
o'clock he'll take any odds you like to offer, from matching pennies to
backing an unknown horse."
Mrs. Saunders sighed. It was a wicked world into which her boy had to
go to earn his living, evidently.
"And now, mother, I really must be off. I'll stay at home to-morrow
night and take my scolding like a man. Good-night."
He kissed her and hurried away before she could say anything more,
leaving her sitting there with folded hands to await, with her
customary patience and just a trifle of apprehension, the coming of her
husband. There was no mistaking the heavy footfall. Mrs. Saunders
smiled sadly as she heard it, remembering that Dick had said once that,
even if he were safe within the gates of Paradise, the sound of his
father's footsteps would make the chills run up his backbone. She had
reproved the levity of the remark at the time, but she often thought of
it, especially when she knew there was trouble ahead--as there usually
"Where's Richard? Isn't he home yet?" were the old man's first words.
"He has been home, but he had to go out again. He had an appointment."
"Did you tell him I wanted to speak with him?"
"Yes, and he said he would stay home to-morrow night."
"Did he know what I said to-night?"
"I'm not sure that I told him you--if he is not in by that time I will
go to his club and have my talk with him there."
Old Mr. Saunders sat grimly down with his hat still on, and crossed his
hands over the knob of his stout walking-stick, watching the clock that
ticked slowly against the wall. Under these distressing circumstances
the old woman lost her presence of mind and did the very thing she
should not have done. She should have agreed with him, but instead of
that she opposed the plan and so made it inevitable. It would be a
cruel thing, she said, to shame their son before his friends, to make
him a laughing-stock among his acquaintances. Whatever was to be said
could be said as well to-morrow night as to-night, and that in their
own home, where, at least, no stranger would overhear. As the old man
made no answer but silently watched the clock, she became almost
indignant with him. She felt she was culpable in entertaining even the
suspicion of such a feeling against her lawful husband, but it did seem
to her that he was not acting judiciously towards Dick. She hoped to
turn his resentment from their son to herself, and would have welcomed
any outburst directed against her alone. In this excited state, being
brought, as it were, to bay, she had the temerity to say--
"You are wrong about one thing, and you may also be wrong in thinking
Dick--in--in what you think about Dick."
The old man darted one lowering look at her, and though she trembled,
she welcomed the glance as indicating the success of her red herring.
"What was I wrong about?"
"You were wrong--Mr. Hammond knows Dick is a member of the club. He is
a member himself and he insisted Dick should join. That's why he raised
"A likely story! Who told you that?"
"Dick told me himself."
"And you believed it, of course!" Saunders in a sneering, cynical sort
of way and resumed his scrutiny of the clock. The old woman gave up the
fight and began to weep silently, hoping, but in vain, to hear the
light step of her son approaching the door. The clock struck the hour;
the old man rose without a word, drew his hat further over his brow,
and left the house.
Up to the last moment Mrs. Saunders hardly believed her husband would
carry out his threat. Now, when she realised he was determined, she had
one wild thought of flying to the club and warning her son. A moment's
consideration put that idea out of the question. She called the
serving-maid, who came, as it seemed to the anxious woman, with
"Jane," she cried, "do you know where the Athletic Club is? Do you know
where Centre Street is?"
Jane knew neither club nor locality.
"I want a message taken there to Dick, and it must go quickly. Don't
you think you could run there."
"It would be quicker to telegraph, ma'am," said Jane, who was not
anxious to run anywhere. "There's telegraph paper in Mr. Richard's
room, and the office is just round the corner."
"That's it, Jane; I'm glad you thought of it. Get me a telegraph form.
Do make haste."
She wrote with a trembling hand, as plainly as she could, so that her
son might have no difficulty in reading:--
"_Richard Saunders, Athletic Club, Centre Street._
"Your father is coming to see you. He will be at the club before
"There is no need to sign it; he will know his mother's writing," said
Mrs. Saunders, as she handed the message and the money to Jane; and
Jane made no comment, for she knew as little of telegraphing as did her
mistress. Then the old woman, having done her best, prayed that the
telegram might arrive before her husband; and her prayer was answered,
for electricity is more speedy than an old man's legs.
Meanwhile Mr. Saunders strode along from the suburb to the city. His
stout stick struck the stone pavement with a sharp click that sounded
in the still, frosty, night air almost like a pistol shot. He would
show both his wife and his son that he was not too old to be master in
his own house. He talked angrily to himself as he went along, and was
wroth to find his anger lessening as he neared his destination. Anger
must be very just to hold its own during a brisk walk in evening air
that is cool and sweet.
Mr. Saunders was somewhat abashed to find the club building a much more
imposing edifice than he had expected. There was no low, groggy
appearance about the True Blue Athletic Club. It was brilliantly lit
from basement to attic. A group of men, with hands in pockets, stood on
the kerb as if waiting for something. There was an air of occasion
about the place. The old man inquired of one of the loafers if that was
the Athletic Club.
"Yes, it is," was the answer; "are you going in?"
"I intend to."
"Are you a member?"
"Got an invitation?"
"Then I suspect you won't go in. We've tried every dodge ourselves."
The possibility of not getting in had never occurred to the old
gentleman, and the thought that his son, safe within the sacred
precincts of a club, might defy him, flogged his flagging anger and
aroused his dogged determination.
"I'll try, at least," he said, going up the stone steps.
The men watched him with a smile on their lips. They saw him push the
electric button, whereupon the door opened slightly. There was a brief,
unheard parley; then the door swung wide open, and, when Mr. Saunders
entered, it shut again.
"Well, I'm blest!" said the man on the kerb; "I wonder how the old
duffer worked it. I wish I had asked him." None of the rest made airy
comment; they were struck dumb with amazement at the success of the old
gentleman, who had even to ask if that were the club.
When the porter opened the door he repeated one of the questions asked
a moment before by the man on the kerb. "Have you an invitation, sir?"
"No," answered the old man, deftly placing his stick so that the barely
opened door could not be closed until it was withdrawn. "No! I want to
see my son, Richard Saunders. Is he inside?"
The porter instantly threw open the door.
"Yes, sir," he said. "They're expecting you, sir. Kindly come this way,
The old man followed, wondering at the cordiality of his reception.
There must be some mistake. Expecting him? How could that be! He was
led into a most sumptuous parlour where a cluster of electric lamps in
the ceiling threw a soft radiance around the room.
"Be seated, sir. I will tell Mr. Hammond that you are here."
"But--stop a moment. I don't want to see Mr. Hammond. I have nothing to
do with Mr. Hammond. I want to see my son. Is it Mr. Hammond the
"Yes, sir. He told me to bring you in here when you came and to let him
know at once."
The old man drew his hand across his brow, and ere he could reply the
porter had disappeared. He sat down in one of the exceedingly easy
leather chairs and gazed in bewilderment around the room. The fine
pictures on the wall related exclusively to sporting subjects. A trim
yacht, with its tall, slim masts and towering cloud of canvas at an
apparently dangerous angle, seemed sailing directly at the spectator.
Pugilists, naked to the waists, held their clinched fists in menacing
attitudes. Race-horses, in states of activity and at rest, were
interspersed here and there. In the centre of the room stood a pedestal
of black marble, and upon it rested a huge silver vase encrusted with
ornamentation. The old man did not know that this elaborate specimen of
the silversmith's art was referred to as the "Cup." Some one had hung a
placard on it, bearing, in crudely scrawled letters the words:--
"Fare thee well, and if for ever
Still for ever Fare thee well."
While the old man was wondering what all this meant, the curtain
suddenly parted and there entered an elderly gentleman somewhat
jauntily attired in evening dress with a rose at his buttonhole.
Saunders instantly recognised him as the banker, and he felt a
resentment at what he considered his foppish appearance, realising
almost at the same moment the rustiness of his own clothes, an everyday
suit, not too expensive even when new.
"How are you, Mr. Saunders?" cried the banker, cordially extending his
hand. "I am very pleased indeed to meet you. We got your telegram, but
thought it best not to give it to Dick. I took the liberty of opening
it myself. You see we can't be too careful about these little details.
I told the porter to look after you and let me know the moment you
came. Of course you are very anxious about your boy."
"I am," said the old man firmly. "That's why I'm here."
"Certainly, certainly. So are we all, and I presume I'm the most
anxious man of the lot. Now what you want to know is how he is getting
"Yes; I want to know the truth."
"Well, unfortunately, the truth is about as gloomy as it can be. He's
been going from bad to worse, and no man is more sorry than I am."
"Do you mean to tell me so?"
"Yes. There is no use deluding ourselves. Frankly, I have no hope for
him. There is not one chance in ten thousand of his recovering his lost
The old man caught his breath, and leaned on his cane for support. He
realised now the hollowness of his previous anger. He had never for a
moment believed the boy was going to the bad. Down underneath his
crustiness was a deep love for his son and a strong faith in him. He
had allowed his old habit of domineering to get the better of him, and
now in searching after a phantom he had suddenly come upon a ghastly
"Look here," said the banker, noticing his agitation, "have a drink of
our Special Scotch with me. It is the best there is to be had for
money. We always take off our hats when we speak of the Special in this
club. Then we'll go and see how things are moving."
As he turned to order the liquor he noticed for the first time the
placard on the cup.
"Now, who the dickens put that there?" he cried angrily. "There's no
use in giving up before you're thrashed." Saying which, he took off the
placard, tore it up, and threw it into the waste basket.
"Does Richard drink?" asked the old man huskily, remembering the eulogy
on the Special.
"Bless you, no. Nor smoke either. No, nor gamble, which is more
extraordinary. No, it's all right for old fellows like you and me to
indulge in the Special--bless it--but a young man who needs to keep his
nerves in order, has to live like a monk. I imagine it's a love affair.
Of course, there's no use asking you: you would be the last one to
know. When he came in to-night I saw he was worried over something. I
asked him what it was, but he declared there was nothing wrong. Here's
the liquor. You'll find that it reaches the spot."
The old man gulped down some of the celebrated "Special," then he said--
"Is it true that you induced my son to join this club?"
"Certainly. I heard what he could do from a man I had confidence in,
and I said to myself, We must have young Saunders for a member."
"Then don't you think you are largely to blame?"
"Oh, if you like to put it that way; yes. Still I'm the chief loser. I
lose ten thousand by him."
"Good God!" cried the stricken father.
The banker looked at the old man a little nervously, as if he feared
his head was not exactly right. Then he said: "Of course you will be
anxious to see how the thing ends. Come in with me, but be careful the
boy doesn't catch sight of you. It might rattle him. I'll get you a
place at the back, where you can see without being seen."
They rose, and the banker led the way on tiptoe between the curtains
into a large room filled with silent men earnestly watching a player at
a billiard table in the centre of the apartment. Temporary seats had
been built around the walls, tier above tier, and every place was
taken. Saunders noticed his son standing near the table in his shirt-
sleeves, with his cue butt downward on the ground. His face was pale
and his lips compressed as he watched his opponent's play like a man
fascinated. Evidently his back was against the wall, and he was
fighting a hopeless fight, but was grit to the last.
Old Saunders only faintly understood the situation, but his whole
sympathy went out to his boy, and he felt an instinctive hatred of the
confident opponent who was knocking the balls about with a reckless
accuracy which was evidently bringing dismay to the hearts of at least
half the onlookers.
All at once there was a burst of applause, and the player stood up
straight with a laugh.
"By Jove!" cried the banker, "he's missed. Didn't put enough stick
behind it. That comes of being too blamed sure. Shouldn't wonder but
there is going to be a turn of luck. Perhaps you'll prove a mascot, Mr.
He placed the old man on an elevated seat at the back. There was a buzz
of talk as young Saunders stood there chalking his cue, apparently loth
Hammond mixed among the crowd, and spoke eagerly now to one, now to
another. Old Saunders said to the man next him--
"What is it all about? Is this an important match?"
"Important! You bet it is. I suppose there's more money on this game
than was ever put on a billiard match before. Why, Jule Hammond alone
has ten thousand on Saunders."
The old man gave a quivering sigh of relief. He was beginning to
understand. The ten thousand, then, was not the figures of a
"Yes," continued the other, "it's the great match for the cup. There's
been a series of games, and this is the culminating one. Prognor has
won one, and Saunders one; now this game settles it. Prognor is the man
of the High Fliers' Club. He's a good one. Saunders won the cup for
this club last year, so they can't kick much if they lose it now.
They've never had a man to touch Saunders in this club since it began.
I doubt if there's another amateur like him in this country. He's a man
to be proud of, although he seemed to go to pieces to-night. They'll
all be down on him to-morrow if they lose their money, although he
don't make anything one way or another. I believe it's the high betting
that's made him so anxious and spoiled his play."
"Hush, hush!" was whispered around the room. Young Saunders had begun
to play. Prognor stood by with a superior smile on his lips. He was
certain to go out when his turn came again.
Saunders played very carefully, taking no risks, and his father watched
him with absorbed, breathless interest. Though he knew nothing of the
game he soon began to see how points were made. The boy never looked up
from the green cloth and the balls. He stepped around the table to his
different positions without hurry, and yet without undue tardiness. All
eyes were fastened on his play, and there was not a sound in the large
room but the ever-recurring click-click of the balls. The father
marvelled at the almost magical command the player had over the ivory
spheres. They came and went, rebounded and struck, seemingly because he
willed this result or that. There was a dexterity of touch, and
accurate measurement of force, a correct estimate of angles, a truth of
the eye, and a muscular control that left the old man amazed that the
combination of all these delicate niceties were concentrated in one
person, and that person his own son.
At last two of the balls lay close together, and the young man, playing
very deftly, appeared to be able to keep them in that position as if he
might go on scoring indefinitely. He went on in this way for some time,
when suddenly the silence was broken by Prognor crying out--
"I don't call that billiards. It's baby play."
Instantly there was an uproar. Saunders grounded his cue on the floor
and stood calmly amidst the storm, his eyes fixed on the green cloth.
There were shouts of "You were not interrupted," "That's for the umpire
to decide," "Play your game, Saunders," "Don't be bluffed." The old man
stood up with the rest, and his natural combativeness urged him to take
part in the fray and call for fair play. The umpire rose and demanded
order. When the tumult had subsided, he sat down. Some of the High
Fliers, however, cried, "Decision! Decision!"
"There is nothing to decide," said the umpire, severely. "Go on with
your play, Mr. Saunders."
Then young Saunders did a thing that took away the breath of his
friends. He deliberately struck the balls with his cue ball and
scattered them far and wide. A simultaneous sigh seemed to rise from
the breasts of the True Blues.
"That is magnificent, but it is not war," said the man beside old
Saunders. "He has no right to throw away a single chance when he is so
"Oh, he's not so far behind. Look at the score," put in a man on the
Saunders carefully nursed the balls up together once more, scored off
them for a while, and again he struck them far apart. This he did three
times. He apparently seemed bent on showing how completely he had the
table under his control. Suddenly a great cheer broke out, and young
Saunders rested as before without taking his eyes from the cloth.
"What does that mean?" cried the old man excitedly, with dry lips.
"Why, don't you see? He's tied the score. I imagine this is almost an
unprecedented run. I believe he's got Prognor on toast, if you ask me."
Hammond came up with flushed face, and grasped the old man by the arm
with a vigour that made him wince.
"Did you ever see anything grander than that?" he said, under cover of
the momentary applause. "I'm willing to lose my ten thousand now
without a murmur. You see, you are a mascot after all."
The old man was too much excited to speak, but he hoped the boy would
take no more chances. Again came the click-click of the balls. The
father was pleased to see that Dick played now with all the care and
caution he had observed at first. The silence became intense, almost
painful. Every man leaned forward and scarcely breathed.
All at once Prognor strode down to the billiard-table and stretched his
hand across it. A cheer shook the ceiling. The cup would remain on its
black marble pedestal. Saunders had won. He took the outstretched hand
of his defeated opponent, and the building rang again.
Banker Hammond pushed his way through the congratulating crowd and
smote the winner cordially on the shoulder.
"That was a great run, Dick, my boy. The old man was your mascot. Your
luck changed the moment he came in. Your father had his eye on you all
"What!" cried Dick, with a jump.
A flush came over his pale face as he caught his father's eye, although
the old man's glance was kindly enough.
"I'm very proud of you, my son," said his father, when at last he
reached him. "It takes skill and pluck and nerve to win a contest like
that. I'm off now; I want to tell your mother about it."
"Wait a moment, father, and we'll walk home together," said Dick.
THE BROMLEY GIBBERTS STORY.
The room in which John Shorely edited the _Weekly Sponge_ was not
luxuriously furnished, but it was comfortable. A few pictures decorated
the walls, mostly black and white drawings by artists who were so
unfortunate as to be compelled to work for the _Sponge_ on the
cheap. Magazines and papers were littered all about, chiefly American
in their origin, for Shorely had been brought up in the editorial
school which teaches that it is cheaper to steal from a foreign
publication than waste good money on original contributions. You
clipped out the story; changed New York to London; Boston or
Philadelphia to Manchester or Liverpool, and there you were.
Shorely's theory was that the public was a fool, and didn't know the
difference. Some of the greatest journalistic successes in London
proved the fact, he claimed, yet the _Sponge_ frequently bought
stories from well-known authors, and bragged greatly about it.
Shorely's table was littered with manuscripts, but the attention of the
great editor was not upon them. He sat in his wooden armchair, with his
gaze on the fire and a frown on his brow. The _Sponge_ was not
going well, and he feared he would have to adopt some of the many prize
schemes that were such a help to pure literature elsewhere, or offer a
thousand pounds insurance, tied up in such a way that it would look
lavishly generous to the constant reader, and yet be impossible to
collect if a disaster really occurred.
In the midst of his meditations a clerk entered and announced--"Mr.
"Tell him I'm busy just now--tell him I'm engaged," said the editor,
while the perplexed frown deepened on his brow.
The clerk's conscience; however, was never burdened with that message,
for Gibberts entered, with a long ulster coat flapping about his heels.
"That's all right," said Gibberts, waving his hand at the boy, who
stood with open mouth, appalled at the intrusion. "You heard what Mr.
Shorely said. He's engaged. Therefore let no one enter. Get out."
The boy departed, closing the door after him. Gibberts turned the key
in the lock, and then sat down.
"There," he said; "now we can talk unmolested, Shorely. I should think
you would be pestered to death by all manner of idiots who come in and
"I am," said the editor, shortly.
"Then take my plan, and lock your door. Communicate with the outer
office through a speaking-tube. I see you are down-hearted, so I have
come to cheer you up. I've brought you a story, my boy."
"My dear Gibberts," he said, "we have now--"
"Oh yes, I know all about that. You have matter enough on hand to run
the paper for the next fifteen years. If this is a comic story, you
are buying only serious stuff. If this be tragic, humour is what you
need. Of course, the up-and-down truth is that you are short of money,
and can't pay my price. The _Sponge_ is failing--everybody knows
that. Why can't you speak the truth, Shorely, to me, at least? If you
practiced an hour a day, and took lessons--from me, for instance--you
would be able in a month to speak several truthful sentences one after
The editor laughed bitterly.
"You are complimentary," he said.
"I'm not. Try again, Shorely. Say I'm a boorish ass."
"Well, you are."
"There, you see how easy it is! Practice is everything. Now, about this
story, will you--"
"I will not. As you are not an advertiser, I don't mind admitting to
you that the paper is going down. You see it comes to the same thing.
We haven't the money as you say, so what's the use of talking?"
Gibberts hitched his chair closer to the editor, and placed his hand on
the other's knee. He went on earnestly--
"Now is the time to talk, Shorely. In a little while it will be too
late. You will have thrown up the _Sponge._ Your great mistake is
trying to ride two horses, each facing a different direction. It can't
be done, my boy. Make up your mind whether you are going to be a thief
or an honest man. That's the first step."
"What do you mean?"
"You know what I mean. Go in for a paper that will be entirely stolen
property, or for one made up of purely original matter."
"We have a great deal of original matter in the _Sponge_."
"Yes, and that's what I object to. Have it all original, or have it all
stolen. Be fish or fowl. At least one hundred men a week see a stolen
article in the _Sponge_ which they have read elsewhere. They then
believe it is all stolen, and you lose them. That isn't business, so I
want to sell you one original tale, which will prove to be the most
remarkable story written in England this year."
"Oh, they all are," said Shorely, wearily. "Every story sent to me is a
most remarkable story, in the author's opinion."
"Look here, Shorely," cried Gibberts, angrily, "you mustn't talk to me
like that. I'm no unknown author, a fact of which you are very well
aware. I don't need to peddle my goods."
"Then why do you come here lecturing me?"
"For your own good, Shorely, my boy," said Gibberts, calming down as
rapidly as he had flared up. He was a most uncertain man. "For your own
good, and if you don't take this story, some one else will. It will
make the fortune of the paper that secures it. Now, you read it while I
wait. Here it is, typewritten, at one-and-three a thousand words, all
to save your blessed eyesight."
Shorely took the manuscript and lit the gas, for it was getting dark.
Gibberts sat down awhile, but soon began to pace the room, much to
Shorely's manifest annoyance. Not content with this, he picked up the
poker and noisily stirred the fire. "For Heaven's sake, sit down,
Gibberts, and be quiet!" cried Shorely, at last.
Gibberts seized the poker as if it had been a weapon, and glared at the
"I won't sit down, and I will make just as much noise as I want to," he
roared. As he stood there defiantly, Shorely saw a gleam of insanity in
"Oh, very well, then," said Shorely, continuing to read the story.
For a moment Gibberts stood grasping the poker by the middle, then he
flung it with a clatter on the fender, and, sitting down, gazed moodily
into the fire, without moving, until Shorely had turned the last page.
"Well," said Gibberts, rousing from his reverie, "what do you think of
"It's a good story, Gibberts. All your stories are good," said the
Gibberts started to his feet, and swore.
"Do you mean to say," he thundered, "that you see nothing in that story
different from any I or any one else ever wrote? Hang it, Shorely, you
wouldn't know a good story if you met it coming up Fleet Street! Can't
you see that story is written with a man's heart's blood?"
Shorely stretched out his legs and thrust his hands far down in his
"It may have been written as you say, although I ought you called my
attention a moment ago to its type-written character."
"Don't be flippant, Shorely," said Gibberts, relapsing again into
melancholy. "You don't like the story, then? You didn't see anything
unusual in it--purpose, force, passion, life, death, nothing?"
"There is death enough at the end. My objection is that there is too
much blood and thunder in it. Such a tragedy could never happen. No man
could go to a country house and slaughter every one in it. It's
Gibberts sprang from his seat and began to pace the room excitedly.
Suddenly he stopped before his friend, towering over him, his long
ulster making him look taller than he really was.
"Did I ever tell you the tragedy of my life? How the property that
would have kept me from want has--"
"Of course you have, Gibberts. Sit down. You've told it to everybody.
To me several times."
"How my cousin cheated me out of--"
"Certainly. Out of land and the woman you loved."
"Oh! I told you that, did I?" said Gibberts, apparently abashed at the
other's familiarity with the circumstances. He sat down, and rested his
head in his hands. There was a long silence between the two, which was
finally broken by Gibberts saying--
"So you don't care about the story?"
"Oh, I don't say that. I can see it is the story of your own life, with
an imaginary and sanguinary ending."
"Oh, you saw that, did you?"
"Yes. How much do you want for it?"
"What?" "L50, I tell you. Are you deaf? And I want the money now."
"Bless your innocent heart, I can buy a longer story than that from the
greatest author living for less than L50. Gibberts, you're crazy."
Gibberts looked up suddenly and inquiringly, as if that thought had
never occurred to him before. He seemed rather taken with the idea. It
would explain many things which had puzzled both himself and his
friends. He meditated upon the matter for a few moments, but at last
shook his head.
"No, Shorely," he said, with a sigh. "I'm not insane, though, goodness
knows, I've had enough to drive me mad. I don't seem to have the luck
of some people. I haven't the talent for going crazy. But to return to
the story. You think L50 too much for it. It will make the fortune of
the paper that publishes it. Let me see. I had it a moment ago, but the
point has escaped my memory. What was it you objected to as unnatural?"
"The tragedy. There is too much wholesale murder at the end."
"Ah! now I have it! Now I recollect!"
Gibberts began energetically to pace the room again, smiting his hands
together. His face was in a glow of excitement.
"Yes, I have it now. The tragedy. Granting a murder like that, one man
a dead shot, killing all the people in a country house; imagine it
actually taking place. Wouldn't all England ring with it?"
"Of course it would. Now, you listen to me. I'm going to commit that
so-called crime. One week after you publish the story, I'm going down
to that country house, Channor Chase. It is my house, if there was
justice and right in England, and I'm going to slaughter every one in
it. I will leave a letter, saying the story in the _Sponge_ is the
true story of what led to the tragedy. Your paper in a week will be the
most-talked-of journal in England--in the world. It will leap
instantaneously into a circulation such as no weekly on earth ever
before attained. Look here, Shorely, that story is worth L50,000 rather
than L50, and if you don't buy it at once, some one else will. Now,
what do you say?"
"I say you are joking, or else, as I said just now, you are as mad as a
"Admitting I am mad, will you take the story?"
"No, but I'll prevent you committing the crime."
"By giving you in charge. By informing on you."
"You can't do it. Until such a crime is committed, no one would believe
it could be committed. You have no witnesses to our conversation here,
and I will deny every assertion you make. My word, at present, is as
good as yours. All you can do is to ruin your chance of fortune, which
knocks at every man's door. When I came in, you were wondering what you
could do to put the _Sponge_ on its feet. I saw it in your
attitude. Now, what do you say?"
"I'll give you L25 for the story on its own merits, although it is a
big price, and you need not commit the crime."
"Done! That is the sum I wanted, but I knew if I asked it, you would
offer me L12 10_s_. Will you publish it within the month?"
"Very well. Write out the cheque. Don't cross it. I've no bank
When the cheque was handed to him, Gibberts thrust it into the ticket-
pocket of his ulster, turned abruptly, and unlocked the door. "Good-
bye," he said.
As he disappeared, Shorely noticed how long his ulster was, and how it
flapped about his heels. The next time he saw the novelist was under
circumstances that could never be effaced from his memory.
The _Sponge_ was a sixteen-page paper, with a blue cover, and the
week Gibberts' story appeared, it occupied the first seven pages. As
Shorely ran it over in the paper, it impressed him more than it had
done in manuscript. A story always seems more convincing in type.
Shorely met several men at the Club, who spoke highly of the story, and
at last he began to believe it was a good one himself. Johnson was
particularly enthusiastic, and every one in the Club knew Johnson's
opinion was infallible.
"How did _you_ come to get hold of it?" he said to Shorely, with
unnecessary emphasis on the personal pronoun.
"Don't you think I know a good story when I see it?" asked the editor,
"It isn't the general belief of the Club," replied Johnson, airily;
"but then, all the members have sent you contributions, so perhaps that
accounts for it. By the way, have you seen Gibberts lately?"
"No; why do you ask?"
"Well, it strikes me he is acting rather queerly. If you asked me, I
don't think he is quite sane. He has something on his mind."
"He told me," said the new member, with some hesitation--"but really I
don't think I'm justified in mentioning it, although he did not tell it
in confidence--that he was the rightful heir to a property in--"
"Oh, we all know that story!" cried the Club, unanimously.
"I think it's the Club whiskey," said one of the oldest members. "I
say, it's the worst in London."
"Verbal complaints not received. Write to the Committee," put in
Johnson. "If Gibberts has a friend in the Club, which I doubt, that
friend should look after him. I believe he will commit suicide yet."
These sayings troubled Shorely as he walked back to his office. He sat
down to write a note, asking Gibberts to call. As he was writing,
McCabe, the business manager of the _Sponge,_ came in.
"What's the matter with the old sheet this week?" he asked.
"Matter? I don't understand you."
"Well, I have just sent an order to the printer to run off an extra ten
thousand, and here comes a demand from Smith's for the whole lot. The
extra ten thousand were to go to different newsagents all over the
country who have sent repeat orders, so I have told the printer now to
run off at least twenty-five thousand, and to keep the plates on the
press. I never read the _Sponge_ myself, so I thought I would drop
in and ask you what the attraction was. This rush is unnatural.
"Better read the paper and find out," said Shorely.
"I would, if there wasn't so much of your stuff in it," retorted
Next day McCabe reported an almost bewildering increase in orders. He
had a jubilant "we've-done-it-at-last" air that exasperated Shorely,
who felt that he alone should have the credit. There had come no answer
to the note he had sent Gibberts, so he went to the Club, in the hope
of meeting him. He found Johnson, whom he asked if Gibberts were there.
"He's not been here to-day," said Johnson; "but I saw him yesterday,
and what do you think he was doing? He was in a gun-shop in the Strand,
buying cartridges for that villainous-looking seven-shooter of his. I
asked him what he was going to do with a revolver in London, and he
told me, shortly, that it was none of my business, which struck me as
so accurate a summing-up of the situation, that I came away without
making further remark. If you want any more stories by Gibberts, you
should look after him."
Shorely found himself rapidly verging into a state of nervousness
regarding Gibberts. He was actually beginning to believe the novelist
meditated some wild action, which might involve others in a
disagreeable complication. Shorely had no desire to be accessory either
before or after the fact. He hurried back to the office, and there
found Gibberts' belated reply to his note. He hastily tore it open, and
the reading of it completely banished what little self-control he had
"Dear Shorely,--I know why you want to see me, but I have so many
affairs to settle, that it is impossible for me to call upon you.
However, have no fears; I shall stand to my bargain, without any
goading from you. Only a few days have elapsed since the publication of
the story, and I did not promise the tragedy before the week was out. I
leave for Channor Chase this afternoon. You shall have your pound of
flesh, and more.--Yours,
Shorely was somewhat pale about the lips when he had finished this
scrawl. He flung on his coat, and rushed into the street. Calling a
hansom, he said--
"Drive to Kidner's Inn as quickly as you can. No. 15."
Once there, he sprang up the steps two at a time, and knocked at
Gibberts' door. The novelist allowed himself the luxury of a "man," and
it was the "man" who answered Shorely's imperious knock.
"He's just gone, sir."
"To Euston Station, I believe, sir; and he took a hansom. He's going
into the country for a week, sir, and I wasn't to forward his letters,
so I haven't his address."
"Have you an 'ABC'?"
"Yes, sir; step inside, sir. Mr. Gibberts was just looking up trains in
it, sir, before he left."
Shorely saw it was open at C, and, looking down the column to Channor,
he found that a train left in about twenty minutes. Without a word, he
dashed down the stairs again. The "man" did not seem astonished. Queer
fish sometimes came to see his master.
"Can you get me to Euston Station in twenty minutes?"
The cabman shook his head, as he said--
"I'll do my best, sir, but we ought to have a good half-hour."
The driver did his best, and landed Shorely on the departure platform
two minutes after the train had gone.
"When is the next train to Channor?" demanded Shorely of a porter.
"Just left, sir."
"The next train hasn't just left, you fool. Answer my question."
"Two hours and twenty minutes, sir," replied the porter, in a huff.
Shorely thought of engaging a special, but realised he hadn't money
enough. Perhaps he could telegraph and warn the people of Channor
Chase, but he did not know to whom to telegraph. Or, again, he thought
he might have Gibberts arrested on some charge or other at Channor
Station. That, he concluded, was the way out--dangerous, but feasible.
By this time, however, the porter had recovered his equanimity. Porters
cannot afford to cherish resentment, and this particular porter saw
half a crown in the air.
"Did you wish to reach Channor before the train that's just gone, sir?"
"Yes. Can it be done?"
"It might be done, sir," said the porter, hesitatingly, as if he were
on the verge of divulging a State secret which would cost him his
situation. He wanted the half-crown to become visible before he
committed himself further.
"Here's half a sovereign, if you tell me how it can be done, short of
hiring a special."
"Well, sir, you could take the express that leaves at the half-hour. It
will carry you fifteen miles beyond Channor, to Buley Junction, then in
seventeen minutes you can get a local back to Channor, which is due
three minutes before the down train reaches there--if the local is in
time," he added, when the gold piece was safe stowed in his pocket.
While waiting for the express, Shorely bought a copy of the
_Sponge_, and once more he read Gibberts' story on the way down.
The third reading appalled him. He was amazed he had not noticed before
the deadly earnestness of its tone. We are apt to underrate or overrate
the work of a man with whom we are personally familiar.
Now, for the first time, Shorely seemed to get the proper perspective.
The reading left him in a state of nervous collapse. He tried to
remember whether or not he had burned Gibberts' letter. If he had left
it on his table, anything might happen. It was incriminating evidence.
The local was five minutes late at the Junction, and it crawled over
the fifteen miles back to Channor in the most exasperating way, losing
time with every mile. At Channor he found the London train had come and
"Did a man in a long ulster get off, and--"
"For Channor Chase, sir?"
"Yes. Has he gone?"
"Oh yes, sir! The dog-cart from the Chase was here to meet him, sir."
"How far is it?"
"About five miles by road, if you mean the Chase, sir."
"Can I get a conveyance?"
"I don't think so, sir. They didn't know you were coming, I suppose, or
they would have waited; but if you take the road down by the church,
you can get there before the cart, sir. It isn't more than two miles
from the church. You'll find the path a bit dirty, I'm afraid, sir, but
not worse than the road. You can't miss the way, and you can send for
It had been raining, and was still drizzling. A strange path is
sometimes difficult to follow, even in broad daylight, but a wet, dark
evening adds tremendously to the problem. Shorely was a city man, and
quite unused to the eccentricities of country lanes and paths.
He first mistook the gleaming surface of a ditch for the footpath, and
only found his mistake when he was up to his waist in water. The rain
came on heavily again, and added to his troubles. After wandering
through muddy fields for some time, he came to a cottage, where he
succeeded in securing a guide to Channor Chase.
The time he had lost wandering in the fields would, Shorely thought,
allow the dog-cart to arrive before him, and such he found to be the
case. The man who answered Shorely's imperious summons to the door was
surprised to find a wild-eyed, unkempt, bedraggled individual, who
looked like a lunatic or a tramp.
"Has Mr. Bromley Gibberts arrived yet?" he asked, without preliminary
"Yes, sir," answered the man.
"Is he in his room?"
"No, sir. He has just come down, after dressing, and is in the drawing-
"I must see him at once," gasped Shorely. "It is a matter of life and
death. Take me to the drawing-room."
The man, in some bewilderment, led him to the door of the drawing-room,
and Shorely heard the sound of laughter from within. Thus ever are
comedy and tragedy mingled. The man threw the door open, and Shorely
entered. The sight he beheld at first dazzled him, for the room was
brilliantly lighted. He saw a number of people, ladies and gentlemen,
all in evening dress, and all looking towards the door, with
astonishment in their eyes. Several of them, he noticed, had copies of
the _Sponge_ in their hands. Bromley Gibberts stood before the
fire, and was very evidently interrupted in the middle of a narration.
"I assure you," he was saying, "that is the only way by which a story
of the highest class can be sold to a London editor."
He stopped as he said this, and turned to look at the intruder. It was
a moment or two before he recognised the dapper editor in the
bedraggled individual who stood, abashed, at the door.
"By the gods!" he exclaimed, waving his hands. "Speak of the editor,
and he appears. In the name of all that's wonderful, Shorely, how did
you come here? Have your deeds at last found you out? Have they ducked
you in a horse-pond? I have just been telling my friends here how I
sold you that story, which is making the fortune of the _Sponge_.
Come forward, and show yourself, Shorely, my boy."
"I would like a word with you," stammered Shorely.
"Then, have it here," said the novelist. "They all understand the
circumstances. Come and tell them your side of the story."
"I warn you," said Shorely, pulling himself together, and addressing
the company, "that this man contemplates a dreadful crime, and I have
come here to prevent it."
Gibberts threw back his head, and laughed loudly.
"Search me," he cried. "I am entirely unarmed, and, as every one here
knows, among my best friends."
"Goodness!" said one old lady. "You don't mean to say that Channor
Chase is the scene of your story, and where the tragedy was to take
"Of course it is," cried Gibberts, gleefully. "Didn't you recognise the
local colour? I thought I described Channor Chase down to the ground,
and did I not tell you you were all my victims? I always forget some
important detail when telling a story. Don't go yet," he said, as
Shorely turned away; "but tell your story, then we will have each man's
narrative, after the style of Wilkie Collins."
But Shorely had had enough, and, in spite of pressing invitations to
remain, he departed out into the night, cursing the eccentricities of
NOT ACCORDING TO THE CODE.
Even a stranger to the big town walking for the first time through
London, sees on the sides of the houses many names with which he has
long been familiar. His precognition has cost the firms those names
represent much money in advertising. The stranger has had the names
before him for years in newspapers and magazines, on the hoardings and
boards by the railway side, paying little heed to them at the time; yet
they have been indelibly impressed on his brain, and when he wishes
soap or pills his lips almost automatically frame the words most
familiar to them. Thus are the lavish sums spent in advertising
justified, and thus are many excellent publications made possible.
When you come to ponder over the matter, it seems strange that there
should ever be any real man behind the names so lavishly advertised;
that there should be a genuine Smith or Jones whose justly celebrated
medicines work such wonders, or whose soap will clean even a guilty
conscience. Granting the actual existence of these persons and probing
still further into the mystery, can any one imagine that the excellent
Smith to whom thousands of former sufferers send entirely unsolicited
testimonials, or the admirable Jones whom _prima donnas_ love
because his soap preserves their dainty complexions--can any one credit
the fact that Smith and Jones have passions like other men, have
hatreds, likes and dislikes?
Such a condition of things, incredible as it may appear, exists in
London. There are men in the metropolis, utterly unknown personally,
whose names are more widely spread over the earth than the names of the
greatest novelists, living or dead, and these men have feeling and form
like unto ourselves.
There was the firm of Danby and Strong for instance. The name may mean
nothing to any reader of these pages, but there was a time when it was
well-known and widely advertised, not only in England but over the
greater part of the world as well. They did a great business, as every
firm that spends a fortune every year in advertising is bound to do. It
was in the old paper-collar days. There actually was a time when the
majority of men wore paper collars, and, when you come to think of it,
the wonder is that the paper-collar trade ever fell away as it did,
when you consider with what vile laundries London is and always has
been cursed. Take the Danby and Strong collars for instance, advertised
as being so similar to linen that only an expert could tell the
difference. That was Strong's invention. Before he invented the
Piccadilly collar so-called, paper collars had a brilliant glaze that
would not have deceived the most recent arrival from the most remote
shire in the country. Strong devised some method by which a slight
linen film was put on the paper, adding strength to the collar and
giving it the appearance of the genuine Article. You bought a
pasteboard box containing a dozen of these collars for something like
the price you paid for the washing of half a dozen linen ones. The
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