CHAPTER I. THE HALL BY UNION STREET
CHAPTER II. ALBAN KENNEDY MAKES A PROMISE
CHAPTER III. WITHOUT THE GATE
CHAPTER IV. THE CAVES
CHAPTER V. DISMISSAL
CHAPTER VI. THE STRANGER
CHAPTER VII. THE HOUSE OF THE FIVE GABLES
CHAPTER VIII. ALBAN KENNEDY DINES
CHAPTER IX. ANNA GESSNER
CHAPTER X. RICHARD GESSNER DEBATES AN ISSUE
CHAPTER XI. WHIRLWIND
CHAPTER XII. ALBAN SEES LIFE
CHAPTER XIII. ALBAN REVISITS UNION STREET
CHAPTER XIV. THERE ARE STRANGERS IN THE CAVES
CHAPTER XV. A STUDY IN INDIFFERENCE
CHAPTER XVI. THE INTRUDER
CHAPTER XVII. FATHER AND DAUGHTER
CHAPTER XVIII. FATE IRONICAL
CHAPTER XIX. THE PLOT HAS FAILED
CHAPTER XX. ALBAN GOES TO WARSAW
CHAPTER XXI. THE BOY IN THE BLUE BLOUSE
CHAPTER XXII. A FIGURE IN THE STRAW
CHAPTER XXIII. AN INSTRUCTION TO THE POLICE
CHAPTER XXIV. THE DAWN OF THE DAY
CHAPTER XXV. COUNT ZAMOYSKI SLEEPS
CHAPTER XXVI. AN INTERLUDE IN PICCADILLY
CHAPTER XXVII. THE PRISON YARD
CHAPTER XXVIII. THE MEETING
CHAPTER XXIX. ALBAN RETURNS TO LONDON
CHAPTER XXX. WE MEET OLD FRIENDS
CHAPTER XXXI. THE MAN UPON THE PAVEMENT
CHAPTER XXXII. IN THE NAME OF HUMANITY
ALADDIN OF LONDON
The orator was not eloquent; but he had told a human story and all
listened with respect. When he paused and looked upward it seemed to
many that a light of justice shone upon his haggard face while the
tears rolled unwiped down his ragged jerkin. His lank, unkempt hair,
caught by the draught from the open doors at the far end of the hall,
streamed behind him in grotesque profusion. His hands were clenched and
his lips compressed. That which he had told to the sea of questioning
faces below him was the story of his life. The name which he had
uttered with an oath upon his lips was the name of the man who had
deprived him of riches and of liberty. When he essayed to add a woman's
name and to speak of the wrongs which had been done her, the power of
utterance left him in an instant and he stood there gasping, his eyes
toward the light which none but he could see; a prayer of gratitude
upon his lips because he had found the man and would repay.
Look down upon this audience and you shall see a heterogeneous
assembly such as London alone of the cities can show you. The hall is a
crazy building enough, not a hundred yards from the Commercial Road at
Whitechapel. The time is the spring of the year 1903the hour is eight
o'clock at night. Ostensibly a meeting to discuss the news which had
come that day from the chiefs of the Revolutionaries in Warsaw, the
discussion had been diverted, as such discussions invariably are, to a
recital of personal wrongs and of individual resolutionseven to mad
talk of the conquest of the world and the crowning of King Anarchy. And
to this the wild Asiatics and the sad-faced Poles listened alike with
rare murmurs and odd contortions of limbs and body. Let Paul Boriskoff
of Minsk be the orator and they knew that the red flag would fly. But
never before has Boriskoff been seen in tears and the spectacle
enchained their attention as no mere rhetoric could have done.
A man's confession, if it be honest, must ever be a profoundly
interesting document. Boriskoff, the Pole, did not hold these people
spellbound by the vigor of his denunciation or the rhythmic chant of
his anger. He had begun in a quiet voice, welcoming the news from
Warsaw and the account of the assassination of the Deputy Governor
Lebinsky. From that he passed to the old question, why does authority
remain in any city at all? This London that sleeps so securely, does it
ever awake to remember the unnumbered hosts which pitch their tents in
the courts and alleys of Whitechapel? Put rifles into the hands of a
hundred thousand men who can be found to-night, he had said, and
where is your British Government to-morrow? The policethey would be
but as dead leaves under the feet of a mighty multitude. The soldiers!
Friends, he put it to them, do you ever ask yourselves how many
soldiers there are in the barracks of London to-night and what would
happen to them if the people were armed? I say to you that the house
would fall as a house of cards; the rich would flee; the poor would
reign. And you who know this for a truth, what do you answer to me?
That London harbors you, that London feeds youaye, with the food of
swine in the kennels of the dogs.
Men nodded their heads to this and some of the women tittered behind
their ragged shawls. They had heard it all so oftenthe grand assault
by numbers; the rifle shots ringing out in the sleeping streets by
Piccadilly; the sack of Park Lane; the flight of the Government; the
downfall of what is and the establishment of what might be. If they
believed it possible, they had sense enough to remember that a sacked
city of amnesty would be the poorest tribute to their own sagacity. At
least London did not flog them. Their wives and sisters were not here
dragged to the police stations to be brutally lashed at the command of
any underling they had offended. Applause for Boriskoff and his sound
and fury might be interpreted as a concession to their vanity. We
could do all this, they seemed to say; if we forbear, let London be
grateful. As for Boriskoff, he had talked so many times in such a
strain that a sudden change in voice and matter surprised them beyond
words. What had happened to him, then? Was the fellow mad when he began
to speak of the copper mines and the days of slavery he had spent
A hush fell upon the hall when the demagogue struck this
unaccustomed note; rude gas flares shed an ugly yellow glow upon faces
which everywhere asked an unspoken question. What had copper mines to
do with the news from Warsaw, and what had they to do with this
assembly? Presently, however, it came to the people that they were
listening to the story of a wrong, that the pages of a human drama were
being unfolded before them. In glowing words the speaker painted the
miner's life and that of the stokers who kept the furnaces. What a
living hell that labor had been. There were six operations in refining
the copper, he said, and he had served years of apprenticeship to each
of them. Hungry and faint and weary he had kept watch half the night at
the furnace's door and returned to his home at dawn to see white faces
half buried in the ragged beds of his house or to hear the child he
loved crying for the food he could not bring. And in those night
watches the great idea had come to him.
Friends, he said, the first conception of the Meltka furnace was
mine. The white heat of the night gave it to me; a child's cry, 'thou
art my father and thou wilt save me,' was my inspiration. Some of you
will have heard that there are smelting works to-day where the
sulphurous acid, which copper pyrites supplies when it is roasted, is
used for the manufacture of sulphuric acid. That was my discovery. Many
have claimed it since, but the Meltka furnace was mineas God is in
heaven it was mine. Why, then, do I stand among you wanting bread, I
who should own the riches of kings? My friends, I will tell you. A
devil stole my secret from me and has traded it in the markets of the
world. I trusted him. I was poor and he was rich. 'Sell for me and
share my gains,' I said. His honor would be my protection, I thought,
his knowledge my security. Ah, God, what reward had I? He named me to
the police and their lashes cut the flesh from my body. I lay three
years in the prison at Irkutsk and five at Saghalin. The white faces
were turned to the earth they sprang from, my son was heard at the foot
of God's throne when they bade me go and set my foot in Poland no more.
This I knew even in that island of blood and death. Letters had come to
me from my dear wife; the Committee had kept me informed even there at
the end of the earth. I knew that my home had perished; that of all my
family, my daughter Lois alone remained to me; I knew that the days of
the tyranny were numbered and that I, even I, might yet have my work to
do. Did they keep me from Poland? I tell you that I lived there three
years in spite of them, searching for the man who should answer me.
Maxim Gogol, where had he hidden himself? The tale at the mines was
that he had gone to America, sold his interest and embarked in new
ventures. I wrote to our friends in New York and they knew nothing of
such a man. I had search made for him in Berlin, in Vienna and Paris.
The years were not too swift for my patience, but the harvest went
ungathered. I came to London and bent my neck to this yoke of
starvation and eternal night. I have worked sixteen hours a day in the
foul holds of ships that I might husband my desire and repay. Friends,
ten days ago in London I passed the man I am seeking and knew him for
my own. Maxim Gogol may hide from me no more. With these eyes have I
seen himah, God give me strength to speak of itwith these eyes have
I seen him, with these hands have I touched him, with this voice have I
accused him. He lives and he is mineto suffer as I have suffered, to
repay as I have paiduntil the eternal justice of God shall decide
between us both.
There would have been loud applause in any other assembly upon the
conclusion of such an impassioned if verbally conventional an harangue;
but these Asiatics who heard Paul Boriskoff, who watched the tears
stream down his hollowed cheeks and beheld the face uplifted as in
ecstasy, had no applause to give him. Had not they also suffered as he
had suffered? What wrong of his had not been, in some phase or other, a
wrong of theirs? How many of them had lost children well beloved, had
known starvation and the sweater's block? Such sympathy as they had to
give was rather the cold systematical pity of their order which ever
made the individual's cause its own. This unknown Maxim Gogol, if he
were indeed in London so much the worse for him. The chosen hand would
strike him down when his hour had comeeven if it were not the hand of
the man he had wronged. In so far as Boriskoff betrayed intense emotion
before them, it may be that they despised him. What nation had been
made free by tears? How would weeping put bread into the children's
mouths? This was the sentiment immediately expressed by a lank-haired
Pole who followed the speaker. Let Paul Boriskoff write out his case
and the Committee would consider it, he said. If Maxim Gogol were
adjudged guilty, let him be punished. For himself he would spare
neither man, woman, or child sheltered in the house of the oppressor. A
story had been told to them of an unusual order. He did not wholly
regret that Paul Boriskoff had not made a fortune, for, had he done so,
he would not be a brother among them to-night. Let him be assured of
their sympathy. The Committee would hear him when and where he wished.
There were other speakers in a similar mood, but the immediate
interest in the dramatic recital quickly evaporated. A little desultory
talk was followed by the serving of vodki and of cups of steaming
coffee to the women. The younger people at the far end of the hall, who
had been admitted to hear the music which should justify the gathering,
grew weary of waiting and pushed their way into the street. There they
formed little companies to speak, not of the strange entertainment
which had been provided for them, but of commonplace affairsthe elder
women of infantile sufferings, the girls of the songs they had heard on
Saturday at the Aldgate Empire or of the shocking taste in feathers of
more favored rivals. But here and there a black-eyed daughter of Poland
or a fair-haired Circassian edged away discreetly from the company and
was as warily followed by the necessary male. The dirty street caught
snatches of music-hall melodies. Windows were opened above and wit
exchanged. A voice, that of a young girl evidently, asked what had
become of the Hunter, and to this another voice replied immediately, as
though greatly satisfied, that Alban Kennedy had gone down toward the
High Street with Lois Boriskoff.
As if you didn't know, Chris. Gawsh, you should 'ave seen her
feathers waggin' at the Union jess now. Fawther's took wiv the jumps, I
hear, and Alb's gone to the Pav to give her hair. Oh, the fine
gentlemingI seed his poor toes through his bloomin' boots this night,
s'welp me Gawd I did.
The admission was received with a shout of laughter from the window
above, where a red-haired girl leaned pensively upon the rail of a
broken balcony. The speaker, in her turn, moved away with a youth who
asked her, with much unnecessary emphasis, what the 'ell she had to do
with Albey's feet and why she couldn't leave Chris Denham alone.
If I ain't 'xactly gawn on Russian taller myself, wot's agen Albey
a-doin' of it, he asked authoritatively. Leave the lidy alone and
don't arst no questions. They say as the old man is took with spasms
round at the Union. S'welp me if Albey ain't in luckat his time of
He winked at the girl, who had put her arm boldly round his waist,
and marched on with the proud consciousness that his cleverness had not
failed to make a just impression. The red-haired girl of the pensive
face still gazed dreamily down the court and her head inclined a little
toward the earth as though she were listening for the sound of a
footstep. Not only the dreamer of dreams in that den of squalor, this
Alban Kennedy was her idol to-night as he had been the idol of fifty of
her class since he came to live among them. What cared she for his
ragged shoes or the frayed collar about his neck? Did not the whole
community admit him to be a very aristocrat of aristocrats, a diamond
of class in a quarry of ashes, a figure at once mysterious and
heroical? And this knight of the East, what irony led him away with
that white-faced Pole, Lois Boriskoff? What did he see in her? What was
she to him?
The pensive head was withdrawn sadly from the window at last.
Silence fell in the dismal court. The Russians who had been breathing
fire and vengeance were now eating smoked sturgeon and drinking vodki.
A man played the fiddle to them and some danced. After all, life has
something else than the story of wrong to tell us sometimes.
The boy and the girl halted together by one of the great lights at
the corner of the Commercial Road and there they spoke of the strange
confession which had just fallen from Paul Boriskoff's lips. Little
Lois, white-faced as a mime at the theatre, her black hair tousled and
unkempt, her eyes shining almost with the brightness of fever, declared
all her heart to the gentle Alban and implored him for God's sake to
take her from London and this pitiful home. He, as discreet as she was
rash, pitied her from his heart, but would not admit as much.
If I could only speak Polish, Loisbut you know I can't, he said.
Bread and salt, that's about what I should get in your countryand
perhaps be able to count the nails in the soles of my boots. What's the
good of telling me all about it? I saw that your father was angry, but
you people are always angry. And, little girl, he does his best for
you. Never forget thathe would sooner lose anything on earth than
I don't believe it, said the girl, tossing her head angrily,
what's he care about anything but that ole machine of his which he
says they stole from him? Ten hours have I been sewing to-day, Alb, and
ten it will be to-morrow. Truth, dear, upon my soul. What's father care
so long as the kettle boils and he can read the papers? And you're no
betteryou'd take me away if you wereright away from here to the
gardens where he couldn't find me, and no one but you would ever find
me any more. That's what you'd do if you were as I want you to be. But
you ain't, Albyou'll never care for any girlnow will you, Alb,
She clutched his arm and pressed closely to him, regardless of
passers-by so accustomed to love-making on the pavements that neither
man nor woman turned a head because of it. Alban Kennedy, however, was
frankly ashamed of the whole circumstance, and he pushed the girl away
from him as though her very touch offended.
Look here, Lois, that's nonsenselet's go and see something, let's
go into the New Empire for an hour. Your father will be all right when
he's had a glass or two of vodki. You know he's always like this when
there's been news from Warsaw. Let's go and hear a turn and then you
can tell me what you want me to do.
They walked on a little way, she clinging to his arm timidly and
looking up often into his eyes as though for some expression of that
affection she hungered for unceasingly. The Court had named them for
lovers long ago, but the women declared that such an aristocrat as
Alban Kennedy would look twice before he put his neck into Paul
Boriskoff's matrimonial halter.
A lot of good the Empire will do me to-night, Lois exclaimed
presently. I feel more like dancing on my own grave than seeing other
people do it. What with father's temper and your cold shoulder, Alb
Lois, that's unfair, dear; you know that I am sorry. But what can I
do, what can any one do for men who talk such nonsense as those fellows
in that hall? 'Seize London and the Government'you said it was that,
didn't you?well, they're much more likely to get brain fever and wake
up in the hospital. That's what I shall tell your father if he asks me.
And, Lois, how can you and I talk about anything serious when I haven't
a shilling to call my own and your father won't let you out of his
sight lest he should want something. It will all be different soonbad
things always are. I shall make a fortune myself some dayI'm certain
of it as though I had the money already in the bank. People who make
fortunes always know that they are going to do so. I shall make a lot
of money and then come back for youjust my little Lois sewing at the
window, the same old dirty court, the same ragged fellows talking about
sacking London, the same faces everywherebut Lois unchanged and
waiting for menow isn't it that, dear, won't you be unchanged when I
come back for you?
They stood for an instant in the shadow of a shuttered shop and,
leaping up at his question, she lifted warm red lips to his ownand
the girl of seventeen and the boy of mature twenty kissed as ardently
as lovers newly sworn to eternal devotion.
I do love you, Alb, she cried, I shall never love any other
manstraight, my dear, though there ain't much use in a-telling you.
Oh, Alb, if you meant it, you wouldn't leave me in this awful place;
you'd take me away, darling, where I could see the fields and the
gardens. I'd come, Alb, as true as deathI'd go this night if you arst
me, straight away never to come backif it were to sleep on the hard
road and beg my bread from house to houseI'd go with you, Alb, as
heaven hears me, I'd be an honest wife to you and you should never
regret the day. What's to keep us, Alb, dear? Oh, we're fine rich,
ain't we, both of us, you with your fifteen shillings from the yard and
me with nine and six from the fronts. Gawd's truth, Rothschild ain't
nothink to you and me, Alb, when we've the mind to play the great lidy
and gentleman. Do you know that I lay abed some nights and try to think
as it's a kerridge and pair and you a-sittin' beside of me and nothink
round us but the green fields and the blue sky, and nothink never more
to do but jess ride on with your hand in mine and the sun to shine upon
us. Lord, what a thing it is to wake up then, Alb, and 'ear the caller
cryin' five and see my father like a white ghost at the door. And
that's wot's got to go on to the endyou know it is; you put me off
'cause you think it'll please me, same as you put Chris Denham off when
you danced with her at the Institoot Ball. You won't never love no girl
truly, Albit isn't in you, my dear. You're born above us and we never
shall forget it, not none of us as I'm alive to-night.
She turned away her head to hide the tears gathering in her black
eyes, while Alban's only answer to her was a firm pressure upon the
little white hand he held in his own and a quicker step upon the
crowded pavement. Perhaps he understood that the child spoke the truth,
but of this he could not be a wise judge. His father had been a poor
East End parson, his mother was the daughter of an obstinate and flinty
Sheffield steel factor, who first disowned her for marrying a curate
and then went through the bankruptcy court as a protest against
American competition. So far Alban knew himself to be an
aristocratand yet how could he forget that among that very company of
Revolutionaries he had so lately quitted there were sons of men whose
nobility was older than Russia herself. That he understood so much
singled him out immediately as a youth of strange gifts and abnormal
insightbut such, indeed, he was, and as such he knew himself to be.
I won't quarrel with you, Lois, though I see that you wish it,
dear, he said presently, you know I don't care for Chris Denham and
what's the good of talking about her. Let's go and cheer upI'm sure
we can do with a bit and that's the plain truth, now isn't it, Lois?
He squeezed her arm and drew her closer to him. At the Empire they
found two gallery seats and watched a Japanese acrobat balance himself
upon five hoops and a ladder. A lady in far from immaculate evening
dress, who sang of a flowing river which possessed eternal and
immutable qualities chiefly concerned with love and locks and
unswerving fidelity, appealed to little Lois' sentiment and she looked
up at Alb whenever the refrain recurred as much as to say, That is how
I should love you. So many other couples about them were squeezing
hands and cuddling waists that no one took any notice of their
affability or thought it odd. A drunken sailor behind them kept asking
the company with maudlin reiteration what time the last train left for
Plymouth, but beyond crying hush nobody rebuked him. In truth, the
young people had come there to make love, and when the lights were
turned down and the curtain of the biograph revealed, the place seemed
Lois crept very close to Alban during this part of the
entertainment, nor did he repulse her. Moments there were undeniably
when he had a great tenderness toward her; moments when she lay in his
embrace as some pure gift from this haven of darkness and of evil, a
fragile helpless figure of a girlhood he idolized. Then, perchance, he
loved her as Lois Boriskoff hungered for love, with the supreme
devotion, the abject surrender of his manhood.
No meaner taint of passion inspired these outbreaks, nor might the
most critical student of character have found them blameworthy. Alban
Kennedy's rule of life defied scrutiny. His ignorance was often that of
a child, his faith that of a trusting womanand yet he had traits of
strength which would have done no dishonor to those in the highest
places. Lois loved him and there were hours when he responded wholly to
her love and yet had no more thought of evil in his response than of
doing any of those forbidding things against which his dead mother had
schooled him so tenderly. Here were two little outcasts from the
civilized worldwhy should they not creep close together for that
sympathy and loving kindness which destiny had denied them.
I darsn't be late to-night, Alb, Lois said when the biograph was
over and they had left the hall, you know how father was. I must go
back and get his supper.
Did he really mean all that about the copper mines and his
invention? Alban asked her in his practical way, and added, Of course
I couldn't understand much of it, but I think it's pretty awful to see
a man crying, don't you, Lois?
Father does that often, she rejoined, often when he's alone. I
might not be in the world at all, Alb, for all he thinks of me. Some
one robbed him, you know, and just lately he thinks he's found the man
in London. What's the good of it allwho's goin' to help a poor Pole
get his rights back? Oh, yer bloomin' law and order, a lot we sees of
you in Thrawl Street, so help me funny. That's what I tell father when
he talks about his rights. We'll take ours home with us to Kingdom come
and nobody know much about 'em when we get there. A sight of good it is
cryin' out for them in this world, Albnow ain't it, dear?
Alban was in the habit of taking questions very seriously, and he
took this one just as though she had put it in the best of good faith.
I can't make head or tail of things, Lois, he said stoically,
fact is, I've given up trying. Why does my father die without sixpence
after serving God all his life, and another man, who has served the
devil, go under worth thousands? That's what puzzles me. And they tell
us it will all come right some day, just as we're all going to drive
motor-cars when the Socialists get in. Wouldn't I be selling mine cheap
to-night if anyone came along and offered me five pounds for
itwouldn't I say 'take it' and jolly glad to get the money. Why,
Lois, dear, think what we would do with five pounds.
Go to Southend for Easter, Alb.
Buy you a pretty ring and take you to the Crystal Palace.
Drive a pony to Epping, Alb, and come back in the moonlight.
Down to Brighton for the Saturday and two in the water together.
Flash it on 'em in Thrawl Street and make Chris Denham cry.
They laughed together and cuddled joyously at a dream so
bewildering. Their united wealth that night was three shillings, of
which Alb had two and four pence. What untold possibilities in five
pounds, what sunshine and laughter and joy. Ah, that the dark court
should be waiting for them, the squalor, the misery, the woe of it. Who
can wonder that the shadows so soon engulfed them?
Kiss me, Alb, she said at the corner, shall I see you to-morrow
Outside the Pav at nine. You can tell me how your father took it.
Say I hope he'll get his rights. I think he always liked me rather,
A sight more than ever he liked me, Alb, and that's truth. Ah, my
dear, you'll take me away from here some day, won't you, Alb? You'll
take me away where none shall ever know, where I shall see the world
and forget what I have been. Kiss me, AlbI'm that low to-night, dear,
I could cry my heart out.
He obeyed her instantly. A voice of human suffering never failed to
make an instant appeal to him.
As true as God's in heaven, if ever I get rich, I'll come first to
Lois with the story, he saidand so he bent and kissed her on the
lips as gently as though she had been his little sister.
Alban's garret lay within a stone's throw of the tenement occupied
by the Boriskoffs; but, in truth, it knew very little of him. They
called him The Hunter, in the courts and alleys round about; and this
was as much as to say that his habits were predatory. He loved to roam
afar in quest, not of material booty, but of mental sensation. An
imagination that was simply wonderful helped him upon his way. He had
but to stand at the gate of a palace to become in an instant one of
those who peopled it. He could create himself king, or prince, or
bishop as the mood took him. If a holiday sent him to the theatre, he
was the hero or villain at his choice. In church he would preach
well-imagined sermons to spellbound listeners. The streets of the West
End were his true worldthe gate without the scene of his mental
He had no friends among the youths and lads of Thrawl Street and its
environment, nor did he seek them. Those who hung about him were soon
repelled by his secretive manner and a diffidence which was little more
than natural shyness. If he fell now and then into the speech of the
alleys, constant association was responsible for the lapse. Sometimes,
it is true, an acquaintance would defy the snub and thrust himself
stubbornly upon the unwilling wanderer. Alban was never unkind to such
as these. He pitied these folk from his very heart; but before them
all, he pitied himself.
His favorite walk was to the precincts of Westminster School, where
he had spent two short terms before his father died. The influence of
this life had never quite passed away. Alban would steal across London
by night and stand at the gate of Little Dean's Yard as though
wondering still what justice or right of destiny had driven him forth.
He would haunt St. Vincent's Square on Saturday afternoons, and, taking
his stand among all the little ragged boys who watched the cricket or
football, he would, in imagination, become a pink delighting the
multitude by a century or kicking goals so many that the very Press was
startled. In the intervals he revisited the Abbey and tried to remember
the service as he had known it when a schoolboy. The sonorous words of
Tudor divines remained within his memory, but the heart of them had
gone out. What had he to be thankful for now? Did he not earn his
bitter bread by a task so laborious that the very poor might shun it.
His father would have made an engineer of him if he had livedso much
had been quite decided. He could tell you the names of lads who had
been at Westminster with him and were now at Oxford or Cambridge
enjoying those young years which no subsequent fortune can recall. What
had he done to the God who ruled the world that these were denied to
him? Was he not born a gentleman, as the world understands the term?
Had he not worn good clothes, adored a loving mother, been educated in
his early days in those vain accomplishments which society demands from
its children? And now he was an East-ender, down at heel and half
starved; and there were not three people in all the city who would care
a straw whether he lived or died.
This was the lad who went westward that night of the meeting in
Union Street, and such were his frequent thoughts. None would have
taken him for what he was; few who passed him by would have guessed
what his earlier years had been. The old gray check suit, frayed at the
edges, close buttoned and shabby, was just such a suit as any loafer
out of Union Street might have worn. His hollow cheeks betrayed his
poverty. He walked with his hands thrust deep into his pockets, his
shoulders slightly bent, his eyes roving from face to face as he
numbered the wayfarers and speculated upon their fortunes and their
future. Two or three friends who hailed him were answered by a
quickening of his step and a curt nod of the handsome head. Alb's
curl, a fair flaxen curl upon a broad white forehead, had become a
jest in Thrawl Street. 'E throws it at yer, the youths saidand this
was no untrue description.
Alban walked swiftly up the Whitechapel Road and was going on by
Aldgate Station when the Reverend Jimmy Dale, as all the district
called the cheery curate of St. Wilfred's Church, slapped him heartily
on the shoulder and asked why on earth he wasted the precious hours
when he might be in bed and asleep.
Now, my dear fellow, do you really think it is wise? I am here
because I have just been to one of those exhibitions of unadorned
gluttony they call a City Banquet. Do you know, Alban, that I don't
want to hear of food and drink again for a month. It's perfectly
terrible to think that men can do such things when I could name five
hundred children who will go wanting bread to-morrow.
Alban rejoined in his own blunt way.
Then why do you go? was his disconcerting question.
To beg of them, that's why I go. They are not uncharitableI will
hold to it anywhere. And, I suppose, from a worldly point of view, it
was a very good dinner. Now, let us walk back together, Alban. I want
to talk to you very much.
About what, sir?
Oh, about lots of things. Why don't you join the cricket club,
I haven't got the money, sir.
But surelyfive shillings, my dear boyand only once a year.
If you haven't got the five shillings, it doesn't make any
difference how many times a year it is.
Well, well, I think I must write to Sir James Hogg about you. He
was telling me to-night
If he sent me the money, I'd return it to him. I'm not a beggar,
But are you not very proud, Alban?
Would you let anybody give you five shillingsfor yourself, Mr.
That would depend how he offered it. In the plate I should
certainly consider it acceptable.
Yes, but sent to you in a letter because you were hard up, you
know. I'm certain you wouldn't. No decent fellow would. When I can
afford to play cricket, I'll play it. Good night, Mr. Dale. I'm not
going back just now.
The curate shook his head protestingly.
Do you know it is twelve o'clock, Alban?
Just the time the fun beginsin the worldover there, sir.
He looked up at the Western sky aglow with that crimson haze which
stands for the zenith of London's night. The Reverend Jimmy Dale had
abandoned long ago the idea of understanding Alban Kennedy. He will
either die in a lunatic asylum or make his fortune, he said to
himselfand all subsequent happenings did not alter this dogged
opinion. The fellow was either a lunatic or an original. Jimmy Dale,
who had rowed in the Trinity second boat, did not wholly appreciate
What is the world to you, Albanis not sleep better?
In a garret, sir, where you cannot breathe?
Oh, come, we must all be a little patient in adversity. I saw Mr.
Browning at the works yesterday. He tells me that the firm is very
pleased with youyou'll get a rise before long, Alban.
Half a crown for being good. Enough to sole my boots. When I have
shops of my own, I'll let the men live to begin with, sir. The
shareholders can come afterwards.
It would never do to preach that at a city dinner.
Ah, sir, what's preached at a city dinner and what's true in Thrawl
Street, Whitechapel, don't ride a tandem together. Ask a hungry man
whether he'll have his mutton boiled or roast, and he'll tell you he
doesn't care a damn. It's just the same with mewhether I sleep in a
cellar or a garret, what's the odds? I'll be going on now, sir. You
must feel tired after so much eating.
He turned, but not rudely, and pushing his way adroitly through the
throng about the station disappeared in a moment. The curate shook his
head and resumed his way moodily eastward, wondering if his momentary
lapse from the straight and narrow way of self-sacrificing were indeed
a sin. After all, it had been a very good dinner, and a man would be
unwise to be influenced by a boy's argument. The Reverend Jimmy was a
thousand miles from being a hypocrite, as his life's work showed, and
this matter of the dinner really troubled him exceedingly. How many of
his parishioners could have been fed for such an expenditure? On the
other hand, city companies did a very great deal of good, and it would
be churlish to object to their members dining together two or three
times a year. In the end, he blamed the lad, Alban, for putting such
thoughts into his head.
The fellow's off to sleep in Hyde Park, I suppose, he said to
himself, or in one of his pirate's caves. What a story he could write
if he had the talent. What a freak of chance which set him down here
amongst uswell born and educated and yet as much a prisoner as the
poorest. Some day we shall hear of himI am convinced of it. We shall
hear of Alban Kennedy and claim his acquaintance as wise people do when
a man has made a success.
He carried the thought home with him, but laid it aside when he
entered the clergy house, dark and stony and cheerless at such an hour.
Alban was just halfway down the Strand by that time and debating
whether he should sleep in the caves, as he called those wonderful
subterranean passages under Pall Mall and the Haymarket, or chance the
climate upon a bench in Hyde Park. A chilly night of April drove him to
the former resolution and he passed on quickly; by the theatres now
empty of their audiences; through Trafalgar Square, where the clubs and
the hotels were still brilliantly lighted; up dark Cockspur Street;
through St. James' Square; and so to an abrupt halt at the door of a
great house, open to the night and dismissing its guests.
Alban despised himself for doing it, but he could never resist the
temptation of staring through the windows of any mansion where a party
happened to be held. The light and life of it all made a sure appeal to
him. He could criticise the figures of beautiful women and remain
ignorant of the impassable abyss between their sphere and his own.
Sometimes, he would try to study the faces thus revealed to him, as in
the focus of a vision, and to say, That woman is utterly vain, or
again, There is a doll who has not the sense of an East End flower
girl. In a way he despised their ignorance of life and its terrible
comedies and tragedies. Little Lois Boriskoff, he thought, must know
more of human nature than any woman in those assemblies where, as the
half-penny papers told him, cards and horses and motor-cars were the
subjects chiefly talked about. It delighted him to imagine the
abduction of one of these society beauties and her forcible detention
for a month in Thrawl Street. How she would shudder and fear it
alland yet what human lessons might not she carry back with her. Let
them show him a woman who could face such an ordeal unflinchingly and
he would fall in love with her himself. The impertinence of his idea
never once dawned upon him. He knew that his father's people had been
formerly well-to-do and that his mother had often talked of birth and
family. I may be better than some of them after all, he reflected;
and this was his armor against humiliation. What did money matter? The
fine idealist of twenty, with a few coppers in his pocket, declared
stoically that money was really of no consequence at all.
He lingered some five minutes outside the great house in St. James'
Square, watching the couples in the rooms above, and particularly
interested in one face which appeared in, and disappeared from, a
brilliantly lighted alcove twice while he was standing there. A certain
grace of girlhood attended this apparition; the dress was rich and
costly and exquisitely made; but that which held Alban's closer
attention was the fact that the wearer of it unquestionably was a Pole,
and not unlike little Lois Boriskoff herself. He would not say, indeed,
that the resemblance was strikingit might have been merely that of
nationality. When the girl appeared for the second time, he admitted
that the comparison was rather wild. None the less, he liked to think
that she resembled Lois and might also have heard the news from Warsaw
to-day. Evidently she was the daughter of some rich foreigner in
London, for she talked and moved with Continental animation and grace.
The type of face had always made a sure appeal to Alban. He liked those
broad contrasts of color; the clear, almost white, skin; the bright red
lips; the open expressive eyes fringed by deep and eloquent lashes.
This unknown was taller than little Lois certainlyshe had a maturer
figure and altogether a better carriage; but the characteristics of her
nationality were as sureand the boy fell to wondering whether she was
also capable of that winsome sentiment and jealous frenzy which
dictated many of the seemingly inconsequent acts of the little heroine
of Thrawl Street. This he imagined to be quite possible. They are
great as a nation, he thought, but most of them are mad. I will tell
Lois to-morrow that I have seen her sister in St. James' Square. I
shouldn't wonder if she knew all about this house and the partyand
Boriskoff will, if she doesn't.
He contented himself with this; and the girl having disappeared from
the alcove and a footman announced, in a terrible voice, that Lady
Smigg's carriage barred the way, he turned from the house and continued
upon his way to the caves. It was then nearly one o'clock, and save
for an occasional hansom making a dash to a club door, St. James'
Street was deserted. Alban took one swift look up and down, crossed the
street at a run and disappeared down the court which led to those
amazing tombs of which few in London save the night-birds and the
builders so much as suspect the existence.
He did not go alone; he was not, as he thought, unwatched. A
detective, commissioned by an unknown patron to follow him, crossed the
road directly he had disappeared, and saying, So that's the game,
began to wonder if he also might dare the venture.
He, at least, knew well what he was doing and the class of person he
would be likely to meet down there in the depths of which even the
police were afraid.
The labyrinth beneath the West End of London was rediscovered in
our own time when the foundations for the Carlton Hotel and his
Majesty's Theatre were laid. It is a network of old cellars,
subterranean passages and, it may even be, of disused conduits,
extended from the corner of Suffolk Street, Pall Mall, away to the
confines of St. James' Parkand, as more daring explorers aver, to the
river Thames itself. Here is a very town of tunnels and arches, of odd
angled rooms, of veritable caves and depths as dark as Styx. If, in a
common way, it be shut by the circumstance of the buildings above to
the riff-raff and night-hawks who would frequent it, there are seasons,
nevertheless, when the laying of new foundations, the building of
hotels and the demolition of ancient streets in the name of
improvement fling its gates open to the more cunning of the
destitutes, and they flock there as rooks to a field newly sown.
Of these welcome opportunities, the building of the Carlton Hotel is
the best remembered within recent times; but the erection of new houses
off St. James' Street in the year 1903 brought the ladies and the
gentlemen of the road again to its harborage; and they basked there for
many weeks in undisputed possession. Molesting none and by none
molested, it was an affair neither for the watchmen (whose glances
askance earned them many a handsome supper) or for the police who had
sufficient to do in the light of the street lamps that they should busy
themselves with supposed irregularities where that light was not. The
orgies thus became a nightly feature of the vagrant's life. There was
no more popular hotel in London than the Coal Hole, as the wits of
the company delighted to style their habitation.
A city below a city! Indeed imagination might call it that. A
replica of famous catacombs with horrid faces for your spectres,
ghoulish women and unspeakable men groping in the darkness as though,
vampire-like, afraid of the light. Why Alban Kennedy visited this
place, he himself could not have said. Possibly a certain morbid horror
of it attracted him. He had, admittedly, such a passport to the caves
as may be the reward of a shabby appearance and a resolute air. The
criminal company he met with believed that he also was a criminal.
Enjoying their confidence because he had never excited their suspicion,
they permitted him to lie his length before reddened embers and hear
tales which fire the blood with every passion of anger and of hate.
Here, in these caverns, he had seen men fight as dogswith teeth and
claws and resounding yells; he had heard the screams of a woman and the
cries of helpless children. A sufficient sense of prudence compelled
him to be but an apathetic spectator of these infamies. The one battle
he had fought had been impotent to save the object of his chivalry.
When first he came here, heroic resolutions followed him. He had
thrashed a ruffian who struck a woman, and narrowly escaped with his
life for doing so. Henceforth he could but assent to a truce which
implied mutual toleration; and yet he understood that his presence was
not without its influence even on these irredeemables. Men called him
The Hunter, or in mockery The Dook. He had done small services for
one or two of themeven written a begging letter for a rogue who could
not write at all, but posed as an old public school man, fallen upon
evil days. Alban was perfectly well aware that this was a shameless
imposition, but his ideas of morality as it affected the relations of
rich and poor were ever primitive and unstable. If this old thief gets
half a sovereign, what's it matter? he would argue; the other man
stole his money, I suppose, and can well afford to pay up. Here was a
gospel preached every day in Thrawl Street. He had never stopped to ask
Alban crossed St. James' Street furtively, and climbed, as an
athlete should climb, the boarding which defended the entrance to this
amazing habitation. A contented watchman, dozing by a comfortable fire,
cared little who came or went and rarely bestirred himself to ask the
question. There were two entrances to the caves: one cramped and
difficult, the other broad and open; and you took your choice of them
according to the position of the policeman on the beat. This night, or
rather this morning, of the day following upon the meeting in Union
Street, discovered Alban driven to the more hazardous way. His quick
eye had detected, on the far side of the enclosure, an amiable
flirtation between a man of law and a lady of the dusters; and avoiding
both discreetly, he slipped into a trench of the newly made foundations
and crawled as swiftly through an aperture which this descent revealed.
Here, laid bare by the picks and shovels of twentieth-century Trade
Unionism, was a veritable Gothic arch, bricked up to the height of a
tall man's waist, but open at the tympanum. Alban hoisted himself to
the aperture and, slipping through, his feet discovered the reeking
floor of a dank and dripping subway; and guiding himself now by hands
outstretched and fingers touching the fungi of the walls, he went on
with confidence until the roof lifted above him and the watch-fires of
the confraternity were disclosed. He had come by now into a vast cellar
not very far from the Carlton Hotel itself. There were offshoots
everywhere, passages more remote, the arches as of crypts, smaller
apartments, odd corners which had guarded the casks five hundred years
ago. Each of these could show you its little company safe harbored for
the night; each had some face from which Master Timidity might well
avert his eyes. But Alban went in amongst them as though he had been
their friend. They knew his very footstep, the older lags would
All well, Jack?
All well, old cove.
The Panorama come along?
Straight art of the coffee shawp, s'help me blind.
Ship come in?
Two tharsand next Toosdaysame as usual.
A lanky hawker, lying full length upon a sack, his pipe glowing in
the darkness, exchanged these pleasantries with Alban at the entrance.
There were fires by here and there in these depths and the smoke was
often suffocating. The huddled groups declared all grades of
ill-fortune and of crime; from that of the pauper parson to the
hoariest house-breaker resting for a season. Alban's little set, so
far as he had a set at all, consisted of the sometime curate of a
fashionable West End Church, known to the company as the Archbishop of
Bloomsbury; the Lady Sarah, a blooming, red-cheeked girl who sold
flowers in Regent Street, the Panorama, an old showman's son who had
not a sixpenny piece in his pocket, but whose schemes were invariably
about to bring him in two thousand next Tuesday morning; and Betty,
a pretty, fair-haired lad, thrown on the streets God knows how or by
what callous act of indifferent parentage. Regularly as the clock
struck, this quartette would gather in a tiny chapel of the cellars
and sleep about a fire kindled in a grate which might have baked meats
for the Tudors. They spoke of the events of the day with moderation and
wise philosophy. It would be different to-morrow. Such was ever their
My lord the Duke is late. Does aught of fortune keep your
The ex-parson made way for Alban, grandiloquently offering a niche
upon the bare floor and a view of the reddening embers. The boy Betty
was already asleep, while the Lady Sarah and the Panorama divided a
fourpenny pie most faithfully between them. A reeking atmosphere of
spirit (but not of water) testified to the general conviviality. A hum
of conversation was borne in upon them from the greater cellarat odd
times a rough oath of protest or the mad complainings of a drunkard.
For the most part, however, the night promised to be uneventful. Alban
had never seen the Lady Sarah more gracious, and as for the Panorama
he had no doubt whatever that his fortune was made.
My contract for America's going through and I shall be out there
with a show in a month, this wild youth saidand added patronizingly,
When I come back, it will be dinner upstairs, old chapsand some of
the best. Do you suppose that I could forget you? I would as soon
forget my father's grave.
They heard him with respectno one differing from him.
I shall certainly be pleased to accept your kind invitation, said
the Archbishop, that is, should circumstanceand Providenceenable
me to redeem the waistcoat, without whichehhemI understand no
visitor would be admitted to those noble precincts.
The Lady Sarah expressed her opinion even more decidedly.
Don't 'e talk, she said pleasantly, can't you 'ear the thick 'uns
a rattlin' in his mouse-trap. Poor little man and 'im a horphin. Stun
me mother if I ain't a goin' ter Jay's termerrer ter buy mournin' in
honor of him.
I presume, continued the Archbishop, that we shall all be
admitted to this entertainment as it werethat isas the colloquial
expression goeson the nod. It will be enough to mention that we are
the proprietor's friends.
You shall have a season-ticket for life, Archbishop. Just you tell
me where you want a church built and I'll see that it's done. Of course
I don't mind your chaffI'm dead in earnest and the money will be
A real contract this time? Alban suggested kindly.
A real contract. I saw Philips about it to-day, and he knows a man
who is Pierpont Morgan's cousin. We are to open in New York in
September and be in San Francisco the following week.
Rather a long journey, isn't it, old chap?
Oh, they do those things out there. I'm told you play Hamlet one
night and Othello six hours afterwards, which is really the next night
because of the long distances and the differences in the latitudes. Ask
the Archbishop. I expect he hasn't forgotten all his geography.
A Cambridge man, said the Archbishop, loftily, despises
geography. Heat, light, electricity, the pure and the impure
mathematicsthese are his proper study. I rise superior to the
occasion and tell you that San Francisco is a long way from New York.
The paper in which I wrapped a ham sandwich yesterdaythe
advertisement of a shipping company, I may inform youbrings that back
to my recollection. San Francisco is the thickness of two slices of
stale bread from the seaport you mention. And I believe there are Red
Indians in between.
The Lady Sarah murmured lightly the refrain of the old song
concerning houses which stood in that annoying position; but Alban had
already lighted a cigarette and was watching the girl's face
You've had some luck to-day, Sarah?
A bloomin' prophet and that I won't deny. Gar'n, Dowie.
But you did have some luck?
Sure and certain. What d'ye fink? A bit of a boy, same as 'Betty'
'ere, 'e comes up and says, 'What'll ye take fer the whole bloomin'
caravan?' he says, 'for ter send ter a lidy?' 'Gentleman,' I says, 'I'm
only a poor girl and a widered muver ter keep, and, gentleman, I can't
tike less than two pound fer 'em sure and certain as there's a God in
'eaven, I can't.' 'Well,' says he, 'it's a blarsted swindle but I'll
take 'emand mind you deliver 'em ter the lidy yerself.' 'They shall
go this very minute,' says I, 'and, oh, sir, God bless you both and may
yer have long life and 'appiness ter-gether.' Strike me dead, wot d'yer
think he said next? Why he arst me fer my bloomin' name, same as if I
wus a Countess a steepin' art of a moter-kar at the door of Buckingem
Peliss. 'What's yer name, girl?' says 'e. 'Sarah Geddes, an it please
yer capting,' says I. 'Then send the bally flowers to Sarah Geddes,'
says 'e, 'and take precious good care as she gets 'em.' Gawd's truth,
yer could 'ave knocked me darn with a 'at pin. I never was took so
suddin in all me life.
I wonder you didn't have your dinner in the Carlton Hotel, Sarah.
So I would 'a' done if I'd hev bed time ter chinge me dress. You
orter know, Dook, as no lidy ever goes inter them plices in wot she's
bin a wearin' afore she cleaned herself. I'ad ter go ter Marlborough
'Ouse ter tell the Prince of Wales, and that's wot kept me.
Better luck next time, Sarah. So it only ran to a 'fourpenny'
between you and 'the Panorama.'
You shall all dine with me next week, said the young man in
question. On my honor, I'll give you the best dinner you ever had in
your life. As for Sarah here, I'm going to put her in a flower shop in
Gar'n, silly, what 'ud I do in Bond Street? Much better buy the
Archbishop a church.
The erstwhile clergyman did not take the suggestion, in good part.
I have always doubted my ability to conduct the affairs of a parish
methodically, he said, that isa little habita slight partiality
to the drug called morphia is not in my favor. This, I am aware, is a
drawback. The world judges my profession very harshly. A man in the
city who counts the collection indifferently will certainly become Lord
Mayor. The Establishment has no use for himhe is de trop, or
as we might say, a drop too much. This I recognize in frankly declining
our young friend's offerwith grateful thanks.
Sarah, the flower girl, seemed particularly amused by this frank
admission. Feeling in the depth of her shawl she produced a capacious
flask and a bundle of cigars.
'Ere, boys, she said, let's talk 'am and heggs. 'Ere's a drop of
the best and five bob's worth of chimney afire, stun me mother if there
ain't. I'm sick of talkin' and so's 'the Panerawma.' Light up yer
sherbooks and think as you're in Buckingem Peliss. There ain't no 'arm
I dreamed last night, said the Archbishop very sadly, that this
cellar had become a cottage and that the sun was shining in it.
I never dream, said the Panorama, stoically; put my head on the
floor and I won't lift it until the clock strikes ten.
Then begin now, my dear, exclaimed the Lady Sarah with a sudden
tenderness, put it there now and forget what London is ter you and
The words were uttered almost with a womanly tenderness, not without
its influence upon the company. Some phrase spoken of Frivolity's mouth
had touched this group of outcasts and spoken straight to their hearts.
They bandied, pleasantries no more, but lighting the cigarsthe Lady
Sarah boldly charging a small clay pipethey fell to an expressive
silence, of introspection, it may be, or even of unutterable despair.
The woman alone amongst them had not been cast down from a comparative
altitude to this very abyss of destitution. For the others life was a
vista far behind them; a vista, perchance, of a cottage and the
sunshine, as the parson had said; an echo of voices from a forgotten
world; the memory of a hand that was cold and of dead faces reproaching
them. Such pauses are not infrequent in the conversation of the very
poor. Men bend their heads to destiny less willingly than we think. The
lowest remembers the rungs of the ladder he has descended.
Alban had lighted one of the cigars and he smoked it stoically,
wondering again why the caves attracted him and what there was in this
company which should not have made him ashamed of such associations.
That he was not ashamed admitted of no question. In very truth, the
humanities were conquering him in spite of inherited prejudice. Had the
full account of it been written down by a philosopher, such a sage
would have said that the girl Sarah stood for a type of womanly pity,
of sympathy, and, in its way, of motherhood; qualities which demand no
gift of birth for their appeal. The unhappy parson, too, was there not
much of good in him, and might he not yet prove a human field worthy to
be tilled by a husbandman of souls? His humor was kindly; his
disposition gentle; his faults punished none but himself. And for what
did the Panorama stand if not for the whole gospel of human hope
without which no life may be lived at all? Alban had some glimmering of
this, but he could not have set down his reasons in so many words. As
for the little lad Bettywas not the affection they lavished upon
him that which manhood ever owes to the weak and helpless. Search
London over and you will not find elemental goodness in a shape more
worthy than it was to be found in the cavesnor can we forego a
moment's reflection upon the cant which ever preaches the vice of the
poor and so rarely stops to preach their virtues.
This was the human argument of Alban's association, but the romantic
must not be forgotten. More imaginative than most youths of his age,
his boyish delight in these grim surroundings was less to him than a
real and inspiring sense of the power of contrast they typified. Was he
not this very night sleeping beneath some famous London house, it might
be below that very temple of the great God Mammon, the Carlton Hotel?
Far above him were the splendid rooms, fair sleepers in robes of lace,
tired men who had earned enough that very day perhaps to feed all the
hungry children in Thrawl Street for a lifetime and to remain rich men
afterwards. Of what were the dreams of such as thosenot of sunshine
and a cottage as the old parson had dreamed, surely? Not of these nor
of the devoted sacrifice of motherhood or of that gentle sympathy which
the unfortunate so readily give their fellows. Not this certainlyand
yet who should blame them? Alban, at least, had the candor to admit
that he would be much as they were if his conditions of life were the
same. He never deceived himself, young as he was, with the false
platitudes of boastful altruists. I should enjoy myself if I were
rich, he would sayand sigh upon it; for what assumption could be
No, indeed, there could be no sunshine for him to-morrow. Nothing
but the shadows of toil; and, in the background, that grim figure of
uncertainty which never fails to haunt the lives of the very poor.
Alban had been a disappointment to his employers, the great engineer
of the Isle of Dogs, to whom Charity had apprenticed him in his
fourteenth year. Faithful attempts to improve his position in the works
were met, as it would seem, by indifference and ingratitude. He did his
work mechanically but without enthusiasm. Had he confessed the truth,
he would have said, I was not born to labor with my hands. A sense of
inherited superiority, a sure conviction, common to youth, that he
would become a leader, of men, conduced to a restlessness and a want of
interest which he could not master. He had the desire but not the will
to please his employers.
To such a lad these excursions to the West End, these pilgrimages to
the shrine of the outcast and the homeless were by way of being a
mental debauch. He arose from them in the morning as a man may arise to
the remembrance of unjustified excess, which leaves the mind inert and
the body weary. His daily task presented itself in a revolting
attitude. Why had he been destined to this slavery? Why must he set out
to his work at an hour of the chilly morning when the West End was
still shuttered and asleep and the very footmen still yawned in their
beds? If he had any consolation, it was that the others were often
before him in that cunning debauch from the caves which the dawn
compelled. The Lady Sarah would be at Covent Garden by four o'clock.
The Archbishop, who rarely seemed to sleep at all, went off to the
Serpentine for his morning ablutions when the clock struck five.
Betty, the pale-faced infant, disappeared as soon as the sun was
upand often, when Alban awoke in the cellar, he found himself the
only tenant of that grim abode. Sometimes, indeed, and this morning
following upon the promise to little Lois Boriskoff was such an
occasion, he overslept himself altogether and was shut out from the
works for the day. This had happened before and had brought frequent
reprimands. He feared them and yet had not the will to remember them.
Big Ben was striking seven when he quitted the cellar and London was
awake in earnest. Alban usually spent twopence in the luxury of a wash
and brush up before he went down to the river; but he hastened on this
morning conscious of his tardiness and troubled at the possible
consequences. The bright spring day did little to reassure him. Weather
does not mean very much to those who labor in heated atmospheres, who
have no profit of the sunshine nor gift of the seasons. Alban thought
rather of the fateful clock and of the excuses which might pacify the
timekeeper. He had never stooped to the common lies; he would not stoop
to them this day. When, at the gate of the works, a heavy jowled man
with a red beard asked him what he meant by coming there at such an
hour, he answered as frankly that he did not know.
Been out to supper with the Earl of Barkin, perhaps, the burly man
suggested. Well, young fellow, you go up and see Mr. Tucker. He's
particularly desirous of making your acquaintancethat he is. Tell him
how his lordship's doin' and don't you forget the ladies.
Alban made no reply, but crossing the open yard he mounted a little
flight of stairs and knocked indifferently at the door of the dreaded
office thus indicated. An angry voice, bidding him come in, did not
reassure him. He found the deputy manager frank but determined. There
could be no doubt whatever of the issue.
Kennedy, he said quietly, I hope you understand why I have sent
For being late, sir. I am very sorryI overslept myself.
My boy, if your work was as honest as your tongue, your fortune
would be made. I am afraid I must remember what passed at our last
meeting. You promised me then
I am quite aware of it, sir. The real truth is that I can't get up.
The work here is distasteful to mebut I do my best.
The manager shook his head in a deprecating manner.
We have given you many chances, Kennedy, he rejoined. If it
rested with me, I would give you another. But it doesn't rest with
meit rests with that necessary person. Example. What would the men
say if I treated you as a privileged person? You know that the work
could not go on. For the present, at any rate, you are suspended. I
must see my directors and take instructions from them. Now, really,
Kennedy, don't you think that you have been very foolish?
I suppose so, sir. That's what foolish people generally think. It
must make a lot of difference to you whether a man comes at six or
seven, even if he does a good deal more work than the early ones. I
could do what you ask me to do in three hours a day. That's what
The amiable Mr. Tucker was up in arms in a moment.
Now, come, I cannot discuss abstract propositions with you. Our
hours are from six to six. You do not choose to keep them and,
therefore, you must go. When you are a little more practically
inclined, I will speak to the directors for you. You may come and tell
me so when that is the case.
I shall never come and tell you so, sir. I wish that I couldbut
it will never be the truth. The work that I could do for you is now
what you want me to do. I am sure it is better for me to go, sir.
Then you have something in your mind, Kennedy?
So many things, sir, that I could fill a book with them. That is
why I am foolish. Good-by, Mr. Tucker. I suppose you have all been very
kind to meI don't rightly understand, but I think that you have. So
good-by and thank you.
The discreet manager took the outstretched hand and shook it quite
limply. There had been a momentary contraction of the brows while he
asked himself if astute rivals might not have been tampering with this
young fellow and trying to buy the firm's secrets. An instant's
reflection, however, reassured him. Alban had no secrets worth the name
to sell, and did he possess them, money would not buy them. Half mad
but entirely honest, was Mr. Tucker's comment, he will either make a
fortune or throw himself over London Bridge.
Alban had been quite truthful when he said that he had many things
in his mind, but this confession did not mean to signify a possibility
of new employment. In honest truth, he had hardly left the gates of the
great yard when he realized how hopeless his position was. Of last
week's wages but a few shillings remained in his pocket. He knew no one
to whom he might offer such services as he had to give. The works had
taught him the elements of mechanical engineering, and common sense
told him that skilled labor rarely went begging if the laborer were
worthy his hire. None the less, the prospect of touting for such
employment affrighted him beyond words. He felt that he could not again
abase himself for a few paltry shillings a week. The ambition to make
of this misfortune a stepping-stone to better things rested on no
greater security than his pride and yet it would not be wholly
conquered. He spent a long morning by the riverside planning schemes so
futile that even the boy's mind rejected them. The old copybook maxims
recurred to him and were treated with derision. He knew that he would
never become Lord Mayor of Londonafter a prosperous career in a dingy
office which he had formerly swept out with a housemaid's broom.
The lower reaches of the Thames are a world of themselves; peopled
by a nation of aliens; endless in the variety of their life; abounding
in weird and beautiful pictures which even the landsman can appreciate.
Alban rarely tired of that panorama of swirling waters and drifting
hulks and the majestic shapes of resting ships. And upon such a day as
this which had made an idler of him, their interest increased tenfold;
and to this there was added a wonder which had never come into his life
before. For surely, he argued, this great river was the high road to an
El Dorado of which he had often dreamed; to that shadowy land of valley
and of mountain which his imagination so ardently desired. Let a man
find employment upon the deck of one of those splendid ships and
henceforth the whole world would be open to him. Alban debated this as
a possible career, and as he thought of it the spell of the craving for
new sights and scenes afar mastered him to the exclusion of all other
thoughts. Who was to forbid him; who had the right to stand between him
and his world hunger so irresistibly? When a voice within whispered a
girl's name in his ear, he could have laughed aloud for very derision.
A fine thing that he should talk of the love of woman or let his plans
be influenced for the sake of a pretty face! Why, he would be a beggar
himself in a week, it might be without a single copper in his pocket or
a roof to shelter him! And he was just the sort of man to live on a
woman's earningsjust the one to cast the glove to fortune and of his
desperation achieve the final madness. No, no, he must leave London.
The city had done with himhe had never been so sure of anything in
all his life.
It was an heroic resolution, and shame that hunger should so
maltreat it. When twelve o'clock struck and Alban remembered how poor a
breakfast he had made, he did not think it necessary to abandon any of
his old habits, at least not immediately; and he went, as he usually
had done, to the shabby dining-room in Union Street where he and Lois
had taken their dinners together for many a month past. Boriskoff's
daughter was already at table and waiting for him when he entered; he
thought that she was unusually pale and that her expectancy was not
that of a common occasion. Was it possible that she also had news to
tell himnews as momentous as his own? Alban feared to ask her, and
hanging his cap on a peg above their table without a word, he sat down
and began to study the greasy menu.
What's the luck, Alb, dearwhy do you look like that?
Little Lois asked the question, struck by his odd manner and
He answered her with surprising candorfor the sudden determination
came to him that he must tell Lois.
No luck at all, Lois.
Why, you don't mean?
I do, and that's straight. There is no further need of my
You've got the sack?
The whole of it, Loisand now I'm selling it cheap.
The girl laughed aloud, but there were tears in her eyes while she
did so. What a day for them both. She was angry almost with him for
Why, if father ain't a-gettin' on the prophet linehe said you
would, Alb. So help me rummy, I was that angry with him I couldn't hear
myself speak. And now it's all come true. Why, Alb, dearand I wanted
to tell you
She could not finish the sentence for a sob that almost choked her.
The regular customers of the room had turned to stare at the sound of
such unwonted hilarity. Dinner was far too serious a business for most
of them that laughter should serve it.
What was your father saying, Lois?
That you were going away, dear, and that the sooner I gave up
thinking about you the fatter I should be.
How did he know what was going to happen?
Ask me another and don't pay the bill. He's been as queer as white
rabbits since yesterdaydidn't go to work this morning, but sat all
day over a letter he's received. I shall be frightened of father just
now. I do really believe he's getting a bit balmy on the crumpet.
Still talking about the man who stole the furnace?
Why, there you've got it. We're going to Buckingham Palace in a
donkey cart and pretty quick about it. You'll be ashamed of such fine
people, Albfather says so. So I'm not to speak to you to begin
withnot till the dresses come home from Covent Garden and the horses
are pawing the ground for her lidyship. That's the chorus all daylots
of fun when the bricks come home and father with a watch-chain as big
as Moses. He knew you were going to get the sack and he warned me
against it. 'We can't afford to associate with those people
nowadays'don't yer know'so mind what you're a-doing, my child.' And
I'm minding it all dayI was just minding it when you came in, Alb.
Don't you see her lidyship is taking mutton chops? Couldn't descend to
nothink less, my dearnot on such a day as thisblimme.
Lois' patter, acquired in the streets, invariably approached the
purely vulgar when she was either angry or annoyedfor at other times
her nationality saved her from many of its penalties. Alban quite
understood that something beyond ordinary must have passed between
father and daughter to-day; but this was neither the time nor the place
to discuss it.
We'll meet outside the Pav to-night and have a good talk, Lois, he
said; everybody's listening here. Be there at nine sharp. Who knows,
it may be the last time we shall ever meet in London
You're not going away, Alb?
A look of terror had come into the pretty eyes; the frail figure of
the girl trembled as she asked the question.
Can't say, Loishow do I know? Suppose I went as a sailor
Lois laughed louder than before.
Youa blueboy! Lord, how you make me laugh. Fancy the aristocrat
being ordered about. Oh, my poor funny-bone! Wouldn't you knock the man
down that did itoh, can't I see him.
The idea amused her immensely and she dwelt upon it even in the
street outside. Her Alb as Captain Jackor should it be the cabin-boy.
And, of course, he would bring her a parrot from the Brazils and
perhaps a monkey.
An' I'll keep a light in the winder for fear you should be
shipwrecked in High Street, Alb, and won't we go hornpiping together.
Oh, you silly boy; oh, you dear old Captain Jackwhatever put a
sailorman into your mind?
The water, said Alban, as stolidlyit leads to somewhere, Lois.
This is the road to nowheregood God, how tired I am of it.
And of those who go with you, Alb.
I am ashamed of myself because of them, Lois.
You silly boy, Albare they ashamed, Alb? Oh, no, nopeople who
love are never ashamed.
He did not contest the point with her, nor might she linger. Bells
were ringing everywhere, syrens were calling the people to work. It was
a new thing for Alban Kennedy to be strolling the streets with his
hands in his pockets when the clock struck one. And yet there he was
become a loafer in an instant, just one of the many thousand who stare
up idly at the sky or gaze upon the windows of the shops they may not
patronize, or drift on helpless as though a dark stream of life had
caught them and nevermore would set them on dry land again. Alban
realized all this, and yet the full measure of his disaster was not
wholly understood. It was so recent, the consequences yet unfelt, the
future, after all, pregnant with the possibilities of change. He knew
not at all what he should do, and yet determined that the shame of
which he had spoken should never overtake him.
And so determining, he strolled as far as Aldgate Stationand there
he met the stranger.
There is a great deal of fine philanthropic work done east of
Aldgate Station by numbers of self-sacrificing young men just down from
the Universities. So, when a slim parson touched Alban upon the arm and
begged for a word with him, he concluded immediately that he had
attracted the notice of one of these and become the objective of his
I beg your pardon, he said a little stiffly. The idea of stooping
to such assistance had long been revolting to him. He was within an ace
of breaking away from the fellow altogether.
Your name is Alban Kennedy, I think? Will you permit me to have a
few words with you?
Alban looked the parson up and down, and the survey did something to
satisfy him. He found himself face to face with a man, it might be of
thirty years of age, whose complexion was dark but not unpleasant,
whose eyes were frank and open, the possessor, too, of fair brown hair
and of a manner not altogether free from a suspicion of that which
scoffers call the wash-hand basin cult.
I do not know you, sir.
Indeed you do notwe are total strangers. My name is Sidney Geary;
I am the senior curate of St. Philip's Church at Hampstead. If we could
go somewhere and have a few words, I would be very much obliged to
Alban hardly knew what to say to him. The manner was not that of a
philanthropist desiring him to come to a pleasant afternoon for the
people; he detected no air of patronage, no vulgar curiosityindeed,
the curate of St. Philip's was almost deferential.
Well, sirif you don't mind a coffee shop
The very place. I have always thought that a coffee shop, properly
conducted and entirely opposed to the alcoholic principle, is one of
the most useful works in the civic economy. Let us go to a coffee shop
by all means.
Alban crossed the road and, leading the stranger a little way
eastward, turned into a respectable establishment upon the Lockhart
planalmost deserted at such an hour and the very place for a
Will you have anything, sir?
The curate looked at the thick cups upon the counter, turned his
gaze for an instant upon a splendid pile of sausages, and shuddered a
I suppose the people here have excellent appetites, he reflected
sagely. I myself, unfortunately, have just lunched in Mount
Streetbut a little coffeeshall we not drink a little coffee?
Suppose I order you two doorsteps and a thick 'un?
My dear young fellow, what in heaven's name are 'two doorsteps and
a thick 'un?'
Alban smiled a little scornfully.
Evidently you come from the West. I was only trying you. Shall we
have two coffeeslarge? It isn't so bad as it looks by a long way.
The coffee was brought and set steaming before them. In an interval
of silence Alban studied the curate's face as he would have studied a
book in which he might read some account of his own fortunes. Why had
this man stopped him in the street?
Your first visit to Aldgate, sir?
Not exactly, Mr. Kennedymany years ago I have recollections of a
school treat at a watering-place near the river's mouthan exceedingly
muddy place since become famous, I understand. But I take the children
to Eastbourne now.
They find that a bit slow, don't they? Kids love mud, you know.
They doupon my word. A child's love of mud is one of the most
incurable things in nature.
Then why try to cure it?
But what are you to do?
Wash them, sir,you can always do that. My father was a parson,
Good heavens, a clergymanand you are come tothat is, you choose
to live amidst these dreadful surroundings?
I do not choosedeath chose for me.
My poor boy
Not at all, sir. Give a man a good appetite and enough to gratify
it, and I don't know that other circumstances count much.
Trial has made of you an epicurean, I see. Well, well, so much the
better. That which I have to offer you will be the more acceptable.
Employmentfor a considerable term. Good employment, Mr. Kennedy.
Employment which will take you into the highest society, educate you,
perhaps, open a great career to youthat is what I came to speak of.
The good man had meant to break the news more dramatically; but it
flowed on now as a freshet released, while his eyes sparkled and his
head wagged as though his whole soul were bursting with it. Alban
thought for a moment that he had met one of those pleasant eccentrics
who are not less rare in the East End than the West. This good fellow
has escaped out of an asylum, he thought.
What kind of a job would that be, sir?
Your own. Name it and it shall be chosen for you. That is what I am
commissioned to say.
By whom, sir?
By my patron and by yours.
Does he wish to keep his name back?
So little that he is waiting for you at his own house now.
Then why shouldn't we go and see him, sir?
He put the question fully believing that it would bring the whole
ridiculous castle down with a crash, as it were, upon the table before
him. Its effect, however, was entirely otherwise. The parson stood up
My carriage is waiting, he said; nothing could possibly suit me
Alban, however, remained seated.
Mr. Geary, he exclaimed, you have forgotten to tell me
I can think of nothing.
The conditions of this slap-up jobthe high society and all the
rest of it! What are the conditions?
He spoke almost with contempt, and deliberately selected a vulgar
expression. It had come to him by this time that some unknown friend
had become interested in his career and that this amiable curate
desired to make either a schoolmaster or an organist of him. Old
Boriskoff knew I was going to get the sack and little Lois has been
chattering, he arguednor did this line of reasoning at all console
him. Sidney Geary, meanwhile, felt as though some one had suddenly
applied a slab of melting ice to those grammatical nerves which
Cambridge had tended so carefully.
My dear Mr. Kennedynot 'slap-up,' I beg of you. If there are any
conditions attached to the employment my patron has to offer you, is
not he the best person to state them? Come and hear him for yourself. I
assure you it will not be waste of time.
Does he live far from here?
At Hampstead Heathit will take us an hour to drive there.
And did he send the char à bancs especially for my benefit?
Not reallybut naturally he did.
Then I will go with you, sir.
He put on his cap slowly and followed the curate into the
streetone of the girls racing after them to say that they had
forgotten to pay the bill. And a pretty sort of clergyman you must be,
to be sure, was her reflectionto the curate's blushing annoyance and
his quite substantial indignation.
I find much impertinence in this part of the world, he remarked as
they retraced their steps toward the West; as if the girl did not know
that it was an accident.
We pay for what we eat down here, Alban rejoined dryly; it's a
good plan as you would discover if you tried it, sir.
Mr. Geary looked at the boy for an instant as though in doubt
whether he had heard a sophism or a mere impertinence. This important
question was not, however, to be decided; for a neat single brougham
edged toward the pavement at the moment and a little crowd collected
instantly to remark so signal a phenomenon.
Your carriage, sir? Alban asked.
Yes, said the curate, quietly, my carriage. And now, if you
please, we will go and see Mr. Gessner. He is a Pole, Mr. Kennedy, and
one of the richest men in London to-day.
It was six o'clock as the carriage passed Swiss Cottage station and
ten minutes later when they had climbed the stiff hill to the Heath.
Alban had not often ridden in a carriage, but he would have found his
sensations very difficult to set down. The glossy cushions, the fine
ivory and silver fittings, were ornaments to be touched with caressing
fingers as one touches the coat of a beautiful animal or the ripe bloom
upon fruit. Just to loll back in such a vehicle, to watch the houses
and the people and the streets, was an experience he had not hitherto
imagined. The smooth motion was a delight to him. He felt that he could
continue such a journey to the ends of the earth, resting at his ease,
untroubled by those never ended questions upon which poverty insisted.
Is it far yet, siris Mr. Gessner's house a long way off?
He asked the question as one who desired an affirmative reply. The
parson, however, believed that his charge was already wearied; and he
It is just over there between the trees, my lad. We shall be with
our good friend in five minutes now. Perhaps you know that you are on
I came here once with little Lois Boriskoffon a Bank Holiday. It
was not like this then. If Mr. Gessner is rich, why does he live in a
place where people come to keep Bank Holiday? I should have thought he
would have got away from them.
He is not able to get away. His business takes him into town every
dayhe goes by motor-car and comes back at night to breathe pure air.
Bank Holidays do not occur every day, Mr. Kennedy. Fortunately for some
of us they are but four a year.
Of course you don't like going amongst all those poor people, Mr.
Geary. That's natural. I didn't until I had to, and then I found them
much the same as the rest. You haven't any poor in Hampstead, I am
Mr. Geary fell into the trap all unsuspectingly.
Thank heavenhe began, and then checking himself clumsily, he
added, that is to say we are comparatively well off as neighborhoods
go. Our people are not idlers, however. Some of the foremost
manufacturers in the country live in Hampstead.
While their work-people starve in Whitechapel. It's an odd world,
isn't it, Mr. Gearyand I don't suppose we shall ever know much about
it. If I had made a fortune by other people's work, I think I should
like some of them to live in Hampstead too. But you see, I'm
Sidney Geary looked at the boy as though he had heard a heresy. To
him the gospel of life meant a yearly dole of coals at Christmas and a
bout of pleasant charity organizations during the winter months. He
would as soon have questioned the social position of the Archbishop of
Canterbury as have criticised the conduct and the acts of the
manufacturers who supported his church so generously.
I am afraid you have received some pernicious teaching down
yonder, he said, with a shake of his abundant locks. Mr. Gessner, I
may tell you, has an abhorrence of socialism. If you wish to please
him, avoid the topic.
But I do not wish to please himI do not even know him. And I'm
not a socialist, sir. If Mr. Gessner had ever lived in Whitechapel; if
he had starved in a garret, he would understand me. I don't suppose it
matters, though, whether he does or not, for we are hardly likely to
discuss such things together.
My dear lad, he has not sent for you for that, believe me. His
conversation will be altogether of a different nature. Let me implore
you to remember that he desires to be your benefactornot your judge.
There is no kinder heart, no more worthy gentleman in all London to-day
than Richard Gessner. That much I know and my opportunities are
Alban could make no reply to this; nor did he desire one. They had
passed the Jack Straw's Castle by this time, and now the carriage
entered a small circular drive upon the right-hand side of the road and
drew up before a modern red-bricked mansion, by no means ostentatious
or externally characteristic of the luxury for which its interior was
famed. Just a trim garden surrounded the house and boasted trees
sufficient to hide the picturesque gables from the eyes of the curious.
There were stables in the northern wing and a great conservatory built
out toward the south. Alban had but an instant to glance at the
beautiful façade when a young butler opened the door to them and
ushered them into a vast hall, panelled to the ceiling in oak and dimly
lighted by Gothic windows of excellent stained glass. Here a silence,
amazing in its profundity, permitted the very ticking of the clocks to
be heard. All sounds from without, the hoot of the motors, the laughter
of children, the grating voices of loafers on the Heath, were instantly
shut out. An odor of flowers and fine shrubs permeated the apartment.
The air was cool and clear as though it had passed through a lattice of
Please to wait one moment, Kennedy, and I will go to Mr. Gessner.
He expects us and we shall not have long to wait. Is he not in the
library, Fellowsah, I thought he would be there.
The young butler said Yes, sir; but Alban perceived that it was in
a tone which implied some slight note of contempt. That fellow, he
thought, would have kicked me into the street if I had called here
yesterdayand his father, I suppose, kept a public-house or a fish
shop. The reflection flattered his sense of irony; and sitting
negligently upon a broad settee, he studied the hall closely, its
wonderful panelling, the magnificently carved balustrades, the great
organ up there in the galleryand lastly the portraits. Alban liked
subject pictures, and these masterpieces of Sargent and Luke Fildes did
not make an instantaneous appeal to him. Indeed, he had cast but a
brief glance upon the best of them before his eye fell upon a picture
which brought the blood to his cheeks as though a hand had slapped
them. It was the portrait of the supposed Polish girl whom he had seen
upon the balcony of the house in St. James' Squarelast night as he
visited the caves.
Alban stared at the picture open-mouthed and so lost in amazement
that all other interests of his visit were instantly lost to his
memory. A hard dogmatic common-sense could make little of a coincidence
so amazing. If he had wished to think that the unknown resembled little
Lois Boriskoffif he had wished so much last night, the portrait, seen
in this dim light, flattered his desire amazingly. He knew, however,
that the resemblance was chiefly one of nationality; and in the same
instant he remembered that he had been brought to the house of a Pole.
Was it possible, might he dare to imagine that Paul Boriskoff's
friendship had contrived this strange adventure. Some excitement
possessed him at the thought, for his spirit had ever been adventurous.
He could not but ask himself to whose house had he come then and for
what ends? And why did he find a portrait of the Polish girl therein?
Alban's eyes were still fixed upon the picture when the young butler
returned to summon him to the library. He was not a little ashamed to
be found intent upon such an occupation, and he rose immediately and
followed the man through a small conservatory, aglow with blooms, and
so at once into the sanctum where the master of the house awaited him.
Perfect in its way as the library was, Alban had no eyes for it in the
presence of Richard Gessner whom thus he met for the first time. Here,
truly, he might forget even the accident of the portrait. For he stood
face to face with a leader among men and he was clever enough to
recognize as much immediately.
Richard Gessner was at that time fifty-three years of age. A man of
medium height, squarely built and of fine physique, he had the face
rather of a substantial German than of the usually somewhat cadaverous
Pole. A tousled black beard hid the jowl almost completely; the eyes
were very clear and light blue in color; the head massive above the
neck but a little low at the forehead. Alban noticed how thin and
fragile the white hand seemed as it rested upon a strip of
blotting-paper upon the writing-table; the clothes, he thought, were
little better than those worn by any foreman in Yarrow's works; the tie
was absolutely shabby and the watch-chain nothing better than two
lengths of black silk with a seal to keep them together. And yet the
mental power, the personal magnetism of Richard Gessner made itself
felt almost before he had uttered a single word.
Will you take a seat, Mr. KennedyI am dining in the city to-night
and my time is brief. Mr. Geary, I think, has spoken to you of my
Alban looked the speaker frankly in the face and answered without
He has told me that you wish to employ me, sir.
That I wish to employ youyes, it is not good for us to be idle.
But he has told you something more than that?
Indeed, the curate interrupted, very much more, Mr. Gessner. I
have told Kennedy that you are ready and willing to take an interest,
the greatest possible interest, in his future.
The bankerfor as such Richard Gessner was commonly knownreceived
the interjection a little impatiently and, turning his back slightly,
he fixed an earnest look upon Alban's face and watched him critically
while he spoke.
Mr. Kennedy, he said, I never give my reasons. You enter this
house to confer a personal obligation upon me. You will remain in that
spirit. I cannot tell you to-night, I may be unable to tell you for
many years why you have been chosen or what are the exact circumstances
of our meeting. This, however, I may saythat you are fully entitled
to the position I offer you and that it is just and right I should
receive you here. You will for the present remain at Hampstead as one
of my family. There will be many opportunities of talking over your
futurebut I wish you first to become accustomed to my ways and to
this house, and to trouble your head with no speculations of the kind
which I could not assist. I am much in the city, but Mr. Geary will
take my place and you can speak to him as you would to me. He is my
Major Domo, and needless to say I in him repose the most considerable
He turned again toward Mr. Geary and seemed anxious to atone for his
momentary impatience. The voice in which he spoke was not unpleasant,
and he used the English language with an accent which did not offend.
Rare lapses into odd and unusual sentences betrayed him occasionally to
the keen hearer, but Alban, in his desire to know the man and to
understand him, made light of these.
I am to remain in this house, sirbut why should I remain, what
right have I to be here? he asked very earnestly.
The banker waved the objection away a little petulantly.
The right of every man who has a career offered to him. Be content
with that since I am unable to tell you more.
But, sir, I cannot be content. Why should I stay here as your guest
when I do not know you at all?
My lad, have I not said that the obligation is entirely on my side.
I am offering you that to which you have every just claim. Children do
not usually refuse the asylum which their father's door opens to them.
I am willing to take you into this house as a sonwould it not be a
little ungrateful to argue with me? From what I know of him, Alban
Kennedy is not so foolish. Let Mr. Geary show you the house while I am
dressing. We shall meet at breakfast and resume this pleasant
He stood up as he spoke and began to gather his papers together. To
Alban the scene was amazingly false and perplexing. He was perfectly
aware that this stranger had no real interest in him at all; he felt,
indeed, that his presence was almost resented and that he was being
received into the house as upon compulsion. All the talk of obligation
and favor and justice remained powerless to deceive. The key to the
enigma did not lie therein; nor was it to be found in the churchman's
suavity and the fairy tale which he had recited. Had the meeting
terminated less abruptly, Alban believed that his own logic would have
carried the day and that he would have left the house as he had come to
it. But the clever suggestion of haste on the banker's part, his
hurried manner and his domineering gestures, left a young lad quite
without idea. Such an old strategist as Richard Gessner should have
known how to deal with that honest original, Alban Kennedy.
We will meet at breakfast, the banker repeated; meanwhile,
consider Mr. Geary as your friend and counsellor. He shall by me so be
appointed. I have a great work for you to do, Mr. Kennedy, but the
education, the books, the knowledgethey must come first. Go now and
think about dinneror perhaps you would like to walk about the grounds
a little while. Mr. Geary will show you the wayI leave you in his
He folded the papers up and thrust them quickly in a drawer as he
spoke. The interview was plainly at an end. He had welcomed a son as he
would have welcomed any stranger who had brought a letter of
introduction which decency compelled him to read.
Silas Geary led the way through the hall and thence to the winter
garden. Here the display of plants was quite remarkable and the
building one that had cost many thousands of pounds. Designed, as all
that Richard Gessner touched, to attract the wonder of the common
people and to defy the derision of the connoisseur, this immense garden
had been the subject of articles innumberable and of pictures abundant.
Vast in size, classic in form, it served many purposes, but chiefly as
a gallery for the safe custody of a collection of Oriental china which
had no rival in Europe.
It is our patron's hobby, said the curate, mincingly, as he
indicated the treasures of cloisonné and of porcelain; he does not
frivol away his money as so many do, on idle dissipations and ephemeral
pleasures. On the contrary, he devotes it to the beautiful objects
Do you call them beautiful, sir? Alban asked ingenuously. They
seem to me quite ugly. I don't think that if I had money I should spend
it on plates and jars which nobody uses. I would much sooner buy a
battle ship and give it to the nation. And then he asked, Did Mr.
Gessner put up all this glass to keep out the fresh air? Does he like
being in a hot-house? I should have thought a garden would have been
Silas Geary could make nothing of such criticism as this.
My dear lad, he protested, you are very young and probably don't
know what sciatica means. When I was your age, I could have slept upon
a board and risen therefrom refreshed. At fifty it is otherwise. We
study the barometer then and dust before we sit. This great glass house
is Mr. Gessner's winter temple. It is here that he plans and conceives
so many of those vast schemes by which the world is astonished.
Alban looked at him curiously.
Is the world really astonished by rich men? he asked.
Mr. Geary stood still in amazement at the question.
Rank and birth rule the nation, he declared vehemently; it is fit
and proper that it should be so. Our aristocracy is rightly recruited
from those who have accumulated the wealth necessary to such a
position. Riches, Kennedy, mean power. You will know that some day when
you are the master of riches.
Alban walked on a little way without saying anything. Then almost as
one compelled to reply he exclaimed:
In the East End, they don't speak of money like that. I suppose it
is their ignoranceand after all it is a very great thing to be able
to compel other people to starve for you. Some day, I'll take you down
to the sweating-shops, Mr. Geary. You'll see a lot of old china there,
but I don't think it would be worth much. And all our flowers are for
salepoor devils, we get little enough for supper if we don't sell
The curate expressed no profound desire to accept this promising
invitation, and desiring to change so thorny a subject entered a
delightful old-world garden and invited Alban's attention to a superb
view of Harrow and the Welsh Harp. In the hall, to which at last they
returned, he spoke of that more substantial reality, dinner.
I am sorry to say that I have a Dorcas meeting to-night and cannot
possibly dine with you, he explained to the astonished lad. I shall
return at nine o'clock, however, to see that all is as Mr. Gessner
wishes. The servants have told you, perhaps, that Miss Anna is in the
country and does not return until to-morrow. This old house is very
dull without her, Kennedy. It is astonishing how much difference a
pretty face makes to any house.
Is that Miss Anna's portrait over the fireplace, sir?
You know her, Kennedy?
I have seen her once, on the balcony of a house in St. James'
Square. That was last night when I was on my way to sleep in a cellar.
My poor, poor boy, and to-night you will sleep in one of the most
beautiful rooms in England. How wonderful is fortune, how
amazingerhow veryis not that seven o'clock by the way? I think
that it is, and here is Fellows come to show you your room. You will
find that we have done our best for you in the matter of
clothesguesswork, I fear, Kennedy, but still our best. To-morrow
Westman the tailor is to comeI think and hope you will put up with
borrowed plumes until he can fit you up. In the meantime, Fellows has
charge of your needs. I am sure that he will do his very best for you.
The young butler said that he wouldhis voice was still raised to a
little just dignity, and he, in company with Silas Geary, the
housekeeper and the servants' hall had already put the worst
construction possible upon Alban's reception into the house. His
determination to patronize the young man however received an abrupt
check when Alban suddenly ordered him to show the way upstairs. He
spoke like a Duke, Fellows said in the kitchen afterwards. There I
was running up the stairs just as though the Guv'ner were behind me.
Don't you think that you can come it easy with himhe ain't the sort
by a long way. I tell you, I never was so astonished since the Guv'ner
raised my wages.
Alban, of course, was sublimely unconscious of this. He had been
conducted to an enormous bedroom on the first floor, superbly furnished
with old Chippendale and excellent modern Sèvresand there he had been
left to realize for the first time that he was alone and that all which
had happened since yesterday was not a dream but a hard invincible
truth so full of meaning, so wonderful, so sure that the eyes of his
brain did not dare to look at it unflinchingly. Boyishly and with a
boy's gesture he had thrown himself upon the bed and hidden his face
from the light as though the very atmosphere of this wonder world were
insupportable. Good God, that it should have happened to him, Alban
Kennedy; that it should have been spoken of as his just right; that he
should have been told that he had a claim which none might refute! A
hundred guesses afforded no clue to the solution of the mystery. He
could not tell himself that he was in some way related to Richard
Gessner, the banker; he could not believe that his dead parents had any
claim upon this foreigner who received him coldly and yet would hear
nothing of his departure. Pride had little share in this, for the
issues were momentous. It was sufficient to know that a hand had
suddenly drawn him from the abyss, had put him on this pinnaclebeyond
all, had placed him in Anna Gessner's home as the first-born, there to
embark upon a career whose goal lay beyond the City Beautiful of his
He rose from the bed at length, and trying to put every thought but
that of the moment from his head, he remembered that he was expected to
dine alone in the great room below, and to dress himself for such an
ordeal in the clothes which the reverend gentleman's wit had provided
for him. Courageous in all things, he found himself not a little afraid
of all the beautiful objects which he touched, afraid to lift the
Sèvres pitcher, afraid to open the long doors of the inlaid wardrobe,
timid before the dazzling mirrora reluctant guest who, for the time
being, would have been thankful to escape to a carpetless floor and
glad to wash in a basin of the commonest kind. When this passed, and it
was but momentary, the delusion that a trick was being played upon him
succeeded to it and he stood to ask himself if he had not been a fool
to believe their story at all, a fool thus to be made sport of by one
who would relate the circumstance with relish to-morrow. This piece of
nonsense, however, was as quick to give way to the somewhat cynical
common sense with which, Alban Kennedy had rightly been credited as the
other. He turned from it impatiently and began to dress himself. He had
last dressed in black clothes and a white waistcoat for a school
concert at Westminster when he was quite a little ladbut his youth
had taught him the conventions, and he had never forgotten those
traditions of what his dead father used to call the decent life. In
his case the experience was but a reversion to the primitive, and he
dressed with every satisfaction, delighted to put off the shabby old
clothes and no less content with his new appearance as a mirror
revealed it to him.
The dining room at Five Gables was normally a little dark in the
daytime, for it looked upon the drive where ancient trees shaded its
lofty latticed windows. At night, however, Richard Gessner's fine
silver set off the veritable black oak to perfection, and the room had
an air of dignity and richness neither artificial nor offensive. When
Alban came down to dinner he perceived that a cover had been set for
him at the end of a vast table, and that he was expected to take the
absent master's place; nor could he forbear to smile at the solemn
exercises performed by Fellows the young butler, and two footmen who
were to wait upon him. These rascals, whatever they might say in the
kitchen afterwards, served him at the table as though he had been an
eldest son of the house. If they had expected that the ragged, shabby
fellow, who entered the house so stealthily an hour ago, would provide
food for their exquisitely delicate sense of humor, they were wofully
disappointed. Alban ate his dinner without uttering a single remark.
And last night it had been supper in the caves! There must be no
charge of inconsistency brought against him if a momentary shudder
marked this recollection of an experience. A man may bridge a great
gulf in a single instant of time. Alban had no less affection for, no
less interest to-night in those pitiful lives than yesterday, but he
understood that a flood of fortune had carried him for the time being
away from them, and that his desire must be to help but not to regret
them. Indeed, he could not resist, nor did he wish to resist a great
content in this well-being, which overtook him in so subtle a manner.
The sermons of the old days, preached by many a mad fanatic of Union
Street, declared that any alliance between the rich and the poor must
be false and impossible. Alban believed it to be so. A mere
recollection of the shame of poverty could already bring the blood to
his cheeks, and yet he would have defended poverty with all the logic
of which his clever brain was capable.
So in a depressing silence the long dinner was eaten. Methodically
and with velvet steps the footmen put dish after dish before him, the
butler filled his rarely lifted glass, the whole ceremony of dining
performed. For his own part he would have given much to have escaped
after the fish had been served, and to have gone out and explored the
garden which had excited Mr. Geary to such poetic thoughts. Not a large
eater (for the East End does not dare to cultivate an appetite), he was
easily satisfied; and he found the mere length of the menu to be an
ordeal which he would gladly have been spared. Why did people want all
these dishes, he asked himself. Why, in well-to-do circles, is it
considered necessary to serve precisely similar portions of fish and
flesh and fowl every night at eight o'clock? Men who work eat when they
are disposed. Alban wondered what would happen if such a custom were
introduced into the House of the Five Gables. A cynical reverie
altogetherfrom which the butler's purring voice awakened him.
Will you have your coffee in the Winter Garden, sir? Mr. Gessner
Cannot I have it in the garden?
Oh, yes, if you like, sir. We'll carry out a chairthe seats are
very damp at night, sir.
Alban smiled. Was he not sleeping on the reeking floor of the caves
but twenty hours ago.
They set a table in the vestibule overlooking the trim lawn, and
thither they carried cigars and coffee. Alban had learned to smoke
fiercelyone of the few lessons the East End had taught him
thoroughlyand Richard Gessner's cigars had a just reputation among
all who frequented the House of the Five Gablessome of these, it must
be confessed, coming here for no other particular reason than to smoke
them. Alban did not quite understand what it was that differentiated
this particular cigar from any he had ever smoked, but he enjoyed it
thoroughly and inhaled every whiff of its fragrant bouquet as though it
had been a perfume of morning-roses.
A profound stillness, broken at rare intervals by the rustling of
young leaves, prevailed in the garden. Night had come down, but it was
a night of spring, clear and still and wonderful of stars. Distantly
across a black waste of heath and meadow, the spire of Harrow Church
stood up as a black point against an azure sky. The waters of the Welsh
Harp were as a shimmering lake of silver in the foreground; the lights
of Hendon and of Cricklewood spoke of suburban life, but might just as
well have conjured up an Italian scene to one who had the wit to
imagine it. Alban knew nothing of Italy, he had never set foot out of
England in his life, but the peace and the beauty of the picture
impressed him strangely, and he wondered that he had so often visited
the Caves when such a fairyland stood open to his pleasure. Let it not
be hidden that he would have been easily pleased this night. Youth
responds quickly to excitements of whatever nature they may be. He was
as far from realizing the truth of his position as ever, but the
complete change of environment, the penetrating luxury of the great
house, the mystery which had carried him there and the promise of the
morrow, conspired to elate him and to leave him, in the common phrase,
as one who is walking upon air. Even an habitual cynicism stood silent
now. What mattered it if he awoke to-morrow to a reality of
misunderstanding or of jest? Had not this night opened a vista which
nothing hereafter might shut out? And the truth might be as Richard
Gessner had promiseda truth of permanence, of the continued
possession of this wonderland. Who shall blame him if his heart leaped
at the mere contemplation of this possibility?
It would have been about nine o'clock when they carried his coffee
to the gardenit was just half-past nine when Anna Gessner returned
unexpectedly to the house. Alban heard the bell in the courtyard ring
loudly, and upon that the throttled purr of a motor's heavy engine. He
had expected Silas Geary, but such a man, he rightly argued, would not
come with so much pomp and circumstance, and he stood at once, anxious
and not a little abashed. Perhaps some suspicion of the truth had
flashed upon him unwittingly. He heard the voice of Fellows the butler
raised in some voluble explanation, there were a few words spoken in a
pleasing girlish tone, and then, the boudoir behind him flashed its
colors suddenly upon his vision, and he beheld Anna Gessner herselfa
face he would have recognized in ten thousand, a figure of yesternight
that would never be forgotten.
She had cast aside her motor veil, and held it in her hand while she
spoke to the butler. A heavy coat bordered and lined with fur stood
open to reveal a gray cloth dress; her hair had been blown about by the
fresh breezes of the night and covered her forehead in a disorder far
from unbecoming. Alban thought that the cold light in the room and the
heavy bright panelling against which she stood gave an added pallor to
her usually pale face, exaggerating the crimson of her lips and the
dark beauty of her eyes. The hand which held the veil appeared to him
to be ridiculously small; her attitudes were so entirely graceful that
he could not imagine a picture more pleasing. If he remembered that he
had likened her to little Lois Boriskoff, he could now admit the
preposterous nature of the comparison. True it was that nationality
spoke in the contour of the face, in its coloring and its expression,
but these elementals were forgotten in the amazing grace of the girl's
movements, the dignity of her gestures and the vitality which animated
her. Returning to the house unexpectedly, even a lad was shrewd enough
to see that she returned also under the stress of an agitation she
could conceal from none. Her very questions to the servants were so
quick and incoherent that they could not be answered. The letters which
the butler put into her hands were torn from the envelopes but were not
read. When she opened the boudoir window and so permitted Alban to
overhear her hurried words, it was as one who found the atmosphere of a
house insupportable and must breathe fresh air at any cost.
Has my father returned, Fellows?
No, miss, he is not expected until late.
Why did you not send the carriage to the station?
Mr. Gessner said that you were coming to-morrow, miss.
She flushed slightly at the retort and made as though to step out
into the gardenbut hesitating an instant, she said:
I have had nothing to eat since one o'clock, Fellows. I must have
Anything will dotell cook it does not matter. Has Lord Portcullis
No, missnot since yesterday.
Or Mrs. Melville?
This afternoon. She asked for your address, missbut I did not
Quite rightI suppose that Captain Forrest did not come? She
turned away as though not wishing to look the man in the facea
gesture which Alban's quick eyes instantly perceived.
Fellows, on the other hand, permitted a smile to lurk for an instant
about the corners of his mouth before he said
I understood that Captain Forrest was at Brighton, miss.
The girl's face clouded perceptibly, and she loosened her cloak and
threw it from her shoulders as though it had become an insupportable
If he calls to-morrow, I do not wish to see him. Please tell them
allI will not see him.
The butler smiled again, but answered, Yes, miss.
Anna Gessner herself, still hesitating upon the threshold suddenly
remembered another interest and referred to it with no less ardor.
Oh, that reminds me, Fellows. Has my father spoken again of that
dreadful silly business?
Concerning the young gentleman, miss?
She heard him with unutterable contempt.
The beggar-boy that he wishes to bring to this house. Did he speak
of him to-night?
Fellows came a step nearer and, hushing his voice, he said, with a
servant's love of a dramatic reply:
Mr. Kennedy is in the garden now, missindeed, I think he's
sitting near the vestibule.
She looked at him astonished. Ugly passions of disappointment and
thwarted desire betrayed themselves in the swift turn and the angry
pursing of her lips. Of her father's intentions in bringing this
beggar-boy to the house, she knew nothing at all. It seemed to her one
of those mad acts for which no sane apology could be offered.
He is here now, Fellows! Who brought him then?
Mr. Gearyat six o'clock.
Mr. Geary is a hateful busybodyI suppose I must speak to the
I think that Mr. Gessner would wish it, miss.
She hesitated a brief instant, her annoyance giving battle to her
father's well-known desire. Curiosity in the end helped her decision.
She must see the object of a charity so eccentric.
You say that he is in the garden? she continued, taking two steps
across the vestibule.
But this time Alban answered her himself.
The beggar-boy is here, he said.
He had risen from his chair and the two confronted each other in the
aureole of light cast out from the open window. Just twenty-four hours
ago, Alban had been sitting by little Lois Boriskoff's side in the
second gallery at the Aldgate Empire. To-night he wore a suit of good
dress clothes, had dined at a millionaire's table and already recovered
much of that polish and confident manner which an English public school
rarely fails to bestow. Anna Gessner, in her turn, regarded him as
though he were the agent of a trick which had been played upon her. To
her amazement a hot flush of anger succeeded. She knew not how to meet
him or what excuses to make.
My father has not told me the truth, she exclaimed presently. I
am sorry that you overheard mebut I said what I meant. If he had told
me that you were coming
Alban stood before her quite unabashed. He understood the
circumstances and delighted in them.
I am glad that you meant it, he rejoined, of course, it is in
some way true. Those who have no money are always beggars to those who
have. Let me say that I don't know at all why I am here, and that I
shall go unless I find out. We need not quarrel about it at all.
Anna, however, had recovered her composure. Mistress of herself to a
remarkable degree when her passions were not aroused, she suddenly held
out her hand to Alban as though she would apologizebut not by the
They have played a trick upon me, she cried. I shall have it out
with Mr. Geary when he comes. Of course I am very sorry. My father said
that you were a distant relative, but he tried to frighten me by
telling me that you lived in Whitechapel and were working in a factory.
I was silly enough to believe ityou would have done so yourself.
Most certainlyfor it is quite true. I have been living in
Whitechapel since my mother died, and I worked in a factory until
yesterday. If you had come here a few hours back, you would have run
away from the beggar-boy or offered him sixpence. I wonder which it
would have been.
She would not admit the truth of it, and a little peevishly
contested her point.
I shall never believe it. This is just the kind of thing Mr. Geary
would do. He is the most foolish man I have ever known. To leave you
all alone here when he brought you as a stranger to our house. I wonder
what my father would say to that.
She had drawn her cloak about her white throat again and seated
herself near Alban's chair. Imitating her, he sat again and began to
talk to her as naturally as though he had known her all her life. Not a
trace of vexation at the manner of her reception remained to qualify
that rare content he found in her company. Alban had long acquired the
sense which judges every word and act by the particular circumstances
under which it is spoken. He found it natural that Anna Gessner should
resent his presence in the house. He liked her for telling him that it
My father says that he is going to make an engineer of youis that
just what you wish, Mr. Kennedy?
That's what I don't know, he replied as frankly. You see, I have
always wanted to get on, but how to do so is what beats me. Engineering
is a big profession and I'm not sure that I have the gifts. There you
have a candid confession. I'm one of those fellows who can do
everything up to a certain point, but a certain point isn't good enough
nowadays. And a man wants money to get on. I'm sure it's easy enough to
make a fortune if you have a decent share of brains and a bigger one
capital. I want to make money and yet the East End has taught me to
hate money. If Mr. Gessner can convince me that I have any claim upon
his patronage, I shall go right into something and see if I cannot come
out on top. You, I suppose, don't think much of the dirty professions.
You'd like your brother to be a soldier, wouldn't youor if not that,
in the navy. Half the fellows at Westminster wanted to go into the
army, just as though killing other people were the chief business in
life. Of course, I wouldn't run it downbut what I mean to say is,
that I never cared at all about it myself and so I'm not quite the best
His little confession ended somewhat abruptly, for he observed that
his words appeared to distress Anna Gessner beyond all reason. For many
minutes she remained quite silent. When she spoke her eyes were turned
away and her confusion not altogether to be concealed.
I'm afraid you take your ideas of us from the cheap story-books,
she said in a low voice; women, nowadays, have their own ambitions and
think less of men's. My dearest friend is a soldier, but I'm sure he
would be a very foolish one if war broke out. They say he worked
terribly hard in South Africa, but I don't think he ever killed any
one. So you seeI shouldn't ask you to go into the army, and I'm sure
my father would not wish it either.
It would do no good if he did, said Alban as bluntly. I should
only make a fool of myself. Your friend must have told you that you
want a pretty good allowance to do uponand fancy begging from your
people when you were twenty-one. Why, in the East End many a lad of
nineteen keeps a whole family and doesn't think himself ill-used. Isn't
it rot that there should be so much inequality in life, Miss Gessner? I
don't suppose, though, that one would think so if one had money.
She smiled at his question, but diverted the subject cleverly.
Are you very self-willed, Mr. Kennedy?
Do you mean that I get what I wantor try to?
I mean that you have your own way in everything. If you were in
love you would carry the poor thing off by force.
If I were in love and guessed that she was, I should certainly be
outside to time. That's East End, you know, for punctuality.
You would marry in haste and repent at leisure?
It would be yes or no, and that would be the end of it. Girls like
a man who compels themthey like to obey, at least when they are
young. I don't believe any girl ever loved a coward yet. Do you think
She astonished him by rising suddenly and breaking off the
conversation as abruptly.
God help me, I don't know what I think, she said; and then, with
half a laugh to cover it, Here is Mr. Geary come to take care of you.
I will say good-night. We shall meet at breakfast and talk of all this
againif you get up in time.
He made no answer and she disappeared with just a flash of her ample
skirts into the boudoir and so to the hall beyond. The curate appeared
a minute later, full of apologies and of the Dorcas meeting he had so
lately illuminated with his intellectual presence. A mild cigarette and
a glass of mineral water found him quite ready for bed.
There will be so much to speak of to-morrow, my dear boy, he said
in that lofty tone which attended his patronage, there is so much for
you to be thankful for to-day. Let us go and dream of it all. The
reality must be greater than anything we can imagine.
I'll tell you in a week's time, said Alban, dryly.
A change had come upon him already. For Anna Gessner had betrayed
her secret, and he knew that she had a lover.
Richard Gessner returned to Five Gables as the clock of Hampstead
Parish Church was striking one. A yawning footman met him in the hall
and asked him if he wished for anything. To the man's astonishment, he
was ordered to carry brandy and Vichy water to the bedroom immediately.
To your room, sir?
To my roomare you deaf?
I beg your pardon, sir. Miss Gessner has returned.
After dinner, sir.
Was there any one with her?
I didn't rightly see, sir. Fellows opened the doorhe could tell
Gessner cast a searching glance upon the man's face And then mounted
the great staircase with laborious steps. Passing the door of the room
in which Alban slept, he listened intently for a moment as though half
of a mind to enter; but abandoning the intention, went on to his
apartment and there, when the footman had attended to his requirements,
he locked the door and helped himself liberally to the brandy. An
observer would have remarked that drops of sweat stood upon his brow
and that his hand was shaking.
He had dined with a city company; but had dined as a man who knew
little of the dinner or of those who ate it. Ten days ago his energy,
his buoyant spirits, and his amazing vitality had astonished even his
best friends. To-night these qualities were at their lowest ebband he
had been so silent, so self-concentrated, so obviously distressed, that
even a casual acquaintance had remarked the change. To say that a just
Nemesis had overtaken him would be less than the truth. He knew that he
stood accused, not by a man, but by a nation. And to a nation he must
He locked the door of his room and, drawing a chair to a little Buhl
writing-table, set in the window, he opened a drawer and took therefrom
a little bundle of papers, upon which he had spent nine sleepless
nights and, apparently, would spend still another. They were odd
scrapsnow of letters, now of legal documentsthe précis of a
past which could be recited in no court of justice, but might well be
told aloud to an unsympathetic world. Had an historian been called upon
to deal with such documents, he would have made nothing whatever of
thembut Richard Gessner could rewrite the story in every line, could
garnish it with passions awakened, fears unnamable, regrets that could
not save, despair that would suffer no consolations.
He had stolen Paul Boriskoff's secret from him and thereby had made
a fortune. Let it be admitted that the first conception of the new
furnace for the refining of copper had come from that white-faced
whimpering miner, who could talk of nothing but his nation's wrongs and
had no finer ambition in life than to feed his children. He, Richard
Gessner, had done what such a fellow never could have done. He had made
the furnace commercially possible and had exploited it through the
copper mines of the world. Such had been the first rung of that
magnificent pecuniary ladder he had afterwards climbed so adroitly.
Money he had amassed beneath his grasping hand as at a magician's
touch. He regretted, he had always regretted, that misfortune overtook
Paul Boriskoff's familyhe would have helped them had he been in
Poland at the time; but their offences were adjudged to be political;
and if the wretched woman suffered harm at the hands of the police,
what share had he in it? To this point he charged himself lightlyas
men will in justifying themselves before the finger of an hoary
accusation. Gessner cared neither for God nor man. His only daughter
had been at once his divinity and his religion. Let men call him a
rogue, despot, or thief, and he would shrug his shoulders and glance
aside at his profit and loss account. But let them call him fool and
the end of his days surely was at hand.
And so this self-examination to-night troubled itself with no
thought of wrongs committed, with no desire to repay, but only with
that supreme act of folly, to which the sleeping lad in the room near
by was the surest witness. What would the threats of such a pauper as
Paul Boriskoff have mattered if the man had stood alone against him? A
word to the police, a hundred pounds to a score of ruffians, and he
would have been troubled no more. But his quarrel was not with a man
but a nation. Perceiving that the friendship of the Russian Government
was necessary to many of his mining schemes in the East, he had changed
his name as lightly as another would have changed his coat, had cast
the garments of a sham patriotism and emerged an enemy to all that he
had hitherto befriended, a foe to Poland, a servant to Russia.
Acting secretly and with a strong man's discretion, no bruit of this
odd conversion had been made public, no whisper of it heard in the camp
of the Revolutionaries. Many knew Maxim Gogolnone had heard of
Richard Gessner. His desire for secrecy was in good accord with the
plans of a police he assisted and the bureaucracy he bribed. He lived
for a while in Vienna, then at Tiflishe came at length to England
where his daughter had been educated; and there he established himself,
ostensibly as a wealthy banker, in reality as the secret director of
one of the greatest conspiracies against the liberty of a little nation
that the world had ever seen.
Upon such a man, the blow of discovery fell with, stunning force.
Gessner had grown so accustomed to the security of this suburban life
that he could imagine no circumstance which might disturb it. All that
he did for the satisfaction of the Russian Government had been cleverly
done by agents and deputies. Entitled by his years to leisure, he had
latterly almost abandoned politics for a culture of the arts and the
sciences, in some branches of which he was a master. His leisure he
gave almost entirely to his daughter. To contrive for her an alliance
worthy of his own fortune and of her beauty had become the absorbing
passion of his life. He studied the Peerage as other men study a
balance-sheet. All sorts and conditions of possible husbands appeared
at Five Gables; were dined, discussed, and dismissed. The older
families despised him and would not be appeased. To crown his vexation,
his daughter named a lover for herself. He had twice shown Captain
Willy Forrest from the door and twice had the man returned. Anna seemed
fascinated by this showy adventurer as by none other who visited them.
Gessner, for his part, would sooner have lost the half of his fortune
than that she should have married him.
These vexations had been real enough ten days ago; but, to-night, a
greater made light of them and now they were almost forgotten.
Detection had stalked out of the slums to humble this man in an instant
and bring him to his knees. Gessner could have recited to you the most
trivial detail attending the reception of Paul Boriskoff's letter and
the claim it made upon himhow a secretary had passed it to him with a
suggestion that Scotland Yard should know of it; how he had taken up
the scrawl idly enough to flush before them all an instant later and to
feel his heart sink as in an abyss of unutterable dismay. He had
crumpled the dirty paper in his hand, he remembered, and thrown it to
the groundto pick it up immediately and smooth it out as though it
were a precious document. To his secretary he tried to explain that the
writer was an odd fanatic who must be humored. Determined at the first
blush to face the matter out, to answer and to defy this pauper Pole
who had dared to threaten him, he came ultimately to see that
discretion would best serve him. Paul Boriskoff had named Kensington
Gardens as a rendezvous where matters might be discussed. Gessner was
there to the minutewithout idea, without hope, seeking only that pity
which he himself had never bestowed upon any human being.
Paul Boriskoff did not hurry to the Gardens, so sure was he of the
success of his undertaking. The frowsy black coat, in which he made his
bow to the millionaire, had not seen the light for many yearshis hat
was a wide-brimmed eccentricity in soft felt which greatly delighted
the nursemaids who passed him by. Gessner would never have recognized,
in the hollow-cheeked, pale-faced, humble creature the sturdy young
Pole who had come to him nearly a generation ago and had said, Our
fortunes are made; this is my discovery. Believing at the moment that
money would buy such a derelict, body and soul, he opened the
negotiations firmly and in that lofty tone which suited Throgmorton
Street so well. But five minutes had not passed before he understood
his mistake and realized that Boriskoff, the lad who had trusted him,
and Boriskoff, the Pole who now threatened him, were one and the same
I remember you perfectly, he said; it would be idle to say that I
do not. You had some claim in the matter of a certain furnace. Yes, I
remember that and would willingly admit it. But, my friend, you fell
into trouble with the Government, and what could I do then? Was not I
also compelled to leave Poland? Did not I change my name for that very
reason? How could I repay the debt? Here in England it is different.
You make your existence known to me and I respond at once. Speak
freely, then, for I shall hear you patiently.
They were seated on a bench beneath a chestnut in full bloom.
Distantly, through a vista of giant trunks, the waters of the Round
Pond glimmered in the evening light. Children, worn out by the day, sat
idle in groups on the benches of the Long Walk or lagged through a
fitful game on the open spaces between the trees. Few observed these
two men who thus earnestly recalled the drama of their lives; none
remarked their odd association, for were not both obviously foreigners,
and who shall dictate a fashion to such as they? Indeed, they conversed
without any animation of gesture; the one convulsed by fears he did not
dare to express, the other by hopes on the threshold of realization.
I speak freely, said Boriskoff with unaffected candor, for to do
that I have come here. And first I must set your memory right in a
matter that concerns us both. You did not leave Poland to serve your
country; you left it to betray us. Spare your words, for the story has
been told many times in Warsaw and in London. Shall I give you the list
of those who are tortured to-day at Saghalien because of what you did?
It would be vain, for if you have any feeling, even that of a dog, they
are remembered by you. You betrayed the man who trusted you; you
betrayed your countryfor what? Shall I say that it was for this
asylum in a strange land; for power, for the temptations which all must
suffer? No, no. You have had but one desire in all your life, and that
is money. So much even I understand. You are ready now to part with a
little of that moneyso little that it would be as a few grains from
the sands of the seato save your neck from the rope, to escape the
just punishment which is about to fall upon you. Do not believe that
you can do so. I hold your secret, but at any hour, at any minute,
others may share it with me. Maxim Gogolfor I shall call you by your
true nameif one word of this were spoken to the Committee at Warsaw,
how long would you have to live? You know the answer to that question.
Do not compel me to dwell upon it.
He spoke in a soft purring tone, an echo of a voice, as it were,
beneath the rustling leaves; but, none the less, Richard Gessner caught
every word as though it had been the voice of an oracle. A very shrewd
man, he had feared this knowledge, and fear had brought him to this
covert interview. The Pole could betray him and betrayal must mean
deathand what a death, reluctant, procrastinating, the hour of it
unknown, the manner of it beyond any words terrible. Such had been the
end of many who had left Poland as he had done. He had read their story
and shuddered even in his imagined security. And now this accusation
was spoken, not as a whisper of a voice in the hours of the night, but
as the truth of an inevitable day.
And what should he answer? Would it profit him to speak of law; to
retort with a threat; to utter the commonplaces concerning Scotland
Yard and a vigilant police? He was far too wise even to contemplate
such folly. Let him have this man arrested, and what then? Would any
country thereafter shelter the informer from the vengeance of the
thousands whom no law could arrest? Would any house harbor him against
the dagger of the assassin, the swift blow, it might even be the
lingering justice of such fanatics as sought to rule Poland. He knew
that there was none. Abject assent could be the only reply. He must
yield to any humiliation, suffer any extortion rather than speak the
word which would be as irrevocable as the penalty it invited.
I shall not dispute with you, Paul Boriskoff, he said, with a last
attempt to save his dignity; yes, it would be in your power to do me a
great injury even in this country which gives you liberty. It is your
own affair. You did not come here to threaten me, but to seek a favor.
Name it to me and I shall be prepared to answer you. I am not an
ungenerous man as some of our countrymen know. Tell me what you wish
and I shall know how to act.
Boriskoff's answer astonished him by its impetuosity.
For myself nothing, he exclaimed contemptuouslyand these brief
words echoed in Gessner's ears almost as a message of salvationfor
myself nothing, but for my children much. Yes, your money can make even
Paul Boriskoff despise himselfbut it is for the children's sake. I
sell my honor that they may profit by it. I ask for them that which is
due to me, but which I have sworn to forego. Maxim Gogol, it is for the
children that I ask it. You have done me a great wrong, but they shall
profit by it. That is what I am come here to say to-daythat you shall
repay, not to me but to my children.
The words appeared to cost him much, as though he had deliberately
sacrificed a great vengeance that those he loved might profit. Leaping
to the hope of it, and telling himself that this after all was but a
question of pounds, shillings, and pence, Gessner answered with an
eagerness beyond all bounds ridiculous.
There could be nothing I would do more willingly. Yes, I
rememberyou left a daughter in Warsaw and she was not to be
discovered by those of us who would have befriended her. Believe me
when I say that I will help her very gladly. Anything, my friend,
anything that is humbly reasonable
Boriskoff did not permit him to finish.
My daughter will be educated in Germany at your cost, he said
curtly. I would speak first of one who is as a son to me because of
her affection for him. There is a young Englishman living in Union
Street, the son of a poor clergyman who died in the service of the
poor. This lad you will take into your own house and treat as your own
son. It is my desire and must be gratified. Remember that he is the son
of a gentleman and treat him as such. There will be time enough
afterwards to tell you how you must act in the interests of our people
at Warsaw. This affair is our own and not of politics at all. As God is
in heaven, but for my daughter you, Maxim Gogol, would not be alive
Gessner's heart sank again at the hint of further requests
subsequently to come. The suggestion that he should adopt into his own
house a youth of whom he knew nothing seemed in keeping with the
circumstances of this dread encounter and the penalty that must be paid
for it. After all, it was but a small price to pay for comparative
security and the silence of a tongue which could work such ill.
Accustomed to deal with men of all natures, honest and simple, clever
and foolish, secretive and loquacious, there ran in his mind the
desperate idea that he would temporize with Paul Boriskoff and
ultimately destroy him. Let the Russian Government be informed of the
activity of this Pole and of his intention to visit the Continent of
Europe again, and what were Boriskoff's chances? Such were the
treacherous thoughts which stood in Gessner's mind while he framed an
answer which should avert the final hour of reckoning and give him that
opportunity for the counter-stroke which might yet save all.
Your youth will profit little in my house, he said with some
pretense of earnestness. Had you asked an education abroad for him,
that would have been a wiser thing in these days. Frankly, I do not
understand your motive, but I am none the less willing to humor it. Let
me know something more of the lad, let me have his history and then I
shall be able to say what is the best course. I live a very quiet life
and my daughter is much away. There is the possibility also that the
boy, if he be the son of a clergyman, would do much better at Oxford or
at Cambridge than at Hampstead, as you yourself must see. Let us speak
of it afterwards. There will be time enough.
The time is to-day, rejoined Boriskoff, firmly, Alban Kennedy
will live under your roof as your own son. I have considered the matter
and am determined upon it. When the time comes for him to marry my
daughter, I will inform you of it. Understand, he knows nothing of your
story or of mine. He will not hear of me in my absence from England. I
leave the burden of this to you. He is a proud lad and will accept no
charity. It must be your task to convince him that he has a title to
your benevolence. Be wise and act discreetly. Our future requisitions
will depend upon your conduct of this affairand God help you, Maxim
Gogol, if you fail in it.
Something of the fanatic, almost of the madman, spoke in this
vehement utterance. If Gessner had been utterly at a loss as yet to
account for a request so unusual, he now began to perceive in it the
instrument of his own humiliation. Would not this stranger be a
perpetual witness to the hazard of his life, a son who stood also as a
hostage, the living voice of Paul Boriskoff's authority? And what of
his own daughter Anna and of the story he must tell her? These facts he
realized clearly but had no answer to them. The reluctant assent, wrung
from his unwilling lips, was the promise of a man who stood upon the
brink of ruin and must answer as his accusers wished or pay the
ultimate penalty. All his common masterfulness, the habit of autocracy,
the anger of the bully and the tyrant, trembled before the clear cold
eyes of this man he had wronged. He must answer or pay the price,
humiliate himself or suffer.
* * * * *
And to-night Alban Kennedy slept beneath his roof; the bargain had
been clinched, the word spoken. Twenty thousand pounds had he paid to
Paul Boriskoff that morning for the education of his daughter and in
part satisfaction of the ancient claim. But the witness of his
degradation had come to him and must remain.
Aye, and there the strife of it began. When he put detectives upon
the lad's path, had him followed from Union Street to the caves and
from the caves to his place of employment, the report came to him that
he was interesting himself in a callous ne'er-do-well, the friend of
rogues and vagabonds, the companion of sluts, the despair of the firm
which employed him. He had expected something of the kind, but the
seeming truth dismayed him. In a second interview with Boriskoff he
used all his best powers of argument and entreaty to effect a
compromise. He would send the lad to the University, have him educated
abroad, establish him in chambersdo anything, in fact, but that which
the inexorable Pole demanded of him. This he protested with a humility
quite foreign to him and an earnestness which revealed the depth of the
indignity he suffered; but Boriskoff remained inflexible.
I am determined upon it, was the harsh retort; the boy shall be
as a link between us. Keep him from this hell in which he has lived and
I will set so much to your credit. I warn you that you have a difficult
task. Do not fail in it as you value your own safety.
The manner of this reply left Gessner no alternative, and he sent
Silas Geary to Whitechapel as we have seen. A less clever man, perhaps,
would have fenced alike with the proposal and the threat; but he knew
his own countrymen too well for that. Perhaps a hope remained that any
kindness shown to this vagrant lad would win back ultimately his
ancient freedom. Alone in his room this night, a single light rebutting
the darkness, he understood into what an abyss of discovery he had
fallen, the price that must be paid, the debt that he owed to forgotten
This man is a devil, he said, he will rob me shilling by shilling
until I am a beggar. Good God! that it should have come to this after
twenty years; twenty years which have achieved so much; twenty years of
such slavery as few men have known. And I am helpless; and this beggar
is here to remind me of my enemies, to tell me that I walk in chains
and that their eyes are following me.
He threw himself upon his bed dressed as he was and tried to sleep.
The stillness of the house gave fruitful visions, magnifying all his
fears and bringing him to an unspeakable terror of the days which must
come after. He had many ambitions yet to achieve, great ideas which
remained ideas, masterly projects which must bring him both fame and
riches, but he would have abandoned them all this night if freedom had
been offered him. Years ago, he remembered, Boriskoff, the young miner,
had earned his hatred, he knew not why unless it were a truth that men
best hate those who have served them best. To-night found that old
hatred increased a thousand fold and shaping itself in schemes which he
would not even whisper aloud. He had always been looked upon as a man
of good courage and that courage prompted him to a hundred mad
notionsto swift assassination or to slow intriguelast of all to
self destruction should his aims miscarry. He would kill himself and
cheat them after all. Many another in Petersburg had sacrificed his
life rather than suffer those years of torture which discovery brought.
He knew that he would not shrink even from the irrevocable if he were
driven far enough.
A man may take such a resolution as this and yet a great desire of
life may remain to thwart it. Gessner found himself debating the issues
more calmly as the night wore on, and even asking himself if the
presence of a stranger in his house might be so intolerable as he had
believed. He had seen little of Alban and that little had not been to
the young man's disadvantage. If the youth were not all that report had
painted him, if the amenities of the house should civilize him and
kindness win his favor, then even he might be an advocate for those to
whom he owed such favors. This new phase set Gessner thinking more
hopefully than at any time since the beginning of it. He rose from his
bed and turning on the lamps began to recall all that the Pole had
demanded of him. The terms of the compact were not so very
unreasonable, surely, he argued. Let this young Kennedy consent to
remain at Five Gables and he, Richard Gessner, would answer for the
rest. But would he consent to remainwould that wild life of the slums
call him back to its freedom and its friendships? He knew not what to
think. A great fear came to him, not that the lad would remain but that
he would go. Had it been at a reasonable hour, he would have talked to
him there and then, for the hours of that night were beyond all words
intolerable. He must see Kennedy and convince him. In the end, unable
to support the doubt, he quitted his own room, and crossed the landing,
irresolute, trembling, hardly knowing what he did.
* * * * *
It would have been about five o'clock of the morning when he entered
Alban's room and discovered him to be still sleeping. A sound of heavy
breathing followed by a restless movement had deceived him and he
knocked upon the door gently, quite expecting to be answered. When no
reply came, he ventured in as one who would not willingly pry upon
another but is compelled thereto by curiosity. The room itself should
have been in darkness, but Alban had deliberately drawn the heavy
curtains back from the windows before he slept, and the wan gray light
of dawn struck down upon his tired face as though seeking out him alone
of all that slept in the house. A lusty figure of shapely youth, a
handsome face which the finger of the World had touched already, these
the light revealed. He slept upon his back, his head turned toward the
light, his arm outstretched and almost touching the floor.
Gessner stood very still, afraid to wake the sleeper and by him to
be thus discovered. No good nationalist at any time, he had always
admired that product of a hard-drinking, hard-fighting ancestry, the
British boy; and in Alban it seemed to him that he discovered an
excellent type. Undoubtedly the lad was both handsome and strong. For
his brains, Silas Geary would answer, and he had given evidence of good
wit in their brief encounter last night. Gessner drew a step nearer and
asked himself again if the detective's reports were true. Was this the
friend of vagabonds, the companion of slutsthis clean-limbed, virile
fellow with the fair face and the flaxen curls and the head of a
thinker and a sage? A judge of men himself, he said that the words were
a lie, and then he remembered Boriskoff's account, the story of a
father who had died to serve an East End Mission, and of a devoted
mother worsted in her youth by those gathering hosts of poverty she had
set out so bravely to combat. Could the son of such as these be all
that swift espionage would have him? Gessner did not believe it. New
hopes, as upon a great freshet of content, came to him to give him
comfort. He had no son. Let this lad be the son whom he had desired so
ardently. Let them live together, work together in a mutual affection
of gratitude and knowledge. Who could prevail against such an alliance?
What rancor of Boriskoff's would harm the lad he desired to be the
husband of his daughter. Aye, and this was the supreme
consolationthat if Alban would consent, he, Gessner, would so earn
his devotion and his love that therein he might arm himself against all
But would he consent? How if this old habit of change asserted
itself and took him back to the depths? Gessner breathed quickly when
he remembered that such might be the end of it. No law could compel the
boy, no guardian claim him. Twice already he had expressed in this
house his contempt for the riches which should have tempted him.
Gessner began to perceive that his fate depended upon a word. It must
be yes or no to-morrowand while yes would save him, the courage
of a hundred men would not have faced the utmost possibilities of no.
This simple truth kept the man to the room as though therein lay all
his hopes of salvation. At one time he was upon the point of waking
Alban and putting the question to him. Or again, he tried to creep back
to the landing, determined, in his own room, to suffer as best he could
the hours of uncertainty. Distressed by irresolution he crossed to the
window at last and breathed the cool sweet air of morning as one being
a stranger to such a scene at such an hour. The sun had risen by this
time and all the landscape stood revealed in its morning beams. Not yet
had London stirred to the murmur of the coming dayno smoke rose from
her forest of chimneys, no haze drifted above the labyrinth. Far below
she lay, a maze of empty streets, of shuttered shops, of vast silent
buildingsa city of silence, hiding her cares from the glory of the
dawn, veiling her sorrow and her suffering, hushing her children to
rest, deaf to the morning voices; rich and poor alike turning from the
eyes of the day to Mother Sleep upon whose heart is eternal rest. Such
a city Gessner beheld while he looked from the window, and the golden
beams lighted his pallid face and the sweet air of day called him to
deed and resolution. What victories he had won upon that grimy field;
what triumphs he had known; what hours of pomp and vanitywhat bitter
anguish! And now he might rule there no longer. Detection had stalked
out of the unknown and touched him upon the shoulder. Somewhere in that
labyrinth his enemies were sleeping. But one human being could shield
him from them, and he a ladwithout home or friends, penniless and a
He drew back from the window, saying that the hours of suspense must
be brief and that his will should prevail with this lad, at whatever
sacrifice. Believing that his old shrewdness would help him, and that
in Alban not only the instrument of his salvation but of his vengeance
should be found, he would have quitted the room immediately, had not
his eye lighted at hazard upon a rough paper, lying upon the floor by
the bed, and a pencil which had tumbled from Alban's tired hand.
Perceiving that the lad had been drawing, and curious beyond ordinary
to know the subject of his picture, he picked the paper up to discover
thereon a rude portrait which he recognized instantly for that of his
daughter, Anna. Such a discovery, thrusting into his schemes as it did
an idea which hitherto had escaped him, held him for an instant
spellbound with wonder. A clever man, accustomed to arrive at
conclusions swiftly, the complexity of his thoughts, the strife of
arguments now unnerved him utterly. For he perceived both a great
possibility and a great danger.
He is to marry Lois Boriskoff was the silent reflectionto marry
the daughter. And thisthisgood God, the man would never forgive me
The paper tumbled from his hands. Alban, turning upon his pillow,
sighed in his sleep. A neighboring church clock struck six; there were
workmen going down to the city which must now awake to the labors of
Captain Willy Forrest admitted that he had few virtues, but he never
charged himself with the vice of idleness. In town or out of it, his
trim man-servant, Abel, would wake him at seven o'clock and see that he
had a cup of tea and the morning papers by a quarter-past. Fine
physical condition was one of the ambitions of this lithe shapely
person, whose father had been a jockey and whose mother had not
forgotten to the day of her death the manner in which measurements are
taken upon a counter.
Willy Forrest, by dint of perseverance, had really come to believe
that these worthy parents never existed but in his imagination. To the
world he was the second son of the late Sir John Forrest, Bart., whose
first-born, supposed to be in Africa, had remained beyond the pale for
many years. Society, which rarely questions pleasant people, took him
at his word and opened many doors to him. In short, he was a type of
adventurer by no means uncommon, and rarely unsuccessful when there are
brains to back the pretensions.
He was not a particularly evil rascal, and women found him charming.
Possessed of a merry face, a horsey manner and a vocabulary which would
have delighted a maker of slang dictionaries, he pushed his my
everywhere, not hoping for something to turn up, but determined that
his own cleverness should contrive that desirable arrival. When he met
Anna Gessner at Ascot a year ago, the propitious moment seemed at hand.
The girl is a gambler to her very boots, he told himself, while he
reflected that a seat upon the box of such a family coach would
certainly make his fortune. Willy Forrest resolved to secure such a
seat without a moment's loss of time.
This determination taken, the ardor with which he pursued it was
surprising. A cunning fox-like instinct led him to read Anna Gessner's
character as few others who had known her. Believing greatly in the
gospel of heredity, he perceived that Anna owed much to her father and
more to her nationality. She is selfish and passionate, a little devil
in single harness who would be worse in doublethis was his reading
of her; to which he added the firm resolution to put the matter to the
proof without loss of time.
I shall weigh in immediately and the weights will be light, he
thought. She likes a bit of a flutter and I'll see that she gets it.
There is plenty of corn in the old man's manger, and if it comes to
bursting the bag, I will carry home the pieces. There's where I drive
the car. She shall play and I will be her pet lamb. Great Jupiter, what
The result of this pretty conclusion is next to be seen in a cottage
in Hampshire, not far removed from the racing stables of the great John
Farrier, who, as all the world knows, is one of the most honest and the
most famous trainers in the country. This cottage had Willy Forrest
furnished (indirectly at Anna's expense) in a manner worthy of all the
artistic catalogues. And hither would Anna come, driving over from her
father's country-house near Basingstoke, and caring not a fig what the
grooms might think of her.
Captain Forrest is my trainer, she told the men, bidding them to
For any other explanation they cared not at all. To run a horse in a
great race seemed to them the highest of human achievements, and great
was their wonder that this fragile girl should dare it. She be a rare
good 'un and a stayer. Derned if I don't put my last button on
Whirlwind. This was the extent of the scandal that she caused.
Anna motored over to The Nest some three weeks after Alban had
been received at Hampstead, and found Willy Forrest anxiously waiting
for her at the gate. She had brought with her one of those obliging
dependents who act so cheerfully as unnecessary chaperones, and this
person she left in the smart car while she entered the cottage and
told the owner that he was forgiven. Their quarrel had been vehement
and tempestuous while it lastedand the Captain remembered that she
had struck him with her whip.
I knew you'd come, Anna, he said good-humoredly while he opened
the gate for her. Of course, I don't bear you any grudge. Good Lord,
how you went it last time. I might have been a hair-trunk that had let
you down at a gate. Eh, whatdo you remember it? And the old chin-pot
which cost me twenty guineas. Why, you smashed it all to bits with your
whipeh, what? I've laughed till I cried every time I tried to stick
it together again. Come right in and let's shake hands. You've got an
oddish looking lot in the carbought her in at the sale, I
supposeeh, what? Well, I'm glad to see you really.
She looked a little downcast, he thought, but prettier than he had
ever seen her before. It was quite early in the morning and his table
had been set out for breakfast, with dainty old-fashioned china and a
silver kettle singing over a lamp. Anna took her favorite arm-chair,
and drawing it close to the table permitted him to give her a cup of
You wanted to make a cheat of me, she said calmly enough. Oh,
yes, I have heard all about it. There's nothing whatever the matter
with Whirlwind. He must win the cupJohn Farrier says so. You are the
person who does not wish him to win.
Adventurers never blush when they are found out, and Willy Forrest
was no exception to the rule.
Oh, there you are, he cried boisterously, just the same old
kettle-drum and the same old sticks. Do you think I don't know as much
about a horse as Farrier? Good Lord, he makes me sickI'd sooner hear
a Salvation Army Band playing 'Jumping Jerusalem' on the trombone than
old John Farrier talking honest. Are we running nags to pay the brokers
out or to make a bit on our sweet little owneh, what? Are we
white-chokered philanthropists or wee wee baby mites on the nobbly
nuggets? Don't you listen to him, Anna. You'll have to sell your boots
if you follow old John.
She stirred her tea and sipped it slowly.
You said Whirlwind was going lame on the near fore-leg, and it
isn't true, she exclaimed upon a pause. What was your object in
telling me that?
I said it before the grooms and you didn't give me a chance of
blowing the smoke away afterwards. You say you are racing to make money
and what's the good of hymns and milk? This horse will start at eleven
to four on unless you're carefulwhere's my gold-lined shower bath
then? Don't you see that you must put the market backfrighten the
backers off and then step in? That's what I was trying to teach you all
the time. Give out on the loud trumpet that the horse has gone dickey
and leave 'em uncertain for a week whether he's running or sticking.
Your money's on through a third party in the 'tween times and your
cheeks are as red as roses when the flag goes down.
And if the horse should not win after you have cheated the people?
You'll be some five thousand out of pocketthat's all. Now, Anna,
don't let us have any mumble-pie between us. I'm not the dark man of
the story-books who lures the beautiful heroine on to play, and you're
not the wonderful Princess who breaks her old pa and marries because
he's stony. You can't get overmuch out of the old man and you're going
to make the rest at Tattersalls. If you listen to me, you'll make
itbut if you don't, if you play the giddy goat with old John Farrier
in the pulpit; well, then, the sooner you write cheques the better.
That's the plain truth and you may take it or leave it. There are not
three honest men racing and Willy Forrest don't join the trinity. We'll
do as all the crowd does and leave 'em to take care of themselves. You
make a book that they know how to do it. Oh, my stars, don't theyeh,
Anna did not reply immediately to this odd harangue. She knew a good
deal about horses, but nothing whatever about the knavery of betting,
the shoddy tricks of it and the despicable spirit in which this great
game is often played. Something of her father's cunning, inherited and
ineradicable, led her to condone the Captain's sporting creed and not
to seek understanding. The man's high spirits made a sure appeal to
her. She could not comprehend it whollybut she had to admit that none
of all her father's widening circle had ever appealed to her as this
nimble-tongued adventurer, who could make her heart quicken every time
their hands touched.
I don't like it, she said anon, and I don't want anything to do
with it. You make Whirlwind win the race and nobody will be hurt. If
they bet against the horse, what is that to me? How can I help what
they thinkand I don't care either if they are so foolish. Didn't you
promise me that I should see him gallop this morning? I wouldn't have
motored over otherwise. You said that there was to be a Trial
Divine angel, we are at your feet always. Of course, there's a
Trial. Am I so foolish as to suppose that you came over to see Willy
Forresteh, what? Have I lost the funny-bone up above? Farrier is
going to gallop the nags in half an hour's time. Your smoke-machine can
take us up the hill and there we'll form our own conclusions. You leave
the rest to me. It will be a bright sunny morning when they put any
salt on Willy Forrest's taileh, what?
She admitted the truth with the first smile he had seen since she
entered the cottage. His quick bustling manner, the deference he always
paid to her, despite his odd phrases, won upon her good humor and led
her to open her heart to him.
My father is going mad, she said quietlyhis startled eh, what
not preventing her; we are making our house a home for the destitute,
and the first arrived just three weeks ago. Imagine a flaxen-haired
image of righteousness, who draws my portrait on the covers of books
and puts feathers in my hat. He is in love with me, Willy, and he is to
be my big brother. Yesterday I took him to Ranalegh and heard a
discourse upon the beauties of nature and the wonders of the air and
the sky. Oh, my dear manwhat a purgatory and what an event. We are
going to sell our jewels presently and to live in Whitechapel. My
father, I must tell you, seems afraid of this beautiful apparition and
implores him every day not to go away. I know that he stops because he
is inclined to make love to me.
Whewso it's only 'inclined' at present?
Absolutely as you say. There appear to be two of us. I have been
expecting a passionate declarationbut the recollections of a
feathered beauty who once lived in a fairy palace, in a wonderland
where you dine upon red herringsshe is my hated rival. I am more
beautiful, observethat is conceded, but he cannot understand me. The
feathered hat has become my salvation. My great big brother can't get
over itand oh, the simplicity of the child, the youthful verdant
confidence, my Willy. Don't you see that the young man thinks I am an
angel and is wondering all the time where the wings have gone to.
Ha, hahe'd better ask Paquin. Are you serious, Anna?
As serious as the Lord High Executioner himself. My father has
adopted a youthand I have a big brother. He has consented to dwell in
our house and to spend our savings because he believes that by so doing
he is in some way helping me. I don't in the least want his help, but
my father is determined that I shall have it. I am not to bestow my
young affections upon himnor, upon the other hand, am I to offend
him. Admit that the situation is delightful. Pity a poor maiden in her
Willy Forrest did not like the sound of it at all.
The old chap must have gone dotty, he remarked presently; they're
often taken this way when they get to a certain age. You'll have to sit
tight and see about it, Anna. He isn't too free with the ready as it
isand if you've a boy hanging about, God help you. Why don't you be
rude to him? You know the way as well as mosteh, what?
I'm positively afraid to. Do you know, my dear man, that if this
Perfect Angel left us, strange things would happen. My father says so,
and I believe he speaks the truth. There is a mysteryand I hate
Get hold of the feathered lady and hear what she has to say.
Impossible but brilliant. She has gone to Germany.
Oh, damnthen he'll be making love to you. I say, Anna, there's
not going to be any billing and cooing or anything of that sort. I'm
not very exacting, but the way you look at men is just prussic acid to
me. If this kid should begin
She laughed drolly.
He is my great big brother, she saidand then jumping uplet us
go and see the horses. You'll be talking nonsense if we don't. And,
Willy, I forbid you to talk nonsense.
She turned and faced him in mock anger, and he, responding
instantly, caught her in his arms and kissed her ardently.
What a pair of cherubs, he exclaimed, what a nest of cooing
dovesI say, Anna, I must kill that kidor shall it be the fatted
calf? There'll be murder done somewhere if he stops at Hampstead.
If it were done, then when it were doneO let me go, Willy, your
arms are crushing me.
He released her instantly and, snatching up a cap, set out with her
to the downs where the horses were being stripped for the gallop. The
morning of early summer was delightfully fragranta cool breeze came
up from the sea and every breath invigorated. Old John Farrier, mounted
on a sturdy cob, met them at the foot of a great grassy slope and
complained that it was over late in the day for horses to gallop, but,
as he added, they'll have to do it at Ascot and they may as well do it
here. A silent man, old John had once accompanied Willy Forrest to a
dinner at the Carlton which Anna gave to a little sporting circle. Then
he uttered but one remark, seeming to think some observation necessary,
and it fell from his lips in the pause of a social discussion. I
always eat sparrer-grass with my fingers, he had said, and wondered at
the general hilarity.
Old John was unusually silent upon this morning of the trial, and
when he named the weights at which the horses would gallop, his voice
sank to a sepulchral whisper. The old 'oss is giving six pounds, he
said, he should be beat a length. If it's more, go cautious, miss, and
save your money for another day. He hasn't been looking all I should
like of him for a long timethat's plain truth; and when a horse isn't
looking all I should like of him, 'go easy' say I and keep your money
under the bed.
Anna laughed at the kindly advice, and leaving the car she walked to
the summit of the hill and there watched the horsesbut three pretty
specks they appearedfar down in the hollow. The exhilaration of the
great open spaces, the wide unbroken grandeur of the downs, the
sweetness of the air, the freshness of the day, brought blood to her
pallid cheeks and a sparkle of life to her eyes. How free it all was,
how unrestrained, how suggestive of liberty and of a boundless kingdom!
And then upon it all the excitements of the gallop, the thunder of
hoofs upon the soft turf, the bent figures of the jockeys, the raking
strides of the beautiful horsesAnna no longer wondered why sport
could so fascinate its devotees. She felt at such a moment that she
would have gladly put her whole fortune upon Whirlwind.
He winshe winshe wins, she cried as the three drew near, and
Willy Forrest, watching her with cunning eyes, said that the trap was
closed indeed and the key in his possession. Whirlwind, a magnificent
chestnut four-year-old, came striding up the hill as though the last
furlong of the mile and a half he had galloped were his chief delight.
He was a winner by a short head as they passed the post, and old John
Farrier could not hide his satisfaction.
He's the best plucked 'un in England to-day, lady, and you may put
your wardrobe on him after that. Be quick about it though, for there'll
be no odds to speak of when the touts have written to-day's work in the
newspapers. Go and telegraph your commissions now. There isn't a minute
Willy Forrest seconded the proposal eagerly.
I should back him for five thou, he said as they left the course
together, what's the good of half measures? You might as well play
dominoes in a coffee shop. And I can always break the news to your
father if you lose.
Anna hardly knew what to say. When she consented finally to risk the
money, she did not know that Willy Forrest was the man who laid against
her horse, and that if she lost it would be to him.
The boss is good enough, he told himself, but the near-off is
dicky or I never saw one. She'll lose the money and the old boy will
pay upif I compel her to ask him. That depends on the kid. She
couldn't help making eyes at him if her life depended on it.
Wellshe's going to marry me, and that's the long and short of it.
Fancy passing a certainty at my time of life. Do I see iteh, what?
And so they went their ways: Anna back to London to the solemn
routine of the big house; Willy Forrest to Epsom to try, as he said,
and pick up the nimble with a pencil.
Alban had been five weeks at Hampstead when he met Willy Forrest for
the first time, and was able to gratify his curiosity concerning one
whom he believed to be Anna's lover.
The occasion was Richard Gessner's absence in Paris upon a business
of great urgency and the immediate appearance of the dashing captain at
Five Gables. True, Anna behaved with great discretion, but, none the
less, Alban understood that this man was more to her than others, and
he did not fail to judge him with that shrewd scrutiny even youth may
Willy Forrest, to give him his due, took an instinctive liking to
the new intruder and was not to be put off, however much his attentions
were displeasing to Anna. A cunning foresight, added to a fecund
imagination and a fine taste for all chroniques scandaleuses,
led him to determine that Alban Kennedy might yet inherit the bulk of
Gessner's fortune and become the plumpest of all possible pigeons.
Should this be the case, those who had been the young man's friends in
the beginning might well remain so to the end. He resolved instantly to
cultivate an acquaintance so desirable, and lost not a moment in the
pursuit of his aims.
My dear chap, he said on the third day of their association, you
are positively growing grass in this place. Do you never go anywhere?
Has no one taught you how to amuse yourself?
Alban replied that everything was so new to him that he desired no
other amusement than its enjoyment.
It was almost years since I saw a tree that was not black, he
said; the water used to drip through the roof of my garret, and there
was a family in the room on the opposite side of the landing. I don't
think you can understand what this house means to me. Perhaps I don't
understand myself. I'm almost afraid to go to sleep at night for fear I
should wake up in Union Street and find it all a fairy story. Mr.
Gessner says I am to stop with them alwaysbut he might change his
mind and then it would be Commercial Road againif I had the courage
to go back there.
Forrest had known evil times himself, and he could honestly
appreciate the possibility.
Stick by the old horse while he sticks by you, was his candid
advice. I expect he's under a pretty stiff obligation to some of your
people who are gone, and this is how he's paying it. You take all the
corn you can get and put it in your nose-bag. Anna herself tells me
that the old man is only happy while you are in the house. Play up to
it, old chap, and grease your wheels while the can's going round.
This very worldy advice fell upon ears strikingly deficient in
understanding subtleties. Alban could not dislike Forrest, though he
tried his best to do so. There was something sympathetic about the
fellow, rogue that he was, and even shrewd men admitted his
fascination. When the Captain proposed that they should go down to the
West End of London and see a little of life together, Alban consented
gladly. New experiences set him hungering after those supposed delights
which were made so much of in the newspapers. He reflected how very
little he really knew of the world and its people.
It was a day of early June when they set off in that very single
brougham which had carried Silas Geary to Whitechapel. The Captain,
having first ascertained the amount of money in his friend's
possession, proposed a light lunch in the restaurant of the Savoy, and
there, to do him justice, he was amusing enough.
People are all giving up houses and living in restaurants
nowadays, he said as they sat at table. I don't blame 'em either.
Just think of the number of nags in those big stables, all eating their
heads off and smoking your best cigarseh, what? Why, I kept myself in
weeds a few years agogot 'em for twopence halfpenny from a butler in
Curzon Street and never smoked better. You don't want to do that, for
you can bottle old Bluebeard's and try 'em on the dogeh, what? When
you marry, don't you take a house. A man who lives in a hotel doesn't
seem as though he were married and that's good for the filly. Look at
these angels here. Why, half of them sold the family oak tree a
generation ago, and Attenborough down the street will tell you what
their Tiffanies are worth. They live in hotels because it's cheaper,
and they wear French paste because the other is at uncle's. That's the
truth, my boy, and all the world knows it.
Alban listened with an odd cynical smile upon his face, but he did
not immediately reply. This famous hotel had seemed a cavern of all the
wonders when first he entered it, and he would not willingly abandon
his illusions. The beautifully dressed women, the rustling gowns, the
chiffon, the lace, the feathers, the diamondsmight he not have
thought that they stood for all that pomp and circumstance of life
which the East End denounced so vehemently and the West End as
persistently demanded? Of the inner lives of these people he knew
absolutely nothing. And, after all, he remembered, men and women are
much the same whatever the circumstance.
I like to be in beautiful places, he confessed in his turn, and
this place seems to me very beautiful. Does it really matter to us,
Forrest, what the people do or what they are so long as they don't ask
us to be the same? Jimmy Dale, a parson in Whitechapel, used to say
that a man was just what his conscience made him. I don't see how the
fact of living in or out of a hotel would matter anywayunless you
leave your conscience in a cab. The rest is mostly talk, and untrue at
that, they say. You yourself know that you don't believe half of it.
My dear man, what would life be if one were incredulous? How would
the newspaper proprietors buy bread and cheese, to say nothing of pâte
de foie gras and ninety-two Pommery if the world desired the truth?
This crowd is mostly on the brink of a precipice, and a man or a woman
goes over every day. Then you have the law report and old Righteousness
in a white wig, who has not been found out, to pronounce a judgment.
I'd like to wager that not one in three of these people ever did an
honest day's work in a lifetime. One half is rank idlethe other half
is trying to live on the remainder. Work it out and pass me the
wineand mind you don't get setting up any images for time to knock
Alban would not wrangle with him, and for a little while he ate in
silence, watching the sparkling throng and listening to such scraps of
conversation as floated to him from merry tables. Down in Union Street
it had been the fashion to decry idleness and the crimes of the
richthe orators having it that leisure was criminal and ease a
heinous sin. Alban had never believed in any such fallacy. We are all
born lazy, he had said, and few of us would work unless we had to.
Vanity is at the bottom of all that we do. If no one were vain, the
world would stand still. In the Savoy, his arguments seemed to be
justified a hundredfold. A sense of both content and dignity came to
him. He began almost to believe that money could ennoble as well as
Willy Forrest, of course, knew nothing whatever of thoughts such as
these. He was a past master in the art of killing time and he boasted
that he rarely knew an idle hour. His programme for this day seemed
altogether beyond criticism.
We'll look in at the club afterwards and play a game of bridgeyou
can stand by me and see me winor perhaps you'd like a side bet. Then
we might turn into the park to give the girls a treateh, what?and
go on to the New Bridge Club to dress. After that there's the old
sporting shanty and a bit of a mill between Neddy Tinker and Marsh
Hill. You never saw a fight, I suppose? Man, but your education has
Alban smiled and admitted his deficiencies.
I've seen many a set-to in Commercial Road and taken a hand
sometimes. Is it really quite necessary to my education?
Absolutely indispensable. You must do everything and be seen
everywhere. If I had time, I'd give you the personal history of half
the light-weights in this room. Look at that black crow in the corner
there. He's a Jew parson from Essexas rich as bottled beer and always
stops here. Last time I rode a welter down his way they told me his
favorite text was Blessed are the poor. He's a pretty figurehead for
a bean-feast, isn't he? That chirpy barrister next door has a practice
of fifteen thou. The blighter once cross-examined me in a card-sharping
case and made me look the biggest damned fool in Europe. Did I rest on
my laurelseh, what? Why, sir, he can't cross a race-course now
without having his pocket picked. My doing, my immortal achievement.
The little Countess next door used to do stunts at the Nouveau
Cirque. Lord Saxe-Holt married her when he was hazy and is taming
her. That old chap, who eats like a mule, is Lord Whippingham. He
hasn't got a sixpence, and if you ask me how he liveswell, there are
ways and means foreign to your young and virgin mind. The old geezer
used to run after little Betty Sine at the Apollobut she put an ice
down his back at supper here one night and then there were partings.
Some day I'll take you to the Blenheim and show you England's
aristocracy in arm-chairswe haven't time to-day and here's the coffee
coming. Pay up and be thankful that your new pa isn't overdrawn, and
has still a shekel or two in his milk jug. My godfather!but you are a
lucky young man, and so you are beginning to think, I suppose.
Alban did not condescend to answer a question so direct. He was
still quite uncertain as to his future, and he would not discuss it
with this irresponsible, who had undertaken to be his worldly mentor.
When they left the Savoy it was to visit a club in Trafalgar Square and
there discover the recumbent figures of aged gentlemen who had lunched
not wisely but too well. Of all that he had seen in the kingdoms of
money, Alban found this club least to his liking. The darkness of its
great rooms, the insolence of its members toward the servants who
waited upon them, the gross idleness, the trivial excitements of the
card-room, the secret drinking in remote cornershe had never imagined
that men of brains could so abase themselves, and he escaped ultimately
to Hyde Park with a measure of thankfulness he would not conceal.
Why do people go to places like that, Forrest? he asked as they
went. What enjoyment do they get out of them?
Willy Forrest, who had taken a mahogany one in the club and was
getting mighty confidential, answered him as candidly.
Half of 'em go to get away from their wives, the other half to win
But why do they never speak to each other?
Put two game-cocks in a pen and then ask again. It's a club, my
boy, and so they think every other man a rogue or a fool.
And do they pay much for the privilege?
That depends on the airs they give themselves. I've been pilled for
half the clubs in town and so, I suppose, I'm rather a decent sort of
chap. It used to be a kind of hall-mark to get in a good club, but we
live at hotels nowadays and don't care a dump for them. That's why half
of 'em are on the verge of bankruptcy. Don't you trouble about them,
unless you get a filly that bolts. I shall have to give up clubs
altogether, I suppose, when I marry Annaeh, what?
He laughed at the idea, and Alban remaining silent, he whistled a
hansom in a way that would have done credit to a railway porter, and
You knew that I was going to marry Anna, didn't you? She told you
on the strict q.t., didn't she? Oh, my stars, how she can talk! I shall
buy an ear-trumpet when we're in double harness. But Anna told you, now
I have only once heard her mention your nameshe certainly did not
speak of being engaged.
They never do when the old man buckseh, what? Gessner don't like
me, and I'd poison him for a shilling. Why shouldn't I marry her? I can
ride a horse and point a gun and throw a fly better than most. Can Old
Bluebeard go bettereh, what? The old pot-hook, I'd play him any game
you like to name for a pony aside and back myself to the Day of
Judgment. And he's the man who talks about bagging a Duke for his girl!
Pshaw, Anna would kick the coronet downstairs in three days and the
owner after it. You must know that for yourselfshe's a little devil
to rear and you can't touch her on the curbeh, what, you've noticed
Alban declared quite frankly that he had noticed nothing whatever.
Not for a fortune would he have declared his heart to this man, the
hopes, the perplexities, and the self-reproach which had attended ever
these early weeks in wonderland. Just as Anna's shrewdness had
perceived, so was it the truth that an image of perfect womanhood
dazzled his imagination and left him without any clear perception
whatever. For little Lois of the slums he had a sterling affection,
begotten of long association and of mutual sympathybut the vision of
Anna had been the beatification of his love dream, so to speak,
deceiving him by its immense promise and leading him to credit
Gessner's daughter with all those qualities of womanhood which stood
nearest to his heart's desire. Here was a Lois become instantly more
beautiful, more refined, more winning. If he remained true to the
little friend of his boyish years, his faith had been obscured for a
moment by this superb apparition of a young girl's beauty, enshrined
upon the altar of riches and endowed with those qualities which wealth
alone could purchase. Anna, indeed, held him for a little while
spellbound, and now he listened to Forrest as though a heresy against
all women were spoken.
I did not know you were engaged, he said quite frankly. Anna
certainly has never told me. Of course, I congratulate you. She is a
very beautiful girl, Forrest.
That's true, old chap. You might see her in the paddock and pick
her at a glanceeh, what? But it's mum at presentnot a whistle to
the old man until the south wind blows. And don't you tell Anna either.
She'd marry somebody else if she thought I was really in love with
Alban shrugged his shoulders but had nothing to say. They had now
come to the famous Achilles Statue in Hyde Park, and there they walked
for half an hour amidst the showily dressed women on the lawn. Willy
Forrest was known to many of these and everywhere appeared sure of a
familiar welcome. The very men, who would tell you aside that he was a
wrong 'un, nodded affably to him and sometimes stopped to ask him
what was going to win the Oaks. He patronized a few pretty girls with
condescending recognition and immediately afterwards would relate to
Alban the more intimate and often scandalous stories of their families.
At a later moment they espied Anna herself in a superb victoria drawn
by two strawberry roans. And to their intense astonishment they
perceived that she had the Reverend Silas Geary in the carriage by her
A clever little devil, upon my soul, said the Captain,
ecstatically, to cart that fire-escape round and show him to the
crowd. She must have done it to annoy meeh, what? She thinks I'm not
so much an angel as I look and is going to make me good. Oh, my
starslet's get. I shall be saying the catechism if I stop here any
Alban escaped from the Sporting Club at a quarter to eleven, sick of
its fetid atmosphere and wearied by its mock brutalities. He made no
apologies for quitting Willy Forrestfor, truth to tell, that merry
worthy was no longer capable of understanding them. Frequent calls for
whisky-and-soda, added to a nice taste for champagne at dinner, left
the Captain in that maudlin condition in which a man is first cousin to
all the worldat once garrulous and effusive and generally
undesirable. Alban had, above all things, a contempt for a drunken man;
and leaving Forrest to the care of others of his kind, he went out into
the street and made his way slowly eastward.
It was an odd thing to recall; but he had hardly set foot east of
the Temple, he remembered, since the day when the bronze gates of
Richard Gessner's house first closed upon him and the vision of
wonderland burst upon his astonished eyes. The weeks had been those of
unending kindness, of gifts showered abundantly, of promises for the
future which might well overwhelm him by their generosity. Let him but
consent to claim his rights, Gessner had said, and every ambition
should be gratified. No other explanation than that of a lagging
justice could he obtainand no other had he come to desire. If he
remained at Hampstead, the image of Anna Gessner, of a perfect
womanhood as he imagined it, kept him to the house. He did not desire
his patron's money; he began to discover how few were his wants and how
small the satisfaction of their gratification could be. But the image
he worshipped everand at its feet all other desires were forgotten.
And now reality had come with its sacrilegious hand, warring upon
the vision and bidding him open his eyes and see. It was easy enough to
estimate this adventurer Willy Forrest at his true worth, less easy to
bind the wounds imagination had received and to set the image once more
upon its ancient pedestal. Could he longer credit Anna with those
qualities with which his veneration had endowed her? Must there not be
heart searchings and rude questionings, the abandonment of the dream
and the stern corrections of truth? He knew not what to think. A voice
of reproach asked him if he also had not forgotten. The figure of
little Lois Boriskoff stood by him in the shadows, and he feared to
speak with her lest she should accuse him.
Let it be said in justice that he had written to Lois twice, and
heard but lately that she had left Union Street and gone, none knew
whither. His determination to do his utmost for her and her father, to
bid them share his prosperity and command him as they would, had been
strong with him from the first and delayed only by the amazing
circumstances of his inheritance. He did not understand even yet that
he had the right to remain at Five Gables, but this right had so
often been insisted upon that he began at last to believe in its
reality and to accept the situation as a chose jugée. And with
the conviction, there came an intense longing to revisit the old
sceneswho knows, it may have been but the promptings of a vanity
It was a great thing, indeed, to be walking there in the glare of
the lamps and telling himself that fortune and a future awaited him,
that the instrument of mighty deeds would be his inheritance, and that
the years of his poverty were no more. How cringingly he had walked
sometimes in the old days when want had shamed him and wealth looked
down upon him with contempt. To-night he might stare the boldest in the
face, nurse fabulous desires and know that they would be gratified,
peer through the barred windows of the shops and say all he saw was at
his command. A sense of might and victory attended his steps. He
understood what men mean when they say that money is power and that it
rules the world.
He turned eastward, and walking with rapid strides made his way down
the Strand and thence by Ludgate Circus to Aldgate and the mean streets
he knew so well. It was nearly midnight when he arrived there, and yet
he fell in with certain whom he knew and passed them by with a genial
nod. His altered appearance, the black overcoat and the scarf which hid
his dress clothes, called for many a Gor blime or Strike me dead.
Women caught his arm and wrestled with him, roughs tried to push him
from the pavement and were amazed at his good humor. In Union Street he
first met little red-haired Chris Denham and asked of her the news. She
shrank back from him as though afraid, and answered almost in a
Lois goneshe went three weeks ago. I thought you'd have know'd
itI thought you was sweet on her, Alban. And now you come here like
thatwhat's happened to you, whatever have you been doing of?
He told her gaily that he had found new friends.
But I haven't forgotten the old ones, Chris, and I'm coming down to
see you all some day soon. How's your motherwhat's she doing now?
The girl shrugged her shoulders and the glance she turned upon him
seemed to say that she would sooner speak on any other subject.
What should she be doin'what's any of us doin' but slave our
bones off and break our hearts. You've come to see Lois' father,
haven't you? Oh, yes, I know how much you want to talk about my mother.
The old man's up there in the shopI saw him as I came by.
Alban stood an instant irresolute. How much he would have liked to
offer some assistance to this poor girl, to speak of real pecuniary
help and friendship. But he knew the people too well. The utmost
delicacy would be necessary.
Well, he said, I'm sorry things are not better, Chris. I've had a
good Saturday night, you see, and if I can do anything, don't you mind
letting me know. We'll talk of it when we have more time. I'm going on
to see Boriskoff now, and I doubt that I'll find him out of bed.
She laughed a little wildly, still turning almost pathetic eyes upon
Is it true that it's all off between you and Loisall the Court
says it is. That's why she went away, they sayis it true, Alb, or are
they telling lies? I can't believe it myself. You're not the sort to
give a girl overnot one that's stood by you as well as Lois. Tell me
it ain't true or I shall think the worse of you.
The question staggered him and he could not instantly answer it. Was
it true or false? Did he really love little Lois and had he still an
intention to marry her? Alban had never looked the situation straight
in the face until this moment.
I never tell secrets, he exclaimed a little lamely, and turning
upon his heel, he shut his ears to the hard laugh which greeted him and
went on, as a man in a dream, to old Boriskoff's garret. A lamp stood
in the window there and the tap of a light hammer informed him that the
indefatigable Pole was still at work. In truth, old Paul was bending
copper tubingfor a firm which said that he had no equal at the task
and paid him a wage which would have been despised by a
Alban entered the garret quietly and was a little startled by the
sharp exclamation which greeted him. He knew nothing, of course, of the
part this crafty Pole had played or what his own change of circumstance
owed to him. To Alban, Paul Boriskoff was just the same mad
revolutionary as beforeat once fanatic and dreamer and, before then,
the father of Lois who had loved him. If the old fellow had no great
welcome for the young Englishman to-night, let that be set down to his
sense of neglect and, in some measure, to his daughter's absence.
Good evening, Mr. Boriskoff, you are working very late to-night.
Alban stood irresolute at the door, watching the quick movements of
the shaggy brows and wondered what had happened to old Paul that he
should be received so coolly. Had he known what was in the Pole's mind
he would have as soon have jumped off London Bridge as have braved the
anger of one who judged him so mercilessly in that hour. For Boriskoff
had heard the stories which Hampstead had to tell, and he had said, He
will ruin Lois' life and I have put the power to do so in his hands.
The poor do not choose their hours, Alban Kennedy. Sit down, if you
please, and talk to me. I have much to say to you.
He did not rise from his chair, but indicated a rude seat in the
corner by the chimney and waited until his unwilling guest had taken
it. Alban judged that his own altered appearance and his absence from
Union Street must be the cause of his displeasure. He could guess no
Do you love my daughter, Alban Kennedy?
You know that I do, Paul. Have we not always been good friends? I
came to tell you about a piece of great good fortune which has happened
to me and to find out why Lois had not written to me. You see for
yourself that there is a great change in me. One of the richest men in
London considers that I have a claim, to some of his moneythrough
some distant relative, it appearsand I am living at his house almost
as his own son.
Is that why you forget your old friends so quickly?
I have never forgotten them. I wrote to Lois twice.
Did you speak of marriage in your letters?
The lad's face flushed crimson. He knew that he could not tell Paul
Boriskoff the truth.
I did not speak of marriagewhy should I? he exclaimed; it was
never your wish that we should speak of it until Lois is twenty-one.
She will not be that for more than three yearswhy do you ask me the
Because you have learned to love another woman.
A dead silence fell in the room. The old man continued to tap gently
upon the coil of tube, rapidly assuming a fantastic shape under the
masterly touch of a trained hand. A candle flickered by him upon a
crazy table where stood a crust of bread and a lump of coarse cheese.
Not boastfully had he told Richard Gessner that he would accept nothing
for himself. He was even poorer than he had been six weeks ago when he
discovered that his old enemy was alive.
[Illustration: You love another woman, Alban Kennedy, and you have
wished to forget my daughter.]
You love another woman, Alban Kennedy, and you have wished to
forget my daughter. Do not say that it is not the truth, for I read it
upon your face. You should be ashamed to come here unless you can deny
it. Fortune has been kind to you, but how have you rewarded those for
whom she has nothing? I say that you have forgotten thembeen ashamed
of them as they have now the right to be ashamed of you.
He put his hammer down and looked the lad straight in the face. Upon
Alban's part there was an intense desire to confess everything and to
tell his old friend of all those distressing doubts and perplexities
which had so harassed him since he went to Hampstead. If he could have
done so, much would have been spared him in the time to come. But he
found it impossible to open his heart to an alien,nor did he believe
Paul Boriskoff capable of appreciating the emotions which now tortured
I have never been ashamed of any of my friends, he exclaimed
hotly; you know that it is not true, Paul Boriskoff. Where are the
letters which I wrote to Lois? Why has she not answered them? If I had
been ashamed, would they have been written? Cannot you understand that
all which has happened to me has been very distracting. I have seen a
new lifea new world, and it is not as our world. Perhaps there is no
more happiness in it than in these courts and alleys where we have
suffered so much. I cannot tell you truly. It is all too new to me and
naturally I feel incapable of judging it. When I came to you to-night
it was to speak of our old friendship. Should I have done so if I had
Old Paul heard him with patience, but his anger none the less
remained. The shaggy eyebrows were at rest now, but the eyes were never
turned from Alban's face.
You are in love with Anna Gessner, he said quietly; why do you
not tell Lois so?
I cannot tell her soit would not be true. She will always be the
same little Lois to me, and when she is twenty-one I will marry her.
Hawhen she is twenty-one. That seems a long time off to one who
is your age. You will marry her, you saya promise to keep her quiet
while you make love to this fine lady who befools you. No, Alban
Kennedy, I shall not let Lois imagine any such thing; I shall tell her
the truth. She will choose another husbandthat is my wish and she
will obey it.
You are doing me a great injustice, Paul Boriskoff. I do not love
Annaperhaps for a moment I thought that I did, but I know now that I
was deceiving myself. She is not one who is worthy of being loved. I
believed her very different when first I went to Hampstead.
Tell me no such thing. I am an old man and I know men's hearts.
What shall my daughter and her rags be to you now that you have fine
clothes upon your back? You are as the othersyou have knelt down at
the shrine of money and there you worship. This woman in her fine
clothesshe is your idol. All your past is forgotten immediately you
see her. A great gulf is set between you and us. Think not that I do
not know, for there are those who bring me the story every day. You
worship Anna Gessner, but you live in a fool's paradise, for the father
will forbid you to marry her. I say it and I know. Be honest and speak
to my daughter as I have spoken to you to-night.
He raised his hammer as though he would resume his work, and Alban
began to perceive how hopeless an argument would be with him while in
such a mood. Not deficient in courage, the lad could not well defend
himself from so direct an attack, and he had the honesty to admit as
I shall tell Lois the truth, he said: she will then judge me and
say whether you are right or wrong. I came here to-night to see if I
could help you both. You know, Paul Boriskoff, how much I wish to do
so. While I have money, it is yours also. Have not Lois and I always
been as your children? You cannot forbid me to act as a son should,
just because I have come into my inheritance. Let me find you a better
home and take you away from this dismal place. Then I shall be doing
right to worship money. Will you not let me do so? There is nothing in
life half so good as helping those we loveI am sure of it already,
and it is only five weeks since I came into my inheritance. Give me the
right and let me still call you father.
Old Paul was much affected, but he would not let the lad see as
much. Avoiding the question discreetly but not unkindly, he muttered,
No, no, I need no help. I am an old man and what happens to me does
not matter. And then turning the subject swiftly, he asked, Your
patron, he has left England, has he not?
He has gone to Paris, I believe.
Did he speak of the business that took him there?
He never speaks of business to me. He has asked me once or twice
about the poor people down here and I have tried to tell him. Such a
fortune as his could redeem thousands of lives, Paul. I have told him
that when he spoke to me.
Such a man will never redeem one life. All the money in the world
will never buy him rest. He has eaten his harvest and the fields are
bare. Did you mention my name to him?
I do not think that I have done so yet.
Naturally, you would have been a little ashamed to speak of us. It
is very rarely that one who becomes rich remembers those who were poor
with him. His money only teaches him to judge them. Those who were
formerly his friends are now spendthrifts, extravagant folk who should
not be injured by assistance. The rich man makes their poverty an
excuse for deserting them, and he cloaks his desertion beneath lofty
moral sentiments. You are too young to do so, but the same spirit is
already leading you. Beware of it, Alban Kennedy, for it will lead you
Alban did not know how to argue with him. He resented the accusation
hotly and yet could make no impression of resentment upon the imagined
grievance which old Paul nursed almost affectionately. It were better,
he thought, to hold his tongue and to let the old man continue.
Your patron has gone to Paris, you say? Are you sure it is to
How could I be sure. I am telling you what was told to me. He is to
be back in a few days' time. It is not to be expected that he would
share his plans with me.
Certainly nothe would tell you nothing. Do you know that he is a
A Pole? No! Indeed he gives it out that he was born in Germany and
is now a naturalized British subject.
He would do so, but he is a Poleand because he is a Pole he tells
you that he has gone to Paris when the truth is that he is at Berlin
all the time.
But why should he wish to deceive me, Paulwhat am I to him?
You are one necessary to his salvationperhaps it is by you alone
that he will live. I could see when I first spoke to you how much you
were astonished that I knew anything about it, but remember, every Pole
in London knows all about his fellow-countrymen, and so it is very
natural that I know something of Richard Gessner. You who live in his
house can tell me more. See what a gossip I am where my own people are
concerned. You have been living in this man's house and you can tell me
all about ithis tastes, his books, his friends. There would be many
friends coming, of course?
Not very many, Paul, and those chiefly city men. They eat a great
deal and talk about money. It's all money up therethe rich, the rich,
the richI wonder how long I shall be able to stand it.
Oh, money's a thing most people get used to very quickly. They can
stand a lot of it, my boy. But are there not foreigners at your
housemen of my own country?
I have never seen anyonce, I think, Mr. Gessner was talking to a
stranger in the garden and he looked like a foreigner. You don't think
I would spy upon him Paul?
That would be the work of a very ungrateful fellow. None the less,
if there are foreigners at HampsteadI should wish to know of it.
That I may save your kind friend from certain perils which I think
are about to menace him. Yes, yes, he has been generous to you and I
wish to reward him. He must not knowhe must never hear my name in the
matter, but should there be strangers at Hampstead let me know
immediatelywrite to me if you cannot come here. Do not delay or you
may rue it to the end of your days. Write to me, Alban, and I shall
know how to help your friend.
He had spoken under a spell of strong excitement, but his message
delivered, he fell again to his old quiet manner; and having exchanged
a few commonplaces with the astonished lad plainly intimated that he
would be alone. Alban, surprised beyond measure, perceived in his turn
that no amount of questioning would help him to a better understanding;
and so, in a state of perplexity which defied expression, he said Good
night and went out into the quiet street.
It was some time after midnight when Alban reached Broad Street
Station and discovered that the last train for Hampstead had left. A
certain uneasiness as to what his new friends would think of him did
not deter him from his sudden determination to turn westward and seek
out his old haunts. He had warned Richard Gessner that no house would
ever make a prisoner of him, and this quick desire for liberty now
burned in his veins as a fever. It would be good, he thought, to sleep
under the stars once more and to imagine himself that same Alban
Kennedy who had not known whither to look for breadcould it be but
five short weeks ago!
The city was very still as he passed through it and, save for a
broken-down motor omnibus with a sleepy conductor for its guardian,
Cheapside appeared to be almost destitute of traffic. The great
buildings, wherein men sought the gold all day, were now given over to
watchmen and the rats, as the bodies of the seekers would one day be
given over to the earth whence they sprang. Alban depicted a great army
of the servants of money asleep in distant homes, and he could not but
ask what happiness they carried there, what capacities for rest and
Was it true, as he had begun to believe, that the life of pleasure
had cares of its own, hardly less supportable than those which crushed
the poor to the very earth? Was the daily round of abundance, of lights
and music and wine and womenwas it but the basest of shams, scarce
deceiving those who practised it? His brief experience seemed to answer
the question in the affirmative. He wondered if he had known such an
hour of true happiness as that which had come to him upon the last
night he had spent in the Caves. Honesty said that he had notand to
the Caves he now turned as one who would search out forgotten
The building in St. James' Street had made great advance since last
he saw it, but he observed to his satisfaction that the entrance to the
subterranean passages were not absolutely closed, and he did not doubt
that many of the old night-hawks were still in possession. His
astonishment, therefore, was considerable when, upon dropping into the
first of the passages, a figure sprang up and clutched him by the
throat, while a hand thrust a lantern into his face and a pair of black
eyes regarded him with amazed curiosity.
A slap-up toff, so help me Jimmy! And what may your Royal Highness
be doing this waywhat brings you to this pretty parlor? Now, speak
up, my lad, or it will go queer with you.
Alban knew in an instanthis long experience taught himthat he
had fallen into the hands of the police, and his first alarms were very
What right have you to question me?
Oh, we'll show our right sharp enough. Now, you be briskwhat's
your name and what are you doing here?
I am the son of Mr. Richard Gessner of Hampstead and I used to know
this place. I came down to have a look at it before the building is
finished. If you doubt me, let us go to Mr. Gessner's house together
and he will tell you who I am.
It was a proud thing to say and he said it with pride. That thrill
of satisfaction which attends a fine declaration of identity came to
Alban then as it has done to many a great man in the hour of his
vanity. The son of Richard Gessneryes, his patron would acknowledge
him for that! The police themselves admitted the title by almost
Well, sir, it's a queer place to come to, I must say, and not very
safe either for a gentleman in your position. Why didn't you ask one of
us to bring you down? We'd have done it right enough, though not
Then you're out on business?
You couldn't have guessed better, sir. We're here with the nets and
there will be herrings to salt in the morning. If you care to wait five
minutes, you may look into the bundle. Here's two or three of them
coming along now and fine music they're making, I must say. Just step
aside a minute, sir, while we give a hand. That's a woman's voice and
she's not been to the Tabernacle. I shouldn't wonder if it was the
flower girl that hobnobs with the parsonoh, by no means, oh dear,
He raised his lantern and turned the light of it full on the
passage, disclosing a spectacle which brought a flush of warm blood to
Alban's cheeks and filled him with a certain sense of shame he could
not defend. For there were three of his old friends, no others than
Sarah and the Archbishop of Bloomsbury with the boy Betty, the latter
close in the custody of the police who dragged him headlong, regardless
of the girl's shrieks and the ex-clergyman's protests upon their
cruelty. For an instant Alban was tempted to flee the place, to deny
his old friends and to surrender to a base impulse of his pride; but a
better instinct saving him, he intervened boldly and immediately
declared himself to the astonished company.
These people are friends of mine, he said, to the complete
bewilderment of the constables, please to tell me why you are charging
Gawd Almightyif it ain't Mr. Kennedy!this from the woman.
Indeed, said the clergyman, with a humility foreign to him, I am
very glad to see you, Alban. Our friend 'Betty' here is accused of
theft. I am convincedI feel assured that the charge is misplaced and
that you will be able to help us. Will you not tell these men that you
know us and can answer for our honesty?
The lad Betty said nothing at all. His eyes were very wide open, a
heavy hand clutched his ragged collar, and the police stood about him
as though in possession of a convicted criminal.
A young lad, sir, that stole a gold match-box from a gentleman and
has got it somewhere about him now. Stand up, you young devilnone of
your blarney. Where's the box now and what have you done with it?
I picked it up and give it to Captain Forrestso help me Gawd,
it's true. Arst him if I didn't.
The sergeant laughed openly at the story.
He run two of our men from the National Sporting right round Covent
Garden and back, sir, he said to Alban. The gentleman dropped the box
and couldn't wait. But we'll see about all that in the morning.
If you mean Captain Forrest of the Trafalgar Club, I have just left
him, interposed Alban, quickly; this lad has been known to me for
some years and I am positively sure he is not a thief. Indeed, I will
answer for him anywhereand if he did pick up the box, I can promise
you that Captain Forrest will not prosecute.
He turned to Betty and asked him an anxious question.
Is it true, Bettydid you pick up the box?
I picked it up and put it into the gentleman's hand. He couldn't
stand straight and he dropped it again. Then a cab runner found it and
some one cried 'stop thief.' I was frightened and ran away. That's the
truth, Mr. Alban, if I die for it
We must search you, Betty, to satisfy the officers.
Oh, yes, sirI'm quite willing to be searched.
He turned out all his pockets there and then, was pinched and pushed
and cuffed to no avail. The indignant Sarah shaking her clothes in the
sergeant's face dared him to do the same for her and to take the
consequences of his curiosity. The Archbishop obligingly offered his
pockets, which, as he said, were open at all times to the inspection of
his Majesty's authorized servants. A few words aside between Alban and
the assembled police, the crisp rustle of a bank-note in the darkness,
helped conviction to a final victory. There were other ferrets in that
dark warren and bigger game to be had.
Well, sir, said the sergeant, if you'll answer for Captain
Forrestand he'll want a lot of answering for to-nightI'll leave the
lad in your hands. But don't let me find any of 'em down here again, or
it will go hard with them. Now, be off all of you, for we have work to
do. And mind you remember what I say.
It was a blessed release and all quitted the place without an
instant's delay. Out in the open street, the Archbishop of Bloomsbury
took Alban aside and congratulated him upon his good fortune.
So your old friend Boriskoff has found you a job? he said, laying
a patronizing hand on the lad's stout shoulder. Well, well, I knew
Richard Gessner when I waserhemon duty in Kensington, and in all
matters of public charity I certainly found him to be an example. You
know, of course, that he is a Pole and that his real name is Maxim
Gogol. General Kaulbars told me as much when he was visiting England
some years ago. Your friend is a Pole who would find himself singularly
inconvenienced if he were called upon to return to Poland. Believe me,
how very much astonished I was to hear that you had taken up your
residence in his house.
Then you heard about itfrom whom? Alban asked.
Oh, 'Betty' followed you, on the day the person who calls himself
Willy Forrest, but is really the son of a jockey named Weston, returned
from Winchester. We were anxious about you, Albanwe questioned the
company into which you had fallen. I may say, indeed, that our hearths
were desolate and crape adorned our spears. We thought that you had
forgotten usand what is life when those who should remember prefer to
Alban answered at hazard, for he knew perfectly well what was
coming. The boy Betty, still frightened out of his wits, clung close
to the skirts of the homeless Sarah and walked with her, he knew not
whither. A drizzle of rain had begun to fall; the streets were shining
as desolate rivers of the nightthe Caves behind them stood for a
house of the enemy which none might enter again. But Alban alone was
silentfor his generosity had loosened the pilgrims' tongues, and they
spoke as they went of a morrow which should give them bread.
There are many spurs to a woman's vanity, but declared indifference
is surely the sharpest of them all. When Anna Gessner discovered that
Alban was not willing to enroll himself in the great band of
worshippers who knelt humbly at her golden shrine, she set about
converting him with a haste which would have been dangerous but for its
transparent dishonesty. In love herself, so far as such a woman could
ever be in love at all, with the dashing and brainless jockey who
managed her race-horses, she was quite accustomed, none the less, to
add the passionate confessions and gold-sick protestations of others to
her volume of amatory recollections, and it was not a little amazing
that a mere youth should be discovered, so obstinate, so chilly and so
indifferent as to remain insensible both to her charms and their value,
in what her father had called pounds sterling.
When Alban first came to Five Gables, his honesty amused her
greatly. She liked to hear him speak of the good which her father's
money could do in the slums and alleys he had left. It was a rare
entertainment for her to be told of those dreadful people who sewed
shirts all day and were frequently engaged in the same occupation when
midnight came. I shall call you the Missionary, she had said, and
would sit at his feet while he confessed some of the wild hopes which
animated him, or justified his desire for that great humanity of the
East whose supreme human need was sympathy. Anna herself did not
understand a word of itbut she liked to have those clear blue eyes
fixed upon her, to hear the soft musical voice and to wonder when this
pretty boy would speak of his love for her.
But the weeks passed and no word of love was spoken, and the woman
in her began to ask why this should be. She was certain as she could be
that her beauty had dazzled the lad when first he came to Five
Gables. She remembered what fervid glances he had turned upon her when
first they met, how his eyes had expressed unbounded admiration, nay
worship such as was unknown in the circles in which she moved. If this
silent adoration flattered her for the moment, honesty played no little
part in its successfor though there had been lovers who looked deep
into her heart before, the majority carried but liabilities to her feet
and, laying them there, would gladly have exchanged them for her
father's cheques to salve their financial wounds. In Alban she had met
for the first time a natural English lad who had no secrets to hide
from her. He will worship the ground upon which I walk, she had said
in the mood of sundry novelettes borrowed from her maid. And this, in
truth, the lad might very well have come to do.
But the weeks passed and Alban remained silent, and the declaration
she had desired at first as an amusement now became a vital necessity
to her fasting vanity. Believing that their surroundings at Hampstead,
the formality, the servants, the splendor of Five Gables, forbade
that little comedy of love for which she hungered, she went off, in her
father's absence, to their cottage at Henley, and compelling Alban to
follow her, she played Phyllis to his Corydon with an ardor which could
not have been surpassed. Aping the schoolgirl, she would wear her hair
upon her shoulders, carry her gown shortened, and bare her sleeves to
the suns of June. The rose garden became the arbor of her delights.
You shall love me, she said to herselfand in the determination a
passion wholly vain and not a little hazardous found its birth and
For hours together now, she would compel this unconscious slave to
row her in the silent reaches or to hide with her in backwaters to
which the mob rarely came. Deluding him by the promise that her father
was returning shortly from Paris and would come to Henley immediately
upon his arrival, she led Alban to forget the days of waiting, petted
him as though he had been her lover through the years, invited him a
hundred times a day to say, I love youyou shall be my wife.
In his turn, he remained silent and amazed, tempted sorely by her
beauty, not understanding and yet desiring to understand why he could
not love her. True, indeed, that the image of another would intervene
sometimesa little figure in rags, wan and pitiful and alone; but the
environment in which the vision of the past had moved, the slums, the
alleys, the mean streets, these would hedge the picture about and then
leave the dreamer averse and shuddering. Not there could liberty be
found again. The world must show its fields to the wanderer when again
he dared it alone.
Alban remembered one night above all others of this strange
seclusion, and that was a night of a woman's humiliation. There had
been great bustle all day, the coming of oarsmen and of coaches to
Henley, and all the aquatic renaissance which prefaces the great
regatta. Their own cottage, lying just above the bridge with a shady
garden extending to the water's edge, was no longer the place apart
that it had been. Strangers now anchored a little way from their
boat-house and consumed monstrous packets of sandwiches and the
contents of abundant bottles. There were house-boats being tugged up
and down the river, little groups of rowing men upon the bridge all
day, the music of banjos by night, and lanterns glowing in the
darkness. Anna watched this pretty scene as one who would really take a
young girl's part in it. She simulated an interest in the rowing about
which she knew nothing at allvisited the house-boats of such of her
friends as had come down for the regatta, and was, in Willy Forrest's
words, as skittish as a two-year-old that had slipped its halter.
Forrest had been to and fro from the stable near Winchester on several
occasions. He comes to tell me that I am about to lose a fortune, and
I am beginning to hate him, Anna said; and on this occasion she
enjoyed that diverting and unaccustomed recreation known as speaking
There had been such a visit as this upon the morning of the day when
Anna spoke intimately to Alban of his future and her own. Her mood now
abandoned itself utterly to her purpose. The close intimacy of these
quiet days had brought her to the point where a real if momentary
passion compelled her to desire this boy's love as she had never
desired anything in all her life. To bring him to that declaration she
sought so ardently, to feel his kisses upon her lips, to play the young
lover's part if it were but for a day, to this folly her vanity had
driven her. And now the opportunities for words were not denied. She
had spent the afternoon in the backwaters up by Shiplake; there had
been a little dinner afterwards with the old crone who served them so
usefully as chaperonea dependent who had eyes but did not see, ears
which, as she herself declared, would think scorn to listen. Amiable
dame, she was in bed by nine o'clock, while Alban and Anna were lying
in a punt at the water's edge, listening to the music of a distant
guitar and watching the twinkling lights far away below the bridge
where the boat-houses stand.
A Chinese lantern suspended upon a short boat-hook cast a deep
crimson glow upon the faces of those who might well have been young
lovers. The river rippled musically against the square bows of their
ugly but comfortable craft. But few passed them by and those were also
seekers after solitude, with no eyes for their co-religionists in the
amatory gospel. Alban, wholly fascinated by the silence and the beauty
of the scene, lay at Anna's feet, so full of content that he did not
dare to utter his thoughts aloud. The girl caught the tiny wavelets in
her outstretched hand and said that Corydon had become blind.
Do you like Willy Forrest? she asked, do you think he is clever,
Alban?a question, the answer to which would not interest her at all
if it did not lead to others. Alban, in his turn, husbanding the
secrets, replied evasively:
Why should I think about him? He is not a friend of mine. You are
the one to answer that, Anna. You like himI have heard you say so.
Never believe what a girl says. I adore Willy Forrest because he
makes me laugh. I am like the poor little white rabbit which is
fascinated by the great black wriggly snake. Some day it will swallow
me upperhaps on Thursdayafter Ascot. I wish I could tell you.
Pandora seems to have dropped everything out of her basket except the
winner of the Gold Cup. If Willy Forrest is right, I shall win a
fortune. But, of course, he doesn't tell the truth any more than I do.
Alban was silent a little while and then he asked her:
Do you know much about him, Anna? Did you ever meet his people or
She looked at him sharply.
He is the son of Sir John Forrest, who died in India. His brother
was lost at sea. What made you ask me?
He laughed as though it had not been meant.
You say that he doesn't tell the truth. Suppose it were so about
himself. He might be somebody elsenot altogether the person he
pretends to be. Would it matter if he were? I don't think so, AnnaI
would much rather know something about a man himself than about his
She sat up in the punt and rested her chin upon the knuckles of her
shapely hands. This kind of talk was little to her liking. She had
often doubted Willy Forrest, but had never questioned his title to the
name he bore.
Have they ever told you anything about us, Alban? she continued,
did you ever hear any stories which I should not hear?
Only from Captain Forrest himself; he told me that he was engaged
to you. That was when I went to the Savoy Hotel.
All those weeks ago. And you never mentioned it?
Was it any business of mine? What right had I to speak to you about
She flushed deeply.
A secret for a secret, she said. When you first came to
Hampstead, I thought that you liked me a little Alban. Now, I know that
you do not. Suppose there were a reason why I let Willy Forrest say
that he was engaged to me. Suppose some one else had been unkind when I
wished him to be very kind to me. Would you understand then?
This was in the best spirit of the coquette and yet a great
earnestness lay behind it. Posing in that romantic light, the thick red
lips pouting, the black eyes shining as with the clear flame of a soul
awakened, the head erect as that of a deer which has heard a sound
afar, this passionate little actress, half Pole, half Jewess, might
well have set a man's heart beating and brought him, suppliant, to her
feet. To Alban there returned for a brief instant all that spirit of
homage and of awe with which he had first beheld her on the balcony of
the house in St. James' Square. The cynic in him laid down his robe and
stood before her in the garb of youth spellbound and fascinated. He
dared to say to himself, she loves meit is to me that these words are
I cannot understand you, Anna, he exclaimed, tortured by some
plague of a sudden memory, held back from a swift embrace he knew not
by what instinct. You say that you only let Willy Forrest call himself
engaged to you. Don't you love him thenis it all false that you have
It is quite false, AlbanI do not love him as you would understand
the meaning of the word. If he says that I am engaged to him, is it
true because he says it? There are some men who marry women simply
because they are persevering. Willy Forrest would be one of them if I
were weak enough. But I do not love himI shall never love him,
She bent low and almost whispered the words in his ear. Her hand
covered his fingers caressingly. His forehead touched the lace upon her
robe and he could hear her heart beating. An impulse almost
irresistible came upon him to take her in his arms and hold her there,
and find in her embrace that knowledge of the perfect womanhood which
had been his dream through the years. He knew not what held him back.
Anna watched him with a hope that was almost as an intoxication of
doubt and curiosity. She loved him in that moment with all a young
girl's ardor. She believed that the whole happiness of her life lay in
the words he was about to speak.
A man's voice, calling to them from the lawn, sent them instantly
apart as though caught in some guilty confidence. Anna knew that
something unwonted had happened and that Willy Forrest had returned.
What has brought him back? she exclaimed a little wildly; and
then, Don't go away, Alban, I shall want you. My father would never
forgive me if he heard of it. Of course he cannot stop here.
Alban made no reply, but he helped her to the bank and they crossed
the lawn together. In the light of the veranda, they recognized
Forrest, carrying a motor cap in his hand and wearing a dust coat which
almost touched his heels. He had evidently dined and was full of the
story of his mishap.
Hello, Anna, here's a game, he began, my old fumigator's broke
down and I'm on the cold, cold world. Never had such a time in my life.
Shoved the thing from Taplow and nothing but petrol to drinkeh, what,
can't you see me? I say, Anna, you'll have to put me up to-night. There
isn't a billiard table to let in the town, and I can't sleep on the
grasseh, whatyou wouldn't put me out to graze, now would you?
He entered the dining-room with them, and they stood about the table
while the argument was continued.
Billy says the nagwhat-d'yer-call-it's gone lame in the off
fore-leg. She went down at the distance like a filly that's been
hocussed. There were the two of us in the bally dustand look at my
fingers where I burned 'em with matches. After that a parson came along
in a gig. I asked him if he had a whisky-and-soda aboard and he didn't
quote the Scriptures. We couldn't get the blighter to move, and I
ground the handle like Signor Gonedotti of Saffron Hill in the parish
of High Holborn. You'd have laughed fit to split if you'd have been
there, Annaand, oh my Sammy, what a thing it is to have a thirst and
to bring it home with you. Do I see myself before a mahogany one or do
I noteh, what? Do I dream, do I sleep, or is visions about? You'll
put us up, of course, Anna? I've told Billy as much and he's shoving
the car into the coach-house now.
He stalked across the room and without waiting to be asked helped
himself to a whisky-and-soda. Anna looked quickly at Alban as though to
say, You must help me in this. Twenty-four hours ago she would not
have protested at this man's intrusion, but to-night the glamor of the
love-dream was still upon her, the idyll of her romance echoed in her
ears and would admit no other voice.
Willy, she said firmly, you know that you cannot stop. My father
would never forgive me. He has absolutely forbidden you the house.
He turned round, the glass still in his hand and the soda from the
siphon running in a fountain over the table-cloth.
Your father! He's in Paris, ain't he? Are we going to telegraph
about it? What nonsense you are talking, Anna!
I am telling you what I mean. You cannot stop here and you must go
to the hotel immediately.
He looked at her quite gravely, cast an ugly glance upon Alban and
Oh, so that's the game. I've tumbled into the nest and the young
birds are at home. Say it again, Anna. You show me the door because
this young gentleman doesn't like my company. Is it that or something
else? Perhaps I'll take it that the old girl upstairs is going to ask
me my intentions. The sweet little Anna Gessner of my youth has got the
megrims and is off to Miss Bolt-up-Right to have a good cry
togethereh, what, are you going to cry, Anna? Hang me if you wouldn't
give the crocodiles six pounds and a beatingeh, what, six pounds and
a beating and odds on any day.
He approached her step by step as he spoke, while the girl's face
blanched and her fear of him was to be read in every look and gesture.
Alban had been but a spectator until this moment, but Anna's distress
and the bullying tone in which she had been addressed awakened every
combative instinct he possessed, and he thrust himself into the fray
with a resolute determination to make an end of it.
Look here, Forrest, he exclaimed, we've had about enough of this.
You know that you can't stop herewhy do you make a fuss about it? Go
over to the hotel. There's plenty of room therethey told me so this
Forrest laughed at the invitation, but there was more than laughter
in his voice when he replied:
Thank you for your good intentions, my boy. I am very much obliged
to your worship. A top-floor attic and a marble bath. Eh, whatyou
want to put me in a garret? I'll see you the other side of Jordan
first. Oh, come, it's a nice game, isn't it? Papa away and little Anna
canoodling with the Whitechapel boy. Are we downhearted? No. But I
ain't going, old pal, and that's a fact.
He almost fell into an arm-chair and looked upon them with that
bland air of patronage which intoxication inspires. Anna, very pale and
frightened, was upon the point of summoning the servants; but Alban,
wiser in his turn, forbade her to do so.
You go to bed, Anna, he said quietly, Captain Forrest and I will
have a talk. I'm sure he doesn't expect you to sit up. Eh, Forrest,
don't you think that Anna had better go?
By all means, old chap. Nothing like bedI'm going myself in a
minute or two. Don't you sit up, Anna. Anywhere's good enough for me.
I'll sleep in the greenhouseeh, what? Your gardener'll find a new
specimen in the morning and get fits. Mind he don't prune me, though. I
can't afford to lose much at my time of life. You go to bed, Anna, and
dream of little Willy. He's going to make your fortune on
Thursdaygood old Lodestar, some of 'em'll feel the draught, you bet.
Don't spoil your complexion on my account, Anna. You go to bed and keep
He rambled on, half good-humoredly, wholly determined in his
resolution to stay. Anna had never found him obstinate or in opposition
to her will before, and blazing cheeks and flashing eyes expressed her
resentment at an attitude so changed.
Alban, she said quietly, Captain Forrest will not stay. Will you
please see that he does not.
She withdrew upon the words and left the two men alone. They
listened and heard her mounting the stairs with slow steps. While
Forrest was still disposed to treat the matter as a joke, Alban had
enough discretion to avoid a scene if it could be avoided. He was quite
calm and willing to forget the insult that had been offered to him.
Why not make an end of it, Forrest? he said presently. I'll go to
the hotel with youyou know perfectly well that you can get a bed
there. What's the good of playing the fool?
I was never more serious in my life, old man. Here I am and here I
stay. There's no place like homeeh, what? Why should you do stunts
about it? What's it to do with you after all? Suppose you think you're
master here. Then give us a whisky-and-soda for luck, my boy.
I shall not give you a whisky-and-soda and I do not consider myself
the master here. That has nothing to do with it. You know that Anna
wishes you to go, and go you shall. What's to be gained by being
Forrest looked at him cunningly.
Appears that I intrude, he exclaimed with a sudden flash which
declared his real purpose, little Anna Gessner and the boy out of
Whitechapel making a match of it togethereh, what? Don't let's have
any rotten nonsense, old man. You're gone on the girl and you don't
want me here. Say so and be a man. You've played a low card on me and
you want to see the hand out. Isn't it that? Say so and be honest if
It's a lie, retorted Alban, quietlyand then unable to restrain
himself he added quickly, a groom's lie and you know it.
Forrest, sobered in a moment by the accusation, sprang up from his
chair as though stung by the lash of a whip.
What's that, he cried, what do you say?
That you are not the son of Sir John Forrest at all. Your real name
is Westonyour father was a jockey and you were born at Royston near
Cambridge. That's what I say. Answer it when you likebut not in this
house, for you won't have the opportunity. There's the door and that's
your road. Now step out before I make you.
He pointed to the open door and drew a little nearer to his slim
antagonist. Forrest, a smile still upon his face, stood for an instant
irresolutethen recovering himself, he threw the glass he held as
though it had been a ball, and the missile, striking Alban upon the
forehead, cut him as a knife would have done.
You puppy, you gutter-snipeI'll show you who I am. Wipe that off
if you can; and then almost shouting, he cried, Here, Anna, come down
and see what I've done to your little ewe lamb, come down and comfort
himAnna, do you hear?
He said no more, for Alban had him by the throat, leaping upon him
with the ferocity of a wild beast and carrying him headlong to the lawn
before the windows. Never in his life had such a paroxysm of anger
overtaken the boy or one which mastered him so utterly. Blindly he
struck; his blows rained upon the cowering face as though he would beat
it out of all recognition. He knew not wholly why he thus acted if not
upon some impulse which would avenge the wrongs good women had suffered
at the hands of such an impostor as this. When he desisted, the man lay
almost insensible upon the grass at his feetand he, drawing apart,
felt the hot tears running down his face and could not restrain them.
For in a measure he felt that his very chivalry had been faithless
to one who had loved him welland in the degradation of that violent
scene he recalled the spirit of the melancholy years, the atmosphere of
the mean streets, and the figure of little Lois Boriskoff asking both
his pity and his love.
Richard Gessner returned to Hampstead on the Friday in Ascot week
and upon the following morning Anna and Alban came back from Henley.
They said little of their adventures there, save to tell of quiet days
upon sunny waters; nor did the shrewdest questioning add one iota to
the tale. Indeed, Gessner's habitual curiosity appeared, for the time
being, to have deserted him, and they found him affable and
good-humored almost to the point of wonder.
It had been a very long time, as Anna declared, since anything of
this kind had shed light upon the commonly gloomy atmosphere of Five
Gables. For weeks past Gessner had lived as a man who carried a secret
which he dared to confess to none. Night or day made no difference to
him. He lived apart, seeing many strangers in his study and rarely
visiting the great bank in Lombard Street where so many fortunes lay.
To Alban he was the same mysterious, occasionally gracious figure which
had first welcomed him to the magnificent hospitality of his house.
There were days when he appeared to throw all restraint aside and
really to desire this lad's affection as though he had been his own
sonother days when he shrank from him, afraid to speak lest he should
name him the author of his vast misfortunes. And now, as it were in an
instant, he had cast both restraint and fear aside, put on his ancient
bonhomie and given full rein to that natural affection of which he was
very capable. Even the servants remarked a change so welcome and so
Let it be written down as foreordained in the story of this unhappy
house, that in like measure as the father recovered his
self-possession, so, as swiftly, had the daughter journeyed to the
confines of tragedy and learned there some of those deeper lessons
which the world is ever ready to teach. Anna returned from Henley so
greatly changed that her altered appearance rarely escaped remark.
Defiant, reckless, almost hysterical, her unnatural gaiety could not
cloak her anxiety nor all her artifice disguise it. If she had told the
truth, it would have been to admit a position, not only of humiliation
but of danger. A whim, by which she would have amused herself, had
created a situation from which she could not escape. She loved Alban
and had not won his love. The subtle antagonist against whom she played
had turned her weapons adroitly and caught her in the deadly meshes of
his fatal net. Not for an instant since she stood upon the lawn at
Ascot and witnessed the defeat of her great horse Lodestar had she
ceased to tell herself that the world pointed the finger at her and
held up her name to scorn. They say that I cheated them, she would
tell herself and that estimate of the common judgment was entirely
It had been a great race upon a brilliant day of summer. Alban had
accompanied her to the enclosure and feasted his eyes upon that rainbow
scene, so amazing in its beauty, so bewildering in its glow of color
that it stood, to his untrained imagination, for the whole glory of the
world. Of the horses or their meaning he knew nothing at all. This
picture of radiant women, laughing, feasting, flirting at the heart of
a natural forest; the vast concourse of spectatorsthe thousand hues
of color flashing in the sunshine, the stands, the music, the royal
procession, the superbly caparisoned horses, the State carriageswhat
a spectacle it was, how far surpassing all that he had been led to
expect of Money and its kingdom. Let Anna move excitedly amid the
throng, laughing with this man, changing wit with anotherhe was
content just to watch the people, to reflect upon their happy lives, it
may be to ask himself what justification they had when the children
were wanting bread and the great hosts of the destitute lay encamped
beyond the pale. Such philosophy, to be sure, had but a short shrift on
such a day. The intoxication of the scene quickly ran hot in his veins
and he surrendered to it willingly. These were hours to live, precious
every one of themand who would not worship the gold which brought
them, who would not turn to it as to the lodestar of desire?
And then the race! Anna had talked of nothing else since they set
out in the motor to drive over to the course. Her anger against Willy
Forrest appeared to be forgotten for the time beinghe, on his part,
eying Alban askance, but making no open complaint against him, met her
in the paddock and repeated his assurances that Lodestar could not
They run him down to evens, Anna, he said, and precious lucky we
were to get the price we did. There'll be some howls to-night, but
what's that to us? Are we a philanthropic society, do we live to endow
the multitude? Not much, by no means, oh dear, no. We live to make an
honest bitand we'll make it to-day if ever we did. You go easy and
don't butt in. I've laid all that can be got at the price and the
rest's best in your pocket. You'll want a bit for the other raceseh,
what? You didn't come here to knit stockings, now did you, Anna?
She laughed with him and returned to see the race. Her excitement
gave her a superb color, heightened her natural beauty and turned many
admiring eyes upon her. To Alban she whispered that she was going to
make a fortune, and he watched her curiously, almost afraid for himself
and for her. When the great thrill passed over the stands and they're
off echoed almost as a sound of distant thunder, he crept closer to
her as though to share the excitement of which she was mistress. The
specks upon the green were nothing to himthose dots of color moving
swiftly across the scene, how odd to think that they might bring riches
or beggary in their train! This he knew to be the stern fact, and when
men began to shout hoarsely, to press together and crane their necks,
when that very torrent of sound which named the distance arose, he
looked again at Anna and saw that she was smiling. She has won, he
said, she will be happy to-night.
The horses passed the post in a cluster. Alban, unaccustomed to the
objects of a race-course, had not an eye so well trained that he could
readily distinguish the colors or locate with certainty the position of
the pinkgreen sleeveswhite capthe racing jacket of Count
Donato, as Anna was known to the Jockey Club. He could make out
nothing more than a kaleidoscope of color changing swiftly upon a
verdant arena, this and an unbroken line of people stretching away to
the very confines of the woodlands and a rampart wall of stands and
boxes and tents. For him there were no niceties of effort and of
counter-effort. The jockeys appeared to be so many little monkeys
clinging to the necks of wild chargers who rolled in their distress as
though to shake off the imps tormenting them. The roar of voices
affrighted himhe could not understand that lust of gain which
provoked the mad outcry, the sudden forgetfulness of self and dignity
and environment, the absolute surrender to the desire of victory. Nor
was the succeeding silence less mysterious. It came as the hush in an
interval of tempests. The crowd drew back from the railings and moved
about as quietly as though nothing of any consequence had happened.
Anna herself, smiling still, stood just where she was; but her back was
now toward the winning-post and she seemed to have forgotten its
Do you know, she said very slowly, my horse has lost.
What does that mean? Alban asked with real earnestness.
She laughed again, looking about her a little wildly as though to
read something of the story upon other faces.
What does it meanoh, lots of things. I wonder if we could get a
cup of tea, AlbanI think I should like one.
He said that he would see and led her across the enclosure toward
the marquee. As they went a sybilant sound of hissing arose. The
Alright had come from the weighing-in room and the people were
hissing the winner. Presently, from the far side of the course, a
louder outcry could be heard. That which the men in the gray
frock-coats were telling each other in whispers was being told also by
the mob in stentorian tones. The horse was pulled off his feet, said
the knowing ones; they ought to warn the whole crowd off.
Anna heard these cries and began dimly to understand them. She knew
that Willy Forrest had done this in return for the slight she had put
upon him at Henley. He had named his own jockey for the race and chosen
one who had little reputation to lose. Between them they would have
reason to remember the Royal Hunt Cup for many a day. Their gains could
have been little short of thirty thousand poundsand of this sum, Anna
owed them nearly five thousand.
She heard the people's cries and the sounds affrighted her. Not an
Englishwoman, none the less she had a good sense of personal honor, and
her pride was wounded, not only because of this affront but that a
strange people should put it upon her. Had it been any individual
accusation, she would have faced it gladlybut this intangible
judgment of the multitude, the whispering all about her, the sidelong
glances of the men and the open contempt of the women, these she could
Let us go back to the bungalow to tea, she exclaimed suddenly, as
though it were but a whim of the moment; this place makes my head
ache. Let us start now and avoid the crush. Don't you think it would be
a great idea, Alban?
He said that it would bebut chancing to look at her while she
spoke, he perceived the tears gathering in her eyes and knew that she
had suffered a great misfortune.
* * * * *
Richard Gessner knew nothing of Anna's racing escapades, nor had he
any friend who made it his business to betray them. The day was rare
when he made an inquiry concerning her amusements or the manner of
them. Women were in his eyes just so many agreeable decorations for the
tables at which men dined. Of their mental capacity he had no opinion
whatever, and it was a common jest for him to declare their brain power
consistently inferior to that of the male animal.
There has been no woman financial genius since the world began, he
would observe, and if those who contradicted him named the arts, he
waved them aside. What is art when finance is before us? That Anna
should amuse herself was well and proper. He wished her to marry well
that he might have spoken of my daughter, Lady Annanot with pride
as most men would speak, but ironically as one far above such petty
titles and able from his high place to deride them.
Of her daily life, it must be confessed that he knew very little. A
succession of worthy if incompetent dependants acted the chaperones
part for him and satisfied his conscience upon that score. He heard of
her at this social function or at that, and was glad that she should
go. Men would say, There's a catch for youold Gessner's daughter; he
must be worth a million if he's worth a penny. Her culpable
predisposition toward that pleasant and smooth-tongued rascal, Willy
Forrest, annoyed him for the time being but was soon forgotten. He
believed that the man would not dare to carry pursuit farther, and if
he did, the remedy must be drastic.
I will buy up his debts and send him through the Court, Gessner
said. If that does not do, we must find out his past and see where we
can have him. My daughter may not marry as I wish, but if she marries a
jockey, I have done with her. And this at hazard, though he had not
the remotest idea who Forrest really was and had not taken the trouble
to find out. When the man ceased to visit Five Gables he forgot him
immediately. He was the very last person in all London whom he
suspected when Anna, upon the day following his return from Paris,
asked that they might have a little talk together and named the
half-hour immediately before dinner for that purpose. He received her
in his study, whither Fellows had already carried him a glass of sherry
and bitters, and being in the best of good humor, he frankly confessed
his pleasure that she should so appeal to him.
Come in, Anna, come in, my dear. What's the matter nowbeen
getting into mischief? Oh, you girlsalways the same story, a man or a
milliner, and the poor old father to get you out of it. What is it this
timePaquin or Worth? Don't mind me, Anna. I can always live in a
cottage on a pound a week. The doctor says I should be the better for
it. Perhaps I should. Half the complaints we suffer from are just 'too
much.' Think that over and add it up. You look very pale, my girl.
You're not ill, are you?
The sudden change of tone occurred as Anna advanced into the light
and seated herself in the bow-window overlooking the rose garden. She
wore a delicate skirt of pink satin below a superb gown of chiffon and
real lace. A single pink rose decorated her fine black hair which she
had coiled upon her neck to betray a shapely contour of dazzlingly
white skin beneath it. Her jewels were few but remarkable. The pearls
about her neck had been called bronze in tint and were perfect in their
shape. She carried a diamond bracelet upon her right arm, and its
glitter flashed about her as a radiant spirit of the riches whose
emblems she wore. The pallor of her face was in keeping with the
picture. The wild black eyes seemed alight with all the fires of
I am not ill, father, she said, but there is something about
which I must speak to you.
Yes, yes, Annaof course. And this is neither Paquin nor Worth, it
appears. Oh, you little rogue. To come to me like thisto come to your
poor old father and bring him a son-in-law for dinner. Ha, ha,I'll
remember thata son-in-law to dinner. Well, I sha'n't eat him, Anna,
if he's all right. It wouldn't be Alban Kennedy now?
He became serious in an instant, putting the question as though his
favor depended upon her answer in the negative. Anna, however, quite
ignored the suggestion when she replied.
I came to speak to you about Ascot, father
About Ascotwho's Ascot?
The races at Ascot. I ran a horse there and lost five thousand
Whatyou lostcome, Anna, my dear childyou lostthink of it
againyou lost fifty pounds? And who the devil took you there, I want
to knowwho's been playing the fool? I don't agree with young girls
betting. I'll have none of that sort of thing in this house. Just tell
him sowhoever he is. I'll have none of it, and if it's that
He broke off at the words, arrested in his banter by the sudden
memory of a name. As in a flash he perceived the truth. The man Forrest
was at the bottom of this.
Now be plain with me, he cried, you've seen Willy Forrest again
and this is his doing. Yes or no, Anna? Don't you tell me a lie. It's
Forresthe took you to Ascot?
She smiled at his anger.
I ran a horse named Lodestar under the name of Count Donato. I
believed that he would win and he lost. That's the story, father. Why
drag any names into it?
He regarded her, too amazed to speak. His daughter, this bit of a
schoolgirl as he persisted in calling her, she had run a race-horse in
her own name? What a thing to hear! But was it an evil thing. The girl
had plenty of courage certainly. Very few would have had the pluck to
do it at all. Of course it was unlucky that she had not wonbut, after
all, that could soon be put straight.
You ran a race-horsebut who trained it for you? where did you
keep it? Why did I know nothing about it? Look here, Anna, this isn't
dealing very fair with me. I have never denied you any pleasureyou
know I haven't. If you wanted to play this game, why couldn't you have
come to me and told me so? I wouldn't have denied youbut five
thousand; you're not serious about thatyou don't mean to say that you
lost five thousand pounds?
I lost five thousand pounds, fatherand I must pay the money. They
will call me a cheat if I do not. It must be paid on MondayWilly says
He turned upon her with a shout that was almost a roar. She knew in
an instant how foolish she had been.
Willy Forrestdid you lose the money to him? Come, speak out. I
shall get at the truth somehowdid you lose the money to him?
I lost it through himhe made the bets for me.
Then I will not pay a penny of it if it sends you to prison. Not a
penny as I'm a living man.
She heard him calmly and delivered her answer as calmly.
I shall marry him if you do not, she said.
Gessner stood quite still and watched her face closely. It had grown
hard and cold, the face of a woman who has taken a resolution and will
not be turned from it.
You will marry Forrest? he asked quietly.
I shall marry him and he will pay my debts.
Hehe hasn't got two brass pieces to rub together. He's a needy
out-at-elbow adventurer. Do you want to know who William Forrest
iswell, my detectives shall tell me in the morning. I'll find out all
about him for you. And you'd marry him! Well, my lady, there you'll do
as you please. I've done with a daughter who tells me that to my face.
Go and marry him. Live in a kennel. But don't come to me for a bone,
don't think I'm to be talked over, because that's not my habit. If you
choose such a man as that
I do not choose him. There are few I would not sooner marry. I am
thinking of my good nameof our good name. If I marry Willy Forrest,
they will say that I helped to cheat the public. Do you not know that
it is being said already. The horse was pulledI believe that I am not
to be allowed to race again. Poor Mr. Farrier is terribly upset. They
say that we were all cheats together. What can I do, father? If I pay
the money and they know that we lost it, that is a good answer to them.
If I do not, Willy is probably the one man who can put matters straight
and I shall marry him.
She rose as though this was the end of the argument. Her words,
lightly spoken, were so transparently honest that the shrewd man of
business summed up the whole situation in an instant. The mere
possibility that his name should be mixed up with a racing scandal
staggered him by its dangers and its absurdity. Anger against his
daughter became in some measure compassion. Of course she was but a
woman and a clever charlatan had entrapped her.
Sit downsit down, he said bluffly, motioning her back to her
seat. It is perfectly clear that this William Forrest of yours is a
rogue, and as a rogue we must treat him. I am astonished at what you
tell me. It is a piece of nonsense, women's sense as ridiculous as the
silly business which is responsible for it. Of course you must pay them
the money. I will do the rest, Anna. I have friends who will quickly
put that matter straightand if your rogue finds his way to a
race-course again, he is a very lucky man. Now sit down and let me
speak to you in my turn, Anna. I want you to speak about AlbanI want
to hear how you like him. He has now been with us long enough for us to
know something about him. Let us see if your opinion agrees with mine.
His keen scrutiny detected a flush upon her face while he asked the
question and he understood that all he had suspected had been nothing
but the truth. Anna had come to love this open-minded lad who had been
forced upon them by such an odd train of circumstances; her threats
concerning Willy Forrest were the merest bravado. Gessner would have
trembled at the knowledge a week ago, but to-night it found him
singularly complacent. He listened to Anna's response with the air of a
light-hearted judge who condemned a guilty prisoner out of her own
Alban Kennedy has many good qualities, she said. I think he is
very worthy of your generosity.
Ah, you like him, I perceive. Let us suppose, Anna, that my
intentions toward him were to go beyond anything I had
imaginedsuppose, being no longer under any compulsion in the matter,
the compulsion of an imaginary obligation which does not exist, I were
still to consider him as my own son. Would you be surprised then at my
It would not surprise me, she said. You have always wished for a
son. Alban is the most original boy of his age I have ever met. He is
clever and absurdly honest. I don't think you would regret any kindness
you may show to him.
And you yourself?
What have I to do with it, father?
It might concern you very closely, Anna.
In what way, father?
In the only way which would concern a woman. Suppose that I thought
of him as your husband?
She flushed crimson.
Have you spoken to him on the matter?
No, but being about to speak to himafter dinner to-night.
I should defer my opinion until that has happened.
He laughed as though the idea of it amused him very much.
Of course, he will have nothing to do with us, Anna. What is a
fortune to such a fine fellow? What is a great houseand I say ita
very beautiful wife? Of course, he will refuse us. Any boy would do
that, especially one who has been brought up in Union Street. Now go
and look for him in the garden. I must tell Geary to have that cheque
drawn outand mind you, if I meet that fellow Forrest, I will half
kill him just to show my good opinion of him. This nonsense must end
to-night. Remember, it is a promise to me.
She shrugged her shoulders and left the room with slow steps.
Gessner, still smiling, turned up a lamp by his writing-table and took
out his cheque-book.
They were a merry party at the dinner-table, and the Reverend Silas
Geary amused them greatly by his discussion of that absorbing topic, is
golf worth playing? He himself, good man, deplored the fact that
several worthy persons who, otherwise, would have been working ten or
twelve hours a day as Cabinet ministers, deliberately toiled in the
sloughs and pits of the golf course.
The whole nation is chasing a little ball, he said; we deplore
the advance of Germany, but, I would ask you, how does the German spend
his day, what are his needs, where do his amusements lie? There is a
country for youevery man a soldier, every worker an intellect. In
England nowadays our young fellows seem to try and find out how little
they can do. We live for minimums. We are only happy when we have
struck a bat with a ball and it has gone far. We reserve our greatest
honors for those who thus excel.
Alban ventured to say that beer seemed to be the recreation of the
average German and insolence his amusement. He confessed that the
Germans beat his own people by hard work; but he asked, is it really a
good thing that work should be the beginning and the end of all things?
He had been taught at school that the supreme beauty of life lay in
things apart and chiefly in a man's own soul. To which Gessner himself
retorted that a woman's soul was what the writer probably meant.
We have let civilization make us what we are, the banker said
shrewdly, and now we complain of her handiwork. Write what you like
about it, money and love are the only two things left in the world
to-day. The story has always been the same, but people did not read it
so often formerly. There have always been ambition, strife, struggle,
sufferingwhy should the historians trouble to tell of them? You
yourself, Alban, would be a worker if the opportunity came to you. I
have foreseen that from the first moment I met you. If you were
interested, you would outdo the Germans and beat them both with your
head and your hands. But it will be very difficult to interest you. You
would need some great stimulus, and in your case it would be ambition
rather than its rewards.
Alban replied that a love of power was probably the strongest
influence in the world.
We all hate work, he said, repeating his favorite dictum, I don't
suppose there is one man in a thousand who would do another day's work
unless he were compelled. The success of Socialism in our time is the
belief that it will glorify idleness and make it real. The agitators
themselves never work. They have learned the rich men's secretI have
heard them preaching the dignity of labor a hundred times, but I never
yet saw one wheeling a barrow. The poor fellows who listen to them
think that you have only got to pass a few acts of Parliament to be
happy forever after. I pity them, but how are you to teach them that
the present state of things is justand if it is not just, why should
you wish it to last?
Gessner could answer that. A rich man himself, all that concerned
the new doctrines was of the profoundest interest to him.
The present state of things is the only state of thingsin the
bulk, he said; it is as old as the world and will go on as long as
the world. We grumble at our rich men, but those who have amassed their
own fortunes are properly the nation's bankers. Consider what a sudden
gift of money would mean to the working-men of England
to-daydrunkenness, crime, debauchery. You can legislate to improve
the conditions of their lives, but to give them creative brains is
beyond all legislation. And I will tell you thisthat once you have
passed any considerable socialistic legislation for this kingdom of
Great Britain, you have decided her destiny. She will in twenty years
be in the position of Hollanda country that was but never will be
No one disputed the proposition, for no one thoroughly understood
it. Alban had not the courage to debate his pet theorems at such a
time, and the parson was too intent upon denouncing the national want
of seriousness to enter upon such abstruse questions as the banker
would willingly have discussed. So they fell back upon athletics again,
and were busy with football and cricket until the time came for Anna to
withdraw and leave them to their cigars. Silas Geary, quickly imitating
her, waited but for a glass of port before he made his excuses and
departed, as he said, upon a parochial necessity.
We will go to the Winter Garden, Gessner said to Alban when they
were aloneI will see that Fellows takes our coffee there. Bring some
cigarettes, AlbanI wish to have a little private talk with you.
Alban assented willingly, for he was glad of this opportunity to say
much that he had desired to say for some days past. The night had
turned very hot and close, but the glass roof of the Winter Garden
stood open and they sat there almost as in the open air, the great
palms and shrubs all about them and many lights glowing cunningly amid
the giant leaves. As earlier in the evening, so now Gessner was in the
best of spirits, laughing at every trivial circumstance and compelling
his guest to see how kindly was his desposition toward him.
We shall be comfortable here, he said, and far enough away from
the port wine to save me self-reproach to-morrow. I see that you drink
little, Alban. It is wiseall those who have the gout will speak of
your wisdom. We drink because the wine is there, not because we want
it. And then in the morning, we say, how foolish. Come now, light
another cigarette and listen to me. I have great things to talk about,
great questions to ask you. You must listen patiently, for this
concerns your happinessas closely perhaps as anything will concern it
as long as you live.
He did not continue immediately, seeing the footman at his elbow
with the coffee. Alban, upon his part, lighted a cigarette as he had
been commanded, and waited patiently. He thought that he knew what was
coming and yet was afraid of the thought. Anna's sudden passion for him
had been too patent to all the world that he should lightly escape its
consequences. Indeed, he had never waited for any one to speak with the
anxiety which attended this interval of service. He thought that the
footman would never leave them alone.
Now, said Gessner at last, now that those fellows are gone we can
make ourselves comfortable. I shall be very plain, my ladI shall not
deceive you again. When you first came to my house, I did not tell you
the truthI am going to tell it to you to-night, for it is only right
that you should know it.
He stirred his coffee vigorously and puffed at his cigar until it
glowed red again. When he resumed he spoke in brief decisive sentences
as though forbidding question or contradiction until he had finished.
There is a fellow-countryman of mineyou know him and know his
daughter. He believes that I am under some obligation to him and I do
not contradict him. When we met in London, many years after the
business transaction of which he complains, I asked him in what way I
could be of service to him or to his family, as the case might be. He
answered that he wanted nothing for himself, but that any favor I might
be disposed to show should be toward his daughter and to you. I took it
that you were in love with the girl and would marry her. That was what
I was given to believe. At the same time, this fellow Boriskoff assured
me that you were well educated, of a singularly independent character,
and well worthy of being received into this house. I will not deny that
the fellow made very much of this request, and that it was put to me
with certain alternatives which I considered impertinent. You, however,
had no part in that. You came here because the whole truth was not told
to youand you remained because my daughter wished it. There I do not
fear contradiction. You know yourself that it is true and will not
contradict me. As the time went on, I perceived that you had
established a claim to my generosity such as did not exist when first
you came herethe claim of my affection and of my daughter's. This, I
will confess, has given me more pleasure than anything which has
happened here for a long time. I have no son and I take it as the
beneficent work of Providence that one should be sent to me as you were
sent. My daughter would possibly have married a scoundrel if the
circumstances had been otherwise. So, you see, that while you are now
established here by right of our affection, I am rewarded twofold for
anything I may have done for you. Henceforth this happy state of things
must become still happier. I have spoken to Anna to-night, and I should
be very foolish if I could not construe her answer rightly. She loves
you, my lad, and will take you for her husband. It remains for you to
say that your happiness shall not be delayed any longer than may be
It need scarcely be said with what surprise Alban listened to this
lengthy recital. Some part of the truth had already been made known to
himbut this fuller account could not but flatter his vanity while it
left him silent in his amazement and perplexity. Richard Gessner, he
understood, had always desired a brilliant match for Anna, and had
sought an alliance with some of the foremost English families. If he
abandoned these ambitions, a shrewd belief in the impossibility lay at
the root of his determination. Anna would never marry as he wished. Her
birthright and her Eastern blood forbade it. She would be the child of
whim and of passion always, and it lay upon him to avert the greater
evil by the lesser. Alban in a vague way understood this, but of his
own case he could make little. What a world of ease and luxury and
delight these few simple words opened up to him. He had but to say
yes to become the ultimate master of this man's fortune, the
possessor of a heritage which would have been considered fabulous but
fifty years ago. And yet he would not say yes. It was as though some
unknown power restrained him, almost as though his own brain tricked
him. Of Anna's sudden passion for him he had no doubt whatever. She was
ready and willing to yield her whole self to him and would, it might
be, make him a devoted wife. None the less, the temptation found him
vacillating and incapable even of a clear decision. Some voice of the
past called to him and would not be silenced. Maladroitly, he gave no
direct reply, but answered the question by another.
Did Paul Boriskoff tell you that I was about to marry his daughter,
My dear lad, what Paul Boriskoff said or did can be of little
interest to you or me to-night. He is no longer in England, let me tell
you. He left for Poland three days ago.
Then you saw him or heard from him before he left?
Not at all. The less one sees or hears from that kind of person the
better. You know the fellow and will understand me. He is a firebrand
we can well do without. I recommended him to go to Poland and he has
gone. His daughter, I understand, is being educated at Warsaw. Let me
advise you to forget such acquaintancesthey are no longer of any
concern to either of us.
He waved his hand as though to dismiss the subject finally; but his
words left Alban strangely ill at ease.
Old Paul is a fanatic, he said presently, but a very kindly one.
I think he is very selfish where his daughter is concerned, but he
loves his country and is quite honest in his opinions. From what I have
heard in Union Street, he is very unwise to go back to Poland. The
Russian authorities must be perfectly well aware what he has done in
London, and are not likely to forget it. Yes, indeed, I am sorry that
he has been so foolish.
He spoke as one who regretted sincerely the indiscretions of a
friend and would have saved him from them. Gessner, upon his side,
desired as little talk of the Boriskoffs as might be. If he had told
the truth, he knew that Alban Kennedy would walk out of his house never
to return. For it had been his own accomplices who had persuaded old
Paul to return to Polandand the Russian police were waiting for him
across the frontier. Any hour might bring the news of his arrest. The
poor fanatic who babbled threats would be under lock and key before
many hours had passed, on his way to Saghalin perhapsand his daughter
might starve if she were obstinate enough. All this was in Gessner's
mind, but he said nothing of it. His quick perception set a finger upon
Alban's difficulty and instantly grappled with it.
We must do what we can for the old fellow, he said lightly, I am
already paying for the daughter's education and will see to her future.
You would be wise, Alban, to cut all those connections finally. I want
you to take a good place in the world. You have a fine talent, and when
you come into my business, as I propose that you shall do, you will get
a training you could not better in Europe. Believe me, a financier's
position is more influential in its way than that of kings. Here am I
living in this quiet way, rarely seen by anybody, following my own
simple pleasures just as a country gentleman might do, and yet I have
but to send a telegram over the wires to make thousands rich or to ruin
them. You will inherit my influence as you will inherit my fortune.
When you are Anna's husband, you must be my right hand, acting for me,
speaking for me, learning to think for me. This I foresee and
welcomethis is what I offer you to-night. Now go to Anna and speak to
her for yourself. She is waiting for you in the drawing-room and you
must not tease her. Go to her, my dear boy, and say that which I know
she wishes to hear.
He did not doubt the issuewho would have done? Standing there with
his hand upon Alban's shoulder, he believed that he had found a son and
saved his daughter from the peril of her heritage.
So is Fate ironical. For as they talked, Fellows appeared in the
garden and announced the Russian, who carried to Hampstead tidings of a
failure disastrous beyond any in the eventful story of this man's life.
The Russian appeared to be a young man, some thirty years of age
perhaps. His dress was after the French fashion. He wore a shirt with a
soft embroidered front and a tousled black cravat which added a shade
of pallor to his unusually pale face. When he spoke in the German
tongue, his voice had a pleasant musical ring, even while it narrated
the story of his friend's misfortune.
We have failed, mein Heir, he said, I come to you with grievous
news. We have failed and there is not an hour to lose.
Gessner heard him with that self-mastery to which his whole life had
trained him. Betraying no sign of emotion whatever, he pulled a chair
toward the light and invited the stranger to take it.
This is my young kinsman, he said, introducing Alban who still
lingered in the garden; you have heard of him, Count. And then to
Alban, Let me present you to my very old friend, Count Zamoyaki. He is
a cavalry soldier, Alban, and there is no finer rider in Europe.
Alban took the outstretched hand and, having exchanged a word with
the stranger, would have left the place instantly. This, however, Count
Zamoyski himself forbade. Speaking rapidly to Gessner in the German
tongue, he turned to the lad presently and asked him to remain.
Young heads are wise heads sometimes, he said in excellent
English, you may be able to help us, Mr. Kennedy. Please wait until we
have discussed the matter a little more fully.
To this the banker assented by a single inclination of his head.
As you say, Countwe shall know presently. Please tell me the
story from the beginning.
The Count lighted a cigarette, and sinking down into the depths of a
monstrous arm-chair, he began to speak in smooth low tonesa tragedy
told almost in whispers; for thus complacently, as the great Frenchman
has reminded us, do we bear the misfortunes of our neighbors.
I bring news both of failure and of success, he began, but the
failure is of greater moment to us. Your instructions to my Government,
that the Boriskoffs, father and daughter, were an embarrassment to you
which must be removed, have been faithfully interpreted and acted upon
immediately. The father was arrested at Alexandrovf Station, as I
promised that he should bethe police have visited the school in
Warsaw where the daughter was supposed to residethis also as I
promised youbut their mission has been in vain. So you see that while
Paul Boriskoff is now in the old prison at Petersburg, the daughter is
heaven knows where, which I may say is nowhere for our purpose. That we
did not complete the affair is our misfortune. The girl, we are
convinced, is still in Warsaw, but her friends are hiding her. Remember
that the police knew the father, but that the daughter is unknown to
them. These Polish girlspardon me, I refer to the peasant
classesare as alike as two roses on a bush. We shall do nothing until
we establish identityand how that is to be done, I do not pretend to
say. If you can help usand it is very necessary for your own safety
to do soyou have not a minute to lose. We should act at once, I say,
without the loss of a single hour.
Thus did this man of affairs, one who had been deep in many a brave
intrigue, make known to the man who had employed him the supreme
misfortune of their adventure. Had he said, Your life is in such peril
that you may not have another hour to live, it would have been no more
than the truth. Their plot had failed and the story of it was abroad.
This had he come from Paris to tellthis was the news that Richard
Gessner heard with less apparent emotion than though one had told him
of the pettiest event of a common day.
The matter has been very badly bungled, he said. I shall write to
General Trepoff and complain of it. Do you not see how inconvenient
this is? If the girl has escaped, she will be sheltered by the
Revolutionaries, and if she knows my story, she will tell it to them. I
may be followed hereto this very house. You know that these people
stick at nothing. They would avenge this man's liberty whatever the
price. What remains to discover is the precise amount of her knowledge.
Does she know my name, my story? You must find that out,
Zamoyskithere is not an hour to lose, as you say.
He repeated his fears, pacing the room and smoking incessantly. The
whole danger of a situation is not usually realized upon its first
statement, but every instant added to this man's apprehensions and
brought the drops of sweat anew to his forehead. He had planned to
arrest both Boriskoff and his daughter. The Russian Government, seeking
the financial support of his house, fell in readily with his plans and
commanded the police to assist him. Paul Boriskoff himself had been
arrested at the frontier station upon an endeavor to return to Poland.
His daughter Lois, warned in some mysterious manner, had fled from the
school where she was being educated and put herself beyond the reach of
her father's enemies. This was the simple story of the plot. But God
alone could tell what the price of failure might be.
It is very easy to say what we must do, the Count observed, the
difficulties remain. Identify this girl for us among the twenty
thousand who answer to her description in Warsaw, and I will undertake
that the Government shall deal well by her. But who is to identify her?
Where is your agent to be found? Name him to me and the task begins
to-night. We can do nothing more. I say again that my Government has
done all in its power. The rest is with you, Herr Gessner, to direct us
where we have failed.
Gessner made no immediate answer. Perhaps he was about to admit the
difficulties of the Count's position and to agree that identification
was impossible, when suddenly his glance fell upon Alban, waiting, as
he had asked, until the interview should be done. And what an
inspiration was thatwhat an instantaneous revelation of
possibilities. Let this lad go to Warsaw and he would discover Lois
Boriskoff quickly enough. The girl had been in love with him and would
hold her tongue at his bidding. As in a flash, he perceived this spar
which should save him, and clutched at it. Let the lad go to
Warsawlet him be the agent. If the police arrested the girl after
allwell, that would be an accident which he might regret, but
certainly would not seek to prevent. A man whose life is imperilled
must be one in ten thousand if any common dictates of faith or conduct
guide him. Richard Gessner had a fear of death so terrible that he
would have dared the uttermost treachery to save himself.
Count, he exclaimed suddenly, your agent is here, in this room.
He will go to Warsaw at your bidding. He will find the girl.
The Count, who knew something of Alban's story already, received the
intimation as though he had expected it.
It was for that I asked him to wait. I have been thinking of it. He
will go to Warsaw and tell the lady that she may obtain her father's
liberty upon a condition. Let her make a direct appeal to the
Governmentand we will consider it. Of course you intend an immediate
departureyou are not contemplating a delay, Herr Gessner?
Delayam I the man to delay? He shall go to-morrow by the first
A smile hovered upon the Count's face in spite of himself.
In a week, he was saying to himself, Lois Boriskoff shall be
flogged in the Schusselburg.
In truth, the whip was the weapon he liked bestwhen women were to
Alban had never been abroad, and it would have been difficult for
him to give any good account of his journey to Warsaw. The swiftly
changing scenes, the new countries, the uproar and strife of cities,
the glamour of the sea, put upon his ripe imagination so heavy a burden
that he lived as one apart, almost as a dreamer who had forgotten how
to dream. If he carried an abiding impression it was that of the
miracle of travel and the wonders that travel could work. In twenty
hours he had almost forgotten the existence of the England he had left.
Chains of bondage fell from his willing shoulders. He felt as one
released from a prison house to all the freedom of a boundless world.
And so at last he came to the beautiful city of Warsaw and his
sterner task began. Here, as in London, that pleasant person Count
Sergius Zamoyski reminded him how considerable was the service he could
confer, not alone upon his patron but upon the friends of his evil
It has all been a mistake, the Count would say with fine
protestation of regret; my Government arrested that poor old fellow
Boriskoff, but it would gladly let him go. To begin with, however, we
must have pledges. You know perfectly well that the man is a fanatic
and will work a great mischief unless some saner head prevents it. We
must find his daughter and see that she promises to hold her tongue
concerning our friend at Hampstead. When that is done, we shall pack
off the pair to London and they will carry a good round sum in their
pockets. Herr Gessner is not the man to deal ungenerously with
themnor with you to whom he may owe so much.
He was a shrewd man of the world, this amiable diplomat, and who can
wonder that so simple a youth as Alban Kennedy proved no match for him.
Alban honestly believed that he would be helping both Gessner and his
old friends, the Boriskoffs, should he discover little Lois'
whereabouts and take her back to London. A very natural longing to see
her once more added to the excitements of the journey. He would not
have been willing to confess this interest, but it prompted him
secretly so that he was often reminding himself of the old days when
Lois had been his daily companion and their mutual confidences had been
their mutual pleasure. Just as a knight-errant of the old time might
set out to seek his mistress, so did Alban go to Warsaw determined to
succeed. He would find Lois in this whirling wonderland of delight,
and, finding her, would return triumphant to their home.
Now, they arrived in Warsaw upon the Thursday evening after the
memorable interview at Hampstead; and driving through the crowded
streets of that pleasant city, by its squares, its gardens, and its
famous Palaces, they descended at last at the door of the Hôtel de
France; and there they heard the fateful news which the city itself had
discussed all day and would discuss far into the night.
General Trubenoff, the new Dictator, had been shot dead at the gate
of the Arsenal that very afternoon, men said, and the Revolutionaries
were already armed and abroad. What would happen in the next few hours,
heaven and the Deputy Governor alone could tell. Were this not
sufficiently significant, the aspect of the great Square itself was
menacing enough to awe the imagination even of the least impressionable
of travellers. Excited crowds passed and repassed; Cossacks were riding
by at the gallopeven the reports of distant rifle shots were to be
heard and, from time to time, the screams and curses of those upon
whose faces and shoulders the soldiers' whips fell so pitilessly.
In the great hall of the hotel itself pandemonium reigned. Afraid of
the streets and of their homes, the wives and daughters of many
officials fled hither as to a haven of refuge which would never be
suspected. They crowded the passages, the staircases, the
reception-rooms. They besieged the officers for news of that which
befell without. Their terrified faces remained a striking tribute to
the ferocity of their enemies and the reality of the peril.
Let it be said in justice that this majestic spectacle of tragedy
found Alban Kennedy well prepared to understand its meaning. Had he
told the truth he would have said that the mob orators of Union Street
had prepared him for such a state of things as he now beheld. The
Cossacks, were they not the Cossacks whom old Paul had called the
enemies of the human race? The gilt-belarded generals, had he not seen
them cast upon the screen in England and there heard their names with
curses? Just as they had told him would be the case, so now he had
stumbled upon autocracy face to face with its ancient enemy, the
people. He saw the brutal Cossacks with their puny horses and their
terrible whips parading beneath his balcony and treating all the poor
folk with that insolence for which they are famous. He beheld the
huddled crowds lifting white faces to the sky and cowering before the
relentless lash. Not a whit had the patriot exiles in London
exaggerated these things or misrepresented them. Men, and women too,
were struck down, their faces ripped by the thongs, their shoulders
lacerated before his very eyes. And all this, as he vaguely understood,
that freedom might be denied to this nation and justice withheld from
her citizens. Truly had he travelled far since he left England a few
short days ago.
Sergius Zamoyski had engaged a handsome suite of rooms upon the
first floor of the magnificent modern hotel which looks down upon the
Aleja Avenue, and to these they went at once upon their arrival. It was
something at least to escape from the excited throngs below and to
stand apart, alike from the rabble and the soldiers. Nor was the
advantage of their situation to be despised; for they had but to step
out upon the veranda before their sitting-rooms to command the whole
prospect of the avenue, and there, at their will, to be observers of
the conflict. To Sergius Zamoyski, familiar with such scenes, Warsaw
offered no surprises whatever. To Alban it remained a city of
whirlwind, and of human strife and suffering beyond all imagination
terrible. He would have been content to remain out there upon that high
balcony until the last trooper had ridden from the street and the last
bitter cry been raised. The Count's invitation to dinner seemed
grotesque in its reversion to commonplace affairs.
All this is an every-day affair here now, that young man remarked
with amazing nonchalance; since the workmen began to shoot the
patrols, the city has had no peace. I see that it interests you very
much. You will find it less amusing when you have been in Russia for a
month or two. Now let us dress and dine while we can. Those vultures
down below will not leave a bone of the carcass if we don't take care.
He re-entered the sitting-room and thence the two passed to their
respective dressing-rooms. An obsequious valet offered Alban a
cigarette while he made his bath, and served a glass of an American
cocktail. The superb luxury of these apartments did not surprise the
young English boy as much as they might have done, for he had already
stayed one night at an almost equally luxurious hotel in Berlin and so
approached them somewhat familiarly; but the impression, oddly
conceived and incurable, that he had no right to enjoy such luxuries
and was in some way an intruder, remained. No one would have guessed
this, the silent valet least of all; but in truth, Alban dressed shyly,
afraid of the splendor and the richness; and his feet fell softly upon
the thick Persian carpets as though some one would spy him out
presently and cry, Here is the guest who has not the wedding garment.
In the dining-room, face to face with the gay Count, some of these odd
ideas vanished; so that an observer might have named them material
rather than personal.
They dined with open windows, taking a zakuska in the Russian
fashion in lieu of hors d'oeuvre, and nibbling at smoked fish, caviar
and other pickled mysteries. The Count's ability to drink three or four
glasses of liquor with this prefatory repast astonished Alban not a
littlewhich the young Russian observed and remarked upon.
I am glad that I was born in the East, he said lightly, you
English have no digestions. When you have them, your climate ruins
them. Here in Russia we eat and drink what we pleasethat is our
compensation. We are Tartars, I admitbut when you remember that a
Tartar is a person who owns no master, rides like a jockey, and drinks
as much as he pleases with impunity, the imputation is not serious.
None of you Western people understand the Russian. None of you
understand that we are men in a very big sense of the wordmen with
none of your feminine Western weaknessesgreat fighters, splendid
lovers, fine drinkers. You preach civilization insteadand we point to
your Whitechapel, your Belleville, your Bowery. Just think of it, your
upper classes, as you yourselves admit, are utterly decadent, alike in
brains and in morals; your middle classes are smug hypocritesyour
lower classes starve in filthy dens. This is what you desire to bring
about in Russia under the name of freedom and liberty. Do you wonder
that those of us who have travelled will have none of it. Are you
surprised that we fight your civilization with the whipas we are
fighting it outside at this moment. If we fail, very well, we shall
know how to fail. But do not tell me that it would be a blessing for
this country to imitate your institutions, for I could not believe you
if you did.
He laughed upon it as though disbelieving his own words and, giving
Alban no opportunity to reply, fell to talk of that which they must do
and of the task immediately before them.
We are better in this hotel than at the Palace Zamoyski, my
kinsman's house, he said, for here no inquisitive servants will
trouble us. Naturally, you think it a strange thing to be brought to a
great city like this and there asked to identify a face. Let me say
that I don't think it will be a difficult matter. The Chief of the
Police will call upon me in the morning and he will be able to tell us
in how many houses it would be possible for the girl Lois Boriskoff to
hide. We shall search them and discover herand then learn what Herr
Gessner desires to learn. I confess it amazes me that a man with his
extraordinary fortune should have dealt so clumsily with these
troublesome people. A thousand pounds paid to them ten years ago might
have purchased his security for life. But there's your millionaire all
over. He will not pay the money and so he risks not only his fortune
but his life. Let me assure you that he is not mistaken when he
declares that there is no time to lose. These people, should they
discover that he has been aiding my Government, would follow him to the
ends of the earth. They may have already sent an assassin after himit
would be in accord with their practice to lose no time, and as you see
they are not in a temper to procrastinate. The best thing for us to do
is to speak of our business to no one. When we have discovered the
girl, we will promise her father's liberty in return for her silence.
Herr Gessner must now deal with these people once and for
allgenerously and finally. I see no other chance for him whatever.
Alban agreed to this, although he had some reservations to make.
I know the Boriskoffs very well, he said, and they are kindly
people. We have always considered old Paul a bit of a madman, but a
harmless one. Even his own countrymen in London laugh when he talks to
them. I am sure he would be incapable of committing such a crime as you
suggest; and as for his daughter, Lois, she is quite a little
schoolgirl who may know nothing about the matter at all. Mr. Gessner
undoubtedly owes Paul a great deal, and I should be pleased to see the
poor fellow in better circumstances. But is it quite fair to keep him
in prison just because you are afraid of what his daughter may say?
It is our only weapon. If we give him liberty, will he hold his
tongue then? By your own admissions a louder talker does not exist. And
remember that it may cost Herr Gessner many thousand pounds and many
weeks of hard work to secure his liberty at all. Is he likely to
undertake this while the daughter is at liberty and harbored among the
ruffians of this city? He would be a madman to do so. I, who know the
Poles as few of them know themselves, will tell you that they would
sooner strike at those whom they call 'traitors in exile' than at their
enemies round about us. If the girl has told them what she knows of
Herr Gessner and his past, I would not be in his shoes to-night for a
million of roubles heaped up upon the table. No, no, we have no time to
losewe owe it to him to act with great dispatch.
Alban did not make any immediate reply. Hopeful as the Count was,
the difficulties of tracking little Lois down in such a city at such a
time seemed to him well-nigh insuperable. He had seen hundreds of faces
like hers as they drove through Warsaw that very afternoon. The
monstrous crowd showed him types both of Anna and of Lois, and he
wondered no longer at the resemblance he had detected between them when
he first saw Richard Gessner's daughter on the balcony of the house in
St. James' Square. None the less, the excitements of the task continued
to grow upon him. How would it all end, he asked impulsively. And what
if they were too late after all and his friend and patron were to be
the victim of old Boriskoff's vengeance? That would be terrible
indeedit would drive him from Lois' friendship forever.
All this was in his mind as the dinner drew toward a conclusion and
the solemn waiters served them cigars and coffee. There had been some
cessation of the uproar in the streets during the latter moments; but a
new outcry arising presently, the Count suggested that they should
return to the balcony and see what was happening.
I would have taken you to the theatre, he said laughingly, but we
shall see something prettier here. They are firing their rifles, it
appears. Do not let us miss the play when we can have good seats for
nothing. And mind you bring that kummel, for it is the best in Europe.
They were just lighting the great arc lamps upon the avenue as the
two emerged from the dining-room and took up their stations by the
railing of the balcony. In the roadway below the spectacle had become
superb in its weird drama and excited ferocity. Great crowds passed
incessantly upon the broad pavements and were as frequently dispersed
by the fiery Cossacks who rode headlong as though mad with the lust of
slaughter. Holding all who were abroad to be their enemies, these
fellows slashed with their brutal whips at every upturned face and had
no pity even for the children. Alban saw little lads of ten and twelve
years of age carried bleeding from the streetshe beheld gentle women
cut and lashed until they fell dying upon the pavementhe heard the
death-cry from many a human throat. Just as the exiles had related it,
so the drama went, with a white-faced, terror-stricken mob for the
people of its scene and these devils upon their little horses for the
chief actors. When the troopers fell (and from time to time a bullet
would find its billet and leave a corpse rolling in a saddle) this was
but the signal for a new outburst, surpassing the old in its diabolical
ferocity. A very orgy of blood and slaughter; a Carnival of whips
cutting deep into soft white flesh and drawing from their victims cries
so awful that they might have risen up from hell itself.
And in this crowd, among this people perhaps, little Lois Boriskoff
must be looked for. Her friends would be the people's friends. Wayward
as she was, a true child of the streets, Alban did not believe that she
would remain at home this night or consent to forego the excitements of
a spectacle so wonderful. Nor in this was he mistaken, for he had been
but a very few minutes upon the balcony when he perceived Lois herself
looking up to him from the press below and plainly intimating that she
had both seen and recognized him.
A sharp exclamation brought the Count to Alban's side.
Lois is down there, Alban said, I am sure of itshe waved to me
just now. She was walking with a man in a dark blue blouse. I could not
have been mistaken.
He was quite excited that he should have discovered her thus, and
Sergius Zamoyski did not lag behind him in interest.
Do you still see her? he askedis she there now?
I cannot see her nowthe soldiers drove the people back. Perhaps
if we went down
The Count laughed.
Even I could not protect you to-night, he exclaimed dryly,
nowhatever is to be done must be done to-morrow. But does not that
prove to you what eyes and ears these people have. Here we left London
as secretly as a man on a love affair. With the single exception of our
friend at Hampstead, not a human being should have known of our
departure or our destination. And yet we are not three hours in this
place before this girl is outside our hotel, as well aware that we have
arrived as we are ourselves. That is what baffles our police. They
cannot contend with miracles. They are only human, and I tell you that
these people are more than human.
Alban, still peering down into the press in the hope that he might
see Lois' face again, confessed that he could offer no explanation
They told me the same thing in London, he said, but I did not
believe them. Old Boriskoff used to boast that he knew of things which
had happened in Warsaw before the Russian Government. They seem to have
spies in every street and every house. If Lois' presence is not a
My dear fellow, are you also a believer in coincidencethe idle
excuse of men who will not reason. Forgive me, but I think very little
of coincidence. Just figure the chances against such a meeting as this.
Would it not run into millionsyour first visit to Warsaw; nobody
expecting you; nobody knowing your name in the cityand here is the
girl waiting under your window before you have changed your clothes.
Oh, no, I will have nothing to do with coincidence. These people
certainly knew that we had left Englandthey have been expecting us;
they will do their best to baffle us. Yes, and that means that we run
some danger. I must think of itI must see the Chief of the Police
to-night. It would be foolish to neglect all reasonable precautions.
Alban looked at him with surprise.
None of those people will do me an injury, he exclaimed, and you,
Count, why should you fear them?
The Count lighted a cigarette very deliberately. There may be
reasons, he saidand that was all.
Had he told the whole truth, revealed the secrets of his work during
the last three years, Alban would have understood very well what those
reasons were. A shrewder agent of the Government, a more discreet
zealous official of the secret service, did not exist. His very
bonhomie and good-fellowship had hitherto been his surest defence
against discovery. Men spoke of him as the great gambler and a fine
sportsman. The Revolutionaries had been persuaded to look upon him as
their friend. Some day they would learn the truthand then, God help
him. Meanwhile, the work was well enough. He found it even more amusing
than making love and a vast deal more exciting than big-game hunting.
Yes, he repeated anon, There may be reasons, but it is a little
too late to remember them. I am sending over to the Bureau now. If the
Chief is there, he will be able to help me. Of course, you will see or
hear from this girl again. These people would deliver a letter if you
locked yourself up in an iron safe. They will communicate with you in
the morning and we must make up our minds what to do. That is why I
If you take mine, said Alban quietly, you will permit me to see
her at once. I am the last person in all Warsaw whom Lois Boriskoff
will desire to injure.
Am I to understand, thenbut no, it would be impossible. Forgive
me even thinking of it. I had really imagined for a moment that you
might be her lover.
Alban's face flushed crimson.
She was my little friend in Londonshe will be the same in Warsaw,
Count Sergius bowed as though he readily accepted this simple
explanation and apologized for his own thoughts. A shrewd man of the
world, he did not believe a word of it, however. These two, boy and
girl together, had been daily associates in the slums of London. They
had shared their earnings and their pleasures and passed for those who
would be man and wife presently. This Richard Gessner had told him when
they discussed the affair, and he remembered it to his great
satisfaction. For if Alban were Lois Boriskoff's lover, then might he
venture even where the police were afraid to go.
I will talk it all over with the Chief, the Count exclaimed
abruptly; you have had a long day and are better in bed. Don't stand
on any ceremony, but please go directly you feel inclined.
Alban did not demur for he was tired out and that was the truth of
it. In his own room he recalled the question the Count had put to him
and wondered that it had so distressed him. Why had his cheeks tingled
and the words stumbled upon his lips because he had been called Lois
Boriskoff's lover? It used not to be so when they walked Union Street
together and all the neighbors regarded the engagement as an
accomplished fact. He had never resented such a charge thenwhat had
happened that he should resent it now? Was it the long weeks of
temptation he had suffered in Anna Gessner's presence? Had the world of
riches so changed him that any mention of the old time could make him
ashamed? He knew not what to thinkthe blood rushed to his cheeks
again and his heart beat quickly when he remembered that but for Count
Sergius's visit to Hampstead, he might have been Anna's betrothed
In this he was, as ever, entirely candid with himself, neither
condoning his faults nor accusing himself blindly. There had been
nothing of the humbler realities of love in his relations with Richard
Gessner's daughter; none of the superb spirit of self-sacrifice; none
of those fine ideals which his boyhood had desired to set up. He had
worshipped her beautyso much he readily admitted; her presence had
ever been potent to quicken his blood and claim the homage of his
senses; but of that deeper understanding and mutual sympathy by which
love is born she had taught him nothing. Why this should have been so,
he could not pretend to say. Her father's riches and the glamour of the
great house may have had not a little to do with it. Alban had always
seemed to stand apart from all which the new world showed to him. He
felt that he had no title to a place there, no just claim at all to
those very favors his patron thrust upon him so lavishly.
He was as a man escaped from a prison whose bars were of golda
prison whereof the jailer had been a beautiful and capricious woman.
Here in Warsaw he discovered a new world; but one that seemed
altogether familiar. All this clamor of the streets, this going to and
fro of people, the roar of traffic, the shriek of whistles, the ringing
of bellshad he not known them all in London when Lois was his friend
and old Paul his neighbor? There had been many Poles by Thrawl Street
and the harsh music of their tongue came to him as an old friend. It is
true that he was housed luxuriously, in a palace built for
millionaires; but he had the notion that he would not long continue
there and that a newer and a stranger destiny awaited him. This
thought, indeed, he carried to his bedroom and slept upon at last. He
would find Lois to-morrow and she would be his messenger.
There had still been excited crowds in the streets when he found his
bedroom and a high balcony showed him the last phases of a weird
pageant. Though it was then nearly midnight, Cossacks continued to
patrol the avenue and the mob to deride them. By here and there, where
the arc lamps illuminated the pavement, the white faces and slouching
figures of the more obstinate among the Revolutionaries spoke of dogged
defiance and an utter indifference to personal safety. Alban could well
understand why the people had ventured out, but that they should have
taken women and even young children with them astonished him beyond
measure. These, certainly, could vindicate no principle when their
flesh was cut by the brutal whips and the savage horses rode them down
to emphasize the majesty of the Czar. Such sights he had beheld that
afternoon and such were being repeated, if the terrible cries which
came to his ears from time to time were true harbingers. Alban closed
his windows at last for very shame and anger. He tried to shut the
city's terrible voice from his ears. He wished to believe that his eyes
had deceived him.
This would have been about one o'clock in the morning. When he awoke
from a heavy sleep (and youth will sleep whatever the circumstance) the
sun was shining into his rooms and the church-bells called the people
to early Mass. An early riser, long accustomed to be up and out when
the clock struck six, he dressed himself at once and determined to see
something of Warsaw before the Count was about. This good resolution
led him first to the splendid avenue upon which the great hotel was
built, and here he walked awhile, rejoicing in his freedom and
wondering why he had ever parted with it. Let a man have self-reliance
and courage enough and there is no city in all the world which may not
become a home to him, no land among whose people he may not find
friends, no government whose laws shall trouble him. Alban's old
nomadic habits brought these truths to his mind again as he walked
briskly down the avenue and filled his lungs with the fresh breezes of
that sunny morning. Why should he return to the Count at all? What was
Gessner's money to him now? He cared less for it than the stones
beneath his feet; he would not have purchased an hour's command of a
princely fortune for one of these precious moments.
He was not alone in the streets. The electric cars had already
commenced to run and there were many soberly dressed work-people
hurrying to the factories. It was difficult to believe that this place
had been the scene of a civic battle yesterday, or to picture the great
avenues, with their pretty trees, tall and stately houses and fine
broad pavements, as the scene of an encounter bloody beyond all belief.
Not a sign now remained of all this conflict. The dead had already been
carried to the mortuaries; the prisoners were safe at the
police-stations where, since sundown, the whips had been so busy that
their lashes were but crimson shreds. True there were Cossacks at many
a street corner and patrols upon some of the broader thoroughfaresbut
of Revolutionaries not a trace. These, after the patient habits of
their race, would go to work to-day as though yesterday had never been.
Not a tear would be shed where any other eye could see itnot a tear
for the children whose voices were forever silent or the mothers who
had perished that their sons might live. Warsaw had become schooled to
the necessity of sacrifice. Freedom stood upon the heights, but the
valley was the valley of the shadow of death.
Alban realized this in a dim way, for he had heard the story from
many a platform in Whitechapel. Perhaps he had enough selfishness in
his nature to be glad that the evil sights were hidden from his eyes.
His old craving for journeying amid narrow streets came upon him here
in Warsaw and held him fascinated. Knowing nothing of the city or its
environment, he visited the castle, the barracks, the Saxon gardens,
watched the winding river Vistula and the Praga suburb beyond, and did
not fail to spy out the old town, lying beneath the guns of the
fortress, a maze of red roofs and tortuous streets and alleys wherein
the outcasts were hiding. To this latter he turned by some good
instinct which seemed to say that he had an errand there. And here
little Lois Boriskoff touched him upon the shoulder and bade him follow
herjust as imagination had told him would be the case. She had come
up to him so silently that even a trained ear might not have detected
her footstep. Whence she came or how he could not say. The street
wherein they met was one of the narrowest he had yet discovered. The
crazy eaves almost touched above his headthe shops were tenanted by
Jews already awake and crying their merchandise. Had Alban been a
traveller he would have matched the scene only in Nuremberg, the old
German town. As it was, he could but stare open-mouthed.
Loiswas it Lois? The voice rang familiarly enough in his ears, the
eyes were those pathetic, patient eyes he had known so well in London.
But the black hair cut in short and silky curls about the neck, the
blue engineer's blouse reaching to the knees, the stockings and shoes
belowwas this Lois or some young relative sent to warn him of her
hiding-place? For an instant he stared at her amazed. Then he
Loisit is Lois? he said.
The girl looked swiftly up and down the street before she answered
him. He thought her very pale and careworn. He could see that her hands
were trembling while she spoke.
Go down to the river and ask for Herr Petermann, she said almost
in a whisper. I dare not speak to you here, Alb dear. Go down to the
river and find out the timber-yardI shall be there when you come.
She ran from him without another word and disappeared in one of the
rows which diverged from the narrow street and were so many filthy
lanes in the possession of the scum of Warsaw. To Alban both her coming
and her going were full of mystery. If Count Sergius had told him the
truth, the Russian Government wished well not only to her but also to
her father, the poor old fanatic Paul who was now in the prison at
Petersburg. Why, then, was it necessary for her to appear in the
streets of Warsaw disguised as a boy and afraid to exchange a single
word with a friend from England. The truth astounded him and provoked
his curiosity intolerably. Was Lois in danger then? Had the Count been
lying to him? He could come to no other conclusion.
It was not difficult to find Herr Petermann's timber-yard, for many
Englishmen found their way there and many a ship's captain from Dantzig
had business with the merry old fellow whom Alban now sought out at
Lois' bidding. The yard itself might have covered an acre of ground
perhaps, bordering the river by a handsome quay and showing mighty
stacks of good wood all ready for the barges or seasoning against next
year's shipment. Two gates of considerable size admitted the lorries
that went in from the town, and by them stood the wooden hut at whose
window inquiries must be made. Here Alban presented himself ten minutes
after Lois had left him.
I wish to see Herr Petermann, he said in English.
A young Jew clerk took up a scrap of paper and thrust it forward.
To write your name, please, mein Herr.
Alban wrote his name without any hesitation whatever. The clerk
called a boy, who had been playing by a timber stack, and dispatched
him in quest of his chief.
From Dantzig, mein Herr? he asked.
No, said Alban civilly, from London.
Ah, said the clerk, I think it would be Dantzig. Lot of Englishes
from Dantzigyou have not much of the woods in Engerland, mein Herr.
He did not expect a reply and immediately applied himself to the
useful occupation of killing a blue-bottle with the point of his pen.
Two or three lorries rolled in and out while Alban waited. He could see
ships passing upon the river and hear the scream of a steam-saw from a
shed upon his left hand. A soldier passed the gate, but hardly cast a
glance at the yard. Five minutes must have elapsed before Herr
Petermann appeared. He held the paper in a thin cadaverous hand as
though quite unacquainted with his visitor's name and not at all
curious to be enlightened.
You are Mr. Kennedy, he said in excellent English.
Yes, said Alban, a friend of mine told me to come here.
It would be upon the business of the English shipah, I should
have remembered it. Please come to my office. I am sorry to have kept
He was a short man and very fat, clean shaven and a thorough German
in appearance. Dressed in a very dirty white canvas suit, he shuffled
rather than walked across the yard, never once looking to the right
hand or to the left and apparently oblivious of the presence of a
stranger. This manner had befriended him through all the stormy days
Warsaw had lately known. Even the police had no suspicion of him. Old
fat Petermann, who hobnobbed with sailorswhat had revolution to do
This way, mein Herryonder is my office. When I go to Dantzig by
water my books go with me. That is very good for the health to live
upon the water. Now please to cross the plank carefully, for what shall
you say to me if you fall in? This is my bureau de travailyou
will tell me how you like him by and by.
There were two barges of considerable size moored to the quay and a
substantial plank bridged the abyss between the stone and the combings
of the great hatchway. Herr Petermann went first, walking briskly in
spite of his fat; Alban, no less adroit, followed with a lad's nimble
foot and was upon the old fellow's heels when they stepped on board.
The barges, he perceived, were fully laden and covered by heavy
tarpaulins. Commodious cabins at the stern accommodated the crewand
into one of these Herr Petermann now turned, stooping as he went and
crying to his guest to take care.
It is rather dark, my friend, but you soon shall be accustomed to
that. This is my private room, you see. In England you would not laugh
at a man who works afloat, for you are all sailors. Now, tell me how
you like it?
The cabin certainly was beautifully furnished. Walls of polished
wood had their adornment of excellent seascapes, many of them bought at
the Paris salon. A bureau with delightful curves and a clock set at the
apex above the writing-shelf pleased Alban immenselyhe thought that
he had seen nothing more graceful even at Five Gables; while the
chair to match it needed no sham expert to declare its worth. The
carpet was of crimson, without pattern but elegantly bordered. There
were many shelves for books, but no evidence of commercial papers other
than a great staring ledger which was the one eyesore.
I like your room very much indeed, said Alban upon his swift
surveynot many people would have thought of this. We are all afraid
of the damp in England, and if we talked of a floating office, people
would think us mad. And then he addedBut you don't come here in
winter, Herr Petermannthis place is no use to you then?
Herr Petermann smiled as though he were well pleased.
Every place has its uses sometimes, he rejoined a little vaguely,
we never know what is going to happen to us. That is why we should
help each other when the occasion arises. You, of course, are visiting
Warsaw merely as a tourist, Mr. Kennedy?
Indeed, noI have come here to find a very old friend, the
No names, if you please, Mr. Kennedy. You have come here, I think
you said, to find the son of a very old friend. What makes you suppose
that I can help you?
His change of tone had been a marvellous thing to hearso swift, so
masterful that Alban understood in a moment what strength of will and
purpose lay hidden by this bland smile and benevolent manner. Herr
Petermann was far from being the simple old fellow he pretended to be.
You never could have named him that if you had heard him speak as he
spoke those few stern words. Alban, upon his part, felt as though some
one had slapped him upon the cheek and called him a fool.
I am very sorry, he blunderedand then recovering himself, he
said as honestlyIs there any need to ask me for reasons? Are not our
aims the same, Herr Petermann?
To sell wood, Mr. Kennedy?
Alban was almost angry.
I was walking down from the Castle, he began, but again the stern
voice arrested him.
Neither names nor history, if your please, Mr. Kennedy. We are here
to do business together as two honest merchants. All that I shall have
to ask you is your word, the word of an English gentleman, that nothing
which transpires upon my premises shall be spoken of outside under any
That is very readily given, Herr Petermann.
Your solemn assurance?
My solemn assurance.
The old fellow nodded and smiled. He had become altogether
benevolent once more and seemed exceedingly pleased with himself and
It is fortunate that you should have applied to me, he exclaimed
very cheerilysince you are thinking of taking a Polish
servantplease do not interrupt mesince you are thinking of taking a
Polish servant and of asking him to accompany you to England, by boat,
if you should find the journey otherwise inconvenientI merely put the
idea to youthere is a young man in my employment who might very
honestly be recommended to your notice. Is it not lucky that he is here
at this momenton board this very barge, Mr. Kennedy?
Alban looked about him astonished. He half expected to see Lois step
out of one of the cupboards or appear from the recess beneath Herr
Petermann's table. The amiable wood merchant enjoyed his perplexityas
others of his race he was easily amused.
Ah, I see that I am troubling you, he exclaimed, and really there
is not much time to be lost. Let me introduce this amiable young man to
you without delay, Mr. Kennedy. I am sure he will be very pleased to
He stood up and went to the wall of the cabin nearest to the ship's
bow. A panel cut in this gave access to the lower deck; he opened it
and revealed a great empty hold, deftly covered by the tarpaulin and
made to appear fully loaded to any one who looked at the barge from the
Here is your friend, he cried with huge delight of his own
cleverness, here is the young servant you are looking for, Mr.
Kennedy. And mind, he added this in the same stern voice which had
exacted the promise, and mind, I have your solemn promise.
A little light filtered down through the crevices and betrayed the
secrets of that strange refuge in all their amazing simplicity. Here
was neither costly furniture nor any adornment whatsoever. A thick
carpet of straw, giving flecks of gold wherever the sunlight struck
down upon it, had been laid to such a depth that a grown man might have
concealed himself therein. A few empty bales stood here and there as
though thrown down at hazard; there were coils of rope and great blocks
of timber used by the stevedores who loaded the barges. But of the
common things of daily life not a trace. No tables, no chairs, neither
bed nor blanket adorn this rude habitation. Let a sergeant of police
open his lantern there and the tousled straw would answer him in
mockery. This, for a truth, had been the case. Little Lois could tell a
tale of Cossacks on the barge, even of rifles fired down into the hold,
and of a child's heart beating so quickly that she thought she must cry
out for very pain of it. But that was before the men were told that the
ship belonged to merry Herr Petermann. They went away at once thento
drink the old fellow's beer and to laugh with him.
That had been a terrible day and Lois had never forgotten it.
Whenever old Petermann opened the door of his office now, she would
start and tremble as though a Cossack's hand already touched her
shoulder. Sometimes she lay deep down in the straw, afraid to declare
herself even though a friend's voice called her. And so it was upon
that morning of Alban's visit.
Old Petermann had shut the cabin door behind him and discreetly left
the young people together. Seeing little in the deep gloom and his eyes
blinking wherever he turned them, Alban stood almost knee-deep in straw
and cried Lois' name aloud.
Loiswhere are you, Loiswhy don't you answer me?
She crept from the depths at his very feet and shaking the straw
from her pretty hair, she stood upright and put both her hands upon his
I am here, Alb dear, just waiting for you. Won't you kiss me, Alb
He put his arms about her neck and kissed her at her wishjust as a
brother might have kissed a sister in the hour of her peril.
I came at once, Lois, he said, of course I did not understand
that it would be like this. Why are you here? Whatever has
happenedwhat does it all mean? Will you not teach me to understand,
Sit by my side, Alb dear, sit down and listen to me. I want you to
know what your friends have been doing. Oh, I have been so lonely, so
frightened, and I don't deserve that. You know that my father is in
prison, Albthe Count told you that?
I heard it before I left England, Lois. You did not answer my
I was ashamed to, dear. That was the first thing they taught me at
the schoolto be ashamed to write to you until you would not be
ashamed to read my letters. Can't you understand, Alb? Wasn't I right
to be ashamed?
She buried her head upon his breast and put a little hot hand into
his own. A great tenderness toward her filled his whole being and
brought a sense of happiness very foreign to him lately. How gentle and
kindly this little waif of fortune had ever been. And how even those
few weeks of a better schooling had improved her. She had shed all the
old vulgaritiesshe was just a simple schoolgirl as he would have
wished her to be.
We are never right to be ashamed before those who love us, Alban
said kindly; you did not write to me and how was I to know what had
happened? Of course, your father told you what I had been doing and why
I went away from Union Street? It was all his kindness. I know it now
and I have come to Russia to thank himwhen he is free. That won't be
very long now that I have found you. They were frightened of you,
Loisthey thought you were going to betray their secrets to the
Revolutionary party. I knew that you would not do soI said so all
She looked up at him with glowing eyes, and putting her lips very
close to his ear she said:
I loved you, AlbI never could have told them while I loved
younot even to save my father, and God knows how much I love him. Did
not they say that you were very happy with Mr. Gessner? There would
have been no more happiness if I had told them.
And that is what kept you silent, Lois?
She would not answer him, but hiding her face again, she asked him a
question which surprised him greatly.
Do you know why the police wished to arrest me, Alb dear?
How could I know that, Lois?
It was the Count who told them to do so. He is only deceiving you,
dear. He does not want to release my father and will never do so. If I
were in prison too, he thinks that Mr. Gessner would be quite safe. Do
not trust the Count if you would help us. My people understand him and
they will punish him some day. He has done a great wrong to many in
Warsaw, and he deserves to be punished. You must remember this, dear,
when he promises my father's freedom. He is not telling you the
truthhe is only asking you to punish me.
But, Lois, what have you done, what charge can they bring against a
I am my father's daughter, she said proudly, that is why they
would punish me. Oh, you don't know, dear. Even the little children are
criminals in Warsaw. My father escaped from Saghalen and I have no
right to live in Russia. When he sent me to school here, I did not come
under my own name, they called me Lois Werner and believed I was a
German. Then my people heard that Count Sergius wished to have me
arrested, and they took me away from the school and brought me here.
Herr Petermann is one of my father's oldest friends. He has saved a
great many who would be in prison but for his kindness. We can trust
Herr Petermann, dearhe will never betray us.
Alban understood, but he had no answer ready for her. All that she
had told him filled him with unutterable contempt toward the men he had
but lately considered as his patrons and his friends. The polished,
courtly Sergius, his master Richard Gessnerto what duplicity had they
not stooped, nay, to what treachery? For they had sent him into Russia,
not to befriend this child, but to put the ultimate shame of a Russian
prison upon herthe cell, the lash, the unnamable infamy. As in a
flash he detected the whole conspiracy and laid it bare. He, Alban
Kennedy, had been chosen as their instrumenthe had been sent to
Poland to condemn this little friend of the dreadful years to the
living death in a Russian prison. The blood raced in his veins at the
thought. Perhaps for the first time in his life he knew the meaning of
the word anger.
Lois, he exclaimed presently, if Mr. Gessner does not set your
father free, I myself will tell your people. That is the message I am
going to send to him to-day. Count Sergius will not lie to me againI
shall tell him so when I return.
She started up in wild alarm.
You must not do itI forbid it, she cried, closing her white arms
about his neck as though to protect him already from his enemies. Oh,
my dear, you do not know the Russian people, you do not know what it
means to stand against the police here and have them for your enemies.
Mr. Gessner is their friend. The Government would do a great deal to
serve himmy father says so. If Count Sergius heard that you had met
me, we should both be in prison this nightah, dear God, what a
prison, what sufferingand I have seen it myself, the women cowering
from the lash, the men beaten so that they cut the flesh from their
faces. That's what happens to those who go against the Government, dear
Albbut not to you because you love me.
She clung to him hysterically, for this long vigil had tried her
nerves and the shadow of discovery lay upon her always. It had been no
surprise to her to find Alban in Warsaw, for the Revolutionary
Committee in London had informed her friends by cable on the very day
that Count Sergius had left. She knew exactly how he had come, where he
had stopped, and when to seek him out. But now that his arms were about
her, she dreaded a new separation and was almost afraid to release his
hand from hers.
You will not leave me, Alban, she saida new dignity coming to
her suddenly as though some lesson, not of the school, but of life, had
taught it to heryou will take me to London with youyes, yes, dear,
as your servant. That is what my friends wish, they have thought it all
out. I am to go as your servant and you must get a passport for mefor
Lois Werner, and then if you call me by my own name no one will know.
There we can see Mr. Gessner together and speak of my father. I will
promise him that his secret shall never be known. He will trust me,
Alban, because I promise him.
Alban stooped and kissed her upon the lips.
No, he said, the work must be done here in Russia, Lois. I am
called to do it and I go now. Let me find you at the same time
to-morrow, and I will tell you what I have done. God bless you, Lois.
It is happiness to be with you again.
Their lips met, their arms unclasped reluctantly. A single tap upon
the panel of the cabin brought that merry old fellow, Herr Petermann,
to open to them. Alban told him in a sentence what had happened and
hastened back to the hotel.
Count Sergius was a little more than uneasy when Alban returnedhe
was suspicious. A highly trained agent of Government himself, he rarely
permitted any circumstance, however trifling, to escape him; and this
circumstance of tardiness was not trifling.
He has met the girl, the argument went, and she is detaining him
with a fine story of her wrongs. He may learn that we have tricked him
and that would be troublesome. Certainly I was a fool not to have had
him watchedbut, then, his first night in Warsaw and he a stranger! We
shall make up for lost time at once. I will see the Chief and give
instructions. A dove does not go but once to the nest. We will take
wings ourselves next time.
By which it will be perceived that he blamed himself for having lost
a great opportunity and determined not to do so a second time. His
whole purpose in coming to Warsaw had been to track down Boriskoff's
daughter and to hand her over to the police. This he owed to his
employers, the Government, and to his friend, Richard Gessnerthan
whom none would pay a better price for the service. And when it were
done, then he imagined that nothing in the world would be easier than
to excuse himself to this amiable lad and to take him back to England
without any loss of time whatever. In all a pretty plan, lacking only
the finer judgment to discern the strength of the enemy's force and not
to despise them.
Alban entered the sitting-room just as the Count had determined to
have his breakfast. It was nearly twelve o'clock then and the fierce
heat of the day made the streets intolerable. Few people were abroad in
the great avenuethere was no repetition of the disturbance of
yesterday, nor any Cossack going at a gallop. Down below in the
restaurant a bevy of smartly dressed women ate and gossiped to the
music of a good Hungarian band. From distant streets there came an echo
of gongs and the muffled hum of wheels; the sirens of the steam-tugs
screamed incessantly upon the sleepy river.
Whatever the Count's curiosity may have been, he had the wit to hide
it when Alban appeared. Adopting a well-feigned tone of raillery, he
spoke as men speak when another has been absent and has no good excuse
I will ask no questions, he said with mock solemnityA man who
forgets how to breakfast is in a bad way. That is to suppose that you
have not breakfastedah, forgive me, she makes coffee like a chef,
perhaps, and there is no Rhine wine to match the gold of her hair. Let
us talk politics, history, the artsanything you like. I am absolutely
discreet, Mr. Kennedy, I have forgotten already that you were late.
Alban drew a chair to the table and began to eat with good appetite.
His sense of humor was strong enough to lead him to despise such talk
at any time, but to-day it exasperated him. Understanding perfectly
well what was in the Count's mind, he was not to be trapped by any such
artifice. Honesty is a card which a diplomatist rarely expects an
opponent to hold. Alban held such a card and determined to play it
without loss of time.
I have seen Lois Boriskoff, he said.
Againthat is quick work.
The Count looked up, still smiling.
I told you that we should have no difficulties, he exclaimed.
Alban helped himself to some superb bisque soup and permitted the
waiter to fill his glass from a flask of Chablis.
It was quite an accident upon my part. I went up to the Castle as
you advised me and then down into the old town. Lois is with her
friends there. I have had a long talk to her and now I understand
The Count nodded his head and sipped his wine. The frankness of all
this deceived him but not wholly. The boy had discovered somethingit
remained to be seen how much.
You are successful beyond hope, he exclaimed presently, this will
be great news for Mr. Gessner. Of course, you asked her plainly what
She told me without my asking, Count. Now I understand
everythingfor the first time.
The tone of the reply arrested Sergius' attention and brought a
frown to his face. He kept his eyes upon Alban when next he spoke.
Those people are splendid liars, he remarked as though he had been
expecting just such a storyof course she spoke about me. I can
almost imagine what she said.
It was a very great surprise to me, Alban rejoined, and with so
simple an air that any immediate reply seemed impossible. For five
minutes they ate and drank in silence. Then Count Sergius, excusing
himself, stood up and went to the window.
Is she to come to this hotel? he asked anon.
She would be very foolish to do so, Count.
Foolish, my dear fellow, whatever do you mean?
I mean what I saythat she would be mad to put herself into your
The Count bit his lip. It had been many years since so direct an
insult had been offered to him, and yet he did not know how to answer
I see that these people have been lying to you as I thought, he
rejoined sharply, is it not indiscreet to accept the word of such a
You know perfectly well that it is not, Count. You brought me to
Warsaw to help you to arrest Lois Boriskoff. Well, I am not going to do
so and that is all.
Are you prepared to say the same to your friend in Londonwill you
cable that news to Mr. Gessner?
I was going to do so without any loss of time. You can send the
message for me if you like.
Nothing will be easier. Let me take it down at your dictation.
Really I am not offended. You have been deceived and are right to say
what you think. Our friend at Hampstead shall judge between us.
He lighted a cigarette with apparent unconcern and sat down before
the writing-table near the window.
Now, he asked, how shall we put it to him?
Alban came over and stood by his side.
Say that Paul Boriskoff must be released by his intervention
without any condition whatever.
He will never consent to that.
He will have to consent, Count Sergius. His personal safety depends
But, my dear boy, what of the girl? Are you going to leave her here
to shout our friend's secret all over Warsaw?
She has not spoken and she will not speak, Count.
Ah, you are among the credulous. Your confidence flatters her, I
It is justshe has never lied to me.
The Count shrugged his shoulders.
I will send your message, he said.
He wrote the cable in a fine pointed hand and duly delivered it to
the waiter. His own would follow it ten minutes laterwhen he had made
up his mind how to act. A dangerous thought had come to him and begun
to obsess his mind. This English boy, he was saying, might yet be a
more dangerous enemy than the girl they had set out to trap. It might
yet be necessary to clap them both in the same prison until the whole
truth were known. He resolved to debate it at his leisure. There was
plenty of time, for the police were watching all the exits from the
city, and if Lois Boriskoff attempted to pass out, God help her.
We must not expect an answer to this before dinner, he said,
holding out the message for the waiter to take it. If you think it all
right, we can proceed to amuse ourselves until the reply comes. Warsaw
is somewhat a remarkable city as you will already have seen. Some of
its finest monuments have been erected to celebrate the execution of
its best patriots. Every public square stands for an insurrection. The
castle is fortified not against the stranger but the citizenthose
guns you tell me about were put there by Nicolas to remind us that he
would stand no nonsense. We are the sons of a nation which, officially,
does not existbut we honor our dead kings everywhere and can show you
some of Thorwaldsen's finest monuments to them. Let us go out and see
these wonders if you are willing.
The apparent digression served him admirably, for it permitted him
to think. As many another in the service of the autocracy, he had a
sterling love for Poland in its historical aspect, and was as proud as
any man when he uttered the name of a Sobieski, a Sigismund or a
Ladislaus. Revolution as a modern phase he despised. To him there were
but people and nobles, and the former had become vulgar disturbers of
the Czar's peace who must be chastened with rods. His own career
depended altogether upon his callous indifference to mere human
Alban could offer no objection to visit Warsaw under such a pleasant
guide and he also welcomed the hours of truce. It came to him that the
Count might honestly doubt Lois' word and that, knowing nothing of her,
he would have had little reason to trust her. The morning passed in a
pleasant stroll down the Senatorska where are the chief shops of
Moscow. Here the Count insisted upon buying his English friend a very
beautiful amber and gold cigarette-case, to remind him, as he said, of
It was very natural, he admitted, I know these people so well.
They talk like angels and act like devils. You will know more about
them in good time. If I have interfered, it was at my friend Gessner's
wish. I shall leave the matter in his hands now. If he accepts the
girl's word, he is perfectly at liberty to do so. To me it is a matter
of absolute indifference.
Alban took the cigarette-case but accepted it reluctantly. He could
not resist the charm of this man's manner nor had he any abiding desire
to do so. As far as that went, there was so much to see in these bright
streets, so many odd equipages, fine horses, prettily dressed women,
magnificent soldiers, that his interest was perpetually enchained and
he uttered many exclamations of surprised delight very foreign to his
I cannot believe that this is the city we saw yesterday, he
declared as the Count called a drosky and bade the driver make a tour
of the avenues and the gardensyou would think the people were the
happiest in the world. I have never seen so many smiling faces before.
The Count understood the situation better.
Life is sweet to them because of its uncertainty. They live while
they can. When I used to fish in your English waters, they sent me to a
river where the Mayfly was outah, that beautiful, fluttering creature
which may live one minute or may live five. He struggles up from the
bottom of the river, you remember, and then, just as he has extended
his splendid wings, up comes a great trout and swallows himthe poor
thing of ten or twenty or a hundred seconds. Here we struggle up
through the social ranks, and just when the waters of intrigue
fascinate us and we go to play Narcissus to them, up comes the official
trout and down his throat we go. Some day there will be so many of us
that the trout will be gorged and unable to move. Then he will go to
the cooking-potbut not in our time, I think.
Alban remained silent. That not in our time seemed so strange a
saying when he recalled the threats and the promises of the fanatics of
Union Street. Was this fine fellow deceiving himself, or was he like
the Russian bureaucracy, simply ignorant? The lad of twenty could not
say, but he made a shrewder guess at the truth than the diplomatist by
They visited the Lazienki Park, passing many of Warsaw's famous
people as they went, and so affording the Count many opportunities for
delightful little histories in which such men excel. No pretty woman
escaped his observation, few the rigors of his tongue. He could tell
you precisely when Madame Latienski began to receive young Prince
Nicolas at her house and the exact terms in which old Latienski
objected to the visits. Priests, jockeys, politicians, actorsfor
these he had a distinguishing gesture of contempt or pity or gracious
admiration. The actresses invariably recognized him with alluring
smiles, which he received condescendingly as who should saywell, you
were fortunate. When they arrived at the Moktowski barracks, a group of
officers quickly surrounded them and conducted them to a place where
champagne corks might pop and cigarettes be lighted. This was but the
beginning of a round of visits which Alban found tiresome to the last
degree. How many glasses of wine he sipped, how many cigarettes he
lighted, he could not have told you for a fortune. It was nearly five
o'clock when they returned to the hotel and the Count proposed an
hour's repose de travail.
There is no message from your friend, he said candidly, no doubt
your telegram has troubled him. Perhaps we shall get it by dinner-time.
You must be very tired and perhaps you would like to lie down.
Alban did not demur and he went to his own room, and taking off his
boots he lay upon his bed and quickly fell fast asleep. Count Sergius,
however, had no intention of doing any such thing. He was closeted with
the Chief of the Police ten minutes after they had returned, and in
twenty he had come to a resolution.
This young Englishman will meet the girl Lois Boriskoff to-morrow
morning, he said. Arrest the pair of them and let me know when it is
done. But mind youtreat him as though he were your own son. I have my
The Chief merely bowed. He quite understood that such a man as
Sergius Zamoyski would have very good reasons indeed.
Count Sergius believed that he had settled the affaire Gessner when
he gave his instructions to the Chief of the Police, and the subsequent
hours found him exceedingly pleased with himself. An artist in his
profession, he flattered himself that it had all come about in the
manner of his own anticipations and that he would be able to carry back
to London a story which would not only win upon a rich man's gratitude,
but advance him considerably in the favor of those who could well
reward his labors.
This was an amiable reflection and one that ministered greatly to
his self-content. No cloud stood upon the horizon of his self-esteem
nor did shadows darken his glowing hopes. He had promised Richard
Gessner to arrest the girl Lois Boriskoff, and arrested she would be
before twelve o'clock to-morrow. As for this amiable English lad, so
full of fine resolutions, so defiant, so self-willed, it would be a
good jest enough to clap him in a police-station for four-and-twenty
hours and to bow him out again, with profuse apologies, when the girl
was on her way to Petersburg to join her amiable father in the
For Alban personally he had a warm regard. The very honesty of his
character, his habit of saying just what he meant (so foreign to the
Count's own practice), his ingenuous delight in all that he saw, his
modern knight-errantry based upon an absurdly old-fashioned notion of
right and wrong and justice and all such stuff as that, these were the
very qualities to win the admiration of a man of the world who
possessed none of them. Count Sergius said that the lad must suffer
nothing. His intrigues with the daughter of a Polish anarchist were
both dangerous and foolish. And was he not already the acknowledged
lover of Anna Gessner, whom he must marry upon his return to London.
Certainly, it would be very wrong not to lock him up, and he, Sergius,
was not going to take the responsibility of any other course upon his
already over-burdened shoulders.
These being his ideas, he found it amusing enough to meet Alban at
the dinner-table and to speak of to-morrow and its programme. The reply
to the cable they had dispatched to London lay already warm in his
pocket, sent straight to him from the post-office as the police had
directed. It was fitting that he should open the ball with a lie about
this, and add thereto any other pleasant fancy which a fertile
Gessner does not cable us, he said at that moment of the repast
when the glasses are first filled and the tongue is loosed. I suppose
he has gone over to Paris again as he hinted might be the case. If
there is no news to-morrow, we must reconsider the arguments and see
how we stand. You know that I am perfectly willing to be guided by him
and will do nothing of my own initiative. If he can procure the old
man's freedom, I will be the first to congratulate you. Meanwhile, I am
not to forget that we have a box at the opera and that Huguenots
is on the bill. When I am not in musical circles, I confess my
enjoyment of Huguenots. Meyerbeer always seemed to me a grand
old charlatan who should have run a modern show in New York. He wrote
one masterpiece and some five miles of rubbishbut why decry a great
work because there are also those which are not great. Besides, I am
not musician enough really to enjoy the Ring. If it were not for the
pretty women who come to my box to escape ennui, I would find Wagner
Alban, very quiet and not a little excited to-night, differed from
this opinion altogether.
My father was a musician, he said. I believe that if he had not
been a parson, he would have been a great musician. I don't know very
much about music myself, but the first time that Mr. Gessner took me to
hear one of Wagner's operas, I seemed to live in a new world. It could
not have been just the desire to like it, for I had made up my mind
that it would be very dry. There is something in such music as that
which is better than all argument. I shall never forget the curious
sensation which came to me when first I heard the overture to
Tannhäuser played by a big orchestra. You will not deny that it is
Undoubtedly it's fineespecially where the clarinets came in and
you seem to have five hundred mice running up your back. I am not going
to be drawn into an argument on the pointthese likes and dislikes are
purely individual. To me it seems perfectly ridiculous that one man
should quarrel with another because a third person has said or written
something about which they disagree. In politics, of course, there is
justification. The Have-Nots want to get money out of the Haves and the
pockets supply the adjectives. But in the arts, which exist for our
pleasure,why, I might as well fall foul of you because you do not
like caviar and are more partial to brunettes than to blondes. My taste
is all the other wayI dote upon caviar; golden-haired women are to me
just a little more attractive than the angels. But, of course, that
does not speak for their tempers.
He laughed at the candor of it, and looking round the brilliant
restaurant where they dined to-night, he began to speak in a low tone
of Russian and Polish women generally.
The Polish ladies are old-fashioned enough to love one man at a
timein their own country, at any rate. The Russians, on the contrary,
are less selfish. A Russian woman is often the victim of three
centuries, of suppressed female ambitions. She has large ideas, fierce
passions, an excellent political senseand all these must be cooled by
the wet blanket of a very ordinary domesticity. In reality, she is not
domesticated at all and would far sooner be following her loverthe
one chosen for the daydown the street with a flag. Here you have the
reason why a Russian woman appeals to us. She is rarely beautifulsome
of them would themselves admit the deficiencybut she is never an
embarrassment. Tell her that you are tired of her and you will discover
that she was about to stagger your vanity by a similar confidence. In
these days of revolution, she is seen at her best. Fear neither of God
nor man will restrain her. We have more of the show of religion and
less of the spirit in Russia than in any other country in the world.
Here in Poland, it is a little different. Some of our women are as the
idealists would have them to be. But there are othersor the city
would be intolerable.
Alban had lived too long in a world of mean cynics that this talk
should either surprise or entertain him. Men in Union Street spoke of
women much as this careless fellow did, rarely generous to them and
often exceedingly unjust. His own ideals he had confessed wholly to
none, not even to Anna Gessner in the moment of their greatest
intimacy. That fine old-world notion of the perfect womanhood,
developed to the point of idolatry by the Celts of the West, but
standing none the less as a witness to the whole world's desire, might
remain but as a memory of his youthhe would neither surrender it nor
admit that it was unworthy of men's homage. When Sergius spoke of his
own countrywomen, Alban could forgive him all other estimates. And this
was as much as to say that the image of Lois was with him even in that
splendid place, and that some sentiment of her humble faith and
sacrifice had touched him to the quick.
They went to the opera as the Count had promised and there heard an
indifferent rendering of the Huguenots. A veritable sisterhood
of blondes, willing to show off Count Sergius to some advantage, came
from time to time to his box and was by him visited in turn. Officers
in uniform crowded the foyers and talked in loud tones during the
finest passages. A general sense of unrest made itself felt everywhere
as though all understood the danger which threatened the city and the
precarious existence its defenders must lead. When they quitted the
theatre and turned into one of the military clubs for supper, the
common excitement was even more marked and ubiquitous enough to arrest
the attention even of such a flâneur as Sergius.
These fellows are sitting down to supper with bombs under their
chairs, he said sotto voce. That is to say, each thinks that a
bomb is there and hopes that it will kill his neighbor. We have no
sympathy in our public life herethe conditions are altogether against
it. Imagine five hundred men upon the deck of a ship which has struck a
rock, and consider what opportunities there would be to deplore the
drowned. In Russia each plays for his own safety and does not care a
rouble what becomes of the man next door. Such a fact is both our
strength and our weaknessour strength because opportunities make men,
and our weakness because we have no unity of plan which will enable us
to fight such a combination as is now being pitted against us. I myself
believe that the old order is at an end. That is why I have a villa in
the south of France and some excellent apartments in Paris.
You believe that the Revolutionaries will be victorious? Alban
asked in his quiet way.
I believe that the power is passing from the hands of all
autocratic governments, and that some phase of socialism will
eventually be the policy of all civilized nations.
Then what is the good of going to England, Count, if you believe
that it will be the same story there?
It is only a step on the road. You will never have a revolution in
your country, you have too much common sense. But you will tax your
bourgeois until you make him bankrupt, and that will be your way of
having all things in common. In America the workingman is too well off
and the country is too young to permit this kind of thing yet. Its day
will be much laterbut it will come all the same, and then the deluge.
Let us rejoice that we shall not see these things in our time. It is
something to know that our champagne is assured to us.
He lifted a golden glass and drank a vague toast heartily. Others in
the Club were frankly intoxicated and many a heated scene marked the
progress of unceremonious and impromptu revels. Young officers, who
carried their lives in their hands every hour, showed their contempt of
life in many bottles. Old men, stern and gray at dawn, were so many
babbling imbeciles at midnight. The waiters ran to and fro ceaselessly,
their faces dripping with perspiration and their throats hoarse with
shouting. The musicians fiddled as though the end of all things was at
hand and must not surprise them at a broken bar. In Russia the scene
was familiar enough, but to the stranger incomprehensible and
revolting. Alban felt as one released from a pit of gluttony when at
three in the morning Sergius staggered to his feet and bade a servant
call him in a drosky.
We have much to do to-morrow, he muttered, much to doand then,
ah, my friend, if we only knew what we meant when we say 'and then.'
A glimmer of wan daylight in the Count's bedroom troubled him while
he undressed and he drew the curtains with angry fingers. Down there in
the dismal streets the Cossacks watched the night-birds going home to
bed and envied them alike their condition and its consequences. If
Sergius rested a moment at the window, it was to mark the presence of
these men and to take heart at it. And this is to say that few who knew
him in the social world had any notion of the life he lived apart or
guessed that authority stood to him for his shield and buckler against
the unknown enemies his labors had created. Perhaps he rarely admitted
the truth himself. Light and laughter and music were his friends in so
far as they permitted him to forget the inevitable or to deride it.
Here in this room of eloquent shadows he was a different man indeed
from the fine fellow of the opera and the barracksa haunted secret
man looking deep into the mysteries and weary for the sun. The
brilliant scene he had but just quitted could now be regretted chiefly
because he needed the mental anæsthetic with which society alone could
supply him. Pale and gaunt and inept in his movements, few would have
recognized the Sergius Zamoyski of the dressing-room or named him for
the diplomatist whose successes had earned the warmest encomiums of
harassed authority. Herein lay a testimony to his success which his
bitterest enemy would not have denied him. None knew better than he
that the day of reckoning had come for all who opposed revolution in
Russia, none had anticipated that day with a greater personal dread.
He closed the curtains, thankful that the Cossacks stood sentinels
without, and hungering for sleep which had been denied to him so often
lately. If he had any consolation of his thoughts, it lay in the
comparative secrecy of his present mission and the fact that to-day
would accomplish its purpose. The girl Lois had not confessed Richard
Gessner's secret and she would stand presently where confession would
not help her. As for this agreeable youth, who certainly had been her
lover, he must be coerced into silence, threatened, cajoled, bought.
Sergius remembered Alban's fine gospel of life and laughed when he
recalled it. This devotion to humanity, this belief in great causes,
what was it worth when a woman laughed and her rosy lips parted for a
kiss? The world is too busy for the pedants who would stem the social
revolution, was his argumentthe rich men have too much to do to hide
their common frailties that they should put on the habits of the
friars. Let this hot gospeller acquire a fortune and he would become as
the others before a month had passed. The women would see to thatfor
were not two of them already about the business?
He closed his curtains and undressed with a clumsy hand upon the
buttons and many a curse at the obstinate things. The intense silence
of the morning hour depressed him and he wondered that the hotel should
sleep so soundly. His own door was both locked and boltedhe had a
pistol in his travelling-bag and would finger it with grim satisfaction
at such moments as these. Hitherto he had owed much to his very
bravado, to a habit of going in and out among the people freely, and
deriding all politics as a fool's employment. Latterly he had been
wondering how far this habit would protect him, had made shrewd guesses
at the truth and had come to the stage of question. Yesterday's work
helped him to confirm these vague suspicions. How came it that Lois
Boriskoff was able to warn this young Englishman, why had she come
immediately to his hotel and followed him to the old quarters of the
city? This could only mean that her friends had telegraphed the
information from London, that every step of the journey had been
reported and that a promising plan of action had been decided upon.
Sergius dreaded this more than anything that could have happened to
him. They will ask what share I had in it, he told himself; and he knew
what the answer to that must be. Let them but suspect a hundredth part
of the truth and he might not have twenty hours to live.
It had been a splendid life so far and a sufficient atonement for
the dreaded hours apart. There in his own room he gave battle to the
phantoms by recalling the faces of the pretty women he had cajoled and
defeated, the houses of pride he had destroyed, the triumphs he had
numbered and the recompense he had enjoyed. To be known to none save as
a careless idler, to pass as a figure of vengeance unrecognized across
the continents, to be the idol of the police in three cities, to have
men running to and fro at his command though they knew not by whose
order they were sent, here was wine of life so intoxicating that a man
might sell his very soul to possess it. Sergius did not believe that
there was any need for such a bargain as thishe had been consistently
successful hitherto in eluding even the paltriest consequences of his
employmentbut the dark hours came none the less, and coming, they
whispered a word which even the bravest may shudder to hear.
He slept but fitfully, listening for any sounds from the city
without and anxious for the hotel to awaken to its daily routine. The
cooler argument of the passing hour declared it most unlikely that any
plan would be ventured until Lois Boriskoff's fate were known and Alban
had visited her this morning. If there were danger to be apprehended,
the moment of it would arrive when the girl was arrested and the story
of Alban Kennedy's misadventure made known to her friends. Sergius
began to perceive that he must not linger an hour in Warsaw when this
were done. He could direct operations as easily from Paris or London as
from this conspicuous hotel, and with infinitely less risk to himself
and his empire. Sometimes he wondered that he had been so foolish as to
enter Russia at all. Why could he not have telegraphed to the Chief of
the Police to arrest the girl as soon as might be and to flog her into
a confession. The whip would have purchased her secret readily enough,
then the others could have been arrested also and Gessner left
reassured beyond question. Sergius blamed himself very much that he had
permitted a finer chivalry to guide his acts. I came because this
young man persuaded me to come, he admitted, and added the thought
that he had been a fool for his pains.
This would have been about four o'clock of the morning. He slept a
little while upon it, but woke again at five and sat up in bed to mark
a step on the landing without and to ask himself who had the right to
be there at such an hour. When he had waited a little while, he came to
the conclusion that two people were approaching his door and making
little secret of their coming. Presently a knock informed him that he
had nothing whatever to fear; and upon asking the question What do you
want? a voice answered immediately, From the bureau, your excellency,
with a letter. This he concluded to mean that the Chief of the Police
had some important news to convey to him and had sent his own messenger
to the hotel.
Wait a moment and I will let you in, he replied, and asked, I
suppose you can wait a little while?
It is very urgent, excellencyyou had better open at once.
The Count sprang up from his bed and drew the curtains back from the
window. A warm glow of sunlight instantly suffused the cold room and
warmed it with welcome beams. Down there in the streets the Cossacks
still nodded upon patient horses as though no event of the night had
disturbed them. A drosky passed, driving an old man to the railway
stationthere were porters at the doors of some of the houses and a
few wagons going down toward the river. All this Sergius perceived
instantly in one swift vision. Then he opened the door and admitted the
There were two of you, he exclaimed, peering down the passage.
It is true, excellency, myself and the night-porter, but he has
gone to sleep again.
From the Chief, excellency, with this letter.
He held out a great square document, grotesquely sealed and
carefully folded. A small man with a pockmarked face, he wore the
uniform of an ordinary gendarme and aped that rôle to perfection.
Saluting gravely, he permitted the letter to pass from his hands. Then
he closed the door and leaned his back against it.
I am to take an answer to the bureau, excellency.
The Count read a few lines of the document and looked up uneasily.
You say that you were commanded to wake me upfor this?
Those are my orders.
Zaniloff must have lost his witsthere was nothing else?
The man took one stride forward.
Yes, he cried in a low voice, there was this, excellency.
* * * * *
Alban slept no better than his friend; in truth he hardly closed his
eyes until they waked him and told him of the tragedy. He had said
little to Sergius during the evening, but the perplexities of the long
day remained with him and were not to be readily silenced.
That his patron sent no reply to their urgent telegram he thought a
little strange. Mr. Gessner's silence could only mean that he had left
London suddenly, perhaps had set out to join them in Warsaw. Meanwhile
Alban perceived very clearly in what a position of danger Lois stood
and how difficult it would be to help her if others did not come to his
Accustomed to regard all the Revolutionaries from the standpoint of
the wild creatures who talked nonsense in the East End of London, he
could not believe in old Herr Petermann's optimism or pay much
attention to the wild plan of escape he had devised. It must be absurd
to think that Lois could leave Poland disguised as a servant. Alban
himself would readily have recognized her in her disguise if he had
been seeking her at the time, and the police would very soon detect it
when their minds were set upon the purpose. In his own opinion, and
this was shrewd enough, their hope of salvation lay in Richard
Gessner's frank acceptance of the position. The banker had influence
enough with the Russian authorities to release both Lois and her
father. He must do so or accept the consequences of his obstinacy.
All this and much more was in Alban's head while he tossed
restlessly upon his strange bed and waited impatiently for the day. The
oddest fancies came to him, the most fantastic ideas. Now he would be
living in London again, a drudge at the works, the nightly companion of
little Lois, the adventurer of the streets and the slums. Then, as
readily, he would recall the most trifling incidents of his life in
Richard Gessner's house, the days of the miracles, the wonderful hours
when he had worshipped Anna Gessner and believed almost in her
divinity. This had been a false faith, surely. He knew now that he
would never marry Anna, and that must mean return to the wilderness,
the bitter days of poverty and all the old-time strife with
circumstance. It would have been easier, he thought, if those weeks of
wonderland had never been. Richard Gessner had done him no
servicerich men rarely help those whom they patronize for their own
Alban thought of all this, and still being unable to sleep, he fell
to numbering the hours which stood between him and his meeting with
Lois. He was sure that she would be ready for him however early his
visit might beand he said that he would ring for his coffee at seven
o'clock and try to go down to the river at eight. If there were no
message from Mr. Gessner before he left, he thought it would be wise to
counsel patience for this day at least. In plain truth he was less
concerned about the diplomatic side of the affair than the personal. An
overmastering desire for Lois' companionship, the wish to hear her
voice, to speak to her, to talk as they had talked in the dark days of
long ago, prevailed above the calm reckoning of yesterday. His
resolution to defeat Count Sergius at his own game seemed less heroic
than it had done twelve hours ago. Alban had conceit enough not to fear
the Count. That incurable faith in British citizenship still upheld
Seven had been the hour named by his intentionit was a little
after six o'clock when he heard a knock upon his bedroom door and
started up wondering who called him at such an hour.
Who is there, what do you want? he cried, with the bedclothes
still about his shoulders. No one answered this, but the knock was
repeated, a decisive knock as of one who meant to win admittance.
All right, I will come in a minute, was now his answer; to which
he added the questionIs that you, Count? Do you know it's only just
He opened the door and found himself face to face with the hotel
valet, an amiable young Frenchman by the name of Malette.
Monsieur, said the man, will you please come at once? There has
been an accidenthis excellency is very ill.
An accident to the Count? Is it serious, Malette?
It is very serious, monsieur. They say that he will not live. The
doctors are with himI thought that you would wish to know
Alban turned without a word and began to put on his clothes. His
hands were quite cold and he trembled as though stricken by an ague.
When he had found a dressing-gown, he huddled it on anyhow and followed
Malette down the corridor.
When did this happen, Malette?
I do not know, monsieur. One of the servants chanced to pass his
excellency's door and saw something which frightened him. He called the
concierge and they waked the Herr Director. Afterwards they sent for
Do they think that the Count was assassinated, then?
Ah, that is to find out. The officers will help us to say. Will you
go in at once, monsieur, or shall I tell the Herr Director?
Alban said that he would go at once. The young fear to look upon the
face of death and he was no braver than others of his age. A terrible
sense of dread overtook him while he stood before the door and heard
the hushed whispers of those about it. Here a giant police officer had
already taken up his post as sentinel and he cast a searching glance
upon all who approached. There were two or three privileged servants
standing apart and discussing the affair; but a stain upon a crimson
carpet was more eloquent of the truth than any word. Alban came near to
swooning as he stepped over it and entered the room without word or
They had laid the Count upon the bed and dragged it to the window to
husband the light. Two doctors, hastily summoned from a neighboring
hospital, worked like heroes in their shirt sleevesa nurse in a gray
dress stood behind them holding sponge and bandages. At the first
glance, the untrained onlooker would have said that Sergius Zamoyski
was certainly dead. The intense pallor of his face, the set eyes, the
stiffened limbs, spoke of the rigor mortis and the finality of tragedy.
None the less, the surgeons went to work as though all might yet be
saved. Uttering their orders in the calm and measured tones of those
whom no scene of death could unnerve, they were unconscious of all else
but the task before them and its immediate achievement. When they had
need of anything, they spoke to the Herr Director of the hotel who
passed on his commands in a sharp decisive tone to a porter who stood
at his heels. Near by him stood the Chief of the Police, Zaniloff, a
short burly man who wore a dark green uniform and held his sheathed
sword lightly in his left hand. These latter looked up when the door
opened, but the doctors took no notice whatever. There was an
overpowering odor of anaesthetics in the room although the windows had
been thrown wide open.
Is the Count dead? Alban asked them in a low voice. He had taken a
few steps toward the bed and there halted irresolute. What is it, what
has happened, sir? he continued, turning to Zaniloff. That worthy
merely shrugged his shoulders.
The Count has been assassinatedwe believe by a woman. The doctors
will tell us by and by.
Alban shuddered at the words and took another step toward the bed.
He felt giddy and faint. The words he had just heard were ringing in
his ears as a sound of rushing waters. Has Lois done this
thing?incredible! And yet the man implied as much.
I cannot stay here, he exclaimed presently, I must go to my room,
if you please.
He turned and reeled from the place, ashamed of his weakness, yet
unable to control it. Outside upon the landing, he discovered that
Zaniloff was at his elbow and had something to say to him. Speaking
sharply and autocratically in the Russian tongue, that worthy realized
almost immediately that he had failed to make himself understood and so
called the Herr Director to his aid.
They will require your attendance at the bureau, the Director said
with an obsequious bow toward Albanyou must dress at once, sir, and
accompany this gentleman.
Alban said that he would do so. He was miserably cold and ill and
trembling still. Knowing nothing of the truth, he believed that they
were taking him to Lois Boriskoff and that she was already in custody.
Alban had been fifteen days out of England when Anna Gessner met
Willy Forrest one afternoon as she was driving a pair of chestnut
ponies down Piccadilly towards the Circus. He, amiable creature, had
just left a club and a bridge table which had been worth fifteen pounds
to him. The gray frock suit he wore suited him admirably. He certainly
looked very smart and wide-awake.
Anna, by Jupiter, he cried, as he stepped from the pavement at the
very corner of Dover Streetwell, if my luck don't beat
cock-fighting. Where are you off to, Annawhat have you done with the
shoving-machine? I thought you never aired the gee-gees now. Something
new for you, isn't it? May I get in and have a pawt? We shall be fined
forty bob and costs at Marlborough Street if we hold up the traffic.
Say, you look ripping in this char à bancs, upon my soul you're
She had not meant to stop for him, and half against her wish she now
reined the ponies in and made room for him. There never had been a day
in her life since she had known him when she was able to resist
altogether the blandishments of this pleasant rogue, who made so many
appeals to her interest. To-day sheer curiosity conquered her. She
wished above all things to hear what he had done with the extravagant
cheque her father had sent him.
I drove the ponies for a change, she said coldly, we must not be
unkind to dumb creatures. Do you know, it is most improper that you
should be seen with me in this carriage, Willy. Just think what my
father would say if he heard of it.
Willy Forest, to give him his due, rarely devoted much time to
What's the good of dragging your father in, Anna? he asked her
sagely. I want to have a talk to you and you want to have a talk to
me. Where shall we go, now? We can't blow the loud trumpet at a
tea-shop and a hotel is inquisitive. Why not come round to my rooms?
There's an old charwoman there who will do very well when rumors
ariseand she'll make us a cup of tea. Why not come, Anna?
It's out of the question, Willy. You know that it is. Besides, I am
never going to speak to you again.
Oh, that's all rightthat's what you used to say when you came
over to the cottage. We're getting too old for that kind of nonsense,
you and I, Anna. Suppose I tell your man to wait for us in Berkeley
Square. I'll say that we are going into the Arcade to look at the
motor-carsand they won't let you keep a carriage waiting in Bond
Street now. I can tell you what I've heard about your friend Alban
Kennedy while you're cutting me the bread and butter.
Her attention was arrested in an instant.
What can you know about Mr. Kennedy? she asked quickly, while her
face betrayed her interest.
Oh, I know a lot more than most. I've struck more than one friend
of his these later days, and a fine time he seems having with the girls
out yonder. Come over to my rooms and I'll tell you about it. I'm just
fitting up a bit of a place in the Albany since your good father began
to encourage virtue. I say, Anna,he should never have sent me that
cheque, you know he shouldn't.
It was a masterpiece of impudence, but it won upon her favor none
the less. She had made up her mind a week ago that Willy Forrest was a
rogue, a thief, and a charlatan. Yet here she wasfor such is
womantolerating his conversation and not unwilling to hear his
explanations. Upon it all came his insinuation that he had news of
Alban. Certainly, she did not know how to refuse him.
You are sure that there is some one in your roomsI will leave
them instantly if there is not, she exclaimed, surprised at scruples
which never had troubled her hitherto. Forrest protested by all the
gods that the very doubt was an outrage.
There's a hag about fit to knock down a policeman, he rejoined,
with a feigned indignation fine to see. Now be sensible, Anna, and
let's get out. Are we babes and sucklings or what? Don't make a scene
about it. I don't want you to come if you'd rather not.
She turned the ponies round almost at the door of the Albany, which
they had just passed while they talked, and drove up to the door of
that somewhat dismal abode. A word to her groom to be in Berkeley
Square in half-an-hour did not astonish that worthy, who was quite
accustomed to Miss Hanna's vagaries. In the corridor before the
chambers, Willy laid stress upon the point about the charwoman and made
much of her.
I'll ring the old girl up and you can cross-question her if you
like. She's a regular beauty. Don't you think that I'd deceive you,
Anna. Have I ever done it in all my miserable lifeeh, what? he said
at the door. Now walk right in and I'll order tea. It seems like old
times to have you about, upon my word it does.
She followed him into the chambers, her anxiety about the charwoman
absolutely at rest. The rooms themselves were in some little confusion,
but promised to be splendidly furnished presently. Fine suites of
furniture were all huddled together like policemen at a scene of public
rejoicing. The rich curtains, unhung, were neatly folded upon chairs
and sofasa few sporting prints relieved the cold monotony of tinted
wallsthe library boasted Ruff and Wisdom for its chief masterpieces.
Nothing, however, disconcerted Willy Forrest. He had produced that
charwoman before you could count five.
Make us a cup of tea, Mrs. Smiggs, will you? he asked her
boisterously. Here's my cousin come to tell me how to plant the
furniture. We shan't trouble you longjust make love to the kettle and
say we're in a hurry, will you now, there's a good soul.
Mrs. Smiggs took a sidelong glance at the lady, and tossing a proud
but tousled head assented to the proposition in far from becoming
I'm sure, sir, that I'm always willing to oblige, she said
condescendingly, if as the young lady wouldn't like me to step out and
get no cakes nor nothing
No, no, no cakes, thank you, Mrs. Smiggsjust a cup of tea as you
can make it and that's all. My cousin's carriage is waitingshe won't
be here ten minuteseh, what?
The good woman left them, carrying a retroussé nose at an angle of
suspicion. Willy Forrest drew an arm-chair towards the window of that
which would presently be his dining-room, and having persuaded Anna to
take it, he poised himself elegantly upon the arm of a sofa near by and
at once invited her confidence.
Say, Anna, now, what's the good of nonsense? Why did you let the
old man send me that cheque?
She began to pull off her gloves, slowly and with contemplative
I let him send it because I did not wish to marry you.
That's just what I thought. You got in a huff about a lot of fool's
talk on the course and turned it round upon me. Just like a womaneh,
what? As if I could prevent your horse going dotty. That was Farrier's
business, not mine.
But you let me back the horse.
Of course I did. He might have won. I was just backing my luck
against yours. Of course I didn't mean you to lose anything. We were
just two good pals together, and what I took out of the ring would have
been yours if you'd asked me. Good Lord, what a mess your father's made
of it! Me with his five thou in my pocket and you calling me a
blackguard. You did call me a blackguardnow didn't you, Anna?
It was very droll to see him sitting there and for a wonder telling
her something very like the truth. This, however, had been the keystone
of a moderately successful life. He had always told people that he was
a scampa kind of admission the world is very fond of. In Anna's case
he found the practice quite useful. It rarely failed to win her over.
What was I to think? she exclaimed almost as though her perplexity
distressed her. The people say that I have cheated them and you win my
money. If I don't pay you, you say that I must marry you. Will you deny
that it is the truth? You won this money from me to compel me to marry
Captain Willy Forrest slapped his thigh as though she had told him
an excellent joke.
That's the best thing I've heard for a twelvemonth, cried he; as
if you were the sort to be caught that way, Annaby an impostor too,
as your Little Boy Blue told you at Henley. He said I was an impostor,
didn't he? Well, he's about right thereI'm not the son of old Sir
James Forrestnever was, my dear. He was my father's employer, and a
devilish good servant he had. But I've some claims on his memory all
the sameand why shouldn't I call myself Forrest if I want to? Now,
Anna, I'll be as plain with you as a parson at a pigeon match. I do
want to marry youI've wanted to marry you ever since I knew youbut
if you think I'm such a fool as to go about it in the way you say I've
done, well, then, I'll put right in for the Balmy Stakes and win 'em
sure and certain. Don't you see that the boot's just on the other leg
right along? I win your money because I want you to think I'm a decent
sort of chap when I don't take it. As for the bookies who hissed the
horse on the coursewho's to pity them? Didn't they see the old gee in
the paddockeh, what! Hadn't they as good a chance as any of us to
spot that dotty leg. If I'd a been born with a little white choker
round my swan's-down, I'd have shouted the news from the mulberry tree.
But I wasn't, my dearI'm just one of the ruck on the lookout to make
a bitand who'll grease my wheels if I leave my can at home? No, don't
you think itI wanted to marry you right enough, but that wasn't the
road. What your father's paid me, he's going to have back again and
pretty soon about. Let him give it to the kid who's playing Peep-bo
with the Polish VenusI shan't take it, no, not if I come down to a
porcelain bath in the Poplar Unionand what's more, you know I won't,
His keen eyes searched her face earnestly, much more earnestly than
their wont, as he asked her this pointed question. Anna, upon her part,
knew that he had juggled cleverly with the admitted facts of the case
and yet her interest in his confession waxed stronger every moment.
What an odd fascination this man exercised upon her. She felt drawn
toward him as to some destiny she could not possibly escape. And when
he spoke of Alban, then he had her finally enmeshed.
What do you know of Mr. Kennedy? she asked, sitting up very
straight and turning flashing eyes upon him. He certainly wouldn't
write to you. How do you know what he is doing?
A little fat bird in a black coat living down Whitechapel way. Oh,
I don't make any secret of it. I know a man who used to be a parson. He
began to stick needles into himself, and the Bishop saidwhat ho! They
took off his pinafore and he is now teaching Latin outside Aldgate
Station. He's in with the Polish crowdI beg your pardon, the
gentlemen refugees from Polandwho are sewing the buttons on our
shirts not far from the Commercial Road. Those people knew more about
your friend than he knows about himself. Ask 'em straight and they'll
tell you that he is in Warsaw and the girl Lois Boriskoff with him.
Whether they've begun to keep house, I don't pretend to say. But it's
as true as the east wind and that's gospel. You ask your father to make
his own inquiries. I don't want to take it on myself. If he can tell
you that Master Alban Kennedy is not something like the husband of the
Polish lady Lois Boriskoff, then I'll give a penny to a hospital. Now
go and ask him, Annadon't you wait a minute, you go and ask him.
Not until I've had that cup of tea, Willy.
She turned round as the charwoman entered and so hid her face from
him. Light laughter cloaked at once the deep affront her pride had
received, and the personal sense of shame his words had left. Not for a
moment did she question the truth of his story or seek to prove it. As
women all the world over, she accepted instantly the hint at a man's
faithlessness and determined that it must be true. And this was to say
that her passion for Alban Kennedy had never been anything but a phase
of girlish romance acceptable for the moment and to be made permanent
only by persistence. The Eastern blood, flowing warm in her veins,
would never have left her long satisfied with the precise and strenuous
Englishman and the restraint his nationality put upon him. She hungered
for the warm passionate caress which the East had taught her to desire.
She was drawn insensibly toward the man who had awakened this instinct
within her and ministered to it whenever he approached her.
They drank their tea in silence, each perhaps afraid to admit the
hazard of their task. When the moment came, she had recovered her
self-control sufficiently to refer again to the question of the cheque
and to do so adroitly.
Are you going to return that money to my father, Willy?
That's just as you like. When you come here for good, we could send
it back together.
What makes you think that I will come here for good, Willy?
Because when I kiss youlike thisyou tremble, Anna.
He caught her instantly in his arms and covered her face with
passionate kisses. Struggling for a moment in his embrace, she lay
there presently acquiescent as he had known even before his hands
touched her. An hour had passed before Anna quitted the flatand then
she knew beyond any possibility of question that she was about to
become Willy Forrest's wife.
The great gates of the prison yard rolled back to admit the carriage
in which Alban had been driven from the hotel, and a cordon of
straight-backed officials immediately surrounded it. Early as the hour
was, the meanest servant whom Zaniloff commanded had work to do and
well understood the urgency of his task. The night had been one long
story of plot and counterplot; of Revolutionaries fleeing from street
to street, Cossacks galloping upon their heels, houses awakened and
doors beaten down, the screams and cries of women, the savage anger of
men. And all this, not upon the famous avenues which knew little of the
new émeute, but down in the narrow alleys of the old city where bulging
gables hid the sight from a clear heaven of stars and the crazy eaves
had husbanded the cries.
There had been a civil battle fought and many were the prisoners.
Not a cell about that great yard but had not its batch of ragged,
shivering wretches whose backs were still bloody, whose wounds were
still unbound. The quadrangle itself served, as a Cossack jocularly
remarked, for the overflow meeting. Here you might perceive many types
of men-students, still defiant, sage lawyers given to the parley,
ragged vermin of the slums gathering their rags close about their
shoulders as though to protect them from the lash; timid apostles of
the gospel of humanity cowering before human fiendsthus the yard and
its environment. For Alban, however, the place might not have existed.
His eyes knew nothing of this grim spectacle. He followed the Chief to
the upper rooms, remembering only that Lois was here.
They passed down a gloomy corridor and entered a lofty room high up
on the third floor of the station. Two spacious windows gave them a
fine view of the yard below with all its gregarious misery. There was a
table here covered by a green baize cloth, and an officer in uniform
writing at it. He stood and saluted Zaniloff with a gravity fine to
see. The Chief, in turn, nodded to him and drew a chair to the table.
When he had found ink and paper he began the interrogation which should
help his dossier.
You are an Englishman and your age ishe waited and turned to
My age is just about twenty-one.
You were born in England?
In London; I was born in London.
And you now live?
With Mr. Richard Gessner at Hampstead.
So it wentinterminable question and answer, of the most trivial
kind. It seemed an age before they came to the vital issue.
And what do you know of this crime which has been committed?
I know nothinghow could I know anything.
Pardon me, you were yesterday in company of the girl who is charged
with its commission.
The charge is absurdI am sure of it.
We shall decide that for ourselves. You visited her upon the barge
of the German merchant, Petermann. He is now in custody and has
confessed as much. What did she say to you when you were alone with
She asked me to help to set her father free.
An honest admissionwe shall do very well, I see. When she spoke
of his excellency the Count, she said
I am not afraid to tell you. She did not like him and asked me to
take her away from Warsaw, disguised as my servant.
That was not clever, sir. As if we should not have knownbut I
pass it by. You left her and then
I spent the day with the Count and returned with him to the hotel
at three o'clock in the morning.
There was no one with him, then?
Yes, his valet was with him.
Did you leave them together when you went to bed?
He always helped the Count to undress. I cannot remember where I
You have not a good memory, I perceive.
Not for that which happened at three o'clock in the morning.
Zaniloff permitted the merest suspicion of a smile to lurk about the
corners of a sensual mouth.
It is difficult, he said drylyand then, your memory will be
better later on. Did the girl tell you that his excellency would be
You know very well that she did not.
Certainly, you have had too much experience not to know.
Most flatteringplease do not mistake me. I am asking you these
questions because I wish that justice shall be done. If you can do
nothing to clear Lois Boriskoff, I am afraid that we shall have to flog
That would be a cowardly thing to do. It would also be very
foolish. She has many friends both here and in England. I don't think
they will forget her.
Wild talk, Mr. Kennedy, very wild talk. I see that you will not
help me. We must let the Governor know as much and he will decide. I
warn you at the same time that it will go very hard with you if the
Count should dieand as for this woman, we will try other measures.
She must certainly be flogged.
If you do that, I myself will see that her friends in England know
about it. The Governor will never be so foolishthat is, if he wishes
to save Mr. Gessner.
GessnerGessnerI hear the name oftenpardon me, I have not the
honor of his acquaintance.
Telegraph to the Minister at St. Petersburg and he will tell you
who Mr. Gessner is. I think you would be wise to do so.
Zaniloff could make nothing of it. The cool effrontery of this mere
stripling was unlike anything he had heard at the bureau in all the
years he had served authority. Why, the bravest men had gone down on
their knees to him before now and almost shrieked for mercy. And here
was this bit of an English boy plucking the venerable beard of Terror
as unconcernedly as though he were a sullen-eyed Cossack with a nagaika
in his hand. Assuredly he could be no ordinary traveller. And why did
he harp upon this name Gessner, Richard Gessner! Reflection brought it
to Zaniloff's mind that he had heard the name before. Yes, it had been
mentioned in a dossier from the Ministry of Justice. He thought again
and recalled other circumstances. The Government had been anxious to do
the man a servicethey had commanded the arrest of the
Boriskoffswhy, at this very Gessner's bidding! And had not the Count
warned him to treat the young Englishman as his own sonmerely to play
a comedian's part and to frighten him before opening the doors with
profuse apologies. Zaniloff did not like the turn affairs had taken. He
determined to see the Governor-General without a moment's loss of time.
Meanwhile there could be no earthly reason why the girl should not be
flogged. Whatever happened the Minister would approve that.
It shall be done as you advise, he rejoined presently, the
admission passing for an excellent joke. The telegram shall be
dispatched immediately. While we are waiting for an answer I will
command them to bring you some breakfast to my own private room.
Meanwhile, as I say, the girl must be flogged.
Alban shrugged his shoulders.
I did not believe that you could possibly be so foolish, he said.
It puzzled Zaniloff altogether. Searching that open face with eyes
accustomed to read many human stories, he could discern neither emotion
nor anger, but just an honest man's faith in his own cause and a sure
belief that it must triumph. Whatever Alban might really feel, the
sickening apprehension of which he was the victim, the almost
overmastering desire to take this ruffian by the throat and strangle
him as he sat, not a trace of it could be discerned either in his
speech or his attitude. He stood before me like a dog which has barked
and is waiting to bite, Zaniloff said afterwards. I might as well
have threatened to flog the statue of Sobiesky in the Castle gardens.
This impression, however, he was careful to conceal from the prisoner.
Official dignity never arguesespecially when it is getting the worst
of the deal.
My wisdom is not for us to discuss, he snapped; please to
remember that I am in authority here and allow no one to question what
I do. You will remain in my room until I return, sir. Afterwards it
must be as the Governor decides.
He took up his papers and whispering a few words to the stolid
secretary he left the room and went clanking down the corridor. The
officer who remained seemed principally concerned in driving the flies
from his bald head and from the documents he compiled so laboriously.
Stopping from time to time to shape a quill pen to his liking, he would
write a few lines carefully, kill a number of flies, take a peep at
Alban from beneath his shaggy brows and then resume the cycle of his
labors. Alban pitied him cynically. This labor of docketing scarred
backs seemed wretchedly monotonous. He was really glad when the fellow
spoke to him, in as amazing a combination of tongues as man had ever
Mein Herrpardonwhat shall you saycomment à direfor the
We say Moscow, sir.
AhMoskMosk-nitchevoje ne m'en souviens jamais.
He continued to write as though laboring under an incurable
disappointment. That Alban knew what Moskowa meant was not surprising,
for he had heard the word so often in Union Street. Here in this very
courtyard, far below his windows, were the sons and the brothers of
those who had preached revolution in England. How miserable they
lookedgreat hordes of them, all crouching in the shadow of the wall
to save their lacerated skins from the burning sunshine. Verily did
they resemble sheep driven into pens for the slaughter. As for the
Cossacks who moved in and out among them, there was hardly a moment
which found their whips at rest. Standing or sitting, you could not
escape the dreadful thongslashes of raw hide upon a core of wires,
leaded at the end and cutting as knives. Sometimes they would strike at
a huddled form as though they resented its mute confession of
overwhelming misery. An upturned face almost invariably invited a cut
which laid it open from forehead to chin. And not only this, but there
were ordered floggings, one of which Alban must witness as he stood at
the window above, too fascinated by the horror of the spectacle to move
away and not unwilling to know the truth.
Many police assisted at thisdriving their victims before them to a
rude bench in the centre of the yard. There was neither strap nor
triangle. They threw their man down and held him across the plank,
gripping his wrists and ankles and one forcing his head to the floor.
The whip of a single lash, wired to cut and leaded everywhere, fell
across the naked flesh with a sound of a cane upon a board. Great welts
were left at the very first blow, torn flesh afterwards and sights not
to be recounted. The most stolid were broken to shrieks and screams
despite their resolutions. The laugh upon defiant lips became instantly
a terrible cry seeming to echo the ultimate misery. As they did to
these poor wretches so would they do to Lois, Alban said. He was giddy
when a voice called him from the window and he almost reeled as he
Well, what do you want with me?
I am to take you to the cell of the girl Lois Boriskoff, mein Herr.
Please to follow me.
An official, well dressed in civilian's clothes, spoke to him this
time and with a sufficient knowledge of the English language. The
bald-headed secretary still snapped up the unconsidered insectile
trifles which troubled his paper. Alban, his heart thumping audibly,
followed the newcomer from the room and remembered only that he was
going to Lois.
They had imprisoned many of the women in one of the stables behind
the great yard of the station. So numerous were the captives that the
common cells had been full and overflowing long ago. Zaniloff, charged
with the command to restore order in the city at any cost, cared not a
straw what the world without might say of him. The rifle, the bayonet,
the revolver, the whiphere were fine tools and proved. Let but a
breath of suspicion frost the burnish of a reputation and he would have
that man or woman at the bar, though arrest might cost a hundred lives.
Thus it came about that those within the gates were a heterogeneous
multitude to which all classes had contributed. The milliner's
assistant crouched side by side with the Countess, though she still
feared to touch her robe. There were professors' daughters and dockers'
wives, ladies from the avenue and ladies from the hovels. And just as
in the great arena beyond the walls, so here Pride was the staff of the
well-born, Prejudice of the weak.
Amid this trembling company, in the second of the stables, the gloom
shrouding her from suspicious observation, none noticing so humble a
creature, Alban found Lois and made himself known to her. The amiable
civilian with his two or three hundred words of English seemed as
guileless as a child when he announced Master Zaniloff's message and
dwelt upon his honorable master's beneficence.
You are to see this lady, sir, and to tell her that if she is
honest with us we shall do our best to clear her of the charge. She
knows what that will mean to name the others to us and then for herself
the liberty. That is his excellency my master's decision.
Much obliged to him, said Alban, dryly, and perhaps it was as well
that Herr Amiability did not catch the tone of it.
We have much prisoner, the good man went on, much prisoner and
not so much prison. That is as you say a perplexity. But it will be
better; later in the time after. Here is the girl, this is the place.
He bent his head to enter the stable and Alban followed him,
silently for very fear of his own excitement. There was so little light
in the place that he could scarcely distinguish anything at first,
nothing, indeed, but great beds of straw and black figures huddled upon
them. By and by these took shape and became figures of women of all
ages and types. Many, he perceived, were Jewesses, dark as night and as
mysterious. Their clothes were poor, their attitude courageous and
quiet. A Circassian, whose hair was the very color of the straw with
which it mingled, stood out in contrast with the others. She had lately
been flogged and the clothes, torn from her bleeding shoulders, had not
been replaced. Near by, the wife of a professor at the University,
young and distinguished and but yesterday welcomed everywhere, sat dumb
in misery, her eyes wide open, her thoughts upon the child she had
left. Not among these did Alban find Lois, but in the second of the
great stalls still waiting its complement of prisoners. He wondered
that he found her at all, so dark was this place; but a sure instinct
led him to her and he stopped before he had even seen her face.
Lois dear, I am sure it is Lois.
She started up from the straw, straining wild eyes in the shadows.
Awakened from her sleep when they arrested her, she wore the dress
which she had carried to her haven from the school, quite plain and
pretty, with linen collars and cuffs in the old-fashioned style. Her
hair had been loosely plaited and was bound about her like a cord. She
rested upon the palms of her hands turned down to the pavement. There
was but one other woman near her, and she appeared to be asleep. When
she heard Alban's voice, she cried out almost as though they had struck
her with the whip.
Why do you come here? she asked him wildly. Alban, dear, whatever
made you come?
[Illustration: Why do you come here? she asked him wildly.]
He stepped forward and kneeling down in the straw he pressed his
cold lips to hers and held them there for many minutes.
Did you not wish me to come, Lois?
She shivered, her big eyes were casting quick glances everywhere,
they rested at last upon the woman who seemed to sleep almost at her
They will hear every word we say, Alb, dear. That woman is
listening, she is a spy.
I am glad of it, she can go and give her master a message from me.
Tell me, Lois, do not be afraid to speak. You knew nothing of Count
Zamoyski's death. Say that you knew nothing.
She cowered and would not answer him. A dreadful fear came upon
Alban. He began to tremble and could not keep his hands still upon her
Good God, Lois, why do you not speak to me? I must know the truth,
you didn't kill him.
She shrank back, laughing horribly. The pent-up excitements of the
night had broken her nerve at last. For an instant he feared almost for
Lois, Lois dear, Lois, listen to me; I have come to help you. I can
help you. Lois, will you not hear me patiently?
He caught her to him as he spoke and pressed her burning forehead to
his lips. So she lay for a little while, rocked in his arms as a child
that would be comforted. A single ray of sunshine filtered through a
slit in the wall above, dwelt for a moment upon her white face and
showed him all the pity of it.
Lois, why should you speak like this because I come to you? Is it
so difficult to tell the truth?
Did they tell you to ask me that, Alban?
It was forced from me, Lois. I don't believe it. I would as soon
believe it of myself. But don't you see that we must answer them? They
are saying it, and we must answer them.
She struggled to be free, half resenting the manner of his question,
but in her heart admitting its necessity.
I knew nothing of it, she said simply, you may tell them that,
Alban. If they offered me all the riches in the world, I could not say
more. I don't know who did it, dear, and I'd never tell them if I did.
A little cry escaped his lips and he caught her close in his arms
again. It was not to say that he had believed the darker story at which
imagination, in a cowardly mood, might hint, but this plain denial,
from the lips of Lois who had never told him a lie, came as a very
message of their salvation.
You have made me very happy, Lois, he said, now I can talk to
them as they deserve. Of course, I shall get you out of here. Mr.
Gessner will help me to do so. We have the whip hand of him all said
and done, for don't you see, that if you don't tell your people, I
shall, and that will be the end of it. Of course, it won't come to
that. I know how he will act, and what they will do when the time
arrives. Perhaps they will bundle us both out of Russia, Lois, thankful
to see the back of us.
She shook her head, looking up to him with a wild face.
I would not go, Alb dear. Not while my father is a prisoner. Who is
there to work for him, if I don't? No, my dear, I must not think of it.
I have my duty to do whatever comes. But you, it is different for you,
Alban, you would be right to go.
He answered her hotly with a boyish phrase, conventional but true.
You would make a coward of me, Lois, he said, just a coward like
the others. But I am not going to let you. You left me once before; I
have never forgotten that. You went to Russia, and forgot that we had
ever been friends. Was that very kind, was it your true self that did
so? I'll never believe, unless you say so now.
She sat a little apart from him, regarding him wistfully as though
she wondered greatly at his accusation.
You went to live in another world, dear, and so did I. My father
made me promise that I would not try to see you for six months, and I
kept my word. That was better for you and better for me. If money had
changed you, and money does change most of us, you would have been
happier for my silence. I have told you about the letters, and that's
God's truth. If I had not been ashamed, I couldn't have kept my word,
for I loved you, dear, and I shall always love you. When my father sent
you to Mr. Gessner's house, I think he wished to find out if his good
opinion of you was right or not. He said that you were going to carry a
sword into Wonderland and kill some of the giants. If you came back to
us, you were to marry me, but if you forgot us, then he would never
believe in any man again. There's the truth for you, my dear, I tell
you because it all means nothing to me now. I could not go to London
and leave my father in prison here, and they will never release him,
Alban, they will never do it as things are, for they are more
frightened of him than of any man in Russia. When I go away from here,
it will be to Petersburg to try and see my father. There's no one else
in all the world to help him, and I shall go there and try to see him.
If they will let me stay with him, that will be something, dear. You
can ask them that for me; when Mr. Gessner writes, you can beg it of
the Ministry in Mr. Gessner's name.
Ask them to send you to prison, Lois?
To send me to my father, dear.
Alban sat very silent, almost ashamed for himself and his own
desires. The stupendous sacrifice of which she spoke so lightly
revealed to him a page in the story of human sympathy which he had
often read and as often derided. Here in the prison cell he stood face
to face with human love as Wonderland knew nothing of it. Supreme above
all other desires of her life, this desire to save her father, to share
his sorrows, to stand by him to the end, prevailed. The riches of the
world could not purchase a devotion as precious, or any fine philosophy
belittle it. He knew that she would go to Petersburg because Paul
Boriskoff, her father, had need of her. This was her answer to his
selfish complaints during the years of their exile.
And what am I to do if they give you the permission, Lois?
To go back to London and marry Anna Gessner. Won't you do that,
You know that I shall never do so.
There was a time when you would not have said that, my dear.
He was greatly troubled, for the accusation was very just. The
impossibility of making the whole truth plain to her had stared him in
the face since the moment of her pathetic confession when he met her on
the barge. Impossible to say to her, I had an ideal and pursued it,
looking to the right and the left for the figure of the vision and
suffering it to escape me all the time. This he could not tell her or
even hint at. The lie cried for a hearing, and the lie was detestable
There was a time, yes, Lois, he said, turning his face from her,
I am ashamed to remember it now, since you have spoken. If you love
me, you would understand what all the wonders of Mr. Gessner's house
meant to a poor devil, brought up as I had been. It was another world
with strange people everywhere. I thought they were more than human and
found them just like the rest of us. Oh, that's the truth of it, and I
know it now. Our preachers are always calling upon the rich to do fine
things for the poor, but the rich man is deaf as often as not, because
some little puny thing in their own lives is dinning in their ears and
will shut out all other sounds. I know that it must be so. The man who
has millions doesn't think about humanity at all. He wages war upon
trifles, his money-books are his library, he has blinded himself by
reading them and lost his outlook upon the world. I thought it would
all be so different, and then somebody touches me upon the shoulder and
I look up and see that my vision is no vision at all, and that the true
heart of it is my own all the time. Can you understand that, Lois, is
it hidden from you also?
It is not hidden, Alban, it is just as I said it would be.
And you did not love me less because of it?
I should never have loved you less, whatever you had done.
I shall remind you of that when we are in England together.
That will never be, Alban dear, unless my father is free.
She repeated it again and again. Her manner of speaking had now
become that of one who understood that this was a last farewell.
You cannot help us, she said, why should you suffer because we
must? In England there's a great future before you as Mr. Gessner's
adopted son. I shall never hear of it, but I shall be proud because I
know the world will talk about you. That will be something to take with
me, dear, something they can never rob me of, whatever happens. When
you remember who Lois was, say that she is thinking of you in Russia
far away. They cannot separate us, dear Alban, while we love.
He had no word to answer this and could but harp again upon all the
promise of his fine resolution. When the matter-of-fact official came
to find him, Lois was close in his embrace and there were tears of
regret in his eyes.
They returned to the great courtyard, but not to Zaniloff's room as
the promise had been. Here by the gates there stood a passable private
carriage, and into this Alban perceived that he was to be hustled. The
bestarred transcriber of the upper story, he who waged the battle of
the flies, now stood by the carriage door and appeared to be ill at
ease. Evidently his study of strange tongues still troubled him.
Pardon, mein Herrhow in Englishkhorosho? he asked very
It means 'that's all right,' sir. Alban answered immediately.
It means that,ah, nitchevoje ne m'en souviens jamais.
He held the door open and Alban entered the carriage without a word.
Apparently they still waited for someone and five minutes passed and
found their attitudes unchanged. Then Zaniloff himself appeared full of
bustle and business but in a temper modified toward concession.
I am taking you back to your hotel, mein Herr, he said to Alban,
it is the Governor's order. You will leave Warsaw to-night. Those are
He sank back in the cushions and the great gates were shut behind
them with a sonorous clang. Out in the streets the outbreak of the
earlier hours had been a veritable battle but was now a truce. The
whole city seemed to be swarming with troops. Well might Zaniloff think
of other things.
Is the Count better, sir? Alban ventured presently.
He will live, was the dry response, at least the doctors say so.
And you have discovered the truth about the affair?
The man who attacked him was shot on the Rymarska half an hour
Then that is why you are taking me back to my hotel?
There is positively no other reason, said the Chief.
The statement was frank to the point of brutality, but it carried
also such a message of hope that Alban hardly dared to repeat the words
of it even to himself; there was no longer any possibility of a capital
charge against the child he had just left in the wretched stable. Let
the other facts be as they might, these people could not detain Lois
Boriskoff upon the Count's affair or add it to the dossier in which her
father's offences were narrated. Of this Zaniloff's tone convinced him.
He would never have admitted it at all if Lois were compromised, the
argument ran, and was worthy of the wise head which arrived at it.
I am glad that you have found the man, he explained presently, it
clears up so much and must be very satisfactory. Would you have any
objection to telling me what you are going to do with the girl I have
I have no objection at all. When the Ministry at St. Petersburg
condescends to inform me, you shall share my information. At present I
am going to keep her under lock and key, and if she is obstinate I am
going to flog her.
Do the people at St. Petersburg wish you to do that?
I do not consult their feelings, was the curt reply.
They fell to silence once more and the carriage rolled on through
the busy streets. It had escaped Alban's notice hitherto, that an
escort of Cossacks accompanied them, but as they turned into the great
avenue he caught a glimpse of bright accoutrements and of horsemen
going at a gentle canter. The avenue itself was almost deserted save by
the ever-present infantry who lined its walks as though some great
cavalcade were to pass. When they had gone another hundred paces, the
need for the presence of the soldiers declared itself in a heap of
blackened ruins and a great fire still smouldering. Zaniloff smiled
grimly when they passed the place.
Half an hour ago that was the palace of my namesake, the Grand Duke
Sergius, he said, almost as though the intelligence were a matter of
personal satisfaction to him.
Alban looked at the smouldering ruins and could not help remembering
the strange threats he had heard in Union Street on the very eve of his
departure from England. Had any of the old mad orators a hand in this?
Those wild figures of the platforms and the slums, had they achieved so
much, if indeed it were achievement at all?
They are fools to make war upon bricks and mortar, Zaniloff
remarked in his old quiet way.
I told them so in London, sir.
You told them; do you enjoy the honor of their acquaintance then?
I know as much about them as any of your people, and that is saying
a good deal. They are very ignorant men who are suffering great wrongs.
If your government would make an effort to learn what the world is
thinking about to-day, you would soon end all this. But you will never
do it by the whip, and guns will not help you.
Zaniloff laid a hand upon his shoulder almost in a kindly way.
My honor alone forbids me to believe that, he exclaimed.
They arrived at the hotel while he spoke and passed immediately to
the private apartments above. A brief intimation that Alban must
consider himself still a prisoner and not leave his rooms under any
circumstances, whatever, found a ready acquiescence from one who had
heard an echo in Lois' words of his own farewell to Russia. That the
authorities would detain him he did not believe, and he knew that his
long task was not here. He must return to England and save Lois. How or
by what means he could not say; for the ultimate threat, so lightly
spoken, affrighted him when he was alone and left him a coward. How,
indeed, if he went to the fanatics of Union Street and said to
them,Richard Gessner is your enemy; strike at him. There would be
vengeance surely, but he had received too many kindnesses at Hampstead
that he should contemplate such an infamy. And what other course lay
before him? He could not say, his life seemed lived. Neither ambition
nor desire, apart from the prison he had left, remained to him.
The French valet Malette waited upon him in his rooms and gave him
such news of the Count as the sentinels of the sick-room permitted. Oh,
yes, his excellency was a little better. He had spoken a few words and
asked for his English friend. Nothing was known of the madman who
struck him save that which the papers in his pocket told them. The
fellow had been shot as he left the Grand Duke's palace; some thought
that he had been formerly in the Count's service and that this was
merely an act of vengeance, mais terrible, as Malette added with
emphasis. Later on his excellency would be able to tell the story for
himself. His grand constitution had meant very much to him to-day.
The interview took place at three o'clock in the afternoon, the
doctors having left their patient, and the perplexed Zaniloff being
again at the prison. The bed had now been wheeled a little way from the
window and the room set in pleasant order by clever and willing hands.
The Count himself had lost none of his courage. The attack in truth had
nerved him to believe that he had nothing further to fear in Warsaw,
for who would think about a man already as good as buried by the
newspapers. Here was something to help the surgeons and bring some
little flush of color to the patient's pallid cheeks. He spoke as a man
who had been through the valley of the shadow and had suffered little
inconvenience by the journey.
I am forbidden to talk, he said to Alban, and immediately began to
talk in defiance of a nurse's protests.
So you have been to prison, mon vieux; well, it is so much
experience for you, and experience is useful. I have done a good
morning's work, as you see. Imagine it. I open my door to a policeman,
and when I ask him what he has got for me, he whips out a butcher's
knife and makes a thrust at my ribs. Happily for me, I come from a bony
race. The surgeons have now gone to fight a duel about it. One is for
septic pneumonia, the other for the removal of the lungs. I shall be
out of Poland in my beautiful France by the time they agree.
He flushed with the exertion and cast reproachful eyes upon the
nurse who stood up to forbid his further eloquence. Alban, in turn,
began to tell him of the adventure of the morning.
It was a Jack and Jill business, except that Jill does not come
tumbling after, he said. What is going to happen I cannot tell you.
Lois will not leave Poland until her father is released, and I have it
from her that he never will be released. Don't you see, Count, that Mr.
Gessner is a fool to play with fire like this. Does he believe that
this secret will be kept because these two are in prison? I know that
it will not. If he is to be saved, it must be by generosity and
courage. I should have thought he would have known it from the
beginning. Let him act fairly by old Paul Boriskoff and I will answer
for his safety. If he does not do so, he must blame himself for the
Pride never blames itself, Kennedy, even when it is foolish. I like
your wisdom and shall give a good account of it. Of course, there is
the other side of the picture, and that is not very pretty. How can we
answer for the man, even if he be generously dealt with? More important
still, how can we answer for the woman?
I will answer for her, Count.
You, my dear boy. How can you do that?
By making her my wife.
Do you say this seriously?
I say it seriously.
But why not at Hampstead before we left England. That would have
made it easier for us all.
I would try to tell you, but you would not understand. Perhaps I
did not know then what I know now. There are some things which we only
learn with difficulty, lessons which it needs suffering to teach us.
A sharp spasm, almost of pain, crossed the Count's face.
That is very true, he exclaimed, please do not think I am
deficient in understanding. It has been necessary for you to come to
Poland to discover where your happiness lay?
Yes, it has been necessary.
Do you understand, that this would mean the termination of your
good understanding with my friend Gessner. You could not remain in his
I have thought of that. It will be necessary for me to leave him as
you say. But I have been an interloper from the beginning, and I do not
see how I could have remained. While everything was new to me, while I
lived in Wonderland, I never gave much thought to it; but here when I
begin to think, I am no longer in doubt. How could I shut myself up in
a citadel of riches and know that so many of my poor people were
starving not ten miles from my door. I would feel as though I had gone
into the enemy's camp and sold myself for the gratification of a few
silly desires and a whole pantomime of show which a decent man must
laugh at. It is better for me to have done with it once and for all and
try to get my own living. Lois will give me the right to work, if she
ever wins her liberty, which I doubt. You could help her to do so, if
you were willing, Count.
I, what influence have I?
As much as any man in Poland, I should say.
Ah, you appeal to my vanity. I wish it could respond. Frankly, my
Government will be little inclined to clemency, just now at any rate.
Why should it be? These people are burning down our houses, why should
we help them to build their own? Your old friend Boriskoff was as
dangerous a man as any in Poland, why should they let him go just
because an English banker wishes it.
They will let him go because he is more dangerous in prison than
out of it. In London I could answer for him. I could not answer while
he is at Petersburg.
My dear lad, we must really make you Master of all these pretty
ceremonies. I'll speak to Zaniloff. He laughed lightly, for the idea
of this mere stripling being of any use to his Government amused him
greatly. His apologies for the indulgence, however, were not to be
spoken, for the blood suddenly rushed from his cheeks, and the good
nurse intervened in some alarm.
Please to leave him, she said to Alban in French. He obeyed her
immediately, seeing that he had been wrong to stay so long.
I will come again when you permit me. Please let me know when his
excellency is better.
She promised him that she would do so, and he returned to his own
rooms. He was not, however, to see the Count again until he met him
many years afterwards in Paris. The distressed Zaniloff himself carried
the amazing news, some two hours later.
You are to leave for London by the evening mail, the Chief said
shortly, a berth has been reserved for you, and I myself will see you
into the train. Do not complain of us, Mr. Kennedy. I can assure you
that there are many cities more agreeable than Warsaw at the present
Alban was not surprised, nor would he argue upon it. He realized
that his labors in Poland had been in vain. If he could save Lois from
the prison, he must do so in London, in the alleys and dens he had so
long deserted. Not toward Wonderland, not at the shrines of riches, but
as an exile returned to labor with the humblest, must this journey
And he bowed his head to destiny and believed that he stood alone
against the world.
Alban had returned some two months from Poland, when, upon a drear
October evening, the Archbishop of Bloomsbury, my Lady Sarah, the
flower girl, and Betty, the half-witted boy, made their way about
half-past nine o'clock to the deserted stage of the Regent Theatre, and
there by the courtesy of the watchman, distantly related to Sarah,
began their preparations for a homely evening meal.
To be quite candid, this was altogether a more respectable company
than that which had assembled in the Caves at the springtime of the
year. The Lady Sarah wore a spruce black silk dress which had adorned
the back of a Duchess more than three years ago; the Archbishop boasted
a coat that would have done no discredit to a Canon of St. Paul's; the
boy they would call Betty had a flower at the button-hole of a neat
gray suit, and carried himself as though all the world belonged to him.
This purple and fine linen, to be sure, were rather lost upon the empty
stage of that dismal theatre, nor did the watchman's lantern and two
proud wax-candles which the Lady Sarah carried do much for their
reputation; but, as the Archbishop wisely said, We know that they are
there, and Sarah has the satisfaction of rustling for us.
Now to be plainer, this was the occasion of a letter just received
from the Panorama, who had gone to America since June, and of joyful
news from that incurable optimism.
I gather, the Archbishop had said, as he passed the document
round, that our young friend, erhemhaving exhibited the American
nation in wax, a symbol of its pliability, surely is now proceeding to
melt it down and to return to England. That is a wise undertaking.
Syrus, the philosopher, has told us that Fortune is like glass, when
she shines too much she is broken. Let our friend take the tide at the
flood and not complain afterwards that his ship was too frail. The
Panorama has achieved reputation, and who is of the world does not know
the pecuniary worth of that? Consider my own case and bear with me. I
have the misfortune to prick myself with a needle and to suffer certain
personal inconveniences thereby. The world calls me a villain. Other
men, differently situated, kill thousands of their fellow-creatures and
look forward to the day when they will be buried in Westminster Abbey.
We envy them at the height and the depth of it. This the Panorama
should remember. A successful showman is here to-day
anderhemmelted down to-morrow. It is something to have left no
debts behind him; it is much more to have remembered his old friends in
these small tokens which we shall consume in all thankfulness,
according to our happiness and our digestions.
He had seated himself upon a stage chair, gilt and anciently
splendid, to deliver himself of this fine harangue. The lady Sarah, in
her turn, hastened to take up a commanding position upon the throne
that had served for a very modern Cleopatra, while the boy Betty,
accustomed to hard beds, squatted upon the bare boards and was the
happier for his liberty. For inward satisfaction, the menu declared a
monstrous pie from a shop near by; a plentiful supply of fried fish;
three dozen oysters in a puny barrel, and a half a dozen bottles of
stout, three of which protruded from the Archbishop's capacious
pockets. The occasion was a great one, indeed, the memory of their old
friend, the Panorama, at its zenith.
I always did say as he'd make a noise in the world, and that's the
truth, God knows, Sarah took an early occasion to remark. Not if he
were my own brother could I wish him more than I do this night. 'Tisn't
all of us would care to go 'crost the ocean among the cannibals and
take the King of Hingerland in a 'amper. I saw him myself, wrapped up
in a piper box and lookin' beautiful, God's truth, with the crown done
up in tissue beside him. That was before the Panorama left us. 'Be a
good boy,' says I, 'and don't fall in love with any of them darkies as
you'll find in' Mericky. So help me lucky, I'd a good mind ter come
after you,' says I, 'and marry their Ole Man jess ter set 'em a good
By which it will be perceived that the Lady Sarah's knowledge of the
great and mighty Republic beyond the seas was clearly limited. Such
ignorance had often provoked the Archbishop of Bloomsbury to
exasperation, it annoyed him not a little to-night.
My dear child, he protested, you are laboring under a very great
delusion. Be assured that America is a very great country,
whereerhemthey may eat each other, but not as you imagine. I
believe that the American ladies are very beautiful. I have met some of
themerin the old days, whenhemthe Bishops showed their
confidence in me by drinking my claret and finding it to their liking.
All that we have in England they have in Americaprisons, paupers,
policemen, palaces. You are thinking of Africa, Sarah, darkest Africa,
that used to be, but is fast disappearing. Led me add
Sarah, however, was already busy upon her dozen of oysters and had
no patience to hear the good man out.
Don't you take on so, Bishop, she intervened, 'Mericky ain't done
much for me and precious little it's going ter do for you. What I says
is, let those as have got a good 'ome stop there and be thankful. Yer
may talk about your oshun wave, but I ain't taking any, no, not though
there was diamonds on the sea beach the other side and 'ot-'arse roses
fer nothink. Who ever sees their ole friends as is swallered up by the
sea? Who ever heard of Alb Kennedy since he went ter Berling as he told
us for to mike his fortune? Ho, a life on the oshun wave if yer like,
but not for them as has bread and cheese ashore and a good bed to go to
arterwards; that's what I shall say as long as I've breath in my body.
Betty, the boy, answered to this earnest lamentation with a sound
word of good common sense.
You're a-goin' to sleep in one o' them boxes to-night, ain't you,
Sarah? he asked, and she admitted the truth of his conclusions.
And sweeter dreams I would have if I knew where the Dook was
a-layin' his 'ed this night, she added.
The Archbishop ate a succulent morsel and drank a long draught from
the unadorned black bottle.
Nothing is known of Kennedy at Hampstead, he interposed, I have
made diligent inquiries of the gardener there, and he assures me that
our dear friend never returned from Poland and that no one knows
anything of him, not even Mr. Gessner. Anna, the daughter, I
understand, is married to an old acquaintance of ours and has taken a
little house in Curzon Street. She liked to go theerhempace, as
the people say; and she is mated to one who will not be afraid of
exceeding the legal limits. Mr. Gessner himself is on his yacht, and is
supposed to be cruising off the coast of Norway. That is what they tell
me. I have no reason to doubt the truth of their information. Would to
heaven I had. Kennedy was a friend, a true friend, while he was in
England. I have known many a bitter night since he left us.
He sighed, but valiantly, and applied himself once more to the
pewter pot. It was a terrible night outside, raining heavily and
blowing a bitter wind. Even here on the stage of the deserted theatre a
chilling draught sported with their candles and made fine ghosts for
them upon the faded canvas. Talk of Alban Kennedy seemed to have
depressed them all. They uttered no word for many minutes, not indeed
until one of the iron doors suddenly swung open and Alban himself came
in among them. He was drenched to the skin, for he had carried no
umbrella, and wore but a light travelling suit, the identical one in
which he had returned from Poland. Very pale and worn and thin, this,
they said, was the ghost of the Alban who had left them in the early
summer. And his manner was as odd as his appearance. You might almost
have said that he had thrown the last shred of the aristocratic rags to
the winds and put on old habits so long discarded that they were almost
forgotten. When he crossed the stage to them, it was with his former
air of dogged indifference and cynical self-content. Explanations were
neither offered nor asked. He flung his hat aside and sat upon the
corner of a crazy sofa despised by the rest of the company. A hungry
look, cast upon the inviting delicacies, betrayed the fact that he was
hungry. Be sure it was not lost upon the watchful Sarah.
Good Gawd, to see him walk in amongst us like that. Why, Mr.
Kennedy, whatever's up, whatever brings you here a night like this?
Alban had always admired the Lady Sarah, he admired her more than
Wind and rain, Sarah, he said shortly, they brought me here, to
say nothing of Master Betty cutting across the street as though the
cops were at his heels. How are you all? How's his reverence? Speak up,
my lord, how are the affairs of your extensive diocese?
My affairs, said the Archbishop, slowly, are what might be called
in nubibuscloudy, my dear boy, distinctly cloudy. I am, to
adopt a homely simile, at present under a neighbor's umbrella, which is
not as sound as it might be. Behold me, none the less, in that state of
content to which the poet Horace has happily referrednec vixit
male qui natus moriensque fefellit. At this moment you discover me
upon a pleasant bridge which spans an unknown abyss. I eat, drink and
am merry. What more shall I desire?
And Betty here, does Betty keep out of mischief?
Sarah answered this.
I got him a job at Covent Garden, and he's there regular at four
o'clock every morning sure as the sun's in heaven. Don't you go
thinking nothink about Betty, Mr. Kennedy, and so I tell you straight.
And what have you done with the Panorama, Sarah?
She laughed loudly.
Panorama's among the black men, them's his oysters as we're eatin'
now. Try one, Mr. Kennedy. You look as if a drop of summat would do you
good, so help me you do. Take a sup o' stout and rest yourself awhile.
It is a surprise to see you, I must say.
A very pleasant surprise, indeed, added the Archbishop,
emphatically. There has been no event in my life for many months which
has given me so much satisfaction. We have not so many friends that we
can spare even one of them to those higher spheres, which, I must say,
he has adorned with such conspicuous lustre.
Oh, spare me, reverence, don't talk nonsense to-night. I am tired
as you see, tired and hungry. And I'm going to beg food and drink from
old friends who have loved me. Now, Sarah, what's it to be?
He drew the sofa nearer to the bare table and began to eat with
them. Sarah's motherly protestations induced him to take off his coat
and hang it up in the watchman's office to dry. The same tender care
served out to him the most delicate morsels, from a generous if uncouth
table, and insisted upon their acceptance. If his old friends were hot
with curiosity to know whence he came and what he had been doing, they,
as the poor alone can do successfully, asked no questions nor even
hinted at their desire. Not until the supper was over and the
Archbishop had produced a little packet of cigars, did any general
conversation interrupt that serious business of eating and drinking, so
rarely indulged in, so sacred when opportunity offered.
This amiable truce to curiosity, dictated by nature, was first
broken by the Archbishop, who did not possess my Lady Sarah's robust
powers of self-command. Passing Alban a cigar, he asked him a question
which had been upon his lips from the beginning.
You are just returned from Poland, Kennedy?
I have been in England two months, reverence.
But not at Hampstead, my dear boy, not at Hampstead, surely?
As you say, not at Hampstead, at least not at Five Gables. Mr.
Gessner is away yachting; I read it in the newspapers.
You read it in the newspapers. God bless me! do you mean to say
that he did not tell you himself?
He told me nothing. How could he? He hasn't got my address.
They all stared, open-eyed in wonder. Even the Lady Sarah had a
question to ask now.
You're not back in Whitechapel again.
True as gold. I am living in Union Street, and going to be
To be married; who's the lidy?
That's what I want to know; perhaps it would be little red-haired
Chris Denholm. I can't exactly tell you, Sarah.
Here none of thatyou're pullin'
Sarah caught the Archbishop's frown, and corrected herself adroitly.
It ain't true, Mr. Kennedy, is it now?
God knows, Sarah, I don't. I'm earning two pounds a week in a motor
shop and living in the old ken by Union Street. Mr. Gessner has left
the country and his daughter is married to Willy Forrest. I hope she'll
like him. They'll make a pretty pair in a crow's nest. Pass the stout
and let's drink to 'em. I must be off directly; if I don't walk home,
it'll be pneumonia or something equally pleasant. But I'm glad to see
you all, you know it, and I wish you luck from the bottom of my heart.
He took a long drink from a newly opened bottle and claiming his
coat passed out as mysteriously as he had come. The watchman said that
a man waited for him upon the pavement, but his information seemed
vague. The others continued to discuss him until weariness overtook
them and they slept where they lay. His going had taken a friend away
from them, and their friends were few enough, God knows!
A well-meaning stage-door keeper for once had told the plain truth
and there had been a man upon the pavement when Alban quitted the
Little more than six months ago, this identical fellow had been
commissioned by Richard Gessner to seek Alban out and report upon his
habits. He had visited the great ship-building yard, had made a hundred
inquiries in Thrawl Street and the Commercial Road, had tracked his
quarry to the Caves and carried his news thereafter triumphantly to
Hampstead and his employer. To-night his purpose was otherwise. He
sought not gossip but a man, and that man now appeared before him upon
the pavement, his hands thrust deep into his pockets, his head bent,
his attitude that of utter dejection and despair.
Mr. Kennedy, if you please.
The stranger spoke beneath the shadow of a great lamp in the Charing
Cross Road. Not hearing him immediately, Alban had arrived at the next
lamp before the earnest entreaty arrested him and found him erect and
watchful in a moment.
I beg your pardon, sir; you are Mr. Kennedy, are you not?
My name, at least the half of it.
Mr. Alban Kennedy, shall we say. I have been looking for you for
three days, sir. It is not often that I search three days for anybody
when his house is known. Forgive me, it is not my fault that there has
been a delay.
Alban knew no more than the man in the moon what he was driving at,
and he thought it must be all a mistake.
What's it all about, old chap? he exclaimed, falling into the
manners of the street. Why have you been hurrying yourself on my
To give you this letter, sir, and to ask you to accompany me.
Alban whistled, but took the note nevertheless and tore it open with
trembling fingers. He thought that he recognized the handwriting, but
was not sure. When he had read the letter through, he turned to the man
and said that he would go with him.
Then I will call a hansom, sir.
The detective blew a shrill whistle, and a hansom immediately tried
to cannon an omnibus, and succeeding came skidding to the pavement. The
two men entered without a word to each other; but to the driver the
direction was Hampstead Heath. He, wise merchant, demurred with chosen
phrase of weight, until a fare was named and then lashed his horse
My lucky's in, he cried to a friend upon another box, it's a quid
if I ain't bilked.
Alban meanwhile took a cigarette from a paper packet, and asked his
companion for a light. When he struck it an observer would have noticed
that his hand was still shaking.
Did you go down yonder? he asked, indicating generally the
neighborhood east of Aldgate.
Searched every coffee shop in Whitechapel, sir.
Ah, you weren't lucky. I have been living three days on Hampstead
On Hampstead Heath? My godfather, I wish I'd known.
They were driving through Regent's Park by this time, and the
darkness of a tempestuous night enshrouded them. Alban recalled that
unforgotten evening of spring when, with the amiable Silas Geary for
his companion, he had first driven to Mr. Gessner's house and had heard
the story of Wonderland, as that very ordinary cleric had described it.
What days he had lived through since then! And now this news surpassing
all the miracles! What must it mean to him, and to her! Had they been
fooling him again or might he dare to accept it for the truth? He knew
not what to think. A surpassing excitement seized upon him and held him
dumb. He felt that he would give years of his life to know.
They toiled up the long hill to the Heath and entered the grounds of
Five Gables just as the church clock was striking eleven. There were
lights in the Italian Garden and in the drawing-room. Just as it had
been six months ago, so now the obliging Fellows opened the door to
them. Alban gave him a kindly nod and asked him where Lois was.
The young lady is there, in the hall, sir. Pardon me saying it, she
seems much upset to-night.
Mr. Gessner is still away?
On his yacht, sir. We think he is going to visit South America.
Alban waited for no more, but went straight on, his eyes half
blinded by the glaring lights, his hands outstretched as though feeling
for other hands to grasp them.
Lois, I am here as you wished.
A deep sob answered him, a hot face was pressed close to his own.
Alban, she said, my father is dead!
Very early upon the following morning, almost before it was light,
Alban entered the familiar study at Five Gables and read his patron's
letter. It had been written the day after he himself returned from
Poland, and had long awaited him, there in that great lonely house. He
opened it almost as though it had been a message from the dead.
I am leaving England to-day, the note went on, and may be many
months abroad. The unhappy death of Paul Boriskoff in the Schlusselburg
will be already known to you, and will relieve you of any further
anxiety upon his daughter's account. I have the assurance of the
Minister of St. Petersburg that she will be released immediately and
sent to Five Gables as I have wished. There I have made that
provision for her future which I owe to my own past, and there she will
live as your wife until the days of my exile are finished.
You, Alban Kennedy, must henceforth be the agent of my fortunes. To
you, in the name of humanity, I entrust the realization of those dreams
which have endeared you to me and made you as my own son. If there be
salvation for the outcasts of this city by such labors as you will now
undertake upon their behalf, then let yours be the ministering hands,
and the people's gratitude. I have lived too long in the kingdom of the
money-changers either to accept your beliefs or to put them into
practice. Go you out then as an Apostle in my name, that at my coming I
may help you to reap a rich harvest.
My agents will be able at all times to tell upon what sea or in
what haven I am to be found. I go in quest of that peace which the
world has denied to me. But I carry your name before others in my
memory, and if I live, I will return to call you my son.
So the letter went on, so Alban read it as the dawn broke and the
great city woke to the labors of the day.
E-text prepared by David Garcia, Martin Pettit, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team (http://www.pgdp.net)