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The Moon Endureth

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The Moon Endureth

Tales and Fancies by John Buchan


From the Pentlands looking North and South

I The Company of the Marjolaine
Avignon 1759

II A Lucid Interval
The Shorter Catechism (revised version)

III The Lemnian
Atta's song

IV Space
Stocks and stones

V Streams of water in the South
The Gipsy's song to the lady Cassilis

VI The grove of Ashtaroth
Wood magic

VII The riding of Ninemileburn
Plain Folk

VIII The Kings of Orion

IX The green glen
The wise years

X The rime of True Thomas


Around my feet the clouds are drawn
In the cold mystery of the dawn;
No breezes cheer, no guests intrude
My mossy, mist-clad solitude;
When sudden down the steeps of sky
Flames a long, lightening wind. On high
The steel-blue arch shines clear, and far,
In the low lands where cattle are,
Towns smoke. And swift, a haze, a gleam,--
The Firth lies like a frozen stream,
Reddening with morn. Tall spires of ships,
Like thorns about the harbour's lips,
Now shake faint canvas, now, asleep,
Their salt, uneasy slumbers keep;
While golden-grey, o'er kirk and wall,
Day wakes in the ancient capital.

Before me lie the lists of strife,
The caravanserai of life,
Whence from the gates the merchants go
On the world's highways; to and fro
Sail laiden ships; and in the street
The lone foot-traveller shakes his feet,
And in some corner by the fire
Tells the old tale of heart's desire.
Thither from alien seas and skies
Comes the far-questioned merchandise:--
Wrought silks of Broussa, Mocha's ware
Brown-tinted, fragrant, and the rare
Thin perfumes that the rose's breath
Has sought, immortal in her death:
Gold, gems, and spice, and haply still
The red rough largess of the hill
Which takes the sun and bears the vines
Among the haunted Apennines.
And he who treads the cobbled street
To-day in the cold North may meet,
Come month, come year, the dusky East,
And share the Caliph's secret feast;
Or in the toil of wind and sun
Bear pilgrim-staff, forlorn, fordone,
Till o'er the steppe, athwart the sand
Gleam the far gates of Samarkand.
The ringing quay, the weathered face
Fair skies, dusk hands, the ocean race
The palm-girt isle, the frosty shore,
Gales and hot suns the wide world o'er
Grey North, red South, and burnished West
The goals of the old tireless quest,
Leap in the smoke, immortal, free,
Where shines yon morning fringe of sea
I turn, and lo! the moorlands high
Lie still and frigid to the sky.
The film of morn is silver-grey
On the young heather, and away,
Dim, distant, set in ribs of hill,
Green glens are shining, stream and mill,
Clachan and kirk and garden-ground,
All silent in the hush profound
Which haunts alone the hills' recess,
The antique home of quietness.
Nor to the folk can piper play
The tune of "Hills and Far Away,"
For they are with them. Morn can fire
No peaks of weary heart's desire,
Nor the red sunset flame behind
Some ancient ridge of longing mind.
For Arcady is here, around,
In lilt of stream, in the clear sound
Of lark and moorbird, in the bold
Gay glamour of the evening gold,
And so the wheel of seasons moves
To kirk and market, to mild loves
And modest hates, and still the sight
Of brown kind faces, and when night
Draws dark around with age and fear
Theirs is the simple hope to cheer.--
A land of peace where lost romance
And ghostly shine of helm and lance
Still dwell by castled scarp and lea,
And the last homes of chivalry,
And the good fairy folk, my dear,
Who speak for cunning souls to hear,
In crook of glen and bower of hill
Sing of the Happy Ages still.

O Thou to whom man's heart is known,
Grant me my morning orison.
Grant me the rover's path--to see
The dawn arise, the daylight flee,
In the far wastes of sand and sun!
Grant me with venturous heart to run
On the old highway, where in pain
And ecstasy man strives amain,
Conquers his fellows, or, too weak,
Finds the great rest that wanderers seek!
Grant me the joy of wind and brine,
The zest of food, the taste of wine,
The fighter's strength, the echoing strife
The high tumultuous lists of life--
May I ne'er lag, nor hapless fall,
Nor weary at the battle-call!...
But when the even brings surcease,
Grant me the happy moorland peace;
That in my heart's depth ever lie
That ancient land of heath and sky,
Where the old rhymes and stories fall
In kindly, soothing pastoral.
There in the hills grave silence lies,
And Death himself wears friendly guise
There be my lot, my twilight stage,
Dear city of my pilgrimage.



"Qu'est-c'qui passe ici si tard,
Compagnons de la Marjolaine,"


...I came down from the mountain and into the pleasing valley of
the Adige in as pelting a heat as ever mortal suffered under.
The way underfoot was parched and white; I had newly come out of
a wilderness of white limestone crags, and a sun of Italy blazed
blindingly in an azure Italian sky. You are to suppose, my dear
aunt, that I had had enough and something more of my craze for
foot-marching. A fortnight ago I had gone to Belluno in a
post-chaise, dismissed my fellow to carry my baggage by way of
Verona, and with no more than a valise on my back plunged into
the fastnesses of those mountains. I had a fancy to see the
little sculptured hills which made backgrounds for Gianbellini,
and there were rumours of great mountains built wholly of marble
which shone like the battlements.

...1 This extract from the unpublished papers of the Manorwater
family has seemed to the Editor worth printing for its historical
interest. The famous Lady Molly Carteron became Countess of
Manorwater by her second marriage. She was a wit and a friend of
wits, and her nephew, the Honourable Charles Hervey-Townshend
(afterwards our Ambassador at The Hague), addressed to her a
series of amusing letters while making, after the fashion of his
contemporaries, the Grand Tour of Europe. Three letters, written
at various places in the Eastern Alps and despatched from Venice,
contain the following short narrative....

of the Celestial City. So at any rate reported young Mr.
Wyndham, who had travelled with me from Milan to Venice. I lay
the first night at Pieve, where Titian had the fortune to be
born, and the landlord at the inn displayed a set of villainous
daubs which he swore were the early works of that master. Thence
up a toilsome valley I journeyed to the Ampezzan country, valley
where indeed I saw my white mountains, but, alas! no longer
Celestial. For it rained like Westmorland for five endless days,
while I kicked my heels in an inn and turned a canto of Aristo
into halting English couplets. By-and-by it cleared, and I
headed westward towards Bozen, among the tangle of rocks where
the Dwarf King had once his rose-garden. The first night I had
no inn but slept in the vile cabin of a forester, who spoke a
tongue half Latin, half Dutch, which I failed to master. The
next day was a blaze of heat, the mountain-paths lay thick with
dust, and I had no wine from sunrise to sunset. Can you wonder
that, when the following noon I saw Santa Chiara sleeping in its
green circlet of meadows, my thought was only of a deep draught
and a cool chamber? I protest that I am a great lover of natural
beauty, of rock and cascade, and all the properties of the poet:
but the enthusiasm of Rousseau himself would sink from the stars
to earth if he had marched since breakfast in a cloud of dust
with a throat like the nether millstone.

Yet I had not entered the place before Romance revived. The
little town--a mere wayside halting-place on the great
mountain-road to the North--had the air of mystery which
foretells adventure. Why is it that a dwelling or a countenance
catches the fancy with the promise of some strange destiny? I
have houses in my mind which I know will some day and somehow be
intertwined oddly with my life; and I have faces in memory of
which I know nothing--save that I shall undoubtedly cast eyes
again upon them. My first glimpses of Santa Chiara gave me this
earnest of romance. It was walled and fortified, the streets
were narrow pits of shade, old tenements with bent fronts swayed
to meet each other. Melons lay drying on flat roofs, and yet now
and then would come a high-pitched northern gable. Latin and
Teuton met and mingled in the place, and, as Mr. Gibbon has
taught us, the offspring of this admixture is something fantastic
and unpredictable. I forgot my grievous thirst and my tired feet
in admiration and a certain vague expectation of wonders. Here,
ran my thought, it is fated, maybe, that romance and I shall at
last compass a meeting. Perchance some princess is in need of my
arm, or some affair of high policy is afoot in this jumble of old
masonry. You will laugh at my folly, but I had an excuse for
it. A fortnight in strange mountains disposes a man to look for
something at his next encounter with his kind, and the sight of
Santa Chiara would have fired the imagination of a judge in

I strode happily into the courtyard of the Tre Croci, and
presently had my expectation confirmed for I found my fellow,--a
faithful rogue I got in Rome on a Cardinal's recommendation,--hot
in dispute with a lady's maid. The woman was old,
harsh-featured--no Italian clearly, though she spoke fluently in
the tongue. She rated my man like a pickpocket, and the dispute
was over a room.

"The signor will bear me out," said Gianbattista. "Was not I
sent to Verona with his baggage, and thence to this place of ill
manners? Was I not bidden engage for him a suite of apartments?
Did I not duly choose these fronting on the gallery, and
dispose therein the signor's baggage? And lo! an hour ago I
found it all turned into the yard and this woman installed in its
place. It is monstrous, unbearable! Is this an inn for
travellers, or haply the private mansion of these Magnificences?"

"My servant speaks truly," I said firmly yet with courtesy,
having no mind to spoil adventure by urging rights. "He had
orders to take these rooms for me, and I know not what higher
power can countermand me."

The woman had been staring at me scornfully, for no doubt in my
dusty habit I was a figure of small count; but at the sound of
my voice she started, and cried out, "You are English, signor?"

I bowed an admission. "Then my mistress shall speak with you,"
she said, and dived into the inn like an elderly rabbit.

Gianbattista was for sending for the landlord and making a riot
in that hostelry; but I stayed him, and bidding him fetch me a
flask of white wine, three lemons, and a glass of eau de vie, I
sat down peaceably at one of the little tables in the courtyard
and prepared for the quenching of my thirst. Presently, as I sat
drinking that excellent compound of my own invention, my shoulder
was touched, and I turned to find the maid and her mistress.
Alas for my hopes of a glorious being, young and lissom and
bright with the warm riches of the south! I saw a short, stout
little lady, well on the wrong side of thirty. She had plump red
cheeks, and fair hair dressed indifferently in the Roman fashion.
Two candid blue eyes redeemed her plainness, and a certain grave
and gentle dignity. She was notably a gentlewoman, so I got up,
doffed my hat, and awaited her commands.

She spoke in Italian. "Your pardon,signor, but I fear my good
Cristine has done you unwittingly a wrong."

Cristine snorted at this premature plea of guilty, while I
hastened to assure the fair apologist that any rooms I might have
taken were freely at her service.

I spoke unconsciously in English, and she replied in a halting
parody of that tongue. "I understand him," she said, "but I do
not speak him happily. I will discourse, if the signor pleases,
in our first speech."

She and her father, it appeared, had come over the Brenner, and
arrived that morning at the Tre Croci, where they purposed to lie
for some days. He was an old man, very feeble, and much
depending upon her constant care. Wherefore it was necessary
that the rooms of all the party should adjoin, and there was no
suite of the size in the inn save that which I had taken. Would
I therefore consent to forgo my right, and place her under an
eternal debt?

I agreed most readily, being at all times careless where I sleep,
so the bed be clean, or where I eat, so the meal be good. I bade
my servant see the landlord and have my belongings carried to
other rooms. Madame thanked me sweetly, and would have gone,
when a thought detained her.

"It is but courteous," she said, "that you should know the names
of those whom you have befriended. My father is called the Count
d'Albani, and I am his only daughter. We travel to Florence,
where we have a villa in the environs."

"My name," said I, "is Hervey-Townshend, an Englishman
travelling abroad for his entertainment."

"Hervey?" she repeated. "Are you one of the family of Miladi

"My worthy aunt," I replied, with a tender recollection of that
preposterous woman.

Madame turned to Cristine, and spoke rapidly in a whisper.

"My father, sir," she said, addressing me, "is an old frail man,
little used to the company of strangers; but in former days he
has had kindness from members of your house, and it would be a
satisfaction to him, I think, to have the privilege of your

She spoke with the air of a vizier who promises a traveller a
sight of the Grand Turk. I murmured my gratitude, and hastened
after Gianbattista. In an hour I had bathed, rid myself of my
beard, and arrayed myself in decent clothing. Then I strolled
out to inspect the little city, admired an altar-piece, chaffered
with a Jew for a cameo, purchased some small necessaries, and
returned early in the afternoon with a noble appetite for dinner.

The Tre Croci had been in happier days a Bishop's lodging, and
possessed a dining-hall ceiled with black oak and adorned with
frescos. It was used as a general salle a manger for all
dwellers in the inn, and there accordingly I sat down to my
long-deferred meal. At first there were no other diners, and I
had two maids, as well as Gianbattista, to attend on my wants.
Presently Madame d'Albani entered, escorted by Cristine and by a
tall gaunt serving-man, who seemed no part of the hostelry. The
landlord followed, bowing civilly, and the two women seated
themselves at the little table at the farther end. "Il Signor
Conte dines in his room," said Madame to the host, who withdrew
to see to that gentleman's needs.

I found my eyes straying often to the little party in the cool
twilight of that refectory. The man-servant was so old and
battered, and of such a dignity, that he lent a touch of intrigue
to the thing. He stood stiffly behind Madame's chair, handing
dishes with an air of great reverence--the lackey of a great
noble, if I had ever seen the type. Madame never glanced toward
me, but conversed sparingly with Cristine, while she pecked
delicately at her food. Her name ran in my head with a
tantalizing flavour of the familiar. Albani! D'Albani! It was
a name not uncommon in the Roman States, but I had never heard it
linked to a noble family. And yet I had somehow, somewhere; and
in the vain effort at recollection I had almost forgotten my
hunger. There was nothing bourgeois in the little lady. The
austere servants, the high manner of condescension, spake of a
stock used to deference, though, maybe, pitifully decayed in its
fortunes. There was a mystery in these quiet folk which tickled
my curiosity. Romance after all was not destined to fail me at
Santa Chiara.

My doings of the afternoon were of interest to me alone. Suffice
it to say that when at nightfall I found Gianbattista the trustee
of a letter. It was from Madame, written in a fine thin hand on
a delicate paper, and it invited me to wait upon the signor her
father, that evening at eight o'clock. What caught my eye was a
coronet stamped in a corner. A coronet, I say, but in truth it
was a crown, the same as surmounts the Arms Royal of England on
the sign-board of a Court tradesman. I marvelled at the ways of
foreign heraldry. Either this family of d'Albani had higher
pretensions than I had given it credit for, or it employed an
unlearned and imaginative stationer. I scribbled a line of
acceptance and went to dress.

The hour of eight found me knocking at the Count's door. The
grim serving-man admitted me to the pleasant chamber which should
have been mine own. A dozen wax candles burned in sconces, and
on the table among fruits and the remains of supper stood a
handsome candelabra of silver. A small fire of logs had been lit
on the hearth, and before it in an armchair sat a strange figure
of a man. He seemed not so much old as aged. I should have put
him at sixty, but the marks he bore were clearly less those of
time than of life. There sprawled before me the relics of noble
looks. The fleshy nose, the pendulous cheek, the drooping mouth,
had once been cast in looks of manly beauty. Heavy eyebrows
above and heavy bags beneath spoiled the effect of a choleric
blue eye, which age had not dimmed. The man was gross and yet
haggard; it was not the padding of good living which clothed his
bones, but a heaviness as of some dropsical malady. I could
picture him in health a gaunt loose-limbed being, high-featured
and swift and eager. He was dressed wholly in black velvet, with
fresh ruffles and wristbands, and he wore heeled shoes with
antique silver buckles. It was a figure of an older age which
rose to greet me, in one hand a snuff-box and a purple
handkerchief, and in the other a book with finger marking place.
He made me a great bow as Madame uttered my name, and held out a
hand with a kindly smile.

"Mr. Hervey-Townshend," he said, "we will speak English, if you
please. I am fain to hear it again, for 'tis a tongue I love. I
make you welcome, sir, for your own sake and for the sake of your
kin. How is her honourable ladyship, your aunt? A week ago she
sent me a letter."

I answered that she did famously, and wondered what cause of
correspondence my worthy aunt could have with wandering nobles of

He motioned me to a chair between Madame and himself, while a
servant set a candle on a shelf behind him. Then he proceeded to
catechise me in excellent English, with now and then a phrase of
French, as to the doings in my own land. Admirably informed this
Italian gentleman proved himself. I defy you to find in Almack's
more intelligent gossip. He inquired as to the chances of my
Lord North and the mind of my Lord Rockingham. He had my Lord
Shelburne's foibles at his fingers' ends. The habits of the
Prince, the aims of the their ladyships of Dorset and Buckingham,
the extravagance of this noble Duke and that right honourable
gentleman were not hid from him. I answered discreetly yet
frankly, for there was no ill-breeding in his curiosity. Rather
it seemed like the inquiries of some fine lady, now buried deep
in the country, as to the doings of a forsaken Mayfair. There
was humour in it and something of pathos.

"My aunt must be a voluminous correspondent, sir," I said.

He laughed, "I have many friends in England who write to me, but
I have seen none of them for long, and I doubt I may never see
them again. Also in my youth I have been in England." And he
sighed as at sorrowful recollection.

Then he showed the book in his hand. "See," he said, "here is
one of your English writings, the greatest book I have ever
happened on." It was a volume of Mr. Fielding. For a little he
talked of books and poets. He admired Mr. Fielding profoundly,
Dr. Smollet somewhat less, Mr. Richardson not at all. But he was
clear that England had a monopoly of good writers, saving only my
friend M. Rousseau, whom he valued, yet with reservations. Of
the Italians he had no opinion. I instanced against him the
plays of Signor Alfieri. He groaned, shook his head, and grew

"Know you Scotland?" he asked suddenly.

I replied that I had visited Scotch cousins, but had no great
estimation for the country. "It is too poor and jagged," I said,
"for the taste of one who loves colour and sunshine and suave
outlines." He sighed. "It is indeed a bleak land, but a kindly.
When the sun shines at all he shines on the truest hearts in the
world. I love its bleakness too. There is a spirit in the misty
hills and the harsh sea-wind which inspires men to great deeds.
Poverty and courage go often together, and my Scots, if they are
poor, are as untamable as their mountains."

"You know the land, sir?" I asked.

"I have seen it, and I have known many Scots. You will find them
in Paris and Avignon and Rome, with never a plack in their
pockets. I have a feeling for exiles, sir, and I have pitied
these poor people. They gave their all for the cause they

Clearly the Count shared my aunt's views of history--those views
which have made such sport for us often at Carteron. Stalwart
Whig as I am, there was something in the tone of the old
gentleman which made me feel a certain majesty in the lost cause.

"I am Whig in blood and Whig in principle," I said,--"but I have
never denied that those Scots who followed the Chevalier were too
good to waste on so trumpery a leader."

I had no sooner spoken the words than I felt that somehow I had
been guilty of a betise.

"It may be so," said the Count. "I did not bid you here, sir, to
argue on politics, on which I am assured we should differ. But I
will ask you one question. The King of England is a stout
upholder of the right of kings. How does he face the defection
of his American possessions?"

"The nation takes it well enough, and as for his Majesty's
feelings, there is small inclination to inquire into them. I
conceive of the whole war as a blunder out of which we have come
as we deserved. The day is gone by for the assertion of
monarchic rights against the will of a people."

"May be. But take note that the King of England is suffering
to-day as--how do you call him?--the Chevalier suffered forty
years ago. 'The wheel has come full circle,' as your Shakespeare
says. Time has wrought his revenge."

He was staring into a fire, which burned small and smokily.

"You think the day for kings is ended. I read it differently.
The world will ever have need of kings. If a nation cast out one
it will have to find another. And mark you, those later kings,
created by the people, will bear a harsher hand than the old race
who ruled as of right. Some day the world will regret having
destroyed the kindly and legitimate line of monarchs and put in
their place tyrants who govern by the sword or by flattering an
idle mob.

This belated dogma would at other times have set me laughing, but
the strange figure before me gave no impulse to merriment. I
glanced at Madame, and saw her face grave and perplexed, and I
thought I read a warning gleam in her eye. There was a mystery
about the party which irritated me, but good breeding forbade me
to seek a clue.

"You will permit me to retire, sir," I said. "I have but this
morning come down from a long march among the mountains east of
this valley. Sleeping in wayside huts and tramping those sultry
paths make a man think pleasantly of bed."

The Count seemed to brighten at my words. "You are a marcher,
sir, and love the mountains! Once I would gladly have joined
you, for in my youth I was a great walker in hilly places. Tell
me, now, how many miles will you cover in a day?"

I told him thirty at a stretch.

"Ah," he said, "I have done fifty, without food, over the
roughest and mossiest mountains. I lived on what I shot, and for
drink I had spring-water. Nay, I am forgetting. There was
another beverage, which I wager you have never tasted. Heard you
ever, sir, of that eau de vie which the Scots call usquebagh?
It will comfort a traveller as no thin Italian wine will comfort
him. By my soul, you shall taste it. Charlotte, my dear, bid
Oliphant fetch glasses and hot water and lemons. I will give Mr.
Hervey-Townshend a sample of the brew. You English are all
tetes-de-fer, sir, and are worthy of it."

The old man's face had lighted up, and for the moment his air had
the jollity of youth. I would have accepted the entertainment
had I not again caught Madame's eye. It said, unmistakably and
with serious pleading, "Decline." I therefore made my excuses,
urged fatigue, drowsiness, and a delicate stomach, bade my host
good-night, and in deep mystification left the room.

Enlightenment came upon me as the door closed. There in the
threshold stood the manservant whom they called Oliphant, erect
as a sentry on guard. The sight reminded me of what I had once
seen at Basle when by chance a Rhenish Grand Duke had shared the
inn with me. Of a sudden a dozen clues linked together--the
crowned notepaper, Scotland, my aunt Hervey's politics, the tale
of old wanderings.

"Tell me," I said in a whisper, "who is the Count d'Albani, your
master?" and I whistled softly a bar of "Charlie is my

"Ay," said the man, without relaxing a muscle of his grim face.
"It is the King of England--my king and yours."


In the small hours of the next morning I was awoke by a most
unearthly sound. It was as if all the cats on all the roofs of
Santa Chiara were sharpening their claws and wailing their
battle-cries. Presently out of the noise came a kind of
music--very slow, solemn, and melancholy. The notes ran up in
great flights of ecstasy, and sunk anon to the tragic deeps. In
spite of my sleepiness I was held spellbound and the musician had
concluded with certain barbaric grunts before I had the curiosity
to rise. It came from somewhere in the gallery of the inn, and
as I stuck my head out of my door I had a glimpse of Oliphant,
nightcap on head and a great bagpipe below his arm, stalking down
the corridor.

The incident, for all the gravity of the music, seemed to give a
touch of farce to my interview of the past evening. I had gone
to bed with my mind full of sad stories of the deaths of kings.
Magnificence in tatters has always affected my pity more deeply
than tatters with no such antecedent, and a monarch out at elbows
stood for me as the last irony of our mortal life. Here was a
king whose misfortunes could find no parallel. He had been in
his youth the hero of a high adventure, and his middle age had
been spent in fleeting among the courts of Europe, and waiting as
pensioner on the whims of his foolish but regnant brethren. I
had heard tales of a growing sottishness, a decline in spirit, a
squalid taste in pleasures. Small blame, I had always thought,
to so ill-fated a princeling. And now I had chanced upon the
gentleman in his dotage, travelling with a barren effort at
mystery, attended by a sad-faced daughter and two ancient
domestics. It was a lesson in the vanity of human wishes which
the shallowest moralist would have noted. Nay, I felt more than
the moral. Something human and kindly in the old fellow had
caught my fancy. The decadence was too tragic to prose about,
the decadent too human to moralise on. I had left the chamber of
the--shall I say de jure King of England?--a sentimental adherent
of the cause. But this business of the bagpipes touched the
comic. To harry an old valet out of bed and set him droning on
pipes in the small hours smacked of a theatrical taste, or at
least of an undignified fancy. Kings in exile, if they wish to
keep the tragic air, should not indulge in such fantastic

My mind changed again when after breakfast I fell in with Madame
on the stair. She drew aside to let me pass, and then made as if
she would speak to me. I gave her good-morning, and, my mind
being full of her story, addressed her as "Excellency."

"I see, sir," she said, " hat you know the truth. I have to ask
your forbearance for the concealment I practised yesterday. It
was a poor requital for your generosity, but is it one of the
shifts of our sad fortune. An uncrowned king must go in disguise
or risk the laughter of every stable-boy. Besides, we are too
poor to travel in state, even if we desired it."

Honestly, I knew not what to say. I was not asked to sympathise,
having already revealed my politics, and yet the case cried out
for sympathy. You remember, my dear aunt, the good Lady Culham,
who was our Dorsetshire neighbour, and tried hard to mend my ways
at Carteron? This poor Duchess--for so she called herself--was
just such another. A woman made for comfort, housewifery, and
motherhood, and by no means for racing about Europe in charge of
a disreputable parent. I could picture her settled equably on a
garden seat with a lapdog and needlework, blinking happily over
green lawns and mildly rating an errant gardener. I could fancy
her sitting in a summer parlour, very orderly and dainty, writing
lengthy epistles to a tribe of nieces. I could see her
marshalling a household in the family pew, or riding serenely in
the family coach behind fat bay horses. But here, on an inn
staircase, with a false name and a sad air of mystery, she was
woefully out of place. I noted little wrinkles forming in the
corners of her eyes, and the ravages of care beginning in the
plump rosiness of her face. Be sure there was nothing appealing
in her mien. She spoke with the air of a great lady, to whom the
world is matter only for an afterthought. It was the facts that
appealed and grew poignant from her courage.

"There is another claim upon your good nature," she said.
"Doubtless you were awoke last night by Oliphant's playing upon
the pipes. I rebuked the landlord for his insolence in
protesting, but to you, a gentleman and a friend, an explanation
is due. My father sleeps ill, and your conversation seems to
have cast him into a train of sad memories. It has been his
habit on such occasions to have the pipes played to him, since
they remind him of friends and happier days. It is a small
privilege for an old man, and he does not claim it often."

I declared that the music had only pleased, and that I would
welcome its repetition. Where upon she left me with a little bow
and an invitation to join them that day at dinner, while I
departed into the town on my own errands. I returned before
midday, and was seated at an arbour in the garden, busy with
letters, when there hove in sight the gaunt figure of Oliphant.
He hovered around me, if such a figure can be said to hover, with
the obvious intention of addressing me. The fellow had caught my
fancy, and I was willing to see more of him. His face might have
been hacked out of grey granite, his clothes hung loosely on his
spare bones, and his stockined shanks would have done no
discredit to Don Quixote. There was no dignity in his air, only
a steady and enduring sadness. Here, thought I, is the one of
the establishment who most commonly meets the shock of the
world's buffets. I called him by name and asked him his desires.

It appeared that he took me for a Jacobite, for he began a
rigmarole about loyalty and hard fortune. I hastened to correct
him, and he took the correction with the same patient despair
with which he took all things. 'Twas but another of the blows of

"At any rate," he said in a broad Scotch accent, "ye come of kin
that has helpit my maister afore this. I've many times heard
tell o' Herveys and Townshends in England, and a' folk said they
were on the richt side. Ye're maybe no a freend, but ye're a
freend's freend, or I wadna be speirin' at ye."

I was amused at the prologue, and waited on the tale. It soon
came. Oliphant, it appeared, was the purse-bearer of the
household, and woeful straits that poor purse-bearer must have
been often put to. I questioned him as to his master's revenues,
but could get no clear answer. There were payments due next month
in Florence which would solve the difficulties for the winter,
but in the meantime expenditure had beaten income. Travelling
had cost much, and the Count must have his small comforts. The
result in plain words was that Oliphant had not the wherewithal
to frank the company to Florence; indeed, I doubted if he could
have paid the reckoning in Santa Chiara. A loan was therefore
sought from a friend's friend, meaning myself.

I was very really embarrassed. Not that I would not have given
willingly, for I had ample resources at the moment and was
mightily concerned about the sad household. But I knew that the
little Duchess would take Oliphant's ears from his head if she
guessed that he had dared to borrow from me, and that, if I lent,
her back would for ever be turned against me. And yet, what
would follow on my refusal? In a day of two there would be a
pitiful scene with mine host, and as like as not some of their
baggage detained as security for payment. I did not love the
task of conspiring behind the lady's back, but if it could be
contrived 'twas indubitably the kindest course. I glared sternly
at Oliphant, who met me with his pathetic, dog-like eyes.

"You know that your mistress would never consent to the request
you have made of me?"

"I ken," he said humbly."But payin' is my job, and I simply
havena the siller. It's no the first time it has happened, and
it's a sair trial for them both to be flung out o' doors by a
foreign hostler because they canna meet his charges. But, sir,
if ye can lend to me, ye may be certain that her leddyship will
never, hear a word o't. Puir thing, she takes nae thocht o'
where the siller comes frae, ony mair than the lilies o' the

I became a conspirator. "You swear, Oliphant, by all you hold
sacred, to breathe nothing of this to your mistress, and if she
should suspect, to lie like a Privy Councillor?"

A flicker of a smile crossed his face. "I'll lee like a Scotch
packman, and the Father o' lees could do nae mair. You need have
no fear for your siller, sir. I've aye repaid when I borrowed,
though you may have to wait a bittock." And the strange fellow
strolled off.

At dinner no Duchess appeared till long after the appointed hour,
nor was there any sign of Oliphant. When she came at last with
Cristine, her eyes looked as if she had been crying, and she
greeted me with remote courtesy. My first thought was that
Oliphant had revealed the matter of the loan, but presently I
found that the lady's trouble was far different. Her father, it
seemed, was ill again with his old complaint. What that was I
did not ask, nor did the Duchess reveal it.

We spoke in French, for I had discovered that this was her
favourite speech. There was no Oliphant to wait on us, and the
inn servants were always about, so it was well to have a tongue
they did not comprehend. The lady was distracted and sad. When
I inquired feelingly as to the general condition of her father's
health she parried the question, and when I offered my services
she disregarded my words. It was in truth a doleful meal, while
the faded Cristine sat like a sphinx staring into vacancy. I
spoke of England and of her friends, of Paris and Versailles, of
Avignon where she had spent some years, and of the amenities of
Florence, which she considered her home. But it was like talking
to a nunnery door. I got nothing but "It is indeed true, sir,"
or "Do you say so, sir!" till my energy began to sink. Madame
perceived my discomfort, and, as she rose, murmured an apology.
"Pray forgive my distraction, but I am poor company when my
father is ill. I have a foolish mind, easily frightened. Nay,
nay!" she went on when I again offered help, "the illness is
trifling. It will pass off by to-morrow, or at the latest the
next day. Only I had looked forward to some ease at Santa
Chiara, and the promise is belied."

As it chanced that evening, returning to the inn, I passed by the
north side where the windows of the Count's room looked over a
little flower-garden abutting on the courtyard. The dusk was
falling, and a lamp had been lit which gave a glimpse into the
interior. The sick man was standing by the window, his figure
flung into relief by the lamplight. If he was sick, his sickness
was of a curious type. His face was ruddy, his eye wild, and,
his wig being off, his scanty hair stood up oddly round his head.
He seemed to be singing, but I could not catch the sound through
the shut casement. Another figure in the room, probably
Oliphant, laid a hand on the Count's shoulder, drew him from the
window, and closed the shutter.

It needed only the recollection of stories which were the
property of all Europe to reach a conclusion on the gentleman's
illness. The legitimate King of England was very drunk.

As I went to my room that night I passed the Count's door. There
stood Oliphant as sentry, more grim and haggard than ever, and I
thought that his eye met mine with a certain intelligence. From
inside the room came a great racket. There was the sound of
glasses falling, then a string of oaths, English, French, and for
all I know, Irish, rapped out in a loud drunken voice. A pause,
and then came the sound of maudlin singing. It pursued me along
the gallery, an old childish song, delivered as if 'twere a
pot-house catch-

"Qu'est-ce qui passe ici si tard,
Compagnons de la Marjolaine---"

One of the late-going company of the Marjolaine hastened to bed.
This king in exile, with his melancholy daughter, was becoming
too much for him.


It was just before noon next day that the travellers arrived. I
was sitting in the shady loggia of the inn, reading a volume of
De Thou, when there drove up to the door two coaches. Out of the
first descended very slowly and stiffly four gentlemen; out of
the second four servants and a quantity of baggage. As it
chanced there was no one about, the courtyard slept its sunny
noontide sleep, and the only movement was a lizard on the wall
and a buzz of flies by the fountain. Seeing no sign of the
landlord, one of the travellers approached me with a grave

"This is the inn called the Tre Croci, sir?" he asked.

I said it was, and shouted on my own account for the host.
Presently that personage arrived with a red face and a short
wind, having ascended rapidly from his own cellar. He was awed
by the dignity of the travellers, and made none of his usual
protests of incapacity. The servants filed off solemnly with the
baggage, and the four gentlemen set themselves down beside me in
the loggia and ordered each a modest flask of wine.

At first I took them for our countrymen, but as I watched them
the conviction vanished. All four were tall and lean beyond the
average of mankind. They wore suits of black, with antique
starched frills to their shirts; their hair was their own and
unpowdered. Massive buckles of an ancient pattern adorned their
square-toed shoes, and the canes they carried were like the yards
of a small vessel. They were four merchants, I had guessed, of
Scotland, maybe, or of Newcastle, but their voices were not
Scotch, and their air had no touch of commerce. Take the
heavy-browed preoccupation of a Secretary of State, add the
dignity of a bishop, the sunburn of a fox-hunter, and something
of the disciplined erectness of a soldier, and you may perceive
the manner of these four gentlemen. By the side of them my
assurance vanished. Compared with their Olympian serenity my
Person seemed fussy and servile. Even so, I mused, must Mr.
Franklin have looked when baited in Parliament by the Tory pack.
The reflection gave me the cue. Presently I caught from their
conversation the word "Washington," and the truth flashed upon
me. I was in the presence of four of Mr. Franklin's countrymen.
Having never seen an American in the flesh, I rejoiced at the
chance of enlarging my acquaintance.

They brought me into the circle by a polite question as to the
length of road to Verona. Soon introductions followed. My name
intrigued them, and they were eager to learn of my kinship to
Uncle Charles. The eldest of the four, it appeared, was Mr.
Galloway out of Maryland. Then came two brothers, Sylvester by
name, of Pennsylvania, and last Mr. Fish, a lawyer of New York.
All four had campaigned in the late war, and all four were
members of the Convention, or whatever they call their
rough-and-ready parliament. They were modest in their behaviour,
much disinclined to speak of their past, as great men might be
whose reputation was world-wide. Somehow the names stuck in my
memory. I was certain that I had heard them linked with some
stalwart fight or some moving civil deed or some defiant
manifesto. The making of history was in their steadfast eye and
the grave lines of the mouth. Our friendship flourished mightily
in a brief hour, and brought me the invitation, willingly
accepted, to sit with them at dinner.

There was no sign of the Duchess or Cristine or Oliphant.
Whatever had happened, that household to-day required all hands
on deck, and I was left alone with the Americans. In my day I
have supped with the Macaronies, I have held up my head at the
Cocoa Tree, I have avoided the floor at hunt dinners, I have
drunk glass to glass with Tom Carteron. But never before have I
seen such noble consumers of good liquor as those four gentlemen
from beyond the Atlantic. They drank the strong red Cyprus as if
it had been spring-water. "The dust of your Italian roads takes
some cleansing, Mr. Townshend," was their only excuse, but in
truth none was needed. The wine seemed only to thaw their iron
decorum. Without any surcease of dignity they grew
communicative, and passed from lands to peoples and from peoples
to constitutions. Before we knew it we were embarked upon high

Naturally we did not differ on the war. Like me, they held it to
have been a grievous necessity. They had no bitterness against
England, only regrets for her blunders. Of his Majesty they
spoke with respect, of his Majesty's advisers with dignified
condemnation. They thought highly of our troops in America;
less highly of our generals.

"Look you, sir," said Mr. Galloway, "in a war such as we have
witnessed the Almighty is the only strategist. You fight against
the forces of Nature, and a newcomer little knows that the
success or failure of every operation he can conceive depends not
upon generalship, but upon the confirmation of a vast country.
Our generals, with this in mind and with fewer men, could make
all your schemes miscarry. Had the English soldiers not been of
such stubborn stuff, we should have been victors from the first.
Our leader was not General Washington but General America, and
his brigadiers were forests, swamps, lakes, rivers, and high

"And now," I said, "having won, you have the greatest of human
experiments before you. Your business is to show that the Saxon
stock is adaptable to a republic."

It seemed to me that they exchanged glances.

"We are not pedants," said Mr. Fish, "and have no desire to
dispute about the form of a constitution. A people may be as
free under a king as under a senate. Liberty is not the lackey
of any type of government.

These were strange words from a member of a race whom I had
thought wedded to the republicanism of Helvidius Priscus.

"As a loyal subject of a monarchy," I said, "I must agree with
you. But your hands are tied, for I cannot picture the
establishment of a House of Washington and--if not, where are you
to turn for your sovereign?"

Again a smile seemed to pass among the four.

"We are experimenters, as you say, sir, and must go slowly. In
the meantime, we have an authority which keeps peace and property
safe. We are at leisure to cast our eyes round and meditate on
the future."

"Then, gentlemen," said I, "you take an excellent way of
meditation in visiting this museum of old sovereignties. Here
you have the relics of any government you please--a dozen
republics, tyrannies, theocracies, merchant confederations,
kingdoms, and more than one empire. You have your choice. I am
tolerably familiar with the land, and if I can assist you I am at
your service."

They thanked me gravely "We have letters," said Mr. Galloway;
"one in especial is to a gentleman whom we hope to meet in this
place. Have you heard in your travels of the Count of Albany?"

"He has arrived," said I, "two days ago. Even now he is in the
chamber above us at dinner."

The news interested them hugely.

"You have seen him?" they cried. "What is he like?"

"An elderly gentleman in poor health, a man who has travelled
much, and, I judge, has suffered something from fortune. He has
a fondness for the English, so you will be welcome, sirs; but he
was indisposed yesterday, and may still be unable to receive you.
His daughter travels with him and tends his old age."

" And you--you have spoken with him?"

"The night before last I was in his company. We talked of many
things, including the late war. He is somewhat of your opinion
on matters of government."

The four looked at each other, and then Mr. Galloway rose.

"I ask your permission, Mr. Townshend, to consult for a moment
with my friends. The matter is of some importance, and I would
beg you to await us." So saying, he led the others out of doors,
and I heard them withdraw to a corner of the loggia. Now,
thought I, there is something afoot, and my long-sought romance
approaches fruition. The company of the Marjolaine, whom the
Count had sung of, have arrived at last.

Presently they returned and seated themselves at the table.

"You can be of great assistance to us, Mr. Townshend, and we
would fain take you into our confidence. Are you aware who is
this Count of Albany?"

I nodded. "It is a thin disguise to one familiar with history."

"Have you reached any estimate of his character or capabilities?
You speak to friends, and, let me tell you, it is a matter which
deeply concerns the Count's interests."

"I think him a kindly and pathetic old gentleman. He naturally
bears the mark of forty years' sojourn in the wilderness."

Mr. Galloway took snuff.

"We have business with him, but it is business which stands in
need of an agent. There is no one in the Count's suite with whom
we could discuss affairs?"

"There is his daughter."

"Ah, but she would scarcely suit the case. Is there no man--a
friend, and yet not a member of the family who can treat
with us?"

I replied that I thought that I was the only being in Santa
Chiara who answered the description.

"If you will accept the task, Mr. Townshend, you are amply
qualified. We will be frank with you and reveal our business.
We are on no less an errand than to offer the Count of Albany a

I suppose I must have had some suspicion of their purpose, and
yet the revelation of it fell on me like a thunderclap. I could
only stare owlishly at my four grave gentlemen.

Mr. Galloway went on unperturbed. "I have told you that in
America we are not yet republicans. There are those among us who
favour a republic, but they are by no means a majority. We have
got rid of a king who misgoverned us, but we have no wish to get
rid of kingship. We want a king of our own choosing, and we
would get with him all the ancient sanctions of monarchy. The
Count of Albany is of the most illustrious royal stock in
Europe--he is, if legitimacy goes for anything, the rightful King
of Britain. Now, if the republican party among us is to be
worsted, we must come before the nation with a powerful candidate
for their favour. You perceive my drift? What more potent appeal
to American pride than to say: 'We have got rid of King George;
we choose of our own free will the older line and King Charles'?"

I said foolishly that I thought monarchy had had its day, and
that 'twas idle to revive it.

"That is a sentiment well enough under a monarchical government;
but we, with a clean page to write upon, do not share it. You
know your ancient historians. Has not the repository of the
chief power always been the rock on which republicanism has
shipwrecked? If that power is given to the chief citizen, the
way is prepared for the tyrant. If it abides peacefully in a
royal house, it abides with cyphers who dignify, without
obstructing, a popular constitution. Do not mistake me, Mr.
Townshend. This is no whim of a sentimental girl, but the
reasoned conclusion of the men who achieved our liberty. There
is every reason to believe that General Washington shares our
views, and Mr. Hamilton, whose name you may know, is the inspirer
of our mission."

"But the Count is an old man," I urged; for I knew not where to
begin in my exposition of the hopelessness of their errand.

"By so much the better. We do not wish a young king who may be
fractious. An old man tempered by misfortune is what our purpose

"He has also his failings. A man cannot lead his life for forty
years and retain all the virtues."

At that one of the Sylvesters spoke sharply. "I have heard such
gossip, but I do not credit it. I have not forgotten Preston and

I made my last objection. "He has no posterity--legitimate
posterity--to carry on his line."

The four gentlemen smiled. "That happens to be his chiefest
recommendation," said Mr. Galloway. "It enables us to take the
House of Stuart on trial. We need a breathing-space and leisure
to look around; but unless we establish the principle of
monarchy at once the republicans will forestall us. Let us get
our king at all costs, and during the remaining years of his life
we shall have time to settle the succession problem.

"We have no wish to saddle ourselves for good with a race who
might prove burdensome. If King Charles fails he has no son, and
we can look elsewhere for a better monarch. You perceive the
reason of my view?"

I did, and I also perceived the colossal absurdity of the whole
business. But I could not convince them of it, for they met my
objections with excellent arguments. Nothing save a sight of the
Count would, I feared, disillusion them.

"You wish me to make this proposal on your behalf?" I asked.

"We shall make the proposal ourselves, but we desire you to
prepare the way for us. He is an elderly man, and should first
be informed of our purpose."

"There is one person whom I beg leave to consult--the Duchess,
his daughter. It may be that the present is an ill moment for
approaching the Count, and the affair requires her sanction."

They agreed, and with a very perplexed mind I went forth to seek
the lady. The irony of the thing was too cruel, and my heart
ached for her. In the gallery I found Oliphant packing some very
shabby trunks, and when I questioned him he told me that the
family were to leave Santa Chiara on the morrow. Perchance the
Duchess had awakened to the true state of their exchequer, or
perchance she thought it well to get her father on the road again
as a cure for his ailment.

I discovered Cristine, and begged for an interview with her
mistress on an urgent matter. She led me to the Duchess's room,
and there the evidence of poverty greeted me openly. All the
little luxuries of the menage had gone to the Count. The poor
lady's room was no better than a servant's garret, and the lady
herself sat stitching a rent in a travelling cloak. She rose to
greet me with alarm in her eyes.

As briefly as I could I set out the facts of my amazing mission.
At first she seemed scarcely to hear me. "What do they want
with him?" she asked. "He can give them nothing. He is no
friend to the Americans or to any people who have deposed their
sovereign." Then, as she grasped my meaning, her face flushed.

"It is a heartless trick, Mr. Townshend. I would fain think you
no party to it."

"Believe me, dear madame, it is no trick. The men below are in
sober earnest. You have but to see their faces to know that
theirs is no wild adventure. I believe sincerely that they have
the power to implement their promise."

"But it is madness. He is old and worn and sick. His day is
long past for winning a crown."

"All this I have said, but it does not move them." And I told
her rapidly Mr. Galloway's argument. She fell into a muse. "At
the eleventh hour! Nay, too late, too late. Had he been twenty
years younger, what a stroke of fortune! Fate bears too hard on
us, too hard!"

Then she turned to me fiercely. "You have no doubt heard, sir,
the gossip about my father, which is on the lips of every fool in
Europe. Let us have done with this pitiful make-believe. My
father is a sot. Nay, I do not blame him. I blame his enemies
and his miserable destiny. But there is the fact. Were he not
old, he would still be unfit to grasp a crown and rule over a
turbulent people. He flees from one city to another, but he
cannot flee from himself. That is his illness on which you
condoled with me yesterday."

The lady's control was at breaking-point. Another moment and I
expected a torrent of tears. But they did not come. With a
great effort she regained her composure.

"Well, the gentlemen must have an answer. You will tell them
that the Count, my father--nay--give him his true title if you
care--is vastly obliged to them for the honour they have done
him, but would decline on account of his age and infirmities. You
know how to phrase a decent refusal."

"Pardon me," said I, "but I might give them that answer till
doomsday and never content them. They have not travelled many
thousand miles to be put off by hearsay evidence. Nothing will
satisfy them but an interview with your father himself.

"It is impossible," she said sharply.

"Then we must expect the renewed attentions of our American
friends. They will wait till they see him."

She rose and paced the room.

"They must go," she repeated many times. "If they see him sober
he will accept with joy, and we shall be the laughing-stock of
the world. I tell you it cannot be. I alone know how immense is
the impossibility. He cannot afford to lose the last rags of his
dignity, the last dregs of his ease. They must not see him. I
will speak with them myself."

"They will be honoured, madame, but I do not think they will be
convinced. They are what we call in my land 'men of business.'
They will not be content till they get the Count's reply from his
own lips.

A new Duchess seemed to have arisen, a woman of quick action and
sharp words.

"So be it. They shall see him. Oh, I am sick to death of fine
sentiments and high loyalty and all the vapouring stuff I have
lived among for years. All I ask for myself and my father is a
little peace, and, by Heaven! I shall secure it. If nothing
will kill your gentlemen's folly but truth, why, truth they shall
have. They shall see my father, and this very minute. Bring
them up, Mr. Townshend, and usher them into the presence of the
rightful King of England. You will find him alone." She
stopped her walk and looked out of the window.

I went back in a hurry to the Americans. "I am bidden to bring
you to the Count's chamber. He is alone and will see you. These
are the commands of madame his daughter."

"Good!" said Mr. Galloway, and all four, grave gentlemen as they
were, seemed to brace themselves to a special dignity as befitted
ambassadors to a king. I led them upstairs, tapped at the
Count's door, and, getting no answer, opened it and admitted

And this was what we saw. The furniture was in disorder, and on a
couch lay an old man sleeping a heavy drunken sleep. His mouth
was open and his breath came stertorously. The face was purple,
and large purple veins stood out on the mottled forehead. His
scanty white hair was draggled over his cheek. On the floor was
a broken glass, wet stains still lay on the boards, and the place
reeked of spirits. The four looked for a second--I do not think
longer at him whom they would have made their king. They did not
look at each other. With one accord they moved out, and Mr.
Fish, who was last, closed the door very gently behind him.

In the hall below Mr. Galloway turned to me. "Our mission is
ended, Mr. Townshend. I have to thank you for your courtesy."
Then to the others, "If we order the coaches now, we may get
well on the way to Verona ere sundown."

An hour later two coaches rolled out of the courtyard of the Tre
Croci. As they passed, a window was half-opened on the upper
floor, and a head looked out. A line of a song came down, a
song sung in a strange quavering voice. It was the catch I had
heard the night before:

"Qu'est-ce qui passe ici si tard,
Compagnons de la Marjolaine--e!"

It was true. The company came late indeed--too late by forty
years. . . .



Hearts to break but nane to sell,
Gear to tine but nane to hain;--
We maun dree a weary spell
Ere our lad comes back again.

I walk abroad on winter days,
When storms have stripped the wide champaign,
For northern winds have norland ways,
And scents of Badenoch haunt the rain.
And by the lipping river path,
When in the fog the Rhone runs grey,
I see the heather of the Strath,
And watch the salmon leap in Spey.

The hills are feathered with young trees,
I set them for my children's boys.
I made a garden deep in ease,
A pleasance for my lady's joys.
Strangers have heired them. Long ago
She died,--kind fortune thus to die;
And my one son by Beauly flow
Gave up the soul that could not lie.

Old, elbow-worn, and pinched I bide
The final toll the gods may take.
The laggard years have quenched my pride;
They cannot kill the ache, the ache.

Weep not the dead, for they have sleep
Who lie at home: but ah, for me
In the deep grave my heart will weep
With longing for my lost countrie.

Hearts to break but nane to sell,
Gear to tine but nane to hain;--
We maun dree a weary spell
Ere our lad comes back again.



To adopt the opening words of a more famous tale, "The truth
of this strange matter is what the world has long been looking
for." The events which I propose to chronicle were known to
perhaps a hundred people in London whose fate brings them into
contact with politics. The consequences were apparent to all the
world, and for one hectic fortnight tinged the soberest
newspapers with saffron, drove more than one worthy election
agent to an asylum, and sent whole batches of legislators to
Continental cures. "But no reasonable explanation of the
mystery has been forthcoming until now, when a series of chances
gave the key into my hands.

Lady Caerlaverock is my aunt, and I was present at the two
remarkable dinner-parties which form the main events in this
tale. I was also taken into her confidence during the terrible
fortnight which intervened between them. Like everybody else, I
was hopelessly in the dark, and could only accept what happened
as a divine interposition. My first clue came when James, the
Caerlaverocks' second footman, entered my service as valet, and
being a cheerful youth chose to gossip while he shaved me. I
checked him, but he babbled on, and I could not choose but learn
something about the disposition of the Caerlaverock household
below stairs. I learned--what I knew before--that his lordship
had an inordinate love for curries, a taste acquired during some
troubled years as Indian Viceroy. I had often eaten that
admirable dish at his table, and had heard him boast of the skill
of the Indian cook who prepared it. James, it appeared, did not
hold with the Orient in the kitchen. He described the said
Indian gentleman as a "nigger," and expressed profound distrust
of his ways. He referred darkly to the events of the year
before, which in some distorted way had reached the servants'
ears. "We always thought as 'ow it was them niggers as done it,"
he declared; and when I questioned him on his use of the plural,
admitted that at the time in question "there 'ad been more nor
one nigger 'anging about the kitchen."

Pondering on these sayings, I asked myself if it were not
possible that the behaviour of certain eminent statesmen was due
to some strange devilry of the East, and I made a vow to abstain
in future from the Caerlaverock curries. But last month my
brother returned from India, and I got the whole truth. He was
staying with me in Scotland, and in the smoking-room the talk
turned on occultism in the East. I declared myself a sceptic,
and George was stirred. He asked me rudely what I knew about it,
and proceeded to make a startling confession of faith. He was
cross-examined by the others, and retorted with some of his
experiences. Finding an incredulous audience, his tales became
more defiant, until he capped them all with one monstrous yarn.
He maintained that in a Hindu family of his acquaintance there
had been transmitted the secret of a drug, capable of altering a
man's whole temperament until the antidote was administered. It
would turn a coward into a bravo, a miser into a spendthrift, a
rake into a fakir. Then, having delivered his manifesto he got
up abruptly and went to bed.

I followed him to his room, for something in the story had
revived a memory. By dint of much persuasion I dragged from the
somnolent George various details. The family in question were
Beharis, large landholders dwelling near the Nepal border. He
had known old Ram Singh for years, and had seen him twice since
his return from England. He got the story from him under no
promise of secrecy, for the family drug was as well known in the
neighbourhood as the nine incarnations of Krishna. He had no
doubt about the truth of it, for he had positive proof. "And
others besides me," said George. "Do you remember when Vennard
had a lucid interval a couple of years ago and talked sense for
once? That was old Ram Singh's doing, for he told me about it."

Three years ago it seems the Government of India saw fit to
appoint a commission to inquire into land tenure on the Nepal
border. Some of the feudal Rajahs had been "birsing yont," like
the Breadalbanes, and the smaller zemindars were gravely
disquieted. The result of the commission was that Ram Singh had
his boundaries rectified, and lost a mile or two of country which
his hard-fisted fathers had won.

I know nothing of the rights of the matter, but there can be no
doubt about Ram Singh's dissatisfaction. He appealed to the law
courts, but failed to upset the commission's finding, and the
Privy Council upheld the Indian judgment. Thereupon in a flowery
and eloquent document he laid his case before the Viceroy, and
was told that the matter was closed. Now Ram Singh came of a
fighting stock, so he straightway took ship to England to
petition the Crown. He petitioned Parliament, but his petition
went into the bag behind the Speaker's chair, from which there is
no return. He petitioned the King, but was courteously informed
that he must approach the Department concerned. He tried the
Secretary of State for India, and had an interview with Abinger
Vennard, who was very rude to him, and succeeded in mortally
insulting the feudal aristocrat. He appealed to the Prime
Minister, and was warned off by a harassed private secretary.
The handful of members of Parliament who make Indian grievances
their stock-in-trade fought shy of him, for indeed Ram Singh's
case had no sort of platform appeal in it, and his arguments were
flagrantly undemocratic. But they sent him to Lord Caerlaverock,
for the ex-viceroy loved to be treated as a kind of
consul-general for India. But this Protector of the Poor proved
a broken reed. He told Ram Singh flatly that he was a belated
feudalist, which was true; and implied that he was a
land-grabber, which was not true, Ram Singh having only enjoyed
the fruits of his fore-bears' enterprise. Deeply incensed, the
appellant shook the dust of Caerlaverock House from his feet, and
sat down to plan a revenge upon the Government which had wronged
him. And in his wrath he thought of the heirloom of his house,
the drug which could change men's souls.

It happened that Lord Caerlaverock cook's came from the same
neighbourhood as Ram Singh. This cook, Lal Muhammad by name, was
one of a large poor family, hangers-on of Ram Singh's house. The
aggrieved landowner summoned him, and demanded as of right his
humble services. Lal Muhammad, who found his berth to his
liking, hesitated, quibbled, but was finally overborne. He
suggested a fee for his services, but hastily withdrew when Ram
Singh sketched a few of the steps he proposed to take on his
return by way of punishing Lal Muhammad's insolence on Lal
Muhammad's household. Then he got to business. There was a
great dinner next week--so he had learned from Jephson, the
butler--and more than one member of the Government would honour
Caerlaverock House by his presence. With deference he suggested
this as a fitting occasion for the experiment, and Ram Singh was
pleased to assent.

I can picture these two holding their meetings in the South
Kensington lodgings where Ram Singh dwelt. We know from James,
the second footman, that they met also at Caerlaverock House, no
doubt that Ram Singh might make certain that his orders were duly
obeyed. I can see the little packet of clear grains--I picture
them like small granulated sugar--added to the condiments, and
soon dissolved out of sight. The deed was done; the cook
returned to Bloomsbury and Ram Singh to Gloucester Road, to await
with the patient certainty of the East the consummation of a
great vengeance.


My wife was at Kissengen, and I was dining with the Caerlaverocks
en garcon. When I have not to wait upon the adornment of the
female person I am a man of punctual habits, and I reached the
house as the hall clock chimed the quarter-past. My poor friend,
Tommy Deloraine, arrived along with me, and we ascended the
staircase together. I call him "my poor friend," for at the
moment Tommy was under the weather. He had the misfortune to be
a marquis, and a very rich one, and at the same time to be in
love with Claudia Barriton. Neither circumstance was in itself
an evil, but the combination made for tragedy. For Tommy's
twenty-five years of healthy manhood, his cleanly-made
up-standing figure, his fresh countenance and cheerful laugh,
were of no avail in the lady's eyes when set against the fact
that he was an idle peer. Miss Claudia was a charming girl, with
a notable bee in her bonnet. She was burdened with the cares of
the State, and had no patience with any one who took them
lightly. To her mind the social fabric was rotten beyond repair,
and her purpose was frankly destructive. I remember some of her
phrases: "A bold and generous policy of social amelioration";
"The development of a civic conscience"; "A strong hand to lop
off decaying branches from the trunk of the State." I have no
fault to find with her creed, but I objected to its practical
working when it took the shape of an inhuman hostility to that
devout lover, Tommy Deloraine. She had refused him, I believe,
three times, with every circumstance of scorn. The first time
she had analysed his character, and described him as a bundle of
attractive weaknesses. "The only forces I recognise are those of
intellect and conscience," she had said, "and you have neither."
The second time--it was after he had been to Canada on the
staff--she spoke of the irreconcilability of their political
ideals. "You are an Imperialist," she said, "and believe in an
empire of conquest for the benefit of the few. I want a little
island with a rich life for all." Tommy declared that he would
become a Doukhobor to please her, but she said something about
the inability of Ethiopians to change their skin. The third time
she hinted vaguely that there was "another." The star of Abinger
Vennard was now blazing in the firmament, and she had conceived a
platonic admiration for him. The truth is that Miss Claudia,
with all her cleverness, was very young and--dare I say it?
--rather silly.

Caerlaverock was stroking his beard, his legs astraddle on the
hearthrug, with something appallingly viceregal in his air, when
Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Cargill were announced. The Home
Secretary was a joy to behold. He had the face of an elderly and
pious bookmaker, and a voice in which lurked the indescribable
Scotch quality of "unction." When he was talking you had only to
shut your eyes to imagine yourself in some lowland kirk on a hot
Sabbath morning. He had been a distinguished advocate before he
left the law for politics, and had swayed juries of his
countrymen at his will. The man was extraordinarily efficient on
a platform. There were unplumbed depths of emotion in his eye, a
juicy sentiment in his voice, an overpowering tenderness in his
manner, which gave to politics the glamour of a revival meeting.
He wallowed in obvious pathos, and his hearers, often
unwillingly, wallowed with him. I have never listened to any
orator at once so offensive and so horribly effective. There was
no appeal too base for him, and none too august: by some subtle
alchemy he blended the arts of the prophet and the fishwife. He
had discovered a new kind of language. Instead of "the hungry
millions," or "the toilers," or any of the numerous synonyms for
our masters, he invented the phrase, "Goad's people." "I shall
never rest," so ran his great declaration, "till Goad's green
fields and Goad's clear waters are free to Goad's people." I
remember how on this occasion he pressed my hand with his famous
cordiality, looked gravely and earnestly into my face, and then
gazed sternly into vacancy. It was a fine picture of genius
descending for a moment from its hill-top to show how close it
was to poor humanity.

Then came Lord Mulross, a respectable troglodytic peer, who
represented the one sluggish element in a swiftly progressing
Government. He was an oldish man with bushy whiskers and a
reputed mastery of the French tongue. A Whig, who had never
changed his creed one iota, he was highly valued by the country
as a sober element in the nation's councils, and endured by the
Cabinet as necessary ballast. He did not conceal his dislike for
certain of his colleagues, notably Mr. Vennard and Mr. Cargill.

When Miss Barriton arrived with her stepmother the party was
almost complete. She entered with an air of apologising for her
prettiness. Her manner with old men was delightful, and I
watched with interest the unbending of Caerlaverock and the
simplifying of Mr. Cargill in her presence. Deloraine, who was
talking feverishly to Mrs. Cargill, started as if to go and greet
her, thought better of it, and continued his conversation. The
lady swept the room with her eye, but did not acknowledge his
presence. She floated off with Mr. Cargill to a window-corner,
and metaphorically sat at his feet. I saw Deloraine saying
things behind his moustache, while he listened to Mrs. Cargill's
new cure for dyspepsia.

Last of all, twenty minutes late, came Abinger Vennard. He made
a fine stage entrance, walking swiftly with a lowering brow to
his hostess, and then glaring fiercely round the room as if to
challenge criticism. I have heard Deloraine, in a moment of
irritation, describe him as a "Pre-Raphaelite attorney," but
there could be no denying his good looks. He had a bad, loose
figure, and a quantity of studiously neglected hair, but his face
was the face of a young Greek. A certain kind of political
success gives a man the manners of an actor, and both Vennard and
Cargill bristled with self-consciousness. You could see it in
the way they patted their hair, squared their shoulders, and
shifted their feet to positions loved by sculptors.

"Well, Vennard, what's the news from the House?" Caerlaverock

"Simpson is talking," said Vennard wearily. "He attacks me, of
course. He says he has lived forty years in India--as if that
mattered! When will people recognise that the truths of
democratic policy are independent of time and space? Liberalism
is a category, an eternal mode of thought, which cannot be
overthrown by any trivial happenings. I am sick of the word
'facts.' I long for truths."

Miss Barriton's eyes brightened, and Cargill said, "Excellent."
Lord Mulross, who was a little deaf, and in any case did not
understand the language, said loudly to my aunt that he wished
there was a close time for legislation.

"The open season for grouse should be the close season for

And then we went down to dinner.

Miss Barriton sat on my left hand, between Deloraine and me, and
it was clear she was discontented with her position. Her eyes
wandered down the table to Vennard, who had taken in an American
duchess, and seemed to be amused at her prattle. She looked with
disfavour at Deloraine, and turned to me as the lesser of two

I was tactless enough to say that I thought there was a good deal
in Lord Mulross's view. "Oh, how can you?" she cried. "Is
there a close season for the wants of the people? It sounds to
me perfectly horrible the way you talk of government, as if it
were a game for idle men of the upper classes. I want
professional politicians, men who give their whole heart and soul
to the service of the State. I know the kind of member you and
Lord Deloraine like--a rich young man who eats and drinks too
much, and thinks the real business of life is killing little
birds. He travels abroad and shoots some big game, and then
comes home and vapours about the Empire. He knows nothing about
realities, and will go down before the men who take the world

I am afraid I laughed, but Deloraine, who had been listening, was
in no mood to be amused.

"I don't think you are quite fair to us, Miss Claudia," he said
slowly. "We take things seriously enough, the things we know
about. We can't be expected to know about everything, and the
misfortune is that the things I care about don't interest you.
But they are important enough for all that."

"Hush," said the lady rudely. "I want to hear what Mr.
Vennard is saying."

Mr. Vennard was addressing the dinner-table as if it were a large
public meeting. It was a habit he had, for he had no mind to
confine the pearls of his wisdom to his immediate neighbours.
His words were directed to Caerlaverock at the far end.

"In my opinion this craze for the scientific stand-point is not
merely overdone--it is radically vicious. Human destinies cannot
be treated as if they were inert objects under the microscope.
The cold-blooded logical way of treating a problem is in almost
every case the wrong way. Heart and imagination to me are more
vital than intellect. I have the courage to be illogical, to
defy facts for the sake of an ideal, in the certainty that in
time facts will fall into conformity. My Creed may be put in the
words of Newman's favourite quotation: Non in dialectica
complacuit Deo salvum facere populum suum--Not in cold logic is
it God's will that His people should find salvation."

"It is profoundly true," sighed Mr. Cargill, and Miss Claudia's
beaming eyes proved her assent. The moment of destiny, though I
did not know it, had arrived. The entree course had begun, and
of the two entrees one was the famous Caerlaverock curry. Now on
a hot July evening in London there are more attractive foods than
curry seven times heated, MORE INDICO. I doubt if any guest
would have touched it, had not our host in his viceregal voice
called the attention of the three ministers to its merits, while
explaining that under doctor's orders he was compelled to refrain
for a season. The result was that Mulross, Cargill, and Vennard
alone of the men partook of it. Miss Claudia, alone of the
women, followed suit in the fervour of her hero-worship. She ate
a mouthful, and then drank rapidly two glasses of water.

My narrative of the events which followed is based rather on what
I should have seen than on what I saw. I had not the key, and
missed much which otherwise would have been plain to me. For
example, if I had known the secret, I must have seen Miss
Claudia's gaze cease to rest upon Vennard and the adoration die
out of her eyes. I must have noticed her face soften to the
unhappy Deloraine. As it was, I did not remark her behaviour,
till I heard her say to her neighbour--

"Can't you get hold of Mr. Vennard and forcibly cut his hair?"

Deloraine looked round with a start. Miss Barriton's tone was
intimate and her face friendly.

"Some people think it picturesque," he said in serious

"Oh, yes, picturesque--like a hair-dresser's young man!" she
shrugged her shoulders. He looks as if he had never been out of
doors in his life."

Now, whatever the faults of Tommy's appearance, he had a
wholesome sunburnt face, and he knew it. This speech of Miss
Barriton's cheered him enormously, for he argued that if she had
fallen out of love with Vennard's looks she might fall in love
with his own. Being a philosopher in his way, he was content to
take what the gods gave, and ask for no explanations.

I do not know how their conversation prospered, for my attention
was distracted by the extraordinary behaviour of the Home
Secretary. Mr. Cargill had made himself notorious by his
treatment of "political" prisoners. It was sufficient in his
eyes for a criminal to confess to political convictions to secure
the most lenient treatment and a speedy release. The Irish
patriot who cracked skulls in the Scotland Division of Liverpool,
the Suffragist who broke windows and the noses of the police, the
Social Democrat whose antipathy to the Tsar revealed itself in
assaults upon the Russian Embassy, the "hunger-marchers" who had
designs on the British Museum,--all were sure of respectful and
tender handling. He had announced more than once, amid
tumultuous cheering, that he would never be the means of branding
earnestness, however mistaken, with the badge of the felon.

He was talking I recall, to Lady Lavinia Dobson, renowned in two
hemispheres for her advocacy of women's rights. And this was
what I heard him say. His face had grown suddenly flushed and
his eye bright, so that he looked liker than ever to a bookmaker
who had had a good meeting. "No, no, my dear lady, I have been
a lawyer, and it is my duty in office to see that the law, the
palladium of British liberties is kept sacrosanct. The law is no
respecter of persons, and I intend that it shall be no respecter
of creeds. If men or women break the laws, to jail they shall
go, though their intentions were those of the Apostle Paul. We
don't punish them for being Socialists or Suffragists, but for
breaking the peace. Why, goodness me, if we didn't, we should
have every malefactor in Britain claiming preferential treatment
because he was a Christian Scientist or a Pentecostal Dancer."

"Mr. Cargill, do you realise what you are saying?" said Lady
Lavinia with a scared face.

"Of course I do. I am a lawyer, and may be presumed to know the
law. If any other doctrine were admitted, the Empire would burst
up in a fortnight."

"That I should live to hear you name that accursed name!" cried
the outraged lady. "You are denying your gods, Mr. Cargill.
You are forgetting the principles of a lifetime."

Mr. Cargill was becoming excited, and exchanging his ordinary
Edinburgh-English for a broader and more effective dialect.

"Tut, tut, my good wumman, I may be allowed to know my own
principles best. I tell ye I've always maintained these views
from the day when I first walked the floor of the Parliament
House. Besides, even if I hadn't, I'm surely at liberty to
change if I get more light. Whoever makes a fetish of
consistency is a trumpery body and little use to God or man.
What ails ye at the Empire, too? Is it not better to have a big
country than a kailyard, or a house in Grosvenor Square than a
but-and-ben in Balham?"

Lady Lavinia folded her hands. "We slaughter our black
fellow-citizens, we fill South Africa with yellow slaves, we
crowd the Indian prisons with the noblest and most enlightened of
the Indian race, and we call it Empire building!"

"No, we don't," said Mr. Cargill stoutly, "we call it
common-sense. That is the penal and repressive side of any great
activity. D'ye mean to tell me that you never give your maid a
good hearing? But would you like it to be said that you spent
the whole of your days swearing at the wumman?"

"I never swore in my life," said Lady Lavinia.

"I spoke metaphorically," said Mr. Cargill. "If ye cannot
understand a simple metaphor, ye cannot understand the rudiments
of politics."

Picture to yourself a prophet who suddenly discovers that his God
is laughing at him, a devotee whose saint winks and tells him
that the devotion of years has been a farce, and you will get
some idea of Lady Lavinia's frame of mind. Her sallow face
flushed, her lip trembled, and she slewed round as far as her
chair would permit her. Meanwhile Mr. Cargill, redder than
before, went on contentedly with his dinner.

I was glad when my aunt gave the signal to rise. The atmosphere
was electric, and all were conscious of it save the three
Ministers, Deloraine, and Miss Claudia. Vennard seemed to be
behaving very badly. He was arguing with Caerlaverock down the
table, and the ex-Viceroy's face was slowly getting purple. When
the ladies had gone, we remained oblivious to wine and
cigarettes, listening to this heated controversy which threatened
any minute to end in a quarrel.

The subject was India, and Vennard was discussing on the follies
of all Viceroys.

"Take this idiot we've got now," he declared. "He expects me to
be a sort of wet-nurse to the Government of India and do all
their dirty work for them. They know local conditions, and they
have ample powers if they would only use them, but they won't
take an atom of responsibility. How the deuce am I to decide for
them, when in the nature of things I can't be half as well
informed about the facts!"

"Do you maintain," said Caerlaverock, stuttering in his wrath,
"that the British Government should divest itself of
responsibility for the governement of our great Indian

"Not a bit," said Vennard impatiently; "of course we are
responsible, but that is all the more reason why the fellows who
know the business at first hand should do their duty. If I am
the head of a bank I am responsible for its policy, but that
doesn't mean that every local bank-manager should consult me
about the solvency of clients I never heard of. Faversham keeps
bleating to me that the state of India is dangerous. Well, for
God's sake let him suppress every native paper, shut up the
schools, and send every agitator to the Andamans. I'll back him
up all right. But don't let him ask me what to do, for I don't

"You think such a course would be popular?" asked a large,
grave man, a newspaper editor.

"Of course it would," said Vennard cheerily. "The British
public hates the idea of letting India get out of hand. But they
want a lead. They can't be expected to start the show any more
than I can."

Lord Caerlaverock rose to join the ladies with an air of outraged
dignity. Vennard pulled out his watch and announced that he must
go back to the House.

"Do you know what I am going to do?" he asked. "I am going
down to tell Simpson what I think of him. He gets up and prates
of having been forty years in India. Well, I am going to tell
him that it is to him and his forty-year lot that all this muddle
is due. Oh, I assure you, there's going to be a row," said
Vennard, as he struggled into his coat.

Mulross had been sitting next me, and I asked him if he was
leaving town. "I wish I could," he said, "but I fear I must
stick on over the Twelth. I don't like the way that fellow Von
Kladow has been talking. He's up to no good, and he's going to
get a flea in his ear before he is very much older."

Cheerfully, almost hilariously the three Ministers departed,
Vennard and Cargill in a hansom and Mulross on foot. I can only
describe the condition of those left behind as nervous
prostration. We looked furtively at each other, each afraid to
hint his suspicions, but all convinced that a surprising judgment
had befallen at least two members of his Majesty's Government.
For myself I put the number at three, for I did not like to hear
a respected Whig Foreign Secretary talk about giving the
Chancellor of a friendly but jealous Power a flea in his ear.

The only unperplexed face was Deloraine's. He whispered to me
that Miss Barriton was going on to the Alvanleys' ball, and had
warned him to be there. "She hasn't been to a dance for months,
you know," he said. "I really think things are beginning to go
a little better, old man."


When I opened my paper next morning I read two startling pieces
of news. Lord Mulross had been knocked down by a taxi-cab on his
way home the night before, and was now in bed suffering from a
bad shock and a bruised ankle. There was no cause for anxiety,
said the report, but his lordship must keep his room for a week
or two.

The second item, which filled leading articles and overflowed
into "Political Notes," was Mr. Vennard's speech. The Secretary
for India had gone down about eleven o'clock to the House, where
an Indian debate was dragging out its slow length. He sat
himself on the Treasury Bench and took notes, and the House soon
filled in anticipation of his reply. His "tail"--progressive
young men like himself--were there in full strength, ready to
cheer every syllable which fell from their idol. Somewhere about
half-past twelve he rose to wind up the debate, and the House was
treated to an unparalleled sensation. He began with his critics,
notably the unfortunate Simpson, and, pretty much in Westbury's
language to the herald, called them silly old men who did not
understand their silly old business. But it was the reasons he
gave for this abuse which left his followers aghast. He attacked
his critics not for being satraps and reactionaries, but because
they had dared to talk second-rate Western politics in connection
with India.

"Have you lived for forty years with your eyes shut," he cried,
"that you cannot see the difference between a Bengali, married at
fifteen and worshipping a pantheon of savage gods, and the
university-extension Young Radical at home? There is a thousand
years between them, and you dream of annihilating the centuries
with a little dubious popular science!" Then he turned to the
other critics of Indian administration--his quondam supporters.
He analysed the character of these " members for India" with a
vigour and acumen which deprived them of speech. The East, he
said, had had its revenge upon the West by making certain
Englishmen babus. His honourable friends had the same slipshod
minds, and they talked the same pigeon-English, as the patriots
of Bengal. Then his mood changed, and he delivered a solemn
warning against what he called "the treason begotten of restless
vanity and proved incompetence." He sat down, leaving a House
deeply impressed and horribly mystified.

The Times did not know what to make of it at all. In a weighty
leader it welcomed Mr. Vennard's conversion, but hinted that with
a convert's zeal he had slightly overstated his case. The Daily
Chronicle talked of "nervous breakdown," and suggested "kindly
forgetfulness" as the best treatment. The Daily News, in a
spirited article called "The Great Betrayal," washed its hands
of Mr. Vennard unless he donned the white sheet of the penitent.
Later in the day I got The Westminster Gazette, and found an
ingenious leader which proved that the speech in no way
conflicted with Liberal principles, and was capable of a quite
ordinary explanation. Then I went to see Lady Caerlaverock.

I found my aunt almost in tears.

"What has happened?" she cried. "What have we done that we
should be punished in this awful way? And to think that the
blow fell in this house? Caerlaverock--we all--thought Mr.
Vennard so strange last night, and Lady Lavinia told me that Mr.
Cargill was perfectly horrible. I suppose it must be the heat
and the strain of the session. And that poor Lord Mulross, who
was always so wise, should be stricken down at this crisis!"

I did not say that I thought Mulross's accident a merciful
dispensation. I was far more afraid of him than of all the
others, for if with his reputation for sanity he chose to run
amok, he would be taken seriously. He was better in bed than
affixing a flea to Von Kladow's ear.

"Caerlaverock was with the Prime Minister this morning," my aunt
went on. "He is going to make a statement in the Lords tomorrow
to try to cover Mr. Vennard's folly. They are very anxious about
what Mr. Cargill will do today. He is addressing the National
Convention of Young Liberals at Oldham this afternoon, and though
they have sent him a dozen telegrams they can get no answer.
Caerlaverock went to Downing Street an hour ago to get news."

There was the sound of an electric brougham stopping in the
square below, and we both listened with a premonition of
disaster. A minute later Caerlaverock entered the room, and with
him the Prime Minister. The cheerful, eupeptic countenance of
the latter was clouded with care. He shook hands dismally with
my aunt, nodded to me, and flung himself down on a sofa.

"The worst has happened," Caerlaverock boomed solemnly. "Cargill
has been incredibly and infamously silly." He tossed me an
evening paper.

One glance convinced me that the Convention of Young Liberals had
had a waking-up. Cargill had addressed them on what he called
the true view of citizenship. He had dismissed manhood suffrage
as an obsolete folly. The franchise, he maintained, should be
narrowed and given only to citizens, and his definition of
citizenship was military training combined with a fairly high
standard of rates and taxes. I do not know how the Young
Liberals received his creed, but it had no sort of success with
the Prime Minister.

"We must disavow him," said Caerlaverock.

"He is too valuable a man to lose," said the Prime Minister.
"We must hope that it is only a temporary aberration. I simply
cannot spare him in the House."

"But this is flat treason."

"I know, I know. It is all too horrible, and utterly unexpected.
But the situation wants delicate handling, my dear Caerlaverock.
I see nothing for it but to give out that he was ill."

"Or drunk?" I suggested.

The Prime Minister shook his head sadly. "I fear it will be the
same thing. What we call illness the ordinary man will interpret
as intoxication. It is a most regrettable necessity, but we must
face it."

The harassed leader rose, seized the evening paper, and departed
as swiftly as he had come. "Remember, illness," were his parting
words. "An old heart trouble, which is apt to affect his brain.
His friends have always known about it."

I walked home, and looked in at the Club on my way. There I
found Deloraine devouring a hearty tea and looking the picture of
virtuous happiness.

"Well, this is tremendous news," I said, as I sat down beside

"What news?" he asked with a start.

"This row about Vennard and Cargill."

"Oh, that! I haven't seen the papers to-day. What's it all
about?" His tone was devoid of interest.

Then I knew that something of great private moment had happened
to Tommy.

"I hope I may congratulate you," I said.

Deloraine beamed on me affectionately. "Thanks very much, old
man. Things came all right, quite suddenly, you know. We spent
most of the time at the Alvanleys together, and this morning in
the Park she accepted me. It will be in the papers next week,
but we mean to keep it quiet for a day or two. However, it was
your right to be told--and, besides,you guessed."

I remember wondering, as I finished my walk home, whether there
could not be some connection between the stroke of Providence
which had driven three Cabinet Ministers demented and that
gentler touch which had restored Miss Claudia Barriton to good
sense and a reasonable marriage.


The next week was an epoch in my life. I seemed to live in the
centre of a Mad Tea-party, where every one was convinced of the
madness, and yet resolutely protested that nothing had happened.
The public events of those days were simple enough. While Lord
Mulross's ankle approached convalescence, the hives of politics
were humming with rumours. Vennard's speech had dissolved his
party into its parent elements, and the Opposition, as nonplussed
as the Government, did not dare as yet to claim the recruit.
Consequently he was left alone till he should see fit to take a
further step. He refused to be interviewed, using blasphemous
language about our free Press; and mercifully he showed no
desire to make speeches. He went down to golf at Littlestone,
and rarely showed himself in the House. The earnest young
reformer seemed to have adopted not only the creed but the habits
of his enemies.

Mr. Cargill's was a hard case. He returned from Oldham,
delighted with himself and full of fight, to find awaiting him an
urgent message from the Prime Minister. His chief was
sympathetic and kindly. He had long noticed that the Home
Secretary looked fagged and ill. There was no Home Office Bill
very pressing, and his assistance in general debate could be
dispensed with for a little. Let him take a fortnight's
holiday--fish, golf, yacht--the Prime Minister was airily
suggestive. In vain Mr. Cargill declared he was perfectly well.
His chief gently but firmly overbore him, and insisted on sending
him his own doctor. That eminent specialist, having been well
coached, was vaguely alarming, and insisted on a change. Then
Mr. Cargill began to suspect, and asked the Prime Minister
point-blank if he objected to his Oldham speech. He was told
that there was no objection--a little strong meat, perhaps, for
Young Liberals, a little daring, but full of Mr. Cargill's old
intellectual power. Mollified and reassured, the Home Secretary
agreed to a week's absence, and departed for a little salmon-
fishing in Scotiand. His wife had meantime been taken into the
affair, and privately assured by the Prime Minister that she
would greatly ease the mind of the Cabinet if she could induce
her husband to take a longer holiday--say three weeks. She
promised to do her best and to keep her instructions secret, and
the Cargills duly departed for the North. "In a fortnight," said
the Prime Minister to my aunt, "he will have forgotten all this
nonsense; but of course we shall have to watch him very
carefully in the future."

The Press was given its cue, and announced that Mr. Cargill had
spoken at Oldham while suffering from severe nervous breakdown,
and that the remarkable doctrines of that speech need not be
taken seriously. As I had expected, the public put its own
interpretation upon this tale. Men took each other aside in
clubs, women gossiped in drawing-rooms, and in a week the Cargill
scandal had assumed amazing proportions. The popular version was

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