Part 2 out of 5
two stories only, and from where he was seemed completely embowered
in flowers and creepers. In a way, he thought, he would be sorry
to leave it. It had been a pleasant summer-house for him, although
of course it was no fit dwelling-house for a millionaire. He must
look out for something at once now - a country house and estate.
All these things would come as a matter of course.
He opened another gate and passed into an inner plantation of pines
and shrubs which bordered the grounds. A winding path led through
it, and, coming round a bend, he stopped short with a little
exclamation. A girl was standing with her back to him rapidly
sketching upon a little block which she had in her left hand.
"Hullo!" he remarked, "another guest! and who brought you down,
young lady, eh?"
She turned slowly round and looked at him in cold surprise. Trent
knew at once that he had made a mistake. She was plainly dressed
in white linen and a cool muslin blouse, but there was something
about her, unmistakable even to Trent, which placed her very far
apart indeed from any woman likely to have become his unbidden
guest. He knew at once that she was one of that class with whom
he had never had any association. She was the first lady whom he
had ever addressed, and he could have bitten out his tongues when
he remembered the form of his doing so.
"I beg your pardon, miss," he said confusedly, "my mistake! You
see, your back was turned to me."
She nodded and smiled graciously.
"If you are Mr. Scarlett Trent," she said, "it is I who should
apologise, for I am a flagrant trespasser. You must let me explain."
The girl had moved a step towards him as she spoke, and a gleam of
sunlight which had found its way into the grove flashed for a moment
on the. stray little curls of her brown-gold hair and across her
face. Her lips were parted in a delightful smile; she was very
pretty, and inclined to be apologetic. But Scarlett Trent had seen
nothing save that first glance when the sun had touched her face
with fire. A strong man at all times, and more than commonly
self-masterful, he felt himself now as helpless as a child. A
sudden pallor had whitened his face to the lips, there were strange
singings in his ears, and a mist before his eyes. It was she!
There was no possibility of any mistake. It was the girl for whose
picture he had gambled in the hut at Bekwando - Monty's baby-girl,
of whom he had babbled even in death. He leaned against a tree,
stricken dumb, and she was frightened. "You are ill," she cried.
"I'm so sorry. Let me run to the house and fetch some one!"
He had strength enough to stop her. A few deep breaths and he was
himself again, shaken and with a heart beating like a steam-engine,
but able at least to talk intelligently.
"I'm sorry - didn't mean to frighten you," he said. "It's the heat.
I get an attack like this sometimes. Yes, I'm Mr. Trent. I don't
know what you're doing here, but you're welcome."
"How nice of you to say so!" she answered brightly. "But then
perhaps you'll change your mind when you know what I have been
He laughed shortly.
"Nothing terrible, I should say. "Looks as though you've been
making a picture of my house; I don't mind that."
She dived in her pocket and produced a card-case.
"I'll make full confession," she said frankly. "I'm a journalist."
"A what!" he repeated feebly.
"A journalist. I'm on the Hour. This isn't my work as a rule; but
the man who should have come is ill, and his junior can't sketch,
so they sent me! Don't look as though I were a ghost, please.
Haven't you ever heard of a girl journalist before?"
"Never," he answered emphatically. "I didn't know that ladies did
She laughed gaily but softly; and Trent understood then what was
meant by the music of a woman's voice.
"Oh, it's not at all an uncommon thing," she answered him. "You
won't mind my interviewing you, will you?"
"Doing what?" he asked blankly.
"Interviewing you! That's what I've come for, you know; and we want
a little sketch of your house for the paper. I know you don't like
it. I hear you've been awfully rude to poor little Morrison of the
Post; but I'll be very careful what I say, and very quick."
He stood looking at her, a dazed and bewildered man. From the trim
little hat, with its white band and jaunty bunch of cornflowers, to
the well-shaped patent shoes, she was neatly and daintily dressed.
A journalist! He gazed once more into her face, at the brown eyes
watching him now a little anxiously, the mouth with the humorous
twitch at the corner of her lips. The little wisps of hair flashed
again in the sunlight. It was she! He had found her.
She took his silence for hesitation, and continued a little anxiously.
"I really won't ask you many questions, and it would do me quite a
lot of good to get an interview with you. Of course I oughtn't to
have begun this sketch without permission. If you mind that, I'll
give it up."
He found his tongue awkwardly, but vigorously.
"You can sketch just as long as ever you please, and make what use of
it you like," he said. "It's only a bit of a place though!"
"How nice of you! And the interview?"
"I'll tell you whatever you want to know," he said quietly.
She could scarcely believe in her good fortune, especially when she
remembered the description of the man which one of the staff had
given. He was gruff, vulgar, ill-tempered; the chief ought to be
kicked for letting her go near him! This was what she had been
told. She laughed softly to herself.
"It is very good indeed of you, Mr. Trent," she said earnestly. "I
was quite nervous about coming, for I had no idea that you would be
so kind. Shall I finish my sketch first, and then perhaps you will
be able to spare me a few minutes for the interview?"
"Just as you like," he answered. "May I look at it?"
"Certainly," she answered, holding out the block; "but it isn't half
"Will it take long?"
"About an hour, I think."
"You are very clever," he said, with a little sigh.
She laughed outright.
"People are calling you the cleverest man in London to-day," she
"Pshaw! It isn't the cleverness that counts for anything that makes
Then he set his teeth hard together and swore vigorously but
silently. She had become suddenly interested in her work. A shrill
burst of laughter from the lawn in front had rung sharply out,
startling them both. A young woman with fluffy hair and in a pale
blue dinner-dress was dancing to an unseen audience. Trent's eyes
flashed with anger, and his cheeks burned. The dance was a
music-hall one, and the gestures were not refined. Before he could
stop himself an oath had broken from his lips. After that he dared
not even glance at the girl by his side.
"I'm very sorry," he muttered. "I'll stop that right away."
"You mustn't disturb your friends on my account," she said quietly.
She did not look up, but Trent felt keenly the alteration in her
"They're not my friends," he exclaimed passionately "I'll clear them
out neck and crop."
She looked up for a moment, surprised at his sudden vehemence. There
was no doubt about his being in earnest. She continued her work
without looking at him, but her tone when she spoke was more friendly.
"This will take me a little longer than I thought to finish properly,"
she said. "I wonder might I come down early to-morrow morning? What
time do you leave for the City?"
"Not until afternoon, at any rate," he said. "Come to-morrow,
certainly - whenever you like. You needn't be afraid of that rabble.
I'll see you don't have to go near them."
"You must please not make any difference or alter your arrangements
on my account," she said. "I am quite used to meeting all sorts of
people in my profession, and I don't object to it in the least.
Won't you go now? I think that that was your dinner-bell."
He hesitated, obviously embarrassed but determined. "There is one
question," he said, "which I should very much like to ask you. It
will sound impertinent. I don't mean it so. I can't explain
exactly why I want to know, but I have a reason."
"Ask it by all means," she said. "I'll promise that I'll answer it
if I can."
"You say that you are - a journalist. Have you taken it up for a
pastime, or - to earn money?"
"To earn money by all means," she answered, laughing. "I like the
work, but I shouldn't care for it half so much if I didn't make my
living at it. Did you think that I was an amateur?"
"I didn't know," he answered slowly. "Thank you. You will come
"Of course! Good evening."
Trent lifted his hat, and turned away unwillingly towards the house,
full of a sense that something wonderful had happened to him. He was
absent-minded, but he stopped to pat a little dog whose attentions he
usually ignored, and he picked a creamy-white rose as he crossed the
lawn and wondered why it should remind him of her.
Trent's appearance upon the lawn was greeted with a shout of
enthusiasm. The young lady in blue executed a pas seut, and came
across to him on her toes, and the girl with the yellow hair,
although sulky, gave him to understand by a sidelong glance that
her favour was not permanently withdrawn. They neither of the
noticed the somewhat ominous air of civility with which he received
their greetings, or the contempt in his eyes as he looked them
"Where are the lost tribe?" he inquired, as the girls, one on
either side, escorted him to the house.
They received his witticism with a piercing shriek of laughter.
"Mamma and her rag of a daughter are in the drawing room," explained
Miss Montressor - the young lady with fluffy hair who dressed in
blue and could dance. "Such a joke, General! They don't approve
of us! Mamma says that she shall have to take her Julie away if we
remain. We are not fit associates for her. Rich, isn't it! The
old chap's screwing up his courage now with brandy and soda to tell
Trent laughed heartily. The situation began to appeal to him.
There was humour in it which he alone could appreciate.
"Does he expect me to send you away?" he asked.
"That's a cert!" Miss Montressor affirmed. "The old woman's been
playing the respectable all day, turning up the whites of her eyes
at me because I did a high kick in the hall, and groaning at Flossie
because she had a few brandies; ain't that so, Flossie?"
The young lady with yellow hair confirmed the statement with much
"I had a toothache," she said, "and Mrs. Da Souza, or whatever the
old cat calls herself, was most rude. I reckon myself as respectable
as she is any day, dragging that yellow-faced daughter of hers about
with her and throwing her at men's heads."
Miss Montressor, who had stopped to pick a flower, rejoined them.
"I say, General," she remarked, "fair's fair, and a promise is a
promise. We didn't come down here to be made fools of by a fat old
Jewess. You won't send us away because of the old wretch?"
"I promise," said Trent, "that when she goes you go, and not before.
Is that sufficient?"
"Right oh!" the young lady declared cheerfully. "Now you go and
prink up for dinner. We're ready, Flossie and I. The little Jew
girl's got a new dress - black covered with sequins. It makes her
look yellower than ever. There goes the bell, and we're both as
hungry as hunters. Look sharp!"
Trent entered the house. Da Souza met him in the hall, sleek,
curly, and resplendent in a black dinner-suit. The years had dealt
lightly with him, or else the climate of England was kinder to his
yellow skin than the moist heat of the Gold Coast. He greeted Trent
with a heartiness which was partly tentative, partly boisterous.
"Back from the coining of the shekels, my dear friend," he
exclaimed. "Back from the spoiling of the Egyptians, eh? How was
"An eighth easier," Trent answered, ascending the stairs.
Da Souza fidgeted about with the banisters, and finally followed
"There was just a word," he remarked, "a little word I wanted with
"Come and talk while I wash," Trent said shortly. "Dinner's on,
and I'm hungry."
"Certainly, certainly," Da Souza murmured, closing the door behind
them as they entered the lavatory. "It is concerning these young
"What! Miss Montressor and her friend?" Trent remarked thrusting
his head into the cold water. "Phew!"
"Exactly! Two very charming young ladies, my dear friend, very
charming indeed, but a little - don't you fancy just a little fast!"
"Hadn't noticed it," Trent answered, drying himself. "What about
Da Souza tugged at his little black imperial, and moved uneasily
"We - er - men of the world, my dear Trent, we need not be so
particular, eh? - but the ladies - the ladies are so observant."
"What ladies?" Trent asked coolly.
"It is my wife who has been talking to me," Da Souza continued.
"You see, Julie is so young - our dear daughter she is but a child;
and, as my wife says, we cannot be too particular, too careful, eh;
"You want them to go? Is that it?"
Da Souza spread out his hands - an old trick, only now the palms
were white and the diamonds real.
"For myself," he declared, "I find them charming. It is my wife
who says to me, 'Hiram, those young persons, they are not fit
company for our dear, innocent Julie! You shall speak to Mr. Trent.
He will understand!' Eh?"
Trent had finished his toilet and stood, the hairbrushes still in
his hands, looking at Da Souza's anxious face with a queer smile
upon his lips.
"Yes, I understand, Da Souza," he said. "No doubt you are right,
you cannot be too careful. You do well to be particular."
Da Souza winced. He was about to speak, but Trent interrupted him.
"Well, I'll tell you this, and you can let the missis know, my fond
father. They leave to-morrow. Is that good enough?"
Da Souza caught at his host's hand, but Trent snatched it away.
"My dear - my noble - "
"Here, shut up and don't paw me," Trent interrupted. "Mind, not a
word of this to any one but your wife; the girls don't know they're
going themselves yet."
They entered the dining-room, where every one else was already
assembled. Mrs. Da Souza, a Jewess portly and typical, resplendent
in black satin and many gold chains and bangles, occupied the seat
of honour, and by her side was a little brown girl, with dark,
timid eyes and dusky complexion, pitiably over-dressed but with a
certain elf-like beauty, which it was hard to believe that she
could ever have inherited. Miss Montressor and her friend sat on
either side of their host - an arrangement which Mrs. Da Souza
lamented, but found herself powerless to prevent, and her husband
took the vacant place. Dinner was served, and with the opening of
the champagne, which was not long delayed, tongues were loosened.
"It was very hot in the City to-day," Mrs. Da Souza remarked to her
host. "Dear Ju1ie was saying what a shame it seemed that you
should be there and we should be enjoying your beautiful gardens.
She is so thoughtful, so sympathetic! Dear girl!"
"Very kind of your daughter," Trent answered, looking directly at
her and rather inclined to pity her obvious shyness. "Come, drink
up, Da Souza, drink up, girls! I've had a hard day and I want to
forget for a bit that there's any such thing as work."
Miss Montressor raised her glass and winked at her host.
"It don't take much drinking, this, General," she remarked, cheerily
draining her glass! "Different to the 'pop' they give us down at
the 'Star,' eh, Flossie? Good old gooseberry I call that!"
"Da Souza, look after Miss Flossie," Trent said. "Why don't you
fill her glass? That's right!"
Da Souza removed his hand from the back of his neighbour's chair
and endeavoured to look unconscious. The girl tittered - Mrs. Da
Souza was severely dignified. Trent watched them all, half in
amusement, half in disgust. What a pandemonium! It was time
indeed for him to get rid of them all. From where he sat he could
see across the lawn into the little pine plantation. It was still
light-if she could look in at the open window what would she think?
His cheeks burned, and he thrust the hand which was seeking his
under the table savagely away. And then an idea flashed in upon
him - a magnificent, irresistible idea. He drank off a glass of
champagne and laughed loud and long at one of his neighbour's silly
sayings. It was a glorious joke! The more he thought of it, the
more he liked it. He called for more champagne, and all, save the
little brown girl, greeted the magnum which presently appeared with
cheers. Even Mrs. Da Souza unbent a little towards the young women
against whom she had declared war. Faces were flushed and voices
grew a little thick. Da Souza's arm unchidden sought once more the
back of his neighbour's chair, Miss Montressor's eyes did their
utmost to win a tender glance from their lavish host. Suddenly
Trent rose to his feet. He held a glass high over his head. His
face was curiously unmoved, but his lips were parted in an
"A toast, my friends!" he cried. "Fill up, the lot of you! Come!
To our next meeting! May fortune soon smile again, and may I have
another home before long as worthy a resting-place for you as this!
Bewilderment reigned. No one offered to drink the toast. It was
Miss Montressor who asked the question which was on every one's
"What's up?" she exclaimed. "What's the matter with our next
meeting here to-morrow night, and what's all that rot about your
next home and fortune?"
Trent looked at them all in well-simulated amazement.
"Lord!" he exclaimed, "you don't know - none of you! I thought Da
Souza would have told you the news!"
"What news?" Da Souza cried, his beady eyes protuberant, and his
glass arrested half-way to his mouth.
"What are you talking about, my friend?"
Trent set down his glass.
"My friends," he said unsteadily, "let me explain to you, as shortly
as I can, what an uncertain position is that of a great financier."
Da Souza leaned across the table. His face was livid, and the
corners of his eyes were bloodshot.
"I thought there was something up," he muttered. "You would not
have me come into the City this morning. D--n it, you don't mean
that you - "
"I'm bust!" Trent said roughly. "Is that plain enough? I've been
bulling on West Australians, and they boomed and this afternoon the
Government decided not to back us at Bekwando, and the mines are
to be shut down. Tell you all about it if you like."
No one wanted to hear all about it. They shrunk from him as though
he were a robber. Only the little brown girl was sorry, and she
looked at him with dark, soft eyes.
"I've given a bill of sale here," Trent continued. "They'll be
round to-morrow. Better pack to-night. These valuers are such
robbers. Come, another bottle! It'll all have to be sold. We'll
make a night of it."
Mrs. Da Souza rose and swept from the room - Da Souza had fallen
forward with his head upon his hands. He was only half sober, but
the shock was working like madness in his brain. The two girls,
after whispering together for a moment, rose and followed Mrs. Da
Souza. Trent stole from his place and out into the garden. With
footsteps which were steady enough now he crossed the velvety
lawns, and plunged into the shrubbery. Then he began to laugh
softly as he walked. They were all duped! They had accepted
his story without the slightest question. He leaned over the gate
which led into the little plantation, and he was suddenly grave
and silent. A night-wind was blowing fragrant and cool. The
dark boughs of the trees waved to and fro against the background
of deep blue sky. The lime leaves rustled softly, the perfume of
roses came floating across from the flower-gardens. Trent stood
quite still, listening and thinking.
"God! what a beast I am!" he muttered. "It was there she sat!
I'm not fit to breathe the same air."
He looked back towards the house. The figures of the two girls,
with Da Souza standing now between them, were silhouetted against
the window. His face grew dark and fierce.
"Faugh!" he exclaimed, "what a kennel I have made of my house!
What a low-down thing I have begun to make of life! Yet - I was
a beggar - and I am a millionaire. Is it harder to change oneself?
To-morrow" - he looked hard at the place where she had sat -
"to-morrow I will ask her!"
On his way back to the house a little cloaked figure stepped out
from behind a shrub. He looked at her in amazement. It was the
little brown girl, and her eyes were wet with tears.
"Listen," she said quickly. "I have been waiting to speak to you!
I want to say goodbye and to thank you. I am very, very sorry, and
I hope that some day very soon you will make some more money and be
Her lips were quivering. A single glance into her face assured him
of her honesty. He took the hand which she held out and pressed her
"Little Julie," he said, "you are a brick. Don't you bother about
me. It isn't quite so bad as I made out - only don't tell your
"I'm very glad," she murmured. "I think that it is hateful of them
all to rush away, and I made up my mind to say goodbye however
angry it made them. Let me go now, please. I want to get back
before mamma misses me."
He passed his arm around her tiny waist. She looked at him with
"Please let me go," she murmured.
He kissed her lips, and a moment afterwards vaguely repented it.
She buried her face in her hands and ran away sobbing. Trent lit
a cigar and sat down upon a garden seat.
"It's a queer thing," he said reflectingly. "The girl's been
thrown repeatedly at my head for a week and I might have kissed her
at any moment, before her father and mother if I had liked, and
they'd have thanked me. Now I've done it I'm sorry. She looked
prettier than I've ever seen her too - and she's the only decent
one of the lot. Lord! what a hubbub there'll be in the morning!"
The stars came out and the moon rose, and still Scarlett Trent
lingered in the scented darkness. He was a man of limited
imagination and little given to superstitions. Yet that night
there came to him a presentiment. He felt that he was on the
threshold of great events. Something new in life was looming up
before him. He had cut himself adrift from the old - it was a
very wonderful and a very beautiful figure which was beckoning
him to follow in other paths. The triumph of the earlier part of
the day seemed to lie far back in a misty and unimportant past.
There was a new world and a greater, if fortune willed that he
should enter it.
Trent was awakened next morning by the sound of carriage wheels in
the drive below. He rang his bell at once. After a few moments'
delay it was answered by one of his two men-servants.
"Whose carriage is that in the drive?" he asked. "It is a fly for
Mr. Da Souza, sir."
"What! has he gone?" Trent exclaimed.
"Yes, sir, he and Mrs. Da Souza and the young lady."
"And Miss Montressor and her friend?"
"They shared the fly, sir. The luggage all went down in one of the
Trent laughed outright, half scornfully, half in amusement.
"Listen, Mason," he said, as the sound of wheels died away. "If
any of those people come back again they are not to be admitted
- do you hear? if they bring their luggage you are not to take
it in. If they come themselves you are not to allow them to enter
the house. You understand that?"
"Very good! Now prepare my bath at once, and tell the cook,
breakfast in half an hour. Let her know that I am hungry.
Breakfast for one, mind! Those fools who have just left will get
a morning paper at the station and they may come back. Be on the
look-out for them and let the other servants know. Better have
the lodge gate locked."
"Very good, sir."
The man who had been lamenting the loss of an easy situation and
possibly even a month's wages, hastened to spread more reassuring
news in the lower regions. It was a practical joke of the governor's
- very likely a ruse to get rid of guests who had certainly been
behaving as though the Lodge was their permanent home. There was a
chorus of thanksgiving. Groves, the butler, who read the money
articles in the Standard every morning with solemn interest and who
was suspected of investments, announced that from what he could make
out the governor must have landed a tidy little lump yesterday.
Whereupon the cook set to work to prepare a breakfast worthy of the
Trent had awakened with a keen sense of anticipated pleasure. A
new and delightful interest had entered into his life. It is true
that, at times, it needed all his strength of mind to keep his
thoughts from wandering back into that unprofitable and most
distasteful past - in the middle of the night even, he had woke up
suddenly with an old man's cry in his ears - or was it the whispering
of the night-wind in the tall elms? But he was not of an imaginative
nature. He felt himself strong enough to set his heel wholly upon
all those memories. If he had not erred on the side of generosity,
he had at least played the game fairly. Monty, if he had lived, could
only have been a disappointment and a humiliation. The picture was
hers - of that he had no doubt! Even then he was not sure that Monty
was her father. In any case she would never know. He recognised no
obligation on his part to broach the subject. The man had done his
best to cut himself altogether adrift from his former life. His
reasons doubtless had been sufficient. It was not necessary to pry
into them - it might even be unkindness. The picture, which no man
save himself had ever seen, was the only possible link between the
past and the present - between Scarlett Trent and his drunken old
partner, starved and fever-stricken, making their desperate effort for
wealth in unknown Africa, and the millionaire of to-day. The picture
remained his dearest possession - but, save his own, no other eyes
had ever beheld it.
He dressed with more care than usual, and much less satisfaction.
He was a man who rather prided himself upon neglecting his
appearance, and, so far as the cut and pattern of his clothes went,
he usually suggested the artisan out for a holiday. To-day for the
first time he regarded his toilet with critical and disparaging
eyes. He found the pattern of his tweed suit too large, and the
colour too pronounced, his collars were old-fashioned and his ties
hideous. It was altogether a new experience with him, this
self-dissatisfaction and sensitiveness to criticism, which at any
other time he would have regarded with a sort of insolent
indifference. He remembered his walk westward yesterday with a
shudder, as though indeed it had been a sort of nightmare, and
wondered whether she too had regarded him with the eyes of those
loungers on the pavement - whether she too was one of those who
looked for a man to conform to the one arbitrary and universal type.
Finally he tied his necktie with a curse, and went down to breakfast
with little of his good-humour left.
The fresh air sweeping in through the long, open windows, the
glancing sunlight and the sense of freedom, for which the absence
of his guests was certainly responsible, soon restored his spirits.
Blest with an excellent morning appetite - the delightful heritage
of a clean life - he enjoyed his breakfast and thoroughly
appreciated his cook's efforts. If he needed a sauce, Fate bestowed
one upon him, for he was scarcely midway through his meal before a
loud ringing at the lodge gates proved the accuracy of his
conjectures. Mr. Da Souza had purchased a morning paper at the
junction, and their host's perfidy had become apparent. Obviously
they had decided to treat the whole matter as a practical joke and
to brave it out, for outside the gates in an open fly were the whole
party. They had returned, only to find that according to Trent's
orders the gates were closed upon them.
Trent moved his seat to where he could have a better view, and
continued his breakfast. The party in the cab looked hot, and
tumbled, and cross. Da Souza was on his feet arguing with the
lodge-keeper - the women seemed to be listening anxiously. Trent
turned to the servant who was waiting upon him.
"Send word down," he directed, "that I will see Mr. Da Souza alone.
No one else is to be allowed to enter. Pass me the toast before
Da Souza entered presently, apologetic and abject, prepared at the
same time to extenuate and deny. Trent continued his breakfast
"My dear friend!" Da Souza exclaimed, depositing his silk hat upon
the table, "it is a very excellent joke of yours. You see, we have
entered into the spirit of it - oh yes, we have done so indeed!
We have taken a little drive before breakfast, but we have returned.
You knew, of course, that we would not dream of leaving you in such
a manner. Do you not think, my dear friend, that the joke was
carried now far enough? The ladies are hungry; will you send word
to the lodge-keeper that he may open the gate?"
Trent helped himself to coffee, and leaned back in his chair,
stirring it thoughtfully.
"You are right, Da Souza," he said. "It is an excellent joke. The
cream of it is too that I am in earnest; neither you nor any of
those ladies whom I see out there will sit at my table again."
"You are not in earnest! You do not mean it!"
"I can assure you," Trent replied grinning, "that I do!"
"But do you mean," Da Souza spluttered, "that we are to go like
this - to be turned out - the laughing-stock of your servants,
after we have come back too, all the way? - oh, it is nonsense!
It's not to be endured!"
"You can go to the devil!" Trent answered coolly. "There is not
one of you whom I care a fig to see again. You thought that I was
ruined, and you scudded like rats from a sinking ship. Well, I
found you out, and a jolly good thing too. All I have to say is
now, be off, and the quicker the better!"
Then Da Souza cringed no longer, and there shot from his black eyes
the venomous twinkle of the serpent whose fangs are out. He leaned
over the table, and dropped his voice.
"I speak," he said, "for my wife, my daughter, and myself, and I
assure you that we decline to go!"
Trent rose up with flashing eyes. Da Souza shrank back from his
outstretched hands. The two men stood facing one another. Da
Souza was afraid, but the ugly look of determination remained upon
his white face. Trent felt dimly that there was something which
must be explained between them. There had been hints of this sort
before from Da Souza. It was time the whole thing was cleared up.
The lion was ready to throw aside the jackal.
"I give you thirty seconds," he said, "to clear out. If you haven't
come to your senses then, you'll be sorry for it."
"Thirty seconds is not long enough," Da Souza answered, "for me to
tell you why I decline to go. Better listen to me quietly, my
friend. It will be best for you. Afterwards you will admit it."
"Go ahead," Trent said, "I'm anxious to hear what you've got to say.
Only look here ! I'm a bit short-tempered this morning, and I
shouldn't advise you to play with your words!"
"This is no play at all," Da Souza remarked, with a sneer. "I ask
you to remember, my friend, our first meeting."
"Never likely to forget it," he answered.
"I came down from Elmina to deal with you," Da Souza continued. "I
had made money trading in Ashanti for palm-oil and mahogany. I had
money to invest - and you needed it. You had land, a concession to
work gold-mines, and build a road to the coast. It was speculative,
but we did business. I came with you to England. I found more money."
"You made your fortune," Trent said drily. "I had to have the money,
and you ground a share out of me which is worth a quarter of a
million to you!"
"Perhaps it is," Da Souza answered, "perhaps it is not. Perhaps it
is worth nothing at all. Perhaps, instead of being a millionaire,
you yourself are a swindler and an adventurer!"
"If you don't speak out in half a moment," Trent said in a low tone,
"I'll twist the tongue out of your head."
"I am speaking out," Da Souza answered. "It is an ugly thing I
have to say, but you must control yourself."
The little black eyes were like the eyes of a snake. He was showing
his teeth. He forgot to be afraid.
"You had a partner," he said. "The concession was made out to him
together with yourself."
"He died," Trent answered shortly. "I took over the lot by
"A very nice arrangement," Da Souza drawled with a devilish smile.
"He is old and weak. You were with him up at Bekwando where there
are no white men - no one to watch you. You gave him brandy to
drink - you watch the fever come, and you write on the concession
if one should die all goes to the survivor. And you gave him
brandy in the bush where the fever is, and - behold you return
alone! When people know this they will say, 'Oh yes, it is the way
millionaires are made.'"
He stopped, out of breath, for the veins were standing out upon his
forehead, and he remembered what the English doctor at Cape Coast
Castle had told him. So he was silent for a moment, wiping the
perspiration away and struggling against the fear which was turning
the blood to ice in his veins. For Trent's face was not pleasant
to look upon.
Da Souza pulled himself together. "Yes," he said; "what I have said
is as nothing. It is scandalous, and it would make talk, but it is
nothing. There is something else."
"You had a partner whom you deserted."
"It is a lie! I carried him on my back for twenty hours with a
pack of yelling niggers behind. We were lost, and I myself was
nigh upon a dead man. Who would have cumbered himself with a
corpse? Curse you and your vile hints, you mongrel, you hanger-on,
you scurrilous beast! Out, and spread your stories, before my
fingers get on your throat! Out!"
Da Souza slunk away before the fire in Trent's eyes, but he had no
idea of going. He stood in safety near the door, and as he leaned
forward, speaking now in a hoarse whisper, he reminded Trent
momentarily of one of those hideous fetish gods in the sacred grove
"Your partner was no corpse when you left him," he hissed out.
"You were a fool and a bungler not to make sure of it. The natives
from Bekwando found him and carried him bound to the King, and your
English explorer, Captain Francis, rescued him. He's alive now!"
Trent stood for a moment like a man turned to stone. Alive! Monty
alive! The impossibility of the thing came like a flash of relief
to him. The man was surely on the threshold of death when he had
left him, and the age of miracles was past.
"You're talking like a fool, Da Souza. Do you mean to take me in
with an old woman's story like that?"
"There's no old woman's story about what I've told you," Da Souza
snarled. "The man's alive and I can prove it a dozen times over.
You were a fool and a bungler."
Trent thought of the night when he had crept back into the bush and
had found no trace of Monty, and gradually there rose up before him
a lurid possibility Da Souza's story was true. The very thought of
it worked like madness in his brains. When he spoke he strove hard
to steady his voice, and even to himself it sounded like the voice
of one speaking a long way off.
"Supposing that this were true," he said, "what is he doing all this
time? Why does he not come and claim his share?"
Da Souza hesitated. He would have liked to have invented another
reason, but it was not safe. The truth was best.
"He is half-witted and has lost his memory. He is working now at
one of the Basle mission-places near Attra."
"And why have you not told me this before?"
Da Souza shrugged his shoulders. "It was not necessary," he said.
"Our interests were the same, it was better for you not to know."
"He remembers nothing, then?"
Da Souza hesitated. "Oom Sam," he said, "my half-brother, keeps an
eye on him. Sometimes he gets restless, he talks, but what matter?
He has no money. Soon he must die. He is getting an old man!"
"I shall send for him," Trent said slowly. "He shall have his share!"
It was the one fear which had kept Da Souza silent. The muscles of
his face twitched, and his finger-nails were buried in the flesh of
his fat, white hands. Side by side he had worked with Trent for
years without being able to form any certain estimate of the man or
his character. Many a time he had asked himself what Trent would do
if he knew - only the fear of his complete ignorance of the man had
kept him silent all these years. Now the crisis had come! He had
spoken! It might mean ruin.
"Send for him?" Da Souza said. "Why? His memory has gone - save
for occasional fits of passion in which he raves at you. What would
people say? - that you tried to kill him with brandy, that the clause
in the concession was a direct incentive for you to get rid of him,
and you left him in the bush only a few miles from Buckomari to be
seized by the natives. Besides, how can you pay him half? I know
pretty well how you stand. On paper, beyond doubt you are a
millionaire; but what if all claims were suddenly presented against
you to be paid in sovereigns? I tell you this, my friend, Mr.
Scarlett Trent, and I am a man of experience and I know. To-day in
the City it is true that you could raise a million pounds in cash,
but let me whisper a word, one little word, and you would be hard
pressed to raise a thousand. It is true there is the Syndicate,
that great scheme of yours yesterday from which you were so careful
to exclude me - you are to get great monies from them in cash. Bah!
don't you see that Monty's existence breaks up that Syndicate -
smashes it into tiny atoms, for you have sold what was not yours to
sell, and they do not pay for that, eh? They call it fraud!"
He paused, out of breath, and Trent remained silent; he knew very
well that he was face to face with a great crisis. Of all things
this was the most fatal which could have happened to him. Monty
alive! He remembered the old man's passionate cry for life, for
pleasure, to taste once more, for however short a time, the joys of
wealth. Monty alive, penniless, half-witted, the servant of a few
ill-paid missionaries, toiling all day for a living, perhaps fishing
with the natives or digging, a slave still, without hope or
understanding, with the end of his days well in view! Surely it
were better to risk all things, to have him back at any cost? Then
a thought more terrible yet than any rose up before him like a
spectre, there was a sudden catch at his heart-strings, he was cold
with fear. What would she think of the man who deserted his partner,
an old man, while life was yet in him, and safety close at hand?
Was it possible that he could ever escape the everlasting stigma of
cowardice - ay, and before him in great red letters he saw written
in the air that fatal clause in the agreement, to which she and all
others would point with bitter scorn, indubitable, overwhelming
evidence against him. He gasped for breath and walked restlessly up
and down the room. Other thoughts came crowding in upon him. He
was conscious of a new element in himself. The last few years had
left their mark upon him. With the handling of great sums of money
and the acquisition of wealth had grown something of the financier's
fever. He had become a power, solidly and steadfastly he had hewn
his way into a little circle whose fascination had begun to tell in
his blood. Was he to fall without a struggle from amongst the high
places, to be stripped of his wealth, shunned as a man who was
morally, if not in fact, a murderer, to be looked upon with
never-ending scorn by the woman whose picture for years had been
a religion to him, and whose appearance only a few hours ago had
been the most inspiring thing which had entered into his life? He
looked across the lawn into the pine grove with steadfast eyes and
knitted brows, and Da Souza watched him, ghastly and nervous. At
least he must have time to decide!
"If you send for him," Da Souza said slowly, "you will be absolutely
ruined. It will be a triumph for those whom you have made jealous,
who have measured their wits with yours and gone under. Oh! but
the newspapers will enjoy it - that is very certain. Our latest
millionaire, his rise and fall! Cannot you see it in the placards?
And for what? To give wealth to an old man long past the enjoyment
of it-ay, imbecile already! You will not be a madman, Trent?"
Trent winced perceptibly. Da Souza saw it and rejoiced. There was
another awkward silence. Trent lit a cigar and puffed furiously
"I will think it over, at least," he said in a low tone. "Bring
back your wife and daughter, and leave me alone for a while."
"I knew," Da Souza murmured, "that my friend would be reasonable."
"And the young ladies?"
"Send them to - "
"I will send them back to where they came from," Da Souza
It is probable that Mrs. Da Souza, excellent wife and mother though
she had proved herself to be, had never admired her husband more
than when, followed by the malevolent glances of Miss Montressor
and her friend, she, with her daughter and Da Souza, re-entered the
gates of the Lodge. The young ladies had announced their intention
of sitting in the fly until they were allowed speech with their late
host; to which he had replied that they were welcome to sit there
until doomsday so long as they remained outside his gates. Mr. Da
Souza lingered for a moment behind and laid his finger upon his nose.
"It ain't no use, my dears," he whispered confidentially. "He's
fairly got the hump. Between you and me he'd give a bit not to have
us, but me and him being old friends - you see, we know a bit about
"Oh, that's it, is it?" Miss Montressor remarked, with a toss of her
head. "Well, you and your wife and your little chit of a daughter
are welcome to him so far as we are concerned, aren't they, Flossie?"
"Well, I should say so," agreed the young lady, who rather affected
Da Souza stroked his little imperial, and winked solemnly.
"You are young ladies of spirit," he declared. "Now - "
"I am coming, my dear," he called over his shoulder. "One word
more, my charming young friends! No. 7, Racket's Court, City, is
my address. Look in sometime when you're that way, and we'll have
a bit of lunch together, and just at present take my advice. Get
back to London and write him from there. He is not in a good humour
"We are much obliged, Mr. Da Souza," the young lady answered loftily.
"As we have engagements in London this afternoon, we may as well go
now - eh, Flossie?"
"Right along," answered the young lady, "I'm with you, but as to
writing Mr. Trent, you can tell him from me, Mr. Da Souza, that we
want to have nothing more to do with him. A fellow that can treat
ladies as he has treated us is no gentleman. You can tell him that.
He's an ignorant, common fellow, and for my part I despise him."
"Same here," echoed Miss Montressor, heartily. "We ain't used to
associate with such as him!"
Mr, Da Souza raised his hat and bowed; the ladies were tolerably
gracious and the fly drove off. Whereupon Mr. Da Souza followed
his wife and daughter along the drive and caught them up upon the
doorstep. With mingled feelings of apprehension and elation he
ushered them into the morning-room where Trent was standing looking
out of the window with his hands behind him. At their entrance he
did not at once turn round. Mr. Da Souza coughed apologetically.
"Here we are, my friend," he remarked. "The ladies are anxious to
wish you good morning."
Trent faced them with a sudden gesture of impatience. He seemed
on the point of an angry exclamation, when his eyes met Julie Da
Souza's. He held his breath for a moment and was silent. Her face
was scarlet with shame, and her lips were trembling. For her sake
Trent restrained himself.
"Glad to see you back again, Julie," he said, ignoring her mother's
outstretched hand and beaming smile of welcome. "Going to be a hot
day, I think. You must get out in the hay-field. Order what
breakfast you please, Da Souza," he continued on his way to the
door; "you must be hungry-after such an early start!"
Mrs. Da Souza sat down heavily and rang the bell.
"He was a little cool," she remarked, "but that was to be expected.
Did you observe the notice he took of Julie? Dear child!"
Da Souza rubbed his hands and nodded meaningly. The girl, who,
between the two, was miserable enough, sat down with a little sob.
Her mother looked at her in amazement.
"My Julie," she exclaimed, "my dear child! You see, Hiram, she is
faint! She is overcome!"
The child, she was very little more, broke out at last in speech,
passionately, yet with a miserable fore-knowledge of the
ineffectiveness of anything she might say.
"It is horrible," she cried, "it is maddening! Why do we do it?
Are we paupers or adventurers? Oh! let me go away! I am ashamed
to stay in this house!"
Her father, his thumbs in the armholes of his waistcoat and his
legs far apart, looked at her in blank and speechless amazement;
her mother, with more consideration but equal lack of sympathy,
patted her gently on the back of her hand.
"Silly Julie," she murmured, "what is there that is horrible,
The dark eyes blazed with scorn, the delicately curved lips shook.
"Why, the way we thrust ourselves upon this man is horrible!" she
cried. "Can you not see that we are not welcome, that he wishes
Da Souza smiled in a superior manner; the smile of a man who, if
only he would, could explain all things. He patted his daughter on
the head with a touch which was meant to be playful.
"My little one," he said, "you are mistaken! Leave these matters
to those who are older and wiser than you. It is but just now that
my good friend said to me, 'Da Souza,' he say, 'I will not have you
take your little daughter away!' Oh, we shall see! We shall see!"
Julie's tears crept through the fingers closely pressed over her
"I do not believe it," she sobbed. "He has scarcely looked at me
all the time, and I do not want him to. He despises us all - and
I don't blame him. It is horrid!"
Mrs. Da Souza, with a smile which was meant to be arch, had
something to say, but the arrival of breakfast broke up for a while
the conversation. Her husband, whom Nature had blessed with a
hearty appetite at all times, was this morning after his triumph
almost disposed to be boisterous. He praised the cooking, chaffed
the servants to their infinite disgust, and continually urged his
wife and daughter to keep pace with him in his onslaught upon the
various dishes which were placed before him. Before the meal was
over Julie had escaped from the table crying softly. Mr. Da Souza's
face darkened as he looked up at the sound of her movement, only to
see her skirt vanishing through the door.
"Shall you have trouble with her, my dear?" he asked his wife
That estimable lady shook her head with a placid smile. "Julie is
so sensitive," she muttered, "but she is not disobedient. When
the time comes I can make her mind."
"But the time has come!" Da Souza exclaimed. "It is here now, and
Julie is sulky. She will have red eyes and she is not gay! She
will not attract him. You must speak with her, my dear."
"I will go now - this instant," she answered, rising. "But, Hiram,
there is one thing I would much like to know."
"Ugh! You women! You are always like that! There is so much that
you want to know!"
"Most women, Hiram - not me! Do I ever seek to know your secrets?
But this time - yes, it would be wiser to tell me a little!"
"This Mr. Trent, he asked us here, but it is plain that our company
is not pleasant to him. He does his best to get rid of us - he
succeeds - he plans that we shall not return. You see him alone
and all that is altered. His little scheme has been in vain. We
remain! He does not look at our Julie. He speaks of marriage with
contempt. Yet you say he will marry her - he, a millionaire! What
does it mean, Hiram?"
"The man, he is in my power," Da Souza says in a ponderous and
stealthy whisper. "I know something."
She rose and imprinted a solemn kiss upon his forehead. There was
something sacramental about the deliberate caress.
"Hiram," she said, "you are a wonderful man!"
Scarlett Trent spent the first part of the morning, to which he had
been looking forward so eagerly, alone in his study with locked door
to keep out all intruders. He had come face to face with the first
serious check in his career, and it had been dealt him too by the
one man whom, of all his associates, he disliked and despised. In
the half-open drawer by his side was the barrel of a loaded revolver.
He drew it out, laid it on the table before him, and regarded it
with moody, fascinated eyes. If only it could be safely done, if
only for one moment he could find himself face to face with Da Souza
in Bekwando village, where human life was cheap and the slaying of
a man an incident scarcely worth noting in the day's events! The
thing was easy enough there - here it was too risky. He thrust the
weapon back into the drawer with a sigh of regret, just as Da Souza
himself appeared upon the scene.
"You sent for me, Trent," the latter remarked timidly. "I am quite
ready to answer any more questions."
"Answer this one, then," was the gruff reply. "In Buckomari village
before we left for England I was robbed of a letter. I don't think
I need ask you who was the thief."
"Really, Trent - I - "
"Don't irritate me; I'm in an ill humour for anything of that sort.
You stole it! I can see why now! Have you got it still?"
The Jew shrugged his shoulders.
"Hand it over."
Da Souza drew a large folding case from his pocket and after
searching through it for several moments produced an envelope. The
handwriting was shaky and irregular, and so faint that even in the
strong, sweet light of the morning sunshine Trent had difficulty in
reading it. He tore it open and drew out a half-sheet of coarse
paper. It was a message from the man who for long he had counted
"MY DEAR TRENT,-I have been drinking as usual! Some men see snakes,
but I have seen death leering at me from the dark corners of this
vile hut, and death is an evil thing to look at when one's life has
been evil as mine has been. Never mind! I have sown and I must
reap! But, my friend, a last word with you. I have a notion, and
more than a notion, that I shall never pass back alive through these
pestilential swamps. If you should arrive, as you doubtless will,
here is a charge which I lay upon you. That agreement of ours is
scarcely a fair one, is it, Trent? When I signed it, I wasn't quite
myself. Never mind! I'll trust to you to do what's fair. If the
thing turns out a great success, put some sort of a share at any
rate to my credit and let my daughter have it. You will find her
address from Messrs. Harris and Culsom, Solicitors, Lincoln's Inn
Fields. You need only ask them for Monty's daughter and show them
this letter. They will understand. I believe you to be a just man,
Scarlett Trent, although I know you to be a hard one. Do then as
Da Souza had left the room quietly. Trent read the letter through
twice and locked it up in his desk. Then he rose and lit a pipe,
knocking out the ashes carefully and filling the bowl with dark but
fragrant tobacco. Presently he rang the bell.
"Tell Mr. Da Souza I wish to see him here at once," he told the
servant, and, though the message was a trifle peremptory from a
host to his guest, Da Souza promptly appeared, suave and cheerful.
"Shut the door," Trent said shortly.
Da Souza obeyed with unabashed amiability. Trent watched him with
something like disgust. Da Souza returning caught the look, and
felt compelled to protest.
"My dear Trent," he said, "I do not like the way you address me, or
your manners towards me. You speak as though I were a servant. I
do not like it all, and it is not fair. I am your guest, am I not?"
"You are my guest by your own invitation," Trent answered roughly,
"and if you don't like my manners you can turn out. I may have to
endure you in the house till I have made up my mind how to get rid
of you, but I want as little of your company as possible. Do you
Da Souza did hear it, and the worm turned. He sat down in the most
comfortable easy-chair, and addressed Trent directly.
"My friend," he said, "you are out of temper, and that is a bad
thing. Now listen to me! You are in my power. I have only to go
into the City to-morrow and breathe here and there a word about a
certain old gentleman who shall be nameless, and you would be a
ruined man in something less than an hour; added to this, my friend,
you would most certainly be arrested for conspiracy and fraud. That
Syndicate of yours was a very smart stroke of business, no doubt,
and it was clever of you to keep me in ignorance of it, but as
things have turned out now, that will be your condemnation. They
will say, why did you keep me in ignorance of this move, and the
answer - why, it is very clear! I knew you were selling what was
not yours to sell!"
"I kept you away," Trent said scornfully, "because I was dealing
with men who would not have touched the thing if they had known
that you were in it!"
"Who will believe it?" Da Souza asked, with a sneer. "They will
say that it is but one more of the fairy tales of this wonderful
Mr. Scarlett Trent."
The breath came through Trent's lips with a little hiss and his
eyes were flashing with a dull fire. But Da Souza held his ground.
He had nerved himself up to this and he meant going through with it.
"You think I dare not breathe a word for my own sake," he continued.
"There is reason in that, but I have other monies. I am rich enough
without my sixth share of that Bekwando Land and Mining Company
which you and the Syndicate are going to bring out! But then, I am
not a fool! I have no wish to throw away money. Now I propose to
you therefore a friendly settlement. My daughter Julie is very
charming. You admire her, I am sure. You shall marry her, and then
we will all be one family. Our interests will be the same, and you
may be sure that I shall look after them. Come! Is that not a
For several minutes Trent smoked furiously, but he did not speak.
At the end of that time he took the revolver once more from the
drawer of his writing-table and fingered it.
"Da Souza," he said, "if I had you just for five minutes at Bekwando
we would talk together of black-mail, you and I, we would talk of
marrying your daughter. We would talk then to some purpose - you
hound! Get out of the room as fast as your legs will carry you.
This revolver is loaded, and I'm not quite master of myself."
Da Souza made off with amazing celerity. Trent drew a short, quick
breath. There was a great deal of the wild beast left in him still.
At that moment the desire to kill was hot in his blood. His eyes
glared as he walked up and down the room. The years of civilisation
seemed to have become as nothing. The veneer of the City speculator
had fallen away. He was once more as he had been in those wilder
days when men made their own laws, and a man's hold upon life was a
slighter thing than his thirst for gold. As such, he found the
atmosphere of the little room choking him, he drew open the French
windows of his little study and strode out into the perfumed and
sunlit morning. As such, he found himself face to face unexpectedly
and without warning with the girl whom he had discovered sketching
in the shrubbery the day before.
Probably nothing else in the world could so soon have transformed
Scarlett Trent from the Gold Coast buccaneer to the law-abiding
tenant of a Surrey villa. Before her full, inquiring eyes and
calm salute he found himself at once abashed and confused. He
raised his hand to his head, only to find that he had come out
without a hat, and he certainly appeared, as he stood there, to his
worst possible advantage.
"Good morning, miss," he stammered; "I'm afraid I startled you!"
She winced a little at his address, but otherwise her manner was
"You did a little," she admitted. "Do you usually stride out of
your windows like that, bareheaded and muttering to yourself?"
"I was in a beastly temper," he admitted. "If I had known who was
outside - it would have been different."
She looked into his face with some interest. "What an odd thing!"
she remarked. "Why, I should have thought that to-day you would
have been amiability itself. I read at breakfast-time that you had
accomplished something more than ordinarily wonderful in the City
and had made - I forget how many hundreds of thousands of pounds.
When I showed the sketch of your house to my chief, and told him
that you were going to let me interview you to-day, I really thought
that he would have raised my salary at once."
"It's more luck than anything," he said. "I've stood next door to
ruin twice. I may again, although I'm a millionaire to-day."
She looked at him curiously - at his ugly tweed suit, his yellow
boots, and up into the strong, forceful face with eyes set in deep
hollows under his protruding brows, at the heavy jaws giving a
certain coarseness to his expression, which his mouth and forehead,
well-shaped though they were, could not altogether dispel. And at
he same time he looked at her, slim, tall, and elegant, daintily
clothed from her shapely shoes to her sailor hat, her brown hair,
parted in the middle, escaping a little from its confinement to
ripple about her forehead, and show more clearly the delicacy of
her complexion. Trent was an ignorant man on many subjects, on
others his taste seemed almost intuitively correct. He knew that
this girl belonged to a class from which his descent and education
had left him far apart, a class of which he knew nothing, and with
whom he could claim no kinship. She too was realising it - her
interest in him was, however, none the less deep. He was a type of
those powers which to-day hold the world in their hands, make
kingdoms tremble, and change the fate of nations. Perhaps he was
all the more interesting to her because, by all the ordinary
standards of criticism, he would fail to be ranked, in the jargon
of her class, as a gentleman. He represented something in flesh
and blood which had never seemed more than half real to her - power
without education. She liked to consider herself - being a writer
with ambitions who took herself seriously - a student of human
nature. Here was a specimen worth impaling, an original being, a
creature of a new type such as never had come within the region of
her experience. It was worth while ignoring small idiosyncrasies
which might offend, in order to annex him. Besides, from a
journalistic point of view, the man was more than interesting - he
was a veritable treasure.
"You are going to talk to me about Africa, are you not?" she
reminded him. "Couldn't we sit in the shade somewhere. I got
quite hot walking from the station."
He led the way across the lawn, and they sat under a cedar-tree.
He was awkward and ill at ease, but she had tact enough for both.
"I can't understand," he began, "how people are interested in the
stuff which gets into papers nowadays. If you want horrors though,
I can supply you. For one man who succeeds over there, there are a
dozen who find it a short cut down into hell. I can tell you if
you like of my days of starvation."
Like many men who talk but seldom, he had the gift when he chose to
speak of reproducing his experiences in vivid though unpolished
language. He told her of the days when he had worked on the banks
of the Congo with the coolies, a slave in everything but name, when
the sun had burned the brains of men to madness, and the palm wine
had turned them into howling devils. He told her of the natives of
Bekwando, of the days they had spent amongst them in that squalid
hut when their fate hung in the balance day by day, and every shout
that went up from the warriors gathered round the house of the King
was a cry of death. He spoke of their ultimate success, of the
granting of the concession which had laid the foundation of his
fortunes, and then of that terrible journey back through the bush,
followed by the natives who had already repented of their action,
and who dogged their footsteps hour after hour, waiting for them
only to sleep or rest to seize upon them and haul them back to
Bekwando, prisoners for the sacrifice.
"It was only our revolvers which kept them away," he went on. "I
shot eight or nine of them at different times when they came too
close, and to hear them wailing over the bodies was one of the most
hideous things you can imagine. Why, for months and months
afterwards I couldn't sleep. I'd wake up in the night and fancy
that I heard that cursed yelling outside my window - ay, even on
the steamer at night-time if I was on deck before moonlight, I'd
seem to hear it rising up out of the water. Ugh!"
"But you both escaped?" she said.
There was a moment's silence. The shade of the cedar-tree was deep
and cool, but it brought little relief to Trent. The perspiration
stood out on his forehead in great beads, he breathed for a moment
in little gasps as though stifled.
"No," he answered; "my partner died within a mile or two of the
Coast. He was very ill when we started, and I pretty well had to
carry him the whole of the last day. I did my best for him. I did,
indeed, but it was no good. I had to leave him. There was no use
sacrificing oneself for a dead man."
She inclined her head sympathetically.
"Was he an Englishman?" she asked.
He faced the question just as he had faced death years before
leering at him, a few feet from the muzzle of his revolver.
"He was an Englishman. The only name we had ever heard him called
by was 'Monty.' Some said he was a broken-down gentleman. I
believe he was."
She was unconscious of his passionate, breathless scrutiny,
unconscious utterly of the great wave of relief which swept into
his face as he realised that his words were without any special
meaning to her.
"It was very sad indeed," she said. "If he had lived, he would have
shared with you, I suppose, in the concession?"
"Yes, we were equal partners. We had an arrangement by which, if
one died, the survivor took the lot. I didn't want it though, I'd
rather he had pulled through. I would indeed," he repeated with
"I am quite sure of that," she answered. "And now tell me something
about your career in the City after you came to England. Do you
know, I have scarcely ever been in what you financiers call the City.
In a way it must be interesting."
"You wouldn't find it so," he said. "It is not a place for such as
you. It is a life of lies and gambling and deceit. There are
times when I have hated it. I hate it now!"
She was unaffectedly surprised. What a speech for a millionaire of
"I thought," she said, "that for those who took part in it, it
possessed a fascination stronger than anything else in the world."
He shook his head.
"It is an ugly fascination," he said. "You are in the swim, and
you must hold your own. You gamble with other men, and when you
win you chuckle. All the time you're whittling your conscience
away - if ever you had any. You're never quite dishonest, and
you're never quite honest. You come out on top, and afterwards you
hate yourself. It's a dirty little life!"
"Well," she remarked after a moment's pause, "you have surprised me
very much. At any rate you are rich enough now to have no more to
do with it."
He kicked a fir cone savagely away.
"If I could," he said, "I would shut up my office to-morrow, sell
out, and live upon a farm. But I've got to keep what I've made.
The more you succeed the more involved you become. It's a sort of
"Have you no friends?" she asked.
"I have never," he answered, "had a friend in my life."
"You have guests at any rate!"
"I sent 'em away last night!"
"What, the young lady in blue?" she asked demurely.
"Yes, and the other one too. Packed them clean off, and they're
not coming back either!"
"I am very pleased to hear it," she remarked.
"There's a man and his wife and daughter here I can't get rid of
quite so easily," he went on gloomily, "but they've got to go!"
"They would be less objectionable to the people round here who might
like to come and see you," she remarked, "than two unattached young
"May be," he answered. "Yet I'd give a lot to be rid of them.
He had risen to his feet and was standing with his back to the
cedar-tree, looking away with fixed eyes to where the sunlight fell
upon a distant hillside gorgeous with patches and streaks of yellow
gorse and purple heather. Presently she noticed his abstraction
and looked also through the gap in the trees.
"You have a beautiful view here," she said. "You are fond of the
country, are you not?"
"Very," he answered.
"It is not every one," she remarked, "who is able to appreciate it,
especially when their lives have been spent as yours must have been."
He looked at her curiously. "I wonder," he said, "if you have any
idea how my life has been spent."
"You have given me," she said, "a very fair idea about some part of
it at any rate."
He drew a long breath and looked down at her.
"I have given you no idea at all," he said firmly. "I have told
you a few incidents, that is all. You have talked to me as though
I were an equal. Listen! you are probably the first lady with
whom I have ever spoken. I do not want to deceive you. I never
had a scrap of education. My father was a carpenter who drank
himself to death, and my mother was a factory girl. I was in the
workhouse when I was a boy. I have never been to school. I don't
know how to talk properly, but I should be worse even than I am, if
I had not had to mix up with a lot of men in the City who had been
properly educated. I am utterly and miserably ignorant. I've got
low tastes and lots of 'em. I was drunk a few nights ago - I've
done most of the things men who are beasts do. There! Now, don't
you want to run away?"
She shook her head and smiled up at him. She was immensely
"If that is the worst," she said gently, "I am not at all frightened.
You know that it is my profession to write about men and women. I
belong to a world of worn-out types, and to meet any one different
is quite a luxury."
"The worst!" A sudden fear sent an icy coldness shivering through
his veins. His heart seemed to stop beating, his cheeks were
blanched. The worst of him. He had not told her that he was a
robber, that the foundation of his fortunes was a lie; that there
lived a man who might bring all this great triumph of his shattered
and crumbling about his ears. A passionate fear lest she might
ever knew of these things was born in his heart at that moment,
never altogether to leave him.
The sound of a footstep close at hand made them both turn their
heads. Along the winding path came Da Souza, with an ugly smirk
upon his white face, smoking a cigar whose odour seemed to poison
the air. Trent turned upon him with a look of thunder.
"What do you want here, Da Souza?" he asked fiercely.
Da Souza held up the palms of his hands.
"I was strolling about," he said, "and I saw you through the trees.
I did not know that you were so pleasantly engaged," he added, with
a wave of his hat to the girl, "or I would not have intruded."
Trent kicked open the little iron gate which led into the garden
"Well, get out, and don't come here again," he said shortly.
"There's plenty of room for you to wander about and poison the air
with those abominable cigars of yours without coming here."
Da Souza replaced his hat upon his head. "The cigars, my friend,
are excellent. We cannot all smoke the tobacco of a millionaire,
can we, miss?"
The girl, who was making some notes in her book, continued her work
without the slightest appearance of having heard him.
Da Souza snorted, but at that moment he felt a grip like iron upon
his shoulder, and deemed retreat expedient.
"If you don't go without another word," came a hot whisper in his
ear, "I'll throw you into the horse-pond."
He went swiftly, ungracious, scowling. Trent returned to the girl.
She looked up at him and closed her book.
"You must change your friends," she said gravely. "What a horrible
"He is a beast," Trent answered, "and go he shall. I would to
Heaven that I had never seen him."
She rose, slipped her note-book into her pocket, and drew on her
"I have taken up quite enough of your time," she said. "I am so
much obliged to you, Mr. Trent, for all you have told me. It has
been most interesting."
She held out her hand, and the touch of it sent his heart beating
with a most unusual emotion. He was aghast at the idea of her
imminent departure. He realised that, when she passed out of his
gate, she passed into a world where she would be hopelessly lost
to him, so he took his courage into his hands, and was very bold
"You have not told me your name," he reminded her.
She laughed lightly.
"How very unprofessional of me! I ought to have given you a card!
For all you know I may be an impostor, indulging an unpardonable
curiosity. "My name is Wendermott - Ernestine Wendermott."
He repeated it after her.
"Thank you," he said. "I am beginning to think of some more things
which I might have told you."
"Why, I should have to write a novel then to get them all in," she
said. "I am sure you have given me all the material I need here."
"I am going," he said abruptly, "to ask you something very strange
and very presumptuous!"
She looked at him in surprise, scarcely understanding what he could
"May I come and see you some time?"
The earnestness of his gaze and the intense anxiety of his tone
almost disconcerted her. He was obviously very much in earnest,
and she had found him far from uninteresting.
"By all means," she answered pleasantly, "if you care to. I have
a little flat in Culpole Street - No. 81. You must come and have
tea with me one afternoon."
"Thank you," he said simply, with a sigh of immense relief.
He walked with her to the gate, and they talked about rhododendrons.
Then he watched her till she became a speck in the dusty road - she
had refused a carriage, and he had had tact enough not to press any
hospitality upon her.
"His little girl!" he murmured. "Monty's little girl!"
Ernestine Wendermott travelled back to London in much discomfort,
being the eleventh occupant of a third-class carriage in a
particularly unpunctual and dilatory train. Arrived at Waterloo,
she shook out her skirts with a little gesture of relief and started
off to walk to the Strand. Half-way across the bridge she came face
to face with a tall, good-looking young man who was hurrying in the
opposite direction. He stopped short as he recognised her, dropped
his eyeglass, and uttered a little exclamation of pleasure.
"Ernestine, by all that's delightful! I am in luck to-day!"
She smiled slightly and gave him her hand, but it was evident that
this meeting was not wholly agreeable to her.
"I don't quite see where the luck comes in," she answered. "I have
no time to waste talking to you now. I am in a hurry."
"You will allow me," he said hopefully, "to walk a little way with
"I am not able to prevent it - if you think it worth while," she
He looked down - he was by her side now - in good-humoured protest.
"Come, Ernestine," he said, "you mustn't bear malice against me.
Perhaps I was a little hasty when I spoke so strongly about your
work. I don't like your doing it and never shall like it, but I've
said all I want to. You won't let it divide us altogether, will
"For the present," she answered, "it occupies the whole of my time,
and the whole of my thoughts."
"To the utter exclusion, I suppose," he remarked, "of me?"
She laughed gaily.
"My dear Cecil! when have I ever led you to suppose for a moment
that I have ever wasted any time thinking of you?"
He was determined not to be annoyed, and he ignored both the speech
and the laugh.
"May I inquire how you are getting on?"
"I am getting on," she answered, "very well indeed. The Editor is
beginning to say very nice things to me, and already the men treat
me just as though I were a comrade! It is so nice of them!"
"Is it?" he muttered doubtfully.
"I have just finished," she continued, "the most important piece of
work they have trusted me with yet, and I have been awfully lucky.
I have been to interview a millionaire!"
She nodded. "Of course!"
"It isn't fit work for you," he exclaimed hastily.
"You will forgive me if I consider myself the best judge of that,"
she answered coldly. "I am a journalist, and so long as it is
honest work my sex doesn't count. If every one whom I have to see
is as courteous to me as Mr. Trent has been, I shall consider myself
very lucky indeed."
"As who?" he cried.
She looked up at him in surprise. They were at the corner of the
Strand, but as though in utter forgetfulness of their whereabouts,
he had suddenly stopped short and gripped her tightly by the arm.
She shook herself free with a little gesture of annoyance.
"Whatever is the matter with you, Cecil? Don't gape at me like
that, and come along at once, unless you want to be left behind.
Yes, we are very short-handed and the chief let me go down to see
Mr. Trent. He didn't expect for a moment that I should get him
to talk to me, but I did, and he let me sketch the house. I am
awfully pleased with myself I can tell you."
The young man walked by her side for a moment in silence. She
looked up at him casually as they crossed the street, and something
in his face surprised her.
"Why, Cecil, what on earth is the matter with you?" she exclaimed.
He looked down at her with a new seriousness.
"I was thinking," he said, "how oddly things turn out. So you have
been down to interview Mr. Scarlett Trent for a newspaper, and he
was civil to you!"
"Well, I don't see anything odd about that," she exclaimed
impatiently. "Don't be so enigmatical. If you've anything to say,
say it! Don't look at me like an owl!"
"I have a good deal to say to you," he answered gravely. "How long
shall you be at the office?"
"About an hour - perhaps longer."
"I will wait for you!"
"I'd rather you didn't. I don't want them to think that I go
trailing about with an escort."
"Then may I come down to your flat? I have something really
important to say to you, Ernestine. It does not concern myself at
all. It is wholly about you. It is something which you ought to
"You are trading upon my curiosity for the sake of a tea," she
laughed. "Very well, about five o'clock."
He bowed and walked back westwards with a graver look than usual
upon his boyish face, for he had a task before him which was very
little to his liking. Ernestine swung open the entrance door to
the "Hour", and passed down the rows of desks until she reached the
door at the further end marked "Sub-Editor." She knocked and was
admitted at once.
A thin, dark young man, wearing a pince-nez and smoking a cigarette,
looked up from his writing as she entered. He waved her to a seat,
but his pen never stopped for a second.
"Back, Miss Wendermott! Very good! What did you get?"
"Interview and sketch of the house," she responded briskly.
"Interview by Jove! That's good! Was he very difficult?"
"Ridiculously easy! Told me everything I asked and a lot more. If
I could have got it all down in his own language it would have been
The sub-editor scribbled in silence for a moment or two. He had
reached an important point in his own work. His pen went slower,
hesitated for a moment, and then dashed on with renewed vigour.
"Read the first few sentences of what you've got," he remarked.
Ernestine obeyed. To all appearance the man was engrossed in his
own work, but when she paused he nodded his head appreciatively.
"It'll do!" he said. "Don't try to polish it. Give it down, and
see that the proofs are submitted to me. Where's the sketch?"
She held it out to him. For a moment he looked away from his own
work and took the opportunity to light a fresh cigarette. Then he
nodded, hastily scrawled some dimensions on the margin of the little
drawing and settled down again to work.
"It'll do," he said. "Give it to Smith. Come back at eight to
look at your proofs after I've done with them. Good interview!
Good sketch! You'll do, Miss Wendermott."
She went out laughing softly. This was quite the longest
conversation she had ever had with the chief. She made her way to
the side of the first disengaged typist, and sitting in an
easy-chair gave down her copy, here and there adding a little but
leaving it mainly in the rough. She knew whose hand, with a few
vigorous touches would bring the whole thing into the form which
the readers of the "Hour", delighted in, and she was quite content
to have it so. The work was interesting and more than an hour had
passed before she rose and put on her gloves.
"I am coming back at eight," she said. "but the proofs are to go
in to Mr. Darrel! Nothing come in for me, I suppose?"
The girl shook her head, so Ernestine walked out into the street.
Then she remembered Cecil Davenant and his strange manner - the
story which he was even now waiting to tell her. She looked at her
watch and after a moment's hesitation called a hansom.
81, Culpole Street, she told him. "This is a little extravagant,"
she said to herself as the man wheeled his horse round, "but to-day
I think that I have earned it."
"Ernestine," he said gravely, "I am going to speak to you about
She looked up at him in swift surprise.
"Is it necessary?"
"I think so," he answered. "You won't like what I'm going to tell
you! You'll think you've been badly treated. So you have! I
pledged my word, in a weak hour, with the others. To-day I'm going
to break it. I think it best."
"You've been deceived! You were told always that your father had
died in prison. He didn't."
Her sharp cry rang out strangely into the little room. Already he
could see signs of the coming storm, and the task which lay before
him seemed more hateful than ever.
"Listen," he said. "I must tell you some things which you know in
order to explain others which you do not know. Your father was a
younger son born of extravagant parents, virtually penniless and
without the least capacity for earning money. I don't blame him
- who could? I couldn't earn money myself. If I hadn't got it I
daresay that I should go to the bad as he did."
The girl's lips tightened, and she drew a little breath through her
teeth. Davenant hesitated.
"You know all about that company affair. Of course they made your
father the butt of the whole thing, although he was little more
than a tool. He was sent to prison for seven years. You were only
a child then and your mother was dead. Well, when the seven years
were up, your relations and mine too, Ernestine, concocted what I
have always considered an ill-begotten and a miserably selfish plot.
Your father, unfortunately, yielded to them, for your sake. You
were told that he had died in prison. He did not. He lived through
his seven years there, and when he came out did so in another name
and went abroad on the morning of the day of his liberation."
"Good God!" she cried. "And now!"
"He is dead," Davenant answered hastily, "but only just lately.
Wait a minute. You are going to be furiously angry. I know it,
and I don't blame you. Only listen for a moment. The scheme was
hatched up between my father and your two uncles. I have always
hated it and always protested against it. Remember that and be
fair to me. This is how they reasoned. Your father's health,
they said, was ruined, and if he lives the seven years what is
there left for him when he comes out? He was a man, as you know,
of aristocratic and fastidious tastes. He would have the best of
everything - society, clubs, sport. Now all these were barred
against him. If he had reappeared he could not have shown his face
in Pall Mall, or on the racecourses, and every moment of his life
would be full of humiliations and bitterness. Virtually then, for
such a man as he was, life in England was over. Then there was you.
You were a pretty child and the Earl had no children. If your
father was dead the story would be forgotten, you would marry
brilliantly and an ugly page in the family history would be blotted
out. That was how they looked at it - it was how they put it to
"Yes, he consented! He saw the wisdom of it for your sake, for the
sake of the family, even for his own sake. The Earl settled an
income upon him and he left England secretly on the morning of his
release. We had the news of his death only a week or two ago."
She stood up, her eyes blazing, her hands clenched together.
"I thank God," she said "that I have found the courage to break
away from those people and take a little of my life into my own
hands. You can tell them this if you will, Cecil, - my uncle Lord
Davenant, your mother, and whoever had a say in this miserable
affair. Tell them from me that I know the truth and that they are
a pack of cowardly, unnatural old women. Tell them that so long as
I live It will never willingly speak to one of them again.
"I was afraid you'd take it like that," he remarked dolefully.
"Take it like that!" she repeated in fierce scorn. "How else could
a woman hear such news? How else do you suppose she could feel to
be told that she had been hoodwinked, and kept from her duty and a
man's heart very likely broken, to save the respectability of a
worn-out old family. Oh, how could they have dared to do it? How
could they have dared to do it?"
"It was a beastly mistake," he admitted.
A whirlwind of scorn seemed to sweep over her. She could keep still
no longer. She walked up and down the little room. Her hands were
clenched, her eyes flashing.
"To tell me that he was dead - to let him live out the rest of his
poor life in exile and alone! Did they think that I didn't care?
Cecil," she exclaimed, suddenly turning and facing him, "I always
loved my father! You may think that I was too young to remember
him - I wasn't, I loved him always. When I grew up and they told
me of his disgrace I was bitterly sorry, for I loved his memory
- but it made no difference. And all the time it was a weak, silly
lie! They let him come out, poor father, without a friend to speak
to him and they hustled him out of the country. And I, whose place
was there with him, never knew!"
"You were only a child, Ernestine. It was twelve years ago."
"Child! I may have been only a child, but I should have been old
enough to know where my place was. Thank God I have done with these
people and their disgusting shibboleth of respectability."
"You are a little violent," he remarked.
"Pshaw!" She flashed a look of scorn upon him. "You don't
understand! How should you, you are of their kidney - you're only
half a man. Thank God that my mother was of the people! I'd have
died to have gone smirking through life with a brick for a heart
and milk and water in my veins! Of all the stupid pieces of
brutality I ever heard of, this is the most callous and the most
"It was a great mistake," he said, "but I believe they did it for
She sat down with a little gesture of despair.
"I really think you'd better go away, Cecil," she said. "You
exasperate me too horribly. I shall strike you or throw something
at you soon. Did it for the best! What a miserable whine! Poor
dear old dad, to think that they should have done this thing."
She buried her face in her handkerchief and sobbed for the second
time since her childhood. Davenant was wise enough to attempt no
sort of consolation. He leaned a little forward and hid his own
face with the palm of his hand. When at last she looked up her
face had cleared and her tone was less bitter. It would have gone
very hard with the Earl of Eastchester, however, if he had called
to see his niece just then.
"Well," she said, "I want to know now why, after keeping silent all
this time, you thought it best to tell me the truth this afternoon?"
"Because," he answered, "you told me that you had just been to see
"And what on earth had that to do with it?"
"Because Scarlett Trent was with your father when he died. They
were on an excursion somewhere up in the bush - the very excursion
that laid the foundation of Trent's fortune."
"Go on," she cried. "Tell me all that you know! this is wonderful!"
"Well, I am glad to tell you this at any rate," he said. "I always
liked your father and I saw him off when he left England, and have
written to him often since. I believe I was his only correspondent
in this country, except his solicitors. He had a very adventurous
and, I am afraid, not a very happy time. He never wrote cheerfully,
and he mortgaged the greater part of his income. I don't blame him
for anything he did. A man needs some responsibility, or some one
dependent upon him to keep straight. To be frank with you, I don't
think he did."
"Poor dad," she murmured, "of course he didn't! I know I'd have
gone to the devil as fast as I could if I'd been treated like it!"
"Well, he drifted about from place to place and at last he got to
the Gold Coast. Here I half lost sight of him, and his few letters
were more bitter and despairing than ever. The last I had told me
that he was just off on an expedition into the interior with another
Englishman. They were to visit a native King and try to obtain from
him certain concessions, including the right to work a wonderful
gold-mine somewhere near the village of Bekwando."
"Why, the great Bekwando Land Company!" she cried. "It is the one
Scarlett Trent has just formed a syndicate to work."
"Yes. It was a terrible risk they were running," he said, "for the
people were savage and the climate deadly. He wrote cheerfully for
him, though. He had a partner, he said, who was strong and
determined, and they had presents, to get which he had mortgaged the
last penny of his income. It was a desperate enterprise perhaps,