The Harmsworth Magazine, Vol. 1, 1898-1899, No. 4 by Various
_THE HARMSWORTH MAGAZINE._
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_Lascelles & Co., Photographers._
A LITTLE MAID FROM SPAIN.]
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HARMSWORTH BROS., LIMITED, LONDON, E.C.
[pointing hand: _WHEN BOUND, THE HARMSWORTH MAGAZINE WILL MAKE TWO SUMPTUOUS VOLUMES EVERY YEAR._]
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[Illustration: 1,200 EGGS, OR 120 TIMES AS MANY AS REPRESENTED HERE, CONTAIN ALL THAT IS NECESSARY FOR THE COMPOSITION OF A 150 LB. MAN.]
MAN IS MADE OF--WHAT?
SOME FACTS ABOUT YOURSELF.
BY T. F. MANNING.
It is rarely realised what a queer combination of things exists in the human body. When the reader glances at these pages he will wonder whatever matches, candles, balloons, sugar-basins, soap, and all the other things illustrated have to do with the making of a man. At first sight the illustrations seem extraordinarily out of place; but when this article has been read through, he will then understand that the body is more or less of a chandler's shop in the making, for it is intended to show, in everyday language, something of its marvellous construction.
"Dust thou art" is a somewhat erroneous description of the body from a biological point of view. It would be nearer the mark to say, "You are mainly--over ninety per cent.--solidified soda-water."
Still nearer was the observation of a witty physiologist, that the greatest man on earth is only so much white of egg alive. To be strictly accurate, one should say that a man is an exceedingly complex mixture of gases, liquids, and solids, into all of which he will ultimately revert.
[Illustration: HERE IS A POUND OF CANDLES. THE BODY HAS ENOUGH FAT TO MAKE FROM 3-3/4 TO 7-1/2 LBS.]
At the same time, this wonderful machine that walks, eats, thinks, talks, laughs, cries, and fights, consists of a very few simple elements. And, although we get our building materials from a wonderful variety of substances gathered from the four corners of the earth in the form of meat, fruits, vegetables, and condiments, they are to be found, as everyone knows, in any dairyman's shop. If one only knew how to do it, he could take 1,200 eggs, whisk them up, and build a complete and perfect man of 150 lbs. weight.
Solid as our body is, it is mostly made up of gases. The five familiar gases, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, chlorine, fluorine, and the three well-known solids, carbon, phosphorus, and lime--or, rather, calcium--constitute all but a trifling fraction of our whole bulk.
The mystery of life never does seem so deep as when one reflects that, by the mixture of these few substances in various proportions, nature makes kings, poets, warriors, saints, burglars, thieves, and all the rest of the great human hotch-potch.
To build a one-hundred-and-fifty pound man, only fourteen elements, altogether, are needed. Five of them are the above-named gases--there is enough gas in a man to fill a gasometer of 3,649 cubic feet--and nine are solids, found in almost any handful of clay you might take up at random; that is to say, carbon, calcium, phosphorus, iron, sulphur, sodium, potassium, silicon, and magnesium. In most people minute quantities of a few other things are found, such as copper, aluminium, manganese, lead, mercury, arsenic, and lithium; but these substances are probably always trespassers.
[Illustration: THERE IS ENOUGH GAS IN A MAN TO FILL A GASOMETER OF 3,649 CUBIC FEET.]
Far and away the most important element in flesh and bone is oxygen, and the bulk of that energetic gas which remains tranquilly compressed within us is something marvellous. In a ten-stone-ten man the weight of oxygen is no less than 106 lbs., and the natural bulk of it, if it were set free, would be equal to a beam of wood one foot square and 1,191 feet--nearly a quarter of a mile--long, or several hundred times the bulk of the body itself. Measured by the gallon it would fill 202 36-gallon barrels.
Even bulkier, though lighter, is the constituent hydrogen. Every man's body contains sufficient of this lightest of all substances to inflate a balloon that would lift himself, balloon, and tackle. In the ten-stone-ten man, for instance, the bulk of hydrogen is over 2,400 cubic feet--equal to the cubic space of a room ten feet high and 15-1/2 feet square, and the weight of it is a trifle short of 13-1/2 lbs.
Of that inexplicable gas, nitrogen, there is about half an ounce to each pound of body weight, or, approximately, 4-1/2 lbs. altogether, in a 150 lb. man. It is about twenty times the bulk of the body, and by no means likes being cramped up in a space of a few cubic inches. This is the most inert gas known. Its bulk in the body is 58 cubic feet.
The reason it is said to be lifeless is that it hates every other element in the world; and, while oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, and the other things, like the Continental Powers, cannot live alone, nitrogen, like England, will not, if it can possibly avoid it, live in company. From this trait arises not only all the action of the human brain and the strength of the muscles, but the terrible force of all the great explosives. While individually without any energy whatever, when it does chance to enter into union with other things nitrogen becomes the most energetic substance in existence.
The great explosive force of nitroglycerine is due to azote. One of the most frightful explosives known is chloride of nitrogen, which goes off if the sun shines on it, or if a leaf touches it; and, in the human body, it is the breaking down of nitrogen compounds which actually constitutes life. Nothing can be alive without nitrogen, itself the type of death.
The last of the substances of any bulk in the body is carbon. There is, as nearly as possible, a sack of 21-1/2 lbs. in a ten-stone-ten man, sufficient to make some sixty-five gross of lead pencils, sixty-five times as many as represented in our picture. It is veritably the fuel of the body, which both keeps us warm and gives us energy to move.
[Illustration: FIVE TACKS LIKE THESE CAN BE MADE FROM THE 48 GRAINS OF IRON IN THE BODY.]
Thus it is the mainspring of animal life, which consists altogether of moving and keeping the body warm; the entire mechanism of the body, eyes to see, mouth and hands to grasp, stomach to digest, heart to circulate, and lungs to supply air, being designed to effect these two simple operations.
Although the above four elements form between 145 and 146 of a man's 150 lbs. of blood, flesh, and bone, the few pounds of the remaining elements are absolutely essential.
A MAN CONTAINS ENOUGH HYDROGEN TO FILL A BALLOON THAT WOULD LIFT HIMSELF--2,400 CUBIC FEET. ]
The erect posture, of which men are so proud, although it makes them the slowest-moving creatures of their size on earth and exposes them to all sorts of accidents, is due, primarily, to the two pounds of calcium and twenty-four ounces of phosphorus in their bodies. Without these, we should have no arms, legs, skulls, or teeth; we should have to crawl like worms, and to live on some pap-like food.
It seems very extraordinary, but if anyone works it out he will see that, if the body had to get on without its two pounds of common lime, there would be no machinery, ships, or railways, no guns and swords, no houses and cities, and human life would entirely consist of crawling out of some hole in the ground at sunrise, chewing berries and leaves, and crawling under the earth again at night.
Therefore, it is impossible to single out any element and say, "This is the most important element of the body." For not only the two pounds of lime, but the pound and a half of phosphorus, and the far less quantity of iron, are as essential as the 106 lbs. of oxygen.
What is most curious about phosphorus is that, being a powerful and terrible poison, the body can contain such a lot of it without suffering injury. Sufficient is scattered among the bones, the flesh, the nervous system, and the various organs to kill off a whole village, or to supply it with all the matches it requires. For the body contains sufficient phosphorus to make 8,064 boxes of matches containing 60 matches each.
What phosphorus does for the bones is plain enough. With calcium and oxygen it forms the exceedingly hard phosphate of calcium that gives the bones their rigidity.
No one appears to be perfectly sure what part it plays in the other tissues of the body. Something very forcible, certainly, for whenever sufficient is not present we grow listless; and nothing tones up the system, in some states of low health, like a course of phosphorus medication. If phosphorus is not precisely, as many people suppose, the element that gives man his intellectual power, it is absolutely essential to a high degree of nervous efficiency.
[Illustration: THE BODY IS A SOAP FACTORY, AND GENERALLY CONTAINS MATTER SUFFICIENT FOR A CAKE THIS SIZE.]
The amount of other elements may be set down as follows:--Chlorine, 4 ozs.; sodium, 3 ozs.; sulphur, 2-1/2 ozs.; fluorine, 2 ozs.; potassium, 1 oz.; magnesium, 12 grs.; silicon, 2 grs.
Estimates vary, however, and, as a matter of fact, the quantities of the elements in different men are by no means the same, nor are they always from day to day the same in any one individual. But, taking the whole of these last-named substances, they probably seldom exceed three-quarters of a pound, yet the machine would come to a dead stop without them.
Without iron, for instance, the blood could not carry oxygen, as it does, from the lungs to the remotest parts of the organism. There are only 48 grains, or one-tenth of an ounce, of iron in the blood; in the whole body there is only sufficient to make four or five tacks--vital tacks, for if you took them away from the body of the strongest man he would drop dead.
Sodium and potassium are equally necessary, and so are sulphur, chlorine, and fluorine.
But the part these take in the processes of life is better seen by observing what combinations they form and what ends these combinations serve. No element exists in the body alone and separate, except, indeed, some accidental traces of oxygen, nitrogen, and a few particles of carbon breathed in by the lungs. They are all present in compounds of extraordinary complexity, mostly put together in the vegetable world, as everyone knows, by some mysterious power of the sun.
And, as was said, all the force of the body is derived from breaking these complex compounds down into simpler combinations. We don't get all the good possible out of them, for we cannot dissociate them into separate elements, because elements have a horror of living separate, and it would take something more powerful than a man's bodily organs to make them do so.
[Illustration: A PILE OF 144 PENCILS. 65 TIMES AS MANY AS THESE CAN BE MADE FROM THE 21-1/2 LBS. OF CARBON IN THE BODY.]
Simple water is the most important compound of all--at least, the most abundant--consisting of hydrogen two parts, and oxygen one part. There are from 90 to 96 lbs., or say a barrel of 9-1/2 gallons, of pure water in a ten-stone-ten man. It has a large number of uses, but the main use is rather curious.
The greater part of bone and fat is what might be called lifeless tissue. The substance that makes the body alive is protoplasm, which forms the chief bulk of muscle, brain, nerves, lungs, heart, etc. And protoplasm exists in the shape of millions of minute globules set side by side, and more or less welded together. But these could no more live out of water than could a shoal of herrings. So that, wherever in the body protoplasm is--and it is almost everywhere--not only is it submerged in water, but it actually passes its whole existence in running water.
Nothing could be done in the body without water. It dissolves the food, carries the blood corpuscles, moistens the lining membranes of the mouth, nose, throat, and all the inside of the body, forms a sort of water cushion around the heart, lungs, and organs of the abdomen, cools us by evaporation as sweat, and does many other useful things. And the more water in the body the more vigorous the life. Restless children have more than adults, and the sluggishness of old age is in great measure due to a sort of bodily drought.
Ordinary table salt, a mixture of solid sodium and gaseous chlorine, does a lot of work in the human body. It seems necessary to the life of every organ, and is found in the blood, muscles, and all the other fluids and solids. It helps the fluids to pass through the thin membranes, so that as well as promoting the absorption of food from intestines and stomach into the blood current it also promotes the percolation of the blood from the minute arteries out into the tissues.
Experiments show that if salt be withheld from an animal he quickly languishes and dies. Yet there are only between six and seven ounces in the whole human fabric, but quite enough to provide a large size dinner table with it. Singularly the body is rather extravagant with its small supply of this important constituent, and loses half an ounce every day.
[Illustration: SALT SUFFICIENT TO FILL THIS CELLAR SIX OR SEVEN TIMES GOES TO THE MAKING OF A MAN.]
Washing soda, or sodium in union with carbon and oxygen, is another substance which performs an indispensable duty. Dissolved in the blood it travels to every part of the body on a mission analogous to that of the useful dustman. Wherever it finds a particle of carbonic acid it seizes it, carries it to the lungs, and discharges it into the air. The quantity of washing soda in the blood is really very small, but the work it does is immense.
You cannot perform any action without making a given quantity of poisonous carbonic acid. Every beat of the heart and rise of the chest, even bending the finger or closing the eyes, gives rise to some of this waste product. And, if it were not continuously removed, it would fatally clog the machine in a very few minutes. The washing soda performs the necessary scavenging duty.
This washing soda is also an important part of bone; mingled with phosphate of lime, phosphate of magnesia, and fluoride of lime, it helps to make our bones and teeth.
Smelling salts seems a funny thing to have within you, but it is there. Sodium, potassium, and ammonium are mixed with hydrogen and oxygen to make it--the pungent ammonia, as well as the soda and potash which are the cleansing principles of soap. These are distributed through all the flesh of the body and are present in the blood. Together with the phosphates they keep the blood and other fluids alkaline. This means that they preserve us from another of the many conditions fatal to life, for if the blood turned acid we should die.
Chloride of ammonium, the familiar inhalement, is another of what might be called the body's spices; so is chloride of potash, a sort of cousin of the popular sore throat cure; and so also is hydrochloric acid.
This last substance is, again, one of those trifles without which existence would be impossible. In the stomach there is a trifling quantity of it, manufactured as required, which kills most of the microbes, we swallow in food, prevents fermentation, and helps digestion.
There are ever so many other inorganic compounds. Besides these, all civilised bodies contain a regular laboratory of adulterants, such as boric acid and salicylic acid taken with milk, butter, and meat, and kept some time in the body; iron, copper, antimony, arsenic, and many other things taken in tea, beer, bottled vegetables, and the like.
[Illustration: SUGAR MAKING IS CARRIED ON IN THE BODY--THOUGH THERE IS NEVER MORE THAN A BOWLFUL OF IT.]
From these comparatively simple bodies we go up to what are called the organic compounds. There is a whole host of organic acids. Of course these are present in very small quantities, or else they would dissolve us like so much sugar.
The salts, the acids, and the elements are still more complexly associated. One mixture of them forms the proteid or albuminous substance which scarcely differs from white of egg. It is this alone, in fact, that lives. It is the chief solid part of muscle, heart, lung, brain, nerve, blood, and exists in every fluid and solid of the body (including sweat and saliva), except bile and one other substance. What distinguishes proteid from everything else is that it contains the lifeless gas nitrogen.
Perhaps the nearest approach one could give to a definition of life is that it consists of the separation of the carbon and nitrogen of proteid substance.
The proteid is taken into the body ready-made, in milk, meat, eggs, fish, and to a less extent in vegetables.
"Hamlet" and "King Lear," the "Iliad" and "Paradise Lost," every speech and sermon one hears, and every book one reads, is really for the most part this dissociation of carbon from nitrogen in another man's brain, made evident to our eyes or ears. And this dissociation is nothing more than if you took some white of egg and mixed with it a quantity of oxygen so as to form urea, carbonic acid, and water.
[Illustration: THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE BODY--A BARREL OF 9-1/2 GALLONS OF WATER.]
Starch and fat supply fuel both in reserve and for immediate consumption. They are only so much carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen mingled in certain proportions and pretty similar to sugar. But they go through curious careers in the body. Most of the fat that one swallows, for instance, meets an alkali in the intestines that has come there specially from the liver and pancreas to make soap.
In the average man some tons of excellent soap are made in a life-time, and at times there must be quite a large cake of soap in the intestines. A quantity of glycerine is also formed as a by-product, just as in a regular soap factory. The body can itself make fat. If you give it lean meat, or starch, or sugar, it will take them as raw material and manufacture good fat.
Starch, a most important constituent, goes through strange transformations. When you swallow a potato it is chiefly starch; that is, six atoms of carbon to ten of hydrogen and five of oxygen. In the intestines a little water is added and it becomes sugar, for sugar is merely starch and water joined together. It goes into the blood as sugar, not being able, in fact, to get through as starch, and then it either burns up in the tissues or goes to the liver, where it drops the water and becomes a kind of starch.
The moment one feels hungry this glycogen changes into sugar again, enters the blood, and is burned up, like a candle, into carbonic acid and water. Sugar in the body is like loose cash in the pocket--it does not stay long; and there seldom is a bowlful of it. But, in some extraordinary way, if the body wishes to be saving, it sometimes converts the sugar into a substance called inosit, which, though sweet, is insoluble in water, and can, therefore, remain a long time in the liver, spleen, lungs, and muscle, being very abundant in the muscle of drunkards.
There are many other compound substances in the body. Alcohol is found in blood, bile, muscle, and brain; gum in the glands that make saliva, and in the lungs; pepsin, that digests food, in the stomach; one or two ferments, like yeast; and the pigments that colour the hair and the eye. None of these higher compounds is put together by the body. It never takes the elements and builds them up. It can only break down complex things into less complex things.
But it does one kind of manufacturing or constructive work, using complex and ready-made substances, that is amazing. No one who has eaten a cutlet, a sweet-bread, a kidney, a piece of liver, heart, tongue, and tripe, need be reminded how various are the different organs in composition. All this variety, however, the body brings about itself, marvellously selecting from the one raw material, blood, the different substances and the appropriate quantities for each kind of tissue.
Out of the blood the body takes the compounds containing calcium, phosphorus, oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, and some other things, for the making of the skeleton. The skeleton exists for the sole purpose of giving support to the other parts, and forms 14 hundredths, or about one-seventh, of the body-weight in a man, and 13 hundredths, or about one-eighth, in a woman.
Thus a man of ten-stone-ten would have to carry a skeleton weighing 21 lbs.--that is, while quite fresh. When dry it would weigh only 12-1/2 lbs. In a woman of eight stone the weights would be 14 lbs. and 8-1/2 lbs. respectively.
To make muscle, the body takes other substances in appropriate quantities from the blood. Whether you are weak and powerless, or fit to form one of an Oxford eight and to lift weights with Sandow, depends, to a considerable extent, on the selective skill of your blood.
The muscular system constitutes three-sevenths of the structure, contains half the water and half the proteid of the entire body, and weighs, in a ten-stone-ten man, between 63 and 64 lbs.
Fat is taken from the blood mostly ready-formed, and is stored away as packing material and reserve food. It is the most inconstant of all tissues in quantity, and varies with every change of health, air, diet, work, and with each important life-event. But, usually, it averages from one-fortieth to one-twentieth of the body weight, or from 3-3/4 to 7-1/2 lbs. in a ten-stone-ten man, enough to make several pounds of candles like those we have photographed.
The blood itself is manufactured in the body, one part by certain organs, another part by other organs. The making of it is still not fully understood. But the body knows when it has and has not sufficient. If one loses a pint of blood, the vessels take in a pint of water from the tissues in a very short period, and soon they have that water loaded with ingredients to bring it up to standard strength.
So the actual bulk and weight of blood scarcely ever varies in the same person, although it may be quite different in different individuals. For the average man it may be set down at from one-fourteenth to one-twelfth of the body weight--that is, between 10-3/4 and 12-1/2 lbs. Women and fat men have proportionately less.
The remainder of the body-weight is made up of the heavy liver, the light lungs, the heart, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, intestines, brain, nerves, skin, hair, nails. And all these sundries weigh from 45 to 51 lbs.
It will be seen that a man is made on a different principle from that on which he makes most of the structures of civilised life. He builds them for long endurance; he builds himself for quick destruction. Nothing in him is permanent, or intended to be, except the skeleton and teeth. Westminster Abbey contains all the materials of a man's body, but it has been made into a compound edifice out of simple lime, wood, stone, etc., with the intention that it shall remain compound as long as possible. A man's body is constructed of compound substances so placed together that, by their interaction, they shall speedily and without ceasing break each other down into simple substances; and life is thus, as was said, essentially a process of destruction.
[Illustration: 8,064 BOXES OF MATCHES LIKE THESE CAN BE MADE FROM THE PHOSPHORUS IN A MAN.]
All these facts will help us to realise the wonders of the human body, and will substantiate the somewhat startling statement that the body is something of a chandler's shop.
[Illustration: THE ROGUEY MAN]
At baby boy I fondly peep-- I came to kiss good-night; But, there, my darling's fast asleep, Closed are those blue eyes bright.
Wee sturdy arms tired out with play Are folded and at rest; The feet that pattered round all day Are tucked in downy nest.
A stray lock from the curly head Lies on the snow-white brow; The smile from merry lips has fled, No dimple greets me now.
Softly he breathes; sleep on, sweet dear; May happy dreams be thine, And guardian-angels hover near, To bless thee, baby mine.
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But what in all the world is this-- The blankets thrown aside, The rose-bud lips upraised to kiss, The dancing eyes oped wide?
And loud he crows with baby glee, His curls with laughter shake. Why, he has just been fooling me-- The roguey man's awake!
A WAYSIDE ROMANCE.
BY C. K. BURROW.
_Illustrated by Fred Pegram._
I was travelling southward in no particularly contented mood--at least, it pleased me to think that I was going against my will, and solely out of respect to my father's brother, who had summoned me to his house on a matter which might have stirred my blood a little had I chosen to give my fancy range.
But youth is the most uncertain thing in the world, and, since the affair was none of my doing, I chose to assume that I had no interest in it.
And yet, when half my journey was done, I began to feel some uneasiness, some excitement even. This was partly due, no doubt, to the fact that I had never travelled before in my own chaise; it was an experience that made equal appeal to my pride and to my sense of responsibility. I was proud of my new importance, and at the same time a little fearful of making some mistake that should betray me as a novice to the vigilant eyes of innkeepers or hostlers.
I had recently, by the death of my father, come into a moderate fortune. I was the only child, and my mother had died long before, so that, apart from a few legacies, I was sole heir. As I have said, I was young, being no more than two and twenty, perhaps too young to have unchecked licence in the use of lands and money. You may be sure that life shone before me; it seemed to me a field for high adventure, a thing stuffed with romance. From the empty pockets of a boy I had suddenly risen to the full purse of a man of substance; and, to be honest, I think it was somewhat to my honour that I made no evil use of my new power. I had many faults then, pride being the chief; but since those days I have learnt wisdom. With the turn of the century many changes came to me; but I am now only writing of a single episode that occurred before this century was born.
Well, then, some three-fourths of the way between Worcester, from which I started, and Dorking, in Surrey, to which I was journeying, I stopped to change horses, and for my own and my servants' refreshment. During the last hour I had been thinking a good deal of what awaited me at my uncle's, and my pulse began to have the better of my will. In a word, I was going to see the girl whom I was destined to marry.
[Illustration: "I STOPPED TO CHANGE HORSES, AND SAW THE LANDLORD STANDING AT THE DOOR."]
My father and his brother had not been on the best of terms for many years; but that had not prevented them from arranging that their children should wed--an arrangement in which I had never been consulted or, so far as I knew, the lady either. To add to the uncertainty of the whole affair, I had never seen her; I did not even know whether she were ugly or beautiful, short or tall. I might be going to assume a bondage of roses or of steel.
However, I was determined that if the damsel did not please me, or I her, there should be no marriage. I had no taste for martyrdom, and had too delicate a stomach to take a wife without love.
I forget the name of the village at which this halt was made, but I remember that the sign of the inn was the "George and Dragon." The place had a long white front, with green shutters to the windows, and over the door a great lamp hung from stanchions let into the wall. I judged that trade was slack, for as I descended from my carriage I saw the landlord standing at the door, smoking a pipe, and winking in the sunlight like a sleepy dog.
I told him to have fresh horses ready in an hour, and to attend to my servants' appetites, and also bade him send me a meal as quickly as he could; I intended to end my journey before sunset, and sleep that night in my uncle's house. He took my orders placidly (I never saw a host who was less awake), and conducted me to the parlour. It was empty, and I sat down by an open window to look out upon the village street. It was very warm and still, a day of perfect early summer weather, and before long, as though the mere air of the place inclined to rest, I began to nod in my chair.
And with this nodding came a pleasant dream, and, of course, it was about her whom I was on my way to meet. It seemed that I saw her standing in a sunny orchard, with ripening apples over her head, and her face and dress were flecked with the moving shadows of leaves. The grass was high about her feet, reaching, indeed, almost to her knees; her brown hair floated free about her shoulders; and there was such a sweet smile on her lips, and so inviting a glance in her eyes, that I made forward as though to clasp her.
"Nay, Cousin Nigel," she said; "wait, Cousin Nigel," and stepped back. All my thought at once became how to win this fair creature of the orchard; but with that I awoke, and found myself in the parlour of the "George and Dragon," and there was a maid setting out my meal.
As I turned to the table there was a great noise of wheels and shouting, and I stood up to see what sort of traveller came with such a tumult of arrival. A chaise drew up before the door, the horses all of a foam, and the postillions smeared with dust. One of the men jumped down and had the door open before the landlord was awake. A very elegantly-dressed man stepped out and handed forth a lady after him; she took his hand timidly, without looking into his face, and I saw that she would have freed it again long before he had a mind to let it go.
She held her head so low that I could not get a clear sight of her face at that moment, but her figure (and I already held myself to be a judge in such matters) was so graceful and slim, and, as it were, with such a force of youth in it, that I felt myself happy only to have looked upon it. "Come, come," said I to myself, "remember Cousin Audrey and the errand you are on"; but the difficulty was that I had nothing of Cousin Audrey to remember except her name. I did not like the look of the girl's companion, and I liked it less when I saw him at close quarters, later on.
I sat down to the table while my gentleman was giving his orders, which he did with small courtesy and great noise, and had already made good way with an excellent cold capon before the new guests were ushered into the room. The man hesitated for a moment when he saw that the place was already occupied, but after looking me up and down in a manner that made the blood tingle in my cheeks, and, I suppose concluding that I was harmless, he came in without more ado and drew the girl after him. She had been crying; the tears even then were wet upon her lashes, and her breast shook with half-spent sobs.
She threw me a timid, wistful glance, and then dropped her eyes; if she had gone down on her knees and begged for my consideration it could not have made me more her servant than that glance. She was most tenderly pretty, and the more I stole furtive looks at her the more pleased I was with the message my eyes carried to my heart. As to her age, it could not have been beyond eighteen, so that I felt old by comparison, and I was infinitely touched by the redness of her eyes and cheeks where she had rubbed them with the tiny handkerchief still tight-clasped in her hand. I was sure she would have spoken to me had she dared, and I was resolved that, at any rate, we should not part unacquainted.
[Illustration: "A VERY ELEGANTLY DRESSED MAN STEPPED OUT OF THE COACH AND HANDED FORTH A LADY."]
As for the child's companion, the mere sight of him, added to her tears, made me sick. He was not altogether an ill-looking man, and might by some have been accounted handsome; but he had a brutal mouth, a shifty, restless eye, and was of a swarthy, insolent complexion that I did not love. As for dress, he put my outfit, although I had rather prided myself upon it, completely out of countenance. He had more silk about him than all my wardrobe contained, and his ruffles were of the finest lace; he was also decked with gold chains and rare jewels--at least, to me the jewels appeared rare, but I doubt, after all, whether they were more than paste. He seated himself close to the lady, and would have ventured some tendernesses with her, but she gave him no encouragement; at which, smiling grimly to himself, he watched her as a cat watches a frightened bird.
I went on eating for some time, and applied myself with great attention to the wine, in order to spur a somewhat tardy tongue. In half an hour I knew my carriage would be ready, and that was but short time to succour beauty in distress, for that was what my heart conjectured the scene before me to represent. At last, leaning back in my chair and uttering a sigh of satisfaction, I found my voice.
"I give you good day, sir. This inn serves fair refreshment, and is better than it looks."
"I've known worse," he said, glancing at the table; then he turned his back on me again.
"You travel fast," I said, "as though upon some pleasant errand."
"Or as though the runners were behind," he said.
"No, no; even they, surely, would respect your company. The errand must be pleasant."
"Your conjecture, sir," he said, "may be right or it may be wrong. I imagine that to be my business."
"Come," said I, "don't be angry, but drink a glass with me. We meet only to part, and good liquor will dwell better in the memory than curt words."
"Sir," he answered, eyeing me savagely, "I desire neither your liquor nor your acquaintance, and you may drink your wine yourself."
Now, although he was perfectly within his right in refusing my tendered courtesy, I did not at all like the manner of his refusal, and my blood began to warm, the more particularly as the girl had fallen again to quiet weeping.
"I thank you," I said, "for so gracious a permission, and may you learn better manners before you grow too old."
"The devil!" he said. "What ails the pair of you? The boy is impudent and deserves a whipping, and you," turning to the lady, "not much less. For God's sake stop snivelling and be done with this nonsense."
"As for the whipping," said I, dropping a hand on my sword, "I take and give only whippings with steel."
"Bravo!" he sneered, "and a pretty hand you make at the game, I'll be bound."
"I'm at your service, sir," I said, draining my glass.
The fellow was terribly put out, but I could see that he had good reason to avoid a quarrel; he looked from me to the window and from the window to the lady, and bit his lip with rage. After a pause, he said, more quietly--
"I fight only with men, and then with such as can show beards."
"For the lack of the beard," said I, "you have to thank my razor."
"Indeed," he said; "then the razor must be like my Lord Chancellor, and do little work."
"You have a pretty wit, sir!"
"I have often been commended for it."
"Doubtless by men, then," said I, "for it bites too sharply for women."
"Nay, you mistake, for women are my greatest flatterers." He smiled so grossly at the girl that if my life had had to answer for it I could not have held my tongue.
"Is it a woman's way to flatter by tears?" I asked.
"You young dog! If I had time and were unencumbered, I'd slit that saucy tongue of yours," he cried.
"I asked for information, sir, not for threats. I thought that in your charming society, which I enjoy immensely, women might find their pleasure in tears."
"You think too much, boy," he said; and then, with an oath, he left the room, and I heard him cursing the landlord for his delay in serving him, calling him more foul names than were proper for a girl to listen to. That was my opportunity, and I was quick to take it, the more readily as the lady's imploring eyes met mine again in full gaze.
"Madam," said I, "if you are in any trouble, and need a protector, my sword and life are at your service. I ask no questions--it is yours to command."
"Oh! sir," she answered, "I have been wicked, and 'tis now too late," and she fell to weeping afresh.
"Dry your eyes, dear lady. Foolish you may have been, but never wicked. Anyway, this is no time for repenting. Do you travel willingly with this gentleman, or do you wish to be rid of his company?"
"Yes, yes, to be rid of him--and to forget."
"His name is?"
"Northfield," she murmured, as his step sounded outside the door.
He entered, scowling, and glanced suspiciously at us; but as I had not moved and the lady was still trying to dry her tears, he said nothing, and sat down again at her side. A moment later food and wine were brought, and as they took their places at the table I rose and occupied my old station by the window.
My blood was up, and by this time I had forgotten all about the object of my journey; the lady's youth and beauty had made so subtle and at the same time so strong an appeal to me, that I stopped to consider nothing more. I have never, in all my life, been able to stand against a woman's weeping, and at the age at which I then was, just in the first flush of freedom, I was in no humour to reason with myself. I stood at the window, but in such a way that I missed nothing that passed at the table, and the more I saw the more I itched for battle.
Northfield ate largely and drank deeply, but the girl hardly carried a morsel to her mouth, and when she did the quivering of her lips was pitiful to see. He urged her to take more, but, she only shook her head, and at last put down her knife and fork altogether.
"'MADAM,' SAID I, 'IF YOU ARE IN ANY TROUBLE AND NEED A PROTECTOR, MY SWORD AND LIFE ARE AT YOUR SERVICE.'" ]
"Come, child," he said, "I begin to weary of this nonsense; I don't want a crying baby on my hands."
"I can't help crying," she said.
"You must help it, my lady; people will think strange things to see your red eyes, and perhaps spoil the sport."
My carriage was being brought round, and the sound of it made the man prick up his ears. At the same moment an idea shot into my head.
"The chaise is ready," Northfield said; "quick, drink something at least, if you cannot eat."
He filled a glass with wine, and I could have sworn he adroitly dropped some accursed powder into it.
"Drink," he said, pushing it towards her.
"You are mistaken," said I: "that carriage is mine."
The girl had put out her hand to take the glass, but as I spoke I moved towards the door and purposely stumbled against her arm; the glass was overset, and as the liquor soaked into the cloth, there the powder lay upon the surface, like fine grey sand.
"A thousand pardons!" I said.
"You clumsy fool!" cried Northfield, rising as though to strike me. But he thought better of it, and took the lady roughly by the arm.
"Come, we will leave this gentleman to play the fool alone," he said.
"I'm going back," she said. "I will--go--no further with you."
"Come!" he said, and tightened his hold upon her arm until she cried out.
"Sir," said I, staring at the stained cloth, "did you ever know red wine to have grey dregs before?"
He turned pale, and the girl cried out again; she tried to free herself, and called in terror that she would not go. He clapped a heavy hand over her mouth.
"Mr. Northfield, if that is your true name," I said, "you're a rogue, and the lady shall not stir a step."
He released her suddenly to confront me, and in answer to a signal she ran round and stood trembling by my side.
"You see, she puts herself under my protection," I said. "It is not nice for a gentleman to drug a lady's wine; indeed, the law might have something to say."
"By God!" he cried, his face white with passion, "you shall pay for this. She is my wife."
He loosened his sword; I glanced out of the window and saw that my carriage was almost ready.
"No, no!" cried the girl.
"Keep close to me," I whispered to her, and we moved towards the door. But Northfield was there before us, and stood with his back against it, sword in hand. I drew, and, begging my companion not to spoil the chances of her escape by crying out, faced him with steadier nerves than I could have given myself credit for.
"Stand aside!" I cried.
"Fool, do you want your lungs pricked?"
"They are a fair target--try, if it pleases you." He made a pass at me, and in a wink we had engaged. I was a fair swordsman, but he was a better; I, however, had the advantage in cooler nerves and the better position, for so long as I could keep him to the door he could not fall back. I was fearful, every second, that the ring of steel would bring the servants about us, and therefore, at great risk, I tried to end the matter quickly.
My chance came--he overreached himself, my point entered his breast just below the neck, and he fell forward, swooning, upon his face. In a moment I had him on his back and his shirt open; the wound was nasty, but, I gladly thought, not serious; I had no fancy to have the man's death on my conscience.
The lady was so weak from terror that I had almost carry her out, but when we reached the door she plucked up courage to lean upon my arm. The landlord was blinking in the sun, as usual, and my chaise was ready. I put five pounds into his hand, bade him not disturb his other guest for half an hour, that we might have a good start in case the fellow was hot for a pursuit, and then, opening the carriage door, handed the girl in and bade the postillions ride for an extra guinea. Directly I was seated, off we went, at such a terrific pace and in such a cloud of dust that you would have thought a royal embassy was on the road to court.
[Illustration: "I PURPOSELY STUMBLED AGAINST HER ARM AND UPSET THE GLASS INTO WHICH HE HAD PUT THE POWDER."]
I leaned back against the cushions at my companion's side, and looked at her cautiously. The tears had ceased, her eyes were closed, and though her mouth still quivered from time to time, her breathing gradually grew quieter and her breast still. I felt extraordinarily lifted up at the sight of her; she was so young, so sweet, so tenderly fashioned. Her left hand lay in her lap, and I saw that there was no wedding ring upon it; I had been certain before that the man had lied. I was so moved by her nearness to me that I could not refrain from touching her fingers. They closed upon mine for a happy second.
"My protector," she murmured.
In half an hour, when my heat had had time to cool, I began to reflect upon the strangeness of my situation, and it was certainly sufficiently awkward to make me serious. Here was I, a young bachelor, on my way to my uncle's house, whose daughter I was to marry, and in my carriage was a girl, young and pretty, and of a most engaging person, whose name I did not know, whose gallant, or abductor, or whatever he was, I had incontinently wounded, and whose simplicity, apparently, was so profound that she was as contented in my hands as she might have been in her mother's.
By this time she appeared to be asleep, and I had not the heart to call her back to knowledge of the speeding carriage and her world of sorrows. But at last, when we were some dozen miles or so upon our way, I thought it best to try to bring matters to an issue. I touched her hand again, and again her fingers answered mine; she had not been asleep after all!
"Madam," I said, "we are now travelling southward, and if your home lies in this direction I will bid my men drive you there."
"Oh, no, no; not home!" she cried.
"Where, then, if not home?"
"Anywhere but home," she said; "my father will never forgive me."
"He could not, surely, withstand your pleading."
She opened her eyes and shook her head.
"He would never forgive a runaway," she said.
"Not even when the runaway thinks better of it, and returns?"
"Ah, but that is not all. If you only knew how naughty I've been!"
[Illustration: "MY POINT ENTERED HIS BREAST JUST BELOW THE NECK, AND HE FELL FORWARD SWOONING UPON HIS FACE."]
"Dear lady, you make much of little; I dare take my oath you have no heavy sin upon your conscience. Suppose you did run away with this rascal Northfield, there's no great harm done, and you've stopped in time."
"I believed he loved me; he said he loved me, and I was so unhappy. But he was, oh! so rough, so cruel. I hated him then!"
She stamped her foot and set her little teeth together, which made the heat rise in me again. I was sorry that my sword had not pricked deeper; the man who could plot evil against so fair a life as this deserved no pity.
"Think no more of him," I said. "You are now with me, and as safe in my keeping, if you will trust me, as in a nursery."
"I trust you--yes," she said; "you saved me."
"Ah," said I, "if I had such a sweet maid as you for sister!"
"I will be your sister," she said, smiling into my eyes.
"Then, dear sister, you will have a brother whose life is at your command."
"You have already risked it once."
"That was nothing, child; even my groom would have done as much."
She shook her curls in pretty disbelief, and my responsibility began to weigh upon me again. For, although all this was very pretty, and a game at which I could have spent hours, yet the carriage was still flying at top speed towards my destination, and if the lady would not tell me where she lived, what was I to do? In all my uncertainty, however, and in spite of the talk of sister, I was sure of one thing, and that was, that I would not marry my Cousin Audrey.
After a time I drew to my companion again, and could not but observe how, with returning security, her loveliness grew; it seemed to expand and open, like a blossom shyly turning sunwards after a storm. The thought that if I insisted on taking her home I might have little opportunity to cultivate an acquaintance already dear to me, put another notion into my head; and although it was wild enough I was in no mood to reject it on that score.
"I am going," said I, "to a relative in Surrey, and if you like to come with me, I can promise you a courteous, if not a cordial, welcome. You will be safe there, at least, and to-morrow, or at any time you wish, I will see your father and plead for your forgiveness. It already grows towards evening, and we cannot now be far from my uncle's house."
"I will go with you," she said, "and, oh! thank you for the thought."
When it was settled, I began to see to what a pretty complication I was working, and, indeed, it seemed doubtful whether my own reception would be even courteous. The circumstances in which I met the lady would of course explain something; but I had no reason to suppose my uncle either blind or a fool, and I was determined, from the first, to let him see where my preference lay. As to my Cousin Audrey, since she had never seen me, she could not love me, so there would be no hearts broken. The probability was that she disliked the prospect of my visit as much as I did.
It was a beautiful, clear evening, wonderfully gracious and serene, and in the long silence that fell between us I turned to the carriage window and looked out at the country through which we sped.
My companion, during all the time we had been together, had never taken any account of the country--an omission I have observed in many girls. Presently we passed over the base of a noble hill, with white shining through the green, and all astir, as it seemed, with little winds.
"That must be Box Hill!" I cried.
She started and laid a hand on my arm, leaning to my side of the chaise to look.
"Box Hill!" she repeated, and her face paled and her voice shook.
"Why not Box Hill?" I said. "We're close to Dorking now."
The poor child shook with fright, and hid her face in her hands.
"Oh, you're taking me home," she cried, "and I did so trust you!"
"Dear lady," I said, "if your home is here, 'tis no fault of mine that you are back again. Remember, I beseech you, that you never told me where you lived, nor did I question you."
She took no heed of me, but wrung her hands and cast herself back against the cushions in despair.
"To come back after all!" she cried. "I was wicked to run away, I know, I know; but to come back the same day like a child-truant! I never really loved Mr. Northfield, but he persuaded, and persuaded, and flattered me, and at last I promised. I was to marry my cousin, whom I'd never seen, and I couldn't bear the thought of it. He was coming to-to-day, and he'll be at h-home n-now, and I shall h-have to m-marry him!"
I listened to this speech in blank amazement; but when it was ended I laughed aloud for joy of the light that broke upon me.
"You're un-k-kind to l-laugh," she sobbed.
"Unkind to you?" I cried, catching her hand. "What is your name, sweet mistress?"
"Audrey M-Mortimer," she said.
"And mine," cried I, "is Nigel Gray, your Cousin Nigel, very much at your service, and very much in love with Cousin Audrey!"
For a moment we gazed into each other's eyes in a kind of transport, and then, without more ado, I took the little lady in my arms, and kissed her. At first she tried to be a little prim and coy, but, later, she sat upon my knee, although the chaise was narrow, and clasped her arms about my neck.
"You dear, brave cousin!" she cried.
"Am I so dreadful, and will you run away again?"
"Don't tease me, Nigel," she pleaded, and laid her cheek against mine. She was little more than a child, after all, and my heart beat high and quick to think from what, under Providence, I had saved her that day.
"What can I tell father?" she asked.
"You only left home this morning?"
[Illustration: "I TOOK THE LITTLE LADY IN MY ARMS AND KISSED HER."]
"Tell him that you ventured on to the road to see this strange cousin of yours, and that he recognised you and picked you up."
"But that would be a story!"
"Well, I will tell it for you, if you will forgive me afterwards. Do you think you will ever love me, Audrey?"
"I love you already, Cousin Nigel."
"Nigel, without the cousin."
"Nigel," she said.
And so, you see, the adventure ended happily for both of us, but I told my Uncle Mortimer, privately, exactly what had really occurred, in order that we might be on guard against the man Northfield. He, however, had had his lesson; and his wound, I suppose, not proving serious, he hid the scar and thought it best to keep a closed mouth. Indeed, not long after, he disappeared from the country, and was heard of later on in America, where I trust he was better appreciated than he ever was here.
As for Audrey, no sweeter woman ever breathed than my wife, and she has made up to me a thousand fold for thinking so lightly of me before she had ever seen my face. And for myself, though I have had many encounters since then and against heavier odds, none ever had so fair a reward.
A FAMOUS WIGMAKER'S FAMOUS ALBUM.
SOME INTERESTING THEATRICAL AUTOGRAPHS.
BY GAVIN MACDONALD.
Mr. William Clarkson, of Wellington Street, where the wigs come from, is almost as well known to the general public as the stars of the theatrical and musical professions who frequent his establishment.
In the whole of London, I doubt if you could find a more interesting place to spend an afternoon than the Wellington Street wig shop. And, if you are to any extent a hero worshipper of stage players, it is here you will find them, free, unconventional, Bohemian fellows all, with the strait lace of the footlights gone.
Clarkson's is a sort of theatrical Rotten Row, where all the professional world is wont to meet, and mix reminiscences and general chit-chat of the stage with orders for wigs and make-ups.
The shop itself is hardly less remarkable than the business carried on within it. It has a touch of the last century about it, with its low-pitched ceilings and curious anterooms.
[Illustration: SKETCH BY SEYMOUR LUCAS, R.A.]
From the former hang hundreds of grotesque pantomime and fancy-dress masks, scarcely clearing the heads of the customers. In glass cases around the walls of shop and anterooms are wigs and disguises and costumes of every description, an empire's ransom in paste jewels, and the serving of an army corps in stage weapons.
Almost any morning in the theatrical season you will find three or four well-known faces among the crowd in the establishment. It is a convenient meeting-place for one thing, and it teems with familiar faces and opportunities for friendly chats for another.
[Illustration: PHILIP BURNE-JONES' SKETCH OF HIMSELF.]
The groups of actors, actresses, musicians or artists, as the case may be, stand here and there chatting unconcernedly, while the various _employés_ rush hither and thither, dodging between them like a pack of startled deer. And down at the desk sits Mr. Clarkson himself, characteristically occupied in doing twenty things at once. First, it is a genial word with a well-known star across the top of his desk. Then a word is exchanged with a distant group, during which the telephone rings up, and there is the Prince of Wales' fancy-dress ball costume to be discussed. Sir Henry Irving wants a wig curled, or possibly a new elephant is required in a hurry for a West-end pantomime.
[Illustration: THUMBNAIL BY PHIL MAY.]
Meanwhile assistants momentarily consult him, till you begin to think it is a miracle his reason survives; yet somehow all are answered, and additional orders are shouted to others in the far corners of the building into the bargain. This strange mixture of hustle and scurry on the one hand and on the other is a feature of Clarkson's I have never yet missed, although I have visited the place times without number.
Needless to say, there is scarcely a member of the artistic professions whom Mr. Clarkson cannot number among his friends. He is always ready with an apropos story should any of them be mentioned, or should you evince any special interest in the subject it is quite possible he will show you his famous albums, and point out the absent one's autograph and remarks.
The autograph books--for there are two of them--are the most wonderful of their kind in the world, containing as they do the signatures of almost every member of the theatrical profession, both here and abroad.
[Illustration: SIR HENRY IRVING'S AUTOGRAPH.]
There are many hundreds of them, many accompanied by quotations from favourite parts, snatches of verse, stage catch phrases identified with their names, and so forth.
Many of the artists have contributed sketches. The musicians in most cases have scribbled bars of their own compositions after their autographs.
For the purpose of illustrating this article I have reproduced a few autographs from this unique collection. To publish them all would need a special edition.
Most if not all of the names will be familiar to the readers of this magazine.
First we give some artists' thumbnails. The most ambitious is the pen drawing of a Cavalier's head, by Mr. Seymour Lucas, R.A.
It is a pity that we are not able to give a larger reproduction of the inimitable pencil drawing of a negro's head by Phil May. It is a wonderful piece of drawing.
[Illustration: MISS TERRY'S QUOTATION--]
Perhaps the cleverest thing in the album is the sketch by that versatile actor-artist, J. Bernard Partridge.
Not less interesting is the sketch of himself by Philip Burne-Jones.
After the artists come the actors and actresses.
Miss Ellen Terry quotes Shakespeare, "And mine, to eke out his." Underneath is a particularly happy retort by Sir Arthur Sullivan, who is inclined to baldness. He writes: "And his (Clarkson's), to eke out mine (hair)."
[Illustration: --AND SIR ARTHUR SULLIVAN'S RETORT.]
What Mr. Tree means by his quotation from _Henry V._ I am not prepared to say. Is it the wig or the maker? I leave it to Mr. Clarkson.
All playgoers will be glad to compare the diversified signatures, whether their favourite be Sir Henry Irving, Sir Squire or Lady Bancroft, Mr. Forbes Robertson, Madame Sarah Bernhardt, or the veteran Mr. Toole.
Sarah Bernhardt writes a French sentence. Curiously enough, although this appears at the very bottom of a page, it was the first autograph in the book; another instance of the great Sarah's eccentricity.
[Illustration: SIR SQUIRE AND LADY BANCROFT'S CONTRIBUTION.]
Mr. Clarkson supplies Sarah Bernhardt with all her wigs, and they are never even curled by anyone but him, being sent especially from Paris for the purpose.
[Illustration: MR. G. R. SIMS ON THE "WIGGERIES."]
[Illustration: MADAME MELBA WISHES "GOOD LUCK."]
[Illustration: (Sketch and text by Toni Rankin)]
[Illustration: MR. DIOSY WRITES A SNATCH FROM "THE GEISHA" IN JAPANESE AND ENGLISH.]
[Illustration: (Text by Emma Calvé)]
[Illustration: MADAME PATTI'S TEXT.]
[Illustration: MR. F. STOREY'S IDEA OF HIMSELF.]
[Illustration: AN AIR BY A POPULAR COMPOSER.]
[Illustration: (Pietro Mascagni's Signature)]
[Illustration: WHAT ONE OF THE "BABES IN THE WOOD" SAYS.]
[Illustration: MR. TREE QUOTES SHAKESPEARE.]
Mr. Fred Storey's portrait of himself was in all probability produced by the aid of a particularly lissom quill pen.
Mr. George R. Sims contributes a funny travesty of a speech of one of the witches in _Macbeth_--
"By the pricking of my thumbs Something _wigged_ this way comes; Open _locks_, whoever knocks."
The inimitable Dan Leno's "Yours with or without lace" is a characteristically original way of saying that their friendship was not one of a business nature merely.
One autograph is of special interest in view of the tragic happening of a few months ago. It is the characteristically bluff signature of the late William Terriss, written while he was playing with Sir Henry Irving in the year 1890.
[Illustration: SARA BERNHARDT'S COMPLIMENTS.]
When Mr. Clarkson was a boy just fresh from school, Terriss used to come into his father's workroom and give his order for wigs directly to the younger Clarkson, insisting that he, and he alone, should make them from beginning to end. The late Mr. Terriss may therefore be said to have been Mr. Clarkson's first client.
One of the smallest spaces in the whole book contains quite a bunch of prominent names, the signatures of Violet Cameron, Kyrle Bellew, Yvette Guilbert, and Arthur Pinero occupying a space very little larger than a postage stamp.
"My dear Clarkson," wrote the late Sir Augustus Harris, "what do you wish me to say? Echo answers, What? You answer, Nix! So I wish you all good luck."
The majority of the world's greatest musicians are represented in the album. For example, Leon Cavalli has contributed two bars of his _Pagliacci_; Mascagni, of _Cavalleria Rusticana_ fame, signs his name across the musical stave, and Madame Melba contributes her best wishes.
[Illustration: (Johnston Forbes Robertson's Autograph)]
Another quotation of special interest, as it is written by the great singer Madame Patti, runs as follows: "A beautiful voice is the gift of God.--Adelina Patti-Nicolini."
Then by way of contrast there is a portion of one of Miss Hope Temple's songs, in the handwriting of the composer.
One of the most interesting contributions is that supplied by Mr. Diosy, the popular Secretary of the Japan Society. It consists of a message to Mr. Clarkson, and a few lines from _The Geisha_ in Japanese writing and characters.
"From an artiste in airs to an artiste in hairs," over the signature and music of Mr. Isidore de Lara, is a particularly happy contribution.
Many of the illustrations are self-explanatory, and we have therefore omitted mention of them in this article.
[Illustration: MR. TOOLE'S MODESTY.]
[Illustration: A WORD FROM DRURY LANE.]
[Illustration: (Isodore de Lara - Prologo: 'The Light of Asia')]
[Illustration: A MURDERED MAN'S AUTOGRAPH. (William Terriss)]
[Illustration: (Judicie H. Cohen)]
[Illustration: (Violet Vanburgh)]
[Illustration: DAN LENO'S INTIMATION.]
[Illustration: (Meril Tempest)]
[Illustration: MR. PINERO FINDS HIMSELF IN PLEASANT COMPANY.]
[Illustration: Kyrle Bellew]
[Illustration: Yvette Guilbert]
[Illustration: Jean de Herzke]
A COMPLETE STORY BY WALTER E. GROGAN.
_Illustrated by Harold Copping._
When a man has looked at death out in Nevada, has rioted in a brawling mining camp, and has lived for years where the constraint of civilisation is considerably relaxed, he may outwardly conform to the decorum of an English village, but underneath you may be certain he is as lawless as ever.
Gustave Derwent locked up the memories of the days when he was known as "Wild Gus," banished the recollection of the rough life he had spent, and brought to Grorepound, on the confines of Dartmoor, only the knowledge of his great wealth; but at heart the master of Grorespound Hall was "Wild Gus" still.
County society received him rapturously. He was very wealthy, and happily of a good family. The Derwents of Gloucestershire were quite in the very best set. It is true that younger sons had little besides the old name, and it was therefore sometimes inconvenient to know them; but Gustave had made quite a fortune in mining, and the name made it easy for him to step into the set which had been his in past days.
His connections were anxious that his subscriptions to the hunt and other county institutions, and also his entertainments generally, might be taken as part payment of their own debts to society. There was little doubt that Derwent understood this, and therefore chose Devon.
Grorepound had little to recommend it. Those who called upon him were few, because there were very few to call; the village was merely rural.
"I have been hunted--it's much more exciting than chasing foxes; and as for shooting, there isn't much sport in butchering tame pheasants," he said to the Squire, standing squarely against his mantelpiece.
The Squire remonstrated.
[Illustration: "DAPHNE BLAKISTON WAS PRETTY."]
"It's all very well for me, Derwent. I know every inch of the place and every fool living within twenty miles. I was born here. I fit it and it fits me. I was at sea at Oxford, and when I came down I was glad. My father mortgaged most of the land, I've done the rest. I'm not rich. I'm growing poorer every day. Land isn't what it was. But I love the place. There's a whole army of Blakistons in the church, and please God I shall add to their number. I am someone here--I'm nobody away. I like to potter after the hounds on a half-bred. I like to catch my trout. I have old friends here, and can talk to them of old times. But you? Why, bless me, Derwent, you are rich, not bad looking, and young. What do you want to bury yourself here for? It's no life for you. It isn't as though you were married even."
At all of which Derwent smiled. He smiled habitually. It was not a pleasant smile, for in it lurked a suspicion of irony.
"Blakiston, no man can understand another. This place suits me. It's quiet, and I want quiet. I have had my fill of excitement out West. I am young--but forty does not mean a boy."
"Forty! pooh! what's forty?" cried the Squire. He was well over sixty, and looked upon the vault in the church of which he was fond of speaking as a possibility very hazy from its remoteness.
"Forty, my friend, is middle age. I am not married, and am not anxious for a wife. A wife seems to me a risky bargain; because you are lucky, that is no reason why I should be."
The Squire shifted his hands from his knees and shuffled his feet. He did not regard his wife as absolutely essential to his happiness.
"Of course, of course," he said, testily. "Mary is an excellent woman, a really excellent woman."
"Yes, but it was a lottery. She might not have been excellent, Blakiston; she might have been bad-tempered, she might have attempted to rule you."
The Squire looked at him with a gleam of suspicion. His wife Mary was bad-tempered and did rule him, and that in an unpleasantly harsh way. Derwent smiled still, and the Squire merely reached for his glass of whisky and water and hoped that his host was unconsciously ironical.
"Then you won't marry?" he asked.
"I don't say that," Derwent answered. At moments in his life he had thought that love might be the beautiful thing of which men raved. Those moments were rare, for the making of money is an occupation which gives little leisure.
"No, I don't say that," he went on. "But I am in no hurry."
"Got my niece coming to-morrow, Derwent," the Squire growled, after a period of silence. "She has no nearer relations, worse luck! Been with a girl friend for a year--father was killed in India, mother died when she was a baby. So she comes to us."
"It is fortunate for her that she has so excellent a home open to her."
"Yes," the Squire answered, lamely. He was not sure whether Derwent did not see under the surface. He was conscious of his wife's outcry about the new expense and the new inconvenience.
A few days later Derwent saw the niece and fell in love with her with all the fierceness of his nature.
She was pretty, but a critical observer would have ended at that qualification. The question was whether anyone could be critical in her presence and under the spell of her eyes.
Her hair was of that shade of brown which has kindred with the sun, but is dusky in the shade. Her nose was small and not very straight, her mouth was small, and her chin set forward with a determined tilt; but her eyes were her glory--large, brown, trusting, and yet unfathomable. Derwent, seeing them, thought of stars in a midnight sky, the stars out West, which had spoken to him in those rare moments when he had respite from dollar making.
Daphne Blakiston was high-spirited. In two or three days she conquered both the Squire and his wife, who were surprised to find themselves in accord in liking anyone.
There was a breeziness in her manner which carried them away in spite of themselves.
"She is a thorough Blakiston," the Squire said.
"She might have been a Courtenay to hear her speak," said his wife.
They set much store by family in Devon.
Derwent found her so pleasant that he went exploring the gardens with her. They had never seemed so worthy of notice before.
"You like this place?" he asked her.
"Of course--it's lovely. You can breathe here. Did you ever try to breathe in London? You can't really--you only cough."
"I have had room to breathe in my life."
"You come from the West. It must be grand to be in the forefront of civilisation--to get away from the restrictions of society."
"One gets away from all restrictions," he answered, slowly, "but I do not know that it is grand."
"But you live out there; you work for your living, and you work hard."
"It must be glorious! I wish I could go there."
"God forbid!" he cried.
"Why? I have grit--that's what you call it, isn't it?"
He smiled. "I don't doubt it, Miss Blakiston; but you have also a conscience. A conscience is inconvenient without settled laws to back it up."
"But right is right everywhere," she expostulated.
"Right there is in the possession of a good revolver and a quick eye."
"You have had a wild life," she murmured, looking at him with some curiosity and a little awe.
"Wild enough; and I sometimes wonder whether the wildness is all out yet. Who says habit is second nature? There is a great deal of truth in it. They may put me into English dress and place a riding-whip in my hand in exchange for a pick or a revolver, but if anything I really wanted was to come into my life and there was any obstacle--" He broke off and looked hardly through the hedge, seeing something that was not there. His hands clenched themselves, and his face becoming set made him look more than his forty years.
She watched him with a new interest.
"I think it would go hard with the obstacle."
Daphne was about to continue her investigation when she caught sight of a straw hat over the hedge which bordered the meadow from the road.
"There's Jack!" she cried. "I know there is only one straw hat so dilapidated in the world!"
He looked at her narrowly.
"Who's Jack?" he demanded.
"Jack's--well, Jack. He is the son of the rector. I knew him in London. He's on long leave. Jack!" she called.
Jack found a gap in the hedge--the Squire's hedges had many gaps--and came towards them. Derwent saw that he was good-looking, tall, young, and carried himself with the easy air of a military man. He hated him. It was a new experience; he had never hated men before--he had only disliked them.
[Illustration: "'COME,' HE SAID, 'I WISH TO SPEAK TO YOU. I CAN'T TALK IN THIS CROWD OF FOOLS.'"]
"Ah, Daphne!" cried Jack; "I hardly hoped to see you."
"This is Mr. Derwent--Mr. De Courcy. I knew you were coming down yesterday. Your father told me." She poured out her words in excited gasps. To Derwent it seemed that she ignored him, and he did not like it.
"You are in the army?" he asked curtly of the young man named Jack.
"Yes, the 10th Lancers. I was too much of a muff for anything else. I can ride a bit, I am fairly well made," he looked down at his length of limb complacently, "and--and I don't think I should funk."
"No man knows until he has been tried."
"I suppose so."
The two left Derwent somewhat unceremoniously. From that he gathered that Daphne merely looked upon him as her uncle's friend. No man likes to awake suddenly and find that he has become middle-aged. He may be fond of joking about it, but that is because he believes he is far from its border. When the knowledge comes to him suddenly, and, above all, through a woman who has found favour in his eyes, it is bitter.
Derwent watched them go, cursing the young soldier.
"An insolent puppy--a mere boy!" he said. "It is dishonourable for him to be making love to _her_. He is a pauper!"
De Courcy hardly noticed Derwent beyond a vague wonder at his churlishness.
"Rum beggar, Daphne," he said. "I suppose living so long in a savage place has made him grumpy. Beastly rich, isn't he?"
"Yes. Made it all himself. Nevada must be a glorious place!"
"What a mercenary being you are, Daphne!" he laughed. "I prefer Canterbury, or Grorepound, even. I suppose I shall be jealous of him."
"Mr. Derwent? Why, he is an old man."
"He seems over forty--not old, you know; and he has dollars, which mean diamonds."
He smiled throughout, because it seemed manifestly impossible that any woman should prefer anyone to himself. Jack De Courcy was well satisfied with the work of Nature in fashioning himself.
"Oh, Jack!" she protested.
"And I am a pauper," he went on.
He certainly was a pauper in comparison with Derwent; but, poverty being only comparative, he was a rich man to many. His mother's private fortune--some four hundred a year--was added to the pay which a grateful country gave him for his exertions on parade.
Derwent lived for a week in the agony of jealousy. He had never cared for anyone very much in all his previous life. He had indeed been aware of an innate capacity for affection, but the business of making money had left him no leisure.
One day he came to a decision.
"You are a fool," he said, apostrophising himself. "You are a fool. Go and ask her whether she can care for you. You don't know yet for certain; you only imagine. The soldier is a boy. Women--young women--don't care for boys. Besides, he is poor, and women like jewels."
The same afternoon he sought her out from a number of guests playing tennis on the Squire's lawn. She was flushed with victory, having, mainly by the aid of Jack's long legs and skill, succeeded in vanquishing the antagonistic couple in a hard fight. Derwent hated tennis, because he did not play it and Jack did. Tennis is not much practised in mining camps; they prefer shooting.
"Come," he said, very quietly, yet in the tone of one who is set upon a purpose. "I wish to speak to you. I can't talk in this crowd of fools. I have not yet got the hang of it."
She looked at him and laughed.
"What a dear old grumbler you are!" she cried. She really liked him--it is possible that there was something to like in him, and that if matters had run easily he would have been a pleasant member of society. A man after all is largely shaped by his surroundings.
He did not answer her, at which she was surprised, for his general taciturnity had usually disappeared at her bidding.
"You are bad-tempered," she said. "Don't be bad-tempered. The sun is just lovely and I shall be freckled. I hate being freckled, but the process is alluring. And I have news." She added the last softly to herself, expecting him to question her. He did not. He led her to a seat in the shade of a tree and stood behind her looking down on her wide straw hat.
"I am not young," he began; "I have nearly reached forty----"
"I thought you were more," she interrupted, and his brows contracted.
"I have lived hardly. I have done many things which I wish to forget, and which I cannot. I have made money where to make money needs grit and--and a conscience not too tender."
"Are you going to write an autobiography?" she asked. She had no idea of the seriousness of his mood, for all of his moods struck her as more or less serious.
"I am stating broadly the manner of man I am. I don't want to appear a saint. I would rather you did not know how I lived when I was heaping dollars. My past life belongs to the past. I have now another life before me. It may be happier than the drag of years behind."
"It ought to be--you are rich."
"It depends upon you."
She tilted her hat upwards, but the brim was wide and she could not see him.
"Yes. I love you. I have loved you since I first saw you. I have never loved another woman--I never shall. Can you find it in your heart to make my new life happy?"
"Mr. Derwent," she answered, "I had no idea that you cared. I--I like you very much--as a friend. But now--I told you I had news to-day--news which has made me happy--tuned me to the day, which is happy. Jack has asked me to be his wife, and I have accepted him."
Derwent paled a little under his bronze, and his face darkened.
"If--if Mr. De Courcy had not come into your life----" he began.
"That is an idle thought."
"Yes, it is idle--but I thought--it would--if he had not come?"
"Who knows--I cannot realise a life without him." Then she added other words. "I like you, Mr. Derwent, and--and I am very sorry."
He let her find her way back to the guests alone.
In the blindness of his jealousy he construed her words into an admittance that she would have married him if it had not been for De Courcy. They allowed no such interpretation, but jealousy is not shrewd-sighted, and more often than not blunders.
They had not named him "Wild Gus," singling him out from among other wild natures for the epithet, for nothing. All the passions which had been restrained since his advent into society surged upwards and confirmed him in a resolve. With the intention of carrying out that resolve he returned to the tennis lawn.
[Illustration: "HE POURED THE CONTENTS OF THE PHIAL INTO HIS COMPANION'S TUMBLER."]
Daphne, who, in spite of her flippant tongue, was possessed of a very tender heart, was glad to see him, glad to notice the easy way in which he passed from guest to guest talking of quiet matters with that earnestness which had made him popular.
She had been troubled lest he had been too keenly disappointed. She argued that if he cared much he could not hide his hurt so readily. She lacked experience.
Derwent sought out De Courcy and congratulated him with a seeming frankness that completely dispelled the young officer's aversion. Daphne was standing quite close to them, and at the elder man's words was glad.
"I do not pretend," he said, easily, "that we are not all envious, De Courcy. You have gained a very great prize, and we should all be more than human if we were not. But Miss Blakiston's happiness----" His voice faded into an inarticulate murmur.
After dinner he told many stories to De Courcy, strong stories of a man's life in wild lands, and De Courcy told himself that the Derwent fellow was a very decent chap, and that he had underrated him vastly.
"There was little restraint in those early days in Nevada. A man's friendship was true, and his hatred deadly. Vengeance was swift-footed, and I have seen a man anger another and be laid out cold under the blue sky in the very same day."
"Savage, Derwent, savage!" cried the Squire. "I'm glad that we have laws and constables and magistrates here."
"We are all savage underneath."
De Courcy looked at him and laughed.
"I am glad, Derwent, that I am not likely to rile you. I should say you would be apt to lapse into those primitive customs."
"De Courcy," the Squire said, "your father has gone away for the night, hasn't he?"
"Yes. He's Rural Dean, you know, and has driven over to an outlying parish. The rector is putting him up."
"Then you had better stop the night here. It will be lonely for you."
"Thanks, no. The governor would not care for the house to be left to itself. You know, Derwent," he went on, "the governor is awfully faddy, and will let no servant sleep in the Rectory but the housekeeper, and she went two days ago to a dying daughter. Daughter isn't dead yet, so I shall be entirely alone."
Derwent expressed surprise, yet he had been fully aware of this. It was indeed current gossip in the village. The whims of the rector made a good deal of conversation in the course of a year.
At ten o'clock Derwent and De Courcy started together. Both walked, for the night was fine, though a strong wind came over the moor.
"Dear old moor!" De Courcy said. "It blows us strength in the hottest of weather."
"The wind is strong--it will increase." Derwent remarked this with satisfaction.
The Rectory, standing alone, was some little way from the village. It was thatched, and there was much trellis-work over its face, dry and warped with many days' suns. When they reached it Derwent was in the middle of some exciting reminiscence.
"Come in," cried De Courcy, "come in. There's whisky and seltzer, or soda, if you prefer it. You can have a pipe and finish your yarn. It is quite early."
"Not for Grorepound," remonstrated Derwent. The lights in the village were going out one after another like the sparks of an exploded firework.
"But for us? I can't sleep without a pipe, and I expect you are the same. Let us have our pipes in a sociable way instead of in silent communion. Come."
Derwent went in with De Courcy, passing through the hall into the library. The library window looked on to the lawn by the side of the trellised porch.
As they entered the wind rattled the windows gustily.
"You will not find the wind so strong at the back," said Derwent.
"But I sleep in the front," explained De Courcy. "My room is the one over this."
Derwent looked at the porch and smiled.
"Then," he said, "you will probably get little sleep to-night."
"Nonsense! I am used to noises. The stables are very near my quarters at Canterbury, and the horses kick up a fearful row. Seltzer or soda?"
Derwent watched the other mix the drinks with a curious fascination. When the tumblers were filled he turned to a portrait at the back of De Courcy and over the sideboard.
"Is that your mother?" he asked.
The officer turned with a smile and looked for a moment at the face smiling back at him. During that moment the elder man drew a small phial from his waistcoat pocket, and poured its contents swiftly and silently into the tumbler nearest his companion. It was a preparation of opium which he used for insomnia, and invariably carried with him; a small dose for one accustomed to the drug as he was, but one large enough to ensure a very heavy sleep in anyone not habituated to it.
"Yes," said De Courcy, in a soft voice, "my mother. She died four years ago. If there be any good about me I owe it to her. God never gave man a better mother."
"Ah, I cannot remember my mother. She died when I was quite a youngster."
He leant his head on his hand, shading it from the lamp. For a moment neither man spoke, and then Derwent reached out his hand and took the tumbler nearest to him, not the one into which he had poured the opium.
"Come, De Courcy, we must drink to your bride. Miss Blakiston!" he cried.
"Daphne, God bless her!" answered De Courcy.
Derwent watched him stealthily while he drank, smiling when he set down the empty tumbler.
They remained together smoking for a quarter of an hour, Derwent finishing the story which had been the means of his coming in. De Courcy seemed to lose interest in it, and at its close, after yawning once or twice, laughed.
"I am awfully sorry, but I've grown uncommonly sleepy. The effect of the moor air, I expect," he said.
"My dear fellow, don't let me keep you up. I suffer from insomnia so much that I would not willingly rob a man of a minute's sleep. Good-night, and thanks. I can find my way out."
De Courcy protested, but Derwent was determined, and stumbled out into the darkness. For a short while he examined the porch.
"It is dry enough," he muttered. "In half an hour he will be fast asleep. Nothing will wake him--nothing shall wake him! How the wind blows! It blew like this when I shot Black Dan by the Dumper's Claim. Why do I think of that now? I must get back at once--there is little time to be lost."
He strode in the direction of his own house. The butler only was awake.
"I am very tired, John. I shall go to my room now. Lock up."
"Very good, sir."
"I shall be late in the morning. I have suffered from insomnia very badly the last few nights, but now I know I shall sleep. Don't wake me. Let me have my sleep out."
"Very good, sir."
Derwent went up to his room, undressed quickly, jumped into bed, and lay there until he heard the butler pass along the corridor. Then he rose and dressed hastily.
[Illustration: "CLINGING TO THE LEDGE OF THE WINDOW-SILL, HE CLOSED THE WINDOW AFTER HIM."]
"They will be able to swear that I was home, and that my bed was slept in," he said. He dressed in a rough, negligent style, unlike the extreme order which he had observed since his return to England.
He opened the window and looked out. The wind rushed in and blew down the heavy looking-glass, cracking it across.
"That," he said, "is unlucky. Some men would turn back at the omen. I never was one to believe in omens. I never was a man to turn back."
A pipe ran close to his window. By it the way to the ground was easy. Outside, clinging to the ledge of the window-sill with one hand, he closed the window after him. Then he slid down the pipe, and walked rapidly to the Rectory.
He approached it from the rear. The wind was in his face. It was so violent that he kept his head down, and his eyes fixed upon a few yards of the way before him.
What was that? Surely the night had grown lighter? Was the dawn breaking? That was impossible--it was little after midnight. But the hedges were plainly seen now, and before they had been blurred into the general blackness. The road was lighter. There was no doubt of it.
Derwent stopped, and, holding his hat, looked up. In front of him the sky was lurid, and over the roof of the Rectory close to hand were long thin tongues of flame and showers of sparks. There was no doubt about it. The thing he had come to do was already accomplished: the Rectory was in flames, and the fire had started from the very quarter he had planned. The wind was fanning it fiercely, as he had seen that it would.
For a moment he was dazed, standing in the middle of the road, staring at the spurting light dancing behind the Rectory, the house looking black against the illumination beyond. Then he ran, struggling against the wind, towards the fire. The reason of his going he did not stop to analyse. He was impelled. The wind whirled his hat away, but he did not notice it. In two minutes he was standing breathless in front of the Rectory. The flames were licking round De Courcy's bedroom window. He saw at once the cause of it. The lamp had overturned in the library. Probably the wind had burst in the window and blown the lamp over.
For a minute he stood gazing at the scene, and then he was conscious of the arrival of Blakiston and his niece.
"Derwent!" the Squire shouted, "where is De Courcy?"
Derwent turned to him. The question seemed a repetition of the older one, "Where is thy brother?" He looked at the Squire and at Daphne clinging to her uncle's arm, white and terrified.
"He must be in his room," he said. "I left him over an hour ago. He was going up then."
The flames leapt in a rush of demoniac exultation, and Daphne cowered.
"Mr. Derwent, can't you do something, can't you do something?" she cried.
He did not answer her. He was busy with his own thoughts. He began to realise that he loved her more than he had supposed men ever loved. It seemed pitiful that she should suffer thus.
"Daphne saw the light from her room and hastened me over," said the Squire, hurriedly, yet in that whispering awe which comes upon men in view of a tragedy.
"He must be in his room," Derwent said, looking at the broad sheet of flame licking the front of the house. Then he suddenly left them, going in the direction of some outbuildings.
Daphne, fascinated with the horror of the scene, clung to her uncle and moaned and prayed. The wind caught her hair and blew it about sportively. The trellis-work crackled and burst in the heat.
"Derwent has gone for help," said the Squire.
"What help can get here quickly enough?" she wailed. "Oh, Jack, Jack, my darling!"
Presently Derwent appeared, moving slowly. He was dragging something. It seemed very heavy. When he came into the light they saw that it was an old ladder, a primitive, rough ladder, very strong and very heavy.
He moved forward. The weight was great, but he was a strong man. Twenty years of heavy work had firmed his muscles.
"Come!" he said to the Squire, "this is stout, it will last longer against the flames."
The old man helped him rear it against the burning casement of the bedroom. A shower of sparks fell upon them as they did it. One fell upon Derwent's eye, and he swore as he brushed it aside. He had wanted all his sight for the work he had before him. He did not care so much for the pain, but the blindness which disabled one eye was serious.
He went over to Daphne.
"Give me something for my face--a handkerchief--anything!" he said, roughly.
She took a silk handkerchief from her bosom. It felt warm to his touch, and he was thrilled with a sudden sense of loss. He strode quickly away from her and wrung it in the fountain sporting merrily in front of the burning house. She followed him.
"Bind it round my mouth and nose," he cried.
She did it silently. Then she noticed his eye.
"You are hurt!" she cried.
"It is nothing. I wish it had come later, that is all. It won't matter much in an hour's time."
She thought of his words after, but then she was too anxious.
"God bless you," she whispered, and he mounted the ladder. The flames curled about him and licked his face and shoulders, but he did not falter. Then he disappeared at the window, and they waited. The Squire had found an old bowl and was throwing water from the fountain upon the ladder, which here and there was beginning to burn. Daphne stood watching the flames spurt and roar, and, with white lips, prayed inaudibly. It was perhaps human that she thought little of Derwent and all of Jack.
The heat beat back the Squire, and he stood looking helplessly at the ladder now crackling in the flames.
[Illustration: "DERWENT APPEARED AT THE WINDOW BEARING DE COURCY IN HIS ARMS."]
Suddenly Derwent appeared at the window. He was bearing De Courcy in his arms. The flames rioted round him, and they could see that his clothes were all charred.
"The staircase is a sheet of flame," he cried. "He was on his bed. The flames have not reached him."
As he spoke the ladder snapped in the middle and fell, and Daphne screamed, shutting out the scene with her hands, and then as suddenly snatching them away.
Derwent, framed in the window and holding Jack in his arms, cursed at it. For a moment he seemed nonplussed. Then he shouted--
"Blakiston, stand in as near as possible. I'm going to throw him out. You can break his fall. It is only the drop of a few feet. Stand on that bed, it will be softer."
The old man rushed to the spot. The flower bed seemed a good way from the house, but the flames reached it in the eddies of the wind. Daphne, realising what was meant, also went and stood on the bed. She looked at the twelve feet or more between it and the house, and wondered, yet never for a moment doubted that Derwent could do what he purposed.
They breathlessly watched him brace his muscles. In the glow of the light he looked grand, as a hero might, strengthening himself for his last fight. Then, with a cry of warning, he threw the man out, and the two waiting broke his fall. They, intent upon the rescued man, bore him from the reach of the flames, forgetting for a moment the man who had risked so much. When they looked he was gone.
The recoil had thrown him back, and the floor, rotten with the heating of the fire, had broken away. They knew afterwards that he must have been aware of the result, and that, knowing, he had given his life for the other. For it would have been an easy thing for him to have jumped himself had he been willing to sacrifice De Courcy.
De Courcy could never explain his insensibility that night.
"Felt beastly tired, and must have fallen asleep directly I got to my room." He was rescued fully dressed. "I suppose the smoke suffocated me and rendered me insensible before I awoke. If it had not been for poor old Derwent I must have been burnt. What a grand fellow he was!"
Daphne often wonders at Derwent's words. "It won't matter much in an hour's time," he had said, and it had not. And Jack's explanation always seems unsatisfactory to her, though she has never said so.
Derwent's tomb, which is very handsome, but which contains nothing of Derwent himself, bears the legend, "He gave his life for his friend"; but this is not true.
FROM A SMOKER'S MUSEUM.
SOME BEAUTIFUL AND QUAINT BURNERS OF TOBACCO.
BY T. C. HEPWORTH.
Smoking being so universal, it is no matter for surprise that much ingenuity has been spent over the chief implement concerned in its practice. We put cigar and cigarette smoking aside, having nothing to do with the object of the present article; moreover, both the cigar and cigarette are of comparatively recent introduction.
[Illustration: EXQUISITE VENETIAN-GLASS PIPE.]
[Illustration: IRON PIPE MADE AS A KEY.]
The pipe is the popular smoking appliance and most smokers give it the preference over everything else that can be smoked. It also has the support of the ladies, and any careful housewife will tell us that she would rather admit three or four pipe smokers to her curtained and carpeted rooms than one of those horrid cigars, which leaves its faint and disagreeable odour hanging about the place for many days. Ladies, indeed, are more tolerant of tobacco smoke than they used to be.
The first kind of European pipes were walnut shells, a hole being bored in one side for the reception of the stem--a common straw. It is possible that we get from this early form of tobacco pipe the term "straw," as applied to modern long clays, if, indeed, they are not named like _straw_-berries, from the material which protects them from injury.
The custom of using a pipe common to an assembled company was, no doubt, partly due to the circumstance that tobacco was at one time a most costly thing. Three years after its introduction here it cost per ounce what would be equivalent to 18_s._ of our present money. Later on it became the custom for a purchaser to throw into the scale a silver coin, and he received just as much tobacco in return as would balance his money.
For the same reason the bowls of early pipes were very small, witness our photographs of early English pipes dug up at Chelsea which could be filled many dozen times over with a single ounce of tobacco. But, as in all other things, demand stimulated supply, until tobacco in our own day has become remarkably cheap. Perhaps some of our readers who pay fourpence an ounce for their little luxury may traverse this statement, forgetting that the value of the weed which they purchase is only about one fourth of what they pay for it, the difference going to H.M. Customs.
After the walnut and straw pipes had had their day, clay pipes became common in this country, where smoking became general after the great plague of London in 1665. To this pestilence we owe the suddenly increased use of tobacco, for it was bruited abroad that of all the tradesmen of London the tobacconists alone had not been attacked by the disease.
[Illustration: CARVED WOOD PIPE, 6-1/2 INCHES HIGH. TOBACCO PLACED BEHIND HORSE'S HEAD.]
Smoking was recognised as a valuable sanitary precaution against the malady, and we find quaint old Pepys mentioning the fact in his famous diary after seeing two houses in Drury Lane marked with a red cross on their portals--the token of a plague-stricken household. "It put me," he says, "in an illconception of myself and my smell, so that I was forced to buy some roll tobacco to smell to, and chaw, which took away my apprehension."
[Illustration: 17TH CENTURY CLAY PIPE.]
Clay pipes have an enormous sale in this country at the present day, and we may assume that the publicans are the chief buyers, for it has long been the custom to give pipes away to patrons of beershops, without making any charge. Such pipes are mostly made from a Dorsetshire clay, the material being first well kneaded, moulded into pipe form, then dried, and lastly burnt in a kiln. The work of making this kind of pipe is so expeditious that a manufacturer can count on an output of five hundred pipes per day from each hand employed.
At one time there was a demand for "clays" of a more ornate kind, some of the bowls representing heads of popular or unpopular personages. For example, when the great Duke of Wellington tried to stop smoking in the army, except from the muzzles of the guns, he was caricatured in a pipe bowl in which his famous nose was given undue proportions, while the neck of the pipe bore the figure of a subaltern emulating the rude conduct of the gentleman in the Ingoldsby Legends--
"The sacristan said not one word To indicate a doubt, He put his thumb unto his nose And spread his fingers out."
In the same way the French pipes offered endless variety--one pipe would represent a devil's head; another a skull; a favourite was the head of John Bull treated in a conventional way and not too flattering a spirit. There is also a well-known pipe bearing the head of a Dutchman stuck in a wooden shoe.
But if we want to find variety in pipe design, we must search for it in that country of great smokers--Germany. It would be quite easy to fill an entire number of this publication with pictures of pipes from the German empire, and we have access to collections which would afford endless variety of designs, for pipe collecting is almost as popular a hobby as that of stamp collecting. Here we give three very remarkable examples, as different as they could possibly be.
[Illustration: OLD ENGLISH EARTHENWARE SNAKE PIPE.]
First, we show a pipe in the form of a key. It is made of iron, as many of the early pipes were; some were of brass, silver, or other metals; but as knowledge increased, and people learnt that these metals are greedy of heat, they were discarded for more suitable materials.
Our second German example is a very well carved figure of a mounted cavalry officer, made of wood, with silver armour and trappings. This is an eighteenth century pipe, and the original is no less than six and a half inches in height. It will be noted that the bowl proper is in the lower part of the horse's neck, this part of the animal being hinged so that the tobacco can be inserted. The pipe stem fits into a kind of holster at the back. This is essentially a pipe for home use, for although it is not heavy, considering its size, few men would care to be seen smoking such a huge thing out of doors.
[Illustration: THE TWO CLAY PIPES ON THIS PAGE WERE FOUND IN MILMAN'S ROW, CHELSEA.]
[Illustration: TRIPLE-BOWL PIPE FOR SMOKING THREE KINDS OF TOBACCO.]
[Illustration: ITALIAN PIPE OF MOTHER-OF-PEARL.]
Our third example from Deutschland is a triple-bowl pipe very finely carved out of one solid piece of hard wood, and mounted with silver tops, etc. There always have been, and probably always will be, persons who prefer to go a roundabout way to accomplish a thing which can be done by far easier means. These simple folk are satirised by genial Artemus Ward in a story of a person who was immured in a gloomy prison. He tried the walls, the floor, the ceiling, and endeavoured to remove the iron bars from the window. Next he tried to escape by the chimney. When suddenly "a lucky thort" struck him. "He opened the door and walked out."
Now, it is quite certain that a man possessing this amount of resource would never have designed a pipe with three bowls in order that he might at the same moment inhale three different kinds of tobacco; he would have done what many smokers prefer to do at the present day--that is, he would have mingled his various kinds of tobacco and smoked them in a pipe of normal construction. The modern German pipes, affected chiefly by students, are too well known to need illustration. They have most capacious bowls of porcelain, and bear a painted picture, generally the representation of a more or less pretty maid.
But the Germans and French must not have it all their own way with the curiosities of pipeland. We give a photograph of an English one, which may be meant for a snake with a man's head, or a catherine wheel; and, if its coils could be opened out, it would measure many feet in length. It is made of earthenware, of a buff colour, covered with brown spots. He would be a bold man who would venture into the smoking-room of a London club with such a grotesque thing between his lips. But it was used before the days of modern clubs.
Italy supplies many examples of curious pipes. One is a bowl made from a natural shell resplendent with mother-of-pearl; it has an earthenware lining and silver cap. Another is a pipe of glass--not more brittle perhaps than a clay "churchwarden," but rather too expensive to risk between the teeth, for it is a fine example of that beautiful Venetian-glass work which is not excelled throughout the world.
A third Italian pipe is like the fur seal, in that the most valuable part of it is its skin, or case, made of finely-perforated silver. It will be noted that the pipe is too long for the case, an intentional peculiarity, in order that it may be smoked while encased in its handsome covering.
[Illustration: PERFORATED SILVER PIPE CASE.]
THIS PIPE IS SMOKED IN THE CASE. ]
Turkey offers a great variety of pipes, from the humble red clay to the lordly hookah or hubble-bubble--a device of Persian origin for allowing the smoke to be drawn through water in order to purify it before reaching the mouth. Another pipe, with which the hookah is often mistakenly identified, is the "Narghile." This word is a native Indian one for a cocoa-nut, and the pipes are either made of an actual nut, as shown in our illustration, or have a receptacle for the nicotine of similar shape and character. A gourd pipe, with a gourd twelve inches in diameter, is not unknown.
[Illustration: INDIAN COCOA-NUT PIPE.]
THE FACE AT THE DOOR.
THE DRAMA OF A GHASTLY DELUSION.
BY WALTER D. DOBELL.
_Illustrated by S. H. Vedder._
A STORY IN TWO LETTERS FROM THOMAS CAMPBELL, OF LONDON, TO HIS BROTHER, DR. JOHN CAMPBELL, IN BOMBAY.
DEAR JACK, Jan. 3rd., 1898.
What the Psychical Research Society really wants is an authentic record of any supernatural or inexplicable event in the life of a "healthy subject" with nerves of iron, and a hearty contempt for all forms of superstition.
Therefore I have not the slightest intention of following your advice and laying this story before that most learned and conscientious tribunal, because I fear that I cannot claim for John Barton, the principal actor in this little drama, either remarkably good health or a complete freedom from superstition. But as you ask for the details you shall have them.
I first met Barton some two years ago in the rooms of a friend of mine. We had been playing whist, and after the departure of the fourth player he and I stayed on talking with our host till the early hours of the morning.
The conversation ran chiefly on vampires, wehr-wolves, and other subjects of an equally light and cheerful nature, and Barton, I remember, showed himself to be an adept at the art of making the flesh creep. He walked part of the way home with me, and we discovered that we had quite a large number of friends and interests in common.
I came across him constantly after this, and one day when he was dining with me--in September, '95, I think it was? he told me that he was engaged to be married, and a few days afterwards introduced me to the lady. I was much struck by her beauty and the wonderful power that was expressed both in her face and by her speech and bearing.
Her age, if a poor bachelor is any judge, was about twenty-eight, and she was, I believe, of Russian extraction. She was living with friends in Paris, the Russian heaven, and naturally Barton spent most of his time in the same city, so that though I heard of him and from him from time to time, we never actually met again till January of this year. Mickleham asked me to come and dine with him for the purpose of meeting Barton, who would, he said, leave England again in a couple of days. I gladly accepted the invitation, and a very pleasant dinner we had at the Travellers' Club, adjourning afterwards to Mickleham's rooms, where we sat and talked for two or three hours.
I noticed at dinner that Barton was not looking well, and afterwards, though he talked as much and as brilliantly as usual, he studiously avoided supernatural subjects, once his favourite topic, and displayed marked uneasiness whenever the talk strayed in that direction. I don't think Mickleham noticed anything--he never was exactly a Sherlock Holmes, you remember--and in fact there was only one trivial indication of the state of Barton's nerves that was particularly remarkable. He seemed to have acquired a habit, even in the middle of some of his best stories, of continually glancing in a sidelong fashion at the door. Once, indeed, he rose and went towards it as if to close it; but seeing, as I then supposed, that it was shut, he went back to his seat.
We both left at about one o'clock, and as he was sleeping at the Métropole we parted at the corner of St. James' Street, and I said good-bye and wished him a pleasant crossing, thinking, of course, that I should not see him again before he left England. You can judge of my surprise when after walking home I found Barton already in my rooms. He apologised, saying that he had remembered something which he had meant to tell me, and had driven back to do it, passing me, I suppose, on the way. It was some time before I could get him to tell me what it was that he had forgotten. I was rather riled, as I wanted to go to bed, but when at last he did begin his story, I can tell you there wasn't much sleepiness left in me. He told it as no one else could have told it, and it's a solid fact that he made me feel like a frightened child, and you know I'm not a particularly imaginative man.
He began by asking me if I had observed his continual glances at the door in Mickleham's room--he was keeping his eye on my door, by the way, all the time he was telling the story. I said I had observed this, and he then gave me the reason for his conduct, and, by George, old boy, when I heard what he was always seeing when he did look at the aforesaid door, I admired the poor devil for his pluck as much as I pitied him for his delusion. I'm quite certain I couldn't stand it for half a minute, and he had been bearing it for more than a year.
He said that the door of any and every room in which he was always appeared to be ajar, and round the edge of the door--I declare it frightens me even to think of it--round the corner, as it were, just coming into the room, he always saw the hand and half the face of a man--never more, and never less. The hand was grasping the door about a foot above the handle, and the face was peering round it, with one eye--he couldn't see the other--always fixed on him. Cheerful, wasn't it? He could see the nose, which was very large and fleshy, and all the left side of the face, which was a sort of dirty white. The hair was black and rather long, he thought, and there was a large abrasion--"something between a cut and a bruise" was his phrase--on the temple.
He had been receiving this delightful visitor daily ever since the autumn of '95--a pleasant year he must have had of it, poor chap. I told him to go to a doctor, but he said that he had tried that without any success--had told the doctor that he was suffering from delusions, and had implicitly followed his instructions, but still the white face kept turning up at the door.
He seemed chiefly distressed about it because of his approaching marriage; he had, as I told you, become engaged in September, '95. He spoke very nicely of his future wife, of whom he seemed extremely fond, and asked my advice as to telling her all about it. I thought he had better not, and advised him to go in for hard exercise and early hours--but really I did not know what to say to him. "Paternosters were peas in plates to his sorrows."
He seemed rather more cheerful before he left, and we tried an interesting, though to me a somewhat alarming, experiment. Keeping his eyes fixed on the door, Barton walked slowly towards it, and laid his hand upon the handle. Directly he did this the face, he said, disappeared, but the hand remained. While he was turning the handle, however, the hand, which he said was large and dirty, followed the example of the head, and it became instantly clear to Barton that the door was not really ajar, but tightly closed. This was the invariable programme, he told me.
I saw him off, wished him well rid of his encumbrance, and promised to say nothing about it; then, taking my life and my candle in my hands, I rushed frantically up to bed.
I didn't meet Barton again until his wedding, which took place last month. He was looking nervous and harassed, but not more so than most men in his unhappy plight--it was a regular church affair. Naturally I had no opportunity for a quiet talk with him, even if I had been particularly anxious to have one--which I was not.
The happy pair started for Italy to spend their honeymoon, and I gave them a day's law before following. I had promised to join Robinson in Florence, and was already overdue. I hadn't the slightest intention of meeting the Bartons, and therefore of course they were almost the first English people that I came across in the streets of Florence. We exchanged a few fatuous remarks, and I then hurried away. It was too early in the honeymoon for them to be longing, like the couple in _Punch_, "for some friend to turn up, or even some enemy." That very evening, however, Barton came round to see me. I introduced him to Robinson, and we all talked for a bit in the hotel verandah, but it was so obvious that Barton had something to say to me in private that Robinson soon left us.
"Campbell," said Barton immediately, "it's getting worse than ever."
"What is?" I asked, though I knew.
"That infernal man at the door: I can see nearly all his face round the corner now, and I tell you I'm losing my nerve. And there's a new development: he doesn't always look at me now. I've noticed sometimes that his eyes--I can see both are fixed on Helene, my wife; and it's that, I think, that has shaken me."
"You haven't told her, I suppose?" said I.
"Of course not: but I think she sees that there's something wrong. I've seen her look at me very curiously at times, though she doesn't say anything. You don't think I ought to tell her?"
"Certainly not," I said; "but for goodness' sake go to a decent doctor when you get home, and tell him everything. I'm very sorry for you, my dear fellow, but that's really all I can advise; and if I were you I wouldn't put it off too long."
[Illustration: "SHE WAS A RUSSIAN, AND I WAS MUCH STRUCK BY HER BEAUTY."]
"We're going home next week," he said, and we parted. I really don't see what I could have said that could have done the slightest good. It was in his liver or his eyes that the fault lay, I thought--I'm not so sure about that now--and I'm no doctor.
Well, two days after this interview, while Robinson and I were at dinner, a waiter came to me and said that there was a lady in our private room who insisted on seeing me immediately. I went up, of course, and there found Mrs. Barton in a state of terrible excitement and anxiety.
"You must come with me, Mr. Campbell," she cried, on seeing me; "my husband has met with a terrible accident," and she literally dragged me out of the hotel into her carriage.
"He is in a doctor's house," she said, as we rattled furiously down the street; "the accident happened at the very door, and he was carried in. He has been asking continually for you."
I thought she seemed to resent this, and perhaps it was only natural. "How did it happen?" I asked.
"He had been buying some old armour and two old Florentine daggers, and was carrying them home when he slipped and fell, and one of the daggers ran into his leg. It was all my fault, I ought to have helped him to carry the things; his hands were full, and he couldn't save himself."
"Oh, it will be all right, Mrs. Barton," said I; "a cut in the leg is not very serious."
"Not serious!" she replied, angrily; "the doctor said himself that in ten seconds more he would have bled to death. Here is the house; I shall take you straight to him." She hurried me through the open door of a somewhat mean little dwelling--we had driven into a rather low quarter of the town. I didn't know Florence well enough to be sure exactly where we were, and during my drive I had been too much occupied to look out of the window. We went into a small bedroom on the ground floor. Two little men in black coats were standing by the bed, and on it lay Barton, with a face of the most ghastly pallor and wildly glaring eyes.
"Thank God you've come, Campbell," he gasped. "I'm too weak--too weak--you must keep him out," and then his head fell back and he fainted. Restoratives were applied without avail, and the two men in black exchanged whispers in Italian which I could not catch.
"Speak English," said Mrs. Barton, furiously--she looked like a madwoman--"Speak English. What are you going to do?"
I thought it improbable that either of the men would know the language, but I was wrong.
"We are agreed," said the taller of the two, speaking with a very slight accent, "my brother and I, that one thing only can be done. Your husband is dying from want of blood: we must give him more blood. How much will you pay?"
"There's no question of that," I said, as I grasped his meaning; "you can bleed me, I'm willing. Be quick, there's no time to lose."
"No, no," said the doctor, "you are not strong enough; it might not save him; it would certainly lose--that is, kill you. But we are fortunate; there is in our house what you call a lodger, he is strong and his blood will serve. He will not refuse me, he is of the Religion; but you must pay."
"Of the Religion?" I said. "Oh, I see, you are a Jew. Well, I will guarantee you five hundred pounds; divide it as you choose, only make haste."
"That will be sufficient," said the shorter of the brothers, "but you and the lady must not be here. The room is small; I will take you to another, and bring down our guest, and I will tell you when it is finished, that you may thank him."
So saying, he led us into a room facing the door of the bedroom and locked us in. I heard him go upstairs; heard voices: then his steps coming down, followed by someone with a much heavier tread; heard them enter the bedroom and close the door. Mrs. Barton was lying back in her chair in a sort of stupor, and I was examining the room by the light of one candle--it was now nearly half-past nine--when I heard a sudden outbreak of noise, the bedroom door opened, the key of our door was turned, and the taller of the two brothers looked in.
"The gentleman must come, please," he said, and I hurried out. "He is calling for you," he said, closing the door, "and will not keep still; we can do nothing if he will not keep still."
We went into the bedroom. Barton was tossing wildly about on the bed; the little doctor was trying to keep him down while a tall dark man of an unmistakably Jewish type was holding the injured leg as still as he was able. I went up and took Barton's hands in mine: instantly he became perfectly quiet, and his eyes closed.
"Keep him away. Campbell, I trust to you," he said, and lapsed into unconsciousness.
"We must be quick," said the little doctor. "If the gentleman holds the right hand all will be well; we will operate on the left arm. Come, Israel," to the stranger, "stand here."
Barton was lying perfectly still, but when the man Israel approached the head of the bed an extraordinary shudder ran through his body, his eyes opened and glared at me, and his lips moved as if to speak; but apparently the sight of me sitting by the bed soothed him, for the panic died out of his eyes and his head fell back again on the pillow.
The operation commenced. I'm not doctor enough to give you the details, and I could not see very clearly, but apparently the doctors--for both the brothers appeared to be medical men--had established, by means of a sort of a pipe, a connection between the circulatory system of the big Jew and the poor fellow on the bed, so that the blood of the former poured into the veins of the latter.
[Illustration: "'MY HUSBAND HAS MET WITH A TERRIBLE ACCIDENT,' SHE CRIED."]
As this idea came home to me, I glanced anxiously at the stranger to see if he was fitted to bear such a strain, and I was satisfied. A fine full-blooded fellow he looked, six feet high and well built, with black hair and ruddy cheeks, which seemed to me to be gradually growing paler, but perhaps this may have been due to the failing light of the little lamp by whose feeble rays this difficult operation was being performed.
It seemed to me that this wonderful lending or selling of life, as it were, had been going on for a long time, when I heard a slight noise behind me, and, glancing round, I saw Mrs. Barton at the end of the room near the door. Her eyes were fixed in a stare of terror on the face, not of her husband on the bed, but on the stranger who was saving that husband's life. The operation was almost over apparently. Barton's face was in shadow, and I could see no change in its appearance, but the smaller of the two doctors was bringing forward instruments and bandages with a view apparently to the necessary stoppage of the flow of blood when the connecting pipe should be removed. I motioned to Mrs. Barton to keep back and be silent. I suppose the big Jew Israel noticed my gesture, for his eyes turned towards the door. I saw his face, which was now very pale, suddenly stiffen as it were, and in another moment he gave a terrible cry, and leaped back from the bed.
The smaller doctor, with the most admirable presence of mind, instantly commenced operations on Barton's arm, while his brother seized hold of his lodger round the waist. Mrs. Barton, her eyes still fixed on the big Jew, was crouching down at the end of the room, and I hurried round the bed only just in time to stop the man Israel, who rushed towards her, dragging the doctor after him, and yelling out some perfectly unintelligible gibberish. It was obvious, however, that he meant murder, and I collared him in front while the doctor hung on gallantly behind. Israel was enormously strong, and, seizing the little man by the neck, he simply tore him off and flung him away into a corner of the room. In doing this, however, he threw all his weight on to his left foot, which I promptly kicked from under him, and we came down together, knocking over the table and rolling wildly about on the floor.
He seemed to be growing weaker, and at last I got my knee on his chest, when I suddenly remembered that his arm had never been attended to, that he must be bleeding to death. I could see nothing; for in our fall his head had struck the table and upset the lamp--thank goodness it was filled with colza, not paraffin--so I yelled to the doctors to strike a light and lend a hand. The little man, who had quietly finished Barton's arm while we were waltzing about all over the floor, relighted the lamp, and I don't think I shall ever forget the scene that the feeble light displayed to me.
Barton was sitting up on the bed looking anxiously in my direction; one doctor was just getting on to his feet, the other was hurrying towards me, and in the corner by the door was huddled Mrs. Barton, still wildly staring round, but perfectly motionless. I looked down at the man on the floor, and saw to my horror that he was on the point of death--in fact, before the little doctor could reach him, and put the lamp down, his jaw had dropped and his head fell back with a thud on the bare boards.
"He is dead," said the little man, quietly; "that blow on the head would perhaps have sufficed, but the cause of death was loss of blood; perhaps the gentleman would prefer to make the fee seven hundred pounds and he shall not be troubled with any too curious questions. As the gentleman's carriage is at the door, the gentleman had better be removed; it will not hurt him. Is there anything the matter with the lady?"
Mrs. Barton had risen, and now came slowly forward. "No," she said, "I am well. That man--I was afraid--I thought he was going to--to hurt me."
"It was so, without doubt," said the little man, calmly; "he was angry. Is the gentleman ready to be moved?"
"All right," said Barton, speaking in quite his ordinary voice, "all right, I can walk."
"He must be carried," said the doctors together; "the other gentleman will help us, and then he will perhaps arrange about the money."
We picked Barton up amongst us, his wife going first to prepare the carriage for his reception, and carried him to the door.
"Stop a minute!" said Barton, suddenly, "let me see the poor fellow who is dead."
"It is right that the gentleman should see him," said the smaller brother, "he saved the gentleman's life."
We had propped the corpse up in a sitting position against the end of the bed, and Barton looked long into the ghastly face.
"Good God! how strange!" he whispered at last. "He has saved my life, and I feared him--how I feared him!"
"The gentleman knew Israel Hoffmann then?" said the taller of the two doctors.
"No," said Barton, "I have never met him before. Go on," and we carried him to the carriage where his wife was waiting us. I got in with them, telling the doctors I would return immediately, and they allowed me to depart without protest, somewhat to my surprise. I saw Barton safely in bed, and was hurrying from the room when he called me back and asked his wife to leave us for a moment.
"Campbell," he said, when she had gone, "do you know who that man was?"
"No," said I, "he was a lodger in the house. I know no more than that, but I can find out if you like."
"I don't mean that," he said; "that man's face was the face that had peered at me round the door for more than a year; the face I had told you about, the face I had grown to fear as I never feared anything in my life before; and yet that man has saved my life. It was good, not evil, that the vision meant, Campbell--good, not evil, and it was nearly driving me mad. Go back to that house; you can leave me safely, I am happier and better than I ever was before. I thought the thing was evil, and I find it to be good."
I left him repeating these words over and over again, told his wife, and hurried back to my rooms. Then, having procured the money, I drove to the doctor's house. I settled with the two little men in the sitting-room, and then asked if I might see the body.
"It is upstairs," they said. "We will arrange everything; he is of the Religion. But you may see him."
I went upstairs, and there on a bed in a tiny room lay the body of my late antagonist, wrapped in a sheet. The face was exposed, and I examined it with interest. It was deathly pale and somewhat fallen away, the thick, curving nose standing forward prominently. On the left temple and on the forehead was a terrible bruise, caused, I suppose, by the edge of the table on which the lamp had stood. Certainly the face tallied marvellously with Barton's description of his visionary visitor. I went back to my rooms and tried to puzzle the thing out, but I can't say that I succeeded. The connection that seemed to exist between the dead man and Mrs. Barton only complicated matters instead of simplifying them.
Robinson and I are still staying on here, but the Bartons left yesterday, Barton having recovered in a perfectly marvellous manner. I've written a very long letter, old boy, but as you seem excited by the remarks I let fall in my last epistle to you about the subject, I thought I had better give you the full details. I'm afraid I must ask you not to repeat the story--you will yourself see the reasons against so doing. I don't know if you will be able to form any theory about it--I shall be glad to hear it if you can. Hoping to get a letter from you soon, and that you are quite fit,
Your loving brother,
* * * * *
April 14, 1898.
I will give you, since you desire it, full details of the whole terrible business, but I must repeat the caution of my last letter. Don't make this public just yet. Of course many of the facts are known, but still I should prefer you not to repeat what I am going to tell you. I am taking legal advice on the subject.
In my letter to you, last summer, I told you, I think, all about Barton's strange delusion and the extraordinary episode of the transfusion of blood from the very man whose wraith he was always seeing into Barton's own veins. The Bartons had been in England for some time before I returned to find an invitation awaiting me to dine at their house in town. I accepted, as I was anxious to see how Barton was getting on, and whether he had got rid of his horrible delusion.
[Illustration: "WE FELL DOWN TOGETHER, AND I GOT MY KNEE ON HIS CHEST."]
I found him in the best of health, better and stronger apparently than he had been even before the commencement of his hallucination; but Mrs. Barton was much paler and thinner than when I had seen her last. I was the only guest, and the burden of the conversation was borne by myself and Barton, who was really almost boisterous at times--an extraordinary change for him. Mrs. Barton scarcely spoke. I noticed that she never so much as glanced in the direction of her husband. I thought at the time that probably the first tiff of their married life had come off some time that day, and that Barton's boisterousness and his wife's silence arose from the same cause. I know better now.
When Mrs. Barton left us to our cigarettes, I asked about the man at the door. Barton, I think, was rather vexed at the question, but he told me that he had no return of the vision, and then passed on to something else. I also inquired after his wife's health, and as far as I could judge he seemed actually pleased to hear that I thought her looking ill, and his manner of speaking of her altogether confirmed me in the idea that they had had a quarrel, and a fairly serious quarrel, that very day, though of course I couldn't pursue the subject.
A short while afterwards a message was brought in to Barton, and he asked me to excuse him for a few minutes, as he must see someone--a groom I think he said--and would rejoin me in the drawing-room.
I went upstairs and entered into conversation with my hostess, whose manners had completely changed. She talked now with a feverish rapidity, and I noticed with the most intense surprise, and I must add with a creeping sensation of horror, that she had caught Barton's trick of constantly shooting anxious glances at the door. I suppose she saw that I had observed her, for she turned her chair round with its back to the door and said--
"I was wondering why my husband did not come."
I told her that he was engaged for the moment, and she continued--
"Have you noticed any change in him, Mr. Campbell?"
"He seems marvellously well," I replied. "We really owe a great debt to the two little doctors and to----"
I stopped abruptly. Mrs. Barton had grown ghastly pale, and I remembered how fiercely the Jew had endeavoured to attack her in that terrible little room in Florence. Once again she seemed to read my thoughts.
"I knew that man Israel Hoffmann, Mr. Campbell," she said. "I am a Russian, you know, and we--my father and I--disliked him, and he hated us, and had threatened often to revenge--that is, to injure us. My father warned me against him only a few months before he died, and you see how the man tried to attack me on that night. We do not like Jews in Russia you know, Mr. Campbell.--Why, what is it?"
"Nothing," I said, hastily, but I'm afraid my voice shook; "I thought I saw your husband coming in--I was mistaken."
It was no mistake, I knew. It was Barton's face that I had seen looking round the door, with his eyes fixed on his wife; but as I spoke the head was withdrawn, and the door softly closed.
[Illustration: "IT WAS BARTON'S FACE--HIS EYES FIXED ON HIS WIFE."]
"Mr. Campbell," said--or, rather, gasped--the woman at my side, "was he--was he peering at me round the door?"
"Well, I--I thought so," I stammered.
"He always does that now," she whispered, "and it frightens me, Mr. Campbell--it frightens me. What does it mean?"
What on earth was I to say? Here was Barton apparently taking the place of his departed ghastly visitor; but how was I to explain this to his wife, who had never heard, and now most certainly must never hear, of her husband's hideous delusion. I was relieved from my difficulty by Barton himself, who now entered the room with the same boisterously cheerful manner that I had noticed before.
"Well, I hope you're not bored, Campbell," he cried.
"Very much the reverse," said I, with perfect truth.
"I'm afraid that isn't true," said Mrs. Barton; "I'm very dull to-night, but Mr. Campbell must excuse me--my head is aching terribly, and I really think I must go to bed."
Of course, I expressed my sympathy and wished her good-night; but as I opened the door for her she whispered, "For God's sake stay as long as you can. Good-night."
Well, I did stay as long as I could; and if ever a host made it clear to a guest that he wasn't wanted, Barton did that night. After about an hour of it he asked me point blank to go, as he had had a very tiring day.
I couldn't very well stay on after that, could I? I soothed my conscience by determining to find some pretext for coming round to the house the next morning, and got up to go. Barton helped me on with my coat himself, and while he was doing so I noticed an immensely heavy whip lying on an old oak chest in the hall.
"Sorry for your horses, Barton," said I, "if that's your idea of a riding-crop."
"It's a Russian executioner's knout," he said. "I got it as an interesting curiosity, and a pretty penny I had to pay for it. I thought it might interest my wife--she's a Russian, as you know."
"Rather a ghastly present," I said.
"Oh, horrors appeal to the Slavonic temperament," he answered; "she'll be glad to have that knout. Good-night."
I must admit that I left the house with a very strong presentiment of trouble to come, and cudgelling my brains in vain to discover a reason for Barton's amazing conduct at the drawing-room door. I did not like to ask him about it--the less said about his delusion the better, I thought--but I determined to come round in the morning; I could make the Russian knout an excuse for doing so--I could easily assume an interest in a curiosity like that.
So at ten o'clock next day I walked round to the Bartons'. As I turned the corner into Pont Street, I saw with a thrill of undefined dread that there was a small crowd gathered round the Bartons' house, and two policemen were engaged in pushing the people back from the door, which was open. I forced my way furiously through the crowd, and seeing the white face of the old butler in the hall, behind the policemen, I called to him. He came forward and I was admitted, after some delay, as a friend of the family.
"What is it, Parsons?" I asked.
"God knows, Mr. Campbell," he whispered. "Mr. and Mrs. Barton breakfasted together in the oak room this morning: there wasn't no one waiting, and about ten minutes gone I heard a cry and went to the door. It was locked, Mr. Campbell, and there's something goin' on in there as I don't like, sir. The police are breaking in the door now."
[Illustration: "THE POLICEMAN AND BUTLER TRIED TO BREAK IN THE STRONG OAK DOOR."]
I hurried past the old fellow, and up the stairs to the oak room, a little panelled room with a strong oak door, which two men, a policeman and the footman, were trying to break in. From the room came a noise of blows and of a voice singing, heard from time to time, as the two men paused in their violent attack on the door. The voice was strange to me, and I could make nothing of the words of the song; they were not English, that was all I could discover. As I threw my weight against it the door gave way, and the three of us tumbled into the room together. It was a ghastly sight, Jack. There, with her head on the table among the breakfast things and her body resting across the back of a chair, lay Mrs. Barton, dead, and horribly lacerated on the back and shoulders, from which the clothes had been torn away. Her husband was standing beside her, still singing the hideous song we had heard, and waving round his head the terrible whip that I had seen the night before, and which was now dripping with the blood of the wretched woman whose life he had taken.
We all rushed in at him together: he knocked the footman head over heels with his left hand, and struck at me with his whip, but at the same moment the policeman at my side cut him down with a blow of his truncheon, and he lay writhing on the floor. I lifted up the body of the poor woman, but finding that life was quite extinct I laid her down and turned to the madman at my feet. The blow of the policeman's staff had caught him on the side of the head, crushing it in like an egg-shell, and I saw that he was dying. I knelt down by him, and he seemed to recognise me, but in a moment his eyes closed, and though he breathed for more than an hour he never recovered consciousness.
[Illustration: "WE RUSHED AT HIM TOGETHER. HE KNOCKED THE FOOTMAN HEAD OVER HEELS."]
You read my evidence at the inquest: of course my description of Barton's delusion was necessary to establish the poor fellow's undoubted madness, but I did not think it incumbent on me to enter into great detail. Now, I want your opinion as a medical man. This affair has shaken my nerves in the most terrible way.
Of course the vision and its fulfilment, if you can call it such, is and must remain inexplicable. It is Barton's conduct after the operation that I want you to explain.
I know, from certain correspondence that I have in my hands, that the man Israel Hoffmann was terribly wronged by Mrs. Barton and her father: his wife was, in fact, executed on their representations alone, as far as I can ascertain, and the whole object of his life was revenge. Is it possible that the spirit of vengeance passed into Barton's soul as the blood of the injured Jew passed into his veins?
Could that be the reason for his strange choice of a weapon, and for the ghastly song, which may have been a Russian song, or even one of the psalms in Yiddish for all I know, which he sang as he beat his wife to death? If this is so, the only feeling we should have towards poor Barton is one of intense pity; and if not, if such an idea is repugnant to medical science, how do you explain the whole hideous story?
Write soon and tell me.
Your loving brother,
P.S.--It is a coincidence--an interesting coincidence--that the fatal wound on poor Barton's head corresponded exactly, or almost exactly, with a terrible bruise I saw on the head of Israel Hoffmann.
A MAN HUNT WITH BLOODHOUNDS.
SHOWING HOW THEY MAY BE USED IN THE DETECTION OF CRIME.
BY ALFRED ARKAS.
[Illustration: TRAINING PUPPY TO HUNT CLEAN BOOT.]
I have just been hunted by bloodhounds, and, strangely enough, I am none the worse for the experience. It is more exciting than fox-hunting, and for sheer fascination is well ahead of any other sport of which I have any knowledge. The why and wherefore is another story, of which more presently.
The trial of the bloodhound in the practical work of tracking criminals is no new thing. In 1888, when the Whitechapel murders were agitating all England, the public, alarmed and indignant at the impotence of the police, plied the authorities with no less than 1,200 letters per day containing suggestions for the murderer's capture. Of these 800 advocated the trial of bloodhounds.
Ultimately, the weight of public opinion was such as to induce Sir Charles Warren, Commissioner of Police, to give them a trial. Mr. Brough, the eminent authority on the breed, was consulted, and he brought a couple of hounds, trained to hunt man, to London, and several experiments were undertaken.
In some of these Sir Charles himself acted as quarry, the runs being made in Hyde Park. They were all successful, the Commissioner and others who acted as runners being run to earth each time with unfailing regularity. He expressed himself more than satisfied, it being clearly demonstrated that the hounds would run a man to earth who was a complete stranger to them, notwithstanding that the scent might be crossed by a number of other persons.
[Illustration: LAYING TRAINED BLOODHOUNDS ON THE SCENT.]
During all the weeks the hounds were in London no further crime occurred, and the opportunity of utilising their services was lost. Sir Charles kept them till it seemed that the terrible Jack the Ripper scare was over. The hounds were then returned to their owner. They had not left London more than two or three days when another ghastly crime was perpetrated. Obviously their presence exercised a deterrent effect, and had the police seen fit to add a couple of well-trained hounds to the Scotland Yard staff it is probable no other murder would have been added to the series.
[Illustration: CASTING--TO PICK UP SCENT.]
The mysterious and apparently illimitable scenting power possessed by the bloodhound appeals to the imagination of the criminal classes to an extraordinary extent. From what I have gathered of the subject, I cannot help feeling that no police station of any size should be without a couple of trained hounds. The fear of the "cat" is proverbial. Utilise the bloodhound, and a far greater deterrent against crime will have been found.
Some time since the subject once more engaged further attention, and it was decided to organise a series of private trials in connection with _The Harmsworth Magazine_, with a view to determining the real capability of the hound for hunting man. The next thing was to procure hounds of the purest breed. At this stage we put ourselves into communication with Mr. Edwin Brough, of Wyndyate, near Scarborough.
Mr. Brough has been a breeder of bloodhounds for something like thirty years. He is regarded as the highest living authority on the breed. He is the winner of over 400 first and champion prizes for hounds of his own breeding, and he may be aptly described the creator of the splendid type of hound we have to-day.
Mr. Brough received my suggestion in a sporting manner, and with characteristic generosity offered me every facility in the most difficult and patience-racking task of obtaining the photographs which accompany this article. His hounds are his best friends, and he is willing to go to almost any lengths in order to correct the innumerable absurd ideas that are prevalent with regard to the breed.
Accordingly a short time since a small two-man expedition, equipped with a camera and an unlimited stock of patience, set out for Scarborough.
Early on the following morning I took part in my first manhunt, and a weirdly fascinating experience it was in all conscience--harmless enough, in spite of its sanguinary title.
At the back of Mr. Brough's house are spacious kennels. Here we found thirty or forty valuable hounds, gazing from behind the iron bars of their kennel runs, each handsome and well groomed, the black and fawn coat glistening like velvet; each a perfect type, with handsome expressive face, and pedigree long enough to turn many a human being pale with envy. The kennel man opened two of the doors, and we trudged down the drive and out on to the fields by the cliff-side with four magnificent hounds at our heels.
A soft green undulation in the countryside, sloping into a wooded valley, was chosen for our first trial, and standing at a gate on the summit I had an uninterrupted view of the whole run.
A few moments after our arrival a gentleman who had volunteered to act as runner or quarry started over the slope, and sprinted quickly across the valley on to the opposite hillside. His destination had been previously decided, and with the aid of a glass we could distinctly see him crouching behind the bushes.
[Illustration: BABBO--THE FAMOUS TRACKER OF HUMAN BEINGS.]
A short time after he had concealed himself, the hounds, which had been held in check out of sight, were brought through the gate and laid on scent. The laying on was done by the kennel man, who simply ran his hand along the line or lines of scent to give the hounds a start. A moment later they were rapidly casting round on the trail. Then, before you could say "Jack Robinson," there was a deep sonorous bay, more like the roar of the sea-lion echoing in the roof of Brighton Aquarium than anything else I know, but sweet and resonant as the note of a bell. They had found the scent, and were off like streaked lightning.
[Illustration: FINDING THE QUARRY--INSTANTANEOUS PHOTOGRAPH.]
Down the hill they flew, three in a bunch, the fourth perhaps a yard behind, their noses almost scraping the ground, and the long graceful ears trailing noiselessly in the short grass. A couple of minutes later a deep-bayed quartette echoed away on the further hillside. They had found their man, and were jumping and licking him delightedly. So much for the tearing limb from limb theory.
As a matter of fact, the bloodhound never hurts his quarry when found. He is the gentlest and most lovable of hounds, and vice of any description is utterly foreign to his character. If he is required to hold his man at bay it is necessary to specially train him for the purpose.
"Strong scent," said Mr. Brough. "They went right away." And, in truth, they travelled like racehorses. So fast, indeed, that one forgot for the moment that they were not pursuing a visible object, or racing to a pre-arranged goal.
When the truth made itself clear that they were hunting what is termed "the clean boot"--following the natural scent of a man through his shoe leather--across rough and broken country at a twelve-miles-an-hour gait, it seemed incredible.
And it should be remembered that it was the individual scent of that one man they were tracking. Each human being seems to possess a distinctive scent, and when well-trained hounds are laid on to any one scent they cannot be diverted, though the trail be crossed by any number of other persons.
Five minutes later I ran myself. I was a complete stranger to the hounds. I know that no artificial scent had been attached to my boots, and the course was an entirely different one of my own choosing. Yet they found me a mile away, a few minutes after they were laid on, and bayed with delight as they came up.
In all our trials, extending over three days, they were successful, although every difficulty was placed in their way. In one trial the runner ran to the bank of a river, then up along the side for some yards; back again over the same scent to the first point of contact with the bank; then he forded the river and ran along the opposite bank.
The hounds came up at full trot, traced him along the near bank, till in their eagerness they ran over the scent. Then they all checked and cast again, and after a few moments found by the double scent--although he had practically returned over the same line--that he had doubled over his own track. At the bank they cast again, and after assuring themselves that he had not returned to the starting place they swam the stream, and in a few moments had picked up the scent on the other side and found him.
In another instance several circles were made by the quarry in the middle of a run, and while they were casting about this invisible maze, in an endeavour to find his outgoing trail, we were enabled to obtain our photograph of a cast.
In most of our trials the hounds were put on the trail comparatively soon after the runner had passed over the course, but it must not be forgotten that they are equally successful in working what is termed a "cold scent"--one many hours old. In this respect they surpass all other breeds of hounds.
As I have already said, this power of scent is so subtle as to be almost uncanny. And it is as deep a mystery to those who have devoted a lifetime to hound breeding as to the ignorant layman.
Certain it was, however, that the hounds performed marvels, and their success, under circumstances of great difficulty, was sufficient to more than convince me of their value in the detection of crime. They must have fair play, of course, and conditions more or less favourable for their particular work.
The training of the uneducated puppy to hunt the clean boot is as interesting as the work of the fully trained adults.
The puppies begin their training when only four or five months old, and Mr. Brough resorts to none of the methods generally advocated, such as rubbing the boots of the runner with blood or aniseed. They begin as they finish--on the clean boot. For the first few times they practise tracking a runner whom they know.
The runner starts in view of the pups; runs some two or three hundred yards up wind in a straight line on grass land. He hides himself as soon as possible, and then the trainer takes the pup over the exact line of scent. He trails his hand along it, endeavouring to get the dog to put his head down and work for himself. This goes on till the quarry is reached, when the dog is rewarded by a piece of meat.
This has to be repeated several times perhaps, before the young hound gets his head down and understands what is required of him. Once he understands, he takes the greatest possible interest in the quest, and improves rapidly.
Then difficulties are placed in his way. The line is purposely crossed by others. The time of laying on is postponed some time after the run. Zig-zag runs are also made, and sticks with white flags on them are stuck in the ground at all the angles. By this means the trainer is enabled to judge of the accuracy of the dog's work.
Mr. Brough makes an intimate friend of each and every hound, and their individual characteristics are well known to him. Extreme patience, kindly persistence and firmness are all that is necessary in the upbringing of these beautiful creatures.
As friends they are unsurpassed. Mr. Brough says, "The bloodhound is essentially and pre-eminently a gentlemanly dog, and when you have once won his esteem he may be depended upon as your staunch, trusty, life-long friend."
Mr. Brough's dogs are the handsomest I ever saw. They have a majestic bearing, and thoughtful expressive faces, quite in harmony with their aristocratic lineage.
I should advise every dog lover to obtain a good puppy and train it himself. There are few healthier or more delightful recreations.
[Illustration: WATCHING A PUPPY'S WORK.]
[Illustration: Three Score and Ten.]
Come to me, little one, Out of the autumn sun; Play must be surely done-- Three kisses, then. Clamber up on my knee. Old, do they say of me? You would not like to be Three score and ten!
Time's to be blamed, not I; Whether we laugh or sigh, His busy wheels must fly For maids and men. Once I was six years old, Only the years have roll'd; Most of the tale is told At three score and ten!
Age, too, has dreams of May, Loved faces gone away, Green ways grown sad and gray. Scarce we know when. Crying?--no, little one; Tears should be past and done, Rest is so nearly won, At three score and ten!
Lift me your baby eyes, Blue as the summer skies; More in their laughter lies Than Age may ken. Heav'n in their depth I see: Pray it may there still be When you can count, like me, Three score and ten!
THE DESPATCHES FOR GIBRALTAR.
A VICTORIA CROSS AFFAIR.
BY GILBERT HERON.
_Illustrated by D. B. Waters and F. T. Jane._
In the summer of 189-, the Channel Squadron, having taken part in the Annual Mobilisation, had dispersed.
Ships and men alike were resting, the former in their respective dockyards, the latter enjoying themselves after their kind on leave.
Although only a senior lieutenant, I had lately been appointed to the command of a torpedo-gunboat, the _Quickmatch_, a vessel of the _Speedy_ type, which I had left at Portsmouth. I was spending my leave at the country seat in Hampshire of one of my late father's oldest friends, whose daughter I had long loved, when a telegram arrived ordering me to join my ship with all possible despatch. Hawes, our cheeky little clerk, evidently thinking I should regard it as a piece of good news, had added on his own responsibility, "War declared! Vive la gloire!"
[Illustration: "'I HAVE DECIDED TO ENTRUST YOU WITH A DIFFICULT AND DANGEROUS MISSION.'"]
So it had come, then, and I should have to leave the delights of love in a country house for the stern realities of war. There was nothing for it but to leave Bertha and say farewell. We had been engaged for some time, but had decided that it would be folly to marry till I had at least reached the rank of Commander; and the one drop of sweetness in the bitter cup of our farewell was the thought that active service would give me an opportunity for quick promotion.
[Illustration: "I BADE HER A LONG GOOD-BYE."]
It was difficult to find a quiet corner for leave-taking; but eventually, in the drawing-room, behind a palm-shaded screen, I bade her a long good-bye.
"I will write whenever I can, dearest," I said, "but I expect it will not be an easy matter. You must be content to hear from me at odd intervals till the war is over. You will trust me, dear, will you not?"
"With my very life!" was her passionate reply. "Oh, Herbert! Herbert!" she cried, the tears, which nothing could now hold back, coming thick and fast; "I will pray for you always--always, that the God of battles may spare you to me!"
At length I managed to tear myself away, leaving her to find consolation from Him who dries all tears with His infinite pity and compassion, and gives even to weak women and little children a strength that many an erring man envies.
I reached the _Quickmatch_ the same night, and found instructions to join up with the great fleet which was already assembling at Spithead.
The next morning we weighed anchor in the presence of the greatest crowd of people it has ever been my lot to witness. Southsea beach was one compact mass of men, women, and children, anxious to get a last glimpse of the near and dear ones who were so soon to do battle for their native land.
Slowly we moved off, and though we were far from the shore, on the outside right of the fleet, we could hear the hoarse cries which broke wildly from the vast concourse watching us steam away--from home and friends, from love and life, from all that man holds dear, to death and an unknown resting-place.
Two days later saw us across the Bay of Biscay, in compliance with the sealed instructions which the Admiral had opened as soon as we were out of sight of land. The Channel Squadron, with Gibraltar as its temporary headquarters, was to keep open the line of communication from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. This, with the information that France and Russia were actively operating against us, was all we knew.
The _Blenheim_ had been sent on ahead as one of our scouts, and she had signalled nothing of consequence till we had arrived off Cape St. Vincent. Then, however, she sent us some sufficiently startling news by her mast-head semaphore. She reported that a strong French fleet lay stretched right across the entrance to the Straits of Gibraltar.
Immediately all was excitement aboard. Evidently we should have to force our passage through them, and everyone was keenly awaiting the signal to get into "line of battle." But the signal did not come.
A heavy white fog came stealing across the face of the waters, and in a very few moments had swallowed up sea and sky and ships in its devouring obscurity.
Then came a signal to stop engines, and soon the entire fleet had stopped and were lying almost as if at anchor.
Besides myself, the officers of the _Quickmatch_ consisted of a lieutenant, Taylor, who acted as my first lieutenant and performed the navigating duties; a sub-lieutenant, Hastings, fresh from college; an engineer officer; and a gunner, a fine specimen of a self-educated bluejacket who resolutely sets himself to climb the ladder of promotion from the lower deck.
We were standing together on the quarter-deck discussing the probability of the fog lifting, when I was surprised by a signal from Admiral Beaufoy, ordering me to repair aboard the flag-ship.
I lost no time in obeying his summons, and in a few minutes was standing in his cabin.
The Admiral, who was pacing to and fro when I entered, stopped and curiously regarded me for a few embarrassing seconds.
"Ralph," he said at length, "I have decided to entrust you with a difficult and dangerous mission."
I bowed in silence, wondering to what this was to lead. Evidently it was something serious, and success would mean promotion, and promotion--marriage! And at that thought my lovelorn mind went back to the picture of Bertha seated under the old elm tree, a picture so sweet that for an instant I entirely forgot the business on hand.
I was recalled from my day-dreams by the cold, calm voice of the Admiral. "The position," he was saying, "as you are aware, is this:--
"There is a powerful French fleet between us and Gibraltar. I intend to fight that fleet"--his eyes sparkled, and he involuntarily clenched his fists--"and drive it into the Mediterranean.
"Now, I have very important despatches from home for the Governor of Gibraltar, which _must_ be delivered not later than to-morrow. I had intended to deliver them myself, not being aware of the presence of the blockading fleet. Then, when I heard of their position, I had determined to attack at dawn, and thus the despatches would still have been in time. But now, since I cannot attack till the fog lifts"--he made a gesture of impatience--"and that may be days, the only thing left for me to do is to run past the French, and so deliver the despatches to the Governor."
I was all attention, and followed the Admiral intently as he went on, now somewhat more quickly.
"The _Quickmatch_, Ralph, is in every way suited for such a purpose, and I intend you to take her through. Now, please, listen carefully to the suggestions I am about to make you. Will you take a glass of wine?"
I was so elated at the prospect of distinction thus offered to me that I hardly know how I answered.
The Admiral continued: "If you start shortly, you will be in the mouth of the Straits of Gibraltar about sunset, and you can creep along under the lee of the African coast with a very fair chance of success. You will thus arrive at Gibraltar during the night, and go at once to the Governor and deliver your despatches. You will then await further orders. Of course, in the event of failure----"
Here I leapt up and interrupted him. "Failure, sir! I shall not think of it! I'll get past those Frenchmen, and deliver my despatches, though the whole French navy were after me. Failure, sir! Not if the _Quickmatch_ and every soul aboard of her goes to the bottom! No, not even then!"
The Admiral smiled at my warmth. Of course, he did not know that my life-long happiness--Bertha, to wit--depended on my getting through with those despatches.
He poured out a glass of champagne, and said, "Don't be too sanguine, Ralph. It's no easy matter, you know, to dodge past such a fleet; but I've great confidence in you, and somehow I think you'll do it. Come, let's drink to your success!"
And, standing, we drained our glasses.
The undertaking was certainly rather a big order, and in my most extravagant dreams of distinction I had not ventured to hope of such a thing. What a glorious chance of distinguishing myself! Most of the men I knew would give their ears for such an opportunity, and here it was within my grasp at the very outset of the war.
The Admiral was a man of few words. Going to a curious little Indian safe which stood in a corner of the cabin, he took from it the precious despatches I was to risk my own and the lives of all my shipmates to deliver.
[Illustration: "A RINGING CHEER FOLLOWED US AS THE THICK GREY MIST RAPIDLY SWALLOWED US UP."]
"Here, sir," he said, "are the documents. They contain most important political information, and _must_ be in the Governor's hands as _soon as possible_. In case of any accident, burn them, throw them overboard, destroy them somehow. But _don't_, for goodness' sake, let them fall into the hands of the enemy. They are more important than I dare hint at. Take them, and success go with you!"
The fog was as thick as ever when I got on deck, and getting into my boat, we cautiously crept our way through the mist, and five minutes later I was aboard.
I went at once down to my cabin and sent for my faithful first lieutenant. I made him sit down, and told him what we had to do. He did not seem to think it a very great piece of good luck.
"Quite good enough to have to chance it with the remainder," he said, "without getting sent on beastly special service jobs. Still, there's no help for it I suppose, and so we'll have to buckle to and get ready."
And as Taylor had no inducement to make him long for adventures of this kind, in the shape of a lady-love, I could hardly blame him for not taking quite so enthusiastic a view of the affair as myself.
Meanwhile, time was advancing, and at four bells (2 p.m.) we got under way. It was too foggy for the ships' companies to see much of us as we moved away, but as we noiselessly glided through the now calm and oily water with ever-increasing speed past the _Terrible_, someone noticed us, and a ringing cheer followed us as the thick grey mist rapidly swallowed us up.
And as we got settled down to our work we increased the speed, and presently were going a good 20 knots per hour--never a slow speed, and in such thick weather an infinitely perilous thing to do.
But then, as I told Taylor, "Fog or no fog, we've only got a few hours to do it in, and we're about 150 miles away. Besides, we'll have to ease down when we get close in shore, and so we'd better make the most of it while we can." Nevertheless, I knew what a fearsome thing I was doing.
Up on deck one could see but a few yards away from the ship's side. All around us lay the white impenetrable mist, wrapping up everything in its death-like folds, which shut out not only sight but sound.
Any moment the form of some ship might loom spectrally up through the fog, and hurl us to destruction; and, clinging to the rail, I constantly strained my eyes ahead, endeavouring to pierce the impenetrable mist in front of us. In this way we continued throughout the afternoon, and at four o'clock Taylor came up to relieve me on the bridge. Going below, I took a hasty meal, and bethought myself of the best plan for carrying the despatches, which I wished to keep continually on my person.
Some instinct seemed to tell me that I should not suffer injury; and while I lived I was determined that the documents should be delivered. I decided to place them in an oilskin envelope, and then to put them within my cholera belt--that indispensable adjunct to all those who are constantly exposed to quick changes of temperature. When I did eventually go on deck again it was nearly five, and to my great joy I saw that the fog was decidedly lifting. Far away on our starboard beam we could just catch a faint glimpse of Morocco's cruel-looking coast.
I went up on the bridge to Taylor. "Can you see anything?" he asked as I came up. "What's in sight, old man?" I replied somewhat anxiously, for I knew by his manner he had seen something worth looking at.
[Illustration: "WE COULD SEE THREE CRUISERS, THE ADVANCE GUARD OF THE FRENCH FLEET."]
For answer he pointed dead ahead. And there, very faint and indistinct in the still somewhat dense atmosphere, we could see three cruisers, the advance guard of the French fleet.
"We must run in under the land, Taylor," I said, trembling with suppressed excitement.
"We must certainly dodge those three beggars." He nodded and gave orders for the wheel to be put round hard to port. Round came the dear little craft, beautifully (she was a regular demon for turning, performing the man[oe]uvre easily in her own length) and we headed dead for the rocky coast.
"Half-speed," I shouted, and instantly "cling-clang!" rang out the indicator bell as they put the engines down as I had ordered.
We were not observed as yet, but the fog was rapidly lifting now, and soon we should be well within sight of the French, and the greatest caution was necessary.
So for the next hour we crept slowly along, all eyes fixed on the forest of masts ahead of us. It was by this time nearly pitch dark, an unusual thing for the time of the year, which we put down to the dense fog. It had lifted from the face of the waters, but would still be hanging like a thick pall overhead.
As we advanced we could clearly see the great fleet of the enemy, lying well on our port side, only about eight miles distant, and spread out so as to cover a great extent.
We were right in under the shadow of the rocks, as close in now as I dared venture, for although our draught was very light, the coast is a most treacherous one, and any moment a sunken rock might do us irreparable harm. All at once a broad bright streak of brilliant light shot up into the dark and moonless night, followed first by one or two, and then by many others, which crossed and recrossed the horizon perpetually. The French had begun to work their searchlights!
[Illustration: "THE FRENCH BEGAN TO WORK THEIR SEARCHLIGHTS."]
And now commenced the real difficulty of our task. Should we venture to even cross one of those brilliant paths of light so vividly flashing all around us, we must inevitably be discovered. Speaking in whispers, hardly daring even to breathe, I cautiously guided the little vessel in and out and to and fro, so as to avoid if possible those argus eyes. But no calculation, no precaution, could be of any use to us now, and I knew not at what instant one of those lights might be directed full on us, and reveal every detail of our vessel in its pitilessly searching glare.
We were of course all ready for action, and I had given orders that all the watertight compartments were to be closed. Taylor now came up and reported everything ready, and the men assembled at their posts ready for any and every emergency. The torpedo tubes were each and all laden with their deadly freight, and the two 4·7 inch quick-firing bow and stern guns were manned; the latter under Taylor's supervision, the former under the gunner's.
I had increased our speed again, and we should soon be within hailing distance of the out-lying French cruisers, and I knew that our immunity could not last many moments more.
And sure enough, the next instant a blinding white light rested for a couple of seconds upon us, throwing every little detail up into a strong relief, and then was gone, leaving the black night blacker than ever by contrast. It was the search light of the nearest Frenchman.
"Spotted, by George!" said Taylor, vehemently. "We're done!"
"Now or never!" I shouted. "Full speed ahead!"
Like a gallant racehorse responding to its rider's whip the little craft sprang suddenly forward, and in a very few moments we were past the cruiser, who had as yet not quite determined whether she had seen us or not, out into the blackness beyond.
[Illustration: "THE WORK IN THE STOKE-HOLD WAS ENORMOUS."]
As I have already said, the fleet was lying well from us to port, and the cruiser who had seen us was about the only ship we had immediately to fear. But now she began to work all her search lights in our direction, and every few seconds we were disclosed relentlessly in the glare of their 25,000-candle-power lights. The attention of the other ships had by this time been drawn to us, and now several more began to dodge their lights about and around us.
"There she goes, sir," said the Quarter-master at the wheel to me the next instant, as a brilliant flash came from the bows of the French cruiser, followed by a loud and ringing report.
"Not a bad shot," said Taylor, as with a "whirrr-rrr-ooo" the projectile shrieked its way through the air high over our heads.
"Gentle hint to lie to, sir," said the Quarter-master, with an attempt at a smile.
As he spoke I could see the cruiser turning and steaming off after us, flashing a signal to her flag-ship as she did so. Then two small vessels detached themselves from the fleet and prepared to follow us also.
But we were past them all, and had a full head of steam on, and so we could reasonably hope to have a very good run for it at least.
Presently--bang! and another shot whizzed past us and lost itself in the night.
It was a shell, and we heard it explode far ahead as it plunged down into the water.
"Are the night sights all in good order?" I asked Taylor, who stood close by, with his hands in his pockets, as nonchalant as ever, smoking a cigarette.
"Everything's O.K., old man," was his reply. "I'd dearly love to give 'em a taste of our after 4·7. Don't you think we ought to, now?"
"No," said I; "I don't think we will just yet. We'll reserve that for awhile till they get within closer range. They probably have not quite made up their minds yet as to who we are!"
And now the chase grew furious.
We were rushing along for all we were worth, and our funnels were almost red-hot, vomiting sparks and flames as copiously as smoke. The roaring of our furnaces could be plainly heard on deck, and the work in the stoke-hold was enormous. The cruiser behind us was gaining slightly; but if we could manage to escape without much damage for the next hour we should be well within range of Gibraltar, and the enemy would hardly attempt to follow us any further. "Besides," said I to Taylor, "if they hear firing, surely the _Rupert_ or the _Polyphemus_ will put out to reconnoitre, and of course either will be a very valuable help."
All this time the cruiser had been firing intermittently, and we had not taken much account of the two smaller vessels, who were beginning to gain rapidly. They were torpedo-boat destroyers, and if they got much closer we should have to avow our identity by opening fire.
But suddenly a great cloud of steam burst from the hindmost one, and she began to rock violently.
"She's bust 'er b'iler, sir," said the Quarter-master. "_She_ ain't no more good, anyway. That's one less to reckon with, sir." Evidently something serious had occurred, for the boat swung round in her course, and we could see the men rushing in confusion hither and thither on her decks, while a dense cloud of steam still arose from her funnels.
But the other boat was rapidly gaining.
Leaving Taylor in charge of the bridge, I rushed along aft to the quarter deck. "Are you ready to fire?" I shouted to the captain of the gun.
"Aye, aye, sir," was the cheery response from the man, a grizzled old gunner's mate with a shaggy beard, who had seen service in every corner of the globe--a man of cast-iron nerves, with a fondness for rum and the everlasting piece of spun-yarn tied round his bare big toe.
"Get a good sight on," I said. "Aim low at that torpedo boat coming up astern, and fire when I give you the word. Put on about 1,000 yards, but be sure to aim well down, now!"
The old veteran bent low and carefully over the tiny night sight. "She's coming on beautif'ly, sir," he said. "I've got 'er fixed right amidships. Ready, sir?"
As he spoke the cruiser's search-light accidentally rested full on the torpedo boat. At the same instant a well-directed shot from her bow gun rushed by us, crashing into the woodwork of the bridge behind our backs.
"Fire!" I sang out.
A blinding flash, and the distressingly sharp report of cordite, followed immediately. It was our first shot, but it did more damage than the Frenchman, with all her firing, had been able to inflict on us. As we strained our eyes in the direction of the boat, we saw the shell burst right between her funnels.
"_Good_ shot!" I yelled in triumph.
[Illustration: "THE POOR WRETCHES RUSHED UP ON DECK TO FIND THEIR FRAIL COCKLESHELL GOING OVER RAPIDLY."]
A brilliant flare of spark and flame shot suddenly up into the night, and then came a fearful agonised pandemonium, as the poor wretches rushed up on deck, to find their frail cockleshell of a ship hit in her vitals, and going over rapidly. We could see the water full of struggling figures, and then suddenly she heeled and collapsed, and I could look no more, for the cruiser, without attempting to pick up a soul, now began to fire rapidly and continuously at us.
Taylor, in our tiny conning tower, was steering a most erratic course, which rendered hitting us a matter of some difficulty, as all the target we presented was our stern, which, only coming at intervals into the glare of the searchlight, was no easy matter to follow with a gun.
We now began to fire continuously also, but could not tell whether our shots told or not, and indeed we could hardly hope to do much damage, for the cruiser was evidently a boat of weight, and, in accordance with the French custom, would be heavily armoured round her bows.
I looked at my watch. It was past eight, and we could reasonably hope to be within sight and hearing of Gibraltar soon.
For the next fifteen minutes nothing of importance happened; but just as we sighted Tarifa Light ahead, there was a terrible crash, followed by a loud report, and I was thrown flat on my back on the deck.
They had hit us in the stern, and evidently low down.
Jumping to my feet and half stunned by the shock, I rushed down below, and attempted to discover the extent of the damage. The shell had crashed right through the after bulk-heading, and had exploded in the ward-room.
The wreckage was fearful. As far as I could tell from a hasty glance round, there was not a single thing untouched.
I had no time to observe details though, but I noticed that the foremost water-tight doors had held good, and the water, which was now coming in very fast astern, would thus be prevented from gaining on the fore part of the vessel.
But were the screws touched, or the steering-gear?
I was not able to make a direct examination, and went at once on deck again, where the firing was now fast and furious.
Another and another shot struck us, and the sight was piteous. Not a boat remained at the davits, and everywhere splinters were flying about, wounding many a poor fellow as he stood at his gun. The shell which had exploded below, too, had set the _Quickmatch_ on fire in two places, and I had to send some men down with the hose, lest the fire should spread to the deck beneath our feet.
Suddenly out of the darkness right ahead came a bright glare of light, followed by the reports of several guns.
Looking, I beheld a sight that made my heart leap for very joy.
"Hurrah, the _Polyphemus_!" I shouted. "We shall do it yet, men!"
For the famous torpedo-ram, the only ship of her kind in the world, had appeared on the scene, and a formidable opponent would our friends the enemy find her.
[Illustration: "A SHOT CARRIED AWAY A FUNNEL AND KILLED POOR TAYLOR."]
And as if to damp my ardour there came another shot from the cruiser, which, carrying away our foremost funnel with an awful crash, struck the bridge, killing poor Taylor instantaneously as he stood there.
"Oh! the blackguards!" I yelled despairingly, my heart down in my boots again, for the cruiser was now rapidly nearing us.
There was, unfortunately, no chance of our torpedoing her, for our stern-tube had been knocked to atoms by the shell which had come in astern. Were we to lose the day at the eleventh hour, and just as the succour we so greatly needed came in sight? It was too bitter; and, forgetful of every risk now, I shook my fist frantically at the Frenchman, a frightful rage gnawing at my heart. After coming so far and losing so many brave men, to fail at last!
But it had been ordained that I was not to fail in my mission, after all, for the _Polyphemus_ had now to be reckoned with by the Frenchman, and she was gallantly trying to draw the enemy's fire from us to herself.
We were very close in shore, and the cruiser was now trying to get in after us, so as to present one broadside to us and the other to the _Polyphemus_.
She gave her helm a turn, and was almost down upon us.
Simultaneously the _Polyphemus_, that wonderful vessel, releasing her false bottom, lightened her draught by several hundred tons, and seemed to spring bodily into the air, and was in between us.
But not before a shot from the Frenchman, fired almost point blank, struck our port upperdeck torpedo-tube.
There was a terrible deafening crash, and I was flung headlong into the water.
Then came sudden silence, the more intense for the raving turmoil that had filled my ears the moment before, and I went down and down, to an apparently interminable depth, till I began to wonder, in an impersonal sort of way, whether I were ever coming to the surface again.
But before I had realised it, I had shot up again, and my head was above water.
Heavily weighted as I was by my clothes and sea-boots, I struggled fiercely to maintain my position. But though I felt no pain, a sudden numbness had taken possession of my right leg, and vainly I attempted to swim or tread water.
Twice I had already gone under, when I found myself grasped by the coat collar, and a gruff voice shouted hoarsely in my ear, "Keep it up, sir, you're all right!"
It was Bates, the gunner's mate, who had managed, as he had so many times before, to escape unhurt, and had got hold of a spar. I grasped his arm and the piece of oar, and looked about me.
The cold had restored my scattered faculties, and it was indeed a fearful and heartrending sight that I beheld. Almost beyond conception, the terrible scene is to this day branded on my brain, never to be erased till my dying day.
There were but few souls in the water, alas, for the explosion had killed most of my men as they stood on the upperdeck, and the _Quickmatch_ was nowhere to be seen.
A couple of hundred yards away, still keeping up an aimless fire, was the Frenchman; a terrible outcry rising from her decks; the men already breaking away from the restraints of discipline and leaping headlong over the side.
[Illustration: "THE 'POLYPHEMUS' HAD RAMMED HER."]
The _Polyphemus_ had rammed her!
As we gazed we saw the great vessel vomiting flames and men, heel slowly over, and gradually go down into the unknown depths; a fearful hissing noise, followed by a terrible explosion, telling of the dire conflict of fire and water as her furnaces met their natural enemy. The air was thick with lurid smoke, filled with the shrieks of the dying and the fierce oaths of men who were vainly attempting to catch some passing spar, or clutching at some more favoured individual at the imminent risk of dragging both down to destruction in their frenzy.
We strained our eyes in the direction of the _Polyphemus_, and had the heartfelt satisfaction of seeing her lowering all her available boats.
And then the reaction overcame me and I fainted dead away, and would inevitably have drowned but for the strong right arm of Bates.
* * * * *
When I came to myself I was in a bunk on board the _Polyphemus_, with a group of anxious faces round me.
There was a strong odour of iodoform in the cabin, and a lavish display of lint and bandages, for which I vainly tried to account. I felt at once for the despatches, and had the satisfaction of feeling their bulky outline against my skin.
"All right now?" cheerily asked the little Welsh doctor who had been busily engaged in bringing me to life again.
"Yes, thanks," I replied, trying to sit upright in the bunk, a movement which gave me excruciating pain, and was promptly prevented by the sick bay steward and the doctor.
"Come, come!" he said, with a smile, "none of your nonsense, now. You won't be able to move for a while yet."
Then I remembered the strange numbness of my right leg when I fell into the water.
"What has happened?" I asked. "What have I done--what----"
"Well, if you insist," he said, unwillingly, "you've broken your thigh. It's nothing much, just a simple fracture," he continued, quickly. "Soon be well again, and none the worse for it. Now, don't worry; you'll probably be able to walk as well as if nothing had happened."
I lay still and groaned. This, then, was to be the end of all my vain-glorious imaginings. I began to pity myself with an exceeding pity. Instead of dramatically delivering my despatches, I was to lie on a sick bed. I was deformed, disfigured--what would Bertha think when she saw me! In spite of the doctor's assurance, I felt sure that I should go through life with a limp. A graceful figure I should make!
The Captain of the _Polyphemus_ here suddenly recalled my wandering mind.
[Illustration: "'YOU HAVE DONE A VERY PLUCKY THING, SIR,' SAID THE CAPTAIN."]
[Illustration: "MY DEAR WIFE LOOKS OVER MY SHOULDER."]
"We shall be very glad to have an account of your adventures, Lieutenant Ralph," he said, courteously, "and how you came to be chased by that brute of a cruiser."
In as few words as possible I told them all that had occurred since the declaration of war, finally inquiring for Bates, to whom I owed my life, and had the happiness of hearing that he was safe and sound aboard.
"You have done a very plucky thing, sir," said the Captain, at the close of my recital. "You fought a splendid fight, and I am sure your country will not forget your brave and valuable services. I am sorry to say that only four of your ship's company have been recovered, and a few Frenchmen."
We were by this time nearly at Gibraltar; and the Captain, having received the despatches from me and assured me they should go at once to the Governor, left me to fall into a deep, refreshing sleep, from which I awoke calm and content. The despatches were delivered in time, though not by my hand. But their safe delivery was the chief matter.
That night, in spite of the doctor's protestations, I was taken from the ship and sent ashore, where I was received at the comfortable little Gibraltar hospital.
My thigh was indeed badly fractured, but a sound constitution, aided by the unremitting care bestowed upon me in Gibraltar, soon brought me round again, but a slight limp is always with me.
* * * * *
When my dear wife, who looks over my shoulder as I write these words, says that my infirmity is no less glorious than the Victoria Cross which rests so proudly on my breast, I feel amply repaid for anything I may have done or risked in the service of my country; and the day when I shall attain flag-rank looms larger upon the satisfactory horizon of my life.
THE SAD FATE OF MISTRESS PRUE.
Mistress Prue was gay and sweet, And fair as maid could be; From dainty head to twinkling feet, A source of joy was she.
But Mistress Prue was hard to please, And full of whims and airs; Her beaux she'd torment, flout, and tease, Unheeding all their prayers.
At length one day _she_ loved a swain, And changed her ways at last; But "Mistress Prue" she did remain, For wooing days were past.
[Illustration: _Illustration by Sauber._]
A GIRL'S BALLOON JOURNEY OVER LONDON.
THE STORY OF AN ADVENTURE IN THE AIR AT FORTY MILES AN HOUR.
BY GERTRUDE BACON.
[Illustration: MISS GERTRUDE BACON.]
A few weeks ago a telegram was put into my hands containing two words only, "Come along."
The message was short, but eminently satisfactory, for it signified that the negotiations which had been in progress for a lofty balloon ascent from the Crystal Palace had been completed.
I scanned the weather with interest, for on this occasion I was to accompany my father skywards, and with him and the aeronaut to make an ascent which should not only be my first, but should be noteworthy from the height it was hoped to attain, we being a light party and the balloon a specially large one.
A talismanic card bearing Mr. Spencer's name, and the magic words "Private ascent," gained us free and instant admission to the Palace.
On our way to the balloon enclosure we fell in with our captain, Mr. Stanley Spencer, the youngest member of that firm of distinguished aeronauts who may be said to possess almost the monopoly of the upper regions, and the right of way in the skyey realms.
He was dressed in nautical fashion, as befits the man who sails his own craft through that vastest of all oceans--the ocean of the air--and with his gold-laced cap and blue jacket looked every inch the sailor that he is. He has steered his ship all over the world, being only just returned from India and China, while he wears on his coat the gold medal that the grateful people of Cuba presented him with in the days before the war.
Mr. Spencer's genial face was wreathed in smiles. He said the day was cut out for our ascent, that everything was in readiness, that the sky was clear, and that the wind would carry us directly over London, only he wished there was not quite so much of it.
[Illustration: "THE BALLOON WAS A FLAT, LIMP MASS OF RED AND YELLOW SILK AND CORD NETTING."]
It was hard to believe that the flat, limp mass of red and yellow silk and cord netting that lay so inert and shapeless on the grass was shortly to bear us among the fleecy clouds that now flecked the heavens.
In the car we carefully stowed the cameras, the horns and tuning-forks and other acoustic instruments, the big exhausted glass bulb in which we were to bottle up a portion of the higher atmosphere for subsequent analysis, the coats and sandwiches that we might be very glad of later. The balloon was a beauty, of 40,000 odd cubic feet capacity, and had only been used twice before.
At four o'clock the patient company sitting on the grass, at a distance rigidly enforced by a stony-hearted policeman, sent a delegate to ask how much longer we should be. We could not say, but we sat and sadly regarded the swaying silk, and contemplated the ignominy of a return home. At length our captain, in whose mind feelings of prudence were plainly battling with a desire to be off, had the ring and car attached, just to see how things stood. The sand-bags all drew up together, and the balloon rose up higher into the air and began to roll, slowly and majestically, first to one side and then to the other, like a mighty pendulum.
Just at that moment came a lull in the breeze; the angry little squall-demons had whisked themselves off elsewhere; the sun came out from behind a cloud. Things looked brighter in every sense, and Captain Spencer, casting an admiring glance at his stately craft, quivering to be free, came up with a smile.
"I think we'll be off now."
There was a rustle of satisfaction among the onlookers as we sprang into the car, more especially as, the moment the sandbags were removed, the balloon became lively, and gave promise of some fun. Strong arms were holding us down, and up in the ring sat Jack, a weather-beaten old sailor, familiarly known as the "commodore," a tried and trusted servant of the Spencer family, and partner in many an adventure.
"Look here," said our captain; "the wind is stiff, and we may have a roughish descent and need help. Would it not be wiser to abandon the high ascent, part with more ballast-bags, and take up old Jack instead?"
Clearly prudence was on the captain's side, though it was with real sorrow we relinquished our pet scheme of reaching 20,000 feet. So old Jack remained in the ring, our aeronaut commenced throwing bags till we began to rise--but not far. "Hold on!" he cried to the men holding the last rope, and "Look out!" to us, as with a jarring shock the car dashed down on the grass again. Another bag, another rise, and another bump. The squall demons were coming back again, and the people were getting excited.
"Can you spare any of this?" said the captain, looking down at the instruments; "There are not many more sandbags."
So, with another pang, two cameras and other sundries were handed out.
[Illustration: PHOTOGRAPHS OF SOUTH LONDON SUBURBS TAKEN FROM A BALLOON.]
Another bump, a swaying straining of the ropes, while the balloon seemed rapidly losing both patience and temper. One more bag out, a rush upwards, a momentary hesitation, a cheer from the spectators, "She's off! Let go!" and forthwith the tossing car was at peace and still. But the people and the trees, the water-towers and the Palace, took a sudden headlong plunge downwards, and ere I could struggle up from the bottom of the car were hundreds of feet below.
THE CAR OF THE BALLOON CONTAINS CAMERAS, ACOUSTIC INSTRUMENTS, AND A GLASS BULB FOR BOTTLING SOME AIR. ]
From this moment until we again touched the earth the balloon never moved. Of this I can be sure, for I was in it; but a strange motion caused the earth beneath us to recede rapidly, and at the same time to move backwards; so that trees, fields, houses, gardens, streets, and rivers were rushing madly by under our gaze. Not a breeze disturbed us; not a breath came nigh us. Quickly we rose 1,000 feet, 2,000, 3,000, and very shortly we had attained our greatest altitude, almost 6,000 feet--rather over a mile--high.
And now what a glorious panorama spread itself before our delighted gaze! Above, our view was mainly confined to old Jack's boots, for the commodore maintained his position in the ring. Above him spread the gaudy red and yellow silk, with a vista of the valve through the open mouth of the balloon. The sun, now sinking towards the west, beamed hotly upon us, and directly under it was a fleecy white cloud, but unlike any cloud I had ever seen before, because we were looking at it "end on," from a height as great as its own.
But below was a prospect indescribable in its loveliness and weird in its unfamiliarity. Every house, tree, road, garden and field was outlined with startling distinctness and sharpness of detail, but of Liliputian size and in preposterous perspective.
Swiftly we sped along, bearing northwards at some forty miles an hour. Dulwich, Camberwell, Peckham Rye, Bermondsey, swept by, their parks and gardens and ever-thickening streets almost unnoticed, for now all eyes were turned on the shining river, and the great dark mass of the Metropolis we were so quickly approaching, and whose faint murmur was even now striking our ears. It was as we had foreseen--we were to cross London, and at its densest point. Fortune was favouring us indeed, for not twice in thirty ascents from the Palace does such an event occur.
And now we were actually over Southwark, and about to cross the gleaming Thames that wound so sinuously through the maze and tangle of streets, lost in haze as it crept towards the sea, and dazzling in its brilliance where it reflected the waning sunlight. Dotted about upon its surface were a fleet of the sweetest possible little toy ships--tiny models, such as children would sail in their baths at bedtime. Across it we could trace each teeming thoroughfare, Tower Bridge in particular standing out as a beautiful little miniature.
Every block and square, the great arteries of traffic and the less-trodden by-lanes, were delineated as in a huge map. There was St. Paul's looking as Sir Christopher Wren surely never dreamed of, there the great square of the Tower and the shimmering water of the Docks. Conspicuous among the wilderness of roofs eastward shone out an enclosure of little white objects, puzzling at first, but which we presently decided to be the gravestones of some large cemetery--Tower Hamlets probably.
We crossed the river between London and Tower bridges and kept our course north with just a dash of east in it; and all the while the air was full of a strange loud noise, a deep continuous hum, not so much that of bees in the limes or at swarming time, as the ceaseless roar of vast machinery, the booming drone of a mighty dynamo, suggesting sleepless activity, endless motion, and infinite strength and power. It was the voice of the toiling millions, the whirr of the engines of nations, the throb of the heart of the world.
Northward yet, and the streets thinned out and the fields and trees appeared again, and the roar gave place to an almost deathlike silence, for we were above the height to which the sounds of country life could penetrate. We seemed to cross a region of market-gardeners, and at one place all the country appeared covered with hot-houses, whose glass roofs glittered like diamonds. Anon and all the lovely plain was studded with stately mansions and rich men's country seats.
On and on over park and field and wood. Presently our balloon began dropping, and we noted that at 3,200 feet elevation the first sounds reached us, the crowing of a cock, a dog's bark, and the shrill voices of children. Above that height all had been absolute silence, except for the occasional report of a gun, which, however, sounded sharp and short, and different from what it was at lesser elevation.
Down we swooped until we could see the rabbits in a field scuttling to their holes and the ducks on a pond flapping with consternation at our approach. All the neighbourhood turned out to look at us and cheer. We hailed one farmstead and inquired our whereabouts, but we could not catch the reply, though we heard one old woman plainly protesting we were knocking the tiles off her roof with our trail rope.
For half an hour longer we floated on, over fields and hedges that gave one no impression so much as that of irregular patchwork.
We could trace the lanes and main roads, and presently we noticed what seemed to be a well marked "non-slipping" pneumatic bicycle track running through the land. There were ridiculous little white sticks beside it, and we knew it for a railway line. The sight of it began to remind us of certain considerations we would fain have forgotten. To quit these realms for earthly cares and earthly limitations, to exchange our steady car, open to the pure, unbreathed air, for a stuffy, jolting train, was a hard thing to do. But the evening was approaching, the balloon once more dropping, and quickly too, and we had but one more bag of ballast. "This looks a good place for landing, Jack," said the captain, and so it did.
[Illustration: WHAT THE CRYSTAL PALACE GROUNDS LOOKED LIKE AS I LEFT THEM.]
A broad stretch of level fields, some grass and some with the corn just cut, no trees and not even a hedge, only a long way ahead a high road with telegraph posts, and beyond that again the railway running north. So we made ready for the end. Jack came down from the ring, the captain took the end of the valve rope ready to pull, I was placed in the centre with orders to stand with my knees bent, to hold on fast to a rope on each side, and to prepare for a big bump. Nearer and nearer the earth we swooped, and as we bore down we could perceive that the wind we had been perfectly unconscious of above, and which we fondly hoped had abated, was blowing as stiffly as ever, and sweeping over the open plain fresh and strong.
We left a young plantation behind us, just shaved a patch of growing wheat, and then hovered over a field where the corn was reaped, and the sheaves, piled in shocks, stretched in neat rows to the high road far ahead. It was the very spot.
"Now!" cried our aeronaut, as he tugged the valve rope with all his force and held it taut. Over went the anchor, and instantly the earth made a sudden violent rush upwards and hit the car with a stunning crash that shook every bone in one's body. We actually landed on a corn shock, scattering the sheaves right and left, and the great floundering balloon pulled us over flat on one side, so that for a moment the wheat ears brushed our faces as we lay, all in a heap, holding on with might and main, till in a moment we lifted again.
[Illustration: HERTFORDSHIRE WOODS AS SEEN FROM A BALLOON.]
But then an untoward event occurred. Under ordinary circumstances, the many-pronged anchor, let fall from a height, buries itself deeply in the ground, and thus moored, after two or three rebounds, the balloon subsides. But no rain had fallen for many a day, and in that iron-baked soil the grapnel hooks could penetrate scarce half an inch. The balloon rose, plunging and straining, and in a moment the wind had caught the fast emptying silk and carried it madly forward, the useless anchor dragging vainly along the impenetrable ground, and the unfortunate car, all on its side, bumping, banging, leaping, and tearing in its wake. Along we trailed, the wind flapping and roaring in the silk, every stick in the wicker basket creaking and straining as it skipped and bounded from one corn shock to another, while its four inhabitants, bruised and breathless, gripped the sides, set their teeth, and wondered what was coming next.
We could do nothing but hold on for dear life and hope for the best, and all the while the telegraph posts and wires drew nearer and nearer.
In the end those telegraph wires proved our salvation. Only a field beyond them ran the Great Northern, and to have caught our anchor in its boundary fence and fallen on the rails, as we assuredly might have done, would have been a far from pleasant or safe proceeding. As it was, the tight wires caught the netting, so that the great silk bag fell over one side while the car remained the other, and although the dying monster struggled hard, aided by the sweeping wind, to rise again, it had not life enough, so fast its vital force was ebbing, to lift us above the obstacle.
Then, as we lay heaving and straining yet with every gust, came shouts and hurrying feet, and half a dozen lusty harvesters, panting and excited, tore down to the rescue, and brawny sunburnt arms took tight hold on the ropes, and red jovial faces peered over the side of the basket on the four storm-tossed voyagers within. And by the time we had all scrambled out on to the grass, glad to stretch our limbs and find that none were broken, the whole countryside was alive and rushing up, on foot, on horseback, on bicycles, in carts and carriages, to where the huge balloon lay prostrate in the road, blocking the way and quivering yet in its mortal throes.
All was interest and excitement--no, not all. Within ten yards of our resting place browsed placidly an apathetic donkey. When the gaudy, flapping, unknown giant fell down from the heavens at his very hoofs, this intelligent animal went on grazing. The idea that something unusual was occurring presently penetrated his asinine brain, and he raised his head and looked. Half an hour later, when the balloon was packed up and loaded on the cart that took it to the station, he raised his tail also and brayed long and loud. He was beginning to be astonished at last!
We quickly learnt that we had fallen between Ashwell and Baldock on the borders of the shires of Hertford and Cambridge, and soon we had proof of the proverbial hospitality of the Cambridgeshire folk.
One word in extenuation of my photographs taken from the balloon. Balloon pictures are very often apt to be hazy on account of the diffusion of light from the particles of matter in suspension, when viewed from above, and mine were taken late in the day on an occasion when weeks of drought had heavily laden the air with dust and impurities. The rapid motion of the balloon, moreover, forbade anything but snapshot exposures being attempted.
THE EDITOR'S ESCAPADE.
THE STORY OF A MAN AND A MANUSCRIPT.
BY ARCHIBALD EYRE.
One sometimes wonders what becomes of those meteoric young men who flash through University firmaments trailing behind them an accumulating tail of honours and other academic distinctions. Do they continue to dazzle onlookers throughout their career, or do they "fizzle out" at an early age?
If the fates had been less kind, it is conceivable that Hubert Didcott might have "fizzled out." That he did not do so may have been due to a piece of luck. While the laurels that crowned his brows were still freshly green, he met a very respectable middle-aged gentleman, who had made an enormous fortune and was turning his attention to literature.
He had recently purchased the _Didactic Weekly_ from the eminent firm of Sholman and Company, publishers, and was understood to be looking out for an editor. Someone introduced him to Hubert Didcott, and they came to terms.
While the new editor and the recent proprietor were gaining experience in lines entirely novel, the position of the paper was parlous in the extreme. The circulation sank to so low an ebb that it was only by a generous courtesy that it could be considered to have a circulation at all.
But when things were at their worst, they began to mend. Hubert Didcott settled himself firmly in his editorial chair, used the intelligence which survived his education, and, shaking himself free from academic trammels, began to grope for the heart of the public. In the end, he found it. When ten years had elapsed, the _Didactic Weekly_ had made for itself a distinct position.
One day, while Didcott sat at his desk, Mr. William Winder, M.P., the proprietor, was announced.
"Good morning, good morning," he began, with great cordiality.
Didcott responded politely.
"Things all right?"
The editor nodded. "Quite a rush for our last number," he said, thawing as he always did when alluding to a success of his beloved paper. "The Bishop of Brighton's article on 'Reunion' has made quite a stir in some circles."
"So I've heard," replied Mr. Winder. "The Prime Minister spoke to me about it. I hadn't read it. Of course," he smiled genially, "I didn't say so."
"The Prime Minister?" echoed the editor. "I wonder if----"
"I asked him," replied Mr. Winder, promptly. "But he couldn't. Too busy. Besides his public works, he's bringing out a new edition of Homer, or the Psalms, or something. He talked to me about it." He smiled again. "I hope he thought my silence betokened intelligence. It didn't."
The editor smiled. "How goes the political world?"
Mr. Winder leant back in his chair. His face assumed an expression of mysterious significance. "The New Year's Honours, I'm told----" he whispered.
Didcott nodded with intelligence; he was aware of Mr. Winder's aspirations. There was a pause while Mr. Winder indulged in silent and pleased anticipations of what the New Year might bring. Very shortly, the pleased look died away; he straightened himself.
"Oh, I say," he said, "I came to speak to you about something. I am afraid you'll think it a great nuisance."
"What is it?"
"Have you fixed on your serial for the New Year?"
"No," replied Didcott, surprised. "I want to get to Meredith's new story, but I haven't done anything yet."
There was a distinct look of worry on the old man's face.
"Didcott, my boy," he said, with an almost beseeching air, "don't be angry with me. I did what I could. I couldn't help it."
"Why, what's the matter?"
"I have a daughter," Mr. Winder went on, a little brokenly. "You know that?"
"Yes, I know," replied Didcott. "But what of that? She's at school, isn't she?"
Mr. Winder shook his head. "No, she's finished. She's home for good."
"That must be very pleasant for you," said Didcott, politely.
"Very nice indeed." Mr. Winder produced his handkerchief, and mopped his brow. "I simply have to do what she tells me. You've no idea. I----" He stopped short, and looked everywhere save at the editor's face.
"Well?" Didcott leant back and smiled encouragingly. He guessed that Mr. Winder was going to confide some domestic incident to his keeping.
"She's nineteen, and quite grown up. And the way she has of getting round me! I can't resist her, the puss!" A smile of mingled vexation and pride played about the father's lips. "You see, she has no mother; so she gets her own way."
"You are quite right to let her have her own way," answered Didcott. "That's the only way to manage a woman."
Mr. Winder brightened. "You think so? You understand? I'm glad, Didcott. It makes it easier for me."
"Makes what easier?"
Mr. Winder sighed. "I do hope you won't mind." He glanced hastily at his companion and then away, and for a few moments an uneasy silence prevailed.
"You want to tell me that----" began Didcott, to help him.
"Would you mind telling someone to bring in the parcel the footman has left in the outer office?"
Slightly amused, Didcott touched the bell, and gave the needful directions. A minute later the boy brought in a bulky brown paper parcel.
When the door was closed Mr. Winder drew his chair close to Didcott's.
"It's a novel; she's written it," he whispered, eyeing his companion eagerly.
Didcott laughed. "Is that all? There's nothing in that. All girls do so sooner or later. It comes as surely as the measles. I expect you want me to read it. I will do so with pleasure."
"She wants it published," said Mr. Winder, forlornly.
"And why not? It won't cost much. And--and she needn't put her real name."
Mr. Winder sighed again. "I've promised that it shall be published. I couldn't help it----"
"And why not?"
"In the _Didactic Weekly_."
"What!" cried the editor, leaping from his chair.
"Now, don't take on, my dear fellow. I did what I could. But she has such ways, and she was so keen on it, and--and she kept worrying, and----"
"It's out of the question," said the editor, with clenched teeth. "Quite absurd."
"I'm afraid it'll have to be. I've given my word, and I can't back out."
Didcott stood frowning and biting his lips. "You must see it is impossible," he said at length.
"I do see that," said the old man, humbly, "but I don't see any way out of it. I've given my word, and I must stick to it. Now, Didcott," he went on, "I beg of you not to be angry. It may not be so _very_ bad. It may be quite good; after all, one never knows."
"Why doesn't she get it published in volume form?"
"The publishers have all declined it."
Didcott groaned. "But if you paid for the cost of production?"
"I offered that. All the good firms decline it even on those terms, and she won't go to a second-rate house. She was so cut up, and--and--hang it, she's my only child."
Didcott rose. "Very well, I'll look through it and see what it is like. We will talk over the matter again."
The old man rose and held out his hand.
"Don't be angry, my boy," he said. "I know it's a great nuisance, but--but very few people read serial stories. I daresay it will pass unnoticed. Good-bye."
"Good-bye," repeated the editor, mechanically. When Mr. Winder had gone, he took up a knife and cut the string of the bulky package. Taking out the manuscript, he began to read.
Half an hour later, he stumbled down the office stairs with the face of a demon and lips that moved without speaking. The office boy trembled as he passed.
For a week the manuscript, roughly wrapped up in its original covering of brown paper, lay undisturbed on the editor's table. Sometimes his eyes dwelt on it with concentrated hatred, but he never touched it. He went on with his work as if it did not exist, but he was never unconscious of its presence.
At last he told himself that he had come to a decision. He would exhaust every method to prevent its publication in the _Didactic Weekly_. If necessary, he would appeal personally to Miss Winder--on his knees, if that would help matters. If all was in vain, he would resign.
Resign! The very thought gave him indescribable pangs.
"It hasn't come to that yet," he said. "I must exhaust all possibilities first." He shook his fist at the manuscript novel. "I wish it were at the bottom of the sea."
A day or two later he received a note from Mr. Winder, inviting him to dine the following evening. "I have told my daughter," the letter ran, "that you have been reading her novel, and she is most anxious to know your opinion. She wonders whether you would mind bringing the MS., so that she may go through it with you, with a view, no doubt, of pointing out certain beauties you may have missed."
"This is my opportunity," said Didcott, grimly, "and I will take advantage of it."
The next day he presented himself at the house, with the manuscript under his arm. Leaving it in the care of a servant, he was shown into the drawing-room. Mr. Winder came forward hastily as he entered.
"My dear fellow," he said, rather nervously, "how good of you to come at such short notice. I don't think you have met my daughter. Elsie, this is Mr. Didcott."
Didcott bowed. He glanced at the girl before him.
"No, we haven't met before," he answered, and took the hand she proffered.
[Illustration: "'WHAT!' CRIED THE EDITOR, LEAPING FROM HIS CHAIR."]
"I have often heard of you," said Miss Winder. She was a pretty girl, fresh as a flower, and frank and ready in her manner. "Father is always talking of you. I daresay you've heard of me."
"Oh, yes," replied Didcott, a abruptly; "I've heard of you."
[Illustration: "'I DON'T THINK YOU HAVE MET MY DAUGHTER--ELSIE.'"]
"I think dinner is ready," interposed Mr. Winder, hastily. He moved to the door, and the pair followed him.
"You're not quite what I expected," observed Miss Winder, frankly, as they made their way downstairs. "I thought you would be older."
"I am sorry."
"I am so glad you liked my book."
Didcott was taken aback.
"Who told you that?" he asked, endeavouring to impart an air of archness to the query.
"Father said so. I was so pleased." Something in Didcott's manner struck her, for she asked a little sharply, "You do like it, don't you?"
"I have never read anything like it before," he answered.
"It is original," she admitted. "And isn't the hero lovely?"
"Yes, Rupert Vavasour. 'Tall and pale, with eyes that flash.'"
"Oh, ah! Yes, indeed, he is lovely. He falls in love with--er--the heroine."
"Not at first. Afterwards. When they meet upon the lake. Isn't that a beautiful scene? I wept like anything when I wrote it."
"I felt the same way when I read it," Didcott murmured.
"Did you really?" cried Miss Winder, delightedly. "How charming of you. Father, Mr. Didcott likes my book tremendously."
The old man beamed with pleasure.
"Really, my boy?--not really?" he asked.
Didcott struggled to free himself from his embarrassment.
"I----" he began.
"I don't think, papa, that you should suggest Mr. Didcott is not sincere," said Miss Winder, with dignity. "I have a better opinion of him than that." She smiled with great sweetness on the young man. "You do really like it, don't you, Mr. Didcott?"
"Of course I like it," replied the unhappy young man.
What else could he say?
Throughout dinner nothing was talked of save the merits of the novel. Before long Didcott found he had committed himself to the opinion that it rivalled George Eliot at her best.
"I never did see much in George Eliot," remarked the fair authoress, modestly. "If you had said Marie Corelli----"
And of course the young man said Marie Corelli. He would have said Shakespeare before the dinner was over. Given a charming profile, an excellent dinner, and '84 champagne, what else could have been expected?
When the young lady returned to the drawing-room, leaving the two men to their cigars, Mr. Winder leant over to him confidentially. "Do you really think," he asked, almost wistfully, "that my little girl's book is as good as you say?"
Didcott did not meet his eye. He puffed out a volume of smoke as if he would have hidden himself in its cloud.
The old man sighed.
"You did it out of kindness, Didcott, my boy. It was good of you."
The young man felt his conscience prick him. He had not acted from kindness, but from weakness. The sad look on the father's face touched him.
"Mr. Winder," he said, acting on a sudden impulse, "the book is excellent."
Very soon they joined Miss Winder. The rest of the evening was spent by the authoress in reading aloud extracts from her immortal work. But Didcott did not listen; he found sufficient occupation in watching the varying expressions on the girl's face.
At a late hour he rose reluctantly to go. When the front door closed on him, and he had climbed into a cab, the manuscript on the seat beside him, he realised suddenly how hopeless his case had become. How could he make a stand against the publication of the novel without exposing himself to the scorn of the young lady, and writing himself down an arrant hypocrite in her eyes and in the eyes of the father? He had committed himself beyond redemption.
Suddenly a thought struck him. Suppose the MS. was lost! Suppose he left it in the cab! He remembered there was no name on the parcel. At the impulse of the moment, without stopping to consider the futility of the project, or the objection to it on a moral score, he shouted to the cab to stop, and almost before it had come to a stand he was in the road. Just opposite were the Houses of Parliament. Thrusting some silver into the man's hand, he set off at a rapid pace across Westminster Bridge. There were few passers-by, and after a minute or two of rapid walking he broke into a run. The stony stare of a solitary policeman caused him to adopt a meditative saunter.
As he walked on, he looked out for another cab. At length he heard wheels behind him and turned joyfully. Alas! it was the cab he had just relinquished.
"Hi, sir!" shouted the man, "You've left a parcel be'ind you."
For a moment Didcott stood paralysed. "No, I didn't," he said, at length.
"What!" said the cabman.
"It isn't mine," said Didcott, faintly.
[Illustration: "HE SPRANG ON THE STEP AND DRAGGED FORTH THE PACKAGE."]
"Why," said the cabman, astonished, "I saw the blooming servant hand it in to you."
Didcott shook his head. "I don't know anything about it," he replied.
The policeman who had witnessed his haste had approached, and stood a silent spectator.
[Illustration: "HE FLUNG THE PARCEL CONTAINING THE MS. OVER WESTMINSTER BRIDGE."]
"You'd better take it to Scotland Yard," he observed at this point.
"Why, I knows it's 'is," said the cabman, aggrievedly.
"The gen'lman says it ain't," responded the policeman, judicially.
"Rats!" returned the cabman, plethorically.
Didcott stood miserably silent; he had got beyond his depth, and the conviction that his behaviour was asinine was growing more acute.
"I'll take it to the Yard," said the cabman, disgustedly, "and then I'll call at the 'ouse I picked 'im up at, and tell them."
"Oh, my goodness!" ejaculated Didcott, overwhelmed at the thought. The cabman and the policeman bent frowning brows on him.
"Beg pardon, sir," said the policeman, politely.
Didcott laughed in a strained and unnatural manner. "Ha, ha! So stupid of me! I had forgotten. It does belong to me."
The eyebrows of the other two ascended to the altitudes.
"I'll get it," said Didcott, blithely.
He sprang on to the step, and dragged forth the package. "So much obliged to you. Thank you very much." He tucked the parcel under his arm. "Good-bye."
He turned and hastened along the bridge southwards, leaving the policeman and the cabman regarding him with doubtful eyes. He crossed the bridge, and wandered about in the streets on the Surrey side for nearly an hour before he ventured to retrace his steps.
As he walked back over the bridge, he felt the parcel heavy in his hands. Could he not get rid of it for good and all? Why not drop it over the bridge? No one was in sight. He leant over and looked at the dark waters. Everything was quiet. In an instant, making up his mind, he flung the parcel into the silent river. He heard the splash that followed, and with the sound came an overwhelming sense of guilt.
He turned and hastened homewards, but he had gone only a few yards when, to his consternation, the same policeman confronted him.
"I've been watching you," said the constable.
"Have you?" replied Didcott, vaguely.
"What's that you've thrown into the water?"
"Nothing," said Didcott, finding speech with difficulty.
"Where's that there parcel the cabman gave you?"
Didcott faltered, and then there came a conviction that at any cost he must brazen the matter out.
"I don't know what you mean," he answered, feeling his legs quivering under him.
There was a look of supreme disdain on the policeman's face.
"You'll have to come along of me," he said, briefly.
Didcott shrank back. "With you? Why?"
The policeman nodded. "That's all right. Never you mind what for."
"I haven't done anything wrong," cried Didcott, piteously. At no time a man of strong nerve, at this crisis he utterly and entirely lost his head.
"That there brown parcel----" began the policeman, argumentatively.
"I don't know anything about it," cried Didcott. "You're mistaking me for someone else. And--and it was only old clothes and things I didn't want."
"You had better explain that to the inspector," said the policeman, unmoved. "What I says is, that things look a bit fishy."
"You've no right to make me come with you," cried Didcott, despairingly.
"Come along," said the constable.
Before Didcott's mind rose a vision of police-court proceedings and newspaper paragraphs; but above all, and dwarfing everything, he seemed to see Miss Winder's scornful face. He eyed the constable, noticing that he was stout and unwieldy of build. The bridge lay silent on either side. In a moment Didcott made up his mind. Darting past the policeman, he ran headlong towards Westminster. He ran as he had never run before. The policeman started in pursuit, but gave up the chase as hopeless after a few yards; he stopped, and Didcott heard the blast of his whistle shrilling in his rear.
Like a hunted hare Didcott flashed past the Houses of Parliament, standing in grim and disapproving majesty. To his heated imagination hundreds of policemen seemed to start from the shadows and join in the pursuit. Certainly one made an effort to stop him, but Didcott dodged, and then easily distanced him. Then rushing blindly along, Didcott cannoned into another, with the result that the constable was toppled over, and Didcott, skipping over his prostrate form, continued his headlong flight. He managed to reach Victoria Street, more by luck than by any consciousness of direction, and down its electric-lit length he fled. In the distance he believed he heard the roar of pursuit.
Luckily he met no more policemen, and the few passers by made no effort to impede his progress. He ran straight, in panic-stricken haste.
To his horror, he found he had entered a blind alley. To retrace his steps seemed hopeless. He gave himself up for lost, when he noticed a little gate cut in the double doors of a work yard standing slightly ajar. He dashed through, and lay on the ground panting. He lay, he knew not how long, in a state of semi-consciousness.
At last, when the faint approach of dawn had begun to lighten the sky, he stole forth and, like a hunted thief, glided homewards to his flat.
[Illustration: "HE CANNONED INTO A POLICEMAN AND TOPPLED HIM OVER, BUT CONTINUED HIS HEADLONG FLIGHT."]
When Didcott woke the next morning he was at first unable to convince himself that his previous night's experience was not merely a bad dream. Then he was lost in astonishment that he could have behaved so idiotically.
He started for Fleet Street at the usual time, but to his disgust found himself blenching before every policeman. Always impulsive, he darted into a barber's shop, and emerged with a beardless face. After this, he was able to confront the world with eyes that did not shift uneasily.
During the course of the day, he wrote a letter to Miss Winder, telling her he had been unfortunate enough to leave her priceless manuscript in a hansom cab, but that he had no doubt of eventually recovering it.
The immediate effect of his note was to bring Miss Winder pale with consternation to his office.
[Illustration: "'OH, MR. DIDCOTT,' SAID MISS WINDER, 'HAVE YOU FOUND MY NOVEL YET?'"]
"Oh, Mr. Didcott," she cried, as she entered breathlessly, "have you found it yet?"
"Not yet, Miss Winder. There has been no time."
"How could you have been so--so careless?"
It had not struck him before that his imagined tale left him culpable. In a moment he rent the air with his lamentation.
"Can you ever forgive me my shameful carelessness?" he wound up. "But even if you do, it will matter little, for I can never forgive myself."
She softened at once. "You mustn't blame yourself, Mr. Didcott," she observed, earnestly. "It is an accident that might have happened to anyone."
He took her hand, and pressed it tenderly. "How good you are to me!" he said, brokenly.
She blushed and withdrew her hand hastily, and then felt a little sorry she had done so.
During the following weeks nothing was heard of the unfortunate manuscript. Didcott was always at Mr. Winder's house consulting with the daughter and devising schemes for the recovery of her novel.
Each day brought with it an increase of intimacy. The novel was still the ostensible cause of his visits, but as a subject for conversation it had begun to show a tendency to diminish in value. Something more purely personal commenced to take its place.
One day, about a month after the episode that has been related, Didcott and Miss Winder sat together in the latter's boudoir, chatting confidentially.
"I have been wondering whether I ought to write another book," observed Miss Winder, meditatively.
"I should not if I were you," replied Didcott, with considerable emphasis.
"I don't deny it would be a great book," said Didcott, diplomatically, "but somehow I don't want you to be a literary woman."
Miss Winder smiled a little to herself.
"Why not, Mr. Didcott?" she asked, coyly.
"Oh, I don't know." Then he looked at her. "You were never meant for literary work."
"I mean, judging from your appearance," he explained hastily. "Literary ladies are seldom attractive. Their shoulders have an ugly stoop, and they always wear glasses. Oh, no, you mustn't go in for literature."
She smiled tolerantly.
"There is something in what you say--literary women do dress anyhow; but I should like to write just one more book."
He went on hurriedly--
"No sensible man would ever marry a literary woman, however much he cared for her. If a friend of mine was going to marry a lady novelist, I would at once go out and buy him a millstone--yes, and I could fix it for him. It would be an obvious duty."
"Oh, Mr. Didcott!" exclaimed this very young lady, impressed, "are they as bad as all that?"
He nodded darkly.
"But, Mr. Didcott, if a woman has genius----"
He glanced up.
"Take your case, Miss Winder. You have genius. Go on, and you may become a famous novelist. On the other hand, you may marry, and live happily ever afterwards; but you cannot do both."
"I think," Miss Winder observed, ingenuously, "that I shall not write any more."
He pressed her hand.
"Elsie," he began, passionately, "there is something I want to ask you. Oh! Elsie----"
And then the door opened, and the maid came in to say that a man wished to speak to Miss Winder.
"What man--what about?" asked Miss Winder, sharply; for the interruption had come at an inopportune moment.
"About some advertisement, miss."
"Oh, yes, I know. Show him in." She turned to Didcott. "It's about my novel--news at last, evidently."
"Yes. I forgot to tell you that I put an advertisement in the _Times_ and the _Morning Post_. It only appeared this morning, and here is somebody already."
Didcott felt a faintness steal over him. "What did you say in the advertisement?" he asked.
"Oh, I simply said that on such and such a date, and at such and such a time, a parcel was left in a cab, and I asked anyone who knew anything about it to call here."
"I will leave you to interview this man," said Didcott. "I shall only be in the way."
"Oh, no, no," she cried; "it is so lucky you are here."
[Illustration: "THE DOOR OPENED, AND DIDCOTT RECOGNISED THE FORM OF THE POLICEMAN FROM WHOM HE HAD ESCAPED."]
Just then the door opened, and with a sinking heart Didcott recognised the short stout form of the policeman from whom he had escaped. He shrank back in his seat and uttered a fervent prayer for non-recognition.
"I saw your advertisement, miss," began the policeman, "and I thought as how I might give you some information."
"Thank you," replied Miss Winder. "And do you really think you know where the parcel is?"
The policeman pursed his lips. "I know where a parcel is. But p'raps it ain't the same."
"Oh, it must be the same. Have you got it with you?"
"Did the parcel contain valuables?"
"No--yes. Yes, very valuable contents."
"I thought so," said the policeman.
"Where is it?" repeated Miss Winder, impatiently.
The policeman shook his head. "It was like this, miss," he went on. "I was on Westminster Bridge one night, and I sees a gentleman running very quick and nervous like."
"A gentleman?" queried Miss Winder.
"In evening dress. Quite the toff. So I turns and follows him."
"Did he have the parcel?"
"No, miss. Suddenly a cab drives along the bridge, and the cabman hollers out to the gentleman as how he has left a parcel in the cab. The gen'leman was took aback, and said as how it wasn't his. So the cabman said he'd drive round to where he had picked up his fare and inquire----"
"Yes," said the girl.
"At that the gentleman turns quite white, and says it is his parcel. He hops into the cab, picks up the parcel, and is off before you could say 'Jack Robinson.'"
"You shouldn't have let this strange man take my parcel," said Miss Winder, excitedly.
"I didn't know as how it was yours," said the policeman, "but being suspicious like, I hangs about the bridge, and presently I sees the gen'leman come creeping back, and then he chucks the parcel over the bridge."
"Oh, oh!" cried the girl. "Into the water?"
"Who was this man? Mr. Didcott, who could this man have been?"
"I don't know," muttered Didcott, painfully conscious that the policeman's heavy eyes were on his face. "Probably it was a different parcel altogether."
"What was the man like," demanded Miss Winder.
"Beg pardon, lady, but he was very much like this here gentleman."
"What!" cried Miss Winder.
"Don't listen to such rubbish," exclaimed Didcott, rising. "Constable, how dare you talk such nonsense?" He stood trembling, with beads of perspiration starting on his forehead.
"The gen'leman had a beard," observed the policeman, impartially.
"You had a beard then, don't you remember?" said Miss Winder, mystified. "How very strange!"
"I am quite sure now as how it was this gen'leman," remarked the constable, imperturbably.
The girl turned on Didcott. Thought after thought chased each other in succession through her brain.
"Did you throw my story into the water?" she asked, in a low voice.
"Yes," said Didcott, and felt relieved. For the first time he dared to meet the policeman's gaze. "Send this man away, and I'll tell you the whole thing." He felt in his waistcoat pocket and drew out a sovereign. "Here, take this and get out."
The policeman took the coin, and stood doubtfully with it between his finger and thumb.
"Yes, please go," said Miss Winder, faintly.
"Shall I wait outside, mum?"
"Confound you, no," shouted Didcott. "Go right away."
"Right away," echoed Miss Winder.
The constable turned and left the room, not dissatisfied with the results of his interview. When the door had closed on him, Didcott turned to Miss Winder.
"What will you think of me? What can you think of me? Of course you will never speak to me again."
"I--I don't understand. Why ever did you throw my story into the water?"
Didcott groaned. "I would to heaven I had thrown myself. How I could have done so monstrous a thing, I can't understand."
"But why? You must have had some kind of reason," persisted the young lady.
"Your father insisted that it should be published in the _Didactic Weekly_, and it seemed the only way to get rid of it," blurted out Didcott.
Miss Winder drew back a pace. "But you liked it. You said it reminded you of George Eliot at her best. You said it was a work of genius."
"It wasn't!" replied Didcott, briefly.
"What!" cried Miss Winder, her voice raised an octave.
"It was pure drivel," said Didcott, firmly.
Miss Winder sat down suddenly, and began to cry.
Didcott struck his forehead. "I am a brute!" he cried. "I am still a brute." He went on his knees and implored her to smile.
"You pretended you liked it," sobbed the girl.
"I know I did. I was a hypocrite; and now I am being punished."
"You have been laughing at me, all this time," said Miss Winder, wiping her eyes, and becoming dignified.
"No, no. Understand how I was situated. I have worked for years for the _Didactic Weekly_. My life's work is in it. I have struggled for it and brought it to success; it is part of my life. And then I was told I must publish your story. It would have made me the laughing stock of the journalistic world. It would have damaged if not ruined my paper. I couldn't bear it. I----"
"You might have told me this," said Miss Winder, proudly. "I should have accepted your opinion. I have sense enough not to insist on publishing what is not fit for publication. Why could you not have treated me like a reasonable being?"
"I wanted to," said Didcott, still on his knees. "I came here to do so, but couldn't. I didn't like to disappoint you. I hadn't the heart."
"It was your duty to do so."
"Ah, I am only a man, and you are a beautiful woman. I was weak."
"Oh," said the lady, and pondered. A pause intervened. "Get up, Mr. Didcott," she said at length. "You do look rather ridiculous on the carpet."
Didcott rose. "I will go away, and you need never see me again. I will resign my editorship at once." He moved towards the door.
"Oh, no," she cried.
She came towards him. "Don't you see, Mr. Didcott," she said, a little petulantly, "I don't want to be made ridiculous. I have been conceited and foolish, believing I was a great authoress, when really I have been writing nonsense. I don't want it to get about."
"I will tell no one," he said, earnestly.
"Yes, but----" She was silent a moment. "What I want is that we should mutually agree to forget the whole of this stupid business."
"It is a bargain," he answered, eagerly. "We will slam the door on the past."
She looked away. "Not on all the past," she murmured, "only the past that is concerned with my novel."
[Illustration: "'GET UP, MR. DIDCOTT,' SHE SAID, 'YOU DO LOOK RIDICULOUS ON THE CARPET.'"]
"Shall we take up our history from the point where it intervened to-day?" he queried.
She made no sign, save that the flush on her cheek deepened.
[Illustration: REMARKABLE SECRET CHAMBERS.]
STORIES OF QUEER HIDING PLACES [Linux Libertine Initials?]
_Written and Illustrated by Allan Fea._
The secret chamber is a favourite item in the properties of the novelist, but few people are aware how many secret chambers really exist. They are not quite so numerous as "ghosts," but many of our country houses still possess these queer hiding places. The majority of them owe their origin to the religious persecutions of Queen Bess.
In the mansions of the old Roman Catholic families we often find an apartment in a secluded part of the house or garret in the roof, named "the Chapel," where religious rites could be performed with the utmost privacy; and close handy was usually an artfully contrived hiding place, not only for the officiating priest to slip into in case of emergency, but also where the vestments, sacred vessels, and altar furniture could be put away at a moment's notice.
It appears that most of the hiding places for priests, called "Priests' Holes," were invented and constructed by the Jesuit, Nicholas Owen, a servant of Father Garnet, who devoted the greater part of his life to constructing these places in the principal Catholic houses all over England.
"With incomparable skill," says Father Tanner, writing in the seventeenth century, "he knew how to conduct priests to a place of safety along subterranean passages, to hide them between walls and bury them in impenetrable recesses, and to entangle them in labyrinths of a thousand windings.
CAPTAIN ARTHUR JONES WAS HARDLY CONCEALED IN THE SECRET CHAMBER AT CHASTLETON, WHEN THE ENEMY ARRIVED TO SEARCH THE HOUSE. ]
"He alone was both their architect and their builder, working at them with inexhaustible industry and labour; for generally the thickest walls had to be broken into, and large stones excavated, requiring stronger arms than were attached to a body so diminutive as to give him the nickname of 'Little John'; and by this his skill many priests were preserved from becoming the prey of the persecutors."
[Illustration: SWINGING SHELVES IN A CUPBOARD AT ABBOTS SALFORD OPENING INTO A SECRET RECESS.
The shelves closed.]
After the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, "Little John" and his master Father Garnet were arrested at Hindlip Hall, Worcestershire, from information given to the Government by Catesby's servant, Bates.
[Illustration: PRIEST'S HOLE AT BOSCOBEL HOUSE USED BY CHARLES II.]
The grey old Jacobean mansion, Chastleton, preserves in its oak-panelled hall the sword and portrait of the gallant Cavalier, Captain Arthur Jones, who, narrowly escaping from the battlefield, rode home with all speed with some of Cromwell's soldiers at his heels, and his wife, a lady of great courage, had scarcely concealed him in the secret chamber, when the enemy arrived to search the house.
[Illustration: The shelves open.]
Little daunted, the lady, with great presence of mind, made no objection whatever--indeed, facilitated their operations by personally conducting them over the mansion. Here, as in so many other instances, the secret room was entered from the principal bedroom, and in inspecting the latter the suspicion of the Roundheads was in some way or other aroused. So here they determined to remain for the rest of the night.
An ample supper and a good store of wine (which, by the way, had been carefully drugged) was sent up to the unwelcome visitors, and in due course the drink effected its purpose, and its victims dropped off one by one until the whole party lay like logs upon the floor.
Mrs. Arthur Jones then crept in, having even to step over the bodies of the inanimate Roundheads, released her husband, and, a fresh horse being in readiness, by the time the effects of the wine had worn off, the Royalist captain was far beyond their reach. The secret room is situated in the front of the building, and has now been converted into a very cosy little dressing-room, preserving its panelled wainscoting, and but little altered, with the exception of the entry to it, which is now by an ordinary door.
The above tradition has been provided by Miss Whitmore Jones, the present representative of the family.
Abbots Salford, another fine old mansion, has its chapel and resident priest for the services still held there.
In a dark passage up in the garrets is the priest's hole, as ingeniously concealed and intact as it was three centuries ago. By removing a wooden peg from a particular shelf in the most innocent-looking of cupboards, the whole back of it, oak shelves and all, swings backwards into a large and dismal recess four feet in depth. This ingenious swing door may be fastened on the inside by a stout wooden bolt provided for that purpose.
[Illustration: SECRET CHAMBER UNDER A ROOM IN MOSELEY HALL--ALSO USED BY CHARLES II.]
When the Civil War was raging, many a defeated Royalist owed his preservation to the priests' holes and secret chambers of the old Catholic houses all over the country. Did not King Charles II. himself owe his life to the artful hiding-places of Boscobel, Moseley, Trent, and Heale?
After the defeat of Wigan the gallant Earl of Derby sought refuge at Boscobel, and after a sojourn of two days proceeded to Gatacre Park--now rebuilt, but also famous for its hiding holes--where he was concealed by a Mr. Humphrey Elliot. When the day was lost on the disastrous 3rd of September, the Earl suggesting his recent place of concealment and the loyalty of the Penderels, Boscobel House was decided upon as the safest place for the King in his dire extremity. "I chose to trust them," says King Charles, "because I knew they had hiding holes for priests that I thought I might make use of in case of need."
A door now occupies the position of the sliding panel in the wainscoting of "the squire's bedroom," behind which one of the hiding places is situated. In the floor a trap-door can be raised, below which is a recess some five feet square, and this communicated by a narrow flight of steps in the great chimney to an outlet screened by creepers, leading to the garden.
The other hiding place is entered from the floor above through a small square hole at the top of a staircase leading to what is known as "the gallery"--a large attic from the windows of which Charles II. could get a good view of the surrounding country, and where he could take some exercise and stretch his limbs after the narrow confinement of his uncomfortable sleeping quarters. The hiding place in the garret is five feet two inches in depth and 3-1/4 by 4-1/2 feet wide.
[Illustration: SECRET CHAMBER UNDER A WINDOW SEAT AT PARHAM HALL.]
The priest's hole at Moseley Hall, whither His Majesty removed when he left Boscobel, is situated at the back of a large brewhouse chimney, and is entered through a trap-door in the floor of a small room or closet adjoining the apartment which was occupied by the fugitive King. His narrow escape when the house was visited by Southall, the notorious priest-catcher, has thus graphically been described by Charles' host, Mr. Thomas Whitgreave:--
"In the afternoon, reposing himself on his bed in the parlour chamber, and inclining to sleep, as I was watching at the window, one of the neighbours I saw came running in, who told the maid soldiers were coming to search, who therefore presentlie came running to the staires' head and cried, 'Soldiers! Soldiers are coming!' which His Majesty hearing, presentlie started out of his bedd, and ran to his privacie, where I secured him the best I could, and then leaving him, went forth into the street to meet the soldiers who were comeing to search; as soon as they saw me and knew who I was, they were readie to pull mee to pieces, and take me away with them, saying I was come from the Worcester fight, but after much dispute with them, and by the neighbours being informed of their false information that I was not there, being very ill a great while, they let mee goe, but till I saw them clearly all gone forth of the town, I returned not. But as soon as they were I returned to release him."
In a corner of the priest's hole is a low brick seat. The walls are of brick, and huge oak beams, in one of which we noticed a wooden pin, about an inch in diameter, that could be easily pulled out by the fingers. In all likelihood a straw or reed could be passed through to supply an inmate with liquid food, as we shall see was the case at Harvington.
Window seats often contained secret means of ingress to priests' holes. In the long gallery of Parham Hall, Sussex, not far from "the chapel," is an example wherein Charles Paget was concealed for some days after the failure of the Babington Conspiracy.
[Illustration: THE MOVABLE STAIR AT HARVINGTON HALL, BENEATH WHICH IS A ROOM FIVE FEET SQUARE.]
[Illustration: TRAP-DOOR IN ROCHESTER HOUSE, SAID TO HAVE BEEN USED BY JAMES II.]
If we visit Harvington Hall in Worcestershire at twilight and ascend the massive oak staircase, it will require no great stretch of the imagination to people it with "pursuivants" hunting for their prey; or if we climb to the top landing, to conjure up an indistinct form stealthily removing the floorboard from one of the stairs and creeping beneath it.
This particular step of a short flight running from the landing into the garrets is upon closer inspection indeed movable, and beneath gapes a dark cavity about five feet square, on the floor of which still remains the piece of sedge matting whereon a certain Father Wall reclined a few days prior to his capture and execution in August 1679.
A small concealed aperture in the wainscoting of the "banqueting-room" would admit a straw being thrust from the hiding hole, through which caudles and broths could be sucked up by the unfortunate inmate should his friends be upon the alert.
The house of the loyal Sir Richard Head still exists at Rochester, where King James II. went from Whitehall for the last few days ere he quitted the country. He departed thence secretly. About twelve at night he was rowed to a smack which was waiting without the fort at Sheerness.
[Illustration: HIDING PLACE IN THE GARRET OF UFTON HALL.]
There is a secret passage in the upper story communicating with a trap-door to the floor of one of the garrets; this leads by a private staircase to the back of the house. Whether King James found it necessary to make use of the secret passage and trap-door must remain an open question.
The curious, many-gabled mansion Ufton Court, Berkshire, both from its secluded situation and quaint internal construction, appears to have been peculiarly suitable for the secretion of persecuted priests.
A remarkable hole is to be seen in one of the gables close to the ceiling, of which a sketch is given in the heading to this article. It is triangular in shape, and is opened by a spring bolt that can be unlatched by pulling a string which runs through a tiny hole pierced in the framework of the door of the adjoining room. The door of the hiding place swings upon a pivot, and externally is thickly coated with plaster, so as to resemble the rest of the wall, and is so solid that when sounded there is no hollow sound from the cavity behind, where it is supposed the crucifix and sacred vessels were secreted.
Not far off, in an upper garret, is a hiding place in the thickness of the wall large enough to contain a man standing upright. Like the other, the door or entrance forms part of the plaster wall, intersected by thick oak beams, into which it exactly fits, disguising any appearance of an opening.
Sawston Hall, Cambridgeshire, the fine old mansion of the Huddlestons, has a remarkable hiding place on the top landing of a quaint spiral staircase. When one of the floor-boards is raised, a round hole or tunnel is discovered in the stone masonry slanting into the wall, where is a space ten or twelve feet deep, and of sufficient breadth to contain any sized priest, should he succeed in squeezing through the aforesaid circular entrance, which would not admit a very bulky person.
Blocks of oak fixed upon the inside of the floor-board fit exactly into sockets scooped out of the beams which run at right angles and support the landing, and unless the movable board be pointed out it is impossible to detect it, so ingenious is its construction.
These are but a few of the stories that might be told of these quaint hiding-places which abound in England and Scotland. Unfortunately the buildings in which they exist are gradually disappearing. The pictures and facts here given, however, will bring vividly to mind the romantic and exciting conditions under which some of our forefathers lived.
[Illustration: ENTRANCE TO TUNNEL UNDER FLOOR-BOARDS AT SAWSTON HALL.]
DEAD MEN'S STRANGE WISHES.
SOME QUEER BURIAL PLACES.
BY H. G. ARCHER.
[Illustration: THIS TOWER ON LEITH HILL CONTAINS ITS BUILDER'S BODY.]
Strange requests are often made by men when they are dying or in their wills. And few are stranger than those made concerning their mode of burial.
The most extraordinary of all was that made by the celebrated Jeremy Bentham. The great philanthropist and exponent of the doctrine of utilitarianism, dying in 1832, left directions that his body should be dissected, and that the skeleton should be put together, and after being clothed in his old vestments, should be seated in a sort of glasshouse on wheels. The first part of the programme was performed by his faithful disciple, Dr. Southwood Smith, who, in endeavouring to preserve the head, deprived the face of all expression. Seeing this would not do for exhibition purposes, Dr. Smith had a model made in wax by a distinguished French artist, who succeeded in producing a most admirable likeness.
The skeleton was then stuffed out to fit Bentham's own clothes, and the wax likeness fitted to the trunk. This figure was placed seated on the chair in which he usually sat, with one hand holding the walking-stick which was his constant companion in life, called by him (like a dog) "Dapple." The whole was enclosed in a mahogany case with a glass front, covered by folding doors, and presented to University College, Gower Street, where it can be seen in the south gallery of the college museum. Our sketch was made on the spot specially for this article.
To those knowing the story the spectacle is certainly a startling one--to all appearances a living man is seated within the case; while to those ignorant of the facts the figure seems to be nothing more than a wax effigy. Mr. Bentham has a whole host of visitors, nearly all Americans though, many of whom want to take photographs.
[Illustration: THE STUFFED BODY OF JEREMY BENTHAM IN UNIVERSITY COLLEGE.]
Next in point of interest comes the strange request of Anthony Ettericke, who was an eminent lawyer, and once Recorder of Poole. Having some cause of offence against the people of Wimborne, in which town he lived, he declared that he was to be buried in a consecrated spot, but not above nor below the ground, not in the church nor out of it.
To make certain that this was done he got permission to build a coffin into the wall of Wimborne Minster, so that it is half in the church and half out, half above the ground and half below it. To do this a special arch had to be made, and for the repair of this arch and the coffin Anthony Ettericke gave to the church a sum of 20_s._ from a farm. To bury him the wall of the church level with the pavement was opened and the body deposited in the coffin as described. It is of slate, and is emblazoned with many coats-of-arms.
There are two dates on it, 1691 and 1703, one over the other, so as to render both almost unreadable. He was fully convinced that he should die in 1691, and had his coffin made and that date placed upon it. But he did not die till 1703, and so the second date was cut over the first.
An art gallery seems a queer place in which to bury bodies, and probably few of the inhabitants of Dulwich are aware that Dulwich College Picture Gallery contains three bodies--the bodies of the three people to whom that collection of pictures owes its existence.
Noll Joseph Desenfans was a native of Douai in France, but settled in London, first as a teacher of languages. He became possessed of a valuable picture by Claude, which he sold to George III. for 1,000 guineas, and so became a picture dealer.
[Illustration: THE SLATE COFFIN OF A MAN WHO WOULD NOT BE BURIED IN THE CHURCH NOR OUT OF IT, NOT ABOVE THE GROUND NOR BELOW IT.]
Then Stanislaus, King of Poland, commissioned him to purchase pictures to form a National Gallery for Poland, and in this work Desenfans was helped by his friend Sir Francis Bourgeois, R.A.
When the Polish King was overthrown, the collection of pictures came back to Desenfans, and was housed in Sir F. Bourgeois' house in Charlotte Street, Portland Place, where Desenfans lived.
On his death Desenfans left his pictures to Bourgeois, and he decided to hand them over to some public body for the benefit of the public. Accident directed his attention to Dulwich College, to which he bequeathed his pictures.
The bequest was conditional. He wished a mausoleum to be erected in the gallery where his own remains and those of his friends Mons. and Mme. Desenfans might repose. The condition was accepted, and our photograph shows the burial place of these three patrons of the fine arts. The mausoleum can be entered from the Art Gallery.
Students of De Quincey will remember his tale of the "clock-case mummy." This was none other than the embalmed corpse of a Miss Beswick, which for many years posed as an exhibit in the Manchester Natural History Museum. When in the flesh, during the middle of the last century, this lady had been attended medically by a Dr. White, to whose skill she had owed much alleviation of her sufferings from chronic neuralgia. Accordingly, she left him a bequest of £25,000, but with the condition annexed to it that she should be embalmed, and that once a year Mr. White, accompanied by two witnesses of credit, should withdraw the veil from her face. To render this easy, Mr. White placed his benefactor in an ordinary grandfather's clock case, with the usual glass face. The doctor died in the year 1813, and the greater part of his museum was divided among the Manchester hospitals and museums, the mummy finding its way to the old Natural History Museum. When, however, the contents of this museum were transferred to Owens College, the authorities had the mummy buried.
[Illustration: EXTERIOR OF THE TRIPLE GRAVE IN THE DULWICH COLLEGE PICTURE GALLERY.]
In 1783, the remains of Margaret, widow of Richard Coosins, of Parrock, Gravesend, were deposited in Cuxton church, near Rochester. Under a pyramidal mural monument is a vault with a glass door, covered with a green silk curtain, with a lock having a key standing inside. Here, resting upon tressels, is a mahogany coffin with gilt furniture, the lid of which is not screwed down. This coffin contains the body of the above lady, attired, so it is said, in a costly dress of scarlet satin, according to her wish.
In 1766, Richard Hull, a native of Bristol, bencher of the Inner Temple, and an ex-member of the Irish Parliament, resided at Leith Hill Place, Dorking. In that year, having obtained permission of the lord of the manor, Sir John Evelyn, of Wotton, he erected a tower on the summit of Leith Hill, both for the benefit of the public and to form his own cenotaph. Dying on January 18, 1772, his body was deposited within the east wall of the building, where a tablet of Portland stone marks the spot.
The subsequent history of this tower is rather curious. For many years it remained open to the public, but as this privilege was abused and the tower became a harbour for smugglers, gypsies, and other lawless characters, a subscription was raised in 1795 among the gentry in the locality to make it uninhabitable. The whole of the interior was then filled up with stones and cement, and remained in this state until a dozen years ago, when the present holder of the property announced his intention of reopening it to the public.
So solid was the cement, however, that it was found impossible to reopen the old entrance and interior staircase. Accordingly, a staircase tower was built by the side in order to make it available for the original purpose. A splendid view is to be obtained from its commanding situation--on a clear day the sea is even visible--but few of the holiday folk frequenting it are acquainted with its real history.
[Illustration: THIS SUMMER HOUSE IN RUINS HAS BEEN USED FOR NEARLY A HUNDRED YEARS AS A MAUSOLEUM.]
Another well-known case of eccentric burial is that of the Rev. Langton Freeman, of Whilton, Northamptonshire. This gentleman, by his will, dated September 16, 1783, left the following singular directions for his interment. Five days after death his body was to be wrapped in a strong, double winding-sheet, and to be conveyed to a summer-house in his garden, where it was to be laid in the bed he had slept in during life. This being carried out, the doors and windows of the fragile mausoleum were to be locked up and bolted, and the building planted around with evergreen plants, and fenced off with oak pales, painted a dark blue colour.
His wishes were fulfilled to the letter, and only twenty years ago, when the property, owing to litigation, was without a rightful owner, and consequently much neglected, it was said that the remains in the derelict summer-house were plainly visible. The body is still there, but a large stone slab has been placed over the remains in the bedstead, as some time ago several vandals forced their way in and disturbed them. There is now some talk of removing the bones to the churchyard.
Before railroads swept away the mail-coaches, the coachmen on the London and York stage, as they clattered through Stevenage, used to point out the barn containing within its rafters the body of a farmer named Trigg. This worthy, who died in 1805, ordered that his remains, in a leaden coffin, should rest in this curious position for a period of thirty years. As a considerable sum of money depended upon the fulfilment of this caprice, the heirs were careful to see that it was duly carried out.
[Illustration: CHURCH TOWER AT PINNER WITH A PROJECTING COFFIN.]
Another and somewhat similar case may be seen in Pinner churchyard at the present day, where a mausoleum, raised on arches above the ground, has a stone coffin inserted through it, one end of which--utilised as a tablet for the inscription--projects through. The story goes that the descendants of the occupant, a Scotch merchant named Loudoun, who died in 1804, enjoy a large property so long as it remains in this position, plainly above ground. There are even gratings at the foot of the edifice, probably in order to prove that there is no deception.
Sepulchral vagaries--of far commoner occurrence than might generally be supposed--vary considerably both in character and degree. Some are whimsical and fantastical in the extreme; others apparently consist only in shunning the usual and appointed places of interment, while the peculiarity of others appears, not in the place, but in the mode of burial. In the majority of instances where outlandish places have been chosen for sepulture, the individuals who selected them have been marked by some peculiarities worthy of observation.
For instance, Baskerville, the celebrated printer, whose infidel opinions shocked even the hardened Wilkes, directed that his body should be buried in a tomb of masonry on the site of an old windmill in the garden of his Birmingham residence. This direction proceeded from some curious disbelief in the "Revelation," but his wish was duly carried out on his death in 1775.
More extraordinary still is the case of Major Peter Labellere, the religious fanatic, who, in the year 1800, was interred upon the summit of Box Hill as follows:--The place appointed to receive his remains was about ten feet deep, more in the form of a well than a grave. The coffin was let down and placed on its head, with the feet upright, in that situation. The eccentric Major was firmly convinced that at the resurrection the world will be turned topsy-turvy, and he took this precaution in order that he might then find himself on his feet!
But queer burials are things of the past. For county councils and parish councils now prevent these eccentric interments in cellars, haylofts, and summer-houses.
OUR MONTHLY GALLERY OF BEAUTIFUL AND INTERESTING PICTURES.
[Illustration: ONE OF GREUZE'S MASTERPIECES.
(Now in the National Gallery.)
_By permission of the Autotype Co., London_]
[Illustration: TIME TO GET UP!
_From the Painting by A. J. Elsley._
_By Permission of Venn. Frost and Reed, Bristol, Publishers of the large Engraving_ ]
[Illustration: THE SON AND HEIR.
_From the painting by L. Schmutzler._
_By permission of S. Hildesheimer & Co., London and Manchester_ ]
[Illustration: A PUSHING FAMILY.
_From the Painting by G. A. Holmes._
_By permission of Messrs. Hildesheimer & Co., London and Manchester_ ]
[Illustration: TURNER'S GREAT WORK: THE FIGHTING TEMERAIRE.
(Now in the National Gallery.)
_By Permission of the Autotype Co., London_ ]
[Illustration: GORDONS AND GREYS TO THE FRONT.
_From the Painting by Stanley Berkeley._
_By Permission of Hildesheimer & Co., London and Manchester_ ]
[Illustration: THE NE'ER DO WELL'S RETURN.
_From the Painting by K. Schultheiss._
_By Permission of the Berlin Photographic Co._ ]
TYPES OF WOMANLY BEAUTY.
[Illustration: COUNTESS OF ANNESLEY
MISS E. MATTHEWS
THE NEXT NUMBER WILL BE
Christmas . . .
IT WILL BE A
PICTURES, FACT & FICTION.
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- - signifies italic text. Some words appear both hyphenated and unhyphenated. This is as printed in the various articles, by various authors, or according to the meaning of the text.
There is some 17th century spelling in this book; there were no spelling rules in the 17th century. There is also some dialect.
Line 236: 'oyxgen' corrected to 'oxygen'.
"Without iron, for instance, the blood could not carry oxygen,..."
The first part-sentence on page 359 has been removed, and added to the last part-sentence on page 357, as the sentence had been interrupted by a page of illustrations.
Page 371: 'illconception' is as printed. Pepys was writing in the 17th century. There were no spelling rules until the second half of the 19th century.