The Slave Of The Lamp
Henry Seton Merriman
Part 3 out of 5
startled her. It seemed like a confession that he shared the vague
anxiety which she concealed so well.
With the charity of maternal love, which is by no means so blind as is
generally supposed, Mrs. Carew often said of Sidney that he invariably
rose to the occasion; and Mrs. Carew's statements were as a rule
correct. His slowness was partly assumed; his indifference was a mere
habit. The assumption of the former saved him infinite worry and
responsibility; the habit of indifference did away with the necessity of
coming to a decision upon general questions. This state of mind may, to
townsmen, be incomprehensible. Certain it is that such as are in that
condition are not found among the foremost dwellers in cities. But in
the country it is a different matter. Such cases are only too common,
and (without breath of disparagement) they are usually to be found in
households where one man finds himself among several women--be the
latter mother and sisters, or wife and sisters-in-law.
The man may be a thorough sportsman, he may be an excellent landlord and
a popular squire, but within his own doors he is overwhelmed. Chivalry
bids him give way to the wishes and desires of some woman or other, and
if he be a sportsman he is necessarily chivalrous. When one is tired
after a long day in the saddle or with a gun, it is so much easier to
acquiesce and philosophically persuade oneself that the matter is not
worth airing an adverse opinion over. This is the beginning, and if any
beginning can look forward to great endings it is that of a habit.
It would appear that Sidney Carew's occasion had come at last, for once
outside the window he changed to a different being. The lazy slouch
vanished from his movements, his eyes lost their droop, and he held his
He made his way rapidly to the stable, and there, without the knowledge
of the grooms, he obtained a large hurricane-lamp, lighted it, and
returned towards the house. From the window Hilda saw him pass down a
little path towards the moat, with the lamp swinging at his side, while
the shadows waved backwards and forwards across the lawn.
The mind is a strange storehouse. However long a memory may have been
warehoused there, deep down beneath piles of other remembrances and
conceits, it is generally to be found at the top when the demand comes,
ready for use--for good or evil. A dim recollection was resuscitated in
Sidney's mind. An unauthenticated nursery tale of a departing guest
leaving with a word of joy upon his lips and warm comfort in his heart,
turning from the glowing doorway and walking down the little pathway
straight into the moat.
Christian, however, was an excellent swimmer; he knew every inch of the
pathway, every stone round the moat. That he should have been drowned in
ten feet of clear water, with an easy landing within ten yards, seemed
the wildest impossibility. Of course such things have happened, but
Christian Vellacott was essentially wide awake, and unlikely to come to
mishap through his own carelessness. Of all these things Sidney thought
as he walked rapidly towards the moat, and in particular he pondered
over Molly's statement that she had heard Hilda whistle. This had met
with flat denial from Hilda, and Sidney, with brotherly candour, could
only arrive at the conclusion that Molly had been mistaken. He would not
give way to the least suggestion of anxiety even in his own mind. After
all Christian would probably come in with some simple explanation and a
laugh for their fears. It often happens thus, as we must all know. The
moments so long and dreary for the watcher, whose imagination gains more
and more power as the time passes, slip away unheeded by the awaited,
who treats the matter with a laugh or, at the most, a few conventional
words of sympathy.
Sidney stood at the edge of the water and threw the beams of light
across the rippling surface. Mechanically he followed the ray as it
swept from end to end of the moat, and presently, without heeding, he
turned his attention to the stones at his feet. A gleam of reflected
light caught his passing gaze, and he stooped to examine the cause more
The smooth stonework was wet; in fact the water was standing in little
pools upon it. Round these there were circles of dampness, showing that
evaporation was taking place. The water had not lain there long. A man
falling into the moat would have thrown up splashes such as these; in no
other way could they be plausibly accounted for. Sidney stood erect.
Again he held the lamp over the gleaming water, half fearing to see
something. His lips had quite suddenly become dry and parched, and there
was an uncomfortable throb in his throat. Suddenly he heard a rustle
behind him, and before he could draw back Hilda was at his side. She
slipped her hand through his arm, and by the slightest pressure drew him
away from the moat.
"You know--Sid--he could swim perfectly," she said persuasively.
He made no answer, but walked slowly by her side, swinging the lamp
backwards and forwards as a schoolboy swings his satchel. Thus he gained
time to moisten his lips and render speech possible.
Together they went round the grounds, but no sign or vestige of
Christian did they discover. A pang of remorse came to Hilda as she
touched her brother's strong arm. Ever since Christian's arrival she
remembered that Sidney had been somewhat neglected, or only remembered
when his services were required. Christian had indeed been attentive to
him, but Hilda felt that their friendship was not what it used to be.
The young journalist in his upward progress had left the slow-thinking
country squire behind him. All they had in common belonged to the past;
and, for Christian, the past was of small importance compared to the
present. She recollected that during the last fortnight everything had
been arranged with a view to giving pleasure to herself, Molly, and
Christian, without heed to Sidney's inclinations. By word or sign he had
never shown his knowledge of this; he had never implied that his
existence or opinion was of any great consequence. She remembered even
that such pleasures as Christian had shared with Sidney--pleasures after
his own heart, sailing, shooting, and fishing--had been undertaken at
Christian's instigation or suggestion, and eagerly welcomed by Sidney.
And now, at the first suspicion of trouble, she turned instinctively to
her brother for the help and counsel which were so willingly and
"Sidney," she said, "did he ever speak to you of his work?"
"No," he replied slowly; "no, I think not."
"He has been rather worried over those disturbances in Paris, I think,
and--and--I suppose he has never said anything to you about Signor
"Signor Bruno!" said Sidney, repeating the name in some surprise. "No,
he has never mentioned his name to me."
"He does not like him----"
"Neither do I."
"But you never told me--Sid!"
"No," he replied simply: "there was nothing to be gained by it!"
This was lamentably true, and Hilda felt that it was so, although her
brother had no thought of posing as a martyr.
"Christian," she continued softly, "distrusted him for some reason. He
knows something of his former life, and told me a short time ago that
Bruno was not his name at all. This morning Christian received a letter
from Carl Trevetz, whom we knew in Paris, you will remember, saying that
Signor Bruno's real name was Max Talma, also warning Christian to avoid
"Is this all you know?" asked Sidney, in a peculiarly quiet tone.
"That is all I know," she replied. "But it has struck me that--that
this may have something to do with Signor Bruno. I mean--is it not
probable that Christian may have discovered something which caused him
to go away suddenly without letting Bruno know of his departure?"
Sidney thought of the water at the edge of the moat. The incident might
prove easy enough of explanation, but at the moment it was singularly
unreconcilable with Hilda's comforting explanation. And again, the
recollection of the signal-whistle heard by Molly was unwelcome.
"Yes," he replied vaguely. "Yes, it may."
He was, by nature and habit, a slow thinker, and Hilda was running away
from him a little; but he was, perhaps, surer than she.
"I am convinced, Sidney," she continued, "that Christian connects Signor
Bruno in some manner with the disturbances in France. It seems very
strange that an old man buried alive in a small village should have it
in his power to do so much harm."
"A man's power of doing harm is practically unlimited," he said slowly,
still wishing to gain time.
"Yes, but he has always appeared so childlike and innocent."
"That is exactly what I disliked about him," said Sidney.
"Then do you think he has been deliberately deceiving us all along?"
"Not necessarily," was the tolerant reply. "You must remember that
Christian is essentially a politician. He does not suspect Bruno of
anything criminal; his suspicions are merely political; and it may be
that Bruno's doings, whatever they appear to be now, may in the future
be looked upon as the actions of a hero. Politics are impersonal, and
Signor Bruno is only known to us socially."
Hilda could not see the matter in this light. No woman could have been
expected to do so.
"I suppose," she said presently, "that Signor Bruno is a political
"I expect so," replied her brother.
They were walking slowly up the broad path towards the house, having
given up the idea of searching for Christian or calling him.
"Then," continued Sidney, "you think it is likely that he has gone off
to see Bruno, or to watch him?"
"I think so."
"That is the only reasonable explanation I can think of," he said
gravely and doubtfully, for he was still thinking of the moat.
They entered the house, and to Mrs. Carew and Molly their explanation
was imparted. It was received somewhat doubtfully, especially by Molly.
However, the farce had to be kept up--and do we not act in similar
comedies every day?
A NIGHT WATCH
Cheerfulness is, thank goodness, infectious. The watchers at the Hall
that night made a great show of light-heartedness. Sidney had risen to
the occasion. He laughed at the idea of anything serious having happened
to Christian, and his confidence gradually spread and gained new
strength. Molly, however, was apparently beyond its influence. With her
perpetual needle-work in her hands she sat beneath the lamp and worked
rapidly. Occasionally she glanced towards Hilda, but contributed nothing
to the explanations forthcoming from all quarters.
Hilda was also working; slowly, however, and with marvellous care. She
was engaged upon a more artistic production than ever came from Molly's
work-basket. Once she consulted Mrs. Carew about the colour of a skein
of wool, but otherwise showed no inclination to avoid topics in any
manner connected with Christian, despite the fact that these were
obviously distasteful to her family. In all that she said, indifference
was blended in a singular way with imperturbable cheerfulness.
Thus they waited until after midnight, pretending bravely to work and
read as if there were no such feeling as suspense in the human heart.
Then Mrs. Carew persuaded the young people to go to bed. She had letters
to write, and would not be ready for hours. If Christian did not appear
by the time that she was sleepy, she would wake Sidney. After all, she
acted her part better than they. She was old at it--they were new. She
was experienced in stage-craft and made her points skilfully; above all,
she did not over-act.
The three young people kissed their mother and left the room, assuring
each other of their conviction that they would find Christian at the
breakfast table next morning. Molly's room was at the head of the
stairs. With a smile and a nod she closed her door while Hilda and
Sidney walked slowly down the long passage together. Arrived at the end,
Sidney kissed his sister. She turned the handle of her door and stood
with her back to him for a few moments without entering the room, as if
to give him an opportunity of speaking if he had aught to say. He stood
awkwardly behind her, gazing mechanically at her hair, which reflected
the light from the candle that he was holding all awry, while the wax
dripped upon the carpet.
"It will be all right, Hilda," he said unevenly, "never fear!"
"Yes, dear, I know it will," she replied.
And then she passed into the room without closing the door, and he
walked on with loudly-creaking shoes.
Hilda crossed her room and set the candle upon the dressing-table. She
waited there till Sidney's footsteps had ceased, and then she turned and
walked uprightly to the door, which she closed. She looked round the
room with a strange, vacant look in her eyes, and then she made her way
unsteadily towards the bed, where she lay staring at the wavering candle
and its reflection in the mirror behind until daylight came to make its
flame grow pale and yellow.
There were four watchers in the house that night. Downstairs, Mrs. Carew
sat by the shaded lamp in her upright armchair. She was not writing, but
had re-opened the large black Bible. Molly was courting sleep in vain,
having resolutely blown out her candle. Sidney made no pretence. He was
fully dressed, and seated at his rarely-used writing-table. Before him
lay a telegraph-form bearing nothing but the address--
C.C. BODERY, _Beacon_ Office, Fleet St., London.
He was gazing mechanically at the blank spaces waiting to be filled in,
and through his mind was passing and repassing the same question that
occupied the thoughts of his mother and sisters. What could be the
explanation of the whistle heard by Molly? The want of this alone
sufficed to overthrow the most ingenious of consolatory explanations.
All four looked at it from different points of view, and to each the
signal-whistle calling Christian into the garden was an insurmountable
barrier to every explanation.
Before it was wholly light Hilda moved wearily to the window. She threw
it open, and sat with arms resting on the sill and her chin upon her
hands, mechanically noting the wonders of the sunrise. A soft white mist
was rising from the thick pasture, wholly obscuring the sea and filling
the atmosphere with a damp chill. Seated there in her thin evening
dress, she showed no sign of feeling the cold. At times physical pain is
almost a pleasure. The glistening damp rested on every blade of grass,
on every leaf and twig, while the many webs stood whitely against the
shadows, some hanging like festoons from tree to tree, others floating
out in mid-air without apparent reason or support. In and among the
branches lingered little secret deposits of mist waiting the sun's
warmth to melt them all away.
The suppressed creak of Sidney's door attracted Hilda's attention, but
she did not move, merely turning to look at her own door as her brother
passed it with awkward caution. A dull instinct told her that he was
going to the moat again. Presently he passed beneath her window and
across the dewy lawn, leaving a trailing mark upon the grass. The whole
picture seemed suddenly to be familiar to her. She had lived through it
all before--not in another life, not in years gone by, not in a dream,
but during the last few hours.
The air was very still, and she could hear the clank of the chain as
Sidney unmoored the old punt, rarely used except by the gardener to
clean the moat when the weeds died down in autumn. The quiet was
rendered more remarkable by the suddenness of its advent. All night it
had been blowing a wild gale, which dropped at dawn, and from the soft
land the mist rose instantly.
Prompted by a vague desire to be doing something, Hilda presently turned
from the window, and, after a moment's indecision, chose from the shelf
a novel fresh from the brain of the king of writers. With it she
returned to her low chair and listlessly turned over the leaves for some
moments. She raised her head and sought in vain the tiny form of a lark
trilling out his morning hymn far up in the blue sky. Then she
resolutely commenced to read uninterruptedly.
She read on until Sidney's firm step upon the gravel beneath the window
roused her. A minute later he knocked softly at her door. The water was
glistening on his rough shooting-boots as he entered the room, and upon
the brown leather gaiters there was a deeper shade showing where the wet
grass had brushed against his legs. His honest, immobile face showed but
little surprise at the sight of Hilda still in evening dress, but she
saw that he noticed it.
She rose from her low chair and laid aside the book, but no sort of
greeting passed between them.
"I have been all round again," he said quietly, "by daylight, and--and
of course there is no sign."
She nodded her head, but did not speak.
"I have been thinking," he continued somewhat shyly, "as to what is to
be done. First of all, no one must be told. Mother, Molly, you, and I
know it, and we must keep it to ourselves. We will tell Stanley that
Christian has gone off suddenly in connection with his work, and the
same excuse will do for the neighbours and servants. I will telegraph
this morning to Mr. Bodery, the editor of the _Beacon_, and await his
instructions. I think that is all that we can do in the meantime."
She was standing close to him, with one hand on the table, resting upon
the closed volume of "Vanity Fair," but instead of looking at her
brother she was gazing calmly out of the window.
"Yes," she murmured, "I think that is all that we can do in the
Sidney moved awkwardly as if about to leave the room, but hesitated
"Have you nothing to suggest?" he asked. "Do you think I am acting
She was still looking out of the window--still standing motionless near
the table with her hand upon Thackeray's "Vanity Fair."
"Yes," she replied; "everything you suggest seems wise and prudent."
"Then will you see mother and Molly in their rooms and forewarn them to
say nothing--nothing that may betray our anxiety?"
"Yes, I will see them."
Sidney walked heavily to the door. Grasping the handle, he turned round
"It is nearly half-past seven," he said, with more confidence in his
tone, "and Mary will soon be coming to awake you. It would not do for
her to see you in that dress."
Hilda turned and raised her eyes to his face.
"No," she said, with a sudden smile; "I will change it at once."
When Mr. Bodery opened the door of the room upon the second floor of the
tall house in the Strand that morning, he found Mr. Morgan seated at the
table surrounded by proof-sheets, with his coat off and shirt-sleeves
tucked up. The subeditor of the _Beacon_ was in reality a good hard
worker in his comfortable way, and there was little harm in his desire
that the world should be aware of his industry.
"Good morning, Morgan," said the editor, hanging up his hat.
"Morning," replied the other genially, but without looking up. Before
Mr. Bodery had seated himself, however, the sub-editor laid his hand
with heavy approval upon the odoriferous proof-sheet before him, and
"This article of Vellacott's is first-rate," he said. "By Jove! sir, he
drops on these holy fathers--lets them have it right and left. The way
he has worked out the thing is wonderful, and that method of putting
everything upon supposition is a grand idea. It suggests how the thing
_could_ be done upon the face of it, while the initiated will see
quickly enough that it means to show how the trick was in reality
"Yes," replied Mr. Bodery absently. He was glancing at the pile of
letters that lay upon his desk. There were among them one or two
telegrams, and these he put to one side while he took up each envelope
in succession to examine the address, throwing it down again unopened.
At length he turned again to the telegrams, and picked up the top one.
He was about to tear open the envelope when there was a sharp knock at
"'M'in!" said Mr. Morgan sharply, and at the same moment the silent door
was thrown open. The diminutive form of the boy stood in the aperture.
"Gentleman to see you, sir," he said, with great solemnity.
"What name?" asked Mr. Bodery.
"Wouldn't give his name, sir--said you didn't know it, sir."
Even this small office-boy was allowed his quantum of discretionary
power. It rested with him whether an unknown visitor was admitted or
politely dismissed to a much greater extent than any one suspected. Into
his manner of announcing a person he somehow managed to convey his
opinion as to whether it was worth the editor's time to admit him or
not, and he invariably received Mr. Bodery's "Tell him I'm engaged" with
a little nod of mutual understanding which was intensely comprehensive.
On this occasion, his manner said, "Have him in have him in, my boy, and
you will find it worth your while'"
"Show him in," said Mr. Bodery.
The nameless gentleman must have been at the door upon the boy's heels,
for no sooner had the words left Mr. Bodery's lips than a tall, dark
form slid into the room. So noiseless and rapid were this gentleman's
movements that there is no other word with which to express his mode of
He made a low bow, and shot up erect again with startling rapidity. He
then stood quietly waiting until the door had closed behind the small
boy, who, after having punctiliously expectorated upon a silver coin
which had found its way into the palm of his hand, proceeded to slide
down the balustrade upon his waistcoat.
It often occurred that strangers addressed themselves to Mr. Morgan when
ushered into the little back room, under the impression that he was the
editor of the _Beacon_. Not so, however, this tall, clean-shaven person.
He fixed his peculiar light-blue eyes upon Mr. Bodery, and, with a
slight inclination, said suavely--
"This, sir, is, I believe, your printing day?"
"It is, sir, and a busy day with us," replied the editor, with no great
warmth of manner.
"Would it be possible now," inquired the stranger conversationally, "at
this late hour, to remove a printed article and substitute another?"
At these words Mr. Morgan ceased making some pencil notes with which he
was occupied, and looked up. He met the stranger's benign glance and,
while still looking at him, deliberately turned over all the
proof-sheets before him, leaving no printed matter exposed to the gaze
of the curious.
Mr. Bodery had in the meantime consulted his watch.
"Yes," he replied, with dangerous politeness. "There would still be time
to do so if necessary--at the sacrifice of some hundredweight of paper."
"How marvellously organised your interesting paper must be!"
Dead silence. Most men would have felt embarrassed, but no sign of such
feeling was forthcoming from any of the three. It is possible that the
dark gentleman with the sky-blue eyes wished to establish a sense of
embarrassment with a view to the furtherance of his own ends. If so, his
attempt proved lamentably abortive. Mr. Bodery sat with his plump hands
resting on the table, and looked contemplatively up into the stranger's
face. Mr. Morgan was scribbling pencil notes on a tablet.
"The truth is," explained the stranger at length, "that a friend of
mine, who is unfortunately ill in bed this morning--"
(Mr. Bodery did not look in the least sympathetic, though he listened
" ... has received a telegram from a gentleman who I am told is on the
staff of your journal--Mr. Vellacott. This gentleman wishes to withdraw,
for correction, an article he has sent to you. He states that he will
re-write the article, with certain alterations, in time for next week's
Mr. Bodery's face was pleasantly illegible.
"May I see the telegram?" he asked politely.
The stranger produced and handed to the editor a pink paper covered with
faint black writing.
"You will see at the foot this--Mr. Vellacott's reason for not wiring to
you direct. He wished my friend to be here before the printers got to
work this morning; but owing to this unfortunate illness--"
"I am afraid you are too late, sir," interrupted Mr. Bodery briskly.
"The press is at work--"
"My friend instructed me," interposed the stranger in his turn, "to make
you rather a difficult proposition. If a thousand pounds will compensate
for the loss incurred by the delay of issue, and defray the expense of
paper spoilt--I--I have that amount with me."
Mr. Bodery did not display the least sign of surprise, merely shaking
his head with a quiet smile. Mr. Morgan, however, laid aside his pencil,
and placed his elbow upon the proof-sheets before him.
The stranger then stepped forward with a sudden change of manner.
"Mr. Bodery," he said, in a low, concentrated voice, "I will give you
five hundred pounds for a proof copy of Mr. Vellacott's article."
A dead silence of some moments' duration followed this remark. Mr.
Morgan raised his head and looked across the table at his chief. The
editor made an almost imperceptible motion with his eyebrows in the
direction of the door.
Then Mr. Morgan rose somewhat heavily from his chair, with a hand upon
either arm, after the manner of a man who is beginning to put on weight
rapidly. He went to the door, opened it, and, turning towards the
stranger, said urbanely:
This kind invitation was not at once accepted.
"You refuse my offers?" said the stranger curtly, without deigning to
notice the sub-editor.
Mr. Bodery had turned his attention to his letters, of which he was
cutting open the envelopes, one by one, with a paper-knife, without,
however, removing the contents. He looked up.
"To-morrow morning," he said, "you will be able to procure a copy from
any stationer for the trifling sum of sixpence."
Then the stranger walked slowly past Mr. Morgan out of the room.
"A curse on these Englishmen!" he muttered, as he passed down the narrow
staircase. "If I could only see the article I could tell whether it is
worth resorting to stronger measures or not. However, that is Talma's
business to decide, not mine."
Mr. Morgan closed the door of the small room and resumed his seat. He
then laughed aloud, but Mr. Bodery did not respond.
"That's one of them," observed Mr. Morgan comprehensively.
"Yes," replied the editor, "a dangerous customer. I do not like a
"I was not much impressed with his diplomatic skill."
"No; but you must remember that he had difficult cards to play. No doubt
his information was of the scantiest, and--we are not chickens, Morgan."
"No," said Mr. Morgan, with a little sigh. He turned to the revision of
the proof-sheets again, while the editor began opening and reading his
"This is a little strong," exclaimed Mr. Morgan, after a few moments of
silence, broken only by the crackle of paper. "Just listen here:--
"'It simply comes to this--the General of the Society of Jesus is an
autocrat in the worst sense of the word. He holds within his fingers the
wires of a vast machine moving with little friction and no noise. No
farthest corner of the world is entirely beyond its influence; no
political crisis passes that is not hurried on or restrained by its
power. Unrecognised, unseen even, and often undreamt of, the vast
Society does its work. It is not for us who live in a broad-minded,
tolerant age to judge too harshly. It is not for us to say that the
Jesuits are unscrupulous and treacherous. Let us be just and give them
their due. They are undoubtedly earnest in their work, sincere in their
belief, true to their faith. But it is for us to uphold our own
integrity. We are accused--as a nation--of stirring up the seeds of
rebellion, of crime and bloodshed in the heart of another country. Our
denial is considered insufficient; our evidence is ignored. There
remains yet to us one mode of self-defence. After denying the crime (for
crime it is in humane and political sense) we can turn and boldly lay it
upon those whom its results would chiefly benefit: the Roman Catholic
Church in general--the Society of Jesus in particular. We have
endeavoured to show how the followers of Ignatius Loyola could have
brought about the present crisis in France; the extent to which they
would benefit by a religious reaction is patent to the most casual
observer; let the Government of England do the rest.'"
Mr. Bodery was, however, not listening. He was staring vacantly at a
telegram which lay spread out upon the table.
"What is the meaning of this?" he exclaimed huskily.
The sub-editor looked up sharply, with his pen poised in the air. Then
Mr. Bodery read:
"Is Vellacott with you? Fear something wrong. Disappeared from here last
Mr. Morgan moved in his seat, stretching one arm out, while he pensively
rubbed his clean-shaven chin and looked critically across the table.
"Who is it from?" he asked.
"Sidney Carew, the man he is staying with."
They remained thus for some moments; the editor looking at the telegram
with a peculiar blank expression in his eyes; Mr. Morgan staring at him
while he rubbed his chin thoughtfully with outspread finger and thumb.
In the lane beneath the window some industrious housekeeper was sweeping
her doorstep with aggravating monotony; otherwise there was no sound.
At length Mr. Morgan rose from his seat and walked slowly to the window.
He stood gazing out upon the smoke-begrimed roofs and crooked chimneys.
Between his lips he held his pen, and his hands were thrust deeply into
his trouser pockets. It was on that spot and in that attitude that he
usually thought out his carefully written weekly article upon "Home
Affairs." He was still there when the editor touched a small gong which
stood on the table at his side. The silent door instantly opened, and
the supernaturally sharp boy stood on the threshold grimly awaiting his
"Yess'r," replied the boy, closing the door. His inventive mind had
conceived a new and improved method of going downstairs. This was to lie
flat on his back upon the balustrade with a leg dangling on either side.
If the balance was correct, he slid down rapidly and shot out some feet
from the bottom, as he had, from an advantageous point of view on
Blackfriars Bridge, seen sacks of meal shoot from a Thames warehouse
into the barge beneath. If, however, he made a miscalculation, he
inevitably rolled off sideways and landed in a heap on the floor. Either
result appeared to afford him infinite enjoyment and exhilaration. On
this occasion he performed the feat with marked success.
"Guv'nor's goin' on the loose--wants the railway guide," he confided to
a small friend in the printing interest whom he met as he was returning
with the required volume.
"Suppose you'll be sitten' upstairs now, then," remarked the
black-fingered one with fine sarcasm. Whereupon there followed a
feint--a desperate lunge to one side, a vigorous bob of the head, and a
resounding bang with the railway guide in the centre of the sarcastic
Having executed a strategic movement, and a masterly retreat up the
stairs, the small boy leant over the banisters and delivered himself of
the following explanation:
"I 'it yer one that time. Don't do it agin. _Good_ morning, sir."
Mr. Bodery turned the flimsy leaves impatiently, stopped, looked rapidly
down a column, and, without raising his eyes from the railway guide,
tore a telegraph form from the handle of a drawer at his side. Then he
wrote in a large clear style:
"Will be with you at five o'clock. Invent some excuse for V.'s absence.
On no account give alarm to authorities."
The sharp boy took the telegram from the editor's hand with an
expression of profound respect upon his wicked features.
"Go down to Banks," said Mr. Bodery, "ask him to let me have two copies
of the foreign policy article in ten minutes."
When the silent door was closed, Mr. Morgan wheeled round upon his
heels, and gazed meditatively at his superior.
"Going down to see these people?" he asked, with a jerk of his head
towards the West.
"Yes, I am going by the eleven-fifteen."
"I have been thinking," continued the sub-editor, "we may as well keep
the printing-office door locked to-day. That slippery gentleman with the
watery eyes meant business, or I am very much mistaken. I'll just send
upstairs for Bander to go on duty at the shop door to-day as well as
to-morrow; I think we shall have a big sale this week."
Mr. Bodery rose from his seat and began brushing his faultless hat.
"Yes," he replied; "do that. It would be very easy to get at the
machinery. Printers are only human!"
"Machinery is ready enough to go wrong when nobody wishes it," murmured
Mr. Morgan vaguely, as he sat down at the table and began setting the
scattered papers in order.
Mr. Bodery and his colleagues were in the habit of keeping at the office
a small bag, containing the luggage necessary for a few nights in case
of their being suddenly called away. This expedient was due to Christian
The editor now proceeded to stuff into his bag sundry morning newspapers
and a large cigar case. Telegraph forms, pen, ink, and foolscap paper
were already there.
"I say, Bodery," said the sub-editor with grave familiarity, "it seems
to me that you are taking much too serious a view of this matter.
Vellacott is as wide awake as any man, and it always struck me that he
was very well able to take care of himself."
"I have a wholesome dread of men who use religion as a means of
justification. A fanatic is always dangerous."
"A sincere fanatic," suggested the sub-editor.
"Exactly so; and a sincere fanatic in the hands of an agitator is the
very devil. That is whence these fellows got their power. Half of them
are fanatics and the other half hypocrites."
Mr. Bodery had now completed his preparations, and he held out his plump
hand, which the subeditor grasped.
"I hope," said the latter, "that you will find Vellacott at the station
to meet you--ha, ha!"
"I hope so."
"If," said Mr. Morgan, following the editor to the door--"if he turns up
here, I will wire to Carew and to you, care of the station-master."
The London express rolled with stately deliberation into Brayport
station. Mr. Bodery folded up his newspapers, reached down his bag from
the netting, and prepared to alight. The editor of the _Beacon_ had
enjoyed a very pleasant journey, despite broiling sun and searching
dust. He knew the possibilities of a first-class smoking-carriage--how
to regulate the leeward window and chock off the other with a wooden
match borrowed from the guard.
He stepped from the carriage with the laboured sprightliness of a man
past the forties, and a moment later Sidney Carew was at his side.
"The same. You are no doubt Mr. Carew?"
"Yes. Thanks for coming. Hope it didn't inconvenience you?"
"Not at all," replied the editor, breaking his return ticket.
"D----n!" said Sidney suddenly.
He was beginning to rise to the occasion. He was one of those men who
are usually too slack to burthen their souls with a refreshing
"What is the matter?" inquired Mr. Bodery gravely.
"There is a man," explained Sidney hurriedly, "getting out of the train
who is coming to stay with us. I had forgotten his existence. _Don't_
Mr. Bodery was a Londoner. He did not look round. Nine out of ten
country-bred people would have indulged in a stare.
"Is this all your luggage?" continued Sidney abruptly. He certainly was
"Then come along. We'll bolt for it. He'll have to get a fly, and that
means ten minutes' start if the porter is not officious and mulls
They hurried out of the station and clambered into the dog-cart. Sidney
gathered up the reins.
"Hang it," he exclaimed. "What bad luck! There is a fly waiting. It is
never there when you want it."
Mr. Bodery looked between the shafts.
"You need not be afraid of that fly," he said.
"No--come up, you brute!"
Mr. Bodery turned carelessly to put his bag in the back of the cart.
"Let him have it," he exclaimed in a low voice. "Your friend sees you,
but he does not know that you have seen him. He is pointing you out to
As he spoke the cart swung round the gate-post of the station yard,
nearly throwing him out, and Sidney's right hand felt for the
"There," he said, "we are safe. I think I can manage that fly."
Mr. Bodery settled himself and drew the dust-cloth over his chubby
"Now," he said, "tell me all about Vellacott."
Sidney did so.
He gave a full and minute description of events previous to Christian
Vellacott's disappearance, omitting nothing. The relation was somewhat
disjointed, somewhat vague in parts, and occasionally incoherent. The
narrator repeated himself--hesitated--blurted out some totally
irrelevant fact, and finished up with a vague supposition (possessing a
solid basis of truth) expressed in doubtful English. It suited Mr.
Bodery admirably. In telling all about Vellacott, Sidney unconsciously
told all about Mrs. Carew, Molly, Hilda, and himself. When he reached
the point in his narration telling how Vellacott had been attracted into
the garden, he became extremely vague and his style notably colloquial.
Tell the story how he would, he felt that he could not prevent Mr.
Bodery from drawing his own inferences. Young ladies are not in the
habit of whistling for youthful members of the opposite sex. Few of them
master the labial art, which perhaps accounts for much. Sidney Carew was
conscious that his style lacked grace and finish.
Mr. Bodery did draw his own inferences, but the countenance into which
Sidney glanced at intervals was one of intense stolidity.
"Well, I confess I cannot make it out--at present," he said; "Vellacott
has written to us only on business matters. We publish to-morrow a very
good article of his purporting to be the dream of an overworked
_attache_. It is very cutting and very incriminating. The Government
cannot well avoid taking some notice of it. My only hope is that he is
in Paris. There is something brewing over there. Our Paris agent wired
for Vellacott this morning. By the way, Mr. Carew, is there a monastery
somewhere in this part of the country?"
"Down that valley," replied Sidney, pointing with his whip.
"In Vellacott's article there is mention of a monastery--not too
minutely described, however. There are also some remarkable suppositions
respecting an old foreigner living in seclusion. Could that be the man
you mentioned just now--Signor Bruno?"
"Hardly. Bruno is a harmless old soul," replied Sidney, pulling up to
turn into the narrow gateway.
There was no time to make further inquiries.
Sidney led the way into the drawing-room. The ladies were there.
"My mother, Mr. Bodery--my sister; my sister Hilda," he blurted out
Mrs. Carew shook hands, and the two young ladies bowed. They were all
disappointed in Mr. Bodery. He was too calm and comfortable--also there
was a suggestion of cigar smoke in his presence, which jarred.
"I am sorry," said the Londoner, with genial self-possession, "to owe
the pleasure of this visit to such an unfortunate incident."
Molly felt that she hated him.
"Then you have heard nothing of Christian?" said Mrs. Carew.
"Nothing," replied Mr. Bodery, removing his tight gloves. "But it is too
soon to think of getting anxious yet. Vellacott is eminently capable of
taking care of himself--he is, above all things, a journalist. Things
are disturbed in Paris, and it is possible that he has run across
Mrs. Carew smiled somewhat incredulously.
"It was a singular time to start," observed Hilda quietly.
Mr. Bodery turned and looked at her.
"Master mind in _this_ house," he reflected.
"Yes," he admitted aloud.
He folded his gloves and placed them in the pocket of his coat. The
others watched him in silence.
"Do you take sugar and cream?" inquired Hilda sweetly, speaking for the
"Please--both. In moderation."
"I say," interrupted Sidney at this moment, "the Vicomte d'Audierne is
following us in a fly. He will be here in five minutes."
Mrs. Carew nodded. She had not forgotten this guest.
"The Vicomte d'Audierne," said Mr. Bodery, with considerable interest,
turning away from the tea-table, cup in hand. "Is that the man who got
out of my train?"
"Yes," replied Sidney; "do you know him?"
"I have heard of him." Mr. Bodery turned and took a slice of bread and
butter from a plate which Hilda held.
At this moment there was a rumble of carriage wheels.
"By the way," said the editor of the _Beacon_, raising his voice so as
to command universal attention, "do not tell the Vicomte d'Audierne
about Vellacott. Do not let him know that Vellacott has been here. Do
not tell him of my connection with the _Beacon_."
The ladies barely had time to reconsider their first impression of Mr.
Bodery when the door was thrown open, and a servant announced M.
He who entered immediately afterwards--with an almost indecent
haste--was of middle height, with a certain intrepid carriage of the
head which appeals to such as take pleasure in the strength and
endurance of men. His face, which was clean shaven, was the face of a
hawk, with the contracted myope vision characteristic of that bird. It
is probable that from the threshold he took in every occupant of the
"Mrs. Carew," he said in a pleasant voice, speaking almost faultless
English, "after all these years. What a pleasure!"
He shook hands, turning at the same time to the others.
"And Sid," he said, "and Molly--wicked little Molly. Never mind--your
antecedents are safe. I am silent as the grave."
This was not strictly true. He was as deep, and deeper than the
resting-place mentioned, but his method was superior to silence.
"And Hilda," he continued, "thoughtful little Hilda, who was always too
busy to be naughty. Not like Molly, eh?"
"Heavens! How old it makes one feel!" he exclaimed, turning to Mrs.
The lady laughed.
"You are not changed, at all events," she said. "Allow me to introduce
Mr. Bodery--the Vicomte d'Audierne."
The two men bowed.
"Much pleasure," said the Frenchman.
Mr. Bodery bowed again in an insular manner, which just escaped
awkwardness, and said nothing.
Then Molly offered the new-comer some tea, and the party broke up into
groups. But the Vicomte's personality in some subtle manner pervaded the
room. Mr. Bodery lapsed into monosyllables and felt ponderous. Monsieur
d'Audierne had it in his power to make most men feel ponderous when the
spirit moved him in that direction.
As soon as tea was finally disposed of Mrs. Carew proposed an
adjournment to the garden. She was desirous of getting Mr. Bodery to
It fell to Hilda's lot to undertake the Frenchman. They had been great
friends once, and she was quite ready to renew the pleasant
relationship. She led her guest to the prettiest part of the garden--the
old overgrown footpath around the moat.
As soon as they had passed under the nut-trees into the open space at
the edge of the water, the Vicomte d'Audierne stopped short and looked
round him curiously. At the same time he gave a strange little laugh.
"_Hein--hein--c'est drole_," he muttered, and the girl remembered that
in the old friendship between the brilliant, middle-aged diplomatist and
the little child they had always spoken French. She liked to hear him
speak his own language, for in his lips it received full justice: it was
the finest tongue spoken on this earth. But she did not feel disposed
just then to humour him. She looked at him wonderingly as his deep eyes
wandered over the scene.
While they stood there, something--probably a kestrel--disturbed the
rooks dwelling in the summits of the still elms across the moat, and
they rose simultaneously in the air with long-drawn cries.
"Ah! Ah--h!" said the Vicomte, with a singular smile.
And then Hilda forgot her shyness.
"What is it?" she inquired in the language she had always spoken to this
He turned and walked beside her, suiting his steps to hers, for some
moments before replying.
"I was not here at all," he said at length, apologetically; "I was far
away from you. It was impolite. I am sorry."
He intended that she should laugh, and she did so softly. "Where were
you?" she inquired, glancing at him beneath her golden lashes.
Again he paused.
"There is," he said at length, "an old _chateau_ in Morbihan--many
miles from a railway--in the heart of a peaceful country. It has a moat
like this--there are elms--there are rooks that swing up into the air
like that and call--and one does not know why they do it, and what they
are calling. Listen, little girl--they are calling something. What is
it? I think I was _there_. It was impolite--I am sorry, Miss Carew."
She laughed again sympathetically and without mirth; for she was meant
He looked back over his shoulder at times as if the calling of the rooks
jarred upon his nerves.
"I do not think I like them--" he said, "now."
He was not apparently disposed to be loquacious as he had been at first.
Possibly the rooks had brought about this change. Hilda also had her
thoughts. At times she glanced at the water with a certain shrinking in
her heart. She had not yet forgotten the moments she had passed at the
edge of the moat the night before. They walked right round the moat and
down a little pathway through the elm wood without speaking. The rooks
had returned to their nests and only called to each other querulously at
"Has it ever occurred to you, little girl," said the Vicomte d'Audierne
suddenly, "to doubt the wisdom of the Creator's arrangements for our
comfort, or otherwise, here below?"
"I suppose not," he went on, without waiting for an answer, which she
remembered as an old trick of his. "You are a woman--it is different for
The girl said nothing. She may have thought differently; one cannot
always read a maiden's thoughts.
They walked on together. Suddenly the Vicomte d'Audierne spoke.
"Who is this?" he said.
Hilda followed the direction of his eyes.
"That," she answered, "is Signor Bruno. An old Italian exile. A friend
Bruno came forward, hat in hand, bowing and smiling in his charming way.
Hilda introduced the two men, speaking in French.
"I did not know," said Signor Bruno, with outspread hands, "that you
spoke French like a Frenchwoman."
"Had it," she said, with a sudden inspiration, "been Italian, I should
have told you."
There was a singular smile visible, for a moment only, in the eyes of
the Vicomte d'Audierne, and then he spoke.
"Mademoiselle," he said, "learnt most of it from me. We are old
Signor Bruno bowed. He did not look too well pleased.
"Ah--but is that so?" he murmured conversationally.
"Yes; I hope she learnt nothing else from me," replied the Vicomte
Hilda turned upon him with a questioning smile.
"I do not imagine, little girl," replied d'Audierne, "that you could
learn very much that is good from me."
Hilda gave a non-committing little laugh, and led the way through the
nut-trees towards the house. The Vicomte d'Audierne followed, and Signor
Bruno came last. When they emerged upon the lawn in view of Mrs. Carew
and Mr. Bodery, who were walking together, the Vicomte dropped his
handkerchief. Signor Bruno attempted to pick it up, and there was a
slight delay caused by the interchange of some Gallic politeness.
Before the two foreigners came up with Hilda, who had walked on, Signor
Bruno found time to say:
"I must see you to-night, without fail; I am in a very difficult
position. I have had to resort to strong measures."
"Where?" inquired the Vicomte d'Audierne, with that pleasant nonchalance
which is so aggravating to the People.
"In the village, any time after nine; a yellow cottage near the well."
And they joined Hilda Carew.
It is only when our feelings are imaginary that we analyse them. When
the real thing comes--the thing that only does come to a few of us--we
can only feel it, and there is no thought of analysis. Moreover, the
action is purely involuntary. We feel strange things--such things as
murder--and we cannot help feeling it. We may cringe and shrink; we may
toss in our beds when we wake up with such thoughts living, moving,
having their being in our brains--but we cannot toss them off. The very
attempt to do so is a realisation, and from consciousness we spring to
knowledge. We know that in our hearts we are thieves, murderers,
slanderers; we know that if we read of such thoughts in a novel we
should hold the thinker in all horror; but we are distinctly conscious
all the time that these thoughts are our own. This is just the
difference existing between artificial feelings and real: the one bears
analysis, the other cannot.
Hilda Carew could not have defined her feelings on the evening of the
arrival of Mr. Bodery and the Vicomte d'Audierne. She was conscious of
the little facts of everyday existence. She dressed for dinner with
singular care; during that repast she talked and laughed much as usual,
but all the while she felt like any one in all the world but Hilda
Carew. At certain moments she wondered with a throb of apprehension
whether the difference which was so glaringly patent to herself could
possibly be hidden from others. She caught strange inflections in her
own voice which she knew had never been there before--her own laughter
was a new thing to her. And yet she went on through dinner and until
bedtime, acting this strange part without break, without fault--a part
which had never been rehearsed and never learnt: a part which was
utterly artificial and yet totally without art, for it came naturally.
And through it all she feared the Vicomte d'Audierne. Mr. Bodery counted
for nothing. He made a very good dinner, was genial and even witty in a
manner befitting his years and station. Mrs. Carew was fully engaged
with her guests, and Molly was on lively terms with the Vicomte; while
Sidney, old Sidney--no one counted him. It was only the Vicomte who
paused at intervals during his frugal meal, and looked across the table
towards the young girl with those deep, impenetrable eyes--shadowless,
gleamless, like velvet.
When bedtime at length arrived, she was quite glad to get away from that
kind, unobtrusive scrutiny of which she alone was aware. She went to her
room, and sitting wearily on the bed she realised for the first time in
her life the incapacity to think. It is a realisation which usually
comes but once or twice in a lifetime, and we are therefore unable to
get accustomed to it. She was conscious of intense pressure within her
brain, of a hopeless weight upon her heart, but she could define
neither. She rose at length, and mechanically went to bed like one in a
trance. In the same way she fell asleep.
In the meantime Mr. Bodery, Sidney Carew, and the Vicomte d'Audierne
were smoking in the little room at the side of the porch. A single lamp
with a red shade hung from the ceiling in the centre of this room,
hardly giving enough light to read by. There were half-a-dozen deep
armchairs, a divan, and two or three small tables--beyond that nothing.
Sidney's father had furnished it thus, with a knowledge and appreciation
of Oriental ways. It was not a study, nor a library, nor a den; but
merely a smoking-room. Mr. Bodery had lighted an excellent cigar, and
through the thin smoke he glanced persistently at the Vicomte
d'Audierne. The Vicomte did not return this attention; he glanced at the
clock instead. He was thinking of Signor Bruno, but he was too polite
and too diplomatic to give way to restlessness.
At last Mr. Bodery opened fire from, as it were, a masked battery; for
he knew that the Frenchman was ignorant of his connection with one of
the leading political papers of the day. It was a duel between sheer
skill and confident foreknowledge. When Mr. Bodery spoke, Sidney Carew
leant back in his chair and puffed vigorously at his briar pipe.
"Things," said the Englishman, "seem to be very unsettled in France just
The Vicomte was engaged in rolling a cigarette, and he finished the
delicate operation before looking up with a grave smile.
"Yes," he said. "In Paris. But Paris is not France. That fact is hardly
realised in England, I think."
"What," inquired Mr. Bodery, with that conversational heaviness of touch
which is essentially British, "is the meaning of this disturbance?"
Sidney Carew was enveloped in a perfect cloud of smoke.
For a moment--and a moment only--the Vicomte's profound gaze rested on
the Englishman's face. Mr. Bodery was evidently absorbed in the
enjoyment of his cigar. The smile that lay on his genial face like a
mask was the smile of a consciousness that he was making himself
intensely pleasant, and adapting his conversation to his company in a
quite phenomenal way.
"Ah!" replied the Frenchman, with a neat little shrug of bewilderment.
"Who can tell? Probably there is no meaning in it. There is so often no
meaning in the action of a Parisian mob."
"Many things without meaning are not without result."
Again the Vicomte looked at Mr. Bodery, and again he was baffled.
"You only asked me the meaning," he said lightly. "I am glad you did not
inquire after the result; because there I should indeed have been at
fault. I always argue to myself that it is useless to trouble one's
brain about results. I leave such matters to the good God. He will
probably do just as well without my assistance."
"You are a philosopher," said Mr. Bodery, with a pleasant and friendly
"Thank Heaven--yes! Look at my position. Fancy carrying in France to-day
a name that is to be found in the most abridged history. One needs to be
a philosopher, Mr. Bodery."
"But," suggested the Englishman, "there may be changes. It may all come
The Vicomte sipped his whisky and water with vicious emphasis.
"If it began at once," he said, "it would never be right in my time. Not
as it used to be. And in the meantime we are in the present--in the
present France is governed by newspaper men."
Sidney drew in his feet and coughed. Some of his smoke had gone astray.
Mr. Bodery looked sympathetic.
"Yes," he said calmly, "that really seems to be the case."
"And newspaper men," pursued the Vicomte, "what are they? Men of no
education, no position, no sense of honour. The great aim of politicians
in France to-day is the aggrandisement of themselves."
Mr. Bodery yawned.
"Ah!" he said, with a glance towards Sidney.
Perhaps the Frenchman saw the glance, perhaps he was deceived by the
yawn. At all events, he rose and expressed a desire to retire to his
room. He was tired, he said, having been travelling all the previous
Mr. Bodery had not yet finished his cigar, so he rose and shook hands
without displaying any intention of following the Vicomte's example.
Sidney lighted a candle, one of many standing on a side table, and led
the way upstairs. They walked through the long, dimly lighted corridors
in silence, and it was only when they had arrived in the room set apart
for the Vicomte d'Audierne that this gentleman spoke.
"By the way," he said, "who is this person--this Mr. Bodery? He was not
a friend of your father's." Sidney was lighting the tall candles that
stood upon the dressing-table, and the combined illumination showed with
remarkable distinctness the reflection of his face in the mirror. From
whence he stood the Frenchman could see this reflection.
"He is the friend of a great friend of mine; that is how we know him,"
replied Sidney, prizing up the wick of a candle. He was still rising to
the occasion--this dull young Briton. Then he turned. "Christian
Vellacott," he said; "you knew his father?"
"Ah, yes: I knew his father."
Sidney was moving to the door without any hurry, and also without any
intention of being deterred.
"His father," continued the Vicomte, winding his watch meditatively,
"was brilliant. Has the son inherited any brain?"
"I think so. Good night."
When the door was closed the Vicomte looked at his watch. It was almost
"The Reverend Father Talma will have to wait till to-morrow morning," he
said to himself. "I cannot go to him to-night. It would be too
theatrical. That old gentleman is getting too old for his work."
In the meantime, Sidney returned to the little smoking-room at the side
of the porch. There he found Mr. Bodery smoking with his usual
composure. The younger man forbore asking any questions. He poured out
for himself some whisky, and opened a bottle of soda-water with
deliberate care and noiselessness.
"That man," said Mr. Bodery at length, "knows nothing about Vellacott."
"You think so?"
"I am convinced of it. By the way, who is the old gentleman who came to
tea this afternoon?"
"Signor Bruno, do you mean?"
"I suppose so--that super-innocent old man with the white hair who wears
"Are they window-glass?" asked Sidney, with a little laugh.
"They struck me as window-glass--quite flat. Who is he--beyond his name,
"He is an Italian refugee--lives in the village."
Mr. Bodery had taken his silver pencil from his waistcoat pocket, and
was rolling it backwards and forwards on the table. This was indicative
of the fact that the editor of the _Beacon_ was thinking deeply.
"Ah! And how long has he been here?"
"Only a few weeks."
Mr. Bodery looked up sharply.
"Is _that_ all?" he inquired, with an eager little laugh.
"Then, my dear sir, Vellacott is right. That old man is at the bottom of
it. This Vicomte d'Audierne, what do you know of him?"
"He is an old friend of my father's. In fact, he is a friend of the
family. He calls the girls by their Christian names, as you have heard
"Yes; I noticed that. And he came here to-day merely on a friendly
"That is all. Why do you ask?" inquired Sidney, who was getting rather
"I know nothing of him personally--except what I have learnt to-day. For
my own part, I like him," answered Mr. Bodery. "He is keen and clever.
Moreover, he is a thorough gentleman. But, politically speaking, he is
one of the most dangerous men in France. He is a Jesuit, an active
Royalist, and a staunch worker for the Church party. I don't know much
about French politics--that is Vellacott's department. But I know that
if he were here, and knew of the Vicomte's presence in England, he would
be very much on the alert."
"Then," asked Sidney, "do you connect the presence of the Vicomte here
with the absence of Vellacott?"
"There can be little question about it, directly or indirectly.
Indirectly, I should think, unless the Vicomte d'Audierne is a
Sidney thought deeply.
"He may be," he admitted.
"I do not," pursued Mr. Bodery, with a certain easy deliberation, "think
that the Vicomte is aware of Vellacott's existence. That is my opinion."
"He asked who you were--if you were a friend of my father's."
"And you said--"
"No! I said that you were a friend of a friend, and mentioned
Vellacott's name. He knew his father very well."
"Were you"--asked Mr. Bodery, throwing away the end of his cigar and
rising from his deep chair--"were you looking at the Vicomte when you
answered the question?"
"And there was no sign of discomfort--no flicker of the eyelids, for
Mr. Bodery nodded his head in a businesslike way, indicative of the fact
that he was engaged in assimilating a good deal of useful information.
"There is nothing to be done to-night," he said presently, as he made a
movement towards the door, "but to go to bed. To-morrow the _Beacon_
will be published, and the result will probably be rather startling. We
shall hear something before to-morrow afternoon."
Sidney lighted Mr. Bodery's candle and shook hands.
"By the way," said the editor, turning back and speaking more lightly,
"if any one should inquire--your mother or one of your sisters--you can
say that I am not in the least anxious about Vellacott. Good night."
It was quite early the next morning when the Vicomte d'Audierne left
his room. As he walked along the still corridor and down the stairs it
was noticeable that he made absolutely no sound, without, however,
indulging in any of those contortions which are peculiar to late
arrivals in church. It would seem that Nature had for purposes of her
own made his footfall noiseless--if, by the way, Nature can be credited
with any purpose whatever in her allotment of human gifts and failings.
In the hall he found a stout cook armed for assault upon the front-door
"Good morning," he said. "Can you tell me the breakfast-hour? I forgot
to inquire last night."
"Nine o'clock, sir," replied the servant, rather taken aback at the
thought of having this visitor dependent upon her for entertainment
during the next hour and a half.
"Ah--and it is not yet eight. Never mind. I will go into the garden. I
am fond of fruit before breakfast."
He took his hat and lounged away towards the kitchen-garden which lay
near the moat.
"And now," he said to himself, looking round him in a searching way,
"where is this pestilential village?"
The way was not hard to find, and as the church clock struck eight the
Vicomte d'Audierne opened the little green gate of the cottage where
Signor Bruno was lodging.
The old gentleman must have been watching for him; for he opened the
door before the Vicomte reached it.
He turned and led the way into a little room on the right hand of the
narrow passage. A little room intensely typical: china dogs, knitted
antimacassars of a brilliant tendency, and horse-hair covered furniture.
There was even the usual stuffy odour as if the windows, half-hidden
behind muslin curtains and scarlet geraniums, were never opened from one
year's end to another.
Signor Bruno closed the door before speaking. Then he turned upon his
companion with something very like fury glittering in his eyes.
"Why did you not come last night?" he asked. "I am left alone to contend
against one difficulty on the top of another. Read that!"
He drew from his pocket a thin and somewhat crumpled sheet of paper,
upon which there were two columns of printed matter.
"That," he said, "cost us two thousand francs." The Vicomte d'Audierne
read the printed matter carefully from beginning to end. He had
approached the window because the light was bad, and when he finished he
looked up for a few minutes, out of the little casement, upon the quiet
"The _Beacon_," he said, turning round, "what is that?"
"A leading weekly newspaper."
"To-day," snapped Signor Bruno.
The Vicomte d'Audierne made a little grimace.
"Who wrote this?" he inquired.
"Christian Vellacott, son of _the_ Vellacott, whom you knew in the old
There was something in the Vicomte's expressive voice that made Signor
Bruno look at him sharply with some apprehension.
"Why do you say that?"
The Vicomte countered with another question.
"Who is this Mr. Bodery?"
He gave a little jerk with his head in the direction of the house he had
"I do not know."
"I was told last night that he was a friend of this Christian
The two Frenchmen looked at each other in silence. Signor Bruno was
evidently alarmed--his lips were white and unsteady. There was a smile
upon the bird-like face of the younger man, and behind his spectacles
his eyes glittered with an excitement in which there was obviously no
"Do you know," he asked in a disagreeably soft manner, "where Christian
Across the benevolent old face of Signor Bruno here came a very evil
"You will do better not to ask me that question," he replied, "unless
you mean to run for it--as I do."
The Vicomte d'Audierne looked at his companion in a curious way.
"You had," he said, "at one time no rival as a man of action--"
Signor Bruno shrugged his shoulders.
"I am a man of action still."
The Vicomte folded the proof-sheet carefully, handed it back to his
companion, and said:
"Then I understand that--there will be no more of these very clever
Bruno nodded his head.
"I ask no questions," continued the other. "It is better so. I shall
stay where I am for a few days, unless it grows too hot--unless I think
it expedient to vanish."
"You have courage?"
"No; I have impertinence--that is all. There will be a storm--a
newspaper storm. The embassies will be busy; in the English Parliament
some pompous fool will ask a question, and be snubbed for his pains. In
the _Chambre_ the newspaper men will rant and challenge each other in
the corridors; and it will blow over. In the meantime we have got what
we want, and we can hide it till we have need of it. Your Reverence and
I have met difficulties together before this one."
But Signor Bruno was not inclined to fall in with these optimistic
"I am not so sure," he said, "that we have got what we want. There has
been no acknowledgment of receipt of the last parcel--in the usual
way--the English _Standard_."
"What was the last parcel?"
"Fifty thousand cartridges."
"But they were sent?"
"Yes; they were despatched in the usual way; but, as I say, they have
not been acknowledged. There may have been some difficulty on the other
side. Our police are not so easy-going as these coastguard gentlemen."
"Well," said the aristocrat, with that semi-bantering lightness of
manner which sometimes aggravated, and always puzzled, his colleagues,
"we will not give ourselves trouble over that: the matter is out of our
hands. Let us rather think of ourselves. Have you money?"
"Yes--I have sufficient."
"It is now eight o'clock--this newspaper--this precious _Beacon_ is now
casting its light into some dark intellects in London. It will take
those intellects two hours to assimilate the information, and one more
hour to proceed to action. You have, therefore, three hours in which to
make yourself scarce."
"I have arranged that," replied the old man calmly. "There is a small
French potato-ship lying at Exmouth. In two hours I shall be one of her
"That is well. And the others?"
"The others left yesterday afternoon. They cross by this morning's boat
from Southampton to Cherbourg. You see how much I have had to do."
"I see also, my friend, how well you have done it."
"And now," said Signor Bruno, ignoring the compliment, "I must go. We
will walk away by the back garden across the fields. You must remember
that you may have been seen coming here."
"I have thought of that. One old man saw me, but he did not look at me
twice. He will not know me again. And your landlady--where is she?"
"I have sent her out on a fool's errand."
As they spoke they left the little cottage by the back door, as Signor
Bruno had proposed, through the little garden, and across some low-lying
fields. Presently they parted, Signor Bruno turning to the left, while
the Vicomte d'Audierne kept to the right.
"We shall meet, I suppose," were the last words of the younger man, "in
the Rue St. Gingolphe?"
"Yes--in the Rue St. Gingolphe."
For so old a man the pace at which Signor Bruno breasted the hill that
lay before him was somewhat remarkable. The Vicomte d'Audierne, on the
other hand, was evidently blessed with a greater leisure. He looked at
his watch and strolled on through the dew-laden meadows, wrapt in
thought as in a cloak that hid the sweet freshness of the flowery
hedgerows, that muffled the broken song of the busy birds, that killed
the scent of ripening hay. Thus these two singular men parted--and it
happened that they were never to meet again. These little things _do_
happen. We meet with gravity; we part with a smile; perhaps we make an
appointment; possibly we speak of the pleasure that the meeting seems to
promise: and the next meeting is put off; it belongs to the great
Often we part with an indifferent nod, as these two men parted amidst
the sylvan peace of English meadow on that summer morning. They belonged
to two different stations in life almost as far apart as two social
stations could be, even in a republic. They were not, in any sense of
the word, friends; they were merely partners, intensely awake, as
partners usually are, to each other's shortcomings.
The Vicomte d'Audierne probably thought no more of Signor Bruno from the
moment that he raised his hat and turned. A few moments later his
thoughts were evidently far away.
"The son of Vellacott," he muttered, as he took a cigarette from a neat
silver case. "How strange! And yet I am sorry. He might have done
something in the world. That article was clever--very clever--curse it!
He cannot yet be thirty. But one would expect something from the son of
a man like Vellacott."
It was not yet nine o'clock when the Vicomte entered the dining-room by
the open window. Only Hilda was there, and she was busy with the old
leather post-bag. Among the letters there were several newspapers, and
the Vicomte d'Audierne's expression underwent a slight change on
perceiving them. His thin, mobile lips were closely pressed, and his
chin--a very short one--was thrust forward. Behind the gentle spectacles
his eyes assumed for a moment that singular blinking look which cannot
be described in English, for it seemed to change their colour. In his
country it would have been called _glauque_.
"Ah, Hilda!" he said, approaching slowly, "do I see newspapers? I love a
She handed him the _Times_ enveloped in a yellow wrapper, upon which was
printed her brother's name and address.
"Ah," he said lightly, "the _Times_--estimable, but just a trifle
opaque. Is that all?"
His eyes were fixed upon two packets she held in her hand.
"These are Mr. Bodery's," she replied, looking at him with some
"And what newspaper does Mr. Bodery read?" asked the Frenchman, holding
out his hand.
She hesitated for a moment. His position with regard to her was
singular, his ascendency over her had never been tried. It was an
unknown quantity; but the Vicomte d'Audierne knew his own power.
"Let me look, little girl," he said quietly in French.
She handed him the newspapers, still watching his face.
"The _Beacon_," he muttered, reading aloud from the ornamented wrapper,
"a weekly journal."
He threw the papers down and returned to the _Times_, which he unfolded.
"Tell me, Hilda," he said, "is Mr. Bodery connected with this weekly
journal, the _Beacon?_"
Her back was turned towards him. She was hanging up the key of the
post-bag on a nail beside the fireplace.
"Yes," she replied, without looking round.
"Is he the editor?"
The Vicomte d'Audierne turned the _Times_ carelessly.
"Ah!" he muttered, "the phylloxera has appeared again."
For some time he appeared to be absorbed in this piece of news, then he
"I knew something of a man who writes for that newspaper--the _Beacon_.
I knew his father very well."
The Vicomte glanced at her.
"Christian Vellacott," he said.
"We know him also," she answered, moving towards the bell. He made a
step forward as if about to offer to ring the bell for her, but she was
When the butler entered the room, Hilda reminded him of some small
omission in setting out the breakfast-table. The item required was in
the room, and the man set it upon the table with some decision and a
slightly aggrieved cast of countenance.
The Vicomte d'Audierne raised his eyes, and then he looked very grave.
He was a singular man in many ways, but those who worked with him were
aware of one peculiarity which by its prominence cast others into the
shade. He possessed a very useful gift rarely given to men--the gift of
intuition. It was dangerous to _think_ when the eyes of the Vicomte
d'Audierne were upon one's face. He had a knack of knowing one's
thoughts before they were even formulated. He looked grave--almost
distressed--on this occasion, because he knew something of which Hilda
herself was ignorant. He knew that she was engaged to be married to one
man while she loved another.
AN EMPTY NEST
In the middle of breakfast a card was handed to Sidney Carew. He glanced
at it, nodded his head as a signal to the servant that he need not wait,
and slipped the card into his pocket. Mr. Bodery and the Vicomte
d'Audierne were watching him.
Presently he rose from the table and left the room. Mrs. Carew became
suddenly lively, and the meal went on unconcernedly. It was not long
before Sidney came back.
"Do you want," he said to his mother, "some tickets for a concert at
Brayport on the 4th of next month?"
"What sort of a concert?"
Sidney consulted the tickets.
"In aid," he read, "of an orphanage--the Police Orphanage."
"We always take six tickets," put in Miss Molly, and her mother began to
seek her pocket.
"Mr. Bodery," said Sidney, at this moment, "you have nothing to eat. Let
me cut you some ham."
He moved towards the sideboard, but Mr. Bodery rose from his seat.
"I prefer to carve it myself," he replied, proceeding to do so.
Sidney held the plate. They were quite close together, and Hilda was
talking persistently and gaily to the Vicomte d'Audierne.
"The London police are here already," whispered Sidney; "shall I say
anything about Vellacott?"
"No," replied Mr. Bodery, after a moment's reflection.
"I am going to ride over to Porton Abbey with them now."
"Right," replied the editor, returning to the table with his plate.
Sidney left the room again, and the Vicomte d'Audierne detected the
quick, anxious glance directed by Hilda at his retreating form. A few
minutes later young Carew rode away from the house in company with two
men, while a fourth horseman followed closely.
He who rode on Sidney's left hand was a tall, grizzled man, with the
bearing of a soldier, while his second companion was fair and gentle in
manner. The soldier was Captain Pharland, District Inspector of Police;
the civilian was the keenest detective in London.
"Of course," said this man, who sat his hired horse with perfect
confidence. "Of course we are too late, I know that."
He spoke softly and somewhat slowly; his manner was essentially that of
a man accustomed to the entire attention of his hearers.
"The old Italian," he continued, "who went under the name of Signor
Bruno, disappeared this morning. It is just possible that he will
succeed in getting out of the country. It all depends upon who he is."
"Who do you suppose he is?" asked Captain Pharland. He was an upright
old British soldier, and felt ill at ease in the society of his
"I don't know," was the frank reply; "you see this is not a criminal
affair, it is entirely political; it is hardly in my line of country."
They rode on in silence for a space of time, during which Captain
Pharland lighted a cigar and offered one to his companions. Sidney
accepted, but the gentleman from London refused quietly, and without
explanation. It was he who spoke first.
"Mr. Carew," he said, "can you tell me when this monastery was first
instituted at Porton Abbey?"
The thin flaxen eyebrows went up very high, until they were lost to
sight beneath the hat brim.
"Did they--ah--deal with the local tradesmen?"
"No," replied Sidney, "I think not. They received all their stores by
train from London."
"And you have never seen any of the monks?"
The fair-haired gentleman gave a little upward jerk of the head and
smiled quietly for his own satisfaction.
He did not speak again until the cavalcade reached Porton Abbey. The old
place looked very peaceful in the morning light, standing grimly in the
midst of that soft lush grass which only grows over old habitations.
One side of the long, low building was in good repair, while the other
half had been allowed to crumble away. The narrow Norman windows had
been framed with unpainted wood and cheap glass. The broad doorway had
been partly filled in with unseasoned deal, and an inexpensive door had
been fitted up.
The bell-knob was of brass, new and glaring in the morning sun. The
gentleman from London, having alighted, took gently hold of this and
rang. A faint tinkle rewarded him. It was the peculiar sound of a bell
ringing in an empty house. After a moment's pause he wrenched the bell
nearly out of its socket, and a long peal was the result. At last this
ceased, and there was no sound in the house. The fair man looked back
over his shoulder at Captain Pharland.
"Gone!" he said tersely.
Then he took from his breast pocket a little bar in the shape of a
lever. He introduced the bent end of this between the door and the post,
just above the keyhole, and gave a sharp jerk. There was a short crack
like that made by the snapping of cast iron, and the door flew open.
Without a moment's hesitation the man went in, followed closely by
Sidney and Captain Pharland.
The birds had flown. As mysteriously as they had come, the devotees had
vanished. Bare walls met the eyes of the searchers. Porton Abbey stood
empty again after its brief return to life and warmth, and indeed it
scarcely looked habitable. The few personal effects of the simple monks
had been removed; the walls and stone floors were rigidly clean; the
small chapel showed signs of recent repair. There was an altar-cloth, a
crucifix, and two brass candlesticks.
The gentleman from London noted these items with a cynical smile. He had
instinctively removed his hat; it is just possible that there was
another side to this man's life--a side wherein he dealt with men who
were not openly villains. He may have been a churchwarden at home.
"Clever beggars!" he ejaculated, "they were ready for every emergency."
Captain Pharland pointed to the altar with his heavy riding-whip.
"Then," he said, "you think this all humbug?"
"I do. They were no more monks than we are."
The search did not last much longer. Only a few rooms had been
inhabited, and there was absolutely nothing left--no shred of evidence,
no clue whatever.
"Yes," said the fair-haired man, when they had finished their
inspection, "these were exceptional men; they knew their business."
As they left the house he paused, and closed the door again, remaining
"You see," he said, "there is not even a bolt on the door. They knew
better than to depend on bolts and bars. They knew a trick worth two of
At the gate they met a small, inoffensive man, with a brown beard and a
walking-stick. There was nothing else to say about him; without the
beard and the walking-stick there would have been nothing left to know
"That is my assistant," announced the London detective quietly. "He has
been down to the cliff."
The two men stepped aside together, and consulted in an undertone for
some time. Then the last speaker returned to Captain Pharland and
Sidney, who were standing together.
"That newspaper," he said, "the _Beacon_, is word for word right. My
assistant has been to the spot. The arms and ammunition have undoubtedly
been shipped from this place. The cases of cartridges mentioned by the
man who wrote the article as having been seen, in a dream, half-way down
the cliff, are actually there; my assistant has seen them."
Captain Pharland scratched his honest cavalry head. He was beginning to
regret that he had accepted the post of district inspector of the
police. Sidney Carew puffed at his pipe in silence.
"Of course," said the detective, "the newspaper man got all this
information through the treachery of one of the party. I should like to
get hold of that traitor. He would be a useful man to know."
In this the astute gentleman from London betrayed his extremely limited
knowledge of the Society of Jesus. There are no traitors in that vast
Sidney and Captain Pharland rode home together, leaving the two
detectives to find their way to Brayport Station.
They rode in silence, for the Captain was puzzled, and his companion was
Sidney Carew was beginning to realise that the events of the last three
days had a graver import than they at first promised to conceal. The now
celebrated article in the _Beacon_ opened his eyes, and he knew that the
writer of it must have paid very dearly for his daring. It seemed
extremely probable that the head and hands which had conceived and
carried out this singular feat were both still for ever. Vellacott's own
written tribute to the vast powers of the Jesuits, and their immovable
habit of forcing a way through all obstacles to the end in view, was
scarcely reassuring to his friends.
Sidney knew and recognised the usual fertility of resource possessed by
his friend; but against him were pitted men of greater gifts, of less
scruple, and of infinitely superior training in the crooked ways of
humanity. That he should have been so long without vouchsafing word or
sign was almost proof positive that his absence was involuntary; and men
capable of placing fire-arms into the hands of a maddened mob were not
likely to hesitate in sacrificing a single life that chanced to stand in
As the young fellow rode along, immersed in meditation, he heard the
sound of carriage-wheels, and, looking up, recognised his own grey horse
and dog-cart. Mr. Bodery was driving, and driving hard. On seeing Sidney
he pulled up, somewhat recklessly, in a manner which suggested that he
had not always been a stout, middle-aged Londoner.
"Been telegraphed for," he shouted, "by the people at the office.
Government is taking it up. Just time to catch the train."
And the editor of the _Beacon_ disappeared in a cloud of dust.
The Vicomte d'Audierne was thus left in full possession of the field.
When Christian Vellacott passed out of the drawing-room window in answer
to what he naturally supposed to be a signal-whistle from Hilda or
Sidney, he turned down the narrow, winding pathway that led to the moat.
The extreme darkness, contrasting suddenly with the warm light of the
room he had just left, caused him to walk slowly with outstretched
hands. Floating cobwebs broke across his face, and frequently he stopped
to brush the clinging fibre away. The intense darkness was somewhat
relieved when he reached the edge of the moat, and the clear sky was
overhead instead of interlocked branches. He could just discern that
Hilda was not at her usual seat upon the rustic bench farther towards
the end of the moat, and he stopped short, with a sudden misgiving, at
the spot where the path met, at right angles, the broader stone walk
extending the full length of the water.
He was on the point of whistling softly the familiar refrain, when there
was a rustle in the bushes behind him. A rush, a sudden shock, and a
pair of muscular hands were closed round his throat, dragging him
backwards. But Christian stood like a rock. Quick as thought he seized
the two wrists, which were small and flat, and wrenched them apart.
Then, stepping back with one foot in order to obtain surer leverage, he
lifted his assailant from the ground, swung him round, and literally let
him fly into the moat--with a devout hope that it might be Signor Bruno.
The man hurtled through the darkness, without a cry or sound, and fell
face foremost into the water, five yards from the edge, throwing into
the air a shower of spray.
Christian Vellacott was one of those men whose litheness is greater than
their actual muscular force; but a lithe man possesses greater powers of
endurance than a powerful fellow whose muscles are more highly
developed. The exertion of lifting his assailant and swinging him away
into the darkness was great, although the man's weight was nothing very
formidable, and Christian staggered back a few paces without, however,
actually losing his balance. At this moment two men sprang upon him from
behind and dragged him to the ground. He felt at once that this was a
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