Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Market-Place by Harold Frederic

Part 4 out of 8

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.8 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

"Ah"--he half-groaned. "I only wish I knew what was
the right way to talk to you. The real thing is that I
see you're unhappy--and that gets on my nerve--and I
should like to ask you if there wasn't something I could
do--and ask it in such a way that you'd have to admit
there was--and I don't know enough to do it."

He had a wan smile for thanks. "But of course there
is nothing," she replied, gently.

"Oh, there must be!" he insisted. He had no longer any
clear notions as to where his tongue might not lead him.
"There must be! You said I might talk to you as I would
to Julia

"Did I?"

"Well, I'm going to, anyway," he went on stoutly,
ignoring the note of definite dissent in her interruption.
"You ARE unhappy! You spoke about being a chaperone.
Well now, to speak plainly, if it isn't entirely pleasant
for you with Miss Madden--why wouldn't you be a chaperone
for Julia? I must be going to London very soon--but
she can stay here, or go to Egypt, or wherever she
likes--and of course you would do everything, and have
everything--whatever you liked, too."

"The conversation is getting upon rather impossible grounds,
I'm afraid," she said, and then bit her lips together.
Halting, she frowned a little in the effort of considering
her further words, but there was nothing severe in the
glance which she lifted to him as she began to speak.
"Let us walk on. I must tell you that you misconceive
the situation entirely. Nobody could possibly be kinder
or more considerate than Miss Madden. Of course she
is American--or rather Irish-American, and I'm English,
and our notions and ways are not always alike. But that has
nothing to do with it. And it is not so much that she
has many thousands a year, and I only a few hundreds.
That in itself would signify nothing--and if I must take
help from somebody I would rather take it from Celia Madden
than anybody else I know--but this is the point, Mr. Thorpe.
I do not eat the bread of dependence gracefully. I pull wry
faces over it, and I don't try very much to disguise them.
That is my fault. Yes--oh yes, I know it is a fault--but
I am as I am. And if Miss Madden doesn't mind--why"--she
concluded with a mirthless, uncertain laugh--"why on earth
should you?"

"Ah, why should I?" he echoed, reflectively. "I should
like desperately to tell you why. Sometime I will tell you."

They walked on in silence for a brief space. Then she
put out her hand for her wrap, and as she paused,
he spread it over her shoulders.

"I am amazed to think what we have been saying to each other,"
she said, buttoning the fur as they moved on again.
"I am vexed with myself."

"And more still with me," he suggested.

"No-o--but I ought to be. You've made me talk the most
shocking rubbish."

"There we disagree again, you know. Everything you've
said's been perfect. What you're thinking of now is
that I'm not an old enough friend to have been allowed
to hear it. But if I'm not as old a friend as some,
I wish I could make you feel that I'm as solid a friend
as any--as solid and as staunch and as true. I wish I
could hear you say you believed that."

"But you talk of 'friends,'" she said, in a tone not at
all responsive--"what is meant by 'friends'? We've chanced
to meet twice--and once we barely exchanged civilities,
and this time we've been hotel acquaintances--hardly more,
is it?--and you and your young people have been very
polite to me--and I in a silly moment have talked to you
more about my affairs than I should--I suppose it was
because you mentioned my father. But 'friends' is rather
a big word for that, isn't it?"

Thorpe pouted for a dubious moment. "I can think
of a bigger word still," he said, daringly. "It's been
on the tip of my tongue more than once."

She quickened her pace. The air had grown perceptibly colder.
The distant mountains, visible ever and again through
the bare branches, were of a dark and cheerless blue,
and sharply defined against the sky. It was not yet
the sunset hour, and there were no mists, but the
light of day seemed to be going out of the heavens.
He hurried on beside her in depressed silence.

Their companions were hidden from view in a convolution
of the winding road, but they were so near that their
voices could be heard as they talked. Frequently the
sound of laughter came backward from them.

"They're jolly enough down there," he commented at last, moodily.

"That's a good reason for our joining them, isn't it?"
Her tone was at once casual and pointed.

"But I don't want to join them!" he protested. "Why don't
you stay with me--and talk?" "But you bully me so,"
she offered in explanation.

The phrase caught his attention. Could it be that it
expressed her real feeling? She had said, he recalled,
that he had made her talk. Her complaint was like
an admission that he could overpower her will.
If that were true--then he had resources of masterfulness
still in reserve sufficient to win any victory.

"No--not bully you," he said slowly, as if objecting to the word
rather than the idea. "That wouldn't be possible to me.
But you don't know me well enough to understand me.
I am the kind of man who gets the things he wants.
Let me tell you something: When I was at Hadlow, I had
never shot a pheasant in my life. I used to do tolerably
well with a rifle, but I hardly knew anything about a
shot-gun, and I don't suppose I'd ever killed more than
two or three birds on the wing--and that was ages ago.
But I took the notion that I would shoot better than anybody
else there. I made up my mind to it--and I simply did it,
that's all. I don't know if you remember--but I killed
a good deal more than both the others put together.
I give you that as an example. I wanted you to think
that I was a crack shot--and so I made myself be a
crack shot."

"That is very interesting," she murmured. They did
not seem to be walking quite so fast.

"Don't think I want to brag about myself," he went on.
"I don't fancy myself--in that way. I'm not specially
proud of doing things--it's the things themselves
that I care for. If some men had made a great fortune,
they would be conceited about it. Well, I'm not.
What I'm keen about is the way to use that fortune so
that I will get the most out of it--the most happiness,
I mean. The thing to do is to make up your mind carefully
what it is that you want, and to put all your power and
resolution into getting it--and the rest is easy enough.
I don't think there's anything beyond a strong man's reach,
if he only believes enough in himself."

"But aren't you confusing two things?" she queried.
The subject apparently interested her. "To win one's
objects by sheer personal force is one thing. To merely
secure them because one's purse is longer than other
people's--that's quite another matter."

He smiled grimly at her. "Well, I'll combine the two,"
he said.

"Then I suppose you will be altogether irresistible,"
she said, lightly. "There will be no pheasants left for
other people at all."

"I don't mind being chaffed," he told her, with gravity.
"So long as you're good-natured, you can make game
of me all you like. But I'm in earnest, all the same.
I'm not going to play the fool with my money and my power.
I have great projects. Sometime I'll tell you about them.
They will all be put through--every one of them. And you
wouldn't object to talking them over with me--would you?"

"My opinion on 'projects' is of no earthly value--to
myself or anyone else."

"But still you'd give me your advice if I asked it?"
he persisted. "Especially if it was a project in which you
were concerned?"

After a moment's constrained silence she said to him,
"You must have no projects, Mr. Thorpe, in which I
am concerned. This talk is all very wide of the mark.
You are not entitled to speak as if I were mixed up with
your affairs. There is nothing whatever to warrant it."

"But how can you help being in my projects if I put you there,
and keep you there?" he asked her, with gleeful boldness.
"And just ask yourself whether you do really want
to help it. Why should you? You've seen enough of me
to know that I can be a good friend. And I'm the kind
of friend who amounts to something--who can and will
do things for those he likes. What obligation are you
under to turn away that kind of a friend, when he offers
himself to you? Put that question plainly to yourself."

"But you are not in a position to nominate the questions
that I am to put to myself," she said. The effort to
import decision into her tone and manner was apparent.
"That is what I desire you to understand. We must not talk
any more about me. I am not the topic of conversation."

"But first let me finish what I wanted to say," he insisted.
"My talk won't break any bones. You'd be wrong not
to listen to it--because it's meant to help you--to
be of use to you. This is the thing, Lady Cressage:
You're in a particularly hard and unpleasant position.
Like my friend Plowden"--he watched her face narrowly
but in vain, in the dull light, for any change at mention
of the name--"like my friend Plowden you have a position
and title to keep up, and next to nothing to keep it
up on. But he can go down into the City and make
money--or try to. He can accept Directorships and tips
about the market and so on, from men who are disposed
to be good to him, and who see how he can be of use to
them--and in that way he can do something for himself.
But there is the difference: you can't do these things,
or you think you can't, which is the same thing.
You're all fenced in; you're surrounded by notice-boards,
telling you that you mustn't walk this way or look that way;
that you mustn't say this thing or do the other.
Now your friend down ahead there--Miss Madden--she doesn't
take much stock in notice-boards. In fact, she feeds
the gulls, simply because she's forbidden to do it.
But you--you don't feed any gulls, and yet you're annoyed
with yourself that you don't. Isn't that the case? Haven't
I read you right?"

She seemed to have submitted to his choice of a topic.
There was no touch of expostulation in the voice with
which she answered him. "I see what you think you mean,"
she said.

"Think!" he responded, with self-confident emphasis.
"I'm not 'thinking.' I'm reading an open book. As I say,
you're not contented--you're not happy; you don't try
to pretend that you are. But all the same, though you
hate it, you accept it. You think that you really must
obey your notice-boards. Now what I tell you you ought
to do is to take a different view. Why should you put up
all this barbed wire between yourself and your friends? It
doesn't do anybody else any good--and it does you harm.
Why, for example, should Plowden be free to take things
from me, and you not?"

She glanced at him, with a cold half-smile in her eye.
"Unfortunately I was not asked to join your Board."

He pressed his lips tightly together, and regarded her
meditatively as he turned these words over in his mind.
"What I'm doing for Plowden," he said with slow vagueness
meanwhile, "it isn't so much because he's on the Board.
He's of no special use to me there. But he was nice to me
at a time when that meant everything in the world to me--and
I don't forget things of that sort. Besides, I like
him--and it pleases me to let him in for a share of my
good fortune. See? It's my way of enjoying myself.
Well now, I like you too, and why shouldn't I be allowed
to let you in also for a share of that good fortune?
You think there's a difference, but I tell you it's
imaginary--pure moonshine. Why, the very people whose
opinion you're afraid of--what did they do themselves
when the South African craze was on? I'm told that the
scum of the earth had only to own some Chartered shares,
and pretend to be 'in the know' about them--and they
could dine with as many duchesses as they liked.
I knew one or two of the men who were in that deal--I
wouldn't have them in my house--but it seems there
wasn't any other house they couldn't go to in London."

"Oh yes, there were many houses," she interposed.
"It wasn't a nice exhibition that society made of itself--
one admits that,--but it was only one set that quite lost
their heads. There are all kinds of sets, you know.
And--I don't think I see your application, in any event.
The craze, as you call it, was all on a business basis.
People ran after those who could tell them which shares were
going up, and they gambled in those shares. That was all,
wasn't it?"

Still looking intently at her, he dismissed her query
with a little shake of the head. "'On a business basis,'"
he repeated, as if talking to himself. "They like to have
things 'on a business basis.'"

He halted, with a hand held out over her arm, and she
paused as well, in a reluctant, tentative way. "I don't
understand you," she remarked, blankly.

"Let me put it in this way," he began, knitting his brows,
and marshalling the thoughts and phrases with which
his mind had been busy. "This is the question.
You were saying that you weren't asked to join my Board.
You explained in that way how I could do things for Plowden,
and couldn't do them for you. Oh, I know it was a joke--but
it had its meaning--at least to me. Now I want to ask
you--if I decide to form another Company, a very small
and particular Company--if I should decide to form it,
I say--could I come to you and ask you to join THAT Board?
Of course I could ask--but what I mean is--well, I guess
you know what I mean."

The metaphor had seemed to him a most ingenious and
satisfactory vehicle for his purpose, and it had broken
down under him amid evidences of confusion which he could
not account for. All at once his sense of physical
ascendancy had melted away--disappeared. He looked at Lady
Cressage for an instant, and knew there was something
shuffling and nerveless in the way his glance then shifted
to the dim mountain chain beyond. His heart fluttered
surprisingly inside his breast, during the silence which ensued.

"Surely you must have said everything now that you
wished to say," she observed at last. She had been
studying intently the trodden snow at her feet, and did
not even now look up. The constraint of her manner,
and a certain pleading hesitation in her words,
began at once to restore his self-command. "Do not
talk of it any further, I beg of you," she went on.
"We--we have been lagging behind unconscionably.
If you wish to please me, let us hurry forward now.
And please!--no more talk at all!"

"But just a word--you're not angry?"

She shook her head very slightly.

"And you do know that I'm your friend--your solid,
twenty-four-carat friend?"

After a moment's pause, she made answer, almost in a
whisper--"Yes--be my friend--if it amuses you,"--and
led the way with precipitate steps down the winding road.


TWO days later, Thorpe and his young people took an early
morning train for Geneva--homeward bound.

It was entirely easy to accept their uncle's declaration
that urgent business summoned him to London, yet Julia
and Alfred, when they chanced to exchange glances after
the announcement, read in each other's eyes the formless
impression that there were other things beside business.
Their uncle, they realized, must be concerned in large
and probably venturesome enterprises; but it did not fit
with their conception of his character that commercial
anxieties should possess the power to upset him.
And upset he undeniably was.

They traced his disturbance, in a general way, to the
morning following the excursion up to Glion and Caux.
He told them then that he had slept very badly, and that
they must "count him out" of their plans for the day.
He continued to be counted out of what remained of
their stay at Territet. He professed not to be ill,
but he was restless and preoccupied. He ate little,
but smoked continuously, and drank spirits a good deal,
which they had not seen him do before. Nothing would induce
him to go out either day.

Strangely enough, this disturbance of their uncle's
equanimity synchronized with an apparent change in the
attitude of their new friends on the floor below.
This change was, indeed, more apparent than definable.
The ladies were, to the nicest scrutiny, as kindly
and affable as ever, but the sense of comradeship
had somehow vanished. Insensibly, the two parties
had ceased to have impulses and tastes in common.
There were no more trips together--no more fortuitous
luncheons or formal dinners as a group.

The young people looked up at the front of the big hotel
on this morning of departure, after they had clambered
over the drifts into the snow-bedecked train, and opened
the window of their compartment. They made sure that
they could identify the windows of Miss Madden's suite,
and that the curtains were drawn aside--but there was no
other token of occupancy discernible. They had said good-bye
to the two ladies the previous evening, of course--it
lingered in their minds as a rather perfunctory ceremony--but
this had not prevented their hoping for another farewell
glimpse of their friends. No one came to wave a hand
from the balcony, however, and the youngsters looked
somewhat dubiously at each other as the train moved.
Then intuitively they glanced toward their uncle--and
perceived that he had his hat pulled over his eyes,
and was staring with a kind of moody scowl at the lake opposite.

"Fortunately, it is a clear day," said Julia. "We shall
see Mont Blanc."

Her voice seemed to have a hollow and unnatural sound
in her own ears. Neither her uncle nor her brother
answered her.

At breakfast, meanwhile, in the apartment toward which
the young people had turned their farewell gaze in vain,
Miss Madden sipped her coffee thoughtfully while she read
a letter spread upon the table beside her.

"It's as they said," she observed. "You are not allowed
to drive in the mountains with your own horses and carriage.
That seems rather quaint for a model Republic--doesn't it?"

"I daresay they're quite right," Lady Cressage
replied, listlessly. "It's in the interest of safety.
People who do not know the mountains would simply go and
get killed in avalanches and hurricanes--and all that.
I suppose that is what the Government wishes to prevent."

"And you're on the side of the Government," said the other,
with a twinkle in her brown eyes. "Truly now--you hated
the whole idea of driving over the Simplon."

Lady Cressage lifted her brows in whimsical assent
as she nodded.

"But do you like this Russian plan any better?"
demanded Celia. "I wish for once you would be absolutely
candid and open with me--and let me know to the uttermost
just what you think." "'For once'?" queried the other.
Her tone was placid enough, but she allowed the significance
of the quotation to be marked.

"Oh, I never wholly know what you're thinking,"
Miss Madden declared. She put on a smile to alleviate the
force of her remarks. "It is not you alone--Edith. Don't
think that! But it is ingrained in your country-women.
You can't help it. It's in your blood to keep things back.
I've met numbers of English ladies who, I'm ready
to believe, would be incapable of telling an untruth.
But I've never met one of whom I could be sure that she
would tell me the whole truth. Don't you see this case
in point," she pursued, with a little laugh, "I could
not drag it out of you that you disliked the Simplon idea,
so long as there was a chance of our going. Immediately we
find that we can't go, you admit that you hated it."

"But you wanted to go," objected Lady Cressage, quietly.
"That was the important thing. What I wanted or did
not want had nothing to do with the matter."

Celia's face clouded momentarily. "Those are not the
kind of things I like to hear you say," she exclaimed,
with a certain vigour. "They put everything in quite
a false light. I am every whit as anxious that you should
be pleased as that I should. You know that well enough.
I've said it a thousand times--and have I ever done
anything to disprove it? But I never can find out what
you do want--what really will please you! You never
will propose anything; you never will be entirely frank
about the things I propose. It's only by watching
you out of the corner of my eye that I can ever guess
whether anything is altogether to your liking or not."

The discussion seemed to be following lines familiar
to them both. "That is only another way of saying
what you discovered long ago," said Lady Cressage,
passively--"that I am deficient in the enthusiasms.
But originally you were of the opinion that you had
enthusiasms enough for two, and that my lack of them would
redress the balance, so to speak. I thought it was a very
logical opinion then, and, from my own point of view,
I think so now. But if it does not work in practice,
at least the responsibility of defending it is not mine."

"Delightful!" cried Celia, smiling gayly as she put
down her cup again. "You are the only woman I've ever
known who was worth arguing with. The mere operation
makes me feel as if I were going through Oxford--or
passing the final Jesuit examinations. Heaven knows,
I would get up arguments with you every day, for the pure
enjoyment of the thing--if I weren't eternally afraid
of saying something that would hurt your feelings,
and then you wouldn't tell me, but would nurse the wound
in silence in the dark, and I should know that something
was wrong, and have to watch you for weeks to make
out what it was--and it would all be too unhappy.
But it comes back, you see, to what I said before.
You don't tell me things!"

Edith smiled in turn, affectionately enough, but with a
wistful reserve. "It is a constitutional defect--even national,
according to you. How shall I hope to change, at this
late day? But what is it you want me to tell you?--I forget."

"The Russian thing. To go to Vienna, where we get
our passports, and then to Cracow, and through to Kief,
which they say is awfully well worth while--and next
Moscow--and so on to St. Petersburg, in time to see
the ice break up. It is only in winter that you see
the characteristic Russia: that one has always heard.
With the furs and the sledges, and the three horses
galloping over the snow--it seems to me it must be the
best thing in Europe--if you can call Russia Europe.
That's the way it presents itself to me--but then I was
brought up in a half-Arctic climate, and I love that sort
of thing--in its proper season. It is different with you.
In England you don't know what a real winter is.
And so I have to make quite sure that you think you would
like the Russian experiment."

The other laughed gently. "But if I don't know what a
real winter is, how can I tell whether I will like it
or not? All I do know is that I am perfectly willing to go
and find out. Oh yes--truly--I should like very much to go."

Miss Madden sighed briefly. "All right," she said,
but with a notable absence of conviction in her tone.

A space of silence ensued, as she opened and glanced through
another note, the envelope of which had borne no postmark.
She pouted her lips over the contents of this missive,
and raised her eyebrows in token of surprise, but as she
laid it down she looked with a frank smile at her companion.

"It's from our young friend," she explained, genially--
"the painter-boy--Mr. D'Aubigny. It is to remind me
of a promise he says I made--that when I came to London
he should paint my portrait. I don't think I promised
anything of the kind--but I suppose that is a detail.
It's all my unfortunate hair. They must have gone
by this time--they were to go very early, weren't they?"

Lady Cressage glanced at the clock. "It was 8:40,
I think--fully half an hour ago," she answered,
with a painstaking effect of indifference.

"Curious conglomeration"--mused the other. "The boy and
girl are so civilized, and their uncle is so rudimentary.
I'm afraid they are spoiling him just as the missionaries
spoil the noble savage. They ought to go away and leave
him alone. As a barbarian he was rather effective--but
they will whitewash him and gild him and make a tame
monstrosity of him. But I suppose it's inevitable.
Having made his fortune, it is the rule that he must set
up as a gentleman. We do it more simply in America.
One generation makes the fortune, and leaves it to
the next generation to put on the frills. My father,
for example, never altered in the slightest degree the
habits he formed when he was a poor workman. To the day
of his death, blessed old man, he remained what he had
always been--simple, pious, modest, hard-working, kindly,
and thrifty--a model peasant. Nothing ever tempted him a
hair's-breadth out of the path he had been bred to walk in.
But such nobility of mind and temper with it all! He never
dreamed of suggesting that I should walk in the same path.
From my earliest childhood I cannot remember his ever
putting a limitation upon me that wasn't entirely sensible
and generous. I must have been an extremely trying daughter,
but he never said so; he never looked or acted as if he
thought so.--But I never stop when I begin talking of
my father."

"It's always very sweet to me to hear you talk of him,"
Lady Cressage put in. "One knows so few people who feel
that way about their fathers!"

Celia nodded gravely, as if in benevolent comment upon
something that had been left unsaid. The sight of the
young artist's note recalled her earlier subject.
"Of course there is a certain difference," she went on,
carelessly,--"this Mr. Thorpe is not at all a peasant,
as the phrase goes. He strikes one, sometimes, as having
been educated."

"Oh, he was at a public school, Lord Plowden tells me,"
said the other, with interest. "And his people were
booksellers--somewhere in London--so that he got a good
smattering of literature and all that. He certainly has
more right to set up as a gentleman than nine out of ten
of the nouveaux riches one sees flaunting about nowadays.
And he can talk very well indeed--in a direct, practical sort
of way. I don't quite follow you about his niece and
nephew spoiling him. Of course one can see that they
have had a great effect upon him. He sees it himself--and
he's very proud of it. He told me so, quite frankly.
But why shouldn't it be a nice effect?"

"Oh, I don't know," Celia replied, idly. "It seemed to me
that he was the kind of piratical buccaneer who oughtn't
to be shaved and polished and taught drawing-room tricks--I
feel that merely in the interest of the fitness of things.
Have you looked into his eyes--I mean when they've got
that lack-lustre expression? You can see a hundred
thousand dead men in them."

"I know the look you mean," said Lady Cressage,
in a low voice.

"Not that I assume he is going to kill anybody,"
pursued Miss Madden, with ostensible indifference, but fixing
a glance of aroused attention upon her companion's face,
"or that he has any criminal intentions whatever. He behaves
very civilly indeed, and apparently his niece and nephew
idolize him. He seems to be the soul of kindness to them.
It may be that I'm altogether wrong about him--only I
know I had the instinct of alarm when I caught that sort
of dull glaze in his eye. I met an African explorer
a year ago, or so, about whose expeditions dark stories
were told, and he had precisely that kind of eye.
Perhaps it was this that put it into my head--but I have
a feeling that this Thorpe is an exceptional sort of man,
who would have the capacity in him for terrible things,
if the necessity arose for them."

"I see what you mean," the other repeated. She toyed
with the bread-crumbs about her plate, and reflectively
watched their manipulation into squares and triangles
as she went on. "But may that not be merely the visible
sign of an exceptionally strong and masterful character?
And isn't it, after all, the result of circumstances
whether such a character makes, as you put it, a hundred
thousand dead men, or enriches a hundred thousand lives
instead? We agree, let us say, that this Mr. Thorpe
impresses us both as a powerful sort of personality.
The question arises, How will he use his power? On that point,
we look for evidence. You see a dull glaze in his eye,
and you draw hostile conclusions from it. I reply that it
may mean no more than that he is sleepy. But, on the
other hand, I bring proofs that are actively in his favour.
He is, as you say, idolized by the only two members of his
family that we have seen--persons, moreover, who have been
brought up in ways different to his own, and who would
not start, therefore, with prejudices in his favour.
Beyond that, I know of two cases in which he has behaved,
or rather undertaken to behave, with really lavish
generosity--and in neither case was there any claim upon
him of a substantial nature. He seems to me, in fact,
quite too much disposed to share his fortune with Tom,
Dick, and Harry--anybody who excites his sympathy or gets
into his affections." Having said this much, Lady Cressage
swept the crumbs aside and looked up. "So now," she added,
with a flushed smile, "since you love arguments so much,
how do you answer that?"

Celia smiled back. "Oh, I don't answer it at all," she said,
and her voice carried a kind of quizzical implication.
"Your proofs overwhelm me. I know nothing of him--and you
know so much!"

Lady Cressage regarded her companion with a novel
earnestness and directness of gaze. "I had a long,
long talk with him--the afternoon we came down from Glion."

Miss Madden rose, and going to the mantel lighted a cigarette.
She did not return to the table, but after a brief pause
came and took an easy-chair beside her friend, who turned
to face her. "My dear Edith," she said, with gravity,
"I think you want to tell me about that talk--and so I
beg you to do so. But if I'm mistaken--why then I beg
you to do nothing of the kind."

The other threw out her hands with a gesture of
wearied impatience, and then clasped them upon her knee.
"I seem not to know what I want! What is the good
of talking about it? What is the good of anything?"

"Now--now!" Celia's assumption of a monitor's tone
had reference, apparently, to something understood
between the two, for Lady Cressage deferred to it,
and even summoned the ghost of a smile.

"There is really nothing to tell, "she faltered, hesitatingly--"
that is, nothing happened. I don't know how to say it--the
talk left my mind in a whirl. I couldn't tell you why.
It was no particular thing that was said--it seemed to be
more the things that I thought of while something else was
being talked about--but the whole experience made a most
tremendous impression upon me. I've tried to straighten
it out in my own mind, but I can make nothing of it.
That is what disturbs me, Celia. No man has ever confused me
in this silly fashion before. Nothing could be more idiotic.
I'm supposed to hold my own in conversation with people
of--well, with people of a certain intellectual rank,--but
this man, who is of hardly any intellectual rank at all,
and who rambled on without any special aim that one
could see--he reduced my brain to a sort of porridge.
I said the most extraordinary things to him--babbling
rubbish which a school-girl would be ashamed of.
How is that to be accounted for? I try to reason it out,
but I can't. Can you?"

"Nerves," said Miss Madden, judicially.

"Oh, that is meaningless," the other declared.
"Anybody can say 'nerves.' Of course, all human thought
and action is 'nerves.'"

"But yours is a special case of nerves," Celia pursued,
with gentle imperturbability. "I think I can make my meaning
clear to you--though the parallel isn't precisely an elegant one.
The finest thoroughbred dog in the world, if it is beaten
viciously and cowed in its youth, will always have a latent
taint of nervousness, apprehension, timidity--call it
what you like. Well, it seems to me there's something
like that in your case, Edith. They hurt you too cruelly,
poor girl. I won't say it broke your nerve--but it made
a flaw in it. Just as a soldier's old wound aches when
there's a storm in the air--so your old hurt distracts
and upsets you under certain psychological conditions.
It's a rather clumsy explanation, but I think it does explain."

"Perhaps--I don't know," Edith replied, in a tone
of melancholy reverie. "It makes a very poor creature
out of me, whatever it is."

"I rather lose patience, Edith," her companion
admonished her, gravely. "Nobody has a right
to be so deficient in courage as you allow yourself to be."

"But I'm not a coward," the other protested.
"I could be as brave as anybody--as brave as you are--if
a chance were given me. But of what use is bravery
against a wall twenty feet high? I can't get over it.
I only wound and cripple myself by trying to tear it down,
or break through it.--Oh yes, I know what you say! You say
there is no wall--that it is all an illusion of mine.
But unfortunately I'm unable to take that view.
I've battered myself against it too long--too sorely, Celia!"

Celia shrugged her shoulders in comment. "Oh, we women
all have our walls--our limitations--if it comes to that,"
she said, with a kind of compassionate impatience in her tone.
"We are all ridiculous together--from the point of view
of human liberty. The free woman is a fraud--a myth.
She is as empty an abstraction as the 'Liberty, Equality,
Fraternity' that the French put on their public buildings.
I used to have the most wonderful visions of what independence
would mean. I thought that when I was absolutely my
own master, with my money and my courage and my free mind,
I would do things to astonish all mankind. But really
the most I achieve is the occasional mild surprise of a
German waiter. Even that palls on one after a time.
And if you were independent, Edith--if you had any amount
of money--what difference do you think it would make to you?
What could you do that you don't do, or couldn't do, now?"

"Ah, now"--said the other, looking up with a thin
smile--"now is an interval--an oasis."

Miss Madden's large, handsome, clear-hued face,
habitually serene in its expression, lost something in
composure as she regarded her companion. "I don't know
why you should say that," she observed, gently enough,
but with an effect of reproof in her tone. "I have
never put limits to the connection, in my own mind--and
it hadn't occurred to me that you were doing so in yours."

"But I'm not," interposed Lady Cressage.

"Then I understand you less than ever. Why do you
talk about an 'interval'? What was the other word?--
'oasis'--as if this were a brief halt for refreshments and
a breathing-spell, and that presently you must wander forth
into the desert again. That suggestion is none of mine.
We agreed that we would live together--'pool our issues,'
as they say in America. I wanted a companion; so did you.
I have never for an instant regretted the arrangement.
Some of my own shortcomings in the matter I have regretted.
You were the most beautiful young woman I had ever seen,
and you were talented, and you seemed to like me--and I
promised myself that I would add cheerfulness and a gay spirit
to your other gifts--and in that I have failed wofully.
You're not happy. I see that only too clearly."

"I know--I'm a weariness and a bore to you," broke in
the other, despondingly.

"That is precisely what you're not," Celia went on.
"We mustn't use words of that sort. They don't describe
anything in our life at all. But I should be better
pleased with myself if I could really put my finger
on what it is that is worrying you. Even if we decided
to break up our establishment, I have told you that you
should not go back to what you regard as poverty.
Upon that score, I had hoped that your mind was easy.
As I say, I think you attach more importance to money
than those who have tested its powers would agree to--but
that's neither here nor there. You did not get on well on
600 pounds a year--and that is enough. You shall never
have less than twice that amount, whether we keep together
or not--and if it ought to be three times the amount,
that doesn't matter.

"You don't seem to realize, Edith"--she spoke with
increased animation--"that you are my caprice. You are
the possession that I am proudest of and fondest of.
There is nothing else that appeals to me a hundredth
part as much as you do. Since I became independent,
the one real satisfaction I have had is in being able
to do things for you--to have you with me, and make
you share in the best that the world can offer.
And if with it all you remain unhappy, why then you see
I don't know what to do."

"Oh, I know--I behave very badly!" Lady Cressage had risen,
and with visible agitation began now to pace the room.
"I deserve to be thrown into the lake--I know it
well enough! But Celia--truly--I'm as incapable
of understanding it as you are. It must be that I am
possessed by devils--like the people in the New Testament.
Perhaps someone will come along who can cast them out.
I don't seem able to do it myself. I can't rule myself
at all. It needs a strength I haven't got!"

"Ah!" said Celia, thoughtfully. The excited sentences
which Edith threw over her shoulder as she walked appeared,
upon examination, to contain a suggestion.

"My dear child, "she asked abruptly, after a moment's silence,
"do you want to marry?"

Lady Cressage paused at the mantel, and exchanged
a long steadfast glance with her friend. Then she
came slowly forward. "Ah, that is what I don't know,"
she answered. Apparently the reply was candid.

Miss Madden pursed her lips, and frowned a little
in thought. Then, at some passing reflection,
she smiled in a puzzled fashion. At last she also rose,
and went to the mantel for another cigarette. "Now I
am going to talk plainly," she said, with decision.
"Since the subject is mentioned, less harm will be done
by speaking out than by keeping still. There is a debate
in your mind on the matter, isn't there?"

The other lady, tall, slender, gently ruminative once more,
stood at the window and with bowed head looked down at
the lake. "Yes--I suppose it might be called that,"
she replied, in a low voice.

"And you hesitate to tell me about it? You would
rather not?" Celia, after an instant's pause, went on
without waiting for an answer. "I beg that you won't
assume my hostility to the idea, Edith. In fact,
I'm not sure I don't think it would be the best thing
for you to do. Marriage, a home, children--these are great
things to a woman. We can say that she pays the price
of bondage for them--but to know what that signifies,
we must ask what her freedom has been worth to her."

"Yes," interposed the other, from the window. "What have
I done with my freedom that has been worth while?"

"Not much," murmured Celia, under her breath.
She moved forward, and stood beside Edith, with an arm
round her waist. They looked together at the lake.

"It is Lord Plowden, is it not?" asked the American,
as the silence grew constrained.

Lady Cressage looked up alertly, and then hesitated over
her reply. "No," she said at last. Upon reflection,
and with a dim smile flickering in her side-long glance
at Celia, she added, "He wants to marry you, you know."

"Leave that out of consideration," said Celia, composedly.
"He has never said so. I think it was more his mother's
idea than his, if it existed at all. Of course I am
not marrying him, or anybody else. But I saw at Hadlow
that you and he were--what shall I say?--old friends."

"He must marry money," the other replied. In an unexpected
burst of candour she went on: "He would have asked me to
marry him if I had had money. There is no harm in telling
you that. It was quite understood--oh, two years ago.
And I think I wished I had the money--then."

"And you don't wish it now?"

A slight shake of Edith's small, shapely head served
for answer. After a little, she spoke in a musing tone:
"He is going to have money of his own, very soon, but I
don't think it would attract me now. I like him personally,
of course, but--there is no career, no ambition, no future."

"A Viscount has future enough behind him," observed Celia.

"It doesn't attract me," the other repeated, vaguely.
"He is handsome, and clever, and kind and all that--but he
would never appeal to any of the great emotions--nor be
capable of them himself He is too smooth, too well-balanced,
too much the gentleman. That expresses it badly--but
do you see what I mean?"

Celia turned, and studied the beautiful profile beside her,
in a steady, comprehending look.

"Yes, I think I see what you mean," she said,
with significance in her tone.

Lady Cressage flushed, and released herself from her
companion's arm. "But I don't know myself what I mean!"
she exclaimed, despairingly, as she moved away. "I don't
know!--I don't know!"


ON the last day of February, Mrs. Dabney was surprised
if not exhilarated by a visit from her two children
in the little book-shop.

"It's the last day in the world that I should have
thought you'd 'a' come out on," she told them,
in salutation--and for comment they all glanced along
the dark narrow alley of shelves to the street window.
A gloomy spectacle it was indeed, with a cold rain
slanting through the discredited remnants of a fog,
which the east wind had broken up, but could not drive away,
and with only now and again a passer-by moving across
the dim vista, masked beneath an umbrella, or bent forward
with chin buried in turned-up collar. In the doorway
outside the sulky boy stamped his feet and slapped his
sides with his arms in pantomimic mutiny against the task
of guarding the book-stalls' dripping covers, which nobody
would be mad enough to pause over, much less to lift.

"I don't know but I'd ought to let the boy bring in the books
and go home," she said, as their vague gaze was attracted
by his gestures. "But it isn't three yet--it seems ridiculous
to close up. Still, if you'd be more comfortable upstairs"

"Why, mamma! The idea of making strangers of us,
"protested Julia. She strove to make her tone cheerful,
but its effect of rebuke was unmistakable.

The mother, leaning against the tall desk, looked blankly
at her daughter. The pallid flicker of the gas-jet
overhead made her long, listless face seem more devoid
of colour than ever.

"But you are as good as strangers, aren't you?"
she observed, coldly. "You've been back in town ten days
and more, and I've scarcely laid eyes upon either of you.
But don't you want to sit down? You can put those parcels
on the floor anywhere. Or shall I do it for you?"

Alfred had been lounging in the shadowed corner against
a heap of old magazines tied in bundles. He sprang
up now and cleared the chair, but his sister declined
it with a gesture. Her small figure had straightened
itself into a kind of haughty rigidity.

"There has been so much to do, mamma," she explained,
in a clear, cool voice. "We have had hundreds of things
to buy and to arrange about. All the responsibility for the
housekeeping rests upon me--and Alfred has his studio to do.
But of course we should have looked in upon you sooner--and
much oftener--if we had thought you wanted us. But really,
when we came to you, the very day after our return,
it was impossible for us to pretend that you were glad
to see us."

"Oh, I was glad enough," Mrs. Dabney made answer,
mechanically. "Why shouldn't I be glad? And why should
you think I wasn't glad? Did you expect me to shout and dance?"

"But you said you wouldn't come to see us in Ovington Square,"
Alfred reminded her.

"That's different," she declared. "What would I be doing
in Ovington Square? It's all right for you to be there.
I hope you'll be happy there. But it wouldn't add anything
to your happiness to have me there; it would be quite
the other way about. I know that, if you DON'T. This is
my place, here, and I intend to stick to it!"

Julia's bright eyes, scanning the apathetic, stubborn
maternal countenance, hardened beyond their wont.
"You talk as if there had been some class war declared,
"she said, with obvious annoyance. "You know that Uncle
Stormont would like nothing better than to be as nice
to you as he is to us."

"Uncle Stormont!" Mrs. Dabney's repetition of the words
was surcharged with hostile sarcasm. "But his name
was Stormont as much as it was Joel, "broke in Alfred,
from his dark corner. "He has a perfect right to use
the one he likes best."

"Oh, I don't dispute his right," she replied,
once more in her passionless monotone. "Everybody can
call themselves whatever they please. It's no affair
of mine. You and your sister spell your father's
name in a way to suit yourselves: I never interfered,
did I? You have your own ideas and your own tastes.
They are quite beyond me--but they're all right for you.
I don't criticize them at all. What I say is that it
is a great mercy your uncle came along, with his pockets
full of money to enable you to make the most of them.
If I were religious I should call that providential."

"And that's what we DO call it," put in Julia, with vivacity.
"And why should you shut your doors against this Providence,
mamma? Just think of it! We don't insist upon your coming
to live at Ovington Square at all. Probably, as you say,
you would be happier by yourself--at least for the present.
But when Uncle St--when uncle says there's more than
enough money for us all, and is only too anxious for you
to let him do things for you--why, he's your own brother!
It's as if I should refuse to allow Alfred to do things
for me."

"That you never did," interposed the young man, gayly.
"I'll say that for you, Jule."

"And never will," she assured him, with cheerful decision.
"But no--mamma--can't you see what we mean? We have done
what you wanted us to do. You sent us both to much
better schools than you could afford, from the time
we were of no age at all--and when uncle's money came
you sent us to Cheltenham. We did you no discredit.
We worked very well; we behaved ourselves properly.
We came back to you at last with fair reason to suppose
that you would be--I won't say proud, but at least well
satisfied with us--and then it turned out that you didn't
like us at all."

"I never said anything of the sort," the mother declared,
with a touch of animation.

"Oh no--you never said it," Julia admitted, "but what else
can we think you mean? Our uncle sends for us to go
abroad with him, and you busy yourself getting me ready,
and having new frocks made and all that--and I never hear
a suggestion that you don't want me to go----"

"But I did want you to go," Mrs. Dabney affirmed.

"Well, then, when I come back--when we come back,
and tell you what splendid and generous plans uncle has
made for us, and how he has taken a beautiful furnished
house and made it our home, and so on,--why, you won't
even come and look at the house!"

"But I don't want to see it," the mother retorted; obstinately.

"Well, then, you needn't!" said Alfred, rising.
"Nobody will ask you again." "Oh yes they will,"
urged Julia, glancing meaningly from one to the other.
All her life, as it seemed, she had been accustomed to mediate
between these two unpliable and stubborn temperaments.
From her earliest childhood she had understood, somehow,
that there was a Dabney habit of mind, which was by
comparison soft and if not yielding, then politic:
and set over against it there was a Thorpe temper full
of gnarled and twisted hardnesses, and tenacious as death.
In the days of her grandfather Thorpe, whom she remembered
with an alarmed distinctness, there had existed a kind
of tacit idea that his name alone accounted for and
justified the most persistent and stormy bad temper.
That old man with the scowling brows bullied everybody,
suspected everybody, apparently disliked everybody,
vehemently demanded his own will of everybody--and it was
all to be explained, seemingly, by the fact that he was a Thorpe.

After his disappearance from the scene--unlamented, to the best
of Julia's juvenile perceptions--there had been relatively
peaceful times in the book-shop and the home overhead,
yet there had existed always a recognized line of demarcation
running through the household. Julia and her father--a small,
hollow-chested, round-shouldered young man, with a pale,
anxious face and ingratiating manner, who had entered
the shop as an assistant, and remained as a son-in-law,
and was now the thinnest of unsubstantial memories--Julia
and this father had stood upon one side of this impalpable
line as Dabneys, otherwise as meek and tractable persons,
who would not expect to have their own way.

Alfred and his mother were Thorpes--that is to say,
people who necessarily had their own way. Their domination
was stained by none of the excesses which had rendered the
grandfather intolerable. Their surface temper was in truth
almost sluggishly pacific. Underneath, however, ugly currents
and sharp rocks were well known to have a potential
existence--and it was the mission of the Dabneys to see
that no wind of provocation unduly stirred these depths.
Worse even than these possibilities of violence, however,
so far as every-day life was concerned, was the strain
of obstinacy which belonged to the Thorpe temper.
A sort of passive mulishness it was, impervious to argument,
immovable under the most sympathetic pressure,
which particularly tried the Dabney patience.
It seemed to Julia now, as she interposed her soothing
influence between these jarring forces, that she
had spent whole years of her life in personal
interventions of this sort.

"Oh yes they will," she repeated, and warned her brother
into the background with a gesture half-pleading
half-peremptory. "We are your children, and we're
not bad or undutiful children at all, and I'm sure
that when you think it all over, mamma, you'll see
that it would be absurd to let anything come between you and us."

"How could I help letting it come?" demanded the mother,
listlessly argumentative. "You had outgrown me and my
ways altogether. It was nonsense to suppose that you would
have been satisfied to come back and live here again,
over the shop. I couldn't think for the life of me what I
was going to do with you. But now your uncle has taken
all that into his own hands. He can give you the kind
of home that goes with your education and your ideas--and
what more do you want? Why should you come bothering me?"

"How unjust you are, mamma!" cried Julia, with a glaze
of tears upon her bright glance.

The widow took her elbow from the desk, and, slowly
straightening herself, looked down upon her daughter.
Her long plain face, habitually grave in expression,
conveyed no hint of exceptional emotion, but the fingers
of the large, capable hands she clasped before her
writhed restlessly against one another, and there
was a husky-threat of collapse in her voice as she spoke:

"If you ever have children of your own," she said,
"and you slave your life out to bring them up so that
they'll think themselves your betters, and they act
accordingly--then you'll understand. But you don't understand
now--and there's no good our talking any more about it.
Come in whenever it's convenient--and you feel like it.
I must go back to my books now."

She took up a pen at this, and opened the cash-book
upon the blotter. Her children, surveying her blankly,
found speech difficult. With some murmured words,
after a little pause, they bestowed a perfunctory kiss
upon her unresponsive cheek, and filed out into the rain.

Mrs. Dabney watched them put up their umbrella, and move off
Strandward beneath it. She continued to look for a long time,
in an aimless, ruminating way, at the dismal prospect revealed
by the window and the glass of the door. The premature
night was closing in miserably, with increasing rain,
and a doleful whistle of rising wind round the corner.
At last she shut up the unconsidered cash-book, lighted
another gas-jet, and striding to the door, rapped sharply
on the glass.

"Bring everything in!" she called to the boy, and helped
out his apprehension by a comprehensive gesture.

Later, when he had completed his task, and one of the two
narrow outlets from the shop in front was satisfactorily
blocked with the wares from without, and all the floor
about reeked with the grimy drippings of the oilskins,
Mrs. Dabney summoned him to the desk in the rear.

"I think you may go home now," she said to him, with the
laconic abruptness to which he was so well accustomed.
"You have a home, haven't you?"

Remembering the exhaustive enquiries which the Mission people
had made about him and his belongings, as a preliminary
to his getting this job, he could not but be surprised at
the mistress's question. In confusion he nodded assent,
and jerked his finger toward his cap.

"Got a mother?" she pursued. Again he nodded,
with augmented confidence.

"And do you think yourself better than she is?"

The urchin's dirty and unpleasant face screwed itself up
in anxious perplexity over this strange query. Then it
cleared as he thought he grasped the idea, and the rat-eyes he
lifted to her gleamed with the fell acuteness of the Dials.
"I sh'd be sorry if I wasn't," he answered, in swift,
rasping accents. "She's a rare old boozer, she is! It's
a fair curse to an honest boy like me, to 'ave--" "Go home!"
she bade him, peremptorily--and frowned after him as he
ducked and scuttled from the shop.

Left to herself, Mrs. Dabney did not reopen the cash-
book--the wretched day, indeed, had been practically a blank
in its history--but loitered about in the waning light among
the shelves near the desk, altering the position of books
here and there, and glancing cursorily through others.
Once or twice she went to the door and looked out upon
the rain-soaked street. A tradesman's assistant, opposite,
was rolling the iron shutters down for the night.
If business in hats was over for the day, how much
more so in books! Her shop had never been fitted
with shutters--for what reason she could not guess.
The opened pages of numerous volumes were displayed close
against the window, but no one had ever broken a pane
to get at them. Apparently literature raised no desires
in the criminal breast. To close the shop there was nothing
to do but lock and bolt the door and turn out the lights.
At last, as the conviction of nightfall forced itself
upon her from the drenched darkness outside, she bent
to put her hand to the key. Then, with a little start
of surprise, she stood erect. Someone was shutting
an umbrella in the doorway, preparatory to entering the shop.

It was her brother, splashed and wet to the knees, but with
a glowing face, who pushed his way in, and confronted
her with a broad grin. There was such a masterful air
about him, that when he jovially threw an arm round her
gaunt waist, and gathered her up against his moist shoulder,
she surprised herself by a half-laughing submission.

Her vocabulary was not rich in phrases for this kind
of emergency. "Do mind what you're about!" she told him,
flushing not unpleasurably.

"Shut up the place!" he answered, with lordly geniality.
"I've walked all the way from the City in the rain.
I wanted the exertion--I couldn't have sat in a cab.
Come back and build up the fire, and let's have a talk.
God! What things I've got to tell you!"

"There isn't any fire down here," she said, apologetically,
as they edged their way through the restricted alley
to the rear. "The old fireplace took up too much room.
Sometimes, in very sharp weather, I have an oil-stove in.
Usually the gas warms it enough. You don't find it too
cold--do you?--with your coat on? Or would you rather
come upstairs?"

"Never mind the cold," he replied, throwing a leg
over the stool before the desk. "I can't stay more
'n a minute or two. What do you think we've done today?"

Louisa had never in her life seen her brother look
so well as he did now, sprawling triumphantly upon
the stool under the yellow gas-light. His strong,
heavily-featured face had somehow ceased to be commonplace.
It had acquired an individual distinction of its own.
He looked up at her with a clear, bold eye, in which,
despite its gloss of good-humour, she discerned a new authority.

The nervous and apprehensive lines had somehow vanished from
the countenance, and with them, oddly enough, that lethargic,
heavy expression which had been their complement.
He was all vigour, readiness, confidence, now. She deemed
him almost handsome, this curious, changeable brother
of hers, as he beat with his fist in a measured way
upon the desk-top to emphasize his words, and fastened
his commanding gaze upon her.

"We took very nearly twenty thousand pounds to-day,"
he went on. "This is the twenty-eighth of February.
A fortnight ago today was the first settlement.
I wasn't here, but Semple was--and the working of it
is all in his hands. He kept as still as a mouse that
first day. They had to deliver to us 26,000 shares,
and they hadn't got one, but we didn't make any fuss.
The point was, you see, not to let them dream that they
were caught in a trap. We didn't even put the price up
to par. They had to come to Semple, and say there didn't
seem to be any shares obtainable just at the moment,
and what would he carry them over at? That means,
to let them postpone delivery for another fortnight.
He was as smooth as sweet-oil with them, and agreed
to carry them over till today without any charge at all.
But today it was a little different. The price was up
ten shillings above par. That is to say, Semple arranged
with a jobber, on the quiet, d'ye see? to offer thirty
shillings for our one-pound shares. That offer fixed
the making-up price. So then, when they were still
without shares to-day, and had to be carried over again,
they had to pay ten shillings' difference on each of
twenty-six thousand shares, plus the difference between par
and the prices they'd sold at. That makes within a few
hundreds of 20,000 pounds in cash, for one day's haul.
D'ye see?"

She nodded at him, expressively. Through previous talks
she had really obtained an insight into the operation,
and it interested her more than she would have cared
to confess.

"Well, then, we put that 20,000 pounds in our pockets,"
he proceeded with a steady glow in his eyes. "A fortnight hence,
that is March 14th, we ring the bell on them again, and they
march up to the captain's office and settle a second time.
Now what happens on the 14th? A jobber makes the price for
Semple again, and that settles the new sum they have to pay
us in differences. It is for us to say what that price
shall be. We'll decide on that when the time comes.
We most probably will just put it up another ten shillings,
and so take in just a simple 13,000 pounds. It's best
in the long run, I suppose, to go slow, with small
rises like that, in order not to frighten anybody.
So Semple says, at any rate."

"But why not frighten them?" Louisa asked. "I thought
you wanted to frighten them. You were full of that idea
a while ago."

He smiled genially. "I've learned some new wrinkles
since then. We'll frighten 'em stiff enough, before we're
through with them. But at the start we just go easy.
If they got word that there was a 'corner,' there would be
a dead scare among the jobbers. They'd be afraid to sell
or name a price for Rubber Consols unless they had the shares
in hand. And there are other ways in which that would
be a nuisance. Presently, of course, we shall liberate
some few shares, so that there may be some actual dealings.
Probably a certain number of the 5,000 which went
to the general public will come into the market too.
But of course you see that all such shares will simply
go through one operation before they come back to us.
Some one of the fourteen men we are squeezing will snap
them up and bring them straight to Semple, to get free from
the fortnightly tax we are levying on them. In that way
we shall eventually let out say half of these fourteen
'shorts,' or perhaps more than half."

"What do you want to do that for?" The sister's grey eyes
had caught a metallic gleam, as if from the talk about gold.
"Why let anybody out? Why can't you go on taking their
money for ever?"

Thorpe nodded complacently. "Yes--that's what I asked too.
It seemed to me the most natural thing, when you'd got
'em in the vise, to keep them there. But when you come
to reflect--you can't get more out of a man than there
is in him. If you press him too hard, he can always go
bankrupt--and then he's out of your reach altogether,
and you lose everything that you counted on making
out of him. So, after a certain point, each one of the
fourteen men whom we're squeezing must be dealt with on
a different footing. We shall have to watch them all,
and study their resources, as tipsters watch horses
in the paddock.

"You see, some of them can stand a loss of a hundred
thousand pounds better than others could lose ten thousand.
All that we have to know. We can take it as a principle
that none of them will go bankrupt and lose his place
on the exchange unless he is pressed tight to the wall.
Well, our business is to learn how far each fellow is
from the wall to start with. Then we keep track of him,
one turn of the screw after another, till we see he's
got just enough left to buy himself out. Then we'll let
him out. See?"

"It's cruel, isn't it?" she commented, calmly meditative,
after a little pause.

"Everything in the City is cruel," he assured her with
a light tone. "All speculative business is cruel.
Take our case, for example. I estimate in a rough way
that these fourteen men will have to pay over to us,
in differences and in final sales, say seven hundred thousand
pounds--maybe eight hundred. Well, now, not one of those
fellows ever earned a single sovereign of that money.
They've taken the whole of it from others, and these others
took it from others still, and so on almost indefinitely.
There isn't a sovereign of it that hasn't been through
twenty hands, or fifty for that matter, since the last man
who had done some honest work for it parted company with it.
Well--money like that belongs to those who are in possession
of it, only so long as they are strong enough to hold on
to it. When someone stronger still comes along, he takes
it away from them. They don't complain: they don't cry
and say it's cruel. They know it's the rule of the game.
They accept it--and begin at once looking out for a new
set of fools and weaklings to recoup themselves on.
That's the way the City goes."

Thorpe had concluded his philosophical remarks with
ruminative slowness. As he lapsed into silence now, he fell
to studying his own hands on the desk-top before him.
He stretched out the fingers, curved them in different degrees,
then closed them tight and turned the bulky hard-looking
fists round for inspection in varying aspects.

"That's the kind of hand," he began again, thoughtfully,
"that breaks the Jew in the long run, if there's only
grit enough behind it. I used to watch those Jews'
hands, a year ago, when I was dining and wining them.
They're all thin and wiry and full of veins. Their fingers
are never still; they twist round and keep stirring
like a lobster's feelers. But there aint any real
strength in 'em. They get hold of most of the things
that are going, because they're eternally on the move.
It's their hellish industry and activity that gives them
such a pull, and makes most people afraid of them.
But when a hand like that takes them by the throat"--he
held up his right hand as he spoke, with the thick uncouth
fingers and massive thumb arched menacingly in a powerful
muscular tension--"when THAT tightens round their neck,
and they feel that the grip means business--my God!
what good are they?"

He laughed contemptuously, and slapped the relaxed palm
on the desk with a noise which made his sister start.
Apparently the diversion recalled something to her mind.

"There was a man in here asking about you today,"
she remarked, in a casual fashion. "Said he was an old
friend of yours."

"Oh, yes, everybody's my 'old friend' now," he observed
with beaming indifference. "I'm already getting heaps
of invitations to dinners and dances and all that.
One fellow insisted on booking me for Easter for some
salmon fishing he's got way down in Cumberland.
I told him I couldn't come, but he put my name down
all the same. Says his wife will write to remind me.
Damn his wife! Semple tells me that when our squeeze
really begins and they realize the desperate kind of trap
they're in, they'll simply shower attentions of that sort
on me. He says the social pressure they can command,
for a game of this kind, is something tremendous.
But I'm not to be taken in by it for a single pennyworth,
d'ye see? I dine with nobody! I fish and shoot and go
yachting with nobody! Julia and Alfred and our own home
in Ovington Square--that'll be good enough for me.
By the way--you haven't been out to see us yet.
We're all settled now. You must come at once--why not
with me, now?"

Louisa paid no heed to this suggestion. She had been
rummaging among some loose papers on the top of the desk,
and she stepped round now to lift the lid and search
about for something inside.

"He left a card for you," she said, as she groped among
the desk's contents. "I don't know what I did with it.
He wrote something on it."

"Oh, damn him, and his card too," Thorpe protested easily.
"I don't want to see either of them."

"He said he knew you in Mexico. He said you'd had
dealings together. He seemed to act as if you'd want
to see him--but I didn't know. I didn't tell him your address."

Thorpe had listened to these apathetic sentences without
much interest, but the sum of their message appeared
suddenly to catch his attention. He sat upright,
and after a moment's frowning brown study, looked sharply
up at his sister.

"What was his name?" he asked with abruptness.

"I don't in the least remember," she made answer, holding the
desk-top up, but temporarily suspending her search.
"He was a little man, five-and-fifty, I should think.
He had long grey hair--a kind of Quaker-looking man.
He said he saw the name over the door, and he remembered
your telling him your people were booksellers. He only
got back here in England yesterday or the day before.
He said he didn't know what you'd been doing since you
left Mexico. He didn't even know whether you were in England
or not!"

Thorpe had been looking with abstracted intentness at
a set of green-bound cheap British poets just at one
side of his sister's head. "You must find that card!"
he told her now, with a vague severity in his voice.
"I know the name well enough, but I want to see what
he's written. Was it his address, do you remember? The
name itself was Tavender, wasn't it? Good God! Why is it
a woman never knows where she's put anything? Even Julia
spends hours looking for button-hooks or corkscrews or
something of that sort, every day of her life! They've got
nothing in the world to do except know where things are,
right under their nose, and yet that's just what they
don't know at all!"

"Oh, I have a good few other things to do," she reminded him,
as she fumbled again inside the obscurity of the desk.
"I can put my hand on any one of four thousand books
in stock," she mildly boasted over her shoulder,
"and that's something you never learned to do. And I can
tell if a single book is missing--and I wouldn't trust
any shopman I ever knew to do that."

"Oh of course, you're an exception," he admitted,
under a sense of justice. "But I wish you'd find the card."

"I know where it is," she suddenly announced,
and forthwith closed the desk. Moving off into the
remoter recesses of the crowded interior, she returned
to the light with the bit of pasteboard in her hand.
"I'd stuck it in the little mirror over the washstand,"
she explained.

He almost snatched it from her, and stood up the better to
examine it under the gas-light. "Where is Montague Street?"
he asked, with rough directness.

"In Bloomsbury--alongside the Museum. That's one Montague
Street--I don't know how many others there may be."

Thorpe had already taken up his umbrella and was buttoning
his coat. "Yes--Bloomsbury," he said hurriedly.
"That would be his form. And you say he knew nothing
about my movements or whereabouts--nothing about
the Company, eh?" He looked at his watch as he spoke.
Evidently the presence of this stranger had excited him
a good deal.

"No," she assured him, reflectively; "no, I'm sure he
didn't. From what he said, he doesn't know his way about
London very well, or anywhere else, for that matter,
I should say."

Thorpe nodded, and put his finger to his forehead with a
meaning look. "No--he's a shade off in the upper story,"
he told her in a confidential tone. "Still, it's important
that I should see him,"--and with only a hasty hand-shake
he bustled out of the shop.

By the light of the street lamp opposite, she could see him
on the pavement, in the pelting rain, vehemently signalling
with his umbrella for a cab.


We've got a spare room here, haven't we?" Thorpe asked his niece,
when she came out to greet him in the hall of their new
home in Ovington Square. He spoke with palpable eagerness
before even unbuttoning his damp great-coat, or putting
off his hat. "I mean it's all in working order ready for use?"

"Why yes, uncle," Julia answered, after a moment's thought.
"Is someone coming?"

"I think so," he replied, with a grunt of relief.
He seemed increasingly pleased with the project he
had in mind, as she helped him off with his things.
The smile he gave her, when she playfully took his arm
to lead him into the adjoining library, was clearly but a
part of the satisfied grin with which he was considering
some development in his own affairs.

He got into his slippers and into the easy-chair before
the bright fire and lit a cigar with a contented air.

"Well, my little girl?" he said, with genial inconsequence,
and smiled again at her, where she stood beside the mantel.

"It will be such a lark to play the hostess to a stranger!"
she exclaimed. "When is he coming?--I suppose it is a
'he,'" she added, less buoyantly.

"Oh--that fellow," Thorpe said, as if he had been thinking
of something else. "Well--I can't tell just when he will
turn up. I only learned he was in town--or in England--a
couple of hours ago. I haven't seen him yet at all.
I drove round to his lodgings, near the British Museum,
but he wasn't there. He only comes there to sleep,
but they told me he turned in early--by nine o'clock or so.
Then I went round to a hotel and wrote a note for him,
and took it back to his lodgings, and left it for him.
I told him to pack up his things as soon as he got it,
and drive here, and make this his home--for the time being
at least."

"Then it's some old friend of yours?" said the girl.
"I know I shall like him."

Thorpe laughed somewhat uneasily. "Well--yes--he's a kind
of a friend of mine," he said, with a note of hesitation
in his voice. "I don't know, though, that you'll think
much of him. He aint what you'd call a ladies' man."

He laughed again at some thought the words conjured up.
"He's a curious, simple old party, who'd just like a
comfortable corner somewhere by himself, and wouldn't expect
to be talked to or entertained at all. If he does come,
he'll keep to himself pretty well. He wouldn't be any
company for you. I mean,--for you or Alfred either.
I think he's a Canadian or West Indian,--British subject,
at all events,--but he's lived all his life in the West,
and he wouldn't know what to do in a drawing-room,
or that sort of thing. You'd better just not pay any
attention to him. Pass the time of day, of course,
but that's all."

Julia's alert, small-featured face expressed some vague
disappointment at what she heard, but her words were
cheerful enough. "Oh of course--whatever he likes best,"
she said. "I will tell Potter to make everything ready.
I suppose there's no chance of his being here in time
for dinner?"

Thorpe shook his head, and then lifted his brows
over some new perplexity. "I guess he'd want to eat
his meals out, anyway," he said, after some thought.
"I don't seem to remember much about him in that respect--
of course, everything was so different in camp out in
Mexico--but I daresay he wouldn't be much of an ornament
at the table. However, that'll be all right. He's as easy
to manage as a rabbit. If I told him to eat on the roof,
he'd do it without a murmur. You see it's this way,
Julia: he's a scientific man--a kind of geologist,
and mining expert and rubber expert--and chemical expert
and all sort of things. I suppose he must have gone
through college--very likely he'll turn out to have
better manners than I was giving him credit for.
I've only seen him in the rough, so to speak. We weren't
at all intimate then,--but we had dealings together,
and there are certain important reasons why I should keep
close in touch with him while he's here in London.
But I'll try and do that without letting you be bothered."
"What an idea!" cried Julia. "As if that wasn't what we
had the house for--to see the people you want to see."

Her uncle smiled rather ruefully, and looked in a rather
dubious way at his cigar. "Between you and me and the
lamp-post, Jule," he said, with a slow, whimsical drawl,
"there isn't a fellow in the world that I wanted to see
less than I did him. But since he's here--why, we've got
to make the best of it."

After dinner, Thorpe suffered the youngsters to go
up to the drawing-room in the tacit understanding
that he should probably not see them again that night.
He betook himself then once more to the library, as it was
called--the little, cozy, dark-panelled room off the hall,
where the owner of the house had left two locked bookcases,
and where Thorpe himself had installed a writing-desk
and a diminutive safe for his papers. The chief purpose
of the small apartment, however, was indicated by the
two big, round, low-seated easy-chairs before the hearth,
and by the cigar boxes and spirit-stand and tumblers
visible behind the glass of the cabinet against the wall.
Thorpe himself called the room his "snuggery," and spent
many hours there in slippered comfort, smoking and gazing
contentedly into the fire. Sometimes Julia read to him,
as he sat thus at his ease, but then he almost invariably
went to sleep.

Now, when he had poured out some whiskey and water and lit
a cigar, the lounging chairs somehow did not attract him.
He moved about aimlessly in the circumscribed space,
his hands in his pockets, his burly shoulders rounded,
his face dulled and heavy as with a depression of doubt.
The sound of the piano upstairs came intermittently to
his ears. Often he ascended to the drawing-room to hear
Julia play--and more often still, with all the doors open,
he enjoyed the mellowed murmur of her music here at his ease
in the big chair. But tonight he had no joy in the noise.
more than once, as he slouched restlessly round the room,
the notion of asking her to stop suggested itself,
but he forbore to put it into action. Once he busied
himself for a time in kneeling before his safe,
and scrutinizing in detail the papers in one of the bundles
it contained.

At last--it was after ten o'clock, and the music above had
ceased--the welcome sounds of cab-wheels without, and then
of the door-bell, came to dispel his fidgeting suspense.
On the instant he straightened himself, and his face
rearranged its expression. He fastened upon the door
of the room the controlled, calm glance of one who is
easily confident about what is to happen.

"Quaker-looking" was not an inapt phrase for the person
whom the maid ushered into the room through this door.
He was a small, thin, elderly man, bowed of figure and
shuffling in gait. His coat and large, low-crowned hat,
though worn almost to shabbiness, conveyed an indefinable sense
of some theological standard, or pretence to such a standard.
His meagre face, too, with its infinity of anxious yet
meaningless lines, and its dim spectacled eyes, so plainly
overtaxed by the effort to discern anything clearly,
might have belonged to any old village priest grown
childish and blear-eyed in the solitude of stupid books.
Even the blotches of tell-tale colour on his long nose
were not altogether unclerical in their suggestion.
A poor old man he seemed, as he stood blinking in the
electric light of the strange, warm apartment--a helpless,
worn old creature, inured through long years to bleak
adverse winds, hoping now for nothing better in this world
than present shelter.

"How do you do, Mr. Thorpe," he said, after a moment,
with nervous formality. "This is unexpectedly kind
of you, sir."

"Why--not at all!" said Thorpe, shaking him cordially
by the hand. "What have we got houses for, but to put up
our old friends? And how are you, anyway? You've brought
your belongings, have you? That's right!" He glanced into
the hall, to make sure that they were being taken upstairs,
and then closed the door. "I suppose you've dined.
Take off your hat and coat! Make yourself at home.
That's it--take the big chair, there--so! And now let's
have a look at you. Well, Tavender, my man, you haven't
grown any younger. But I suppose none of us do.
And what'll you have to drink? I take plain water in mine,
but there's soda if you prefer it. And which shall it
be--Irish or Scotch?"

Mr. Tavender's countenance revealed the extremity of his
surprise and confusion at the warmth of this welcome.
It apparently awed him as well, for though he shrank into
a corner of the huge chair, he painstakingly abstained from
resting his head against its back. Uncovered, this head
gained a certain dignity of effect from the fashion
in which the thin, iron-grey hair, parted in the middle,
fell away from the full, intellectual temples, and curled
in meek locks upon his collar. A vague resemblance
to the type of Wesley--or was it Froebel?--might have
hinted itself to the observer's mind.

Thorpe's thoughts, however, were not upon types.
"Well"--he said, from the opposite chair, in his roundest,
heartiest voice, when the other had with diffidence suffered
himself to be served, and had deferentially lighted
on one side the big cigar pressed upon him--"Well--and
how's the world been using you?"

"Not very handsomely, Mr. Thorpe," the other responded,
in a hushed, constrained tone.

"Oh, chuck the Misters!" Thorpe bade him. "Aren't we
old pals, man? You're plain Tavender, and I'm plain Thorpe."

"You're very kind," murmured Tavender, still abashed.
For some minutes he continued to reply dolefully,
and with a kind of shamefaced reluctance, to the questions
piled upon him. He was in evil luck: nothing had gone
well with him; it had been with the greatest difficulty
that he had scraped together enough to get back to London
on the chance of obtaining some expert commission;
practically he possessed nothing in the world beyond
the clothes on his back, and the contents of two old
carpet-bags--these admissions, by degrees, were wormed
from him.

"But have you parted with the concession, then, that you
bought from me?" Thorpe suddenly asked him. "Help yourself
to some more whiskey!"

Tavender sighed as he tipped the decanter. "It isn't
any good," he answered, sadly. "The Government repudiates
it--that is, the Central Government at Mexico. Of course,
I never blamed you. I bought it with my eyes open,
and you sold it in perfect good faith. I never doubted
that at all. But it's not worth the paper it's written
on--that's certain. It's that that busted me--that,
and some other things."

"Well--well!" said Thorpe, blankly. His astonishment was
obviously genuine, and for a little it kept him silent,
while he pondered the novel aspects of the situation
thus disclosed. Then his eyes brightened, as a new path
outlined itself.

"I suppose you've got the papers?--the concession and my
transfer to you and all that?" he asked, casually.

"Oh, yes," replied Tavender. He added, with a gleam
of returning self-command--"That's all I have got."

"Let's see--what was it you paid me?--Three thousand
eight hundred pounds, wasn't it?"

Tavender made a calculation in mental arithmetic.
"Yes, something like that. Just under nineteen
thousand dollars, "he said.

"Well," remarked Thorpe, with slow emphasis, "I won't
allow you to suffer that way by me. I'll buy it back
from you at the same price you paid for it."

Tavender, beginning to tremble, jerked himself upright
in his chair, and stared through his spectacles at his
astounding host. "You say"--he gasped--"you say you'll
buy it back!"

"Certainly," said Thorpe. "That's what I said."

"I--I never heard of such a thing!" the other faltered
with increasing agitation. "No--you can't mean it.
It isn't common sense!"

"It's common decency," replied the big man, in his most
commanding manner. "It's life and death to you--and it
doesn't matter a flea-bite to me. So, since you came
to grief through me, why shouldn't I do the fair thing,
and put you back on your legs again?"

Tavender, staring now at those shrunken legs of his,
breathed heavily. The thing overwhelmed him.
Once or twice he lifted his head and essayed to speak,
but no speech came to his thin lips. He moistened them
eventually with a long deliberate pull at his glass.

"This much ought to be understood, however," Thorpe resumed,
reflecting upon his words as he went along. "If I'm
to buy back a dead horse, like that, it's only reasonable
that there should be conditions. I suppose you've seen
by this time that even if this concession of ours was
recognized by the Government there wouldn't be any money
in it to speak of. I didn't realize that two years ago,
any more than you did, but it's plain enough now.
The trade has proved it. A property of rubber trees
has no real value--so long as there's a wilderness
of rubber trees all round that's everybody's property.
How can a man pay even the interest on his purchase money,
supposing he's bought a rubber plantation, when he has
to compete with people who've paid no purchase money at all,
but just get out as much as they like from the free forest?
You must know that that is so."

Tavender nodded eloquently. "Oh yes, I know that is so.
You can prove it by me."

Thorpe grinned a little. "As it happens, that aint what I
need to have you prove," he said, dryly. "Now WE know that
a rubber property is no good--but London doesn't know it.
Everybody here thinks that it's a great business to own
rubber trees. Why, man alive, do you know"--the audacity
of the example it had occurred to him to cite brought
a gratified twinkle to his eyes as he went on--"do you know
that a man here last year actually sold a rubber plantation
for four hundred thousand pounds--two millions of dollars!
Not in cash, of course, but in shares that he could do
something with--and before he's done with it, I'm told,
he's going to make twice that amount of money out of it.
That'll show you what London is like."

"Yes--I suppose they do those things," remarked Tavender, vaguely.

"Well--my point is that perhaps I can do something
or other with this concession of yours here. I may even
be able to get my money back on it. At any rate I'll
take my chances on it--so that at least you shan't lose
anything by it. Of course, if you'd rather try and put
it on the market yourself, why go ahead!" There was
a wistful pathos in the way Tavender shook his head.
"Big money doesn't mean anything to me any more,"
he said, wearily. "I'm too old and I'm too tired.
Why--four--five--yes, half a dozen times I've had enough money
to last me comfortably all my life--and every time I've used
it as bait to catch bigger money with, and lost it all.
I don't do that any more! I've got something the matter
with me internally that takes the nerve all out of me.
The doctors don't agree about it, but whatever its name
is I've got it for keeps. Probably I shan't live very
long"--Thorpe recalled that the old man had always taken
a gloomy view of his health after the third glass--"and
if you want to pay me the nineteen thousand dollars,
or whatever it is, why I shall say 'God bless you,'
and be more than contented."

"Oh, there's something more to it than that," observed Thorpe,
with an added element of business-like briskness in his tone.
"If I let you out in this way--something, of course,
you could never have dreamed would happen--you must
do some things for me. I should want you, for example,
to go back to Mexico at once. Of course, I'd pay
your expenses out. Or say, I'd give you a round four
thousand pounds to cover that and some other things too.
You wouldn't object to that, would you?"

The man who, two hours before, had confronted existence
with the change of his last five-pound note in his pocket,
did not hesitate now. "Oh no, that would be all right,"
with reviving animation, he declared. He helped himself
again from the cut-glass decanter. "What would you want me
to do there?"

"Oh, a report on the concession for a starter," Thorpe answered,
with careful indifference. "I suppose they still know your
name as an authority. I could make that all right anyway.
But one thing I ought to speak of--it might be rather
important--I wouldn't like to have you mention to anybody
that the concession has at any time been yours.
That might tend to weaken the value of your report,
don't you see? Let it be supposed that the concession has
been my property from the start. You catch my point,
don't you? There never was any such thing as a transfer
of it to you. It's always been mine!"

Tavender gave his benefactor a purblind sort of wink.
"Always belonged to you? Why of course it did,"
he said cheerfully.

The other breathed a cautious prolonged sigh of relief
"You'd better light a fresh one, hadn't you?" he asked,
observing with a kind of contemptuous tolerance the old man's
efforts to ignite a cigar which had more than once unrolled
like a carpenter's shaving in his unaccustomed fingers,
and was now shapelessly defiant of both draught and suction.
Tavender laughed to himself silently as he took a new cigar,
and puffed at the match held by his companion. The air
of innocence and long-suffering meekness was falling rapidly
away from him. He put his shabby boots out confidently
to the fender and made gestures with his glass as he talked.

"My mistake," he declared, in insistent tones, "was in not
turning down science thirty years ago and going in bodily
for business. Then I should have made my pile as you
seem to have done. But I tried to do something of both.
Half the year I was assaying crushings, or running a level,
or analyzing sugars, for a salary, and the other half I
was trying to do a gamble with that salary on the strength
of what I'd learned. You can't ring the bell that way.
You've got to be either a pig or a pup. You can't do both.
Now, for instance, if I'd come to London when you did,
and brought my money with me instead of buying your
concession with it----"

"Why, what good do you suppose you would have done?"
Thorpe interrupted him with good-natured brusqueness.
"You'd have had it taken from you in a fortnight! Why, man,
do you know what London is? You'd have had no more chance
here than a naked nigger in a swamp-full of alligators."

"You seem to have hit it off," the other objected.
"This is as fine a house as I was ever in."

"With me it's different," Thorpe replied, carelessly.
"I have the talent for money-making. I'm a man in armour.
The 'gators can't bite me, nor yet the rattle-snakes."

"Yes--men are made up differently," Tavender assented,
with philosophical gravity. Then he lurched gently in the
over-large chair, and fixed an intent gaze upon his host.
"What did you make your money in?" he demanded, not with
entire distinctness of enunciation. "It wasn't rubber,
was it?"

Thorpe shook his head. "There's no money in rubber.
I'm entirely in finance--on the Stock Exchange--dealing
in differences," he replied, with a serious face.

The explanation seemed wholly acceptable to Tavender.
He mused upon it placidly for a time, with his reverend
head pillowed askew against the corner of the chair.
Then he let his cigar drop, and closed his eyes.

The master of the house bent forward, and noiselessly
helped himself to another glass of whiskey and water.
Then, sinking back again, he eyed his odd guest meditatively
as he sipped the drink. He said to himself that in all
the miraculous run of luck which the year had brought him,
this was the most extraordinary manifestation of the lot.
It had been so easy to ignore the existence of this tiresome
and fatuous old man, so long as he was in remote Mexico,
that he had practically forgotten him. But he should
not soon forget the frightened shock with which he
had learned of his presence in London, that afternoon.
For a minute or two, there in his sister's book-shop,
it had seemed as if he were falling through the air--as
if the substantial earth had crumbled away from under him.
But then his nerve had returned to him, his resourceful
brain had reasserted itself. With ready shrewdness he had
gone out, and met the emergency, and made it the servant
of his own purposes.

He could be glad now, unreservedly glad, that Tavender had
come to London, that things had turned out as they had.
In truth, he stood now for the first time on solid ground.
When he thought of it, now, the risk he had been running
all these months gave him a little sinking of the heart.
Upon reflection, the performance of having sold the same
property first to Tavender in Mexico and then to the
Rubber Consols Company in London might be subject to
injurious comment, or worse. The fact that it was not a
real property to begin with had no place in his thoughts.
It was a concession--and concessions were immemorially
worth what they would fetch. But the other thing might
have been so awkward--and now it was all right!

For an hour and more, till the fire burnt itself out
and the guest's snoring became too active a nuisance,
Thorpe sat lost in this congratulatory reverie.
Then he rose, and sharply shaking Tavender into a semblance
of consciousness, led him upstairs and put him to bed.

Three days later he personally saw Tavender off at Waterloo
station by the steamer-train, en route for Southampton
and New York. The old man was in childlike good spirits,
looking more ecclesiastical than ever in the new clothes he
had been enabled to buy. He visibly purred with content
whenever his dim eyes caught sight of the new valise and
steamer trunk, which belonged to him, on the busy platform.

"You've been very kind to me, Thorpe," he said more
than once, as they stood together beside the open door
of the compartment. "I was never so hospitably treated
before in my life. Your attention to me has been wonderful.
I call you a true friend."

"Oh, that's all right! Glad to do it," replied the
other, lightly. In truth he had not let Tavender
stray once out of his sight during those three days.
He had dragged him tirelessly about London, showing him

Book of the day: