Robert Louis Stevenson and Fanny van de Grift Stevenson
Part 4 out of 5
sapphire and emerald and opal, and the golden topaz, and rubies red
as the sunset--of what incalculable worth, of what unequalled
beauty to the eye!--had you seen it, as I have, and alas! as SHE
has--you would understand and tremble at your danger.'
'She has seen them!' he cried, and I could see by his face, that my
audacity was justified by its success.
I caught his hand in mine. 'My master,' said I, 'I am now yours;
it is my duty, it should be my pleasure, to defend your interests
and life. Hear my advice, then; and, I conjure you, be guided by
my prudence. Follow me privily; let none see where we are going; I
will lead you to the place where the treasure has been buried; that
once disinterred, let us make straight for the boat, escape to the
mainland, and not return to this dangerous isle without the
countenance of soldiers.'
What free man in a free land would have credited so sudden a
devotion? But this oppressor, through the very arts and
sophistries he had abused, to quiet the rebellion of his conscience
and to convince himself that slavery was natural, fell like a child
into the trap I laid for him. He praised and thanked me; told me I
had all the qualities he valued in a servant; and when he had
questioned me further as to the nature and value of the treasure,
and I had once more artfully inflamed his greed, bade me without
delay proceed to carry out my plan of action.
From a shed in the garden, I took a pick and shovel; and thence, by
devious paths among the magnolias, led my master to the entrance of
the swamp. I walked first, carrying, as I was now in duty bound,
the tools, and glancing continually behind me, lest we should be
spied upon and followed. When we were come as far as the beginning
of the path, it flashed into my mind I had forgotten meat; and
leaving Mr. Caulder in the shadow of a tree, I returned alone to
the house for a basket of provisions. Were they for him? I asked
myself. And a voice within me answered, No. While we were face to
face, while I still saw before my eyes the man to whom I belonged
as the hand belongs to the body, my indignation held me bravely up.
But now that I was alone, I conceived a sickness at myself and my
designs that I could scarce endure; I longed to throw myself at his
feet, avow my intended treachery, and warn him from that
pestilential swamp, to which I was decoying him to die; but my vow
to my dead father, my duty to my innocent youth, prevailed upon
these scruples; and though my face was pale and must have reflected
the horror that oppressed my spirits, it was with a firm step that
I returned to the borders of the swamp, and with smiling lips that
I bade him rise and follow me.
The path on which we now entered was cut, like a tunnel, through
the living jungle. On either hand and overhead, the mass of
foliage was continuously joined; the day sparingly filtered through
the depth of super-impending wood; and the air was hot like steam,
and heady with vegetable odours, and lay like a load upon the lungs
and brain. Underfoot, a great depth of mould received our silent
footprints; on each side, mimosas, as tall as a man, shrank from my
passing skirts with a continuous hissing rustle; and but for these
sentient vegetables, all in that den of pestilence was motionless
We had gone but a little way in, when Mr. Caulder was seized with
sudden nausea, and must sit down a moment on the path. My heart
yearned, as I beheld him; and I seriously begged the doomed mortal
to return upon his steps. What were a few jewels in the scales
with life? I asked. But no, he said; that witch Madam Jezebel
would find them out; he was an honest man, and would not stand to
be defrauded, and so forth, panting the while, like a sick dog.
Presently he got to his feet again, protesting he had conquered his
uneasiness; but as we again began to go forward, I saw in his
changed countenance, the first approaches of death.
'Master,' said I, 'you look pale, deathly pale; your pallor fills
me with dread. Your eyes are bloodshot; they are red like the
rubies that we seek.'
'Wench,' he cried, 'look before you; look at your steps. I declare
to Heaven, if you annoy me once again by looking back, I shall
remind you of the change in your position.'
A little after, I observed a worm upon the ground, and told, in a
whisper, that its touch was death. Presently a great green
serpent, vivid as the grass in spring, wound rapidly across the
path; and once again I paused and looked back at my companion, with
a horror in my eyes. 'The coffin snake,' said I, 'the snake that
dogs its victim like a hound.'
But he was not to be dissuaded. 'I am an old traveller,' said he.
'This is a foul jungle indeed; but we shall soon be at an end.'
'Ay,' said I, looking at him, with a strange smile, 'what end?'
Thereupon he laughed again and again, but not very heartily; and
then, perceiving that the path began to widen and grow higher,
'There!' said he. 'What did I tell you? We are past the worst.'
Indeed, we had now come to the bayou, which was in that place very
narrow and bridged across by a fallen trunk; but on either hand we
could see it broaden out, under a cavern of great arms of trees and
hanging creepers: sluggish, putrid, of a horrible and sickly
stench, floated on by the flat heads of alligators, and its banks
alive with scarlet crabs.
'If we fall from that unsteady bridge,' said I, 'see, where the
caiman lies ready to devour us! If, by the least divergence from
the path, we should be snared in a morass, see, where those myriads
of scarlet vermin scour the border of the thicket! Once helpless,
how they would swarm together to the assault! What could man do
against a thousand of such mailed assailants? And what a death
were that, to perish alive under their claws.'
'Are you mad, girl?' he cried. 'I bid you be silent and lead on.'
Again I looked upon him, half relenting; and at that he raised the
stick that was in his hand and cruelly struck me on the face.
'Lead on!' he cried again. 'Must I be all day, catching my death
in this vile slough, and all for a prating slave-girl?'
I took the blow in silence, I took it smiling; but the blood welled
back upon my heart. Something, I know not what, fell at that
moment with a dull plunge in the waters of the lagoon, and I told
myself it was my pity that had fallen.
On the farther side, to which we now hastily scrambled, the wood
was not so dense, the web of creepers not so solidly convolved. It
was possible, here and there, to mark a patch of somewhat brighter
daylight, or to distinguish, through the lighter web of parasites,
the proportions of some soaring tree. The cypress on the left
stood very visibly forth, upon the edge of such a clearing; the
path in that place widened broadly; and there was a patch of open
ground, beset with horrible ant-heaps, thick with their artificers.
I laid down the tools and basket by the cypress root, where they
were instantly blackened over with the crawling ants; and looked
once more in the face of my unconscious victim. Mosquitoes and
foul flies wove so close a veil between us that his features were
obscured; and the sound of their flight was like the turning of a
'Here,' I said, 'is the spot. I cannot dig, for I have not learned
to use such instruments; but, for your own sake, I beseech you to
be swift in what you do.'
He had sunk once more upon the ground, panting like a fish; and I
saw rising in his face the same dusky flush that had mantled on my
father's. 'I feel ill,' he gasped, 'horribly ill; the swamp turns
around me; the drone of these carrion flies confounds me. Have you
I gave him a glass, and he drank greedily. 'It is for you to
think,' said I, 'if you should further persevere. The swamp has an
ill name.' And at the word I ominously nodded.
'Give me the pick,' said he. 'Where are the jewels buried?'
I told him vaguely; and in the sweltering heat and closeness, and
dim twilight of the jungle, he began to wield the pickaxe, swinging
it overhead with the vigour of a healthy man. At first, there
broke forth upon him a strong sweat, that made his face to shine,
and in which the greedy insects settled thickly.
'To sweat in such a place,' said I. 'O master, is this wise?
Fever is drunk in through open pores.'
'What do you mean?' he screamed, pausing with the pick buried in
the soil. 'Do you seek to drive me mad? Do you think I do not
understand the danger that I run?'
'That is all I want,' said I: 'I only wish you to be swift.' And
then, my mind flitting to my father's deathbed, I began to murmur,
scarce above my breath, the same vain repetition of words, 'Hurry,
Presently, to my surprise, the treasure-seeker took them up; and
while he still wielded the pick, but now with staggering and
uncertain blows, repeated to himself, as it were the burthen of a
song, 'Hurry, hurry, hurry;' and then again, 'There is no time to
lose; the marsh has an ill name, ill name;' and then back to
'Hurry, hurry, hurry,' with a dreadful, mechanical, hurried, and
yet wearied utterance, as a sick man rolls upon his pillow. The
sweat had disappeared; he was now dry, but all that I could see of
him, of the same dull brick red. Presently his pick unearthed the
bag of jewels; but he did not observe it, and continued hewing at
'Master,' said I, 'there is the treasure.' He seemed to waken from
a dream. 'Where?' he cried; and then, seeing it before his eyes,
'Can this be possible?' he added. 'I must be light-headed. Girl,'
he cried suddenly, with the same screaming tone of voice that I had
once before observed, 'what is wrong? is this swamp accursed?'
'It is a grave,' I answered. 'You will not go out alive; and as
for me, my life is in God's hands.'
He fell upon the ground like a man struck by a blow, but whether
from the effect of my words, or from sudden seizure of the malady,
I cannot tell. Pretty soon, he raised his head. 'You have brought
me here to die,' he said; 'at the risk of your own days, you have
condemned me. Why?'
'To save my honour,' I replied. 'Bear me out that I have warned
you. Greed of these pebbles, and not I, has been your undoer.'
He took out his revolver and handed it to me. 'You see,' he said,
'I could have killed you even yet. But I am dying, as you say;
nothing could save me; and my bill is long enough already. Dear
me, dear me,' he said, looking in my face with a curious, puzzled,
and pathetic look, like a dull child at school, 'if there be a
judgment afterwards, my bill is long enough.'
At that, I broke into a passion of weeping, crawled at his feet,
kissed his hands, begged his forgiveness, put the pistol back into
his grasp and besought him to avenge his death; for indeed, if with
my life I could have bought back his, I had not balanced at the
cost. But he was determined, the poor soul, that I should yet more
bitterly regret my act.
'I have nothing to forgive,' said he. 'Dear heaven, what a thing
is an old fool! I thought, upon my word, you had taken quite a
fancy to me.'
He was seized, at the same time, with a dreadful, swimming
dizziness, clung to me like a child, and called upon the name of
some woman. Presently this spasm, which I watched with choking
tears, lessened and died away; and he came again to the full
possession of his mind. 'I must write my will,' he said. 'Get out
my pocket-book.' I did so, and he wrote hurriedly on one page with
a pencil. 'Do not let my son know,' he said; 'he is a cruel dog,
is my son Philip; do not let him know how you have paid me out;'
and then all of a sudden, 'God,' he cried, 'I am blind,' and
clapped both hands before his eyes; and then again, and in a
groaning whisper, 'Don't leave me to the crabs!' I swore I would
be true to him so long as a pulse stirred; and I redeemed my
promise. I sat there and watched him, as I had watched my father,
but with what different, with what appalling thoughts! Through the
long afternoon, he gradually sank. All that while, I fought an
uphill battle to shield him from the swarms of ants and the clouds
of mosquitoes: the prisoner of my crime. The night fell, the roar
of insects instantly redoubled in the dark arcades of the swamp;
and still I was not sure that he had breathed his last. At length,
the flesh of his hand, which I yet held in mine, grew chill between
my fingers, and I knew that I was free.
I took his pocket-book and the revolver, being resolved rather to
die than to be captured, and laden besides with the basket and the
bag of gems, set forward towards the north. The swamp, at that
hour of the night, was filled with a continuous din: animals and
insects of all kinds, and all inimical to life, contributing their
parts. Yet in the midst of this turmoil of sound, I walked as
though my eyes were bandaged, beholding nothing. The soil sank
under my foot, with a horrid, slippery consistence, as though I
were walking among toads; the touch of the thick wall of foliage,
by which alone I guided myself, affrighted me like the touch of
serpents; the darkness checked my breathing like a gag; indeed, I
have never suffered such extremes of fear as during that nocturnal
walk, nor have I ever known a more sensible relief than when I
found the path beginning to mount and to grow firmer under foot,
and saw, although still some way in front of me, the silver
brightness of the moon.
Presently, I had crossed the last of the jungle, and come forth
amongst noble and lofty woods, clean rock, the clean, dry dust, the
aromatic smell of mountain plants that had been baked all day in
sunlight, and the expressive silence of the night. My negro blood
had carried me unhurt across that reeking and pestiferous morass;
by mere good fortune, I had escaped the crawling and stinging
vermin with which it was alive; and I had now before me the easier
portion of my enterprise, to cross the isle and to make good my
arrival at the haven and my acceptance on the English yacht. It
was impossible by night to follow such a track as my father had
described; and I was casting about for any landmark, and, in my
ignorance, vainly consulting the disposition of the stars, when
there fell upon my ear, from somewhere far in front, the sound of
many voices hurriedly singing.
I scarce knew upon what grounds I acted; but I shaped my steps in
the direction of that sound; and in a quarter of an hour's walking,
came unperceived to the margin of an open glade. It was lighted by
the strong moon and by the flames of a fire. In the midst, there
stood a little low and rude building, surmounted by a cross: a
chapel, as I then remembered to have heard, long since desecrated
and given over to the rites of Hoodoo. Hard by the steps of
entrance was a black mass, continually agitated and stirring to and
fro as if with inarticulate life; and this I presently perceived to
be a heap of cocks, hares, dogs, and other birds and animals, still
struggling, but helplessly tethered and cruelly tossed one upon
another. Both the fire and the chapel were surrounded by a ring of
kneeling Africans, both men and women. Now they would raise their
palms half-closed to heaven, with a peculiar, passionate gesture of
supplication; now they would bow their heads and spread their hands
before them on the ground. As the double movement passed and
repassed along the line, the heads kept rising and falling, like
waves upon the sea; and still, as if in time to these
gesticulations, the hurried chant continued. I stood spellbound,
knowing that my life depended by a hair, knowing that I had
stumbled on a celebration of the rites of Hoodoo.
Presently, the door of the chapel opened, and there came forth a
tall negro, entirely nude, and bearing in his hand the sacrificial
knife. He was followed by an apparition still more strange and
shocking: Madam Mendizabal, naked also, and carrying in both hands
and raised to the level of her face, an open basket of wicker. It
was filled with coiling snakes; and these, as she stood there with
the uplifted basket, shot through the osier grating and curled
about her arms. At the sight of this, the fervour of the crowd
seemed to swell suddenly higher; and the chant rose in pitch and
grew more irregular in time and accent. Then, at a sign from the
tall negro, where he stood, motionless and smiling, in the moon and
firelight, the singing died away, and there began the second stage
of this barbarous and bloody celebration. From different parts of
the ring, one after another, man or woman, ran forth into the
midst; ducked, with that same gesture of the thrown-up hand, before
the priestess and her snakes; and with various adjurations, uttered
aloud the blackest wishes of the heart. Death and disease were the
favours usually invoked: the death or the disease of enemies or
rivals; some calling down these plagues upon the nearest of their
own blood, and one, to whom I swear I had been never less than
kind, invoking them upon myself. At each petition, the tall negro,
still smiling, picked up some bird or animal from the heaving mass
upon his left, slew it with the knife, and tossed its body on the
ground. At length, it seemed, it reached the turn of the high-
priestess. She set down the basket on the steps, moved into the
centre of the ring, grovelled in the dust before the reptiles, and
still grovelling lifted up her voice, between speech and singing,
and with so great, with so insane a fervour of excitement, as
struck a sort of horror through my blood.
'Power,' she began, 'whose name we do not utter; power that is
neither good nor evil, but below them both; stronger than good,
greater than evil--all my life long I have adored and served thee.
Who has shed blood upon thine altars? whose voice is broken with
the singing of thy praises? whose limbs are faint before their age
with leaping in thy revels? Who has slain the child of her body?
I,' she cried, 'I, Metamnbogu! By my own name, I name myself. I
tear away the veil. I would be served or perish. Hear me, slime
of the fat swamp, blackness of the thunder, venom of the serpent's
udder--hear or slay me! I would have two things, O shapeless one,
O horror of emptiness--two things, or die! The blood of my white-
faced husband; oh! give me that; he is the enemy of Hoodoo; give me
his blood! And yet another, O racer of the blind winds, O
germinator in the ruins of the dead, O root of life, root of
corruption! I grow old, I grow hideous; I am known, I am hunted
for my life: let thy servant then lay by this outworn body; let
thy chief priestess turn again to the blossom of her days, and be a
girl once more, and the desired of all men, even as in the past!
And, O lord and master, as I here ask a marvel not yet wrought
since we were torn from the old land, have I not prepared the
sacrifice in which thy soul delighteth--the kid without the horns?'
Even as she uttered the words, there was a great rumour of joy
through all the circle of worshippers; it rose, and fell, and rose
again; and swelled at last into rapture, when the tall negro, who
had stepped an instant into the chapel, reappeared before the door,
carrying in his arms the body of the slave-girl, Cora. I know not
if I saw what followed. When next my mind awoke to a clear
knowledge, Cora was laid upon the steps before the serpents; the
negro with the knife stood over her; the knife rose; and at this I
screamed out in my great horror, bidding them, in God's name, to
A stillness fell upon the mob of cannibals. A moment more, and
they must have thrown off this stupor, and I infallibly have
perished. But Heaven had designed to save me. The silence of
these wretched men was not yet broken, when there arose, in the
empty night, a sound louder than the roar of any European tempest,
swifter to travel than the wings of any Eastern wind. Blackness
engulfed the world; blackness, stabbed across from every side by
intricate and blinding lightning. Almost in the same second, at
one world-swallowing stride, the heart of the tornado reached the
clearing. I heard an agonising crash, and the light of my reason
When I recovered consciousness, the day was come. I was unhurt;
the trees close about me had not lost a bough; and I might have
thought at first that the tornado was a feature in a dream. It was
otherwise indeed; for when I looked abroad, I perceived I had
escaped destruction by a hand's-breadth. Right through the forest,
which here covered hill and dale, the storm had ploughed a lane of
ruin. On either hand, the trees waved uninjured in the air of the
morning; but in the forthright course of its advance, the hurricane
had left no trophy standing. Everything, in that line, tree, man,
or animal, the desecrated chapel and the votaries of Hoodoo, had
been subverted and destroyed in that brief spasm of anger of the
powers of air. Everything, but a yard or two beyond the line of
its passage, humble flower, lofty tree, and the poor vulnerable
maid who now knelt to pay her gratitude to heaven, awoke unharmed
in the crystal purity and peace of the new day.
To move by the path of the tornado was a thing impossible to man,
so wildly were the wrecks of the tall forest piled together by that
fugitive convulsion. I crossed it indeed; with such labour and
patience, with so many dangerous slips and falls, as left me, at
the further side, bankrupt alike of strength and courage. There I
sat down awhile to recruit my forces; and as I ate (how should I
bless the kindliness of Heaven!) my eye, flitting to and fro in the
colonnade of the great trees, alighted on a trunk that had been
blazed. Yes, by the directing hand of Providence, I had been
conducted to the very track I was to follow. With what a light
heart I now set forth, and walking with how glad a step, traversed
the uplands of the isle!
It was hard upon the hour of noon, when I came, all tattered and
wayworn, to the summit of a steep descent, and looked below me on
the sea. About all the coast, the surf, roused by the tornado of
the night, beat with a particular fury and made a fringe of snow.
Close at my feet, I saw a haven, set in precipitous and palm-
crowned bluffs of rock. Just outside, a ship was heaving on the
surge, so trimly sparred, so glossily painted, so elegant and
point-device in every feature, that my heart was seized with
admiration. The English colours blew from her masthead; and from
my high station, I caught glimpses of her snowy planking, as she
rolled on the uneven deep, and saw the sun glitter on the brass of
her deck furniture. There, then, was my ship of refuge; and of all
my difficulties only one remained: to get on board of her.
Half an hour later, I issued at last out of the woods on the margin
of a cove, into whose jaws the tossing and blue billows entered,
and along whose shores they broke with a surprising loudness. A
wooded promontory hid the yacht; and I had walked some distance
round the beach, in what appeared to be a virgin solitude, when my
eye fell on a boat, drawn into a natural harbour, where it rocked
in safety, but deserted. I looked about for those who should have
manned her; and presently, in the immediate entrance of the wood,
spied the red embers of a fire, and, stretched around in various
attitudes, a party of slumbering mariners. To these I drew near:
most were black, a few white; but all were dressed with the
conspicuous decency of yachtsmen; and one, from his peaked cap and
glittering buttons, I rightly divined to be an officer. Him, then,
I touched upon the shoulder. He started up; the sharpness of his
movement woke the rest; and they all stared upon me in surprise.
'What do you want?' inquired the officer.
'To go on board the yacht,' I answered.
I thought they all seemed disconcerted at this; and the officer,
with something of sharpness, asked me who I was. Now I had
determined to conceal my name until I met Sir George; and the first
name that rose to my lips was that of the Senora Mendizabal. At
the word, there went a shock about the little party of seamen; the
negroes stared at me with indescribable eagerness, the whites
themselves with something of a scared surprise; and instantly the
spirit of mischief prompted me to add, 'And if the name is new to
your ears, call me Metamnbogu.'
I had never seen an effect so wonderful. The negroes threw their
hands into the air, with the same gesture I remarked the night
before about the Hoodoo camp-fire; first one, and then another, ran
forward and kneeled down and kissed the skirts of my torn dress;
and when the white officer broke out swearing and calling to know
if they were mad, the coloured seamen took him by the shoulders,
dragged him on one side till they were out of hearing, and
surrounded him with open mouths and extravagant pantomime. The
officer seemed to struggle hard; he laughed aloud, and I saw him
make gestures of dissent and protest; but in the end, whether
overcome by reason or simply weary of resistance, he gave in--
approached me civilly enough, but with something of a sneering
manner underneath--and touching his cap, 'My lady,' said he, 'if
that is what you are, the boat is ready.'
My reception on board the Nemorosa (for so the yacht was named)
partook of the same mingled nature. We were scarcely within hail
of that great and elegant fabric, where she lay rolling gunwale
under and churning the blue sea to snow, before the bulwarks were
lined with the heads of a great crowd of seamen, black, white, and
yellow; and these and the few who manned the boat began exchanging
shouts in some lingua franca incomprehensible to me. All eyes were
directed on the passenger; and once more I saw the negroes toss up
their hands to heaven, but now as if with passionate wonder and
At the head of the gangway, I was received by another officer, a
gentlemanly man with blond and bushy whiskers; and to him I
addressed my demand to see Sir George.
'But this is not--' he cried, and paused.
'I know it,' returned the other officer, who had brought me from
the shore. 'But what the devil can we do? Look at all the
I followed his direction; and as my eye lighted upon each, the poor
ignorant Africans ducked, and bowed, and threw their hands into the
air, as though in the presence of a creature half divine.
Apparently the officer with the whiskers had instantly come round
to the opinion of his subaltern; for he now addressed me with every
signal of respect.
'Sir George is at the island, my lady,' said he: 'for which, with
your ladyship's permission, I shall immediately make all sail. The
cabins are prepared. Steward, take Lady Greville below.'
Under this new name, then, and so captivated by surprise that I
could neither think nor speak, I was ushered into a spacious and
airy cabin, hung about with weapons and surrounded by divans. The
steward asked for my commands; but I was by this time so wearied,
bewildered, and disturbed, that I could only wave him to leave me
to myself, and sink upon a pile of cushions. Presently, by the
changed motion of the ship, I knew her to be under way; my
thoughts, so far from clarifying, grew the more distracted and
confused; dreams began to mingle and confound them; and at length,
by insensible transition, I sank into a dreamless slumber.
When I awoke, the day and night had passed, and it was once more
morning. The world on which I reopened my eyes swam strangely up
and down; the jewels in the bag that lay beside me chinked together
ceaselessly; the clock and the barometer wagged to and fro like
pendulums; and overhead, seamen were singing out at their work, and
coils of rope clattering and thumping on the deck. Yet it was long
before I had divined that I was at sea; long before I had recalled,
one after another, the tragical, mysterious, and inexplicable
events that had brought me where was.
When I had done so, I thrust the jewels, which I was surprised to
find had been respected, into the bosom of my dress; and seeing a
silver bell hard by upon a table, rang it loudly. The steward
instantly appeared; I asked for food; and he proceeded to lay the
table, regarding me the while with a disquieting and pertinacious
scrutiny. To relieve myself of my embarrassment, I asked him, with
as fair a show of ease as I could muster, if it were usual for
yachts to carry so numerous a crew?
'Madam,' said he, 'I know not who you are, nor what mad fancy has
induced you to usurp a name and an appalling destiny that are not
yours. I warn you from the soul. No sooner arrived at the island-
At this moment he was interrupted by the whiskered officer, who had
entered unperceived behind him, and now laid a hand upon his
shoulder. The sudden pallor, the deadly and sick fear, that was
imprinted on the steward's face, formed a startling addition to his
'Parker!' said the officer, and pointed towards the door.
'Yes, Mr. Kentish,' said the steward. 'For God's sake, Mr.
Kentish!' And vanished, with a white face, from the cabin.
Thereupon the officer bade me sit down, and began to help me, and
join in the meal. 'I fill your ladyship's glass,' said he, and
handed me a tumbler of neat rum.
'Sir,' cried I, 'do you expect me to drink this?'
He laughed heartily. 'Your ladyship is so much changed,' said he,
'that I no longer expect any one thing more than any other.'
Immediately after, a white seaman entered the cabin, saluted both
Mr. Kentish and myself, and informed the officer there was a sail
in sight, which was bound to pass us very close, and that Mr.
Harland was in doubt about the colours.
'Being so near the island?' asked Mr. Kentish.
'That was what Mr. Harland said, sir,' returned the sailor, with a
'Better not, I think,' said Mr. Kentish. 'My compliments to Mr.
Harland; and if she seem a lively boat, give her the stars and
stripes; but if she be dull, and we can easily outsail her, show
John Dutchman. That is always another word for incivility at sea;
so we can disregard a hail or a flag of distress, without
As soon as the sailor had gone on deck, I turned to the officer in
wonder. 'Mr. Kentish, if that be your name,' said I, 'are you
ashamed of your own colours?'
'Your ladyship refers to the Jolly Roger?' he inquired, with
perfect gravity; and immediately after, went into peals of
laughter. 'Pardon me,' said he; 'but here for the first time I
recognise your ladyship's impetuosity.' Nor, try as I pleased,
could I extract from him any explanation of this mystery, but only
oily and commonplace evasion.
While we were thus occupied, the movement of the Nemorosa gradually
became less violent; its speed at the same time diminished; and
presently after, with a sullen plunge, the anchor was discharged
into the sea. Kentish immediately rose, offered his arm, and
conducted me on deck; where I found we were lying in a roadstead
among many low and rocky islets, hovered about by an innumerable
cloud of sea-fowl. Immediately under our board, a somewhat larger
isle was green with trees, set with a few low buildings and
approached by a pier of very crazy workmanship; and a little
inshore of us, a smaller vessel lay at anchor.
I had scarce time to glance to the four quarters, ere a boat was
lowered. I was handed in, Kentish took place beside me, and we
pulled briskly to the pier. A crowd of villainous, armed
loiterers, both black and white, looked on upon our landing; and
again the word passed about among the negroes, and again I was
received with prostrations and the same gesture of the flung-up
hand. By this, what with the appearance of these men, and the
lawless, sea-girt spot in which I found myself, my courage began a
little to decline, and clinging to the arm of Mr. Kentish, I begged
him to tell me what it meant?
'Nay, madam,' he returned, 'YOU know.' And leading me smartly
through the crowd, which continued to follow at a considerable
distance, and at which he still kept looking back, I thought, with
apprehension, he brought me to a low house that stood alone in an
encumbered yard, opened the door, and begged me to enter.
'But why?' said I. 'I demand to see Sir George.'
'Madam,' returned Mr. Kentish, looking suddenly as black as
thunder, 'to drop all fence, I know neither who nor what you are;
beyond the fact that you are not the person whose name you have
assumed. But be what you please, spy, ghost, devil, or most ill-
judging jester, if you do not immediately enter that house, I will
cut you to the earth.' And even as he spoke, he threw an uneasy
glance behind him at the following crowd of blacks.
I did not wait to be twice threatened; I obeyed at once, and with a
palpitating heart; and the next moment, the door was locked from
the outside and the key withdrawn. The interior was long, low, and
quite unfurnished, but filled, almost from end to end, with sugar-
cane, tar-barrels, old tarry rope, and other incongruous and highly
inflammable material; and not only was the door locked, but the
solitary window barred with iron.
I was by this time so exceedingly bewildered and afraid, that I
would have given years of my life to be once more the slave of Mr.
Caulder. I still stood, with my hands clasped, the image of
despair, looking about me on the lumber of the room or raising my
eyes to heaven; when there appeared outside the window bars, the
face of a very black negro, who signed to me imperiously to draw
near. I did so, and he instantly, and with every mark of fervour,
addressed me a long speech in some unknown and barbarous tongue.
'I declare,' I cried, clasping my brow, 'I do not understand one
'Not?' he said in Spanish. 'Great, great, are the powers of
Hoodoo! Her very mind is changed! But, O chief priestess, why
have you suffered yourself to be shut into this cage? why did you
not call your slaves at once to your defence? Do you not see that
all has been prepared to murder you? at a spark, this flimsy house
will go in flames; and alas! who shall then be the chief priestess?
and what shall be the profit of the miracle?'
'Heavens!' cried I, 'can I not see Sir George? I must, I must,
come by speech of him. Oh, bring me to Sir George!' And, my
terror fairly mastering my courage, I fell upon my knees and began
to pray to all the saints.
'Lordy!' cried the negro, 'here they come!' And his black head was
instantly withdrawn from the window.
'I never heard such nonsense in my life,' exclaimed a voice.
'Why, so we all say, Sir George,' replied the voice of Mr. Kentish.
'But put yourself in our place. The niggers were near two to one.
And upon my word, if you'll excuse me, sir, considering the notion
they have taken in their heads, I regard it as precious fortunate
for all of us that the mistake occurred.'
'This is no question of fortune, sir,' returned Sir George. 'It is
a question of my orders, and you may take my word for it, Kentish,
either Harland, or yourself, or Parker--or, by George, all three of
you!--shall swing for this affair. These are my sentiments. Give
me the key and be off.'
Immediately after, the key turned in the lock; and there appeared
upon the threshold a gentleman, between forty and fifty, with a
very open countenance, and of a stout and personable figure.
'My dear young lady,' said he, 'who the devil may you be?'
I told him all my story in one rush of words. He heard me, from
the first, with an amazement you can scarcely picture, but when I
came to the death of the Senora Mendizabal in the tornado, he
fairly leaped into the air.
'My dear child,' he cried, clasping me in his arms, 'excuse a man
who might be your father! This is the best news I ever had since I
was born; for that hag of a mulatto was no less a person than my
wife.' He sat down upon a tar-barrel, as if unmanned by joy.
'Dear me,' said he, 'I declare this tempts me to believe in
Providence. And what,' he added, 'can I do for you?'
'Sir George,' said I, 'I am already rich: all that I ask is your
'Understand one thing,' he said, with great energy. 'I will never
'I had not ventured to propose it,' I exclaimed, unable to restrain
my mirth; 'I only seek to be conveyed to England, the natural home
of the escaped slave.'
'Well,' returned Sir George, 'frankly I owe you something for this
exhilarating news; besides, your father was of use to me. Now, I
have made a small competence in business--a jewel mine, a sort of
naval agency, et caetera, and I am on the point of breaking up my
company, and retiring to my place in Devonshire to pass a plain old
age, unmarried. One good turn deserves another: if you swear to
hold your tongue about this island, these little bonfire
arrangements, and the whole episode of my unfortunate marriage,
why, I'll carry you home aboard the Nemorosa.' I eagerly accepted
'One thing more,' said he. 'My late wife was some sort of a
sorceress among the blacks; and they are all persuaded she has come
alive again in your agreeable person. Now, you will have the
goodness to keep up that fancy, if you please; and to swear to
them, on the authority of Hoodoo or whatever his name may be, that
I am from this moment quite a sacred character.'
'I swear it,' said I, 'by my father's memory; and that is a vow
that I will never break.'
'I have considerably better hold on you than any oath,' returned
Sir George, with a chuckle; 'for you are not only an escaped slave,
but have, by your own account, a considerable amount of stolen
I was struck dumb; I saw it was too true; in a glance, I recognised
that these jewels were no longer mine; with similar quickness, I
decided they should be restored, ay, if it cost me the liberty that
I had just regained. Forgetful of all else, forgetful of Sir
George, who sat and watched me with a smile, I drew out Mr.
Caulder's pocket-book and turned to the page on which the dying man
had scrawled his testament. How shall I describe the agony of
happiness and remorse with which I read it! for my victim had not
only set me free, but bequeathed to me the bag of jewels.
My plain tale draws towards a close. Sir George and I, in my
character of his rejuvenated wife, displayed ourselves arm-in-arm
among the negroes, and were cheered and followed to the place of
embarkation. There, Sir George, turning about, made a speech to
his old companions, in which he thanked and bade them farewell with
a very manly spirit; and towards the end of which he fell on some
expressions which I still remember. 'If any of you gentry lose
your money,' he said, 'take care you do not come to me; for in the
first place, I shall do my best to have you murdered; and if that
fails, I hand you over to the law. Blackmail won't do for me.
I'll rather risk all upon a cast, than be pulled to pieces by
degrees. I'll rather be found out and hang, than give a doit to
one man-jack of you.' That same night we got under way and crossed
to the port of New Orleans, whence, as a sacred trust, I sent the
pocket-book to Mr. Caulder's son. In a week's time, the men were
all paid off; new hands were shipped; and the Nemorosa weighed her
anchor for Old England.
A more delightful voyage it were hard to fancy. Sir George, of
course, was not a conscientious man; but he had an unaffected
gaiety of character that naturally endeared him to the young; and
it was interesting to hear him lay out his projects for the future,
when he should be returned to Parliament, and place at the service
of the nation his experience of marine affairs. I asked him, if
his notion of piracy upon a private yacht were not original. But
he told me, no. 'A yacht, Miss Valdevia,' he observed, 'is a
chartered nuisance. Who smuggles? Who robs the salmon rivers of
the West of Scotland? Who cruelly beats the keepers if they dare
to intervene? The crews and the proprietors of yachts. All I have
done is to extend the line a trifle, and if you ask me for my
unbiassed opinion, I do not suppose that I am in the least alone.'
In short, we were the best of friends, and lived like father and
daughter; though I still withheld from him, of course, that respect
which is only due to moral excellence.
We were still some days' sail from England, when Sir George
obtained, from an outward-bound ship, a packet of newspapers; and
from that fatal hour my misfortunes recommenced. He sat, the same
evening, in the cabin, reading the news, and making savoury
comments on the decline of England and the poor condition of the
navy, when I suddenly observed him to change countenance.
'Hullo!' said he, 'this is bad; this is deuced bad, Miss Valdevia.
You would not listen to sound sense, you would send that pocket-
book to that man Caulder's son.'
'Sir George,' said I, 'it was my duty.'
'You are prettily paid for it, at least,' says he; 'and much as I
regret it, I, for one, am done with you. This fellow Caulder
demands your extradition.'
'But a slave,' I returned, 'is safe in England.'
'Yes, by George!' replied the baronet; 'but it's not a slave, Miss
Valdevia, it's a thief that he demands. He has quietly destroyed
the will; and now accuses you of robbing your father's bankrupt
estate of jewels to the value of a hundred thousand pounds.'
I was so much overcome by indignation at this hateful charge and
concern for my unhappy fate that the genial baronet made haste to
put me more at ease.
'Do not be cast down,' said he. 'Of course, I wash my hands of you
myself. A man in my position--baronet, old family, and all that--
cannot possibly be too particular about the company he keeps. But
I am a deuced good-humoured old boy, let me tell you, when not
ruffled; and I will do the best I can to put you right. I will
lend you a trifle of ready money, give you the address of an
excellent lawyer in London, and find a way to set you on shore
He was in every particular as good as his word. Four days later,
the Nemorosa sounded her way, under the cloak of a dark night, into
a certain haven of the coast of England; and a boat, rowing with
muffled oars, set me ashore upon the beach within a stone's throw
of a railway station. Thither, guided by Sir George's directions,
I groped a devious way; and finding a bench upon the platform, sat
me down, wrapped in a man's fur great-coat, to await the coming of
the day. It was still dark when a light was struck behind one of
the windows of the building; nor had the east begun to kindle to
the warmer colours of the dawn, before a porter carrying a lantern,
issued from the door and found himself face to face with the
unfortunate Teresa. He looked all about him; in the grey twilight
of the dawn, the haven was seen to lie deserted, and the yacht had
long since disappeared.
'Who are you?' he cried.
'I am a traveller,' said I.
'And where do you come from?' he asked.
'I am going by the first train to London,' I replied.
In such manner, like a ghost or a new creation, was Teresa with her
bag of jewels landed on the shores of England; in this silent
fashion, without history or name, she took her place among the
millions of a new country.
Since then, I have lived by the expedients of my lawyer, lying
concealed in quiet lodgings, dogged by the spies of Cuba, and not
knowing at what hour my liberty and honour may be lost.
THE BROWN BOX (Concluded)
The effect of this tale on the mind of Harry Desborough was instant
and convincing. The Fair Cuban had been already the loveliest, she
now became, in his eyes, the most romantic, the most innocent, and
the most unhappy of her sex. He was bereft of words to utter what
he felt: what pity, what admiration, what youthful envy of a
career so vivid and adventurous. 'O madam!' he began; and finding
no language adequate to that apostrophe, caught up her hand and
wrung it in his own. 'Count upon me,' he added, with bewildered
fervour; and getting somehow or other out of the apartment and from
the circle of that radiant sorceress, he found himself in the
strange out-of-doors, beholding dull houses, wondering at dull
passers-by, a fallen angel. She had smiled upon him as he left,
and with how significant, how beautiful a smile! The memory
lingered in his heart; and when he found his way to a certain
restaurant where music was performed, flutes (as it were of
Paradise) accompanied his meal. The strings went to the melody of
that parting smile; they paraphrased and glossed it in the sense
that he desired; and for the first time in his plain and somewhat
dreary life, he perceived himself to have a taste for music.
The next day, and the next, his meditations moved to that
delectable air. Now he saw her, and was favoured; now saw her not
at all; now saw her and was put by. The fall of her foot upon the
stair entranced him; the books that he sought out and read were
books on Cuba, and spoke of her indirectly; nay, and in the very
landlady's parlour, he found one that told of precisely such a
hurricane, and, down to the smallest detail, confirmed (had
confirmation been required) the truth of her recital. Presently he
began to fall into that prettiest mood of a young love, in which
the lover scorns himself for his presumption. Who was he, the dull
one, the commonplace unemployed, the man without adventure, the
impure, the untruthful, to aspire to such a creature made of fire
and air, and hallowed and adorned by such incomparable passages of
life? What should he do, to be more worthy? by what devotion, call
down the notice of these eyes to so terrene a being as himself?
He betook himself, thereupon, to the rural privacy of the square,
where, being a lad of a kind heart, he had made himself a circle of
acquaintances among its shy frequenters, the half-domestic cats and
the visitors that hung before the windows of the Children's
Hospital. There he walked, considering the depth of his demerit
and the height of the adored one's super-excellence; now lighting
upon earth to say a pleasant word to the brother of some infant
invalid; now, with a great heave of breath, remembering the queen
of women, and the sunshine of his life.
What was he to do? Teresa, he had observed, was in the habit of
leaving the house towards afternoon: she might, perchance, run
danger from some Cuban emissary, when the presence of a friend
might turn the balance in her favour: how, then, if he should
follow her? To offer his company would seem like an intrusion; to
dog her openly were a manifest impertinence; he saw himself reduced
to a more stealthy part, which, though in some ways distasteful to
his mind, he did not doubt that he could practise with the skill of
The next day he proceeded to put his plan in action. At the corner
of Tottenham Court Road, however, the Senorita suddenly turned
back, and met him face to face, with every mark of pleasure and
'Ah, Senor, I am sometimes fortunate!' she cried. 'I was looking
for a messenger;' and with the sweetest of smiles, she despatched
him to the East End of London, to an address which he was unable to
find. This was a bitter pill to the knight-errant; but when he
returned at night, worn out with fruitless wandering and dismayed
by his fiasco, the lady received him with a friendly gaiety,
protesting that all was for the best, since she had changed her
mind and long since repented of her message.
Next day he resumed his labours, glowing with pity and courage, and
determined to protect Teresa with his life. But a painful shock
awaited him. In the narrow and silent Hanway Street, she turned
suddenly about and addressed him with a manner and a light in her
eyes that were new to the young man's experience.
'Do I understand that you follow me, Senor?' she cried. 'Are these
the manners of the English gentleman?'
Harry confounded himself in the most abject apologies and prayers
to be forgiven, vowed to offend no more, and was at length
dismissed, crestfallen and heavy of heart. The check was final; he
gave up that road to service; and began once more to hang about the
square or on the terrace, filled with remorse and love, admirable
and idiotic, a fit object for the scorn and envy of older men. In
these idle hours, while he was courting fortune for a sight of the
beloved, it fell out naturally that he should observe the manners
and appearance of such as came about the house. One person alone
was the occasional visitor of the young lady: a man of
considerable stature, and distinguished only by the doubtful
ornament of a chin-beard in the style of an American deacon.
Something in his appearance grated upon Harry; this distaste grew
upon him in the course of days; and when at length he mustered
courage to inquire of the Fair Cuban who this was, he was yet more
dismayed by her reply.
'That gentleman,' said she, a smile struggling to her face, 'that
gentleman, I will not attempt to conceal from you, desires my hand
in marriage, and presses me with the most respectful ardour. Alas,
what am I to say? I, the forlorn Teresa, how shall I refuse or
accept such protestations?'
Harry feared to say more; a horrid pang of jealousy transfixed him;
and he had scarce the strength of mind to take his leave with
decency. In the solitude of his own chamber, he gave way to every
manifestation of despair. He passionately adored the Senorita; but
it was not only the thought of her possible union with another that
distressed his soul, it was the indefeasible conviction that her
suitor was unworthy. To a duke, a bishop, a victorious general, or
any man adorned with obvious qualities, he had resigned her with a
sort of bitter joy; he saw himself follow the wedding party from a
great way off; he saw himself return to the poor house, then robbed
of its jewel; and while he could have wept for his despair, he felt
he could support it nobly. But this affair looked otherwise. The
man was patently no gentleman; he had a startled, skulking, guilty
bearing; his nails were black, his eyes evasive; his love perhaps
was a pretext; he was perhaps, under this deep disguise, a Cuban
Harry swore that he would satisfy these doubts; and the next
evening, about the hour of the usual visit, he posted himself at a
spot whence his eye commanded the three issues of the square.
Presently after, a four-wheeler rumbled to the door, and the man
with the chin-beard alighted, paid off the cabman, and was seen by
Harry to enter the house with a brown box hoisted on his back.
Half an hour later, he came forth again without the box, and struck
eastward at a rapid walk; and Desborough, with the same skill and
caution that he had displayed in following Teresa, proceeded to dog
the steps of her admirer. The man began to loiter, studying with
apparent interest the wares of the small fruiterer or tobacconist;
twice he returned hurriedly upon his former course; and then, as
though he had suddenly conquered a moment's hesitation, once more
set forth with resolute and swift steps in the direction of
Lincoln's Inn. At length, in a deserted by-street, he turned; and
coming up to Harry with a countenance which seemed to have become
older and whiter, inquired with some severity of speech if he had
not had the pleasure of seeing the gentleman before.
'You have, sir,' said Harry, somewhat abashed, but with a good show
of stoutness; 'and I will not deny that I was following you on
purpose. Doubtless,' he added, for he supposed that all men's
minds must still be running on Teresa, 'you can divine my reason.'
At these words, the man with the chin-beard was seized with a
palsied tremor. He seemed, for some seconds, to seek the utterance
which his fear denied him; and then whipping sharply about, he took
to his heels at the most furious speed of running.
Harry was at first so taken aback that he neglected to pursue; and
by the time he had recovered his wits, his best expedition was only
rewarded by a glimpse of the man with the chin-beard mounting into
a hansom, which immediately after disappeared into the moving
crowds of Holborn.
Puzzled and dismayed by this unusual behaviour, Harry returned to
the house in Queen Square, and ventured for the first time to knock
at the fair Cuban's door. She bade him enter, and he found her
kneeling with rather a disconsolate air beside a brown wooden
'Senorita,' he broke out, 'I doubt whether that man's character is
what he wishes you to believe. His manner, when he found, and
indeed when I admitted that I was following him, was not the manner
of an honest man.'
'Oh!' she cried, throwing up her hands as in desperation, 'Don
Quixote, Don Quixote, have you again been tilting against
windmills?' And then, with a laugh, 'Poor soul!' she added, 'how
you must have terrified him! For know that the Cuban authorities
are here, and your poor Teresa may soon be hunted down. Even yon
humble clerk from my solicitor's office may find himself at any
moment the quarry of armed spies.'
'A humble clerk!' cried Harry, 'why, you told me yourself that he
wished to marry you!'
'I thought you English like what you call a joke,' replied the lady
calmly. 'As a matter of fact, he is my lawyer's clerk, and has
been here to-night charged with disastrous news. I am in sore
straits, Senor Harry. Will you help me?'
At this most welcome word, the young man's heart exulted; and in
the hope, pride, and self-esteem that kindled with the very thought
of service, he forgot to dwell upon the lady's jest. 'Can you
ask?' he cried. 'What is there that I can do? Only tell me that.'
With signs of an emotion that was certainly unfeigned, the fair
Cuban laid her hand upon the box. 'This box,' she said, 'contains
my jewels, papers, and clothes; all, in a word, that still connects
me with Cuba and my dreadful past. They must now be smuggled out
of England; or, by the opinion of my lawyer, I am lost beyond
remedy. To-morrow, on board the Irish packet, a sure hand awaits
the box: the problem still unsolved, is to find some one to carry
it as far as Holyhead, to see it placed on board the steamer, and
instantly return to town. Will you be he? Will you leave to-
morrow by the first train, punctually obey orders, bear still in
mind that you are surrounded by Cuban spies; and without so much as
a look behind you, or a single movement to betray your interest,
leave the box where you have put it and come straight on shore?
Will you do this, and so save your friend?'
'I do not clearly understand . . .' began Harry.
'No more do I,' replied the Cuban. 'It is not necessary that we
should, so long as we obey the lawyer's orders.'
'Senorita,' returned Harry gravely, 'I think this, of course, a
very little thing to do for you, when I would willingly do all.
But suffer me to say one word. If London is unsafe for your
treasures, it cannot long be safe for you; and indeed, if I at all
fathom the plan of your solicitor, I fear I may find you already
fled on my return. I am not considered clever, and can only speak
out plainly what is in my heart: that I love you, and that I
cannot bear to lose all knowledge of you. I hope no more than to
be your servant; I ask no more than just that I shall hear of you.
Oh, promise me so much!'
'You shall,' she said, after a pause. 'I promise you, you shall.'
But though she spoke with earnestness, the marks of great
embarrassment and a strong conflict of emotions appeared upon her
'I wish to tell you,' resumed Desborough, 'in case of accidents. .
'Accidents!' she cried: 'why do you say that?'
'I do not know,' said he, 'you may be gone before my return, and we
may not meet again for long. And so I wished you to know this:
That since the day you gave me the cigarette, you have never once,
not once, been absent from my mind; and if it will in any way serve
you, you may crumple me up like that piece of paper, and throw me
on the fire. I would love to die for you.'
'Go!' she said. 'Go now at once. My brain is in a whirl. I
scarce know what we are talking. Go; and good-night; and oh, may
you come safe!'
Once back in his own room a fearful joy possessed the young man's
mind; and as he recalled her face struck suddenly white and the
broken utterance of her last words, his heart at once exulted and
misgave him. Love had indeed looked upon him with a tragic mask;
and yet what mattered, since at least it was love--since at least
she was commoved at their division? He got to bed with these
parti-coloured thoughts; passed from one dream to another all night
long, the white face of Teresa still haunting him, wrung with
unspoken thoughts; and in the grey of the dawn, leaped suddenly out
of bed, in a kind of horror. It was already time for him to rise.
He dressed, made his breakfast on cold food that had been laid for
him the night before; and went down to the room of his idol for the
box. The door was open; a strange disorder reigned within; the
furniture all pushed aside, and the centre of the room left bare of
impediment, as though for the pacing of a creature with a tortured
mind. There lay the box, however, and upon the lid a paper with
these words: 'Harry, I hope to be back before you go. Teresa.'
He sat down to wait, laying his watch before him on the table. She
had called him Harry: that should be enough, he thought, to fill
the day with sunshine; and yet somehow the sight of that disordered
room still poisoned his enjoyment. The door of the bed-chamber
stood gaping open; and though he turned aside his eyes as from a
sacrilege, he could not but observe the bed had not been slept in.
He was still pondering what this should mean, still trying to
convince himself that all was well, when the moving needle of his
watch summoned him to set forth without delay. He was before all
things a man of his word; ran round to Southampton Row to fetch a
cab; and taking the box on the front seat, drove off towards the
The streets were scarcely awake; there was little to amuse the eye;
and the young man's attention centred on the dumb companion of his
drive. A card was nailed upon one side, bearing the
superscription: 'Miss Doolan, passenger to Dublin. Glass. With
care.' He thought with a sentimental shock that the fair idol of
his heart was perhaps driven to adopt the name of Doolan; and as he
still studied the card, he was aware of a deadly, black depression
settling steadily upon his spirits. It was in vain for him to
contend against the tide; in vain that he shook himself or tried to
whistle: the sense of some impending blow was not to be averted.
He looked out; in the long, empty streets, the cab pursued its way
without a trace of any follower. He gave ear; and over and above
the jolting of the wheels upon the road, he was conscious of a
certain regular and quiet sound that seemed to issue from the box.
He put his ear to the cover; at one moment, he seemed to perceive a
delicate ticking: the next, the sound was gone, nor could his
closest hearkening recapture it. He laughed at himself; but still
the gloom continued; and it was with more than the common relief of
an arrival, that he leaped from the cab before the station.
Probably enough on purpose, Teresa had named an hour some thirty
minutes earlier than needful; and when Harry had given the box into
the charge of a porter, who sat it on a truck, he proceeded briskly
to pace the platform. Presently the bookstall opened; and the
young man was looking at the books when he was seized by the arm.
He turned, and, though she was closely veiled, at once recognised
the Fair Cuban.
'Where is it?' she asked; and the sound of her voice surprised him.
'It?' he said. 'What?'
'The box. Have it put on a cab instantly. I am in fearful haste.'
He hurried to obey, marvelling at these changes, but not daring to
trouble her with questions; and when the cab had been brought
round, and the box mounted on the front, she passed a little way
off upon the pavement and beckoned him to follow.
'Now,' said she, still in those mechanical and hushed tones that
had at first affected him, 'you must go on to Holyhead alone; go on
board the steamer; and if you see a man in tartan trousers and a
pink scarf, say to him that all has been put off: if not,' she
added, with a sobbing sigh, 'it does not matter. So, good-bye.'
'Teresa,' said Harry, 'get into your cab, and I will go along with
you. You are in some distress, perhaps some danger; and till I
know the whole, not even you can make me leave you.'
'You will not?' she asked. 'O Harry, it were better!'
'I will not,' said Harry stoutly.
She looked at him for a moment through her veil; took his hand
suddenly and sharply, but more as if in fear than tenderness; and
still holding him, walked to the cab-door.
'Where are we to drive?' asked Harry.
'Home, quickly,' she answered; 'double fare!' And as soon as they
had both mounted to their places, the vehicle crazily trundled from
Teresa leaned back in a corner. The whole way Harry could perceive
her tears to flow under her veil; but she vouchsafed no
explanation. At the door of the house in Queen Square, both
alighted; and the cabman lowered the box, which Harry, glad to
display his strength, received upon his shoulders.
'Let the man take it,' she whispered. 'Let the man take it.'
'I will do no such thing,' said Harry cheerfully; and having paid
the fare, he followed Teresa through the door which she had opened
with her key. The landlady and maid were gone upon their morning
errands; the house was empty and still; and as the rattling of the
cab died away down Gloucester Street, and Harry continued to ascend
the stair with his burthen, he heard close against his shoulders
the same faint and muffled ticking as before. The lady, still
preceding him, opened the door of her room, and helped him to lower
the box tenderly in the corner by the window.
'And now,' said Harry, 'what is wrong?'
'You will not go away?' she cried, with a sudden break in her voice
and beating her hands together in the very agony of impatience. 'O
Harry, Harry, go away! Oh, go, and leave me to the fate that I
'The fate?' repeated Harry. 'What is this?'
'No fate,' she resumed. 'I do not know what I am saying. But I
wish to be alone. You may come back this evening, Harry; come
again when you like; but leave me now, only leave me now!' And
then suddenly, 'I have an errand,' she exclaimed; 'you cannot
refuse me that!'
'No,' replied Harry, 'you have no errand. You are in grief or
danger. Lift your veil and tell me what it is.'
'Then,' she said, with a sudden composure, 'you leave but one
course open to me.' And raising the veil, she showed him a
countenance from which every trace of colour had fled, eyes marred
with weeping, and a brow on which resolve had conquered fear.
'Harry,' she began, 'I am not what I seem.'
'You have told me that before,' said Harry, 'several times.'
'O Harry, Harry,' she cried, 'how you shame me! But this is the
God's truth. I am a dangerous and wicked girl. My name is Clara
Luxmore. I was never nearer Cuba than Penzance. From first to
last I have cheated and played with you. And what I am I dare not
even name to you in words. Indeed, until to-day, until the
sleepless watches of last night, I never grasped the depth and
foulness of my guilt.'
The young man looked upon her aghast. Then a generous current
poured along his veins. 'That is all one,' he said. 'If you be
all you say, you have the greater need of me.'
'Is it possible,' she exclaimed, 'that I have schemed in vain? And
will nothing drive you from this house of death?'
'Of death?' he echoed.
'Death!' she cried: 'death! In that box that you have dragged
about London and carried on your defenceless shoulders, sleep, at
the trigger's mercy, the destroying energies of dynamite.'
'My God!' cried Harry.
'Ah!' she continued wildly, 'will you flee now? At any moment you
may hear the click that sounds the ruin of this building. I was
sure M'Guire was wrong; this morning, before day, I flew to Zero;
he confirmed my fears; I beheld you, my beloved Harry, fall a
victim to my own contrivances. I knew then I loved you--Harry,
will you go now? Will you not spare me this unwilling crime?'
Harry remained speechless, his eyes fixed upon the box: at last he
turned to her.
'Is it,' he asked hoarsely, 'an infernal machine?'
Her lips formed the word 'Yes,' which her voice refused to utter.
With fearful curiosity, he drew near and bent above the box; in
that still chamber, the ticking was distinctly audible; and at the
measured sound, the blood flowed back upon his heart.
'For whom?' he asked.
'What matters it,' she cried, seizing him by the arm. 'If you may
still be saved, what matter questions?'
'God in heaven!' cried Harry. 'And the Children's Hospital! At
whatever cost, this damned contrivance must be stopped!'
'It cannot,' she gasped. 'The power of man cannot avert the blow.
But you, Harry--you, my beloved--you may still--'
And then from the box that lay so quietly in the corner, a sudden
catch was audible, like the catch of a clock before it strikes the
hour. For one second the two stared at each other with lifted
brows and stony eyes. Then Harry, throwing one arm over his face,
with the other clutched the girl to his breast and staggered
against the wall.
A dull and startling thud resounded through the room; their eyes
blinked against the coming horror; and still clinging together like
drowning people, they fell to the floor. Then followed a prolonged
and strident hissing as from the indignant pit; an offensive stench
seized them by the throat; the room was filled with dense and
Presently these began a little to disperse: and when at length
they drew themselves, all limp and shaken, to a sitting posture,
the first object that greeted their vision was the box reposing
uninjured in its corner, but still leaking little wreaths of vapour
round the lid.
'Oh, poor Zero!' cried the girl, with a strange sobbing laugh.
'Alas, poor Zero! This will break his heart!'
THE SUPERFLUOUS MANSION (Concluded)
Somerset ran straight upstairs; the door of the drawing-room,
contrary to all custom, was unlocked; and bursting in, the young
man found Zero seated on a sofa in an attitude of singular
dejection. Close beside him stood an untasted grog, the mark of
strong preoccupation. The room besides was in confusion: boxes
had been tumbled to and fro; the floor was strewn with keys and
other implements; and in the midst of this disorder lay a lady's
'I have come,' cried Somerset, 'to make an end of this. Either you
will instantly abandon all your schemes, or (cost what it may) I
will denounce you to the police.'
'Ah!' replied Zero, slowly shaking his head. 'You are too late,
dear fellow! I am already at the end of all my hopes, and fallen
to be a laughing-stock and mockery. My reading,' he added, with a
gentle despondency of manner, 'has not been much among romances;
yet I recall from one a phrase that depicts my present state with
critical exactitude; and you behold me sitting here "like a burst
'What has befallen you?' cried Somerset.
'My last batch,' returned the plotter wearily, 'like all the
others, is a hollow mockery and a fraud. In vain do I combine the
elements; in vain adjust the springs; and I have now arrived at
such a pitch of disconsideration that (except yourself, dear
fellow) I do not know a soul that I can face. My subordinates
themselves have turned upon me. What language have I heard to-day,
what illiberality of sentiment, what pungency of expression! She
came once; I could have pardoned that, for she was moved; but she
returned, returned to announce to me this crushing blow; and,
Somerset, she was very inhumane. Yes, dear fellow, I have drunk a
bitter cup; the speech of females is remarkable for . . . well,
well! Denounce me, if you will; you but denounce the dead. I am
extinct. It is strange how, at this supreme crisis of my life, I
should be haunted by quotations from works of an inexact and even
fanciful description; but here,' he added, 'is another: "Othello's
occupation's gone." Yes, dear Somerset, it is gone; I am no more a
dynamiter; and how, I ask you, after having tasted of these joys,
am I to condescend to a less glorious life?'
'I cannot describe how you relieve me,' returned Somerset, sitting
down on one of several boxes that had been drawn out into the
middle of the floor. 'I had conceived a sort of maudlin toleration
for your character; I have a great distaste, besides, for anything
in the nature of a duty; and upon both grounds, your news delights
me. But I seem to perceive,' he added, 'a certain sound of ticking
in this box.'
'Yes,' replied Zero, with the same slow weariness of manner, 'I
have set several of them going.'
'My God!' cried Somerset, bounding to his feet.
'Machines!' returned the plotter bitterly. 'Machines indeed! I
blush to be their author. Alas!' he said, burying his face in his
hands, 'that I should live to say it!'
'Madman!' cried Somerset, shaking him by the arm. 'What am I to
understand? Have you, indeed, set these diabolical contrivances in
motion? and do we stay here to be blown up?'
'"Hoist with his own petard?"' returned the plotter musingly. 'One
more quotation: strange! But indeed my brain is struck with
numbness. Yes, dear boy, I have, as you say, put my contrivance in
motion. The one on which you are sitting, I have timed for half an
hour. Yon other--'
'Half an hour!--' echoed Somerset, dancing with trepidation.
'Merciful Heavens, in half an hour?'
'Dear fellow, why so much excitement?' inquired Zero. 'My dynamite
is not more dangerous than toffy; had I an only child, I would give
it him to play with. You see this brick?' he continued, lifting a
cake of the infernal compound from the laboratory-table. 'At a
touch it should explode, and that with such unconquerable energy as
should bestrew the square with ruins. Well now, behold! I dash it
on the floor.'
Somerset sprang forward, and with the strength of the very ecstasy
of terror, wrested the brick from his possession. 'Heavens!' he
cried, wiping his brow; and then with more care than ever mother
handled her first-born withal, gingerly transported the explosive
to the far end of the apartment: the plotter, his arms once more
fallen to his side, dispiritedly watching him.
'It was entirely harmless,' he sighed. 'They describe it as
burning like tobacco.'
'In the name of fortune,' cried Somerset, 'what have I done to you,
or what have you done to yourself, that you should persist in this
insane behaviour? If not for your own sake, then for mine, let us
depart from this doomed house, where I profess I have not the heart
to leave you; and then, if you will take my advice, and if your
determination be sincere, you will instantly quit this city, where
no further occupation can detain you.'
'Such, dear fellow, was my own design,' replied the plotter. 'I
have, as you observe, no further business here; and once I have
packed a little bag, I shall ask you to share a frugal meal, to go
with me as far as to the station, and see the last of a broken-
hearted man. And yet,' he added, looking on the boxes with a
lingering regret, 'I should have liked to make quite certain. I
cannot but suspect my underlings of some mismanagement; it may be
fond, but yet I cherish that idea: it may be the weakness of a man
of science, but yet,' he cried, rising into some energy, 'I will
never, I cannot if I try, believe that my poor dynamite has had
'Five minutes!' said Somerset, glancing with horror at the
timepiece. 'If you do not instantly buckle to your bag, I leave
'A few necessaries,' returned Zero, 'only a few necessaries, dear
Somerset, and you behold me ready.'
He passed into the bedroom, and after an interval which seemed to
draw out into eternity for his unfortunate companion, he returned,
bearing in his hand an open Gladstone bag. His movements were
still horribly deliberate, and his eyes lingered gloatingly on his
dear boxes, as he moved to and fro about the drawing-room,
gathering a few small trifles. Last of all, he lifted one of the
squares of dynamite.
'Put that down!' cried Somerset. 'If what you say be true, you
have no call to load yourself with that ungodly contraband.'
'Merely a curiosity, dear boy,' he said persuasively, and slipped
the brick into his bag; 'merely a memento of the past--ah, happy
past, bright past! You will not take a touch of spirits? no? I
find you very abstemious. Well,' he added, 'if you have really no
curiosity to await the event--'
'I!' cried Somerset. 'My blood boils to get away.'
'Well, then,' said Zero, 'I am ready; I would I could say, willing;
but thus to leave the scene of my sublime endeavours--'
Without further parley, Somerset seized him by the arm, and dragged
him downstairs; the hall-door shut with a clang on the deserted
mansion; and still towing his laggardly companion, the young man
sped across the square in the Oxford Street direction. They had
not yet passed the corner of the garden, when they were arrested by
a dull thud of an extraordinary amplitude of sound, accompanied and
followed by a shattering fracas. Somerset turned in time to see
the mansion rend in twain, vomit forth flames and smoke, and
instantly collapse into its cellars. At the same moment, he was
thrown violently to the ground. His first glance was towards Zero.
The plotter had but reeled against the garden rail; he stood there,
the Gladstone bag clasped tight upon his heart, his whole face
radiant with relief and gratitude; and the young man heard him
murmur to himself: 'Nunc dimittis, nunc dimittis!'
The consternation of the populace was indescribable; the whole of
Golden Square was alive with men, women, and children, running
wildly to and fro, and like rabbits in a warren, dashing in and out
of the house doors. And under favour of this confusion, Somerset
dragged away the lingering plotter.
'It was grand,' he continued to murmur: 'it was indescribably
grand. Ah, green Erin, green Erin, what a day of glory! and oh, my
calumniated dynamite, how triumphantly hast thou prevailed!'
Suddenly a shade crossed his face; and pausing in the middle of the
footway, he consulted the dial of his watch.
'Good God!' he cried, 'how mortifying! seven minutes too early!
The dynamite surpassed my hopes; but the clockwork, fickle
clockwork, has once more betrayed me. Alas, can there be no
success unmixed with failure? and must even this red-letter day be
chequered by a shadow?'
'Incomparable ass!' said Somerset, 'what have you done? Blown up
the house of an unoffending old lady, and the whole earthly
property of the only person who is fool enough to befriend you!'
'You do not understand these matters,' replied Zero, with an air of
great dignity. 'This will shake England to the heart. Gladstone,
the truculent old man, will quail before the pointing finger of
revenge. And now that my dynamite is proved effective--'
'Heavens, you remind me!' ejaculated Somerset. 'That brick in your
bag must be instantly disposed of. But how? If we could throw it
in the river--'
'A torpedo,' cried Zero, brightening, 'a torpedo in the Thames!
Superb, dear fellow! I recognise in you the marks of an
'True!' returned Somerset. 'It cannot so be done; and there is no
help but you must carry it away with you. Come on, then, and let
me at once consign you to a train.'
'Nay, nay, dear boy,' protested Zero. 'There is now no call for me
to leave. My character is now reinstated; my fame brightens; this
is the best thing I have done yet; and I see from here the ovations
that await the author of the Golden Square Atrocity.'
'My young friend,' returned the other, 'I give you your choice. I
will either see you safe on board a train or safe in gaol.'
'Somerset, this is unlike you!' said the chymist. 'You surprise
'I shall considerably more surprise you at the next police office,'
returned Somerset, with something bordering on rage. 'For on one
point my mind is settled: either I see you packed off to America,
brick and all, or else you dine in prison.'
'You have perhaps neglected one point,' returned the unoffended
Zero: 'for, speaking as a philosopher, I fail to see what means
you can employ to force me. The will, my dear fellow--'
'Now, see here,' interrupted Somerset. 'You are ignorant of
anything but science, which I can never regard as being truly
knowledge; I, sir, have studied life; and allow me to inform you
that I have but to raise my hand and voice--here in this street--
and the mob--'
'Good God in heaven, Somerset,' cried Zero, turning deadly white
and stopping in his walk, 'great God in heaven, what words are
these? Oh, not in jest, not even in jest, should they be used!
The brutal mob, the savage passions . . . . Somerset, for God's
sake, a public-house!'
Somerset considered him with freshly awakened curiosity. 'This is
very interesting,' said he. 'You recoil from such a death?'
'Who would not?' asked the plotter.
'And to be blown up by dynamite,' inquired the young man,
'doubtless strikes you as a form of euthanasia?'
'Pardon me,' returned Zero: 'I own, and since I have braved it
daily in my professional career, I own it even with pride: it is a
death unusually distasteful to the mind of man.'
'One more question,' said Somerset: 'you object to Lynch Law?
'It is assassination,' said the plotter calmly, but with eyebrows a
little lifted, as in wonder at the question.
'Shake hands with me,' cried Somerset. 'Thank God, I have now no
ill-feeling left; and though you cannot conceive how I burn to see
you on the gallows, I can quite contentedly assist at your
'I do not very clearly take your meaning,' said Zero, 'but I am
sure you mean kindly. As to my departure, there is another point
to be considered. I have neglected to supply myself with funds; my
little all has perished in what history will love to relate under
the name of the Golden Square Atrocity; and without what is
coarsely if vigorously called stamps, you must be well aware it is
impossible for me to pass the ocean.'
'For me,' said Somerset, 'you have now ceased to be a man. You
have no more claim upon me than a door scraper; but the touching
confusion of your mind disarms me from extremities. Until to-day,
I always thought stupidity was funny; I now know otherwise; and
when I look upon your idiot face, laughter rises within me like a
deadly sickness, and the tears spring up into my eyes as bitter as
blood. What should this portend? I begin to doubt; I am losing
faith in scepticism. Is it possible,' he cried, in a kind of
horror of himself--'is it conceivable that I believe in right and
wrong? Already I have found myself, with incredulous surprise, to
be the victim of a prejudice of personal honour. And must this
change proceed? Have you robbed me of my youth? Must I fall, at
my time of life, into the Common Banker? But why should I address
that head of wood? Let this suffice. I dare not let you stay
among women and children; I lack the courage to denounce you, if by
any means I may avoid it; you have no money: well then, take mine,
and go; and if ever I behold your face after to-day, that day will
be your last.'
'Under the circumstances,' replied Zero, 'I scarce see my way to
refuse your offer. Your expressions may pain, they cannot surprise
me; I am aware our point of view requires a little training, a
little moral hygiene, if I may so express it; and one of the points
that has always charmed me in your character is this delightful
frankness. As for the small advance, it shall be remitted you from
'It shall not,' said Somerset.
'Dear fellow, you do not understand,' returned the plotter. 'I
shall now be received with fresh confidence by my superiors; and my
experiments will be no longer hampered by pitiful conditions of the
'What I am now about, sir, is a crime,' replied Somerset; 'and were
you to roll in wealth like Vanderbilt, I should scorn to be
reimbursed of money I had so scandalously misapplied. Take it, and
keep it. By George, sir, three days of you have transformed me to
an ancient Roman.'
With these words, Somerset hailed a passing hansom; and the pair
were driven rapidly to the railway terminus. There, an oath having
been exacted, the money changed hands.
'And now,' said Somerset, 'I have bought back my honour with every
penny I possess. And I thank God, though there is nothing before
me but starvation, I am free from all entanglement with Mr. Zero
'To starve?' cried Zero. 'Dear fellow, I cannot endure the
'Take your ticket!' returned Somerset.
'I think you display temper,' said Zero.
'Take your ticket,' reiterated the young man.
'Well,' said the plotter, as he returned, ticket in hand, 'your
attitude is so strange and painful, that I scarce know if I should
ask you to shake hands.'
'As a man, no,' replied Somerset; 'but I have no objection to shake
hands with you, as I might with a pump-well that ran poison or
'This is a very cold parting,' sighed the dynamiter; and still
followed by Somerset, he began to descend the platform. This was
now bustling with passengers; the train for Liverpool was just
about to start, another had but recently arrived; and the double
tide made movement difficult. As the pair reached the
neighbourhood of the bookstall, however, they came into an open
space; and here the attention of the plotter was attracted by a
Standard broadside bearing the words: 'Second Edition: Explosion
in Golden Square.' His eye lighted; groping in his pocket for the
necessary coin, he sprang forward--his bag knocked sharply on the
corner of the stall--and instantly, with a formidable report, the
dynamite exploded. When the smoke cleared away the stall was seen
much shattered, and the stall keeper running forth in terror from
the ruins; but of the Irish patriot or the Gladstone bag no
adequate remains were to be found.
In the first scramble of the alarm, Somerset made good his escape,
and came out upon the Euston Road, his head spinning, his body sick
with hunger, and his pockets destitute of coin. Yet as he
continued to walk the pavements, he wondered to find in his heart a
sort of peaceful exultation, a great content, a sense, as it were,
of divine presence and the kindliness of fate; and he was able to
tell himself that even if the worst befell, he could now starve
with a certain comfort since Zero was expunged.
Late in the afternoon, he found himself at the door of Mr. Godall's
shop; and being quite unmanned by his long fast, and scarce
considering what he did, he opened the glass door and entered.
'Ha!' said Mr. Godall, 'Mr. Somerset! Well, have you met with an
adventure? Have you the promised story? Sit down, if you please;
suffer me to choose you a cigar of my own special brand; and reward
me with a narrative in your best style.'
'I must not take a cigar,' said Somerset.
'Indeed!' said Mr. Godall. 'But now I come to look at you more
closely, I perceive that you are changed. My poor boy, I hope
there is nothing wrong?'
Somerset burst into tears.
EPILOGUE OF THE CIGAR DIVAN
On a certain day of lashing rain in the December of last year, and
between the hours of nine and ten in the morning, Mr. Edward
Challoner pioneered himself under an umbrella to the door of the
Cigar Divan in Rupert Street. It was a place he had visited but
once before: the memory of what had followed on that visit and the
fear of Somerset having prevented his return. Even now, he looked
in before he entered; but the shop was free of customers.
The young man behind the counter was so intently writing in a penny
version-book, that he paid no heed to Challoner's arrival. On a
second glance, it seemed to the latter that he recognised him.
'By Jove,' he thought, 'unquestionably Somerset!'
And though this was the very man he had been so sedulously careful
to avoid, his unexplained position at the receipt of custom changed
distaste to curiosity.
'"Or opulent rotunda strike the sky,"' said the shopman to himself,
in the tone of one considering a verse. 'I suppose it would be too
much to say "orotunda," and yet how noble it were! "Or opulent
orotunda strike the sky." But that is the bitterness of arts; you
see a good effect, and some nonsense about sense continually
'Somerset, my dear fellow,' said Challoner, 'is this a masquerade?'
'What? Challoner!' cried the shopman. 'I am delighted to see you.
One moment, till I finish the octave of my sonnet: only the
octave.' And with a friendly waggle of the hand, he once more
buried himself in the commerce of the Muses. 'I say,' he said
presently, looking up, 'you seem in wonderful preservation: how
about the hundred pounds?'
'I have made a small inheritance from a great aunt in Wales,'
replied Challoner modestly.
'Ah,' said Somerset, 'I very much doubt the legitimacy of
inheritance. The State, in my view, should collar it. I am now
going through a stage of socialism and poetry,' he added
apologetically, as one who spoke of a course of medicinal waters.
'And are you really the person of the--establishment?' inquired
Challoner, deftly evading the word 'shop.'
'A vendor, sir, a vendor,' returned the other, pocketing his poesy.
'I help old Happy and Glorious. Can I offer you a weed?'
'Well, I scarcely like . . . ' began Challoner.
'Nonsense, my dear fellow,' cried the shopman. 'We are very proud
of the business; and the old man, let me inform you, besides being
the most egregious of created beings from the point of view of
ethics, is literally sprung from the loins of kings. "De Godall je
suis le fervent." There is only one Godall.--By the way,' he
added, as Challoner lit his cigar, 'how did you get on with the
'I did not try,' said Challoner curtly.
'Ah, well, I did,' returned Somerset, 'and made the most
incomparable mess of it: lost all my money and fairly covered
myself with odium and ridicule. There is more in that business,
Challoner, than meets the eye; there is more, in fact, in all
businesses. You must believe in them, or get up the belief that
you believe. Hence,' he added, 'the recognised inferiority of the
plumber, for no one could believe in plumbing.'
'A propos,' asked Challoner, 'do you still paint?'
'Not now,' replied Paul; 'but I think of taking up the violin.'
Challoner's eye, which had been somewhat restless since the trade
of the detective had been named, now rested for a moment on the
columns of the morning paper, where it lay spread upon the counter.
'By Jove,' he cried, 'that's odd!'
'What is odd?' asked Paul.
'Oh, nothing,' returned the other: 'only I once met a person
'So did I!' cried Somerset. 'Is there anything about him?'
Challoner read as follows: 'MYSTERIOUS DEATH IN STEPNEY. An
inquest was held yesterday on the body of Patrick M'Guire,
described as a carpenter. Doctor Dovering stated that he had for
some time treated the deceased as a dispensary patient, for
sleeplessness, loss of appetite, and nervous depression. There was
no cause of death to be found. He would say the deceased had sunk.
Deceased was not a temperate man, which doubtless accelerated
death. Deceased complained of dumb ague, but witness had never
been able to detect any positive disease. He did not know that he
had any family. He regarded him as a person of unsound intellect,
who believed himself a member and the victim of some secret
society. If he were to hazard an opinion, he would say deceased
had died of fear.'
'And the doctor would be right,' cried Somerset; 'and my dear
Challoner, I am so relieved to hear of his demise, that I will--
Well, after all,' he added, 'poor devil, he was well served.'
The door at this moment opened, and Desborough appeared upon the
threshold. He was wrapped in a long waterproof, imperfectly
supplied with buttons; his boots were full of water, his hat greasy
with service; and yet he wore the air of one exceeding well content
with life. He was hailed by the two others with exclamations of
surprise and welcome.
'And did you try the detective business?' inquired Paul.
'No,' returned Harry. 'Oh yes, by the way, I did though: twice,
and got caught out both times. But I thought I should find my--my
wife here?' he added, with a kind of proud confusion.
'What? are you married?' cried Somerset.
'Oh yes,' said Harry, 'quite a long time: a month at least.'
'Money?' asked Challoner.
'That's the worst of it,' Desborough admitted. 'We are deadly hard
up. But the Pri--- Mr. Godall is going to do something for us.
That is what brings us here.'
'Who was Mrs. Desborough?' said Challoner, in the tone of a man of
'She was a Miss Luxmore,' returned Harry. 'You fellows will be
sure to like her, for she is much cleverer than I. She tells
wonderful stories, too; better than a book.'
And just then the door opened, and Mrs. Desborough entered.
Somerset cried out aloud to recognise the young lady of the
Superfluous Mansion, and Challoner fell back a step and dropped his
cigar as he beheld the sorceress of Chelsea.
'What!' cried Harry, 'do you both know my wife?'
'I believe I have seen her,' said Somerset, a little wildly.
'I think I have met the gentleman,' said Mrs. Desborough sweetly;
'but I cannot imagine where it was.'
'Oh no,' cried Somerset fervently: 'I have no notion--I cannot
conceive--where it could have been. Indeed,' he continued, growing
in emphasis, 'I think it highly probable that it's a mistake.'
'And you, Challoner?' asked Harry, 'you seemed to recognise her
'These are both friends of yours, Harry?' said the lady.
'Delighted, I am sure. I do not remember to have met Mr.
Challoner was very red in the face, perhaps from having groped
after his cigar. 'I do not remember to have had the pleasure,' he
'Well, and Mr. Godall?' asked Mrs. Desborough.
'Are you the lady that has an appointment with old--' began
Somerset, and paused blushing. 'Because if so,' he resumed, 'I was
to announce you at once.'
And the shopman raised a curtain, opened a door, and passed into a
small pavilion which had been added to the back of the house. On
the roof, the rain resounded musically. The walls were lined with
maps and prints and a few works of reference. Upon a table was a
large-scale map of Egypt and the Soudan, and another of Tonkin, on
which, by the aid of coloured pins, the progress of the different
wars was being followed day by day. A light, refreshing odour of
the most delicate tobacco hung upon the air; and a fire, not of
foul coal, but of clear-flaming resinous billets, chattered upon
silver dogs. In this elegant and plain apartment, Mr. Godall sat
in a morning muse, placidly gazing at the fire and hearkening to
the rain upon the roof.
'Ha, my dear Mr. Somerset,' said he, 'and have you since last night
adopted any fresh political principle?'
'The lady, sir,' said Somerset, with another blush.
'You have seen her, I believe?' returned Mr. Godall; and on
Somerset's replying in the affirmative, 'You will excuse me, my
dear sir,' he resumed, 'if I offer you a hint. I think it not
improbable this lady may desire entirely to forget the past. From
one gentleman to another, no more words are necessary.'
A moment after, he had received Mrs. Desborough with that grave and
touching urbanity that so well became him.
'I am pleased, madam, to welcome you to my poor house,' he said;
'and shall be still more so, if what were else a barren courtesy
and a pleasure personal to myself, shall prove to be of serious
benefit to you and Mr. Desborough.'
'Your Highness,' replied Clara, 'I must begin with thanks; it is
like what I have heard of you, that you should thus take up the
case of the unfortunate; and as for my Harry, he is worthy of all
that you can do.' She paused.
'But for yourself?' suggested Mr. Godall--'it was thus you were
about to continue, I believe.'
'You take the words out of my mouth,' she said. 'For myself, it is
'I am not here to be a judge of men,' replied the Prince; 'still
less of women. I am now a private person like yourself and many
million others; but I am one who still fights upon the side of
quiet. Now, madam, you know better than I, and God better than
you, what you have done to mankind in the past; I pause not to
inquire; it is with the future I concern myself, it is for the
future I demand security. I would not willingly put arms into the
hands of a disloyal combatant; and I dare not restore to wealth one
of the levyers of a private and a barbarous war. I speak with some
severity, and yet I pick my terms. I tell myself continually that
you are a woman; and a voice continually reminds me of the children
whose lives and limbs you have endangered. A woman,' he repeated
solemnly--'and children. Possibly, madam, when you are yourself a
mother, you will feel the bite of that antithesis: possibly when
you kneel at night beside a cradle, a fear will fall upon you,
heavier than any shame; and when your child lies in the pain and
danger of disease, you shall hesitate to kneel before your Maker.'
'You look at the fault,' she said, 'and not at the excuse. Has
your own heart never leaped within you at some story of oppression?
But, alas, no! for you were born upon a throne.'
'I was born of woman,' said the Prince; 'I came forth from my
mother's agony, helpless as a wren, like other nurselings. This,
which you forgot, I have still faithfully remembered. Is it not
one of your English poets, that looked abroad upon the earth and
saw vast circumvallations, innumerable troops manoeuvring, warships
at sea and a great dust of battles on shore; and casting anxiously
about for what should be the cause of so many and painful
preparations, spied at last, in the centre of all, a mother and her
babe? These, madam, are my politics; and the verses, which are by
Mr. Coventry Patmore, I have caused to be translated into the
Bohemian tongue. Yes, these are my politics: to change what we
can, to better what we can; but still to bear in mind that man is
but a devil weakly fettered by some generous beliefs and
impositions, and for no word however nobly sounding, and no cause
however just and pious, to relax the stricture of these bonds.'
There was a silence of a moment.
'I fear, madam,' resumed the Prince, 'that I but weary you. My
views are formal like myself; and like myself, they also begin to
grow old. But I must still trouble you for some reply.'
'I can say but one thing,' said Mrs. Desborough: 'I love my
'It is a good answer,' returned the Prince; 'and you name a good
influence, but one that need not be conterminous with life.'
'I will not play at pride with such a man as you,' she answered.
'What do you ask of me? not protestations, I am sure. What shall I
say? I have done much that I cannot defend and that I would not do
again. Can I say more? Yes: I can say this: I never abused
myself with the muddle-headed fairy tales of politics. I was at
least prepared to meet reprisals. While I was levying war myself--
or levying murder, if you choose the plainer term--I never accused
my adversaries of assassination. I never felt or feigned a
righteous horror, when a price was put upon my life by those whom I
attacked. I never called the policeman a hireling. I may have
been a criminal, in short; but I never was a fool.'
'Enough, madam,' returned the Prince: 'more than enough! Your
words are most reviving to my spirits; for in this age, when even
the assassin is a sentimentalist, there is no virtue greater in my
eyes than intellectual clarity. Suffer me, then, to ask you to
retire; for by the signal of that bell, I perceive my old friend,
your mother, to be close at hand. With her I promise you to do my
And as Mrs. Desborough returned to the Divan, the Prince, opening a
door upon the other side, admitted Mrs. Luxmore.
'Madam and my very good friend,' said he, 'is my face so much
changed that you no longer recognise Prince Florizel in Mr.
'To be sure!' she cried, looking at him through her glasses. 'I
have always regarded your Highness as a perfect man; and in your
altered circumstances, of which I have already heard with deep
regret, I will beg you to consider my respect increased instead of
'I have found it so,' returned the Prince, 'with every class of my
acquaintance. But, madam, I pray you to be seated. My business is
of a delicate order, and regards your daughter.'
'In that case,' said Mrs. Luxmore, 'you may save yourself the
trouble of speaking, for I have fully made up my mind to have
nothing to do with her. I will not hear one word in her defence;
but as I value nothing so particularly as the virtue of justice, I
think it my duty to explain to you the grounds of my complaint.
She deserted me, her natural protector; for years, she has
consorted with the most disreputable persons; and to fill the cup
of her offence, she has recently married. I refuse to see her, or
the being to whom she has linked herself. One hundred and twenty
pounds a year, I have always offered her: I offer it again. It is
what I had myself when I was her age.'
'Very well, madam,' said the Prince; 'and be that so! But to touch
upon another matter: what was the income of the Reverend Bernard
'My father?' asked the spirited old lady. 'I believe he had seven
hundred pounds in the year.'
'You were one, I think, of several?' pursued the Prince.
'Of four,' was the reply. 'We were four daughters; and painful as
the admission is to make, a more detestable family could scarce be
found in England.'
'Dear me!' said the Prince. 'And you, madam, have an income of
'Not more than five,' returned the old lady; 'but where on earth
are you conducting me?'
'To an allowance of one thousand pounds a year,' replied Florizel,
smiling. 'For I must not suffer you to take your father for a
rule. He was poor, you are rich. He had many calls upon his
poverty: there are none upon your wealth. And indeed, madam, if
you will let me touch this matter with a needle, there is but one
point in common to your two positions: that each had a daughter
more remarkable for liveliness than duty.'
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