Part 6 out of 8
holding to her absurd resolution to see with her own eyes what
might, or might not, happen to Francis Raven on his birthday--
flatly declined to leave Maison Rouge. "It's easy to send an
excuse," she said, in her off-hand manner.
I failed, for my part, to see any easy way out of the difficulty.
The celebration of a "Silver Wedding" in Germany is the celebration
of twenty-five years of happy married life; and the host's claim
upon the consideration of his friends on such an occasion is
something in the nature of a royal "command." After considerable
discussion, finding my wife's obstinacy invincible, and feeling
that the absence of both of us from the festival would certainly
offend our friends, I left Mrs. Fairbank to make her excuses for
herself, and directed her to accept the invitation so far as I was
concerned. In so doing, I took my second step, blindfold, toward
the last act in the drama of the Hostler's Dream.
A week elapsed; the last days of February were at hand. Another
domestic difficulty happened; and, again, this event also proved to
be strangely associated with the coming end.
My head groom at the stables was one Joseph Rigobert. He was an
ill-conditioned fellow, inordinately vain of his personal
appearance, and by no means scrupulous in his conduct with women.
His one virtue consisted of his fondness for horses, and in the
care he took of the animals under his charge. In a word, he was
too good a groom to be easily replaced, or he would have quitted my
service long since. On the occasion of which I am now writing, he
was reported to me by my steward as growing idle and disorderly in
his habits. The principal offense alleged against him was, that he
had been seen that day in the city of Metz, in the company of a
woman (supposed to be an Englishwoman), whom he was entertaining at
a tavern, when he ought to have been on his way back to Maison
Rouge. The man's defense was that "the lady" (as he called her)
was an English stranger, unacquainted with the ways of the place,
and that he had only shown her where she could obtain some
refreshments at her own request. I administered the necessary
reprimand, without troubling myself to inquire further into the
matter. In failing to do this, I took my third step, blindfold,
toward the last act in the drama of the Hostler's Dream.
On the evening of the twenty-eighth, I informed the servants at the
stables that one of them must watch through the night by the
Englishman's bedside. Joseph Rigobert immediately volunteered for
the duty--as a means, no doubt, of winning his way back to my
favor. I accepted his proposal.
That day the surgeon dined with us. Toward midnight he and I left
the smoking room, and repaired to Francis Raven's bedside.
Rigobert was at his post, with no very agreeable expression on his
face. The Frenchman and the Englishman had evidently not got on
well together so far. Francis Raven lay helpless on his bed,
waiting silently for two in the morning and the Dream Woman.
"I have come, Francis, to bid you good night," I said, cheerfully.
"To-morrow morning I shall look in at breakfast time, before I
leave home on a journey."
"Thank you for all your kindness, sir. You will not see me alive
to-morrow morning. She will find me this time. Mark my words--she
will find me this time."
"My good fellow! she couldn't find you in England. How in the
world is she to find you in France?"
"It's borne in on my mind, sir, that she will find me here. At two
in the morning on my birthday I shall see her again, and see her
for the last time."
"Do you mean that she will kill you?"
"I mean that, sir, she will kill me--with the knife."
"And with Rigobert in the room to protect you?"
"I am a doomed man. Fifty Rigoberts couldn't protect me."
"And you wanted somebody to sit up with you?"
"Mere weakness, sir. I don't like to be left alone on my
I looked at the surgeon. If he had encouraged me, I should
certainly, out of sheer compassion, have confessed to Francis Raven
the trick that we were playing him. The surgeon held to his
experiment; the surgeon's face plainly said--"No."
The next day (the twenty-ninth of February) was the day of the
"Silver Wedding." The first thing in the morning, I went to
Francis Raven's room. Rigobert met me at the door.
"How has he passed the night?" I asked.
"Saying his prayers, and looking for ghosts," Rigobert answered.
"A lunatic asylum is the only proper place for him."
I approached the bedside. "Well, Francis, here you are, safe and
sound, in spite of what you said to me last night."
His eyes rested on mine with a vacant, wondering look.
"I don't understand it," he said.
"Did you see anything of your wife when the clock struck two?"
"Did anything happen?"
"Nothing happened, sir."
"Doesn't THIS satisfy you that you were wrong?"
His eyes still kept their vacant, wondering look. He only repeated
the words he had spoken already: "I don't understand it."
I made a last attempt to cheer him. "Come, come, Francis! keep a
good heart. You will be out of bed in a fortnight."
He shook his head on the pillow. "There's something wrong," he
said. "I don't expect you to believe me, sir. I only say there's
something wrong--and time will show it."
I left the room. Half an hour later I started for Mr. Beldheimer's
house; leaving the arrangements for the morning of the first of
March in the hands of the doctor and my wife.
The one thing which principally struck me when I joined the guests
at the "Silver Wedding" is also the one thing which it is necessary
to mention here. On this joyful occasion a noticeable lady present
was out of spirits. That lady was no other than the heroine of the
festival, the mistress of the house!
In the course of the evening I spoke to Mr. Beldheimer's eldest son
on the subject of his mother. As an old friend of the family, I
had a claim on his confidence which the young man willingly
"We have had a very disagreeable matter to deal with," he said;
"and my mother has not recovered the painful impression left on her
mind. Many years since, when my sisters were children, we had an
English governess in the house. She left us, as we then
understood, to be married. We heard no more of her until a week or
ten days since, when my mother received a letter, in which our ex-
governess described herself as being in a condition of great
poverty and distress. After much hesitation she had ventured--at
the suggestion of a lady who had been kind to her--to write to her
former employers, and to appeal to their remembrance of old times.
You know my mother she is not only the most kind-headed, but the
most innocent of women--it is impossible to persuade her of the
wickedness that there is in the world. She replied by return of
post, inviting the governess to come here and see her, and
inclosing the money for her traveling expenses. When my father
came home, and heard what had been done, he wrote at once to his
agent in London to make inquiries, inclosing the address on the
governess' letter. Before he could receive the agent's reply the
governess arrived. She produced the worst possible impression on
his mind. The agent's letter, arriving a few days later, confirmed
his suspicions. Since we had lost sight of her, the woman had led
a most disreputable life. My father spoke to her privately: he
offered--on condition of her leaving the house--a sum of money to
take her back to England. If she refused, the alternative would be
an appeal to the authorities and a public scandal. She accepted
the money, and left the house. On her way back to England she
appears to have stopped at Metz. You will understand what sort of
woman she is when I tell you that she was seen the other day in a
tavern with your handsome groom, Joseph Rigobert."
While my informant was relating these circumstances, my memory was
at work. I recalled what Francis Raven had vaguely told us of his
wife's experience in former days as governess in a German family.
A suspicion of the truth suddenly flashed across my mind. "What
was the woman's name?" I asked.
Mr. Beldheimer's son answered: "Alicia Warlock."
I had but one idea when I heard that reply--to get back to my house
without a moment's needless delay. It was then ten o'clock at
night--the last train to Metz had left long since. I arranged with
my young friend--after duly informing him of the circumstances--
that I should go by the first train in the morning, instead of
staying to breakfast with the other guests who slept in the house.
At intervals during the night I wondered uneasily how things were
going on at Maison Rouge. Again and again the same question
occurred to me, on my journey home in the early morning--the
morning of the first of March. As the event proved, but one person
in my house knew what really happened at the stables on Francis
Raven's birthday. Let Joseph Rigobert take my place as narrator,
and tell the story of the end to You--as he told it, in times past,
to his lawyer and to Me.
FOURTH (AND LAST) NARRATIVE
STATEMENT OF JOSEPH RIGOBERT: ADDRESSED TO THE ADVOCATE WHO
DEFENDED HIM AT HIS TRIAL
RESPECTED SIR,--On the twenty-seventh of February I was sent, on
business connected with the stables at Maison Rouge, to the city of
Metz. On the public promenade I met a magnificent woman.
Complexion, blond. Nationality, English. We mutually admired each
other; we fell into conversation. (She spoke French perfectly--
with the English accent.) I offered refreshment; my proposal was
accepted. We had a long and interesting interview--we discovered
that we were made for each other. So far, Who is to blame?
Is it my fault that I am a handsome man--universally agreeable as
such to the fair sex? Is it a criminal offense to be accessible to
the amiable weakness of love? I ask again, Who is to blame?
Clearly, nature. Not the beautiful lady--not my humble self.
To resume. The most hard-hearted person living will understand
that two beings made for each other could not possibly part without
an appointment to meet again.
I made arrangements for the accommodation of the lady in the
village near Maison Rouge. She consented to honor me with her
company at supper, in my apartment at the stables, on the night of
the twenty-ninth. The time fixed on was the time when the other
servants were accustomed to retire--eleven o'clock.
Among the grooms attached to the stables was an Englishman, laid up
with a broken leg. His name was Francis. His manners were
repulsive; he was ignorant of the French language. In the kitchen
he went by the nickname of the "English Bear." Strange to say, he
was a great favorite with my master and my mistress. They even
humored certain superstitious terrors to which this repulsive
person was subject--terrors into the nature of which I, as an
advanced freethinker, never thought it worth my while to inquire.
On the evening of the twenty-eighth the Englishman, being a prey to
the terrors which I have mentioned, requested that one of his
fellow-servants might sit up with him for that night only. The
wish that he expressed was backed by Mr. Fairbank's authority.
Having already incurred my master's displeasure--in what way, a
proper sense of my own dignity forbids me to relate--I volunteered
to watch by the bedside of the English Bear. My object was to
satisfy Mr. Fairbank that I bore no malice, on my side, after what
had occurred between us. The wretched Englishman passed a night of
delirium. Not understanding his barbarous language, I could only
gather from his gesture that he was in deadly fear of some fancied
apparition at his bedside. From time to time, when this madman
disturbed my slumbers, I quieted him by swearing at him. This is
the shortest and best way of dealing with persons in his condition.
On the morning of the twenty-ninth, Mr. Fairbank left us on a
journey. Later in the day, to my unspeakable disgust, I found that
I had not done with the Englishman yet. In Mr. Fairbank's absence,
Mrs. Fairbank took an incomprehensible interest in the question of
my delirious fellow-servant's repose at night. Again, one or the
other of us was to watch at his bedside, and report it, if anything
happened. Expecting my fair friend to supper, it was necessary to
make sure that the other servants at the stables would be safe in
their beds that night. Accordingly, I volunteered once more to be
the man who kept watch. Mrs. Fairbank complimented me on my
humanity. I possess great command over my feelings. I accepted
the compliment without a blush.
Twice, after nightfall, my mistress and the doctor (the last
staying in the house in Mr. Fairbank's absence) came to make
inquiries. Once BEFORE the arrival of my fair friend--and once
AFTER. On the second occasion (my apartment being next door to the
Englishman's) I was obliged to hide my charming guest in the
harness room. She consented, with angelic resignation, to immolate
her dignity to the servile necessities of my position. A more
amiable woman (so far) I never met with!
After the second visit I was left free. It was then close on
midnight. Up to that time there was nothing in the behavior of the
mad Englishman to reward Mrs. Fairbank and the doctor for
presenting themselves at his bedside. He lay half awake, half
asleep, with an odd wondering kind of look in his face. My
mistress at parting warned me to be particularly watchful of him
toward two in the morning. The doctor (in case anything happened)
left me a large hand bell to ring, which could easily be heard at
Restored to the society of my fair friend, I spread the supper
table. A pate, a sausage, and a few bottles of generous Moselle
wine, composed our simple meal. When persons adore each other, the
intoxicating illusion of Love transforms the simplest meal into a
banquet. With immeasurable capacities for enjoyment, we sat down
to table. At the very moment when I placed my fascinating
companion in a chair, the infamous Englishman in the next room took
that occasion, of all others, to become restless and noisy once
more. He struck with his stick on the floor; he cried out, in a
delirious access of terror, "Rigobert! Rigobert!"
The sound of that lamentable voice, suddenly assailing our ears,
terrified my fair friend. She lost all her charming color in an
instant. "Good heavens!" she exclaimed. "Who is that in the next
"A mad Englishman."
"Compose yourself, my angel. I will quiet him." The lamentable
voice called out on me again, "Rigobert! Rigobert!"
My fair friend caught me by the arm. "Who is he?" she cried.
"What is his name?"
Something in her face struck me as she put that question. A spasm
of jealousy shook me to the soul. "You know him?" I said.
"His name!" she vehemently repeated; "his name!"
"Francis," I answered.
I shrugged my shoulders. I could neither remember nor pronounce
the barbarous English surname. I could only tell her it began with
She dropped back into the chair. Was she going to faint? No: she
recovered, and more than recovered, her lost color. Her eyes
flashed superbly. What did it mean? Profoundly as I understand
women in general, I was puzzled by THIS woman!
"You know him?" I repeated.
She laughed at me. "What nonsense! How should I know him? Go and
quiet the wretch."
My looking-glass was near. One glance at it satisfied me that no
woman in her senses could prefer the Englishman to Me. I recovered
my self-respect. I hastened to the Englishman's bedside.
The moment I appeared he pointed eagerly toward my room. He
overwhelmed me with a torrent of words in his own language. I made
out, from his gestures and his looks, that he had, in some
incomprehensible manner, discovered the presence of my guest; and,
stranger still, that he was scared by the idea of a person in my
room. I endeavored to compose him on the system which I have
already mentioned--that is to say, I swore at him in MY language.
The result not proving satisfactory, I own I shook my fist in his
face, and left the bedchamber.
Returning to my fair friend, I found her walking backward and
forward in a state of excitement wonderful to behold. She had not
waited for me to fill her glass--she had begun the generous Moselle
in my absence. I prevailed on her with difficulty to place herself
at the table. Nothing would induce her to eat. "My appetite is
gone," she said. "Give me wine."
The generous Moselle deserves its name--delicate on the palate,
with prodigious "body." The strength of this fine wine produced no
stupefying effect on my remarkable guest. It appeared to
strengthen and exhilarate her--nothing more. She always spoke in
the same low tone, and always, turn the conversation as I might,
brought it back with the same dexterity to the subject of the
Englishman in the next room. In any other woman this persistency
would have offended me. My lovely guest was irresistible; I
answered her questions with the docility of a child. She possessed
all the amusing eccentricity of her nation. When I told her of the
accident which confined the Englishman to his bed, she sprang to
her feet. An extraordinary smile irradiated her countenance. She
said, "Show me the horse who broke the Englishman's leg! I must
see that horse!" I took her to the stables. She kissed the horse-
-on my word of honor, she kissed the horse! That struck me. I
said. "You DO know the man; and he has wronged you in some way."
No! she would not admit it, even then. "I kiss all beautiful
animals," she said. "Haven't I kissed YOU?" With that charming
explanation of her conduct, she ran back up the stairs. I only
remained behind to lock the stable door again. When I rejoined
her, I made a startling discovery. I caught her coming out of the
"I was just going downstairs again to call you," she said. "The
man in there is getting noisy once more."
The mad Englishman's voice assailed our ears once again.
He was a frightful object to look at when I saw him this time. His
eyes were staring wildly; the perspiration was pouring over his
face. In a panic of terror he clasped his hands; he pointed up to
heaven. By every sign and gesture that a man can make, he
entreated me not to leave him again. I really could not help
smiling. The idea of my staying with HIM, and leaving my fair
friend by herself in the next room!
I turned to the door. When the mad wretch saw me leaving him he
burst out into a screech of despair--so shrill that I feared it
might awaken the sleeping servants.
My presence of mind in emergencies is proverbial among those who
know me. I tore open the cupboard in which he kept his linen--
seized a handful of his handkerchief's--gagged him with one of
them, and secured his hands with the others. There was now no
danger of his alarming the servants. After tying the last knot, I
The door between the Englishman's room and mine was open. My fair
friend was standing on the threshold--watching HIM as he lay
helpless on the bed; watching ME as I tied the last knot.
"What are you doing there?" I asked. "Why did you open the door?"
She stepped up to me, and whispered her answer in my ear, with her
eyes all the time upon the man on the bed:
"I heard him scream."
"I thought you had killed him."
I drew back from her in horror. The suspicion of me which her
words implied was sufficiently detestable in itself. But her
manner when she uttered the words was more revolting still. It so
powerfully affected me that I started back from that beautiful
creature as I might have recoiled from a reptile crawling over my
Before I had recovered myself sufficiently to reply, my nerves were
assailed by another shock. I suddenly heard my mistress's voice
calling to me from the stable yard.
There was no time to think--there was only time to act. The one
thing needed was to keep Mrs. Fairbank from ascending the stairs,
and discovering--not my lady guest only--but the Englishman also,
gagged and bound on his bed. I instantly hurried to the yard. As
I ran down the stairs I heard the stable clock strike the quarter
to two in the morning.
My mistress was eager and agitated. The doctor (in attendance on
her) was smiling to himself, like a man amused at his own thoughts.
"Is Francis awake or asleep?" Mrs. Fairbank inquired.
"He has been a little restless, madam. But he is now quiet again.
If he is not disturbed" (I added those words to prevent her from
ascending the stairs), "he will soon fall off into a quiet sleep."
"Has nothing happened since I was here last?"
The doctor lifted his eyebrows with a comical look of distress.
"Alas, alas, Mrs. Fairbank!" he said. "Nothing has happened! The
days of romance are over!"
"It is not two o'clock yet," my mistress answered, a little
The smell of the stables was strong on the morning air. She put
her handkerchief to her nose and led the way out of the yard by the
north entrance--the entrance communicating with the gardens and the
house. I was ordered to follow her, along with the doctor. Once
out of the smell of the stables she began to question me again.
She was unwilling to believe that nothing had occurred in her
absence. I invented the best answers I could think of on the spur
of the moment; and the doctor stood by laughing. So the minutes
passed till the clock struck two. Upon that, Mrs. Fairbank
announced her intention of personally visiting the Englishman in
his room. To my great relief, the doctor interfered to stop her
from doing this.
"You have heard that Francis is just falling asleep," he said. "If
you enter his room you may disturb him. It is essential to the
success of my experiment that he should have a good night's rest,
and that he should own it himself, before I tell him the truth. I
must request, madam, that you will not disturb the man. Rigobert
will ring the alarm bell if anything happens."
My mistress was unwilling to yield. For the next five minutes, at
least, there was a warm discussion between the two. In the end
Mrs. Fairbank was obliged to give way--for the time. "In half an
hour," she said, "Francis will either be sound asleep, or awake
again. In half an hour I shall come back." She took the doctor's
arm. They returned together to the house.
Left by myself, with half an hour before me, I resolved to take the
Englishwoman back to the village--then, returning to the stables,
to remove the gag and the bindings from Francis, and to let him
screech to his heart's content. What would his alarming the whole
establishment matter to ME after I had got rid of the compromising
presence of my guest?
Returning to the yard I heard a sound like the creaking of an open
door on its hinges. The gate of the north entrance I had just
closed with my own hand. I went round to the west entrance, at the
back of the stables. It opened on a field crossed by two footpaths
in Mr. Fairbank's grounds. The nearest footpath led to the
village. The other led to the highroad and the river.
Arriving at the west entrance I found the door open--swinging to
and fro slowly in the fresh morning breeze. I had myself locked
and bolted that door after admitting my fair friend at eleven
o'clock. A vague dread of something wrong stole its way into my
mind. I hurried back to the stables.
I looked into my own room. It was empty. I went to the harness
room. Not a sign of the woman was there. I returned to my room,
and approached the door of the Englishman's bedchamber. Was it
possible that she had remained there during my absence? An
unaccountable reluctance to open the door made me hesitate, with my
hand on the lock. I listened. There was not a sound inside. I
called softly. There was no answer. I drew back a step, still
hesitating. I noticed something dark moving slowly in the crevice
between the bottom of the door and the boarded floor. Snatching up
the candle from the table, I held it low, and looked. The dark,
slowly moving object was a stream of blood!
That horrid sight roused me. I opened the door. The Englishman
lay on his bed--alone in the room. He was stabbed in two places--
in the throat and in the heart. The weapon was left in the second
wound. It was a knife of English manufacture, with a handle of
buckhorn as good as new.
I instantly gave the alarm. Witnesses can speak to what followed.
It is monstrous to suppose that I am guilty of the murder. I admit
that I am capable of committing follies: but I shrink from the bare
idea of a crime. Besides, I had no motive for killing the man.
The woman murdered him in my absence. The woman escaped by the
west entrance while I was talking to my mistress. I have no more
to say. I swear to you what I have here written is a true
statement of all that happened on the morning of the first of
Accept, sir, the assurance of my sentiments of profound gratitude
LAST LINES--ADDED BY PERCY FAIRBANK
Tried for the murder of Francis Raven, Joseph Rigobert was found
Not Guilty; the papers of the assassinated man presented ample
evidence of the deadly animosity felt toward him by his wife.
The investigations pursued on the morning when the crime was
committed showed that the murderess, after leaving the stable, had
taken the footpath which led to the river. The river was dragged--
without result. It remains doubtful to this day whether she died
by drowning or not. The one thing certain is--that Alicia Warlock
was never seen again.
So--beginning in mystery, ending in mystery--the Dream Woman passes
from your view. Ghost; demon; or living human creature--say for
yourselves which she is. Or, knowing what unfathomed wonders are
around you, what unfathomed wonders are IN you, let the wise words
of the greatest of all poets be explanation enough:
"We are such stuff
As dreams are made of, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep."
The Lost Duchess
"Has the duchess returned?"
"No, your grace."
Knowles came farther into the room. He had a letter on a salver.
When the duke had taken it, Knowles still lingered. The duke
glanced at him.
"Is an answer required?"
"No, your grace." Still Knowles lingered. "Something a little
singular has happened. The carriage has returned without the
duchess, and the men say that they thought her grace was in it."
"What do you mean?"
"I hardly understand myself, your grace. Perhaps you would like to
Barnes was the coachman.
"Send him up." When Knowles had gone, and he was alone, his grace
showed signs of being slightly annoyed. He looked at his watch.
"I told her she'd better be in by four. She says that she's not
feeling well, and yet one would think that she was not aware of the
fatigue entailed in having the prince come to dinner, and a mob of
people to follow. I particularly wished her to lie down for a
couple of hours."
Knowles ushered in not only Barnes, the coachman, but Moysey, the
footman, too. Both these persons seemed to be ill at ease. The
duke glanced at them sharply. In his voice there was a suggestion
"What is the matter?"
Barnes explained as best he could.
"If you please, your grace, we waited for the duchess outside Cane
and Wilson's, the drapers. The duchess came out, got into the
carriage, and Moysey shut the door, and her grace said, 'Home!' and
yet when we got home she wasn't there."
"She wasn't where?"
"Her grace wasn't in the carriage, your grace."
"What on earth do you mean?"
"Her grace did get into the carriage; you shut the door, didn't
Barnes turned to Moysey. Moysey brought his hand up to his brow in
a sort of military salute--he had been a soldier in the regiment in
which, once upon a time, the duke had been a subaltern.
"She did. The duchess came out of the shop. She seemed rather in
a hurry, I thought. She got into the carriage, and she said,
'Home, Moysey!' I shut the door, and Barnes drove straight home.
We never stopped anywhere, and we never noticed nothing happen on
the way; and yet when we got home the carriage was empty."
The duke started.
"Do you mean to tell me that the duchess got out of the carriage
while you were driving full pelt through the streets without saying
anything to you, and without you noticing it?"
"The carriage was empty when we got home, your grace."
"Was either of the doors open?"
"No, your grace."
"You fellows have been up to some infernal mischief. You have made
a mess of it. You never picked up the duchess, and you're trying
to palm this tale off on me to save yourselves."
Barnes was moved to adjuration:
"I'll take my Bible oath, your grace, that the duchess got into the
carriage outside Cane and Wilson's."
Moysey seconded his colleague.
"I will swear to that, your grace. She got into that carriage, and
I shut the door, and she said, 'Home, Moysey!'"
The duke looked as if he did not know what to make of the story and
"What carriage did you have?"
"Her grace's brougham, your grace."
"The brougham was ordered because I understood that the duchess was
not feeling very well, and there's rather a high wind, your grace."
The duke snapped at him:
"What has that to do with it? Are you suggesting that the duchess
was more likely to jump out of a brougham while it was dashing
through the streets than out of any other kind of vehicle?"
The duke's glance fell on the letter which Knowles had brought him
when he first had entered. He had placed it on his writing table.
Now he took it up. It was, addressed:
"To His Grace the Duke of Datchet.
VERY PRESSING! ! !"
The name was written in a fine, clear, almost feminine hand. The
words in the left-hand corner of the envelope were written in a
different hand. They were large and bold; almost as though they
had been painted with the end of the penholder instead of being
written with the pen. The envelope itself was of an unusual size,
and bulged out as though it contained something else besides a
The duke tore the envelope open. As he did so something fell out
of it on to the writing table. It looked as though it was a lock
of a woman's hair. As he glanced at it the duke seemed to be a
trifle startled. The duke read the letter:
"Your grace will be so good as to bring five hundred pounds in gold
to the Piccadilly end of the Burlington Arcade within an hour of
the receipt of this. The Duchess of Datchet has been kidnaped. An
imitation duchess got into the carriage, which was waiting outside
Cane and Wilson's, and she alighted on the road. Unless your grace
does as you are requested, the Duchess of Datchet's left-hand
little finger will be at once cut off, and sent home in time to
receive the prince to dinner. Other portions of her grace will
follow. A lock of her grace's hair is inclosed with this as an
earnest of our good intentions.
"BEFORE 5:30 P.M. your grace is requested to be at the Piccadilly
end of the Burlington Arcade with five hundred pounds in gold. You
will there be accosted by an individual in a white top hat, and
with a gardenia in his buttonhole. You will be entirely at liberty
to give him into custody, or to have him followed by the police, in
which case the duchess's left arm, cut off at the shoulder, will be
sent home for dinner--not to mention other extremely possible
contingencies. But you are ADVISED to give the individual in
question the five hundred pounds in gold, because in that case the
duchess herself will he home in time to receive the prince to
dinner, and with one of the best stories with which to entertain
your distinguished guests they ever heard.
"Remember! NOT LATER THAN 5:30, unless you wish to receive her
grace's little finger."
The duke stared at this amazing epistle when he had read it as
though he found it difficult to believe the evidence of his eyes.
He was not a demonstrative person, as a rule, but this little
communication astonished even him. He read it again. Then his
hands dropped to his sides, and he swore.
He took up the lock of hair which had fallen out of the envelope.
Was it possible that it could be his wife's, the duchess? Was it
possible that a Duchess of Datchet could be kidnaped, in broad
daylight, in the heart of London, and be sent home, as it were, in
pieces? Had sacrilegious hands already been playing pranks with
that great lady's hair? Certainly, THAT hair was so like HER hair
that the mere resemblance made his grace's blood run cold. He
turned on Messrs. Barnes and Moysey as though he would have liked
to rend them.
He moved forward as though the intention had entered his ducal
heart to knock his servants down. But, if that were so, he did not
act quite up to his intention. Instead, he stretched out his arm,
pointing at them as if he were an accusing spirit:
"Will you swear that it was the duchess who got into the carriage
outside Cane and Wilson's?"
Barnes began to stammer:
"I'll swear, your grace, that I--I thought--"
The duke stormed an interruption:
"I don't ask what you thought. I ask you, will you swear it was?"
The duke's anger was more than Barnes could face. He was silent.
Moysey showed a larger courage.
"I could have sworn that it was at the time, your grace. But now
it seems to me that it's a rummy go."
"A rummy go!" The peculiarity of the phrase did not seem to strike
the duke just then--at least, he echoed it as if it didn't. "You
call it a rummy go! Do you know that I am told in this letter that
the woman who entered the carriage was not the duchess? What you
were thinking about, or what case you will be able to make out for
yourselves, you know better than I; but I can tell you this--that
in an hour you will leave my service, and you may esteem yourselves
fortunate if, to-night, you are not both of you sleeping in jail."
One might almost have suspected that the words were spoken in
irony. But before they could answer, another servant entered, who
also brought a letter for the duke. When his grace's glance fell
on it he uttered an exclamation. The writing on the envelope was
the same writing that had been on the envelope which had contained
the very singular communication--like it in all respects, down to
the broomstick-end thickness of the "Private!" and "Very
pressing!!!" in the corner.
"Who brought this?" stormed the duke.
The servant appeared to be a little startled by the violence of his
"A lady--or, at least, your grace, she seemed to be a lady."
"Where is she?"
"She came in a hansom, your grace. She gave me that letter, and
said, 'Give that to the Duke of Datchet at once--without a moment's
delay!' Then she got into the hansom again, and drove away."
"Why didn't you stop her?"
The man seemed surprised, as though the idea of stopping chance
visitors to the ducal mansion vi et armis had not, until that
moment, entered into his philosophy. The duke continued to regard
the man as if he could say a good deal, if he chose. Then he
pointed to the door. His lips said nothing, but his gesture much.
The servant vanished.
"Another hoax!" the duke said grimly, as he tore the envelope open.
This time the envelope contained a sheet of paper, and in the sheet
of paper another envelope. The duke unfolded the sheet of paper.
On it some words were written. These:
"The duchess appears so particularly anxious to drop you a line,
that one really hasn't the heart to refuse her.
"Her grace's communication--written amidst blinding tears!--you
will find inclosed with this."
"Knowles," said the duke, in a voice which actually trembled,
"Knowles, hoax or no hoax, I will be even with the gentleman who
Handing the sheet of paper to Mr. Knowles, his grace turned his
attention to the envelope which had been inclosed. It was a small,
square envelope, of the finest quality, and it reeked with perfume.
The duke's countenance assumed an added frown--he had no fondness
for envelopes which were scented. In the center of the envelope
were the words, "To the Duke of Datchet," written in the big, bold,
sprawling hand which he knew so well.
"Mabel's writing," he said, half to himself, as, with shaking
fingers, he tore the envelope open.
The sheet of paper which he took out was almost as stiff as
cardboard. It, too, emitted what his grace deemed the nauseous
odors of the perfumer's shop. On it was written this letter:
"MY DEAR HEREWARD--For Heaven's sake do what these people require!
I don't know what has happened or where I am, but I am nearly
distracted! They have already cut off some of my hair, and they
tell me that, if you don't let them have five hundred pounds in
gold by half-past five, they will cut off my little finger too. I
would sooner die than lose my little finger--and--I don't know what
"By the token which I send you, and which has never, until now,
been off my breast, I conjure you to help me.
When he read that letter the duke turned white--very white, as
white as the paper on which it was written. He passed the epistle
on to Knowles.
"I suppose that also is a hoax?"
Mr. Knowles was silent. He still yielded to his constitutional
disrelish to commit himself. At last he asked:
"What is it that your grace proposes to do?"
The duke spoke with a bitterness which almost suggested a personal
animosity toward the inoffensive Mr. Knowles.
"I propose, with your permission, to release the duchess from the
custody of my estimable correspondent. I propose--always with your
permission--to comply with his modest request, and to take him his
five hundred pounds in gold." He paused, then continued in a tone
which, coming from him, meant volumes: "Afterwards, I propose to
cry quits with the concocter of this pretty little hoax, even if it
costs me every penny I possess. He shall pay more for that five
hundred pounds than he supposes."
The Duke of Datchet, coming out of the bank, lingered for a moment
on the steps. In one hand he carried a canvas bag which seemed
well weighted. On his countenance there was an expression which to
a casual observer might have suggested that his grace was not
completely at his ease. That casual observer happened to come
strolling by. It took the form of Ivor Dacre.
Mr. Dacre looked the Duke of Datchet up and down in that languid
way he has. He perceived the canvas bag. Then he remarked,
possibly intending to be facetious:
"Been robbing the bank? Shall I call a cart?"
Nobody minds what Ivor Dacre says. Besides, he is the duke's own
cousin. Perhaps a little removed; still, there it is. So the duke
smiled a sickly smile, as if Mr. Dacre's delicate wit had given him
a passing touch of indigestion.
Mr. Dacre noticed that the duke looked sallow, so he gave his
pretty sense of humor another airing.
"Kitchen boiler burst? When I saw the duchess just now I wondered
if it had."
His grace distinctly started. He almost dropped the canvas bag.
"You saw the duchess just now, Ivor! When?"
The duke was evidently moved. Mr. Dacre was stirred to languid
curiosity. "I can't say I clocked it. Perhaps half an hour ago;
perhaps a little more."
"Half an hour ago! Are you sure? Where did you see her?"
Mr. Dacre wondered. The Duchess of Datchet could scarcely have
been eloping in broad daylight. Moreover, she had not yet been
married a year. Everyone knew that she and the duke were still as
fond of each other as if they were not man and wife. So, although
the duke, for some cause or other, was evidently in an odd state of
agitation, Mr. Dacre saw no reason why he should not make a clean
breast of all he knew.
"She was going like blazes in a hansom cab."
"In a hansom cab? Where?"
"Down Waterloo Place."
"Was she alone?"
Mr. Dacre reflected. He glanced at the duke out of the corners of
his eyes. His languid utterance became a positive drawl.
"I rather fancy that she wasn't."
"Who was with her?"
"My dear fellow, if you were to offer me the bank I couldn't tell
"Was it a man?"
Mr. Dacre's drawl became still more pronounced.
"I rather fancy that it was."
Mr. Dacre expected something. The duke was so excited. But he by
no means expected what actually came.
"Ivor, she's been kidnaped!"
Mr. Dacre did what he had never been known to do before within the
memory of man--he dropped his eyeglass.
"She has! Some scoundrel has decoyed her away, and trapped her.
He's already sent me a lock of her hair, and he tells me that if I
don't let him have five hundred pounds in gold by half-past five
he'll let me have her little finger."
Mr. Dacre did not know what to make of his grace at all. He was a
sober man--it COULDN'T be that! Mr. Dacre felt really concerned.
"I'll call a cab, old man, and you'd better let me see you home."
Mr. Dacre half raised his stick to hail a passing hansom. The duke
caught him by the arm.
"You ass! What do you mean? I am telling you the simple truth.
My wife's been kidnaped."
Mr. Dacre's countenance was a thing to be seen--and remembered.
"Oh! I hadn't heard that there was much of that sort of thing about
just now. They talk of poodles being kidnaped, but as for
duchesses-- You'd really better let me call that cab."
"Ivor, do you want me to kick you? Don't you see that to me it's a
question of life and death? I've been in there to get the money."
His grace motioned toward the bank. "I'm going to take it to the
scoundrel who has my darling at his mercy. Let me but have her
hand in mine again, and he shall continue to pay for every
sovereign with tears of blood until he dies."
"Look here, Datchet, I don't know if you're having a joke with me,
or if you're not well--"
The duke stepped impatiently into the roadway.
"Ivor, you're a fool! Can't you tell jest from earnest, health
from disease? I'm off! Are you coming with me? It would be as
well that I should have a witness."
"Where are you off to?"
"To the other end of the Arcade."
"Who is the gentleman you expect to have the pleasure of meeting
"How should I know?" The duke took a letter from his pocket--it
was the letter which had just arrived. "The fellow is to wear a
white top hat, and a gardenia in his buttonhole."
"What is it you have there?"
"It's the letter which brought the news--look for yourself and see;
but, for God's sake, make haste!" His grace glanced at his watch.
"It's already twenty after five."
"And do you mean to say that on the strength of a letter such as
this you are going to hand over five hundred pounds to--"
The duke cut Mr. Dacre short.
"What are five hundred pounds to me? Besides, you don't know all.
There is another letter. And I have heard from Mabel. But I will
tell you all about it later. If you are coming, come!"
Folding up the letter, Mr. Dacre returned it to the duke.
"As you say, what are five hundred pounds to you? It's as well
they are not as much to you as they are to me, or I'm afraid--"
"Hang it, Ivor, do prose afterwards!"
The duke hurried across the road. Mr. Dacre hastened after him.
As they entered the Arcade they passed a constable. Mr. Dacre
touched his companion's arm.
"Don't you think we'd better ask our friend in blue to walk behind
us? His neighborhood might be handy."
"Nonsense!" The duke stopped short. "Ivor, this is my affair, not
yours. If you are not content to play the part of silent witness,
be so good as to leave me."
"My dear Datchet, I'm entirely at your service. I can be every
whit as insane as you, I do assure you."
Side by side they moved rapidly down the Burlington Arcade. The
duke was obviously in a state of the extremest nervous tension.
Mr. Dacre was equally obviously in a state of the most supreme
enjoyment. People stared as they rushed past. The duke saw
nothing. Mr. Dacre saw everything, and smiled.
When they reached the Piccadilly end of the Arcade the duke pulled
up. He looked about him. Mr. Dacre also looked about him.
"I see nothing of your white-hatted and gardenia-buttonholed
friend," said Ivor.
The duke referred to his watch.
"It's not yet half-past five. I'm up to time."
Mr. Dacre held his stick in front of him and leaned on it. He
indulged himself with a beatific smile.
"It strikes me, my dear Datchet, that you've been the victim of one
of the finest things in hoaxes--"
"I hope I haven't kept you waiting."
The voice which interrupted Mr. Dacre came from the rear. While
they were looking in front of them some one approached them from
behind, apparently coming out of the shop which was at their backs.
The speaker looked a gentleman. He sounded like one, too.
Costume, appearance, manner, were beyond reproach--even beyond the
criticism of two such keen critics as were these. The glorious
attire of a London dandy was surmounted with a beautiful white top
hat. In his buttonhole was a magnificent gardenia.
In age the stranger was scarcely more than a boy, and a sunny-
faced, handsome boy at that. His cheeks were hairless, his eyes
were blue. His smile was not only innocent, it was bland. Never
was there a more conspicuous illustration of that repose which
stamps the caste of Vere de Vere.
The duke looked at him and glowered. Mr. Dacre looked at him and
"Who are you?" asked the duke.
"Ah--that is the question!" The newcomer's refined and musical
voice breathed the very soul of affability. "I am an individual
who is so unfortunate as to be in want of five hundred pounds."
"Are you the scoundrel who sent me that infamous letter?"
The charming stranger never turned a hair.
"I am the scoundrel mentioned in that infamous letter who wants to
accost you at the Piccadilly end of the Burlington Arcade before
half-past five--as witness my white hat and my gardenia."
"Where's my wife?"
The stranger gently swung his stick in front of him with his two
hands. He regarded the duke as a merry-hearted son might regard
his father. The thing was beautiful!
"Her grace will be home almost as soon as you are--when you have
given me the money which I perceive you have all ready for me in
that scarcely elegant-looking canvas bag." He shrugged his
shoulders quite gracefully. "Unfortunately, in these matters one
has no choice--one is forced to ask for gold."
"And suppose, instead of giving you what is in this canvas bag, I
take you by the throat and choke the life right out of you?"
"Or suppose," amended Mr. Dacre, "that you do better, and commend
this gentleman to the tender mercies of the first policeman we
The stranger turned to Mr. Dacre. He condescended to become
conscious of his presence.
"Is this gentleman your grace's friend? Ah--Mr. Dacre, I perceive!
I have the honor of knowing Mr. Dacre, though, possibly, I am
unknown to him."
"You were--until this moment."
With an airy little laugh the stranger returned to the duke. He
brushed an invisible speck of dust off the sleeve of his coat.
"As has been intimated in that infamous letter, his grace is at
perfect liberty to give me into custody--why not? Only"--he said
it with his boyish smile--"if a particular communication is not
received from me in certain quarters within a certain time the
Duchess of Datchet's beautiful white arm will be hacked off at the
The duke would have taken the stranger by the throat, and have done
his best to choke the life right out of him then and there, if Mr.
Dacre had not intervened.
"Steady, old man!" Mr. Dacre turned to the stranger. "You appear
to be a pretty sort of a scoundrel."
The stranger gave his shoulders that almost imperceptible shrug.
"Oh, my dear Dacre, I am in want of money! I believe that you
sometimes are in want of money, too."
Everybody knows that nobody knows where Ivor Dacre gets his money
from, so the allusion must have tickled him immensely.
"You're a cool hand," he said.
"Some men are born that way."
"So I should imagine. Men like you must be born, not made."
"Precisely--as you say!" The stranger turned, with his graceful
smile, to the duke: "But are we not wasting precious time? I can
assure your grace that, in this particular matter, moments are of
Mr. Dacre interposed before the duke could answer.
"If you take my strongly urged advice, Datchet, you will summon
this constable who is now coming down the Arcade, and hand this
gentleman over to his keeping. I do not think that you need fear
that the duchess will lose her arm, or even her little finger.
Scoundrels of this one's kidney are most amenable to reason when
they have handcuffs on their wrists."
The duke plainly hesitated. He would--and he would not. The
stranger, as he eyed him, seemed much amused.
"My dear duke, by all means act on Mr. Dacre's valuable suggestion.
As I said before, why not? It would at least be interesting to see
if the duchess does or does not lose her arm--almost as interesting
to you as to Mr. Dacre. Those blackmailing, kidnaping scoundrels
do use such empty menaces. Besides, you would have the pleasure of
seeing me locked up. My imprisonment for life would recompense you
even for the loss of her grace's arm. And five hundred pounds is
such a sum to have to pay--merely for a wife! Why not, therefore,
act on Mr. Dacre's suggestion? Here comes the constable." The
constable referred to was advancing toward them--he was not a dozen
yards away. "Let me beckon to him--I will with pleasure." He took
out his watch--a gold chronograph repeater. "There are scarcely
ten minutes left during which it will be possible for me to send
the communication which I spoke of, so that it may arrive in time.
As it will then be too late, and the instruments are already
prepared for the little operation which her grace is eagerly
anticipating, it would, perhaps, be as well, after all, that you
should give me into charge. You would have saved your five hundred
pounds, and you would, at any rate, have something in exchange for
her grace's mutilated limb. Ah, here is the constable! Officer!"
The stranger spoke with such a pleasant little air of easy
geniality that it was impossible to tell if he were in jest or in
earnest. This fact impressed the duke much more than if he had
gone in for a liberal indulgence of the--under the circumstances--
orthodox melodramatic scowling. And, indeed, in the face of his
own common sense, it impressed Mr. Ivor Dacre too.
This well-bred, well-groomed youth was just the being to realize--
aux bouts des ongles--a modern type of the devil, the type which
depicts him as a perfect gentleman, who keeps smiling all the time.
The constable whom this audacious rogue had signaled approached the
little group. He addressed the stranger:
"Do you want me, sir?"
"No, I do not want you. I think it is the Duke of Datchet."
The constable, who knew the duke very well by sight, saluted him as
he turned to receive instructions.
The duke looked white, even savage. There was not a pleasant look
in his eyes and about his lips. He appeared to be endeavoring to
put a great restraint upon himself. There was a momentary silence.
Mr. Dacre made a movement as if to interpose. The duke caught him
by the arm.
He spoke: "No, constable, I do not want you. This person is
The constable looked as if he could not quite make out how such a
mistake could have arisen, hesitated, then, with another salute, he
The stranger was still holding his watch in his hand.
"Only eight minutes," he said.
The duke seemed to experience some difficulty in giving utterance
to what he had to say.
"If I give you this five hundred pounds, you--you--"
As the duke paused, as if at a loss for language which was strong
enough to convey his meaning, the stranger laughed.
"Let us take the adjectives for granted. Besides, it is only boys
who call each other names--men do things. If you give me the five
hundred sovereigns, which you have in that bag, at once--in five
minutes it will be too late--I will promise--I will not swear; if
you do not credit my simple promise, you will not believe my solemn
affirmation--I will promise that, possibly within an hour,
certainly within an hour and a half, the Duchess of Datchet shall
return to you absolutely uninjured--except, of course, as you are
already aware, with regard to a few of the hairs of her head. I
will promise this on the understanding that you do not yourself
attempt to see where I go, and that you will allow no one else to
do so." This with a glance at Ivor Dacre. "I shall know at once
if I am followed. If you entertain such intentions, you had
better, on all accounts, remain in possession of your five hundred
The duke eyed him very grimly.
"I entertain no such intentions--until the duchess returns."
Again the stranger indulged in that musical laugh of his.
"Ah, until the duchess returns! Of course, then the bargain's at
an end. When you are once more in the enjoyment of her grace's
society, you will be at liberty to set all the dogs in Europe at my
heels. I assure you I fully expect that you will do so--why not?"
The duke raised the canvas bag. "My dear duke, ten thousand
thanks! You shall see her grace at Datchet House, 'pon my honor,
probably within the hour."
"Well," commented Ivor Dacre, when the stranger had vanished, with
the bag, into Piccadilly, and as the duke and himself moved toward
Burlington Gardens, "if a gentleman is to be robbed, it is as well
that he should have another gentleman rob him."
Mr. Dacre eyed his companion covertly as they progressed. His
Grace of Datchet appeared to have some fresh cause for uneasiness.
All at once he gave it utterance, in a tone of voice which was
"Ivor, do you think that scoundrel will dare to play me false?"
"I think," murmured Mr. Dacre, "that he has dared to play you
pretty false already."
"I don't mean that. But I mean how am I to know, now that he has
his money, that he will still not keep Mabel in his clutches?"
There came an echo from Mr. Dacre.
"Just so--how are you to know?"
"I believe that something of this sort has been done in the
"I thought that there they were content to kidnap them after they
were dead. I was not aware that they had, as yet, got quite so far
as the living."
"I believe that I have heard of something just like this."
"Possibly; they are giants over there."
"And in that case the scoundrels, when their demands were met,
refused to keep to the letter of their bargain and asked for more."
The duke stood still. He clinched his fists, and swore:
"Ivor, if that ---- villain doesn't keep his word, and Mabel isn't
home within the hour, by ---- I shall go mad!"
"My dear Datchet"--Mr. Dacre loved strong language as little as he
loved a scene--"let us trust to time and, a little, to your white-
hatted and gardenia-buttonholed friend's word of honor. You should
have thought of possible eventualities before you showed your
confidence--really. Suppose, instead of going mad, we first of all
A hansom stood waiting for a fare at the end of the Arcade. Mr.
Dacre had handed the duke into it before his grace had quite
realized that the vehicle was there.
"Tell the fellow to drive faster." That was what the duke said
when the cab had started.
"My dear Datchet, the man's already driving his geerage off its
legs. If a bobby catches sight of him he'll take his number."
A moment later, a murmur from the duke:
"I don't know if you're aware that the prince is coming to dinner?"
"I am perfectly aware of it."
"You take it uncommonly cool. How easy it is to bear our brother's
burdens! Ivor, if Mabel doesn't turn up I shall feel like murder."
"I sympathize with you, Datchet, with all my heart, though, I may
observe, parenthetically, that I very far from realize the
situation even yet. Take my advice. If the duchess does not show
quite as soon as we both of us desire, don't make a scene; just let
me see what I can do."
Judging from the expression of his countenance, the duke was
conscious of no overwhelming desire to witness an exhibition of Mr.
When the cab reached Datchet House his grace dashed up the steps
three at a time. The door flew open.
"Has the duchess returned?"
A voice floated downward from above. Some one came running down
the stairs. It was her Grace of Datchet.
She actually rushed into the duke's extended arms. And he kissed
her, and she kissed him--before the servants.
"So you're not quite dead?" she cried.
"I am almost," he said.
She drew herself a little away from him.
"Hereward, were you seriously hurt?"
"Do you suppose that I could have been otherwise than seriously
"My darling! Was it a Pickford's van?"
The duke stared.
"A Pickford's van? I don't understand. But come in here. Come
along, Ivor. Mabel, you don't see Ivor."
"How do you do, Mr. Dacre?"
Then the trio withdrew into a little anteroom; it was really time.
Even then the pair conducted themselves as if Mr. Dacre had been
nothing and no one. The duke took the lady's two hands in his. He
eyed her fondly.
"So you are uninjured, with the exception of that lock of hair.
Where did the villain take it from?"
The lady looked a little puzzled.
"What lock of hair?"
From an envelope which he took from his pocket the duke produced a
shining tress. It was the lock of hair which had arrived in the
first communication. "I will have it framed."
"You will have what framed?" The duchess glanced at what the duke
was so tenderly caressing, almost, as it seemed, a little
dubiously. "Whatever is it you have there?"
"It is the lock of hair which that scoundrel sent me." Something
in the lady's face caused him to ask a question:
"Didn't he tell you he had sent it to me?"
"Did the brute tell you that he meant to cut off your little
A very curious look came into the lady's face. She glanced at the
duke as if she, all at once, was half afraid of him. She cast at
Mr. Dacre what really seemed to be a look of inquiry. Her voice
was tremulously anxious.
"Hereward, did--did the accident affect you mentally?"
"How could it not have affected me mentally? Do you think that my
mental organization is of steel?"
"But you look so well."
"Of course I look well, now that I have you back again. Tell me,
darling, did that hound actually threaten you with cutting off your
arm? If he did, I shall feel half inclined to kill him yet."
The duchess seemed positively to shrink from her better half's near
"Hereward, was it a Pickford's van?"
The duke seemed puzzled. Well he might be.
"Was what a Pickford's van?"
The lady turned to Mr. Dacre. In her voice there was a ring of
"Mr. Dacre, tell me, was it a Pickford's van?" Ivor could only
imitate his relative's repetition of her inquiry.
"I don't quite catch you--was what a Pickford's van?"
The duchess clasped her hands in front of her.
"What is it you are keeping from me? What is it you are trying to
hide? I implore you to tell me the worst, whatever it may be! Do
not keep me any longer in suspense; you do not know what I already
have endured. Mr. Dacre, is my husband mad?"
One need scarcely observe that the lady's amazing appeal to Mr.
Dacre as to her husband's sanity was received with something like
surprise. As the duke continued to stare at her, a dreadful fear
began to loom in his brain.
"My darling, your brain is unhinged!"
He advanced to take her two hands again in his; but, to his
unmistakable distress, she shrank away from him.
"Hereward--don't touch me. How is it that I missed you? Why did
you not wait until I came?"
"Wait until you came?"
The duke's bewilderment increased.
"Surely, if your injuries turned out, after all, to be slight, that
was all the more reason why you should have waited, after sending
for me like that."
"I sent for you--I?" The duke's tone was grave. "My darling,
perhaps you had better come upstairs."
"Not until we have had an explanation. You must have known that I
should come. Why did you not wait for me after you had sent me
The duchess held out something to the duke. He took it. It was a
card--his own visiting card. Something was written on the back of
it. He read aloud what was written.
"'Mabel, come to me at once with the bearer. They tell me that
they cannot take me home.' It looks like my own writing."
"Looks like it! It IS your writing."
"It looks like it--and written with a shaky pen."
"My dear child, one's hand would shake at such a moment as that."
"Mabel, where did you get this?"
"It was brought to me in Cane and Wilson's."
"Who brought it?"
"Who brought it? Why, the man you sent."
"The man I sent!" A light burst upon the duke's brain. He fell
back a pace. "It's the decoy!"
Her grace echoed the words:
"The scoundrel! To set a trap with such a bait! My poor innocent
darling, did you think it came from me? Tell me, Mabel, where did
he cut off your hair?"
"Cut off my hair?"
Her grace put her hand to her head as if to make sure that her hair
"Where did he take you to?"
"He took me to Draper's Buildings."
"I have never been in the City before, but he told me it was
Draper's Buildings. Isn't that near the Stock Exchange?"
"Near the Stock Exchange?"
It seemed rather a curious place to which to take a kidnaped
victim. The man's audacity!
"He told me that you were coming out of the Stock Exchange when a
van knocked you over. He said that he thought it was a Pickford's
van--was it a Pickford's van?"
"No, it was not a Pickford's van. Mabel, were you in Draper's
Buildings when you wrote that letter?"
"Wrote what letter?"
"Have you forgotten it already? I do not believe that there is a
word in it which will not be branded on my brain until I die."
"Hereward! What do you mean?"
"Surely you cannot have written me such a letter as that, and then
have forgotten it already?"
He handed her the letter which had arrived in the second
communication. She glanced at it, askance. Then she took it with
a little gasp.
"Hereward, if you don't mind, I think I'll take a chair." She took
a chair. "Whatever--whatever's this?" As she read the letter the
varying expressions which passed across her face were, in
themselves, a study in psychology. "Is it possible that you can
imagine that, under any conceivable circumstances, I could have
written such a letter as this?"
She rose to her feet with emphasis.
"Hereward, don't say that you thought this came from me!"
"Not from you?" He remembered Knowles's diplomatic reception of
the epistle on its first appearance. "I suppose that you will say
next that this is not a lock of your hair?"
"My dear child, what bee have you got in your bonnet? This a lock
of my hair! Why, it's not in the least bit like my hair!"
Which was certainly inaccurate. As far as color was concerned it
was an almost perfect match. The duke turned to Mr. Dacre.
"Ivor, I've had to go through a good deal this afternoon. If I
have to go through much more, something will crack!" He touched
his forehead. "I think it's my turn to take a chair." Not the one
which the duchess had vacated, but one which faced it. He
stretched out his legs in front of him; he thrust his hands into
his trousers pockets; he said, in a tone which was not gloomy but
"Might I ask, Mabel, if you have been kidnaped?"
"The word I used was 'kidnaped.' But I will spell it if you like.
Or I will get a dictionary, that you may see its meaning."
The duchess looked as if she was beginning to be not quite sure if
she was awake or sleeping. She turned to Ivor.
"Mr. Dacre, has the accident affected Hereward's brain?"
The duke took the words out of his cousin's mouth.
"On that point, my dear, let me ease your mind. I don't know if
you are under the impression that I should be the same shape after
a Pickford's van had run over me as I was before; but, in any case,
I have not been run over by a Pickford's van. So far as I am
concerned there has been no accident. Dismiss that delusion from
"You appear surprised. One might even think that you were sorry.
But may I now ask what you did when you arrived at Draper's
"Did! I looked for you!"
"Indeed! And when you had looked in vain, what was the next item
in your programme?"
The lady shrank still farther from him.
"Hereward, have you been having a jest at my expense? Can you have
been so cruel?" Tears stood in her eyes.
Rising, the duke laid his hand upon her arm.
"Mabel, tell me--what did you do when you had looked for me in
"I looked for you upstairs and downstairs and everywhere. It was
quite a large place, it took me ever such a time. I thought that I
should go distracted. Nobody seemed to know anything about you, or
even that there had been an accident at all--it was all offices. I
couldn't make it out in the least, and the people didn't seem to be
able to make me out either. So when I couldn't find you anywhere I
came straight home again."
The duke was silent for a moment. Then with funereal gravity he
turned to Mr. Dacre. He put to him this question:
"Ivor, what are you laughing at?"
Mr. Dacre drew his hand across his mouth with rather a suspicious
"My dear fellow, only a smile!"
The duchess looked from one to the other.
"What have you two been doing? What is the joke?"
With an air of preternatural solemnity the duke took two letters
from the breast pocket of his coat.
"Mabel, you have already seen your letter. You have already seen
the lock of your hair. Just look at this--and that."
He gave her the two very singular communications which had arrived
in such a mysterious manner, and so quickly one after the other.
She read them with wide-open eyes.
"Hereward! Wherever did these come from?"
The duke was standing with his legs apart, and his hands in his
trousers pockets. "I would give--I would give another five hundred
pounds to know. Shall I tell you, madam, what I have been doing?
I have been presenting five hundred golden sovereigns to a perfect
stranger, with a top hat, and a gardenia in his buttonhole."
"If you have perused those documents which you have in your hand,
you will have some faint idea. Ivor, when it's your funeral, I'LL
smile. Mabel, Duchess of Datchet, it is beginning to dawn upon the
vacuum which represents my brain that I've been the victim of one
of the prettiest things in practical jokes that ever yet was
planned. When that fellow brought you that card at Cane and
Wilson's--which, I need scarcely tell you, never came from me--some
one walked out of the front entrance who was so exactly like you
that both Barnes and Moysey took her for you. Moysey showed her
into the carriage, and Barnes drove her home. But when the
carriage reached home it was empty. Your double had got out upon
The duchess uttered a sound which was half gasp, half sigh.
"Barnes and Moysey, with beautiful and childlike innocence, when
they found that they had brought the thing home empty, came
straightway and told me that YOU had jumped out of the brougham
while it had been driving full pelt through the streets. While I
was digesting that piece of information there came the first
epistle, with the lock of your hair. Before I had time to digest
that there came the second epistle, with yours inside."
"It seems incredible!"
"It sounds incredible; but unfathomable is the folly of man,
especially of a man who loves his wife." The duke crossed to Mr.
Dacre. "I don't want, Ivor, to suggest anything in the way of
bribery and corruption, but if you could keep this matter to
yourself, and not mention it to your friends, our white-hatted and
gardenia-buttonholed acquaintance is welcome to his five hundred
pounds, and--Mabel, what on earth are you laughing at?"
The duchess appeared, all at once, to be seized with
"Hereward," she cried, "just think how that man must be laughing at
And the Duke of Datchet thought of it.
The Minor Canon
It was Monday, and in the afternoon, as I was walking along the
High Street of Marchbury, I was met by a distinguished-looking
person whom I had observed at the services in the cathedral on the
previous day. Now it chanced on that Sunday that I was singing the
service. Properly speaking, it was not my turn; but, as my brother
minor canons were either away from Marchbury or ill in bed, I was
the only one left to perform the necessary duty. The
distinguished-looking person was a tall, big man with a round fat
face and small features. His eyes, his hair and mustache (his face
was bare but for a small mustache) were quite black, and he had a
very pleasant and genial expression. He wore a tall hat, set
rather jauntily on his head, and he was dressed in black with a
long frock coat buttoned across the chest and fitting him close to
the body. As he came, with a half saunter, half swagger, along the
street, I knew him again at once by his appearance; and, as he came
nearer, I saw from his manner that he was intending to stop and
speak to me, for he slightly raised his hat and in a soft,
melodious voice with a colonial "twang" which was far from being
disagreeable, and which, indeed, to my ear gave a certain
additional interest to his remarks, he saluted me with "Good day,
"Good day," I answered, with just a little reserve in my tone.
"I hope, sir," he began, "you will excuse my stopping you in the
street, but I wish to tell you how very much I enjoyed the music at
your cathedral yesterday. I am an Australian, sir, and we have no
such music in my country."
"I suppose not," I said.
"No, sir," he went on, "nothing nearly so fine. I am very fond of
music, and as my business brought me in this direction, I thought I
would stop at your city and take the opportunity of paying a visit
to your grand cathedral. And I am delighted I came; so pleased,
indeed, that I should like to leave some memorial of my visit
behind me. I should like, sir, to do something for your choir."
"I am sure it is very kind of you," I replied.
"Yes, I should certainly be glad if you could suggest to me
something I might do in this way. As regards money, I may say that
I have plenty of it. I am the owner of a most valuable property.
My business relations extend throughout the world, and if I am as
fortunate in the projects of the future as I have been in the past,
I shall probably one day achieve the proud position of being the
richest man in the world."
I did not like to undertake myself the responsibility of advising
or suggesting, so I simply said:
"I cannot venture to say, offhand, what would be the most
acceptable way of showing your great kindness and generosity, but I
should certainly recommend you to put yourself in communication
with the dean."
"Thank you, sir," said my Australian friend, "I will do so. And
now, sir," he continued, "let me say how much I admire your voice.
It is, without exception, the very finest and clearest voice I have
"Really," I answered, quite overcome with such unqualified praise,
"really it is very good of you to say so."
"Ah, but I feel it, my dear sir. I have been round the world, from
Sydney to Frisco, across the continent of America" (he called it
Amerrker) "to New York City, then on to England, and to-morrow I
shall leave your city to continue my travels. But in all my
experience I have never heard so grand a voice as your own."
This and a great deal more he said in the same strain, which
modesty forbids me to reproduce.
Now I am not without some knowledge of the world outside the close
of Marchbury Cathedral, and I could not listen to such a
"flattering tale" without having my suspicions aroused. Who and
what is this man? thought I. I looked at him narrowly. At first
the thought flashed across me that he might be a "swell mobsman."
But no, his face was too good for that; besides, no man with that
huge frame, that personality so marked and so easily recognizable,
could be a swindler; he could not escape detection a single hour.
I dismissed the ungenerous thought. Perhaps he is rich, as he
says. We do hear of munificent donations by benevolent
millionaires now and then. What if this Australian, attracted by
the glories of the old cathedral, should now appear as a deus ex
machina to reendow the choir, or to found a musical professoriate
in connection with the choir, appointing me the first occupant of
the professorial chair?
These thoughts flashed across my mind in the momentary pause of his
"As for yourself, sir," he began again, "I have something to
propose which I trust may not prove unwelcome. But the public
street is hardly a suitable place to discuss my proposal. May I
call upon you this evening at your house in the close? I know
which it is, for I happened to see you go into it yesterday after
the morning service."
"I shall be very pleased to see you," I replied. "We are going out
to dinner this evening, but I shall be at home and disengaged till
"Thank you very much. Then I shall do myself the pleasure of
calling upon you about six o'clock. Till then, farewell!" A
graceful wave of the hand, and my unknown friend had disappeared
round the corner of the street.
Now at last, I thought, something is going to happen in my
uneventful life--something to break the monotony of existence. Of
course, he must have inquired my name--he could get that from any
of the cathedral vergers--and, as he said, he had observed
whereabouts in the close I lived. What is he coming to see me for?
I wondered. I spent the rest of the afternoon in making the
wildest surmises. I was castle-building in Spain at a furious
rate. At one time I imagined that this faithful son of the church--
as he appeared to me--was going to build and endow a grand
cathedral in Australia on condition that I should be appointed dean
at a yearly stipend of, say, ten thousand pounds. Or perhaps, I
said to myself, he will beg me to accept a sum of money--I never
thought of it as less than a thousand pounds--as a slight
recognition of and tribute to my remarkable vocal ability.
I took a long, lonely walk into the country to correct these
ridiculous fancies and to steady my mind, and when I reached home
and had refreshed myself with a quiet cup of afternoon tea, I felt
I was morally and physically prepared for my interview with the
Punctually as the cathedral clock struck six there was a ring at
the visitor's bell. In a moment or two my unknown friend was shown
into the drawing-room, which he entered with the easy air of a man
of the world. I noticed he was carrying a small black bag.
"How do you do again, Mr. Dale?" he said as though we were old
acquaintances; "you see I have come sharp to my time."
"Yes," I answered, "and I am pleased to see you; do sit down." He
sank into my best armchair, and placed his bag on the floor beside
"Since we met in the afternoon," he said, "I have written a letter
to your dean, expressing the great pleasure I felt in listening to
your choir, and at the same time I inclosed a five-pound note,
which I begged him to divide among the choir boys and men, from
Alexander Poulter, Esq., of Poulter's Pills. You have of course
heard of the world-renowned Poulter's Pills. I am Poulter!"
Poulter of Poulter's Pills! My heart sank within me! A five-pound
note! My airy castles were tottering!
"I also sent him a couple of hundred of my pamphlets, which I said
I trusted he would be so kind as to distribute in the close."
I was aghast!
"And now, with regard to the special object of my call, Mr. Dale.
If you will allow me to say so, you are not making the most of that
grand voice of yours; you are hidden under an ecclesiastical bushel
here--lost to the world. You are wasting your vocal strength and
sweetness on the desert air, so to speak. Why, if I may hazard a
guess, I don't suppose you make five hundred a year here, at the
I could say nothing.
"Well, now, I can put you into the way of making at least three or
four times as much as that. Listen! I am Alexander Poulter, of
Poulter's Pills. I have a proposal to make to you. The scheme is
bound to succeed, but I want your help. Accept my proposal and
your fortune's made. Did you ever hear Moody and Sankey?" he asked
The man is an idiot, thought I; he is now fairly carried away with
his particular mania. Will it last long? Shall I ring?
"Novelty, my dear sir," he went on, "is the rule of the day; and
there must be novelty in advertising, as in everything else, to
catch the public interest. So I intend to go on a tour, lecturing
on the merits of Poulter's Pills in all the principal halls of all
the principal towns all over the world. But I have been delayed in
carrying out my idea till I could associate myself with a gentleman
such as yourself. Will you join me? I should be the Moody of the
tour; you would be its Sankey. I would speak my patter, and you
would intersperse my orations with melodious ballads bearing upon
the virtues of Poulter's Pills. The ballads are all ready!"
So saying, he opened that bag and drew forth from its recesses
nothing more alarming than a thick roll of manuscript music.
"The verses are my own," he said, with a little touch of pride;
"and as for the music, I thought it better to make use of popular
melodies, so as to enable an audience to join in the chorus. See,
here is one of the ballads: 'Darling, I am better now.' It
describes the woes of a fond lover, or rather his physical
ailments, until he went through a course of Poulter. Here's
another: 'I'm ninety-five! I'm ninety-five!' You catch the drift
of that, of course--a healthy old age, secured by taking Poulter's
Pills. Ah! what's this? 'Little sister's last request.' I fancy
the idea of that is to beg the family never to be without Poulter's
Pills. Here again: 'Then you'll remember me!' I'm afraid that
title is not original; never mind, the song is. And here is--but
there are many more, and I won't detain you with them now." He
saw, perhaps, I was getting impatient. Thank Heaven, however, he
was no escaped lunatic. I was safe!
"Mr. Poulter," said I, "I took you this afternoon for a
disinterested and philanthropic millionaire; you take me for--for--
something different from what I am. We have both made mistakes.
In a word, it is impossible for me to accept your offer!"
"Is that final?" asked Poulter.
"Certainly," said I.
Poulter gathered his manuscripts together and replaced them in the
bag, and got up to leave the room.
"Good evening, Mr. Dale," he said mournfully, as I opened the door
of the room. "Good evening"--he kept on talking till he was fairly
out of the house--"mark my words, you'll be sorry--very sorry--one
day that you did not fall in with my scheme. Offers like mine
don't come every day, and you will one day regret having refused
With these words he left the house.
I had little appetite for my dinner that evening.
"RANDOLPH CRESCENT, N. W.
MY DEAR PUGH--I hope you will like the pipe which I send with this.
It is rather a curious example of a certain school of Indian
carving. And is a present from
"Yours truly, JOSEPH TRESS."
It was really very handsome of Tress--very handsome! The more
especially as I was aware that to give presents was not exactly in
Tress's line. The truth is that when I saw what manner of pipe it
was I was amazed. It was contained in a sandalwood box, which was
itself illustrated with some remarkable specimens of carving. I
use the word "remarkable" advisedly, because, although the
workmanship was undoubtedly, in its way, artistic, the result could
not be described as beautiful. The carver had thought proper to
ornament the box with some of the ugliest figures I remember to
have seen. They appeared to me to be devils. Or perhaps they were
intended to represent deities appertaining to some mythological
system with which, thank goodness, I am unacquainted. The pipe
itself was worthy of the case in which it was contained. It was of
meerschaum, with an amber mouthpiece. It was rather too large for
ordinary smoking. But then, of course, one doesn't smoke a pipe
like that. There are pipes in my collection which I should as soon
think of smoking as I should of eating. Ask a china maniac to let
you have afternoon tea out of his Old Chelsea, and you will learn
some home truths as to the durability of human friendships. The
glory of the pipe, as Tress had suggested, lay in its carving. Not
that I claim that it was beautiful, any more than I make such a
claim for the carving on the box, but, as Tress said in his note,
it was curious.
The stem and the bowl were quite plain, but on the edge of the bowl
was perched some kind of lizard. I told myself it was an octopus
when I first saw it, but I have since had reason to believe that it
was some almost unique member of the lizard tribe. The creature
was represented as climbing over the edge of the bowl down toward
the stem, and its legs, or feelers, or tentacula, or whatever the