The Fortunate Youth
William J. Locke
Part 6 out of 6
Paul looked and saw that Wilson spoke truly. Then he reflected that
Wilson and the others who had worked so strenuously for him had no
part in his own personal depression. They deserved a manifestation
of interest, also expressions of gratitude. So Paul pulled himself
together and went amongst them and was responsive to their
prophecies of victory.
Then just as the last votes were being counted, an official
attendant came in with a letter for Paul. It had been brought by
messenger. The writing on the envelope was Jane's. He tore it open
Mr. Finn is dying. He has had a stroke. The doctor says he can't
live through the night. Come as soon as you can. JANE.
Outside the Town Hall the wide street was packed with people. Men
surged tip to the hollow square of police guarding the approach to
the flight of steps and the great entrance door. Men swarmed about
the electric standards above the heads of their fellows. Men rose in
a long tier with their backs to the shop-fronts on the opposite side
of the road. In spite of the raw night the windows were open and the
arc lights revealed a ghostly array of faces looking down on the
mass below, whose faces in their turn were lit up by the more yellow
glare streaming from the doors and uncurtained windows of the Town
Hall. In the lobby behind the glass doors could be seen a few
figures going and coming, committee-men, journalists, officials. A
fine rain began to fall, but the crowd did not heed it. The
mackintosh capes of the policemen glistened. It was an orderly
crowd, held together by tense excitement: all eyes fixed on the
silent illuminated building whence the news would come. Across one
window on the second floor was a large white patch, blank and
sphinx-like. At right angles to one end of the block ran the High
Street and the tall, blazing trams passed up and down and all eyes
in the trams strained for a transient glimpse of the patch, hoping
that it would flare out into message.
Presently a man was seen to dash from the interior of the hall into
the lobby, casting words at the waiting figures, who clamoured
eagerly and disappeared within, just as the man broke through the
folding doors and appeared at the top of the steps beneath the
portico. The great crowd surged and groaned, and the word was
quickly passed from rank to rank.
"Savelli. Thirteen hundred and seventy majority." And then there
burst out wild cheers and the crowd broke into a myriad little waves
like a choppy sea. Men danced and shouted and clapped each other on
the back, and the tall facade of the street opposite the hall was
a-flutter. Suddenly the white patch leaped into an illumination
proclaiming the figures.
Again the wild cheering rose, and then the great double windows in
the centre of the first floor of the Town Hall were flung open and
Paul, surrounded by the mayor and officials, appeared.
Paul gripped the iron hand-rail and looked down upon the tumultuous
scene, his ears deafened by the roar, his eyes dazed by the
conflicting lights and the million swift reflections from moving
faces and arms and hats and handkerchiefs. The man is not born who
can receive unmoved a frenzied public ovation. A lump rose in his
throat. After all, this delirium of joy was sincere. He stood for
the moment the idol of the populace. For him this vast concourse of
human beings had waited in rain and mud and now became a deafening,
seething welter of human passion. He gripped the rail tighter and
closed his eyes. He heard as in a dream the voice of the mayor
behind him: "Say a few words. They won't hear you--but that
Then Paul drew himself up, facing the whirling scene. He sought in
his pockets and suddenly shot up his hand, holding a letter, and
awaited a lull in the uproar. He was master of himself now. He had
indeed words to say, deliberately prepared, and he knew that if he
could get a hearing he would say them as deliberately. At last came
"Gentlemen," said he, with a motion of the letter, "my opponent is
He paused. The words, so unexpected, so strangely different from the
usual exordium, seemed to pass from line to line through the crowd.
"I am speaking in the presence of death," said Paul, and paused
And a hush spread like a long wave across the street, and the
thronged windows, last of all, grew still and silent.
"I will ask you to hear me out, for I have something very grave to
say." And his voice rang loud and clear. "Last night my opponent was
forced to admit that nearly thirty years ago he suffered a term of
penal servitude. The shock, after years of reparation, of spotless
life, spent in the service of God and his fellow-creatures, has
killed him. I desire publicly to proclaim that I, as his opponent,
had no share in the dastardly blow that has struck him down. And I
desire to proclaim the reason. He is my own father; I, Paul Savelli,
am my opponent, Silas Finn's son."
A great gasp and murmur rose from the wonder-stricken throng, but
only momentarily, for the spell of drama was on them. Paul
"I will make public later on the reasons for our respective changes
of name. For the present it is enough to state the fact of our
relationship and of our mutual affection and respect. That I thank
you for electing me goes without saying; and I will do everything in
my power to advance the great cause you have enabled me to
represent. I regret I cannot address you in another place to-night,
as I had intended. I must ask you of your kindness to let me go
quietly where my duty and my heart call me to my father's
He bowed and waved a dignified gesture of farewell, and turning into
the hall met the assemblage of long, astounded faces. From outside
came the dull rumbling of the dispersing crowd. The mayor, the first
to break the silence, murmured a platitude.
Paul thanked him gravely. Then he went to Wilson. "Forgive me," said
he, "for all that has been amiss with me to-day. It has been a
strain of a very peculiar kind."
"I can well imagine it," said Wilson.
"You see I'm not an aristocrat, after all," said Paul.
Wilson looked the young man in the face and saw the steel beneath
the dark eyes, and the Proud setting of the lips. With a sudden
impulse he wrung his hand. "I don't care a damn!" said he. "You
Paul said, unsmiling: "I can face the music. That's all." He drew a
note from his pocket. "Will you do me a final service? Go round to
the Conservative Club at once, and tell the meeting what has
happened, and give this to Colonel Winwood."
"With pleasure," said Wilson.
Then Paul shook hands with all his fellow-workers and thanked them
in his courtly way, and, pleading for solitude, went through the
door of the great chamber and, guided by an attendant, reached the
exit in a side street where his car awaited him. A large concourse
of people stood drawn up in line on each side of the street,
marshalled by policemen. A familiar crooked figure limped from the
shadow of the door, holding a hard felt hat, his white poll gleaming
in the shaft of light. "God bless you, sonny," he said in a hoarse
Paul took the old man by the arm and drew him across the pavement to
the car. "Get in," said he.
Barney Bill hung back. "No, sonny; no."
"It's not the first time we've driven together. Get in. I want you."
So Barney Bill allowed himself to be thrust into the luxurious car,
and Paul followed. And perhaps for the first time in the history of
great elections the successful candidate drove away from the place
where the poll was declared in dead silence, attended only by the
humblest of his constituents. But every man in the throng bared his
"HE had the stroke in the night," said Barney Bill suddenly.
Paul turned sharply on him. "Why wasn't I told?"
"Could you have cured him?"
"Of course not."
"Could you have done him any good?"
"I ought to have been told."
"You had enough of worries before you for one day, sonny."
"That was my business," said Paul.
"Jane and I, being as it were responsible parties, took the liberty,
so to speak, of thinking it our business too."
Paul drummed impatiently on his knees.
"Yer ain't angry, are you, sonny?" the old man asked plaintively.
"No--not angry--with you and Jane--certainly not. I know you
acted for the best, out of love for me. But you shouldn't have
deceived me. I thought it was a mere nervous breakdown--the strain
and shock. You never said a word about it, and Jane, when I talked
to her this morning, never gave me to dream there was anything
serious amiss. So I say you two have deceived me."
"But I'm a telling of yer, sonny--"
"Yes, yes, I know. I don't reproach you. But don't you see? I'm sick
of lies. Dead sick. I've been up to my neck in a bog of falsehood
ever since I was a child and I'm making a hell of a struggle to get
on to solid ground. The Truth for me now. By God! nothing but the
Barney Bill, sitting for-ward, hunched up, on the seat of the car,
just as he used to sit on the footboard of his van, twisted his head
round. "I'm not an eddicated person," said he, "although if I hadn't
done a bit of reading in my time I'd have gone dotty all by my lones
in the old 'bus, but I've come to one or two conclusions in my, so
to speak, variegated career, and one is that if you go one in that
'ere mad way for Truth in Parliament, you'll be a bull in a china
shop, and they'll get sticks and dawgs to hustle you out. Sir Robert
Peel, old Gladstone, Dizzy, the whole lot of the old Yuns was up
against it. They had to compromise. It's compromise"--the old man
dwelt lovingly, as usual, on the literary word--"it's compromise
you must have in Parliament."
"I'll see Parliament damned first!" cried Paul, his nerves on edge.
"You'll have to wait a long time, sonny," said Barney Bill, wagging
a sage head. "Parliament takes a lot of damning."
"Anyhow," said Paul, not eager to continue the argument, but
unconsciously caught in the drift of Barney Bill's philosophy, "my
private life isn't politics, and there's not going to be another lie
in my private life as long as I live."
The old man broke a short silence with a dry chuckle. "How it takes
one back!" he said reflectively. "Lor lumme! I can hear yer speaking
now--just in the same tone--the night what yer run away with me.
Yer hadn't a seat to yer breeches then, and now you've a seat in
Parliament." He chuckled again at his joke. "But"--he gripped the
young man's knee in his bony clasp--"you're just the same Paul,
sonny, God bless yer--and you'll come out straight all right. Here
The car drew up before Silas Finn's house. They entered. Jane,
summoned, came down at once and met them in the dreadful
dining-room, where a simple meal was spread.
"I haven't heard--" she said.
"My father--?" he asked curtly.
She looked at him wide-eyed for a second or two as he stood, his
fur-lined coat with astrachan collar thrown open, his hand holding a
soft felt hat on his hip, his absurdly beautiful head thrown back,
to casual glance the Fortunate Youth of a month or two ago. But to
Jane's jealous eye he was not even the man she had seen that
afternoon. He looked many years older. She confessed afterwards to
surprise at not finding his hair grey at the temples, thus
manifesting her ordered sense of the harmonious. She confessed, too,
that she was frightened--jane who, for any other reason than the
mere saving of her own skin, would have stolidly faced Hyrcanean
tigers--at the stern eyes beneath the contracted brows. He was a
different Paul altogether. And here we have the divergence between
the masculine and the feminine point of view. Jane saw a new avatar;
Barney Bill the ragged urchin of the Bludston brick-fields. She
shifted her glance to the old man. He, standing crookedly, cocked
his head and nodded.
"He knows all about it."
"Yes, yes," said Paul. "How is my father?"
Jane threw out her hands in the Englishwoman's insignificant
gesture. "He's unconscious--has been for hours--the nurse is up
with him--the end may come any moment. I hid it from you till the
last for your own sake. Would you care to go upstairs?"
She moved to the door. Paul threw off his overcoat and, followed by
Barney Bill, accompanied her. On the landing they were met by the
"It is all over," she said.
"I will go in for a moment," said Paul. "I should like to be alone."
In a room hung like the rest of the house with gaudy pictures he
stood for a short while looking at the marble face of the
strange-souled, passionate being that had been his father. The lids
had closed for ever over the burning, sorrowful eyes; the mobile
lips were for ever mute. In his close sympathy with the man Paul
knew what had struck him down. It was not the blow of the nameless
enemy, but the stunning realization that he was not, after all, the
irresistible nominee of the Almighty. His great faith had not
suffered; for the rigid face was serene, as though he had accepted
this final chastisement and purification before entrance into the
Eternal Kingdom; but his high pride, the mainspring of his fanatical
life, had been broken and the workings of the physical organism had
been arrested. In those few moments of intense feeling, in the
presence of death, it was given to Paul to tread across the
threshold of the mystery of his birth. Here lay stiff and cold no
base clay such as that of which Polly Kegworthy had been formed. It
had been the tenement of a spirit beautiful and swift. No matter to
what things he himself had been born--he had put that foolishness
behind him--at all events his dream bad come partly true. His
father had been one of the great ones, one of the conquerors, one of
the high princes of men. Multitudes of kings had not been so
parented. Outwardly a successful business man and a fanatical
Dissenter--there were thousands like Silas Finn. But Paul knew his
inner greatness, the terrific struggle of his soul, the warrings
between fierce blood and iron will, the fervent purpose, the lofty
aspirations and the unwavering conduct of his life of charity and
sorrow. He stretched out his hand and with his finger tips lightly
touched the dead man's forehead. "I'm proud to be your son," he
Then the nurse came in and Paul went downstairs. Barney Bill waylaid
him in the hall, and led him into the dining-room. "Have a little
food and drink, sonny. You look as if yer need it--especially
drink. 'Ere." He seized a decanter of whisky--since Paul's first
visit, Silas had always kept it in the house for his son's,
comforting--and would have filled the tumbler had not Paul
restrained him. He squirted in the soda. "Drink it down and you'll
Paul swallowed a great gulp. "Yes," he agreed. "There are times when
it does help a man."
"Liquor is like a dawg," said Bill. "Keep it in subjection, so to
speak, and it's yer faithful friend."
"Where's Jane?" Paul asked.
"She's busy. Half the borough seem to be calling, or telephoning"--
and even at that moment Paul could hear the maid tripping across the
hall and opening the front door--"I've told her what occurred. She
seemed half skeered. She's had a dreadful day, pore gal."
"She has indeed," said Paul.
He threw himself into a chair, dead beat, at the end of emotional
strain, and remained talking with the old man of he scarce knew
what. But these two--Jane and the old man--were linked to him by
imperishable ties, and he could not leave them yet awhile in the
house of death. Barney Bill stirred the fire, which blazed up,
making the perky animals on the hearth cast faint and fantastic
"It's funny how he loved those darned little beasts, isn't it now? I
remember of him telling me as how they transported him into magic
something--or the other--medi--he had a word for it--I dunno--"
"That's it, sonny. Mediaeval forests. It means back of old times,
don't it? King Arthur and his Round Table--I done a bit of
reading, yer know." The old man took out pouch and pipe. "That's
what drew us together, sonny, our taste for literature. Remember?"
"Can I ever forget?" said Paul.
"Well, he was like that too. He had lots of po'try in him--not the
stuff that rhymes, yer know, like 'The Psalm of Life' and so forth,
but real po'try. I wish I could tell yer what I mean--" His
face was puckered into a thousand wrinkles with the intellectual
effort, and his little diamond eyes gleamed. "He could take a
trumpery common thing like that there mug-faced, lop-eared hare and
make it stand for the medi-what-you-call-it-forest. I've said to
him, 'Come out with me on the old 'bus if you want green and
loneliness and nature.' And he has said--I recollect one talk in
particular--he said, 'I'd love to hear' something about a pipe--
I'm getting old, sonny--"
"The Pipes of Pan?" Paul suggested.
"The very words. Lor lumme! how did you guess it?" He paused, his
fingers holding the lighted match, which went out before he could
apply it to his tobacco. "Yus. 'The Pipes of Pan.' I don't know what
it means. Anyway, he said he'd love to hear them in the real forest,
but duty kept him to bricks and mortar and so he had to hear them in
imagination. He said that all them footling little beasts were
a-listening to 'em, and they told him all about it. I remember he
told me more about the woods than I know myself--and I reckon I
could teach his business to any gamekeeper or poacher in England. I
don't say as how he knew the difference between a stoat and a weasel--he
didn't. A cock-pheasant and a hen-partridge would have been
the same to him. But the spirit of it--the meaning of it--he
fair raised my hair off--he knew it a darned sight better nor I.
And that's what I set out for to say, sonny. He had po'try in him.
And all this"--he swept an all-inclusive hand--"all this meant
to him something that you and I can't tumble to, sonny. It meant
something different to what it looked like--ah!" and impatient at
his impotence to express philosophic thought, he cast another
lighted match angrily into the fire.
Paul, high product of modern culture, sat in wonder at the common
old fellow's clarity of vision. Tears rolled down his cheek. "I
know, dear old Bill, what you're trying to say. Only one man has
ever been able to say it. A mad poet called Blake.
'To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower;
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour'."
Barney Bill started forward in his chair and clapped his hand on the
young man's knee. "By gum! you've got it. That's what I was
a-driving at. That's Silas. I call to mind when he was a boy--
pretty dirty and ragged he was too--as he used to lean over the
parapet of Blackfriars Bridge and watch the current sort of swirling
round the piers, and he used to say as how he could hear what the
river was saying. I used to think him loony. But it was po'try,
sonny, all the time."
The old man, thus started on reminiscence, continued, somewhat
garrulous, and Paul, sunk in the armchair by the fire, listened
indulgently, waiting for Jane. She, meanwhile, was occupied upstairs
and in the library answering telephone messages and sending word out
to callers by the maid. For, on the heels of Paul, as Barney Bill
had said, many had come on errand of inquiry and condolence and all
the news agencies and newspapers of London seemed to be on the
telephone. Some of the latter tried for speech with the newly elected
candidate whom they understood to be in the house, but Jane denied
them firmly. She had had some training as a politician's private
secretary. At last the clanging bell ceased ringing, and the maid
ceased running to and from the street door, and the doctor had come
and given his certificate and gone, and Jane joined the pair in the
dining-room. She brought in from the hall a tray of visiting cards
and set it on the table. "I suppose it was kind of them all to
come," she said.
She sat down listlessly in a straight-backed chair, and then, at a
momentary end of her fine strength suddenly broke into tears and
sobs and buried her head on her arms. Paul rose, bent over her and
clasped her shoulders comfortingly. Presently she turned and blindly
sought his embrace. He raised her to her feet, and they stood as
they had done years ago, when, boy and girl, they had come to the
parting of their ways. She cried silently for a while, and then she
said miserably: "I've only you left, dear."
In this hour of spent effort and lassitude it was a queer physical
comfort, very pure and sweet, to feel the close contact of her
young, strong body. She, too, out of the wreck, was all that he had
left. His clasp tightened, and he murmured soothing words.
"Oh, my dear, I am so tired," she said, giving herself up, for her
part also, to the foolish solace of his arms. "I wish I could stay
here always, Paul."
He whispered: "Why not?"
Indeed, why not? Instinct spoke. His people were her people and her
people his. And she had proved herself a brave, true woman. Before
him no longer gleamed the will-o'-the-wisp leading him a fantastic
dance through life. Before him lay only darkness. Jane and he, hand
in hand, could walk through it fearless and undismayed. And her own
great love, shown unashamed in the abandonment of this moment of
intense emotion' made his pulses throb. He whispered again: "Why
For answer she nestled closer. "if only you could love me a little,
"But I do," said Paul hoarsely.
She shook her head and sobbed afresh, and they stood in close
embrace at the end of the room by the door, regardless of the
presence of the old man who sat, his back to them, smoking his pipe
and looking, with his birdlike crook of the neck, meditatively into
the fire. "No, no," said Jane, at last. "It's silly of me. Forgive
me. We mustn't talk of such things. Neither of us is fit to--and
to-night it's not becoming. I have lost my father and you are only
my brother, Paul dear."
Barney Bill broke in suddenly; and at the sound of his voice they
moved apart. "Think over it, sonny. Don't go and do anything rash."
"Don't you think it would be wise for Jane to marry me?"
"Not for me?"
"It's only wise for a man to marry a woman what he loves," said
"You said, when we was a-driving here, as you are going to live for
the Truth and nothing but the Truth. I only mention it," added the
old man drily.
Jane recovered herself, with a gulp in the throat, and before Paul
could answer said: "We too had a talk to-day, Paul. Remember," her
voice quavered a little--"about carrots."
"You were right in essence," said Paul, looking at her gravely. "But
I should have my incentive. I know my own mind. My affection for you
is of the deepest. That is Truth--I needn't tell you. We could
lead a happy and noble life together."
"We belong to two different social classes, Paul," she said gently,
again sitting in the straight-backed chair by the table.
"We don't," he replied. "I repudiated my claims to the other class
this evening. I was admitted into what is called high society,
partly because people took it for granted that I was a man of good
birth. Now that I've publicly proclaimed that I'm not--and the
newspapers will pretty soon find out all about me now--I'll drop
out of that same high society. I shan't seek readmittance."
"People will seek you."
"You don't know the world," said he.
"It must be mean and horrid."
"Oh, no. It's very just and honourable. I shan't blame it a bit for
not wanting me. Why should I? I don't belong to it."
"But you do, dear Paul," she cried earnestly. "Even if you could get
rid of your training and mode of thought, you can't get rid of your
essential self. You've always been an aristocrat, and I've always
been a small shop-keeper's daughter and shall continue to be one."
"And I say," Paul retorted, "that we've both sprung from the people,
and are of the people. You've raised yourself above the small
shop-keeping class just as much as I have. Don't let us have any
sham humility about it. Whatever happens you'll always associate
with folk of good-breeding and education. You couldn't go back to
Barn Street. It would be idiotic for me to contemplate such a thing
for my part. But between Barn Street and Mayfair there's a refined
and intellectual land where you and I can meet on equal ground and
make our social position. What do you say?"
She did not look at him, but fingered idly the cards on the tray.
"To-morrow you will think differently. To-night you're all on the
"And, axing yer pardon, sonny, for chipping in," said the old man,
holding up his pipe in his gnarled fingers, "you haven't told her as
how you loves her--not as how a young woman axed in marriage ought
to be told."
"I've spoken the Truth, dear old friend," said Paul. "I've. got down
to bed-rock to-night. I have a deep and loyal affection for Jane. I
shan't waver in it all my life long. I'll soon find my carrot, as
she calls it--it will be England's greatness. She is the woman
that will help me on my path. I've finished with illusions for ever
and ever. Jane is the bravest and grandest of realities. To-night's
work has taught me that. For me, Jane stands for the Truth. Jane--"
He turned to her, but she had risen from her chair, staring at a
card which she held in her hand. Her clear eyes met his for an
instant as she threw the card on the table before him. "No, dear.
For you, that's the Truth."
He took it up and looked at it stupidly. It bore a crown and the
inscription: "The Princess Sophie Zobraska," and a pencilled line,
in her handwriting: "With anxious inquiries." He reeled, as if
someone had dealt him a heavy blow on the head. He recovered to see
Jane regarding him with her serene gravity. "Did you know about
this?" he asked dully.
"No. I've just seen the card. I found it at the bottom of the pile."
"How did it come?"
Jane rang the bell. "I don't know. If Annie's still up, we can find
out. As it was at the bottom, it must have been one of the first."
"How could the news have travelled so fast?" said Paul.
The maid came in. Questioned, she said that just after Paul had gone
upstairs, and while Jane was at the telephone, a chauffeur had
presented the card. He belonged to a great lighted limousine in
which sat a lady in hat and dark veil. According to her orders, she
had said that Mr. Finn was dead, and the chauffeur had gone away and
she had shut the door.
The maid was dismissed. Paul stood on the hearthrug with bent brows,
his hands in his jacket pockets. "I can't understand it," he said.
"She must ha' come straight from the Town Hall," said Barney Bill.
"But she wasn't there," cried Paul.
"Sonny," said the old fellow, "if you're always dead sure of where a
woman is and where a woman isn't, you're a wiser man than Solomon
with all his wives and other domestic afflictions."
Paul threw the card into the fire. "It doesn't matter where she
was," said he. "It was a very polite--even a gracious act to send
in her card on her way home. But it makes no difference to what I
was talking about. What have I got to do with princesses? They're
out of my sphere. So are Naiads and Dryads and Houris and Valkyrie
and other fabulous ladies. The Princess Zobraska has nothing to do
with the question."
He made a step towards Jane and, his hand on her shoulder, looked at
her in his new, masterful way. "I come in the most solemn hour and
in the crisis of my life to ask you to marry me. My father, whom
I've only learned to love and revere to-night, is lying dead
upstairs. To-night I have cut away all bridges behind me. I go into
the unknown. We'll have to fight, but we'll fight together. You have
courage, and I at least have that. There's a seat in Parliament
which I'll have to fight for afterwards like a dog for a bone, and
an official position which brings in enough bread and-butter--"
"And there's a fortune remarked Barney Bill.
"What do you mean?" Paul swung round sharply.
"Yer father's fortune, sonny. Who do yer suppose he was a-going to
leave it to? 'Omes for lost 'orses or Free Zionists? I don't know as
'ow I oughter talk of it, him not buried yet--but I seed his will
when he made it a month or two ago, and barring certair legacies to
Free Zionists and such-like lunatic folk, not to speak of Jane ere
being left comfortably off, you're the residuary legatee, sonny--
with something like a hundred thousand pounds. There's no talk of
earning bread-and-butter, sonny."
"It never entered my head," said Paul, rather dazed. "I suppose a
father would leave his money to his son. I didn't realize it." He
passed his hand over his eyes. "So many things have happened
to-night. Anyhow," he said, smiling queerly, in his effort to still
a whirling brain, "if there are no anxieties as to ways and means,
so much the better for Jane and me. I am all the more justified in
asking you to marry me. Will you?"
"Before I answer you, Paul dear," she replied steadily, "you must
answer me. I've known about the will, just like Bill, all the time--"
"She has that," confirmed the old man.
"So this isn't news to me, dear, and can't alter anything from me to
"Why should it?" asked Paul. "But it makes my claim a little
"Oh, no," she replied, shaking her head. "It only--only confuses
issues. Money has nothing to do with what I'm going to ask you. You
said to-night you were going to live for the Truth--the real naked
Truth. Now, Paul dear, I want the real, naked Truth. Do you love
At her question she seemed to have grown from the common sense,
clear-eyed Jane into a great and commanding presence. She had drawn
herself to her full height. Her chin was in the air, her generous
bust thrown forward, her figure imperious, her eyes intense. And
Paul too drew himself up and looked at her in his new manhood. And
they stood thus for a while, beloved enemies.
"If you want the Truth--yes, I do love her," said he.
"Then how dare you ask me to be your wife?"
"Because the one is nonsensical and illusory and the other is real
She flashed out angrily: "Do you suppose I can live my woman's life
on the real and practical? What kind of woman do you take me for? An
Amelia, a Patient Griselda, a tabby cat?"
Paul said: "You know very well; I take you for one of the
greatest-hearted of women. I've already said it to-night."
"Do you think I'm a greater-hearted woman than she? Wait, I've not
finished," she cried in a loud voice. "Your Princess--you cut her
heart into bits the other day, when you proclaimed yourself a
low-born impostor. She thought you a high-born gentleman, and you
told her of the gutter up north and the fried-fish shop and the
Sicilian organ-grinding woman. She, royalty--you of the scum! She
left you. This morning she learned worse. She learned that you were
the son of a convict. What does she do? She comes somehow--I don't
know how--to Hickney Heath and hears you publicly give yourself
away--and she drives straight here with a message for you. It's
for you, the message. Who else?" She stood before Paul, a flashing
Jane unknown. "Would a woman who didn't love you come to this house
to-night? She wouldn't, Paul. You know it! Dear old Bill here, who
hasn't moved in royal circles, knows it. No, my dear man," she said
regally, "I've given you all my love--everything that is in me--
since I was a child of thirteen. You will always have it. It's my
great joy that you'll always have it. But, by God, Paul, I'm not
going to exchange it for anything less. Can you give me the same?"
"You know I can't," said Paul. "But I can give you that which would
make our marriage a happy one. I believe the experience of the world
has shown it to be the securest basis."
She was on the point of breaking out, but turned away, with clenched
hands, and, controlling herself, faced him again. "You're an
honourable and loyal man, Paul, and you're saying this to save your
face. I know that you would marry me. I know that you would be
faithful to me in thought and word and act. I know that you would be
good and kind and never give me a moment's cause for complaint. But
your heart would be with the other woman. Whether she's out of your
sphere or not--what does it matter to me? You love her and she
loves you. I know it. I should always know it. You'd be living in
hell and so should I. I should prefer to remain in purgatory, which,
after all, is quite bearable--I'm used to it--and I love you
enough to wish to see you in paradise."
She turned away with a wide gesture and an upward inflexion of her
voice. Barney Bill refilled his pipe and fixed Paul with his
twinkling diamond eyes. "It's a pity, sonny--a dodgasted pity!"
"We're up against the Truth, old man, the unashamed and naked
truth," said Paul, with a sigh.
Jane caught Paul's fur-lined coat and hat from the chair on which he
had thrown it and came to him. "It's time for you to go and rest,
dear. We're all of us exhausted."
She helped him on with the heavy coat, and for farewell put both her
hands on his shoulders. "You must forget a lot of things I've said
"I can't help remembering them."
"No, dear. Forget them." She drew his face down and kissed him on
the lips. Then she led him out to the front door and accompanied him
down the steps to the kerb where the car with its weary chauffeur
was waiting. The night had cleared and the stars shone bright in the
sky. She pointed to one, haphazard. "Your star, Paul. Believe in it
He drove off. She entered the house, and, flinging herself on the
floor by Barney Bill, buried her head on the old man's knees and
sobbed her brave heart out.
THE next morning amazement fluttered over a million breakfast tables
and throbbed in a million railway carriages. For all the fierceness
of political passions, parliamentary elections are but sombre
occurrences to the general public. Rarely are they attended by the
picturesque, the dramatic, the tragic. But already the dramatic had
touched the election of Hickney Heath, stimulating interest in the
result. Thousands, usually apathetic as to political matters, opened
their newspapers to see how the ex-convict candidate had fared. They
read, with a gasp, that he was dead; that his successful opponent
had proclaimed himself to be his son. They had the dramatic value of
cumulative effect. If Paul had ever sought notoriety he had it now.
His name rang through the length and breadth of the land. The early
editions of the London afternoon papers swelled the chorus of amazed
comment and conjecture. Some had even routed out a fact or two,
Heaven knows whence, concerning father and son. According to party
they meted out praise or blame. Some, unversed in the law, declared
the election invalid. The point was discussed in a hundred clubs.
There was consternation in the social world. The Duchesses' boudoirs
with which Paul had been taunted hummed with indignation. They had
entertained an adventurer unawares. They had entrusted the sacred
ark of their political hopes to a charlatan. Their daughters had
danced with the offspring of gaol and gutter. He must be cast out
from the midst of them. So did those that were foolish furiously
rage together and imagine many a vain thing. The Winwoods came in
for pity. They had been villainously imposed upon. And the Young
England League to which they had all subscribed so handsomely--
where were its funds? Was it safe to leave them at the disposal of
so unprincipled a fellow? Then germs of stories crept in from the
studios and the stage and grew perversely in the overheated
atmosphere. Paul's reputation began to assume a pretty colour. On
the other hand, there were those who, while deploring the deception,
were impressed by the tragedy and by Paul's attitude. He had his
defenders. Among the latter first sprang forward Lord Francis Ayres,
the Chief Whip, officially bound to protect his own pet candidate.
He called early at the house in Portland Place, a distressed and
anxious man. The door was besieged by reporters from newspapers,
vainly trying to gain, entrance. His arrival created a sensation. At
any Tate there was a headline "Opposition Whip calls on Savelli."
One or two attempted to interview him on the doorstep. He excused
himself courteously. As-yet he knew as much or as little as they.
The door opened. The butler snatched him in hurriedly. He asked to
see the Winwoods. He found them in the library.
"Here's an awful mess," said he, throwing up his hands. "I thought
I'd have a word or two with you before I tackle Savelli. Have you
seen him this morning?"
"Well, what do you think about it?"
"I think," said Ursula, "that the best thing I can do is to take him
away with me for a rest as soon as possible. He's at the end of his
"You seem to take it pretty calmly."
"How do you expect us to take it, my dear Frank?" she asked. "We
always expected Paul to do the right thing when the time came, and
we consider that he has done it."
The Chief Whip smoothed a perplexed brow. "I don't quite follow.
Were you, vulgarly speaking, in the know all the time?"
"Sit down, and I'll tell you."
So he sat down and Miss Winwood quietly told him all she knew about
Paul and what had happened during the past few weeks, while the
Colonel sat by his desk and tugged his long moustache and here and
there supplemented her narrative.
"That's all very interesting," Ayres remarked when she had finished,
"and you two have acted like bricks. I also see that he must have
had a devil of a time of it. But I've got to look at things from an
official point of view."
"There's no question of invalidity, is there?" asked Colonel
"No. He was known as Paul Savelli, nominated as Paul Savelli, and
elected as Paul Savelli by the electors of Hickney Heath. So he'll
sit as Paul Savelli. That's all right. But how is the House going to
receive him when he is introduced? How will it take him afterwards?
What use will he be to the party? We only ran him because he seemed
to be the most brilliant of the young outsiders. We hoped great
things of him. Hasn't he smashed up himself socially? Hasn't he
smashed up his career at the very beginning? All that is what I want
"So do I," groaned Colonel Winwood. "I didn't have a wink of sleep
"I didn't either," said Ursula, "but I don't think it will matter a
row of pins to Paul in his career."
"It will always be up against him," said Ayres.
"Because he has acted like a man?"
"It's the touch of Ruy Blas that I'm afraid of."
"You must remember that he wasn't aware of his relation to the dead
man until the eve of the election."
"But he was aware that he wasn't a descendant of a historical
Italian family, which everyone thought him to be. I don't speak for
myself," said Ayres. "I'm fond of the chap. One can't help it. He
has the charm of the great gentleman, confound him, and it's all
natural. The cloven hoof has never appeared, because I personally
believe there's no cloven hoof. The beggar was born well bred, and,
as to performance--well--he has been a young meteor across the
political sky. Until this election. Then he was a disappointment. I
frankly confess it. I didn't know what he was playing at. Now I do.
Poor chap. I personally am sympathetic. But what about the
cold-blooded other people, who don't know what you've told me? To
them he's the son of an ex-convict--a vendor of fried fish--I
put it brutally from their point of view--who has been
masquerading as a young St. George on horseback. Will he ever be
forgiven? Officially, have I any use for him? You see, I'm
responsible to the party."
"Any party," said Ursula, "would be a congregation of imbeciles who
didn't do their best to develop the genius of Paul Savelli."
"I'm fond of Paul," said Colonel Winwood, in his tired way, "but I
don't know that I would go as far as that."
"It's only because you're a limited male, my dear James. I suppose
Caesar was the only man who really crossed the Rubicon. And the fuss
he made about it! Women jump across with the utmost certainty. My
dear Frank, we're behind Paul, whatever happens. He has been
fighting for his own hand ever since he was a child, it is true. But
he has fought gallantly."
"My dear Miss Winwood," said Frank Ayres, "if there's a man to be
envied, it's the one who has you for his champion!"
"Anyone, my dear Frank, is to be envied," she retorted, "who is
championed by common-sense."
"All these fireworks illuminate nothing," said Colonel Winwood. "I
think we had better ask Paul to come down and see Frank. Would you
like to see him alone?"
"I had rather you stayed," said Frank Ayres.
A message was sent to Paul, and presently he appeared, very pale and
Frank Ayres met him with outstretched hand, spoke a courteous word
of sympathy, apologized for coming in the hour of tragic
Paul thanked him with equal courtesy. "I was about to write to you,
Lord Francis," he continued, "a sort of statement in explanation of
what happened last night--"
"Our friends have told me all, I think, that you may have to say."
"I shall still write it," said Paul, "so that you can have it in
black and white. At present, I've given the press nothing."
"Quite right," said Frank Ayres. "For God's sake, let us work
together as far as the press is concerned. That's one of the reasons
why I've forced myself upon you. It's horrible, my dear fellow, to
intrude at such a time. I hate it, as you can well imagine. But it's
"Of course it is," said Paul. There was a span of awkward silence.
"Well," said he, with a wan smile, "we're facing, not a political,
but a very unimportant party situation. Don't suppose I haven't a
sense of proportion. I have. What for me is the end of the world is
the unruffled continuance of the cosmic scheme for the rest of
mankind. But there are relative things to consider. You have to
consider the party. I'm sort of fly-blown. Am I any use? Let us talk
straight. Am I or am I not?"
"My dear chap," said Frank Ayres, with perplexed knitting of the
brows, "I don't quite know what to say. You yourself have invited me
to talk straight. Well! Forgive me if I do. There may be a
suggestion in political quarters that you have won this election
under false pretences."
"Do you want me to resign my seat?"
The two men looked deep into each other's eyes.
"A Unionist in is a Liberal out," said Frank Ayres, "and counts two
on division. That's one way of looking at it. We want all we can get
from the enemy. On the other hand, you'd come in for a lot of
criticism and hostility. You'd have to start not only from the
beginning, but with a handicap. Are you strong enough to face it?"
"I'm not going to run away from anything," said Paul. "But I'll tell
you what I'm prepared to do. I'll resign and fight the constituency
again, under my real name of Kegworthy, provided, of course, the
local people are willing to adopt me--on the understanding,
however, that the party support me, or, at least, don't put forward
another candidate. I'm not going to turn berserk."
"That's a sporting offer, at any rate. But, pardon me--we're
talking business--where is the money for another election to come
"My poor father's death makes me a wealthy man," replied Paul.
Miss Winwood started forward in her chair. "My dear, you never told
"There were so many other things to talk about this morning," he
said gently; "but of course I would have told you later. I only
mention it now"--he turned to the Chief Whip--"in answer to your
direct and very pertinent question."
Now between a political free-lance adopting a parliamentary career
in order to fight for his own hand, as all Paul's supporters were
frankly aware that he was doing, and a wealthy, independent and
brilliant young politician lies a wide gulf. The last man on earth,
in his private capacity, to find his estimate of his friends
influenced by their personal possessions was the fine aristocrat
Lord Francis Ayres. But he was a man of the world, the very
responsible head of the executive of a great political party. As
that executive head he was compelled to regard Paul from a different
angle. The millions of South Africa or the Middle West might vainly
knock at his own front door till the crack of doom, while Paul the
penniless sauntered in an honoured guest. But in his official room
in the House of Commons more stern and worldly considerations had to
"Of course I can't give you an answer now," said he. "I'll have to
discuss the whole matter with the powers that be. But a seat's a
seat, and though I appreciate your Quixotic offer, I don't see why
we should risk it. It's up to you to make good. It's more in your
own interest that I'm speaking now. Can you go through with it?"
Paul, with his unconquerable instinct for the dramatic, hauled out
the little cornelian heart at the end of his watch-chain. "My dear
fellow," said he. "Do you see that? It was given to me for failing
to win a race at a Sunday-school treat, when I was a very little
boy. I didn't possess coat or stockings, and my toes came out
through the ends of my boots, and in order to keep the thing safe I
knotted it up in the tail of my shirt, which waggled out of the seat
of my breeches. It was given to me by a beautiful lady, who, I
remember, smelled like all the perfumes of Araby. She awakened my
aesthetic sense by the divine and intoxicating odour that emanated
from her. Since then I have never met woman so--so like a scented
garden of all the innocences. To me she was a goddess. I overheard
her prophesy things about me. My life began from that moment. I kept
the cornelian heart all my life, as a talisman. It has brought me
through all kinds of things. Once I was going to throw it away and
Miss Winwood would not let me. I kept it, somewhat against my will,
for I thought it was a lying talisman. It had told me, in the
sweet-scented lady's words, that I was the son of a prince. Give me
half an hour to-morrow or the day after," he said, seeing a puzzled
look in Frank Ayres's face, "and I'll tell you a true psychological
fairy tale--the apologia pro vita mea. I say, anyhow, that lately,
until last night, I thought this little cornelian heart was a lying
talisman. Then I knew it didn't lie. I was the son of a prince, a
prince of men, although he had been in gaol and spent his days
afterwards in running emotional Christianity and fried-fish shops.
His name was Silas. Mine is Paul. Something significant about it,
isn't there? Anyhow"--he balanced the heart in the palm of his
hand--"this hasn't lied. It has carried me through all my life.
When I thought it failed, I found it at the purest truth of its
prophecy. It's not going to fail me now. If it's right for me to
take my seat I'll take it--whether I make good politically, or
not, is on the knees of the gods. But you may take it from me that
there's nothing in this wide world that I won't face or go through
with, if I've set my mind to it."
So the child who had kicked Billy Goodge and taken the spolia opima
of paper cocked hat and wooden sword spoke through the man. As then,
in a queer way, he found himself commanding a situation; and as
then, commanding it rightfully, through sheer personal force. Again,
at a sign, he would have broken the sword across his knee. But the
sign did not come.
"Speaking quite unofficially," said Frank Ayres, "I think, if you
feel like that, you would be a fool to give up your seat."
"Very well," said Paul, "I thank you. And now, perhaps, it would be
wise to draw up that statement for the press, if you can spare the
So Paul made a draft and Frank Ayres revised it, and it was sent
upstairs to be typed. When the typescript came down, Paul signed and
dispatched it and gave the Chief Whip a duplicate.
"Well," said the latter, shaking hands, "the best of good luck!"
Whereupon he went home feeling that though there would be the deuce
to pay, Paul Savelli would find himself perfectly solvent; and
meeting the somewhat dubious Leader of the Opposition later in the
day he said: "Anyhow, this 'far too gentlemanly party' has got
someone picturesque, at last, to touch the popular imagination."
"A new young Disraeli?"
The Leader made a faint gesture of philosophic doubt. "The mould is
broken," said he.
"We'll see," said Frank Ayres, confidently.
Meanwhile, Paul returned to his room and wrote a letter, three words
of which he had put on paper--"My dear Princess"--when the
summons to meet the Chief Whip had come. The unblotted ink had dried
hard. He took another sheet.
"My dear Princess," he began.
He held his head in his hand. What could he say? Ordinary courtesy
demanded an acknowledgment of the Princess's message of inquiry. But
to write to her whom he had held close in his arms, whose lips had
clung maddeningly to his, in terms of polite convention seemed
impossible. What had she meant by her message? If she had gone
scornfully out of his life, she had gone, and there was an end on't.
Her coming back could bear only one interpretation--that of Jane's
passionate statement. In spite of all, she loved him. But now,
stripped and naked and at war with the world, for all his desire, he
would have none of her love. Not he. . . . At last he wrote:
PRINCESS,--A thousand grateful thanks for last night's gracious
act--the act of the very great lady that I have the privilege of
knowing you to be.
He rang for a servant and ordered the note to be sent by hand, and
then went out to Hickney Heath to see to the burying of his dead. On
his return he found a familiar envelope with the crown on the flap
awaiting him. It contained but few words:
PAUL, come and see me. I will stay at home all day.
His pulses throbbed. Her readiness to await his pleasure proved a
humility of spirit rare in Princess Sophie Zobraska. Her hands were
held out towards him. But he hardened his heart. The fairy-tale was
over. Nothing but realities lay before him. The interview was
perilous; but he was not one to shirk danger. He went out, took a
cab and drove to Berkeley Square.
She rose shyly as he entered and advanced to meet him. He kissed her
hand, but when he sought to release it he found his held in her warm
clasp. "Mon Dieu! How ill you are looking!" she said, and her lips
"I'm only tired."
"You look so old. Ah!" She moved away from him with a sigh. "Sit
down. I suppose you can guess why I've asked you to come," she
continued after a pause. "But it is a little hard to say. I want you
to forgive me."
"There is nothing to forgive," said Paul.
"Don't be ungenerous; you know there is. I left you to bear
"You were more than justified. You found me an impostor. You were
wounded in everything you held sacred. I wounded you deliberately.
You could do nothing else but go away. Heaven forbid that I should
have thought of blaming you. I didn't. I understood."
"But it was I who did not understand," she said, looking at the
rings on her fingers. "Yes. You are right. I was wounded--like an
animal, I hid myself in the country, and I hoped you would write,
which was foolish, for I knew you wouldn't. Then I felt that if I
had loved you as I ought, I should never have gone away."
"I thought it best to kill your love outright," said Paul.
She lay back on her cushions, very fair, very alluring, very sad.
From where he sat he saw her face in its delicate profile, and he
had a mighty temptation to throw himself on his knees by her side.
"I thought, too, you had killed it," she said.
"Still think so," said Paul, in a low voice.
She raised herself, bent forward, and he met the blue depths of her
gaze. "And you? Your love?"
"I never did anything to kill it."
"But I did."
"No, you couldn't. I shall love you to the hour of my death." He saw
the light leap into her eyes. "I only say it," he added somewhat
coldly, "because I will lie to you no longer. But it's a matter that
concerns me alone."
"How you alone? Am not I to be considered?"
He rose and stood on the hearthrug, facing her. "I consider you all
the time," said he.
"Listen, mon cher ami," she said, looking up at him. "Let us
understand one another. Is there anything about you, your birth or
your life that I still don't know--I mean, anything essential?"
"Nothing that matters," said Paul.
"Then let us speak once and for all, soul to soul. You and I are of
those who can do it. Eh bien. I am a woman of old family, princely
rank and fortune--you--"
"By my father's death," said Paul, for the second time that day, "I
am a rich man. We can leave out the question of fortune--except
that the money I inherit was made out of a fried-fish shop business.
That business was conducted by my father on lines of peculiar
idealism. It will be my duty to carry on his work--at least"--he
inwardly and conscientiously repudiated the idea of buying fish at
Billingsgate at five o'clock in the morning--"as far as the
maintenance of his principles is concerned."
"Soit," said the Princess, "we leave out the question of fortune.
You are then a man of humble birth, and the rank you have gained for
"I am a man of no name and of tarnished reputation. Good God!" he
blazed out suddenly, losing control. "What is the good of torturing
ourselves like this? If I wouldn't marry you--before--until I
had done something in the front of the world to make you proud of
me, what do you think I'll do now, lying in the gutter for every one
to kick me? Would it be to the happiness of either of us for me to
sneak through society behind your rank? It would be the death of me
and you would come to hate me as a mean hound."
"You? A mean hound?" Her voice broke and the tears welled up in her
eyes. "You have done nothing for me to be proud of? You? You who did
what you did last night? Yes, I was there. I saw and heard. Listen!"
She rose to her feet and stood opposite to him, her eyes all stars,
her figure trembling and her hands moving in her Frenchwoman's
passionate gestures. "When I saw in the newspapers about your
father, my heart was wrung for you. I knew what it meant. I knew how
you must suffer. I came up straight to town. I wanted to be near
you. I did not know how. I did not want you to see me. I called in
my steward. 'How can I see the election?' We talked a little. He
went and hired a room opposite the Town Hall. I waited there in the
darkness. I thought it would last forever. And then came the result
and the crowd cheered and I thought I should choke. I sobbed, I
sobbed, I sobbed--and then you came. And I heard, and then I held
out my arms to you alone in the dark room--like this--and cried:
'Paul, Paul!"' Woman conquered. Madness surged through him and he
flung his arms about her and they kissed long and passionately.
"Whether you do me the honour of marrying me or not," she said a
while later' flushed and triumphant, "our lives are joined
And Paul, still shaken by the intoxication of her lips and hair and
clinging pressure of her body, looked at her intensely with the eyes
of a man's longing. But he said: "Nothing can alter what I said a
few minutes ago--not all the passion and love in the world. You
and I are not of the stuff, thank God, to cut ourselves adrift and
bury ourselves in some romantic island and give up our lives to a
dream. We're young. We're strong. We both know that life is a
different sort of thing altogether from that. We're not of the sort
that shirks its responsibilities. We've got to live in the world,
you and I, and do the world's work."
"Parfaitement, mon bien aime." She smiled at him serenely. "I would
not bury myself with you in an Ionian island for more than two
months in a year for anything on earth. On my part, it would be the
unforgivable sin. No woman has the right, however much she loves
him, to ruin a man, any more than a man has the right to ruin a
woman. But if you won't marry me, I'm perfectly willing to spend two
months a year in an Ionian island with you," and she looked at him,
very proud and fearless.
Paul took her by the shoulders and shook her, more roughly than he
realized. "Sophie, don't tempt me to a madness that we should both
She laughed, wincing yet thrilled, under the rude handling, and
freed herself. "But what more can a woman offer the man who loves
her--that is to say if he does love her?"
"I not love you?" He threw up his hands--"Dear God!"
She waved him away and retreated a step or two, still laughing, as
he advanced. "Then why won't you marry me? You're afraid."
"Yes," he cried. "It's the only thing on this earth that I'm afraid
"The sneers. First you'd hate them. Then you'd hate and despise me."
She grew serious. "Calme-toi, my dearest. just consider things
practically. Who is going to sneer at a great man?"
"I the first," replied Paul bitterly, his self-judgment warped by
the new knowledge of the vanities and unsubstantialities on which
his life had been founded. "I a great man, indeed!"
"A very great man. A brilliant man I knew long ago. A brave man I
have known, in spite of my pride, these last two or three awful
weeks. But last night I knew you were a great man--a very great
man. Ah, mon Paul. La canaille, whether it lives in Whitechapel or
Park Lane, what does it matter to us?"
"The riff-raff, unfortunately," said Paul, "forms the general
judgment of society."
The Princess drew herself up in all her aristocratic dignity. "My
Paul well-beloved," said she, "you have still one or two things to
learn. People of greatness and rank march with their peers, and they
can spit upon the canaille. There is canaille in your House of
Lords, upon which, the day after to-morrow, you can spit, and it
will take off its coronet and thank you--and now," she said,
resuming her seat on the sofa, among the cushions, "let us stop
arguing. If there is any more arguing to be done, let us put it off
to another occasion. Let us dismiss the questions of marriage and
Ionian islands altogether, and let us talk pleasantly like dear
friends who are reconciled."
And with the wit of the woman who loves and the subtlety of the
woman of the world she took Paul in her delicate hands and held him
before her smiling eyes and made him tell her of all the things she
wanted to know. And so Paul told her of all his life, of Bludston,
of Barney Bill, of the model days, of the theatre, of Jane, of his
father; and he showed her the cornelian heart and expounded its
significance; and he talked of his dearest lady, Miss Winwood, and
his work on the Young England League, and his failure to grip in
this disastrous election, and he went back to the brickfield and his
flight from the Life School, and his obsessing dream of romantic
parentage and the pawning of his watch at Drane's Court; and in the
full tide of it all a perturbed butler appeared at the door.
"Can I speak a word to Your Highness?"
She rose. The butler spoke the word. She burst out laughing. "My
dear," she cried, "it's past nine o'clock. The household is in a
state of agitation about dinner. We'll have it at once, Wilkins."
The butler bowed and retired.
The Princess laughed again. "Of course you'll stay. I left Stephanie
And Paul stayed to dinner, and though, observing the flimsy compact,
they dismissed the questions of Ionian islands and marriage, they
talked till midnight of matters exceedingly pleasant.
SO the lovers were reconciled, although the question of marriage was
farther off than ever, and the Princess and Miss Winwood wept on
each other's shoulders after the way of good women, and Paul
declared that he needed no rest, and was eager to grapple with the
world. He had much to do. First, he buried his dead, the Princess
sending a great wreath and her carriage, after having had a queer
interview with Jane, of which neither woman would afterwards speak a
word; but it was evident that they had parted on terms of mutual
respect and admiration. Then Paul went through the task of settling
his father's affairs. Jane having expressed a desire to take over
the management of a certain department of the business, he gladly
entrusted it to her capable hands. He gave her the house at Hickney
Heath, and Barney Bill took up his residence there as a kind of old
watch-dog. Meanwhile, introduced by Frank Ayres and Colonel Winwood,
he faced the ordeal of a chill reception by the House of Commons and
took his seat. After that the nine-days' wonder of the scandal came
to an end; the newspapers ceased talking of it and the general
public forgot all about him. He only had to reckon with his
fellow-members and with social forces. His own house too he had to
put in order. He resigned his salary and position as Organizing
Secretary of the Young England League, but as Honorary Secretary he
retained control. To assure his position he applied for Royal
Letters Patent and legalized his name of Savelli, Finally, he
plunged into the affairs of Fish Palaces Limited, and learned the
many mysteries connected with that outwardly unromantic undertaking.
These are facts in Paul's career which his chronicler is bound to
mention. But on Paul's development they exercised but little
influence. He walked now, with open eyes, in a world of real things.
The path was difficult, but he was strong. Darkness lay ahead, but
he neither feared it nor dreamed dreams of brightness beyond. The
Vision Splendid had crystallized into an unconquerable purpose of
which he felt the thrill. Without Sophie Zobraska's love he would
have walked on doggedly, obstinately, with set teeth. He had proved
himself fearless, scornful of the world's verdict. But he would have
walked in wintry gloom with a young heart frozen dead. Now his path
was lit by warm sunshine and the burgeon of spring was in his heart.
He could laugh again in his old joyous way; yet the laughter was no
longer that of the boy, but of the man who knew the place that
laughter should hold in a man's life.
On the day when he, as chairman, had first presided over a meeting
of the Board of Directors of Fish Palaces Limited, he went to the
Princess and said: "If I bring with me 'an ancient and fish-like
smell, a kind of, not of the newest, Poor-John,' send me about my
She bade him not talk foolishly.
"I'm talking sense," said he. "I'm going through with it. I'm in
trade. I know to the fraction of a penny how much fat ought to be
used to a pound of hake, and I'm concentrating all my intellect on
that fraction of a penny of fat."
"Tu as raison," she said.
"N'est-ce-pas? It's funny, isn't it? I've often told you I once
thought myself the man born to be king. My dreams have come true.
I am a king. The fried-fish king."
Sophie looked at him from beneath her long lashes. "And I am a
princess. We meet at last on equal terms."
Paul sprang forward impulsively and seized her hands. "Oh, you dear,
wonderful woman! Doesn't it matter to you that I'm running
"I know why you're doing it," she said. "I wouldn't have you do
otherwise. You are you, Paul. I should love to see you at it. Do you
wait at table and hand little dishes to coster-mongers, ancien
regime, en emigre?"
She laughed deliciously. Suddenly she paused, regarded him
wide-eyed, with a smile on her lips.
"Tiens! I have an idea. But a wonderful ideal Why should I not be
the fried-fish queen? Issue new shares. I buy them all up. We
establish fish palaces all over the world? But why not? I am in
trade already. Only yesterday my homme d'affaires sent me for
signature a dirty piece of blue paper all covered with execrable
writing and imitation red seals all the way down, and when I signed
it I saw I was interested in Messrs. Jarrods Limited, and was
engaged in selling hams and petticoats and notepaper and furniture
and butter and--remark this--and fish. But raw fish. Now what
the difference is between selling raw fish and fried fish, I do not
know. Moi, je suis deja marchande de poissons, voila!"
She laughed and Paul laughed too. They postponed, however, to an
indefinite date, consideration of the business proposal.
As Paul had foreseen, Society manifested no eagerness to receive
him. Invitations no longer fell upon him in embarrassing showers.
Nor did he make any attempt to pass through the once familiar doors.
For one thing, he was proud: for another he was too busy. When the
Christmas recess came he took a holiday, went off by himself to
Algiers. He returned bronzed and strong, to the joy of his Sophie.
"My dear," said Miss Winwood one day to the curiously patient lady,
"what is to come of it all? You can't go on like this for ever and
"We don't intend to," smiled the Princess. "Paul is born to great
things. He cannot help it. It is his destiny, I believe in Paul."
"So do I," replied Ursula. "But it's obvious that it will take him a
good many years to achieve them. You surely aren't going to wait
until he's a Cabinet Minister."
The Princess lay back among her cushions and laughed. "Mais non. It
will all come in woman's good time. Laissez-moi faire. He will soon
begin to believe in himself again."
At last Paul's opportunity arrived. The Whips had given him his
chance to speak. His luck attended him, in so far that when his turn
came he found a full House. It was on a matter of no vital
importance; but he had prepared his speech carefully. He stood up
for the first time in that strangely nerve-shaking assembly in which
he had been received so coldly and in which he was still friendless,
and saw the beginning of the familiar exodus into the lobbies. A
sudden wave of anger swept through him and he tore the notes of his
speech across and across, and again he metaphorically kicked Billy
Goodge. He plunged into his speech, forgetful of what he had
written, with a passion queerly hyperbolic in view of the subject.
At the arresting tones of his voice many of the withdrawing members
stopped at the bar and listened, then as he proceeded they gradually
slipped back into their places. Curiosity gave place to interest.
Paul had found his gift again, and his anger soon lost itself
completely in the joy of the artist. The House is always generous to
performance. There was something novel in the spectacle of this
young man, who had come there under a cloud, standing like a
fearless young Hermes before them, in the ring of his beautiful
voice, in the instinctive picturesqueness of phrase, in the winning
charm of his personality. It was but a little point in a Government
Bill that he had to deal with, and he dealt with it shortly. But he
dealt with it in an unexpected, dramatic way, and he sat down amid
comforting applause and circumambient smiles and nods. The old
government hand who rose to reply complimented him gracefully and
proceeded of course to tear his argument to tatters. Then an
ill-conditioned Socialist Member got up, and, blundering and
unconscious agent of Destiny in a fast-emptying House, began a
personal attack on Paul. Whereupon there were cries of "Shame!" and
"Sit down!" and the Speaker, in caustic tones, counselled relevancy,
and the sympathy of the House went out to the Fortunate Youth; so
that when he went soon afterwards into the outer lobby--it was the
dinner hour--he found himself surrounded by encouraging friends.
He did not wait long among them, for up in the Ladies' Gallery was
his Princess. He tore up the stairs and met her outside. Her face
was pale with anger.
"The brute!" she whispered. "The cowardly brute!"
He snapped his fingers. "Canaille, canaille! He counts for nothing.
But I've got them!" he cried exultingly, holding out clenched fists.
"By God, darling, I've got them! They'll listen to me now!"
She looked at him and the sudden tears came. "Thank God," she said,
"I can hear you talk like that at last."
He escorted her down the stone stairs and through the lobby to her
car, and they were objects of many admiring eyes. When they reached
it she said, with a humorous curl of the lip, "Veux-tu m'epouser
"Wait, only wait," said he. "These are only fireworks. Very soon
we'll get to the real thing."
"We shall, I promise you," she replied enigmatically; and she drove
One morning, a fortnight later, she rang him up. "You're coming to
dine with me on Friday, as usual, aren't you?"
"Of course," said he. "Why do you ask?"
"Just to make sure. And yes--also--to tell you not to come till
She rang off. Paul thought no more of the matter. Ever since he had
taken his seat in the House he had dined with her alone every Friday
evening. It was their undisturbed hour of intimacy and gladness in
the busy week. Otherwise they rarely met, for Paul was a pariah in
her social world.
On the Friday in question his taxi drew up before an unusual-looking
house in Berkeley Square. An awning projected from the front door
and a strip of carpet ran across the pavement. At the sound of the
taxi, the door opened and revealed the familiar figures of the
Princess's footmen in their state livery. He entered, somewhat
"Her Highness has a party?" he asked.
"Yes, sir. A very large dinner party."
Paul passed his hand over his forehead. What did it mean? "This is
Friday, isn't it?"
"Of course, sir."
Paul grew angry. It was a woman's trap to force him on society. For
a moment he struggled with the temptation to walk away after telling
the servant that it was a mistake and that he had not been invited.
At once, however, came realization of social outrage. He surrendered
hat and coat and let himself be announced. The noise of thirty
voices struck his ear as he entered the great drawing-room. He was
confusedly aware of a glitter of jewels, and bare arms and shoulders
and the black and white of men. But radiant in the middle of the
room stood his Princess, with a tiara of diamonds on her head, and
beside her stood a youngish man whose face seemed oddly familiar.
Paul advanced, kissed her hand.
She laughed gaily. "You are late, Paul."
"You said half-past, Princess. I am here to the minute."
"Je te dirai apres," she said, and the daring of the intimate speech
took his breath away.
"Your Royal Highness," she turned to the young man beside her--and
then Paul suddenly recognized a prince of the blood royal of England--
"may I present Mr. Savelli."
"I'm very pleased to meet you," said the Prince graciously. "Your
Young England League has interested me greatly. We must have a talk
about it one of these days, if you can spare the time. And I must
congratulate you on your speech the other night."
"You are far too kind, sir," said Paul.
They chatted for a minute or two. Then the Princess said: "You'll
take in the Countess of Danesborough. I don't think you've met her;
but you'll find she's an old friend."
"Old friend?" echoed Paul.
She smiled and turned to a pretty and buxom woman of forty standing
near. "My dear Lady Danesborough. Here is Mr. Savelli, whom you are
so anxious to meet."
Paul bowed politely. His head being full of his Princess, he was
vaguely puzzled as to the reasons for which Lady Danesborough
desired his acquaintance.
"You don't remember me," she said.
He looked at her squarely for the first time; then started back.
"Good God!" he cried involuntarily. "Good God! I've been wanting to
find you all my life. I never knew your name. But here's the proof."
And he whipped out the cornelian heart from his waistcoat pocket.
She took it in her hand, examined it, handed it back to him with a
smile, a very sweet and womanly smile, with just the suspicion of
mist veiling her eyes.
"I know. The Princess has told me."
"But how did she find you out--I mean as my first patroness?"
"She wrote to the vicar, Mr. Merewether--he is still at
Bludston--asking who his visitor was that year and what had become
of her. So she found out it was I. I've known her off and on ever
since my marriage."
"You were wonderfully good to me," said Paul. "I must have been a
funny little wretch."
"You've travelled far since then."
"It was you that gave me my inspiration," said he.
The announcement of dinner broke the thread of the talk. Paul looked
around him and saw that the room was filled with very great people
indeed. There were chiefs of his party and other exalted personages.
There was Lord Francis Ayres. Also the Winwoods. The procession was
"I've often wondered about you," said Lady Danesborough, as they
were walking down the wide staircase. "Several thin happened to mark
that day. For one, I had spilled a bottle of awful scent all over my
dress and I was in a state of odoriferous misery."
Paul laughed boyishly. "The mystery of my life is solved at last."
He explained, to her frank delight. "You've not changed a bit," said
he. "And oh! I can't tell you how good it is to meet you after all.
"I'm very, very glad you feel so," she said significantly. "More
than glad. I was wondering . . . but our dear Princess was right."
"It seems to me that-the Princess has been playing conspirator,"
They entered the great dining-room, very majestic with its long,
glittering table, its service of plate, its stately pictures, its
double row of powdered and liveried footmen, and Paul learned, to
his amazement, that in violation of protocols and tables of
precedence, his seat was on the right hand of the Princess.
Conspiracy again. Hitherto at her parties he had occupied his proper
place. Never before had she publicly given him especial mark of her
"Do you think she's right in doing this?" he murmured to Lady
It seemed so natural that he should ask her--as though she were
fully aware of all his secrets.
"I think so," she smiled--as though she too were in the
They halted at their places, and there, at the centre of the long
table, on the right of the young Prince stood the Princess, with
flushed face and shining eyes, looking very beautiful and radiantly
"Mechante," Paul whispered, as they sat down. "This is a trap."
"Je le sais. Tu est bien prise, petite souris."
It pleased her to be gay. She confessed unblushingly. Her little
mouse was well caught. The little mouse grew rather stern, and when
the great company had settled down, and the hum of talk arisen, he
deliberately scanned the table. He met some friendly glances--a
Cabinet Minister nodded pleasantly. He also met some that were
hostile. His Sophie had tried a dangerous experiment. In Lady
Danesborough, the Maisie Shepherd of his urchindom, whose name he
had never known, she had assured him a sympathetic and influential
partner. Also, although he had tactfully not taken up that lady's
remark, he felt proud of his Princess's glorious certainty that he
would have no false and contemptible shame in the encounter. She had
known that it would be a joy to him; and it was. The truest of the
man was stirred. They talked and laughed about the far-off day.
Incidents flaming in his mind had faded from hers. He recalled
forgotten things. Now and then she said: "Yes, I know that. The
Princess has told me." Evidently his Sophie was a conspirator of
"And now you're the great Paul Savelli," she said.
"Great?" He laughed. "In what way?"
"Before this election you were a personage. I've never run across
you because we've been abroad so much, you know--my husband has a
depraved taste for governing places--but a year or two ago we were
asked to the Chudleys, and you were held out as an inducement."
"Good Lord!" said Paul, astonished.
"And now, of course, you're the most-discussed young man in London.
Is he damned or isn't he? You know what I refer to."
"Well, am I?' he asked pleasantly.
"I'm glad to see you take it like that. It's not the way of the
little people. Personally, I've stuck up for you, not knowing in the
least who you were. I thought you did the big, spacious thing. It
gave me a thrill when I read about it. Your speech in the House has
helped you a lot. Altogether--and now considering our early
acquaintance--I think I'm justified in calling you 'the great Paul
Then came the shifting of talk. The Prince turned to his left-hand
neighbour; Lady Danesborough to her right. Paul and the Princess had
their conventional opportunity for conversation. She spoke in
French, daringly using the intimate "tu"; but of all sorts of
things--books, theatres, picture shows. Then tactfully she drew the
Prince and his neighbour and Lady Danesborough into their circle,
and, pulling the strings, she at last brought Paul and the Prince
into a discussion over the pictures of the Doges in the Ducal Palace
in Venice. The young Prince was gracious. Paul, encouraged to talk
and stimulated by precious memories, grew interesting. The Princess
managed to secure a set of listeners at the opposite side of the
table. Suddenly, as if carrying on the theme, she said in a
deliberately loud voice, compelling attention: "Your Royal Highness,
I am in a dilemma."
"What is it?"
She paused, looked round and widened her circle. "For the past year
I have been wanting Mr. Savelli to ask me to marry him, and he
obstinately refuses to do so. Will you tell me, sir, what a poor
woman is to do?"
She addressed herself exclusively to the young Prince; but her
voice, with its adorable French intonation, rang high and clear.
Paul, suddenly white and rigid, clenched the hand of the Princess
which happened to lie within immediate reach. A wave of curiosity,
arresting talk, spread swiftly down. There was an uncanny, dead
silence, broken only by a raucous voice proceeding from a very fat
Lord of Appeal some distance away:
"After my bath I always lie flat on my back and bring my knees up to
There was a convulsive, shrill gasp of laughter, which would have
instantly developed into an hysterical roar, had not the young
Prince, with quick, tactful disregard of British convention, sprung
to his feet, and with one hand holding champagne glass, and the
other uplifted, commanded silence. So did the stars in their courses
still fight for Paul. "My lords, ladies and gentlemen," said the
Prince, "I have the pleasure to announce the engagement of Her
Highness the Princess Sophie Zobraska and Mr. Paul Savelli. I ask
you to drink to their health and wish them every happiness."
He bowed to the couple, lifted his glass, and standing, swept a
quick glance round the company, and at the. royal command the table
rose, dukes and duchesses and Cabinet Ministers, the fine flowers of
England, and drank to Paul and his Princess.
"Attrape!" she whispered, as they got up together, hand in hand. And
as they stood, in their superb promise of fulfilment, they
conquered. The Princess said: "Mais dis quelque chose, toi."
And Paul met the flash in her eyes, and he smiled. "Your Royal
Highness, my lords, ladies and gentlemen," said he, while all the
company were racking their brains to recall a precedent for such
proceedings at a more than formal London dinner party; "the Princess
and myself thank you from our hearts. For me this might almost seem
the end of the fairy-tale of my life, in which--when I was eleven
years old--her ladyship the Countess of Danesborough" (he bowed to
the Maisie of years ago), "whom I have not seen from that day to
this, played the part of Fairy Godmother. She gave me a talisman
then to help me in my way through the world. I have it still." He
held up the cornelian heart. "It guided my steps to my dearest lady,
Miss Winwood, in whose beloved service I lived so long. It has
brought me to the feet of my Fairy Princess. But now the fairy-tale
is over. I begin where the fairy-tales end"--he laughed into his
Sophie's eyes--"I begin in the certain promise of living happy
In this supreme hour of his destiny there spoke the old, essential
Paul, the believer in the Vision Splendid. The instinctive appeal to
the romantic ringing so true and so sincere awoke responsive chords
in hearts which, after all, as is the simple way of hearts of men
and women, were very human.
He sat down a made man, amid pleasant laughter and bowings and
lifting of glasses, the length of the long table.
Lady Danesborough said gently: "It was charming of you to bring me
in. But I shall be besieged with questions. What on earth shall I
"The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth," he replied.
"What do the Princess and I care?"
Later in the evening he managed to find himself alone for a moment
with the Princess. "My wonderful Sophie, what can I say to you?"
She smiled victoriously. "Cry quits. Confess that you have not the
monopoly of the grand manner. You have worked in your man's way--I
in my woman's way."
"You took a great risk," said he.
Her eyes softened adorably. "Non, mon Paul, cheri. C'etait tout
arrange. It was a certainty."
And then, Paul's dearest lady came up and pressed both their hands.
"I am so glad. Oh, so glad." The tears started. "But it is something
like a fairy-tale, isn't it?"
Well, as far as his chronicler can say at present, that is the end
of the Fortunate Youth. But it is really only a beginning. Although
his party is still in opposition, he is still young; his sun is
rising and he is rich in the glory thereof. A worldful of great life
lies before him and his Princess. What limit can we set to their
achievement? Of course he was the Fortunate Youth. Of that there is
no gainsaying. He had his beauty, his charm, his temperament, his
quick southern intelligence--all his Sicilian heritage--and a
freakish chance had favoured him from the day that, vagabond urchin,
he attended his first and only Sunday-school treat. But personal
gifts and favouring chance are not everything in this world.
On the day before his wedding he had a long talk with Barney Bill.
"Sonny," said the old man, scratching his white poll, "when yer used
to talk about princes and princesses, I used to larf--larf fit to
bust myself. I never let yer seen me do it, sonny, for all the time
you was so dead serious. And now it has come true. And d'yer know
why it's come true, sonny?" He cocked his head on one side, his
little diamond eyes glittering, and laid a hand on Paul's knee.
"D'yer know why? Because yer believed in it. I ain't had much
religion, not having, so to speak, much time for it, also being an
old crock of a pagan--but I do remember as what Christ said about
faith--just a mustard seed of it moving mountains. That's it,
sonny. I've observed lots of things going round in the old 'bus.
Most folks believe in nothing. What's the good of 'em? Move
mountains? They're paralytic in front of a dunghill. I know what I'm
talking about, bless yer. Now you come along believing in yer
'igh-born parents. I larfed, knowing as who yer parents were. But
you believed, and I had to let you believe. And you believed in your
princes and princesses, and your being born to great things. And I
couldn't sort of help believing in it too."
Paul laughed. "Things happen to have come out all right, but God
"He does," said Barney Bill very seriously. "That's just what He
does know. He knows you had faith."
"And you, dear old man?" asked Paul, "what have you believed in?"
"My honesty, sonny," replied Barney Bill, fixing him with his bright
eyes. "'Tain't much. 'Tain't very ambitious-like. But I've had my
temptations. I never drove a crooked bargain in my life."
Paul rose and walked a step or two.
"You're a better man than I am, Bill."
Barney Bill rose too, rheumatically, and laid both hands on the
young man's shoulders. "Have you ever been false to what you really
believed to be true?"
"Not essentially," said Paul.
"Then it's all right, sonny," said the old man very earnestly, his
bent, ill-clad figure, his old face wizened by years of exposure to
suns and frosts, contrasting oddly with the young favourite of
fortune. "It's all right. Your father believed in one thing. I
believe in another. You believe in something else. But it doesn't
matter a tuppenny damn what one believes in, so long as it's worth
believing in. It's faith, sonny, that does it. Faith and purpose."
"You're right," said Paul. "Faith and purpose."
"I believed in yer from the very first, when you were sitting down
reading Sir Walter with the bead and tail off. And I believed in yer
when yer used to tell about being 'born to great things!"
Paul laughed. "That was all childish rubbish," said he.
"Rubbish?" cried the old man, his head more crooked, his eyes more
bright, his gaunt old figure more twisted than ever. "Haven't yer
got the great things yer believed yer were born to? Ain't yer rich?
Ain't yer famous? Ain't yer a Member of Parliament? Ain't yer going
to marry a Royal Princess? Good God Almighty! what more d'yer want?"
"Nothing in the wide, wide world!" laughed Paul.
Back to Full Books