Part 1 out of 5
Produced by Jonathan Ingram, Jayam Subramanian,
and PG Distributed Proofreaders
HENRY SETON MERRIMAN
"'Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days
Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays"
I. IN ST. JACOB STRAAT
II. WORK OK PLAY?
III. BEGINNING AT HOME
IV. A NEW DISCIPLE
V. OUT OF EGYPT
VI. ON THE DUNES
VIII. THE SEAMY SIDE
IX. A SHADOW FROM THE PAST
X. DEEPER WATER
XI. IN THE OUDE WEG
XIII. THE MAKING OF A MAN
XV. PLAIN SPEAKING
XVII. PLAIN SPEAKING
XVIII. A COMPLICATION
XX. FROM THE PAST
XXI. A COMBINED FORCE
XXIII. A REINFORCEMENT
XXIV. A BRIGHT AND SHINING LIGHT
XXV. CLEARING THE AIR
XXVI. THE ULTIMATUM
XXVIII. WITH CARE
XXIX. A LESSON
XXX. ON THE QUEEN'S CANAL
XXXI. AT THE CORNER
XXXII. ROUND THE CORNER
IN ST. JACOB STRAAT.
"The Tree of Knowledge is not that of Life."
"It is the Professor von Holzen," said a stout woman who still keeps
the egg and butter shop at the corner of St. Jacob Straat in The Hague;
she is a Jewess, as, indeed, are most of the denizens of St. Jacob
Straat and its neighbour, Bezem Straat, where the fruit-sellers
live--"it is the Professor von Holzen, who passes this way once or
twice a week. He is a good man."
"His coat is of a good cloth," answered her customer, a young man with
a melancholy dark eye and a racial appreciation of the material things
of this world.
Some say that it is not wise to pass through St. Jacob Straat or Bezem
Straat alone and after nightfall, for there are lurking forms within
the doorways, and shuffling feet may be heard in the many passages.
During the daytime the passer-by will, if he looks up quickly enough,
see furtive faces at the windows, of men, and more especially of women,
who never seem to come abroad, but pass their lives behind those
unwashed curtains, with carefully closed windows, and in an atmosphere
which may be faintly imagined by a glance at the wares in the shop
below. The pavement of St. Jacob Straat is also pressed into the
service of that commerce in old metal and damaged domestic utensils
which seems to enable thousands of the accursed people to live and
thrive according to their lights. It will be observed that the vendors,
with a knowledge of human nature doubtless bred of experience, only
expose upon the pavement articles such as bedsteads, stoves, and other
heavy ware which may not be snatched up by the fleet of foot. Within
the shops are crowded clothes and books and a thousand miscellaneous
effects of small value. A hush seems to hang over this street. Even the
children, white-faced and melancholy, with deep expressionless eyes and
drooping noses, seem to have realized too soon the gravity of life, and
rarely indulge in games.
He whom the butter-merchant described as Professor von Holzen passed
quickly along the middle of the street, with an air suggesting a desire
to attract as little attention as possible. He was a heavy-shouldered
man with a bad mouth--a greedy mouth, one would think--and mild eyes.
The month was September, and the professor wore a thin black overcoat
closely buttoned across his broad chest. He carried a pair of
slate-coloured gloves and an umbrella. His whole appearance bespoke
learning and middle-class respectability. It is, after all, no use
being learned without looking learned, and Professor von Holzen took
care to dress according to his station in life. His attitude towards
the world seemed to say, "Leave me alone and I will not trouble you,"
which is, after all, as satisfactory an attitude as may be desired. It
is, at all events, better than the common attitude of the many, that
says, "Let us exchange confidences," leading to the barter of two
The professor stopped at the door of No. 15, St. Jacob Straat--one of
the oldest houses in this old street--and slowly lighted a cigar. There
is a shop on the ground-floor of No. 15, where ancient pieces of
stove-pipe and a few fire-irons are exposed for sale. Von Holzen,
having pushed open the door, stood waiting at the foot of a narrow and
grimy staircase. He knew that in such a shop in such a quarter of the
town there is always a human spider lurking in the background, who
steals out upon any human fly that may pause to look at the wares.
This spider presently appeared--a wizened woman with a face like that
of a witch. Von Holzen pointed upward to the room above them. She shook
her head regretfully.
"Still alive," she said.
And the professor turned toward the stair, but paused at the bottom
"Here," he said, extending his fingers. "Some milk. How much has he
"Two jugs," she replied, "and three jugs of water. One would say he has
a fire inside him."
"So he has," said the professor, with a grim smile, as he went
upstairs. He ascended slowly, puffing out the smoke of his cigar before
him with a certain skill, so that his progress was a form of
fumigation. The fear of infection is the only fear to which men will
own, and it is hard to understand why this form of cowardice should be
less despicable than others. Von Holzen was a German, and that nation
combines courage with so deep a caution that mistaken persons sometimes
think the former adjunct lacking. The mark of a wound across his cheek
told that in his student days this man had, after due deliberation,
considered it necessary to fight. Some, looking at Von Holzen's face,
might wonder what mark the other student bore as a memento of that
Von Holzen pushed open a door that stood ajar at the head of the stair,
and went slowly into the room, preceded by a puff of smoke. The place
was not full of furniture, properly speaking, although it was littered
with many household effects which had no business in a bedroom. It was,
indeed, used as a storehouse for such wares as the proprietor of the
shop only offered to a chosen few. The atmosphere of the room must have
been a very Tower of Babel, where strange foreign bacilli from all
parts of the world rose up and wrangled in the air.
Upon a sham Empire table, _tres antique_, near the window, stood three
water-jugs and a glass of imitation Venetian work. A yellow hand
stretching from a dark heap of bedclothes clutched the glass and held
it out, empty, when Von Holzen came into the room.
"I have sent for milk," said the professor, smoking hard, and heedful
not to look too closely into the dark corner where the bed was
"You are kind," said a voice, and it was impossible to guess whether
its tone was sarcastic or grateful.
Von Holzen looked at the empty water-jugs with a smile, and shrugged
his shoulders. His intention had perhaps been a kind one. A bad mouth
usually indicates a soft heart.
"It is because you have something to gain," said the hollow voice from
"I have something to gain, but I can do without it," replied Von
Holzen, turning to the door and taking a jug of milk from the hand of a
child waiting there.
"And the change," he said sharply.
The child laughed cunningly, and held out two small copper coins of the
value of half a cent.
Von Holzen filled the tumbler and handed it to the sick man, who a
moment later held it out empty.
"You may have as much as you like," said Von Holzen, kindly.
"Will it keep me alive?"
"Nothing can do that, my friend," answered Von Holzen. He looked down
at the yellow face peering at him from the darkness. It seemed to be
the face of a very aged man, with eyes wide open and blood-shot. A
thickness of speech was accounted for by the absence of teeth.
The man laughed gleefully. "All the same, I have lived longer than any
of them," he said. How many of us pride ourselves upon possessing an
advantage which others never covet!
"Yes," answered Von Holzen, gravely. "How old are you?"
"Nearly thirty-five," was the answer.
Von Holzen nodded, and, turning on his heel, looked thoughtfully out of
the window. The light fell full on his face, which would have been a
fine one were the mouth hidden. The eyes were dark and steady. A high
forehead looked higher by reason of a growth of thick hair standing
nearly an inch upright from the scalp, like the fur of a beaver in
life, without curl or ripple. The chin was long and pointed. A face,
this, that any would turn to look at again. One would think that such
a man would get on in the world. But none may judge of another in this
respect. It is a strange fact that intimacy with any who has made for
himself a great name leads to the inevitable conclusion that he is
unworthy of it.
"Wonderful!" murmured Von Holzen--"wonderful! Nearly thirty-five!" And
it was hard to say what his thoughts really were. The only sound that
came from the bed was the sound of drinking.
"And I know more about the trade than any, for I was brought up to it
from boyhood," said the dying man, with an uncanny bravado. "I did not
wait until I was driven to it, like most."
"Yes, you were skilful, as I have been told."
"Not all skill--not all skill," piped the metallic voice, indistinctly.
"There was knowledge also."
Von Holzen, standing with his hands in the pockets of his thin
overcoat, shrugged his shoulders. They had arrived by an
oft-trodden path to an ancient point of divergence. Presently Von
Holzen turned and went towards the bed. The yellow hand and arm lay
stretched out across the table, and Holzen's finger softly found the
"You are weaker," he said. "It is only right that I should tell you."
The man did not answer, but lay back, breathing quickly. Something
seemed to catch in his throat. Von Holzen went to the door, and furtive
steps moved away down the dark staircase.
"Go," he said authoritatively, "for the doctor, at once." Then he came
back towards the bed. "Will you take my price?" he said to its
occupant. "I offer it to you for the last time."
"A thousand gulden?"
"It is too little money," replied the dying man. "Make it twelve
Von Holzen turned away to the window again thoughtfully. A silence
seemed to have fallen over the busy streets, to fill the untidy room.
The angel of death, not for the first time, found himself in company
with the greed of men.
"I will do that," said Von Holzen at length, "as you are dying."
"Have you the money with you?"
"Ah!" said the dying man, regretfully. It was only natural, perhaps,
that he was sorry that he had not asked more. "Sit down," he said, "and
Von Holzen did as he was bidden. He had also a pocket-book and pencil
in readiness. Slowly, as if drawing from the depths of a long-stored
memory, the dying man dictated a prescription in a mixture of dog-Latin
and Dutch, which his hearer seemed to understand readily enough. The
money, in dull-coloured notes, lay on the table before the writer. The
prescription was a long one, covering many pages of the note-book, and
the particulars as to preparation and temperature of the various liquid
ingredients filled up another two pages.
"There," said the dying man at length, "I have treated you fairly. I
have told you all I know. Give me the money."
Von Holzen crossed the room and placed the notes within the yellow
fingers, which closed over them.
"Ah," said the recipient, "I have had more than that in my hand. I was
rich once, and I spent it all in Amsterdam. Now read over your writing.
I will treat you fairly."
Von Holzen stood by the window and read aloud from his book.
"Yes," said the other. "One sees that you took your diploma at Leyden.
You have made no mistake."
Von Holzen closed the book and replaced it in his pocket. His face bore
no sign of exultation. His somewhat phlegmatic calm successfully
concealed the fact that he had at last obtained information which he
had long sought. A cart rattled past over the cobble-stones, making
speech inaudible for the moment. The man moved uneasily on the bed. Von
Holzen went towards him and poured out more milk. Instead of reaching
out for it, the sick man's hand lay on the coverlet. The notes were
tightly held by three fingers; the free finger and the thumb picked at
the counterpane. Von Holzen bent over the bed and examined the face.
The sick man's eyes were closed. Suddenly he spoke in a mumbling
voice--"And now that you have what you want, you will go."
"No," answered Von Holzen, in a kind voice, "I will not do that. I will
stay with you if you do not want to be left alone. You are brave, at
all events. I shall be horribly afraid when it comes to my turn to
"You would not be afraid if you had lived a life such as mine. Death
cannot be worse, at all events." And the man laughed contentedly
enough, as one who, having passed through evil days, sees the end of
them at last.
Von Holzen made no answer. He went to the window and opened it, letting
in the air laden with the clean scent of burning peat, which makes the
atmosphere of The Hague unlike that of any other town; for here is a
city with the smell of a village in its busy streets. The German
scientist stood looking out, and into the room came again that strange
silence. It was an odd room in which to die, for every article in it
was what is known as an antiquity; and although some of these relics of
the past had been carefully manufactured in a back shop in Bezem
Straat, others were really of ancient date. The very glass from which
the dying man drank his milk dated from the glorious days of Holland
when William the Silent pitted his Northern stubbornness and deep
diplomacy against the fire and fanaticism of Alva. Many objects in the
room had a story, had been in the daily use of hands long since
vanished, could tell the history of half a dozen human lives lived out
and now forgotten. The air itself smelt of age and mouldering memories.
Von Holzen came towards the bed without speaking, and stood looking
down. Never a talkative man, he was now further silenced by the shadow
that lay over the stricken face of his companion. The sick man was
breathing very slowly. He glanced at Von Holzen for a moment, and then
returned to the dull contemplation of the opposite wall. Quite suddenly
his breath caught. There were long pauses during which he seemed to
cease to breathe. Then at length followed a pause which merged itself
gently into eternity.
Von Holzen waited a few minutes, and then bent over the bed and softly
unclasped the dead man's hand, taking from it the crumpled notes.
Mechanically he counted them, twelve hundred gulden in all, and
restored them to the pocket from which he had taken them half an hour
He walked to the window and waited. When at length the district doctor
arrived, Von Holzen turned to greet him with a stiff bow.
"I am afraid, Herr Doctor," he said, in German, "You are too late."
WORK OR PLAY?
"Get work, get work;
Be sure 'tis better than what you work to get."
Two men were driving in a hansom cab westward through Cockspur Street.
One, a large individual of a bovine placidity, wore the Queen's
uniform, and carried himself with a solid dignity faintly suggestive of
a lighthouse. The other, a narrower man, with a keen, fair face and
eyes that had an habitual smile, wore another uniform--that of society.
He was well dressed, and, what is rarer carried his fine clothes with
such assurance that their fineness seemed not only natural but
"Sic transit the glory of this world," he was saying. At this moment
three men on the pavement--the usual men on the pavement at such
times--turned and looked into the cab.
"'Ere's White!" cried one of them. "White--dash his eyes! Brayvo!
And all three raised a shout which seemed to be taken up vaguely in
various parts of Trafalgar Square, and finally died away in the
"That is it," said the young man in the frock-coat; "that is the glory
of this world. Listen to it passing away. There is a policeman touching
his helmet. Ah, what a thing it is to be Major White--to-day!
To morrow--_bonjour la gloire_"
Major White, who had dropped his single eye-glass a minute earlier, sat
squarely looking out upon the world with a mild surprise. The eye from
which the glass had fallen was even more surprised than the other. But
this, it seemed, was a man upon whom the passing world made, as a rule,
but a passing impression. His attitude towards it was one of dense
tolerance. He was, in fact, one of those men who usually allow their
neighbours to live in a fool's-paradise, based upon the assumption of a
blindness or a stupidity or an indifference, which may or may not be
justified by subsequent events.
This was, as Tony Cornish, his companion, had hinted, _the_ White of
the moment. Just as the reader may be the Jones or the Tomkins of the
moment if his soul thirst for glory. Crime and novel-writing are the
two broad roads to notoriety, but Major White had practiced neither
felony nor fiction. He had merely attended to his own and his country's
business in a solid, common-sense way in one of those obscure and tight
places into which the British officer frequently finds himself forced
by the unwieldiness of the empire or the indiscretion of an
That he had extricated himself and his command from the tight place,
with much glory to themselves and an increased burden to the cares of
the Colonial Office, was a fact which a grateful country was at this
moment doing its best to recognize. That the authorities and those who
knew him could not explain how he had done it any more than he himself
could, was another fact which troubled him as little. Major White was
wise in that he did not attempt to explain.
"That sort of thing," he said, "generally comes right in the end." And
the affair may thus be consigned to that pigeon-hole of the past in
which are filed for future reference cases where brilliant men have
failed and unlikely ones have covered themselves with sudden and
There had been a review of the troops that had taken part in a short
and satisfactory expedition of which, by what is usually called a lucky
chance, White found himself the hero. He was not of the material of
which heroes are made; but that did not matter. The world will take a
man and make a hero of him without pausing to inquire of what stuff he
may be. Nay, more, it will take a man's name and glorify it without so
much as inquiring to what manner of person the name belongs.
Tony Cornish, who went everywhere and saw everything, was of course
present at the review, and knew all the best people there. He passed
from carriage to carriage in his smart way, saying the right thing to
the right people in the right words, failing to see the wrong people
quite in the best manner, and conscious of the fact that none could
surpass him. Then suddenly, roused to a higher manhood by the tramp of
steady feet, by the sight of his lifelong friend White riding at the
head of his tanned warriors, this social success forgot himself. He
waved his silk hat and shouted himself hoarse, as did the honest
plumber at his side.
"That's better work than yours nor mine, mister," said the plumber,
when the troops were gone; and Tony admitted, with his ready smile,
that it was so. A few minutes later Tony found Major White solemnly
staring at a small crowd, which as solemnly stared back at him, on the
pavement in front of the Horse Guards.
"Here, I have a cab waiting for me," he had said; and White followed
him with a mildly bewildered patience, pushing his way gently through
the crowd as through a herd of oxen.
He made no comment, and if he heard sundry whispers of "That's 'im," he
was not unduly elated. In the cab he sat bolt upright, looking as if
his tunic was too tight, as in all probability it was. The day was hot,
and after a few jerks he extracted a pocket-handkerchief from his
"Where are you going?" he asked.
"Well, I was going to Cambridge Terrace. Joan sent me a card this
morning saying that she wanted to see me," explained Tony Cornish. He
was a young man who seemed always busy. His long thin legs moved
quickly, he spoke quickly, and had a rapid glance. There was a
suggestion of superficial haste about him. For an idle man, he had
remarkably little time on his hands.
White took up his eye-glass, examined it with short-sighted
earnestness, and screwed it solemnly into his eye.
"Cambridge Terrace?" he said, and stared in front of him.
"Yes. Have you seen the Ferribys since your glorious return to
these--er--shores?" As he spoke, Cornish gave only half of his
attention. He knew so many people that Piccadilly was a work of
considerable effort, and it is difficult to bow gracefully from a
"Can't say I have."
"Then come in and see them now. We shall find only Joan at home, and
she will not mind your fine feathers or the dust and circumstance of
war upon your boots. Lady Ferriby will be sneaking about in the
direction of Edgware Road--fish is nearly two pence a pound cheaper
there, I understand. My respected uncle is sure to be sunning his
waistcoat in Piccadilly. Yes, there he is. Isn't he splendid? How do,
uncle?" and Cornish waved a grey Suede glove with a gay nod.
"How are the Ferribys?" inquired Major White, who belonged to the curt
"Oh, they seem to be well. Uncle is full of that charity which at all
events has its headquarters in the home counties. Aunt--well, aunt is
"And Miss Ferriby?" inquired White, looking straight in front of him.
Cornish glanced quickly at his companion. "Oh, Joan?" he answered. "She
is all right. Full of energy, you know--all the fads in their courses."
"You get 'em too."
"Oh yes; I get them too. Buttonholes come and buttonholes go. Have you
noticed it? They get large. Neapolitan violets all over your left
shoulder one day, and no flowers at all the week after." Cornish spoke
with a gravity befitting the subject. He was, it seemed a student of
human nature in his way. "Of course," he added, laying an impressive
forefinger on White's gold-laced cuff, "it would never do if the world
"Never," said the major, darkly. "Never."
They were talking to pass the time. Joan Ferriby had come between them,
as a woman is bound to come between two men sooner or later. Neither
knew what the other thought of Joan Ferriby, or if he thought of her at
all. Women, it is to be believed, have a pleasant way of mentioning the
name of a man with such significance that one of their party changes
colour. When next she meets that man she does it again, and perhaps he
sees it, and perhaps his vanity, always on the alert, magnifies that
unfortunate blush. And they are married, and live unhappily ever
afterwards. And--let us hope there is a hell for gossips. But men are
different in their procedure. They are awkward and _gauche_. They talk
of newspaper matters, and on the whole there is less harm done.
The hansom cab containing these two men pulled up jerkily at the door
of No. 9, Cambridge Terrace. Tony Cornish hurried to the door, and rang
the bell as if he knew it well. Major White followed him stiffly. They
were ushered into a library on the ground floor, and were there
received by a young lady, who, pen in hand, sat at a large table
littered with newspaper wrappers.
"I am addressing the Haberdashers' Assistants," she said, "but I am
very glad to see you."
Miss Joan Ferriby was one of those happy persons who never know a
doubt. One must, it seems, be young to enjoy this nineteenth-century
immunity. One must be pretty--it is, at all events, better to be
pretty--and one must dress well. A little knowledge of the world, a
decisive way of stating what pass at the moment for facts, a quick
manner of speaking--and the rest comes _tout seul_. This cocksureness
is in the atmosphere of the day, just as fainting and curls and an
appealing helplessness were in the atmosphere of an earlier Victorian
Miss Ferriby stood, pen in hand, and laughed at the confusion on the
table in front of her. She was eminently practical, and quite without
that self-consciousness which in a bygone day took the irritating form
of coyness. Major White, with whom she shook hands _en camarade_, gazed
at her solemnly.
"Who are the Haberdashers' Assistants?" he asked.
Miss Ferriby sat down with a grave face. "Oh, it is a splendid
charity," she answered. "Tony will tell you all about it. It is an
association of which the object is to induce people to give up riding
on Saturday afternoons, and to lend their bicycles to haberdashers'
assistants who cannot afford to buy them for themselves. Papa is
Cornish looked quickly from one to the other. He had always felt that
Major White was not quite of the world in which Joan and be moved. The
major came into it at times, looked around him, and then moved away
again into another world, less energetic, less advanced, less rapid in
its changes. Cornish had never sought to interest his friend in sundry
good works in which Joan, for instance, was interested, and which
formed a delightful topic for conversation at teatime.
"It is so splendid," said Joan, gathering up her papers, "to feel that
one is really doing something."
And she looked up into White's face with an air of grave enthusiasm
which made him drop his eye-glass.
"Oh yes," he answered, rather vaguely.
Cornish had already seated himself at the table, and was folding the
addressed newspaper wrappers over circulars printed on thick
note-paper. This seemed a busy world into which White had stepped. He
looked rather longingly at the newspaper wrappers and the circulars,
and then lapsed into the contemplation of Joan's neat fingers as she
too fell to the work.
"We saw all about you," said the girl, in her bright, decisive way, "in
the newspapers. Papa read it aloud. He is always reading things aloud
now, out of the _Times_. He thinks it is good practice for the
platform, I am sure. We were all"--she paused and banged her energetic
fist down upon a pile of folded circulars which seemed to require
further pressure--"very proud, you know, to know you."
"Good Lord!" ejaculated White, fervently.
"Well, why not?" asked Miss Ferriby, looking up. She had expressive
eyes, and they now flashed almost angrily. "All English people----" she
began, and broke off suddenly, throwing aside the papers and rising
quickly to her feet. Her eyes were fixed on White's tunic. "Is that a
medal?" she asked, hurrying towards him. "Oh, how splendid! Look, Tony,
look! A medal! Is it"--she paused, looking at it closely--"is it--the
Victoria Cross?" she asked, and stood looking from one man to the
other, her eyes glistening with something more than excitement.
"Um--yes," admitted White.
Tony Cornish had risen to his feet also. He held out his hand.
"I did not know that," he said.
There was a pause. Tony and Joan returned to their circulars in an odd
silence. The Haberdashers' Assistants seemed suddenly to have
diminished in importance.
"By-the-by," said Joan Ferriby at length, "papa wants to see you, Tony.
He has a new scheme. Something very large and very important. The only
question is whether it is not too large. It is not only in England, but
in other countries. A great international affair. Some distressed
manufacturers or something. I really do not quite know. That Mr.
Roden--you remember?--has been to see him about it."
Cornish nodded in his quick way. "I remember Roden," he answered. "The
man you met at Hombourg. Tall dark man with a tired manner."
"Yes," answered Joan. "He has been to see papa several times. Papa is
just as busy as ever with his charities," she continued, addressing
White. "And I believe he wants you to help him in this one." "Me?" said
White, nervously. "Oh, I'm no good. I should not know a haberdasher's
assistant if I saw him."
"Oh, but this is not the Haberdashers' Assistants," laughed Joan. "It
is something much more important than that. The Haberdashers'
Assistants are only----"
"Pour passer le temps," suggested Cornish, gaily.
"No, of course not. But papa is really rather anxious about this. He
says it is much the most important thing he has ever had to do
with--and that is saying a good deal, you know. I wish I could remember
the name of it, and of those poor unfortunate people who make
it--whatever it is. It is some stuff, you know, and sounds sticky. Papa
has so many charities, and such long names to them. Aunt Susan says it
is because he was so wild in his youth--but one cannot believe that.
Would you think that papa had been wild in his youth--to look at him
"Lord, no!" ejaculated White, with pious solidity, throwing back his
shoulders with an air that seemed to suggest a readiness to fight any
man who should hint at such a thing, and he waved the mere thought
aside with a ponderous gesture of the hand.
Joan had, however, already turned to another matter. She was consulting
a diary bound in dark blue morocco.
"Let me see, now," she said. "Papa told me to make an appointment with
you. When can you come?"
Cornish produced a minute engagement-book, and these two busy people
put their heads together in the search for a disengaged moment. Not
only in mind, but in face and manner, they slightly resembled each
other, and might, by the keen-sighted, have been set down at once as
cousins. Both were fair and slightly made, both were quick and clever.
Both faced the world with an air of energetic intelligence that bespoke
their intention of making a mark upon it. Both were liable to be
checked in a moment of earnest endeavour by a sudden perception of the
humorous, which liability rendered them somewhat superficial, and apt
of it lightly from one thought to another.
"I wish I could remember the name of papa's new scheme," said Joan, as
she bade them good-bye. When they were in the cab she ran to the door.
"I remember," she cried. "I remember now. It is malgamite."
BEGINNING AT HOME.
"Charity creates much of the misery it relieves, but it does not
relieve all the misery it creates."
Charity, as all the world knows, should begin at an "at home." Lord
Ferriby knew as well as any that there are men, and perhaps even women,
who will give largely in order that their names may appear largely and
handsomely in the select subscription lists. He also knew that an
invitation card in the present is as sure a bait as the promise of
bliss hereafter. So Lady Ferriby announced by card (in an open envelope
with a halfpenny stamp) that she should be "at home" to certain persons
on a certain evening. And the good and the great flocked to Cambridge
Terrace. The good and great are, one finds, a little mixed, from a
social point of view.
There were present at Lady Ferriby's, for instance, a number of
ministers, some cabinet, others dissenting. Here, a man leaning against
the wall wore a blue ribbon across his shirt front. There, another,
looking bigger and more self-confident, had no shirt front at all. His
was the cheap distinction of unsuitable clothes.
"Ha! Miss Ferriby, glad to see you," he said as he entered, holding out
a hand which had the usual outward signs of industrial honesty.
Joan shook the hand frankly, and its possessor passed on.
"Is that the gas-man?" inquired Major White, gravely. He had been
standing beside her ever since his arrival, seeking, it seemed, the
protection of one who understood these social functions. It is to be
presumed that the major was less bewildered than he looked.
"Hush!" And Joan said something hurriedly in White's large ear.
"Everybody has him," she concluded; and the explanation brought certain
calm into the mildly surprised eye behind the eye-glass. White
recognized the phrase and its conclusive contemporary weight.
"Here's a flat-backed man!" he exclaimed, with a ring of relief. "Been
drilled, this man. Gad! He's proud!" added the major, as the
new-comer passed Joan with rather a cold bow.
"Oh, that's the detective," explained Joan. "So many people, you know;
and so mixed. Everybody has them. Here's Tony--at last."
Tony Cornish was indeed making his way through the crowd towards them.
He shook hands with a bishop as he elbowed a path across the room, and
did it with the pious face of a self-respecting curate. The next minute
he was prodding a sporting baronet in the ribs at the precise moment
when that nobleman reached the point of his little story and on the
precise rib where he expected to be prodded. It is always wise to do
At the sight of Tony Cornish, Joan's face became grave, and she turned
towards him with her little frown of preoccupation, such as one might
expect to find upon the face of a woman concerned in the great
movements of the day. But before Tony reached her the expression
changed to a very feminine and even old-fashioned one of annoyance.
"Oh, here comes mother!" she said, looking beyond Cornish, who was
indeed being pursued by a wizened little old lady.
Lady Ferriby, it seemed, was not enjoying herself. She glanced
suspiciously from one face to another, as if she was seeking a friend
without any great hope of finding one. Perhaps, like many another, she
looked upon the world from that point Of view.
Cornish hurried up and shook hands. "Plenty of people," he said.
"Oh yes," answered Joan, earnestly. "It only shows that there is, after
all, a great deal of good in human nature, that in such a movement as
this rich and poor, great and small, are all equal."
Cornish nodded in his quick sympathetic way, accepting as we all accept
the social statements of the day, which are oft repeated and never
weighed. Then he turned to White and tapped that soldier's arm
"Way to get on nowadays," he said, "is to be prominent in some great
movement for benefiting mankind." Joan heard the words, and, turning,
looked at Cornish with a momentary doubt.
"And I mean to get on in the world, my dear Joan," he said, with a
gravity which quite altered his keen, fair face. It passed off
instantly, as if swept away by the ready smile which came again. A
close observer might have begun to wonder under which mask lay the real
Major White looked stolidly at his friend. His face, on the contrary
Lady Ferriby joined them at this moment--a silent, querulous-looking
woman in black silk and priceless lace, who, despite her white hair and
wrinkled face, yet wore her clothes with that carefulness which
commands respect from high and low alike. The world was afraid of Lady
Ferriby, and had little to say to her. It turned aside, as a rule, when
she approached. And when she had passed on with her suspicious glance,
her bent and shaking head, it whispered that there walked a woman with
a romantic past. It is, moreover, to be hoped that the younger portion
of Lady Ferriby's world took heed of this catlike, lonely woman, and
recognized the melancholy fact that it is unwise to form a romantic
attachment in the days of one's youth.
"Tony," said her ladyship, "they have eaten all the sandwiches."
And there was something in her voice, in her manner of touching Tony
Cornish's arm with her fan that suggested in a far-off, cold way that
this social butterfly had reached one of the still strings of her
heart. Who knows? There may have been, in those dim days when Lady
Ferriby had played her part in the romantic story which all hinted at
and none knew, another such as Tony Cornish--gay and debonair,
careless, reckless, and yet endowed with the power of making some poor
"My dear aunt," replied Cornish, with a levity with which none other
ever dared to treat her, "the benevolent are always greedy. And each
additional virtue--temperance, loving-kindness, humility--only serves
to dull the sense of humour and add to the appetite. Give them
And offering her his arm, he good-naturedly led her to the
refreshment-room to investigate the matter. As she passed through the
crowded rooms, she glanced from face to face with her quick, seeking
look. She cordially disliked all these people. And their principal
crime was that they ate and drank. For Lady Ferriby was a miser.
At the upper end of the room a low platform served as a safe retreat
for sleepy chaperons on such occasions as the annual Ferriby ball.
To-night there were no chaperons. Is not charity the safest as well as
the most lenient of these? And does her wing not cover a multitude of
Upon this platform there now appeared, amid palms and chrysanthemums, a
long, rotund man like a bolster. He held a paper in his hand and wore a
platform smile. His attitude was that of one who hesitated to demand
silence from so well-bred a throng. His high, narrow forehead shone in
the light of the candelabra. This was Lord Ferriby--a man whose best
friend did his best for him in describing him as well-meaning. He gave
a cough which had sufficient significance in it to command a momentary
quiet. During the silence, a well-dressed parson stood on tiptoe and
whispered something in Lord Ferriby's ear. The suggestion, whatever it
may have been, was negated by the speaker on receipt of a warning shake
of the head from Joan.
"Er--ladies and gentlemen," said Lord Ferriby, and gained the necessary
silence. "Er--you all know the purpose of our meeting here to-night.
You all know that Lady Ferriby and myself are much honoured by your
presence here. And--er--I am sure----" He did not, however, appear to be
quite sure, for he consulted his paper, and the colonial bishop near
the yellow chrysanthemums said, "Hear, hear!"
"And I am sure that we are, one and all, actuated by a burning desire
to relieve the terrible distress which has been going on unknown to us
in our very midst."
"He has missed out half a page," said Joan to Major White, who somehow
found himself at her side again.
"This is no place, and we have at the moment no time, to go into the
details of the manufacture of malgamite. Suffice it to say, that such
a--er--composition exists, and that it is a necessity in the
manufacture of paper. Now, ladies and gentlemen, the painful fact has
been brought to light by my friend Mr. Roden----" His lordship paused,
and looked round with a half-fledged bow, but failed to find Roden.
"By--er--Mr. Roden that the manufacture of malgamite is one of the
deadliest of industries. In fact, the makers of malgamite, and
fortunately they are comparatively few in number, stricken as they are
by a corroding disease, occupy in our midst the--er--place of the
lepers of the Bible."
Here Lord Ferriby bowed affably to the bishop, as if to say, "And that
is where _you_ come in."
"We--er--live in an age," went on Lord Ferriby--and the practical Joan
nodded her head to indicate that he was on the right track now--"when
charity is no longer a matter of sentiment, but rather a very practical
and forcible power in the world. We do not ask your assistance in a
vague and visionary crusade against suffering. We ask you to help us in
the development of a definite scheme for the amelioration of the
condition of our fellow-beings."
Lord Ferriby spoke not with the ease of long practice, but with the
assurance of one accustomed to being heard with patience. He now waited
for the applause to die away.
"Who put him up to it?" Major White asked Joan.
"Mr. Roden wrote the speech, and I taught it to papa," was the answer.
At this moment Cornish hurried up in his busy way. Indeed, these people
seemed to have little time on their hands. They belonged to a
generation which is much addicted to unnecessary haste.
"Seen Roden?" he asked, addressing his question to Joan and her
"Never in my life," answered Major White. "Is he worth seeing?"
But Cornish hurried away again. Lord Ferriby was still speaking, but he
seemed to have lost the ear of his audience, and had lapsed into
generalities. A few who were near the platform listened attentively
enough. Some who hoped that they were to be asked to speak applauded
hurriedly and finally whenever the speaker paused to take breath.
The world is full of people who will not give their money, but offer
readily enough what they call their "time" to a good cause. Lord
Ferriby was lavish with his "time," and liked to pass it in hearing the
sound of his own voice. Every social circle has its talkers, who hang
upon each other's periods in expectance of the moment when they can
successfully push in their own word. Lord Ferriby, looking round upon
faces well known to him, saw half a dozen men who spoke upon all
occasions with a sublime indifference to the fact that they knew
nothing of the subject in hand. With the least encouragement any one of
them would have stepped on to the platform bubbling over with
eloquence. Lord Ferriby was quite clever enough to perceive the danger.
He must go on talking until Roden was found. Had not the pushing parson
already intimated in a whisper that he had a few earnest thoughts in
his mind which he would be glad to get off?
Lord Ferriby knew those earnest thoughts, and their inevitable tendency
to send the audience to the refreshment-room, where, as Lady Ferriby's
husband, he suspected poverty in the land.
"Is not Mr. Cornish going to speak?" a young lady eagerly inquired of
Joan. She was a young lady who wore spectacles and scorned a fringe--a
dangerous course of conduct for any young woman to follow. But she made
up for natural and physical deficiencies by an excess of that zeal
which Talleyrand deplored.
"I think not," answered Joan. "He never speaks in public, you know."
"I wonder why?" said the young lady, sharply and rather angrily.
Joan shrugged her shoulders and laughed. She sometimes wondered why
herself, but Tony had never satisfied her curiosity. The young lady
moved away and talked to others of the same matter. There were quite a
number of people in the room who wanted to know why Tony Cornish did
not speak, and wished he would. The way to rule the world is to make it
want something, and keep it wanting.
"I make so bold as to hope," Lord Ferriby was saying, "that when
sufficient publicity has been given to our scheme we shall be able to
raise the necessary funds. In the fulness of this hope, I have ventured
to jot down the names of certain gentlemen who have been kind enough to
assume the trusteeship. I propose, therefore, that the trustees of the
Malgamite Fund shall be--er--myself----"
Like a practiced speaker, Lord Ferriby paused for the applause which
duly followed. And certain elderly gentlemen, who had been young when
Marmaduke Ferriby was young, looked with much interest at the pictures
on the wall. That Lord Ferriby should assume the directorship of a
great charity was to send that charity on its way rejoicing. He stood
smiling benevolently and condescendingly down upon the faces turned
towards him, and rejoiced inwardly over these glorious obsequies of a
wild and deplorable past.
"Mr. Anthony Cornish," he read out, and applause made itself heard
And the listeners turned round and stared at that hero, whom they
discovered calmly and stolidly entrenched behind the eye-glass, his
broad, tanned face surmounting a shirt front of abnormal width.
"Herr von Holzen."
No one seemed to know Herr von Holzen, or to care much whether he
existed or not.
"And--my--er--friend--the originator of this great scheme--the man whom
we all look up to as the benefactor of a most miserable class of
men--Mr. Percy Roden."
Lord Ferriby meant the listeners to applaud, and they did so, although
they had never heard the name before. He folded the paper held in his
hand, and indicated by his manner that he had for the moment nothing
more to say. From his point of advantage he scanned the whole length of
the large room, evidently seeking some one. Anthony Cornish had been
the second name mentioned, and the majority hoped that it was he who
was to speak next. They anticipated that he, at all events, would be
lively, and in addition to this recommendation there hovered round his
name that mysterious charm which is in itself a subtle form of
notoriety. People said of Tony Cornish that he would get on in the
world; and upon this slender ladder he had attained social success.
But Cornish was not in the room, and after waiting a few moments, Lord
Ferriby came down from the platform, and joined some of the groups of
persons in the large room. For already the audience was breaking up
into small parties, and the majority, it is to be feared, were by now
talking of other matters. In these days we cannot afford to give
sufficient time to any one object to do that object or ourselves any
Presently there was a stir at the door, and Cornish entered the large
room, followed leisurely by a tired-looking man, for whom the idlers
near the doorway seemed instinctively to make way. This man was tall,
square-shouldered, and loose of limb. He had smooth dark hair, and
carried his head thrown rather back from the neck. His eyes were dark,
and the fact that a considerable line of white was visible beneath the
pupil imparted to his whole being an air of physical delicacy
suggestive of a constant feeling of fatigue.
"Who is this?" asked Major White, aroused to a sense of stolid
curiosity which few of his fellow-men had the power of awakening.
"Oh, that," said Joan, looking towards the door--"that is Mr. Percy
A NEW DISCIPLE.
"Pour etre heureux, il ne faut avoir rien a oublier."
There is in the atmosphere of the Hotel of the Vieux Doelen at The
Hague something as old-world, as quiet and peaceful, as there is in the
very name of this historic house. The stairs are softly carpeted; the
great rooms are hung with tapestry, and otherwise decorated in a
massive and somewhat gloomy style, little affected in the newer
_caravanserais_. The house itself, more than three hundred years old,
is of dark red brick with facings of stone, long since worn by wind and
weather. The windows are enormous, and would appear abnormal in any
other city but this. The Hotel of the Old Shooting gallery stands on
the Toornoifeld and the unobservant may pass by without distinguishing
it from the private houses on either side. This, indeed, is not so much
a house of hasty rest for the passing traveler as it is a halting-place
for that great army which is ever moving quietly on and on through the
cities of the Old World--the corps diplomatique--the army whose
greatest victory is peace. The traveller passing a night or two at the
hotel may well be faintly surprised at the atmosphere in which he finds
himself. If he be what is called a practical man, he will probably
shake his head forebodingly over the prospects of the proprietor. There
seems, indeed, to be a singular dearth of visitors. The winding stairs
are nearly always deserted. The _salon_ is empty. There are no sounds
of life, no trunks in the hall, and no idlers at the door. And yet at
the hour of the _table d'hote_ quiet doors are opened, and quiet men
emerge from rooms that seemed before to be uninhabited. They are mostly
smooth-haired men with a pensive reserve of manner, a certain polished
cosmopolitan air, and the inevitable frock-coat. They bow gravely to
each other, and seat themselves at separate tables. As often as not
they produce books or newspapers, and read during the solemn meal. It
is as well to watch these men and take note of them. Many of them are
grey-headed. No one of them is young. But they are beginners, mere
apprentices, at a very difficult trade, and in the days to come they
will have the making of the history of Europe. For these men are
attaches and secretaries of embassies. They will talk to you in almost
any European tongue you may select, but they are not communicative
During the winter--the gay season at The Hague--there are usually a
certain number of residents in the hotel. At the time with which we are
dealing, Mrs. Vansittart was staying there, alone with her maid. Mrs.
Vansittart was in the habit of dining at the small table near the
stove--a gorgeous erection of steel and brass, which stands nearly in
the centre of the smaller dining-room used in winter. Mrs. Vansittart
seemed, moreover, to be quite at home in the hotel, and exchanged bows
with a few of the gentlemen of the corps diplomatique. She was a
graceful, dark-haired woman, with deep brown eyes that looked upon the
world without much interest. This was not, one felt, a woman to lavish
her attention or her thoughts upon a toy spaniel, as do so many ladies
travelling alone with their maids in Continental hotels. Perhaps this
woman of thirty-five years or so preferred to be frankly bored, rather
than set up for herself a shivering four-legged object in life. Perhaps
she was not bored at all. One never knows. The gentlemen from the
embassies glanced at her over their books or their newspapers, and
wondered who and what she might be. They knew, at all events, that she
took no interest in those affairs of the great world which rumble on
night and day without rest, with spasmodic bursts of clumsy haste, and
with a never-failing possibility of surprise in their movements. This
was no political woman, whatever else she might be. She would talk in
quite a number of languages of such matters as the opera, a new book,
or an old picture, and would then relapse again into a sort of waiting
silence. At thirty-five it is perhaps not well to wait too patiently
for those things that make a woman's life worth living. Mrs. Vansittart
had not the air, however, of one who would wait indefinitely.
When Mr. Percy Roden arrived at the hotel, he was assigned, at the hour
of _table d'hote_, a small table between those occupied respectively by
Mrs. Vansittart and the secretary of the Belgian Embassy. Some subtle
sense conveyed to Percy Roden that he had aroused Mrs. Vansittart's
interest--the sense called vanity, perhaps, which conveys so much to
young men, and so much that is erroneous. On the second evening,
therefore, when he had returned from a busy day in the neighbourhood of
Scheveningen, Roden half looked for the bow which was half accorded to
him. That evening Mrs. Vansittart spoke to the waiter in English, which
was obviously her native language, and Roden overheard. After dinner
Mrs. Vansittart lingered in the _salon_ and a woman, had such been
present, would have perceived that she made it easy for Roden to pause
in passing and offer her his English newspaper, which had arrived by
the evening post. The subtle is so often the obvious that to be
unobservant is a social duty.
"Thank you," she replied. "I like newspapers. Although I have not been
in England for years, I still take an interest in the affairs of my
Her manner was easy and natural, without that taint of a too sudden
familiarity which is characteristic of the present generation. We are
apt to allow ourselves to feel too much at home.
"I, on the contrary," replied Roden, with his tired air, "have never
till now been out of England or English-speaking colonies."
His voice had a hollow sound. Although he was tall and
broad-shouldered, his presence had no suggestion of strength. Mrs.
Vansittart looked at him quickly as she took the newspaper from his
hand. She had clever, speculative eyes, and was obviously wondering why
he had gone to the colonies and why he had returned thence. So many
sail to those distant havens of the unsuccessful under one cloud and
return under another, that it seems wiser to remain stationary and
snatch what passing sunshine there may be. Roden had not a colonial
manner. He was well dressed. He was, in fact, the sort of man who would
pass in any society. And it is probable that Mrs. Vansittart summed him
up in her quick mind with perfect success. Despite our clothes, despite
our airs and graces, we mostly appear to be exactly what we are. Mrs.
Vansittart, who knew the world and men, did not need to be informed by
Percy Roden that he was unacquainted with the Continent. Comparing him
with the other men passing through the _salon_ to their rooms or their
club, it became apparent that he had one sort of stiffness which they
had not, and lacked another sort of stiffness which grows upon those
who live and take their meals in public places. Mrs. Vansittart could
probably have made a fair guess at the sort of education Percy Roden
had received. For a man carries his school mark through life with him.
"Ah," she said, taking the newspaper and glancing at it with just
sufficient interest to prolong the conversation, "then you do not know
The Hague. It is a place that grows upon one. It is one of the social
capitals of the world. Vienna, St. Petersburg, Paris, are the others.
Madrid, Berlin, New York, are--nowhere."
She laughed, bowed with a little half--foreign gesture of thanks, and
left him--left him, moreover, with the desire to see more of her. It
seemed that she knew the secret of that other worldling, Tony Cornish,
that the way to rule men is to make them want something and keep them
wanting. As Roden passed through the hall he paused, and entered into
conversation with the hall porter. During the course of this talk he
made some small inquiries respecting Mrs. Vansittart. That lady had no
need to make inquiries respecting Roden. Has it not been stated that
she was travelling with her maid?
"I see," she said, when she saw him again the next day after dinner in
the _salon_, "that your great philanthropic scheme is now an
established fact. I have taken a great interest in its progress, and of
course know the names of some who are associated with you in it."
Roden laughed indifferently, well pleased to be recognized. His
notoriety was new enough and narrow enough to please him still. There
is no man so much at the mercy of his own vanity as he who enjoys a
"Yes," he answered, "we have got it into shape. Do you know Lord
"No," answered Mrs. Vansittart, slowly, "I have not that pleasure.
"Oh, Ferriby is a good enough fellow," said Roden, kindly; and Mrs.
Vansittart gave a little nod as she looked at him. Roden had drawn
forward a chair, and she sat down, after a moment's hesitation, in
front of the open fire.
"So I have always heard," she answered, "and a great philanthropist."
"Oh--yes." Roden paused and took a chair. "Oh yes; but Tony Cornish is
our right-hand man. The people seem to place greater faith in him than
they do in Lord Ferriby. When it is Cornish who asks, they give readily
enough. He is business-like and quick, and that always tells in the
Percy Roden seemed disposed to be communicative, and Mrs. Vansittart's
attitude was distinctly encouraging. She leant sideways on the arm of
her chair, and looked at her companion with speculation in her
intelligent eyes. She was perhaps reflecting that this was not the sort
of man one usually finds engaged in philanthropic enterprise. It is
likely that her thoughts were of this nature, and were, as thoughts so
often are, transmitted silently to her companion's mind, for he
proceeded, unasked, to explain.
"It is not, properly speaking, a charity, you know," he said. "It is
more in the nature of a trade union. This is a practical age, Mrs.
Vansittart, and it is necessary that charity should keep pace with the
march of progress and be self-supporting."
There was a faint suggestion of glibness in his manner. It was probable
that he had made use of the same arguments before.
"And who else is associated with you in this great enterprise?" asked
the lady, keeping him with the cleverness of her sex upon the subject
in which he was obviously deeply interested. The shrewdest women
usually treat men thus, and they generally know what subject interests
a man most--namely, himself.
"Herr von Holzen is the most important person," replied Roden.
"Ah!" said Mrs. Vansittart, looking into the fire; "and who is Herr von
Roden paused for a moment, and the lady, looking half indifferently
into the fire, noticed the hesitation.
"Oh, he is a scientist--a professor at one of the universities over
here, I believe. At all events, he is a, very clever fellow--analytical
chemist and all that, you know. It is he who has made the discovery
upon which we are working. He has always been interested in malgamite,
and he has now found out how it may be manufactured without injury to
the workers. Malgamite, you understand, is an essential in the
manufacture of paper, and the world will never require less paper than
it does now, but more. Look at the tons that pass through the
post-offices daily. Paper-making is one of the great industries of the
world, and without malgamite, paper cannot be made at a profit to-day."
Roden seemed to have his subject at his fingers' ends, and if he spoke
without enthusiasm, the reason was probably that he had so often said
the same thing before.
"I am much interested," said Mrs. Vansittart, in her half-foreign way,
which was rather pleasing. "Tell me more about it."
"The malgamite makers," went on Roden, willingly enough, "are
fortunately but few in numbers and they are experts. They are to be
found in twos and threes in manufacturing cities--Amsterdam,
Gothenburg, Leith, New York, and even Barcelona. Of course there are a
number in England. Our scheme, briefly, is to collect these men
together, to build a manufactory and houses for them--to form them, in
fact, into a close corporation, and then supply the world with
"It is a great scheme, Mr. Roden."
"Yes, it is a great scheme; and it is, I think, laid upon the right
lines. These people require to be saved from themselves. As they now
exist, they are well paid. They are engaged in a deadly industry, and
know it. There is nothing more demoralizing to human nature than this
knowledge. They have a short and what they take to be a merry life."
The tired--looking man paused and spread out his hands in a gesture of
careless scorn. He had almost allowed himself to lapse into enthusiasm.
"There is no reason," he went on, "why they should not become a happy
and respectable community. The first thing we shall have to teach them
is that their industry is comparatively harmless, as it will
undoubtedly be with Von Holzen's new process. The rest will, I think,
come naturally. Altered circumstances will alter the people
"And where do you intend to build this manufactory?" inquired Mrs.
Vansittart, to whom was vouch-safed that rare knowledge of the fine
line that is to be drawn between a kindly interest and a vulgar
curiosity. The two are nearer than is usually suspected.
"Here in Holland," was the reply. "I have almost decided on the
spot--on the dunes to the north of Scheveningen. That is why I am
staying at The Hague. There are many reasons why this coast is
suitable. We shall be in touch with the canal system, and we shall have
a direct outfall to the sea for our refuse, which is necessary. I shall
have to live in The Hague--my sister and I."
"Ah! You have a sister?" said Mrs. Vansittart, turning in her chair and
looking at him. A woman's interest in a man's undertaking is invariably
centred upon that point where another woman comes into it.
"Yes; Dorothy is unmarried."
Mrs. Vansittart gave several quick little nods of the head.
"I am wondering two things," she said--"whether she is like you, and
whether she is interested in this scheme. But I am wondering more than
that. Is she pretty, Mr. Roden?"
"Yes, I think she is pretty."
"I am glad of that. I like girls to be pretty. It makes their lives so
much more interesting--to the onlooker, _bien entendu_, but not to
themselves. The happiest women I have known have been the plain ones.
But perhaps your sister will be pretty and happy too. That would be so
nice, and so very rare, Mr. Roden. I shall look forward to making her
acquaintance. I live in The Hague, you know. I have a house in Park
Straat, and I am only at this hotel while the painters are in
possession. You will allow me to call on your sister when she joins
"We shall be most gratified," said Roden.
Mrs. Vansittart had risen with a little glance at the clock, and her
companion rose also. "I am greatly interested in your scheme," she
said. "Much more than I can tell you. It is so refreshing to find
charity in such close connection with practical common sense. I think
you are doing a great work, Mr. Roden."
"I do what I can," he replied, with a bow.
"And Mr. Von Holzen," inquired Mrs. Vansittart, stopping for a moment
as she moved towards the doorway, which is large and hung with
curtains--"does Mr. Von Holzen work from purely philanthropic motives
"Well--yes, I think so. Though, of course, he, like myself, will be
paid a salary. Perhaps, however, he is more interested in malgamite
from a scientific point of view."
"Ah, yes, from a scientific point of view, of course. Good night, Mr.
And she left him.
OUT OF EGYPT.
"Un esclave est moins celui qu'on vend que celui qui se donne"
A sea fog was blowing across the smooth surface of the Maas where that
river is broad and shallow, and a steamer anchored in the channel, grim
and motionless, gave forth a grunt of warning from time to time, while
a boy with mittened hands rang the bell hung high on the forecastle
with a dull monotony. The wind blowing from the south-east drove before
it the endless fog which hummed through the rigging, and hung there in
little icicles that pointed to leeward. On the bridge of the steamer,
looking like a huge woollen barrel surmounted by a comforter and a cap
with ear-flaps, the Dutch pilot stood philosophically at his post. Near
him the captain, mindful of the company's time-tables, walked with a
quick, impatient step. The fog was blowing past at the rate of four or
five miles an hour, but the supply of it, emanating from the low lands
bordering the Scheldt, seemed to be inexhaustible. This fog, indeed,
blows across Holland nearly the whole winter.
The steamer's deck was covered with ice, over which sand had been
strewn. The passengers were below in the warm saloon. Only the
blue-faced boy at the bell on the forecastle was on the main-deck. At
times one of the watch hurried from the galley to the forecastle with a
pannikin of steaming coffee. The vessel had been anchored since
daybreak and the sound of other bells and other whistles far and near
told that she was not alone in these waters. The distant boom of a
steamer creeping cautiously down from Rotterdam seemed to promise that
farther inland the fog was thinner. A silence, broken only by the
whisper of the wind through the rigging, reigned over all, so that men
listened with anticipations of relief for the sound of answering bells.
The sky at length grew a little lighter, and presently gaps made their
appearance in the fog, allowing peeps over the green and still water.
The captain and the pilot exchanged a few words--the very shortest of
consultations. They had been on the bridge together all night, and had
said all that there was to be said about wind and weather. The captain
gave a sharp order in his gruff voice, and, as if by magic, the watch
on deck appeared from all sides. The chief officer emerged from his
cabin beneath the wheel-house, and went forward into the fog, turning
up his collar. Presently the jerk and clink of the steam-winch told
that the anchor was being got home. The fog had been humoured for six
hours, and the time had now come to move on through thick or thin. What
should Berlin, Petersburg, Vienna, know of a fog on the Maas? And there
were mails and passengers on board this steamer. The clink of the winch
brought one of these on deck. Within the high collar of his fur coat,
beneath the brim of a felt hat pulled well down, the keen; fair face of
Mr. Anthony Cornish came peering up the gangway to the upper bridge. He
exchanged a nod with the captain and the pilot; for with these he had
already been in conversation at the breakfast-table. He took his
station on the bridge behind them, with his hands deep in the pockets
of his loose coat, a cigarette between his lips. A shout from the
forecastle soon intimated that the anchor was up, and the captain gave
the order to the boy at the engine-room telegraph. Through the fog the
forms of the three men on the look-out on the forecastle were dimly
discernible. The great steamer crept cautiously forward into the fog.
The second mate, with his hand on the whistle-line, blared out his
warning note every half-minute. A dim shadow loomed up on the
port-side, which presently took the form of a great steamer at anchor,
and was left behind with a ringing bell and a booming whistle. Another
shadow turned out to be a pilot-cutter, and the Dutch pilot exchanged a
shouted consultation with an invisible person whom he called "Thou,"
and who replied to the imperfectly heard questions with the words,
"South East." This shadow also was left behind, faintly calling, "South
East," "South East."
"It is a white buoy that I seek," said the pilot, turning to those on
the bridge behind him, his jolly red face puckered with anxiety. And
quite suddenly the second officer, a bright-red Scotchman with little
blue eyes like tempered gimlets, threw out a red hand and pointing
"There she rides," he said. "There she rides; staar boarrrd your
And a full thirty seconds elapsed before any other eyes could pierce
that gloom and perceive a great white buoy bowing solemnly towards the
steamer like a courtier bidding a sovereign welcome. One voice had
seemed to be gradually dominating the din of the many warning whistles
that sounded ahead, astern, and all around the steamer. This voice,
like that of a strong man knowing his own mind in an assembly of
excited and unstable counsellors, had long been raised with a
persistence which at last seemed to command all others, and the steamer
moved steadily towards it; for it was the siren fog-horn at the
pier-head. At one moment it seemed to be quite near, and at the next
far away; for the ears, unaided by the eyes, can but imperfectly focus
sound or measure its distance.
"At last!" said the captain, suddenly, the anxiety wiped away from his
face as if by magic. "At last, I hear the cranes aworking on the quay."
The purser had come to the bridge, and now approached Cornish.
"Are you going to land them at the Hook or take them on to Rotterdam,
sir?" he asked.
"Oh, land 'em at the Hook," replied Cornish, readily. "Have you fed
"Yes, sir. They have had their breakfast--such as it is. Poor eaters I
call them, sir."
"Yes." said Cornish, turning and looking at his burly interlocutor.
"Yes, I do not suppose they eat much."
The purser shrugged his shoulders, and turned his attention to other
affairs, thoughtfully. The little, beacon at the head of the pier had
suddenly loomed out of the fog not fifty yards away--a very needle in a
pottle of hay, which the cunning of the pilot had found.
"Who are they, at any rate--these hundred and twenty ghosts of men?"
asked the sailor, abruptly.
"They are malgamite workers," answered Cornish, cheerily. "And I am
going to make men of them--not ghosts."
The purser looked at him, laughed in rather a puzzled way, and quitted
the bridge. Cornish remained there, taking a quick, intelligent
interest in the manoeuvres by which the great steamer was being brought
alongside the quay. He seemed to have already forgotten the hundred and
twenty men in the second-class cabin. His touch was indeed hopelessly
light. He understood how it was that the steamer was made to obey, but
he could not himself have brought her alongside. Cornish was a true son
of a generation which understands much of many things, but not quite
sufficient of any one.
He stood at the upper end of the gangway as the malgamite workers filed
off--a sorry crew, narrow-chested, hollow-eyed, with that
half-hopeless, half-reckless air that tells of a close familiarity with
disease and death. He nodded to them airily as they passed him. Some of
them took the trouble to answer his salutation, others seemed
indifferent. A few glanced at him with a sort of dull wonder. And
indeed this man was not of the material of which great philanthropists
are made. He was cheerful and heedless, shallow and superficial.
"Get 'em into the train," he said to an official at his side; and then,
seeing that he had not been understood, gave the order glibly enough in
The ill-clad travellers shuffled up the gangway and through the
custom-house. Few seemed to take an interest in their surroundings.
They exchanged no comments, but walked side by side in silence
--dumb and driven animals. Some of them bore signs of disease. A
few stumbled as they went. One or two were half blind, with groping
hands. That they were of different nationalities was plain enough. Here
a Jew from Vienna, with the fear of the Judenhetze in his eyes,
followed on the heels of a tow-headed giant from Stockholm. A cunning
cockney touched his hat as he passed, and rather ostentatiously turned
to help a white-haired little Italian over the inequalities of the
gangway. One thing only they had in common--their deadly industry. One
shadow lay over them all--the shadow of death. A momentary gravity
passed across Cornish's face. These men were as far removed from him as
the crawling beetle is from the butterfly. Who shall say, however, that
the butterfly sees nothing but the flowers?
As they passed him, some of them edged away with a dull humility for
fear their poor garments should touch his fur coat. One, carrying a
bird-cage, half paused, with a sort of pride, that Cornish might obtain
a fuller view of a depressed canary. The malgamite workers of this
winter's morning on the pier of Hoek were not the interesting
industrials of Lady Ferriby's drawing-room. There their lives had been
spoken of as short and merry. Here the merriment was scarcely
perceptible. The mystery of the dangerous industries is one of those
mysteries of human nature which cannot be explained by even the
youngest of novelists. That dangerous industries exist we all know and
deplore. That the supply of men and women ready to take employment in
such industries is practically inexhaustible is a fact worth at least a
Cornish made the necessary arrangements with the railway officials, and
carefully counted his charges, who were already seated in the carriages
reserved for them. He must at all events be allowed the virtues of a
generation which is eminently practical and capable of overcoming the
small difficulties of everyday life. He was quick to decide and prompt
Then he seated himself in a carriage alone, with a sigh of relief at
the thought that in a few days he would be back in London. His
responsibility ended at The Hague, where he was to hand over the
malgamite workers to the care of Roden and Von Holzen. They were
rather a depressing set of men, and Holland, as seen from the carriage
window--a snow-clad plain intersected by frozen ditches and
canals--was no more enlivening. The temperature was deadly cold; the
dull houses were rime-covered and forbidding. The malgamite makers had
been gathered together from all parts of the world in a home specially
organized for them in London. A second detachment was awaiting their
orders at Hamburg. But the principal workers were these now placed
under Cornish's care.
During the days of their arrival, when they had to be met and housed
and cared for, the visionary part of this great scheme had slowly faded
before a somewhat grim reality. Joan Ferriby had found the malgamite
workers less picturesque than she had anticipated.
"If they only washed," she had confided to Major White, "I am sure they
would be easier to deal with." And after talking French very
vivaciously and boldly with a man from Lyons, she hurried back to the
West End, and to the numerous engagements which naturally take up much
of one's time when Lent is approaching, and dilatory hospitality is
stirred up by the startling collapse of the Epiphany Sundays.
Here, however, were the malgamite workers and they had to be dealt
with. It was not quite what many had anticipated, perhaps, and Cornish
was looking forward with undisguised pleasure to the moment when he
could rid himself of these persons whom Joan had gaily designated as
"rather gruesome," and whom he frankly recognized as sordid and
uninteresting. He did not even look, as Joan had looked, to the wives
and children who were to follow as likely to prove more picturesque and
The train made its way cautiously over the fog-ridden plain, and
Cornish shivered as he looked out of the window. "Schiedam," the
porters called. This, Schiedam? A mere village, and yet the name was so
familiar. The world seemed suddenly to have grown small and sordid. A
few other stations with historic names, and then The Hague.
Cornish quitted his carriage, and found himself shaking hands with
Roden, who was awaiting him on the platform, clad in a heavy fur coat.
Roden looked clever and capable--cleverer and more capable than Cornish
had even suspected--and the organization seemed perfect. The reserved
carriages had been in readiness at the Hook. The officials were
"I have omnibuses and carts for them and their luggage," were the first
words that Roden spoke.
Cornish instinctively placed himself under Roden's orders. The man had
risen immensely in his estimation since the arrival in London of the
first malgamite maker. The grim reality of the one had enhanced the
importance of the other. Cornish had been engaged in so many charities
_pour rire_ that the seriousness of this undertaking was apt to
exaggerate itself in his mind--if, indeed, the seriousness of anything
dwelt there at all.
"I counted them all over at the Hook," he said. "One hundred and
twenty--pretty average scoundrels."
"Yes; they are not much to look at," answered Roden.
And the two men stood side by side watching the malgamite workers, who
now quitted the train and stood huddled together in a dull apathy on
the roomy platform.
"But you will soon get them into shape, no doubt," said Cornish, with
characteristic optimism. He was essentially of a class that has always
some one at hand to whom to relegate tasks which it could do more
effectually and more quickly for itself. The secret of human happiness
is to be dependent upon as few human beings as possible.
"Oh yes! We shall soon get them into shape--the sea air and all that,
Roden looked at his _proteges_ with large, sad eyes, in which there was
alike no enthusiasm and no spark of human kindness. Cornish wondered
vaguely what he was thinking about. The thoughts were certainly tinged
with pessimism, and lacked entirely the blindness of an enthusiasm by
which men are urged to endeavour great things for the good of the
masses, and to make, as far as a practical human perception may
discern, huge and hideous mistakes.
"Von Holzen is down below," said Roden, at length. "As soon as he comes
up we will draft them off in batches of ten, and pack them into the
omnibuses. The luggage can follow. Ah! Here comes Von Holzen. You don't
know him, do you?"
"No; I don't know him."
They both went forward to meet a man of medium height, with square
shoulders, and a still, clean-shaven face. Otto von Holzen raised his
hat, and remained bare-headed while he shook hands.
"The introduction is unnecessary," he said. "We have worked together
for many months--you on the other side of the North Sea, and I on this.
And now we have, at all events, something to show for our work."
He had a quick, foreign manner, with a kind smile, and certain
This was a different sort of man to Roden--quicker to feel for others,
to understand others; capable of greater good, and possibly of greater
evil. He glanced at Cornish, nodded sympathetically, and then turned to
look at the malgamite makers. These, standing in a group on the
platform, holding in their hands their poor belongings, returned the
gaze with interest. The train which had brought them steamed out of the
station, leaving the malgamite makers gazing in a dull wonder at the
three men into whose hands they had committed their lives.
ON THE DUNES.
"L'indifference est le sommeil du coeur."
The village of Scheveningen, as many know, is built on the sand dunes,
and only sheltered from the ocean by a sea-wall. A new Scheveningen has
sprung up on this sea-wall--a mere terrace of red brick houses, already
faded and weather-worn, which stare forlornly at the shallow sea.
Inland, except where building enterprise has constructed roads and
built villas are sand dunes. To the south, beyond the lighthouse, are
sand dunes. To the north, more especially and most emphatically, are
sand dunes as far as the eye may see. This tract of country is a very
desert, where thin maritime grasses are shaken by the wind, where
suggestive spars lie bleaching, where the sand, driven before the
breeze like snow, travels to and fro through all the ages.
This afternoon, the dunes presented as forlorn an appearance as it is
possible in one's gloomiest moments to conceive. The fog had, indeed,
lifted a little, but a fine rain now drove before the wind, freezing as
it fell, so that the earth was covered by a thin sheet of ice. The
short January day was drawing to its close.
To the north of the waterworks, three hundred yards away from that
solitary erection, the curious may find to-day a few low buildings
clustering round a water-tower. These buildings are of wood, with roofs
of corrugated iron; and when they were newly constructed, not so many
years ago, presented a gay enough appearance, with their green
shutters and ornamental eaves. The whole was enclosed in a fence of
corrugated iron, and approached by a road not too well constructed on
its sandy bed.
"We do not want the place to become the object of an excursion for
tourists to The Hague," said Roden to Cornish, as they approached the
malgamite works in a closed carriage.
Cornish looked out of the window and made no remark. So far as he could
see on all sides, there was nothing but sand-hills and grey grass. The
road was a narrow one, and led only to the little cluster of houses
within the fence. It was a lonely spot, cut off from all communication
with the outer world. Men might pass within a hundred yards and never
know that the malgamite works existed. The carriage drove through the
high gateway into the enclosure. There were a number of cottages, two
long, low buildings, and the water-tower.
"You see," said Roden, "we have plenty of room to increase our
accommodation when there is need of it. But we must go slowly and feel
our way. It would never do to fail. We have accommodation here for a
couple of hundred workers and their families; but in time we shall have
five hundred of them in here--all the malgamite workers in the world."
He broke off with a laugh, and looked round him. There was a ring in
his voice suggestive of a keen excitement. Could Percy Roden, after
all, be an enthusiast? Cornish glanced at him uneasily. In Cornish's
world sincere enthusiasm was so rare that it was never well received.
Roden's manner changed again, however, and he explained the plan of the
little village with his usual half-indifferent air.
"These two buildings are the factories," he said. "In them three
hundred men can work at once. There we shall build sheds for the
storage of the raw material. Here we shall erect a warehouse. But I do
not anticipate that we shall ever have much malgamite on our hands. We
shall turn over our money very quickly."
Cornish listened with the respectful attention which business details
receive nowadays from those whose birth and education unfit them for
such pursuits. It was obvious that he did not fully understand the
terms of which Roden made use; but he tapped his smart boot with his
cane, gave a quick nod of the head, and looked intelligently around
him. He had a certain respect for Percy Roden, while that
philanthropist did not perhaps appear quite at his best in his business
"And do you--and that foreign individual, Mr. Von Holzen--live inside
this--zareba?" he asked.
"No; Von Holzen lives as yet in Scheveningen, in a hotel there. And I
have taken a small villa on the dunes, with my sister to keep house for
"Ah! I did not know you had a sister," said Cornish, still looking
about him with intelligent ignorance. "Does she take an interest in the
"Only so far as it affects me," replied Roden. "She is a good sister to
me. The house is between the waterworks and the steam-tram station. We
will call in on our way back, if you care to."
"I should like nothing better," replied Cornish, conventionally, and
they continued their inspection of the little colony. The arrangements
were as simple as they were effective. Either Roden or Von Holzen
certainly possessed the genius of organization. In one of the cottages
a cold collation was set out on two long tables. There was a choice of
wines, and notably some bottles of champagne on a side table.
"For the journalists," explained Roden. "I have a number of them coming
this afternoon to witness the arrival of the first batch of malgamite
makers. There is nothing like judicious advertisement. We have invited
a number of newspaper correspondents. We give them champagne and pay
their expenses. If you will be a little friendly, they would like it
immensely. They, of course, know who you are. A little flattery, you
"Flattery and champagne," laughed Cornish--"the two principal
ingredients of popularity."
"I have here a number of photographs," continued Roden, "taken by a
good man in the neighbourhood. He has thrown in a view of the sea at
the back, you see. It is not there; but he has put in the sky and sea
from another plate, he tells me, to make a good picture of it. We shall
send them to the principal illustrated papers."
"And I suppose," said Cornish, with his gay laugh, "that some of the
journalists will throw in background also."
"Of course," answered Roden, gravely. "And the sentimentalists will be
satisfied. The sentimentalists never stop at providing necessaries;
they want to pamper. It will please them immensely to think that the
malgamite makers, who have been collected from the slums of the world,
have a sea view and every modern luxury."
"We must humour them," said Cornish, practically. "We should not get
far without them."
At this moment the sound of wheels made them both turn towards the
entrance. It was an omnibus--the best omnibus with the finest
horses--which brought the journalists. These gentlemen now descended
from the vehicle and came towards the cottage, where Cornish and Roden
awaited them. They were what is euphemistically called a little mixed.
Some were too well dressed, others too badly. But all carried
themselves with an air that bespoke a consciousness of greatness not
unmingled with good-fellowship. The leader, a stout man, shook hands
affably with Cornish, who assumed his best and most gracious manner.
"Aha! Here we are," he said, rubbing his hands together and looking at
Then somehow Cornish came to the front and Roden retired into the
background. It was Cornish who opened the champagne and poured it into
their glasses. It was Cornish who made the best jokes, and laughed the
loudest at the journalistic quips fired off by his companions. Cornish
seemed to understand the guests better than did Roden, who was inclined
to be stiff towards them. Those who are assured of their position are
not always thinking about it. Men who stand much upon their dignity
have not, as a rule, much else to stand upon.
"Here's to you, sir," cried the stout newspaper man, with upraised
glass and a heart full of champagne. "Here's to you--whoever you are.
And now to business. Perhaps you'll trot us round the works."
This Cornish did with much success. He then stood beside the
correspondents while the malgamite workers descended from the omnibus
and took possession of their new quarters. He provided the journalists
with photographs and a short printed account of the malgamite trade,
which had been prepared by Von Holzen. It was finally Cornish who
packed them into the omnibus in high good humour, and sent them back to
"Do not forget the sentiment," he called out after them. "Remember it
is a charity."
The malgamite workers were left to the care of Von Holzen, who had made
all necessary preparations for their reception.
"You are a cleverer man than I thought you," said Roden to Cornish, as
they walked over the dunes together in the dusk towards the Rodens'
house. And it was difficult to say whether Roden was pleased or not.
He did not speak much during the walk, and was evidently wrapped in
Cornish was light and inconsequent as usual. "We shall soon raise
more money," he said. "We shall have malgamite balls, and malgamite
bazaars, malgamite balloon ascents if that is not flying too high."
The Villa des Dunes stands, as its name implies, among the sand hills,
facing south and west. It is upon an elevation, and therefore enjoys a
view of the sea, and, inland, of the spires of The Hague. The garden is
an old one, and there are quiet nooks in it where the trees have grown
to a quite respectable stature. Holland is so essentially a tidy
country that nothing old or moss-grown is tolerated. One wonders where
all the rubbish of the centuries has been hidden; for all the ruins
have been decently cleared away and cities that teem with historical
interest seem, with a few exceptions, to have been built last year. The
garden of the Villa des Dunes was therefore more remarkable for
cleanliness than luxuriance. The house itself was uninteresting, and
resembled a thousand others on the coast in that it was more
comfortable than it looked. A suggestion of warmth and lamp-light
filtered through the drawn curtains.
Roden led the way into the house, admitting himself with a latch-key.
"Dorothy," he cried, as soon as the door was closed behind them--the
two tall men in their heavy coats almost filled the little
hall--"Dorothy, where are you?"
The atmosphere of the house--that subtle odour which is characteristic
of all dwellings--was pleasant. One felt that there were flowers in the
rooms, and that tea was in course of preparation.
The door on the left-hand side of the hall was opened, and a small
woman appeared there. She was essentially small--a little upright
figure with bright brown hair, a good complexion, and gay, sparkling
"I have brought Mr. Cornish," explained Roden. "We are frozen, and want
Dorothy Roden came forward and shook hands with Cornish. She looked up
at him, taking him all in, in one quick intuitive glance, from his
smooth head to his neat boots.
"It is horribly cold," she said. One cannot always be original and
sparkling, and it is wiser not to try too persistently. She turned and
re-entered the drawing-room, with Cornish following her. The room
itself was prettily furnished in the Dutch fashion, and there were
flowers. Dorothy Roden's manner was that of a woman; no longer in her
first girlhood, who had seen en and cities. She was better educated
than her brother; she was probably cleverer. She had, at all events,
the subtle air of self-restraint that marks those women whose lives are
passed in the society of a man mentally inferior to themselves. Of
course all women are in a sense doomed to this--according to their own
"Percy said that he would probably bring you in to tea," said Miss
Roden, "and that probably you would be tired out."
"Thanks; I am not tired. We had a good passage, and everything has run
as smoothly. Do you take an active interest in us?"
Miss Roden paused in the action of pouring out tea, and looked across
at her interlocutor.
"Not an active one," she answered, with a momentary gravity; and, after
a minute, glanced at Cornish's face again.
"It is going to be a big thing," he said enthusiastically. "My cousin
Joan Ferriby is working hard at it in London. You do not know her, I
"I was at school with Joan," replied Miss Roden, with her soft laugh.
"And we took a school-girl oath to write to each other every week when
we parted. We kept it up--for a fortnight."
Cornish's smooth face betrayed no surprise; although he had concluded
that Miss Roden was years older than Joan.
"Perhaps," he said, with ready tact, "you do not take an interest in
the same things as Joan. In what may be called new things--not clothes,
I mean. In factory girls' feather clubs, for instance, or haberdashers'
assistants, or women's rights, or anything like that."
"No; I am not clever enough for anything like that. I am profoundly
ignorant about women's rights, and do not even know what I want, or
ought to want."
Roden, who had approached the table, laughed, and taking his tea, went
and sat down near the fire. He, at all events, was tired and looked
worn--as if his responsibilities were already beginning to weigh upon
him. Cornish, too, had come forward, and, cup in hand, stood looking
down at Miss Roden with a doubtful air.
"I always distrust women who say that," he said. "One naturally
suspects them of having got what they want by some underhand
means--and of having abandoned the rest of their sex. This is an age of
amalgamation; is not that so, Roden?"
He turned and sat down near to Dorothy. Roden thus appealed to, made
some necessary remark, and then lapsed into a thoughtful silence. It
seemed that Cornish was quite capable, however, of carrying on the
conversation by himself.
"Do you know nothing about your wrongs, either?" he asked Dorothy.
"Nothing," she replied. "I have not even the wit to know that I have
"Good heavens!" he exclaimed. "No wonder Joan ceased writing to you.
You are a most suspicious case, Miss Roden. Of course you have righted
your wrongs--_sub rosa_--and leave other women to manage their own
affairs. That is what is called a blackleg. You are untrue to the
Union. In these days we all belong to some cause or another. We cannot
help it, and recent legislation adds daily to the difficulty. We must
either be rich or poor. At present the only way to live at peace with
one's poorer neighbours is to submit to a certain amount of robbery.
But some day the classes must combine to make a stand against the
masses. The masses are already combined. We must either be a man or a
woman. Some day the men must combine against the women, who are already
united behind a vociferous vanguard. May I have some more tea?"
"I am afraid I have been left behind in the general advance," said Miss
Roden, taking his cup.
"I am afraid so. Of course I don't know where we are advancing to----"
He paused and drank the tea slowly. "No one knows that," he added.
"Probably to a point where we shall all suddenly begin fighting for
"That is possible," he said gravely, setting down his cup. "And now I
must find my way back to The Hague. Good night."
"He is clever," said Dorothy, when Roden returned after having shown
Cornish the way.
"Yes," answered Roden, without enthusiasm.
"You do not seem to be pleased at the thought," she said carelessly.
"Oh--it will be all right! If his cleverness runs in the right
"One may be so much a man of the world as to be nothing in the world."
Political Economy will some day have to recognize Philanthropy as a
possible--nay, a certain stumbling-block in the world's progress
towards that millennium when Supply and Demand shall sit down together
in peace. Charity is certainly sowing seed into the ridges of time
which will bear startling fruit in the future. For Charity does not
hesitate to close up an industry or interfere with a trade that
supplies thousands with their daily bread. Thus the Malgamite scheme so
glibly inaugurated by Lord Ferriby in his drawing-room bore fruit
within a week in a quarter to which probably few concerned had ever
thought of casting an eye. The price of a high-class tinted paper fell
in all the markets of the world. This paper could only be manufactured
with a large addition of malgamite to its other components. In what may
be called the prospectus of the Malgamite scheme it was stated that
this great charity was inaugurated for the purpose of relieving the
distress of the malgamiters--one of the industrial scandals of the
day--by enabling these afflicted men to make their deadly product at a
cheaper rate and without danger to themselves. This prospectus
naturally came to the hands of those most concerned, namely, the
manufacturers of coloured papers and the brokers who supply those
manufacturers with their raw material.
Thus Lord Ferriby, beaming benignantly from a bower of chrysanthemums
on a certain evening one winter not so many years ago, set rolling a
small stone upon a steep hill. So, in fact, wags the world; and none of
us may know when the echo of a careless word will cease vibrating in
the hearts of some that hear.
The malgamite trade was what is called a _close_ one--that is to say
that this product passed out into the world through the hands of a few
brokers and these brokers were powerless, in face of Lord Ferriby's
announcement, to prevent the price of malgamite from falling. As this
fell so fell the prices of the many kinds of paper which could not be
manufactured without it. Thus indirectly, Lord Ferriby, with that
obtuseness which very often finds itself in company with a highly
developed philanthropy, touched the daily lives of thousands and
thousands of people. And he did not know it. And Tony Cornish knew it
not. And Joan and the subscribers never dreamt or thought of such a
The paper market became what is called sensitive--that is to say,
prices rose and fell suddenly without apparent reason. Some men made
money and others lost it. Presently, however--that is to say, in the
month of March--two months after Tony Cornish had safely conveyed his
malgamite makers to their new home on the sand dunes of
Scheveningen--the paper markets of the world began to settle down
again, and steadier prices ruled. This could be traced--as all
commercial changes may be traced--to the original flow at one of the