Part 2 out of 5
fountain-heads of supply and demand. It arose from the simple fact that
a broker in London had bought some of the new malgamite--the
Scheveningen malgamite--and had issued it to his clients, who said that
it was good. He had, moreover, bought it cheaper. In a couple of days
all the world--all the world concerned in the matter--knew of it. Such
is commerce at the end of the century.
And Cornish, casually looking in at the little office of the Malgamite
Charity, where a German clerk recommended by Herr von Holzen kept the
books of the scheme, found his table littered with telegrams. Tony
Cornish had a reputation for being clever. He was, as a matter of fact,
intelligent. The world nearly always mistakes intelligence for
cleverness, just as it nearly always mistakes laughter for happiness.
He was, however, clever enough to have found out during the last two
months that the Malgamite scheme was a bigger thing than either he or
his uncle had ever imagined.
Many questions had arisen during those two months of Cornish's honorary
secretary ship of the charity which he had been unable to answer, and
which he had been obliged to refer to Roden and Von Holzen. These had
replied readily, and the matter as solved by them seemed simple enough.
But each question seemed to have side issues--indeed, the whole scheme
appeared suddenly to bristle with side issues, and Tony Cornish began
to find himself getting really interested in something at last.
The telegrams were not alone upon his office table. There were letters
as well. It was a nice little office, furnished by Joan with a certain
originality which certainly made it different from any other office in
Westminster. It had, moreover, the great recommendation of being above
a Ladies' Tea Association, so that afternoon tea could be easily
procured. The German clerk quite counted on receiving three
half-holidays a week and Joan brought her friends to tea, and her
mother to chaperon. These little tea-parties became quite notorious,
and there was a question of a cottage piano, which was finally
abandoned in favour of a banjo. It happened to be a wire-puzzle winter,
and Cornish had the best collection of rings on impossible wire mazes,
and glass beads strung upon intertwisted hooks, in Westminster, if not,
indeed, in the whole of London. Then, of course, there were the
committee meetings--that is to say, the meeting of the lady committees
of the bazaar and ball sub-committees. The wire puzzles and the
association tea were an immense feature of these.
Cornish was quite accustomed to finding a number of letters awaiting
him, and had been compelled to buy a waste-paper basket of abnormal
dimensions--so many moribund charities cast envious eyes upon the
Malgamite scheme, and wondered how it was done, and, on the chance of
it, offered Cornish honourable honorary posts. But the telegrams had
been few, and nearly all from Roden. There was a letter from Roden this
"DEAR CORNISH" (he wrote),--
"You will probably receive applications from malgamite workers in
different parts of the world for permission to enter our works. Accept
them all, and arrange for their enlistment as soon as possible.
"Yours in haste,
Percy Roden was usually in haste, and wrote a bad letter in a beautiful
Cornish turned to the telegrams. They were one and all applications
from malgamite makers--from Venice to Valparaiso--to be enrolled in the
Scheveningen group. He was still reading them when Lord Ferriby came
into the little office. His lordship was wearing a new fancy waistcoat.
It was the month of April--the month assuredly of fancy waistcoats
throughout all nature. Lord Ferriby was, as usual, rather pleased with
himself. He had walked down Piccadilly with great effect, and a bishop
had bowed to him, recognizing, in a sense, a lay bishop.
"What have you got there, Tony?" he asked, affably, laying his smart
walking-stick on an inlaid bureau, which was supposed to be his, and
was always closed, and had nothing in it.
"Telegrams," answered Cornish, "from malgamite makers, who want to join
the works at Scheveningen. Seventy-six of them. I don't quite
understand this business."
"Neither do I," admitted Lord Ferriby, in a voice which clearly
indicated that if he only took the trouble he could understand
anything. "But I fancy it is one of the biggest things in charity that
has ever been started."
In the company of men, and especially of young men, Lord Ferriby
allowed himself a little license in speech. He at times almost verged
on the slangy, which is, of course, quite correct and _de haut ton_,
and he did not want to be taken for an old buffer, as were his
contemporaries. Therefore he called himself an old buffer whenever he
could. _Qui s'excuse s'accuse._
"Of course," he added, "we must take the poor fellows."
Without comment, Cornish handed him Roden's letter, and while Lord
Ferriby read it, employed himself in making out a list of the names and
addresses of the applicants. Cornish was, in fact, rising to the
occasion. In other circumstances Anthony Cornish might with favourable
influence--say that of a Scottish head clerk--have been made into what
is called a good business man. Without any training whatever, and with
an education which consisted only of a smattering of the classics and a
rigid code of honour, he usually perceived what it was wise to do. Some
people call this genius; others, luck.
"I see," said Lord Ferriby, "that Roden is of the same opinion as
myself. A shrewd fellow, Roden." And he pulled down his fancy
"Then I may write, or telegraph, to these men, and tell them to come?"
"Most certainly, my dear Anthony. We will collect them, or muster them,
as White calls it, in London, and then send them to Scheveningen, as
before, when Roden and Herr von Holzen are ready for them. Send a note
to White, whose department this mustering is. As a soldier he
understands the handling of a body of men. You and I are more competent
to deal with a sum of money."
Lord Ferriby glanced towards the door to make sure that it was open, so
that the German clerk in the outer office should lose nothing that
could only be for his good--might, in fact, pick up a few crumbs from
the richly stored table of a great man's mind.
Lord Ferriby leisurely withdrew his gloves and laid them on the inlaid
bureau. He had the physique of a director of public companies, and the
grave manner that impresses shareholders. He talked of the weather,
drew Cornish's attention to a blot of ink on the high-art wallpaper,
and then put on his gloves again, well pleased with himself and his
"Everything appears to be in order, my dear Anthony," he said.
"So there is nothing to keep me here any longer."
"Nothing," replied Cornish; and his lordship departed.
Cornish remained until it was time to go across St. James's Park to his
club to lunch. He answered a certain number of letters himself, the
others he handed over to the German clerk--a man with all the virtues,
smooth, upright hair, and a dreamy eye. The malgamite makers were
bidden to come as soon as they liked. After luncheon Cornish had to
hurry back to Great George Street. This was one of his busy days. At
four o'clock there was to be a meeting of the floor committee of the
approaching ball, and Cornish remembered that he had been specially
told to get a new bass string for the banjo. The Hon. Rupert Dalkyn
had promised to come, but had vowed that he would not touch the banjo
again unless it had new strings. So Cornish bought the bass string at
the Army and Navy Stores, and the first preparation for the meeting of
the floor committee was the tuning of the banjo by the German clerk.
There were, of course, flowers to be bought and arranged _tant bien que
mal_ in empty ink-stands, a conceit of Joan's, who refused to spend the
fund money in any ornament less serious, while she quite recognized the
necessity for flowers on the table of a mixed committee.
The Hon. Rupert was the first to arrive. He was very small and neat and
rather effeminate. The experienced could tell at a glance that he came
from a fighting stock. He wore a grave and rather preoccupied air. He
sat down on the arm of a chair and looked sadly into the fire, while
his lips moved.
"Got something on your mind?" asked Cornish, who was putting the
finishing touches to the arrangement of the room.
"Yes, a new song composed for the occasion 'The Maudlin Malgamite';
like to hear it?"
"Well, I would rather wait. I think I hear a carriage at the door,"
said Cornish, hastily.
Rupert Dalkyn had to be elected to the floor committee because he was
Mrs. Courteville's brother, and Mrs. Courteville was the best chaperon
in London. She was not only a widow, but her husband had been killed in
rather painful circumstances.
"Poor dear," the people said when she had done something perhaps a
little unusual--"poor dear; you know her husband was killed."
So the late Courteville, in his lone grave by the banks of the Ogowe
River, watched over his wife's welfare, and made quite a nice place for
her in London society.
Rupert himself had been intended for the Church, but had at Cambridge
developed such an exquisite sense of humour and so killing a power of
mimicry that no one of the dons was safe, and his friends told him that
he really mustn't. So he didn't. Since then Rupert had, to tell the
truth, done nothing. The exquisite sense of humour had also slightly
evaporated. People said, "Oh yes, very funny," than which nothing is
more fatal to humour; and elderly ladies smiled a pinched smile at one
side of their lips. It is so difficult to see a joke through those
Cornish was quite right when he said that he had heard a carriage, for
presently the door opened, and Mrs. Courteville came in. She was small
and slight--"a girlish figure," her maid told her--and well dressed.
She was just at that age when she did not look it--at an age, moreover,
when some women seem to combine a maximum of experience with a minimum
of thought. But who are we to pick holes in our neighbours' garments?
If any of us is quite sure that he is not doing more harm than good in
the world, let him by all means throw stones at Mrs. Courteville.
Joan arrived next, accompanied by Lady Ferriby, who knew that if she
stayed at home she would only have to give tea to a number of people
towards whom she did not feel kindly enough disposed to reconcile
herself to the expense. Joan glanced hastily from Mrs. Courteville to
Tony. She had noticed that Mrs. Courteville always arrived early at the
floor committee meetings when these were held at the Malgamite office
or in Cornish's rooms. Joan wondered, while Mrs. Courteville was
kissing her, whether the widow had come with her brother or before him.
"Has he not made the room look pretty with that mimosa?" asked Mrs.
Courteville, vivaciously. People did not know how matters stood
between Joan Ferriby and Tony Cornish, and always wanted to know.
That is why Mrs. Courteville said "he" only when she drew Joan's
attention to the flowers.
The meeting may best be described as lively. We belong, however, to an
eminently practical generation, and some business was really
transacted. The night for the Malgamite ball was fixed, and a list of
stewards drawn up; and then the Hon. Rupert played the banjo.
Lady Ferriby had some calls to pay, so Cornish volunteered to walk
across the park with Joan, who had a healthy love of exercise. They
talked of various matters, and of course returned again and again to
the Malgamite affairs.
"By the way," said Joan, at the corner of Cambridge Terrace, "I had a
letter this morning from Dorothy Roden. I was at school with her, you
know, and never dreamt that Mr. Roden was her brother. In fact, I had
nearly forgotten her existence. She is coming across for the ball. She
says she saw you when you were at The Hague. You never mentioned her,
"Didn't I? She is not interested in the Malgamite scheme, you know. And
nobody who is not interested in that is worth mentioning."
They walked on in silence for a few minutes. Then Cornish asked a
"What sort of person was she at school?"
"Oh, she was a frivolous sort of girl--never took anything seriously,
you know. That is why she is not interested in the Malgamite, I
"I suppose so," said Tony Cornish.
THE SEAMY SIDE.
"For this is death, and the sole death,
When a man's loss comes to him from his gain."
Mrs. Vansittart told Roden that her house was in Park Street in The
Hague. But she did not mention that it was at the corner of Orange
Street, which makes all the difference. For Park Street is long, and
the further end of it--the extremity furthest removed from the Royal
Palace--is less desirable than the neighbourhood of the Vyverberg. Mrs.
Vansittart's house was in the most desirable part of a most desirable
little city. She was surrounded with houses inhabited by people bearing
names well known in history. These people are, moreover, of a
fascinating cosmopolitanism. They come from all parts of the world, in
an ancestral sense. There are, for instance, Dutch people living here
whose names are Scottish. There are others of French extraction, others
again whose forefathers came to Holland with the Don Juan of the
religious wars whose history reads like a romance.
Outwardly Mrs. Vansittart's house was of dark red brick, with stone
facings, and probably belonged to that period which in England is
called Tudor. Inwardly the house was as comfortable as thick carpets
and rich curtains and beautiful carvings could make it. The Dutch are
pre-eminently the flower-growers of the world, and the observant
traveller walking along Orange Street may note even in midwinter that
the flowers in the windows are changed each day. In this, as in other
_menus plaisirs_, Mrs. Vansittart had assumed the ways of the country
of her adoption. For Holland suggests to the inquiring mind an elderly
gentleman, now getting a little stout, who, after a wild youth, is
beginning to appreciate the blessings of repose and comfort; who,
having laid by a small sufficiency, sits peaceably by the fire, and
reflects upon the days that are no more.
It was Mrs. Vansittart's pleasant habit to surround herself with every
comfort. She was an eminently self-respecting person--of that
self-respect which denies itself nothing except excess. She liked to be
well dressed, well housed, and well served. She possessed money, and
with it she bought these adjuncts, which in a minor degree are within
the reach of nearly everybody, though few have the wit to value them.
She was not, however, a vociferously contented woman. Like many
another, she probably wanted something that money could not buy.
Mrs. Vansittart, in fulfilment of her promise to Percy Roden, called on
Dorothy at the Villa des Dunes, who in due course came to the house at
the corner of Park Street and Orange Street to return the visit.
Dorothy had been out when Mrs. Vansittart called, but she thought she
knew from her brother's description what sort of woman to expect. For
Dorothy Roden had been educated abroad, and was not without knowledge
of a certain class of English lady to be met with on the Continent, who
is always well connected, invariably idle, and usually refers
gracefully to a great sorrow in the past.
But Dorothy knew, as soon as she saw Mrs. Vansittart that she had
formed an entirely erroneous conception. This was not the sort of woman
to seek the admiration of the first-comer, and Percy Roden had allowed
his sister to surmise that, whether it had been sought or not, Mrs.
Vansittart had certainly been accorded his highest admiration.
"It is good of you to return my call so soon," she said, in a friendly
voice. "You have walked, I suppose, all the way from the Villa des
Dunes. English girls are such great walkers now--a most excellent
thing. I belong to the semi-generation older than yours, which
preferred a carriage. I am an atrocious walker. You are not at all like
your brother." And she threw back her head and looked speculatively at
her visitor. "Sit down," she said, with a laugh. "You probably came
here harbouring a prejudice against me. One should never get to know a
woman through her men-folk. That is a rule almost without exception;
you may take it from one who is many years older than you. But--well,
_nous verrons_. Perhaps we are the exception."
"I hope so," answered Dorothy, who was ready enough of speech. "At all
events, all that Percy told me made me anxious to meet you. It is
rather lonely, you know, at the Villa des Dunes. You see, Percy is
engaged all day with his malgamiters. And, of course, we know no one
"There is Herr von Holzen," suggested Mrs. Vansittart, ringing the bell
"Oh yes. The man who is associated with Percy at the works? I do not
know him. Percy has not brought him to the villa."
"Ah! Is that so? That is nice of your brother. Sometimes men, you know,
make use of their wives or their sisters to help them in their business
relationships. I have known a man use his pretty daughter to gain a
client. Beauty levels all, you see. Not nice, no; I suppose Herr von
Holzen, is--well--let us call him a foreign savant. Such a nice broad
term, you know; covers such a plentiful lack of soap." And she laughed
easily, with eyes that were quite grave and alert.
"My brother does not say much about him," answered Dorothy Roden.
"Percy never does tell me much of his affairs, and I am not sorry. I am
sure I should not understand them. Stocks and shares and freights and
things. I never quite know whether a freight is part of a ship; do
"No. There are so many things more useful to know, are there
not?--things about people and human nature, for instance."
"Yes," said Dorothy, looking at her companion thoughtfully--"yes."
And Mrs. Vansittart returned that thoughtful glance. "And the other
man," she said suddenly, "Mr.--Cornish--do you know him?"
"He called at the Villa des Dunes. My brother brought him in to tea the
evening of arrival of the first batch of malgamiters," replied Dorothy.
"Mr. Cornish interests me," said Mrs. Vansittart. "I knew him when he
was a boy--or little more than a boy. He came to Weimar with a tutor to
learn German when I happened to be living there. I have heard of him
from time to time since. One sees his name in the society papers, you
know. He is one of those persons of whom something is expected by his
friends--not by himself. The young man who expects something of himself
is usually disappointed. Have you ever noticed in the biographies of
great men, Miss Roden that people nearly always began to expect
something of them when they were quite young? As if they were cast in a
different mould from the very first. Really great men, I mean not the
fashionable pianist or novelist of the hour whose portrait is in every
illustrated journal for perhaps two months, and then he is forgotten."
Mrs. Vansittart spoke quickly in a foreign manner, asking with a
certain vivacity questions which required no answer. Dorothy Roden was
not slow of speech, but she touched topics with less airiness. Her mind
seemed a trifle insular in its tendencies. One topic attracted her, and
the rest were set aside.
"Why does Mr. Cornish interest you?" she asked.
Mrs. Vansittart shrugged her shoulders and leant back in her deep
"He strikes me as a person with infinite capacity for holding his
cards. That is all. But perhaps he has no good cards in his hand?
Nothing but rubbish--the twos and threes of ordinary drawing-room
smartness--and never a trump. Who can tell? _Qui vivra verra_,
Miss .Roden. It may not be in my time that the world shall hear of Tony
Cornish--the real world, not the journalistic world, I mean. He may
ripen slowly, and I shall be dead. I am getting elderly. How old do you
think I am, Miss Roden?"
"Thirty-five," replied Dorothy; and Mrs. Vansittart turned sharply to
look at her.
"Ah!" she said, slowly and thoughtfully. "Yes, you are quite right.
That is my age. And I suppose I look it. I suppose others would have
guessed with equal facility, but not everybody would have had the
honesty to say what they thought."
Dorothy laughed and changed colour. "I said it without thinking," she
answered. "I hope you do not mind."
"No, I do not mind," said Mrs. Vansittart, looking out of the window.
"But we were talking of Mr. Cornish."
"Yes," answered Dorothy, buttoning her glove and glancing at the clock.
"Yes; but I must not talk any longer or I shall be late, and my brother
expects to find me at home when he returns from the works."
She rose and shook hands, looking Mrs. Vansittart in the eyes. When
Dorothy had gone, the lady of the house stood for a minute looking at
the closed door.
"I wonder what she thinks of me?" she said.
And Dorothy Roden, walking down Park Straat, was doing the same. She
was wondering what she thought of Mrs. Vansittart.
Although it was the month of April, the winter mists still rose at
evening and swept seawards from the marshes of Leyden. The trees had
scarcely begun to break into bud, for it had been a cold spring, and
the ice was floating lazily on the canal as Dorothy walked along its
bank. The Villa des Dunes was certainly somewhat lonely, standing as it
did a couple of hundred yards back from a sandy road--one of the many
leading from The Hague to Scheveningen. Between the villa and the road
the dunes had scarcely been molested, except indeed, to cut a narrow
roadway to the house. When Dorothy reached home, she found that her
brother had not yet returned. She looked at the clock. He was later
than usual. The malgamite works had during the last few weeks been
absorbing more and more of his attention. When he returned home, tired,
in the evening, he was not communicative. As for Otto von Holzen, he
never showed his face outside the works now, but seemed to live the
life of a recluse within the iron fence that surrounded the little
Percy Roden had not returned to the Villa des Dunes at the usual hour
because he had other work to do. Von Holzen and he were now standing in
one of the little huts in silence. The light of the setting sun glowed
through the window upon their faces, upon the bare walls of the room,
rendered barer and in no way beautified by a terrible German print
purporting to represent the features of Prince Bismarck.
Von Holzen stood, with his hands clasped behind his back, and looked
out of the window across the dreary dunes. Roden stood beside him,
slouching and heavy-shouldered, with his hands in his trouser pockets.
His lower lip was pressed inward between his teeth. His eyes were drawn
On the bed, between the two men, lay a third--an old-looking youth with
lank red hair. It was the story of St. Jacob Straat over again, and it
was new to Percy Roden, who could not turn his eyes elsewhere. The man
was dying. He was a Pole who understood no word of English. Indeed,
these three men had no language in common in which to make themselves
"Can you do nothing at all?" asked Roden, for the second or third time.
"Nothing," answered Von Holzen, without turning round. "He was a doomed
man when he came here."
The man lay on the bed and stared at Von Holzen's back. Perhaps that
was the reason why Von Holzen so persistently looked out of the window.
The work-hours were over, and from some neighbouring cottage the sounds
of a concertina came on the quiet air. The musician had chosen a
popular music-hall song, which he played over and over again with a
maddening pertinacity. Roden bit his lip, and frowned at each
repetition of the opening bars. Von Holzen, with a still, pale face and
stern eyes, seemed to hear nothing. He had no nerves. At times he
twisted his lips, moistening them with his tongue, and suppressed an
impatient sigh. The man was a long time in dying. They had been waiting
there two hours. This little incident had to be passed over as quietly
as possible on account of the feelings of the concertina player and the
The door stood ajar, and in the adjoining room a professional nurse, in
cap and apron, sat reading a German newspaper. This also was a bedroom.
The cottage was, in point of fact, the hospital of the malgamite
workers. The nurse, whose services had not hitherto been wanted, had
since the inauguration of the works spent some pleasant weeks at a
pension at Scheveningen. She read her newspaper very philosophically,
Roden it was who watched the patient. The dying man never heeded him,
but looked persistently towards Von Holzen. The expression of his eyes
indicated that if they had had a language in common he would have
spoken to him. Roden saw the direction of the man's glance, and perhaps
read its meaning. For Percy Roden was handicapped with that greatest of
all drags on a successful career--a soft heart. He could speak harshly
enough of the malgamiters as a class, but he was drawn towards this
dumb individual, with a strong desire to effect the impossible. Von
Holzen had not promised that there should be no deaths. He had merely
undertaken to reduce the dangers of the malgamite industry gradually
and steadily until they ceased to exist. He had, moreover, the strength
of mind to give to this incident its proper weight in the balance of
succeeding events. He was not, in a word, handicapped as was his
The sun set beyond the quiet sea and over the sand dunes the shades of
evening crept towards the west. The outline of Prince Bismarck's iron
face faded slowly in the gathering darkness, until it was nothing but a
shadow in a frame on the bare wall. The concertina player had laid
aside his instrument. A sudden silence fell upon land and sea.
Von Holzen turned sharply on his heel and leant over the bed.
"Come along," he said to Roden, with averted eyes. "It is all over.
There is nothing more for us to do here."
With a backward glance towards the bed, Roden followed his companion,
out of the room into the adjoining apartment where the nurse was
sitting, and where their coats and hats lay on the bed. Von Holzen
spoke to the woman in German.
"So!" she answered, with a mild interest, and folded her paper.
The two men went out into the keen air together, and did not look
towards each other or speak. Perhaps they knew that if there is any
difficulty in speaking of a subject it is better to keep silence. They
crossed the sandy space between this cottage and the others grouped
round the factory like tents around their headquarters. One of these
huts was Von Holzen's--a three-roomed building where he worked and
slept. Its windows looked out upon the factory, and commanded the only
entrance to the railed enclosure within which the whole colony was
confined. It was Von Holzen's habit to shut himself within his cottage
for days together, living there in solitude like some crustacean within
its shell. At the door he turned, with his fingers on the handle.
"You must not worry yourself about this," he said to Roden, with
averted eyes. "It cannot be helped, you know."
"No; I know that."
"And of course we must keep our own counsel. Good night, Roden."
"Of course. Good night, Von Holzen."
And Percy Roden passed through the gateway, walking slowly across the
dunes towards his own house; while Von Holzen watched him from the
window of the little three-roomed cottage.
A SHADOW FROM THE PAST.
"Le plus sur moyen d'arriver a son but c'est de ne pas faire de
rencontres en chemin."
"Yes, it was long ago--'lang, lang izt's her'--you remember the song
Frau Neumayer always sang. So long ago, Mr. Cornish, that----Well, it
must be Mr. Cornish, and not Tony."
Mrs. Vansittart leant back in her comfortable chair and looked at her
visitor with observant eyes. Those who see the most are they who never
appear to be observing. It is fatal to have others say that one is so
sharp, and people said as much of Mrs. Vansittart, who had quick dark
eyes and an alert manner.
"Yes," answered Cornish, "it is long ago, but not so long as all that."
His smooth fair face was slightly troubled by the knowledge that the
recollections to which she referred were those of the Weimar days when
she who was now a widow had been a young married woman. Tony Cornish
had also been young in those days, and impressionable. It was before
the world had polished his surface bright and hard. And the impression
left of the Mrs. Vansittart of Weimar was that she was one of the rare
women who marry _pour le bon motif_. He had met her by accident in the
streets of The Hague a few hours ago, and having learnt her address,
had, in duty bound, called at the house at the corner of Park Straat
and Oranje Straat at the earliest calling hour.
"I am not ignorant of your history since you were at Weimar," said the
lady, looking at him with an air of almost maternal scrutiny.
"I have no history," he replied. "I never had a past even, a few years
ago, when every man who took himself seriously had at least one."
He spoke as he had learnt to speak, with the surface of his
mind--with the object of passing the time and avoiding topics that
might possibly be painful. Many who appear to be egotistical must
assuredly be credited with this good motive. One is, at all events,
safe in talking of one's self. Sufficient for the social day is the
effort to avoid glancing at the cupboard where our neighbour keeps his
A silence followed Cornish's heroic speech, and it was perhaps better
to face it than stave it off.
"Yes," said Mrs. Vansittart, at the end of that pause, "I am a widow
and childless. I see the questions in your face."
Cornish gave a little nod of the head, and looked out of the window.
Mrs. Vansittart was only a year older than himself, but the difference
in their life and experience, when they had learnt to know each other
at Weimar, had in some subtle way augmented the seniority.
"Then you never--" he said, and paused.
"No," she answered lightly. "So I am what the world calls independent,
you see. No encumbrance of any sort."
Again he nodded without speaking.
"The line between an encumbrance and a purpose is not very clearly
defined, is it?" she said lightly; and then added a question, "What are
you doing in The Hague--Malgamite?"
"Yes," he answered, in surprise, "Malgamite."
"Oh, I know all about it," laughed Mrs. Vansittart. "I see Dorothy
Roden at least once a week."
"But she takes no part in it."
"No; she takes no part in it, _mon ami_, except in so far as it affects
her brother and compels her to live in a sad little villa on the
"And you--you are interested?"
"Most assuredly. I have even given my mite. I am interested in"--she
paused and shrugged her shoulders--"in you, since you ask me, in
Dorothy, and in Mr. Roden. He gave the flowers at which you are so
earnestly looking, by the way."
"Ah!" said Cornish, politely.
"Yes," answered Mrs. Vansittart, with a passing smile. "He is kind
enough to give me flowers from time to time. You never gave me flowers,
Mr. Cornish, in the olden times."
"Because I could not afford good ones."
"And you would not offer anything more reasonable?"
"Not to you," he answered.
"But of course that was long ago."
"Yes. I am glad to hear that you know Miss Roden. It will make the
little villa on the Dunes less sad. The atmosphere of malgamite is not
cheerful. One sees it at its best in a London drawing-room. It is one
of the many realities which have an evil odour when approached too
"And you are coming nearer to it?"
"It is coming nearer to me."
"Ah!" said Mrs. Vansittart, examining the rings with which her fingers
were laden. "I thought there would be developments."
"There are developments. Hence my presence in The Hague. Lord Ferriby
_et famille_ arrive to-morrow. Also my friend Major White."
"The fighting man?" inquired Mrs. Vansittart.
"Yes, the fighting man. We are to have a solemn meeting. It has been
found necessary to alter our financial basis----"
Mrs. Vansittart held up a warning hand. "Do not talk to me of your
financial basis. I know nothing of money. It is not from that point of
view that I contemplate your Malgamite scheme."
"Ah! Then, if one may inquire, from what point of view....?"
"From the human point of view; as does every other woman connected with
it. We are advancing, I admit, but I think we shall always be willing
to leave the--financial basis--to your down-trodden sex."
"It is very kind of you to be interested in these poor people," began
Cornish; but Mrs. Vansittart interrupted him vivaciously.
"Poor people? Gott bewahre!" she cried. "Did you think I meant the
workers? Oh no! I am not interested in them. I am interested in your
Rodens and your Ferribys and your Whites, and even in your Tony
Cornish. I wonder who will quarrel and who will--well, do the contrary,
and what will come of it all? In my day young people were brought
together by a common pleasure, but that has gone out of fashion. And
now it is a common endeavour to achieve the impossible, to check the
stars in their courses by the holding of mixed meetings, and the
enunciation of second-hand platitudes respecting the poor and the
masses--this is what brings the present generation into that
intercourse which ends in love and marriage and death--the old
programme. And it is from that point of view alone, _mon ami_, that I
take a particle of interest in your Malgamite scheme."
All of which Tony Cornish remembered later; for it was untrue. He rose
to take his leave with polite hopes of seeing her again.
"Oh, do not hurry away," she said. "I am expecting Dorothy Roden, who
promised to come to tea. She will be disappointed not to see you."
Cornish laughed in his light way. "You are kind in your assumptions,"
he answered. "Miss Roden is barely aware of my existence, and would not
know me from Adam."
Nevertheless he stayed, moving about the room for some minutes looking
at the flowers and the pictures, of which he knew just as much as was
desirable and fashionable. He knew what flowers were "in," such as
fuchsias and tulips, and what were "out," such as camellias and double
hyacinths. About the pictures he knew a little, and asked questions as
to some upon the walls that belonged to the Dutch school. He was of the
universe, universal. Then he sat down again unobtrusively, and Mrs.
Vansittart did not seem to notice that he had done so, though she
glanced at the clock.
A few minutes later Dorothy came in. She changed colour when Mrs.
Vansittart half introduced Cornish with the conventional, "I think you
know each other."
"I knew you were coming to The Hague," she said, shaking hands with
Cornish. "I had a letter from Joan the other day. They all are coming,
are they not? I am afraid Joan will be very much disappointed in me.
She thinks I am wrapped up heart and soul in the malgamiters--and I am
not, you know."
She turned with a little laugh, and appealed to Mrs. Vansittart, who
was watching her closely, as if Dorothy were displaying some quality or
point hitherto unknown to the older woman. The girl's eyes were
certainly brighter than usual.
"Joan takes some things very seriously," answered Cornish.
"We all do that," said Mrs. Vansittart, without looking up from the
tea-table at which she was engaged. "Yes; it is a mistake, of course."
"Possibly," assented Mrs. Vansittart. "Do you take sugar, Miss Roden?"
"Yes, please--seriously. Two pieces."
"Are you like Joan?" asked Cornish, as he gave her the cup. "Do you
take anything else seriously?"
"Oh no," answered Dorothy Roden, with a laugh.
"And your brother?" inquired Mrs. Vansittart. "Is he coming this
"He will follow me. He is busy with the new malgamiters who arrived
this morning. I suppose you brought them, Mr. Cornish?"
"Yes, I brought them. Twenty-four of them--the dregs, so to speak. The
very last of the malgamiters, collected from all parts of the world. I
was not proud of them."
He sat down and quickly changed the conversation, showing quite clearly
that this subject interested him as little as it interested his
companions. He brought the latest news from London, which the ladies
were glad enough to hear. For to Dorothy Roden, at least, The Hague was
a place of exile, where men lived different lives and women thought
different thoughts. Are there not a hundred little rivulets of news
which never flow through the journals, but are passed from mouth to
mouth, and seem shallow enough, but which, uniting at last, form a
great stream of public opinion, and this, having formed itself
imperceptibly, is suddenly found in full flow, and is so obvious that
the newspapers forget to mention it? Thus colonists and other exiles
returning to England, and priding themselves upon having kept in touch
with the progress of events and ideas in the old country, find that
their thoughts have all the while been running in the wrong
channels--that seemingly great events have been considered very small,
that small ideas have been lifted high by the babbling crowd which is
vaguely called society.
From Tony Cornish, Mrs. Vansittart and Dorothy learnt that among other
social playthings charity was for the moment being laid aside. We have
inherited, it appears, a great box of playthings, and the careful
student of history will find that none of the toys are new--that they
have indeed been played with by our forefathers, who did just as we do.
They took each toy from the box, and cried aloud that it was new, that
the world had never seen its like before. Had it not, indeed? Then
presently the toy--be it charity, or a new religion, or sentiment, or
greed of gain, or war--is thrown back into the box again, where it lies
until we of a later day drag it forth with the same cry that it is new.
We grow wild with excitement over South African mines, and never
recognize the old South Sea bubble trimmed anew to suit the taste of
the day. We crow with delight over our East End slums, and never
recognize the patched-up remnants of the last Crusade that fizzled out
so ignominiously at Acre five hundred years ago.
So Tony Cornish, who was _dans le movement_ gently intimated to his
hearers that what may be called a robuster tone ruled the spirit of the
age. Charity was going down, athletics were coming up. Another
Olympiad had passed away. Wise indeed was Solon, who allowed four years
for men to soften and to harden again. During the Olympiads it is to be
presumed that men busied themselves with the slums that existed in
those days, hearkened to the decadent poetry or fiction of that time,
and then, as the robuster period of the games came round, braced
themselves once more to the consideration of braver things.
It appeared, therefore, that the Malgamite scheme was already a thing
of the past so far as social London was concerned. A sensational
'Varsity boat-race had given charity its _coup de grace_, had ushered
in the spring, when even the poor must shift for themselves.
"And in the mean time," commented Mrs. Vansittart, "here are four
hundred industrials landed, if one may so put it, at The Hague."
"Yes; but that will be all right," retorted Cornish, with his gay
laugh. "They only wanted a start. They have got their start. What more
can they desire? Is not Lord Ferriby himself coming across? He is at
the moment on board the Flushing boat. And he is making a great
sacrifice, for he must be aware that he does not look nearly so
impressive on the Continent as he does, say in Piccadilly, where the
policemen know him, and even the newspaper boys are dimly aware that
this is no ordinary man to whom one may offer a halfpenny Radical
Cornish broke off, and looked towards the door, which was at this
moment thrown open by a servant, who announced--"Herr Roden. Herr von
The two men came forward together, Roden slouching and
heavy-shouldered, but well dressed; Von Holzen smaller, compacter, with
a thoughtful, still face and calculating eyes. Roden introduced his
companion to the two ladies. It is possible that a certain reluctance
in his manner indicated the fact that he had brought Von Holzen against
his own desire. Either Von Holzen had asked to be brought or Mrs.
Vansittart had intimated to Roden that she would welcome his associate,
but this was not touched upon in the course of the introduction.
Cornish looked gravely on. Von Holzen was betrayed into a momentary
gaucheness, as if he were not quite at home in a drawing-room.
Roden drew forward a chair, and seated himself near to Mrs. Vansittart
with an air of familiarity which the lady seemed rather to invite than
to resent. They had, it appeared, many topics in common. Roden had come
with the purpose of seeing Mrs. Vansittart, and no one else. Her
manner, also, changed as soon as Roden entered the room, and seemed to
appeal with a sort of deference to his judgment of all that she said or
did. It was a subtle change, and perhaps no one noticed it, though
Dorothy, who was exchanging conventional remarks with Von Holzen,
glanced across the room once.
"Ah," Von Holzen was saying in his grave way, with his head bent a
little forward, as if the rounded brow were heavy--"ah, but I am only
the chemist, Miss Roden. It is your brother who has placed us on our
wonderful financial basis. He has a head for finance, your brother, and
is quick in his calculations. He understands money, whereas I am only a
He spoke English correctly but slowly, with the Dutch accent, which is
slighter and less guttural than the German. Dorothy was interested in
him, and continued to talk with him, leaving Cornish standing at a
little distance, teacup in hand. Von Holzen was in strong contrast to
the two Englishmen. He was graver, more thoughtful, a man of deeper
purpose and more solid intellect. There was something dimly Napoleonic
in the direct and calculating glance of his eyes, as if he never looked
idly at anything or any man. It was he who made a movement after the
lapse of a few moments only, as if, having recovered his slight
embarrassment, he did not intend to stay longer than the merest
etiquette might demand. He crossed the room, and stood before Mrs.
Vansittart, with his heels clapped well together, making the most
formal conversation, which was only varied by a stiff bow.
"I have a friendly recollection," he said, preparing to take his leave,
"of a Charles Vansittart, a student at Leyden, with whom I was brought
into contact again in later life. He was, I believe, from Amsterdam, of
an English mother."
"Ah!" replied Mrs. Vansittart. "Mine is a common name."
And they bowed to each other in the foreign way.
"Une bonne intention est une echelle trop courte."
"I have had considerable experience in such matters, and I think I may
say that the new financial scheme worked out by Mr. Roden and myself is
a sound one," Lord Ferriby was saying in his best manner.
He was addressing Major White, Tony Cornish, Von Holzen, and Percy
Roden, convened to a meeting in the private _salon_ occupied by the
Ferribys at the Hotel of the Old Shooting Gallery, at The Hague.
The _salon_ in question was at the front of the house on the first
floor, and therefore looked out upon the Toornoifeld, where the trees
were beginning to show a tender green, under the encouragement of a
treacherous April sun. Major White, seated bolt upright in his chair,
looked with a gentle surprise out of the window. He had so small an
opinion of his understanding that he usually begged explanatory persons
to excuse him. "No doubt you're quite right, but it's no use trying to
explain it to _me_, don't you know," he was in the habit of saying, and
his attitude said no less at the present moment.
Von Holzen, with his chin in the palm of his hand, watched Lord
Ferriby's face with a greater attention than that transparent
physiognomy required. Roden's attention was fully occupied by the
papers on the table in front of him. He was seated by Lord Ferriby's
side, ready to prompt or assist, as behoved a merely mechanical
subordinate. Lord Ferriby, dimly conscious of this mental attitude, had
spoken Roden's name with considerable patronage, and with the evident
desire to give every man his due. Cornish, in his quick and superficial
way, glanced from one face to the other, taking in _en passant_ any
object in the room that happened to call for a momentary attention. He
noted the passive and somewhat bovine surprise on White's face, and
wondered whether it owed its presence thereto astonishment at finding
himself taking part in a committee meeting or amazement at the
suggestion that Lord Ferriby should be capable of evolving any scheme,
financial or otherwise, out of his own brain. The committee thus
summoned was a fair sample of its kind. Here were a number of men
dividing a sense of responsibility among them so impartially that there
was not nearly enough of it to go round. In a multitude of councilors
there may be safety, but it is assuredly the councillors only who are
"The reasons," continued Lord Ferriby, "why it is inexpedient to
continue in our present position as mere trustees of a charitable fund
are too numerous to go into at the present moment. Suffice it to say
that there are many such reasons, and that I have satisfied myself of
their soundness. Our chief desire is to ameliorate the condition of the
malgamite workers. It must assuredly suggest itself to any one of us
that the best method of doing this is to make the malgamite workers an
independent corporation, bound together by the greatest of ties, a
The speaker paused, and turned to Roden with a triumphant smile, as
much as to say, "There, beat that if you can."
Roden could not beat it, so he nodded thoughtfully, and examined the
point of his pen.
"Gentlemen," said Lord Ferriby, impressively, "the greatest common
interest is a common purse."
As the meeting was too small for applause, Lord Ferriby only allowed
sufficient time for this great truth to be assimilated, and then
continued--"It is proposed, therefore, that we turn the Malgamite
Works into a company, the most numerous shareholders to be the
malgamiters themselves. The most numerous shareholders, mark
you--not the heaviest shareholders. These shall be ourselves. We
propose to estimate the capital of the company at ten thousand pounds,
which, as you know, is, approximately speaking, the amount
raised by our appeals on behalf of this great charity. We shall divide
this capital into two thousand five-pound shares, allot one share to
each malgamite worker--say five hundred shares--and retain the
rest--say fifteen hundred shares--ourselves. Of those fifteen hundred,
it is proposed to allot three hundred to each of us. Do I make myself
"Yes," answered Major White, optimistically polishing his eye-glass
with a pocket-handkerchief. "Any ass could understand that."
"Our friend Mr. Roden," continued his lordship, "who, I mention in
passing, is one of the finest financiers with whom I have ever had
relationship, is of opinion that this company, having its works in
Holland, should not be registered as a limited company in England. The
reasons for holding such an opinion are, briefly, connected with the
interference of the English law in the management of a limited
liability company formed for the sole purpose of making money.
We are not disposed to classify ourselves as such a company. We are not
disposed to pay the English income tax on money which is intended for
distribution in charity. Each malgamite worker, with his one share, is
not, precisely speaking, so much a shareholder as a participator in
profits. We are not in any sense a limited liability company."
That Lord Ferriby had again made himself clear was sufficiently
indicated by the fact that Major White nodded his head at this juncture
with portentous gravity and wisdom.
"As to the question of profit and loss," continued Lord Ferriby, "I am
not, unfortunately, a business man myself, but I think we are all aware
that the business part of the Malgamite scheme is in excellent hands.
It is not, of course, intended that we, as shareholders, shall in any
way profit by this new financial basis. We are shareholders in name
only, and receive profits, if profits there be, merely as trustees of
the Malgamite Fund. We shall administer those profits precisely as we
have administered the fund--for the sole benefit of the malgamite
workers. The profits of these poor men, earned on their own share, may
reasonably be considered in the light of a bonus. So much for the basis
upon which I propose that we shall work. The matter has had Mr. Roden's
careful consideration, and I think we are ready to give our consent to
any proposal which has received so marked a benefit. There are, of
course, many details which will require discussion----Eh?"
Lord Ferriby broke off short, and turned to Roden, who had muttered a
"Ah--yes. Yes, certainly. Mr. Roden will kindly spare us details as
much as possible."
This was considerate and somewhat appropriate, as Tony Cornish had
yawned more than once.
"Now as to the past," continued Lord Ferriby. "The works have been
going for more than three months, and the result has been uniformly
"Many deaths?" inquired White, stolidly repeating his question.
"Deaths? Ah--among the workers? Yes, to be sure. Perhaps Mr. von Holzen
can tell you better than I."
And his lordship bowed in what he took to be the foreign manner across
"Yes," replied Von Holzen, quietly, "there have, of course, been
deaths, but not so many as I anticipated. The majority of the men had,
as Mr. Cornish will tell you, death written on their faces when they
arrived at The Hague."
"They certainly looked seedy," admitted Tony.
"We will, I think, turn rather to the--eh--er--living," said Lord
Ferriby, turning over the papers in front of him with a slightly
reproachful countenance. He evidently thought it rather bad form of
White to pour cold water over his new whitewash. For Lord Ferriby's was
that charity which hopeth all things, and closeth her eye to practical
facts, if these be discouraging. "I have here the result of the three
He looked at the papers with so condescending an air that it was quite
evident that, had he been a business man and not a lord, he would have
understood them at a glance. There was a short silence while he turned
over the closely written sheets with an air of approving interest.
"Yes," he said, as if during those moments he had run his eye up all
the column of figures and found them correct, "the result, as I say,
gentlemen, has been most satisfactory. We have manufactured a malgamite
which has been well received by the paper-makers. We have, furthermore,
been able to supply at the current rate without any serious loss. We
are increasing our plant, and the day is not so far distant when we
may, at all events, hope to be self-supporting."
Lord Ferriby sat up and pulled down his waistcoat, a sure signal that
the fountain of his garrulous inspiration was for the moment dried up.
With great presence of mind Tony Cornish interposed a question which
only Roden could answer, and after the consideration of some
statistics, the proceedings terminated. It had been apparent all
through that Percy Roden was the only business man of the party.
In any question of figures or statistics his colleagues showed plainly
that they were at sea. Lord Ferriby had in early life been managed by
a thrifty mother, who had in due course married him to a thrifty wife.
Tony Cornish's business affairs had been narrowed down to the financial
fiasco of a tailor's bill far beyond his facilities. Major White had,
in his subaltern days, been despatched from Gibraltar on a business
quest into the interior of Spain to buy mules there for his Queen and
country. He fell out with a dealer at Ronda, whom he knocked down, and
returned to Gibraltar branded as unbusiness-like and hasty, and there
his commercial enterprise had terminated. Von Holzen was only a
scientist, a fact of which he assured his colleagues repeatedly.
If plain speaking be a sign of friendship, then women are assuredly
capable of higher flights than men. A lifelong friendship between two
women usually means that they quarrelled at school, and have retained
in later days the privilege of mutual plain speaking. If Jones, who was
Tompkins's best man, goes yachting with Tompkins in later days, these
two sinners are quite capable of enjoying themselves immensely in the
present without raking about among the ashes of the past to seek the
reason why Tompkins persisted, in spite of his friends' advice, in
making an idiot of himself over that Robinson girl--Jones standing by
all the while with the ring in his waistcoat pocket. Whereas, if the
friendship existed between the respective ladies of Jones and Tompkins,
their conversation will usually be found to begin with: "I always told
you, Maria, when we were girls together," or, "Well, Jane, when we were
at school you never would listen to me." A man's friendship is
apparently based upon a knowledge of another's redeeming qualities. A
woman's dearest friend is she whose faults will bear the closest
It was doubtless owing to these trifling variations in temperament that
Joan Ferriby learnt more about The Hague and Percy Roden and Otto von
Holzen, and lastly, though not leastly, Mrs. Vansittart, in ten minutes
than Tony Cornish could have learnt in a month of patient
investigation. The first five of these ten precious minutes were spent
in kissing Dorothy Roden, and admiring her hat, and holding her at
arm's length, and saying, with conviction, that she was a dear. Then
Joan asked why Dorothy had ceased writing, and Dorothy proved that it
was Joan who had been in default, and lo! a bridge was thrown across
the years, and they were friends once more.
"And you mean to tell me," said Joan, as they walked up the Korte
Voorhout towards the canal and the Wood, "that you don't take any
interest in the Malgamite scheme?"
"No," answered Dorothy. "And I am weary of the very word."
"But then you always were rather--well, frivolous, weren't you?"
"I did not take lessons as seriously as you, perhaps, if that is what
you mean," admitted Dorothy.
And Joan, who had come across to Holland full of zeal in well-doing,
and as seriously as ever Queen Marguerite sailed to the Holy Land,
walked on in silence. The trees were just breaking into leaf, and the
air was laden with a subtle odour of spring. The Korte Voorhout is, as
many know, a short broad street, spotlessly clean, bordered on either
side by quaint and comfortable houses. The traffic is usually limited
to one carriage going to the Wood, and on the pavement a few leisurely
persons engaged in taking exercise in the sunshine. It was a different
atmosphere to that from which Joan had come, more restful, purer
perhaps, and certainly healthier, possibly more thoughtful; and
charity, above all virtues, to be practiced well must be practiced
without too much reflection. He who lets wisdom guide his bounty too
closely will end by giving nothing at all.
"At all events," said Joan, "it is splendid of Mr. Roden to work so
hard in the cause, and to give himself up to it as he does."
Joan turned sharply and looked at her companion. Dorothy Roden's face
was not, perhaps, easy to read, especially when she turned, as she
turned now, to meet an inquiring glance with an easy smile.
"I have known so many of Percy's schemes," she explained, "that you
must not expect me to be enthusiastic about this."
"But this must succeed, whatever may have happened to the others,"
cried Joan. "It is such a good cause. Surely nothing can be a better
aim than to help such afflicted people, who cannot help themselves,
Dorothy! And it is so splendidly organized. Why, Mr. Johnson, the
labour expert, you know, who wears no collar and a soft hat, said that
it could not have been better organized if it had been a strike. And a
Bishop Somebody--a dear old man with legs like a billiard-table--said
it reminded him of the early Christians' _esprit de corps_, or
something like that. Doesn't sound like a bishop, though, does it?"
"No, it doesn't," admitted Dorothy, doubtfully.
"So if your brother thinks it will not succeed," said Joan,
confidently, "he is wrong. Besides"--in a final voice--"he has Tony to
help him, you know."
"Yes," said Dorothy, looking straight in front of her, "of course he
has Mr. Cornish."
"And Tony," pursued Joan, eagerly, "always succeeds. There is something
about him--I don't know what it is."
Dorothy recollected that Mrs. Vansittart had said something like this
about Tony Cornish. She had said that he had the power of holding his
cards and only playing them at the right moment. Which is perhaps
the secret of success in life, namely, to hold one's cards, and, if the
right moment does not present itself, never to play them at all, but to
hold them to the end of the game, contenting one's self with the
knowledge that one has had, after all, the makings of a fine game that
might have been worth the playing.
"There are people, you know," Joan broke in earnestly, "who think that
if they can secure Tony for a picnic the weather will be fine."
"And does he know it?" asked Dorothy, rather shortly.
"Tony?" laughed Joan. "Of course not. He never thinks about anything
IN THE OUDE WEG.
"Le sage entend a demi mot."
The porter of the hotel on the Toornoifeld was enjoying his early
cigarette in the doorway, when he was impelled by a natural politeness
to stand aside for one of the visitors in the hotel.
"Ah!" he said. "You promenade yourself thus early?"
"Yes," answered Cornish, cheerily, "I promenade myself thus early."
"You have had your coffee?" asked the porter. "It is not good to go
near the canals when one is empty."
Cornish lingered a few minutes, and made the man's mind easy on this
point. There are many who obtain a vast deal of information without
ever asking a question, just as there are some--and they are mostly
women--who ask many questions and are told many lies. Tony Cornish had
a cheery way with him which made other men talk. He was also as quick
as a woman. He went about the world picking up information.
The city clocks were striking seven as he walked across the
Toornoifeld, where the morning mist still lingered among the trees. The
great square was almost deserted. Holland, unlike France, is a lie-abed
country, and at an hour when a French town would be astir and its
streets already thronged with people hurrying to buy or sell at the
greatest possible advantage, a Dutch city is still asleep. Park Straat
was almost deserted as Cornish walked briskly down it towards the
Willem's Park and Scheveningen. A few street cleaners were leisurely
working, a few milkmen were hurrying from door to door, but the houses
were barred and silent.
Cornish walked on the right-hand side of the road, which made it all
the easier for Mrs. Vansittart to perceive him from her bedroom window
as he passed Oranje Straat.
"Ah!" said that lady, and rang the bell for her maid, to whom she
explained that she had a sudden desire to take a promenade this fine
So Tony Cornish walked down the Oude Weg under the trees of that great
thoroughfare, with Mrs. Vansittart following him leisurely by one of
the side paths, which, being elevated above the road enabled her to
look down upon the Englishman and keep him in sight. When he came
within view of the broad road that cuts the Scheveningen wood in two
and leads from the East Dunes to the West--from the Malgamite Works, in
a word, to the cemetery--he sat down on a bench hidden by the trees.
And Mrs. Vansittart, a hundred yards behind him, took possession of a
seat as effectually concealed.
They remained thus for some time, the object of a passing curiosity to
the fish-merchants journeying from Scheveningen to The Hague. Then Tony
Cornish seemed to perceive something on the road towards the sea which
interested him, and Mrs. Vansittart, rising from her seat, walked down
to the main pathway, which commanded an uninterrupted view. That which
had attracted Cornish's attention was a funeral, cheap, sordid, and
obscure, which moved slowly across the Oude Weg by the road, crossing
it at right angles. It was a peculiar funeral, inasmuch as it consisted
of three hearses and one mourning carriage. The dead were, therefore,
almost as numerous as the living, an unusual feature in civil burials.
From the window of the rusty mourning coach there looked a couple of
debased countenances, flushed with drink and that special form of
excitement which is especially associated with a mourning coach hired
on credit and a funeral beyond one's means. Behind these two faces
loomed others. There seemed to be six men within the carriage.
The procession was not inspiriting, and Cornish's face was momentarily
grave as he watched it. When it had passed, he rose and walked slowly
back towards The Hague. Before he had gone far, he met Mrs. Vansittart
face to face, who rose from a seat as he approached.
"Well, _mon ami_," she asked, with a short laugh, "have you had a
"It has had a pleasant end, at all events," he replied, meeting her
glance with an imperturbable smile.
She jerked her head upwards with a little foreign gesture of
"It is to be presumed," she said, as they walked on side by side, "that
you have been exploring and investigating our--byways. Remember, my
good Tony, that I live in The Hague, and may therefore be possessed of
information that might be useful to you. It will probably be at your
disposal when you need it."
She looked at him with daring black eyes, and laughed. A strong man
usually takes a sort of pride in his power. This woman enjoyed the same
sort of exultation in her own cleverness. She was not wise enough to
hide it, which is indeed a grim, negative pleasure usually enjoyed by
elderly gentlemen only. Social progress has, moreover, made it almost a
crime to hide one's light under a bushel. Are we not told, in so many
words, by the interviewer and the personal paragraphist, that it is
every man's duty to set his light upon a candlestick, so that his
neighbour may at least try to blow it out?
Cornish had learnt to know Mrs. Vansittart at a period in her life
when, as a young married woman, she regarded all her juniors with a
matronly goodwill, none the less active that it was so exceedingly new.
She had in those days given much good advice, which Cornish had
respectfully heard. Fate had brought them together at the rare moment
and in almost the sole circumstances that allow of a friendship being
formed between a man and a woman.
They walked slowly side by side now under the trees of the Oude Weg,
inhaling the fresh morning air, which was scented by a hundred breaths
of spring, and felt clean to face and lips. Mrs. Vansittart had no
intention of resigning her position of mentor and friend. It was,
moreover, one of those positions which will not bear being defined in
so many words. Between men and women it often happens that to point out
the existence of certain feelings is to destroy them. To say, "Be my
friend," as often as not makes friendship impossible. Mrs. Vansittart
was too clever a woman to run such a risk in dealing with a man in whom
she had detected a reserve of which the rest of the world had taken no
account. It is unwise to enter into war or friendship without seeing to
"Do you remember," asked Mrs. Vansittart, suddenly, "how wise we were
when we were young? What knowledge of the world, what experience of
life one has when all life is before one!"
"Yes," admitted Cornish, guardedly.
"But if I preached a great deal, I at all events did you no harm," said
Mrs. Vansittart, with a laugh.
"And as to experience, well, one buys that later."
"Yes; and the wise re-sell--at a profit," laughed Cornish. "It is not a
commodity that any one cares to keep. If we cannot sell it, we offer it
for nothing, to the young."
"Who accept it, at an even lower valuation; and you and I, Mr. Tony
Cornish, are cynics who talk cheap epigrams to hide our thoughts."
They walked on for a few yards in silence. Then Tony turned in his
quick way and looked at her. He had thin, mobile lips, which expressed
friendship and curiosity at this moment.
"What are _you_ thinking?" he asked.
She turned and looked at him with grave, searching eyes, and when these
met his it became apparent that their friendship had re-established
"Of your affairs," she answered, "and funerals."
"Both lugubrious," suggested Cornish. "But I am obliged to you for so
far honouring me."
He broke off, and again walked on in silence. She glanced at him half
angrily, and gave a quick shrug of the shoulders.
"Then you will not speak," she said, opening her parasol with a snap.
"So be it. The time has perhaps not come yet. But if I am in the humour
when that time does come, you will find that you have no ally so strong
as I. Ah, you may stick your chin out and look as innocent as you like!
You are not easy in your mind, my good friend, about this precious
Malgamite scheme. But I ask no confidences, and, _bon Dieu_! I give
She broke off with a little laugh, and looked at him beneath the shade
of her parasol. She had a hundred foreign ways of putting a whole
wealth of meaning into a single gesture, into a movement of a parasol
or a fan, such as women acquire, and use upon poor defenceless men, who
must needs face the world with stolid faces and slow, dumb hands.
Cornish answered the laugh readily enough. "Ah!" he said, "then I am
accused of uneasiness of mind of preoccupation, in fact. I plead
guilty. I made a mistake. I got up too early. It was a fine morning,
and I was tempted to take a walk before breakfast, which we have at
half-past nine, in a fine old British way. We have toast and a fried
sole. Great is the English milord!"
They were in Park Straat now, in sight of Mrs. Vansittart's house. And
that lady knew that her companion was talking in order to say nothing.
"We leave this morning," continued Cornish, in the same vein. "And we
rather flatter ourselves that we have upheld the dignity of our nation
in these benighted foreign parts."
"Ah, that poor Lord Ferriby! It is so easy to laugh at him. You think
him a fool, although--or because--he is your uncle. So do I, perhaps.
But I always have a little distrust for the foolishness of a person
who has once been a knave. You know your uncle's reputation--the past
one, I mean, not the whitewash. Do not forget it." They had reached the
corner of Oranje Straat, and Mrs. Vansittart paused on her own
doorstep. "So you leave this morning," she said. "Remember that I am in
The Hague, and--well, we were once friends. If I can help you, make use
of me. You have been wonderfully discreet, my friend. And I have not.
But discretion is not required of a woman. If there is anything to tell
you, you shall hear from me."
She held out her hand, and bade him good-bye with a semi-malicious
laugh. Then she stood in the porch, and watched him walk quickly away.
"So it is Dorothy Roden," she said to herself, with a wise nod. "A
queer case. One of those at first sight, one may suppose."
The Rodens, of whom she thought at the moment, were not only thinking,
but speaking of her. They had finished breakfast, and Dorothy was
standing at the window looking out over the Dunes towards the sea.
Her brother was still seated at the table, and had lighted a cigarette.
Like many another who offers an exaggerated respect to women as a
whole, he was rather inclined to Bohemianism at home, and denied to
his immediate feminine relations the privileges accorded to their sex
in general. He was older than Dorothy, who had always been dependent
upon him to a certain extent. She had a little money of her own, and
quite recognized the fact that, should her brother marry, she would
have to work for her living. In the mean time, however, it suited them
both to live together, and Dorothy had for her brother that affection
of which only women are capable. It amounts to an affectionate
tolerance more than to a tolerant affection. For it perceives its
object's little failings with a calm and judicial eye. It weighs the
man in the balance, and finds him wanting. This, moreover, is the lot
of a large proportion of women. This takes the place of that higher
feeling which is probably the finest emotion of which the human heart
is capable. And yet there are men who grudge these sufferers their
petty triumphs, their poor little emancipation, their paltry
wrangler-ships, their very bicycles.
"You don't like this place--I know that," Percy Roden was saying, in
continuation of a desultory conversation. He looked up from the letters
before him with a smile which was kind enough and a little patronizing.
Patronage is perhaps the armour of the outwitted.
"Not very much," answered Dorothy, with a laugh. "But I dare say it
will be better in the summer."
"I mean this villa," pursued Roden, flicking the ash from his cigarette
and leaning back in his chair. He had grand, rather tired gestures,
which possibly impressed some people. Grandeur, however, like
sentiment, is not indigenous to the hearth. Our domestic admirers are
not always watching us.
Dorothy was looking out of the window. "It is not a bad little place,"
she said practically, "when one has grown accustomed to its sandiness."
"It will not be for long," said Percy Roden.
And his sister turned and looked at him with a sudden gravity.
"Ah!" she said.
"No; I have been thinking that it will be better for us to move into
The Hague--Park Straat or Oranje Straat."
Dorothy turned and faced him now. There was a faint, far-off
resemblance between these two, but Dorothy had the better
face--shrewder, more thoughtful, cleverer. Her eyes, instead of being
large and dark and rather dreamy, were grey and speculative. Her
features were clear-cut and well-cut--a face suggestive of feeling and
of self-suppression, which, when they go together, go to the making of
a satisfactory human being. This was a woman who, to put it quite
plainly, would scarcely have been held in honour by our grandmothers,
but who promised well enough for her possible granddaughters; who, when
the fads are lived down and the emancipation is over and the shrieking
is done, will make a very excellent grandmother to a race of women who
shall be equal to men and respected of men, and, best of all, beloved
of men. Wise mothers say that their daughters must sooner or later pass
through an awkward age. Woman is passing through an awkward age now,
and Dorothy Roden might be classed among those who are doing it
She looked at her brother with those wise grey eyes, and did not speak
"Oranje Straat and Park Straat," she said lightly, "cost money."
"Oh, that is all right!" answered her brother, carelessly, as one who
in his time has handled great sums.
"Then we are prosperous?" inquired Dorothy, mindful of other great
schemes which had not always done their duty by their originator.
"Oh yes! We shall make a good thing out of this Malgamite. The labourer
is worthy of his hire, you know. There is no reason why we should not
take a better house than this. Mrs. Vansittart knows of one in Park
Straat which would suit us. Do you like her--Mrs. Vansittart, I mean?"
His tone was slightly patronizing again. The Malgamite was a success,
it appeared, and assuredly success is the most difficult emergency that
a man has to face in life.
"Very much," answered Dorothy, quietly. She looked hard at her brother;
for Dorothy had long ago gauged him, and had recently gauged Mrs.
Vansittart with a facility which is quite incomprehensible to men and
easy enough to women. She knew that her brother was not the sort of man
to arouse the faintest spark of love in the heart of such a woman as
her of whom they spoke. And yet Percy's tone implied as clearly as if
the words had been spoken that he had merely to offer to Mrs.
Vansittart his hand and heart in order to make her the happiest of
women. Either Dorothy or her brother was mistaken in Mrs. Vansittart.
Between a man and a woman it is usually the man who is mistaken in an
estimate of another woman. Dorothy was wondering, not whether Mrs.
Vansittart admired her brother, but why that lady was taking the
trouble to convey to him that such was the case.
"Le bonheur c'est etre ne joyeux."
There are in the suburbs of London certain strata of men which lie in
circles of diminishing density around the great city, like _debris_
around a volcano. London indeed erupts every evening between the hours
of five and six, and throws out showers of tired men, who lie where
they fall--or rather where their season ticket drops them--until
morning, when they arise and crowd back again to the seething crater.
The deposits of small clerks and tradespeople fall near at hand in a
dense shower, bounded on the north by Finchley, on the south by
Streatham. An outer circle of head clerks, Government servants, junior
partners, covers the land in a stratum reaching as far south as
Surbiton, as far north as the Alexandra Palace. And beyond these limits
are cast the brighter lights of commerce, law, and finance, who fall, a
thin golden shower, in the favoured neighbourhoods of the far suburbs,
where, from eventide till morning, they play at being country
gentlemen, talking stock and stable, with minds attuned to share and
Mr. Joseph Wade, banker, was one of those who are thrown far afield by
the facilities of a fine suburban train service. He wore a frock-coat,
a very shiny hat, and he read the _Times_ in the train. He lived in a
staring red house, solid brick without and solid comfort within, in the
favoured pine country of Weybridge. He was one of those pillars of the
British Constitution who are laughed at behind their backs and
eminently respected to their faces. His gardeners trembled before him,
his coachman, as stout and respectable as himself, knew him to be a
just and a good master, who grudged no man his perquisites, and behaved
with a fine gentlemanly tact at those trying moments when the departing
visitor is desirous of tipping and the coachman knows that it is
blessed to receive.
Mr. Wade rather scorned the amateur country-gentleman hobby which so
many of his travelling companions affected. It led them to don rough
tweed suits on Sunday, and walk about their paddocks and gardens as if
these formed a great estate.
"I am a banker," he said, with that sound common sense which led him to
avoid those cheap affectations of superiority that belong to the outer
strata of the daily volcanic deposit--"I am a banker, and I am content
to be a banker in the evening and on Sundays, as well as during
bank-hours. What should I know about horses or Alderneys or Dorking
fowls? None of 'em yield a dividend."
Mr. Wade, in fact, looked upon "The Brambles" as a place of rest,
arriving there at half-past six, in time to dress for a very good
dinner. After dinner he read in a small way by no means to be despised.
He had a taste for biography, and cherished in his stout heart a fine
old respect for Thackeray and Dickens and Walter Scott. Of the modern
fictionists he knew nothing.
"Seems to me they are splitting straws, my dear," he once said to an
earnest young person who thought that literature meant contemporary
fiction, whereas we all know that the two are in no way connected.
Joseph Wade was a widower, having some years before buried a wife as
stout and sensible as himself. He never spoke of her except to his
daughter Marguerite, now leaving school, and usually confined his
remarks to a consideration of what Marguerite's mother would have liked
in the circumstances under discussion at the moment.
Marguerite had been educated at Cheltenham, and "finished" at Dresden,
without any limit as to extras. She had come home from Dresden a few
months before the Malgamite scheme was set on foot, to find herself
regarded by her father in the light of a rather delicate financial
crisis. The affection which had always existed between father and
daughter soon developed into something stronger--something volatile and
half mocking on her part, indulgent and half mystified on his.
"She is rather a handful," wrote Mr. Wade to Tony Cornish, "and too
inconsequent to let my mind be easy about her future. I wish you would
run down and dine and sleep at 'The Brambles' some evening soon. Monday
is Marguerite's eighteenth birthday. Will you come on that evening?"
"He is not thirty-three yet," reflected Mr. Wade, as he folded the
letter and slipped it into an envelope, "and she is the sort of girl
who must be able to give a man her full respect before she can give
From which it may be perceived that the astute banker was preparing to
face the delicate financial crisis.
Cornish received the invitation the day after returning from Holland.
Mr. Wade had been his father's friend and trustee, and was, he
understood, distantly related to the mother whom Tony had never known.
Such invitations were not infrequent, and it was the recipient's custom
to set aside others in order to reply with an acceptance. A friendship
had sprung up between two men who were not only divided by a gulf of
years, but had hardly a thought in common.
On arriving at Weybridge station, Cornish found Marguerite awaiting his
arrival in a very high dog-cart drawn by an exceedingly shiny cob,
which animal she proceeded to handle with vast spirit and a blithe
ignorance. She looked trim and fresh, with bright brown hair under a
smart sailor hat, and a complexion almost dazzling in its youthfulness
and brilliancy. She nodded gaily at Cornish.
"Hop up," she said encouragingly, "and then hang on like grim death.
There are going to be--whoa, my pet!--er--ructions. All right, William.
William let go, and made a dash at the rear step. The shiny cob
squeaked, stood thoughtfully on his hind legs for a moment, and then
dashed across the bridge, shaving a cab rather closely, and failing to
observe a bank of stones at one side of the road.
"Do you mind this sort of thing?" inquired Marguerite, as they bumped
heavily over the obstruction.
"Not in the least. Most invigorating, I consider it." Marguerite
arranged the reins carefully, and inclined the whip at a suitable angle
across her companion's vision.
"I'm learning to drive, you know," she said, leaning confidently down
from her high seat. "And papa thinks that because this young gentleman
is rather stout he is quiet, which is quite a mistake. Whoa! Steady!
Keep off the grass! Visitors are requested to keep to--Well, I'm"--she
hauled the pony off the common, whither he had betaken himself, on to
the road again--"blowed," she added, religiously completing her
They were now between high fences, and compelled to progress more
"I am very glad you have come, you know," Marguerite took the
opportunity of assuring the visitor. "It is jolly slow, I can tell you,
at times; and then you will do papa good. He is very difficult to
manage. It took me a week to get this pony out of him. His great idea
is for somebody to marry me. He looks upon me as a sort of fund that
has to be placed or sunk or something, somewhere. There was a young
Scotchman here the week before last. I have forgotten his name already.
John--something--Fairly. Yes, that is it--John Fairly, of
Auchen-something. It is better to be John Fairly, of Auchen-something,
than a belted earl, it appears."
"Did John tell you so himself?" inquired Tony.
"Yes; and he ought to know, oughtn't he? But that was what put me on
my guard. When a Scotchman begins to tell you who he is, take my advice
and sheer off."
"I will," said Tony.
"And when a Scotchman begins to tell you what he has, you may be sure
that he wants something more. I smelt a rat at once. And I would not
speak to him for the rest of the evening, or if I did, I spoke with a
Scotch accent--just a suspeecion of an accent, you know--nothing to get
hold of, but just enough to let him know that his Auchen-something
would not go down with me."
She spoke with a sort of inconsequent earnestness, a relic of the
school-days she had so lately left behind. She did not seem to have had
time to decide yet whether life was a rattling farce or a matter of
deadly earnest. And who shall blame her, remembering that older heads
than hers are no clearer on that point?
On approaching the red villa by its short entrance drive of yellow
gravel, they perceived Mr. Wade slowly walking in his garden. The
garden of "The Brambles" was exactly the sort of garden one would
expect to find attached to a house of that name. It was chiefly
conspicuous for its lack of brambles, or indeed of any vegetable of
such disorderly habit. Yellow gravel walks intersected smooth lawns.
April having drawn almost to its close, there were thin red lines of
tulips standing at attention all along the flowery borders. Not a stalk
was out of place. One suspected that the flowers had been drilled by a
martinet of a gardener. The sight of an honest weed would have been a
relief to the eye. The curse of too much gardener and too little nature
lay over the land.
"Ah!" said Mr. Wade, holding out a large white hand. "You perceive me
inspecting the garden, and if you glance in the direction of
McPherson's cottage you will perceive McPherson watching me. I pay him
a hundred and twenty and he knows that it is too much."
"By the way, papa," put in Marguerite, gravely, "will you tell
McPherson that he will receive a month's notice if he counts the
peaches this summer, as he did last year?"
Mr. Wade laughed, and promised her a freer hand in this matter. They
walked in the trim garden until it was time to dress for dinner, and
Cornish saw enough to convince him that Mr. Wade was fully occupied
between banking hours in his capacity as Marguerite's father.
That young lady came down as the bell rang, in a white dress as fresh
and girlish as herself, and during the meal, which was long and
somewhat solemn, entertained the guest with considerable liveliness. It
was only after she had left them to their wine, over which the banker
loved to linger in the old-fashioned way that Mr. Wade put on his grave
financial air. He fingered his glass thoughtfully, as if choosing, not
a subject of conversation, but a suitable way of approaching a
"You do not recollect your mother?" he said suddenly.
"No; she died when I was two years old."
Mr. Wade nodded, and slowly sipped his port. "Queer thing is," he said,
after a pause and looking towards the door, "that that child is
startlingly like what your mother used to be at the age of eighteen,
when I first knew her. Perhaps it is only my imagination--not that I
have much of that. Perhaps all girls are alike at that age--a sort of
freshness and an optimism that positively take one's breath away. At
any rate, she reminds me of your mother." He broke off, and looked at
Cornish with his slow and rather ponderous smile. His attitude towards
the world was indeed one of conscious ponderosity. He did not attempt
to understand the lighter side of life, but took it seriously as a
work-a-day matter. "I was once in love with your mother," he stated
squarely. "But circumstances were against us. You see, your father was
a lord's younger brother, and that made a great difference in Clapham
in those days. I felt it a good deal at the time, but I of course got
over it years and years ago. No sentiment about me, Tony. Sentiment and
seventeen stone won't balance, you know." The great man slowly drew the
decanter towards him. "She got a better husband in your father--a
clever, bright chap--and I was best man, I recollect. It was about that
time--about your age I was--that I took seriously to my work. Before, I
had been a little wild. And that interest has lasted me right up to the
present time. Take my word for it, Tony, the greatest interest in life
would be money-making--if one only knew what to do with the money
afterwards." The banker had been eating a biscuit, and he now swept the
crumbs together with his little finger from all sides in a lessening
circle until they formed a heap upon the white tablecloth. "It
accumulates," he said slowly, "accumulates, accumulates. And, after
all, one can only eat and drink the best that are to be obtained, and
the best costs so little--a mere drop in the ocean." He handed Tony
the decanter as he spoke. "Then I married Marguerite's mother, some
years afterwards, when I was a middle-aged man. She was the only
daughter of--the bank, you know."
And that seemed to be all that there was to be said about Marguerite's
Tony Cornish nodded in his quick, sympathetic way. Mr. Wade had told
him none of this before, but it was to be presumed that he had heard at
least part of it from other sources. His manner now indicated that he
was interested, but he did not ask his companion to say one word more
than he felt disposed to utter. It is probable that he knew these to be
no idle after-dinner words, spoken without premeditation, out of a full
heart; for Mr. Wade was not, as he had boasted, a person of sentiment,
but a plain, straightforward business man, who, if he had no meaning to
convey, said nothing. And in this respect it is a pity that more are
not like him.
"We have always been pretty good friends, you and I," continued the
banker, "though I know I am not exactly your sort. I am distinctly
City; you are as distinctly West End. But during your minority, and
when we settled up accounts on your coming of age, and since then, we
have always hit it off pretty well."
"Yes," said Cornish, moving his feet impatiently under the table.
There was no mistaking the aim of all this, and Mr. Wade was too
British in his habits to beat about the bush much longer.
"I do not mind telling you that I have got you down in my will," said
Cornish bit his lip and frowned at his wine-glass. And it is possible
that the man of no sentiment understood his silence.
"I have frequently disbelieved what I have heard of you," went on the
elder man. "You have, doubtless, enemies--as all men have--and you have
been a trifle reckless, perhaps, of what the world might say. If you
will allow me to say so, I think none the worse of you for that."
Mr. Wade pushed the decanter across the table, and when Cornish had
filled his glass, drew it back towards himself. It is wonderful what
resource there is in half a glass of wine, if merely to examine it when
it is hard to look elsewhere.
"You remember, six months ago, I spoke to you of a personal matter,"
said the banker. "I asked you if you had thoughts of marrying, and
suggested something in the nature of a partnership if that would
facilitate your plans in any way."
"That is not the sort of offer one is likely to forget," answered
"I asked you if--well, if it was Joan Ferriby."
"Yes. And I answered that it was not Joan Ferriby. That was mere
gossip, of which we are both aware, and for which neither of us cares
"Then it comes to this," said Mr. Wade, drawing lines on the tablecloth
with his dessert knife as if it were a balance-sheet, and he was
casting the final totals there. "You are a man of the world; you are
clever; you are like your father before you, in that you have something
that women care about. Heaven only knows what it is, for I don't!" He
paused, and looked at his companion as if seeking that intangible
something. Then he jerked his head towards the drawing-room, where
Marguerite could be dimly heard playing an air from the latest comic
opera with a fine contempt for accidentals. "That child," he said,
"knows no more about life than a sparrow. A man like myself--seventeen
stone--may have to balance his books at any moment. You have a clear
field; for you may take my word for it that you will be the first in
it. My own experience of life has been mostly financial, but I am
pretty certain that the first man a woman cares for is the man she
cares for all along, though she may never see him again. I don't hold
it out as an inducement, but there is no reason why you should not know
that she will have a hundred and fifty thousand pounds--not when I am
dead, but on the day she marries." Mr. Wade paused, and took a sip of
his most excellent port. "Do not hurry," he said. "Take your time.
Think about it carefully--unless you have already thought about it, and
can say yes or no now."
"I can do that."
Mr. Wade bent forward heavily, with one arm on the table.
"Ah!" he said. "Which is it?"
"It is no," answered Cornish, simply. The banker passed his
table-napkin across his lips, paused for a moment, and then rose with,
as was his hospitable custom, his hand upon the sherry decanter. "Then
let us go into the drawing-room," he said.
THE MAKING OF A MAN.
"Heureux celui qui n'est forcee de sacrifier personne a son devoir."
"You know," said Marguerite the next morning, as she and Cornish rode
quietly along the sandy roads, beneath the shade of the pines--"you
know, papa is such a jolly, simple old dear--he doesn't understand
women in the least."
"And do you call yourself a woman nowadays?" inquired Cornish.
"You bet. Bet those grey hairs of yours if you like.
I see them! All down one side."
"They are all down both sides and on the top as well--my good--woman.
How does your father fail to understand you?"
"Well, to begin with, he thinks it necessary to have Miss Williams, to
housekeep and chaperon, and to do oddments generally--as if I couldn't
run the show myself. You haven't seen Miss Williams--oh, crikey!
She has gone to Cheltenham for a holiday, for which you may thank your
eternal stars. She is just the sort of person who _would_ go to
Cheltenham. Then papa is desperately keen about my marrying. He keeps
trotting likely _partis_ down here to dine and sleep--that's why you
are here, I haven't a shadow of a doubt. None of the _partis_ have
passed muster yet. Poor old thing, he thinks I do not see through his
Cornish laughed, and glanced at Marguerite under the shade of his straw
hat, wondering, as men have probably wondered since the ages began, how
it is that women seem to begin life with as great a knowledge of the
world as we manage to acquire towards the end of our experience.
Marguerite made her statements with a certain careless _aplomb_, and
these were usually within measurable distance of the fact, whereas a
youth her age and ten years older, if he be of a didactic turn, will
hold forth upon life and human nature with an ignorance of both which
is positively appalling.
"Now, I don't want to marry," said Marguerite, suddenly returning to
her younger and more earnest manner. "What is the good of marrying?"
"What, indeed," echoed Cornish.
"Well, then, if papa tackles you--about me, I mean--when he has done
the _Times_--he won't say anything before, the _Times_ being the first
object in papa's existence, and yours very truly the second--just you
choke him off--won't you?"
"That's all right. Now tell me--is my hat on one side?"
Cornish assured her that her hat was straight, and then they talked of
other things, until they came to a ditch suitable for some jumping
lessons, which he had promised to give her.
She was bewilderingly changeable, at one moment childlike, and in the
next very wise--now a heedless girl, and a moment later a keen woman of
the world--appearing to know more of that abode of evil than she well
could. Her colour came and went--her very eyes seemed to change.
Cornish thought of this open field which Marguerite's father had
offered, and perhaps he thought of the hundred and fifty thousand
pounds that lay beneath so bright a surface.
On returning to "The Brambles," they found Mr. Wade reading the _Times_
in the glass-covered veranda of that eligible suburban mansion. It
being a Saturday, the great banker was taking a holiday, and Cornish
had arranged not to return to town until midday.
"Come here," shouted Mr. Wade, "and have a cigar while you read the
"And remember," added Marguerite, slim and girlish in her riding-habit;
"choke him off!"
She stood on the door-step, looking over her shoulder, and nodded at
Cornish, her fresh lips tilted at the corner by a smile full of gaiety
"Read that," said Mr. Wade, gravely.
But Mr. Wade was always grave--was clad in gravity and a frock-coat all
his waking moments--and Cornish took up the newspaper carelessly. He
stretched out his legs and lighted a cigar. Then he leisurely turned to
the column indicated by his companion. It was headed, "Crisis in the
Paper Trade: the Malgamite Corner."
And Tony Cornish did not raise his eyes from the printed sheet for a
full ten minutes. When at length he looked up, he found Mr. Wade
watching him, placid and patient.
"Can't make head or tail of it," he said, with a laugh.
"I will make both head and tail of it for you," said Mr. Wade, who in
his own world had a certain reputation for plain speaking.
It was even said that this stout banker could tell a man to his face
that he was a scoundrel with a cooler nerve than any in Lombard Street.
"What has occurred," he said, slowly folding the advertisement sheet of
the _Times_, "is only what has been foreseen for a long time. The world
has been degenerating into a maudlin state of sentiment for some years.
The East End began it; a thousand sentimental charities have fostered
the movement. Now, I am a plain man--a City man, Tony, to the tips of
my toes." And he stuck out a large square-toed foot and looked
contemplatively at it. "Half of your precious charities--the societies
that you and Joan Ferriby, and, if you will allow me to say so, that
ass Ferriby, are mixed up in--are not fraudulent, but they are pretty
near it. Some people who have no right to it are putting other people's
money into their pockets. It is the money of fools--a fool and his
money are soon parted, you know--but that does not make matters any
better. The fools do not always part with their money for the right
reason; but that also is of small importance. It is not our business if
some of them do it because they like to see their names printed under
the names of the royal and the great--if others do it for the mere
satisfaction of being life--governors of this and that institution--if
others, again, head the county lists because they represent a part of
that county in Parliament--if the large majority give of their surplus
to charities because they are dimly aware that they are no better than
they should be, and wish to take shares in a concern that will pay a
dividend in the hereafter. They know that they cannot take their money
out of this world with them, so they think they had better invest some
of it in what they vaguely understand to be a great limited company,
with the bishops on the board and--I say it with all reverence--the
Almighty in the chair. I would not say this to the first-comer because
it would not be well received, and it is not fashionable to treat
Charity from a common-sense point of view. It is fashionable to send a
cheque to this and that charity--feeling that it is charity, and
therefore will be all right, and that the cheque will be duly placed on
the credit side of the drawer's account in the heavenly books, however
it may be foolishly spent or fraudulently appropriated by the payee on
earth. Half a dozen of the fashionable charities are rotten, but we
have not had a thorough-going swindle up to this time. We have been
waiting for it ... in Lombard Street. It is there...."
He paused, and tapped the printed column of the _Times_ with a fat and
inexorable forefinger. He was, it must be remembered, a mere banker--a
person in the City, where honesty is esteemed above the finer qualities
of charity and beneficence, where soul and sentiment are so little
known that he who of his charity giveth away another's money is held
accountable for his manner of spending it.
"It is there, ... and you have the honour of being mixed up in it,"
said Mr. Wade.
Cornish took up the paper, and looked at the printed words with a vague
"There is no knowing," went on the banker, "how the world will take it.
It is one of our greatest financial difficulties that there is never
any knowing how the world will take anything. Of course, we in the City
are plain-going men, who have no handles to our names and no time for
the fashionable fads. We are only respectable, and we cannot afford to
be mixed up in such a scheme as your malgamite business." Mr. Wade
glanced at Cornish and paused a moment. He was a stolid Englishman, who
had received punishment in his time, and could hit hard when he deemed
that hard hitting was merciful. "It has only been a question of time.
The credulity of the public is such that, sooner or later, a bogus
charity must assuredly have followed in the wake of the thousand bogus
companies that exist to-day. I only wonder that it has not come sooner.
You and Ferriby and, of course, the women have been swindled, my dear
Tony--that is the head and the tail of it."
Cornish laughed gaily. "I dare say we have," he admitted. "But I will
be hanged if I see what it all means, now."
"It may mean ruin to those who have anything to lose," explained Mr.
Wade, calmly. "The whole thing has been cleverly planned--one of the
cleverest things of recent years, and the man who thought it out had
the makings of a great financier in him. What he wanted to do was to
get the malgamite industry into his own hands. If he had formed a
company and gone about it in a straightforward manner, the paper-makers
of the whole world would have risen like one man and smashed him.
Instead of that, he moved with the times, and ran the thing as a
charity--a fashionable amusement, in fact. The malgamite industry is
neither better nor worse than the other dangerous trades, and no man
need go into it unless he likes. But the man who started this
thing--whoever he may be--supplied that picturesqueness without which
the public cannot be moved--and lo! We have an army of martyrs."
Mr. Wade paused and jerked the ash from his cigar. He glanced at
"No one suspected that there was anything wrong. It was plausibly put
forth, and Ferriby ... did his best for it. Then the money began to
come in, and once money begins to come in for a popular charity the
difficulty is to stop it. I suppose it is still coming in?"
"Yes," said Cornish. "It is still coming in, and nobody is trying to
Mr. Wade laughed in his throat, as fat men do. "And," he cried, sitting