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The Regent by E. Arnold Bennett

Part 3 out of 6

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He seized the telephone.

"Hello!" he said into it. "I want you to put me on to the drawing-room
of Suite No. 48, please. Who? Oh, me! I'm in the bedroom of Suite No.
48. Machin, Alderman Machin. Thanks. That's all right."

He waited. Then he heard Harrier's Kensingtonian voice in the
telephone asking who he was.

"Is that Mr. Machin's room?" he continued, imitating with a broad
farcical effect the acute Kensingtonianism of Mr. Marrier's tones. "Is
Miss Ra-ose Euclid there? Oh! She is! Well, you tell her that Sir John
Pilgrim's private secretary wishes to speak to her? Thanks. All right.
_I_'ll hold the line."

A pause. Then he heard Rose's voice in the telephone, and he resumed:

"Miss Euclid? Yes. Sir John Pilgrim. I beg pardon! Banks? Oh, _Banks_!
No, I'm not Banks. I suppose you mean my predecessor. He's left. Left
last week. No, I don't know why. Sir John instructs me to ask if you
and Mr. Trent could lunch with him to-morrow at wun-thirty? What?
Oh! at his house. Yes. I mean flat. Flat! I said flat. You think you
could?"

Pause. He could hear her calling to Carlo Trent.

"Thanks. No, I don't know exactly," he went on again. "But I know the
arrangement with Miss Pryde is broken off. And Sir John wants a play
at once. He told me that! At once! Yes. 'The Orient Pearl.' That was
the title. At the Royal first, and then the world's tour. Fifteen
months at least in all, so I gathered. Of course I don't speak
officially. Well, many thanks. Saoo good of you. I'll tell Sir John
it's arranged. One-thirty to-morrow. Good-bye!"

He hung up the telephone. The excited, eager, effusive tones of Rose
Euclid remained in his ears. Aware of a strange phenomenon on his
forehead, he touched it. He was perspiring.

"I'll teach 'em a thing or two," he muttered.

And again:

"Serves her right.... 'Never, never appear at any other theatre, Mr.
Machin!' ... 'Bended knees!' ... 'Utterly!' ... Cheerful partners! Oh!
cheerful partners!"

He returned to his supper-party. Nobody said a word about the
telephoning. But Rose Euclid and Carlo Trent looked even more like
conspirators than they did before; and Mr. Marrier's joy in life
seemed to be just the least bit diminished.

"So sorry!" Edward Henry began hurriedly, and, without consulting the
poet's wishes, subtly turned on all the lights. "Now, don't you think
we'd better discuss the question of taking up the option? You know, it
expires on Friday."

"No," said Rose Euclid, girlishly. "It expires to-morrow. That's why
it's so _fortunate_ we got hold of you to-night."

"But Mr. Bryany told me Friday. And the date was clear enough on the
copy of the option he gave me."

"A mistake of copying," beamed Mr. Marrier. "However, it's all right."

"Well," observed Edward Henry with heartiness, "I don't mind telling
you that for sheer calm coolness you take the cake. However, as Mr.
Marrier so ably says, it's all right. Now I understand if I go into
this affair I can count on you absolutely, and also on Mr. Trent's
services." He tried to talk as if he had been diplomatizing with
actresses and poets all his life.

"A--absolutely!" said Rose.

And Mr. Carlo Trent nodded.

"You Iscariots!" Edward Henry addressed them, in the silence of the
brain, behind his smile. "You Iscariots!"

The photographer arrived with certain cases, and at once Rose Euclid
and Carlo Trent began instinctively to pose.

"To think," Edward Henry pleasantly reflected, "that they are hugging
themselves because Sir John Pilgrim's secretary happened to telephone
just while I was out of the room!"

CHAPTER V

MR SACHS TALKS

I

It was the sudden flash of the photographer's magnesium light, plainly
felt by him through his closed lids, that somehow instantly inspired
Edward Henry to a definite and ruthless line of action. He opened his
eyes and beheld the triumphant group, and the photographer himself,
victorious over even the triumphant, in a superb pose that suggested
that all distinguished mankind in his presence was naught but food for
the conquering camera. The photographer smiled indulgently, and his
smile said: "Having been photographed by me, you have each of you
reached the summit of your career. Be content. Retire! Die! Destiny is
accomplished."

"Mr. Machin," said Rose Euclid, "I do believe your eyes were shut!"

"So do I!" Edward Henry curtly agreed.

"But you'll spoil the group!"

"Not a bit of it!" said Edward Henry. "I always shut my eyes when I'm
being photographed by flash-light. I open my mouth instead. So long as
something's open, what does it matter?"

The truth was that only in the nick of time had he, by a happy miracle
of ingenuity, invented a way of ruining the photograph. The absolute
necessity for its ruin had presented itself to him rather late in the
proceedings, when the photographer had already finished arranging
the hands and shoulders of everybody in an artistic pattern. The
photograph had to be spoilt for the imperative reason that his
mother, though she never read a newspaper, did as a fact look at a
picture-newspaper, _The Daily Film_, which from pride she insisted on
paying for out of her own purse, at the rate of one halfpenny a day.
Now _The Daily Film_ specialized in theatrical photographs, on which
it said it spent large sums of money: and Edward Henry in a vision had
seen the historic group in a future issue of the _Film_. He had also,
in the same vision, seen his mother conning the said issue, and the
sardonic curve of her lips as she recognized her son therein, and he
had even heard her dry, cynical, contemptuous exclamation: "Bless us!"
He could never have looked squarely in his mother's face again if
that group had appeared in her chosen organ! Her silent and grim scorn
would have crushed his self-conceit to a miserable, hopeless pulp.
Hence his resolve to render the photograph impossible.

"Perhaps I'd better take another one?" the photographer suggested,
"though I think Mr.--er--Machin was all right." At the supreme crisis
the man had been too busy with his fireworks to keep a watch on every
separate eye and mouth of the assemblage.

"Of course I was all right!" said Edward Henry, almost with brutality.
"Please take that thing away, as quickly as you can. We have business
to attend to."

"Yes, sir," agreed the photographer, no longer victorious.

Edward Henry rang his bell, and two gentlemen-in-waiting arrived.

"Clear this table immediately!"

The tone of the command startled everybody except the
gentlemen-in-waiting and Mr. Seven Sachs. Rose Euclid gave vent to her
nervous giggle. The poet and Mr. Marrier tried to appear detached and
dignified, and succeeded in appearing guiltily confused--for which
they contemned themselves. Despite this volition, the glances of all
three of them too clearly signified "This capitalist must be humoured.
He has an unlimited supply of actual cash, and therefore he has the
right to be peculiar. Moreover, we know that he is a card." ... And,
curiously, Edward Henry himself was deriving great force of character
from the simple reflection that he had indeed a lot of money, real
available money, his to do utterly as he liked with it, hidden in
a secret place in that very room. "I'll show 'em what's what!" he
privately mused. "Celebrities or not, I'll show 'em! If they think
they can come it over me--!"

It was, I regret to say, the state of mind of a bully. Such is the
noxious influence of excessive coin!

He reproached the greatest actress and the greatest dramatic poet for
deceiving him, and quite ignored the nevertheless fairly obvious fact
that he had first deceived them.

"Now then," he began, with something of the pomposity of a chairman
at a directors' meeting, as soon as the table had been cleared and the
room emptied of gentlemen-in-waiting and photographer and photographic
apparatus, "let us see exactly where we stand."

He glanced specially at Rose Euclid, who with an air of deep business
acumen returned the glance.

"Yes," she eagerly replied, as one seeking after righteousness. "_Do_
let's see."

"The option must be taken up to-morrow. Good! That's clear. It came
rather casual-like, but it's now clear. L4500 has to be paid down to
buy the existing building on the land and so on.... Eh?"

"Yes. Of course Mr. Bryany told you all that, didn't he?" said Rose,
brightly.

"Mr. Bryany did tell me," Edward Henry admitted sternly. "But if
Mr. Bryany can make a mistake in the day of the week he might make a
mistake in a few noughts at the end of a sum of money."

Suddenly Mr. Seven Sachs startled them all by emerging from his
silence with the words:

"The figure is O.K."

Instinctively Edward Henry waited for more; but no more came. Mr.
Seven Sachs was one of those rare and disconcerting persons who do not
keep on talking after they have finished. He resumed his tranquillity,
he re-entered into his silence, with no symptom of self-consciousness,
entirely cheerful and at ease. And Edward Henry was aware of his
observant and steady gaze. Edward Henry said to himself: "This man is
expecting me to behave in a remarkable way. Bryany has been telling
him all about me, and he is waiting to see if I really am as good as
my reputation. I have just got to be as good as my reputation!" He
looked up at the electric chandelier, almost with regret that it was
not gas. One cannot light one's cigarette by twisting a hundred-pound
bank-note and sticking it into an electric chandelier. Moreover, there
were some thousands of matches on the table. Still further, he had
done the cigarette-lighting trick once for all. A first-class card
must not repeat himself.

"This money," Edward Henry proceeded, "has to be paid to Slossons,
Lord Woldo's solicitors, to-morrow, Wednesday, rain or shine?" He
finished the phrase on a note of interrogation, and as nobody offered
any reply, he rapped on the table, and repeated, half-menacingly:
"Rain or shine!"

"Yes," said Rose Euclid, leaning timidly forward and taking a
cigarette from a gold case that lay on the table. All her movements
indicated an earnest desire to be thoroughly business-like.

"So that, Miss Euclid," Edward Henry continued impressively, but with
a wilful touch of incredulity, "you are in a position to pay your
share of this money to-morrow?"

"Certainly!" said Miss Euclid. And it was as if she had said,
aggrieved: "Can you doubt my honour?"

"To-morrow morning?"

"Ye-es."

"That is to say, to-morrow morning you will have L2250 in actual
cash--coin, notes--actually in your possession?"

Miss Euclid's disengaged hand was feeling out behind her again for
some surface upon which to express its emotion and hers.

"Well--" she stopped, flushing.

("These people are astounding," Edward Henry reflected, like a god.
"She's not got the money. I knew it!")

"It's like this, Mr. Machin," Marrier began.

"Excuse me, Mr. Marrier," Edward Henry turned on him, determined if he
could to eliminate the optimism from that beaming face. "Any friend
of Miss Euclid's is welcome here, but you've already talked about this
theatre as 'ours,' and I just want to know where you come in."

"Where I come in?" Marrier smiled, absolutely unperturbed. "Miss
Euclid has appointed me general manajah."

"At what salary, if it isn't a rude question?"

"Oh! We haven't settled details yet. You see the theatre isn't built
yet."

"True!" said Edward Henry. "I was forgetting! I was thinking for the
moment that the theatre was all ready and going to be opened to-morrow
night with 'The Orient Pearl.' Have you had much experience of
managing theatres, Mr. Marrier? I suppose you have."

"Eho yes!" exclaimed Mr. Marrier. "I began life as a lawyah's clerk,
but--"

"So did I," Edward Henry interjected.

"How interesting!" Rose Euclid murmured with fervency, after puffing
forth a long shaft of smoke.

"However, I threw it up," Marrier went on.

"I didn't," said Edward Henry. "I got thrown out!"

Strange that in that moment he was positively proud of having been
dismissed from his first situation! Strange that all the company,
too, thought the better of him for having been dismissed! Strange that
Marrier regretted that he also had not been dismissed! But so it was.
The possession of much ready money emits a peculiar effluence in both
directions--back to the past, forward into the future.

"I threw it up," said Marrier, "because the stage had an irresistible
attraction for me. I'd been stage-manajah for an amateur company, you
knaoo. I found a shop as stage-manajah of a company touring 'Uncle
Tom's Cabin.' I stuck to that for six years, and then I threw that
up too. Then I've managed one of Miss Euclid's provincial tours. And
since I met our friend Trent I've had the chance to show what my ideas
about play-producing really are. I fancy my production of Trent's
one-act play won't be forgotten in a hurry.... You know--'The Nymph'?
You read about it, didn't you?"

"I did not," said Edward Henry. "How long did it run?"

"Oh! It didn't run. It wasn't put on for a run. It was part of one
of the Sunday night shows of the Play-Producing Society, at the
Court Theatre. Most intellectual people in London, you know. No such
audience anywhere else in the wahld!" His rather chubby face glistened
and shimmered with enthusiasm. "You bet!" he added. "But that was
only by the way. My real game is management--general management. And I
think I may say I know what it is?"

"Evidently!" Edward Henry concurred. "But shall you have to give up
any other engagement in order to take charge of The Muses' Theatre?
Because if so--"

Mr. Marrier replied:

"No."

Edward Henry observed:

"Oh!"

"But," said Marrier, reassuringly, "if necessary I would throw up
any engagement--you understand me, any--in favour of The Intellectual
Theatah--as I prefer to call it. You see, as I own part of the
option--"

By these last words Edward Henry was confounded, even to muteness.

"I forgot to mention, Mr. Machin," said Rose Euclid, very quickly.
"I've disposed of a quarter of my half of the option to Mr. Marrier.
He fully agreed with me it was better that he should have a proper
interest in the theatre."

"Why of course!" cried Mr. Harrier, uplifted.

"Let me see," said Edward Henry, after a long breath, "a quarter. That
makes it that you have to find L562, 10s. to-morrow, Mr. Marrier."

"Yes."

"To-morrow morning--you'll be all right?"

"Well, I won't swear for the morning, but I shall turn up with the
stuff in the afternoon, anyhow. I've two men in tow, and one of them's
a certainty."

"Which?"

"I don't know which," said Mr. Marrier. "How-evah, you may count on
yours sincerely, Mr. Machin."

There was a pause.

"Perhaps I ought to tell you," Rose Euclid smiled, "perhaps I ought
to tell you that Mr. Trent is also one of our partners. He has taken
another quarter of my half."

Edward Henry controlled himself.

"Excellent!" said he, with glee. "Mr. Trent's money all ready, too?"

"I am providing most of it--temporarily," said Rose Euclid.

"I see. Then I understand you have your three quarters of L2250 all
ready in hand."

She glanced at Mr. Seven Sachs.

"Have I, Mr. Sachs?"

And Mr. Sachs, after an instant's hesitation, bowed in assent.

"Mr. Sachs is not exactly going into the speculation, but he is
lending us money on the security of our interests. That's the way to
put it, isn't it, Mr. Sachs?"

Mr. Sachs once more bowed.

And Edward Henry exclaimed:

"Now I really do see!"

He gave one glance across the table at Mr. Seven Sachs, as who should
say: "And have you too allowed yourself to be dragged into this
affair? I really thought you were cleverer. Don't you agree with me
that we're both fools of the most arrant description?" And under
that brief glance Mr. Seven Sachs's calm deserted him as it had never
deserted him on the stage, where for over fifteen hundred nights he
had withstood the menace of revolvers, poison, and female treachery
through three hours and four acts without a single moment of
agitation.

Apparently Miss Rose Euclid could exercise a siren's charm upon nearly
all sorts of men. But Edward Henry knew one sort of men upon whom she
could not exercise it--namely, the sort of men who are born and bred
in the Five Towns. His instinctive belief in the Five Towns as the
sole cradle of hard practical common sense was never stronger than
just now. You might by wiles get the better of London and America, but
not of the Five Towns. If Rose Euclid were to go around and about
the Five Towns trying to do the siren business, she would pretty soon
discover that she was up against something rather special in the way
of human nature!

Why, the probability was that these three--Rose Euclid (only a few
hours since a glorious name and legend to him), Carlo Trent, and Mr.
Marrier--could not at that moment produce even ten pounds between
them!... And Marrier offering to lay fivers!... He scornfully pitied
them. And he was not altogether without pity for Seven Sachs, who had
doubtless succeeded in life by sheer accident and knew no more than an
infant what to do with his too-easily-earned money.

II

"Well," said Edward Henry, "shall I tell you what I've decided?"

"Please do!" Rose Euclid entreated him.

"I've decided to make you a present of my half of the option."

"But aren't you going in with us?" exclaimed Rose, horror-struck.

"No, madam."

"But Mr. Bryany told us positively you were! He said it was all
arranged!"

"Mr. Bryany ought to be more careful," said Edward Henry. "If he
doesn't mind he'll be telling a downright lie some day."

"But you bought half the option!"

"Well," said Edward Henry, reasoning. "What _is_ an option? What does
it mean? It means you are free to take something or leave it. I'm
leaving it."

"But why?" demanded Mr. Marrier, gloomier.

Carlo Trent played with his eyeglasses and said not a word.

"Why?" Edward Henry replied. "Simply because I feel I'm not fitted for
the job. I don't know enough. I don't understand. I shouldn't go the
right way about the affair. For instance, I should never have guessed
by myself that it was the proper thing to settle the name of the
theatre before you'd got the lease of the land you're going to build
it on. Then I'm old-fashioned. I hate leaving things to the last
moment; but seemingly there's only one proper moment in these
theatrical affairs, and that's the very last. I'm afraid there'd be
too much trusting in providence for my taste. I believe in trusting
in providence, but I can't bear to see providence overworked. And
I've never even tried to be intellectual, and I'm a bit frightened of
poetry plays--"

"But you've not read my play!" Carlo Trent mutteringly protested.

"That is so," admitted Edward Henry.

"Will you read it?"

"Mr. Trent," said Edward Henry, "I'm not so young as I was."

"We're ruined!" sighed Rose Euclid, with a tragic gesture.

"Ruined?" Edward Henry took her up smiling. "Nobody is ruined who
knows where he can get a square meal. Do you mean to tell me you don't
know where you're going to lunch to-morrow?" And he looked hard at
her.

It was a blow. She blenched under it.

"Oh, yes," she said, with her giggle, "I know that."

("Well you just don't!" he answered her in his heart. "You think
you're going to lunch with John Pilgrim. And you aren't. And it serves
you right!")

"Besides," he continued aloud, "how can you say you're ruined when I'm
making you a present of something that I paid L100 for?"

"But where am I to find the other half of the money--L2250?" she burst
out. "We were depending absolutely on you for it. If I don't get it,
the option will be lost, and the option's very valuable."

"All the easier to find the money then!"

"What? In less than twenty-four hours? It can't be done. I couldn't
get it in all London."

"Mr. Marrier will get it for you ... one of his certainties!" Edward
Henry smiled in the Five Towns manner.

"I _might_, you knaoo!" said Marrier, brightening to full hope in the
fraction of a second.

But Rose Euclid only shook her head.

"Mr. Seven Sachs, then?" Edward Henry suggested.

"I should have been delighted," said Mr. Sachs, with the most perfect
gracious tranquillity. "But I cannot find another L2250 to-morrow."

"I shall just speak to that Mr. Bryany!" said Rose Euclid, in the
accents of homicide.

"I think you ought to," Edward Henry concurred. "But that won't help
things. I feel a little responsible, especially to a lady. You have a
quarter of the whole option left in your hands, Miss Euclid. I'll pay
you at the same rate as Bryany sold to me. I gave L100 for half. Your
quarter is therefore worth L50. Well, I'll pay you L50."

"And then what?"

"Then let the whole affair slide."

"But that won't help me to my theatre!" Rose Euclid said, pouting. She
was now decidedly less unhappy than her face pretended, because Edward
Henry had reminded her of Sir John Pilgrim, and she had dreams of
world-triumphs for herself and for Carlo Trent's play. She was almost
glad to be rid of all the worry of the horrid little prospective
theatre.

"I have bank-notes," cooed Edward Henry, softly.

Her head sank.

Edward Henry rose in the incomparable yellow dressing-gown and walked
to and fro a little, and then from his secret store he produced a
bundle of notes, and counted out five tens and, coming behind Rose,
stretched out his arm, and laid the treasure on the table in front of
her under the brilliant chandelier.

"I don't want you to feel you have anything against me," he cooed
still more softly.

Silence reigned. Edward Henry resumed his chair, and gazed at Rose
Euclid. She was quite a dozen years older than his wife, and she
looked more than a dozen years older. She had no fixed home, no
husband, no children, no regular situation. She accepted the homage
of young men, who were cleverer than herself save in one important
respect. She was always in and out of restaurants and hotels and
express trains. She was always committing hygienic indiscretions. She
could not refrain from a certain girlishness which, having regard
to her years, her waist and her complexion, was ridiculous. His
wife would have been afraid of her and would have despised her,
simultaneously. She was coarsened by the continual gaze of the gaping
public. No two women could possibly be more utterly dissimilar than
Rose Euclid and the cloistered Nellie.... And yet, as Rose Euclid's
hesitant fingers closed on the bank-notes with a gesture of relief,
Edward Henry had an agreeable and kindly sensation that all women were
alike, after all, in the need of a shield, a protection, a strong and
generous male hand. He was touched by the spectacle of Rose Euclid, as
naive as any young lass when confronted by actual bank-notes; and he
was touched also by the thought of Nellie and the children afar off,
existing in comfort and peace, but utterly, wistfully, dependent on
himself.

"And what about me?" growled Carlo Trent.

"You!"

The fellow was only a poet. He negligently dropped him five fivers,
his share of the option's value.

Mr. Marrier said nothing, but his eye met Edward Henry's, and in
silence five fivers were meted out to Mr. Marrier also.... It was so
easy to delight these persons who apparently seldom set eyes on real
ready money.

"You might sign receipts, all of you, just as a matter of form," said
Edward Henry.

A little later the three associates were off.

"As we're both in the hotel, Mr. Sachs," said Edward Henry, "you might
stay for a chat and a drink."

Mr. Seven Sachs politely agreed.

Edward Henry accompanied the trio of worshippers and worshipped to the
door of his suite, but no further, because of his dressing-gown. Rose
Euclid had assumed a resplendent opera-cloak. They rang imperially for
the lift. Lackeys bowed humbly before them. They spoke of taxi-cabs
and other luxuries. They were perfectly at home in the grandeur of the
hotel. As the illuminated lift carried them down out of sight, their
smiling heads disappearing last, they seemed exactly like persons of
extreme wealth. And indeed for the moment they were wealthy. They had
parted with certain hopes, but they had had a windfall; and two of
them were looking forward with absolute assurance to a profitable meal
and deal with Sir John Pilgrim on the morrow.

"Funny place, London!" said the provincial to himself as he re-entered
his suite to rejoin Mr. Seven Sachs.

III

"Well, sir," said Mr. Seven Sachs, "I have to thank you for getting me
out of a very unsatisfactory situation."

"Did you really want to get out of it?" asked Edward Henry.

Mr. Sachs replied simply:

"I did, sir. There were too many partners for my taste."

They were seated more familiarly now in the drawing-room, being indeed
separated only by a small table, upon which were glasses. And whereas
on a night in the previous week Edward Henry had been entertained by
Mr. Bryany in a private parlour at the Turk's Head, Hanbridge, on this
night he was in a sort repaying the welcome to Mr. Bryany's master in
a private parlour at Wilkins's, London. The sole difference in favour
of Mr. Bryany was that while Mr. Bryany provided cigarettes and
whisky, Edward Henry was providing only cigarettes and Vichy water.
Mr. Seven Sachs had said that he never took whisky; and though Edward
Henry's passion for Vichy water was not quite ungovernable, he thought
well to give rein to it on the present occasion, having read somewhere
that Vichy water placated the stomach.

Joseph had been instructed to retire.

"And not only that," resumed Mr. Seven Sachs, "but you've got a very
good thing entirely into your own hands! Masterly, sir! Masterly! Why,
at the end you positively had the air of doing them a favour! You made
them believe you _were_ doing them a favour."

"And don't you think I was?"

Mr. Sachs reflected, and then laughed.

"You were," he said. "That's the beauty of it. But at the same time
you were getting away with the goods!"

It was by sheer instinct, and not by learning, that Edward Henry
fully grasped, as he did, the deep significance of the American idiom
employed by Mr. Seven Sachs. He too laughed, as Mr. Sachs had laughed.
He was immeasurably flattered. He had not been so flattered since the
Countess of Chell had permitted him to offer her China tea, meringues,
and Berlin pancakes at the Sub Rosa tea-rooms in Hanbridge--and that
was a very long time ago.

"You really _do_ think it's a good thing?" Edward Henry ventured, for
he had not yet been convinced of the entire goodness of theatrical
enterprise near Piccadilly Circus.

Mr. Seven Sachs convinced him--not by argument but by the sincerity
of his gestures and tones. For it was impossible to question that Mr.
Seven Sachs knew what he was talking about. The shape of Mr. Seven
Sachs's chin was alone enough to prove that Mr. Sachs was incapable
of a mere ignorant effervescence. Everything about Mr. Sachs was
persuasive and confidence-inspiring. His long silences had the easy
vigour of oratory, and they served also to make his speech peculiarly
impressive. Moreover, he was a handsome and a dark man, and probably
half a dozen years younger than Edward Henry. And the discipline of
lime-light had taught him the skill to be forever graceful. And his
smile, rare enough, was that of a boy.

"Of course," said he, "if Miss Euclid and the others had had any sense
they might have done very well for themselves. If you ask me, the
option alone is worth ten thousand dollars. But then they haven't any
sense! And that's all there is to it."

"So you'd advise me to go ahead with the affair on my own?"

Mr. Seven Sachs, his black eyes twinkling, leaned forward and became
rather intimately humorous:

"You look as if you wanted advice, don't you?" said he.

"I suppose I do--now I come to think of it!" agreed Edward Henry, with
a most admirable quizzicalness; in spite of the fact that he had not
really meant to "go ahead with the affair," being in truth a little
doubtful of his capacity to handle it.

But Mr. Seven Sachs was, all unconsciously, forcing Edward Henry
to believe in his own capacities; and the two as it were suddenly
developed a more cordial friendliness. Each felt the quick lifting of
the plane of their relations, and was aware of a pleasurable emotion.

"I'm moving onwards--gently onwards," crooned Edward Henry to himself.
"What price Brindley and his half-crown now?" Londoners might call
him a provincial, and undoubtedly would call him a provincial; he
admitted, even, that he felt like a provincial in the streets of
London. And yet here he was, "doing Londoners in the eye all over the
place," and receiving the open homage of Mr. Seven Sachs, whose name
was the basis of a cosmopolitan legend.

And now he made the cardinal discovery, which marks an epoch in the
life of every man who arrives at it, that world-celebrated persons
are very like other persons. And he was happy and rather proud in this
discovery, and began to feel a certain vague desire to tell Mr.
Seven Sachs the history of his career--or at any rate the picturesque
portions of it. For he too was famous in his own sphere; and in the
drawing-room of Wilkins's one celebrity was hob-nobbing with another!
("Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Mr. Brindley!") Yes, he
was happy, both in what he had already accomplished, and in the
contemplation of romantic adventures to come.

And yet his happiness was marred--not fatally but quite
appreciably--by a remorse that no amount of private argument with
himself would conjure away. Which was the more singular in that
a morbid tendency to remorse had never been among Edward Henry's
defects! He was worrying, foolish fellow, about the false
telephone-call in which, for the purpose of testing Rose Euclid's
loyalty to the new enterprise, he had pretended to be the new private
secretary of Sir John Pilgrim. Yet what harm had it done? And had it
not done a lot of good? Rose Euclid and her youthful worshipper were
no worse off than they had been before being victimized by the deceit
of the telephone-call. Prior to the call they had assumed themselves
to be deprived for ever of the benefits which association with Sir
John Pilgrim could offer, and as a fact they were deprived for ever of
such benefits. Nothing changed there! Before the call they had had no
hope of lunching with the enormous Sir John on the morrow, and as a
fact they would not lunch with the enormous Sir John on the morrow.
Nothing changed there, either! Again, in no event would Edward Henry
have joined the trio in order to make a quartet in partnership. Even
had he been as convinced of Rose's loyalty as he was convinced of her
disloyalty, he would never have been rash enough to co-operate with
such a crew. Again, nothing changed!

On the other hand, he had acquired an assurance of the artiste's
duplicity, which assurance had made it easier for him to disappoint
her, while the prospect of a business repast with Sir John had helped
her to bear the disappointment as a brave woman should. It was true
that on the morrow, about lunch-time, Rose Euclid and Carlo Trent
might have to live through a few rather trying moments, and they would
certainly be very angry; but these drawbacks would have been more than
compensated for in advance by the pleasures of hope. And had they
not between them pocketed seventy-five pounds which they had stood to
lose?

Such reasoning was unanswerable, and his remorse did not attempt to
answer it. His remorse was not open to reason; it was one of those
stupid, primitive sentiments which obstinately persist in the refined
and rational fabric of modern humanity.

He was just sorry for Rose Euclid.

"Do you know what I did?" he burst out confidentially, and confessed
the whole telephone-trick to Mr. Seven Sachs.

Mr. Seven Sachs, somewhat to Edward Henry's surprise, expressed high
admiration of the device.

"A bit mean, though, don't you think?" Edward Henry protested weakly.

"Not at all!" cried Mr. Sachs. "You got the goods on her. And she
deserved it."

(Again this enigmatic and mystical word "goods"! But he understood
it.)

Thus encouraged, he was now quite determined to give Mr. Seven Sachs
a brief episodic account of his career. A fair conversational opening
was all he wanted in order to begin.

"I wonder what will happen to her--ultimately?" he said, meaning to
work back from the ends of careers to their beginnings, and so to
himself.

"Rose Euclid?"

"Yes."

Mr. Sachs shook his head compassionately.

"How did Mr. Bryany get in with her?" asked Edward Henry.

"Bryany is a highly peculiar person," said Mr. Seven Sachs,
familiarly. "He's all right so long as you don't unstrap him. He was
born to convince newspaper reporters of his own greatness."

"I had a bit of a talk with him myself," said Edward Henry.

"Oh, yes! He told me all about you."

"But _I_ never told him anything about myself," said Edward Henry,
quickly.

"No, but he has eyes, you know, and ears too. Seems to me the people
of the Five Towns do little else of a night but discuss you, Mr.
Machin. _I_ heard a good bit when _I_ was down there, though I don't
go about much when I'm on the road. I reckon I could write a whole
biography of you."

Edward Henry smiled self-consciously. He was, of course, enraptured,
but at the same time it was disappointing to find Mr. Sachs already
so fully informed as to the details of his career. However, he did not
intend to let that prevent him from telling the story afresh, in his
own manner.

"I suppose you've had your adventures, too," he remarked with
nonchalance, partly from politeness but mainly in order to avoid the
appearance of hurry in his egotism.

IV

"You bet I have!" Mr. Seven Sachs cordially agreed, abandoning the end
of a cigarette, putting his hands behind his head, and crossing his
legs.

Whereupon there was a brief pause.

"I remember--" Edward Henry began.

"I daresay you've heard--" began Mr. Seven Sachs, simultaneously.

They were like two men who by inadvertence had attempted to pass
through a narrow doorway abreast. Edward Henry, as the host, drew
back.

"I beg your pardon!" he apologized.

"Not at all," said Seven Sachs. "I was only going to say you've
probably heard that I was always up against Archibald Florance."

"Really!" murmured Edward Henry, impressed in spite of himself. For
the renown of Archibald Florance exceeded that of Seven Sachs as the
sun the moon, and was older and more securely established than it
as the sun the moon. The renown of Rose Euclid was as naught to it.
Doubtful it was whether, in the annals of modern histrionics, the
grandeur and the romance of that American name could be surpassed by
any renown save that of the incomparable Henry Irving. The retirement
of Archibald Florance from the stage a couple of years earlier had
caused crimson gleams of sunset splendour to shoot across the Atlantic
and irradiate even the Garrick Club, London, so that the members
thereof had to shade their offended eyes. Edward Henry had never seen
Archibald Florance, but it was not necessary to have seen him in order
to appreciate the majesty of his glory. No male in the history of the
world was ever more photographed, and few have been the subject of
more anecdotes.

"I expect he's a wealthy chap in his old age," said Edward Henry.

"Wealthy!" exclaimed Mr. Sachs. "He's the richest actor in America,
and that's saying in the world. He had the greatest reputation. He's
still the handsomest man in the United States--that's admitted--with
his white hair! They used to say he was the cruellest, but it's not
so. Though of course he could be a perfect terror with his companies."

"And so you knew Archibald Florance?"

"You bet I did. He never had any friends--never--but I knew him as
well as anybody could. Why, in San Francisco, after the show, I've
walked with him back to his hotel, and he's walked with me back to
mine, and so on and so on till three or four o'clock in the morning.
You see, we couldn't stop until it happened that he finished a cigar
at the exact moment when we got to his hotel door. If the cigar wasn't
finished, then he must needs stroll back a bit, and before I knew
where I was he'd be lighting a fresh one. He smoked the finest cigars
in America. I remember him telling me they cost him three dollars
apiece."

And Edward Henry then perceived another profound truth, his second
cardinal discovery on that notable evening: namely, that no matter
how high you rise, you will always find that others have risen higher.
Nay, it is not until you have achieved a considerable peak that you
are able to appreciate the loftiness of those mightier summits. He
himself was high, and so he could judge the greater height of Seven
Sachs; and it was only through the greater height of Seven Sachs that
he could form an adequate idea of the pinnacle occupied by the unique
Archibald Florance. Honestly, he had never dreamt that there existed a
man who habitually smoked twelve-shilling cigars--and yet he reckoned
to know a thing or two about cigars!

"I am nothing!" he thought modestly. Nevertheless, though the savour
of the name of Archibald Florance was agreeable, he decided that he
had heard enough for the moment about Archibald Florance, and that
he would relate to Mr. Sachs the famous episode of his own career in
which the Countess of Chell and a mule had so prominently performed.

"I remember--" he recommenced.

"My first encounter with Archibald Florance was very funny," proceeded
Mr. Seven Sachs, blandly deaf. "I was starving in New York,--trying to
sell a new razor on commission--and I was determined to get on to the
stage. I had one visiting-card left--just one. I wrote 'Important' on
it, and sent it up to Wunch. I don't know whether you've ever heard
of Wunch. Wunch was Archibald Florance's stage-manager, and nearly as
famous as Archibald himself. Well, Wunch sent for me upstairs to his
room, but when he found I was only the usual youngster after the usual
job he just had me thrown out of the theatre. He said I'd no right
to put 'Important' on a visiting-card. 'Well,' I said to myself,
'I'm going to get back into that theatre somehow!' So I went up to
Archibald's private house--Sixtieth Street I think it was--and asked
to see him, and I saw him. When I got into his room he was writing.
He kept on writing for some minutes, and then he swung round on his
chair.

"'And what can I do for you, sir?' he said.

"'Do you want any actors, Mr. Florance?' I said.

"'Are you an actor?' he said.

"'I want to be one,' I said.

"'Well,' he said, 'there's a school round the corner.'

"'Well,' I said, 'you might give me a card of introduction, Mr.
Florance.'

"He gave me the card. I didn't take it to the school. I went straight
back to the theatre with it, and had it sent up to Wunch. It just
said, 'Introducing Mr. Sachs, a young man anxious to get on.' Wunch
took it for a positive order to find me a place. The company was full,
so he threw out one poor devil of a super to make room for me. Curious
thing--old Wunchy got it into his head that I was a _protege_ of
Archibald's, and he always looked after me. What d'ye think about
that?"

"Brilliant!" said Edward Henry. And it was! The simplicity of the
thing was what impressed him. Since winning a scholarship at school by
altering the number of marks opposite his name on a paper lying on the
master's desk, Edward Henry had never achieved advancement by a device
so simple. And he thought: "I am nothing! The Five Towns is nothing!
All that one hears about Americans and the United States is true. As
far as getting on goes, they can make rings round us. Still, I shall
tell him about the Countess and the mule--"

"Yes," continued Mr. Seven Sachs, "Wunch was very kind to me. But he
was pretty well down and out, and he left, and Archibald got a
new stage-manager, and I was promoted to do a bit of assistant
stage-managing. But I got no increase of salary. There were two
women stars in the play Archibald was doing then--'The Forty-Niners.'
Romantic drama, you know! Melodrama you'd call it over here. He never
did any other sort of play. Well, these two women stars were about
equal, and when the curtain fell on the first act they'd both make a
bee line for Archibald to see who'd get to him first and engage him
in talk. They were jealous enough of each other to kill. Anybody could
see that Archibald was frightfully bored, but he couldn't escape. They
got him on both sides, you see, and he just _had_ to talk to 'em, both
at once. I used to be fussing around fixing the properties for the
next act. Well, one night he comes up to me, Archibald does, and he
says:

"'Mr.--what's your name?'

"'Sachs, sir,' I says.

"'You notice when those two ladies come up to me after the first act.
Well, when you see them talking to me, I want you to come right along
and interrupt,' he says.

"'What shall I say, sir?'

"'Tap me on the shoulder and say I'm wanted about something very
urgent. You see?'

"So the next night when those women got hold of him, sure enough I
went up between them and tapped him on the shoulder. 'Mr. Florance,'
I said. 'Something very urgent.' He turned on me and scowled: 'What
is it?' he said, and he looked very angry. It was a bit of the best
acting the old man ever did in his life. It was so good that at first
I thought it was real. He said again louder, 'What is it?' So I said,
'Well, Mr. Florance, the most urgent thing in this theatre is that I
should have an increase of salary!' I guess I licked the stuffing out
of him that time."

Edward Henry gave vent to one of those cordial and violent guffaws
which are a specialty of the humorous side of the Five Towns. And he
said to himself: "I should never have thought of anything as good as
that."

"And did you get it?" he asked.

"The old man said not a word," Mr. Seven Sachs went on in the same
even, tranquil, smiling voice. "But next pay-day I found I'd got
a rise of ten dollars a week. And not only that, but Mr. Florance
offered me a singing part in his new drama, if I could play the
mandolin. I naturally told him I'd played the mandolin all my life. I
went out and bought a mandolin and hired a teacher. He wanted to
teach me the mandolin, but I only wanted him to teach me that one
accompaniment. So I fired him, and practised by myself night and day
for a week. I got through all the rehearsals without ever singing
that song. Cleverest dodging I ever did! On the first night I was
so nervous I could scarcely hold the mandolin. I'd never played the
infernal thing before anybody at all--only up in my bedroom. I struck
the first chord, and found the darned instrument was all out of tune
with the orchestra. So I just pretended to play it, and squawked away
with my song, and never let my fingers touch the strings at all. Old
Florance was waiting for me in the wings. I knew he was going to
fire me. But no! 'Sachs,' he said, 'that accompaniment was the most
delicate piece of playing I ever heard. I congratulate you.' He was
quite serious. Everybody said the same! Luck, eh?"

"I should say so," said Edward Henry, gradually beginning to be
interested in the odyssey of Mr. Seven Sachs. "I remember a funny
thing that happened to me--"

"However," Mr. Sachs swept smoothly along, "that piece was a
failure. And Archibald arranged to take a company to Europe with
'Forty-Niners.' And I was left out! This rattled me, specially after
the way he liked my mandolin-playing. So I went to see him about it in
his dressing-room one night, and I charged around a bit. He did rattle
me! Then I rattled him. I would get an answer out of him. He said:

"'I'm not in the habit of being cross-examined in my own
dressing-room.'

"I didn't care what happened then, so I said:

"'And I'm not in the habit of being treated as you're treating me.'

"All of a sudden he became quite quiet, and patted me on the shoulder.
'You're getting on very well, Sachs,' he said. 'You've only been at it
one year. It's taken me twenty-five years to get where I am.'

"However, I was too angry to stand for that sort of talk. I said to
him:

"'I daresay you're a very great and enviable man, Mr. Florance, but
I propose to save fifteen years on your twenty-five. I'll equal or
better your position in ten years.'

"He shoved me out--just shoved me out of the room.... It was that that
made me turn to play-writing. Florance wrote his own plays sometimes,
but it was only his acting and his face that saved them. And they were
too American. He never did really well outside America except in one
play, and that wasn't his own. Now I was out after money. And I still
am. I wanted to please the largest possible public. So I guessed there
was nothing for it but the universal appeal. I never write a play that
won't appeal to England, Germany, France just as well as to America.
America's big, but it isn't big enough for me.... Well, as I was
saying, soon after that I got a one-act play produced at Hannibal,
Missouri. And the same week there was a company at another theatre
there playing the old man's 'Forty-Niners.' And the next morning the
theatrical critic's article in the Hannibal _Courier-Post_ was headed:
'Rival attractions. Archibald Florance's "Forty-Niners" and new play
by Seven Sachs.' I cut that heading out and sent it to the old man in
London, and I wrote under it, 'See how far I've got in six months.'
When he came back he took me into his company again.... What price
that, eh?"

Edward Henry could only nod his head. The customarily silent Seven
Sachs had little by little subdued him to an admiration as mute as it
was profound.

"Nearly five years after that I got a Christmas card from old
Florance. It had the usual printed wishes--'Merriest possible
Christmas and so on'--but, underneath that, Archibald had written in
pencil, 'You've still five years to go.' That made me roll my sleeves
up, as you may say. Well, a long time after that I was standing at the
corner of Broadway and Forty-fourth Street, and looking at my own name
in electric letters on the Criterion Theatre. First time I'd ever
seen it in electric letters on Broadway. It was the first night of
'Overheard.' Florance was playing at the Hudson Theatre, which is
a bit higher up Forty-fourth Street, and _his_ name was in electric
letters too, but further off Broadway than mine. I strolled up, just
out of idle curiosity, and there the old man was standing in the porch
of the theatre, all alone! 'Hullo, Sachs,' he said, 'I'm glad I've
seen you. It's saved me twenty-five cents.' I asked how. He said, 'I
was just going to send you a telegram of congratulations.' He liked
me, old Archibald did. He still does. But I hadn't done with him.
I went to stay with him at his house on Long Island in the spring.
'Excuse me, Mr. Florance,' I says to him. 'How many companies have
you got on the road?' He said, 'Oh! I haven't got many now. Five, I
think.' 'Well,' I says, 'I've got six here in the United States, two
in England, three in Austria, and one in Italy.' He said, 'Have a
cigar, Sachs; you've got the goods on me!' He was living in that
magnificent house all alone, with a whole regiment of servants!"

V

"Well," said Edward Henry, "you're a great man!"

"No, I'm not," said Mr. Seven Sachs. "But my income is four hundred
thousand dollars a year, and rising. I'm out after the stuff, that's
all."

"I say you are a great man!" Edward Henry repeated. Mr. Sachs's
recital had inspired him. He kept saying to himself: "And I'm a great
man, too. And I'll show 'em."

Mr. Sachs, having delivered himself of his load, had now lapsed
comfortably back into his original silence, and was prepared to
listen. But Edward Henry, somehow, had lost the desire to enlarge on
his own variegated past. He was absorbed in the greater future.

At length he said very distinctly:

"You honestly think I could run a theatre?"

"You were born to run a theatre," said Seven Sachs.

Thrilled, Edward Henry responded:

"Then I'll write to those lawyer people, Slossons, and tell 'em I'll
be around with the brass about eleven to-morrow."

Mr. Sachs rose. A clock had delicately chimed two.

"If ever you come to New York, and I can do anything for you--" said
Mr. Sachs, heartily.

"Thanks," said Edward Henry. They were shaking hands. "I say," Edward
Henry went on. "There's one thing I want to ask you. Why _did_ you
promise to back Rose Euclid and her friends? You must surely have
known--" He threw up his hands.

Mr. Sachs answered:

"I'll be frank with you. It was her cousin that persuaded me into
it--Elsie April."

"Elsie April? Who's she?"

"Oh! You must have seen them about together--her and Rose Euclid!
They're nearly always together."

"I saw her in the restaurant here to-day with a rather jolly
girl--blue hat."

"That's the one. As soon as you've made her acquaintance you'll
understand what I mean," said Mr. Seven Sachs.

"Ah! But I'm not a bachelor like you," Edward Henry smiled archly.

"Well, you'll see when you meet her," said Mr. Sachs. Upon which
enigmatic warning he departed, and was lost in the immense glittering
nocturnal silence of Wilkins's.

Edward Henry sat down to write to Slossons by the 3 A.M. post. But as
he wrote he kept saying to himself: "So Elsie April's her name, is it?
And she actually persuaded Sachs--Sachs--to make a fool of himself!"

CHAPTER VI

LORD WOLDO AND LADY WOLDO

I

The next morning, Joseph, having opened wide the window, informed his
master that the weather was bright and sunny, and Edward Henry arose
with just that pleasant degree of fatigue which persuades one that one
is if anything rather more highly vitalized than usual. He sent for
Mr. Bryany, as for a domestic animal, and Mr. Bryany, ceremoniously
attired, was received by a sort of jolly king who happened to be
trimming his beard in the royal bathroom but who was too good-natured
to keep Mr. Bryany waiting. It is remarkable how the habit of
royalty, having once taken root, will flourish in the minds of quite
unmonarchical persons. Edward Henry first inquired after the health
of Mr. Seven Sachs, and then obtained from Mr. Bryany all remaining
papers and trifles of information concerning the affair of the option.
Whereupon Mr. Bryany, apparently much elated by the honour of an
informal reception, effusively retired. And Edward Henry too was so
elated, and his faith in life so renewed and invigorated, that he said
to himself:

"It might be worth while to shave my beard off, after all!"

As in his electric brougham he drove along muddy and shining
Piccadilly, he admitted that Joseph's account of the weather had been
very accurate. The weather was magnificent; it presented the best
features of summer combined with the salutary pungency of autumn. And
flags were flying over the establishments of tobacconists, soothsayers
and insurance companies in Piccadilly. And the sense of Empire was
in the very air, like an intoxication. And there was no place like
London. When, however, having run through Piccadilly into streets less
superb, he reached the Majestic, it seemed to him that the Majestic
was not a part of London, but a bit of the provinces surrounded by
London. He was very disappointed with the Majestic, and took his
letters from the clerk with careless condescension. In a few days the
Majestic had sunk from being one of "London's huge caravanserais" to
the level of a swollen Turk's Head. So fragile are reputations!

From the Majestic Edward Henry drove back into the regions of Empire,
between Piccadilly and Regent Street, and deigned to call upon his
tailors. A morning-suit which he had commanded being miraculously
finished, he put it on, and was at once not only spectacularly but
morally regenerated. The old suit, though it had cost five guineas
in its time, looked a paltry and a dowdy thing as it lay, flung down
anyhow, on one of Messrs Quayther & Cuthering's cane chairs in the
mirrored cubicle where baronets and even peers showed their braces to
the benign Mr. Cuthering.

"I want to go to Piccadilly Circus now. Stop at the fountain," said
Edward Henry to his chauffeur. He gave the order somewhat defiantly,
because he was a little self-conscious in the new and gleaming suit,
and because he had an absurd idea that the chauffeur might guess that
he, a provincial from the Five Towns, was about to venture into West
End theatrical enterprise and sneer at him accordingly.

But the chauffeur merely touched his cap with an indifferent and lofty
gesture, as if to say:

"Be at ease. I have driven persons more moon-struck even than you.
Human eccentricity has long since ceased to surprise me."

The fountain in Piccadilly Circus was the gayest thing in London. It
mingled the fresh tinkling of water with the odour and flame of autumn
blossoms and the variegated colours of shawled women who passed their
lives on its margin engaged in the commerce of flowers. Edward Henry
bought an aster from a fine bold, red-cheeked, blowsy, dirty wench
with a baby in her arms, and left some change for the baby. He was in
a very tolerant and charitable mood, and could excuse the sins and the
stupidity of all mankind. He reflected forgivingly that Rose Euclid
and her friends had perhaps not displayed an abnormal fatuity in
discussing the name of the theatre before they had got the lease of
the site for it. Had not he himself bought all the option without
having even seen the site? The fact was that he had had no leisure in
his short royal career for such details as seeing the site. He was now
about to make good the omission.

It is a fact that as he turned northwards from Piccadilly Circus, to
the right of the County Fire Office, in order to spy out the land upon
which his theatre was to be built, he hesitated, under the delusion
that all the passers-by were staring at him! He felt just as he might
have felt had he been engaged upon some scheme nefarious. He even went
back and pretended to examine the windows of the County Fire
Office. Then, glancing self-consciously about, he discerned--not
unnaturally--the words "Regent Street" on a sign.

"There you are!" he murmured, with a thrill. "There you are! There's
obviously only one name for that theatre--'The Regent.' It's close to
Regent Street. No other theatre is called 'The Regent.' Nobody
before ever had the idea of 'Regent' as a name for a theatre. 'Muses'
indeed!... 'Intellectual'! ... 'The Regent Theatre'! How well it comes
off the tongue! It's a great name! It'll be the finest name of any
theatre in London! And it took yours truly to think of it!"

Then he smiled privately at his own weakness.... He too, like the
despised Rose, was baptizing the unborn! Still, he continued to dream
of the theatre, and began to picture to himself the ideal theatre.
He discovered that he had quite a number of startling ideas about
theatre-construction, based on his own experience as a playgoer.

When, with new courage, he directed his feet towards the site, upon
which he knew there was an old chapel known as Queen's Glasshouse
Chapel, whose ownership had slipped from the nerveless hand of a dying
sect of dissenters, he could not find the site and he could not see
the chapel. For an instant he was perturbed by a horrid suspicion that
he had been victimized by a gang of swindlers posing as celebrated
persons. Everything was possible in this world and century! None
of the people who had appeared in the transaction had resembled his
previous conceptions of such people! And confidence-thieves always
operated in the grandest hotels! He immediately decided that if the
sequel should prove him to be a simpleton and gull, he would at any
rate be a silent simpleton and gull. He would stoically bear the loss
of two hundred pounds and breathe no word of woe.

But then he remembered with relief that he had genuinely recognized
both Rose Euclid and Seven Sachs; and also that Mr. Bryany, among
other documents, had furnished him with a photograph of the Chapel and
surrounding property. The Chapel therefore existed. He had a plan in
his pocket. He now opened this plan and tried to consult it in the
middle of the street, but his agitation was such that he could not
make out on it which was north and which was south. After he had been
nearly prostrated by a taxi-cab, a policeman came up to him and said,
with all the friendly disdain of a London policeman addressing a
provincial:

"Safer to look at that on the pavement, sir!"

Edward Henry glanced up from the plan.

"I was trying to find the Queen's Glasshouse Chapel, officer," said
he. "Have you ever heard of it?"

(In Bursley, members of the Town Council always flattered members
of the Force by addressing them as "officer"; and Edward Henry knew
exactly the effective intonation.)

"It _was there_, sir," said the policeman, less disdainful, pointing
to a narrow hoarding behind which could be seen the back-walls of high
buildings in Shaftesbury Avenue. "They've just finished pulling it
down."

"Thank you," said Edward Henry, quietly, with a superb and successful
effort to keep as much colour in his face as if the policeman had not
dealt him a dizzying blow.

He then walked towards the hoarding, but could scarcely feel the
ground under his feet. From a wide aperture in the palisades a cart
full of earth was emerging; it creaked and shook as it was dragged by
a labouring horse over loose planks into the roadway; a whip-cracking
carter hovered on its flank. Edward Henry approached the aperture and
gazed within. An elegant young man stood solitary inside the hoarding
and stared at a razed expanse of land in whose furthest corner some
navvies were digging a hole....

The site!

But what did this sinister destructive activity mean? Nobody was
entitled to interfere with property on which he, Alderman Machin, held
an unexpired option! But was it the site? He perused the plan again
with more care. Yes, there could be no doubt that it was the site.
His eye roved round and he admitted the justice of the boast that an
electric sign displayed at the southern front corner of the theatre
would be visible from Piccadilly Circus, Lower Regent Street,
Shaftesbury Avenue, etc., etc. He then observed a large notice-board,
raised on posts above the hoardings, and read the following:

SITE

OF THE

FIRST NEW THOUGHT CHURCH

to be opened next Spring.

Subscriptions invited.

Rollo Wrissell: _Senior Trustee_. Ralph Alloyd: _Architect_.
Dicks & Pato: _Builders_.

The name of Rollo Wrissell seemed familiar to him, and after a few
moments' searching he recalled that Rollo Wrissell was one of the
trustees and executors of the late Lord Woldo, the other being the
widow--and the mother of the new Lord Woldo. In addition to the
lettering the notice-board held a graphic representation of the First
New Thought Church as it would be when completed.

"Well," said Edward Henry, not perhaps unjustifiably, "this really is
a bit thick! Here I've got an option on a plot of land for building a
theatre, and somebody else has taken it to put up a church!"

He ventured inside the hoarding, and addressing the elegant young man
asked:

"You got anything to do with this, mister?"

"Well," said the young man, smiling humorously, "I'm the architect.
It's true that nobody ever pays any attention to an architect in these
days."

"Oh! You're Mr. Alloyd?"

"I am."

Mr. Alloyd had black hair, intensely black, changeful eyes, and the
expressive mouth of an actor.

"I thought they were going to build a theatre here," said Edward
Henry.

"I wish they had been!" said Mr. Alloyd. "I'd just like to design a
theatre! But of course I shall never get the chance."

"Why not?"

"I know I shan't," Mr. Alloyd insisted with gloomy disgust. "Only
obtained this job by sheer accident! ... You got any ideas about
theatres?"

"Well, I have," said Edward Henry.

Mr. Alloyd turned on him with a sardonic and half-benevolent gleam.

"And what are your ideas about theatres?"

"Well," said Edward Henry, "I should like to meet an architect who had
thoroughly got it into his head that when people pay for seats to see
a play they want to be able to _see_ it, and not just get a look at it
now and then over other people's heads and round corners of boxes and
things. In most theatres that I've been in the architects seemed to
think that iron pillars and wooden heads are transparent. Either
that, or the architects were rascals! Same with hearing! The pit costs
half-a-crown, and you don't pay half-a-crown to hear glasses rattled
in a bar or motor-omnibuses rushing down the street. I was never yet
in a London theatre where the architect had really understood that
what the people in the pit wanted to hear was the play and nothing but
the play."

"You're rather hard on us," said Mr. Alloyd.

"Not so hard as you are on _us_!" said Edward Henry. "And then
draughts! I suppose you think a draught on the back of the neck is
good for us!... But of course you'll say all this has nothing to do
with architecture!"

"Oh, no, I shan't! Oh, no, I shan't!" exclaimed Mr. Alloyd. "I quite
agree with you!"

"You _do_?"

"Certainly. You seem to be interested in theatres?"

"I am a bit."

"You come from the north?"

"No, I don't," said Edward Henry. Mr. Alloyd had no right to be aware
that he was not a Londoner.

"I beg your pardon."

"I come from the Midlands."

"Oh!... Have you seen the Russian Ballet?"

Edward Henry had not--nor heard of it. "Why?" he asked.

"Nothing," said Mr. Alloyd. "Only I saw it the night before last in
Paris. You never saw such dancing. It's enchanted--enchanted! The most
lovely thing I ever saw in my life. I couldn't sleep for it. Not that
I ever sleep very well!--I merely thought, as you were interested
in theatres--and Midland people are so enterprising!... Have a
cigarette?"

Edward Henry, who had begun to feel sympathetic, was somewhat repelled
by these odd last remarks. After all the man, though human enough, was
an utter stranger.

"No thanks," he said. "And so you're going to put up a church here?"

"Yes."

"Well, I wonder whether you are."

He walked abruptly away under Alloyd's riddling stare, and he could
almost hear the man saying, "Well, he's a queer lot, if you like."

At the corner of the site, below the spot where his electric sign was
to have been, he was stopped by a well-dressed middle-aged lady who
bore a bundle of papers.

"Will you buy a paper for the cause?" she suggested in a pleasant,
persuasive tone. "One penny."

He obeyed, and she handed him a small blue-printed periodical of
which the title was "_Azure_, the Organ of the New Thought Church." He
glanced at it, puzzled, and then at the middle-aged lady.

"Every penny of profit goes to the Church Building Fund," she said, as
if in defence of her action.

Edward Henry burst out laughing; but it was a nervous, half-hysterical
laugh that he laughed.

II

In Carey Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, he descended from his brougham
in front of the offices of Messrs Slosson, Hodge, Budge, Slosson,
Maveringham, Slosson & Vulto--solicitors--known in the profession by
the compendious abbreviation of Slossons. Edward Henry, having been a
lawyer's clerk some twenty-five years earlier, was aware of Slossons.
Although on the strength of his youthful clerkship he claimed, and was
admitted, to possess a very special knowledge of the law--enough to
silence argument when his opponent did not happen to be an actual
solicitor--he did not in truth possess a very special knowledge of
the law--how should he, seeing that he had only been a practitioner
of shorthand?--but the fame of Slossons he positively was acquainted
with! He had even written letters to the mighty Slossons.

Every lawyer and lawyer's clerk in the realm knew the greatness
of Slossons, and crouched before it, and also, for the most part,
impugned its righteousness with sneers. For Slossons acted for the
ruling classes of England, who only get value for their money when
they are buying something that they can see, smell, handle, or
intimidate--such as a horse, a motor-car, a dog, or a lackey.
Slossons, those crack solicitors, like the crack nerve specialists in
Harley Street and the crack fortune-tellers in Bond Street, sold their
invisible, inodorous and intangible wares of advice at double, treble,
or decuple their worth, according to the psychology of the
customer. They were great bullies. And they were, further, great
money-lenders--on behalf of their wealthier clients. In obedience to a
convenient theory that it is imprudent to leave money too long in one
place, they were continually calling in mortgages, and re-lending the
sums so collected on fresh investments, thus achieving two bills of
costs on each transaction, and sometimes three, besides employing an
army of valuers, surveyors and mortgage-insurance brokers. In short,
Slossons had nothing to learn about the art of self-enrichment.

Three vast motor-cars waited in front of their ancient door, and
Edward Henry's hired electric vehicle was diminished to a trifle.

He began by demanding the senior partner, who was denied to him by
an old clerk with a face like a stone wall. Only his brutal Midland
insistence, and the mention of the important letter which he had
written to the firm in the middle of the night, saved him from the
ignominy of seeing no partner at all. At the end of the descending
ladder of partners he clung desperately to Mr. Vulto, and he saw Mr.
Vulto--a youngish and sarcastic person with blue eyes, lodged in a
dark room at the back of the house. It occurred fortunately that his
letter had been allotted to precisely Mr. Vulto for the purpose of
being answered.

"You got my letter?" said Edward Henry, cheerfully, as he sat down at
Mr. Vulto's flat desk on the side opposite from Mr. Vulto.

"We got it, but frankly we cannot make head or tail of it!... _What_
option?" Mr. Vulto's manner was crudely sarcastic.

"_This_ option!" said Edward Henry, drawing papers from his pocket,
and putting down the right paper in front of Mr. Vulto with an
uncompromising slap.

Mr. Vulto picked up the paper with precautions, as if it were a
contagion, and, assuming eyeglasses, perused it with his mouth open.

"We know nothing of this," said Mr. Vulto, and it was as though he had
added: "Therefore this does not exist." He glanced with sufferance at
the window, which offered a close-range view of a whitewashed wall.

"Then you weren't in the confidence of your client?"

"The late Lord Woldo?"

"Yes."

"Pardon me."

"Obviously you weren't in his confidence as regards this particular
matter."

"As you say," said Mr. Vulto, with frigid irony.

"Well, what are you going to do about it?"

"Well--nothing." Mr. Vulto removed his eyeglasses and stood up.

"Well, good morning. I'll walk round to _my_ solicitors." Edward Henry
seized the option.

"That will be simpler," said Mr. Vulto. Slossons much preferred to
deal with lawyers than, with laymen, because it increased costs and
vitalized the profession.

At that moment a stout, red-faced and hoary man puffed very
authoritatively into the room.

"Vulto," he cried sharply. "Mr. Wrissell's here. Didn't they tell
you?"

"Yes, Mr. Slosson," answered Vulto, suddenly losing all his sarcastic
quality, and becoming a very junior partner. "I was just engaged
with Mr."--(he paused to glance at his desk)--"Machin, whose singular
letter we received this morning about an alleged option on the lease
of the Chapel site at Piccadilly Circus--the Woldo estate, sir. You
remember, sir?"

"This the man?" inquired Mr. Slosson, ex-president of the Law Society,
with a jerk of the thumb.

Edward Henry said, "This is the man."

"Well," said Mr. Slosson, lifting his chin, and still puffing, "it
would be extremely interesting to hear his story at any rate. I was
just telling Mr. Wrissell about it. Come this way, sir. I've heard
some strange things in my time, but--" He stopped. "Please follow me,
sir," he ordained.

"I'm dashed if I'll follow you!" Edward Henry desired to say, but he
had not the courage to say it. And because he was angry with himself
he determined to make matters as unpleasant as possible for the
innocent Mr. Slosson, who was so used to bullying, and so well paid
for bullying that really no blame could be apportioned to him. It
would have been as reasonable to censure an ordinary person for
breathing as to censure Mr. Slosson for bullying. And so Edward Henry
was steeling himself: "I'll do him in the eye for that, even if it
costs me every cent I've got." (A statement characterized by poetical
license!)

III

Mr. Slosson, senior, heard Edward Henry's story, but seemingly did not
find it quite as interesting as he had prophesied it would be. When
Edward Henry had finished the old man drummed on an enormous table,
and said:

"Yes, yes. And then?" His manner was far less bullying than in the
room of Mr. Vulto.

"It's your turn now, Mr. Slosson," said Edward Henry.

"My turn? How?"

"To go on with the story." He glanced at the clock. "I've brought
it up to date--11.15 o'clock this morning _anno domini_." And as Mr.
Slosson continued to drum on the table and to look out of the window,
Edward Henry also drummed on the table and looked out of the window.

The chamber of the senior partner was a very different matter from
Mr. Vulto's. It was immense. It was not disfigured by japanned boxes
inartistically lettered in white, as are most lawyer's offices. Indeed
in aspect it resembled one of the cosier rooms in a small and decaying
but still comfortable club. It had easy chairs and cigar boxes.
Moreover, the sun got into it, and there was a view of the comic yet
stately Victorian Gothic of the Law Courts. The sun enheartened Edward
Henry. And he felt secure in an unimpugnable suit of clothes; in
the shape of his collar, the colour of his necktie, the style of his
creaseless boots; and in the protuberance of his pocket-book in his
pocket.

As Mr. Slosson had failed to notice the competition of his drumming,
he drummed still louder. Whereupon Mr. Slosson stopped drumming.
Edward Henry gazed amiably around. Right at the back of the
room--before a back-window that gave on the whitewashed wall--a man
was rapidly putting his signature to a number of papers. But Mr.
Slosson had ignored the existence of this man, treating him apparently
as a figment of the disordered brain or as an optical illusion.

"I've nothing to say," said Mr. Slosson.

"Or to do?"

"Or to do."

"Well, Mr. Slosson," said Edward Henry, "your junior partner has
already outlined your policy of masterly inactivity. So I may as well
go. I did say I'd go to my solicitors. But it's occurred to me that as
I'm a principal I may as well first of all see the principals on the
other side. I only came here because it mentions in the option that
the matter is to be completed here--that's all."

"You a principal!" exclaimed Mr. Slosson. "It seems to me you're a
long way removed from a principal. The alleged option is given to a
Miss Rose Euclid--"

"Excuse me--_the_ Miss Rose Euclid."

"Miss Rose Euclid. She divides up her alleged interest into fractions,
and sells them here and there, and you buy them up one after another."
Mr. Slosson laughed, not unamiably. "You're a principal about five
times removed."

"Well," said Edward Henry, "whatever I am, I have a sort of idea I'll
go and see this Mr. Gristle or Wrissell. Can you--"

The man at the distant desk turned his head. Mr. Slosson coughed. The
man rose.

"This is Mr. Wrissel," said Mr. Slosson, with a gesture from which
confusion was not absent.

"Good morning," said the advancing Mr. Rollo Wrissell, and he said it
with an accent more Kensingtonian than any accent that Edward Henry
had ever heard. His lounging and yet elegant walk assorted well with
the accent. His black clothes were loose and untidy. Such boots as
his could not have been worn by Edward Henry even in the Five Towns
without blushing shame, and his necktie looked as if a baby or a
puppy had been playing with it. Nevertheless, these shortcomings made
absolutely no difference whatever to the impressivness of Mr. Rollo
Wrissell, who was famous for having said once, "I put on whatever
comes to hand first, and people don't seem to mind."

Mr. Rollo Wrissell belonged to one of the seven great families which
once governed--and by the way still do govern--England, Scotland
and Ireland. The members of these families may be divided into two
species: those who rule, and those who are too lofty in spirit even
to rule--those who exist. Mr. Rollo Wrissell belonged to the latter
species. His nose and mouth had the exquisite refinement of the
descendant of generations of art-collectors and poet-patronizers. He
enjoyed life--but not with rude activity, like the grosser members of
the ruling caste--rather with a certain rare languor. He sniffed and
savoured the whole spherical surface of the apple of life with those
delicate nostrils, rather than bit into it. His one conviction was
that in a properly--managed world nothing ought to occur to disturb or
agitate the perfect tranquillity of his existing. And this conviction
was so profound, so visible even in his lightest gesture and
glance, that it exerted a mystic influence over the entire social
organism--with the result that practically nothing ever did occur to
disturb or agitate the perfect tranquillity of Mr. Rollo Wrissell's
existing. For Mr. Rollo Wrissell the world was indeed almost ideal.

Edward Henry breathed to himself, "This is the genuine article."

And, being an Englishman, he was far more impressed by Mr. Wrissell
than he had been by the much vaster reputations of Rose Euclid, Seven
Sachs and Mr. Slosson, senior. At the same time he inwardly fought
against Mr. Wrissell's silent and unconscious dominion over him, and
all the defiant Midland belief that one body is as good as anybody
else surged up in him--but stopped at his lips.

"Please don't rise," Mr. Wrissell entreated, waving both hands. "I'm
very sorry to hear of this unhappy complication," he went on to Edward
Henry, with the most adorable and winning politeness. "It pains me."
(His martyred expression said, "And really I ought not to be pained!")
"I'm quite convinced that you are here in absolute good faith--the
most absolute good faith--Mr.--"

"Machin," suggested Mr. Slosson.

"Ah! pardon me! Mr. Machin. And naturally in the management of
enormous estates such as Lord Woldo's little difficulties are apt to
occur.... I'm sorry you've been put in a false position. You have all
my sympathies. But of course you understand that in this particular
case ... I myself have taken up the lease from the estate. I happen
to be interested in a great movement. The plans of my church have been
passed by the County Council. Building operations have indeed begun."

"Oh! chuck it!" said Edward Henry, inexcusably--but such were his
words. A surfeit of Mr. Wrissell's calm egotism and accent and
fatigued harmonious gestures drove him to commit this outrage upon the
very fabric of civilization.

Mr. Wrissell, if he had ever met with the phrase--which is
doubtful--had certainly never heard it addressed to himself;
conceivably he might have once come across it in turning over the
pages of a slang dictionary. A tragic expression traversed his
bewildered features--and then he recovered himself somewhat.

"I--"

"Go and bury yourself!" said Edward Henry, with increased savagery.

Mr. Wrissell, having comprehended, went. He really did go. He
could not tolerate scenes, and his glance showed that any forcible
derangement of his habit of existing smoothly would nakedly disclose
the unyielding adamantine selfishness that was the basis of the
Wrissell philosophy. His glance was at least harsh and bitter. He went
in silence, and rapidly. Mr. Slosson, senior, followed him at a great
pace.

Edward Henry was angry. Strange though it may seem, the chief cause of
his anger was the fact that his own manners and breeding were lower,
coarser, clumsier, more brutal than Mr. Wrissell's.

After what appeared to be a considerable absence Mr. Slosson, senior,
returned into the room. Edward Henry, steeped in peculiar meditations,
was repeating:

"So this is Slosson's!"

"What's that?" demanded Mr. Slosson with a challenge in his ancient
but powerful voice.

"Nowt!" said Edward Henry.

"Now, sir," said Mr. Slosson, "we'd better come to an understanding
about this so-called option. It's not serious, you know."

"You'll find it is."

"It's not commercial."

"I fancy it is--for me!" said Edward Henry.

"The premium mentioned is absurdly inadequate, and the ground-rent is
quite improperly low."

"That's just why I look on it as commercial--from my point of view,"
said Edward Henry.

"It isn't worth the paper it's written on," said Mr. Slosson.

"Why?"

"Because, seeing the unusual form of it, it ought to be stamped, and
it isn't stamped."

"Listen here, Mr. Slosson," said Edward Henry, "I want you to remember
that you're talking to a lawyer."

"A lawyer?"

"I was in the law for years," said Edward Henry. "And you know as
well as I do that I can get the option stamped at any time by paying a
penalty--which at worst will be a trifle compared to the value of the
option."

"Ah!" Mr. Slosson paused, and resumed his puffing, which
exercise--perhaps owing to undue excitement--he had pretermitted.
"Then further, the deed isn't drawn up."

"That's not my fault."

"Further, the option is not transferable."

"We shall see about that."

"And the money ought to be paid down to-day, even on your own
showing--every cent of it, in cash."

"Here is the money," said Edward Henry, drawing his pocket-book from
his breast. "Every cent of it, in the finest brand of bank-notes!"

He flung down the notes with the impulsive gesture of an artist; then,
with the caution of a man of the world, gathered them in again.

"The whole circumstances under which the alleged option is alleged to
have been given would have to be examined," said Mr. Slosson.

"I shan't mind," said Edward Henry. "Others might."

"There is such a thing as undue influence."

"Miss Euclid is fifty if she's a day," replied Edward Henry.

"I don't see what Miss Euclid's age has to do with the matter."

"Then your eyesight must be defective, Mr. Slosson."

"The document might be a forgery."

"It might. But I've got an autograph letter written entirely in the
late Lord Woldo's hand, enclosing the option."

"Let me see it, please."

"Certainly--but in a court of law," said Edward Henry. "You know
you're hungry for a good action, followed by a bill of costs as long
as from here to Jericho."

"Mr. Wrissell will assuredly fight," said Mr. Slosson. "He has already
given me the most explicit instructions. Mr. Wrissell's objection to a
certain class of theatres is well known."

"And does Mr. Wrissell settle everything?"

"Mr. Wrissell and Lady Woldo settle everything between them, and Lady
Woldo is guided by Mr. Wrissell. There is an impression abroad that
because Lady Woldo was originally connected--er--with the stage, she
and Mr. Wrissell are not entirely at one in the conduct of her and her
son's interests. Nothing could be further from the fact."

Edward Henry's thoughts dwelt for a few moments upon the late Lord
Woldo's picturesque and far-resounding marriage.

"Can you give me Lady Woldo's address?"

"I can't," said Mr. Slosson, after an instant's hesitation.

"You mean you won't!"

Mr. Slosson pursed his lips.

"Well, you can do the other thing!" said Edward Henry, insolent to the
last.

As he left the premises he found Mr. Rollo Wrissell, and his own new
acquaintance, Mr. Alloyd, the architect, chatting in the portico. Mr.
Wrissell was calm, bland and attentive; Mr. Alloyd was eager, excited
and deferential.

Edward Henry caught the words "Russian Ballet." He reflected upon an
abstract question oddly disconnected with the violent welter of his
sensations: "Can a man be a good practical architect who isn't able to
sleep because he's seen a Russian Ballet?"

The alert chauffeur of the electric brougham, who had an excellent
idea of effect, brought the admirable vehicle to the kerb exactly
in front of Edward Henry as Edward Henry reached the edge of the
pavement. Ejaculating a brief command, Edward Henry disappeared within
the vehicle and was whirled away in a style whose perfection no scion
of a governing family could have bettered.

IV

The next scene in the exciting drama of Edward Henry's existence
that day took place in a building as huge as Wilkins's itself. As the
brougham halted at its portals an old and medalled man rushed forth,
touched his cap, and assisted Edward Henry to alight. Within the
groined and echoing hall of the establishment a young boy sprang out
and, with every circumstance of deference, took Edward Henry's hat
and stick. Edward Henry then walked a few steps to a lift, and said
"smoking-room" to another menial, who bowed humbly before him, and at
the proper moment bowed him out of the lift. Edward Henry, crossing
a marble floor, next entered an enormous marble apartment chiefly
populated by easy-chairs and tables. He sat down to a table and
fiercely rang a bell which reposed thereon. Several of her menials
simultaneously appeared out of invisibility, and one of them hurried
obsequiously towards him.

"Bring me a glass of water and a peerage," said Edward Henry.

"I beg pardon, sir. A glass of water and--"

"A peerage. P double e, r, a, g, e."

"I beg your pardon, sir. I didn't catch. Which peerage, sir? We have
several."

"All of them."

In a hundred seconds, the last menial having thanked him for kindly
taking the glass and the pile of books, Edward Henry was sipping water
and studying peerages. In two hundred seconds he was off again. A
menial opened the swing-doors of the smoking-room for him and bowed.
The menial of the lift bowed, wafted him downwards and bowed. The
infant menial produced his hat and stick and bowed. The old and
medalled menial summoned his brougham with a frown at the chauffeur
and a smile at Edward Henry, bowed, opened the door of the brougham,
helped Edward Henry in, bowed, and shut the door.

"Where to, sir?"

"262 Eaton Square," said Edward Henry.

"Thank you, sir," said the aged menial, and repeated in a curt and
peremptory voice to the chauffeur, "262 Eaton Square!" Lastly he
touched his cap.

And Edward Henry swiftly left the precincts of the headquarters of
political democracy in London.

V

As he came within striking distance of 262 Eaton Square he had the
advantage of an unusual and brilliant spectacle.

Lord Woldo was one of the richest human beings in England--and
incidentally he was very human. If he had been in a position to
realize all his assets and go to America with the ready money, his
wealth was such that even amid the luxurious society of Pittsburg he
could have cut quite a figure for some time. He owned a great deal of
the land between Oxford Street and Regent Street, and again a number
of the valuable squares north of Oxford Street were his, and as for
Edgware Road--just as auctioneers advertise a couple of miles of
trout-stream or salmon-river as a pleasing adjunct to a country
estate, so, had Lord Woldo's estate come under the hammer, a couple of
miles of Edgware Road might have been advertised as among its charms.
Lord Woldo owned four theatres, and to each theatre he had his
private entrance and in each theatre his private box, over which the
management had no sway. The Woldos in their leases had always insisted
on this.

He never built in London; his business was to let land for others
to build upon, the condition being that what others built should
ultimately belong to him. Thousands of people in London were only
too delighted to build on these terms; he could pick and choose
his builders. (The astute Edward Henry himself, for example, wanted
furiously to build for him, and was angry because obstacles stood in
the path of his desire.) It was constantly happening that under legal
agreements some fine erection put up by another hand came into the
absolute possession of Lord Waldo without one halfpenny of expense to
Lord Woldo. Now and then a whole street would thus tumble all complete
into his hands. The system, most agreeable for Lord Woldo and about a
dozen other landlords in London, was called the leasehold system; and
when Lord Woldo became the proprietor of some bricks and mortar that
had cost him nothing, it was said that one of Lord Woldo's leases had
"fallen in," and everybody was quite satisfied by this phrase.

In the provinces, besides castles, forests and moors, Lord Woldo owned
many acres of land under which was coal, and he allowed enterprising
persons to dig deep for this coal, and often explode themselves
to death in the adventure, on the understanding that they paid him
sixpence for every ton of coal brought to the surface, whether they
made any profit on it or not. This arrangement was called "mining
rights," another phrase that apparently satisfied everybody.

It might be thought that Lord Woldo was, as they say, on velvet.
But the velvet, if it could be so described, was not of so rich and
comfortable a pile after all. For Lord Woldo's situation involved many
and heavy responsibilities and was surrounded by grave dangers. He
was the representative of an old order going down in the unforeseeable
welter of twentieth-century politics. Numbers of thoughtful students
of English conditions spent much of their time in wondering what would
happen one day to the Lord Woldos of England. And when a really great
strike came, and a dozen ex-artisans met in a private room of a West
End hotel, and decided, without consulting Lord Woldo or the Prime
Minister or anybody, that the commerce of the country should be
brought to a standstill, these thoughtful students perceived that even
Lord Woldo's situation was no more secure than other people's; in fact
that it was rather less so.

There could be no doubt that the circumstances of Lord Woldo furnished
him with food for thought--and very indigestible food too.... Why, at
least one hundred sprightly female creatures were being brought up in
the hope of marrying him. And they would all besiege him, and he could
only marry one of them--at once!

Now as Edward Henry stopped as near to No. 262 as the presence of
a waiting two-horse carriage permitted, he saw a grey-haired and
blue-cloaked woman solemnly descending the steps of the portico of
No. 262. She was followed by another similar woman, and watched by a
butler and a footman at the summit of the steps and by a footman
on the pavement and by the coachman on the box of the carriage. She
carried a thick and lovely white shawl, and in this shawl was Lord
Woldo and all his many and heavy responsibilities. It was his fancy
to take the air thus, in the arms of a woman. He allowed himself to be
lifted into the open carriage, and the door of the carriage was shut;
and off went the two ancient horses, slowly, and the two adult fat men
and the two mature spinsters, and the vehicle weighing about a ton;
and Lord Woldo's morning promenade had begun.

"Follow that!" said Edward Henry to the chauffeur and nipped into his
brougham again. Nobody had told him that the being in the shawl was
Lord Woldo, but he was sure that it must be so.

In twenty minutes he saw Lord Woldo being carried to and fro amid the
groves of Hyde Park (one of the few bits of London earth that did not

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