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Title: The Evil That Men Do
Author: M.P. Shiel
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Language: English
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The Evil That Men Do

by

M.P. Shiel

Cover Image

Serialised by special arrangement with Ward, Lock & Co. in
The Border Watch, Mount Gambier, South Australia,
Mar 26-Aug 13, 1904
First book edition: Ward, Lock & Co., London, 1904

This e-book edition: Project Gutenberg Australia, 2014



Cover Image

"The Evil That Men Do," Ward, Lock & Co., London, 1904



TABLE OF CONTENTS



I. — ON THE SEA

An interesting question raised by the incident we have to tell is this: How far is it true that children inherit the traits of their parents? The son, the father—a racehorse is usually a racehorse; but is the son, the father, a Napoleon, a Napoleon? On the contrary, history teaches that no great man ever had a great son.

A child's resemblance to its parents may sometimes arise after its birth; for constant intimacy is alone sufficient to produce resemblance. Thus, the late President McKinley came to look like his wife's brother; and so with many couples.

For years the child's existence is all mixed up with its parents'. How many kisses, forbidden hours of sleep in the drowsy mother's bed! Therefore, if either parent has a disease, the child can hardly escape. Later on he will be told that his consumption is "hereditary," but it may have originated since his birth.

No one would question the fact of heredity: we only remark that the extent to which we now believe in it is "not proven" in the case of that mysterious animal, man; and we are led to the reflection by a singular case which happened on board a ship some forty five years ago.

She was the Africa, and was one of those Union line mail boats that ply between the Cape and Southampton before the Castle line was formed to share with the Union line half the Government subvention, about 1870. They were small boats (compared with the present monsters) of 1,000 tons or so, of the kind which it was the fashion to call "tin-kettles:" half steamer, half sailing-ship, brigantine-rigged, with one funnel; and the postage of a letter to the Cape was—one shilling.

The captain of the Africa—a certain Captain Denner—was a handsome man of forty, with a large freckled face, who might have done very well for a model of Charlemagne, or some old sea-king, only that his long beard was black. He had a red birth-mark, the size of a penny, across his left temple. His lips were rather thick, and his moustache, parting in the middle, showed their strong pressure there. Though rather taciturn at times he was a good captain, popular with the passengers: and the voyage went well, till they reached the latitude of Madeira. At that time, by the way, it lasted thirty days, not sixteen, as now.

One Sunday morning, then, near Madeira, the vessel moving through a calm sea, the passengers were assembled at prayers, which were conducted by a clergyman who happened to be aboard. Among them were two ladies, a Mrs Drayton and a Mrs Hartwell, both of whom were about to become mothers.

It was noted as an odd thing that the captain was not at the service; no one, in fact, had seen him at all that morning. The first officer had knocked at his door, but the captain, without opening, had called back, in a strange voice, the strange words: "Go away."

However, the clergyman had not yet reached the Litany, when the captain appeared at the door of the dining-saloon, where the worshippers were. Their backs were turned to the door, but when the clergyman stopped, with gaping mouth, the others looked round and saw the captain.

He had on nothing but a shirt and drawers. Some open ports, with a wellhole communicating with the smoke-room above, gave plenty of light, and he was distinctly seen: his rich, black hair seemed to stand on end, his eyes were wild, and in his hand was a revolver.

As all stared at this apparition he lifted his right arm, uttered the sound "bang," and shot the clergyman dead. He then turned the weapon a little, uttered the same sound, and sent another into eternity. The third shot pierced Mrs Drayton's right forearm; the fourth wounded the purser in the breast; the fifth killed a passenger who was running to seize the madman. This scene somehow affected the witnesses of it, not merely with terror, but with some sort of ghostly awe, which left all the survivors, male and female, in a state of nervous ruin for days. Before the fifth shot, all the ladies had fainted.

A rush, however, was made by the men, the lunatic was mastered, put into irons, and died the same night of the brain disease which had suddenly seized him.

Four months afterwards, in the town of Bradford, Mrs Drayton gave birth to a son; six months afterwards, near Rugby, Mrs Hartwell too, gave birth to a son. And the point which we wanted to emphasize is this, that these two boys, as they grew to manhood, bore no resemblance to hereditary types; but each had a raspberry birthmark the size of a penny on his left temple; and each was the image of Captain Denner, the captain of the Africa.

In that instant of the captain's apparition at the saloon door in that one vivid shock of panic, the nervous beings of the two mothers had leapt, caught, appropriated, and kodaked the captain's image.

And for thirty-eight years after that Sunday on the sea those two portraits of the captain of the Africa lived in England unconscious of each other. But after that stretch of time, the winds that blew the lives of men like wandering waves of the sea, blew them together, and they met.


II. — ON THE ROAD

It was on the road between Cromer and Norwich—a good road, as many cyclists know, but with some steep bits, especially toward Cromer end, and there between Horsham, St. Fay's and Aylsham.

It is late autumn, and all those woods of Stratton, Strawless, and Blickling, are whirls of dead leaves. The sun is setting—bleakly setting; and the storm winds sweeping south wrinkle the puddles in the road, along which one may walk miles and not meet a soul.

Certainly, the country has a desolate aspect this evening; the ground, turned since harvest for the first wheat sowing, looks black and dead with wet. Hardly a tuft of chrysanthemum in some sheltered nook still braves the bleakness of wintry winds. The ferns, and heather of Roughton Heath look scorched by the breath of a fire. The wind seems to have a grey colour.

Go still further north along the road, and you will find all that breadth of sand, where the village girls "paddle" through the summer and catch sea anemones, swallowed up now by the sea. It is blowing great guns inland, and the flat-bottomed crab boats are perched in nooks of the cliffs beyond the range of the breakers.

Beyond Roughton and Aylsham, a motor car comes scorching at a speed of not less than thirty miles an hour; for the wind blows keen and, moreover, the driver of this particular twin cylinder is famous for his illegal pace.

His car is a specially "chic" turn-out, an elongated mass of double phaeton type, brown-painted, upholstered in green leather, with French Dunlops, and lightly pitches forward all that weight over the slushy road a purring Juggernaut—toward Norwich, toward London.

On the front seat are two men, thick as bears in a rug, gloves, and furred coats. Only their noses are cold, but even that little they resent: they do not know that within two hours they will be cold all over.

"Dimmed cold," says one.

"Hang the silly storm," says the other.

They are the financier, James Drayton, and his right-hand man, McCalmont. They have motored together from London to Sheffield to attend a conference on the pooling of some steel concern, but when the conference was over, instead of returning direct to London, Drayton has said to McCalmont's surprise, that he wished to see someone at Cromer, and at Cromer they have accordingly arrived about four that afternoon. But whom it could have been that Drayton wished to see at Cromer, McCalmont, even now, cannot guess. Drayton apparently had "seen" no one at Cromer. He did separate a few minutes from McCalmont, but only to go into the poste restante, where he got a letter, which, after reading, he tore up. Why, therefore, they have made this detour to the east of England, McCalmont is still wondering. Drayton must have had some reason.

In silence they pitch and slip ahead. Steadily hums the car, the rough wind instruments make music of dead marches about them, the sun has set and darkness gathers fast.

James Drayton is a big man, with a handsome, large face, florid and freckled, a black beard, and rather thick lips, whose pressure is visible at the parting of the moustache. He, too, would do very well for Charlemagne or a sea-king, as we said of Captain Denner, of the Africa, whose image he is. His eyes have a hard, aggressive look, and his appearance somehow tells you that he is a modern city man to the finger tips, who knows the world familiarly, uses it, and perhaps abuses it.

They are now at the elevated ground about Ingworth, whence they can see the darkling valley of the Bure on either hand, and black before them the woods of Blickling. It is a place where many a spill has taken place on account of two nasty turnings where the road crosses bridges, but Drayton proves that he knows the locality by altering his change-speed gear. The car hastens slower, and neatly negotiates the ticklish bits.

At the second turning it splashes a man on the road. He is a tramp—at least, he is tramping. A little bundle in a red handkerchief hangs from a stick over his Shoulder. He has no jacket this inclement night; his boots are ruined; misery is in his eyes, bitterness in his pressed lips. His name is Robert Hartwell.

And because of the slowing-down of the motor, and because some greyness still lingers in the dark, therefore Hartwell sees for a moment that face of Drayton, though Drayton and McCalmont do not observe Hartwell. And Hartwell thinks to himself, "Well, that man might be my brother!—ah, but you seem to be happier than I, my friend!"

The motor vanishes down the hill towards Blickling, the lessening voice of its flight still haunting Hartwell's ear drum like a wasp—till that, too, is gone. And on he tramps, muttering bitter at heart, in the same direction as they—towards Norwich, towards London, and the tortoise shall yet beat the hare.

Past the mill, past the farm among the trees, the bridge, the old gabled manor-house, hedges loaded with the storm, heron, crop and grebe by the solitary pool, with bat and white owl in the air, the strange screams of madness in the winds that now fill a darkness unrelieved by moon or star—Hartwell continually puts his feet into puddles without seeing them and sounds come from his chest!

Meanwhile, the motor has not gone far upon the main road, for soon after crossing the Bure, it has turned aside into rather obscure country tending to bracken and heath, Drayton having said to McCalmont: "There ought to be a place just in there somewhere, which I remember from long ago. Suppose we go and get a glass of ale, and light up."

McCalmont is surprised, for there is champagne on board, if Drayton is thirsty, and it is surely not necessary to go to a tavern to "light up!" but he say, "As you like," and soon Drayton takes a lane to the left.

A mile in this direction, and they come, to a house behind the shoulder of a hill—a rather high house, black with age, with a physiognomy both picturesque and sinister. The roofs are quaint, on different levels, some quite small; there are broken external steps; some of the windows are broader than long, latticed, small or irregularly placed, and two are dormer windows. Along the front runs a gut with some water trickling among rocks, and beyond this a hillside of rocks, pines, and a couple of old huts. Some special dismalness here causes McCalmont to shiver at the cold, as they draw up.

"What place is it?" he asks.

"I think it is called 'The Anchor,'" says Drayton.

Some rain begins to be mixed with the wind as they go into a bar parlour, with a floor of earth stamped hard, and sanded. The light is dim, but a turf fire burns brightly in the grate. Only one man is there, a laborer, with his tankard on the bench beside him; and from his happy posture one may conjecture him not sober. He is the driver of a manure cart whose horse is enduring all the storm yonder at the house side. He has still a long way to fare, past Aylsham, almost on to Marsham, and the entrance of the rich men rouses him. He pulls himself together, braves the outer night, mounts and sets off, not uncomforted, for he has a can of beer with him. We shall overtake him, again be overtaken by him, and again overtake him.

Meanwhile, the landlord has drawn some cider for Drayton. Cider is not McCalmont's taste, but Drayton duly sips his cider.

"By the way, landlord," says he presently, "just take me to a room: I want to write a letter."

McCalmont is really surprised now. Why on earth—But Drayton knows what he is about: he knows that Letty, the landlord's daughter, is listening behind the inner door, hears what he says, and will act accordingly.

Barnes, the landlord, has never before seen Drayton, nor Drayton Barnes; but Letty and Drayton have met this summer on Cromer pier.

Drayton says to his friend: "Shan't be long," and Barnes says to Drayton: "This way, sir."

Barnes is a powerful man with a red beard, and a constant frown. He has a certain air of self-importance above his station, as of "one who has come down." He and Drayton mount some creaking stairs; some paper and two candles are placed on a table in a dingy old-timbered room, then Barnes retires.

Drayton, however, writes no letter, but waits, and in a minute Letty looks in. She is twenty or so, middle-sized, fair, plump, and pretty—not the prettiness of a doll—there is character in her face. She is neatly dressed in grey and has quite the air and speech of a lady, save for a countrified word here or there. Her hair is firmly built, she has some jewellery, watch and chain, and smells of lavender, as Drayton puts a kiss on her cheek.

"We mustn't talk here," she whispers, "come—"

She leads him by the hand through darkness down a back stair into the open. Nothing is said till they are beyond the kitchen garden, the stable, the fowl house, the pigs. Then there is a hedge with a gate, then a plank bridging a rill, then a fir plantation. Among the firs they stand.

Rain smites their faces, winds catch away their words. Now, too, there is a vague sound of thunder somewhere, but they heed none of these things. Each is fully occupied by the other.

"We have only a few minutes," says Letty Barnes.

"What's it all about, my girl?" answers Drayton. "I got your letter at the Cromer poste restante, but you are cool to expect a man like me to be running after you."

"Oh, you drop all pretence of love, then, I see?" says Letty.

Drayton puts his arm round her waist.

"Kiss your old man. I love you all right, girlie—honestly, I do, but you mustn't be a bore, Letty. I am prepared to do a lot for you, if you only know how to manage me—"

"But I do know how to manage you, as you are going to see! I have found out! Not by begging, but by commanding! With all your experience, you seem to know very little about women, really; and as to me, you don't know me one little bit! I look like a lamb, don't I? Aren't you really going to marry me, then, after all?"

"Don't be a goose, Letty; don't be a goose."

"You did promise though, I think, didn't you?"

"Let me see: I forget now."

"Ah, a great scoundrel!"

"Little Letty, little Letty."

"A bitter devil, James Drayton!"

"Let not your angry passions rise, my Letty! I'm a sixty-horse-power for angry passions myself, you know."

"And I! and I! and my father!—when he finds out. Do you think, then, that you will be getting off scot free this time? How silly! We are not common people! Compared to a clown like you, we are respectable folk, though poor. You dare, James Drayton! Pity yourself, if you won't—pity—me—"

She suddenly covered her face, and the winds bore away one sob.

"My good girl," says Drayton, "don't cry, because crying depresses me; and don't threaten me, because I don't like it, so don't do it."

"Selfish brute! I never knew what it was to hate—"

"Look here; be quick. What; is it you want with me?"

"Keep your promise!"

"That all you got to say for yourself?

"What happens to you, if you fail to honor a signed promise to pay at three months' sight for value received, James? You become a dead man commercially, don't you? Well, your promise to me is more binding in my sight than a thousand pieces of paper, and your failure to keep it shall have the same penalty, my friend—death—social death—"

"Pooh! I am going—"

"No, don't go. I didn't make you come here to quarrel, and waste words, but to tell you that you are quite in my power. I have discovered about your engagement to Lady Methwold; you are to be married in three months, aren't you? But listen to this other fact: I have taken a trip to your place, Corton Chantry—"

"You!" whispers Drayton; and now his face is suddenly pallid.

"Ah, that touches you near, James," says Letty. "Yes, I have been to Corton. It is only nine miles from here, you know. You must be a scoundrel, really. I will marry you, but within seven months from now I shall be divorced from you. I shouldn't live with you for all the crowns—"

"You been to Corton, girl! What ever for?"

"I don't quite know why: some instinct took me. I had heard that you kept the place running wild, with only one daft man, named Steve Anderson, to look after it. That stirred my curiosity, for lately I have believed you capable of any villainy. So I went, and I heard screams—"

"By gad!"

"Yes, screams—a woman's—in that north tower—"

"You little beggar!"

"Take care! you touch me! you dare! Look here—can you see?—this is a letter which I have ready to send to Lady Methwold—"

Drayton is a man of action, and the instant that white object appears through the murk, he makes a catch at it. His hand meets Letty Barnes' wrist and seizes it. But he has not to do with a weakling. Letty is strong, and they proceed to fight like two men, though there is no reason why they should, really, for if this letter be got from Letty, she can surely write another, but they are speedily in that state of mind in which men no longer reason.

Passion possesses them, pants in their breath, stares in their eyes.

"Let it—go you—shall!" pants Drayton, stooped to her hand; but Letty's fingers are a vice. Though if it were less dark, one would see her failing, as with bitten lip and many a jerk and stumble she endures that rough usage to which Drayton is subjecting her.

And every moment, as they fight, up and up climbs the temperature of their rage. The striving for that letter becomes a mania. Where will it end?

This way frenzy lies. But neither will yield and their breaths grow louder than the winds.

"Give it—up you—shall—"

"No, you—devil—"

But Letty is white; her hands are sore and burning; she feels herself going, going; and now she sends out one shriek upon the night.

McCalmont, who is pacing in the tavern-bar, awaiting Drayton, says:

"What's that?"

"Where?" asks Barnes, the landlord.

"Didn't I hear something like a cry somewhere?"

"Ey, it's the wind," says Barnes; "rough night, rough night. I'd not care to be out on the road, sir."

But by that cry of Letty's, Drayton has been startled, and in a moment she has wrenched her hand free, and is gone flying. He catches her, but misses her, and panting to himself, "No, you don't," is after her.

She has run back toward the rill and the board-bridge, but she never reaches it. He has caught her, his hand in the collar of her dress behind.

"Going to—drop it?" he pants at her ear.

But she cannot answer. He is choking her. She tries to say that she yields, then to say "pity," but no whisper comes. Now a thousand words throng in her throat—only to speak would be Heaven—but no more comes than from dry suction-pumps that caw and gurgle. Her poor eyes stare in a horror of panic, seeing Eternity upon her, and the sudden grave yawn to receive her youth.

"Quick! going to drop it?" he repeats. But how can she answer? She cannot answer! and her silence adds fuel to his flame.

But the end is not yet; there is a rent of cloth. Something gives way at her neck. She dives and is running free.

Away from the rill this time—and he runs after her: but neither runs fast—they cannot—there is a certain impotence in their run, as when in dreams one would hasten, but cannot, the limbs are so hampered and heavy.

But of the two it is she who runs the more feebly, and his legs are long. He gets near again and makes a blow, but a feeble wild blow, made too soon, which only touches her. She dodges, and is gone in a changed direction.

And again he is after her, with that same feeble obstinacy, so deplorable to see. If she can only escape his sight one instant, how lucky, for she will be lost to him in the dark. But the wood is fatally sparse, and he never quite loses her. Anon they stumble for the ground is rough with game-holes, thistle, fern, and furze, and once Drayton is staggering backward with arms a-struggle in the air. But he saves himself, and is soon impending again while she, feeling him near again, with a panic now boundless and lunatic, throws her soul into the scream:

"Help! he is going—!"

They are a longish distance from the tavern, but such a scream as that, that Barnes, her father, behind the bar, cocks an ear and says to McCalmont, who is pacing with his hands in his coat-pockets:

"Well, I thought I heard—Heard anything, sir?"

"No," says McCalmont, "no. Thought I did a while since, though."

"Ey, it's the blessed wind. It cries out behind the hill at times, like a woman in trouble."

But Drayton has made another blow at the poor victim, again without effect. She is nimble, though failing, and during his momentary stoppage she evades and is off in yet a new direction. But her end is not far; she is tumbling too frequently—and all at once, with a mortal little last cry, she is down. Instantly he is on his knees over her.

His right forearm presses on her windpipe—he does not look at her at all, nor admit to himself that he is killing her. He looks away sidewards, as if interested in something yonder among the trees—

Presently he picks himself up, leans his back against a fir-bole, peers this way and that and recovers wind a little.

At the bottom of the plantation runs a bend of that same gut which passes before the tavern—a square-cut opening in the ground about ten feet wide and fifteen feet deep. Their run has brought them so near it that Drayton, leaning against a tree, can see its edge. He thinks that it is a river, but a mere thread of water trickles through it.

He goes to the body again, takes the letter to Lady Methwold from her hand, tears it up, and is about to throw the pieces upon the wind when he considers himself and puts them into a pocket. He then draws her ten yards to the gut, over the edge. He listens for a splash, but hears neither splash nor thud. The winds are in his ears and it is as though he had thrown her into an abyss of darkness. She is gone from him.

Now he runs—thievish, but quick—back toward the rill, the bridge, the hedge-gate, past the pigs, the kitchen garden, up the dark back-stairs. He re-enters the room which he had left with her. There burn the two candles as before, quietly, as if nothing had happened meanwhile. He looks at his hands, at his clothes—no blood. He takes off his coat and shakes off the water. But his face! that looks a bit wild; he sees it in a spotted piece of mirror that hangs from a timber of this old room. He can't show such a face to McCalmont; there's a scratch, too, under his left eye. The little beggar must have scratched him somehow.

She is dead, then! He has killed her dead—unexpected thing. But it has happened, it is so. He cannot at all recognise himself, paces the room, misery in his face. Pity he ever met her that night on Cromer pier; pity he came to her this night; pity she was ever born—and he.

"Well, that's as it may—" He pulls himself together, glances again at the glass. He will wait a little longer.

Now he has the thought that the number of the sheets given him may be known to the landlord. He will therefore take one—will even write a letter, since he came for that and has time. His mind is in a state in which thought is fairly active, but not with perfect rationality. Standing, he covers half a sheet with writing; but the words are nonsense words, to fill up space. He blots them on a Life Assurance almanac, in which leaves of blotting paper alternate with memorandum leaves.

Now he descends and, as he enters the bar, McCalmont says:

"By Jove! you must have written ten letters, old man."

"Only one, boy," answers Drayton, "but that wanted some thinking, you see. All ready to be off?"

McCalmont has lighted up; all is ready. Drayton slips a couple of shillings into the landlord's hand and, stepping outside, they hear Barnes call "Letty!"

Off goes the motor round the hill, down the lane, out upon the road; and now the darkness is lit by an occasional lightning flash.

Within four minutes, near Blickling, they come upon Robert Hartwell, who has tramped thus far with his bundle and stick. He is aware of the gathering hum of the two dragon-eyes staring nearer upon him and, stepping aside, he mutters as they dash past.

Five minutes later, they overtake the manure-cart of the laborer who had left "The Anchor" on their entrance. He sends a drowsy shout to warn them as they grow near, for he carries no light. And past him, too, they dash. But he shall overtake them, and again be overtaken by them.


III. — ROBEBT HARTWELL'S SIN

We left Hartwell where the road crosses a bridge in the Bure Valley, and he has tramped on to the second encounter with the motor, wondering how much bitterer the weather will become, and if the world is a place designed to torture and oppress the poor. All the time he is on the look-out for some barn or hollow tree, in which to rest his frame.

He is a big man, about the size of Drayton, the same age—two months' younger—the same black beard, a longish oblong of hair; on his left temple the same raspberry mark; his moustache flows sidewards in the same way, showing the pressure of rather thick lips, and a definite point in the middle of the upper. They have the same straight noses, freckle-splashed faces, glossy hair. Hartwell's photograph would do very well for a photograph of Denner, captain of the S.S. Africa, dead thirty-eight years since. So would Drayton's.

Only Hartwell's hands are different from Drayton's. He is not, however, a working-man of common type; his father was a nail manufacturer; he himself has spent three years at Rugby School, though Rugby has receded many a thousand miles from Hartwell now.

When he was seventeen, his father failed, and died. Then for three years he maintained his mother by hard work as an under-clerk in an electrical machine-makers. He was steady—at one time even religious—had abilities and rose higher in his firm. But his mother died and, alone in the world, he fell in love with a pretty work-girl, who induced him to marry. She was worthless, and drank. One day she appeared at the office and made a scene. He was dismissed. Falling now into misery, he took work at the factory in whose office he had been a clerk. He has been a working-man ever since.

But, an excellent specimen of his class, his remarkable mind has not rusted. He has been a student, a keen watcher of the world's march in science, thought, invention, social changes. He knows a great lot about chemistry and biology, reads German, has filled a pile of note-books with notes at science classes, knows Darwin, Haeckel, by heart. He has been a sober, sagacious workman, bringing up his son, Bobbie, as respectably as he could, ever since his wife died ten years ago.

But he has had misfortunes—disaster after disaster just lately, and the iron has entered into his soul. He has seen Bobbie hungry and one memorable night Bobbie has seen him drunk.

Electricity makes such progress in these days!—it flies. The workman can hardly keep pace with the bewildering changes. What is new to-day will be ancient history to-morrow, and the older types of craftsmen, their pursuits and habits of mind, already fixed, see younger men step in and take their place.

Hartwell has made two inventions from each of which he hoped for wealth, but he lacked the few pounds to patent either. One was patented for him by a manufacturer, who has given him £20, making thousands himself by it. The other is still in the air.

He has seen door after door close in his face, and hope has pined. Too many people seem to be born! something is wrong with the scheme of things, and there's a "fault" in the Machine. His thick firm lips pressed together on that Norwich Road, hisses are on his breath, and now is the winter of his discontent.

Partly by train, partly tramping, he has come from Birmingham to Cromer, allured by the hope of getting employment in a gentleman's stable, for an acquaintance had written him of a vacancy there. But it was filled when he arrived. He is now tramping for London with the vaguest hopes though, certainly, his boots will never outlast that length of road. Already his feet are soaked and congealed. The foxes have holes, but he nowhere to lay his head. His vitals scream for food.

He does not blame himself—he knows that he is little to blame; he does not blame man, nor the devil; his rage is against the nature of the world. But it does not break out—he is not of that sort. Till, just as he comes to that lane leading to "The Anchor," where Drayton has turned in, some rain, as we said before, begins to be mixed with the winds and this little thing, though his mind is of the strongest, irritates Hartwell to fury, and now he breaks out.

"Curse the rain," he mutters, looking up.

And as on he plods, taunting words come to him, mockeries of Nature. "A metal-worker's apprentice would have conceived it better!" he laughs. But the rain only gets worse; there grows a sound of thunder somewhere in the dark; he breathes a wish that lightning may strike him dead—if it can. The lightning can, but is busy.

During the next two miles, his lips are never silent; and while he goes muttering James Drayton is doing what we know to Letty Barnes.

Then again Drayton passes Hartwell on the road and, this time, that motor-car has upon the usually cold mind of Hartwell an effect like madness. How brazen a power the thing is! domineering in its approach, obtrusive in its passage, triumphant in its swift translation from sight. It has the eyes, the smell, the wings, the mutter and meditation of an Ogre. It is like a daughter of Mammon.

Wealth! Hartwell knows what it is, he has stood in mansions. He knows poverty. As the proud chariot of iron flashes past him, he has in his consciousness at one and the same moment both houselessness and the palace, rags and furred robes, the crust and the fat of turtles. It is a double vision almost, which he has, and a lust for wealth, more crass and ugly than he has ever felt, arises and boils in his breast. To shoot in motor cars, anon crushing some wretch on the road—to roll in luxury, while multitude's starve—how good, he thinks!

"Give me that!" he says, and now he is down on his knees, frowning, his hands clutched in his hair, for though his fires are slow to kindle they burn hot and strong, like hard anthracite and he is praying, but not looking up, looking down, not praying to heaven.

"Whatever your name Mammon—Power of the world—give me that! Say ten years, five! I will serve you gladly—say five years—from to-night. Will you? Can you? Are you there? No, you are not there, but if you were—I offer myself: only cloy me—"

His head is bowed right down, frowning, but he rises hastily, ashamed of himself, muttering:

"No! let it not be said that I have entered my second childhood at the age of thirty-seven."

But he goes on his way a worse man. Between Blickling and Aylsham a thought comes into his head of his son, Bobbie, whom he has left at Birmingham with an old friend. He has tenderly loved the lad: but he mutters now:

"Selfishness is the law, my friend, I must not care for you."

Presently, near eight o'clock, he is passing through Aylsham, his fires burned out now, or only sullenly smouldering within him. And again in Aylsham he has overtaken James Drayton, and sees him. It is at the old coaching-house, the "Black Boys;" the motor is before the door, and since the thunderstorm is over, and hardly any rain left for the wind to play with, half-a-dozen admiring boys and girls are gathered round the motor, and Hartwell, too, stops to admire. In the room behind that window, Drayton and McCalmont are dining, and there is a space under the blind by which Hartwell, stooping, spies Drayton, full face.

"Well, certainly," he breathes, "this is odd! there is the same man again, my own twin brother, as I live. It is said that everyone has a double. Ah, lucky person, lucky person!"

Five minutes he stoops there, peering, absorbed in the contemplation of this marvel. Then, with a sigh he straightens himself, and goes his dreary way—through Aylsham—down the railed footway by the lych-gate and down the hill beyond.


IV. — SO SOON?

Down the long hill trudges Hartwell, his eyes bent upon the ground in gloomy reverie, and now this thought occurs to him whether, on the strength of the resemblance between him and Drayton, it might not be a good thing to turn back and beg a shilling of the rich man. He had never begged before—but hunger and weariness grow pressing—

He regrets the idea, but it recurs, and he is again considering it, his eyes on the ground, when he strikes upon something, and his walk is brought to a stoppage. What is it? a cart lying across the road, no horse, no driver. It lies tilted, like a stranded ship, one of the wheels is off.

It is the manure cart of the laborer who left "The Anchor," fuddled, when Drayton and McCalmont entered it. We said that they should overtake them, and they did; we said that he should overtake them again, and he has, while they dine at Aylsham; but they shall overtake him again—or, at least, his cart.

"But the dolt!" thinks Hartwell, "to leave the cart in the middle of the road this dark night!"

At the breakdown the driver has unspanned, mounted the horse with all its hames and trailing harness, and gone on to his farm near Marsham to seek help, for he cannot move the cart: and he has gone at a walk, happy, singing, and full of hot spiced ale.

Hartwell walks round the cart, lingering, thinking what to do. He decides to return to Aylsham, and tell some one. But as he turns to climb, he hears, he sees—with an alarm which quickly grows into horror. There is a humming song somewhere, then two dragon eyes quick coming, and above the dragon eyes two little adder eyes, clear cut, in the darkness—the glowing ends of two cigars. At 25 miles an hour they come. Hartwell forgets his vow to do no good.

"Stop!" he howls, waving, red-faced, running a little up. He implores as for his own life, "Danger! Stop!"

But in vain. If they hear, they do not understand, nor heed. There is no time. Drayton has fuddled himself at dinner that he may forget what lies in the gutter behind "The Anchor." On hums the motor, and suddenly Hartwell is no more shouting to save others, but skedaddling to save his own skin—down again to the cart—beyond it—like one pelting from pestilence. Nor does he stop till he hears behind him the shock—a bumping hubbub, then a rattling and throbbing—and his eye-corner catches sight of a sheet of flame vanishing like lightning flash into the dark.

Then all is still—all but the wind. Drayton has gone to meet Letty Barnes.

It was the high side of the tilted cart that had been turned to the motor, but even so, McCalmont has been shot clean over it, a long way, like an arrow; and when Hartwell turns back toward the scene of the ruin, it is upon McCalmont that he first comes. He finds that the dead man's head has made quite a hole in the ground, and his neck is obviously broken. Everything can be seen, for the car has ignited in one spot, and yonder on the road and in the roadside field are several flames dodging about from the rain, as petroleum does on contact with water.

Going on to the cart, Harwell finds it bottom upward, some fifteen feet from where it stood before. It has been turned over and over, and half of its substance is matchwood. The motor is still jammed into it, and looks shorter, tilted sideways, and twisted. The two lights are gone, the font tires burst, and everything in front of the steering pillar and dash board is a chaos of dripping debris.

Drayton's body is still in the car, but no longer on the front seat. He is lying in an ungainly pose across the back seat, with one foot up on the back of the front seat. Little more remains of his face than the beard; unlike McCalmont, he has dived head foremost against the cart, and been tossed by it like a ball.

"Dead as two nails—" mutters Hartwell.

He himself is rather dazed—the calamity here is so pitiful. He walks a little to and fro, not knowing what to do. Thinking that the driver of the cart may come, he peers along the road, trotting a little this way and that—. No driver comes. All is solitude and aglow from the jumping fires. Some night bird flies across between the Lombardy poplars that line the road. On the east is a stretch of bracken, with a pond, on the west a hilly field, with a rick on the top, just discernible. Some minutes pass. Hartwell, waiting, shivers with cold.

The next definite thought borne on his head is this: that he, for his part, will not fail of bed and board this night, that there is money, watches, on these dead men and it is an ill wind that blows no one any good—

He does not delay. He, too, as we said of Drayton, is a man of action. He approaches Drayton to despoil him and now he thinks: "this is the one that is my twin—"

But at that thought he stops and turns as white as McCalmont yonder. His teeth chatter as at some blast of Arctic cold. For a time he is like one struck into stone, then he is pacing curiously this way and that, bent sideways, one hand pressed into his pocket, the other shouldering his stick. He has invented—

And all of a sudden he is in a passion of haste, a storm of action. He is in the car, not yet well ignited, on the back seat beside Drayton, undressing him; and quick and keen is the work. He has off collar and tie—coat—throws off the braces, shirt, vest, and now the boots—they are laced—pitifully slow. Now he whips off the trousers, drawers. The earnest labor of his bosom is hoarser than the storm, but the dead limbs are still limp, and lend themselves readily to that tugging and hustling. All is well, that wild glance discerns no one on the road. The dead man is naked, the clothes lie in a heap on the seat.

In some seconds now Hartwell himself is naked to the waist and in two minutes he has on the dead man's vest and shirt, collar and tie. Then, ceasing to dress himself, he dresses Drayton in his own rags. His hands, all that he touches, are smeared—so much the better.

He returns to his own dressing again, tosses off his nether garments, puts on Drayton's, then dresses Drayton in his own rags. In proportion, as he becomes Drayton, so Drayton becomes he. Finally he puts on Drayton's socks, boots, ring, gloves, and Drayton has on his. He does not use Drayton's hat: he will do without a hat. He casts his own cap, stick, and bundle away.

Now he leaves the car, drags out the dead man, and places him on the ground under the front wheels of the motor, between motor and cart. It will seem to the world that McCalmont and an unknown tramp have been killed in the accident, but that Drayton has escaped. Hartwell will be Drayton.

He stands a little, recovering wind. The work is done. No one comes along the road. After a time he starts to trudge back up the hill, bareheaded, but warm and rich, toward Aylsham, a new man, in a wildly new world, with a new name. But what name? That will be well: there are papers in the dead man's pocket. He feels first in the lower coat pockets—that warm coat—but there he finds only some shreds of paper, the shreds of the letter which Letty Barnes wrote to Lady Methwold against Drayton. But in the trouser are a bunch of keys, in the breast pockets many papers that will be well about the name and other things. He feels his strength, he knows that he is sagacious, trusts in himself at bottom—

And as to the purse? That is well also. It contains two sovereigns, and five bank notes. He will feast to-night—he will say that the accident has made him hungry afresh. He vaguely wonders if one can get champagne in Aylsham, and by the time he is half way up the hill that has become a care to him, he is not for the moment in a condition of sanity. He wheels on all the whirlwinds—

He thinks that if he only had Bobby with him, that would intensify the pleasure...to see him eat and eat—But he stops short at another thought. "Starting from to-night," he has said, "I will serve you—only cloy me—" His fingers touch his brow. But it soon passes! He laughs audibly: he is not a child.

Moving on again, it occurs to him that it might be well to have a bruise somewhere. With a stone he strikes his forehead, a good hard blow which he hardly feels. And now he laughs again—a laugh cynical, defiant, triumphant; then immediately his teeth beat together with ague. But he pulls himself together, proceeds up the hill, and is soon in Aylsham.

So began the drama of love and pain, which we have to tell.


V. — HARTWELL FINDS HIMSELF A MARRIED MAN

When Hartwell re-entered Aylsham, he stopped under a street lamp, and looked at several of the envelopes in the breast pocket of Drayton's overcoat, which he had on. He saw the words "James Drayton, Esq.," on them all, and decided that that was the name which was to be his thenceforth.

He then walked up the empty street to the "Black Dogs," and entered the old coaching house chilled to the heart with that feeling of rashness gone crazy, which must have chilled the heart of the first man who ever stepped into the car of a balloon, trusting on theory alone, to make the first strange leap into the air. He was met in the passage by a girl, who started and turned pale at the sight of the gore on the clothes, at the self-inflicted bruise on his hatless head and at the streamlets of blood on his white face. He seemed to her the murdered ghost of the man who, not twenty minutes before, had dined in boisterous health at the tavern, and gone away, hearty and happy and half-tipsy in his motor car.

"There has been an accident," cried Hartwell to her: "just lend me your shoulder to lean on—that's a girl—I can hardly stand."

She gave him her shoulder and conducted him, step by step, to the commercial room on the left of the passage, while a number of people who had caught sight of him from the bar on the right crowded at the door of the parlour, staring after him till he disappeared. He sank into the first easy-chair, all sighs, with an abandoned head and a bent back, while the landlord, who had run in, and the girl stood over and gazed at him.

"An accident has happened to the car," sighed Hartwell: "my friend is killed; also a tramp who was on the road. I cannot talk. Someone run and tell the police."

"Run quick for, some brandy, Maggie,", said the landlord. "Dreadful thing, sir! How did it happen, sir?"

"I cannot talk," sighed Hartwell.

The girl ran out and quickly ran in again with a glass of brandy and water, which the landlord held to Hartwell's lips, and Hartwell drank, sighing with gusto at the end:

"That's a man."

"Feel better now, sir?" asked the landlord, contemplating him, with his arms akimbo.

"Yes, that's better. Put me to bed, my friend, and let me be left alone. Ah, no, I feel not well—"

"Dreadful thing, sir! Who would have thought half an hour since—Maggie, send off John for Dr Richards at once."

By this time two of the other servants of the establishment and several of the visitors were assembled at the door, craning in to see.

"No doctor, I think," murmured. Hartwell to the landlord. "I do not need any—at least I will not have any. Do not make me talk—just put me to bed."

"Just draw off the gentleman's gloves, Maggie," said the landlord. "I'll take off his coat."

"Leave the gloves and coat for the present," murmured Hartwell, "you have only to take me to a room, and then give notice to the authorities."

He now raised himself with pretended difficulty, and, supported by the girl and the man, stumbled up the stairs with feebleness which was not all pretence, for he was very weary from his tramping, and weak with hunger. One of the other servant girls followed them with a lamp to a room above stairs, where Hartwell at once drew himself upon an ottoman, whose chintz covering he soiled with mud and blood.

"Get off the gentleman's boots, Maggie," said the landlord. "May I take off your coat now, sir?"

"That is all right about my things," replied Hartwell. "You may leave me and I will do all for myself presently. Perhaps something to eat may do me good, though I have just dined. The shaking has caused me to feel—"

"At once, sir: what will you have?"

"Anything—with some wine. Say, in half an hour's time I will ring for it. But meanwhile I want some hot water. Bring me this at once."

"Yes, sir. By the way, sir—what name to give to the police?"

With a renewed chill at the heart Hartwell now, for the first time, pronounced these words:

"Mr James Drayton."

The landlord and the girl then went away and Hartwell sat on the ottoman in his coat with his wide brow on his gloved palm, till the girl returned with a jug of hot water and lit a fire in the room. When she was gone again, Hartwell locked the door upon himself, took off his outer clothes, his gloves and his boots, poured the hot water into a basin and put the basin on a small table which he pushed to the side of the bed.

He then took out all the objects which Drayton's pockets contained, except the shreds of Letty's letter in the coat pocket, and he placed these all together on the table by the bedside with the basin of hot water and the lamp, in order to examine them at his leisure. He then got into bed and lay for some minutes idle, luxuriating in the rest and peace of the soft bed after his weariness and thinking of what chance his strange to-morrow might bring forth.

He would have fallen asleep, but that he severely roused himself with a flash of the eye, warning himself that, however tired he might be, there must be little sleep for him that night. He had kept on his gloves in the presence of the landlord and the girl so that they might not see his working man's hands, and now he put his hands into the basin of hot water, hoping by dint of soaking and soaping to have them at least presentable before the morning came. After some soaking, he used Drayton's penknife to shape the nails and cut away the callous growths round the quicks and then continued to soak them. They had once been as soft and shapely as Drayton's, and only needed coaxing to become so again.

After half an hour he rose, wiped his hands, poured out the water from the basin, and rang for the supper before returning to bed. The girl appeared bringing the news that the two bodies had been taken to the mortuary and bringing also a fat Norfolk capon, an apple tart, and a bottle of port. Hartwell then ate a hearty meal, but without quite that sense of luxury which he had looked for from feast at first. There is always a certain disappointment in the actual enjoyment of the delights which one has longed for and, moreover, Hartwell's mind had already enlarged itself to the largeness of his new kingdom, a kingdom in which the stomach suddenly ceased to be of importance. For men stand, as it were, at different heights, each seeing from his own level, so what the beggar thinks is heaven, the millionaire regards as nothing and what the millionaire pursues, the saint or the thinker regards as a bauble. In one and the same night Hartwell was all the three—beggar, millionaire, and thinker. He had longed for a meal at seven; at nine he had forgotten food, and was thinking of palaces and social grandeur; before midnight, he had half forgotten palaces and was thinking with joy of the laboratory which he would make and of the research work which he would do in it.

When the girl, Maggie, brought the supper, he ordered her to fetch him up some ink, a pen, and some writing paper, with more hot water for his hands. Immediately after the meal, when he was alone again, he set to work to examine Drayton's papers, of which there lay quite a mass on the table near him and, leaning toward the lamp on his elbow, he weighed the meaning of each with a certain sideward sagacity of gaze, a sagacity that smiled in its self-sureness.

Each letter brought its own light to its intelligence, adding its share to its knowledge of Drayton's pursuits, passions, friends, business, environment, tastes, point of view, and ways of life. Only a few lines in one business letter, and the whole of another letter, he tried in vain to understand. Once he stopped short in the reading, and was lost in reflection, asking himself:

"Shall I succeed in carrying it through? Have I the steel, the wit?" And presently, as he read, he muttered, "He seems to have been a great character for horses;" and once again with a severe flash of the eye, he said, "He was a ruffian, this man!" and, lastly, as he read the letter, which he could not understand, he started with a whisper: "Oh, I have a wife—"

In that letter, which had been written by Drayton himself, Hartwell saw these words: "the wife." He had taken out the letter from an envelope which had no address on it, and yet had been fastened down, and it seemed the letter of a crazy man, being, in fact, none other than that nonsense-letter written by Drayton at the "Anchor Tavern" after the death of Letty, in order to be able to say to himself or to others that he had written a letter. For to the greatest liars truth is dear, and men engaged in building up a fabric of lies have been known to mix truth with it in a random way, even at the greatest personal risk to themselves: and so with Drayton and his nonsense-letter. And in this letter Hartwell read the words:


"Dear Sir,—Weather very bad to-night, blowing great guns. So it has come to this: if any one had told me that it would, I should have bet half a million to the contrary. The little wretch went to C.C."—meaning Corton Chancery—"and heard the wife's screams. Weather very bad to-night, wind, rain, thunder, and lightning. It isn't all beer and skittles in this little world; there are things that make a man feel rather cold. Now is the time for all good men to come to the rescue of the party. If that little Kirk only does to Brighteye what I have put him up to do, my Queenie will win the next Oaks as sure as there's a sun. Now is the time for all good men to come to the rescue of the party. Weather very bad to-night, very bad.

"Yours truly,

"James Drayton."


"This man was certainly a ruffian in many ways," thought Hartwell, on reading the letter for the third time and, after tearing off the signature, which he needed, he tore that letter in fine shreds, rose and threw the shreds on the fire with disgust.

When he returned to the bed, he lay for some time with his hands under his head, listening to the sound of the lessening storm outside, and thinking of "the wife." "The little wretch has gone to C.C., and heard the wife's screams." "The" wife could only mean Drayton's wife, and her occupation was, apparently—to scream. So that for her also, evidently, it was not all beer and skittles in this little world. As to the meaning of "C.C." there was nothing in what he had so far read to show him. His mind at once took up the notion that "C.C." was a person, nor did the thought that it might be a place occur to him for many a day. If it had occurred to him in time, it might have saved him a world of misery but, in fact, Drayton's nonsense letter having been once destroyed, the letters "C.C." passed out of Hartwell's memory for that memory, though an extraordinary one, soon found as much to carry, as it could bear.

There remained on the table three more letters which he had not read, and the very first of these which he took up still further complicated his relations with women, for it was from a lady to whom Drayton had evidently been engaged at the moment of his death and the discovery of the engagement to be married, of this already married man, drew from Hartwell's lips the exclamation: "This ruffian!" The lady's letter was crested with the three pearled coronet of earldom, came from "The Villa Borgia-Costi, Cannes," was signed "Julia," and said, among other things:


"It is raining to-day, and my Aunt Margaret and I mope, which is nothing strange for her when the racing-season is over, but exceptional for me. So if I am disposed to be over frank with you, you will attribute it to external nature and the way the wind blows...I certainly do not wish to hurt you—I wonder if I could if I tried?—for apart from the wild relations between us, I am convinced that I have some sort of depraved liking for you, you are so breezy and boisterous, and careless of the usual shams. I believe you would beat me blue if I married you, and that is why I said 'yes,' for the same reason that one hunts in 'bullfish' country, because of the spice of madness and danger in it. And then I was really grateful to you for saving my life that day in Northamptonshire, for it was gallantly done at the risk of your own neck and, lastly I suppose, I wished to prove myself independent of the general point of view, to be a mad-cap. I believe, on reflection, that this last was the main leit-motif of my maidenly 'yes.' But I said that I would be quite frank, since it is rainy, and I say that you are heavy, my James, and begin to weigh upon one...

A woman may have a wayward admiration for the Centaur or the Cyclops, and throw kisses at them, but one does not marry them...I have been wondering why we should marry, really? I recommend you to lock yourself into a room and ask yourself that question. Are we fond of each other, then? That does not seem very probable. I repeat and insist upon it, that I do like and enjoy you, as one enjoys a breeze, but how, if I throw you over a week before the wedding? then you might bring an action for breach of promise, which would be fun, and make my brothers swear. It really seems that I am going to do it, unless you give me some reason...

Write soon, and tell me, but not with the thick end of the pen, etc., etc."

Hartwell saw from the date that this letter was a week old.

"At any rate," he thought, with a smiling eye, a slight lifting of the lower lids giving always to his eyes their smiling expression; "at any rate, it will not be difficult for me to shirk my engagement with the lively Julia and I shall not delay to release her by letter. I am already married! Let us choose to eschew bigamy and all breaches of the common law. This Drayton was undoubtedly a ruffian—"

In reading and weighing letters and documents, hours passed over Hartwell. It grew on towards midnight, the house was wrapped in silence, and only the wind and rain were heard. But he would not permit himself to sleep. His next care was to take Drayton's signature which he had torn from the nonsense letter, and to set himself to copy it with the writing material which Maggie had brought him. Drayton's handwriting was very different from his own, and he foresaw that the typewriter, for some time at least, would have to be his closest friend. But as to the mere signature, that would be easily enough acquired by a day or two of earnest work. He had no lack of trust in his own handiness, capacity, and equalness to every difficulty that might arise. For two hours and a half he was copying the signature, over and over very slowly, like a boy doing his copy-book, with ever repeated "James, James," "Drayton, Drayton." Occasionally, if he paused, he soaked his hands in the water, then wiped them and re-commenced the copying. It was far into the foreday when he nodded over the paper, and could hardly go on. He then rose and threw the sheets, on which he had written, into the now dying embers of the fire.

He was in the act of throwing himself backward upon his pillow to enjoy the sweetest sleep when he started, for opposite him, in the half-darkness, he saw a face looking at him. He had blown out the lamp, but one of the blinds was not lowered, so that some sort of light from the outer night with its street lamps relieved the darkness of the room and he could darkly see the face. He knew at once that it was his own face reflected in the mirror of the chest of drawers, but it was also the face of the man whose place in the world he was taking, and the suspicion suggested to his nerves was that he might think the face his own, and yet it might be Drayton's.

No mind could be colder, or more trained and fixed into scepticism, than Hartwell's. The average sceptic, looking at the growth of so striking a being as man from the lowest forms of fish-life, cannot help thinking that there has been something intelligently working in the world to bring forth such a product: but to Hartwell's hard head all was chance, chance. There was no compromise with him: he belonged to the school of Haeckel.

His universe consisted of atoms and ether alone, driven by more or less blind forces. As to ghosts and all other things, "whose existence we have no means of verifying," these were to him the merest "dreams of man's childhood." Yet he did lift his hands to assure himself that the man in the glass lifted his hand also.

His eyes then closed in sleep, but when he was on the point of sleep they opened again to see, for his nerves were not themselves that night, and a man with a black beard and coarse eyebrows was in the glass, dwelling there as in a home. The temptation occurred to Hartwell to rise, and throw a towel over the glass, but he would not do this. Finally his eyes flashed with a certain severe humor characteristic of him. He suddenly closed his lids, and was soon involved in as wild a vision as ever rioted in a man's head.


VI. — HARTWELL HEARS FROM A LADY OF TITLE

In the grey of the morning Hartwell opened his eyes and the first thing which he saw was a towel hanging over the mirror of the chest of drawers. He was astonished and could only conclude that he had put it there during sleep, for it happened to him to walk in his sleep before this, but his rising from bed to do this proved that his nervous fancy about Drayton's face during the night had made a deep enough impression on his nerves. He now smiled at himself for being subject to such disorders of digestion and dismissed the matter from his mind.

For two hours he then lay, full of plans and thought. During that time he made a review of all that the world contained to gratify him and of all these things he chose out what pleased him best. It has been shown that revels and pomps were already below the level to which his staid mind had risen, but among the letters he had seen one from the captain of a yacht called the Sempronia. She was his now and he would travel; and there was a long-love science of biology; he would become a genuinely "learned man"—that old dream of his. He could picture himself moving about his own laboratory, adding a little to the sum of human knowledge.

First, however, he would give his mind to acquiring a sufficient working knowledge of Drayton's business in order to retire from it without serious loss. There would have to be at least one month's daily personal attendance at the office in Fenchurch Street, after which he would probably be able to retire with credit in order to lead a mild, studious, epicurean life, the life of much science, a little art, and the pagan virtues.

For the pagan virtues, or any virtue, Hartwell had no more respect theoretically, than for vice, since "a pure egotism" was his summing up of the duty of man. But since he had inherited a tendency to virtue from his father and forefathers, he knew that more or less virtue was as needful to his comfort as breathing; "the pagan virtues," therefore, and a life of calm study, was the line along which he foresaw his maximum of happiness in that great new world into which he was that morning born. Drayton's friends would, of course, be greatly surprised at such a change in Drayton's manner of life—no more Epsom, unbridled motor cars, and rattling doings.

Hartwell foresaw their surprise, but he decided that he would live his life as he thought fit: for by old habit of mind he looked with no small disdain upon "the human animal in his present stage of development," and was ever disposed to esteem lightly the opinions of that animal. From time to time he might pretend in his new world that the shock of the motor car accident had made a difference in him and, for the rest, he trusted in the bodily oneness between himself and Drayton to bear the strain of any novelty of conduct that might be marked in the new Drayton.

As to "the wife" who "screamed," he he would provide for and somehow rid himself of her, if he was really married; and as to Julia, the sweetheart, he would be quickly rid of her, too. So he lay and dreamed and planned in the early morning, not counting upon the unexpected which, however, is always sure to happen: and within two hours his new state of existence seemed already as old and stale to him as if he had been a rich man and filled Drayton's place for ten years. As for hunger and want they had become to him unrealities as remote and forgotten as the nightmare of the night.

Near eight he rose to go to Drayton's overcoat pocket where there were still some shreds of paper which he had not examined. He had felt them in the pocket and, on account of the trouble of fitting them together, had not taken them out on taking the mass of other papers. He now took them in one heap, unlocked his door, removed the towel from the mirror, returned to bed, and began to fit the shreds of paper together.

But he was almost at once interrupted in this by a rap and bundled the shreds with the other papers as the opened door, let in a flood of day light, and the girl, Maggie, came in asking how he was.

"Much better, thank you," said Hartwell.

"Hodder, the sergeant, is downstairs asking to speak with you, sir," she said.

"Send him up and bring me a breakfast of hard-boiled eggs and coffee," said Hartwell. "Then see what can be made of my clothes by dint of cleaning. The overcoat, I think, is beyond your cares, and I must get a new one in the town; or perhaps I shall take from the police that of my friend, Mr—McCalmont."

He had seen from the letters that McCalmont was the name of Drayton's right-hand man, and also that McCalmont had accompanied his chief on the motor car expedition to Sheffield. He therefore made the true guess that this was the name of the second dead man.

The girl took up his clothes and went out. Then came in the officer, hat in hand, saying, "sorry sir, I'm sure, for your terrible accident."

"Ah, yes," said Hartwell, "I have had a memorable shaking, sergeant and an escape only to be attributed to the interpositions of a merciful Providence."

"Bad bruise on the forehead sir, I see," said the officer in a sympathetic voice.

"Yes, I was pitched head foremost over the cart—happily into a mass of mud. Sit down on that side of the bed while I have some breakfast and I will tell you all."

Hodder, the sergeant, sat and they spoke of the accident, of the condition of the two bodies and what had been done with the half-burned car, with the cart and with the guilty carter. As for the inquest, the coroner had issued his warrants and it would be at two p.m.

"It was a night o' trouble, last night," remarked the officer, as he rose to go, "what with the storm and there's Mr Barnes, of the "Anchor Inn," can't find his daughter, Letty. Its odd too, sir, how that laboring man got himself between your motor car and the cart. There's precious little left of his head, I see."

Hartwell's eyes, characterised by a certain humorous vivacity in their sideward look, smiled upon him as he said:

"The poor tramp perished in trying to save us. We heard him howling out to us but had no idea what he meant. The lamps may have dazzled and made him think us farther from him than we were and so he got himself between the car and the cart."

"You must have been going a pace, sir!"

"No doubt. If you like to fine me, I suppose I must pay—"

"Oh, that'll be all right sir, bless you," said Hodder, the sergeant.

He then went away, but before Hartwell could finish his breakfast, in came the girl again, this time with a breezy telegram, which said:


"CONGRATULATION! HURRAH!—BENTLEY."

And while he ate, three more arrived. This meant that the accident of the night had got into the London morning papers; and by 10.30 there was quite a crowd of telegrams.

One of them said:


"MY HEARTY CONGRATULATION; I AM COMING DOWN TO YOU.—OSWALD."

Another said:


"THE OFFICE BEG TO UNITE IN EXPRESSION OF SYMPATHY AND CONGRATULATIONS.—FOTHERGILL."

A third said:


"YOUR USUAL LUCK; THREE CHEERS FOR THE OLD FIRM!—EDWARDS."

Hartwell lay back smoking a cigar: but he was to find no rest now from the rain of congratulatory telegrams. There was only one which was the reverse of congratulatory, for it said:


"YOU HAVE ESCAPED THIS TIME, BUT NOT FOR LONG,"

and this one was anonymous. Near one o'clock there came one from "the sweetheart" at Cannes, saying:


"THE NEWS HAS BEEN TELEGRAPHED ME BY YOUR BROTHER: ACCEPT MY CONGRATULATIONS.—JULIA."

He had just read this when Maggie, whose legs were growing weary of mounting and going down the stairs, re-appeared, saying:

"Mr Oswald Drayton to see you, sir."

"Ah," thought Hartwell, "this is that Oswald who was 'coming down to me,' and he is a 'Drayton,' the 'brother' probably whom 'Julia' speaks of. Now, then, begins the test," and his eyes hardened keenly under their coarse brows. "Show him up," he said.

Presently there entered before Hartwell, in his room at the inn, a man rather under middle size, with a polished bald head (though he was only 35) and a friz of reddish hair running behind from ear to ear. He had a well-curled moustache, a hard chin, square jaws, a square head and a limp in his walk. His dress was the perfection of correctness, with some studied harmony between the tie, the gloves, the morning coat and, in all his air, a suggestion of club-land and Pall Mall.

"This does not look like my brother," thought Hartwell, quickly. But he was bold, he spoke first, though with a quailing sense of rashness, saying quietly: "My good Oswald, you are kind to come—"

But the words were so unlike Drayton's, who had usually addressed brother Oswald with a rough off-handiness, tossing him anon a careless hundred-pound-note, that Oswald stopped short one moment and his eyebrows slightly lifted. He shook hands, saying:

"My dear James, I am delighted at your escape, but—my dear fellow—you certainly look bad."

"In what way?" asked Hartwell quickly.

"Done up somehow, thinner—"

"Haven't I—cause?"

"Of course you have. I have myself lost a pound at least in weight since hearing of the accident. By a mere chance my man, Magee, saw it in the 'Times' about eight this morning, and I at once telegraphed to Lady Methwold. Er—heard from her, by the way?"

Hartwell at the first instant did not know who Lady Methwold was and, though in the second instant he guessed, his momentary conclusion caused him to say, more to himself than to Oswald, "Lady Methwold—you mean Julia."

Oswald slowly seated himself, and slowly turned his large gaze upon Hartwell, for all Oswald's movements were slow and premeditated. He was stiffer even than his collar. Anon he slowly turned his gaze at his image in the glass with sublime eyebrows. There was about him some detachment or absence of mind, as of one musing inwardly on himself and not finding surrounding objects of sufficient interest to occupy his attention.

"My good fellow," said he, "you are queer. Why on earth am I to call Lady Methwold 'Julia' before your marriage with her, if that ever arrives? Has she telegraphed to you?" He asked it with an interest which did not escape Hartwell's notice.

"Yes. Why?" asked Hartwell.

"Curiosity. Don't be odd. One has always a natural interest in people whose actions are always unexpected. Tell me about the spill"—with half a yawn.

Hartwell, looking at him penetratingly, said:

"Why tell you? You are not really anxious about the spill."

Oswald again turned his large eyes upon the bed, subconscious, no doubt, of a change in Drayton's noisy, slangy choice of words, and he said with surprise:

"My good James! do you mean because I merely yawned? It is that infernal journey—You are queer to-day. I see you have got a knock on the head. If I was not anxious, why come? No other brother would."

"He is poor," thought Hartwell, "and a sponger: his motive is money."

But before he could sound Oswald further, the breathless Maggie again looked in, saying, "Mr Barnes to see you, sir."

"Show him up," said Hartwell, without having any idea who Mr Barnes was, and in a minute in came the red beard and constant frown of Barnes, the father of the murdered Letty.

"You will excuse me, sir," began Barnes, "I am in a bit of trouble—"

"Yes, just take that chair, Mr Barnes," said Hartwell.

"Thank you, sir. Sorry to hear of your accident, sir, and I congratulate you on your lucky escape. I am very much put about this morning, sir, or should not have troubled you. Fact is—God help us all!—my daughter, Letty, left the house during the night and can't be found."

At the mention of that name, "Letty," Oswald Drayton slowly turned himself to look at Barnes, and listened closer.

"I thought she might have come to her cousin's in Aylsham," continued Barnes; "at least, it was just possible, but she hasn't. There's no telling where's she got to, or when she left the house, or why, or—anything. Forgive a father's feelings, gentlemen—"

The man buried his face, and a sob was heard in the room. Oswald's gaze turned upon Hartwell's face.

"I am sorry for your trouble, Barnes," said Hartwell. "I only hope that—" he was about to say, "am in no way connected—" but checked himself.

"I have been thinking that it is just possible that you may have seen the lass last night, sir," said Barnes, looking up.

"I may have, tell me more."

"You recollect coming to The Anchor in your motor car, sir? It must have been about twenty past seven?"

"That is true, I had almost forgotten. My head is all in a topsy-turvey this morning, Barnes. You see where I got the blow—" Hartwell passed his palm across the breadth of his brow, and Oswald's gaze travelled slowly from one to the other.

"Forgive me for troubling you sir, with my troubles, when you have your own," said Barnes. "I had the notion that if you had seen the lass when you went upstairs to write your letter, then we'd be able to say that at that hour, anyway, she was in the house. But if you don't recollect seeing her, I can only wish you a good day, and a speedy recovery—ah, good God!"

Barnes sighed, and stamped his stick and his foot together as he rose, the picture of loss and care.

"You are certain to find her, Barnes!" Hartwell called comfortingly after him, "have you made a thorough search?"

"The house, the whole neighborhood, five of us, since midnight, sir. She's gone, God knows where to."

The old man went out, and as he disappeared, Oswald's eyebrows deliberately lifted and, turning upon Hartwell, he said:

"I am prepared to take an oath that you have run off with that girl, James."

The fact was that, five days before this, Oswald had received a letter from a woman unknown to him named Letty Barnes, asking if he would tell her the proposed date of his brother's marriage with Lady Methwold; he had received it with a number of others brought him by his man Magee, at his club, and had then somehow dropped or mislaid it, for when he looked for it afterwards he could not find it anywhere. But he happened to remember the name Letty, because Letty seemed to be someone who, like himself, had a dislike to his brother.

"What makes you think that I have run off with her?" asked Hartwell.

Oswald would say nothing about Letty's letter to him, but said only:

"Why else should you stop at that inn when you were coming to dine at Aylsham? You have run off with her—dreadful scoundrel."

This was meant as flattery for Oswald, having come down to beg for money, wished to please. The real Drayton would have undoubtedly chuckled at being thus prodded about his conquests, but Hartwell who was born with the soul of a professor in the body of a Viking, took it without the least humor, foreseeing already that Drayton's way of life would probably involve him in some distasteful episodes. He looked at Oswald with a smiling eye, saying:

"I see that your methods of deduction are not conclusive, Oswald. Because I stopped on my way to dine at Aylsham at the 'Anchor Inn,' therefore, you say, I have run off with the girl there. But the landlord has already given you my real reason for stopping—namely, to write a letter."

"You would have waited till you came to Aylsham to write it, if you hadn't had some other motive," said Oswald, "and what on earth are you doing in this part of the country at all? My man, Magee, told me that you had gone to Sheffield for something, or other."

"So I had. But I returned this way to do some business at Cromer."

"Do people do business at Cromer?" asked Oswald wearily, looking at his image in the wardrobe glass with the critical detachment of a drill sergeant. "I thought Cromer was all bathing machines and shrimps. It is of no importance, my dear James. I don't know why you take it gravely, a girl less or more can't matter to you. But I thought that you were going to reform when you became engaged to her ladyship of Garlot. Magee, who never can get over his surprise that she ever took you, thinks that if she had any conception of your rowdyism, she would send you to the devil."

(Magee was Oswald's Irish servant, and Oswald seldom opened his mouth, without somehow bringing in Magee.)

"Magee is right," said Hartwell, "I am, in fact, already practically thrown over. So, if it will comfort you to know that I shall not finally outrun you in the good graces of that lady, then be comforted. We shall not marry."

Hartwell's thick lips smiled clinically as he said this, with that definite point in the middle of the upper pressed into the lower, not thinking how sad a prophecy he uttered. Oswald stared incredulously at him, as he uttered it, though even the mere prophecy pleased Oswald for one of the dreads of his life was that his brother should marry anyone, since that would mean the loss of two entails which would fall to him if his brother died without an heir.

Oswald had no suspicion that his brother had married nine years before this, in South Africa, a certain Martha Harper, and he had taken to his bed for a week, sick with disgust, when the extraordinary news of Drayton's engagement with Lady Julia became public, for he himself had long worshipped Julia as a "bright particular star" afar off, and had vaguely hoped to wed it. That the "James" whom he despised should have rushed in and conquered where Oswald feared to tread was a marvel to which Oswald's slow mind could never accustom itself. He had a constitutional and chronic dislike for the breezy Drayton, who threw him doles and checks with a careless hand, as one throws bones to a dog, and with this dislike was mixed a fine-gentleman disdain for the rough-and-ready city-man which Oswald could often hardly keep from peeping through his pretended chumship with James, to whom he was obliged to cringe, since his elegant existence among the tip-top circles was almost dependent on James' doles.

The brothers had not grown up together. They moved for the most part in different sets. Till James' surprising engagement with the wayward and independent Julia, James and Oswald could hardly have been called social equals, Oswald being so distinguished, though poor, and James so democratic a fellow, though a millionaire. Their parents had been pretty high in the social scale, but at an early age James had quarrelled with his father, had run away from school, resolving to stand on his own footing and make his own way, and in South Africa, where he lived a good many years, had laid the foundations of his large fortune.

It was not surprising, therefore, that little love was lost between the brothers, since they had seen little of each other, nor did Oswald's dislike—as yet—amount to actual hatred of "James." Yet that morning when he had been shown by Magee the account in the newspaper of the good James' escape from the spill, the thought in Oswald's mind, though he did not express it, was this: "My vicious luck."

He and Hartwell conversed for half an hour in a desultory way, Hartwell pumping him on the details of Oswald's own and the dead Drayton's mode of existence, their friends, habits, and so on, till at one-thirty Hartwell started, saying:

"I must get up and dress for that inquest."

Then Oswald, too, rose, and paced a little, anon inspecting the image in the glass, saying:

"So McCalmont is gone? Well, one cannot pretend to be sorry. I hated McCalmont."

"Why so?" asked Hartwell, glad of any scrap of information.

"You know very well that he used to put you against me, James. I say, Jimmy"—Oswald's voice lowered rather meanly—"I lost £80 on that dreadful Riley-match, and there's an infernal bill from Prince's this week. Don't think I'm exigent, but I might have scraped something together to-day from somewhere, if I had not rushed down to see you. May I count upon a hundred before I start back to town."

"I will think about it," said Hartwell, not intending to give. "You might go down while I dress and ask the girl whether the sergeant has sent me McCalmont's overcoat, as I told him to. My own is all stained."

"Is it that splendid sable of yours that is all stained? I say, may I have it, Jimmy? I might use the fur."

"If you like!" said Hartwell off-handedly.

Oswald went out, while Hartwell dressed in Drayton's clothes, which the girl had well cleaned and brought up, some time before. He then descended to the commercial room, where lunch was waiting for him, and he and Oswald sat to lunch.

Oswald was all the time conscious in a dull way of some change, some heightening of mind and character in the good James before him, but without making any attempt to account for it. All problems, in fact, were regarded by Oswald as an ox regards a five-barred gate, seeing it certainly there, but unable to understand who made it, or how, or why, and not caring, but chewing its cud, and feeling bored. During the lunch, however, Oswald could not but be surprised at the little that "James" drank, and he asked:

"Why are you drinking less heroically, my good James? That spill has had a chastening effect upon you. You are less florid and boisterous, somehow. You look like a converted burglar, which is horrid. I believe her fair ladyship of Garlot would almost prefer the unconverted type. Better not change, James, from just what you were at the moment of her consent, or she will certainly fly off at a tangent, and leave you. Is that really true then, that she shows sighs of restiveness?"

"Yes," said Hartwell.

"Tell me."

"I have a letter saying that she has re-considered the matter, and is disposed to cast me into despair."

"Despair!" repeated Oswald to himself, with a mocking breath of laughter. Just that little turn of expression was so unexpected for his slangy brother to use. "But do you think that she meant it, Jimmy?"

"I have no doubt about it—Ah that makes you glad, Oswald! Your sympathies with the pangs of your brother are not so profound as they should be, my friend."

Oswald glanced at him in surprise, and then said with abashed lids in a lower voice:

"My dear James, you are queer to-day."

Already the power of Hartwell's personality was producing upon him an effect of greater respect.

"You remarked that before," said Hartwell, "that I am queer to-day. But in what sense queer? Because I probe in you your unbrotherly mood? You are to get it well into your mind Oswald, that I am not queer to-day, even if I was queer before."

"My dear fellow," said Oswald, "I don't care a curse whether you are queer or not. I don't know what it is all about. If I am glad at all that Lady Methwold won't have you, it is partly for your sake. You know very well that you have no earthly right to such a wife."

"Why not?"

"Because, because. You know very well. In two weeks she would play the very deuce with you, or you with her, or both. She is the very finest flower of nineteenth-century Society, and you belong to the Roman Empire under Galba."

"Not altogether to the Roman Empire, Oswald," said Hartwell with a twinkling eye. "No! I have heard a mention of the geologic ages, my friend, at least a mention, though you may not think so well of me. And why, after all, am I not a suitable catch for a lady of title? I am rich—

"Not a suitable match for her, James. There are plenty of others who will be glad of you, if you are sufficiently absurd to desire rank in a wife. What, then have you done about her letter?"

"Nothing yet. I mean to answer it shortly. And I shall accept her inclination to withdraw from the engagement as being as serious as I consider it wise."

"You won't really, James?"

"Yes, never fear, you shall be well pleased!"

"Magee tells me that she is coming back from Cannes before Christmas, first to Garlot Croft, and then for hunting in Gloucestershire."

"I may see her then, or write before—Ah, it must be time for the inquest," Hartwell rose as he said this, and took out the dead man's watch to look at it, and now occurred a painful incident to him, for he could not open the watch, which was double cased, and only opened on the touching of a tiny spring which he did not know where to find. He fumbled with the winding knob, but the watch would not open, and catching sight of Oswald looking at him, he grew rather confused, feeling that he should surely know the secret of opening his own watch. It was rather a bitter moment. The watch would not open, and Hartwell's colour slightly changed when Oswald asked:

"Why ever can't you open it?"

This question, innocent as it was, was never forgotten by Hartwell who, in his sensitive outlook for the first sign of a suspicion that he was not Drayton, was apt to flee when no man pursued. From that moment, he definitely disliked, as well as despised, Oswald, in whom however, not even the beginning of a suspicion of anything wrong had arisen. For men know each other, not by vague impressions of character or manner, but almost entirely by the broad evidence of the senses, so that if one knows one's brother, or ones husband, to be a saint, yet if someone exactly like him came home tipsy one day, the last thing which one would think is that it was not really he. One might say, "I cannot believe my eyes," but one would nevertheless believe them, in spite of a whole life's excellence of character, for our trust in our senses is perfect—far more perfect than they deserve.

If even the faintest suspicion should happen to arise in one's mind that the tipsy man might not really be one's brother or husband, then the march from that to certainty would in most cases be swift, but the birth of such a suspicion would be more hard and stubborn than the changing of coal into diamond, if the bodily resemblance was very strong. In the case of Hartwell and Drayton, not only was the manner, speech and tone of mind as different as possible in the two men, but even the bodily resemblance was not perfect. For Hartwell's beard was worn quite an inch shorter than Drayton's and the raspberry birth-mark on his temple was rather smaller, and of a different shape to that of Drayton. Yet that "first suspicion" which was necessary to open the eyes to see all this did not occur to Oswald nor, for a long time, to anyone.

Such an incident as that of the watch, and a hundred others like it which did not fail to occur to Hartwell during the first two weeks of the imposture, might have opened any eyes but those fast closed by the undoubting certainty that he was Drayton, since he was like Drayton, and stood in Drayton's shoes. He was quite a minute fumbling with Drayton's watch, yet could not open it. His first impulse was to say that the shock of the spill had made him forget everything, finally, however, he rose better than that to the emergency, his perfect calm returning as he quietly said:

"I see the cover got strained in my fall. Never mind, it must be time to go."

They then set out for the court, Hartwell in a hat of the landlord's and in McCalmont's overcoat which Hodder, the sergeant, had sent him. He walked down the street, still keeping up the pretence of feebleness, leaning on Oswald's arm, with his palm on the bruise on his brow. The wealth and importance of Drayton had been learned by Aylsham from the morning papers, so Hartwell was received by the coroner and his twelve men like a sovereign who had been the victim of someone's wrong-doing, was condoled with, was not permitted to stand in giving his evidence, and finally went out with everyone bowing to him. As to the furious driving not a word was said.

The jury did not give their verdict that day, and on this account, as well as to meet Mrs McCalmont and her father who had telegraphed him their coming down, Hartwell had to remain at Aylsham that night. Oswald, meanwhile, was clearly beginning to fidget—hating to stay—for outside of Mayfair he was like a fish out of water, yet afraid to speak of hurrying off, lest he should go without the £100, for 'James' was touchy and a creature of whims. But as they re-entered the old coaching house, he ventured to say at last:

"I think I must go, Jimmy; I could hardly stand a night in this hole."

"Then go, my friend," answered Hartwell, who had now sufficiently used Oswald to pump from him all the knowledge he could furnish, and wished to be alone to study McCalmont's papers, which he had just obtained at the court.

"Then may I have the cheque, Jimmy, before I go?" asked Oswald in a certain sycophant voice.

"I think not," answered Hartwell. He had Drayton's cheque-book, but did not yet consider himself sufficiently expert in signing Drayton's name to do so, even if he had wished to be obliging. But Hartwell was no scatterer of £100 cheques, and did not wish to be obliging and, at that moment, the enmity already begun between him and Oswald deepened.

"But I thought you promised?" said Oswald.

"I said that I would think about it."

"Don't be a miser, Jimmy! Didn't I rush down at once to see you?"

"No doubt, but I have been over-liberal of late. You know that."

"The clown!" muttered Oswald to himself, "but what has happened to the brute? His choice of words seems different—Won't you then, Jimmy?"

"No."

That "No" was very final. Hartwell went up to his room, and Oswald lingered in the commercial room for two hours, pacing there with his slow limp, as the afternoon shadows lengthened, nosing the old window panes, his mind bitter with the miseries of scarcity, and with the thought which haunted it that, if the car had only pitched James when it had pitched McCalmont, then he, Oswald, would have changed his rooms in a week's time to the Albany and would have wintered in Algiers.

As for Hartwell, wearied with the anxieties of the day and night, he had gone again to bed. He already knew Oswald through and through and acted with respect to him without hesitation. For already a certain heightening of wit and insight, which his ticklish situation called forth, was begun in him—a certain "adaptation to his environment," almost like the growth of a new sense which, in a few weeks, would find him sharpened at the call of a thousand exigencies into a very genius of swift discernment and decision.

When Oswald went up to say good-bye, he found Hartwell asleep. He did not wake him but, coming down again to go, got the "splendid sable" overcoat which Hartwell had made him a present of, from the maid, who had cleaned it as well as she could. He was about to leave the tavern, when, feeling in the pockets of the overcoat, in the vague hope of finding a forgotten five pound note, he found instead a shred of paper. A shred of Letty Barnes' letter to Lady Methwold, which Hartwell had chanced to leave behind in the pocket in taking out the rest in a heap.

The hand-writing interested Oswald, he seemed to know it. Letty Barnes had written to him in that hand, asking the date of his brother's marriage.

"James" had said that morning that he did not know Letty, yet here was a shred of her writing in James' pocket and on it Oswald read the word and the half-word: "cruel bru."

That seemed very odd to Oswald that James should have denied knowing her, for James usually took such things more lightly. What, then, had he done with this Letty?

Oswald called Maggie again, and asked her:

"Has anything more been heard of Mr Barnes' daughter?"

"I don't think so, sir," she answered. "There's a great excitement about it in the town. Everybody was that fond of Letty."

"Where is the 'Anchor Inn?'"

"About two miles from here, between Ingworth and Coleby, sir."

"I want you to get me a horse and trap."

Oswald waited till this was procured him, and instead of walking to the station, drove to "The Anchor," and actually slept there that night.

Hartwell, on his part, spent the night much as he had spent the last, studiously examining McCalmont's papers, making his plans for the future and forming his handwriting on the model of Drayton's. About nine in the evening there occurred to him an event in the shape of a letter from Lady Julia. It had been written two days after the one of hers which he had found in Drayton's pocket, threatening him with dismissal, and four days before Julia had heard of his accident. The letter had gone from Cannes to Drayton's house in Addison Road, and was now sent down to Aylsham with some others by a Miss Scatchett, who was Drayton's town housekeeper.

In this letter Lady Methwold did what in the previous letter she had only threatened to do, for with a light and almost flippant touch, but still firmly enough, she threw Drayton over, giving no reason that any British jury would take seriously. Though it was evident "between the lines" that she had thought seriously of the matter, for she accounted in one place for her change of whim by the fact that she was "six months older." Hartwell had already so identified himself with Drayton, that, if he had been dissected, some slight pique or feeling of offence would have been found within him at this light treatment. He read the letter with a cold and smiling eye, and murmured when he was finished:

"Your ladyship will be spared the action, and since I no longer possess your ladyship's affections, I shall now set about and dispose myself to exist without them."

He was almost merry that night—as near it as his earnest nature ever got—full of a sense of success, safety, and old-established ease. But as he was dropping off to sleep, about two in the morning, the same thing as on the previous night troubled his repose, for he caught sight of a face in the mirror which was his, and yet might possibly be Drayton's. The face meditated upon him, and since Hartwell looked at it through half-closed lids, the face seemed a dead man's face. This disturbed Hartwell, as such things do to one who is about to sleep and though he had smiled at himself that morning, his unrest was even greater this second night. It was a morbidness, the beginning of a madness—which might grow. Fearing lest he should again cover the mirror in his sleep, he rose and threw the towel over it. Till he did that he could not sleep.


VII. — HARTWELL COMES HOME

The next evening, near eight, James Drayton's brougham awaited its master at Liverpool Street Station, for Hartwell, after making arrangements for the burial of the "tramp," and the bringing of McCalmont's body to London, had telegraphed his coming to Miss Scatchett, his housekeeper, and she had sent a brougham to meet him.

It was a dark, rainy night, and the scene about the station was a blur of umbrellas, wheels, mist, lights, mud, and hurrying feet.

Standing in it all, apparently awaiting someone, was a tall young man, with a wide hat tilted aside on his head, blonde hair, and the most alert eyes—evidently a Frenchman—with a certain dancing levity in all his air. His clothes were of a fashionable cut, but shabby, he had no overcoat, no umbrella and his jacket collar was turned up. But though cold and poor, he did not seem depressed, being a young man used to the ups and downs of life, certain to be rich to-morrow, if he was poor to-day, and quite certain to be poor again the day after to-morrow. His name was Emile Dulaunay, Count d'Artenset-Villiers, for though penniless for the moment, he was the representative of one of the oldest seigneurial families.

"Mon dieu!" thought the count, "I wish that she would come."

But he was getting wet, his expected friend did not appear and finally, seeing a brougham standing just near him among a number of carriages, and seeing also that its door had by chance fallen open he, in his nimble way, slipped in out of the rain, with a grimace of self-conscious monkeyism, and there in the brougham, he sat, leaning out of the door with a bright outlook both for his expected friend and for the owner of the brougham, ready to slip out at the first sing of the latter's appearing.

He had not been three minutes in the brougham, when quite near him a big man in a furred coat seemed to rise out of the ground, calling out: "Drayton's carriage!" This was Hartwell, just arrived from Aylsham. Hartwell, of course, did not know his own carriage and coachman, and his hesitating indirect approach in the crowd had given the Frenchman no hint that he was the owner of the carriage. At the call of "Drayton's carriage!" the coachman sang out in reply: "Here, sir!" and before the Frenchman could stir, Hartwell was at the carriage door.

The excellent count was about to laugh an excuse and take to flight when, to his extreme mystification, Hartwell said, "How do you do?" put out his hand, and shook the count's. For Hartwell naturally assumed that here must be some household friend or dependant of Drayton's who had come in the carriage to meet him.

Hartwell got hurriedly into the carriage, saying to Dulaunay:

"Tell him to drive us home fast, I am hungry."

And Dulaunay at once said to himself "Here then, evidently, is a dinner arranged beforehand for me by the good God himself."

A born adventurer and hanger-on on Providence, living by instants like a bird, Dulaunay followed always giddily whither chance led, little recking whither that might be, and leaning out of the door he called to the astonished driver, who had not seen him get in: "It is necessary that you hasten yourself!" whereupon the carriage moved, and off they went westward.

There was a silence for a time in the dim brougham, each of its two occupants waiting in vain for the other to speak. Dulaunay would not say a word, and finally Hartwell asked:

"Is everything going well at home?"

"But, sir, I hope it," answered Dulaunay.

Hartwell considered that answer in silence.

"Tell me about things," he said, presently.

"What things, sir?"

"Everything."

"Well—but—'everything' is a sufficiently ample subject, you will admit, sir! It is, in effect, an abstract science that, sir, demands—." The count said this with reproach.

"Ha! yes, that is so. I see that you are as full of your jokes as usual."

"But yes, as usual, sir. It is better to take the life lightly, is it not, sir?"

"You are a philosopher as well as a humorist," said Hartwell, "and a philosopher of my own school. I am in agreement with you."

He did not know what to make of the Frenchman by his side, who was evidently a man of culture and no chef, nor was it within the bounds of Dulaunay's fancy to conceive why this excellent sir was taking him in his carriage to dinner. They were now passing down Holborn. Hartwell longed and was sorely tempted, to ask the name and relation to himself of the man who was so near to him, yet was so strange, dark, and spectral to his consciousness. But, as he was supposed to know, to ask was precisely the thing which he was resolved in no case to do. Dulaunay for his part could only dream that he was the subject of some mistake which might bring him a dinner and other good chances, and refrained from uttering rashness with his lips, so that the two men, wholly unrelated till that hour, but now linked fast together by a chain of circumstances, remained perfect riddles one to the other.

"As to my housekeeper?" said, Hartwell, brusquely, after a long time.

"What, as to her?" asked the excellent count.

"Is she well?"

"I venture to cherish the hope that she is well, sir," said Dulaunay, in a tone of some surprise.

"You have not seen her lately, then?"

"Not perhaps lately, sir."

"Where, then, have you been?"

"I? Why at home."

"I see, at home, but not come in contact with her, so to say?"

"Not into personal contact, perhaps, sir."

"You say 'perhaps' always," said Hartwell, reproachfully.

"Yes, sir," answered Dulaunay.

There was silence between them again, till Hartwell said:

"I am late, by the way. I hope our dinner will not spoil."

"The heaven defend that, sir," answered the count, in a quiet and confident tone of protest.

Hartwell, meantime, was thinking: "Strange that he asks me not a word about the accident;" and presently he said:

"What did you think of my accident?"

"Your accident? Mon Dieu! but the news of your accident sensibly touches me, sir," cried the count.

"I cannot, however, flatter myself that you exhibit the keenest interest in the details."

"I! but even the keenest!" cried the count, "permit me instantly, sir, to ask of you a full history of that vexing circumstance!"

Hartwell, with that humorous shrewd look of his narrow eye, answered:

"I will not burden you on the eve of your dinner. A motor car may be heavy for digestion."

Whereupon Dulaunay at once spun round toward Hartwell in an ardour of narrative, exclaiming:

"A motor car! but I have not yet told you, I think, of that what you call it?—'upset' that arrived to me in the Upper Auvergne? You are going to hear—"

And the glib count plunged into a story of hair-breadth escape, full of cries and gesticulation, which lasted till they were sweeping through the gates of Addison Road to the house.

Arrived at James Drayton's home in Addison's Road, the two occupants of the carriage got out. The coachman, who had seen only one man get in, saw two get out, but almost before he could ask himself anew how that was, his attention was all drawn off from this question by the strange conduct of a mastiff—a large, buff watch-dog, named "Bull"—which had bounded from the outer hall as the carriage entered the drive. Bull had been a great friend of Drayton's, and the moment Hartwell appeared at the carriage door the hound ran to fondle him and be fondled by him. But half-way to the carriage the dog stopped short, uttered a yelp, then a growl, and now was apparently about to spring with a bristling neck and no good meaning upon the new-comer. But again he stopped short, whined and shrunk backwards, with vague eyes of awe, his back bristling with superstitious horror. And suddenly the dog was in flight, whimpering, his tail between his legs, round the house to the back.

The coachman, seeing all this, muttered to himself:

"Well, I never!"

And Hartwell thought:

"Our dog will have to be reasoned with severely!"

Miss Scatchett, the housekeeper, had thought fit, in view of so great an event as the accident, to have her staff assembled in the inner-hall, where Hartwell shook hands all round, receiving their congratulations with an affable dignity while the Frenchman stuck to his elbow with many bows and an opening of the arms.

"Well, Mr Drayton, you have had a miraculous escape, heaven be praised!" said Miss Scatchett, a very meagre old gentlewoman, with a bird-like and active air, who wore old brown silks and black silk mits on her hands. Hartwell already knew her name and decided at his first glance at her that she was a spinster.

"Such is life, Miss Scatchett," he said; "I am safe, you see, I am here, in spite of all. Let all be attributed to that merciful Providence which occupies itself in watching over our mute existences. I received your letter of sympathy, and thank you. I thank you all—I wish this overcoat taken to my room. It is my poor McCalmont's"—and he threw off the overcoat to the arm of a footman, his object being to discover the whereabouts of his own room, and when the footman moved Hartwell followed, and when Hartwell moved Dulaunay followed.

"Ah, I fear you have had a truly terrible shock sir," said Miss Scatchett, who also went up with them for, missing the breezy entrance of her old Drayton and finding instead a self-respecting and genial dignity, she could only put this down to the shock of the accident.

"Yes, a terrible shock enough," answered Hartwell, "it may be months before I am myself again. I believe that you will henceforth miss in me a certain, let me say, boisterousness, Miss Scatchett. I feel myself somewhat changed. The memory in particular seems rather clouded. I struck just here, where you see the bruise."

"Dear, dear me!"

"Well, never mind, I say! Let us take all things cheerily and bravely as they come, Miss Scatchett. Our earth is not a paradise, but the Chance which governs it is not uniformly bitter. Ah, here we are."

The footman with the coat now entered a room on the first floor, into which Hartwell followed him, and seeing Dulaunay about to follow also said rather testily, "You may, perhaps, prefer to go to your own room, sir, before dinner."

"Certainly, sir," answered the count, and turned with enquiring brows towards Miss Scatchett, who was wondering that he had not been presented to her while Hartwell, on his side, assumed that the Count was well known to her.

"This way, sir," said Miss Scatchett to Dulaunay, as Hartwell closed the door upon himself, and she led the way up another soft stair to a bed-room overlooking the lawn. And here Dulaunay, after surveying its spaciousness, the bright fire, the draperies, and comfortable bed, muttered to himself:

"Mon dieu, it is not but the English, after all, who know to be imposing!"

"May I ask, sir," said Miss Scatchett, "if you will be staying any considerable time with Mr Drayton?"

"But, madame, I hope it," said the pleased Frenchman. "Have the goodness to make to know Mr Drayton that I descend to dinner in five minutes."

"Very good sir, and your name?"

"Emile Dulaunay, the Count d'Artenset-Villiers, madam, at your service," answered the Count.


VIII. — HARTWELLL MEETS A LADY

If we pass over twelve days from that night of Hartwell's coming home to Addison Road—twelve days which Hartwell spent in a state of the hardest mental strain in learning a thousand facts, in conversing with fifty people whom he had never before seen, in fighting his way to a more entrenched position in the kingdom which he had seized upon and generally, in getting to himself that almost "new sense" of sharp insight which the many calls upon his wits made needful to him—if we pass over these active twelve days, we find him on the thirteenth afternoon sitting in his private room in his Fenchurch Street office, looking through a number of documents relating to landed estate, as title deeds, conveyances, mortgages, liens, and so on, which he had not had the time to look into before.

From these he now found himself the owner of an important estate in Bucks, of another in Hampshire, and of a smaller one in Norfolk. This last was that Corton Estate where, as we know, "the wife" was. But Hartwell did not know that she was there and in vain, so far, had he tried to find out her whereabouts, though he was now fairly certain that he was really married, for he had found, under lock and key, a diary of Drayton's in which were more obscure references to "the wife." But who? where? this question greatly troubled Hartwell, when he found time, as during his unquiet nights, to think of it.

This Corton was a dilapidated old place, not yielding any rent, apparently given over to poachers, and unless Hartwell should some day think of turning it to some account, it was quite likely that he might not go down there for years.

Besides these three estates, there was a "Hobham House" in Surrey, not far from London, and on that twelfth evening, after examining the deeds, he determined to take a trip to this Hobham House at once, intending to decide that night as to whether it or Addison Road house would prove the more suitable for the laboratory which he was about to make. He therefore got the keys from the outer office, and took train for the small Surrey station of Lydney, where he asked his way, and thence walked to Hobham House. He found it to be a square brick building in a lonely situation at the end of an avenue of pines, and went through all the rooms, which were empty but for a few pieces of old furniture here and there.

He then set out to return to the station, but being absorbed in thought, he happened to take a wrong path where two paths met, and walking on and on without noticing his mistake, he was soon in the park of another estate, which adjoined the woods round Hobham House. It's name was Garlot Croft; it was the country-seat of Julia, Lady Methwold, which fact it was that had caused Drayton to acquire Hobham House lying near it, though he had hardly ever occupied Hobham House.

Hartwell was descending an avenue rather rough with ruts of hardened mud, when he saw before him a lady walking in the same direction as he, rolling a bicycle—saw, as it were, without seeing her, for he was looking on the ground. He had soon overtaken and passed her a little, absorbed in thought, when he heard a deep voice of mockery behind him say:

"A justly-offended James!"

He turned, and his eyes rested on a spirited image, a lady of twenty-two or twenty-three years, with a small head and face and a divinely tall length of body between her toes and her chin, and Hartwell said to himself:

"This can only be 'Julia,' whom I imagined to be still at Cannes."

Since she had formally given him up, he had not even been at the pains to answer her letter of dismissal. He had not, indeed, had the time to remember her existence. He put out his hand with a genial smile in his eyes, pleased with her frank beauty, the freedom of her carriage, and her profusion of soft-brown hair, which had become rather loose and dropped a little behind the neck, and he said:

"No, I was absorbed in thought, and looking on the ground. I am not offended, still less justly offended. For I am sure you never did a wiser thing, for yourself at least."

At once she looked at him with puzzled eyebrows—a little cynical surprise—and her first thought was:

"Well, but someone has been teaching my James to talk modestly, and to lift his hat with distinction."

They walked side by side under the over-arching branches of two rows of beech trees, she rolling her bicycle, and even as they talked, Hartwell's mind was inwardly busy with her, summing her up in a way that had become almost mechanical to him since he had entered the great world under false colours, and he thought to himself:

"She is a widow, young as she is, and she is as fated to second marriage as streams to flowing downward. The portrait in the locket is doubtless that of the already-forgotten Methwold—"

"You have been a long while considering your reply to my letter, James," she said, bridling, "or are you more correctly 'Mr Drayton' now?"

"Still 'James, let me hope," he answered with a patronising humor in his eyes, "though you, perhaps, should no longer be 'Julia,'" and he thought to himself, "she is an athlete, a horsewoman, no doubt—the back and neck. But I fancy that only fencing could give that liberation of her curves, that buoyant air. These are her grounds, that yonder is her house, she would not otherwise have troubled to alight from her bicycle on account of this little roughness of the ground."

While he was thinking this, Julia was saying:

"I have not the least objection to being still 'Julia,' if you like. I recognise, of course, that you have the right to be aggrieved, and I am quite disposed to be chums ever after."

"Then I call you the most charming of ladies," replied Hartwell, while he was thinking inwardly:

"She is certainly a fine specimen of the human mammal. Her most soft and womanly air is due, I fancy, to her hair, which is very fine, loose and light, and partly perhaps to the peachy coloring of her face, or something in the eyes, which are purple, like the violet or pansy, and are very soft in expression, though bright and spirited."

And while these thoughts of her were fluttering through his mind, Julia on her part was thinking with surprise of him: "But what is the matter? He is talking very much better than I always thought!"

And she said aloud:

"I was very sorry about the accident, James."

"'Very' is one of the strong words," he answered in a coldly playful way, smiling upon her with a patronising eye as a man of many cares and deep thought may watch something pretty play in his mood of relaxation, and still his thoughts kept running on her, dissecting her without any conscious effort, thinking: "She has a child, probably only one, a girl, under three years, for the doll on the handle-bar seems to be of cloth, it was bought en route—"

"But I was sincerely sorry," she said, in answer to his criticism of her 'very,' "you are not, please, to consider me a monster of heartlessness, for I do not think I am, then."

"You are not a monster at all," he answered, "but an excellent little human person, producing your allotted influence upon the history of life," and, as he said this, he was thinking inwardly.

She, meanwhile, was looking up at him with the most puzzled of eye-brows, for she could not believe her ears. He had called her "a little human person, producing her allotted influence—!" Was this then her rejected James? Drayton had called her "a clipper!" and she thought again with a pout, "His vulgarity must have been a pose! he is really quite nice when he chooses! I don't understand—"

"At any rate," she said aloud, "it seems pretty evident that I need not reproach myself with having broken anyone's heart."

"The wound on my head," he answered, "acted as a counter-irritant to that in my heart. The two thus tended to cure each other."

"Did, actually, cure each other, say."

"Pardon, only tended to!" he said with a sort of paternal gallantry. "The wound in the heart—remains."

"Dear me! It has lasted three eternal weeks, then."

"It can—never—be effaced."

"Is it my doing, really, that you are subdued and graver?" she asked seriously after a minute, with a side glance up at his face.

"I fear so," he answered, languidly toying with her, "the wound, you know, in the heart."

"Is it that accident?" she laughed, pleased, somehow at his pretence that her thunderbolt of dismissal had not fallen without hurting anyone, yet with a question, a doubt in her, whether her James could by any possibility be making fun of her.

"Yet, you see, I haunt your grounds," he said.

"You are only passing through to somewhere from Hobham House."

"No, I am here to be near you."

"Improbable fib. One would almost say that you were 'trying again,' James; but though the words are honeyed, the tone is bored, and the ears of widows are quick and accurate!"

"Then I must resign myself to being misunderstood."

They had come to a mansion with a Jacobean-Italian front and there they continued to talk a while on the steps of a terrace. It was suddenly so dark that he was to her only a cloaked pillar under a silk hat, and she to him something slim and dainty in a short skirt, with a ghost of white where some phlox lay on her bosom. Near Christmas, as it was, scents of Marechal Niel roses were to be detected in the air, some far-separated lights appeared in the mansion, accentuating its dreamy gloom, and the park lay silent, but for the noises made by three spaniels, which had come to meet her and were gambolling about them.

"Did you really know, then, that I had come back?" she asked.

"Let me be candid—no. I had been to Hobham House, where I am thinking of setting up a laboratory, and making the house my home."

"Did you say a laboratory?"

"Yes."

"What sort of a laboratory?"

"The laboratory of a biologist."

"For your own use, do you mean?"

"Yes."

"Then, I suppose I am dreaming, or are you Joking?"

"Is this so surprising, then?" he said: "I have always cherished an inclination for science, and finding myself at the age of thirty-eight no longer a stripling, and superfluously wealthy, I am now working hard to free myself from all business, in order to devote the remainder of my days to my inclination. I know of no heart in the world that loves me, unless it be one poor boy, to whom I have been a father, I have no ties, the rather coarse life which you have seen me live never really pleased me: so you will readily conceive why I decide to shut myself in with a mistress who will not write me a letter casting me into despair on the first rainy morning."

He could no longer see Julia's face, but there was now something more depicted there than mere astonishment. Some finger of pain and pity touched Julia's heart at this strange mixture of truth and falsehood pronounced by Hartwell, and her delicate bosom swelled a little at the birth of an instinct within her that if this man fell sick, she would like to nurse him, and if he were sad, then that would be sweet to a woman to lay her hand on his head.

"James," she said, with her eyes cast down a moment, "I am sorry, then, if I have seemed flippant."

"But I cannot permit you to be sorry," he answered. "I repeat seriously that never were your instincts so wise as when you cast me into despair, just as they were never so frivolous as when you engaged yourself to marry me. I was not half worthy of you."

"But by saying that, you make me doubt the truth of it, James. I did not, perhaps, quite know you. I'm afraid that, since I desired to disengage myself, I should have done it with rather more responsibility and—respect. I am cross with us both then. You should have made me like you better"—her dry little mouth pouted, as she said this.

"As for me, however you liked me, I like you well," said he. "You are charming, you are most beautiful, and you are also good."

And, bending to say this in a lower tone, there took place within Hartwell an event, an affection, an act of the soul, which he himself would have called "physiological," but really was no more so than a chord of music is. He somehow found her hand in his, and kissed it.

She laughed lightly, uneasily, murmuring in a soft low voice:

"No, James."

"What, have I transgressed?"

"Everybody knows that we are parted. It would be extremely absurd, really, if we are not. And we must not steal things, must we?"

"Then, I shall steal no more. Honesty is the best policy, as you say, but the hardest."

"Is it hard, really?"

"Yes."

"Frankly, it never once entered my head to take you seriously, James, to dream that you really cared, or that I did. It is very, very, very amusing! Did you really care, then?"

"No, no," he said in a new tone; "I must be serious, I see, with you and with myself. Forget my light words. I find you all too important a matter to trifle with—your dove's voice, your soft face, and all the pleasant fruit of your womanly being. Human creatures are among the paltriest of insects really, dear Lady Julia, if we consider it, but there are those of them, it seems, that have the biological property of giving out a music by merely living, as the dragon-fly's flight is accompanied by a musical sound. And such you seem to me at this moment, more admirable and important than all the crowd of suns visible to the eye on a moonless night, which delusion of mine proves to you, does it not, that my consciousness is not at this moment at its brightest. And now, moreover, I am only flirting with you, no doubt. Let not half that you hear me say be believed! This impression that I have of you is the merest passing delusion of my senses, you are no fairer and better than any other."

"Am I to be pleased, then, or vexed? Shall I laugh, or cry?" asked Julia, laughing. "I seem at last to have met a complex man! Or shall I simply remain silently astonished, with neither laughter nor tears? I assure you, that since the darkness has hidden your face I have quite the impression that you are not yourself, but another man. But come, Aunt Margaret is waiting: dinner."

"Thank you, I will, not," Hartwell said shortly. "Good-night."

He shook hands abruptly, turned, and had walked away some steps when she, after a few seconds of hesitation, called after him:

"James! I am going to fox-hunt and spend Christmas with the house party at Castle Moran—"

She said no more. He for his part, stood still, silent, tempted to be there with her, but undecided. He finally broke the silence by saying:

"I do not remember that I have an invitation."

"I will see to that. That is, if you like."

"I certainly like, but I do not think—Well, but you are very good. I must be there, then. Good-night."

Hartwell then walked on through the dark wood, making for the railway station, but going the wrong way, so that later on he had to traverse the park again. He fell at once, as he went, into the dark mood which regularly overcame him at every nightfall, and he thought within himself: "She is like a little flower on a tall stem—certainly very pleasant, very precious, very rare. The deluded arms open of themselves to embrace her—We, however, are 'married,' we have a 'wife'—Let us choose, if we can, to keep within the four corners of our British Law."

Julia, for her part, looked after him till he disappeared, amazed at herself and at him. She had liked Drayton, his rough way, his beard, his nonchalance, his frankly City-man point of view. He had once saved her life in the hunting-field, he had, moreover, appealed to her toleration, had amused and outraged her, and she had engaged herself to him mainly because that was outrageous and perverse. But there was some quality of weight, of eminence in him—he was admirable. She dropped her bicycle upon the lawn with rather a crash, and went into the house with a sigh.


IX. — HARTWELL IS IN GREAT PERIL

Meantime, as was said before, Oswald had slept a night at the "Anchor Inn" in exile from Pall Mall and from those two rooms behind Piccadilly where his man, Magee, made Irish bulls, and told to Oswald whatever Oswald did not already know of the doings and movements of people in the great world.

Precisely why he had slept a night in such a "hole," as Oswald called the "Anchor," he could not have told, but he had wished to be on the spot. Something very odd in "James's" denial to him that he knew Letty Barnes, when he certainly did, and in her strange disappearance, without taking any hat with her, stirred up some interest in Oswald's rather dull mind. It was not like him to be there in a bed of that "Anchor" tavern, but no one is always a fossil and there Oswald was.

By the next morning the countryside was eagerly talking about the girl. Letty's appearance, dress, habits, were described in the Norfolk papers, with comments on her good name, her "walk and conversation," her place and use in the little local world where she had lived and run her course. She had been a good chapel-goer, and, till lately, had taught in the Sunday school, and kept a missionary-box, had gone to spend three weeks with an aunt in Cromer during the summer, but had spent only two, though Barnes, her father, still maintained that she had spent three. The newspapers, however, had definitely found out from the aunt that she had spent only two, and Oswald thought that that third week of her absence from the tavern of which Barnes was so sure, may have been spent with his brother, for he remembered that Drayton had been to Cromer that summer.

On the whole, it was pitiful, the girl seemed to have been snatched away by the Harpies, somehow. Her poor feet had strayed, the Maelstrom had caught her, clouds and darkness were round about her.

Oswald breakfasted on an excellent lobster in that room of the tavern where writing-materials had been placed that night of the murder, for his brother James. Oswald was alone in the room: Barnes had not risen that morning, or, at least, had refused to unlock his door to the old grandmother of the place. The tavern was closed to the public, and a presence like death was all about it.

By Oswald's plate was a note-book made of very thin ivory-leaves, and on these, as he ate, he re-read a few notes which he had made.

His mind, like all his personality, was slow in movement and too standoffish to get very near to truth; but still he was knowing, versed in men and things, and had minutely questioned Barnes and spurred his memory the previous evening.

He had now, therefore, on his note book the facts about how McCalmont first, and then Barnes, had seemed to hear a cry somewhere outside the tavern, though Barnes still seemed to be certain that it was the wind that rough night. How Drayton, meantime, was upstairs writing--"For how long?" Oswald had asked. Barnes could not be too sure, but quite half-an-hour; for when Drayton came down, McCalmont had said: "Why, you must have written ten letters," and Drayton had replied: "Only one, boy, but that one required some thinking." James, then, had had plenty of time to talk to Letty. That he had talked to her (supposing her then in the tavern), was almost proved by the fact that Oswald had found a shred of her writing in James's coat-pocket. James knew her, as to that no further proof was wanting.

"My good James," thought Oswald, "what, then, have you done with this Letty? He had no house hereabouts—yes, he has, though! Corton Chantry can't be very far, and that is where Letty is! He made her go down by the back stairs to get to the motor car, and then whipped her off to Corton some time before the accident. But why on earth without a hat? With her watch and chain—but without a hat."

Then again Oswald considered the words "cruel bru" on the shred of paper. If cruel brute meant James, then Letty was angry, which was against the Corton Chantry theory, unless, indeed, he took her to conciliate her. Oswald had, of course, shown the shred to no one: the one motive of his interest in the matter was, by means of this handle, to wheedle and force £500, which he needed, from his brother, if he could once get at the certainty that Drayton had abducted the girl. So far the notion that she might be dead had hardly taken root in any mind.

Oswald rose from breakfast with his wits all in confusion, he could see no light, and thinking was as burdensome to him as running is to a fat man. He lit a cigar, and slowly limped about the room. He decided at one moment that he would go to Corton Chantry, and see. But then again, the uncertainty of discovering anything made that a bore. No, he would return to London, but first would telegraph to Walker to come down, and put Walker on to see if he could find out anything. Walker was not altogether a fool. (Walker was a young man in London who did shorthand writing and Oswald had him from time to time to write his letters and to write statements for the lawyers about an endlessly long and vague lawsuit which Oswald had in the courts.)

Oswald had written some letters the previous evening at a worm-eaten oak cabinet in which there was some paper, and going now and again to it he wrote to Walker the words:

"I want you to come here at once. Get a pound from Magee." He then opened an assurance-almanac which lay at his elbow to blot the words, and, in doing this, he saw some inverted writing which looked like his brother's.

This astonished him. James, then, did actually write a letter in that room, as he had pretended to want to do. Had he two motives in coming here, then?—one motive to write and one to see Letty? For he certainly did see Letty. Oswald neatly tore out the leaf of the blotting-paper, and held it before a spotted piece of mirror hung from the white-washed timber and now, though the leaf was rather thick with blots, he could read in the mirror the words: "Now is the time for all good men," and again lower down, "now is, the time for all good men to come to the rescue of the."

Odd words, but certainly in James writing. This, then, was that letter that "wanted some thinking." Oswald searched through the assurance-almanac, but could find nothing more in Drayton's hand. He sat at a window and considered it, and in his effort of thought little sweat-grains stood out on his square bald head. "Now is the time for all good men to come"—it was all a blind! a thousand to one. It would be interesting to see the whole of that "letter."

But, if a blind, James must have been terribly in earnest to hide his relation with Letty at the moment when he was at the pains to sit down and write those words. He was not a cautious man, took consequences breezily, pooh-poohed most things. Why, then, this special anxiousness in the case of Letty, shown, too, in his denial at Aylsham that he knew her.

Now first arose in Oswald's mind the thought: "Suppose we are seeking a living girl, when we should be seeking a dead? 'Cruel bru' seemed to indicate passion!"

At this thought, sitting at a window overlooking the kitchen garden, Oswald went off into a day-dream about a steam yacht of Drayton's called the Sempronia, about banquets at Claridge's and the Carlton, and mingled with it all in his dream was a ceremony at St. Peter's, Eaton Square, in which the soft face of Julia, Lady Methwold, with its peachy painting would be present, and he, Oswald, by her side—If James had, by chance, killed Letty, and if he, Oswald, could clearly prove it to himself and to James, then James' banking-account would become Oswald's to the last penny; or in the last resort the clown might hang—why not? Oswald had cringed to his brother too many years, despising him the while, not to dislike him now.

That was indeed a dream about the Sempronia and St. Peter's—if one had only the wit, energy, and patience to realise it! if one could hit upon the right clues, hide them from the police, and hold them as a Damocles sword over the head of James, till James had formally made over everything—But wit, energy, and patience were an infernal bore. One could not if one could not, one was no longer so young as one had been. It made one pant to think and achieve things. And was the primary assumption correct? It seemed improbable. Mr Jimmy was certainly a shadier beggar than most people supposed, but murder was a tallish order.

Yet that alone explained about the hat. She had gone without a hat. James, therefore, while supposed to be writing, might all the time have been with Letty, and done her some harm. Who could tell? But in that case the body would not be far—

It grew toward noon. Oswald went up three little steps to his bedroom, took his hat, coat, and stick, descended, sent the telegram by a stable-lad to Walker, his shorthand man, and went out at the back of the inn. Barnes, so far, had not shown himself that day.

The day was not cold, but wintry looking, with that dead mist which belongs to winter. Oswald had already examined the grounds without result, and though a new thought was now in him, he went languidly limping, not at all believing in his own conclusion. He sauntered into a fir plantation, smoking a cigar. Yonder, in a hollow sheltered by sweeps of meadow-land, appeared dimly through a veil of mist a little Norfolk church of flint, with a thatched roof and a round tower, and beyond stood a farmstead of neat red brick, with crow-stepped gables. On the ground no trace was now to be seen of Drayton's and Betty's terrible struggle. It had rained in torrents since then and many feet, moreover, had passed over the spot in the search for her. Oswald came to the fateful place—a kind of gut.

"It she were really killed," he thought, "she would be somewhere about here."

All along the lower part of the two walls of the gut there was bush, growing high and rank at some points, such as furze, nettle, grasses, tufts of scabious thistle. Midway between the two walls, where the gut is slightly deeper, there ran a rivulet among rocks, some of which were of considerable size. Half a mile to the south of the tavern the gut is crossed by a one-arch bridge—

Oswald went that way, toward the bridge: but he had not gone far when he stood still, for at a shelving spot at the edge of the gut a stone happened to roll before his foot down into the gut. He heard it fall through the bushes at the bottom, and at once he heard another sound, a rushing sound through the bushes, which caused him to peep over, and with a shudder of disgust he saw a black cat scamper guiltily out from a mass of bush which was infested with a swarm of water gnats. The stone had fallen near the cat and frightened it in what it was doing. Oswald guessed, he even knew, then.

Always with his deliberate slight limp, but now with a wild heart, he returned to the house. He asked the old grandmother in the parlour where Barnes was, made his way to Barnes' room, and persisted in knocking at the door, till Barnes looked out.

"You had better come with me, Barnes," said Oswald, "get some things on. But you will have to keep your courage up, my good sir."

Barnes drew on a pair of boots and, without lacing them, came out in his shirt and trousers, with the braces hanging down. He did not say anything, but silently followed Oswald, with that angry-looking frown which always made his heavy eyes look like blue slits. When they reached the gate in the hedge, Barnes must have been struck by some misapprehension, for he turned pale and hesitated, but he said nothing, and after a moment continued to follow Oswald. And soon he was standing by the gut, and Oswald's stick was pointing.

Barnes looked at Oswald steadily, stupidly, for some time, with a piercing frown and with the tip of his tongue out on his lower lip, as if trying to read Oswald's soul, and failing; he was stunned. Then the poor man's lips went crooked, and he smiled, looking down where she lay, and he crooned: "Well, Letty—"

Oswald turned away, murmuring something. There was that in the face of Barnes which could not be looked at. The poor Barnes suddenly gave way beneath his weight, and fell, bawling out in distress.

Oswald could not get him to lift himself, and had to leave him while he himself went back to the inn to send a message to the police. Barnes remained there till near five, when two country constables and a detective hot from London arrived with a stretcher. They were a party of nine and Barnes was with them, grimly calm now, when she was drawn out of the bush. He saw her face in a minute in the failing light, before the macintosh covered it. It was engorged, violence was evident, and Barnes uttered a threat against her destroyer.

He trudged steadily by the body in his undress all the way into Aylsham, following her desperately, taking no notice of anyone or of any question, only trudging behind her like a machine, following her to the very last. He did not droop nor weep. It was only near eight o'clock in the evening, when he was forcibly removed from near her at the mortuary, that he dropped his arms and head upon an officer's shoulders like a man shot, and there gave way to sobbing.


Barnes was returning to "The Anchor" in a trap from "The Black Dogs" in Aylsham, when he met Oswald and Oswald's shorthand man, Walker, who were being driven from "The Anchor" to Aylsham in Barnes's own trap. For Walker, summoned by Oswald's telegram, had arrived at "The Anchor" from London at seven. Barnes called out to Oswald as they met:

"A word with you, sir," and, sitting next each other in the two traps, Oswald and Barnes conversed in subdued voices.

"I've wondered," said Barnes, "why you have been so particular about knowing Mr Drayton's doings that night. I ask you, fair and square, if you suspect him of knowing my girl."

"He may have. I do not know, Barnes."

"He's a friend or relation of yours, I take it, for I saw you in his room at 'The Black Dogs' yesterday."

"Yes, an acquaintance; but my interest in the case has no reference to him, but is simply due to my chance nearness to the scene."

"Do you think—fair and square that Drayton had anything—?"

"I have really come to no conclusion," said Oswald, and in mere motiveless enmity to his brother he added, "I only see that it would be stupid to take it for granted that he was in that room all the time he was supposed to be writing there. He may have gone down the back stair—"

"Then, God help him, if it's so!" cried Barnes, furiously. "I want no Law—a life for a life! Drive on, my lad!"

Oswald and Walker then went on to Aylsham, and thence to North Walsham together, where they separated, Oswald for London, Walker for Cromer, the latter full of Oswald's instructions as to the search which lay before him. Walker's task was to discover someone about Cromer who had seen Drayton and Letty together, and to this end Walker had with him a photograph of Letty, stolen by Oswald from the album in the little drawing-room of "The Anchor." The shred which Oswald had found in Drayton's coat was, of course, a proof to himself only that Drayton knew Letty: for he had no proof to show that he had really taken the shred from the coat. Drayton could deny that it was ever there, and his word would be as good as Oswald's. Further evidence, therefore, that Drayton knew Letty was essential in order that Oswald might become "James'" master, and bitterly Oswald now cursed his luck in losing the letter which Letty had written him, asking for the date of Drayton's marriage with Lady Methwold.

Walker, therefore, had instructions to search well for some witness of Drayton's and Letty's friendship, to keep a mum tongue in his head, giving no reason to anyone why he asked his questions, and, if he discovered anything, he was to give hints of a bribe to the person from whom he discovered it, on condition that that person would tell what he had seen to no one but Walker. Above all Walker was to be very quick, for Oswald feared that the police might get some scent from somewhere of the acquaintance of Drayton and Letty, and might be beforehand with him in bringing home the guilt of the murder to Drayton, in which case Oswald would be baulked of his power over his brother's cheque book.

But, as a matter of fact, no quickness on the part of Walker was necessary, for the police were without the clues which had led Oswald to suspect Drayton, namely, the shred of Letty's letter and the blotting-leaf with the nonsense-words. These were in Oswald's safe-keeping. Even after a long time Letty and Drayton were not in the slightest degree connected in any mind, except in Oswald's, and vaguely, through Oswald, in Barnes'. The police did not even trouble to go to ask Hartwell if "he" had seen her in "The Anchor" on the night of the murder, when "he" had written a letter there, for Barnes told them that Drayton had told him the next morning at "The Black Dogs" in Aylsham that he had not seen her. That Letty had had a lover was certain, and the police ransacked Norfolk, including Cromer, where Letty had been that summer, to find him.

But they unearthed nothing, and after two futile arrests remained agape at the mystery of the girl's death. By the merest chance, however, Walker, without the least merit on his part, discovered something where the police failed, for of the two people in question, Walker had the photograph of the girl and knew the man, but the police only knew the girl, the man being anybody to them. But Oswald should have conducted his researches in person, for Walker, a young "cockney" clerk, was hardly born for research, and bungled matters. After five useless days in Cromer itself, he wandered out in the direction of Overstrand and that group of villages, much frequented by visitors where, as the local saying goes:

"Gimmingham, Trimmingham, Knanton, and Trunch,
Northrepps and Southrepps lie all of a bunch."


About each of these villages Walker loitered in turn, liking this vague life of research, till he grew to know the lighting-up minute of the lighthouse, the tombstones round the ruined church-tower on the cliffs, the flocks of Christmas turkeys, the coast-guardman's telescope, and the postman's tread in the distance at evensong. He made languid research in a straw-hat at inns, and questioned every chance acquaintance in a tone of mystery, but Oswald was thinking of recalling him when, wandering one afternoon in a lane near Overstrand, Walker saw in a window across the breadth of a courtyard, an old piece of cardboard with the word "Lodgings" written on it.

It was an abandoned farmhouse embowered in old trees, most of it a rambling ruin of gables and lattices, but one small part of it was modern, and before this part there was a garden plot full of cottage flowers, and there was some poultry in the court-yard. It was occupied by one Gissing, a hale old fellow, one of those amphibious men who live near the coast, a thatcher and reaper, but also a waterman. To say that he had a beard grown back from the chin, like a fringe tied round the jaws, is to describe him. His wife, a hearty, large countrywoman of forty, kept a shop of little oddments in one window, and they had one daughter, named Sarah, seventeen years of age.

Walker went in, really to drink a glass of milk, but, being there, he began to chat; and soon this question arose whether a gentleman with a long black beard, and a fair girl (photograph produced) had been seen by any of them that summer, to which the wife answered:

"Why, they, were here with us a week. They would be Mr Drayton and his lady."

Here, then, was the treasure struck. Walker was so proud of himself, that he decided at once to become a detective. The same day he sent the news to Oswald. But he was a talkative, loose, swaggering fellow, and talked too much to the Gissings during his repeated visit of the next two days. His unnecessary insistance upon silence, his large promises, his hints of Drayton's importance in the world, all this turned the Gissings' head with fabulous hopes. Gissing himself was no brilliant wit, but "mother" was canny. What the matter was they did not quite know, did not even know that the girl whose face they saw in the photograph was dead, but it was clear that the great Drayton was in danger—of something, that Walker was his enemy and that, if they received £50 from Walker's side, they might well receive a thousand pounds if they took the other side.

So on the third morning—four days before Christmas—just when Oswald was turning in his tiresomely slow mind the project of going down to Gissing, Gissing went up to Drayton. He and the wife had plotted it darkly in their heads upon their beds. Walker had mentioned Fenchurch Street as being the place where Drayton's office was. Gissing would be easily able to find it by making inquiries, said the wife, and with almost the last of his £7 harvest money Gissing, saying not one word to anyone, but cannily taking the tide of fortune at the flood, took ticket for London, and so, not knowing to what manner of man he was going, bid a long farewell to his native Poppyland.


X. — HARTWELL BEGINS TO "UPROOT"

It was near five p.m., Hartwell's day's work was over, and he was standing with his back to the fire and his elbows stuck up on the mantelpiece of his private room in his Fenchurch Street offices. It was now the third week since he had come in to that wonderful kingdom of his, which he owed to the mere chance of passing at a certain hour along a certain place of the Norwich Road. All, so far, had gone well, but his two "nasal wrinkles" were somewhat more deeply marked than before. There was a wrinkle or two more at the eye-corners, adding meaning and history to that smile of his eyes, and a look of care was among the furrows of that brow, from which the hair stood up a little and fell back in tufts, without any parting.

The fact was, that Hartwell's nights were not peaceful. He had impressions, dreams, that were as real to him as anything which he saw or handled during his waking hours. There was a face which might either be his or another's, according to the state of his mind and body. Something had gone wrong with his nerves in respect to the dead man, Drayton: every morning he chided, or smiled at, himself, but every evening he grew morose again.

The conduct, too, of the mastiff, Bull, had made an altogether exaggerated impression upon Hartwell's nerves. At one time he had Bull on the brain, he dreamt of Bull. How much secret kindness had he lavished on the hound, but it persisted in regarding him as a ghost. But for the charming talkativeness of the French count, Hartwell would have found a quiet evening at home unbearable, but the Frenchman's tongue flowed with a constant stream of anecdotes, epigrams, adventures, and drolleries and Hartwell would have found it hard now to part with him.

But if the nights went badly, the days went well. The industry of Hartwell's thorough mind had been brought to bear upon, and had mastered, Drayton's large business, and he was already almost in a position to be able to withdraw from the City life without making large losses. Moreover, he had met at a Merchant Taylors' banquet a certain Professor M——, with whom he had become friendly, and M—— was at this time turning two rooms of the first floor at Addison Road into a first-class laboratory for him. To the day when he would be able to call himself a really accomplished biologist, Hartwell was now looking forward with pleasure.

And this was all the positive joy that Drayton's million had brought to Hartwell, except the rather dangerous joy of his meeting in the park of Garlot Croft, with a lady whom he had likened to a flower on a tall stem. "Cloy me—for five years!" he had prayed to the Under-world that wild night on the Norwich Road, at a crazy moment in which he was very unlike himself, but he now found that there was really nothing amusing in the world to buy with the riches which he had, except a laboratory. Dinners at £7 a head and the wine of Chateau Yehym no longer entertained his staid mind.

As to the numbers of men and women whom he had to pretend to know familiarly, Hartwell had passed through well, sometimes with a moment of awkward misery, but never with a breakdown. In fact, lightning had now become the habit of Hartwell's mind to such an extent that, as was said before, it was almost like the phenomenon of a new sense grown up in him at the many pressing calls made by his situation upon ins brain. Though, of course, it must have been in him in the germ beforehand, or it could not have grown up. In the same way, as we know, the tadpole is a fish while it lives in water, but when it takes to the land the new conditions so change his body that the fish becomes a frog. And this hard-won knack of sharpness was exercised by Hartwell, not only to the extent needful for his self-protection, but over and above, with the pleasure of a creature sporting in its element, or with the pleasure of one who by long toils has impressed a new and better rhythm upon one's breathing and at last one finds oneself breathing morally, even in one's sleep, without any effort—like that "Master of Breath" (Sahib Nafas), who once breathed in Palestine—and one is all well and perfect, and can hardly bear oneself for abounding joy, because one has really learned at last how to breathe the air. So to some extent it was with Hartwell and his new nimbleness of wit, which he used as a skirmisher uses his short-sword.

At the mere approach of a new man Hartwell now drew conclusions, quite in the manner of the excellent (but, of course, fictitious) Sherlock Holmes, though in a different intellectual mood, perhaps. A neck-tie, a handshake, told him their tale, after some talk he was at home in the situation.

But many things harassed Hartwell, apart from his terrible uncertainties with regard to "the wife." Mysterious letters came to him, threats, freakish rendezvous, sinister vague telegrams.


"MEET ME TO-NIGHT AT THE SAME PLACE AT EIGHT. THE PINK PARROT IS TALKING. MOST IMPORTANT."

Such was one of them. It had no signature, where "the same place" was he did not know, and the most earnest torturing of his wits could bring him no hint of light as to the possible meaning of that so important talking of the pink parrot. Or, again, there was this letter from a Norwich bank:

"We beg to remind you that the sum of £400 deposited with us for the use of Mr Steve Anderson is now reduced to 15s."

Who Steve Anderson was, where he lived, why Drayton had supplied him with money, Hartwell had no means of knowing. He could hardly write to the bank to ask who or what or where was this Anderson whom he himself was paying. Such a letter from him might some day furnish written evidence that he was not Drayton, and he was far too wary and sensitive of suspicion to write it. Moreover, he was pretty sure beforehand that, if he did, the bank would not know anything about Anderson except his appearance, since it was his habit to go in person to draw the money. Hartwell thought of letting the fund in the bank run out, whereupon if Anderson had known how to write, Anderson would have written to him, but he saw that Anderson could not write, for the bank had sent him a number of Anderson's cheques, with only a cross for signature. Hartwell feared, therefore, that if by ceasing to pay, he forced Anderson to communicate with, him, Anderson might get a third person to write the letter, thereby revealing perhaps some dangerous secret of Drayton's life. And in the end he had to deposit a further £400 in the bank, without knowing for what object, though it may at once be said here that this Steve Anderson was a man who looked after "the wife" at Corton.

Then, again, there came another letter in an illiterate scrawl, without any address on it, the writer evidently assuming that Drayton was familiar with her address, and this one said:

"The child tried to run away last week to go to her mother, she says, and I only caught her after a lot of trouble, seeing as she hid herself in the beech wood. I have moved from there and took a house near-by called 'Hayes,' seeing as it has a high wall and a gate, and all that expense must come out of the money in the bank at Cheltenham, so please sir, write to them and tell them to let me have £20 extra for the month.

Yours faithfully,

Elizabeth Seward."

Hartwell saw from the postmark that the letter was written at, or near, a village in Gloucestershire called Birdlip and he thought that some day, perhaps, when he had time he might go there and see what this woman and this "child" who "ran away" could be to him. Drayton, he saw, had deposited £3,000 in the Cheltenham bank, of which this Elizabeth Seward drew the interest, but the same difficulties as to finding out anything about her through the bank faced him as in the case of Steve Anderson, and he had, as the woman asked, to write to the bank bidding them give her an extra £20, without at all knowing for what object. Though it may be stated at once that this "child" was a daughter, named Rosie, of that Martha Drayton, "the wife," who was in the care of the unknown Steve Anderson at Corton.

Or, again, Hartwell received this mysterious and ugly-looking cable in cypher from Buenos Ayres:


"Think it can be done at last, but still ticklish. Two German Government spies to be nicked first."

He did not know what "it" was which could be done at last.

Or, again, this from a Cornish village:

"You will have read in the paper that my daughter Margaret drowned herself in Harrold's pond two nights since. You know this only comes of what you did to her husband, sending men to sea in a rotten old tub of a ship, though you was warned repeatedly how it would be, and then refusing to help the families of the men you've murdered. I think that anyone who took the life of a man like you would only be doing a good deed, but I won't say anything more about that now. Still I should look out for myself, rich and great as you are, if I was you.

Mary Liskeard."

Such things troubled Hartwell. A bitter sense of injury had grown up in him against Drayton. For, in proportion as he became more and more established in his kingdom, as he more and more felt that the wealth which he had wrongfully seized was his own by natural right, like his own hand or foot—which he naturally did feel with the passage of time—so he more and more felt Drayton's sins as an outrageous insolence to himself, because he had to reap them. He grew almost to look not upon himself as the interloper, but upon Drayton as the interloper, the intruder, the outsider, the impostor, who had usurped Robert Hartwell's place for a time, and committed sins in it. And he was in pretty constant talk with (as it were) Drayton's ghost, kicking it, calling it "ruffian," "clown." Drayton was always with him. They were more intimate, soul with soul, than ever perhaps were two human beings in the world.

Such, then, were some of Hartwell's troubles. He was surrounded with doubts, dangers, some of them dangers to his life. And now the question arose: On what principle should Hartwell meet and grapple with these difficulties? He was not quite decided yet, for though his reason was quite decided, a still, small voice in some part of him was at war with his reason. He saw that there were two broad principles, on one or other of which he might meet those troubles and dangers. He might complete the wrong-doings of Drayton by added wrongs, and so rid himself of them with ruthless directness. This, indeed, would only be what he had promised to do in a crazy moment, that forgotten night on the Norwich-road. Or, secondly, instead of cutting the knot thus roughly, he might try to unravel it, looking upon Drayton's acts as acts to be patiently redressed or endured, at whatever cost to him self. This would be righteousness. But as to this latter, let it be clearly said again that righteousness had no sanction at all for Hartwell, or the school of thought to which he belonged. The only rational morality in his view was a care of one's tiny self during one's tiny life on this tiny earth—a pure unselfishness or egotism, or, as he called it "egoism." And since this was the only rational morality, therefore he was determined to be moral in that way, as far as ever his inherited love of righteousness would let him—for what he loved above all things was to be rational.

Having thus clearly explained his point of view, or rather the very hue of his mind at this period of his life, one may now introduce to him the poor country man Gissing, who has just come to London from the Manor Farm, near Overstrand, full of the hints about "Drayton's danger," dropped by Walker, Oswald's shorthand man, and eager to see what luck his knowledge of Drayton's and Letty's intimacy would bring him. Hartwell, as was said, was standing with his elbows stuck up on the mantelpiece behind him, and his legs crossed, thinking of his troubles, and a clerk from the outer office looked in, saying: "One Gissing to see you, sir."

"Show Mr Gissing in," said Hartwell.

In then came Gissing presently, in old Sunday best clothes. Hartwell touched an electric button and filled the room with light, for the evening was now getting dark. Gissing touched his forehead with a low bow. Hartwell returned it with a slight bending of the head, and while his steadfast eye rested a little sideways on the countryman, with a smiling twinkle in it, he was saying to himself:

"He has apparently seen me somewhere before; he is agricultural, a grubber of root crops, I should say from the right forefinger. Helps in a mill also, from the whitened outer convolution of the ear, but he must be seaside, too. Yes, his tint, the sea gaze, the fringe of beard, the stain of sail ochre on the hand. Norfolk probably, the wide hat, the black Norman eyes—from about Cromer—He makes crab-pots.

"Have a seat, Gissing."

"No doubt you remember me, master!" asked Gissing, sitting down on the edge of the chair to which Hartwell pointed.

"Distinctly," answered Hartwell. "Tell your business quickly."

And he went on thinking: "He has two women, one modern, the other more old-fashioned, a wife and daughter, say. The younger has learned feather-stitching, the elder apparently not. He is come about money, from his abashment, mixed with a certain look of sharpness. A case of blackmail, but you should be careful, my friend."

The countryman told what he had come to say, turning his hat round and round in his hands. Someone who was plainly an enemy to Drayton had got scent of Drayton's and the young lady's stay at the Manor Farm, and sent down a youngster from London to ferret it out, and the youngster had ferreted it out. Drayton, therefore, was in danger.

"I see," said Hartwell; "but what is the nature of that danger?"

"Ah, I ain't seen through that much as yet," replied the honest countryman, "you would be more better able to guess that nor me, no doubt. I only know that it's a matter o' life and death with you, judgin' by the manner o' talk of the youngster from London."

"Very good, we will accept that as a truth, that it is a matter of life and death with me. But tell me this, during the week that I was in your house, by what name did you hear me call my agreeable companion?"

"Let me, see—I don't recollect hearin' you call her any name—no, I can't call it to mind. I've heard you say 'my dear.'"

"Then, here is another stupid mystery," thought Hartwell to himself with a face of fretful disgust. Is there to be no end to the miseries and muddles of that clown?

"So you can't tell her name, Gissing?"

"No, I don't seem to recollect hearing you call her name."

"But you could describe her accurately, no doubt?"

"Oh, I could describe her like my own good woman. She wor just like the photograph that the youngster has."

"You have a wife and, if I remember rightly, a—daughter—or two?"

"A wife and one daughter."

"And are you and they two the only three persons in that part who remember seeing me with my agreeable companion?"

"So says the youngster from London," replied the countryman, little dreaming how dangerous this statement was to him and to those other two.

"And Mr Walker's principals—meaning the person, or persons, for whom he is working—who are they?" asked Hartwell.

"Ah, there now you're asking me mor 'n I know," replied Gissing.

"I see. And as to yourself: tell me, Gissing, what sum you expect from me for denying henceforth that you saw what you did see."

Gissing smiled sheepishly, with a hung head, and a lip just shaking a little with agitation. He was silent a while.

"We'll, make it £500 and be done," he said suddenly in a manner which showed that this sum was immense to him, and quite unusual and awkward on his lips.

"But suppose, Gissing, that my enemies offer you a thousand pounds?" said Hartwell.

"Ey, then, I should make it my business to come straight to you, and say, 'You must give me £1,000,'" replied the dazzled countryman.

"But, Gissing, suppose that they offer you £2000 on the conditions that you do not make it your business to come to me?" said Hartwell, in a tone in which there lurked a certain sinister reproachfulness.

The simple countryman smiled, silently meditating on these great sums, hung his head, shrugged his shoulders, and said nothing.

Hartwell's eyes flashed with an evil meaning. Within three weeks a Sultan severity of mood had grown in him, especially in his morose hours as night drew on. In a silence marked by the ticks of the clock he had decided to uproot and scatter the Gissings. He left the spot where he had been standing at the fireplace, and began to pace the room, outwardly silent, but within him there was going on a debate on the highest moral plane between the two voices. One of the voices, and the one inclined to follow said: "Banish such qualms, follow reason, and begin this night to up root the Gissings."

Hartwell turned sharply upon the countryman, saying:

"Well, we shall see, Gissing. I am now going home, and you had better come with me."

He put on his overcoat, took a bunch of keys from a safe, and they went out. There was a brougham waiting at the outer door to take Hartwell home to Addison Road, and they got in. But instead of "home," Hartwell called out to the coachman "Cannon Street," and thither they set off. It was a warm evening, the street lamps, just lit, mingled with some remaining daylight. At Cannon Street Hartwell took two tickets for Lydney, the small Surrey station nearest to Hobham House, and they set off, travelling in different carriages of the train.

Alighting at Lydney, Hartwell passing close by Gissing on the platform, whispered:

"Perhaps we had better not be seen together—follow me."

In his passage through the village he stopped at a little grocer's shop, bought four tins of potted ham, and two bottles of claret, caused them to be opened, and took them with him. They then entered upon the open country, Gissing following about twenty yards behind Hartwell. It was almost night. They went down the avenue of pines to Hobham House.

Hartwell, with his bunch of keys, unlocked the door under the porch, saying at the same time:

"Follow, follow me closely, Gissing, for it is all dark inside: I am living a bachelor life." And his breath and his pulse were as tranquil as they ever were, as they entered and walked inward.

As for the countryman, he thought no ill, though rather surprised at the look of things, but followed up the uncarpeted stairs through a darkness which was nearly complete. On the second floor Hartwell struck a match, and other matches on the third, till he found a certain door which he had in his mind. He knew that the room behind that door had no window opening upon the grounds, and only two doors, one opening into a small blind closet, and the one which he how found and unlocked. As he unlocked it, he said to Gissing, still keeping his hand on the key:

"In here, Gissing." The countryman passed in, and at once Hartwell deposited inside the door the two bottles and the tins of ham, slammed the door, and locked it on the outside. He then called in through the key hole:

"Gissing, you will see me again in four days time."

Only silence answered Hartwell for a longish while, but as he made his way down the stairs, a cry from the old man went after him.


XI. — HARTWELL TAKES TO FLIGHT

On the morning of Christmas Eve, Hartwell was in the hunting field galloping by the side of Julia, upon whom his eyes were fastened and by whose chatter his ears were occupied, for she was as blithe as a lark or a healthy girl in her teens, that morning, which was one of those fine, cold, "scenting" mornings, when the hounds need no holoo nor lifting, and the blood runs briskly in one's veins. There was no conversation between the two riders, for everything which Hartwell attempted to say was broken in upon by the merry Julia, who was breathless with prattle and high spirits, asking questions without any intention of waiting for an answer, and flitting airily from subject to subject.

With a field of some eighty hunters, the hounds had been brought to the gorse and thrown in, whereupon at once one of the whips to the lee of covert, had seen a fox steal away,. and from that moment the riding was hard. Hartwell did his best to keep by Julia, though he had hardly ridden for fifteen years and she was a very dashing horse-woman, and for some time he succeeded.

"Do you know the word which you suggest to me now?" he managed to say between two of her breaths.

"What?"

"Lady-bird," he replied.

Such talk was not very like Hartwell, who was made of heavier metal than the ladies' men, and it proved that his manhood was on the verge of a great conflagration, these being only the petty first prattlings of the fire. It seemed to him now that Julia's place of places was surely in the saddle. She rode with such spirit and lightness as though her horse was a skiff on a flood, and she taking a wild voyage in it. But he had the same impression of her on the previous evening, when he had seen her dance the cake-walk in the drawing-room at Castle Moran, for he had felt sure then that neither she nor anyone could ever possibly do anything else quite so wildly well. And he had had exactly the same impression of her on seeing her the day before in the orchid house, moving among the flowers with a bent head and a long train to her dress, for he had thought then that it was at such moments, when she was serious and in repose, that she seemed the rightest and the rarest. From which, it will be seen, that Hartwell thenceforth was to find her ladyship his beautiful thing under the sun, above all things to be desired and run after.

At present he was still flirting with her with a certain gawkiness, and a feeling of stooping down to her level, as when a learned man is light-minded with young ladies. But all such feeling was getting as rapidly burnt up as chaff in a furnace, even as they galloped along together.

"I hear that you have been selling your stable, James," she said to him. "Can that really be so?"

"Yes," he began, "I have abandoned all thought—"

"But I thought that 'Queenie' was for me," she laughed, interrupting him always. "Was that not so? But the broken engagement cancels the presents, which reminds me that I have all the things from you done up in a packet, and shall send them. No protest, we must be quite responsible and correct, like ordinary responsible people. It is the proper thing also to do something to the letters, burn them, or send them back—Are you liking it? Such a morning for a real barefaced scamper! A white sky—it is snowing, did you know? but such a mere spray—Look at that thread of red coats drawing away out yonder on the horizon. They are really racing full-speed, yet they hardly seem to be moving, like remote cavalry heading under orders for something in some complex Waterloo—"

"Let me look at nothing remote," said Hartwell, with a finical smile on his thick lips, "my eyes are fully occupied with—"

"With what is near!" she screamed. "That is not an uncommon remark to make to a lady; it has even been made to me before, but hunting and flirting are enemies, for by neglecting the fox you are apt to catch a vixen! If you be earnest and get in at the death with me, I will consider your proposal to join your yachting party—Where are you going to, then? Egypt? If I go with you, people will only say, are saying already perhaps—I have no intention to be thought crazy on your account—Oh, look at poor old Bostie, with that hound running riot! Let us ride! I don't know your horse, he seems a puller, and your stirrup looks rather long—this dear old thing of mine has hunted four days a week every season for six years, and has just that little over-ripeness which makes a hunter jolly. Is it not really jolly? like Simla air, with a bluish tint—Oh, to be free—I don't like fetters!

"If you really want me on the yacht, then, I will, perhaps, but you must ask me a lot, and be humble. But what about my little Looloo in that case? She has been asking after you! She said: 'Drayton gone?' and I said: 'Yes, Drayton has become addicted to science and physiology, poor Drayton!' Oh, look! those hounds have checked! and there's that Charley absolutely at a loss what to do! I don't think a master should be his own huntsman—no, they're off again! let us ride—!"

These were her last words which Hartwell heard for seven hours, except when she called back at him: "Better not take it!" as she soared over a hedge with a ditch on the taking-off side—an unnecessary warning, for a cold disinclination to break his neck kept Hartwell from feats. He saw her caught away from him into hazy distances down a ploughed dale in the midst of a flying patch of pink.

He returned to the "Crown" in M—— where the meet had been, and thence went back with her and the house-party to Castle Moran in the dusk of the evening. She was then all in furs, with a lingering rich bloom, like the bloom of a peach, on her face. And again it seemed to Hartwell that it was when she was so, all in furs, with such a color, that he loved her the best.

He felt, however, that the task now before him was to behave himself decently with respect to her, if his affection was worth anything. Hartwell flattered himself that he was hardly of the same flesh and blood as that crowd of majors, squires, and lordlings around him, whose main distinction from the higher ape seemed to consist in purposely saying "hunt'n" for "hunting." He, for his part, was a man trained in rational thought, and had henceforth no longer one, but two, to think for—himself and his other-self.

Supposing that she would brave ridicule and renew the engagement with him—that was highly improbable—but if she did, he could never say to her, "I, Drayton, love you," when his name really began with an Aitch. Now for the first time, in the presence of love, he felt the misery of telling stories—the moral stickiness and discomfort. He was hardly able to lie to her in casual talk, how much less at a moment when his soul on its knees, confessed its love to her. And apart from the fact that he was not the man he seemed to be, he was "married." The "wife" who "screamed", mysteriously hidden now, might any day spring up somewhere and claim him. And Julia's eyes, though wild sometimes, had a certain reproach in their dark depths when she was still. Hartwell would not be able to bear that look, if he wronged her, so a world of obstacles parted them.

She was talking to him about hunting on the return from M——, and as they entered the castle-hall, was saying:

"I think our small fields and cramped fences in Surrey are just as much fun as these Northampton covers. Let us have house-parties for February—."

"Us, who?"

"You and me. I at Garlot, and you at Hobham—"

Late that night he heard her play a "Berceuse,", and sat all the time with sullen and half-closed lids, hardly venturing to glance at her clinging to her fiddle, as if she were struggling to hide and defend the child from someone, and rocking it like a branch in a storm.

"You play charmingly," he said afterwards, sitting with her in the old drawing-room, famous for its frieze and stucco ceiling, "but that is due to the law of your nature, that you do best whatever you do last."

Her eyes rested very gravely for some seconds on his face before she replied with her usual frankness of manner:

"Far better not say over-nice things to me, James, lest I remember them."

Discussing the subject of love, later, Hartwell said:

"Thought is very much higher than most love. But if the love springs from rational perception, if it is love up in the head, then, it is itself thought in a state of passion—though in its highest activity—and nothing is higher. If I ever loved I fancy that, for the most part, I should love in that way."

"But it would show in your eyes just the same," she murmured absently, at which words Hartwell's brow flushed and his eyes dropped from her face.

"I should love simply with the heart," said Julia, with a short nervous laugh, "the whole of it in one lump, and leave the head and all the rest of me to take care of themselves. But people should pray to be kept out of that. It is no fun, I can see."

Someone at the piano was playing a valse brillante and three haphazard couples were dancing among the furniture. Hartwell was silent, leaning on his knee, till he suddenly said:

"When an emotion arises, reason has only one maxim—'take the train.' Hence I mean to be a traveller on Christmas night."

"No, James," she said earnestly. "People will only say that you are still afraid of being with me."

"I fear that I am not very sensitive to the opinion of the organism known as 'people.'"

"But not so soon. I have to plan with you our February hunting-party."

"Then I must only wait and hear."

The castle was full of people disposed to be freely merry and the next (Christmas) day was jolly with holly, sport, wine and dancing.

After that whole day spent in Julia's company, Hartwell strolled out from the castle at about eleven in the night and sat down in a six-sided summerhouse, in order to think out his problem and come to some sort of understanding with himself, once for all, if he could.

Almost suddenly this improbable thing had come upon him like a bolt from the blue—this great care. In stepping into Drayton's shoes, he had foreseen everything, but he had not foreseen this possibility—the human nature of his own bosom. Here was the unexpected for Hartwell! to find himself, not a thinking machine, but a man in love with a woman. He sat on the seat of the summer-house and his cold eye looked out sideward at it, warily, considering and weighing it.

Truly, Julia was very dear to his heart, to his eyes! To be with her on moonlit midnights on the poop of the Sempronia in the middle of the sea, when it was calm, and look into her eyes, as he drew her shawl close around her shoulders, they two alone in the world, seemed to Hartwell a fair prospect. But that was not the point: the point was that, if he loved her, he should not tell her that he was Drayton, And if he told her that he was Drayton, then he should not marry her, Drayton being already married.

"Egoism" was Hartwell's settled creed, but in the presence of Julia "egoism" apparently broke down. He found himself thinking more of her than of himself.

Behind the summer-house was a wood all stark with the frost, before its door were four steps with stone balustrades to them, leading down to a lawn on a lower level. On the lawn was a lake and in the middle of the lake a stone satyr, standing on a rock. On the lawn also, between the lake and the summer-house, was a sundial, raised on steps and on and over everything shone a cold Christmas moonlight.

Hartwell had once before spoken with Julia here, and while he now sat there, bent down and thinking, she came again. His heart pulsed slowly and strongly, like fierce cuts of a whip in his breast, when he heard her laugh and knew that she was coming, before he saw her. She was with a school-boy son of their hostess, and Hartwell presently saw them strolling across the lawn in the direction of the lake. She looked wondrously tall to him in the moonlight in her wraps and a furred cloak, like Diana towering above her maidens. She and the boy halted by the lake, which was a stone's throw from the summerhouse. He thought that they would not know that he was there. He made no sound, but when after some minutes the boy left her at a run, Julia moved toward the summerhouse and Hartwell went and met her on the steps of the terrace.

"You are here, then," she said. "I thought you might be, and I am glad, for I want to ask you something. But here, sitting still, and it is so cold! Happy men at least put on overcoats, James, therefore you are unhappy. Is it about me?"

He flung away his cigar, saying irrelevantly, as they went into the summer-house together:

"I am not a man for riotous company. I like quietude and hence am here."

"You not a man for riotous company? Well, then, this is the second time lately that I have had the selfsame impression! and each time when your face has been hidden: it is a little uncanny!"

"What impression?"

"A dream impression, the impression that you are quite a new, another, man!"

Hartwell did not like this.

"Sit here," he said. "What is it that you want to ask me?"

"Just that: what has made you different?"

"In what sense different?"

"In yourself, in your very fibre, it sometimes seems to me, almost. Why did I not like you well before? Tell me that."

"You do now?" he asked tenderly, turning a little toward her, his left arm over the back of the bench behind her shoulders, his right hand on the knob of his stick.

"Well, yes, I seem to like you now, James," she answered; "especially sometimes."

"When? I am interested, you see."

"When I am with you, then. When I am not, you are sometimes all mixed—a mixture perhaps of two impressions—one recent, one old. If the old predominates then I am cross, and if the new, then I am pleased, and when I am with you, especially where it is dark, like here, then there is the new alone, and I am quite pleased." Julia smiled fondly, saying this.

Hartwell's hand made a movement to touch hers, but he drew it back quickly, before there was any contact.

"The change which you say you note in me," he said, "may be perfectly real, but only—a change—let us say, of mood, which I hope will be life-long, since it pleases you. I would do, and be, much to please you."

"Then I feel so honoured, James—"

"And to please me," he said quickly, cutting her short before she could give expression to any more, "to please me, pray do not let your mind recur to any of the rude impressions which I have given you in the past, unless it be to prevent yourself from being sorry for having thrown me over."

"But if I am genuinely sorry now."

"Don't be, don't!" he said fiercely. "I tell you that nothing short of a dog-like shamelessness could ever have permitted me to aspire to your hand, your rare hand, Julia. We were divided as the Poles, and as much divides us still. But, being what I am, if I may be permitted to call you friend and dear to the hour of my death."

Julia now let her hand rest lightly upon his hand that was over the knob of his stick, a touch in the dark which sent a current of magnetism thrilling through Hartwell's frame, rather flustering his self-control and the depth of his breathing. At the same time the excellent Julia said frankly, in a low and intimate tone:

"What 'divides us still?' Nothing divides us. I am fond of you, James."

"Yes," said Hartwell, with greedy ears, forgetting everything in his keenness to hear more of this good news; "in actual fact? to what extent?"

Now gazing closely at her, he could see the delicate length of her chin in profile, lit by a moonbeam which touched it, with the firm contour of her lips, and the lower half of her nose, and his eyes could just guess the violet glow of her eyes in the deeper darkness higher up under the overarching wrap which covered her head.

"To what extent?" she answered with a fond smile, while her eyes rested pensively upon him. "Should I be the first to tell, because it was I who wantonly threw you away? Forgive me for that. I was merely senseless, I suppose. Shall I say to what extent, if I could? To the extent, at least, I think, James, to which you are fond of me."

"But that is to the very dust!" cried Hartwell aloud, with great suddenness, in a sort of passionate protest; "with a burden under which I must surely break—" He stopped short and his head bowed down with a sound that resembled a sob.

Julia did not understand the full depth of Hartwell's emotion, nor, of course, its cause. She had her own burden of emotion, which fully occupied her. Her head was leant in a pensive attitude on her hand, her bosom gently heaved, and her eyes were closed. The admirable Julia took her passion seriously. With her eyes closed, she murmured, just loudly enough for Hartwell to hear:

"I have found you. I love."

But something in that definite word "love" caused Hartwell to rise suddenly from her side and take a backward step, seeing that things had been allowed to go too far. His fingers lightly touched his forehead. His lips were about to pronounce the word "No,'" but he stopped to listen to what she was saying, for looking pensively down on the floor of the summer-house, without apparently noticing his getting up from her, she was speaking, rather to herself than to him, saying:

"It is wonderfully tender, really; wonderfully deep and real and lifelong. I never even dreamed what it was like before, James. I don't suppose that most people even know. It comes mysteriously from Heaven. Yes, I love you. I can only tell you that."

She now rose and laid her two hands on his shoulders, smiling sweetly and looking into his eyes, as she continued to speak in a soft voice, making her lover the confidant of her tender pains.

Several times Hartwell attempted to utter some word to cut the scene short, but without uttering anything, but when she said, "Yes, that is the accomplished fact; I love you—like a serf," his lips pronounce a sharp "No!"

"But I say yes." she answered smiling, thinking that his protest had only reference to the meekness of the word serf—"like a serf and like a mother, and like a woman, and like a daughter, and like your oldest schoolboy friend. I couldn't say—But what is the matter? Kiss me."

Hartwell's lips were pressed together with a certain vindictive severity, his eyes were engorged with blood. He now bitterly blamed himself for his self-indulgence in letting her speak in this way to him, and bitterly he hated destiny for the harsh trick it had paid him. His nose and his wrinkled underlids were pallid, his lips and beard trembled with agitation. His arms opened slightly of themselves for one embrace, but his hard will conquered this impulse, and he turned quite roughly from her.

"I was in the wrong to let you give expression to all that," he said hoarsely, rapidly: "there are innumerable reasons. I never said that I love you."

"But what is the matter?" she cried, startled at last. "You never said, but nothing else is so true."

Hartwell spun sharply round to her, pressed her with a groan to his bosom, and for a minute their souls met and held converse the one with the other where their lips were joined together. But even as she hung upon his heart he placed her with perfunctory haste upon the cushioned seat, and instantly was gone—running—from her. And there where he had placed her she sat for a long time, staring at the ground with her palm under her chin. When she returned to the castle, she heard that Hartwell had hurriedly departed for the station.


XII. — HARTWELL RISES IN THE NIGHT

Hartwell reached his home in Addison Road on the evening of the day after Boxing Day, a very morose man. As he opened the gate he heard the bayings of Bull the mastiff, but the dog no sooner got to know who it was that was coming in, than with his usual signs of horror he took himself off to the back. And Hartwell's eye flashed with severity as he murmured—

"Let this be the dog's last flight from me."

When he went in he said to the footman in the outer hall:

"I want Bull chained in his cot for the night." Then, with a rather lower voice, with a certain stealthiness in it, he added, "If anyone calls to see me before dinner, let me know at once, in my bedroom."

In the inner hall he was met by Miss Scatchett and the Frenchman, who had hurried from different directions to greet his entrance.

"Sir," murmured the excellent Count, who had on a large black tie and a limp shirt-front with small frills, "my compliments."

"Ah, Dulaunay, how do you do?" cried Hartwell with a fling of the hand. "Well, you look hearty, my friend."

Without stopping for any talk, he went upstairs to his bedroom, where he washed and was dressing, when the footman rapped at his door with the announcement:

"One Robert Hartwell to see you, sir."

"Send—do not bring—him up," said Hartwell.

Hartwell threw on a dressing-gown, hastily seated himself in an easy chair, and propped his brow on his thumb and forefinger, looking the picture of meditative calm; but this look was assumed, for the beat of his heart had quickened.

There came a knock at the door.

Hartwell, called "Come in" and a boy of fifteen entered.

He was cleanly dressed, but his trousers were too short by an inch. His boots were heavy and rather worn out, his clothes were all darned, he had on a plaid scarf and held a deerstalker cap in his hand. He looked first agitated, then all at once, wild with amazement.

"Father," he breathed.

It was this father that Hartwell had not wished the footman to hear, and so had told him to send—not to bring—the boy up.

"Kindly shut the door my young friend," said he.

The lad obeyed.

This lad was a perfect beauty, resembling his dead mother, and not at all like Hartwell. He was rather small-built, with an oval Madonna face, which was delicately flushed with a rosy colour, and he had soft brown eyes and pretty lips. But he looked for the moment simply silly in his boundless lack of comprehension at finding his poor hard-working father in this mansion, served by a footman and wrapped in the dressing gown of a king.

The father's eye rested upon him with a caressing smile in it, and with this thought in his head—"Julia would love him."

"Father! you here?" breathed the lad again in a husky voice.

"Sit down on that chair, my friend," said Hartwell, "and permit me at once to rid your mind of an error—an excusable one, certainly, but still an error. I am not your father. Your father, I regret to say—is dead."

The boy touched his brow with his hand. He looked as if he were stunned by these words.

"You not my father, sir?" said he. "Oh, but father—"

"I am not your father. I know well that it must seem incredible to you, but I am about to explain it to you. Your father is dead."

"Father dead?" breathed the lad. "Is that the truth, sir?"

"The simple truth. Your father had a strong, a very strong resemblance to me and hence your error. I was driving a motor-car along the Norwich Road one dark night some three weeks since, when your father, in the attempt to save me from running into a cart, was himself killed. I am sure that you must have read of the accident in the Sunday paper, though you would not know that the news concerned you, since your father's name, which could not at the time be discovered, did not appear. However, from a piece of paper found in his pocket I have been able, with much difficulty, to find out your address and so sent for you to come to me."

"And he's dead?"

"Yes."

"Oh, my sir!" The lad fell into a chair, bowed down with sobbing.

Hartwell got up out of his chair, went to him, and put his lips on the boy's hair with a murmur of love.

"Don't cry," he murmured. "You have now a father far mightier than you ever had, and just as fond."

"You are very kind, sir," sobbed the boy inconsolably, "but that can't give back anybody's own father. There ain't ne'er another like him—the cleverest workman—that poor, hungry sometimes—and yet always that blooming decent to me—oh my."

Hartwell, with a soft look in his eyes, said—

"No doubt, no doubt; but men—and boys, too—should know how to check their emotions, and rise above their griefs. The skull is higher than the chest, my friend. Let us therefore live in our top-storey, and be men. Pull yourself together, and listen to what I have now to say to you."

"But you talk just like father!" said the boy, lifting his wet eyes with a look of bland astonishment—"the same notions, too, about the skull and the chest—"

"Is that really so?" asked Hartwell in a tone of surprise. "Then your father must have been a man who had reflected, and I hope taught you to reflect also. Dry your tears, and let us talk. I have, first of all, a promise to exact from you and it is this—that, since there are reasons why the resemblance between your father and me should not even be suspected, you will never, as long as you live, breathe a word of it to any creature."

"Yes sir, I promise you, sir—Please sir, where's my father buried?"

"Never mind your father now, I say. The dead are dead, boy, and only the living are alive. He was buried at Aylsham, then—I will tell you the fuller details another time, but think now of yourself and of me. Promise again to keep the great secret of your life."

"All right, sir, I promise."

"You will be like an eagle while you keep it and like an Icarus, whose wings of wax the sun melts, when you fail."

"I shan't fail, sir."

"Well, I believe that, boy. You are to be trusted." The dinner-gong began to sound. "I must dress, and you must go. Take this £5-note—ah, ah, you aren't too used to them, I fear, poor boy. I see that you have been getting some work on a generating set at a machine-maker's within the last two weeks—"

"That's true, sir. How can you see that, sir? My word, sir, you and father are just like brothers!"

"Forget your father and love me, whose delight you are. Listen to what you have to do now. When you go out from here, take a cab to this little Holborn hotel"—Hartwell handed the boy a slip of paper which he had ready in his pocket—"and live there for the next week. Take also this letter which I have written for you, and carry it to-morrow morning to its address in Saville Row, near Regent Street, where the firm of tailors to whom it is addressed will take care to provide you with a suitable wardrobe. In a week's time, when you are dressed like a gentleman, you will come and live with me here for a fortnight, after which you will start for Rugby, where I have arranged for your residence with a house-master and in two years you will begin your career as an engineer—"

"Yes, sir," said the boy, all agaze in a fairy dream, "but—I—want to be a poet, sir."

"Aha! I have heard that you are given to scribbling rhymes. But you must abandon that mood, to please me. Now you must go. Come first to my fatherly arms, and kiss me."

Hartwell embraced him and the lad went away in tears, with the bank note, the slip, and the letter to the tailors. Hartwell then descended to dinner, where he found Oswald talking to Dulaunay, for Oswald, a confirmed diner-out, often looked in about dinner-time. At table the talk was with the glib Count, who, liking Hartwell and the haphazard prosperity of his situation here, stuck to it, letting his tongue run loose on every subject under the sun, from the Quartier Latin to Italian literature, and from Anarchism to le boxe, le sport, and le fun.

At this time Hartwell was actually paying Dulaunay a salary of £500 a year, for one morning the excellent count, having complained of a shortness of funds, if not exactly to Hartwell, at least in Hartwell's hearing.

Hartwell had said in words of a vague and, doubtful meaning: "Mention to me afresh, Dulaunay, the sum which I pay you as salary, these things easily slip the memory." For Hartwell had now a suspicion that Dulaunay's relation to him was in some way bogus. Many little things and words had tended to show it to his active perceptions, but he had rather shut his eyes to them, refraining from probing the mystery, for the simple reason that he found the versatile count agreeable, and chose to remain in a half-darkness as to the reason of his presence in the household, to accept him as an accomplished fact, and to leave matters as they were.

One morning he had seen Dulaunay busied in the book-room, another morning he had seen him before an easel painting landscapes and each time he had made the count's occupation an excuse for not prying too closely into his right to be there, thinking in the one case that he may have been a sort of do-nothing librarian to Drayton, and in the other, that he may have been Drayton's protege, on account of his promising talents as an artist—both of which were highly improbable.

Hartwell went out regularly to the city before noon, and as to how the Frenchman passed his days he had no idea, and cared nothing. In the evenings they met and neither referred to anything farther back in the past than the night of their meeting at Liverpool Street-Station. Once only Hartwell had found it necessary to remonstrate pleasantly with Dulaunay on receiving a hint from Miss Scatchett of a certain absence of mind in some of the servants, due to the gallant and excellent count, but otherwise their relation flowed quietly along like a gentle stream. If Miss Scatchett, or Oswald, or anyone had once happened to say to Hartwell: "Who or what is this French count? we did not know him till lately," Hartwell, no doubt, would have been stirred, to find out the truth of things. But though Miss Scatchett or Oswald may have asked themselves why the count was there, their vague interest never chanced to lead them to ask Hartwell anything about him, while Hartwell was willing to believe that the count was an institution in the house, and the count, for his part, within some days after his first drive to Addison Road, in Hartwell's brougham, looked upon Hartwell and all he had as his by an ancient right.

After dinner that evening of young Bobbie Hartwell's visit to the house, the count departed in the brougham for the theatre, while Hartwell and Oswald smoked together in the billiard-room and each interview between the supposed brothers tended to increase the antipathy between them. When Oswald left it was getting late, and Hartwell went up to bed. But he lay without being able to sleep, watching the little ray of a night-light on the dressing-table. He heard the shutting up of the house, and also the wheels of the carriage on the drive, returning with Dulaunay. Hartwell's nights were wretched: firstly, because sleep was hard to get, and secondly, because it was so gruesome when it came. Things now happened to him in dreams—woods, scenes, terrors, with that face which might be either his own or another's, such as he could not have fancied. It even happened to him anon to be shocked by the doubt of the average credulous man: "How, if in heaven and earth there be, after all, more things than atoms, ether and energy? or how if the atoms be very different, far more ghostly things, than one dreams."

This was a strange doubt to trouble such a mind as Hartwell's. When his clock struck two, his eyes flashed severely, and he rose, lit a candle, threw on a splendid gold-wrought dressing-gown and put on a pair of slippers. He then took a revolver from a case, descended to the back, quietly undid a door, and went out into the grounds, which were fairly extensive and rich in vegetation. He walked in the direction of the stable and, in doing this, passed near the dog's cot in an alley, where, by his order Bull was chained up that night. The dog whined on seeing him, but Hartwell did not even glance at it. His face was stern. He had determined that the dog should no more fly from him. He went to an outhouse which stood near the stable, his feet now soaked with the wet in the grasses, and there he found a spade and crowbar, which he took and with them he went on to the far end of the grounds. There, choosing a spot under a holly tree, he set to work to dig a grave two feet deep by the dim light of a moon struggling to shine in a grey and cloudy sky.

This done, he straightened himself, put his arms akimbo, and looked up a little while to where the blotch of moonlight was. He then returned to the kennel, undid the chain, and led the dog towards the grave. Bull followed him with uplifted eyes, showing more of the whites than of the brown part, an expression of weak abashment. Hartwell tied the dog to the holly-tree, stepped back a little, the revolver in his hand and, stooping far forward, held the weapon to the dog's ear. The deg sidled a little round the tree, whining pitifully, but as the dog moved so Hartwell, stooping, followed step by step. "Now, Bull," he said again, and the report sounded. The dog yelped and dropped dead. This was a sort of murder, for in Hartwell's scientific creed the dog is a very near first cousin to man and Hartwell's consciousness of truth was so keen that this was not a mere sterile bit of knowledge to him, but one of the big, living facts of life, ever present in his mind.

He buried the poor Bull with grim lips, and returned to bed and as he lay abed again, thinking of Julia and of his son, into these thoughts there intruded a thought of Gissing, his lonely cold prisoner in Hobham House, whom he had to see on the morrow.


XIII. — MORE ABOUT LETTY

The sudden departure of Gissing from the old Manor farm came as a disappointment to Oswald. He actually had on his overcoat and gloves, one afternoon at his chambers, about to go to Norfolk to see Gissing, when he received from Walker his shorthand man, the telegram:


"FIND THAT GISSING TEMPORARILY GONE AWAY. WILL WIRE AGAIN WHEN HE RETURNS;"

so that Magee had to take off Oswald's coat again.

Oswald received this telegram two days before Christmas. He ought to have gone down to Norfolk at least forty-eight hours before and now blamed himself for his slow habit of turning round, but there had been social engagements. One could not throw everything to the devil at a moment's notice. He sighed and waited till Gissing should return home and would have lifted his eyebrows in lingering surprise, if he had been told that Gissing was in a locked room in Hobham House.

When Oswald received that telegram from Walker, Hartwell was already at Castle Moran, fox-hunting with the admirable Julia. It has been seen how he fled from her, when she told him that she loved him and how, after lingering a day at an inn in the country, he returned to Addison Road on the second evening after Christmas and saw his son, Bobby, and killed the dog, Bull, the same night.

The next day Hartwell was at the office in Fenchurch Street, from noon till the closing of the house. During that time he took a second saloon ticket on a P. and O. boat, which was to sail for the East in three days' time, on the Thursday, the 31st of December, "old-year's-day." After the closing of the house he put on his overcoat and put into a pocket of it some sheets of paper and envelopes, a pen and a bottle of ink, together with some other sheets of paper which were covered with his own writing. He went out, and outside bought an ounce of tobacco and a pipe, which he also put into his pocket. He then went to Gannon Street, and took a train for Lydney, the station nearest to Hobham House. At Lydney he bought a loaf, a bottle of claret, and a candle and with these things he walked to Hobham House, unlocked the front door and went in. When he had gone up, unlocked the door of the room in which Gissing was, and entered it, he lit the candle and stuck it in its own grease on the mantelpiece, and now he saw Gissing crouching in a corner near the mantelpiece with a certain glower-underlook at him.

"Well, Gissing," said Hartwell, "I suppose that you have not had four very enjoyable days and I suppose, too, that like a foolish man, you blame me for your discomfort. But it is not my fault, nor is it yours, but the fault of an evil chance which caused you to know more about my affairs than is good for your comfort. I wish you no ill, and only locked you up with little food and no fire in order that you may fully realise my power over you and the more readily follow my instructions."

The countryman's mouth worked in the effort to find expression for what he felt, but in the end all that came out was:

"Ah, you're a wicked one, you!"

Hartwell made no reply, but proceeded to lay on the mantelpiece three half-sheets of paper covered with something written by himself, while Gissing cried out:

"Good Lord on High, mister, why have you done the likes o' this here to a poor man?"

"Gissing," answered Hartwell, "I have already apologised for the discomfort to which an evil chance has forced me to subject you. Unfortunately, still worse things await you, but let no one be blamed. The cat eats the mouse, the mayfly is torn by the swallow, the sparrow is speared by the shrike, the man kills the microbe, the lamb the lion, the German kills the Frenchman, the Englishman the Hindoo. Nor can we alter this necessary condition of life on our planet by regretting it. The weaker suffer for the stronger—"

Again Gissing looked at Hartwell with his mouth working to find expression, but the power of expressing his thoughts and feelings was not the strong point of Gissing, or of any of his class and kind, and in the end all that came was:

"Ey, he's a hard man to deal with!"

"But let us not waste words, Gissing," Hartwell went on. "I have first of all to tell you that on Thursday coming, only three days from now, you will be placed in complete liberty by me on board a ship, on which your passage is already taken. You will start without funds, though with a trunk of clothes, but on your arrival at Hong Kong a correspondent of my firm will offer you permanent employment in his warehouse. You will never return to England, even if you can ever find the means to do so, nor will you ever write to anyone in England, for in this case, if I discover it I shall simply place in the hands of the police a confession which you are now about to write of having attempted to extort blackmail from me on a false charge, whereupon you will be arrested in your new abode. No, say nothing, my friend, but submit yourself to me, or your discomforts will be stretched perhaps to the point of death. See here, I have brought you some bread, some wine, and some tobacco, pleasures which can only be enjoyed by you on condition of submission—"

"Ey he's a hard man!" groaned the ill-fated countryman, with a hoarse chest, "he don't call to mind that I've got a wife and daughter."

"I have not forgotten them," replied Hartwell: "I am a hard man, yes, but by no means a wicked one. Your wife and daughter shall be my care, Gissing, and your wisest course will be to cast their existence out of your memory as soon as ever Nature will permit you—"

"My own wife and daughter! Cast them out o' my—! Ah, you, you, you, you!"

"You think me a monster, I see, Gissing, but that is not because I am a monster, but because I am somewhat more rational than you. I know the feelings of a father, and I know well the feelings of a husband, and I experience a human sympathy with your case. But all things must yield to the iron laws of Necessity and on the whole your dependents will do very well. But now to business, my friend. Here are two letters to your wife which I have written and require you to copy out now. I will first of all read them aloud to you. The first one says:

"'My dear wife, here am I in Birmingham where I had to come from London on the business that I came up to London about. But not much can be done without the evidence of our Sarah and perhaps yours too. So I want you to send Sarah at once to me at 117, Duke Street, Moseley, Birmingham, and I send you enclosed 17/- in postal orders to give her for the journey—but do not give her any more than 17/-. Perhaps in a day or two I may have to write you again to come to me and her in London, where I am going back to from here. Your affectionate husband—'

"That is the first, Gissing; and the second says:

"'My dear wife, I and Sarah met all right here at Birmingham, and now we are just starting back for London. Everything is going first rate, but I want you now to shut up the house and come to meet us at once at 112, Chapel Street, S. Kensington, London, for which I enclose £1. Then we shall all go home together. Unless you come, we shan't get the £2,000, so be sure to come. Your affectionate husband—'

"Such is the second letter, Gissing; and this third paper is the confession of blackmail and false accusation, which you will also copy out."

"Then, my home will be broken up?" cried the suffering countryman.

"I, in God knows where, my wife in London, my daughter in Birmingham without a penny-piece to bless themselves—"

"Neither they nor you shall starve, Gissing, that I undertake. It is true that there is no such house as 117, Duke Street, Moseley, Birmingham, nor any such house as 112, Chapel Street, S. Kensington, but there is a Duke Street, and a Chapel Street, and in them the two women shall be met by my agents and suitable employment shall be found for them. You will all, indeed, be lost to one another, and to those also who wish to use you for my hurt."

At this point the old man sprang upright from his cowering position, crying out:

"Look here, I—I wouldn't do that thing, not to save my life!"

Hartwell's eyes flashed at this. He said not another word, but with pressed lips, caught up the "pleasures"—the bread, wine, and tobacco—and went out, leaving the pen and ink, the blank sheets of paper, the letters to be copied, and the candle and matches. As to the last two, he had little fear that Gissing's sufferings would tempt him to burn down the house, for in that case the room where Gissing was was in such a position would burn and he would certainly be burned to death.

Those sufferings of Gissing, however, must have been great and might have tempted him to do almost anything. For four days he had eaten nothing but two tins of potted ham, with two bottles of claret. It continued, moreover, to be cold and now he would have to wait at least one other day. With a fine English stoicism, the old man had said not a word about what he suffered, but his frame knew its own pains. As Hartwell walked out bearing off the "pleasures," Gissing, shivering with his two hands in his pockets, gazed after him with a glowering underlook, and uttered the groan, "Ey, he's a cold-hearted man."

Hartwell locked the door on the outside, put the pleasures on the floor, and went away.

When he reached home that night he again found Oswald there. They dined together, and after dinner found themselves alone in the billiard room, for Dulaunay was in the drawing-room, playing pieces from Chopin. For a long time little was said between the supposed brothers. Oswald listlessly threw the billiard balls about the table, Hartwell lay on a couch meditating on the wreaths of smoke from his cigar. Then suddenly, after half an hour, it came out that Oswald had pressing need of £200 and Hartwell, tossing the cigar end into the fire, said:

"My good fellow, I won't give it you."

Oswald's square jaws stiffened themselves at his bitter feelings, he left the table and, standing before the fire, turned an evil look upon Hartwell, who was now, he felt, in his hands. Gissing, indeed, had gone from home—so Walker had telegraphed. But Oswald was only waiting for Gissing's return to run down to Norfolk and get Gissing's written evidence that his brother and Letty Barnes had known each other (the desired £200 was partly to tip Gissing with), after which, there would be no more refusals of £200. And, exulting in his power, never dreaming that Gissing lay a prisoner in Hobham House, he said sourly to Hartwell:

"My good James, I fear that you are growing mean, but let me explain to you why I really need this two hundred. A girl in whom I am interested has been murdered, James. Her father is impecunious the police at a loss, and I have taken up the case, employing a private agent to get at the bottom of it."

"Who was she?" asked Hartwell.

"A girl named Letty Barton," answered Oswald, his habit of sycophancy even now restraining his lips from venturing upon the open defiance of saying "Letty Barnes." For though they had opened to say Barnes they ended by saying Barton: a very inconsistent, but natural thing, for he wished to let "James" know that he knew all, but in the midst of obeying his impulses, he was checked by a qualm, by a feeling of his rashness, and modified it by saying the illogical "Barton." However, if he had said "Letty Barnes," this name would have had no effect whatever upon Hartwell, from whose memory it had passed ever since that day when he saw her father a moment in the "Black Dogs" at Aylsham. The shreds of Letty's letter to Julia lay forgotten in McCalmont's overcoat pocket, which was now hung up in Hartwell's wardrobe. Hartwell had never fitted them together, had never read in the newspapers of the finding of Letty's body, did not know that she was dead, or remember that she had lived, or have any reason to think that Drayton had known such a girl. When, therefore, Oswald, saying "Letty Barton," looked to see Hartwell flinch, he saw only indifference, and thought to himself: "James can command his face."

"Who was this Letty Barton?" asked Hartwell.

"I need only say that I had an interest in her and mean to avenge her. It was a disgusting atrocity, this murder."

"By whom committed?"

"A lover. You have seen it in the papers."

"I don't remember. It is known then, that she had a lover? Well, the post mortem, of course. Tell me the circumstances and let us see what light a detached reason may throw up on them."

"I suppose I never knew him well," thought Oswald, "he is a deeper man—"

"My dear fellow," he said aloud, "I need not go into it, you have read it all."

"But if I say not? Tell me."

"Oh well then, she was found in a gut behind an old tavern, two days after her death. She had been strangled, her hand was bruised, most of her finger-nails were broken, her collar was rumpled behind, while one of its button holes was torn through in front, her face was swollen, round one wrist was a red mark, in her pocket were a thimble, a hymn-book, and a little powder-puff—"

Hartwell, with his thumb and forefinger pressing down his closed eyelids, and frowning deeply, said:

"Well, now, let me see: there was a struggle for a letter."

"By Jove!" Oswald started, thinking within himself: "That, then, was the letter of which I have a shred! but this motive for telling? His bluff!" He added aloud: "That is quite probably true, my good James, but your certainty is curious."

"Why so? It seems pretty clear to me. Did you see the body yourself, by the way?"

"Er—yes."

"You said in describing her appearance that 'her hand' was bruised: does that mean one hand only?"

"I really can't say now."

"Then it was probably both hands, for one only would very likely have resulted in a more definite observation on your part. But how do you account for these bruises on her hands?"

"She was thrown over a cliff through a lot of prickles and bush: that, I suppose, might account for her scratches and things."

"Ah, but now you use another word, not 'bruises,' but 'scratches and things.' Was her face, then, bruised like her hands?"

"No, I think not. It was scratched—"

"Then the hand-bruises had a different origin from the face-scratches; were true bruises, caused by a struggle for some object, a ring, a letter, a coin, or something; and the mauling of both hands seems to prove that the struggle was spirited and prolonged, the object having been slipped to the left hand, when the right became sore."

"James, you are amazing," said Oswald, with a breath of laughter: "but admit, my good fellow, that your certainty that the object of the struggle was a letter is curious."

"Why so? How else can you explain the bruises, the broken nails, and the hymn book?"

"I confess that I do not see your point."

"The bruises rather seem to prove, don't they? that the object was not a large object, like a stick, for instance. It was containable in the hand; and since most of her nails were broken, that certainly proves that the object was not a small one like a ring, for instance; for her fingers could not quite close upon the object. That seems to give us the size of the object, the size of a letter crumpled into a ball. It may therefore have been a letter, and the hymn book strongly suggests that it was a letter, for why the hymn book except to hold a letter uncrumpled between the leaves in her pocket? She had placed the letter in the hymn book on writing it, meaning to show it to him, and when the time came she took the hymn book and all. But observe that this gives you the motive of the crime, if you do not already know it. For if I am right we have the fact of a letter written by her for which there was a struggle, and the natural inference is that it was a letter, say, to some new flame of his, containing damaging statements—"

"He has now told me enough to hang him!" thought Oswald, "given Gissing's evidence that he knew Letty—"

"As to the powder puff—" began Hartwell, but before he could get farther he was interrupted by a footman who looked in to announce some visitors; and Hartwell stood up, saying to Oswald: "Well, jot down all the facts of the matter, Oswald, and we will confer on them some other night. Such things furnish interesting exercises for the reason. As for the £200, you shall have them for this specific purpose of punishing an ugly crime, and I will send you the cheque to-morrow. But I warn you, my good fellow, that my brotherly affection has its limits and that you will have to rely upon your own resources to a far greater extent than heretofore. I have had losses."

Oswald looked at him with eyes of mere wonder, having given up all hope of the £200 when he had once dared to mention that name—Letty Barton.


XIV. — HARTWELL UPROOTS

The next evening, as Hartwell went out from his office to return to Gissing, he saw in the street, near the outer door of the building in which his office was, a man with very heavy eyes, a deep frown, and a red fan-beard. It was Barnes, the father of Letty.

Hartwell peered searchingly at him, at the same time making haste to shut himself in his brougham, which was there awaiting him, and he thought to himself, "I have seen him before—but where? He was waiting there to see me come out. The there-he-is of his expression—. And the man means me no good, his mind in a state of unworldly distraction or despair. The feather in his beard, the old mud on his boots, his wrinkled waistcoat, the rent in his coat pocket, perhaps drinking, yet hardly a drunkard, and the bulge in his pocket angular, perhaps a revolver. But let us not permit ourselves to be shot. Such a weakness would be too immoral."

He drove from Cannon Street to the little Surrey Station of Lydney alone in his compartment and still he kept on musing on Barnes, thinking: "He is a countryman, not of the lowest class, his rings, his chain, but not a farmer. Apparently rather a tradesman. No trace of the use of leggings on the trousers, and trousers gone at the knees, not at the bottoms. Yet a great shot, high aim, too—pheasants, 'rocketers,'—say therefore from Suffolk, Norfolk, the nap on right shoulder, cock of left leg, turpentine stains, muscles of neck. But a tradesman and a sportsman, too? Hardly—then, perhaps, a town tradesman; rather one in open country, near coverts, yet not a farmer. A lonely publican, tavern-keeper—lurking in Fenchurch Street! What, then, has that ruffian done to this poor man? He's probably in London only to see and hurt me— You should be careful, however, of yourself, mine host."

From Lydney he walked to Hobham House, and up to Gissing's prison. This time, on seeing Gissing, Hartwell's heart was moved to pity. The countryman, roused by the entrance of Hartwell from morbid sleep, still sat without a word or motion in his corner, hugging his tremors, with a glint like lunacy in the downward stare of his eyes. He had copied the confession of blackmail—there it lay on the mantelpiece—but he had not copied either of the letters to his wife. And again Hartwell, seeing this, was adamant, saying:

"See, I have brought you some ham, Gissing. But do as I bid you or I cannot permit myself to alleviate your discomforts."

"Merciful Lord, man!" cried the countryman suddenly, "won't you give a man a morsel o' food, then?"

"No."

"Don't ye believe in a just God above, then, man, man, in God's name?"

"Above, eh?" said Hartwell, sitting on a cloud, no doubt, as on a cushion, in the Turkish manner. "No, Gissing! She in whom I believe exists and is mighty, but He in whom you believe is thin and dying."

"Ey, he's a strange man!" wailed the countryman in muffled words with a covered face.

Hartwell now paced the room with his hands behind his back, and during the time while he twice passed from end to end of the floor Gissing leapt up furiously, took the pen in his hand, and began to copy one of the letters by the light of the candle. Hartwell went and looked over his shoulder, but after the old man had written five or six words Hartwell said:

"You are too cold; you cannot write now, Gissing. Promise me that if I alleviate your discomforts you will do all that I require."

"Merciful Lord on High, can I help promising?" exclaimed Gissing, "Ain't I but mortal."

"That's a man," said Hartwell.

He at once took the candle, went out, and descending to the basement found there a chopper and some sticks of firewood. A few of the rooms here and there in the house remained scantily furnished, and on his way back to the top Hartwell took with him two chairs which, on re-entering the prison room he set to work to hew to pieces. Gissing looked silently at him under lowering brows while he did this. When the work grew hot, Hartwell threw off his overcoat, and continued to hew at the two chairs, till both were in fragments.

"Now, then, Gissing, for a fire," he said with merry eyes, a little short of breath, with his arms akimbo, "and let it never more be said that I am an egoist."

The enfeebled countryman dropped his head upon his arms over the mantelpiece and two tears flowed down his rude face, while Hartwell stooped at the grate.

"Now, Gissing, for a feast," said. Hartwell rising, when this was done. "Take also this coat of mine, which I will leave with you simply and solely because I do not myself feel cold, and let it serve you for blanket or pillow. When you have regaled yourself, then write the two letters, not forgetting the addresses on the envelopes. To-morrow at noon I come to take you to your ship, on which a trunk of clothes is already shipped for you. Good night."

The countryman gazed after him as he walked out, not as after a man, but as after a force that could speak and look like a man.

However, the legacy of troubles which Drayton had left to Hartwell were rather like the hundred-headed hydra, and for every head that he cut down another sprang up. That very evening, for instance, when Gissing was at last forced to consent to write the letters to his wife, Hartwell had a startling adventure. He had come from Lydney to Shepherd's Bush, and was walking the short distance from the station to his house, when, as he came to the north corner of Addison Road he saw a woman standing on the east pavement. It was rather dark there, but at once he noticed that she was interested in him, was looking hard at him. She was quite a giantess in size. Her age was perhaps 40, she had the look of a countrywoman, was poorly but decently dressed, her face very round and fat, and covered all over with large freckles.

He wished to examine her more closely, and was about to pass near her when all of a sudden he shied sharply, and took to his heels as fast as he could run to the other (west) side of the road. Nor when he had reached that pavement did he stop, but pelted down on the road with some anxious, backward glances over his shoulder, till he slipped through someone's garden gate, and crouching there behind the wall in the deep shadow thrown by a mass of leafage, he peeped through the railings to see if she was coming. But she had not apparently followed. Not a soul was to be seen in the deep and lonely road and presently with a murmur of "Ah," and a smile he crept out and went hurriedly across to his own gate, which was on the east side of the road.

When, on his entrance into the house, Dulaunay said to him: "Sir, my compliments," Hartwell made the reply: "They are well-timed, my friend," for he knew that a knife lay in the woman's bosom, and that her eyes were very strange and deranged. "I shall assuredly see her again," he thought. "The sins of that man spring up and multiply about me, and their harvest is great, and the labourer but one."

The next day was Gissing's day of departure. Near noon Hartwell drove to the beginning of the Avenue before Hobham House, stopped the brougham there, alighted, walked to the house and returned to the brougham with Gissing dressed in the fur overcoat of Hartwell's which Hartwell had left for the countryman's blanket the previous' evening. Gissing looked the picture of despair, and was non-resistant as a lamb. Hartwell now had the confession of blackmail and the two letters duly written by Gissing to his wife. They drove to a wharf in Chelsea, where a small steam-boat awaited them and they steamed down the river to Tilbury, where the great ship had just received her passengers from the company's special train. Hartwell gave the countryman a letter to one Bathright, who lived at Hong Kong, impressed upon him anew the line of his future conduct, and the ship moved down the river as Gissing was taken on board.

The next morning Gissing's wife received the first letter, in which her husband instructed her to send her daughter to meet him in Birmingham. And this she did. Two days afterwards she received the second letter, instructing her to start at once to meet her husband and daughter in London. And this also she did. Both mother and daughter were received by agents of Hartwell, the one in Birmingham, the other in London.

Later on, when the mother wrote to 117 Duke Street, Moseley, Birmingham, her letter came back to her, for there was no such address. When the daughter wrote to Overstrand, her letter, too, came back to her, for Hartwell had bought the Old Manor Farm from its owner and had shut it up. He gave their little furniture to the mother.

In the course of months both mother and girl found with some difficulty an opportunity to leave their work for a day and return to Overstrand, in some vague hope of retracing a clue of their past. But they returned at different times, and found that past all scattered to the winds. Mystery and desolation confronted them. The yard was encumbered with leaves, weeds, and grasses, stranger-ducks swam in the green slime of the pond, stranger-fowls scratched the marrow-plot, house martens built all round the eaves, the white owl haunted the lattices, poppy and yellow wild tulip choked the garden. They saw the old home lie like the face of the dead and shed tears at the ways of God.


XV. — HARTWELL IS EGOISTIC

"My very dear," Julia wrote to Hartwell on the very day of Gissing's departure to the East, "is an explanation due to me, or not? You should come to me. I am here in Brook Street. Come, for I have waited, and am waiting.—Julia."

That morning Hartwell did not go to the city, though he was now in the thick of tearing himself out of the coils of Drayton's business, but spent the forenoon in his study at Addison Road with the little packet of letters which Julia had written to Drayton, which he had found in the drawer of a wardrobe. There was hardly a word-of fondness in any of them, but his eyes loved to smile upon her large writing, whose dash and decision, like cavalry assaulting a position, seemed to say: "There, that's Julia." Finally, a visit on business from the captain of the Sempronia caused him to lock the jacket away, and then he had to drive to Hobham House to get Gissing on his ship.

But a week passed after this and still Hartwell did not answer Julia's note. He was at a loss what to answer. The question whether he should go to her or not go, and if he went what he should say to her, was so distracting that there were moments when he almost wished that those of his enemies who wanted to take his life might succeed in doing what they wanted.

His existence all round was infested with doubts and dangers. If Julia was by far the biggest of them, there were others very grave and pressing. There was the big woman with the clasped knife and the deranged eye. Who was she? Hartwell only knew that his death was her mania—that, like some "Charlotte Corday" she had come up from the country on a mission of death, and that he was her Marat. There, lurking under the shadow of trees, he caught a glimpse of her regularly every night as the brougham swept from Holland Park into Addison Road. She did not apparently know his house, for twice she had started after the carriage, presumably to discover the gate into which it went, but must have lost sight of it before it entered the gate, those being the darkest nightfalls of the year. This woman's name was Mary Liskeard. Her daughter, Margaret, had drowned herself in a lake called Harrod's, owing to melancholia caused by her husband's drowning, which drowning again was owing to some infamy of Drayton's in connection with an unseaworthy ship.

And there was the man with the frown and the red beard, and the heavy eyes. Barnes, too, had brooded and had his mania, and meant to do a deed. The evil seed sown in the mind of Barnes by Oswald, that day of the finding of Letty's body, was now grown to a mustard tree and the careless disdain with which the police had received his conviction that Drayton killed Letty had only the more embittered and fixed Barnes' mania.

Hartwell always now left his office, not by the front door of the building, but by way of a court behind, for regularly each evening from about the hour of the closing of the house till six o'clock he could see Barnes from a window of the office, standing sentry below.

And again there was the little stableman, Kirk. Kirk had apparently been bribed by Drayton to cut the tendon of a rival's horse called Brighteye, and Kirk now pretended that the plot was known to another turf-man named Teddy, to silence whom a further £2000 was necessary. Hartwell saw that if he did not give, his good name would be ruined, but it was not Hartwell's way to give. Apart from the fact that he knew that Teddy was a myth—for the jockey's mind was clear as crystal to him—he considered that to give was immoral. But he did not refuse outright, he temporised, dallied, and discussed, thinking how to uproot this Kirk and meanwhile Kirk had grown pressing.

To permit himself to be shot or hurt Hartwell considered immoral. He looked after No. 1, not because he particularly loved No. 1, but because that was the only sensible thing to do, the world being what he thought it was. Therefore, he meant to put "egoism," which was his morality, into practice, and so it happened that Barnes, Mary Liskeard, Kirk, the turf-man, and others were in even more danger from him than he was from them.

A week after Julia's unanswered note, in which she prayed Hartwell to go to her, it happened that Hartwell, in going to lunch over a conference with three financiers at the Holborn Restaurant, was taken down a by-street near the restaurant by his head clerk, who was going to lunch with him, to be shown a house of his which was falling to pieces. The house was No. 7 Twyford Buildings, a queer old house in a slum just to the south of Holborn. The upper part of it was clinker-built, the lower half was all patched with rough boardings; the windows were low and long, like the house itself; the window-panes all broken, and thicker than themselves with grime. The one door, which stood at one end of the house, was secured with a padlock.

When Hartwell was taken into it by his head clerk that day, he looked into every room with a particular interest, though it was empty but for a few corn-bags. (It had been used as a warehouse). He and his head clerk then went on to lunch. After the lunch, when they drove back to Fenchurch Street, there was Kirk awaiting Hartwell in the office, looking a mere spider in a stiff sack-overcoat, with a little mouse-face peeping out from under a Homburg hat and, without any invitation, he followed Hartwell into Hartwell's private room.

"Well, now," said Hartwell, when they were seated, "but I thought I hinted to you that it would be better not to show yourself here so often."

"Look here, that's as it may be," answered Kirk.

"Take your hat off."

"Shan't. That be blowed!" went Kirk vehemently. "I'm as good a man as you, Drayton, any day."

"But you try my patience, Kirk," said Hartwell, with reproach.

"Don't matter about patience," muttered the estimable Kirk. "Try his little patience, poor little boy! Look here, where's the use beating about the bush between men of the world? Going to brass up to-day yes or no? Else Teddy'll only act, and where'll you be then? Lord! I think I see your face at the Club of Tats.—great Scott!"

"I'll pay," said Hartwell, "I'll pay. But I mustn't give myself away—not by cheque, not here. Meet me. Do you happen to know Twyford Buildings? It is an alley off Great Queen Street. Meet me at No. 7—an old wooden house—at 7.30 to-morrow evening. But be punctual. I shan't wait for you one second if you are not there when I go. The house will be open, but do not enter the house till you see me coming down the alley. Then very quickly enter and wait. There is a caretaker about the place, who must by no means see us meeting. I can't have myself compromised. We will then go upstairs to a lighted room, that you may count the money, and write me a receipt. But so that there may be but one footfall as we go up, be prepared as I enter to mount upon my back."

"Now you're talking," answered Kirk. "I'll be there. Look here, there's not an atom of bad blood, Drayton, on my side—"

"That's a man. Good-bye. No. 7 Twyford Buildings, at 7.30 p.m., tomorrow."

Kirk then went away. The moment he was gone Hartwell peeped cautiously into the street to see if Barnes was there. Barnes was not there yet, but after having three interviews with a broker, an actuary, and the steward of his Buck's estate, Hartwell again peeped out, and there was Barnes standing sentry below.

"Ah," thought Hartwell within himself, "I hardly think that my enemies will save me from that hard interview with her after all." And, sitting now to his desk, he wrote, no longer with the typewriter, but in a hand that was already, after much practice, very like the dead Drayton's:—


"My Dear Julia,

"I have received your note. I hope to call upon you in Brook Street to-morrow evening at 9. If I do not hear from you, I shall assume that I shall then be able to speak with you alone.

"Your sincere friend,

"James Drayton."


The letter written and enclosed, he thrice pressed an electric button, and the clerk who had to answer to three rings entered.

"Post this letter for me, Ife," said Hartwell. "I want you, Ife, to do something for me with some little tact. There is a man with a red beard standing near the street door, whom you might ask the way to somewhere. Then ask if he is not Norfolk or Suffolk, and whether he can tell you anything of the pheasant-shooting, as you think of taking a holiday down there. Try to get him to have a drink with you. Be unconcerned and affable. Then mention casually that you belong to Drayton's, and that the boss means to be off to-morrow night, to the Continent for six months. Then some more talk, and leave him."

Ife undertook this, and went out.

After Ife's departure to interview Barnes, the man with the red beard, Hartwell paced his room. Then half an hour later came Ife, saying to Hartwell:

"He wouldn't have a drink, but I told him what you said about going on the Continent. He seems a bit moody, sir; a screw loose somewhere—"

"No doubt. He will probably present himself here to-day, but must on no account be allowed to get to me. Take him to the alcove in which is the speaking-tube, if he comes, and put him into communication with me. And, as I do not know his name, you will use the word 'eager' as you mention his name, so that I may know that it is he."

After this an hour passed before Barnes went up to Hartwell's office. Barnes had, of course, been spurred to prompt and desperate action by the clerk's news that Hartwell was going away for six months, for he saw that he must avenge his daughter that very day, or put off his vengeance for a long time. But he had lingered an hour trembling on the brink of action, eager enough, but held back by many doubts and fears. At last, however, he came to a decision, and went up. The clerk, Ife, conducted him to the alcove and the telephone-whistle whiffed into Hartwell's room.

"Well?" answered Hartwell, with the drum at his ear.

"Mr Barrow, sir—'eager'—to speak with you," said Ife. For Barnes believed that if he sent in his true name to "Drayton," he would not be permitted to get near "Drayton," which was what he wanted, and he called himself Barrow. Though, as a matter of fact, if he had called himself Barnes, Hartwell would probably not have remembered the name, or known what was his grievance.

"Leave him in the alcove, Ife," said Hartwell, "and close the door upon him," and half a minute afterwards he said, "You there, Mr Barrow?"

"Yes," answered Barnes: "you Drayton?"

"The same."

"Can't a man converse a bit with you, face to face, like men? Can't very well through this thing."

"But this thing was made for conversing through, Barrow," replied Hartwell in a tone of sinister reproachfulness. "What is it you want?"

"Two minutes' face to face talk with you."

"But, Barrow, you speak like an angry man. How is that, Barrow?"

"Me? like an angry man? no, no, no, no—"

"But I know you, Barrow. You mean me no good, but you shall do me no harm. You cannot see me now, and to-morrow night I leave England. But that I may know the cause of your pernicious rancour against me—your baleful malice, Barrow—I will meet you to-morrow evening, if you like, at 7.15, in a house where we shall be alone. The house is No. 7, Twyford Buildings—an old wooden house in an alley lying between Lincoln's Inn Fields and Great Queen Street. Does that satisfy you?"

"That'll do for me."

"Be punctual, then—at 7.15. I shall not wait one minute if you are late. It is No. 7, Twyford Buildings, Lincoln's Inn, an old empty house. You will find the door open. Enter, if I am not there at 7.15, and go up to a room on the first floor in which you will see a fire. I shall enter the house by a way known only to myself, and we shall fail to meet, unless you are in that lighted room. There await me. But, Barrow, I warn you—attempt no violence. I know what you keep in your pocket, and I shall enter that room and meet you with my finger on the trigger of a weapon, ready for reprisals. Do you understand?"

"I see your meaning," replied Barnes.

"That's a man! Good-bye."

And Barnes went away muttering: "He's taking me to that empty old house to do for me, if I don't do for him first. Well, then, it'll be the quicker man of the two! and, by the lord above us, that shall be me!"

Soon after this Hartwell left the office to go home, walking down his secret back court to where the brougham always now waited for him. That night when he drove round the corner into Addison Road, Mary Liskeard was not at the corner, but Hartwell peering out all the time along the road descried her further down under a mass of shadow cast by some trees. For the third time she started after the carriage, as it passed her, and this time undoubtedly saw the gate into which it swept.

Hartwell found in the house that night, not only Oswald who was almost a professional diner-out, but also seven foreign people, guests of the count, in a condition of gaiety, for that his jour de fête, or baptism day. Accordingly, a quite bird-like vivacity characterised the full dinner table, which rather burdened Mr Dray-"tong," in whose grave heart was an ache, a sadness and a longing. There was a thin Arlesienne girl in a costume which seemed in peril of dropping down her shoulders who, while she talked, vibrated up and down in sheer animation of being, and her fingers twinkled abroad in the air. Always she said of something or other: "T-res, t-res, jolie—magnifique!"

Young Bobbie Hartwell, looking in his fashionable new clothes like a blushing page-o'-honor, gazed contemplatively at her with open mouth, and threw out anon a silent breath of laughter. Hartwell committed the indiscretion of talking some rather Birmingham French, and at once saw Oswald's eyebrows slowly lift and Oswald's gaze turn upon him, like a wooden head moved round by slow clock-work. For Oswald had not known that his "James" could speak Birmingham French. Now he knew; but Hartwell's eyes rested lingeringly, with no good meaning, on that gaze of surprise, and he remembered it.

Later in the night Oswald and Hartwell were getting together among some palms in a nook of the drawing-room, whose silken walls gave a shimmer of azure in the dreamy light, when Oswald produced a piece of paper covered with notes. Dulaunay, with his foreign guests and Bobbie, were playing whist and chattering some distance away.

"You asked me," said Oswald to Hartwell, "to jot down these details about the murder of Letty Barton. You said, I think, that you would 'reason' about, them—"

"Ah, yes, how is the matter going?" asked Hartwell.

"I don't know that anything has been discovered."

If will be understood that Oswald, while waiting to hear from his man, Walker, the news of the return of Gissing to Overstrand, had heard instead—with bitterness and amazement—that all the Gissings had mysteriously disappeared, and that their house was shut up. Now the Gissings were the only valid proof connecting Drayton with Letty Barnes, for the shred of her letter found by Oswald was a proof to himself alone, since he could produce no evidence to show that he had found it where he had, in Drayton's pocket. So that the Gissings disappearance had quite dashed the cup of triumph from Oswald's hands.

But a fresh hope had arisen for Oswald. "James" had one night voluntarily revealed to him much of the details of the tragedy—"the struggle for a letter," the "motive"—evidently finding some foolhardy pleasure, as Oswald thought, in living the tragedy over again, on the pretence of "reasoning;" and how if "James" could be led on to tell—too much? It was a possibility. Oswald, at least, would not fail to tempt him. And so it happened that if Hartwell's "reason" should chance to let itself over-much run on the subject of Letty Barnes, it was quite likely to put the hangman's noose around ins own neck.

Reclining on a couch, Hartwell let his eyes run over Oswald's notes; then after some minutes of thought, which he spent frowning deeply and with closed eyes, he said:

"She seems to have been expecting the lover that night, and certainly met him first in the tavern before they went into the grounds."

Oswald was amazed at this candour: "This is delicious candour!" he thought to himself.

"Yes, that may be so, James," he said aloud, "very curious. But how does your 'reason' arrive at all that?"

"That much, I think, is perfectly established," said Hartwell. "You have only to consider the powder-puff in the girl's pocket, her whole dress, the watch and chain. She was to be seen by her lover in the light."

Oswald laughed with bitter gladness. As "James'" only relative, he was specially bitter just now at the preposterous "adoption" of young Bobbie Hartwell.

"James, you are admirable," he said. "Oh, I am quite sincere. However you come to know all this, your mere manner of telling it is even more extraordinary than your notion of building laboratories. That blow on the head has knocked all the good stuff from the interior to the surface of your brain. You are no longer James Drayton—"

Hartwell looked at him with a chill "beware!" in that smile of his eye with the wrinkles at its comer; for any remark about change in Drayton, unless it was sweet flattery in the mouth of Julia, instantly stirred up in Hartwell a threatful watchfulness, for his nerves were always on the qui vive to detect the first dawn of a suspicion that he was not Drayton. Oswald's question about the watch at Aylsham—"Why can't you open it?"—was stored in Hartwell's memory, and now to it was added these other words: "You are no longer James Drayton," two little remarks that might well have made Oswald take a hurried trip to Australia or Peru, if he had understood the still menace of that humour in Hartwell's sideward look. But Hartwell, as was said before, "fled when no human man pursued." If anyone had told Oswald that Hartwell was not Drayton, for some minutes such a person would have seemed crazy to Oswald. For though the mental difference between Hartwell and Drayton was very great, the bodily resemblance was just as great, or greater, and it is by the body that men know one another.

Before anything farther could be said on the subject of Letty Barnes, a footman entered the drawing-room, and walked up to Hartwell, saying:

"One Mary Liskeard to see you, sir."

"I know the name," thought Hartwell at once, "she has threatened me in a letter. Her daughter's husband was lost with the 'Berenice,' and her daughter then drowned herself." Then he had a quick thought that this might be the very woman who lay in wait for him every night in Addison Road and rising, he walked a little way across the room with the footman, saying in a low voice near the man's ear: "A very big woman, with a very freckled face, John?"

"Yes, sir." answered the footman.

"Tell her this fib, John, that I leave England for six months to-morrow night, nor can she see me to-night. But tell her that she may see me to-morrow evening between six and eight, as I leave my office in the City, then give her the Fenchurch Street address."

While the man went down to deliver this message, Hartwell, in his keen interest in this woman, ran into his bedroom and peeped from behind the curtains as she passed down the drive. On returning to the drawing-room, he took his stand by the Arlesienne, who was rattling off a piece on the piano. He afterwards made Bobbie recite "The Lotus-eaters," spent the evening socially, and reasoned no more about Letty Barnes that night.

The next morning he went to the City as usual, spent the day in work as usual, and no one looking at the face of Hartwell all that day could have imagined the terrible work that lay before him that evening—the terrible, doubtful meeting with his enemies at Twyford Buildings first of all and then, if he should happen to survive that meeting, the equally terrible meeting with the admirable and beloved Julia afterwards. About five in the afternoon he called the clerk, Ife, and said to him:

"I am requesting Durrant and Co. to make me a tender and specification for the repair of No. 7, Twyford Buildings. I want to beg you, therefore, to take a scuttle of coals in a cab and to get me a roaring fire lighted there in that large first floor just at the top of the stair. Go now and, in going away from the place after lighting the fire, be careful to leave the front door a little open for Durrant's man when he goes."

Before six o'clock, then, a fire was burning in that room of No. 7, Twyford Buildings. At Fenchurch Street Hartwell signed letters, and wound up the day's work. One by one the clerks went away. But he still remained alone in the office, doing nothing, pacing his room, glancing frequently at the clock, till it was 7.15 p.m. That was the hour at which Barnes was to be at Twyford Buildings in the lighted room. At 7.30 Kirk was to be standing in the alley before the door, waiting for Hartwell to come to him. Hartwell intended to be punctual in keeping his appointment with Kirk, but he wished Barnes to spend the quarter of an hour between 7.15 and 7.30 on a stretch of nervous expectancy. At 7.15 it was time for him to start. He went down, knowing that Mary Liskeard was there in the street near the outer door. He had seen her arrival from a window of the office, but he passed her with a rush and a run, and got himself safely into a cab.

He had caused her, as he had caused Barnes, to believe that this night was her last chance, and the deranged woman, all possessed with her mania and her mission, was eager to seize it. She followed Hartwell in another cab, as he expected that she would. At this hour Barnes was standing lonely and lurking, with an intense ear and an alert pistol, in the room with the fire in the Twyford Buildings house.

The night was thick with a London fog, very cold and very dark; the lights in the streets and in the shops seemed to smoulder; all was uproar, gloom, and dull fires; and London resembled an extinct, but still howling, Tartarus. Nearly all the interior of No. 7, Twyford Buildings was about as black as it could be. Only that one room with the fire in it jigged in an ecstatic indecision between light and shadow.

While Hartwell and Mary Liskeard were on their way in two cabs, the jockey, Kirk, arrived punctually at Twyford Buildings at 7.29, and stood at the door of No. 7, waiting to see Hartwell come. Twyford Buildings is a narrow alley of some ten houses on each side. It is not passable to vehicles, for at its east end are two barrier-posts, and at its west one of the houses projects, this house being joined to the opposite house by an arch. Two lanterns hanging outside two of the houses light its cosy wretchedness. A rare woman or a child may be seen lounging in a doorway, always looking terribly poor.

Hartwell alighted in Holborn at the Royal Music Hall, and ran southward down a passage toward Lincoln's Inn Fields with his eyes in his back, for he knew that the woman was trotting after him in heavy, stealthy haste. He came to the two barrier-posts and turned westward into Twyford Buildings, and instantly Kirk slipped within the door of No. 7, as Hartwell had bidden him do.

Hartwell, too, slipping some moments after Kirk within the door, whispered quickly into Kirk's ear: "Perhaps we had better change hats," and he whipped off Kirk's Homburg hat, and put his own silk, hat on Kirk's head. He then caught up the light weight of the jockey on his back, as had been arranged, and now with sounding steps he walked down the passage toward the stair, half-expecting meanwhile Mary Liskeard's knife in someone's back, though not in his own, which Kirk protected. But, in fact, he was nearly up the stairs before the woman entered the darkness of the passage, and there stood uncertain what to do next, for she could not see the stair, and though she heard Hartwell's footsteps, she did not know where they were.

But, in any case, the poor Kirk was doomed: for if he escaped the woman, there remained for him Barnes. Barnes heard the loud coming step, the step of a heavy man like Hartwell. He had quite closed the door in order to have the first short chance at the opening, but still the coming footsteps were distinct, and Barnes stood near behind the door, alert to shoot the first shot, for he believed that Hartwell was about to shoot him.

When Hartwell came to the door, he deposited Kirk without making a sound, whispering at the same time very softly into Kirk's ear the two words, "In here." Kirk turned the handle of the door, opened it, and looked in, as he moved to enter. And the moment Barnes' eyes were aware in the dancing firelignt of a human being and a silk hat, prompt as lightning he fired, and Kirk dropped, shot through the head. At the same time Hartwell made off stealthily on tip-toe up the passage in which the door of that room stood.

As for Mary Liskeard, the effect upon her nerves of that shot may be imagined. She was in a strange house surrounded with darkness, and she sickened at the unknown on hearing the report of Barnes' pistol. She hid in one of the rooms below, opening upon the passage, her body shaken in an agitation almost like that of epilepsy. But she would not run. She waited for Hartwell to come down to go out. During his passage from the stair to the door her mission would be fulfilled.

Barnes, meantime, understood by the fire light that he had not shot the murderer of his daughter. He stood over the body. Certainly, Kirk was not Drayton. And now panic took hold of Barnes, for awful is the thing done, far awfuller than the thing projected. It appears in a different light, it cannot, moreover, be undone. Barnes smote his brow, this was not Drayton. All thought of avenging his daughter that night vanished instantly from his mind, for one corpse, like one dinner, is enough for one night. Barnes' only instinct for the moment was flight from what he had done, and he fled.

But Mary Liskeard in her room below, hearing the hurried, light step coming down the stairs, thought that it was "Drayton," as she could not help thinking, for the pistol shot fired by Barnes at Kirk was to Mary Liskeard a shot fired by "Drayton" at her; she had therefore the idea that Drayton had decoyed her into this house to do her to death, for she knew that he knew of her continual spying on him. She had the natural instinct, therefore, that since "Drayton" had decoyed her there for such a purpose the house would be empty. Any step, therefore, which she might hear would certainly be "Drayton's" and the stealthy haste with which Barnes came down confirmed her in her certainty that Barnes was "Drayton," for she felt without thinking, that "Drayton," after firing his shot at her, must have lost her, and now was escaping, lest she should come upon and kill him in the dark. She could see nothing, but when Barnes was very near to her in the passage, into which she had slipped out from her hiding-place, she could discern a form. And he dropped so heavily as to make the old house tremble, for she had stabbed him in the left temple.

At that moment, before the woman could run out, Hartwell himself appeared at the top of the stairs, hatless, holding a lighted candle. The woman looked alternately from him to the wounded man at her feet; and severely, with bright eyes, Hartwell looked down at her. This silent gazing and looking lasted, perhaps, as long as a minute. Then the woman moved, big as she was, with the movement of a panther—swift, stealthy, and cruel, she moved toward Hartwell.

Hartwell sent a howl at her.

"Do not pursue me, Mary Liskeard!" he passionately shouted, "these rooms are full of pitfalls! Let it not be said that I was the cause of your death, Mary!"

Out he puffed the candle, and ran. But she was close upon him, deaf to his counsel, the knife in her hand. He could actually hear behind him the short breaths of her heavy haste. They ran the length of the first floor down a passage which lay between rooms on either hand, then into a room on the left, then through room after room, doors banging after their flight, mostly through perfect darkness, with only his footfalls to guide her course, she all blown and panting, with feeble little womanly cries of "Oh!" and "Stop him!" and "My daughter!" Hartwell knew that several of these rooms had traps for the passage of merchandise from one floor to the other, and he knew in which of them the traps were, but as for her, she ran quite blindly, though she chanced always to escape, till the race brought them to a doorway without a floor, opening sheer upon the yard at the back of the house. Hartwell knew it, and since she was close behind him, leapt through the door, alighting safe on his toes and palms twenty feet below; but Mary Liskeard expected no drop, ran on through the door after him, and with all that weight came down with a child's outcry. The yard was paved with small cobble stones. When Hartwell bent over her, he found that she was dead.

He entered the house by a window, went upon the stair, took his hat from Kirk's head, passed by Barnes lying on his face in the passage on the ground floor, and went away, leaving the door wide open. Hartwell thought that Barnes was dead, or he would not have left him lying there without assistance, but Barnes was not dead. Later in the night Barnes was found hanging half out of the front door. The knife had penetrated the left temple, wounding that part of the brain which doctors call "Broca's area." A wound just there on the left side means dumbness, and also paralysis of the right side of the body, and this was thenceforth Barnes' wrecked condition.

Barnes could neither tell nor write what had happened. When the police subsequently inquired in Fenchurch Street why the door of No. 7, Twyford Buildings had been left open that night, they were told that it was in order that a building contractor might go over it, and Barnes' wound and the two deaths remained one of the unsolved mysteries. It was supposed that the woman had stabbed Barnes, shot Kirk, and then committed suicide.

As for Hartwell, on leaving Twyford Buildings, his enemies having thus destroyed one another, he dined at a restaurant, and took a cab to Brook Street, in order to keep his appointment, with the fair Julia.


XVI. — HARTWELL PAINS A LADY

The frank and admirable Julia met Hartwell on the stairs as he came up, and led him by the hand to a narrow, long drawing-room, with a full-length crayon of herself at one of the narrow ends, and an alabaster hearthplace at the opposite end. In the room sat "Aunt Margaret" (Lady Wisden), a very faded and bejewelled type, fifty years of age if she was a day. Her much-painted face had the crude glaring look of amateurish water-colour sketches, not pleasing to the male eye; her cheek-bones were high, twin thrones on which sat Rouge; her lips thin; She sat on a couch near the hearthplace, and with her demurely sat the young Bobbie Hartwell.

Julia had only recently come in, her hat was still on her head, and at once on Hartwell's entrance she began flurriedly to talk, saying anything that came to her lips, as if afraid of a moment's silence.

"Here, you see," she said, "is your new Bobbie: he has made me play him a Traumbild, and has been reciting 'The Lotus-eaters' for Aunt Margaret, who flatters me with the assurance that he resembles me! He is charming with his accent and his freshness, but will spoil within two years, for all the debutantes will fall in love—"

"Why is he here?" asked Hartwell. "As for the debutantes, they shall not see him much, the young man shall be in his workshop."

Hartwell's lips were pressed together with a firm expression. He was rather pale. The scene at No. 7, Twyford Buildings, from which he had lately come, had not been a happy one, and he foresaw that the scene to which he was now come might be even more trying to his strength of will. He was therefore in no drawing-room mood and, even as he shook hands with Lady Wisden, he said:

"My visit must be short, if you will pardon my abruptness. You, my young friend, will at once take yourself off whithersoever your whim may lead you. Pardon me, I am not quite well to-night."

Silence fell at this. Julia shot a glance at Hartwell, and changed colour at the severe and iron look of his face. The boy at once rose blushing, shook hands with Julia and Hartwell, and was about to shake hands with Aunt Margaret, when she said to him, "I am coming, too," and followed the boy out.

Hartwell and Julia were left alone. Hartwell sat on the small Sheraton couch near the fire, on which Lady Wisden and Bobbie had been sitting. Julia stood a little way off, somewhat behind him, looking at him. Hartwell looked into the fire, leaning over his umbrella-handle, looking prim as usual, the umbrella being neatly folded, his gloves on, with all the buttons buttoned, and his beard having a vague parting down the middle from which the hair was brushed away on each side, giving the effect, of a certain provincial-French primness and neatness, especially in connection with the rather finical pressure of the thick lips, with the definite point in the middle of the upper. This parting of the beard, and brushing it aside, was a very un-Drayton-like thing, for the dead Drayton would never have done it, but it was a very Hartwell-like one; and it had attracted some notice.

While Hartwell looked at the fire in this way, Julia stood silent, scared, drawn up to her tall length, a little behind him. She had now thrown her hat from her, and stood handsomely dressed in an over-skirt of black silk muslin, her chest well bared, with heliotrope orchids at her waist, and on her neck and chest a necklace of pearls which had been given her by Drayton, and was purposely worn by her for this meeting, because she thought that it was the beloved Hartwell who had given it to her.

Hartwell, too, looking at the fire was silent, inwardly strengthening himself, thinking to himself "a man should at all costs be a man," till Julia, making a sudden decision on the rising within her of a feeling of trust and confidence in him, went and sat on a yellow-satin stool at his feet, all her length gracefully coiled down almost to the level of his knee. And he, with a tender and relenting smile of the eye, looked down upon the soft, wave-fabric of her hair.

Nothing was said on either side for some time, till she, scared afresh by this silence, broke into a rather nervous mock-gaiety, saying gallopingly the first thing that entered her head, with apprehensive eyebrows and little upward glances at him all the time.

Hartwell hardly heard what was being said, till she went on to tell some tale about Oswald, when he more or less understood what she was relating.

"I must tell you," she was saying: "I have had a definite 'offer,' if you please—your brother Oswald. I have captivated a family! Or not quite definite, perhaps, but tending that way. He stood just there—two nights ago—bowing a little, smiling a little, his hands held stubbornly behind him, even as he offered me one of them. He drawled, and he droned, and he accumulated hints, till his meaning emerged, while I tingled at the distinction. He had heard that his good James was no longer in the running. Everyone had heard, and expected it, and he hoped that he might prove the acceptable Abel to your Cain. I really thought of 'c,a,n,e.' Fatuity of him! I replied that everybody had heard wrongly, and I always liked elder brothers—"

But now she broke off in the midst of the unreal prattle, glancing up with a pretty dismay at him, for there he still sat, saying nothing, bent over the handle of his umbrella, and gazing at the fire. And again scared, she ran off anew into talk about his approaching cruise in the Sempronia, saying that she had asked so-and-so, as he had bid her, and intended to be charming in the smartest yachting costume that had ever been devised and built. But again she broke down in this pretence to herself and to him that nothing was the matter, and now, looking up appealingly, she said to Hartwell:

"What is all the mystery?"

To Julia's query, Hartwell had perforce to reply. He spoke thus:

"You are dear to my heart, Julia. I cannot refuse to myself the triumph of repeating to you that profound verity. But what you expect from me now is not such avowals, but rather some explanation of my abrupt departure from Castle Moran, and of my absence from your side since then, after weakly permitting you to give expression to your gentle inclinations towards me. This explanation it is not easy to give, Julia—no, not easy. But I say now, definitely, that many things peremptorily prohibit our nearer union. Ah! I astonish, I give you pain, my dear one. I am much to be pitied that I needs must."

"But what things prohibit?" she cried, with a terrified expression on her face, "there were no things before!"

"There always were, there are still. I say that I was never half worthy of you, nor am now."

"Really! but surely you might permit me to decide that for myself, James, as I have the right, and the power, to do. I know you now quite thoroughly, though I didn't before, and there isn't any woman on any throne who wouldn't be glad—I laugh, if that is the reason."

"It is, nevertheless, a real, an abundant reason, Julia," said Hartwell with great earnestness. "Your words are sweet, but let me not allow myself to be enticed by them. You have formed a mirage of me in the cells of your mind which has no objective reality. Not even in the least am I what I seem to you. I know myself, I know you, and I compare the two."—now Hartwell proceeded to give her a lecture on her merits, with a certain professorial zest in his own choice of words—"In that glory of your eyes, now purple, now black as pools of ink, dwells all sincerity. Words which on other lips are the most trivial, have when uttered by you a memorable distinction and sweetness. What an emblem of purity to me is your soft cheek, just brushed with pollen-dusts of purplish and rose, like the colored rind of the peach! Your soft and wavy hair—dove brown—If the Madonna had been you, surely I should have been a Christian, Julia! The two delicate curves of your face running from the thick of each cheek to the tip of the chin, between which as in a sunshiny dale your smile resides. Your small-facedness, like the racehorse; the undiminished breadth of the upper part of your forehead; the marble nobility there presiding; your long-drawn shapeliness; your princess presence; your athlete freedom; the perfection of your whole skeleton; your lips compounded of the flesh of water-lily and withering petals of the rose—All these are the signs of an aristocracy of organisation, Julia, with which my gross clay must not aspire to mate itself. No! such pleasures are not for me and, with pain, I have to renounce them."

"But what a list of me!" cried Julia fondly. "Was over woman so exalted with flattery so weighty and judicial, like blue-books and statistics? My hair, my skeleton—I am enamored of myself!—and the lips last of all for dessert, and liqueurs. But that is not how 'I' like 'you,' James, in little sips; I like you at one gallant draught, like the Three Mousquetaires."

Hartwell had the impulse to touch her hand so strongly, that the restraint of it caused him to groan inwardly, while he made the half-absent remark:

"But we are made of little sips, we are colonies of cells."

"No, nothing about cells, now, James," answered Julia firmly. "How can you, when our hearts ore heavy? And why should they be heavy? You have not given me any reason! You give me pain, then."

"Let me be pitied! because I must. There are real reasons. We are not to be mated, we are different as the Poles. If you knew me, you might hate, you would despise, me. I say that I am an utterly selfish thing; selfish in principle, hard, pitiless on occasion; a—liar; what you would call an atheist—"

"You don't believe in God, really? and the next world?" asked the excellent Julia.

"The next world is the moon," replied Hartwell, "and is therefore moonshine. Of course, Julia, I believe in the moon. As to believing in God, I believe in nothing else, since nothing else exists; but my God, who, I assure you, is the one and true God, is so essentially different from yours, that you would, I say, assuredly call me atheist, or at least atheous—"

"What do I care?" said Julia suddenly, quietly, with a pout, "your God is sure to be the real one. I have got mine from hearsay, and you have thought about yours. Isn't thought all mixed up with that little superior smile in the eye? and like an old monarch throned among the cares of empire on your forehead. Whatever you are in that way, it is certain that I am, too, James. What do I care? But confess, James, is not our discussion just now about atheism a trifle unreal?"

Hartwell keenly felt its unrealness, for Julia was a modern woman-of-the-world, taking the world and its good things as she found them—its balls and its villas, its hunting, fencing, and music, without giving herself any headaches about whence it all came, or why it was all here, or whither it all went. Such questions only haunt naturally inquisitive minds, or else minds wracked with pain and sorrow, and Julia had had no sorrow so far, and no time to be inquisitive about such matters. Hartwell's suggestion, therefore, that she should give him up because he was "atheous" was felt to be unreal by both of them, for the admirable Julia was herself rather "atheous." Such talk was, in fact, merely a beating about the bush, and a putting off of the hard thing which had to be said. Hartwell's eyes closed in a silent agony, his palm laid lightly on his hair, for she was driving him step by step toward the statement which he had come to make, but shrank more from than he had shrunk from Mary Liskeard's knife or Barnes' revolver.

"Not real!" he answered gruffly, with an unreal emphasis. "I am as hard of heart as Nature herself. I tell you now that every day I tell a thousand lies. I am at this moment, in a way undreamable by you, lieing to you—even, Julia, to you. I am fresh, as I sit here, from callously watching the execution of three persons who dared to wish me ill. These things, approved by my reason, must be hateful to yours. I am utterly selfish—"

"But what do I care?" asked Julia, deaf to all this. "You are not selfish. You are unselfish to me, that is all I care about. Are you not at this moment breaking your heart—I can see, you know—for my sake, because you have got it into your head that it would somehow be bad for me to marry you? Is that unselfish, or not?"

"Darling of my heart—Yes, even that is selfish for, by a mystery, I love you better than I love myself, and your hurt would be greater pain to me than this hewing off of my right arm which I now do. Julia, Julia, you must give me up. Julia, you must. I beseech, I bid you—"

"But it all sounds so unreal!" she said pleadingly. "Oh, think of my maimed life! At least, let one know some reason! I seem to be in a nightmare, I understand nothing.

"Dear! you should not, you should not! Give—me up? and part with everything? up the ghost—!"

"It may—possibly—kill me," said Hartwell. "You are too young, too pliant, to die; and time will assuredly solace your discomfort. A day may even come when you will feel yourself disposed, Julia, to further the evolution of our human race by casting into its life-whirlpool the products of your excellent motherhood. The cells, the brain, whose purely physiological interaction causes love—"

"No cells—I won't hear," cried Julia! "Cells is only a subterfuge to conceal from yourself that you are bitterly suffering, and you won't tell me why, that I may comfort you. Oh, what has happened? Why, you were always my constant lackey before the accident, running to do my whims, but now you are different—you part your beard under the chin, and brush it neatly aside, and insist on cells and apes—and now when I like like you, like you, like you, to leave me!

"Frankly I could not bear it. You don't know what a thing is in me for you, dear. And no real reason, none—none is conceivable—it is only a love-whim. Cell me no cells! Let's talk of prison-cells—arms that more lock themselves by pulling—Will you? See, I woo you!"

Now, in her panic of losing him, she collected and lavished upon him all her passion and power of beautiful serpent, morbid dove, and love-sick woman, pleading, fondling, tempting, laughing, crying, working hard to seduce his senses and enchain his will, with a yearning, upward gaze in her eyes—"I woo you. Be good to me now. You shall, you shall. Look into my eyes, gaze, you like them half-closed? languishing in love-liquor?

"Am I divine when I am impassioned? You never saw me—my eyes turn black. (Oh, if I were to fail—!) And the lips, you may be rough, and yet kind, Jimmy—what did you say of them? 'composed of lily and rose-leaf,' with a dash of woman's blood, just to kiss with, and a snake in the flowers to infect you with the malignant sweet o' me. No, don't try, you can't cope with the resources of the woman you love. You may slight me till the moment I choose, and then I'll drown you in surprises. I'm wily—you remember Uncle Toby and the widow. Don't try—James, my own, how strongly you love me! With what wings I love you! Let's be chums, near and dear, shall we? Then I will cast the products of my excellent motherhood wildly into a whirlpool, if only their father be—biological. Is it agreed now, then? He likes my face on his knee, kiss—then? Now? I'll taste sweeter than honeydew and milk of Paradise!—Now? Eh? No, really, really, you should not push my head away, James, really, no. Oh! how very fatal! What, are you still stern then? But—great Heavens!—what a disastrous thing!"

Hartwell had sprung up roughly, white to the lips, she still sitting on the foot-stool, staring up in a wide-eyed scare at him, apprehensive of his next moods, understanding now that this was no dallying or "love-whim, but the wounding of her life in earnest. And, in fact, Hartwell's next words were monstrous, brutally direct and unequivocal. Turned toward the fire, with his back to her, and looking downward, he pronounced the words:

"I happen to be already—married. I had been married some years when—I—engaged myself to you. I was, indeed, merely a low ruffian. And my wife probably lives."

It was all that was left to Hartwell to say! He might, indeed, have told her that he was not Drayton, but a poor working-man, that Drayton was married, but not Hartwell. But at that time he was certain that in either case he must lose her. Neither Drayton nor Hartwell, it seemed to him, could marry her, for Drayton was already married and Hartwell was a Birmingham working-man. In telling her that he was Drayton and married, he lost her, but kept Drayton's wealth and estate. If he had revealed to her that he was not the married Drayton, but the widower Hartwell, who was a working-man and an impostor, it seemed to him that he would have lost both her and Drayton's wealth and estate also.

Hartwell, looking down at the fire with his back half-turned to Julia, did not glance at her for a minute or so after making his declaration that he was already married. He waited for her to speak, but she said nothing. When at last the corners of his eyes did take her in, he saw that her face was laid sidewards on the couch, there where she sat on the foot-stool. Her eyes were closed, and it was a face as screwed in silent pain as that of a woman pierced with neuralgia, or torture of the thumb-screw. This Hartwell could not stand, and with a severe flash of the eyes and a seizure of his umbrella, as though he were snatching it from someone, he made off, trembling, grumbling something, without having once looked directly at her.

She, for her part, must have become quickly conscious of her loneliness, for half-way down the stairs he heard her scream after him. She had leapt up with the cry: "But it couldn't be true—"

This sound only the more hurried his headlong steps. He got his hat in an agitated dream, and rushed from the house into the foggy night, shaken to the depths, horrified at his own ruthlessness, and frightened at his desolate future.


XVII. — HARTWELL SAILS THE SEAS

Hartwell's projected yachting-party in the Sempronia never became a fact for, five days after his break with Julia, the invited guests learned with astonishment that Hartwell had gone alone. He took no one with him save Dulaunay and a young Creole doctor, named Kinsey, whom he had got by advertising for a doctor, and for nearly three years the yacht was Hartwell's home.

Those years must be rapidly passed over, in order that we may follow what afterwards happened, and that the narrative may not become too long.

Hartwell had furnished one of the Sempronia's stately rooms with the fittings and apparatus of a laboratory, promising himself some forgetfulness of Julia, in scientific research on the sea. But this hope did not come to very much, on account of the state of his health. He was a troubled wanderer, a dyspeptic guest in the world, with a confirmed acidity of the stomach, and whatever he ate, or saw or experienced, had bitterness in it for him.

Unknown to anyone, he returned to London toward the end of the season that first year, leaving Dulaunay on the yacht, and he spent two weeks in a secluded incognito at a West-End hotel. There he made the acquaintance of a certain old major who knew everyone's movements, and by the gossip of this old major, as well as by what appeared in the newspapers, Hartwell could follow the goings and comings of Julia, who was being ground in the usual Society mill. One night he lay in wait among a mass of carriages outside the Empress Rooms where she was a hostess at a poudre-ball that night, and he caught a glimpse of her. Then, once again he saw her through a glass darkly at Newmarket, he being a long distance from her, for he did not wish her to see him. And again one Sunday on the lawn opposite Stanhope Gate he saw her, this time with a long look, for he was directly behind her. She was talking with two men, and seemed gay enough. On none of these three occasions did she suspect that he was anywhere near her.

He had put himself into the hands of a stomach-specialist when he first arrived in London from his ship, but he returned to the sea grievously ill. There seemed to be no cure in the world for his splenetic sickness.

One midnight Dulaunay and the "chief" were leaning over the taffrail of the Sempronia, smoking. Earlier in the night a troupe of dancing-girls and jugglers had been on board for a dinner given by the ship to the podesta and grandi of the white town under the hills inland, and this merriment had kept the count from his bed. The sea lay with hardly a wave on it, the ship was as dim and lonely as a cloister, the moon was in the sky, and the universe looked an Italian universe all stained in that bluest blue in which clothes are washed. Suddenly, as the two men smoked and chatted, looking over the sea, a quiet step passed behind them. Dulaunay turned and saw Hartwell, who was in pyjamas, with bare feet, and the count put up his hand to the "chief" with a gesture which meant. "You wait;" and he himself followed Hartwell.

Hartwell was asleep. He walked three quarters of the Sempronia's length—a considerable distance, for she was a long, low craft of 3,000 tons, with three masts and one funnel. Then, as though he could see, he turned into a lane between the smoking room and a skylight, strange sounds coming from him all the time, groans, little whimpers of trouble. And back they went toward the poop, Dulaunay dogging Hartwell's steps, step for step, to the stair, down to the main deck, and so into Hartwell's bedroom. The electric light was shining in the room, and Dulaunay could see the blank and solemn-looking white of the sleeper's eyes as, standing before a mirror, Hartwell uttered sound upon sound of suffering. His right hand slowly and falteringly lifted, and pointing with a limp finger at his own image in the glass, he mumbled:

"I know that you are not Drayton, but myself. Let it not be said that I have ever feared you."

When Dulaunay touched his hand, Hartwell started awake, uttered a sob, and was presently induced to lie on his bed.

These nocturnal pilgrimages had become not uncommon with Hartwell of late.

Dulaunay went up puzzling his brains as to the meaning of those words: "You are not Drayton, but myself," for if Drayton was himself, yet not Drayton, who, then, was Drayton? That was a fine question in the metaphysic.

The excellent count had become Hartwell's very faithful nurse and friend. Together they went to Puyde-Dome to visit an old chateau among the mountain ranges of Upper Auvergne, where Dulaunay's mother and sister lived. They were the last representatives of the Counts d'Artenset, very poor, but very proud in a French way, and still highly honored by the peasantry who lived in those hills. The home-coming of Dulaunay, who was the reigning count, was made the occasion of a fete in three villages, and here, in the half-ruined chateau, Hartwell spent a pleasant fortnight. Three days of it, indeed, he spent in bed, but the other days were passed in the enjoyment of an old-world atmosphere of quietness and culture, and of the charms of the two ladies' society. There were other chateaux and a copper mine in the neighborhood, and to these he took drives with the ladies through natural beauties, for which he had always the keenest eye.

In going south from there to join the Sempronia at Genoa, during a week in Milan he one night caught sight of Julia and Lady Wisden at an opera at the Scala. Then a long time passed before he saw her again. The interval was filled by random cruisings; all the coasts of the Eastern and Western Mediterranean, Norway and the Baltic, from St. Petersburg to Odessa, were leisurely visited, and now Hartwell and the count were in an atmosphere of brigandage and coloured clothes in a Sicilian mountain world. Now in casinos, and now among Byzantine palaces, and tombs of the Osmanlis. For two months Hartwell was trying the bromo-iodine treatment of Salsomaggiore, but whether or no this might have done him good, if he had continued there, he had to go away to attend a series of Imperial functions at Moscow, without feeling any the better for the treatment. Hartwell was now known in Europe not merely as a rich man, but as a thinker, and had become familiar with the life of Courts, for in the second year he had published an essay on the "Causes of Evolution," and the small work had been widely translated and "crowned." This pamphlet, which was supposed to be marked by great "scientific imagination," traced in a detailed and remarkable way the probable history of the change from ape into man, the main reason, according to Hartwell, being the so-called Glacial Period, an event which forced the apes to light fires, or else be frozen. And this thesis, which was apparently new to the scientific world, caused him to be decorated at Berlin, and to be made a Fellow of the Societies.

From time to time he paid a flying visit to England. Twice he saw his son, Bobbie, once at the estate in Bucks, and once at Rugby, where Hartwell himself had been "educated." One dark midnight he stood for a long time looking at the factory in Birmingham in which he had for many years been a workman, and he dropped a ten-pound note into the letter-box of an old workman friend.

He was now free of "business," save of such as arose from the estates and from a continued stream of correspondence. He had pensioned all the older members of Drayton's staff, and he could be liberal, as not only the widow McCalmont found, but as the hosts of begging letter-writers—the hospitals, societies, missions, etc.—sometimes found: but, on the whole, the saying went that Drayton had become "more close-fisted" with his money.

As to Corton Chantry, in Norfolk, Hartwell knew nothing of it, save that one of his agents paid taxes for a comparatively unimportant property in ruins somewhere down there. No woodman, no servant there had even called upon Hartwell to recognise his or her existence. He assumed that the old place was given over to the bats, and practically forgot that there was such a place. But one day when he was in harbour at Ajaccio, for the second time with in three years there reached him a letter from a Norwich Bank reminding him that "the second £400 deposited for the use of Steve Anderson was nearly exhausted," and again he wondered, as he had wondered before, who this Steve Anderson could be, and sent a cheque for a further £400 to the bank for Steve Anderson's use.

Sometimes a hope would strike like lightning through Hartwell's breast; "Perhaps 'the wife' is dead! She gives no signs, no sign, that 'wife' who 'screams.'" If "the wife" was only dead, Julia was still unmarried, and might still be his. At the end of each year he had searched the newspapers for every day of it, to see if Julia was engaged. Her movements were recorded, he followed her in fancy wherever she went, from country house to casa, from city to kurhaus, but she remained unengaged.

Sometimes he had another hope, vague enough, that "the wife" might not really be a wife. But one idle day—it was in Bucks—while rummaging in an old trunk full of papers in a bed-room once used by Drayton, he came upon a marriage certificate, the certificate of Drayton's marriage. Drayton had married his wife in the town of Colesburg, South Africa, fifteen years before, she at the time of her marriage with him being a widow of twenty, named Martha Harper.

If Hartwell happened to stay a few days at Addison Road, he saw the bald head of Oswald, who was every month a more fossilised dawdler toward old fogeyism and an empty old age. Oswald, is the "villain" of our history, and we may wish that we had a more terrible and orthodox villain, but we must represent him as he really was. Always still embarrassed for money, Oswald lived in a weary limbo of clubs, bets, debts, and other people's dinner. The Gissings seemed gone forever, Oswald's dreary brain could get no nearer the implication of his brother in the murder of Letty Barnes. "James'" indigestion of body and mind would permit of no further "reasonings" for the present on that fascinating subject, "James'" visits to town were too flying for reasonings, and "James'" cheque-book remained a dream to Oswald.

Oswald had only this one spiteful joy, that "James" and Julia were, evidently, permanently parted. Oswald did not yet despair of Julia, he saw her often. She even seemed of late to like his society in a special way. Someone had suggested to him that this might be only because he was "James'" brother, but Oswald knew better. He had a queer, fixed figment of a thought in his head that, since she had accepted Cain, she must needs accept Abel. He meant to try Julia again some day, and this mania, which was destined to bear him disastrous fruit, grew in Oswald.

Once when Hartwell was spending a night at the house in Addison Road, Oswald said to him:

"There is Corton Chantry, why not let me renovate the old shooting-box, Jimmy, as my man, Magee, suggests—it would cost precious little, I suppose—and call it my country house for the present? It will be mine some day by the entail, of course, supposing I outlive you, and you leave no heir. Those unpreserved old coverts must be running wild with pheasants and poachers. I might take some men down there for a month's fun. May I?"

And to this Hartwell answered:

"I suppose you may, if you like."

Hartwell went away that time very sick, weary of Europe and of life, and determined to start for the Far East from Marseilles, where the Sempronia lay. In order to get to Marseilles he went to Paris, where he met Dulaunay and the mulatto, Dr Kinsey. He had thought that Julia also was in Paris, but when he got there he learned that she had left Paris two days before, for her Cannes villa. Upon this Hartwell, Dulaunay, and Kinsey set off for Cannes, neither Hartwell himself nor either of the two at all knowing why they were going to Cannes but, in fact, a whisper was growing urgent and more urgent in Hartwell's mind, which said to him:

"Suppose you tell her that 'the wife' is dead or suppose you tell her that it was not really true that you are married, and so save your own life, even if you ruin hers." This temptation, which was as strong as a rope that drew him, more and more, drew Hartwell toward Julia.

The three men arrived at Cannes, and on the second night after their arrival, Hartwell was on the grounds of the Villa Borgia-Costi, where Julia was. It was already a late hour when he entered the grounds, but after prowling for another hour about the olive grove and elaborate "water works" of the villa, he got a sight of her, as she sat alone in a boudoir, writing letters. By leaning aside on a water-butt, with his weight supported by his left palm, he could peep in at a window and watch her, but even as he looked, her face was hidden from him, for she laid it on the table at which she was writing, and kept it so a long time. About her bent form fell the draperies of a white tea-gown. He saw the bare back of her neck, and her bare forearms which were crossed over the table, on which also he saw his pamphlet on Evolution, and Hartwell's heart beat wildly against his side, as all the trees of the grove seemed to whisper him: "Tell her, since she will like the lie," and the cicada chirped to him, "Tell her, Hartwell, and get some sleep for yourself," but when she raised her self with a despondently-shaken head, suddenly his eye flashed severely, he muttered: "No! let this be the last of such fooling," and he went away.

That this unfed hankering near about her must sooner or later bring him to the hospital or the grave the worthy Hartwell saw, and now he made haste to put the breadth of the earth between her and him. He went, as he had intended, to the Far East, peeped at the Mongolian Courts, saw the reproachful eyes of old Gissing at Hong Kong, visited the islands of spice, and after nine months of the East returned with a dark pale face, thinner cheeks, and health so broken, that only a mulish power of will any longer kept him on his feet. Weary of the barren world of the sea, he now settled awhile in a feudal rocca, or fortress, small but impregnably perched among mountain crags not far from Siena, and here again he heard of Julia. She had come to Siena from Venice for the July festival which they call "Palio delle Contrade," and was occupying with her aunt one of those grim palaces of the fourteenth century—a vast, dark block of building, near the centre of the town.


XVIII. — HARTWELL GETS A NURSE

Into whatever town Dulaunay went, if there was no gaiety there, his mere presence evoked it. Hartwell's bankers and letter-of-credit connections presented the count among the best people; he went out and was gay, while Hartwell secluded himself at home, throeing with his indigestion of the world; and everywhere the count left behind him at least one love-lorn lady, one sighing heart.

Dulaunay met Julia for the first time at a function at the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena, and returning to the castle among the hills at three in the morning, found Hartwell in a dressing gown pacing the flag-stones of his bedroom, which was on the ground floor of the little moschio (or donjon) of the fortress. A large book lay open on the stone table in the room, which was lighted with four tallow candles stuck on an iron bar.

"Mon Dieu, sir!" murmured Dulaunay, stopping short with bated breath and a rueful face, "but this is not that which you promised me as to going to bed."

"Let it not be said, Dulaunay," answered Hartwell, still pacing, "that the servant is above his Lord. I act as I please, sir."

"Good! very good." The count threw himself upon a wooden settee, tired out and there was silence for a time, till, deliberately collecting his five finger-tips into a bunch, the worthy and excellent count put them to his lips, kissed them away, and sighed.

Hartwell's eyes softened into their genial smile, and he said:

"Dulaunay, I see that you have been losing your heart for the thousandth time."

"Ah, "Draytong", there are not but the English women, after all," answered the count.

"Are there, then, some English in Siena?" asked Hartwell.

"Imagine, sir, the head of Aphrodite on the body of Artemis! Figure yourself, "Draytong", a human woman whose father was a dove, and whose mother was a peach—"

"Ah! she is cross-bred."

"But, sir, I do not say it to make laugh! It is really so in a certain sense! whose father was a mourning dove, and whose mother was a peach: whose grandfather was a swan, and whose grandmother was a violet: it is too strong, you know."

"Do not add that the great-grandfather was a pork-man, Dulaunay," said Hartwell.

"And she waltzes! ah, she waltzes! like a trailing long wisp of hay in the arms of the whirlwind! and her hair cannot be kept from growing loose, as she dances."

"Well, then, may the fervor be reciprocal."

"But I think it: I have reason to think it!" cried the count: "I know the signs—. She is not one of them who will be too difficult to the favorite, provided he be not a novice, while all the rest of the men would only lose their Latin with her. I have already my plan of siege laid to the last detail. Three things, "Draytong", make the women ours—the gratitude, the pity, and the vanity—in exciting the gratitude in a young girl of family, the pity in a married woman, and the vanity in a widow. The first I make gay, the second I make sad, the third I make to blush—when that is possible: if I make her to blush, the hour has struck, she is mine. Now this divinity is a widow: but a wise general knows how to change his tactics in the different cases—"

"What, by the way, is her name?" asked Hartwell suddenly:

"Lady Methwold."

"Ah?"

"But, sir, you find yourself bad—?" Hartwell had not known that Julia was near to him: he stood a minute with closed eyes and his palm laid lightly on his hair; then, sittings on the settee, he rested his forehead on Dulaunay's shoulder, for he was not strong at that time.

Dulaunay had no suspicion that Hartwell even knew Julia, and during the two weeks which followed that night, the count brought home daily news of his progressive love-story. At first Hartwell heard it absent-mindedly: but when it became evident that Julia must really be quite unusually intimate with the Count d'Artenset, Hartwell's interest quickened: and from that hour the situation became charged with danger. In Hartwell's nature ordinarily jealousy had little place, but from day to day he now more than ever sickened; he could hardly eat anything; his nights were more than ever dark and wretched; life seemed to his atrabiliar eyes a thing all crape and gloom; and he lost all taste and interest in everything, save in Dulaunay's intrigue, to whose details he would hearken with a flashing eye and a lip white with agitation.

Wherever Julia was or went, there, it was evident to Hartwell, the count also was to be found: Julia herself seemed to desire, and devise this. Dulaunay was almost daily at the old palazzo, grim With its barred window-slits, where Julia lived: he would stroll up with her to the cathedral, or to the church of St. Dominic, among those steep and winding alleys of Siena, whose succession of arches make them mere arcades of mediaeval dimness, haunted, as it were, by the ghost of Dante; they met at hill-picnics and dances, or strolled together at sunset among the meadows, orchards, and mulberry groves of the valley; there was also the July race, and there were card-parties, and functions in August at the Palazzo Pubblico, which constantly threw the count and Julia together. It was clear that this time Dulaunay was in earnest; all the ladies in Siena could not turn his mind from the siege of Julia. One night he whispered to Hartwell the great tidings:

"To-day, for the first time, I kissed her hand."

"There, I think, you made some progress, count," said Hartwell: "did she—you know what—did she blush, and mince, and cast down the eyes?"

"Ah, not yet. It is that which is going to arrive. She only smiled in a certain little way. But the intrigue is now in that stage which does not let itself accelerate.

"Well, you may succeed, my good fellow, you may, you may: but, seriously, I doubt it. She seems slow, she is dallying with you, Dulaunay. Have a care, my friend! she'll eat out your vitals like a wolf!"

Dulaunay was so taken up with his intrigue with Lady Julia that he did not notice the tragic strangeness of Hartwell's tone and look; he replied:

"Oh, I have no fear of anything: I am on the road, and the end is in sight. I attack both her vanity, her gratitude, and, little by little, her pity also. She becomes conscious of my misery, and is going to learn that she alone can cure it. These two consciousnesses will give to her, firstly, a highly pleasant sense of her own importance (for which pleasure she will be unconsciously grateful to me), and, secondly, a sentiment of sublime pity for my pains: then she will stretch her hand to save me from the abyss—"

"Excellent!" cried Hartwell with a laugh: "you'll win her yet, by Heaven! An Apollo like you, born for conquest. It is well to be young, and French, and handsome, sir."

"He is queer to-night," thought Dulaunay to himself, adding aloud: "By the way, she has heard of you, sir, and demonstrates the keenest interest in your personality—"

"In mine?"

"But yes: often she invites me to discuss you and our life here: our plans, our voyages, your health—Wonders for what you are a hermit—"

"Oh, she does?" said Hartwell, stopping in his restless pacing. "Wonders why I am a hermit! Well, then, all I can say is that you seem to me to be in a bad way, Dulaunay; it is evident that she is hankering after the—unknown: look, therefore, to yourself, my friend, and let it not be said that a sick hermit beat a gallant in love!"

"But "Draytong", you are queer tonight. No sleep at all, then, no sleep, no sleep? What to do there, mon Dieu! You should make greater efforts, however, sir: you should compose yourself to sleep. Kinsey does not like to give you the drugs two nights in succession. But if you sleep, you immediately somnambulate—What vexing circumstance! This morning at three o'clock you were out in the courtyards without slippers—"

"But when you kissed the hand—tell your tale right through. She made no remonstrance? did not pout up her lips and look vexed?" queried Hartwell.

On the contrary, replied the count, "she smiled, I repeat, in a certain little way."

"Then, let doubt be dismissed! you have carried half the fort, Dulaunay. Why, kissing is kissing, man! if you have only touched her hand, the—the lips come next; there's hardly a step. And such lips! The child of a dove and of a peach, you said—excellently said! You are a genius, you know, for expression, and they love a glib, expressive, French tongue."

"No, "Draytong", come, come," said Dulaunay, springing up with decision: "never again will I converse with you at this late hour"—and after a long argument and almost a struggle the count got Hartwell to go to bed.

It was two nights after this that the count told to Hartwell the story of how that day at the Isituto, while he and Julia were standing before a famous picture, looking at it, Julia called him no longer "monsieur le comte," but "Emile," and he had called her "Julia." This must have deeply affected Hartwell in his then morbid condition of mind and body; at all events, he disappeared from the rocca that same foreday; Dulaunay, Kinsey, and a sort of abbe who was a hereditary fixture in the rocca, together with the steward of the Sempronia and a little porter called Pini, searched the district with lanterns in a heavy rain for two hours: but it was not till daybreak that Hartwell was found lying on his face in a thicket of sarsaparilla near the outer ditch of the rocca; he was shivering with cold, though burning with fever; by noon he had delirium; and Dr Kinsey believed that he would die.

For the next two days Julia did not see Dulaunay; for now that Hartwell was actually stricken down, Dulaunay was like his shadow, and would not leave his side. He sent Julia a note, folded in a special way at right angles, excusing himself from being with her on account of the illness of Hartwell; but on the third day Julia wrote pressingly to him, to see her at the portal of the city called the Wolf; and that afternoon Dulaunay went to meet her.

The sun had set, and they strolled for an hour or so in a scented evening air among orchards, summer villas, and hedges which were now heavy with brown grapes, for about there the vines run in the hedges. Dulaunay considered that the intrigue was now ripe, and had decided to declare himself more definitely at that interview.

"I have no necessity," he said, "to tell you that my heart is in flames—Ah! you blush divinely. I dare to hope that I, on my side, am not altogether indifferent to you."

They were sitting at that time in an arbor of vines behind a little inn on the Empoli Road; he took her hand, and she did not withdraw it from him; her face hung pensively in the twilight.

"What is it all about, Emile?" she said: "if you jest, you choose a singular moment when you see me so sad."

"Sad? are you sad? But have I, then, the air of someone who jests? I am at your feet—"

"And on my nerves, too," said Julia quickly. "I never expected to see you mal a propos. Whatever has got into your head to-day, you who are always so charming?"

The excellent and worthy count sat one moment aghast, then, sudden and quick to take offence, he sprang up and bowed stiffly.

"Madame, if I have dared to flatter myself with the hope—"

"Of what?" asked Julia with a perplexed brow. "Don't be fantastic. Haven't I always gone out of my way to show how much I like your society? Wasn't it I first called you by your Christian name? That ought to have shown you that I wished to be friends. I thought everyone could read my secret, Emile: I have been a hopelessly infatuated woman for years—"

"Mon Dieu!"

"Oh, look at him! he can't conceive it lasting for years—dreadful man. It can, Emile, it does, let me tell you, it is the worm that dieth not. Some day when we are still closer chums, I will tell you about it, and you will know."

"Madame, my felicitations. But, as for me, am I, then, annihilated?"

"I thought you would guess! Why else should I have liked to have you always about me at the first, except to hear you talk about someone? I saw that you liked him awfully, and that was at once a sympathy—. You do love and honor him an awful lot, Emile, don't you? Tell me."

"It is "Draytong" that she wishes to say!" exclaimed Dulaunay: "I am, then, annihilated!" But he added in a lower tone a moment after, "all the same, if I had to be supplanted by another, it is he whom I should have chosen."

"Of course, it is. I can't imagine anyone troubling to be fond of anyone but him, Emile: and he has been dying, three days, and you didn't tell me. Suppose he were, in truth, to die?"

"Ah, but tears! Pardon me, adorable Julia, I knew nothing—do not cry, do not cry, I implore. He will not die! it, is no one but Kinsey who talks of the death, the doctor of Siena laughs—"

"And as to the nurse, who is she?"

"She is of the Ospedalo of the University: but I, for the most part, nurse him myself."

"Yes, you look rather worn. You are awfully enamored of him, really, I can see, Emile. You and I shall be the nurses, Emile! We can't trust anyone's care but our own, and you will procure me a room from to-night in some house not too far away from the rocca. I foresee that we are going, to be the very best chums, you and I, if you have thoroughly dropped the fantastic part. Shall it be so? then, shake hands: that is a compact for always on my side—Do you know that La Forli is miserably in love with you? I shall procure you meetings with her at my palazzo when he is better, and any other of them that you care for; you must tell me, and I will help you, and be always your friend. Have you any rooms to spare in the rocca itself? or is there a tavern near by? I am afraid my Aunt Margaret won't like going out to the hills, but I daresay I shall manage her."

In the end it was arranged that Julia and Lady Wisden should stay at a lonely tavern half-a-mile down in the valley behind the rocca. There they took up their abode, and thence Julia climbed up to the rocca during the first two days; but on the third day a different arrangement was come to, and Julia took up her residence in the abbe's room on the first floor of the fortress, Lady Wisden remaining at the tavern in the valley. Meanwhile, in that little room under Julia's, Hartwell's deliriums went on.


XIX. — HARTWELL MAKES A PLUNGE

"It is a good thing that it is not but during the day that you are with him," said Dulaunay to Julia: "from one to four o'clock in the morning he is even violent."

They were seated in a square well under a sycamore tree, which stood in the space between the two barracks, and the sun was at noon, burning the stones in the court-yard hot. Julia was dressed in plain grey and white; purposely, perhaps, looking like a nurse, with the softest light moss of hair protruding from under the edges of her cap. Her attendance at the bedside had made her lips look still dryer than usual, and had paled to a mere vision of color the fruity dry carmine with which her cheeks were brushed a little.

"Is it ever going to stop?" she asked; "and are Kinney and Calvo really good men? This is the sixth day, and the temperature still at 105."

"He will not die, have no fear," said the count: "but it will be a struggle. Last night he was alarming and amusing at the same time, oh, la, la! It is some years ago he had a vexing accident in a motor-car, and of this, not for the first time, he raved. At one moment it was the perplexity the most acute depicted on his visage: 'Am I Hartwell?' said he, 'Or am I "Draytong"?' His perplexity! that made me smile. 'The faces are one,' said he, 'how if the natures be one also? and which of the two am I, am I?' At another moment it was the agitation the most breathless, the staring eyes, the sighs, the hoarse whispers, mon Dieu! 'I will change the clothes, I will change the clothes,' he whispers, dreadfully: 'Hartwell shall be "Draytong", and "Draytong" shall be Hartwell; the millionaire shall be the beggar, and the beggar the millionaire; no one on the road, McCalmont dead the coat—the waistcoat—now the collar: the dead know not anything, the dead know not anything'—And so on for two hours."

"And what does all that mean? Do you know any Hartwell? That is the name of his ward, Bobbie."

"No, I know no Hartwell except Bobbie. But thrice when he has somnambulated I have heard him employ that name of Hartwell. There is here that which is droller than you think."

"How do you mean?"

"I know not how I mean: but I will apply my mind there. There are things which have perplexed me. Is it not droll, for example, the infinite difference in physique, in mentality, in all, between "Draytong" and his brother, Oswald?"

"Yes, that is a rather queer story. Their mother was frightened with a gun on board a ship by some splendid madman, named—I forget what—some time before James' birth; and when James grew up he turned out to be like this splendid man, while Oswald is like his father."

The subject then dropped between them, these ravings of Hartwell falling for the present from the surface of their minds like water from a duck's back, without finding any root there, seeming to be mere ravings and nothing else; but in the case of Dulaunay, the still unexplained mystery of his relation with Hartwell was too astonishing, and he had heard those ravings too near and often to forget them entirely; when, at a later day, circumstances recalled them to his mind, and forced him to reflect on them, he not only remembered them clearly, but understood them thoroughly, as we shall see.

"Well, that explains it," he said now to Julia.

"Oh, there comes the abbe," said Julia. "I'm afraid he, too, is a little in love with me."

Already, within the last twenty minutes the chef had peeped round the corner of the barrack-house after Julia to see where she was; and now also came the abbe, peeping after her, saying that the one o'clock dinner was served.

Nothing could be quainter than that life up there in the rude little rocca, and when Hartwell's crisis was once past, Julia was constantly amused by it. There were seven males and she, beside a very young nurse from Siena, and the consciousness of the seven was turned at all moments toward the one, as sunflowers follow the sun; the fact of Julia's presence fully occupied every mind; the chef cooked for her, the abbe talked at her, Dr Kinsey giggled toward her; and in this mental mood their existence up in the rocca went on as remote from the present age as the voyagers to the moon of M. Jules Verne, living in their steel box in the midst of space.

The moschio was a squat low tower which stood sheer over a precipice a thousand feet deep, upon which it looked by the one small window of Hartwell's room, and by no other. From some little distance off it looked almost as much like a piece of the mountain as like the work of man. The moat, or ditch, round the moschio was crossed by a drawbridge, then came some outhouses, barracks, and paved courts, with the well under its sycamore tree, all shut in by a fortified wall, which was provided with covered ways and parapets, to protect the defenders in a siege: outside this fortified wall was a larger drawbridge, called the "outer drawbridge," which crossed the outer ditch.

Julia and the count followed the abbe into the moschio to dinner. At table the talk was mostly with the abbe, a man of stale and wandering eye, with nothing to do but bask in the sun, and once a day fuddle himself with muscat wine. "I could have been anything, madame," he would say to Julia in very Italian French: "preacher (predicateur)! architect! statesman! cardinal! in short—any thing. Yes, my talents were made to declare themselves. But in the rocca, what scope? In the barrack yonder I was born, and here I am destined to close my eyes."

This was the abbe's grievance, that he could have been anything, if only he and all things else had been different.

Of a moonlit evening sometimes all was interest, laughter, and "bravos" in the courtyards, when everyone came to watch Dulaunay and the graceful Julia fencing with two maple sticks; or when the sun set behind Siena and the hills, they two talked together on the parapets, or on the well, or strolled down by the chestnut lane and the vines running in the hedges over a carpet of yellow and purple maple-flowers to the tavern where Lady Wisden wearily dreamt of Ascot.

"It looks as if to-morrow will be my last day," said Julia one evening, when Hartwell had passed from delirium into a state of coma.

"How!" exclaimed the count: "you go?"

"The moment he becomes conscious, of course," she replied.

"But why? I understand nothing there. Does not "Draytong" adore you? He pronounces your name always—"

"But surely you know that Mr Drayton is married?"

"But not married? "Draytong" is not married!"

"He is, Emile."

"Not possible. Where, then, is that Mrs "Draytong"?"

"Ah, the 'where' is the least of her. She is somewhere, and may she live long. I myself have never quite believed it, but three mornings ago I heard, him say: 'the wife—is she mine, or his? I have no wife but one'—whatever that may mean."

"There is something very droll somewhere," mused Dulaunay: "I understand nothing there. I know "Draytong" very well, he would not, he could not, have affianced himself to you, if he was married."

"He did though, Emile,"—Julia said in a low voice with a hung head, "yes, he did that to me."

"Mon Dieu! but this is an infamy!" exclaimed the worthy count. "I am afraid that this good gentleman will have to cross swords with me when he re-establishes himself."

"And yet you pretend to be my friend. Don't be extravagant," said Julia.

"But how! I understand nothing there, then! Did you not find it difficult to pardon such a conduct?"

"Oh, I! no, quite easy. Don't you understand?—till seventy times seven. And remember that he did not let me marry him: he was tempted, he yielded, but he pulled up in time, like a brick. Better not go crossing swords with him, for, if you were to hurt him, you know that you can't parry my flanconnade attack."

"Ah! to be the man beloved like that, and by you, adorable Julia!" sighed the count. "But then since it is so, why not rest at the rocca?"

"As if I dared! I owe that much to myself, and I have solemnly promised Aunt Margaret, not to stay. And you are never to let him know, Emile, that I was ever near the rocca. Promise me that. I had better go to-morrow before dinner."

But the next morning after chocolate, she being then with Hartwell for about the last time, he knew her. The room was small and very dim to her after the boundless light outside, for she had been outside in the courtyards after her chocolate before coming to relieve Dulaunay at the bedside, and Hartwell's room had only one small, deep window in the wall over the precipice, through which not much light came in. Dulaunay was out in the courts in his shirt-sleeves to take a breath of air after his watch before going to bed. The little nurse and Dr Kinsey were in their respective rooms, and Julia was alone with Hartwell. Hartwell lay quiet, the picture of muscular waste, on a square, squat bed, with a wooden tester, and no curtains; he had so far seemed to recognise no one. Julia poured out some digitalis into a glass at a stone table, and was going to present it to his lips when she started violently; he had turned over to his left side had been looking at her. She saw humor, intelligence, in his eyes, spilled some of the medicine, stood in stone, and suddenly fled from the room.

She hurried out in great agitation to Dulaunay in the yard, saying: "It has happened! I am sure he has noticed me, and I should have given anything—! Go to him, will you? And Pini must be told—about the cart. I shan't stay another minute, not even in the valley, nor in Siena, nor in Italy—I turned towards him to give him the digitalis, and, good gracious! there was he looking side ways, with his left, eye all wrinkled up and smiling! What shall I do now, Emile? It is so agonisingly delicate!"

"Come," said Dulaunay, calmly, "go make your trunk, and I will tell Pini, rouse Kinsey to stay with him, and go down with you to the valley."

"No, you are too tired. But isn't it vexing? I never felt so mean"—and off she ran into the moschio faster than he could follow, and hurried up the hopelessly-worn stone steps to her room, where she at once cast her odds and ends pell-mell into a portmanteau, and locked it. She then sat down on a cypress coffer, that had lovely little glances of gilt among its rough carving, waiting with alert ears for Pini or for Dulaunay to come. Hearing a rumbling of wheels, she ran to the one window of her room, which looked down upon the yard of the moschio, and saw the mule cart coming over the inner drawbridge. The little Pini, who was called "the facchino," then ran up to her, lifted the portmanteau on his back, and she saw him place it on the cart in the yard. She then caught up her hat and hurried to an alcove to pin it on, for in the alcove there was a mirror on an altar, half hiding two blue and gilt frescoes of angels in old canopied frames; but when she had pinned on the hat, she stood uncertain, hesitating, partly waiting for Dulaunay, and partly for she knew not what.

Presently the count came in a flurry, saying in an earnest and secret voice: "He has spoken—"

"Not of me, Emile," said Julia.

"Yes, of you; 'Tell her,' he has said, 'that she should not go, without saying me adieu.'"

"Oh, you told him that I was going!" said Julia with reproach.

"He asked it! and I replied: 'Her portmanteau is even now on the cart.' Then, after a long time, he said: 'She should not go without saying me adieu.'"

Julia shrunk from him, and stood waiting in silence for her mind to speak to her and suggest something, then, subsiding into a chair at her table, she supported her cheek on two fingers of her right hand, gazing fixedly at Dulaunay ten minutes, lost in a pre-occupation which did not hear one word of his running chatter of advice.

"Tell him no!" she said suddenly, with determined lips: "tell him no."

"Well, if that is your will—"

"Yes, tell him no."

He started off, she started stealthily after him, and caught him at the head of the stairs with the whisper: "Let me know quickly what he says," then back to her room with like stealthiness she ran, and stood at the window, waiting and looking out, without seeing the cart under her eyes, nor hearing the blithe little Pini whistling like a thrush.

A long and trying interval now passed for her, full of emptiness and mystery, for Dulaunay did not return in a hurry, and she could not guess what could possibly keep him. The hour grew from nine to ten, then to ten thirty. Julia paced about the room, peeped and listened at the door, bent down her ear towards the flooring, which separated her from Hartwell's room below: but there was no sound.

At last, however, the count came, yawning even as he dashed up the little stairs, for he was very sleepy.

"Why, what could possibly have kept you?" she asked.

"He would not let me depart!" protested Dulaunay. "After a long reflection he gave me a message, but immediately changing of advice, he said: 'No, let me not again be rash: you must wait, Dulaunay.' Then, after another long reflection, he said again: 'Tell her that, if she leave me thus suddenly, I shall surely die.'"

"Surely die?" breathed Julia, shrinking palely, with suspended breath: "why should he surely die? Tell him—I owe it to myself—No, he won't surely die, no he won't. Tell him no, he won't Emile!"

"Good! but I think—"

"No, you tell him that. Tell him no, he won't no, he won't. He has no right to send such messages! Say just as I bid you, word for word: say, no, he won't: and then—let me hear."

Away, therefore, ran Dulaunay like Mercury, destined to little sleep that day; and again Julia waited a wearily long time at the window, opening and shutting many times an old ivory casket with evanescent glints of gilt among its carvings.

The fact was that Hartwell had fainted, or sunk into an exhausted sleep, when Dulaunay returned to him from Julia. The little nurse, roused prematurely from sleep, had not yet come down, and Dulaunay, every moment expecting Hartwell to come to, could not leave him. After half an hour of impatient waiting on the part of the drowsy count, the nurse came down, and he then sent her up to tell Julia that Hartwell had fainted. Julia pouted and waited.

When Hartwell at last opened his eyes, he said in a feeble voice:

"Well, what does the lady say?"

"That good lady says that you will not die, sir," replied Dulaunay, "and she attends your response."

Hartwell pondered that answer and the whole situation with a piercing and crafty eye; anon he drew his brows together with his fingers in a painfulness of thought.

He had her there; he had opened his eyes and found her there; and now he felt her slipping from him. In his feebleness of body and mind he felt an absolute lack of grit to face the cheerlessness which she would leave behind her when she went away. All his craft and sagacity, therefore, were at work.

"What response must I bear her, sir?" asked Dulaunay: "she waits to go, and I who have not slept must accompany her to the valley."

"You must wait; let me think," answered Hartwell.

There came in an odor of the one o'clock dinner from the hall, for the table was served. The abbe ran up to tell Julia that there were truffled pates which she liked, but she would not stir to come down, for the dinner table was too near to Hartwell's door. The others ate their dinner, sending up meantime plates of food to her, but she did not eat anything. The count dined sitting in her chair, and had not quite finished when Hartwell called him.

Then the lingering interchange of messages went on.

Hartwell prayed her to stay three days.

She sent to ask: Why so?

It was in order that his recovery might become more definite.

But that was no reason, Julia answered: he must know that that was hardly generous to tempt and trifle with her, yet he did it; he was taking advantage of her foibles and of her position; his recovery would become definite in any case.

The afternoon shadows lengthened; the portmanteau lay on the cart; the mule's head hung; Hartwell groaned on his bed; the worthy and excellent Dulaunay plied up and down the stairs like the messenger of the gods; Julia from time to time proudly absorbed the moisture that stung her eyes; her throat was dry and aching, but she was unconscious of that fact; she stood near the window, rather haggard at the long strain of the duel.

Would she not see him to say goodbye? then she might go: so Hartwell sent to say.

No: that was hardly a frank and fair request, Julia replied.

Would she not wait three days, in order that he might weigh a communication which he had to make to her?

No: let him make the communication now.

He could not now.

Then she would go; she owed it to herself.

Well, then, if she would go, she might go.

So at last, near five in the afternoon, the protracted campaign was over. Julia dashed a passionate tear from her eyes, and descended with a veiled face on Dulaunay's arm. Hartwell's door lay wide open, and he saw her hurry through the sala. She did not glance his way at all. The cart rolled away at last with the portmanteau, Julia and Dulaunay walked across the inner court over the inner drawbridge, and yonder by the barrack-house saw the chef and abbe lying in wait to say their adios.

But before Julia had quite come to where the chef and abbe waited for her, Dr Kinsey came running after out of the moschio, bearing yet a mes sage from Hartwell: if she would go to him, he would make now the communication which, as he had said, he had to make.

She looked appealingly to Dulaunay, saying: "What can one do?"

The count pressed her hand. And all at once she was hurrying back to the moschio.

She went into Hartwell's room, without quite closing the door behind her.

She stood a yard from the bed with the Veil over her face; and she said: "I am here, James."

They were alone; he was lying on his side; his back was turned toward her; and for some time he did not answer. At last he said, without turning toward her:

"It was not true what I told you, Julia. I am not married."

Julia stood blanched, breathing heavily; his words were so immense, had in them such a world of life and salvation and happiness for her, that they did not at once find room for themselves in her mind. At last she cried out imperatively:

"Oh, tell the God's-truth, if you love me!"

"No, I am not married," said Hartwell. "I married when I was a youth of nineteen, but my wife died seventeen years ago. That is the God's truth."

It was really, as we know, the truth; the good Julia was too willing to believe to doubt; and now she broke down, taking his wasted big hand, kissing it alternately on the palm and on the back, trying to say between her sobs: "Thank you, thank you, James, thank you," as to one who had saved her life. Dulaunay and the abbe, who were just outside the door, could clearly hear that meek outpouring of her gratitude, her sobs and gasps, and her continued "Thank you, dear James," uttered in the tone of a penitent child, as she kissed and re-kissed his hand, and the strain of all that day and the pent-up grief of years broke through all restraint, and had rent. Then she half-lay on the bed with him, and for some time her sobbings, more smothered, but more regular and confirmed, came out from her buried head, and were heard by the two men outside.

Two tears rolled down Dulaunay's face; but he dried his eyes, shrugged his shoulders with "So much the better," went up, threw himself upon his bed, and at once went to sleep.


XX. — HARTWELL GOES TO CORTON

Hyde Park was in young leafage, a blush of colour was in Piccadilly and Dover Street, the clubs were fast filling, and the first bazaar and floral fete had come off, before the date fixed for the marriage of Julia and Hartwell—the second of June—arrived.

Julia's side had claimed some delay in view of the comedy of engagement, breach, semi-reconciliation, then breach again, and now again engagement, with the two men who passed as one. Society needed time to digest such a menu. Hence, Hartwell having definitely risen from his illness in December, no date earlier than the following June would be permitted.

No one any more recognised Julia, she was so victoriously established in happiness. To doubt Hartwell's oath that he was not married never, of course, entered her thoughts. His statement to her four years before that he was married was put down to any reason that first presented itself to the mind, or was not thought of at all.

Julia attributed it in her own mind to an unselfish whim of Hartwell, who, she thought, wanted her to make a higher match, more suitable to her rank; when she asked him if this were not so, he seemed to assent. The oath made in the little room of the rocca at Siena was too rose-coloured to be untrue; not only herself, but her aunts, her brothers, and all her friends, took it for granted that it was true beyond question. Therefore, in that "sunshiny dale," where, according to Hartwell, Julia's "smile resided," the sun never now set—it was a land "where it seemed always afternoon." Hartwell, for his part, took his joy physiologically, but his eye danced. He had yielded to the great temptation, the thing was done, there could be no drawing back now. Hartwell, therefore, shut his eyes to everything, compelled his memory to forget "the wife," and also to forget that he was not James Drayton; and though a pang of doubt, of panic, anon stopped for a moment the beating of his heart, still, on the whole, he was deeply happy.

Julia and Lady Wisden had returned to England in the Sempronia a month before Hartwell; and only two days after their arrival at Brook Street, Oswald Drayton presented himself before Julia with the face of a man who has screwed himself to a sublime and solemn effort.

He did not know that Julia had even seen his good James abroad: and Oswald renewed to her his offer of marriage.

This seemed to her, and indeed was, mere mania. She looked at him with a certain insolent happiness—with a puckered brow and smiling lips—as a something zoological, his quixotism was played with such solemnity; then she could not resist, for his continued gravity tickled some nerve in her—she laughed. When she could speak, she asked him to excuse her levity, but said she had thought that it was written legibly all over her that she was going to be the wife of someone else whom he knew.

Oswald went away from her that day with something new and living in his stale mind; a new and vital hatred. It seemed to him that he now for the first time knew what spite was, a spite in which he included Julia, as well as his supposed brother. What he now thought of was the Gissings, with a new longing, a new zeal of discovery. Where, then, in the world were those three people? Beyond doubt the ruffian James had committed a brutal murder, and Oswald in his impotence could not prove it.

When Hartwell returned, Oswald stuck to him. There was still the hope, frail as a straw to a drowning man, almost frailer, that James might be led on to "reason" about Letty's death with that same bravado which he had before displayed; he might, though it was impossible, just possibly tell too much; so hope, hoping against common sense, whispered to Oswald. Oswald broached the subject several times. But Hartwell had lost interest in the matter, and rather brushed it aside.

One day, however, Hartwell discussed it.

Oswald that forenoon had boon riding his old trotting-park cob in the Row, and there met Julia and Bobbie Hartwell and her brother, Lord Archie Linaker: he had afterwards ridden home with Julia to Brook Street, to lunch with her; but just as they arrived at the house in Brook Street, in came the little Looloo from a promenade with her nurse, looking so lovely, that Julia at once conceived a family-descent upon Hartwell for lunch, that she might parade Looloo before her lover; and in half-an-hour they set out in the carriage, Julia looking like a charming dream in heliotrope voile, with a large picture-hat which could not be described, and with her went Oswald, Lady Wisden, and the pretty Looloo.

They found Hartwell in a silk jacket and a skull-cap in the laboratory at the back of the first-floor, with his bared right arm red to the elbow in blood, he being now almost well again, though somewhat yellow under his coarse freckles. Lunch was already served, and in that jacket he first lunched with the party, and afterwards took Julia back to the laboratory, where he was alone with her for some time, showing her different objects of interest, such as the still-beating heart of a dead frog, a protozoon under the microscope, a headless Lancelot "whose goul was a spine," and Hartwell explained to her how and why the "immortality of the soul" is a "groundless thesis of the childhood of man," so that the admirable Julia, who had come to the lunch an immortelle, went away rather a sun-flower. With all this talk, there was no word of love between them, no contact of the hands. Their "engaged manner" was not demonstrative. If by chance some evening their lips touched, it was in one of those sudden tempests in which, as in the typhoon, the elements seem to groan; but that hardly ever happened. Usually they lowered their eyes, suppressed the mutiny of their bosom, and waited. But that day when he put her into the carriage, Hartwell kissed her gloved hand; and just this little act made the corners of Oswald's square jaws, who was looking on from the outer hall, stiffen and rib themselves with bitterness.

When Hartwell returned into the house, Oswald followed him into the morning-room. They were alone in the house, for Dulaunay was temporarily in Paris, and Bobbie Hartwell was living in chambers in St. James'. Hartwell, as they talked, was half sitting on the edge of the table, with his two hands in his trouser-pockets, watching two sparrows among the hyacinths in the window garden: it was suddenly summer; a branch of lilac in bloom brushed the window pane; but there was still a fire in the grate, which seemed to blink at all this unusual new light; and near the fire stood Oswald a little behind Hartwell.

"I was wondering, Jimmy, by the way," said Oswald presently, "whether you had thought any more about the case of that poor murdered girl?"

"Which murdered girl?" asked Hartwell—"Ah, I remember; Letty Barton. But why ply me with such a matter, as though I were a specialist in that sort of research?"—the last three words perished in an exhaustive great yawn, which dragged the poor Oswald into its abyssmal mood, making him too, half-yawn—"I have almost forgotten the details."

"Forgotten? Really? So soon?" said Oswald. '"But in a few minutes you once threw more light on the matter than all the police and people in a year. That's why I ask you. There's one point, too, which I think, I didn't mention; a shred of the letter which she wrote to her lover's other lover has been found. Don't you think that might be a clue to hang the ruffian, James?"

"Surely. But why didn't you mention that before? Where was the shred found?"

"In—on—well, on the ground where the tragedy happened."

Oswald lacked the audacity to say "in the lover's coat-pocket," and Hartwell wondered vaguely, "Why did he stammer?"

"And where is that shred?" asked Hartwell.

"I myself have, it."

"It was not, then, found by the police?"

"No, by my private, agent, who gave it me."

"Singular. Let me see it."

Oswald produced it, and Hartwell, reaching aside for a magnifying-glass on a side-table, looked through it at "cruel bru" lying on his palm, thinking, as he looked: "This fragment of paper was never found on the ground: either he to me, or his agent to him, has therefore lied for some reason; probably he to me—from the stammer; I suppose of no importance—" He said aloud after an examination of the shred, which lasted several minutes:

"Well, what, does this fragment reveal to you, Oswald?"

"I don't know. Does it reveal things?"

"A more proper question," said Hartwell, "would be, is there anything which it does not reveal?—to a consciousness sufficiently large. It seems to reveal at least, firstly, that the letter was torn into shreds by the murderer himself: secondly, that the other shreds are still probably in some pocket of that murderer: and thirdly, that it should not be difficult to discover that pocket, and so end your researches."

"Yes?" said Oswald, with bated breath, and again, "yes?"

Hartwell, suddenly looking at his watch, said:

"I have to go out, I must go and dress. Come up to my bedroom with me, and we will discuss it there."

He then returned the shred to Oswald, and they went up, Oswald following him greedily, hastening, alas, to his own ruin, and not dreaming it, but full of a vague expectancy, of a hope against hope, that this mad murderer would reveal all his own crime.

In the bedroom Hartwell threw off his working jacket, and began to dress; and even as he put on his boots, or buttoned his collar, or washed his hands, he went on speaking of Letty Barnes.

"She seems to have been a girl of specially strong physique." he said, "this shred rather proves it. You knew her—am I not right?"

"I daresay you are. Er—would it entertain you to look on her photograph, my good James?"

"Show me."

Oswald slowly picked the photograph from a neatly-bound packet of papers, gave it to Hartwell, and looked to see at least one twitch of Hartwell's face: but of course, he saw nothing of the kind.

"This, then, is she, poor unfortunate," said Hartwell, studying the photograph; "I seem to have seen a face somewhere which she recalls to me"—he meant Barnes, Letty's father—"but can't remember where. Well, her eyes look out bravely and cheerily enough, poor girl. The shred which you have shown me shows that it was not pulled off from the letter in the course of the struggle, but one torn when the letter was being torn up by the murderer."

"Where and why did he tear it up, James?"

"He tore it up, apparently, on the very spot where the tragedy took place and as to why, there could have been only one reason—an exhaustion of body and therefore of mind, approaching sheer imbecility; the idiot seems to have been about to commit the folly of throwing the shreds upon the winds, but recollected himself in the nick of time, and put them into his pocket: put all of them, by the way, not all but one, as you said, my friend."

"Your certainty is very curious—" began Oswald, who was slowly pacing about in one part of the room.

"But why so very curious?" protested Hartwell; "this impression of yours is merely an illusion of a more or less hibernating consciousness, if I may say so; you had only to open your eyes, and examine the shred in order to be quite as certain as I am. If it had been a shred pulled off in the struggle we should most probably have had a shred pulled from an edge, but this is a triangular shred, with pretty straight edges, but no smooth edge, a part of the middle of the letter, torn when the letter was being deliberately torn up. But torn up by whom? By her, perhaps? No! for the night was rainy—observe the running of the ink on the shred, probably dark then, perhaps windy; even supposing that it was not windy, the shreds would have been more or less scattered, if she had torn up the letter and thrown them abroad, and a man fresh from her murder would have fled rather than submit himself to the discomfort of searching for them, each and all, in the dark! five, three at least one, would have been found afterwards; but none, I say, were found."

"But I said, my good fellow, that one of the shreds was found on the ground."

"Your agent has misinformed you as to that; I don't know with what motive, but with a motive which, you should warn him, Oswald, it may not be difficult to find out. That shred has never lain on the ground through a rainy night, I will swear; it was put into the murderer's pocket with the others when he tore up the letter, and then recollected himself; and that brings me to my second point, that those others are still probably in some pocket of the murderer—not in the same pocket, I think, into which he put them on the scene of the murder, but in another pocket, to which he transferred them in a day or two after the murder—during which transference the shred which you hold was either dropped on the ground, or more probably left behind in the original pocket. In that second pocket, and nowhere else, I believe, that the other shreds still are; and I will now give you the evidence offered by the shred, which leads me to think so."

Hartwell at the moment when he said this was washing his hands, his back turned towards Oswald, who was pacing the other end of the room before a large wardrobe Henri Quatre; in a narrow compartment of this wardrobe hung McCalmont's coat, prominently among other clothes, where it had hung forgotten for over four years—that coat of McCalmont which Hartwell had put on the day after the murder and the motor-car accident, since Drayton's coat had been too soiled with blood to be worn.

Now Hartwell had just virtually told Oswald that the shreds of Letty's letter were in this coat—told him, for what to Hartwell was reasoning, to Oswald was mere information given, most strangely given, but still heard with Oswald's ears; and Oswald suddenly became quite gaunt with agitation, for by reaching out his hand he could take the shreds, if they were in that lower pocket of the coat which lay outermost and near his hand. And "'James" was washing his hands, not looking, his back turned; in a thousand years such a chance might not recur to Oswald; and as Hartwell began to tell why he concluded that the shreds had been transferred from one pocket to another on the day following the crime, Oswald rose to the occasion, and, looking away at Hartwell's back, put out a stealing hand sideways, felt the shreds in a lidless envelope in the pocket, and was about to take them, when Hartwell spun round. Oswald snatched away his hand quickly from the pocket, without having the shreds.

But Hartwell had seen—seen in a mirror which stood in a curtained alcove behind the washstand, and his eye had flashed.

Oswald continued to pace slowly about with his little limp near the wardrobe, unconscious that he had been seen, while Hartwell now sat on a settee, saying, "Excuse, me, my good fellow, from continuing my argument for the moment: these boots pinch"—and he proceeded to take off his boots which he had just put on, a perfectly false train of thought, meantime, going forward in Hartwell's mind; for what he was thinking was this, whether Oswald did not suspect that he was not Drayton, whether Oswald was not hunting for some proof that Hartwell was not Drayton in that coat worn on the day after the metamorphosis of Hartwell into Drayton; Oswald's remark at Aylsham about the watch: "Why can you not open it?" with another remark once made by Oswald: "You are no longer James Drayton," had never been forgotten by Hartwell; as soon as the boots were taken off, he walked to the wardrobe in his socks, opened the other leaf of the wardrobe-door, and standing there with his back turned to Oswald, opened a little drawer in which he often kept some bank-notes. Even if Oswald had looked to see, he would not have seen what was being done, but, all occupied as he was with his own agitation, he did not look. Hartwell found an envelope containing bank-notes, drew one of the notes from the envelope, noticed the "number" of the note, then making a sideward step to the compartment of the wardrobe containing McCalmont's coat, he felt in the pocket in which he had seen Oswald's hand, felt the envelope with the shreds, transferred it quickly from that pocket to the pocket of another coat hanging there, slipped the envelope with the notes into the pocket—where the envelope with the shreds had been, then, turning round, said to Oswald, "Excuse me, I must go out; I shall be back in two minutes."

The room had two doors opening upon a corridor. Hartwell walked to the one more remote from the wardrobe, near which Oswald was pacing, and with the deftness of a thief quickly drew out the key from the key-hole without seeming to pause a moment in going out; then, slamming the door after him, he went out, and now at once he flew noiselessly in his socks over thick carpet along the corridor to the stair, saw a servant girl coming up the stair, beckoned to her eagerly with his finger placed on his lips, so that she should not make a sound, caught her by the arm, and hurried her to the bedroom door; he first stooped and peeped himself through the keyhole from which he had removed the key, saw Oswald at the wardrobe, then pushed the girl's head downwards to the keyhole, whispering: "Peep to wards the wardrobe," then peeped himself again, and saw Oswald smuggle the envelope into his pocket. Hartwell then whispered to the girl "Go away," and he re-entered the room.

Now, when Oswald had first put his hand into the pocket of McCalmont's coat, he had felt that there was only one envelope in it, an envelope which contained some shreds; and he now undoubtedly believed that was the same envelope which he had put into his pocket.

Hartwell put on again those same boots that "pinched," all unnoticed by Oswald, who was far too wildly preoccupied to notice anything, and too eager to be gone with the precious shreds; and presently, as Hartwell continued to dress, Oswald said, looking at his watch, "I must go, James."

"I shan't detain you three minutes, if you will wait for me," said Hartwell. "You will thus save your cab fare."

He now rapidly finished off his dressing. The supposed brothers went out together. In Addison-road Oswald put up his hand to a passing hansom to stop it, but Hartwell would not take it, saying that he wanted a four-wheeler. "But why so?" asked Oswald. Hartwell replied that he had a reason. They walked a little way, till a four-wheeler came along, when they got in, and drove towards Holland Park. The afternoon was like a summer holiday, full just there of leafage in maturity, and with the cries of little birds.

Oswald's nose, which had been as white as death, was now somewhat less white, and he smiled, saying by way of conversation:

"I am having that shooting-box at Corton Chantry looked after, Jimmy, as you said I might."

"Ah, I sometimes have weaknesses, I fear, Oswald," replied Hartwell.

"But surely that was months ago that I gave you permission to do that—to me it seems years. Isn't it done yet? You are a slow coach, Oswald."

"Well, I suppose I am a slowcoach," said Oswald; "I like things to develop themselves, and come off when they are ripe. People in a hurry are really hurrying to the grave, and I find life moderately livable. I shall have Corton finished for September, though. Perhaps if you tipped me five or six hundreds, Jimmy, that might help with the repairs."

"Decidedly that would help," said Hartwell; "let doubt be dismissed as to that. But being on the eve of marriage, I am thinking of curbing my prodigalities."

The corners of Oswald's jaw stiffened bitterly, and he said:

"I will ask you again at this hour to-morrow, my good fellow; and I wager you that you will do it then."

"But, Oswald, that is a hard, unbrotherly saying, surely?" cried Hartwell, loudly. "How is that, then. Oswald? And how much will you wager, my friend?"

"I'll wager you £500 that you will."

"And I'll wager you £500,000 that I will not, on this favourable condition to you that, if you lose, sir, you pay nothing, whereas, if I lose, I pay all. Stop, cabman! Here—officer—!"

The cab stopped; a policeman who was standing near by came to the door.

"I have to charge this gentleman with a felony," said Hartwell to the officer. "He has just stolen the sum of £700 in notes from the pocket of a coat in my house; he has them now on his person. I can swear to the number of at least one of them, and he was seen in the act both by myself and one of my servants."

Oswald could not answer. He put his hand into his pocket and felt the notes in the envelope; he was like a dead man, if death could utter sighs of disgust and woe.

The officer got into the four-wheeler—it was in order for him to have room for him that Hartwell had refused to take a two-wheeler-and they drove to the High Street police station. The charge was taken. Hartwell gave the "number" of the note; it was found on Oswald. Oswald could not be bailed, the case being a felony; and when he was being taken to a cell the poor Oswald uttered a deplorable little giggle of delirium.

That night Hartwell had to deliver a lecture on the "Ions of Electrolysis" at the Royal Institution, and after the lecture to go to visit Julia. He delivered the lecture, but sent an excuse to Julia, shrinking from seeing her during the first flush of the disgrace; but late in the night he received from her this telegram:


"IS IT TRUE? FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE, AND MINE, SPARE POOR OSWALD, IF AWFUL NEWS BE TRUE. TO ME INCREDIBLE. PRAY COME EARLY TO LUNCH TO-MORROW. MY LOVE. JULIA."


The news, then, had already got about. Hartwell's eyes flashed severely; he had warned Julia years ago that he was hard, that he was not one of the "sparing" sort. He meant to damp Oswald Drayton's zeal for research.

The next forenoon he drove with the servant who was his witness to the court. Oswald sat in the dock, the picture of sighing, sick disgust, one side of his upper lip lifted a little, a sight to pity. The court was rather crowded with ladies and men-about-town, for the incident caused a three-days' flutter, and may, perhaps, be still remembered by some readers, since it was not very long ago. Oswald's advocate earnestly pleaded that the whole thing was a storm in a tea-cup; the accused was a well-known member of Society, a man of high honour, as he would call several gentlemen to prove; he had meant to take from his brother's pocket a letter having no direct pecuniary value, and had taken another envelope instead. The magistrate, too, tried hard to smooth down the scandal; but Hartwell was not to be moved to forgive; he did not find it "compatible with his duty." The prisoner was sentenced to four months in Holloway gaol.

When, on the pronouncement of the sentence, a policeman touched his arm, the unfortunate Oswald went temporarily crazy.

Hartwell still shrank from seeing Julia that day and night of the trial, and did not go to her: and again the day after the trial he did not see her, for that morning he received a letter which caused him to take a journey. The letter was from one Walker, that same Walker who was Oswald's occasional shorthand man, and doer of odd jobs; he was down at Corton Chantry, disbursing moneys, and watching the progress of some work for Oswald; and Walker wrote to Hartwell:


"Dear Sir,

"I have just read of the committal of my employer, Mr Oswald, and as I do not know what to do now about the repairs on the Pavilion, or even about money for me to get back to London, I write to ask you what I am to do. You may know that there are a foreman and five men on the job, which is in a half-finished state, and I have only a few shillings left out of the current fund. This savage, Steve Anderson, refuses even to let me sleep in either of the chalk cottages, if I do not pay down cash every night. Awaiting your favoured advice. I am, dear sir, yours faithfully,

"R. Hamilton Walker."


Hartwell's eye flashed with anger at his own weakness in granting a privilege to Oswald, and he had an immediate impulse to hurry on to Corton and bundle those workmen off the place—an impulse which would no doubt have passed away had it not been strengthened by the occurrence of that name "Steve Anderson" in Walker's letter, a man whom Hartwell had been paying for years through a bank, without knowing who, what, or where Anderson might be; and the impulse was further strengthened by his reluctance to face Julia's reproach for a day or two. He decided to go down to Corton that same day after lunch.

But he had a strange feeling of depression all that forenoon, while looking down at a table glittering with wedding presents, he had one of those brief pangs of doubt and panic which sometimes turned his heart cold. The wedding was not far off. The bride, who was a god-daughter of Royalty, had already received two presents from the Throne.

However, after lunch he started for Corton. In this way things come strangely about: Hartwell's re-engagement to Julia had roused Oswald's malice to renewed activity about the tragedy of Letty; this renewed activity of Oswald had brought about Oswald's ruin: and Oswald's ruin was the cause of Walker's letter, which in turn caused Hartwell to go down to Corton where "the Drayton wife" lay hidden.

Hartwell had told Julia that he was not married; that this was the God's truth; so that in what awaited him now the worthy and honest Hartwell was not to be envied.


XXI. — HARTWELL FINDS A WIFE

It was not without difficulty that Hartwell was able to penetrate to Corton Chantry; from Felmingham, the nearest station, it was a long and lonely drive, during which he thought that this must surely be one of the most thickly-wooded spots in England, and the journey was made still slower and more gloomy by the fact that it was raining. However, at about eight in the evening the basket-chaise, in which he was, arrived at a cottage from a chimney of which smoke was coming out, and Hartwell alighted amid the loud excitement of a fox-hound or harrier, and of a spaniel, at the door.

The cottage was of hard chalk with a red-brown old roof, and was built in two telescope-pieces, one slightly larger than the other; it stood almost under a ruin whose proportions could just be made out in the dark air; some distance away another white cottage with a red-brown roof could also be made out; and up to the very walls of the ruin, which stood on a low mound, and to the walls of the two cottages, thick wood and thicker coppice grew rank.

At the cottage door stood a creature peering out under a lamp at the chaise, and holding a fowling-piece in one hand; another man was peeping over his shoulder; and Hartwell, as he alighted, said to himself: "The man is 'Walker,' and the monster is 'Anderson.'"

"It's him," said Steve Anderson aloud to himself in a voice whose rumble resembled that of a running anchor chain. "A' knowed he'd be looking in some fine day."

"Well, Anderson; well, Walker," said Hartwell, going in, and immediately on his entrance he turned to Walker, saying: "Here, Walker, is a sovereign; you will go away by the chaise that brought me."

The room in which he stood was cosy and pleasing, but over-hot with an applewood fire; it had two windows with crimson moreen curtains, three wolf-skins on the floor, which was made of hard earth, and a singing kettle hung up in the fireplace.

"But, sir, am I turned off like this with a sovereign?" asked Walker, turning pale. "Mr Oswald owes me—"

"Then, let Mr Oswald pay you, my friend. Go away."

Hartwell stood on a stool at a rude table made of logs, on which were two unplucked teals and a water-hen, with five or six large loaves, a black bottle which contained rum, and a small lamp.

"But aren't you going to give me any more, sir, for a fact?" asked Walker.

"No. Well, now, Anderson, how is everything at Corton?" Walker, stared at Hartwell, then walked out of the room into an inner one. Anderson, a mound of misshapen flesh with an expression of face unmistakably daft, sat over the fire, his back turned to Hartwell, treating the master with scant ceremony. His arms hung at his sides as massive as two ordinary legs; his head resembled a mat of rough hair: he had, moreover, quite the air of a Crusoe; he wore Wellington boots, and a red shirt open at the breast; and something shy and untamed in his glance and address told of a wild man who had long inhabited a world apart, in which any other presence was an intrusion.

"Aye, a' thought he'd be looking in some fine day," he said when Walker had gone from the room; "but look 'ee here, ma man, never ye send the likes o' them meddlers and muddlers here again, flushing the coverts, and starting the water-fowl—. Is it me or them, a'd like to know? It can't be both. One o' them working-men shot his gun at a young rocketer yesterday, and if a'd er catched him, a'd er split his head as clean as a log, a' would. And how was I to be sartin"—his eyes swam cautiously round—"that that there youngster would be getting on the scent o' her?"

It needed an accustomed ear to catch much meaning in that chain which rumbled in Anderson's voice, but Hartwell heard that word her. There was a she in the matter, and a secret she.

"Ah," said he, "and how is she?"

Anderson stretched his face closer to Hartwell's, with the grim whisper:

"She don't scream out any more; but a' had to scorch her hands at the fire afore she dropped that game."

Who "she" was Hartwell now knew; the word "scream" informed him; and to his inwards he felt the dart of fate strike coldly, inflicting a pain at which he could have cried aloud; but he made no sound; only his lips whitened.

At this moment Walker returned from the inner room with his bag, and a mackintosh on, saying:

"Well, I shall consider myself very badly used, that's all, Mr Drayton, between you and your brother—"

Hartwell flurriedly handed him a ten-pound note, bribing him to go and leave him alone, for he felt weak and ill. Walker took it, thanked Hartwell, and went out to the chaise, while Anderson drained a tumbler of rum, and set his big body before the fire again.

Hartwell and Anderson heard the chaise roll away amid the pelting upon the window panes of handfuls of rain, also a noise of swollen running waters.

"Is 'she' well?" asked Hartwell.

"Same as when you seed her last; only she don't scream out any more: A' put a stoppage to that game."

The questions were asked in a low voice, but the answers were given in a tone of indifference.

"You alone know, Anderson?"

"Know what?"

"That she is here."

"H'm! Who else was to know, master?"

"Is she—weak?"

"She wouldn't be what you might call an ox for strength, ye know. Ye should give her some clothes, ma man. A' made a camlet gown for her with my own hands three weeks agone: yes, cut out and stitched it together myself, A' did, seeing as her hands are shaky to stitch for herself; the money won't run to more 'n that, A' doubt: but, come winter, she'll be freezing. A' looked to see you turn up some fine day afore this."

"Take me there."

"What, now? in the pouring rain?"

"Yes."

Anderson got up, took a horn lantern from a number of mattocks, adzes, and rifles in a corner, lit it, and said: "A'm ready."

But Hartwell, on rising, found that his knees could hardly bear him; he said: "I will be with you—" and stood with his palms on the table leaning on it, with a hanging head.

Anderson waited, and presently Hartwell was able to rouse himself, and move toward the front door. They then went out. The ruins were not more than four or five yards from the side of the cottage. They went up to it by a steep little path covered over with dripping leafage, and now were within an enclosure of old walls. Even here there were trees and bush; they felt the rain still spraying upon them. Anderson went, a little in advance, swinging the lantern in his hand, with the harrier and the spaniel at his heels; a few startled birds took to flight or stirred among the bush, as the two men went forward. Twice Anderson stopped short, peering earnestly about, but without any sign of fear, and stamped as if to frighten something away.

They went on darkly in this way—for the horn lantern gave little light—till they came to the north-western part of the ruins, where there were four old worn steps, with a stone balustrade to them, leading up to a deep-set door under a Norman portal, the door itself being modern, and made of rough logs, like Anderson's table in the chalk cottage. Anderson drew a bunch of keys from the bagging part of his red shirt, went up the four steps, and opened the door. Hartwell who was as pale as a dead man, and trembling all over, followed him. They entered a spacious hall with a groined roof and a floor made of stone flags, an empty and hollow place, which re-echoed even the patter of the dogs feet; at its further end there was another stone stair, steep and narrow this one, without any balustrade. They walked across the hall to it, went up, and at the top of the stair Anderson opened a small Gothic door, which they had to stoop in order to pass through; they then found themselves on a stone landing, semicircular in shape, where the lantern showed the foot of a spiral stair which went up from it to the top of a high tower; and up this stair they now plodded, going round and up between spiral walls, where the damp struck cold, and the feet seemed shod with echoes, to another landing, and then to another, and finally to an old Norman door at the top, which Anderson opened.

They now went into a good-sized square chamber with a vaulted roof, and, as they entered it, a rat dropped massively from a table which stood in the middle of it, and ran away.

"She's yonder, abed," whispered Anderson, pointing to a Gothic door which stood opposite to the door by which they had come in.

Hartwell, seeing a key sticking outward in the door to which Anderson had pointed, walked quickly and quietly to it, and locked "her" 'in. He then looked round the room by the light of the lantern. There was a small deal table, without any covering, and on it was a cup-and-saucer, a crust of bread, and a little lamp, not burning; under one of the window slits was a small sofa covered with very faded old pink damask, also a cane lounge, an old oak chair, an old coffer, and a lot of old torn books on the floor, nearly filling the hearth; the floor was of uncarpeted wood, very dislocated so that pieces of it creaked and shook under the feet.

In the wall which contained "her" chamber door there was another door through which Hartwell looked, and beckoned to Anderson to show him what lay beyond it. Anderson went through it with the lantern into another room and Hartwell followed.

This second room was similar to the first, but had nothing in it, was windowless, and must therefore have been dark even at noon. And hero the floor was even more shaky and creaky.

"Does she come here?" whispered Hartwell in a hoarse voice.

"Only to pass through to yonder," answered Anderson, pointing to the further doorway of a cabinet that had once been a bartizan, with oylets.

There was silence for some minutes, till Hartwell gave utterance to the terrible words:

"But she owes her life to you, Anderson."

"To me?" said Anderson, showing the brown fangs in his mouth in a daft sort of laugh.

"Let us not think what might have happened, if you had taken up two or three of these old boards one night." Hartwell said this in a base low tone of voice shivering at the same time as if with intense cold.

"Now, hark at that," said the great hunchback, with his rumbling voice: "did not you tell me with your own mouth that I worn't never to go as far as that?"

"I have said so," replied Hartwell, but without expecting to be obeyed. "I saw that your interest lay in drawing the salary, without having the work, Anderson."

The daft Anderson scratched his rough head a little under his deerstalker cap, thinking of it, and the conclusion at which he arrived was uttered in these words: "A' could use this place for a apple store, and to put up the marjoram, southernwood, and artichokes—. No one would never be the wiser, as for that."

Hartwell laid his hand on Anderson's shoulder to uphold his weak knees, and he said, apparently speaking to Anderson, but really to himself:

"Let each act according to the dictates of a pure reason, Anderson, in every case. It is the only morality. And do it with decision, without a tear, I implore you, without one qualm."

He patted the hunchback's arm admonishingly as he said this, and at the same time the sob of a whole manhood in convulsion broke from the ill-fated Hartwell.

"A'll do it," said Anderson, "nothing couldn't be easier done. Not but what A'll be lonesome, for lack o' her, and her poor harmless ghost 'll be haunting me for a morsel o' bread. But A' tak' no more notice o' ghosts than o' sparrows: they come and they go, in broad day sometimes, just to keep ma company; and I tak' no notice. A'll do it this self-same night."

At these words Hartwell suddenly fled from the hunchback, and was gone into the outer room, and thence down the dark spiral stair. Something or other in Hartwell could not quite stand this: "perhaps it was that non-rational love of righteousness" which he had "got from his forefathers;" whatever it was, he fled down the stair like an escaping thief, with a bent back, with white lips pressed together, and with a wild eye.

To this point fate and pure reason had brought the worthy Hartwell to murder most foul.

He had sworn to Julia that he was not married: he could not outrage and massacre that beloved life by marrying her now, while this woman, lived; and the day after the marriage the existence of this woman, who was his wife, so long as he was Drayton, might become known; he had hoped, had permitted himself to believe blindly, that the woman had somehow thinned into air; let her be thin, then!—rather her than Julia.

But she had never hurt him, not wilfully, this already wronged woman. Hartwell understood that if she suddenly thinned to nothing, then he would not be happy afterwards; there was even a grumble somewhere within or without him, which said to him:

"Dare but to lift your little finger against her, Hartwell, and there is that in Nature which will not fail to bring down your gray hairs with sorrow to the grave."

Even the robustious Drayton had had pity on her—had said "Don't kill;" even the daft Anderson would miss her, and see with compunction her harmless ghost; was Hartwell, alone, then, to go ruthlessly, following "reason," calling himself "the best and choicest kind of man," calling Drayton "ruffian" and "clown," though, in fact, he and Drayton were as twin in conduct as they were in face, when it came to the push?

After wandering at random in unknown paths for some time, Hartwell butted upon an old wall buried in a spinny, and turned in a new direction, with the vague purpose of returning to the cottage; but both the cottage and the ruin were now lost to him. He did not know where he was, and did not care. The forest here was primitively savage and profound. There were caverns of bush, little homes of darkness, full of the stirring of birds, where the pouring rain penetrated only as a slow dripping. Hartwell did not cease to wander for hours, wet to the skin through his overcoat, with water pouring over the rim of his silk hat. About midnight he came to a Moorish looking lodge or shooting-box, which was called "the Pavilion," with a portico running all round it, and facing the forest in all the four directions, with a series of light arches supported on slender pillars. On one of the pillars, which was covered with honeysuckle, Hartwell leant his forehead, thinking now of the old Birmingham works, the purring of the dynamos, and how well it was with him then; and how he had pitied a man named Ediss who, happening to touch the switchboard one day, started a little, and dropped dead—pitied him then, but envied him now, that light surprise of death. He could not go to Julia and say: "I am married after all, though I swore to you, and it would have been better for you if you had not been born." Nor could he say: "I am not Drayton; Drayton is married, But I am not Drayton; I am Hartwell, a working man." Quite so much courage no man had; either way it seemed to him that she and he, too, would die of shame It was better that "the wife" should die. Reason sentenced her.

But she, already so wronged, had not done him any harm.

Hartwell's brain ached miserably; seeing a bench in the portico where he stood, he lay on it, and soon, being wearied out in body and mind, fell asleep.

He was not long lying there, however, before he was away sleep-walking in the forest; and, walking in his sleep, Hartwell had a dreadful vision that night. It seemed to him that Drayton was walking with him in a wonderland of the dead; the stirrings of the trees of Corton became a shivering of many grave-clothes in his dream; the rain drops turned to a sweat of that place; and with blank eye whites Hartwell groped through a mystery of shadow, solemner than over entered into any living, happy heart to conceive. He thought that Drayton said to him: "Act well, Hartwell, that you may shorten my hell," and that he answered: "Which hell, Drayton? There is no hell: I am only dreaming," and Drayton seemed to say again: "Hell is the evil that men do: and the continuance of that evil in the world is the measure of their hell;" and Hartwell thought that he asked: "What is it to act well?" and Drayton seemed to him to make the answer: "To act well is to crush one's self in the effort to do to others as one would have them do to one." On this Hartwell dreamed that he said "That is an ancient precept impossible to fulfil;" to which Drayton seemed to answer: "Impossible to fulfil, but not impossible to try to fulfil."

Hartwell dreamed that they debated for a long while on that high plane in such a mood of awe as tongue cannot tell; Drayton's every word was like a god's to the dreamer's consciousness, never to be forgotten, and his voice like winds when they surge bleakly and die away in November. Dreams, however, cannot be told: in the morning we tell the details of our dreams, and think that we have told the dream, but any other details would have been equally true, equally false; the real dream was a mood among the gnomes, a trouble in a sea shell, or starlight in limbo, and words cannot express all that. So in a special degree it was with this long dream of Hartwell's: augustly beyond words he walked and mused in that strange country, and anyone looking at him would have seen him at one moment shaken by the fluttering of his breath at his lips, and at another moment would nave heard him whine thinly. He thought that he said to Drayton:

"Nature takes the line of least resistance; man is part of Nature; selfishness is his law. Streams flow downward."

To this Drayton seemed to answer in a very solemn voice:

"Hartwell, they flow upward, all streams, all things, full of labor they climb, they strain. Could they even incidentally flow downward, if they had not first climbed high?—by the toil of the sun, and the aspiration of the sea, and the achievement of the clouds."

Hartwell now dreamed that he said to Drayton's ghost: "Are you really Drayton, or are you only one part of myself talking to another part of myself? I do not believe in ghosts, with cavernous, oracular voices. Yet my heart aches at the incubus of your presence, Drayton; you oppress me, Drayton, to death and the grave," to which he thought that Drayton answered:

"This is the last time that I shall visit you in your sleep; and this last time I only pray you to shorten the buccaneer hell which I have made on the earth, not prolong it by an added scientific hell of your own."

Hartwell's sleep-walking had now led him into a glade in a pine-wood, ten or twelve minutes' walk from the Pavilion; in the middle of the glade was an old well surrounded by ferns; and to this he happened to walk. When the brickwork stopped him, this seemed to break the thread of the dream for a time; he groped with his palms on the well, and then sat on it with his face turned upward, staring blankly, perhaps more or less conscious of the full moon which was making her way among dark clouds just over the opening in the pinewood. The smell of the pines may have come to his nostrils and soothed him, for what he next dreamed was that he had rather laid down his arms before the authority of the ghost, and was saying to Drayton, "But if I crush myself, Drayton, in the effort to do good to others, what is my reward?" to which the answer suggested to his mind was, "The reward is happiness, a kingdom; and unchallengeable authority, though your hair turn grey with troubles. On that road you shall run and not be weary, Hartwell: in it all the systems troop, and that flying moon, see-yonder! seeming to soar on her orbit beyond the flying clouds; with songs and everlasting joy on her head."

The dream alter this gradually lost definiteness, though it lasted through other scenes to the time when Hartwell awoke. He was then lying without a hat, and very bedraggled, under the portico of the pavilion, to which he had returned from the well. The sun was well up; before him was a small lawn enclosed by forest, and in the middle of the lawn was a statue of Pan on a pedestal. He lay for some time, stiff in the limbs, thinking of his dream, living through it again, seeing the scenes which he had seen, and hearing again the words which he had heard. The effect of it upon him was extraordinary, not only upon his nerves, but upon his memory; for he found that he could remember the very order in which what he had said, and what Drayton had said, had been uttered; two or three of Drayton's phrases seemed to be burned into his brain as only words heard in dreams can be; anon a subdued groan came from the prostrate form, as lying there in the portico on his face, Hartwell reconsidered the universe. What thoughts then passed through Hartwell's mind? It is useless to follow them, if we could: but his "pure reason" had brought him to the verge of a terrible deed, and the conclusion at which he seems to have arrived was that the Drayton of the vision was his own purer and purest reason, roused by the disastrous fix in which he now stood, to a debate with his pure reason; that his cut-and-dry theory of the world was hardly complete; that there must be some thing inside or outside of the atoms more than he had accounted for; and that, consequently, his life must begin afresh. At all events, when he suddenly saw a workman with a hod and a trowel standing by the statue of Pan on the lawn, and staring at him, Hartwell sprang to his feet as if this sight terrified him, and ran past the workman, wildly seeking the ruin.


XXII. — HARTWELL LIES LOW

After running up a steep path in the forest, Hartwell saw Anderson standing with his harrier, spaniel, and fowling-piece under a tree on the rising ground where the ruin stood; he joined the hunchback nearly breathless.

"Did you remove the boards from the flooring?" he asked in a secret and agitated voice.

"A' did," said Anderson, with a nod of the head.

"Give me the keys quickly!"

"Wherever did ye sleep—?

"The keys!"

Anderson slowly drew them from his shirt: Hartwell caught them from the hunchback's hand with a severe flash of the eye, and instantly was running again. He entered the ruin, ran to the door made of logs, opened it, ran across the empty hall to the flight of stone steps with the low Gothic door above it, opened that also, then ran up the spiral stair, never pausing to take breath, till he reached the top; he then opened the door at the top, and entered the vaulted room of untooled blocks.

There at the little deal table sat a woman eating porridge out of a pewter plate—her breakfast, which Anderson had just brought her.

The moment her eyes rested upon Hartwell, she uttered a short cry, and fled with a fluttering sort of motion first toward her own room, then, with a sudden change of direction, toward the room where the boards had been removed. Hartwell started after her, hissing under his breath the word "Stop!" He almost caught her during the delay while she opened the door, but she was gone again before he could touch her.

Immediately afterwards he was aware of a scream, of an effort to stop himself, of a life passing beyond his power; and almost without knowing what he did, he was on his face, half hanging over an opening in the flooring four feet square, and in his left hand the woman's left arm and her hanging weight.

For a moment the strain was severe, and the issue doubtful: but as soon as he had her held by both hands and began to draw her cautiously up, he found that she was wonderfully light; he got her to the flooring, picked himself up, and bore her in his arms to the outer vaulted room; there he laid her on the old pink sofa, and threw himself upon the lounge to take breath.

She, for her part, had fainted, and with his thoughtful smiling side-look Hartwell looked at her during some ten minutes. At once something struck him—a certain resemblance of her face to his own: she might have been his sister; and at once, too, there was at work in him a sympathy with her, a compassion for her, instinctive and sudden, such as he had never yet felt for anyone.

She was of middle height, very slender, with very thin cheeks, and dressed in a manner grotesque to the point of comicalness, for she had on only a robe that was really a nightdress, but with a waist to it, this waist being loose and low down at the hips, and one of the sleeves was much larger than the other (this robe was the handiwork of Anderson); and through a large rent in her right slipper (the left had fallen through the hole in the flooring) her dirty toes were seen.

Presently she opened her eyes, started, and stared at Hartwell. She had a commonplace, but rather pathetic face, once, perhaps, more or less pretty; there was something pathetic in the sideward way in which she held it always. Her hair was gathered up in a knot, a quite little knot no bigger than a ping-pong ball or large marble; it had "dropped," and from jet black was now well-sown with grey, though she was hardly thirty-six; her face was very blanched, with the palest washed-out freckles on it. Only the upper part of it resembled Hartwell's, for her lips were not thick, and the upper was short, with a tendency to stand a little open.

Her surprise and fear of him rapidly vanished. Looking downward with her head held sideward in her habitual manner, she said:

"So you've come at last, James."

"At last," replied Hartwell: "never more, I think, to leave your side."

"I hope you've not come here to murder me."

"No! but to save, to liberate, and to avenge you."

"Ah, nice tale."

Her talk was slightly nasal, with a countrified drawl, and, like all about her, was the very embodiment of the commonplace.

"Let it not be doubted," said Hartwell, with a vivacious eye. "I come back to you, though late, a changed man, a different man—Martha, sorry for my grievous offences against you, and sick to the heart that I have been, and may still be, the ruffian you have known me; but I come—no longer, indeed, your husband, nor disposed ever more to aspire to that title, but as a suppliant friend, beseeching you to forgive, and to permit me to prove my penitence by a lifelong devotion."

Sideward she held her wearied, uninterested face. She made no answer to this, but said musingly:

"How came that hole in the flooring in there, I wonder? Nearly broke my poor neck—"

At this Hartwell's lips pressed vindictively together.

"What's brought you here?" asked Martha suddenly: "it's only to do me some harm or other, I know. You might as well leave me in peace after all this time, James. I shouldn't be surprised if you only want to murder me to marry some other woman; or p'raps, if the truth were known, you've done it already, and that's why you locked me up, so as I should not show you up to everybody."

"No! I have married no one, nor ever shall—take my word for it!—while you live. Nor have I come now to murder you, but, I repeat, to crave your forgiveness at your feet, and to comfort you, Martha, with my respect and love."

"Fine tale," she went on wearily; "you've got some new move on the board, I suppose. It's all very well to come now with your pretences, James, when I don't care whether I go out or stop in. You could kill me, if you like, and I shouldn't care now. I want none of your false-hearted respect and love, all I want is my little Rosie." Now the poor Martha began to cry into her hands.

"Your little-Rosie?" said Hartwell with a stammer. He was appalled, for he knew nothing of any little Rosie.

"Oh, of course, you don't know where she is, do you? Oh no! you wouldn't, of course," said Martha. "How could you be so cruel, after all, so cruel, cruel, cruel, oh, my good God, as to take away my little girl from me?"

Hartwell now knelt on a sudden, with a bowed head and back, at her feet.

"She shall be recovered—"

"How do you mean 'recovered.' Where's she, James?"

Hartwell had no idea! He could not answer.

"You may as well let me have the child," she said. "What have you done with her? You may as well let me know at once. You should never have taken her from me. I always said: 'He's a right to do what he likes with me, because I'm his wife, and I came from Africa against his orders, but he shouldn't separate mother and child; oh, no, he shouldn't do that: that isn't hardly right.' You may as well let me know what you've done with the child. Have you locked her up in a tower, too, with never a sight of God's sky, and not a rag to her back five long years? She won't know her own mother when she sees her. You may as well let me know if the child is well."

"She is well—forgive me—she is well."

"Is that the real downright truth, James?"

"Yes—forgive me, forgive me."

"All right, I forgive you, if you give her back to me. You know you never liked the child: anybody could see that much. You may as well tell me whether I shall ever see the child again, or whether this is only some new move on the board—"

He kissed the back of her hand several times with quick-repeated pressures.

"Trust me, trust me this once," he said: "I really make no new move on the board, having, perhaps, made enough. On the contrary, my heart so yearns with fatherly pity for all your forlorn and unprotected helplessness, that I present you my life as a sin-offering for my sins against you, Martha. You shall see her—let doubt be dismissed!—you shall certainly see her, if you will but bear with me."

"It's too good to be true. You were always such a one for telling lies, James. Shall I see her to-day?"

"Not to-day, I fear."

"Oh, then, go away"—she pushed his head—"it's only some new move you're at: some other woman in the case, I'll lay."

Hartwell kissed her hand again, and rose, saying:

"You shall see her, believe me. But now, come; and let these prison-walls hear your lifelong farewell. Allow me to bear you in my arms—"

He lifted and bore her down, step by step, through the darkness of the spiral stair. She showed little interest, little joy, at crossing that threshold; but when they emerged from the ruin, and the full morning splendour struck the eyes of Martha, she gave a little cry, wriggled from his hold, ran a little way with her bare left foot through the dripping underwood, plucked a cowslip, and then ran back from the excursion with a sort of Chinese woman flurry in her shivering dress to his arms: thus Martha had her momentary happiness.

Hartwell took her to Anderson's cottage; at the door of the cottage he met four of the working men who were engaged in making repairs on Oswald's behalf at the pavilion, and he ordered them to finish the repairs, meaning to live there some time; then, depositing Martha at the table, which was already laid, they sat to Anderson's excellent breakfast of teal, with several sorts of eggs, bread, butter, lettuce, and coffee.

After the breakfast Hartwell changed his wet clothes for some of Anderson's, and after a search in the cottage for writing materials, which ended in the finding of a pencil and some old foolscap paper, he sat to write a number of letters, while Martha sat on the outer step in her grotesque garment, wondering at the sky, herself a wonder to the hunchback, who saw her at liberty from that day forward with a stare of surprise.

Hartwell first wrote to Miss Scatchett, his housekeeper, telling her to send him a trunk of clothes, also a certain packet of papers in a certain drawer in his study, and instructing her also to buy and send down a complete outfit for a lady of middle size. Miss Scatchett, he said, was not to reveal his whereabouts to anyone.

He next wrote to Bobbie Hartwell in St. James Street, saying: "I want you to come down here immediately. You are not to reveal my whereabouts to anyone."

He also wrote that day a letter to one Bathright, of Hong Kong, enclosing a draft to pay for the return of the old countryman, Gissing, to England.

He also wrote to the Chief Superintendent at Scotland Yard asking for information as to the whereabouts of a man who one night over four years before had received a mysterious wound in the temple at No. 7, Twyford Buildings, W.C., which wound had made the man dumb. He meant Barnes, the father of the murdered Letty.

Kirk, the stableman, who had tried to blackmail him, and Mary Liskeard, who had wished to stab him, were dead: Bull, the mastiff, which had taken him for a ghost, was dead; and because he could not recall them, Hartwell's eye, as he thought of them, flashed severely.

He also wrote next day to the Home Office, and to two London morning papers, stating in equivocal language that Oswald Drayton, condemned to four months' imprisonment, had not meant to steal the bank notes found on him. The notes had been purposely placed in the hanging coat by him, James Drayton, in order that Oswald might mistake them for a letter which he meant to steal.

And now it occurred to Hartwell that he had not examined that letter which Oswald had meant to steal. He had intended to do this on the day after Oswald's trial, but the hurried trip to Gorton had caused him to remit it. He now resolved to see, when he was next in London, what that letter could be which Oswald had so wanted.

These letters, at any rate, Hartwell wrote, crushing himself with grim lips; and Anderson took them on his cover-hack to Felmingham.

The day after the liberation of Martha, in the afternoon, the outfit for her and the trunk of clothes, for Hartwell, together with the packet of papers which he had asked Miss Scatchett for, arrived from London. He wanted that packet of letters because it contained an old letter from one Elizabeth Seward, which said that "the girl" had run away, "to go to her mother," but had been recaptured. It had no address, no date, but the postmark on the envelope indicated a village (Birdlip) in Gloucestershire: and Hartwell knew that one Elizabeth Seward drew the half-yearly interest of a fund placed by Drayton in a Cheltenham bank for her use. He had never been able to find out who, or precisely where this woman was; had once determined to go down there and seek her out when he got a chance, but had never gone; and for over four years he had had no word from her. At any rate, he concluded that "the girl" with her must be Martha's daughter.

Two hours after the arrival of the packages at Corton, arrived Mr Bobbie Hartwell, who was now grown into a slim, rosy-faced Adonis of nineteen years, but an Adonis unrural to his glove-tips, tinctured by Rugby, retinctured by Mayfair, and tinctured all through again by St. John's Wood and the Quartier Latin—a rather complex Adonis of nineteen. The young man was supposed to be studying electrical engineering, but his hair was worn in longish waves, and his father, who had seen his name in an art journal, darkly suspected that Bobbie was more given to verses than to volts.

Bobbie and Hartwell walked for an hour that evening in the forest, where the father impressed upon the son the task that lay before him: he was to start at once, and, making Cheltenham his centre, search the country, especially about Birdlip, till he found the girl, Rosie; the name "Elizabeth Seward" was to be Bobbie's clue and pole-star; and he would take with him a trained investigator from London.

"You will use your wits, and not fail me," said Hartwell; "it is essential to my tranquillity that you find her within the week. I may mention that she is black-haired, and her age under sixteen."

But these details were quite wrong. Hartwell assumed that Rosie was Drayton's daughter, and, since he knew the date of Drayton's marriage, he could thus fix Rosie's maximum age; also, since both Drayton and Martha were black-haired, he assumed that Rosie would be, too; but, in fact, she was a daughter of Martha's first husband, one Harper, was over seventeen, and fair-haired.

"And what do you say her name is, sir?" asked Bobbie.

"Rose Drayton."

Here again was a fatal direction, her name being Rose Harper.

"Some relative of yours, perhaps, sir?"

"Perhaps."

"Quite so, sir. But I suppose you see, sir, that it will be deucedly odd if I don't turn up at your wedding in three days' time. I had to take Miss Aimee Drummond—"

"Yes, deucedly odd, my friend if you don't turn up at my wedding," answered Hartwell, "nothing so odd. Let it not, however, be said, Bobbie, that you have a larger consciousness than your protector. Do as I bid you—do as I Did you."

Hartwell's head dropped to his breast with a deep frown of pain, his palm laid lightly on his brushed-back hair, which was growing rather thin now.

"Do you feel bad, sir?" asked Bobbie.

"No! I feel well. Let us return to the cottage. I have only this further hint to give you, Bobbie, which you may have already gathered from my manner, that, in seeking this Rose Drayton, you seek your wife; and, in finding her, you find what is a good thing for youths of your age and hers—a mate."

"By Jove, sir—you—you, really, sir," went Bobbie, with a lovely blush, "you—you overwhelm me with distinction—Ah, Heaven! this is why I am sent to Birdlip! I shall say Roselip—!"

"You displease me, Bobbie," said the lad's father: "I require you to take my serious communications with a more becoming gravity. It is my wish that you marry this girl, and at once, if she be healthy—if she be alive! (She is, she must be, alive). Will you marry her whom I wish, or whom you wish?"

"Whom you wish, sir, with pleasure," said Bobbie.

"That's a man. Let us return."


XXIII. — HARTWELL IS TEMPTED

The "disappearance of Drayton," of course, caused a flutter, especially in the west end of London. When the day of his marriage with Julia arrived, and no one could guess what had become of him, it was generally supposed that he had met with an accident, and, perhaps, was dead. But the morning after that sad wedding day, it was seen that he could not be dead, for there appeared in two of the morning papers his extraordinary letter, exculpating his "brother," Oswald, from intending to steal the bank notes. Still, it could not be guessed what had happened to upset the marriage, or where "Drayton" was.

Hartwell, meanwhile, remained at Corton, where he took up his residence with Martha in the Pavilion. During the first three days after finding Martha in her prison in the tower, he wrote several letters to Julia, letters which were like groans expressed in words, but he tore them all up. Only four brief lines on the day before the wedding reached her from him: "It is better to say briefly what has to be said. I cannot, after all, become to you what I have hoped. And this is the last ill-usage that you will receive at my hands."

Julia spent the forenoon of her wedding day in a long and solitary ride over the downs, after which she returned to Garlot Croft unwell, and was put to bed by her relatives in a sort of sleep.

It was not till about a week after that disastrous wedding day, that it got into the stream of general knowledge that "Drayton" was at an out-of-the-way place called Corton, the information having by then got abroad through Hartwell's several letters to the Home Office, etc. By that time Julia, her aunt, and some other relatives had gone away to the South of France. June, the month of the marriage, passed into July. Hartwell, meanwhile, at Corton, was looking out anxiously to see his son and Rosie, expecting their arrival every day. But, strange to say, neither Bobbie and Rosie came, nor Bobbie by himself.

Hartwell had received only one letter from Bobbie, dated at Birdlip, saying that the search far Rosie was going forward: then had followed a most mysterious silence.

At this delay Martha could not be consoled, could not be won, by the excellent Hartwell; "You may as well tell me what you have done with the child," said Martha wearily ten times a day in her little nasal drawl; "you'd better tell that to the marines that you don't know where the child is, James."

But Hartwell's patience with her little vulgarities of thought and speech never failed her deadness to him, her continued lack of any spark of gratitude or amity, had no influence on his dogged devotion; like an automaton of chivalry he still hung about and fostered her; and the more he served her, the more the reward of having a genuine pity and affection for her was given to him.

From the first he had observed a certain facial resemblance between her and himself, and had felt toward her some sort of special affinity and friendship; and one day, a couple of weeks after coming to live in the pavilion, a possible explanation, of this was offered him: for she had an album brought from her empty trunk in the tower, full of the faded photographs of some rather obsolete people, the leaves of which she was fond of turning; and, looking over her shoulder in the portico one morning while she was going through the album, Hartwell, seeing an old daguerreotype photograph which, being very much like himself, he took to be a photograph of Drayton, said to her: "Ah, there I am, then;" but she replied: "You know very well that's not you; it's my grandfather. Denner, that shot at your mother on the ship."

Hartwell now for the first time saw into the mystery of his bodily twinness with Drayton, having never before been struck by the possibility that another mother might nave been affected in the same way as his own had been by that old tragedy of the sea. He now saw that this must have been so; and since that Captain Denner, the quasi-father of his and Drayton's body, was also Martha's grandfather, from that hour Hartwell looked upon the good Martha as kith and kin, and added to his fatherly affection for her a brotherly friendship.

He believed that Drayton, too, may have felt, something of this affinity for Martha, and under its influence may have married her. But, in Drayton's case, time and "the world" may have turned the positive liking into a negative sentiment of actual dislike.

During all those weeks of June and July, while he waited for Bobbie to come with Rosie, Hartwell did not weary of trying to call up in Martha some little interest, trust, or affection toward him: but it was always in vain; and her carping unfriendliness became an added care to his great sorrow. Always she said to him. "You may as well tell me where she is, James, and not be such a brute;" but he could not tell: Bobbie Hartwell seemed to be dead; a letter addressed to Bobbie at Birdlip was returned by the post office to Hartwell and Hartwell would even kneel to Martha and say: "Bear with me."

He spent nearly all his days with her, though he had now his books in the pavilion, as well as the necessary apparatus for research-work arranged in a back room on the first floor. The house was a square, yellow-white building, moderately large, in a Moorish tone, surrounded by a portico of arches on slender pillars; it lay somewhat in a valley, all shut in by old forest, about a quarter of a mile from the ruin. Some of its lonely, large rooms contained furniture, faded tapestries and carpets, an old organ, cracked spinets and pianos, historical Chippendales and Davids, coffers, cabinets, bronzes, and a library of books which were just visible through dust. Hartwell made five or six of the rooms habitable, and had down three of the servants from Addison Road, with a young groom named Gloucester, who brought down two of the horses, the landau, and the trap. Sarah Gissing was made Martha's maid, and Steve Anderson became the commissionaire of the establishment, doing whatever odd jobs were to be done, but never losing his look of wonder at the change in the aspect of his world. When Mrs Gissing and her daughter Sarah arrived to await the coming of Gissing, and occupied the second of the two chalk cottages, Steve appeared before Hartwell to complain that things had now reached a climax, that the water-fowl would be flushed, that the sky would fall—But Hartwell was a new kind of Drayton, made to be submitted to. "Let it not be said, Anderson," he said with a smiling eye, "that the hare hunts the harrier;" and this was an allusion which Steve could appreciate; but even so long as a month after her liberation, if the sullen and daft Steve by chance saw Martha alone in the forest, he would make a startled step, as if to seeing a runaway; and a rumble was always in his chest at the way things were looking.

Martha was, however, seldom to be seen alone, for her legs would not bear her far; her vitality was almost gone.

Sometimes she would turn white, with flustered breath, as if from heart-failure; she was quite light to lift. Suddenly she would fall asleep, physically and mentally enfeebled and washed out. Always it was Hartwell's arm which supported her, and his bosom was her pillow.

Sometimes she had childish moods, picnic-fancies, and he would take her all the summer's day to where the natural profusion of the estate was wildest with flowers and fruit of blackberry and honeysuckle, or into the depths of the pinewood where in some parts the underwood was very thick and the scenery very romantic, or to the north-east reaches of the estate where there was a frog pond in the gloom of the forest, and all thereabouts festoons of dog rose rioted over hedges that were three yards thick—rambles from which Hartwell might return with Martha asleep in his arms, and in her arms a load of flowers, roses and tall sunflowers which nodded above their heads, and clematis and red-berried briony which trailed on the ground, destined to fill her vases and her dark-blue china bowl in the drawing room of the pavilion.

"Is it true," she asked one sunset, "that you got so rich, as I heard before I left South Africa?"

They were sitting on the banks of the mere under the west wall of the ruin, fishing, for Hartwell had tried to teach her angling, though she always sailed the float of her rod about on the surface of the water in an uninterested and very grotesque fashion; but they often came and sat just there in the long twilights under a gigantic old willow by a ground-baited patch of the mere.

"Yes," answered Hartwell, "I got rich; hence my revolt against my humble past when you were my lawful companion; and hence also that lawless sense of power which you have bitterly felt, poor woman;" with closed eyes he passed his hand back ward over his hair, which had grown markedly more grey within the last four weeks.

"At any rate," she said, ludicrously sailing the float about, and fingering a new pearl necklet which lay over her muslin bodice, "I haven't got much of the riches. That's been for other women, I daresay, if the truth were only known. I think a husband should act better by his wife than that, James: not lock her up in an old tower five long years, and take the child away. If you'd only tell me what you've done with my little Rosie, I'd let bygones be bygones. Whatever has that poor child done to you? You may as well give her back to me, James. Oh, my good Lord, I'd just like to lay eyes on that little girl once again! I wonder if she'd know me?"

"She is coming, she is assuredly coming, she is being earnestly sought," said Hartwell.

"Ah, fine talk, no doubt: always coming but never come. You may as well tell me what you've done with the child. Sought for what? You know very well where the child is all the time: but you always took the cake for telling lies, James."

The last rose and primrose blushes of the sunset faded in the west, but still lingered like fragrant memories in the spirit of the twilight; a faint evening breeze stirred the reeds and bulrushes, where a few grebes and herons loitered, and the wild duck suddenly shot up a bluff stern, like ships that dive when they are about to sink, while yonder a little red woodcock "roaded," giving out in a strange language a sound which meant that that day was done, though the air was still all alive with twitterings. Martha pinned her sailor hat over the paltry little knot of her hair, while Hartwell, putting together the rods and tackle, the can of red worms, and two breams which he had caught, said to her: "Take my word for it, Martha, that the greater number of the lies which I was to tell you have been already told. As for the riches of which you speak, they are yours, all yours, and have in store for you a greater sum of pleasures than you at present dream of. I am only waiting for you to grow a little stronger in this bracing air of Corton, before presenting you to the world as my wife, and settling you in that sphere which is yours by right; nor ever again are you destined to find yourself without a protecting husband at your side—take my word for it!—nor ever again will he willingly cause to those eyes that have wept, one tear—If only you will give me your pardon in return for my strong and tender affection, Martha. Yes! you are rich enough: you possess an excellent seat in the county of Bucks, one in Salop, houses, a million at least in cash—"

Martha was not much interested; her confirmed insensibility to him could not be moved. "You can keep all your grand things," she said, leaning on him, as they walked down the steep forest path from the ruin to the pavilion: "I want none of your palaver and soft-soaping, you know; you've got the gift of the gab, since I knew you, haven't you? and have learned to talk like grand people; but that isn't going to get over me, James. I'd be quite happy where I am, if you'd only give me the child to run about with me, and pick the flowers. My goodness! that would be a treat."

"You shall have her—never fear! (Such an added calamity could not befall me—)" Hartwell's eyes closed in pain. What had become of Bobbie, he could not begin to conceive. The thought that Bobbie had met foul play, that he might be dead, had occurred to him, and at one time he had thought of giving notice of the lad's disappearance to the police, and having him officially searched for. But he had first written to Bobbie's man at Bobbie's chambers in London to see if the man knew anything of Bobbie, and it turned out that the man had quite recently received some instructions from Bobbie, who was therefore apparently alive and well. Why, then, even if his quest had failed, did Bobbie not write to his father? It could not be guessed; but with that faith which believes what it hopes for, pushed to make some promise, Hartwell now said jauntily to Martha: "Yes! you shall have her. I have even to tell you news the most auspicious! I have lately arranged for Rosie to marry one of the healthiest, handsomest, richest, and smartest young men in the Kingdom—"

"You have? Is that the downright truth?" she asked, agaze.

"The gospel truth—let fears be dismissed! All is arranged, and the wedding bells as it were already ring out! It is only a matter of days when you will see her with her ideal bridegroom, a young man as like a fairy prince as you can imagine—a poet! rich! handsome."

"My goodness!" cried Martha, animated and laughing: "why couldn't you tell me that before?"

"I had reasons—"

But now at once the worthy Martha fell into melancholy again, saying "Seeing is believing; I'm not going to pluck any more chickens before they're hatched: we'll wait and see."

After this they went in silence down the path to the pavilion, till presently Martha said sleepily, with her head on Hartwell's shoulder:

"Yes, you took away my few little jewels, didn't you, when I came from Africa? and what have you given me since? this paltry necklet and four paltry rings—"

"Stop!" cried Hartwell: "you shall be well pleased."

He had discovered that she had a fondness for jewels, and one day had gone to Cromer to buy her a few; he now determined to choose her himself a load of the brightest and best the next day in London, where he had also an appointment at the Home Office concerning the case of Oswald.

After dinner Martha played, usually, a few old-fashioned airs on the old piano, or they played cards, or he read to her, till she fell asleep. The surrounding forest, which was grand with many huge old trees, lay only a few steps away round the portico, and its sombre presence, never unfelt, at all hours pervaded the faded old house with some impression of mystery and enchantment; but this was deepest at night, and often Hartwell and Martha sat silently watching it in the portico all the evening till ten o'clock, hearing two nightingales which lived near to the house, and sang every night to the moonlight.

The morning following Martha's reproach to him for his meanness in the matter of jewels, Hartwell, after recommending her to the care of Sarah Gissing, started off tor Felmingham and thence for London. But in the train he read a newspaper, and that day forgot Martha and the jewels, forgot where he was, awoke as from a dream when the train stopped; he had read in the newspaper a rumor, a gossip, that Julia was engaged to the heir-apparent of the hereditary Arch Duke P—-of B—-a "brilliant" young soldier in the Austrian army, three years younger than Julia.

Hartwell had seen the young prince at Vienna, and considered him a mere clockwork made of moustaches and spurs, who danced at state balls. Julia's marriage with him would be like the marriage of a peach with an artificial peach of cloth and stuffing; and Hartwell felt that he would hardly be able to live and see it.

He could not suspect Julia of ambition. Her motive for entering into such an engagement could only be resentment against him, unless it was brought about by the pressure of her relatives. In either case his pity for her and for himself now ached afresh in his breast, as if no days had passed since the breakdown of their hope.

Her resentment, her disdain: Hartwell had the thought that it might not be so deep, if she only knew, if with the secretest of whispers he went and whispered to her, "I have failed you because of a living wife: yet she is not my wife—Drayton is married—but I am not." Then she might think less ill of him—at present her mind was wholly without explanation of his conduct; she might even dare to give him a boundless forgiveness, and say:

"I will have you so;" and that would avert the Austrian tragedy.

But if he thus saved Julia and himself, he abandoned Martha: Martha was wronged again. At the stubborn fact of Martha, Hartwell groaned. He had vowed to himself that, while he was Drayton, Drayton's wife should not be a wholly desolate widow. With the name and estate henceforth Hartwell took the burdens.

But how if he threw off the name and estate of Drayton entirely?—stood forth to the world as the penniless Hartwell, exposed to scorn and punishment? It could be done—given a courage such as did not at all belong to average man. Yet it could be done. To lose all, yet thereby lessen the disdain for him of one woman became Hartwell's temptation. Martha would then be a widow like other widows, knowing that her husband was dead, and rich with his wealth, not a widow thinking that her husband was alive; and thinking herself abandoned by him; and Julia might even dare to say, with a boundless bosom, "I will have you so."

But Hartwell could not face it absolutely naked. He had once been very poor, and to men who have once felt the stark nakedness of penury, it never quite ceases to be a motif of shame: he could not present himself as a wholly upstart beggar of the working-class. He thought that if he could slip off Drayton, and yet be a passably rich and respectable Hartwell, then he might dare. And now he remembered an electrical invention of his working-days which he had lacked the money to patent. He reconsidered and still found it a good thing, which is rare when one reconsiders old ideas, unless they are genuinely good. The sale of that invention might bring him in sixty, a hundred thousand pounds, honestly his own.

The first night in London he sat up till near morning drawing two plans of it in a warmth of new nope. Dulaunay, who had lately gone from his chateau in Upper Auvergne to spend a week with Julia at Cannes, was now again loitering in Addison Road; and he and Hartwell the next morning went together to the city, where Hartwell left one of the drawings at a model-maker's, the other one with a patent agent, and afterwards had two interviews with business men on the commercial aspects and floating of the invention.

Hartwell and the count then drove in a cab to the Home Office, Dulaunay not knowing why, for, having been abroad, he had heard nothing of Oswald's disgrace. At the office Hartwell learned that the revoking of Oswald's sentence was under the consideration of the secretary, but that, since Oswald had meant to steal some thing, his term would almost be up before the necessary machinery for his release could be got in motion. Hartwell, on rejoining Dulaunay in the cab to drive home, was again thinking of that letter which Oswald had meant to steal, and determined to see that day what the letter could contain; but again that day something prevented him, for as they turned westward into Cockspur Street en route for Addison Road, Dulaunay nudged Hartwell with the whisper "look," and Hartwell had a glimpse of Julia driving fast eastward in a landau with her eldest brother? Colonel Lord Forlong.

Hartwell had not known that she was in England (she had arrived in London the previous night); and on a pretence of work, he shut himself in the laboratory at Addison Road, sitting like a frowning statue with a bowed head in one position till near nine in the evening, when he suddenly went out in great haste, brushing aside Dulaunay who tried to speak to him at the foot of the stairs. Hartwell took a cab for Brook Street, driven by the uncontrollable impulse to see Julia, to tell her something, he had not decided what. But when he reached Kensington Gardens, he turned back, saying to himself: "Let this be the last;" and he determined to fly from any further temptation of the sort by returning to the country early on the morrow.

But he would not have found Julia in Brook Street if he had gone there; for when he had seen her that forenoon in the landau with her brother, she was driving to Liverpool Street in order to go down to Norfolk, and at about that hour of the evening when he was in the cab going to her, she and her brother were moving down an avenue in the Corton forest in a Felmingham basket-chaise. Julia had now come from the Continent, a month after the breakdown of her marriage, humbly enough to discover an explanation of Draytonism, for none so far was conceivable to her. He had said to her that evening in the rocca near Siena: "I am not married, that is the God's truth;" and Julia still had no doubt that the God's truth must be true.

Her brother's hand lay on hers in the chaise. They did not speak a word to each other.

There was not a breath of wind, the birds were asleep in the trees, the avenue was dark, save where, in bands and patches, moonlight lay on the mossy underfoot.

Lord Forlong drove. They assumed that they would come to somewhere, if they kept on, but they were not sure of the way: presently, however, they came to an alley on the left, at the end of which they could spy a glade in the wood; in the glade was a well, a woman sitting on it, a girl, and a dog—a scene of quiet moonlight and underwood; the dog was barking, and this attracted the attention of the two in the chaise; whereupon Julia, led by some instinct, as well as by the desire to learn the way, said to her brother: "Stop, I will go and ask."

She got out and walked to meet the woman, who had now risen from the well, and was coming to meet Julia.

"We want to come to Mr Drayton," said Julia, when they met: "do you know in what direction he is to be found?"

For some seconds Martha could not answer; her breath was, as it were, so taken away by this astonishing womanhood with the dainty shoes, who was suddenly standing before and above her.

"You are going right," said Martha finally, "but he isn't here now, he went to London this morning."

"That is disappointing, then. Is he gone for long? But perhaps you don't know—"

"Well, of course I know, if he's my husband. He's only gone for the two days to buy me some jewels."

While one might count three, there was a pause, a shock, and a silence; then Julia said with a sweet smile:

"That seems devoted."

This simple remark loosed Martha's tongue: her surprise at the patrician presence before her was now abated; and Martha could not let it be thought by anyone that James was devoted.

"Seems devoted is right," said she: "to seem is one thing, and to be is another. It is only pretence, if you knew all. I'd say to you what I'd say to any woman younger than myself: never let a man get over you by his hypocrisies. It comes and it goes by fits and by starts, and the men are all the same."

"Oh—but-when a man takes a train, he means business!"

"To tell you the truth, I take little notice of what he does mean," replied Martha with an indifferent laugh, glad of someone new to talk to, and rushing at once, like a Boer-wife on the veldt, into gossipy familiarity with a perfect stranger of her own sex: "but after all, nobody can know a man but his own wife. He's one thing to the world, and another thing to her. If I were to tell you some of the things that that man has done to me—"

"Ah, no, better not."

"Oh, I am not going to screen him: how would you like to be locked up five years in an old tower?"

"Oh! I mustn't hear!" cried Julia, laughing, with a pretty movement of the palms towards her ears.

"And how would you like to have your child taken?"

"No, no, no, really, really, I mustn't hear!" laughed Julia animatedly, with comic, self-protecting gestures: "he's an awful friend of mine—"

"Oh, he is. That accounts, then—"

"Good-bye!" Julia put out her hand with sharp decision, and Martha had to take it.

"What name shall I say?" called Martha after her, as Julia walked away.

"No name. I may write to him."

With rather a stumble in her walk she went back to the chaise, got in and sat down with a sigh.

"Well?" asked her brother.

For a minute Julia did not answer. She sat with her chin supported on her palm and a gaze into the distance of her long-lashed eyes, in a posture habitual to her in pensive moments; and presently she said:

"That lady is his wife."

Nothing more was said. The chaise turned round, and drove away from Corton.

The brother and sister took train the same night for London. But the colonel found some pretext for accompanying Julia only as far as Norwich; she went on to London, but he returned northward toward Corton. He had a cane with him.

He slept at Felmingham that night, and the next afternoon at three o'clock sent a stable-boy to inquire who was at Corton.

At that very hour of three Hartwell and Dulaunay, just come from London, were driving down the forest lull from the ruin to the pavilion. Hartwell sat silent in the trap, wondering how he was to present Martha to the count. If he had really been a friend of Drayton's he might possibly have known that Drayton was married. He said presently:

"By the way, Dulaunay, do you recollect how long previous to my motor car accident our friendship began?"

Dulaunay bridled with a grimace.

"But, sir," he now said boldly, "you are droll! I have never of my life seen you before that night, when we met the one the other at the station of Liverpool Street."

"Ha! What, then, were you doing in my brougham, my friend?"

"But I had put myself there for the shelter from the rain!"

"I see, I see. But is it possible, sir, that you have enjoyed bed and board, salary and world-wide travel at my expense four years and a half without the least formal claim upon my purse?"

"But!—has not sir enjoyed my society in return?" cried the excellent Frenchman. "Devil! you are droll, "Draytong". How possibly did you think to know me that night, when you never saw me of your life before?"

"Let that remain unexplained, count, and do not puzzle your brains in vain," said Hartwell: "I had reasons. As for your society, certainly it has been worth the money, and, I sincerely hope, will not fail me now or henceforth. If we are not quits, I admit myself your debtor. But be that as it may. I am now, Dulaunay, about to present you to my wife."

"Your wife! but no!" went Dulaunay, in a maze at all the impossibilities which confronted him.

"Yes, sir."

"But, sir," said the Frenchman hotly, "permit me in that case to warn you frankly that your conduct to Lady Methwold excites the resentment of a man of honor."

"Say nothing, my friend,"—Hartwell patted the count's hand, his manner now much more elderly, sorrow-stricken, and humble than heretofore—"say nothing: you are not my judge; and He will take care that my sufferings are adequate."

The carriage containing Hartwell and Dulaunay drew up between the Portico, and the statue of Pan, and there was Martha in her lounge under the portico, roused from sleep to an instant thought of her jewels.

She was duly presented to the count as Mrs Drayton, and before dinner poured into Dulaunay's ears the whole story of her wrongs, the tower, the child. After dinner she strolled, glittering with the new diamonds, accompanied by Hartwell and the count, in the forest; they sat for a time on the old well between the last of the sunset and the pale risen moon; alter which, as they were strolling again, Martha said to Hartwell:

"I forgot to tell you that two of your friends came to see you in a chaise last night. It's little wonder you left me to follow those sort of women, they're all so grand and fetching. Dear me, they do know how to get themselves up, and no mistake! I never saw such a creature, so tall, she seems to carry a wind with her that blows people away—But I've let her know pretty plainly how you've acted by me, James. Don't think I'm going to screen you, for I'm not. I told her right out about the tower, and about taking that poor child away—"

Hartwell stopped still, with a face in which the deepest pain and shame were visible, for he guessed at once that "the tall creature" of whom Martha spoke must have been Julia.

"And there, I believe," went on Martha, "comes the very gentleman that was with her."

Hartwell, looking up, saw Colonel Lord Forlong coming down the avenue in which they stood, and quickly he whispered to Dulaunay: "Take her down that alley—" He himself then walked quickly to meet the colonel, while Dulaunay and Martha walked back toward the well. The colonel was a very tall man of forty, with a certain straddle of the legs in his walk; his chin was a mere aristocratic bone with a dent in the middle of it: he had cold grey eyes; and Hartwell's eye flashed a little when he saw the expression of that face of the colonel.

They met at a spot where the faint light that was neither of day nor of night made a pattern through the leaves on the moss, for the day was done, but the night was only so far come that the bright colors of poppy, gorse, and tassels of the silver lime were going out in a monotony of shadow.

The two men stood face to face, and looked at each other.

"Well, Drayton, is it true you're married?" asked the colonel, whipping his right leg.

"Yes, my lord."

"How long since?"

"Oh, a long time."

"Well, you escape with your life, Drayton; but you owe it only to the fact that we are Englishmen, more's the pity for this once. On the continent a mad dog like you would certainly not be permitted to live. As it is, I'm sure I don't know what to do with you, except flog you."

The cane lifted.

"Ah, my friend, wait, wait," said Hartwell quietly: "I see that your cane is slender, and my jacket is thick—"

In two sharp movements Hartwell had his jacket off and dropped to the ground; he then stood in his waistcoat and shirt-sleeves, with a slightly bowed head and hanging arms, waiting. He had on no hat; and his hair was now growing thin and grey.

Swish! the cane cut him on the head, with a flagrant brand all down the left cheek; the colonel concentrated into it all the rage of his arm, and struck as if to annihilate, with his lips nailed together; Hartwell just winked a little.

Again it came, cutting the left arm; and again, at the neck.

Once more the cane lifted—But Hartwell's hand now went up checkingly, and he said: "Enough—you are avenged:" nor was there any disobeying that almost fatherly mildness and authority; no further blow was struck; the colonel looked con tempt, turned and strode away, more caned perhaps than caning; and still like a statue with a bent head Hartwell stood there with the wheal ablaze on his cheek, while a breath of wind stirred his hair; all the little birds, the reed-wrens and titlarks and thrushes, tweeted sleepily their last lingering good-nights in the nooks and cradles of their great dormitory, where the lights wore going out: and the worthy Hartwell heard in these little voices a new tone that night.

But before the wheal on his face was quite faded, on the fourth day after his flogging in the avenue, strange new bitterness was raised in the cup of which Hartwell had to drink, for he received a letter from Julia, dated at Berlin—a long and rambling letter, which, though it said nothing in particular, and said it in a cynical one, was yet touched with a great despair; ostensibly the letter was only about the few presents which he had given her, but between the lines he saw her desolate, overtaken by trouble, she who had always fared prosperously through life and never known a great sorrow; he could picture her sitting by herself for hours, leaning forward with her chin on her palm, with an absent gaze of her long-lashed eyes, in a posture habitual to her in certain moods; and Hartwell asked himself as he read her letter, "Am I to suffer her to die?"

The whole letter showed to Hartwell that she suffered greatly. The temptation to see her, without any self-avowed object, now again assailed Hartwell, stronger than ever before. He spent half a day with her letter, hidden in the forest, reluctant to return to the house, lest he should put on a coat, and take a train to go to her; he felt that the power permanently to withstand this impulse was not in him; that he would surely go: that it was only a matter of time. On the other hand, to leave Martha desolate revolted him; he wished desperately to stand by Drayton's wife; and in this war-tug of motives his brow grew wrinkled with care and long deliberation.

If only the young Bobbie would bring the girl, Rosie, then Hartwell felt he might abandon Martha, and abandon her happy; each day he expected Bobbie anew, or at least, a letter: but Bobbie did not come, and did not write.

He returned toward evening to the pavilion on the day when he received Julia's letter, determined to bear and wait, but to despatch Dulaunay to seek Bobbie: and that very night Dulaunay started away from Corton on that quest.


XXIV. — HARTWELL WAITS IN VAIN

In order to see what evil effects had befallen the poor Bobbie Hartwell, that he did not write to his father, we must go back some weeks to a slumbrous June afternoon, when Bobbie was walking along a country road on which he might have imagined himself the only living being in the world, it was so lonely there though only two mites behind him lay Birdlip, a village in the mountainous part of Gloucestershire. Not a cloud was in the sky, and hardly a breath in the air: dust lay visibly on the wayside cowslips and buttercups; the poet was in undress, scarfed at the waist with something rare in silk with a Tyrolese hat on the back of his curls, but his light boots, unsuited to that climate, were growing hot; in his hand was a note-book, in which, as he went, he pencilled down every fugitive thought which occurred to him; in English elegiac verses.

After this he turned down into a shaded and secluded path, steep and rough with stones, where he met a flushed tourist toiling up, rolling his bicycle, proving that there was at least one other person besides Bobbie in England; Bobbie and the bicyclist even passed each other without any greeting, which they would hardly have done on a really desert island. At the bottom of the hill Bobbie saw an unpretentious but solid house a little to the left of the path; .and he opened the gate, went up the garden walk, and rapped at the door. Here in this secluded dell was just where the Chancellor of the British Exchequer comes to bury himself when the House rises, though Bobbie did not know that; he asked a very neat young girl who answered to his rap whether by chance one Rose Drayton lived there; her glance at his pretty face was approving, and she smiled as she answered: No; my name is Rose, but not Drayton." Did she by chance know the name of one Elizabeth Seward? "No," she said.

They exchanged a smile as they parted, a Marconi kiss of their lips and eyes; then Bobbie went on his way on the same path which he had descended.

He went on up the path, till he came to an avenue of Spanish chestnuts, with a stile at each end; beyond the further stile was a wood on rough hilly ground; and into this wood Bobbie came. Here was a bit of true England. Bobbie's heart was young: and, stopping over his notebook, he scribbled an appropriate verse.

But as Bobbie scribbled, he walked on, not looking where he was going to, and while scribbling the last word he was startled by a silvery voice which cried out:

"You'd better look out, sir!"

Bobbie did look out, and in doing so, saw a sweet girl of seventeen years, a mystery of muslin, roses, and a Dolly-Varden hat, standing beyond a stream into which he had been on the point of tumbling: and breathlessly Bobbie muttered under his breath: "By Jove, that's rather a picture!"

"I am extremely obliged to you, he said aloud," catching off his hat and they stood silent, she like an Etna of blushes, and he like Vesuvius. She had rumpled reddish hair, some freckles, the bluest eyes cast down, and seemed to him the sweetest loaf of of home-made that the collusion of that Gloucestershire sun and earth could ever have kneaded, baked, and turned out.

He suddenly remembered that he had a subject for talk ready-made, though the stream was not very narrow, and one had to lift one's voice a little.

"I have to ask, if I may," he said, unable to look directly at her, "whether you know a black-haired girl hereabouts called Rose Drayton?"

"No," she answered, her eye resting aside on his silken girdle: "but, then, I know hardly anyone. My name happens to be Rose, but not Drayton; though I know that name, too, for my step-father was named Drayton."

Bobbie hesitated a moment after this, and then remarked:

"One guesses your first name."

"How does one?" asked Rosie, and there was something very shy, fresh, and wild about her, like the first snow-drop peeping through the grasses, shy, yet quite brave and unashamed.

"If you had not been called Rose," answered the young poet, "roses would have craved a new name so as to be like you in all things."

Rosie very gravely pondered that answer, and gravely she replied: "That doesn't seem very serious talk."

"It is absolutely serious talk," replied Bobbie with considerable earnestness; "to express half that is in the heart, the tongue must often be content, to seem extravagant."

"And what, then, sir, is in your heart, which makes you say that roses crave to be like me?" asked Rosie.

"Why, admiration of you and of roses."

"It occurs to me to say that you admire me too quickly."

"Not quickly at all," protested Bobbie, "for I know you well, since you are in all the woods and on the hedges, being a rose, and I have plucked you and kissed you since I was a little chap."

"I felt nothing of it, then," said Rosie gravely, with a shaken head, tearing a rose to pieces.

"No," explained Bobbie, "because I had to do only with copies of you before, and my kisses were cold; but now, you see, I have found the original of the roses."

"It may be possible that you don't mean quite so much as you say, sir—not that I suppose that you would say it otherwise."

"The truth is, that I do not say so much as I mean. But am I permitted to come over to your side?'

"To mine?"

"Yes."

"How could you?"

"Is there no bridge anywhere?"

"There is one up yonder, but it does not lead into these grounds. These grounds can only be got into by the gate in the front wall, and that is always kept locked."

Two hedges, twenty yards apart, came down to the very brink of the stream at right angles with it—hedges yards thick, all bound up in bindweed and clematis; joining these two ran a similar hedge parallel with the stream, with a white gate in it; and in the space between the three hedges, the charming girl stood. Beyond the cross-hedge could be seen a neat red cottage, breathing an azure-grey smoke which no wind routed that day.

"Then, you are rather a prisoner," said Bobbie.

"I am afraid I am, sir."

"Shall I cross the bridge, up yonder, and go round to the gate?"

"You would not be allowed to come in."

"Then I must only walk through the stream, if I may."

"You?"

"Yes."

"Ob. no! If I had kept indoors, you would not have wished to—I hardly know you yet—"

"But it is simple for you to know me instantly through and through," said Bobbie. "As for my name, it is Robert Hartwell—"

"Then we have the selfsame initials to our name, sir!" cried Rosie with meeting palms: "for I am Rose Harper, and we are both R. H.!"

"Now isn't that an odd thing?" said

Robbie, "and you are a Rose and I am a Robert, for Robert means the same thing as a Robber."

Rosie cast a shy, pleased underglance at him, for instantly to the lively organs of her fancy he appeared in the light of a robber of old romance, adventurous to the death, and gallant.

"Is it not strange? It seems to me now that half-an-hour since I was just like those benighted savages that we send the gospel to, who never heard of the fullness of life, but that now I know and have everything. But—I will come over."

"Oh! I don't know why you wish to! Perhaps if you had never come—"

"But—"

"You would get wet."

"I might: but what can that matter?"

"No!—I don't know what to say to—"

"Then, trust to me."

"Oh, I do! But why should you come to this side?"

"To hold your hand, and kneel, and kiss it, just once: then I will call you the dearest saint—"

"I am so certain that you will get wet—!"

"I think not," and now Bobbie no longer hesitated, but went down the bank and waded to the knees through the stream to the other side; and there he knelt in the blossoming grasses, as he had said that he would, and kissed the little hand of Rosie, who looked down at him with the demurest and gravest eyes.

"Come, here, then," slid said, suddenly brightening, and went before him to an inner corner of the orchard, where there was a slab of sandstone, supported askew on two low posts in the grasses under the shadow of two of the hedges and of an apple-tree; the rill flowed near it, and was at their feet when they sat on the slab.

"Well, I said that you would get wet," remarked Rosie.

"One must cross Jordan to get into the Land of Promise," answered Bobbie; "and I was not even aware that I was wet, till now you remind me; I rather thought that the waters had parted before me. Isn't this a charming retreat in which you live?—so shaded, so cool, so full of trees and flowers; and you in it. Oh, I couldn't tell you what this day and the chance it contained is to me! I never was half so much in luck's way, I never was half so happy, and I do thank you for letting me be where you are. I think you live in Heaven. I wonder if I shall be able to come again, every day, for a long time, and just sit near you without saying a word, and be blessed?"

"I don't know," answered Rosie: "I hope so, since that would please you, but I am not free to do all I like. If we were seen now, I should be kept even more a prisoner than ever."

"How a prisoner?"

"It has been so with me for five years," she said, "I don't know why. My mother brought me from South Africa when I was twelve years old, and since then I have been kept a kind of prisoner, for I am never allowed to go beyond the front gate, except to church on Sunday mornings, and then I am led by the hand like a child. My step-father, who was a terribly big man with a black beard, was very angry with my mother for coming from South Africa when they met in London, and—"

But at this point the interview was cut ruthlessly short, for Rosie started and turned pale, and Bobbie's eyes, following hers, saw a large, florid woman with her bare arms akimbo, standing at the white gate in the cross-hedge, watching them. Rosie got up in a scare to run to her, but understanding that this was the end of her episode, unless she was both bold and cunning, with the swift artfulness of her sex she turned back a little to Bobbie in the nick of time, and whispered to him: "I shall be watched now: don't come in the day, sir, but at night—when the clock strikes twelve—"

The caught miss then ran with light heels toward the woman, in a poetry of motion, as Bobbie thought, for he stood up to look after her flight among the fruit trees; he saw the woman seem to scold Rosie, though he could hear nothing, for the white gate was some distance away from the slab, and he also saw her shake her finger at himself; then she disappeared with Rosie a prisoner; and Bobbie sat again on the slab alone for a long time, a new-hatched chick fluttering in his boy's breast, and squalling with a wide bill after Rosie, its little mother, for food.

Bobbie scribbled in his note-book no more cynic elegiacs that day, finding Venus a "stern mother," not to be taken airily; that notion which his father entertained for some time soon after this date that the young man may have met with foul play was thus true in the sense that Bobbie was seriously wounded, not in the head with revolvers, but in the veins with an arrow. He forgot the smart Mayfair mood, he forgot his father's mission, nothing was important and fair to Bobbie but Rosie. Something of that affinity which Hartwell felt toward Martha for reasons which have been hinted at, undoubtedly made itself felt also between this son of Hartwell and this daughter of Martha. They met again that midnight, "when the clock struck twelve," as the romantic Rosie expressed the solemnity of that hour, and at the sandstone slab, where the ooze from the rill caused a growth of moss and violets between the stepping-stones, Bobbie knelt to her again, and prayed to her, "Tell me how to love you and thank you deeply enough for this deigning;" and Rosie answered gravely to this, "Does it seem to you so much that I come here to meet you, then, sir? It seems to me that the way would have need to be long and rough, but I should tramp all of it to meet you.

"Oh, immense of you to say it, really!" whispered Bobbie at her ear. "Greatly good and sweet of you! you love me, too."

"Well, I think that I love you, sir," answered Rosie in a low voice, while Bobbie felt her bosom struggle passionately like a captured wild-fowl upon his heart, "if this giving up of myself is loving."

They parted when the moon sank behind the west hedge, leaving the orchard in shadow; but the next night they met again. Bobbie then heard the little history of Rosie's life from the time when her stepfather had separated her from her mother in London, brought her to Gloucestershire, and committed her to the care of a woman, on the understanding that Rosie was never to speak to anyone, except to the lady who came thrice a week from Cheltenham to give the girl her schooling; Rosie had twice run away from her "Aunt," or keeper, but had been retaken, and since the failure of her second flight, had lived as shut away from the world as some fair Rosamond or damsel enchanted in a maze.

The lawless and robustious Drayton had in fact, locked away from the world the only two persons who knew that he was a married man, namely, his wife in the tower at Corton, and her daughter in this Gloucestershire nook, when they suddenly presented themselves before him in England, he just at that moment being on the heights of elation at Julia's astonishing consent to marry him.

While Rosie was telling her history to Bobbie, she happened to mention her "aunt" (i.e., her keeper) by the name "Miss Seward;" whereat Bobbie said, "Ah, if it were only Elizabeth Seward," and to this Rosie replied, "Her name is Mary; there was an Elizabeth, my aunt's sister, but she died years ago."

On the whole, no shadow of a suspicion that here might be the very Rosie whom he was sent to seek occurred to Bobbie: for one Rosie was objectionable, had black hair, under sixteen, and named Drayton, the other was sweet, fair, seventeen, and named Harper.

They met four midnights in all, and sat on the sandstone slab by the rill in the shade of the hedges and the apple tree; and at the darkening of the moon Bobbie kissed her goodnight, waded back into the regions beyond Jordan, and trudged home to his inn at Birdlip, unconscious of his wet trousers and of all the length of that lonely walk: but on the fifth night when the excellent fellow waded back through Jordan, he waded with Rosie in his arms. A vehicle was waiting for them down in the glen, and they drove to Cheltenham.

And so it was that when Dulaunay, despatched by an agonised Hartwell, came down to hunt for Bobbie a month later, no trace of Bobbie could be found. Bobbie was a married Adonis, occupying an apartment in the Rue de Rome in Paris, and the charming Rosie was learning to conjugate the verb "aimer."

Hartwell had said to Bobbie:

"Will you marry her whom I wish, or whom you wish?"

And Bobbie had replied:

"Whom you wish, sir, with pleasure."

Hence Bobbie was in a quandary. Each Sunday night, on returning home with Rosie from some party or cafe, he resolved to make a clean breast of his marriage that week: but he always put it off, and after a month, still the more he delayed, the more ungrateful became the task. The truant boy had a profound awe of Hartwell, who, he felt, would be terribly outraged, and must, moreover, be in trouble on account of the mysterious miscarriage of his own marriage; and possessing, meantime, a substantial balance at his bankers, Bobbie still put off the day of accounts, forgetting the flight of time, or shutting his eyes to it, as people in such a state of mind always do. Finally, he determined that before writing the news of his marriage to Hartwell, he and Rosie would return to Gloucestershire, together seek out Rose Drayton, and with her as trophy and douceur, make their way, erring but still useful, to his guardian. The young husband and wife accordingly started back for England toward the end of September; but they could find no Rosie Drayton; soon gave up the search; and returned to Paris for a while.


XXV. — HARTWELL MARRIES A WIFE

Oswald Drayton's imprisonment was shortened only two weeks by the Home Office, so that he did not get out until the middle of September. On the morning when he emerged from the Holloway gates, there was Hartwell and a carriage waiting to receive him, and Oswald said "You?" with a curl of the lips.

The old club-land life was rather over for Oswald now, for though some in that land do make short-cuts to fortune, and save time by stealing, between saving and serving time a distinction is made, the maxim being, as among the Spartans, "be not caught," or as in the fairy-tales, "the hand of the princess, if you do it well, beheadal, if you miscarry." Oswald, therefore, when Hartwell asked him and insisted, went down to stay at Corton.

"How did the wedding come off?" he asked in the train; and his mood of weary disgust was penetrated with astonishment when Hartwell replied:

"I did not marry Lady Methwold, Oswald."

This was amazement enough, but at Corton amazement after amazement awaited Oswald, first when Hartwell made the introduction: "My wife, Oswald—my brother, Martha;" then again, the same night, when Oswald met Barnes, with a paralysed right arm, and saw Hartwell cutting Barnes' meat for him. Hartwell, after an elaborate search, had finally unearthed Barnes in a wayside alms house near Northrepps, and, almost by force, had brought the afflicted inn-keeper to Corton. During the day Barnes was under the care of Mrs Gissing in one of the two chalk cottages, but he dined every night at the pavilion with the gentry: and though he still dumbly scowled at the supposed slayer of his daughter, that constant frown was growing day by day less fierce.

But still greater was Oswald's astonishment to meet the next day a woodman felling trees, with a beard grown back from the chin, who, when asked his name, said: "Gissing."

Oswald's cigar brightened and burned quicker.

"Was it you, Gissing?" he asked, "who once lived with a wife and daughter in a cottage called the old Manor Farm, near Overstrand?"

"It wor, sir," said Gissing.

"Then, where have you been?"

"Been out to Hong Kong."

"What on earth for?"

"Seeking a bit o' work, sir; seeking a bit o' work."

Oswald threw out a breath of pleased laughter. Gissing, at any rate, was now here; and Gissing, his wife, or his daughter would furnish quite as good proof that Drayton had known Letty Barnes as the shreds of Letty's letter which Oswald had tried in vain to steal.

But for some days, Oswald's amazement was so engaged in watching what seemed the dementia of Hartwell, that he did nothing with regard to the Gissings: for a rapid series of events had caught Hartwell, as it were, in a whirlwind, and hurried him into action the most outre, as we shall now see.

The first of these events was the definite news, on the day after Oswald's release from prison, that Julia was really affianced to the young prince of the archducal house of M——; it was no longer a mere rumor, but was soon the chatter of society over Europe; for this high marriage of a subject with a prince, of course, could only be solemnised by a special dispensation of the Emperor. Even the date was now fixed for the February of the coming year.

Hartwell's eye flashed with the old vigor as he read it in his study at Corton, and, pacing rather wildly, he thought to himself, "Ah, she'd leave them all for me, if I only go to her. She'd leave them all for me; and I I know that I shall go, too."

Hartwell's temptation to go to Julia was strong that day: for Julia happened to be near him in London, whither she had just returned from somewhere in Warwickshire.

But he decided to sleep, or rather to go to bed, upon it, and as the next morning the same evil mind possessed him, he began to make arrangements to go to her, not leaving his room meanwhile, nor allowing himself to see Martha.

But at eleven o'clock Dulaunay arrived suddenly with the news that neither Bobbie nor Rosie could be found in all Gloucestershire after three weeks' search by himself and a hired agent: and at this disaster Hartwell bowed his head.

Martha was every day growing more insistent for the promised appearing of Rosie and the "fairy prince."

And that same afternoon that Dulaunay came back to Corton a letter with the Birdlip postmark reached Hartwell, through London, from one Mary Seward, who said:


"I have to tell you, sir, the sad news that your Rosie has disappeared from the house, no one knows where to, though it is supposed to be with a young gentleman whom I saw in the orchard with her one day two months and a half ago. Five mornings after this she was missed, her bed had not been slept in, and Britton, the stableman at West Bridge House, says that one foreday he drove her and a young gentleman, who had hired a carriage at West Bridge to Cheltenham. I should have written you this sad news long before, sir, but to tell the truth, I was afraid you would say it was my fault, which, God knows, it was not, and besides I did not despair of finding the child. I hope you won't put the blame upon me, or won't think much harm of it because I did not write to tell you of the death of my sister Elizabeth four years since, as I am a poor woman, and did not know but what you might be taking the child from me and giving her to someone else, my sister being dead. I have drawn the bank money in her name, and that, I know, was wrong, but I hope, etc., etc."


A long rigmarole followed this.

Rosie, then, was gone; Bobbie, too, by the way, was gone; and Hartwell's mind, numb with its constant care, did not once conceive that Rosie and Bobbie may have gone in the same boat.

Hartwell had embarked on the grim task of "acting well:" he wished to stick to the wronged and bereaved Martha. If he abandoned Drayton's wife, he now felt that he must publicly abandon Drayton's name and estate also, much as these had become part of himself by old possession. That abandonment, too, of name and estate could be made, should be made, if only he would not be left quite nakedly poor: and that day when he received the news that Rosie had run away, he telegraphed to Birmingham to know definitely the date of the trial of his electrical invention.

After several failures he had got an efficient working-model of it, though a certain bird of ill-omen, an expert, had predicted a breakdown when the trial on the large scale should come to be made. However, the thing was being installed, and was to be tested before a board of experts that year: but the answer to his telegram that day was that the trial could hardly take place before the end of November.

That was two months away, and seemed two ages.

He felt that long before then, still retaining the name and estate of Drayton, he would abandon Drayton's wife, who was not his wife, in order to go to her, whom he loved; he felt that nothing could save him from this—unless he married Martha before witnesses who knew him well. And within five days after hearing anew of the engagement of Julia and of the loss of Rosie, he had, in fact, become Martha's legal husband.

He had taken Martha's hand two evenings after hearing of the loss of Rosie, as he and Martha were sitting on the well in the glade at sunset, and he had said to her:

"Martha, I have to make a painful confession to you, and to ask you for what, I think, will not be denied me—your sympathy and help. I am at present, Martha, in the pangs of a really serious temptation, the temptation to abandon you again, as I abandoned you before—"

"Then, why don't you?" cried Martha. "I want none of you, so don't think it! Go—go—don't you stay for me."

"No! by your side I stay—And do not be angry that I am even tempted, Martha, but let me be pitied, let me be helped. The temptation, I say, is not slight, and without support I must needs succumb to it, in spite of my sincere affection for you. And since I feel that this support would be furnished me, if I marry you afresh?"

"Marry who afresh?"

"Marry you, Martha."

Oh! the excellent Martha clapped her two hands to her sides! pierced and twisting with sudden, high laughter.

"Oh, this is rich!" she laughed. "Why, what's the matter with the man? people will say I'm gone crazy or turned spooney in my old age! a man of your age having these harum-scarum larks running through your head! You ought to be ashamed for your grey hairs—"

"I am delighted to have made you merry," said Hartwell, with a smiling eye, "which you too seldom are, Martha. My decision, however, in this matter is fully formed, and cannot be laughed away. The day after to-morrow we take a picnic to Norwich, and there we will be married before a Registrar, you giving your self as a widow, and I as a widower—"

"But what's the matter with him?" she cried. "Think of my doing such a ridiculous thing as that-my own lawful husband! This is only some new move!"

"No! no new move. Say nothing, but listen to me, since I work, not for myself, but for you. I am a new man to you of late—admit that, Martha and though never again can those closest relations which once existed between us be renewed, let a new binding be effected since there are reasons which suggest it. As to the assumption of people' that you were not married before, only Oswald and the count will know of the new marriage, and whatever they may tacitly assume will not, I think, much trouble you or me."

In the end her merriment died wearily out, and two days later, the party of four, Hartwell, Martha, Oswald, and Dulaunay, went to Norwich, a special licence having been procured. Hartwell was particularly careful that Oswald, whom he believed to be still his enemy, should be there to see, so that no evasion of the bond might ever be possible to him; and with grim lips and a bright eye, wantonly throwing away his life, he went through that ceremony. Oswald stood agape with mere wonderment at this rite in the Registrar's room; Dulaunay was like a machine made to mutter to itself a periodic "mon Dieu," but done before their eyes that strange deed was.

Like people with a weakness for the bottle, Hartwell had "signed the pledge," never more now to leave tea for wine, or Martha for Julia.


XXVI. — HARTWELL SENDS DULAUNAY

Autumn burned with slow combustion within the forest; "the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness" passed into chilly October, stripping the trees of their leaves, and turning the brackens brown; but still Oswald Drayton could not reach the end which he strove after.

From the first Gissing proved intractable, could not for the life of him remember ever to have seen the master and any young lady at Overstrand. "But, my good sir, I understand that they stayed a week with you," said Oswald. "Not with me, master, not with me," said Gissing, washing his hands of all knowledge of the matter, whispering of it sparingly even to his good woman in the dark nights on their bed.

"But you saw my man, Walker? You told him so?" said Oswald; and Gissing thought to himself: "If Walker was his man, that only proves that he don't wish no good to the master. Lord be praised, I ain't let out aught." He denied that he had ever seen Walker, cleaned himself of the whole matter, as one picks burrs from the clothes: for in this old man's bosom was now a deep-seated fear, reverence and gratitude for Hartwell.

Oswald, in his slow way, set himself to the siege of Gissing. He would stroll out in the mornings after breakfast through the forest and home coverts in the direction where Gissing, alone or with Anderson, was engaged in trimming, clearing, felling or making solid huts of dry twigs, and he would enter into leisurely chats about the winter prospects, the harvest, the weather, east-coast fishing, mould and bone dressing, Hong Kong, or how the birds were. Gissing could talk with considerable information, and even as he worked on, let his tongue run freely, but when it came to be a question of his two lodgers of live years before, he shrank like the sensitive plant, and lost his memory.

One evening, at the end of October, on returning home to his chalk cottage, whom should Gissing meet but Oswald. At a table covered with a clean, coarse cloth, on which were shrimps, water-cress and bread and butter, sat Oswald drinking tea out of a delf cup, and Mrs Gissing acting as the hostess. On the bench under the ivied lattice window, through which the very last beams of the sunset shone, sat Barnes, leaning forward with his left elbow on his left knee, all his paralysed right side seeming to hang behind, as if reluctant to follow the lead of the left: and there was a curious eagerness in his eyes, as if what had been said between Oswald and Mrs Gissing interested Barnes.

"Good evening to you, sir," said Gissing to Oswald, "this is an honor, I'm sure. But you're having a late tea; it must be nigh the dinner hour at the big house."

"Yes," answered Oswald, "you had better take Barnes round now." (Barnes always dined at the pavilion with Hartwell).

Gissing laid his axe and spade in a corner, saying with a certain tone of irony in his voice: "Come along then, Mister Barnes, come along" and he directed a look of warning toward his wife.

Barnes was now almost like a child, enfeebled in mind as well as body, and always meekly obeyed whatever was told him. He rose, took Gissing's arm, and went with a trailing right leg down the two broken doorsteps, and through the woods. As Gissing disappeared, he shot one more meaning look at his wife.

Oswald lit a cigar, while Mrs Gissing, a large clean-faced country woman, moved round the table, making a rattle with the crockery, looking flushed and uncomfortable, for she could not prevaricate reposefully, and the questions already asked before the entrance of Gissing had flustered her. Such a visit, however, as she was now undergoing had been foreseen in the household, and her proper course of conduct in such a case had been frequently discussed between her and Gissing.

"So, then, you do not wish to tell me," said Oswald. .

"Oh, dear! it ain't that I don't wish to," she answered, sitting with an averted face, her arms rolled in her gingham apron, "but you know yourself that it happened five years agone?"

"That what happened five years agone?"

"Why, what you're after hearing about, I should think! You want to know if ever I saw master with a lady—is that it? or if ever they lodged with us on the farm. I think that's it. And I say it's too long ago for a body to call to mind—"

"You admit, however, that it did happen."

"Me? Admit? Oh, sir, don't say that o' me, sir! I declare he'd put a saint out—! No, sir, it's the last thing I'd do—admit. There were people always comin' and goin' at the Old Manor Farm, and how is it likely I'd call to mind what you say yourself happened five years agone? No, dunnot say that o' me, sir."

"But Mr Drayton's face is one that one remembers. Be frank with me: he is my brother, you know, little as he looks it, and you may be sure that I have a good reason, for his sake, for wishing to know. Surely you remember seeing him somewhere before he brought you here?"

"I cannot say that I call it to mind."

"Then, how came you here?"

"He wanted a hand on the land."

"Hand on the land—How came Gissing to go to China of all places?"

"Better ask him that himself, sir."

"You tell me."

"Seeking a bit o' work, sir, seeking a bit o' work."

"Preposterous nonsense! He has bribed you all well, hasn't he?" muttered Oswald, rising with a flush of spite, envy, and defeat all over his shining head, while Mrs Gissing, catching the word "bribe," said sharply:

"We ain't received any bribe from master, sir, so don't think that. Gissing 'ud lay down his life any day for master, I do believe, without that, and so'd I, if it came to that, and so'd our Sarah, I'm sure. It ain't any bribe that you, or he either, could give us that 'ud buy what he's gotten o' us, and that's gratitude and love o' the heart:—and that's why, sir."

"You mean that's why you wallow in lies?" said Oswald, flushed with envy and jealousy: "how has he got from you this infernal love o' the heart? The man must have bewitched you, my good woman!"

"Ey, he's a decent lot, the master!" said Mrs Gissing half to herself, with a jerk of the head.

"And little Sarah is in the conspiracy of silence, too, is she?" muttered Oswald, going out: "we shall see into that. It is their own fault—"

He decided to get the truth from Sarah. But he walked to the pavilion with a feeling of misgiving: for he had said too much to Mrs Gissing, had openly showed enmity against Hartwell, and there was the possibility that the Gissings might conceive the idea of accusing him to Hartwell, who, for the present was his protector against the world. He resolved, therefore, to hurry matters with regard to Sarah.

On Friday nights—and this was one—whist parties had become an institution at the pavilion. Martha, like many old-fashioned people, had no small skill (of a technical, hand-and-fast sort) in the conduct of her hand, and, with Hartwell for her partner, generally won her rubber, though Oswald and Dulaunay made a strong combination against them. As this was the only item in their life at Corton in which Martha displayed the least interest, the count made it a point always to be present, even if he was away during the earlier part of the day.

That Friday night, accordingly, the party of four sat in the room which was used as the drawing-room, a large, quaint apartment on the ground floor, looking through French windows upon two lengths of the portico.

Of the four only the count chattered and "made to laugh," or rather made to smile in the case of Hartwell, for Martha did not find him amusing after the first few days, when his foreign being had ceased to excite her surprise at an undreamt-of-type. As for Oswald, he had lost his smile in Holloway, and sat saturnine, silent, prim, his handkerchief-corner stuck neatly, from the pocket of his snuff-colored coat; now he largely handled his moustache, now made a sound of lassitude or contempt of life with a corner of his mouth; and his eyes remained fixed on the cards, save when he let them rest a moment on Hartwell with an evil glance. The Frenchman he regarded with the vague contempt which he felt for whatever is more intelligent, bright and worldly than Pall Mall, and anon his lips curved slightly downward at the mere sound of Dulaunay's chatter. The count was telling an adventure which had happened to him near Buda-Pesth with an attaman of zincali, and had got to where the gipsy's daughter won his heart, when Sarah Gissing, about ten o'clock—for the sitting-up was late on whist-party nights—brought in two decanters, curious old cut-glass vessels with "port" and "sherry" marked on bands of old gold round their necks, and laid them on the table together with cake and biscuits; and with her came the retriever, Mascotte, a recent purchase of the count, which laid its neck on Hartwell's thigh, and awaited a caress.

Sarah had just returned from taking Barnes to her parents' cottage, and perhaps in consequence of a sharp walk back through the wood, was already rather flushed: but this flush deepened to the deepest carmine in that moment while she stood at the table. Hartwell saw it—could hardly fail to see it—and divined that the count had touched her foot with his under the small table. But this time Dulaunay was innocent. The culprit was Oswald.

Sarah was a slight girl whose rustic simplicity one might compare to the rabbit's, in spite of her nearly five years of exile in Birmingham. She was rather pretty, though thin, and though her eyes had a rather silly stare of preoccupation or flurry, and her upper-lip only closed with effort, at all events, sufficient had passed between her and Oswald in the way of gallant patronage on his side to leave her in no doubt as to who had touched her foot, and she blushed with that virgin excess, to the roots of her hair, to the tips of her toes, a redundant flood, which is possible any longer only to the rustic in these islands.

That betraying blush was seen not only by Hartwell but by Dulaunay, who muttered to himself: "But hold, she knows to blush, that girl there!" and Sarah put down the tray with such a clatter, that Martha looked up with a suspended card, flaying, "My goodness, what is the matter with Sarah?"

During three days after that night, Oswald's intrigue with Sarah progressed apace, but into its progress it is needless to enter, since it did not advance far, for on the third evening old Gissing, returning homewards from some forest work, which lay in a different direction from his usual haunts, spied Oswald and Sarah through some bushes standing under a tree, Sarah's head bent and smiling, and Oswald's forefinger under her chin. The old man's lips set wilfully, and he called out: "Here, Sarah, I want you!—excuse me, sir."

The girl at once followed him to the cottage; no word was spoken; even on going in, Gissing said nothing to her, except with his eyes; but he took Mrs Gissing into an inner room, and there held a family council. The task of giving a piece of the family mind to Sarah was left to Mrs Gissing, and she gave it without stint, and Sarah was soon in a state of tears and filial resentment. The altercation raged for an hour, while Gissing merely paced and looked on, as Napoleon from a hill surveyed the drama of Waterloo, expressing only with his eyes his scorn and indignation.

And that night Martha and the household at the pavilion awaited Sarah in vain: for Sarah, though now a woman of twenty-two, was kept a prisoner in the cottage.

The next morning at ten, while Martha was sitting out on the well, enjoying the 'Indian summer' with a novelette in her hand, and Oswald and Dulaunay had gone out with Steve, the three dogs, and double barrels, Gissing stood at the door of Hartwell's impromptu laboratory and study. It was a small room at a back corner of the pavilion on the upper floor, hung on three sides with rugged arras, while on the fourth were some new shelves, a new table, a new installation of gas and water, with a crowd of glass objects, and the odds and ends of the apparatus of research. Hartwell sat on an old oak chair at an old desk with a pen in his hand, but with his brow on the desk, as Gissing could see through the half-open door.

Gissing cleared his throat, and Hartwell lifted his head, staring a moment without seeming to see anything.

"Come in, Gissing—What, then, has become of Saran?" he said.

He shook the old man's hand with a long shake and a meaningful pressure. There was only one chair, so Gissing stood, holding his hat with both hands.

"It's her I come to talk about," said he. "I come to tell you that I don't want her to come back here no more. My good woman is sending her down Overstrand way to stop with a friend for a time."

Hartwell looked at him with a smiling eye, remembering Sarah's blush; and he said:

"You shall be well pleased. Do not send her away. I will speak with the count."

"It ain't the count; it's your brother, Mr Oswald."

"Ah? Out of the dry cometh forth sweetness. Well, then, Mr Oswald must be reasoned with."

Gissing was silent and scratched his head, seeking for expression.

"Look you here," he said, presently, "you've done everything for me, haven't you?"

"Except what I have done against you, my friend," said Hartwell in a lower voice.

"Ey, A' forget that, A' forget that there!—I give it all back to ye with love and brotherly feeling. You're a hard man, and what you once set your mind to it's got to be done; but for every kick that ye gave to me and mine, you've given me a kiss for it, when we was helpless, too, and ye didn't need to, save out o' the love and kindness o' your heart—God bless you, good luck to you!"

The back of the old man's rude hand slowly wiped a tear from his eye.

"Gissing, I see that I must call you a Christian," said Hartwell, "blessing them that have cursed you."

"There worn't no cursing," said Gissing; "what you did to me, it wor my own fault, after all, trying to get money."

"No! it was my fault: as to that let doubt be now dismissed, Gissing. What, however, has this to do with Mr Oswald's gallantries toward Sarah?"

"That's why I come to you, to tell you that it ain't Sarah he's after, not for herself, but it's the secret that he'd be winning of her."

"Which secret?"

"Why about you and the young lady that stopped at the Manor Farm."

Hartwell pondered that: Oswald wished to know about that.

Gissing brought his lips nearer to Hartwell's ear, saying in a secret voice:

"The youngster, Walker, that come at the first to the farm five year agone, seeking to ferret out about you and the young lady, he was Mr Oswald's man! and Mr Oswald has been after me and the good woman, too, of late, seekin' to make us own up to it, and seein' as we wouldn't, now he's for pumping of Sarah. So you'd better be on your guard."

"I will. Is that all you have to tell?"

"That's all."

"Do not send the girl away. Good bye."

"Good-bye."

"And my thanks, Gissing!"

"That's all right between us."

The old man went away, and Hartwell, rising, paced the room.

What he now clearly saw was that Drayton must have done some very serious wrong to this unknown girl; the fact that for five years Oswald had been seeking a witness of Drayton's and the girl's acquaintanceship proved this, as did also the fact that Oswald, a poor man, had originally offered Gissing so large a bribe as £200 to bear witness against Drayton.

Where, then, was the girl? what was her name? In all that time could Oswald not find her? Was she dead? What had Drayton done to her? Had he—? Hartwell shrank from a terrible question which presented itself to his mind. If he had now remembered Oswald's interest in the murder of one Letty "Barton," and his own reasonings about that murder, and if he had connected this memory with Drayton and the girl seen by Gissing, the truth must have dawned upon him that Letty "Barton" was really a girl done to death by Drayton. But he did not think of that. A foreboding of calamity, however, a definite expression of spirits, took possession of him; he understood that here was a question of life and death.

Ant now his mind naturally recurred to the shreds of the letter which Oswald had tried, and failed, to steal: for since Oswald was so earnest in the matter of Drayton and the girl, it might well be that those shreds related to the same matter. By what series of chances, he, Hartwell, had not even now read those shreds he did not know; but he resolved to read them at once.

He resolved also to let Oswald know that his unbrotherly hostility was no secret, and that he was-disposed to resent it.

He waited till lunch-time, and while the three men and Martha were at table, with Sarah serving, he said to Dulaunay: "Count, I have to beg you to take a trip to London for me by the 2.21 train, if you will. It is a question of opening a wardrobe in my bedroom in Addison-Road with this key and searching something among the pockets of the coats in the left hand compartment, till you find an envelope containing some shreds of paper: these I want to examine at once. Will you do this for me?"

Handing the key to Dulaunay, he fixed a look upon Oswald, who became red and then white. Hartwell had not "an eye like Mars' to threaten and command," but he had an eye like Ulysses' to threaten while it smiled, an eye teeming with magnetic influence, which Oswald felt, but which, unfortunately, could not terrify the Power which arranges the course of events.

As they moved away from the table after lunch, he said close to Oswald's ear, "I desire you, Oswald, to have no further talk with Sarah Gissing."

Oswald made no reply, he had no time; he understood that the order was final; and taking his hat from the hall, he went out walking alone in the paths of the forest, with a bosom in which boiled all the poisons of rage, hatred, a sense of weakness and thwarted effort, humiliation and belittlement, shame and care. Hartwell had given him the command in the tone in which one checks a naughty schoolboy; and with Oswald's other bitterness was mingled the bitterness of an enforced change of opinion, a revolution of theory held through a life-time: for whereas since boyhood he had despised "James," Oswald now found that willy-nilly he revered "James," and suspected that he himself was despised, and rightly despised, by that "James" whom he had despised, and had believed that he had rightly despised. He had, therefore, to endure the constant whisper of his consciousness: "You have been a fool in a club, and nothing that you or Pall Mall ever thought was true;" and this added to the other shames and rages of Oswald.


XXVII. — THE SHREDS

Meantime, Dulaunay was getting ready to set out by the 2.21 p.m. train. So small an incident as a trip to London, which could not excite the most excitable of Britons, was an event to the count, brought a light to his eyes, and formed, when it was over, the subject of a detailed narrative in his journal. He came down drawing on his gloves, in a frilled shirt-front, and a large hat somewhat cocked aside, said a formal good-bye to Hartwell and Martha in the portico, promised to be back by eleven p.m., and, as the trap was not ready, went in a heat and hurry to the stables, though there was no need for haste. He waited in the stable-yard, a small quadrangle of red-brick in the heart of the forest behind the pavilion, and hurried the young groom, who was called Gloucester, in harnessing one of the two horses which were kept at Corton. Gloucester then put on another jacket, and they set off.

But in the second avenue from the stables, a stoppage occurred: for, in passing Oswald, Dulaunay waved a good-bye, and, as if this action had inspired Oswald with the devil in the shape of a sudden thought, he called out when the trap had passed six yards beyond him: "Hi! I think I'll go with you—"

The trap stopped, Gloucester got out and sat on the drop-seat behind, and Oswald drove to the station, where they took the train for London, bidding Gloucester be there for them with the trap at 10.45.

Oswald could hardly have explained to himself this sudden impulse to go to London: he had no definite object; a moment before he had seen the trap in the avenue he had had no thought of going from Corton; but precisely like an inspiration it had entered his head, and there he was in the train.

It must be that the brain works independently of one's will, as in dreams perhaps. Oswald's consciousness had contained in it the fact that the count was going to bring those shreds of Letty's letter, so long coveted, so greedily coveted by him; and his brain must on a sudden, as a trap passed him, have evolved the conclusion that it might possibly be as well if he were near Dulaunay during the next hours.

During that journey to London some strange mists of thought floated through Oswald's mind—thoughts of chloroform, of knocks on the head, and main force. He saw himself holding a saturated handkerchief to Dulaunay's face on the journey back to Corton, or inflicting a blow with the head of his stick, or wrestling with the Count in panting agony for the shreds of Letty Barnes' letter. All the way such visions infested his spirit, even as he smoked and chatted. But he knew that they were visions and nothing more: Oswald was not made for such deeds; the most that he could do was to conceive them, and be guilty of them in will. So much was no different in action from his dead brother, James.

When they arrived it was not far from dinner-time, and not expecting much in that way at Addison Road, they walked down the Strand and dined in an underground club of Dulaunay's. There they took a cab for Kensington, and, arriving there, were welcomed by Miss Scatchett, who said to them in the inner hall with a certain smirk of mystery:

"You are just too late, gentlemen, to meet the young married couple: they had an early dinner, and left twenty minutes since for Corton."

"Which young married couple?" asked Oswald.

"Why, Mr and Mrs Hartwell," answered Miss Scatchett, with the same smirk of mystery.

Silence fell, while the minds of Oswald and Dulaunay digested the words. Dulaunay's eyes travelled quickly to and fro between Oswald and Miss Scatchett.

"But hold," said he, "is it Bobbie that she wishes to say?"

"Yes, sir, Mr Bobbie Hartwell!"

"Is Bobbie, then, married?"

"To as charming a bride as you could desire to see! I almost imagined that you would know by this time, though I understood from Mrs Bobbie that there is some difficulty He was extremely nervous about going down, but I have not the least doubt, as I told him, that all will be well, if he allows his bride to plead his cause. She really is charming—rustic as a wood-nymph, yet quite well-bred—in short, charming."

"Well, I was never so astonished," cried the Count; "that lost Bobbie married! This, then, explains his long absence and silence, Oswald: he had fear of what "Draytong" might say. And now at last he returns married. It is as though the 'Prodigal Son,' returned to his father with a lady on his arm, followed by a valet and a chamber-woman—Have they attendants, Miss?"

"Oh, yes," said Miss Scatchett, "a man and a French maid, of whom the man remains here and the maid has gone with them. They came direct from Paris, intending to stay here only a few hours before proceeding to Corton, but they stayed three days, hesitating to face Mr Drayton. I understood in private from the bride that Mr Bobbie had been intended by his guardian for someone else, and hence the trouble. What makes the history delightfully romantic is that Mr Bobbie appears to have been somehow despatched into the country to 'seek' the lady who was intended for him—'seek' is the word that was used—and while seeking her, he found the actual Mrs Bobbie all too charming to be resisted, and—"

"It is so, then: Bobbie is married!" exclaimed Dulaunay, with a buffoon laugh; then seriously: "I fear that "Draytong" will not be disposed to show himself content there."

"Serves the clown right," muttered Oswald, "this may check his zeal in going about adopting strange boys."

"Well, so much for Mr Bobbie and his sweet bride!" said Miss Scatchett. "But you, gentlemen, have you dined?"

"Yes," said Dulaunay, "we are not here but for a few minutes, to get some papers from Mr "Draytong's" wardrobe, so we will not need to give you any trouble. That would have been interesting, Oswald, to witness the reception which "Draytong" gives to the two young married! but they will be at Corton by ten, an hour before we arrive there."

Little Miss Scatchett now rushed off in those brown silks which were part of her personality, and the two men moved into the morning room, where Dulaunay half sat on the table, his mind all occupied still with the marriage of Bobbie, while Oswald threw himself on a couch, palish and inwardly agitated at the thought that those shreds of Letty's letter, which he had so longed for, were about to be brought out from their secret place. The disgrace and ruin which his attempt to get them had cost him only made them the more infinitely an object of his greed; and they were about to be carried carelessly in Dulaunay's pocket! yet Oswald's goaded brain could invent no means of touching them.

Dulaunay's tongue still kept on running on the subject of Bobbie's marriage, saying:

"'Draytong' will assuredly be very angry, I know it. He was most eager that Bobbie should marry Rosie whom he sent him to seek, and I believe it was the failure of Bobbie to return with her which pushed him to the marriage with Martha."

"But who the deuce is the 'Rosie' whom he sent Bobbie to 'seek?'" asked Oswald, reclining with his hat over his brows: "what is it all about?"

"Have I not explained it to you? Rosie is the good Martha's daughter—"

"My dear sir, I take, of course, no interest in the family-tree of the good Martha," said Oswald with that half yawn of indifference which men make when they are secretly agitated, "but how on earth came this 'Rosie' to need any 'seeking'? There seems to be a very absurd tangle somewhere."

"But have you not heard the good Martha recount her history?"

"I may have," answered Oswald: "but one does not give oneself the pains of storing up the gabble of low women like this good Martha. I find the creature very offensive."

"But no, she is not offensive! at least I do not find her it! What would you have? the average of humanity is not sublime, my friend. At any rate, Martha has recounted me that the Rosie whom Bobbie and then I were sent to seek is a daughter by her first marriage, her first husband's name being Harper, so that Rosie's name is Rose Harper. But here is that which is odd! that "Draytong" was apparently ignorant of that fact, until I myself told him! for he sent both me and Bobbie to seek this Rosie Harper in the name of Rosie "Draytong"! What can be more singular, my friend?"

"Oh, the man's mad," said Oswald.

"Or is it not rather Martha whose mind is not of the strongest?" asked the Count with perplexed brows: "it is certain that she has made me statements which cannot be credited. She has said to me, for instance, with insistence, that she and "Draytong" were really married before the ceremony which you and I witnessed at Norwich. This surely is among the things which do not permit themselves to be believed!—that a man should remarry his own wife. The truth must be that "Draytong" and Martha were together before marriage, and only married when we saw them marry at Norwich. And yet—strange circumstance! "Draytong" himself, on the day when I was about to see Martha for the first time, said:-'I am about to present you, Dulaunay, to my wife.' Moreover, "Draytong" once long ago told the Lady Julia that he was married. Does not all this confirm that which Martha says, that she was legally married to "Draytong" long years before the ceremony which we witnessed at Norwich? Only, it is not credible! One does not remarry one's wife at any cost. If one commits the bigamy it is always with a third person. And yet, if "Draytong" was not already married, what possible power could have caused him to abandon the marriage with his beloved Julia? mon Dieu, I understand nothing, nothing, there!"

Dulaunay's two hands rose toward his head, as if inclined to tear out his hair in an access of puzzlement. Oswald, too, who understood nothing there, made a sound of contempt with is lips, saying: "Queer people ought to be put into asylums. I have long since ceased to puzzle out the vagaries of my excellent brother and his distinguished wife. But very likely they were married before. I have heard the woman say that she is from South Africa, and the man was there a long time in his youth, I believe."

"But, if they were married before, what, then, could be the motive of a second marriage? It is not conceivable!"

"Heaven knows. I don't care. Better go and get the shreds of paper he sent you here for—"

"But hold—you say that "Draytong" was in South Africa in his youth? But no; there, I think, you are mistaken: for I remember distinctly that Drayton said to me, when we were discussing a voyage to South Africa in the yacht, that he had never been in South Africa—"

"He lied for some reason. He once lived there."

"Lied? But permit me to be frank, Oswald, and to say that the tone which you adopt in discussing your brother is not pretty, my friend. Mr "Draytong", I am able to assure you, is a man of strong honor, though there may be some mysteries in his life. If we consider his abandonment of the excellent Julia, it becomes clear that his motives, whatever they may have been, were motives of the highest sublimity, and so difficult to accomplish that, as we see, they have even silvered his hair. To me personally "Draytong" is, on the whole, the most venerable human being, the heaviest brain and the strongest heart, which it has been my destiny to encounter: and, you will admit, I am not without experience of men. As to his statement that he had never been to South Africa, I am forced to believe it, for I now remember several incidents which, when we reached Cape Town, prove that he was a stranger to the country. If, therefore, he did marry Martha before that inexplicable ceremony at Norwich, it was certainly not in South Africa."

"My dear sir, think as you like; it is of no importance," murmured Oswald.

"No, the fact is," pursued Dulaunay, "that the good Martha is not entirely credible on all points. She may have had an illness which has weakened the mind, and indeed, she shows the traces of it in all her air. The history, for instance, which she daily repeats of having been locked up in the old tower five years by "Draytong" belongs to the 'Thousand Nights and One Night.' It is not compatible with "Draytong's" present devotion to her."

"But I have asked the man, Steve, if it is true about the locking up in the tower," said Oswald, "and as far as I could understand the fellow, he rather seemed to admit it. Beautiful mediaevalism of the gentle James, that imprisonment in a tower! But I think that I should myself have kept Martha under lock and key, if she had been mine: the wonder is that he ever let her out to bore the world."

"But I find her very well, the good Martha!" cried Dulaunay with opening arms: "we cannot all be brilliant wits and great minds like you, Oswald. But I see you are of a bad humour to-day. Well, then, I will now go up and get the shreds of paper, and we will then at once return to Corton, that we may hear how the two young married have been received by "Draytong". That would have been a situation worthy to be seen! "Draytong" will not have permitted himself to flame into an anger, I think, but he will have looked at them sideward with a certain vivacity of the eye, the significance of which the gallant Bobbie will perhaps be likely to remember, oh, la, la! Well, I go up—But no, you are wrong, Oswald, to credit the statements of either Martha or Steve as to that imprisonment in the tower. Steve is toque, maboule, loufoque—how do you say?—'daft.'

"No, that would not nave been able to happen, my friend. The unfailing chivalry of "Draytong" to the somewhat commonplace Martha is in reality one of the sublimest of spectacles, and for us, who daily witness it, it is not possible to imagine that he once shut her up five years."

The Count said these last words on the stairs, going up for the shreds, for Oswald had followed him out of the morning room, rather to Dulaunay's surprise, since Oswald did not usually give himself any unnecessary trouble; and still discussing "Draytong," Martha, Rosie, Bobbie, and the position of affairs at Corton. They entered Hartwell's room on the first floor, with Oswald, who was a shade paler now, at Dulaunay's heels. And Dulaunay inserted the key which Hartwell had given him into that wardrobe which contained the shreds of Letty Barnes' letter to Julia.


XXVIII. — HARTWELL IS TRAPPED

It was nearly night, and as Dulaunay opened the wardrobe, and began to feel in the pockets of the garments hung up there, he reached aside and pressed down an electric switch, filing the large room with light. Meantime, Oswald paced to and fro between the heavy Henri Quatre bedstead and the wardrobe, conscious of the preciousness of the seconds that were even then passing over him, but conscious also of his lack of power to rise to the height of their importance. He felt that if now, while the wardrobe was open, and while the shreds wore not yet found by Dulaunay, he could invent some means of making Dulaunay go out of the chamber for one minute, some excuse, some ruse, in that minute he could secure the shreds: here was the "Golden Opportunity," the chance that comes only once for over: but even as the chance passed and passed, Oswald was unequal to it. The flying moments, compared with the action of his intellect, were like race-horses compared to an ox stuffed with grass which heavily trots after them. The finding of the shreds, meantime, was no momentary matter: Dulaunay dived into pocket after pocket, sometimes bringing out other papers or letters, which he opened to see if they contained any shreds, half-absently running his eye over them, and still chatting about Hartwell, Julia, Martha, and about Hartwell's great electrical invention, the testing of which was to take place in three days' time, on the Tuesday of the following week, this day being a Saturday. Oswald, pacing to and fro, uttered not a word, nor heard a word of what was being said; even his footsteps were inaudible in the thick carpet; so that all at once, when the Count's talk was arrested by one of the papers over which he had glanced, perfect silence was in the chamber for a minute or two, broken only by a whisper of "Mon Dieu!" uttered under his breath by Dulaunay.

The paper at which Dulaunay was then staring was a marriage-certificate. He had found it in a breast-pocket of a coat of Hartwell's; and it recorded the marriage of James Drayton and Martha Harper in the town of Colesberg, South Africa, over sixteen years before.

Hartwell had found this certificate of marriage a couple of years before this time in an old trunk of Drayton's at the estate in Bucks; it had happened during his long yachting cruise over the world, before he had fallen ill at Siena, had there seen Julia on opening his eyes, and had become engaged to her; he had put the certificate in the pocket of the coat in which it was now found by Dulaunay, and had left it at Addison Road on his return journey from the estate in Bucks to the yacht.

Again Dulaunay breathed the exclamation, "mon Dieu!" as during a minute or two he stared at the old marriage lines. He had, as he had just said to Oswald, proof on proof that "Draytong" had never been in South Africa, apart from "Draytong's" own assertion that he had never been there: yet, here was an equally strong proof that "Draytong" had married there.

Now, two seeming facts, mutually contradictory, yet each equally proved to be certain, always pressingly spur the mind to prove to itself its own sanity by getting at the actual truth: and this was what now happened to Dulaunay. He put the certificate into his pocket, then after another half-minute's' hurried search found the shreds for which he had been sent, put them, too, into his pocket, said to Oswald, "I pray you to wait me here some minutes, Oswald," and, going out of the door, again murmured blankly to himself, "mon Dieu! I understand nothing there."

He ran up the stair as if in haste to catch or find something that was eluding him, entered his own room, closed the door upon himself, threw himself upon a couch, shut his eyes, and lay frowning with thought. He felt that he was on the verge of unravelling some extraordinary thing, and that the darkness which still surrounded his mind was like that dense darkness of the foreday, when men yet have an instinct, of the coming light, and wait with assurance for its appearance.

He lay in deep thought a considerable time with one hand on the certificate of marriage, while below Oswald continued to pace, thinking bitterly that now the shreds were in Dulaunay's pocket, and the great chance, never to come again, had been allowed to slip; there now occurred to Oswald more than one plan by which he might have secured the shreds while Dulaunay had the wardrobe open, and not only had he now the plans, but now, when it was too late, he felt the courage, the capacity, the address, which three minutes previously might have been sufficient to secure him the shreds, while his breast broadened at the feeling which he spurred in himself that for the future he would not fail to be equal to all the exigencies of life; but at the very same time a remorseful whisper of his consciousness—that whisper which is said to increase the torments of hell—said within him: "A fool is a man who is wise too late; and if you had a second chance, or a hundredth, you would still be your self, and would still lack a capable soul."

He waited so long, that he grew weary, stopped pacing, searched without motive in all the pockets of the clothes in the wardrobe, found nothing of any interest, and finally went to one of the front windows of the room, looking out, leaning on his stick, with his hard-felt hat, which was a delicate shade of brown, tilted on his forehead. It was night now, the street lamps lit, and a pelting shower of rain was falling; he saw the yard and the breadth of the street beyond looking like a plain grown with a thick short crop of white grass, caused by the rebound of the splashing rain; there stood the cab in which he and Dulaunay had come, waiting for them; and on the top of that, too, and all along the top of the front wall, sprouted the crop of white grass; in dashed the cringing figure of a butcher's man with a tray of meat for Miss Scatchett's household, and disappeared behind an angle of the house; it was a quarter of an hour before he dashed out again: and still Dulaunay did not come. Oswald looked at his watch: it was ten minutes past eight.

The Count still lay in the dark room above, thinking out the mystery of Hartwell's life, and before his mental review passed nearly every incident of his connection with Hartwell, begun just about five years before, one rainy night at Liverpool Street Station.

More than anything else the strangeness of that meeting now struck him. He had sat down in "Draytong's" brougham to escape from, the rain; and "Draytong," suddenly appearing, had proffered him his hand. "Draytong" had asked him about things at Addison Road, about the health of Miss Scatchett, had taken him for an old acquaintance—. Was it not odd? Where could the mind begin to penetrate a mystery so dark? The strangeness of the thing had more or less faded from the consciousness of the Count in the course of years: but when one sat and reconsidered it, then that strangeness was even wild, was even exasperating to the reason. Reason said, "It never could have happened"; but memory, at war with reason, replied, "I did happen."

"Draytong" had said in the brougham as they drove toward Addison Road: "You do not ask me anything about my motor-car accident—" and at one time Dulaunay had thought that a blow received in that accident may really have injured "Draytong's" brain, as "Draytong" pretended, causing him to mistake Dulaunay for someone else; later on Dulaunay had believed that "Draytong" purposely played a comedy, pretending to an old acquaintanceship with the Count, through having taken a fancy to him at first sight; many theories, in fact, had at one time, or another been built up by Dulaunay to explain that singular commencement of the friendship between himself and Hartwell: but none of those theories had been satisfactory, and they seemed wild enough this night when a host of other incidents, all evidently connected with one great original mystery, were called up in his memory, and passed before his criticism.

There was the motor car accident—"Draytong's" mind had not been injured thereby: that was certain; no sounder intelligence existed than "Draytong's." But something had occurred at that accident! some imbroglio with a man named "Hartwell!" There were the ravings of "Draytong" during his illness at Siena; there, was that perplexity depicted on his face when he had said: "Am I Hartwell; or am I Drayton?" and when he had said again: "The faces are one—how if the natures be one also? and which of the two am I, am I?" Those had been words of no meaning then, either to Julia or to Dulaunay; but Dulaunay remembered them, every one, and now, when he faced and questioned them stubbornly, they seemed to whisper to him a truth, though afar off, as it were, and in a language which he did not understand. There were also the delirious man's moments of agitation, his hoarse whispers: "The dead know not anything—I will change clothes—Hartwell shall be Drayton, the beggar the millionaire—the coat, the waistcoat, now the collar—no one on the road, McCalmont dead!" And there were the somnambulisms, those haggard, wandering nightmares, when, staring blindly at the mirror, "Draytong" had often again repeated in pain those names of Hartwell and Drayton, and been uncertain which of the two he was.

The mystery seemed to be the mystery of two men, then, not of one: two men "whose faces were one."

Dulaunay had been so sure that "Draytong" had never been to South Africa before that trip in the yacht! but, the marriage certificate proved that he had been there. As soon, however, as Dulaunay took it for granted that "Draytong" had certainly been there, had married Martha there, he found himself confronted with a host of dark facts, such as that "Draytong" had not apparently known that "Harper" was the name of the daughter of the woman whom he had married as Martha Harper: "Draytong" had apparently supposed that Rosie was his own daughter, and was named Drayton! How account, moreover, for the fact that "Draytong" had remarried that same Martha who had already been married by him in South Africa? How account for the fact that "Draytong" had sworn to Julia in the rocca at Siena that he was not married? Was "Draytong," then, infamous? No, the truth must be that "Draytong" had never married in South Africa, and "hat the marriage certificate related to another man who had taken the name of "Draytong." And Dulaunay at once rushed to the conclusion the name of that other man must be Hartwell.

And "Draytong" and this unknown Hartwell were so precisely alike that Martha, the wife of Hartwell, believed that they were one.

That was odd! and yet not so odd; the Count remembered how "Dray tong" came to be so unlike his brother Oswald. Julia had told him the story—How "Draytong" was the image of a captain who had extravagantly terrified his mother. But since this South African Hartwell, having "the same face" as "Draytong," must also be the image of that captain, then there may have been two terrified mothers—Dulaunay decided that this must really have been so.

Hartwell, therefore, had taken the name of "Draytong" in South Africa, and there married Martha Harper. This was what the Count at first concluded; but at once this theory was faced with a great number of difficulties. With what motive, then, had "Draytong," the rich man, permitted Martha to think that he was Hartwell, the poor man? With what motive had he abandoned the beloved Julia to marry Martha, Hartwell's wife? How came Oswald to be so certain that "Draytong," his brother, had not only been, but had lived, for years, in South Africa? The Count felt that his theory was wrong somewhere.

For some twenty minutes his thoughts toiled, without progress, in this strait. Then there came a moment when he said to himself: "Since one of the two men, Hartwell and "Draytong," has lived in South Africa, but the other has never lived there; and since the one who lived there was Oswald's brother, and the one who never lived there is the man I know as "Draytong," therefore the man I know as "Draytong" is not Oswald's brother; but Oswald's brother is certainly named "Draytong"; therefore the man I know as "Draytong" is not really named "Draytong", but is really named Hartwell; and Hartwell took the name of "Draytong", not in South Africa, where he never lived, but in England, at the motor-car accident, where the real "Draytong" was killed, where 'the dead know not anything' where 'the beggar became the millionaire'—and 'the clothes were changed'—the coat, the waistcoat, now the 'collar'—'no one on the road—'McCalmont dead,' and 'the dead know not anything."'

At this thought Dulaunay sat electrified, pale but for a stain of crimson on one side of his face, as "when a great thought strikes along the brain, and flashes all the cheek." The mystery lay solved, and every incident which had arisen out of it, every motive of Hartwell's conduct, was now clear to the understanding, which was henceforth like a vault flooded with light, the key having once been found to throw open the door.

Thus, with hardly any new facts to guide him through the maze, Dulau nay, by the mere passage of time and ripeness of his consciousness, together with a little thinking, came out into daylight. He even wondered now why he had not seen, years before, what he now saw; but this would not have been possible for that very reason, that his consciousness had not been ripe, that a sufficient length of time had not matured the fruit of knowledge, even though he had had clues to the mystery of Hartwell's life which no one else possessed. The knowledge of the truth is, really, like a fruit which cannot be plucked much before it is ripe. It was always, for instance, an open secret that it is the earth, not the sun, which goes round: but men greater than Solomon could not attain to it, till it somehow bent down to the grasp of men. The fruit may, indeed, be plucked a little before it is ripe by the "men in advance of their age," etc., but these Galileos suffer those sharp cracks on the knuckles which one Mother Eve suffered, whereas, if she had not plucked, but waited, the fruit of knowledge would of itself, in time, have dropped over ripe, into her lap; she might then have eaten it, and nothing would have been said. Dulaunay, however, was not of this aggressive Galileo-type, but simply a vivacious mind, receptive of ideas when they were presented to him, so that only in the fullness of time was the knowledge of the whole truth about Hartwell born of itself, after a short travail, in him.

His first feeling was a natural exultation at his discovery, the chuckle of self-congratulation, and the busybody zest of one who alone holds the key to a scandal of great magnitude; he laughed flippantly within himself, thinking: "Here is a history, this affair here, oh, la, la!" Then, when the levity of his first amazement passed off, he was struck by an impression of the greatness and pity of it all, of the gravity of the issues which spring from human action, and the abysm which the heart is. Hartwell, whom he still in his thoughts called "Draytong"—Hartwell, the respected, the grave thinker about man and God, whose work had been crowned, whose tone suggested a moral strength incapable of frailty, who was adored by one of the most admirable of patrician women, this Hartwell was one of the great impostors of modern society. Indignation and shame now flushed Dulaunay's brow. He did not understand that Hartwell was not bound by the moral code of "a good Catholic" and "a man of honour" like himself; the excellent Count had accepted without question "a moral code" and "a code of honour" which had been made for him long before he was born, and he did not reflect that a man of profoundly original and vigorous mind like Hartwell cannot consider himself subject to any ready made code, but must needs start afresh, as though he were the first man who ever lived, looking into the nature of things with his own eyes, and making his own code, which may be right or wrong, according to the depth of his insight. Hartwell had never suffered one qualm for assuming the name and estate of Drayton; the word "impostor" was a less contemptuous word to his mind than the words "dervish" or "curate": but to Dulaunay it was a word full of shame.

But that was only the first glaring fact about Hartwell which struck the mind, that he was an impostor: there were other facts of a different sort; and lying on the sofa in the dark room, the Count saw them all in a clear light—saw them with murmurs of reverence, and with pangs of pity. The motive with which Hartwell had married Drayton's wife was no longer obscure: it was in order that he might cut off with a ruthless knife from his heart the temptation to abandon her for the beloved Julia; "In which case," thought the Count, "that is not astonishing that the hairs of that erring, but venerable head, have silvered themselves." The truth of what Martha constantly asserted, that she had been isolated from the world for five years in the tower at Corton was now for the first time believed by Dulaunay; it was the dead Drayton who had thus isolated her, and it was Hartwell who had set her free, at a moment when her freedom meant the ruin of all his hopes. The Count was able to guess that at the time when Hartwell vowed to Julia at Siena that he was not married, he probably did not know where Martha was, or if she were dead or alive, though he must have known of the fact of Drayton's marriage to her; then, on the eve of his marriage with Julia, Hartwell had gone down to Corton, and had discovered Martha in her prison. What a war in the mind or the ill-fated Hartwell must then have taken place! The contrast between the two women—Martha and Lady Julia—presented itself strongly to the Count's mental vision: the one so special, and also so beloved, the other so common and cheap, and hard to love. If on that discovery in the tower at Corton, Hartwell desired, even to madness, the death of Martha, that would have been only natural; he must have desired it: it required no very deep sympathy to be able to perceive what at that time could not have failed to transact itself in Hartwell's soul. He had vowed to Julia at Siena that no impediment existed in the way of their marriage, and the continued existence of this Martha, this pseudo wife suddenly discovered in the tower, meant not merely the wreck of his and Julia's happiness, but it meant that Julia and all who knew of his vow, must needs despise him as the most perjured of ruffians. What even "a man of honour" and "a good Catholic" might, in so harassing a situation, have done, or might have been tempted to do, was terrible to think of; at least he might have left Martha in the isolation where Drayton had placed her, running the risk of her existence some day coming to light, and he might still, in spite of her, have married Julia; this, indeed, would have been very natural: for Martha at that time was nothing to Hartwell; she was Drayton's wife, and Drayton had isolated her. But Hartwell had compassionated her, had liberated, married her; and these reflections stirred emotions so lively in the Count, that he had an impulse to hasten straight way to Hartwell, to kiss his hand like a disciple, and to say: "I know all! and I condemn, I pity, but above all I revere you."

How and why that marriage with Martha had been made necessary was now very evident: Bobbie had been sent into the country to seek, the girl, Rosie, in order that, when Rosie came, Hartwell might be able to desert Martha without leavings her desolate; the rash engagement, meantime, of Julia with the Arch-Duke's heir must have powerfully spurred Hartwell to cast Martha to the winds, to prostrate himself at the feet of his beloved, and to tell her that he was not so perjured a wretch as she could not fail to suppose him; but Bobbie had not come with Rosie: Bobbie had, apparently, been occupying his time in conjugal escapades with another than Rosie; and finally Hartwell, finding his human nature all too weak for the task which he had assumed, finding that he could not be a faithful husband to her who was not his wife, had brusquely ended the conflict with in him by a suicide of his heart and hope, and had made Martha his legal wife.

No great effort of penetration was needed on the part of the excellent Count in order to make these conjectures about Hartwell's late sufferings and motives; within the last few months he had seen as it were years added to Hartwell's age, a resignation in Hartwell's smile, a silent experience of grief in his glance, the tufting of his hair with grey, and a stooping of his shoulders as under a heavy burden. The Count had inwardly bemoaned his friend without fathoming the full cause of all this: and now, fathoming it, he muttered to himself at one moment: "Here, then, I think, is a piece of human clay not without cracks, yet a master-man (un homme maître), and worthy to be loved."

His first practical decision was to hie straight to Julia and tell her all: and as this occurred to him, he leapt up from the couch, at the same time hearing Oswald's voice outside on the stairs calling: "I say, aren't you coming? We shall miss the train." To which Dulaunay called back: "I come at the instant even! Wait me!"

He stood a minute longer where he was, confirming himself in his decision. Yes, he would go to Julia. Two days ago she was in London, he knew, and probably still was. He would tell all that very night. This would cause him to miss the train, but there was no necessity for him to return to Corton that night: he would give Oswald the shreds for which he had been sent; Oswald would take them down to "Draytong," and he himself would at once call upon the admirable Julia.

His nerves danced with excited anticipation at the greatness of the effect which his revelation must produce upon Julia; the zeal of a disciple to preach Hartwell to her so possessed him, that his Gallic impetuosity forefelt the impatience which would be his during the slow cab drive between Addison Road and Brook Street. He knew that in preaching Hartwell to her, he would be preaching to ears eager enough to hear; nor was he under any obligation to Hartwell to keep secret what his own wits had unearthed. Next to "Draytong's" friendship, his intimacy with Julia was the most precious of his flighty life's experiences; here was the first lovely woman whom he had learned to love without desiring for himself; he desired her for another; and this unselfish flame had long been the source within him of much pure, and rather novel, emotion. She had taught him long before the rupture with Hartwell to regard her as a dear friend and sister, unique among women, and high aloof from his ordinary gallantries; but since the rupture she had become to him that which is more than a friend—a friend in despair, for whom he could do nothing, and her image in his heart had now acquired something almost of saintship, halooed with the sacredness which a great misfortune, borne with resignation, confers. Since the rupture he had been much in her company, both in London, and abroad; at a score of meetings had they discussed in private intimacy the strange, disastrous conduct of Hartwell; but the Count's words of consolation, in the dark as he himself was, had had only the value which friendship and sincerity gave them: to say and many times repeat that "Draytong for ever adores you, Julia," or that "Draytong is the soul of honour," or that "Draytong if not deranged" had not been to prove that it was true. He had seen Julia desperately drifting into marriage with the Gross-Herzog P——, and for her sake, not for Hartwell's, had tried his best to warn her back, but without effect. He now hoped that what he was about to tell her might even yet avert that marriage. He felt himself the good Providence of Julia and of Hartwell, and, full of this busy, self-important feeling, he rushed out of the room and down the stairs: Julia should know the whole shameful and sublime truth of how "Draytong" had sinned, had achieved, and had suffered: and she should judge him for herself.

He met Oswald awaiting him below at the door of the morning-room, and he said hurriedly:

"I regret to have made you to wait, Oswald. Something has arrived to me which will prevent me from returning to Corton to-night."

"My dear sir, you are erratic," said Oswald: "I am not going to stay here. I shall simply go back to Corton with out you."

"But, yes! why not? It is even that which I supposed that you would do, my friend. We have little need, I think, of the protection one of the other? I, of my part, will sleep here under the auspices of the good Miss Scatchett, and perhaps you will tell her this presently for me. On Monday, in the afternoon, I will rejoin you at Corton. Only I pray you to let me take the cab which waits us at the gate, and to find yourself another, since I am pressed to arrive somewhere; you will perhaps also be good enough to place in the hand of "Draytong" this envelope which he sent me to seek, and to make for me my compliments and excuses to himself and to the excellent Martha."

In saying this, he had taken the envelope containing the shreds from his pocket, and he handed it to Oswald; nor would he have believed even an angel, we may suppose, who had said to him then: "This act of yours is a stroke of destiny by which you work the total overthrow of him whom you love."

Oswald's hand went out and took that envelope which by no use of his wits he had been able to touch, but which now of its own accord came in to his possession.

He had learned at least one good habit in the distinguished circles in which he had moved, the habit of hiding his emotions under a reposeful exterior; but he was unhinged in a rather singular way by this event, it was so great and sudden: he neither reddened nor turned pale, but he became quite awkward; he took the envelope sheepishly, like a man detected in a theft, and, having taken it, still held it out a little toward Dulaunay, as if offering it back, or as if afraid of seeming to be too greedy to rush it into his pocket; and he smiled a maudlin smile, which, put into words, would have said: "It is nothing to me, this envelope; I am not really so very anxious as you may imagine to take charge of it, nor so overjoyed to have it burning between my fingers; my blood is not tingling with suppressed elation, nor shall I laugh and shout the moment your back is turned, when I shall fully realise that you are really gone, and have really left this thing with me; no, all this is only your fancy, and you have still a chance to change your mind, and take the envelope back from me."

But Dulaunay did not even notice that shamefaced smile, much less understand its meaning. He even now did not know anything about Oswald's imprisonment by Hartwell, he had been abroad at his chateau at the time, and the sensation caused by the scandal had been mostly local in the West End clubland; nor had Hartwell mentioned it since to Dulaunay, nor had Julia, nor Oswald himself. Even if the Count had known it, he might still have given the envelope to Oswald, for he had no reason to think that the shreds were of any special weight or secrecy; he knew, indeed, that Oswald did not seem to love his supposed brother; but then Oswald, who had been specially glum of late, seemed to love no one with much heat. On the whole, Dulaunay handed the envelope to him without a doubt or afterthought in his mind, said au revoir, ran out into the rain to the waiting cab, and started for Brook Street, in order to tell Julia all.

Oswald, for his part, re-entered the morning room; threw the envelope on the table; and began to pace with his usual limp, his hat pushed back on his head, his two hands in his pockets, and a flush now on his bald brow; for the moment he looked like an elated book-maker, who has won something; as he paced, his glance rested frequently on the envelope; and suddenly one breath of laughter, which was hysterical in its essence, broke from his lips.

"James, James," he murmured presently in a deep voice, and suddenly again gave vent to a short laugh.

In those minutes the whole look of life was moving before his consciousness into transformation, like the gradual working of the shades,of night into morning. This was the hour of Oswald's exceeding satisfaction. After a life which had been hampered by a chronic lack of funds, he loved money for its own sake, and that simple-looking envelope on the table made him very rich. And beyond the actual facts of his great luck, his fancy, becoming exalted, painted him with a rapid brush many warm visions of happiness and power: he hoped that by a display of his new wealth, he would now regain a footing in those empyrean circles from which his false step in attempting to steal the shreds had cast him like some Lucifer; there even floated through his mind a thought of Julia, and the possibility either of winning her after all, or of being somehow revenged on her; but dearer than all else was the luxurious power which he now held in his hand of crushing him whom he supposed to be his brother.

His feeling toward Hartwell at this date was entirely different from what it had been toward the real Drayton. He had disdained and also disliked Drayton with a certain distinguished weariness; but he respected and truly hated Hartwell. This new feeling was more complex and far more heartfelt than the old. In real hatred—though the statement may seem strange—there is much of love; for hatred and love are different forms of the same sickness or infection, and are so near akin that the hand that is raised to strike sometimes falls with a caress. The fact about Oswald was, that he had been caught in the draught of Hartwell's stronger nature, as a boat is sucked into the wake of a ship: he was compelled to feel deeply in some way toward Hartwell, to love or to hate, and he hated; but this hatred suffered many of the pangs of love. When, for instance, Hartwell had caused him to be cast into prison, Oswald's heart had been wounded in a manner in which the real Drayton never could have wounded it; he had sobbed to himself: "I never supposed that he would crush me so; he forgets; he does not care, that I am his brother." By the time he had come out of prison, a settled venom against "James," a longing for revenge, had taken possession of his mind; but this ill-feeling was not a simple, but a complex, feeling: he had been glad to be taken to Corton because Hartwell was at Corton, he liked the whist party nights when for two hours and a half he might sit morose in Hartwell's immediate presence; he was as jealous as a jealous lover of the count, of Martha, of Julia, of Bobbie, because they occupied some of Hartwell's thoughts; he was morbidly sensitive if Hartwell in any trivial way in the routine of daily life at Corton seemed to slight or despise him; Hartwell had become his heart's disease, haunting all his emotions: and if Oswald had hot wished to stab his "James," he would have wished to embrace him. Hence the doggedness with which he had questioned the Gissings in order to obtain the desired clue about Letty Barnes; for it was now necessary to his peace to be in some sort of relation with Hartwell, to act upon him, and be reacted upon by him in some way, to touch him at one point, to be his master somehow, or his slave somehow: he was inversely "in love"—epris, as the French say, "taken" or "captivated," as we say; and because his hatred was this inverse sort of morbid love, therefore it was all the more genuine, heartfelt and terrible.

He rang the bell, and sat to the table. A footman in half-dress came in. "John," said Oswald, "I want you to find me some gum and a pair of scissors,—as quickly as you can."

The man went out and in a few minutes returned with the gum and scissors. Oswald then spread the shreds before him on the table, and began to fit their edges together. He found the work deeply interesting, every fit being to him a childish pleasure of achievement. He cut with the scissors small oblong patches from a letter taken out of his pocket, put gum on them, and fastened the shreds with them, without letting the patches cover any of the writing. In the end he got a nickety, stiff letter, but easy enough to read. Only one shred was missing in the centre, the one on which was "cruel bru," and this he had safe, though not with him.

He now read the letter through. It was all that was needed to prove Drayton's intimacy with Letty Barnes, and its nature. Letty warned Lady Julia against marriage with Drayton, sketched the history of her own relation with him, spoke of their meeting on Cromer Pier, of their stay at the Gissing's cottage, of the "scream" which she had heard coming from the tower at Corton—just such a letter as a wronged and jealous girl would write to her lover's future wife, full of self-pity, of over-anxiety for the future wife's welfare, and an unbridled animus against the wrongdoer. Adding to the letter the points which Hartwell's own frequent reasonings on the murder had made clear, the chain of proof against Hartwell as the author of Letty's death was complete.

Oswald again paced the room, feeling now ill-at-ease, almost wretched, the reason being that in this new world of happiness in which he suddenly found himself he stood with nothing to do, while all his being demanded instant and boisterous action. He did not know how he was to live through the night, and longed for the morrow. A rush of happiness always has this restless effect, as if an increase of vitality were pumped into the limbs, impelling one to run and exert one's vigour, but one finds oneself bound and must remain inert: by the time one can act, one has worn oneself out with inward fretting, and the pleasure of action is spoiled. Oswald longed to fly to Corton; but he could hardly go that night, had missed the train, and if he took a later train, Gloucester would not be at the station to meet him with the trap. He thought of telegraphing to Hartwell, and at first the telegram was short: "Sleep well," then it grew in his thoughts into "Sleep well for my sake, James," and then his thoughts added and added to it, till he had quite a long telegram in his head, but he did not send it, uncertain whether he should sign it "Oswald," or "your brother," or "your dear brother."

After half an hour, in order to do something, Oswald rang again and when the footman appeared, said to him, "You might send Miss Scatchett to me John."

Presently the alert, bird-like figure of Miss Scatchett looked in. There was always something out of joint between this lady's littleness on the one hand, and the queenliness of her position; on the other, she seemed ever stretching to be taller than she was; her silks, however, her mistress air, and the real dignity of her old-established maidenhood, combined to keep her on her throne of state. She had been the real Drayton's housekeeper for seven years before his death.

'"Miss Scatchett," said Oswald, "I wish to speak with you. Sit down." He was now reclining on a lounge, pretending to himself and tor her to be languid and uninterested. "I wanted to know how many servants you keep here."

"Five at present," she said, without showing the surprise which she felt; "the normal number is—"

"Well, yon may at once send two of them away," he said wearily, interrupting her: "treat them liberally, you know, but you have no need of them. I have to tell you also that in a month or six weeks I shall be shutting up or selling this place, and then, I suppose, our connection will terminate, Miss Scatchett."

She perked the head as a somewhat startled canary might, and with eyes just so innocent and mild as a bird's looked at him with grave interest; The words seemed crazy to her, and she said: "I'm afraid I do not quite follow you, sir."

"I suppose not. Well, then, I must tell you that you are no longer in the employ of my brother, but in mine, Miss Scatchett. This place is mine, all that he ever had is mine. I need not be at the pains to explain how this has come about, but it is so. My good brother has got himself into certain embarrassments, and has transferred everything to me. I mean to make some enormous changes—But do not let this upset you. I shall settle upon you personally a substantial annuity, and probably gel you another place as good us this, or better. I mean to be liberal to the bounds of dissoluteness. Mr James Drayton has rather collapsed, Miss Scatchett."

She continued to look with grave interest at Oswald; he seemed sober, he seemed sane: yet in the words, even in his calm air, there lurked something of lunacy, limbo, and intoxication. Miss Scatchett had to believe, yet did not quite believe. "This is surely surprising, sir," she said, at a loss what to say: "I heard from Mr Drayton on Wednesday, and he said not one word—"

"No doubt. Yet it is as true, Miss Scatchett, as that that light is shining. Who lives will see! My brother has run too far and too fast, Miss Scatchett, and now has got into difficulties. He has pretended to think nothing of me, to despise me; but now all, all, depends on my whim. That's rather a good thing, don't you think? where it says, 'The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner'—that's rather good. Well, that is all I had to-say for the present, Miss Scatchett. Good night—. Who lives will see."

Miss Scatchett stood with a suspended air and mild eyes of meditation; then she started slightly, and said: "What you say is certainly startling, sir. I only hope that nothing lamentable has occurred. But at least may I await instructions from Mr Drayton himself before dismissing the two servants?"

"If you like," said Oswald, with a very heavy sigh and sudden weariness of this playing at action: "be good enough to leave me now."

"Do you sleep here to-night, sir?"

"No, I go home to my chambers."

"I presume that Mr Dulaunay has returned to Corton?"

"No. I believe he's coining back here to sleep. But you won't see much of the Frenchman for the future, I fancy, Miss Scatchett."

Miss Scatchett went out musing with a sideward head upon this extraordinary interview; and a few minutes afterwards Oswald, to avoid a meeting with Dulaunay, left the house.

He arrived in a cab near ten at his chambers, two top-rooms in a small street of small houses running parallel with Piccadilly on the south side. He found his Irish servant, Magee, whose only work of late had been forwarding letters, entertaining two men and a woman in the sitting room with Saturday night cordiality, whereat Oswald grumbled, but not very loudly, for he was afraid of Magee, whom he could not live without, whom he had thrice turned away, only to take him back after a few days' misery in some new servant's hands; and ordinarily the word "Magee" was the word more frequently uttered by Oswald's lips than any other.

After the rout of Magee's party, Oswald threw himself into the semi-circular lounge which shut in the copper-vaulted fireplace, sighed, and seemed lost in reverie, while Magee, a handy, small fellow, born to be a valet, stood expectant of orders. The small room, in which taste was the rather self-conscious mistress, was cosy with the red glamor of the lamp-shade and the fire flickering on dull-red tiles; all was primly elegant; the few unobtrusive pictures exactly fitted into the wall-spaces in which stood the oak, the plain Donegal carpet, and the terracotta walls made a harmony of color.

"I am sleeping here to-night Magee," said Oswald after a time. "I suppose you wish me to the devil, if the truth were known, but I am independent of you now, my friend. Why didn't you come down to Corton to me?"

"Had no orders, sir," said Magee on one knee, unlacing Oswald's boots.

"You don't wait for orders, when you want to do anything, Magee. You didn't want to leave town, I suppose, of you would have come. But I mean to make you skip for the future, if you don't look after me. What's all the news about?"

"Only old news, sir—"

"Yes, I believe your bulls are a pose, my friend. You are conscious that if you didn't make bulls I should have kicked you to the devil years ago, Magee."

"Sure, sir," said Magee, "you couldn't make a bull out of me not if you were to kill me just now. I've been that put about by what happened to you, sir. Thank God to see you looking so wonderfully hearty, sir, after the miserable treatment you've been put to, sir."

"I suppose you guessed that I was innocent, Magee. It wasn't banknotes that I wanted to take, but a letter which I knew would convict the ruffian of a crime. But I've got it now at last, Magee."

"Sure, I knew that you were innocent, sir," said Magee, putting Oswald into a dressing gown: "I knew it very well even before your brother's letter to the paper saying that it wasn't any banknotes that you were after taking from his wardrobe—"

"Which letter to which papers, you idiot?"

"Sure, I thought that you would know, sir! That's funny that your brother himself hasn't told you, sir. He wrote to the papers saying—well, I've still the papers put up in some hole in my bedroom and you can look through them with your own hands, sir. It is supposed that it is this letter of your brother that was the means of narrowing down the length of your sentence at the tail-end, sir; but, as I said to Lady Methwold's Thomas, 'It is all very well for him to be writing letters to the papers now, but all the ink in the world shall not whitewash Mr Oswald—'"

"Better hold your tongue, Magee," said Oswald, whose lips from old habit seemed to find a pleasure in uttering that word "Magee" on every occasion. "I suppose you are more or less drunk again. I smell, it on you. Haven't I many times forbidden you to carouse in my rooms with your friends, and drink my spirits?"

"Sure, sir, I know that that much is all right between us," answered Magee. "What can you expect? when the cat's away, 'tis but natural if the mice take a few liberties with his tail, sir."

"With his cocktail, you mean. Better hold your tongue, Magee. What, by the way, is all the news? Is anything going on?"

"Nothing special, sir. You must 'er heard sir, of the bankruptcy of Sir Aubrey Payne; then again, on Tuesday evening last Lord Cyril Letchford struck her ladyship a back-handed blow with the palm of his hand, as they were going up the great staircase at Rodeleigh Hall after dinner, and her ladyship is reported to be laid up and ear-marked for some time to come with a handsome black eye, sir; then again, Lady Methwold and her aunt, Lady Wisden, left town yesterday afternoon to spend a week at Marston House, in Norfolk, with the Farnums—"

"They, did, did they?" muttered Oswald. "Lady Methwold is a subject which will have to be considered; Magee, you had better go to Pagani's and tell them to send a supper."

"Yes, sir. Supper for breakfast tomorrow, sir?"

"No, for supper to-night. I could eat something now, and drink, too. I will have a bottle of Yquem. The little economies are over now, Magee. I happen to have become a rich man since you saw me last, so you can look out."

"A rich—? You, sir? Sure, I congratulate you and myself, too, sir, if that's so?" said, Magee, standing in suspense.

"It's as true as that, that lamp's burning."

"Sure, this is a bit of news, then! How did it happen, sir?"

"You will see, if yon live. Go and get me the supper. First of all bring me the newspaper that you say contains my brother's letter."

Magee hurried out, soon returned with the newspaper from his room in the basement, and hurried out again for the supper; and while he was gone Oswald eagerly perused Hartwell's letter, exculpating him from the full scandal of the charge which had been brought against him. The letter was a short, and formal statement of facts, in which, however, Hartwell did not spare himself for his share in the false impression produced as to Oswald's guilt; and, as he read it, strong emotions of hatred, not untinged with emotions akin to love, like darkness streaked with fireflies, boiled in Oswald's breast. He saw that "James" must have felt sorry for the unbrotherly wrong done, and bitterly he murmured: "Too late, James! too late!" The fact that "James" had felt sorry for him stirred up afresh Oswald's self-pity and sense of injury; and the fact that "James" had not felt sorry in time gave rise to a tyrannnous longing in Oswald's mind to teach "James" a lesson for some vague "next time."

"Too late, my friend! I'll teach you for next time," such was Oswald's thought. He would crush even to the dust; he would not spare; "James" should be without a five-pound note. But mixed with all this spleen was the warm, tearful, maudlin feeling that, as James had felt sorry, so at some distant day he, Oswald, too, would relent, and be sorry; and he forefelt already the melodramatic joys with which in that day he would turn again to James, shower royal mercies upon him, and say: "You are my brother, after all, my own flesh and blood." Such are the pranks which the feelings play in a smitten and impoisoned heart.

He went to bed somewhat heated with wine after the supper; but there was no sleep for him, his brain was so plagued with fiery thought. After some hours all the food in his stomach was used up by this work of the soul, and about four in the morning he had to get up hollow with hunger, and eat a crust of bread, which was all he had, in spite of his new riches. Thus the greatness of his happiness, joined with nothing to do, became to, him a care to groan at.

At sunrise he was up and writing in his dressing-gown to Hartwell, though it was Sunday, and the letter would not pass through the post for many hours; he covered three sheets with writing, pouring out abuse, upbraidings, threats, a river of bile, though he knew all the time that he would never let such a letter go from him into the post. He tore it up presently, and afterwards wrote a short command to Hartwell to meet him at his chambers at two on Monday afternoon: and this was duly delivered at Corton on the Monday morning.

As for the Count, he had returned to Addison Road soon after Oswald left, and spent, for his part, almost as sleepless a night as Oswald, thinking over that secret thing which he had found out about "Draytong's" life, thinking, too, of his disappointment in not meeting Julia, for, on going to her house in Brook Street, to tell her all, he had heard that she had left London the day before to stay at Marston House, in Norfolk, an estate only six miles from Corton; and he was kept awake, too, by the strangeness of the fact, of which Miss Scatchett had told him, that Oswald had not taken down to Hartwell the envelope entrusted to him, but was sleeping at his chambers in London.


XXIX. — WHERE WAS HARTWELL?

About the same hour that Dulaunay came back to sleep at Addison Road that Saturday night after failing to find Julia, a chaise containing Bobbie, Rosie, and Rosie's maid was passing along the dark road from Felmingham to Corton. It was not the Corton trap, for that passed them on the road at a slow walk with Gloucester, the groom, who was going to Felmingham to bring Oswald and Dulaunay home to Corton, though he was destined to await them in vain that night. Bobbie's chaise was one of the peculiar basket-chaises of Felmingham, which he had procured with some trouble at that late hour, and the journey to Corton was long drawn, for speed was not exactly the strong point of that particular horse and driver of Felmingham; the road, moreover, was not good and very gloomy of a dark night like this. That half-hour of rain between eight and nine, when Oswald at a bedroom window had seen the breadth of Addison Road like a plain sprouting with a crop of white grass, was long since over but the forests here about Corton still dripped with it through all their depths, the air was still haunted by a drizzle, and the party in the chaise were in waterproofs. Even where the sky would have been visible at another time, neither sky nor star was now to be seen; the eye could not pierce the darkness two yards ahead; and the silence was broken only by weird sounds in the woods. The young bride, who was now wearing loose jackets, clung to her husband's side, and when, they spoke it was in melancholy murmurs.

"Perhaps he will be asleep, Bobbie," murmured Rosie, "he" being the word by which Hartwell was now named in all their talk—that terrible "he" who had, sooner or later, to be faced and confessed to: and now the hour for it was come.

"He may be asleep, darling," said Bobbie, "people in the country do go to sleep early, I know, though I don't feel that he is asleep. It would be rather a good thing if he were, don't you think?"

"Do you feel that you would like him to be, darling Bobbie?" asked Rosie in a subdued voice.

"Yes, for then I should have one more whole night in which to think out what I am to say to him."

"Haven't you thought it out yet, Bobbie?"

"I am afraid I haven't, darling. I have thought, of course, for months, but not thought out. Nothing possible has occurred to me to say. The difficulty is to avoid being blatantly ridiculous! 'How do you do, sir? this is my wife'—one can't say that, you know: it is portentous, it really is bete. I do wish now that we hadn't brought Ernestine with us, Rosie. I tried to hint to you not to bring her and you would. It looks like springing a whole heavy family, with hat-boxes and nursemaids upon him, I confess, I—I—feel absurd."

Rosie had a minute's silent reflection, and then said:

"Miss Scatchett thinks—that—it! would be better, if I go in first alone, and see him, while you pretend to be busy outside with something. I—will, if you like, Bobbie."

"But do you think you could?" asked Bobbie, sorely tempted to hide himself behind her bravery: "You might find it trying, darling."

"But, I 'will,' Bobbie, if you like." she repeated, with a catch of the breath, clinging to him: for she had never seen Hartwell, who was to her merely some vague dragon.

"But what would you say, darling? How would you present, yourself?" asked Bobbie, with a perplexed brow.

"I should say: 'I am Mr Robert Hartwell's lawful wife, and we are come home,'" said Rosie bravely.

Bobbie could not resist a twinge of laughter at the "lawful," it sounded so aggressive; and he said:

"No, I don't think that would do, Rosie. It might be the most diplomatic way, but it would be too great an ordeal for you. No, we will go in together, I a little in advance—ah, Heavens! I do wish the thing was over, don't you? I shall say: 'Allow me to present you, sir, my—' If we could only find some equivalent to 'wife!' it sounds so deplorably heavy!"

"I don't see anything so very wrong with 'wife,'" remarked Rosie. "But couldn't you say: 'How are you, sir? I am the husband, sir, of this—?'"

"Oh, but 'husband' is worse! I'd rather say you are my wife than say I am your husband: there is something apologetic in 'wife,' but 'husband' sounds like a challenge. Our tone must be calm, but not self-assertive. I wish to goodness it was over, don't you? I wonder what he will say! He wouldn't dare be cross with you, I think: if he is, you won't say anything, but leave it to me to answer him—Oh, well, I don't care: we must only trust to Providence."

"I wish it was over, don't you?" sighed Rosie for the tenth time. "I only hope he will be well asleep when we get there. Is it far now?"

"It can't be very far now, I think," answered Bobbie: "I have only been down here once and he told me then that he was going to live in a place buried in timber which they call the Pavilion. So that must be where he is. If he is asleep, we can probably get in without his knowing till to-morrow: the servant who opens to us is sure to know me."

"But perhaps the servants are asleep, too," suggested Rosie: "in knocking them up, we may wake 'him.'"

"Heaven knows. I don't care, dear. We must only sit tight, and trust to Providence."

"You see what a heap of trouble I have brought you into, Bobbie. He must have had some deep reason for wishing you to marry the other Rosie, and he will be terribly angry with us. He may cut you off with a shilling."

"Let him do his worst. 'I' had a deep reason for wishing to marry this Rosie, and no other, that's all. I only wish the dreadful business was over. It can't be very far now."

"I am sorry now that I brought Ernestine, or wore this hat," said Rosie, after a silence: "he will think that I am fond of dress, and can't move without a maid. But I didn't wish to leave poor Ernestine by her self at Addison Road, where no one speaks French. Oh, dear darling Bobbie, we must be getting very near now! Just give me your hand—feel my heart, how it is beating. I wish an accident would happen to the chaise to keep us back."

"Don't be afraid, dear, you make me nervous," said Bobbie.

"How cold your hand is!" murmured Rosie: "I can feel, it through my glove; keep it here under the jacket to warm it. Don't be too nervous, darling! perhaps it will be all right—Oh, dear! we were too young to get married—What would dear Lulu and Paul Schrapps and all those Paris people think to see us quaking in this way to come home? That old Spanish fortune teller in the Rue de Moscou told me that a calamity was hanging over us, Bobbie, and that is why I kept you from coming; I am sure that my influence helped to keep you from coming, but I am terribly sorry now, dear, I ought, to have made you come long ago, and then it would have been over now, and we should not have had to suffer to-night!"

"It will be all right; don't be afraid; we can't be far now," said Bobbie in a tone of nervous preoccupation. All their remarks were disjointed and abrupt.

"His brother, Oswald, and Count Dulaunay may be up and with him," remarked Rosie, "and they will be a protection perhaps. He would hardly be very cross before them. I don't think I shall like Oswald much from what you tell me, he is too short; but I shall like the Count. Is it far now, I wonder? I wonder if Mr Dray ton will notice me, or like me?"

"He notices every earthly thing the moment his eye rests on it," answered Bobbie: "he'll probably know how long we have been married, where we have lived, and all about us in a wonderful way by his first glance. That would be quite in his manner. He is a man of science, trained in what they call 'expert observation—'"

"Oh, he must be very terrible, dear darling Bobbie!" murmured Rosie.

"But he is not—don't think that," said Bobbie, patting her hand absent-mindedly "you mustn't be afraid of him, darling. He is only cold in manner. Remember all that he has done for me: I was a poor working boy, as I have told you, and he—"

The chaise began to bump down the steep forest road that passes by the little lawn where the statue of Pan is, before the Pavilion. They were at Corton; and suddenly their hearts got colder as the chaise stopped, and at some moment they saw a single light in the Pavilion near by on their right.

Bobbie said something to Ernestine in French in a hushed voice, she seized a valise and a hat-box, and the party got out; the driver was then dismissed and, turning on the narrow road with difficulty, rumbled very slowly away into dense darkness. The night was indeed very dark, and the forest seemed to hide within itself some unspeakable secret; from the Pavillon sounded the baying of a dog.

The young husband put his arm round his wife's waist, and held her to him, as if to protect her from the spirit of awe which was in their situation and in the greatness of the gloom about them.

They walked by the statue of Pan across the lawn to the Pavilion. The single light came from the drawing room on the ground floor, the old room used for the whist parties and for living in; but it was so dark in the portico which surrounded the house, that Bobbie stumbled over a cane chair there. The dog now bayed close and angrily within one of the doors opening upon the portico, and at this door Bobbie knocked with his umbrella; but he had to knock thrice before a girl came rubbing her eyes—Sarah Gissing, who had been sitting asleep in the drawing-room. She did not know Bobbie, and stared at the visitors; as though they were part of her late dream.

"Is Mr Drayton still awake?" Bobbie asked in a low confidential tone.

"Yes, sir,"—Bobbie's and the poor Rosie's hearts sank—"at least he has not gone to bed."

"Is he—there?" asked Bobbie in a low voice, indicating the drawing-room.

"He isn't, sir. We dunnot know where Mr Drayton is, nor Mrs neither. They must have gone out after dinner somewhere; but they didn't say they were going, nor where they were going to. And I'm sitting up, now, waiting for them."

Bobbie's and Rosie's hearts rose again: the ordeal was put by at least some moments.

"But Mr Drayton's not married," said Bobbie: "you speak of Mrs Drayton."

"Yes, sir, Mr Drayton is married."

"To whom?"

"To Mrs, sir."

"I see. But where would, he be? can't you guess?"

"I can't, sir," said Sarah. "There's nowhere for them to have gone to. Gloucester—that's the groom, sir—has been searching about the woods for them, but he couldn't find them; and I'm sure there's nowhere for them to have gone to."

"How do you mean? they must be somewhere, you know. They haven't gone in a carriage apparently, but mightn't they have gone on foot to pay a visit somewhere?"

"No; sir, they never pay any visits."

"And Mr Oswald and the Count, are they up?"

"They went to London to-day, sir. Gloucester is gone to fetch them, and they'll be here after eleven."

"Well, I don't' seem to know you, but I am Mr Drayton's ward, and this is my lady, and her maid. We are going to stay here, so you will prepare us two rooms, and meantime we shall sit up till Mr Drayton comes home."

The party of travellers had now entered the drawing room; Ernestine was sent up with Sarah to see to the rooms; Bobbie and Rosie sat in their ulsters, and waited, with silent glances at each other. It was half-past ten; it became eleven; and still Hartwell and Martha did not appear. Bobbie poured some wine from a decanter, with a gold ring marked "sherry" round its neck, and made Rosie take it, with a biscuit from the whist table. Then Sarah and Ernestine reappeared from above stairs, sat at a respectful distance, and all waited as silently as a party at a wake. Rosie sat with relaxed bent shoulders, and occasionally glanced at Bobbie with a glance which said nothing but the obvious fact: "Well, Bobbin, here we are, then, waiting. Destiny has brought us to this point, so far and no farther;" and Bobbie's eyes rested on her with a glance which said precisely the same obvious thing. Their sense of relief at Hartwell's absence gradually ceased to be acute, and even as they sat indolently enjoying that absence, they began almost to wish that he would come; and the candles in the candelabra burned lower.

"I suppose he is quite certain to come some time to-night," called Bobbie to Sarah.

"Oh, certain, sir," answered the good Sarah, who had very little reasoning power, and, besides, was dying with sleep.

Ernestine, too, seemed very sleepy, and so did Rosie. At half-past eleven Bobbie sent the two servants to bed, saying he would sit up, and he wished to send Rosie also, but she would not go; before midnight, however, she had thrown off the splendid hat, and was asleep on his lap with her head on his shoulder, while Bobbie watched alone.

A minute before midnight Dulaunay's retriever, Mascotte, which had been asleep in the fireplace, again began to make a noise, and soon a man's head peeped in at one of the windows—it was Gloucester's, who had just returned from his useless drive to Felmingham to bring home Oswald and Dulaunay. Instead of Sarah, whom he expected to see in the lighted drawing room, he saw a young gentleman with his lips laid on the forehead of a girl asleep on his lap. Gloucester knew Bobbie, however, and called out: "Beg pardon, sir, is Mr and Mrs Drayton come home yet?"

"Not yet, Gloucester," answered Bobbie, wondering who on earth "Mrs" Drayton could be, since he knew that it was not Julia.

"It seems funny, sir," said Gloucester: "you not long come, I suppose, sir?"

"I came by the 9.50."

"Everybody gone to bed, sir?"

"Yes, I sent off the girl. What, then, can have become of Mr Drayton?"

"There's no telling, sir. I was wondering, sir; whether anything couldn't be done?"

"In what way do you mean? I suppose, Gloucester, that he has gone to London or somewhere?"

"He'd hardly walk to Felmingham, sir. Mrs Drayton she couldn't half walk it, I know, if she tried."

"Then where is he?"

"No telling, sir," said Gloucester, scratching his head.

"What about Mr Oswald and the Count—not turned up?" asked Bobbie.

"No, sir, I went to fetch them, but they haven't come—I feel a bit queer about Mr and Mrs Drayton, sir."

"But why so? there are no wolves to eat him, or precipices for him to fall over. He must be somewhere, Gloucester."

"Can't think where they could have got to, sir—But no doubt it's all right—Well, good night to you, sir."

"Good night."

Gloucester departed to the stables; put up his horses, and sought, his bed with a head nodding toward sleep. And ten minutes after him, Bobbie, too, gave up, took a candle, and, following the directions which Sarah had left him, found his room, and was soon floating in cloudland in the affectionate arms of a being who was half Rosie and half Morpheus.

Where, then, meantime, were Hartwell and Martha?

After dinner that evening, at which he, Martha, and Barnes had sat alone, Hartwell had gone up to his study to write a business letter to Birmingham about the trial of his electrical machine, which was to take place on the Tuesday following; he had left Martha with Barnes in the drawing-room; she was then reading a novelette at the dying fire—dying, for the night was very warm for November, though inclement; but when Hartwell had come down again near eight, Martha was no longer there: he had questioned Barnes, and Barnes with his left hand had pointed dumbly out ward, to show that Martha had gone for a stroll. Hartwell then went into the portico and paced about, glancing anxiously anon at the clouds, or peering down the path in the forest. Sarah Gissing came presently and took Barnes, and Hartwell saw her lead him slowly across the lawn to the edge of the forest on the left, where the path commences to mount steeply toward the ruin and the chalk cottages. Ten minutes passed after this, and still Martha did not appear. Then suddenly that rain which in London, too, Oswald had seen from Hartwell's bedroom window, came pelting, whereupon Hartwell ran in, seized his hat and an umbrella, and ran down the forest path to the right to find and cover Martha.

But he could see no sign of her in any direction.

One of her favorite spots for sitting and reading was the well in a glade of the pines, and to this glade he went. It was a very solitary spot, though only a ten minutes' walk from the Pavilion stables, and here could be heard the many sounds which went on in the pines, and the music that was made in there always, as it were great choral happenings taking place far away in Heaven, the shout of numbers without number, strange rumours of which seemed to be brought on the breezes to the ear of the listener; one of the pines, in fact, was so close to the well that Martha, sitting on the coping, would often hear queer rumbling noises going on within its trunk when the breezes swayed its tall top. The well had long fallen into disuse, and was almost hidden by the grasses, nettles, and coarse fern, which nested in it. On the side where the half lid was, the ground was quite a swamp, but on the other side two slabs in the mud made the approach dry. Hartwell had not liked Martha to be there, for a mist arose from the depths of the well, and he had even thought of filling it in, but had hesitated to do so, since she seemed to like it.

When he now entered the little glade, which was called the Round Point, Martha was not to be seen. He called to her in the pouring rain, but received no answer. The night was getting very dark. He ran from the glade in another direction.


XXX. — IN THE WELL

Hartwell searched for an hour, till near nine, but could not find Martha. He thought that she might have gone, not down, but up hill, and up there might have taken shelter from the rain in the Gissings' cottage or in Steve Anderson's; but she had not been in either of them. He returned to the Pavilion with a flash in the eye. The rain had now almost ceased. He went into the drawing room; she had not come home. He stood in the middle of the room, thinking it out; and there an intuition of the truth for the first time flashed across his mind.

Martha's vitality, as has been said, did not amount to much: she often fell asleep, or fainted, at hardly a moment's notice; and Hartwell now thought that she might have sat to read on the well alone, there fallen asleep or fainted, lost her balance, and tumbled into the well.

He was not a man who easily lost command of himself, but this thought turned him white, and his lip trembled. The instant feeling in him was the ugly one that she might be dead, and that it was not he who had killed her.

He was agitated inwardly; but his actions were cool enough! He felt in his jacket-pocket, and found that a box of matches was there; he then walked into the next room across the passage, searched in a drawer, and found a ball of twine. He then came back to the drawing room, took a candle, puffed out its light, and now hastened out with these things through the drizzle toward the Round Point.

As he made his way thither in the now confirmed darkness, some sinister thoughts, or feelings rather than thoughts, like unclean snakes lifting their heads, occurred in his mind. If he did not let them speak aloud, they at least whispered and hissed in his consciousness. Human nature has not yet rid itself of the traits of its brutal ancestry, and is often not pretty, in spite of one's long effort to live well; Hartwell was surprised and shaken by the suddenness of this thing, and what he felt was that, if she were dead, then he was free; that, if she were dead, he had not killed her with his own hand, and yet he was free.

He felt that Julia's engagement with the young Archduke was of no importance; that in the face of his freedom, of his resurrection, all that would vanish out of existence like a mist.

He did not know that at this very hour of 9.15 the shreds of Letty Barnes' letter wore already in Oswald's hands in London, and that he, Hartwell, stood that moment in peril of losing all, or of being hanged. He made towards the Round Point, and his pace quickened to a run.

Stopping over the two slabs in the mud, he stood by the well, and gazed into its depths; and as he gazed, stooping over the brickwork coping, the gold pin that was in his tie, shaken loose perhaps by his run, fell out, and, down there below made a faint splash and echo. He called down once the word "Martha," but the well called back only the echo of his own voice.

He straightened himself, and tying the candle tight with the twine at a point somewhat nearer to the wick than to the bottom end, lit it under his hat, for it was drizzling; and he proceeded to lower it carefully into the well, peering over. The candle, as it went down, lay obliquely between upright and horizontal, but the flame turned upright, and was scorching the string, seeing which, Hartwell quickened the rate of paying out. In the impure air down there the light burned feebly, but still it lived, and was a yard or so from the surface of the water when the scorched string parted, the candle splashed, and all was blackness down there again. But for one moment Hartwell had seen something white—a guess of the eyres, a mere glimpse of something; and this convinced him that Martha was there.

Dead probably—but also possibly not. The well was hardly so deep that she would necessarily strike the east side of its wall in her fall; the water, he knew, was hardly so deep as to prevent her from being broken to pieces on the bottom. It was possible that she was not dead; she certainly soon would be—if he waited—thinking about it—wilfully wasting time: and from his bosom there came a growl of disgusted self-conviction which uttered the words: "Robert Hartwell!"

He now ran fast enough—up a rising path in the pines, over a ditch and a stile, down a stony way, to the stables; and as he entered the quadrangle he called out sharply, angrily, with flashing eyes, "Gloucester!"

Gloucester, however, did not happen to be there; he had been smoking in the kitchen at the Pavilion since dinner, and at this very time was out with a lantern and umbrellas, searching for the master and mistress, Sarah Gissing having just before discovered their absence.

Hartwell called him several times, and, not receiving any reply, understood that whatever was to be done must be done by himself alone; only one man, Gloucester, was on the place, beside Steve Anderson, Gissing, and Barnes, who were far enough away. Oswald and Dulaunay were in London; and Hartwell, not sure whether Gloucester was at the Pavilion, would not spend the four minutes necessary to run there, but, plunging into one of the stables, came out with a coil of small new rope on his arm, and then started back again, through the pines with running feet, which trod on a carpet made of tiny stems, the dry stems of the pine-leaf; and as he ran he cast away his jacket, and then his waistcoat, first placing the matches in his bosom. His plan of action was already formed in his own mind. He intended to let down over the axle of the old windlass a length of the rope sufficiently long for the two ends to be within his reach when he stood at the bottom of the well. He would then fasten one of the two hanging ends under Martha's arms, and hauling at the other part of the rope would thus hoist her to the windlass. For his own descent into the well, he would cut off a length of the rope—he had a penknife in his trouser pocket—and tie one end round the axle. When he was down, and had Martha hoisted to the axle, he would go up again by his own rope, grasping not only it but Martha's rope as well, so that she should not slip down again meantime. This would be almost equivalent to taking his own weight plus Martha's up a swinging rope. But, he was still very strong, though not what he had been, and, she being very light, he was confident that he would manage it somehow, even if she slipped back down a little as he climbed up. He might even possibly find a projecting stone or something at the bottom, to which to fasten the rope after she was hoisted, while he climbed by his own rope.

Coming therefore to the well, he set hurriedly to work. His first care was to ascertain the depth, and this he did by tying a stone in an end of the rope, lowering it, listening for the splash, and marking the depth by a knot in the rope. He then proceeded to cut off from the rope a length equivalent to double the well's depth; but, having done this, he found that only about two yards of the rope was left for his own descent. He had not thought of this possibility of the rope running short; and he was eager now to have the poor Martha safe in his arms.

For a moment or two, he did not know what to do: to run back to the stables or to the Pavilion was to lose another fifteen minutes; he soon remembered, however, the old rope attached to the wheel and axle, reached out and felt it; a chain and hook hung at its end; and there it had lain coiled round the axle under its tin hood for many years. Hartwell had a doubt whether it would bear his weight. It was so rotten and frayed, though quite three times stouter than the rope from the stables. He set to turning the wheel, letting the old rope move down through his outstretched left hand. It was certainly thin at some points—he could not see, but he could feel. That, however, was the only alternative to going back to the stables, and he was afraid to go back lest, on the way, he should feel glad at the delay. He decided to run the dreadful risk: and in the depths of the soul, something darkly whispered him that, if instead of killing Martha, as he had once thought of doing, he should happen to die for her, then somehow that would not be a bad thing for the stars above the glade to see, or for that music in the pines to make a theme of.

Sitting on the brickwork he quickly had off boots, trousers, shirt, threw the new rope over the axle with its two ends let down to the bottom, and, as gently as he could, he hung his weight on the old rope. He was very brawny, and in his working man days in the Birmingham factory, had often tackled weights and tasks that others had shied at. His descent into the darkness was attended, therefore, with little trouble, save a growing unease in breathing the stagnant air down there, and his feet safely touched the water and the bottom slime.

Now, at the actual experience of that place, he no longer believed that Martha could be alive, its mood was so chilling to the lamp of life like caverns of the deep sea and the raw breath of mermaids; an impression of awe touched Hartwell; his lips pronounced in a low tone the name of Martha.

There was a slow dripping sound in the darkness. He did not know whence it came; but it was water dripping from Martha's hat, and from one end of the new rope.

He had the matches under his vest, and after some efforts got one of them alight; it burned quite feebly, but he saw her; and at once, seeing her, he realised afresh that she might be alive. She seemed to be on both knees, with her back against the wall, her head and neck above the surface of the water, her eyes closed, her mouth open, her hat still on her head. He concluded that, after falling, she must have been more or less conscious of drowning, and in her struggles must have instinctively taken that position at the moment of fainting; whether the water had protected her limbs from fracture on the well's bottom, he could not tell; the expression of her face was like death, but he saw no blood, and life was at least possible. As the match went out, something half-floating touched his left thigh. It was her handkerchief.

He lost not a moment now, but, putting back the matches under his vest, where he also had his penknife in case of need, he made a loop at one end of her rope with a knot that would not run. As he now moved to take her into his arms, his foot struck upon something, and slipped: It was a wooden pail or bucket, water-logged and sunken to the bottom, there long years before. He recovered his footing and standing over Martha, soon had her in his left arm with a sense of surprise at her lightness, which the pressure of the water caused to seem still greater than it was in reality. Without stopping to ascertain if she were dead or alive, he pressed her to his heart, for dearly Hartwell loved her, now that he was there to save her, dearly "as a father pitieth his children," and as he passed the loop under her arms, with her back toward the length of the rope, his lips found and pressed her cold cheek in a kiss more blessed than any which he had ever given to Julia; more blessed and more blessing, for it is scientific to say, that magnetic virtues streaming from so pure and fervent a kiss may have given to Martha a fresh lease of life.

The loop having been well adjusted, under her arms, Hartwell proceeded to hoist her up by pulling downwards at the other part of her rope. The axle was smooth and the rope came easily, but his difficulty was to keep on his legs; the ground was so slippy. Several times there were jerks and narrow escapes from falling, and when she was gone some yards up, as he was moving backward, to prop himself against the wall, a nail standing in the mosses, on the bottom, ran far into his left heel, causing him such pain that he had to hold her weight with one trembling arm, while with the other hand he slowly drew out the nail, which he put inside his vest. He then continued to haul her up, and soon could dimly see her form as she rose higher and still higher in to the less dense darkness, up there above, while the well resounded with echoes at the continued rain that dribbled down from her clothes and body into the water, resounded too with echoes at the labor of Hartwell's breath; with echoes even of the movement of the rope on the axle; he started with something like a fright at the dropping of one of her shoes when she was nearly up, it came with such a sudden hum, and then a splash, and long reverberation; at last he felt the check up there above and saw that she had reached the axle.

He now moved round the wall this way and that, the rope grasped with the double turn round the right hand, feeling with the left to see if he could find any projection such as are seen in some wells, suitable for him to make the rope fast to; but he found none, and lost little time in searching. He next groped with the left arm, till he found the old bucket, against which he had stumbled; it had an iron handle, and lifting it by this, but holding it still under the water, so that its weight remained almost nil, Hartwell contrived with his left hand to tie the rope to its handle; he then let Martha down two or three feet, whereupon the bucket rose full of water, above the surface, its weight now acting as a considerable counterpoise to Martha's weight, for it was of large size; so that Hartwell could now climb up his own rope with less difficulty in holding Martha from slipping back down.

Grasping now his own old rope and Martha's new rope also in both hands, he put his foot in the hook at the end of the old rope, and began to climb—with a renewed misgiving in him as to whether his rope would bear him, though he now thought of this with a less chilly sense of peril than before, for use gives confidence. Up then, he went, hand over hand, each clutch of the hand grasping not one rope, but two—a -much more earnest business than his coming down, more jerky, more swayed, more doubtful as to its issue. The well was now full of sounds, hoots, omens; the bucket was slipping up and up, foot by foot, drawn up by Martha's weight in spite of his grinning effort to keep Martha steady, and he could hear the water in the bucket wash over its rim, as it swung to this side or to that anon, to splash in a mass into the water of the well, these sounds interrupting the steady watery sound of the wet which dribbled profusely down from his own clothes, and from Martha's; he could hear, also, the echoes of his own respiration, the echoes of his palms clapping in turn upon the ropes; the well seemed to listen to everything, to mock everything, and to be a gnome enjoying itself with banter at Hartwell's vain struggle to escape and reach that remote top; terribly remote it more and more seemed to him—a goal for a Hercules to reach, and then drop dead at. When he had got to the middle of the height, it looked no nearer than before; Martha had then slipped down several yards, and a sort of rage to reach the goal akin to madness by this time possessed Hartwell's whole being. With a wild face, with jerks and gasps, and staring eyes, and a gaping mouth, he struggled on.

But a little beyond the half-way point, the old rope parted at a thin place, and cut his labours short.

What now followed happened perhaps in two seconds, though it cannot be so rapidly described. Hartwell felt that his rope was gone—the instant splash into the water of the lower part was reported by a shout of the well—yet he felt that he was not all unsupported in empty space, though he was descending, for he was clutching still to Martha's rope with one hand, and her weight was counterbalancing his; if he had continued to hold on, slipping meanwhile down Martha's rope, he could have reached the bottom with perfect ease and safety; but he was instantly conscious—as his own rope snapped—that if he clung on to Martha's rope, his weight, and the weight of the bucket, would in some seconds drag her back up the axle, from which she had slipped down a few yards, and there crush in her chest, or break her back. At this half a thought in that wild moment, his fingers relaxed from her rope—and with a loud shout he fell back ward.

And at once up there above, at the axle, would have been audible, but for the watery uproar of Hartwell's splash, a humming which grew in vehemence: it was Martha coming down, and the haste of her rope running over the axle made the humming. But though she fell from the top, and Hartwell only from half-way, her fall was much less terrible than his: for she was counterbalanced by the weight of the bucket of water which, as she came down, moved up with increasing speed. The bucket was tied near the middle point of the rope's length, and happily she reached the water half a second before the bucket reached the axle—happily, for if the water had not broken the impetus of her fall, before the bucket struck the axle, the shock of the sudden stoppage of the bucket at the axle must have killed her; and as the water protected her, from the shock of the bucket's stoppage, so the bucket as well as the water protected her from the shock against the bottom of the well. For though the bucket's handle was torn away from it by its impact upon the axle, yet that temporary check must have lessened the force of Martha's impact upon the bottom; however it was, she received little or no injury from that second fall.

And she had no sooner struck the bottom than she was up again, for Hartwell lifted her. He was still under the water, momentarily stunned, when she had come; she had come more or less upon him, and as he rose with a dislocated left shoulder, he brought her with him on his breast, uttering a bubbling sound of calamity and pain, as his head emerged from the drench.

He rose to his feet, but tottered, slipped, floundered, and then knelt with her against the wall, a long time, gasping, his eyes closed, his face leant against the mosses and weeds, which all down there covered the wall of the well.

While he knelt there, the facts of his situation passed dismally and wearily through his mind; there were only two hopes: that the bucket had been stopped at the axle, in which case, since the bucket was at about the middle point of the rope's length, both ends of the rope would still be at the bottom of the well; he could thus draw Martha up again into the pure air, and find or invent some means of making fast the end of her rope below while he slept; for he knew that he must soon sleep, and then slowly die of the narcotic poison contained in the air which he was breathing; it was true that the candle and match had burned in it, and that where a candle burns a man may breathe; but where the candle burns very dimly it is certain that the man will not breathe very long. He felt already that he would have sooner or later to give in and sleep, as Martha slept, and his hope or finding the other end of the rope was his only hope for her; for himself, he had no hope, except a rather faint one, that they might be discovered and rescued in time, either by Gloucester now, or by Dulaunay and Oswald later on when they returned from London. He had little hope that the women servants would have the instinct to make an organised search because of the temporary absence of himself and Martha; and as to Gloucester, he was a rather slow minded fellow. Hartwell's hope in this direction, then must rest on the return of Oswald and Dulaunay; they would hear from a servant of his absence; might then very possibly come to the round point and would at once see his clothes by the well. They would be at Corton by 12—two hours and a quarter; he believed that he might keep awake till then.

But, as we know, they did not return to Corton at all that night: Dulaunay's discovery of Hartwell's secret, and his drive to Julia to tell her all, had made him miss his train; Oswald had the shreds of Letty's letter, and instead of coming to Corton wrote a command to Hartwell to come to him. Instead of Dulaunay and Oswald, came Bobbie and his charming Rosie, but Bobbie, knowing nothing of the habits of life at Corton, of its seclusion and uneventfulness, did not see that the absence of Hartwell and Martha at that late hour necessarily meant danger; he supposed that they were paying some vague visit, and were "somewhere," while Sarah Gissing, on the contrary, was of opinion that they could not possibly be anywhere.

At the moment when Martha dropped back to the bottom of the well, at about fifteen minutes to ten, Gloucester had actually been seeking the missing pair with umbrellas, but had not come to the round point, where he could not suppose them to be, since he knew that in the round point there was no shelter from the rain which was falling; he had now returned to the Pavilion, had left the umbrellas there, had hurried to the stables to harness the horse, and without discovering the removal, by Hartwell, of the coil of rope from the stables, was off to Felmingham to bring home Oswald and Dulaunay.

Whatever hopes, therefore, Hartwell had in Gloucester, or in Oswald, and the Count, were not to be realised; his hope, also, of hoisting Martha up again into the fresh air came to nothing: for, when he painfully lifted himself from his knees, and groped for the rope end knot attached to Martha, he could not find it, since, in fact, it was yards above his reach, Martha having dragged considerably more than half the rope's length over the axle with her; nor did Hartwell need to grope long to guess how things were, for his foot again struck on the bucket, which now again lay at the bottom of the well, and he understood that, since it was there, its handle must have been wrenched off at its impact on the axle, and the rope must then have run well beyond its middle point on the axle after Martha, taking the handle with it on one side of the axle, while the bucket fell down on the other side.

He thought, however, that there was still a possibility that the missing rope end might be within his reach, and with Martha at his bosom in his right arm, he moved blindly about, forging through the water which reached to his middle, feeling for the rope end with moans and groans. He did not yet know that, even if he found the missing rope end, he would be unable to draw up Martha a single yard, since his left arm hung useless at his side; but there was nothing else for him to do, except to seek and seek the rope with hopeless obstinacy throughout the small circle of his dungeon. He made no attempt to strike any of the marches under his vest, for he knew that they were soaked, and the permanence of the darkness of that place, where no ray came, soon had an inner darkening effect upon his mind also, quenching the mind's power to hope, or to picture to itself any reality save the well, and the water and slime in it, and the dark sounds that had their old home in it remote from light and the human world. The task of bearing Martha on his bosom, and searching in the dark for the rope end, seemed to have been born with him, while Gloucester, Oswald, Dulaunay, became to his mind like people known an age ago in another state of being, and the possibility that they might come to rescue him and that burden which he bore like a doom on his breast seemed more and more visionary to him. The semi-circle of only half-darkness above, between the lid and the coping, ceased as the hours passed, to speak to him of nearness with the upper world and the one star visible in it to him not visible that dark night to people above, finally seemed as more remote from his hopes and his powers than the Pavilion, or Gloucester, or the coming of any human aid. He could do nothing but grope, and groan and stare upward. A tight feeling, as if his chest was tied up, oppressed him; at one time, for about half an hour, he became conscious of great agony in his left arm; but this gradually passed off as the narcotism of the carbonic gases worked upon his senses. He became very heavy, more and more disposed to give up and die.

But he endured till some time after Dulaunay and Oswald should have come, till some time after Bobbie and Rosie and Gloucester went nodding to their beds about midnight; and then he could sustain his own weight and Martha's no longer; he mumbled something, and abandoned himself to the charm of what was wooing him.

In a sullen way, to save himself and her from death from drowning (though he did not know at all if she were dead or alive), he pulled down the rope from the axle, and placed the bucket with its bottom upward against the wall; he then sat on the bucket, his back to the wall, his head and part of his chest above the water; and placing Martha between his legs with her feet on the well's bottom he tied her to his body round and round with many whorls of the rope, her face to the wall, and a considerable part of her body above the water; so that, so long as he did not fall off the bucket during sleep, she could not fall either, but if one drowned, both would drown. And this done, Hartwell leant his head on the mosses of the wall, and the well echoed his last waking sigh.


XXXI. — THE SEARCH

The next morning at an early hour there was discussion in the servants' room at the Pavilion, between the women servants, when Sarah announced that the master and mistress had not come home; and at first the discussion was marked by mere surprise, at a casual event, till the most original of the three uttered a word of misgiving, whereupon it was not long but that misgiving proved catching like fire or fever, a fear that had been asleep in them all woke up, and finally they were telling to one another their certainty that something was wrong: which proves that truth is rank, and a gram of it once cast forth will grow.

"I'd better go and see if Gloucester has anything to say about it," suggested Sarah.

Gloucester was sweet on Sarah, so that her errand to the stables would combine something of coquetry with business; her mood at the moment was grave enough, but the heart is deceitful, and subtly mixed its own undercurrents in her motives. At once Sarah started off with her rather silly scare of flurry, calling back over her shoulder: "You had better take up the hot water to the young gentleman and lady, Ethel, and try to wake up that lazy French girl again." She ran to the kitchen door, where she met the milkman with his hand raised to ring, dropped to him the news that the master and mistress were missing, and ran up an alley in the pines toward the stables.

It was a bright Sunday morning, after the rainy night, everything, including the air itself, looking washed and fresh, and the smell in the pines full of health and liveliness; but Sarah's anticipated pleasure in rousing Gloucester to give him startling news and saucy smiles was dashed by the appearance of Gloucester himself in the alley bearing a sack of fir cones for the kitchen fires.

"Master and mistress got home?" he asked at once, before Sarah could speak.

"That's just what I was coming to you about," she replied: "you ought to have searched for them when you got back from the station last night, for something dreadful has happened."

The consensus of opinion in the servants' room that something dreadful had happened was the same thing to her simple mind as a proof that it had happened.

"What's happened?" asked Gloucester, startled.

"Something dreadful," she repeated, with certainty.

"That's only what you think," said Gloucester; "I had a talk with young Mr Hartwell, who was in the drawing-room when I got back from the station last night, and we both agreed that there wasn't anything that could 'er happened"—and the mere agreement between Bobbie and himself was as good proof to Gloucester of the one view as the agreement in the servants' room was proof to Sarah of the opposite view.

"Girls always know too much,"' remarked Gloucester.

"As much as the men, I dare say," said Sarah.

"Yes, they think so," retorted Gloucester.

"You must have had your head full of them last night, I should think, or you would 'er done something," said Sarah.

"Well I don't know," replied Gloucester; "I might 'er had my head full of them. I looked up to your window to see if I could see any light—"

"I didn't come here to hear any sauce," said Sarah, not quite truly. "Something must be done at once."

"I don't know what to do, then. Nothing that I know of couldn't 'er happened to them, not at Corton."

"But it stands to reason they must be somewhere, Gloucester," protested Sarah, though she had previously laid it down as a dogma that they could not be anywhere; "and they haven't gone off the estate, or master would have had the carriage, Ethel says, so they wouldn't be far, and ought to be looked for."

Gloucester walked by her side with a puzzled brow; to seek them on the estate, two grown up people, where there were no wild beasts, except poachers, seemed to him childish; he could imagine nothing, save the possibility that for some queer reason they had slept at the Gissings' or at Anderson's cottage; but, as he and Sarah came in sight of the back of the Pavilion, they saw old Gissing, to whom, at that early hour, the day was already old, for he was always up and abroad with the lark; he was now trudging towards the kitchen, in his Sunday waistcoat, but without any jacket, for a good morrow to his daughter and the others, when Gloucester and Sarah came upon him, and told their tale of the missing two.

The old man thought it over deliberately, with his wrinkled, lax brow bent toward the ground, and the first thing that came into his head was the possibility that Oswald had done some evil to his brother.

"What does Mr Oswald and the French Count say about it," he asked.

"They aren't at home," answered Gloucester, "They went to London yesterday, and last night when I took the trap for them, they hadn't come back."

Gissing thought it over again, and said: "Seen Anderson yet this morning?"

"Not yet," was the answer.

"He'd likely be at that broad on the yon side of the ruin, Gloucester, you run and fetch him, and I'll wait about here till you come."

Gloucester hurried off, Sarah went into the house to wait on the young married couple, and Gissing paced up and down the alley with a look of care on his face till Gloucester returned with the sullen Anderson striding like a giant in his top-boots. The three men then held a council on the state of affairs, or rather, two of them, for Anderson contributed only grunts, and finally Gissing said:

"Anderson 'll search all in them woods to the west of the ruins: I'll take them grouse and low ground shootings to the north; and you, Gloucester, will go all through the pines and the coppice wood, down beyond that frog pond to the shooting range; and we'll all meet again on the lawn in front."

The three men then separated, and spent three hours of search without their breakfast, each in his agreed part of the estate.

Bobbie and Rosie, meanwhile, breakfasted gaily in the dining room, inwardly enjoying the respite granted them by Hartwell's absence with a childish zest in the present, and a child-like freedom from the troubles of the future, and of the past. Unused to the sorrows of life, they had no fear that any calamity had happened to Hartwell; Rosie occupied most of her morning in going over the old house, admiring its shabby antiquities, and feeling the charm of its romantic situation there in the heart of the forest.

Bobbie was looking out upon the portico near ten, when he saw Steve Anderson come and take his stand near the statue of Pan on the lawn, then in some minutes Gloucester, and finally Gissing; he saw them lay their heads together, and understanding that they had returned from the search for Hartwell, hurried out to join them, leaving Rosie in vague misery.

When he came up to the men, he heard Anderson saying, for the third time:

"I'll swear they aren't anywhere down there."

"No, and they aren't in the pines neither,'" said Gloucester.

Gissing said nothing; the old man's face was the very expression of care; and at no time was he a waster of words.

"Searched in the Round Point?" asked Gissing of Gloucester presently.

"I looked into it," replied Gloucester: "they'd not be there, you know.'"

Gissing looked hard at him, and after a minute said:

"Wait you here till I come back." He trudged away down the forest path, and turned into an alley to the right, towards the Round Point: for an instinct of the truth had been for three hours ripening in the old fellow's mind, and now had ripened into a thought.


XXXII. — HARTWELL GOES UNDER

Bobbie, Gloucester, and Anderson waited Gissing's return for about fifteen minutes, wondering whither he had gone, dropping occasional remarks and guesses. The sun was now high and bright, with few clouds in the sky, and though winter was near there were still many of the sounds made by birds and wildfowl in the woods.

Then a running figure was seen in the shadow down the path, beckoning, while still far off, and it was Gissing. When they hastened to meet, him, they saw him pale with that touching pallor of the flesh of an agitated old man. He gave no explanation, but said hurriedly:

"Gloucester, you run and put the horse in the trap, make paces for Felmingham, and fetch the doctor; tell him it may be a case o' drowning; you, Anderson, and the young master, go with Gloucester to the stables, and bring, between you, to the Round Point, them two ladders, and all the rope you can find. Look sharp, now, I'll be at the Round Point when you come."

The other three ran off behind the house, toward the stables, while Gissing retraced his steps down the path; in the alley to the right he unswung the door of an old hut, and took it with him; when Bobbie and Anderson ran down the footpath in the pines to the Round Point with the ladder and rope ends, they found Gissing bent down over the coping, with a lost stare into the depths, and on the coping they saw Hartwell's clothes, which the ferns and grasses had hidden from Gloucester's running glance earlier in the morning.

The two ladders were lashed together, and lowered into the well; but they did not reach the bottom; and it was necessary to lower them with a rope, the other end of which was then made fast to the nearest, of the pines. Few were the words spoken; Bobbie's face had lost its roses, and was stamped with a painful distress; anon Anderson growled to himself; Gissing seemed stricken dumb, and when he wished anything done, made signs with his hand. Sweat-drops stood on the old man's white brow, as he stripped off his Sunday things, put his box of matches between his teeth, stepped over the well, slid down the rope to the ladder, and thence went down to the bottom.

He found Hartwell sitting just as he had set himself on the bucket many hours before, and Martha lashed to him with her face to the wall; Gissing struck a match, peered at their faces, and cast up his eyes to heaven. There was some blood in the water.

He quickly found the rope end, unwound the rope from them, and taking Martha with the rope under her arms to the foot of the ladder, laid her on it, and, leaving her there, ran up with the other rope end, which he threw to Anderson from the ladder head, calling out: "When yon feel me jerk the rope, then pull away."

He then went down again, placed Martha with her back to the wall, and jerked the rope; Anderson and Bobbie pulled above, and Martha went up, raining her wet into the well.

Gissing next supported Hartwell in his arms, waited till the rope came back, and getting the loop under his arms, jerked the rope. As Hartwell, too, went up, but more slowly than Martha, the old man accompanied him all the way on the ladder, step by step, his eyes fixed loweringly on that pathetic figure, once so vigorous and masterful, but now so helpless, so drenched in disaster, and apparently in death.

At the top the faces of Hartwell and Martha were seen to be of a fixed expression, with a bluish tinge in their pallor; there they lay, Martha on the door in the grass, Hartwell on the coping with some froth on his white lips, both with the look of the drowned.

Not a word was spoken now, Gissing signed to Anderson and Bobbie to take up Martha, and to Anderson to help him take Hartwell upon his own back, though Anderson would have been far better able to carry all that weight than the old man, and it would have been better to carry Martha on the back, and Hartwell on the door: but Gissing arranged it otherwise. They then set off, Gissing bent under his burden in front, the others bearing Martha on the door behind. As they drew near the Pavilion, Bobbie wanted desperately to put down the door a minute, in order to run and get Rosie shut away from the terrible sight, but he could not venture to do this, and when they came to the lawn, Rosie, who was looking out, tearfully for Bobbie, saw the scene of tragedy slowly coming, and while they were tramping by the corridor stairs, she caught a glimpse of the two blue faces, and nearly fainted. By this time the women servants had got a scent of the horror, by seeing Gloucester dash off in his trap for the doctor, and they were in the corridor. One of them relieved the winded Bobbie of his end of the door at the foot, of the stairs, but Gissing bore his burden to the very couch in Hartwell's room, where he deposited him, and then dropped into a chair, panting painfully.

Martha meantime, was taken to her own room; brandy was poured between the teeth of both, and they were in bed in dry clothes before Gloucester arrived at noon with the doctor.

The doctor told Bobbie that Martha would not live, but that Hartwell would do well, though his arm was seriously injured; little could be done till the nurses, for whom he had sent from Felmingham, should arrive. He himself waited at the Pavilion most of the day, Gloucester meanwhile taking journeys to bring the objects required by the doctor, and in the afternoon to bring the nurses. Bobbie and Gissing sat with Hartwell, while Sarah and another servant was with Martha. Rosie was below, looking out in low spirits through one of the French windows of the drawing-room, occasionally catching a sight of the Parisienne, Ernestine, enjoying the beauties of nature down an avenue of the forest. Near three, Rosie was called to a tardy lunch. In crossing a passage, she saw Bobbie and the doctor coming down the stairs, lingered till the doctor went into the dining-room, and retaining Bobbie outside asked him in a low voice: "How are they Bobbie?"

"Looking better—You oughtn't to have peeped, you know, Rosie."

"But, Bobbie, I have something to tell you: you mustn't laugh—promise me first that you won't laugh, if I am wrong."

"Well, I promise."

"Bobbie, you promised not to laugh," replied Rosie, "but when I peeped and saw them, I seemed to recognise them both; she looked something like my mother, and I'm sure he is the image of my stepfather, for I remember him very well—and the same name, too, 'Drayton.'"

Bobbie, after staring at her a moment, said: "That seems odd."

"I am sure that there's a great resemblance," said Rosie.

"It must be some coincidence, I suppose," said Bobbie. "My guardian has only lately married, apparently, so he couldn't very well have been your stepfather five years ago; and yet—by Jove, if it were only true! No, it is only some coincidence. Come, have some lunch."

The coincidence, however, haunted the young couple that night, and was much discussed between them; accordingly, the next afternoon, three hours after Martha had opened her eyes, Bobbie let Rosie go into Martha's room: for just the opposite of what the doctor had foretold came true, since Martha recovered herself more quickly than Hartwell, the fact being that Hartwell was a very strong, still breather, so that during the hours in the well he had breathed more of the poisonous air, and far more deeply, than the worthy Martha; hence, by four o'clock on the Monday afternoon, Martha had Rosie locked in her arms, but it was not till after five that Hartwell became conscious.

Hartwell lay still for some time, till, turning his head a little, with a twinkle in his eye he saw Bobbie, who was reading a book by the bedside; in a far corner, looking down at the floor, sat the old Gissing; a nurse was at the dressing-table, tidying. So far Bobbie had heard nothing of how Rosie had fared in Martha's room, which was some distance away: for Rosie was lying in bed with her mother; who, all taken up with the gladsome fact of her daughter's presence, would not let Rosie depart in order to call and exhibit Bobbie to her; and presently Bobbie, looking up, beheld the knowing twinkle in Hartwell's eye.

"Well. Bobbie, is that you?" asked Hartwell.

"I am glad to see you so well, sir," said Bobbie, springing up.

"What about my wife?"

"She has recovered consciousness, sir, and is doing very well.",

"Excellent. When, then, were we brought up out of the well?"

"About 11 o'clock yesterday morning, sir. This is Monday evening."

"Not till 11 in the morning? Who discovered us in the well?"

"Gissing, sir."

Hartwell's eye turned and dwelt with a grave meaning in it upon Gissing in his corner, who made a sudden, glad gesture of greeting with his arm toward the bed.

"And Martha is really doing well?"

"Yes, sir."

"What became of you, Bobbie?"

"I was in Paris, sir."

"Kidnapped, my friend? Imprisoned?"

"No, sir."

"Why, then, did you not write to me?"

"It is rather a long; story, sir. I know that I was wrong, but perhaps if we wait until you are a little stronger—"

"No, tell me now."

"The fact is, sir—"

"That's a man: don't be afraid."

"I was married, sir."

"Ah! married! that solution never struck me. Of course, that was it. I also—I also got married, Bobbie." And in these last words was, a sorrow and reproach which wounded the young man, though he did not understand why.

"I do hope that you will be able to forgive me, sir," said Bobbie, earnestly. "I feel terribly that I have been undutiful and a coward. I made you a promise which I have not kept; but in looking for the girl of your choice, I found my wife, if one may say so; and I was terribly tempted to disobey you by the love—"

"Say nothing, my friend," said Hartwell. "Your existence was probably not allotted you with the sole design of accomplishing my wishes, and accordingly you do nothing of the kind. You have done as your father before you did, married unadvisedly in your youth, and as you have sown, so you will reap."

"I have hoped that you will be able to forgive me, sir. I think if you only saw—"

"You have displeased and ill-used me, sir, more than you dream. I had pledged my word that you should marry her whom I sent you to seek; this marriage of yours places me in a doubly false position; and at one period of my life—take my word for it—you should have bitterly experienced my resentment. A letter from you some weeks ago might have—well! but what has to be will be. You are forgiven, if your companion proves to be us healthy in mind as she seems to be in body."

"You are awfully good and kind, sir, really," said Bobbie, warmly pressing his father's hand with a light feeling that the ordeal was nearly over.

"I am sure that you will be fond of her, sir: she is quite as healthy in mind as you seem to know that she is in body."

"I know from one of her red and crisp hairs, which you carry about on your person, my friend. I will see your agreeable companion, if you will bring her. First, go to Martha with my compliments, and ask her how she does."

Bobbie turned to go, but before he had made a step, one of the two doors of the room opened, and in the opening appeared Martha, looking very weak and white, with a dressing gown thrown round her, supported by Rosie and Sarah Gissing, and anxiously followed by a nurse. Martha was all sighs, and yet was smiling. Hartwell sat up on his elbow, considering her and Rosie with a vivacious eye, while Bobbie ran to them, brought Martha, and placed her in the easy chair, in which he had been sitting by Hartwell's bedside.

"Well, James," sighed Martha—"Rosie, is this the young man?"

"Yes, mamma,'" answered Rosie, her eyes fixed upon Hartwell with a rather scared and stand-offish expression, even though she now knew that it must have been herself whom Bobbie had been sent to seek; but she had acquired the habit of thinking of Hartwell with awe ever since her marriage, and moreover now saw in him the terrible stepfather who had separated her from her mother, and had shut her away from the world five years ago.

As for Hartwell, when he heard Martha say "Rosie," and Rosie say "Mamma," he understood all, that Bobbie had unknowingly married the girl whom he had been sent to look for; and at once a feeling of lightness and warm happiness, which communicated itself to every heart, became his mood. He put out his hand and shook Rosie's, saying, "I am glad to see you," while Rosie smiled and blushed like a fresh rose.

The good Martha was sighing as much for joy as for her feebleness, saying incoherently: "Well, he seems a nice young man—Why don't you come and kiss your mother, boy? Look at the pair of them! People say that marriages are made in Heaven—but there's no love like a mother's love. James, why ever didn't you tell me they were married!"

"I wished to surprise you, Martha," said the worthy and ever artful Hartwell, with a benign and dancing eye.

"My goodness, that little girl, who would have believed it?" sighed Martha: "Can you see how it is with her, James? It's a pair of them, my goodness; I only hope that that young man is legally married to her. I hardly know her, she's that grown, and such a pretty girl she's got, too.

"Look at her colour, and her eyes, the image of Harper's, and red hair like his; it used to be as black as mine when she was a child. Boy, why don't you say something to your mother, and let me hear you talk? He really is a very nice young man. She couldn't have done much better. Well, everything turns out for the best, after all. I never felt so strange and happy as to-day, like my first find second wedding days, the third don't count, for though I've been married thrice, I've only had two husbands—enough to make anybody laugh—"

Martha laughed droopingly and faintingly; she was in a species of happy distraction and flightiness of mind, almost, resembling hysteria.

"Well, I am glad to see you happy, Martha," said Hartwell, "and your happiness makes me happy also. Rosie, are you glad to have found your mother?"

"Oh yes, papa, thank you," said Rosie with a curtsey.

"Bobbie, I congratulate you on having found a charming wife and an excellent mother. Let me now see you embrace your mother."

"I'm charmed, sir, I'm sure," said Bobbie, with his little superior smile, and kissed Martha on each cheek.

Martha now began to cry for joy, saying:

"Oh, yes, it's good of you, James give the devil his due, after all. You didn't act well by me, locking me up in that tower five long years, and taking the child away. No one could say that you did, James; but still, give the devil his due, you've made up for it now; oh, yes, one must say that much for you, James."

"I have done nothing," said Hartwell, frankly, now, "the young man will tell you that it is all a happy chance—"

"Oh no, it isn't," answered Martha, blindly: "you've given her back to me, and married her to the fairy prince, as you said you would. I never believed that you would, because I know that you are always such a one for saying what you don't mean. But you've done it right enough; and I daresay you've thought hard of me for nagging at you when you meant all the time to do it. Oh, yes, there's no saying but what you've acted well by me lately. I know what you did in going down that well, after me, and nearly getting drowned your self; for Rosie has told me; and you look about as pale and weak as I do, I'm sure—"

"I couldn't help myself—" began Hartwell.

"Oh yes, you could," drawled the worthy and excellent Martha. "It's a wonder to me that you didn't leave my poor old hones down there, so as to marry that other tall woman, got up like a princess, who came to see you that night, for I shouldn't be surprised if you have one of those sort of women in your eye all the time. But you thought more of your old woman, than of all the lot of them, when she was in danger, didn't you; and risked your life, too—Oh, no, I've got to kiss you for that, James."

Martha at last gave to Hartwell her first kiss since he had released her from the tower, lifting herself slowly on the arms of the easy chair, bending over and laying her lips upon his—a kiss so sweet to Hartwell that his eyes closed with rapture.

But Martha had not much room in her mind for any of the many emotions which thronged in it that day, except for her love of Rosie, her pride in her, and that sense of novelty and excitement with which one receives a fortune or a rich present. She turned from the bed to receive a cordial, which one of the nurses had brought, and drank it, looking up into the charming face of Rosie, with her arms around her; while Rosie looked at Hartwell—her awe now partly gone, and smiled to him, and Hartwell returned her smile with a beaming eye.

"And as to the Count and Oswald?" asked Hartwell, "where are they, Bobbie?"

"They went to London on Saturday, I am told," answered Bobbie, "and haven't come back yet."

"That is odd; haven't they written?"

"They may have: some letters came this morning."

Among those letters was one from Oswald, commanding Hartwell to be at Oswald's rooms in London that (Monday) afternoon at three; but as Bobbie made a movement to go and got the letters, Hartwell said, "well, never mind, we shall see later," for at that moment Rosie was at his head with a brush in her hand, about to brush his rumpled hair, and Hartwell took her little hand and kissed it, saying at the same time to Bobbie, "All's well that ends well."

"I'm charmed, sir, I'm sure, to have so exactly carried out your wishes," said Bobbie, with his little smile of self-approval. "Saul went out to seek his father's asses, sir, and—"

"And became one of them, Bobbie, though he found a kingdom. Let nothing be said, my friend—Well, this is charming to have my hair brushed by such interesting hands." Hartwell looked up at Rosie, with soft eyes, and she smiled with him. "But you were a naughty girl to run away; I heard all from Mary Seward, and was cross with you.'"

"It was he who carried me away," answered Rosie, slyly, all blushes and lowered lids, indicating Bobbie with the brush handle.

"Ah, ah, it was he; let the blame be with him, then. But, tell me, were you, on the whole, moderately happy with Miss Seward?'

"Yes, papa, only I was lonely sometimes. I wanted mamma."

"I see all; but you are to believe that if it were to do again, I should not do it, but should keep you by my side, to protect and cherish you."

"Yes, papa. It is all right now, since you sent Bobbie for me in the end. But why did you tell him, papa, that I had black hair, and that my name was Drayton?"

"You had black hair at one time," said Hartwell, for he had just heard Martha say so, "and as for the name, let nothing be said; you can readily conceive that since I now consider you my own dear daughter, you were no longer Harper to me, but Drayton."

This equivocal answer fully satisfied the mind of Rosie and of all, for they were all in that mental state in which the present alone seems of importance, and whatever points remained mysterious to any of them, were put in the background as of little moment in the face of their actual happiness.

Martha meanwhile was plying Bobbie with questions as to the place and date of his marriage, as to the strangeness of its privacy, and of his long absence from Corton, or praising his good looks and sprightly air, or giving vent to proverbs such as that there is no love like a mother's love, and that marriages are made in Heaven; then she turned to Hartwell, laying her cheek affectionately on his right hand (the left was in a sling), causing Hartwell's eyes to soften; and immediately afterwards, in her happy restlessness of mind, she was ogling with mock propriety at Rosie's condition, pretending to be scandalised that that little child, who was only so high a short time ago, should think of being a mother.

In the midst of all this, Martha's nurse came interposing with the demand that Martha should return to bed. Martha protested, but Hartwell said: "Go, Martha, and I will rejoin you presently in your room." Whereupon Martha was lilted by Bobbie and accompanied out by Rosie, who at the door, turned to give a parting smile to Hartwell, for between her and him there had already sprung up a secret understanding of amity and love.

When they were gone, Hartwell lay on his bed with closed eyes, drawing together the frown of his brow with his fingers, feeling that he had never been half so purely and deeply happy as in that hour; for as it were, a taste of sweet waters was in his breast, and a sound of that rhythm, which leaves the creation in a dancing march; he called the old Gissing to him, after some minutes, and with out saying anything, held the countryman's hand in his.

While he was doing this, there was a tap at that door of his bedroom' which opened into his little laboratory and study, and in came Dulaunay, with excited eyes, his hat on his head, and a hand-camera in his hand, for, fresh from London, he had just heard below, for the first time, the story of Hartwell's and Martha's night in the well. Hartwell called out, "Ah, Count, here we are, you see," and Dulaunay, going to the bed, took the sick man's hand with a gaze of new interest in the "Draytong" who was no longer "Draytong" to him, new interest, reverence and curiosity.

"I have heard—But, mon Dieu! you have the pale air!" breathed the Count; "is the arm, then, broken, sir?"

"Is the arm broken, nurse?" asked Hartwell.

"Only dislocated at the shoulder, sir; it will be all right in a few days," answered the nurse.

"I am conscious of no pain," said Hartwell: "I am well! I am strong!"

"How many hours, for example, were you there—down in that well," asked Dulaunay.

"Over twelve, my friend. If you had come back, as you promised, you would have drawn me out."

"Yes, I avow my fault, but how could I have been able to divine that which would arrive? In that which I did, my intention was good. But as to the excellent Martha?"

"She goes well also."

"It is very well. But that which astonishes me is your audacity to descend that well alone. I can feel the terror of it in my nerves—phrrrrr. And it was Martha that you went to seek?"

"My wife, Count."

"Precisely sir, your wife."

The excellent Count said no more, but taking off his cap laid his lips on Hartwell's hand.

"And as to the two young married!" he cried, with fresh animation when this deep act of homage was over; "have you then seen them?"

"Yes, I have seen them," said Hartwell, smiling.

"Oh, la, la, have you been, then, angry?"

"No, I have been content. The lady whom Bobbie has married is the same whom I sent him and you to look for in Gloucestershire."

"Not possible!"

"Yes, thank God."

The Count gave vent to a buffoon laugh, crying out:

"Oh, la, la, it is even the history of Oedipus. He has, then, married, rightly, by mistake, the young Bobbie. Here is that which it is to be tricked by the destiny. He wished to play the prodigal, and finds himself, probably with disgust, the good son. Miss Scatchett told me in London—By the way, "Draytong", have you received the envelope with the shreds of paper from Oswald?"

At this question Hartwell's eyebrows lifted.

"You don't mean that you have given them to Oswald?" he asked, struck by a pang of vague apprehension.

"But yes," answered the Count. "I was pressed to arrive somewhere Sunday night, and gave the envelope to Oswald that he might bring it to you, that which he undertook to do; but when I returned to Addison-road more late, Miss Scatchett said me, to my astonishment, that Oswald had not gone down to Corton, but had the intention to sleep in London. Yesterday, therefore, I rendered myself at Oswald's apartment in order to ask him why he had not brought the envelope, since I knew that you wished to receive it at once, but Oswald was not at home; this morning again I went to see him, and again he was not at home—"

"Well, let us hope that the matter may not prove serious, Count."

"How? Do those shreds contain anything of secret, then?"

"I have no idea what they contain," said Hartwell. "I only know that by this time Oswald has read them, and that that may mean mischief."

"Oh, my head of magpie!" exclaimed Dulaunay in despair. "What vexing circumstances. How could I have been able to be so stupid, so—"

"Well never mind. Perhaps it is not of importance," said Hartwell. "Oswald may even have sent the shreds, for I have not yet seen my letters to-day. You might look for me, Count, on my desk in the study, and see if there is anything in Oswald's writing, also any Birmingham letters about my electrical machine, to be tested to-morrow. Bring those, and leave the rest."

Dulaunay hurried into the next room, but immediately returned, saying that there was no letters, for they had not been put, as usual, on Hartwell's desk that morning, but handed to Bobbie, who had put them somewhere else.

"Well, never mind; another time," said Hartwell, who was too happy in Martha's happiness to be greatly troubled by vague possibilities. "I have to go to Martha's room, where I hope you will join us all, Count, after dinner."

By this time it was six o'clock, and the lamp was alight. Dulaunay helped Hartwell to rise and dress, conducted his rather feeble steps to Martha's room, was presented to the blushing Rosie, and felicitated everyone. Then those that were well went down to dinner, while Hartwell remained by Martha's bedside, till later on all reassembled to spend the evening in Martha's room, an old-fashioned apartment looking by two windows upon the lawn and upon the forest, lighted by candies in sconces, and panelled in old brown oak. Martha wished for whist, so a small table was drawn to her bedside, where she and Hartwell played against Bobbie and Dulaunay, while Rosie sat with her head on Bobbie's shoulder, and one of her hands in Martha's. The Count acted the wild boy, with a touch of the buffoon for Rosie's benefit, telling droll stories, which when they tended to become too French were checked by a glance of Hartwell's happy but doubtful eye, while Rosie had only to lift her eyes to meet the Count's musing gaze of admiration. The blinds were drawn, and a bright fire burned in the grate, for outside a wintry moaning of the wind was heard. In a far corner of the room sat the dumb Barnes, who had been brought upstairs after dinner to see Hartwell, and had remained there ever since without a movement, watching the family party at their game.

Martha for the first time played loosely, and lost a rubber. "I can't believe my eyes," she said constantly. "Here have I been expecting to see the same little girl that I lost five years ago, and look at her now. Why, the boy and girl ought to be at school instead of thinking of such things.

"No," said Hartwell, who approved of early marriages, "they have done well."

"They are even in an excellent school," said the Count, "in which they are the teachers one of the other. Bobbie, my friend, my compliments. Your taste is even exquisite, if madame will permit me to say it. I raise my glass to you both."

The Count clinked his glass with Bobbie's and Rosie's, then with Hartwell's and Martha's and all round the glasses clinked. On the table were the old decanters, with loose gold rings round their necks marked Port and Sherry, together with cake and biscuits.

"Martha, I drink to your excellent health," said Hartwell with a lifted glass.

"Thank you, James," replied Martha, "and I drink to yours, too, James."

"Shall we always live here, and never go away anywhere, or be separated?" asked Rosie.

"Would you like that?" asked Hartwell, gently.

"Oh, I should, papa," cried Rosie, "for I do so like Corton. I never dreamt that there could be such a nice old place, looking just like a fairy place. I hope that we shall be always here, and just like this every night, you and mamma, and Bobbie and Monsieur le Comte and I, and no one else. Bobbie, listen to the sound of the wind in the woods."

"You shall be well pleased," said Hartwell. "Here we will stay, and you shall be the young Queen of Corton, and we all your court, for I see that you are fully worthy to be our Queen, and our darling also."

Bobbie's eyes rested a moment on his guardian's face with a grateful and reverent look.

"James, don't fill the child's mind with flattery and fancies," said Martha. "You are going to spoil her; I can see it already. I daresay the child knows how sweet and pretty she is as it is, without any telling. Just look at her!"

While Martha was saying this, Dulaunay was leaning over the table to wards his partner, Bobbie, asking in a low voice, "Do you know, by chance, where is Marston House? Somewhere in Norfolk—"

"Someone told me yesterday that it is about six miles from here," answered Bobbie. "Are you going to see Julia there?"

"Sh-h-h," went the Count, for Martha had just finished occupying the attention of Hartwell, who, however, had heard the whispered word Julia, and lowered his eyes awhile.

The lateness of the sitting-up that night was without precedent at Corton. Dulaunay sang the Toreador's song without any accompaniment, and Rosie, in a frail, sweet voice that trembled, sang "La Bondeuse," in French. Several times the glasses clinked together all round. Even to Dulaunay the charm of the domestic pleasantness and peace in which he found himself communicated itself.

Between all of them were continually interchanged fond glances, smiles full of gentle meanings, pressure and touches of the hands, and words of kindness and affection. Martha saw her James in a milder light, with forgiveness and remorse for having so long misunderstood his repentance and change of heart toward her, while upon Rosie and Bobbie she looked with the fullest satisfaction of her maternal yearnings. Hartwell, for his part, felt a pious joy at Martha's friendship for him, which almost repaid him for all the sacrifices that had at last won him it. He could easily forgive Bobbie the pain and anxiety which Bobbie had caused him, seeing that the young man's escapade had turned out so fortunately; while, as to Rosie, every hour that passed seemed to water and endear the happy understanding which had sprung up between Hartwell and the charming girl.

The two nurses at last combined to interpose, and put an end to the family reunion.

When Hartwell, after saying goodnight, had reached the beginning of the corridor leading to his chamber, Rosie ran after him, and embraced him there in the dark with an upturned face, for all her fear of him had now turned into a hearty and sweet familiarity.

"My dear one," murmured Hartwell, as he strained her to him with his right arm, and laid a kiss on her forehead.

The next (Tuesday) morning, every one met everyone else at breakfast, for the new happiness had given to Martha new life, and the night in the well was already being forgotten; after breakfast the family went out, Martha among them, to the glade in the pine, wood where the well is, that all might look down into the dark depths, and enjoy a shudder at the contemplation of what had been, and of what might have been.

They were all still there at half-past eleven in the forenoon, when the Count proposed to photograph them in a family group, for the excellent and erratic Frenchman had lately taken up photography as a hobby. His proposal was hailed with delight by Rosie and Martha, and Dulaunay ran away toward the pavilion for his camera, plates, cloth, and tripod. It was a bright November day, a little less than five years since Hartwell had taken upon himself the name of Drayton; the air was rather crisp, and masses of cloud in the sky betokened rain before very long; but still the day was sunshiny and pleasant. Dulaunay returned with his apparatus, planted the tripod amid the fern, and placed the party on the coping of the well; Hartwell sat with his arm round Rosie's waist, and Rosie's head on his shoulder; Bobbie, smiling the little smile with which he scribbled his smart elegiacs, held Martha's hand, and waited. The worthy and excellent Count, who was as busy and flushed as though the late of kingdoms hung upon the outcome, dived under his cloth, re-emerged, called out directions, pleaded with silent motions of the palm, and subsided again under his cloth; he had just cried out: "Now, rest tranquil, all!" and was about to let fly his catch, when Oswald suddenly appeared on the scene within the scope of the camera, spoiling everything.

Oswald had just arrived from London. He looked at all the members of the group, and without a word or gesture of greeting to anyone, to the alarm of all he said to Hartwell:

"James, I wish to speak to you at once."

Hartwell was about to tell Dulaunay to finish taking the photograph, but a second glance at Oswald's face, which was as pale as death, caused him to change his mind; he pronounced the words: "I come," rose, said to the ladies, "You will excuse me," and went after Oswald, who had turned again into the alley leading to the road in the forest, which runs past the lawn before the pavilion.

Up to this moment Hartwell had not read his Monday's letters, nor those of that (Tuesday) morning, he was so preoccupied with the new charms of family and home-life which had just arisen for him like a little oasis in his desert; he was intending to read the letters after lunch in his study, where he meant also to await the telegram from Birmingham, which was to tell him the result of the trial of his electrical machine. He had not therefore seen Oswald's letter commanding him to go to London to meet Oswald; but judging from Oswald's face and manner, and knowing that Oswald held those shreds of whose contents Hartwell knew nothing, save that they must be very important, Hartwell had a foreboding of calamity, as he followed Oswald through the forest.

Oswald walked some five or six yards in advance, never looking behind. His limp seemed to be accentuated that morning: he leant markedly 011 his stick; his hat was tilted forward on his forehead. Hartwell came behind, he too limping a little (on account of the nail which had pierced his foot in the well), in a long silk jacket and a broad hat, his left arm in its sling. The alarm upper most in his mind was that in some unguessable way the shreds had revealed to Oswald that Hartwell was not Drayton: but he was about to find that the reality was even worse than this.

They passed across the lawn into the pavilion. Oswald turned into the drawing room; but Hartwell, looking in after him, said, "Come up to my study," and went up the main stairs. Oswald followed to the back of the house. In the little study, or laboratory, Hartwell sat on the chair before the desk, which was the only one there, pushed up his hat from his brow, and said: "Now, Oswald."

Oswald limped twice through the room before answering; in fact, he could hardly speak at first, his breath was so short. He had come to the great moment of his life, and it was too much for Oswald. The previous night he had written a second letter to "James," ordering "James" to come to London; but early that morning he had been unable to bear his impatience any longer, and had taken a train for Norfolk; and now that he was here, he could hardly command his breath sufficiently to speak; the mounting of the stairs had had upon him the effect of the climbing of an Alp; his chest heaved; his face for a minute or two was the picture of agitation.

"That's a man," said Hartwell, encouragingly, "let us hear."

"I wrote you," panted Oswald, "why did you not come?'"

"I have been ill; you see my arm in the sling; I have not seen your letter," replied Hartwell.

"Oh, well, worse luck for you: you have kept me waiting and looking out; you have made me suffer"—and as Oswald said this, a little colour returned to his face, he got some breath, and his agitation at the presence of Hartwell's personality began to change rapidly into a mood of fierceness and tyranny.

"I am sorry," said Hartwell, to have made you suffer. But what is the matter?"

"You know: the Frenchman has told you that I have Letty Barnes' letter."

Hartwell's mind was clear, for his pulses continued to beat quietly: and he at once concluded that this "Letty Barnes" was the girl with whom Drayton had stayed at the Gissings', as Gissing had told him; that Drayton may have murdered her; that she must have been Barnes' daughter; and that this explained Barnes' old mania for taking his life; but he said, in order to be sure:

"Who is this Letty Barnes?"

Oswald put his hand to his breast pocket, drew out Letty's old photograph, which he had one day stolen from an album at the Anchor Inn, five years before, and held it some distance from Hartwell's eyes, with a cruel smile, saying: "I think you know her, James?"

"Letty 'Barton!'" breathed Hartwell, remembering with a pang all his reasonings about the murder of that girl.

"You have yourself told me, and proved to me, all the facts about the murder which are necessary to hang you," said Oswald; "all that was needed was some proof that you were acquainted with her on the night when you stopped at the 'Anchor' in your motor car, and her letter proves that you were then her lover. You haven't a leg to stand on. Why didn't you burn those shreds long ago, James? What a fool you are, after all! Oh, you are a fool—you are, you know, you are. Writing pamphlets on evolution! turning man-of-science, eh? adopting strange boys? but what a fool you are! Will you ever put me into any more prisons again, James?—for doing nothing? Couldn't you see how rash and blind that was? Didn't you understand that my day would come? that though I might wait for years, yet I never, never fail in the end? and that when I strike I always strike dead! Ah, you are a fool!"

Oswald limped about striking the floor with his stick, beside himself in a rage of wounded self-love, as he pronounced this speech; all his pallor was gone, and his face was now flushed, though even so, he hardly looked like one who "always strikes dead." As for Hart well, his lip trembled a little; with a rapid mind he had already reviewed the facts of the situation, and, without having any need to read Letty's letter, he understood that the net of proof was complete about him, that at last the evil doings of Drayton had brought him into a fix from which there was hardly any way of escape: for, from Oswald's intense words, he saw that Oswald was in a state of mind morbidly inflamed, jealous, and spiteful, and would not spare. Hartwell's shoulders seemed to bend lower under this sudden infliction of fate; he smiled steadily, mincingly, as usual, but with paler lips; his eye wandered to the side of the room, at which the research apparatus stood: all that was over for him now; he thought of the dear ones whom he had left in the glade of the pinewood: that was over, too; in a singular way he saw the complete vision of his history so far, what he had done, what he had suffered, the course in which his life had been destined to run, and had run; and this was the end. He stood confronted with the gallows.

"So, Oswald, you accuse me of the murder of Letty Barnes?" he said, quietly.

"You are merely a poor fool," answered Oswald, with a laugh, revelling in this abuse, in this word "fool," as men sometimes rush in and trample with a profane joy on what they have long been forced to revere, and revelling all the more in it, because he suspected that Hartwell considered him to be the very thing which he called Hartwell, and that Hartwell's silent opinion was worth something, whereas what he himself loudly insisted on was worth nothing. "You are merely a poor fool; why that shred with the 'cruel brute' I got out of a coat that yon gave me yourself, and all that about a struggle for a letter and the rest might never have been discovered, if you hadn't blabbed it."

"Well, then, I have been a poor fool, as you say, not only in respect of this matter, but in others, in all others, perhaps—" Hartwell said this with a bowed head, and an almost elderly meekness and resignation.

"You put me into prison, James,"' said Oswald, smiling: "was that sweet to you? Did you forget that I was your brother? That first night in the cell I felt sure that you would do something the next day to get me out; but you stuck to it, Jimmy; even the magistrate tried to turn you; everybody felt pity for me; only you, who alone knew that I was innocent, were hard. Are you sorry, now, Jimmy? Do you bitterly repent now? Down to your knees, you beast! Too late! Too late!"

Oswald's fist suddenly lifted to strike, while Hartwell held his head away from the blow with winking eyes; but it did not descend; Oswald turned and limped about the room, all breathless again.

"Do not any more embitter yourself by such reflections, Oswald, than you are already bitter," said Hartwell: "I understand your resentment, and consider it just. Tell me now how you intend me to expiate my transgressions."

"You wrote a letter to the papers, clearing me," said Oswald; "Magee says that you got my sentence shortened by two weeks. Yes, you did that. For that I don't mind letting you live; and if you have any cash here at Corton you may keep that much. All else you will hand over to me to-day, all scrip, title deeds, banking accounts, ownerships, and policies. I have stamps with me for the conveyance and authorisations; and you are not to leave this room without me, or send any letter or telegram, until all is duly done."

There was a silence when this was said. Hartwell was bent over his knee, his brow on his hand; he turned upon Oswald a look, not fierce, but full of power and import; and he said:

"But, Oswald, the terms are hard."

"Pretty ruffian you must have been, ah Heavens! to maul in that way a poor girl!"

"Let my transgressions be admitted. But, Oswald, you reduce me in one day to poverty.'"

"To the very dregs of beggary!"

"You forget my wife, my ward, and my ward's young wife, who will be left unprovided for.'"

(In his prison in Hobham House five years before this, the old Gissing had once used almost these identical words to Hartwell, which Hartwell now used to Oswald).

"I cannot forget what I never remembered," answered Oswald. "There is no question of those people, who ever they may be. Let them work, or beg. Your wife is almost worthy of you—"

"She is more than worthy of me: as to that say nothing, my friend, lest yon incur my displeasure. But, Oswald, I say that the terms are cruelly hard: you must modify them; you must relent and be merciful."

"I am sparing your beastly life; don't flatter yourself, my good fellow, that you have anything more to hope from me. You might as well plead to that wall. I detest you cordially, and should enjoy seeing you starve on the streets; I daresay Lady Methwold would, too, and might toss you half-a-crown."

"Be that as it may—But, Oswald, your terms are hard."

"We had better get to work. You are not to argue."

"But, Oswald, I am a crafty man: are you not afraid that, if you pressed me so hard, I may do something to baulk you of that affluent future to which you now confidently look forward?"

"No, I am not afraid, Jimmy. A 'crafty man,' are you?—impotent fool. Show me one sign of your craft to day, and I break off everything, and send a telegram to Magee to hand over the girl's letter to the police. Come, we had better get to work."

"No, you must give me time. I am not alone concerned. I refuse to decide without reflection. I will tell you my decision at five this evening, if you will so far accommodate me."

"I don't see why I should, but I suppose that I may," said Oswald.

"You remain a prisoner here though, if I do; you are not going to send any messages to your bankers; I shall lock these doors."

"I have no intention of sending any message to anyone, I assure you. But lock my doors, if it pleases you to make me your prisoner. When I have come to a decision, I shall ring for you."

"No, you won't be able to ring, I am going to break the bell ropes," said Oswald: "I will come to you at five."

By this time Oswald was quite calm and well mannered again. He locked the study door, broke the bell ropes in the study and in the bedroom, locked the bedroom door on the outside, and put the two keys in his pocket.

As he passed by, the study door again, on its outside, to descend one of the back stairs of the house, he saw the back of Dulaunay hurrying away down the stairs: for the Count had been listening outside the study door to what had been said. Alarmed by Oswald's sudden appearance in the glade, and by Oswald's order to Hartwell, Dulaunay had followed them, understanding that something grave must have happened; and since that something undoubtedly arose out of his own fault in handing over the shreds to Oswald, the Count had thought it within his right to listen to the outcome. He went away from the study door appalled by what he had heard, made his way to his own room, and there remained in great distress of mind a long while.

Hartwell, meanwhile, sat a prisoner where Oswald had left him, with a back bent as it were under the load of sorrows which the dead Drayton had left behind for him. He found himself touched by the grim Hand.

Death stared him in the face. His enemy was as relentless as Hartwell himself had once been to others.

However "crafty" he might be, there seemed to be only two possible courses of action open to him now, apart from consenting to Oswald's terms; firstly he could declare that he had not killed Letty Barnes, that he was not Drayton; or, secondly, he could shoot himself. Any of the three would save him from the gallows, which he had no intention of undergoing: and between these three he had now choose.

If he chose to declare that he was not Drayton, nothing could be easier for him than to prove it: there were those who had known him familiarly as a working man in Birmingham, while Drayton was a financier in South Africa and London; as to that there was no difficulty. There were a thousand proofs, if he chose to call them up, any one of which would be conclusive, that he was not Drayton.

But if he said he was not Drayton, then Martha, Bobbie, and Rosie would be beggared: for Martha was no longer Drayton's widow, she was Hartwell's wife; Oswald had seen her married to Hartwell; and the moment Hartwell, Martha's husband, ceased to possess Drayton's wealth, Martha would possess nothing; Rosie, Bobbie, would possess nothing; everything would be Oswald's, who was Drayton's heir.

Willingly enough would Hartwell have cast off Drayton's name now, and have returned to the working man life in the old scenes, in order to clear himself of this loathsome charge; he was weary of all the cark, which Drayton's name had brought, him, all the frustrate longing, the hunger of the heart in the midst of wealth, the indigestion—staring at a banquet; even the laboratory he could now have left with little regret, for at the age 43 he already felt elderly, and he knew that Nature will not show Her secrets to weary men, but only to "the violent." He could have cast, it all off with a sigh of relief, or at least of resignation. But, if he escaped from the fix in this easy way, he saw in fancy his dear ones suffering that poverty which he had known well and still remembered, whose cruel spur had urged him that, night on the Norwich Road to put on the clothes of the dead Drayton.

That way of escape, then, would not do. It would not be right for him to be Drayton so long as that was convenient, and cease to be Drayton the moment it became a question of bearing the brunt of Drayton's crimes at the expense of others, who were innocent; nor could Hartwell let his marriage with Martha prove Martha's ruin, and the ruin of her daughter, and of his son.

If, again, he accepted Oswald's terms, still retaining Drayton's name, and bearing the stigma of Drayton's crime, that, too, was a way of escape; but the result to the others would be the same: Oswald would have all, the others nothing. The third way of escape was suicide.

Hartwell sat several hours brooding over all this on his chair by the desk: but all the time he was conscious of what the end of his reflections would be, nor was he the man to shirk that terrible end. Suicide was not immoral, to his point of view, especially such a suicide, not committed for his own sake. He would die that day as Drayton. His will was already made, leaving all to Martha.

But there was still one other loophole of escape—his electrical machine.

He expected to hear the result of the testing not later than 4.30 that day, and hence had put off giving his answer to Oswald till five. If that turned out well, he could declare himself not Drayton, and still be fairly rich; Martha, Rosie, Bobbie, would still have an arm to protect them; and somewhere in Hartwell's mind was even a thought, a hope, illogical and vague, of Julia.

All, then, depended on what, even as he sat a prisoner, was going on in Birmingham.

Between twelve and three o'clock, he heard three several tappings at the locked study and bedroom doors, the handles of which were turned by someone. The first time it was a servant who came to call him for lunch; the second time he heard the call, "James," in Martha's voice; the third time it was Rosie, who, in a low and awed voice, called, "papa," and afterwards went away on tiptoe. Hartwell did not answer any of them. About three o'clock he got up, his decision fully formed: if the news from Birmingham was good, as he quite hoped, that would be well; if it was bad, he would end his life, and that might be well also. He went into the bedroom, and stood at a window looking from the east side of the house upon the forest quite near it. It was now raining heavily and drearily. Hartwell tapped idly upon his teeth with the handle of a pen, watching the rain beat on the flat roof of the portico, and on the sodden bed leaves which were everywhere; a few wet sparrows on the portico and in the branches moped like children in punishment, and seemed to wait upon heaven for the rain to pass, before resuming their life of movement; there was no wind, and no sound in the house or without it, but the sound of the rain and the rain water in the spouts.

Hartwell presently turned to get what he had come from the study for, his will. One by one, during the course of months, his trunks had all found their way down to Corton, and now rather cumbered his room; from one of them he took out a cash box which contained his will and three five-pound notes, this being all the money which he had with him. He put the notes on the mantelpiece, intending them to be useful, till the household should adjust itself to the fact of his death, if he died; as he was doing this, he heard a tap at the bedroom door, and a voice say at the keyhole, "'Draytong', can I speak with you at the hole of the lock?" It was Dulaunay. Hartwell stood quite still; looking at his door, without making any answer. After waiting two or three minutes, he went softly into the study, sat at the desk, spread the will before him, and read it.

During the next hour he was adding codicils to it, which he knew that the main legatee and executors would carry out. To Bobbie, personally, he left an annuity of £1000; to Oswald, one of £800; to the Count D'Artenset-Villiers, one of £500; to the Gissings and to Barnes, conjointly, one of £300, directing that Barnes should continue to live with the Gissings; to Miss Scatchett one of £100; to Steve Anderson, one of £70, with some other small bequests to his captain, stewards, Drayton's old mistresses etc. To Julia he left the manuscript of a half-written book, which he was writing at the time when they were to have been married, but had not continued since, also some little things which she had given him; to Rosie he left the ring which he had worn for years on his little finger; and he directed his body to be cremated three days after his death.

When this was done, he wrote a little note to Rosie in a tone of gallantry, telling her to be as kind and good as she was sweet and charming; he added in a postscript that health was the main business of a human being, and gave her a few simple rules how to keep healthy and live happily; and under all he put three crosses, meaning kisses. He then took the will back into the bedroom, locked it in to the cash box, and the cash box into the trunk, for he had told Martha where he kept it; and now again he stood by the window, looking out at the rain.

It was now past four o'clock, and already the day was darkening. He began to be rather anxious about the expected telegram from Birmingham for, assuming that by now everybody in the house must know that he was Oswald's prisoner, whoever took in the telegram might hand it to Oswald and Oswald might not give it to him. But his doubts were laid to rest at 20 minutes past four, when there was a tap, and he saw a telegram envelope pushed under the door. He went softly, and picked it up. The envelope had been torn open by Oswald, for below Oswald was playing the tyrant, and ordering everything with, a high hand; but he had not probably understood the meaning of the words on the telegram, and not caring, had let it come to Hartwell. Hartwell's hands trembled as he picked it up, and, seeing this, he would not read it at once, but put it on the table, went and stood by the window till he was quite calm, and then returned and read the telegram on which his life hung.

When he understood its meaning, his eye flashed, he pressed the leaf of paper to his lips, and looking away towards the forest, he pronounced the two words: "I come."

The telegram consisted of the words:


SURPLUS WORK COUNTERBALANCED MORE THAN 5 PER CENT BY FRICTION. CONDENSERS DO NOT ATTAIN LIMIT OF CHARGE. TENSION TOO GREAT, QUANTITY TOO LITTLE. CRANK BROKEN. BROWN AND LISTER WITHDRAW. FULLER DETAILS TO-NIGHT AFTER INTERVIEW WITH GANOT. PRICE.


This as much as to say that the invention had not been a success in practice.

Hartwell looked at his watch. In half an hour his time of grace would be up, and Oswald would come. He did not mean to see Oswald again and at once, lifting a big trunk off another, he unlocked the bottom one; it was full of things and he could not see well, for though it was only half past four, the day had turned out very cheerless and wintry, and the room was dim. Hartwell placed two old brass candlesticks on a chair by the trunk, lit the candles, and sat on the floor to search the trunk. After throwing out some of the clothes, he found a brace of revolvers, which, he knew were ready loaded, and these he took.

In putting back the clothes he saw some rude clothes of his working man days a pair of boots much worn and torn, cord trousers, a greasy old jacket, a cloth hat, a dirty old scarf, and two red handkerchiefs; Bobbie had had them five years before, as the last relics of the father whom he supposed to be dead; and Hartwell, who prized them, had taken them from Bobbie. His eye smiled now upon them, and he replaced them carefully. In putting back the tray of the trunk into its place, his eye rested fondly upon the little packet of letters in it which Julia had written to him He took off the elastic band from them and read them over by the candle light.

Among them was her last letter to him, written at Berlin, weeks after the rupture, and this, too, he re-read, till he came to where she said "We seem to be the perfectly helpless victims of some freak which has occurred somewhere; we can't help anything, not being born or dreaming, nor crying, nor dying," and at this Hartwell's heart was wrung, some travail in the nerve of tears overpowered his hard-headedness, and for the first time since boyhood the strong man gave way to weeping which distorted his mouth and shook his frame; he laid his forehead on the trunk and wept; nor was it mere self-pity that so keenly and deeply probed the worthy Hartwell, but pity for the littleness of man, and the bigness of his care; in his thoughts was that old haze of fire, that "nebulae," the living Father of our world and of ourselves, which held in the humor of its loins every tear that has since been shed, every frenzy every oddity, every rhythm, and all the pathetic tale of our earthly lot; and since it had held those very sobs which shook Hartwell, those sobs were too potent to be choked down, and had to break out. He was hungry, too, and cold, for there was no fire in either of the two rooms.

He got up presently, took the two candlesticks, and one of the revolvers, and, going into the study, put them on his desk. He sat to the desk. He had little time to lose before Oswald should come. His eye rested fondly a minute on his letter to Rosie, which lay on the desk before him. Then he drew, or tried to draw, two deep breaths, and, without looking at the weapon, he put out his hand, and took it up. The bitterness of death made him sick. But his face was grim, though a little pale. He opened his mouth and pointed the revolver into it; his eyelids were closed, and winked a little.

But he was interrupted by a violent shaking of the study door; and by the shout: "'Draytong', 'Draytong'!" Dulaunay had been peeping through the key-holes, from which Oswald had removed the keys, had heard Hartwell's sobs by the trunk, had seen the revolvers taken out, and the sitting with one of them to the desk in the light of the candles. All the afternoon, in fact, the Frenchman had been spying with a boundless agitation upon Hartwell; he had spent a day of flurry and distraction of mind, trying to soothe the two distressed ladies, trying to reason with Oswald, who, however, had insulted him, trying to torture out of his own wits some plan of action. At his call Hartwell started and sprang to his feet, shaken with ague from his head to his feet, shaken even more violently than the Count was shaking outside the door: for the nervous disorder caused by the interruption at the moment of death was, of course, shocking, and nearly deprived Hartwell of reason.

"Let me speak with you! come to the keyhole!" pleaded the Count in French.

Hartwell could not have answered, if he would, and would not, if he could.

"In the name of God, Drayton!" pleaded the Count outside.

Hartwell did not answer. He fell again into the chair, and his head dropped upon his arms over the desk, his right hand clutching the weapon; and so he remained several minutes, while the Count stooped at the key hole, trembling violently, and staring at Hartwell.

But all at once the Count was gone from the door under the impulse of a sudden decision; with a wild face, without any hat, he flew out of the house toward the stables, found Gloucester in his room, made him saddle quickly one of the two horses, and, while Gloucester was doing this, made him describe carefully the way to Marston House, where Julia was, six miles away to the east of Corton; and Dulaunay set off at a gallop through the wet and now dark evening.


XXXIII. — A FORTUNATE MEETING

Hartwell, meantime, sat with his head on his arms, incapable, for the time being of accomplishing the act of self-destruction, not only because he thought that Dulaunay might be still spying, and there is something immodest in the act of suicide before a witness, but because he was so unmanned by the interruption. But as he sat so, a key was put into the study door, and Oswald, again with a very agitated face, entered the room. "Now, James," said Oswald, with his hand on the inner handle of the door.

Hartwell had quickly pushed the revolver into a pigeon hole, where it was hidden; and he turned a haggard face to Oswald.

"I say no, Oswald," said he. "Oh, you do?"

"Yes, sir."

"Aha!"

"My friend, is their no compromise possible?"

"None, by God! your chance is past—" At once, Oswald slipped quickly out of the door in a flame of rage; locked it again upon Hartwell, and, almost as wildly as Dulaunay had run, ran to the stable. There, Gloucester, at his command, put his own saddle on the other carriage horse, and Oswald galloped away to ward Felmingham to charge Hartwell with the murder of Letty Barnes, and bring about his immediate arrest.

Hartwell, for his part, knew why and in what mind Oswald had gone, and did not intend to be arrested. Those unexpected words "I say no" had shattered Oswald's dream of affluence, and he ran from the study door a mere missile of hatred, forgetting or ignoring everything, except the hunger to be avenged which drove him. But however he might hurry, Hartwell knew that he could not return with the police in less than two or perhaps three hours. Hartwell, therefore had that much space to live in.

He got up and paced the rooms. To the most jaded man, to the man of strongest and coldest mind, suicide must be bitter when it comes to the point; but tenfold bitter must it be for a man who has come to the point, and been baulked, to come to the point again. The instinct of escape now arose in Hartwell; but it arose without any accompanying hope. He had the thought how excellent that would be, if he could get to the coast, escape to France, Belgium, or Holland, and in some obscure country place make his living as a laborer. But he almost knew that it could not be done: his appearance was too well marked, the police of the country too well organised; and he would not put upon himself the indignity of shaving off his beard. If he put on his working man clothes, however, that might prove a slight disguise.

About half-past 7 he decided to try this, taking with him a revolver to be used against himself at the first sign of any danger of arrest. He went back to the trunk from which he had taken out the revolver, took out his working-man clothes and boots, and, after undressing put them on. He tied the old scarf round his neck, put on the old cloth hat; and, looking now into the mirror, he smiled, recognising his old self. He then put into his pocket one of the three £5-pound notes, which he had laid on the mantelpiece for Martha's use; and in one of the two old red handkerchiefs, he tied up his watch and chain, two books, a few trinkets, and some biscuits from a box which he generally kept in his room to eat out of during the night. He ate some the biscuits. He then took his oak stick, hung the little red bundle on it, shouldered it. He gave a last look round the bedroom and stood a minute by his laboratory table; he took the revolver from his jacket pocket, examined it, replaced it; lastly, he put out the candles, and stepped from a window on to the roof of the portico on the east side of the house. The leap from there to the bottom was considerable, nor could he climb down by one of the slender pillars which supported the portico arches, for the roof projected somewhat; but he ventured the leap and came down safely in a patch of fern and mimosa.

He sat some time where he had fallen, listening if anyone had heard, for the kitchen was not far from there; but no sound save the rain fell upon his ear. He went under the portico, stepped on tip-toe northward along its east length, until he came to the drawing-room windows, and between the curtains of one of them he warily peeped. The candles were alight in the rooms, and there was Martha asleep on a couch with her head on Rosie's shoulder, and Rosie looking disconsolate with inflamed eyelids, and Bobbie sitting near her. Hartwell looked at them sorrowfully, some minutes, and then went away eastward through the forest, shouldering the bundle in his working man clothes, as on that night five years before when he tramped the Norwich Road, before he had seen Drayton: but this time he went with his left arm in a sling, and a limp in his walk: for after five years no one is the same man, but the hand of God has been upon him, and has changed him.

He went, however, with some buoyancy, glad that at least one more night was left him to continue to live in.

This night was quite as dark as that night on the Norwich Road five years gone, and much mare rainy, though the air was very still, and, as it were, breathless, with that breathless stillness which suggests the phrase "a dead calm." It was about 8 o'clock; the forest was black, desolate, and dripping, and brought back to Hartwell's mind the impression of one of the scenes in that terrible long dream, in which the spirit of Drayton had seemed to converse with him in these woods six months before. He passed through the Round Point, with its well, and thence onward through the pines by a narrow path, soft though uneven underfoot, which mounted till he came to a ditch and a stile, and from that point bent downward. The dullest yokel, if he were belated thereabouts, must have been touched with some awe at this place, for few things could be more benighted and awful at such an hour than that congregation of pines with no leafage but at their tops, towering among the fern in a sort of lank stand-at-ease like a host of sentinels, and though no wind blew, there was still an everlasting echo of music among them, if one listened reverently to hear it; and anon a cone dropped and broke the stillness, as though one of the strange great sentinels spat.

After 10 minutes, however, as Hartwell trudged on, the pines became sparser, and he entered upon a fairly large open space, surrounded by pines, on the outskirts of the estate; in the middle of the space being a frog pond covered with moss, and not far from the pond an old hut. Hartwell had hardly entered this open space, when he was startled by the neigh of a horse; he stopped and listened, for there was no question of seeing anything move more than 6 yards from the eye; but the neigh was not repeated; and hearing nothing, he continued on his way, which leaf him close by the hut, between it and the frog-pond; but as he passed the hut, a figure peeped out of it after him, ran softly after him, and, peering into his face, put a hand on his shoulder.

"James," said the voice of Julia, for it was she.

"Julia!" breathed Hartwell with a lifted hand.

At the 'same time Dulaunay came out of the hut and joined them.

The Count had gone to bring Julia from Marston House as the last possible means of stopping the suicide of Hartwell, and she had promptly ordered a horse and come. On the way Dulaunay had told her all, how that Drayton was dead, and Hartwell was not Drayton, but a working man; how and why Hartwell had married Martha; how Drayton had murdered Letty Barnes, and how Hartwell was reduced to suicide by Oswald's terms, for Martha's sake; all Hartwell's motives had been made clear to Julia; and the telling of all this, on horseback, had left them no time to discuss what Julia should do when they came to Corton. They had therefore dismounted on coming to rough ground, tied their horses among the pines, and taken shelter from the rain in the hut, while they spoke of what should be done. Dulaunay was about to run to the pavilion to see if Hartwell still lived, when Hartwell's' step was heard by them, and Hartwell passed the door of the hut.

"Where are you going, James?" asked Julia.

"I—But how and why are you here?" asked Hartwell.

"The Count fetched me to stop you from suicide, James. Am I able?"

"Julia, the Count does not know my reasons."

"He does, and he has told me, everything. I still call you 'James,' but I mean 'Robert—"

"Ah? the Count knew that. But you are getting wet, let me take you back into the hut."

They turned to the hut, and stood at its door discussing what could be done, Dulaunay in a hat borrowed from Marston House, Julia looking tall and shadowy in a waterproof which she struck with her whip, for she was high-strung, and her words came fast from her lips, though with a perfectly business-like detachment; some strings of her wet hair draped her face under her hard felt hat. She led the council, and on her shoulders mainly the burden of the situation seemed to rest; Hartwell only spoke when he was asked a question; Julia, and the Count briskly exchanged their views.

"He will be caught not later than to-morrow," said Julia, "if he attempts to escape like this."

"He should accept the terms of Oswald,"' said Dulaunay; "Martha and Bobbie will not starve."

"Will you, James?" asked Julia, "and I undertake that your wife and son shall be suitably provided for."

"You are kind," answered Hartwell, "but that must not be."

"What is far better," said Julia, "would be for him to say openly that he is not Drayton, and snap his fingers at everything."

"I divine that he does not do that," answered Dulaunay, "because Martha and the rest would equally in that case be reduced to poverty."

"If you are arrested, James, do you mean to do what the Count stopped you in doing this afternoon," asked Julia.

"That might be wise," answered Hartwell.

Julia after a short silence said:

"If you will undertake, James, not to do that in case you are arrested, but to declare yourself innocent and not Drayton, then I make you the business offer to become your wife."

"You cannot become my wife," answered Hartwell, "for I am married."

"Oh, I understand that that has been a merely formal marriage," said Julia; "I should not hesitate on that account to become your wife in fact, though not in law, if that will induce you to keep alive. I make you the offer, if you will undertake."

"You are kind. But Drayton's widow will at once be reduced to poverty, the moment I say that I am not Drayton."

"But you would have me. And as my husband you would be rich."

"I thought you were affianced?" said Hartwell, with some touch of chronic irony in his tone.

"Oh, do not jest. I can manage that, then. Do you undertake?"

"No!"

The decision came sharply, whereat Julia, in a hurried movement, stopped and laid her lips on Hartwell's hand, understanding the terrible strength of the temptation which he had refused.

Then at once the busy discussion recommenced between her and Dulaunay, a mere series of remarks revolving round a few ideas, without reaching any end, while all were conscious of the preciousness of the moments that were being wasted. Finally, the Count said: "Oswald must be returning with the police or it may be, has returned," and at this Hartwell, who was inwardly distressed, and ashamed at this discussion of his hapless lot, and was eager to be gone and alone in the dark, said: "I will go."

Julia now turned ghastly pale, and her womanly strength giving way, she suddenly cried out, "Oh, is there no way out?" and began to weep with her forehead on the Count's shoulder.

"Dulaunay, you are to blame!" murmured Hartwell, with some bitterness. "I thought, my dear Julia, that I had caused you the last distress which you were to owe to me," said Hartwell, "but there was still this last. Let me be forgiven ."

He could say no more. Julia had now sat down on the stump of a tree with a smooth top, which was used as a seat, in the middle of the hut: she had soon dried up her tears, and with her chin on her palm, sat gazing out. Hartwell stood awkward and burdened, not knowing whether to go or stay, and for some minutes nothing was said. Then, suddenly, Julia rose, and without, saying a word, walked suddenly out of the hut, looking meditatively downward with a bent head. She went toward the frog pond, and was soon lost to the eyes of Hartwell and Dulaunay, for her walk quickened, and the rainy murk of the night was so thickened, that all that the two men could guess of her movements was that she was about, for some reason, to make a circuit of the pond (she wished, in fact, to be alone to carry out a thought which had risen in her mind). She was absent five minutes. Neither of the men cared to follow her; and Hartwell was again reproving Dulaunay for bringing her there, when Julia was again with them, re-appearing even more suddenly than she had gone, for she had come running a little, and was rather breathless.

"I have it," she said, in a rapid speech, laying hold of Hartwell's sleeve. "Emile, be prepared for a long ride to the coast. James, this is what I think is the way out: to-night you, as Drayton, commit suicide. I and Emile will take a hat and coat of yours to the cliffs at the coast, and leave them there with a confession of the murder and its discovery by Oswald, written by you, in one of the pockets, to explain your suicide; I know a spot near Happsburg, where the sea washes high up to the cliffs. Your jacket and hat will be found there; you will be supposed to have thrown yourself into the sea, and your body lost, as it may well be just there; you, as Drayton, die; you will, as Drayton, is made. Drayton's widow inherits; to-morrow morning you, as Hartwell, turn up again in Birmingham, mix with your old acquaintances—"

"Oh, adorable Julia!" murmured the Count, at Julia's ear.

"Now, that is feasible," said Hartwell, reflectively: "it never occurred to me."

"Let us not lose time," said Julia: "has anyone got matches to write the confession by? You, Emile, will hurry to the house, and get the hat and jacket. I will await you here; and then we two will ride to the coast. James will walk all night, making westward, and take a train in the morning at some village station for Birmingham. After a month or so in Birmingham among his old friends, he can fearlessly emerge upon society, as Hartwell; and then, if he does not still consider himself married, he can marry, or take whom he pleases."

"You are ingenious," remarked Hartwell, at Julia's ear, in a confidential tone of banter.

"I derive it from contact with Birmingham, James. But what about matches?"

"See, here are some matches!" answered the Count, "also a pencil, and the white half of a letter."

"That's splendid. Be careful, Emile, to bring a jacket with some Drayton papers in it, so as to heap proof on proof. Better run now. The only thing is the sick arm; that may identify Hartwell with Drayton; could you manage without the sling, James?"

"Yes, that is of no importance. But you are very ingenious."

"I do not desire any ironical flatteries, Robert," answered Julia, ironically; "I might have been ingenious before, if you had done me the honour to make me your confidante; but you chose to be reserved. Now, Emile, you are to run."

"You can easily break open the study door to get the hat and jacket, Count," said Hartwell.

The Count wrung Hartwell's hand, and crying: "Till we meet again!" vanished into the darkness.

"The farther westward you are when morning breaks the better, James," said Julia; "let us hurry with the confession."

Hartwell stood silent in the darkness, strange motions at work in his breast, and then said: "You are in the right. I will write."

Julia struck one of the matches, and handed him the paper and pencil. Hartwell put the paper on the stump, and knelt at it to write. Julia knelt beside him, and struck another match. Their faces, beshone by the faint light, were close together. Hartwell began to write in Drayton's hand. The match went out, and Julia struck another.

Their silence was full of ecstasy, Hartwell was amazed at his salvation, and foresaw a wonderful future; while Julia marvelled at the happy clairvoyance of her own heart, for she knew that she was out of the maze by the womanly instinct of a heart driven to bay and at its last resort.

"Have I won you now, James?" she asked in a strained low voice, "in actual truth, at last?"

"Let me write," said Hartwell with a certain mock dryness: "I am an imposter."

The sound of water dripping from the eaves of the hut was heard, the rushing sound of the rain, which was just then pouring hard, the dark sound of a frog splashing in the pond, and no other sound but these watery ones; a drop of water from the not very sound roof fell upon Julia's cheek, another in the dry dust, another on Hartwell's old greasy jacket; they were very alone there together, and might have fancied themselves the only survivors of a flood which was not vet over, and might last for ever. Their hearts beat, poignantly. When the matches went out, Julia struck another, and held it in a hand which rather shook.

"Oh, as to that," she said, "what Emile has told me has caused me to know no more of you than I knew before, only more of your history. I knew you were in proportion as I liked you, and two weeks after that night when we first met in Garlot Park I knew you inside out. Nothing could add to that knowledge. If Emile had proved to me that you had committed crimes, I should still know of you what I know, that you are a great mass of integrity."

"Well if ever I have meant well, and have suffered for doing it, this is my consolation," said Hartwell, more to himself than to her.

"Oh, I am not blinded by any infatuation," said Julia presently: "Emile or my brothers, for instance, would certainly condemn what you have done in taking Drayton's place and all that, and I should think the same as they, if you were not you: but what my heart knows is that you could not have considered it wrong, since you did it, and that your opinion of right and wrong must be worth very much more than theirs or mine."

"That may be," said Hartwell: "but having once admitted that anything can be wrong, as I do now reverently admit, a wrong does not become right because one considers it right. I say that my iniquities have been many, Julia."

"But still grand, dear, as your confession of them is grand, and your suffering for them. It is all very well for shallow people—No, don't be humble before me, I beg of you, or I shall cry for pity. I heard, you know, of my brother Charlie's escapade with you down here, and how you took it; he meant well, but I told him after I heard it that it was merely upstart of him in your case just when you were sacrificing everything, too, for that poor woman; who was nothing to you, as if some quixote had taken upon himself to cane Jephthah—"

"Let that be forgotten," said Hartwell: "your brother did well, nor was his action a discomfort to me, but rather brought me something of the relief which lies in an expiation. But I cannot at present look behind—It seems incredible, Julia, that such a future as you present to me can still be mine."

"We have deserved it, James, if patience is anything," said Julia, striking a match: "does it, seem, then, very bright to you?"

"It seems bright enough!"

"What, to have me always with you?"

"Julia, no, let me write."

"Just think, I shall have a stool in your study, if I ever let you go there; I shall cook; and make your slippers, and pamper you; we shall live a year on an island; at midnight if you are haunted by a ghost, it will be I; in the morning on opening your eyes the first thing which you shall see will be my smile. I shall be with you; you shall be mine—no more biology—"

"Julia, you talk. Julia, sweet name, graven in my heart—-but, you see, I cannot write—"

"We have waited enough. We have lost life. It is time now—I do so love you—" Julia whispered this, as it were secretly, in a voice of passion; her face happened to touch Hartwell's; a heavy drop leaked through the roof, splashed upon the match, and put it out, for outside the deluge of water now washed down lavishly with a loud noise, so that at several points the leakage, more and more invading and menacing their little island of dryness, was going on actively, dripping upon their hands, their heads, the paper, the dust, and trickling down one side of Julia's face; in that wet darkness their breasts caught fire; suddenly their lips met by an impulse beyond the power of their wills; and for some time only the noise of the storm of water was heard, and a dark splash in the frog pond.

When at last Julia lighted another match, no more was said for a long while; they breathed hard, their faces were pale with only hall-smothered emotion. Hartwell wrote the confession of murder in silence on the wet paper; and Julia, like a bondmaiden, struck matches, from minute to minute to see to write.


XXXIV. — HARTWELL RE-EMERGES

Three pages of notes, taken down from the mouth of my principal with regard to the history of Hartwell still remain to me: but they do not seem to me to contain anything of great importance. It need only be stated that the admirable Julia's plot was duly carried out; the next day at noon, Hartwell, on stepping to the platform at Birmingham from his train, was arrested as Drayton for the affair of Letty Barnes: but he was once and for all liberated, two hours afterwards, for the proofs which he had that he was not Drayton were overwhelming; moreover, by the hour of his liberation the jacket and hat of Drayton, who had "committed suicide," were found at the coast: if Drayton was dead, and Hartwell was alive, then Hartwell could hardly be Drayton.

Some time before the marriage of Hartwell and Julia, it was a disputed point between two lawyers, to whom a supposed case had been put by Julia, whether Hartwell was legally married to Martha. Even if this had been so, it would not have prevented the union of Hartwell and Julia; but the lawyers differed; for the law on the point is far from clear. The fact that Martha supposed the man whom she married to be another than he really was made the marriage invalid in the opinion of one expert especially as it had never been, as lawyers say "consummated," but from this view the other expert differed. However the truth was, the death of Martha a month before the marriage put an end to the importance of the question, Martha's vitality, never strong, was reduced to a thread by her night in the well, and the excellent woman passed quietly out of life in a sleep.

She left all her recently gained wealth to Bobbie, the husband of her daughter: whereupon Bobbie, who was soon let into the secret by Julia and Dulaunay that his guardian was his father, insisted upon making over the whole, with Rosie's consent, to Hartwell. So that Hartwell in the end rightly possessed all that wealth of Drayton which he had so wrongfully possessed; and Corton became the favorite residence not only of Rosie and Bobbie, but of Julia and Hartwell, and of their respective families.

As to Oswald, when he saw his dead "James" re-appear one night before him at a dinner, calling himself Hartwell, with Julia on his arm, the astonishment in the jaded brain of the poor Oswald may be imagined. In spite of all the explanations that were heaped upon him, he spent the rest of his life in an uneasy sense of bewilderment at this matter. Hartwell gave him a considerable annuity out of the widow Drayton's estate, and had him often with him at Corton and elsewhere.

So much has been given me to write, and I have cast it into the conventional "novel" form, with conversations, chapters with titles, etc. If in this form the facts do not give that sense of romance which properly belongs to fiction, I have at least tried to effect this by the addition of fanciful details here and there, and my failure, if I have failed, must be put down to the essential difference of aspect between a chain of invented details and such matters of fact as happen in our midst. Still, fact has always a certain value of its own, nor are our characters mere cut-and-dried photographs of living people, but to whatever extent they are lifelike, the author is deserving of some of the credit, for though they have been described to him, he has seen only one of them in the flesh (the one called "Oswald"), a short time nine years ago, together with a photograph of Hartwell (or rather not of Hartwell, but of Captain Jenner, of the Africa), and a miniature of the really beautiful Julia. Nor, on the whole, is it of much importance, so long as an indulgent reader has been amused, and has understood the moral significance of the man's fate which has been sketched.


THE END

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