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The Dynamiter by Robert Louis Stevenson and Fanny van de Grift Stevenson

Part 3 out of 5

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The result of this investigation filled him with amazement and
disgust; but it was now too late; nothing remained but to endure;
and he awaited the arrival of his tenant, still trying, by various
arithmetical expedients, to obtain a more favourable quotation for
the dollar. With the approach of dusk, however, his impatience
drove him once more to the front balcony. The night fell, mild and
airless; the lamps shone around the central darkness of the garden;
and through the tall grove of trees that intervened, many warmly
illuminated windows on the farther side of the square, told their
tale of white napery, choice wine, and genial hospitality. The
stars were already thickening overhead, when the young man's eyes
alighted on a procession of three four-wheelers, coasting round the
garden railing and bound for the Superfluous Mansion. They were
laden with formidable boxes; moved in a military order, one
following another; and, by the extreme slowness of their advance,
inspired Somerset with the most serious ideas of his tenant's

By the time he had the door open, the cabs had drawn up beside the
pavement; and from the two first, there had alighted the military
gentleman of the morning and two very stalwart porters. These
proceeded instantly to take possession of the house; with their own
hands, and firmly rejecting Somerset's assistance, they carried in
the various crates and boxes; with their own hands dismounted and
transferred to the back drawing-room the bed in which the tenant
was to sleep; and it was not until the bustle of arrival had
subsided, and the arrangements were complete, that there descended,
from the third of the three vehicles, a gentleman of great stature
and broad shoulders, leaning on the shoulder of a woman in a
widow's dress, and himself covered by a long cloak and muffled in a
coloured comforter.

Somerset had but a glimpse of him in passing; he was soon shut into
the back drawing-room; the other men departed; silence redescended
on the house; and had not the nurse appeared a little before half-
past ten, and, with a strong brogue, asked if there were a decent
public-house in the neighbourhood, Somerset might have still
supposed himself to be alone in the Superfluous Mansion.

Day followed day; and still the young man had never come by speech
or sight of his mysterious lodger. The doors of the drawing-room
flat were never open; and although Somerset could hear him moving
to and fro, the tall man had never quitted the privacy of his
apartments. Visitors, indeed, arrived; sometimes in the dusk,
sometimes at intempestuous hours of night or morning; men, for the
most part; some meanly attired, some decently; some loud, some
cringing; and yet all, in the eyes of Somerset, displeasing. A
certain air of fear and secrecy was common to them all; they were
all voluble, he thought, and ill at ease; even the military
gentleman proved, on a closer inspection, to be no gentleman at
all; and as for the doctor who attended the sick man, his manners
were not suggestive of a university career. The nurse, again, was
scarcely a desirable house-fellow. Since her arrival, the fall of
whisky in the young man's private bottle was much accelerated; and
though never communicative, she was at times unpleasantly familiar.
When asked about the patient's health, she would dolorously shake
her head, and declare that the poor gentleman was in a pitiful

Yet somehow Somerset had early begun to entertain the notion that
his complaint was other than bodily. The ill-looking birds that
gathered to the house, the strange noises that sounded from the
drawing-room in the dead hours of night, the careless attendance
and intemperate habits of the nurse, the entire absence of
correspondence, the entire seclusion of Mr. Jones himself, whose
face, up to that hour, he could not have sworn to in a court of
justice--all weighed unpleasantly upon the young man's mind. A
sense of something evil, irregular and underhand, haunted and
depressed him; and this uneasy sentiment was the more firmly rooted
in his mind, when, in the fulness of time, he had an opportunity of
observing the features of his tenant. It fell in this way. The
young landlord was awakened about four in the morning by a noise in
the hall. Leaping to his feet, and opening the door of the
library, he saw the tall man, candle in hand, in earnest
conversation with the gentleman who had taken the rooms. The faces
of both were strongly illuminated; and in that of his tenant,
Somerset could perceive none of the marks of disease, but every
sign of health, energy, and resolution. While he was still
looking, the visitor took his departure; and the invalid, having
carefully fastened the front door, sprang upstairs without a trace
of lassitude.

That night upon his pillow, Somerset began to kindle once more into
the hot fit of the detective fever; and the next morning resumed
the practice of his art with careless hand and an abstracted mind.
The day was destined to be fertile in surprises; nor had he long
been seated at the easel ere the first of these occurred. A cab
laden with baggage drew up before the door; and Mrs. Luxmore in
person rapidly mounted the steps and began to pound upon the
knocker. Somerset hastened to attend the summons.

'My dear fellow,' she said, with the utmost gaiety, 'here I come
dropping from the moon. I am delighted to find you faithful; and I
have no doubt you will be equally pleased to be restored to

Somerset could find no words, whether of protest or welcome; and
the spirited old lady pushed briskly by him and paused on the
threshold of the dining-room. The sight that met her eyes was one
well calculated to inspire astonishment. The mantelpiece was
arrayed with saucepans and empty bottles; on the fire some chops
were frying; the floor was littered from end to end with books,
clothes, walking-canes and the materials of the painter's craft;
but what far outstripped the other wonders of the place was the
corner which had been arranged for the study of still-life. This
formed a sort of rockery; conspicuous upon which, according to the
principles of the art of composition, a cabbage was relieved
against a copper kettle, and both contrasted with the mail of a
boiled lobster.

'My gracious goodness!' cried the lady of the house; and then,
turning in wrath on the young man, 'From what rank in life are you
sprung?' she demanded. 'You have the exterior of a gentleman; but
from the astonishing evidences before me, I should say you can only
be a greengrocer's man. Pray, gather up your vegetables, and let
me see no more of you.'

'Madam,' babbled Somerset, 'you promised me a month's warning.'

'That was under a misapprehension,' returned the old lady. 'I now
give you warning to leave at once.'

'Madam,' said the young man, 'I wish I could; and indeed, as far as
I am concerned, it might be done. But then, my lodger!'

'Your lodger?' echoed Mrs. Luxmore.

'My lodger: why should I deny it?' returned Somerset. 'He is only
by the week.'

The old lady sat down upon a chair. 'You have a lodger?--you?' she
cried. 'And pray, how did you get him?'

'By advertisement,' replied the young man. 'O madam, I have not
lived unobservantly. I adopted'--his eyes involuntarily shifted to
the cartoons--'I adopted every method.'

Her eyes had followed his; for the first time in Somerset's
experience, she produced a double eye-glass; and as soon as the
full merit of the works had flashed upon her, she gave way to peal
after peal of her trilling and soprano laughter.

'Oh, I think you are perfectly delicious!' she cried. 'I do hope
you had them in the window. M'Pherson,' she continued, crying to
her maid, who had been all this time grimly waiting in the hall, 'I
lunch with Mr. Somerset. Take the cellar key and bring some wine.'

In this gay humour she continued throughout the luncheon; presented
Somerset with a couple of dozen of wine, which she made M'Pherson
bring up from the cellar--'as a present, my dear,' she said, with
another burst of tearful merriment, 'for your charming pictures,
which you must be sure to leave me when you go;' and finally,
protesting that she dared not spoil the absurdest houseful of
madmen in the whole of London, departed (as she vaguely phrased it)
for the continent of Europe.

She was no sooner gone, than Somerset encountered in the corridor
the Irish nurse; sober, to all appearance, and yet a prey to
singularly strong emotion. It was made to appear, from her
account, that Mr. Jones had already suffered acutely in his health
from Mrs. Luxmore's visit, and that nothing short of a full
explanation could allay the invalid's uneasiness. Somerset,
somewhat staring, told what he thought fit of the affair.

'Is that all?' cried the woman. 'As God sees you, is that all?'

'My good woman,' said the young man, 'I have no idea what you can
be driving at. Suppose the lady were my friend's wife, suppose she
were my fairy godmother, suppose she were the Queen of Portugal;
and how should that affect yourself or Mr. Jones?'

'Blessed Mary!' cried the nurse, 'it's he that will be glad to hear

And immediately she fled upstairs.

Somerset, on his part, returned to the dining-room, and with a very
thoughtful brow and ruminating many theories, disposed of the
remainder of the bottle. It was port; and port is a wine, sole
among its equals and superiors, that can in some degree support the
competition of tobacco. Sipping, smoking, and theorising, Somerset
moved on from suspicion to suspicion, from resolve to resolve,
still growing braver and rosier as the bottle ebbed. He was a
sceptic, none prouder of the name; he had no horror at command,
whether for crimes or vices, but beheld and embraced the world,
with an immoral approbation, the frequent consequence of youth and
health. At the same time, he felt convinced that he dwelt under
the same roof with secret malefactors; and the unregenerate
instinct of the chase impelled him to severity. The bottle had run
low; the summer sun had finally withdrawn; and at the same moment,
night and the pangs of hunger recalled him from his dreams.

He went forth, and dined in the Criterion: a dinner in consonance,
not so much with his purse, as with the admirable wine he had
discussed. What with one thing and another, it was long past
midnight when he returned home. A cab was at the door; and
entering the hall, Somerset found himself face to face with one of
the most regular of the few who visited Mr. Jones: a man of
powerful figure, strong lineaments, and a chin-beard in the
American fashion. This person was carrying on one shoulder a black
portmanteau, seemingly of considerable weight. That he should find
a visitor removing baggage in the dead of night, recalled some odd
stories to the young man's memory; he had heard of lodgers who thus
gradually drained away, not only their own effects, but the very
furniture and fittings of the house that sheltered them; and now,
in a mood between pleasantry and suspicion, and aping the manner of
a drunkard, he roughly bumped against the man with the chin-beard
and knocked the portmanteau from his shoulder to the floor. With a
face struck suddenly as white as paper, the man with the chin-beard
called lamentably on the name of his maker, and fell in a mere heap
on the mat at the foot of the stairs. At the same time, though
only for a single instant, the heads of the sick lodger and the
Irish nurse popped out like rabbits over the banisters of the first
floor; and on both the same scare and pallor were apparent.

The sight of this incredible emotion turned Somerset to stone, and
he continued speechless, while the man gathered himself together,
and, with the help of the handrail and audibly thanking God,
scrambled once more upon his feet.

'What in Heaven's name ails you?' gasped the young man as soon as
he could find words and utterance.

'Have you a drop of brandy?' returned the other. 'I am sick.'

Somerset administered two drams, one after the other, to the man
with the chin-beard; who then, somewhat restored, began to confound
himself in apologies for what he called his miserable nervousness,
the result, he said, of a long course of dumb ague; and having
taken leave with a hand that still sweated and trembled, he
gingerly resumed his burthen and departed.

Somerset retired to bed but not to sleep. What, he asked himself,
had been the contents of the black portmanteau? Stolen goods? the
carcase of one murdered? or--and at the thought he sat upright in
bed--an infernal machine? He took a solemn vow that he would set
these doubts at rest; and with the next morning, installed himself
beside the dining-room window, vigilant with eye; and ear, to await
and profit by the earliest opportunity.

The hours went heavily by. Within the house there was no
circumstance of novelty; unless it might be that the nurse more
frequently made little journeys round the corner of the square, and
before afternoon was somewhat loose of speech and gait. A little
after six, however, there came round the corner of the gardens a
very handsome and elegantly dressed young woman, who paused a
little way off, and for some time, and with frequent sighs,
contemplated the front of the Superfluous Mansion. It was not the
first time that she had thus stood afar and looked upon it, like
our common parents at the gates of Eden; and the young man had
already had occasion to remark the lively slimness of her carriage,
and had already been the butt of a chance arrow from her eye. He
hailed her coming, then, with pleasant feelings, and moved a little
nearer to the window to enjoy the sight. What was his surprise,
however, when, as if with a sensible effort, she drew near, mounted
the steps and tapped discreetly at the door! He made haste to get
before the Irish nurse, who was not improbably asleep, and had the
satisfaction to receive this gracious visitor in person.

She inquired for Mr. Jones; and then, without transition, asked the
young man if he were the person of the house (and at the words, he
thought he could perceive her to be smiling), 'because,' she added,
'if you are, I should like to see some of the other rooms.'
Somerset told her he was under an engagement to receive no other
lodgers; but she assured him that would be no matter, as these were
friends of Mr. Jones's. 'And,' she continued, moving suddenly to
the dining-room door, 'let us begin here.' Somerset was too late
to prevent her entering, and perhaps he lacked the courage to
essay. 'Ah!' she cried, 'how changed it is!'

'Madam,' cried the young man, 'since your entrance, it is I who
have the right to say so.'

She received this inane compliment with a demure and conscious
droop of the eyelids, and gracefully steering her dress among the
mingled litter, now with a smile, now with a sigh, reviewed the
wonders of the two apartments. She gazed upon the cartoons with
sparkling eyes, and a heightened colour, and in a somewhat
breathless voice, expressed a high opinion of their merits. She
praised the effective disposition of the rockery, and in the
bedroom, of which Somerset had vainly endeavoured to defend the
entry, she fairly broke forth in admiration. 'How simple and
manly!' she cried: 'none of that effeminacy of neatness, which is
so detestable in a man!' Hard upon this, telling him, before he
had time to reply, that she very well knew her way, and would
trouble him no further, she took her leave with an engaging smile,
and ascended the staircase alone.

For more than an hour the young lady remained closeted with Mr.
Jones; and at the end of that time, the night being now come
completely, they left the house in company. This was the first
time since the arrival of his lodger, that Somerset had found
himself alone with the Irish widow; and without the loss of any
more time than was required by decency, he stepped to the foot of
the stairs and hailed her by her name. She came instantly,
wreathed in weak smiles and with a nodding head; and when the young
man politely offered to introduce her to the treasures of his art,
she swore that nothing could afford her greater pleasure, for,
though she had never crossed the threshold, she had frequently
observed his beautiful pictures through the door. On entering the
dining-room, the sight of a bottle and two glasses prepared her to
be a gentle critic; and as soon as the pictures had been viewed and
praised, she was easily persuaded to join the painter in a single
glass. 'Here,' she said, 'are my respects; and a pleasure it is,
in this horrible house, to see a gentleman like yourself, so
affable and free, and a very nice painter, I am sure.' One glass
so agreeably prefaced, was sure to lead to the acceptance of a
second; at the third, Somerset was free to cease from the
affectation of keeping her company; and as for the fourth, she
asked it of her own accord. 'For indeed,' said she, 'what with all
these clocks and chemicals, without a drop of the creature life
would be impossible entirely. And you seen yourself that even
M'Guire was glad to beg for it. And even himself, when he is
downhearted with all these cruel disappointments, though as
temperate a man as any child, will be sometimes crying for a glass
of it. And I'll thank you for a thimbleful to settle what I got.'
Soon after, she began with tears to narrate the deathbed
dispositions and lament the trifling assets of her husband. Then
she declared she heard 'the master' calling her, rose to her feet,
made but one lurch of it into the still-life rockery, and with her
head upon the lobster, fell into stertorous slumbers.

Somerset mounted at once to the first story, and opened the door of
the drawing-room, which was brilliantly lit by several lamps. It
was a great apartment; looking on the square with three tall
windows, and joined by a pair of ample folding-doors to the next
room; elegant in proportion, papered in sea-green, furnished in
velvet of a delicate blue, and adorned with a majestic mantelpiece
of variously tinted marbles. Such was the room that Somerset
remembered; that which he now beheld was changed in almost every
feature: the furniture covered with a figured chintz; the walls
hung with a rhubarb-coloured paper, and diversified by the
curtained recesses for no less than seven windows. It seemed to
himself that he must have entered, without observing the
transition, into the adjoining house. Presently from these more
specious changes, his eye condescended to the many curious objects
with which the floor was littered. Here were the locks of
dismounted pistols; clocks and clockwork in every stage of
demolition, some still busily ticking, some reduced to their dainty
elements; a great company of carboys, jars and bottles; a
carpenter's bench and a laboratory-table.

The back drawing-room, to which Somerset proceeded, had likewise
undergone a change. It was transformed to the exact appearance of
a common lodging-house bedroom; a bed with green curtains occupied
one corner; and the window was blocked by the regulation table and
mirror. The door of a small closet here attracted the young man's
attention; and striking a vesta, he opened it and entered. On a
table several wigs and beards were lying spread; about the walls
hung an incongruous display of suits and overcoats; and conspicuous
among the last the young man observed a large overall of the most
costly sealskin. In a flash his mind reverted to the advertisement
in the Standard newspaper. The great height of his lodger, the
disproportionate breadth of his shoulders, and the strange
particulars of his instalment, all pointed to the same conclusion.

The vesta had now burned to his fingers; and taking the coat upon
his arm, Somerset hastily returned to the lighted drawing-room.
There, with a mixture of fear and admiration, he pored upon its
goodly proportions and the regularity and softness of the pile.
The sight of a large pier-glass put another fancy in his head. He
donned the fur-coat; and standing before the mirror in an attitude
suggestive of a Russian prince, he thrust his hands into the ample
pockets. There his fingers encountered a folded journal. He drew
it out, and recognised the type and paper of the Standard; and at
the same instant, his eyes alighted on the offer of two hundred
pounds. Plainly then, his lodger, now no longer mysterious, had
laid aside his coat on the very day of the appearance of the

He was thus standing, the tell-tale coat upon his back, the
incriminating paper in his hand, when the door opened and the tall
lodger, with a firm but somewhat pallid face, stepped into the room
and closed the door again behind him. For some time, the two
looked upon each other in perfect silence; then Mr. Jones moved
forward to the table, took a seat, and still without once changing
the direction of his eyes, addressed the young man.

'You are right,' he said. 'It is for me the blood money is
offered. And now what will you do?'

It was a question to which Somerset was far from being able to
reply. Taken as he was at unawares, masquerading in the man's own
coat, and surrounded by a whole arsenal of diabolical explosives,
the keeper of the lodging-house was silenced.

'Yes,' resumed the other, 'I am he. I am that man, whom with
impotent hate and fear, they still hunt from den to den, from
disguise to disguise. Yes, my landlord, you have it in your power,
if you be poor, to lay the basis of your fortune; if you be
unknown, to capture honour at one snatch. You have hocussed an
innocent widow; and I find you here in my apartment, for whose use
I pay you in stamped money, searching my wardrobe, and your hand--
shame, sir!--your hand in my very pocket. You can now complete the
cycle of your ignominious acts, by what will be at once the
simplest, the safest, and the most remunerative.' The speaker
paused as if to emphasise his words; and then, with a great change
of tone and manner, thus resumed: 'And yet, sir, when I look upon
your face, I feel certain that I cannot be deceived: certain that
in spite of all, I have the honour and pleasure of speaking to a
gentleman. Take off my coat, sir--which but cumbers you. Divest
yourself of this confusion: that which is but thought upon, thank
God, need be no burthen to the conscience; we have all harboured
guilty thoughts: and if it flashed into your mind to sell my flesh
and blood, my anguish in the dock, and the sweat of my death agony-
-it was a thought, dear sir, you were as incapable of acting on, as
I of any further question of your honour.' At these words, the
speaker, with a very open, smiling countenance, like a forgiving
father, offered Somerset his hand.

It was not in the young man's nature to refuse forgiveness or
dissect generosity. He instantly, and almost without thought,
accepted the proffered grasp.

'And now,' resumed the lodger, 'now that I hold in mine your loyal
hand, I lay by my apprehensions, I dismiss suspicion, I go further-
-by an effort of will, I banish the memory of what is past. How
you came here, I care not: enough that you are here--as my guest.
Sit ye down; and let us, with your good permission, improve
acquaintance over a glass of excellent whisky.'

So speaking, he produced glasses and a bottle: and the pair
pledged each other in silence.

'Confess,' observed the smiling host, 'you were surprised at the
appearance of the room.'

'I was indeed,' said Somerset; 'nor can I imagine the purpose of
these changes.'

'These,' replied the conspirator, 'are the devices by which I
continue to exist. Conceive me now, accused before one of your
unjust tribunals; conceive the various witnesses appearing, and the
singular variety of their reports! One will have visited me in
this drawing-room as it originally stood; a second finds it as it
is to-night; and to-morrow or next day, all may have been changed.
If you love romance (as artists do), few lives are more romantic
than that of the obscure individual now addressing you. Obscure
yet famous. Mine is an anonymous, infernal glory. By infamous
means, I work towards my bright purpose. I found the liberty and
peace of a poor country, desperately abused; the future smiles upon
that land; yet, in the meantime, I lead the existence of a hunted
brute, work towards appalling ends, and practice hell's

Somerset, glass in hand, contemplated the strange fanatic before
him, and listened to his heated rhapsody, with indescribable
bewilderment. He looked him in the face with curious
particularity; saw there the marks of education; and wondered the
more profoundly.

'Sir,' he said--'for I know not whether I should still address you
as Mr. Jones--'

'Jones, Breitman, Higginbotham, Pumpernickel, Daviot, Henderland,
by all or any of these you may address me,' said the plotter; 'for
all I have at some time borne. Yet that which I most prize, that
which is most feared, hated, and obeyed, is not a name to be found
in your directories; it is not a name current in post-offices or
banks; and, indeed, like the celebrated clan M'Gregor, I may justly
describe myself as being nameless by day. But,' he continued,
rising to his feet, 'by night, and among my desperate followers, I
am the redoubted Zero.'

Somerset was unacquainted with the name, but he politely expressed
surprise and gratification. 'I am to understand,' he continued,
'that, under this alias, you follow the profession of a dynamiter?'

The plotter had resumed his seat and now replenished the glasses.

'I do,' he said. 'In this dark period of time, a star--the star of
dynamite--has risen for the oppressed; and among those who practise
its use, so thick beset with dangers and attended by such
incredible difficulties and disappointments, few have been more
assiduous, and not many--' He paused, and a shade of embarrassment
appeared upon his face--'not many have been more successful than

'I can imagine,' observed Somerset, 'that, from the sweeping
consequences looked for, the career is not devoid of interest. You
have, besides, some of the entertainment of the game of hide and
seek. But it would still seem to me--I speak as a layman--that
nothing could be simpler or safer than to deposit an infernal
machine and retire to an adjacent county to await the painful

'You speak, indeed,' returned the plotter, with some evidence of
warmth, 'you speak, indeed, most ignorantly. Do you make nothing,
then, of such a peril as we share this moment? Do you think it
nothing to occupy a house like this one, mined, menaced, and, in a
word, literally tottering to its fall?'

'Good God!' ejaculated Somerset.

'And when you speak of ease,' pursued Zero, 'in this age of
scientific studies, you fill me with surprise. Are you not aware
that chemicals are proverbially fickle as woman, and clockwork as
capricious as the very devil? Do you see upon my brow these
furrows of anxiety? Do you observe the silver threads that mingle
with my hair? Clockwork, clockwork has stamped them on my brow--
chemicals have sprinkled them upon my locks! No, Mr. Somerset,' he
resumed, after a moment's pause, his voice still quivering with
sensibility, 'you must not suppose the dynamiter's life to be all
gold. On the contrary, you cannot picture to yourself the
bloodshot vigils and the staggering disappointments of a life like
mine. I have toiled (let us say) for months, up early and down
late; my bag is ready, my clock set; a daring agent has hurried
with white face to deposit the instrument of ruin; we await the
fall of England, the massacre of thousands, the yell of fear and
execration; and lo! a snap like that of a child's pistol, an
offensive smell, and the entire loss of so much time and plant!
If,' he concluded, musingly, 'we had been merely able to recover
the lost bags, I believe with but a touch or two, I could have
remedied the peccant engine. But what with the loss of plant and
the almost insuperable scientific difficulties of the task, our
friends in France are almost ready to desert the chosen medium.
They propose, instead, to break up the drainage system of cities
and sweep off whole populations with the devastating typhoid
pestilence: a tempting and a scientific project: a process,
indiscriminate indeed, but of idyllical simplicity. I recognise
its elegance; but, sir, I have something of the poet in my nature;
something, possibly, of the tribune. And, for my small part, I
shall remain devoted to that more emphatic, more striking, and (if
you please) more popular method, of the explosive bomb. Yes,' he
cried, with unshaken hope, 'I will still continue, and, I feel it
in my bosom, I shall yet succeed.'

'Two things I remark,' said Somerset. 'The first somewhat staggers
me. Have you, then--in all this course of life, which you have
sketched so vividly--have you not once succeeded?'

'Pardon me,' said Zero. 'I have had one success. You behold in me
the author of the outrage of Red Lion Court.'

'But if I remember right,' objected Somerset, 'the thing was a
fiasco. A scavenger's barrow and some copies of the Weekly Budget-
-these were the only victims.'

'You will pardon me again,' returned Zero with positive asperity:
'a child was injured.'

'And that fitly brings me to my second point,' said Somerset. 'For
I observed you to employ the word "indiscriminate." Now, surely, a
scavenger's barrow and a child (if child there were) represent the
very acme and top pin-point of indiscriminate, and, pardon me, of
ineffectual reprisal.'

'Did I employ the word?' asked Zero. 'Well, I will not defend it.
But for efficiency, you touch on graver matters; and before
entering upon so vast a subject, permit me once more to fill our
glasses. Disputation is dry work,' he added, with a charming
gaiety of manner.

Once more accordingly the pair pledged each other in a stalwart
grog; and Zero, leaning back with an air of some complacency,
proceeded more largely to develop his opinions.

'The indiscriminate?' he began. 'War, my dear sir, is
indiscriminate. War spares not the child; it spares not the barrow
of the harmless scavenger. No more,' he concluded, beaming, 'no
more do I. Whatever may strike fear, whatever may confound or
paralyse the activities of the guilty nation, barrow or child,
imperial Parliament or excursion steamer, is welcome to my simple
plans. You are not,' he inquired, with a shade of sympathetic
interest, 'you are not, I trust, a believer?'

'Sir, I believe in nothing,' said the young man.

'You are then,' replied Zero, 'in a position to grasp my argument.
We agree that humanity is the object, the glorious triumph of
humanity; and being pledged to labour for that end, and face to
face with the banded opposition of kings, parliaments, churches,
and the members of the force, who am I--who are we, dear sir--to
affect a nicety about the tools employed? You might, perhaps,
expect us to attack the Queen, the sinister Gladstone, the rigid
Derby, or the dexterous Granville; but there you would be in error.
Our appeal is to the body of the people; it is these that we would
touch and interest. Now, sir, have you observed the English

'I should think I had,' cried Somerset.

'From a man of taste and a votary of art, I had expected it,'
returned the conspirator politely. 'A type apart; a very charming
figure; and thoroughly adapted to our ends. The neat cap, the
clean print, the comely person, the engaging manner; her position
between classes, parents in one, employers in another; the
probability that she will have at least one sweet-heart, whose
feelings we shall address: --yes, I have a leaning--call it, if you
will, a weakness--for the housemaid. Not that I would be
understood to despise the nurse. For the child is a very
interesting feature: I have long since marked out the child as the
sensitive point in society.' He wagged his head, with a wise,
pensive smile. 'And talking, sir, of children and of the perils of
our trade, let me now narrate to you a little incident of an
explosive bomb, that fell out some weeks ago under my own
observation. It fell out thus.'

And Zero, leaning back in his chair, narrated the following simple


I dined by appointment with one of our most trusted agents, in a
private chamber at St. James's Hall. You have seen the man: it
was M'Guire, the most chivalrous of creatures, but not himself
expert in our contrivances. Hence the necessity of our meeting;
for I need not remind you what enormous issues depend upon the nice
adjustment of the engine. I set our little petard for half an
hour, the scene of action being hard by; and the better to avert
miscarriage, employed a device, a recent invention of my own, by
which the opening of the Gladstone bag in which the bomb was
carried, should instantly determine the explosion. M'Guire was
somewhat dashed by this arrangement, which was new to him: and
pointed out, with excellent, clear good sense, that should he be
arrested, it would probably involve him in the fall of our
opponents. But I was not to be moved, made a strong appeal to his
patriotism, gave him a good glass of whisky, and despatched him on
his glorious errand.

Our objective was the effigy of Shakespeare in Leicester Square: a
spot, I think, admirably chosen; not only for the sake of the
dramatist, still very foolishly claimed as a glory by the English
race, in spite of his disgusting political opinions; but from the
fact that the seats in the immediate neighbourhood are often
thronged by children, errand-boys, unfortunate young ladies of the
poorer class and infirm old men--all classes making a direct appeal
to public pity, and therefore suitable with our designs. As
M'Guire drew near his heart was inflamed by the most noble
sentiment of triumph. Never had he seen the garden so crowded;
children, still stumbling in the impotence of youth, ran to and
fro, shouting and playing, round the pedestal; an old, sick
pensioner sat upon the nearest bench, a medal on his breast, a
stick with which he walked (for he was disabled by wounds)
reclining on his knee. Guilty England would thus be stabbed in the
most delicate quarters; the moment had, indeed, been well selected;
and M'Guire, with a radiant provision of the event, drew merrily
nearer. Suddenly his eye alighted on the burly form of a
policeman, standing hard by the effigy in an attitude of watch. My
bold companion paused; he looked about him closely; here and there,
at different points of the enclosure, other men stood or loitered,
affecting an abstraction, feigning to gaze upon the shrubs,
feigning to talk, feigning to be weary and to rest upon the
benches. M'Guire was no child in these affairs; he instantly
divined one of the plots of the Machiavellian Gladstone.

A chief difficulty with which we have to deal, is a certain
nervousness in the subaltern branches of the corps; as the hour of
some design draws near, these chicken-souled conspirators appear to
suffer some revulsion of intent; and frequently despatch to the
authorities, not indeed specific denunciations, but vague anonymous
warnings. But for this purely accidental circumstance, England had
long ago been an historical expression. On the receipt of such a
letter, the Government lay a trap for their adversaries, and
surround the threatened spot with hirelings. My blood sometimes
boils in my veins, when I consider the case of those who sell
themselves for money in such a cause. True, thanks to the
generosity of our supporters, we patriots receive a very
comfortable stipend; I myself, of course, touch a salary which puts
me quite beyond the reach of any peddling, mercenary thoughts;
M'Guire, again, ere he joined our ranks, was on the brink of
starving, and now, thank God! receives a decent income. That is as
it should be; the patriot must not be diverted from his task by any
base consideration; and the distinction between our position and
that of the police is too obvious to be stated.

Plainly, however, our Leicester Square design had been divulged;
the Government had craftily filled the place with minions; even the
pensioner was not improbably a hireling in disguise; and our
emissary, without other aid or protection than the simple apparatus
in his bag, found himself confronted by force; brutal force; that
strong hand which was a character of the ages of oppression.
Should he venture to deposit the machine, it was almost certain
that he would be observed and arrested; a cry would arise; and
there was just a fear that the police might not be present in
sufficient force, to protect him from the savagery of the mob. The
scheme must be delayed. He stood with his bag on his arm,
pretending to survey the front of the Alhambra, when there flashed
into his mind a thought to appal the bravest. The machine was set;
at the appointed hour, it must explode; and how, in the interval,
was he to be rid of it?

Put yourself, I beseech you, into the body of that patriot. There
he was, friendless and helpless; a man in the very flower of life,
for he is not yet forty; with long years of happiness before him;
and now condemned, in one moment, to a cruel and revolting death by
dynamite! The square, he said, went round him like a thaumatrope;
he saw the Alhambra leap into the air like a balloon; and reeled
against the railing. It is probable he fainted.

When he came to himself, a constable had him by the arm.

'My God!' he cried.

'You seem to be unwell, sir,' said the hireling.

'I feel better now,' cried poor M'Guire: and with uneven steps,
for the pavement of the square seemed to lurch and reel under his
footing, he fled from the scene of this disaster. Fled? Alas,
from what was he fleeing? Did he not carry that from which he fled
along with him? and had he the wings of the eagle, had he the
swiftness of the ocean winds, could he have been rapt into the
uttermost quarters of the earth, how should he escape the ruin that
he carried? We have heard of living men who have been fettered to
the dead; the grievance, soberly considered, is no more than
sentimental; the case is but a flea-bite to that of him who should
be linked, like poor M'Guire, to an explosive bomb.

A thought struck him in Green Street, like a dart through his
liver: suppose it were the hour already. He stopped as though he
had been shot, and plucked his watch out. There was a howling in
his ears, as loud as a winter tempest; his sight was now obscured
as if by a cloud, now, as by a lightning flash, would show him the
very dust upon the street. But so brief were these intervals of
vision, and so violently did the watch vibrate in his hands, that
it was impossible to distinguish the numbers on the dial. He
covered his eyes for a few seconds; and in that space, it seemed to
him that he had fallen to be a man of ninety. When he looked
again, the watch-plate had grown legible: he had twenty minutes.
Twenty minutes, and no plan!

Green Street, at that time, was very empty; and he now observed a
little girl of about six drawing near to him, and as she came,
kicking in front of her, as children will, a piece of wood. She
sang, too; and something in her accent recalling him to the past,
produced a sudden clearness in his mind. Here was a God-sent

'My dear,' said he, 'would you like a present of a pretty bag?'

The child cried aloud with joy and put out her hands to take it.
She had looked first at the bag, like a true child; but most
unfortunately, before she had yet received the fatal gift, her eyes
fell directly on M'Guire; and no sooner had she seen the poor
gentleman's face, than she screamed out and leaped backward, as
though she had seen the devil. Almost at the same moment a woman
appeared upon the threshold of a neighbouring shop, and called upon
the child in anger. 'Come here, colleen,' she said, 'and don't be
plaguing the poor old gentleman!' With that she re-entered the
house, and the child followed her, sobbing aloud.

With the loss of this hope M'Guire's reason swooned within him.
When next he awoke to consciousness, he was standing before St.
Martin's-in-the-Fields, wavering like a drunken man; the passers-by
regarding him with eyes in which he read, as in a glass, an image
of the terror and horror that dwelt within his own.

'I am afraid you are very ill, sir,' observed a woman, stopping and
gazing hard in his face. 'Can I do anything to help you?'

'Ill?' said M'Guire. 'O God!' And then, recovering some shadow of
his self-command, 'Chronic, madam,' said he: 'a long course of the
dumb ague. But since you are so compassionate--an errand that I
lack the strength to carry out,' he gasped--'this bag to Portman
Square. Oh, compassionate woman, as you hope to be saved, as you
are a mother, in the name of your babes that wait to welcome you at
home, oh, take this bag to Portman Square! I have a mother, too,'
he added, with a broken voice. 'Number 19, Portman Square.'

I suppose he had expressed himself with too much energy of voice;
for the woman was plainly taken with a certain fear of him. 'Poor
gentleman!' said she. 'If I were you, I would go home.' And she
left him standing there in his distress.

'Home!' thought M'Guire, 'what a derision!' What home was there
for him, the victim of philanthropy? He thought of his old mother,
of his happy youth; of the hideous, rending pang of the explosion;
of the possibility that he might not be killed, that he might be
cruelly mangled, crippled for life, condemned to lifelong pains,
blinded perhaps, and almost surely deafened. Ah, you spoke lightly
of the dynamiter's peril; but even waiving death, have you realised
what it is for a fine, brave young man of forty, to be smitten
suddenly with deafness, cut off from all the music of life, and
from the voice of friendship, and love? How little do we realise
the sufferings of others! Even your brutal Government, in the
heyday of its lust for cruelty, though it scruples not to hound the
patriot with spies, to pack the corrupt jury, to bribe the hangman,
and to erect the infamous gallows, would hesitate to inflict so
horrible a doom: not, I am well aware, from virtue, not from
philanthropy, but with the fear before it of the withering scorn of
the good.

But I wander from M'Guire. From this dread glance into the past
and future, his thoughts returned at a bound upon the present. How
had he wandered there? and how long--oh, heavens! how long had he
been about it? He pulled out his watch; and found that but three
minutes had elapsed. It seemed too bright a thing to be believed.
He glanced at the church clock; and sure enough, it marked an hour
four minutes faster than the watch.

Of all that he endured, M'Guire declares that pang was the most
desolate. Till then, he had had one friend, one counsellor, in
whom he plenarily trusted; by whose advertisement, he numbered the
minutes that remained to him of life; on whose sure testimony, he
could tell when the time was come to risk the last adventure, to
cast the bag away from him, and take to flight. And now in what
was he to place reliance? His watch was slow; it might be losing
time; if so, in what degree? What limit could he set to its
derangement? and how much was it possible for a watch to lose in
thirty minutes? Five? ten? fifteen? It might be so; already, it
seemed years since he had left St. James's Hall on this so
promising enterprise; at any moment, then, the blow was to be
looked for.

In the face of this new distress, the wild disorder of his pulses
settled down; and a broken weariness succeeded, as though he had
lived for centuries and for centuries been dead. The buildings and
the people in the street became incredibly small, and far-away, and
bright; London sounded in his ears stilly, like a whisper; and the
rattle of the cab that nearly charged him down, was like a sound
from Africa. Meanwhile, he was conscious of a strange abstraction
from himself; and heard and felt his footfalls on the ground, as
those of a very old, small, debile and tragically fortuned man,
whom he sincerely pitied.

As he was thus moving forward past the National Gallery, in a
medium, it seemed, of greater rarity and quiet than ordinary air,
there slipped into his mind the recollection of a certain entry in
Whitcomb Street hard by, where he might perhaps lay down his tragic
cargo unremarked. Thither, then, he bent his steps, seeming, as he
went, to float above the pavement; and there, in the mouth of the
entry, he found a man in a sleeved waistcoat, gravely chewing a
straw. He passed him by, and twice patrolled the entry, scouting
for the barest chance; but the man had faced about and continued to
observe him curiously.

Another hope was gone. M'Guire reissued from the entry, still
followed by the wondering eyes of the man in the sleeved waistcoat.
He once more consulted his watch: there were but fourteen minutes
left to him. At that, it seemed as if a sudden, genial heat were
spread about his brain; for a second or two, he saw the world as
red as blood; and thereafter entered into a complete possession of
himself, with an incredible cheerfulness of spirits, prompting him
to sing and chuckle as he walked. And yet this mirth seemed to
belong to things external; and within, like a black and leaden-
heavy kernel, he was conscious of the weight upon his soul.

I care for nobody, no, not I,
And nobody cares for me,

he sang, and laughed at the appropriate burthen, so that the
passengers stared upon him on the street. And still the warmth
seemed to increase and to become more genial. What was life? he
considered, and what he, M'Guire? What even Erin, our green Erin?
All seemed so incalculably little that he smiled as he looked down
upon it. He would have given years, had he possessed them, for a
glass of spirits; but time failed, and he must deny himself this
last indulgence.

At the corner of the Haymarket, he very jauntily hailed a hansom
cab; jumped in; bade the fellow drive him to a part of the
Embankment, which he named; and as soon as the vehicle was in
motion, concealed the bag as completely as he could under the
vantage of the apron, and once more drew out his watch. So he rode
for five interminable minutes, his heart in his mouth at every
jolt, scarce able to possess his terrors, yet fearing to wake the
attention of the driver by too obvious a change of plan, and
willing, if possible, to leave him time to forget the Gladstone

At length, at the head of some stairs on the Embankment, he hailed;
the cab was stopped; and he alighted--with how glad a heart! He
thrust his hand into his pocket. All was now over; he had saved
his life; nor that alone, but he had engineered a striking act of
dynamite; for what could be more pictorial, what more effective,
than the explosion of a hansom cab, as it sped rapidly along the
streets of London. He felt in one pocket; then in another. The
most crushing seizure of despair descended on his soul; and struck
into abject dumbness, he stared upon the driver. He had not one

'Hillo,' said the driver, 'don't seem well.'

'Lost my money,' said M'Guire, in tones so faint and strange that
they surprised his hearing.

The man looked through the trap. 'I dessay,' said he: 'you've
left your bag.'

M'Guire half unconsciously fetched it out; and looking on that
black continent at arm's length, withered inwardly and felt his
features sharpen as with mortal sickness.

'This is not mine,' said he. 'Your last fare must have left it.
You had better take it to the station.'

'Now look here,' returned the cabman: 'are you off your chump? or
am I?'

'Well, then, I'll tell you what,' exclaimed M'Guire; 'you take it
for your fare!'

'Oh, I dessay,' replied the driver. 'Anything else? What's IN
your bag? Open it, and let me see.'

'No, no,' returned M'Guire. 'Oh no, not that. It's a surprise;
it's prepared expressly: a surprise for honest cabmen.'

'No, you don't,' said the man, alighting from his perch, and coming
very close to the unhappy patriot. 'You're either going to pay my
fare, or get in again and drive to the office.'

It was at this supreme hour of his distress, that M'Guire spied the
stout figure of one Godall, a tobacconist of Rupert Street, drawing
near along the Embankment. The man was not unknown to him; he had
bought of his wares, and heard him quoted for the soul of
liberality; and such was now the nearness of his peril, that even
at such a straw of hope, he clutched with gratitude.

'Thank God!' he cried. 'Here comes a friend of mine. I'll
borrow.' And he dashed to meet the tradesman. 'Sir,' said he,
'Mr. Godall, I have dealt with you--you doubtless know my face--
calamities for which I cannot blame myself have overwhelmed me.
Oh, sir, for the love of innocence, for the sake of the bonds of
humanity, and as you hope for mercy at the throne of grace, lend me

'I do not recognise your face,' replied Mr. Godall; 'but I remember
the cut of your beard, which I have the misfortune to dislike.
Here, sir, is a sovereign; which I very willingly advance to you,
on the single condition that you shave your chin.'

M'Guire grasped the coin without a word; cast it to the cabman,
calling out to him to keep the change; bounded down the steps,
flung the bag far forth into the river, and fell headlong after it.
He was plucked from a watery grave, it is believed, by the hands of
Mr. Godall. Even as he was being hoisted dripping to the shore, a
dull and choked explosion shook the solid masonry of the
Embankment, and far out in the river a momentary fountain rose and


Somerset in vain strove to attach a meaning to these words. He
had, in the meanwhile, applied himself assiduously to the flagon;
the plotter began to melt in twain, and seemed to expand and hover
on his seat; and with a vague sense of nightmare, the young man
rose unsteadily to his feet, and, refusing the proffer of a third
grog, insisted that the hour was late and he must positively get to

'Dear me,' observed Zero, 'I find you very temperate. But I will
not be oppressive. Suffice it that we are now fast friends; and,
my dear landlord, au revoir!'

So saying the plotter once more shook hands; and with the politest
ceremonies, and some necessary guidance, conducted the bewildered
young gentleman to the top of the stair.

Precisely, how he got to bed, was a point on which Somerset
remained in utter darkness; but the next morning when, at a blow,
he started broad awake, there fell upon his mind a perfect
hurricane of horror and wonder. That he should have suffered
himself to be led into the semblance of intimacy with such a man as
his abominable lodger, appeared, in the cold light of day, a
mystery of human weakness. True, he was caught in a situation that
might have tested the aplomb of Talleyrand. That was perhaps a
palliation; but it was no excuse. For so wholesale a capitulation
of principle, for such a fall into criminal familiarity, no excuse
indeed was possible; nor any remedy, but to withdraw at once from
the relation.

As soon as he was dressed, he hurried upstairs, determined on a
rupture. Zero hailed him with the warmth of an old friend.

'Come in,' he cried, 'dear Mr. Somerset! Come in, sit down, and,
without ceremony, join me at my morning meal.'

'Sir,' said Somerset, 'you must permit me first to disengage my
honour. Last night, I was surprised into a certain appearance of
complicity; but once for all, let me inform you that I regard you
and your machinations with unmingled horror and disgust, and I will
leave no stone unturned to crush your vile conspiracy.'

'My dear fellow,' replied Zero, with an air of some complacency, 'I
am well accustomed to these human weaknesses. Disgust? I have
felt it myself; it speedily wears off. I think none the worse, I
think the more of you, for this engaging frankness. And in the
meanwhile, what are you to do? You find yourself, if I interpret
rightly, in very much the same situation as Charles the Second
(possibly the least degraded of your British sovereigns) when he
was taken into the confidence of the thief. To denounce me, is out
of the question; and what else can you attempt? No, dear Mr.
Somerset, your hands are tied; and you find yourself condemned,
under pain of behaving like a cad, to be that same charming and
intellectual companion who delighted me last night.'

'At least,' cried Somerset, 'I can, and do, order you to leave this

'Ah!' cried the plotter, 'but there I fail to follow you. You may,
if you please, enact the part of Judas; but if, as I suppose, you
recoil from that extremity of meanness, I am, on my side, far too
intelligent to leave these lodgings, in which I please myself
exceedingly, and from which you lack the power to drive me. No,
no, dear sir; here I am, and here I propose to stay.'

'I repeat,' cried Somerset, beside himself with a sense of his own
weakness, 'I repeat that I give you warning. I am the master of
this house; and I emphatically give you warning.'

'A week's warning?' said the imperturbable conspirator. 'Very
well: we will talk of it a week from now. That is arranged; and
in the meanwhile, I observe my breakfast growing cold. Do, dear
Mr. Somerset, since you find yourself condemned, for a week at
least, to the society of a very interesting character, display some
of that open favour, some of that interest in life's obscurer
sides, which stamp the character of the true artist. Hang me, if
you will, to-morrow; but to-day show yourself divested of the
scruples of the burgess, and sit down pleasantly to share my meal.'

'Man!' cried Somerset, 'do you understand my sentiments?'

'Certainly,' replied Zero; 'and I respect them! Would you be
outdone in such a contest? will you alone be partial? and in this
nineteenth century, cannot two gentlemen of education agree to
differ on a point of politics? Come, sir: all your hard words
have left me smiling; judge then, which of us is the philosopher!'

Somerset was a young man of a very tolerant disposition and by
nature easily amenable to sophistry. He threw up his hands with a
gesture of despair, and took the seat to which the conspirator
invited him. The meal was excellent; the host not only affable,
but primed with curious information. He seemed, indeed, like one
who had too long endured the torture of silence, to exult in the
most wholesale disclosures. The interest of what he had to tell
was great; his character, besides, developed step by step; and
Somerset, as the time fled, not only outgrew some of the discomfort
of his false position, but began to regard the conspirator with a
familiarity that verged upon contempt. In any circumstances, he
had a singular inability to leave the society in which he found
himself; company, even if distasteful, held him captive like a
limed sparrow; and on this occasion, he suffered hour to follow
hour, was easily persuaded to sit down once more to table, and did
not even attempt to withdraw till, on the approach of evening,
Zero, with many apologies, dismissed his guest. His fellow-
conspirators, the dynamiter handsomely explained, as they were
unacquainted with the sterling qualities of the young man, would be
alarmed at the sight of a strange face.

As soon as he was alone, Somerset fell back upon the humour of the
morning. He raged at the thought of his facility; he paced the
dining-room, forming the sternest resolutions for the future; he
wrung the hand which had been dishonoured by the touch of an
assassin; and among all these whirling thoughts, there flashed in
from time to time, and ever with a chill of fear, the thought of
the confounded ingredients with which the house was stored. A
powder magazine seemed a secure smoking-room alongside of the
Superfluous Mansion.

He sought refuge in flight, in locomotion, in the flowing bowl. As
long as the bars were open, he travelled from one to another,
seeking light, safety, and the companionship of human faces; when
these resources failed him, he fell back on the belated baked-
potato man; and at length, still pacing the streets, he was goaded
to fraternise with the police. Alas, with what a sense of guilt he
conversed with these guardians of the law; how gladly had he wept
upon their ample bosoms; and how the secret fluttered to his lips
and was still denied an exit! Fatigue began at last to triumph
over remorse; and about the hour of the first milkman, he returned
to the door of the mansion; looked at it with a horrid expectation,
as though it should have burst that instant into flames; drew out
his key, and when his foot already rested on the steps, once more
lost heart and fled for repose to the grisly shelter of a coffee-

It was on the stroke of noon when he awoke. Dismally searching in
his pockets, he found himself reduced to half-a-crown; and when he
had paid the price of his distasteful couch, saw himself obliged to
return to the Superfluous Mansion. He sneaked into the hall and
stole on tiptoe to the cupboard where he kept his money. Yet half
a minute, he told himself, and he would be free for days from his
obseding lodger, and might decide at leisure on the course he
should pursue. But fate had otherwise designed: there came a tap
at the door and Zero entered.

'Have I caught you?' he cried, with innocent gaiety. 'Dear fellow,
I was growing quite impatient.' And on the speaker's somewhat
stolid face, there came a glow of genuine affection. 'I am so long
unused to have a friend,' he continued, 'that I begin to be afraid
I may prove jealous.' And he wrung the hand of his landlord.

Somerset was, of all men, least fit to deal with such a greeting.
To reject these kind advances was beyond his strength. That he
could not return cordiality for cordiality, was already almost more
than he could carry. That inequality between kind sentiments
which, to generous characters, will always seem to be a sort of
guilt, oppressed him to the ground; and he stammered vague and
lying words.

'That is all right,' cried Zero--'that is as it should be--say no
more! I had a vague alarm; I feared you had deserted me; but I now
own that fear to have been unworthy, and apologise. To doubt of
your forgiveness were to repeat my sin. Come, then; dinner waits;
join me again and tell me your adventures of the night.'

Kindness still sealed the lips of Somerset; and he suffered himself
once more to be set down to table with his innocent and criminal
acquaintance. Once more, the plotter plunged up to the neck in
damaging disclosures: now it would be the name and biography of an
individual, now the address of some important centre, that rose, as
if by accident, upon his lips; and each word was like another turn
of the thumbscrew to his unhappy guest. Finally, the course of
Zero's bland monologue led him to the young lady of two days ago:
that young lady, who had flashed on Somerset for so brief a while
but with so conquering a charm; and whose engaging grace,
communicative eyes, and admirable conduct of the sweeping skirt,
remained imprinted on his memory.

'You saw her?' said Zero. 'Beautiful, is she not? She, too, is
one of ours: a true enthusiast: nervous, perhaps, in presence of
the chemicals; but in matters of intrigue, the very soul of skill
and daring. Lake, Fonblanque, de Marly, Valdevia, such are some of
the names that she employs; her true name--but there, perhaps, I go
too far. Suffice it, that it is to her I owe my present lodging,
and, dear Somerset, the pleasure of your acquaintance. It appears
she knew the house. You see dear fellow, I make no concealment:
all that you can care to hear, I tell you openly.'

'For God's sake,' cried the wretched Somerset, 'hold your tongue!
You cannot imagine how you torture me!'

A shade of serious discomposure crossed the open countenance of

'There are times,' he said, 'when I begin to fancy that you do not
like me. Why, why, dear Somerset, this lack of cordiality? I am
depressed; the touchstone of my life draws near; and if I fail'--he
gloomily nodded--'from all the height of my ambitious schemes, I
fall, dear boy, into contempt. These are grave thoughts, and you
may judge my need of your delightful company. Innocent prattler,
you relieve the weight of my concerns. And yet . . . and yet . .
.' The speaker pushed away his plate, and rose from table.
'Follow me,' said he, 'follow me. My mood is on; I must have air,
I must behold the plain of battle.'

So saying, he led the way hurriedly to the top flat of the mansion,
and thence, by ladder and trap, to a certain leaded platform,
sheltered at one end by a great stalk of chimneys and occupying the
actual summit of the roof. On both sides, it bordered, without
parapet or rail, on the incline of slates; and, northward above
all, commanded an extensive view of housetops, and rising through
the smoke, the distant spires of churches.

'Here,' cried Zero, 'you behold this field of city, rich, crowded,
laughing with the spoil of continents; but soon, how soon, to be
laid low! Some day, some night, from this coign of vantage, you
shall perhaps be startled by the detonation of the judgment gun--
not sharp and empty like the crack of cannon, but deep-mouthed and
unctuously solemn. Instantly thereafter, you shall behold the
flames break forth. Ay,' he cried, stretching forth his hand, 'ay,
that will be a day of retribution. Then shall the pallid constable
flee side by side with the detected thief. Blaze!' he cried,
'blaze, derided city! Fall, flatulent monarchy, fall like Dagon!'

With these words his foot slipped upon the lead; and but for
Somerset's quickness, he had been instantly precipitated into
space. Pale as a sheet, and limp as a pocket-handkerchief, he was
dragged from the edge of downfall by one arm; helped, or rather
carried, down the ladder; and deposited in safety on the attic
landing. Here he began to come to himself, wiped his brow, and at
length, seizing Somerset's hand in both of his, began to utter his

'This seals it,' said he. 'Ours is a life and death connection.
You have plucked me from the jaws of death; and if I were before
attracted by your character, judge now of the ardour of my
gratitude and love! But I perceive I am still greatly shaken.
Lend me, I beseech you, lend me your arm as far as my apartment.'

A dram of spirits restored the plotter to something of his
customary self-possession; and he was standing, glass in hand and
genially convalescent, when his eye was attracted by the dejection
of the unfortunate young man.

'Good heavens, dear Somerset,' he cried, 'what ails you? Let me
offer you a touch of spirits.'

But Somerset had fallen below the reach of this material comfort.

'Let me be,' he said. 'I am lost; you have caught me in the toils.
Up to this moment, I have lived all my life in the most reckless
manner, and done exactly what I pleased, with the most perfect
innocence. And now--what am I? Are you so blind and wooden that
you do not see the loathing you inspire me with? Is it possible
you can suppose me willing to continue to exist upon such terms?
To think,' he cried, 'that a young man, guilty of no fault on earth
but amiability, should find himself involved in such a damned
imbroglio!' And placing his knuckles in his eyes, Somerset rolled
upon the sofa.

'My God,' said Zero, 'is this possible? And I so filled with
tenderness and interest! Can it be, dear Somerset, that you are
under the empire of these out-worn scruples? or that you judge a
patriot by the morality of the religious tract? I thought you were
a good agnostic.'

'Mr. Jones,' said Somerset, 'it is in vain to argue. I boast
myself a total disbeliever, not only in revealed religion, but in
the data, method, and conclusions of the whole of ethics. Well!
what matters it? what signifies a form of words? I regard you as a
reptile, whom I would rejoice, whom I long, to stamp under my heel.
You would blow up others? Well then, understand: I want, with
every circumstance of infamy and agony, to blow up you!'

'Somerset, Somerset!' said Zero, turning very pale, 'this is wrong;
this is very wrong. You pain, you wound me, Somerset.'

'Give me a match!' cried Somerset wildly. 'Let me set fire to this
incomparable monster! Let me perish with him in his fall!'

'For God's sake,' cried Zero, clutching hold of the young man, 'for
God's sake command yourself! We stand upon the brink; death yawns
around us; a man--a stranger in this foreign land--one whom you
have called your friend--'

'Silence!' cried Somerset, 'you are no friend, no friend of mine.
I look on you with loathing, like a toad: my flesh creeps with
physical repulsion; my soul revolts against the sight of you.'

Zero burst into tears. 'Alas!' he sobbed, 'this snaps the last
link that bound me to humanity. My friend disowns--he insults me.
I am indeed accurst.'

Somerset stood for an instant staggered by this sudden change of
front. The next moment, with a despairing gesture, he fled from
the room and from the house. The first dash of his escape carried
him hard upon half-way to the next police-office: but presently
began to droop; and before he reached the house of lawful
intervention, he fell once more among doubtful counsels. Was he an
agnostic? had he a right to act? Away with such nonsense, and let
Zero perish! ran his thoughts. And then again: had he not
promised, had he not shaken hands and broken bread? and that with
open eyes? and if so how could he take action, and not forfeit
honour? But honour? what was honour? A figment, which, in the hot
pursuit of crime, he ought to dash aside. Ay, but crime? A
figment, too, which his enfranchised intellect discarded. All day,
he wandered in the parks, a prey to whirling thoughts; all night,
patrolled the city; and at the peep of day he sat down by the
wayside in the neighbourhood of Peckham and bitterly wept. His
gods had fallen. He who had chosen the broad, daylit, unencumbered
paths of universal scepticism, found himself still the bondslave of
honour. He who had accepted life from a point of view as lofty as
the predatory eagle's, though with no design to prey; he who had
clearly recognised the common moral basis of war, of commercial
competition, and of crime; he who was prepared to help the escaping
murderer or to embrace the impenitent thief, found, to the
overthrow of all his logic, that he objected to the use of
dynamite. The dawn crept among the sleeping villas and over the
smokeless fields of city; and still the unfortunate sceptic sobbed
over his fall from consistency.

At length, he rose and took the rising sun to witness. 'There is
no question as to fact,' he cried; 'right and wrong are but
figments and the shadow of a word; but for all that, there are
certain things that I cannot do, and there are certain others that
I will not stand.' Thereupon he decided to return to make one last
effort of persuasion, and, if he could not prevail on Zero to
desist from his infernal trade, throw delicacy to the winds, give
the plotter an hour's start, and denounce him to the police. Fast
as he went, being winged by this resolution, it was already well on
in the morning when he came in sight of the Superfluous Mansion.
Tripping down the steps, was the young lady of the various aliases;
and he was surprised to see upon her countenance the marks of anger
and concern.

'Madam,' he began, yielding to impulse and with no clear knowledge
of what he was to add.

But at the sound of his voice she seemed to experience a shock of
fear or horror; started back; lowered her veil with a sudden
movement; and fled, without turning, from the square.

Here then, we step aside a moment from following the fortunes of
Somerset, and proceed to relate the strange and romantic episode of


Mr. Harry Desborough lodged in the fine and grave old quarter of
Bloomsbury, roared about on every side by the high tides of London,
but itself rejoicing in romantic silences and city peace. It was
in Queen Square that he had pitched his tent, next door to the
Children's Hospital, on your left hand as you go north: Queen
Square, sacred to humane and liberal arts, whence homes were made
beautiful, where the poor were taught, where the sparrows were
plentiful and loud, and where groups of patient little ones would
hover all day long before the hospital, if by chance they might
kiss their hand or speak a word to their sick brother at the
window. Desborough's room was on the first floor and fronted to
the square; but he enjoyed besides, a right by which he often
profited, to sit and smoke upon a terrace at the back, which looked
down upon a fine forest of back gardens, and was in turn commanded
by the windows of an empty room.

On the afternoon of a warm day, Desborough sauntered forth upon
this terrace, somewhat out of hope and heart, for he had been now
some weeks on the vain quest of situations, and prepared for
melancholy and tobacco. Here, at least, he told himself that he
would be alone; for, like most youths, who are neither rich, nor
witty, nor successful, he rather shunned than courted the society
of other men. Even as he expressed the thought, his eye alighted
on the window of the room that looked upon the terrace; and to his
surprise and annoyance, he beheld it curtained with a silken
hanging. It was like his luck, he thought; his privacy was gone,
he could no longer brood and sigh unwatched, he could no longer
suffer his discouragement to find a vent in words or soothe himself
with sentimental whistling; and in the irritation of the moment, he
struck his pipe upon the rail with unnecessary force. It was an
old, sweet, seasoned briar-root, glossy and dark with long
employment, and justly dear to his fancy. What, then, was his
chagrin, when the head snapped from the stem, leaped airily in
space, and fell and disappeared among the lilacs of the garden?

He threw himself savagely into the garden chair, pulled out the
story-paper which he had brought with him to read, tore off a
fragment of the last sheet, which contains only the answers to
correspondents, and set himself to roll a cigarette. He was no
master of the art; again and again, the paper broke between his
fingers and the tobacco showered upon the ground; and he was
already on the point of angry resignation, when the window swung
slowly inward, the silken curtain was thrust aside, and a lady,
somewhat strangely attired, stepped forth upon the terrace.

'Senorito,' said she, and there was a rich thrill in her voice,
like an organ note, 'Senorito, you are in difficulties. Suffer me
to come to your assistance.'

With the words, she took the paper and tobacco from his unresisting
hands; and with a facility that, in Desborough's eyes, seemed
magical, rolled and presented him a cigarette. He took it, still
seated, still without a word; staring with all his eyes upon that
apparition. Her face was warm and rich in colour; in shape, it was
that piquant triangle, so innocently sly, so saucily attractive, so
rare in our more northern climates; her eyes were large, starry,
and visited by changing lights; her hair was partly covered by a
lace mantilla, through which her arms, bare to the shoulder,
gleamed white; her figure, full and soft in all the womanly
contours, was yet alive and active, light with excess of life, and
slender by grace of some divine proportion.

'You do not like my cigarrito, Senor?' she asked. 'Yet it is
better made than yours.' At that she laughed, and her laughter
trilled in his ear like music; but the next moment her face fell.
'I see,' she cried. 'It is my manner that repels you. I am too
constrained, too cold. I am not,' she added, with a more engaging
air, 'I am not the simple English maiden I appear.'

'Oh!' murmured Harry, filled with inexpressible thoughts.

'In my own dear land,' she pursued, 'things are differently
ordered. There, I must own, a girl is bound by many and rigorous
restrictions; little is permitted her; she learns to be distant,
she learns to appear forbidding. But here, in free England--oh,
glorious liberty!' she cried, and threw up her arms with a gesture
of inimitable grace--'here there are no fetters; here the woman may
dare to be herself entirely, and the men, the chivalrous men--is it
not written on the very shield of your nation, honi soit? Ah, it
is hard for me to learn, hard for me to dare to be myself. You
must not judge me yet awhile; I shall end by conquering this
stiffness, I shall end by growing English. Do I speak the language

'Perfectly--oh, perfectly!' said Harry, with a fervency of
conviction worthy of a graver subject.

'Ah, then,' she said, 'I shall soon learn; English blood ran in my
father's veins; and I have had the advantage of some training in
your expressive tongue. If I speak already without accent, with my
thorough English appearance, there is nothing left to change except
my manners.'

'Oh no,' said Desborough. 'Oh pray not! I--madam--'

'I am,' interrupted the lady, 'the Senorita Teresa Valdevia. The
evening air grows chill. Adios, Senorito.' And before Harry could
stammer out a word, she had disappeared into her room.

He stood transfixed, the cigarette still unlighted in his hand.
His thoughts had soared above tobacco, and still recalled and
beautified the image of his new acquaintance. Her voice re-echoed
in his memory; her eyes, of which he could not tell the colour,
haunted his soul. The clouds had risen at her coming, and he
beheld a new-created world. What she was, he could not fancy, but
he adored her. Her age, he durst not estimate; fearing to find her
older than himself, and thinking sacrilege to couple that fair
favour with the thought of mortal changes. As for her character,
beauty to the young is always good. So the poor lad lingered late
upon the terrace, stealing timid glances at the curtained window,
sighing to the gold laburnums, rapt into the country of romance;
and when at length he entered and sat down to dine, on cold boiled
mutton and a pint of ale, he feasted on the food of gods.

Next day when he returned to the terrace, the window was a little
ajar, and he enjoyed a view of the lady's shoulder, as she sat
patiently sewing and all unconscious of his presence. On the next,
he had scarce appeared when the window opened, and the Senorita
tripped forth into the sunlight, in a morning disorder, delicately
neat, and yet somehow foreign, tropical, and strange. In one hand
she held a packet.

'Will you try,' she said, 'some of my father's tobacco--from dear
Cuba? There, as I suppose you know, all smoke, ladies as well as
gentlemen. So you need not fear to annoy me. The fragrance will
remind me of home. My home, Senor, was by the sea.' And as she
uttered these few words, Desborough, for the first time in his
life, realised the poetry of the great deep. 'Awake or asleep, I
dream of it: dear home, dear Cuba!'

'But some day,' said Desborough, with an inward pang, 'some day you
will return?'

' Never!' she cried; 'ah, never, in Heaven's name!'

'Are you then resident for life in England?' he inquired, with a
strange lightening of spirit.

'You ask too much, for you ask more than I know,' she answered
sadly; and then, resuming her gaiety of manner: 'But you have not
tried my Cuban tobacco,' she said.

'Senorita,' said he, shyly abashed by some shadow of coquetry in
her manner, 'whatever comes to me--you--I mean,' he concluded,
deeply flushing, 'that I have no doubt the tobacco is delightful.'

'Ah, Senor,' she said, with almost mournful gravity, 'you seemed so
simple and good, and already you are trying to pay compliments--and
besides,' she added, brightening, with a quick upward glance, into
a smile, 'you do it so badly! English gentlemen, I used to hear,
could be fast friends, respectful, honest friends; could be
companions, comforters, if the need arose, or champions, and yet
never encroach. Do not seek to please me by copying the graces of
my countrymen. Be yourself: the frank, kindly, honest English
gentleman that I have heard of since my childhood and still longed
to meet.'

Harry, much bewildered, and far from clear as to the manners of the
Cuban gentlemen, strenuously disclaimed the thought of plagiarism.

'Your national seriousness of bearing best becomes you, Senor,'
said the lady. 'See!' marking a line with her dainty, slippered
foot, 'thus far it shall be common ground; there, at my window-
sill, begins the scientific frontier. If you choose, you may drive
me to my forts; but if, on the other hand, we are to be real
English friends, I may join you here when I am not too sad; or,
when I am yet more graciously inclined, you may draw your chair
beside the window and teach me English customs, while I work. You
will find me an apt scholar, for my heart is in the task.' She
laid her hand lightly upon Harry's arm, and looked into his eyes.
'Do you know,' said she, 'I am emboldened to believe that I have
already caught something of your English aplomb? Do you not
perceive a change, Senor? Slight, perhaps, but still a change? Is
my deportment not more open, more free, more like that of the dear
"British Miss" than when you saw me first?' She gave a radiant
smile; withdrew her hand from Harry's arm; and before the young man
could formulate in words the eloquent emotions that ran riot
through his brain--with an 'Adios, Senor: good-night, my English
friend,' she vanished from his sight behind the curtain.

The next day Harry consumed an ounce of tobacco in vain upon the
neutral terrace; neither sight nor sound rewarded him, and the
dinner-hour summoned him at length from the scene of
disappointment. On the next it rained; but nothing, neither
business nor weather, neither prospective poverty nor present
hardship, could now divert the young man from the service of his
lady; and wrapt in a long ulster, with the collar raised, he took
his stand against the balustrade, awaiting fortune, the picture of
damp and discomfort to the eye, but glowing inwardly with tender
and delightful ardours. Presently the window opened, and the fair
Cuban, with a smile imperfectly dissembled, appeared upon the sill.

'Come here,' she said, 'here, beside my window. The small verandah
gives a belt of shelter.' And she graciously handed him a folding-

As he sat down, visibly aglow with shyness and delight, a certain
bulkiness in his pocket reminded him that he was not come empty-

'I have taken the liberty,' said he, 'of bringing you a little
book. I thought of you, when I observed it on the stall, because I
saw it was in Spanish. The man assured me it was by one of the
best authors, and quite proper.' As he spoke, he placed the little
volume in her hand. Her eyes fell as she turned the pages, and a
flush rose and died again upon her cheeks, as deep as it was
fleeting. 'You are angry,' he cried in agony. 'I have presumed.'

'No, Senor, it is not that,' returned the lady. 'I--' and a flood
of colour once more mounted to her brow--'I am confused and ashamed
because I have deceived you. Spanish,' she began, and paused--
'Spanish is, of course, my native tongue,' she resumed, as though
suddenly taking courage; 'and this should certainly put the highest
value on your thoughtful present; but alas, sir, of what use is it
to me? And how shall I confess to you the truth--the humiliating
truth--that I cannot read?'

As Harry's eyes met hers in undisguised amazement, the fair Cuban
seemed to shrink before his gaze. 'Read?' repeated Harry. 'You!'

She pushed the window still more widely open with a large and noble
gesture. 'Enter, Senor,' said she. 'The time has come to which I
have long looked forward, not without alarm; when I must either
fear to lose your friendship, or tell you without disguise the
story of my life.'

It was with a sentiment bordering on devotion, that Harry passed
the window. A semi-barbarous delight in form and colour had
presided over the studied disorder of the room in which he found
himself. It was filled with dainty stuffs, furs and rugs and
scarves of brilliant hues, and set with elegant and curious
trifles-fans on the mantelshelf, an antique lamp upon a bracket,
and on the table a silver-mounted bowl of cocoa-nut about half full
of unset jewels. The fair Cuban, herself a gem of colour and the
fit masterpiece for that rich frame, motioned Harry to a seat, and
sinking herself into another, thus began her history.


I am not what I seem. My father drew his descent, on the one hand,
from grandees of Spain, and on the other, through the maternal
line, from the patriot Bruce. My mother, too, was the descendant
of a line of kings; but, alas! these kings were African. She was
fair as the day: fairer than I, for I inherited a darker strain of
blood from the veins of my European father; her mind was noble, her
manners queenly and accomplished; and seeing her more than the
equal of her neighbours, and surrounded by the most considerate
affection and respect, I grew up to adore her, and when the time
came, received her last sigh upon my lips, still ignorant that she
was a slave, and alas! my father's mistress. Her death, which
befell me in my sixteenth year, was the first sorrow I had known:
it left our home bereaved of its attractions, cast a shade of
melancholy on my youth, and wrought in my father a tragic and
durable change. Months went by; with the elasticity of my years, I
regained some of the simple mirth that had before distinguished me;
the plantation smiled with fresh crops; the negroes on the estate
had already forgotten my mother and transferred their simple
obedience to myself; but still the cloud only darkened on the brows
of Senor Valdevia. His absences from home had been frequent even
in the old days, for he did business in precious gems in the city
of Havana; they now became almost continuous; and when he returned,
it was but for the night and with the manner of a man crushed down
by adverse fortune.

The place where I was born and passed my days was an isle set in
the Caribbean Sea, some half-hour's rowing from the coasts of Cuba.
It was steep, rugged, and, except for my father's family and
plantation, uninhabited and left to nature. The house, a low
building surrounded by spacious verandahs, stood upon a rise of
ground and looked across the sea to Cuba. The breezes blew about
it gratefully, fanned us as we lay swinging in our silken hammocks,
and tossed the boughs and flowers of the magnolia. Behind and to
the left, the quarter of the negroes and the waving fields of the
plantation covered an eighth part of the surface of the isle. On
the right and closely bordering on the garden, lay a vast and
deadly swamp, densely covered with wood, breathing fever, dotted
with profound sloughs, and inhabited by poisonous oysters, man-
eating crabs, snakes, alligators, and sickly fishes. Into the
recesses of that jungle, none could penetrate but those of African
descent; an invisible, unconquerable foe lay there in wait for the
European; and the air was death.

One morning (from which I must date the beginning of my ruinous
misfortune) I left my room a little after day, for in that warm
climate all are early risers, and found not a servant to attend
upon my wants. I made the circuit of the house, still calling:
and my surprise had almost changed into alarm, when coming at last
into a large verandahed court, I found it thronged with negroes.
Even then, even when I was amongst them, not one turned or paid the
least regard to my arrival. They had eyes and ears for but one
person: a woman, richly and tastefully attired; of elegant
carriage, and a musical speech; not so much old in years, as worn
and marred by self-indulgence: her face, which was still
attractive, stamped with the most cruel passions, her eye burning
with the greed of evil. It was not from her appearance, I believe,
but from some emanation of her soul, that I recoiled in a kind of
fainting terror; as we hear of plants that blight and snakes that
fascinate, the woman shocked and daunted me. But I was of a brave
nature; trod the weakness down; and forcing my way through the
slaves, who fell back before me in embarrassment, as though in the
presence of rival mistresses, I asked, in imperious tones: 'Who is
this person?'

A slave girl, to whom I had been kind, whispered in my ear to have
a care, for that was Madam Mendizabal; but the name was new to me.

In the meanwhile the woman, applying a pair of glasses to her eyes,
studied me with insolent particularity from head to foot.

'Young woman,' said she, at last, 'I have had a great experience in
refractory servants, and take a pride in breaking them. You really
tempt me; and if I had not other affairs, and these of more
importance, on my hand, I should certainly buy you at your father's

'Madam--' I began, but my voice failed me.

'Is it possible that you do not know your position?' she returned,
with a hateful laugh. 'How comical! Positively, I must buy her.
Accomplishments, I suppose?' she added, turning to the servants.

Several assured her that the young mistress had been brought up
like any lady, for so it seemed in their inexperience.

'She would do very well for my place of business in Havana,' said
the Senora Mendizabal, once more studying me through her glasses;
'and I should take a pleasure,' she pursued, more directly
addressing myself, 'in bringing you acquainted with a whip.' And
she smiled at me with a savoury lust of cruelty upon her face.

At this, I found expression. Calling by name upon the servants, I
bade them turn this woman from the house, fetch her to the boat,
and set her back upon the mainland. But with one voice, they
protested that they durst not obey, coming close about me, pleading
and beseeching me to be more wise; and, when I insisted, rising
higher in passion and speaking of this foul intruder in the terms
she had deserved, they fell back from me as from one who had
blasphemed. A superstitious reverence plainly encircled the
stranger; I could read it in their changed demeanour, and in the
paleness that prevailed upon the natural colour of their faces; and
their fear perhaps reacted on myself. I looked again at Madam
Mendizabal. She stood perfectly composed, watching my face through
her glasses with a smile of scorn; and at the sight of her assured
superiority to all my threats, a cry broke from my lips, a cry of
rage, fear, and despair, and I fled from the verandah and the

I ran I knew not where, but it was towards the beach. As I went,
my head whirled; so strange, so sudden, were these events and
insults. Who was she? what, in Heaven's name, the power she
wielded over my obedient negroes? Why had she addressed me as a
slave? why spoken of my father's sale? To all these tumultuary
questions I could find no answer; and in the turmoil of my mind,
nothing was plain except the hateful leering image of the woman.

I was still running, mad with fear and anger, when I saw my father
coming to meet me from the landing-place; and with a cry that I
thought would have killed me, leaped into his arms and broke into a
passion of sobs and tears upon his bosom. He made me sit down
below a tall palmetto that grew not far off; comforted me, but with
some abstraction in his voice; and as soon as I regained the least
command upon my feelings, asked me, not without harshness, what
this grief betokened. I was surprised by his tone into a still
greater measure of composure; and in firm tones, though still
interrupted by sobs, I told him there was a stranger in the island,
at which I thought he started and turned pale; that the servants
would not obey me; that the stranger's name was Madam Mendizabal,
and, at that, he seemed to me both troubled and relieved; that she
had insulted me, treated me as a slave (and here my father's brow
began to darken), threatened to buy me at a sale, and questioned my
own servants before my face; and that, at last, finding myself
quite helpless and exposed to these intolerable liberties, I had
fled from the house in terror, indignation, and amazement.

'Teresa,' said my father, with singular gravity of voice, 'I must
make to-day a call upon your courage; much must be told you, there
is much that you must do to help me; and my daughter must prove
herself a woman by her spirit. As for this Mendizabal, what shall
I say? or how am I to tell you what she is? Twenty years ago, she
was the loveliest of slaves; to-day she is what you see her--
prematurely old, disgraced by the practice of every vice and every
nefarious industry, but free, rich, married, they say, to some
reputable man, whom may Heaven assist! and exercising among her
ancient mates, the slaves of Cuba, an influence as unbounded as its
reason is mysterious. Horrible rites, it is supposed, cement her
empire: the rites of Hoodoo. Be that as it may, I would have you
dismiss the thought of this incomparable witch; it is not from her
that danger threatens us; and into her hands, I make bold to
promise, you shall never fall.'

'Father!' I cried. 'Fall? Was there any truth, then, in her
words? Am I--O father, tell me plain; I can bear anything but this

'I will tell you,' he replied, with merciful bluntness. 'Your
mother was a slave; it was my design, so soon as I had saved a
competence, to sail to the free land of Britain, where the law
would suffer me to marry her: a design too long procrastinated;
for death, at the last moment, intervened. You will now understand
the heaviness with which your mother's memory hangs about my neck.'

I cried out aloud, in pity for my parents; and in seeking to
console the survivor, I forgot myself.

'It matters not,' resumed my father. 'What I have left undone can
never be repaired, and I must bear the penalty of my remorse. But,
Teresa, with so cutting a reminder of the evils of delay, I set
myself at once to do what was still possible: to liberate

I began to break forth in thanks, but he checked me with a sombre

'Your mother's illness,' he resumed, 'had engaged too great a
portion of my time; my business in the city had lain too long at
the mercy of ignorant underlings; my head, my taste, my unequalled
knowledge of the more precious stones, that art by which I can
distinguish, even on the darkest night, a sapphire from a ruby, and
tell at a glance in what quarter of the earth a gem was
disinterred--all these had been too long absent from the conduct of
affairs. Teresa, I was insolvent.'

'What matters that?' I cried. 'What matters poverty, if we be left
together with our love and sacred memories?'

'You do not comprehend,' he said gloomily. 'Slave, as you are,
young--alas! scarce more than child!--accomplished, beautiful with
the most touching beauty, innocent as an angel--all these qualities
that should disarm the very wolves and crocodiles, are, in the eyes
of those to whom I stand indebted, commodities to buy and sell.
You are a chattel; a marketable thing; and worth--heavens, that I
should say such words!--worth money. Do you begin to see? If I
were to give you freedom, I should defraud my creditors; the
manumission would be certainly annulled; you would be still a
slave, and I a criminal.'

I caught his hand in mine, kissed it, and moaned in pity for
myself, in sympathy for my father.

'How I have toiled,' he continued, 'how I have dared and striven to
repair my losses, Heaven has beheld and will remember. Its
blessing was denied to my endeavours, or, as I please myself by
thinking, but delayed to descend upon my daughter's head. At
length, all hope was at an end; I was ruined beyond retrieve; a
heavy debt fell due upon the morrow, which I could not meet; I
should be declared a bankrupt, and my goods, my lands, my jewels
that I so much loved, my slaves whom I have spoiled and rendered
happy, and oh! tenfold worse, you, my beloved daughter, would be
sold and pass into the hands of ignorant and greedy traffickers.
Too long, I saw, had I accepted and profited by this great crime of
slavery; but was my daughter, my innocent unsullied daughter, was
SHE to pay the price? I cried out--no!--I took Heaven to witness
my temptation; I caught up this bag and fled. Close upon my track
are the pursuers; perhaps to-night, perhaps to-morrow, they will
land upon this isle, sacred to the memory of the dear soul that
bore you, to consign your father to an ignominious prison, and
yourself to slavery and dishonour. We have not many hours before
us. Off the north coast of our isle, by strange good fortune, an
English yacht has for some days been hovering. It belongs to Sir
George Greville, whom I slightly know, to whom ere now I have
rendered unusual services, and who will not refuse to help in our
escape. Or if he did, if his gratitude were in default, I have the
power to force him. For what does it mean, my child--what means
this Englishman, who hangs for years upon the shores of Cuba, and
returns from every trip with new and valuable gems?'

'He may have found a mine,' I hazarded.

'So he declares,' returned my father; 'but the strange gift I have
received from nature, easily transpierced the fable. He brought me
diamonds only, which I bought, at first, in innocence; at a second
glance, I started; for of these stones, my child, some had first
seen the day in Africa, some in Brazil; while others, from their
peculiar water and rude workmanship, I divined to be the spoil of
ancient temples. Thus put upon the scent, I made inquiries. Oh,
he is cunning, but I was cunninger than he. He visited, I found,
the shop of every jeweller in town; to one he came with rubies, to
one with emeralds, to one with precious beryl; to all, with this
same story of the mine. But in what mine, what rich epitome of the
earth's surface, were there conjoined the rubies of Ispahan, the
pearls of Coromandel, and the diamonds of Golconda? No, child,
that man, for all his yacht and title, that man must fear and must
obey me. To-night, then, as soon as it is dark, we must take our
way through the swamp by the path which I shall presently show you;
thence, across the highlands of the isle, a track is blazed, which
shall conduct us to the haven on the north; and close by the yacht
is riding. Should my pursuers come before the hour at which I look
to see them, they will still arrive too late; a trusty man attends
on the mainland; as soon as they appear, we shall behold, if it be
dark, the redness of a fire, if it be day, a pillar of smoke, on
the opposing headland; and thus warned, we shall have time to put
the swamp between ourselves and danger. Meantime, I would conceal
this bag; I would, before all things, be seen to arrive at the
house with empty hands; a blabbing slave might else undo us. For
see!' he added; and holding up the bag, which he had already shown
me, he poured into my lap a shower of unmounted jewels, brighter
than flowers, of every size and colour, and catching, as they fell,
upon a million dainty facets, the ardour of the sun.

I could not restrain a cry of admiration.

'Even in your ignorant eyes,' pursued my father, 'they command
respect. Yet what are they but pebbles, passive to the tool, cold
as death? Ingrate!' he cried. 'Each one of these--miracles of
nature's patience, conceived out of the dust in centuries of
microscopical activity, each one is, for you and me, a year of
life, liberty, and mutual affection. How, then, should I cherish
them! and why do I delay to place them beyond reach! Teresa,
follow me.'

He rose to his feet, and led me to the borders of the great jungle,
where they overhung, in a wall of poisonous and dusky foliage, the
declivity of the hill on which my father's house stood planted.
For some while he skirted, with attentive eyes, the margin of the
thicket. Then, seeming to recognise some mark, for his countenance
became immediately lightened of a load of thought, he paused and
addressed me. 'Here,' said he, 'is the entrance of the secret path
that I have mentioned, and here you shall await me. I but pass
some hundreds of yards into the swamp to bury my poor treasure; as
soon as that is safe, I will return.' It was in vain that I sought
to dissuade him, urging the dangers of the place; in vain that I
begged to be allowed to follow, pleading the black blood that I now
knew to circulate in my veins: to all my appeals he turned a deaf
ear, and, bending back a portion of the screen of bushes,
disappeared into the pestilential silence of the swamp.

At the end of a full hour, the bushes were once more thrust aside;
and my father stepped from out the thicket, and paused and almost
staggered in the first shock of the blinding sunlight. His face
was of a singular dusky red; and yet for all the heat of the
tropical noon, he did not seem to sweat.

'You are tired,' I cried, springing to meet him. 'You are ill.'

'I am tired,' he replied; 'the air in that jungle stifles one; my
eyes, besides, have grown accustomed to its gloom, and the strong
sunshine pierces them like knives. A moment, Teresa, give me but a
moment. All shall yet be well. I have buried the hoard under a
cypress, immediately beyond the bayou, on the left-hand margin of
the path; beautiful, bright things, they now lie whelmed in slime;
you shall find them there, if needful. But come, let us to the
house; it is time to eat against our journey of the night: to eat
and then to sleep, my poor Teresa: then to sleep.' And he looked
upon me out of bloodshot eyes, shaking his head as if in pity.

We went hurriedly, for he kept murmuring that he had been gone too
long, and that the servants might suspect; passed through the airy
stretch of the verandah; and came at length into the grateful
twilight of the shuttered house. The meal was spread; the house
servants, already informed by the boatmen of the master's return,
were all back at their posts, and terrified, as I could see, to
face me. My father still murmuring of haste with weary and
feverish pertinacity, I hurried at once to take my place at table;
but I had no sooner left his arm than he paused and thrust forth
both his hands with a strange gesture of groping. 'How is this?'
he cried, in a sharp, unhuman voice. 'Am I blind?' I ran to him
and tried to lead him to the table; but he resisted and stood
stiffly where he was, opening and shutting his jaws, as if in a
painful effort after breath. Then suddenly he raised both hands to
his temples, cried out, 'My head, my head!' and reeled and fell
against the wall.

I knew too well what it must be. I turned and begged the servants
to relieve him. But they, with one accord, denied the possibility
of hope; the master had gone into the swamp, they said, the master
must die; all help was idle. Why should I dwell upon his
sufferings? I had him carried to a bed, and watched beside him.
He lay still, and at times ground his teeth, and talked at times
unintelligibly, only that one word of hurry, hurry, coming
distinctly to my ears, and telling me that, even in the last
struggle with the powers of death, his mind was still tortured by
his daughter's peril. The sun had gone down, the darkness had
fallen, when I perceived that I was alone on this unhappy earth.
What thought had I of flight, of safety, of the impending dangers
of my situation? Beside the body of my last friend, I had
forgotten all except the natural pangs of my bereavement.

The sun was some four hours above the eastern line, when I was
recalled to a knowledge of the things of earth, by the entrance of
the slave-girl to whom I have already referred. The poor soul was
indeed devotedly attached to me; and it was with streaming tears
that she broke to me the import of her coming. With the first
light of dawn a boat had reached our landing-place, and set on
shore upon our isle (till now so fortunate) a party of officers
bearing a warrant to arrest my father's person, and a man of a
gross body and low manners, who declared the island, the
plantation, and all its human chattels, to be now his own. 'I
think,' said my slave-girl, 'he must be a politician or some very
powerful sorcerer; for Madam Mendizabal had no sooner seen them
coming, than she took to the woods.'

'Fool,' said I, 'it was the officers she feared; and at any rate
why does that beldam still dare to pollute the island with her
presence? And O Cora,' I exclaimed, remembering my grief, 'what
matter all these troubles to an orphan?'

'Mistress,' said she, 'I must remind you of two things. Never
speak as you do now of Madam Mendizabal; or never to a person of
colour; for she is the most powerful woman in this world, and her
real name even, if one durst pronounce it, were a spell to raise
the dead. And whatever you do, speak no more of her to your
unhappy Cora; for though it is possible she may be afraid of the
police (and indeed I think that I have heard she is in hiding), and
though I know that you will laugh and not believe, yet it is true,
and proved, and known that she hears every word that people utter
in this whole vast world; and your poor Cora is already deep enough
in her black books. She looks at me, mistress, till my blood turns
ice. That is the first I had to say; and now for the second: do,
pray, for Heaven's sake, bear in mind that you are no longer the
poor Senor's daughter. He is gone, dear gentleman; and now you are
no more than a common slave-girl like myself. The man to whom you
belong calls for you; oh, my dear mistress, go at once! With your
youth and beauty, you may still, if you are winning and obedient,
secure yourself an easy life.'

For a moment I looked on the creature with the indignation you may
conceive; the next, it was gone: she did but speak after her kind,
as the bird sings or cattle bellow. 'Go,' said I. 'Go, Cora. I
thank you for your kind intentions. Leave me alone one moment with
my dead father; and tell this man that I will come at once.'

She went: and I, turning to the bed of death, addressed to those
deaf ears the last appeal and defence of my beleaguered innocence.
'Father,' I said, 'it was your last thought, even in the pangs of
dissolution, that your daughter should escape disgrace. Here, at
your side, I swear to you that purpose shall be carried out; by
what means, I know not; by crime, if need be; and Heaven forgive
both you and me and our oppressors, and Heaven help my
helplessness!' Thereupon I felt strengthened as by long repose;
stepped to the mirror, ay, even in that chamber of the dead;
hastily arranged my hair, refreshed my tear-worn eyes, breathed a
dumb farewell to the originator of my days and sorrows; and
composing my features to a smile, went forth to meet my master.

He was in a great, hot bustle, reviewing that house, once ours, to
which he had but now succeeded; a corpulent, sanguine man of middle
age, sensual, vulgar, humorous, and, if I judged rightly, not ill-
disposed by nature. But the sparkle that came into his eye as he
observed me enter, warned me to expect the worst.

'Is this your late mistress?' he inquired of the slaves; and when
he had learnt it was so, instantly dismissed them. 'Now, my dear,'
said he, 'I am a plain man: none of your damned Spaniards, but a
true blue, hard-working, honest Englishman. My name is Caulder.'

'Thank you, sir,' said I, and curtsied very smartly as I had seen
the servants.

'Come,' said he, 'this is better than I had expected; and if you
choose to be dutiful in the station to which it has pleased God to
call you, you will find me a very kind old fellow. I like your
looks,' he added, calling me by my name, which he scandalously
mispronounced. 'Is your hair all your own?' he then inquired with
a certain sharpness, and coming up to me, as though I were a horse,
he grossly satisfied his doubts. I was all one flame from head to
foot, but I contained my righteous anger and submitted. 'That is
very well,' he continued, chucking me good humouredly under the
chin. 'You will have no cause to regret coming to old Caulder, eh?
But that is by the way. What is more to the point is this: your
late master was a most dishonest rogue, and levanted with some
valuable property that belonged of rights to me. Now, considering
your relation to him, I regard you as the likeliest person to know
what has become of it; and I warn you, before you answer, that my
whole future kindness will depend upon your honesty. I am an
honest man myself, and expect the same in my servants.'

'Do you mean the jewels?' said I, sinking my voice into a whisper.

'That is just precisely what I do,' said he, and chuckled.

'Hush!' said I.

'Hush?' he repeated. 'And why hush? I am on my own place, I would
have you to know, and surrounded by my own lawful servants.'

'Are the officers gone?' I asked; and oh! how my hopes hung upon
the answer!

'They are,' said he, looking somewhat disconcerted. 'Why do you

'I wish you had kept them,' I answered, solemnly enough, although
my heart at that same moment leaped with exultation. 'Master, I
must not conceal from you the truth. The servants on this estate
are in a dangerous condition, and mutiny has long been brewing.'

'Why,' he cried, 'I never saw a milder-looking lot of niggers in my
life.' But for all that he turned somewhat pale.

'Did they tell you,' I continued, 'that Madam Mendizabal is on the
island? that, since her coming, they obey none but her? that if,
this morning, they have received you with even decent civility, it
was only by her orders--issued with what after-thought I leave you
to consider?'

'Madam Jezebel?' said he. 'Well, she is a dangerous devil; the
police are after her, besides, for a whole series of murders; but
after all, what then? To be sure, she has a great influence with
you coloured folk. But what in fortune's name can be her errand

'The jewels,' I replied. 'Ah, sir, had you seen that treasure,

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