Part 4 out of 5
the care of the groom, she walked to the gate of the works, which was
opened to her by the doorkeeper, after some hesitation. The man was a
German, and therefore, perhaps, more amenable to Mrs. Vansittart's
"I must see Herr von Holzen without delay," she said. "Show me his
The man pointed out the building. "But the Herr Professor is in the
factory," he said. "It is mixing-day to-day. I will, however, fetch
Mrs. Vansittart walked slowly towards the office where Roden had told
her that the safe stood wherein the prescription and other papers were
secured. She knew it was mixing-day and that Von Holzen would be in the
factory. She had sent Roden on a fool's errand to Park Straat to await
her return there. Was she going to succeed? Would she be left alone for
a few moments in that little office with the safe? She fingered the key
in her pocket--a duplicate obtained at some risk, with infinite
difficulty, by the simple stratagem of borrowing Roden's keys to open
an old and disused desk one evening in Park Straat. She had conceived
the plan herself, had carried it out herself, as all must who wish to
succeed in a human design. She was quite aware that the plan was crude
and almost childish, but the gain was great, and it is often the
simplest means that succeed. The secret of the manufacture of
malgamite--written in black and white--might prove to be Von Holzen's
death-warrant. Mrs. Vansittart had to fight in her own way or not fight
at all. She could not understand the slower, surer methods of Mr. Wade
and Cornish, who appeared to be waiting and wasting time.
The German doorkeeper accompanied her to the office, and opened the
door after knocking and receiving no answer.
"Will the high-born take a seat?" he said; "I shall not be long."
"There is no need to hurry," said Mrs. Vansittart to herself.
And before the door was quite closed she was on her feet again. The
office was bare and orderly. Even the waste-paper baskets were empty.
The books were locked away and the desks were clear. But the small
green safe stood in the corner. Mrs. Vansittart went towards it, key in
hand. The key was the right one. It had only been selected by guesswork
among a number on Roden's bunch. It slipped into the lock and turned
smoothly, but the door would not move. She tugged and wrenched at the
handle, then turned it accidentally, and the heavy door swung open.
There were two drawers at the bottom of the safe which were not locked,
and contained neatly folded papers. Her fingers were among these in a
moment. The papers were folded and tied together. Many of the bundles
were labelled. A long narrow envelope lay at the bottom of the drawer.
She seized it quickly and turned it over. It bore no address nor any
superscription. "Ah!" she said breathlessly, and slipped her finger
within the flap of the envelope. Then she hesitated for a moment, and
turned on her heel. Von Holzen was standing in the doorway looking at
They stared at each other for a moment in silence. Mrs. Vansittart's
lips were drawn back, showing her even, white teeth. Von Holzen's quiet
eyes were wide open, so that the white showed all around the dark
pupil. Then he sprang at her without a word. She was a lithe, strong
woman, taller than he, or else she would have fallen. Instead, she
stood her ground, and he, failing to get a grasp at her wrist, stumbled
sideways against the table. In a moment she had run round it, and again
they stared at each other, without a word, across the table where Percy
Roden kept the books of the malgamite works.
A slow smile came to Von Holzen's face, which was colourless always,
and now a sort of grey. He turned on his heel, walked to the door, and,
locking it, slipped the key into his pocket. Then he returned to Mrs.
Vansittart. Neither spoke. No explanation was at that moment necessary.
He lifted the table bodily, and set it aside against the wall. Then he
went slowly towards her, holding out his hand for the unaddressed
envelope, which she held behind her back. He stood for a moment holding
out his hand while his strong will went out to meet hers. Then he
sprang at her again and seized her two wrists. The strength of his arms
was enormous, for he was a deep-chested man, and had been a gymnast.
The struggle was a short one, and Mrs. Vansittart dropped the envelope
helplessly from her paralyzed fingers. He picked it up.
"You are the wife of Karl Vansittart," he said in German.
"I am his widow," she replied; and her breath caught, for she was still
shaken by the physical and moral realization of her absolute
helplessness in his hands, and she saw in a flash of thought the
question in his mind as to whether he could afford to let her leave the
"Give me the key with which you opened the safe," he said coldly.
She had replaced the key in her pocket, and now sought it with a
shaking hand. She gave it to him without a word. Morally she would not
acknowledge herself beaten, and the bitterness of that moment was the
self-contempt with which she realized a physical cowardice which she
had hitherto deemed quite impossible. For the flesh is always surprised
by its own weakness.
Von Holzen looked at the key critically, turning it over in order to
examine the workmanship. It was clumsily enough made, and he doubtless
guessed how she had obtained it. Then he glanced at her as she stood
breathless with a colourless face and compressed lips.
"I hope I did not hurt you," he said quietly, thereby putting in a dim
and far-off claim to greatness, for it is hard not to triumph in
She shook her head with a twisted smile, and looked down at her hands,
which were still helpless. There were bands of bright red round the
white wrists. Her gloves lay on the table. She went towards them and
numbly took them up. He was impassive still, and his face, which had
flushed a few moments earlier, slowly regained its usual calm pallor.
It was this very calmness, perhaps, that suddenly incensed Mrs.
Vansittart. Or it may have been that she had regained her courage.
"Yes," she cried, with a sort of break in her voice that made it
strident--"yes. I am Karl Vansittart's wife, and I--cared for him. Do
you know what that means? But you can't. All that side of life is a
closed book to such as you. It means that if you had been a hundred
times in the right and he always in the wrong, I should still have
believed in him and distrusted you--should still have cared for him and
hated you. But he was not guilty. He was in the right and you were
wrong--a thief and a murderer, no doubt. And to screen your paltry
name, you sacrificed Karl and the happiness of two people who had just
begun to be happy. It means that I shall not rest until I have made you
pay for what you have done. I have never lost sight of you--and never
She paused, and looked at his impassive face with a strange, dull
curiosity as she spoke of the future, as if wondering whether she had a
future or had reached the end of her life--here, at this moment, in the
little plank-walled office of the malgamite works. But her courage rose
steadily. It is only afar off that Death is terrible. When we actually
stand in his presence, we usually hold up our heads and face him
"You may have other enemies," she continued. "I know you have--men,
too--but none of them will last so long as I shall, none of them is to
be feared as I am--"
She stopped again in a fury, for he was obviously waiting for her to
pause for mere want of breath, as if her words could be of no weight.
"If you fear anything on earth," she said, acknowledging is one merit
"I fear you so little," he answered, going to the door and unlocking
it, "that you may go."
Her whip lay on the table. He picked it up and handed it to her,
gravely, without a bow, without a shade of triumph or the smallest
suspicion of sarcasm. There was perhaps the nucleus of a great man in
Otto von Holzen, after all, for there was no smallness in his mind. He
opened the door, and stood aside for her to pass out.
"It is not because you do not fear me--that you let me go," said Mrs.
Vansittart. "But--because you are afraid of Tony Cornish."
And she went out, wondering whether the shot had told or missed.
A COMBINED FORCE.
"Hear, but be faithful to your interest still.
Secure your heart, then fool with whom you will."
Mrs. Vansittart walked to the gate of the malgamite works, thinking
that Von Holzen was following her on the noiseless sand. At the gate,
which the porter threw open on seeing her approach, she turned and
found that she was alone. Von Holzen was walking quietly back towards
the factory. He was so busy making his fortune that he could not give
Mrs. Vansittart more than a few minutes. She bit her lip as she went
towards her horse. Neglect is no balm to the wounds of the defeated.
She mounted her horse and looked at her watch. It was nearly five
o'clock, and Percy Roden was doubtless waiting for her in Park Straat.
It is a woman's business to know what is expected of her. Mrs.
Vansittart recalled in a very matter-of-fact way the wording of her
letter to Roden. She brushed some dust from her habit, and made sure
that her hair was tidy. Then she fell into deep thought, and set her
mind in a like order for the work that lay before her. A man's deepest
schemes in love are child's play beside the woman's schemes that meet
or frustrate his own. Mrs. Vansittart rode rapidly home to Park Straat.
Mr. Roden, the servant told her, was awaiting her return in the
drawing-room. She walked slowly upstairs. Some victories are only to be
won with arms that hurt the bearer. Mrs. Vansittart's mind was warped,
or she must have known that she was going to pay too dearly for her
revenge. She was sacrificing invaluable memories to a paltry hatred.
"Ah!" she said to Roden, whose manner betrayed the recollection of her
invitation to him, "so I have kept you waiting--a minute, perhaps, for
each day that you have stayed away from Park Straat."
Roden laughed, with a shade of embarrassment, which she was quick to
"Is it your sister," she asked, "who has induced you to stay away?"
"Dorothy has nothing but good to say of you," he answered.
"Then it is Herr von Holzen," said Mrs. Vansittart, laying aside her
gloves and turning towards the tea-table. She spoke quietly and rather
indifferently, as one does of persons who are removed by a social
grade. "I have never told you, I believe, that I happen to know
something of your--what is he?--your foreman. He has probably warned
you against me. My husband once employed this Von Holzen, and was, I
believe, robbed by him. We never knew the man socially, and
I have always suspected that he bore us some ill feeling on that
account. You remember--in this room, when you brought him to call soon
after your works were built--that he referred to having met my husband.
Doubtless with a view to finding out how much I knew, or if I was in
reality the wife of Charles Vansittart. But I did not choose to
She had poured out tea while she spoke. Her hands were unsteady still,
and she drew down the sleeve of her habit to hide the discoloration of
her wrist. She turned rather suddenly, and saw on Roden's face the
confession that it had been due to Von Holzen's influence that he had
absented himself from her drawing-room.
"However," she said, with a little laugh, and in a final voice, as if
dismissing a subject of small importance--"however, I suppose Herr von
Holzen is rising in the world, and has the sensitive vanity of persons
in that trying condition."
She sat down slowly, remembering her pretty figure in its smart habit.
Roden's slow eyes noted the pretty figure also, which she observed, one
may be sure.
"Tell me your news," she said. "You look tired and ill. It is hard work
making one's fortune. Be sure that you know what you want to buy before
you make it, or afterwards you may find that it has not been worth
while to have worked so hard."
"Perhaps what I want is not to be bought," he said, with his eyes on
the carpet. For he was an awkward player at this light game.
"Ah!" she exclaimed. "Then it must be either worthless or priceless."
He looked at her, but he did not speak, and those who are quick to
detect the fleeting shade of pathos might have seen it in the glance of
the tired eyes. For Percy Roden was only clever as a financier, and
women have no use for such cleverness, only for the results of it.
Roden was conscious of making no progress with Mrs. Vansittart, who
handled him as a cat handles a disabled mouse while watching another
"You have been busier than ever, I suppose," she said, "since you have
had no time to remember your friends."
"Yes," answered Roden, brightening. He was so absorbed in the most
absorbing and lasting employment of which the human understanding is
capable that he could talk of little else, even to Mrs. Vansittart.
"Yes, we have been very busy, and are turning out nearly ten tons a day
now. And we have had trouble from a quarter in which we did not expect
it. Von Holzen has been much worried, I know, though he never says
anything. He may not be a gentleman, Mrs. Vansittart, but he is a
"Ah," said Mrs. Vansittart, indifferently; and something in her manner
made him all the more desirous of explaining his reasons for
associating himself with a person who, as she had subtly and
flatteringly hinted more than once, was far beneath him from a social
point of view. This desire rendered him less guarded than it was
perhaps wise to be under the circumstances.
"Yes, he is a very clever man--a genius, I think. He rises to each
difficulty without any effort, and every day shows me new evidence of
his foresight. He has done more than you think in the malgamite works.
His share of the work has been greater than anybody knows. I am only
the financier, you understand. I know about bookkeeping and
about--money--how it should be handled--that is all."
"You are too modest, I think," said Mrs. Vansittart, gravely. "You
forget that the scheme was yours; you forget all that you did in
"Yes--while Von Holzen was doing more here. He had the more difficult
task to perform. Of course I did my share in getting the thing up. It
would be foolish to deny that. I suppose I have a head on my shoulders,
like other people." And Mr. Percy Roden, with his hand at his
moustache, smiled a somewhat fatuous smile. He thought, perhaps, that a
woman will love a man the more for being a good man of business.
"Yes," said Mrs. Vansittart, softly.
"But I should like Von Holzen to have his due," said Roden, rather
grandly. "He has done wonders, and no one quite realizes that except
"Indeed! Does Mr. Cornish give Herr von Holzen his due, then?"
"Cornish does his best to upset Von Holzen's plans at every turn. He
does not understand business at all. When that sort of man goes into
business he invariably gets into trouble. He has what I suppose he
calls scruples. It comes, I imagine, from not having been brought up to
it." Roden spoke rather hotly. He was of a jealous disposition, and
disliked Mrs. Vansittart's attitude towards Cornish. "But he is no
match for Von Holzen," he continued, "as he will find to his cost. Von
Holzen is not the sort of man to stand any kind of interference."
"Ah?" said Mrs. Vansittart again, in the slightly questioning and
indifferent manner with which she received all defence of Otto von
Holzen, and which had the effect of urging Roden to further
"He is not a man I should care to cross myself," he said, determined to
secure Mrs. Vansittart's full attention. "He has the whole of the
malgamiters at his beck and call, and is pretty powerful, I can tell
you. They are a desperate set of fellows; men engaged in a dangerous
industry do not wear kid gloves."
Mrs. Vansittart was watching him across the low tea-table; for Roden
rarely looked at his interlocutor. He had more of her attention than he
"Ah," she said, rather more indifferently than before, "I think you
exaggerate Herr von Holzen's importance in the world."
"I do not exaggerate the danger into which Cornish will run if he is
not careful," retorted Roden, half sullenly.
There was a ring of anxiety in his voice. Mrs. Vansittart glanced
sharply at him. It was borne in upon her that Roden himself was afraid
of Von Holzen. This was more serious than it had at first appeared.
There are periods in every man's history when human affairs suddenly
appear to become unmanageable and the course of events gets beyond any
sort of control--when the hand at the helm falters, and even the
managing female of the family hesitates to act. Roden seemed to have
reached such a crisis now, and Mrs. Vansittart; charm she never so
wisely, could not brush the frown of anxiety from his brow. He was in
no mood for love-making, and men cannot call up this fleeting humour,
as a woman can, when it is wanted. So they sat and talked of many
things, both glancing at the clock with a surreptitious eye. They were
not the first man and woman to go hunting Cupid with the best will in
the world--only to draw a blank.
At length Roden rose from his chair with slow, lazy movements.
Physically and morally he seemed to want tightening up.
"I must go back to the works," he said. "We work late to-night."
"Then do not tell Herr von Holzen where you have been," replied Mrs.
Vansittart, with a warning smile. Then, on the threshold, with a
gravity and a glance that sent him away happy, she added, "I do not
want you to discuss me with Otto von Holzen, you understand!"
She stood with her hand on the bell, looking at the clock, while he
went downstairs. The moment she heard the street door closed behind him
she rang sharply.
"The brougham," she said to the servant, "at once."
Ten minutes later she was rattling down Maurits Kade towards the Villa
des Dunes. A deep bank of clouds had risen from the west, completely
obscuring the sun, so that it seemed already to be twilight. Indeed,
nature itself appeared to be deceived, and as the carriage left the
town behind and emerged into the sandy quiet of the suburbs, the
countless sparrows in the lime-trees were preparing for the night. The
trees themselves were shedding an evening odour, while, from canal and
dyke and ditch, there arose that subtle smell of damp weed and grass
which hangs over the whole of Holland all night.
"The place smells of calamity," said Mrs. Vansittart to herself, as she
quitted the carriage and walked quickly along the sandy path to the
Villa des Dunes.
Dorothy was in the garden, and, seeing her, came to the gate. Mrs.
Vansittart had changed her riding-habit for one of the dark silks she
usually wore, but she had forgotten to put on any gloves.
"Come," she said rapidly, taking Dorothy's hand, and holding it--"come
to the seat at the end of the garden where we sat one evening when we
dined alone together. I do not want to go indoors. I am nervous,
I suppose. I have allowed myself to give way to panic like a child in
the dark. I felt lonely in Park Straat, with a house full of servants,
so I came to you."
"I think there is going to be a thunderstorm," said Dorothy.
And Mrs. Vansittart broke into a sudden laugh. "I knew you would say
that. Because you are modern and practical--or, at all events, you show
a practical face to the world, which is better. Yes, one may say that
much for the modern girl, at all events--she keeps her head. As to her
heart--well, perhaps she has not got one."
"Perhaps not," admitted Dorothy.
They had reached the seat now, and sat down beneath the branches of a
weeping-willow, trimly trained in the accurate Dutch fashion. Mrs.
Vansittart glanced at her companion, and gave a little, low, wise
"I did well to come to you," she said, "for you have not many words.
You have a sense of humour--that saving sense which so few people
possess--and I suspect you to be a person of action. I came in a panic,
which is still there, but in a modified degree. One is always more
nervous for one's friends than for one's self. Is it not so? It is for
Tony Cornish that I fear."
Dorothy looked steadily straight in front of her, and there was a short
"I do not know why he stays in Holland, and I wish he would go home,"
continued Mrs. Vansittart. "It is unreasoning, I know, and foolish, but
I am convinced that he is running into danger." She stopped suddenly,
and laid her hand upon Dorothy's; for she had caught many foreign ways
and gestures. "Listen," she said, in a lower tone. "It is useless for
you and me to mince matters. The Malgamite scheme is a terrible crime,
and Tony Cornish means to stop it. Surely you and I have long suspected
that. I know Otto von Holzen. He killed my husband. He is a most
dangerous man. He is attempting to frighten Tony Cornish away from
here, and he does not understand the sort of person he is dealing with.
One does not frighten persons of the stamp of Tony Cornish, whether man
or woman. I have made Tony promise not to leave his room to-day. For
to-morrow I cannot answer. You understand?"
"Yes," answered Dorothy, with a sudden light in her eyes, "I
"Your brother must take care of himself. I care nothing for Lord
Ferriby, or any others concerned in this, but only for Tony Cornish,
for whom I have an affection, for he was part of my past life--when I
was happy. As for the malgamiters, they and their works may--go hang!"
And Mrs. Vansittart snapped her fingers. "Do you know Major White?" she
"Yes; I have seen him once."
"So have I--only once. But for a woman once is often enough--is it not
so?--to enable one to judge. I wish we had him here."
"He is coming," answered Dorothy. "I think he is coming to-morrow. When
I saw Mr. Cornish yesterday, he told me that he expected him. I believe
he wrote for him to come. He also wrote to Mr. Wade, the banker, asking
him to come."
"Then he found things worse than he expected. He has, in a sense, sent
for reinforcements. When does Major White arrive--in the morning?"
"No; not till the evening."
"Then he comes by Flushing," said Mrs. Vansittart, practically. "You
are thinking of something. What is it?"
"I was wondering how I could see some of the malgamite workers
to-morrow. I know some of them, and it is from them that the danger may
be expected. They are easily led, and Herr von Holzen would not scruple
to make use of them."
"Ah!" said Mrs. Vansittart, "you have guessed that, too. I have more
than guessed it--I know it. You must see these men to-morrow."
"I will," answered Dorothy, simply.
Mrs. Vansittart rose and held out her hand. "Yes," she said, "I came to
the right person. You are calm, and keep your head; as to the other,
perhaps that is in safe-keeping too. Good night and come to lunch with
"On se guerit de la bienfaisance par la connaissance de ceux qu'on
"Can you tell me if there is a moon to-night?" Mrs. Vansittart asked a
porter in the railway station at The Hague.
The man stared at her for a moment, then realized that the question was
a serious one.
"I will ask one of the engine-drivers, my lady," he answered, with his
hand at the peak of his cap.
It was past nine o'clock, and Mrs. Vansittart had been waiting nearly
half an hour for the Flushing train. Her carriage was walking slowly up
and down beneath the glass roof of the entrance to the railway station.
She had taken a ticket in order to gain access to the platform, and was
almost alone there with the porters. Her glance travelled backwards and
forwards between the clock and the western sky, visible beneath the
great arch of the station. The evening was a clear one, for the month
of June still lingered, but the twilight was at hand. The Flushing
train was late to-night of all nights; and Mrs. Vansittart stamped her
foot with impatience. What was worse was Dorothy Roden's lateness.
Dorothy and Mrs. Vansittart, like two generals on the eve of a battle,
had been exchanging hurried notes all day; and Dorothy had promised to
meet Mrs. Vansittart at the station on the arrival of the train.
"The moon is rising now, my lady--a half-moon," said the porter
approaching with that leisureliness which characterizes railway porters
"Why does your stupid train not come?" asked Mrs. Vansittart, with
"It has been signalled, my lady; a few minutes now."
Mrs. Vansittart gave a quick sigh of relief, and turned on her heel.
She had long been unable to remain quietly in one place. She saw
Dorothy coming up the slope to the platform. At last matters were
taking a turn for the better--except, indeed, Dorothy's face, which was
set and white.
"I have found out something," she said at once, and speaking quickly
but steadily. "It is for to-night, between half-past nine and ten."
She had her watch in her hand, and compared it quickly with the station
clock as she spoke.
"I have secured Uncle Ben," she said--all the ridicule of the name
seemed to have vanished long ago. "He is drunk, and therefore cunning.
It is only when he is sober that he is stupid. I have him in a cab
downstairs, and have told your man to watch him. I have been to Mr.
Cornish's rooms again, and he has not come in. He has not been in since
morning, and they do not know where he is. No one knows where he is."
Dorothy's lip quivered for a moment, and she held it with her teeth.
Mrs. Vansittart touched her arm lightly with her gloved fingers--a
strange, quick, woman's gesture.
"I went upstairs to his rooms," continued Dorothy. "It is no good
thinking of etiquette now or pretending----"
"No," said Mrs. Vansittart, hurriedly, so that the sentence was never
"I found nothing except two torn envelopes in the waste-paper basket.
One in an uneducated hand--perhaps feigned. The other was Otto von
"Ah! In Otto von Holzen's writing--addressed to Tony at the Zwaan at
"Then Otto von Holzen knows where Tony is staying, at all events. We
have learnt something. You have kept the envelopes?"
They both turned at the rumble of the train outside the station. The
great engine came clanking in over the points, its lamp glaring like
the eye of some monster.
"Provided Major White is in the train," muttered Mrs. Vansittart,
tapping on the pavement with her foot. "If he is not in the train,
"Then we must go alone."
Mrs. Vansittart turned and looked her slowly up and down.
"You are a brave woman," she said thoughtfully.
But Major White was in the train, being a man of his word in small
things as well as in great. They saw him pushing his way patiently
through the crowd of hotel porters and others who had advice or their
services to offer him. Then he saw Mrs. Vansittart and Dorothy, and
"Give your luggage ticket to the hotel porter and let him take it
straight to the hotel. You are wanted elsewhere."
Still Major White was only in his normal condition of mild and patient
surprise. He had only met Mrs. Vansittart once, and Dorothy as often.
He did exactly as he was told without asking one of those hundred
questions which would inevitably have been asked by many men and more
women under such circumstances, and followed the ladies out of the
"We must talk here," said Mrs. Vansittart. "One cannot do so in a
carriage in the streets of The Hague."
Major White bowed gravely, and looked from one to the other. He was
rather travel-worn, and seemed to be feeling the heat.
"Tony Cornish has probably written to you about his discoveries as to
the malgamite works. We have no time to go into that question,
however," said Mrs. Vansittart, who was already beginning to be
impatient with this placid man. "He has earned the enmity of Otto von
Holzen--a man who will stop at nothing--and the malgamiters are being
raised against him by Von Holzen. Our information is very vague, but we
are almost certain that an attempt is to be made on Tony's life
to-night between half-past nine and ten. You understand?" Mrs.
Vansittart almost stamped her foot.
"Oh yes," answered White, looking at the station clock. "Twenty
"We have the information from one of the malgamiters themselves, who
knows the time and the place, but he is tipsy. He is in a carriage
outside the station."
"How tipsy?" asked Major White; and both his hearers shrugged their
"How can we tell you that?" snapped Mrs. Vansittart; and Major White
dropped his glass from his eye.
"Where is your brother?" he said, turning to Dorothy. He was evidently
rather afraid of Mrs. Vansittart, as a quick-spoken person not likely
to have patience with a slow man.
"He has gone to Utrecht," answered Dorothy. "And Mr. von Holzen is not
at the works, which are locked up. I have just come from there. By a
lucky chance I met this man Ben, and have brought him here."
White looked at Dorothy thoughtfully, and something in his gaze made
her change colour.
"Let me see this man," he said, moving towards the exit.
"He is in that carriage," said Dorothy, when they had reached a quiet
corner of the station yard. "You must be quick. We have only a quarter
of an hour now. He is an Englishman."
White got into the cab with Uncle Ben, who appeared to be sleeping, and
closed the door after him. In a few moments he emerged again.
"Tell the man to drive to a chemist's," he said to Mrs. Vansittart.
"The fellow is not so bad. I have got something out of him, and will
get more. Follow in your carriage--you and Miss Roden."
It was Major White's turn now to take the lead, and Mrs. Vansittart
meekly obeyed, though White's movements were so leisurely as to madden
At the chemist's shop, White descended from the carriage and appeared
to have some language in common with the druggist, for he presently
returned to the carriage, carrying a tumbler. After a moment he went to
the window of Mrs. Vansittart's neat brougham.
"I must bring him in here," he said. "You have a pair of horses which
look as if they could go. Tell your man to drive to the pumping-station
on the Dunes, wherever that may be."
Then he went and fetched Uncle Ben, whom he brought by one arm, in a
dislocated condition, trotting feebly to keep pace with the major's
Mrs. Vansittart's coachman must have received very decided orders, for
he skirted the town at a rattling trot, and soon emerged from the
streets into the quiet of the Wood, which was dark and deserted. Here,
in a sandy and lonely alley, he put the horses to a gallop. The
carriage swayed and bumped. Those inside exchanged no words. From time
to time Major White shook Uncle Ben, which seemed to be a part of his
At length the carriage stopped on the narrow road, paved with the
little bricks they make at Gouda, that leads from Scheveningen to the
pumping-station on the Dunes. Major White was the first to quit it,
dragging Uncle Ben unceremoniously after him. Then, with his disengaged
hand, he helped the ladies. He screwed his glass tightly into his eye,
and looked round him with a measuring glance.
"This place will be as light as day," he said, "when the moon rises
from behind those trees."
He drew Uncle Ben aside, and talked with him for some time in a low
voice. The man was almost sober now, but so weak that he could not
stand without assistance. Major White was an advocate, it seemed, of
heroic measures. He appeared to be asking many questions, for Uncle Ben
pointed from time to time with an unsteady hand into the darkness. When
his mind, muddled with malgamite and drink, failed to rise to the
occasion, Major White shook him like a sack. After a few minutes'
conversation, Ben broke down completely, and sat against a sand-bank to
weep. Major White left him there, and went towards the ladies.
"Will you tell your man," he said to Mrs. Vansittart, "to drive back to
the junction of the two roads and wait there under the trees?" He
paused, looking dubiously from one to the other. "And you and Miss
Roden had better go back with him and stay in the carriage."
"No," said Dorothy, quietly.
"Oh no!" added Mrs. Vansittart.
And Major White moistened his lips with an air of patient toleration
for the ways of a sex which had ever been far beyond his comprehension.
"It seems," he said, when the carriage had rolled away over the noisy
stones, "that we are in good time. They do not expect him until nearly
ten. He has been attempting for some time to get the men to refuse to
work, and these same men have written to ask him to meet them at the
works at ten o'clock, when Roden is at Utrecht, and Von Holzen is out.
There is no question of reaching the works at all. They are going to
lie in ambush in a hollow of the Dunes, and knock him on the head about
half a mile from here north-east." And Major White paused in this great
conversational effort to consult a small gold compass attached to his
The two women waited patiently.
"Fine place, these Dunes," said the major, after a pause. "Could
conceal three thousand men between here and Scheveningen."
"But it is not a question of hiding soldiers," said Mrs. Vansittart,
sharply, with a movement of the head indicative of supreme contempt.
"No," admitted White. "Better hide ourselves, perhaps. No good standing
here where everybody can see us. I'll fetch our friend. Think he'll
sleep if we let him. Chemist gave him enough to kill a horse."
"But haven't you any plans?" asked Mrs. Vansittart, in despair. "What
are you going to do? You are not going to let these brutes kill Tony
Cornish? Surely you, as a soldier, must know how to meet this crisis."
"Oh yes. Not much of a soldier, you know," answered White, soothingly,
as he moved away towards Uncle Ben. "But I think I know how this
business ought to be managed. Come along--hide ourselves."
He led the way across the dunes, dragging Uncle Ben by one arm, and
keeping in the hollows. The two women followed in silence on the silent
Once Major White paused and looked back. "Don't talk," he said, holding
up a large fat hand in a ridiculous gesture of warning, which he must
have learnt in the nursery. He looked like a large baby listening for a
bogey in the chimney.
Once or twice he consulted Uncle Ben, and as often glanced at his
compass. There was a certain skill in his attitude and demeanour, as if
he knew exactly what he was about. Mrs. Vansittart had a hundred
questions to ask him, but they died on her lips. The moon rose suddenly
over the distant trees and flooded all the sand-hills with light. Major
White halted his little party in a deep hollow, and consulted Uncle Ben
in whispers. Then bidding him sit down, he left the three alone in
their hiding-place, and went away by himself. He climbed almost to the
summit of a neighbouring mound, and stopped suddenly, with his face
uplifted, as if smelling something. Like many short-sighted persons, he
had a keen scent. In a few minutes he came back again.
"I have found them," he whispered to Mrs. Vansittart and Dorothy.
"Smelt 'em--like sealing-wax. Eleven of them--waiting there for
Cornish." And he smiled with a sort of boyish glee.
"What are you going to do?" whispered Mrs. Vansittart.
"Thump them," he answered, and presently went back to his post of
Uncle Ben had fallen asleep, and the two women stood side by side
waiting in the moonlight. It was chilly, and a keen wind swept in from
the sea. Dorothy shivered. They could hear certain notes of certain
instruments in the band of the Scheveningen Kurhaus, nearly two miles
away. It was strange to be within sound of such evidences of
civilization, and yet in such a lonely spot--strange to reflect that
eleven men were waiting within a few yards of them to murder one. And
yet they could safely have carried out their intention, and have
scraped a hole in the sand to hide his body, in the certainty that it
would never be found; for these dunes are a miniature desert of Sahara,
where nothing bids men leave the beaten paths, where certain hollows
have probably never been trodden by the foot of man, and where the
ever-drifting sand slowly accumulates--a very abomination of
At length White rose to his feet agilely enough, and crept to the brow
of the dune. The men were evidently moving. Mrs. Vansittart and Dorothy
ascended the bank to the spot just vacated by White.
Only a few dozen yards away they could see the black forms of the
malgamiters grouped together under the covert of a low hillock. Hidden
from their sight, Major White was slowly stalking them.
Dorothy touched Mrs. Vansittart's arm, and pointed silently in the
direction of Scheveningen. A man was approaching, alone, across the
silvery sand-hills. It was Tony Cornish, walking into the trap laid for
Major White saw him also, and thinking himself unobserved, or from mere
habit acquired among his men, he moistened the tips of his fingers at
The malgamiters moved forward, and White followed them. They took up a
position in a hollow a few yards away from the foot-path by which
Cornish must pass. One of their number remained behind, crouching on a
mound, and evidently reporting progress to his companions below. When
Cornish was within a hundred yards of the ambush, White suddenly ran up
the bank, and lifting this man bodily, threw him down among his
comrades. He followed this vigorous attack by charging down into the
confused mass. In a few moments the malgamiters streamed away across
the sand-hills like a pack of hounds, though pursued and not pursuing.
They left some of their number on the sand behind them, for White was a
"Give it to them, Tony!" White cried, with a ring of exultation in his
voice. "Knock 'em down as they come!"
For there was only one path, and the malgamiters had to run the
gauntlet of Tony Cornish, who knocked some of them over neatly enough
as they passed, selecting the big ones, and letting the others go free.
He knew them by the smell of their clothes, and guessed their intention
It was a strange scene, and one that left the two women, watching it,
breathless and eager.
"Oh, I wish I were a man!" exclaimed Mrs. Vansittart, with clenched
They hurried toward Cornish and White, who were now alone on the path.
White had rolled up his sleeve, and was tying his handkerchief round
his arm with his other hand and his teeth.
"It is nothing," he said. "One of the devils had a knife. Must get my
sleeve mended to-morrow."
"Prends moy telle que je suy."
When Major White came down to breakfast at his hotel the next morning,
he found the large room deserted and the windows thrown open to the sun
and the garden. He was selecting a table, when a step on the verandah
made him look up. Standing in the window, framed, as it were, by
sunshine and trees, was Marguerite Wade, in a white dress, with demure
lips, and the complexion of a wild rose. She was the incarnation of
youth--of that spring-time of life of which the sight tugs at the
strings of older hearts; for surely that is the only part of life which
is really and honestly worth the living.
Marguerite came forward and shook hands gravely. Major White's left
eyebrow quivered for a moment in indication of his usual mild surprise
at life and its changing surface.
"Feeling pretty--bobbish?" inquired Marguerite, earnestly.
White's eyebrow went right up and his glass fell.
"Fairly bobbish, thank you," he answered, looking at her with
"You look all right, you know."
"You should never judge by appearances," said White, with a fatherly
Marguerite pursed up her lips, and looked his stalwart frame up and
down in silence. Then she suddenly lapsed into her most confidential
manner, like a schoolgirl telling her bosom friend, for the moment, all
the truth and more than the truth.
"You are surprised to see me here; thought you would be, you know. I
knew you were in the hotel; saw your boots outside your door last
night; knew they must be yours. You went to bed very early."
"I have two pairs of boots," replied the major, darkly.
"Well, to tell you the truth, I have brought papa across. Tony wrote
for him to come, and I knew papa would be no use by himself, so I came.
I told you long ago that the Malgamite scheme was up a gum-tree, and
that seems to be precisely where you are."
"And so I have come over, and papa and I are going to put things
"I shouldn't if I were you."
"Shouldn't what?" inquired Marguerite.
"Shouldn't put other people's affairs straight. It does not pay,
especially if other people happen to be up a gum-tree--make yourself
all sticky, you know."
Marguerite looked at him doubtfully. "Ah!" she said. "That's what--is
"That's what," admitted Major White.
"That is the difference, I suppose, between a man and a woman," said
Marguerite, sitting down at a small table where breakfast had been laid
for two. "A man looks on at things going--well, to the dogs--and smokes
and thinks it isn't his business. A woman thinks the whole world is her
"So it is, in a sense--it is her doing, at all events."
Marguerite had turned to beckon to the waiter, and she paused to look
back over her shoulder with shrewd, clear eyes.
"Ah!" she said mystically.
Then she addressed herself to the waiter, calling him "Kellner," and
speaking to him in German, in the full assurance that it would be his
"I have told him," she explained to White, "to bring your little
coffee-pot and your little milk-jug and your little pat of butter to
"So I understood."
"Ah! Then you know German?" inquired Marguerite, with another doubtful
"I get two pence a day extra pay for knowing German."
Marguerite paused in her selection, of a breakfast roll from a silver
basket containing that Continental choice of breads which look so
different and taste so much alike.
"Seems to me," she said confidentially, "that you know more than you
appear to know."
"Not such a fool as I look, in fact."
"That is about the size of it," admitted Marguerite, gravely. "Tony
always says that the world sees more than any one suspect. Perhaps he
And both happening to look up at this moment, their glances met across
the little table.
"Tony often is right," said Major White.
There was a pause, during which Marguerite attended to the two small
coffee-pots for which she had such a youthful and outspoken contempt.
The privileges of her sex were still new enough to her to afford a
certain pleasure in pouring out beverages for other people to drink.
"Why is Tony so fond of The Hague? Who is Mrs. Vansittart?" she asked,
without looking up.
Major White looked stolidly out of the open window for a few minutes
"Two questions don't make an answer."
"Not these two questions?" asked Marguerite, with a sudden laugh.
"No; Mrs. Vansittart is a widow, young, and what they usually call
'charming,' I believe. She is clever, yes, very clever, and she was, I
suppose, fond of Vansittart; and that is the whole story, I take it."
"Not exactly a cheery story."
"No true stories are," returned the major, gravely.
But Marguerite shook her head. In her wisdom--that huge wisdom of life
as seen from the threshold--she did not believe Mrs. Vansittart's
"Yes, but novelists and people take a true story and patch it up at the
end. Perhaps most people do that with their lives, you know; perhaps
"Won't do that," said the major, staring in a stupid way out of the
window with vacant, short-sighted eyes. "Not even if Tony suggested
it--which he won't do."
"You mean that Tony is not a patch upon the late Mr. Vansittart--that
is what _you_ mean," said Marguerite, condescendingly. "Then why does
he stay in The Hague?"
Major White shrugged his shoulders and lapsed into a stolid silence,
broken only by a demand made presently by Marguerite to the waiter for
more bread and more butter. She looked at her companion once or twice,
and it is perhaps not astonishing that she again concluded that he must
be as dense as he looked. It is a mistake that many of her sex have
made regarding men.
"Do you know Miss Roden?" she asked suddenly.
"I have heard a good deal about her from Joan."
"Is she pretty?"
"Very pretty?" persisted Marguerite.
"Yes," replied the major.
And they continued their breakfast in silence.
Marguerite appeared to have something to think about. Major White was
in the habit of stating that he never thought, and certainly
appearances bore him out.
"Your father is late," he said at length.
"Yes," answered Marguerite, with a gay laugh. "Because he was afraid to
ring the bell for hot water. Papa has a rooted British conviction that
Continental chambermaids always burst into your room if you ring the
bell, whether the door is locked or not. He is nothing if not
respectable, poor old dear--would give points to any bishop in the
As she spoke her father came into the room, looking, as his daughter
had stated eminently British and respectable. He shook hands with Major
White, and seemed pleased to see him. The major was, in truth, a man
after his own heart, and one whom he looked upon as solid. For Mr. Wade
belonged to a solid generation that liked the andante of life to be
played in good heavy chords, and looked with suspicious eyes upon
brilliancy of execution or lightness of touch.
"I have had a note from Cornish," he said, "who suggests a meeting at
this hotel this afternoon to discuss our future action. The other side
has, it appears, written to Lord Ferriby to come over to The Hague."
There had in Mr. Wade's life usually been that "other side," which he
had treated with a good, honest respect so long as they proved
themselves worthy of it; but which he crushed the moment they forgot
themselves. For there was in this British banker a vast spirit of
honest, open antagonism by which he and his likes have built up a
scattered empire on this planet. "At three o'clock," he concluded,
lifting the cover of a silver dish which Marguerite had sent back to
the kitchen awaiting her father's arrival. "And what will you do, my
dear?" he said, turning to her.
"I?" replied Marguerite, who always knew her own mind. "I shall take a
carriage and drive down to the Villa des Dunes to see Dorothy Roden. I
have a note for her from Joan."
And Mr. Wade turned to his breakfast with an appetite in no way
diminished by the knowledge that the "other side" were about to take
At three o'clock the carriage was awaiting Marguerite at the door of
the hotel, but for some reason Marguerite lingered in the porch, asking
questions and absolutely refusing to drive all the way to Scheveningen
by the side of the "Queen's Canal." When at length she turned to get
in, Tony Cornish was coming across the Toornoifeld under the trees; for
The Hague is the shadiest city in the world, with forest trees growing
amid its great houses.
"Ah!" said Marguerite, holding out her hand. "You see, I have come
across to give you all a leg-up. Seems to me we are going to have
rather a spree."
"The spree," replied Cornish, with his light laugh, "has already
Marguerite drove away towards The Hague Wood, and disappeared among the
transparent green shadows of that wonderful forest. The man had been
instructed to take her to the Villa des Dunes by way of the Leyden
Road, making a round in the woods. It was at a point near the farthest
outskirts of the forest that Marguerite suddenly turned at the sight of
a man sitting upon a bench at the roadside reading a sheet of paper.
"That," she said to herself, "is the Herr Professor--but I cannot
remember his name."
Marguerite was naturally a sociable person. Indeed, a woman usually
stops an old and half-forgotten acquaintance, while men are accustomed
to let such bygones go. She told the driver to turn round and drive
back again. The man upon the bench had scarce looked up as she passed.
He had the air of a German, which suggestion was accentuated by the
solitude of his position and the poetic surroundings which he had
selected. A German, be it recorded to his credit, has a keen sense of
the beauties of nature, and would rather drink his beer before a fine
outlook than in a comfortable chair indoors. When Marguerite returned,
this man looked up again with the absorbed air of one repeating
something in his mind. When he perceived that she was undoubtedly
coming towards himself, he stood up and took off his hat. He was a
small, square-built man, with upright hair turning to grey, and a
quiet, thoughtful, clean-shaven face. His attitude, and indeed his
person, dimly suggested some pictures that have been painted of the
great Napoleon. His measuring glance--as if the eyes were weighing the
face it looked upon--distinctly suggested his great prototype.
"You do not remember me, Herr Professor," said Marguerite, holding out
her hand with a frank laugh. "You have forgotten Dresden and the
chemistry classes at Fraeulein Weber's?"
"No, Fraeulein; I remember those classes," the professor answered, with
a grave bow.
"And you remember the girl who dropped the sulphuric acid into the
something of potassium? I nearly made a great discovery then, mein
"You nearly made the greatest discovery of all, Fraeulein. Yes, I
remember now--Fraeulein Wade."
"Yes, I am Marguerite Wade," she answered, looking at him with a little
frown, "but I can't remember your name. You were always Herr Professor.
And we never called anything by its right name in the chemistry
classes, you know; that was part of the--er--trick. We called water H2
or something like that. We called you J.H.U, Herr Professor."
"What does that mean, Fraeulein?"
"Jolly hard up," returned Marguerite, with a laugh which suddenly gave
place, with a bewildering rapidity, to a confidential gravity. "You
were poor then, mein Herr."
"I have always been poor, Fraeulein, until now."
But Marguerite's mind had already flown to other things. She was
looking at him again with a frown of concentration.
"I am beginning to remember your name," she said.
"Is it not strange how a name comes back with a face? And I had quite
forgotten both your face and your name, Herr ... Herr ... von Holz"--she
broke off, and stepped back from him--"von Holzen," she said slowly. "Then
you are the malgamite man?"
"Yes, Fraeulein," he answered, with his grave smile; "I am the malgamite
Marguerite looked at him with a sort of wonder, for she knew enough of
the Malgamite scheme to realize that this was a man who ruled all that
came near him, against whom her own father and Tony Cornish and
Major White and Mrs. Vansittart had been able to do nothing--who in
face of all opposition continued calmly to make malgamite, and sell it
daily to the world at a preposterous profit, and at the cost only of
"And you, Fraeulein, are the daughter of Mr. Wade, the banker?"
"Yes," she answered, feeling suddenly that she was a schoolgirl again,
standing before her master.
"And why are you in The Hague?"
"Oh," replied Marguerite, hesitating for perhaps the first time in her
life, "to enlarge our minds, mein Herr." She was looking at the paper
he held in his hand, and he saw the direction of her glance. In
response, he laughed quietly, and held it out towards her.
"Yes," he said, "you have guessed right. It is the Vorschrift, the
prescription for the manufacture of malgamite."
She took the paper and turned it over curiously. Then, with her usual
audacity, she opened it and began to read.
"Ah," she said, "it is in Hebrew."
Von Holzen nodded his head, and held out his hand for the paper, which
she gave to him. She was not afraid of the man--but she was very near
"And I am sitting here, quietly under the trees, Fraeulein," he said,
"learning it by heart."
A BRIGHT AND SHINING LIGHT.
"Un homme serieux est celui qui se croit regarde."
When Lord Ferriby decided to accede to Roden's earnest desire that he
should go to The Hague, he was conscious of conferring a distinct
favour upon the Low Countries.
"It is not a place one would choose to go to at this time of year," he
said to a friend at the club. "In the winter, it is different; for the
season there is in the winter, as in many Continental capitals."
One of the numerous advantages attached to an hereditary title is the
certainty that a hearer of some sort or another will always be
forthcoming. A commoner finds himself snubbed or quietly abandoned so
soon as his reputation for the utterance of egoisms and platitudes is
sufficiently established, but there are always plenty of people ready
and willing to be bored by a lord. A high-class club is, moreover, a
very mushroom-bed of bores, where elderly gentlemen who have traveled
quite a distance down the road of life, without finding out that it is
bordered on either side by a series of small events not worth
commenting upon, meet to discuss trivialities.
"Truth is," said his lordship to one of these persons, "this Malgamite
scheme is one of the largest charities that I have conducted, and
carries with it certain responsibilities--yes, certain responsibilities."
And he assumed a grave air of importance almost amounting to worry. For
Lord Ferriby did not know that a worried look is an almost certain
indication of a small mind. Nor had he observed that those who bear the
greatest responsibilities, and have proved themselves worthy of the
burden, are precisely they who show the serenest face to the world.
It must not, however, be imagined that Lord Ferriby was in reality at
all uneasy respecting the Malgamite scheme. Here again he enjoyed one
of the advantages of having been preceded by a grandfather able and
willing to serve his party without too minute a scruple. For if the
king can do no wrong, the nobility may surely claim a certain immunity
from criticism, and those who have allowance made to them must
inevitably learn to make allowance for themselves. Lord Ferriby was, in
a word, too self-satisfied to harbour any doubts respecting his own
conduct. Self-satisfaction is, of course, indolence in disguise.
It was easy enough for Lord Ferriby to persuade himself that Cornish
was wrong and Roden in the right; especially when Roden, in the most
gentlemanly manner possible, paid a cheque, not to Lord Ferriby direct,
but to his bankers, in what he gracefully termed the form of a bonus
upon the heavy subscription originally advanced by his lordship. There
are many people in the world who will accept money so long as their
delicate susceptibilities are not offended by an actual sight of the
"Anthony Cornish," said Lord Ferriby, pulling down his waistcoat, "like
many men who have had neither training nor experience, does not quite
understand the ethics of commerce."
His lordship, like others, seemed to understand these to mean that a
man may take anything that his neighbour is fool enough to part with.
Joan was willing enough to accompany her father, because, in the great
march of social progress, she had passed on from charity to sanitation,
and was convinced that the mortality among the malgamiters, which had
been more than hinted at in the Ferriby family circle, was entirely due
to the negligence of the victims in not using an old disinfectant
served up in artistic flagons under a new name. Permanganate of potash
under another name will not only smell as sweet, but will perform
greater sanitary wonders, because the world places faith in a new name,
and faith is still the greatest healer of human ills.
Joan, therefore, proposed to carry to The Hague the glad tidings of the
sanitary millennium, fully convinced that this had come to a suffering
world under the name of "Nuxine," in small bottles, at the price of one
shilling and a penny halfpenny. The penny halfpenny, no doubt,
represented the cost of bottle and drug and the small blue ribbon
securing the stopper, while the shilling went very properly into the
manufacturer's pocket. It was at this time the fashion in Joan's world
to smell of "Nuxine," which could also be had in the sweetest little
blue tabloids, to place in the wardrobe and among one's clean clothes.
Joan had given Major White a box of these tabloids, which gift had been
accepted with becoming gravity. Indeed, the major seemed never to tire
of hearing Joan's exordiums, or of watching her pretty, earnest face as
she urged him to use "Nuxine" in its various forms, and it was only
when he heard that cigar-holders made of "Nuxine" absorbed all the
deleterious properties of tobacco that his stout heart failed him.
"Yes," he pleaded, "but a fellow must draw the line at a sky-blue
cigar-holder, you know."
And Joan had to content herself with the promise that he would use none
other than "Nuxine" dentifrice.
Lord Ferriby and Joan, therefore, set out to The Hague, his lordship in
the full conviction (enjoyed by so many useless persons) that his
presence was in itself of beneficial effect upon the course of events,
and Joan with her "Nuxine" and, in a minor degree now, her
"Malgamiters" and her "Haberdashers' Assistants." Lady Ferriby
preferred to remain at Cambridge Terrace, chiefly because it was
cheaper, and also because the cook required a holiday, and, with a
kitchen-maid only, she could indulge in her greatest pleasure--a
useless economy. The cook refused to starve her fellow-servants, while
the kitchen-maid, mindful of a written character in the future, did as
her ladyship bade her--hashing and mincing in a manner quite
irreconcilable with forty pounds a year and beer money.
Major White met the travellers at The Hague station, and Joan, who had
had some trouble with her father during the simple journey, was
conscious for the first time of a sense of orderliness and rest in the
presence of the stout soldier, who seemed to walk heavily over
difficulties when they arose.
"Eh--er," began his lordship, as they walked down the platform, "have
you seen anything of Roden?"
For Lord Ferriby was too self-centred a man to b keenly observant, and
had as yet failed to detect Von Holzen behind and overshadowing his
partner in the Malgamite scheme.
"No--cannot say I have," replied the major.
He had never discussed the malgamite affairs with Lord Ferriby.
Discussion was, indeed, a pastime in which the major never indulged.
His position in the matter was clearly enough defined, but he had no
intention of explaining why it was that he ranged himself stolidly on
Cornish's side in the differences that had arisen.
Lord Ferriby was dimly conscious of a smouldering antagonism, but knew
the major sufficiently well not to fear an outbreak of hostilities. Men
who will face opposition may be divided into two classes--the one
taking its stand upon a conscious rectitude, the other half-hiding with
the cheap and transparent cunning of the ostrich. Many men, also, are
in the fortunate condition of believing themselves to be invariably
right unless they are told quite plainly that they are wrong. And there
was nobody to tell Lord Ferriby this. Cornish, with a sort of respect
for the head of the family--a regard for the office irrespective of its
holder--was so far from wishing to convince his uncle of error that he
voluntarily relinquished certain strong points in his position rather
than strike a blow that would inevitably reach Lord Ferriby, though
directed towards Roden or Von Holzen.
Lord Ferriby heard, however, with some uneasiness, that the Wades were
in The Hague.
"A worthy man--a very worthy man," he said abstractedly; for he looked
upon the banker with that dim suspicion which is aroused in certain
minds by uncompromising honesty.
The travellers proceeded to the hotel, where rooms had been prepared
for them. There were flowers in Joan's room, which her maid said she
had rearranged, so awkwardly had they been placed in the vase. The
Wades, it appeared, were out, and had announced their intention of not
returning to lunch. They were, the hotel porter thought, to take that
meal at Mrs. Vansittart's.
"I think," said Lord Ferriby, "that I shall go down to the works."
"Yes, do," answered White, with an expressionless countenance.
"Perhaps you will accompany me?" suggested Joan's father.
"No--think not. Can't hit it off with Roden. Perhaps Joan would like to
see the Palace in the Wood."
Joan thought that it was her duty to go to the malgamite works, and
murmured the word "Nuxine," without, however, much enthusiasm; but
White happened to remember that it was mixing-day. So Lord Ferriby went
off alone in a hired carriage, as had been his intention from the
first; for White knew even less about the ethics of commerce than did
The account of affairs that awaited his lordship at the works was, no
doubt, satisfactory enough, for the manufacture of malgamite had been
proceeding at high pressure night and day. Von Holzen had, as he told
Marguerite, been poor all his life, and poverty is a hard task-master.
He was not going to be poor again. The grey carts had been passing up
and down Park Straat more often than ever, taking their loads to one or
other of the railway stations, and bringing, as they passed her house,
a gleam of anger to Mrs. Vansittart's eyes.
"The scoundrels!" she muttered. "The scoundrels! Why does not Tony
But Tony Cornish, who alone knew the full extent of Von Holzen's
determination not to be frustrated, could not act--for Dorothy's sake.
A string of the quiet grey carts passed up Park Straat when the party
assembled there had risen from the luncheon-table. Mrs. Vansittart and
Mr. Wade were standing together at the window, which was large even in
this city of large and spotless windows. Dorothy and Cornish were
talking together at the other end of the room, and Marguerite was
supposed to be looking at a book of photographs.
"There goes a consignment of men's lives," said Mrs. Vansittart to her
"A human life, madam," answered the banker, "like all else on earth,
varies much in value." For Mr. Wade belonged to that class of
Englishmen which has a horror of all sentiment, and takes care to cloak
its good actions by the assumption of an unworthy motive. And who shall
say that this man of business was wrong in his statement? Which of us
has not a few friends and relations who can only have been created as a
As Mrs. Vansittart and Mr. Wade stood at the window, Marguerite joined
them, slipping her hand within her father's arm with that air of
protection which she usually assumed towards him. She was gay and
lively, as she ever was, and Mrs. Vansittart glanced at her more than
once with a sort of envy. Mrs. Vansittart did not, in truth, always
understand Marguerite or her English, which was essentially modern.
They were standing and laughing at the window, when Marguerite suddenly
drew them back.
"What is it?" asked Mrs. Vansittart.
"It is Lord Ferriby," replied Marguerite.
And looking cautiously between the lace curtains, they saw the great
man drive past in his hired carriage. "He has recently bought Park
Straat," commented Marguerite.
And his lordship's condescending air certainly seemed to suggest that
the street, if not the whole city, belonged to him.
Mr. Wade pointed with his thick thumb in the direction in which Lord
Ferriby was driving.
"Where is he going?" he asked bluntly.
"To the malgamite works," replied Mrs. Vansittart, with significance.
And Mr. Wade made no comment. Mrs. Vansittart spoke first.
"I asked Major White," she said, "to lunch with us to-day, but he was
pledged, it appeared, to meet Lord Ferriby and his daughter, and see
them installed at their hotel."
"Ah!" said Mr. Wade.
Mrs. Vansittart, who in truth seemed to find the banker rather heavy,
allowed some moments to elapse before she again spoke.
"Major White," she then observed, "does not accompany Lord Ferriby to
the malgamite works."
"Major White," replied Marguerite, demurely, "has other fish to fry."
CLEARING THE AIR
"It is as difficult to be entirely bad as it is to be entirely good."
Percy Roden, who had been to Utrecht and Antwerp, arrived home on the
evening of the day that saw Lord Ferriby's advent to The Hague. Though
the day had been fine enough, the weather broke up at sunset, and great
clouds chased the sun towards the west. Then the rain came suddenly and
swept across the plains in a slanting fury. A cold wind from the
south-east followed hard upon the heavy clouds, and night came in a
chaos of squall and beating rain. Roden was drenched in his passage
from the carriage to the Villa des Dunes, which, being a summer
residence, had not been provided with a carriage-drive across the dunes
from the road. He looked at his sister with tired eyes when she met him
in the entrance-hall. He was worn and thinner than she had seen him in
the days of his adversity, for Percy Roden, like his partner, had made
several false starts upon the road to fortune before he got well away.
Like many--like, indeed, nearly all--who have to try again, he had
lightened himself of a scruple or so each time he turned back.
Prosperity, however, seems to kill as many as adversity. Abundant
wealth is a vexation of spirit to-day as surely as it was in the time
of that wise man who, having tried it, said that a stranger eateth it,
and it is vanity.
"Beastly night," said Roden, and that was all. He had been to Antwerp
on banking business, and had that sleepless look which brings a glitter
to the eyes. This was a man handling great sums of money. "Von Holzen
been here to-day?" he asked, when he had changed his clothes, and they
were seated at the dinner-table.
"No," answered Dorothy, with her eyes on his plate.
He was eating little, and drank only mineral water from a stone bottle.
He was like an athlete in training, though the strain he sought to meet
was mental and not physical. He shivered more than once, and glanced
sharply at the door when the maid happened to leave it open.
When Dorothy went to the drawing-room she lighted the fire, which was
ready laid, and of wood. Although it was nearly midsummer, the air was
chilly, and the rain beat against the thin walls of the house.
"I think it probable," Roden had said, before she left the dining-room,
"that Von Holzen will come in this evening."
She sat down before the fire, which burnt briskly, and looked into it
with thoughtful, clever grey eyes. Percy thought it probable that Von
Holzen would come to the Villa des Dunes this evening. Would he come?
For Percy knew nothing of the organized attempt on Cornish's life which
she herself had frustrated. He seemed to know nothing of the grim and
silent antagonism that existed between the two men, shutting his eyes
to their movements, which were like the movements of chess-players that
the onlooker sees but does not understand. Dorothy knew that Von Holzen
was infinitely cleverer than her brother. She knew, indeed, that he was
cleverer than most men. With the quickness of her sex, she had long ago
divined the source and basis of his strength. He was indifferent to
women--who formed no part of his life, who entered in no way into his
plans or ambitions. Being a woman, she should, theoretically, have
disliked and despised him for this. As a matter of fact, the
characteristic commanded her respect.
She knew that her brother was not in Von Holzen's confidence. It was
probable that no man on earth had ever come within measurable distance
of that. He would, in all likelihood, hear nothing of the attempt to
kill Cornish, and Cornish himself would be the last to mention it. For
she knew that her lover was a match for Von Holzen, and more than a
match. She had never doubted that. It was a part of her creed. A woman
never really loves a man until she has made him the object of a creed.
And it is only the man himself who can--and in the long run usually
does--make it impossible for her to adhere to her belief.
She was still sitting and thinking over the fire when her brother came
into the room.
"Ah!" he said at the sight of the fire, and came forward, holding out
his hands to the blaze. He looked down at his sister with glittering
and unsteady eyes. He was in a dangerous humour--a humour for
explanations and admissions--to which weak natures sometimes give way.
And, looking at the matter practically and calmly, explanations and
admissions are better left--to the hereafter. But Von Holzen saved him
by ringing the front-door bell at that moment.
The professor came into the room a minute later. He stood in the
doorway, and bowed in the stiff German way to Dorothy. With Roden he
exchanged a curt nod. His hair was glued to his temples by the rain,
which gleamed on his face.
"It is an abominable night," he said, coming forward. "Ach, Fraeulein,
please do not leave us--and the fire," he added; for Dorothy had risen.
"I merely came to make sure that he had arrived safely home." He took
the chair offered to him by Roden, and sat on it without bringing it
forward. He had but little of that self-assurance which is so highly
cultivated to-day as to be almost offensive. "There are, of course,
matters of business," he said, "which can wait till to-morrow.
To-night you are tired." He looked at Roden as a doctor may look at a
patient. "Is it not so, Fraeulein?" he asked, turning to Dorothy.
"Except one or two--which we may discuss now."
Dorothy turned and glanced at him. He was looking at her, and their
eyes met for a moment. He seemed to see something in her face that made
him thoughtful, for he remained silent for some time, while he wiped
the rain from his face with his pocket-handkerchief. It was a pale,
determined face, which could hardly fail to impress those with whom he
came in contact as the face of a strong man.
"Lord Ferriby has been at the works to-day," he said; and then, with a
gesture of the hands and a shrug, he described Lord Ferriby as a
nonentity. "He went through the works, and looked over your books. I
wrote out a sort of certificate of his satisfaction with both, and--he
Roden was leaning forward over the fire with a cigarette between his
lips. He nodded shortly. "Good," he said.
"Yesterday," continued Von Holzen, "I met an old acquaintance--a Miss
Wade--one of the young ladies of a Pensionnat at Dresden, in which I
taught at one time. She is a daughter of the banker Wade, and told me,
reluctantly, that she is at The Hague with her father--a friend of
Cornish's. This morning I took a walk on the sands at Scheveningen;
there was a large fat man, among others, bathing at the Northern
bathing-station. It was Major White. It is a regular gathering of the
clans. I saw a German paper-maker--a big man in the trade--on the
Kursaal terrace this morning. It may be a mere chance, and it may not."
As he spoke he had withdrawn from his pocket a folded paper, which he
was fingering thoughtfully. Dorothy, who knew that she had by her looks
unwittingly warned him, made no motion to go now. He would say nothing
that he did not deliberately intend for her ears as much as for her
brother's. Von Holzen opened the paper slowly, and looked at it as if
every line of it was familiar. It was a sheet of ordinary foolscap
covered with minute figures and writing.
"It is the Vorschrift, the--how do you say?--prescription for the
malgamite, and there are several in The Hague at this moment who want
it, and some who would not be too scrupulous in their methods of
procuring it. It is for this that they are gathering--here in The
Roden turned in his leisurely way, and looked over his shoulder towards
the paper. Von Holzen glanced at Dorothy. He had no desire to keep her
in suspense, but he wished to know how much she knew. She looked into
the fire, treating his conversation as directed towards her brother
"I tried for ten years in vain to get this," continued Von Holzen, "and
at last a dying man dictated it to me. For years it lived in the brain
of one man only--and he a maker of it himself. He might have died at
any moment with that secret in his head. And I,"--he folded the paper
slowly and shrugged his shoulders--"I watched him. And the last
intelligible word he spoke on earth was the last word of this
prescription. The man can have been no fool; for he was a man of little
education. I never respected him so much as I do now when I have learnt
it myself." He rose and walked to the fire. "You permit me, Fraeulein,"
he said, putting the logs together with his foot.
They burnt up brightly, and he threw the paper upon them. In a moment
it was reduced to ashes. He turned slowly upon his heel, and looked at
his companions with the grave smile of one who had never known much
"There," he said, touching his forehead, with one finger; "it is in
the brain of one man--once more." He returned to the chair he had just
vacated. "And whosoever wishes to stop the manufacture of malgamite
will need to stop that brain," he said, with a soft laugh. "Of course
there is a risk attached to burning that paper," he continued, after a
pause. "My brain may go--a little clot of blood no bigger than a pin's
head, and the greatest brain on earth is so much pulp! It may be worth
some one's while to kill me. It is so often worth some one's while to
kill somebody else, even at a considerable risk--but the courage is
nearly always lacking. However, we must run these risks."
He rose from his chair with a low and rather pleasant laugh, glancing
at the clock as he did so. It was evidently his intention to take his
leave. Dorothy rose also, and they stood for a moment facing each
other. He was a few inches above her stature, and he looked down at her
with his slow, thoughtful eyes. He seemed always to be making a
diagnosis of the souls of men.
"I know, Fraeulein," he said, "That you are one of those who dislike me,
and seek to do me harm. I am sorry. It is long since I discarded a
youthful belief that it was possible to get on in life without arousing
ill feeling. Believe me, it is impossible even to hold one's own in
this world without making enemies. There are two sides to every
question, Fraeulein--remember that."
He brought his heels together, bowed stiffly, from the waist, in his
formal manner, and left the room. Percy Roden followed him, leaving the
door open. Dorothy heard the rustle of his dripping waterproof as he
put it on, the click of the door, the sound of his firm retreating
tread on the gravel. Then her brother came back into the room. His
rather weak face was flushed. His eyes were unsteady. Dorothy saw this
in a glance, and her own face hardened unresponsively. The situation
was clearly enough defined in her own mind. Von Holzen had destroyed
the prescription before her on purpose. It was only a move in that game
of life which is always extending to a new deal, and of which women as
onlookers necessarily see the most. Von Holzen wished Cornish, and
others concerned, to know that he had destroyed the prescription. It
was a concession in disguise--a retrograde movement--perhaps _pour
Percy Roden was one of those men who have a grudge against the world.
The most hopeless ill-doer is he who excuses himself angrily. There are
some who seem unconscious of their own failings, and for these there is
hope. They may some day find out that it is better to be at peace with
the world even at the cost of a little self-denial. But Percy Roden
admitted that he was wrong, and always had that sort of excuse which
seeks to lay the blame upon a whole class--upon other business men, upon
those in authority, upon women.
"It is excused in others, why not in me?"--the last cry of the
He glanced angrily at Dorothy now. But he was always half afraid of
"I wish we had never come to this place," he said.
"Then let us go away from it," answered Dorothy, "before it is too
Roden looked at her in surprise. Did she expect him to go away now from
Mrs. Vansittart? He knew, of course, that Dorothy and the world always
expected too much from him.
"Before it is too late. What do you mean?" he asked, still thinking of
"Before the Malgamite scheme is exposed," replied Dorothy, bluntly.
And, to her surprise, he laughed.
"I thought you meant something else," he said. "The Malgamite scheme
can look after itself. Von Holzen is the cleverest man I know, and he
knows what he is doing. I thought you meant Mrs. Vansittart--were
thinking of her."
"No, I was not thinking of Mrs. Vansittart."
"Not worth thinking about," suggested Roden, adhering to his method of
laughing for fear of being laughed at, which is common enough in very
young men; but Roden should have outgrown it by this time.
"What do you mean, Dorothy?"
"That I hope you do not think seriously of asking Mrs. Vansittart to
Roden gave his rather unpleasant laugh again. "It happens that I do,"
he replied. "And it happens that I know that Mrs. Vansittart never
stays in The Hague in summer when all the houses are empty and
everybody is away, and the place is given up to tourists, and becomes a
mere annex to Scheveningen. This year she has stayed--why, I should
like to know."
And he stroked his moustache as he looked into the fire. He had been
indulging in the vain pleasure of putting two and two together. A young
man's vanity--or indeed any man's vanity--is not to be trusted to work
out that simple addition correctly. Percy Roden was still in a
dangerously exalted frame of mind. There is no intoxication so
dangerous as that of success, and none that leaves so bitter a taste
"Of course," he said, "no girl ever thinks that her brother can succeed
in such a case. I suppose you dislike Mrs. Vansittart?"
"No; I like her, and I understand her, perhaps better than you do. I
should like nothing better than that she should marry you, but----"
"Well, ask her," replied Dorothy--a woman's answer.
"And then let us go away from here."
Roden turned on her angrily. "Why do you keep on repeating that?" he
cried. "Why do you want to go away from here?"
"Because," replied Dorothy, as angry as himself, "you know as well as I
do that the Malgamite scheme is not what it pretends to be. I suppose
you are making a fortune and are dazzled, or else you are being
deceived by Herr von Holzen, or else----"
"Or else----" echoed Roden, with a pale face. "Yes--go on." But she bit
her lip and was silent. "It is an open secret," she went on after a
pause. "Everybody knows that it is a disgrace or worse--perhaps a
crime. If you have made a fortune, be content with what you have made,
and clear yourself of the whole affair."
"Because I am going to make more. And I am going to marry Mrs.
Vansittart. It is only a question of money. It always is with women.
And not one in a hundred cares how the money is made."
Which, of course, is not true; for no woman likes to see her husband's
name on a biscuit or a jam-pot.
"Of course," went on Percy, in his anger. "I know which side you take,
since you are talking of open secrets. At any rate, Von Holzen knows
yours--if it is a secret--for he has hinted at it more than once.
You think that it is I who have been deceived or who deceive myself.
You are just as likely to be wrong. You place your whole faith in
Cornish. You think that Cornish cannot do wrong."
Dorothy turned and looked at him. Her eyes were steady, but the color
left her face, as if she were afraid of what she was about to say.
"Yes," she said. "I do."
"And without a moment's hesitation," went on Roden, hurriedly, "you
would sacrifice everything for the sake of a man you had never seen six
"Even your own brother?"
"Yes," answered Dorothy.
"Le plus grand, le plus fort et le plus adroit surtout, est celui qui
"If you think that Herr von Holzen is a philanthropist, my dear," said
Marguerite Wade, sententiously, "that is exactly where your toes turn
She addressed this remark to Joan Ferriby, whose eyes were certainly
veiled by that cloak of charity which the kind-hearted are ever ready
to throw over the sins of others. The two girls were sitting in the
quiet old-world garden of the hotel, beneath the shade of tall trees,
within the peaceful sound of the cooing doves on the tiled roof. Major
White was sitting within earshot, looking bulky and solemn in his light
tweed suit and felt hat. The major had given up appearances long ago,
but no man surpassed him in cleanliness and that well-groomed air which
distinguishes men of his cloth. He was reading a newspaper, and from
time to time glanced at his companions, more especially, perhaps, at
"Major White," said Marguerite.
The greengages were on a table at the major's elbow, having been placed
there at Marguerite's command by the waiter who attended them at
breakfast. White made ready to pass the dish.
"Fingers," said Marguerite. "Heave one over."
White selected one with an air of solemn resignation. Marguerite caught
the greengage as neatly as it was thrown.
"What do you think of Herr von Holzen?" she asked.
"To think," replied the Major, "certain requisites are necessary."
"I do not know Herr von Holzen, and I have nothing to think with," he
"Well, you soon will know him, and I dare say if you tried you would
find that you are not so stupid as you pretend to be. You are going
down to the works this morning with Papa and Tony Cornish. I know that,
because papa told me."
The Major looked at her with his air of philosophic surprise. She held
up her hand for a catch, and with resignation he threw her another
"Tony is going to call for you in a carriage at ten o'clock, and you
three old gentlemen are going to drive in an open barouche with cigars,
like a bean feast, to the malgamite works."
"The description is fairly accurate," admitted Major White, without
looking up from his paper.
"And I imagine you are going to raise--Hail Columbia!"
He looked at her severely through his glass, and said nothing. She
nodded in a friendly and encouraging manner, as if to intimate that he
had her entire approval.
"Take my word for it," she continued, turning to Joan, "Herr von Holzen
is a shady customer. I know a shady customer when I see him. I never
thought much of the malgamite business, you know, but unfortunately
nobody asked my opinion on the matter. I wonder----" She paused,
looking thoughtfully at Major White, who presently met her glance with
a stolid stare. "Of course!" she said, in a final voice. "I forgot.
You never think. You can't. Oh no!"
"It is so easy to misjudge people," pleaded Joan, earnestly.
"It is much easier to see right through them, straight off, in the
twinkling of a bedpost," asserted Marguerite. "You will see, Herr von
Holzen is wrong and Tony is right. And Tony will smash him up.
You will see. Tony"--she paused, and looked up at the roof where the
doves were cooing--"Tony knows his way about."
Major White rose and laid aside his paper. Mr. Wade was coming down the
iron steps that led from the verandah to the garden. The banker was
cutting a cigar, and wore a placid, comfortable look, as if he had
breakfasted well. Even as regards kidneys and bacon in a foreign hotel,
where there is a will there is a way, and Marguerite possessed tongues.
"I'll turn this place inside out," she had said, "to get the old thing
what he wants." Then she attacked the waiter in fluent German.
Marguerite noted his approach with a protecting eye. "It's all solid
common sense," she said in an undertone to Joan, referring, it would
appear, to his bulk.
In only one respect was she misinformed as to the arrangements for the
morning. Tony Cornish was not coming to the hotel to fetch Mr. Wade and
White, but was to meet them in the shadiest of all thoroughfares and
green canals, the Koninginne Gracht, where at midday the shadows cast
by the great trees are so deep that daylight scarcely penetrates, and
the boats creep to and fro like shadows. This amendment had been made
in view of the fact that Lord Ferriby was in the hotel, and was,
indeed, at this moment partaking of a solemn breakfast in his private
sitting-room overlooking the Toornoifeld.
His lordship did not, therefore, see these two solid pillars of the
British constitution walk across the corner of the Korte Voorhout,
cigar in lip, in a placid silence begotten, perhaps, of the knowledge
that, should an emergency arise, they were of a material that would
arise to meet it.
Cornish was awaiting them by the bank of the canal. He was watching a
boat slowly work its way past him. It was one of the large boats built
for traffic on the greater canals and the open waters of the Scheldt
estuary. It was laden from end to end with little square boxes bearing
only a number and a port mark in black stencil. A pleasant odor of
sealing-wax dominated the weedy smell of the canal.
"Wherever you turn you meet the stuff," was Cornish's greeting to the
Major White, with his delicate sense of smell, sniffed the breeze. Mr.
Wade looked at the canal-boat with a nod. Commercial enterprise, and,
above all, commercial success, commanded his honest respect.
They entered the carriage awaiting them beneath the trees. Cornish was,
as usual, quick and eager, a different type from his companions, who
were not brilliant as he was, nor polished.
They found the gates of the malgamite works shut, but the door-keeper,
knowing Cornish to be a person of authority, threw them open and
directed the driver to wait outside till the gentlemen should return.
The works were quiet and every door was closed.
"Is it mixing-day?" asked Cornish.
"Every day is mixing-day now, mein Herr, and there are some who work
all night as well. If the gentlemen will wait a moment, I will seek
And he left them standing beneath the brilliant sun in the open space
between the gate and the cottage where Von Holzen lived. In a few
moments he returned, accompanied by Percy Roden, who emerged from the
office in his shirt-sleeves, pen in hand. He shook hands with Cornish
and White, glanced at Mr. Wade, and half bowed. He did not seem glad to
"We want to look at your books," said Cornish. "I suppose you will make
no objection?" Roden bit his moustache and looked at the point of his
"You and Major White?" he suggested.
"And this gentleman, who comes as our financial advisor."
Roden raised his eyebrows rather insolently. "Ah--may I ask who this
gentleman is?" he said.
"My name is Wade," answered the banker, characteristically for himself.
Roden's face changed, and he glanced at the great financier with a keen
"I have no objection," he said after a moment's hesitation. "If Von
Holzen will agree. I will go and ask him."
And they were left alone in the sunshine once more. Mr. Wade watched
Roden as he walked towards the factory.
"Not the sort of man I expected," he commented. "But he has the right
shaped head for figures. He is shrewd enough to know that he cannot
refuse, so gives in with a good grace."
In a few minutes Von Holzen approached them, emerging from the factory
alone. He bowed politely, but did not offer to shake hands. He had not
seen Cornish since the evening when he had offered to make malgamite
before him, and the experiment had taken such a deadly turn. He looked
at him now and found his glance returned by an illegible smile. The
question flashed through his mind and showed itself on his face as to
why Roden had made such a mistake as to introduce a man like this into
the Malgamite scheme. Von Holzen invited the gentlemen into the office.
"It is small, but it will accommodate us," he said, with a smile.
He drew forward chairs, and offered one to Cornish in particular, with
a grim deference. He seemed to have divined that their last meeting in
this same office had been, by tacit understanding, kept a secret.
There is for some men a certain satisfaction in antagonism, and a stern
regard for a strong foe--which reached its culmination, perhaps, in
that Saxon knight who desired to be buried in the same chapel as his
lifelong foe--between him, indeed, and the door--so that at the
resurrection day they should not miss each other.
Von Holzen seemed to have somewhat of this feeling for Cornish. He
offered him the best seat at the table. Roden was taking his books from
a safe--huge ledgers bound in green pigskin, slim cash-books,
cloth-bound journals. He named them as he laid them on the table before
Mr. Wade. Major White looked at the great tomes with solemn and silent
awe. Mr. Wade was already fingering his gold pencil-case. He eyed the
closed books with an anticipatory gleam of pleasure in his face--as a
commander may eye the arrayed squadrons of the foe.
"It is, of course, understood that this audit is strictly in
confidence?" said Von Holzen. "For your own satisfaction, and not in
any sense for publication. It is a trade secret."
"Of course," answered Cornish, to whom the question had been addressed.
"We trust to the honor of these gentlemen."
Cornish looked up and met the speaker's grave eyes.
"Yes," he said.
Roden, having emptied the large safe, leant his shoulder against the
iron mantelpiece and looked down at those seated at the
table--especially at Mr. Wade. His hands were in his pockets; his face
wore a careless smile. He had not resumed his coat, and the cleanliness
of the books testified to the fact that he always worked in
shirt-sleeves. It was a trick of the trade, which exonerated him from
the necessity of apologizing.
Mr. Wade took the great ledgers, opened them, fluttered the pages with
his fingers, and set them aside one after the other. Then Roden seemed
to recollect something. He went to a drawer and took from it a packet
of neatly folded papers held together by elastic rings. The top one he
unfolded and laid on the table before Mr. Wade.
"Trial balance-sheet of 31st of March," he said.
Mr. Wade glanced up and down the closely written columns, which were
like copper-plate--an astounding mass of figures. The additions in the
final column ran to six numerals. The banker folded the paper and laid
it aside. Then, he turned to the slim cash-books, which he glanced at
casually. The journals he set aside without opening. He handled the
books with a sort of skill showing that he knew how to lift them with
the least exertion, how to open them and close them and turn their
stiff pages. The enormous mass of figures did not seem to appal him;
the maze was straight enough beneath such skillful eyes. Finally, he
turned to a small locked ledger, of which the key was attached to
Roden's watch-chain, who came forward and unlocked the book. Mr. Wade
turned to the index at the beginning of the volume, found a certain
account, and opened the book there. At the sight of the figures he
raised his eyebrow and glanced up at Roden.
"Whew!" he exclaimed, beneath his breath. He had arrived at his
destination--had torn the heart out of these great books. All in the
room were watching his placid, shrewd old face. He studied the books
for some time and then took a sheet of blank paper from a number of
such attached by a string to a corner of the table. He reflected for
some minutes, pushing the movable part of his gold pencil in and out
pensively as he did so. Then he wrote a number of figures on the sheet
of paper and handed it to Cornish. He closed the locked ledger with a